After all this time, it seemed so improbable that she couldn't know. But she wouldn't deign to even acknowledge that perhaps she was stringing him along for the ride.
He knew it was wrong for him to think of her like that, to look at her like that; Piper was Jason's girlfriend. Piper loved Jason. Jason was it. Jason was always it, and he was just Leo Flaming Valdez, always the third wheel and comic relief. Piper didn't care, Piper had never cared. Piper thought him annoying and immature, Piper thought Jason stoic and mature.
Leo was not immature. He knew it, and he knew that Piper was screwing him over, asking him to do things she knew he'd do in a heartbeat. Every time he said he was going to give up, however, she'd always come back, be the nice Piper he knew existed, and he'd be screwing himself over all over again.
He didn't hate Jason for it. Jason was his friend, but Piper only had eyes for Jason and it made Leo feel that he could see straight through her. No matter how hard she tried, she was an Aphrodite kid. There had been some exceptions, such as Silena and Beckendorf, but for the most part Aphrodite kids had a type. The handsome, the brave, the popular. And, occasionally, movie stars, who they liked to believe were all of the above.
Leo liked to think he was brave, but he wasn't Piper's type and he knew it.
They had a campfire at the Roman Camp, too, but only for the Greek visitors. He was sat by himself, removed ever so slightly from the group. He was fixing some faulty wiring, and as he looked up, the fire light caught his face, the flames making his dark eyes seem bright as he looked over his companions. The light caught Jason's hair, making it shine. The light threw into relief his small scar, but he remained relatively unchanged. Piper's eyes flashed a million different colors, the light throwing all the contours of her face into relief. She looked like a presence ancient and beautiful, but dangerous, too. Leo hated that, glancing elsewhere as he began his work again. Jason was smiling a rare smile, and Leo wanted his friend to be happy, he really did.
Sometimes Leo thought that his fatal flaw was falling in love with women who were far out of his league. At first, he thought it was women far greater than him, but he realised that Piper was not greater than him, not in the feats she had achieved, like Thalia, or the power she possessed, like Khione. Piper was not greater than him, because she treated him like crap, and he'd never do that.
He'd give up, this time he really would.
That night she knocked on the door to his cabin again.
He opened the door, bleary eyed and half asleep. He'd assumed it would have been Jason or Annabeth, with some kind of important 'we definitely have to wake Leo up for this' matter. But it was Piper, and he exhaled sharply.
"What do you want?" he asked. That was rude, and he was never rude. She hadn't, technically, done anything to deserve that in the last few days. She frowned.
"Sorry, I just, you know. Need to talk."
Leo sighed, letting her into his room. He'd done it again. He just couldn't keep his promises to himself.
"It's just, Jason, you know," she started, and he kept his cool, his mind wandering as he picked up the spare parts he kept next to his bed and started constructing something – anything – to make this pass quicker. "I mean, he's with me, but then there's that Reyna girl. I don't know, maybe I'm jealous. Leo, are you even listening?"
Leo's eyes flitted up to hers. "Yeah. Of course I'm listening. I'm always listening."
Piper smiled a relieved smile. "Well?"
"Jason wouldn't do anything behind your back. He's a good guy."
Piper exhaled. "You're right. Is it natural to be jealous?"
Leo stopped constructing whatever it was. "Why are you asking me?"
Piper shrugged. "Maybe you've been jealous."
"Who would I have ever been jealous of?"
Piper exhaled. "Leo, I thought maybe...you know, you had some kind of feelings for me."
Leo looked down. "Whatever. It doesn't matter."
Her lips were suddenly soft and inviting against his, surprising and seductive. And for a precious few moments, he was suddenly happy, like the world had shifted to suit Leo. Then his eyes snapped open, his head jerking back suddenly as he jumped to standing.
"Get out, Piper."
"Leo, I'm sorry -"
"It doesn't matter how much I like you. I'd never hurt Jason like that. Or let you use me, because I sure as hell know that you'd never be seen with me in public."
"Leo – Gods, please don't tell Jason -"
"Just get out, Piper. Please."
She left, and he locked the door behind her.
He was the better person, he knew. He swore then, on the River Styx, he was done with Piper McLean.