"Achilles, you didn't."
This couldn’t be happening.
"I'm sorry, Pat. I'm so sorry."
"Call your grandmother and we'll sort it out," reasoned out Patroclus. There had to be a way around this.
Achilles hesitated, biting his lip.
"She bought the tickets already."
“We’re going tomorrow.”
"It seemed to be a spur of the moment thing for her. She was really excited,” continued Achilles, not seeming to notice that he had interrupted. Achilles was looking anywhere in the kitchen but at him, his green, catlike eyes dodging Patroclus’ disbelieving gaze. "She's like that, you know."
Patroclus groaned. He felt despair settle deep inside him as he stared at the forgotten groceries on the table. He should really put the milk in the fridge. But how could he when he had come home to this terrible news? When Achilles had done the unthinkable?
He breathed in, feeling a bit dizzy. They weren’t even in a relationship. They were only friends; best friends, yes, and quite close to each other, but still, just friends. There must be a god, he thought fazedly, who wanted to make his life a living hell. Who wanted him to go to Greece, face Achilles’ grandparents’ and tell them he was Achilles’ boyfriend.
He breathed out a defeated sigh.
"How did you tell her?"
"I didn't!" Achilles exclaimed heatedly, his eyes wild.
"Then where did she get the idea you and I were dating? What could make her think that?" Patroclus demanded, feeling like the world had tilted on his feet. He held the edge of the countertop to steady himself. A heat was overcoming his cheeks, from anger or embarrassment, he couldn’t guess. "Please enlighten me, I'd really like to know."
"Let's make things clear first," said Achilles in a strained voice. "It's not my fault.”
Patroclus barked out a laugh, his knuckles white. He was clenching too hard. ”I’ll be damned if it isn’t!"
Achilles scowled. “If you’ll just hear me out—“
“Fine! Fine.” Patroclus dropped his hands to his sides and exhaled steadily. He hoped that Achilles had a damn good explanation or he would have to dispose of a dead body soon. “Explain, then.”
"Well, we were Skyping," Achilles began, words chosen carefully, "And—er, I had a minor slip of the tongue." He licked his lips, and Patroclus’ eyes dropped down to look. His tongue darted out, coating them with a wet layer.
"I said we were living together."
Patroclus nodded. "Yeah." He shrugged. "We're flatmates. That's what we do."
"Well, I don't think the word 'flatmate' is in my grandmother’s vocabulary, since she thought we were living together. As―as boyfriends."
"She thinks we're taking this relationship seriously, because we've―"
"Moved in together," he finished the sentence with another groan. Shame rushed through him, the seriousness of the situation forming into something he could’t bear to deal with. He buried his face in his hands. "Why didn't you correct her?" he moaned through his fingers.
"I couldn't," Achilles said, just as upset. "She didn't even let me interrupt while she was rambling on about me finding true love. You should have seen it, she was practically jumping for joy." He sighed. "She bought the plane tickets there and then, showed me the online receipt and everything. I couldn't say no, Pat, not after she payed. I just couldn't. I'm sorry," he said again, shoulders slumping.
Seeing Achilles distressed, Patroclus knew, in that moment that he forgave him. But that didn’t stop him from being engulfed with anger that, before, had been but a mere spark. Now, he was consumed by it, ire threatening to eat him. He busied himself with putting away the groceries, in part to prevent him from acting rashly and also, to cool his burning cheeks as he placed a carton of milk inside the fridge.
This wasn't his fault. This wasn’t even Achilles’ fault. This wasn’t, in any way, any of their faults but something had placed them in this stupid situation and they had no way to get out of it. He took the cabbage from the kitchen table and angrily chucked it in the crisper as he thought of the unfairness of it all.
"I'm sorry," Achilles repeated. He could feel his eyes on him as he put the food in the fridge. "I'm really sorry."
He halted his actions, turning to face Achilles who was examining the bag of Japanese rice with alarming concentration.
"I know. Now, shut up. I'm going to do this for you without any complaints, you bastard."
Achilles lifted his eyes to meet his, disbelief evident in his face. "You will?"
"Well, I don't have much of a choice do I?" Patroclus answered with a half hearted grin. “Now, shut your mouth and help me put these away," he ordered, gesturing at the remaining food items on the table, to which Achilles obliged.
His head was finally calm when everything was in their proper place, having accepted his fate. He was just deciding to apologize for snapping at Achilles, when he was tackled in a neck breaking hug, his breath catching mid-inhale; Achilles’ strong arms were circled around Patroclus in a firm grip.
"Patroclus, thank you," Achilles murmured in his ear, drawing away so that he met sea green eyes. Their steadiness made Patroclus’ blush return, but for a different reason entirely. Warmth emanated from Achilles’ gaze, the corners of his eyes crinkled from unobscured delight.
Sooner than he’d liked, his friend stepped away, ruffling his hair and chuckling, and offered him a smile. A perfect smile, of course, because everything about Achilles was perfect. He couldn't believe he was doing it for this bastard.
Patroclus willed the redness to leave his cheeks and looked him square in the eye, letting out a steadying breath.
“I just have a few conditions.”
Achilles nodded. “Fair enough. Let’s hear it then.”
“You do the dishes for a month.”
Achilles mouth opened in protest, but catching his look, shut it quickly.
“And the laundry.”
They lapsed into silence. They were caught in a limbo, with the both of them not knowing what to say to the other, unable to develop the conversation further. Patroclus shifted his feet, looking at his friend expectantly, hoping for him to say something, a joke, a form of reassurance, anything; finally, Achilles cleared his throat and he let out an inward sigh of relief.
“Well, I'm going to―" Achilles said, jerking his thumb to the door. Patroclus nodded his assent. "I have a few errands to run.”
“You should start packing," Achilles added. “We have a plane to catch tomorrow.”
"Right," said Patroclus, because he couldn't think of anything more to say. He cleared his throat, surprised to find his voice rough.
Patting his pockets to check that his keys were there, Achilles strode over to the door, hand on the doorknob. But before leaving, he turned, facing him. Patroclus raised his eyebrows.
With a slight hesitance, Achilles said quietly, "You should tell Briseis."
Patroclus felt like he had been slapped in the face.
"She’ll be upset if she found out from other means that you became my fake boyfriend," he explained, as Patroclus stared back dumbly. "She is your girlfriend after all. I hope she’ll understand." And with that, he opened the door and walked out, shutting it with a final click.
Patroclus stood, still stunned.
He and Briseis had broken up weeks prior.
Achilles didn't know. Because Patroclus didn't tell him.
"Mhm." Achilles was looking at his phone intently, tapping away at the screen. His friend had finished packing, finished running his errands and had inserted himself into Patroclus' room to pass judgment over the countless amount of summer clothing Patroclus was deciding on bringing. The man seemed to care too much about Patroclus' fashion sense, but Achilles claimed that he should look the part of a convincing boyfriend. And if he was to have a boyfriend, reasoned Achilles as Patroclus rolled his eyes, he had to be stylish. He just had to be.
"I―" Patroclus hesitated, but chose to hold himself back. His thoughts strayed to their earlier conversation about Briseis. He felt something settle inside him, and made up his mind; no, he shouldn’t tell him about her. It would be better if they kept their distance, setting a physical barrier between them. Even if that certain barrier was a person. They would know if they crossed the line; mental boundaries were necessary.
"What do we tell your grandparents about how we met?" he asked instead, shoving away the guilt threatening to creep up on him.
"Simple," said Achilles, still not tearing his eyes away from his phone. "Same story as how we did. Became friends, realized we were in love, moved in together, and voila, you have a convincing tale."
"And we realized we were in love—when exactly?"
At this, Achilles looked up, and Patroclus was probably imagining it, but his face had turned pinker.
"I don't know. You choose."
Patroclus hummed as he folded a shirt that had met Achilles’ standards, sorting through his memories, trying to unearth a particular time when he and Achilles had most enjoyed each other’s presence. As friends, of course. "Well, what angle do you want? Romantic and cheesy or plain and boring?"
He was given a shrug.
"Okay," Patroclus said, contemplating, placing the shirt neatly in his bag. “I would think, er, pub night. The one right after exams."
"We became flatmates shortly after that."
Patroclus nodded. "Exactly. Good time frame, good memory."
“Yes. It was."
The room felt warmer. Patroclus blamed it on the building's lack of air conditioning. He turned instead to scrutinize the piece of clothing he was holding and heard Achilles scoff.
Patroclus faced him. "What?"
"Please don't bring a Hawaiian shirt."
"I was looking at it. I wasn’t actually going to bring it," Patroclus insisted. Though he did consider it.
"Right," said Achilles, looking mockingly doubtful. Patroclus balled the shirt and threw it at him, but missed as Achilles dodged it with a grin.
Patroclus resumed packing as his friend continued to tap away at his phone, sometimes looking up to interject that a piece of clothing looked horrible, and sometimes giving a nod of approval, to which Patroclus would then include the piece in question in the duffel bag, tidily folded. Caught in a comfortable tranquility, they continued on like that, until the sky had turned an inky purple, and they decided to retire to bed, saying their “good night”s with a smile.
Maybe the trip wasn't going to be so bad after all.