In retrospect, when Angelo noticed a slight tinge of pink to Frost's clothes, he probably should have realized it was going to be one of those days. He was, however, able to convince himself that it was nothing more than a trick of the mall lights and the gaudy foil hearts that seemed to cover every exposed surface in the mall.
He could be forgiven for thinking that one of Cassidy's shirts had made it into Emma's laundry. The decorations, however -- the decorations themselves should have been a clue. They were all the shades of blood red -- arterial and venous, week-old dried and Halloween paint. They were Care Bear pink and the colour of bubblegum spat on the ground, and they were of a pink so vivid it burned right through his retinas to scorch the back of his brain. They were in chains and they were stylized and some were even pierced with white (blessed, pure, crisp white) arrows.
They ate their way across the tables in the food court, and they mated on store windows until the displays were obscured; here and there a mannequin's hand was visible, scrabbling for air. The hearts were taped to the floor and the lights, and they hung from the ceiling and skylights on sparkly silver cords. They danced at the end of their strings until Angelo was left with the distinct impression that if he stood still for too long, they were going to wrap themselves around him and pull him up into the rafters to have their way with him.
Angelo, however, was paying attention to his surrounding in only the vaguest possible of ways -- an 'if I look more closely, I'll be forced to bang my head against the wall until the sight leaves my brain' way.
He could be forgiven for missing the signs -- he was distracted by the disturbingly amorous way he'd caught Jubes looking at her cupcake in the food court, and the niggling urge to go and buy over-priced weeds for ... someone. He was reasonably sure there was someone out there who wanted him to give them roses. (Unbeknownst to him, the hearts spelled out advertisements for the local florist's.)
So it was only when a naked winged man fell out of the sky and landed on him that Angelo started to realize that this was going to be one of *those* days.
Not just one of those days, but one of *those* days. The sort of day that would not only see the Summers' family tree hit by lightening (again) and three time-travels before breakfast, but also the appearance of large men in small spandex with names like 'Bane' or 'Electro-Pilate-Bandit,' all of whom where working for Sinister/Magneto/FoH/Madeline Summers/Cable's old buddies or, even worse, had designs to replace one of the above.
Lying there on the mall floor, with a foil heart much too close to his head for comfort; Angelo gave serious thought of going back to bed (or even just pulling a Sleeping Beauty where he lay). There was really no reason *he* had to deal with the crazy man. Especially when the crazy man was already levering himself off Angelo and sprinting down the mall corridor, knocking people every which way with his wings.
Swiping feathers from his mouth, Angelo sat up slowly. He had just enough time to be grateful that the rapidly retreating figure seemed to be wearing underwear before a weasely boy about his age skidded up beside him.
"Aren't you going to stop him?" the boy asked.
'Asked' was perhaps too kind a word. He sniveled, he demanded, and his already small eyes narrowed yet further.
"I think not," Angelo said from the floor as he wiggled his toes. His right ankle hurt. "I don't know what it has to do with me, and I'm heading this one off at the pass."
"But --" the weasely boy protested, nose wrinkled. "He's got my bo--"
"But nothing." Angelo stood up slowly, careful to check for randomly placed banana peels. They had these days, and they never learned. He was going to break the cycle. He was going to put himself outside of it. He was going to go back to the academy and lock himself into his room until Jono gave him the all clear, and--
The screaming started.
--He was going to have to chase the nutbar down, wasn't he?
With a groan, a hitch in his step, and the weasel-boy at his side, Angelo loped off. He was suddenly glad he had as much practice as he did at locating the centre of commotion by screaming alone.
It didn't take them long to find him. Angelo skidded to a stop. The diapered man was spinning wildly in a circle with a bow drawn and arrow notched. His wings were spread wide, and had taken on a pink sheen from the glare of the foil hearts. Weasel-boy hollered indignantly, and Angelo tried to figure out if the group of people in the corner were doing what the noises they were making indicated they were doing.
Three thoughts went through Angelo's mind: 1) Damn, Cupid's got issues. 2) Weasel-boy said' He's got my bo--' 3) Weasel-boy is not in his correct body.
As Angelo was seeing the light, Cupid (or Cupid's body, depending on how you wanted to look at it) saw Angelo. Angelo, blinded by his own brilliance, didn't see that Cupid had seen him, and as such didn't see him sight down the bow and let fly an arrow.
"Ooomph," Angelo said as he hit the ground. The ground was bonier and more uneven than he remembered.
"For Hades sake!" weasel boy (or Cupid, depending on how you wanted to look at it) said, as he had somehow managed to knock Angelo out of the way and still end up underneath him.
Angelo grunted again as he was shoved unceremoniously to the actual floor. Looking up, he saw an arrow quivering in the wall where his head had been seconds before.
That could have been very painful. Or worse yet, it could have been only slightly painful. If he'd fallen madly in love with his left shoe, Jubilee would never have let him live it down.
Weasel boy knocked him out of the way again. "What kind of superhero are you, anyway?" he snarled.
"A reluctant one," Angelo said.
"I can understand why they were reluctant to take you."
"No," Angelo said as he dodged another arrow. "I was reluctant to --" Screw it, he decided suddenly. Witty banter was usually reserved for the *enemy,* and it certainly didn't make the fight any shorter.
Not that it was much of a fight. He was just lucky that one of the exercises they did in the Grotto basically involved Frost sitting in a tree and throwing things at them. "Hey!" he said suddenly. "How did you know I was--"
"I see you when you're sleeping, I know when you're awake," weasel boy said, tripping over a couple in a rather compromising position. The mall had rather cleared out.
Angelo wondered for a second where security was, but then took a closer look at the people on the floor, and the random bits of uniforms scattered all over. "Isn't that Santa Claus?" Angelo asked as he hauled the other boy out of the way of the next barrage of arrows.
"Santa's just the one who's famous for it. How else do you think I match people up? Random selection?"
An arrow cut through a mass of hanging foil hearts and destroyed an innocent plant.
"Well, with some of the people I've seen paired up--"
"Duck. You can't go blaming it all on me, man. People do what they do. I just give pointers."
"From one man to another, your pointers suck."
"I mean, where are *my* pointers?"
"I give you plenty of pointers. I just don't deal in sledgehammers, which is what you seem to need."
Cupid exploded. Not literarily, though that would have brought matters to a quick conclusion. "Are you two even paying any attention to me?" he hollered, shaking his bow.
"Well, actually..." weasel boy said.
Angelo shrugged. "We were just waiting around..."
"For you to stop shooting," weasel boy finished, and launched himself at Cupid.
Angelo was right on his heels, taking the larger, winged man down with a blow in an area guaranteed to take down any man -- never mind one in Cupid's line of work.
"So," Angelo said, pointedly not-looking at the security guards scattered around them in various states of undress. "How do we do this?"
Weasel boy blinked. "Easy," he said, and bent down to pick up the bow and quiver. "Done."
It was Angelo's turn to blink. "What about the rest? I would have thought you couldn't wait to get out of that body."
Weasel boy's face changed imperceptibly.
Angelo took another look at the man squirming on the ground. "Oh," he said. One wing was coming off, trailing feathers across the foil hearts littering the ground. "OH. He just stole your --"
Weasel boy -- Cupid -- nodded.
"So he really was just some nut, and --"
Angelo scratched his neck. "Look, man, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"
Cupid smirked. "I'll deal."
"I mean, he looked like -- and you looked like --"
"Seriously, we're good." Cupid said. "Thanks for getting my bow back."
"No problem, then. I really didn't mean to--"
Cupid smirked. "What do they always say, man?"
Angelo nodded. Slowly. "Yeah. I get it. Love is blind."
"Good," Cupid smirked. "So don't worry, there's hope for you yet."
It took a second to sink in. "Hey!" Angelo hollered, but Cupid had already disappeared; leaving him alone with a half dozen amorous security guards, a man in a diaper, and sharp, pointy objects stuck at random intervals into the storefronts and foil hearts.
Then he was hit over the head with a sledgehammer.
"Sorry," Paige said, picking him up off the floor. "I slipped in the sea of mutant foil hearts. What *where* you up to?"
"--You really don't want to know," he said.
"One of *those* days?" she asked.
"You need to go lie very quietly in bed until we give you the all-clear?"
Angelo thought about it. His ankle was sore, he hurt from repeated arguments with the floor, and he had a Paige-bruise across the back of his head. "Nah," he smiled. "Let's grab a bite instead."