the chilliad: hour four
Updated: Sep 12, 2019
homer yawns, stretching his arms out and cracking the joints in his neck. he definitely has dry mouth, despite the fact that he’s been gulping down every glass of water that Ray Ban and Donut Mouth have brought him, and brushing his fingers against his watch indicates that it’s only been three hours. three.
jesus christ, he’s going to die in here.
he doesn’t know where anybody else is. the last thing he remembers from the party is calliope brushing her fingertips along his knuckles and saying your poems are really good. you should do a reading.
calliope muse thought that he, homer, should do a reading. of his poetry. that he wrote.
“maybe she wants to date you,” muses Donut Mouth. “that’s literally the only reason anyone would ever encourage anybody to do a poetry reading.”
“that or she was trying to get him to leave her alone, since there is literally nothing less sexy than a nineteen-year-old poet with the beginnings of a mullet,” Ray Ban says.
“please be kind to me,” says homer. “i’m trying to tell you a story.”
odysseus called a House Meeting. they were rare, to be used only in emergencies, and the shock of the text coming from odysseus, of all people, meant that everybody came, with the exception of AC and PK. even homer came, and odysseus was pretty sure that guy didn’t even live on campus. odysseus hadn’t had much of an opportunity to bond with the pledges, mostly because he hadn’t tried, and in fact actively avoided places where he knew they’d be. it wasn’t that he didn’t like them, it was just that he was very old, and very tired, and they asked too many questions.
“yo,” said phoenix, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table while they waited, “two questions: one, where have you been, man? and two: have you seen jax because we’re supposed to do his american ninja warrior training today but he’s been, like, totally AWOL since this morning.”
“i’ve been getting kicked out of my own girlfriend’s apartment, because my life is a joke that a very mean god is playing on me,” odysseus said, “and the last i saw jax he was pounding a protein smoothie and lecturing me on my gendered assumption that the county would send a man to tow a car.”
“he’s a warrior in all aspects,” phoenix mused, giving a low whistle.
“AC’s sexuality crisis really did a number on him,” nestor said around a mouth full of muffin, coming in from the basement, covered in dirt. odysseus didn’t ask; what happened in the basement stayed in the basement, and sometimes what happened in the basement was really grim shit. odysseus remembers rush, sort of. he’s blocked a lot of it out. “what a whirlwind sophomore year was. ah, to be young.”
phoenix laughed. odysseus was pretty sure phoenix had gone to high school with AC, and he’d been the least surprised when PK had swanned in sophomore year and taken AC’s heterosexuality out at the knees.
“oh, dude! are those your nana’s muffins? can i have a bite?”
“there’s more in the kitchen. help yourself, man. food is my love language.”
“aw, that’s why your tummy is so soft. it’s full of love.”
“nana pylos didn’t die so that you could body shame me while i am feeding you her muffins, asshole. ”
“but being an asshole is my love language,” protested phoenix, grinning.
“fuck off, birdie,” nestor called as phoenix pushed himself up and disappeared into the kitchen. he took the emptied spot on the couch and slung a gentle arm around aggy’s shoulders. “how you holdin up, champ?”
aggy gave him a very dry look, which nestor took in stride, holding up a bite of muffin. after a moment of petulant hesitation, aggy opened his mouth and let nestor pop it in, because nestor’s nana’s muffins were the pride of alpha sig, no matter how sad you were or how completely your life had, as just a random example, crumbled at the seams.
it took about half an hour for everyone to gather; manny had apparently received the text and walked right out of class, which — well, odysseus would have scolded him for but what did it matter, in the long run? manny was dumb as fuck. he’d fail or not fail.
“right,” odysseus said, looking out at all of them. they were sprawled across the living room, some perched on the arms of the couch, on the stairs, at the table. he’d dedicated four years of his life to this ragtag group of idiots. he could not wait to graduate. “here’s the thing: we’re losing this war, badly. and do you know why?”
“we’re bad at pranks,” volunteered manny miserably, through a mouthful of muffin.
“you’re bad at pranks. i am a verified prank master,” jax corrected, arriving at last. he clapped odysseus on the shoulder and added, “good to see you back in the fold, brother.”
odysseus pinched the bridge of his nose. “it’s because we haven’t been strategic,” he said. “we’ve just been throwing whatever dumb fucking idea came into your idiot brains at them and hoping it worked. we’re not going to do that anymore. we’re going to be smart.”
aggy looked dubious, but manny was nodding eagerly. “smart is good,” he said.
“thank you for that expert analysis, manford,” odysseus answered. “look, guys, i know that it seems really dire. i know that we all feel like giving up at times like these — but it is exactly at times like these that we have to double down and remember who we are, and why we got into this in the first place.”
“to get helen back,” said manny.
“to show that asshole priam what’s up,” said aggy.
“for the honor of alpha sig, oh my god,” odysseus corrected. he was going to have to try so much harder at this than he’d planned. that sucked for a lot of reasons, but mainly because odysseus hated trying at anything at all. he just wanted to live by the nostos family motto, I Don’t Like Anybody And Nobody Likes Me. it was on their coat of arms.
still, sweeping his eyes across the living room, at the fellow alpha sigs scattered around, leaning against one another and snacking on nana pylos’ muffins, odysseus felt a surprising twinge in his chest — he was going to call it nostalgia, but only because he was unused to feeling this particular kind of affection. despite his general attitude toward fraternity stuff, he’d lived in this house, with some of these people, for four years. they’d survived twenty-first birthday parties and an overabundance of toga parties and exams; they’d survived the basement.
manny and aggy were idiots but once, sophomore year, when odysseus had had a fight with penny that made him get so drunk he’d had to go to the hospital, they’d sat at the foot of his bed and refused to move even when the nurses said visiting hours were over. nestor’s patience and vegan burgers were the only things that had gotten him through organic chemistry; dio spent one memorable weekend road-tripping with him across the country chattering at him in spanish, just to help him pass his orals. poser had nearly drowned him that one time, but it was a while ago, and he’d seemed apologetic after.
suddenly it pained him that AC and PK weren’t there, that they were going to do one last, epic thing as alpha sigs and the two alpha sig-iest idiots of them all were holed up in odysseus’s studio apartment.
he didn’t like any of these people, but — begrudgingly — he had to admit that he probably loved all of them, somewhat earnestly.
god, that was embarrassing.
“we are ... a brotherhood,” he announced, doing his best barack obama voice. “we are the oldest fraternity on this or any campus in the united goddamn states of america. we were founded at yale. we chose and were chosen by each other, for each other, a bond forged in natty lite and nana pylos’ baking. and we’re not going to be pushed around by a house full of assholes who aren’t even affiliated.”
mack leapt to his feet. “fuck yeah!” he cried. “al! pha! sig! al! pha! sig!”
odysseus met nestor’s eyes as the boys picked up the chant, all of them getting to their feet, fists in the air. god, it was so stupid, but odysseus found himself grinning. nestor grinned back, eyes twinkling like the 1,000-year-old grandfather that he was, in his heart.
“all right, settle, settle,” nestor said, coming to stand next to odysseus. “doc is right. we’ve got to be smart about this. we have to use our strengths. freshman, step forward.”
mack, homer, deuce, cal, and baby jax, already standing in a cluster, shuffled up to where nestor and odysseus stood. “boys, these are your brothers,” nestor said solemnly. “the journey you are on with them for the next four years will take you places that you cannot possibly imagine. you are a vital part of this family, but also, we legally cannot let you do almost anything, so why don’t you go make a list of ideas for me and i will approve the ones that won’t get us all put in fraternity or perhaps actual jail.”
somewhat timidly, cal said, “uh — do we ... have to use the basement?”
mack was looking at odysseus like he hung the moon, and odysseus was feeling sentimental so he said, “nah. you can use my room. just don’t break anything.” mack lit up and all five of them booked it out of the living room, taking the stairs by twos.
“i’ll put $500 on him accidentally calling you dad before you graduate,” said dio dryly.
“do not take that bet,” advised phoenix. “he’s probably trying on your suit jacket as we speak. do you cut the crusts off his PB&J?”
“everybody shut up,” odysseus muttered. “no.”
“he would never cut the crusts off, that’s the best part,” nestor agreed, and then moved on swiftly before anyone else could interrupt. “now, we’re down two good men in AC and PK, but we’ll work on that. birdie, you are probably the strongest among us, physically — ”
“i don’t know about that,” manny cut in, somewhat petulantly.
nestor leveled him with a kind but firm look. “now is not the time for braggadocio, manford,” he said. “it’s okay, man, you’ve been going through a hard time.”
dio made a face and gave a low whistle. jax winced when manny glared at him. “look man, it’s not my fault you’ve been skipping leg day.”
“you didn’t have to tell everybody about it!”
“i didn’t tell anybody shit, bro. it was kind of hard for athena not to notice when she was doing literally forty more reps than your last recorded set, which, by the way, was over a month ago. what’s the motto, bud?”
manny crossed his arms over his chest. “... no days off,” he muttered.
“no days off,” agreed jax, not unkindly.
“let’s just lump them all together,” odysseus muttered to nestor. “team gym rat.”
nestor made a considering face. “team ninja warrior,” he said decisively. “manny, jax, phoenix, i want you three to see this as the ultimate training opportunity. i want big ideas from you, okay? i want you to see the trojan house as an ANW obstacle course.”
phoenix bounced on the balls of his feet. “this is gonna be some parkour shit,” he said excitedly. “i’m gonna jump off a roof. i can already tell i’m gonna jump off a roof.”
“what if we climbed up the chimney like fucking prank santa,” jax said in a rush, beaming. even manny looked somewhat cheered at the prospect of making the trojans think santa claus had broken into their house and caused mayhem.
“helen loves christmas,” he mused, and let both phoenix and jax throw their arms around his shoulders, leading him upstairs and already debating who would have to wear the Sexy Mrs. Claus costume.
posey and dio turned to them with expectant faces. nestor glanced at odysseus, looking a little at a loss. luckily, however, odysseus happened to know something about posey that nestor did not — that, he suspected, nobody did, and which odysseus himself only knew because posey’s dad paid for odysseus’s hospital bill after his near-drowning and he saw the name on the insurance.
“it would be terrible for the trojans,” he said, as mildly as possible, “if that thing with their landlord got much worse before it got better.”
posey blinked at him, long and slow, calculating. “you’re a real asshole, doc,” he said, but with a look in his eye that suggested it was more of a compliment than anything else, and then pulled out his phone and headed up to his room, already texting.
“as for our boy dio-dio,” odysseus said, “the trojans throw the best parties because they have access to that huge park behind them and the city always lets them book it for their events. seems pretty unfair, to me, that the community is deprived of a public space because a bunch of undergraduate assholes insist on getting drunk there twice a week.”
dio grinned, broad and bright. “from each according to their ability to each according to their need,” he said. “you know i love a community meeting.”
“let me know when you need flyers printed,” said odysseus. “penny can do it for free at work.”
“dope,” dio said, and threw up a peace sign before backing out of the living room.
from the couch, aggy watched both of them with raised eyebrows. “what about me?” he asked.
“you stay clean,” said odysseus at once, because aggy was a good and simple man who overcomplicated things and was definitely going to get them all fucking arrested if left to his own devices. “we’ve got to have someone we can put in front of any disciplinary figures to cry innocence, and you know manny’s too fucking dumb not to blurt it all out.”
“plus, you are the one who got that deer drunk, and you know they’ll use any excuse to take you down,” nestor agreed.
aggy sighed. “life fucking sucks, my dudes,” he announced.
“go tell nessa that geni can have your room back,” nestor suggested soothingly. “make up with your girlfriend, it’ll make you feel better.”
aggy shrugged his agreement and stood, pushing himself up with his hands on his knees. “if she murders me the second i step inside, it was an honor to know you, boys.”
“we certainly do know each other,” odysseus agreed solemnly, shaking his hand.
when he was gone, odysseus and nestor looked at one another. the living room felt oddly empty and big, without everyone filling it up. from the second floor, someone started playing music — first just the base came through, and then the volume jumped up.
odysseus had a flashback to freshman year, all of them crowded in one of the seniors’ rooms, learning how to cowboy face when taking shots.
“i thought you wanted to keep your head down and graduate,” nestor said, starting to grin.
odysseus grinned back “YOLO, bitch,” he said, and offered his fist for a bump.
Donut Mouth comes back into the interrogation room with what homer can smell is fresh coffee and a fresh box of donuts. the donuts he pushes directly to homer, and homer accepts them despite knowing they’re lowkey a bribe. he can tell a good cop/bad cop act when he sees one; Donut Mouth is buttering him up with sugar so that he’ll trust him and let something slip.
well, joke’s on him, because homer has watched a lot of law & order, and he knows how this works.
“it was smart of that nestor kid to break them up based on affinity,” muses Ray Ban thoughtfully. “putting the with their closest friends is going to inspire a kind of loyalty that you might not get otherwise.”
homer nods, taking a too-big bite of a boston creme and then saying around the mouthful: “for sure. nessie’s the smartest one we’ve got, except maybe doc. but i don’t know, i think doc is more wily than smart, you know? like, nestor can do tip math in his head.”
there’s a brief pause. “everyone can do tip math in their head,” Ray Ban says after second, sounding puzzled. “you just move the decimal point one space to the left and then double it.”
the bite of donut falls right out of homer’s mouth.
here’s the thing: hector loved his brother. alex — er, paris was extremely embarrassing in literally everything that he thought and did and was, but he was also hector’s blood, you know? and it wasn’t like he was ... well, he wasn’t the worst little brother that it was possible to have. there were worse little brothers. that one kid on the magicians straight up murdered his older brother just so that he could have sex with his older brother’s intended wife, and then all he got was a blowjob from a frog with teeth, so like, in the grand scheme of things, paris was okay. paris wasn’t murdering anyone for a frog bj.
sometimes, though, it took literally all of hector’s hard-won self-restraint not to shove him into a locker somewhere. like, genuinely he fantasized about seizing paris by his belt loops, throwing him in the back of his truck, driving to a local high school, and shoving him into some poor freshman’s locker, to be found on monday morning.
he just thought that it might be good for him. he knew it wasn’t PC to say it or anything, but he just thought that some kids probably should get bullied. like, just a little. just a tiny bit.
right now, he was lounging on his bed in the room he shared with priam, watching paris frown down at the text message on his phone. it came from an unknown number claiming to be manny atreus, and he was making this scrunched up little face, and it was just like ... holding him upside down by his heels to empty all the change out of his pockets would genuinely probably help him have a better, more repressed life.
hector sighed. his mom and his therapist were always telling him that he and paris were different, and had different ways of dealing with things, and he needed to respect that. it’s just that hector was super popular and successful and paris was literally wearing a leather wristlet, so like? obviously hector’s way of dealing with things was superior and paris should learn from him???
“what did he say?” hector asked, instead of giving paris a wedgie so bad that the band of his underwear wrapped around his head. it was a nice thought, though.
paris wrinkled his nose, somewhat delicately. “he said ... he wants to talk?”
hector snorted. “i’ll bet,” he said. “send him the middle finger emoji.”
“no, write it out,” priam advised from the desk. he was working on some paper for some class; priam was always working on some paper for some class, which was lame. “manny atreus can barely read, it’ll confuse him.”
“ooooooo,” crowed hector. “sick burn, bro.” priam tossed him a salute and a grin.
paris tipped his head from side to side, visibly waffling. god, he was so skinny and weird. hector was pretty sure he was wearing eyeliner. “i don’t know,” he said. “maybe i should just ignore it?”
hector sat up. “ignore it?” he repeated. “dude, he fucking called you out, and you want to ignore it?”
“... maybe?” asked paris. “helen says — ”
“helen got you into this mess, so maybe let’s worry less what helen says,” priam interrupted dryly. “honestly, don’t take this the wrong way, but like, what is her end game, here.”
paris blinked at priam, then glanced at hector for help. “she ... likes me?” he offered, sounding confused. “she likes my personality.”
“well, that’s gotta be bullshit,” hector said before he could stop himself, and then winced. “i mean — uh, what i mean is ... that ... helen probably also likes other things. about you.”
he was rewarded with a bright smile from paris, which reminded hector why he was always keeping himself from giving the kid a swirlie: paris adored hector, openly and obviously, which was as embarrassing as everything else but did leave hector with a niggling sense of responsibility for his wellbeing.
“what’s not to love,” agreed priam dryly, though the note of sarcasm went right over paris’s head, if his ensuing blush was any indication.
“text back the middle finger emoji,” hector said again, to get them back on track. “just trust me, fucknuts. have i ever led you astray?”
without looking up from his phone, paris said, “there was that time you forgot me in north dakota, and also that time you stole my piggy bank and used it to buy you and your friends weed and then when mom found the weed blamed me and said i got it from a pervert in exchange for letting him flash me.”
“yeah, okay, sure,” admitted hector, “but neither of us got in trouble because she was so distracted trying to track down the pervert, and she even caught that weird janitor who was selling dirty magazines to middle schoolers, so it all worked out!”
“you forgot him in north dakota?” priam asked.
“in a mcdonald’s bathroom,” paris confirmed. “the night manager felt so bad for me he gave me a lifetime card for free mcflurries.”
“so, once again, you are welcome,” said hector. “let’s stay on track here. did you send it?”
paris sighed, closed his eyes, and pressed send. “i sent it,” he muttered. they all waited in silence for a few moments until the telltale foooo-whip! sound of manny texting back filled the room.
“he says he deserved that, but he’s had a change of heart.”
priam snorted. “yeah, okay,” he said. “manny atreus is not emotionally complex enough to drive his heart in multiple directions.”
“but maybe he has,” paris said, like an idiot. “i mean, you can’t blame him for reacting badly to losing helen. she’s more beautiful than the sun and all the stars.”
paris gave hector a very flat look, but hector just shrugged. this was the exact shit hector was talking about, but what was he supposed to do? he wasn’t allowed to beat him up. he’s asked a lot of people multiple times. they all said it wouldn’t help.
still; he couldn’t keep protecting him, either. hector was going to graduate this year, and where would that leave paris? he was going to immediately do some dumbfuck thing and hector wouldn’t be around to help. maybe it was for the best if he left him do the dumb shit now, while hector could at least clean up the mess.
he sighed. his mom was going to be so mad at him.
“maybe he has,” he agreed. priam’s eyebrows rose so high you could have stored tchotchkes on the lines of his forehead. “i guess you could always go talk to him.”
paris blanched. “talk to him?” he repeated. “like ... in person?”
“that’s how we usually do it, yeah,” said hector. “but i want it on record that i think he’s probably going to beat you up.”
“maybe i shouldn’t,” murmured paris. “i could just text back like, ‘glad to hear you’re doing better, blessings to you and yours’?”
“he’s definitely going to beat you up if you write ‘blessings to you and yours,’” priam warned him. hector’s phone lit up with a text from immediately after: what the heavenly fuck????
we have different fathers, man, idfk. his dad was in a band called Heart Bones what do u want from him, hector texted back, giving priam a helpless shrug. if paris wanted to get the shit beat out of him, maybe hector had to let him. maybe it was his duty as paris’s brother and as a citizen of the world to let someone else have the honor and delight of putting that kid’s head in a toilet.
paris nodded. he took a deep breath and glanced at hector, then at priam, and then visibly steeled himself. “okay. i’m going to do it. i’m texting him now. we can get a coffee at the oracle and he can get whatever off his chest and then all this will be over and helen and i can just let our love flourish in peace.”
the only explanation for any of this is that ur weirdo kid brother is like a PRODIGY at oral, priam texted, and without a word hector threw a pillow at him.
“that kid’s gonna get his ass kicked,” says Donut Mouth.
“fucking obviously,” homer replies.
dité laughed the entire drive to the oracle, even though it wasn’t fucking funny, and also entirely her fault.
“look, i’m sorry,” dité said, blithely running a red light. “but the idea of manny atreus throwing down with paris fucking holdfast is actually the funniest shit that has ever happened on this campus. just imagining it is funny. it’s like a hippopotamus trying to fight a squirrel.”
helen scrubbed a hand over her face. this was why infidelity was bad. she had learned her lesson. in the future she would never cheat on a man as a joke and then double down on the joke and commit to it to such a degree that the joke bought them matching leather wristlets.
“manny’s going to like, legit murder him,” she fretted, anxious despite herself. doing hard time would make it extremely difficult for manny to pursue his dream