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"the future's in our hands and we will never be the same again"

Chapter Text

When Chiron came trotting into Bunker 9, Leo was surprised but not immediately alerted. Chiron never usually came into his neck of the woods unless it was to do with one of his projects or to do with his Cabin. Leo hoped Harley didn't get into a fight again. Gods Almighty, that kid could be vicious. 

Leo was, of course, strung upside down from Bunker 9’s high rafters, working on his latest pet project like some sort of demented spider-man-slash-mechanic. “Leo!” Chiron called from below him, his voice echoing in the Bunker’s cavernous space.

There is a letter for you from a one…...Detective Max Martinez?!. Have you been involved in illicit activities again Mr. Valdez?”. Leo had one single thought of some strangled, incoherent noise that sounded something like ‘hnnghgghuh’ before he was button-smashing his way down to Chiron because Jesus H Christ it was Martinez

The minute his feet touched the ground he was tearing his way out of his harness and flinging himself in Chiron’s general direction. “Where?!” he wheezed, his voice betraying his nervousness.

“The Big House, but Leo why-” Chiron sounded pretty freaked out but he didn't have time to ponder that because of Holy Schist Martinez. Leo sadly didn’t hear the rest of Chiron’s spiel as he was bolting out of the Bunker and towards the Big House as fast as his perfectly-normal-sized legs( shut up Piper he'd hit his growth spurt soon) would carry him. Soon he was jumping up the porch and bursting through the door, breath coming in short gasps. And there, he saw it. 

 

Set on the table-tennis table was a thick, crisp white envelope. He launched himself at it, tearing open the envelope with a desperation bordering on insanity. Then, suddenly as it had begun, his fervor stopped. He placed the letter flat against the table with a hand at each side and shut his eyes as he began to sort out the thoughts darting through his head.

Leo knew that Detective Martinez wasn’t the type of man to send letters if he wanted to get into contact with someone unless it had to do with official business and Martinez had promised Leo that if anything changed with The Case, he’d inform Leo as soon as word reached him. With his thoughts slowed to a sped unlikely to break his brain, he opened his eyes and began to read as best as he could with his dyslexia.

 

 

  

Leo, 

I regret to inform you that Mrs.Landa has been given a Parole hearing. I can’t fathom why the  System thinks she’s done her time but they have, and it’s not in my power to stop it, you, however... Leo, as one of (her victims) the people who gave evidence, you have the absolute power to attend her hearing and put in a counter-proposal. The official letter with all the details is on the other side of this message.

I’m sending one out to all the children and some of my old buddies from the force when the Case was happening and hopefully, we’ll keep her behind bars for a little while longer. I know it ’ll be beyond difficult seeing her again but if you feel she hasn’t spent long enough behind bars  ( which I do)   then come.  

 

I understand that you are now in Long Island, which if I remember my geography right is quite far from Arkansas. If you want I could meet up with you beforehand to discuss the situation as I'm now posted in New Jersey. Maggie and I moved there after everything, y'know?.
To get away from the memories.

Call or text me if you feel up to talking so we can arrange a meet-up.

My number  is 202-***-****. The date for the trial is August 29th.

I recommend bringing someone close to you for support, I understand you and Alex were quite close?. Or maybe your new foster parent?.

 

Hope to see you soon, 

Detective Max Martinez. 

(p.s I got your address I got from Officer Huang who's now posted with the NYPD who recognized you as one of the kids going to some special summer camp for gifted teens or something?. just in case you were wondering)

 


 

 

When Leo finished the letter he realized he had collapsed onto his knees like some sort of fainting damsel-in-distress. Also, his hands were shaking. Leo knew on a certain level that this was a Bad Thing. Leo told that part of his brain to shut up and let him have his weird little mental break-down-thingie. Because Teresa fucking Landa was getting out of prison and who knew what she'd do then huh? maybe she'd go out and fuck up some new kids or maybe she'd come after Leo and Vicky and Alexi and Noah- Leo gathered that he was hyperventilating he knew that this was a Bad Thing too but the rest of his brain was too preoccupied with the thought that Teresa was going to track all of them down and for revenge. Maybe she'd kill all the rest first and leave Leo last or maybe she'd somehow get them all back and do so so much worse, maybe she's already here waiting and lurking and-

 


Leo for Hades' sake breath!” a voice broke through into Leo's mind downward spiral. Leo realized that there was someone else besides him coaxing him through breathing exercises like his therapist used to do. “Copy my breathing, okay?" the voice took a breath

"In"

“Out".

"Copy my breaths, there, that's good". L

Leo slowly but surely slowed his breath to copy The Voice and hoped that he hadn't freaked too majorly. Soon his other senses came back to him.

He took in the fact that he was pushed back against the wall with his head pressed between his curled up legs, the letter crushed tightly in his right hand and his eyes that were screwed shut. He carefully pried his eyes open and gingerly lifted his head from between his legs only to reveal Sunshine man himself Will Solace, kneeling over him, his face screwed up in concern. “Can I touch you?” Will said softly, barely an octave above a whisper. He gave him a quick jerky nod, as his skin no longer felt wrong on his bones. He felt Will starting to gently coax his left hand from his hair where it was clenched. 

Will's eyes were a cloudy blue while he checked him over. He felt like that was significant but he was too tired to analyze whatever that meant and instead let himself fall into his own mind. 

  

His thoughts were going a thousand miles per hour but Leo felt oddly…...detached from it all. Like his world had been suddenly grayed out and-

 

“Hey, come back to me" Will order softly. Leo felt his fingers tighten in his hair again and instead focused on a very interesting piece of hardwood 

Thankfully the only other person to witness the freak-out was Chiron. In another situation, Leo would be embarrassed that they saw him break, but for some reason, he felt pretty apathetic about the whole situation.

“Leo" Will's soft, but commanding voice pulled him back to the present “have you ever had one of these attacks before?". Leo was confused why Will was talking like he was just attacked by the worst monsters Tartarus had to offer, instead of him just being a child over nothing 

 

 “Yeah, but I got meds and schist for it”. Leo's voice was heavy and scratchy and a small voice in the fog of his brain was telling him that it was a Terrible Idea to confess to them about the anti-freak pills because showing weakness usually meant being hurt. “What medication Leo?. Do you have it with you?”. Will's voice was still soft and quiet but it had an edge of…..something hard in it and gods was Leo getting tired. “Hmghh...sertraline…..ran out 'bout a month ago though..” weakness means death stop telling them they'll hurt you stop it.

 

 

“Okay….. Okay. Leo, we're going to move you to the Infirmary. Ready?”. Leo didn't think he could care enough to give them an answer. He felt strong arms hook themselves under his shoulders and encouraged him to walk. However, Leo's brain promptly took this as a sign to check the fuck out and his knees buckled. It was at this point the darkness won out and he plunged into blissful nothingness 

 


 

When Leo woke up he was startled to see that he was in the Infirmary. He was lying on a soft bed and judging by the waning light coming through the window at the end of the large room, it was nearing dusk. The setting sun coated the room in a soft glow, illuminating the dust particles dancing through the still air. The room looked like it was suspended in honey, which was exactly how Leo's mind felt. What in the name of sweet Zeus am I doing here?’ he thought, trying to sift through the heavy veil that seemed to cover his mind.

His last clear thought was him in Bunker 9 when Chiron was calling to him about…….something?. Maybe he fell from the harness and hit his head?. The fogginess of his head did seem to be like a concussion and boy did he know what a concussion felt like due to his clumsy ass. He pulled back the blanket that had been draped over him while he was still fully dressed, sadly missing his tool-belt and pushed himself into standing up. That, is, of course, when his head decided that he should remember everything right now.  

(- Detective Max Martinez-) 

 

 

(-A thick, crisp white envelope) 

 

  

(-Mrs. Landa has been given a parole hearing-) 

 

 

 

(-shaking hands, weak knees, labored breath-) 

 

 

(-Breath Leo!-) 

 

Leo collapsed back into the bed. He allowed himself one minute of mental screaming and self-pity before deciding not to be a pussy and get on with life along with the awkward conversation with Chiron that would eventually come. He was in the middle of shoving his feet into his shoes when Will entered the room.  

  

 Will stared.  

 

 

Leo stared right back in a slightly more frightened fashion because Solace could be scary as shit when he wanted to be.

 

 

An awkward silence ensued. 

 

 

Then, Will’s eyes suddenly hardened even more, to an icy blue, going directly into the Camp-feared ‘Doctor Mode’.

“Leo, sit back down on that Hades damned bed he growled.  

 

Leo sat because Leo didn't want to die (again).

 

 

 Will strode over to where Leo was sitting and pulled a chair out of seemingly nowhere. He sat directly in front of Leo as he prepared for a rough (and probably deserved) lecture. 

 

“Leo, I have no idea what you went through before you came to Camp. I know you probably have issues trusting people with your vulnerabilities because nearly every single demigod does, and Gods don’t I know it” he let out a small, bitter laugh that didn’t suit Will at all, and continued on like he hadn't broken Leo's entire worldview .“But as the Camp’s head medic and Head Counselor of Cabin 7, it is my duty to know those vulnerabilities especially if they require constant medication. Leo, if you need this medication then we can get it!. Not telling anyone about this was immature, reckless and possibly dangerous!”. Will took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a few seconds and when he opened them, the icy look had mostly melted away.

  

“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what exactly is going on. I’m going to recommend you go into the city and visit a psychiatrist. She's a half-sister of mine and old Head but if you’re uncomfortable seeing her...I guess you could talk to Chiron and he could help get a prescription?”.  

 

 Leo contemplated that for a second 

 

 Shrinks could be a pain in Leo’s behind most days, but spilling his weird and uncomfortable trauma onto Chiron?. Yeah, Leo would rather talk to an uninterested stranger than a horse-man who actually cared about him, not to mention the pity he might get from him, uch. Speaking of Horse-Men (centaure, whatever). Leo soon heard the tell-tale signs of Chiron’s imminent arrival. 

 

Clip-clop-clip-clop’ went his hooves on the floor of the Big House. Leo started preparing himself for the ‘I’m-not-angry-just-disappointed’ speech and those weird looks people got in their eyes when they felt pity for someone, which Leo hated.

A lot. 

As soon as Chiron came to the doorway of the Infirmary, Will got up off his magically-appearing chair and had a quick, whispered discussion with Chiron there before he left to do some important Doctor Stuff or whatever. That left Chiron and Leo alone in the infirmary together. 

 Leo realized that the room had started to darken with the setting sun. 

Huh Leo thought absentmindedly the day sure does fly when you’re busy confronting past traumatic experiences and the sudden inability to breath like a normal functioning human being’.

Chiron, unexpectedly, smiled sincerely at him and said: “Will you take a walk with me, Mr.Valdez?”.

 

 Leo was so surprised by the sudden change in tone that he could’ve gotten whiplash. Gods organic beings were weird. 

 

Leo stared, baffled by the out-of-nowhere question. Was he meant to answer?. If he said No what would happen?. What if this was all a ploy to get Leo into the forest to have him eaten by monsters so Chiron wouldn't have to deal with him anymore?. Was Chiron's version of walking different due to Chiron having horse legs?. 

  

 Leo realized he’d been staring at Chiron for a few seconds blankly 

 


“Oh-Uh..yeah, sure, I just gotta, y’know, put on some shoes, gimme a sec…”. Leo fumbled for a few seconds, quickly shoving on his shoes and stumbling out of the Big House with Chiron. 

 

  


 

 

They walked in silence for a while as they passed the strawberry fields, which in the swiftly setting darkness looked like something straight out of Children of the Corn. Leo was beginning to wonder if he and Chiron were just going to walk in silence.

 

 


Maybe Chiron was actually going to kill him. Then his hopes were dashed as Chiron began to speak

 

“I wish to discuss with you what the letter you were holding pertained to,” he said

 

 

 

 Gods Leo hated this conversation already 

 

  

 

Chapter Text

Walking with Chiron was........disquieting to say the least. Dusk was failing pretty fast, air cooling with the disappearing sun, casting funky looking shadows over the strawberry field. Leo was jogging to keep up with Chiron, his hand shoved deep into his pockets fidgeting with random pieces of scraps hidden there in a vain attempt to dispel his building anxiety. "Leo" Chiron began " I want you to keep in mind that asking for help is not cowardly or something to be looked down upon, and if you need someone to talk to there are plenty of people in camp that would be more than happy to lend you an ear or two". Leo let out a long exhale, breath leaving between his teeth in a whoosh. He stopped walking and turned to Chiron, looked directly up into his eyes, opened his mouth and let the words tumble out

"When I was around 10 I was put into this foster home with this woman who was famous for dealing with 'difficult' kids like me, like, kids went into her home kicking and screaming and came out a perfect, capable member of society. It would've been around my..... third foster home, I think". Leo shuffled from foot to foot brow, furrowed in concentration and started mindlessly making something out of pipe cleaners. "The home lasted a year and a half with me there before Teresa and her Husband went to jail, for, uh, reasons y'know?. Anyways the letter was from Detective Martinez, the officer assigned to my case. We got pretty close during the case and he always promised me he'd keep me updated no matter what. The letter was an update about Teresa getting parole which, freaked me the fu-uuhu-dge out i guess haha ha" he giggled nervously, watching his hands violently mess with the pipe cleaners into a unrecognisable mess.

Then, suddenly, Leo felt a heavy weight settle on his shoulder. "It's getting quite dark if I do say so myself. I think it would be wise if you went back to your cabin to get some sleep. I also believe your siblings may be quite worried". Leo blinked and looked up at Chiron, realising that the stars were twinkling cheerfully above his head in a weird detached manner. 'Oh shit' Leo thought 'Nyssa is going to kill me'. Leo felt the blood drain from his face as he thought about the scolding he was going to get being missing for half of the day without a word being said to his siblings. 

Leo almost bolted down to the cabins but was stopped by Chiron's heavy hand still on his shoulder. "Leonidas, we shall talk more logistics in the morning but remember that my door or the door's of your friends will always be open if you are going through a difficult time. Sleep soundly, child".

In response to that Leo did the only thing that came naturally to him when confronted with serious emotions and an Actual Adult Situation .

 

He finger-gunned Chiron and said in a far too up-beat tone "Okie dokie, will do Mr. Horse-Man!".

 

Chiron gave him a strange look but said nothing. He then lifted his hand off his shoulder and trotted back to the Big House, hooves softly clopping on the grass. Leo took one last breath, casting his eyes up to the starry sky, saying a quick prayer to his Dad to keep Nyssa from murdering him on sight.

'Dad' he prayed 'please don't let Nyssa slaughter me in my sleep, Freddy Krueger style, love your favourite child, Leo Valdez. 

 

 

He then bolted down towards the cabins like Tartarus itself was on his heels

 


 

Leo slowly pushed the door open to Cabin 9, wincing every time the floor creaked and groaned. Then, just as he reached his bunk a light switched on in the corner of the cabin


If looks could kill Leo would be a burning mess of a dead body on the floor for the second time in his life.

 

Nyssa was in her PJ's, hair askew and murder in her eyes.

The rest of the bunks seemed to have all disappeared into the floor to their respective private rooms save for Nyssa's, so Leo didnt have to worry about someone like Harley witnessing his brutal murder.

"We are going to talk in the morning" she whispered harshly to him before getting into her bed and lowering into her room. Leo was left with an empty cabin and a brain slowly beginning to shut down to the tune of the windows error sound.

Leo ungracefully threw himself on his bed and lowered himself into his room. He shrugged off his suspenders, distantly realising that his tool-belt was missing. 'I'll look for it whenever I wake up I guess.......' he thought sluggishly as he fumbled his boots off his feet. He collapsed back into his bed and suddenly Leo felt a thousand times heavier, like the entire weight of the world was pushing into him and pulling him

down?

 

 and down..

 

 

  and down...

 

 

 

    and down....

 

until the dark, oppressive waters of sleep dragged him under their currents

 


 

Leo's dreams were usually incredibly realistic and dark in a way most demigod's dreams were, but his dreams tonight were murky and the minute he woke up he could barely remember what he had dreamt. His dreams, if you could even call them that, were nothing more than hazy images he couldn't remember and a constant heavy feeling pressing down on him, like a small child had decided to take up permanent resident on his chest.

He cracked open his eyes to the walls of his room, fumbling for the button that would raise him up to the world of the living. Sadly. Ugh.

Of course the minute he reached the main cabin he regretted everything ever. The Sun was piercing violently threw the cabin, casting that morning glow over everythin-Oh gods of Olympus Leo wanted death

He tucked himself back into the bed in an effort the hide his sweet, virgin, innocent eyes from that Hades-Beast in the sky.

"Leo" a voice called from outside his safety-cocoon of happiness. He happily ignored this voice and burrowed even further into his cocoon. "Leo Valdez!" the voice called again, sadly Leo's stupid monkey brain was too sleep addled to properly compute that voice was Nyssa's voice and he should really get up right about now-. Leo yelped as the blankets were ripped off his body and he was dunked unceremoniously on the floor.

Leo looked up into the eyes of his angry half-sister and mentally prepared himself for the day.

"C'mon then Repair Boy, you've breakfast to eat and stuff to explain. Oh and Chiron wants you up at the Big House after you've eaten" she said, eyes burning with........something, like it wasn't anger but it sure wasn't a happy emotion.

 

Gods, Leo wished he was better with Organics

 

Nyssa left with a warning thrown over her shoulder. Leo looked around the now-empty Cabin 9 and began to change out of his slept in clothes into something a bit less hobo-chic. With fresh clothes on and smelling mildly better Leo hoped today might be a bit less mentally distressing as yesterday

 

Somehow, Leo highly doubted that

Chapter Text

Dragging his body to breakfast seemed much larger of a task than Leo originally thought.

Such as Apollo's sudden vendetta against Leo's entire existence.

Apollo held such a vendetta against him he was trying to burn Leo's eyes out of his gods-damned skull. His head felt like it was ground zero for some sort of neuron war and his mouth was uncomfortably dry. The walk to the dining pavilion felt twice as long as it normally did.

Leo longed for death again.

He plonked himself at his cabin's table and gazed mournfully at the food. There was so much and it looked soooo gooood but Leo felt like that if he actually consumed anything he would have to throw himself into the brazier due to pain. Folding his arms and placing his head in them, hoping to hide from the world for just a few seconds longer.......

"Leo are you even listening?". Leo was yanked out his almost-sleeping state by Nyssa's sharp shake on his arm and her scathing voice piercing his brain.

Leo jerked up his head, attempting to look like everything was ab-so-lutely fine ha ha ha!. "Oh yeah totally," Leo said, shrugging his shoulders, voice high and praying that his voice wouldn't crack and make him look even more deranged. "Been paying all of the attention to you, never missed a word!".

Nyssa's eyes dug into him, while Harley looked on in fear as he munched on a piece of toast. "If that's true, then you should have no trouble reciting back to me what Jake and I were just discussing then?". Her eyes sparkled and Leo feared for his life. Jake, Shane, Lancia, Harley, and Chris all gave him varying looks of pity while the rest of his siblings seemed to be completely indifferent to his impending doom. 

Nyssa started to twitch.

Leo felt like he was on Wheel of Fortune but instead of prices on the wheel, it was just the word 'Death', which was also spelled out on the board(billboard?). For some reason 'The Final Countdown' theme played in off-key kazoo in his head.

He started to sweat. 

"Oh for the love of the gods!- we were discussing what happened to you yesterday. You disappeared from the Bunker!. Which, trust me, is very unlike you. Then you show up hours later looking like you took a quick trip down to the Underworld!. Now, with all the zoning out!. Are you sick? have you been sleeping enough?" Nyssa said, an edge of heat to her voice. It was times like this Leo was reminded that he was Counselor in name only. Without Nyssa's constant attempts to keep them alive, most of his siblings and himself would've withered away bent over a machine. He noticed breakfast was coming to a close and if he wanted to explain, he'd better do it fast.

'But do I tell them what actually happened, or what I want them to believe what happened?. If I lie to them I'd be breaking their trust (andlove) again but if I tell them the truth they might (hurtmeleavemeneverneverneveragain) freak out. So a......compromise?'.

"Yeah when I was using the harness to work on Felix yesterday, Chiron came in and told me some freaky-ass news about a....relative". By Hades, it sure felt weird to call Teresa a relative but she was almost as badly hated as some of his relatives so...  "I may or may not have freak outed a bit too much and I uh...fell?". 

The looks he was getting were a mixture of horror, exasperation, and worry. 

Suddenly Leo was being crushed by several large masses, he had one thought of 'oh god they're trying to crush the stupidity out of me' before he realized he was being bear-hugged by all of his Cabin. He caught on and wrapped his arms around the nearest body which might have been either Lancia or Avia due to the slightly smaller size of said person. It was....nice to be wrapped up in his siblings, with the familiar tang of metal, oil, and smoke filling his nose.

He liked this (he wished he deserved this)

He wondered how long they were going to stay like this and if forever was a viable option when a voice broke through the comfortable warmth of this sibling-cocoon.

Leo was rudely reminded that this was a public place and every other cabin was outside his cocoon, but then again Leo had once witnessed a fist-fight break out at the Athena Table due to a chess game and the Nike Table start stabbing each other to see who could stand the most pain (hint: it was none of them because they used celestial bronze weapons, one stab and they were down for the count) so he supposed this wasn't the weirdest thing to happen here (especially judging from that tear in the floor holy schist was Leo only noticing that now-). "I hate to break this up but I wish to speak to Leo alone for a few moments" Chiron spoke and his siblings slowly untangled themselves from him.

 

 

 


 

When Leo was sadly free from the hug of doom, he noticed that most of the cabins were gone, leaving behind just a few stragglers.

Hopping around sibling and up to Chiron, who, in Leo's opinion, looked like he was just back from a nice walk (trot?) around Tartarus. They walked out of the Pavilion towards the Big House, which was becoming a place Leo was liking less and less

They walked in silence for a while. Leo could hear sounds of fighting from inside the Arena. He thought maybe Percy was teaching the newest campers how to not to hack off their own legs with the long magical pointy sticks of death. It was a nice thought.

"Leo" Chiron began, sounds of newbies getting their asses handed to them behind him. "I would like you to know that I would never let my campers go back to a situation where their lives or mental well-being is at stake. Never. Do you understand, Leonidas?" his voice was gravelly and serious, his brown eyes burning into Leo. 

Leo nodded his head, rattled by Chiron's words.

He pulled out a Rubix Cube Harley got him for Christmas. 

Walking into the Big House was nerve-wracking. He made and un-made the Rubix Cube at lightning speed. Chiron led him into his office and Leo was greeted by the TV used to show him that terrible orientation video and an old-timey boom-box that Leo itched to get his fingers on.

Chiron sank into the wheelchair behind the desk and the part of Leo's brain that worshipped physics as its own kind of god wept tears. 

Was the wheelchair its own kind of pocket-dimension? Where was all that mass going?!. But, of course, none of this mattered because of magic!. "If you wouldn't mind sitting Leo, we can get right on with proceedings". Chiron said,  breaking through his ADHD-fueled thoughts.

Leo complied and sank into the chair in front of the desk, his knee going at a hundred miles per hour and the Rubix Cube was nothing more than a multi-colored blur in his hands.

"So whats the sitch doc?", he asked with feigned confidence, his voice sounding wobbly and nervous even to him. Chiron gave him a grim smile and Leo felt his stomach go 'swoop'.

"It seems when Detective Martinez was informed of your whereabouts, he needed to know if you were safe I suppose. It seems, well-" Leo felt the blood rush from his face as his anxiety spiked. Chiron sighed, long and hard, "-it seems Mr. Martinez placed a call with Child Protective Services last night. You were never placed under my care as it was never brought to my attention that you were a Runaway. Child Protective Services were quite surprised to learn that I was illegally housing a well-known truant and they-", Chiron rubbed a hand roughly across his face, "they ordered I hand you over to the State, lest I face criminal charges"

It felt like all of Leo's senses were suddenly extremely sensitive. He could feel the blood rushing in his ears, the way his heart pounded in his chest, the stillness of his legs, the ways his breath whistled past his teeth and how the Rubix Cube seemed to just- slip from his grasp. 

'No' he thought viciously 'I won't freak out again. No, fuck you. I am not this weak. Breath. Breath. You own your brain. Your thoughts won't control you. Breath...Breath.....Breath'.

After an eternity, or maybe just a few seconds, he got his mind under his control. Chiron was still, sitting there, waiting patiently for him, eyes centuries old.

"What the Fuck" he rasped. He could barely comprehend this. His one safe haven. His friends. His Family. He was going to have to go back.

"What the fuck indeed Mr. Valdez" Chiron chuckled humorlessly. "CPS should be here in a day. I'll attempt to have you back here within a week, but me harboring you will not go in my favor. Hopefully, they'll place you somewhere close, possibly New York, but you have to be open to the possibility that I may not be granted custody of you. I hate to entertain the worst case scenario but it seems like we Greeks like our Greek Tragedies too much. It-It would be best if you could pack anything you want to take with you, and....goodbyes I suppose" Chiron looked away from Leo, and it seemed like he was showing his age. Tired and old

Not unlike what Leo felt like. His skin felt too small, stretched over expanding bones and his felt so so so cold. Which was usually impossible due to him having the ability to light himself on fire. He got up from his chair and stumbled out of the Big House and into the cold sunlight.

 

He looked up to the Sun.

It didn't hurt anymore.

Was Chiron calling after him?.

 

There was a buzzing by his ear. It was someone talking.

Drew Tanaka?.

 

Oh

 

"Um, Leo you in there?"

Leo- that was him right?.

"Valdez, have you finally lost it?".

 

Probably.

 

His skin was stretched too tightly over his bones and it felt like at any moment, Leo would simply float away.

 

Leo(?)

 

"Anyway, I need that dagger fixed by Tuesday-. Okay, Repair Boy, I'm taking you to the Infirmary because if Piper finds out I let you have a stroke or something she'd kill me and then herself so let's go-". That's when she tugged on his arm. Maybe she was just trying to get him to stop staring into the Sun, or maybe she was trying to drag him back towards the Infirmary but the minute she tugged, Leo just-

 

  fucking

 

    lost-it.

 

(touch is Pain touchisPain touchisPainhurtPainbloodAgainandAgainTheyallleaveAloneAloneUselessUseless)

 

(a belt(?))

 

Crack!.

 


 

 

"Zeus Almighty, Fuck!.

Will!.  Kayla!.

"Valdez just freaked the fuck out on me-the fuck is happening oh gods is he having a seizure?. Valdez you gotta stay with me, oh gods Piper might actually kill me if you die."
"

.....Oh, thank the fates I have no idea what happened. One minute he's staring at the Sun, all pale, next thing you know he's on the floor freaking the fuck out!".

"Okay Drew, thank you, I need you to do crowd control".

"Got it".

"Kayla, what do you think it is?". "Well, it's definitely not a seizure, too young and the wrong kind of unhealthy for a stroke or a heart attack". "I...I schist Kayla what do they use Sertraline for again?". "It's an SSRI used to combat PTSD, I'm pretty sure". "Oh by Olympus, it's a dissociative episode. Sedative?". "It's our best bet".

 

"Leo?!".

 

"Piper!. Stay the fuck back and let them do their job".

 

"The Hades happened to him?!. What are they giving him?!".

 

"It's a sedative, now get back!".


.....Piper?

Why did (Leo?) know that name?

 


"C'mon Leo, sleep now".

 


Sleep?

 

That sounds nice. Leo(?) would like that. 

 

 

forever

 

 

 


.

....What?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Leo was only vaguely surprised to see that he was in a forest. It was like his mind looked around, saw this strange place and went 'Yep, this is right where we're meant to be'.

The forest wasn't too dense so a lot of light got in, illuminating the clearing he was in. He could hear a river gurgling nearby and the chittering of birds high in the trees. It wasn't Leo's ideal place, but it was....nice enough. Too little machines in his opinion. He sat on a rock that looked sort of like a bench by the edge of the river, and waited. He didn't know why he was waiting. Maybe he was dead and waiting for di Angelo to bring him to the Underworld. 

Then, suddenly, as if she was always there, appeared Hera. 

Leo didn't jump or startle. He just accepted it. 

Maybe she was here there the entire time?.


"Hello there, little Hero," she said, her voice the pinnacle of motherly and loving, while still maintaining that air of superiority. Leo hated it


"What do you want now Tía?. Haven't you messed with my friends and me enough?." he spat, though his voice sounded dead and lacking the 'violent hatred' he was going for.

Annabeth was way better at this.

Hera laughed. He was so shocked by this he almost dropped the stone he was messing with into the water below. "Of course Hero, you and your friend are finished with world-destroying prophecies it seems. Thank the Fates for that". Leo looked up from the water. Hera seemed a lot less of a bitch here. She also seemed much more.....human? in a sense anyway.


She still wore her white chiton, but her eyes seemed less harsh and her hair was a dark, wavy curtain around her. She looked relaxed. And young. Leo could actually picture her as the goddess of the family when she looked like this.

"Why am I here then?. Don't tell me you missed the bad-boy supreme so much that you had to check up on me, eh Tía?. Also, where is here?, 'Cause I've never seen this place in my life" he mused aloud.

She was silent.

Maybe Hera was just fucking with him. It did sound like something she would do.

Hera frowned, her brow furrowed in displeasure at his entire existence and Leo felt like he was back in his element. "This is a place forgotten to the sands of time. I enjoyed coming here when it still existed, alas you humans take everything from me. But I sadly did not summon your mind here to talk about me, Leonidas". 

Leo frowned. "So this is a dream?". Leo could accept that. This place, while realistic, still held that vague haziness he associated with demigod dreams. He skipped a stone on the surface of the river.

Hera nodded and watched the stone skip past on the water.

"Indeed, hero, and I am here to impart unto you valuable knowledge" She looked him dead in the eyes, her gaze almost too old for him to handle. The tone in the air had changed whiplash-quick, from a strange feeling of serenity to a heavy sense of urgency he could almost taste on his tongue. The forest started to darken, the sun vanishing into the tree foliage.

"It appears that your past is catching up to you, but this time it is imperative you do not run. This time, face your future παιδί μου.
 Do not let your fear rule you as it has before. I did not name you one of my Επτά ήρωες for you to lose hope because of mere mortals". She cupped his face in her hand in a strange, lovingly way. Leo knew it was just to keep him in his place. To keep him from looking away.

"Remember Αγόρι μουthat you are a demigod. Half mortal, Half God. Divinity runs through your veins. But be wary of your Gift while in the mortal world. It burns more than just flesh" Her voice swirled around him, but for some reason Leo just felt...angry?. No. He felt..resentful. He tried to talk, to ask why Hera, pain in his behind since childhood, deemed him 'worthy' enough to summon for a quick pep talk. To ask why now?. Why not before?. 

But the forest started to shift and fade, his voice disappearing along with it. 

The last clear image he saw was Hera, regal and royal, eyes burning a hole in his very existence.


"You'll rise again,  Φοίνιξ μου." 


The darkness swelled above him.


"......You always do, it seems".

 



The first thing Leo noticed when consciousness came back to him was the hushed voices and the distant clamor of voices. They were a constant background hum to Leo as he tried to figure out where in the name of sweet holy Olympus he was. Then he remembered The Talk With Chiron and....something to do with Drew?. Maybe she had enough of his angsty wallowing messing up with her wishes so she...decked him?. Charmed-spoke him into decking himself?. Everything after what happened with Chiron, everything got pretty obscure. Gods of Olympus he hoped he didn't freak out again.

 


Without open his eyes, he examined his surroundings. He was on his back, which hurt like a bitch. He brushed his fingers against a cozy blanket wrapped around him and a soft mattress underneath him. The air smells like blood, that weird Hospital stench and every so often he swore he heard someone scream. So, Infirmary.

He took note that his legs were bare, brushing against the soft material of the blanket. He was still in his undershirt, a Camp half-blood tee, and his underwear. The hushed voices were silent. Leo could now only hear the clamor of the Infirmary. He left out a long exhale, hoping whoever it was had left.

"Leo, are you awake?" a voice (Piper?) called.

'Pendejo' he thought viciously. They were still here. He cracked his eyes open. Leaning above him was Piper, Percy, Will and directly at the end of the bed Leo was currently in, was Chiron. Leo let his trademark grin slide across his face while propping himself up on his elbows, hoping to dispel the heavy air in the room. "Hola amigos, you worried 'bout little 'ole me or could you not bear to part with this beautiful face?. Don't worry though folks, The Supreme Commander of the Argo II will be back to grace you with his presence in no time." he said, slathering his words with a bravado he didn't exactly feel at the moment. Then, Piper's face shifted from 'concerned and worried' to the more familiar 'Leo you fucking idiot'. Was it bad Leo felt more in his element when his friends were angry at him, then when they were angry at him?.

 

Then, out of the blue, he was being crushed. No....hugged?. 

Piper had, unexpectedly, throwing herself at him, throwing the both of them back into the bed and crushing the air out of Leo in a surprised hug-attack. Piper was leaning heavily against him in the most uncomfortable hug in history, so he lifted himself up and wrapped himself around her. Which Percy, apparently, took as an invitation to wrap both of them up in those long-ass arms of his. He tucked his head into the crook of Piper's neck, breathing in. "You worried about the Super-Sized McShizzel or just happy that I'm still here to annoy you for the rest of your life, Hermana?. You too Aqua-man, don't think I've forgotten about you. Don't worry, I don't think I'm ready to give that fun activity up just yet" he teased, grin firmly back in place after it slipped when Pipes hug-attacked him. Hattacked?. Hugcked?. Hattuged?. Yeah, when Pipes Hattuged him.

 

Sweet Zeus he hated his ADHD.

 

Piper didn't answer, didn't hit him or give him an exasperated eye-roll. Oh, schist he was in for it. Nico better start preparing his grave now.

What was it with sisters being upset with him that gave him a feeling of impending doom?. 

 

"Leo I think- I'm just gonna-" Piper began, her voice quiet, as she started to awkwardly stuff herself beside his skinny body on the bed, lying the both of them down and making sure to keep both their arms wrapped around them. She tucked herself into the crook of Leo's neck, laying stomach down. Sadly this meant Percy had to relinquishes his hold on them in favor of sitting in the chair closest to Leo's head. 

 Like this, Leo could see Chiron and Will easily enough over Piper's head. Chiron looked about as good as Leo felt, which was pretty shit. Will looked like his usual Californian surfer-dude, but then again Will could probably be thrown into a meat-grinder and come out like he's fresh off the surf.
So in summary Solace was Solace and Chiron looked like the physical embodiment of Leo's mental state. Percy looked like he wanted to cry, but also like he wanted to stab someone. But showing Percy Blackfish could get him like that, so maybe someone just him reminded of that?. Leo really didn't want that. He didn't think he could survive Annabeth's fury if he made Percy cry. Also, he couldn't see Pipe's face and he didn't think he wanted to. If Pipes started crying he wouldn't be able to take it.

"¿Pasa algo, Chiron?. ¿Les dijiste o tengo que decirles?Porque prefiero no decírselo, ¿sabes?.No hay necesidad de hacer que se preocupen por algo que no pueden hacer nada al respecto" he said, hoping no one had the sudden talent of understanding Spanish and that in centuries of Chiron's existence he had taken a Spanish Duolingo lesson or something. Or else Leo was, to put it eloquently, fucked. Because if he could get out of telling people about Stuff then that would be great.

Thankfully, the gods and the Duolingo Owl were on his side."No se lo dije, pero preferiría que les dijeras, Leo. Si no todo, al menos cuéntales sobre tus circunstancias. Ellos pueden ser capaces de ayudar" he answered, with slightly stilted Spanish. Oh, gods, he was going to make him tell them. His shit-eating grin stayed firmly in place. 

Whilst this fun conversation was going on, everyone else looked pretty mystified. Well, Percy and Will did. Piper was still mashed into his neck so what she looked like was anyone's best. Though Leo could feel the anger coming off her more and more as the conversation went on.

"I'm barely passing Spanish at Goode so it'd-uh be great if someone could translate" Percy interjected, uncomfortably shifting in his chair as he looked back and forth between Chiron and him. "Leo and I were just discussing his ......circumstances" Chiron answered, giving Leo an eyebrow-raise that probably meant 'You spill- or I do'.

There was silence for a few moments. 

"Fine I'll do it, I'll tell them. Just...not here. I'll talk with my siblings first, cause I'm pretty sure if I don't do it soon, they're going to skin me alive. Then, everyone else that needs to know, will know. Okay, Chiron?." he said, his grin turning down slightly at the edges, and that got people's attention. Piper lifted her head to look him directly in the eyes. "You better" voice hard and eyes cold, was all she said before clambering off him and storming past the curtain that kept Leo secluded from everyone else. Leo could feel the Charmspeak digging its claws into his brain, worming its way around him until it settled in his bones. He sat up, hoping to dispel the uncomfortable sensation of the Charmspeak.

Percy nodded at him and said "I'll see you later then. Tonight?. Maybe in my cabin?". Yeah, no one slept there other than Jackson so it was perfect. "Sure. Tell everyone else okay?" he wasn't too sure who 'everyone else' was but Percy nodded back to him in casual bro-speech for 'Okay, sure' and ducked out of the room. "I've already given you the shovel speech and at this point giving up another won't help. You've only been out for around an hour so you have plenty of time to get everything in order before tomorrow. People want to help you, Leo, don't push them away" Will said, clapping a hand on his shoulder. Then, the much louder screaming started. Will cursed and rushed out of the room to do Magicky-Doctor stuff.

Then, only two remained."Leo I-" Chiron began but backpedaled and tried again "Leo, you must be incredibly stressed and...apprehensive. But you have survived much worse than this". Chiron was talking about Gaea. But for a second Leo thought he knew about--

 

No shut up stop it.

 

Chiron placed a bundle on his lap. His clothes.

Oh goodie.

"I'll leave you to change," he said and trotted out of his room.

Leo collapsed back into the bed with a groan.

 


 

 

Clothed and looking sort of decent he headed out to find his siblings. The Camp still felt normal even though his entire life was changing. He didn't know what to feel about that.

What he did know, however, was that in all his years of living, he's never had Drew Tanaka stalk him. Was he hallucinating?. He kept seeing flashes of her out of the corner of his eye. Maybe she was just going to the Forge as well as Leo, and he was just paranoid. 

By the time he got to the Forge, she was nowhere to been seen.

Entering into the Forge was like going home. A place you knew so intimately you could walk around there blind. The familiar heat of the forge brushed up against his skin. His siblings, too entrenched in their work, didn't see him come in. He coughed loudly, but his voice was overpowered by Harley going to town with a hammer on his project. He knocked on the door.

Nada.

He decided to go the easiest route and tapped Harley on the shoulder. "Leo!" Harley called. "I really really really need your help with this, I just can't seem to get it to work!. Also, where were you?. After you went to Chiron you were gone for soooo long Nyssa was starting to get antsy- Oh! Nyssa! Leo's here!". Harley shouted. Gods Leo loved this kid. 

Nyssa spun away from her table but didn't seem too angry with him.

So she mustn't have heard about whatever happened to put him in the Infirmary. Good. Leo didn't think he could handle another of Nyssa's verbal lashings. "Leo, where did you disappear to this time?" she said, hands on hips.

"Yeah about that, could we call like a Cabin meeting or something I- I have something to tell you. An important something," he said, shifting from foot to foot, as he tossed Harley's miniature Festus he was working on from hand to hand.

 

"And Harley, he needs some weight added to his left side, it's all wonky. That's probably why he won't fly straight". Harley beamed at him and hugged him around the waist.

 


 

 

Everyone had gathered in Bunker 9, and Leo had closed up the doors. Festus slept in the corner. Coffee and Energy Drink cans were scattered around where Leo usually worked. There weren't enough seats so everyone just sat in a circle on the ground, which didn't really bother Leo. He sat between Lancia and Ford, the least tactile people in his cabin so he probably wouldn't be physically comforted by them, thank the gods.

"So I lied" that's it, Valdez, start off a blunt as you can, after all, tactfulness died years ago. "Well to be more specific I lied about how and why I was in the Infirmary yesterday" gods it was only yesterday. He was staring between Shane and Jake, so he couldn't see their reactions to that.

He didn't want to.

"So the truth is-" C'mon Valdez, now's not the time to pussy out. He took a deep breath. God, he was really new to this tell the truth thing. "The truth is the letter I got wasn't about a relative, it was about my foster mother. She-she's getting out, on like, Parole I guess." Don't look don't look don't look don't look-

"I got the letter to warn me. She was in there cause I testified against her because let me tell you she was one bad foster mother, y'know?." he chuckled weakly, and it echoed in the silence of the Bunker. "Anyways, the letter brought back memories I'd really rather not be brought back up. It caused a- I guess a Panic Attack?. So that's why I was missing. But sh-" Harley "-uffs been brought to light and CPS figured out that I was here and since I'm still technically still a runaway-" almost at the finish-line c'mon "- CPS want me back in their custody. They're coming tomorrow. Chiron can't stop them and he isn't sure that CPS will allow him to get me back." His heart was going a hundred miles per hour and a cold sweat had broken out across his forehead.

He swiveled his eyes back down from where they drifted from, staring at the dark ceiling. Nyssa was pale and didn't look from too different from what he felt like. Actually, everyone looked like how he felt. 

 

Afraid

 

So, so afraid

 

At some point, they had just gradually drifted together. Not hugging. Just...close.

"Does that mean I'm Head Counsellor again?. Because that was a special kind of hell and I'd prefer if I wasn't" Jake joked weakly. People hear and there chuckled. Even Leo gave a snort at his hermano's attempt to lighten the mood. Maybe he did change them, in the end.

"Well then, that was.....I'm not going to say nice because it wasn't. At all. But we have stuff to make and weapons to fix. The work of a Hephaestus kid never stops!." Leo said, jumping up and brushing himself off, mask firmly in place and walls back up.

The others soon followed him out, and back to work. Every so often they'd brush up against him, or worked unnecessarily close to him.

They didn't say anything. They were just there. 

He liked it.  

 

Shit, Leo was going to have to do this again. At least he had some time before that.

 

Maybe that would make it easier?.  

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After the meeting, which was now on Leo's list of 'Most painful conversations ever', they worked together in the Forge. Leo couldn't remember the last time he worked in the Forge with his siblings instead of locking himself up in Bunker 9 like some crazed hermit. He worked away most of the morning on some upgrade plans for 'Felix' and interacting with them. He helped Harley improve on his miniaturized version of Festus, which was the size of a small dog, and giving Lancia inspiration on an anniversary gift for her girlfriend.

Around midday, he had to break up a fight between Lilian and Archie, who were threatening to throw down, right there, in the middle of the Forge due to a disagreement on which WW2 plane was the best. After that, Shane came up to him to say he would be 'honored' if Leo gave him his blessing to help the Stolls with pranks while Leo was away. Leo gave him his blessing, his bag of prank materials and an overly dramatic speech about "carrying on the torch".

It was all very heartwarming.

Nyssa gave him the standard "If you die out in the mortal world, I'll kill you" spiel. "For the love of the gods, Leo, please don't do anything too stupid," she said while shoving a celestial bronze dagger into his hands, despite Leo having no clue how to fight with the pointy-sticks-of-death. He wasn't stupid enough to tell her that, though. Eventually, everyone started to clear out.

Jake left for P.T with the Apollo Cabin. Nyssa was dragged out by a serious-looking Athena Kid (Mark or something?) to discuss Capture the Flag plans. Harley had gone to test out his miniature Festus (M.F for short). Lancia was out on a date with her girlfriend, a girl from the Demeter Cabin, and Shane had gone out to talk about his future employment with the Stoll Brothers. So, the Forge was quiet save for the crackling of flames in the Hearth.

Leo let out a sigh, the noise mingling with the crackling. He pushed himself up sitting on his desk, his legs swinging carelessly above the ground and hands curled around the edge of the table. Emotions swirled in his chest, constricting his lungs and forcing him to dig his nails into the underside of the desk, trying to ground himself to this reality. 'You won't be coming back here' his traitorous mind whispered to him, 'the one family you want to stay with and they're taking you back. Nothing was ever good enough for you, always, always running. Maybe if you stayed just once maybe we wouldn't be in this situation. Maybe you could've stayed once instead of being such a fucking cowar-'. Suddenly, the comforting heat of the Forge became unbearably stuffy and the silence left a ringing in his ears.

He escaped out into the mild air of Camp, taking a deep breath. He leaned against the wall of the Forge, sliding down until he was sitting on the ground. From here, he could see Campers milling around the Cabins and the dining pavilion. His chest ached with the feeling of finality, of ending. Here, right here, might be the last time he would see the Camp in all its glory. The way the sun rays played on the surface of Long Island Sound. The Cabins in all their uniqueness. The way Leo felt normal here, instead of feeling like some mutant-demon-freak who played with fire and burnt people with nothing but his bare hands. The feeling of Familia.

In his mind, he took a photograph.


Breathe.


Now, lock it back up. Tightly.

 

Leonidas Valdez would remember Camp Half-Blood and everything it gave him until the day he took his last breath.

 



 

The dining pavilion was just starting to fill up when Leo got there. The air was filled with the smell of barbeque and fresh bread, as Leo made his way towards his table and was happy to see Jake sitting there, a smile taking up 70% of his face as he talked with Chris "-and then she said that I'll probably be back like I was before-" said Jake and Leo couldn't honestly be happier. He spotted Shane gesturing wildly with the Stolls and Lancia getting a bit too close with her girlfriend at the Demeter table. Eventually, the crowd started to dissipate as people sat down at their tables. Leo was wedged in-between Avia and Shane. Chiron gave a quick speech about the latest Capture the Flag game, sending a flash of sadness into his chest, constricting his heart and for a moment, it showed on the outside. Thankfully, his siblings were all looking in Chiron's direction, so no lying was necessary. Chiron dismissed them to their meals like a less creepy, more horse-like Dumbledore and the feasting began. Demi-god dining, was, to put it bluntly, fucking vicious. The unfortunate mixture of brutal training and most demi-gods having previous experience with poverty and a limited supply of food, made for an......experience, to say the least.

After the usual food-sacrifice and the shit-show that was dinner, they filled out to the Amphitheater to have an uncomfortable sing-along about 'Helping to prepare your Grammy for War', another song declaring the Greek's obvious superiority over those 'Stuffy-no-fun-Romans' and a song teaching everyone about all of Zeus' former lovers.


All of them.


Good Gods that song kept going well past the point of bearable.


At some point, Leo contemplated throwing the Apollo kid into the Campfire to shut him up.


When that thankfully ended, Leo led his siblings back to their Cabin, doing a quick headcount. He noticed Lancia's sudden disappearance. He chose to ignore this because Leo was many things, but a killjoy was not one of them.

"Supreme Commander Valdez calls lights out, kiddos", he called out to his cabin, as soon as everyone had climbed into bed. "Wait!. Leo, where's Lancia gone to?. She's not in her bed!", shouted Harley and Leo wanted di Angelo to come and drag him into the Underworld. "She's-uh-" age appropriate response age-appropriate response, "-gone....for a Sleepover!".

Leo was a genius.

"Yeah!. She's sleeping over in the Demeter Cabin for tonight, okay kid?". Harley seemed satisfied by this, as Leo heard nothing from him afterward.

Leo packed quietly in the darkness of his private room. 'Beckendorf's old room' his brain unhelpfully reminded him. This room might be losing another head-counselor and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He shook his head, curls bouncing with the movement, to shake off that particular train of thought. He found an old camo back-pack in the room and started stuffing clothes, toiletries and his notebook in there. He gathered up a few drachmae/dollars and some photo's he had of The Seven and a few he had of his siblings. He placed his toolbelt and Nyssa's dagger in there to hide it from nosy Social Workers. He placed the burnt photo of him and his mamá on top.

Soon, everyone was either snoring or had lowered their beds into their rooms, so sneaking out was relatively easy. Getting past the harpies was a bit more difficult, but it was nothing compared to some of the places he'd run from. Once he got to Cabin 3, he let out a sigh of relief and pushed open the door. He was greeted by the oddly cozy sight of everyone in their PJ's curled up in blankets on the floor. Annabeth had cocooned herself in a blanket along with Percy. Piper had her feat in Percy/Annabeth's lap and her head in Jason's lap. The only light came from those freaky sea-plants decorating the place and the faint glow coming from a slightly-cracked fountain.

It was all very...blue.

Everyone in the room studied him with varying degrees of intensity. Leo was thankful both Hazel and Frank were off at Camp Jupiter doing Important Roman Things....or something, as having 4 people judge him relentlessly was enough to make him break out in a cold sweat, but adding Frank's actual puppy eyes and Hazel's severe gold eyes and he thought he might've dissipated into ashes. "Uh, Leo are-are you going to come in or.....what?" asked Percy, looking up at him from his place on the floor and Leo realized he had been staring vacantly at them from the doorway for a while now.

Great. Now Leo looked mentally disturbed. This wouldn't be helping his whole 'bad things have happened to me but im fiiineee' shtick he had going on.

"Oh!. Yeah, yeah of course" he said, awkwardly shuffling inside and shutting the door behind him. He took a seat right in front of them all, so they were in a semi-circle surrounding him. Leo felt like he was on trial, and wasn't that a familiar feeling. Though Percy gave him a small, comforting smile, so maybe he would be okay. Jason nodded in his direction as if to say 'well, go on then'. The girls remained impassive.

The atmosphere in the room was similar to when Leo was young and still with his mamá in Houston. When Leo used to sit right beside his bedroom window and waited patiently for the thunderstorm to hit. The feeling of anticipation in that eerie calm, the way Leo felt both frightened and insatiably curious, the way the wind whipped from the window into his room, the way Leo's entire body used to tingle with the lightning and the constant warning bells that went off. 'It may be calm now, but just wait for it, kid', his body used to tell him and it was just the same now. But this time he didn't have his mamá to wipe the tears from his eyes or to whisper "I'll never let any thunderstorm hurt you, mijo. Never ever".

Everybody was waiting and Leo knew it. 'No backing out now, I guess' he thought as he gathered his courage. He let out a sigh and started.

 

"So-uh- I guess you all heard about my little fainting spell this morning, right?". Gods Almighty, that was only this morning. Everyone nodded. "Yeah, um- I'd just like to say that I'm not sick or dying or anything like that, but for me to explain what happened I have to do a little backstory first". That got people's attention. Piper's eyes widened fractionally and Annabeth furrowed her brows. Both Jason and Percy looked confused, which, good. Leo wanted to keep up his mystery-man persona for a little while longer. It was fun.

"I know that Piper and Jason know some stuff, but do you two know anything at all about my life before Camp Half-Blood?" he said, and thankfully, he got an answer. "I know that your mother died when you were young and somehow Gaia was involved in her death. I also know that you were in the System, but other than that, nothing much," said Annabeth, frow still furrowed, like she could intimidate the answers out of him faster.

Which, she could totally do if she really tried. Leo was really afraid of Annabeth and her freaky-deaky storm eyes.

"Yeah, that's about the gist of it. After my mother died I got placed in the foster system 'cause no one in my family was willing to take me. Bad blood between them and my mom or something", he waved his hand as if to wave away the memories of the rest of the Valdez family. "Anyway, my first two years in foster care were....rough to say the least. I was an extremely small kid-" "you're still an extremely small kid" "-shut up Piper, I'm still growing. But back then being small meant being a target. I got into a lot of fights with other kids. I was moved from foster home to group home and that just made me one pissy little kid. By the time I was 10 I had been moved from Texas to Arkansas, I had run away multiple times from 2 different foster homes and gotten into countless fights. So of course, the System slaps a 'troubled' label on me and declares me a lost cause". Now it was going to get rough.

He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and noticed he had everyone in rapt attention, their eyes trained on him like dogs watching their prey. "That's when my Social Worker decides, as a last-ditch effort, he's sending me off to 'The Landa Home for Errant Youth'. Even saying it leaves the taste of iron and something wrong on his tongue. "I-I don't think I've heard a more foreboding and pretentious name ever," said Annabeth worriedly, which, for some reason was so goddamn hilarious to him, that he broke out into giggles. "Well you're not wrong," he said between his giggles and wow Leo looked crazy.

Oops?.

But Leo counted it as a win because Piper let out a weak chuckle. "Well, at any rate, I get sent to the place a few days after my 10th birthday. It was run by James Landa and his wife Teresa. Famous across the South for 'fixing', heavy air-quotations there, troubled kids. First few days, it was creepy but otherwise okay. Teresa and James were the perfect, white, violently heterosexual, Christian, squeaky clean couple most Southerners have wet dreams about. The other kids were the same except for a few and they didn't talk to me until my 5th night there". It felt weird telling people about stuff like this. Like he was stripping nude and going "hey guys, look, I'm naked!".

"Why the 5th night?" asked Percy, eyes a soft green, but his mouth was turned down at the corners like he knew where this was going. "Well, the 5th night was the night they decided to show how they kept all their troubled kiddies in line. I guess they figured that I was one of them afterward".


He shut his eyes.


He didn't want to look at them anymore.


It hurt.


Leo let out a shaky breath. The only sounds were the quiet crashing of waves down at the beach and the breathing of the others.


Dios mío help me.


Sadly, good 'ole J.C didn't come down to save him so he counted another win for his everlasting pain and, paganism. "I- I was always pretty clumsy as a kid, so when I dropped a plate after dinner I wasn't surprised, it was sadly pretty common. I don't think I expected Teresa to help me or anything, I just thought she'd ignore me or tell me to clean it up. Instead, she walked over to me, and-and I remember thinking 'Wow, is she going to help me?'. I literally couldn't believe an adult actually giving a shit about me, so I just crouched on the floor with my mouth hanging open like an idiot. She bent beside me, all big blue eyes and dark hair and she started to pick up a piece of plate, the largest, and I thought, well, where is she gonna put it?. I remember saying "Hey, Mrs. Teresa, you sure you don't want me to get a brush or something?", and- I-I remember a big sunny smile stretching across her face and her saying, "No thank you, Leonidas". That's when she-", Leo blinked a fly or something out of his eyes. Yeah, a fly.

Gods it was warm in here. Leo wished he had brought something to fiddle with. He decided the seam of his plaid pajama pants would have to do.


He shut his eyes again.


"-She-um-Well, using the biggest piece of plate she-she stabbed me in the thigh."

Silence.

"I remember thinking "holy shit there's a piece of plate in my leg" and I don't think I computed what had happened so I just sort of- held it in place. Then Teresa was saying how 'we don't break plates in this house' and how 'I needed to learn how to be more aware of my surroundings because she didn't want me to injure myself on such sharp objects again'. She talked about as if it was me who put it in my own leg. It was around here that I passed out. I woke up in my shared room with my leg in shitty bandages in a lot of pain, there's even a scar". It's over it's over over over.

"Anyway, this particular Hell went on until I was around 11. The cops eventually found out and they went off to prison. But then, yesterday, I get a letter from the Detective that used to be on the case. He said that Teresa was getting parole soon and that I'm eligible to contest it. This, of course, started an avalanche. The Detective calls up CPS to make sure that CHB is safe and that I'm okay. Sadly, it's news to CPS that I'm here 'cause I'm still listed under 'runaway' in their database. CPS calls Chiron asking why he's illegally housing a runaway, and shit goes to Hades in a handbasket". Leo ran a hand through his hair and felt so so tired.

He locked his open eyes onto a particularly interesting piece of algae. "Now CPS is collecting my ass in the morning and it's unlikely they'll let Chiron take me in after this shitshow. Teresa's parole hearing is around November and I have no idea whats happening. I don't know if whatever home will let me come back to Camp and I know that if I keep running away to come here they might investigate here too hard or they'll just send my ass to juvie or if-" or if it'll be another 'Landa Home for Errant Youth'. Leo was too hot, god would it kill someone to open a window?. It was so hot, even Leo's eyes were starting to get hot and wet, even his body was reacting badly to the heat with the shaking and all. Good Gods did Leo need glasses like Superman?. Because the algae were getting pretty blurry and- hey he was being hugged. Again. "W-What is it with me being sad that gets people all hot-and-bothered. Like, c-can you for once not glomp yourselves all o-over me, pl-lease?. I know I'm pretty i-irresistible and all but-" he chuckled wetly into Percy's shoulder and wondered why he was stuttering and why he was so warm-


Leo was crying.


This sudden realization caused him to freeze up because he was crying in front of them. They knew things about Teresa and James and he was crying because he was weak. He tried to push away from Percy's embrace but Percy just tightened his arms around him and said, quietly, "Not yet". The rest soon joined. Annabeth on his left, Piper on his right, Percy in front and Jason glomped himself over all of them. For a while, it stayed like that.

Then, of course, Leo got a cramp in his neck and exited the glomp-fest. Without him, the huddle collapsed until everyone was sitting in front of him. He dragged his hands over his face roughly to get rid of any incriminating evidence of his weakness. "Fuck" he chuckled. "I'm in deep schist, dudes". They looked at him wearily. "....I'm not going to lie to you, Leo, and say you're not, but we are not going to just let you rot in the System until you're 18", said Jason, eyes hard behind his glasses and voice steely. Looking like this, Leo can easily imagine the Roman Praetor he once was. "Jason's right, Leo. If you think we're just not going to help, you're stupider than I thought you were. Okay?", Annabeth declared and Leo felt the good kind of warm. Like Campfire or the fire from the hearth in the Forge.

"Yeah, I get you Annie", he said, letting a crooked grin spread across his face. "Well I don't know if it's just me but I'm really tired, so..." said Percy, already climbing into his bed and, yeah, Leo was goddamn tired. He yawned and began to walk towards the door. "Hey!. Doofus, did I say you could leave?. You're sleeping in here" said Percy, glaring dramatically in his direction, from his bed. "With you, Aqua-man?. Are you sure Annabeth's okay with that?" he leered, but Percy just rolled his eyes and pointed at one of the free beds. Annabeth climbed into bed with Percy, which, if Frank was here, would probably give him a stroke or something. Piper and Jason did the same.

Frank is probably having a telepathic stroke or something.

Leo fell asleep the minute his head hit the pillow.


He dreamt of a forest. 

 


 

Leo was rudely woken by someone vigorously shoving him. "Hmnnng-vete a la chingada- it-hnnn- is-too early", he mumbled to the asshole waking him up at what felt like ass-o-clock."Leo, dude, seriously, wake up. Chiron says the CPS lady is here and she is getting pretty pissy with him. She thinks you've run off or someth-". Leo leaped out of the bed, his mind in a whirlwind.

"Holy shit- Holy shit. I gotta get back to my Cabin for some stuff and clothes and goodbyes, can you hold her off?", he said to Percy. "Yeah, but not for long" Percy said, already jogging out the door.

Leo sprinted from Cabin 3 to Cabin 9, throwing open the door and throwing himself down into his room. He haphazardly threw on his most mortal clothes, a white t-shirt, suspenders, black jeans and his favorite army jacket. He threw his backpack over his shoulder and when he got up to the Cabin, was greeted by his siblings, all still sleepy."Hey, so, CPS is here right now, so I gotta go-", he said, stuffing his feet into his boots.

They shared one very sad and very sleepy sibling hug, baring Lancia, who was still 'missing'. Nyssa promised to send along his love when she came back from her "sleepover". Harley almost didn't let him leave, clinging to Leo's waist and crying softly into his stomach. Leo almost started crying as well. It wasn't nice. All of his siblings were varying degrees of sad. He managed to leave Cabin 9 with only a few tears shed and a promise to IM and call them every few days.

When he reached the border, he saw Chiron(in his wheelchair), a sleepy Percy, a grumpy Annabeth and a very disgruntled looking Piper and Jason. Then he saw the woman. She was petite, with long, straight caramel hair and green eyes and dressed in a slate-grey pantsuit. She had an overly severe cop with her, who was eyeing up the Camp like everyone in it was a murder suspect.

Leo hated him on sight

"Mr. Valdez, I am glad you're still with us. I was worried for a few seconds that I would have to get Officer Stansfield here to fetch you" the woman said, the threat almost palpable in the air. Officer Stansfield continued to glare bloody murder at everything in sight.

He turned to the others. The sun was just beginning to rise, washing them in a daffodil-yellow glow. A gentle wind brushed passed him. Time seemed to thicken and slow as he stared at them. Percy embraced him first, circling Leo's shoulders with his arms, he smelt of sea and Percy and Leo didn't want to go. Percy stopped after Leo didn't do anything.

Annabeth shook his hand. It was firm and warm and so very Annabeth.

Piper and Jason doubled-teamed him, wrapping him the scent of ozone and something so very Piper it made him tear up."We'll tell Frank and Hazel what's happening, so they don't worry", Piper said into his ear as they embraced. These were the only words that were spoken between the four of them on that hill.

(Maybe for the last time?)
(shhh)

Chiron looked up at Leo, eyes old and tired and heavy. "Good luck, my boy, and remember that help and hope are everywhere you care to look", he said and passed him a slip of paper. Leo tucked it into his jacket pocket before the woman got suspicious.

"Well then, officer, take me away!", he exclaimed cheerfully, turning to the cop while fixing a manic grin on his face and thrusting his arms forward as if waiting to be cuffed. Officer Stansfuck just rolled his eyes but did place a heavy paw on his skinny shoulder. 'So they know my reputation' he thought and that was....weirdly pleasing.

The Officer pushed him forward and he was forced farther and farther away from the Pine-tree and his home and his everything. The woman walked ahead of them and the urge to bolt became excruciating. His body tingled with adrenaline at the thought of just hightailing away while they walked to the road, but every time he seriously considered it Hera's(?) warning came to mind.

("It appears that your past is catching up to you, but this time it is imperative you do not run. This time, face your future παιδί μου. Do not let your fear rule you as it has before.")

The Officer shoved Leo into the woman's car, a black sedan in perfect condition.

He shut the door.

Leo's hand curled around the door handle.

Chiron, Percy, Annabeth, Jason, and Piper were blurry blobs through the glass windows of the car.

The child-lock went on as the woman turned the car on.

He shoved the feeling of 'it's not fair!' deep into his chest. He didn't bang on the windows or fight bitterly to get to where he wanted to go. His heart pounded with the engine ignition. He nearly puked when they started to pull away. He needed to open the doors and get back-


Leo had never felt homesick before, not really.


This wasn't fair.


Chapter Text

The car was painfully silent for about half an hour as they sped passed forest and into a slightly more urbanized area. He kept his eyes focused on the horizon and prayed for Social Services Woman to turn the goddamn radio on to dispel the thick, awkward tension in the car. He wrapped his arms around his middle, hoping that talking would keep the nausea at bay.

Stupid carsickness.

"Hey, so, are you my new Case Worker or am I still with the girl from before because, no offense to her, but she wasn't the sharpest tool in the tool-box. Also, am I staying in State or am I being shipped off?, cause I'd really prefer if you kept me in NYC. I have friend's and sh-stuff here I wouldn't wanna lose and, you know what they say about disrupting a child's attachments at a young age, it could really mess me up", he said, hoping his voice would sound better than how he actually felt. "By the way, what is your name, 'cause I know you introduced Officer Stansfield and whatever but I have no idea what to call you and I'd like a name to go with that face". He winked into her rear-view mirror. Leo was pretty sure she was silently gagging. "My name, Mr.Valdez, is Deirdre Markievicz and yes, I am to be your new Case Worker," she said, accented voice rising with her annoyance. He couldn't see her from where he was sitting in the back, but he knew that she was frowning.

Score.

"And, yes, in the interest of your continued compliance and to prevent future.....incidents from occurring, you will be staying in Manhattan. To be precise, a foster home in East Harlem, in the home of...Antonio Connolly and his Wife, I believe. From what I have observed of them they seem to be a kind family and they already have 5 other children in their custody", she said, her voice crisp and cold, but with a faint hint of an accent that sure wasn't American.

Leo frowned. East Harlem wasn't too far away and Percy could probably visit him when he got back from Camp, so there's one less thing to worry about. He pushed his fingers in his sides trying to distract himself from the nausea.

Leo trusted this woman about as far as he could throw Jason.

'They seem nice my ass' he thought bitterly and wondered what fresh new hell the American Foster System would be having him try out today. He glanced furtively at the radio, praying for a distraction. He'd even be grateful for Country Music, it was that bad.

"Mr.Vald- Leo, I know you haven't exactly been dealt a fair hand in life-", brilliant deduction Holmes,"-but I will do everything to make sure that you are given a chance to be happy, or at least safe ", her voice was now honey sweet, the accent kicking up a notch and dread starting to build up in his stomach. 'I was happy at Camp' he thought, bitterness mixing with the queasy feeling he was getting from the car.

Another two hours of this shit?.

Kill. Him. Now.

They went over a speed bump, jostling his stomach and he couldn't quite mask the wince that crossed his face.

"Oh!, yes, I have some anti-nausea pills here. Your file did say that you suffered from mild motion sickness, correct?". Leo had never been so happy to see pills. Ever. Ripping the box from her hand and tearing the packet open, he swallowed them dry and almost cried from relief. Soon enough his stomach began to settle and he collapsed back into his seat, the pills kicking in. His eyes glazed over as he looked dazedly out the window. The outside blurred past, greys and blues and greens mixing together, forming a hypnotic kaleidoscope.

'....pretty colors' he thought dazedly and a heavy fog began to settle on his brain. Of course, the heavy feeling of homesickness was constant, but his awareness of it dulled as he slipped into a trance. His eyelids grew heavier and heavier each time he blinked and soon, his eyes felt too heavy to open. His breath evened out and his head tipped forward and his conscious slipped into the hazy warmth of sleep.

She turned on the radio.

 

Quietly, Dolly Parton crooned through the speakers.

 


 

 

He was violently awoken by someone shaking his shoulder. "¡Dios mío, ¿Qué chingados!", he screeched, jumping half a foot into the air from fright. He looked around the car with wild eyes and momentarily forgot what the Hades was happening. Then, of course, it barreled into him like a truck on a mission of vengeance, John Wick style. "We're here, Leo", Ms. Markievicz (Leo was assuming she wasn't married, he didn't see a ring) said. He collapsed back into his seat, noticing the high buildings and the bustling noises of the city. Ms. Markievicz was staring at him, a troubled look in her eyes but she seemed to gather her composer quickly and turned towards the line of houses, waiting. Leo got the memo, undoing his seatbelt, grabbing his bag and getting out of the car. The car made a soft click behind him as she locked it and they began their way down to the house.

They stopped at a house, a tall Brownstone building, with a small wrought iron gate at the front and steps leading up to the hardwood door. He could see another small set of steps leading into some sort of basement. Ms. Markievicz knocked on the door.

Nothing.

She waited a few minutes before using the buzzer on her left.

Nothing.

Leo played with the frayed edges of his bag strap.

She knocked again, using much more force and growing visibly frustrated. Leo was about to suggest maybe she had the wrong house when the door was ripped open, revealing a small teenaged girl with blonde hair with dyed edges. Her eyes, a hard green were visibly angry before melting into a sort of desperate panic. "Oh shit, today's New Kid day. Oh my god I'm an idiot. So sorry Ms. Markievicz!, I thought you were someone else", the girl rambled, stepping aside and ushering them inside. "Mr. Connolly!, Ms. Markievicz and New Kid are here!", she shouted into the house. 

The house, speaking of, was way too good to be true. There was a large staircase in front of him, hugging the right wall leading up to a landing. The hall had dark hardwood floors to match the stairs, but the walls were painted in light colors and full of sunshine. A chandelier glinted on the ceiling far above him. A godsdamned chandelier. The hall had a large door at the end and another to the left of the stairs. In other words, this place meant that this Antonio was rich. So very, very rich. 

Then, there was a man at the top of the stairs. He was tall and neither skinny nor particularly large, but he did look old with his grey hair and tanned weathered face. "Ah-Deirdre is it? I'm so sorry for my forgetfulness!. It seems my memory is getting worse with age!" he boomed, mirth clear in his aging face. The closer he came he taller he got and by the time he was next to them, Leo was thinking they hadn't killed all the Giants during the War. He easily loomed over Leo, the girl, and Ms. Markievicz. She smiled at him and gladly shook his hand "Yes, and it was no problem. CPS is very thankful for you taking Leo in on such short notice. I hope it wasn't too much of an inconvenience?" she said, and Mr. Connolly let out a chuckle, shaking his head. "It was no problem, now, young man, we have introductions to make," he said, slapping a heavy hand on Leo's shoulder and grinning wildly at him, hazel eyes wide. His hand was so large it covered most of Leo's shoulder and nearly sent him toppling to the ground. Leo sent him a nervous grin and suppressed the urge to get the fuck outta dodge. Ms. Markievicz seemed satisfied by this "I'll be making a few visits to check up on you every now and again. Here's my number" she said, nodding to him. He pocketed the card and watched her slim form slip out the door. 

"Hey, Tony, will I get everyone into the dining room or...?" the teen girl said, raising an eyebrow at Mr. Connolly. "Yes!, excellent idea Diana!" he boomed and yeah Leo's ears were starting the hurt from his....exhubrance. Diana jogged up the stairs and Leo could hear muffled shouts and the banging of doors. "Leo, it is my honor to welcome you to my home. After I introduce you to everyone I'll have one of the children show you around," Mr. Connolly said, at a thankfully lower volume as he leads Leo into the door at the end of the hall. He gave him a half-assed grin "Nah, the honors all mine, considering you're letting me stay in a place like this". He swung his arms in a large sweeping motion, gesturing to all of the house (mansion?). Mr. Connoly laughed, so Leo considered the dude mightn't be too bad if he could laugh with Leo.

The dining room was large, with a grand mahogany table in the center, large glass doors leading onto a deck and showing a modest but beautiful garden. Leo saw that the room had an arch in the right wall, leading to what he presumed was the kitchen. Leo sat in one of the chairs closest to the head of the table, where Mr. Connolly sat. Now time for Leo's least favorite part of meeting new people.

Pleasantries.

"Uh- Well, thank you for taking me in, in such, uh, short notice, Mr. Connolly," he said, setting his bag down on the floor and tripping over his words with his own brand of social stupidity. "No thanks are needed Leo, and please, call me Tony, or Antonio if you would prefer," he said, eyes kind and brimming with mirth. "Uh yeah sure, Mr. Con-uh- Tony," he answered with minimal distress. 

 

Then, suddenly, the doors parted like the Red Sea, letting in a crowd of teens and kids. They all stopped in the doorway, eyes roaming over Leo, assessing him. "Move, you hooligans!. Always blocking off my rooms-" a voice shouted, before turning into grumbles. The kids moved and took their respective places, revealing a tall, thin woman with fierce grey eyes and dark greying hair piled on her head. She sat right across from him, so he assumed she was Mrs. Connoly, but in contrast to Tony's almost Santa Claus-like nature, she felt severe and....brittle?. "Hello everyone, I'd like everyone to meet Leo Valdez, he'll be your new Foster-brother," said Tony, voice kind and happy.

Everyone zeroed in on him, and he felt like he was about to be eaten alive.

Mrs. Connoly glared at him.

"Introductions, okay, so I'll go first", said the teen from earlier, standing up from her chair." My name is Diana Morozov, I'm 16 years of age and I like Art, Politics and running" she said, her green eyes proud but bored, like she'd done this a million times before. "Uh-hi Diana?" he said, not understanding how to respond, though it seemed to be correct as the next person quickly introduced themselves. He looked exactly like Diana, save for a slightly more masculine build and shorter hair. "My name is Alexander Morozov, I'm Diana's twin, but you can tell probably-uh I'm 16 too, obviously. I like riding stuff-I mean, like horses and cars and stuff! not like people, but-uh- I-," Diana, sensing her brother was about to say something absolutely terrible, forcibly pulled him back into his seat, his pale face ablaze. Leo let out a small chuckle at his misery and gave him a smirk and a suggestive wink. Poor Alexander looked like he was in the middle of having a stroke.

Next to stand up was a tall, dark-skinned teen with impossibly broad shoulders and deep brown eyes. "Hello, Leo," he said, voice deep and level, "My name is Nick, I am 15 and I enjoy reading, writing and beating up people with large metal objects such as crowbars or wrenches".

Whiplash couldn't even to begin to describe how Leo felt, and it showed on his face. Nick smirked at him and Leo wondered if Karma was finally beginning to come into effect in his life. Everyone, weirdly, continued on as normal as Nick sat back down. Nick's eyes screamed triumph at his shocked face, but Leo's sense of pride wouldn't allow that. 'I'll get you back, bitch' he thought, eyes sparkling with mischief in what felt like months. 

Next up was a kid, she had tanned skin, caramel colored hair, missing most of her teeth and bright brown eyes. In other words, she was adorable. "Hey, Leo! my name is Eva!. I'm 6 and three quarters and I really really really like animals, but especially dogs, but I also like soccer and books and painting and-"  she was rambling, which painfully reminded Leo of what he was like when he was six. She was stopped by Nick putting a hand on her shoulder and she was gently lowered in her seat, face aflame, but Leo sent her a crooked grin and in return, she gave him a shy smile. Finally, was a small Latino boy with light, fluffy brown hair. "¡Hola Leo! My name Alejandro!. Soy 4 y me gustar doggie!" he said, a wide grin splitting his face. Leo grinned right back and said "¡Hola Alejandro!, me gustan los perros también!". It was almost like he was back bantering with Nyssa, Spanish flowing easily from his tongue. 

"Now Leo, if you could introduce yourself?", Tony said, slapping a hand on his shoulder and wow that was going to bruise. "Hola everyone, I'm Leo Valdez. I'm 16 years old and I like...building and machines I guess?. I also enjoy fighting Monsters from Greek Mythology on the weekend with my friend, Festus, a flying metal dragon", he said casually and was rewarded with a look of shock on Nick's face. Sadly, he swept it off as soon as it showed, instead he said, " Honestly, me too?. Give me a holler if you want a hand with it. Also, who names their metal dragon Happy?", the picture of honesty and sincerity. He sat back down, a grin spreading across his face. 

"Well, it looks like you're all getting along well", said Mrs. Connolly, clapping her hands together and rising from her seat."I'm happy to have you here, and since I forgot to introduce myself earlier, I'm Melissa Connolly, but please call me Mel or Mellisa. Nick, please show Leo around the house and his room, please. Everyone, you're dismissed! she said, her voice steely but not...cold. She sounded a bit like Reyna, but if Reyna was a school principal actually. 

Everyone moved from their seats all going in opposite directions. Alejandro and Eva both scrambled out to the yard, where he could hear distant barking. Tony and Mellisa both went into the kitchen and then, it was four. Leo stood up, grabbing his bag and stood next to Nick. "So, my man, Nick-Nicky. Do you mind if I called you Nic-", Nicky sent him a hard, flat stare. "No. Don't ever call me that. Ever" he said. Leo grinned at him, "whatever you say, Nicky" he singsonged, skipping out of the room. He could hear the heavy groan of Nicky and the breathy laughs of the Twins behind him. 

"What was with that whole 'I beat people up with metal objects' thing?. Should I be afraid?", he enquired. For a second, the three of them looked..... scared? but then Nicky was stepping in front of him, taking up all of Leo's sight. "Nah...probably not. I was just checking to see if you could lie, y'know?" Nicky said, which was still very confusing, and cleared up jackshit, but then Nicky was suddenly moving on.

"So", Nicky began, "this is a hall, obviously", gesturing to the..hall. "Nothing much to say 'bout that. The room we were just in was the dining room, where we usually eat dinner and other important meals, sometimes breakfast. The living room is right next to it. Right next to that is a bathroom. The kitchen is state of the art and always has food in time for Dark Lunch..", he said, as they started to climb the stairs. "Wait, what?", Leo said bemusedly, torn between frowning and laughing. "Dark Lunch is his stupid term for food eaten between Twelve p.m and Three in the morning", Diana said, glaring at Nicky. "A man's gotta eat when a man's gotta eat", he said and yeah, that is something Leo could get with.

"Anyways, this is the First Floor. You have another bathroom, Tony's workroom, Alejandro's room and Tony's and Mel's room. You also have Mel's study, but we don't go in there," he said, voice light and he waved his hand in the general direction of the rooms. "Why not?" he asked, because Leo was always suspicious of Foster Parents with locked Offices. Adams taught him well. "Because Mellisa can get fucking scary when she wants to, and nothing in that office is worth my pride or my balls" Alexander scoffed coldly. Leo raised an eyebrow at him. Alexander raised one right back. "Okay, enough with the dick-measuring, now we move upstairs kiddies", exclaimed Nicky, leading them to the end of the hall. There was a second set of stairs, leading to another landing. 

"Here", said Nicky, grinning like Leo on caffeine, "is the epicenter. My room, the wonder-twins-" both Diana and Alexander smacked him, "-room, the games room, which is just an entertainment system and Cards against humanity. Another bathroom, because rich white people apparently need more than one", that got a round of laughter because, yeah, that's a lot of fucking bathrooms. "and, of course, your new room". He pushed open the door at the end of the landing, showing a clean room, painted an unoffensive cream, wood flooring, a desk, a queen-sized bed and a nice view of the garden below. "Holy Shit" he whispered, almost reverently. They giggled behind him, but there was no malice behind it. "Yeah...", Diana said, cocking her head to the side and a wistful, sad smile on her face, her voice soft and distant. "I remember the first time I came here...I almost thought it was too good to be true." Leo nodded weakly, but the quickness and the....richness of everything, it was almost similar to a sensory overload. 

"We'll leave you alone to get comfortable and stuff. Dinner will be in a few hours, so if you're hungry, make you something. Anyways.....welcome to the Connolly household. Also-", suddenly Leo was being tugged into a tight hold by Nicky, "-don't fall for their bullshit. They're wolves in sheep's clothing". The words were said uncomfortably close to his ear, Nicky's lips against the shell of his ear.

Then as soon as it had happened, it was over.

 

Nicky was smiling at him, eyes too bright.

 

Diana's jade eyes dug into him.

 

Alexander wasn't looking at him.

 

They left in complete silence. The door latched softly behind them and Leo collapsed back into the bed, his backpack at the end of the bed. Looking around the room now, the sun made the room look bleached out and much too white. The garden looked more like an enclosure. He let out a long sigh, the impossibly heavy feeling of dread and homesickness, pressing down on his lungs and making a heat build up behind his eyes. He dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and repeated his mantra 'not weak, not weak, not weak, not weak weak' his mind was wandering,'weak weakweakweakweakweakweak'He sat up suddenly, tearing open his bag and fumbling for his pictures. 

The smiling faces of his friends stared back at him, even a rare photo of Di Angelo looking anything other than sad or angry. He gathered them to his chest, hugging them like he could force them out of the pictures to come help (save) him. The lead in his chest grew heavier with every breath, and the heat behind his eyes was barely held back. 

He fell asleep like that, still clothed, legs hanging off the bed and pictures spread across his chest.

 


 

 



     y̴̧̡̧͇̝̮̻̼̌̊̅͜͝͠͞o̦̘̘̱̔̓̉̎͌͊͘͟͞ͅų̢̠̥̳̻͚̗̓̉͐͘͝͞'̶̨̨̹̥̥̐̅̌͑̌͛̅͠l̮̥͚͖͆̋̎̌̑̐̓͗̕͟l͎͉̻͉͉͍͚͉͌͆͋̏̈́͂̏͜͜ 

            d̵̨̝̘̹̓̈́̾̌̑̅̅͟į̷̨͚͖̘͍̜̲͆̊͊͊̈́̏͌̚͢͠ͅȩ̵̗͙̥̝̖̹̤̃̅̂̈́̂͋̉͜

               h̵͎̥͎̥̜̭͂̾͌̒͢͠ȅ̴̱̱̣̰̞̮̗̉̿̈́͒͊͌͠͡ṟ̴̢͙̲̰̫̞̗̳͙̓͒͆̒͗͋͗̾ę̶̞̲̦͎̗͈̓̇̓͌̔̽̓͂̏̕

                      ģ̶̥͓̠̹͈̊̌̓̈́̌̈̓̎͡͠o̲̭͎̙͖̰͎̖̅̽̅̽͠ḓ̶̯͔̺̹͓͓̟͐͐̅̂̊̄̍̕͜͝ĺ̴̡̙͖̙̺̱̅̂̎͝i̖̗̜̺̮̘̺̩̱̫͗͛̉̈̑͗͘͞ň̨̦̮͓̦̦̙̩̞͌͋̅͐͜͡͡͞͝g̷̛̦̮̹̺̜͕̠̥̈́̏̂͢
                       

 

 

?

 

 

Chapter Text

It was hot.

That was the first thing he always remembered about The Night. The blistering heat, the dark smoke, the way the air simmered with the force of the flames. The wood crackled where the flames lapped at it and the dark smoke clung to the ceiling, obscuring his view of the room. Although he should've burned, he didn't. The flames licked at his skin as if it were a loyal pet and he took in the smoke-heavy air as if it was pure oxygen. Leo Valdez should've burned and died, but he was nothing if not tenacious. Tears pooled in his eyes but evaporated before they made it more than halfway down his face. His breath hiccuped with his dry sobbing and he begged for help, his voice no more than a pained whisper. "Help me.....please...I-I...," he begged, chest heaving with effort. The girl was still here, his mind reminded him as he spotted Her and he dragged his body over to Her. He curled his tiny fist in Her black dress fabric, a pretty pattern of daisies spilling across it, curling himself over Her prone body to protect Her from the greedy flames. Her breath was no more than a whistle between her teeth and Leo pulled Her even closer to him.

The room, which was once a grand bedroom, was now a room engulfed in flames. Thick, belching smoke curled around everyone. He needed to get Her out of here, but he couldn't move. That was when the door started to shake, splinters flying off as someone forced themselves in. For a second, he believed that he was saved, but instead, Teresa stood at the door. Her dark hair was wild and her gaze was unfocused. She stumbled through the flames, uncaring of the way the fire curled around her. You might've even mistaken her for its kin if you saw her at that moment. Though the way her skin reddened and burned told him otherwise. She forced her way to him as her skin blistered and crackled. "T-there you ar-e you little- f-fucker" she spluttered, voice barely audible over the bellowing of the flames. She dropped to her knees a few feet away from him, air too thick with smoke, and began to crawl.

Leo pulled Her even closer, as Teresa got nearer. Soon, she was so close Leo could see the way her blistered skin burst and oozed puss and how her hair dried and frizzled with the heat. Her eyes were crazed, focused on Leo's as he stared up at her, his body shaking with fear. The floor creaked and groaned, the fire downstairs becoming more and more rampant. The sickly scent of burning flesh clawed its way in his nostrils and made him dry heave as she came closer and closer. Wet, brown eyes locked with blue and-

-her eyes were a warm, earthy brown. Her pale blistering skin was replaced with brown. Her black hair turned into a cascade of dark curls. "Oh, mijo, what have you done now?", his mamá chided lightly, her skin blistering and peeling. She reached out her hand, cupping his cheek with a burning hand, a warm smile on her face. "Mijo, you're burning them. Why do you burn them all, mijo?. I raise you, I care for you and in the end, you repay me with smoke and fire and burning", she said, skin melting away from the bone, the smell of burning muscle and fat and hair assaulting his senses and making his eyes water and his mouth burn-

(You're dreaming dreamingdreamingdreaming)

-but her voice was still so kind, her eyes still sparkling as she spat poison. "I taught you to build, but instead you choose to destroy. Why, my little León?. Did you not love me enough?". Her hands were little more than skeletons now, her bones digging into his skin as she cupped his face. She was still in his arms, Her little black dress protected from the flames.

Her daisies were turning a deep, crimson red.

 

The other body was burning and burning and burning.

 

Mamá was smiling warmly at him when suddenly she started to screech, her skull twisting manically and-

 

 

-He was on the floor. His breath came in short, labored gasps and his cheeks were suspiciously wet, and the hardwood floor dug uncomfortably into his back. His mind was still trapped in the hazy fog of sleep and the images from his nightmare were burned into his cornea's. In his confusion, he scrambled up from to floor, trying to escape a phantom attacker. 'Run! Run! they're here! burning and fire. Run!' his mind screamed at him, as he stumbled drunkenly around the room. His chest heaved and his mind twisted and turned. He bent suddenly at the waist, nails clawing at his chest, breath tearing its way from his chest and his eyes were unfocused and wild. Sadly, his legs were still asleep, so the minute he took his first few steps, his knee's buckled and he fell. He lay like that for a while. 

The fall shook the fog from his mind and he slowly remembered where he was, sadly. The room was bright, but the from what he could see, the Sun was much further down than he thought. He was lying face down on the floor, his skin worryingly hot and his clothes rumpled. He closed his eyes, rearranging his head and calming himself down from his nightmare-high, by shoving all of his thoughts into a metal box at the bottom of his mind, to be reopened when he didn't have foster-siblings to interrogate.  Sighing, he pushed himself off the floor and began assessing the damage. Thankfully, he hadn't burnt anything while he slept because that was always hard to explain to mortals. It was exactly easy to go to someone; 'Oh, sorry about your couch/bed/floor, I didn't mean to burn it, but sometimes my pyrokinesis, (which, by the way, my godly father gave me), acts up when I have nightmares about my impending doom and/or trauma. Hope you don't mind!'.

 

Yeah, no thanks.

 

He rubbed his eyes with his jacket sleeve, destroying the evidence and began to pick up the pictures that had scattered over the room after his unfortunate meeting with the floor. He stuffed them into a drawer at a bedside-table. He threw his bag full of clothes into the bottom of the closet, carefully hiding the dagger and drachmae. The room was simplistic, bare and cold. 

He hated it.

He threw himself back on the bed and was pleasantly surprised to find the bed was extremely bouncy, which he could use to annoy the shit out of people later. He knew for a fact that the sounds of a creaking bed at 3 am brought......unpleasant images to mind. He smirked at the prospect of chaos and wondered how the Stolls would fair without him. 

He lay on the bad for a few moments, reveling in his plans for chaos and some prank ideas for the Hermes Cabin. After his mind started to stray from his Happy Thoughts and into less fun thoughts (burningburninglookatwhatyou'vedoneidioticwasteofspace), he decided it was time to have a little chat with his newest foster siblings and their need for suspense. 'What did he even mean by "they're sheep in wolf's clothing?". Are they super-secret FBI agents? leaders of the old-white-people mafia? plain-old drug dealers?. I can deal with drug-dealers. Probably. Why couldn't he just say what was funky with them?. Does he just get off on my suspense?' he thought, mind going at a hundred miles an hour as he walked out of the room. When he stepped out of the room, he was violently reminded he had no idea where Nicky or The Wonder Twins were. He considered checking their rooms, but the entire floor was quiet and lifeless, so they were likely somewhere else.

He jogged his way down the stairs, but the only sound coming from any of the rooms was childish giggles in Alejandro's room, and he was assuming the four-year-old wasn't the most reliable source of information about possible drug-dealer Foster Parents. He continued down to the ground floor, where he noticed the front door was half-open. He gingerly pushed himself out and was surprised to see the three oldest foster kids sitting on the steps. 

They were talking in hushed tones, passing a single cigarette between them. He crouched behind Nicky, got uncomfortably close to his ear until he was in danger of being detected and said, quite loudly, "So what's up with the Connollys?". Nicky jumped forward in fright, falling down the remaining steps, all while screaming "Jesus Christ on a tricycle!". Alexander jumped to the side, hands held out in front of him as if to attack him. Diana continued to smoke.

When Alexander and Nicky realized that it was just Leo, the shock turned to anger and annoyance. Alexander stared him down, green eyes hard and pissy. Nicky brushed himself off, climbed back up the steps on his knees, all the while seemingly trying to kill Leo telepathically. He sat beside Diana on the steps, putting her between him and the other two. "My question still stands Nicky-boy", he said, idly spinning a screwdriver between his fingers."Whats up with them that you had to-mphhh!", Diana shoved a hand over his mouth, her eyes silently warning him. Leo's eyes were wide in confusion as he spoke through her hand, "Wbhtbhhfhk?!" he exclaimed, words muffled as he tried to get away from her sudden attack. In his attempts to pry her hand off, her eyes hardened and Nicky whispered harshly, "Not here!". Leo was confused but stopped struggling against her, brown eyes bewildered and his eyebrows disappearing into his hair. Diana assessed him a moment before relenting her grip, hand failing slack and her cigarette dangling from her frowning mouth. The air shimmered with tension, all three of them dug their eyes into him, and Leo knew he had fucked up somehow.

It was a very familiar feeling.

Leo waited patiently for about 30 seconds before he decided he had enough of waiting and decided on a different approach. "So", he drawled, absentmindedly drumming his fingers on his knee, "What do you guys do for fun around here?. Any helpful tips for the new guy, or is sitting on steps and bumming smokes the highlight of your evening?". That got him a dirty look from Alexander, but Nicky caught on. "Yeah!", he exclaimed, jumping off the steps onto the street, "there are a few cool places around here, we could show you around if you want?". Leo grinned at him, a familiar facade slipping back on easily "Yeah, that sounds cool", he turned to the twins, "you two down for coming?". They exchanged a glance in that weird twin-telepathy way, easily communicating an entire conversation with a glance. "Sure," Diana said, shrugging. She stood up, crushed the butt of the cigarette beneath her foot and dragged her brother up. Leo followed her down the steps, right hand still spinning the screwdriver.

 

They walked in silence for a few minutes until they got to a playground. It was eerie in the evening sun, deserted swings creaked and some fallen leaves rushed past him as they filed through the wrought iron gate. "This place sufficiently creepy for you or should I start chanting ominously about our deaths to really set the mood?", he said, sitting on the swing, a hollow grin on his face. Diana sat in the one beside him, while the other two leaned against the bars. "We needed to get far enough away so that there was no chance of them hearing us", Diana said, swinging her legs and her head downcast. "So, I ask again, whats up with them?. Drug-dealers? Cultists? Serial Killers? Cannibals that are going to kill me and eat me to claim my youth?", his patience was beginning to waver as the day got to him. "I can't really protect myself if I have no idea what's happening!" he said in a rare burst of emotion, hands tightening around the swing chains and voice rising with worry. Nicky sighed and rubbed at his forehead vigorously, but said calmly, "Look, Leo, we have no idea what exactly the Connollys are, but they're dangerous. They take in kid after kid, and if you start to question their perfect little family set up or cause trouble, you disappear. They say you ran or you went missing but no one questions what happens to you. They may seem like some philanthropic old couple but they're dark, dude. So keep your head down and lie like your life depends on it, because it does". 

Nicky's hard, brown eyes pleaded with him and his entire demeanor was sad and tired. "How many?", he croaked and Diana was starting to curl up into a small ball, legs tucked on the seat. "Diana and I have been here seven years", Alexander said, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. "In that time, seven kids have gone missing. One for each year. They've all been runaways or troubled kids, so no one gave a shit when they went missing, but some of the shit they did before they 'left' was always the same", he sighed and dragged a hand through blond hair, pulling his head up to look at the darkening sky. "They always got too curious. Started to ask questions about them and their personal lives. They started to cause trouble and 'boom' they'd be gone. Never to be seen again". He chuckled mirthlessly, the sound echoing in the quiet playground. Leo's face was hidden in the shadow of his dark curls as he stared down into his lap. 'Are they monsters?' he thought, 'or just some fucked up mortals?'. But Leo was never one to look on the bad side of things, sort of, so it was time for a conversation switch.

"So, is this actually what you all do for fun or is there even more haunted places you'd like to bring me to?. I've always been a bit partial to graveyards myself" Leo said in an attempt to lighten the mood. "Nah, we all have our own stuff. Diana usually hangs at the school or workes down at the exhibition house 'cause she's a nerd and stuff. Alex helps out at the local garage with the test-driving and he does this fancy horse-riding thing out of the city. Y'know, fun riding stuff", at this, Alexander glared at Nicky, which seemed to be Alexander's favorite pastime. "Oh shut the hell up Nick", he said, pointedly looking at the dusk sky, shadows obscuring his face, but Leo would bet his left testicle that he was blushing.

Adorable.

"And I spend most of my time at the best place in the world....", Nicky beat in his hands on the bars of the swing in a drumbeat effect, grinning stupidly, "......The Library!".

"You're....joking, right?" he said, eyes filled with disappointment at the failings of his new comrade. Nicky just went from a ten on his cool-guy scale to, like, a five.

"Hey!, what's so bad with the Library" he squawked, "It has Books and nice old women who give you cookies and it has books!" he said passionately, throwing his hands up to the Heavens. "Dude", Leo began slowly "I'm dyslexic. The Library sounds like if Satan and the education system fucked and produced an unwanted, antichrist child". They argued pointlessly like that for a while, with Diana smoking the last cigarette and Alexander butting in now and again to give his unwanted opinion on Libraries and books. Which was usually something snide, because he was a bitch.  

That was, of course, when Mrs. Connoly appeared at the gates.

One second Leo was violently gesturing to Nicky and vividly explaining why Libraries sucked ass, then he spotted her thin, brittle form at the gates. One second not there, another 'boom', one creepy old lady. "Jesus Fucking H!" he screamed, falling off his swing, mid-swing. The others swiveled around at his sudden freak-out and froze like a suicidal deer in the middle of the freeway. Diana violently crushed her cigarette underfoot, hiding the evidence. Leo brushed himself off, his hands and knees stinging from his encounter with the gravel and watched as Melissa shuffled inside the gates like a particularly motivated corpse. Leo could feel the weight of the tension in the air pressing down on his chest, making his heart beat wildly and his breath quicken. "I've been looking for all of you for a while now," she said, her gaunt face looking downright skeletal. "Yeah...s-sorry Melissa" Nicky stuttered out, "We got distracted showing Leo around". She shuffled up closer to them all, his skin almost translucent in the yellow shine of the streetlights. For a moment, Leo thought she was going to call them all out on their bullshit, but the silence just kept going. The echoing sounds of people blocks away grated his nerves and the tinny, electrical sounds of the streetlights pulled at his brain. His hands burned with the cuts from the fall and his own breath sounded too loud. He could hear Alexander shifting his weight on the gravel. She observed them all like she was looking for faults in his being. Her thin grey eyes narrowed even further when her eyes settled on him and Leo knew that she knew and- 

Then, like the worlds freakiest dam, she broke. "Alright, alright," she said, waving at them dismissively, her tone light and airy in contrast to the absolute fuckery that just happened. "Come back home now, dinners ready and it's getting quite dark," she turned on them, already walking back to the house. "The dark always seems to bring out the worst in people," she said, half to herself, it seemed. They all stared at her retreating form, varying degrees of shock on their faces. Soon she was gone from sight, and it was like an invisible force had been lifted off them. Leo collapsed back onto his ass, his breath coming easily again. 'When did I start holding my breath?' he thought, his mind in a whirlwind of confusion. He stared after her, but managed to croak out, "What the hell was that?". Nicky hooked his hands under Leo's armpit's from behind and pulled him up "That, my good dude, was Mrs. Melissa Connolly" he said tiredly. "Well, you heard the hag," Diana said, hopping down from her swing, faux-cheer slathering her words, "Dinners ready!".

 


 

Dinner was, surprisingly, uneventful. Leo was expecting dinner to be a bit eviler?, after the all the shit Mel-the-possible-fury pulled, but it was...okay?. The food was nice and the atmosphere wasn't completely creepy, but it was still weird. Tony was too loud and boisterous, but Alejandro found everything he said or did ab-so-lutely hilarious. Eva told stories to Leo about her latest soccer game, most of which was unintelligible due to her excitement, but he got the gist of it. Melissa was quiet but enjoyed hearing about Alejandro's newest imaginary friend. Leo poked and prodded at his potatoes, but his appetite was taking an executive decision to starve him. The other three ate and joked with the rest of the table, but it was only half-assed. "School starts in a few days Leo, so I hope you don't mind that we've enrolled you in the local High School?" Tony said, letting his cutlery fall onto his plate with a clatter"Sure, yeah, that's cool....where is it?" he said, spinning his fork through his mash. "Oh, we think that Goode High School will be a good fit for you, and it's not too far from here, about 20 minutes". 

Goode High School.

Something about that name pulled at his mind. Like Leo was supposed to remember what it was.

 

It was probably nothing.

 

Probably. 

 

Melissa wouldn't stop staring-

 


 

 

Surprisingly, sleep didn't come easy that night.

 

He lay under the stiff blankets in an oil-stained t-shirt and frayed plaid PJ bottoms. He twisted and turned but everything was bugging him. From the sounds of the city to the quietness of the house to everything. He let out a loud sigh and folded his arms underneath him, staring at the pale ceiling. That was when it hit him.

 

That card. Chiron's card.

He threw back the covers and padded quietly over to where he threw his jacket. He reached into the overly-large pocket and gingerly grabbed the piece of the business card. It took him a hot second to decipher, but it read.

Dr. Alethea Hui

Board Certified Psychiatrist

O:(212) *** ****  M:(212) **

www.BrightPsychiatry@gmail.com

Upper-East-Side, 59th Street, NYC

 

That was anti-climatic.

 

'A psychiatrist. Yay!' the less optimistic side of his brain thought. 'It might help, though.....' the childish side of his brain, which had somehow survived, protested. He dragged a hand through his curls and shoved it back into his pocket.

The clock on his wall read 1:56.

 The bed looked no less comforting now than it did five minutes ago. He threw himself back onto the bed anyway, burying his face into the pillows. He tried closing his eyes, but every time he did, his Nightmare from earlier flashed in front of his eyelids.

If he slept now would they be worse or better?. He rolled again.

Would he even dream?. Pulled up the blankets.

Would Melissa come in and slaughter in while he slept?. Kick down the blankets.

Maybe he should call Piper or Jason?. Move to the other side of the bed.

Should he give the psychiatrist a shot?. Sigh into the pillows.

He really didn't want to sleep. Grab the pillow.

'You know you killed them right?'. Punch the pillow.

 

He glanced at the clock.

 

2:01

 

He began to count the cracks on the wall.

 

'Can you still smell them?-'.


 

 

"They all suspect something. They should be done away with".

 

"Of course they suspect something, they're children, not idiots."

 

"You've grown too cocky, taking someone of their caliber. Someone's bound to notice them under your care. Not to mention him-"

 

"Speak no more, fool. You have no right to open your mouth to me like that, I brought you into this world and I swear I can take you out of it!."

 

".......we understand."

 

"But we also must know how long this must keep going on for. We grow tired of this Land and their rules". 

 

"The Festival is the tipping point. We use them as leverage. Perhaps the Godling too, if needs must. Then, we use the Beast. But not a second before The Festival. In the meantime, let them roam. Watch them, but do not interfere. Do you understand?".

 

"......Yes, we do".

 

"Good, now feed....that, to the Beast. I swear its appetite gets more and more vile with every passing year-Foul creature and it's tastes...-"

 

"We exist to please you-"

 

 

"...fLEsH?"

 

"Eat it, you need to keep it up...."

Chapter Text

He was running. Always running. The ground beneath his feet was soggy and gave way under the pressure of his body. His breath was unbearably loud to his ears, the heavy rush of the rain was almost forgotten in his fear. He could hear them shouting behind him, their voices piercing his chest and making his nerves feel like live-wire. He burst through the foliage of the forest, uncaring of the scrapes the branches were causing. He wanted to scream and beg, but he knew what he had done was unforgivable to them. Their shouts were getting closer, the heavy thud of their boots on the mud audible to him now. His legs burned, but he continued on. The darkness clung to him, obscuring his vision of where he was going. The howls of dogs were behind him. He could feel their hands around his neck and the sharp canines of the hounds around his legs. His breath burned his chest and the trees reached their branches out, catching him on their limbs.

'Run!' his mind screamed.

But he was tired and afraid and alone.

So he let the trees catch him, pull him to the ground and tear through his skin-

Their flashlights shined down on him, showing the trees and their disfigured faces.

The hounds barked and howled and lunged for him, only to be yanked back by their chains.

Their voices screamed curses at him as they leaned over him, their faces hiding in the dark and obscured by the rain.

The rain trailed down his face as he lay in the mud, and he wished they were tears.

Their rough hands grabbed and yanked at him, the hounds slobbered at his legs, begging to tear flesh from bone.

 

He wished he would never be taken back.

 

They started to drag him back by his hair, forcing him along.

The guns looked weighty and so alluring in their hands.

They yanked at his hair like they yanked at the hound's chains.

 

He wished, just for a moment, that they would be kind enough to let go of the hound's chains.

He wouldn't have to go back if he didn't have a throat anymore--

 

They yanked at his hair again, cursing at him to move faster.

 

He obeyed.

 

Like a dog.

filtymongreldogdogdogmuttworthlesswasteofspacemonsterdemonpieceofshitdiediedie


This was the third time Leo had woken up. The first time, was because of the garbage disposal going off, which was weird and horrifying. He woke up the second time because of nightmares. It took him a while to get back to some semblance of sleep after that. It probably didn't help that every time he tried to sleep, he mistook the shadows for men and the lunging dogs. He slept with the light on after he eventually tried to attack the wall with his fire.

His mouth tasted like disappointment and sour milk.

Also, he hadn't disintegrated in the night or suddenly teleported back to Camp Half-Blood, which only raised his level of disappointment. He groaned into the pillow, his hair was a mess and the obnoxiously bright light shining through the window was giving him a headache. His eyes had crusted over and he was quite happy to keep them like that.

"Good morning, Sunshine!" someone called, violently shaking him, large hands planted on both of his shoulders. "Do you want to die?" he growled into his pillow, shoving himself back even further into the bed to escape the person who decided it would be a good idea to torture him. "Oh, come on, dude. Breakfast is ready and Di has been calling for the past 20 minutes, dude. She's getting pre~tty pissy, and, trust me, you do not like a pissy Diana at 10 in the morning dude" said probably Nicky, judging by the New York accent and the overuse of the word 'dude'. He shoved Nicky away when he tried to rouse him again and it went on like that for a while until Nicky decided the best course of action would be to drag him out of the bed by his fucking ankles. "What the-Nick, you-" he squawked as he was manhandled out of the bed. "Hey-you-put me down!" he started to claw at the bed, clinging to the bedsheets like his life depended on it, brown eyes blown wide in confusion. He was still mindlessly protesting by the time he was pulled fully out of the bed, falling on his ass and still half-asleep. There was a moment of panic as he was being pulled off the bed, as he thought Nicky might've seen...them. But he was wearing a long pair of pants and his t-shirt didn't ride up.

Nicky observed him from above, dark eyes glittering with worry. "Hey, man, you okay?" he said, crouching to Leo's level to look at him better, "You look terrible, like, did you even sleep last night?". His voice lowered an octave so that the likelihood of eavesdropping was low ".....Was it nightmares?". He poked Leo on the forehead like he was making sure that Leo was still alive, Leo batted his hand away, but it was too early in the morning to be dealing with emotional...stuff, so he plastered on a smile. Leo rubbed to remaining sleep out of his eyes but said, his voice rough from sleep, "Yeah I'm fine, no nightmares here! but it was my first night here and stuff......" he said faux cheer slathering his words like poisoned honey. Though, Nicky seemed satisfied by that "Cool, cool...uh, just hurry up and come downstairs" he said, pulling Leo up with his surprising amount of muscles. Y'know, for a giant nerd.

When he left, Leo threw on some jeans, his suspenders, an old flannel and one of his least stained t-shirts, but not before he threw a blanket over the long mirror opposite the bed. He hated looking at his body this early in the morning. 'I need to get some better clothes...' he thought absentmindedly as he shoved on his socks. He padded down to the bathroom at the end of the hall, brushed his teeth and wow, never mind bags under his eyes, Leo was packing suitcases. His looked like a Latino, slightly more cheerful version of Di Angelo. He looked like he had just gone a couple of rounds with Frank, lost and then decided he wanted more. His usually bouncy curls were limp and greasy, his mind felt slower too. Like he was running on half his (metaphorical) CPU power. His slender fingers, usually incredibly deft and graceful, felt numb and too large when he handled his toothbrush. His entire body felt like that, actually. Like his mind was attached to his body using a bit of electrical wire and some duct tape and with a 'snap' he'd dissipate. Float off into the cosmos, leaving behind some dust and a half-baked legacy no one would remember. He gripped the skin until his knuckles turned white and the skin started to make some worrying noises. 'I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine, nothing is wrong, I'm fine, I'm fine" he chanted in his mind, eyes screwed shut as a headache bloomed behind his forehead, like the world's worst flower. He continued the chant until his ribs stopped trying to suffocate him and his headache became more bearable.

Great.

Leo wondered if the side-effects of not taking his meds suddenly were starting to kick in.

'Not much you can do about those bags Leo....' he thought, rubbing his face tiredly. It wasn't like he could magic himself up some concealer, as he didn't think his tool-belt would classify makeup as a 'tool'. He left the bathroom somehow even more tired than he was when he woke up. He walked down in his socks, the smell of food getting closer and closer with every step, making his stomach call out in some sort of dying-whale noise.

The dining table was laden with strawberries and toast and different types of cereal and french toast and eggs and all that cool breakfast food. Leo liked rich people food as much as the next person, but sometimes nothing beat a breakfast burrito he'd stolen, but this would have to do. Diana was picking at her Cinamon Toast Crunch, Alexander was eating oatmeal because he was evil incarnate apparently. Though he seemed to look just about as good as Leo felt and Diana kept shooting him worried glances. He left halfway through the meal, which led to Diana storming after him, shouting at him in a language that sounded vaguely Eastern European. Leo wanted nothing to do with whatever was going on there.

Nicky, however, was devouring his Captain Crunch like nobody's business quite jovially and the two kids were eating some eggs, chatting happily about...kids stuff?. He wasn't really paying attention, surprisingly enough, his mind could barely hold onto a single train of thought, nevermind an entire conversation. Leo grabbed some french toast and some eggs. Thankfully, neither of the adults were here, so he was able to eat without the constant threat of quite possible monstrous foster parents eating him. The jury was still out on whether he meant in the mythological sense or the human sense.

"Whhr's hhe ahuthts?" he said, mouth full of toast. Nicky raised a disgusted eyebrow at him "What?", he said, eyebrow still arched impressively. Leo swallowed, "I said; Where are the adults?". Nicky gestured at him with his spoon, splatters of milk flying everywhere, "Well, Tony's off downtown doing business stuff or something" he said, taking bites of captain crunch between words "And I'm 98% sure Melissa is at work?. But don't quote me on that". Leo nodded at him in that weird dudebro way that communicated 'yeah, cool, thanks' without a word being said as words didn't seem to be his forté today. Percy, however, was the king of communicating with a glance or a look or a hand gesture, probably because he grew up during a war, where long conversations weren't exactly appreciated in enemy territory while you were battling a Titan or something. Leo had never really gotten a full rundown of what the Titan War was like. Or maybe Percy was just King Bro™. Annabeth was brilliant at it as well. Like the time Leo once saw a conversation take place between her and Chiron with two looks and an eyebrow raise. It was scarily close to telepathy. He was convinced that children of Athena had telekinesis or telepathy.

Gods, Leo wanted to go back to Camp Half-Blood. He wanted to build stuff in Bunker 9, sing absurdly stupid songs at the campfire, help the Stolls with their more advanced pranks, hang with Pipes and Jason like normal teenagers, do incredibly stupid shit with Percy and maybe re-introduce Di Angelo to the Sun.

He ate his meal in a more somber mood after that and promised to Iris message everyone today. He poked and prodded at his meal, his appetite gone again, and stared at his eggs like they could reveal to him the secrets of the universe. The eggs remended eggs. This was to be expected, but judging from the course his life was on, the eggs jumping up and delivering a prophecy about his imminent death wouldn't be too out of place. By the time he was done inspecting the leftovers of his eggs for prophecies, most of the table had been cleared and no one was in sight. He sighed heavily, stabbed his egg and grumbled "Stupid ADHD.....". He cleaned up his piece and threw away the leftovers, which oddly felt like some sort of offering. Like Leo was offering his leftover eggs to the trash gods. Leo wondered if the Trash Gods would treat him better than the Greek ones. He stood over the trash for a while, posed to throw in the leftovers while he contemplated the Trash Gods. Christ, he was getting spacey.

He scraped in the eggs.

He shivered at the feeling of eyes watching him.

Leo thought now an auspicious moment to call this psychiatrist.


The call went like this:

Leo: Hey, uh, is this......Bright Psychiatry?.

Woman: Yes, this is Bright Psychiatry. Are you looking to schedule an appointment or are you an existing client?.

Leo: I'm new, but I was recommended this place by my teacher, but he's not really my teacher he's like, a.....weird uncle I guess?. Thought that's not really correct, he's the head-principle thing of this Camp I used-I still go to...though if we're going by facts, I guess he's like my....grandmother's half-brother?. What is that, a great-half-uncle or-

Woman: Sir, I appreciate the accuracy, but this is unnecessary. If you could give me the name of your...mentor, I would gladly appreciate it. Also, by whom did he recommend or was it simply the clinic he mentioned?.

Leo: Oh!- yeah, heh, sorry I-uh- His name is........Mr.Brunner. Yeah, Mister Brunner, and he recommended-one sec gotta find the card- Alethea Hui?. Yeah, Aleathea Hui- I think?. Dyslexia can be a bih-

Woman: One moment Sir, I have to check with Dr.Hui. Also, your name, please.

Leo: Oh, Sure, it's Leo Valdez. Oh hey, do you ch- and you're not there....... Do-dodo-do-dodododo-do-dodo-dodo-

Dr.Hui: Chiron recommended me?.

Leo: Oh shi- Dr.Hui-Yeah, Chiron told me you'd be able to help snag me some meds?. I'd go to a normal psychiatrist except I don't think the whole 'gods and monsters' thing would fly for why I'm traumatized. Though, you never really know with mortals, I-

Dr.Hui: Leo, I'm free this afternoon, how about you come in for a consult?. Be at my office around 3. Okay?.

Leo:...Okay, sure. By the way, I'm pretty broke so-

Dr.Hui: Money isn't an issue. Just be here on time.

Leo: Sure... I'll see you soon Dr.Hui....and you're gone.

He hung up the landline, a heavy feeling making its way into his veins. 'This is stupid, I could always make up some bullshit about why I need meds' he thought bitterly, dragging a hand through limp curls. The house was quiet, but he could sense people upstairs. The house was similar to a graveyard. Or a showhouse. A home frozen in time. He thought for a second about bothering one of the other Foster Kids, but instead, he decided on exploring the neighborhood. Maybe make some connections with some of the less favorable people around here. Getting on the gangbangers side early on in the game was always good. They would usually help when you tried to make a run for it. He padded back to his room, threw on his battered army jacket, grabbed the dagger out of its hidey hole in the closet and shoved on his boots. He buckled on his tool-belt just in case. Never know when he might need a chainsaw or a breath mint.

For a second, as he stood just outside the door, the urge to go down the second set of steps into the basement was overwhelming. He started down the steps but stopped as soon as he realized there was no door handle. No knob, no lever, no handle. Nothing, nada. It was a plank of wood in a doorway. He tried shoving against it, he felt for any mechanisms in the door but nothing. It was a thick piece of wood in a doorway.

This place got better and better with every new gem he found.


The air was heavy and warm as he walked down the street, but you could feel the bite of Fall creeping in. The way some of the leaves started to shrivel and turn from green into oranges and reds. Like Nature was rusting. He walked with no particular destination, taking notice of the rich houses and their rich occupants, with old townhouses and clean yards and gardens bursting with flowers. Leo liked that this was a City compared to the country because when you started to scream in pain in a city, people usually called the cops.

(No one was there to call the cops back then. Low population density. No one could hear you if all your neighbors were trees and long grassy fields.)

Shut up, me

He shoved his hands into his pockets, desperate for a change in thought as he fiddled with some pipe-cleaners from his belt. He was a good few blocks away from The House when he realized he was back in familiar territory. The heavy bustle, the shitty corner shops, the old homeless men begging for money, the groups of teens looking to get lucky on clueless tourists, the smell of urine and steam and warm concrete and, oddly enough, something that smelled so viscerally of his Abuela's kitchen that he stood at attention and fixed his shirt. Gods, Leo missed when his Abuela used to drag him and his mamá to family gatherings and spent most of her time feeding them in the kitchen, away from everyone else. His mamá used to grumble and complain and throw dirty looks at Rosa most of the time, but it was one of the few happy memories Leo associated with his extended family. His abuela died a few months after his mamá did. Liver Disease. Though she always remained a firm believer that Leo was innocent, no matter what Rosa said. She apparently left him a ton of recipes, but they were still with Rosa.

As he lost himself in thought, his feet dragged him closer to the scent seemingly on autopilot. By the time he was aware of what he was doing, he was rolling in the scent of enough chile de árbol to kill a man, fresh bread, and sizzling meat. The shop was a hole in the wall, tables and chairs were thrown haphazardly around the alleyway and the entrance was tiny. He could hear faint shouting and the banging of pots and pans. His mouth watered and his heart pounded with the memories the smell drugged back up. He hadn't had homemade food like this since mamá died he left Huston. Most of the stuff from food trucks and from shops were Tex-Mex, and while that was all good, Leo wanted something that would make him sweat and possibly, cry. He dug into his pockets.

Leo was then violently reminded he was broke. Unless you counted his Drachmae, but Leo didn't think the local Mexican place would take ancient Greek coinage.

Fuck.

'Time to explore...' he thought, trailing off as he meandered away, brown eyes scanning his surroundings.

He continued on, down the alleyway, the scent getting fainter and fainter with every couple of steps. He came back out onto another busy street, the smell from the restaurant slowly dissipating, the scent unfurling its claws from him, jerking his heart along with it. He really didn't want to leave a place that smelt so much like Huston, but at the same time, that made him want to sprint as far away as possible.

The smell here was overpowering. The steam curling up from vents and the backs of buildings, the warm, heavy scent of wet and warm concrete he could taste on his tongue. The buildings here were rundown and tall. Old brownstone apartments with wrought iron ivy climbing up the side and tiny corner shops and Liquor stores piled on top of each other. People sped past, looking like they'd rather be anywhere else. Cars honked and screeched, the general milling of people overpowering him. Alleyways peeking out every so often, offering safe-havens for degenerates and bums and outcasts. It was designed like a maze, a Laybrynth made from concrete and stone and metal. He could hear sirens in the distance, the familiar wailing tugging at his bones. His hands itched to grab and take from clueless tourists and busy businessmen looking for an escape on the wrong side of town.

It would be nice to have some money of his own...

Maybe he could scale some walls, get a real feel for the city and where was what...

Every so often he'd see some filthy kids or an angry, tired teen and stop for a chat. With the kids he'd give them some paper cranes or tiny robots, coaxing street hierarchy from them. Who ran what to where, who was kind to urchins, who...wasn't so kind. The older kids were wearier, but a few stupid jokes and assurances he was like them, he got stuff. He knew that the Puerto Rican Gangs moved most of the contraband, but would probably be lenient to Leo 'cause he was latino'. Apparently, they were big on 'race-loyalty' like that. Italians were big too, though had some beef with most of the gangs in Harlem and were too busy to bother with street kids. They had some Eastern European gangs from Ukraine, but they were 'batshit' and 'holy shit hermano, do not go near them'. They had a few smaller gangs, small-time stuff and much more accepting of street kids in a pinch. Leo got a few names of the gangs, a few names of the kids themselves and a shared packet of Camel's, a girl, Melanie, had apparently stolen off a drunk homeless man four alleyways down.

"You smoke?" she said with a thick accent he couldn't describe, placing her cig between her lips, dark eyes sharp underneath her curtain of dark dreaded hair. She held the box out to him, her fingers covered in dirt and wool fingerless gloves. "I quit," he said, weighing up the options in his head, "....but you only live once right?".

He understood the irony in him saying that. He also elected to ignore it.

He slipped one out of the box, much to her delight, gratefully accepting her light, instead of using his own. The smoke settled heavily in his lungs, but he didn't cough, instead, he felt rejuvenated by the smoke settling in his bones, curling around him in an obviously supernatural manner. Curling up around his fingers and through his curls and around his bicep, like a snake settling on your shoulders. They stayed like that for a while. Melanie sitting on a wall, her feet swinging beside Leo's head as they smoked in an alleyway.

'Piper is going to kill me, picking back up smoking' he thought as he inhaled the smoke. He smoked an hour-away in the presence of Melanie. They smoked the entire half-packet until they both smelt like a burning building. In that hour Leo learned Melanie was originally from Haiti but moved here with her mother and brothers after the earthquake. She was 17. She didn't say why she was on the streets alone. Leo said he was 16 and that his name was Leo. He didn't say why he was prowling the streets looking for information about gangbangers and thugs and general degenerates.

Leo didn't know it at the then, but it would be the last time he would be content or peaceful for a long while.


It was around 2, according to the woman on the subway platform who looked at him like he was going to rob her blind the minute she turned around. He couldn't tell if it was because he was Latino or because Leo looked like a homeless vagabond. Leo always hoped for the latter. He always hoped for fear of homeless people over racism.

Apparently, getting from one place in New York to another was much harder than Leo originally anticipated. He checked the map, located 59th street, and the nearest stop and gave a small prayer to Hermes as he stepped on the subway. It wasn't that Leo was unfamiliar with public transport, but he sort of hated it. Too much public confusion and heavy crowds for his taste. The car he was in wasn't too packed considering it was Saturday afternoon, thank god. He slumped on a seat, keeping a watchful eye on the schizophrenic old woman at the back talking to the air and making jerky motions at a mom and her toddler, screaming something about a "call-ach". Leo had enough history will crazy old people to last him a good few lifetimes and didn't really want to add to it.

After the first 10 minutes, Leo got antsy and started constructing a bird, as to keep his mind from wandering into....not-so fun places. He called it Trevor. He liked to believe Trevor was a bad-boy with a sensitive heart. Trevor was built out of twisted copper wires for a support frame, tiny LEDs for eyes and a tiny battery tucked into his tail, allowing movement and a limited amount of flight. He was in the middle of figuring out how to make him chirp when he heard the giggling. He looked up from Trev to see the toddler had wandered over to him, all chubby cheeks and bright green eyes and brown pigtails. and a pink pair of dungarees "Faith!" he heard the mother hiss, eyes trained on the woman at the back who was becoming more and more agitated, reaching out towards the girl. The girl made a sort of grabby motion at Trevor, refusing to go back to her mother no matter how hard Leo-oh. Oh, Leo was an idiot. "Hey," he said kindly, leaning down from his seat as the mother watched, a perplexed look on her face. "This is Trevor and I think he wants to go with you". The girl was all wide eyes and ruddy cheeks as he gingerly put Trevor into her cupped hands. "Now, I think your mommy wants you back," he said and watched her back as she toddled over to her mother, babbling quietly about her new friend. The woman threw him a grateful smile as she lifted her daughter into her lap, and Leo smiled back.

Around 5 minutes later, the garbled PA spat out what he thinks is his stop. The woman and her kid were left on the train, but Leo had a feeling they'd be able to handle themselves, judging from the giant gladius strapped to the mother's hip. Demi-god parents, what a wild thought.

He ambled up the stairs to the street, not entirely aware of where he was or what he was doing. He trailed along the concrete sidewalks in a neighborhood with more money than sense. The buildings are all sleek and tall, but noticeably old architecture and he can see the trees from Central Park. The upper-east side reeks of old money, but it's still beautiful. After a few minutes of staring at the grey-blue sky in desperation, he found a street sign and soon enough, he's on 59th street and there it is.

Bright Psychiatry is a large, thick building with the words 'Bright Psychiatry' printed across the front. It's a bright white in color and it has that 'townhouse' vibe going on. Now that he's here Leo isn't entirely sure what to do. Does he go up and knock?. Call the buzzer?. He goes up the steps and calls the buzzer and hopes for the best. For a few moments, there's nothing but static and Leo contemplates rigging the thing to start blaring The Imperial March. Thankfully, before he can get his screwdriver out it buzzes again and the clear voice from the woman earlier calls out "Bright Psychiatry, how may I help you?". Leo is slightly blindsided by this, caught up in his plans of chaos in the name of Darth Vader, but regains his composure and says into the buzzer "I'm Leo Valdez, I-uh called earlier and- I have an appointment with Dr.Hui?". There's a moment of silence before the door makes a small buzzing sound, the locks popping open and sending a quiet electric 'zap' through him as he feels the mechanism in the door shift and turn.

The inside is even more expensive looking than the outside. The woman from earlier, a lanky 30-something with grey eyes and caramel blonde hair, observes him as he walks in, from her desk. She gestures to a cream couch on the other side of the hallway "Please sit, Dr.Hui will be with you in a moment" she said, voice clear and holding a slight New York accent.

He sits.

The next few minutes proceed to be absolute hell.

Everything is white and the dark floors contrast that painfully, giving him a minor headache. There are brochures spilled across a glass table in front of the couch, showing depressed teens and smiling teens and all kinds of teens in various positions all with differing emotions. Teens galore!. There's a few there for Planned Parenthood and safe sex guides and something about adoption. He taps his feet in tune to Miiverse theme. He spins a cord of wires around his fingers, slowly cutting off blood flow. He repeats this for a while. Wind. Unwind. He reads a brochure on how to deal with difficult kids. Wind. Leo now feels like a suburban mother. Unwind. He looks up at the clock. 2 minutes have passed. He reads another brochure. Leo can feel more and more of his personality being ripped away by stock image photos of smiling kids. He taps his foot faster. Another minute has passed. Wind. Leo now knows Hell. Unwind. Time has ceased to have all meaning and he is slowly beginning to ascend to another level of being. The woman looks at him like she'd loved to hurl him out the window. He taps his foot faster. The silence is too much. Why is it when its quiet does Leo want to scream?. He rhythmically twangs his wire. He wonders if he should make a banjo. He looks at a brochure for the local Private school. Is this what waiting for Charon's ferry feels like?.

He's contemplating jumping out the window to freedom when he sees Dr.Hui come down the stairs. He stops his weird half-made banjo and shoves it into his belt, for another time. "Leo," Dr.Hui says, looking him up and down, golden-brown eyes critical, not a black hair out of place in her bob and her sallow skin was clear and unblemished. Leo is suddenly hyper-aware of his numerous oil stains and baggy jacket and limp curls and the pimple on his chin. He wants to hide in a closet and never come out. Leo nods, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Well, it's a pleasure to meet you Mr.Valdez" she gives out her hand and Leo shakes, grip strong. "Good, If you wouldn't mind following me?..." she says, trailing off as she begins back up the stairs. Leo follows her up a single flight of stairs and into a wide hall with several doors. She enters one with the words 'Dr. Alethea Hui' printed across the door in small writing and beckons him inside. He shuffles inside, nervous energy boiling underneath his skin. "So, how'd you make it this far?. I'm pretty sure most Greek Demi-gods didn't really make it to adulthood. Nevermind having your own practice" he drawls, slumping into a chair in front of her, covering his words in carelessness and teenage pride. She arches an eyebrow at him but says "I was an exception to the rule I suppose" all mysterious like. Leo frowned "Yeah, that doesn't really answer my question," he said, brow furrowed. "In any case," she said, waving her hand like she was brushing away the subject, "We aren't here to discuss my survival technique, we're here to discuss you, and your problems, like your lack of medication".

Oh, goodie.

"Well, first, tell me a bit about yourself. Your godly parent, your diagnosis and your previous medication, stuff like that" she said, crossing one leg over the other, hands in her lap. "Well, uh" he began, shifting uncomfortably in his chair, "I'm a son of Hephaestus, got some cool fire powers and I-uh take Sertraline for my, PTSD". He's not looking at Dr.Hui anymore, he's hanging his head, staring at his hands as they fumbled with a wire from his banjo. "Leo," Dr.Hui said firmly, but not unkindly, as he looked back up, "For me to be legally able to give you your medication, I'll have to perform a psychiatric evaluation on you. It'll be a few questions and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less for today".

'you can do this you can do this you can't do this idiotastupidfool

"Sure, okay, shoot"

(liarliarliar)


Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful experience from the past?

"Yeah...a lot. I get nightmares and flashbacks sometimes"

Feeling very upset when something reminded you of a stressful experience from the past?

"Yes. Definitely".

Avoid activities or situations because they remind you of a stressful experience from the past?

"I haven't gone near the South, anyone I knew from the home or from my extended family. I haven't touched a belt in years. Foster Homes freak me the hell out".

Feeling distant or cut off from other people?

"Yeah, I-uh-I don't tell anyone the whole story. Ever. It gets tiring. Like I'm Atlas".

Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts?

"I used to, when I was younger before I knew I was a demi-god I was...really angry. I'm usually just tired now, but sometimes it'll flare up".

Having difficulty concentrating?

"....."

(Just answer the question)

Yes?. ADHD?"

Have you experienced a traumatic experience such as abuse or the sudden death of a loved one?

"Wow! A two in one, do I get a prize?".

Do you experience regular panic attacks when confronted with the trauma?

"Not exactly regular, but yeah I get 'em every so often"

Do you think this trauma has shaped or changed you in some way?

 

"Yes".

 

Have you inflicted harm onto yourself or others while disorientated from nightmares, flashbacks, etc?

 

 

"I don't want to do this anymore. I-I'm finished".

 

Chapter Text

Cold.

It was always cold.

The water sunk into his clothes and reached its deadly hands into his veins, attempting to freeze his boiling blood, though he was so numb by that point it didn't really register. The water was still, save for the occasional drip of the tap, the sound frighteningly loud in the quiet

Drip

 

Drip

 

Drip

 

Drip

 

Drip

 

A flash of naked steel in the pale morning sun. His head pressed back against the wall.

He always liked this part of the morning, the hour or so after dawn. Most people were still asleep, but the colors of the sky weren't so harsh. Orange and yellows and bright white shifting into pale blue and fluffy white and calm golden hues. Soft and dull. A forgettable part of the morning. Everyone talked about dawn, how the rising sun was beautiful and memorizing and breath-taking. Captivating, even, but the hour or so after dawn and before the sun had fully risen was forgotten. No one waxed poetically about the-hour-or-so-after-dawn.

Maybe because it didn't have a proper name. Or maybe it did, and He was too stupid to know about it.

He was too tired to think about that now.

 

He liked to think he was the-hour-or-so-after-dawn. A dull, forgettable child bathed in muted colors.

 

Plat

 

Plat

 

Plat

 

The water had changed its noise. The new water hit the surface with much more mass and clouded the water as it drifted around him. The new color was much more interesting too.

Plat

Plat

Plat. Plat. Plat. Plat

It was getting much faster.

PlatPlatPlatPlatPlatPlatPlatPlat-

 

Oh-


 

 

 


Nick was in the middle of James Joyce's Ulysses when the window broke.

Well, he was reading Ulysses, but he was also in the middle of Leo's room. Reading Ulysses and totally not rifling through his backpack full of stuff in his closet looking for evidence of murderous or ill-intent. He was there simply to read. He had the book with him and everything!. It was a waterproof alibi. Mostly

Of course, everything was going smoothly. So far, he had only found pictures of Leo's unfairly hot, Kalvin Klein model friends and his oil-stained clothes. He found a notebook, which might've been interesting save for the fact it was mostly in Spanish and Greek, and sadly, the only phrases he knew in Spanish were 'where is the library' 'can I eat your food' and 'your sister is incredibly fine, but I swear I didn't do it'. So translation was a no-go. Not to mention the Greek?. Nick didn't even know Leo was, in some quantity, Greek. His name didn't betray anything and his accent was the one most foster kids got after a while. The bland mid-Atlantic type one they adopted to make sure they didn't stand out. There were some funky looking coins too, but every time he tried to touch them, his hand went slack. Like his body simply rejected the notion of even picking them up.

Huh.

He had just about finished looking at some strange blueprint things for a dragon when the window started to rattle. He thought absentmindedly 'Jesus, that rain is getting pretty heavy' as he stood up from his position of kneeling on the floor and started shoving the stuff back into the closet. "Just like a ninja...in and out....no-one has to know..." he mumbled under his breath as he shut the doors of the closet.

That was, of course, the exact moment the glass shattered.

He whipped around to the window, the cold air biting into his skin and the rain making heavy 'pit-pit-pit' noises on the wood floor. He was expecting another visit of Jack-the-crazy-homeless-man trying to break into The Office.

He was wrong.

Right in the center of the window, looking incredibly sheepish and tired, was a soaking wet Leo-can't-remember-his-last-name. Judging from his position on the window ledge, he had broken the window with his elbow. For a few seconds, the only sound was the high-pitched whistling of the wind coming from the hole and the rain on the floor.

It was like Nick's brain had stopped computing the minute he noticed Leo. The situation was so strange and downright cursed his brain had promptly made the Window XP error sound and checked the fuck out. His mouth was loosely hanging open, his jaw also gone on a protest. Leo probably thought the same, due to the fact he was still sitting on the window ledge, his elbow still poised to break the window. His hair was damp and sticking to his head and his eyes were blown wide in confusion. The blueprint fluttered to the ground, slipping from his loose grip. That, thankfully, seemed to remind his brain that it had another 60 years or so more of doing brain things and needed to get a move on.

"Uh-Hey...Leo, I was just-" excuse excuse "-reading. In your room. Because the light is better....and stuff". He's brilliant. Leo continued to stare at him, damp curls drooping into his eyes. "Oh. Oh cool- I was just wondering if you could...y'know" Leo said, as he gestured to the hole in the window "-open this?. Or nah. You don't have to, it's technically your house, right?. Also, this window perching thing is really working out my core, and that's important for stuff. I think. Or is that your solar plexus- ". Nick had a moment of terrifying realization that he was talking to Leo as Leo sat on a window ledge a floor up and in the pouring rain. His eyes widened in embarrassment as he stumbled out a strangled apology. He fumbled the window open, his nimble fingers unusually clumsy as he pushed the window up, his cheeks burning as he flustered.

He watched as Leo stepped through the window, the picture of grace and agility. He curved through the open window and gingerly stepped onto the ledge on the inside of the window. For a split-second, Leo loomed over Nick as he stood on the window and Nick had to crane his neck to look up into Leo's shadowed face, the only visible thing a dry half grin. The raindrops fell from his clothes in rivers, creating puddles on the floor and filling the room with the constant sound of falling rain and his labored breathing.

Then, he put his foot out to step down and promptly fell face-first into Nick's chest.

"Oh, Jes-umph!" he squeaked as Leo collided with him, his head crashing into Nick's jaw and sending the both of them tumbling onto the ground. As his head connected with the floor, stars burst across the backs of his eyelids, leaving impressions of a kaleidoscope of green and purple and blue.

For a second or a minute or eternity Nick lay in darkness. Swimming and drifting and floating, until his mind began to pick back up the pieces of his fragmented consciousness. He kept his eyes shut for fear the light would burn out his eyeballs or something. He knew what concussions did to your light sensitivity. The weight on his chest was starting to lessen as Leo was only beginning to shift off him and climb into a sitting position. "Oh shit, sorry Nicky. I lost my balance or something. Or maybe it was the blood rushing from my head? Gods, are you okay-" Leo rambled, his hands still curled on his chest and Nick realized he had been laying on the floor like he was dead. He opened his mouth to say that he was, in fact, fine, but Leo plowed on anyway. "Sweet baby Z Nick, are you dead?. Fuck me, I hope you aren't, that would put a real dampener on my day buddy". He chuckled nervously, hands twisting further in his top and the strange smell of smoke started to assault his nostrils."I really don't need murder on my record as well as all that other softcore stuff-".

At that moment, what he did next seemed perfectly reasonable and foolproof. He did what he thought was necessary to calm Leo's fears that he had committed brutal manslaughter on his perfectly innocent foster-brother, using his head as a murder weapon.

He slapped a hand over Leo's mouth.

It was much more difficult than he originally anticipated, considering the fact he still had his eyes closed. Thankfully, Leo was rambling so much that it was easy enough to guess where he was and from there it was wild luck and prayer. He landed his mark, obvious by the abrupt stop of Leo's tirade, the warm breath damp against his hand and the yelp that escaped Leo as his hand slapped against his mouth. "Sadly, I'm not dead yet, so if you could kindly stop, that would be great" he whispered, his voice crackly and hoarse.

For a moment it was quiet, as he slowly opened his eyes. The echoing sounds of the pit-pating rain, the wind ghosting through the broken window and Leo's heavy nose-breathing filling the vacuum. The room was cast in a muted grey from the heavy, dense rain falling outside. He scanned the room and was only met by the broken window, the puddles of rain and the shards of broken glass thrown across the floor. That's when he got a good look at Leo's appearance, and the homeless-man theory came back in full force.

The kid looked like he had just gone a few rounds with Death itself, and lost. Badly. Leo's eyes were packing bags upon bags and his cheekbones were worryingly defined and his eyes had a sheen of faux-mischievousness over immense fatigue. His dark, greasy, wet hair fell into his eyes and curled around his jaw, casting strange shadows over his face. He could feel the grin underneath his hand, but even that felt half-assed.

Then Leo licked his hand and Nick was going to strangle him.

"Ah-ew, dude" he exclaimed tearing his hand away from Leo. He shifted up on his elbow and glared at Leo, while pointedly wiping his hand on his top. Leo grinned at him, all devil-may-care and deceptively lax. Nick knew the look of someone desperately trying to hide something, so he let sleeping tigers lie. He'd dive into that pit of hell when Leo seemed less likely to pass out, so he decided to play along.

Leo's eyes fell as he sensed Nick's worry, which was leaking out through his clouded eyes and downturned mouth which was hanging open slightly, but a split-second later, Leo's grin grew, a try-hard effort of a Cheshire Cat grin. "Hey Nicky, I know I'm amazing and all, but the 'open-mouthed surprise' thing is old, man. I much prefer it when people show their awe and amazement at my amazing hotness with either verbal or...physical praise, yeah?" he said lowly, winking at him, though due to the fact Leo looked like a wet dog, the sultriness Leo was going for was lost. But Nick gathered his composer and his mouth shifted into a wicked grin.

Oh, two can play at that game.

"Oh, of course, my dear," he said, pulling himself up into a sitting position and facing directly into Leo. He threw his hands out to either side of Leo, bracketing him in, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Or a dark rose to glitter in the moonlight?. Oh, how your eyes swirl like pools of sweet chocolate and your skin is blessed by the sun herself, and you leave me bereft everytime you stray from my sight!" he said, channeling his inner theater nerd, his head thrown back. Leo then, unexpectedly, threw himself backward into Nick's chest, his left hand pressed to his forehead like a fainting damsel, the other clutching his own shirt. "Oh, my Lord, your poetry leaves me weak and very lonesome. Your voice is smooth like butter and never fails to make me...-uh.....". It was clear Leo was looking for a word that was sufficient, judging from the long silence that ballooned in the few seconds Leo had stopped, but the longer the silence went on, the surer Nick was that he had one over him.

Then Leo opened his mouth, and Nick vowed to never underestimate him. Ever. Again.

Ever.

"...Erotically charged!" he exclaimed, pushing himself even further back into Nick's chest, his head firmly tucked into the side of his neck and back pressed against Nick's body. Nick did the natural thing, of course, and wrapped his arms around Leo, all while shoving down the giggles threatening to escape from his chest. He jumped slightly as Nick engulfed him in an embrace, but he seemed to repress it. He was initially worried that the kid wasn't into touch, but the small chuckles, disguised as coughs, that started to escape him put that worry to rest.

Nick's plan was to talk to Leo about why he looked like a fresh-hot garbage fire, while unable to escape Nick's powerful and trapping embrace, but it seems like the universe had other plans, so, then, because Nick was a serial killer-slash-politician in a past life, someone came in.

The door creaked open, and for a moment, Nick thought it was one of the twins. So, he opened his mouth to throw a witty one-liner or quip at them, but instead, his worst nightmare came through.

The someone that came through wasn't Alex or Di or Al or Eva or even Antonio. Instead, that someone was Mellisa Connolly.

Mellisa fucking Connolly.

 


 

 


Her grey eyes widen at the sight of them and his world just.

 

Stops.

 

His brain promptly leaves the premises and checks the fuck out. Nick is done. There is nothing worse than the old witch coming in and seeing this. She probably thinks he's trying to put the moves on the kid. Which makes him shudder internally, 'cause the kid is wayyy too twink-ish for him. Uck.

Leo is frozen in his arms, his chest barely rising against Nick's arms. He's holding his breath, waiting for something to happen. Nick's waiting too. He's seen Mellisa lose her shit over the tiniest of things. Liam, an old foster kid, once climbed the pin-oak tree out the back. Mellisa lost it, started screaming at him and hitting him when he got back down. Called him 'disrespectful' and 'a dirty non-believing fool'. She called him a 'mortal' too. For some reason that stuck with him the most. The fact that Liam 'left' soon after was pre~tty questionable too.

She's just staring now, slate grey eyes giving nothing away. She's still standing at the door, hand wrapped around the doorknob and still dressed in her dark, pressed pantsuit. She works as the director of an adolescent psych ward. Nick can't physically think of a creepier job. Her dark hair is pulled back into a high ponytail, and it waves slightly in the wind rushing from the hole in the window. She opens her mouth, and Leo stiffens, so Nick, almost subconsciously, pulls him closer. They've both stilled their breathing, the atmosphere too tense to breathe in, like the oxygen molecules have become so thick with tension they've become physically impossible to absorb.

For some reason, Nick wants to giggle.

"Clean up that mess, and clean yourselves off. I don't need one of you cutting yourselves on glass or catching a cold" she says, almost anticlimactically. Her tone is bored and her eyes impassive. She turns away and pulls the door along with her. She's almost out of the room when she stops again, the tension filling up the room again and making Leo shiver. "And Leonidas, don't leave the house without my permission ever again. I won't be so lenient the next time" she says and her tone is just as bored but it still makes goosebumps appear on both of their skin. She shuts the door with a slight click and Nick lets out the breath he's been holding in

The tension bleeds away and Leo collapses back into Nick, letting out a long breath. Nick casts his eyes over to the window regretfully, not really looking forward to fixing that mess. "I'll fix it," Leo says and Nick wants to protest, but something in Leo's voice stops him. The kid sounds pretty sure about fixing it, so Nick isn't going to intrude. It's Leo's mess anyways.

They clamber up off the floor, the playful mood lost.

Then Leo starts to push away and Nick suddenly remembers what his original mission was, but he relents, not wanting to make Leo feel uncomfortable. Then Leo makes to leave, though it doesn't look like he even knows where he's going. So Nick's hand darts out, almost of its own accord and clamps around Leo's wrist "Not yet buddy, we've got a few things to chat about". Leo chuckles lowly, slightly straining against Nick, "About what? The creepiness the wicked witch of East Harlem just pulled or your sudden sexual-identity crises you've just had over me flirting with you?" he says, and Nick can't see the grin, as Leo is facing away from him, but he can hear it in his voice. "Well, first of all, Mellisa can get way creepier, so be careful, seriously. Second, trust me, you are not my type. My taste in men leans more towards the more...grizzled side, y'know?. But enough with the distraction techniques" and Leo's muscles tense-up underneath Nick's hand. Up till now, Leo has been going along with the playful mood he set up, all lax and only put the slightest of pressure on Nick's grip. Now, he's pulling harder against Nick's grip but he's still acting like everything is fine. Nick contemplates letting him go but the image of Leo's homeless-man cosplay runs around his brain. So he marches forward.

"This morning, you looked like shit. To be expected, first nights at a new home are usually rough, even for veterans like us. Then you leave without telling anyone where you've gone. No note, nothing. But Di pinned you as the 'lone-wolf' type, so she just proposes the idea you wanted to explore. That's all fine and dandy and no ones particularly worried. Then it starts getting later. You don't show up and no ones worried except me. Di and Alex are....out and the younger kids are at a playdate or something. So it's just me. Then it hits 7 and you suddenly turn up out of the blue on a windowsill a story up looking like a fucking drug-addled homeless man". The part of his brain that isn't completely taken with chewing out Leo is telling him he's sounding a bit deranged, but that part is swiftly killed by the larger part of his brain that's completely overridden with righteous anger. Leo turns his head away, his nails pushing into the soft, meaty flesh of his palm and creating small crescent indents. He hasn't stopped straining and the flesh of his palm is turning white as Leo digs his fingernails in further. Nick plows on.

"So, I'd like to know what the hell you've been doing for the past 7 hours. Is it drugs?. A girlfriend? A boyfriend? Casual fuck-buddy?. C'mon, give me something man" he says, his voice rising in pitch along with his worry. Leo isn't answering. Instead, he's curled away from Nick, his head hanging. The silence drags on. He forgets about the puddle on the floor and the fading light and the dampness leaking from Leo's jacket onto Nick. The skin of Leo's wrist is warm, almost unbearably so, but his hand stays clamped around Leo's wrist in a death-grip.

He just wants something.

He won't let someone be alone ever again.

"Needed a top-up. On my medication. Which is legal" Leo says and holy shit he's talking. The stiffness leaks out of Nick's posture and he's so grateful he could kill a man. If Nick never has to deal with something even remotely similar to Alexander's problem ever again, it'll be too soon. Then what Leo actually says hits and holy shit.

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck. Oh god, he has to say something. Oh jeez.

"Oh-Oh cool. Well, not like 'cool' but it's cool you're not doing heroin or getting girls pregnant or soliciting sex. That's always....good....pretty good-cool. Yeah. So is the medication, like, body-health related or mind related health. You don't have to tell me, obviously, but with meds, there are usually side-effects and maybe-"

"It's for my head-mind thing. Like, my brain chemistry. That- whole area. Yeah. So, I guess, make sure I don't drink coffee and that I actually sleep?" he says. His voice shakes, just so much that Nick notices, but not enough to make him truly worried. Then, Nick makes the mistake of loosening his hold and Leo is slipping out of his grip lightning-quick and standing at the other side of the room. Nick has absolutely no idea how he did that so quickly. Nick is now convinced Leo is a part-time ninja.

Leo stands all slouched and awkward, his hands shoved into his army jacket pockets. His tool-belt(?) hangs low on his hips and his honest-to-god suspenders are slipping off his shoulders slightly. Nick has the extremely violent urge to wrap him up in a blanket and hug the sadness out of him, but he's 98% sure Leo won't be too excited with him bear-hugging him for the second time. "Hey, so-" he starts to say as "-thanks, I guess?. For trusting me with this".

"It's cool Nicky-" Nick does not twitch at this "-just don't mention this to anyone else, yeah?. Don't want people to look through this 'mysterious bad-boy' thing I have. It apparently brings in all the ladies" he says, and towards to end he winks and Nick smiles ever so slightly.

"Hey so, why did you break the window?. Why not use the door, like an actual functioning human, man?" Nick says, and for a moment Leo looks utterly bewildered at his question, but it's soon wiped away and Leo plasters a look of complete indifference on.

"There were......complications with that. The window was the only viable option". Leo's head twitches slightly, like a malfunctioning machine. Nick is afraid oil is going to start pouring out of his ear. Leo crosses his arms and starts tapping a beat onto the crook of his elbow.

 

What. The. Fuck.

 

"No...it really isn't. There is a back door, you could've knocked!".

"Oh-well. I make things more interesting, yeah?. Keeping you all on your toes, never knowing where I'm coming from". Then he makes a noise like a cat in labor while wiggling his fingers at him. His eyes are wide and glazed like he's not entirely sure what's going on, but God himself couldn't make him back down.

Nick promptly leaves the room, looking for the twins and the sounds of Leo's weak chuckles fading behind him.

He needs to talk to Alex, he knows way more about this kind of stuff than Nick does.

 


 

 


If Leo has to reveal anything personal ever again, he's going to commit homicide. The rain is racing down from the heavens and soaking everything in sight. It invades every part of his body, making his jacket and hair and skin damp and clammy, as he stands outside of Hui's place.

Leo is positive Zeus is looking down and laughing. 'Fuck you, you old grump creep' he thinks viciously, his face twisting with the force of his undirected anger. A younger Leo would probably laugh at him, getting angry at something as natural as rain, something that couldn't be stopped. A younger Leo thought of rain as hot and cold air mixing and forming and breaking, a simple fact. This Leo knows that some old dude in a dress is responsible for this and storms and Super-Cells, so he sees getting angry at the rain perfectly normal and acceptable. Knowing the gods are real makes blaming others for stuff real easy. Category 5 hurricanes? Zeus!. Cataclysmic earthquakes and floods? Poseidon!. Your loved ones dying and leaving you? Thanatos!.

It was so, so easy to be angry at the gods. But how can you be angry at something that can't understand morality or humanity?. Leo thinks bargaining with a god is like bargaining with, like, a rock.

 

Thunder rolls overhead and Leo pretends he didn't jump.

 


 

 

 

The subway was packed, people coming back for their days out or work crammed into the car like a tin of sweaty, bored sardines. He stands right beside a tall woman in a suit jacket and a pencil skirt and what looks like a college student trying to desperately type something onto their laptop. Their eyes are crazed and misty. Leo keeps at least a few inches away.

Then the train jolts to a stop. The garbled voice spits out the name of the station over the PA. Or the dude is trying to summon a monster using latin. It's difficult to tell. He makes his way out of the station with minimal distress and is greeted with even more rain when he exits.

Yay!

The sky is dark and cloudy. Leo is 249% sure Zeus is doing this to fuck with him. His brown eyes darken with anger and the fire in his veins threaten to burn out his heart. He does what he usually does with that kind of emotion, and shoves it into a closet in the back of his head.

Thankfully, the Walgreens is like five minutes from the station, so he only gets a touch of hypothermia instead of a truckful. When he gets to the Walgreens he is immediately assaulted by that Americana, apple-pie life, style of writing, loudly exclaiming 'Walgreens'. People are bustling in and out, carrying bags of food and clothes, and more commonly, little white bags with pills inside. Leo hesitantly steps inside and makes his way to the pharmacist counter. The obnoxiously bright lights and constant clamor of the masses make his senses burn and he wants nothing more than to go back to the house and curl up in the bed and sleep until he turns into a sack of old bones. Sadly, his brain chemistry is apparently a 'ticking time-bomb' and 'is impossible to ignore without severe repercussions, Leo'.

Leo thinks living so long as a Greek demigod has made Hui paranoid.

'Or smart' purrs the part of his brain that his usually never listens to.

There are a few people milling about the counter, either sitting and waiting for their prescription or talking with the people behind the counter. He waits a few minutes, milling about and picking at the dirt under his fingernails until he spots an opening and walks up to the counter.

The man waiting there at the counter looks like he'd rather be at his own execution than here. His floppy blond hair sweeps into his glazed hazel eyes and his fingers are tapping on the countertop in a repetitive motion. Leo would think he's quite cute if he didn't look about as interesting as loveless missionary sex. Leo is suddenly also irrationally angry with him.

 

Leo thinks Hui might be right. He's been spilling hard-earned secrets left-right-and-center these days. Going from open and vulnerable, to sad, to angry. Never an in-between. Always in flux.

 

"Good evening Sir, may I help you with anything?" he says and dear Jesus, the man sounds like he'd be bored at the birth of a new god. Though Leo feels like he wants nothing more than to burn the place down, he answers quite pleasantly, "Yes, actually. I have a prescription I'd like to lodge". He hands the prescription he got from Hui to the man, whose nametag says, 'Brian'. Gods Almighty, even his name is boring. The man reads the prescription and his eyebrow climbs with every second. His eyebrow keeps climbing and Leo gets the sudden urge to tell Brian his eyebrow is escaping. He thinks he might've actually, judging from Brian's scandalized expression after he's done reading.

Oopsy-daisy

Then, Brian suddenly gets up from his spot and stamps into the back of the store, disappearing behind shelves filled with pill bottles. The sudden change in demeanor almost gives Leo whiplash. He comes back with a small, white bottle and Leo's heart feels like it's being squeezed by the Kerkopes. His hand snakes into his back pocket, where the money Hui pushed on him is situated. He tried refusing but Hui insisted. As in, Hui threatened to call her half-siblings down and force him to take it. Leo shivers, the mental image of the entire Apollo Cabin forcing money down his throat as they scream in unison 'Get better Leo Valdez! Get better Leo Valdez!' in some form of cult-chant. He thinks at some point Apollo shows up and violently shakes Leo into submission, joining in with his children.

'Feast on them green, green dollar bills demigod' they chant. He refuses but then Apollo starts punching him in the stomach while his children watch, while he shouts 'Swallow, bitch!'.


.........Wait what the hell. Why is he thinking about this now?


He shakes his head free from the cobwebs and focuses his eyes back on Brian.

 

Thankfully, the Brian-meister didn't notice his slight dip into mild insanity, so he's in the clear.

 

He looks intently at Leo as he places the bottle on the counter, studying every inch of Leo's face. He'd be sort of pleased if the man wasn't looking at Leo like a particularly hard Sudoku puzzle instead of the piece of hot bod Leo knows he is. Then, he shifts uncomfortably and licks his lips. "Hey, so, I'm gonna need some ID before I give these to you. Just so I know you're....y'know...." he says and Leo has several ideas as to what that might apply to. He has to physically push down on the urge to light the man's fringe on fire.

Thing is, Leo hasn't really been in touch with the mortal world fully for nearly a year. Hell, even before that, his connection with normal society was tenuous at best. Before, he either got the medication from foster homes or from your friendly neighborhood drug dealer.

They were surprisingly adept at getting him the right dose and he never used more than what his prescription used to say.

So, him legally buying it on his own is a strange experience. Second of all, Leo doesn't really...have any ID on him. His Library card and all other forms of identification were left behind at the wilderness school when Piper, Jason, and Leo made a break for it. Even during Camp, he made a deal with one of his old foster sisters, Katia, to post them to him. Though Katia dropped off the map about a week after they set off for the Quest. Leo has a sneaking suspicion Katia's, ahem, extra-curricular activities got her in some deep schist.

 

But Leo isn't stupid either.

 

His tool-belt sits snugly on his hips. He sends a five-second prayer up to Apollo, his Dad, Asclepius, and Tyche.

 

His puts his hand into the pocket.

 

He sucks in a breath.

 

His fingers curl around a hard piece of plastic.

 

His breath almost bursts from his chest.

 

He pulls out a driver's license.

 

His own bland face stares back at him. His name, however, is Anastasio Vasquez and he was born in January three years before Leo was born.

 

Brian looks as surprised as Leo feels.

 

 

Thank you', he prays to whatever God owed him the most favors.

Leo feels the smile creep across his face without his permission as he hands the ID over to Brian. He scrutinizes the piece of plastic like he's going to start to question it any second now. Leo was going to make a quick jab, asking if Brian wanted a little alone time with his card.

Then he throws the card back at Leo, unnecessarily violent and says, quite venomously "Cash, please". Leo lets the smile spread across his face, his eyes sparkling with the victory. He probably looks crazed as he fists to dollars into Brians' hands, clothes dripping with rain, his hair and skin damp and strangely warm and his face alight with a heady victory.

Judging from the way Brian scurries back into the back of the shop his eyes are doing that thing again.

For a while, the victory is so thick in his brain, that everything seems like an absolutely brilliant idea. Like crossing the road without looking, walking with his hood down in the pouring rain and pooping one of his pills right then and there on the subway.

 

Leo wasn't stupid, but that didn't mean he was wise.

 


 

 

When he reaches the house again, the door pulses with disgust and he can't make his hand open the door. He can't.

The door going down to the cellar creaks and groans and smells and longs

Leo decides the best course of action is to parkour himself drunkenly up to his window. He breaks the window too. It's all very exciting.

He talks and talks and talks with Nicky. He's sure Nicky-Nick doesn't notice the way Leo can't focus or how his center of gravity seems just a little bit off and how his body is so so hot and how his eyes are a hundred thousand miles away in a little town in Arkansas-

He falls asleep the minute he leaves. He doesn't even mind the wind ghosting through the hole. Leo faintly recognizes he's been doing this a lot lately, the sleeping thing. He falls asleep anyway.

 


 

 

for a second, she pities him. she understands children, and arguably loves them more than anyone understands. but this one, this one, is no child. he is a foreigner's bastard with orange blood. she has all the pity i an domhain for the children, but she holds no such love for the soldier that sleeps in the bed

she imagines slitting his throat over the dara in the garden and having it be done with, but he looks so much like how her paistí looked as they slept that she cannot make her hand move.

she mends the window. her hand shakes as she does so and she hates what is to come but-

then she hears them, calling out for her in the earth and smiles softly. the date moves closer and closer with every turn of the moon, and then it would be here. the balance. the freedom of her family........

she opens the cellar door and lets the mere presence of them wash over her.

 

she may hate the warrior-child that lies in her home and she may be guilty of leading those two to the slaughter but-

 

they are not her children

 

she holds of the shadows of what once was and sings-

"Oró, sé do bheatha abhaile,

Oró, sé do bheatha abhaile,

Oró, sé do bheatha abhaile

Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh......"

  


 

 

 

When Leo wakes up, the sun has completely set. His room is covered with a faint sheen of silver and the shadows in the corner of the room shift and move with the light of the moon. His eyes slowly break open and he blearly realizes he slept much longer than he wanted to. The clock-face loudly exclaims at him 'Its 3 in the morning dumbass! Go the fuck back to sleep!'. He frowns at the clock, his face still half-smushed into the pillow. He elects to ignore that and he pulls himself up onto a sitting position, his lips smacking for no particular reason.

He really needs a drink.

His clothes cling to his skin and his toolbelt has probably left a mark on his hips. His feet are still clad in his boots, and this makes his infinitely sadder than it should. The room is still and silent, the only warmth in the room is coming from Leo and the rain continues to patter outside.

 

But not inside.

 

There is a piece of plastic is covering the hole, blocking out the winds and the city noise and the constant rain. He's sure he didn't do it and Nicky looked pretty relieved when he said he'd do it, so it probably isn't him.

He shivers slightly at the thought one of the Connollys coming into the room he was sleeping in. He develops the sudden urge to shower.

 

He internally debates the prospect of showering at 3 am on a Sunday. He eventually comes to a compromise. He'll wash his face in the skin and get out of his stiff clothes.

He toes off his boots and softly throws them over to the side of the room. He fumbles for the bedside lamp and he winces when the bright light momentarily startles him. He blinks a few times and stretches. He shucks off his jeans and pulls up his plaid PJs and throws his suspenders, toolbelt, and jacket over in a corner somewhere.

 

Gods, he needs some more clothes.

 

He pads out of the room and wincing every time the door creaked when he tries to open it. Thank sweet baby Zeus, he eventually makes it all the way down to the kitchen for the infamous 'dark lunch'. Though Leo's stomach felt like he had just gone on all the rides at Disney-World at the same time, so it was more like 'dark beverage'.

It took him a few minutes to figure out where exactly the cups were, but he finally found them. He yawns wide as he walks from the cupboard with the cup over to the sink, rubbing tired eyes like a small child.

 

In the quiet house, it was easy to detect the sound of glass hitting the floor

 

Suddenly, he felt very cold and very much alone. His breath picks up as he felt it, the warmth, the intruding warmth all around him digging its claws into his lava-blood and making his brain go into 'Flight or Fight'. His eyes rounded and his breath picks up and it was getting closer and his hands shook so much his own cup clattered to the floor and-

 

He spun on his heel and came face to face with him.

 

His breath is foul and his eyes were a wide vivid green that looks directly at him, then, nowhere at all. His face is pale and weathered and makes Leo want to run.

 

Leo feels his heat curl and flickers at his hand and he tenses, preparing to shout and scream and attack.

 

 

The man jumps Leo first.

 

 

Chapter Text



Furious, Piper thought, was too weak a word for what she was feeling right now. It was like her anger had settled into her very bones, clinging to every pore and orifice. Instead of the white-hot anger, she suspected she would feel, or even the cold, slow burn of her righteous fury, it was more like mercury.

Quick, all-consuming and poisonous.

"What do you mean you can't get him back?"

"Ms.McLean, I had assumed you left for California already?" Chiron said, swinging around in surprise to face her, his voice calm and placating, like he could soothe her back into submission. This only spurred her on, Chiron's apparent indifference to her friend's crisis filling her with mercury.

"Well, I would've, if my friend hadn't been forced back into the Foster Care System and left for the vultures," she said, her nails digging into her palms and her entire demeanor cold and steady. Chiron stared at her, his gaze unreadable but she didn't wilt and didn't let her eyes wander from his. She wouldn't be placated by his mystical-dumbledor act, happy with empty reassurances and old-man wisdom. She wanted concrete answers with evidence and proof that Leo would be returned to them, safe and sound.

"Ms.McLean, I assume you talked with Ms.Barrera? I would just like to clarify to the both of you, that I am indeed still looking for options concerning Leo Valdez's case, even though the answer may not lie with me" he told her, trotting closer to her, maybe to comfort her, maybe to turn her around, to walk her out of his stupid office without telling her what was happening with Leo-

"Is he safe?" she said, her voice low and baiting, waiting for him to take it, so she could tear him apart, for not helping enough to keep Leo safe, for brushing Leo off like he was just another camper. Chiron looked slightly taken aback by the venom in her voice and the embers in her eyes but answered her anyway "Yes, I do believe he is. Nothing has been said to the contrary and the people he was placed with seem perfectly normal and quite mortal-"

"Then," she began, her voice shaking with the anger coursing and igniting throughout her body, her eyes still locked with his, "why can't my Iris messages get through?. It's been complete radio silence since he...." was taken, is what she wants to say, but the words stick in her throat. "...left. So, how safe is he really, Chiron, huh?. When was the last time you talked to him, was it when he left camp, when he having panic attacks at the thought of going back to the System?!. How do you know he isn't having one right now, scared out of his mind because we couldn't- no, wouldn't help him!". Her body burned with the need to take out her anger, eyes wide and unflinching, staring directly at him.

And in the split second that proceeds this, Piper knows she's gone too far, the tense silence filling Chiron's office like a deadly bubble. So, she casts her eyes down, her entire being filled with a strange kind of shame at her outburst. She dropped her head, her choppy hair falling in front of her eyes like she could barricade Chiron out with it. "Ms.Mc- Piper , I didn't realize the extent of your worry, and I am truly sorry that you feel that my efforts aren't enough. I really have tried to communicate with the Social Services, but it seems they have, in short, 'blacklisted' me from taking in Leo. I'm now looking to see if there is anyone able to take him in on such short notice, but so far, my search has turned up null and void".

Piper itches with the urge to suggest something, to tell Chiron 'It's okay, I'll take him in ' but she knows what will happen if her dad takes Leo in.

Paparazzi and hungry reporters and gossips mills tearing him apart for the next big story, and that is not something she would ever subject Leo to aswell. Piper can see the headlines already, story after story printing out conspiracies about Leo and his parentage. Is he Tristan's illegitimate child? Piper's homeless, vagabond boy-toy? A charity-case to make Tristan look better?. She wants Leo to be safe, above all else and shoving him into the toxic limelight is not the way to go about doing that.

She can, of course, imagine Leo protesting, arguing that he ' was born for the spotlight, hermana. How dare she hold him back from the undivided attention of the American population and their adoring bodies'.

Oh, gods, she misses that idiot so much.

And just like that, her anger leaves her in a sudden sigh. The mercury flowing and evaporating from her veins, leaving her strangely empty. Her shoulders slump and she tries to tuck her hands into her jean pockets, but when all her hands do is slide against smooth denim and she painfully recalls that she doesn't have front pockets because women's jeans are strange and then she starts to think about the unfairness of women's jeans not having pockets and its so goddamn unfair. She going to cry, sweet Jesus, right in front of Chiron in the middle of the Big House, she's going to cry-

But she doesn't.

She wants to, of course. All she wants to do is sink to her knees and weep and shout and scream at the unfairness because that is what it is. They've all been through so much, not just Leo or her, but all of the Seven and then some. She wants to march up to the Fates and demand they stop toying with her loved ones lives, to finally let them go and to let them rest goddamn it. She wants to remember how to be normal again. She wants-

She wants-


She wants-

Breathe. In. Out. She screws her eyes shut and tells herself, in a voice reminiscent of her Charmspeak, that she is in control and she is fine. In. Out.

Her eyes open, and it feels like no time has passed and all the time in the world. "Piper?" Chiron inquires and she can feel his hand hovering tentatively over her shoulder. She lifts her gaze up to his, her features straightening out into something easier to manage. "Yeah, Yeah I-I'm good" she answers with only some slight discomfort and Chiron gives her a reassuring....something. It isn't a smile, but his eyes glimmer with something close to comprehension and understanding, and that helps more than a smile ever would.

He clears his throat and pulls his hand back, the heat of his hovering palm suddenly leaving her shoulder.

"Piper, I know you feel like you're abandoning Leo here, but punishing yourself and being self-destructive will not help him. I have trained many demigods over the millennia Piper and I know what kind of person Leo is. The only way to make sure Leo keeps going is to pretend like everything is fine. If you begin to treat him like glass, if you become too protective, if he even suspects you are suffering because of his personal trauma, he will not stick around long enough for you to help him" he says, his voice crackling in the air around her like the promise of a thundercloud. Her heart stutters at his words like he's pressed heavy defibrillators to her chest and given the all-clear.

"He will run if things get too bad, Piper, but I want to make sure if worst comes to worst, he runs to us, instead of off into the unknown. I will see if there is a solution to the communication problem, but for now, I need you to trust me with my Job, and I need you to trust Leo to protect himself ".

Piper understands.

She tells Chiron that, with a heavy tongue and an even heavier heart.

And as she's walking out of Camp, her bag on her back and Jason's kiss still a lingering tingle on her lips, she knows that she understands but that doesn't mean she's content to lay back and let Leo walk into his own metaphorical Tartarus on his own.

She's Piper fucking McLean. She forced a primordial goddess back into an everlasting sleep and fought gods and giants and monsters straight out of greek Hell, so using her money and influence to help Leo in some more discreet way, seems much easier in retrospect.

She knows, with steel like certainty that Leo will survive this trial by fire and they will be fine.

 


 

 

Séan thinks he's killed the kid.

 

His body is prone on the floor, thin coppery limbs stark against the bright white of the kitchen tiles. He's spread like Christ on the Cross, and the irony of that statement isn't lost on him. His arms are splayed out from him, his fist gently curled and his legs are tucked into a half-done fetal position, one on top of the other and his dark birds-nest of hair is covering the wound on his head he knows is situated right above his temple.

He never meant for the blast of his draíocht to hit the boy that hard, but can you really blame him?. As far as Séan knew, the only people worth his attention in the house were The Cailleach, her bitch and The Twins. Everyone else was collateral. He even chalked the sudden increase of power this weekend to Her preparing for Oíche Samhain, but it must have been the sudden arrival of the New Kid. His mouth quirks up in a rare show of annoyance at his own failure, to not see the connections soon enough.

His boot pushes gently against the bare skin of the boy's ankle, but not even the constant prodding wakens the boy. He huffs and silently bemoans his own incompetence, as he slowly lowers himself to his knees and winces at the creaking of his knees, he's 29, not 50 for fuck's sake.

He carefully prods and pokes at The Kid's hands, careful to watch for any runes or any lingering evidence of magic, but all he finds is rough calloused palms with some silvery scars glowing carefully against his skin. Nothing to suggest that 5 minutes ago his hands were lit up like bonfires set up by rouge estate boys during Halloween.


He has no idea what the kid is.


He's not her creation nor is he one of Séan's informants. He fights and reacts like a soldier, all focused energy and lightning-fast reflexes, but it's like the fighting was built into him, like he was reacting faster than his brain could. He momentarily entertains the idea of him being some kind of changeling summoned up and trapped and forced to do her doing, but the signature the kid's draíocht leaves in entirely foreign to Séan.


But not quite.


It feels like how this country feels. Ever-shifting and pulling and entirely too tumultuous to be safe. It smells like the smoking area of a pub and grates against his nerves, his own sense recognizing the smell of a predator.


But, Séan is not prey

He grimaces as he presses his fingers to the kid's temples and shoves that dark feeling of guilt when his fingers brush the sticky wound and the kid gives out a weak moan, his voice shockingly young sounding. It reverberates loudly in the kitchen and he knows he doesn't have long before he's either spotted or the kid wakes up. He presses his fingers against his temples until the skin underneath his fingertips turns white with pressure, the kid's fae-ish features twisting with pain. Then, his signature reluctantly connects with the boy's own. For a moment, there's a blockage that lets him know the kid has dealt with this kind of thing before and his eyebrows raise in surprise, but he pushes on past and his mental walls crumble with little-to-no effort.

(Séan will look back on this moment with a deep, dark feeling of shame. He completely destroyed a presumed-mortal's mind with no consideration and left him vulnerable in a house with a woman who thrived on chaos and the suffering of others.

But, at that moment Séan was too concerned with a mortal knowing he was around to pay that much mind)

Séan carefully glides through the kid's mind, like a car skidding on black ice, and plunges into the cold dark lake of his mind and-



There is a dragon, metal and golden and flying high above the clouds. There are children armed with weapons and covered in dust and powerful. There are images, snapshot quick, of other teens, dirty and hungry for more than just food. There is a dark-haired woman who holds the leather meaning of pain in her china-bone delicate hands. There is a latina woman who looks older than her years and has home written all over her. There is a being made of dirt, who drips hatred and disgusting things, who is writing and burning high in the atmosphere-

 

Séan pulls back quickly, afraid of becoming lost in the psyche of this strange mortal(?) and searches more desperately against the surface, and then his mind catches on it, the memory of his own surprised eyes staring at him ( sweet Mary and Joseph, does he really look like that) and wraps the fingers of his draíocht around the thin silvery sliver of memory and tugs up, his hands dragging from the temples into a joined point in the center of his forehead-

He keeps his breathing steady as he breaches the surface, careful to keep the thin, silvery wisp of memory unbroken in his hands. His signature settles back into his body and he gives a quick glance down at the boy. He's pale, and the warmth that was unbearable 10 minutes ago has completely disappeared.

"I need to get a move on..." he mutters to no one but himself. He begins to pull and gently coerce the strand away from the kid's forehead. The kid stiffens as he begins to tug and he wonders if his luck will keep up. He gently twists the strand once he has the entire memory and watches as it snaps in half.

He then swallows the strand in its entirety. He has to make sure there no evidence left of his tampering.


It tastes, surprisingly, like smoked meat.


Then, the kid's eyes flutter open.


A strange, fiery brown with gold flecks stares back at him, glazed and unsure, but awake. His eyes flutter again, a strange broken sound bursts forth from his lips and he's......back under again. He patches together a quick healing spell, one that would make the Sisters shake their head at, but does its job of healing him.


The Kid is deep in sleep now, off with the fae and Séan knows he can't just leave him on the cold kitchen floors. He places both palms on the skin of the kid's forearms and pushes. The kid disappears into the floor where it melts around him, swallowing him up and covering him. Séan thinks in a mantra "BedBedBedBedBedBedBed" and nearly collapses into a gooey pile once he disappears completely, the floor returning from its gooey form into a more stable one.

He escapes the house without any information, without anything concrete to give back to Lady Caoimhe or any idea how to explain the newest anomalies in that house.


He passes out halfway to base on the cold ground of a back street in this gods-forsaken Yankee city and only remembers then, as the darkness slips over his eyes, that kid was still slightly bleeding when he left.

 


 

 

The first thing Leo notice when he pulled himself from the murky darkness that was REM cycle sleep was the pain. Not the dryness of his mouth or the stiffness of his joints, but the blinding, all-consuming pain that burned in his head. The dull light of the sun that peeked through the window was like lasers to his eyes. His eyes, which were open wide in shock. His breath was trapped in his chest and his eyes blurred with tears and he wanted to scream . His hands shot up to his head, burying his fingers in his hair and pulling on the strands like that pain would distract from the even worse pain that ripped through his head.

‘What the fuck. What the fuck. Please, oh gods, what the fuck’ was a constant mantra that he feverishly kept up while he curled up into the fetal position and tried not to cry. The blankets felt like sandpaper against his skin, the air was cold, too cold, much too fucking cold and his head felt like ground zero for the atomic bomb. In short, Leo was in hell. Actual, physical hell. It was somehow, on par with the physician’s cure, which was the thing that dragged him back from death .

The pain persisted, but so did Leo. After an unknowable amount of time, the door creaked open. The sound nipped at his mind and lured him out of his feverous, slightly-delirious state. “Leo…...are you okay?” a voice, male and deep and accented with some weird European accent. Leo, feeling like a small dwarf had taken up residence in his head and was doing its damnedest to kill him from the inside out, gave a soft groan from his place curled up under the comforter. His breath was damp against the skin of his forearm, his fingers still loosely curled in the bird’s nest of his hair.

‘Maybe if I stay really still he’ll just leave’ his mind whispered, trying to coax him back to his previous state of near vegetable-like consciousness. The moments passed along with no noise from where the voice was heard, the quiet looming over him, a void of not-quite-quiet-

“Why the fuck are you bleeding ”  

He was what?

Leo flexed his fingers that were buried in his hair and the dull pain that was previously just there was now a siren, ringing off the walls of his skull, but that’s when he noticed it.

 

The heat.

 

His fingers weren’t just warm like they usually were, they were damp, wet with-

 

He pulled a hand down from his head, unclenching fingers from his curls and looked at his fingers.

 

It was hard to see, underneath the covers as he was, but the dull light of day from above gave him some leeway and there it was. Blood, slightly lighter in color than mortal blood. The tips of his fingers were still slightly damp with it, but the rest of the blood had crusted over leaving an irrefutable piece of evidence of-

 

“What the hell!”




It was 3 pm when Nick had enough of Valdez’s shit. Well, Nick never ‘had enough’ of anybody's shit, but sometimes he did get mildly annoyed and Valdez sleeping in until 3 managed to get his eyebrow twitching in annoyance, which was basically a death sentence in Nick Terms. “I'll go up and make sure he didn’t vanish in the night, okay Nick?” he said, as he helped Ava with her food. Her dyspraxia got the better of her, especially when it came to food.

 

“Alex, would you mind seeing if Leo didn’t skip out on us last night?” Nick asked, helping Ana eat his fruits. Diana snorted as she loaded up the dishwasher, the tension around her shoulders letting up. Alex knows they aren’t done talking about what happened, but they’ve come to a truce for a while. Valdez’s remarks on his first day did not help bury the memory either and Alex’s own reaction might've as well propelled the memory into Di’s mind psychically.

 

Fuck. School tomorrow will be hell.

 

Alex got angry with Mel and Tony sometimes. Not because of the creepiness, but the whole Samaritan act Tony usually put on pissed him off the most because they weren’t foster Parents. From what Alex could remember, Parents were meant to give you love and help and support emotionally, not just throwing money at them to keep them quiet and sedated. Most days, Nick cooked. Alex and Di usually did all the other menial chores like washing and homework and Ava was starting to help out with Ana, keeping him occupied and distracted.

 

“Yeah sure,”

 

He gave his empty bowl to Di, who shot him the ‘try to string a sentence together for once in your life, please’ look.

 

He marched up to Valdez’s room, which was decidedly untouched. His stuff was hidden away somewhere and there was nothing….personally anywhere. Nothing on the desk or the bedside table, like if Leo left, it would be like no-one was there in the first place.

 

Sadly enough, however, the lump in the middle of the bed told him- wait what in the name of Jesus

 

There, on the pillowcase, was a medium sized brown spot. It was small enough to not cover to pillowcase but big enough to shove Alex's heart into his throat.

 

“Why the fuck are you bleeding?”

 


 

 

Leo is pulled out of bed once he doesn’t answer the question, still sort of fascinated because where did it come from?

 

“What the hell did you do Alexander? Huh? глупый маленький мальчик суки, you killed him! Because of what? Did he tell you the truth about your распутность? Stupid little ass-” is the first thing he hears when Alex half-drags him down the stairs. Leo looks around the hall as they walk down the stairs, his vision sort of blurry which is becoming increasingly common

Leo has also been getting hurt increasingly more often and he’s afraid this is the Fate’s preliminary testing stage of how much he can handle before he blue-screens out of existence.

“Diana-no stop! I didn’t do this to him! Sweet Jesus!” Alex says a bit too close to his ear and Leo can’t push the flinch that makes it way to the surface. Diana seems suspicious but helps them down the stairs, supporting Leo’s other side. She rolls her eyes at his grin.

 

Leo assumes he looks a bit crazy, you know, with his sweatpants and oil-stained sleep shirt and the copious amounts of blood.

 

Nick tries and, admittedly, does a good job of assessing him while Leo sits at the dining table. He grumbles at odd times and spends the whole thing asking Leo what happened, but Leo, for the first time in his life, has no idea. He has a theory, but Leo would prefer if that particular avenue isn’t explored at all.

 

Ever.

 

The next half-hour is filled with Alex using a wikihow on ‘how to deal with head-truama’  so he can guide Nicky on how to help Leo. Diana excused herself after 10 minutes, incredibly pale and queasy-looking and claimed she needed a smoke. Alex is then too busy laughing at his sister to be of much use.

 

“I think you’re fine, but don’t take my word for it,” Nicky says, wiping his hands on a towel “But if you die tonight, don’t haunt me for your apparent fuck up, dude”. Leo shrugs, communicating in bro-code ‘sure, sounds fair, bro’

Alex is standing between the kitchen and the dining room, exasperation clear on his face. “If you’re done mothering him Nick,” Alex moans “I need to go find my babyish, stupid sister”. Nick excuses him but frowns at Alex’s wording, which immediately tells Leo-

“You don’t have any siblings, do you?” Leo grinned as he pushed himself off the chair, stretching and popping his joints. Nick didn’t answer him right away, which would’ve set off those magical social tact sirens all people other than Leo seemed to possess, but, alas, Leo.

 

“Yeah, no” was Nicky’s succinct answer. It did sort of wriggle Leo wrong but, eh.

Nick eventually pushed Leo into the kitchen demanding he eat something. Leo was hesitant but ate a muffin he found in the pantry.

 

Then Nicky brought out the phone and said Melissa had a doctor on speed-dial.

 

Leo ended up eating 3 muffins, two glasses of OJ, a pop-tart and possibly an apple.

 

“Thank you,” Nicky said, once Leo had finished.

 

Leo looked for an escape route.

There was none.

 

Nicky beckoned Leo over to the breakfast Island where he was sitting on a stool.

 

Leo felt like a misbehaving teen being beckoned by their parent for ‘just a talk’.

 

Nick took a breath and looked Leo directly in his eyes. Leo noticed, sort of absentmindedly, that his abuela and Nicky had the same kind of eyes. Dark Irises with diamond-white sclera accentuated by their dark skin. “Are you sure this has nothing to do with the, thing” he stumbled for a moment and Leo’s left eyebrow lifted at Nick’s fumbling, “Yeah man, I’m sure this has nothing to do with that”. Nick stared at Leo a beat longer but relaxed after he knew Leo was telling the truth “cool, cool, cool-”

 

“School-clothes- fuck ” screeched Diana as she skidded into the room, her hair askew and her eyes wide. Alex followed closely behind, a giggling Anastasio on his shoulders. Leo turned his head to look at Nick and, yup, he had the look Leo could remember very well. The ‘The-Foster-Parent-is-coming-home-and-I-haven’t-done-my-chores’ look. Wide eyes, sweat forming at the forehead, shortness of breath, the whole shebang.

 

“Fiddlesticks” was Nick’s only word as he sprinted from the kitchen up until the stairs, and then he was bounding, like the jackrabbit from hell.

 

“Mind him,” Alex told him as he made to follow him-and whoa child.

 

In his lap.

 

Child.

 

Hola Anastasio” was the thing he strangled out of himself.

 

Anastasio was small, with fluffy black hair and skin a few shades lighter than Leo’s own and big golden brown eyes and these fucking adorable chubby cheeks.

 

Oh no, it’s the Gracie-affect.

 

The Gracie Affect

Noun

When a small child with chubby cheeks is placed within the immediate vicinity of Leo Valdez and he becomes physically incapable of not caring deeply for the said chubby-cheeked child. Named for ‘Gracie’ a foster child he once took care of when he was 9


“Hi, Leo” Anastasio giggled, his eyes not exactly meeting Leo’s, in a show of shyness and unfamiliarity, because Leo and Anastasio haven’t talked at all, despite them living in the same house for the past three days. It was the sort of a weird, but familiar feeling of awkwardness that came with living in a house with strangers. Leo had stayed in Foster homes where he never met some of the people that lived there, especially when Leo was younger and no-one wanted to really talk to the angry brat that had just moved in.

 

“So…..Anastasio…..What do you do for fun ‘round here?” he asked, holding the slightly squirming kid. Leo was good with taking care of kids, but not actually, you know, talking to them. Feeding and changing and stopping their tears were fine but actually communicating was usually awkward. Easier than kids his own age and adults, but still, weird .

 

Anastasio brightened at the question, however, and grinned up at him.

 

‘Christ on a bike my heart’

 

“I really like playing outside with Mrs. Callisto’s dog. Her name is Mary and she’s a big brown lab-ra-dor” he rambled but was careful with the last word, like he was handling the word with care. “She’s big huh? How big? Bigger than the house?” Leo said with wide eyes, faux-surprise etched into his face. “No, silly, she’s just bigger than me!. We play together after Mrs.Callisto’s English lessons if I’ve been a good asshole”

 

‘Heh, that’s sort of cute- w ait what

 

“If you been a good asshole? What? Anastasio!” he screeched with surprise, holding him by his shoulders. Anastasio looked at him with confusion and said a bit more slowly “ Yes?”

 

“Anastasio, where did you even learn that word, you’re what, four?” and the minute those words left his mouth it hit him like a large projectile weapon.

 

Anastasio was still looking at Leo like he was a strange, new kind of alien when Leo asked “Anastasio, where are your parents from?” and Anastasio looked at Leo like he was slowly turning green. “Buenos Aires. I lived there with my mommy but then we left” and gods did he sound sad when he said that and now Leo felt like a pendejo himself.

“Oohhhh, I’m a bit of an idiot Anastasio. My mom spoke, a…..different kind of Spanish to me when I was a kid and some words get a bit mixed up because of that” Leo confessed, his cheeks coloring slightly. He knew that different countries had different kind-of-but-not-really-dialects for Spanish, but using pendejo as ‘asshole’ in one place and for ‘boy’ in another was an artistic choice, to say the least.

 

Anastasio, apparently happy with his explanation, nodded sagely. “At least you can speak other stuff. People get mean when I can’t do English well. It’s why Mel and Mrs.Callisto help me with it. They say that if I do good I can start school soon,” he said, but the annoyance was painfully evident on his face.

Leo felt for this kid on so many levels.

“I feel you Anastasio, but if you speak two languages now, imagine how many languages you could learn by the time you’re a grown-up. You could speak every language! Like a language superhero!” and at this Anastasio’s eyes grew wide, with images of an all-knowing, all-speaking superhero. “Cooooool” he drawled with wonder.

 

Kids had a shorter attention-span than Leo and he loved it when that worked to his advantage.

 

“God, this would be heart-warming if I could understand a word either of you were saying,” said Diana as she walked into the kitchen, a backpack on her back and Ava towing along behind her. Leo opened his mouth for a witty retort but was interrupted by Anastasio scrambling out of his lap and to Diana. “I will be a superhéroe de la lengua Diana!” he exclaimed as he raced over to her and hung off her arm. “A what?”

 

“A….language superhero, I guess- long story, what was with…..that,” he said, vaguely motioning to Diana’s everything. She rolled her eyes while she dropped the bag on the counter. Ava, following suit, dropped a large plastic bag on the table.

 

“It’s time” Ava stage-whispered, her eyes comically wide. Diana whacked her on her head, which was followed by Ava shooting evil-eyes in Diana’s direction and muttering some less than child-friendly words. “Language” Diana scolded and in response, Ava parroted back in a comically high voice “Language”.

“Guys! Can you not?” Nick asked, throwing his hands up to the heavens while he walked into the kitchen. “Diana started it, Nick” Ava moaned, pouting her lips “she hit me! For no reason”. Diana frowned, blowing a strand of hair out of her face, “She was being unnecessarily cryptic and weird. Anyways, it was more like a…..tap than a hit, in my opinion”.

Nick rolled his eyes, a common trait in this house it seemed, as he threw Anastasio up on his hip. “Mellisa got you some clothes, which are in the bag. Jeans, hoodies, shirts, a pair of shoes, the works. There’s a backpack and some other school supplies in there too for school-which in case you’ve forgotten, is tomorrow-”

 

“Wait- what is tomorrow-”

 

“-and Mellisa has arranged everything with Goode. We’ll bring you into Trish in the morning to get your schedule and stuff, but they want to do some kind of, placement test on you since you’ve been out of school so much”.

 

Leo felt like Nick had strapped him into a rollercoaster, happily informed him the straps didn’t work and sent him fucking hurdling down the track.

 

“Christ on a bike, Nick. Info-dump, much?” Diana muttered, throwing her eyes up to the sky. Nicky shrugged “He needs to know this stuff”.

“Bite-sized chunks might’ve been easier amigo. That was like an information upchuck. There's information everywhere. There’s information leaking into my shoes, dude” Leo said softly, in both amusement and pure shock.

 

School.

 

Tomorrow.

He almost giggled at the absurdness of it all.

 

In like, a weekend, his foster-mother from hell wriggled her way back into his brain, he was forced away from his friends and family again, his brain also coincidently decided now would be a swell time to go schizo on him and he was going back to school. Like, actual school. Not like wilderness, where everyone was a fuck up, but actual school with actual people with actual social dynamics. Wilderness had a hierarchy of ‘the bigger the fuck up, the higher you are’

 

Leo’s life sure is interesting.

 


 

 

 

After Nick gave him the all-clear, he trudged back up to his room.

 

After a little nibble of ambrosia (he doesn’t like to think about it, the taste, but he thinks it tastes a little like a mix of champurrado and piper’s weird veggie tacos, and it shouldn’t taste nice but it does-) he checked out the plastic bag. As promised there is a backpack, plain black and some notebooks with one of those fancy multi-color pens.

The clothes are not as bad as he thought they’d be. Thank the gods.

 

There’s a soft black hoodie, with a small white tick on the breast.

 

After everything Nike (the goddess, not the brand) did to help them on the quest, he sees it appropriate to wear the hoodie as often as possible. Not because it’s a dope hoodie. Nope. It’s symbolism and respect.

 

There are jeans, plain denim. Not baggy, so he doesn’t look like a complete douche but they’re not tight enough to be considered……. skinny jeans. Leo cannot suppress the shiver that runs through him at the mere mention of them. 14-year-old Leo thought that if he didn’t wear ripped skinny jeans at every opportunity, a rip in the space-time continuum would open up and kill them all á lá into the spiderverse.

 

There are a few t-shirts, ranging from red to grey to white to black. Thankfully, they’re all graphic tees, with a red Atari shirt and a grey star-wars one, enough to quench his thirst for more personalized clothes.

 

There is also enough underwear and socks to build a fort out of them. And a pair of red converse, classic-style.

 

Weirdly enough, all of the stuff fit. If Leo was a child of Athena, he’d be five states gone by now, but, alas, Leo.

He may be a genius, but he is in no way wise.

Some might even say he’s as dumb as a brick shit house. And they have every reason to. Because they’re right.


It’s around 5:30 when Ava peeks her head into his room. He’s put his new clothes in the closet and respective drawers, but his backpack filled with all his actual belongings is still in the bottom of the closet. He’s cleaned up and taken his meds and changed into a graphic tee and jeans and he’s sketching a few schematics for Felix's b-form on his- the bed.

 

“We have pizza downstairs and if you don’t come down soon you’ll have to starve for the rest of the night,” she says, all innocent-like. She may have fooled Leo on the first day, but he can spot a master-manipulator from a mile away. Big eyes and soft hair and pale, milky skin mean leverage, and she knows it.

 

And Leo can respect it.

 

The Foster-Possible-Mafia-Members-Parents don’t show up for the rest of the night. Nicky says they have ‘work’ but he looks about as sure as that as Leo was ‘sure’ he’d survive Gaia. The pizza is good, however, and the conversation is better. Well, it is once Alex convinces Ava to go to bed and Leo helps Diana put Anastasio down ( Anastasio hears Leo continuously call him Anastasio and demands he refers to him as Ana. Leo obliges instantly. He understands the burden of a…..weird name).

 

They (being the Elders) stay up until around 12, talking at the dining-room table.

 

“So, Nicky-my man-NYC born and raised or nah? You have the accent” Leo asks between bites of cold, leftover pizza. “Yup, born in Queens” he answers, with the same level of carefully concealed sadness as the sibling question. “Born in Queens. Fitting” Alex snorts, which is immediately followed by Diana punching him in the stomach. Leo raises his eyebrows, in a way he hopes matches Nyssa’s technique. “What!” Alex splutters, gesturing to Nick “RuPaul wishes he could be as gay as Nick!”

 

This is met with another smack from Diana. “бля оскорблений!” he spluttered, going into the fetal position. “That’s” smack “what” smack “you” smack “get” smack “bastard”-

 

“What was that? The language? Russian? Ukranian?” Leo questioned, looking to save Alex from his probable death. “Oh,” Diana said, suddenly stopping her barrage of attacks to look at Leo. “It’s Russian. Our mother is Russian and she always spoke to us in it. Never been to Russian, actually” she said, shrugging her shoulders. Alex, sensing a possible cease-fire uncurled from his position. “Yeah, we were actually born in Ireland,” Alex said and holy shit-

“Fucking Plot-twist” Leo said in amazement, his eyes widening in intrigue.

“Yeah,” Alex chuckled, throwing a cautionary glance at Diana every so often, “We think our dad might’ve been Irish or something”. “No red-hair, though” Leo pointed out, taking another quick bite of pizza. “Not everyone in Ireland has red-hair, Leo,” Nick said, flicking Leo’s ear. “What about you, Leo? What magical city was blessed with your birth?” questioned Nicky. “Houston,” he said, letting his body drop so he didn’t keep in any tension at the name. “You made fun of us for being born in Ireland, but you’re from Texas. Actual Cowboy land” Alex said, throwing his hands above his head in a ‘gods help me’ manner.

 

Leo rolled his eyes and oh gods it’s catching. The disease of this land.

 

“I’m going to bed. Have fun with your cold pizza and sibling abuse” he said as he began to leave. He was met with “Thanks! I will” from Diana, an “Honestly, fuck you” from Alex and “Sleep well, Leo” from Nicky.

 

He did sleep well.

 

Thank the gods

 


 

 

 

Christ in a bucket, come on!” Nicky exclaimed, his happiness painted all across his face as he led them out of the subway. “It’s 8 in the morning, Nicky. If you test me, I will make you regret it” Diana growled, pulling her earphones out of her ears. “The bitch speaks the truth, Nicholas. I’m about 2 minutes from garroting you with her earphones if you don’t calm down” was Alex’s succinct answer. Leo nodded his approval as he kept up with their pace down some street on the Upper East Side. He was wearing the Nike hoodie, hopefully, to win her favor and a pair of denim jeans with a few rips and his boots.

 

The hoodie pockets were also, coincidently, perfect, for hiding his shaking hands.

 

The side-effects of his meds were always shit, but the shaking-nausea-sweating combo was really winning him over today.

 

He lagged a bit behind as the others made their way through the crowd of morning-goers. “C’mon, Leo. Nick has a boo to meet and we have to show you the ropes before school actually begins” Alex grumbles and oh- that’s interesting.

 

Leo’s always been a whore for romantic-related gossip.

 

“Boo?” Leo hazards, praying his voice doesn’t crack. “Boo. Other-half. Partner. Nick’s Enbyfriend. They’re sickeningly cute together but Emmet spends their summer with their grandparents in Australia, so this is the first time they’ve seen each other since like, May” Alex answers, and “That’s both really cute and really sad because I am very alone” Leo croaks out and Alex grins. “You’re going to feel like shit once you witness them in action”.

 

“Can you guys, like, hurry up?” Nick calls back to them, as they’ve lagged behind. Leo rolls his eyes but does not like the way this head swims with nausea afterward. “Coming,” he calls back and he and Alex jog to get back to Nick and Diana.

 

5 minutes later, and still sort of shaking, Leo ambles into Goode High School. It’s a good school, With, like, a pool and clubs and a cool front lawn, which has a small number of students flung around on it, waiting for school to start.

Nick bides them a hasty farewell, looking antsier the longer he’s seemingly kept away from Emmet.

“And that’s the bathroom you use if you need weed or someone killed……” Alex rambles as they walk more into the school. Diana left them a few minutes after Nicky escaped, jumping into the conversation with the Art Teacher about a semester project.

 

Then they come to a halt outside a door with the words “Mr.Haltzman- Principle” printed across it. “If I die, give everything I own to Piper” he whispers to Alex before he goes in. Alex poetically answers “Who the fuck is Piper” and shoves him into the office.

The Principle is waiting for him. His name is Richard Haltzman. He’s a tubby, hard bastard, but decent enough until he opens his mouth. He explains Leo ‘will have to take a placement test to see if he’s ready for Junior Year’. Leo wants to grind his teeth into dust when he hears that but, okay, fair enough.

“I’m assigning you a guide of sorts. A Senior, so don’t expect him to be available 24/7 Lay-uh-kneez-dehz,” and he pronounces Leo’s full name so horribly and with such a strong southern accent he can hear his mother laughing from the other world. “But since y’all seem to be quiet similar, with the whole,  ADHD dyslexia deal, I’m sure y’all will get along swell” he chuckled.

 

How the fuck was this dude a principle. Of an actual school.

 

Then that feeling peeks back up again like Leo is forgetting something very important but he can't quiet-

 

 

“Mr.Jackson, you may enter,” Haltzman booms

 

 

Black, windswept-hair, green eyes, and tan skin.

 

 

 

“Percy-”

 

Chapter Text

 

Percy never meant to be the ‘new kids’ guide.

 

It was a last minute decision by Paul, who was desperate for someone to help the incoming new kid after the previous guide pulled out after breaking his leg. So Percy, desperate to get some brownie points back after disappearing from school life for about a year (His mom claimed Percy had been kidnapped by his father's crazy mother, but Haltzman, ever the skeptic, was putting Percy on ‘Thin Ice’) volunteers at both his mothers and Pauls behest. He is now using words like behest because Annabeth is determined to make Percy sound like a douche in preparation for the SATs. Not that Annabeth sounds like a douche when she says words like Behest, but that's because she's Annabeth.

 

Anyways, what Percy is expecting is just some normal, unlucky kid, who had to transfer into Junior Year.

 

What he isn't expecting is Leo goddamned Valdez.

He's sickly looking, with large eye bags and cracked lips. His skin, usually a rich, warm brown had a tinge of green and was covered with a light sheen of sweat. His hair was somehow, even worse. His curls were limp and were dropping into his eyes, and had that ‘I haven't slept in 72 hours because I've been working on a project’ look that Annabeth sometimes got when she got sucked into another topic.

 

But his eyes didn't have the same look.

 

When Annabeth got devoted like that, her eyes held this intense dedication, even when she finished the project. Her eyes got dark. Like he was looking at steel instead of looking at his girlfriend’s eyes. But Leo's eyes weren't like that, and he had seen Leo's eyes when he and Annabeth worked together. His eyes became lighter, dark brown shifting to a fiery gold like his entire life was now just for this project in front of him.

 

Completely opposite to Annabeth's shift, but also blindingly the same.

 

His eyes right now looked hazy. Like a light glaze was over his eyes, the brown of his eyes turning into a dark hole.

 

Percy-

 

“ Leo-”

 

“Ah, you know each other already. Saves me intro-ducin y'all” Haltzman chuckled, oblivious to their shock. Percy gapes like a goldfish, his jaw working up and down.

 

“Fuck me backward on a bike and call me Christ, Percy ” was what Leo exclaimed while he pushed himself up out of the chair, before being enveloped in a tight, Jackson-Family-approved embrace. Percy of course, had to lean down a bit to accurately hug Leo, and Leo had to lean up, but in the end, it was worth it.

 

Percy had always been tactile with the people he loved. Friends and Family were entitled to at least 5 Percy-Jackson-hugs a day and Percy was happy to give. He liked hugging and forehead kisses and shoulder-pats and hand-holding, he liked showing his love through more physical ways.

 

It wasn’t always like that for him.

 

Percy tucked Leo into his neck and buried his face in Leo's curls (which, yuck, Leo needed to shower) but he did it anyway because Leo probably needed it. He smelt like Leo, which was like a weird mix of oil and campfire smoke. Musky, sort of.

 

“This is incredibly homoerotic, Jackson. Almost gay, if you were willing to go that far” was Leo's muffled answer to Percy's heartfelt show of physical affection. Percy coughed out a sudden laugh and pulled away, examining Leo as Percy held him in place, his left eyebrow raised in an inquisitive arch. He’d learned this specific look from his mom.

 

He looked a bit more like the Leo he knew now, bright eyes and a stupid grin that just screamed i will blow up your car for shits and giggles and there is nothing you can do to stop me’ .

 

But Percy wasn't an idiot, contrary to popular belief, and he hadn't missed the small shakes rattling through Leo every now and then.

 

“Well, boys, seen as y'all have been…. reacquainted,” Haltzman said, awkwardly shuffling in his big, high-backed chair because men showing emotion was obvious signs of demonic possession. “I think it's time you showed Mr. Valdez around, Jackson”.

 

He turned suddenly from Percy to Leo and slid a piece of paper over to Leo, “This, Mr. Valdez, is your schedule. Each of these classes is the average for your age group, but all of your teachers will be reportin’ back to me if you seem to be havin’........difficulties, and we will act accordingly”.

 

And with that, he shooed them out of his office and back into the main hall.

 

“So…..” Percy began, leading Leo to his first class of the day, ”Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? Better yet, why has it been radio silence from you ever since you left? Piper’s been worried, man….”

 

They were half-way towards Leo’s bio class and Percy knew he shouldn’t have said that.

 

Leo went rigid like he had been shot, his hands curling into tight fists and his eyes were wide and guilty.

 

“Oh? I, uh, didn’t really think….I- fuck”

 

He was shifting from foot to foot, running a hand through his hair, dragging it back from its roots.

 

“Hey, man” Percy placed a hand on Leo’s shoulder, “don’t sweat it too much. This whole thing has been a whirlwind and stuff gets mixed up. Piper knows you’re smart as shit, but maybe come over to mine after school and we can IM her, yeah?”

 

Leo held Percy’s gaze for a second as his foot starting furiously tapping on the floor, but he relented after a few moments. “Yeah, okay, sure, we can definitely do that,” he said, “I’ll be stoked to finally meet the famous Sally Jackson”.

 

Percy gave Leo a big grin and another shoulder pat, the small tremors that ran through Leo running up along Percy’s arm. Percy may not be able to stab Leo with Riptide until he was okay, but Percy could still help, probably. With his head. And the pink squishy thing inside it.

 

And if all else failed, Riptide was always still an option. Probably.

 

“And she’ll be stoked to meet the famous builder of the Argo II and Saviour of the World, dude. Now, get to bio and try not to die of boredom”

 

Leo grinned, a familiar Cheshire grin and said back to him as he began to walk away “Your mom’s husband better be ready to watch me woo his wife away with my charm and fantastic personality, Jackson”. 

 

Percy responded the only way you could respond when your friend suggested he was going to be your step-father even though he was 2 years younger and 2 feet shorter than you.

 

He flipped him the bird.

 

“Adios, Jackson!” was Leo’s parting gift, along with a stage-hummed version of Stacy’s Mom.

 

“Bastard….” Percy whispered to himself, shaking his head like he couldn’t believe Leo. Which he couldn’t. Did Leo think Percy was buying his act? He’d have to put in a lot more work if he was going to get one past him.

 

Well, it looks like he’s got more on his plate this year than what his academic calendar told him.

 

Yipee.

 



By time Lunch comes around, Leo’s head is a battlefield of facts and words and numbers that the American Education Systems believes you need to know. Bio, English and American History are impossible. Like, he can just about deal with bio if he imagines the organs and the people are just machines but his dyslexia makes English extra-impossible and American History could put an insomniac to sleep.

 

His algebra class and physics class are boring because Leo already knows most of the course, so he’s designated those classes as his ‘nap time’ period. The same will probably go for his upcoming Spanish and Chem classes. Unless he’s forgotten a language he’s known since birth and his magic demigod powers suddenly fail him.

 

Leo threw some newly procured books into his locker, squeezing in-between a very horny couple and a dude who resembled Jared Kushner if he was put on high in a microwave.

 

He smelled faintly like blood and Leo was very afraid of him.

 

After braving the perilous straits of Locker-dom, Leo made the even more harrowing journey to boy’s-bathroom-arcadia.

Go in. Piss. Wash your hands. Try not to die due to the humidity from the Juuls. Don’t make eye contact with anyone. Take your meds in a stall and do not let anyone see you, lest they try to sell you overpriced oxy laced with rat-poison. Fucking ‘my-names-Darren-and-i’m-very-white-but-i-also-have-cornrows’ still haunted him to this day. Thank god for Leo’s ability to tell somethings chemical makeup from touch or Leo would be very dead by now.

 

After that traumatic experience, Leo made his way to the epicenter of High School.

 

The cafeteria.

 

A cold sweat covered his skin, and he couldn't tell if it was from the meds or the pressure of finding a place to sit. It had been so long since Leo had to deal with social hierarchies and it was not an experience he longed to go back to.

He procured his food and stood at the very top of the room, looking like a complete idiot while he tried not to pass out because-

 

“Leo! Hey!”

 

Hey, that was his name. Interesting.

 

He followed the voice through the crowds until he saw the lanky frame of Percy Jackson himself at a nearly full table.

 

It never really occurred to Leo that Percy might have mortal friends at school. To Leo, Percy was one of the heads of Camp Half-Blood, demi-god hero and boyfriend to the great Annabeth Chase.

 

To these people, he was just Percy Jackson. Charismatic and friendly, but weird and no-one particularly special.

 

It never really hit Leo until now that he was something different. Something Alien.

 

‘And hello existential crisis’

 

He sat down beside Percy at the table, wary of the judging eyes that tore into him, looking for cracks.

 

He grinned back, two-finger saluting them. Them being 4 dudes in the seats across from him, and two girls in the seats beside Percy. The dudes were wearing Letterman jackets, but their builds weren’t the builds of football players, more compact. Like Percy’s lean than Frank’s bulk.

 

“This, guys, is Leo. I know him from Summer Camp and he’s a really good friend of mine. Leo, this is some of the swim team”

 

Swim Team. Oh, that made sense.

 

“‘Sup?” he greeted, like a perfectly functioning person. “Hey, I’m Brayden,” said an African-American kid, with a close-cropped afro. The two other dudes, twins, who had dark brown skin with small, almond-shaped eyes and soft black hair. “I’m Perdana,” said the one with the dark wire-framed glasses “and my brother here is Vikal. He doesn’t talk much cause he’s antisocial and weird”.

 

Vikal nodded in agreement, a fry hanging out of his mouth and gave Leo a wave of his hand as a gesture of ‘ Hello, Hi, I see you’.

 

The last dude was tall, like so tall Leo could recognize how tall he was even when he was sitting down. He had red, milky skin with a narrow face and thin lips, with a black buzz-cut. “Colin,” Colin said.

 

This was a riveting conversation, it seemed.

 

The two girls, only one of who was actually on the team. The other girl, Miranda, was her girlfriend. The swimmer was Fate, a tall, lean black girl with long silvery curly hair. Leo didn’t partake in a lot of the conversation, happy to just listen and make a joke or two when it was called for. He also made steady progress through his burger but stopped once his stomach started to complain. Percy was extra sure to watch Leo like a fucking hawk it seemed. He thought he was being slick, but Leo could feel his eyes on him.

 

“Hey, meet me at the entrance way once the final bell rings, capiche Valdez?” was Percy’s parting statement once they started to clear out to their classes once again.

 

“Yeah, sure man”  

 

His next class was Chemistry, which was nearly impossible to find without Google maps. Or GPS. He was 5 minutes late, but the teacher didn't take any notice and Leo hurriedly shuffled towards the back of the class, sitting on an empty chair. He turned to ask the dude beside him for a pen because Leo lost his somewhere between Bio and English and-

 

“Oh, hey Alex”

 

Alex blinked at him, surprised for a moment, before giving Leo an awkward half-grin.

 

“Hey, Leo,”

 

They stared at each other as Leo fumbled, trying to restart the conversation. Would it be awkward if they didn’t talk? Alex was his Foster-brother and Leo was living with him, so social necessities were necessary.

 

Thankfully, the teacher finally started, y’know, teaching, as he rose up from his chair like some eldritch monster from the next dimension over. He was young, the kind of young John Mulaney was. Was he 20 or 40? No one knows and that's the way he likes it. He had messy, dark hair and a hawkish face, actually, honest-to-the-gods, circular glasses too. His wool pullover looked several sizes too big and his corduroys made Leo cringe on his behalf.

 

The next 40 minutes are filled with stuff Leo already knows, a pop quiz and Alex looking shifty as fuck. Seriously, who wears a hood and a scarf in class? It was September, not the dead of winter.

 

Then, it was 2 other classes, Social Studies, and Spanish. Social Studies had Nicky in it, who excitedly showed him multiple pictures of his partner on his phone under the table. His partner was tall, around Nicky’s height, with short curly hair and pale, freckly skin, but they seemed pretty fucking built. They also, according to Nicky were, ‘ amazing, oh my god, Leo. Emmet is so hot and adorable and they’re just perfect’.

 

“Hey, Nicky, I won’t be coming back with you to the house. A friend of mine invited me back to his since we haven’t seen each other in a while” he whispered as the teacher droned on about the government or something.

 

“Who? And for how long? Mel gets weird when we leave the house for too long”

 

“It’s Percy Jackson. He goes to school here? Senior? Dark hair-”

 

“I damn well know who Percy Jackson is. How do you know him? Is he actually the son of like a mafia boss? That’s the most popular theory, anyways”

 

Leo was confused.

 

Leo was very confused.

 

“I- uh- went to summer camp with him? And his dad isn’t a mafia boss?”

 

Nicky seemed very disappointed with his answer but told him to be back before 9.

 

They parted for Spanish, which was Leo’s designated nap-time. The Spanish teacher didn’t seem too bothered by it, as Leo was fluent and had no problem answering her back in Spanish.

 

Eventually, like the fall of Rome or some shit like that, the final bell rang and Leo was gone. Out the door, Vamos, poof.

 

“Hey, dude,” Percy smiled, eyes bright as he leads Leo out of the crowd and down the street, Leo half-jogging to keep up with Percy’s long strides.

 

“Hey-o, Perce”

 

Percy grinned even further and the warm coals in Leo’s chest fizzled and crackled.

 



Sally was prepared for one teen boy returning from school that day, not two.

 

Sally loved her son, but he had to forward-planning skills of an excitable puppy.

 

“Hey, mom! We’ve got guests!” Percy shouted as he entered the apartment, slamming the door. Paul had been home for the last hour and he shrugged his shoulders, continuing with the cooking.

 

Sally got up from her place at the table, setting down her pen and rolling her eyes. She was working on another of her books and the distraction of Percy was a welcomed one. She loved Paul, but he had the work ethic of a madman and refused to let her wallow in her writer’s block.

 

She stepped into the living room as Percy and their presumed guest sat on the couch. Percy made himself at home, throwing off his jacket and tucking his long legs under him as he stared up at her, green eyes big and pleading.

 

Their guest looked mortified.

 

You-You didn’t tell her?” the boy hissed, loud enough for Sally to catch it.

 

Their guest was small, young but obviously a teenager. He had dark brown skin and a mop of hair that Sally ached to trim, with these big brown eyes at made her week. He was skinny, not even the lean her son was, but actually skinny.

 

“Hey, momma? Can Leo stay for dinner?”

 

Leo, their guest spun his head to look her directly in the eyes for a quick second, before casting his gaze downwards.

 

“Of course he can,” she said warmly, a smile tugging at the edges of her mouth, “If you two boys can set the table and clean up afterward”.

 

Percy pouted but nodded in agreement.

 

“Uh-Thank you-Miss? Mrs? I uh-fuck” Leo fumbled, his cheeks turning a deep scarlet as he put his foot firmly in his own mouth.

 

“Calm down, Leo. I’m very glad you could be here. I haven't had Percy’s friends over in quite a while”

 

‘Since he went missing’ is what she’s saying but is Leo a demi-god or mortal? She doesn’t want to freak the kid out.

 

“Dinner!” Paul calls, the scent of spaghetti and meatballs wafting in from the KItchen. Percy grins, eyes sparkling as he catches the scent. Ever since he’s come back from The Quest, he’s been…..more wolflike, she supposes, but a tattoo and some wolf-like personality traits are okay with her, as long as her son is safe and happy and passes the SAT’s.

Percy vaults over the couch and slides into the kitchen in an attempt to get to the food faster. Leo, like a much more civilized person, walked into the kitchen, passing Sally and began taking spoons and forks out of the cupboards to dress the table with.

 

It was then that Sally realized he was shorter than her. Sally was 5’8 and Leo would’ve had to been 5’6 maybe? He was tiny.

 

What age was he? 15? 14?

 

She helped the boys clear her writing utensils off the table, answering Leo’s polite questioning as they went. Leo seemed to be a quiet, polite boy, but he was incredibly nervous around her and Paul, so she suspected Leo wasn’t all he was presenting.

 

Soon, they were eating. Well, Sally and Paul were eating. Percy was eating his food like it was his last meal on death row and Leo was eating like he knew it was poisoned but was dedicated to eating his spaghetti out of kindness to Paul.

 

“So,” Sally began, placing her fork carefully on her plate, “where did you meet Leo, Percy?”

 

Percy looked up from his food, a single strand of spaghetti hanging out of his mouth. Sally was suddenly overcome with the urge to take a photo of her son’s adorability. He swiftly sucked the spaghetti into his mouth and cleared his throat. “Camp. Half-Blood. We didn’t just meet at any old Camp”

 

Leo raised his eyebrow at her son, leaning his head in his hand. “Technically, we met at Camp Jupiter. Or does it count if we met on my Argo above Camp Jupiter?” he asked, tapping out a rhythmic beat with his free hand.

 

Paul sighed in relief and sagged in his seat. “Oh thank god. I was having an aneurysm trying to figure out if you were like Percy or not”

 

Leo smirked nervously at Paul, his foot beginning to match in his fingers in the tapping.

 

“Oh, Leo’s way better than me,” said Percy, slumping back in his chair, rubbing a hand over his food baby, completely oblivious to Leo’s face of shock and bewilderment. “Remeber the ship I told you about? The Argo?-”

 

Sally did remember Percy telling her about it. It was after he came back, while he was still having the worst of his nightmares. After Sally held him as he shook, he told her about happier memories he had from the quest. The Flying Ship, The Argo II.

 

“-Well Leo here is the Engineer of the Argo II. He designed and built it. Like, that is so cool, dude. Like no amount of monster-killing on my part would’ve gotten us from California to Greece in one piece without the Argo” Percy said, nonchalant, while poor Leo looked like he was on the verge of passing out.

 

“You’re Percy Jackson. You probably could’ve asked the ocean to get us to Greece in like a day and it would’ve done that Leo said, half-bewildered and half-defensive.

 

Sally knew her son was a hero, but to see actual, honest-to-the-gods hero-worship of her son was another thing entirely. To Leo, Percy was the savior of the World first. Percy, to Sally, was her son, her baby. To demi-gods like Leo, he was Percy Jackson, Son of Posideon, Saviour of Olympus.

 

“Uh, no I could not. That would’ve been literally impossible”

 

Leo frowned at Percy and Percy frowned back. Were they going to fight over why the other person was the better person?

 

“So, Leo!,” Paul exclaimed, smiling with desperation as he tried to pull the conversation from where ever it was going, “Who’s your godly parent?”

 

Leo dragged his gaze from Percy’s to look Paul owlishly in the eyes. “Hephaestus. God of fire and blacksmiths, that kind of stuff. Cabin 9”

 

Paul smiled, but Sally could see the panic in her husband's eyes. Where did they take the conversation from here?

 

“So, you’re good with building, uh, smithing?”

 

Leo looked down at his plate, still mostly full of food. “Yeah, engineering, among….other things”

 

“Other things? Like what?” Paul asked, smiling gently.

 

Percy suddenly stiffened, green eyes sharp as he looked from Leo to Paul, like he was assessing the world's most dangerous game of tennis.

 

Something was up. Paul had asked a question that Leo isn’t going to respond well to.

 

Leo, head still down, raised the had that was previously tapping on the table. He raised it until it was in the center of the table, stretched. The hand seemed like a normal enough hand, brown with paler skin for the palm, covered in tiny, pink, picked-out scars. Her Uncle was a mechanic, and she could recognize those kinds of hands anywhere-

 

Then, his hand, for a split second, seemed to glow from the inside, like a flashlight had been pressed up against his skin and-

A small fire started in the center of his palm. Sally felt the breath escape her chest as she watched the flame dance over his hand, a beautiful dark red and orange. She could feel the soft heat on her face and a smile took its place on her features. Sally loved water and the ocean, but she could be partial to a warm fire in a fireplace.

 

Then-

 

“Hey, Sal, why can I see it? It’s a…. godly thing, right?” Paul asked, making her eyes move away from the fire and Leo quickly extinguished it, pulling his hand back. He was shocked, but in that quiet shocked way that meant he didn’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt.

 

Percy sat up straight, his eyebrows furrowing together.

 

“Oh, Mortal’s can see my Fire, even if they can’t see through the Mist, so don’t worry, Mr.Blofis”

 

What.

 

“What? Why?” asked Percy, confusion thick in his voice.

 

Leo shrugged, “Dunno? It involves a lot of mumbo-jumbo about sh-uh-stuff. I wasn’t really paying attention when Chiron explained it, honestly. It’s like how Pipes’ charmpseak can affect mortals”.

 

“So…..Fire and Water, and you guys still get along really well?” joked Paul, sitting up straighter in his chair. Leo let out a surprised laugh, short and wheezy and Percy grinned.

 

“Yeah, it’s not exactly like Fire and Water, it’s more like, ‘A dude who can control entire oceans’ and ‘A guy who can light your smoke for you’”.

 

Percy frowned at Leo, who was grinning sardonically, eyebrow raised in challenge.

 

“Leo, my good buddy, my pal, Leo-whatever-your-real-name-is-Valdez” Percy began, becoming slowly more and more dramatic as he went along, “your powers blew up a fucking Primordial Being. I’m 90% sure you can do more than ‘ light your smoke for you’”

 

Leo blushed, his eyes wide and ready to fight back.

 

“Language, Percy” she scolded, eyeing up her son.

 

“Wait-you’re the one who killed Gaia? The- oh-oh! The prophecy line, what was it-” Paul said, eyes lighting up with understanding.

 

To Storm or Fire, the World must Fall ” Leo parroted back like it was ingrained in his mouth.

“And, yeah, he was the one to kill Gaia,” Percy said smugly like he was the cat who got the mouse, and Sally had to bit down on her laugh.

 

“Percy, my buddy, my pal, Persues Jackson,” Leo said, an imitation of Percy, mouth pulled into a grin and his eyes bright. Sally thinks this might be the actual Leo- Valdez? Is that his last name?-“- I died killing Dirt Face. That’s not exactly a successful ending, dude. One could even say it was the opposite”

 

Percy, undisturbed by the fact that Leo once died, continued on, oblivious to Paul’s look of shock and Sally’s look of a deep motherly need to keep Leo safe from all harm.

 

“Yeah, but you didn’t stay dead. Which, is arguably, even more impressive”

 

“It took me a week to get back!”

 

“You were lost in Siberia! You needed to fix Festus!”

 

“Who wants Dessert?” Paul said, half-desperately, as the boy’s voice’s got louder and louder

 

This, got Percy’s attention, like waving a piece of catnip in front of a cat.

 

“Yeah, I’m down for dessert,” Percy said, going back to his normal state instantly, like flicking a switch.

 

“Then clean up” Sally instructed, moving from the table to the living room, smiling as she heard Percy’s protesting, which was swiftly killed by Leo.

 

“You better be happy, momma!” he called from the kitchen, as Sally settled on the couch, legs tucked beneath her. “Two Saviours of Olympus, doin’ your dishes!”.

 

Paul joined her on the couch, tucking himself close to her as he turned on the TV, a warm line of heat against her as she began to type on her laptop.

 

Soon, the boys were finished cleaning and carried a whole tub of chocolate ice-cream down to Percy’s room.

 

Two hours passed, as Sally typed out her second draft, losing herself in the words and the flow of it. The only sounds were Paul’s breathing and the muffled sounds of Percy’s laughter and a wheezing sound she suspected was Leo laughing. After a while, she heard a few more voices and she figured they were IMing people. The room began to darken with the waining light, the sun setting beneath the horizon and dragging New York into darkness. The street lights flickered on and the high-rise buildings came alive.

“Oh- ¡No chingues!, Soy tan estúpida -”

 

Sally barely remembered her Spanish classes in school, but she’s pretty sure one of those words meant ‘fuck.

 

Leo came barrelling out of Percy’s room and into the living room, eyes wide and his entire demeanor screaming ‘anxious!’.

 

“Hey, yeah, I’ve gotta go, Mrs.Blofis, I’m really-”

 

Paul jerked up, still half-asleep. “Wha-? Leo, are you okay?”

 

“I’ve gotta get back to the house, I didn’t realize it was this dark-”

 

He was running a hand through his hair, fingers catching on knots. Percy slid in his socks out of his room and up to where Leo was standing, looking like a fretting mother as he pulled Leo's hand from his hair.

 

Leo looked up at him in vague surprise.

 

“Okay, so,” she said, pulling herself up and stretching, hearing the popping of her joints, “let me get some shoes and we can go”.

 

Leo blinked at her owlishly as she shoved her feet into shoes before his brain seemed at catch up to what she was saying.

 

“No, no, it’s fine, Mrs.Blofis, I can walk back by myself”

 

“Leo,” Sally said, exasperated, “It’s dark outside and you seem to be new to the city. I’m not going to let you walk home on your own”

 

Leo frowned in response, his arms crossed.

 

Sally kept his gaze, blue against brown.

 

Finally, the kid relented, slumping in surrender. “Fine”


Sally always won.

 



Leo’s home was in East Harlem, so not too long of a drive.

 

The radio played low as she drove through the city and Leo sat in the passenger seat, the constant shuffling and moving providing even more background noise.

 

“I could’ve walked home fine, Mrs.Blofis,” he said quietly.

 

“Leo, being a demi-god won’t protect you from a mugger or worse. Steel can hurt you just as much as celestial bronze”

 

She couldn’t see him, but she could feel the frown of displeasure.

 

“I know that”

 

Silence. The radio quietly crooned and rain started to beat slowly against the windows.

 

“Do you know that I only came to Camp Half-Blood about a year ago?” he said, half to himself, his voice impossibly soft.

 

“A year?” Sally asked, brows furrowing, “You didn’t come to Camp earlier? Your Father didn’t lead you to Camp?”

 

Leo laughed quietly, a small bitter thing. “Nah. Hera had a plan for me, I think”.

 

“What about your mortal parent?”

 

Leo’s tapping and shifting stopped, and he stilled completely.

 

“She died when I was 8. Gaia. She figured out I was the ‘Fire’ in the prophecy and she ‘wanted to destroy my spirit’” he said lightly, but his voice was laced with bitterness, “So Gaia killed my mamá to get to me”.

 

Oh shit, Sally, you’ve really done it now.

 

“I’m sorry, Leo”

 

“It’s okay, Mrs.Blofis”

 

The rest of the ride was silent.

 

“Here, Mrs.Blofis,” Leo said and Sally pulled up in front of a townhouse.

 

“Thank you, Mrs.Blofis,” he said as he jumped out of the car, his school bag on his back.

 

“You’re welcome, also, my name is Sally. Mrs.Blofis is my husband’s mother”

 

Leo smiled, a small smile but a smile and he shut the car door and climbed the steps to the house. She watched him disappear into the house, bright warm light spilling from it.

 

She drove home.



 

 

“Percy, what age is Leo?”

 

“16”

 

“How did he kill Gaia, exactly?”

 

“Uh-he sacrificed himself. Martyr-style”

 

“And who is he living with right now?”

 

“A Foster Family. He was planning on living at Camp but word got out to CPS that he was there and since Leo’s a runaway from Foster Care, they took him back”

 

“Does he have any other family?”

 

“Other than his half-siblings? Not that I know of”

 

“Percy, do you know that you get your impulsivity, not from Posideon, but from me?”

 

“What? Mom, I-”

 

“Percy Jackson, that boy is you, except he has different interests and different powers. He’s a mini-you”

 

“I-uh-”

 

“This week, I’m going to be making some calls to CPS, and if things go the way I want them to, you’re going to have to clean out that spare-room you keep your weapons in”

 

“Mom. Oh my god”



 

 

Leo was so fucking tired.

 

He was so tired, he wasn't tired, y’know?.

 

He stumbled up to his room, thankfully avoiding people and their questions. He slipped into the room and placed his bag beside the door, flipping on the light and watching the room be bathed in a soft glow-

 

The person on his bed was also bathed in a soft glow.

 

(weathered skin, green eyes, remember Leo)

 

Leo lunged for the knife in his school bag, one eye on the man sitting on his fucking bed at all times.

 

He looked like a homeless guy, he smelled like one too, but he felt like how a monster felt. An invading feeling up and down his spine.

 

For some reason, he didn’t scream.

 

“Leonidas Valdez” spoke the man sitting calmly on his bed, his accent recognizably Irish, the kind of one he heard from that youtuber dude from Ireland.

 

“We need to talk