"—Heavier than I thought, actually. I mean, you really contributed nothing to lifting your own weight, which—"
Donghyuck awakens slowly. His head is pounding, mouth dry and like it's full of cotton, and he winces as he struggles to claw his way back to consciousness. It's the worst he's ever felt, and he's tempted to just let go and fall back asleep.
But the voice beside him is familiar, except his head hurts more whenever he tries to think about who it is, whenever he tries to recall their name. All he knows is that he needs to see them, something inside him begging him to make sure they're okay, that they're safe—
He can hear the person beside him scramble up. "Oh Taeyong, hello!"
"Hey," Taeyong replies, "Just checking in. How are you going?"
This voice is unfamiliar, as is the name. Donghyuck doesn't know any Taeyongs, but he knows the other person in the room, and frustration is starting to brim inside him. His eyes won't open, his mouth won't work, and he feels detached from his body.
"I'm okay. Someone came by earlier and gave me a meal. Doyoung, I think?"
Taeyong must reply non-verbally, because there's a brief moment of silence. Then he speaks again, apparently having moved closer during the silence, his voice now closer to Donghyuck. "And Donghyuck hasn't woken yet?"
"No," the boy beside him replies. "Not yet. He's very stubborn."
"Mhm, so I've heard from Kyungsoo."
Donghyuck knows that name. Kyungsoo was with them, leading them, running with them through a thick forest. Something was chasing them, something that muddles Donghyuck's head further.
What was chasing them? Who is the boy beside him, who was running with them? Who Donghyuck made sure to protect?
The boy beside him — who's been beside him for days now. Weeks. The two of them running together, desperate to escape the clutches of things that weren't quite human that followed them.
A name sits on his tongue. The boy's face comes to mind. A memory of that thick forest they were running through. Donghyuck remembers seeing the boy's face go pale, knowing he was about to be caught by the thing chasing them, and Donghyuck couldn't let it happen.
He had shoved him aside, taking the hit —
He had taken the hit for Renjun.
Someone's hand is on top of his. It's not familiar, it's not Renjun — no, there's someone's hand pushing back his hair, and that's Renjun. The one on top of his hand must be Taeyong’s.
Donghyuck's fingers twitch under the touch, trying to convey that he's awake and listening to them, even if he's struggling to show it.
"Donghyuck?" Taeyong's voice is soft, and Renjun inhales sharply.
Donghyuck fights harder to get his fingers to move. His fingers dig into something soft and he uses it to ground himself properly to his body, to awaken faster.
It hurts like hell, and he grunts with the effort of it. The hit he'd taken certainly did a number, but he's glad he took it over Renjun.
"Thank Gods," Renjun breathes out, relief dripping from his tone. "Hey, Hyuckie. How're you feeling?"
Donghyuck is only able to grunt, but it gets across his meaning. Renjun hums in sympathy. "Not great, right. Obviously, because you're an idiot. Well you're okay now, we're safe."
He had figured that from Renjun's casual tone earlier, from the way Taeyong spoke to them. It means they made it — wherever Kyungsoo was leading them, they made it safely. Finally, weeks of running, and they're finally safe.
"Help him sit up," Taeyong orders, and Renjun's hand slips from his hair. He's prodded up, shifted, and he winces as more pain makes itself known. At least it helps him feel like he's properly in his body faster.
Something presses down on his lips. Renjun squeezes his hold reassuringly. "It's okay, it's just a drink that will make you feel better."
Donghyuck's able to part his lips just enough for the straw to slip through. He slowly sips at it, mouth working without coordination at first.
It tastes like his mum's home cooking, his favourite dish of hers. The one she made the night before he'd been attacked, before Renjun had grabbed his hand and told him to run-
The memories aren't easy. He pushes them down as they threaten to rise.
He misses her. So, so much. Misses his whole family.
Finishing the drink quickly, it feels like a wave of warmth has washed over him. Healing him, making him feel better, healing the soreness and pain that had held him down.
He blinks his eyes open, and his eyes meet a boy with intense, striking eyes. But then the boy smiles, and the intensity fades into something soft and comforting.
"Hi Donghyuck. I'm Taeyong, counsellor of Cabin One. You're at Camp Half-Blood, a place for children of the Gods." Taeyong gestures around, though Donghyuck can't see much beyond what's in the room. It seems like a medical bay of some kind, beds stretched out around him with medical equipment lying around.
The rest of the sentence catches up to him, and he frowns in confusion. "Children? Of the Gods?"
Taeyong sighs. "Right, I forget that's not a normal thing. It's been a while since we've had unclaimed kids, it's lucky that Kyungsoo found you two."
"Unclaimed?" Donghyuck prompts, because he's not. His mum doesn't speak of his dad, but he hasn't cared about that — his mum is enough for him, and he figures anyone that left his mum isn't worth his time anyway.
"Well, the Gods made an agreement a while ago to claim their kids at the age of thirteen, so we could find them and bring them back here to safety, to learn to fight and survive. They can be... forgetful sometimes, but they've been good about this lately. It's weird that the two of you are both unclaimed at your ages, but I'd say it won't be long before you're claimed. Still, we'll have to wait and see," Taeyong explains, but it really isn't helping Donghyuck feel any more clarified about the situation.
Donghyuck's reeling with the information. With the implication that his dad is a God of some kind. Like this is a common thing.
"Taeyong, you're just confusing him more," someone says tiredly, and Donghyuck turns his head to see someone at the door.
"Yeah, it's been a while since I've had to explain this," Taeyong huffs. "Care to do it then, Yuta?"
"Nope," Yuta replies. "That's why you have the introductory film. Just show them that."
Reassured that Donghyuck feels well enough to walk, Taeyong and Yuta lead them outside. It really is a camp — cabins stretched out before him, various activities going on and other campers walking around. They stare at Donghyuck and Renjun for a moment, but their attention is quickly driven elsewhere, so many things happening around them.
"What is this place?" Donghyuck mumbles to Renjun. Donghyuck's interlinked his fingers with Renjun, unwilling to let go of him amidst the chaos of everything around them.
Renjun doesn't seem surprised by anything going on. He looks rather adjusted to it all, which means Donghyuck definitely missed some things while he was knocked out.
"Like Taeyong said, Camp Half-Blood. Honestly, maybe just... Wait until the video. I had someone explain it to me, but I know there's things I'm missing too," Renjun explains. Donghyuck feels completely lost, stressed that he's lacking so much information.
The film explains things, at least.
Like the fact that Donghyuck's dad is a Greek fucking God.
Taeyong greets them after the film, smiling sheepishly.
Cabin One. The film had briefly gone over the cabins and the Gods and Goddesses they represented.
Taeyong. A child of Zeus.
"Well, hopefully that explained better than me!" Taeyong claps his hands together, obviously relieved he's not saddled with explaining much else. "So you've probably figured this much, but Renjun, you mentioned you lived with your dad? And Donghyuck, with your mum? So your other parent is the God or Goddess."
"Just a matter of which one," Renjun replies. He doesn't sound snarky — not like Donghyuck would if he proposed the thought. Renjun just sounds thoughtful, like he's genuinely interested in the answer.
Donghyuck doesn't care for his dad. He never has, and certainly doesn't now that he's found out he's a God.
So what if he's a God? He's obviously forgotten about Donghyuck. Left his mum on her own, until she found another great man — someone Donghyuck has wished, over and over again, to be his actual dad.
As far as Donghyuck cares, he is. Not the one that's a Greek God who's disrupted everything, made him run for his life and away from his whole family.
"When can I go home?" Donghyuck cuts into Taeyong's musings, who's going over the list of potential parents.
"Donghyuck," Renjun scolds lightly, but Taeyong holds up his hand, excusing Donghyuck from a further lecture. He looks sympathetic, folding his arms and looking up at the sky.
"It... It might depend on who your parent is, and how powerful you are. But you'll still need to learn how to defend yourself and fight anyway. You can't go back home until you're capable of surviving out there on your own."
Donghyuck hates it. He doesn't want to fight. He just wants to live with his family.
Taeyong's gaze hardens slightly, seeming to sense Donghyuck's about to fight back. "Listen. You'll only put your family in danger if you go back. You'll be killed. I know it sucks, but this is what you have to do. And besides, you're both—"
Taeyong cuts his words short, then shakes his head like he's dissipating the tense air he's suddenly created. "It's not like you'll never see your family again, Donghyuck. You'll be able to go back home soon enough. We let campers go home during Summer. And whenever else they want to, when they're safe. You just need to train... and be claimed. That too."
"There's something else, isn't there?" Renjun prods, but Taeyong determinedly shakes his head.
"Not now. You'll find out later anyway. But you two have been through enough the past couple of days, so let's get you settled in to camp." Taeyong waves his hand, gesturing for them to follow.
"How long was I out?" Donghyuck asks Renjun, frowning. Renjun takes hold of his hand, swinging it between them.
"A night. I stayed with you, so I haven't settled into camp either," Renjun answers.
Taeyong gets them both a simple bag of necessities, warning them to hold on tight to their items. "It's not done out of malice or anything, but the campers will probably try and prank you because you're new, so keep an eye out."
"Great," Donghyuck grumbles. Taeyong gives them both some bedding, then ushers them over to a cabin.
"You're both unclaimed, so you'll be staying in Cabin Eleven for now," Taeyong gestures to the cabin. It's not as impressive as all the others Donghyuck sees around the camp, but it's not unwelcoming either.
"Cabin Eleven... Hermes, right?" Renjun questions, and Taeyong nods. Donghyuck does his best to think back on his studies about Greek Gods — but, admittedly, he's mostly forgotten it all.
"God of travellers, welcoming to all," Taeyong confirms, "It's been a while since we've seen unclaimed over the age of thirteen, or... any unclaimed, honestly. But anyway, you'll be here until you're claimed."
They step into the cabin, where there's a couple of campers on beds or milling around the room.
"Lucas!" Taeyong calls. A boy turns his head, then grins widely and welcomingly, walking over. "Hey, do you mind looking after these two? They're the two unclaimed new campers. Donghyuck, Renjun, he's a year older than you two."
"Of course!" Lucas cheerily says. Donghyuck's still pretty bitter about the entire camp, but Lucas is so friendly that it's hard to feel any type of negative thing towards him.
It falls to Renjun to keep up conversation with him though, as Donghyuck just silently takes in the entire cabin. The other campers look at them questioningly, maybe warily, but still smile when Donghyuck meets their eyes.
Lucas gestures to two single beds in the corner of the room. They're basically on top of each other, and Lucas sheepishly rubs the back of his neck. "Uh honestly, we usually only get like one unclaimed kid at a time lately. So it's a little crammed, sorry."
"That's okay," Renjun replies, placing his things down on the bed. Donghyuck holds onto his, unwilling to claim a bed, unwilling to admit he’s stuck at this camp.
"I'll try and make sure no one messes with you guys. Some of us like to joke around, maybe a little too much. We forget how scary this whole thing can be." Lucas is sweet, and Donghyuck does feel easier now that he's with them. He's tall, as well as intimidating with a very pretty face — to the point Donghyuck wonders if he's also somehow Aphrodite's child. Donghyuck has a good feeling no one will feel like messing with them at least.
Lucas offers to show them around anywhere they want, but Donghyuck shakes his head. He doesn't want to see any more of this camp.
He just wants to go home.
He finally sits down on the bed, but makes no move to settle himself in. He's only in this cabin because his dad hasn't claimed him, when he apparently should have years ago, and he feels like an intruder.
Renjun sits beside him, nudging him with his shoulder. "Hey. This place isn't so bad, honestly. I know you're mad at your dad, and you have every right to be, but you can't do anything about it now. This isn't permanent, Hyuckie. We can go home again. But for now we're safe, and we can learn so many things while we're here."
Donghyuck's frustration builds up, threatening to explode. Renjun places a hand on his thigh, placating him. Donghyuck tries to expel some of the anger with a heavy breath, trying to calm down.
"This sucks," Donghyuck finally settles on saying. "This sucks so fucking much."
"Mhm," Renjun hums in empathy, even though Donghyuck knows he doesn't agree. For whatever reason, Renjun likes it here.
Donghyuck likes that it's safe, but that's as far as he'll go. Maybe he also likes how nice the others are — they’re not trying to kill them like all the creatures that have followed them. But nothing further.
"Well, I will say what sucks," Renjun starts, and Donghyuck knows he's in trouble. "Watching you take that hit that was meant for me. Having you bleed all over me, while you're unconscious and I can't tell if you're dead or not, and we were so close to safety. Almost losing you while we were so close, after everything we went through together."
"Renjun..." Donghyuck trails off, unable to say more. He knows Renjun worried, but to hear it so bluntly has him freeze. Renjun just shakes his head and sighs.
"Don't. You're okay now, that's all that matters. You're just so stupid and reckless sometimes," Renjun replies. He turns to look directly at Donghyuck, eyes brimming with determination. "We can learn to fight and defend ourselves here. You can learn to not jump into a fight like an idiot and get knocked out within the same minute."
"Hey," Donghyuck protests, but unfortunately Renjun has him beat on that point.
"If there was a God of stupidity, you'd be their child. Anyway, there's activities an idiot like you would enjoy because they're dangerous. The archery with fire looked like one, so it's obviously something you'd enjoy." Renjun's tone is thankfully gentler as he teases. Donghyuck still feels guilty for making him worry, but Renjun seems like he doesn't want to linger on it.
Also, archery with fire has definitely piqued his interest.
Renjun laughs at him, noticing that Donghyuck's eyes have widened. "We can check it out tomorrow. They'll probably have us try out different activities anyway to try and figure out who we're the children of. I could hear Taeyong musing about it while you were unconscious."
"Who does he think?" Donghyuck asks. Renjun shrugs.
"It doesn't matter. I'm interested in knowing, but at the end of the day we are who we are, and a God or Goddess claiming us doesn't change that. It's just so we know who to call mum or dad, which is... weird, actually. Oh Gods, that's really weird." Renjun flops back on the bed, covering his eyes with his arm.
Donghyuck falls back with him. They lie there in silence, listening to the sound of the camp around them, of the Hermes cabin being filled with laughter and jokes.
Donghyuck misses home, but he'll be back soon enough. He's got a newfound determination to learn everything he can now, to make sure he can make it back to his family.
And here, with Renjun beside him — it's not so bad. Renjun is his family too.
Lucas disturbs them to come out for dinner, which is filled with people whispering about them as they sit down at the Cabin Eleven table. Donghyuck catches the words prophecy and oracle thrown around, but Renjun distracts him from it.
Renjun stays by his side the whole night. Has always stayed by his side.
He climbs into Donghyuck's bed, grabbing hold of his hands. Tonight they're together, sharing a cabin, sharing a bed — and tomorrow might bring something else.
But for tonight, they have each other here.
Besides, Donghyuck doubts they'll separate — even when they're claimed, when they're moved to other cabins. No matter what, he knows Renjun will be with him.
"Stay with me," Donghyuck still asks of him.
Renjun answers without hesitation, not even allowing the room to question it, and it's a promise Donghyuck knows he'll keep.
"Your reckless ass would die without me anyway."