Title: The Taste of Home
Pairing/characters: Jason, Pythagoras
Warnings: Occasional mild language.
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 2080
Summary: Jason has a craving for a taste of home.
AN: Fills the trope bingo square ‘Food Porn’, and the hurt/comfort bingo square ‘Homesickness’. Multi-tasking bingo fic ftw!
AN2: Thanks to clea2011 and fififolle for suggestions when I realised I had put completely historically anachronistic foodstuffs in Ancient Greece.
Cross posted to AO3
Jason was leaning on the balcony watching the world go by in the street below when he heard someone approach from behind. A moment later Pythagoras joined him, cast a glance into the street, and then let his gaze settle on Jason.
“Is something wrong?”
Jason didn’t think he’d been that obvious.
“May I ask what about, and why it has made you look so sad?”
“Chips,” Jason said without really thinking about it.
Pythagoras’ forehead crinkled in confusion.
“Chips? Why are wood shavings upsetting?”
Jason laughed out loud.
“Not those kind of chips.”
He looked at Pythagoras properly, and wondered whether or not to go on. His friend looked so honestly worried and confused that Jason knew he couldn’t just wave this one off.
“Chips are a kind of food where I’m from. You cut potatoes into thin sticks and fry them in oil and cover them in salt and vinegar and it’s the best thing in the world when you eat them fresh from the chippy.”
Oh, god. He could almost taste it. He had no idea where this craving had come from, he must have caught a scent of something from the markets that had triggered a memory, but for the last hour all he had been able to think of was chips. He was desperate for the salt and the grease and the sheer unhealthiness of fish and chips from his old local fish and chip shop.
It was weird. He could go for days, weeks even, without thinking about his old life, and then something completely random could ambush him out of nowhere, and leave him with a strange sense of longing, of what the hell am I doing here?
He was brought out of his thoughts by Pythagoras’ curiosity.
“What are potatoes?”
Jason frowned. Thought. Oh, shit. Potatoes came from America, didn’t they?
“Um... it’s a sort of root vegetable that grows a long, long way from here.”
“Oh?” Now his curiosity was definitely taking notice. “In the summer markets we often get traders from far across the sea. Perhaps one of them might have some potatoes?”
“I don’t think so.” Not for another couple of thousand years, at least.
“Oh.” Curious had turned to subdued.
Neither of them spoke for a while, and when Jason eventually glanced at Pythagoras he saw the question in his friend’s eyes. The questions he and Hercules had been very obviously not asking for so long. Where are you from? Why did you come here? Why do you speak of so many things that we do not understand?
Jason felt his heart begin to pound. If he did ask, Jason had no idea what he would do.
Then Pythagoras offered him a reassuring smile.
“Tell me, what else do you miss about home?”
“We may not be able to provide chips, but perhaps there is something else that can be found in Atlantis?”
Jason could have hugged him. Instead, he pondered the other thing that had been invading his thoughts and making him all but drool at the memory.
“Do you have pizza here?”
“No. Tell me about it.” And there was that insatiable curiosity again.
Jason idly wondered how much longer it would be until the Romans started rampaging across the Mediterranean, and whether they might bring pizza and pasta and mozzarella with them. Actually, what he had really been thinking of was a Domino’s Texas Barbeque, with its spicy sauce and marinated chicken, but he quickly decided that trying to explain that would probably be pushing his luck too far.
“It’s a circular dough base, with tomato sauce spread all over it, and a layer of cheese on top of that, and then you add whatever toppings you like to it. Mushrooms, ham, chicken, sweetcorn, things like that. And then you bake it in the oven, until the base is cooked and the cheese is molten and it’s just amazing. Especially with a bit of garlic mayo to dip it in.”
He glanced sideways and realised that Pythagoras was watching him with a soft, indulgent smile.
“We sometimes have flatbreads with herbs and olive oil on top, but I have never come across anything like what you have just described. And I have to admit you lost me again at sweet corn. But it does sound nice. You used to eat pizza a lot before you came to Atlantis?”
“Yeah. Probably more than I should have, they’re not very healthy.”
“You miss these things.” It wasn’t a question.
Not as much as he would have expected to, if he was honest with himself. But sometimes... sometimes, yes. He missed it.
Pythagoras’ hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality.
“I hate to disappoint you, but I’m afraid all we have for dinner is bread and fruit again.”
Jason’s stomach grumbled loudly, and they both laughed.
“Sounds pretty good to me,” Jason said with a grin.
It was three days later when Jason came home and walked in to an overpowering scent of herbs and garlic and slightly burnt bread. And a rather nervous looking Pythagoras.
“I um... I tried to make a pizza.”
He retrieved it from where it was keeping warm by the hearth and placed it carefully on the table in front of an incredulous Jason.
It was... well, it was like no pizza Jason had ever seen before. It was circular. And it had cheese. Quite a lot of cheese, in fact, in great gooey looking lumps, and all covered in a generous scattering of herbs and... things. That was about as far as the resemblance went.
“I tried to follow what you’d said, so I hope I’ve got it right,” Pythagoras was saying. “I wasn’t sure what you meant about the dough base, but decided it was more likely to be like the flatbread I told you about than like a normal loaf, so I went for that. And I’m sorry, but I have no idea what tomatoes are. I went to the library in case it was just some obscure vegetable or fish that I’d never heard of, but I couldn’t find any reference to such a word, I’m afraid. You said it was used as a layer of sauce, though, and since there was already cheese in the recipe, I thought that perhaps a cheese sauce might make a suitable substitute?”
Jason finally managed to tear his gaze away from the pizza on the table and look at Pythagoras. He wasn’t sure he had ever seen the man look quite so apologetic, and yet simultaneously hopeful. Before he could get a word in, though, Pythagoras was off again.
“And anyway, we had plenty of cheese, but not so much of the other things you mentioned, so I used the last of the smoked bacon, because you said ham was sometimes used, and bacon and ham aren’t too dissimilar. Well, strictly speaking they are, but it was the nearest alternative. And I also added lots of herbs because it looked a bit plain. Except, maybe it’s supposed to be plain?” He looked suddenly stricken, like he might have unknowingly ruined the entire thing in his attempt to improvise. “So, um... Oh, and there’s garlic olive oil to dip mmmmphfff!”
Whatever else Pythagoras had intended to say was lost into Jason’s shoulder as Jason engulfed him in a bone-crushing hug.
“Oh my god! You made me pizza! You made me pizza, Pythagoras! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Jason had no idea what he had ever done to deserve such a friend. For a brief moment he was just so ridiculously, stupidly happy that he wasn’t sure whether he was going to laugh or burst into tears. Then he realised that either one of those was probably going to give Pythagoras entirely the wrong impression of his reaction to this culinary experiment, and he had no intention of spoiling the moment.
Pythagoras patted his back carefully, and managed to disentangle himself enough to speak again.
“You haven’t actually tried it yet. It probably won’t be very like what you are used to.”
“Let’s find out, shall we?”
Jason finally released him, and dragged Pythagoras to sit down at the table with him.
He cut the pizza into segments, and as soon as he took the first bite Jason realised Pythagoras had been right; it wasn’t anything like the pizza he was used to.
The base was thicker and yet softer and squishier than he was used to. Once, many years ago, he had tried focaccia, and that was the nearest taste and texture he could equate it to. The lack of tomato threw him at first as well. The cheese sauce, though, that was inspired, and with the extra cheese on top as well it was almost overpowering. It ought to have been overpowering, but somehow the herbs and smattering of bacon managed to take the edge off, and somehow, somehow it worked.
The same could not quite be said for the cheese topping, he had to admit. It wasn’t really the right kind of cheese for melting, and it had settled into several lumps which turned into long rubbery strings that went everywhere and stuck to his fingers and his chin when he attempted to bite into it.
The sauce was also incredibly runny, and while he was making appreciative noises around his third mouthful, half the sauce dripped out and ran down his hand and splattered onto his shirt.
“Oops!” Jason grinned.
Pythagoras had been watching him intently the entire time, and only now broke into a relieved smile.
Jason wanted to hug him again, but he still had a handful of pizza and was covered in cheese sauce, and hugging would have meant stopping eating.
“This is amazing,” Jason announced as soon as he had swallowed. “You need to try some.”
Pythagoras picked up another slice and took a bite, carefully angling it so that the cheese sauce didn’t escape. Jason watched, waited, and was rewarded with an expression that turned from curious to surprised to delighted as Pythagoras tasted pizza for the first time.
“Not bad,” Pythagoras mumbled around his second mouthful. “Maybe more rosemary next time.”
Jason shook his head. “This is good.”
He went for a second slice, unable to resist the temptation.
“Probably not like what you are used to, though.”
“Doesn’t matter.” He looked up and grinned again. “You’ve got a bit...”
Pythagoras had successfully avoided spilling cheese sauce down his shirt, but had instead managed to get it smeared across his cheek. Without thinking, Jason reached across and wiped it off with his finger. For a second they stared at each other, and then both burst out laughing.
“This is the messiest food I have ever eaten,” Pythagoras complained, attempting to finish the slice without getting any more of it on his hands, face or clothing.
“Well, if you don’t want it...”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well hurry up. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep my hands off the rest of it.”
Jason looked up to see Pythagoras had that soft smile on his face again. It was the smile that spoke of relief, and of the simple pleasure he always seemed to take from seeing his friends happy. Moments like this never failed to make Jason grateful that he had fallen off this man’s roof and into his life.
“Should we save some for Hercules?” Pythagoras asked.
“Do we know when he’s going to be home?”
Pythagoras shook his head, too busy eating his second slice to speak.
Jason paused, considered the situation and the few remaining slices of pizza, and shrugged.
“His loss. It’ll go cold if we don’t eat it now.” He gave Pythagoras a sly smirk. “Besides, it’s a good excuse to make another one for when he is around.”
Pythagoras’ expression told Jason he had seen straight through that one.
“Next time, you’re helping me make it,” Pythagoras said when he didn’t have a mouthful.
Jason liked the sound of ‘next time’, but right now he was more interested in ‘this time’, and in what was left of the pizza, and in how many more creative ways Pythagoras could find to attempt to avoid getting himself covered in cheese sauce and garlic olive oil.
It certainly wasn’t the Domino’s Texas Barbeque that Jason had been dreaming about. But here in Atlantis, with Pythagoras, it was the best pizza in the world.