The Student Activities Committee at New Rome University voted to hold a second chance prom this semester. Given that most of the currently enrolled students had participated in two wars during the typical junior/senior year of high school, they thought it could be fun to get everyone together for a formal dance.
Percy and Annabeth had agreed to go together, along with the rest of their friends. He’d even gone shopping with Nico and Hazel to look for the perfect prom outfit! He was nervous about it, but his friends convinced him, and Nico even offered to wear something similar. Hazel was ecstatic as she pulled them through several other shops for little things to tie together their outfits, while Nico and Percy exchanged fond glances.
Annabeth and Hazel spent the days leading up to prom talking nonstop about their dresses and shoes, and finding pictures of how they want their hair done. Piper and Reyna decided to go together, as friends, and were very excited about their coordinated “lady suits” (as Piper took to calling them).
Nico and Percy had whispered conversations about their outfits, both unsure of how their partners would react. Percy knew that Will would no doubt swoon over Nico, as usual, but he was growing more and more anxious about how Annabeth would react.
Jason, Frank, and Will used Jason’s apartment to get dressed. Percy and Nico were also invited, but wanted to get dressed separately, so they were in Nico’s apartment, just down the hall. Reyna, Piper, Annabeth, and Hazel were getting ready in Annabeth and Piper’s dorm rooms (which happened to be directly across the hall from each other). Piper’s room had everything ready for hair and makeup, while the dresses and lady suits were neatly hung up in Annabeth’s room.
“We look so good,” Nico stated, tucking a stray piece of hair behind his ear.
Percy double checked himself in the mirror. The low cut V of the dress showed off his chest, and the even lower cut in the back showcased his muscles. He was pretty lean, and a rather small guy, but he had to admit his back was pretty toned.
The sparkling deep blue fabric hugged his frame and cascaded to the floor, pooling around his feet in an oddly elegant way. He wasn’t wearing heels, but he did have a pair of platform boots that would give him enough lift to not trip on his gown every thirty seconds. He had initially wanted heels, but after days of practice walking, he decided he’d rather not break his ankles. Plus, no one would see his shoes anyway.
He turned back to Nico in his simple black gown, and smiled. They did both look pretty good. He had been nervous about the makeup, but Nico seemed to know what he was doing, so he went with it.
Neither of them had on much makeup. Percy had a sheer sparkly eye shadow across his eyelids and a subtle smudge of eyeliner, and mascara that made his green eyes stand out even more. Nico had dusted a subtle gold highlighter across his cheekbones, insisting that he didn’t need much more than that, and finished the look off with a lightly tinted lipgloss.
Nico had his hair pulled back into a bun, with a silver asphodel flower hair clip neatly tucked at the base. A few of the shorter pieces of hair around his face fell loose from the bun, but Nico made it work. Percy admired the way his friend always seemed effortlessly fashionable.
Percy had gotten a haircut recently, at Annabeth’s insistence, but Nico managed to loosely curl the top and brush it out into nice waves. He appreciated the extra time Nico took to make his grey streak stand out.
Percy took a deep breath and nodded. Nico smiled softly and ushered Percy toward the door just as someone knocked.
“It’s Jason, are you guys ready?” Jason’s muffled voice sounded through the door.
Nico took a deep breath and pulled the door open, revealing Jason, Frank, and Will all decked out in their formal wear. Jason in a fitted navy blue tux, Frank in a charcoal grey, and Will in black with a gold pocket square.
“Nico,” Will whispered. Percy noticed his pupils expanding and held back a laugh.
“Do you like?” Nico asked, giving a slow twirl.
Will’s mouth snapped shut and he nodded vigorously, not trusting himself to speak just yet. Nico laughed and hooked his arm through Will’s and gestures for the others to follow.
“Wait, Percy? You-you uh… Wow, man you look great!”
“You both look so good!”
Jason and Frank both blurted at the same time.
Percy laughed and hooked his arms through theirs, and followed after Will and Nico to pick up the girls. Nico and Will led the way to the dorms, having a whispered conversation on the way, while Percy, Jason, and Frank fell behind, laughing and exchanging compliments.
When their group reached the dorms, the girls came outside one by one to show off their prom outfits. Hazel came out first in a shimmering silver dress that contrasted, yet complimented Frank’s tux. Her hair was half up, in a series of twists and braids that Percy didn’t understand, but thought was very pretty.
Reyna came out next, rocking an emerald green suit. Her hair was in her usual braided style, but someone had tucked dark red flowers along the braid.
Piper was close behind, in a burgundy suit with a black lace top under her open jacket. There were no flowers in her hair, but her jewelry was the same emerald green as Reyna’s suit.
All three girls’ reactions to seeing Percy and Nico were excited and positive, so Percy had high hopes for Annabeth to like his dress.
When Annabeth finally came out, a wide smile spread across Percy’s face. She was a vision in her pink dress with her blonde hair curled loosely over one shoulder. She looked like a princess.
Annabeth looked up at the group and met Percy’s eyes. The bright smile she’d been wearing slipped off her face and Percy felt instantly sick to his stomach with dread.
“You look great, Annie,” Percy whispered as she reached him.
“Thanks. What are you wearing?”
“I-I just thought…” Percy stuttered.
Annabeth let out an annoyed huff and rolled her eyes before turning back toward the group with a plastered on smile. The other guys complimented each of the girls as they made their way toward the gym where the dance would be held.
Percy fell to the back of the group as Annabeth stuck next to Piper and Reyna. Nico shot him a questioning look that he pretended not to see. He felt nauseous.
They gave their tickets at the door and entered the gym. Percy took in the scene before him. Too much glitter. Thousands of fairy lights. A disco ball. A too-hyped DJ in a little booth in one corner, and a table of snacks in another.
“Oh, let’s get prom pictures with our dates!” Will suggested as he excitedly pulled Nico toward the photographer. They were posed facing each other, Will’s hands on Nico’s waist, and Nico’s hands on Will’s shoulders. It was cheesy, but in the best way imaginable.
Hazel and Frank went next, followed by Reyna and Piper, who decided to take what Piper called a “rap album” pose.
“Annabeth? Do you and Percy want pictures?” Piper asked.
“I don’t think so,” Annabeth replied curtly.
Percy’s shoulders slumped. He knew the pictures were kind of corny, but this was supposed to be fun.
“Hey, I actually would love a picture from tonight. Percy, would you pose with me, since I don’t have a date?” Jason broke the silence.
Percy smiled and nodded at his friend. The two were posed with Jason behind Percy, his hands on Percy’s waist, and Percy’s hands on top of Jason’s. Jason blew a hot breath on the back of Percy’s neck, making them both laugh just as the camera guy snapped the picture.
Annabeth gestured for him to join her, so he parted with Jason and the rest of the group. They made their way toward the snack table, because for reasons unknown to Percy, it was the most empty corner of the room.
“Why are you doing this?” Annabeth asked.
“This!” Annabeth gestured at his body.
“Wearing a dress?”
“Yes! Why would you do that to me? It’s embarrassing! Will might not have an issue with Nico wearing one, but they’re… they’re gay! So that’s different! This? This is just embarrassing, Percy. I mean, seriously? What were you thinking?”
Percy felt like he was going to cry. His eyes started to burn, and he could feel his lip quivering.
“I didn’t do anything to intentionally embarrass you, Annie. I just… I just wanted to look nice.”
“Nice? Well you look ridiculous. First, I put up with you wearing makeup, because at least you’ve been subtle about it. And now you’re wearing dresses? Percy this is too much. It either stops now, or this is it.”
“W-what?” Percy stuttered, angry with himself for doing so multiple times tonight already.
“I don’t want my boyfriend doing girl stuff, Percy! Can you promise me you’ll stop wearing the makeup and girl clothes? So we can go on about our lives? Please?” Annabeth asked.
“I-“ Percy paused, his chest feeling tight. “I don’t want to, Annie.”
“Good, I- wait, what?”
“I like wearing makeup, Annie. It makes me feel good, and it’s fun to put on. And the dress? I like it. It’s comfortable and makes me feel pretty. And I kinda want to start wearing more stuff like this.”
Annabeth’s face turned bright red. “Fine! Then we’re done. I’ll go find a real man- someone who would never be caught dead in makeup and a dress. Ridiculous, Percy!”
Percy held himself together as Annabeth stormed off. He sucked in a deep breath and looked around him. Annabeth had made her way back to their friends, and he caught worried glances from Nico, Will, Jason, and Piper. He pasted on a fake smile and waved to them before he turned away from them and skirted around the room to the exit.
Instead of leaving through the front entrance where they came in, Percy headed down a different hallway toward the back door. He propped the door open with a rock and sat down a few feet away on a bench. This area was never busy, so he wasn’t worried about being seen.
Hot tears streamed down his cheeks, and he was angry. Angry that he’d thought he could do something as simple as wearing a pretty dress to a dance. Angry at Annabeth for acting the way she had. Angry that he was crying, and surely ruining his makeup.
He couldn’t even find it in himself to be sad that he’d just been dumped. In fact, underneath his anger and frustration, he felt a little bit of relief bubbling up inside.
Percy wrapped his arms around himself as he continued to cry. No one was around to see him, so he just let loose.
“Now, what’s a pretty boy like you doing crying at the prom?” A warm voice came from in front of him.
Percy wiped his face and looked up at the man standing before him.
“Apollo, I- what’re you doing here? This is for students.”
“I know, seashell. I heard my favorite tutee crying and I wanted to check on him. What happened, Percy?”
Percy told him everything. From when he started wearing makeup to everything Annabeth had just said to him in the gym. Apollo listened intently, keen on taking in every word.
“So, anyway… she broke up with me,” Percy finished.
“I’m sorry, Perseus. Breakups can be rough.”
“I’m not even upset about the breakup! She told me I look… so I look ridiculous, Apollo? Be honest.”
Apollo’s eyes softened, becoming more blue than gold. “Percy, you look beautiful. Anyone who says or thinks otherwise is a fool.”
“Y-you think so?” Percy’s voice sounded small in his own ears.
“I know so. You are so beautiful, Perseus. You’re always beautiful,” Apollo whispered.
Percy looked up at the god with wide, wet eyes as Apollo took his face in his hands and wiped away the tears on his cheeks.
“You are beautiful now, in this dress. You are beautiful on Saturday morning when I come to tutor you, and you’re still wearing your high school swim team sweatpants and a camp t-shirt that’s so worn that you probably should have gotten rid of it ages ago. You are beautiful on Wednesday afternoons when we meet for tea and you just sit with me, listening when I need to vent about Olympus drama or just basking in the quiet of New Rome. You, Perseus, are always beautiful to me.”
Percy stared at the sun god in awe. It hadn’t occurred to him before that he could feel this… loved by someone who wasn’t his mom. His friends were amazing and he felt happy with them. His sea family was amazing, and he loved spending time with them. But with Annabeth, he’d only ever felt… content. Never happy or loved. Just content.
“You don’t have to feel the same way, seashell. It’s okay. I just want you to know how I feel, so that you know just how beautiful you are,” Apollo interrupted, his voice gentle.
“Will you dance with me?” Percy blurted.
Apollo’s eyebrows scrunched together and he tilted his head in confusion and shock. Percy had meant to say so much more, but had blurted out the question before he could say anything else.
“You want to dance? With me?” Apollo asked.
A warm smile spread across Apollo’s face, making Percy feel warm and safe.
“I’d love to dance with you, seashell. Shall we go inside?”
Apollo stood and held a hand out for Percy to take, before helping Percy off the bench and leading him back inside.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” Apollo cried. He took a step away from Percy and snapped his fingers. One moment he was in his casual jeans and t-shirt look, and the next he was in a navy tuxedo with a gold flower pinned to the lapel.
Percy smiled as Apollo took his hand and led him back into the gym. The girl at the door asked for tickets, but recognized Percy so she waved them in with a kind smile.
Apollo led Percy to the middle of the dance floor just as the song changed to something fast paced. The god rolled his eyes and turned his head toward the DJ’s booth. A second later the song skipped, much to the crowd and the DJ’s disappointment and confusion, and started playing a slow song.
Percy smiled and placed one hand on Apollo’s shoulder while the god took his other hand in his. Apollo pulled him closer, their chests now pressed together, and started swaying to the music. It wasn’t proper dancing, but they were in sync with the music and with each other.
“Thank you,” Percy whispered.
“What for, seashell?”
“Everything. I- I think I love you. I think I have for a while, and just didn’t realize it. You’re always so patient with me during tutoring. You always listen to me when I’m talking, and you don’t space out or pretend to listen. You pay attention to details, and always remember things, like what I like and don’t like. And tonight, you came to me because I was upset. You didn’t have to do that, Apollo. But you did. You came,” Percy’s voice broke.
“Percy, I will always come to you. I love you, too. I have for a while, but I’m not interested in coming between couples, so I stayed as close as I could get without trying to wedge my way between you and Annabeth. I wanted you to be happy, and I thought you were happy with her. And that was enough for me. But now… Percy, I’m not known to half-ass things. You’re important to me, and I’m all in. Whenever you’re ready, I’m here.”
“What if I’m never ready?”
“Then I’ll still be here, seashell. I’m not going anywhere.”
Percy leaned forward and tilted his chin up. “Kiss me.”
Apollo pressed his lips against Percy’s in the softest kiss either of them had ever experienced. Percy sighed into the kiss, feeling as if everything was finally right. The thought startled him, but he quickly realized that it shouldn’t. This moment was just… right.
The song ended and Apollo was reluctant to let go. They stayed together like that for a few moments, but we’re bumped into too many times for them to stay there. Percy led them back to the table where his friends had set their things.
“I see you found a new date?”
Percy looked up at Will, who was sitting across the table with Nico in his lap, and suddenly remembered that the god he was holding hands with- and had just kissed- was his friends dad.
“Uh. Will, I’m-“
“Don’t even worry about it, Perce. If you’re happy, I’m happy. Dad? Please don’t hurt my friend.”
Apollo smiled at his son and tugged Percy closer to his chest. “I would sooner jump into Chaos than hurt him.”
“So dramatic,” Nico piped in.
Percy locked eyes with Nico, and the younger boy smiled. He breathed a sigh of relief and moved to sit. Apollo sat first and pulled Percy into his lap, planting a soft kiss on the demigod’s shoulder.
The two dances to every slow song together, and pulled in some of their friends for a few of the fast ones. Piper and Apollo showed off their ballroom dancing skills for one song, and that had half the table in a fit of giggles.
By the end of the night, Percy had practically forgotten about his earlier conversation with Annabeth. As the group headed back toward the apartments after dropping Piper, Reyna, and Hazel back at the dorms, Percy realized Annabeth wasn’t with them.
“Hey, where’d Annabeth go off to?”
Jason snorted. “After she talked to you, she came and told us what happened. I think she thought we’d all agree with her, but we didn’t. Nico laid into her pretty good though. She’s our friend, but none of us were cool with how she treated you, bro. Definitely not cool.”
“Yeah, Neeks went off on her and she said something about us being crazy for thinking you wearing a dress is acceptable. Which, if me understanding that no item of clothing is or should be gender specific makes me crazy? Then yeah, I’d say I’m batshit,” Will jumped in.
“You’ve done a lot for so many people, Percy. We’ve got your back,” Nico said, his voice quiet.
Apollo tugged Percy close and pressed a kiss to his temple. “You are so loved, my dear.”
Percy wiped a tear from his cheek before anyone could see.
“I love you guys,” he said softly.
Apollo gave him a firm squeeze before stepping away. Percy looked at the god in confusion before he was engulfed in a group hug by his friends.
“We love you, too, Percy. Just as you are.”