Icarus took good care of him after his release, but it would be days before the bruises disappeared and the wounds mended. The walk toward the forest pricked him with needles of pain. Just getting out of Atlantis was a challenge: the commotion Icarus had caused distracted the milicia enough for Daedalus to go through the doors unnoticed, but walking there from the top of Poseidon's temple rendered his legs sore. By the time he reached the outskirts of the woods, the sun was high in the sky and he wanted nothing more than sit and sleep, but he was still too exposed to stop there. He limped toward the hunting loge.
Daedalus barged inside and shut the door after another look behind. He wasn't followed. He slouched against the wall and slipped to the ground, exhausted and in agony. Every bone, every muscle in his body strained against his bruised and wounded skin. He let out a whine. Pasiphae's soldiers hadn't been gentle with him; Daedalus's body still suffered from their torture.
For an instant, blurred images of various weapons covered in blood – his blood – and the sadistic grins of faceless soldiers filled his head. He shuddered. No! He rubbed his eyes until blue and pink and white sparkles appeared on the dark screen of his eyelids, erasing for now the memories of the atrocities he'd experienced, and lay there for a while.
Resting on the hard cold ground proved to be a bad idea. Daedalus tried to stand up and grunted from the effort. His legs wobbled under his weight, threatening to give up any second. He stumbled toward the table where he sat more comfortably – although the ancient bench stuck splinters in his tender bum. He winced.
What I wouldn't do for a good mattress, he thought as he looked around. Thank the Gods! At the back of the loge, the large bed was teasing him with its soft-looking blankets and fluffy pillows. There was no time for that, though. Obviously, Icarus wasn't there, neither were Jason nor Pythagoras. There were footprints in the dust that covered the floor, but they could have been there since forever.
He stretched his legs, groaning, and jumped at the clank he heard under the table. He bent with great care and looked at his feet; a pot lay there, with wings traced on its side. Icarus!
In the pot, Daedalus found a note unmistakeably written by his son, but in a manner that no one else but him could decipher. For the old man, the code was clear: Jason and his little group were heading for Keramoti, to find a boat to Colchis. That much the hieroglyphic signs and runes told him. If he sometimes questioned the parentage of Icarus – though he had held the baby in his arms right after his birth – now wasn't one of those times. Icarus was clever, he just chose not to use his brains. That was what caused this mess in the first place.
Daedalus' guts churned at the memory. The things he had said to his son... The remembrance of his harsh words brought tears to his eyes. His son never had bad intentions, only stupid reactions and clumsy actions. He would tell him when he saw him. He decided to get some rest if he wanted to reunite with his son before sunset.
He fell asleep sitting at the table.
A couple of hours later, he opened an eye, wondering where he was. The table was hard against his left cheek, and the stiffenning in his neck made him groan. As he rubbed it, memories came back. The hunting loge. Keramoti. He glanced at the sky and saw that the sun had started its slow descent. So late already! He banged his hand on the table, and the shock reverberated in his sore shoulder. He howled in pain and frustration. If he didn't leave soon, he'd never reach the harbor before night.
He stretched his limbs and realised that the journey wouldn't be as difficult as he had thought at first: his legs, at least, felt better. With another mournful glance at the bed, he exited the building.
The night was falling when the sea finally appeared beyond the dunes. On Daedalus' right, lights floated above the water, indicating Keramoti. But another light – alone, small, the light of a single fire – shone on his left, on the beach. A hunch told him that was where he'd find his son and his friends, and headed there. His body was close to exhaustion.
He walked into the camp when all but Hercules were about to go to sleep. Icarus ran to him and crushed his bones in a bear hug.
"Father, I'm so glad you found us!"
Daedalus swallowed a grunt of pain and returned the embrace. "Of course I would. Your message was clear." He pushed his son away and examined him with a critical eye. "I'm happy to see you safe and sound, after your flight."
Pythagoras joined them and put a hand on Icarus' shoulder. The slight frown on his face intrigued Daedalus, but the mystery didn't last long. "It almost wasn't so."
"What do you mean?" Daedalus asked, his heart pounding.
Icarus looked at his feet sheepishly. "I was struck by an arrow and fell to the ground. But Pythagoras found me."
"Are you hurt? Where?" Daedalus knew he was barely breathing – his lungs hurt much from the lack of air – but his throat refused to open up. With impatient and sometimes violent movements, he checked his son for injuries.
When Daedalus pressed his back, Icarus gasped. "Ouch, father! Be careful! I fell from the sky after all!"
Daedalus' next gestures were gentler, though no less thorough.
"Don't worry. Pythagoras already checked me. I have bruises and a sprained wrist, that's all," he said, showing him the bandage under his leather wristband.
"Pythagoras even revived him in the most curious way," Hercules added from his seat in front of the fire before gobbling an olive.
The blush on both Pythagoras' and Icarus' cheeks told Daedalus everything he needed to know. He smiled at his son and cupped his cheek tenderly. "Everything has been for the best then."
He recalled the desperation in Icarus' voice at the idea that Pythagoras would never forgive him, how his tears had drenched Daedalus' tunic. After Icarus' eyes dried out, he put him to bed like he did when Icarus was but a kid, whispering the song he loved to listen to when he was afraid of the dark. He watched him sleep for a while.
His foolish son. All he wanted for him was to find the happiness Daedalus had found with Icarus' mother, until her untimely death. If such happiness was with Pythagoras, all the better! He knew the young man and admired his cleverness – though he would never tell him. Pythagoras would ground his dreamy son.
Daedalus' thoughts were interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. "You should come by the fire. The night's going to be chilly," Jason said, always the good samaritain.
"I still don't like you," Daedalus told him, waving a displeased finger before his nose. "But that's a good idea you have here."
Icarus helped him to the fire and wrapped his shoulders in a blanket. "Here, father." The son snuggled against his father like a child, seeking warmth and reassurance and comfort, and Daedalus was happy to give them. They fell asleep sitting side by side.