Icarus bounded up the steps to Pythagoras’ little house, unable to keep the smile from his face. It had been nearly two weeks since Pythagoras had gone off on yet another secret journey with Jason and Hercules, and Icarus had spent much of that time trying not to worry. But Dione, who owned one of the herb stalls on the market and knew the two of them very well, had told him she had seen Pythagoras that very day. So apparently he was back.
Icarus had promised himself he would be cool. He would wait, let Pythagoras sort out whatever he needed to after his absence. Icarus hoped that maybe Pythagoras would come round to find him as soon as he could. He dared to hope that Pythagoras might be as keen as he was to pick up where they had left off before he’d had to go adventuring again.
His resolve lasted all of two hours.
It was Hercules who answered the door, and he waved Icarus in with an expression that a less charitable man might have described as a smirk. Icarus knew Hercules well enough to know that could mean anything, though. Pythagoras glanced up from where he was wrapping a bandage around Jason’s arm. When he saw Icarus he smiled, and Icarus was sure the way his heartbeat seemed to trip had nothing to do with running up those steps a moment ago.
“Icarus,” Pythagoras greeted him, holding his gaze for another moment before turning his attention back to Jason’s arm.
“I heard you were back,” Icarus blurted, and immediately winced at the obvious eagerness in his voice. So much for being cool.
“Yes, we got back earlier. It’s good to be home.” Pythagoras tied off the bandage and stepped back from Jason. “Ease off the sword training for a few days. And get some proper rest.”
Jason muttered something, and Icarus saw the way Pythagoras frowned as he watched Jason get up and wander over to his bed and start rummaging through his things.
Icarus didn’t know Jason very well, and on the few occasions he had seen him over the last few months, the man had always seemed to be in a bad mood. Pythagoras insisted it was not always so, and that Jason could be wonderful company when he wasn’t worrying about the queen or fighting in a tournament or generally being a great big hero, but Icarus had yet to see any evidence of it. No matter, it wasn’t Jason who he was here to see anyway.
Pythagoras gathered up the cloths and vials and bottles that were scattered on the table where he had been working and took them into his room. Icarus followed him and loitered in the doorway.
“Will you be at the festival tonight?”
“The festival of Aphrodite. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”
“Is that today? I’d lost track while we were away.”
“So... are you coming?”
By which Icarus actually meant, was he coming out with Icarus to spend the evening together for a festival dedicated to the goddess of love herself, so they could maybe work on taking things a little bit further than just kissing and snuggling? But he had a suspicious feeling that Hercules was listening to them from somewhere in the room behind him, and Icarus still wasn’t one hundred percent certain whether Pythagoras had told his friends about their relationship just yet.
Pythagoras finally stopped arranging the bottles on the shelf and turned to face Icarus properly. Icarus’ heart sank when he saw the expression on Pythagoras’ face.
“I’m sorry, Icarus. We just got back, I’ve been sleeping on the ground for the last two weeks. I was planning on having a decent meal and an early night.”
“We could just take a look round the stalls for an hour?” Icarus tried, although he had a feeling he was already fighting a losing battle.
Pythagoras came over and cupped Icarus’ face in his hands and kissed him, just the barest brush of lips. When they parted, there was regret in Pythagoras’ eyes.
“I’m sorry. I really am. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to spend this evening with you, but I fear I’ll just fall asleep on you.”
Icarus tried to quell the rather pleasant thought of Pythagoras falling asleep in his arms, as it apparently wasn’t going to be happening tonight. This close, Icarus could see that he really did look tired. He could also see a fading bruise under one eye, and a bloody scrape on his arm. Another fight that Pythagoras would no doubt brush off as nothing important if Icarus asked.
Icarus forced himself to smile.
“Another time, then.”
Pythagoras offered a smile and kissed him again. This time he lingered, and his thumbs gently traced random patterns on Icarus’ cheeks. Icarus closed his eyes and savoured the sensation for as long as it lasted. Somewhere behind them, Hercules cleared his throat unnecessarily loudly, and when Pythagoras let go and Icarus opened his eyes again, Pythagoras just rolled his eyes. Hercules’ apparent lack of surprise and Pythagoras’ lack of worry suggested he had told his friends about their relationship, but even that wasn’t enough to detract from the disappointment.
“I’ll leave you in peace, then,” Icarus said. “See you tomorrow?”
He caught sight of the raised eyebrow from Hercules as he left, but all he could really think about was how Pythagoras would rather spend tonight, of all nights, with his friends than with Icarus.
By early evening the festival was getting into full swing. The regular markets had been replaced by stalls selling food, stalls selling drinks, and the inevitable multitude of stalls selling jewellery and trinkets and love tokens and all the usual shameless cashing in that generally went with any festival. Mouth-watering aromas of hot meat and sweet pastries mingled with incense and flowers. The air was thick with the noise and smell and heat of hundreds of people enjoying themselves.
Everyone except Icarus. No matter where he looked, he couldn’t get away from the sight of couples kissing and touching and generally making a spectacle of themselves. No doubt up at the temple the priests and Queen Ariadne would have performed the appropriate rituals and sacrifices for the occasion, but for the rest of the city the festival of Aphrodite largely boiled down to an excuse for a good night out.
A young girl tried to attract his attention from the corner of an alleyway, but Icarus shook his head and moved on. Of course, that was the other perk of the evening. For those who were not already attached there were... well, other options. In previous years Icarus had been more than willing to take the night as an opportunity for a quick fumble, a bit of no-strings fun if an attractive young man caught his eye.
But that was before he had realised how he felt about Pythagoras. This time last year, on a lonely and desperate whim, Icarus had ended up in an alleyway with a tall wiry blond. He hadn’t got further than kissing the man before he’d had to pull away and rush off with little more than a hasty apology. It wasn’t that the man hadn’t been attractive or that Icarus hadn’t been in the mood. He just... couldn’t. That was when Icarus had known for sure that he didn’t just want any man, he wanted Pythagoras. This year... well, the fact that this year he had Pythagoras should have made this the perfect evening. Instead he wandered aimlessly from stall to stall, his eyes on the street because it was easier than seeing all those couples kissing and cuddling and enjoying everything that he could not.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
Icarus startled out of his thoughts and looked up at the man he had almost walked into. The apology died on his lips when he saw the three familiar figures across the road over the man’s shoulder.
The man shoved past him with a muttered insult, but Icarus barely heard him. He was too busy staring at the way Pythagoras was laughing at something Hercules had just said, the way he was craning his neck and pointing at a stall further down the street and cajoling Jason along with them as they tried to move through the crowd.
Icarus slipped out of the way and stood back against a wall and watched them go. So much for Pythagoras wanting to stay in and have an early night because he was tired. All of a sudden he didn’t look tired. All of a sudden he looked a lot like a man who was having a great night out. With his friends. Without Icarus.
Icarus turned and shoved his way through the crowd in the opposite direction. His only thought was to get as far away as possible before Pythagoras caught sight of him. He didn’t think he could deal with that level of awkwardness, not tonight.
Something had obviously happened while Pythagoras was away. If he had told his friends about their relationship, perhaps one of them had done something to warn him off. Icarus couldn’t see that coming from Hercules, the older man had always seemed friendly enough whenever they saw each other. So Jason, then. Jason must have said something when he found out about it.
Or maybe, a treacherous little voice spoke up, maybe Pythagoras decided all by himself that he didn’t want to be with Icarus any more. Maybe he had decided it had all been a mistake. Maybe kissing Icarus had been nothing more than an experiment. Maybe Pythagoras had never really wanted him at all.
His vision blurred for a moment, and Icarus was shocked to realise there were tears in his eyes. Shock was followed quickly by a flush of shame. He was not going to do this in public. He started to run, no longer making any attempt to avoid people and not caring about the angry shouts and insults that followed in his wake.
He pushed past a group of drunken men and one of them turned and shoved him hard. Icarus stumbled and crashed into a stall at the side of the street. The table tipped up and items scattered everywhere as Icarus tumbled to the ground.
“Sorry. I’m sorry, it was an accident.”
Icarus was already speaking before he’d even bothered to look at the extent of the damage. He wondered if he had enough money on him to pay for what he’d broken, or if he was going to have to make a run for it. Given the way his luck seemed to be going tonight, he didn’t fancy his chances for either option.
A figure loomed over him, and Icarus looked up into the face of an old woman.
“Well, aren’t you a sorry sight?” she commented.
Icarus had been trying to get up, but he hesitated. He’d been expecting angry shouting, but she sounded... sympathetic?
“I’m sorry. I fell. Well, actually someone pushed me but you’re probably not interested in that, are you?”
He realised he was babbling and stopped talking before he said anything else stupid.
The old woman actually smiled at him, and Icarus found himself staring into her pale blue eyes. She held a hand out to him.
“You’d best get up. People are looking.”
Icarus glanced around and realised that yes, people were looking at him and the mess. So much for getting away unnoticed. He grabbed her hand and picked himself up and brushed off the remains of the flowers he seemed to have taken down with him. He looked down at the ground and saw the scattered herbs and flowers and ceramic figures and tokens, and quickly started to gather up what he could. At least the incense pot hadn’t fallen; it was still, somehow, smoking gently in the middle of the table and giving off a soothing aroma.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered again as he tried to put the old woman’s wares back on the table.
The old woman placed a hand on his wrist.
“Nothing damaged, no harm done.” She paused, and her grip tightened on his wrist. “Or perhaps something is broken after all. Someone has hurt you, haven’t they? And tonight, of all nights.”
Icarus stilled and looked up into her eyes. Such warm brown eyes, like his mother’s. He frowned for a moment and then shook the thought away. He barely remembered his mother, and any image he might have of her was more down to his imagination than any real memory. So where the hell had that thought come from?
Oh yes, very eloquent. He tried to tug his arm away, but she had a surprisingly strong grip for such an old woman.
“Come, my boy. Sit down for a minute. Let me get you a drink, you’ve had a shock, falling like that.”
Icarus opened his mouth to refuse, but instead found himself being drawn to sit down on a three legged stool in a doorway behind the stall, away from the crowds in the street. The incense was thicker here, lavender and honey and something muskier that he couldn’t place.
“I can see it in your eyes. You’ve been hurt by some young girl, haven’t you?” She paused, and suddenly she smiled. “Or a young man, I think.”
Icarus stilled completely, his attention suddenly focussed entirely on the woman. He had an impression of old, slightly tattered, clothes, a sense of age and knowledge. He couldn’t look away from her gaze.
Icarus knew he should get up and leave, if for no other reason than he didn’t want Pythagoras or any of his friends to see him. But he couldn’t seem to bring himself to stand up and walk away. Besides, she was still holding his wrist, it would be rude to simply pull away when she was being so kind to him, especially after he had trashed her stall like that.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Icarus, no one deserves to be hurt by their love on the night of Aphrodite’s festival. Especially not such a good-hearted soul as you seem to be.”
She finally looked away and turned to rummage around in the darkened doorway behind her, and Icarus blinked. His wrist felt cold where her hand was no longer touching him. When she turned back she was holding a cup and passed it to him. The liquid inside was dark, and the scent was rich and spicy and like no wine he had ever known. He hesitated.
“Go on,” she encouraged. “It will help with the shock, after your accident.”
The old woman was watching him, so he took a sip. It tasted as rich as it smelled, and left a warm pleasant tingling in his mouth and throat.
She smiled at him.
“So, Icarus. Tell me about this man who has made you so sad tonight.”
He frowned and fiddled with the cup in his hands. It was none of her business. And the longer he stayed here, the greater the risk that Pythagoras might see him. He should just thank her and leave. In fact, that was exactly what he was going to do.
“I don’t know if he really wants me,” Icarus heard himself saying in a quiet voice.
The old woman leaned closer, and in the glint of a nearby torch he saw a flash of metal, a polished necklace with a charm in the shape of a crescent moon, around her neck. She reached out and her long fingers closed around his hand in his lap.
“Oh, my poor boy. You fear he doesn’t love you?”
“No, no, it’s not that. Not exactly. I know he cares for me. But I don’t... I don’t...”
Icarus stared down at the swirling dark liquid and took another drink, this time a proper mouthful. It felt so warm and comforting, why had he wanted to go home?
The old woman squeezed his hand.
“He keeps so many secrets. And his friends... I will always be second place to his friends, no matter how much he cares for me.”
“He does not sound like a man who deserves your love if that is how he treats you.”
Icarus shook his head immediately.
“No. No, he is a far better man than I could ever be. If anything, he deserves someone better than me.”
“I don’t believe that for a moment, Icarus. You are such a sweet, gentle boy, so pretty. This man of yours should thank the gods that he has you.”
She reached up with her other hand and brushed his hair away where it had fallen in front of his face. He looked up, and her dark eyes seemed to see right into his heart.
“I never know what is going on in his head. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t know how to make him happy.”
For a second there was a look in her eyes that he couldn’t place, and she smiled. Then it was gone, and Icarus looked back down at the cup in his hand. He took another drink, because it was easier than meeting the old woman’s eyes after that declaration. His vision blurred for a moment and he closed his eyes.
“I believe the fates brought you to my stall tonight, Icarus. I can help you.”
He felt her fingers gently turn his hand over palm up, and she pressed something into his open hand. He opened his eyes and looked down. There was a bracelet, just a thin leather band, but when he examined it more closely he saw swirling patterns etched into the leather, the moon and stars. He turned it over and saw that there was a small oval of what appeared to be amber embedded within it, like a gem on a ring.
“I don’t understand. Help me? How?”
“Go to your love tonight, and give this bracelet to him. Tie it around his wrist. As long as he wears it you need never fear the things you do not know.”
“I don’t... what do you mean?” A sudden thought forced its way through the sleepy relaxing fog that seemed to have settled around his mind. “Is this magic? Is this an enchantment? Because I would neve-”
She laughed and closed his fingers around the bracelet.
“No, Icarus, it is not an enchantment. It will not have any effect on him at all. It will not harm him. It will not make him do anything that he does not want to. This is for you, Icarus. I swear it by the goddess herself.”
He stared down at his closed fist. The amber bead felt warm and solid. A thought occurred to him.
“I am grateful to you for being so kind to me, but I cannot accept this. I do not have enough money to pay for such an item.”
Amber was by no means a particularly expensive stone for jewellery, but even so, a stone that size would almost certainly be beyond what few coins Icarus had in his money pouch tonight. He put down the cup, surprised to notice it was almost empty, and fished the money out. As he suspected, it could not possibly be enough.
The old woman just smiled and picked up a couple of coins from his hand.
“This will be more than enough, Icarus. Just promise that you will find your love and give this to him tonight. It must be tonight, Icarus, when the goddess’ power is at its height.”
She squeezed his hand and Icarus found himself nodding.
He stood up and for a second the world spun around him until he blinked a couple of times. The old woman made a shooing gesture.
“What are you waiting for? Go and find him.”
Icarus stumbled away, still a little lightheaded. By the time he looked back, he could no longer see the old woman and her stall in the crowd.
He turned around and was immediately engulfed in a hug. He was so startled that Pythagoras had already let go before Icarus could even get his arms around the man to return the embrace.
“I hoped I would find you, although with these crowds it was not easy.”
Pythagoras grinned at him, like finding Icarus was the best thing that had happened to him that day.
“I thought you didn’t want to come out?” Icarus blurted.
At that, Pythagoras looked slightly sheepish.
“I’m an idiot. Something which Hercules told me at some length almost as soon as you had walked out of the door. I am tired, and sore, from our latest adventures, but I would be foolish to let that stop me from spending tonight, of all nights, with you.”
“Hercules said that?”
Icarus had to admit he was surprised that Hercules was, apparently, so actively pushing for their relationship. Or maybe Hercules just thought it was funny that Pythagoras was finally in a relationship at all.
“Yes, Hercules said that. And he was right.” Pythagoras leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. “But please don’t ever tell him I said that. I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Icarus laughed, and Pythagoras’ smile grew even brighter.
“So, where do you want to go?” Pythagoras asked.
Icarus glanced around, suddenly wondering where Hercules and Jason were.
“Are the others...?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I left them at a stall selling pies and wine. Hercules announced he had no desire to know the details of what we were getting up to, but I can almost guarantee he will be asking exactly that as soon as I get home.” He rolled his eyes with a look that was half exasperation and half affection, and then suddenly looked slightly embarrassed. “Details which I will not be telling him, I hasten to add.”
Icarus chuckled, and let his fingers trail down Pythagoras’ arm.
“I’m sure you will be the height of discretion. And speaking of which, shall we get off the road and out of the way of these crowds?”
They threaded their way through the knots of people until they found a side street and slipped a little way down it away from the noise and revelry.
This was what Icarus had been daydreaming about ever since he had heard Pythagoras was back, but now they were here, in the relative quiet and away from prying eyes, he was hesitant. Their relationship was still so new, and with the abrupt and unwelcome interruption of Pythagoras’ mission just as they were getting started, Icarus wasn’t sure how far he was allowed to go just yet.
Pythagoras apparently felt no such indecision. He turned to Icarus and with one hand he grasped the front of Icarus’ tunic and tugged him closer and kissed him, soft and gentle and undemanding at first, but with the promise of more. His other hand came up to cradle Icarus’ head and fingers tangled into his hair.
Icarus’ eyes closed and he melted into Pythagoras’ touch. He slipped his arms around Pythagoras and held him close. The amber bracelet was still clutched in his hand, he realised, but already his conversation with the old woman seemed like a distant, and embarrassing, memory. How could he ever have doubted this? Icarus kept the bracelet hidden in his hand and returned the kiss until they both needed to breathe.
When he opened his eyes again, Pythagoras was watching him with a soft smile. He stole another kiss before resting his forehead against Icarus’.
“I missed you,” Pythagoras said.
“And I you,” Icarus said instantly. “I was worried about you. I always worry when you disappear on these missions and adventures.”
“Are you alright? You said before that you were hurt?”
Pythagoras shook his head.
“I said I was sore, that’s not entirely the same thing. And it’s mostly just from sleeping on the ground and a few bumps and bruises.”
Icarus’ expression must have betrayed his disbelief because Pythagoras sighed.
“Yes, I did get a few new cuts and scrapes from a fight or two, but honestly, I am fine. Jason was injured far more than I was.”
“And was it worth it?”
Pythagoras looked confused for a moment.
“The mission?” Icarus prompted. “Did you succeed in... whatever it was you were doing?”
“Yes. Well, more or less.”
Icarus waited to see if he would elaborate, but it quickly became apparent that nothing more would be forthcoming. Icarus felt a flash of annoyance. Why the secrecy? Especially now that he was back and the job was done?
“Hey,” Pythagoras said, and kissed him again.
Icarus let himself be kissed, and savoured the sensation of Pythagoras’ touch, the feel of his fingers gently caressing the back of his head and playing with his curls. No matter how nice it felt, though, it couldn’t quell the uneasy feeling that he was being deliberately kept in the dark. The feeling that Pythagoras didn’t trust him.
Pythagoras seemed to sense his mood and pulled back a little.
“Was that an attempt to distract me from worrying?” Icarus said, trying to keep his tone light.
The edge of Pythagoras’ mouth turned up in a hint of a smile.
“Possibly. Did it work?”
In spite of himself, Icarus chuckled and returned the smile.
“Perhaps a little.”
Pythagoras let go of his tunic and brought his hand up so that his thumb could stroke Icarus’ face. Pythagoras held his gaze.
“I’m sorry,” Pythagoras said eventually. “I just don’t want to talk about that right now. Not when there are far better things we could be doing.”
Icarus had spent a great deal of time over the last several months imagining all sorts of activities that might fall under the category of ‘much better things’, but right at that moment all he could think about was the blatant deflection.
The amber bead still felt solid in his hand. He suddenly couldn’t look Pythagoras in the eye any longer and let his gaze drop to the ground. He wasn’t sure he even believed the old woman and her cryptic promises, but her words kept swirling around in his head and Icarus knew that he did fear the things he did not know. The secrets, the implied lack of trust, the constant feeling that Pythagoras did not really feel the same way about him.
He looked up again and forced a smile.
“I got you something.”
Pythagoras frowned in confusion.
“What do you mean?”
Icarus let go and stepped back, and Pythagoras let go of his face.
“I got you a present. Just a silly little thing. Hold out your hand.”
Pythagoras did, and Icarus quickly tied the leather band around his wrist before he had second thoughts.
“I thought the amber would suit you. It goes with blue. An-”
He was saved from saying anything else that might be considered mortifyingly girly by Pythagoras suddenly pouncing on him and kissing him thoroughly.
“Thank you, Icarus. It’s perfect. Thank you.”
Whatever resentment he might have felt before, Icarus couldn’t help the excited thrill at seeing such undisguised joy and enthusiasm on Pythagoras’ face.
He wasn’t sure what he expected, but apart from both of them suddenly seeming a great deal happier there was no noticeable change. Of course the old woman had been making it all up. It took Icarus a moment to realise that he actually felt relieved about that, and suddenly all his anger seemed to slip away.
He noticed he was still holding Pythagoras’ wrist in his hands, and had been absently stroking the soft skin just above where the bracelet encircled his arm.
“I’m afraid my purse will not stretch to buying you anything so beautiful in return,” Pythagoras said.
Icarus looked up and immediately wanted to banish the regret and embarrassment he could see in Pythagoras’ eyes.
“If your purse will stretch to a warm sweet pastry then as far as I am concerned we are even.”
Right on cue, his stomach rumbled, and Pythagoras laughed before stealing another kiss.
“I can definitely manage a pastry. Possibly even two.”
“Then let’s go, before Hercules eats all the best ones.”
“Shhhh! You’ll wake my father.”
Icarus somehow managed to get the door to his house closed while propping Pythagoras upright with his free arm. It was dark inside, which was at least a good sign that Daedalus had already gone to bed, but Icarus knew from experience how often Daedalus had been waiting with a raised eyebrow when he had come home late.
There was a thought in the back of Icarus’ mind that he should probably have taken Pythagoras to his own home, but Icarus’ home was nearer, and Pythagoras was heavier than he looked. And okay, yes, perhaps the thought of getting Pythagoras into his bed had been too tempting to pass up, even though Icarus was fairly certain his friend was in no state to get up to anything that they might have imagined taking place in Icarus’ bed.
Pythagoras giggled and then slapped a hand over his mouth.
“If I’d known how little it took to get you drunk I would not have bought that second flagon of wine.”
It was a little difficult to tell in the half darkness of the house, but Icarus was fairly sure Pythagoras pouted at him.
“I’m not drunk.”
“Right. Whatever you say.”
Icarus managed to get Pythagoras’ arm across his shoulders and supported him upstairs until they got into Icarus’ bedroom. He deposited Pythagoras onto the bed, and Pythagoras immediately flopped back and lay there, watching him in the half darkness.
Icarus lit a candle so he could see properly, and then smiled down at Pythagoras.
“Definitely less wine next time,” Icarus decided.
“I was having a good time,” Pythagoras said, still looking slightly pouty.
He held a hand up to Icarus, and Icarus tugged him back upright. Pythagoras wrapped both arms around Icarus’ waist and burrowed his face into Icarus’ chest, nuzzling and making contented noises. Icarus felt a bemused smile forming and held Pythagoras and stroked his hair.
“You are very cuddly when you are drunk.”
“Mmmmmmnnnnn,” Pythagoras said. If there had been any actual words in that, they were completely muffled by his face still being pressed against Icarus’ tunic.
Icarus just chuckled and let him cuddle a little longer before extricating himself so he could take off his shoes and tunic. Pythagoras was still trying to undo his belt by the time Icarus was done, and Icarus helped him undress as far as his trousers and tunic, and then manoeuvred Pythagoras into his bed and lay down next to him.
Pythagoras turned to look at him, and the look in his eyes was almost enough to break Icarus’ resolve.
“I appear to be in your bed,” Pythagoras observed. It sounded like he was slightly surprised by that fact.
Icarus turned onto his side so he could watch Pythagoras.
“Yes, this is my bed.”
“And you have no shirt on.”
Icarus chuckled again.
“Again, yes. You’re a very observant drunk.”
Pythagoras attempted to turn onto his side but gave up after the third try and just flopped back onto his back.
“I’ve had thoughts about this. About being in your bed. About you being half naked.”
Icarus reached out and let his fingers absently play on Pythagoras’ chest, and really wished that he hadn’t bought the extra wine.
“You’ve had thoughts, have you? And what sort of things happened in these thoughts of yours?”
Pythagoras’ gaze flickered down to Icarus’ mouth and back again.
“I... we were touching each other. All over. And I... I was on top of you and I kissed you... all down your chest... and, and lower.”
Just the mental image of Pythagoras’ fantasy was making Icarus’ cock take notice, and he had to close his eyes and try to quell the response.
He felt a feather light touch on his chest and opened his eyes. He took hold Pythagoras’ hand and entwined their fingers.
“That sounds like a most excellent plan. And I intend to hold you to it one day. But not tonight.”
Pythagoras’ look of surprised disappointment was almost enough to make Icarus relent.
“Because you are drunk, my love. And that means that you will not be fully in control of what you are doing, and it also means that you may not remember this in the morning. And trust me, Pythagoras; I want to make it very, very memorable for you.”
The smile that Pythagoras gave him was one of the most adorably beautiful expressions Icarus had ever seen on his face, and he couldn’t stop himself from leaning across and kissing him. Pythagoras wriggled against him until Icarus wrapped his arm around Pythagoras and settled down beside him.
Pythagoras nuzzled at him.
“You’re pretty,” Pythagoras said.
Icarus just tugged him closer.
“Go to sleep, Pythagoras.”
There was some more wriggling until he eventually settled, and soon the rhythm of his breathing told Icarus he was finally asleep.
It was not the way he had imagined their first night together, but Pythagoras was here, in his arms, and Pythagoras wanted this, wanted him. Icarus lay there enjoying the moment, the feel of having Pythagoras in his arms, the soft warmth and the sharp, bony angles, and thought he could get very used to being this happy.
Icarus propped himself up on one elbow and watched Pythagoras finally wake up. Icarus had been awake for maybe half an hour already, and had simply lain there, watching Pythagoras sleep, savouring the knowledge that Pythagoras was in his bed. And, he had to admit, taking the opportunity to just look without fear of being caught and causing embarrassment. In sleep, his face was relaxed and calm in a way it never seemed to be when he was awake; Pythagoras was constantly worrying or excited or concentrating on something important whenever Icarus saw him. Seeing him like this was... nice. Icarus wanted to see him like this far more often.
Pythagoras’ face scrunched up a little, and he curled in on himself even more.
“Good morning,” Icarus said quietly.
Pythagoras froze. After a moment, one eye opened and he peered at Icarus.
Icarus chuckled at the obvious bewilderment, and leaned forwards and dropped a quick kiss on the end of his nose.
“Yes, it’s morning. Yes, you are in my bed. And yes, that is almost certainly an almighty hangover you have right now.”
“Uuuuuh.” Pythagoras closed his eye again, but Icarus saw his cheeks colour a little.
“I hope that’s a reaction to the hangover, and not to waking up beside me?” Icarus said, at least 98 percent certain he was joking.
At that, Pythagoras opened his eyes properly and gave Icarus a sheepish smile.
“Sorry. This was not how I imagined waking up with you for the first time.”
“Oh? And what exactly was it that you imagined doing on waking up in my bed?” Icarus suspected he had a rather mischievous smirk on his face, but he couldn’t help it. Pythagoras like this, relaxed, with his guard down, was even more adorable than he could ever have dreamed.
“I’m not entirely sure, but I think there was more snuggling involved.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged.”
Icarus squirmed closer and slipped one arm around Pythagoras’ waist, and moved in for another kiss. This time Pythagoras’ lips met his and Icarus’ eyes slid closed.
-mmmmm this is nice it would be so much better if my head didn’t feel like it was going to explode how can this be pleasurable why does Hercules keep getting drunk if this is what it feels like the next day every time? oh... oh that is very nice keep doing that thing with your tongue yeah like tha-
Icarus pulled back and stared at Pythagoras. How the hell was he saying any of that when they were kissing?
-why has the kissing stopped? come back that was really nice I was enjoying that ow my head hurts so much why is the light so bright doesn’t he have any curtains in his room? I should buy him curtains if we are going to sleep here more often or maybe I could ask him to sleep at mine instead or maybe not Jason and Hercules would take the piss too much maybe that’s not such a good idea why does his window have to let the morning light in like that? and I don’t think that window is straight that is definitely not a right angle he lives with the most brilliant engineer in the whole of the city how can he not have geometrically accurate windows? why is he looking at me like that? why has the kissing stopped? what have I done wrong? he was the one who started kissing me first I thought that’s what he want-
It was Pythagoras’ voice, but Pythagoras wasn’t moving his mouth. He wasn’t speaking. And yet Icarus could hear his voice, quiet and strangely echoing, but definitely Pythagoras’ voice.
“How are you doing that?” Icarus blurted.
-ed what does he mean doing what that makes no sense I’m not doing anything-
“Doing what?” Pythagoras asked, his expression one of honest confusion.
-why is he looking at me like that what have I done wrong this time can’t we just spend time together without him asking all these questions that I can’t answer? oh for the love of the gods I need a bloody tonic for this headache I hope Hercules hasn’t drunk it all when I get hom-
Icarus let go of Pythagoras and moved back, staring at him. The voice immediately went silent.
What the fuck was going on?
“Icarus? What is it? What’s wrong? Are you all right?” There was nothing but worry and concern in his expression now.
Pythagoras reached for him, his fingers tentatively touched Icarus’ bare chest.
-s is getting scary now what’s wrong why is he staring at me? I can’t deal with this shit right now why the hell can’t we just go back to kissing that was nice why do I have to take care of bloody everybody all the time I have enough with Hercules and Jason I can’t do this with Icarus as well not right now I just want my head to stop hurting and maybe sleep some more oh gods this was supposed to be perfect why couldn’t it be like it was in my head all those times why can’t it just be bloody simple for once I just want him to hold me and it’s all going wrong and I have no fucking clue how to do this why is he staring at me like I’ve gone insa-
“Icarus, please, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”
-ne please just talk to me Icarus tell me what the hell I’ve done wrong because I don’t understand what’s happening right no-
Icarus couldn’t listen to that any more. He dived forwards and held Pythagoras’ face in his hands and kissed him. He had intended it to be gentle but Pythagoras apparently had other ideas and Icarus found himself being pulled close, closer, as Pythagoras held him and kissed him and the voice in Icarus’ head suddenly became utterly preoccupied with the kiss and the sensations and when Pythagoras pressed even closer the voice stuttered into broken half formed words that made no sense.
He could hear Pythagoras’ thoughts.
The realisation was enough to startle Icarus out of the kiss, but Pythagoras was still holding him and seemed reluctant to let go. Before the voice in his head could regroup and start complaining again, Icarus resumed the kiss. He couldn’t help wondering exactly what ‘that thing with his tongue’ was that Pythagoras had been thinking about earlier but right then all he could really concentrate on was the fact that he could hear Pythagoras’ thoughts.
It was strange. And it was wrong.
Icarus pulled back, pressed one more gentle kiss to his lips, and then extracted himself from the bed and stood up with as much dignity as he could manage. As soon as he was out of bed the voice was gone, silent at last. That was... good. Probably.
Pythagoras was watching him with that look of bewildered hurt again. He was probably wondering what he had done wrong, again, Icarus thought to himself. He shoved that thought away and forced himself to smile.
“It’s late. Much as I would like to continue with this, my father will probably come and interrupt us before long, and I’m not sure we want him to find us like this.”
Actually, embarrassment factor aside, Icarus had a feeling that his father wouldn’t have the slightest problem with finding Pythagoras in his bed, but right then all Icarus could think was that he needed to get away from Pythagoras until he could sort out what the hell was going on.
Pythagoras nodded, then winced, and very slowly sat up and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. Icarus passed him his belt and shoes, trying to keep actual physical contact to a minimum. Icarus put on his own tunic, and glanced up to see Pythagoras watching him with a half smile.
“Shame, I was enjoying the view,” Pythagoras said.
Icarus forced himself to smile.
“I’m sure there will be plenty more opportunities.”
“I hope so.”
Pythagoras stood up and before Icarus could get to the door Pythagoras grabbed his wrist and tugged him back into another kiss.
-so gorgeous what did I do to deserve this man? why did I drink so much last night what the hell was I thinking I could have been having sex with him and instead I have a hangover and he can’t wait to get rid of me because I made such a bloody idiot of mysel-
“There will definitely be more opportunities,” Icarus said, unable to listen to Pythagoras’ self-doubt any longer. “For this, and for much more. I promise. But right now I think you need to go home and sort out that hangover.”
Pythagoras’ smile was the reassurance he needed. Icarus deliberately let go and made sure he was a few steps ahead of Pythagoras as they went down the stairs and through the workshop.
Of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy.
“Morning,” Daedalus said loudly when they had almost made it to the door.
He turned around. Daedalus was just watching them with a smirk and a definite twinkle in his eye.
“Good morning, Daedalus,” Pythagoras said, somehow sounding far less guilty than Icarus had.
“Going by the rumpled state of your clothes I’m going to assume a good night was had and ask no further questions,” Daedalus said, still smirking. “But why the hurry? Stay for breakfast, Pythagoras.”
“Father!” Icarus hissed. He was fairly certain he couldn’t have gone any redder in the face if he was on fire. He didn’t even dare to look at Pythagoras.
“Thank you, but I’m afraid I ought to be going,” Pythagoras said, still, somehow, sounding far more relaxed than Icarus about the situation. “Hercules is going to wonder where I’ve got to if I don’t make an appearance soon.”
“Another time, then,” Daedalus said. His tone clearly indicated that he expected this to become a regular occurrence, and that they would not be able to get away from him so easily next time.
Icarus herded Pythagoras to the door as fast as he could before Daedalus had chance to embarrass him any further.
“Sorry,” Icarus muttered.
Pythagoras actually chuckled, and then winced again.
“Don’t worry. He was probably going to find out sooner or later.”
“Yes, but he’s going to be unbearable for the rest of the day.”
“It could be worse. You could have to deal with Hercules.” Pythagoras pulled that familiar face that he often got when talking about his friend, part exasperation and part affection.
Pythagoras hugged him, mercifully briefly, and all Icarus heard was scattered thoughts about tonics and Hercules and the need for more sleep, before Pythagoras let go and left the house.
Icarus shut the door and leaned against it and closed his eyes.