lilcrickee: (One Direction)
[personal profile] lilcrickee
Title: Called Out in the Dark
Author: [personal profile] lilcrickee
Fandom: X-Factor 2010/Percy Jackson and the Olympians crossover
Characters/Pairings: Liam/Louis, implied Percy/Annabeth, Harry/Niall if you squint. Appearances from Nicolo Festa and various campers.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 7,600
Warnings: Potential spoiler alerts for Rick Riordan's books The Last Olympian and The Demigod Files. It is recommended that you are familiar with the series.
Author's Note: This was originally going to be my Secret Santa fic for [livejournal.com profile] sophi3g but then I found out that she wasn't familiar with the series and, well, I wrote an AU about snowboarding instead. Title is taken from Snow Patrol's song of the same title.
Summary: Liam wants to make Louis promise him, promise that they'll all come back and they won't have any battle scars, but he doesn't think he'll be able to handle it when Louis tells him he can't make promises he won't be able to keep.

i.

Liam has known he was a demigod since his thirteenth birthday when his dad finally told him the real reason why his mum was never around (it turns out she did not die in a car crash) and why he had problems with his school work and why he would be going away to summer camp that year.

In New York.

"But Dad!" Liam exclaims. He has lived at Harvard University his whole life with his father, who is a university physics professor, and does not enjoy the idea of spending his entire summer away from learning (he's so glad he's home schooled. So, so, glad). Liam especially does not enjoy the idea of New York City, with its hustle and bustle and smoggy air and all the stuck up kids that go to Columbia. No. Liam doesn't like that at all.

"No buts, Liam," his dad replies. "It's what your mum wants."

Liam thinks its weird to suddenly refer to his mother in the present tense instead of the past; after so many years of thinking she was dead, it's a bit strange to suddenly know she's alive and can therefore speak in such a manner.

"But it's not what I want," he mutters under his breath.

Two days later, Liam is on a flight to New York City.

"A man named Argus will pick you up at the airport," Liam's father assures him before they part at Liam's gate at Logan International Airport in Boston. "He'll be taking you to camp."

Liam says nothing. He is still not pleased about going to camp for the first semester of the new school year.

"Have a good time, kiddo," the professor says, clapping his son on the shoulder. There is a brief moment of eye contact and then Liam's father turns away and leaves his son standing in a queue with several strangers.

One hour later, Liam is standing on the curb outside of John F. Kennedy International Airport, looking for a man who might look like he's called Argus and can take him to a camp full of half-human half-godly children like himself. He's not completely sure what he should be looking out for, but he definitely is not expecting a teenager to come bouncing up to him and practically bowl him over.

"Whoa, whoa, hey!" Liam exclaims, attempting to push the boy off him and simultaneously swing his backpack at him. It doesn't go as well as he had planned and he ends up simply swinging in a circle as the other boy dodges out of the way. "What the heck was that for?"

"You're Liam, right?" the other boy asks. He looks older than Liam by at least a year and his chocolate brown hair looks light and feathery. Not that Liam notices those kinds of things about hair, no sirree. He's just making careful observations in case he needs to file for a restraining order against his attacker.

"What if I am?" Liam asks. He thinks maybe he's drowning a bit in the stranger's eyes, but when he realizes what he's thinking, he quickly shoves that thought away into the back of his filing cabinet (brain sounds too ordinary to Liam. Everything in his head is categorized and filed for easy findings later. He tried to explain this to his father once and all the professor had said was, "You can compartmentalize your thoughts but you can't read The Lord of the Rings. What has the world come to?"). If there's one thing that Liam does not get, it's embarrassed.

"I'm Louis!" the boy exclaims. He jerks his head over his shoulder and says, "Argus sent me to bring you to the van."

Alarm bells are starting to ring inside Liam's head. Van? Isn't that what all the kidnappers drive around in? But then he rationalizes and thinks that there probably aren't too many people named Argus in New York City, much less Arguses that would know his name.

"You're ... you're a demigod too?" he asks carefully. He's not sure how touchy the subject is for other people.

"Well of course I am," Louis chimes. "What kind of silly question is that? You think that I'd be here if I wasn't?"

Sometimes, Liam really wants to kick his filing cabinet over.

"Right, um, okay," he says instead, and follows Louis' chatter back to the van he had mentioned earlier. There's a man sitting in the driver's seat who does not say hello to Liam when he steps in, but he does wave.

And on his hand there is an eye staring back at Liam.

"What the-?" he begins, but Louis slaps a hand over Liam's mouth.

"Argus is a bit touchy on the subject of eyes," he mutters into Liam's ear, tickling it with his breath. "Don't mention it and try your best not to stare. Believe me, he'll know."

Somewhere in the drawer in Liam's filing cabinet labeled Greek Mythology, he recalls that Argus had once guarded Hera, Queen of the Gods. Surely this was not the same person as the legends? But then again, Liam didn't exactly know too many people who had eyes on their hands and ... was that one on the back of his neck? Liam blinked and turned his gaze out the window, remembering what Louis had said.

Liam likes to think he's a pretty reasonable and level-headed guy for a thirteen-year-old, but Camp Half-Blood throws him for a loop. Their activities director is a centaur named Chiron who has trained heroes like Hercules and Achilles. The camp director, head honcho, main man, is a god who was banished from Olympus for trying to woo an "off-limits" wood nymph. And there are satyrs running around on their goat legs, crunching tin cans and playing volleyball.

"Cool, eh?" Louis asks, nodding his head towards the scene in front of them. They're standing outside of the Big House towards the Long Island Sound. Between here and there, Liam can see a u-shaped formation of cabins (that are most definitely not ordinary camp cabins. Two of them look to be made out of solid silver and gold), an arena, a pavilion, and a climbing wall that appears to be spewing lava at the demigods attempting to climb up it.

"I guess," Liam replies. He's not really sure what else to say. Sure, it is cool, but it is also terrifying to the extreme. Liam is half tempted to turn around, get Argus to drive him back to the airport and get back to Harvard as fast as he can. But Louis flashes him a blinding smile and a part of Liam decides that he's going to like it here.


ii.

Liam is part of the Athena cabin, Louis tells him that first day. "Because that's who your mother is," he explains. "There's a cabin for each of the Olympians, except only some of them are lived in. And some of them aren't supposed to be lived in, but are." He shoots a glance at what appears to be the Poseidon cabin before leading Liam towards a long, low, grey coloured building. There's an owl carved over the door and Liam pulls out Athena's file and recalls that the owl is the goddess' symbol.

"You should talk to your cabin leader, Annabeth Chase. She'll help you out. But, Liam, if you need anything else, you can always come talk to me too," Louis says, and for the first time, Liam can detect a hint of uncertainty in the other boy's voice. "Just ask for Louis in the Hermes cabin," he continues, nodding his head towards a cabin across the way that surprises Liam by looking exactly the way it's supposed to: peeling brown paint, a bit run down, yet still very homey looking.

Liam suddenly realizes he's been leaving an awkward silence between them and Louis is starting to look anxious so Liam says, "No problem. Louis. Hermes cabin. Got it."

It turns out that Liam is very glad that Louis told him he could come find him if he had issues because while Annabeth is nice enough and she definitely knows what she's doing, she hardly ever seems to be around. If she's not on a quest that seems to last at least two weeks, she's hanging out with Percy Jackson, the only demigod living in the Poseidon cabin and apparently the hero of a prophecy that was supposed to either save or destroy Olympus.

"We just try to ignore it," Louis says one day, but whether he's talking about Annabeth and Percy's maybe relationship or their impending doom, Liam isn't sure.

Louis also introduces him to other people around the camp. There's Zayn from the Aphrodite cabin, who, despite being a little vain, is nice company. He tells Liam that being a demigod isn't that hard and that life at camp is pretty laid back, but Liam finds out pretty quickly that Zayn only thinks so because his whole cabin does almost nothing more than is actually required of them.

"You can't really listen to all of the advice Zayn gives on camp life," Harry from the Apollo cabin tells Liam as they battle one-on-one in the arena. Liam prefers a sword over other weapons and he's grateful for Harry helping him out, considering that Harry is a star archer and not a swordsman (Liam thinks it's unfair that Harry still manages to beat him every single time because really, you shouldn't be allowed to be good at everything and be as pretty as Harry is). "The Aphrodite cabin tends to practice as much as they need to and then lounge around the rest of the time."

Despite all that though, Liam finds friends within Zayn and Harry and Louis and it makes being away from Harvard a lot easier.


iii.

Liam celebrates his fourteenth birthday at Camp Half-Blood with his family and friends.

"You're lucky you've lived this long," Louis jokes, slinging an arm over Liam's shoulder. Liam blushes slightly. This isn't the first time that he's found himself flushing at Louis words or his touch, but he puts it off to be the feeling of being accepted by someone he could consider as an older brother of sorts. That's most definitely it. It's not because Liam maybe has a crush on Louis. No. It's not that at all.

"Don't scare him," one of Liam's sisters, Nicole, says. "Liam's going to live for a very long time. He's definitely one of the smartest guys I've ever met."

Liam doesn't want to tell Nicole that it's because, unlike most of his siblings (who are all incredibly smart, he was pleased to find out when he first met them all), he can file information away efficiently in his mind and he does everything the way he's supposed to. If he couldn't be a model student (it turns out that all demigods are dyslexic and that was the reason why Liam struggled so much during school. Now he's considered practically a genius because he can read at least three large volumes a day in Ancient Greek) then he'll be a model hero.

"Nah, our Liam doesn't get scared," Zayn jokes. His arm criss-crosses with Louis's over Liam's back and Liam starts to feel his shoulders ache. "He doesn't have a big enough emotional range to get scared."

If Liam really does have a tiny emotional range, Zayn's words have definitely hit something that is within his spectrum. He's a little surprised to feel tears prickling at the corners of his eyes and he ducks out from under his friends' arms, muttering something about getting more Diet Coke.

He finds himself down at one the beach instead, staring out over the water. Liam's always known he's pretty much the most socially awkward teenager to ever walk the face of the earth, but he didn't think that was as robotic as R2-D2.

"Hey, Li!" Louis comes bounding up behind Liam, sending sand flying everywhere. Liam ducks his head automatically, his hand flying to his head. Louis laughs. "What're you doing down here?" he asks as Liam continues to comb sand out of his carefully straightened hair. "You're missing your own party."

"Just needed to get away," Liam replies vaguely, disappointed by the sound of his own quivering voice. He can tell that Louis is glancing at him carefully, but he turns away and tries to inconspicuously wipe his eyes on the back of his sleeve.

"Oh, Li," Louis says suddenly, wrapping an arm around Liam's waist. Liam tenses slightly but Louis spins him around and pulls him into a proper hug. "You don't really believe what Zayn said, do you?"

"What am I supposed to do?" Liam whines. "It's true, isn't it? I'm like a robot. All I do is work, work, work. No wonder Zayn hates me."

"Watchu talking about, Fuzzy Duck?" Louis asks. It's a stupid nickname he came up with for Liam not long after he arrived at camp the previous year, something about owls being all noble and Liam hadn't actually grown into those wings yet or something. "Zayn loves you as much as Harry and I do. He just has a hard time showing it sometimes."

Liam carefully takes Louis words and files them away into the cabinet he keeps locked up tight behind all the others, the one where he puts all the things Louis has said or done to make him feel special and normal and appreciated. The one that no one else is ever, ever, ever, going to find out about.

"But he is right," Liam says. He pulls himself back from Louis' embrace so he can look the older boy in the eyes. Despite the short amount of time that has passed since the day that Liam first met Louis outside of John F. Kennedy Airport, Louis already looks a little different. At fifteen, he's grown a little taller, his brown hair is unruly, and his face is starting to develop angles. The only thing that remains unchanging are the colour of his eyes and the mischievous grin that all of Hermes's children seem to have. "I'm a bit boring, aren't I? How can you guys stand hanging out with me?"

"Harry says he's just hoping to get you out of your shell one day," Louis replies with a laugh. "He used to be a bit like you when he first got here, but that was because he was unclaimed. We spent a fair amount of time together in the Hermes cabin before Apollo finally remembered him and claimed him in the middle of one of Harry's runs up the climbing wall. Poor boy almost fell off."

There's a small pang of jealousy in Liam's stomach, even though there's a three year age gap between Louis and Harry and Harry loves chatting up all of Zayns' sisters. The thought that the two of them spent time together before Liam was even in the picture was a little heartbreaking for him.

"... but hey, Li," Louis continues, and Liam realizes he's been tuned out of the conversation for a while now. "How about you help my siblings and I with a prank this week? With your brains, I'm sure we can think up something fantastic."


iv.

Ultimately, Liam is not really sure if the prank he came up with was fantastic. Judging by the looks of Louis's cabin leaders, Conner and Travis Stoll, things could've ended better.

"Oh, come on, Li," Harry says to him later. The four of them are lounging on the dock in the fading September sunlight. Liam's going home in two days. "It was pretty funny watching all the Aphrodite kids fighting over that mango."

"It wasn't that funny," Zayn grumbles. He's holding an ice pack to his cheek over a large purple bruise from one of his brothers. "What's funnier is when we cursed Conner's clothes to be two sizes too small for his body."

"Or the permanent make up you put on Travis?" Harry asks with a giggle.

"Exactly."

Liam is lying with his feet dangling in the water. Every once in a while he can feel a naiad tickling at his toes and it pulls the corners of his mouth up into a smile. For the first time ever, Liam doesn't want to go back to Harvard for the school year.

"Hey, Fuzzy Duck." Liam turns his head to catch Louis' eye. "You had fun, right?"

Liam pauses to ponder the question. He remembers sitting in the Hermes cabin with all of Louis' brothers and sisters and all the unclaimed demigods and explaining the story of Eris and her Golden Apple of Discord. "If you take a golden apple and put it in front of the Aphrodite cabin with, 'for the most attractive' on it, they'll all fight over it for a while. And we all know how those fights go." The entire cabin had twittered about it incessantly while Conner and Travis had run off in search of an apple and some spray paint. Instead, all they had found was a mango and had scrawled on “for the hottest”.

And that was how all the shoes and tubes of lipstick had been scattered around the grass in front of the cabins and all of Aphrodite's children had bandages and bruises and missing chunks of hair (Zayn had been spared of the hair pulling).

"I guess I did," Liam answers, finally, and Louis smiles. He leans over and kisses Liam's forehead and goes back to kicking water at Harry, as if nothing had happened at all.


v.

The following summer, Liam is sent to the airport to retrieve a demigod, much the same way that Louis was sent to retrieve him.

Initially, Liam hadn't wanted the job, said he wasn't outgoing and charming like Louis or Harry or a conversationalist like Zayn. He was just Liam, a son of Athena who had a hard time talking to anyone and who had only just decided that maybe he liked boys more than he should.

"Ah, you'll do fine, Li," Harry says before Liam leaves that morning. "Aren't you children of Athena supposed to always have a strategy or something?"

"That's just Annabeth," Liam replies around his bran muffin. "I'm just one of those people that knows a lot of things." Like string theory and the probability of discovering time travel in the next two hundred and fifty years and how to hack a computer in under four minutes.

"Well, just pretend that picking up people at the airport to bring them to a camp that trains you to not get killed in the real world is something that you already know," Zayn suggests.

Looking back on it, Liam decides that the logic behind Zayn's idea was sound; he just wasn’t very good at applying said logic. He stands, nervous and fidgety, inside the arrivals claim holding a sign that says Niall Horan on it and hopes that someone will come claim him soon so that he doesn't have to look like a dork for too much longer.

Suddenly, there's a boy, about his age, standing in front of him. He's got blonde hair and a crooked grin and sparkling blue eyes, and despite how happy he looks, Liam knows. Liam remembers coming off that plane from Boston two years ago and how nervous and stupid he felt, knowing he was supposed to be going to camp for a whole semester. This boy, Niall, was going to be a year-rounder.

"Niall, right?" Liam asks, just to clarify.

"That's me," the boy replies. There's an older boy that comes up behind him and Liam recognizes him as a satyr from camp. Nicolo or something.

"Right, then," Liam says. "Do you have more bags or anything?"

"Already got them," Nicolo grumbles. "Let's get out of here."

Liam knows that Nicolo is worried about monsters and getting jumped because that's what all satyrs are worried about, but when they get back to the van, Nicolo is practically shaking out of his fake boots.

"Are you okay?" Liam mutters under his breath, as the satyr all but throws Niall into the van.

"No," Nicole mutters. "Just get in the van." Liam does as he's told and Nicolo slams the door shut behind him and jumps in the front seat. "Hit it," he tells Argus and not two seconds later the whole van shakes ridiculously as its rammed from behind.

"What was that?" Niall asks. "Did someone just rear end us?" Liam doesn't want to find out though and Argus steps on the gas, speeding out of the parking lot as fast as possible. Niall sticks his head out of the window and pulls it back in a moment later, his face as white as a sheet.

"Was that a lion in the middle of Queens?" he asks.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Liam mutters back, pressing a hand to his face. He can feel Argus speed up so that they're going twenty miles over the speed limit, but he doesn't care.


vi.

They make bets to see when Niall will be claimed, and then to top it off, they make bets to see who would claim him.

"End of the summer," Louis says. "After Liam's birthday but before he leaves."

"You think it'll be that late?" Harry asks.

"Hey, there are kids in my cabin that have been here longer than I have but aren't my actual siblings. Niall'll be lucky to get claimed by the end of the summer."

They never tell Niall, but the summer ticks on and soon Zayn's deadline has passed and then Liam's and then Harry's. Louis' the only one that has a chance at their original bet, but none of them can deny the fact that their doubts are starting to creep up on them.

"Do you guys think I'll ever get claimed?" Niall asks one night. They're all cuddled up on the dock for Liam's fifteenth birthday party (with Percy Jackson's sixteenth birthday approaching fast and therefore, the potential end of the world, the five of them are borderlining co-dependency this summer and personal space has sort of been thrown out the window) and Liam can hear Niall's racing heart under his ear.

"Course you will," Harry says, carding his hand through Niall's hair. They don't say any more because there really isn't too much more they can offer; Niall had been adopted since birth. There was no way they could speculate where he got his godly genes from. "Someday, all of the unclaimed half-bloods will all have a place here, whether it's just a simple claiming or a cabin of their own."

Underneath the blankets they've managed to pile on top of each other, Louis squeezes Liam's hand and Liam feels the butterflies flap restlessly in his stomach.

"Everything'll be different next summer, won't it?" Zayn asks suddenly from Harry's other side, and Liam squeezes Louis' hand back. The idea of next summer makes Liam's stomach churn because he knows that the Great Prophecy will come true and the war will happen and they're sixteen, fifteen and fourteen years old. They can't go into battle, can they?

"It'll be different, but it'll be okay," Louis declares, like it's a promise. "We'll all be okay."

"I'll hold you to it," Zayn replies.

They fall asleep under the stars, tangled up with each other, but all Liam can feel is Louis' hand in his.


vii.

The following summer comes up way faster than Liam would have liked and suddenly the entire camp (besides the Ares cabin) is out in the sleeping streets of Manhattan trying to defend the city.

"What is our life?" Zayn inquires, giving Liam a hug before they depart from camp.

"I dunno, mate," Niall replies. He's twined his fingers with Harry's and the younger boy looks like he's somewhere between bliss and a total freakout. "But better live it up because ..." he trails off and Liam knows why: he doesn't want to say that one or more of them wont make it back even though the odds are most definitely not in their favour.

"Boys, boys," Louis says, slinging an arm over Liam's shoulders. "Everything is going to be fine. Just you wait."

Liam wants to make Louis promise him, promise that they'll all come back and they won't have any battle scars, but he doesn't think he'll be able to handle it when Louis tells him he can't make promises he won't be able to keep.

They end up sprawled all over the east coast of Manhattan, defending different entryways to the island. Liam's out on the 59th Street Bridge with the rest of the Athena cabin and they’re battling a group of Kronos's demigod soldiers when he feels a tug in his gut. It's a twisting, churning feeling and it would make Liam double over if it didn't mean he'd get his head chopped off by one of his own brothers that switched to the Dark Side. He's got about ten seconds to decide which of the other entrances to the island he needs to be at before slashing his way through the enemy and taking off towards the Brooklyn Bridge, which is naturally the farthest place away from where Liam's at at the moment.

"Liam!" he hears his brother Malcolm call, but Liam can only think of which cabin was sent to the Brooklyn Bridge and which of his friends just might be in mortal danger.

"Louis," Liam says out loud to himself, the feeling in his stomach turning into a sinking feeling. The Hermes cabin had split their ranks and headed off in different directions and Liam knew that Louis had gone to the Brooklyn Bridge, gone too far away from Liam.

And then Liam realizes that he knew Louis was in trouble because of a gut feeling, so did that mean that he could communicate with the others too? It gives Liam an idea as he runs along the empty streets of Brooklyn towards the Queens-Midtown Tunnel where he knows Zayn is.

I need a pegasus, I need a pegasus, I need a pegasus, Liam thinks, projecting his thoughts as far as he can, which might not be that far. The thing about having a filing cabinet for a brain means that you're a pretty narrow-minded person, but Liam likes to think that since he found out he was a demigod, that changed a bit. Send me a flying horse, Zayn. I need it.

Fifteen minutes later, as Liam's running down Queen Plaza Street, he's almost crushed by a pegasus with faulty landing gear.

"Could've sent me a better one," Liam mumbles, but he's shaking when he climbs aboard the mythological animal and kicks it into gear. Whether he's unsteady from nerves or the odd feeling in his stomach again, Liam really isn't sure, so he swallows it down and navigates his way towards the battle that's taking place on the Brooklyn Bridge.

His pegasus drops him off in the middle of a fight and Liam lands on the top of some snake monster creature, which he promptly stabs with his sword. The kid that had previously been battling the monster gives Liam a hurried smile before running off to help one of his siblings. Liam takes the moment to look around for Louis.

For a second, Liam is seriously confused when he sees that Louis is alive and well, battling some kid that had once been a friend of theirs from the Demeter cabin. The feeling in his stomach has intensified and Liam's just about to tear his eyes away from the scene when something catches his eye. A second kid, someone that Liam has never seen before and therefore presumably the child of a minor godling, is creeping towards Louis' turned back. It's an ambush, and Liam can clearly see how it's going to end.

"Louis!" Liam shouts. He's sure that his friend doesn't hear him, but he doesn't care. Liam runs forward, ducking and weaving through battles until he's barrelling into the ninja attacker, taking them both down on the asphalt.

And that's when Liam gets stabbed.


viii.

"It's bad, Harry. It's really, really, bad."

"I can see that, Louis. Just shut up for a minute, 'kay? I'm doing my best."

Even though Liam's half unconscious, he can tell that Louis is biting back, what if your best isn't good enough?

Cool hands touch Liam's bare side and he inhales sharply, his eyes whipping open and the world sliding into focus. There's a brief moment where Liam wonders where he is before he feels the sharp stabs of pain somewhere near his stomach and he cries out involuntarily.

"Liam!" Louis exclaims. "You're alive! I thought you were ..." He doesn't finish the sentence, his voice choking and dying in his throat.

"Hurts," Liam mumbles, screwing his eyes closed. The lights above him seem a little too bright now, the voices around him a little too loud. Each breath feels like a struggle and he wants nothing more than to slip into sleep.

"Don't fall asleep on me, Liam," someone says, and Liam realizes it's Harry who has his hands pressed into Liam's side, Harry with his healing powers inherited from his father, Apollo. "Louis, distract him or something. Keep him awake. If he falls unconscious ..." He grunts instead of finishing the sentence and Liam feels a sharp stab of pain in his side before a strange tingling sensation. He gasps again and Louis is by his side in an instant.

"Hey, Fuzzy Duck," he coos, placing a hand on Liam's sweaty forehead. Louis's eyes look like they're a million miles away and Liam inhales another shuddering breath. "Remember last summer? Remember all the fun we had?"

Liam nods slowly. It's a memory that seems to be frayed at the edges as he pulls it out of the filing cabinet, like maybe someone came and dumped water on all his precious documents. He tries hard to piece together what's left, but it's hard.

"That's my favourite summer," Louis whispers, like it's a secret, like Harry isn't right there trying to keep Liam alive for a summer after this one. "That's when I realized that I had so much to lose this summer. So you can't go and die on me, okay? You're Liam. You've got freaky super brain powers and curly hair in the rain and you keep the rest of us sensible and sane. You're so special, Liam. You've got to hold on."

"Louis," Harry warns, his voice sounding strained. Liam closes his eyes for a moment and pictures Harry's face, his eyes closed tightly and his nose crinkling as he concentrates hard. "Louis, don't let him-"

Liam doesn't hear what Harry has to say after that because he slips into a sleep that his brain, his actual brain and not his filing cabinets, tells him he might not wake up from.

(He does hear, as if from far, far away, Louis and Harry shouting angrily at each other and Harry groaning just slightly from the effort of saving Liam and then there are more voices and Liam feels like maybe he won't be visiting Hades prematurely after all.)


ix.

The next time Liam opens his eyes he's back at Camp Half-Blood. He can just tell. The walls around him are somewhat familiar and the faint smell of strawberries makes him feel like he's at home.

Home. For the longest time, Liam used to think of Harvard University as being his home, with the quad and the classrooms and the library and the dorm rooms and all the older kids that Liam wanted so desperately to be like. Now home is a training arena and a climbing wall and the Long Island Sound and Niall, Zayn, Harry, and Louis.

The thought of his friends makes Liam sit up, faster than he wants to, and he immediately leans over the side of his bed and vomits onto the hardwood floor.

"Oh dear."

Liam looks up to see Chiron standing in the doorway. Despite the look of exasperation on his features, the activities director looks relieved to see Liam looking, well, alive.

"I told Niall he could go for lunch because I hadn't really expected you to wake up," Chiron explains. "Not that I didn't think you weren't, Liam. I just ... I didn't think it would be today."

Liam desperately wants to say something, to ask how long he’s been unconscious and what happened with the war. Well, clearly they won because the world doesn’t seem to be in some state of destruction, but Liam wants details. His entire file cabinet is a locker full of juicy tidbits that’s craving more information.

“What-?” Liam starts, but he’s interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Hey, Chiron, have you tried the cream puffs in the dining hall? They’re seriously the best things I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something. You know how much I love a burrito,” Niall rambles as he saunters into the room. He’s got a plate of cream puffs and a sandwich in one hand and a cup of Coca Cola in the other. When he sees Liam, awake and sitting up, both tumble to the floor and Niall throws himself onto the bed.

“Liam!” he exclaims and he’s laughing, bubbly and bright and it just fills Liam with something he didn’t know he had been missing. He giggles too, throwing his arms around Niall in a hug and they fall back against the pillows.

“Liam, we’ve been so worried,” Niall says breathlessly, his blue eyes shining. “Zayn thought that maybe you’d just … well, that you’d just never wake up, but Louis always beat him up in the arena when he said things like that.” Niall begins chattering again, telling Liam about how each of the boys has been spending a day at his bedside, waiting for something miraculous to happen. As he talks, Liam watches Chiron clop out of the room, and ten minutes later the sound of three other familiar voices float into the room.

The whole ordeal feels like a multitude of flashing colours and shouting voices and people touching him and hugging him and ruffling his no doubt extremely curly hair. There’s laughter and smiles and somewhere underneath it all is relief. Relief that Liam’s awake, relief that he’s laughing, but mostly, relief that he’s alive.

“So, what happened, exactly?” Liam asks once Louis, Zayn, and Harry have all calmed down enough to cram themselves onto the bed with Niall and Liam. It’s a tight squeeze, and Liam finds himself sandwiched between Louis, who’s resting against the headboard, and Harry, who’s weight is comfortable on Liam’s chest, while Niall and Zayn squeeze onto the foot of the bed.

Even though he can’t see it, he knows Harry grimaces. “Well,” the younger boy says, matter-of-factly. “You left your battle station to go to the Brooklyn Bridge where Louis was, and then you got stabbed.”

Liam rolls his eyes. “I know that, thanks,” he says, and Harry giggles.

“After that,” Louis interrupts, “I dragged you out of the battle. You were pretty bad, mate. Got stabbed right here.” He ghosts his hand over a spot on Liam’s left side, just off of his stomach. “Didn’t think you were going to make it.”

“But then I showed up,” Zayn chimes in. “After I sent that Pegasus I came to see if things were alright. After I found you and Louis, we took off to the base camp where we met up with Harry.”

Liam nods as he pulls a folder out of his filing cabinet and recalls the moment when Louis might have professed his undying love for him (so maybe Liam was reading between the lines a little. He thinks he deserves some slack considering he was dying at the time). “I remember that,” he says quietly. “I remember talking to Louis.”

“Right,” Harry says, taking control of the story again. “There wasn’t much help back at base so we were trying to keep you alive long enough for some of my siblings to come, but you were so far gone, Liam. We had to remove on of your kidneys it was so damaged. No offense, buddy, but it was gross. I can tell you, I’m not becoming a doctor.”

It’s here that Liam tunes out, ignores the bickering between Niall and Harry about career choices if they live that long, and contemplates what Harry had said. Removed a kidney. They had removed a kidney. One whole organ from Liam’s body. His fingers fall unconsciously to the spot on body where he knows the kidney should be, but all he finds are Louis’s fingers, still spread wide across Liam’s side.

So he tangles them together, feels Louis sigh against his hair, and thinks that maybe, missing a kidney is alright if it means that Louis will keep his hand there to fill the empty void in him.


x.

Liam eventually finds out that he had been unconscious for a week. One whole week of missing the celebrations of victory and rebuilding of Olympus.

“Trust me, mate, you haven’t missed much,” Louis tells him one day. Liam’s still stuck in the infirmary, propped up on mountains of pillows as he sips at a cup of orange juice. Louis is flipping through a magazine, something a satyr had picked up for Liam. “The whole rebuilding thing is just going to take ages. I mean, Annabeth is still in the process of getting all the blueprints right. She’s so picky. No wonder only Percy can stand her …” He rambles on and on and Liam stays silent because, what else is he supposed to say? It’s not like he has any of his own experiences to share with Louis. Not much happens when you’re confined to bed with nothing but magazines and orange juice after visiting hours are over.

But one day, Louis comes into the infirmary and is absolutely silent. He sits in his chair, keeps his feet flat on the floor, and stares at Liam over folded hands. It makes Liam uncomfortable, to be analyzed so closely by someone that is not from the Apollo cabin checking on his bandages and medical stuff, so he says, “Erm, do I have something on my face?”

Louis shakes his head slowly, his eyes still trained on Liam, who fidgets even more.

“Then what is it?” he asks. “What’s wrong?”

“I was just wondering,” Louis says after a pause, “how you knew I was going to be in trouble that day on the Brooklyn Bridge. And how you managed to get Zayn to send you a pegasus without calling him or something.”

To be honest, Liam’s not really sure why this was never brought up sooner and he’s spent more nights than not trying to think of a plausible answer to the question, but really, he can’t. There’s nothing on this side of logic that makes sense.

But then again, he is living in a world where the entire city of New York was put to sleep by a five thousand year old God and was then defended by a couple hundred teenagers brandishing swords around. Liam threw out his concept of logic a long time ago.

“I think-” Liam starts, but then quickly waves away he words, looking for a better start. “I don’t know, Louis. And that’s the honest truth. It was just … it was a gut feeling, really. And when I just thought about it long enough, I knew it was you. Same thing with the pegasus from Zayn. I just … I called out for him to send me one and he did.” It’s more words than Liam’s said in almost a day and he’s disappointed to find that he’s already out of breath.

Louis nods, like it all makes sense, and says, “Yeah, okay, Liam.”

Liam looks at Louis incredulously. “What, you don’t believe me?” he asks.

Louis shrugs. “No, I do,” he says thoughtfully. “I just … I was kind of hoping …” He trails off and Liam stares, waiting for his friend to continue.

“Yeah?”

“... I was just kind of hoping that it was maybesomethingbetweenyouandme.” Louis rushes the end of the sentence and Liam pauses a moment to consider his words. “Just us?” he asks finally.

A flush spreads up Louis’ neck to his cheeks and Liam tucks this memory away into Louis’ personal filing cabinet because Louis never blushes. Liam considers it an accomplishment that he brought it out.

“I mean,” Louis begins, “I love the other boys for sure. I’ve known them all since they’ve been here, but … I love you the most, Liam.” There’s a sober expression on Louis’ face, but it quickly breaks into a smile when he says, “But you can’t tell the others, of course. Don’t want them getting jealous.” He winks and Liam laughs because he’s not really sure what else to do. His stomach feels like it’s turning somersaults and the place where his kidney used to be throbs oddly.

“Okay,” is all Liam says when he’s calmed down a little. He flops back into the pillows, missing Louis’ eye, preferring to examine the cracking ceiling above his bed.

“Hey, Fuzzy Duck.”

Liam looks up when the bed dips on one side and Louis has crawled onto it so he’s looming over Liam, his hair hanging awkwardly away from his face.

“I don’t think you get it,” Louis says.

“What’s there to get?” Liam asks. Louis shuffles closer and Liam winces as he’s shifted because it sends a slice of pain up his stab wound. He tries to turn his grimace into a smile, but Louis catches it and carefully runs a hand through Liam’s tangled curls. His hand trails slowly down to cup Liam’s cheek and before Liam can really process what’s happening, Louis’s lips are on his and everything feels a lot better.

(Liam files away this memory carefully because for as long as he lives -and that may not be very long considering he’s a demigod- he is never telling Louis that this is his first kiss.)

“Oh,” Liam says when Louis pulls away, a grin stretching practically from ear to ear.

“Do you get it now, Fuzzy Duck?” Louis asks with a laugh. Liam nods. “Good,” Louis continues, “because I know for a fact that one of the Demeter girls has taken a liking to you so now I can officially say you’re off the market.”

Off the market. It sounds funny to Liam’s ears.

“Do the others know?” he asks, his head finally catching up with the conversation.

Louis shakes his head. “Nah, but I’ll go tell ‘em right now, if you want. In fact, that’ll be a great idea. Throw Harry off when he’s out to beat my climbing wall record.” He makes to bounce off the bed and head out the door, but Liam grabs Louis’ wrist, stopping him.

“Or you could wait a little longer …?” Liam suggests hesitantly. For the first time he wishes he were a little more like Zayn and had a natural ability with people, but Louis just grins at him and snuggles close to Liam. It’s a tight squeeze on the tiny bed, but Liam doesn’t mind. He doesn’t really mind anything that much as long as it has to do with Louis.


BONUS:

(Niall is claimed by Poseidon two weeks later and it throws the whole camp into an uproar because, well, the great prophecy could have been about Niall instead. The camp has more games of Capture the Flag than is strictly healthy and Niall goes on a quest with Harry and a satyr, but that’s another story for another time.)   

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