The first thing Frank noticed about her was her hair.

And he knew, of course he knew, that that shouldn't be what he was thinking about—he'd just been pledged a place in an army, for crying out loud! Not to mention that it was an army, all of whom were apparently descended from Roman gods—and were definitely staring at him.

Probably wondering why he was blushing like an idiot, (trust me, I'm wondering that too, he wished he could say), or laughing about the fact that he was very obviously staring at the tiny girl in the corner of the impressively organized armor-wearing-good-posture-having lines of people. (Hopefully not.) Regardless, it was not a very warrior-like first impression.

(Could they kick him out for that? Just general non-warriorness? If anyone was going to be kicked out for that, it was Frank…)

Later, he would wonder why it was her hair that caught his attention—not her eyes, glowing like nothing he had ever seen before, or the slight smile she must've been wearing, (she never quite managed to swallow that little smile, Frank would learn, the sunny one with the lopsided dimples, and her teeth bright in her warm brown face)—

But he couldn't help it. He kept glancing over, all of the stumbling way to the ranks of whatever group, (cabin? company? He knew it started with a "c"), he'd just been assigned to. He tripped over his own feet more times than he had expected—they were definitely wondering what was wrong with him now—looking at that graceful poof of curls.

Really, inexplicably, he just wanted to go over and run his fingers through it. He wouldn't, of course—it was rude, and a stupid thing to want in the first place, and there was no reason to wonder what it would feel like…but he did.

Wonder, that is. The only hair he could ever remember touching, (that wasn't his own rough buzz), was his mother's, a silky sweep, and that had been when he was little—three, or maybe four, tangling tiny toddler's hands in it before he knew better. And this girl's—it looked like a completely different species from his mother's. It was the same ink-black color, but it bounced. And there were so many different types of curls! Thick, springy coils, but then these tiny loops, and the sun caught in it and highlighted all these different little details—

Maybe it was just because none of the other people there had their hair loose. It was all tight braids or cornrows or buns or buzz cuts. The bright curls made this girl look...softer. Less like a warrior, more like the kind of person who would be nice to someone who didn't understand a single one of the shouted commands, regardless of how mediocrely his legs seemed to be obeying them.

There was no other reason. Frank was refusing to think about other reasons he would be noticing this girl—not that there were other reasons to refuse to think about! He was a continent away from home, surrounded by people who were so much better than him at all of this, and missing his mom desperately, so there was no way there was room in his head for a—well, it wasn't a crush, so he didn't need to be worried about that anyways, even if there had been room—

He spent his first week in the Fifth Cohort, (some crazy kid with alarmingly red stains around his lips had finally told him what it was called, although Frank was now stuck trying to remember that guy's official title, which he was sure also started with a "c," somehow), focusing so hard on not focusing on the girl that he tripped over an unfortunately large amount of both weapons and other people. And one time an elephant—which he still couldn't figure out, because he would've thought he could've avoided that even though he hadn't been paying attention, because it was an elephant—

Somehow, despite all the not-focusing, he still managed to notice some other things about her. (Maybe a lot of other things. Maybe too many. Maybe too few? No, he needed to focus—)

Things like her eyes. They were brown, just like his, except nothing like his, because there were these little flecks of gold in hers—and that had to be something to do with the whole godly-magic thing that everyone (except him) seemed to have going on, because the flecks didn't show up in the sun, they showed up whenever the shadows around her were deep enough, and it sort of made her eyes look like the night sky, if the stars were just a little bit warmer—

He spent an entire particularly lonely night composing poetry in his head about it, trying to explain what he meant by "warmer stars." To capture the little flutter in his stomach whenever she held eye contact with him. (Without making it sound like he was saying that he had accidentally swallowed some insects that she made him want to regurgitate.) To ignore his grandmother's voice in his head, which was quite loud actually, and very convinced that he had no right to be writing poetry when he could barely handle normal sentences without stuttering.

He spent the next night in the infirmary, because he tripped over a crate full of weasels, watching her walk along beside the river and trying to gather the courage to just go say something to her. (Again, he really couldn't figure out how he'd missed that—it had been hissing, for the sake of the gods.)

(Also, why had there been a crate full of weasels in front of the Senate House?)

Things like her smile. She had beautiful lips, that looked soft and snap out of it Frank, and dimples—the left one was set a bit farther back but the right one was deeper—and when her grin got big enough her ears twitched, and the top of her nose crumpled just the tiniest bit—get it together—

Things like the way her skin looked in the sunlight. It was deep brown, and always warm, but in the sun you could see the little constellation of moles on her right shoulder, and—no, focus Frank, you cannot knock over anything else looking at this girl—

Things like the way she tugged at her hair when she was thinking. (There was this one curl on the left side of her face that she went for every time someone asked her to strategize, or speak Latin—Frank loved watching her twist it tighter and tighter around her finger, stretching it until she had to let go and it spiraled wildly back into place.)

The little gestures she made, definitely unconsciously and painfully endearing. Whenever she was embarrassed, she fanned her face with a hand, like she could smell whatever inappropriate thing the other person had just said. He had never seen anyone else do that. And she didn't quite talk with her hands, but when she was looking for words she flexed her fingers by her side, tapping at her thumb with her middle finger. When she was frustrated she would bite down on just one side of her bottom lip, and then roll both her lips in and out like she was exhaling away the tension.

And when she fought...oh.

It wasn't that she was perfect—Frank wasn't quite smitten enough to ignore the fact that she insisted on fighting with a cavalry sword from the ground, and that that threw her off-balance more often than not. (As bad as he himself was at getting his stupid, clumsy body to do the motions, he picked up the theory fast. Scarily so, sometimes.) But she knew that too, he could tell—her movements got sharper and sharper with every mediocre strike, and by the end of sparring matches, she was practically bouncing up and down, simmering with frustration. She wanted to be better, it was stunningly obvious in how hard she threw herself into every single match

The first time they put her up against Frank, she missed her first lunge, and he was pausing to tell her sorry for whatever reason, but she was already back in position and thrusting at him again with so much force that she knocked him flat, and he just lay there on the ground. All of the wind was knocked out of his lungs, and the buckle of the leather breastplate had popped loose and was digging into his back—it hurt a lot actually—but she was standing over him with the sun making a halo around her head, and he wouldn't have gotten up even if he could move.

"You didn't have to go easy on me," she said finally. He wheezed—of course the first real conversation they had would be when he couldn't actually talk—and she cracked a reluctant smile, and squatted down to help him sit back up.

("I wasn't going easy on you," he told her later, helping her clean off the training armor and stack it back onto the racks—the penalty for the two of them having lost the most matches that session. "I really, truly am that bad at...this."
She smiled a little, still staring at the thigh guard she was wiping down.
"I would argue with you, but, well, we're both here."
"Exactly!" He paused to frown at a deep scratch in one of the bracers—how was he supposed to get that out?—and then, realizing it was easier to talk to her with his eyes somewhere else—"Why do you..."
"Fight with a cavalry sword?" He looked up, and she was looking back, oh, she was looking back at him, with a reluctant smile. "They won't let us have a cavalry, but I could be so good if they would just let me ride!"
"That...doesn't make much sense."
She burst out laughing, and the little flutter in Frank's stomach turned into something huge and wild—an eagle maybe—trying to bust its way out of his rib cage.)

Sometimes, Frank wondered if the only reason he was so bad at everything they did at this camp was because his stupid head was so full of her. Maybe all of the room in there was taken up by dark curls and wide smiles and the dwindling list of terrible knock-knock jokes he hadn't already told her, and there was none left for the proper way to throw a javelin, or the Latin name for a wind coming from the southeast.

The theory made an annoying amount of sense. The only thing he was even passable at was archery, and he had learned that long before he got here, was at least possible, right? For his fingers to remember the way that worked and keep on with it while his head and his stomach and his legs did—whatever this weird shaky thing was?

(He felt bad for his fingers, sometimes—this was far too much responsibility for them.)

Sometimes, when Reyna or Dakota or Gwen were yelling at him, he was sorely tempted to try that excuse. Sorry, praetor-centurion-ma'am. My head's just very, very full of Hazel Levesque. He knew how well it would go over, (about as well as his and Hazel's attempt to find similarities between Canadian and Louisiana French), but...still. Sometimes he wondered. It would be funny at least. Maybe.

Sometimes, he wondered if this was even worth it. What was the point of all these little conversations? All the stunning smiles and laughs and lonely, electric shifts guarding the tunnel into camp? All they did was leave him so flustered he spent the rest of the day running into things and knocking things over and leaving everyone even more exasperated than they already were—

And then she would walk past smiling, or knock something over and curse guiltily, or tap him on the shoulder in the middle of an assembly to whisper a new, truly horrendous pun, and all the air in his lungs turned into sunshine.

Oh yeah, he would think. That's why.

Because Hazel Levesque was beautiful. Because once she got an idea into her head, she held onto it fiercely and visibly and dared anyone to tell her otherwise. Because she was kind to the old Lares, and the panhandling fauns, and the galumphing idiot who she had to have noticed was crushing on her. Because she punched a legionnaire in the nose for whispering about her brother, (even though the kid barely visited, and barely said anything to her when he did). Because she laughed longer and harder at his jokes than anyone had before, and always had one to say back.

Because sometimes, when she didn't think anyone was watching, she looked tremendously sad, and so lonely, and Frank couldn't help wishing he could do something about that.

Because she was Hazel Levesque, and since the moment Frank had seen that curly hair, his center of gravity had shifted, and he was in love.

canon descriptions of hazel? i don't know her. let hazel levesque have natural hair + dark eyes 2k20. also: canon age difference between frank and hazel? wack. if hazel is thirteen then so is frank. let them be smol beans together rick.
(it's also irrelevant to this fic but important to me that you all know that in this universe frank did NOT turn into an unrealistically muscled whatever-whatever when he got the blessing of mars. destroy body standards 2k20.)
also...who let me write the original version of this fic? if you saw this before i edited it, i truly apologize. apparently i didn't know what line breaks were.