Title: The Truth Beneath the Lies
Pairing/characters: Icarus/Pythagoras, Jason, Hercules, Daedalus, The Oracle, OC
Warnings: Occasional language, implied smut
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 20,845 (this part 7665)
Summary: When Pythagoras chooses to spend the night of the festival of Aphrodite, goddess of love, with his friends rather than with Icarus, it sets in motion a chain of events that neither of them could have predicted. Hurt, angry and insecure, Icarus is easy prey for a woman who is not all she seems, and when she offers him a solution to his relationship problems he cannot resist. However, when he told the woman, “I never know what is going on in his head,” he never expected to wake up the following morning with the ability to hear Pythagoras’ thoughts. Icarus knows he must find a way to break the enchantment, but even if he does, will Pythagoras ever be able to trust him again?
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 'Telepathic Trauma' square on my hurt/comfort bingo card,
AN3: Set in a slightly AU early series 2, in which Icarus and Pythagoras got together much earlier, and all the business with Telemon and Ariadne never happened.
Fic on AO3
The next two days were amongst the most frustrating and miserable of Icarus’ life. After Pythagoras had left him at the amphitheatre, he had spent the rest of the day, and much of the day after, searching the city for any sign of the witch who had caused all of this. He spoke to market traders and gate guards and anyone else he could think of. He did eventually manage to find a couple of people who remembered seeing the old woman and her stall on the night of Aphrodite’s festival, but they could tell him nothing else beyond that fact.
By the time he had exhausted all avenues of inquiry, all Icarus knew was that no-one had any idea who she was or where she had come from.
The more Icarus thought about that night, though, the more he could not understand the old woman’s motivation. Why would she do it? She had given him what appeared to be a powerful magical item for a derisory amount of money. Where was the gain in that?
His memory of her exact words was already fading, but Icarus was sure she had alluded to Aphrodite, and made it seem like a kindness in the interests of helping his relationship. But she had not told him what the bracelet would do, and with hindsight Icarus suspected that was because she had known it would actually lead to the exact opposite of helping their relationship.
But if she had intended it as a cruel joke, why did she not stay to watch and enjoy the chaos she had caused? And why him? Was it simply because he had fallen and disrupted her stall? If so, he couldn’t help feeling the punishment was far in excess of what his ‘crime’ had warranted. He had heard tales of witches and their cruel tricks, the way they manipulated people. Perhaps it was that simple.
As arbitrary and unfortunate as that was, Icarus began to think it might actually be the preferable option to the only other theory he could come up with. Icarus knew that he himself was unimportant, but Pythagoras was important. He associated with heroes and royalty, he was trusted with great secrets, he was a great hero in his own right, no matter how much he protested otherwise when Icarus mentioned it. Icarus was certain that Pythagoras had a great destiny, and his actions were already having an impact on the destiny of the city of Atlantis.
If the witch had known the identity of his love, then it might not have been arbitrary at all. Icarus was certain that he had not mentioned Pythagoras by name when he had been talking with the old woman. But if she was a witch she might have known already. She might have known all about both of them. She may even have used her magic to lure him to her stall, rather than the random accident Icarus had believed it to be. If the target truly was Pythagoras, then Icarus had walked right into her trap and done everything she wanted of him.
The problem was, he had absolutely no way of knowing which option was anything like the truth. And even if he did know why it had happened, that still didn’t answer the rather more important question of how to stop it.
On the third day, Icarus went to the library. It was not a place he frequented often, academic research was not his strong point at all, but his father had sent him often enough that he knew his way around, at least. Still, he was wary of directly asking the library keepers where they kept the scrolls about magic and enchantments, so it took him rather longer than he had expected to find the correct section.
When he did finally locate it, he walked around a shelf stack and found Pythagoras. He was sitting on the floor cross-legged at the far end of the row, scrolls piled up on either side of him, and one unfurled on his knees that he was reading intently.
Icarus simply stopped and stared. It was the first time he had seen the man since the amphitheatre, although he had walked past his house a couple of times. He told himself he was just checking that everything was still normal, rather than the rather more pathetic truth that he just wanted to see Pythagoras, even if he couldn’t be with him.
Pythagoras must have sensed he was no longer alone because he looked up and their eyes met. Several expressions spasmed across Pythagoras’ face before he managed to settle on something neutral.
“I was just...” Icarus gestured vaguely at the shelf of scrolls. “I wondered if there might be a way to break the enchantment.”
Pythagoras nodded. “I thought the same.”
Icarus cringed. He couldn’t remember a time when their conversation had been this awkward.
He turned to the shelf next to him and picked up the first thing he found. He had no idea what this shelf even contained, but it was as far away from Pythagoras as he could be without actively going to a different row.
“Don’t waste your time,” Pythagoras said. “I have already been through all of those.”
“Oh. Of course.” Icarus put the scroll back.
He turned back to Pythagoras, but he had already turned his attention back to the scroll and was not looking at Icarus. Icarus could still hear the last words Pythagoras had said to him in the amphitheatre echoing in his head, and knew the best thing he could probably do right now would be to honour that and just leave. But he couldn’t.
He moved closer, but stopped as soon as he saw the tension in Pythagoras’ body.
“Are you alright?” Icarus asked. “Has anything changed, or...?”
“Nothing has changed since the last time we saw each other.”
Icarus wasn’t sure whether that was supposed to refer to the situation with the bracelet, or Pythagoras’ feelings towards him. A tiny part of him that still felt angry and bitter couldn’t help thinking the ambiguity in Pythagoras’ answer was deliberate.
“There are no ill effects?”
“Not that I am aware of.”
Pythagoras hadn’t actually looked up at him at all while he had spoken, and Icarus knew a dismissal when he saw one. He was more than used to that from his father.
He debated whether to push it, but in the end simply said, “I will let you know if I find anything.”
With that he turned and walked away. Of course, he realised the problem almost immediately, in that he needed to be in that section to research magical enchantments. Was there another angle he could approach it from?
What if it wasn’t simply witchcraft? He seemed to remember the old woman being very insistent that he give the bracelet to Pythagoras that very night, when the goddess’ powers were at their greatest, or something. He eventually found himself the section about religious festivals, and spent the next couple of hours going through everything he could find about Aphrodite and her powers.
He knew it had been a long shot, but even so he was disappointed by the lack of anything even remotely useful by the end of the morning. Aphrodite was powerful indeed, but he found very little about cursed items, and nothing at all about being able to see into people’s minds.
He was still trying to decide what to research next when his stomach reminded him it was lunchtime. He eyed the shelves and decided now was a good time to take a break and get something to eat, and maybe by the time he finished he would have thought of something else to approach. On his way out, he paused briefly at the end of the row about magic and witchcraft. Pythagoras was still sitting exactly where he had left him, although the pile of scrolls around him had grown even larger. He was so engrossed he didn’t even look up from his reading. Icarus was about to say something, but then decided against it and moved on. He wasn’t sure he could stand another conversation like the one earlier.
Icarus found the nearest market stall selling pastries, and sat on a wall eating and thinking. Perhaps he could research bracelets in particular; see if there was any significance behind the item itself. Now he thought about it, amber was an unusual choice for a jewellery stone anyway. The irony was that the stone really did go with the blue colours that Pythagoras seemed so fond of, and that brought him back to wondering if it had all been planned from the beginning. What was it Pythagoras had been worrying about from his recent mission? Messenians? Perhaps that was another line of inquiry.
It occurred to him that Pythagoras might have already covered all of this. He had probably thought of everything, and researched what he didn’t already know. He always was the one with the brains. But still, perhaps there was a chance Icarus might see something Pythagoras had missed. A small chance, but a chance nonetheless.
Icarus brushed the crumbs off his tunic, intending to go back to the library, when he had an idea. He went back to the pastry seller and bought another one, the sweetest honey flavoured pastry he could find, and then shoved it in his bag before heading back to the library. He suspected they would not be pleased about food near the scrolls.
He wasn’t even remotely surprised when he found Pythagoras exactly where he had left him.
“Pythagoras,” he said, stopping a few paces away.
Pythagoras looked up, confused.
“I brought you lunch,” Icarus held out the pastry. “I know what you are like; you are as bad as my father for forgetting to eat when you are engrossed in studying.”
Pythagoras looked momentarily startled, and for a second Icarus wondered if he was going to be refused. Then Pythagoras put his scroll aside and took the pastry with a grateful look.
“Thank you. I hadn’t even realised what time it was.”
He stretched his legs, and Icarus wondered if he had even moved from that spot on the floor for the last hour, except to collect more scrolls.
“Have you found anything useful?” Icarus asked. He knew he was pushing his luck, but it was just too strange, the two of them being here in the same place and not talking to each other.
Pythagoras nodded, his mouth too full of pastry to speak at first.
“I have found many, many useful things for a variety of circumstances. Unfortunately none of them are even remotely helpful for the current problem.”
Icarus shook his head. “Nothing useful. I have spent the last few days searching for the old woman, but it seems she had vanished.”
“That does not surprise me.”
Pythagoras fell silent again, possibly because he was too busy eating, but Icarus couldn’t help wondering if it was just a sign that he wanted the conversation to end. At least he seemed less openly hostile now, even if it was nothing like the usual tone of their interaction.
This close, he could see that Pythagoras looked exhausted. Icarus wondered if he had been sleeping as badly as Icarus had recently.
“It is just you,” Pythagoras said with no preamble.
Icarus was honestly confused.
“What do you mean?”
“Only you can hear my thoughts. I have tested it thoroughly on both Hercules and Jason, and it seems they remain completely unaware of what is going on in my head.”
“That’s good,” Icarus said with a relieved smile. Then he thought about it for a second longer. “Well, it’s not good, nothing about this is good, but I only meant, it’s good that it’s not everyone, I didn’t me-”
“I know what you meant,” Pythagoras interrupted. There was the faintest hint of an amused smile as he spoke.
Icarus wasn’t sure if it was that smile, or the fact that Pythagoras had actively stopped him from babbling and digging himself into an even more embarrassing hole, but right at that moment he felt an absurd surge of hope.
Nothing more seemed to be forthcoming, though, and eventually Icarus backed off.
“I’d better get back to the research.”
“What are you on now? Just so we do not waste effort by duplicating subjects.”
“Amber, I think.”
Pythagoras glanced down at the bracelet around his wrist, and nodded.
“Not an angle I had considered. It’s worth a try. Let us hope one of us finds something soon.”
Icarus headed off towards the section on stones and their properties, but this time he was sure he could he could feel Pythagoras’ gaze on him until he was out of sight.
Amber, sacred stone of Apate.
Icarus paused and re-read that. Apate. He frowned in thought until he eventually dredged up a memory that Apate was a minor goddess, something to do with tricks, perhaps. She was not one of the major gods worshipped in Atlantis, nor had she any special links with the city, so Icarus had to admit he knew very little about her.
But he could think of someone sitting not very far away who might know.
He took the scroll with him back to the section on enchantments and found Pythagoras sitting there with his elbows resting on his knees, and his fingers rubbing his forehead.
“Pythagoras, what do you know about-” He paused. “Are you alright?”
Pythagoras glanced up at him and sighed.
“I have been staring at scrolls for so long that the words are no longer making sense, but apart from that I am fine. What were you asking?”
“The goddess Apate. Do you know anything about her?”
Pythagoras’ brow crinkled in thought for a moment.
“Minor deity linked with deceit and tricks, I believe, although I confess that one is a little obscure even for me.” He gave Icarus a curious look. “Why do you ask?”
“Amber is her sacred stone. It might be a coincidence...” he trailed off as something else in the scroll he was holding caught his eye. “Or it might not be.”
Icarus waved the scroll he was holding at him.
“Damn it! She didn’t mean Aphrodite at all!”
“Icarus, what are you talking about?”
Icarus started to pace as he put his thoughts together.
“The old woman told me that I had to give you the bracelet that very night. She said it was something to do with the goddess’ power being at its height. I had assumed she was talking about Aphrodite’s power, as it was her festival, but what if that wasn’t it at all? The more I think about it, the more I cannot remember her mentioning Aphrodite by name, she simply said ‘the goddess’. Amber is the sacred, magical stone of Apate. It says something here about how her powers are linked to the moon. The old woman was wearing a pendant with a moon symbol.”
“The moon? I believe I have read something about magical powers and the moon in one of these scrolls,” Pythagoras interrupted. He started going through the pile beside him, unrolling scrolls and tossing them aside until he found the one he wanted. “Yes, here. Magic spells of trickery are most powerful if performed when the moon is new, when its light is hidden and darkness hides true intentions.”
“What phase was the moon on the night of the festival?” Icarus couldn’t remember, but he knew Pythagoras had far more interest in astronomy than he did.
“I’m not sure. I don’t remember seeing it at all, and it is currently a crescent. I believe it may have been new moon that night.”
He looked up and their eyes met in understanding.
“You believe this woman may have been a priestess of Apate, and not a witch?” Pythagoras asked, although it came out sounding more like a statement than a question.
“She may have been both. It makes more sense. And she certainly deceived me.”
“How do you mean?”
Icarus came over and sat down a little way from Pythagoras. This was rapidly becoming a conversation he did not want to have while looking down on him.
“When I try to remember too many details of my conversation with her my mind becomes fuzzy. She gave me a drink that made me... I don’t know. I didn’t want to talk to her about what was wrong, or why I was upset, but every time I thought about getting up and leaving, instead I just started talking, telling her things. Personal things. About...” he felt himself flush and could not look Pythagoras in the eye. “About how I feared that you did not truly want me.”
He heard a sharp intake of breath.
He shook his head. “I was angry. I was upset. I believed that you would rather spend the night dedicated to the goddess of love with your friends than with me. What was I supposed to think, Pythagoras? I know that does not excuse what I did afterwards, but I think the old woman gave me a drink that made me more... susceptible, I suppose. And when I revealed my fears to her, she twisted my words.” He stopped and swallowed around a sudden lump in his throat. “I think I did something stupid, because I said to her that I was afraid because I did not know what you truly wanted. I said something about how I wished I knew what was going on inside your head. And then she gave me something that would do just that.”
“Oh, Icarus. Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?”
“Would you want to admit to any of that? To being so pathetic that you allowed yourself to be taken in by an old woman and reveal your deepest fears?”
“You were not simply ‘taken in’ if she used magic on you.”
“Perhaps.” He forced himself to look Pythagoras in the eye. “But that still does not change the fact that I made the choice to give you that bracelet. I knew there was a chance it might not be entirely normal, but I did it anyway. She swore that it would not harm you, I wouldn’t have accepted it if I thought for a minute it would do that, but I suppose I didn’t really think it through. She was telling the truth about that; it technically wasn’t directly dangerous, or harmful to you. The only thing that actually hurt you was me.”
Pythagoras watched him, his throat working but there were no words.
“I’m sorry,” Icarus said, his voice quiet.
There was a silence that was not entirely awkward for a few moments.
Icarus breathed deeply and tried to get control of himself before he spoke again.
“All of this is very well, but it does not help us to resolve the actual problem.”
“Perhaps not. Although I wonder if the power of the enchantment is tied to the moon, then it might be at its weakest when the moon is full. We could try again to remove the bracelet then.”
“You don’t sound terribly convinced by that,” Icarus felt the need to point out.
“To tell you the truth I am not. In my experience, and since I met Jason I have had rather more experience of this than I would like, the only way to remove a spell or curse has been to force or bargain with the person who placed the curse to remove it, or to kill them. Since we do not know where this witch or priestess or whoever she is has gone, we can do none of those things.”
That was pretty much what Icarus had feared. Hearing Pythagoras confirm it was in no way comforting.
“As long as the bracelet continues to have no other effect, then I suppose it is not the end of the world if we cannot remove it. Although...”
“Although that would mean we could never touch one another again.” Pythagoras sighed. “Let us hope it does not come to that. It is not a prospect I find particularly appealing.”
That little flicker of hope Icarus had felt earlier flared again at Pythagoras’ words. He wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve it, but the thought that Pythagoras’ instruction to stay away from him was no longer his last word on the subject was enough to lift him from the despair he had been feeling for the last few days.
Pythagoras dragged himself to his feet and stretched. Icarus, somewhat shamelessly, took the opportunity to appreciate the view, and offered a slightly sheepish smile when Pythagoras caught him looking.
“At least today hasn’t been a complete waste. But I think I’ve had enough for now. I should get home, before Hercules starts to complain about the lack of dinner.”
“Can’t he cook his own for a change?” Icarus asked as he too picked himself up.
“That possibly depends on whether I want to find the house on fire when I get home or not.”
Icarus actually chuckled at that, and helped Pythagoras pile the scrolls back onto the shelves before they both headed out onto the street into the relative cool of the early evening. They paused in the street before they went their separate ways, and for a moment Icarus thought that Pythagoras was about to hug him. He saw the moment when it registered in Pythagoras’ eyes that hugging was no longer advisable, and the fact that Pythagoras looked about as unhappy about that as Icarus felt was in no way comforting.
“If I think of anything else I will let you know,” Pythagoras said. “We will find a way to fix this.”
“I won’t stop until we do.”
He watched Pythagoras until he disappeared round the corner at the end of the street. Then Icarus turned and walked the opposite direction. He was not going home just yet. There was one other option he needed to try first.
Icarus had lived his entire life in Atlantis without ever once going to see the Oracle, so he did not really know what to expect as he descended the staircase into her underground chamber beneath the temple. The atmosphere down here was thick and warm, and he shivered as he was reminded of the old woman’s stall with her heavy incense that had so clouded his senses.
The Oracle was kneeling beside a large bronze bowl with her back to him, and Icarus wasn’t entirely sure whether he should speak to attract her attention or wait for her to finish... whatever it was she was doing.
The silence had almost become uncomfortable when she finally turned to look at him with an expression that looked a lot like impatience.
“You have a question for the gods?”
“Yes.” Icarus stepped closer. “I need to find someone. A witch. Or priestess, I’m not entirely certain. We believe she worships Apate, goddess of deceit and tricks. She has put a curse upon my friend and I need to find her to remove it.”
“Why does your friend not come to me himself?”
“The curse was my fault. I should be the one to fix it.”
The Oracle turned back to her bowl and swirled the liquid that Icarus could now see filled the bowl.
“You are a man of science. You know nothing of magic and curses. Even if you do find this woman, how will you know what to do to break the curse?”
Icarus came closer again.
“Can you tell me?”
“How can I tell you what you want to know, when you do not even know what question it is that you want to ask?”
Icarus willed himself to remain calm. His father had told him that the Oracle was often vague and confusing, and best approached with extreme caution, and Icarus was starting to see what he meant. But no matter how infuriating she was, she was also touched by the gods, and therefore probably not someone he should shout at.
One question, then. One straightforward, plain question where his meaning could not be twisted. That was how he had got into this mess in the first place.
“Please. Just tell me how to find the woman who has put a curse on the man I love.”
The Oracle looked up, and he could have sworn he saw the corners of her mouth turn upwards into a smile for a moment.
“You will find her by going back to the beginning.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“It means you have your answer.”
The Oracle stood up and walked into the darkness beyond the columns, leaving Icarus even more confused than ever.
He was so deep in thought as he left the Oracle’s chambers and wandered through the temple that Icarus did not see the other man until he spoke.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t punch you in the face.”
Icarus looked round. Jason glared at him. On another day, Icarus might have even been intimidated, he had heard all about Jason’s exploits in the arena, after all, but right now he honestly didn’t have it in him to care about that as well.
“Because Pythagoras will probably be pissed off if he finds out you’re fighting his battles for him.”
Jason glared at him a moment longer, and then abruptly relaxed.
“You’re probably right. Doesn’t mean I don’t still want to hit you, though.”
There was a somewhat awkward silence between the two men.
“Aren’t you even going to ask how he is?” Jason said in a somewhat accusing tone.
“I don’t need to. I saw him in the library not more than an hour ago.”
Jason looked oddly deflated by that. It was almost funny; strictly speaking they both wanted the same thing – to protect Pythagoras – and yet the possibility of him and Jason seeing eye to eye looked as remote as ever.
“Look, whatever Pythagoras has told you, or whatever you think of me, I didn’t do this on purpose. I would never hurt Pythagoras on purpose.”
“Maybe not. But you seem to be doing a bloody good job of hurting him by accident.”
Icarus really couldn’t bring himself to argue with that.
“I know,” he said, his voice quiet.
Whatever Jason had been expecting, it probably wasn’t that, and he looked slightly awkward for a moment.
“I saw you coming from those stairs. Have you seen the Oracle? Was it about this cursed bracelet?”
“Was she helpful?”
Icarus shrugged. “Honestly? No, not really.”
Jason actually gave a small chuckle at that. “Welcome to my world,” he muttered.
“She said to go back to the beginning. The beginning of what?”
“The beginning of that day of the festival?” Jason suggested. “The beginning of the situation?”
“That would be either my house or your house. I doubt the witch is hiding in either of those places.”
“What about when you got the bracelet? Surely that was the beginning?”
“I’ve already done that. That was the very first thing I did when I realised something was wrong. It was just a temporary stall set up for the festival; it was all gone by the next morning.” Icarus paused. Thought. “Oh.”
“Oh, I am an idiot,” Icarus said, more to himself than to Jason. “I know exactly where she is.”
“Icarus, where? What are you talking about?”
“Jason, do me a favour, and go tell Pythagoras I know where she is, and I am going to sort this out.”
“Icarus, wait. Where are you going? Do you need backup?”
But Icarus was already running.
It was dark by the time he got to the street where the old woman’s stall had been. The building was the same as any other on that street, the doorway just as nondescript. But now Icarus remembered the door behind the stall had been open. That was where the old woman had produced the drink from. And if the door was open, that meant that this doorway led into the building where she was.
Icarus glanced up and down the street, already emptying of people, and tried the door. He was actually surprised when it opened.
It was dark inside, there were no windows on the ground floor that he had noticed from the outside, and just inside the door there was a thick curtain that blocked any sight of what lay beyond. Icarus slipped inside and pulled the door almost closed behind him, and then sneaked to the edge of the curtain and peered around.
There was no one in the room, but it was warm and lit with candles and an oil lamp that stood on a stone plinth.
Icarus moved into the room and got a better look around. There were wall paintings and tapestries, many depicting the moon in all its phases, and totems and bones and strips of cloth and things he couldn’t even recognise hung from the walls and ceiling so that he occasionally had to duck his head to avoid them. He moved over to the stone plinth and realised it was an altar of sorts, with a small carved amber female figurine and a polished bronze disc etched with swirling symbols and a crescent moon behind her.
The goddess and the moon.
“Come to pay your respects to my mistress in thanks for the great gift she bestowed on you?”
Icarus spun round. There was a woman, not much older than him, standing in a doorway at the far side of the room that he had not seen because it was half hidden by a tapestry. She wore a long dark robe, and as she came towards him he saw the pendant with the crescent moon around her neck.
It suddenly occurred to Icarus that he had no sword. The only weapon he had on him was a knife, and that was in his bag.
“Who are you?”
“I’m hurt you do not recognise me,” she gave him an exaggerated pout. “But then, I suppose you don’t really notice women, do you, Icarus?”
“You are the woman from the stall? How?”
“A simple disguise spell. Untrained minds are so easy to deceive.” She smirked. “So tell me, Icarus, what are you doing here?”
“I want you to remove the curse on the bracelet.”
“Why would I do that? You came to me with a sad story, and I gave you everything you asked for.”
“I never asked for that. You twisted my words. You used a potion on me that made me tell you all those things.”
“Were any of them untrue?”
“That’s not the point.”
“It’s exactly the point. You may not have specifically asked for it, but I gave you what you wanted. You didn’t trust the man you claim to love, you wanted to know whether he was telling you the truth. Are you happy now? Now you know what he really thinks of you?”
“You know I’m not, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. That bracelet wrecked our relationship.”
She turned on him with a glare.
“No, Icarus, you did that all by yourself.”
Icarus felt like he had been slapped in the face. The woman stalked over and looked him up and down.
“Why are the pretty ones always so stupid?” she said with a sneer.
There was a sound behind him and they both turned to see the curtain flung aside as Pythagoras raced into the room, panting for breath.
“Don’t touch him,” he growled at the woman.
The woman didn’t look in the least bit threatened. She pointedly looked him up and down the same way she had Icarus only moments earlier.
“So this is the man you were so keen to keep? Quite a pair. Pretty but stupid, and manly but, well, not so pretty.”
“That’s enough,” Icarus snapped. He wasn’t entirely sure which one of them he was defending, but he was sick of the woman’s dismissive tone.
“Ooh, bit braver now he’s here to defend your honour.”
Pythagoras snorted at that.
“Hardly.” He turned on Icarus and glared at him. “You really are an idiot, aren’t you? I told you to wait, but you had to come blundering in like a stupid puppy, same as always.”
Before Icarus could do more than open his mouth, Pythagoras walked over and grabbed his arm and yanked him away from the woman.
-trust me and go along with this Icarus I don’t have time to explain but you need to trust me and you need to fight me and we need to make it look real-
Pythagoras was staring right at him, and Icarus’ eyes widened when he heard the very deliberate voice in his head.
Then Pythagoras hit him.
He knew immediately that Pythagoras had pulled the punch, but the blow to his belly was so unexpected he doubled over with a cry.
Pythagoras shoved him past the woman and further into the room, and followed him.
“You can’t do anything right,” Pythagoras spat.
He grabbed Icarus’ shoulder and shook him.
-trust me and do this she has to believe it Hercules and Jason are on their way we just need to distract her and stall for time-
Icarus could see the woman watching with an amused expression, and didn’t dare to acknowledge what Pythagoras was telling him. Instead he flung a wild swipe at Pythagoras’ face and felt it connect with his chin. Pythagoras swore loudly at him and punched him in the stomach a second time, the blow almost completely swallowed up by the banded leather he wore over his tunic. Nevertheless Icarus staggered back again, and wrapped an arm across his stomach as Pythagoras advanced on him again.
“Stupid, useless idiot. She was right about that part.”
Icarus snarled and swung at him again, his blow glancing off Pythagoras’ shoulder.
“That’s not what you said when you were moaning into the pillow last week.”
Pythagoras’ eyes widened almost comically and he shoved Icarus against the wall and held him there.
-for fuck’s sake I do not need that image right now what the hell was that about-
If it were possible for thoughts to have a tone of voice, Icarus would have put that down as amused and quite possibly intrigued. Now that was a thought to hold onto for later.
A sudden shriek interrupted right at the point Icarus tried to ram his knee into Pythagoras’ stomach without actually doing any damage. From the slight grimace on his face it wasn’t entirely successful, but they both looked round to see Jason had grabbed the woman from behind and had his sword held to her throat.
Pythagoras breathed deeply and let go of Icarus.
“Thank the gods, I don’t know how much longer I could have kept that up.” He turned round properly and looked at Jason. “You took your bloody time.”
“Sorry, had to drag Hercules out of the tavern.”
The woman was staring at Pythagoras and Icarus with an expression so surprised it was comical.
Pythagoras turned back to Icarus and held his hand out to pull Icarus upright again.
-and don’t think we won’t be having a conversation about that comment later when this is sorted out-
He let go as Hercules staggered in, gasping for breath with a sword in one hand and a flagon in the other.
“Right,” Pythagoras said, advancing on the woman. “I believe Icarus was saying something about you removing the curse on this bracelet.” He held his arm out. “Please.”
“What makes you think I’ll do that? Your friend can threaten me as much as he likes, but we all know if he kills me you’re stuck with it.”
“I think you’ll do it because we just managed to completely deceive you, and you fell for it. That’s what you’re all about, isn’t it? Deception, trickery. You’re going to do it for us, because we have earned it.”
Icarus moved to stand beside Pythagoras. He had never seen Pythagoras like this before, so completely confident and in charge of the situation. Was this what he was like when they went on all those adventures and missions? If Icarus wasn’t so busy trying to keep up with what was going on he would probably have found it something of a turn on.
The woman seemed to be studying Pythagoras rather more intently than the dismissive way she had when he first arrived. Finally she inclined her head a touch.
“Call off your bodyguard and you have a deal.”
Pythagoras looked at Jason and nodded, and Jason let go, but he didn’t step too far back.
The woman simply untied the cord tying the band around his wrist and it dropped to the floor with no ceremony. Icarus wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but that just seemed somewhat anti-climactic after all the stress of the last few days.
“Is that it?” Hercules asked. He was leaning heavily against the wall and apparently still trying to catch his breath.
“Not quite,” Icarus said.
Pythagoras gave him a surprised look, but didn’t question him when Icarus went to Hercules and indicated the flagon.
“May I borrow that, please?”
Hercules gave him a pained look, but handed over the flagon, and Icarus took it back over to the altar. He met the woman’s gaze, and poured an offering onto the altar.
“Be more careful, Icarus,” she said.
He followed Pythagoras and the others out onto the street, her words still in his head.
As soon as they were a little way down the street, Pythagoras stopped and took Icarus’ hand.
“What?” Icarus said, returning Pythagoras’ intent stare with a confused look.
“What are you doing?” Hercules asked.
“You didn’t hear any of that?” Pythagoras said to Icarus.
He finally got it.
“No. I couldn’t hear anything I shouldn’t have been able to.”
Pythagoras nodded. “I needed to check.”
“And you’re just going to take his word for it?” Hercules pressed. There was only a little accusation in his voice. Icarus couldn’t really blame him.
“Trust me, if he’d been able to hear what I was just thinking there would have been more of a reaction.”
Icarus was glad it was dark, because he had a horrible feeling he was suddenly quite flushed. He glanced down and realised Pythagoras was still holding his hand. After a moment Pythagoras seemed to notice as well, and let go with a slightly embarrassed cough.
Hercules just looked from Pythagoras to Icarus and back again.
“Are you coming home, or are you two going to sort yourselves out and put everyone out of their misery?”
After all the bravado and confidence, Pythagoras suddenly seemed unsure. Icarus was about to tell him to just go home with his friends, when Pythagoras came to a decision.
“You go on. I’ll see you later.” He was talking to Jason and Hercules.
Icarus’ stomach churned, because he was in no way ready for this conversation, but he was in no position to object. He was pretty sure both Hercules and Jason levelled particularly warning looks at him before they left, and then Icarus was just standing there on the street with Pythagoras with absolutely no idea what the hell to do now.
“Come on.” Pythagoras touched his arm and started walking, pausing long enough to make sure Icarus was with him.
It was barely anything, but that casual touch made Icarus’ heart skip. He had feared he might never have that again.
“I’m sorry about the fighting. And the things I called you. You know I didn’t mean any of that, don’t you?” Pythagoras said. “I hope I didn’t actually hurt you?”
“I am fine. Did I... are you alright?”
Pythagoras grimaced. “You need to work on pulling punches, but yes, I am fine. I’m just glad it worked. It was the only thing I could think of, and to be honest the entire plan was thought up on the fly in the time it took me to run over here. It possibly wasn’t my finest strategic hour.”
“It was far better than my plan. To be truthful, I’m not even sure I had a plan.”
“You were fine. And good thinking with the offering to Apate at the end there. We met the priestess on her own terms and bested her, and left on reasonable terms. Nobody died. It’s about as good an ending as we could have hoped for, considering.”
Icarus nodded, but he couldn’t help thinking that while it might be a good resolution for the situation, it was not necessarily so good for their relationship.
“Although,” Pythagoras added. “I have to ask: ‘Moaning into the pillow’? Really?”
He threw Icarus an incredulous look.
“I was surprised,” Icarus protested. “I had to think of something after what you’d been calling me. Otherwise she might not have believed it.”
Pythagoras rolled his eyes, but he looked amused more than anything else. Amused and, if Icarus was reading it right, not entirely averse to the idea. Icarus tried to quell the thoughts that went with that mental image, although in truth, whenever he had entertained such thoughts he had always imagined their positions the other way around.
He looked away and tried to think of something else. Right now he was not even sure that either position was ever going to be an option for them.
They walked in silence for a few minutes until something occurred to Icarus.
“Wait, how did you know where to find me? I didn’t tell Jason where I was going.”
The look Pythagoras threw him could only be described as smug.
“Alongside all the danger and fighting, there are occasional benefits to being associated with Jason, one being the ability to get a straight answer out of the Oracle when the situation is sufficiently urgent.”
“A straight answer out of the Oracle? I didn’t think that was possible!”
“Stick with us long enough you might even see one for yourself.”
Icarus tried to keep another flare of hope under control, but it didn’t escape his attention that Pythagoras had said, ‘us’. He knew it didn’t necessarily mean anything more than friendship, but still.
They eventually found themselves at Icarus’ house. Daedalus glanced up and actually looked surprised when he saw the two of them. Icarus braced himself for the comments and teasing, but his father must have seen something that told him now was not the time, and he simply greeted them both and then went back to whatever he was working on.
Pythagoras was the one who led the way to Icarus’ bedroom, and closed the door behind them once they were there.
“So, now what?” Icarus asked. Much as he didn’t want this conversation, he didn’t want to drag it out either.
Pythagoras hesitated. He looked like he wanted this conversation about as much as Icarus.
“I can’t say I am not still angry about what you did, but after what you told me in the library I think I understand the reasons behind it rather better than I did when I first found out. And the fact that you were also probably under a magical influence does mitigate it somewhat.”
“But you were right; I should have told you as soon as I realised what was happening.”
“Yes, you should.”
Pythagoras sighed and ran his hand through his hair.
“That said, I have come to realise that perhaps you were right about one thing. I have been prioritising other people, and other things, over you, and I don’t think I realised just how much I was doing that until you pointed it out.”
Icarus held his breath.
“I’m not saying I will abandon my other responsibilities for you; I can’t and I won’t do that. Hercules and Jason are my friends, my family, and they are important to me. And I can’t honestly say that I won’t have to drop everything and leave the city at a moment’s notice sometimes.” He stepped closer and took Icarus’ hand. “But, you are important to me as well, just as much as my friends. This relationship is important. I will try, Icarus. I can’t promise I will always get the balance right, but I will try.”
There was no stopping the flare of hope now. Not after that. But he had to know for sure what Pythagoras meant.
“You still want us to be together?”
“Yes. If you will put up with me, then yes.” Pythagoras offered him a slightly nervous smile.
There was only really one possible answer to that. Icarus cupped Pythagoras’ cheek in his hand and leaned closer. Pythagoras met him halfway and they kissed, soft and gentle and undemanding.
Icarus felt arms wrap around him and tug him closer, preventing him from moving away. As if he ever would.
When they finally parted Pythagoras’ smile was so heartbreakingly beautiful, Icarus wanted nothing more than to hold him forever.
“That is a relief,” Pythagoras said, his voice quiet. “The thought of never being able to do this with you again has made the last few days almost unbearable.”
Icarus kissed him again, because he could think of no answer to that statement. He knew exactly what Pythagoras meant, though.
“Can I ask you something?” Icarus said when he finally managed to tear himself away.
Icarus felt a smirk beginning to tug at his lips.
“Do you ever stop thinking about triangles?”
Pythagoras flushed an interesting shade of pink.
Icarus couldn’t help laughing at that.
For no obvious reason, Pythagoras seemed to be turning an even deeper red. Then he leaned closer and whispered in Icarus’ ear.
“I’m pretty sure if you put your mind to it, you could make me stop thinking about triangles.”
Icarus grinned. He did like a challenge.