At the end of it all, after Wonderland, and the remembering, and the Hunger, after things have settled into something almost like normal on the Moon Base, Magnus notices the scar.
It’s nothing special. Taako has a lot of scars. At this point, they all do. This one has only just finished healing, and curls up in a jagged pink line against his dark skin, from collarbone to left shoulder.
Magnus figures one of the Hunger’s shadow-creature- things must have gotten in a good slash, and that bothers him a little bit, because stopping shit like that from happening to his people is sort of his job, but that isn’t why he can’t stop staring. It’s not why he reaches out, idly, over breakfast one morning and brushes the pad of his index finger over the shine of new flesh.
Taako slaps the hand away and gives him a look of such deep personal affront that Magnus jerks back into his chair and nearly topples it. “Sorry!” he says, palms up in surrender. “Sorry, man, I just-”
“Just can’t keep your big mitts to yourself, hmmmm bubbeluh? I know I’m pretty but hands off the merchandise,” says Taako, and shit , Magnus has messed up. Taako’s shoulders are up tight by his ears and his voice has that edge to it that says I’m making jokes but don’t don’t don’t don’t.
Of course, thinks Magnus, because it’s been long enough that he knows not to touch Taako, not casually like that, and not without reason. It’s just that for a second …
“You just...it sort of reminded me of Julia. With the, uh…” and Magnus draws a line over his own collarbone to indicate the scar.
Taako’s lip curls. “I remind you …”
“Of your dead wife? What the actual fuck, Mags?”
“It isn’t, like, you ,” says Magnus, and tries to ignore how dead wife dead wife dead wife rings in his head like a bell. “Just, she had a scar like that one, over her shoulder. The wound just barely healed before our wedding. Not that it would have mattered, I mean, she looked amazing. She would have looked amazing, like. Regardless.” He rubs the back of his head, aware that he’s babbling.
“Spare me the details, lover boy,” says Taako, but his face softens up all the same, and his shoulders relax. He turns back to his eggs and coffee.
“Yeah,” says Magnus, “right. Just, it was actually pretty badass, y’know? She fought with us. In Raven’s Roost, in the revolution.” And Magnus should have protected her, too, but when a woman like that gets a sword in her hand, you can’t exactly keep her from danger. Magnus had loved that about her, as much as it scared him shitless. Still, he could have done better. He never should have left her alone, afterwards, peace or no. Not when they...when he...when that person….
Something goes tight in Magnus’ stomach. That person.
Magnus stares down at his hands, and they’re shaking, and suddenly he wants to grab Taako again, yank him close, ask him…. what ?
Taako is busy poking critically at his food, a habit he somehow hasn’t broken in the year-plus they’ve been living on the Moon Base. He makes a distracted little “hmmm?” sound.
Another “hmmmm,” and all that tightness in Magnus’ stomach swims up to his throat, and he can’t breathe, he can’t, and it’s behind his eyes and, and, and-
“There was someone. Taako, there was … ”
“Shit.” Taako drops his fork with a clatter that Magnus hears but doesn’t see because his eyes won’t focus on anything but his hands, clenched around each other on the tabletop. “Shit, Mags,” says Taako, “easy. Easy, sweetheart, it’s ok.”
“Someone killed her, Taako. Someone killed her, there was a bomb, she-”
“Don’t, you’re going to hurt yourself,” say Taako, and his voice is tight and Magnus finally looks up, meets his eyes.
“I can’t remember.”
“I know,” says Taako. He does, Magnus can see it in his eyes.
“It isn’t static,” Magnus says, because it isn’t, shit, it doesn’t feel like the voidfish at all. There’s just something there, a name, a deep scorched hole in his gut like someone’s been burned out. “Taako. Taako, why can’t I remember?”
Taako’s eyes are very wide, and he’s shaking his head. His left cheek dips in like he’s biting it, thinking. Then he puts his hands, slowly, tentatively, over Magnus’, and says, “you gave it up, Maggie. In Wonderland.”
“Julia’s killer? ”
“Your revenge. But Merle and I, we got you. We’re gonna deal with him for you.”
Magnus shudders. No. “No . You can’t. He...no. Just tell me, tell me his name-”
“You have to . Fuck, Taako, I know I must have told you. I need to know, I need it, tell me his goddamned name. ”
Taako sighs. His eyebrows are knit and his hands are small and warm and dry over Magnus’ and it isn’t much of a comfort because Magnus has a hole in his belly and it’s burning . Taako says something, and it fizzles out and fades and Magnus shakes his head.
“What?” he says.
“That was his name,” says Taako. “I don't...I don't think you can hear it anymore.”
No, no, no. “No. Say it again.”
“Say his name!” shouts Magnus, and suddenly his hands aren’t under Taako’s anymore, they’re around his shoulders, tight, and Taako jerks back and his eyes narrow and everything is still for a moment and Magnus thinks shit shit shit.
And then Taako leans in. He presses his forehead to Magnus’ and lets himself be held there and just says “Magnus, Magnus, Magnus,” softly, like he’s talking to a child. Magnus’ whole body is shaking, and something wet drips down his cheek, and oh, gods.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, gods, Taako, I didn’t mean to.”
“Hush,” says Taako. When Magnus lets go of his shoulders he doesn’t pull back, so Magnus slowly, tentatively, wraps his arms around him. Taako reaches up and pulls Magnus’ head to his shoulder, and that’s it.
Sobs wrack his body, uncontrollable, unbidden. For the first time that Magnus can remember, Taako says nothing, and holds onto him tight.
“Julia,” says Magnus. “I need to remember. I need to know. For Julia.”
“Not anymore, bubbeluh. Not anymore. You took the sacrifice for us, you gave this up for us. You leave it to us now.”
And no, that isn’t right, that isn’t right, but when he reaches one more time for the name there’s just that hole.
“Breathe,” says Taako, and Magnus shakes his head but there’s nothing he can do, so he breathes, and he breathes, and he breathes.