[ Master Post ]
Title: A Much-Needed Holiday
Characters: Nico ♂, Octavia ♀, Lucian (mentioned) ♂, Wendy ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V1 D1)
Warnings: Expletives, blasphemy, control issues
Notes: All Nico wanted was a day off. A day he didn’t have to think of anyone but himself. A day he could just stay in bed and eat pizza and look at cat pictures on the internet. Which would have been great, but an unexpected visitor disrupted his lazy afternoon.
A day off. That’s all he wanted. Just one. He didn’t think it was that much to ask! Gabriel had whole decades off! Lucian had millennia to himself! Just. One. Day.
So, he scheduled it.
‘Nicholas Darby is not doing anything today, fuck right off.’ It was in the calendar. It was in bright red. The whole day was blocked off, and Yin and Peter couldn’t possibly squeeze anything in. No parties, no speeches, no walking among his people. Also no catered lunch, but that was fine, he knew how to make a sandwich, which was all he really had the energy for. Maybe the ‘no catered lunch’ thing wasn’t such a hot idea, after all. He could still call for a pizza. Calling for a pizza would involve getting to the door before Erika, though. Pizza sounded like work. Sandwiches sounded like work. Getting out of bed sounded like work.
Nico grabbed his laptop and propped it on his knees, ignoring all the mail he had no intention of answering until tomorrow. Sundays were intended as a day of rest, weren’t they? He was going to have a long talk with the Holy Father about how exactly he’d ended up exempted from that.
Ok, no, one message. Just one. The one from his investments manager. That probably couldn’t wait until tomorrow, if something had gone bad. … Except it hadn’t. That was just Janelle giving him shit about taking a day off, and inviting him out for drinks. Any other day, he’d have thought about it. Today he just closed the message and pretended he hadn’t seen it yet.
Nothing to worry about, just for one day.
The light poured in through the skylights, through the huge bay windows, and he just let it settle into his skin, as he lounged in bed, reading weird news and looking at pictures of adorable cats. Weird news, he’d decided, was the best kind. All the windows spontaneously blowing out of a church in some average suburb? That was probably Gabriel. That was probably Gabriel getting kicked out of the house again, if there wasn’t a good reason for it. A tree that had been presumed dead for two centuries suddenly turning green and bearing fruit? Sherry’s doing. The guy who drove into a swimming pool, waving his Stetson out the window? Nah, that was just some drunk.
Yeah, he’d get a pizza — sausage and onion. He could get to the door before Erika. And even if he couldn’t, he could stand to see Erika for the five minutes it would take to get the pizza from her and come back upstairs. It wasn’t anything personal; he just didn’t want to see anyone.
A couple of hours passed as he skimmed stories of archaeological digs in Syria. Lucian had lived in Syria for a while, he thought, and he wondered if they’d find the town where Lucian had lived. On the other hand, he had no idea which town that was, so maybe it had already been excavated.
…Lucian. Lucian had been here for as close to forever as it was possible to get, without being one of the Greater Lords. If there was somewhere Lucian hadn’t been, he’d be surprised.
He remembered the first time they met, in the desert between Jerusalem and Jericho. Lucian hadn’t been happy to see him. Lucian hadn’t been happy to see anyone, at all, out that far.
He could still hear that voice, from behind him, speaking Aramaic. "Are you going to tell me why you’re pissing off my cats?"
His cats, like the desert and the desert cats belonged only to him. Nico supposed he was right, in a lot of ways. It was him, the djinn, and the sand cats, out there, and the djinn weren’t talking.
Lucian introduced himself as the Morning-star, and started out by questioning and condemning Nico’s obstinate faith. It wasn’t until the seventh or eighth day that it sank in who he was talking to, and even then, he didn’t really know. The stories hadn’t become as bizarre and baroque as they would become, later, but they still weren’t quite true.
He’d called Lucian arrogant; Lucian called him irreparably oblique. And then Lucian started telling stories. They’d sit in the moonlight, in the cool mountain air, surrounded by the cats that followed Lucian around, and Lucian would tell terrible tales of the inconstancy of their father. But, Nico would always tell him the same thing. "He sent me to make it right."
Every night, they talked. Every night, Lucian spelled out the story of the world in greater detail. On the twentieth night of tales, he revealed himself, not as simply that angel nobody talks about, but as the first son of the Holy Father. And that was when Nico understood — really understood — what Lucian had been telling him. Lucian had been there for longer than Nico could imagine, longer than any angel Nico could call down in his father’s name had been alive.
"You’re telling me I’m looking in the wrong places."
"I’m telling you you’re only seeing the surface. You see maybe the last century or three, and only the history of the people. Call down the angels he lets you use. Ask them what he had them do, before they were assigned to your will. Some of the damage is his doing, and it’s very deep. It festers in the hearts of his people."
And that was when Nico first knew doubt. Doubt in himself, doubt in his father. But, he pushed it away, because he’d been told to make it right — to do whatever needed to be done to see to his father’s people, and that’s what he would do. And the Morning-star would help him do it.
The phone interrupted his recollections. "Wendy, I love you to death, but can it wait?"
"Would I be calling you, if it could wait? Quit reblogging kittens and get your skinny black ass down here."
Nico groaned expressively. "And how do you know I’m reblogging kittens?"
"Because your Tumblr keeps lighting up my phone." The words were clipped and exasperated. "I swear on your holy father, I will send her upstairs, if you don’t come down."
"The illustrious Ms. Octavia Darby. Now get your ass down the damn stairs."
"My mom?" Nico squealed, throwing himself out of bed, in a mad scramble for clothes that didn’t look like something he’d wear to a nightclub, which was a little bit difficult, since that was the bulk of his working wardrobe. "Five minutes. Call for a pizza — half sausage and onion, half tomato and bell pepper. I’ll pay for it."
"Of course you’ll pay for it. You always do." And Wendy meant every lapping undercurrent in that sentence.
She hung up, and Nico continued his rampage through the closet, finally settling on a pair of golden jeans and a t-shirt with a Hypercolor celtic knot. He raced out the door, running a hand through his hair.
"My mom," he muttered to the Magdalenes in the hall.
A shout of ‘Good luck!’ followed him down the stairs.
History would not remember ‘the holy virgin Octavia’. It would remember ‘Octavia Darby, the mastermind of Darby & Wentworth, Architects’. She would not be a footnote in the story of the holy saviour, but a force of history, in her own right.
Nico skidded into the kitchen, barefoot, stumbling to a stop at the large, round table beside which sat his mother. "Mom! You, ah, you look good! I wasn’t expecting you…"
"Sit down, Nicky."
His ass hit the chair before he knew it was moving. "You still like tomato and peppers on your pizza, right?"
She looked at him like maybe, just maybe, he didn’t know her that well, if he was asking.
"What’s wrong? Did Gabi break something?" A horrifying thought crossed his mind. "Did dad visit?"
"What are you doing with your life, child?" she asked, as if he’d done everything wrong.
"Pick up a newspaper," he scoffed.
"You live in a house I built for you, with a dozen women, and you throw parties all the time!"
"Yes? And I’ve put in motion several of the most effective plans for redistributing the city’s wealth, starting with my own. I fund Father Peter’s ministry almost out of my pocket. People have food and warm places to sleep. You built that clinic, and I raised the money to open it." He shrugged and got up, opening the fridge. "Do you want something to drink?"
"Is that orange juice?"
"Mango. Lucian’s fault." He paused. "Please don’t tell dad about Lucian. You know they have issues."
"I have issues with Lucian. I don’t want my son partying with the devil." Octavia looked sternly at her son. "Mango’s fine."
"He’s not the devil, mom. It’s a typo. He’s an angel, even if he can’t go home. He’s arrogant and charismatic, but he’s been watching mankind evolve for three million years. He’s got insight into how people think. And he’s terrifyingly honest — the Angel of Truth, you know. Much less of a dissembling fuckaround — pardon my French — than Gabriel, which isn’t to say I don’t love Gabriel just as much." Nico poured a glass of mango juice for his mother and opened a beer for himself. "So, yes, I live in this amazing building that you made for me, with a team of people I trust completely, working myself to death for the good of mankind."
"Does Gabriel hear you talk about them like that?" She took the glass, back still straight with a certain majesty. "You need to take a holiday, child."
"I am taking a holiday. You’re sitting in it. Work starts again at four tomorrow morning." Dropping bonelessly into his chair, Nico chugged half the beer. "This is my day off, this year."
"Mmm." It was a disapproving, disbelieving sound. "You have a month to get your affairs in order, son."
"A month? A month before what? What happens if I don’t?" Dad had stopped by. He was sure of it. Dad was pissed about Lucian, and he was going to have to go home and explain everything.
"Then you’re going to spend forty days in Morocco with your head up your ass, worrying about what you left behind, unfinished." She sipped the juice, like she hadn’t said anything of consequence.
"But, I’m not going to Morocco…" His entire world spun.
"Of course you are. You need a holiday. That nice assistant of yours helped me arrange it. What’s her name, Ian?"
"Yin." He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. He was sure he’d had more control of his own affairs, last time. He’d arranged his own holidays. Time had been so much slower, then. "You set this up with Yin, which means my shit will already magically have ordered itself, by the time this happens."
Nico flung his hands up in surrender. There was no choice. Yin had arranged it. He was going to Morocco.
"Your friend Gabriel told me all about how your forty days in the desert helped you, before. We thought you could use something a little less dry, this time. A nice seaside holiday." Octavia smiled warmly, but her shoulders stayed straight as steel.
"Gabi told you? Gabi doesn’t— Gabi wasn’t even there!" Nico protested. "I spent forty days in the desert arguing history and philosophy with Lucian, for dad’s sake!"
"And look what that got you. Didn’t you get yourself killed, listening to Lucian?"
"That wasn’t Lucian’s fault. That was political, and it worked. I got myself killed not listening to Lucian. He was pretty pissed about it, in the end. He’s still pretty pissed about it. Tells Gabriel all the time that they can’t leave me alone, or I’ll get myself killed again." He sighed. "It was intentional. It was martyrdom. I’d really rather not do it again, if I can help it."
He looked at his mother and sighed again. "Morocco. Seriously?"
"You have a flight out on the seventeenth and a return flight on the twenty-seventh of the month after. Forty days in Agadir." Her smile remained serene.
"Thank you, mama." They weren’t the words he wanted, but they were polite. "I need to make a quick call. You’ll stay for lunch, won’t you?"
Octavia looked at her watch. "I don’t have to be anywhere for a couple of hours."
"Good. I’ll be right back." Nico backed out of the kitchen, as he talked, pulling the phone out of his pocket. He was going to kick Gabriel’s ass so hard, the angel would spit teeth. Somehow, this was all Gabriel’s fault. And holding the phone while thinking of Gabriel meant…
"Gabi, darling…" Nico’s voice faded out as he walked down the hall, still talking.