Author's Notes: I swear I'm now obsessed with these two. They refuse to pop out of my head. Apologies for all the overlaps. :)
She stood back with an annoyingly pleased smile. Nico, for his part, was rendered speechless.
"Yellow?" he asked, just slightly pathetically.
"You lost, remember?" she told him.
"We had a bet. You lost. Now you have to pay the price," she regarded him with a grin, "or do you want me to call in the witness?"
The thought of Annabeth knowing about this somehow managed to make him feel worse.
"Because you seem kind of uncertain, and like you need somebody to boost your confidence and-"
He glared at her and put on the pale yellow T-shirt with the bright yellow smiley on it. This was going to be a long day.
Lightning flashed out side. She cleared her throat.
"Are you imitating an ostrich?"
His voice came out muffled from under the pillow.
"Why're all the lights on?"
Admitting something like I had a bad dream was out of the question, of course.
"It gives me artistic inspiration. A solitary light amidst the darkness."
He managed to punctuate the space between two blasts of lightning with a snort.
"Like you're qualified to judge, dead boy. You wouldn't know true art if it danced in front of you wearing a tutu."
"Oh please," he said, "I've seen the kind of thing you call art. Half-sawn cows, and styrofoam cities-"
"You're still imitating an ostrich," she pointed out.
"It's because I can't sleep with all the lights on," he told her, "hurts my eyes."
She let her disbelieving snort till him what she thought of that, just as another bolt of lighting flashed and their grip on each other's hands tightened.
"I win. Again."
Nico, for his part, was feeling suspicious.
"You're cheating, aren't you?"
She looked at him innocently, green eyes widening with surprise.
"All right Dare, how in Hades are you doing it?"
"You've beaten me six times already-"
"Seven. Ten if you count all the times you threw a tantrum and left in the middle."
"Six times already," he maintained, dismissing her tally with a wave of his hand, "You've clearly established your superiority. Now can you tell me how you did it?"
Rachel considered the board for a few moments.
"Strategy," she finally answered.
"It's Monopoly. There's no strategy in Monopoly."
"Which shows why I win and you don't."
"Just admit it!"
"I'm not cheating. It's not my fault you keep losing. If you just concentrate on developing the low-price regions and not buying up all the high-price ones-"
"Gods. You're impossible!"
People wouldn't expect him to be a morning person, but that wasn't strictly true.
He'd been something of a sporadic early riser when he was a kid, but sticking to that now seemed a little wrong. On the other hand, he'd settled for being irritatingly perky right after waking up. This was something Rachel had failed to learn after a decade of being the sun god's oracle.
"Give it back to me," she shrieked, uselessly flailing hands towards the cup, "I swear, DiAngelo, if you don't give it to me this instant-"
"Too much coffee is bad for you," he told her with a benevolent smile, keeping the mug above her head.
"I'm addicted, you jerk! I'll go into withdrawal. Give it back!"
Her efforts are dampened by her half-closed eyes, and she fails to notice how each jump jostles her dressing gown in ways he finds really enjoyable. He so loves mornings.
For a guy who could stare at people and make them face some of their deepest fears, he sure had a lot of phobias.
"I don't want to talk about it," his voice came out slightly muffled.
She felt a wide grin light up her face.
"It's just a thunderstorm."
He grunted, digging deeper into the pillow.
"I mean, it's not even like it's a particularly impressive one. Usually the ones you get here are a lot worse, with Olympus being here and all."
He didn't say anything, but he did move further into the pillow. His head was going to poke out of the other end soon enough.
"And storm season should get over in only two months or so. Maybe three. Of course, with the whole climate change thing, it could take-"
He mumbled something from underneath the pillow. She thought it was probably, "What did I ever do to you?"
"All I'm saying is, get a new pair. Or buy a skirt."
She lovingly runs her hand over her jeans, tattered with so many stories, and glares at him.
"Preferably, a really short skirt," he continues, "One of those things which look like a wide belt."
Images of party nights at Clarion Academy flash in her mind, and she shudders. Kronos take her before things came to that.
"My jeans are off limits. Lay off my jeans."
"Or maybe one of those tiny little dresses-"
"I get the point, you pervert. But lay off my jeans."
"Or a tube top and shorts. Really short shorts. Or a bikini. Or one of those things with-"
He finally spotted her. She had one hand on her Mother's upper arm, and another around a glass of champagne. In front of her, savoring her with rapt attention, was a guy who looked vaguely like a rugged Apollo. Glittering blond hair cropped close to the head, brilliant baby blues, and a thousand megawatt smile.
Nico rubbed the bridge of his nose before heading over. He doubted this was going to be pleasant.
She looked back at him, eyes a little wild, and dropped her mother's arm to pull him forward.
"Speak of the devil," she tittered, "Dylan, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, Nico Di Angelo. Nico, Dylan Kelley. He'd one of my father's business partners and ow-"
Her mother managed to rake fingernails across her bare arm, effectively shutting her up. Nico felt vaguely sorry for Rachel; when he was around hers, even his absentee family seemed all right.
"Hi," he gave the guy a nod, "Rachel, can we go? There's some sort of-"
Her mother shot him a glare. Nico was impressed by the ferocity of it. Rachel shot him a desperate look, willing him to finish the sentence.
"Um. We need her help. Rachel?"
It took her all of five seconds to startle her mother and the guy into stunned silence with her goodbyes, and even lesser to drag him across the ballroom and out to the grounds. He was pretty sure she didn't stop hyperventilating till she was out of the front gates.
"Nice dress," he finally ventured.
"I refuse to talk about it."
"What the hell?!"
Nico winced and looked up. He supposed Rachel had a valid reason for going that white; people didn't usually cough up blood into her kitchen sink. Then she had to charge at him and hold him by the waist, like he was bout to fall down any given second.
"I'm fine," he told her, rolling his eyes, "Really. It's not like I'm dying or anything. I'd know it if I were-"
More hacking coughs and drops of blood interrupted him. Rachel's grip tightened.
"I'm calling Percy. Or Chiron," she nodded, "Or maybe Apollo. Yeah. I think-"
Nico shook his head violently. He had nightmares about Apollo being anywhere near him when he was helpless.
"Just give me a minute," she hauled him back, "I'll get you to the couch and-"
"Rachel," he dug in his heels, "I just overexerted myself. I'll be fine."
"You're coughing up blood in my kitchen sink!"
"Still. I'll be fine."
"You guys faint when you do too much. You don't-"
"Gods, Rach. Give it a rest. I'll be fine by tomorrow," he cleared his throat and spat out the last of the blood, and opened the sink pipes. "Honest. It's one of those Child of the Underworld things. We have a sacred duty to be creepier than any other type of demigod."
He was pretty sure she wasn't convinced, if the deathwatch she kept over him for the rest of the night was any indication.
He squinted at the title, and managed to somehow decipher the cursive script.
Rachel flushed on the spot. She knew she should have kicked the book under the couch/thrown it out of the nearest window or something, but then he'd have been sure to be suspicious. So she'd acted completely unruffled, confident that he wouldn't want to know what she was reading…
He looked at her in utter disbelief for a second or two, before his face was taken over by a malicious grin.
Rachel leapt out of the couch, fully intending to throw the damn book out of the window before he could get at it, but Nico hadn't survived for a while now without being considerably quick on the uptake. Ten seconds later, she was on the floor with her hair frizzier than usual, and he was reading the blurb on the book.
oh please just let the dyslexia act up.
No such luck.
He looked at her again and let out a snort before -ohgods- reading it out aloud.
"The alluring beauty Chantelle has sworn to never lend her heart to any man again, shadows of her tragic past forcing the bewitching brunette to-"
She dived for the book and he lifted it out of her reach. Rachel made a mental note to ask one of the children of Hecate for a shrinking potion next time she was anywhere near Long Island.
"- hide her true self from the rest of the world. But that was before the handsome business tycoon with a reputation for getting exactly what he wants entered into the picture. Peitro-" he blinked, "Pietro? You cannot be reading this crap."
"Give me back my book," she told him, "and stop holding things over my head, dammit!"
"Shortstuff," he commented, before clearing his throat and reading again, "Pietro very much wants the ravishing vixen in his bed, and he is-"
"How can you read like that? You're supposed to be dyslexic! And give it back!"
He didn't, of course. And she had to suffer through what seemed like hours of torture as he read out freaking excerpts from the thing, punctuated by hysterical laughter. It probably meant she should be hiding her Harlequin collection.
"Really, Rachel. You're just taking it too far now. Do you know that boy sneaked into the party? The doorman swears he never let someone like than in. And no wonder either. The boy was wearing a shirt with skulls on it, Rachel. Skulls!"
"Uh-huh." Rachel twirled the brush across the canvas. Maybe a touch of Prussian. Unless Viridian would work better. Olive, on the other hand…
"I demand you kick him out this instant! Do you know what the society pages say about this?!"
"No, Mom. I subscribe to Art magazines."
"They think you're abusive! And devoid of all common sense!"
"Really? The same people who one followed Dominique wharshername into the-"
"Stay on topic, Rachel! Just look at the boy!"
"I like what I see."
"He's bad news! The black, and that skull ring! I wouldn't be surprised if he does things like- like ritual sacrifices to raise the dead or something-"
"He doesn't- Rachel!"
She sighed and scowled at the canvas. She'd never hear the end of this now.