Chapter 1: 90% Bitter Chocolate
Leo was, admittedly, being kind of a big baby.
It was nearing Valentines Day, judging by the sheer amount of couples and bright pink in the near vicinity. Could anyone really blame him for glowering at everyone over his bowl of soup? (The answer was, as always, yes.)
Everyone else seemed to be in a good enough mood, which did nothing to make him happier.
Jason and Piper had gone full into embarrassing couple mode, which was a bit barf-y to Leo. It was like watching his siblings stick their tongues down each others throats. After the whole 'oh no, we broke up, oh no he's dead, wait, nevermind' incident during Apollo's whole ~deal~; Jason and Piper got closer than ever. When Leo was dating Calypso, he was overjoyed. Double dates, those were a thing Leo had heard of on sitcoms before! He wanted to do that! (It went poorly) But now, miserable and dateless, Leo was stuck simply dodging them whenever they were in the same space together.
Percy and Annabeth weren't around, which was one very small victory, them being off on some romantic vacation on the beach.
That was the only reprieve from love Leo had.
Even Nico and Will were in on it, and that was the biggest betrayal. Kisses on the cheek, flowers (some from the underworld), sending super cutesy text messages. Leo liked Nico when he didn't talk much, or complimented Leo's dragon. Now though, Nico was showing his true stripes as being a giant fucking nerd.
'You rolled a crit on my heart'. Like, what the fuck?
A year ago, Leo didn't care. He wasn't single a year ago, but now he was returning to his gremlin like ways. Leo was sort of counting on at least one other person glaring and being the pathetic angry loner person without a date. Leo was stuck being that person.
He was tempted to join the Huntresses of Artemis, at the very least Thalia was asexual and had 0 interest in dating. But, of course they steered clear of Camp Half Blood around this time of year. Leo couldn't even return to Indianapolis, Calypso got his surrogate moms in the divorce. (Not really, that's just how he referenced the issue. He still called them all the time. Talked with Georgina and helped her with math homework.)
It would be one thing if it was purely contained to the Greeks, but of course they were celebrating holidays together now. Them, and the Romans. And the Egyptians. And the Norse.
Frank and Hazel were around, being their perfect selves and serving as a reminder that life simply had a preference to those it would give bonuses to. Reyna, dating Rachel now. Carter and Zia were around from time to time. Magnus visited briefly, datemate Alex in tow (Leo liked having another Mexican around. Especially one so willing to decapitate their enemies.)
Sadie, who Leo was normally good friends with, was off currently with her...two Boyfriends. Lucky girl, Leo thought sadly to himself. Leo too had dated a kind of mythological person, at first Leo and Sadie sympathized with one another. 'Oh, Calypso broke all the windows in the building again trying her magic' 'That's nothing, Walt accidentally turned into a giant dog in front of my grandparents!'
But now Calypso was dating Hylla. Apparently they bonded over magic girl things, their enjoyment of occasionally watching men turn into small fluffy animals.
Coach had Mellie and their kids, being a stupidly ideal little family unit. Grover and Juniper. Tyson and Ella. Clarisse and Chris.
The disease had even struck Leo's own family. Jake, Leo's brother from another mother was dating Dakota from the Romans. Mitchell and Harley. Nyssa and Drew. (No one saw that last one coming).
Leo was the only one loveless. Painfully, and quite angrily, loveless.
Now, it wasn't like there was no one interested in him. There were a few, and he'd been on a few short lived dates, but for the most part it was just usually they were absolutely not anyone he was going to date or sleep with. He may be 19 now, but Leo had standards. Sometimes.
First person to hit on him? Khione. Yeah, you got that right. Apparently Goddesses are fickle, because Leo apparently had 'proven' himself by not dying at her hands more than once, and she wanted to get all sorts of steamy with him.
Enter person two, or persons two: Khione's brothers. That was one conversation Leo didn't want to think about ever again. It was so disturbing a mental image, it didn't bare repeating.
Enter person three: Just this guy named Randal in a 7-11 parking lot, he said a lot of things. Mostly shouted. He was drunk. Maybe he shouldn't be counted.
Enter person four: Narcissus. Leo couldn't even begin to explain that one.
And...that was just about it, not that it wasn't a fairly respectable line up. Maybe more guys than Leo was expecting. Still.
All in all, it left Leo wondering who had he pissed off enough to warrant this punishment. (An honest question – exactly who all he had pissed off was a long list.)
He was 19 years old, had saved the world at least once, died once, solved the Labyrinth (...well, he helped Annabeth), had been possessed more times than he'd like to admit, but most importantly: Leo developed the first demigod friendly phone and internet system.
By movie logic, Leo should have a line up of suitors. Hero, magic, genius. In movies, he'd be a protagonist like Tony Stark.
...Leo wasn't deluded enough to think the story was about him, not really.
Their world, guys and girls like Jason, Piper, Frank, Annabeth, Hazel and Percy were the main characters. Leo was the quirky friend at best. He was the guy on the phone, the man at the computer, the one given a love interest as an afterthought.
None of them sat around glaring at happy couples over bowls of now cold soup.
There was really only one place that would understand him, how he felt. The anger, the pain, the memes.
Which is how, after shoving his bowl away, Leo found himself in his Bunker. After leaving the Waystation due to The Awkwardness of continuing to live around Calypso after they broke up; Leo decided on moving in more permanently at Camp Half Blood. Sure, he played it off like, 'hey moms, I'm 18, I'm a man now, I gotta spread my wings!' But, in reality, he wanted a place to cry like a baby without anyone hearing. Georgina was a snitch, as much as he loved his adopted baby sister (who was still annoyingly his height.) It wasn't like anyone else was in Bunker 9, and it already had stuff he loved, so that's where Leo went.
It all gave Leo more time to work on creating a demigod friendly phone and computer system. It had taken him longer than building the Argo II (or III, RIP); it involved collecting data ...and magic from any demigod group they knew of. It required being able to integrate with the actual internet, while still creating safe spaces and secure lines specifically for people like them. It couldn't attract monsters, that was a big one. Leo had to talk to God's too, because it simply wouldn't work if someone like Iris got upset her messaging system wouldn't be used anymore. Jason was useful in regards to reaching out to other deities after all his work at Temple Hill in New Rome, because it wasn't like they were only dealing with one pantheon. After that trip to Valhalla though, Jason was in pretty good graces (ha) of a lot of people.
Eventually, Leo got a good grasp on it. It took upkeep and updates to keep it working, and would have been a terrible burden by itself, but Leo wasn't the only crafty person out there. A good portion of the Athena Cabin, and Hermes cabin, were very helpful in addition to Leo's own Hephaestus siblings. The Hermes kids though, needed some watching, their interest in the internet seemed less innocent.
In addition to the input from multiple people and programmers in other camps, eventually there was also a needed online presence.
Leo would sometimes pop on as a moderator with an official CH_LValdez screen name to let people know about any upcoming updates. He was one of a group; Annabeth was one, Gwen from the Roman's was another, Lou was one, Sadie was one, and so on. Leo was just now realizing they were all girls apart from him.
But, Leo had another account that no one but him knew about. Not a single one of his friends knew, which he did feel a bit bad about, but they all had their own lives and he needed his own space sometimes too.
That account was simply called, HappyCamper. An ode to Leo's first true love: Festus.
No one seemed to know who he was, but Leo didn't spend a lot of time in forums or on chat rooms anyway. Though, he supposed part of it was the difference between online Leo and real life Leo. A lot of what people thought Leo Valdez was, was a mask he'd created in attempts to go unnoticed his entire life.
Actual Leo Valdez was fairly quiet by himself, a bit depressed on a fairly regular basis, and was honestly happier just listening and fiddling with something. It was this annoying burden that made words bubble up out of nervousness or anxiety when Leo was around other people, where the world saw him as this outgoing talkative extrovert, while internally Leo was screaming 'oh my gods you idiot shut up shut up shut up no one cares, look at their faces, no one cares what you're saying!'
The anonymity of the internet meant he could be inner Leo a lot easier.
Leo saw a few stupidly romantic threads on his website. Leo decided to rectify this by creating a brand thread.
'Cupid Could Use An Arrow Where The Sun Doesn't Shine
AKA, That Anti-Valentines asshole you were expecting.'
Okay, so it was a bit long for a title, but Leo didn't really care. The actual body of his message was a lot shorter.
I can't possibly be the only demigod out there without a love life, right?....Right?...Guys?
Leo wasn't really interested in the forum part of it, but he set it up for a chatroom option to be created for each new thread. He definitely needed to tweak it, the system wasn't the best; but it allowed demigods from across the country and world to talk to one another in real time. So, all in all, Leo called it a win.
HappyCamper has joined in
HappyCamper: I can't tell if I'm bitter and lonely or if people are actually more annoying this time of year.
Leo waited for awhile, phone in hands, sitting crosslegged in his PJ's on his makeshift bed in Bunker 9. It was an old mattress, a bunch of old pillows and blankets, and was more of a nest than anything. He missed the Waystation, but Leo was very fond of his little space. Leo was essentially a human gerbil attracted to shiny things and fluff.
OrangeYouGlad has joined in
OrangeYouGlad: so.... one could say you're not so happy a camper?
HappyCamper: I hate you a little bit.
OrangeYouGlad: i'm so glad
OrangeYouGlad: but no, seriously... I'm dating someone and valentines day is still kind of ehh
HappyCamper: I'm guessing you're Greek?
OrangeYouGlad: yeah, CH tends to go kind of insane with the romantic stuff.
JorlSigrund has joined in
JorlSigrund: Ég hata virkilega þetta frí
JorlSigrund: ugh, sorry. I hate this holiday, seriously. Greeks make it seem nice in comparison.
OrangeYouGlad: Norse do it differently?
HappyCamper: :0 how'd you guess they were Norse.
JorlSigrund: all I have to say is romance shouldn't involve so many competitions and sacrificial objects being flung about.
Penguins has joined in
Penguins: I love penguins.
Penguins has left the room
JorlSigrund: what in Thor's name????
OrangeYouGlad: ...I've got nothing
Leo began laughing, knowing who exactly the person was. He had had the great pleasure of meeting that particular Egyptian kid in person.
GoldenHorseShoe has joined in
GoldenHorseShoe: Hi, I just wanted to say that no one should feel bad about being alone this valentines, but I am sorry if we've made anyone feel bad or uncomfortable.
OrangeYouGlad: oh man you came in at a weird time...
JorlSigrund: penguins, apparently.
OrangeYouGlad: lmao, don't worry about it.
Leo stared at the screen for a moment, brows furrowing. If he didn't know better, he'd guess the newcomer was Hazel. But Leo knew Hazel's screen name, and it wasn't that.
HappyCamper: Look, I'll admit it, I don't like valentines day because I'm a loser who doesn't have a date. It's my problem, not yours. so you don't have to apologize for anything.
GoldenHorseShoe: you're not a loser.
HappyCamper: you don't even know who I am.
JorlSigrund: he's obviously a loser. He's just baiting for compliments and pity. Loser.
GoldenHorseShoe: that isn't nice! And, I don't have to know you, but I can tell. I'm special like that.
HappyCamper: i'm a bigger loser than leo valdez.
Leo decided to test the waters there, wondering if there was any chance Golden was actually Hazel. He was pretty sure she'd defend him, probably a bit clunkily since she wasn't that used to modern tech.
JorlSigrund: oh that asshole.
GoldenHorseShoe: Leo was part of the 7.
HappyCamper: He's loud af, annoying, manipulative... and gets away with shit just because he's part of the 7.
OrangeYouGlad: #problematic... wait how did this convo turn into this.
HappyCamper: I brought up a dumbass, like a dumbass.
GoldenHorseShoe: I don't see him like that at all. I mean, maybe a bit loud sometimes.
HappyCamper: and you know him so well?
JorlSigrund: even his mod posts make him seem like an asshole. How did the last one go. I remember an over abundance of LOL and emojis
GoldenHorseShoe: I was at the battle with Gaia..I wouldn't say I know him super well, but I saw him die.
JorlSigrund: we're demigods, we're martyred all the time. Who gives a fuck. Anyway, i'm out. sjáumst í Valhöll.
HappyCamper: Ditto, Jorl. Ditto, or whatever you just said.
JorlSigrund has left the room
Happycamper: look, they brought up a good point? I don't know a demigod who isn't willing to die. I was there too. Weren't you just as willing to do whatever it took?
GoldenHorseShoe: Well, yes I was..but still! In my opinion, leo is a very nice person.
NR_FZhang has joined in
Leo's eyes widened, seeing Frank's ID. Golden had to be Hazel. She brought in backup. On one hand Leo was touched to see her defending him like that, but he also always had a feeling it was more because of Sammy Valdez, not Leo.
GoldenHorseShoe: One of the 7! See, now we can have an objective person.
NR_FZhang: What on earth did I just walk into.
HappyCamper: run dude, run.
GoldenHorseShoe: IS Leo Valdez a nice person?
HappyCamper:... do you honestly think one of the 7 wouldn't defend another? Regardless of how they really feel?
NR_FZhang: Leo? He's uh..........
Happycamper: this has hilariously backfired on you
Leo wasn't laughing. This was turning out to be a completely terrible idea. Not rare for him, admittedly. When Frank first met Leo, it wasn't under great circumstances admittedly, but Leo thought they'd moved past that in the last 5 years.
HappyCamper: Even Zhang isn't going to defend him! Makes sense, didn't Valdez like, hit on Hazel Levesque a lot?
GoldenHorseShoe: he didn't!
NR_FZhang: Um. Well. He flirted with a lot of people. He's not a bad guy, he just doesn't really...think about other people sometimes.
There was a pause, Leo felt like signing off. Leo felt like a lot of things at the moment. So, Frank apparently really didn't like him. He...kind of thought they were friends, maybe not best friends, but in recent years Jason and Piper were away more than they were here, and Leo talked with Hazel and Frank just as much if not more. He was at New Rome pretty often too.
NR_FZhang: Okay, that wasn't completely fair. He doesn't really understand how other people think sometimes. Like, when we first met, I really did not like him. We met on bad circumstances, but he didn't really pick up on the fact I wanted to ring his neck. He just has a hard time reading people, I'm guessing. But, he's also done incredibly thoughtful things for me without expecting anything in return. and I think he has for probably all of his friends.
Leo flushed, looking away from the computer. He felt bad getting Frank involved in 'Leo's pity party', but it was kind of nice to hear for once.
Happycamper: whatever. This thread wasn't about him. Just let me be a miserable bastard.
NR_FZhang: Well, you do sort of sound like one...
Happycamper: are you two serious rn
GoldenHorseShoe:.........I have no idea what you're talking about.
Happycamper: are you kidding me
GoldenHorseShoe: Who are you talking to?
HappyCamper: okay yeah, whatever. I'm going. Enjoy your valentines you two
NR_FZhang: we will
CornHuskers has joined in
HappyCamper: uhhhhhh I think the fuck not Lityerses???
CornHuskers has left the room
Leo leaned back and waited for anything else to happen, and when no one said anything he finally left.
Happycamper has left the room
Everyone else left not long after. Then, Leo got a Private Message, which surprised him.
GoldenHorseShoe: Okay, you probably already figured out who I am. But, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry if I made you feel worse. I really didn't mean to. I just...wanted to say something nice, and it...kind of got out of hand.
HappyCamper: I'm more surprised you have more than one account, honestly.
GoldenHorseShoe: Gwen helped me. Frank and I both have nonofficial accounts.
Leo huffed, “Et tu, Gwennifer?” He couldn't be really angry at her given he went behind her, and everyone elses back to set up his own separate account.
HappyCamper: look, you don't have to say anything. Valentines day just kind of brings out the worst in me, because I manage to convince myself if I was dating someone all my problems would vanish. But no one I've dated wanted to stay with me either. I know it's on me not them.
Leo knew his break up with Calypso was his fault. They had some good times together, really good, but looking back on it it felt like they argued more than they were happy together. Leo didn't blame her at all.
GoldenHorseShoe: I'm sorry. You seem like a smart person. I hope you can get to a place where you like yourself more.
Happycamper: easier said than done.
GoldenHorseShoe: I know, I know it is. I might not know what you're going through, but does anyone else? If you're depressed, you should really talk to someone.
Happycamper: look, it's complicated...there's not really anyone I can talk to.
GoldenHorseShoe: Do you want to talk to me about it? I don't know who you are, I can't blab to anyone if you don't trust me. I don't even know which camp you're at.
Leo squirmed slightly, not really knowing how to start. She did know who he was, she just didn't know she knew.
Happycamper: It's just..I act ..pretty happy I guess? People think I'm extroverted and happy, but...I'm not. It's like a role I find myself playing and I don't know how to break out of it. I don't know how people would react if I was completely honest. If they'd even still want to be friends with me. My best friends have already been pulling further away from me... because it feels like... no matter what I do or who I am, i'm just not enough.
Happycamper: ...which I get is melodramatic. I know no one knows another person 100%, it's just I feel like...You know those questions where they say, 'how would your friends describe you?' I honestly feel like most of my friends would describe me in a way I don't see myself. And, it's my own fault! I'm basically telling everyone 'yeah my favorite color is yellow', and then being disappointed no one figured out it isn't actually. It's my fault, and I don't know how to fix it. There's something wrong with me.
GoldenHorseShoe: That is a ...lot to take in. I'm sorry, that sounds like a lot to deal with everyday. It must be hard.
Leo found himself nodding at his phone, before realizing no one could see him alone in his Bunker.
HappyCamper: I feel like I don't know how to actually open up to anyone, and maybe no one will ever know. Maybe I'll just be...playing this role forever.
GoldenHorseShoe: You're opening up to me though? Is that why, maybe, you don't like..romantic holidays, because it's a reminder that it's been hard for you to be honest and open with someone else?
HappyCamper:..that and I'd like to have sex sometime?
GoldenHorseShoe: …that's a bit too open. But I understand. Sex is nice.
Leo gaped; where had his sweet old timey Hazel gone?
Happycamper: ...you do remember I know who you and your boyfriend are, right?
GoldenHorseShoe: Doesn't mean you know everyone either of us has slept with.
Leo stared down at the screen, and whispered. “Holy shit.”
Chapter 2: 80% Bitter Chocolate
Leo decides to get some help, but things get worse before they get better.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hazel and Frank were doing what now?
HappyCamper: Are you fucking with me? What?! holy schist!
GoldenHorseShoe: Hey, that's my thing. Anyway. Look, I just want you to know that these things take work, and we're still young. If you're like me and Frank, we're open about what we want and don't want. That's given us the chance to stay together and love one another. But, we've had to work as being honest about ourselves too. Everyone has issues. I think you should really be talking to a therapist, more so than just me. But, I hope you don't feel like you're entirely unable to talk to someone.
HappyCamper: So, like. Sorry. I'm sure you just said important things. I got none of it. My brain is still trying to process everything. You guys have an open relationship??
GoldenHorseShoe: That's what you took away from that? But, open, not exactly. That's why we had to talk things through. It was hard to figure out exactly what we wanted. Now, we're still always together, even with someone else. I like cute boys and cute girls, and Frank likes cute girls and cute boys.
HappyCamper: oh my gods. Did you just say you like girls?...Scratch that, did you just say Frank likes guys, too? Oh, oh, wait!
Leo bounced on his mattress, going back to the forum, pulling up Frank's profile and sending an invite to him and hoping he'd respond. It didn't take long. This was like weird christmas.
NR_FZhang: Uh, what's happening?
There was a pause, likely as Frank read through their previous conversation.
HappyCamper: you're both officially my favorites
GoldenHorseShoe: Sorry hun.
HappyCamper: You two are the cutest people, I swear.
NR_FZhang: okay, so I read through your conversation. Still don't think you needed to delve into our sex life, but she has a point. I kind of hated myself when I was younger, I thought I was fat and ugly and it took a long time to be open about those issues.
Leo realized he had probably played a part in that, and felt guilty.
HappyCamper: I'm sorry Frank.
HappyCamper: I...guess I don't think i'm attractive either. maybe not so much anymore, but I had this tendency to poke fun at other people, and I regret it. I probably hurt people too. I was lashing out at people to make myself feel better.
NR_FZhang: I think we all have had moments like that in our teen years. Speaking of Leo Valdez, I actually was kind of a jerk when we first met, because I was jealous.
Leo didn't remember Frank starting anything, but he remembered Frank having issues about Leo looking like 'Sammy.'
GoldenHorseShoe: Admitting your mistakes is really healthy you know
HappyCamper:..... thanks you guys. I uh
Leo stared at the screen for awhile, as his past number of years, his interactions with people all began to add up in his head.
GoldenHorseShoe: Are you okay?
NR_FZhang is typing
HappyCamper: no i'm not, I don't think i've been okay for a long time. I've always shrugged off talking to a therapist because as a kid they never helped me much, and I didn't feel like I could tell anyone what I was going through as a demigod. But, I know things have changed since then. i'm going to take your advice and find an actual professional to talk to.
NR_FZhang: you'll be okay, you sound like a smart guy.
HappyCamper: hope so? But, thanks you guys. I'm going to log off...but would it be okay if I message you just to let you know how it goes?
GoldenHorseShoe: :) absolutely
Leo went and logged into his main account, and used his second account to invite himself into the main room just to see what was happening. There were about fifty lines of text all from pretty much the same person.
TheTruePraetor: And, that, is reason number 35 of 256 of 'Why Leonidas Valdez is Terrible'. Onto reason 36.
CH_LValdez joined in
CH_LValdez: Octavian, remind me why we helped you not be dead anymore. ( My name isn't Leonidas, no matter how much my ex insists it is.)
TheTruePraetor: …Apollo felt guilty?
GoldenHorseShoe: oh my gosh I just looked at the chat. what is actually wrong with you, Octavian?
TheTruePraetor: I must leave. I think I've made my point.
CH_LValdez: You talk about me so much you'd think you were in love with me, Tavy. Not that I blame you, I am amazing.
TheTruePraetor: I've added 6 new things to my list for that comment alone.
HappyCamper: i'm so sorry I started this. Im out. Bye guys.
HappyCamper has left
TheTruePraetor has left
NR_FZhang: Hey Leo. Uh, maybe don't scroll up.
Leo figured using both accounts would help remove any suspicion Frank and Hazel might have over his identity. Not to mention, not giving away the fact he knew who Golden actually was.
A private message popped up in the corner of his screen, but this time it was directed at Leo, not his fake identity
TheTruePraetor: I hate you, you hate me. Consider this though: What if we had angry hate sex? You, on your knees as it should b-
Leo blocked Octavian. Why was it that only people who had wanted him dead in the past were the only ones now wanting to bang.
CH_LValdez: Heyyyy Frank- wait, what? SCROLLING UP SCROLLING UP
CH_LValdez: Oh. Man, no biggie. You should see my inbox! More trolls than in Norway. Thanks for defending my noble honor.
NR_FZhang: We'll be in CHB this weekend, see you guys then.
Leo sent him a smooch and waving emoji, before the rest of the room logged off and began to leave. Flopping back onto his nest, Leo stared at the high ceiling.
“Well,” Leo said to himself. “That was new.”
Leo'd never heard a whisper of Frank and Hazel being involved with more than one partner, so he wondered if they were Roman or not. Romans were a bit more close lipped about that kind of thing, where as Leo'd walked into the Greek baths before and seen guys leisurely washing sex toys like they were dishes.
But, maybe they were getting busy with normal San Francisco-ites. Maybe at a bar or something, though they were a bit young for some. Leo wanted to get to the bottom of it, but figured maybe he should focus on addressing his deep rooted depression first. Maybe.
Leo hadn't been lying to Hazel and Frank, as the next day he found himself walking out of the Camp Half Bloods therapy office. There were only a few now, but it was an improvement from the past amount of 0. Granted, they were all Satyrs and Dryads. Still, it wasn't a bad session, Leo thought. It wasn't like he had anything to go off of though. Hadn't been to one since his mom died and he was left talking to a shitty school doctor asking, 'how did that make you feel?' Like, bad. Obviously bad was the answer.
Leo still had a hard time talking, and while he appreciated he wasn't being pushed to talk or vent, Leo didn't feel like they were getting anywhere until he had the idea to show his chat messages to Dr. Maple. He blurred out the other side of the conversation, not wanting to tell Hazel and Frank's secrets for them, but Maple got the gist of things pretty quickly. She didn't act shocked, or judgmental.
Her office had a lot of flowers in it, and smelled nice, something naturally relaxing that seemed to help demigods.
“Demigods have a specifically hard childhood compared to other children, and addressing self esteem issues usually starts with how we're raised.” It was a suggestion, she wasn't forcing him to say anything.
Leo decided to begin at the beginning, with Sammy, with Tia turned Hera. To his Mom. To being called a devil by his relatives. Foster care. Teresa beating him, and other kids.
It had been exhausting, going over everything. But, Leo felt a bit better. He'd never told anyone so much of his past before. Not Piper, not Jason. Leo didn't even want to tell Calypso, because he felt like her past was so much worse that he didn't want to trouble her with it. He didn't tell Jo or Emmie, because they were the first parents in a long time he really loved, and didn't want to trouble them with his issues. It was a common theme in Leo's existence.
They hadn't even reached all of Leo's foster homes by the time their session ended, but he had another scheduled.
HappyCamper: So, I just had my first therapy session.
Leo wasn't expecting Hazel or Frank to respond, but he wanted to tell them nonetheless. The replies were almost immediate though, which made Leo feel all sorts of flustered.
GoldenHorseShoe: I hope it went well! You'll do great
NR_FZhang: that was fast. And ditto to what hazel said.
HappyCamper: yeah, well. There was an opening.
More like, for someone like Leo who had a good deal of push in Camp Half Blood, it was pretty easy to get an appointment.
HappyCamper: It went pretty well, I think. At least, I was able to tell them things I've never told anyone before.
GoldenHorseShoe: It's cathartic, isn't it?
HappyCamper: Thanks for giving me the push. Hopefully next major holiday I won't be making as many passive aggressive posts.
NR_FZhang: To be entirely honest, I don't really like Valentines day either. You can still critique something, you know. You don't have to be happy all the time, or love everything you do all the time. Valentines to me is just a nice excuse to spoil Hazel, but at the same time, I try to make sure she knows I love her and appreciate her outside of a highly commercialized holiday. It's just a day
GoldenHorseShoe: Frank has a lot of thoughts about commercialized holidays. When I was born Valentines day was pretty different to how it is now. I mean, there were still cards and things you could buy, but it was a lot more personal. It was also far more racist, but so were the 30's in general.
GoldenHorseShoe: Just work on not critiquing yourself so much :) Baby steps.
Leo grinned walking back into the main part of the camp, he had gone during lunch to be less noticed by other campers, but was beginning to feel hungrier now.
HappyCamper: Tell me more about rampant American commercialization and the 30's
GoldenHorseShoe: I have some hot takes on Herbert Hoover
NR_FZhang: She has oh so many.
Happycamper: Ooh, girl, spill~
And they did, for quite some time. Leo chatted with them through most of his meal, which he took back to his bunker. It was like meeting Frank and Hazel for the first time, their interactions online were so different than how they'd ever been before in person.
Eventually, Frank and Hazel came to visit the Camp, and Leo was as friendly with them as he generally was when they saw each other. But, they didn't see each other that much. Frank was better friends with Percy, and Hazel wanted to visit Nico.
And, in all honestly, Leo kept away from them for a good deal of their stay just so he could continue to talk with them online.
It was hard to stop.
...It was really hard to stop.
Passing February 14th, Leo had gone to a few more sessions, and honestly was beginning to feel better than he had in a long time. That night, after long hours of working, Leo crawled into his nest to message the other two, just like he had been doing every single day.
No replies came immediately, or within a half hour. Or an hour, or hours and hours. Leo realized it was getting close to 3am, and he had developed an entirely new problem.
They sent messages back in the morning, apologizing for not saying anything soon, but had had a busy night. Leo didn't want to stop and think for long as to what they had been doing.
“So,” Maple said slowly during their session, processing what Leo was telling her “You feel you've grown...unhealthily attached to these two people? That your mental health has begun to revolve around their approval?”
Leo had begun pulling away from people in real life, just to talk to Frank and Hazel virtually. He was behind in an update on their OS. The Argo X still needed to be finished. Jason and Piper came by and Leo had actually turned down their dinner invite saying he was busy. He wasn't busy, apart from talking to Frank and Hazel.
Even Festus had noticed.
Leo thought back, and leaned back in the beanbag in Maple's office. “Yes. I think that's a pretty good summation.”
HappyCamper: Am I talking to you too much?
They didn't respond until the next day.
GoldenHorseShoe: Of course not!
NR_FZhang: It's just we can't always be there. Plus, we... sort have been with someone else in the last week or so, seeing how it goes. Hard to find someone that's okay with it being both of us, you know.
Leo stared at his phone.
He was bothering them.
He was using them as a way to help his own mental health.
They were...dating someone, or something like that and Leo was just getting in the way of their love life.
But, didn't he always? From the very beginning, Leo had existed as a wrench in the works. He looked like Sammy, and nearly screwed up Frank and Hazel's love life right from the get go.
Leo blocked them. He had to.
It ripped him to shreds, but he didn't touch his HappyCamper account for quite some time.
Leo still met with Maple, but it felt like he'd hit a snag. He didn't want to talk about Frank and Hazel with Maple. Maple wasn't going to push it, wanting him to feel safe and able to talk to her, but Leo didn't want to think about it, he didn't want to face the issue. And Leo was, if nothing else, classically stubborn.
He hid it though, he always hid it around everyone else. That's what he was good at, what he spent years perfecting.
Valentines day had come and gone for a long time now, and it was nearing the end of May before Leo found himself staring at Frank and Hazel in the doorstep to Bunker 9.
Leo felt his hands go cold, which was unusual for him.
“Hi Leo,” Hazel had a bright smile, but looked a bit fidgety. “Could we talk to you?”
“Uh, hey guys...” Leo looked between the two, trying to read their minds to see if they figured out who HappyCamper was. “Sure, come in?”
There was an old ratty couch and loveseat in the Bunker, no one used it much. Leo didn't really have people over anymore. Hazel and Frank sat on it looking uneasy, either with the situation or the seat, hard to tell.
“Can I help you guys with something or-”
“Can you help us find someone?” Hazel cut in quickly, and Leo was taken back.
“Find someone?” Leo frowned. “I mean, my astrolabe doesn't really work-”
Framk cut him off this time. “There's a user we think is from Camp Half Blood, we'd been talking to them for a long time; but suddenly, a while ago... they just stopped responding. They'd had issues with depression, and ...”
Frank looked at the floor, “we just want to make sure they're okay.”
'Well', Leo thought, 'I feel like a piece of shit'.
“Their screenname is HappyCamper, capitalized H and C,” Hazel said, handing Leo a piece of paper with it written on it. Leo couldn't tell them it was him, he just couldn't. They'd never forgive him.
“Normally,” Leo said slowly, “I would feel like it was a breach of privacy to do this...but, uh, if you're really worried about them...”
“We are,” Hazel said very fast, nodding her head. “Very worried.”
“Okay, you know I'll be able to see your conversations if I do this, right? I'm not going to snoop, but if there's anything you don't want seen... or, specifically me seeing...” Leo waved a hand, and Hazel and Frank exchanged looks.
“We know, we don't care. Just, please?”
Leo nodded, and made a show of going to his computer to look through files. Hazel and Frank followed like lost duckies.
“This,” Leo pointed to a line of code, “is the last time they were online.”
Frank frowned, leaning over Leo's shoulder. “That was the same day we last spoke.”
“Well, all I can say is they're definitely a Camp Half Blood camper, but there's nothing personal on their page. Not many posts, nothing suggesting their cabin. We don't have standard IP addresses like normal human computers, because it's too dangerous to have a record of a demigods exact position. I'm sorry, I can't really do more than this, guys.” Leo said, feigning disappointment. Of course he could do more, he was Leo fucking Valdez. But, they didn't need to know that.
Hazel let out a sad noise, bunching her hands up in her shirt. Frank wrapped an arm around her. Leo looked away.
“No campers have left recently, have they?” Frank asked after a second, and Leo pulled up another file.
“I have no data suggesting any students from that date, until now, have vanished, left, or died.”
“You...haven't noticed anyone....acting differently?” Hazel looked nearly desperate. “We think, maybe...maybe they had a crush and...”
Leo froze, something clicked in his head very rapidly.
Oh my god. He had a crush on Hazel and Frank. He just hadn't realized it.
He had a crush? When had that happened? He felt like he had been hit by a truck when he fell in love with Calypso. Granted, weird island magic explained some of that. But, holy shit, he had a crush on Hazel and Frank. Or, was it just Hazel. Or, was it just Frank. When did Leo start liking guys again? Leo thought back on what he knew had been a crush on Jason early on. Okay, brain, fair point Leo thought.
“Hazel, I'm sorry. I really don't know. You could ask Piper, or someone else from the Aphrodite cabin though?” Leo suggested, covering his moment of minor panic attack. “If someone was nursing a broken heart, I'm pretty sure someone in that cabin would know.”
Leo was a glutton for punishment. “I don't want to snoop, but...can I ask what happened?”
“Well,” Hazel inhaled. “We met in a chat, they were upset...and I messaged them privately. We got to talking, and...we kept talking. I really loved talking to them.”
“We both did,” Frank added softly. “But, we got...worried that maybe they were becoming a bit too attached too quickly. I mean, they were messaging us pretty much all day, everyday. We decided on trying to cut back a bit. Among other things...”
“We thought everything was okay, and then just....they stopped responding.”
They loved talking to him? Leo couldn't meet their eyes. “I see. That's uh. Rough. You don't know anything else, like gender or age?”
“No,” Hazel sighed. “We think probably a boy, but not sure. Probably around our age, seemed familiar with events that we all know. But, otherwise, no. No name. The problem is...”
Leo looked at her questioningly, trying to copy how Maple looked at him during session. “The problem is, one of the things we talked about is how...they act differently around people. For all we know, they could be the perkiest person here, but...”
“But, deep down be miserable?” Leo finished for her, feeling like he was echoing himself, and Hazel nodded. “Yeah, that'd be an issue... But, again, I'm guessing Aphrodite Cabin might get a better idea of things. Their good with people like that, way better than I am when it comes to noticing, you know, subtle changes.”
“I just don't want them thinking we hate them, or...just feeling worse than they did before. I feel so bad. We really, really liked them. It just felt like everything was happening so fast. I don't want them to...hate themselves.”
Eventually, the two left, and Leo was alone again.
"Sorry Hazel", Leo muttered to himself, "I'm already hating myself."
Leo's got issues but we all know that.