Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Leo and Echo or the settings of this story.
He was determined never to forget Echo's face. She deserved at least one person who saw her and knew how good she was. Leo closed his eyes, but the memory of her smile was already fading.
-Leo, page 99, The Mark of Athena
It was by series of odd, intricate occurrences that could be called miracles that Echo had come back to life after the War with Gaia.
Factors, factors- that's all there was to the story apparently. The Underworld had been so big that Hades had been sure that there 'could be one sneaky soul who "accidentally slipped out"'. The gods were tired and that was when they became merciful. The Seven were still so pissed about the whole ordeal that deities were scrambling to calm down the century's most influential demigods.
The Seven had huddled up and talked it over once Hades had made his suggestion. They'd considered bringing back parents, but had decided that that wouldn't do. Emily Zhang had died the death she'd have wanted to die (if her timing was good or not was another story), Esperanza Valdez had accepted her fate and was comfortable in Elysium, and Marie Levesque would have taken too much effort to condition to twenty-first century life and, according to her daughter, didn't deserve it.
It was impossible to choose from the legion or Camp Half-Blood's ranks- how did you justify saving one guy's sister but not this other girl's brother to your close friends? How did you pick a face to save among all your friends? Who deserved to be alive more?
Echo's name had come up finally, and Echo's name had lingered- no pun intended. So here she was, living at camp and getting used to its chaotic style, to jeans and to t-shirts and to the one and only Leo Valdez.
He showed her how to connect wires together when she snuck into the forges with interrogation marks in her eyes earlier that day.
"Gentle with the X-acto knife, don't cut yourself." He said grabbing her hands before she took off her skin instead of the rubber on a wire. She still didn't understand electricity, much less wires obviously.
She put everything down and sighed.
"It's not as complicated as it looks. I'm just being too protective about you cutting off your digits. Sorry."
"Sorry, sorry, sorry," Echo said shaking her head.
Leo started laughing.
Echo was still shaking her head and her hair was falling in her face. Her hair was a colour stuck between grey and brown. It didn't sound particularly nice, but when she wasn't blending in with dried grass or whatnot, it stood out. It was nice. It had a shine to it.
"Hey E, want a marshmallow?" Leo asked passing the bag to her after it started making its rounds again, once three Ares kids had retrieved it from Cabin Eleven's custody.
"Marshmallow?" Echo repeated. Her question didn't have a yes or no answer, it was filled with genuine conclusion. She was frowning.
"Oh man, don't tell me you don't know what a marshmallow is…" Leo said.
"Don't know," Echo repeated sadly.
"Oh, no don't be sad. Just… wow… geez. A marshmallow is basically ambrosia that you can't overdose on," Leo explained. "It's pure sugar with no nutritional value."
"Sugar," Echo repeated approvingly.
"You bet your socks off," Leo said. "Anyways, you just stab it with a stick and… wait hold on a second."
Leo got up on the bench and unclipped from his belt the walkie-talkie that was usually reserved for communication with siblings at the other end of the forge, or in another bunker.
He used a special Leo-style feature to amplify his voice.
"Attention semi-godly population, attention."
Everyone froze and starred. Partially because they didn't know how Leo was amplifying his voice, partially out of curiosity, and not at all because he was dignified.
"Yes, so, I'd just like to know where the good roasting stick is. Chris, you've got it? Okay, I'm going to have to ask you to cough it up 'cause Echo here's never had a marshmallow before-"
This created a small uproar.
"Yeah, I know right? Anyways, her first one needs to be the best thing that's ever happened to her. I'm talking about marshmallow perfection needing to be achieved, here."
Chris passed the stick along and Annabeth –her mom was the goddess of strategy after all- helped Echo find the right place to roast her marshmallow.
The marshmallow was golden brown, the colour associated throughout camp with joy and success.
Echo took her first bite. She obviously had no idea what kind of consistency to expect, and so melted white marshmallow guts oozed from her lips. She rushed a hand under her chin, and her eyebrows shot up as her taste buds died and went to heaven.
Her whole face melted with the marshmallow and Leo laughed.
He'd never noticed how thin her eyebrows were, and how expressive her face was. Well, he imagined that there was no way around it when you couldn't talk- it was as if her expressions spoke for her. They were as vivid as a mime's. And her eyes were just as expressive. They were bright blue –like, bluer than Leo had ever expected them to be. How had he missed all of that?
"She likes it!" He declared to camp.
Everyone cheered and Echo blushed a bit. Her eyes shone, though. Another expression they showed: pride at being part of something other than a lousy fan club for an overrated jerk.
Leo was sitting at a tilted drawing table in Bunker Nine. Blueprints were spread in front of him, but Leo wasn't working on those. He was working on a scrap of paper on which he was drawing. Not a robot, like, a person. Scary thought indeed.
The face was thin and ageless –like most nymphs. Her features were the generic pretty type, but there was that pizazz or crookedness that made her not-generic. Imperfect and cute was more like it. Her hair was wavy and it fell across her shoulder in tangled strands.
That was how Echo had looked like when they'd been at the beach earlier, and she'd come out of the water after Leo had pushed her in and they'd splashed around for a bit. He'd just been doodling and poof, a nymph on his paper.
Her fingers were wrapped around his wrist as she taught him how to skip stones across the canoe lake.
They'd been at it for twenty minutes and Leo's skill level and competence was sinking with the rocks he experimented with.
Echo laughed at him and moaned and sighed at the hopelessness of the pupil she'd taken on. Finally she stood behind him and held his wrists and arms, kicking his feet so they'd move until he stood right, and gesturing the expert toss she was trying to teach him to try and make him understand.
He looked down at her hands. Her skin was as smooth as the rocks she was helping him throw (and that he was sinking like a serial killer) or the lake before they'd started this lesson. Her fingers were long and elegant. Her nails were short and someone –probably an Aphrodite girl who hadn't given her the option of 'no' to repeat as an answer- had painted tiny daisies on her nails.
She had nice hands. It was a stupid thing to think, but Leo was pretty concentrated on that at the moment.
She took another nice hand to push his chin back up so he'd look at the lake, just like she was telling him to.
He hadn't shown up to at lunch since he'd been busy working on the Watchamacallit 2-2-9 and hadn't wanted to leave the project alone because he wasn't sure how effective the off button was yet.
Echo wandered into the forge and presented herself to his usual work table with a basket under her arm and a stern look on her face, eyebrows furrowed. She pointed to the picnic basket.
"What's that?" He asked.
"That," she repeated taking out something wrapped in waxy red-and-white checked paper. The basket resting in the crook of her eyebrow, she unwrapped one end to show Leo a sandwich. Pita bread with lettuce and tomato and strips of beef and –was that tzaziki? Holy smokes, she'd gotten him Greek food! A gyro! He hadn't had that in forever!
"I know, I know. No need to lecture me E, I missed lunch." Leo asked.
He was afraid of physically drowning in his drool.
"Missed lunch," Echo said with the same tone of voice with which you'd condemn a criminal.
"That looks good," he said looking at the food.
"Good," Echo repeated. Leo reached out his hand, but she put the gyro back in the basket.
"But… but…" Leo stuttered like a baby.
Echo pointed to the door and walked out. Leo put down his tools and followed her- or rather he followed the food.
He followed her across camp, getting no answer out of her as to what she was doing, until they were on Thalia's hill. She sat down on the grass, put down the basket and motioned to it as if it was a game show prize.
"Oh, a picnic," Leo said. "Okay, sure. I'll eat outside with you."
He dug into the sandwich and she produced all kinds of foods- grape juice, chips, leftover pizza…- from her magic basket. Leo supposed that when you were a nymph it wasn't hard to get friendly with the kitchen harpies.
"Hey, funny question, have you ever heard a knock-knock joke?" Leo asked after licking the lid of a pudding cup clean.
Echo's face was a priceless give-away. Leo laughed.
"Okay, so the joke is that someone's knocking on a door and you have to ask 'who's there' to know who it is. Then they'll say something, and you repeat that and say 'who?' like you're trying to find out their last words. Then there's a pun and it's funny."
She didn't look convinced.
"Okay, here's one." Leo said. Since she had no idea what these were, he could use all his bad knock-knock jokes and work his way up to the good stuff. He'd make them last for her.
"Knock, knock." Leo said.
Echo lifted her hands as if to ask a question. Leo took it as a 'who's there'.
"Boo," Leo said. He whispered 'who?' so that she'd be able to echo him.
"Boo who?" Echo asked.
"Boo who? Aww, Echo, why are you crying?" Leo asked.
Echo burst into laughter. Her laugh sent chills up Leo's spine. It wasn't creepy or anything, it was just so… full and happy and genuine and innocent. A person with that laugh couldn't possibly have ever seen anything bad in the world.
"So? Knock-knock jokes, right?" Leo asked.
Between two fits of laughter she said "Right" approvingly. She was holding her stomach as if she had a cramp, and Leo couldn't help but feel like he'd just won an Olympic gold medal at something.
But still… It bothered him that that laughter hadn't stuck with him. Like, he must've heard Echo laugh before, right? So why had it stricken him as so full and fantastic?
He remembered the first time he'd met Echo. He hadn't remember anything at all about her after he looked away- not the outline of her face, barely the shades that coloured it… Now he did. Her eyes were blue –like, seriously blue-, her hair was brownish, her skin was fair…
He looked up at her and yeah, he had it right. Since she'd been at camp and he'd started spending time with her, it was like Echo was a puzzle whose pieces were starting to fit in one at a time to create the bigger picture. A nice picture.
Leo froze and looked at the laughing girl in shock and somewhat terror.
He had a crush on a legendary nymph with a speech malfunction.
"Geez, you sure know how to pick them," Jason said as they walked around New Rome. Every now and then Jason had to high-five a little kid who came up to him wide-eyed, or give his salutations to a veteran or ex-Centurion. It was surprisingly hard to have a decent conversation with an on-duty praetor of Rome. "First a goddess, than my eternally-maiden sister... I guess that Echo was the next logical girl."
Leo thought that that was rich coming from the Roman dignitary who'd fallen for a Greek and was now carrying out a long-distance relationship with said Greek.
"Not funny man," Leo said.
"I wasn't being funny," Jason said. "I'm serious. It makes sense that you like Echo. She's sweet."
"Well hurrah for logic Miss Chase, but what do I even do?" Leo asked.
"You tell her," Jason said. "That's, like, what happens when you like someone. You either stay there and watch them from the sidelines forever and feel horrible around a person you used to be super comfortable with, or you get brave for thirty seconds of insanity and confess."
"Since when are you the expert on girls?" Leo asked.
"I'm not, I'm just logical." Jason said.
Someone knocked on the door of Bunker Nine. Leo looked up.
"Oh hi E," he said pushing his safety goggles onto his forehead.
"Hi. Hi. Oh Hi."
"I know I promised to help you out since tonight's your first capture-the-flag, but guess who was put in charge of fixing the stupid flag that Cabin Four broke this week? It shouldn't take long though. You can sit down," he said waving his hand towards the tilted table he always sat at.
"First, sit." Echo repeated distractedly. When she was distracted there wasn't a filter to what she echoed. Leo had made her say some pretty stupid things that way. Like 'pineapples are attractive' or 'what if pandas were a pest'.
She sat down at his chair, her legs stuck together. She used her toes to swivel herself around. Turning chairs and chairs on wheels were a twenty-first century miracle that Echo was still learning to appreciate and benefit.
He was nearly done welding the flag back together. It just took forever to heat up the only burner that had gas in it, and he'd had about five minutes of warning about having to do this urgently after Nyssa said 'oh by the way Chiron said he wanted you to go find him before tonight's game'.
He looked back and Echo was looking at the stuff on his desk. That was cool, whatever.
Just as he was finishing, he heard frantic tapping on his desk.
"Echo?" He asked looking over his shoulder. She was looking at something that was apparently scaring the heebie-jeebies out of her.
He rushed to her side.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
She was looking at the quick little sketch Leo had made of her.
"Oh. Yeah, that. It seems stalkerish now, doesn't it?"
"It," Echo said pointing towards it.
"What?" Leo asked.
Echo looked around his desk frantically and grabbed a pen. In the corner of the drawing, in Ancient Greek letters, she scrawled down quickly:
You drew my face perfectly. That's the first time anyone's ever been able to do that since I was cursed.
"Yeah, well…" Leo said. He remembered what Jason had said. You either stay there and watch them from the sidelines forever and feel horrible around a person you used to be super comfortable with, or you get brave for thirty seconds of insanity and confess.
Losing Echo, again, just seemed stupid. That wasn't something he needed to do again (no pun intended).
"You're memorable to me," Leo said.
She looked at him, her blue eyes in her pretty face framed by her gorgeous hair stunned.
"The more I get to know you, the more I'm happy I know you. The more you make an impression on me the more you're… like… an actual impression. Seared in my mind and… well, in my heart too I guess. See, I kind of have this massive crush on you." Leo said.
Echo didn't respond. Leo panicked. Maybe there was nothing in there that she could repeat as an answer. Not 'crush' not 'happy'…
"E?" He asked.
"I'll just ramble off some words," Leo said, "And you tell me which one fits best what you want to say. Okay... here we go."
He took a deep breath. His thirty seconds was so up.
"You disgust me Leo Valdez. Good to know. Ewe get away from me you repelling bug. Owe- my virgin ears. Sorry I'm in love with your best friend. It burns. You're like a brother to me. Let's just be friends. Why would you say something like that? Let's pretend this never happened…"
Echo stayed still.
"Not on the list?" Leo winced.
Echo shook her head and got up. Leo thought she'd run away and fade away from his mind again- gods, he didn't want that. His heart stopped beating.
And then she kissed him. Now that hadn't been on the list at all.
She pulled back.
"I second that," Leo said smiling goofily.
Echo's face, that memorable face, pulled into a smile too.
"Second," she nodded before kissing him once again.
It didn't really matter that the flag was late to the game, did it?
Leo didn't think so.