the chilliad: hour five
both Ray Ban and Donut Mouth are quiet for a long moment. homer takes the opportunity to stretch a little, and to feel the hands on his watch. he wonders what is happening to the rest of them—he knows he wasn’t the only one who got booked.
the stupid part of all this is that homer really hadn’t done anything wrong. he hadn’t even shown up until after the fire, because calliope was teaching him guitar. they were going to start a band. homer was going to write the lyrics and she was going to sing them. thalia and cleo even said they’d join. homer and the muses. it was going to be dope.
“i am just struggling to understand why we never got reports of public disturbance,” Ray Ban mutters. “they fucked that whole café, man.”
homer shrugs. “delphi’s no snitch,” he says. “anyway, she and saph and manny cleaned it up.”
“of course manny helped. he made the mess, didn’t he?”
“well, so did paris, and he didn’t help.”
“yeah, so like, you kind of see why everybody wants to beat him up all the time.”
Donut Mouth gives a long sigh. “all right,” he says. “so—what happened after they fought at the oracle?”
“well, word kind of spread to the administration about the whole thing, and they got called in for a disciplinary hearing. i don’t know if they were really in danger of getting kicked out or not but that’s definitely what they told manny, so he was pretty freaked out. i kind of thought he had nothing to worry about, because the head of the disciplinary committee was an alpha sig when he was in undergrad, but—”
“hold up, hold up,” Ray Ban interrupts. “if nobody snitched, how did the disciplinary committee find out?”
homer rolls his eyes. “haven’t you ever heard of twitter?”
folks, pals, and readers alike:
many updates this week because, to quote kanye, my life is dope and i do dope shit. i know everyone is always like, “SENIORS RULE” but tbh i was kind of like, w/e about being a senior bc seniority means next year i have to uhhhhh get a job, and wtf kind of job is a disaster like me gonna get? two days ago i tried to make fresh orange juice and i somehow managed to break the burner on the house stove. i didn’t even — you don’t even need the oven to make orange juice?
(don’t worry, i live with athena metis, the goddess of being the best at everything, and she fixed it. i don’t want to embarrass her bc she’s extremely modest (lol) but it was vERY sexy, plaid shirt all rolled up to her elbows. it’s extremely lucky that she hasn’t settled down with a nice boo bc when she does there will be no one to fix my stove. :( i’m going to finally have to learn how to live competently as an adult, which: no thank you!!!!!! what’s that, chief? a hard pass??? a hard pass.)
a n y w a y, did y’all hear that paris got his ass HANDED TO HIM by manny atreus this week? i was there, it is true what they’re saying. please see below a brief collection of the most iconic dunks:
also, if you haven’t seen, whoever runs @ParisTheCoward is like, a deeply mean person but also VERY funny. sorry, paris, but to be fair you did throw like 6 mugs at manny’s head and then my beautiful moonlight girlf-in-the-making had to sweep up all the glass, so. kinda brought it on urself, buddy.
obvi i love the true light of my life, helen spartowski, & value her opinions, but even i gotta admit it was embarrassing behavior, on paris’s part. at least manford stuck around to clean up.
he’s actually like, really sensitive?
ok, that’s all the news. also i wrote this:
god must be real and she must love us,
to have given us you. across the counter,
learning forward with a smile to ask what kind of milk we want
with a voice so sweet i forget to ask for sugar.
the way you laugh, it’s
my whole heart lighting up. i think you can hear it beating.
i take one look at your face and i’m
helpless to say anything. i can’t even breathe.
my tongue is heavy in my mouth, silent.
my skin is on fire, buzzing, everywhere you look.
i can’t see straight. i can’t see at all.
there’s a drumming in my ears; my own stupid heart.
you ask again what i want and i
can only stand there, trembling.
i feel brand-new, and clumsy. i say:
“sugar.” i say, “please, give me something sweet.”
ugh, right??? love is unbearable.
am i Team Manny Atreus actually???
it’s called “31” bc that’s literally the number of drafts i went through about this GLINT OF STARSHINE but none of them were able to capture the fact that the only explanation for her existence is that there’s at least 1 god and she loves me.
anyway not to BRAG but YA GIRL GOT KISSED BYE
“full offense, saff, but what the fuck?” helen asked as soon as sappho picked up the phone. she kicked her feet up onto darius’s lap; he rolled his eyes, but engaged the lock on his wheelchair so that he’d be a stable footrest for her, which was why darius was the best. they were supposed to be actually working on the campaign today, but as per usual they’d all been distracted immediately and hadn’t even begun yet.
not for nothing but sappho was pretty sure they would never manage to leave the village they’d started in, which was a shame because her character would kick ass in battle, nun or no.
“what the fuck what?” sappho returned cheerfully. “are you jealous i finally got delphi to kiss me? because you had your chance. it’s too late now.”
“you’re TEAM MANNY ATREUS?” helen cried, not taking the bait, which indicated she really was upset. there were few things that helen loved talking about more than how much most people loved and adored her, sappho especially. “i can’t believe you put a link to the Coward twitter in a fucking NEWSLETTER.”
“it’s funny, melon.”
“it’s not funny! who runs it?”
“you think if i knew who ran it i wouldn’t have also put that in the newsletter, just for the drama?”
it was hard to be the most beautiful person in any room. sappho knew this, because she had watched helen stand in line at the DMV and turn down dates from five different people, with steadily decreasing patience. but it meant that she was constantly needing reassurance that sappho did actually love her, helen, as a person, which was fine because sappho loved nothing more than to express her feelings at a very high volume.
still: “babe, you know that i am, in fact, team helen melon. i don’t care if both paris and manny drive off a cliff, i’m just saying that if i had to choose between the two of them, i dunno, i’m feeling kind of swayed by manny’s tears.”
helen was quiet for a second, then said, “he really cried?”
“oh my god, like a fountain,” sappho laughed. “i had to kick him out of the café because he was ruining the vibe i was trying to lay down with delphi.”
“clearly he didn’t ruin it,” helen said slyly, a grin in her voice. “bow-chicka-wow-wow.”
sappho grinned. the rest of the group began to trickle in from the kitchen, hands full of snacks and beer. AC and PK had come with bree, trailing along kind of awkwardly behind her; it was cute. AC was wearing a muscle tee that said BRO DO U EVEN LIFT? with a picture of disney’s mulan carrying buckets of water in her shoulders. sappho had always had kind of a low-grade crush on PK, the kind that meant nothing and was just a pleasant way to daydream during the only class they’d ever shared together, which was in underwater basket-weaving, for an art credit. “don’t be mad,” she cajoled helen. “team melonhead, ride or die.”
“don’t call me melonhead,” scolded helen, but the annoyance in her voice was obviously put on, and sappho had been forgiven. “and leave my love life out of your newsletters.”
“i will not, your love life is the most interesting thing happening on this campus,” sappho laughed. “but i will keep Paris the Coward to retweets only.”
“you’re a fucking menace,” helen sighed, then made a kissy sound and hung up.
emi kicked sappho’s feet off darius’s lap and replaced them with her own. “was that Heavyweight Champion Helen Spartowski?” she asked, a little meanly. “i heard she threw down with manny after paris ran away.”
sappho rolled her eyes. “yeah, she did,” she lied. “one-punch KO. you should have seen it. it would have had you shaking in your timberlands.”
she had never quite been able to get at what was at the heart of emi’s irritation with not just greek life but helen in particular — she thought maybe it had something to do with the increasingly impenetrable relationship between emi and olly, who had come to school attached at the hip and now only saw each other at parties and, presumably, at home. but chrys was kind of dating olly hunter and emi didn’t seem to have a problem with her, so who knew. emi was a mystery.
“she should come to dukes up, then,” emi grinned. “show off a little.”
“i am not allowing helen to join athena’s fucking fight club,” sappho laughed. “fuck off.”
“now that would be a fight worth watching,” heff mused, shouldering his way passed AC with a kind of friendly bullying. “i think you’d be surprised. helen is absolutely the type to fight dirty.”
“there’s no such thing as a clean fight,” emi answered, grinning kind of gleefully.
“anyway at dukes’ the only rule is—”
“don’t call the cops,” everyone chimed in at once.
“that’s messed up, man,” interrupts Ray Ban.
“we perform a public service,” agrees Donut Mouth.
homer shrugs. “the american public’s loss of faith in the police is way beyond my paygrade,” he says.
bree shook her head, clucking her tongue. she was settled comfortably between AC and PK, who were bickering behind her head over who got to sit on a beanbag and who would have to sit on the floor.
“not to be, like, a real early childhood education major about this,” she said primly, popping a piece of the caramel popcorn that darius had brought, “but everyone is bullying paris and i think it’s mean.”
PK gave her a look that was so fond and soft that sappho laughed a little; AC looked affronted. “dude, he like, fucked up the café and then just left. it’s bad fucking sportsmanship.”
“i thought you didn’t care because you quit the fraternity,” darius said, raising his eyebrows.
“i don’t,” snapped AC. “i don’t care, why would i care? it’s all bullshit.”
“i care a little,” said PK.
AC glared at him, and PK made a face back. “i just care about ... like ... ”
“the sportsmanship,” PK supplied.
AC nodded. “exactly,” he said. “i am worried about the community, bro.”
emi snorted, flicking a chip at him. “yeah, you’re a real pillar of the neighborhood,” she said dryly.
“hey, i have a crazy idea,” cleo piped up cheerfully. “what if we actually, you know, played D&D? that is, you might remember, why we are here.”
“i’m not leaving this town until one of the elves succumbs to my charms,” insisted sappho. “i think i’m close. i’ve just got to get lucky on a few rolls.” she should have leaned heavier on charm and less heavy on stealth when building her character, but during their last campaign she’d nearly gotten them all killed every time they’d had to do anything requiring secrecy.
cleo pinched the bridge of her nose. “i built a really fucking beautiful world for you assholes,” she grumbled. “there’s jellyfish in the clouds! you can fly in some places! but sure. let’s — fuck, i don’t know, go to a local elf bar that i’ll have to make up on the fly and you can fail to seduce the barmaid. ace and peeks, you can play as Paris the Coward, a two-headed dwarf who is in the tavern when you enter.”
there was a glint, suddenly, in AC’s eye. sappho leaned in and pointed a finger at him. “who runs it?” she asked. “i know you know.”
he gave her a very flat look. “who do you think runs it?” he asked dryly. “he’s got two thumbs, hates everybody, and is a real asshole, but like, that whole fucking house would die for him, probably.”
sappho sighed. “this is exactly why i don’t fuck with that dude. he never wants to play until suddenly you find out he’s been pulling the strings all along, sneaky fucker. no wonder athena likes playing chess with him.”
“sneaky fucker would be a baller punk band name,” mused chrys. “guys, let’s form a band call it sneaky fucker.”
“ANYWAY, YOU FIND THE TAVERN ALMOST COMPLETELY EMPTY, EXCEPTING ONE ELF BARMAID AND AFOREMENTIONED DWARF,” shouts cleo, before taking a long, furious swig of natty light. “enter the tavern or i swear to god i am kicking all of you out of my house.”
heff grinned. “okay, okay,” he said. “i go up to the barmaid, introduce myself, and try to get her to sleep with me before saff has a chance.”
sappho sits up. “what?!” she cries. “wait—”
cleo gives her a very grim look. “heff, roll for charm,” she commands.
it wasn’t that helen was worried, exactly. she had no reason to be worried. the holdfasts had donated, like, a whole building to the school two years ago; paris wasn’t going anywhere. and it’s — and who cared, ultimately, what happened to manny? he wasn’t helen’s boyfriend anymore. he wasn’t her boyfriend and also, therefore, not her problem. so she didn’t really give a shit what happened to him.
of course she didn’t. it would be stupid, if she did, and helen wasn’t stupid, so she didn’t, and that was that on that, never mind the looks sappho kept giving her every time she brought him up.
“yeah, okay,” laughed dité, not exactly unkindly but with her usual lack of inflection when she felt it was obvious that someone was lying to her. “heff, pass me my smoothie.”
“get it yourself,” heff answered blandly, but kissed her ankle anyway from his position on the floor. heff and dité had come to college already a couple, and helen had never once seen him give in to one of dité’s whims. she suspected that was a large part of the reason dité loved him, which ... helen supposed she understood, from like, an intellectual point of view?
but honestly, what was the point of being beautiful if it didn’t, like, get you stuff? it was a useless gift otherwise.
dité groaned and rolled over. “areeeeees,” she whined. “hand me my smoooooothie.”
“your friend is having a crisis and all you can think about is your fruit juice,” tutted ares, shaking his head cheerfully. “babe, you’re brutal.” but he handed her the smoothie anyway, dropping a hand to ruffle heff’s hair.
heff grinned up at him and said, “you’re such a sucker.” ares made a blowjob gesture, leering down at him, and both dité and heff laughed.
“leave me out of your sex stuff, please,” interjected helen, primly. “it’s house rules. it’s on the door.” she pointed to the sign, which did indeed say NO BRINGING HELEN INTO YOUR WEIRD SEX STUFF, at number four.
dité heaved a long sigh. “look, it’s fine. nobody’s getting kicked out.”
“but it’s zeke,” helen pointed out. “zeke hates the trojans. he’s hated them ever since the, uh. incident.”
“you mean that time he had sex with a freshman at a trojan barbecue and hera walked in on them and broke up with him and like, lowkey tried to ruin his life forever?” dité clarified, raising her eyebrows.
ares snorted, tipping back in dité’s desk chair. “wasn’t she, like, really into swans?” he asked, and helen spit out a laugh, remembering.
“oh my god, the fucking birder,” she giggled. “i totally forgot. i can’t fucking believe — what was her name?”
dité was smirking down at her phone. “leda,” she said, and flipped it around to show the instagram in question. “oh no, guys, i found her. she’s still into birds, poor thing. oh my god it says here she’s interning for audubon. that’s adorable, in a really sad way.”
“leave the birder alone. maybe she’ll meet a nice nerd who can love her for who she is,” said heff, with a kind of dubious optimism. “anyone would better than zeke, who is the worst person i have ever met, and i’m dating the two of you.”
ares threw a pillow at heff’s head, but seemed otherwise unconcerned with the besmirchment of his good name. he tucked his arms behind his head and recalled thoughtfully, “he came running out of the room with his boxers around his ankles, only to find that she had spray-painted I’M A SLUT FOR SWANS onto his car door. she’s got a warrior’s spirit, our hera. ah, that was a good party.”
“you can just say she’s vindictive,” helen told him. “it’s okay. you’re among friends.”
“this is a safe space,” agreed dité.
ares raised an eyebrow. “this is absolutely not a safe space. y’all think i don’t know you’re going to tell her literally everything i say?” he asked. “y’all think i don’t know there’s a group chat where you guys roast all of us on the regular?”
“if i could just get, like, a little reassurance,” helen said, neither confirming nor denying this extremely true fact. she swung her eyes to look at heff, widening them just a little. he never gave into dité but he gave into helen, sometimes, because at his heart he was a big soft marshmallow man, and he hated when anybody got upset. “just ... like, if maybe someone could talk to him. someone he would listen to.”
heff gave her a look that let her know he saw through her. “i’m not talking to hera for you,” he said. “as if i made it this far in my life by getting involved in sorority politics?”
“i think you made it this far in life because you’re so smart, and funny, and handsome, and most of all because you’re so generous and kind to your friends when they are in need,” said helen, batting her eyes at him.
“this is why people hate you,” heff told her. “this is exactly why.”
“people don’t hate me, people love me. i’m very beautiful and i sell weed for like, extremely discounted prices.”
“yeah, but gets her supply for free,” said dité, like a traitor.
heff sat up, staring at her with an appalled expression. “you get it for free and you still make me pay for it?” he asked, putting his hand to his heart.
helen shrugged. “there can be only limited justice under late stage global capitalism,” she told him. “a girl’s gotta eat. come on, heff. do it for me. for our friendship.”
heff rolled his head back and looked at dité. “was this your fault?” he asked. “tell me the truth.”
“what is ‘fault’?” mused dité, sounding pleased with herself, “given the tenets of critical realism, which posit that truth can, at best, be described only as contextually contingent and eminently revisable, i can say only that i was, to some degree, involved in the instigative portion of the event.”
heff sighed, long and loud. “i should have gone to at harvard,” he muttered, but nevertheless began the process of standing up. helen let out a soft whoop and helped him, pressing four quick kisses to his cheek. he flushed a little red, which she knew was half delight and half irritation at his own obviousness.
“now who’s the sucker, babe?” called ares, and heff just tossed the finger at him over his shoulder, not looking back.
heff was the best. she linked their arms together for the whole walk down the hall, but outside hera’s door she shifted so that he was in front, the main face in the peephole as she knocked.
there was a long silence, and then the door swung open.
“i’m not doing it,” said hera. she glared at helen. “and don’t think i don’t know why you brought heff with you.” she leveled him with an unimpressed look. “i’m very disappointed in you, heffner.”
helen held both her hands up, a gesture of surrender. it was true that heff was, out of everybody on the entire campus, hera’s favorite. helen didn’t know much, because why on earth would she care enough about that to dig into it, but dité had mentioned offhandedly (which was to say, in the kind of way that meant she knew a lot and cared a great deal but was pretending she didn’t) that they had taken a very weird child psychology class together once that had bound them together forever. helen’s pretty sure they had to do rebirthing exercises or something, because heff often jokingly called hera momra, and she knew he was in her phone as my tiny and terrible son.
so, normal stuff.
“i never said i wasn’t a cheater,” she pointed out.
“yeah, obviously. if you weren’t, none of us would be in the situation, would we?” hera snapped.
helen flinched. “okay, so, that was really mean, but i am going to take the high road and let it go,” she said slowly, and shoved heff a little further in front of her, half a shield and half an offering. she liked hera a lot, actually; helen had always liked people who were a little mean, and despite hera’s endless kind patience for the children she volunteered with, at her root she really was kind of vindictive.
hera let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “sorry,” she said. she did sound a little sorry. not, like, a lot sorry, but whatever. helen would take what she could get. “look, it’s none of my business. i absolutely refuse to get involved. i truly don’t care who gets kicked out and who doesn’t.”
“okay,” said helen, thinking quickly, “okay, yes, but. consider ... ”
hera raised an eyebrow at her. it was probably true that something appealing to her tender side, like “consider our friendship,” wouldn’t get far, because at the end of the day helen was best friends with dité and sappho, and while sappho was the best and most lovable person that helen knew, dité was admittedly a bit of an acquired taste that hera had not, in fact, acquired.
but what helen liked most about hera was that, above all, she was pragmatic, and she did what she had to do to get the things she wanted. this was why she was definitely going to be president one day, and why helen would probably vote for her despite knowing she’d almost certainly also be, like, lowkey a war criminal.
“consider — that if someone does get kicked out, it’s game over for the prank war,” helen said. “and if the prank war ends, troy gets reinstated as a frat next year.”
heff huffed out a laugh, shaking his head fondly. “i want it on the record that i agreed to come to this meeting only because i feel somewhat responsible for this whole situation, given that i accidentally let dité and helen over here go out unsupervised,” he said.
“heff,” hera scolded. “you know better.”
“i know, don’t yell at me, geez,” he muttered. it was incredible; he never quelled when dité yelled at him, and she was way meaner than hera was. “look, i also don’t care what happens. but it was priam luwian who lied to you about whether zeke was at his party, and priam luwian who invited Swan Girl, and priam luwian who—”
“okay, that’s enough,” hera interrupted sharply. she glared at both of them, chewing her lip and tapping her foot quickly against the wood. “maybe i’m over it. it’s been, like, a hundred years. what do i care anymore about some guy who helped some jerk i dated screw me over for an infant whose twitter bio bragged that she could do bird calls?”
neither helen nor heff said anything, just blinked at her in silence.
“because i am,” hera said. “i am over it.”
helen and heff nodded.
“i don’t care about zeke myrmidon,” hera told them. “he means absolutely nothing to me.”
helen and heff shook their heads, but like, supportively.
hera tapped her foot some more. she drummed her fingers against where her hand was still wrapped around the door handle.
“...fine,” she spat out, decisively. “fine, i’ll talk to him, but i swear to god helen you are doing my laundry for two weeks.”
helen threw her arms around hera’s shoulders and pressed a big, smacking kiss to her neck. hera’s mouth twitched, grudgingly. “make it three,” helen promised, and gave her a long, long, long squeeze.
hera stood stiffly for a moment, then gave in with a sigh and wrapped her arms around helen’s middle. with a soft puff of laughter, she squeezed back.
homer pauses, waiting for either Ray Ban or Donut Mouth to question why they were being forced to sit through him talking about people playing D&D or helen talking to hera. but maybe he’s started to train them up in the art of storytelling, because they sit patiently.
that’s good for their ability to fully engage with a story, but less good for homer’s need to fill as much time as possible. he fakes a cough.
“could i get some water?” he asks. “sorry. i’m parched.”
Ray Ban sighs, and then pushes away from the table. homer gives them both his best approximation of a grateful smile and sits back in his chair, pressing his fingertips to his watchface. there’s still so much time left, and the longer he goes the harder he has to try to stretch it out.
Donut Mouth taps his fingers against the table, impatient. homer asks, “so, uh, would you rather i call you Donut or Mouth? as like, a nickname?”
“donut mouth is already a nickname,” he points out.
“yeah, but it’s really more of an identifier than a nickname-nickname. this one would be because we’re like. buddies.”
“we aren’t buddies. i’ve arrested you.”
“wow. okay. harsh.”
“let the kid call you Donut,” Ray Ban interrupts, pushing a cup of water into homer’s hand. “better to get ahead of it than to let him start calling you ‘Mouth.’”
this is true, but homer just takes a sip of water and lets them argue about it. he leans his head against the back of his hair and closes his eyes, hoping they’ll get distracted long enough that maybe he can take a nap. just a small one. really little. just a few hours, so that he can get through the part of sobering up where his stomach threatens to empty all of its contents every time he breathes.
“if you’re gonna puke, do it on the floor,” Donut advises. “now, where were we?”
zeke was wearing an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a t-shirt that said THERE IS NO PLANET B and a beanie that hera knew for a fact he stole from a guy doing yoga in the park. he was sitting at the bar in the local dive, olympus — a bar, for god’s sake — holding his “office hours,” which really just meant that he was flirting with some freshman idiot who thought his attention was a reflection of her being smart and mature, and not of him being a douchebag who preferred to flirt with girls who were too young to tell that he’s a douchebag.
“go away,” hera ordered the freshman, waving her hand.
the poor girl glanced at hera and then at zeke and said hesitantly, “um ... but—”
“listen to me, he’s not great in bed, and he doesn’t even have a great personality,” hera told her. it was a little blunt, but in the long run it was really an act of kindness, because she was right and nothing good was going to come of this poor moron getting into bed with zeke myrmidon, the bane of hera’s existence. she softened a little, looking at the wilting freshman, and added, “girl, i promise this is the biggest favor anyone has ever done for you in your entire life.”
the freshman went.
zeke gave her a glare. “you’ve gotta fucking stop,” he snapped.
“or what? you’ll tell my mom?” hera snapped back. her life was probably the hardest that anyone, in the entire history of the world, had ever lived, both because the first boy she’d ever fallen in love with had cheated on her extremely publicly and because his father had then proceeded to marry her mother, a fact which both of them had sworn never to tell anybody at school. it was very cool and fun to be the stepsister of the guy who broke your idiot heart, and family vacations were not at all deeply awkward and unpleasant.
“i might,” zeke said. “your mom loves me. we’re talking about maybe going on a retreat at an ashram this year, to center ourselves. an ashram is — ”
“i know what an ashram is.” neither zeke nor hera’s mother would make it ten seconds in an ashram, because they ask you to take a vow of silence and they both loved the sound of their own voices too much.
hera slid into the seat that the freshman had vacated. he looked — ugh, in this light he looked good, even with his stupid beanie and his extremely fake dedication to the environment. she knew he drove a gas-guzzling jeep wrangler. he wasn’t fooling anybody.
“look, about this ... prank war thing,” she began. “what are you going to do?”
zeke gave her a suspicious look. “why are you asking?” he returned. “you don’t care about frat stuff.”
“i’m asking because i want to know,” hera said calmly. nothing irritated zeke more than answering a question without really answering it. “obviously.”
“well in that case, you can find out when everyone else does,” zeke told her, voice sing-songing a little as he turned his nose up. “now stop getting in the way of my office hours. i’m trying to expand the minds of our youth, because they are the future.”
“the fact that this school made you a TA is a joke,” hera told him. “the fact that they let you back in to get your graduate degree is also a sign that either its standards of academic rigor are falling or you’ve gotten a lot better at cheating.”
zeke pulled a face. “i’m smart,” he argued.
“are you?” hera asked, putting real surprise into her voice, rather than sarcasm, which she felt was more hurtful.
he rolled his eyes and waved down the bartender, ordering another whiskey, and asked, “is this ethically sourced?” when it arrived.
the bartender stared at him. “it’s ... whiskey,” he said.
“ain’t that the truth, brother,” zeke murmured, nodding, face twisting into something he probably thought was sage and thoughtful. over his head, the bartender gave hera an incredulous glance. she rolled her eyes and shrugged; zeke literally didn’t even like whiskey. he only drank it to look cool. the only things in his fridge were hot pickles and kombucha.
whatever, she wasn’t here to roast zeke except insofar as she was always anywhere to roast zeke. “listen, i need you to let them both off easy,” she said, cutting to the chase.
he took a slow sip of his drink, obviously trying not to make a face at its taste. “why?” he asked.
“because,” she said.
hera tipped her head as far back as it would go and stared at the ceiling. she hated her life. she hated helen. she hated heff. she most especially hated zeke, who was looking smugly at her from behind his glass. he had the winning hand, and he knew it; hera had barely anything to bargain with.
“why are you, like, such a dick?” she asked.
he shrugged. “bad genetics,” he said. “my mom left when i was young. the planet on which we live may already be beyond repair. my girlfriend wrote SLUT FOR SWANS on my car and i had to drive that car around for a year and a half. pick your favorite.”
hera tried not to let her lips twitch, because it wouldn’t help her in this moment, but she was pretty sure by zeke’s scowl that she didn’t succeed. she couldn’t help it; it was a soothing memory, him driving around in that fucking awful vehicle for a year. she had a whole finsta dedicated to pictures of it. @swanslut had almost 1000 followers.
“z,” she wheedled. “come on. you don’t care about this any more than i do. do it for the sake of family unity.”
“weird flex,” said zeke. “and clearly you care about it a great deal more than i do, actually.”
hera sighed. “fine,” she snapped. “what do you want for it?”
he blinked at her, surprised at first and then considering. hera met his gaze, calm. she already knew what he was going to ask for; it wasn’t impossible that he could surprise her, but she didn’t think he would. he was getting his MA in philosophy, for god’s sake. there was nothing more predictable than a philosophy grad student, except maybe an economics graduate student.
“three parties,” he said. hera did not let herself smile, pleased at having been right. “of my choice.”
“two,” she bargained, but just for form’s sake. she’d gotten the greek system social group in the breakup — not because they liked her more, necessarily, but because she had, through a series of carefully placed whispers and well-planned events, created a generally unpleasant atmosphere for zeke to be in, for quite some time. once the dust had settled, it had just felt like it was hers. but she could give him three parties, easy. she didn’t even go anymore, for the most part.
“three, or no deal,” he told her, and hera made a small show of giving in, sighing loudly and leaning against the bar.
“well, okay,” she acquiesced. “whatever, i don’t care. nobody gets seriously disciplined and you can have three parties, of your choosing. i’ll even agree not to go to those ones myself, if you want. you can have them all to yourself. you’re welcome.”
zeke gave her a shrewd look. “i could have bargained for more, couldn’t i,” he noted, dry, before shaking his head. a spike of something that approached but was certainly not fondness shot through hera, which she viciously and pointedly annoyed. “fine. it’s a deal.” he stuck out his hand for a shake and she glared at it for a long moment before giving in and granting him this, too.
“great to see you as always, sweet brother mine,” hera told him, sharp as a bite, and he laughed, not letting go of her hand. he ran his thumb over her knuckles, slow and thoughtful, mouth still quirked. when he looked up at her, his eyes were fond, despite everything.
“ra-ra,” he said, voice lilting a little.
“don’t call me that,” she snapped sharply, and pulled her hand back. “three parties, no discipline. that’s the deal. if you see thea give her my love. she’s the only myrmidon i like.”
“your mom’s a myrmidon.”
hera gave a very grim smile. “yeah, the point stands.” with that, she pushed herself up and away from the bar, walking out of olympus without looking back.
she gave herself a shake when she got outside. zeke myrmidon was a liar and a cheater and an asshole, and hera was going to be a senator one day, minimum. this was why she refused to spend time with him; he always did that thing where he looked at her a little too long and she started thinking oh, well, it’s been so long, maybe he’s changed, maybe the whole crunchy granola grad student thing is just his way of trying to be a new person and not his way of finding new and impressive ways of being extremely unbearable.
her phone dinged with a notification. zeke myrmidon has marked himself safe from the cyclone in indianapolis, it said.
“we’re not in indianapolis,” hera muttered, and shoved her phone back into her pocket. her hesitation evaporated, because luckily for her zeke was always extremely his most irritating self.
she shot off a text to helen: good to go. you OWE me, spartowski.
i will cover your face in kisses the very second i see u, helen wrote back immediately. also more importantly i will pay for that fancy place across the street to do your laundry, dry-cleaning included because in my heart you are THAT bitch!!!
hera was that bitch regardless of whose heart was doing the evaluating, she was sure, but she let it slide and just sent 💅💅💅 back.
“whoa, whoa, whoa. wait. you’re telling me that a brother and sister were dating on campus and nobody ... cared? is this game of fucking thrones?”
homer hides his grin behind his cup of water. “no, they weren’t brother and sister at the time,” he explains. “zeke’s a year older — he and heff were in the same year, they’re both grad students. anyway, he and hera were like, on and off from the second she got on campus. but their parents didn’t get married until after they’d broken up for the last time.”
“you can’t tell anybody that,” he says quickly. “like, nobody. i’m not even supposed to know.”
“then how do you know?”
“the muses told me.”
“and how do the muses know?”
“the muses know everything, man.”
Donut sighs. “i’m beginning to think that college is a lot more complex than it was in my day,” he mutters.
Ray Ban barks out a laugh. “you didn’t go to college, man,” he says. “don’t lie to impress the eighteen-year-old.”
“i don’t like your tone on this one, my main man ray ban,” scolds homer. “higher education is only one of many possible routes to a successful future.”
“yeah,” agrees Donut, defensively. “fuck off.”
and not that it matters, but just to set the record straight homer adds, a little petulantly: “and i’m nineteen, actually.”
Ray Ban heaves a sigh. “okay. nineteen. can we finish this story before you turn twenty? what happened with the disciplinary committee?”
homer shrugs. “i mean, i don’t know exactly. those things are private.”
“oh, that’s private.”
“i can’t help what gossip gets out and what doesn’t,” he points out. “i’m a good listener but i can’t read minds.”
Donut Mouth shifts forward to pat homer’s hand comfortingly. “that’s okay,” he assures him. “what happened in a more general sense?”
“well, zeke kept his word. no one got kicked out. i think manny and paris both had to do like, six community service hours or something, and their houses had to help pay for damage to the café. between the two of them it wasn’t anything they couldn’t raise with like, one good kegger.”
odysseus had this trick he liked to do at parties where they put out a couple really cheap, shitty kegs and let people drink those free, and then a few more slightly nicer ones they charged for. the line for the cheap beer always got really long and people got impatient, so they shelled out for the good stuff, and by the end of the night they didn’t notice that the “premium” beer was the same as the free beer.
it was a dick move, but that’s why they made him treasurer, homer guesses.
“so it should have resolved. why didn’t it?”
homer thinks for a minute. his memory is a little fuzzy; it’s late, or early, and he’s sobering up, and he would probably kill his own kin for a bagel. “um,” he says. “give me a second. all of this was months ago.”
he tries to remember the order of things. first was the disciplinary hearing, and then ... and then ... what had cleo told him? they were sitting on the beanbags. she had a guitar and she was saying ...
“oh right,” he recalls abruptly, because she had sung-said it to him on the guitar and laughed herself to tears rhyming “darius” with “gregarious.” “what happened next was that darius broke the truce.”
the truce wasn’t official, exactly; more of an unspoken rule: shared space was off-limits. no pranks in classrooms, or on the quad, or in any of the dining halls. this was really a practical, rather than ethical, consideration. what happened on greek row stayed on greek row but no one had control over what would get out if it happened outside.
darius chewed thoughtfully on one of his french fries, looking across the dining hall to where athena had dropped by the alpha sig table to say hello to manny and aggy atreus. manny was drinking coke from a two liter bottle, like a psychopath. surrounding him were his usual posse — the two jaxes, nestor, odysseus, penny, and that guy dio, who darius had only met once but immediately disliked for reasons he couldn’t quite put his finger on. some guys were just unlikeable douchebags, he guessed.
nestor, darius liked. he’d always been cool about the wheelchair, and had made sure to bring gluten-free cookies to the greek community bake sale last year after priam’s sister cassie found out she had celiac’s disease.
“... community service,” cuba was saying, rolling her eyes. she slapped darius’s hand away from her plate, where he had been aiming to steal another french fry. she and priam have been dating for as long as darius has known either one of them, and sometimes darius forgot she wasn’t officially a member of the frat. it was easy to forget, from within greek life, that there were students — lots and lots of students — who hadn’t rushed and weren’t even, like, involved.
darius didn’t know what those people did with their free time. he imagined it was weird nerd stuff, like ... birds, maybe? being one of those people at Comic-Con who said they had “less of a question, more of a reflection, really,” or brought up fanfiction to actors?
cuba said, “yeah, pero like, all i’m saying is ... ”
athena dropped into the seat next to him, pulling her ponytail through the back of her baseball hat. “wazzahhh,” she greeted the boys cheerfully, taking a bite of olly’s sloppy joe without asking. “hola, rubix.”
“qué tal, bonita. nice hat.”
athena’s hat, bright pink with blue flowers, said DUDE in lilting cursive. “thanks. can i have a fry?”
cuba pushed her plate toward her making a take what you want gesture. darius made a face at her. “oh, she gets the plate, and i can’t even have one?!”
“she asked,” cuba scolded him pointedly. “like, who raised you?”
he pouted and athena grinned widely at him with her mouth full of french fries, poking out of her teeth. athena was, in her heart of hearts, such a dick. “so what’re the alpha dicks talking about?” darius asked, instead of mashing his hand against her face, because he was a gentleman.
“what turds you guys are,” athena told him cheerfully. “doc just posted a new Coward tweet. it’s ...” she made a chef’s gesture, kissing her fingers.
“what helen sees in that guy, i just do not get,” darius said with a sigh.
“oh, it’s this thing he does with his — ”
“OKEYDOKES,” olly cut her off. “that’s fine, we get it, thanks.”
athena’s grin widened. “but olly, don’t you think chrys would want you to learn how to — ”
olly clapped his hands over his ear. “not from you she wouldn’t!” he cried.
she rolled her eyes and took another big bite of his food. “men are such cowards,” she muttered. “you try and try to help them and this is the thanks you get.”
cuba laughed and shook her head, saying something to her in quick spanish that made athena cackle. darius didn’t catch it. priam was trying to learn and kept putting post-its all over the house, so most of what darius knew was an odd collection of words for kitchen appliances.
“we’re not cowards,” he grumbled, flicking a pea at her.
she caught it in her mouth. “no?” she asked. “okay, do something fuckin bomb, then.”
beside her, olly leaned in, eyes bright with sudden excitement. “yeah, archer,” he goaded, and passed darius a straw with a few wadded up spitballs. “do something fuckin bomb.”
darius looked down at the spitballs in his hand, then up at athena and olly, eyebrows raised. “it would break the truce,” he points out. “cuba, tell them it would break the truce.”
cuba’s mouth twitched. “no hablo inglés,” she said cheerfully.
“you were raised in michigan,” darius reminded her, but if she wasn’t going to tell him not to, she was the closest thing here to an authority figure. priam couldn’t get mad at him if cuba was supposed to be in charge, could he?
still, darius’s mother hadn’t raised a coward, so he dumped the spitballs on the table and reached into his backpack.
“what are you doing?” olly asked.
“something bomb,” darius answered, and pulled out a stack of mentos.
“no way,” says Ray Ban. “no. absolutely no way does that work.”
homer grins. “shut up and let me tell the story,” he says.
the mentos curled up in the air, a softly curved line. if this worked, darius thought, he was going to apply immediately to work at dude perfect. he was going to apply immediately to be on the chicago fucking bulls.
up they went, up and up, and then back down, a perfect arch, one-two-three-four, far enough away from where he sat that if it worked there would be no way they could pin it on him. the perfect hijink. the perfect crime.
gravity won its fight very suddenly, and the mentos dropped, one after the other, into manny’s soda bottle.
“holy shit,” athena breathed, gripping darius’s arm as the soda exploded, knocking over manny’s plate and splashing him directly in the face. “my dude. my FUCKIN DUDE.”
in the immediate aftermath, the dining hall went completely silent. manny sat at his table, drenched, mouth agape with shock. a fat strip of red dripped down his face, long and slow. aggy reached out, tremulously, and swiped at it with his finger.
“ketchup,” manny said, very slowly. “bro, it’s just ketchup.”
before darius could stop him, olly had leapt to his feet, fists in the air, and shouted into the silence, “THAT’S SCIENCE, BITCH!!!!!”
aggy’s head snapped toward them, one hand curled into a fist.
“oh ... shit,” said olly.
“pandemonium, boys!” crows homer. “absolute pandemonium!”
the second aggy sent his sloppy joe careening across the cafeteria, odysseus grabbed penny by the wrist and dragged her to the floor. “table!” he shouted at dio, who nodded wordlessly and helped him flip it up onto its side, both so that they were shielded and so that the lunch plates all slid toward them into a little weapons cache.
penny drew her knees to her chest. “this dress is dry-clean only,” she hissed. “odie i swear to god — ”
somewhere from the melee, he heard aggy roar with food fight bloodlust. nestor’s voice rose above the shouting, ordering the freshman around; when odysseus peered up over the top of the table, he could see him convening them all at the front, where a line as been drawn through the middle of the cafeteria. they loaded up with handfuls of sloppy joe and cole slaw, stood as one to throw them, and then dropped back down. athena and olly had somehow managed to climb into the rafters and were slingshotting spoonfuls of yogurt, olly with direction and athena somewhat indiscriminately.
“what side are you even on?” he yelled up at her, and then ducked a spoon full of yogurt.
“team chaos, baby!” she yelled back, and flicked some yogurt in his direction.
dio leaned in. “i’m not getting community service hours for this,” he said flatly. “i have a young socialists meeting this weekend.”
before odysseus could answer, aggy dropped down behind the table with them. “i’m disappointed in you boys,” he told them. “two years ago you both would have been leading the charge, now you’re hiding behind a table? where’s your sense of duty? where’s your sense of honor?”
“i left it at home,” dio said dryly. “clean forgot it, right next to my house keys.”
“i’m surprised at you, doc,” aggy went on, ignoring him. “you were BMOC, once. now what are you?”
despite himself, odysseus rankled a little. his jaw tightened.
“you think anyone in this house wouldn’t fight for you?” aggy said. “you think they wouldn’t leap in front of a steaming sloppy joe for you? but here you are. big man. hiding.”
fuck, odysseus thought. they fucking would, was the thing. mack was probably out there right now getting mayonnaise poured into his eyeballs because he thought odysseus wanted him to, and odysseus didn’t even like him.
“it’s a food fight, not world war two,” dio reminded him. “doc, he’s just trying to get to you.”
with a loud yell, jax and baby jax overturned an entire tub of salad bar dressing on darius’s head. they left it there, like a helmet, dripping down onto his lap as he flailed around. baby jax let out a loud howl and big jax joined him, high fiving before a slop of cole slaw hit baby jax square in the eyeball and he went down to his knees. jax grabbed him by the ankle and dragged him to safety behind an overturned table.
“okay, right, i’m out,” penny said, and started crawling toward the door. odysseus reached out to stop her, but he was too late: a glob of sour cream soared over the table and hit her square in the face. “son of a bitch, i made this dress!”
aggy’s eyes widened. somehow, through the roaring in his ears, odysseus heard dio sigh and say, “well, here we go, i guess.”
odysseus reached out blindly and grabbed a bowl of mystery potatoes from the cache. he stood without thinking, eyes zeroed in on where cuba reyes was crouched behind a bench. he had always liked cuba, but all was fair in love and war, and penny’s dress was dry clean only. she had made it, herself, and now it had sour cream stains on it.
as a man, as an alpha, he could not let this stand.
with a shout, he threw himself into the fray. cuba’s eyes locked with his, then glanced at penny, then looked around for something to defend herself with, but there was nothing. that was the trojan’s problem: they weren’t cunning enough. you didn’t win a prank war with brute force, you won it through being smart.
“sorry, rubix,” he said, and she tilted her chin defiantly up at him as he overturned the bowl of mashed potatoes directly onto her head.
“priam will get you back for this,” she told him, before coughing out mashed potato.
odysseus leaned in. “tell priam to fucking bring it,” he said. his blood was singing. he’d forgotten how much he had liked this part of it, the stupidest part, the part where you let yourself care a great deal about something that was absolutely pointless.
from the ceiling, athena, cackling, shouted to manny, “NO DAYS OFF, BUD!”
“no! days! off!” manny chanted back.
“no! days! off!” echoed jax, then baby jax, with one hand covering his cole slaw eye. and then nestor and the freshmen and even dio took up the cry, and odysseus heard penny’s voice join in. “no! days! off! no! days! off!”
“NO DAYS OFF,” he yelled, ripping open a soy sauce packet with his teeth, leaping first onto a bench, then a table’s edge, and then grabbing a rafter with one hand and swinging up to squirt olly hunter in the face with the packet of soy sauce. fuck that guy in particular. he dropped back down to the floor as olly did, swearing and throwing yogurts at him; they exploded on the wall over odysseus’s shoulder but missed. odysseus mashed a handful of peas in his hand and shoveled it down the back of olly’s shirt as he began to flee, pushing darius’s wheelchair in front of him.
he was about the give chase when, from above, he heard the tell-tale tick of sprinklers, and then the fire alarm went off.
homer slumps back against his seat with a sigh. “he was amazing,” he says. “you could really sense how like, back in his day he must have been king of the frat, you know?”
Ray Ban hums. “dumping mashed potatoes on your friend’s girlfriend is pretty cold,” he muses.
“well, yeah,” homer agrees on a shrug, “what do you want me to say? war is hell, boys.”
Donut gives an assenting grunt, and homer touches his fingers grimly to his watchface. that’s one more down, nineteen left.
he could do this. his stomach is roiling and his eyes are dry and burning, which feels like something that as a blind person he should be exempt from, but homer’s an alpha first and a storyteller second and a quitter not at fucking all.
no days off, motherfuckers, he thinks, and clears his throat.