Pairing: Kyungsoo/Chanyeol (possible Sehun/Jongin)
Summary, potential warnings: Kyungsoo would much rather spend most of his summer elbow deep in the engine of his ’69 Charger than travel across the country to slay a monster, but he's never been very good at denying Chanyeol anything. Percy Jackson AU. (minor violence and mild language)
Kyungsoo wipes the sweat out of his eyes using the sleeve of his jumpsuit, leaning under the hood of the car to take another look at the spark plug he’s trying to replace. It’s warmer in the garage than it should be for April, but then, Maryland humidity has never been known to abide by the calendar, and Kyungsoo’s extra layer of clothing under his jumpsuit isn’t helping the feeling of general stickiness in the air.
He drops the old plug down next to the other five he's already switched out, wiping his hand on the leg of his jumpsuit before beginning to screw the new one in.
“With a muscle car like that, someone might think you're trying to compensate for something.”
Kyungsoo’s fingers almost slip on the wrench from surprise, because even though he can’t see who's speaking, he only knows one person with a voice that low. Taking a steadying breath, Kyungsoo finishes screwing in the new spark plug and then leans back from where he’s been bent over the open engine of the car, trying to look casual, like his insides aren’t still trying to have some kind of hoedown in his belly.
“It’s a ’69 Dodge Charger: of course I’m compensating for something,” Kyungsoo says, quirking an eyebrow at Chanyeol from across the garage. “It just might not be for what you think.”
“Sixty-nine?” Chanyeol waggles his eyebrows and takes a few more steps into the garage so he can see the engine over Kyungsoo’s shoulder. “I think it might be exactly what I think.”
Rolling his eyes, Kyungsoo holds up the wrench in his hand. “Hang on for a sec, I gotta put this back together before I forget.”
The Charger, a gift from his mother for his fifteenth birthday, is Kyungsoo’s baby, and the garage that he’s been hanging around at in his neighborhood since he was a kid (and then helping out at, once he got a little older) is letting him keep it safe and out of the way in the back while he’s working on restoring it.
The garage is closed on Sundays, but Kyungsoo's known where the spare key is kept for years, so he and Chanyeol are alone. Kyungsoo isn’t prepared, has to make himself take a moment while he’s turned away, refastening the bolts that hold the manifold in place and then fiddling with the wiring he’d detached earlier, just in case. This kind of work is almost automatic and gives his hands something to do while he tries to smooth out the hot, shivery feeling that began simmering inside of him when Chanyeol first spoke from behind him.
He doesn’t usually have to do this. Usually, Kyungsoo has everything (very tightly) under control.
“How’d you know where I’d be?” Kyungsoo asks, voice finally even in his throat and the engine back in order enough for him to close the hood. He can’t wait until it’s time to replace the tacky orange paint job that the car had come with something classier, like a classic, glossy black.
“I stopped by your house and your mom said you were here.” Looking thoughtful, Chanyeol shifts to lean against the car, right near the passenger door so he has a full view of Kyungsoo’s face. “Your mom, she’s really — “
“Don’t say hot,” Kyungsoo cuts in. He’s had enough people tell him that to last a lifetime and he thinks if has to listen to Chanyeol say it, he'll end up trying to brain him with a wrench.
“I was going to say nice,” Chanyeol says, but the quirk of his smile makes Kyungsoo think otherwise.
For a seemingly open book, Chanyeol can be awfully hard to read, even for his best friend.
“Besides, MILF’s aren’t really my type.”
“Chanyeol, I swear to god — “
“Kidding!” Chanyeol raises his hands up like he’s just been caught trying to rob a bank. “Just kidding.”
“So,” Kyungsoo says, trying to figure out how to word this so he doesn’t sound like an asshole, because it’s good to see Chanyeol, but he also has no idea why the hell Chanyeol is here. “What’s up? It’s too early for me to head back to Camp.”
“Chiron…“ Chanyeol licks his lips, eyes alight with excitement, and Kyungsoo thinks Chanyeol’s probably been wanting to tell him about whatever this is since the moment he found out. “Chiron gave me a quest.” Kyungsoo stills for a moment from fiddling with the tool still in his hands. A quest is a big deal, but more than that, a quest is usually code for something dangerous. Chanyeol can probably see the look on his face and explains, “He says there’s a giant serpent, a python, that needs looking into at Yellowstone National Park.”
“A python.” The only thing that comes to mind is the giant snake from Harry Potter, but Kyungsoo’s pretty sure this must be something more than an escaped zoo animal for Chiron to take an interest. You don’t send a demigod to do a mortal’s job, after all.
“Yeah, apparently it’s been, um, eating tourists.” There’s a smirk, Kyungsoo can tell, hiding just on the edge of Chanyeol’s lips, and it’s making him smile too, because Chanyeol must be thinking the same thing about Harry Potter. Plus, Chanyeol’s smile has always been contagious.
“‘Soo?” Jongin’s head peeks around the side door to the garage. “Ready to go? The movie’s supposed to start at — “ He stops dead at the sight of Chanyeol leaning against the body of the Charger, narrowing his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
Jongin never really took to Chanyeol like Kyungsoo had when they’d first arrived at Camp Half-Blood— he’s always had a hard time making friends, and Chanyeol’s brand of teasing sometimes comes on a little too strong for Jongin to believe it’s genuine — and three years of Chanyeol’s antics have done little to soften him.
“Trying to kidnap Kyungsoo, obviously,” Chanyeol says. He’s smiling, but his mouth is tight at the corners, like it’s being hitched up. Chanyeol doesn’t do well with being disliked, but everything he tries with Jongin only seems to make it worse. It’s enough to wear anyone down a little. “He’s putting up quite a fight. Soon I might have to resort to brute force.” Chanyeol relaxes further back against the side of the car, bringing his hands up to rest behind his head, as if to make a point.
Jongin’s frown deepens into a scowl as he steps fully into the garage, letting the door close behind him
“As if you could,” Kyungsoo says, tossing his wrench into the toolbox near his elbow, the clang echoing through the garage and making both Jongin and Chanyeol jump and break their staring match. “It’s Camp business. Chiron’s sent him on a quest.”
“A quest? Where to?”
“That’s classified,” Chanyeol says smugly at the same time Kyungsoo says “Yellowstone”, and Jongin looks at them both funny.
“You mean like, the national park?”
Chanyeol heaves a big sigh, lowering his arms to cross them over his chest, but Kyungsoo ignores him. “Yes,” he tells Jongin, and wipes his greasy hands on his coveralls. “I should probably go get my stuff ready so we can leave ASAP.”
“What?” Jongin’s scowl slips right off his face in alarm. “You’re going with him?”
Jongin’s incredulity makes Chanyeol’s eyes soften up suddenly, all hurt like a kicked puppy.
“Chiron said I could choose my own companions,” he says, “and I choose Kyungsoo.”
“‘Soo can’t go,” Jongin says stubbornly. “He’s got — “
“It’s fine,” Kyungsoo interrupts. “I’m glad he asked me. I want to go.”
Jongin’s jaw tightens. “I’m going too, then.”
“What?” Chanyeol gapes at him, lips wet and eyes wide.
“I said, I’m coming with you,” Jongin snaps, obviously warming to the idea.
“You can’t just invite yourself along on my quest! It’s not a birthday party or something.” Chanyeol’s guard is back up again, kicked-puppy look gone and his hackles raised instead.
“I’m going along to make sure you don’t pull something ridiculous and get Kyungsoo killed.” That sobers Chanyeol up some, because it’s not an idle threat. He’s been at Camp Half-Blood, which is usually just a summer camp for demigods around the country, longer than either of them, and Kyungsoo knows he’s lost friends, has had to burn a funeral shroud for someone before. Jongin doesn’t mean for it to be a low blow, but it is.
“Fine, but the minute you start slowing us down, I’m Iris messaging Chiron.” Chanyeol’s petulant tone sounds almost bizarre with his low voice.
“How are we getting there?”
Chanyeol runs his fingers along the edge of the Charger’s mirror and Kyungsoo follows the movement. He doesn’t want to have to clean off any fingerprints later. “I thought it’d be fastest if we flew?”
“Sure,” Kyungsoo says, “we can book flights at my house.”
Nodding but still frowning, Chanyeol picks up his pack and brushes past Jongin, hitting shoulders to him on his way to wait outside.
“I’m not going to be the slow one,” Jongin mutters, but Chanyeol’s already out of earshot. Kyungsoo gives Jongin a Look. “What?”
He shakes his head. “We’ll meet at my place in twenty minutes. Go get your things.”
Jongin pouts, but then there’s the little poof that signals his disappearance. Jongin can’t teleport far, so it’s probably just to the alleyway next door so he doesn’t have to pass Chanyeol on his way out, and Kyungsoo finally lets his shoulders sag.
Honestly, he’s glad Jongin’s coming along. The idea of being alone with Chanyeol for an extended period of time is… complicated.
Then Kyungsoo thinks of how Chanyeol had looked, relaxed and smiling as he peered down into the engine of Kyungsoo’s precious baby, and his gut shivers again, just on the edge of nausea.
He smothers the feeling, trying to cut of its air supply for good, and goes to find some soap to wash the oil off his hands.
The first time Kyungsoo sees Chanyeol is when he is fourteen, during the summer right before he’s meant to start high school. He and Jongin have just come to Camp Half-Blood after a satyr (a man who has the hind legs and hooves of a goat) named Basil had discovered two demigods like them living in the same neighborhood.
“What are the odds of that?” Basil had bleated, half proud of himself and half anxious, because two demigods would attract twice the amount of trouble in such close proximity during their journey. And it was kind of crazy, because Kyungsoo and Jongin had only known each other in passing before this, but after their journey to camp, which was made more than a little harrowing by a rogue hellhound or two, thirteen-year-old Jongin had, for lack of a better word, kind of latched on.
A demigod, as Kyungsoo and Jongin come to understand, is a person born from one human parent and one parent that is among the Greek gods and goddesses. Because apparently those still exist.
On their way to Camp Half-Blood, Basil had explained that the gods have always been present at the height of western civilization, traveling all over the western hemisphere through the centuries. Now, all of Ancient Greek mythology is spread from coast to coast of the United States, with the entrance to the Underworld in L.A., and Mount Olympus rising above the Empire State Building. (Kyungsoo didn’t really believe it until he and his mother traveled up to New York City for Spring Break during his sophomore year of high school and Kyungsoo had taken in the skyline, realizing that there was a cloudy peak piercing the clouds above the Empire State Building, the shapes of some of the buildings visible to Kyungsoo’s eyes as they flashed with real, metallic gold.)
There are quite a lot of demigods around, proof that old habits die hard and that the gods (as Lu Han once said) “have a hard time keeping it in their pants, if you know what I mean”, and so Camp Half-Blood was set up to help protect the demigods during the summers they have off from school, and to help train them into becoming heroes.
The tour Kyungsoo gets when he and Jongin first arrive at Camp Half-Blood is given by Kris, one of the older boys from the Athena cabin. Jongin, who’s a little standoffish by nature, gets taken around by the friendlier-looking head of Hermes cabin, the cabin they’re staying in with the rest of the god’s children and the other unclaimed demigods
“Hermes, my dad, is the patron god of travelers,” Lu Han explains, helping them set out places to sleep where there’s space on the crowded floor, “so we welcome everyone we can.”
Then he ruffles Jongin’s hair, asking him if he’s hungry, and Jongin almost smiles, glancing up at Lu Han’s mischievous smile and nodding. Kyungsoo is glad when Jongin finally lets the hem of Kyungsoo’s shirt free so he can follow Lu Han, if only because he knows how difficult Jongin finds it to meet new people.
Between the circle of cabins and the beach is where they all eat dinner (he and Jongin will sit at the designated Hermes table unless they’re claimed — marked by their parent with their personal symbol as a way of showing whose child they are, Kris explains), and then right across a small creek is the climbing wall. It’s huge, taller than any of the ones Kyungsoo’s seen at gyms around home, more like the side of a cliff than a wall.
Kris smiles up at it almost fondly. “Chiron will be putting you through your paces on this before you know it.”
“Paces?” While he wasn’t completely hopeless, Kyungsoo had always been better in shop class than gym.
“Sure. Fire, earthquakes, you name it, the climbing wall’s got it,” Kris says like it’s simultaneously the most fun and most normal thing in the world for a rock climbing wall to try and kill you while you climb it.
Kris just laughs, but the wall is innocently towering over them both like the sheer edge of a volcano, and Kyungsoo eyes it suspiciously.
The amphitheater is next, and Kyungsoo thinks it looks a bit like a miniature version of one of those outdoor stadiums where they hold concerts.
“I thought this place was for training?” he says, looking around curiously, “not like, singing and stuff.”
“Theater was very important to the Ancient Greeks,” Kris sniffs, and Kyungsoo wonders if he fancies himself an actor and has to stop himself from snorting at the idea. “But the training fields are over in the arena.”
Kyungsoo looks where he’s pointing, back across the creek, and can make out a miniature version of every reproduction of the coliseum Kyungsoo’s seen in gladiator movies.
He must make a face as he remembers one of the bloodiest scenes in Gladiator, because Kris reassures him, “Don’t worry, we won’t be asking you to fight to the death.” Kyungsoo heaves a mostly fake sigh of relief, almost missing the quirk of Kris’ thick eyebrows. “Yet.”
Kris is already ten feet away when Kyungsoo realizes what he’s said. “Wait, what?”
Kris introduces Kyungsoo to several other children of Athena (“half-siblings,” he says, ruffling the long blonde hair of one of the girls, and she gives him a look that could probably melt plastic) in the arts and crafts area just around the edge of the lake. They’re all tall and grey-eyed, just like Kris himself, and seemingly absorbed in weaving something really intricate and possibly the size of a small circus tent.
“What — “
“Don’t ask,” Kris says hurriedly, hustling him away. “It’s for the next game of capture the flag. Top secret. Now, over there, with the silk flowers, are some children of Aphrodite and a few of the wood nymphs.”
Kyungsoo eyes the volleyball courts as they pass them on the way to the Big House, where Chiron and some of the other camp staff live. “Do those go on fire too?”
Kris dismisses the idea with a flap of his huge hands. “Nah, those aren’t for training. Chiron just really likes to play.”
Chiron, who had been waiting to welcome Kyungsoo and Jongin to the camp when Basil had brought them past the pine tree and over the property line, was a centaur and had been training heroes for oh, about a couple thousand years or so.
“Right,” Kyungsoo says, mostly to himself so he can hear how ridiculous it sounds out loud, “Chiron the centaur likes playing volleyball.”
The Big House, like any old farm house, has a neat coat of white paint on the trim and a large porch that overlooks the strawberry fields that help fund the camp, the stables (that hold winged horses) on the other side of the creek and the forest beyond.
“In here,” Kris says, ducking into a large stone building, “along with all of the extra weapons in the camp, is the forge. You’ll mostly find the children of Hephaestus here.”
There are racks and racks of swords shining down at them from the walls, rows of javelins and spears, and too many arrows to count, their different colored fletching bright against the stone walls. The building is warmer than outside, and Kyungsoo looks at the intricate designs on the shields lying on the shelves. One of them has a giant metal snake running around the edge with its head facing off with the figure of a young man armed with nothing more than a bow and arrow. The metalwork is more detailed than anything Kyungsoo has ever seen. He leans in to get a better look, and thinks he can almost see the man’s eyelashes.
“Hephaestus?” he asks, distracted. The metal is cool and smooth under his fingertip. It’s a nice feeling.
“God of blacksmiths,” a muscular guy who is almost as tall as Kris says, slapping Kris on the shoulder as he passes on the way to the door at the end of the room. “He’s also my dad. Come on, bring the new kid in to see the forge.”
The heat when the door opens is like when Kyungsoo would open a hot oven to put in a pizza, hot, baking heat that ruffles his hair, and inside the forge is filled with the sounds of hammering metal and the whoosh! of the large bellows in the corner, fanning the flames of the fire.
He sees a boy, huge biceps bulging as he hammers at the edge of a sword and another fiddling with some metal rivets on what looks like the chest piece of a leather set of armor. The din kind of reminds Kyungsoo of the garage he likes to go to in his neighborhood back in Maryland, where the mechanics had taken a shine to him, teaching him and letting him fiddle with the cars as long as he swept up and took out the trash at the end of the day.
“That’s Taecyeon, head of Hephaestus cabin,” Kris tells him, pointing at the boy that had shown them in and squinting at the heat. “The rest of the guys are his half-brothers. Junho, Chansung, Nichkhun — they do all the metalwork in the Camp. Got kind of a knack for it, you know.” He quirks his mouth a little wryly, but Kyungsoo can’t understand what that expression might mean in this context.
He looks back around the forge curiously and sees in the midst of all the activity of the forge, there’s a boy standing perfectly still next to the open side of the fire.
“Another son of Hephaestus?” Kyungsoo asks, watching in awe as the boy holds his hand above the flames of the forge, pulling a lick of fire up until breaks away from the hearth and rests in the palm of his hand.
“No,” Kris says, following Kyungsoo’s eyes and smiling almost fondly. “Well, maybe. Chanyeol still sleeps in the Hermes cabin, but he’s always… gotten along well with fire, so who knows.”
Chanyeol is tall like most of the rest of the boys scattered around the forge, but where they’re bulky and heavily muscled, he’s slim, skinny wrists and bowlegged thighs.
Kris is talking about something else now, probably something to do with what kind of work might be expected of him as a new camper in the forge and other places while they try to gauge his strengths are, but Kyungsoo’s still distracted by Chanyeol.
He’s smiling down at the palmful of flames, flickering light catching the white of his teeth as his bleached hair falls into his eyes, and it should seem reckless, this boy playing with fire with his bare hands, but it doesn’t. Chanyeol looks calm, using a finger of his free hand to make the tip of the flame sway from side to side, like a snake before a charmer, and Kyungsoo feels a little mesmerized by it.
Chanyeol must feel Kyungsoo staring and looks up, catching his eyes. He’s smirking, extinguishing the fire by making a fist around it, and Kyungsoo only breaks eye contact when Kris lays a hand on his shoulder.
“We should go look at the sparring fields in the Arena before it gets dark,” he says and Kyungsoo nods, trailing after him back outside. He takes a quick glance over his shoulder and sees Chanyeol coaxing another lick of fire into his hand.
By the time they book their last-minute tickets (Chanyeol footing the bill with the shiny silver credit card paid for by his mother) and get on the MARC train heading up to the Baltimore airport, it’s the middle of the afternoon, luckily still before rush hour, and Kyungsoo slumps into his dark blue seat with a sigh.
It’s not that he’s not excited. This is his first quest, the first quest for all three of them, and the opportunity isn’t one that Kyungsoo would be likely to have otherwise. Across the aisle, Chanyeol looks cheerful, fiddling with his hair like he always does when he’s got too much energy, and the smile he shows Kyungsoo when he sees Kyungsoo looking at him is a special one, the corners of his eyes crinkling and his cheeks dimpling, but it’s a mixed bag.
In it, there’s happiness, and excitement, but then, hidden along the edges of his mouth, is anxiety and a yearning for something, Kyungsoo’s not sure what, in the way his brows pull together. There’s something too private about it, a lump rising in Kyungsoo’s throat to choke him.
He looks away, eyes catching sight of something at the station they’ve just pulled into, the last stop before the airport. There aren’t many people there, which makes sense because of the time of day, but behind the clear plastic barriers, Kyungsoo could swear he’d just seen… a scaled tail?
“’Soo,” Jongin says from next to him. “Did you just see — “
“It’s probably nothing,” Kyungsoo interrupts, trying to convince himself more than anything else. It would kind of suck to get into trouble before they’d even left the state of Maryland.
The words are barely out of his mouth, though, when the doors open and Kyungsoo hears a shout and then the echo of a monster’s roar.
Chanyeol looks at him, almost pleading, eyes shining with curiosity, and Kyungsoo sighs. “Fine. Let’s go check it out.”
Kyungsoo only knows about cockatrices in theory, dragons with the head of a rooster, but they’re infinitely more awful in person.
The one lurking behind the Odenton MARC station is huge, big, glassy bird’s eyes rolling around in his head with some kind of madness while its long snake-like tail whips around behind it, scales clicking noisily.
The monster is large enough that Kyungsoo doesn’t notice what’s making it so agitated until Jongin lets out a yell. The boy the cockatrice is pecking at is young, probably Jongin’s age, and stringy, long limbs making him trip over himself as he tries to get out of the way of the cockatrice’s beak.
He scrambles back, the cockatrice shrieking and lashing out with its tail. It hits the barrier separating them from the station platform, making the plastic shudder, and the tail’s pointed tip whizzes past a little too close to where Kyungsoo, Jongin and Chanyeol are standing for comfort.
Kyungsoo can hear the air moving to make way for the huge tail, the click and glitter of the green scales, and even the flutter of the red feathers that start midway up the monster’s neck. Its beak is sharp and black, and getting closer to impaling the boy with every peck. It scrapes the ground with its sharp claws, gouging deep farrows into the cement.
The cockatrice lets out another scream, one that raises the hair on the back of Kyungsoo’s neck, and he can’t help himself from choking out “Chanyeol!” when he sees Chanyeol suddenly move forward, closer to the monster.
“Aim for the throat!” Jongin yells, and Kyungsoo can’t quite figure out what he means until he sees the bow and arrow in Chanyeol’s hands. Running forward, Jongin draws the monster’s attention to keep him from punching a hole in the boy’s thigh, screaming and waving his arms, and Chanyeol nocks an arrow, pauses for a breath to take aim, and then shoots.
The arrow hits the cockatrice right below the beak, disappearing into the sea of feathers, and for a second, Kyungsoo thinks it didn’t work. But then, seconds later, it lets out an earsplitting wail, throwing its head back in agony — Kyungsoo sees both Jongin and the boy shudder, covering their ears — and explodes into a cloud of dust.
Monsters like the cockatrice don’t die. Instead, they reform in Tartarus, the deepest, darkest part of the Underworld, over time, maybe months or years, before coming back again to wreak havoc on the world.
Once the dust has cleared, Kyungsoo sucks in a breath of oxygen. He watches Chanyeol calmly collapse his bow and quiver again so he can slip them back into his backpack, like he didn’t just slay an eight-foot monster with a single shot.
Jongin helps the boy up. He brushes the dust off his black jeans and straightens his shirt before flicking his dark hair out of his forehead and looking around at them all.
“It’s dead?” the boy asks finally, looking around as the remnants of the monster’s dust get swept away by a little breeze. He’s got sort of sleepy-looking eyes and a pink mouth that’s set in a flat line, like an unimpressed high schooler.
“Not exactly,” Chanyeol says, “but it won’t be back again for a long time, so don’t worry.”
The boy looks almost amused, which is a good sign, because, even though the probability of a monster attacking a mortal is slim, there’s always the possibility of hysteria. “Usually the worst thing that happens in Baltimore during the day is people cosplaying Hairspray,” he says, and Jongin laughs, a little choked, like he’s surprised.
Chanyeol laughs too, mouth going wide as the sound pours out, always just a little too much. In the aftermath of all the excitement, Kyungsoo’s insides are beginning to feel like they’re made of jelly.
Kyungsoo wonders curiously what the passing mortals must have seen them battling through the plastic barrier and the Mist that shrouds their eyes, keeping them from noticing anything too unusual.
Jongin, obviously thinking the same thing, eyes the boy suspiciously. “What did you see?”
“…I saw a small dragon with a chicken head.”
Kyungsoo nods. “That would be the cockatrice then.”
“Okay, so, we should probably give you the short version, since we’re in a hurry,” Chanyeol says. “Demigods — “
The boy rolls his eyes so far back into his head that Kyungsoo worries they might get stuck, and interrupts, “Yeah, I’ve already gotten that speech.”
“A satyr found me about a year ago and told me I’m a demigod and stuff.” He shrugs. “Same thing with you guys, right?”
“Why haven’t we seen you at Camp Half-Blood then?” Kyungsoo asks.
“Oh, the satyr said that my mother is a very minor goddess and if I didn’t want to go, that was okay because they didn’t really have space for me anyway.”
The line of the boy’s mouth gets a little bit harder and there’s definitely more to that story, Kyungsoo can tell, but he doesn’t think it’ll do much good to try and force it out.
In his experience anyway, satyrs have never really been known for their tact, which probably didn’t help the situation. (It probably has something to do with all the time they traditionally were supposed to spend with Dionysus, who has a reputation of being sarcastically unpleasant to everyone.)
Jongin asks, frowning, “And you didn’t want to go?”
“I’d rather stay with my dad. My mother’s Nemertes — “
“One of the Nereids? Like Achilles’ mother was?” Chanyeol’s always had a better grasp of Ancient Greek history than Kyungsoo (Kyungsoo blames Chanyeol’s year-round lessons with Chiron). “What, so you’re like, Achilles’ cousin?”
The boy rolls his eyes again. “I mean, if you look at it that way, technically we’re all cousins, aren’t we? Or related at least — “
He thinks he sees Chanyeol cringe out of the corner of his eye and Kyungsoo suddenly feels sick to his stomach, almost missing when Jongin gags and says, “It only works like that if you have the same parent. I was kidding!”
“Whatever,” the boy says, looking sullen as Jongin mutters “related to Chanyeol, gross” under his breath, looking a little green. “You guys always say that when you find out anyway. But that’s ‘cause you forget that Achilles’ father was a demigod, too.” He shrugs with one shoulder, like he’s trying hard to look casual, but the line of his mouth is stiff, like this might really bother him. “People expect me to be a hero like him, but I don’t really care.”
“So, he was like,” Chanyeol frowns, like he’s thinking hard, “a three-fourths-god?”
The boy looks at Chanyeol as though he’s Very Strange, and turns to speak to Kyungsoo instead. “My father’s in solar energy research and saving the planet and stuff, which is why my mother liked him, I guess, even if he works for the NSA now. I keep telling him he should move to wind power, but he says he likes the bright things. I came down here to have lunch with him.” The boy’s smile is almost fond, and Kyungsoo can’t quite figure out why he should care whether his dad switched to wind power or not, but he decides it’s probably none of their business.
“You should come back with us to Camp Half-Blood,” Jongin tells him, seemingly over his bought of disgust. “You could be in the Hermes cabin with me. There’s always space in there.” He slings an arm over the boy’s shoulders and the boy stills as though he’s trying to decide whether to allow it. Jongin smiles winningly at him, all white teeth, full lips, and crinkling eyes, and Kyungsoo sees the boy relax, just a little. “You could bunk next to me!”
It kind of takes Kyungsoo by surprise, because while Jongin has gotten less shy around strangers over the past few years, he’s never been this open with someone he doesn’t know.
“What’s your name?” Kyungsoo asks.
“Sehun,” the boy says, looking sour. “Where are you guys even going?”
Chanyeol puffs his chest out a little. “We’re on a quest.”
“A quest?” Sehun repeats, like it’s the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard.
“Yes!” Chanyeol frowns again, eyes wide. “A very important quest! People’s lives are at stake!”
“Chanyeol’s supposed to go kill a serpent or something,” Jongin tells Sehun in a bored voice. “I just came to make sure nothing happens to Kyungsoo.”
“A serpent that’s been eating tourists,” Chanyeol interjects. “And nothing’s going to happen to Kyungsoo! I can keep him safe!”
“I can take care of myself, thanks,” Kyungsoo says dryly. “But you could come with us if you wanted to, Sehun.”
Sehun almost looks surprised before he covers it by pulling a face. “Why would I want to come with you?”
“It’ll be fun!” Jongin says. “Take a week or two off school, travel cross-country, kill some monsters and come home again. Chanyeol’s rich, he’ll pay for your flight and everything!”
Chanyeol makes an expression like he wishes Jongin would go lick the Odenton Station floor before he stops himself, glancing first and Kyungsoo and then nodding. “We demigods should stick together.”
Sehun doesn’t look convinced.
“Well, I mean,” Jongin says slowly, “if you’re too scared to come… “
“I never said that,” Sehun snaps. “I’m not a hero, and I don’t want to be. I don’t need to go and do these things.”
Kyungsoo’s surprised when Chanyeol nods, because he and Jongin don’t often agree. “I get it. Fighting monsters and magical creatures and stuff is enough to scare anyone.”
“I’m not scared,” Sehun insists, pink starting to show across his cheekbones.
“No, no, it’s fine” Kyungsoo says, getting into the act the other two are putting on. “Hero work isn’t for everyone. It scares a lot of people. That doesn’t make you a coward or anything.”
“I said I’m not scared!” Sehun’s voice echoes past the plastic barriers and around the station, making people stare.
Jongin grins, convinced his strategy has worked. “So that means you’re coming with us then?”
“I — “ Sehun cuts off, like he’s actually thinking about it. There’s something almost sad about Sehun’s face. Not like he’s about to start crying or anything, just some kind of veil of unhappiness that seems to have settled over each of the shadows cast on his face.
Sehun turns his head, nose and cheeks grabbing the light through the plastic overhead, and Kyungsoo realizes he’s wrong. More than anything else, Sehun looks lonely, and Kyungsoo kind of wants him to come with them so he can spend some time with people more like himself.
He tries to put something like this in his eyes, which he’s been told are like huge bay windows to his soul, and thinks he sees Sehun waver, mouth softening from its hard line.
“So what kind of quest is this anyway? You said something about a serpent?” he asks finally, and Chanyeol cheers, grinning widely and throwing his arm about Kyungsoo’s neck. Even Jongin is smiling wide enough to show his teeth.
Somehow, when they walk back onto the platform to board the train again as four instead of three, Kyungsoo feels like they’re finally starting out on the right foot.
“Aw crap,” Chanyeol says, when they’re met with empty train tracks, his voice full of a frown. “We missed our train.”
“Sometimes I forget that it’s weird that we never had dads to play catch with when we were little.” Chanyeol tosses his baseball up in the air and catches it when it comes back down, just before it smacks him in the face. The setting summer sun shines on his then-blond curls, making his head look as though it’s on fire. “That’s probably why I didn’t make the team in middle school,” he muses, and Kyungsoo doesn’t think he sounds upset, but Chanyeol’s father has always been a touchy subject. Parents usually were for kids like them.
“I thought you said a Chimera rampaged the field during your tryout,” Kyungsoo says, trying to change the subject. The sparring field is quiet now that practices are over for the day at Camp and the sun is slipping below the trees.
“Yeah, it burned the whole school stadium down, somehow. Must have been Greek fire to burn aluminum and brick.” Chanyeol laughs, remembering. “Anyway, that conversation with my principal was the last straw for my mom, so I decided to come here year-round.”
He throws the ball up again and has to reach out far to catch it, balancing on one leg and grinning at Kyungsoo when he manages to grab the ball with the tips of his leather-mitted fingers.
Kyungsoo scoffs. Hero reflexes — it’s not like they don’t all have them.
Chanyeol mutters to himself, “Ugh, I can never find a glove that fits my hand just right,” before going on. “School’s better here, though. Chiron gives a good history lesson and starts in on calculus early,” he glances over at Kyungsoo, mouth quirked in the way that signals he’s about to make a joke, “but there’s no modern literature to speak of. I feel like I’m missing out.”
When the ball comes down this time, Chanyeol has to bend back for it and loses his balance, flopping hard onto the grass with an oof!. The baseball plops into his mitt seconds later anyway and Chanyeol crows with triumph. His cheeks are flushed when he raises his head to look over to where Kyungsoo is sitting, picking at the grass with restless hands. He’d been designing all day and part of him is itching to get back to it, but he knows his brain works better when he gives it breaks like this.
“I wish I could go to school with you,” Chanyeol says, and Kyungsoo imagines Chanyeol wearing his school uniform, the tails of his shirt untucked and tie lost before second period, girls swooning as he passed them in the hallways because new senior Chanyeol Park is “such a babe!”
Kyungsoo is glad they don’t go to school together.
Chanyeol is still looking at him, propped up using his free arm as he cradles his glove in his lap. Sometimes Chanyeol does this, just studies Kyungsoo’s face like he’s trying to memorize it, like he hasn’t seen Kyungsoo in years.
“Kyungsoo,” Chanyeol starts, voice suddenly serious, and Kyungsoo swallows, “I — “
“It’s time for dinner, you two,” Jinah, one of Kris’ half-sisters, calls from the edge of the sparring field, cutting Chanyeol off, and Kyungsoo scrambles to his feet, tripping over them in his haste.
During dinner, Kyungsoo sits with his back to the Hermes table and tells himself the heat climbing up his spine is from the fire, and not from someone’s eyes.