He’s got a sneaking suspicion that the back room of Fantasy Costco would feel like this at any time — liminal space, harsh lighting of the storefront fading away into cobwebs and empty shelves. It’s totally nightmarelike, and he’s got a sense of pure loss the moment they walk into the room — hell, for a second he feels like he’d rather be back in the suffering game than be standing here, flanked by Magnus and Merle, lit by a sickly green glow emanating from the center of the room.
Floating in that green glow, they find Magnus.
Well, fake-clone-Magnus floats, but real Magnus looks like he may as well be floating from the minor bits of expression Taako can make out through body language and voice alone. There’s not a whole lot to go off of there, given that Magnus’ soul is currently housed in a featureless mannequin, but the way he’s touching the tank, wooden fingers outstretched to just barely graze the glass, is absolutely reverent.
He looks like he’s just found God himself in the storage room of the Fantasy Costco, and it scares the shit out of Taako.
He stands behind Merle, though the dwarf doesn’t offer much to hide behind; he’s more of a fence than a shield, right now, anyways, unknowingly placed there to keep Taako from doing a very un-Taako-like thing and rushing in. Because if his self-control were any less refined, Taako’s got no doubt he would run up to Magnus right now, wrap his arms around that wooden form and drag him away from there, no hesitation.
Rushing in is more Magnus’ style, though; they all know that. And he looks ready to rush in, too — like a kid at Candlenights seeing the first present laid out — but Taako’s fuckin’ terrified, and nearly straight-up begging Magnus to think about it. The Taako method of convincing normally involves a lot more manipulation, sometimes some burnt spell slots, but he’s holding all his emotions behind clenched teeth and fidgety hands and all he can think is that Magnus is about to abandon him.
“You’ll lose everything,” he says, and all he can imagine is Magnus crawling out of that tank Barry fuckin’ Bluejeans-style, and looking at Taako, and not remembering a damn thing. I’ll lose you, is what he means. He thinks they’ve gotten close enough for Magnus to read between the lines, but Magnus is still staring at his body in the tank, and he doesn’t seem to notice that Taako’s said anything.
He can’t look at Magnus; keeps his gaze trained on his own hands, curled in fists with knuckles pale and stretched bone-thin. He can’t hear what Magnus is saying (though the phrase the arms that held my wife slips past, and Taako curses himself for flinching at the reminder that there will always be people more important); his thoughts drown out the voice.
He’s gonna forget you, stage-whispers Taako’s mind in a sing-song lilt. His thoughts have a flair for the dramatic, and he can picture them easily as a devil on a shoulder — but there’s no angel on the other one. Just warring demons. He doesn’t even care that he’ll forget you! You don’t mean a damn thing to him, my man. Never did. He doesn’t care.
Merle is looking at Taako like he’s expecting him to say something, all of a sudden, and Magnus’ head has turned towards Taako in a way that almost feels like eye contact, like asking permission. Taako could say don’t do it, and hell, Magnus might even listen. He could disregard all of it — the heartache in Magnus’ voice, the misery of being trapped in a body that can’t even feel — and be selfish.
He wants to. It’s not that he doesn't care — not exactly, at least? But before he’s brave or witty or magical, before anything else, he’s selfish, and he’s got abandonment issues a mile long chasing after him at every turn. He’s a flame and he’ll sooner burn everyone else to dust than give up something for himself.
And then he looks back up at Magnus, and knows he can’t do that to him. Mumbles a noncommittal “It’s your choice, man,” before his eyes move back down to the ground.
Ten minutes pass in slow motion, Taako too absorbed in racing thoughts to really contribute to any kind of strategy besides writing a quick note for soon-to-be-amnesiac Magnus (resisting signing an I love you or a reminder of who he is, much as his pen hovers along the edge of the page for just a moment too long). His mind is taunting him, it seems — it doesn’t delay in reminding him that this is the exact reason he doesn’t let himself grow attached to anyone, because they’d just as soon forget about him entirely. People he has don’t tend to stay.
The few times he’s dared to imagine life after the relics are gathered and the Bureau is done with them, though, Magnus was always there. Don’t get him wrong, Taako’s not one for sappy visions of the future — no house with a yard and two-point-five half-elf kids for him, thanks very much! — but it’d seemed a fact of nature, same as the fact that he’d probably die on some adventure before they got to that point. In the case that they survived till the end, that seemed as good as being tied for life, in Taako’s mind. Like, damn, they might as well be married at that point! (And ain’t that a thought for another time?)
Nowhere in his daydreams had he calculated for Magnus choosing to forget him. He’s gotten too attached, basically, and it’s blowing up in his face. Ka-boom!
But hey, Taako really can’t blame him for wanting his body back. He can’t take it as a personal attack — he absolutely does, but he knows just how illogical it is even as he feels the sting of it. Magnus wanting a flesh and blood body doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about Taako, but damn, does it feel like that.
The time comes for them to leave, and Taako looks back at Magnus for what he wants to believe isn’t the last time. Maybe, if he were less emotionally distant (if he were more like Magnus, maybe) he’d go kiss Magnus for hopefully-not-the-last-time, but that’s not an option. Instead, he watches Magnus lay out his weapons and gear on the table, watches him hold up the note Taako had written for him, and turns around, walks out ahead of Merle.
If his voice comes out choked when he tries to return to usual Taako verbosity, Merle doesn’t comment, and Taako’s not sure if he appreciates or resents that fact.
Later, there’s a fight with at least five sides to it, all duking it out with the moon as their battleground, and Taako’s not sure who’s with him and who’s against him, but across the carnage he spots Magnus (returned to dark skin and red hair, not lifeless lumber) and waves, mid-battle grin lighting up Taako’s face for just a moment.
Magnus meets his gaze with only confusion, and Taako’s grin fades.