Chapter 12: Whomst are these "parents" you speak of?
AN: Season 2 Episode 12 Parent's Day
Max didn't even know why he bothered showing up to the daily meeting in front of the mess hall. It's not like he didn't know what was going on today.
There just wasn't a point in celebrating a day dedicated to people who wouldn't bother to show up.
"Well, you losers enjoy your family bonding, because there's no way my folks are coming," He said, shaking off the emotional numbness that always accompanied that revelation. He smirked as he mapped out how his day was going to go, considering he'd be the only camper free. "Guess I get to kick back and relax. Maybe I'll just order a pizza."
Half-way through typing in "Sleep Peak Pizza Bros" number on David's phone, Max felt a familiar crawling sensation beneath his skin and tightened his grip on his power.
Cameron was back from his jaunt in Russia, and Max had to once again suffer the legacy's presence at his camp.
He tuned back into the conversation as soon as Cameron grabbed David by his handkerchief. Max's eyes narrowed at the sight. He might not be able to gather much on David without serious backlash, but constant observation has clued Max in on the fact that the red-head only seems to get hurt whenever he injures himself or when a person with divine blood aims to harm him. No matter how diluted his blood, Cameron falls within that second category.
So Cameron had better be careful how he handle's Max's counselor.
"But there can't be a Parents' Day. Because if there's a Parents' Day, then all the parents will find out that they didn't send their kid to whatever stupid camp they thought they sent their kid to!"
Max honestly doesn't know why Cameron is freaking out so much. While he doesn't think what the campers have "learned" is great enough to warrant a literal presentation to their parents, Max won't deny how well David does his job.
Despite being in charge of protecting, providing for, and generally corralling ten semi-divine campers and dealing with the significantly more than usual escapades and adventures split among them, David found some way to offer and provide solo lessons with almost every camper along with the daily group activities that either focus on a specific camper's camp, or whatever camp suited David's fancy that day. The only reason Max hasn't been caught and taught is because he's been avoiding David anytime he came Max's way with that "teacher" look in his eyes (which, now that he thinks about it, may be David's roundabout way of teaching him anyway, considering the significant spike in Max's ability to read people, situations, and evade capture. Max would be mad if it wasn't so well executed.)
The changes weren't drastic, but they were there. Harrison's control, while not perfect, was leagues above where he was at the start of camp. Preston at least writes down his play ideas before dragging away a camper or four to act it out instead of assuming everyone already knew what he wanted. Dolph has learned of and become proficient in at least 2 new art styles, and has recently branched out into sculpting. Even Ered had learned something new, and was no longer at such a great risk of ending up in an early grave from falling incorrectly and breaking her neck on those ridiculous halfpipes.
Max would tell Cameron to have more faith in the counselors he hired, but the boy already knows the conman's priorities. It wouldn't be worth the breath wasted trying to explain all of this.
Instead, Max let himself into the mess hall as the bus filled with parents who were godly and parents who were mundane pulled up. Max would just sit back and watch this event collapse in on itself.
Max felt like it was the first day of camp all over again. So much to gather, yet so little interest in anything that was actually happening.
Harrison's parents were staying a minimum of two feet away from their son, which Max could totally understand based on the magician's previous level of control prior to coming to camp. A quick glance at them both revealed that they'd tried everything from counseling to electrotherapy to get rid of the boy's abilities, to no avail. While they are obviously terrified of him and could no longer mask that fear, Max has to give Harrison's parents a little credit, especially his stepmother. They still love him and haven't abandoned him, even if they have no clue what to do with a Godling they don't even realize is a Godling.
Mrs. Nurfington has a personal escort in the form of Officer Sal of the Sleepy Peak Police Department, a legacy of Athena who was just strong enough to wrangle the relatively calm daughter of Ares. Mrs. Nurfington's criminal record, while extensive, is quite tame compared to other children of Ares. Especially since most of what she's in for right now was done in defense of her son from her now ex-husband.
Nerris's parents appear the most normal of the bunch, for all that her father Samuel is a famous author and child of Mnemosyne. Looking over at the fond yet exasperated look on Lina's face, Max knew exactly where that stability and normality was coming from. Max was happy for them, he guesses.
Before he had the chance to gather more on these new targets, Max's concentration was broken by a familiar teal blur fly through the air, heading straight towards…
Ouch. Seems like Nikki mistook Neil's dad for Neil himself. How she could ever do that was beyond him, but at least Neil has built up a tolerance to Nikki's flying kicks and has the added benefit of being part god. Carl, on the other hand, is 100% mortal and thus easily broken if not treated with care. Neil obviously still cares for his father, despite his insistence of the opposite, so the boy probably wouldn't take too kindly to Pan's daughter breaking his father's spine while roughhousing.
Nikki must have noticed right before her hand made contact, though, because Carl was still standing. Although, he will very likely walk out of camp with nasty bruise on his back.
Candy (real name being Candace, he gathered) was as wild as the God she birthed Nikki for. Max turned away before he could gather any more, because her… promiscuous lifestyle was definitely not something he wanted to know about. Especially with the way she was eyeing up Neil's dad.
Max turned away just in time to see Ered's dads not-so-subtely threaten Cameron, much to Max's glee. A gone con artist is a good con artist, in Max's opinion. Especially that con artist. Cameron is very much overstaying his welcome again.
Did Max mention how much he hates Cameron Campbell?
"Until this one's parents get here, you three are going to be the perfect, nuclear family. Got it?!"
Max never thought he'd empathize with Gwen on such a fundamental level. David, like always, didn't seem to bother reading the room and instead wrapped his new "family" in one of his signature bear hugs.
Between this, Cameron's continued presence, and several older Godlings walking around freely on Max's campgrounds, Max's hold on his powers is waning by the second.
"We're gonna have so much fun! Family~"
Max felt rage, frustration, and disgust when David uttered that word. Family. He said it like the word had actual meaning. Maybe it did, for other kids. But not for Max. All he ever thought of when he heard that word was a sparse, cold bedroom, a worn stuffed bear, and yelling down the hall. All he saw were a pair of forced smiles as he trudged his way onto a clunky yellow bus, and a pair of backs already turned before the doors had even shut.
Max's peaceful, lazy day was resoundly ruined.
Max doesn't understand why Gwen and David are acting like this. It's not like this is the first time he'd collapsed a space themed construct on top of Space Kid's head. Max is honestly surprised Gwen didn't call David out after that "mother" comment. He was 99.9% certain those two had ZERO interest in each other, so why was she so dedicated to this "family" shit?
At least the story of "Two Neils and an Aldrin" that was playing out in front of him was a great distraction.
"You're lucky that I'd never hit a woman. There's no greater crime than faking a moon landing!"
"David helped too." Max replied.
Watching David black out instantly from Buzz Aldrin's punch promptly reminded Max that Mr. Aldrin, too, was a descendant of Astraeus. Mentally rewinding the sequence of events, Max found himself more amused than upset at David's plight, and saluted the astronaut. Maybe that punch would be enough blunt force trauma to knock some sense into David. Though, Max honestly doubted it.
Max now understood why Preston had a tendency to speak louder than a tornado siren. Being raised by his grandmother after his father left to chase stardom did nothing to quiet his naturally exuberant personality, especially after the older woman's hearing started declining. That didn't mean Max disliked his yelling any less, though. So… mashed potatoes to the head it was. If he missed his initial target and hit "Gram Gram" instead, well… it's not like she noticed or cared anyway.
Feeling his spoon get snatched out of his hand, Max turned sharply to glare at the cause.
"Damn it, Max! Would you quit being such a shit today?" Gwen said, her teeth grinding in that way that said she was resisting the urge to chew her nails.
Max was not in the mood to deal with this. "What are you gonna do, 'mom'? Send me to a summer camp where you don't have to deal with me?" He bit back.
The instant he said it, Max wanted to take it back. Yes, Max would joke about how horrible his parents were and how much he hated them, but what he'd just said hit a bit too close to home.
And who should walk in at that moment, oblivious as ever, but David. The man was fully committed to this "family" act, and Max couldn't help but wonder if this was all just an act to please Cameron, or if there was some part of David that yearned for a family. Max hadn't been able to gather anything on the man's parents, after all.
Gaslighting, victim blaming, and guilt tripping were manipulation 101, in Max's opinion. Listening in on Cameron's little "chat" with David only proved to Max how powerful those tools were.
It's no wonder Cameron has been able to keep David under his thumb for so long if this is how most of their conversations go. The hero worship does absolutely nothing to help, either.
As Cameron stalked away angrily, Max ignored David's attempts to hype up his "family."
It wasn't like Max was going to have to actually do anything. The rest of the campers were so chaotic, they'd fuck this little presentation up for sure.
Max felt his world begin to crumble after the disastrous conclusion of Preston's "play." Other than the aforementioned disaster, this night was going well. Which was the exact opposite of what Max had wanted.
His head felt like it was underwater. He could barely hear Cameron yelling at David again.
By the time Cameron stalked away once again, Max had regained enough composure to put on a frustrated face and argue with his idiot of a counselor.
"I don't want to do this!" He yelled, hoping to all the gods that David would listen to the desperate plea of a child forced to do something they didn't want to. That his anger could protect him from acknowledging the truth he always said, but never truly meant.
"Max, that is it! I am fed up with your bad attitude! Why do you have to bring everyone else down instead of trying just a little bit to have fun?" David didn't even register Gwen's presence as he grabbed the clipboard, "Now, let's all put on a happy face, go out there and show everyone just how great you are at- um. Wait…"
And there it was. The final cord snapped, and the truth sunk in. He'd staved off this pain with jokes and cynicism for years now. But this stupid camp had broken so many of his walls that Max just didn't have the strength to pretend it didn't bother him anymore. He'd known for years, but it wasn't until Max saw that look in David's eyes, when the realization hit, that Max could accept this truth for what it was.
"I told you. They didn't care."
And, as if uttering these words took every ounce of strength he had, Max sat on the floor and cushioned his head in his arms.
Max was tired.
Max was numb as Gwen's gentle hand guided him to the campmobile. His mind barely registered the rumbling of the engine, or the softness of the worn blanket that found its way around his shoulders.
When Max came back to himself, he was seated in a booth, the smell of tomato sauce and cheese wafting around him. The diner was all but empty, but the warmth of the oven provided a grounding comfort that made Max think they weren't at your regular kind of pizza joint.
Looking to the other side of the booth, Max saw David sitting stone-still. An unnatural pose for the usually animated counselor. The solemn air around his form gave the Godling pause.
"Why are we here? What about Campbell's big show?" Max asked.
"Ehh, it's stupid."
Max froze. Never did Max think David could say anything against Cameron. The redhead practically worshiped the ground he walked on. But on the day where Cameron put on the pressure and placed all his eggs in the David-shaped basket to save his sorry hide, David calls Cameron's plans "stupid"?
And there it was again. That look in David's eyes. The one Max had only seen once before. The look that prefaced the overturning of Max's entire worldview.
"You were right. It's stupid. You shouldn't have to pretend for anyone."
Max was shell shocked, for sure. But having been in this position once before, Max eventually found the strength to reply.
"Are you… okay?"
He didn't even know why that was the question he'd settled on. Out of the innumerable replies he could have given, why was it that Max settled on asking David if he was okay? Was it because the last time Max had seen David like this, the man had been crushed by a bonfire? Was it because those statements systematically upended every preconception Max had of David? (Gods, why does this keep happening?)
Or was it because he saw his own pain mirrored in David's eyes?
Max didn't know.
"I'm… sorry, Max." David said, throwing Max for a loop once more. An apology was definitely not what Max was expecting. "I always try to see the good in things and I try to get others to see the same, but pretending like things are okay when they're not doesn't help anything." Bone deep sadness and empathy shined in David's eyes, "I'm sorry your parents don't care enough, Max. You have every right to be angry."
A soft, yet powerful determination entered David's tired eyes. "But you deserve to be happy, and I hope you can find that here at camp… even if it's not today."
Max started at David for a long time. It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt like hours. Thinking back at this shit show of a day, Max found himself feeling… something. Something he doesn't think he'd ever felt before.
Until right now, concepts like "parents" or "family" never made him feel anything other than tired anger, immense sadness, and all encompassing loneliness.
Despite how annoying and naggy Gwen and David were today, looking back, Max couldn't feel any of the annoyance he had felt in the moment. Instead, all he felt looking at these two adults who'd proven to care about his well being and happiness more than any other before them, all Max felt was…
He grabbed a slice of pizza, and when he took a bite, Max couldn't help but think it was the best pizza he'd ever eaten.
Why is that? He wondered, before he immediately moved on. The time for thinking would come later.
Right now, he'd enjoy his dinner with his "parents." It was only for today, after all.
AN: And here we are, people! The end of Season 2 of Camp Camp! YAY! More bonding between Max and David, with a bit of mama Gwen thrown in there for fun. I don't ship David and Gwen, personally, but they're dynamic with Max is so cute. I don't think I got that across well enough, but that's my thought every time I write them. You got to meet some of the parents, too! I have a few ideas on the familial situations of most of the campers, but based on the lack of focus on some of these kids in Camp Camp proper, there may not be many chances to delve deeper.
At least I know what I could write after I finished season 4. Those would be some nice epilogue ideas, me thinks!
Now, onto the bad news. I think I'm gonna have to put this fic on hiatus. I've hit an ebb in my drive to write (it was a struggle to even get this chapter out), and I'd rather leave this story on a decent end than force myself to continue writing and eventually resent it. I don't have any plans of abandoning it, I promise. I just need to… get back in the groove, I guess? I'll try touching up on the few interludes I started, but don't expect any new chapter for a while. I usually don't post until I have a few buffer chapters between what I'm writing and what I'm posting. Suffice to say, the chapters I had have run out (-.-||) For now, this fic will remain labeled as "incomplete." I'll be sure to post an update if anything happens that'd make me unable to continue.
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, and I hope you'll still be here once I finally start it up again. And as always…
If you have any questions about what the heck is going on in this story, leave a comment. If you don't have questions and just want to say something, leave a comment. If you want to bash on my horrendous writing, leave a comment! All comments are welcome in this household!