His father told him: “Do not fly too high, because the sun will melt your wings, and you will fall. Do not fly too low because the salt water will soften the wax, and you will fall.”
He didn’t listen, because he never listened. He didn’t listen.
If he had - he would have realized. No matter what, he falls.
Apollo was very pretty. He kissed Icarus’s skin and called him a darling boy, and soon every time sunlight hit his skin it felt like a lover’s touch. He said come to me, come to me, and I will worship you, my days are full and busy and I will not have much time for you - but my nights are yours.
Who could refuse a god? Who could have god offer to worship them when they are nothing more than an aging inventor’s child, and say no?
If he’d listened to his father, he would have known - the sun never truly sets, there is no night, only places where the sun is absent.
Maybe if he’d listened to his father he could have refused Apollo, could have told the golden god of sunlight that he was happy where he was.
(He wasn’t, but if Apollo was going to lie to him it only seemed fair that Icarus did it in return.)
But he never listens.
So Icarus flies too high, leaving his father behind. He thinks if he can fly high enough fast enough then Apollo will be able to catch him, pluck him from the struggles of this mortal world.
But Apollo doesn’t come for him, and his wings melt. He goes crashing into the sea, and he doesn’t even have the time to tell his father he’s sorry.
He would have told his father that he was sorry.
He doesn’t die.
Poseidon is powerful and curious and considers Icarus to be a beautiful, curious thing.
Icarus did not know he was beautiful. Poseidon runs powerful hands over his hips, and Icarus doesn’t think Poseidon and Apollo know the same definition of beauty that he does.
When he thinks of beauty he thinks of his father’s machines, of stone walls that have been smoothed down so perfectly that they almost shine silver, of shadows dancing elegantly from a fire’s grasp.
He doesn’t think he’s any of these things. He doesn’t know what they mean when they call him beautiful, but he doesn’t think he likes it.
He is tired. Poseidon is very demanding, and every time the god comes to his bed Icarus feels likes he’s dying. It would be easier if Poseidon were a worse man, but he’s kind and thorough and Icarus always ends up having been satisfied but never really feeling satisfied.
He expects Poseidon’s wife to be angry with him, to hate him. He bumps into Amphitrite in the hall once. He bows low at the waist immediately, “I’m deeply sorry, my lady.” He wonders if she’ll kill him. He wonders if he’ll care.
She laughs, and it sounds like calm waves lapping at a shore. She presses two fingers underneath his chin and forces him to rise, then gently tilts his head to the side so she can see the trail of bite marks her husband has left down his neck. “Better you than me, my dear.” She pats his cheek twice and walks away.
What does that mean?
He doesn’t know how long he’s been here. Not more than a decade, he thinks, though he hasn’t aged.
Nothing ever changes. The bite marks never truly fade before Poseidon adds more.
Icarus waits for Poseidon to be slumbering beside him one night before wrapping the sheet around his hips and tip toeing out of the room. He doesn’t hesitate before stepping outside of the palace walls, and instantly he’s drowning. He’s so deep in the sea that it’s a toss up about what kills him first, the pressure on his tender organs or the lack of air in his lungs.
Not that it truly matters. No matter what, Icarus dies.
He wakes up. Again.
“My lady,” he greets, bowing before a goddess with skin the color of potting soil and hair the richest red, like rubies, or - “Pomegranates,” he finishes, and Persephone, queen of the underworld, smiles.
She says, “I’ve had my eye on you.”
She says, “Amphitrite speaks well of you.”
She says, “I am gone six months out the year. My husband gets lonely.”
He’s dead. There’s nowhere else for him to go.
“Okay,” he says.
The snow begins to melt. Persephone leaves, and the underworld itself seems to mourn her absence. He waits tense in his room that first night, but no one comes.
Nor the second night.
Nor the third.
He can think of nothing more unpleasant than Persephone’s wrath, so on the fourth night he goes to Hades’s room. When the god answers he bows low and says, “Your wife the Lady Persephone sent me.”
Icarus doesn’t dare look up when Hades says, “My brother is quite cross with me. He came demanding you back. I was willing to hand you over, but my wife said she had use of you.”
He can’t return to Poseidon. It’s cold and dark and makes him feel worthless. Even if Hades is a harsh lover, he’s better than his brother. “She wishes me to provide you company. She says you get lonely.”
“Does she,” Hades drawls, and Icarus cringes. “Boy, look at me when I’m speaking to you.”
So Icarus does. Hades has nothing to the perfect symmetrical beauty of Apollo, nor the wild strength and power of Poseidon. Hades has skin like bleached wood and hair the color of machine oil, with dark, expressive eyes and a nose a little too strong for his face.
He looks like a person. Like Icarus’s father might have looked as a younger man. Like Icarus might have looked if he was allowed to grow old. He looks beautiful.
“Come with me,” he sighs, “if my wife wants you to keep me company, then you shall.”
He follows Hades around everyday. As he maintains the circles of the underworld, the lost souls, attends to the gods and other non-dead things that make their home in his domain.
Icarus starts helping. Hades is without his queen, and what he would normally do with her he now does alone. So Icarus looks over the passenger logs for ferry over the River Styx, addresses the complaints that are grave enough to filter their way through the palace, and when Hades looks particularly tense and lost Icarus brings him pomegranates.
Hades still doesn’t sleep with him.
Icarus doesn’t know if he’s disappointed by that or not, but he thinks he’s happy here.
“You know,” Hades says one day while they’re looking over reports, “they call you Thanatos.”
Death god. “Why?” he demands. He’s not afraid of Hades anymore. When Hades is upset he screams and yells, then he goes and sits in the garden Persephone made for him. He doesn’t lash out to hurt.
Hades smiles and doesn’t answer.
Icarus is there to help Persephone off of the ferry. “He’s missed you,” he says, holding out his arm for her to use as balance while she steps out of the boat.
She raises an eyebrow, “You know, they used to call me Kore.” She stands on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, “Thank you, Thanatos.”
Two hundred years later, in the midst of summer, Icarus gathers his courage and kisses Hades while both their hands are stained with ink and another war has made the lower levels of the underworld smell like corpse rot.
Hades kisses him back.
In two months, Persephone will kiss him for the first time as he helps her out of the ferry. Sometimes when things get stressful or Hades is upset, Icarus will climb into his lap and kiss him slowly.
They never sleep together.
Icarus is happy here.