Title: Gifted (part 2 of 3)
Pairing/characters: Pythagoras/Icarus, Daedalus
Warnings: Wing!fic AU
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC and Urban Myth Films own them.
Word count: approx 17,316 (part 2 - 4,674)
Summary: “No one can know who the gods may choose to bestow their gifts upon, or why. All we can do is make the best of them.”
AN: Written for hc_bingo, fills the ‘Mutation’ prompt on my h/c bingo card
AN2: Thanks to celeste9 for the beta.
AN3: Wing!fic! This is an Atlantis X-Men fusion/AU, but if you are coming here looking for an X-Men fic I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. It’s an Atlantis story set in the Atlantis world with the Atlantis characters. The only difference is that it is an AU in which mutants with superpowers exist. Except, of course, this is Atlantis, so they don’t think in terms of ‘mutants’ and ‘superpowers’, they think of them as gifts (or curses) from the gods.
Gifted on AO3
“You were right,” Icarus announced without preamble almost three weeks later.
“They do fold up close to my body. Now they’re fully grown, they actually tuck in pretty neatly. See?”
Icarus seemed to concentrate for a moment, and then his upper body tensed and his shoulders flexed and the wings half opened and then folded in on themselves until they could barely been seen from the front. It was pretty impressive considering just how big they had become. Pythagoras hadn’t actually seen them fully extended, but at a rough estimate he would guess that each wing by itself was almost as long as Icarus’ full body height.
“That is excellent news,” Pythagoras smiled. He meant it as well. Of all the issues that had arisen since Icarus’ wings had begun to appear (and there had been, and still were, many) he knew that the visibility and obtrusiveness was one of the things Icarus had been most worried about.
Pythagoras had been out of the city with Jason and Hercules, on a mission for Ariadne for the last week, and when he wasn’t busy trying to keep himself and his companions alive, he had spent much of that week thinking and worrying about Icarus. He had barely been back home for two hours and as soon as all the urgent jobs were done he had come straight over.
He knew his intentions were not entirely altruistic; the simple fact was he wanted to see Icarus and spend time with him. The wings just gave him an excuse. When he thought about it at all, Pythagoras only felt a tiny bit guilty about that.
“It’s not perfect,” Icarus admitted as he led the way to the workshop. “But your idea about a harness also proved to be a good one. Although we are still working on it.”
“We’d have already got it right if you hadn’t been so awkward,” Daedalus said loudly, from where he was, as usual, leaning over one of the workbenches and tinkering with something.
“I told you there was no point devising anything until they had stopped growing,” Icarus argued. “We would only have to keep adjusting it to the new shape and size.”
“But you have to admit the fact that we started early meant we got a lot of trial and error, with emphasis on the error, out of the way a lot sooner by doing it my way.”
Icarus hopped up onto a seat and sat on the table, and rolled his eyes at Pythagoras with a grin.
“Did you just admit you are capable of making errors?” Icarus said.
Daedalus glanced up and gave him a look, but there was that familiar twinkle in his eye.
“Making mistakes during testing is a widely acknowledged necessary stage of scientific endeavour.”
Pythagoras watched the good natured argument go back and forth between father and son, and smiled a little. It made a nice change to see them both like this.
Of course, Pythagoras had to admit, that was not the only thing he was appreciating right at that moment. One side effect of the appearance of the wings was that Icarus had been forced to spend much of the last few weeks shirtless, as most normal tunics could not accommodate the wings, especially once they had grown larger. Icarus had not seemed overly self-conscious about this, which was probably a good thing because Pythagoras suspected he would have felt far more guilty about how much he was enjoying this state of affairs if Icarus had not been comfortable.
As it was, if an exceedingly handsome young man was going to wander around shirtless then Pythagoras certainly wasn’t going to object (in his more shallow moments, he had to admit that was one of the perks of sharing a house with Jason). And if that man just happened to be Icarus... well, no matter how much Pythagoras prided himself on his rational, logical intellect, he was still a man with wants and needs and desires. Although, he had to remind himself frequently, he probably shouldn’t be thinking about such things right in front of the object of those desires, not to mention in front of his father.
“Do you want to look at the latest version?” Icarus asked, interrupting his thoughts.
“Yes, of course.”
Pythagoras hoped they hadn’t noticed his inattention. He was definitely interested in what they had been working on, he had just been a little distracted.
The ‘harness’ actually turned out to be a set of complex fabric straps that pinned the wings into a folded position and held them as close to Icarus’ back as was physically possible. They fastened over his shoulders and round his chest. It was truly impressive quite how much of a difference the harness made to the obtrusiveness of the wings.
Pythagoras watched as Icarus tightened the straps, glancing over his shoulder occasionally while Daedalus continually adjusted it at the back.
“Ultimately we need to design something that I can do entirely on my own, otherwise it’s just not practical,” Icarus said, still fiddling with a strap.
“This is excellent,” Pythagoras commented, giving Icarus an encouraging smile.
Icarus pulled it tighter and winced.
“Careful,” Pythagoras said. He touched Icarus’ hand to stop him.
Icarus shook his head. “It can go tighter. It’s a trade off between comfort and visibility.”
“If it is too tight is there not a danger you might damage the wings?”
Icarus hesitated. “They seem fairly resilient. Our tests so far don’t seem to have done much damage apart from a few bent feathers.”
“But how long have you actually worn it for in these tests?” Pythagoras pressed.
Over Icarus’ shoulder, Daedalus met Pythagoras’ eye and Pythagoras saw the sudden doubt in the older man’s eyes.
“About an hour,” Icarus said.
“More like half an hour,” Daedalus corrected.
“No, it was more than that.”
“Regardless, it was not long at all,” Pythagoras said. “We should beware of the possibility that long term confinement of the wings might cause serious damage.”
“He’s right,” Daedalus said. “We already abandoned the idea of using leather strapping because it was causing too much damage to the feathers.”
“If I cannot wear it all day then what is the point?” Icarus said. He suddenly sounded far more subdued.
“The theory is sound. Perhaps it simply needs to be adjusted slightly,” Pythagoras suggested, attempting to forestall an argument, or Icarus becoming too downhearted again. Considering today was the first time in weeks that Pythagoras had actually seen his friend happy, he did not want to be the cause of another bad mood.
Icarus seemed to be thinking for a moment. He released the strap a little, and rolled his shoulders a couple of times.
“Pass me my tunic.”
Pythagoras looked round until he saw it thrown on the table, and passed it across, sneaking one last glance at Icarus’ chest before it was covered up.
“How does that look?”
What Icarus actually meant was how visible were the wings, and they all knew it. Pythagoras took a couple of steps back and properly looked. No matter how much he wanted to cheer his friend up, he had to be completely honest about this.
“Not too bad. It is obvious there is something back there, but now they are covered it is impossible to say what it is.”
“You could try wearing a more loose fitting tunic?” Daedalus suggested.
“Oh yes, I’m sure that will look very flattering.”
“Or what about that leather top that you wear?” Pythagoras tried. “Perhaps with a few modifications it might disguise the altered body shape and make it appear that you are simply wearing bulky armour?”
Daedalus was already nodding.
“Yes. Yes, that might work.”
“And if your main worry is damage to the feathers, what about a thin layer of fabric between the wings and the straps?” Icarus suggested.
“That sounds like an excellent idea,” Pythagoras said with possibly more enthusiasm than the idea actually warranted. The fact that Icarus was actively contributing and not simply arguing and finding fault with everyone else’s ideas made him want to be supportive, though. “Silk might be particularly ideal. It would be soft against the feathers but it is surprisingly tough and hard wearing. And plus it has the advantage of being very fine, so it is not adding yet another bulky layer to the assembly.”
“What did I tell you?” Daedalus said, looking extremely satisfied. “There is nothing that we cannot solve with the application of a little brainpower.”
The expression on Icarus’ face suggested that he would believe that when he had a fully functioning harness that properly concealed his wings from all but the most determined search, but at least his good mood from earlier seemed to be returning.
They spent the rest of the afternoon trying different designs and configurations. Despite Icarus deciding that he wanted to try wearing the current harness for a longer period of time to test if it really did have any side effects, they ended up taking it on and off multiple times as they experimented with different variations. Pythagoras was not entirely unaware that Icarus seemed to be experiencing some physical discomfort the longer this went on, but he kept insisting he was fine and needed to get used to it, and Pythagoras didn’t push it because he didn’t want to cause another argument. And honestly, Icarus was a grown man and it wasn’t Pythagoras’ job to nag him about this sort of thing.
He couldn’t ignore it any longer, though, when Icarus suddenly cried out in pain and stopped in mid-movement as he tried to take the harness off.
“What is it?” Pythagoras was at his side in an instant.
“I think it’s caught on something,” Icarus admitted.
Pythagoras went round the back and saw exactly what had happened.
“A strap has slipped underneath some of the feathers. Let go, I’ll untangle it.”
He very carefully worked the strap free, trying to avoid pulling any feathers out with it, or catching anything else with another part of the harness while he concentrated on that one strap. Despite all the practice they’d had that afternoon it was more difficult than it looked. Or maybe that was just because Pythagoras was suddenly more aware of the possibility that he might injure Icarus doing this.
After a few minutes it was free, but Pythagoras stayed where he was at Icarus’ back, casting an eye over the damage.
“I think that’s enough for today,” he said in the kind of voice that told his friend that it was not a suggestion.
“I think you’re right,” Icarus said. “It felt like it pulled some feathers out.”
“It looks like it nearly did.” Pythagoras frowned and ran his hands down the wings, smoothing the feathers where they were not lying straight. He felt Icarus become tense and immediately stopped.
“Sorry. Did that hurt?”
“It’s fine. It didn’t hurt. It just feels strange, that’s all.”
“How have you been taking care of them, Icarus?”
Now he was looking closely, he could see a lot of bent or twisted feathers, feathers not lying straight or flat, feathers that were dull instead of glossy.
“Icarus? You have been taking care of them, haven’t you?”
“It’s a bit awkward to reach them,” Icarus admitted in a quiet voice.
Pythagoras sighed. It would be nice if just one of his friends wasn’t such hard work to look after sometimes.
“Then will you allow me to do it?”
Icarus hesitated for a surprisingly long time before he nodded.
“We should probably go somewhere a bit more private,” Icarus muttered.
“Yes, get out of my way for a bit,” Daedalus said loudly as he wandered back into the room. “I do have other work to do besides this you know.”
Despite his words, there was an amused smile on his face as he watched the pair of them that Pythagoras couldn’t quite fathom given the context of the conversation.
“Come on,” Icarus muttered, and led the way to his bedroom.
After a bit of slightly awkward manoeuvring about, they ended up with Icarus sat on the edge of his bed and Pythagoras sat on the bed cross-legged behind him.
“Can you open your wings out fully?”
“I’m not actually sure there’s enough room in here to open both at once.”
Pythagoras was instantly intrigued.
“Is it possible to open one independently of the other?”
“I think the answer is technically yes, but I don’t have enough control over them to get it quite right yet.”
Nevertheless, before Pythagoras could ask any more questions, the muscles in Icarus’ upper back rippled and both wings opened out to about half their full span.
“Hang on,” Icarus said. He closed them again, and then the right wing opened fully, while the left stopped at half open.
“That’s about as good as it gets at the moment,” Icarus said. He glanced over his shoulder with a slightly apologetic look.
Despite the amount of time he had spent with Icarus over the past three weeks, this was the first time Pythagoras had seen the wings anything like fully extended. It seemed his estimate that each wing was as long as Icarus’ full height was more or less correct. But it wasn’t the size that made Pythagoras stare at the wings in awe. Icarus often spoke of them as if they were obstacles to be negotiated, but looking at them like this, all Pythagoras could see was elegance, beauty, and power.
“Icarus, this is amazing,” Pythagoras breathed. “You are amazing.”
He reached out and ran his fingertips down the surface of the wing right in front of him. This close, he was struck by how fragile each individual feather seemed, but at the same time he could see the strength and power in the wing as a whole, the way that each overlapping feather gave support and protection to those around it. It truly was a structural and engineering wonder. For the first time, the thought of seeing Icarus actually fly filled him with excitement instead of trepidation.
“Oh, Icarus, I wish you could see them as I do. These truly are a gift from the gods.”
Icarus turned away and ducked his head.
“Perhaps,” he allowed.
Despite his less than enthusiastic reply, this time there was no resentment or protest in his tone, and Pythagoras dared to believe that maybe his friend was finally beginning to accept the wings.
He must have been marvelling at the wings for longer than he thought, because eventually Icarus twisted round to look at him (almost smacking him in the face with a wing before he stopped in time).
“I thought you were intending to do something, Pythagoras?”
“Oh, of course. Sorry.”
Pythagoras felt himself flush, and offered Icarus a slightly embarrassed smile.
“What actually are you intending to do, by the way?” Icarus sounded curious.
“Well, I have been doing some research in the library on birds and their methods of grooming. And I have to admit I have found myself being distracted on more than one occasion watching birds fussing at their wings. It really is quite fascinating.”
“Yet another of the things that you find fascinating. I should make a list. Triangles would be at the top, obviously.”
“It’s funny you should mention that, because there was one study by an Egyptian scholar that claimed there were some very interesting mathematical formulas related to bird flight, particularly regarding the angles between their wings and their bodies for the most efficient forms of fli-” Pythagoras caught himself, almost hearing Hercules’ voice in his head telling him to shut up. “Sorry. Probably not the most useful thing I could be talking about right now.”
When he glanced up, though, Icarus was still looking over his shoulder and watching him with what could only be described as a fond smile.
“Pythagoras, if I am truly going to fly one day then your research and thoughts might well make the difference between me soaring like an eagle or crashing to the ground in an ignominious heap. Please, tell me all about what you have been reading.”
So Pythagoras began to talk, telling Icarus everything he had discovered, no matter how trivial it might seem. As he did so, he got to work on the wings. Of course, he had to admit to Icarus that despite all his research he still had very little idea what he was doing, and that he was mostly making it up as he went along (Icarus had glanced back over his shoulder with an extremely cheeky smirk, and commented, “Don’t you mean you’re winging it?” which got him a well-earned groan and eye-roll).
He had read somewhere about birds’ feathers being at least partly waterproof, so Pythagoras decided it would probably be best to keep water out of any attempt to clean the wings. That mostly left him using his hands, and on occasion a soft, very slightly damp, cloth to smooth and clean the feathers. There wasn’t as much actual damage as he had first thought, and much of it could be fixed by simply straightening individual feathers back into their proper alignment, although there were a couple where the feather itself was so badly bent it had partly broken. Pythagoras did what he could, but expressed concern that they might need to keep an eye on the broken ones, and perhaps remove them altogether at a later date if necessary.
Despite this slight worry, Pythagoras had to admit that once he got going and became confident that it would not hurt Icarus at all, he began to find it quite relaxing. The repetitive actions meant that his mind could wander and he could ramble on as he worked, encouraged by Icarus occasionally asking questions that indicated he was paying attention and not completely bored or annoyed by it all.
“Nearly done,” Pythagoras commented some time later. “I believe it only took so long because we have been neglecting the wings thus far. If we keep on top of it, it should not take so long in future. Five or ten minutes regularly will save us two hours if we leave it.”
Icarus chuckled. “That sounds like a line you have used on Hercules with regard to housework.”
“On several occasions, in fact. It never works,” Pythagoras said with a smile.
“I appreciate the idea, but I am still unsure how I am supposed to maintain the wings myself when I cannot reach much of them.”
“Then I will help you. It is not a failing on your part, Icarus. I have read there are some species of bird which groom each other, particularly in the areas that are hard for an individual bird to reach themselves. In fact, there are even some species which groom each other as part of their mating rituals.”
He realised what he had said the moment the words were out of his mouth, and Pythagoras felt himself flushing. When he risked a glance at Icarus, he saw his friend was similarly flushed, perhaps even more so. Wonderful, everything had been going so well, and he had to say something stupid and make it awkward.
Pythagoras refocused himself to the task at hand, paying more attention to what he was doing and keeping his mouth shut to avoid any further embarrassment. Perhaps it would be better if Daedalus did this in future? It would certainly provide fewer opportunities for Pythagoras to make an idiot of himself in front of Icarus. Even if it would deprive him of the chance to spend so much time with Icarus, to be allowed to touch him like this... Pythagoras closed his eyes and tried to ignore the thoughts and fantasies that were making themselves known now he was not concentrating on talking about his research. No matter that it might be for the best to avoid this sort of situation, no matter that his thoughts were entirely inappropriate, there was a selfish part of him that did not want to give this up.
He was brought out of his thoughts by a quiet sound from Icarus. It was not the first time; Icarus had been unable to contain soft sounds of contentment ever since it had started, but this was different. This sounded more like a whimper.
“Icarus? Are you alright?”
Icarus nodded, but he did not turn around. In fact, now Pythagoras was looking at him instead of the wings, he could see that Icarus’ head was down and he seemed to be staring intently at the floor.
“You do not sound alright. I am sorry if I have caused you any discomfort.”
Icarus gave a soft sigh.
“Pythagoras, it is not discomfort. Quite the opposite, in fact.” He hesitated. “Let’s just say that if this is how it feels for them, I can see why birds do this as part of mating.”
It took Pythagoras several seconds to work out what he meant by that. Then he began to notice the suddenly obvious tension throughout Icarus’ body, the increasingly flushed skin, the way he would no longer look at him at all.
Icarus abruptly closed his wings and got up and took a few steps away from the bed. Pythagoras tried to follow, but stopped when he glanced down and saw the rather more obvious evidence of just how much it had affected Icarus.
“I’m sorry,” Pythagoras said. “I had no idea. I wouldn’t have... you should have told me to stop.”
“Would it bother you if I said that I did not want it to stop? That I enjoyed it.”
For a moment Pythagoras wasn’t sure he had heard correctly. Or if he had, that it couldn’t possibly mean what he wanted it to mean.
He must have hesitated too long, because Icarus closed his eyes and turned away.
“Perhaps it would be better if we both pretended that I did not just say that. Please, Pythagoras. I... I did not... I don’t... please just forget it.”
He couldn’t listen to this any longer. Pythagoras went to Icarus and took his face in his hands and kissed him, so gently it was barely more than the touch of lips. It was enough to stop Icarus from apologising, though, which was more or less the desired effect. When Pythagoras opened his eyes and pulled back a little, Icarus remained where he was, his eyes closed and an expression of stunned bliss on his face.
“In answer to your question, no it does not bother me at all,” Pythagoras said, a smile playing at his lips. “In fact, I also found it very enjoyable.”
Icarus opened his eyes.
Pythagoras kissed him again, and this time Icarus responded, and Pythagoras felt arms wrap around him and tug him closer. Pythagoras found himself pressed against Icarus, so close that he could feel the evidence of Icarus’ arousal, and his own body rapidly began to respond. Icarus whimpered into the kiss and when they finally parted he was breathing heavily.
“Pythagoras. You have no idea how long I have wanted this.”
“You have?” It probably wasn’t the most appropriate response, but Pythagoras was so surprised it slipped out before he could stop it.
“You could not tell?”
“Any evidence that I might have seen, I convinced myself that it was my imagination. That I was only seeing things that I wanted to see.”
“I have wanted this for an embarrassingly long time,” he admitted.
“Then I am glad that I am not the only idiot,” Icarus chuckled.
Pythagoras smiled, and kissed him again, just because he could, he could, and because the reality of kissing Icarus was so much better than his imagination.
On the periphery of his vision, Pythagoras could see the wings moving, and in the part of his brain that was still capable of considering anything apart from having Icarus in his arms, he wondered if Icarus was even consciously controlling the wings, or if they were doing that of their own accord. It would be an interesting line of inquiry. For later. Right now, he was occupied.
Eventually the kissing stopped, although neither of them seemed to want to let go or move away, and Pythagoras could still feel Icarus’ breath on his lips every time the man exhaled.
An idea began to occur to him, and he felt what was almost certainly a mischievous smile forming.
“So,” Pythagoras said. “If I understand correctly, you find it pleasurable to have your wings groomed?”
Icarus seemed to sense where this was going, and he smirked.
His hands wandered lower until they were at the small of Pythagoras’ back, and then Icarus very deliberately tugged him closer, just in case Pythagoras might have failed to notice exactly how pleasurable it felt.
“In that case, speaking purely as a physician, of course, I believe that if you are going to actually fly, it will be incredibly important to keep your wings in good condition. So I should probably assist you with keeping them well groomed on a very regular basis.”
“Oh really?” Icarus wasn’t even trying to hide his amused smile. “And how regularly would that be?”
“Well, there are probably a lot of variables to take into consideration.” Pythagoras pretended to ponder for a few seconds. “Firstly, it depends on how badly the harness affects the feathers. And on how much you need to use the harness, for that matter. And also I suppose it depends on how much damage the wings can withstand before it begins to affect flight performance. But since that is something that it is inherently dangerous to test, I would suggest we start out by erring on the side of caution.”
“Which translates as how often?” Icarus prompted, still smirking.
Pythagoras let go of Icarus’ face and deliberately caressed the underside of the wings.
“As often as possible,” he whispered.
Icarus shivered and his eyes closed. He made a soft sound of pure pleasure as Pythagoras continued to stroke the feathers, and Pythagoras couldn’t stop himself from kissing Icarus again.
The door opened and Daedalus walked in.
“Dinner’s nearly ready if you’ve fini-”
Pythagoras and Icarus sprang apart and all three of them froze. There was an awkward silence that stretched on and on, and Pythagoras knew he ought to say something but his mind was oscillating between completely blank and slightly incoherent panic.
Abruptly, Daedalus grinned.
“Thank the gods! I was starting to think I’d have to shut the pair of you in a room with a set of instructions.”
“Father!” Icarus hissed, his face flushing a distractingly interesting shade of red.
Daedalus rolled his eyes.
“Yes, fine. As I was saying, dinner is nearly ready. If you’re not otherwise occupied, that is. Pythagoras, I assume that you will be staying.”
He left and closed the door behind him. As his footsteps receded down the corridor, Pythagoras could have sworn he heard Daedalus say, “Finally!”
They looked at each other and then both burst out laughing.
“I am so sorry about that,” Icarus said, still blushing furiously.
“Well, think of it this way; at least we don’t have to worry about how to tell him.”
Pythagoras couldn’t help himself, and pressed another soft kiss to Icarus’ lips.
“We should probably go downstairs,” he said.
Icarus grabbed the front of his tunic and tugged him back.
“Technically he said dinner was nearly ready. That probably means we’ve got another few minutes, at least.”
“You are a bad influence,” Pythagoras observed.
Icarus’ wicked grin suggested he intended to take that as a compliment. His hands found their way around behind Pythagoras’ back and drew him close again. Pythagoras threaded his fingers into Icarus’ thick fluffy hair and kissed him, still revelling in the novelty of being allowed to do this outside of his own fantasies.
Daedalus did not look the least bit surprised when they were late for dinner.
link to part 3