Title: Conversations on a Balcony
Pairing/characters: Jason/Pythagoras, Hercules, Pythagoras/Icarus (past)
Warnings: Language, angst, mention of past abusive relationship
Spoilers: General for series 1
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 20,000 (total)
AN: Written for smallfandombang round 4. Thanks to small fandom bang for giving me the excuse to finally get this fic written. It is, of course, inspired by that scene in episode 1.6. Fic is set after the end of series 1 and before the beginning of series 2.
AN2: Certain parts of this story may seem familiar to anyone who has read my fic A Million Little Things. That’s because A Million Little Things is pretty much my established headcanon backstory for Pythagoras and Hercules’ past together, so I figured why not use it again? This time we get things from Pythagoras’ point of view.
AN3: Thanks to fififolle and clea2011 for the beta. And huge thanks to Clea and Celeste for putting up with me wittering on about it for the last three months or so.
AN4: Go and look at the beautiful artwork created for this fic by kat_lair (or on AO3). It’s scattered throughout the fic as well, but please go and give the artist some feedback for all this lovely work.
Summary: It’s late at night, they are in the house by themselves, so Jason and Pythagoras talk. In a story told wholly through a series of late night conversations, often aided by alcohol, Jason and Pythagoras discuss anything and everything, from the not so serious (such as the time Jason tries to explain the internet), to subjects that are close to both their hearts. In doing so, they learn more about each other and their friendship grows.
But no matter how close they are, Jason knows they both have secrets. Jason still dare not tell Pythagoras the truth about who he is and where he comes from. And no matter how honest Pythagoras is about his sexuality and past relationships, Jason soon comes to believe that his friend is hiding a great heartache.
When matters come to a head one night, Jason must decide how much he is prepared to risk in order to save his relationship with the best friend he has ever known.
Fic on AO3
“Pythagoras, what’s wrong?”
Pythagoras shook his head for the third time, and poured himself more wine with a hand that was not quite steady.
Jason reached out and touched his wrist to stop him from drinking any more.
“No. No, Pythagoras. You don’t get to sit here in this state and tell me that there’s nothing wrong. Please. Just talk to me.”
Pythagoras pulled away from Jason’s hand, sloshing wine over his trousers as he did so. He frowned at the spreading wet patch, and then closed his eyes and drank deeply, his Adam’s apple working around each mouthful.
Jason gave a frustrated sigh.
Pythagoras was drunk. Or at the very least, he was well on the way to getting drunk, and Jason had no idea why, and even less idea what to do about it. If Hercules was here he might have been able to get through to him, but he had gone to the tavern and Jason didn’t dare to leave Pythagoras alone for long enough to go and look for Hercules.
The trouble was, Pythagoras never got drunk. Given what had happened with his father, Jason fully understood why that might be the case. It wasn’t as if Pythagoras was teetotal or anything; he just always stopped drinking long before the rest of them, and Jason had never once seen him in anything other than perfect control.
That was what had made it so frightening when Jason had come home and found Pythagoras sitting on the floor in the balcony room, with an empty flagon already cast aside and halfway through a second, apparently on a mission to get completely wasted. So far he had managed to evade every one of Jason’s inquiries as to what had caused this, but it didn’t take a genius to recognise that something was very wrong with him.
If it was just the drunkenness it might not have been so bad, but his eyes were red and swollen and it was clear that he had been crying.
Short of physically taking the flagon away (which felt far too much as if he was treating him like a naughty child), Jason had done the only thing he could do – he sat down with him and resolved to take care of his friend.
“Have you ever been in love?”
Jason looked up in surprise at the question. Pythagoras had turned to look at him and was actually meeting his eye for the first time since Jason had found him like this.
“I... uh.” Jason fumbled for an answer.
What the hell was he supposed to say? And what did it have to do with Pythagoras’ current state?
Pythagoras watched him while he stuttered, and if it were possible, the look in his eyes became even sadder.
“Jason, that should not be a question that you have to think so hard about. If you had ever truly been in love you would know.”
Maybe I was. But I fucked it up.
Jason shoved that thought away. Now was not the time for his own issues.
This time Jason was the one who shook his head.
“I don’t think it’s that simple.”
“Simple?” Pythagoras choked back a bitter laugh. “Love is many things, Jason, but simple is not one of them.”
“What’s wrong, Pythagoras?” Jason asked gently.
“Why didn’t you say Ariadne?”
Jason was thrown by the non sequiter.
“When I asked if you had ever been in love. Surely your first thought must have been of Ariadne?”
Jason was vaguely aware that Pythagoras was deflecting him from the real issue here, but the fact was it had worked. Suddenly all he could think about was the princess. Or more correctly, all he could think about was the fact that he hadn’t immediately thought of the princess.
He considered just avoiding the question. He wanted to get this back onto finding out what was wrong with his friend. But at the same time, Pythagoras had refused to speak about what had got him into this state every time Jason had asked so far, there was no reason to believe that would change if Jason just kept pressing him. This... at least Pythagoras was talking, even if it wasn’t about himself. Jason wondered if it might be a way in.
Besides, maybe he did want to talk about Ariadne. And if he was going to talk to anyone about it, to try to clear some of the thoughts in his head on the subject of the princess, Pythagoras would be his first choice of confidant. Even drunk, Pythagoras was still a better option for that conversation than Hercules.
“I thought I was in love with Ariadne. Who wouldn’t be? She’s beautiful. And it was like there was a connection between us right from the first time I saw her. She didn’t have to give me that thread when I went to the Minotaur, but she did. She helped me, and I thought... I don’t know what I thought. I thought I was in love.”
Jason’s gaze remained fixed on the far wall throughout that little pronouncement. He didn’t dare meet Pythagoras’ eye.
“Jason, if you are suddenly saying that you are not in love with her, after you nearly got yourself killed in the pankration, and you nearly got yourself killed by Therus, and you nearly got yourself killed by Heptarian, all of which were because you were protecting Ariadne, I will be quite annoyed.”
Jason huffed a small laugh.
“When you put it like that...”
Jason wasn’t sure if it was a warning or simply an honest question.
“I don’t know. I thought I was in love. But what use is that if we can never be together? I hate to admit it, but maybe you and Hercules were right when you kept telling me to forget her. Minos has warned me off and he won’t let me anywhere near her. I care for her, and I’m pretty sure she cares for me. But I haven’t seen her for months, and you know what? That bothers me less and less every day.”
He finally forced himself to meet Pythagoras’ gaze. His friend was staring at him, his mouth open in shock. It was almost funny.
“The truth is I barely know her. I think maybe I was in love with the idea of Ariadne, more than with Ariadne herself. Does that make sense?”
Pythagoras nodded. He hesitated, and then put his cup down and leaned over and hugged Jason. The gesture was spoilt a moment later when he overbalanced and all but fell onto Jason. It was probably a good thing they were both already sitting down.
“Oops!” Pythagoras mumbled into Jason’s shoulder.
“Hey, careful,” Jason laughed, shoving his friend back upright again.
“Sorry,” Pythagoras said, staring down at his hands. “That was meant to be... you know...”
“I know. Thank you.”
Pythagoras looked at him properly again, and Jason was surprised by how serious he looked.
“I truly am sorry. I know Hercules and I often advised you to forget about Ariadne, but at the same time, I do not wish to see you unhappy.”
God, sometimes he just wanted to hug Pythagoras. Jason managed a reassuring smile.
“I know.” He paused to put his thoughts together. “I won’t say I’m not sad at the thought of giving up on Ariadne. It would have been good to be able to have the chance, at least, to see if that connection could ever have developed into something stronger. But truthfully, I am giving up on it, I think. A few months ago I would have been devastated by that thought. But now...”
He paused again and stared at the ceiling, willing away the unexpected wetness in his eyes.
“It hurts, don’t get me wrong. But nowhere near as much as I expected it to.”
Pythagoras’ arm made its way around Jason’s shoulders again, and this time there was no slip. Jason felt his friend shuffle closer, skinny arms wrapped themselves around his body, and Jason found himself enveloped in a hug.
Despite the turmoil of his thoughts, Jason smiled. Pythagoras wasn’t always the best with words when it came to this kind of thing, but he would always be there, and he would always try.
“Of course it hurts,” Pythagoras said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “Love always hurts.”
Jason turned to look at him, but Pythagoras laid his head on Jason’s shoulder, neatly avoiding meeting his gaze. Jason hesitated, unsure what to do or say.
“I’m listening,” Jason said tentatively. “If you want to tell me.”
Pythagoras didn’t reply, but he did squeeze Jason a little tighter for a second to acknowledge him.
Neither of them spoke for a while. Just when Jason was beginning to think he might never get an answer, Pythagoras let go and pushed himself back to sit at Jason’s side again. He picked up his cup but didn’t drink from it.
“His name was Icarus,” Pythagoras said quietly.
Jason turned to look at him properly, but Pythagoras was staring down at the cup in his lap and Jason couldn’t see his expression.
Icarus? The Icarus? Oh, shit.
“He was funny and intelligent and beautiful. He was my friend. My lover.”
Was. Past tense. Jason knew this story wasn’t going to end well. Hell, if this actually went anything like the myth, he knew how it ended. He wanted to gather Pythagoras up in a hug and not let go, but he held back.
“Was this the guy before you came to Atlantis?” he asked gently.
Pythagoras’ head snapped up and he met Jason’s gaze and shook his head.
“No. No that wasn’t him. Icarus was here, in Atlantis.”
Did that mean there was some other bastard who had broken Pythagoras’ heart? Just how many relationships featured in Pythagoras’ past? Only a month or so ago Jason had believed his friend really was all but asexual. Even when he had discovered otherwise, he still hadn’t been able to shake the idea that Pythagoras wasn’t very experienced, that he had maybe had one relationship and that was it. It was beginning to look very much like he was wrong about that as well.
“When... was it recent?”
Pythagoras shook his head.
“It was before you came to Atlantis.”
Okay, that made more sense. Jason was pretty sure not even Pythagoras could hide such an intense relationship from them. But if it was an old pain, that still didn’t answer what had upset him so much today.
Pythagoras talking like this was rare, though. Jason knew he was being selfish, but he wanted to hear it, before Pythagoras’ mood changed.
“Icarus was... We were in love. He wanted me as much as I wanted him.” Pythagoras glanced at Jason and quickly looked away again. “That... that was new, for me. Somebody really wanting me.”
Jason swallowed back a question. The implication was enough to fill in another blank about the other guy in Samos, the one who had caused Pythagoras to get on a boat and come to Atlantis in the first place. But this wasn’t about him, and Jason had no intention of interrupting now.
“Icarus made me happy. He was smart, he was funny. He was beautiful.” Pythagoras paused, and for a moment a smile touched his lips. “Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t perfect by any means. He used to drive me mad with all his crazy ideas and schemes. Half of them were dangerous and the other half were usually barely legal. Sometimes they were both.”
Jason felt himself smiling a little as well. No matter how badly this must have ended, Jason was aware that right at that moment, Pythagoras was trusting him with some of his most treasured memories.
“And he was such a flirt. Gods, Jason, I’ve never known anyone flirt like Icarus. Literally anyone was fair game; male, female, it didn’t matter. He flirted like most people breathed.”
Pythagoras made a small sound, and it took Jason a moment to realise it was a chuckle.
“You know what? I didn’t even realise he was interested in me at first. When he started flirting with me, I just assumed he was being his usual annoying self. He had to practically jump on me before I could believe that he was actually serious.”
Jason chuckled as well at that, because yeah, he could see Pythagoras being so oblivious that he didn’t recognise when someone was coming onto him, even if the attraction was mutual. He had a sudden mental image of some pretty young man holding Pythagoras, kissing him, of Pythagoras responding. Jason closed his eyes and forced the thoughts away to somewhere deep in the back of his mind. God, he did not want to go there. He tried to ignore the way those thoughts made something inside him squirm.
He waited for Pythagoras to continue, but his friend just drew his legs up and wrapped his arms around his knees and closed his eyes. Jason stayed silent and watched him lose himself in memories. Love always hurts. That was what Pythagoras had said. Christ, the guy was no older than Jason himself, and already he had been burned by love twice. He didn’t deserve that. If anyone deserved to be happy it was Pythagoras.
Right at that moment, Jason wanted to do nothing more than to gather Pythagoras up in his arms and hold him and protect him.
“I... I’ve never talked about him. Not like this.”
“He didn’t know. Or maybe he did. Probably he worked it out. He’s smarter than he likes people to think he is. But he never asked, and I never told him.”
Why not? Jason was all but convinced Pythagoras and Hercules knew everything about each other. So why hadn’t Pythagoras told him? Fear that he would be laughed at? Of the social stigma he had spoken about before? Or maybe it hadn’t been about fear at all. Maybe Pythagoras had just wanted something that was his, alone.
And now he was sharing it with Jason. There was that funny sensation again, the one that Jason was still trying to ignore.
He didn’t want to ask, but it was hanging there between them, the unspoken ending to the story.
“What happened?” Jason asked in a soft voice.
Pythagoras didn’t reply immediately. His eyes were still closed, and his jaw twitched a couple of times before he finally spoke.
“He died. He... he disappeared. They never found his body.”
“I hadn’t thought about him for a long time. But then today I went to see Daedalus and he asked me to get something from his storeroom. He’s using Icarus’ bedroom as a storeroom, Jason.”
There was a sudden desperation in his voice and abruptly Jason understood why this had happened today.
“It’s full of junk, but under all the stuff his things are still there. And I saw... that was the room where we-”
A single tear rolled down Pythagoras’ cheek and Jason couldn’t stop himself any longer. He moved close and wrapped an arm around his friend’s shoulder. Pythagoras suddenly went tense but Jason just pulled him closer.
Pythagoras made a quiet sound of pain, and turned and buried his face into Jason’s shoulder. In almost a mirror of their positions earlier, Jason wrapped both arms around him and held him, his nose buried in his friend’s fluffy hair.
Icarus. Bloody hell. Pythagoras had never stood a chance of being happy.
No wonder he had turned to the wine when he got home today.
Nobody spoke for some time. Jason could feel his friend trembling in his arms, and held him tighter. He tried to tell himself that maybe this was what Pythagoras needed, if he had never been able to speak of his relationship with Icarus with anyone before. That maybe this was the comfort he had needed when he was grieving, but had been unable to ask for because no one had known. But this... shit. Jason knew it wasn’t strictly his fault, and that this had all been triggered by the visit to Daedalus, but still, he couldn’t help wishing that he hadn’t pushed.
“Sometimes I wonder if the fates are punishing me for killing my father. That I don’t deserve to be happy.”
“No. Don’t think that. Don’t ever think that.”
“Every time I fall in love it ends badly, Jason. First Aristodamos, then Icarus, now-”
Pythagoras abruptly cut off whatever he was about to say.
Jason felt an almost overwhelming surge of protective anger. Aristodamos? Was that the first guy, the one in Samos? But more importantly...
“What do you mean? There’s someone you love now?” He hesitated. “Has someone done something to hurt you?”
“Forget I mentioned it.”
“It’s okay. You can tell me. I won’t tell Hercules, if you’re afraid he’s going to say something.”
Jason felt a hand shoving at his chest as Pythagoras tried to pull out of his hold. Jason refused to let go.
“Forget it, Jason.” Pythagoras sounded... angry?
His efforts to break out of Jason’s arms became more frantic and Jason released him. Pythagoras pushed himself away and scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, refusing to meet Jason’s eye. Abruptly he stood up, but he wavered and almost stumbled over his own feet.
“Are you okay?”
Pythagoras put a hand out and steadied himself against the wall. Then he started heading for the door. Jason saw immediately that he was weaving badly. That would probably be the flagon and a half of wine, almost certainly on an empty stomach.
“Slow down,” Jason warned, scrambling to stand up and be ready in case his friend fell.
“Uhhhh. I don’t feel...”
Pythagoras seemed to be aiming for the table, possibly looking for support, but instead he crashed into it. Before Jason could get to him Pythagoras shoved himself off the table, his legs seemed to tangle, and he stumbled and dropped to his knees. Then he threw up.
Jason winced. He approached slowly, avoiding the splatter pattern on the floorboards, and put his hand on Pythagoras’ shoulder.
“Better out than in?” he suggested.
Pythagoras coughed and retched and then threw up again.
Jason stepped back out of the way, and started gently rubbing his friend’s back while Pythagoras alternately retched and mumbled apologies.
When he was sure it had stopped, Jason went in search of fresh water and cloths. Pythagoras was still kneeling on the floor, looking thoroughly miserable, when Jason came back.
“Sorry,” he mumbled again.
Pythagoras grabbed hold of the table and tried to pull himself up. Jason caught his arm and guided him to the nearest chair and didn’t let go until he was sure Pythagoras wasn’t going to fall again.
“Okay, let’s have a look at you.”
He gave Pythagoras a cup of water to wash his mouth out. Then, ignoring the puddle of vomit on the floor, Jason wet one of the cloths and wiped his friend’s face and hands, before he turned his attention to his shirt. Jason dabbed at the new stains for a minute, and then wrinkled his nose.
“I hate to say this, but I think we need to lose the shirt.”
Pythagoras had been staring at his lap, probably more out of sheer mortified embarrassment than anything else, but at Jason’s words his head came up and he stared at Jason with wide eyes and a distinct rabbit in headlights look.
“Come on. I think it needs soaking overnight or something. At the very least you need to change.”
Without waiting for the inevitable protest, Jason took Pythagoras’ belt off, and tugged at the tunic, trying to avoid touching the bits that were covered in vomit. Pythagoras stopped resisting after a couple of feeble shoves, and co-operated enough to let Jason take his tunic off and dump it on the table.
Pythagoras’ normally pale skin looked flushed, but Jason guessed that was either from the alcohol, or the embarrassment, or both. Either way, there was no point drawing attention to it, not when it would probably just make him feel even worse, so Jason ignored it. He tried to keep up a positive monologue as he draped Pythagoras’ arm around his shoulders and helped his friend to his bedroom and settled him into bed.
“I’m sorry,” Pythagoras mumbled. He closed his eyes and threw an arm over his face.
“Stop apologising. It’s not like you haven’t done this for Hercules a million times.” Jason tried to keep his tone light. “But I think you should lie on your side. Just in case.”
He helped Pythagoras roll over and Jason arranged him in some approximation of the recovery position. He didn’t think there was going to be any more vomit, but he wasn’t prepared to take the risk.
Pythagoras closed his eyes and finally seemed to be drifting off to sleep. His lips moved but there was no sound. Jason recognised his own name.
“It’s okay, I’m still here.”
He had been about to go and deal with the mess, preferably before Hercules came home. Instead he sat down on the floor beside the bed. On an impulse, Jason reached out and stroked his friend’s hair. Pythagoras gave a soft hum that sounded more content and relaxed than he had been all evening.
Jason watched Pythagoras as he settled, and absently wondered about the identity of the bastard who was breaking his friend’s heart this time.
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