Title: Gifted (part 3 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 3 - 6,752)
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
“Surely this is far enough?” Pythagoras asked.
At his side, Icarus finally paused, and Pythagoras took the opportunity to stop walking and catch his breath while they waited for Daedalus, who was trailing a little way behind.
Icarus looked back down the way they had come and threw Pythagoras a worried look.
“We’re still closer to the city than I would like.”
Pythagoras moved closer and squeezed Icarus’ shoulder.
“We will be fine. We are far enough into the woods that the city is out of sight. We are nowhere near any of the routes that traders take. And I fear that if we go much deeper into the woods then we risk running into bandits.” He gave Icarus an encouraging smile, and a very quick kiss. “Plus, I fear your father might not be up to walking much further,” he added in a low voice so as not to be overheard as Daedalus slowly caught up.
Icarus had finally given in to his father’s nagging that it was time for a test flight, although he had insisted that they do it where no one else would see, and refused to be moved on that point no matter what counter-arguments were made. Eventually, in an attempt to diffuse a discussion that had been going round and round for at least half an hour, Pythagoras had suggested the woods in the hills above Atlantis. He had been on enough adventures with Jason that he knew the area fairly well, and it had the advantage of being secluded but also close enough to home that they could return quickly if necessary.
He had not expected Icarus to want to come quite this far, however, and Pythagoras really was concerned about the possibility of running into bandits if they ventured much further. He was armed, of course, and Icarus carried a sword as well, although Pythagoras had to admit he had never actually seen his friend use it in a fight. If it were just the two of them, he might have been less worried, but walking this far, on a mostly uphill gradient, had made Pythagoras realise, for perhaps the first time, that no matter how spry Daedalus’ mind was, he was not a young man any more. If they needed to make a quick escape... well, the simple fact was that they could not make a quick escape if anything happened.
Pythagoras had briefly entertained the idea of asking Jason and Hercules to come as additional backup, but had quickly dismissed the idea. It had taken long enough to get Icarus to agree to this in the first place, without adding anyone else into the equation.
When Daedalus finally drew level with them he rolled his eyes.
“I’m not sure which is worse; the months and months of inept pining, or the pair of you not being able to keep your hands off each other now.”
There was an amused twinkle in his eyes as he spoke that told Pythagoras it was not meant seriously, but even so Icarus moved away from him.
Daedalus had made it quite clear over the last few days that he had no problem with their relationship. In fact, Pythagoras got the distinct impression he was actually rather pleased with it. Although it was a little unfortunate that Daedalus also seemed to have taken it as an excuse to ratchet up the sarcasm and drop as many embarrassing, innuendo-laden comments into the conversation as he could. Pythagoras didn’t mind so much, he was used to that sort of thing from Hercules anyway, but Icarus seemed to feel the need to spend a great deal of time apologising for his father’s behaviour whenever they were alone. Time which Pythagoras felt could be more profitably spent on other, more enjoyable, activities.
“Well, are you going to get on with it, or are we just going to stand here?” Daedalus prodded.
Icarus looked to Pythagoras again, and Pythagoras gave him an encouraging nod.
“Alright,” Icarus muttered.
He swung the heavy cloak off, and then began undoing the ties on his leather top. There had been a brief moment when the guards on the city gate had given Icarus an odd look as they had left the city, probably wondering why he needed such a thick cloak on a warm day, but apart from that the disguise appeared to have worked and no one had seemed any the wiser as to exactly what was being concealed beneath his many layers of clothing.
They had improved on the design of the harness as well, and Icarus had been able to wear it for longer periods without causing too much damage. It had certainly succeeded in concealing the wings, but the limitations became apparent once again when it took all three of them to detach it.
“I hope I never have to take flight in a hurry wearing that thing,” Icarus commented when they finally removed it.
“Perhaps we need to design some sort of quick release mechanism for just such occasions,” Pythagoras said. It was an offhand suggestion, but when he glanced up he saw an expression on Daedalus’ face that told him the man’s mind was working on something already.
“Right,” Icarus muttered.
He stepped well away from them both to an area relatively clear of trees, and Pythagoras saw the way his upper body tensed as he opened his wings. For a moment the wings paused at halfway and rippled, as if they were enjoying being set free from the bindings. Then, for the first time ever, Pythagoras watched as Icarus opened both his wings to full stretch.
Pythagoras knew he was staring but he couldn’t tear his eyes away.
“Incredible,” he breathed, as Icarus opened and closed his wings, stretching them and quite possibly getting used to the feeling of having the open space to do this for a change.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Daedalus said.
Pythagoras wondered if Daedalus had been expecting something more intelligent, but either he was satisfied with the response, or he may have decided that just this once was not the time for sarcasm.
Icarus finally seemed to have stopped warming up and for a moment he just stood there. Then the wings rose up behind him, half folded, and opened out as they came back down. It was possibly the most tentative first flap that had ever occurred in the history of flight.
Icarus tried it again, faster, with slightly more determination. Even from several paces away Pythagoras felt the draught of displaced air against his skin. But Icarus’ feet remained firmly on the ground. He frowned, a look that Pythagoras knew meant he was concentrating, and kept trying.
The wonder of those first few moments gradually dissipated as nothing much seemed to happen. Icarus was clearly getting frustrated, and he also seemed to not quite know what to do with his arms and even attempted to flap those as well until the movement disrupted a wing and he almost stumbled as his limbs got tangled.
Pythagoras went over to him, aware that Daedalus was only a step behind him.
“Are you alright?” Pythagoras asked.
“What the hell are you doing?” Daedalus demanded. “You’re supposed to be flying.”
“It’s harder than it looks!”
“Alright, there’s no need to shout,” Pythagoras intervened. “We’ve barely been trying more than ten minutes. It was never going to happen straight away. Maybe you just haven’t found the right technique yet.”
Daedalus snorted back a laugh, and when Pythagoras looked he saw a smirk on the older man’s face. He mentally replayed back what he had said, and winced.
“Oh, please. Must you make an innuendo out of everything?” Icarus muttered.
“Only when you make it so easy. Innuendo aside, though, Pythagoras has a good point.” Daedalus paused, pondering for a moment. “Can’t you angle the wings so you’re beating downwards? Right now there’s more horizontal movement than vertical. That’s probably why you aren’t getting any lift.”
“That might help,” Pythagoras admitted.
“Fine, give me some space.”
It wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic response, but they backed off and Icarus tried again. There were a couple more experimental flaps, and then, between one movement and the next, Pythagoras became aware that something had changed. The wings angled back a little, and the next flap had far more downward thrust to it. A slightly startled expression flitted across Icarus’ face, only to be replaced by a determination that Pythagoras very rarely saw in his friend. The wings beat down again and with no warning at all Icarus’ feet left the ground.
He wavered just a little way up, flapping more and more urgently just to maintain position. After no more than about thirty seconds he dropped back down again and leaned over, his hands resting on his knees.
Daedalus was on him in seconds.
“See? What did I tell you? You were in the air! Admittedly, not very far in the air, but it was better than nothing.”
Pythagoras approached more slowly, but Icarus looked up and met his gaze when he got close.
“That was amazing,” Pythagoras said, almost reverently. “Are you alright?”
“It was exhausting,” Icarus admitted. He breathed deeply, and then as Pythagoras watched a smile began to form on his face. “It was also exhilarating.”
“I’m sure it shouldn’t take that much effort for so little lift,” Daedalus said, still sounding remarkably unimpressed.
“Perhaps it is simply a matter of you building your strength and stamina up,” Pythagoras suggested, unwilling to burst Icarus’ bubble so soon, no matter how much he agreed with Daedalus’ assessment.
Daedalus looked up and around, and abruptly he grinned. That slightly manic grin that Pythagoras had learned to be a little wary of.
“You’re trying to take off from the wrong place,” Daedalus announced. “You need to start from somewhere higher. Then you can glide, instead of all this ridiculous flapping.”
“Ridiculous? Oh, thanks very much.”
“You know what I mean,” Daedalus said.
“Perhaps we should let him get used to it from the safety of the ground first,” Pythagoras said, but he could tell by Daedalus’ expression that he was almost certainly wasting his time advising caution.
He glanced at Icarus and was surprised to see he was also looking up and around with an altogether too speculative expression.
“Icarus?” Pythagoras asked.
“I could launch myself out of a tree,” Icarus said, as if it was a completely normal and sane suggestion.
“I was going to say a tall building or a cliff, but I suppose a tree might be better for a first attempt. Plus we happen to have several trees conveniently to hand right now,” Daedalus said.
Somewhat belatedly, it occurred to Pythagoras that he had attached himself to a completely insane family. He had always known Daedalus was a little mad, obviously, but Icarus had generally seemed rather more sensible. Or perhaps he only appeared that way in comparison to his father.
“I’m not sure this is a good-” Pythagoras didn’t even bother to finish the sentence, because Icarus was already heading towards one of the tallest trees within sight.
Pythagoras picked up all the abandoned bags and clothes and trailed after them.
“Try to start from as high as possible,” Daedalus was saying when Pythagoras reached them.
Icarus finally seemed to notice Pythagoras’ hesitance, and gave him a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure it will be fine.”
Pythagoras looked up into the tree, and then back at Icarus.
“Just be careful, alright?”
“I’m not sure flying and careful can really go together, but I’ll try,” Icarus grinned.
That really didn’t do much to reassure Pythagoras, but he had to admit Icarus probably had a point.
Pythagoras gave Icarus a boost up the tree until he could reach one of the lower branches, and then he began to climb upwards with more agility than Pythagoras had expected. He eventually stopped about three quarters of the way up the tree, and Pythagoras could only assume that was because he had run out of branches sturdy enough to take his weight.
“Maybe you should back off a bit,” Icarus called down. “I don’t want to land on you if this goes horribly wrong.”
“Oh, yes, that’s definitely the most reassuring thing you could have said,” Pythagoras called back. “I’m not worried at all now.” But he and Daedalus did move back a little.
Icarus steadied himself by hanging onto a branch above his head with both hands, and slowly opened his wings. For a moment a wing seemed to become tangled on another branch, and Icarus had to let go with one hand and reach over to free it. Pythagoras began to wonder if they should have spent more time trying to find a more suitable tree, rather than simply the nearest. He was about to suggest that out loud when Icarus finally succeeded in spreading both wings wide, and then, true to his word, launched himself out of the tree.
For a second it looked horribly like he was about to plummet to the ground headfirst. Then he flapped once, caught the air, and Icarus swooped upwards, his wings outstretched.
He let out a joyful whoop as he glided through the air, the moment before he crashed straight into the branches of the next nearest tree. There was a startled cry, and a confused crashing of branches, and then Icarus fell out of the tree and hit the ground.
Pythagoras ran over and dropped to his knees at Icarus’ side, and quickly looked him over for injuries. He was lying face down, and Pythagoras immediately saw that the left wing was bent at an unnatural angle.
“Icarus?” Daedalus knelt beside them.
“Ow. Ow, ow, ow.”
“Try not to move, tell me what hurts.”
“Everything,” Icarus whimpered.
He tried to push himself into a sitting position, but the left wing seemed to be dragging, and it quickly became apparent that he was only using his left arm to push himself up; the right arm was cradled against his chest. Pythagoras and Daedalus both helped him to sit up, but when Pythagoras reached for his arm, Icarus curled away from him with another quiet whimper.
“I have to know what’s wrong before I can heal it,” Pythagoras said as calmly as he could. He reached for the arm again. “I will try to be gentle.”
The arm was broken, that much was obvious as soon as he touched it. Looking at the positives, it was a clean break, and it hadn’t broken the skin, but there wasn’t much else to be put in the positive column. After checking that there were no other serious injuries that needed immediate treatment, Pythagoras turned his attention to the wing. That too seemed to be broken, although the bone structure was so unfamiliar it took him a while, and rather too much painful prodding, to work out exactly what the damage was.
“You can heal him, can’t you?” Daedalus asked. Pythagoras hadn’t heard that much worry in his voice since day he had discovered the existence of the wings all those weeks ago.
“Yes, but it isn’t going to be quick, or pleasant for anyone involved.”
“But with your powers-”
“Yes, my abilities mean that I can probably fix this in ten or fifteen minutes, instead of it taking several weeks and involving a splint or two. But it’s still not going to be pleasant.”
“It’s better than the alternative,” Icarus said between quiet whimpers.
Pythagoras took a small bottle from his bag and poured a measure out and handed it to Icarus.
“Drink this. It will help with the pain.”
Icarus downed it and pulled a face at the taste, but didn’t say anything.
“Do you always carry medical supplies with you?” Daedalus asked as Pythagoras took the cup back.
“Considering who I am normally travelling with, I have found it advisable to be prepared for injuries at all times.”
Pythagoras considered what he needed to do, and came to several decisions at once.
“Daedalus, help me to move him so he’s sitting against the tree trunk. It will be more comfortable for Icarus, and easier for me to get to the injuries.”
They helped Icarus to move, and managed it with only one pained whimper.
“Is there anything else I can do?” Daedalus asked.
“Honestly? The most useful thing you can do right now is get out of the way and let me work.”
In the normal power dynamics of their group, Daedalus was the undisputed leader in most things, but right now they all knew Pythagoras had taken charge and no one was going to argue with that, not even Daedalus.
He settled himself on his knees in front of Icarus and offered him a reassuring smile.
“I’m afraid this is going to take a little while, and I think it is going to hurt. I’m sorry.”
Icarus nodded. “I know. But it’s still better than the alternative.”
Pythagoras carefully placed his hands on Icarus’ arm right over where the bone was broken. Icarus hissed but managed to keep still. Pythagoras closed his eyes and concentrated and let it begin.
In his mind he saw a clear image of the two halves of bone, the tiny gap where they had come apart, and the bruised tissue surrounding the break. He formed an image of the bones moving back together until the two pieces fit against each other, and then he began to concentrate on fixing them, on new bone growing around the broken pieces and fusing them back together.
He heard Daedalus speaking and Icarus replying, but it was faint and on the periphery of his consciousness. If it were simple flesh he could have done it in moments, but bone was harder, tougher, and correspondingly more difficult to repair. Pythagoras let himself sink deeper into the almost trance-like state that was required for such a complex task.
When he was sure that the bone was stable and not in any danger of re-breaking, he turned his attention to the flesh and tissue surrounding it. There was a little damage, a few small tears where the sharp edge of bone had moved, and he set himself to repairing that, watched it knit back together and cocoon the bone in a protective cushion of muscle.
There was nothing more he could do for the arm. That just left the wing.
He let himself emerge back to awareness enough to move, but not enough to break his concentration. He couldn’t let that happen. Still holding the arm with one hand, he reached blindly for the wing. Instead he hit something that shouldn’t have been there and it was almost enough to jolt him properly awake.
“What are you doing?”
It was Daedalus.
“Daedalus, please for the love of the gods get out of my way right now.”
He opened his eyes enough to see Icarus shove his father back with his free hand, and then Pythagoras dived for the wing and grabbed it. Icarus cried out, but Pythagoras just concentrated hard on making the new connection, and as soon as he felt it he let go of the arm with his other hand and placed both hands over the broken wing and let himself slip back into the appropriate mind state.
The wing injury was different. The break had happened near the very tip of the wing, and at this extreme there was little muscle surrounding the bone. There was skin, though, and that was torn and mangled where it had become caught in the tree branch, and feathers had been ripped out and broken. Technically, it was simply a broken bone like the arm, but the intricacies of the anatomical structure were alien to him, despite the number of hours he had spent examining and studying the wings since they had appeared. He found himself mentally exploring the bones and the surrounding tissue simply to familiarise himself with what it should look like before he could even begin to repair it.
When he was finally certain he knew what he was doing, he focussed himself to the task of healing the bone, exactly the same as the arm, except this was slimmer, lighter, and unexpectedly hollow. The lack of familiarity made him slow and tentative. He was not willing to rush this, no matter what the consequences.
That done, he moved onto the torn skin and focussed his power until it was smooth and unblemished. He had no idea if he could fix the feathers with his ability, and when he tried he discovered the most damaged ones simply dropped out. For a moment he almost panicked until he realised with a certainty that he could not explain even to himself that new feathers would grow back.
It was only when he was absolutely sure that he had done everything that needed to be done that Pythagoras allowed himself to come back to consciousness. He breathed deeply, opened his eyes, and let go of the wing to break the connection.
Then he collapsed.
He had enough presence of mind to fall away from Icarus so as not to hurt him further, but that did mean he almost landed in Daedalus’ lap. There was nothing he could do about that, though. Pain ripped through his arm and shoulder (which answered the question he had been absently wondering about where the wing damage would manifest itself in this strange echo) and Pythagoras curled into a ball and whimpered as quietly as he could manage. He shut his eyes again and felt the wave of exhaustion come over him.
“What is it? What’s happening to him?” Daedalus demanded.
“I’ll be alright,” Pythagoras managed to say between breaths. “I just... need a minute.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder, almost certainly Icarus. He was vaguely aware that it was taking longer for the worst of it to pass than usual, but it was too late to worry about that now.
“Icarus? What is wrong with him?”
“It’s some kind of after-effect. He said it makes him light-headed and exhausted.”
“This doesn’t look like light-headed exhaustion to me.”
“Just give him some space,” Icarus insisted. “He was alright after a few minutes last time.”
“Last time? You knew this was going to happen?” Daedalus sounded more and more angry every minute.
Pythagoras breathed deeply and forced his eyes open.
“I’m alright,” he said. That was a lie, but he started to push himself upright, and both Icarus and Daedalus helped him to sit up. For a second the world seemed to spin, and he closed his eyes again until the dizziness passed.
Then he looked at his friends and offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile.
“I’m sorry about that. I didn’t intend to worry you. I wasn’t expecting it to affect me so badly.”
“And what exactly was it?” Daedalus asked. He still looked angry.
“Like Icarus said, it’s just an after-effect of using my ability. The severity of it is directly proportional to the seriousness of the injury that I have healed.” He twisted round to look at Icarus. “And speaking of which, how do you feel now?”
“I am fine. A little sore, that is all. You, on the other hand, do not look fine.”
“It seems broken bones are more difficult to heal than flesh and skin. I will be fine, I promise. I just need to rest for a short while.”
This time it was not a lie. Pythagoras knew the worst of it was over, and the pain had faded. Now he simply felt exhausted, drained.
“Then perhaps it is time we stopped for something to eat,” Icarus said.
Their meal was a surprisingly subdued affair. It wasn’t much, just a little bread and cheese, but Pythagoras felt a great deal better once he’d had something to eat. Still, he was aware his companions kept throwing worried glances in his direction as they ate. He honestly hadn’t expected to be affected so badly, if he had he would have warned them beforehand. He also might have tried to find a way to hide the worst of the after-effect from them, but it was too late for that now. He had a horrible feeling that one, or even both, of them were going to want to talk about it before too long, and it wasn’t a conversation he was looking forward to.
“Do you feel ready to try again?” Pythagoras asked Icarus once the meal was finished. He was feeling a little guilty at having stolen the attention from Icarus, and wanted to get back to the reason they were here in the first place.
Icarus hesitated, and seemed to study Pythagoras for a few moments before he replied.
“No, actually. My wing still feels a little tender. I think we should rest for a while longer.”
It wasn’t even very subtle, and Pythagoras knew Icarus was only saying that for his benefit. He thought he would be annoyed, but in fact all Pythagoras felt was a rush of gratitude.
“Well in that case, I’ll leave you to watch over him, Pythagoras.” Daedalus stood up and brushed himself down. “I’m going to take a look at some rather interesting botanical specimens I spotted on the way in.”
He paused and then threw them a knowing look. “And do try not to engage in anything too strenuous while I’m gone. You are supposed to be resting.”
With that he wandered off, leaving Pythagoras staring after him and wondering how it was possible that he had found a man even more embarrassing than Hercules.
To his surprise, Icarus chuckled.
“I’m starting to wonder if I perhaps hit my head when I fell,” Icarus commented. “Because I am sure that I just witnessed my father displaying something like tact and discretion, and that surely cannot be right.”
“There is a first time for everything.”
Icarus leaned back against the tree and reached out to Pythagoras. As soon as Pythagoras moved close enough to take his hand, Icarus tugged Pythagoras into his arms. Pythagoras curled up against him, and rested his head on Icarus’ shoulder, careful to avoid putting any pressure on the wings. Icarus wrapped his arms around him and simply held him.
“Are you alright? Truly?” Icarus asked in a quiet voice.
“Yes. I am still a little tired, but I will be fine. I feel much better already. Besides, you are the one who had two broken bones not more than half an hour ago. It is me who should be fussing over you.”
“Two broken bones which are perfectly healed and are now little more than a slight ache.”
“Good. I am glad I could help.”
Icarus gently stroked Pythagoras’ arm, trailing his fingers up and down. Pythagoras suspected he knew what was coming, but right then he was enjoying the moment.
“You should have told me,” Icarus said eventually. “I had no idea how badly you would be affected. I thought it would be like last time, just a moment of dizziness. Not this.”
“And what would you have done if I had told you?”
“I would not have asked you to use your powers so readily.”
Pythagoras moved so he could look up at Icarus. He gave him a soft smile.
“And that is precisely the reason why I did not tell you.”
“No, Icarus, listen to me. It is not normally this bad. Most times it is nothing more than a few moments of light-headedness and exhaustion, that is all. And when an injury is more serious, as yours was today, then that is when my ability is most needed. It took me no more than ten or fifteen minute to heal you. If I had not, if I had attempted to use conventional means, then it would have taken weeks, perhaps longer, and your arm would have been immobilised for the entire time. And I would not even know where to start attempting to splint a broken wing. As you yourself said, me using my ability was far better than the alternative.”
“But at what cost to you?”
“I have been given this ability by the gods, I believe for the purpose of helping others. I am not the kind of man who can stand by and watch people I care about suffer, not if there is something that I can do about it, no matter what the cost to myself.”
Icarus held his gaze for several moments, and then tightened his hold and kissed Pythagoras, soft and gentle, like he was afraid Pythagoras might break. Pythagoras let him, but when they parted he made eye contact and made sure he had Icarus’ complete attention.
“And just so we are clear,” Pythagoras said. “While I appreciate your desire to protect me, I will be extremely annoyed with you if I discover that you are deliberately not telling me when you are hurt or injured.”
Icarus hesitated, which pretty much confirmed Pythagoras’ suspicion that he had been planning to do just that in future. Then he nodded.
“I will tell you,” Icarus said. “And then we will decide together whether it warrants you using your ability or whether conventional means will suffice.”
Pythagoras smiled and nodded. “That sounds fair.”
He cuddled back against Icarus’ chest and after a moment Icarus nuzzled his hair. Pythagoras spent much of his life taking care of others in one way or another. This, having someone take care of him when he needed it, was nice. He thought he could get quite used to having Icarus take care of him.
“You know, much as I hate to admit it, I think my father may have been right.”
“I think I may need to take off from somewhere higher. Like the cliff top.”
Pythagoras frowned and lifted his head to look at Icarus. Icarus gave him an apologetic smile.
“I know what you are thinking, Pythagoras. You are worried that I should practice in a safe environment before taking such a risk. But just hear me out first. I was flying. For a few moments I was actually flying. But right here, the trees are too close, there are too many obstacles. Perhaps one day when I have more control I will be able to manoeuvre around such things, as bird and bats do, but right now I think what I really need is a large expanse of open air in which to get used to the basics. Does that make sense?”
Pythagoras considered carefully before he replied.
“Yes, it does make sense. That is not to say that I in any way approve of you throwing yourself off a cliff, but I do see the logic in your argument.”
Icarus squeezed him gently and nuzzled his hair again.
“I am not sure ‘throwing myself off a cliff’ is entirely what I have in mind, but are there not updrafts over the water? I am sure I have heard my father speak of such things, and surely that is how birds seem to swoop and glide over the sea?” He paused and absently stroked Pythagoras’ arm again. “The only problem, of course, is that the entire reason we came to the forest was to be hidden. There is far more risk of being seen out in the open.”
“Then we shall wait until nightfall,” Pythagoras said. “There will be no boats out in the bay after dark, and fewer people will be about. And even if you are seen, from a distance people may not be able to tell exactly what they are looking at.”
“You never fail to surprise me, Pythagoras. I thought you would try to talk me out of it, not come up with yet another brilliant idea to assist me in this madness.”
Pythagoras lifted his head again and looked Icarus in the eye.
“Just promise me you will not take any unnecessary risks. I understand that what you are attempting is inherently dangerous, I have accepted that. But please, just promise me you will be careful.”
Pythagoras stole a quick kiss, which unexpectedly turned into a longer, deeper kiss when Icarus slipped a hand behind his head and refused to let him go.
“So,” Icarus said, slightly breathlessly when they parted. “We have a few hours to wait until dusk.”
Pythagoras trailed his finger down Icarus’ chest.
“I can think of several rather pleasant things we could do to pass the time.”
Icarus looked surprisingly scandalised at that.
“My father might come back at any moment!”
Pythagoras just gave him a very mischievous grin.
“Then I suggest we do them quickly.”
Nightfall found the three of them on the cliff top. It was some distance from the city, and a little further around the headland, which Pythagoras hoped would be enough to keep their activities secret.
Icarus stripped off his clothes for the second time that day, and Pythagoras saw him shiver a little as they fiddled with taking the harness off again.
“Perhaps we also need to think about designing a tunic with some sort of holes or slits in the back for your wings. That way you would not need to be half undressed in order to fly. I will add it to the list.”
Icarus glanced up and gave him an entirely too cheeky smirk.
“I thought you enjoyed having me shirtless?”
Pythagoras flushed but rolled his eyes.
“At the appropriate time and place, yes.”
Daedalus cleared his throat unnecessarily loudly. “Yes, do continue to pretend that I’m not here and can’t hear you discussing your bedroom activities,” he commented.
Surprisingly, Icarus seemed to be in such a good mood that he did not even look embarrassed, for a change.
They got the harness off, and Icarus backed away a little. Then he spread his wings again. It was more exposed up here, and Pythagoras could see the way the breeze ruffled the feathers. Icarus slowly smiled, and Pythagoras saw a confidence in his stance that had not been there when they were in the woods.
“Pray that this works or it’s going to be a very short maiden flight.”
With that, Icarus ran to the cliff edge and launched himself into the air.
Pythagoras ran to the cliff edge after him. For a moment in the darkness he could not see Icarus, and terror lodged itself in his heart as he thought of the waves crashing against the rocks so far below. Then he heard a shout of delight and Icarus swooped upwards past them, his wings outstretched.
This time there were no obstacles, and Pythagoras could only gaze in open-mouthed awe as Icarus flew high in the air, up and out over the sea. He was mostly gliding, but every now and then the wings flapped and he shot upwards again.
He was so enraptured by the sight of Icarus flying that he did not realise Daedalus was standing next to him on the cliff edge until the older man spoke.
“Look at him. My boy is flying! This is incredible.”
Pythagoras managed to tear his eyes away from the sight of Icarus swooping and gliding and looked across at Daedalus. He was watching his son with an expression of awe and pride that Pythagoras had never, ever seen on his face in relation to his son in the entire time that he had known them.
“You should tell him that. When he lands, obviously.”
Daedalus made something that sounded like a gruff hmphing noise.
Pythagoras thought of all the previous times he had remained silent when Daedalus had been disparaging about Icarus, and decided he could not ignore it any longer.
“I hope I am not overstepping the bounds of our friendship, Daedalus, but I have to point out that you are always quick to tell him when you are disappointed. You do him a great disservice if you are not equally forthcoming when you are proud of him. Especially as it seems to happen so infrequently.”
Daedalus stared at him with undisguised surprise for a moment, but as he looked away Pythagoras saw a flash of something else in his expression.
“He knows,” Daedalus muttered.
“He does not know if you do not tell him,” Pythagoras countered gently.
Daedalus continued to watch Icarus, and after a brief silence Pythagoras returned his attention to the spectacle of his friend... lover... soaring over the sea. He knew Daedalus was a proud man and disliked admitting that he was wrong, but the fact that he was no longer arguing, or even commenting, probably meant that he had taken Pythagoras’ words on board, and Pythagoras had no desire to push it any further. He had made his point; the rest was up to Daedalus.
Icarus seemed to have got much further away while Pythagoras had been distracted. He was far out over the sea, and high, far higher than Pythagoras had expected.
“What is he doing?” Pythagoras couldn’t keep the worry from his voice.
“Enjoying himself, by the sound of it,” Daedalus replied, as another exuberant shout carried across the water towards them.
“Don’t go so far!” Pythagoras yelled back, unable to contain his fears any longer. This was supposed to be a practice run. If anything happened when he was so far out, no amount of god-given healing ability was going to help them if they could not reach him.
“Stop fussing,” Daedalus muttered. “What did you think he was going to do?”
“Honestly? When we talked about him ‘throwing himself off a cliff’ I did not expect him to mean it quite so literally!”
Daedalus tutted, but Pythagoras realised that Icarus must have heard him, because he had turned back and was flying towards them. Actually, the closer he got, the more it became apparent that he was flying very fast, directly towards them.
“Ummm, maybe we should get out of his wa-”
Icarus flapped at the last moment, possibly in an attempt to slow himself. Instead he crashed straight into Pythagoras in a flail of limbs and feathers and they both hit the ground and rolled backwards in what Pythagoras dearly hoped was a direction away from the cliff edge.
They eventually skidded to a halt with Pythagoras lying on his back and Icarus on top of him. If it wasn’t for the fact that he had probably just gained several new bruises and the ground was quite hard and stony underneath him, it was a position that Pythagoras thought he could find quite enjoyable.
“Are you alright?” he managed to ask.
Icarus pushed himself up and Pythagoras realised Icarus was grinning widely.
“That was incredible! Pythagoras, that was... it was so... it was amazing.”
Pythagoras felt himself beginning to smile as well. Icarus’ enthusiasm was just too infectious.
“That is excellent. The flying was truly impressive.” He paused. “But I feel I have to point out that your landing technique needs a little work.”
Icarus just grinned even more, and leaned down and kissed Pythagoras.
“Oh, please!” Daedalus complained loudly as he walked towards them from the cliff top. “Can’t you two stop doing that for five minutes? Or at least do it somewhere more private?”
They parted, but not very far, and Icarus grinned and rolled his eyes at Pythagoras. Pythagoras half expected him to get up, but instead Icarus frowned in concentration for a moment, and then flexed his shoulders. His wings arched up and over their heads, forming a cocoon around their upper bodies.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” Pythagoras said, somewhere between impressed and amused.
“Neither did I until I did it.” Icarus flexed his muscles again and the wings rippled and settled around them both, enclosing them in near darkness. “So, do you think this counts as private?”
Pythagoras felt his mouth twitching until he could not contain his laughter any longer. He felt Icarus smirking against his lips, and then they were both laughing.
They kissed again, long and leisurely. Pythagoras wasn’t sure he had ever felt so happy and exhilarated. He slipped his arms around Icarus, underneath the wings, and ran his hands up and down his back, caressing his skin, and stroking the underside of the wings. Icarus shuddered and made a muffled sound of pleasure.
“Oh, yes. Thanks a lot,” Daedalus commented loudly. “Because obviously I have absolutely no idea what you’re doing under there now.”