Yey! Despite the evilness of the prompts (hypoglycemia??! Thanks for that one!), I have finished the hc_bingo February Challenge with a day still to go.
Title: The Proper Care and Feeding of Mathematicians
Pairing/characters: Hercules, Jason, Pythagoras
Warnings: Fluff. Gratuitous amounts of fluff.
Spoilers: Extremely vague for 1.11 – Hunger Pangs
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 3127
Summary: Somehow it had never occurred to Jason to wonder who would be able to deal with it if Pythagoras was the one who was sick.
AN: Postage Stamp for the hc_bingo February Challenge, with the prompts Family, Hypoglycemia/Low Blood Sugar, Cuddling, and Wild Card – Comfort Food.
AN2: Thanks to fififolle and clea2011 for looking over it.
“Jason, I’m fine!”
Hercules looked up at the sound of voices. The door flew open and Pythagoras stormed in. Jason came after him with an expression that exuded worry, and Hercules had to look twice. Yes, Pythagoras was the one in a temper and Jason was the one trying to be calm.
Now that was a turn up.
“And a good morning to you as well,” Hercules commented. “Nice to see you’re in such a cheerful mood.”
“Nice to see you finally bothered to get up,” Pythagoras shot back. He looked down at the empty plate on the table in front of Hercules. “Did you eat all of the bread?”
Hercules brushed the crumbs off his shirt.
“You two had both gone out and left it there. I assumed it was for me.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
Hercules ignored the accusatory tone and got straight to the point. “What’s got you so ruffled this morning?”
Hercules just raised a sceptical eyebrow and looked his skinny friend up and down. Now he was paying more attention, he noticed that the boy looked even paler than usual, if that were possible, and he was bracing himself against the table.
“Pythagoras, why don’t you sit down?” Jason tried in a voice that was obviously aiming for calm and placatory. Mostly he just sounded worried. He reached out but Pythagoras rounded on him and batted his hand away.
“Oh, for the love of the gods Jason, will you just stop fussing. I’m fine.”
“All right, what is going on with you two?” Hercules interrupted.
“Nothing,” Pythagoras said.
“Pythagoras almost fainted in the marketplace,” Jason said.
The glare that Pythagoras threw in Jason’s direction suggested he thought the man had just committed the most heinous betrayal imaginable.
But more importantly...
“Fainted?” Hercules looked from one young man to the other. Jason nodded. Pythagoras sulked. Hercules prayed to the gods for patience because, damn it, he was too old for this shit. “What exactly were you doing for him to faint?”
“I didn’t faint.”
Hercules ignored Pythagoras and looked expectantly at Jason. The fact that Jason appeared to be one making the most sense was more than a little worrying.
“We were in the marketplace. He started acting funny, and then he crashed into a stall and almost knocked it over. It looked like he nearly fainted.”
“I just stumbled.”
“Look at you now,” Jason countered. “You’re pale. You’re shaking, you can hardly stand up. There is something seriously wrong with you.”
“I’m hungry, that’s all.”
“You didn’t have any breakfast?”
“I didn’t have time. Nicaea came round first thing asking for my help, her husband was sick. I had to go straight out. I was intending to eat when I got back.”
Pythagoras threw a pointed glare at the empty plate.
Before Hercules could protest, Jason got in with another question.
“When was the last time you did eat?”
“I don’t know. Yesterday.”
“Well that’s obviously what’s making you ill,” Jason said.
“I’m not ill!” Pythagoras yelled back. “And in case you haven’t noticed, we have no food!”
Pythagoras waved his arm in the direction of their depressingly bare shelves.
“I’m trying to help,” Jason said, remaining surprisingly calm.
“Well stop trying to help and just leave me alone!”
Pythagoras whirled round and marched into his bedroom, flinging the curtain closed behind him. Hercules and Jason stared, speechless, at the curtain until it stopped moving.
“Well, that was uncalled for,” Hercules commented.
“I can still hear you!” Pythagoras shouted.
Hercules glanced at Jason. Jason met his look, and then hustled him towards Hercules’ bedroom. He left the door open behind them, but dropped his voice.
“Okay, there is something seriously wrong here.”
“You don’t say!” Hercules noticed that Jason had his all too familiar ‘my friend is in danger and I am on a mission to help them’ expression. He sighed. “I know. I’ve seen Pythagoras throw some hissy fits over the years, but that was pretty impressive.”
“He is sick, and I think I know what it is. I had a friend back where I came from and he had diab- he had this disease where he got ill if he didn’t eat properly. It messed with his blood, and made him sick.”
“And... what? You think that’s what’s wrong with Pythagoras?”
“I’m not sure, but it fits the pattern. The irritability, the fainting, and it all stems from him not eating.”
Hercules winced. But then, how the hell was he supposed to have known that Pythagoras had gone out without having breakfast? And if they left food lying around like that, well, what was he supposed to think it was for?
He dragged his thoughts back to the most important matter.
“So what do we do to get him better?”
“He needs food. Simple as that. And if we can at all manage it, it needs to be something sweet.”
Hercules studied Jason carefully. He had developed something of a suspicion of anything that related to Jason’s past before he arrived in Atlantis, mostly because it tended not to make much sense. But thinking back... yeah. Now Jason had pointed it out, Hercules was pretty sure that this wasn’t the first time Pythagoras had reacted this way when he hadn’t eaten, for whatever reason. Maybe not to the extreme of fainting, but the other stuff sounded familiar.
And the answer was something filling and something sweet? There was only one option, really.
Hercules went over to his bed and rummaged underneath it until he found the no-longer-so-secret stash of money. He counted the coins. He had been saving this for the tavern. Aristarchus had guaranteed that they would win that night’s dice games. It was a sure thing.
From the other bedroom, Pythagoras swore loudly and uttered something uncomplimentary about a triangle’s parentage. A moment later a stylus flew out of his bedroom through the gap in the curtain and rolled across the floor. Hercules heard the sound of parchment being screwed up, and a crumpled wad of what used to be some sort of mathematical workings followed the stylus.
Hercules glanced down at the money again and then shoved it in his pouch. This was Pythagoras they were talking about. It had never really been a question.
“Hercules?” Jason sounded worried.
“Leave it to me. You stay here and keep an eye on him. I’ll sort this out. I know exactly what he needs.” He paused. “Oh, and while I’m out, get the fire going.”
Jason sat on his bed and watched the doorway to Pythagoras’ room. The curtain still covered it, and more than once Jason considered whether he ought to go and check that his friend was okay, but he didn’t quite dare, and wasn’t that a weird feeling? Besides, he could hear occasional annoyed mutterings, and even more occasional swearing, so Jason decided that was a good sign that he wasn’t getting any worse, even if he wasn’t getting better.
God, the scene in the marketplace was still playing in a loop in his head. The way Pythagoras had suddenly trailed off in the middle of a sentence, and Jason had looked up, amused, wondering what had distracted his friend, only just in time to see Pythagoras’ eyes flutter closed and he all but fell into the nearest market stall. The shock seemed to have snapped him back again, but he was obviously confused, and confused had rapidly become pissed off and uncooperative as Jason had fussed over him and dragged him away from the angry stallholder and back to the safety of home.
The problem was... it was Pythagoras who was ill. Pythagoras was the one who knew everything about medicine and healing and what to do when someone got sick. Somehow it had never occurred to Jason to wonder who would be able to deal with it if Pythagoras was the one who needed help.
The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that his friend was having some sort of hypoglycaemic episode. Back home, before Atlantis, Jason had a friend who was diabetic, and he could still remember vividly the time he had witnessed Michelle having a hypo. It had scared the shit out of him at the time, and afterwards he had gone home and researched it on the internet so that he wouldn’t feel so bloody useless if it ever happened again.
It had taken him a little while to put it together, but Jason was convinced this was something similar. The symptoms seemed to fit – the irritability, the almost fainting, the confusion, the fact that Pythagoras hadn’t eaten since yesterday (and as far as Jason could remember from their evening meal the day before, that hadn’t been a whole lot, either). And it wasn’t just this one time, either. Every time they had been short on food Pythagoras became irritable and snappy. They had always just blamed it on the fact that they were hungry, but Jason was beginning to wonder if it might not be that simple.
Truthfully, Jason very much doubted that Pythagoras had actual diabetes. If that was the case, he probably wouldn’t even have survived this long in this time period. But Jason had vague memories of one of those websites saying that low blood sugar could affect anyone if they were malnourished, and it wasn’t like Pythagoras was well fed at the best of times.
He just hoped Hercules knew what he was doing. And that he wasn’t going to waste the money on something unhelpful. The fact that Hercules even had money when Jason and Pythagoras had been scraping coins together to buy food the day before was another thing he wanted to have a word with Hercules about later, but right now he just wanted to get Pythagoras okay again. Everything else could wait until afterwards.
Thinking about Hercules reminded Jason of the last thing he had said before he went out. They didn’t normally light the fire in the hearth until the evening; breakfast and lunch were usually meals that could be eaten cold, so it was an odd request. Nevertheless, Jason got up and arranged the firewood in the hearth and spent several minutes trying to get the fire lit with flint and tinder.
It had taken him a long time to get used to doing this, and even now it still took him a lot longer to get a fire going than either of his two friends. There were times when he could quite happily trade all the gold in Atlantis for a box of matches or a lighter. Hell, even better, a microwave, and then they could avoid all this messy cooking on an open fire business completely.
Jason watched the fire as it gained momentum, until it was crackling nicely.
“What are you doing?”
He looked up and saw Pythagoras leaning against his bedroom doorframe. He had an extremely confused expression on his face as his gaze tracked from the fire to Jason and back again.
“Hercules asked me to light the fire.”
“Because he wants to cook something when he gets back...?” Jason suggested.
“Hercules... cooking...?” Pythagoras didn’t look any less confused by this.
“At the risk of getting my head bitten off, how are you feeling now?”
Pythagoras focussed his attention back on Jason and now he just looked slightly shamefaced.
“A little lightheaded. But I have calmed down now. And I’m sorry I shouted at you.” His brow wrinkled in confusion again. “I don’t honestly know why I got so angry about it all.”
“Like I said, I think it’s because there’s something wrong with you. It was affecting your mood.”
Jason hesitated and decided not to elaborate. Now probably wasn’t the best time to start trying to explain about blood sugar levels. Pythagoras would no doubt be fascinated by the idea, but it was the kind of conversation that just caused endless questions that skirted a little too close to revealing the truth about the world he had come from.
He was saved from the question he could see forming on his friend’s lips by Hercules coming home with a cloth bag under one arm and a large jar in his other hand.
“Ah, you managed it!” Hercules observed, sounding both surprised and pleased. “I did wonder if you might still be making a mess of lighting it by the time I got back.”
“Hey!” Jason protested.
“You’ve brought food?” Pythagoras asked.
“Better than that,” Hercules replied.
He refused to elaborate, though, and puttered about picking up pots and pans until he settled on a large cooking pot and filled it with water and a little milk and what appeared to be half the contents of the bag. He nudged Jason out of the way, sat down next to the hearth, and started stirring the pot over the fire.
Apparently unable to contain his curiosity, Pythagoras came over and peered at the contents. As Jason watched, Pythagoras’ lips curled upwards into a soft smile.
“You’re making porridge.”
“Well spotted. I can see why people think you’re the brainy one.” Hercules nodded in the direction of the table. “Take a look at that.”
Pythagoras wandered over and prised the lid off the jar. He leaned down and inhaled, and that smile reappeared, even bigger and brighter.
Before Jason could ask, Pythagoras crossed back to where Hercules was sitting and wrapped his arms around his friend and snuggled against his shoulder.
“You’re brilliant. I love you guys.”
“What do you mean, ‘you guys’?” Hercules protested. “This was all my idea.”
Pythagoras’s smile just got bigger, and he squeezed Hercules.
“So... porridge is a good thing?” Jason ventured.
Most of his memories of porridge consisted of stodgy stuff he was forced to eat for breakfast in winter occasionally when he was quite young.
Pythagoras glanced up at him, without letting go of Hercules.
“My mother used to make me porridge when I was small. And if we could afford it, she would put honey on it. Especially if I was ill.”
Jason caught sight of Hercules rolling his eyes and silently mouthing along with Pythagoras’ explanation, and Jason had to bite back his own grin. Pythagoras squeezed Hercules again and said something so quietly that Jason didn’t hear it. Hercules huffed and shrugged him off and made a show of leaning over the gently bubbling cooking pot, but not fast enough to stop Jason seeing the big, affectionate smile that had appeared on his face.
Pythagoras finally let go and started collecting bowls and spoons and cups until Jason took them off him.
“You sit down. I can do this.”
Pythagoras looked so surprised that Jason was almost offended. Although come to think of it, they did usually let Pythagoras do all the domestic stuff.
“Sit,” Jason insisted.
Pythagoras did as he was told, but when Jason had put everything down Pythagoras grabbed his hand and tugged him close enough that he could slip his arms around Jason’s waist and give him a quick hug.
Hercules carried the pot over to the table and served up three bowlfuls of porridge, noticeably filling Pythagoras’ bowl with the most, and spooned a generous helping of honey over the top of it.
Pythagoras looked like he was about to say something, no doubt something sensible about how they shouldn’t be so extravagant with the food, or that they should all have an equal share, but then he gave up and just dived in.
“Mmmm,” was the verdict after a couple of mouthfuls. “This is surprisingly good, Hercules.”
“Surprisingly?” Hercules retorted with mock indignation. “Oh, thank you very much.”
“Well, there is a reason I don’t normally let you do the cooking,” Pythagoras said with a mischievous grin. “But joking aside, this is lovely.”
With that he started eating again. Jason watched him, amused by how much he seemed to be enjoying something as simple as porridge. Hercules also seemed to be watching until he was satisfied, and then he started eating.
“I could get used to this,” Pythagoras commented when he was halfway through it.
“You’d better not,” Hercules muttered. He glanced up at Jason and smirked. “Did you see how worried Jason was about you? I don’t think he could cope with you being ill too often.”
Pythagoras glanced at Jason and they shared a grin.
“Of course. This was all because Jason was worried,” Pythagoras said.
“Oh, just shut up and eat,” Hercules replied.
Jason chuckled at them, and they finished eating in companionable silence. It was remarkable how quickly Pythagoras’ colour seemed to be coming back, and Jason finally started to relax. Crisis averted, at least until the next time they ran out of food (which was probably going to be sooner than any of them would like, but they could deal with that later). And at least now they all knew the signs to watch out for so they could try to prevent it getting so far again.
When he had finished, Pythagoras gave a contented sigh.
“Thank you. Both of you. That was wonderful. And I am sorry about earlier.”
“Just don’t do it again, eh?” Hercules said, nudging him in the side.
Pythagoras squeaked and squirmed away. Then he shuffled closer to Hercules and leaned against him, laying his head on Hercules’ shoulder.
“Soft bugger,” Hercules muttered, but Jason could see the affectionate way he looked at Pythagoras as he spoke. Hercules put an arm around their skinny friend and absently patted his hair.
Jason glanced away from them, feeling vaguely like he was intruding on a private moment. His gaze fell on the offending stylus and parchment from earlier, and he reached down and snagged the paper and tried to flatten the crumpled mess out on the table.
“Oh, I’d forgotten about that,” Pythagoras said with a small frown.
“Well, considering how horribly wrong you thought it was, we should probably just throw it on the fire.”
“No, you can’t do that!”
“What was it you said?” Hercules chimed in. “It was the bastard offspring of a maenad and a satyr and didn’t deserve to be called a triangle?”
“If it’s that terrible, we should definitely burn it,” Jason agreed.
“That’s not fair, you’re supposed to be being nice to me,” Pythagoras complained.
“Nope, that was before,” Hercules said. “Back to business as usual now you’re better.”
Hercules chuckled and squeezed his shoulder and dropped a gentle kiss on the top of Pythagoras’ hair. Pythagoras pulled a face and made a half-hearted attempt to push him away but quickly settled again without either of them actually moving. Jason just laughed and decided all was well with the world again.
And here's the shiny banner for completing the challenge!