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She could never say what she loved about him the most,

(because there was so much that was wonderful.)

His mostly uncalled-for humour used to jar on her sensitivity, but she had grown to find it endearing and even opportune at times. Sometimes the curls in his hair never stayed down - it looked like he'd gotten a little treatment from Zeus's favourite toy - but she could never keep from burying her hands in them afterwards when she kissed him.

There was one thing, however, that she liked more than anything else: his smile. It was a fuse that she could ignite so easily, spreading from his blazingly brilliant grin to lighting up his brown eyes, making them glitter and snap with mirth. And if she'd done a really good job of keeping the flame he'd laugh - oh, his laugh. It set her shivering and teeth chattering even though she was the opposite of cold, and she never knew quite what to do with herself, because that laugh of Valdez's was his secret weapon. He was the funny kid with the laugh to match - and the bonus was that whenever he filled the air with it, he could warm the girl he loved right down to her toes. All she needed to do was make him start smiling.

He always found a reason to be happy,

(with her.)

He loved the little surprises she was forever seeming to leave him - like how it felt so good to slip his hand around her waist and find home, something that just felt so right, or move her hair away from her face and be temporarily blinded by the northern lights glimmering extra bright in her eyes one time or a brilliant African sunset another. But what frequently stunned him the most was the way she looked at him sometimes, so intensely, and somehow he would just know that she loved him. That was enough to blow him off his feet - the daughter of the goddess of beauty and love, giving her heart to a lowly blacksmith? (He knew he was good at fixing things, but her heart wasn't the equivalent of "things." It felt so graceful, so beautiful, so fragile in his keeping that he was afraid he'd make a mess as usual and end up breaking it for good.)

He told her this once, when they were in his private underground head counselor bedroom beneath the Hephaestus cabin. "I'm not good enough for you."

She looked up in shock. "What?"


"I don't get it. Leo, what are you talking about?"

Her chest felt too tight for the air she didn't know she was holding in. "You're worth so much more than me, Valdez. Shut up." And she kissed him quick before he could open his big mouth again.

She hurt whenever he felt he told her he wasn't good enough for her - those were the sort of things you'd hear in stories about a princess and her peasant boyfriend. Well, she was no princess and he was no peasant, and if their souls could be measured in diamonds, his was a one-hundred-carat splendor. It cut her deep to realize how lowly he thought himself, especially when it came to her, and soon she dared to wonder if he ever compared himself to Jason, the golden boy, son of Zeus, who kept coming close to having her heart but never staying long enough, sometimes holding it for awhile and then giving it back, unsure of himself and unsure of who he really loved.

Leo was scared too,

(but he was grasping her heart like his life depended on keeping it safe.)

They would lie on his bed (the only place for privacy), holding hands, listening to each other's breathing, and talking about what mattered the most to them, always. On one of these occasions he'd finally told her the story of his mum; she sat up, eyes growing moist as he recounted the last night in the workshop and wiped away a tear that had spilled onto his cheek as she hovered above him.

She hardly knew how to speak, but when she did, she could only manage his name. "Leo…" Her voice cracked halfway, the two syllables separate and broken, whispered in a dazed, bewildered shock for all the times he'd lived out in the streets and felt lonely, rejected, and treated like a nobody even by his dad in the long years before he would make his way - following the thread of his fate - to the Wilderness School. And her.

He sat up and looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry, Beauty Queen. I've made you cry."

Her need to love his hurts away was unbearable. She could only shake her head, put her hands on his chest, and kiss him shakily, trying to speak through her trembling, moving lips that he was priceless to her, the only puzzle piece that fit, that even the air was easier to breathe when he was with her. The room began to sway with their desperate, sighing kisses and his arms around her waist, holding on to her like he couldn't bear to let her go.

Leo and Piper,

(the unlikeliest.)

The saying goes that birds of a feather will always find a way to flock together, and he laughs at this because if she's a dove, then what's he? She has to admit that she doesn't know, but the shot hits home that their souls are the same. And that's why, no matter how long it took them to realize, (no matter how different from each other they appeared to be), they reached out… and found a perfect fit.