Icarus managed to wait a full five minutes after Pythagoras left the campsite before he got up and followed him. Icarus saw Hercules watching him as he left, their eyes met for a moment, and Hercules just gave Icarus a raised eyebrow and the look that seemed to say, ‘don’t think I don’t know what you two are getting up to’. But Hercules didn’t say anything out loud or draw attention to him. Icarus was beginning to see why Pythagoras liked the man so much.
The problem was, though, no matter what Hercules thought they might be ‘getting up to’, the truth was there was nothing going on. Their little group had been on the run for five days now, and quite honestly Icarus was getting sick of always being surrounded by people. It made it almost impossible to talk to Pythagoras without someone interrupting. Even when they did manage to talk, the constant danger of someone overhearing made it difficult to address the things that they really did need to talk about.
In what few moments they had managed to snatch, Pythagoras had spoken of trust and forgiveness and time. He had danced around the words for how he felt and what this was between them with an awkwardness that Icarus would have found utterly adorable if Pythagoras were talking about any other subject.
Maybe he was being impatient, maybe he was even being ungrateful, but it wasn’t enough.
It took longer than he had expected to find Pythagoras. Eventually, Icarus stepped around a tree, saw him, and stopped dead.
Pythagoras was shirtless. He was kneeling at the edge of a small stream with his bag and tunic dropped at his side. From this angle he was mostly turned with his back to Icarus, and for a second Icarus couldn’t decide if that was a blessing or a curse. A blessing that Pythagoras had his back turned and hadn’t seen him approach, or a curse that Icarus could not see more of him.
Pythagoras leaned down and splashed water onto himself, apparently oblivious to Icarus’ presence. Icarus hesitated, glanced around to make sure no one had followed him, and then stepped back and a little to the side so that he was partially concealed by the tree.
Despite the length and intimacy of their friendship, this was the first time Icarus had ever seen the other man anything less than fully clothed. He had always known Pythagoras was pale and skinny, of course; his tunic couldn’t hide that, and it was even more obvious now. And yet, in the dappled sunlight through the trees his pale skin seemed to glow. Or perhaps that was just Icarus’ imagination. What was more surprising, though, was that Pythagoras was nowhere near as scrawny as Icarus had expected. His shoulders were broad and more muscled than Icarus had thought possible, no doubt from all the fighting of the last few months.
The sight was breathtaking. Or perhaps that was just Icarus’ imagination as well.
Icarus knew, objectively, that Pythagoras was not a man normally considered handsome. And, truth be told, it was not his looks that had attracted Icarus, not at first. It was not even his intelligence, although that was a part of it. But there was a self-confidence that seemed to radiate from Pythagoras. An absolute belief in himself and his knowledge and his abilities. An air of control and strength that was there in the way Pythagoras held himself, even now in this moment of calm.
In short, he was everything that Icarus was not.
Pythagoras emptied a bowl of water over his head and sat back on his heels. He ran his hands through his hair, no doubt trying to tame the uncontrollable curls into something neater. Water dripped and coursed in rivulets down his shoulders and back, tracing the contours of every muscle and rib.
The slow curl of heat in Icarus’ belly rushed south, and he felt himself rapidly harden in his trousers.
Merciful gods! Icarus pressed his hand against the rough bark of the tree trunk. It was taking all of his willpower not to just race over and touch him, to run his hands all over that perfect, beautiful body. To kiss him. Hell, he wanted nothing less than to worship Pythagoras. Even though he had no right to do so. Even though it would destroy everything, push too far, too fast. There was a tiny, reckless part of Icarus’ brain that believed it might be worth it, just to have this, just once.
But he didn’t. Pythagoras would not... he wasn’t ready. No matter how much it pained him, Icarus knew that. Pythagoras was far more inexperienced than Icarus, and Icarus had promised himself he would give Pythagoras the time and space he needed. That he would not push. That was easier said than done, though, when the object of his love was right there every day, so close and yet untouchable. And now this?
Icarus knew that the best thing for both of them right at that second would be for him to leave, now, before Pythagoras ever knew he was there. He needed to get control of himself. He needed to be able to walk back into camp and make it appear that nothing had happened. He needed to stop torturing himself with things that he did not deserve to have.
He could not leave, though. He could no more tear his eyes away from this sight than he could grow a pair of wings and fly back to Atlantis. Instead, his hand dropped to his crotch and Icarus began to touch himself.
Pythagoras twisted to the side to get something from his bag, and Icarus finally gained a partial view of his chest, and the long curve of his neck. Not even his most vivid of imaginings could have matched the reality. It was too much for him.
Icarus bit down on a whimper and turned away. He slipped around the back of the tree so that he was concealed from Pythagoras. With no more than a cursory glance at his surroundings, Icarus shoved his hand down inside his trousers and began to stroke himself. His head fell back against the tree and he closed his eyes, all the better to let his memory supply the image of perfection he had seen only moments earlier.
No matter how much shame he felt at the act, this was not the first time he had pleasured himself to fantasies of Pythagoras. One time, several months ago before everything went to hell in the city, Pythagoras had spent the night sleeping on the floor in Icarus’ room. There was some explanation about a blazing row with a drunken Hercules, but while Icarus had spoken sympathetic words to his friend, and joked to lighten his mood, all that he had been able to think about was having Pythagoras to himself for an entire evening and night. Long after Pythagoras had fallen asleep, Icarus had lay there watching him, memorising every detail. Icarus hadn’t dared to touch himself with Pythagoras so close, but after breakfast, as soon as he had gone, Icarus had retreated back to his room and not emerged again until nearly lunch, to little more than a raised eyebrow from his father.
Back then, he’d had to imagine what lay beneath Pythagoras’ tunic, but now, dear gods, now the image was burned into his mind. His hand began to speed up. He slid down the tree to sit on the ground, his knees drawn up and his thighs spread wide. Icarus’ face burned and he pressed his free hand against his mouth to stifle any sounds. All it took was the thought of that brief glimpse of chest, and his orgasm shuddered throughout his body.
He heard a choked sound. Cold reality washed over him and Icarus forced his eyes open. Pythagoras was staring down at him from only a few paces away.
Icarus yanked his hand out and tried to wipe it off on his trousers.
“I... what... I didn’t.... I wasn’t...”
Pythagoras was still wide-eyed, his mouth hanging open a little. He finally seemed to snap back to himself, and glanced back at the stream where he had been. His eyes narrowed, and then he fixed his gaze on Icarus.
“Were you watching me?”
Strangely he didn’t sound angry. Incredulous, perhaps, but not angry. Not yet, at least.
Icarus stuttered over several syllables before he gave up. He couldn’t meet Pythagoras’ eyes any longer and looked away.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
His eyes closed and he waited for the worst. He didn’t even know what the worst could be. Rage? Disgust? Rejection? He only knew he was about to find out.
“That... that is not the reaction that most people have to seeing me without clothes,” Pythagoras said. There was a touch of wonder in his voice.
Icarus dared to open his eyes. Pythagoras was staring at him with an expression caught somewhere between disbelief and... longing?
Icarus’ laugh was more born of relief than humour. He forced himself to hold Pythagoras’ look and not let his attention wander to the expanse of bare skin that was so very distracting.
“Then ‘most people’ must be blind and stupid.”
Bizarrely, it was that rather than the entire preceding situation that caused a blush to creep across Pythagoras’ cheeks and down his neck. Icarus wanted to kiss the blush away, or maybe do other things that might make it spread even further. He couldn’t help himself any longer and he glanced down. Pythagoras’ chest was still temptingly wet. There was a droplet of water lazily trickling down from his collarbone, and Icarus barely managed to fight back the urge to lunge forward and lick it away. Instead he let his gaze travelled lower, drinking in the sight so close up, the smooth pale skin, the faintest trace of hair dipping below the waistband of his trousers, and... oh. There was a distinct bulge in Pythagoras’ trousers.
Icarus didn’t realise he had been staring until Pythagoras cleared his throat. Icarus forced himself to look back up. Pythagoras bit his lip, and for a second his gaze skittered around the forest. Then, with no further preamble, Pythagoras stepped closer and dropped to his knees. His hands found Icarus’ face and he tugged Icarus into a kiss.
Their first and, until this moment, only kiss has been soft and gentle, the barest touch of lips. There was nothing soft or gentle about this one. After only a moment Icarus felt Pythagoras’ mouth open and his tongue nudged at Icarus’ lips. Icarus opened his mouth and let Pythagoras in. Let Pythagoras claim him, because that was what this felt like.
He reached for Pythagoras and let his hands roam across the still damp skin. Well, one hand, at least. He was vaguely aware the other was still slightly sticky, and tried to surreptitiously wipe it on the grass. For a man quite so enamoured with triangles, it seemed somehow fitting that Pythagoras’ body should feel like it was all hard lines and angles. Icarus wanted to map every single one of them with his fingers.
When Pythagoras finally stopped kissing him, he rested his forehead against Icarus’, and for a moment they just breathed.
“Don’t stop,” Icarus said. It sounded far more needy than he had intended.
“Demanding,” Pythagoras observed, but he was smiling.
This time Icarus was the one who pulled Pythagoras closer. For a moment he thought he felt resistance, but then they were kissing again.
Despite his recent release, Icarus felt himself twitching, beginning to harden again. He whimpered into Pythagoras’ mouth. With all thoughts of waiting gone from his mind, Icarus dared to reach lower. He traced the tips of his fingers along the hard length pushing at Pythagoras’ trousers, and was rewarded with a deep moan. Pythagoras jerked, and thrust into his hand and Icarus felt himself twitch again.
He cupped his hand around the bulge and kneaded gently, savouring the way Pythagoras whimpered and his breath stuttered and his fingers clutched tighter in Icarus’ hair. In that moment, there was nothing Icarus wanted more than to see what Pythagoras looked like when he lost control.
Abruptly, Pythagoras broke off and pushed himself away.
“Stop. Wait, Icarus please... wait.”
Icarus let go as fast as he could. What the hell? A second later every doubt that he had been foolish enough to ignore crashed back into his thoughts. He had pushed too fast. He had taken more than he should. He had fucked it up already, like he always did.
Pythagoras glanced up and around at the forest. Because of course he was the sensible one; he was thinking that the others might come looking for them, or, worse, Pasiphae’s soldiers might discover their location.
Icarus closed his eyes and tried to force himself to calm down. He should be good at this by now; he’d had more than enough practice.
He heard Pythagoras give a soft sigh.
“It is very unfair.”
Icarus nodded as his heart sank. This was it, the inevitable excuse; the others might find them, they would have to get moving, it was too dangerous, it was too soon. The betrayal.
He heard the quiet rustle of movement, and then felt soft breath tickle his ear.
“It is very unfair,” Pythagoras whispered, “That you have seen me semi-naked and yet I have not seen you in the same state.”
Icarus’ eyes snapped open. Pythagoras was watching him with an expression that somehow managed to be both cheeky and full of promise. It was a look that Icarus suddenly knew he wanted to see a lot more of.
Pythagoras glanced back at the stream, and then at Icarus. That look was still there.
“It would be a shame to not make use of the opportunity for a good wash while it is available, don’t you think?”
Icarus grinned. Perhaps it was his intelligence that Icarus was attracted to after all, because Pythagoras had the best ideas.