Percy is writing something on Vex's arm.
They're lying together, naked and satisfied, still in the post coital glow. Vex is resting her head on Percy's shoulder, one hand on his stomach; it's this arm that Percy is tracing some kind of sigils onto. Vex knows he's doing it, because he does it often, his fingers moving deliberately on her bare skin. She's been trying to figure it out for a while, and she's narrowed it down at least a little. It is sentences, or at least strings of words, moving in one direction with no overlap. It's not the harsh lines of Draconic-based magic runes or the flowing script of Elven; the letters don't fit close together like in Common.
"It's Celestial, isn't it?" Vex says, her curiosity finally getting the best of her, and Percy's fingers still.
"What's Celestial?" he asks, and Vex can't decide if he's being coy or just cautious. She rolls onto her back, but Percy doesn't let her get away, rolling onto his side to follow.
"What you write with your fingers," she says. "I know it's not the other languages you speak."
"Ah," he says, looking a little chagrined. "I wondered if you would notice."
"I'm observant by nature," she says. "And you've done it several times by now. Honestly, I'm surprised you can do it without seeing what you've written."
"I used to do it when I got bored in lessons," he says. "It's an interesting challenge."
"And you decided to apply it in bed," she says.
"Rarely do the majority of my lessons have any practical application," he says.
"What do you write?" she asks.
"Nothing, really," he says, and by now Vex knows well when he's using technicalities to get out of giving a real answer.
"I don't buy it," she says.
"No, it was genuinely nothing," Percy says, his nerd face on. "Celestial texts aren't just written words. The writing itself is magical, but it doesn't take effect without the determiner that goes at the end. That's what makes it real. I always left off the determiners just in case."
"Why?" she asks.
"I don't know how to say this," Percy says after a long pause, and if Percy can't figure it out, it must be quite the thing. "I know you're a good person, but I know you don't always think so. I didn't know if it would harm you if you weren't certain you were fully good."
"I'm getting better," Vex says, which is the best she can give. "What would happen if you put the determiner on now?"
"Then it would be real," he says.
"So do it," she says.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he admits.
Vex shrugs. "Fortune favors the brave."
Percy looks hesitant, but he nods. He puts a fingertip on her stomach, deliberately tracing a swirling design. He finishes it with a flourish, as if going back and underlining it.
Vex feels suddenly like she's been hit by a hot wind, warmth surging through her. A sense of calm seems to pervade her whole body, all the way out to her fingertips, her scalp, her toes. She's never felt quite like this before, this warm bubble of peace surrounding her.
"I was afraid of that," Percy says, looking at her body rather than her face. Vex looks down, and there are glowing symbols all over her, lines of text crisscrossing her body, some of them on top of others. There's much more of it than she expected, some in places she wouldn't have thought of.
"You've been busy," Vex says.
Percy winces. "It became a habit."
She's about to ask a follow-up when the writing starts to dim, the lights going out character by character. Soon the words are invisible again, but Vex still feels it, like it should be raised like a fresh tattoo but isn't quite.
"That answers my next question," she says. "So, now that it means something, what does it say?"
Percy has that look he gets when Vex outfoxes him, annoyed and pleased at the same time. "Just bits of things I remember," he says. "I tried to stay away from things with a major impact, summonings, charms, things of that sort."
"Wise," Vex says.
"You're going to make fun of me if I tell you the rest," he says.
"Darling," she says gently, kissing him. "If I wanted to make fun of you, I could find better reasons than something that's obviously meaningful to you."
He sighs. "It was mostly blessings," he says. "Things you might close a letter or a book with, if you wanted to wish luck on the reader. Sometimes words of protection." He colors slightly. "Sometimes bits of poetry."
"Dirty poetry?" Vex offers.
"I don't think people write dirty poetry in Celestial, but there may have been some odes to love mixed in," he says. He pauses, like he's unsure of how far to go. "And this," he says, writing what feels like a long sentence; this time he adds the determiner, and the words flash to life.
"What does it say?" Vex asks.
He says it first in Celestial, and like most Celestial, it sounds more like music than words, ringing tones rather than syllables. Finished, he pauses. "Are you sure you want to know? It sounds better in Celestial."
"You can't just do that and not tell me," she says.
"Just remember that all Celestial translations rhyme, whether you intend for them to or not," he prefaces. He clears his throat. "'Bold and free and filled with mercy, this is the heart that belongs to Percy.'" He looks abashed. "Mercy is the only thing that rhymes with my name, but that doesn't mean the sentiment isn't completely genuine."
Vex doesn't mean to leave him twisting in the wind, but she can't speak, too full of emotion that she can't figure out how to express.
"It's all a little much," he continues. "I didn't think you'd find out, but that isn't a very good excuse-"
Percy cuts off suddenly as Vex surges up to meet him, kissing him with abandon. He's startled at first, but he settles into it, tangling a hand in her hair. Vex kisses him until they're both breathless, until they break apart panting.
"It's not too much," Vex says. "It's perfect."
"Then I'm glad you like it," he says.
"It's the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me," she says.
"You deserve far better than my doggerel," he says.
"I don't care if there's something better," she replies. "I just want you." Percy kisses her again, long moments given to it, and Vex pulls away first. "Now, it's only fair that I get to write something on you."
"By all means," he says.
Vex looks him over, trying to find a spot that's not especially ticklish. Upon consideration, she chooses his collarbone, laying her finger on his skin and beginning to write in Elven. There's everyday shorthand for what she's writing, but she spells it out instead, brushing each letter onto his skin in the fluid script. It won't glow, won't accomplish anything, but she'll know it's there, just as clear as if it had been written in ink.
"Siret da Vex'ahlia o'ren," Vex says when she's done, and Percy laughs.
"'Vex'ahlia's property'?" he translates.
"You're the one with the pretty words," she says. "Besides, there are more poetic translations."
"Name one," he says.
"'This item belongs to Vex'ahlia,'" she says, but then she pauses to consider that. "Now that I think about it, that was a lateral move at best."
"I don't mind," Percy says. "Just because it's blunt doesn't mean that it's false."
"And don't you forget it," Vex says, mock stern.
"How could I?" he says, smiling.
Vex yawns, stretching. "Let's have a nap and then round two."
"That sounds like just the thing," Percy says, leaning off the bed to retrieve the blanket and throwing it over the both of them. Vex shuts her eyes, curling in close to Percy. He puts his arm across her waist, holding her.
And if there are deliberate fingers brushing the small of her back, she doesn't mention it.