Pairing/characters: Pythagoras, Jason, Hercules
Spoilers: 1.1 – The Earth bull
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 1245
Summary: Seven die so that twenty thousand can live.
AN: Fills the hc_bingo ‘Sacrifice’ square on my hurt/comfort bingo card.
AN2: Missing scenes for episode 1.1 – The Earth Bull, between Pythagoras drawing the stone and the following morning.
Cross posted to AO3
“Seven die so that twenty thousand can live.”
In terms of pure statistics and probability, it made sense. True, it only made sense if you were the kind of person who could look at the numbers and see just that – numbers. It only made sense if you could stop yourself thinking about the individual people behind those numbers. It only made the kind of sense that made you feel sick if you thought about it too hard.
Pythagoras was surprised by how long it had taken before he started to feel sick.
In the last few hours since he had opened his hand and seen the small black pebble sitting there, he had gone through a number of stages. Unsurprisingly, the first had been surprise. Well, more like shock, really.
That had quickly been followed by disbelief, and following rapidly on its heels, denial. It had to be some kind of mistake. Any minute now he would look back down and realise that his mind had been playing tricks on him, and the stone in his hand was as white as the ones his friends was already holding.
When he looked down, though, it was still black.
By the time the court scribe was taking his name and address and details, he had progressed to a kind of mental paralysis, and had to be all but steered out of the building by Hercules and his new friend, Jason. The numb stage had lasted for some time, in fact, and he was barely aware of arriving home and the others sitting him down and going through the motions of normality.
Finally, as the sun began to dip towards the horizon and the thought occurred to him that this was the last time he would see the sun set, only now was he finally beginning to feel the first sense of queasiness in his stomach. Hercules had been muttering about a big feast, a final meal, but Pythagoras was no longer sure he could eat any of it, no matter what Hercules placed in front of him.
“Seven die so that twenty thousand can live.”
Ever since he had left home, Pythagoras had tried to live his life according to reason and science. It was the only way that things made sense to him. It was a way to impose order onto the chaos of existence. Well, as far as it was possible to find order and reason when the gods could act as they wished when it came to mortal lives.
Statistically, it made sense. Logically, the sacrifice of a tiny minority of people in order to ensure the safety of the entire city was the only possible solution. The gods were cruel, but they were not implacable, and if seven lives were what they demanded, then seven lives were what they must have.
“That’s what we tell ourselves each year, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Hercules filled the table with as much food as he could find in the house (which was pathetically little, Pythagoras noted absently), and Pythagoras tried to eat some, more for Hercules’ benefit than his own. His stomach rebelled at every mouthful, but he tried, nonetheless.
Jason was quiet for most of the meal, and Pythagoras wondered if he would stay after tomorrow. It would be a comfort to him knowing that someone was here for Hercules in the next few days.
That thought, that moment, was when Pythagoras began to realise that he had hit another stage – acceptance. He was already planning for what might happen to his friends after he had gone. After he was dead.
He was only half listening as Hercules talked of ways to get out of his fate. Suggested killing the Minotaur, or tricking it... somehow. He paid more attention when Jason suggested sneaking him away, so he wouldn’t have to go to the caves at all. Pythagoras almost pitied him his ignorance, and gently explained that if he did not go, then someone else must take his place. And no matter how much he didn’t want to die, no matter how much he wanted to scream and hit things and curl up into a ball and cry like a child, no matter how bloody terrified he was, he would not run away like a coward and force another to suffer his fate.
It was entirely possible to do that, though. The gods may have had a hand in the drawing of the lots, but even then it was still possible for a person to cheat fate. As long as seven people turned up to the palace at the appropriate time on the day, Minos didn’t really seem to care whether they were the same seven people who had picked the black stones or not. Pythagoras had heard stories of people taking the place of loved ones. A wife going instead of her husband, fathers giving themselves to save their daughter or son.
Pythagoras knew that there was no one who would take his place. As much as Hercules cared for him (and despite his protests, Hercules undoubtedly did care), Pythagoras knew he would never do something so selfless. They had barely known Jason for a day, and the fact that he seemed so determined to help in some way was already far more than Pythagoras had any right to expect. And... well, that was it. He had no family here in Atlantis, no other close friends.
Tomorrow he was going to die, and only two people in the entire city would even notice.
He lay awake long after they had all retired and extinguished the candles. Pythagoras had known that he would not be able to sleep even when he had stood up and announced that he wanted to go to bed. The truth was, he couldn’t bear to see the way they were looking at him any longer.
So he lay awake, his mind going over and over every imaginable scenario. He hoped that he would be brave, at least. That it might be quick. That when it came for him, he might not disgrace himself in the eyes of the gods who demanded his death.
Pythagoras knew he was not brave, though. If he were brave then he would not be lying here wishing for nothing more than to curl up in Hercules’ arms for one last time, and have his friend lie to him and tell him it would be all right. He wanted to go to Hercules and crawl into bed with him, just so that he wouldn’t have to spend the last night of his life alone. He wanted to be with the person who was probably the closest friend he’d ever had, the person who was now pretty much his family. He wanted Hercules to just hold him. To just be there for one last time.
But he didn’t go to Hercules, because Jason was sleeping in the next room. They knew practically nothing about Jason, but Pythagoras feared what his reaction might be if he saw Pythagoras creeping into Hercules’ room. No matter how innocent it really was, it would look inappropriate, and while that wouldn’t matter to Pythagoras after tomorrow, he couldn’t bear the thought of it reflecting badly on Hercules.
So he lay there in his room, wide awake, staring into the darkness. Alone. Afraid.
Seven die so that twenty thousand can live.
And this year, he would be one of the seven.