It was hard to find time to date, weirdly. Kravitz was busy at all hours. Death waited for no man, after all. Taako lived surrounded by people he knew all the time, so privacy was hard to come by. They’d make plans: extravagant meals out, opulent trips to shows. But they were usually both so tired and glad to see each other they didn’t make it out the front door.
They were lying together on Taako’s absurdly oversized bed. Neither of them slept, but they pretended they were trying. Taako’s head was resting against Kravitz’s chest, finding the absence of a heart beat slightly unnerving. He should have been relaxed. He’d been looking forward to seeing Kravitz for several days, and now he was in the guy’s arms he couldn’t be more tense. He shifted his weight so he was lying on his back, but it didn’t help. Kravitz seemed to notice his discomfort.
“What’s wrong?” he asked softly, running his fingers through Taako’s hair. It was nice, and Taako didn’t want to ruin it.
“Do you know when I’m going to die?” Taako blurted. He felt his face burn from embarrassment. Him and his stupid fucking mouth.
“You don’t really understand what my job is, do you?” Kravitz didn’t try to sound condescending. Taako couldn’t help but feel a little small.
“Stabby stabby?” Taako shrugged.
“I’m a bounty hunter. I go after people that try to escape, I don’t make them die. I don’t know every single dead person,” Kravitz paused for a second. “That would be a real downer. And I’m bad with names.”
“You knew that one that Mags asked after,” Taako said, picking at his fingernails. He tensed up for a second. “Wait, did you do that thing for Mags?”
Kravitz seemed uncomfortable. “I’m not really allowed to. It’s a little too close to necromancy.”
“You still did it right?”
“He just seemed so… lovesick.”
“Like someone else I could mention, Mister “I switch accents to trick my prey”.”
“Pshh.” Kravitz pushed Taako off him gently. Taako could swear there was a smile in there.
“You got me into bed with it, so who’s the real lovesick fool.” Taako gave Kravitz a quick kiss on the cheek. “Can’t say I blame ya for bending the rules for Magnus. It’s those damn puppy dog eyes of his.”
Those damn puppy dog eyes. They’d been tearful, and pierced Taako to bone. The wheel had landed on mind. And Taako thought for sure that Magnus would take the penalty. He didn’t talk about the past much, but there was someone back there Magnus wasn’t going to let go of. A ghost that seemed to pray on his mind when things were quiet, or when he turned to share something with someone who wasn’t there anymore.
Refuge had hit him pretty hard. Whatever the cup offered him, it was good enough for him to take it. He really was going to, even though it would mean hurting people. Even though it would mean not protecting the weak. That was so against everything Magnus stood for, it was frightening. It was only the memory of this person that made him say no.
But Wonderland was smart. They taunted Magnus with a choice he was never going to make, taking the person he loved. But they gave him an option he could take. It killed him to make it, but he made it. It had been those same puppy dog eyes when asking for them to not try to remind him. That open honesty of begging them to kill Governor Callen for Julia.
It sat in Taako’s chest like a ten tonne weight. He didn’t know Julia. He didn’t know Callen. He had no idea about either of them, and no way of fulfilling the promise to Magnus. They hadn’t had much of a chance to discuss it, but Merle felt the same. They were idiots, and had no-where to start. They didn’t know what happened, and had no-one they could ask anymore.
“He mentioned her again.” Taako said this as casually as he could manage.
“Oh?” Kravitz was half listening, blissful in the embrace.
“I want to know what happened.”
Kravitz sat up, suddenly serious. “Taako, that’s not my story to tell.”
Taako sat up too, facing Kravitz with his arms crossed. “Then get Julia to tell it.”
“Taako.” Kravitz’s tone was grave.
“Why not? Trust me when I say it’s best for everyone.”
“I do trust you.” Kravitz had said it without thinking. There was a pause as the meaning of those words sank into both of them, but neither acknowledged it. “But the rules of life and death are what they are.”
“Unless someone makes puppy dog eyes.” Taako snapped, turning to face away from Kravitz.
“They were very convincing.”
Taako wasn’t sure why he was so angry. He knew that this was going to be the answer, that’s why he hadn’t asked. But the problem still swirled in his head with no solution. Magnus’ face as he took on yet another sacrifice so Taako didn’t have to.
Taako felt an icy hand rest on his shoulder. It made him jump, only slightly. Kravitz hesitated, a began to pull his hand away. Taako puts his hand over Kravitz’s.
“Why can’t you ask Magnus?” Kravitz asked quietly.
“That would ruin my distant mysterious thing I’ve got going. Destroy my whole look.” Taako said jokingly.
Kravitz waited. He didn’t say a thing, and he didn’t have to.
“I can’t.” The words felt heavy in Taako’s mouth. “It would kill him, even if he could remember it all.”
Kravitz pulled Taako back to the bed. They hugged and they talked until Kravitz got called back to work hours later. It felt nice.
But Taako didn’t feel better.
It was a few days before they saw each other again. They hadn’t made any plans, Kravitz tore a hole into the plane and fell on Taako’s bed in the middle of the night. The entry angle had been bizarre, several feet up in the air. It was like he dive bombed onto the bed from several feet up. It scared the shit out of Taako.
The entry was the least frightening thing.
Kravitz’s human appearance was an illusion, but it was still him. He had been bleeding when he hit Taako’s bed, which was weird because Taako didn’t even know he could bleed. His skin seemed thinner somehow: like his illusion was struggling to cover some things. Bruises has sprung up all over. His hair didn’t feel like it was really there: it was weightless, and wispy.
“What the fuck happened to you?” Taako struggled to keep his voice calm, and pulled out a healing potion he kept under his bed for reasons he thought best not to talk about it. He offered it to Kravitz, who sipped on it weakly. The taste was terrible, sure, but Kravitz was like a kid taking medicine.
He handed Taako a scrap of paper, and managed to rasp out the words, “No more messages. Lady Istus herself had to bless this letter for it to pass the Raven Queen. This is the last one.”
And Kravitz fell asleep in a heap, potion still in one hand, scythe propped up against the bed. If he hadn’t been so beat up, Taako would’ve found it cute. He thought about getting Merle to heal Kravitz, but remembering how Merle lost his arm made him think that Kravitz was better off without the heal.
Taako was selfish. He knew that. But he’d never had people who were willing to risk to much to play to that selfishness before. Taako considered ripping up the paper Kravitz had given him, but he wasn’t stupid. You’ve got to use everything you’ve got.
The paper had decayed to almost nothing. Only a small corner was still legible, the rest disintegrating with every passing second. In very neat handwriting, Taako could make out one word.
And then, with a long line of kisses: “Julia B.”
Taako felt his hands shake. The worth of this letter seemed so enormous that he couldn’t hold it. He placed the letter down on his dresser, and stared at it. And he turned back to Kravitz. He got into bed next to him, and wrapped his arms around Kravitz.
He could worry about the letter tomorrow.
He was going stay with Kravitz tonight.