Of Pink and Poetry
Evening, 11 February
Penthouse Apartment, Sperin Towers
She said it out loud enough for him to hear it over the bass guitars and big (from the sound of them) drums coming from the TV, forcing him to look up.
"Christmas was two months ago," he pointed out.
"Learn to count, DiAngelo," she told him, throwing her bag onto the floor, "It's more like one and a half. Which is why I'm like this."
Nico winced slightly at the force of her throw. This was particularly impressive, considering her state; she was bundled up tighter than a six year old with overprotective hypochondriac parents, her nose was bright red from the cold, her cheeks were pink, and her eyes were glaring out from under the enormous skicap she'd insisted on wearing ( "I get colds, dammit. Stop laughing already!"). In addition to which, her arms were full of things. Full of red, pink, fluffy, occasionally lacy things.
He couldn't help it. He laughed in her face for the second time that day. The sight of eyebrows narrowing under the (now pink) cap only made him laugh harder.
Having near two tons of pink things dumped on you was, on the other hand, an effective silencer. As Nico stared down at himself in horror, Rachel stomped past him muttering something about effing prophecies and lovestruck loonies and annoying quasi-boyfriends who were a baby step away from getting themselves kicked out permanently from her apartment. She added a 'Bah, Humbug' for effect too.
"What is this stuff?" Nico poked his head out from behind her couch, his customary scowl back on his face. "It's sticky, and it's fluffy-"
"It's what I've been dealing with all day, and in public. Quit whining." she told him with an impressive scowl of her own.
Nico struggled with getting the fluff off his shirt for while, occasionally glowering at Rachel as she stripped off the top layers of her clothing, then gave up and transferred the glower onto his shirt, which had been respectably black before, and was now far from black.
"Pink makes you look gay," Rachel offered, "is that why you wear black all the time?"
Nico gave her a look, and her face broke out into a wide smile.
"No, seriously, you look all cute and cuddly. It's even Valentine-themed-" her grin faded and she groaned.
"What?" Nico asked grumpily, plucking what looked like red soft-toy fur from his fingers.
In answer, Rachel dug out her mobile from the mess on the floor with dazed eyes, and dialed what looked like a random number. She waited, then said in a voice only slightly raspier than normal,
"You shall be seen by the lord of love
Your favored one will arrive from above
His heart shall be yours from tonight
Bask from now in true love's light."
There was silence from the other end. Rachel shook her head violently, glared at the phone, turned it off, then glared at him.
Nico had been stunned into silence. This was something which didn't happen that often, and she'd have been glad to witness it any other time. But right now,
"This whole damn mess is your fault," she snarled.
"Um," he commented, clearly confused.
"If it weren't for you, I would not be in this situation," she clarified.
"Why the Hades can't you keep your hands off my underwear?"
"What?" Now he looked utterly nonplussed. The Rachel he knew wouldn't even think about saying something like that. Usually it was more "stop teasing me and get to it already!"
She blew a bit of fluff off her forehead. Or tried to, anyway.
"Eros caught upto me," she told him dully.
"And drowned you in confetti?"
She'd forgotten how things like that could be taken literally.
"I was being figurative," Rachel said, "The point here is that I'm a love psychic."
Again, there was silence.
"If you dare to even smile, DiAngelo, I will personally brain you over the head with the goddamn Ming vase."
He nodded furiously, pokerfaced. Rachel figured his mouth was shut that tight because he didn't want to risk laughing out like a maniac, and not because he wasn't curious about her career change from doom and gloom to pink poetry. Might as well save him the trouble of asking it.
"According to Apollo," she told him dully, "Once the Oracle's vessel starts seeing someone, it skews up the spirit. And around V-day, she prefers to predict things like that to things like the destruction of the world."
That was the short version. The long version had involved a lecture on how she really shouldn't shrug off ancient dictums of chastity as mortal emotions could disorient the fragile (HA!) spirit of Delphi, and how the strongest emotion of them all actually affected the functioning of the spirit in certain external environments. All it took was a trigger.
Rachel had tuned Apollo out right around the L-word. It had turned out to be a good thing, because he'd somehow ended up with the waitress in his lap playing with his hair. She was sure missing what had led to that was a good thing.
By then, Nico had got himself under control. More or less.
"This is going to go on till Valentine's?"
She stiffened and pulled her phone out again. Four lines of nauseating verse later, she shut it off and glared at him.
"The word's a trigger?" he guessed.
"Genius," she said flatly.
He grinned. Rachel looked around for the Ming vase.
"What's with the fluff, anyway?" Nico distracted her quickly. Sure he could try shadow-travelling out of her way, but that's only make her throw things. She had a disturbingly good aim.
Rachel lost steam as she squinted at the fluff stuck to her head.
"I got conned."
Why was nothing she said making any sense right now?
She must have noticed the look on his face, because she deigned herself to explain, "Those elementary kids we hold art classes for? They decided to raise money for a Valentine's dan-"
Forty-three seconds later,
"It wasn't my fault this time. Stop glaring at me."
She let out a breath, "Raise money for a V-day dance, by making these things," she glared at her happily pink clothes on the floor, "and I happened to be the only one with enough cash to spare to actually buy them."
"Okay," Nico nodded, "Um, what exactly are those things?"
"V-Day favours? Who knows? I don't even know why kids that young have a V-Day dance," she groaned, "and the poetry, oh gods. I'm locking myself up here for the next few days, except that if I don't show up, the college nuts will come and drag me back. I hate Val-, V-day dances. Painting for them gets so repetitive and dammit, the amount of shades of a primary tint possible is-"
"Too much pink. Why can't you read that book I bought you? It's in Greek, and compared to some of the tomes you borrow from the Library of the Dead, it's pocket-sized."
"It's about colours."
"It was a subtle hint," she said pointedly, "there's more than just one colour in the world."
He scowled. He was the freaking Son of Hades. What else was he supposed to wear, sunflower yellow? And besides, black was black. You couldn't go wrong with the classics.
Well, not on the mythological front, obviously, but in terms of clothes-
"Earth to ADHD-boy," Rachel snapped her fingers in front of his nose.
"I like black."
"Uh-huh. Like I didn't notice. Let's put it this way; I've been drowning in pink for one week and I'm thoroughly sick of it. And I still think seeing you in it was an improvement. I'm sick of black."
The opportunity was up for grabs, and Nico couldn't resist a leer, "I look pretty good out of black-"
"It doesn't count."
"Does no- Ugh. I can't believe I almost said that."
"I like black, and that's it."
"You have unresolved childhood issues, buddy."
"Says the girl who went psycho after her hamster died."
"I never- who told you that?"
Seeing as how Percy was like an (irritating) older brother to him, telling her would amount to committing indirect fratricide. So he just shrugged.
"Answer me, or I predict you will come to a horrible end."
Nico had a mental image of her, eyes serpentine green, voice harsh, spouting lines which made his knees turn to jelly. She shook his head violently, praying he hadn't just received a premonition of his own.
"You're the Oracle, don't joke about things like that," he told, "and I can't get why you're so worked up. Don't tell me you're PMSing."
"I'm just being human, and being an idiot," she muttered, leaning back into the couch, "It's just V-Day. Always hated it. It's so annoying to see people going gaga over each other."
Nico squirmed. This was far out of his territory.
" It isn't even like it's just the mindless drones who do it. I mean, Annabeth pretends it's stupid, but she gets that weird look on her face whenever Percy does something sweet and it's all I can to get myself out of the scene before they go at each other like-"
Emotional talk he could take, but this was too much, "Stop, please."
"Well, before they go at each other. It's pukeworthy," Rachel continued, "And then there are my other friends, who're usually either broken up or in a relationship. Needless to say, come V-day, they speak different languages. And I end up feeling so weird because I'm the oracle and no way in hell I'll get any of this stuff."
She lapsed into thoughtful silence. Nico squirmed for some more time (the image off Annabeth jumping on Percy vindictively refusing to leave his head) before feeling like there was no clean way out of this.
Rachel waved him off, "I'm done. Thanks for being a sounding board."
"Oh. You're welcome?"
"It's stupid, I know. It's just- it makes me feel a bit deprived when everyone else has something I don't. Heiress syndrome, maybe. And the love poetry thing doesn't help matters."
Nico wished he could stop squirming already.
"Um, I could always, you know. Send you a Valentine or whatever," he muttered, "I mean, we are dating. Kinda. So-"
Six lines of Poetry later,
"I could send you something for V-day," he told her, ignoring the glare, "You like chocolate, right? I have some money left over from the-" he left off when she started laughing. "Hey-"
Rachel shook her head.
"Percy in a pinch, maybe. But Nik, I really don't see you as a flowers-and-chocolate kinda guy."
"Well, I've never done it before, but I'm pretty sure it isn't that hard-"
"Uh-huh. I can just picture you going into a florist and dealing with all the knowing looks, the giggles, and the grins."
Nico winced. That mental image was almost as bad as the one with Percy and Annabeth. But still-
"So? I mean, it's stupid, but if it means that much of a deal-"
"It wouldn't if you did it because I wanted you to, and I'm pretty sure you didn't even think of it before I mentioned it to you."
He wanted to deny it, but it wasn't like he was ever that good a liar around her. She practically sniffed out BS.
"I 'd be worried if you did think of it; it'd be out of character. Whoever heard of a Child of the Underworld celebrating V-day?" Rachel kissed his cheek and got up, "It's sweet of you to offer, though, and I'd really like to stay and see you stammer through the rest of it, but I have to find those earmuffs. I hope the oracle knows how to read lips."
Morning, February 14
Auditorium, NYU Art Department
She was putting some last-minute touches (glitter which wasn't pink, thank the gods) on the humongous "HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!" banner when Jeanne Richmont tapped her on the elbow.
Rachel nodded at her, earmuffs and all, and then proceeded to wave her off. The oracle, it seemed, couldn't read lips, and removing the muffs on the day itself was something of a risk. Fifty-three verses of love poetry in four days (yeah, she counted) was enough, as far as she was concerned.
Jeanne poked her again. Rachel indicated her earmuffs and mouthed "I am deaf" at her.
Jeanne moved to remove the earmuffs, but Rachel glared at her. So she settled for rolling her eyes and handing her a plain pink envelope.
Rachel resisted the urge to scream. This was her third damn Valentine today. What did she have to do, tattoo 'UNAVAILABLE' on her forehead or something?
Jeanne gave her a pointed look. Rachel scowled and ripped the top of the envelope, giving the Valentine a cursory glance before dropping it into the glitter. It took a couple more seconds for things to click.
"What the hell-" she fished it out examined it somewhat more thoroughly. It was a standard hallmark card with something about "you're very important to me", a pink teddy bear, and a lot of pinker hearts. Then there was how some of the hearts were hastily coloured black, and how there were scribbles scrawled at the bottom, which when deciphered, said "It's not like you telling me to do anything I don't want to do works, anyway." (Except with considerably worse spelling.)
The postscript admitted that getting the card was bad enough and that he couldn't face the chocolates and flowers. Not even for her.
Rachel told herself to stop grinning like the Joker on a good day (just in case he'd stationed some ghostly minions around to gauge her reaction), settled for shoving the card into her pocket with a straight face and meeting Jeanne's knowing smile with a very tiny one of her own. Jeanne smiled wider and said something.
"What?" Rachel asked.
Jeanne's smile faded, but she repeated it.
Rachel shook her head. The oracle was spectacularly bad at lip-reading. She was pretty sure she could understand something that short.
Jeanne pulled off her earmuffs and practically shouted, "I said, Happy Valentine's! Jeez."
Verse fifty-four later
She had to admit, Jeanne's face on being told "Love will find you in the loo/A false turning will lead you true" was sorta funny.
Author's Notes: *cough*, I'm guessing loo is British. I get confused, being neither British nor American. Never was good at poetry, either.
Can't say I'm entirely happy with this (the story seems sketchy in parts), but I'm really out of practice in writing, reading and even SPEAKING English. What did I expect? An increase in quality?
Rant over. Leave a review. It does motivational wonders. :)