Sometimes, Leo thought that Aphrodite was unfair. Or maybe it was Hephaestus—he wasn't really sure. All he knew was that he definitely wasn't good with organic life forms, especially those of the female variety.
As unhelpful as this was to his daunting quest to find a nice girlfriend, it also made Leo feel incredibly jealous every time he saw his friends in happy relationships. Percy had (and would always have) Annabeth, Jason and Piper weren't going to split up anytime soon, and Hazel... well, she was pretty and all, but Leo wasn't going to do that to Frank.
So what did that leave him with? A war-crazed, bat-swinging satyr, a depressed and gloomy son of Hades, a bronze dragon head, and a mechanical table. Oh, and a finely-tuned magical warship that could easily blow up in his face at any second.
Well, he couldn't exactly stuff the Argo II into a fancy dress and walk it into a high school gym for the prom.
He was thinking about all this one day while standing at the wheel of the ship, looking down on the deck where Percy and Annabeth were sitting with their heads close together. They had been down there for at least an hour and a half—ever since the seven, Nico, and Coach Hedge had finished breakfast—talking in hushed tones and kissing (a lot).
Ever since the morning after Percy and Annabeth had been rescued from Tartarus, when Coach Hedge had found Annabeth sharing her boyfriend's bed (and given them a long-winded speech that mainly involved him stomping around the ship shouting at the top of his lungs, "PURITY RINGS! CHASTITY BELTS!" and Percy giving him salutes and sarcastic "YES, SIR!"s), the dynamic of their relationship had interested Leo. Their history together ran back so far, and through so much, his head spun just trying to think through it all.
Even now, he noticed that Percy's hand had pretty much never released Annabeth's since they'd been rescued. He supposed that was normal, though; after all, if they had been close before the whole incident with falling down the dark-and-evil-pit-of-heck, now they were practically the same person.
Leo tried not to be obnoxious with the whole staring thing, but Percy must have noticed him looking at some point. He whispered something to Annabeth, then sat up so he could see over his girlfriend and yelled, "Hey, Leo!"
"What's up, Perce?"
"Want to come sit with us?"
Leo was more than a little shocked by that. When they were together, Percy and Annabeth mostly kept to themselves. Half the things they reminisced about made no sense to anyone except Nico, anyway.
"Uhh... sure!" Leo punched the AUTOPILOT button and stepped away from the wheel. As he crossed the deck to the other two demigods, he kept thinking, Are they gonna kill me or something?
Annabeth must have sensed his discomfort somehow, because she patted the deck next to her invitingly and smiled—the first real smile she had ever given him. "We're not going to skewer you or anything, Leo. Sit down."
Leo did as he was told. Friendly or (most often) not, Annabeth was seriously intimidating.
...Not as intimidating as her boyfriend, though. Personally, Leo thought Percy's middle name should just be changed to "Six-Feet-Two-Inches-of-Solid-Monster-Slaying-Badass." Man, this was one guy he did not want to cross. Ever.
They both still looked completely exhausted, but some of the old glitter was returning to Percy's eyes, and Annabeth laughed more often now. Leo was betting they were trying not to focus on the impending apocalypse and instead just enjoy each other while they could. That seemed to be everyone's mindset on the ship these days, actually; Leo couldn't say he blamed them, either.
After a moment of awkward silence, the son of Poseidon sighed. "So, man, is something wrong?"
Confused, Leo asked, "What?"
"You looked kind of... I don't know, depressed over there. Something has to be bugging you."
Suddenly it hit Leo—Percy was the perfect guy to talk to for this problem. Annabeth had told the story exactly one time (Rachel had shooed everyone out of the room afterward to give the daughter of Athena some space to calm down) about how it had taken forever to get Percy to finally go out with her. This was exactly the same thing, but in reverse. If anyone could help him, Percy could.
He wasn't exactly comfortable with talking about this in front of Annabeth, though...
At that point, she put a hand on Percy's shoulder and stood up. "I'm going to get a drink. Want anything?"
"Nope. Thanks for asking, though." He grinned at her, holding her hand a second longer before releasing it. He didn't take his eyes off of her until she had disappeared downstairs.
"Saved by your girlfriend's tact," Leo muttered. "Alright, so... uh... Perce, this is going to sound weird..."
"Please, Leo. Been there, done that. I'm all over this."
"Well, I know we're in the middle of this giant war and all, but... I need girl advice."
Percy laughed. "There's nothing embarrassing about needing that, Leo. I mean, seriously—it took me four years to pull my head out of my podex enough to realize that I liked Annabeth and she—obviously—liked me back."
Leo shook his head in mock disapproval, miming Chiron's deep voice. "I expected better from you, Mr. Jackson."
"Oh, shut up." Percy gave him a shove. "Anyway, so which girl are we talking about?"
"Gods, bro," Leo complained, "are we playing freaking Truth or Dare?"
"I won't be able to help you if you don't tell meee!" said Percy in a singsong voice.
"Oh, fine." Leo leaned over and whispered it to Percy, then sat back and watched as his green eyes got wider and wider.
"Hades," he breathed finally. "Come on, Valdez, we've got some work to do."
The war was over, the apocalypse safely avoided, and the world saved, yet Leo still felt nervous.
He was sort of about to ask out his dream girl.
Carefully, he approached her house on the Via Praetoria—where she was sitting on the front step in jeans and a Roman purple t-shirt. Her hair was loose around her shoulders instead of in its usual neat braid, and she was barefoot.
Leo thought she was the most gorgeous person he'd ever met. Prettier than Aphrodite, even. (He'd met the love goddess—Piper's mom—just one time and been left with his mouth gaping open for an hour like one of Percy's fish friends.)
He took a deep breath, hoped his hands weren't as sweaty as they felt, and gently tapped her shoulder.
"Wha—oh, hey, Leo."
"Hi, Reyna. Mind if I hang out with you?"
"No, no, not at all." She patted the stone step next to her.
They sat in silence for a while—Leo fiddling with a gear he'd found in his pocket, Reyna tracing symbols and words in the dirt with her dagger.
"Amor vincit omnia?" Leo asked, pointing to an inscription beside Reyna's right foot. "What does that mean?"
He couldn't tell because of the fading evening light, but she might have blushed. "It's Latin—a quote that used to hang above my bed. It means Love conquers all."
He nodded. "Good one. Yeah, I've never really been much good with love, though—you know, my dad and all that. We're better with machines."
"I'm actually the—um—the same way. My mom... well, children of Bellona are usually too busy getting into fights to bother with relationships, but I've always wanted to..."
She looked up. "How did you—"
"Well, I kind of came here to, uh, ask you out, but you just made it about a million times easier for me."
Reyna smiled—a real, dazzling smile that Leo could just look at all day. "You would date me?"
"I'd be stupid not to." Something inside Leo was jumping up and down like a crazed maenad in the presence of Dionysus. "Is it too early to say 'I love you'?"
She grinned, stood up, and slipped her hand into Leo's. "Let's start with 'like' first, Valdez. Then we'll see."
"I can deal with that. Hey, want to go get something to eat?"
"As long as that something involves cinnamon muffins."
As he walked off with his new girlfriend into the California sunset, Leo sent all his thanks to the gods—and Percy, the relationship guru—that love really could conquer all.
Even blowing up the home of the person you're in love with. Or not being good with organic life forms.
Anything of the sort, really.