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The Meaning of Life

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A funeral was the most jarring way to remember that everything dies. Kravitz, being so close to death, did not often take death so seriously. He wasn't the kind of person to normally attend an event honoring someone's life. It seemed sort of improper for him to be there, but Kravtiz wasn't there for Magnus Burnsides laying inside the closed casket. No, Kravtiz was there to put his hand on the small of Taako's back as the elf approached the casket and laid a crude carving of a bear on top.

Taako turned into Kravitz's shoulder as the casket was lowered. The bounty hunter had little concept of time. He didn't remember the last time he'd seen Magnus, but he thought he remembered the peppering of grey hairs. Though, everyone had said Magnus had been too messy for an open casket. The dragon hadn't left much to bury, so they had substituted the dragon's dick after Merle had taken revenge.

Kravitz put both his arms around Taako and gave him a light squeeze. It coaxed a small sob from the elf. Taako called Kravtiz often, just to talk. They'd talk while Kravtiz worked, Taako's sing-song voice like background noise to Kravtiz's routine. He'd been unnerved when the stone had gone quiet for a few days, Kravitz feeling each hour dragging on. When it'd finally rattled to life, it was Taako just murmuring his name and sounding like something had broken.

He'd torn through reality in a flash. Taako had laughed and tugged at his cloak, saying, "It's a good thing you're always dressed like this, bucko." Kravitz had never seen Taako in black.

They were the last to walk away from the newly dug grave. Taako stumbled as the started to head down the hill back to the path. Kravitz caught him as he covered his face, helping him sink to the ground more gently. The bounty hunter just knelt next to him. It was unnerving to see him in a normal outfit, but Kravitz tried not to think about that at that exact moment. "We just buried three teeth and a dragon's cock instead of my best friend." A laugh bubbled to Taako's lips and it sounded awful, like the noise had wrenched something important from him.

Kravtiz hesitated, unsure of what to say. "Apparently," Kravitz paused to lick his lips, "it's what he would have wanted?" Taako laughed, more genuinely and pressed his face to Kravitz's chest, throwing his arms around the bounty hunter's neck. Kravitz had long ago realized that Taako felt like he needed to maintain the facade of cool, maybe as some artifact of being a TV personality. There was no surprise for the bounty hunter that Taako would hide his face as he lost the ability to look whatever part the elf tried to play. He wished his hands were warmer as he rubbed them in soothing circles on the other man's back. "It'll be okay," he murmured. It was nonsense. He had no idea what 'it' even was in this context. "He's at peace, now. He gets to rest." Kravitz continued the stream of half-whispered babbling. He'd seen it plenty of times in the wake of his work and it seemed to do the trick for grieving widows or children. Taako was neither of these, but Kravitz had little else in his arsenal of comfort.

He was practically personified death, not some beacon of mourning hope.

Eventually, Kravitz convinced Taako back to his feet and managed to get him into a taxi carriage. Kravitz directed it to Taako's little townhouse on main street. The elf still didn't completely trust himself to cook, but it turned out he was pretty good at directing others on what to cook. The bakery kept Taako well-funded and occupied since the Bureau of Balance had been disbanded. Merle had decided to settle down near his kids. Magnus had gone on adventuring, but Taako's final reward was to feed the void fish the last episode of his show.

The elf lived on the second story of the shop so he could slip downstairs to make new recipes in the middle of the night. He'd call Kravitz as he worked, alternating between teaching the other man about cooking and making the bounty hunter have to turn down the stone as Taako detailed every dirty thought he wanted to act on the next time they could see each other. Kravitz would visit when these calls became explicitly a stream of scandalous and, often, physically impossible feats. It was less about making a booty call and more giving him incentive to force a day off. Actually, these had never ventured into any of the territory Taako covered in his late-night calls. They usually just spent the day lapping up the novelty of being able to see each others faces. They strolled parks holding hands, snuggled while watching a sunset, and just enjoyed being near each other without having to speak to maintain their connection.

Kravitz also had the feeling Taako wanted to show him off.

After paying the taxi, he helped Taako up the stairs and opened the door for him. This was where Kravitz entered mostly unfamiliar territory, not having spent much time in Taako's apartment. Taako seemed to sense this and went to the couch while Kravitz hovered in the doorway uncertainly. Taako let his head fall onto the back of the couch. "You can come in, bub-ly" he stated plainly.

The bounty hunter took off his cloak, setting it on the hook in the entrance-way and closing the door behind himself. He settled onto the couch next to Taako. They sat in silence for a while. Taako stared at the ceiling, unmoving, and Kravitz was acutely awkward. He decided to carefully place a hand on Taako's knee in a gesture of comfort. It was more for Kravitz, a selfish movement to steady himself. Taako tilted his head to the side to look at Kravitz. The bounty hunter poorly read what Taako was thinking most of the time, but felt more aware of it as he watched a number of expressions float across the elf's face.

Taako rolled on top of Kravitz, straddling his lap. He buried his hands in Kravitz's curls and kissed him, hard. Their teeth clacked together, splitting Taako's bottom lip on the bounty hunter's sharp teeth. Kravitz put his arms around Taako much more gently, trying to slow the kiss into something more tender. He could taste the sharp tang of the other man's blood in his mouth. Taako seemed to become frustrated by the slow pace, pulling back, panting. Kravitz didn't need to breath, so he wasn't similarly breathless, but he did feel himself becoming more alert. "Bite me," Taako hissed. He grabbed Kravitz's hand and put it around his own neck. He stared down at Kravitz with an oddly intense look in his eyes. It wasn't lust, but something closer to the expression people wore when they saw death as the only option left. "Hurt me."

Kravitz pulled his hand back, as if burned. "No, I wouldn't touch you," he sounded alarmed, even to his own ears. Hurt clouded Taako's eyes and flush rose to his cheeks. He got up, quickly, and was half-way to his bedroom door before Kravitz could say anything else. "Taako," he protested, "I didn't mean it like that." He had a feeling Taako knew he didn't mean that, but Taako wanted to be hurt. The door slammed behind the elf. Kravitz stared at the pink shag carpet, feeling helpless. He stood and left, thinking maybe it was better if he wasn't around. There seemed to be more harm in his efforts at comfort than help.

What was a specter of death doing to try to help someone mourn the loss of life? Kravitz had no answer to this question.

It only took a few hours for Taako to call. "I'm sorry," the stone slurred. He sounded drunk. "I'm sorry. I wasn't going to call, but I couldn't go without telling you sorry. But I guess you'd come anyway."

The chill hit Kravitz deep in his bones. "It's okay, love, it's okay. Where are you going? You should go to sleep," he soothed. "You're drunk, just go to bed."

The stone went quiet for a while. Kravitz stood, readying his scythe to go to Taako's side, but he hesitated. "I guess I'm going to be with you, huh? Magnus. Magnus will be there, too, right?"

Kravitz was by Taako's side faster than he knew reality was capable of tearing. The elf stared up from the porcelain tub with shock. Bottles of alcohol were scattered across the tiles. He was holding the stone in one hand and a dagger in the other. What poison wasn't dripping from the dagger was splashed across the floor by Kravitz's feet.

He didn't think. The water gave a great splash as Kravitz lunged, ripping the dagger from Taako's hand, throwing it aside. It stuck in the door. "What did you think you were doing?!" He hadn't meant for his voice to sound so loud, but he'd practically roared it at Taako.

The elf just dropped the stone and tried to wrench himself away from Kravitz, covering his face with one hand. Sobs bubbled between his fingers. "I don't know." He hiccuped. "I don't know. I don't know what to do. I can't--" He struggled, splashing more water, but both of them were soaked. "Why are you here?" Taako still wasn't looking at Kravitz. Kravitz felt the lump in his throat steal his ability to speak.

He slipped out of the tub and grabbed Taako. The other man tried to struggle out of his grip, but Kravitz kept his hold, slamming the bathroom door open hard enough to pull the top hinge free. He went to Taako's bedroom, stepping over broken glass bottles, and throwing the elf onto the bed. "Stay," he hissed. Taako nodded, now using both hands to cover his face. His whole body was shuddering with each sob.

Kravitz went back out, shutting the door behind himself. It took him an hour to clean the whole apartment. He took everything sharp, poisonous, or alcoholic back through the inter-dimensional rift to Kravitz's office. He'd check on Taako occasionally. The elf cried for a while, but eventually fell asleep. He ended up needing to use a spare storage room, considering the amount of stuff Taako arbitrarily stole just because he could. When Kravitz had completed the task, he sank to the ground next to the bed and let the chill from earlier fully consume him. Ice spiraled across the carpet from his position.

He couldn't let Taako go to the one place he could not follow.