Summary: Reyna's not really sure why she trusts him, and Leo's not really sure why she likes him. Bookstore AU.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, or characters I adopt from those books. Merely the characterization and plot are mine.
If he's being honest, Leo isn't really sure how he ended up working at the bookstore.
First of all, Leo doesn't care much about books. And second, he didn't even want a job.
But, sometimes, things choose you rather than you picking them. And his new occupation at the bookstore was one of those things.
It's not so much that he hated working there. The location was fairly convenient, seeing as there was a restaurant just across the street and everything else in this small town wasn't far off. The pay was good, since he was basically the only worker. The main problem that Leo had with working at the bookstore was the lack of customers.
Every customer who had ever taken the time to wander into the bookstore had left with a purchase or two, and he had never received a single complaint. It was simply the lack of interest in real books that decreased their business. Leo was a people person, and this job didn't allow him much interaction with the human species.
Leo had noticed that most people tended to read on whatever technology they had. Not that many people cared about crisp-papered, slightly tattered, classic books that you read so many times that every page had a dog-eared corner and the cover was always a little worn out. And Leo was one of those people. However, he did at least appreciate the bound books, the way they looked timeless despite the folds and dust on them. In some ways, Leo thinks that he appreciated the appearance of books much more than the actual books themselves.
The majority of his time was spent sitting behind the old, wooden counter playing on his phone or working on inventory. Sometimes, he would even get so far to the point of boredom that he would alphabetize the books by genre.
However, today was different. It was 8:30 in the morning when he arrived at work, and he'd barely finished his morning coffee when he heard the bells jingle that signaled the opening of the shop door. He choked on his beverage a bit, not expecting a human life form so early. He set his coffee down on one of the shelves behind him and turned with a smile on his face.
"Hey there, pretty lady. Welcome!" Leo said cheerfully. He waved at the curly, blonde-haired girl. She raised an eyebrow, turning towards the door as if waiting for someone to walk in. Leo glanced at the door in utter shock as the bells rang again. Already two people more than the last two weeks, he thought wryly to himself.
The second person entering the bookstore was different than the blonde girl. Rather than being simply 'pretty', this new girl was fiercely beautiful. Her dark brown eyes sized him up and Leo uncharacteristically felt self-conscious. Her hair was long, straight, and nearly so dark brown it was black. Leo once more met her intimidating eyes, and he glanced away for a moment, unsure of himself.
Throwing a charming smile on his face and brushing off his insecurities, he waved once more. "So, beautiful, what can I do for you on this fine day?" Leo watched as she glanced out the window at the stormy weather and stared stonily back at him.
"Doesn't look so much like a 'fine day' to me," she said softly. And he took into account that for looking so strong, the beautiful girl was soft spoken.
Leo gave her a lopsided smile. "It's better now that you're here, babe!" She raised an eyebrow, looking hardly amused. He shrugged mentally. You win some, you lose some.
"We're here to do some research. School project," the blonde said, speaking for the first time. Leo nodded, already walking from behind the desk.
"Is there a certain topic?" Leo questioned, stopping a few paces ahead of them.
"Mechanics and architecture," the blonde recited. "Got anything?"
He couldn't help but give her a massive grin. "Tons." He started walking down the many rows of bookshelves, knowing precisely where the mechanics section was. "I'm Leo, by the way," he enlightened them, turning down an aisle.
"Annabeth," the voice he recognized as the blonde's said as Leo bent down slightly to read the book spines. Sometimes, being tall had its disadvantages.
Leo ran his fingers across the books as he walked further. "What about you, beautiful?" Leo asked, glancing pointedly at the dark-haired girl.
She sighed, meeting his eyes. "Reyna."
"Gorgeous name for a gorgeous face," he said lightly with a smile. Choosing a book, he shimmied it off the bookcase. "This one's really good. There's a lot of pictures and such, so it'll be pretty understandable. And there's a glossary in the back in case you don't understand some of the technical terms."
"Wait, you've read this?" Reyna asked, looking confusedly at the fairly large book.
"Every page," Leo said with a shrug. "Mechanics are sort of my thing. Are you impressed?" he asked with another grin.
"Should I be?" Reyna asked, raising an unimpressed eyebrow.
Leo laughed full-heartedly, pointing at Reyna. "You're feisty. I like it."
"You're presumptuous. I don't like it." Leo grinned at the dark-haired girl he'd just met, glancing her up and down appraisingly. She was just his type: crazy gorgeous, crazy brutal, and crazy out of his league.
"Here's a second one," he told Annabeth, passing her another book on mechanics. "It's smaller, but packed with information. This one is more of a history book; the first one is a bit more modern." The blonde nodded. Leo smiled and walked to a different section of the bookstore. He handed her a few books on architecture, the one he'd read out of pure boredom and two he knew completely nothing about. Annabeth was looking curiously at one of the architecture books after he offered to carry the large stack of books he'd given them. Toting the books to the front of the store, he dropped them on the desk. "Will that be all for you lovely ladies?" Leo asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Actually, do you have a restroom?" Annabeth asked, finally setting down the architecture book.
Leo nodded. "Go to the very last shelf of non-fiction, and take a left. It's a straight shot from there," he told her.
"Be right back," Annabeth said, setting off in that direction. He glanced at Reyna who was looking apprehensive, but Leo decided that maybe he shouldn't bother her.
Or maybe he should.
"What's wrong?" Leo asked, blinking at himself. He hadn't even realized that he'd spoken. Reyna looked up at him and he put both on his hands on the edge of the desk to steady himself. He didn't remember ever being so unnerved by a girl in his life.
"It's a long story," Reyna said. Leo couldn't tell if she was simply trying to blow him off, but he got the impression that she would simply say that she wasn't going to tell him if she wasn't.
"Well, I'm here Monday through Friday from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM and I hardly get to see civilization, so I have time to listen if you're willing to tell," Leo told her solemnly. Reyna gave him an odd look, almost as though trying to tell if he was lying.
After seemingly deciding that Leo was being genuine, she nodded and said, "Okay." Leo smiled at her again, waltzing behind the desk and drinking his once hot coffee. Wincing a bit at the temperature, he checked the inside of the book covers and determined the total, using a pen to write the receipt. "No register?"
"Nah," Leo said with a shrug. "Probably wouldn't be worth it anyways. We don't get all that many customers anymore." Reyna glanced in the direction Annabeth had left and bit her lip.
"Do you have the book 'Pride and Prejudice'?" she asked quietly. Leo briefly wondered why her voice sounded so small, but he nodded once, turning and looking on the shelves behind the desk. That was typically where he kept the books that he planned on reading or was in the process of reading. Leo had only read the first chapter of the book that Reyna was asking for, but he didn't mind handing it over to her.
"There you are. And you can have it free of cost, on one condition," Leo said, smiling. Reyna looked relieved as she flipped through the book, looking up at Leo and silently telling him to continue. "You have to come back one day soon and tell me what's wrong."
"There's not really anything wrong–" Reyna began, only to be cut off by Leo.
"Please. I may look dumb, but I know that every girl has at least one problem to share," Leo said confidently, meeting Reyna's gaze head-on.
She narrowed her eyes. "Maybe I don't like sharing much."
"Then we'll go a little at a time. A problem a day, so to speak," Leo said with a shrug. Reyna gave him an odd look, and Leo interpreted it as her wondering why he was trying so hard. Leo himself didn't know, honestly. Usually, after one or two tries, the girl made it as blatant as possible that she wasn't interested, and Leo shrugged it off. However, Reyna hadn't blown him off just yet, and Leo didn't think he would give up even if she did.
Leo had never really met a girl like Reyna: soft-spoken but feisty, beautiful without knowing, and with a pair of the most intense eyes he'd ever seen. He tended to go for the more obnoxious girls, since that's what he was: loud and unashamed.
Annabeth returned, saving both Reyna and Leo from a growing awkward silence, and telling them that she'd got caught up looking at a book about Greek architecture. She asked Leo to add the book she'd started reading to the purchase. He did as she asked, giving Reyna a pointed look as he said, 'I hope you visit again'. Reyna had looked to the ground, not glancing at him again as they left the bookstore.
Leo slouched into his chair. He shook out his thick, curly hair, attempting to sweep it to the side but not having much of an effect.
Leo had always had the terrible curse of falling for every girl he saw, and Reyna didn't escape that curse. Leo was determined to help her, even if she didn't end up with him in the end, though that was preferable. Based on the little bit he knew about Reyna, he liked her so far. She was quiet and soft, a drastic comparison to him. Leo had always been the noisy, irritating flirt when he'd been in high school.
After Leo had graduated, he'd decided against going to college. He didn't honestly thought it would be a waste of time and since all he wanted to do was be a mechanic, he would just take the course on that when the time arose. There was really no need to go to college for however many more years, learning things that he never planned on using.
He knew that Annabeth was in college, since he's seen her once or twice around in high school. He'd never actually learned her name, but he knew that she was president of the senior class, and that she'd been dating the captain of the swim team. Now that he thought about it, he realized that Annabeth was his class' valedictorian. He mentally appraised her, remembering the speech she'd made at graduation as inspirational.
Leo glanced at the time, groaning when he saw that it had been a mere twenty minutes. "All aboard the never-ending shift," he muttered to himself, sinking further into his chair and diving into the games on his phone.
It was two days later when Reyna finally visited him once more, and Leo was still bleary eyed and half asleep. He'd forgotten all of his money at home, though he managed to have his wallet, and no money meant no morning coffee. Leo had been lying with his head flat on the desk when the bells on the door rang and he mentally groaned.
Looking up, a bit belatedly thanks to his drowsiness, he smiled sleepily. "Hey there, gorgeous."
"You look tired," Reyna said quietly, setting a book on the counter. It took Leo a full ten seconds to realize that it was 'Pride and Prejudice' and that Reyna had spoken.
"I forgot my money, which means I didn't get coffee," Leo said, his voice still thick with sleep, sounding much deeper and more accented than usual. He gave a helpless smile and stood up, stretching.
He completely missed the way that Reyna discreetly checked out his slender and seemingly endless torso. He completely missed the way that she hid a smile at the sight of his messy bed head and tired eyes. He'd never know that she compared him to a kitten in her mind at that moment.
"Anyways, can I help you? Need anything? A book, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a hot date, or all of the above?" Leo asked cheekily, his words losing their normal flirtatious flare as he slurred his words a little.
Reyna rolled her eyes and nodded towards the door. "I'll buy you a coffee."
Leo perked up slightly, but deflated soon after. "I can't just leave work."
Reyna shrugged. "You said yourself that no one ever comes in here," she replied logically in her soft tone. Leo raised an eyebrow and sighed.
"Well, I hate to make the lady pay on the first of hopefully many dates, but I won't make it another ten minutes if I don't have a coffee," Leo told her with a grin. She raised an eyebrow in response, and Leo wondered what it would look like if she smiled.
They walked in a slightly awkward silence, but that was only because Leo had an aura of awkward around him. His long limbs and lanky posture gave him an odd way of walking and a mismatched pace.
Reyna thought, I could get used to it.
Leo thought, Why did I get the curse of being the only tall Valdez?
When Leo refused to stand the silence any longer, he sighed. "What's your favorite color?"
"Purple," Reyna asked, sounding almost relieved that he'd said something. "You?"
"I don't really have one," Leo responded easily. "I like all the colors equally, I guess. No preference. Do you have any other favorites?"
"Like what?" Reyna asked, her brow furrowing in confusion. Leo smiled, thinking that the expression was utterly adorable on her.
"Like a favorite book. Or song. Or band. Or movie," Leo listed, extending one of his fingers with each suggestion. Reyna bit her lip, looking deep in thought.
"My favorite book is 'Pride and Prejudice'. My favorite song would probably have to be 'Iris' by The Goo Goo Dolls, and my favorite band... well, I don't really have one I suppose. Coldplay, maybe?" Reyna shrugged. "My favorite movie is The Lion King," she told him, her face lighting up in a childish glow, but not a smile, not yet. "It was the only thing I watched when I was little."
"I've been told that I resemble Scar," Leo joked, eliciting a small ghost of a smile on Reyna's lips. "I approve of your favorite song and your favorite book."
Reyna raised an indifferent eyebrow. "Who was searching for your approval?"
And all Leo could do was grin at the challenge Reyna was.
It was when they were back in the warm, cozy confines of the bookstore when Leo decided to ask Reyna about her problems. She'd acted like she hadn't him at first, but after he repeated the question seven times, she noticed that she couldn't ignore him.
"Come on, Reyna. Just tell me one thing. One problem or worry you have, just to lighten the load. Believe it or not, I do want to help, regardless of how well I know you," Leo told her, his eyes never leaving her face one time.
After a prolonged silence and a hesitant sigh, Reyna inquired, "should I start big or small?"
Leo met her eyes as she looked up at him. He smiled softly. "Whatever makes you more comfortable."
He watched as Reyna shut her eyes tightly. "Both of my parents died in a car crash on March 10th, two years ago." Leo could only stare at Reyna, completely astounded. Reyna didn't look like the kind of girl who'd gone through the pain of not losing one, but both of her parents.
He wanted to say that he was sorry, but he knew that wasn't typically what you wanted to hear after you told someone that your parents passed away. Instead, he reached over the counter and squeezed Reyna's hand sympathetically. Her expression was half thankful for the support, and half cautious, but she didn't say anything. She gripped Leo's hand like it was a lifeline, but he knew that feeling – the feeling of being so terribly alone that even a strangers' comfort was golden.
"Well, gorgeous, we're not as different as I originally thought," Leo said thoughtfully and almost silently. Reyna strained to hear him. "My mom died in a fire and my dad... Well, I never knew him," Leo confessed with a shrug. "Mom died when I was really young though, so it's different, but just... Know that I get it." Reyna nodded mutely and released Leo from her grasp.
"I have a morning class," Reyna said suddenly, retrieving her book and hurried out the door without a second glance at Leo.
You see, Leo hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, he'd done everything perfectly. Reyna was scared, though – so scared to trust anyone who wasn't herself. And therefore, she walked to her class, repeating her mantra of 'me, myself, and I against the world' in her mind.
Two weeks had past and Reyna had yet to visit Leo once more. While she worried about trusting him too much and getting burned in the end, Leo sighed helplessly over another lost love, instead flipping through a book on mechanics to distract himself.
It worked for all of about thirty minutes when Leo decided he simply could not stand his boredom, which led to him searching for something to entertain himself. He drew pictures in the dust on the shelves, he counted the number of books by Stephen King they had, he straightened every picture frame, and, finally, Leo resulted to lying flat on the ground and singing.
Singing had always been a hobby of Leo's, and he wouldn't say that he was good necessarily, but he wasn't a bad singer. He was simply average. He'd learned to play guitar at the age of twelve by teaching himself and a few handy YouTube videos. The first song he knew how to play was 'Hey There, Delilah' by The Plain White T's. It had been his favorite song at the time, and it was probably still in his top ten now.
Switching from the Bon Jovi song he was nearly yelling, he started singing the aforementioned song, playing imaginary guitar with his hands. He'd have to remember to bring in his guitar to entertain himself one day.
Right when Leo reached the middle of the second verse, he heard the jingling of the bells from the entrance. Immediately stopping his singing and jumping up all in one motion, Leo rushed to the front of the store to greet the customer.
Much to his surprise, the person entering the store was Annabeth, the girl with the curly hair. He gave her one of his wild grins, the ones that he was famous for. "Hey, Annabeth! To what do I owe this pleasure of – "
"No, thank you," Annabeth said firmly, sending him a glare. "Now tell me, what did you do to her?"
His eyes widened. "What? Who?" I questioned, confused. Annabeth rolled her eyes and gave Leo a pointed look as if to say, 'like you don't know'. "I swear I don't know what you're talking about, crazy lady!"
"What did you do to Reyna? Did you say something to her? Because for the past two weeks, she's been different," Annabeth said sharply, still leering. Leo bit his lip, his brow furrowing as he tried to remember every little thing he'd said. He didn't remember being offensive in the slightest. Leo shook my head slowly, looking solemnly at her. Unexpectedly, Annabeth grabbed the collar of his shirt and yanked him down so he was on her level. "Listen here, Leo," Annabeth ground out. Leo gulped nervously. "Reyna has been my best friend since we were three. I was there for her when no one else was, and I know her better than anyone else. The last time she looked this vacant was when…" Annabeth trailed off, but Leo had a feeling that he knew how that sentence would end.
"When her parents died," he finished softly.
Annabeth looked up at him sharply, narrowing her eyes. "Are you doing some creepy search on the internet or something – "
"No!" Leo protested quickly. "No, no, I swear, she told me."
"What? When?" Annabeth asked, releasing him from her grip with a shove.
"The other day," he said with a shrug. "She visited me."
"Okay," Annabeth said, sounding confused. "What did you say then?"
"Nothing! She bought me a coffee and we just talked! Then she told me about her parents and I told her that I knew how it was because my mom died and I never knew my dad and then she said she had a morning class and left, I swear – "
"Okay!" Annabeth said, effectively cutting Leo off. He took a few deep breaths, rubbing his face. "I get it. You didn't do anything."
"Well, what's wrong with her?" Leo asked, his lips pursing in worry.
"She's just… blank. She's not showing hardly any emotion. It's weird, really weird. If you didn't say anything, then what's wrong with her? I even looked at her phone, the only calls and texts were to me," Annabeth said, sounding frustrated.
"Reyna could have easily deleted them," Leo pointed out. Annabeth narrowed her eyes at him and he put his hands up in surrender. "Whoa, lady, I'm just making a valid point over here!"
Annabeth sighed deeply. "I have to find out what's wrong with her. I don't like her being so empty." Leo nodded in understanding, remembering the state he'd briefly gone into when he hit his teenage years and realized that his mom was gone.
"Let me talk to her," Leo said suddenly, surprising both himself and Annabeth.
She looked apprehensive. "I'm not so sure that you can help…"
"Just let me try," Leo said, his voice fueled with determination like a soldier fighting in a war. "I promise I'll leave if it gets worse or doesn't help at all. Please." Leo looked earnestly into her eyes.
Annabeth looked him up and down scrutinizing, and with an indignant huff, she nodded towards the door. "Come on."
When they finally arrived at where Annabeth was claiming Reyna was, he had to blink twice. It was probably the nicest apartment building he'd ever seen. "She lives with me," Annabeth told Leo as he got out of the car. "We bought an apartment together rather than living in dorms." Leo nodded, still looking in a daze at the building.
"How the hell can you afford this?" Leo asked, already walking towards the building. Annabeth matched his pace and sighed.
"To make a long story short, my real mom is this big business investor. She thinks that giving me money and things can make up for her absence," she told him.
"And does it?" Leo questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course. It helps her sleep at night and keeps me from going into poverty and eating Ramen noodles every day like so many other college students," Annabeth said with a smile. Leo laughed, grinning the whole way to the elevator Annabeth led him to. After a brief and slightly awkward ride on the elevator with several strangers ignoring everyone else, they were on the fourth floor. Annabeth yanked on his shirt, pulling him after her and causing him to trip.
"Careful, woman! I'm fragile!" Leo cried dramatically, stumbling after the fast-paced blonde. She stopped abruptly at a door, still holding his shirt firm in her hand as she thrust a key in the door. "Take a left to the hallway and then it's your first door on the right." She opened the door, and just as quickly shoved Leo inside, shutting the door behind him. He blinked for a moment, confused, then whipped around to see a foyer and a hallway to his left, as promised. He started for the hallway, carefully and silently opening the first door on his right.
He poked his head inside, looking cautious, immediately relaxing when he saw Reyna lying down with her headphones in. At least he was in the right place.
Before the relief could even settle in, he felt anxiety overtake him. He rubbed his hands together, his hands warming from the friction as he tried desperately to rid himself of the nerves that always plagued him around this gorgeous girl. He cleared his throat, taking a few awkward, lanky steps toward Reyna. He sat carefully on the edge of the bed, wincing a bit when he noticed too late that he'd caused her to shift. She said up immediately, opening her eyes and not looking all that shocked.
He gestured for her to remove her headphones, and she did so, staring blankly at him. It was more unnerving than her usual intimidating glare. "Hi," he said uncomfortably, giving her a crazy big grin and waving. "What's up?" Reyna shrugged mutely and Leo sighed. "Answer me, please? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Reyna said simply, wrapping her headphones around her iPod and setting it on the side table.
"Come on now, I hate seeing such a pretty face lie," Leo said, smiling at her softly. "What'd I do wrong?"
"Nothing," Reyna answered again, except this time she was telling the truth, though Leo had no clue.
"Please, Reyna," Leo said, sounding serious. "Tell me what I did so I'll never do it again."
"You didn't do anything," she promised. "I just… couldn't."
"No! You've brought it up! You can't just not finish the full thought!" Leo argued, pointing an accusing finger at her. She raised an eyebrow.
"I can and I will. Why are you here?" Reyna asked quietly.
"To figure out what's wrong and make it okay again," Leo said with a shrug. "But that'll be hard if you can't tell me what's wrong. You know, I may not know you that well, but I do care. You can trust me." Reyna looked away from him, staring at her bed and running her hands over the sheets. Leo sighed, clasping his hands together and resting his elbows on his knees. "Remember? A problem a day? You owe me two weeks' worth of problems. I'll release you from your debt if you let me help."
Reyna stared at him, narrowing her eyes a little. "That's fourteen problems."
"It sure is," Leo replied, winking at her. "I like a girl who's smart."
Reyna rolled her eyes. "Just because I know how many days are in a week?"
"Baby, you could say that two plus two equals five and I'd still think you were smart," Leo said honestly, smirking at Reyna. He relished in the small smile, merely a twitch of her lips, that he received.
There was a few beats of silence, and then a deep breath. "I have trust issues," Reyna said hastily, as though the words couldn't get out fast enough. "And I stopped talking to you because I didn't want to trust you. I only need to trust myself."
Leo nodded, understanding the dilemma. "Don't you trust Annabeth?"
"There's a pocketknife in my nightstand drawer, wanna see?"
"Whoa, babe, don't get me wrong, the whole badass girl using weapons is always a plus, but don't get too violent on me," Leo joked, grinning at Reyna. He sobered up soon after, looking at Reyna with earnest eyes. "I get it, though. But just so you know, you really can trust me. I may seem like your average loud, irritating and devilishly handsome guy, but I can keep a secret. Let me cure those trust issues."
"How do I know I can trust you though?" Reyna asked, her tone actually forceful for the first time Leo'd ever heard. "You could be lying."
"I could be," Leo agreed. "But that's the whole thing. You have to trust that I'm not."
There was a brief silence in which Reyna stared Leo down and Leo just stared at Reyna. Finally, "Why should I trust you?"
Leo hummed thoughtfully. "I'm gorgeous, my sense of humor is great, my hugs are the best, I like hearing you talk and… I have curly hair."
Reyna snorted, nearly laughing. "Those are the worst reasons I've ever heard. What does your hair have to do with it?"
"It's soft. It's comforting," Leo told her, pouting. She smiled slightly, biting her lips to keep her grin from widening. "So, trust me."
Leo's eyes widened and his gaze was on Reyna, completely shocked. "Really?"
"I'll give it a try," Reyna said, softly. "The first time you mess this up – "
"I won't! Pinky promise," Leo said, latching his pinky onto Reyna's. She raised an eyebrow at the childish gesture, tightening her pinky around his anyways. "And it's forbidden to break a pinky promise, so you should be good."
Reyna nodded, releasing his pinky. "I believe you."
"See!" Leo said, clapping happily. "Progress!" Reyna gave a barely there smile. "Now, promise to come visit me? Soon? You still have to make up for those fourteen problems," Leo told her, giving her a huge smile.
"Soon," Reyna said with a nod. Leo stood up, cracking his back. He glanced at Reyna. "What, am I supposed to stand or something?" Leo nodded, helping her up and pulling her into a hug. She was much shorter than him; the top of her head was around where his heart was. She stood still for a few moments, but Leo wasn't one to be put off by stillness. He held her tight, smiling crazy big when he felt her hesitantly hug him back.
"Progress," he sing-songed. Reyna pinched him and he flinched. "Ouch."
"You deserved it," Reyna said, sounding nonchalant. "Are we done?"
"What, hugging?" He felt Reyna nod against him, so he hummed. "Sure." He broke the hug, grinning at Reyna. "Touch my hair."
"What? No, absolutely not – "
"You won't regret this."
"I am not touching your hair, it's weird," Reyna said, taking a step back from Leo. He stepped forward, seizing one of her wrists and bending down slightly, forcing her hand into his hair. After she stopped struggling against his grip, he released her wrist.
"It's soft, isn't it? Luscious. Silk. I told you," Leo said, laughing. He closed his eyes as Reyna ran her hand through his hair once, loving the feeling. He sighed happily, once again not knowing that Reyna compared him to a cat. She ran her hands through his hair again, yanking a good portion of it for good measure.
"Ouch! My gorgeous locks! What have you done?" Leo cried, pouring on the dramatics. Reyna rolled her eyes as Leo shook his hair out and resituated it. "I bet it's all messed up now," Leo said, pouting childishly.
Reyna rolled her eyes, walking to the door and opening it. "Bye."
"Jeez, woman, I can take a hint when a girl wants me to leave," Leo told her with mock offense. As he approached the door, he stopped in the doorframe, turning back to Reyna with his classic Valdez smile. "Don't forget about me, now."
"I won't," Reyna said, gesturing for him to leave. "See you later."
Leo nodded once, leaving the apartment and walking down the hallway. Just as he went to round the corner, he was pulled by his collar. "Ouch, jeez, how many times am I going to be yanked around today – "
"Is she okay?" Annabeth asked, worry lacing her voice.
"Yeah," Leo said with a shrug. "I think so, anyways." Annabeth breathed out, relieved, releasing Leo.
"Okay. You can go."
Leo looked at her, astonished. "Am I walking back to the bookstore?"
"Oh, right. Your cab is outside," Annabeth enlightened him. "And I already paid him in case you didn't have your wallet."
"Thanks," Leo said, taken aback by her kindness.
"You're welcome. Thanks for fixing my best friend," Annabeth said with a shrug. "Now go on." She dismissed him with a wave of her hand and Leo raised an eyebrow.
"Bye, Annabeth." He turned, heading down the hall to the elevator and feeling relieved, as he was the only one on the ride.
So, Reyna might just trust him. Leo toyed with the idea on the way back to the bookstore, remembering the kind hug and the not-so-kind pulling of hair. The memories made him smile as he reminisced.
Even if it killed him, he would find a way to make sure Reyna was okay – no, he would make sure she was happy. So beyond happy, so on Cloud Nine that she won't be able to remember what it was like to be sad. He would make sure that he remained a person worth trusting. He wouldn't mess this up.
After all, he pinky promised.
Reyna wasn't all that sure why she made the decision to trust Leo, the guy who she'd just met; the guy who's last name she didn't even know. He just had this aura about him, and he just gave her this feeling that made her want to be better, if not for herself, then for him.
She'd still guard herself, of course. Her heart would still be locked away in a steel box, safe from being captured by anyone. Especially Leo.
The odd thing was, Reyna's type was everything Leo wasn't. She liked the guys who were sporty and worked out. She liked the guys who had defined muscles and cocky attitudes. She liked the guys who walked with a confident stride.
Leo was the epitome of awkward, lanky, and not-so-athletically inclined.
But, I mean, there's a first time for everything, right?
Reyna immediately stomped on the part of her brain that was pushing such thoughts into her conscious.
Little did Reyna know, that was actually what her heart was screaming.
Reyna looked up, startled by the sound of the door opening before remembering that Annabeth was supposed to be home quite a while ago. She left the confines of her room, walking out into the foyer, then straight on to the kitchen where she knew Annabeth would be making tea.
"Hi," Reyna said lightly, getting a coffee cup down for herself.
Annabeth raised an eyebrow. "She speaks!"
Reyna rolled her eyes, elbowing Annabeth in the side. "I've always been able to speak."
"So, what did that guy say that was oh-so-magical and caused you to be normal again?" Annabeth asked bluntly. Reyna was unperturbed, quite used to her best friend's blatant nature.
"He didn't really say anything," Reyna told her. He listened, she added in her thoughts.
"Fine, fine," Annabeth said with a sigh, holding her hands up. "I know when someone doesn't want to share details." She finished making her hot tea quickly, and turned to leave the room. "Good to have you back, though." She smiled a bit sadly at Reyna, heading into her room and shutting the door.
Reyna had no doubt in her mind that Annabeth would be studying behind that closed door, so rather than going and sitting with her in silence, she made herself a cup of hot tea and went to finish the literature report due the next day.
Reyna's first morning class started at ten, so she decided that she would stop by and see Leo for the ten minutes she'd have. She bought herself a coffee at the bakery down the street, smiling slightly at the elderly woman behind the counter and leaving the quaint shop. She got back into her ebony Toyota Camry and drove the short distance to the bookstore.
The funny thing was, Reyna almost didn't go with Annabeth that day. She'd been just about to get down to business with her incredibly difficult math when Annabeth poked her head into her room and provided a shining way of procrastinating – the bookstore. Reyna toyed with the thought of having never met the ridiculous, curly-haired guy she was now attempting to trust.
She didn't care for it much.
Leo was everything she wasn't; her complete and total opposite. But, in a weird way, he kind of filled in the places she lacked.
It was with this thought that she entered the bookstore, hearing a few chords on a guitar before the music ceased. "Hello?" Reyna called, glancing around. Leo wasn't behind his desk, as per usual.
"Hey, gorgeous," Leo said, appearing from behind a random bookshelf, guitar in hand. He started playing a random beat. "What's up?"
"I have ten minutes before my morning class, so..." Reyna trailed off with a shrug.
"So, you came to get your dosage of Leo loving. I get it, babe," Leo said, shooting her a wink. She icily returned a dry look. "Alright. Problem of the day? A rant?"
"There's this guy," Reyna started, unknowingly making Leo's heart sink. "And he's very persistent and annoying. Leo, I think his name is. He bothers me."
Leo instantly brightened up. "That's my specialty," he told her with a laugh. "You'll learn to love it. But really, tell me a problem."
Reyna seemed to be thinking hard. "I have a chemistry test tomorrow, and I don't have the slightest clue of what's going on."
Leo's eyes lit up. "Follow me," he told her, walking rather awkwardly down aisles until he stopped in front of a certain section. "We have chemistry books," he told her. "And I happen to know that this one," Leo informed, placing a book in her hand, "explains it all in less of a scientific foreign language."
Reyna flipped through the book, seeing a lot of diagrams and pictures. "Thanks."
"Anytime," Leo replied with his manic grin. "See? I can even help solve some of the problems." Reyna gave him a small, tight-lipped smile. "And, since I doubt you want to buy that book, you can just bring it back when you're done."
"Really," Leo confirmed. "And it's been seven minutes. You have class in three." Reyna's eyes snapped to the clock.
"Bye," she said quickly, waving. "And thanks for the book."
"No problem, babe," Leo called after her as she exited with aplomb. He smiled softly after her for a few moments before starting to entertain himself with his guitar.
If Leo was surprised that she'd visited him at all, the second visit he received right around noon made him question whether or not he'd died and gone to heaven.
"It's lunchtime," Reyna stated bluntly as she dropped her keys on the unstable front desk. "I'm hungry. Get lunch with me."
Leo raised an eyebrow and smiled broadly. "I like a woman who doesn't take no for an answer."
"That's good," Reyna quipped. "There's plenty of them. Now come on, I'm going to starve."
"The shop – "
Reyna sighed, effectively cutting Leo off. She grabbed a pen and a scrap sheet of paper off of his desk. "Out for lunch, back at 1:15," Reyna said out loud as she wrote. "That was so hard. Now, come on."
Leo shoved his cell phone into his front pocket and picked up his keys to lock up. "I take it that you're driving?"
"Yes," Reyna replied with a sigh, gesturing for Leo to exit immediately.
"You're a lamb," Leo told her with a wink and an affectionate tug of her hair. The thing is, Leo may be a bit awkward, but he warmed up to people almost instantly.
"I'll be running you over if you don't hurry," she threatened.
"Okay, okay," Leo said signaling defeat. "I know when a woman means business."
Fifteen minutes later, they were sitting at the local diner – a sweet, homely, family-owned place called Lani's – and ordering drinks. Leo was taken aback by Reyna's sudden decision to hang out with him; it wasn't very often that humans, especially of the female gender, took a liking to him. Reyna recited her drink order as well as her lunch order, and Leo just said he'd have the same. He was a bit distracted, seeing as there was this girl – this really, really, really pretty girl – sitting in front of him. At a diner. It's felt like a date, even though it probably wasn't in her eyes. Leo figured that he would take what he could get.
Reyna looked impatiently after the waitress, sighing. "I'm hungry."
"I noticed," Leo told her with a laugh.
"I hate waiting," she groaned.
"I noticed that, too," Leo acknowledged.
"Anything else you've noticed?" Reyna asked, scowling at him slightly.
"You're pretty," Leo replied, unabashed. "You really like the book 'Pride and Prejudice'. You're a leader. You have intimidating eyes, but they're really gorgeous, you know? And also, I think you have pretty hands. They're very dainty."
Reyna gave him an odd look. "Thank you, I think."
Leo nodded as confirmation. "That was a compliment."
"Right," Reyna said, glancing down at Leo's hands, which were lying on the table in front of him and he absentmindedly fidgeted. "You're hands are nice, too?"
"Nah, not like yours," Leo told her, placing his hand next to hers in comparison. "Mine are huge with these creepy spindly fingers. And they're all calloused."
"That makes you look badass," Reyna offered.
Leo laughed full-heartedly, as he always did. "Thanks," he answered, still chuckling. "I think that's the first time I, Leo Valdez, have ever been called badass." He shook his head and smiled at the table. A few moments later, the waitress dropped their drinks off. Leo grinned up at her. "Thank you!" he said enthusiastically.
She smiled back. "You're welcome!"
Reyna said her thanks as well, glancing up at Leo. He was still smiling, but only slightly. "Leo," she said suddenly, "smile."
"Anything for you, babe," Leo said, grinning full on.
"You have dimples," she muttered in disbelief.
"That I do," Leo affirmed with a nod. "Is that a problem?"
"No – they're – I mean, no. They're – cute. I guess. Maybe," Reyna responded brokenly and indifferently.
Leo smiled charmingly at her. "Thanks. It's cute. How you stuttered."
"I did not stutter," Reyna said, affronted. She flipped her head over her shoulder and sat up straight. Leo shook his head and smiled to himself, making Reyna want to smile as well. "I did not stutter," she reiterated.
Leo looked up and gave her a charming smiled, dimple and all. He knew that his eyes were twinkling as he said, "And I'll pretend to believe you." Reyna scowled at him, not for his reply, but for the way he was looking so adorable. It wasn't really all that fair, and Reyna considered it an unjust advantage. "You're gorgeous."
"And you're not shy," Reyna answered, looking down at the table and commanding herself not to blush.
"No," Leo agreed with a softer smile. "Just honest."
And it continued like that for a while, Reyna arriving at the bookstore ten or fifteen minutes before her morning class and talking to Leo. They shared minor facts about themselves, confided huge problems in one another, and somehow remained acquaintances.
It was one particular morning, in which Reyna had woken up too late to make it to her morning class and decided to stay in, that resulted in a change of agenda.
It was exactly noon when Reyna took a pizza out of the oven, and a second later, someone knocked on the door. Reyna rolled her eyes, assuming it was Annabeth who'd forgotten her key for whatever reason, but as she opened the door, she was face to face with Leo Valdez.
"Hey there, gorgeous," Leo said in his usual greeting. "I was a bit worried about you. Got used to seeing you every morning, I guess." Reyna bit back a smile as Leo tried to sweep his wild curls to the side with little success.
"I'm fine," Reyna told him. "Just woke up late. It wouldn't have been worth it; I would have gotten to class right when it ended."
"You still could have come and seen me," Leo replied with a childish pout. Reyna rolled her eyes. "You're heartless!" Leo accused.
"Maybe," Reyna said, shutting the door blatantly in his face. There was five seconds of silence, then another knock at the door. Reyna smiled as if she'd expected it all along, opening the door once more. "Yes?" she acknowledged curtly.
Leo gave her pitiful sad eyes. "I can't even hang out with you?"
Unable to find an appropriate response, she sighed and opened the door wider. "I'm about to eat."
"Okay," Leo said with a questioning tone.
"So, are you hungry?" Reyna clarified.
Leo smiled his too big smile. "Babe, you read my mind." Reyna gave him a dry look and grumbled irritatedly as he ruffled her hair. Reyna lead him into the kitchen, and Leo leaned against a counter as she put a pizza cutter to work. "How was your day?"
"Not too eventful," Reyna replied, wanting to smile at the honest curiosity of his question. "Caught up on some work."
"A problem?" Leo asked, in his normal tactless way. He stared at Reyna with caring eyes, and it made her scowl a bit. How did someone she hardly know care about her so much?
"I can't think of one. I'm a bit hungry, at the moment," Reyna said after a few moments of consideration. Leo accepted a plate from her, and she grabbed a few slices for herself. He took three, the same number as her.
"Well, eat, then tell me," Leo offered. She nodded in response, taking a bite and setting it on the counter. She rummaged around for the plastic cups they had somewhere – Reyna hated doing dishes – and sighed in relief as she found them. Tossing one to an unsuspecting yet fast reflexed Leo, Reyna opened the fridge.
"We have Pepsi, tea, milk and orange juice," she listed.
Leo laughed, though she couldn't imagine why. "Pepsi, please." She grabbed the two-liter, deciding that she'd have the same beverage and poured some in Leo's cup, then hers. "Where to?" he asked, holding his drink and his plate.
"The table," Reyna said sarcastically, walking past him. (She missed the way he smiled lazily after her, wondering what he'd done to deserve such a perfect friend.)
Leo sat down at the table, praying that he wouldn't knock something over or break anything with his clumsy hands. Reyna admired his messy curls.
They ate in silence for a few moments before, "I don't even know how old you are," spilled from Leo's impulsive mouth.
Reyna laughed as he looked a bit embarrassed. "Nineteen," she replied. "Twenty in June."
"Nineteen," Leo repeated. "Me too. But you're still older than me; my birthday's in October. I always did like older women," Leo told her with a wink.
"Gross," she muttered jokingly, making Leo look mock-offensive.
"Babe, you hit me where I live," Leo told her dramatically. "That hurts."
"Please," Reyna said, in her no-nonsense way. "You'll be fine. You deserve a bit of hurting to your ego."
"Are you calling me egotistical?" Leo asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Maybe a bit over-confident," Reyna said with a shrug. "And you're a bit shameless."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Leo questioned, taking a bite of his pizza.
"You're just... blunt. For example, you say things like 'you look hot today'," Reyna answered.
"I have never once called you 'hot'," Leo said, almost sounding offended. "That's a word for ditzy blondes with no class. You're gorgeous."
Reyna bit the inside of her cheek and prayed to whatever deity listened that she wasn't blushing. However, by the way Leo's face lit up and his dimples appeared, Reyna knew she was. "Don't say a word," she muttered begrudgingly.
"I wasn't going to," Leo told her, laughing and shaking his head. "It's cute though."
"Stop calling me cute," Reyna enjoined.
"Stop being cute," Leo shot back, childishly sticking his tongue out. Reyna scowled deeply at him, but he just smiled back in his almost maniacal way. "Like that. You're being cute."
"I'm scowling!" Reyna protested. "That's not cute! It's mad!"
"Which is cute on you!" Leo replied, smiling at her. Reyna shook her head, finishing off her pizza. Leo smiled stupidly at her for the rest of the meal, but Reyna refused to look at him. This seemed to only make him want her attention more. He started off by tapping the table in a way he knew she hated, then he cleared his throat an unnecessary amount of times. Finally, he resulted to a game of footsies. He took her right foot hostage, which finally made her give him a disbelieving look.
"Are we five?"
"Babe, I'll be anything for you," Leo said cheesily. Reyna tried to take her foot back, but Leo captured it tightly. "Uh-uh-uh," he sang. "No way."
"Tell me a problem," he ordered. "You have to eventually."
Reyna sighed, looking at him. He had perfect skin, she noticed. It was almost unfair, since he was a teenager. His hair was messy, sure, but not in a way that screamed 'slob'. Leo was crazily perfect, with his too-big smile and lanky stature. "There's this guy," she found herself saying.
Leo tried to pretend his heart didn't drop. He hoped he was doing a good job. "And?" he prompted, breaking a crumb in between his index finger and thumb.
"I'm not sure," Reyna replied carefully.
"Well, that's not a good sign," Leo replied, not looking at her. Reyna thought that maybe he was seriously interested in the calendar on the wall, but then another thought hit her. Leo was jealous.
She laughed suddenly, and it made Leo look at her sharply, his eyes questioning. She shook her head. "Sorry, just remembering something."
"About said boy?" Leo inquired, keeping his eyes on her face.
"Kind of," Reyna replied, smiling. Leo's eyes widened. "What?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.
"That's the first time I've seen you smile," Leo said softly, grinning personally. "I think you may have been even more beautiful. Didn't think that was possible."
Reyna rolled her eyes. Everything he said was so sugary-sweet, she couldn't help but think that she wasn't the only girl hearing it from him. "This guy, though," Reyna said, reinstating the conversation. "Have you ever felt like..." Reyna trailed off, at a loss for words. "That maybe, you have someone who's your one and only, but you aren't theirs?"
Right now, Leo thought, pushing his curls out of his eyes. "All the time," Leo told her with a shrug. "I tend to fall for girls at the drop of a hat. Ten times out of ten," he said with twisted humor, "feelings are not reciprocated."
"Right," Reyna said. "So, you know how that feels?"
"Not good," Leo muttered. "Kind of shit, actually." Reyna nodded. "Is this how the guy makes you feel?"
"Obviously," Reyna replied sarcastically. "I mean, there's times where I feel like I like him, but I know that he's kind of a player." She was twisting the truth a bit, but seeing Leo's carefully measured reactions was almost worth it.
Leo grunted noncommittally, not so talkative for once. "Players are never worth it."
"But he's different," Reyna said, smiling again. Leo thought maybe he'd died and gone to heaven.
"Even if he is a player, he's good at making people feel special, I guess," Reyna decided. "He's the first guy I ever felt like cared, honestly."
"I care," Leo responded defensively. "Come on, Rey, you've gotta know that."
Reyna bit her lip to keep from beaming at the nickname. "Of course I do," she told him. "But who's to say I didn't meet him first?"
"Oh," Leo answered. His tone of voice was off.
"I just feel like I'm not the only person he treats as if they're special," Reyna continued. "Sorry, this probably sounds so stupid to you, doesn't it?"
"No," Leo objected. "Definitely no. I want you to talk to me about problems, and it sounds like he is one, if he's playing you like this," Leo told her. "I say not to waste your time. He's probably out with bad intentions."
Reyna glanced Leo up and down, silently thinking that he was simply too adorable to ever be the type with 'bad intentions'. His childish grin and wild curly hair only added to that factor.
"Okay, I won't waste my time with him," Reyna lied. "I'll stop responding to his compliments and such."
Leo smiled so that his eyes crinkled. "Sounds like a plan."
A total of two weeks and three days later, Leo knocked on Reyna's door once more. The second she opened the door, he grabbed her wrist and started sprinting down the hall, leaving her to stumble slightly then pick up the pace. "Goodmorning!" Leo said brightly, running down the stairs at a rapid speed with Reyna close behind.
"Morning," Reyna managed, out of breath from the unexpected jog. After they made it to the bottom of the stairs, Leo turned and grinned at her.
"Reyna," he greeted formally, kissing her hand and pulling her into a swift hug. Leo bit back a too-big smile when he saw her cheeks tint rose. "Lovely to see you this morning."
"And why did we have to run?" Reyna asked, huffing slightly.
Leo winked at her. "Babe, I'm just adding spontaneity. I have the day off at the bookstore. Let's do something."
"What if I had plans?"
Leo pouted pitifully, gazing into Reyna's eyes. "You can't cancel for your best friend?"
"Best friend," Reyna repeated.
"'Course, Rey," Leo said sweetly. "You're my best friend. So, for the love of all that is holy, will you spend the day with me?"
Reyna smiled inwardly. Annabeth was her best friend, sure, but you could have more than one best friend. And she really liked Leo. As a best friend. "I suppose I could – "
Leo gave her a bone crushing hug, kissing her cheek before she could even protest. "Great! First stop: bakery."
Not even fifteen minutes later, they were entering the local bakery. The elderly woman gave them her grandmotherly smile. "What do you two sweethearts want today?"
Leo grinned at the older woman. "If anyone's sweet, Ms. Sharon, it's you." She rolled her eyes at his slick words, flicking her dishtowel towards him slightly.
"I suggest you keep your charm on your lady," Ms. Sharon said, giving Reyna a meaningful look.
"Oh – we, um – we aren't together," Reyna stuttered out. Due to her adamancy of not meeting Leo's eyes, she missed the positively smitten look he sent her.
Ms. Sharon's eyebrows rose at Leo, who gave a helpless shrug. "I'm sorry!" she laughed. "Don't mind me. I'm just an assumptious older lady."
"A gorgeous assumptious older lady," Leo charmed with an exaggerated wink.
"That charm may get you in trouble one day, Valdez," Ms. Sharon said teasingly. "Anyways, what do you kids want?"
Leo threw his arm over Reyna's shoulder, making her automatically lean into him. He thought that maybe, if he smiled a little more, his jaw would break. "What do you want, babe?"
"Coffee," Reyna replied in her softened tone of voice. Leo had always thought her sweet voice contrasted greatly with her severe features.
"What kind?" Leo prompted, tugging her hair a bit.
She scowled. "Something with poison, perhaps, so I could make you drink it."
Leo laughed heartily. "Oh, how I love your feisty side." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "She wants a French vanilla cappuccino," Leo told Ms. Sharon, having known what Reyna wanted all along. "And a cream cheese danish. I would like a French vanilla cappuccino as well, and something chocolate."
"Alright, dears," Ms. Sharon replied, reading the total. Before Reyna could even attempt to pay, which Leo wasn't sure if she had her wallet anyways, he extracted his arm from around her shoulder and pulled a twenty out of his wallet.
He took it as a silent victory when Reyna didn't scowl at him, but instead smiled slightly.
A few moments later, Ms. Sharon was handing over their order and wishing them a good day. They opted for the table in the corner, not so much for privacy, but more for the lack of sunlight blinding them. Leo took a sip of his coffee, sighing contently. Reyna hummed in approval as she ate her danish.
"Leo," Reyna said suddenly. Leo closed his eyes and decided that he really loved the way Reyna said his name. "I don't think it's very fair. You always help me with my issues, but I never hear about any of yours." If he didn't know any better, Leo would say that Reyna looked guilty.
He shrugged. "They aren't as important as yours."
"And why is that?" Reyna questioned, her eyebrows furrowing. Leo looked at her with his disarmingly alight and honest eyes.
"Because," Leo reasoned. "It's... you."
"You're more important," Leo said finally, running his hands through his tangled curls. He was too busy looking down at his coffee after the confession to see Reyna's bright smile.
"Well, thank you," Reyna replied, jostling his foot slightly under the table. He smiled, almost to himself before staring at her.
"You're really pretty," he stated, as if it were an axiomatic truth.
"Thanks," Reyna said, biting back a smile – as she often did with Leo. It was odd. When she was around him, Reyna always felt like smiling. And when she did, the look Leo gave her made her hands tingle and her chest tighten and god, she didn't even want to think about why.
"So, darlin'," Leo said with a grin. "Tell me your problem. Anything about that guy? You haven't talked about him in a while," Leo prompted, trying much too hard to appear nonchalant.
It made Reyna smile.
"I've noticed that," Leo said suddenly. "You always smile, every time we talk about him."
Reyna shrugged a bit helplessly. "He has that effect on me."
"Tell me about him," Leo told her, though he sounded like maybe he didn't want to hear the answer. And yeah, Leo really didn't, but Reyna was his best friend, and he was beyond used to silently pining.
"He's funny," Reyna replied. "A bit of flirt, you know, I told you about that." Leo nodded as confirmation, hating the way his stomach twisted in jealousy. "He's attractive," Reyna decided. "Maybe unconventionally, but he is. I think it's more of an acquired sight."
Leo sighed, somewhat sullenly. "I read a psychology book that said you learn to overlook a person's flaws when you like them."
Reyna blinked. "It must be true," she told him. "He's pretty flawless to me."
"Let me guess," Leo said with a wry smile. "He's one of those body-builder football guys with a charming smile."
"A charming smile, maybe," Reyna answered, grinning into her hot beverage. "Not so much a body-builder football player, though."
"Oh," Leo said, seemingly at a loss for words.
"He's sweet," Reyna added. "A good listener."
"That's always important," Leo agreed with a grin. He nudged her foot under the table. "I'm happy for you."
But Reyna wasn't by any means stupid. And she saw the way his eyes screamed the exact opposite.
The rest of the day was spent wandering aimlessly around town, walking into the family owned shops and observing all of the unique trinkets they held.
The last store they walked into was an accessory shop owned by the mayor's daughter, Rachel. She made all of the bracelets, necklaces and anklets herself. Even some of the clothes were sewn or knitted by her own hand. Leo had a crush on her for a while - she was over twenty, engaged and very pretty – and was therefore precisely his type.
He smiled at her as he entered the store, and she waved from her place behind the counter. Leo grabbed onto Reyna's hand thoughtlessly and led her to the counter, immediately asking if they knew each other.
Reyna rolled her eyes and greeted Rachel, because in a small town like theirs, you just knew everyone.
"Anything I can help you with?" Rachel asked with her friendly grin.
Leo was about to push his hair out of his eyes, something that he did often, almost as reflex, but then he realized something. He was still holding Reyna's hand.
He cleared his throat instead, shaking his head. "Nah, we're just glancing around."
Rachel smiled, picking up her previously abandoned book. "Let me know if you need anything."
Leo saluted her with his free hand. "Yes ma'am." He wondered how long it would take until Reyna realized that her hand was still clasped in his. He didn't know that Reyna had definitely noticed – in fact, she was extremely conscious of the fact – and was waiting for him to say something.
And there they were. Both waiting in silence for the other to mention it. As calmly as possible, Leo decided to take a giant leap and intertwine her dainty fingers with his spindly ones. When she didn't protest, Leo was positive his face was going to start hurting from the smile he was trying to withhold.
"So, Valdez," Reyna said conversationally, noticing that the silence was a bit too heavy, "where to?"
He obviously knew his way around the store better than Reyna, and he led her straight over to the homemade bracelets and necklaces by Rachel. "We should buy some. Like as best friends."
Reyna smiled slightly. "You want us to get matching bracelets?" Reyna asked, a teasing tone to her voice.
"No!" Leo protested childishly. "I mean matching necklaces."
"Isn't that a bit... girly?" Reyna questioned, giving Leo a skeptical look.
"I think you should have noticed by now that I truly do not care what people think of me," he responded. Except for you, he added silently.
So that's how Leo and Reyna walked out of Rachel's store with two leather necklaces, one with a letter 'L' charm and the other with an 'R'.
Leo made sure that Reyna got home safely, walking her up to her door and passing her the necklace with an 'L'.
"Switch me," he ordered. "I want yours."
Reyna gave him an odd look, turning her back to him and moving her hair out of the way. "You have to untie it."
"Yes ma'am," Leo answered. "I like a woman who orders me around." Leo winced slightly before laughing as Reyna reached backwards and slapped his side.
"Don't be dirty," she said, shaking her head. He finally removed the necklace and started tying on the 'L' one as Reyna handed it to him.
"Well, if you weren't so gorgeous..." he gave a helpless shrug, turning her around. She scowled, and he kissed her cheek swiftly. "See you tomorrow, babe."
He was about to turn on his heel and leave, but Reyna yanked him down by his collar harshly; a stark contrast to the soft kiss she placed on his cheek. He closed his eyes and wished that he could freeze time.
"See you," Reyna replied, pushing him upright. He knew that he was blushing, and he sincerely hoped that his tan skin tone would mask it. "Aww," Reyna cooed, reaching up and pinching his cheek.
Leo laughed lightly, scratching the back of his neck. His skin tone had failed him. "Tomorrow?" he asked, unnecessarily.
"Of course," Reyna affirmed.
"Okay," he said, not turning away.
"Right," Reyna said with a smile.
"Yeah," Leo sighed. "Um, cool." Reyna only laughed. "Bye."
"Mhm, bye," Reyna responded. He stared at her for another moment before waving a bit awkwardly and turning. "Leo!" she called belatedly as he was already halfway down the hall. He turned with a smile.
"I had fun today," she said after a pause. She wondered what she'd wanted to say in the first place, but she realized she wasn't sure. Reyna just didn't want him to leave.
"Me too," he agreed, grinning.
Just as he was about to turn, Reyna called his name a second time. He turned, laughing. "Yes?"
"Do you want – I don't know – maybe a movie, or something?" Reyna started out, hating how anomalously nervous she was around him.
His smile was nearly blinding. "Sure."
Two hours later, Reyna was leaning up against the couch that Leo had sprawled his lengthy body on. "Always a classic," he commented as the credits rolled. "Timon and Pumbaa make the movie, though."
Reyna shrugged indifferently. "I like Nala."
"She's like you," Leo said thoughtfully. "Independent. Competitive. Interested in Simba."
Reyna laughed. "Simba?"
Leo looked contemplative. "Or a nameless guy who had a charming smile. Same thing." Reyna laughed again. Ironic, she thought to herself, wondering if there would ever come a time where Leo learned the nameless guy was himself.
The door to the apartment swung open, Annabeth's voice paired with a deeper, decidedly male, voice permeating the apartment. "Reyna!" Annabeth called loudly. Reyna shoved Leo's feet out of the way and leaned over the side of the couch.
"Yeah?" she called back, glancing the taller guy with dark hair and green eyes up and down. He lingered in the doorway, waving at Reyna. Leo sat up straight and leaned over the back of the couch like Reyna.
"Percy!" Leo said in recognition. Reyna gave him an odd look.
"Hey, Valdez," Percy replied. "Been a while, yeah?" They shook hands, doing a random guy-handshake.
"Just a bit. Last time I checked, you were still pining after the blonde beauty," Leo said, nodding towards the kitchen.
"Not much has changed then," Percy answered with a shrug and a smile. "Soon, though, I think." Reyna smiled at the Percy character. She'd heard about him before.
"Nice to finally meet you, Percy," Reyna greeted. "I've heard a lot about you."
"Oh, uh, Reyna, right?" Percy asked with an amicable smile.
"Uh-huh," she replied.
Annabeth reentered the living room from the kitchen. "Oh. Has everyone met each other?" Annabeth inquired, moving to stand by Percy. He put his arm around her shoulder and she leaned into him instantly. Reyna smiled softly at the two of them.
"Yes," Leo said, nodding. "Percy and I knew each other in high school."
"Why are you here?" Annabeth asked, not exceptionally unkindly as she glanced at Leo.
"Hanging with Rey," he answered.
"Rey," Annabeth repeated.
"As in Reyna," Leo clarified.
"I know that," Annabeth said with an expert eye roll. "I take it you two will be fine hanging out alone? Percy and I were going to visit his mom."
"We'll be fine, Mama Annie," Reyna said teasingly, ignoring Annabeth's glare.
"Well, bye then," Annabeth said.
"Nice seeing you," Percy said, nodding to Leo. He nodded back and waved in time with Reyna. The door closed behind them, and Leo turned around, facing the television.
"What next?" Leo asked.
"Aladdin, duh," Reyna replied, standing and maneuvering it into the DVD player.
"Ah, another classic," Leo commented. "Aladdin is a role model of mine."
"What for?" Reyna questioned, sitting herself next to Leo on the couch.
"Because, he's like me. I'm just this dirty peasant who ends up crushing on girls out of my league. I just haven't managed to get one who's liked me back yet," Leo responded thoughtfully.
"Oh," Leo repeated, his eyes crinkling. He kicked her foot. "What does the mildly attractive Spanish guy have to do to get a blanket around here?"
Mildly attractive, Reyna thought with humor. Leo was perfect. "He has to share with his best friend."
"Fair trade," Leo replied with a shrug. Reyna stood and entered her bedroom, opening her closest and retrieving the soft extra blanket. She reseated herself on the couch and threw it out over them. "This is so soft," Leo said in amazement, petting it gently. Reyna laughed at how he was so easily amused. His feet, due to the fact that his body was lanky and he was entirely too tall, were resting next to Reyna's elbow on the opposite side of the couch.
The Disney castle appeared on the screen and Leo grinned childishly. "Rey," he said slyly, kicking her elbow.
"Yes?" she asked absently, staring at the screen.
"We have a blanket."
"But I'm still cold," Leo whined, pouting. "Come on, don't tell me you're passing up the chance to cuddle with the Great Valdez!" Leo said dramatically with a wink.
Reyna chuckled, and she knew that it sounded off. "Great Valdez?" she questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes," Leo said firmly, straight-faced.
"And you're serious?"
"Name one time when I haven't been serious," Leo challenged. Reyna gave him a withering look. "Okay, so bad example. But I am serious. Be a good best friend." He poked his bottom lip out, such a childish gesture, but one that melted Reyna's heart, just a little.
"Fine," she said. Leo's face brightened and he opened his arms wide. Reyna cleared her throat and gingerly moved closer to him, but Leo – impatient as always – reached forward and yanked her to lay with him. Reyna ended up with her head on his chest and Leo prayed that she couldn't hear his too loud heartbeat. He wrapped his leg around hers and sighed.
"Good. I am warm," he announced, now zoning in on the movie. Reyna looked up at him, admiring the way that he could make any conversation or position feel completely at ease and comfortable. She started watching the movie as well, smiling against his chest when he started twisting strands of her hair around his fingers absently.
You never really know the specific moment when you fall asleep, but when Reyna did, she knew that she was warm and happy and maybe just a little bit in love with the lanky Spanish boy in which she was resting on.
When Reyna woke up with the very unfamiliar sound of a heartbeat underneath her ear, she started. Glancing up carefully, and seeing nothing but a mess of curls, she relaxed.
Leo woke up a few seconds later, probably due to her jumping slightly. He smiled sleepily at her. "Hey," he greeted, voice scratchy and slightly slurred. Reyna decided she liked his morning voice. A lot.
"Hi," Reyna replied, thoughtlessly burying her face further into his neck. "Goodmorning."
"Yeah, you too," Leo said, rubbing her back slightly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep here... but you were asleep, and I didn't want to wake you – "
"'S fine," Reyna interjected.
"Oh," Leo answered.
"Oh," Reyna repeated with a laugh. "Coffee?"
"Absolutely," Leo said, his voice now clearer, but still having it's natural rasp.
"We should get up."
"I'm tired, though."
"Hence, the coffee," Leo joked. "Come on, Rey." He extracted himself from her, and she let her face fall to the couch, still warm from where Leo had previously occupied it.
At that moment, Annabeth entered the living room, already dressed for the day. "Goodmorning, you two," she said suggestively.
"Hi," Leo replied cluelessly. "Morning."
"Hey," Reyna called from her place on the couch. Leo grabbed her hand and pulled her up. She winced, putting pressure on her temple and groaning.
"Orthostatic hypertension," Leo said apologetically. "That's the blurriness and dizziness you feel when you stand up to fast."
"How do you know all of this stuff?" Reyna mumbled sleepily. Leo decided to take advantage of her half-awake state and pulled her into a hug. She lazily wrapped her arms around him and he tried not to enjoy it too much.
"Books," Leo finally answered. "I pick up a lot of random facts from the books."
"Oh, well that explains it," Reyna said, sounding slightly more alert. "Coffee? Yes? No?"
"Yeah," Leo said, making his way to the kitchen and keeping a loose hold on Reyna's hand. As they entered, Annabeth was exiting. She raised an eyebrow at the joined hands, giving Leo a seemingly approving look. Nodding to him, she walked to her room, coffee in hand. "I think Annabeth made some."
"She's a saint," Reyna stated, letting go of his hand – much to his dismay – to get two coffee cups. "Ugh. Why am I so tired?"
"Sometimes, when you have really fulfilling sleep, you wake up even more tired than usual. You fell asleep pretty deeply, so it'll take a bit longer for your brain to start up," Leo told her.
"Read that in a book?" Reyna questioned, pouring coffee.
"No," Leo said with a snort. "But it sounded good, didn't it?"
"I think," Reyna started, turning and giving Leo a dirty look, "I'm believing everything you say too quickly."
"Well, in that case, Leo Valdez is the sexiest person to walk the earth, and you should date him," Leo said with a wink.
Reyna smiled and rolled her eyes. "Okay."
Leo almost fell over. "What?"
"Leo Valdez is the sexiest person to walk the earth and I should date him," Reyna recited. "No?"
"No!" Leo sputtered. "I mean, yes. Yes. You should date Leo Valdez. If you want to. Which I hope you do," Leo said without a smidgen of aplomb.
"Okay," Reyna said with a shrug.
"Sure," Reyna answered, somehow maintaining her outer shell of being calm, cool and collected. On the inside, she was jumping up and down in excitement. Trying to ignore the beating of her heard pounding in her ears, she handed Leo his coffee. "Here."
"Thanks," Leo said softly. "I mean, you – and me... You like me?"
Reyna pinched his cheek. "Aww," she cooed. "That was cute."
"So, you do?"
"No," Reyna said with sarcasm, "I just said yes for no reason."
"You do?" Leo repeated, looking dumbfounded.
"Yes, you idiot," Reyna told him, rolling her eyes.
Leo's eyes twinkled. "You're gorgeous."
Reyna raised an eyebrow. "I just woke up."
"I know," Leo said, smiling hugely at her. "But you're beautiful, always."
"Stop," Reyna said, half-choking on embarrassment and half-laughing. Leo smiled at her, shaking his head, almost fondly. "Stop," Reyna said in a much more authoritative voice, after gathering her wits.
"Yes ma'am," Leo said, raising his free hand in defeat. "What are you doing today?"
"Eager aren't you?" Reyna asked rhetorically. Leo shrugged with a boyish smile. "I really have to get caught up in my online college." Leo frowned, grumbling something about how college was stupid. "And you can't stay."
"Why?" Leo asked, slightly miffed.
"Because you're a distraction," Reyna replied.
"Oh," Leo said with a suggestive look. "I see."
"I didn't mean it like that," Reyna denied, hating the way her cheeks burned.
"Yeah," Leo reasoned, "maybe so. But I took it that way. I'm a distraction." He waggled his eyebrows ridiculously, making Reyna laugh. "I love your laugh," he sighed.
"Ugh," Reyna winced. "You are so sappy."
"Just call me a tree," Leo said cheesily, giving an exaggerated wink. Reyna drily stared him up and down. "You don't appreciate my humor."
"Not when I need to rush you out the door before I end up getting no college done," Reyna explained. Leo set down his coffee cup, sighing. "Come on. We'll hang out later. Tomorrow. Or something. If you want."
"Duh, baby," Leo replied, giving her one of his huge smiles. "I always want to hang out with you."
"Please," Reyna said, holding her hand up. "Dial back the bullshit."
Leo laughed as Reyna walked to the door and held it open as a blunt innuendo to leave. He smiled as he stepped over the threshold, turning and kissing her cheek quickly. "Visit me tomorrow. Pinky swear," Leo enjoined, holding out his pinky.
She rolled her eyes, latching her pinky onto his nonetheless. "Bye."
"Bye – " Leo said, barely having time to finish the word before the door slammed in his face. To some, it probably would have appeared rude, but Leo only smiled before bouncing on his heels a few times because Reyna agreed to date him.
He smiled stupidly at the door for probably close to a minute before leaving the building.
It's a week later and Leo and Reyna have been on two dates. One was for coffee, and the second was a breakfast on Sunday at Reyna's. Leo's not really sure if they count, but they felt like dates. They played footsies like kindergarteners underneath the table and Leo made Reyna blush and Reyna made Leo fall for her a little more.
Reyna surprises him with an early morning visit – this time at his apartment (she drove him home one day, so she had no trouble finding it). He's shirtless and kind of embarrassed but Reyna only thinks it's cute. She leans up and presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth, and Leo thinks he's dead. He's dead and this is some perfect alternate universe where a pretty girl likes him back.
Reyna gave him the coffee she bought for him, and he can't stop smiling. "What?" Reyna asked finally, leveling their gazes.
Leo shook his head, still grinning like an excited schoolboy, and his dimple is prominent. Reyna stared at it, and thought that maybe Leo's a bit too adorable for his own good. "Nothing. You just. Kissed me. Kind of."
"Okay," Reyna said, trying for an aura of tranquility. "Is that alright?"
Leo laughed as if she'd told him the joke of the year. "Uh, yes, extremely gorgeous and out-of-my-league girl, you can kiss me all you want."
"Good," Reyna replied, taking his coffee back and setting it on the counter. Before she could lose a bit of courage she had, Reyna wrapped her arms around Leo's neck and hesitantly pressed her lips to his.
Leo was a little less hesitant, smiling broadly into the kiss and laughing almost disbelievingly to himself. He mumbled something against her lips, but she was kind of too busy trying to remember how to breathe.
Then she remembered that he's shirtless, and blushed a bit when her hand touched the bare skin on his back. He desperately tried to pretend that he didn't feel like there was an electric current flowing through his body.
Finally, after seconds, minutes, hours – who knows, really? – Leo leaned back, kissing her lips swiftly once more before he picked up his coffee and started drinking it. Must have been minutes, he thought absently, noting that his coffee was significantly chilled.
Reyna was still blushing a bit, and Leo grinned at her until she scowled at him. "Stop staring at me."
"Stop being gorgeous," he responded with a wink.
"You are such a flirt," Reyna accused, shaking her head.
"Yeah, but I only ever mean it when I'm with you." Reyna scowled at the sweetness of his statement, taking it upon herself to examine one of his hands.
"What's that from?" Reyna asked, pointing to a scar in between his wrist and his thumb.
"You'll laugh," Leo refused, retracting his hand. Reyna reached out and caught it, silently begging with her eyes. He sighed. "Manipulation," he muttered. Reyna smiled brightly at him, and Leo knew he was gone. "It's from when I was little."
"Yeah?" Reyna prompted.
"And I was playing with a staple gun," Leo continued, nodding when Reyna's eyebrows rose. "I grew up around construction and such. It was normal. Other kids played with dinosaurs in the sandbox; I played with wrenches and screwdrivers and, well, staple guns."
"And you stapled your hand," Reyna finished.
"More or less," Leo confirmed. "Can't remember much about it. I was pretty young. I do, however, remember that it hurt very badly. I don't recommend doing it."
"I'll say," Reyna said with an eye roll. "Now are you going to give me a tour, or what?"
Two hours later, Reyna and Leo are sprawled out over each other – Leo had generously put on an old t-shirt – watching television that isn't interesting.
Instead, Leo puts it on mute and decided that they should play twenty questions.
"When did you realize you liked me?" Reyna asked, right off the bat. Leo grinned, drawing undefinable shapes on the top of her hand, which was resting on his chest.
"Honestly?" Reyna hummed in reply. "The first time you smiled at me." Reyna smiled at the reply, almost instantly biting it back. "Stop!" Leo ordered. "I like your smile, so stop trying to hide it from me."
Reyna scowled at him. "Shut up."
"You're so mean," Leo laughed, kissing her nose. "I really love it. Nice people are boring."
"That makes you boring," Reyna pointed out.
Leo shrugged. "Yeah, kind of am. You're much more interesting."
Reyna flicked his chest. "Don't put yourself down like that," she enjoined. "You're perfect."
"Hardly," Leo disagreed.
"Completely," Reyna argued. "To me, at least."
"Look who's sappy now!" Leo exclaimed with a winning smile.
"Valdez, it's your turn to ask a question."
The next day, after Reyna's done with her morning class and Leo's still stuck at work, she brings him a gracious pastry.
"I love you," Leo declared, leaning back on his elbows. He laid a blanket out on the floor, honestly having no clue how long it'd been since they'd been properly cleaned. He invited her to sit with him, and she accepted of course. Leaning into his side, Reyna closed her eyes. "Hey, Rey," Leo says after a few moments. "Whatever happened to that one guy? With the charming smile that you liked so much?"
"Oh, him," Reyna said, smiling fondly. "I'm actually dating him now."
"But... we're – how... oh," Leo said in realization. He grinned goofily at her. "My smile's charming?"
"Just a bit," Reyna replied, poking the dimple that she was sure would be the death of her.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa – wait. You're telling me that I could have made a move that long ago, and wouldn't have faced rejection?" Leo questioned. Reyna nodded innocently. Leo groaned in annoyance, lying fully on his back. Reyna repositioned herself so that she could see his face. "That is so annoying."
"But we still worked out in the end," Reyna said optimistically.
"Yeah," Leo agreed. "We did. But I still could have got this thing going a lot earlier."
"I like the way things turned out," Reyna replied indifferently.
"I like the way you're turning out to be sappier than me," Leo answered with a smile so big, his eyes crinkled.
It's one year later and Reyna still goes to college and Leo still works at the bookstore. Business isn't any worse, but it really isn't any better. Leo thinks that it's an easy earned paycheck, and doesn't often complain about boredom.
Reyna usually manages to visit him every day around lunch, but when she can't, she shows up at his apartment later that night with a stack of DVDs, an apologetic box of popcorn, and a smile too beautiful to reject.
Eventually, Leo just tells her to move in, and he doesn't think Reyna's ever looked so relieved. She tells him that Annabeth and Percy were kind of planning on moving in together. Leo's just happy that he'll get to wake up and see her every day.
Reyna still has problems, and Leo always asks to hear them.
There's not really a problem a day anymore, because Leo kind of takes them all away. And Leo never worries about being the forever alone and forever friend-zoned guy he'd constantly been growing up.
He kind of plans on never stopping hanging out with Reyna. And she kind of has similar plans.
They're in love, Leo's still wondering how he got her, and Reyna's still wondering why she's so fond of the loser she now lives with. She thinks it has to be the dimples.
And when Leo gets down on one knee a few years down the road, with a smile so big it had to been painful, Reyna thinks, yeah, it's definitely the dimples.
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