A/N: Hi, it's me again with another crappy Lazel one-shot. My first of '13 too, yikes. I'm more than elated to know my readers enjoyed the previous two, so I knew I had to do another one. This is one is a bit belated because I promised this, like, a year ago. (See what I did there?) But anyways, I hope you enjoy it! This is dedicated to my awesome reviewers, readers, Tumblr followers, and, of course, my fellow Lazelettes! Also: the title is from a brilliant poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox entitled Love's Language. Plus: sorry if this is OOC-er than the other stories, but hey, I tried! Anyways, happy reading, sorry for the long AN, and all typos are mine :)

WARNING: This may be a Lazel one-shot but most of it focuses on Leo and Aphrodite's encounter. Plus, angsty Leo ahead. But, you'll see where that leads ;)

DISCLAIMER: Do I seem like Rick Riordan to you? Um, no. None of the characters are mine. Nor is the poem I stole from Ellie Wheeler Wilcox.


"There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment."

Sarah Dessen


Leo Valdez never wanted to fall in love.

One of the reasons was the thought that he would never find love, fearing that he would scare away any wooers, and most probably endanger them with his power. Another reason was the thought that love was overrated. Everyone put love out to be as an intense emotion that shut out everyone except that one person; that one person who became your entire world; that would render you half-dead if he or she left.

Leo didn't want that. Nevertheless, things never went his way.

It was dusk when it happened. The sun had just dipped below into the blood-orange sky, leaving the heavens to slowly darken into night. A few stray birds flew across the endless expanse of light, their black silhouettes painted into the picturesque sky. Leo Valdez leaned forward, breathing in the sea air, with his hands carefully rested against the steering wheel.

Four days. That's how long it had been since Percy and Annabeth were left swirling into the dreary depths of Tartarus. Four days since they had set course for Greece. And four days since Leo had been plunged into a haze of conflicting emotions and guilt.

He inhaled deeply; trying to gather his thoughts. He was never one to dawdle over one subject for too long, but now everything had seemingly changed. There was an abundance of emotions running through him at the moment, and one of them included the fact that he needed to clean up his act.

When had he become the king of teenage angst? When had he even learnt the word angst? When had he become so distracted by one person when he had the whole fate of the world resting on his shoulders? What happened to the ADHD demigod who spent hours fastidiously studying the anatomy of mechanics, in hopes that one day someone might accept him as he was?

In utter frustration, Leo banged his head against the steering wheel, hoping to be driven into a world where problems like Gaea and emotions weren't so ubiquitous. Instead, he was driven into a world of throbbing pain and bitter regret. He gritted his teeth and swore out loud at his own stupidity.

He relinquished his grip on the steering wheel, and quickly set it on auto-pilot before guiding himself off deck. Unfortunately for him - with one hand on his forehead and another at his side – he miscalculated the position of the door and walked smack-dab into it. A sharp pain shot through him and he clattered to the ground, only one word running through his head: Idiot.

Just as he was about to gather himself off the ground, a twinge of coldness crept up his spine, and all of a sudden his only desire was to curl up into a ball and sleep. Almost instantaneously, the world faded to pitch black, as did his mind.


Leo wasn't sure whether he was dreaming or in a comatose state. Every inch of him ached, and it felt like he had cotton in his mouth. Groggily, he picked himself off the ground -

And his jaw nearly fell to the ground.

"What the...?"

Standing in front of him was one of the most beautiful women Leo had ever seen, and he'd seen quite a few of them in his short, miserable, life. This woman had luscious long-flowing hair that reached her waist; a body with curves in all the right places. Her eyes were almond-shaped, one moment blue, the next green. She was wearing simple attire consisting of jeans and a t-shirt. However, Leo couldn't decide what color her hair was, or what she looked like. One thing was certain though: this woman cast a radiant glow on everything, her beauty illuminating the near-darkness.

Leo knew who this was, and knew what he had to say. Nevertheless, he could barely string together a comprehendible sentence let alone pay his respects. In fact, only one word escaped him:

"Woah."

The woman's face glowed as she revealed her perfect white teeth in a blinding smile. She then laughed, a pitch perfect laugh reminiscent of bells chiming. At this point, Leo was certain of who she was. He finally rooted himself back to reality.

"You're Aphrodite," he spat with reluctance, finally tearing his eyes off of Piper's mother and (to his revulsion) his father's ex-wife.

"Why, yes," the woman replied. "Yes, I am." Her voice was sultry, soft, and slightly amused at the same time. How that was feasible, Leo did not know.

"What am I doing here – or am I dreaming, or . . ." Leo's voice died in his mouth, suddenly feeling as if he had all the air in his lungs sucked out. "Where am I?"

Aphrodite chuckled again – another beautiful sound that irked Leo right down to his toes. "Well, I would say you're dreaming, but at the same time not. In fact, you're in limbo right now."

"Are you really here, then?"

"To you, perhaps."

"But, that's not possible," he said, a sudden revelation dawning over him. "All the gods and goddesses were supposed to have ceased all contact with the mortal world. With . . . us." Leo felt his stomach drop at the thought of that. What good was having only one parent if he or she never reached out to you?

"Well, I have my ways," Aphrodite said, placing her hands on her perfectly-curved hips. "Besides, this was important."

"You arrogant Olympians are finally going to help us with our quest?" Leo inquired, slightly irritated.

"Nope," Aphrodite proclaimed happily. "I'm going to help you with your love life!"

It came like a tsunami, and Leo nearly doubled over with laughter. Unable to control the vitriol in his voice, he looked up at the goddess of love and beauty, who had her lips pursed in disappointment.

"What's so funny about that?" she asked.

"My love life?" he said skeptically. "I have no love-life."

"Exactly!" Aphrodite exclaimed. "I'm here to change that!"

"No offence, lady," Leo said, "but the Leoster is perfectly fine with his current relationship status. Not that it really matters anyway."

"Well, it does," Aphrodite stated. "What's more important than love?"

"Um... saving the earth from Gaea's wrath, global warming, world hunger, poverty–,"

"Alright, I get it!" Aphrodite snapped. "But a goddess like me can't stand watching a poor attractive lad like you walk single."

"Poor attractive lad?" Leo scoffed indignantly. "I've been branded much worse, thanks."

Aphrodite rolled her yet-to-be-determined-colored eyes and sighed. "Are you going to let me help you or not, besides, I –,"

Her voice became distorted, and her image became fuzzy. Leo felt light-headed for a moment, and distinctly felt as if there was someone overlooking this conversation.

"Sorry about that," Aphrodite said, her image perfectly normal now. "But I'm afraid we don't have much time. Zeus will find out about this conversation any moment now."

"Then why is so important?" Leo said. "It doesn't affect the quest, one way or another."

"You see, Leo," she replied, "it might not matter to you, but it matters to me. I want to help you."

"Why would I accept help from you? You left my dad for the douche, Ares, and now you want me to accept your help with my non-existent love life?"

"Why are you so convinced you don't have a love-life, Leo Valdez?" Aphrodite questioned incredulously.

"Because I really don't."

"Don't you want to change that?"

"Not really."

"Well, I do!" Aphrodite snapped, waving her perfectly manicured nails in front of his face. "Besides, you have the potential to! Have you ever noticed that it was staring you right in the face?"

Leo froze, the planned retort he had in his mouth dissipating; because he knew the answer. He knew what Aphrodite was going to say, and he knew why she had appeared to him as a dream (or whatever you call an almost-coma).

"I – I don't know what you're . . ." His voice trailed off once again, his words caught in his throat. He wrung his hands, his eyes glued to his grease-caked sneakers, suddenly feeling heat rush to his cheeks.

Aphrodite smirked slightly, her crimson lips moving perfectly with her face. "See, Leo Valdez? Even you can't deny it. You're in love, aren't you?"

Love. Just that word alone sickened Leo. It made him feel emotions he had never felt. He felt paranoid, worried, and even a bit floaty. Trying to make use of the situation, he looked up into Aphrodite's flawless face. He asked her one question, and one question only:

"Why me?"

Aphrodite gave him a long, drawn-out look. A deep-soul-searching one that Leo guessed she gave to those who really hated getting them.

"There was once a poem," Aphrodite remarked, snapping Leo out of his reverie. "A beautiful one, about love."

"Right, so first discussing my love-life and now poetry? You really know how to keep things on-topic, lady."

"No," she continued. "It wasn't like that. It was . . . different."

Leo sneered. "Right, because that makes things so much better."

Aphrodite shot him a look of annoyance, which disrupted her momentary angelic stance. For the slightest moment, Leo saw a glimpse of her true godly self, complete with enough light to blind even those with the best sight.

"Alright, alright, sorry," Leo quickly muttered, afraid that Aphrodite was going to unleash her godly being on him.

Once more, the image of Aphrodite flickered, and this time Leo felt his light-headedness much stronger than before.

"How does go?" he asked, carefully treading on the safe lines of Aphrodite's temper.

She smiled; apparently glad at his unexpected cooperation. She opened her mouth and began to recite, her voice as smooth as honey:

"How does Love speak?
In the faint flush upon the telltale cheek,
And in the pallor that succeeds it; by
The quivering lid of an averted eye-
The smile that proves the parent to a sigh
Thus doth Love speak."

Leo felt a lump in his throat, his entire body shivering at those words. Almost subconsciously, his mind flashed back to his moments with Hazel: how every-time they locked eyes, their cheeks would slightly redden; how every time she smiled at him – whether in amusement or glee – it would feel as if his heart had been taken on gymnastics routines. He swallowed nervously, beckoning to hear the rest of the poem.

"How does Love speak?
By the uneven heart-throbs, and the freak
Of bounding pulses that stand still and ache,
While new emotions, like strange barges, make
Along vein-channels their disturbing course;
Still as the dawn, and with the dawn's swift force -
Thus doth Love speak."

His hands were shaking now. Every sentence of that, every word, every syllable, was so accurate. Was that how love felt? Like dawn's swift force? Leo clenched his teeth, not sure if he wanted to hear more.

"How does Love speak?
In the avoidance of that which we seek -
The sudden silence and reserve when near -
The eye that glistens with an unshed tear -
The joy that seems the counterpart of fear,
As the alarmed heart leaps in the breast,
And knows and names and greets its godlike guest -
Thus doth Love spe –"

"Stop!"

The cry came before he could control it and Leo felt his finger-tips erupt in flames. He wanted out, he wanted to scream. Every inch of him, every pore in his body screamed for acceptance of these feelings, but only his mind rejected. "No more!"

Aphrodite ceased her recitation, her eyebrows already rising. "Why, Leo Valdez?" she questioned dubiously. "The poem is not yet over. In fact, I'm sure you would particularly enjoy the next –,"

"No! No more," he stated, trying to keep himself from bursting into flames. "No more poetry. No more advice. No more love. Just let me go back. I – I can't take this anymore. I wasn't built for this. I . . ." he inhaled deeply. "Just stop." He punctuated that word with such force, even Aphrodite backed away slightly.

"You cannot keep denying your feelings forever, Leo Valdez," she said, her voice slightly crackling. "One day or another you will have to face them."

"Well, today is not the day, then," he spat with bitterness. "We've already got a lot of problems on our hands and we don't need you to add to them."

The goddess of love sighed in defeat, ready to give up. She reached into her robes and said, "Very well, then. But be warned, Leo Valdez, our little encounter has been enough to change the course of nearly everything."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You'll find out soon enough," Aphrodite answered, her image already fading. "I assure you, Leo Valdez, when you wake from this dream, you'll remember nothing from now and you certainly won't regret what I'm doing for you."

"Wait, what are you –"

However, Leo barely had enough time to complete his sentence before the image of Aphrodite faded completely, and he was swept off his feet, colliding with the ground, everything a stark shade of white.


"Leo?"

The voice was small, yet surprisingly loud. Leo's eyes fluttered open, and he moved his head slightly, but immediately regretted it. A dull, throbbing pain raced up his body, and he groaned out loud. The next time he opened his eyes, all the images were blurry. He saw a mess of the colors of brown and gold, and vaguely heard repeatedly calling his name over and over again.

"Leo, are you okay?" came the voice again.

With struggle, Leo managed to reach his eyes and rub them. Almost instantaneously, everything cleared and he nearly yelped when he saw the person in front of him.

"Oh, thank the gods," Hazel Levesque muttered, as their eyes met. "I thought you were knocked out or something."

Leo didn't reply, or maybe he couldn't. In fact the only thing he was capable of right now was sight. He took in Hazel's appearance: curly brown hair tucked in a pony-tail, golden eyes glittering like stars, and her chocolate-brown face glowing warmly. Not to mention the fact that her hands were on his shoulders.

"I – uh, I . . ." Leo swallowed whatever he was trying to say. Why have I become so tongue-tied all of a sudden? He wondered involuntarily. "What happened?" he managed.

"My question exactly," Hazel replied. "I was on my way to the deck when I found you face-down next to the door. I've been trying to get you up for the past ten minutes. Did you trip?"

"More like run into the door," Leo admitted sheepishly to which Hazel laughed as if saying 'Typical.' He felt his insides warm a little at the sound of her laugh.

"Well, need a little help?" she asked, lifting one of her hands off his shoulders and offering it to him. Hesitantly, he took it, encasing his cold, calloused hand in her small, warm one. They fingers fit together so well, he had to urge himself to detach them from hers.

"So, are you okay?" Hazel asked once again, her face twisted in concern. Leo felt his cheeks redden.

"Um, yeah. Everything's a bit fuzzy but that's it, I guess. Plus, I feel a bit different."

"Different in what sense?"

Leo opened his mouth to answer but froze midway. There was something about the way Hazel was looking at him. The way he was looking at her. He blinked.

The next time he opened his eyes, his breath caught in his throat. Because standing where Hazel stood was her, but at the same time, a completely different person.

Leo saw not a girl, but a young woman, with gracefully curled hair, luscious brown skin, and the most amazing golden eyes. He saw the most beautiful person on Earth, the most charismatic, the most energetic, and the most perfect. And it was in that moment everything changed.

"No idea," he replied, his voice slightly unstable. "Um, anyways, you hungry? 'Cause I know I am. Being knocked out for a while can really starve a person. Are you up for a break at the mess hall?" The words flew out of him like gibberish, and he saw Hazel smile.

"Sure," she responded, her eyes glittering. "I'll invite the others too. They've been worrying about you. What's a ship without its captain?"

What's a king without his queen? Leo's mind wandered. A lonely one.

"Yeah, let's go," he said. "Lead the way, Miss Metal Detector."

As the two quietly walked down the stairs to the mess hall, a certain set of words kept crawling into the space of Leo's mind, words he had no idea of where they came from, but words that seemed so amazingly familiar, as if he had known them all his life.

How does Love speak?
By the uneven heart-throbs, and the freak
Of bounding pulses that stand still and ache,
While new emotions, like strange barges, make
Along vein-channels their disturbing course;
Still as the dawn, and with the dawn's swift force-
Thus doth Love speak.

So that's what love feels like, he thought to himself, like dawn's swift force. He bit his lip for a moment, deciding the consequences of this revelation. He caught sight of Hazel walking beside him, her chocolate curls bouncing on her shoulders with every step she took. He thought of her laugh, her words, her tears, and the way her skin felt against his. At long last, he finally came to a mental decision. Not only does love feel like dawn's swift force but it sure does feel great.

After that thought – almost absentmindedly – Leo looked over his shoulder, through the open door, at the turquoise waves of the sea, and could almost swear he saw a figure - with flowing dark hair and a faultless body - rising from the waves, smiling at him from the distance.

Fin.


A/N: And there you go! Hope you enjoyed it, even though I know it was crappy. I'm so sorry for the lack of Lazelity in this but rest assured, more coming later. And was it OOC? Was it totally un-fluffy? Did it satiate your feels? If not, FORGIVE ME, GUYS. I TRIED. ;_;

If you have any requests for one-shots or fics, drop me a PM or leave a prompt in your review! I'll get back to you as soon as I can. And if you're one of my followers on my ASK LAZEL blog asking why I haven't updated in forever, I have an explanation; just PM me! One last thing: If you're going to favorite this story (please do) then DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE A REVIEW! 26 favorites and 12 reviews? GUYS.

Anyways, that's all for now. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Don't forget to REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW and leave feedback. You make my day with your kind comments, you guys. Also: should I continue writing Lazel? And if so, how would you guys enjoy Hazel's POV? Leave prompts (quotes), feedback, and random shit in your review. That's all I ask for.

Until next time, fanfictioners:

Peace, Love, and Nutella! xx cuteypuffgirl :)