the chilliad: hour three
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
homer drops his forehead against the table. he’s been awake for so long, a million years at least, and now that the alcohol isn’t blurring time in his brain every second ticks by like knuckles rapping against his skull. Ray Ban had brought him a glass of water, clearly sympathetic to the desperate way that homer wants to be really, genuinely, permanently dead.
“let this be a lesson to you in the dangers of alcohol consumption,” Donut Mouth tells him, sounding almost amused. homer thinks he’s coming around, though. he’s stopped trying to get homer to cut to the chase, and he’d even patted homer’s shoulder when he tried gulping the water down and had to spit it out when the cold of it hurt his teeth.
homer groans, long and low. “i’m dying, man. listen -- can i just -- a nap. a quick one. under the table. i’ll pick up again right after, i swear to god.”
“if you’re gonna be a man at night, you gotta be a man in the morning,” Ray Ban counsels, and homer lifts his head to scowl at him, or at least in the direction of him.
“don’t come for me with mine own words,” he grumbles. “jesus. okay. where was i?” he scrubs at his forehead, trying to massage the headache back and away, and takes another sip of water, slower this time. god, his whole mouth tastes like he’s been eating cigarettes, tangy and cottony and awful. he’s never drinking again. he’s gonna quit life. he’s gonna become a hermit. people will wonder if he was even ever really there, or just a mass hallucination.
Donut Mouth pats his arm with gentle condescension. “your ex-roommates had just moved in with the alpha sigs.”
“oh, right,” homer remembers. he holds the water glass against his temple and sighs into the sweetness of its cold. “okay. so that went wrong, like, almost immediately.”
it wasn’t quite accurate to say that the whole thing went wrong immediately; actually, bree moved in with AC and PK and, to the surprise of everybody, the arrangement worked brilliantly. bree had always liked PK, ever since they took a class together on art therapy. she was going into special education, and they’d done a joint project on using photography to help nonverbal kids with self-expression. he was also, she happened to know, a sweetly proficient guitar player, though the only songs he had memorized were “wonderwall” and the entirety of taylor swift’s “1989.”
“once you’ve mastered the greats, there’s really no reason to keep learning,” AC said supportively, when bree giggled about this fact. “also, i’m just gonna say it, she’s a bisexual icon.”
PK sighed, shaking his head. “taylor swift is straight, dude,” he said, in the voice of someone who has said it many, many times before.
“taylor swift is, or was, at the very least, in a romantic friendship with karlie klaus,” AC returned. “and you should honor the bisexual spirit that built this fuckin house.” AC puffed out his chest, and then relaxed. “not literally, because this house was built in like ... the middle ages, probably by some repressed pilgrim who believed sex was a kind of witchcraft, or whatever.”
bree nodded thoughtfully. “no, yeah, the house is a metaphor for your relationship, i got it,” she said.
two loud slams came from the wall behind bree’s head. “taylor swift and karlie klaus were in love,” chrys shouted through the wall. “this. is. undeniable.”
“man, these walls are thin,” bree said. “that’s got to be awkward, um ... intimately speaking.”
AC shrugged. “sock on the door means knock no more,” he recited, raising a finger.
“also, aggy spends a lot of nights at nessa’s,” PK added. “and geni is taking an astronomy class that keeps her out until like, three or four in the morning doing, idk, star bullshit. so.”
bree nodded. she folded her feet underneath her, sitting cross-legged and leaning back against the wall. they’d pushed the two beds together, using a large sheet and one blanket, and she could already see that separating the beds would be a nightmare for the rooms, like, vibe.
“hmm,” she mused, looking around. “well ... i mean, i could sleep on the floor.”
PK frowned at her. “absolutely the fuck not, babe,” he said. “we’ll split up the beds. it won’t be that hard.”
“oooooor,” AC wheedled, grinning.
PK shot him a glare. “don’t,” he warned, elbowing him sharply in the ribs.
“you’re gonna make her uncomfortable.”
“no i’m not! she’s chill! bree, you’re chill, right?”
she blinked. “uh,” she said. “i guess?”
“he wants you to sleep with us,” PK cut in, before AC could say anything else. “he’s really attached to this fuckin bed frame.”
“i built it myself!” AC cried, preening. “i fuckin ... magic mike’d that shit.”
PK shared a glance with bree and gave his head a minute, but fond, shake. he reached out to tweak AC’s ear. “it’s a square, bud. anyone can assemble a square. it’s honestly not that different from buying it from IKEA.”
“fuck you! i’m a master carpenter!”
bree reached out and patted AC’s bicep. “it’s really nice,” she complimented, sincerely. bree believed in the power of positive reinforcement. “you did a really good job.”
PK pinched the bridge of his nose, but when he met bree’s eyes, he was smiling. bree felt, suddenly, out of nowhere, a swell of affection for the both of them -- for the very stupid muscle tee AC was wearing, which said DON’T BRO ME IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME; for the high heels discarded in the corner, next to the acoustic guitar with an COEXIST sticker from 2005 on it; and especially for the way PK was looking at AC out of the corner of his eyes, warm and wrinkled.
“aw, you big dummies,” she said, without quite meaning to. she reached into her bag and pulled out her ream of star stickers, which she always carried with her, just in case. she stuck gold stars on both of their foreheads and said, “no sex stuff while i’m in bed with you, but yeah. i think we can probably make this work.”
helen stood in the driveway with one hand on her hips and one hand shading her eyes, squinting up at the roof of the alpha delta chi house. dité was stretched out in her bikini on a plastic chaise. there was a winding wooden staircase leading from helen and dité’s shared window up to the roof. it had a railing.
“look what paris had built,” dité called down, without stirring or removing her sunglasses. “you ruining your life is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
helen sighed. she’d mentioned to paris yesterday that the roof was hard to get up to, but that it got the best sun. she’d said it in passing. it was just whining, she hadn’t expected him to like, do anything about it.
“i have to dump him,” she said, aloud but mostly to herself. “like, it's the right thing to do.”
“uhhhh, j’excuse?” dité called down, sitting up. “the fuck you do, what are you smoking? this is the fucking best. he’s like a magic genie. i’ve been begging the boys to build us a ramp for years, and all you gotta do is think about it and your boy comes through.”
sappho took a long, bubbly sip of her iced coffee. “maybe you’re a witch,” she mused. “maybe you’ve been influencing people with your magic powers all this time and didn’t even know it.”
“shut up, saph,” helen muttered. “nessa is going to kill me. she’s going to come home and see this extremely illegal addition to the house and she’s going to have me jumped.”
at that moment, athena’s head popped out of the window. “BITCHES, I MADE FROSÉ,” she announced, and began climbing the steps. she flexed her arms, a clear pitcher with pink slush in it in each hand. her baseball cap, backwards on her head, had the logo of the interim lacrosse team on it; helen knew because ares was on the team, too. athena was the only girl, though she fit right in with her knee-length board shorts and glaring white socks pulled halfway up her calves.
“how does she always look like she just walked off the set of bill and ted’s excellent adventure?” sappho marveled, delighted. “like, it’s still so hot out, what is even the point of tying a flannel around your waist?”
“the hashtag aesthetic, mama!” athena called down cheerfully. “are you assholes gonna stand down there marveling at the gunshow all afternoon or are you gonna come up to our cool new tanning bed and get blasted on frosé? it’s strong. i put a lot of booze in it.” she leaned over and sniffed one of the pitchers, winced, and withdrew. “like maybe ... too much booze in it.”
“no such thing, my beautiful christina-ricci-in-now-and-then daydream,” sappho assured her, kicking up the porch steps, ponytail swinging. helen hesitated just long enough for dité to notice, and by the time helen got up to the roof she had finally removing her sunglasses so she could glare up at helen’s face.
“girl, what,” she asked, raising her eyebrows. “like, for real. we got a sweet new set of stairs. paris revs your engine, for god knows what reason. none of us have to pretend to be interested in how many reps manny can do at the gym. don’t look a gift apple in the stem, babe.”
manny had been leaving longer and progressively more depressing voicemails on her phone. helen honestly was starting to feel bad. like, manny had been her boyfriend for a long time. it felt kind of dumb that it would end this way.
on the other hand, he was really embarrassing, and he’d filled up priam’s car with popcorn for no goddamn reason, and she didn’t love that he was acting like if he just out-pranked the trojans, she’d come running back to him like some ... war prize, or whatever. helen was her own woman, okay. she had her own source of income, which she didn’t even have to work that hard at because everyone loves buying weed from a hot girl, and she had got like, literally hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. bitch, she was verified on twitter. like, what, manny successfully filling some future hamptons-house-owning asshole’s car with popcorn was going to make her lose her mind?
anyway, this was how it had been, lately; she feelt bad and then got annoyed and then boned paris and then felt bad again.
it was exhausting. helen wasn't built for this kind of emotional complexity; she wasn't sappho, for god’s sake.
“i can literally do like forty more reps than him,” athena said, drinking directly from the pitcher. sappho lifted her personalized plastic martini glass and cheersed athena with it. “i’m not even bragging, i’m just saying, like, i’ve been working out with jax and phoenix because we want to do american ninja warrior together, and jax said that manny hasn’t been to the gym literally since y’all broke up.”
sappho gasped, clutching her chest. “holy shit, i can’t believe you literally murdered manny’s whole personality, helen mellon,” she said. something twisted in helen’s stomach that she didn’t care for.
“shut up, saph,” she said again. “or i’ll take my branch out promise back.”
sappho gasped, scandalized, and athena let out a loud whoop before chugging the rest of the pitcher of frosé.
“chug, chug, chug,” sappho chanted.
dité reached out and patted helen’s arm. “just enjoy yourself, it’s all going to be fine,” she soothed. “and if it isn’t, who cares? we’re graduating. what, were you gonna marry manny atreus?”
“no,” helen said, making a face. “i mean. probably not.”
“so then chill,” dité advised. “have a little fun. it’s senior year, babe. if it’s not epic, what was the point?”
helen sighed. she reached out a hand and snapped her fingers until athena, laughing, put a red solo cup with frosé in it.
“bottoms up, bitches,” she said.
for the record, odysseus knew it was a bad idea. he knew it was a bad idea from the minute the girls showed up, and not just because they showed up in a stolen car that he then had to find a way to return (which he did, by the way, by parking it in a tow zone near the trojan house -- a stroke of genius, if he said so himself, which he had to, because nobody fuckin asked).
(“you’re a regular moriarty, babe,” penny had drawled in monotone when he’d called her to bitch about it. “a true criminal mastermind.”)
“i want it written down somewhere,” he said, watching the girls drag their bags upstairs. “so that when this crashes and burns i can point at it and say that i told everybody so.”
nestor, munching peaceably on granola and yogurt, “ah, the burden of genius,” he said dryly. “don’t feel too bad about it. great men are never understood in their own time, doc.”
“shut up and eat your fucking granola, nestor.”
nestor clucked his tongue, grinning a little, and pushed his bowl forward with an arched eyebrow. odysseus didn’t want to give in, just to prove a point, but nestor made his own granola and it ... was honestly so good, it was what odysseus imagined those people who had sex with nature felt like during their weird plant orgies.
he caved, taking a spoonful. “you can still shut up, though,” he said, and nestor laughed.
“if the girls are here, where’s homer sleeping?” nestor asked. “mack and duecer said they’d been by the house and it was totally emptied out, so he’s gotta be somewhere.”
odysseus flinched, looking around at the name, then settled. “don’t say his name,” he hissed. “you’ll summon him.”
nestor shook his head, disapproving. “he’s just a baby, doc. be nice.”
“he’s a baby duck, and he fucking ... imprinted on me, man,” odysseus snapped. “it’s too much responsibility. i’m too young to be a dad.”
“penny likes him,” nestor pointed out. “she’s always saying how cute he is.”
odysseus rolled his eyes. “penny likes that he’s six-two and can reach all the shit on her shelves,” he groused, feeling a little petulant about it. “i’m five-ten. that’s statistically average.”
nestor raised his cup of orange juice in salute. “we celebrate average here at alpha sig, the house of the critically underperforming,” he cheersed.
most of the time, nestor was the only person in this goddamn place odysseus even liked, but he shoved him off his stool anyway, swiping his granola on his way out of the kitchen.
“wait,” interjects Ray Ban, “did you say someone’s name was deuce?”
homer rolls his eyes. “it’s not really deuce,” he says. “c’mon, man, who would name their kid deuce?”
“to be honest, most of the names in this story are wild,” Donut Mouth points out. “i mean, it’s like, gwyneth paltrow named her kid apple and all hell broke loose.”
“she has a lot to answer for,” homer agrees. “anyway, no, that’s not his real name, but i’m just -- look, i’m too fuckin hungover, man. i honestly don’t remember. he’s just deucer to me. they’re the two other pledges, besides me.”
“fine,” Ray Ban says, waving a hand. “fine, whatever. go on.”
things were quiet, for a while, comparatively. homer had kind of felt like everyone was holding their breath, waiting — the girls settled in, chrys taking over in aggy’s room and bree with PK and AC. no one was more surprised than homer that they got on so well, honestly; bree was a neat freak and homer knew for a fact that AC had not washed his levis in two years.
but who can really predict the alchemy of human chemistry? Bree seemed mostly charmed by AC’s braggadocio, and maybe PK liked having someone to commiserate with. bree brought out her tamborine and played along with PK’s guitar while AC played halo with the boys.
honestly, it might have all been fine, if nessa hadn’t found out that geni had been bumped from aggy’s bed to the couch downstairs. the prank war might have petered out naturally, things going back to normal as the world adjusted to Absolute Smokeshow Helen Spartowski dating Honestly Just Okay???? Paris Holdfast.
but nessa did find out.
the rest of the boys had scattered when her red corvette had screeched into the drive, already shouting as she came in; but dio, phoenix, and posey had gotten caught in her warpath, and were standing squished together in the pantry closet, trying not to breathe too loudly in case she heard them.
“your elbow is in my mouth,” dio grumbled.
“then move your fucking head, bro,” phoenix whispered back. “i literally cannot move my arm. it is numb from where poser is pinning me to the fucking cereal boxes. not for nothing, man, but the last time someone’s hand was that close to my dick, they were tugging it.”
“oh, so, yourself, last night?” posey said, half a shade too loud. dio slapped his hand at his face, in the general mouth area.
“shhhhh!” they both hissed.
“she’ll hear you.”
the click of nessa’s heels stopped abruptly outside the door. her shoes slid against the linoleum, toes turning to point at the door.
all three boys held their breath.
“THE COUCH, AGFORD?” she shouted, shoes turning again. dio let out a long sigh of relief; posey didn’t risk it. he’d just pass out. that would be fine. “YOU PUT MY BABY SISTER ON THE FUCKING COUCH, AFTER I ENTRUSTED HER TO YOU?”
“babe,” said aggy, voice soothing. phoenix winced.
“bad call, ags,” he murmured. dio and posey nodded in the dark.
there was a long beat, and then nessa said, her voice calm, “call me babe again during this conversation and i will take both your testicles and shove them so far down your throat they’ll clog your dick the next time you try to take a piss.”
“j e s u s,” posey gasped. “wait. is -- that’s not how -- that’s not possible, right?”
phoenix kind of -- shimmied his shoulders, which was the closest he could get to punching posey. “no, you dumb fuck. that’s not how your body works.”
“got it,” aggy agreed quickly, voice jumping up an octave. “sorry. you’re right. sorry.”
“you said she could stay here,” nessa said. “you said she could have your room. you said you would take good care of her. you said i could go tour law schools and not worry that i would come back to disaster. and i know you said those things because i have them saved on my phone, with your atrocious spelling and all.”
“i did say that,” aggy mumbled. “i know. i did. yes. but. okay -- the thing is. we sort of ... well, that is, manny -- ”
“am i dating manford?”
“am i. dating. your brother?”
“no. that’s what i thought. then i’m not sure why your brother’s consistently terrible decision-making has any bearing on this conversation.”
there was a long pause.
say the right thing, phoenix thought at aggy. come on man. it’s an apology. that’s all she wants. you can do this.
“we-e-e-ll,” aggy hedged, “the situation was ... he wanted to prank the trojans, because of the helen thing -- ”
“what helen thing?”
“she’s -- didn’t she tell you?”
“why would helen tell me? we’re not friends.”
“but you’re in the same sorority.”
“isn’t that ... the point of sororities?”
“what, to be friends with everybody? agford, come on. does it seem to you like i am the type of person who would join any club with the sole purpose of making friends?”
“she has a point,” dio muttered.
“then -- ” aggy sounded lost. honestly, phoenix loved the guy, but he was less and less sure every day why anyone dated anybody in the alpha sig house. “then why?”
nessa let out a long, drawn out sigh. “networking. it’s -- listen. i don’t have time to explain the intricacies of being a woman in a male-dominated field to you. i like helen fine, but we aren’t painting each others’ nails and sharing secrets. so what helen thing, and why does it mean that my perfect baby sister is sleeping on a couch that i know your gross frat brothers have had sex on?”
“i put a sheet on it,” aggy groused.
“she broke up with manny to date that turd paris!”
“paris. hector’s brother.”
“... you mean alexander?”
“he goes by paris now.”
“i don’t fucking know. nobody knows. he just does.”
“why does he go by paris?” dio whispered. “like, has anybody asked?”
phoenix shrugged. he could feel posey do the same, his elbow digging into phoenix’s sternum.
another pause. when nessa spoke, it was a little muffled, like her hand was blocking her mouth. maybe she was pinching her nose? maybe her face was buried in her hands?
“okay. here’s the deal,” she said. “you reinstall geni in your room and kick those -- freeloaders out, or we never have sex again, because we’re done.”
“done?!” aggy cried. “nessa. come on. don’t -- don’t joke about that.”
“do i sound like i’m fucking joking, aggy?”
“but -- ”
“i don’t care. about. your fraternity bullshit,” nessa snapped. “you’re lucky that i actually like you and am not just using you for your money, because if i didn’t, you’d already be in pieces on the floor. so i’m giving you two days to get this shit sorted, or you can come get your shit from the dumpster outside the delta house.”
her heels clacked toward the door, paused in front of it, and then she said, “and you can tell those fucking morons to get out of the pantry. every time they move it’s like somebody walking across bubble wrap, jesus christ.”
the door opened and slammed. aggy didn’t say anything, and neither phoenix, nor posey, nor dio moved. eventually, aggy’s stool made a quick screech, and he opened the door. all three of them toppled over, landing on the floor in a series of thuds and pained cries.
cal, coming in from the front door, gestured toward the front. "dude, nessa just tore out of here. so ... i guess she ... didn't understand? are you gonna kick bree and chrys out?"
aggy looked shell-shocked. he stared down at them kind of blankly for a second and then said, “cal's right. they’ve gotta go.”
“that's actually not, um, what i said,” cal pointed out, but at aggy’s sharp look raised his smoothie in salute as he continued passing through the kitchen. “sorry. you’re probably right. i’m going now.”
“.... uh,” said dio slowly, blinking up at him, “listen, buddy. AC and PK are really attached to bree. let’s not do anything rash, okay?”
phoenix, climbing to his feet with a wince and offering both boys a hand up, put his arms around aggy’s shoulders. “i’m with mendes,” he said. “let’s just do some breathing exercises. my mom says you shouldn’t make any big decisions until you’ve breathed for two minutes.”
“mrs. cho is like, really smart,” posey agreed. “when you get your scuba license they tell you about how oxygen deficiency can make your brain do crazy things. like, when i’m free diving, and i hit that first wall where my body’s like hey, i need some oxygen, i’ve gotta -- really be intentional about my movements, you know what i’m saying?”
“in four, out four,” phoenix said, channeling his mom, who had an acupuncture practice and was super dope. “atta boy.”
the four of them stood in the kitchen breathing for a little while.
it did not calm agford atreus down.
as soon as dio let go of him, he pulled away, sprinted upstairs, and started throwing chrys’s things out of the window.
“hoooooooo buddy,” dio said. “she’s gonna be big, big, big mad.”
there was a loud crash, then muffled voices, and then chrys’s unmistakable shout: “-- the fuck are you doing?!”
“we should breEeEeEeathe together,” dio grumbled at phoenix, his voice mocking. “great plan, numnuts.”
“shut the fuck up, mendes,” phoenix snapped. “you fuckin’ bought it. poser, back me up.”
“don’t go crying to mister marine biology over there — ”
“—SHE GOES, I—”
“it’s biology, you absolute — ”
“ — ME LIKE THAT PEDRO FUCKING KLAUS — ”
posey pulled out his lifeguard whistle and blew.
“right,” posey said, patrolling back and forth across the living room. phoenix and dio were seated on opposite sides of the couch, arms folded, not looking at each other. aggy was sitting in the la-z-boy. bree was on PK’s lap, who was on AC’s lap, who was sitting cross-legged in front of the coffee table. chrys was standing, hands on her hips, by the stairs, scowling. “right. okay. everybody needs to chill the fuck out.”
aggy opened his mouth, but posey held a hand up. “NO. no talking unless i call on you. raise your hand if you have something to say. if you’re going to behave like children i’m going to treat you like the kids swim team i coach.”
doc walked in the front door, took stock of the situation, announced, “nope, not today,” turned on his heel and walked back out, throwing up deuces.
“now,” resumed posey, keeping his voice neutral. “mendes and cho: what the fuck? what’s the deal. why are you yelling.”
both dio and phoenix opened their mouths, and posey raised both his hands to stop them. “ah! ah. one at a time. dio, you first.”
“he got on my fuckin’ nerves,” dio grumbled. “his elbow was in my mouth and he didn’t even try to move it.”
“he insulted my mom’s breathing exercises,” phoenix chimed in immediately. “and it’s not my fault i have fuckin elbows, dude. i didn’t put all three of us in the pantry. i got there first.”
“it’s the only hiding place! where else was i gonna go?”
“okay,” posey interrupted. “i think we can all agree, listening to this conversation, that it’s stupid. right?” he looked around encouragingly, and got mostly nods. “great. so that fight is over.”
dio looked like he wanted to protest, but when he started to speak, posey blew his whistle again. “i said that fight is over. ten laps around the house, boys.”
phoenix and dio stood, grumbling and shouldering each other on the way out. posey turned to face the rest of the house.
“now. let’s talk about this calmly.”
“if you want me out, i’ll go,” chrys bit out, irritated. “i’m not begging to stay here. we were kidnapped, you might recall, agford.”
“you were accidentally gotten,” aggy corrected. he had a stubborn set to his jaw. “look, bree can stay if she wants. it’s not my call. i promised nessa that geni could stay in my room way before y’all had asbestos in your house. i didn’t put the asbestos there. how come i’ve got to be responsible for making sure you’ve got a house? homer found a place to live just fine.”
“homer has a car! he doesn’t have to stay on campus!”
aggy shrugged. “not my problem,” he said. “sorry.”
bree’s brow was furrowed. “if chrys goes, i go,” she said loyally. PK made a soft sound and wound his arms around her middle, tugging her in. AC flexed in aggy’s direction. “babes over bros, boys,” bree told them sadly. “i’ll miss you.”
“maybe chrys can crash with us,” AC suggested. “like, on the floor.”
“i’m not spending senior year sleeping on the floor of a frat house,” chrys vetoed flatly. “thanks though. listen -- clearly this is gonna be like, a Whole Thing. i don’t want to bring down the ... house of atreus, or whatever. i’ll just go. olly isn’t happy that i’m living here, anyway. he says it looks bad.”
PK’s eyebrows rose, looking interested. “oh, you’re dating olly hunter?” he asked. “way to go, girl. he’s hot as shit.”
“he didn’t let her move into the trojan house because he said he ‘wasn’t ready’,” bree whispered, using finger quotes.
“shut up, bree,” chrys muttered.
“don’t tell her to shut up,” AC snapped.
“don’t make me blow this fuckin whistle,” warned posey.
“chrys, i like you,” aggy said, sounding sincere. “but if i gotta choose between having you here and my girlfriend literally breaking up with me, it’s not a contest.”
chrys shrugged. “i don’t care,” she said, sounding like she probably did, in fact, care a great deal. “i don’t want to stay here anyway when the pranks get real and troy kicks all y’all’s asses.”
she flicked aggy off and stormed out, swiping her phone open on her way out. for a second, everybody sat in silence; then bree said, “she didn’t mean that.”
“well, yes she did, but only because she’s mad.”
“ugh, shit. it’s the girl code, boys.” she untangled herself from PK and stood. “if she goes, i go. it’s the rule. friendship.”
PK and AC looked at each other. they seemed to talk through eyebrows alone. then PK shrugged, stood, and pulled AC up by his hand. “if you go, we go,” he said firmly, reaching out to wrap his arm around bree’s shoulders. “it’s the bro code.”
“come on, guys,” aggy said, also rising. he looked a little panicked. “let’s -- talk about this.”
“we coulda talked about it before you threw chrys’s shit out the window,” AC said, widening his stance and crossing his arms over his chest. it was a little hard to find him intimidating in a t-shirt that said THAT’S A CLOWN QUESTION, BRO in barnum & bailey looking font.
“bree’s not even your girlfriend!” aggy pointed out. “you’re gay! she’s just -- your roommate!”
PK looked offended. “okay, the idea that platonic relationships between men and women are not just as important as romantic partnerships is extremely bad discourse,” he said.
“also, that’s bi erasure, and fuck you big time, buddy,” AC snapped. “i said this was heterosexual bullshit at the beginning, and i was right. i’m out.”
without another word, he scooped bree up in one arm and hooked his hand into the back of PK’s collar.
“AC!” aggy called after them, distraught. “come on man! where are you gonna go?”
“I HAVE OTHER FRIENDS,” AC yelled back, right before the door slammed shut.
“wait, so they were living together, but they weren’t dating?” Ray Ban asks, scooting his chair closer to homer. “i thought they were all dating each other.”
“who has time to date two people?” Donut Mouth asks wonderingly. “don’t you kids have classes? and homework? and jobs?”
homer shrugs. “don’t ask me,” he says. “i’m not even dating one person.”
Ray Ban pats his shoulder. “hey, you’re a catch, kid,” he says comfortingly. “you’re just young. maybe you’re a late bloomer.”
“fuck you, late bloomer,” homer grumbles. “anyway, AC and PK weren’t dating bree. they weren’t a thruple. they were just ... like, buds. really good buds. she has really nice mom energy.”
“and they still moved out for her?” Donut Mouth asks, sounding impressed. “that’s loyal.”
“that’s loyal,” Ray Ban agrees.
“lads, it’s loyalty at its finest,” says homer. “fraternity means never turning your back on your boys.”
“no,” said odysseus, opening and then immediately closing the door in AC’s face. “no, no, absolutely not.”
AC knocked again. “aw, come on, bro. it’s just for a little while.”
penny leveled a glare at odysseus, but he didn’t care. she could yell at him later. whatever this was, he was capital-n-NOT getting involved. and he definitely wasn’t letting penny’s apartment get involved, because this was his refuge, and he refused to let A-fucking-C soil it.
“no! sleep on the street! i don’t care!”
penny shoved at him until he gave way, and pointed sternly at the couch. “sit,” she commanded. “you goddamn animal.”
odysseus sat, because he knew better than to try and argue when she used that tone. penny opened the door, her long braid swinging over her shoulder. “AC, PK, bree, come on in,” she greeted warmly. “what can we do for you?”
“ruin my life,” odysseus muttered petulantly. when penny shot him a glare, he shot her an exaggerated one back. “careful, don’t fuck up the loom,” he called to PK, who was stepping dangerously close to Weaving Corner.
penny closed the door and came to perch on the armrest next to odysseus, combing her hands soothingly through his hair. he hated that that worked. he was smart as she was, probably. he just had to ... resist her dumb lady wiles. he couldn’t let himself be tricked by that thing penny did where she touched you gently and looked at you with soft eyes and made you think that she was listening and cared about your feelings. that was always when she struck.
“they kicked chrys out of the house, which is bullshit,” AC said. “and then bree said it was girl code that if chrys left, she had to leave, and as you know, it is bro code that if your bro gets bounced from the club, you also gotta bounce from the club.”
“clubs are dumb, but go on,” odysseus said. penny’s fingers tightened warningly on his hair, just shy of painful.
“so -- that’s it. chrys is bree’s girl, and bree’s our girl, so, abra cadabra -- ”
“ipso facto,” bree corrected gently.
“-- oh, right. thanks. ipso facto: we walked out!” AC put his fists up like he was declaring victory of some kind.
penny hummed sympathetically. “so what can we do to help?” she asked, voice dangerously kind. odysseus didn’t like it when penny sound kind. it always meant she had something up her sleeve.
PK and AC exchanged glances. “... well ... can we stay here?” PK asked. “just till we figure something else out. we don’t have any other friends with apartments that aren’t in student housing.”
“no,” odysseus said immediately.
penny ignored him. “of course you can. there’s plenty of room. odie can get the air mattress from down in storage, and the couch is surprisingly comfortable when it folds out.”
“penny, can i have a word,” odysseus asked, standing up.
she smiled blandly up at him. “sure. let’s get beer for everybody from the kitchen. you guys make yourself comfortable. we’ll be right back.” she followed him placidly into the galley kitchen. it was a small studio apartment, but there was enough of the wall across the kitchen that if you whispered you could get away with it. penny leaned against the refrigerator, kicking her foot up against it and crossing her arms over her chest. she quirked an eyebrow, waiting.
odysseus thought carefully. if he wasn’t very deliberate with his words, she’d catch him up somewhere. “babe,” he began, and then winced. penny hated being called pet names. “uh, sorry. penelope. penny. listen. i know their story sounds sad, but it’s not sad. it’s very stupid. this whole thing is very stupid. it’s -- bullshit frat stuff. you hate frat stuff.”
“i don’t hate frat stuff,” she returned. he was relieved to hear that her voice had lost that lilting softness of the living room, and sounded more like her regular self. “i think frat stuff is a waste of time and money, but they’re your friends. don’t you think i care about your friends?”
“i don’t even care about my friends!” he protested.
“that’s not true. you like nestor.”
“i do like nestor,” odysseus acquiesced. “fine. i like one of my friends, who, notably, is not in your living room asking to sleep over. if nestor were here i’d roll out the air mattress and blow it up myself.”
“awwwww,” cooed penny.
odysseus leveled a finger at her. “don’t use that tone with me,” he warned. “you’re up to something.”
she raised her eyebrows, lips twitching. “who, me?” she asked. “odie, i cannot believe you would accuse me of having any motive other than basic human generosity.”
“what happened to the farm idea?” odysseus asked desperately, feeling the conversation slipping from him. “you. me. many miles between us and anyone wearing a muscle tee.”
“we can’t buy a farm without money,” penny pointed out calmly. “and this place costs a lot. costs, by the way, to which you are not contributing. don’t you want to find a way to contribute?”
fuck, he thought.
“... yes,” he said, defeated.
penny pushed off the fridge and patted his chest with her hand. “great. then go get the air mattress.”
aggy stared at the doorway for a long time, head in his hands. posey sat quietly next to him, for a little while, and was joined by dio and phoenix when they’d finished their laps. he considered trying phoenix’s mom’s breathing exercise again, but every time he tried to inhale he was worried he might, like, start crying or some shit.
all he wanted was to rain prank war hell on troy. it was his second senior year. his first had passed without much exciting happening, and he’d wanted this second go around to be epic. he wanted to show that smug fuck priam what was up. he wanted to go down in history as a kind of new age van wilder.
was that so much to fuckin ask?
also, distantly, sort of, he’d wanted to make manny feel better. it wasn’t his primary goal, granted, but it’s not like it wasn’t on the list.
“hey man,” dio offered tentatively, reaching out to put his hand on the flat of aggy’s back, between his shoulder blades, “it’s, uh. it’s okay.”
“okay?!” aggy repeated, lifting his head. he liked dio, but he was an econ major. what did econ majors know about real fucking life. “we lost two of our best men, and my girlfriend is mad at me, and when he gets back manny is gonna be all ohhhh i lost my giiiirlfriend. also, we no longer have a social chair, so as a community we might as well just light the house on fire.”
“that seems like an extreme step,” said phoenix.
“let’s dial that one way back, buddy,” agreed posey.
“we’ve got to surrender,” aggy mumbled. he didn’t see any other way out. they just had to -- go back in time, undo all this bullshit with helen and paris and priam and troy, and that was that. “fraternity means brotherhood. if you win the war but lose your brothers, you’ve lost everything.”
that was good. he should write that down, actually.
“sure, if you want,” dio agreed slowly. “i mean ... it’s not like ... we’re winning. it’s pretty embarrassing.”
“i could take the L,” posey mused. “i mean, i don’t love it, but every once in a while even the best warriors get their bells rung.”
aggy groaned. he was going to have to cede victory to fucking priam, who wasn’t even greek. he was going to have to own up to getting that deer drunk. god, he was going to have to apologize to nessa.
he hated apologizing. “that’s it, then, i guess,” he said, standing. “i’ll go find manny and let him know.”
as he pushed off the stairs, the front door swung open.
odysseus stood in the doorway, mostly a silhouette because of the way the afternoon light was framing him. he had his hands on his hips, his chin raised a little, his backpack hanging off one shoulder almost like a shield.
“where the fuck are you going?” he asked.
aggy opened his mouth, shut it again, thought it over, and then said, tentatively, “to ... end the prank war?”
“like fuck you are,” odysseus said, coming in and kicking the door shut behind him. “there are four people currently sleeping in the apartment that my girlfriend lives in. do you know what that means? it means that the one place in the world where i can get away from you people is ruined. it is tainted.”
“o -- kay?” aggy asked. “uh. what am i supposed to do about it?”
“what you’re supposed to do about it is win this fucking war,” odysseus said, shoving aggy back so that he was sitting down. “we are going to crush troy into the ground, and things will go back to normal, and i will get my sanctuary and my girlfriend back, and then i will graduate and never talk to any of you again.”
“not even me?” phoenix asked.
“maybe you,” odysseus relented. “definitely not you, dunn, don’t even ask.”
“fuck you, man,” posey said, sounding cheerful. “you’ve gotta get over that time i almost accidentally drowned you. it was like, a while ago.”
aggy shook his head, trying to clear it. “but -- how?” he asked. “i’m out of prank ideas, man.”
“yeah, well, it was unfair of us to ask a jock to do math,” odysseus said.
“hey,” aggy protested.
“i’m only honest with my real friends,” said odysseus. “now, listen. we start by planting the seeds to get helen back, and to do that, we have to take paris down. do you get what i’m saying?”
dio leaned in, eyebrows raised, looking interested. “murder?”
“not murder,” odysseus corrected. “it’s called a character assassination, and it’s a super dick move. trust me, boys. you’re gonna love it.”