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What We Were, What We Are

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Taako doesn’t let Magnus see him, not really, until after it’s all over.

Well…No, that’s not quite true.

Magnus saw, for only a brief moment, while they were shaking from the effects of the Voidfish’s ichor. For a split second, they had made eye contact, and Magnus had seen and Taako had almost shattered. But the force of it made him gag, made him heave, and his eyes had closed, and the moment had, blessedly, ended.

But Magnus had seen, and Magnus remembered, and oh, how it ached to remember and to know what he had lost.

More than that, it ached to know what he may still lose for it.

Taako doesn’t look Magnus in the eye the entire time they are fighting for their home, for Lucretia’s spell, and for all they know. He refuses.

In that moment, that half second between remembering and gagging, he had seen the apology in Magnus’ eyes and he knew then what it meant.

He simply wants to delay the inevitable, because he doesn’t want to hear it. He can’t hear it.

He can’t hear that he wasn’t really anything, at the end of it all.

It’s after Magnus has put Angus down, while Taako is searching frantically for the spectral form of Lup, that he realizes he cannot avoid it any longer. His gaze is sweeping over the crowd, and suddenly it’s fallen on Magnus. Their eyes meet again, finally, and Taako looks away in the next breath.

“Taako!” Magnus is moving through the people toward him, and Taako is already turning, ducking his head.

He shoves away from everyone, blindly dashing into the moonbase, choking it all down, feeling the walls inside of him crumble. If he can just find somewhere to be on his own, he won’t have to worry about the walls. If there’s a door between him and the world, nobody has to know he fell apart. He can’t stand people knowing.

He takes a right, then a left, not actually looking at where he’s going. Another right and then there’s a door and it’s… Well, it’s a broom closet. He casts light and lets the ball of arcane energy float to the ceiling even as he shuts the door and slides to the floor.

He hasn’t even actually started crying when there’s a knock.

Knock is a kind word. It’s more a pounding that he feels vibrating against his back, and he knows it’s Magnus and that makes it so much worse.

“No.” He calls out, voice tight. Fucking stupid lense thing from the fucking stupid deals wizard.

“Taako…” Shit, he’s doing that thing where he’s quiet. It goes straight through Taako’s defenses and takes hold of his heart as though it were a scared bird. “Please?”

There’s a long stretch of quiet while Taako sits against the door and thinks. He broods more than he actually thinks, if he’s honest about it, but he doesn’t want to be honest about it. He doesn’t want to be honest about a damn thing, but in the end… In the end, he scoots away from the door and leans against the opposite wall. With a wave of his hand, the door is open.

“Just close it after you, okay? And no complaining that you don’t fit, you opted to creep your way after me.” He mutters, eyes down as he takes off the hat and sets it in front of him.

Magnus does as Taako says without a word, then sits next to him. It’s so small they’re pressed together, shoulder to hip, and it makes Taako draw his legs up and wrap his arms around them as though holding them to his chest.

“I’m… I’m sorry.” Magnus finally breathes, and Taako can’t help but curl a little tighter in on himself.

There’s not a second of this that’s Magnus’ fault, but of course he’s apologizing.

“For what, big guy?”

“I dunno.” Magnus says, after a long stretch of silence. “I just… am.”

“Look.” Taako closes his eyes. “Just…  I get it.”

“Get what?”

Taako snorts and shakes his head.

“You’re sorry cause it wasn’t… It was just some fling back then, right? It’s no biggie, I get it.”

There’s this stretch of silence that feels like it’s going to crush him. He can hear Magnus drawing in breaths like there’s something sitting on his chest, almost wheezing, and he hates what that could mean.

“It… Was that what… You thought it was?”

Oh, gods. Gods everywhere, Magnus sounds so wrecked by the thought, and it suddenly occurs to Taako that he’s… wrong. He’s gotten so used to this idea of himself, the person he thought he was after Sazed, this person who thought he killed most of a town, a person nobody else will have, and he’s told himself he’s fine with that.

Somehow, in all that remembering, he didn’t remember how much Magnus means everything he says when he cares. That he knew Taako before all of that, and while he’s never been that great at this whole self-esteem thing, it wasn’t always this bad. And he told Taako he loved him more times over their lost century then Taako could ever start to count.

“Fuck. Shit.” Taako doesn’t uncurl, but he shakes his head so hard all of his hair falls to the sides of his face. “No. No, that… Maggie, I thought it was everything.”

“Taako…” Magnus puts a hand on his shoulder and Taako immediately shrugs it off. “I… It was the same for me, you have to know that. I really… I lo-”

“It’s not fair!” Taako can’t let him finish, so he spits out the phrase that’s been building in him from the moment he lowered the umbrastaff at Lucretia. He’s still curled up impossibly tight, refusing to look at Magnus, eyes wet and stinging. Funny, he really thought Magnus would have started rambling about his feelings first, but here he is opening his big mouth. Well… in for a copper, or whatever.

“It’s… No, it’s not.”

“We were… That was… Fuck.” The last word is a sob, and he takes a second to force in a few breaths. “We were great, Magnus. We were fucking… amazing. And she took that away from me, too!”

To his great surprise (but not that great, now that he thinks about their century together), Magnus is quiet, as though waiting for him to continue.

Which, damn him, he does.

“And now… I mean Krav is… He’s just as… It’s the same, but it’s better, and I hate it!” He scrubs at his eyes with the heel of one hand, even though the tears have by no means stopped. “It’s so… It feels so fucked up! One second it was us, it was you and me and then it was nobody. Nobody! And we didn’t even… We didn’t even know it was missing, we didn’t know… So we moved on and it feels really messed up… It feels so messed up, Magnus.” He’s still balled up, hands clutching at his head like he can force himself back into composure.

“Taako… Hey, c’mere.”

That’s all it takes, really. Taako turns, he doesn’t even look at Magnus, because he knows how this goes. He knows how they do this. He buries his face in Magnus’ shoulder, and Magnus just manhandles him into his lap, and then Taako is gripping the front of his shirt in both hands, tearing jagged breaths out of the air like he has to fight for them. After he starts keening, he takes one hand away from Magnus’ chest and slaps it, palm flat, against the wall and casts Silence.

Because then he just starts screaming.

He’s clutching Magnus’ shirt again, and gods bless his big tough man, Magnus doesn’t say anything. He just holds onto Taako, and he moves his hands through Taako’s hair and over his back and along his shaking arms, and he’s quiet for it all. Because, and the thought makes another scream rip out of him, because they’ve done this so many times.

They’ve been here, just like this, so many times. And they’ve been so many other places, two people who felt like one solid being. On the deck of the Starblaster under another set of stars, on a beach while Merle gave them awful gifts, on a planet of animals while Taako swore at Magnus for fighting a fucking Power Bear, are you stupid?!, on planet after planet and in life after life, finally inevitably colliding and uniting and then…

And then it was gone.

Taako screams again, because he hates it. He hates it so much, that Lucretia chose this for them, because he never would have let go of Magnus in a million cycles if he’d been given a choice. Never.

He inhales again, and it’s not a scream, it’s just this long, slow keen.

Because, he realizes with a sensation like a vice closing around his chest, because… If he’d never let go of Magnus, then he’d never have Kravitz. And Magnus wouldn’t have ever had Julia, and you’ve got to be stupid not to see that she was made for him.

He hates it. He hates how awful it is, and hates even more that it worked out. Because gods on every plane did he love Magnus, and he hadn’t even known he could do that. Not like he did with Magnus, not the way things were between them.

Except he’s done it again. He’s done it again with Kravitz and it’s so familiar now, but still so new.

He sobs, realizing he wouldn’t give up Kravitz for anything. And again, because he knows damn well that Magnus hasn’t let go of Julia, and he won’t. Because he’s a human and his life is so stupid short, and you’d need a life double that of Taako’s just to start to let someone like Julia go. He knows that, because he knows Magnus, and that got ripped away.

Finally, finally, he’s quiet. He’s quiet and he feels boneless, and his throat is raw and his eyes puffy and he’s made the worst mess of Magnus’ shirt. He sniffs, and looks up, and damn if Magnus doesn’t look just the same way.

“Sorry.” He murmurs, but he doesn’t move.

“You gonna be okay?” Magnus asks, and his voice croaks and cracks with the rawness of it all.

“Next question?” He will be, yeah. But he doesn’t really want to think about being okay right now. He’s still pretty fucked up, and he knows this is something he and Magnus need to actually talk about, and he’d really just rather rip the band aid off now.

“Okay.” Magnus nods, then rests his forehead against Taako’s. “I’m… I get it isn’t my fault. But I’m really sorry we didn’t get to… That it was just gone, and then we moved on.”

“Yeah.” Taako sighs, finally letting go of Magnus’ shirt and smoothing it out over his chest. “I’m not even… I mean… I’m just angry it was gone, and we didn’t have any chance to…” He trails off, but he feels Magnus’ chest lift in an echo of his own sigh from moments ago.

“I know… I know, it feels real messed up, that we just… We weren’t us anymore, and we didn’t even get to know about it…”

Taako nods, glad he doesn’t have to spell it all out. But now that they’re on the same level again, he knows he doesn’t have to. He’s never had to, when they’ve been themselves.

“Are you… I mean… Julia…” Magnus’ voice hitches on her name, just her name, and Taako reaches up and puts a finger on his lips.

“Magnus… That’s… She was perfect for you.”

“You kinda were, too.”

“I mean… Then, yeah.” Taako shrugs, even though there’s something in all of this that sticks in his chest like the world’s worst splinter. “But after… When we didn’t know, when we couldn’t remember… She was. I’m not… Magnus, she was so… I get it. It’s okay”

“But… Taako, it’s… It’s the same about you…”

“I know.” Taako leans forward on Magnus’ chest again, feeling too much at once. It’s like he’s still in love with him, in a weird way, because they’ve just remembered. It feels like it’s just happened, and it hurts because it was years ago. He’s living it and missing it in the same breath, and he doesn’t know how to handle that. “But you’re never going to let her go.”

There’s a long stretch of quiet, and all Taako hears is the hammering of Magnus’ heart.

“I… No.” His voice is choked, and Taako reaches for his hand.

“That’s okay. I couldn’t ask you to.”

“And… Kravitz?” Magnus asks, and his voice is at once hopeful and wary, and Taako understands how it feels.

“Magnus… He’s…” Taako swallows, and he hates that he’s going to say this, and he kind of hates that Magnus is going to get it, just like Taako gets it. “It’s different… It’s what… I want. He’s what I want for, like… A really long time. I don’t…” He clears his throat, not looking at Magnus. “I don’t wanna let that go.”

“Good.” Magnus grips his hand tightly. “Good. I’d have to kick your ass if you… If you got all hung up on me.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

They stay for a long time, cramped up in a broom closet, before they feel like they can get up and go out. They talk a little more, but it’s mostly the same things over and over.

I love you.

It’s okay.

I don’t blame you.

I’m not mad you moved on.

I love you.

It’s alright.

“I’d never ask you to…-” “I know.”

I’m okay with this.

I love you.

“Do you want us to-” “No.”

It’s so odd, sitting with someone who you loved so fiercely, and who you still love like the light of the sun, but that you know isn’t who is truly yours. To remember a love that was interrupted in what felt like what must have been its height, and to remember it all in the aftermath of finding someone else who fit into all those broken pieces of you, too. They’ve let each other go without realizing they did, and now they just have to piece everything together.

It is, all in once, a celebration and a mourning. It is something they can only do together, and it is apparently something to be done over the course of several hours in a broom closet.

By the time they leave, when they rejoin everyone, the other five simply nod and welcome them back. Kravitz looks scared to… Well, scared to death when he finally finds Taako, and he’s asking a million questions an hour before Taako kisses him soundly and lets the warmth of it seep through him.

“I’m fine.” He murmurs, giving Kravitz a smile. “It’s all good.” He looks at Magnus over his shoulder, and Magnus is beaming and giving him a thumbs up, and all the little broken shatters in his chest seem to lock back in.

“You’re sure?”

“Absolutely.” He takes Kravitz by the hand and leads him into the cluster of the former crew of the Starblaster, and starts to make introductions.