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Merry Candlenights (The War Is Over)

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It's her first Candlenights back in her body, and Lup gets a really good start to her day hiked up on the kitchen counter, robe falling open and skin gliding deliciously on skin as Barry kisses the hell out of her. She's about to suggest they head right back to bed when he pulls back, laying his hands solemnly on both of her shoulders and looking deeply into her eyes.

"I have to ask. Are you and your brother back on your Candlenights bullshit? I really have got to know. Because if you are, I just. I gotta go. Ever since the plane where you guys swiped the Trivium King's crown jewels and got the Starblaster blown up, I'm just. I'm out."

"I can't imagine what you might be insinuating. Me! A hero of the planes! You can't possibly be asking me to drop the quality family tradition I share with my brother!" Not her highest-caliber snark, but then again she's still getting reacquainted with the rolling flush of endorphins, and making out with Barry is one of her favorite methods of practicing having a body again. Barry definitely planned this. She's a little annoyed and a lot impressed.

"Lup, I love you, I'm so glad to have you back, but I'm going on vacation. Today. To anywhere else," Barry says earnestly. His big hands rub gentle circles on her shoulders while he makes eye contact. It's a little unsettling, with his lips all wet and swollen, his eyes all doe-y and dark.

"I've been around you and your brother for almost a hundred Candlenights, Lup, and just. No. I hear Goldcliffe is nice this time of year. Or Neverwinter? Which one is more likely to put the bulk of the planet between me and you two?" he asks, and she can't help but laugh in his face.

"I knew I picked a smart one. Better part of valor and shit, right babe?" She leans down into him, getting two good handfuls of denim-clad ass and pulling him flush against her, sinking into a kiss. She bites his lip, just because she can, and it's all still really fucking good, this corporeal shit.

When they break, he's breathless and staring at her with that gooey expression he spent years thinking he could hide from her. She grins cheerfully at him, sliding her hands inside his jeans with a slow, deliberate scrape of her fingernails. "One for the road?"

He grins up at her. "Let's make it two?"

 

All of the non-twin IPRE crew have tried to put extra security enchantments on their quarters, no doubt thanks to the full breadth of their returned memories of Candlenights hijinks past.

"Amateurs," Lup huffs under her breath, knocking out Magnus's clumsy protection enchantment, clearly borrowed from Merle, and using up a spell slot to blast through the physical barricade he put on his door. She doesn't have time for her usual subtlety; she's got a mission.

He's got a pile of stuff on his bed, clearly meant as an offering to whichever twin gets there first. That's real cute, Magnus, but that's not how any of this works.

Taako's room isn't even locked. All of his stuff is gone, save a really obnoxious smiley face on an old requisition receipt that he left on the bare mattress. Lup narrows her eyes at it before crushing it dramatically (which feels incredibly satisfying to do). "Game, on, brother."

Merle's actually home when she gets to his apartment, and she's delighted that the genial smile he greets her with has a familiar bit of steel in it. Magnus is there, too.

"Merry Candlenights, Lup. What can I do for you?" He's got the door barely cracked open and is blocking the entry with his body.

"I need your help," Lup says, pasting on her most charming smile. She gives Magnus a little wave, and he waves back enthusiastically from the couch.

Merle sighs heavily and opens the door all the way. "Okay, okay kid. No funny business."

"Cross my heart, my dude," Lup breezes as she sweeps into the room. "Of course you know that the Bureau Candlenights party is tonight, and in the interest of full disclosure, yes, the wonder twins are back on their bullshit." She flops onto the couch, pillowing her head on Magnus's lap. He pets her hair goodnaturedly.

"We had a suspicion, yes," Merle says.

"I assume you already broke into my room?" Magnus says.

"Oh for sure. Listen, you need to get some better shit, my man. None of that was worth the time to steal. Anyhow, I don't want to go for the small potatoes anymore. Gone are the days of us just lifting beloved trinkets, you know?" She smirks as Merle relaxes visibly.

"You already know what you want us to do, don't you?" Magnus says, grinning.

"You betcher ass," Lup says, pleased. "We're going to snatch…" --she draws the word out for dramatic effect, throwing some jazz hands in for flair-- "Lucretia's staff."

Merle sighs again, pinching the bridge of his nose with his wood hand. "And what were you gonna do if we declined to help you?"

Lup's smile goes even wider. "Glad to have you aboard."

 

She turns up to the party in the Director's office half an hour late, dressed like a badass fashion goddess -- natch -- and strides right up to the canape table. It's got pride of place on the dais, as it should; the snacks are gorgeous and varied, and there's an entire actual bowl of punch. So far it's just Davenport, that kid Taako loves to mess with, Magnus and both of the Voidfish, and Lucretia, as well as a couple of minor Bureau staff Lup has forgotten the names of. Where the hell is her brother?

"Merry Candlenights," Lucretia greets Lup, somewhat diffidently. She's dressed all in silver robes, today, statuesque as always. Lup feels a pang at how much harder she's gotten since the years they spent together.

"Hey," she says, and hauls Lucretia in for a big hug. It's the least she can give her, since they've agreed to let bygones be bygones but it seems like Lucretia is still holding onto some massive guilt. Besides, Lup is feeling emotionally generous today. ...Not for any particular reason, just. The spirit of the season. "Nice canapes," she says solemnly.

"Lup… We were never… close? Exactly. But we were sisters. And I know I've apologized a hundred times, but. I'd really like to… I'd like to say that. Our differences aside, I do admire you. A very great deal."

"Darling, darling, don't sprain something. We're good. I've got this new gig lined up with Taako's boyfriend and it's going to get me out of the house, and hey, I only spent over a decade in the fucking umbrella, but listen I'm willing to let bygones go by if you are, okay?"

Lucretia just looks a little sad, but she manages a small nod and holds Lup's hands in hers. "Okay, Lup. Thank you. Please, enjoy the party, and know that there's room for you in the Bureau if you ever get tired of tracking down liches."

"You better believe," Lup says, kissing Lucretia on the cheek before pulling away to stuff her face with snacks. "Did Taako make these?" she asks, popping a bacon-wrapped fig into her mouth.

"I believe the term is 'supervised'," Lucretia says with a snort. "Angus did most of the heavy lifting."

Like a golden retriever hearing its name, Angus perks up from across the hall and trots over. "Hello ma'ams!" he chirps. "Do you like the treats? I worked really hard on them and they turned out edible, or at least that's what Mr. Taako said! I wouldn't know because they look too much like little poops for me to want to try them."

Lup stuffs three figs into her mouth, not breaking eye contact with Angus. She moans a little around them. "Mmmph! That balsamic glaze really sets them off. Good work, kid. They only taste a little like shit." She grins at him, gulping the last morsel and looking around the room.

"Um… thanks? I did try my own spin on…"

"Great! Keep it up, my dude," she says, patting him on the head. She sees Merle's scraggly beard, laced with fresh flowers for the occasion, and his wooden hand waving like a sapling in a hurricane from the door by the weird relics chamber. "I, ah, I have some icky shit to take care of. You know. Body… stuff. It's weird having a body again, you know?" she says with a wave, darting off the dais to meet Merle.

"Did you get it?" she murmurs, grabbing his flesh arm and marching him out of the office.

"Just about. You have any idea how many wards she has up on that thing? I think we're talking level 12 spell slots, and a few she maybe just made up, I don't even know. Abjuration isn't really my thing. But we're close enough I think you should be there. Magnus cool?"

"He had the easy job. Come on."

They head into the apartment domes, and Lup can feel the tug of messed up magic as they approach the Director's quarters. The door is open, but there's a shimmery translucent field in the frame, barely visible. There are arcane tools scattered on the floor as if Merle had just forgotten what he was in the middle of before starting something else.

As they approach the door, Lup feels itchy, like maybe it was time to go have a shower. Did she leave the stove on? "I fucking hate repulsion enchantments," she hisses, grabbing Merle's collar and shoving him hard into the doorway, throwing herself in after him like Magnus to get past the field.

"Taako?!" Lup shrieks, furious. Her fucking brother is in Lucretia's walk-in closet (all blue and silver robes, Lup makes a note to help Lucretia diversify her wardrobe if she makes it out of this without being banished from the moon), and he's clutching… "Hey! The fuck are you doing with the Bulwark Staff!"

Taako looks surprised for about half an instant before his face smoothes out into the high-bullshit ingratiating smirk that has never once worked on Lup, the person who taught him how to do it. "Hey… so! Not how I meant this to go, but, ah… you got me! Happy Candlenights! Here's your gift!"

"Are you fucking kidding me?" She is livid. "I can't believe I'm getting scooped by my own brother for his own fucking present!"

"I'm gonna go with it's your fucking present, Lup, since it's currently in my possession and that's 9/10ths of the law, right?"

Merle pipes up. "Have you guys ever considered just… giving each other presents like normal people instead of stealing shit from other people? Maybe give that a try one year?"

Taako draws himself up to every regal inch of his height, aided and abetted by some truly excellent platform heels. "There's no honor in just buying something."

"What better than the danger of being caught to show your twin you really care, right?" Lup agrees.

"Well, my dear adrenaline junkies, sounds like we're about to have company," Merle warns, much too late. Carey and Killian are already pushing their way through the door enchantment, a hangdog Magnus close on their heels.

Carey takes one look at the extremely guilty-looking three of them and rubs her palm down her face in irritation. "Okay. So. I didn't bring enough handcuffs for all three of you, so you pretty much have five minutes to explain yourselves before my wife here figures out a more humiliating and less comfortable method of restraining you." She jerks her thumb at Killian. Killian rolls her eyes.

"I was press-ganged!" Merle shouts, throwing his hands up in the air.

"I was… looking for Taako!" Lup says.

"I was trying to steal this staff!" Taako says, hefting it consideringly. "Almost got away with it, too, if it wasn't for my meddling sister. Twelve years off from Scamdlenights clearly has lost me my touch."

"'Scamdlenights'? You call it 'Scamdlenights'??" Merle cries.

Magnus snorts. "'Scamdlenights! I like it. Very descriptive."

"Listen, I didn't say we had the best ideas about branding when we were scrappy youngsters, but done's done and yeah, it's trademarked, so paws off, big guy," Taako says. He waves the staff saucily under Magnus's nose.

"When you got nothin' but quick fingers…" Lup shrugs, like they maybe couldn't've helped it at all. "And it kind of stuck."

Taako grabs Lup's hand with his free one, hugging the staff awkwardly to his chest and looking earnestly in her eyes. Fuck, she's tired of men she loves being earnest at her today, what the fuck is up with this holiday anyhow. "Listen, I have to be real here. I know you've been practicing with Kravitz, working out the best use of magic for your new gig? And I thought, well, only the best for my sister. This thing almost killed us all, and all the stuff we created and lived and died for is basically in here, and… you need the best tool for the job, because I'm really not okay with letting you go do dangerous shit without serious backup."

She turns to her brother, huffing in embarrassed annoyance and tucking a pink lock of his hair behind the tip of his ear. "Well your Candlenights gifts last year bored the shit out of me, and once you finally sprung me from Umbra prison you didn't have a fucking tool anymore--"

"You do know my 'tool' is perfectly capable of fucking--" Taako says, before Lup claps her hand over his mouth, ugh, brothers are so gross.

"Shut the fuck up, tiny. As I was saying... two birds, one stone. Magnus got Junior to help out with some ichor, and Merle and I were going to do a charm spell with it on Lucretia so she'd think she gave it to you, and I'll be real, conning her out of her beloved staff when all of the shit we made is gone was definitely part of the appeal, here--"

"That seems really very elaborate, my dear," Lucretia says, waving her hand in the doorway to her quarters and stepping through. There are really a lot of people in the room, now, and Lup is starting to feel a little crowded. She grabs Taako's hand and squeezes it. Lucretia raises an eyebrow and continues. "But, interesting. I see you've been, shall we say, diversifying your magical portfolio since you've been re-embodied. I'm impressed? And, well, also, I'm pissed."

Killian steps behind Lucretia's shoulder, her imposing figure lending an air of menace to the Director's elegant form. "You want me to take them in, boss? Lotta paperwork, maybe some PR damage, but definitely doable."

Lup feels her heart race at the idea of being confined again, and an evocation cantrip comes to her fingers, buzzing almost unbidden with flickering flames. Taako flinches in surprise, dropping her hand, then recovers by moving his hand to the small of her back, calm and present. She tries to breathe through the adrenaline.

Lucretia reaches out and takes the staff from Taako. She considers it, running one fingertip along the deep-etched grain. "This staff has been my companion for… a very long time." She taps it on the carpet, the dull thunk thunk making Lup twitch. "It helped make me who I needed to be, for the good of the Bureau and the Prime Material Plane. That said," she jerks her chin at Carey, who looks equal parts relieved and put-out, "I have been pondering how best to unmake the Lucretia I had to be, because she is no longer needed. And this? This is everything she was."

Lucretia smiles and presses it back into Taako's hands. "Finder's keepers, Taako."

She catches Lup's eye, and her expression is more open and relaxed than Lup has seen in… well, years. "We're even, Lup. Let's let bygones go by." Lup grins and puts her hand out for Lucretia to shake. "Now that you've finished your ransack of my quarters… shall we find out what festivities await us in the hall? I know Avi and Robbie have been preparing for their Johann tribute cover band for weeks, and I'd hate to miss that. Will you all join me?"

Merle shrugs. "Lead on, Director!" he says with a flourish. He points at Taako and Lup as he swans out the door. "Next year, the two of you can fuck off planetside for your terrible 'holiday'. I'm done."

They all troop out, Magnus clapping Lup on the shoulder and whispering, "Sorry! When Carey gives me the Look, I can't keep secrets from her. It was a good plan except for how it was doomed to fail, though!"

Lup and Taako follow the others out into the quad (Carey and Killian hang back, keeping keen suspicious eyes on the twins to make sure they leave the vicinity of the Director's quarters).

Once Lup's fingers cool off, she grabs Taako's hand, pulling him toward the statue of the dog Magnus had installed in the middle of the green. The sweep of the night sky is brilliant above them, mitigated only by the sheen of the atmo dome protecting them from the cold vacuum of space.

"Hey, so." Lup stops, snickering. "Listen, we really have to stage an intervention."

"You're not wrong," Taako says, picking up what she's laying down with an ease that gives her an ache in her heart, she'd been so worried it was gone forever. "The shoes alone are a disaster, and with her complexion there's so much beyond blue and grey she should be wearing."

"You really got me the most badass staff on this plane. Hey," Lup says, nudging him. "Thanks."

"Nah, don't mention it. Seriously, don't. We're still waiting to get paid for that last mission and everything, so."

Lup grins. "So. Canapes and death by tribute band?"

"Happy Scamdlenights, babe," Taako says, kissing her on the cheek and shoving the staff into her free hand. "Truly, I can't wait to see Angus torture a harmonica."

"Lead the way, brother?"

And he does.