Title: Poison and Promise (part 2)
Pairing/characters: Pythagoras/Jason (unrequited), Hercules, Jason/Ariadne, The Oracle, Delmos
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 13,960
Summary: Jason has been poisoned by Pasiphae in an attempt to stop him marrying Ariadne and taking the throne. There is only one man with the knowledge, the skill, and the determination to save him, and Jason’s fate lies in the hands of his closest friend. The only question is how far is Pythagoras prepared to go, and how much is he willing to sacrifice to save Jason’s life?
AN: Big thanks to clea2011 and celeste9 for the beta.
AN2: Written for smallfandombang, which has yet again given me an excuse to actually *finish* a nice long fic. Also fills the 'poisoning' square in my hurt/comfort bingo card.
AN3: Set not long after ep 2.6 – The Grey Sisters, so Jason and Ariadne are to be married and everything is fine, before it all goes to hell with Melas.
fic posted at AO3
Huge thanks to knowmefirst for all the gorgeous artwork. The artwork appears throughout the story, but please do go and give the artist some love as well over here.
Pythagoras prepared his herbs and ingredients for the antidote a second time. The Oracle hadn’t been specific (when was she?), but he presumed all he had to do was make the same medicine and simply add the blood. But at what point did he need to add it? At the beginning? At the end? If he added it before he heated it was there a risk that too much blood might be simmered off?
The Oracle had said that the poison was enhanced with blood, which implied that a perfectly normal poison was added to after the fact. Logic would suggest, therefore, that the same would be true of the remedy.
If he was wrong... no, he couldn’t afford to be wrong. Surely the Oracle would have told him if it specifically required something that was not obvious?
He realised he had just rearranged the bowls and herb jars on the table three times, and forced himself to stop fussing.
There was nothing more he could do until Hercules got back.
He went back to Jason’s side and sat on the edge of his bed. Jason had been, at best, only semi-conscious since Hercules had left, and nothing Pythagoras did had any effect on that.
He reached out and stroked his fingers through Jason’s hair.
“Hold on, Jason. We will save you. But you need to hold on a little longer.”
Jason’s mouth opened but there were no words; only a small, desperate sound that was so un-Jason-like that Pythagoras could barely believe he had even made it.
In that moment, he wanted nothing more than to gather Jason up in his arms and hold him. To be honest, that wasn’t an unusual thought for him, but Pythagoras had noticed over the last year he and Jason had shared hugs less and less. It wasn’t just him, he knew; Jason had become far less open and tactile with everybody. Somehow in the last year the happy, friendly man who laughed and cared and enjoyed life, the man who had crashed so spectacularly into Pythagoras’ life, had grown more and more serious, as if the weight of responsibility that he felt had gradually crushed the happiness out of him.
It wasn’t a thought that Pythagoras liked. Yes, things were more difficult now, and the ever present danger from Pasiphae meant that they could never truly drop their guard. But for now things were calm (okay, present situation excepted). Jason was betrothed to Ariadne, he was finally going to be with his true love, he should have been the happiest man in the city. And yet...
Pythagoras shook that thought away as well. He was happy for Jason, he really was. But the marriage of Jason and Ariadne was not something he liked to dwell on.
He took his friend’s hand and stroked his hair.
“I’m not going to give up on you, Jason. Ever.”
Hercules crashed into the house, wheezing. Pythagoras squeezed Jason’s hand and then got up to meet Hercules.
“Did you see Ariadne? Did you get it?”
“Yes, and yes,” Hercules said between breaths.
Pythagoras went to the hearth and poked the flames until they grew bigger and hotter. He mentally rehearsed back through the stages of creating the potion. In theory it ought to be quicker the second time around, he wouldn’t have to refer to his notes so much-
He looked up at Hercules. The man was staring down at his hand with an expression of disbelief. And horror.
Pythagoras felt his stomach lurch.
“What is it?”
“The vial. It’s smashed.”
Hercules held his hand up. It was covered in blood.
“What? No! How?”
Pythagoras was on his feet in an instant, and went to Hercules. Hercules put his pouch on the table, and Pythagoras could see immediately that something had leaked, there was a spreading dark patch at the seam. When he tentatively opened the pouch he could see the blood soaked into the leather on the inside, and the broken pieces of the glass vial.
For a moment Pythagoras could only stare at it, as if it might suddenly right itself if he willed it to enough.
“How did this happen? What did you do?” He couldn’t help the hint of anger that crept into his voice.
“It wasn’t my fault.” Hercules looked about as distressed as it was possible to be. “Pythagoras, I didn’t... it must have been when I got thrown against a wall.”
“Thrown against a wall? What the hell were you doing to get thrown against a wall?” Pythagoras was shouting now, and he couldn’t stop himself. “How could you have let this happen, Hercules?”
“I swear it was an accident.”
“An accident that is going to kill Jason!”
The look in Hercules’ eyes, the guilt, was enough to make Pythagoras’ anger drain away as quickly as it had appeared. Whatever the explanation, he knew that Hercules would not have done this on purpose, or even by simply being careless. If he said it was an accident, Pythagoras believed him. But it didn’t change the fact that it had happened.
“Maybe we could salvage some of it,” Hercules said, with more hope in his voice than Pythagoras felt the situation warranted.
Hercules picked up one of the bowls Pythagoras had got out ready, and tipped the pouch up into it. Some blood trickled out, along with shards of glass.
“It’s not enough,” Pythagoras said as he watched the trickle become nothing more than a few drops. “Too much has already been lost.”
“I’ll go back. I’ll speak to Ariadne again.”
“What? What do you mean, no? We have to, Pythagoras. You said yourself, Jason can’t wait until the morning.” Hercules sounded incredulous.
An idea was forming in Pythagoras’ mind. An idea so obvious he wondered if the Oracle had known this would happen all along.
“I don’t think there is time. And it is not long since Ariadne was mortally injured herself, we cannot ask for more.”
“Well what do you propose? Because I don’t intend to sit here and watch my friend die.”
“Neither do I.”
Pythagoras went and brought another bowl from the kitchen, and a knife.
“What are you doing? You said yourself we need Ariadne’s blood to save him.”
“No, I said we need the blood of someone who truly loves him.”
Pythagoras poured some water onto a cloth and wiped his arm clean. Hercules finally appeared to catch on.
“What are you doing, Pythagoras?”
He forced himself to look up and meet Hercules’ look.
“I am saving Jason’s life.”
“Pythagoras, we’re not talking about platonic love here. If that were the case, I could have done it, and saved everyone a lot of trouble.”
Pythagoras gave him a grim smile.
“I am not talking about platonic love, either.”
With that, Pythagoras cut his arm open and started to bleed.
It took Hercules several seconds to process what he had just heard, and what he was seeing. Pythagoras wasn’t meeting his eye any more, and all his attention was focussed on the bleeding wound in his arm. Hercules glanced across at Jason, and then back to Pythagoras.
“You’re in love with Jason?”
“Why? How? Since when?”
Hercules couldn’t take it in. Pythagoras didn’t have those sorts of feelings for anyone. Ever. Let alone their friend and housemate.
“Since almost the first day I met him. As for the other questions...” he shrugged, somewhat awkwardly as he was trying to hold his arm still over the bowl.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
Hercules wasn’t entirely sure what had shocked him the most: the fact that Pythagoras had never told him, or the fact that he hadn’t worked it out for himself. Pythagoras was his closest friend. How had he not known?
“What would be the point of my saying anything?” Pythagoras said. There was an edge to his voice that Hercules couldn’t quite place. “He is in love with Ariadne. And even if he weren’t, he has never shown any evidence that he has that sort of interest in men. Let alone me.”
Resignation. That was what Hercules could hear. Resignation. And pain.
“Pythagoras,” Hercules said, with no idea what he was going to say next.
“Please, don’t, Hercules. Whatever you are going to say, just don’t.” He gave a frustrated sigh. “I know it is useless. I know nothing will ever come of it. I have known that right from the start.”
“And yet you still love him after all this time?”
“Did you stop loving Medusa, just because you could not be together?” Pythagoras snapped.
Hercules felt like he had been slapped in the face. After a second Pythagoras seemed to realise what he had said and looked up at him.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry, Hercules.”
Hercules looked down at the bowl and frowned.
“That’s enough, Pythagoras.”
“No, it’s not.” Pythagoras continued to let himself bleed, despite the growing pool of blood in the bowl.
“That’s more than I took from Ariadne.”
What the hell was Pythagoras trying to do to himself? There was playing it safe and taking more than was needed just in case, and then there was being stupid. In Hercules’ opinion, Pythagoras was rapidly heading towards the latter of those options.
“Yes, I know. But Ariadne’s blood is more potent than mine. We need more.”
“What are you talking about? Blood is blood.”
“Not when it comes to magic, it isn’t. Ariadne is of royal descent. She is blessed by Poseidon. And perhaps most importantly, her love for Jason is requited. For the purposes of this cure, her blood is far more potent. Me? I’m just... me. And Jason does not even know about my feelings, let alone return them. My blood should work, but it will take more of it to achieve the same effect.”
Hercules’ heart broke a little for his friend right at that moment.
“That’s why I didn’t suggest using my blood to start with,” Pythagoras continued. “I thought about it, of course I did. It would have been quicker and easier when it became apparent that they would not let me speak with Ariadne. But...” he shrugged. “Ariadne was the best option for this. She still is. But I fear we may be running out of time.”
And it would have involved admitting the truth, Hercules thought to himself. Something that Pythagoras was apparently only prepared to do when it became absolutely necessary.
Hercules still couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen this earlier. Was Pythagoras really that good at hiding his feelings? Or had Hercules just been so preoccupied with his love for Medusa that he had failed to notice what was going on with his friend?
He eyed the blood pooling in the bowl again and came to a decision.
“That’s enough now.”
“Yes, Pythagoras. It’s enough.” Hercules walked round the table and wrapped his hand around the bleeding wound on his friend’s arm, stemming the flow. “Listen to me, Pythagoras. You give any more then you’re going to make yourself sick. You’ll be too weak to make that cure, and then who’s going to save Jason? You need to stop this now, because I can’t take care of both of you.”
Pythagoras looked up at him, and finally nodded.
“It’s enough,” he said quietly.
Hercules made sure Pythagoras had his other hand pressed tightly to the cut and then went to Pythagoras’ room and fetched some bandages from his medical supplies. Pythagoras cleaned the cut with the same wet cloth he had used earlier to cleanse his arm. When he tried to apply the dressing one-handed, though, he somehow ended up dropping it, and made a frustrated sound.
Without a word, Hercules batted Pythagoras’ hand away, sat down beside him, and pressed the cloth onto the cut until he was satisfied that the bleeding stopped. Then he wrapped a bandage around it to keep the padding in place.
Somewhat to his surprise, Pythagoras did not complain or protest at any of this. In fact, he remained unnervingly silent throughout.
Hercules glanced up at him as he tied off the bandage.
“Are you alright?” he asked, his voice quiet.
Pythagoras hesitated, and then properly met Hercules’ gaze.
“Right now? Not really. But I will be when I know Jason is safe.”
They were going to have a talk later, he decided. But right now, they needed to deal with the rather more pressing matter of saving Jason’s life.
Pythagoras immediately got to work, mixing his remedy for a second time. This time Hercules helped where he could, following Pythagoras’ instructions, even if that largely boiled down to fetching and carrying and passing things when his friend asked for them. A part of him wanted to be with Jason, watching over him, but realistically Hercules knew there was nothing he could to help Jason directly. There was only one person who could save him now.
It was well into the night when Pythagoras finally brought the pot from the hearth and placed it on the table. He reached for the bowl of blood and somehow fumbled it. Hercules lunged across the table and grabbed the bowl before it tipped.
Pythagoras stared at him, the shock evident in his expression. Hercules glanced down and realised Pythagoras’ hands were shaking.
“Why don’t you let me do this bit, eh?” Hercules said.
Pythagoras nodded. “Pour it slowly, not all at once,” he cautioned.
Pythagoras stirred the potion as Hercules did as he was instructed. The greenish liquid darkened and became thicker. Hercules felt an involuntary shiver when he thought about what this actually was. When the last drops of blood had been teased from the bowl, he watched Pythagoras stir it for a few more minutes.
“Is that it?” Hercules asked when he finally put the spoon down.
“I believe so.”
Hercules helped him to tip the potion into a cup, and then Pythagoras went to Jason and lifted his head.
“Come on Jason, wake up.”
Jason murmured something unintelligible, and Pythagoras apparently decided that was enough, because he put the cup to Jason’s lips and encouraged him to drink. Hercules winced when he saw some of it spill down Jason’s front, but it seemed Jason was semi-conscious enough to swallow most of the potion. When the cup was empty, Pythagoras put it aside and wiped up the spilled liquid. Then he stood up and took a step back to stand beside Hercules.
“Now what?” Hercules asked when nothing obvious happened.
“Now, we wait.”
“Hercules? I need to ask you something.”
It was the first time either of them had spoken in a long time. Once they had given him the potion, they had both pulled chairs up to Jason’s bedside and were sat together watching over their friend. There had been no sign of a change in Jason’s condition yet. He continued to sweat and occasionally moan incoherently, but Pythagoras was relieved to notice that he had not worsened either.
It had taken Pythagoras a while to work himself up to this conversation, but now there was something he needed to speak to Hercules about, before Jason woke up.
“What is it?”
“You can’t tell Jason about this. Not about my feelings, and not about using my blood. For that matter, we cannot tell Ariadne either. After everything she did, we cannot then say that it was all for nothing.” He hesitated, and then turned to his old friend. “Please, Hercules. Do not tell him.”
The look on Hercules’ face seemed to be wavering between disbelief and pity. After a few moments Pythagoras was unable to hold his gaze and turned his attention back to Jason.
Eventually he heard Hercules sigh.
“We have to tell him something.”
“We can tell him the truth. That the Oracle told us it needed the blood of someone who loved him, and that Ariadne willingly gave her blood to save him. We just don’t need to mention the other part in between.”
“How do you plan to explain what happened to your arm? Despite all evidence to the contrary, he’s not entirely stupid.”
A quiet chuckle escaped Pythagoras’ throat at that. “I will think of something. Later. Right now, I’m so tired I can barely string a sentence together, let alone think of excuses for why my arm is bandaged.”
There was no response for some time and eventually Pythagoras turned to look at Hercules again. His friend was watching him carefully, his eyes full of concern.
“I’m fine, Hercules,” he felt the need to say, even though he felt nothing of the sort.
“No, you’re not.”
“Stay there. And try not to faint and fall off the chair before I get back.”
But Hercules was already getting up and going to the hearth behind them. Pythagoras twisted around and watched him for a while, but within a minute he turned his attention back to Jason, afraid to look away for too long in case he missed something important. It didn’t matter that he could barely keep his eyes open, or that he was shivering in the cool night air, or that he suspected he would feel light-headed if he attempted to stand up right now; his priority had to be Jason.
A short while later Hercules appeared beside him again and thrust a cup into his hands. Pythagoras inhaled and caught a strong scent of honey from the steaming liquid in the cup.
“Get that inside you. You’ll need it after losing all that blood.”
A protest barely had chance to form on his lips before he changed his mind and offered his friend a smile.
It seemed Hercules hadn’t finished because he disappeared from view again. Pythagoras sipped at the drink, which mostly seemed to be just hot water with an extremely large helping of honey. He briefly closed his eyes and let the warmth seep through him and savoured the sweetness. Honey was always the first thing Pythagoras turned to when he was feeling run down or upset. Hercules knew him far too well.
He heard Hercules behind him a moment before a blanket was draped around his shoulders. Then Hercules sat down next to him again and resumed his vigil over Jason, as if nothing had happened.
“You never answered me,” Pythagoras said, before taking another sip.
“I won’t tell him, if that’s what you want.”
“Why are you so desperate for him not to know?”
“Why do you think? He loves Ariadne. I have no desire to make things awkward between us, or spoil a perfectly good friendship for something that I know can never be.”
“You say that, but I don’t think you really believe it can never be. I think you must believe there is some chance, however remote. Otherwise you would have accepted it could never happen and got over it and moved on long ago.”
Damn. Sometimes Hercules really did know him far too well.
“Right now it is a good thing for Jason that I have not simply, ‘got over it’,” he said with rather more edge to his voice than he had intended.
“A good thing for Jason, maybe, but not for you. Not having to watch him love someone else every day and not being able to do a damn thing about it.”
Pythagoras took his time taking another mouthful of warm honey drink so that he didn’t have to answer. Right then he wasn’t sure he trusted his voice not to give away just how right Hercules was, or how much it hurt.
“Oh, Pythagoras,” Hercules said, his voice quiet.
He reached across and wrapped an arm around Pythagoras, and Pythagoras let himself be tugged closer until he simply gave in and rested his head against Hercules’ shoulder.
“I will be fine, Hercules.”
Hercules didn’t reply, but he squeezed Pythagoras’ shoulder.
Pythagoras knew Hercules didn’t believe him, but he also trusted Hercules to keep his word and not say anything. He knew Hercules was at least half right; that holding onto his love for Jason was not doing him any good, but neither was it so easy to simply forget about it and move on. All he could hope was that when Jason and Ariadne were married and Jason was no longer living with them, when Pythagoras was no longer in such close proximity to him every day, that his feelings would eventually fade. The alternative, that he might feel like this forever, was too much to contemplate.
He was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of Jason stirring, mumbling something.
Pythagoras and Hercules both leaned forward, and Pythagoras reached out and placed a hand against Jason’s cheek. He felt considerably less clammy than he had been for the last several hours. Pythagoras felt the first real stirrings of hope.
Jason’s eyes scrunched, and then blinked open.
“There you are,” Hercules said. Pythagoras didn’t even need to look to know that his friend was grinning broadly.
Jason’s eyes flickered towards them. He looked confused, but he also looked more alert than he had ever since the relapse.
Jason tried to speak, and then licked his lips. Pythagoras didn’t even hesitate, and he lifted Jason’s head with one hand and gave him the rest of his honey drink with the other.
“Thanks,” Jason said, his voice little more than a whisper.
“How do you feel?” Pythagoras asked.
“Not dead is always a good state to be in. If you could perhaps try to remain not dead, it would make all our lives easier,” Pythagoras said, trying to keep his tone light.
Jason managed a small smile, and then his eyes slipped closed again.
“Sorry. Tired,” he mumbled.
Pythagoras couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and gently brushing Jason’s hair from his face.
“Then get some sleep.”
Pythagoras was almost certain Jason was asleep before he had even finished speaking. He sat back, refusing to look at Hercules after that unintended display of affection.
“Speaking of sleep, you should get to bed as well,” Hercules said.
“I want to keep an eye on him for a while longer. He seemed better before and then got worse again.”
“We’ve done exactly what the Oracle told you to. He’s going to be fine, and you know it. Go to sleep, Pythagoras.”
“Yes, you do. You’ve been practically falling asleep on my shoulder for the last hour. You’re exhausted. You keep this up you’re going to make yourself ill, and who will look after him then, eh?”
Ooh, that was a low shot. The trouble was, much as he didn’t want to admit it, Hercules was probably right.
“Someone needs to watch over him, just in case.”
“I can do that.”
“Really? You won’t just fall asleep the moment I’m gone?”
“Says the man who did exactly that when I left him on watch last night,” Hercules pointed out.
Pythagoras tried to give him a withering glare, but he had a suspicion it just came out looking like a slightly annoyed frown. He really was too tired if he couldn’t even work up the energy to be sarcastic at Hercules.
“Go to bed, Pythagoras.” Hercules pointed in the direction of his bedroom for emphasis.
Pythagoras stood up and for a moment the world tilted alarmingly. He wavered until everything settled, and when he looked down Hercules was standing beside him with a hand at his shoulder.
“Yes, you’re obviously fine,” Hercules said, injecting a healthy dose of sarcasm into his voice.
Pythagoras was about to turn and go to his room, but then, without any conscious thought entering his head, he wrapped his arms around Hercules and hugged him. There was barely a moment’s hesitation before Hercules’ arms gathered him up into a tight embrace, and Pythagoras closed his eyes and just stayed there with his head resting on his friend’s shoulder for a few moments.
“Thank you, Hercules,” he said.
Hercules patted his back, and let go.
Pythagoras smiled and let go, and with one final glance back at Jason, he went to his room, the blanket still draped around his shoulders and trailing after him. Almost the moment he lay down and closed his eyes, he was asleep.
Pythagoras woke to the sound of banging. It took him several seconds to realise that it was someone at the door, and he dragged himself out of bed, blinking in the bright morning sunlight that streamed into his bedroom.
Hercules was still sitting beside Jason’s bed where he had left him, but he couldn’t help noticing that Hercules looked rather like he had just been roused from sleep by the banging as well. No real surprise there, although Pythagoras decided he should probably let it go this time.
Pythagoras opened the door and stopped dead.
“Ari- I mean, your majesty.”
The glare from the bearded bodyguard standing right behind the queen suggested he hadn’t quite corrected himself in time, but Ariadne didn’t seem the slightest bit bothered.
“May I come in?” she asked, when Pythagoras simply stood there staring for slightly too long.
“Sorry! Sorry, of course.”
He stood aside and let Ariadne and the man, Delmos, if he wasn’t mistaken, in, and closed the door behind them.
“I wanted to see for myself how Jason was,” Ariadne said, her gaze flickering across to Jason before coming back to Pythagoras.
Pythagoras opened his mouth to say that they thought it had worked, but then stopped himself. He looked back at Jason, and was pleased to note there seemed to be a bit more colour in his cheeks now, but he needed to know before he said anything.
Hercules must have guessed the reason for his hesitation, and nodded.
“We gave him the potion again and it seems to have done the trick,” Hercules said. “He woke up briefly last night, but he’s been asleep since then.”
The relief on Ariadne’s face highlighted just how worried she had been only moments earlier. Pythagoras rubbed his eyes and tried to get rid of the sleep fog that was still dulling his thoughts
“I’m sorry. Can I offer you a drink or something?”
This was not the first time Ariadne had been in their house, but it was the first time since she had become queen, and Pythagoras was at a complete loss to know what the correct etiquette might be. A moment later he wondered why he was even worrying about such things. Right now Ariadne was not here as their queen, she was here as Jason’s betrothed. But still, that was no reason to not be a good host.
“Thank you,” Ariadne said.
Pythagoras hurried to fetch a drink, rummaging through their meagre collection to find the best quality cup they owned. He somewhat apologetically handed over a cup of water.
“Sorry. Everything’s a bit, well, all over the place at the moment.” He gestured at the table, where all the pots and bowls and herbs and ingredients and everything from the previous night still covered the surface. Pythagoras shoved several things out of the way and pulled a chair over. “Sorry.”
Ariadne actually chuckled. “It is fine, Pythagoras, stop apologising.”
She didn’t sit down, and instead looked over at Jason again.
Pythagoras went with her, if only to reassure himself that Jason truly was getting better. This close, Jason looked like he was simply sleeping off a particularly exhausting day. There was no outward sign that he had spent much of the last day and night on the brink of death.
Behind him, Hercules cleared his throat, and Pythagoras realised he was in the way.
“I’ll leave you with him,” he said, trying to hide the sudden awkwardness, and before Ariadne could reply Pythagoras all but fled to his room.
He went to the window and leaned out, breathing in the fresh air in the hope it might wake him up a bit. In the street below life carried on as it always did, the sounds of the market traders floating up to him as normal; so many people completely unaware that their queen was right here amongst them, or how close their champion had come to dying, yet again.
Pythagoras closed his eyes and let it all wash over him. Behind him in the main room he could hear low voices, and his first thought was that Jason had woken. It took him a moment to realise it was not Jason’s voice, though, it was Hercules, and the other voice was Ariadne. So much for leaving her alone with Jason.
His arm was hurting, he realised. With everything else last night it had almost become unimportant, but now there was a dull ache in his arm, and the cut was beginning to itch under the bandage. Pythagoras suspected he should probably change the dressing as soon as possible. And perhaps clean and treat it properly, as well. The last thing any of them needed right now was for it to get infected or something ridiculous like that.
The voices in the main room became louder, and Pythagoras registered some sort of argument between Ariadne and Delmos. He frowned, but didn’t turn around. From what he could make out, Ariadne had asked Delmos to leave, and Delmos had refused. Pythagoras caught Ariadne saying something about how she trusted the three men in this house more than anyone else in the whole city, but more than that it was the ‘taking absolutely no shit’ tone of Ariadne’s voice that made Pythagoras smile to himself. Anyone who thought for a moment that their young queen was weak obviously did not know her.
He heard the sound of the door again, and guessed that Delmos had admitted defeat. Pythagoras absently wondered how long would be an appropriately tactful amount of time to give them before he could return to the kitchen and get himself something to drink, and perhaps some breakfast. Would Ariadne want breakfast? Did they even have anything fit to offer a queen? He suspected the answer was almost certainly no.
He looked round in surprise at the queen’s voice. Ariadne was standing in the doorway to his bedroom.
“May I speak with you? In private?” Ariadne asked. It took Pythagoras a moment to realise that she was actually waiting for permission to enter.
For the second time that morning, he quickly cleared a seat for her and dumped the scrolls onto his desk out of the way.
Again Ariadne did not sit down, though. She came closer to him, and for a moment he felt cornered. Trapped.
“I wanted to thank you, Pythagoras. For what you did for Jason.”
He shook his head. “You know you do not have to thank me for that.”
“I know, but I still wanted to. It seems we are in your debt again. First you saved my life, now Jason.”
He shook his head again.
“What happened to your arm?”
The question was not quite casual enough, and for a second, even through the exhaustion, there was a flare of panic in his chest. Then his mind went utterly blank.
“Uh... nothing. I mean, it’s just a cut. It’s nothing.”
Ariadne seemed to be studying him, and Pythagoras knew he had to say something more sensible and convincing but he just couldn’t think of a single thing.
“You didn’t do a very good job of cleaning up. I saw the broken vial on the table, and what looks very much like Hercules’ belt pouch.” Ariadne moved closer until she was standing right there in front of him, and Pythagoras didn’t want to meet her gaze because he knew, he knew he wouldn’t be able to hide the truth, but he could not look away from her.
“You used your blood to save Jason, didn’t you?” Ariadne asked in a very quiet voice.
Pythagoras swallowed, opened his mouth, and closed it again when he realised he had no words.
In the end, he simply nodded.
Ariadne seemed to consider this for a few seconds.
“Does Jason know?”
Know what? That he had saved him? That he loved him? Right now, the two things were one and the same anyway.
“No,” Pythagoras forced himself to say. He barely recognised his own voice. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Ariadne’s eyes widened and she took his hand in hers.
“No. No, Pythagoras. You do not have to apologise. You, of all people, do not have to apologise.”
“I don’t... I would never...” He forced himself to stop before he made an even bigger fool of himself in front of the queen. Forced himself to look into her eyes when he finally began to speak again. “Jason loves you. You love Jason. You are going to be married and I am happy for both of you. I mean that, truly.”
“Even at the expense of your own chance for happiness?”
“That chance never existed. Jason has loved you from the very beginning, and I have known it all along.” He glanced down at where Ariadne was still holding his hand. This entire situation was exactly what he had feared for so long, and yet there was just something utterly surreal about having this conversation with the queen.
But right here, now, she wasn’t the queen. She was Ariadne. Their friend. The woman who was going to marry Jason.
Pythagoras looked back up at her and held her gaze. “Are you going to tell Jason?”
“No. Whatever your reasons were for keeping your feelings hidden, if you do not want him to know then I will not tell him. Even if I did not already owe you so much, I could not do that to you, Pythagoras.” This time Ariadne was the one who glanced down, before meeting his eyes again. “I understand what it feels like to want someone but be unable to be with them. To be forced to hide your true feelings and pretend indifference. While the circumstances may be different, I suspect the pain is very much the same. And after everything you have done for us I have no desire to cause you any more pain, Pythagoras.”
She squeezed his hand and then let go. Pythagoras had to swallow down an unexpected lump in his throat before he could speak.
“Guys?” an unmistakeable voice from the other room called out.
Pythagoras was barely a step behind Ariadne as they headed back to where Jason was trying to sit up, his face a picture of confusion. The moment he saw Ariadne that changed to a surprised smile, and Pythagoras forced himself to look away when Ariadne sat on the edge of Jason’s bed and pulled him into a hug that rapidly turned into a long kiss.
“Wow,” Jason eventually said. “I could get used to waking up like that every morning.”
Behind Pythagoras, Hercules coughed loudly, and suddenly both Jason and Ariadne were blushing.
“Sorry, that didn’t really come out how I meant it,” Jason said. He looked round at them all as Ariadne sat back, still holding his hand. “What happened? Was it the poison again? I thought you’d already dealt with that? Did you find another way to cure it?”
“After a bit of guidance from the Oracle, yes,” Hercules said. “You’ve got Ariadne to thank. It was her blood that was the secret ingredient that countered Pasiphae’s magic.”
Jason immediately turned his attention to Ariadne.
“You did that for me?”
“It was Pythagoras who saved you,” Ariadne said firmly.
Pythagoras’ stomach twisted at her words. For a moment all he could think was that she was about to tell Jason everything.
Ariadne looked at him for a second, and then turned her attention back to Jason. “Pythagoras did all the work. He made the potion, and took care of you all night. All I did was give a little bit of blood.”
Pythagoras breathed again, and a moment later felt Hercules’ hand at his back. All he could focus on, though, was the way Jason was now looking at him, his eyes full of gratitude.
Jason reached out to him and Pythagoras felt himself being tugged down. As soon as he was close enough, Jason put both arms around him and hugged in a way that he had not done for a very long time.
“Thank you,” Jason murmured into Pythagoras’ ear. “I knew you would save me, Pythagoras.”
Pythagoras closed his eyes and breathed deeply of that scent that was so utterly Jason. He squeezed him gently, and then disentangled himself before it had chance to become awkward.
“I think you’ll find I helped quite a bit,” Hercules pointed out, and Pythagoras wanted to hug him for deflecting Jason’s attention away so tactfully.
Jason laughed, and Pythagoras couldn’t stop himself from smiling at the sight of Jason, alive and well and happy.
Hercules brought over a big plateful of fruit, and they all sat together, either on or beside Jason’s bed, eating and talking, even Ariadne. It felt strange, and yet at the same time it felt right. Ariadne may be queen, but after their recent adventures together she had also become one of them in a way that none of them would have expected.
Pythagoras tried to join in, but he was so tired it was easier to just listen while the others talked. After a while, Hercules started giving him worried glances, and even Ariadne seemed to look his way rather more than was strictly necessary.
He couldn’t honestly blame them, not now they knew the truth. He would have to talk to Hercules later, in private, and reassure him that he was fine. The fact that Hercules and Ariadne now knew the truth changed nothing. He had managed to successfully keep his feelings under control for almost two years, he was certainly capable of doing so for a little while longer, until Jason and Ariadne were married. And then, when Jason had moved out and was not there, right in front of him every day, maybe then Pythagoras could, as Hercules put it, get over him and move on.
Until then, he just had to convince his friends that he was fine. He was fine.
Pythagoras hoped that maybe one day that wouldn’t even be a lie.
End notes: This was all started by girlwhowasntthere, who made this gifset, which inspired me to make this wallpaper, which then went on to inspire this fic, which in turn has inspired more beautiful artwork by knowmefirst here.
So I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had our money’s worth out of this concept!