Taking a bit of liberty with the timeline but this is all before Carey and Killian's wedding.
Taako doesn't know that he'll ever be able to forgive Lucretia.
He thinks that she knows, thinks that she understands.
And that just makes him more upset.
He's justified, he knows he is.
In those memories, he didn't just lose one hundred years of his life. He lost his life. In forgetting Lup, Lucretia may have just ripped out his soul too. All the memories he was so sure of, how he viewed his childhood, losing Lup changed all of that. In those ten years, he'd looked back on a his life and it had been wrong. He thought he'd been alone forever, that there had never been anyone in his corner.
Most everyone has come around by this point. Taako doesn't think Merle was ever upset, and Magnus has never been the type to hold a grudge. Besides, without Lucretia, Magnus would have never met Julia. Keeping that in mind, Taako thinks that Magnus couldn't even entertain the idea of being upset with Lucretia. Lup and Barry were quick to forgive and Taako knows that they've always been the understanding types.
He doesn't hold it against any of them.
Davenport is really the only one on Taako's side of the matter. Lucretia took everything from their captain, reduced him to nothing but his name.
When the smoke had cleared, end of the world averted and all, Davenport announced that he was going to take some time. He had a ship, for the sea and not space, and he met with Taako in private to see if he wanted to come along for the first leg of the trip. He said that stones of farspeech would be left behind.
Taako had stayed for a month and a half, content with escaping from everything. He and Davenport hadn't needed to talk much, and they did their best to steer away from the heavy. Taako worked back to getting comfortable with cooking, forcing aside the sick that swirled in his gut and the thoughts that had plagued him before the Temporal Chalice told him otherwise. So they two of them would eat dinner and trade magic pointers. Taako taught Davenport some basic transmutation in exchange for illusion magic.
When he felt like he wouldn't spontaneously combust, Taako left Davenport at a seaside town with a silent wave. From there, he trecked his way back to the planetside home he'd set up for himself. Except that it isn't just for him. There's a spare room for Angus, and another for Lup and Barry whenever they visit between assignments with Kravitz for the Raven Queen. There's yet another room for Magnus or Merle whenever they come by.
Of course, Taako will never own up to anything more than the room for Angus, everything else is by coincidence. And besides, everyone has a room for Angus whenever they're planetside, it's an unspoken agreement for the lot of them. How can they not?
And if Angus' room at Taako's just happens to have all signed copies of the 'Caleb Cleveland: Kid Cop' books, well, that's neither here nor there.
Though he does take a sort of satisfaction from the fact that Angus stays with him more than he does anyone else.
The house is empty at the moment though.
Angus took a case in Neverwinter that had the local authorities absolutely baffled. The kid will probably be back in a day, by the next morning at the latest. Magnus has been busy with his dog school and Merle is off with his teen adventuring troupe. Lup and Barry and Kravitz are on the hunt for a ridiculously evasive necromancer, and Taako doesn't know when they'll be back.
Steven's here though, he spends most of his time swimming around the house in his enchanted ball. Magnus had entrusted him to Taako after the dogs took to chasing Steven around, some of the bigger ones actually managing to fit the ball into their mouths.
Taako's in the kitchen, where he usually ends up when he needs to think. It keeps his hands busy at least, keeps his mind from drifting too far. The air is pleasantly weighted with magic and the smell of baked goods, and Taako hums to himself, dusting some excess flour from his hands. He's been at this for a few hours at least, taking the time to test out a few new recipes that Ren had brought the last time she'd come over.
Everything's been somewhat fast paced since the end of the world was averted. He's been avoiding his feelings like the plague, immersing himself in his networking and development of the school with Ren. When he wasn't doing that, he was teaching Angus, or making up for lost time with Lup. Hell, he even went with Barry on a short trip to find some enchanted book with ancient necromancy spells in it. He'd been told to keep it underwraps, but he buckled and told Kravitz about it anyway.
But now, things are starting to slow down a bit, he has more free time. Free time means he starts thinking about things he'd rather leave untouched.
Steven watches from where he's nestled himself in the fruitbowl. Taako doesn't mind talking aloud, who's Steven gonna tell? Magnus, despite his animal handling, can't actually talk to animals. Merle's patron god is fucking Pan, but Taako doubts that the dwarf knows there are spells to speak with animals.
So it's fine.
"What do you think?" he asks.
Steven just blinks.
"I figured. I mean, for their sakes, I probably should just put it all behind me. Like, we're a family and all, and now that I remember everything- Part of me wishes I didn't remember, because that would make this less complicated. It would be easier to be okay with this. I should forgive her. But I can't? You know? She- ugh."
Steven swims in a little circle.
"It hasn't been that long, a half year is nothing compared to what we've been through, century journey and all. And really, when you think about it, ship time with the captain didn't count, and I was kept busy immediately following, so, no. I maintain that I've had no less than a month, two to be generous, to hold onto this shit. Two months is perfectly normal given the circumstance. And what the fuck is two months to an elf? I blink and two months have passed! And- and it's not like this was some minor offense, she didn't steal my fucking shoes, she took my life!"
Steven opens and closes his mouth, a few shiny magic bubbles slipping out.
"I don't want to talk to her, she'll just apologize and- and I don't want her to do that because she can't! There's nothing she can do to apologize." Taako turns around to lean back on the counter, folding his arms in front of him. He doesn't have anything to keep him busy, everything is either cooling or already finished. "And the worst part- the worst part is that she doesn't expect me to forgive her! She knows that she hurt me and she doesn't-"
Steven drifts out of the fruit bowl as Taako slides down to the floor. Taako tucks his knees up and Steven settles between them, pressing up against the magic glass for a few moments. He doesn't want to string anymore words together, it would take too much effort so he just sighs and tries to will himself into apathy before he starts crying.
That's how Angus finds him, on the floor of the kitchen, surrounded by baked goods and with a goldfish resting on his knees.
"Sir?" Angus calls quietly, crouching down at Taako's side.
Oh, damn. The kid can't see him like this. No doubt his genius detective brain has already figured what's going on from the excess of food on the countertops, but he doesn't need more evidence.
"Hey, Agnes, you're back early." He sits up, letting one of his legs stretch out in front of him, Steven staying hovering, as the rest of his body mimics a relaxed pose The glamour he keeps up most of the time hides his red eyes and the dark shadows beneath them. Elves may not need to sleep, but staying awake long enough has its ways of showing.
"The case was hardly difficult, a kid could have figured it out."
"You are a kid, kid."
Angus sticks out his tongue, proving the point and effectively lifting the tension in the room.
He helps Taako to his feet once Steven floats back to the fruit bowl.
"Need help with anything, sir?" Angus asks, eyes drifting over the assorted baked goods on the counter. He's practically vibrating with excitement, bouncing lightly on his feet.
"You sure you're up for it, little man?"
"Go wash your hands, you can help me with decoration."
Angus takes off down the hall and Taako takes a moment to compose himself.
They pass the next couple of hours frosting the cakes and making edible decorative components. Taako shows him how to pipe and lets him loose on a three tiered cake, armed with four pipe bags and two back up bowls of frosting. Angus' fingers are stained from the dye by the time he's done, and he's starting to drift.
"Go clean up, humans need sleep. I don't want Lup coming back and yelling at me because you stayed up too late."
Angus laughs but snags a cookie and wanders down the hall. Neither of them need to say anything. Though he's growing up, Angus doesn't protest reading a chapter or two with Taako before he goes to sleep.
Taako doesn't mind either, but he still makes a show of it because of course he does.
He finishes what he's doing and washes his hands before walking down the hall to Angus' room. Steven comes along, settling on Angus' stomach while Taako finds a book.
They get through half a chapter before Angus passes out, the case must have been more trying then he said. Taako takes his glasses off and sets them aside. Steven moves to rest near Angus' head and Taako pulls the blanket up a bit higher.
He pauses there a moment, hesitating before gently tussling Angus' hair and leaving the room. He cleans up the kitchen, packaging what he can and writing a mental note to ship a good portion of the food off to Merle and his kids. He sets aside another portion for Magnus, jotting down a physical note for himself because Magnus has been bugging him about making dog safe treats.
When there's nothing else to do, Taako lets his glamour fall away and disappears into his room.
He falls across his bed, face down in the pillows.
He doesn't know what to think really. He's good at holding onto anger, it's a talent really. He and Lup share a wrath, Lup's is bolder and all encompassing while Taako's wrath smolders and builds before suddenly erupting.
That's the problem though.
He doesn't know if he truly is angry. Angry at Lucretia? It's a foreign idea. He feels something, he just doesn't know what it is.
What he does know is that he doesn't like it.
He spends the night musing, not realizing that it's morning until he hears the front door open. He listens, figuring from the heavy steps that it's Magnus, and applies his glamour before blinking into the kitchen. One of Magnus' hands is a breath away from plate of cookies and Taako smacks the offending hand away.
"Nope, not for you."
"Ah, Taako, come on," Magnus pouts. Taako is fairly certain that he's been taking notes from his dogs about how to execute effective puppy dog eyes. They don't work on Taako though, between Angus and Lup, Magnus' begging eyes are useless.
The only puppy dog eyes that work are the ones given by actual puppies.
"You're pile's over there, these are for Barold and Lup."
Magnus grins and moves to look at what Taako had set aside last night. No doubt he sees the note Taako wrote for himself, but that's neither here nor there. Magnus has seen him on death's door, a little bit of tenderness is allowed here and there.
And if Taako denies it then who's going to argue?
"Everything okay?" Magnus asks after a little while.
Taako's taken up a seat on one of the stools by the island, lounging with feigned ease against the countertop.
"Perfecto, why do you ask?"
"Well, you baked." Magnus does a little shrug, not sure how to put his concern into words just yet. It's pretty early, and Magnus looks like he could use a bit more sleep.
"That's kinda my thing, my dude. Anyway," Taako waves his hands, "how's the 'all dogs are good dogs' school coming along?"
Just like that, Magnus' minds switches from concern over Taako to the new light of his life.
He jabbers on about a few new dogs he's been working with, and the hopes he has for them. He doesn't shut up until a still half asleep Angus wanders down the hall with Steven resting on his head.
"Ango!" he shouts, too loud for the morning hours. Steven drifts from Angus' head to Magnus, apparently very happy to see him.
"Good morning, sir, what are you doing here?" Angus yawns. He hops up onto a barstool beside Taako and reaches for a cinnamon bun. Taako doesn't miss Magnus' betrayed look when he lets Angus do so.
"Oh! Yeah," Magnus leans against the counter, a brilliant smile on his lips, "I came by because I wanted to ask you guys something. And also to deliver a message but that's just for Taako. A few of the dogs aren't quite cut out for the program I'm putting together, but I still want them to have happy lives and live in good homes, so I was wondering if you two would want one? I figure you could do with one, Taako, and Ango too if you want your own. They're trained and all, so you don't have to worry about that."
Angus immediately takes to the idea, Taako can tell, the boy genius might as well be shooting off stars and hearts for all that his excitement is palpable.
A dog. Taako's never been particularly great with animals, the mongoose family not included. He's been to Magnus' school though, he likes them. In all honesty, he might be part of the reason some of the dogs may not be any good for the training. He figures that the dogs aren't spoiled if Magnus doesn't see Taako spoiling them.
But one for himself?
It can't be so bad.
And Angus will probably enjoying having one just for him too. It could go on his detective trips with him, keep him company. Gods know the boy has spent enough time alone as it is.
It's worth a shot.
"Oh, sir, can we? Please?" Angus has his hands clasped and he's fixing Taako with his own personal brand of puppy eyes. Paired with his sleep tousled hair and the blanket around his shoulders, it's a commendable effort.
Though Taako has to wonder why Angus is asking his permission. The kid can make decisions for himself, he could decide to get a pet bear and everyone would probably just roll with it because he's Angus. Taako's not in charge of him, he's not the only adult that Angus interacts with.
After a moment of musing, Taako finds he doesn't really care, and that he likes the fact that Angus thought to ask him.
"Why not?" he says, throwing his hands in the air. "A couple of furry little slobber monsters running around my house, what's not to love?"
Angus cheers and Magnus props his fists on his hips, pride swelling around him.
"You guys can come by some time to have your pick of 'em," he says.
Once Angus finishes his cinnamon roll, he disappears down the hall to clean up and get dressed for the day.
"You said you had a message," Taako says.
"Oh, right. Merle's putting together a little hang out party kind of thing down at the beach later this week. He couldn't get ahold of you so he asked me to come by and tell you."
Oh, that's right.
Taako's stone of farspeech is currently in a number of fragmented pieces, shoved under his bed, and he's not gotten around to fixing it or getting a new one. Usually, anyone who wants to get ahold of him just opens a rift in space-time and that's that.
"Who all is coming?"
"He said it's just gonna be all of us," Magnus says in a way that lets Taako know that the estimated party population is precisely seven.
Plus Merle's kids most likely.
"We'll understand if you don't wanna come, no one's gonna hold it against you if you don't show."
He should go, really. If he tries to refuse, Lup will probably have a few words for him. He knows she's not going to yell at him, they won't fight about it, but she'll give him that look. Going will pay off in the end, no one can say he's not putting forth effort. And really, he deserves a day at the beach, right? Saved the world and all, he's entitled to a beach vacation. Besides, he's good at being evasive, if he doesn't want to talk to somebody, he won't.
"Why not? Count me in."
"Awesome," Magnus says, smiling wide, "I can come get you if you want-"
"Nah, I think I can make it to the beach on my own without dying, but thanks for the concern."
Magnus ends up staying for a little longer, Taako gives in and lets him have a cinnamon roll before setting to make some coffee.
When Magnus leaves, he takes Angus with him, both apparently have day plans at the former B.o.B., and Steven goes too. Taako sends them off with a couple cakes and a few plates of cookies, just enough that he can actually see his counter space. If one of the plates happens to be of Lucretia's favorite cookies then it's just a coincidence.
Then they're gone, and Taako has the house to himself.
More baking is out of the question, he doesn't physically have the room for it, and he's not just going to throw the excess away. He'll probably set out to whatever town he lives near by and just give them out. He'd made sure to build his home away from the general public, he likes his solitude, but close enough that he doesn't go full blown hermit. There are a few benefits, there are some old women in town who love him to death, and love his food even more.
He sets to absently straightening up his home. He doesn't clean, mostly because he doesn't want to, it's his house anyway. But there are a few of his clothes lying in various places, a number of spellbooks on the couch or under it, a few other magical items laid out lackadaisical. He tries to keep the front room presentable at the least. As long as no one gets on his case about his own bedroom then everything's fine.
As he's picking up spellbooks, his mind drifts off to the upcoming beach party.
Knowing Merle it won't start off as anything too heavy. They'll all be there, they'll lounge, do some swimming, nothing terrible. It's all a matter of what happens once the sun starts to set. Someone will start a fire, if it's a sensible one it will be Davenport but it'll be Lup if it ends up being a bonfire, and they'll sit around it. Someone will break the silence and start telling stories. They'll start light and happy, most stories will probably be about what's happened since they fought the Hunger. Then they'll shift to older memories and that's where things will get rocky.
Taako figures that as long as nobody tries to talk to him one-on-one then he'll be okay.
He won't ruin the outing by being catty or callous. He'll do his best to keep the tension down, to actually enjoy the day. He owes, and is owed, that much at least.
Taako sets to getting cleaned up and dressed. He loads up the goods that haven't been set aside and goes into town.
Kravitz, Lup, and Barry arrive the next morning, exhausted but all of them in one piece. Barry gives him a tired smile and Lup gives him a hug before the two of them take a seat at the counter. Lup's inhaled three cookies and is halfway through a cupcake by the time Barry's finished chewing his first bite.
Kravitz follows Taako to their room and they lay down.
"How was it?" he asks.
"I hate necromancers, Taako, they're stubborn and they don't care and-" Kravitz has his face in one of Taako's many pillows but it's not an issue since he doesn't really have to breathe. Taako rubs his back while he rants, talking about how Lup got so frustrated that she burst in flames. They caught the necromancer in an enchanted cave and Kravitz had to pull Lup and Barry into the Astral plane when their target attempted an unidentifiable spell that would have most certainly not ended well. But they caught him all the same and the Raven Queen decided to give the three of them some time off for the trouble.
"Anyway," Kravitz shifts onto his side, one of his cold hands coming to rest on Taako's cheek, "how are you?"
"Mm, that's an excellent question." Taako's long since stopped hesitating before pressing close to cuddle with Kravitz. "Been thinking."
"Merle's having a beach party, you're coming with by the way, and the whole crew's gonna be there."
"Am I correct in assuming you're hesitant about seeing Lucretia?"
"Ding ding, my boyfriend the genius."
"Have you two actually talked since things have settled down?"
"Not like you mean, nah. She's tried to but I'm a flighty son of a bitch."
Kravitz makes a thoughtful humming noise before speaking.
"Well, I think you still have some time to sort your feelings out. If you don't want to talk to her, then you don't have to yet. But I believe it would be a good idea to talk, for both of your sakes."
"Guess you're right. But I'm serious, you're coming with to that party, no way in hell I'm going alone. Magnus is gonna try to throw me into the water, I fucking know it."
Neither of them need to sleep but Taako meditates and Kravitz closes his eyes and breathes unnecessarily along with him.
He can't look at the ocean without remembering the cycle where he taught Barry how to swim so the nerd wouldn't embarrass himself in front of Lup. Before he got his memories back, Taako would look out on the water with a vague sense of fondness and anxiety. The confusion of emotions led to him staying away from open bodies of water in general for the longest time.
Taako sits under a massive umbrella with Kravitz and Angus, the latter helping the former to build a sandcastle. They hadn't really been planning to bring Angus with them, but the boy detective seemed to have materialized in front of them as they were about to leave, a 'can I come along too, sirs?' out of his mouth before they could make it outside. Besides, Magnus had shown up two minutes after they arrived with Carey, Killian, and Avi.
So really, that's three extras opposed to Taako's two. Merle had played at being upset but they all know he doesn't really care
"No, no, like this," Angus says, smacking Kravitz' hand away from one of the castle towers.
Taako has to stifle a laugh. Kravitz looks affronted and Angus belatedly realizes that he just smacked Death's hand.
"I am so, so, so sorry, sir. I didn't mean to be rude-"
"No, no, no, it's all right," Kravitz says quickly, ignoring the fact that Taako's fallen back in a fit of giggles.
Further down the beach, Magnus, Carey, Killian, and Lup are playing volleyball while Barry keeps score. It seems to be going well, until Lup spikes the ball and it catches fire.
"Hon, you've got to stop doing that," Barry says, "I'm not made of spell slots."
Barry performs some kind of restoration spell on the ball and Carey picks it up. They resume the match pretty quickly and Lup doesn't set the ball on fire again, though it does collect a few scorch marks over the course of their game.
Davenport and Merle are talking, heads bowed together. Taako isn't curious enough to eavesdrop but he imagines that it's not exactly a light hearted talk. Merle's son is chasing the tide with Avi, shrieking with what Taako hopes is joy whenever the water manages to catch up with his feet. Merle's daughter is with Lucretia, the little girl is showing Lucretia a book, occasionally consulting a notebook.
The left lense of Angus' glasses is smudged a little and his hands are caked with sand. Kravitz is worse off, sand all over him, but a goofy smile on his lips.
"What do you think of our castle?"
They'd outdone themselves, the model is likely Kravitz' idea but the execution is definitely Angus' work. It's a multi-tiered affair, decorated with shells, and surrounded by a moat filled with enchanted water. Little animated figures stand atop the towers, armed with bows and swords made of shredded twigs and whatever the two of them found in the sand.
"Not bad, not bad at all, let me just- one little tweak."
Using a bit of the magic Davenport taught him, Taako creates the illusion of fireworks, making them erupt into star shapes around the castle.
"Gotta have flair, kid, gotta have flair."
Angus laughs and Kravitz wraps his arm around Taako's shoulders, leaning closer to kiss his cheek.
Everything's pretty easy for a few hours.
Merle, Barry, Avi, Mavis, and Mookie start up a soccer match that's mostly just kicking sand into each other's face as opposed to actually moving the ball. Lucretia and Davenport cheer from the sidelines, both with a drink in hand but there's no tension between them, so it's fine.
Taako and Angus join the volleyball match on Lup's team, Magnus having joined Carey and Killian. If they are cheating, no one can prove it, nevermind that Angus is jumping higher than physically possible and spiking the ball with more strength than a little boy has any right to have. Kravitz keeps score for them, but he joins Magnus and Killian when Angus takes a break, Carey joining Lup and Taako.
It's fun, Taako finds that he's genuinely enjoying himself.
Then the sun starts to set.
Kravitz gives Taako a hug and kiss goodbye, a sleeping Angus in his arms, before disappearing through a rift. Carey, Killian and Avi volunteer to take Merle's kids home when they're getting ready to leave, and soon enough, there are just seven people on the beach.
Davenport sets to making a fire pit, stones encircling a sizeable pile of logs. He turns to Lup and she grins. Soon enough, there's a hearty blaze burning.
Slowly, they all migrate towards it, like the most bizarre moths, and settle in a vague circle.
Taako ends up sandwiched between Lup and Magnus, nursing a cup of something that Merle had poured for everyone. It's not the worst thing he's ever had, and he's fairly sure it's not killing him from the inside out, so he continues drinking it.
Lup's head falls to his shoulder and she mumbles something like "this wouldn't have been the same without you" or something equally dumb.
Taako doesn't respond, just raises his cup to acknowledge that he's heard her.
The night passes fairly quickly, the lot of them seeming to have come to a silent agreement not to dip too far into their vault of heart wrenching memories. Lucretia only makes deliberate eye contact once, and Taako holds it for all of two seconds before he tosses back the rest of his death drink and tells everyone about Ren's suggestion of starting a school. He'd kept it under wraps, they're ahead of schedule and will be up and running before the year is out. Only Lup and Kravitz knew, but he figures a beach party is as good an unveiling as he's gonna get.
It's a few days later that Taako finds himself being dragged down the path toward Magnus' school. Angus holds his hand tight, tugging him along. He's not stopped talking since they left, excited beyond measure.
Angus stops short once the school comes into sight.
"What's wrong, kiddo?"
"What if the dog doesn't like me?" Angus asks softly, his grip on Taako's hand tightens. "What-what if none of them like me, sir? Or what if I'm allergic? Or what if I'm not good at taking care of-"
"Ango, chill for a sec. First off, Mags is an honorary dog for all the hair he gets on him, I think we woulda figured out if you were allergic or not. Second, you're s'posed to be the best detective yeah? I'm sure you can deduce dog care pretty easy."
"And if they don't like me?"
Taako lifts Angus up so the kid can sit on his shoulders. No doubt he nearly gets stabbed in the face with Taako's hat but the kid's got glasses, they can double as eye protection. Taako carries him the rest of the way to the building and throws open the door, strolling in.
Suffice it say, Angus' worries are unnecessary.
Magnus had taken them to the back lawn where a handful of very chipper dogs were chasing Steven around. Immediately, almost all of them abandon the magic fish to come say hello. Had Angus not been on Taako's shoulders, he would have been knocked down, the only reason Taako isn't is because Magnus has a hand on his back.
Taako lets Angus down once the dogs have settled a bit.
They spend more time than they need to simply playing with all of them. Taako gives Steven a break and transmutes a few handfuls of dirt and grass into balls for the dogs to chase. One of the bigger dogs takes a liking to Angus, flopping over his lap whenever he kneels down. According to Magnus, his name is Ducky and Taako doesn't want to expend the energy to inquire as to why a dog is named such a thing.
But Angus likes him, so Taako doesn't voice his complaints.
Taako hangs off to the side, sitting down in the grass, content to watch Angus and Magnus enjoy themselves. He's found himself getting strangely fond of watching domestic scenes. He chalks it up to the fact that such scenes were lacking when he and Lup were growing up. They had their fair share on the Starblaster but those moments were overshadowed by their situation.
But this? Moments like these where the worst possible outcome is that Angus ends up with grass stains on his pants? Taako likes that he can have moments like these now.
A small dog settles beside him, panting happily as her tail wags. By the looks of things, her size is due to her breed and not age. Her coat is a mix of colors, tan to black with streaks of white all over. It's her eyes though, that really catch his attention; one is a warm brown while the other is a stunning blue. She has to jump up a little, her paws on Taako's shoulders, so she can lick his face. Faintly, Taako registers Magnus laughing, but that's all blocked out when the dog lays down, rolling so her head rests against Taako's legs.
Oh, oh no.
She doesn't leave his side for the rest of their time there. Magnus says her name is Sugar, isn't that just perfect, and that she's seven years old.
Magnus gets the rest of the dogs squared away, then joins them on the walk to the train station. He's got employees who stay with the dogs whenever he's not around. Rumor is that Carey, Killian, and Avi are frequent visitors, coming around whenever they're not busy with B.o.B. related matters.
Sugar is small enough to be carried with ease, and Taako does as Angus carrying duty has fallen to Magnus. Ducky and Johann walk side by side a short ways ahead of them.
"I'm surprised Sugar approached you on her own," Magnus says.
"What can I say? I'm a ridiculously approachable person, even the dogs love me."
Magnus laughs a little and Sugar gives a short bark.
"Why's it surprising?" Taako asks after a minute.
"She's just timid around people is all, she does better with just one on one interaction so I'm usually the only one who works with her. But she seems real happy with you."
Angus fills the empty air after that, asking Magnus about the ins and outs of dog ownership. Ducky doesn't seem to have lost any energy on the walk but he starts to settle down as they approach the train station. Magnus lets Angus down and gives him and Taako a hug before they board.
Taako figures that there's usually a no dogs policy on trains, but he's Taako from TV, and the man who's standing on the platform is Magnus Burnsides, and no one is going to say anything about him bringing two dogs along.
Especially since one of them is peacefully asleep in his arms.
"Well, little dude, what'd I tell you?" Taako asks. They take their seats and Ducky immediately settles his head in Angus' lap.
"Yeah, I guess I was worried over nothing."
"Damn right you were."
Angus straightens up suddenly, eyes wide.
"What is it, kid?"
"I never mentioned that we were getting dogs," he says. "I don't think you said anything either? Are they okay with us having dogs in the house?"
Taako blinks slowly.
Somehow, he'd neglected to tell Lup, Barold, or Kravitz that he and Angus would be introducing two new additions to their little household. The allergies thing isn't an issue since all three of them are dead, or undead reather, and he's sure that none of them are going to have a problem with the dogs persay. But he imagines that they would have liked a little forewarning. As far as he knows, they're still on assignment, and if that's the case then he has no intention of letting them find out until they get back.
"We're fine, worst case scenario, they're a bit surprised, you got nothin' to worry about. Besides, it's my house."
When they arrive, the house is empty, Ducky bounds inside the moment Taako has the door open and Angus chases in after him. Sugar wakes up a moment later and Taako sets her down so she can explore a little.
It's late as is and soon enough, Angus is in bed, Ducky right beside him.
Sugar isn't quite as tired, having slept nearly the entire trip, so she rests on Taako's chest as he lays down on the couch.
"Whaddya think?" he asks her, gesturing vaguely to the house. "Home sweet home, right?"
He's been kept busy before today. He and Ren had sectioned off a seventy-two hour timeframe to finalize details for the school and run over any last minute things they might need to take care of. They'll be opening soon, ahead of schedule, and they both want it to be perfect. As such, Taako hasn't really had the time to think about anything else since the beach party.
"Question for you," he starts, "what amount of time is acceptable to hold a grudge, do you think?"
Sugar sneezes into his shirt and he just scratches behind her ear.
"Yeah, that's what everyone else says. We still gotta introduce you to everyone else. You'll meet my sister, my boyfriend, and my sister's boyfriend pretty soon. They're bounty hunters for the Raven Queen. That's cool and all, not gonna lie, but I mean, you got me so I'd say you're pretty lucky."
He ends up talking to Sugar until she falls asleep, rambling on about his days on the Starblaster and his life before it. When she falls asleep, he follows shortly after, strangely relaxed after spilling his life story to his new dog.
The next morning is devoted to teaching the dogs tricks. Sugar isn't interested in doing anything other than sitting and staying, so really it's just Ducky. Angus heps Taako with the prototypes for the dog treats he's been meaning to get around to and those seem to help the process along.
When late afternoon rolls around, Taako gets everyone fed before the four of them board another train. Angus has some books he needs to pick up from a specific store so they figure they'll make a day out of it.
Most of the books are academic texts but Angus admits that a new "Caleb Cleveland: Kid Cop" book just got published and he wants to get his hands on it as soon as possible.
Much like with the train, Taako's pretty sure the store isn't too big on dogs, but they walk in anyways. Angus dashes off to find his books and Taako browses the aisles, Sugar walking beside him.
He's about to join Angus near the counter when something catches his eye. He freezes where he is.
Given the whole 'emissary of Istus' thing, Tako figures he should have the hang of this 'fate' thing by now.
Without thinking, he grabs the item and finds Angus.
He pushes the kid's hat over his eyes when he reaches for a coin purpose attached to his belt, and pays for both of their purchases.
They hit a few more shops, stopping for ice cream in between, before heading back home.
This time, there aren't any extra visitors, well, people visitors anyway.
It's going be just the seven of them, plus all the dogs, in Magnus' newly rebuilt home. Merle has brought better tasting drinks this time, approved by Davenport. Taako and Lup had spent the better part of the day baking and cooking while Magnus and Barry kept Lucretia busy with bookstore visits and a botanical garden that was farther away than strictly necessary.
They'd decided to do a personal party together during midday. Later in the night, there's going to be another party at the B.o.B. HQ with everybody else. Lup had let slip Lucretia's birthday to Carey and Killian and the two had immediately set to planning a party. It's going to be a big affair though, drinks and music and dancing, the whole shebang. But this one, this one will be quiet.
Nothing more than a pleasant celebration amongst family.
"I'm glad you decided to come, she will be too," Lup says.
They're putting the final touches on the cake while Davenport and Merle are making sure their decorations on the house look good, Magnus and Barry are on their way back so they've got ten or fifteen minutes tops.
"Yeah, well," Taako shrugs, "me an' Krav talked last night, figured it's for the best that I come. 'Bout time we talk."
"Remind me to thank your dead boyfriend later."
"Thank Sugar, she did most of the work. And newsflash, both you and your boyfriend are technically dead too."
Sugar barks from where she sits on the floor, obviously backing up Taako's side of the conversation. Either that or she just wants her thanks.
Lup just laughs, smearing a bit of frosting across Taako's cheek.
Davenport pops into the kitchen. He looks a little tired, a little stiff, but not at all unhappy. Taako's not entirely sure what he's been up to since his sea voyage ended but whatever it is, their captain is doing okay.
"Just about," Lup says. "Want us to start dishing up?"
"In a moment, there's no rush."
Then he goes back to the front room.
Lup puts down her pipe bag and washes her hands before climbing up onto Magnus' counter to get the plates. Taako only just deems the cake finished when all the dogs, minus Sugar, begin barking.
"They're back," Lup sings, grabbing Taako's arm and dragging him to the front room. They get there just as the door opens.
Lucretia comes through first, slightly startled when the four of them shout 'happy birthday' and Taako's pretty sure she tears up a bit. Then Magnus and Barry come inside, closing the door so none of the dogs get out.
Lup and Taako put everybody's plates together and Merle pours drinks. They settle in the front room, all of them sitting on the floor as opposed to Magnus' well crafted furniture. Sugar ends up in Taako's lap, and though she's not trying to steal his food, she does make eating a little difficult.
There's no gift giving, that's apparently planned for the second party, so they talk instead.
Reconciling this Lucretia with the Lucretia he knew before is something he's not been able to do successfully. He remembers little twenty-something Lucretia, their chronicler, the baby of their little group. He remembers the interactions he had with her, their relationship. There was one cycle, a bad one. Merle's parlays always ended in his death, Barry and Magnus had gone off somewhere and not come back, and Davenport died a couple months later. At month five, it was just Taako, Lup, and Lucretia. He and Lup are at odds with who's the oldest between the two of them, fact of the matter is that they really don't know, but for that cycle, they both got to be older siblings.
Post mind-wipe, when he met Lucretia again, he was faced with a severe looking woman, older, an authority figure. And though fifty years is nothing to elves, it's just about half of a human's life, so he'd regarded her as a superior. She was their boss, one who rarely smiled, one who retained composure at all times. She was someone with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was isolated.
The two images don't match up at all.
And even now, Lucretia has changed once again, almost as though the two images have meshed but with only partial success. The air of severity is gone but she still maintains an aura of authority. She's a twenty-something soul in a fifty-something body and that causes a bit of disparity. But she's happier, especially now that she's with the six of them.
Sometimes, Taako will look to her, only to see the old Lucretia. He sees her as she was for about three seconds before he blinks it away. She's not the only one, but it happens more often for her than it does the others.
Taako volunteers to do dishes without hesitation, disappearing into the kitchen without another word. Lup comes with him, but she only puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. She presses their foreheads together before moving away and taking the cake out to everyone else.
He's far too meticulous in his cleaning, dragging the process along.
Sugar lets him know that someone has entered the kitchen, she gives a nonthreatening bark and butts her head against his leg.
Lucretia stands in the doorway, looking somewhat nervous, a wine glass in hand.
"Taako," she says after a moment, taking a few more steps into the kitchen.
"I was hoping we could talk for a moment."
"Shouldn't you be out there though? It's your party and all."
"They're entertained by the dogs at the moment, Magnus is showing them off."
"Okay then, shoot."
There are no more dishes to wash so he starts drying them. He's expecting Lucretia to launch into a carefully thought out speech but she only poses a single question.
"Do you hate me, Taako?"
He almost drops the plate he's holding and his response slips out of his mouth before he can stop it.
"Of course not."
And that's the truth, he doesn't hate Lucretia, could never hate Lucretia.
But that doesn't mean he can forgive her.
Taako puts the plate down and turns to face Lucretia. She's crouched down, rubbing Sugar's belly and not making eye contact of any kind with Taako. He goes to his bag, fishing out the carefully wrapped gift he'd brought along. He has no plans to attend the second party, and this is as good a time as any to give Lucretia her present.
He sits down in front of her, Sugar rolling over and crawling into his lap as he does so. Lucretia looks up at him then, confusion flickering in her eyes when he holds out the gift.
"Taako, you didn't have to-"
"I know, open it."
She hesitates a moment but nods and accepts the package, setting her glass off to the side. Meticulously, she opens it, careful not to tear the wrapping paper.
"Found it at a bookstore with the kid, it was an impulse buy," he says.
The journals aren't exactly like the ones Lucretia had written their one hundred year journey in, they're a darker shade of blue, and with gold trim instead of silver. Lucretia's hands shake when she removes the last bit of paper and her eyes immediately dart up to Taako.
"I know you're the Madam Director and all now, probably don't have a lot of time to be writing stories, but if you ever have a day off or something...I figure the past can't be rewritten but-"
There are arms around his shoulders and Lucretia squeezes him tightly for a split second before letting him go.
The Voidfish may be gone but it does nothing to lessen the power these journals have, as a symbol more than anything. It's an emotionally charged gift as opposed to a practical one. The implication isn't lost on Lucretia at all.
Taako scratches Sugar's head, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on her.
"I- I don't hate you, Lucretia, and you can get Merle in here if you think I'm lying but...what you did- it's the action you took that I hate, and I don't think I'm ever going to be over it. Does that change things between us? Yeah, but we've been through too much together for me to drop you, any of you. And I swear to gods, if you tell those idiots out there I said that-"
"I understand," she says. Lucretia rises to her feet and Taako does as well, taking Sugar with him. "Thank you, Taako, truly."
All Taako can do is nod.
Lucretia gives him one last look, her eyes aren't as sad and she seems relieved to a degree, before she rejoins the others in the front room.
Unsurprisingly, Taako doesn't feel any of that relief. There's no catharsis and he can't find it within himself to move from the floor.
"How did this happen?"
The house is quiet, near silent save for the occasional sniffle or shift of bodies. The only light to be had is from a number of floating spheres of magic hovering around the front room. They bathe the space in a mess of orange and blue light, throwing soft shadows up against the wall.
Lup and Barry are out, a date night turned date weekend or something. Angus is dead asleep in his room, his first day of school having worn him out something terrible. It also probably didn't help that he'd sugar loaded from stress when he came home. He's only staying with Taako for the first week, then he's moving into the University dorms, Ducky going with him.
So it's just Kravitz and Taako, the former on the couch and the latter on the floor between his legs. Sugar is snoozing fairly close, one of the magic lights still half in her mouth.
"I couldn't tell you, my man."
Angus had braided Taako's hair the day previous, well, he'd made an attempt. More specifically, he'd attempted an intricate braid using all of Taako's hair and a good number of beads. As it was happening, Taako knew it was a horrendous mess, but Angus had been stressed.. When Angus went to bed, Taako had planned on undoing the pseudo braid but had gotten sidetracked with paperwork. He hadn't meditated, and was too busy up until this moment.
So now it's Kravitz's job.
He's gentle at least, the wincing is minimal and sure, Taako could use magic, but this intimate and nice and he likes it.
"I...talked with Lucretia," he says after a few moment, "during the party at Mags'. It was short, like a minute, but I did it."
"I'm proud of you." Kravitz presses a kiss to Taako's hair before continuing to detangle the braid with his fingers.
"I don't feel better though."
"You did say it was only for a minute."
Gods, he can practically hear the smile in Kravitz's voice.
"Well, yeah, but that shit has to count for something, doesn't it?"
"Not to the extent you're hoping for, I think."
Taako hisses as Kravitz accidentally pulls a little too hard. He whispers an apology and starts in on getting the beads out. Taako keeps quiet, trying to force his body to relax.
"This is a complicated situation," Kravitz says quietly. "It's not surprising that you didn't experience any catharsis. I think something like this is going to take more time than most."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
They don't say anything else. Kravitz somehow manages to restore Taako's hair to a semblance of its former appearance. It's nothing a shower, or a spell, won't fix. Unusually drowsy, Taako makes himself stand, pulling Kravitz up once he has his feet under him. He picks up Sugar, holding her against his chest with one hand so his other is free to take Kravitz hand and guide him down the hall.
Once he slips into a trance, the lights in the front room flicker out.
I am stressing so much, holy shit. I hope you enjoyed the product of that stress. I love TAZ so I hope I did the characters justice with this, let me know what you think!