When Pythagoras finally gets home he is still covered in blood. Thankfully, most of it is not his own; after the battle he had found himself in the palace helping to treat as many of the wounded as he could. He had lost track of time as he dressed wounds, splinted broken bones, applied salves to bruises, and in one terrible case sat with a man and spoke quietly with him as he lay dying, both of them knowing what was coming, both of them powerless to prevent it.
He attempted to clean himself up before coming home, but there are still smears of blood all over his arms, and on his clothes. He knows he ought to strip off and have a proper wash, but right at that moment all he really wants is to collapse into bed and sleep for the next two days.
He does neither of those things, though, because when he enters the house the first thing he sees is Jason. His friend is sitting on his bed, head hanging, his entire posture radiating pain. Somehow, Pythagoras understands immediately that the pain is not all physical.
“Jason. What is it? What’s wrong?”
He goes over to him and stands before him, but Jason does not look up.
Pythagoras closes his eyes briefly. He is not in the mood for this.
“Do I look stupid, Jason? Do you honestly think I believe that? Talk to me.”
Jason breathes in deeply, and then winces and cuts the breath off. Pythagoras makes a mental note to check for cracked ribs when he examines the arrow wound again. But for the moment he waits.
“Ariadne has said we cannot be together.”
Pythagoras sighs. He feels for his friend, he really does, but surely he must have known that this was going to happen?
“I’m sorry,” Pythagoras says.
Jason still hasn’t looked up at him, so Pythagoras sits down on the bed beside him and slips an arm around his shoulders. To his surprise, Jason tries to pull away, and Pythagoras hesitates before he wraps his hand more firmly around his friend’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I really am. I know how you feel about her. But Jason, you must have known this would be the case?”
At that, Jason really does try to pull away, but Pythagoras refuses to let him.
“Jason. I’m sorry. Look, I just-” Pythagoras bites back the words and sighs. He is too tired for this, he isn’t thinking straight and he realises now that he is messing it up completely. “Let’s start this again, and I will try to be less insensitive.”
“I don’t want to talk.”
Jason abruptly stands up, shaking Pythagoras off, and makes for the door. After a startled moment, Pythagoras follows him.
“Where are you going?”
Pythagoras’ shout surprises them both. Jason’s head snaps around and he actually looks at Pythagoras for the first time. Pythagoras almost takes a step back when he sees the anger, the rage, in his eyes. Jason’s hand closes into a fist, and for one terrible second Pythagoras truly believes that his friend might hit him.
“Leave me alone, Pythagoras.”
“No. Damn it Jason, I won’t let you do this.” He pauses and tries to be rational. “If you don’t want to talk, we won’t talk. But I am not letting you walk out of here without me properly treating that injury.”
“No it isn’t! I have dressed that wound at least twice, and you have been involved in a major battle since the last time I checked it, so I, more than anyone, know just how not fine it really is.”
They are glaring at each other across the room, and Pythagoras has never felt so angry at his friend in the entire time they have known each other. He hates this, he doesn’t want to do this, but Pythagoras knows this is one argument that he has to win.
“You nearly bloody died, Jason. You could have bled to death. You could have caused yourself a permanent injury. I knew that, and yet I let you do what you had to do to save Atlantis, against my judgement both as a healer, and as your friend. Now the battle is over and Atlantis is safe, so now you will listen to me. And you will sit the hell down and let me treat it properly.”
Jason stares at him in utter shock for several seconds. Then, just as abruptly as he got up, he returns and sits back down on his bed.
“Fine. Get on with it.”
Pythagoras takes a deep breath and tries to get control of the anger that is still raging within him. He is not sure he has ever spoken to Jason like that before. He is not sure he ever wants to do so again.
He goes to fetch his medical supplies and a bowl of water, and by the time he has gathered everything, Jason has already stripped off his breastplate and tunic and dumped them on the floor. Pythagoras takes his things over, places the bowl of water onto the bed, kneels on the floor beside his friend and gets to work.
It turns out that Jason’s wound is not as bad as he had feared. He wonders how that can be, when he has seen for himself just how serious it was when they were in the caves.
In the back of his mind, Pythagoras knows that Jason has always been quick to shake off injuries that would all but incapacitate most men. Pythagoras has never commented on it before, and he has no intention of doing so now, but he wonders. He wonders if this is somehow linked to all of Jason’s other mysterious abilities. He wonders if Jason even knows himself how he does these things. Sometimes, in the dark of night when Pythagoras lets his thoughts run away from him and when he allows his fears to take hold, he wonders if Jason is entirely human.
He hates himself a little for even thinking that, but nevertheless the thought is there.
Pythagoras works in silence as he cleans the wound yet again, applies a salve to prevent infection, and then another one to dull the pain, and finally covers it with a fresh dressing and bandage.
In other times past, they would have talked and joked as he did this. Pythagoras would have mock scolded him for getting himself hurt yet again, and Jason would have looked at him with those ridiculous puppy eyes, and Pythagoras wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face. This time neither of them speaks, and Pythagoras wishes he knew why.
More than once, Pythagoras opens his mouth to say something, but then closes it again without uttering a word. Of all people, Pythagoras knows he is probably the one least capable of offering advice when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Besides, this latest development of the situation with Ariadne might be the catalyst for Jason’s mood, but Pythagoras knows (has known for a while, truth be told), that something has changed in his friend. There is a darkness in his heart that was not there when Jason first crashed into their lives. He does not know what it is, or what has caused it, but Pythagoras senses that it is a darkness that cannot be fixed with bandages and hugs.
He also knows that will not stop him from trying to fix it, regardless.
He is just finishing when the door opens and Hercules comes in. It suddenly occurs to Pythagoras that he has no idea where Hercules has been since the end of the battle.
Pythagoras glances up, and the smile dies on his lips when he sees the way that Hercules is looking at them. No, looking at Jason. Pythagoras glances at their injured friend, and then back to Hercules.
“Is he all right?” Hercules asks before Pythagoras can speak.
“I’m fine,” Jason hisses.
“Pythagoras,” Hercules says pointedly. “Is he all right?”
“He will be. I am confident the wound will heal, given time and lots of rest.”
Without warning, Jason grabs his tunic and stands up.
“Wait. What are you doing?”
“You’ve finished. So now I’m going out.”
Pythagoras quells a sudden urge to knock his friend out with the most powerful sedative he can lay his hands on.
“I told you, you need to rest. Every time you move you risk pulling the wound open again.”
Pythagoras scrambles up off his knees as Jason tries to walk away from him. Jason gets all of three paces before Hercules blocks his path.
“You heard him. Sit.”
“And if I don’t?” There is an unexpected challenge in Jason’s voice.
Hercules sighs. “Then you’re an even bigger idiot than you look. I told you before. You might be on a mission to save all of Atlantis, but you can’t do that if you’re unconscious, or writhing in agony from an infected injury. You think I’m joking? I’ve seen it, and it’s not a nice way to go.”
The face off continues for several more seconds, and Pythagoras holds his breath as he watches his friends. Jason is the one who finally breaks, and he turns back around, shoves past Pythagoras, and lies down on his bed. After a second he rolls onto his side so he is facing the wall, turned away from them both.
Pythagoras watches him for a moment, and then looks to Hercules, a question in his eyes.
He is surprised when Hercules doesn’t even acknowledge him, and instead Hercules just goes to his room and closes the door.
Pythagoras stands there for a long time, not entirely sure what to do now. He eventually takes the bowl of water and all his things to the table, where he pauses and looks back at Jason and at Hercules’ closed door.
Something squirms in his chest; a fear that Pythagoras cannot identify and dare not name.
They won the battle today. Atlantis is battered, but not defeated. They, and most of the people close to them, survived. So why does it feel so much like everything is beginning to break around him?