This is a fic written for Proud to be Plug, a very dear friend of mine. Originally it was meant to be part of his Easter prompt fic exchange but it's, uh, late. And longer than I ever could have anticipated. Heh. Whoops. But that's okay. You've all met me, right? I don't think that you could have been expecting much else. The title is entirely his.
It's been sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to make it not suck for a long time now (I wrote it all at once and wow, it was terrible) but it's finally here. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away this past Thursday and it's reminded me not to put things off. Procrastination is self-destructive, it detracts from your life, and the only person that misses out is you. So it was time to get off my backside.
The three prompts, which will be spread throughout, were:
Don't drink the water.
It's all Greek to me.
Black does not mean evil.
Let me know what you think.
Godsbedamned if red hair wasn't synonymous with being burnt to a cinder every time it wasn't, you know, night.
Still, being the Oracle came with some major perks and Rachel had sent one of the newest and youngest Campers scurrying with a Look to the attic of the Big House to fetch a sun umbrella for her to sit under. It turned out that people were afraid of you when you might at any minute foretell their imminent doom.
The umbrella was wedged deep in the sand of the training arena and she was lounging on a reclining lawn chair (also rescued from the attic), fanning herself idly with the sketchbook she was meant to be drawing in if it wasn't so damn hot.
Annabeth had joined Rachel in the shade. It seemed that she, too, could also intimidate the younger campers into hopping to (although with vastly different methods than those Rachel used) and was thus sprawled on a lawn chair that matched Rachel's.
Both of them had lived through both the second rounds of two major wars as teenagers and graduated college that summer to boot. If that didn't deserve lawn chairs and downtime then what did?
Oh, and alcohol. Resting on the ground between them was a pitcher of Long Island iced tea; the pitcher and the two glasses were oozing condensation and the ice cubes were melting at approximately the same rate as the Arctic.
"I always imagined that global warming would kill us all suddenly rather than do it slowly through dry roasting," Rachel mused, throwing the sketchbook down into her lap. It wasn't doing the job as a fan.
She craned her neck to see if she could see the small boy she had coerced into a trip to the attic earlier. He'd been wearing a man's sword that trailed along the ground behind him but she didn't see why that would stop him grabbing a palm frond and going at it. However, he was nowhere to be seen and she slumped back into the chair dejectedly.
Annabeth made a noncommittal noise and reached down for her drink without looking, sipping through the straw. From this angle, Rachel could see behind Annabeth's sunglasses; her grey eyes were darting to and fro as she watched the action in the arena in front of them. Rachel sighed and rolled her own eyes, sliding her sunglasses down her nose to peek over the top of them for a better view.
Nico and Percy, both in t-shirts soaked with sweat, were fighting Clarisse and Justin, the old head counsellor of the Nemesis cabin, who each looked just as hot. Justin was a tall redhead who had no more business being in the sun than she did and Rachel had no idea why he wasn't hiding in a cool, dark place until winter just to avoid the sunburn.
Perhaps that attitude explained why she was just the prophecy gal and not some frontline fighter. There wasn't enough factor 50 in the world to persuade her to step out of the umbrella's shade right now.
Behind the sparring foursome was a crowd of younger, new campers. They were basically just kids, barely claimed and incredibly wet behind the ears although there were some older campers there who had just come to watch the fight. The newer campers were the focus of the training exercise; the older ones were just there for the entertainment.
The older campers were more relaxed but the younger ones stood there open-mouthed watching the slashing and ducking and parrying, letting out involuntary squeaks and gasps every time someone came within less than five inches of having their guts slashed open.
There was also a healthy dose of cheering and clapping when one of the fighters made a particularly good move.
It was that time of year when some of the graduates of Camp Half-Blood volunteered to return in order to show the new recruits a thing or two because Chiron trusted them more than anyone else he could find. Besides, all of them who had managed to survive the wars were happy to come back and train the next generation so the newbs would be prepared if the world decided to end again and they were too laid up with their lumbago to do anything about it.
Well, most of them were glad. Rachel still remembered Nico's stinkface when Percy had suggested that they team up to get their stint of training out of the way; he had not been impressed at having to do it at all. She smiled at the memory, the whining, and settled back on her chair to watch the fight.
Nico was wearing a black t-shirt (never had anyone been able to persuade him to wear an orange one) and Percy was wearing an old orange one that was stretched too tight across his broad chest and shoulders. He took training seriously and had continued to bulk out through college; he didn't look like some steroid-fuelled meathead by any means but he was made up of a good portion of solid, well-used muscle.
Nico still reminded Rachel of a toothpick she could snap between finger and thumb but she had to admit that he had changed considerably in a physical sense from when she had first met him. He was taller for one thing; he'd actually overtaken Percy by around an inch, much to his delight.
As skinny as he was, she could still see taut muscles flashing through the sheen of swear on his arms. The muscle was as a result of persistent training and repeated sword work out of necessity more than anything; Nico was the kind to sit on her couch devouring an entire box of Krispy Kremes while she killed herself on the StairMaster and she wasn't sure the word 'workout' had penetrated his vocabulary ever. His exercise came from kill or be killed situations and not pumping iron.
His dark hair remained as unruly as ever but he had let it grow considerably longer; it was currently secured by a rubber band in a stubby ponytail about an inch long.
She watched as Percy and Nico wordlessly slammed back-to-back, prowling round in a slow circle as Clarisse and Justin both moved separate ways to attack their flanks.
Clarisse feinted forward with her sword arm towards Nico but at the last minute brought her shield into play, swiping it upwards towards Nico's chin. Nico twisted and ducked under the blow; his sword flashed and the blade caught Clarisse in the exposed crook of her forearm above the toughened leather arm guard.
She hissed and fell back and Rachel saw blood drip onto the sand as Clarisse wobbled on her feet slightly, the effect of Stygian iron obviously fazing her for a second. Nico smirked at her, spun and swept his leg low, taking her feet out from under her.
Clarisse went down with all the delicacy of a couple of tons of bricks; even from halfway across the arena Rachel could hear Clarisse's strangled wheezing as she struggled to refill lungs that had had the air knocked out of them.
Nico turned, his lack of bulk making him incredibly quick especially as he was fighting without a shield (Justin had sent it flying across the arena to concuss a twelve-year-old earlier) but Percy was already taking care of it.
Riptide flashed and Justin's sword went sailing out of his grasp and Percy switched to using his shield, slamming the edge of it into Justin's gut. When the redhead doubled over Percy placed Riptide against the back of his head with just enough pressure to leave a mark.
The watching crowd went wild and Rachel fought to supress a grin. It wouldn't do for the Oracle to start taking sides but of course she'd been team Percy-Nico for the whole fight.
However, it turned out the fight wasn't yet over; Clarisse had finally got her breath back and charged at Percy like a bull, a loud war cry ripping through the arena as sparks of red began to flare off her skin. Even after all these years, Ares was clearly not happy with having his children bested, especially not in a fight with a son of Poseidon. The Blessing began to overtake her body as she tackled Percy bodily.
Percy's feet left the ground as she slammed into him like a linebacker and he was catapulted through the air, landing facedown with a mouthful of sand. His head rang from the impact; he'd lost his shield in the fall but had kept hold of Riptide. Before he could really gather his wits Clarisse was standing over him, her sword gone and replaced by her signature electric spear, which was crackling with stored power.
Percy yelped and did a backwards roll as she stabbed at him, managing to swipe the point away with Riptide as Clarisse went in for another go.
"Hey! Swords only!" Nico growled, raising a hand. The ground trembled; the fleeting remnants of ice cubes in the pitcher rattled and clinked as both of the glasses fell over. Stalagmites of pure obsidian sprang from the ground ten feet high all around Clarisse like the bars of a cage, trapping her and sucking away the electricity from her spear and the red sparks from her body.
The miniature earthquake had caused some cries of fear from the watching crowd but Annabeth barely blinked, righting the fallen glasses and pouring the last of the pitcher equally into of them. She glanced up when she was done and caught a flash of green smoke curling out from Rachel's nose.
Annabeth snorted tiredly. "Great, another prophecy. Just what we needed," she muttered to herself, reluctantly swinging her legs around so that she was sitting up and facing Rachel. "Just when I thought there could be one normal summer…"
Rachel was sat bolt upright in the chair. Suddenly, her right hand was flashing and darting so fast that Annabeth could barely see it move; she was scribbling down Greek onto her sketchpad without even looking. Finally she came to the bottom of the page and stopped, letting out a long breath and leaning back on her chair. The pencil fell to the ground.
The Oracle put her hand to her head and took off her sunglasses, rubbing at her aching head. "How long was I out for?" she asked. "What did I say? Who's got to go to their doom this time?"
"You didn't say anything," Annabeth said interestedly. "You wrote something down, though. Have you ever done that before?"
Rachel blinked down at her sketchpad; the hasty outline of Nico fighting had been scrawled over with Ancient Greek. "Huh. Nope, that's never happened before," she said. "I thought I was used to the Oracle's tricks by now. Thought I'd seen them all."
"Do you know what it says?" Annabeth asked.
Rachel squinted at it and wrinkled her nose. "Nope," she said, handing Annabeth the sketchpad. "You translate. It's all Greek to me."
"You'd think by now you'd have picked up just the basics," Annabeth muttered, taking the sketchpad and frowning at it.
"Hey, when was the last time you were vacation in Europe and you had to speak Ancient Greek?" Rachel scoffed. "The Oracle speaks English, normally. It hardly ever comes up."
Annabeth sighed and shook her head, looping hair behind her ear as she worked on the translation. When she was done she closed her eyes, took her sunglasses off and rubbed a hand across her face.
"Nico," she said quietly. "It's about Nico." She let a confused look rove over Nico before getting up and walking out of the arena, the sketchbook clutched in one hand and the other balled into a nervous fist.
"Hey, wait for me!" Rachel yelped, scrambling to get up. Sand filled her sandals as she ran after Annabeth and burned the soles of her feet as she left the arena.