.Someone kicked the door of the Prince's room open and Percy, even without caring to look towards it in his half asleep half awake state knew who it was.

No one but his personal guard Jason Grace would even dare to enter his room without permission, let alone kick his door and damage the latches for possibly the fifth time this year.

"Percy, it is already noon you asshole"

Percy groans and he feels the starting of a headache. He'd spent too much time yesternight pondering over telling the council to fuck off from his life and cancel The Selection. At one point he almost marched to the king's room in hope of explaining that he wasn't ready.

Because.. because.

He wondered if he would ever feel ready.

But he knows that with the council pushing the king over his limits, with the neighbouring countries' sensitive border issues, with Estelle's constant attention need, his drama with something he knew was coming for months isn't something he can dump on the king, on his father he had thought, at the eleventh hour.

Would they even care about what he says?

Now waking up in the morning (noon actually), just 3 hours before The Selection officially commersed, he wished he had been tad bit bolder from the start with everything.

Which start? His mind asked. But he just jumped out of bed trying to zone into Jason's words.

Last minute philosophy gets you no where.

"... thought you left the palace you idiot. I am responsible for your ass you know? You seriously got me scared one minute there Percy. Why don't you understand that this isn't just..."

"Okay okay shut up. I get it, I overslept, my mistake, forgive me" Percy scoffs, almost emotionless.

Jason presses his lips unsure of how to handle the sudden change of mood. "Look man, I know there is a lot in your head right now but you need to be presentable to the country in a few hours. So please, get your ass to the restrooms and stop panicking your stylists more than you already have. The maids have rung your room bell at least thirty times now. You should be up before they decide against my opinion and tell the king."

I know.

Percy sighs and nods.

It has been a week since Percy spent time with Annabeth. He just got so busy with all the rules and regulations regarding his selection that he couldn't give enough time for his best friends. They talked a little during breakfast, spared glances in the hallways and that's it. Jason insisted cancelling capture the flag but Percy told them to play without him. He didn't even get around enough to know if they actually did play without him.

And now that Percy was standing in front of a hundred cameras and his kingdom's scrutinising eyes, he wished he had got some last minute advice. Annabeth was always the better strategist among his friends. It was like she just knew how to handle situations. She always boasted of having a plan in her head, something Percy seldom did.

That said, Percy, for the last half an hour has been intentionally avoiding Annabeth and her eyes.

Annabeth had agreed to be one of the helpers of the event. She dressed up in a beautiful white silk material that flowed out in a umbrella just under her hip till just below her knee. The ends had small while feathers attached to the dress, making her look soft. So un-annabeth-ly soft. Percy knew from he moment he saw her from his side vision that he couldn't concentrate on the cameras if he actually saw her.

Why is she here? He wants to ask.

The trumpet announces the beginning of The Selection and each royal traditionally splits the number of candidates they can pic from the lot.

Paul, Percy's father and ruling king; Sally, Percy's mother; Percy himself; Tyson, Percy's younger brother; Estelle, Percy's younger sister; Miranda; Paul's mother and Edward, Paul's mother's brother were the 7 royals who would pick 5 girls each to compete in The Selection.

They were traditionally supposed to pick 5 from each number but there were no rules on how they divided the picks. Usually when five people have been picked from a province rest the poll is taken away to avoid confusion.

To the kingdom and press's eyes, age was the only criteria but percy knew better than that. He knows that each girl whose names were currently written in bits of paper and put into 7 different lottery pools, arranged elegantly right in front of the camera, each representing 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s and 8s respectively were all carefully scrutinized for criminal records, misconduct, academics, family background and as much as percy would like to say no, appearance too.

It wasn't enough if someone is worthy enough a queen at heart. She had to look worthy enough too. She had to win the press', the family's and the prince's heart afterall.

The king selected the first girl. He put his right hand inside the first box allotted for the 2s and seemed to pick a few papers before he settled on one. Percy didn't really understand, it wasn't like they could see what was written inside before they pulled it up as a Selected. Maybe his father was leaving it all to his gut.

"Rachel Elizabeth Dare of Effla", he called out.

A beautiful red head's photo was displayed in the huge projector screen on the left. She was slightly younger than Percy noticed Annabeth (based on the discription that appeared on the screen), just a inch shorter than Percy, tall with a slim figure.

Everything that I'm not. Thinks Annabeth.

They then projected another close up photo where her piercing green eyes were even more prominent and they alone seemed to capture the audience's eyes.

Gosh, what was I even thinking when I agreed to do this?

Annabeth tries hard not to look at Percy's reaction from where she stood next to the king. She had the duty of collecting all the Selected names in a transparent jar (designed with golden threads and colourful feathers). The jar was stuck to a golden square plate and it was her job to hold the plate out to the royal after he or she read out the name.

The king then moved on to 3s pile and picked out a card without a second thought this time. A girl names Stella Werner appeared on screen now. The girl had dark brown hair nearly made into curls.

Annabeth felt her heart break a little. One down, four more chances.

She didn't want to zone out in such an important event but she found herself doing just that. Percy was standing with the other six royals at least 15 feet away from her. He was wearing his official uniform. A dark blue coat with all of his medals and family emblems. A light blue shirt underneath which looked almost too tight to be comfortable and a gold tie matching all of his other accessory like emblems. His dark hair waxed into side to almost give him a boyish look, contradicting his other features.

He was a sight today.

She tried to not linger on to it for long.

He is your best friend. Her mind tried.

He is also my crush. She argued.

Annabeth knew it was Percy's duties keeping him away for the week. That also made her worry about their future. They were best friends and she didn't want to lose that no matter what all gets thrown in their life.

No matter what.

I just hope he feels the same.

Two days ago, they had unintentionally bumped into each other in the corridor next to his room. Annabeth was so busy trying to run away from Tyson that she absolutely forgot they had entered Percy's side of the castle.

Annabeth almost fell from the sudden collision and Percy instinctively wrapped one hand around her waist which made her pin herself to his chest.

"Wise girl?"

Annabeth was flustered for just one moment and Tyson happened to grab her just then. "Hey hey! You lose! Your turn now!! Byeeeeeee" He shouted as he ran away.


Percy scratched the back of his neck. Gosh why was this so awkward?

"Hey... wassup?" He removed his hand from where it was and awkwardly put it next to the wall.

Annabeth smacked his shoulder trying to look confident but it came out almost shy. She needed some distance between them NOW. This was too awkward.

"Having the time of my life being chased by your brother" she said sarcastically.

Percy laughed and just like that they were back to normal. They walked towards his room talking random things and forgot all about Tyson.

Just before Percy entered his room, he turned around to her. "Hey Annabeth... about the selection... Would you maybe..."

"What is it Percy?"

Percy took a deep breath before replying. "I would like it if you were there. Just be there as one of the helpers please. You don't have to do anything. If you would like it, I could ask a few more maids to dress up and have you all standing behind us just for a show"

Annabeth blinked not because she didn't want to be there but because she really didn't want the press scrutinising a sudden change in routine.

"Percy I'd rather dress as a maid and stand than attract unnecessary attention to me"

Percy nodded, not really caring what she chose to be but rather just needing a friend beside. "Is that a yes?"

She nods.

When Annabeth focuses back to the present. The king has already finished picking from three more polls (one 5, one 7 and one 8). Then Paul's mother's brother Edward does his picks. He picks two from 6 and one each from 3,4 and 8. Cheers erupt when Clarrise la Rue gets picked, well known for her athletic abilities.

She feels her heart break another time.

Paul's mother Miranda picks Piper Mclean from 3 and when her picture appears on screen, Annabeth is taken back. Unlike any other girl, she looks simply beautiful. There is no makeup on her face whatsoever. Her hair looks as if she chopped it off herself but she looks so friendly on the exterior. Her eyes seem to almost change colour when she looks at her image.

Another time.

That is not at all logical, Annabeth.

Then another picture of the same girl comes up and she looks gorgeous. This one has her hair braided beautifully in gold thread and a white dress with a deep v neck. She looks uncomfortable in it though. She catches Percy looking at the screen too.

But Annabeth didn't really look close enough at every photo because of her zone out so she isn't sure if this one looks too different from the last 10 beautiful girls who were selected or if Percy even was actually looking at her in genuine interest or if that's the look he gave for all of them.

Soon, the elder royals finish their picks and it is the Prince's turn.

Percy almost stops abruptly when he actually sees Annabeth. Their eyes lock and she smiles at him. It feels like she is assuring him but Percy suddenly feels hot. Annabeth looks like a goddess in this dress and he isn't sure if the moment is appropriate or not. As fast as he lost his composure he gains it back, praying the press didn't notice.

I wonder what she thinks when she looks at me.

Percy makes it easy for her though. He doesn't even spare a glance at her again. He wordlessly picks from 2s and a girl named Zoe Nightshade appears on the screen. He gives a neutral look to the screen before going to the 3s lot. He then picks another paper and reads out her name.

It feels like a routine now. I wonder if the camera can tell I'm blushing. (Thinks Annabeth)

A girl named Calypso comes on screen and Annabeth suddenly feels self conscious. Of course she felt insecure since the start of the ceremony but she is sure this girl is the most beautiful of them all. There was only one way to describe her - pure. If anyone thought Piper looked like a goddess in her dress, this girl was a goddess naturally. Annabeth noticed Percy looking at the screen with interest too.

Is he blushing?

Even Percy who doesn't usually look at girls thinks she is pretty.

Gosh Annabeth don't be so petty. He is your best friend. Let him choose his life.

You are F-R-I-E-N-D-S. If you couldn't change that fact in years, how can you now?

He needs you here. This is about him, not you.

Then why did your heart break three times already?

Percy, on the other hand, was trying to battle his instincts and NOT look at Annabeth. A beautiful girl appeared on the screen for his third pick too and that's all he could really tell about any of them beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful... He doesn't even know what he is looking for.

All he knows is that he has been blushing ever since his heart skipped a beat when he saw Annabeth.


Thank you everyone for reading the story. Healthy criticism welcome. I want to improve.

Stay safe guys.