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Lovers of Apollo Club

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The first time it happened was purely by mistake. Percy was racing through the underworld trying to find Nico. The son of Hades was late for a date with Will, and while Percy wasn’t a coward by any means, the camp healer wasn’t someone he wanted to piss off. So really, Percy was doing Nico a favor. 

 

Percy was running up the main path, just past Cerberus and the Fields of Asphodel, when he saw him. Something in Elysium caught his attention and made him look. Maybe it was loud laughter from one of the perished heroes, or perhaps light glinting off a sword during a friendly spar, but for whatever reason, Percy turned his head and saw him . A teenage boy, sitting beneath an impressive fig free, surrounded by purple flowers. Percy’s body stuttered at the sight. Hyacinthus. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but there was no doubt in Percy’s mind that the boy under the tree was Hyacinthus. He paused for a minute to look, and, as he stared, Hyacinthus looked up. Green eyes met violet, and Percy forgot how to breathe. He shot the dead youth a panicked smile before bolting off towards the palace. Past the gardens, past the statues, past the skeleton guards and the double doors until he finally found Nico in the throne room. It wasn’t until then that he managed to push the encounter to the back of his mind. He skidded to a halt in front of Hades and Nico, both of whom looked up, startled, at the uninvited hero.

 

“Hello, Uncle,” Percy greeted, “sorry to bother you, but your son forgot he had a date at 6 o’clock that he’s incredibly late for.” 

 

Hades’ eyebrows shot up and he looked at his son who, surprisingly, managed to become paler than he already was. Nico looked at Percy with wide eyes before throwing his files to the side and scrambling off his seat.

 

“Shit! Oh, Gods, Will’s going to kill me!” Nico panicked. He looked at Percy. “Is he angry? Wait, don’t answer that. Fuck! Mother fucker .” Nico continued to curse under his breath as he packed his belongings, his father’s expression the perfect picture of surprise, eyebrows raising higher with each swear.

 

“Can you send me to camp?” Nico asked his father. “Will might murder me if I shadow travel.” Hades nodded, now amused, and in a snap of his fingers, Nico was gone. The king of the Underworld then turned his attention to Percy. 

 

“I suppose you need me to send you back as well, then?” Hades asked flatly.

 

“Nah,” Percy declined, grinning lopsidedly, “I know my way out.”

 

Hades sighed and rubbed his temple, looking at his nephew tiredly. “You really shouldn’t be here so often, Jackson,” Hades said.

 

“Probably not,” Percy agreed, “but then, how else would you gloat to dad that you see me more than he does?” Hades snorted and Percy counted it as a win.

 

“Get out of my sight, demigod,” Hades said exasperatedly, the ghost of a smile on his lips. Percy grinned up at him and turned on the ball of his foot, waving at Hades as he walked out.

 

As he made his way back topside, Percy couldn’t help but glance over at Elysium one more time. Hyacinthus was standing up now, looking directly at Percy. His head was tilted with curiosity, seemingly just as drawn to Percy as Percy was to him, but Percy remained steadfast in his refusal to meet those violet eyes again. He wasn’t ready to look at the man that Apollo might still love more than him.

 

**

 

The next time it happened was about a week later. Percy hadn’t mentioned the encounter to Apollo, but the sight of his lover’s old flame had been seared into his brain. The chocolate curls and violet eyes of the deceased prince flashed to the forefront of his mind every time he went to sleep. He had been a kind and beautiful prince, and what was Percy? A traumatized demigod with more emotional baggage than any therapist knows what to do with. And Apollo, gods, Apollo was just so good. He was the reason Percy still had faith in the gods- for how could a group so callous produce a being so wonderful? Apollo was warm and kind; he would dote on Percy and show Percy hidden treasures around the world, leading him by the hand to all his favorite spots, always checking over his shoulder to see if Percy was having fun. He was endlessly patient, and Percy melted every time he saw Apollo interacting with his children, hoisting the little ones on his shoulders and cheering the older ones on at whatever they were doing. Percy was well aware of how deep he was in with this one. 

 

So really, it’s not Percy’s fault for accidentally comparing himself to Hyacinthus. It’s only natural. It was a little less natural to seek him out in the underworld, but hey, Percy’s never been known for his impulse control. He was just past Asphodel again when he spot Hyacinthus under the same tree. Almost as if he could feel Percy’s presence, the prince turned his head towards Percy. His mouth widened slightly, and he stood up, dropping whatever he was fiddling with onto the ground. Percy made his way toward him, hesitant steps that mirrored Hyacinthus’s own. The two stop a few feet away from each other, right at the edge of Elysium.

 

 It was as if the air was static. There was a slight buzz in Percy’s ear that left him feeling almost light-headed, but still, he couldn’t look away. Percy ran his eyes all over the fellow youth and could feel more than see Hyacinthus do the same. He must know. He must know the same way that Percy knew. He must feel Apollo’s lingering aura embracing Percy the same way Percy can feel the faint aura still emanating from Hyacinthus even in death. To be loved by a god is to never truly be free of them, and that is a hold that apparently death itself cannot break.

 

“He has moved on, then?” Hyacinthus asked, breaking the silence. Percy’s eyes snapped up and met the nonjudgmental look of the prince.

 

Percy cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he responded, “a couple of times since you, but yeah.”

 

Hyacinthus laughed mirthlessly. “Not quite,” he lamented, “you’re the first since me.”

 

“Bull.”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“I mean,” Percy gestured, “there have been so many! Cassandra, Coronis, Cyrene, even Commodus! Which, wow, that’s a lot of C names but anyway, that’s not the point- the point is, he’s definitely had more than a few partners over the years.”

 

“He may have been with them, but he hasn’t loved them. They’d be here, just as I am, if that were the case.”

 

Percy wasn’t sure what to make of that, and it must’ve shown. Hyacinthus graced him with a gentle smile and explained. “You think I belong in Elysium? I don’t,” he said, “I know it, the heroes know it, the judges knew it, but,” he shrugged, kicking a pebble off the edge of paradise, “somehow when you truly love a god and make them happy, it is deemed an act worthy of Elysium. Gods rarely find joy, so I suppose you get rewarded when you are considered responsible for their happiness, however brief it may be. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it goes. Adonis is here somewhere, Semele was here for a while, Maria Di Angelo wanders by the other edge, and others roam. It must be true and unadulterated love, not just a passing fling or fancy, and for Apollo, that’s a pretty short list of just us.”

 

Percy froze.

 

“You radiate of him,” Hyacinthus continued wistfully as if he hadn’t just shaken Percy’s world. “Elysium is supposed to be nice, and it is, but not when the heroes look down on you. Death is the great equalizer and yet because I was a lover and not a fighter, I get snubbed. We all do. Still,” he shrugged, “better here with my memories than in the Fields where I’d eventually forget the times I shared with him.”

 

“I can’t possibly make him that happy,” Percy croaked.

 

“But you do,” Hyacinthus parried genially. “Tell me about him,” the prince asked, “how is he? Does he still recite horrid poetry and compose beautiful symphonies?”

 

A loud laugh escaped his throat and Percy grinned at Hyacinthus. For all the self-doubt coursing through his head, the prince’s remark managed to shake him from his stupor. “Does he ever! I don’t know what he did back in your day, but he’s really fond of haikus, and they’re so bad. Artemis always looks like she’s one bad poem away from becoming an only twin. It’s hilarious. Like, the other day…”

 

The two sat, legs hanging over the edge, the River Lethe innocently racing a good ten feet below them, regaling each other with stories and anecdotes. Hyacinthus told Percy about the time Apollo fought a swarm of bees to fetch him honey from the highest fir tree, and Percy told him about the time that Apollo took him sailing and accidentally got thrown overboard by a sudden wave his father definitely did not send their way. 

 

Percy could easily see what had drawn Apollo to the young man sitting across from him. He was kind and sweet, yet witty in a way that left Percy wondering if he’d been insulted or not. He was disarming and genuine, and Percy found himself growing more and more at ease in his presence. He radiated a calming energy that Percy would never be able to replicate, and as those traits became more apparent, so did their differences. Percy was loud and abrasive, vocal and impertinent. He couldn’t sit still for more than a minute and had a quick temper. The contrast between the two couldn’t be any more obvious, and yet, Apollo had fallen for both of them.

 

Percy stood up, brushing dirt from his pants. He groaned a little as his body creaked from being in one position for so long. With a rueful smile, Percy faced Hyacinthus. “I should go,” he lamented, “Hades has been generous, but I’d rather not overstay my welcome.”

 

“I wanted to ask how a living being was wandering the land of the dead, but wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, so thank you for telling me,” Hyacinthus cheeked. Percy stuck out his tongue and the two shared a look.

 

“Goodbye, Percy,” Hyacinthus said, shyly waving.

 

“Goodbye.”

 

**

 

Later that night when he was lying in bed, wrapped in Apollo’s arms, the thought of Hyacinthus came back. He couldn’t get his tan skin, chocolate curls, or violet eyes out of his mind. He was Apollo’s most cherished lover. A prince of Greece, handsome and kind, everything that Apollo deserved. Percy remembered the stories Hyacinthus had shared and felt small. It wasn’t often that he was jealous, but insecurity greeted him like an old friend. It engulfed him in a choking embrace and filled his lungs with water, and Percy hated it. Hated feeling like he wasn’t enough. It made him remember how he’d felt when he was twelve, untrained, unclaimed, and unloved. Striving for his father’s love, wanting to feel wanted. 

 

Only this time it was worse because he knew he was being silly. He knew Apollo loved him. He said it with his eyes every time he looked at Percy, he said it with his hands every time he played with his hair, he said it with his voice every time he said Percy’s name in their bedroom. Apollo had nothing to prove, but Percy still didn’t feel adequate. Percy turned over so he could look at Apollo, take in how his lashes brushed against his cheeks, and how his lips were ever so slightly parted, letting out small puffs of air with each exhale. Percy buried his face into Apollo’s chest, relaxing to the steady rise and fall of his breathing.

 

“Hey,” Apollo mumbled into his hair. Percy burrowed himself closer to god, trying to blur the lines of where his face ended and Apollo’s body began. “What’s up, Perce? Talk to me, baby, what happened?”

 

Percy made a noise in the back of his throat.

 

“What was that? I don’t speak sleepy demigod; you need to speak up.”

 

Percy sighed, closing his eyes. “Why do you love me?”

 

“What?”

 

“It’s stupid; forget it.”

 

“No!” Apollo pulled away from Percy to look at him, his blue eyes scanning Percy's face. His brows were knit in concern and Percy hated that he’d put that expression on the god. “No, it’s not stupid. Sweetheart, what brought this on? Did I do something? Did someone say something? I will murder-

 

“No, no, no,” Percy shushed, “no one said anything, and you didn’t do anything! See, I told you it was stupid. Just forget it, okay? I’m tired, that’s all.”

 

Apollo tilted Percy’s chin up and held his gaze, then slowly planted a kiss on Percy’s forehead, his nose, cheeks, corner of his mouth, and then finally on his lips. Whispering praise between each kiss like murmured prayers in a church.

 

“You are my light and my joy, Percy Jackson. I love you. I love you. As sure as it is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so are my feelings for you. I don’t need a ‘why’- I just do.”

 

“Dork,” Percy sniffled.

 

“Hey!” Apollo laughed lightly. His blonde curls fell over his face and tickled Percy’s cheek, causing the god’s grin to soften into a fond smile. He leaned in, connecting their lips again, and Percy felt time stand still. This god had been the pitfall of many mortals before him, but Percy couldn’t find it in himself to feel scared, only close his eyes and give in. It was chaste and light, but it was perfect, and when he pulled away again, the sun god wrapped Percy in his warmth and held him the rest of the night.

 

**

 

The next time it happened Percy swore it would be the last, but that was three trips ago. In reality, Percy had visited the kind youth more times than he thought he would, creating an odd friendship with him. The Lovers of Apollo Club. Members: 2. Not currently accepting any new applicants, thank you.

 

However, despite the budding friendship and the easy companionship, there was a note of finality to this visit. Hades had been kind, more than Percy expected even, but catching a glimpse of Elysium was not something any living mortal should do, let alone do it five times. When Percy took his first step into the Underworld this time, he knew that it would be the last. One should never grow attached to the dead, and his uncle was reminding him of that.

 

His feet knew the way to Elysium and took him there while his mind wandered. “Hello,” Hyacinthus greeted from his usual spot. Percy jostled, blinking to focus. He looked around realizing he had reached the ledge between the end of the Underworld and paradise- a few more inches and he’d have been taking a dip in the Lethe.

 

“Hey,” Percy responded, taking a step back, “anything new and exciting happen since last time?”

 

Hyacinthus snorted and gave him a deadpan look. “You know nothing has happened,” he replied flatly, “the heroes had their sparring matches and a German daughter of Demeter managed to beat Theseus, but that’s about it. What about you? Anything new on your end?”

 

There were a couple of things Percy could tell him. He could tell him about how he got accepted into a small college in New York, how his mom and Paul wanted to have another kid, or how Apollo and Hermes pranked Dionysus so hard the camp director cursed them into a drunkenness that lasted four days- hangover and all. He could tell Hyacinthus any of that and it would bring a smile to his face, but he didn’t. Instead, he told him that this would be his last visit to see him. Rather than the smile that Percy had grown fond of, Percy watched as the brightness diminished in his eyes and his smile turned stale and forced.

 

“I see,” the young prince said finally, tasting the words on his lips and disliking the bitter taste. He closed his eyes and leaned back, letting his back hit the grass and the fake sun shine on his face. The fake sun that was not Apollo and would never be Apollo because his beloved god would never set foot in a place so cold. The dead youth could feel his friend’s gaze on him, concerned and upset, and Hyacinthus knew that as upset as he was, Percy must be feeling it too. Both of them would be losing a friend today.

 

He opened his eyes and propped himself on his elbows, his shoulders resting by his ears, teasing his hair. He gazed at Percy through half-lidded eyes and saw Percy fidgeting on the other side of the divide. Switching which foot he put his weight on, a decision warring on his face. Hyacinthus saw it settle before Percy himself even knew what he was going to do, but one locked jaw later, he took many steps back and ran. It was almost like slow motion, Hyacinthus mused, watching with detached horror and fascination. Percy looked every bit the demigod hero he was lauded to be. Hyacinthus could see the defined muscles on Percy’s legs with each pulsing stride forward, gaining speed and cutting through the air, suspended and almost godly. And then, then he laughed. A wild laugh that forces one’s head to be thrown back, and in that moment, Hyacinthus could see more than ever what drew Apollo to this boy. He was so unapologetically Greek . Feral and wild, free to fight without fear and love without remorse. The boy was still precariously close to the edge when Hyacinthus ran over to hoist him up and drag him away, closer to safety, closer to his tree. Percy was still wheezing, clutching at his sides, his eyes bright with adrenalin when he looked at Hyacinthus.

 

“Are you insane?!” Hyacinthus shrieked, frazzled. He stood there, one hand on his hip with the other hand gripping his hair. He spun and paced around, looking at Percy and opening his mouth, but his brain couldn’t come up with a sentence that described the absolute absurdity and idiocracy that was the demigod laying on the ground in front of him. Percy looked at him and prompt burst into another fit of giggles, gasping for air in between bursts of laughter.

 

“Percy,” Hyacinthus muttered, worried. Violet eyes glanced around, half expecting hellhounds to descend upon them and yank Percy from him, for Furies to lift him into the skies and disappear with him until he was barely a dot, for Hades himself to march into Elysium with a skeleton army and battle Percy. Every scenario bombarded his head, as soon as one ended another took hold.

 

“Stop it,” Percy grumbled, turning on his side and peering up at Hyacinthus. “I can physically feel you thinking. Cut it out.”

 

“Not all of us can stop thinking, Percy,” Hyacinthus snipped. He glared down at Percy before his expression broke, letting out a low whine. Hyacinthus scanned the area, looking for the aforementioned Furies or the possible wayward heroes. Finding none, he crouched down to lay beside Percy. “You’re mad, you know that? You shouldn’t be here.”

 

“You’re not the first one to call me crazy, you know?” Percy asked, sounding bemused, “It’s kind of my thing, unfortunately. Get used to it.”

 

“No point now.”

 

“Touché.”

 

“Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise,” Hyacinthus mused, “if I weren’t already dead, you’d send me into an early grave with your antics.”

 

“Harsh,” Percy mock winced.

 

“But true,” the prince rebutted, an easy grin sliding onto his face. Maybe Percy was crazy, but Apollo's aura and the other boy's magnetic energy made him feel at home. He settled onto his side facing Percy and closed his eyes. Letting the warmth that shrouded Percy embalm him too for just a moment. If he closed his eyes and lied to himself, he could almost pretend it was Apollo beside him, running his fingers through his hair while Hyacinthus hummed a song that had already been lost to time. He felt tears sting behind his eyelids and resolutely kept them shut in fear of ruining his illusion. He began humming the song from his memory forcing himself to relax.

 

“He misses you, you know,” Percy stated, jolting Hyacinthus from his thoughts. Sometime between him laying down and now, Percy had pushed himself up, and was now sitting cross-legged next to Hyacinthus.

 

Hyacinthus snorted and lifted himself to be at Percy’s height. “Preposterous,” the prince waved away, clearing his throat, “he has you now, what does he miss me for?”

 

“You don’t see it, but his eyes linger on every purple flower we walk past. He sometimes gets this faraway look on his face, like he’s somewhere else, and one time he bought figs from the store but didn’t eat them. Just tossed them from one hand to the other until he finally threw them in the trash. You linger in his thoughts as much as he lingers in yours. I’m just a placeholder.”

 

Percy felt the hand before he ever had a chance to see it coming. Hyacinthus’s palm connected with his cheek only one second before he saw the anger radiating from the prince’s eyes. “You are not just a placeholder, Perseus Jackson. Maybe his other lovers were, but not you. Never you. You smell of him; you absolutely reek of his warmth and love. Apollo’s very essence clings to you like a heavy wet robe. Any fool within a five-mile radius can feel it. Why don’t you see that? Silly demigod,” Hyacinthus chided fondly, “you are loved. Let yourself be loved.”

 

“I’m just me,” Percy whispered, “just a boy that’s a little too sad and a little too loud to make up for it. He deserves better. He deserves you.”

 

“There is nothing wrong with you, Percy Jackson. Nothing. Stop being mean to yourself. He loves you. It’s as simple as that, so let it be as simple as that. Don’t question his love, just accept it. Make him happy. Make him laugh and smile, make him write ballads and sonnets and odes and hymns. Let him love you, Percy, and then just love him back. Love him enough for the both of us.”

 

“I’m going to miss you,” Percy choked, trying to smile but failing miserably.

 

“And I, you.”

 

They spent the rest of the afternoon with Percy’s head on Hyacinthus’s lap, with the former prince singing under his breath as he combed the young demigod’s hair. The song was one lost to time, sang to the prince by the queen of Sparta, a woman he knew only as mother.

 

Oh, there once was a boy from Thessaly

Who was almost as wise and bright as me

He had a large grin and some big broad shoulders

He then went off to become a mighty soldier

His people he loved oh so much

He fought and slashed with vigor as such

Oh, there once was a boy from Thessaly

With much more charm and more beloved than me

He waved his flag so that all could know

His victories against his kingdom’s foes

The people loved him a great amount

They followed him to battle all devout

A champion of the land brought before the king

The man from Thessaly let freedom ring

Oh, there once was a boy from Thessaly

A hero and man I seek to be

 

**

 

When Percy walked into his apartment later that night, he was still singing Hyacinthus’s song. Apollo was sitting on the couch reading a book when Percy walked in and he instantly stilled. His eyes followed Percy as his boyfriend made his way toward the kitchen to fill up a vase with water. He noted that Percy brought home a bouquet of lavenders and he set them on the kitchen sill. Still humming, he made his way over to Apollo and kissed his cheek before making his way to their bedroom. Never once noticing how Apollo’s eyes remained fixed on him, or how slack the god’s jaw had become. Apollo let himself smile as he leaned back into the couch, suddenly melancholy as the memory of the song took hold in his head. Different lips upon his cheeks, different lover in his bed. But as he opened his eyes again, he felt awash with a sense of finality and peace. His boys had met, and it seemed Hyacinthus approved.