The stars are unnaturally bright on this plane, Magnus thinks, as he rolls his face to the sky and begs for patience. The night is cool, but there’s more than one fire going and no shortage of drink, so they’re all a little warm and a little giddy. This is one of the good cycles, where the locals are friendly and yesterday they found the Light after months of coordinated searching, and tonight they’re celebrating.
Dinner had given way to stories and stories had given way to songs, and now someone is trying to teach them a local style of dance, and it’s sort of a waltz, maybe, but there’s more steps and turns and ok, so maybe it’s not like a waltz at all? All Magnus knows is that instead of following the instructions of their hosts with any sort of competence or grace, he keeps tripping over his own feet and almost falling on Lucretia, who is valiantly attempting to partner him and quite literally breathless from laughter at this point.
“This is so much harder than it looks!” he insists to anyone who will listen, really, but no one is.
“You are thinking about it too much!” the instructor tells him. “Less thinking, more feeling!”
There’s renewed giggling from behind him, where Taako and Merle are drinking what looks like martinis together on a bench near the fire and steadfastly observing his humiliation.
“Magnus Burnsides, accused of overthinking!” Taako crows, nudging Merle who is nearly crying with laughter. He spills a bit of his drink down his beard. “Never thought I’d see the day.”
“We can stop, if you’d like,” Lucretia assures him. Her eyes are bright and the fire is painting shapes of shadow and light across her cheekbones and her wide wide smile is still one of the most beautiful things he’s ever seen..
“Do you want to stop?” he asks.
“Not particularly,” she tells him, coy and teasing as she is more and more often these days. At least, more often with him. He hopes it’s mostly with him. “But I’d so hate to see you hurt yourself for my sake.”
There is renewed laughter from the bench by the fire.
“I hate all of you,” Magnus says good-naturedly. “I am a fighter, not a dancer.”
“And I’m a wizard, but at least I have rhythm,” Taako calls back.
“Big talk from the peanut gallery!” Magnus says, and tries to lead Lucretia into a spin. They both end up on the ground, fortunately with Lucretia on top.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” Magnus hears Taako mutter, “Merle, hold my drink.”
“Are you ok?” he asks Lucretia, who pats his chest fondly.
“You’re trying very hard,” she says, her voice thick with barely-contained mirth. “I appreciate the effort.”
Taako is suddenly standing over them both. “Your girlfriend deserves better, Burnsides, I hope you know that.”
“Are you here to save me?” Lucretia asks, propping her chin on her palm in a bored sort of way, like she uses Magnus as a chaise lounge all the time.
Actually, that isn’t entirely inaccurate, when Magnus stops to think about it.
“If I must I must,” Taako sighs, offering a hand, which Lucretia takes.
“My hero,” she deadpans, as he pulls her to her feet. Magnus makes a great show of being winded when she leverages herself off his stomach and she grins down at him.
“As your boyfriend’s boyfriend,” Taako says, “I’m pretty sure it’s in my duties somewhere that I make sure he doesn’t accidentally maim you.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware there was a guidebook,” Lucretia says. “Or a rulebook? Is this a metaphorical list of duties or did you actually draw up a document?”
Taako snorts. “Fuck that noise, and anyway you’re the one with the writing fetish, Miss Watch-Me-Use-These-Pens-With-Both-Hands.” He frowns, a thought occurring. “Does that do anything for you in the bedroom?”
“You’re disgusting,” she tells him amicably.
He shrugs. “Hey, I mean, our Magnus Burnsides timeshare aside, you’re like, practically an honorary sister, gotta make sure you’re happily kept and all that.”
“I assure you I am anything but kept,” she says. “Also, would that make us sister wives, or...?”
“Now who’s disgusting,” he says, but he says it like he’s proud of her, and gods above, they really are rubbing off on one another. Magnus realizes not for the first time that between the two of them, he’s in way, way over his head.
It’s not a bad place to be, all things considered.
Taako sighs dramatically. “And here I thought you were the civilizing influence in this relationship.”
“Oh, I am,” Lucretia says. “Are you sure you can dance in those heels?”
They leave Magnus on the ground, and within only a few minutes and a little bit of trial and error, they’re moving in tandem almost flawlessly despite the dark and the uneven terrain. Magnus is not jealous.
He props himself up on his elbows and tries his best to look peeved when they glance his direction, but it’s less than effective seeing as he can’t stop grinning. Sure of his audience, Taako leans in to whisper something to Lucretia and then in the next moment, dips her with all the theatrics he can muster. Magnus appreciates the miniature fireworks, they’re a nice touch. The two pause for effect, silhouetted against the firelight and the sparks.
These two, he thinks. He leans forward, laughing. “Ok, it’s not fair if you already know how to dance!” he yells.
They right themselves, and Taako sticks his tongue out at him. Lucretia waves cheekily.
“That’s not even the dance they were teaching us!” Magnus yells again, but they’re back to twirling, wild and carefree, and the crowd of other dancers soon swallows them up.
Pleased despite his loss, Magnus shakes his head and brushes himself off and makes his way over to Merle who hands him Taako’s half-finished drink.
“You know,” Merle says, “It’s a damn good thing they like you, cuz they could probably eat you alive.”
“What’s in this?” Magnus asks, ignoring him.
“Hell if I know,” Merle says, knocking back his own drink. “I’m going to dance.”
Magnus knows better, he does, but he takes a tentative sip of Taako’s drink anyway, and oh fuck, yeah, that’s--that’s some straight liquor there. He sets the glass down on the bench next to Merle’s empty one and goes in search of something more like cider and less like paint thinner.
The search goes less well than he had hoped.
Eventually, he finds Lup and Barry cuddled up next to one of the smaller fires and decides that’s good enough.
“Luuuup,” he whines, throwing himself down to starfish next to her in the grass. “Taako and Lucretia are ganging up on meeeeee...”
“And how is that my problem, Burnsides,” she says, looking down at him.
“Poor Magnus,” Barry says, peering around her. “What did you do?”
“I can’t dance.”
“Oh, is that all.”
“I can’t dance and they’re both going to leave me for each other.”
Lup makes a horrified face at the thought and Barry chokes on a laugh. “I can think of several reasons why that is categorically untrue.”
“Gods, can you imagine?” Lup says, shuddering for effect.
“I’d really rather not try,” Barry says. “Magnus, they both love you very much, I’m sure they will forgive you for being a bad dancer.”
“Thanks Barry, you’re my favorite.”
Lup punches him in the stomach.
“Hey, hey, hands of the goods! I’d like him less bruised, not more,” Taako’s voice floats over from not too far off. Magnus uncurls himself from the fetal position to raise his head and sure enough, Taako and Lucretia are making their way over to their small fire.
“Why are you all here, I just wanted a nice private makeout sesh with my bf, please go away,” Lup says. Taako cheerily flips her off and sits down.
“This is our fire now, go be gross somewhere else.”
Lup flicks at her brother’s ear and he dodges it. “Excuse you,” she says, “We got here first, go find your own fire.”
“There’s more of us,” Taako says as Lucretia sits down too. “Also I used up all of my energy dancing, I am incapable of movement for the next forever, sorry not sorry.”
Lup makes a face at him, which he mimics before giving his attention over to Magnus. “Where’d you go, big guy, we weren’t done showing off,” he says.
Magnus sits up and throws an arm around him. “Thought I’d give you guys some privacy to gossip about me.”
“Please, we do that in front of you,” Lucretia says, tugging at Magnus’s other arm and draping it over her shoulders when he raises it obligingly.
Taako leans in. “Yeah, it’s only fun to tease you when we can see your face while we’re doing it.”
“He’s worried you’re going to leave him for each other,” Barry supplies helpfully. Magnus can feel both of them freeze on either side of him.
“Barry, I take back what I said about you being my favorite.”
“Dibs!” calls Lup.
“Maggie,” says Taako. “Maggie Maggie Maggie Maggie Maggie.”
Magnus sighs. “I was being dramatic--!”
“Magnus,” Lucretia says, tone deadly serious, “The day Taako and I get together is the day the Hunger wins, don’t you realize? We can’t risk it. Existence as we know it would literally end.”
She can’t keep the grin off of her face towards the end of the sentence, and it’s contagious, and soon they’re all giggling at one another. Lup mutters something at them about getting a room. The fire is warm and stars above are as bright as ever.
And it’s nice.
“You’re both jerks and I don’t know why I like you,” Magnus says easily, once they’ve all calmed a bit.
“Lies,” Taako says, dropping his head against Magnus’s shoulder. Lucretia wiggles closer and nuzzles into his clavicle, humming her agreement.
“Yeah,” Magnus concedes.
“Seriously though, if we’re overdoing it on the teasing--”
Magnus rolls his eyes. “It was a joke, it was only a joke, and I’m going to murder Barry in his sleep.”
“Don’t make me haunt you, Burnsides.”
Lup stands up and makes a show of brushing the grass off of her robe. “Alright you lovebirds, this has been a blast, but we’re turning in. Magnus, no killing my boyfriend,” she says, raising her eyebrows in a significant and mildly threatening manner as she holds his gaze. Magnus smiles innocently up at her until Barry walks over to join her and takes her hand. “Oh, and uh, take your time coming back to the ship, just sayin’.”
They turn to go. “Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Taako says, without lifting his head from Magnus’s shoulder.
Lup stops. “Why not.”
“Because we saw Merle dragging Cap’n’port that direction on our way over here,” Taako says.
Lups eyes go wide. “Gods DAMMIT.”
“Oh, no,” Barry says.
“Can we just sleep out here tonight? I vote we sleep out here tonight,” Magnus declares.
“Ugh,” says Lup. “How’s a girl supposed to get her freak on with all you cockblockers being gross everywhere.”
“Too much information, thanks for sharing,” Taako deadpans loudly.
“C’mon,” Barry says, tugging Lup gently by the hand. “Maybe we can bribe someone to lend us a cabin.”
She lets herself be led away. “You all suck!” she calls over her shoulder.
There’s a beat, and then: “Hmm. Well, not at the moment,” Lucretia mumbles into Magnus’s shirt.
The resulting fit of laughter doesn’t end for quite some time.