Andrew turned his head, and Percy caught the line of brown freckles dotting his nose and cheeks. He’d had them as long as Percy could remember, and he’d always thought they were the most adorable thing.
Or… he probably wouldn’t want to be called adorable now. And he wouldn’t want Percy to think it. Because he didn’t love Percy anymore.
But Percy couldn’t help it. The cheerleaders were practicing again, and despite his lame duck captain status, Andrew was still out there three days a week, prepping next year’s team. And he glowed under the fluorescent lights of the hotel ballroom like it was the sun.
Last year (when they had gone together, when Percy had picked Andrew up and wrapped a corsage around his wrist, when Andrew had been wearing that beautiful blue dress, and told Percy that they were forever as they’d laid together in the hotel bed) it had looked nice once the overhead lights had been off, and all the fairy lights had been lit up.
But last year, Percy hadn’t had to do the hanging. He’d been the junior class president’s boyfriend, and mostly carried clipboards while his girlfriend freaked out over catering and DJ and the votes for prom king and queen. And then, once they’d been crowned, had basically collapsed into Percy’s arms, and smiled up at him, saying with a self-assuredness that Andrew had always had, that next year, it would be them.
Percy didn't know he meant they’d compete for prom king.
“Ok,” Andrew announced. His voice wasn’t really deeper than before, but there was a new confidence to it. Not that he’d lacked confidence before, but now he was able to be himself. He climbed down the ladder, and Percy got out of the way so he could settle properly on the floor.
Without heels, he was shorter than Percy. His short blond curls were plastered to the sides of his face by sweat from the effort to stringing up a thousand Christmas lights.
But his gray eyes were bright, happy with a job well down.
He was so beautiful it made Percy want to cry.
He probably had a pressed tuxedo all picked out for prom. Maybe with a gray vest, to match his eyes. Fitting for the prom king.
Percy had heard a lot of stories about who he was taking to prom: Piper, Hazel, Reyna, Rachel, Clarisse. Whoever it was, she was sure to be prom queen.
He was keeping an ear out. Frank and Nico still talk to him. Of course, they talk to Hazel. He’d thought the rest of the cheerleaders were his friends, too. But that was not at all the case. And when he wasn’t dating their captain, they’d vanished into the air. Frank, at least, seemed to feel properly sorry for him, which was nice, even though Percy was also pretty sure he was reporting on his own movements to Andrew.
Percy understood that Andrew was scared, but it still hurt. Especially since all Percy did was love him
“I still think it’s so unfair,” Andrew was saying.
“Ugh.” He rolled his eyes. “That I had to throw two proms in a row. God, why can’t you listen. You’re such a Seaweed Brain.”
His eyes widened a second later, when he realized what he said. And Percy had to physically bite his tongue to keep down retort.
He could practically taste it on the tip of his mouth: Wise Girl.
He had been so careful and measured, taking the space in his head once labeled Annabeth and replacing it with Andrew. Taking the space reserved for ‘love of life’ and replacing it with ‘classmate who loathes him.’
Wise Girl was harder in this moment, because he hadn’t been called Seaweed Brain since they broke up. And Wise Girl was a name of years of companionship and discovery and growth. His best friend. Something he was even sadder to lose than the love of his life.
After all, he always knew Andrew was too good for him. Andrew had always known it, too. But Percy had at least thought he’d get to keep his friendship.
Once upon a time, Seaweed Brain had been said with all the affection in the world. But now with friendship gone, and all the illusions Percy ever had, it stung.
They stared at each other for a long time. And, instead of biting back, Percy just wanted to get on his knees and beg Andrew to take him back.
He had a box under his bed, filled with old pictures of them from before. He’d gathered them up, from his bedroom cork board and the living room bookshelf. He should have destroyed them. He knew he should have. But he couldn’t really stand the thought of it, even after he’d deleted all the old photos from his social media when Andrew had done the same. Just before he’d blocked Percy.
He couldn’t let go of a teeny little bit of hope that there was some terrible misunderstanding, that if he could just bare enough of his soul, just beg him enough, just give Andrew what he needed, he’d be willing to try and love Percy again.
But he knew it was a fool’s errand. Andrew was done with him. And so, Percy did what he’d done when he’d taped that shoe box up.
He took a deep breath and backed away. “I’ll go check on the streamers in the lobby.”
“They need to be–”
“Yeah, Andrew, I remember from last year.” He didn’t turn around.
Just before they started high school, he and Percy had curled up together under a pillow fort they were both too big for and watched all their favorite movies with a plate of blue cookies.
In the quiet safety, watching But I’m a Cheerleader, Percy had whispered “I’m bi.”
It had made something Andrew hadn’t fully come to accept yet flutter inside of him.
And through getting together and all those milestones of a first relationship, Andrew had kept that hope alive under perfect ponytails and higher herkies. Right up until he knew he couldn’t stand it anymore.
Just after the end of Junior year, they‘d gone down the beach. Eventually a whole host of friends had joined them. But for the first two days, it had just been them, in the cabin and on the shore.
The second night, before all their friends had arrived, they’d made themselves another pillow fort. And in the blue light of the TV, he had asked Percy if he could ever see himself dating a boy.
And Percy had laughed, and shook his head, and said he could not ever imagine that.
Then they’d made out again.
Andrew had been sad and desperate. He had been all week, extra clingy, extra affectionate, trying to get the last bits of Percy in, before he lost him forever.
He’d broken up with Percy a week later, short and to the point, and then he’d gone and gotten a haircut. Percy had always loved his hair. It was easier, knowing he wouldn’t be disappointing Percy. Just like how it was easier to break up with Percy, before waiting for Percy to break up with him.
But losing Percy was the hardest part. Harder than telling his dad, harder than telling the squad, harder than having his mother to talk to him.
But so so hard.
Especially when school started. Percy was in most of his classes, because they’d planned their schedules before he’d known they had to break up. Sometimes Andrew would look up, and see Percy staring at him, frown firmly in place.
The cheerleaders took to traveling in packs with him, and Andrew liked the support. And he liked it when Piper said he should challenge Percy Jackson for prom king.
Andrew had always been the most popular guy in school, he’d just been hiding the guy part. And so, it was time to make sure everyone acknowledged his ascension.
They had been in Mr. Blofis’s English class when his candidacy for prom king had been announced, and the tension in the air had been strong. Percy had just hunched over his desk and ignored everything in favor of what was probably last night’s homework.
Percy had barely campaigned, but Andrew had launched an offensive like only a cheerleader could, and yet, when the final two candidates were announced, it was Andrew Chase and Percy Jackson.
Andrew tried not to think about how nice their names sounded together, about how he didn’t hear It anymore. He’d spent most of junior year trying various things out with Percy with the last name Jackson. He’d chosen Andrew only when he knew it wasn’t going to happen.
He’d kept up his campaign and tried not to get swept up in the much smaller number of posters about Percy that went up over the school. But it was hard. Andrew missed that smile.
But he didn’t have any doubt when he checked his own name for final voting. Though when he looked up, he saw Percy looking at him across the classroom, before handing over his own paper.
But here they were.
This year’s junior class was not nearly as good as it had been last year. But the fairy lights were excellent, thank you very much.
He danced with a string of the school's most eligible women, (all the cheerleaders), ate a lot of the little brownies that were the second-best brownie he’d ever tasted, and kept a kind of vague look out for Percy, while trying very hard to not seem like he was looking out for him.
Hazel had not been able to get any information on his date. And neither Reyna’s false flag nor Rachel’s last minute inquiries had yielded any good results
So, Andrew made sure to always have at least one cheerleader on his arm. Preferably Piper, who was available, because Shell went to a different school and couldn’t come to their prom. “God, if I were into dudes,” Piper said, after ‘Hot in Here’ ended and she spun him around. “I would be all over you.”
“You’re welcome.” It was gratifying to not be attractive to Piper.
And then they were swept up in a gaggle of cheerleaders and led over to the photo area. Andrew’s theme last year, Ancient Greece, had been much better than this year’s Starry Night.
Then, at the photo booth, he saw the chaperone lining people up, and nearly booked it back to the dark dance floor.
Sally Jackson’s eyes met his, and he held his breath for a very long second, before a kind smile broke out onto her face. She walked over to their little group, and basically pulled Andrew into the type of hug he missed. No one could hug like Sally Jackson, except for her son. And Sally always put something special and magical and parental in them. Andrew’s dad was trying, but he just missed it.
Sally was still smiling when she pulled back. “It’s Andrew now, right dear?”
“Good, strong name,” she said, but Andrew couldn’t help but wonder if Sally had also noticed that his new name precluded him ever joining the Jackson family.
He still hadn’t seen Percy all night. It makes him antsy, like someone is going to drop a bucket of pig’s blood on him before the night is over. “I’m surprised you’re here,” he said instead of the question he wanted to ask.
“It’s a good excuse to be out of the house,” she said, “and they always need extra chaperones. You kids are wild.” A couple of the cheerleaders giggled. Sally ushered them all towards the line, then moved on to the next group.
It reminded Andrew he hadn’t seen Estelle in almost a year. She must have been so big now. Last he knew, Sally didn’t like to leave her at home with anyone but Paul or Percy, but she’d clearly graduated up to babysitters. Time flew, and all that.
Andrew forced a little bit of a smile for the picture. But he’d been forcing smiles for formal pictures for years. So it wasn’t that hard.
After pics, he was pulled into a rush of group dances, and a few more brownies, before the time came to announce prom king and queen. Vice Principal D. went up on stage. He was an asshole, but he’d also been fiercely supportive of Andrew, of making sure his name was changed on all the class roasters, and supporting his run for prom king. It was… unexpectedly very sweet of him.
In short order, he pulled out the two envelopes. Reyna won queen, because “Reyna means Queen” had been a hell of a slogan.
Silence filled the air as they waited for the announcement of the king.
“And the winner is…” The DJ played a fake drum roll, and Andrew knew a second before he said it, because of the way he was frowning. “Perry Johnson… I mean, Percy Jackson.”
“Don’t worry,” Clarisse said from Andrew’s side, forgoing her usual punch for a hard nudge. “Reyna will be sure to step on his feet in those scary heels.”
It wasn’t a consolation.
He took a deep breath, and looked around, waiting for Percy to emerge, probably underdressed in a blue shirt and no tie or coat, his hair windswept. He’d not exactly resisted, but he had to be reminded to wear a tux to prom last year. His new girlfriend probably knew better than to mess with perfection.
Percy didn’t go up on stage.
The minutes dragged on. Someone was sent to check the bathrooms, and then Mr. Blofis came running in, climbing up onto the stage and dragging Mr. D away from the microphones. There was lots of frowning, visible in the stage lights. And then Mr. D walked back up to the mic, a very annoyed looking Reyna in tow.
“It seems Mr. Johansson is not here,” he said. “And as the official prom bylaws state, you have to be to accept the crown.” Andrew had reviewed them last year. They said no such thing. “We’ll be crowning the king with the second most votes. Congratulations, Andrew Chase.”
There was cheering. A wave of cheerleaders swept him up, pushing him onto the stage. They were very good at throwing people around, after all.
Reyna gave him a smile and grabbed his hands while the crown, Percy’s crown, was put on his head. And then they danced to Kelly Clarkston. Because some moments were just meant to be awful. “Congratulations,” he managed to get out to Reyna. She, at least, earned it.
“You too.” She smiled at him, but Andrew couldn't meet her eyes.
Where was Percy? It was senior prom!
The song ended, and their friends descended upon them, but Andrew couldn’t join in.
The dance was winding down, anyway.
He whipped the crown off his head and tucked it beneath his coat. In the hallway, he saw Sally Jackson, frowning, talking on her phone.
And he made up his mind. Fumbling for his phone, he called an uber, quickly punching in a familiar address.
He knew the twists and turns to the Jackson’s apartment like the back of his hand, knew how to climb the fire escape and come in through the broken fourth floor window so the buzzing didn’t interrupt any late-night rendezvous.
Also, he was damn lucky he bought the tux, instead of renting it.
He banged on the door, only remembering that there was a baby inside after the second knock.
When Percy opened the door, holding a crying toddler, he looked ready for a fight.
All the fire, all the light drained out of him when he took in Andrew.
“What the fuck,” was all he managed.
“I…” Andrew didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know. All he knew was that Percy didn’t show up to be prom king, even though he was Percy fucking Jackson, and was born to be prom king. “You weren’t at prom,” he said.
He bounced Estelle up and down on his hip. She grew, like, three times as big since he last saw her. She was probably talking and walking now, when an evil ex barged in and woke her up at midnight. “I think you ensured I’ve gone to enough high school dances for a lifetime,” said Percy.
There was something accusatory in the statement that Andrew didn’t like at all. Like he enjoyed school dances. Like they weren’t some sort of horrible exercise in the most performative femininity, mostly so Percy would think his girlfriend looked nice.
He was still rocking the baby, an effortless kind of moment, revealing a year of practice. He was in basketball shorts and an aquarium shirt Andrew got him so long ago, he probably forgot, because he’d seemingly gotten rid of most evidence of their past. He’d deleted all the old pictures of them on Facebook and Instagram. Straight boy fragility being what it was. His hair was the kind of mess that meant he’d been laying on the suede couch, and there was a bit of drying drool along his chin, meaning he’d probably fallen asleep.
Despite all this, he was so effortlessly handsome, and it was so horribly unfair. Andrew had spent so much money on this tux, on this haircut, on this cologne, on the binder and packer and extra tailoring. And here was Percy, perfect, effortlessly masculine, without even trying,
Andrew didn’t get prom king and he didn’t get Percy.
“You weren’t at prom,” he said.
Percy just blinks at him. “I know.”
“You came all the way across town to tell me that I won a stupid honor I don’t care about, and that it should have gone to you?”
Smug asshole. He didn’t hold back. “No, asshole, I came to ask why you keep ruining my life again and again?”
His eyes narrowed. “I ruined your life?”
Shock runs through him, hot and angry. “What else do you call breaking my heart? And not even leaving me prom king, something you know I care about more than you ever could, as a consolation prize.”
“You,” Percy forced out through gritted teeth. Andrew knew this look. It was an angry look. He didn’t get that angry much anymore, but when he did, it could be a little scary. He was doing the same thing he’d always done, trying to push down that anger instead of letting it blow up in his face. Andrew supposed he should be happy. He knows that the full force of Percy’s anger at him now, at the lies and the embarrassment, would probably break him. “You broke up with me. Remember?”
That was not what Andrew was expecting. Why would him breaking up with Percy be…?
Oh, fuck him very much. “I’m sorry. That must have been a terrible blow to your ego.”
“Yes, it was,” Percy said. “It was a terrible terrible blow to my ego to find out that the love of my life hated me.”
Andrew hadn’t been expecting that. But he swallowed down the lump in his throat and continued. “It isn’t about you.”
“Yeah, I know.” Percy said. “It's that I represent your compulsory femininity or something. What the fuck ever.” He sighed, and looked away, glancing at Estelle, who was looking at him with wide eyes. “Don’t tell your mommy I swore in front of you.” Then he turned back to Andrew. “I’m sorry dating me was so traumatic. But I won’t take responsibility for our break up. I get you needed to start fresh, fine, but I didn’t want you to leave. And you don’t get to blame me for prom king, either. I didn’t run, I voted for you, helped decorate and then I didn’t even show up, which means by prom by-laws, says the runner up gets the crown. So you won, anyway.”
There was so much information, but he could only hold onto one thing. “You voted for me?”
“Of course I voted for you,” he said. “Who else would I vote for? Myself? Yeah, right. I’d have thought you knew me better than that.”
Andrew stood there, his jaw working. He didn’t know what to say.
But Percy must have been too loud though, because that was when Estelle started crying. Percy’s attention was immediately off Andrew, rocking his sister again and turning to go back into the apartment.
He didn't shut the door behind him. Andrew followed him in.
He hadn’t been in the Jackson household in nearly a year. It was strange to find that in a lot of ways, it hadn’t changed. Against his will, he found himself glancing at a little side bookshelf. There had been a photo of Percy and Andrew, age twelve, on that third shelf for half a decade.
It was gone now.
Andrew wanted to ask about the prom king vote, or about how Percy’s new girlfriend didn’t make him go to prom, or the ‘love of my life’ comment. But he looked at Percy Jackson, feeding his little sister, smiling, and all he could think was that it was the same smile that twelve year old Percy had in the missing picture.
“Did you move it, or did your mom?”
Percy looked up at him, Estelle’s bottle still in his hand. “What?” But then he followed Andrew’s line of sight, and he knew exactly what was being asked. “I did.”
Why did that hurt almost as much as everything else? Probably because that picture had been before things like romance and love, back when he’d only started to have an inkling that something was wrong, the itch under his skin. It was hard to believe, even with his gay panic embaressment, that he would remove it. “Did your new girlfriend make you?” Andrew accused.
Percy actually snorted as he rocked Estelle to sleep in his arms. Her eyes were droopy, and Percy exited the kitchen, walking so very close to Andrew. “Your spies are failing you,” he said, and then wandered down the hall.
He returned a few minutes later, baby-less, but with monitor in hand.
“What spies?” Andrew asked.
“Frank and Nico?” He shrugged. “I don’t know why you are using them to check up on me, but I do know that that’s the only reason they’re still allowed to talk to me. But rest assured, I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or any friends. You can rest assured in your knowledge that you won.”
“Ha ha,” Andrew said, “You just have a bunch of adoring fans.” His win tonight was evidence enough. “And besides, you don’t want a boyfriend.”
Percy gave a slight nod in acknowledgement, and Andrew felt his anger rising again, until Percy finished his thought, “After you, why bother trying again.”
"Why, because I ruined the whole romantic experience for you?"
Percy’s green eyes looked impossibly sad for a long moment. "No, because I know there isn’t anyone else for me. You were it." He shrugged, his perfect Percy shrug. Half self deprecation, half universal truth.
“Because I turned out to be trans?” Andrew tried to aim for anger, but he couldn’t really bring it anymore.
“Why would that matter?” And he honestly sounded baffled. Then he shook his head, “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you hate me.”
But now Andrew was shaking his head, because none of what Percy was saying made any sense. “No I don’t,” he said, a little more loudly than he meant to.
“Please keep your voice down, Estelle’s sleeping,” Percy scolded. “Or just… look, I’m sure you and your friends are having a post prom after party, why don’t you go and see to your subjects.”
“No.” But he kept his voice down. “No, you told me you wouldn’t date a guy.”
“I’m not going to.” Percy sighed. “I’m not going to date a guy or a girl. Probably ever again.”
“No,” Andrew said, “no, I specifically asked last summer if you could see yourself dating a guy. You told me no.”
Percy looked at him for a long moment. Sometimes those green eyes were as vast as the ocean, staring into his soul. “I mean, I didn’t know I was dating a guy, at the time,” Percy pointed out. “In retrospect, clearly, I could.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“It bothers me that I hurt you every time I called you ‘Wise Girl’ or beautiful or used your deadname. And I know that’s why you can’t be with me anymore. I know that’s why you hate me. And I’ll carry that for the rest of my life. I’m so sorry for all of that.” He paused and took several deep breaths. “I know this isn’t about me, or my guilt. It’s about you. So, there. I’m sorry.”
“You can’t say this,” Andrew said. “Not now.”
“I know, it’s way too late to apologize,” Percy agreed.
“No, you can’t say this almost a year after I chose Andrew as my new name.” Andrew said. “After I settled for one that wouldn’t work with Jackson.”
Andrew had a moment to see Percy’s eyes go wide, and then he burst into tears. Because Percy loved him and wanted to be with him, and Andrew broke up with him. And now Percy thought he hated him. Maybe he did hate him, five minutes ago, but that was before he understood.
“Hey,” Percy soothed, and he was right there, right next to Andrew, closer than he'd been in months and months. His hand ghosted along Andrew’s shoulder, not quite touching. “It's okay. It's okay.”
Andrew wasn’t sure he was thinking clearly. All he knew was that Percy was right there. He pushed Percy away, but he was right there. He turned into him, and very soon found himself crying into Percy’s chest. Without the heels he used to wear, specifically to be taller, he fit perfectly when he ducked his head under Percy’s chin.
“Deep breaths,” Percy said, as his arms wrapped around Andrew. He sobbed even harder, and found himself being gently guided to the Jackson’s couch. It was the perfect couch to fall into and cry. “It’s okay,” Percy repeated, “I know that when you start new hormones it can make emotional reactions unpredictable. I mean, I thought testosterone normally stopped crying, but you’re dealing with a lot and…”
Andrew took a breath, and tried to say, as calmly as he could, “I’m not on testosterone or anything.”
Percy frowned. “Is your dad…?” He trailed off, but Andrew knew the question he wanted to ask. Funny how he could still read Percy, even after all this time.
He shook his head. “My stepmother’s been weird, but my Dad’s been fine. Good, even. He said he’d help me do whatever I want, while I’m a minor. I’m just still looking at my opinions. I’m not sure if I want to, or not.”
Percy nodded. “I’m glad Frederick’s not being a dick.”
Andrew gave a watery laugh, and then looked up at Percy. “You know about hormone changes? Did you do research?” He’d even used the word deadname before, too.
“I wanted to understand.” He said.
“We’d broken up.” Andrew had broken up with Percy, before he’d made the transition official. The cheer squad had all done a little crash course, but it seemed like Percy… did it on his own.
“I always want to understand what you’re going through,” Percy said, “especially something big, like this.”
He was so earnest. He was always so earnest. He was so handsome in the soft lamp light, his face just inches from Andrew’s, his arms still around Andrew’s middle. He wanted to understand, wanted to know what Andrew’s trials and struggles were, even after they broke up, with no explanation.
He was so beautiful, and he was so perfect, and after nearly a year, he was in Andrew’s reach.
Andrew leaned forward, just a little, and kissed Percy.
He thought, in the second before their lips connect, that it was going to be a light, small, quick thing. But then they were breathing each other’s air, and then they were pulling each other in.
There were still tears and a little bit of snot on Andrew’s face. But Percy was still kissing him with all the eagerness and joy of coming back together after a year apart.
They only broke apart for oxygen. Andrew redoubled his efforts to snuggle into Percy. And whispered into his collar bone, “I love you, Seaweed Brain.”
Percy looked at him, and for a moment he frowned and Andrew’s world almost dropped away, but then he broke out into another grin. “I love you too, kinda mean affectionate nickname to be determined.”
They talked a lot, and made out some too. At 1:30, they both changed their relationship statuses. And at 2, Andrew turned off his phone because of the members of the cheer squad who were blowing it up with questions.
Percy hadn’t been this happy in such a long time, as he and Andrew curl up under a blanket Andrew knitted Sally freshman year. Technically, Little Mermaid is on, but they weren’t watching it.
As the wee hours of the morning came, the discussion turned to name–primarily if Andrew needs to change his, because Andrew Jackson just does not work for marriage purposes, and also, more immediately, what the new Wise Girl is going to be. Both thoughts made Percy absolutely giddy with anticipation.
They must have fallen asleep, because Percy found himself jumped awake by the door opening and his mom and Paul coming home. He opened his groggy eyes, and got the perfect view of Andrew, in the Disney+ home screen light. His freckles glowed in the light. He looked adorable. Percy planted a quick kiss on his cheek.
His mom let out a little hum, considering them. “You two should go to your room,” she advised, because she was the best. “Sleep in a proper bed.”
Percy and Andrew kind of pulled each other up blearily. Percy became sort of aware that Andrew was still in his tux. He’d looked amazing when Percy had opened the door to a picture perfect man. All clean lines and crisp suits, like some kind of Hollywood star. But now, with his jacket lying on the other chair, his tie undone, his shirt partly pulled out of his hands, and his hair all rumbling, he looked even better.
“Congratulations on your win,” his mom told Andrew as they stumbled down the hallway.
Andrew didn’t even ask when they got to Percy’s room, simply going to his chest of drawers and pulling out a pair of sweats and a shirt, leaving his tux in a pile on the floor, but taking care to remove and fold up his binder, before crawling into bed with Percy.
Where Percy knew he belonged.
“Your mom’s right,” he said.
“She normally is,” Percy said, getting as close as possible to Andrew. “About what?”
“I did win today. I won a lot.”
And Percy smiled, kissing his boyfriend. “Yeah, you did.”