This was written in December of 2017. This one's a Taako-centric fic. I wrote a lot about Taako and Lup a few years ago, and I still love them a lot. The Adventure Zone is good. A disclaimer with this just as with every taz fic I write: I do not even pretend to know how dnd works. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy!

Taako was thrown out of his dream not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The ceiling above him, closer to his face than he was used to, was the only thing he could see. He felt a chill in his bones, a pain in his ches, pressure behind his eyes. He felt frozen in place, unable but also unwilling to get up or move. He listened carefully. All three of his roommates were asleep; they hadn't been disturbed at all from the sounds of it. For now, he could assume nothing around him had woken him up. So why was he awake?

He tried to think back. With how tired Taako still was, his hazy thought process made this difficult. But with enough effort, he could piece it together. Fuck, another bad dream, huh? Anything he could remember from the dream was long gone, but it was easy enough to guess.

Well, if his dreams weren't going to be any better than reality, then there wasn't much point in being asleep. With a sigh, Taako grabbed the umbra staff, cast Feather Fall, jumped and landed safely from his top bunk to the floor, and left the room. In all this, he didn't make much effort to be quiet. He didn't care if anyone heard him at all. He just kept walking, until he was out of the room, until he was out of the dorms, until he was outside, a good distance away from the dorms. Only then did he stop.

Taako, along with party members Merle and Magnus, hadn't joined the Bureau of Balance all that long ago. Maybe around a week ago, but damn if Taako was going to keep track of how long it'd been. (Six days ago, and he was surprised to still be here, honestly.) The three of them hadn't left the base since. Obviously, there weren't any solid leads on the other Relics yet, and their party was just too good for their time to be wasted elsewhere. (They could see right through him, knew he wasn't capable of another mission, knew he couldn't be trusted with another mission. Just look at Phandalin.) They already had a good reputation with the Bureau after successfully reclaiming their first relic, but look at him now, driven out of bed and across the base by a bad dream. (Pathetic.)

A steady job was a steady job, and it was good to have the chance at one. How long had it been since he'd had one of those? Six years? Ten? Fuck, everything was starting to blur together, especially with the Voidfish inoculation. It was so easy for all of this to slip through his fingers, though. How long until the Director lady did some standard background checks, found out what he did, and kicked him out?

"This is fucking stupid, why do I even care?" he hissed under his breath. "I bounced from job to job all the time before. Why should it be different if I lose this one?"

("Because you weren't a murderer before!" a voice in his mind sings. "No one's going to trust you for work again!")

Well, Taako never trusted anyone, so if they didn't trust him, that was fine by him.

Once this thought passed through his mind, Taako finally realized he'd actually said something out loud. Quietly, yeah, but it'd still happened. He gave the area around him a quick glance, but no one else was around. It'd be weird if anyone was given how late it was. Just him and the umbra staff at this un-Panly hour.

"This is even stupider," he said, looking down at the umbra staff. "What am I now, the guy that talks to umbrellas?" He considered this for a moment. "I guess umbrellas are good listeners." Yeah, if he was going to talk, might as well talk to the umbra staff. Better that than an actual person. No one here was even close to unlocking his tragic backstory.

The umbra staff, of course, gave no form of response, because it was a fucking umbrella. A magical umbrella that could absorb magic, yes, but still an umbrella. Maybe Taako was just tired, but he felt better imagining it was listening anyway. If only the umbra staff could absorb his stupid emotions.

"You think I'm being stupid about this too, right?" he asked it. It gave no response. He sat on the ground and placed it next to him. "Like, shit dude, it already happened. I can't change it now. And it won't happen again, it can't happen again, because I can't cast that kind of magic anymore. I'm basically running on cantrips here. And I never wanted any of it to happen in the first place, of course it won't happen again. The whole thing was just fucked. But obviously I can't stop thinking about it, because I literally can't sleep because of this."

He pulled a stone out of his pocket. It was a small one, smaller than the palm of his hand. He cast a spell he knew he should be capable of on the stone: Fabricate. What it turned into he didn't care: anything would be fine. All the stone did was warm up, getting hotter to the point where it felt like it was about to burn his hand. He yelped and threw it into the air. At the peak of the throw, the stone exploded. A small explosion that Taako barely felt anything from. Yeah, he didn't have many spells at his disposal.

"I mean, I'm doing my best here," he went on. "I can use cantrips again. And I'm still here. And I learned my lesson. So I guess that's something."

The umbra staff sat in silence. It wasn't a cold unfeeling silence, but a warm one, like it was ready for him to speak more. Like it was listening, understanding. Wow, Taako, way to personify an umbrella. You need some fucking sleep.

"There's no way this is going to last," he mumbled. "I'm not good enough. They have to know that. There's loads of better wizards out there. I'll get kicked out eventually. Then Taako can go back to being an accidental criminal, or whatever the fuck. It's just so fucked."

He wasn't some kind of unfeeling monster. He didn't really care about most people one way or the other, sure. But innocent people didn't deserve to die, especially from just eating some food. They didn't deserve this and he felt awful, and he'd change it if he could. He wouldn't wish this sort of feeling, this sort of guilt on anyone. (Well, on most people.) Watching people die because of him, it was just as bad as last time-

Last time?

"There's wasn't another time, idiot," he tells himself. "It only happened once. Shit. I'm way too tired."

He'd gotten his long rest and recovered since the ordeal in Phandalin. But this wasn't the first time Glamour Springs had kept him up at night. Taako wasn't sleeping well, and it wasn't doing him any favors. He needed to sleep. So he got up, grabbed the umbra staff, and walked. Walked back to the dorms, walked back inside, walked back to his room, climbed back into his top bunk bed.

Nearby, he didn't notice as the umbra staff carefully, deliberately, cast Sleep, desperate to do anything at all to help out.