AN: It's not quite a year since I last updated this story, but I'm certainly getting close to that milestone. Needless to say it was really tough for me to come up with a plot for this season. I hope you all enjoy the terribly sappy story that I finally came up with.
LG - An Early Valentine
Kendrix ran along the busy street, trying to avoid the splashes from the passing cars and keep from running into anyone or their umbrella. Her day was going just badly enough that she could see herself losing an eye to a wayward umbrella rib. Of course she didn't have an umbrella. She'd left hers on the bus and the bus had left without her.
Her school trip to the science museum had been cut short when they arrived and found that the museum was closed on Wednesdays. The teachers, at a loss, had allowed the students to go wander off on their own for lunch. Kendrix, it seemed, had wandered too far and now she was alone in San Angeles with no umbrella, no money, and no idea what to do.
It certainly didn't help her mood that it was Valentine's Day and she was dateless. All morning on the bus it had been hearts and cards and flowers and Kendrix sitting alone up front. No wonder the bus left her, there was no one to miss her.
Thunder rumbled overhead and the light shower turned into a downpour. Kendrix yelped and made for the nearest awning. An umbrella seemed to come out of nowhere and she ducked out of the way, only to slip in a puddle.
"Whoa, there!" Two strong hands grasped Kendrix' shoulders, keeping her from falling. "You okay?"
Kendrix looked up into a pair of brown eyes and instantly blushed. "Yeah," she said, pulling away now that she'd regained her balance. "Thanks."
She looked around, looking to get away from the guy. He was her age, maybe a year or two older, sixteen at most, she was sure. But he was cute and she never did well around cute guys. She certainly didn't want to talk to one on what was quickly becoming one of her worst days ever. The antique store whose doorway she'd fallen into was closed, meaning she couldn't go in and ask the owner to help her call the school. The rain was still pouring down. Most pedestrians had disappeared and a waterfall separated Kendrix and the guy from the rest of the sidewalk. She was trapped.
"Where are you headed?" he asked.
She sighed. It was one thing to do something completely dorky, but admitting to it was totally different. "I don't know. I was on a field trip and the bus left me behind," she said quickly, focusing on the cars zooming past so she didn't have to face him.
"Seriously?" he asked. "That sucks!"
She rolled her eyes. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
"I guess you need to call your school, huh?" he asked. Suddenly an umbrella popped open before them. He held it up, blocking the waterfall and gesturing for her to step under.
Kendrix lifted an eyebrow at him and he only smiled goofily back. Finally she stepped under and they set off down the street.
"Where are we going?" she asked, looking back over her shoulder. She was trying to keep track of where she was in the city and how to get back to the museum. It may not be open, but it would be where people would look for her first when they realized she was gone.
"We're almost there, you won't get lost, I promise."
"How did you know-"
"Here we are!" He stepped under another awning and opened a convenience store door for her.
Kendrix frowned at him but obediently went inside. Cheap merchandise filled every available inch of the store. Most of it was shining or sparkling red, and anything that wasn't had heart garlands hanging from it.
"Leo!" the balding man behind the counter exclaimed when the guy stepped in behind her. He clipped his umbrella shut and moved around Kendrix to return the man's hug. "What brings you here on such a miserable day?"
Leo gestured to her. "Manny, this young lady got separated from her school group. She needs a phone."
"And a phone book," Kendrix added.
"Oh! How horrible! And on Valentine's too!" Manny bustled about behind the counter, digging around before slamming both a phone and a phonebook beside the register. "We must be sure to get you home in time for your big date," he said, giving her a winning smile.
Kendrix blushed and ducked her head, unwilling to set him straight. She could feel Leo watching her and hurriedly began flipping through the phonebook. Within ten minutes she'd called her school and, after being put on hold while administrators freaked out, was told to go back to the museum and wait for a teacher to come pick her up. The way the woman ordered her about made it clear she blamed Kendrix entirely for what had happened. Kendrix was feeling bad enough already that she didn't really feel capable of feeling any worse, so she just ignored the woman.
"It will take them at least an hour to get here," Manny insisted when Kendrix relayed what she'd been told. "You and Leo will stay here, at least until the rain lets up."
"Manny, we couldn't," Leo said.
"I insist! She must be starving," he added, giving Leo a hard look.
Leo looked sheepishly at Kendrix and shrugged his shoulders.
"I couldn't," Kendrix said. "Really, I'm fine. And I don't have any money anyway."
"Anything you want," Manny said, "free of charge. It's the least I could do."
Kendrix opened her mouth to argue but Manny was already halfway to the back of the store.
"Don't bother," Leo said, "Manny never lets anyone win an argument. You'd better at least take a bag of chips or he'll be insulted."
Kendrix obediently went down the chip aisle, debating between the different varieties. She had just settled on Ruffles when Manny pressed a can of Coke into her hand.
"Manny, it's too much," she insisted. "Really, I'll be back at school soon, it's not like I'll starve."
"Any friend of Leo's is a friend of mine, especially a pretty girl."
"If this is how you treat all his friends you'll be out of business in a month. Is he family or something?"
"No! Thank heavens!"
Kendrix frowned. "What do you mean?"
"That boy is a hero! He saved my store, stopped some hoodlums who were going to tear it apart and got a concussion and a massive hospital bill for his troubles. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. I'm thankful every day he was there, but would I want him for a son or a nephew? No, never. How his family must worry, a boy with a heart like that. He'll run into danger without a second thought, it's just his nature. That's probably why he found you, he saw you needed help and didn't even consider someone else might be better suited to do it."
He shook his head, smiling.
"I guess I'm lucky he was there, then," Kendrix said, considering his words.
She followed Manny back to the front of the store. She spent the next half hour munching on chips and watching Leo and Manny talk to the few customers who stopped by. Everyone seemed to know Leo and most took the time to tell her their own stories of his heroism. By the time the rain eased enough that Manny was willing to let them go Kendrix felt like she was in the presence of a mythical knight in shining armor.
They were silent most of the walk back to the museum, splashing through the puddles and enjoying the small window of sunshine.
"Did you really climb up a telephone pole to save a little girl's pet rat?" Kendrix asked when they came within sight of the museum.
Leo laughed. "Yeah. I didn't do much good though. The rat bit my finger and ran down the pole on its own. Most of those stories you heard are like that. I don't do as much as people think I do."
"You saved Manny's store."
He shrugged uncomfortably and they waited for the light to change so they could cross the street to the block the museum was on. As they came nearer Kendrix could see a tiny white car idling in the museum's passenger drop-off zone. Leaning against the driver side door was a woman she recognized.
"You know her?" Leo asked.
"That's Miss Murdock, my math teacher. She made good time. Thanks for all your help."
Leo caught her arm before she could run towards the car. "Hey, was Manny right? Do you have to get home in time for a Valentine's date?"
Kendrix blushed and shook her head. "No." She wasn't going to elaborate for him. He was still a stranger to her, even if he had done a million and one good deeds.
"Good," he said. "Then I don't have to feel guilty about this." He kissed her quickly on the lips. It was so fast and she so shocked that he was halfway back up the block before she even regained her senses. "Happy Valentine's Day!" he called.
It wouldn't occur to Kendrix until after her death that the Leo who gave her her first kiss was the Leo who she knew on Terra Venture. At their first Valentine's after her resurrection she enjoyed seeing the look on his face when she reminded him of that day. Afterward they both enjoyed showing each other how much their skills had improved since that first kiss.