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those afternoons and evenings

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They take good care of their things on the Starblaster. Once they realize only their bodies regenerated every year, they start consciously preserving things. Something about the bond engine helps with the ship itself, but things like furniture they can't replace they watch over. They stock up food and replenish their stores when they can, never knowing what kind of world is next, and mend their clothes, their last reminders of home. Over forty years they've gotten good at it, to the point where some things are still like new.

A couple decades ago, on the beach world, among all the hundred other lazy month things they do, Hecuba knots and weaves a hammock that becomes a staple of their lives. It pops up in the background of their lives—after a particularly tough day, Davenport is swinging gently in one corner of the deck, Lup breaks her arm trying to surf on it, and people pile on it the few birthdays before they stop celebrating those. Eventually it starts to accumulate dust in a closet somewhere, between the chases and the near death experiences, and is forgotten.

It's late afternoon near the end of their year at the Legato Conservatory when Taako and Kravitz unearth this hammock and take to the hills to get the most out of it. After several minutes of struggle they stabilize it enough for them to both climb in. Kravitz's notes (the reason they're technically out there, since the ceremony is in two months and they still don't have a solid plan for what they're going to do) abandoned on the grass beneath them, and every once in a while the rock pinning them down brushes the bottom of the slowly rocking hammock.

The hammock isn't quite big enough for two fully grown men, and it takes some arranging, but eventually they fit. They're each too tall and their knees overlap in their alternation, each with a bent leg between the others' and their heads at opposite ends. Taako has one hand dangling over the edge, grabbing pieces of grass and little clover flowers as they swing by before braiding and shredding them in equal measure. Closer to the main campus the conservatory keeps the grounds fresh and manicure, but out here the grass is long and wild. It took them a few solid minutes of walking to find two trees close enough to set the hammock up between, and from here they can't even hear the usual bustle of the artists milling around the school buildings.

As Kravitz pushes them again, Taako starts humming. It isn't anything like the song they've been trying to write, more like a simple lullaby Kravitz could probably identify if he thought hard enough about it, and it's a welcome break. Between the barely perceptible rocking of the hammock and Taako's soothing melody, Kravitz almost falls asleep. There's a thin little breath of a breeze that sends the entire field wavering and Kravitz is just about to slip over the edge into pleasant unconscious when he gets a face full of shredded grass.

Taako's laugh is loud even over Kravitz's spluttering. He reaches back down to pick more grass and says, "Looked like you were drifting off there for a sec, handsome."

"Because that would have been so terrible," Kravitz replies. He starts to brush off the blades of grass but instead sweeps it into one hand with the other and tries to throw it back at Taako. It fails spectacularly, the grass mostly returning to its prior position on his chest, and it only serves to make Taako laugh harder.

"Shut up!" Kravitz starts to lean forward, planning to do who knows what, and Taako quickly reaches up a foot to push him back down.

"Don't tip it!"

With a sigh, Kravitz leans back, although he momentarily holds Taako's foot captive in retaliation. Both their shoes were lying in the grass nearby, and Taako's blue and green socks are bright in the afternoon sun. His feet are ticklish, though, as Kravitz has just found out by the way he flinches and his right ear twitches when Kravitz's thumb brushes over the arch of it, and that's a very interesting and opportunely timed discovery.

"Swear to gods I'll kick your teeth in," Taako says, squirming as Kravitz starts to tickle him. "Bloody that pretty face, I don't give a fuck."

"You wouldn't," Kravitz says confidently, but then Taako jerks and the hammock almost flips and he's quickly shut up.

He jerks forward and grabs Taako's arm with one hand and the side of the hammock with the other. They rock dangerously for a moment before their shared unwillingness to even so much as breathe steadies them.

Taako glares at Kravitz even as he sheepishly grins. "You're lucky I burnt all my spell slots at breakfast this morning or you'd be so dead right now."

"And strand yourself without a duet partner?" Kravitz's grin flips from mildly apologetic to self-assured. "You wouldn't dare."

Instead of replying, Taako just pushes him with the tip of his toes again, and doesn't pull back when Kravitz holds his foot again. This time, with intent behind it instead of just accidental brushing, Kravitz's gentle kneading doesn't tickle, and Taako closes his eyes and resumes his humming.

Kravitz couldn't fall asleep this time, even if he wanted to. He feels like he can look outside himself, like he can see the outline of the two trees on the hill, their hammock stretched out between them, two heads listing to opposite sides as they sway. It's objectively a pretty picture, even he can tell from where he's sitting, but there's something about being in this bubble of a moment that is entirely different. It's beautiful, not pretty, and kind, not nice, and all sorts of other synonyms that connote a knowledge of something else , although even Kravitz himself isn't quite sure what that extra meaning is.

One of Taako's hands is dangling over the side, his elbow bent at enough of an angle so his fingertips just barely glance over the grass. His face is quiet in a way that Taako as a whole so rarely is, and he doesn't even notice as another rush of wind blows his hair across his face.

"C'mere."

Kravitz doesn't know what possesses him to ask it, even less what does Taako to actually do it, but when Taako carefully takes back his foot and turns around, and Kravitz pulls up some grass and clover before he sits up, it all goes unspoken.

As Kravitz starts braiding and twisting the green into Taako's hair, Taako's humming starts to take on mumbled words. It's only then that Kravitz recognizes it—a lullaby indeed, old enough that probably even Taako was sung it as a baby, and long gone outside of the memories of seven people at most. The realization makes Kravitz pause in his ministrations for a moment, enough that Taako switches back to humming wordlessly so he can slip in a questioning tone, and Kravitz goes back to braiding.

"Everything alright back there?" Taako's head droops forward, seemingly not paying too much attention, but his ears are swiveled as far backwards as they go.

"Sure." Kravitz flicks at the tip of one of Taako's ears and laughs once when it quicks away. "Just thinking."

"Dangerous habit, homie," Taako says in the same drawl. His ears relax and actually leans back this time, which makes it a little hard for Kravitz to continue but he doesn't really mind. "I try to avoid it as much as possible."

"And that's how you make such good decisions, hm?"

"Natch." Over forty or so years Kravitz has learned how to read Taako's expressions without seeing his face. Here he can tell that Taako is smiling even with just one word, and even what kind of smile (the one where he's secretly pleased but the only outward sign of it is a quirk of the lips and a little wrinkle at the top of his nose). Kravitz drops a hand onto Taako's shoulder and squeezes, smiling to himself as Taako goes back to humming another song. He swings one leg off the side of the hammock, the other still trapped between the knotted rope and Taako, and kicks off the ground to start them swinging again.

It isn't long before Taako slumps back completely and starts to snore. Kravitz gives them one last push as he feels his own eyes start to drift shut. His hands settle on Taako's shoulders and for a moment he just savors the warmths of a body near him and a sun on his face.

He feels the brief awareness that only comes when one knows they're about to fall asleep and Kravitz sees himself from the outside again—how his hands slacken and one falls onto his thigh, how Taako sleepily reaches across himself to grab it even as he pats the same knee to subconsciously reassure that whatever it is isn't worth moving for, unknowingly entangling them further in the tiny nest of the hammock. The shredded grass Taako had still in his lap is blown away, their swaying ceases, and the sun warms the tops of their heads.

They'll wake when the sun sets and their shoeless feet start to grow cold, they'll gather their belongings and traipse back down and up and down the hills to the ship where Lup will be begrudgingly cooking dinner by herself, they'll fumble some excuse about how they totally got work done, of course, and refuse to explain why they're both covered in greenery and smudgy stains and little white and purple flowers. Kravitz's notes won't blow away, and, eventually, they'll grow to include a bit of the warmth now knotted in that hammock.