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Patroclus and the Brute Bin

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Classics Camp, Patroclus decided, had been the worst case of false advertising he’d ever encountered. Okay, to be fair, maybe it was due to his own overblown idealisms of how awesome it’d be. He’d imagined a safe haven where he wasn’t the nerdy kid who always got bullied. He might even (as his Latin teacher had not-so-subtly suggested) meet his future spouse.

 

Instead, as his father kicked him out of their beat-up, half-century old Chevy Impala, he realised it was a 3-day-long hell.

 

Because there, snobbily stepping out of a purple Lamborghini in a neon shade almost as obnoxious as its owner, was Agamemnon - the leader of the Gang of Bullies, also known as the Leader of the Bullies. He was closely flanked by his meat wall of a brother Menelaus, crony- and entourage- Hector, as well as Hector’s brother Pretty Boy Paris, who was only ever there to fish in girlfriends for the whole group.

 

Thanking his non-existent lucky stars that they hadn’t spotted their favourite target *cough* him *cough* yet, Patroclus retreated to the darkest, most inconspicuous corner to look over the rapidly filling space.

 

The strangest thing was, he couldn’t imagine any of the people in front of him studying Latin or Classical Greek.

 

There was a group of preps led by Helen (if the clamouring of her name was to be trusted), who was blatantly checking out the jocks. Said jocks were your average bunch of brawny idiots, whose ranks the Gang of Bullies had already wormed into. Shoving each other around, being loud nuisances, acting like barbarians-

 

Holy River Styx. Patroclus’s jaw dropped open as he caught sight of a guy - no, a god straight out of his favourite ancient myths.

 

Flaxen gold hair tied up in a ponytail framed a jawline and cheekbones that could cut glass, while stunning sapphire eyes crinkled up at the corners as their owner laughed. A filmy white t-shirt and skinny jeans clung to the jock’s lean, toned form. And don’t even get him started on that drool-worthy smile-

 

It was then that Patroclus realised he was in serious trouble.

 

Over the course of the camp, he hardly paid attention to anything other than the gorgeous jock, whose name he learnt was Achilles Pelides. The days were spent pining and catching glimpses of Achilles, whilst the nights saw him over a year deep into Achilles’s Instagram feed. By the end of the camp - scratch that, the first night - Patroclus was an expert on all things Achilles.

 

II.

 

As the camp ended and everyone loitered outside the main hall, waiting to be picked up, Patroclus awkwardly spied on Achilles. A pang of resentment struck him as Helen, sauntering up and hooking her arms around Agamemnon and Paris, leant in and interrupted the conversation.

 

“Oh my gosh, oath, right? I’m so bored, like, all the time. You won’t even believe it. But, yeah, like, my life is sooooooo humdrum.”

 

‘Guess who learnt a new Word of the Day?’ Patroclus thought bitterly.

 

“WHAT DID POPTROPICA JUST SAY TO MY GIRLFRIEND?!”

 

Oops. Had he said that out loud?

 

Judging by the way Agamemnon and Paris were slowly approaching and threateningly cracking their knuckles, he probably had.

 

Cursing his own stupidity, Patroclus took off and desperately scanned his surroundings for a hiding place. In the bushes? Too scraggly to hide even a skinny rake like him. Behind a tree? They weren’t nearly thick enough either. Behind a car? He really didn’t want some poor sod’s car to get trashed as collateral damage.

 

Too late, Patroclus realised that in his hesitation, he’d allowed the bullies to catch up. Agamemnon charged, effortlessly lifting Patroclus and smashing him down hard into a Brute bin.

 

A Brute bin that would have been the perfect place to hide.

 

Patroclus resignedly curled himself up into a ball, waiting for Agamemnon’s beating. But scarcely after the first punch had landed, another voice rang out and the looming Leader of the Bullies was being pulled off.

 

“Oi! What in Hades’ name are you guys doing to him?”

 

It was Achilles Pelides.

 

The small part of Patroclus that wasn’t curling up in embarrassment thought that protective Achilles looked more like a golden god than ever. He and Agamemnon traded blows, but it soon became clear that Achilles was by far the superior fighter (black belts in five martial arts, Patroclus’s mind supplied) and Agamemnon slunk back to his gang.

 

Achilles helped Patroclus to his feet. “Um… hey. You okay? Well, no, you’ve just- I mean-”

 

“Yeah, I’m good,” Patroclus coughed. “Thanks for ...um, saving me.”

 

Achilles rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re really funny,” he blurted. “You’ve been cracking me up all camp, and-”

 

Something moved behind Patroclus’s crush. “Watch out!”

 

Paris burst through the trees, red-faced from running and pathetically lumbering towards them. Not even bothering to turn around, Achilles sidestepped a punch that anyone could see from a mile away. Except the punch didn’t come.

 

Paris tripped, crashing to the ground and headbutting Achilles’s left heel.

 

With an agonised roar, Achilles spun around and trained the full force of his godly glare onto poor Paris, who squeaked and darted away quicker than he’d probably even moved in his life.

 

Meanwhile, Patroclus knelt to the ground beside his crush, who was white-faced and grimacing in pain. “Achilles! What… what happened?”

 

Achilles’s response was interspersed with conjugations of facere. “I busted this ankle about a month ago in football,” he ground out. “It’s - ah, gods - fine, though.”

 

Patroclus had barely stammered an apology before Achilles was cutting him off. “No, it was that sissy’s fault.” He made a heroic attempt to stand, before flopping back down. “On second thoughts, ah, if you’re not getting picked up too soon, can you help me to the First Aid station?”

 

III.

 

Achilles Pelides likes me back, thought Patroclus as he tried his best not to seem like the total klutz he actually was in front of Achilles’s friends. After half-carrying (well, less than half - all that muscle was heavy) his newly-dubbed boyfriend to the camp First Aid station, he’d been introduced to the rest of the jocks.

 

“No, dude, seriously,” Diomedes, a surprisingly geeky footballer, was now saying, “My bro here’s been crushing on you hard. He won’t shut up about you. Man, I love your jokes and all, but if I have to hear him fawning over your ‘terra-ble’ joke again, I swear on the River Styx I’m gonna-”

 

“That’s enough, Diomedes,” Achilles interjected, the tips of his ears a little pink.

 

They all laughed, and with some incredulity, Patroclus realised that this was probably the first time he’d laughed with people, instead of being laughed at. He’d just opened his mouth to make another funny quip when he spotted- “Wait, hey, isn’t that … what’s his name … Odysseus?”

 

Sure enough, the lanky strategist was angrily running towards them. “Why must you insist on being so utterly irresponsible? All of our comrades have been attempting to locate you for the past forty minutes! Your tardiness coupled with the ensuing increasing traffic congestion will see us arrive back at school approximately an hour and eighteen minutes late!”

 

At this point Odysseus caught sight of Patroclus, and nodded. “Patroclus, apologies for the inconvenience. I also regret to inform you that your school’s bus has already left. Now, you two imbeciles, move!

 

Taking advantage of their stunned silence and Achilles’s wounded state, Odysseus dragged them both back to the bus. Patroclus could only stare, frozen in despair as the love of his life was manhandled away forever.

 

Left with a heavy heart and the even heavier prospect of having to call his father for a ride back home, he realised that he hadn’t even gotten Achilles’s number.

 

IV. EPILOGUE

 

A month later, Patroclus finally accepted that he’d never even be able to find Achilles’ phone number, much less meet him again. He’d searched high and low, venturing into the darkest parts of the Internet, only to be reminded that his love was now halfway across the country and had probably already forgotten about the weird weakling he’d met at Classics Camp.

 

Sighing, he threw his phone to the side and flopped back onto his bed, utterly miserable. The slight prickling in his eyes was just because he’d been staring at a screen for too long, he told himself angrily.

 

Some summer camp fling it’d been. They’d lasted, what, half an hour?

 

Why did the Fates hate him so much? Why couldn’t he keep anything good in his life? -

 

His phone buzzed.

Patroclus groaned. Why now, of all times, did someone have to text him? He did not want to do anything but wallow in his sorrows from Latin Camp, and he most certainly did not want to be social.

 

The phone buzzed again and, groaning for the second time, he picked it up.

Unknown number: Hey, hot stuff ;) -AP