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It’s midafternoon and Magnus wants a nap.

Or like. His body does, but his brain doesn't? Which really is your average Fantasy Tuesday night for him, honestly, but it's a bit weird to feel when the sun's still high in the sky and not, y’know, threatening to rise in a sec.

But that's how it is, right now, as he's slumped over a table, carving a little dog half-heartedly. He wants to put his head down. (Feels heavy.) Arms down. (Also heavy.) Hands down. (Overworked.) Close his eyes. (Weirdly half-sore.) Relax. (Sleep.)

But he doesn't.

Well. He slumps a little more, but that’s all. It's not time for sleeping, and he's not that tired anyway.

And fuck only knows what Merle will draw on his face if he finds him passed out here.

So he keeps his head up and his eyes open and doesn't nap.

-

Late evening, sprawled out under the covers, nothing’s changed. Brain firing too quick to sleep, body too sluggish to do anything else.

Eventually, body wins out.

-

Early early morning, Magnus wakes up and makes a face.

Three things.

One, it feels like he's swallowed sand, a little bit.

Two, his nose is stuffed to hell.

And three, he is, impossibly, still tired.

He almost never wakes up tired. At least, not like this. “Five more minutes,” sometimes, sure, he’s only human, but this feels more like "Five more hours,” and that only ever means one thing.

He’s come down with something.

But whatever, whatever. Magnus has never let a little bug get the best of him, and he’s not about to start today. So he hauls himself upright, ready to face the music, seize the day, all that good stuff.

But the good stuff has to wait a moment, as he reorients himself, wrinkles his nose, and sneezes into his hands.

Guh. Gross. (Also, ouch.)

He wipes his hands on his shirt, swipes his nose on his sleeve, clambers down off the bed in search of tea.

Makes two mugs (one large and black, with white letters reading CANINE SUFFRAGE, the other small and white with little paintings of several species of ducks). Downs them both, abandons them empty in the sink.

-

Magnus pokes at the voidfish, talks a bit with Johann, listens to his newest single. Wipes his nose. Teases Ango. Wipes it again. Ribs Taako, gossips with Merle. Practices lockpicking with Carey, shows her how to shape a tailfeather. Trains a bit on his own. Some jogging. Some pushups.  Finally, breaks, and goes to bug Merle, and whiles away the hours talking.

-

When he wakes the next morning, his throat still hurts. Rude.

And he’s tired again. (Also rude.)

But whatever. He takes some Fantasy Dayquil, has more tea, and breakfast besides, and heads out.

Another training session, after lunch. He’s a little slower than usual (still a bit foggy, the tea didn’t quite wake him up all the way), but not too bad, still manages to swipe a marble from Carey’s pocket.

When they wrap up, though, his nose decides to start running and it doesn't stop, and when Carey points it out he takes care of it with a laugh and a whoops.

It runs in fits and starts the rest of the day. And itches. Obnoxiously.

-

 

Magnus scrubs his nose with the side of his fist.

"Gross,” Taako says from across the room, without looking up from his sewing. “Wash your hands.”

He wipes them on his shirt instead.

"Uh, doesn’t count, m’man. Wash ’em, or I'll cut ’em off.”

He laughs. (A moment later, though, he does get up and wash his hands. They feel gross.)

-

He doesn't make as much progress on his latest carving as he'd like.

Keeps pausing to talk, to scribble down project ideas, to straighten up his bedspace. To sniffle, just once or twice.

Except it must be more than that, because after a while Taako chucks an entire roll of Fantasy Toilet Paper at his face. “Blow your nose, asshole.”

Magnus wipes it instead, just to be contrary. “Fight me.”

"Maybe I will,” Taako says. “Square up.”

Magnus raises his fists, a bit of a grin on his face. The grin shifts, slides away—and he sneezes.

Guh. He sniffs, rubs his watery eyes. Curses the tightness behind them.

"Fucking gross.” Taako makes a face, tugs his scarf higher up round his mouth and nose. “Keep your stupid germs to yourself, Mango.”

He sneezes again, twice.

"I’m disowning you.”

“...Pretty sure that’s not how that works,” Magnus says a bit stuffily, and wipes his nose on his sleeve.

"Disowning. You,” Taako insists.

Magnus grins. Sure.

"I’m serious,” he says. “Right now. And if you get me sick I will climb into your bed, I will cough on all of your things, and then I will demolish you.”

Magnus shrugs. “Can't give me back the same shit.”

"Maybe I'll transmute it into other shit.”

"You can't transmute germs!”

"Uh, can't I?”

For a moment Magnus pauses, struck. Can he? “...No,” he says, several moments later. “No, you're messing with me.”

"Is he?” Merle chimes in, voice deadly serious—but the spark in his eyes says it's a joke, so Magnus holds firm.

"Yuh-huh.”

"Better hope you never find out,” Taako says. “Cause like, seriously, you give me your creeping crud and it's plague time up in Chez Magnus.”

"Noted,” Magnus says.

"Can't afford to be gettin sick.” A flick of his hair. “Hurts the brand, y’know.”

"Well,” Magnus says, scrubbing his nose with makeshift tissue. “Wouldn't want that.”

He drops the tissue, goes back to his carving, adding detail now.

-

Magnus is adding obscene amounts of honey to his morning tea when he hears a distinctly disgusted curse, and then footsteps approaching the doorway and then—

"What part of keep your germs to yourself did you not understand? You can’t just leave tissues everywhere like an animal.”

Magnus flaps a hand at him without turning around. Gulps some tea. Coughs into the mug.

"This is what I'm talking about. Cover your face, anyone ever teach you basic manners?”

Magnus rolls his eyes, turns—and blinks. There's Taako, standing in elegantly rumpled pajamas and a stripey robe and a face mask.

Like, a medical one. Like for doctors. Like he thinks Magnus really has the plague.

For a moment Magnus wants to laugh, but he coughs again instead, and Taako visibly cringes and takes a step back and a handful of things hit Magnus in rapid succession.

Taako just cringed.

Taako’s wearing a face mask.

Taako sleeps with that breathing machine thing, that. CPAP thing.

Taako said he can't afford to get sick.

And Magnus is an idiot, and kind of an asshole, too, probably.

“...Right,” he says, a little hoarse. “My bad, I'll.” He turns his head, cuts a third cough short. “Get those.”

"You'd better,” Taako snaps, and then he's gone.

Magnus finishes his tea, washes the mug thoroughly, puts it back. Then scrubs his hands. Then heads to the room and picks up every last one of his tissues and disposes of them and, belatedly, washes his hands again.

There. That's good enough, probably.

—He's late for training with Carey, though. Fuck.

-

"Rest up,” Carey says at the end of their session, with a toothy grin and headtilt that Magnus is pretty sure means teasing.

"Sure, sure,” he says, and laughs, and makes a mental note to remember Fantasy Dayquil next time. (He’d coughed a few too many times during the training, given himself away while trying to pickpocket her—hence the teasing.)

She leaves, laughing too.

Magnus considers the room around him. He could transition into the usual workout, but…it’s a nice day. Why do pushups indoors, all stuffy, when he can just as easily enjoy the sunshine and get a little cardio in?

He heads outside and jogs a couple laps around the moonbase.

It’s every bit as nice as expected. The sun’s bright, the air’s warm, the grounds are lively as ever, and on his second lap he passes little Ango reading with his back to one of the domes.

The boy doesn’t seem to notice him, too absorbed in his book, but Magnus waves anyway, grinning.

Winds down to a walk, a little after that, and finds his way to the cafeteria.

Food. He needs food.

-

Gets food. Doesn’t taste like much, but Magnus isn’t fussy, and a sandwich is a sandwich, anyway.

It hurts to swallow, is the main trouble. That, and he keeps coughing mid-bite, and trying to stop himself from coughing, because he doesn’t want to choke and he doesn’t want to spray food everywhere and it’s starting to sting a little bit and anyway he can’t stop thinking about the way Taako recoiled, earlier, in the kitchen.

He’s seen the guy react like that before, mind, it’s not, like, new. He cringes away from Magnus’s dirty socks and Merle’s old undershirts and day-old dishes and a dozen other things that Magnus, personally, thinks are no big deal. (Well. Except Merle’s undershirts. He has to admit those are pretty rank.)

But this seems like it probably is a pretty big deal, potentially? He’s not sure exactly what might happen if Taako gets sick, but he gets the feeling it probably isn’t very good, or at least has the potential to be not very good, and he really doesn’t want to find out for sure, and he certainly doesn’t want it to be his fault.

So he eats his sandwich and he tries not to cough.

When he’s done, he wanders the base for a while. (It really is a nice day out, and the fresh air can’t hurt.)

-

Takes Fantasy Dayquil right when he walks back in his room so he can't forget.

Paces the shared space afterward. Can't remember if he had anything to do or not. (Probably not.)

What to do, then? Not bug Taako, he’s not in, and Magnus has been planning to give him space anyway. Maybe Merle?

He finds him. Shoots the breeze a bit. Leaves him to his weird planty devices, after a while.

Paces more. Straightens up his things for lack of anything else to do. Paces even more. Paces, paces, tries not to cough. (Is it time for more meds? Maybe. Probably. He takes some.)

Paces. Carves. (His eyes hurt, squinting at the details, but he keeps on.) When he finishes, he's got a bit of a headache. (Worth it.)

Taako gets back before he can think of anything else to do, so he heads out, calling over his shoulder that he’s gonna go bug Carey and Killian and they should shout if they need him. And he means to bug them, really, honestly, wholeheartedly, is even planning out what he’s gonna say when he drops in—

But he gets sidetracked and finds himself in the library instead.

So he pokes at the books for a while (literally, pokes). Coughs occasionally, into his shirt.

Heads back late, after getting sucked into a book about marsh ducks that he’d poked a little less literally (which, well-worth the worsened headache, it’s fascinating).

-

Tea is useless, the next morning. Doesn’t make him feel any less gross.

Or sound any less gross. (He’s gone a bit croaky. It makes Merle laugh at him, and Taako too—but also edge away and glare, so Magnus makes himself scarce, internally bemoaning that tea’s forsaken him.)

-

Another training session.

Magnus pauses mid-demonstration, knife still in hand, and coughs into his elbow, awkwardly, and more than a little squeakily.

It’s a pretty funny sound, in his opinion, but Carey—who’d teased him for his croaky hello—doesn’t laugh. Instead, she puts a hand on his shoulder, soft, and her face does a thing and she asks him if he'd like to stop early.

Magnus’s shoulder itches. He shrugs off her hand, shakes his head, cracks a grin, and throws himself back into the lesson, taking care now to look alive and hold his breath and not cough.

They just started, there's no need to break off so soon. How’s she gonna learn in time for Killian’s birthday if her tutor fucks off five minutes in?

(And if the example carving takes him a little longer than usual, well. What of it. He’s teaching. He’s supposed to go a little slow.)

(Meds, next time he'll remember meds.)

-

Magnus puts down the sandpaper at last, arms aching, and picks up a tin of stain. Just one coat, for now, and then he’ll sleep while it dries. Just—just one.

He opens the tin. It takes a little bit. (His hands are shaking.) Then he puts a little stain on an old rag and sets to work.

Coughs, and drops the rag. Closes his eyes, curses, and prepares to lean down and pick it up—

But it’s already sitting in his palm, courtesy of Julia. Before he can thank her, she’s taken his hand in hers and is running a thumb over the back of it and there’s a little crease between her brows.

"You’re burning up.”

He pulls his hand back. “I’m all right.”

"Bull. Go to bed.”

"In a minute. I just gotta—”

She rests a hand on his shoulder, soft. “The chair can wait.”

"But we have so many orders—”

"And they can wait,” she says firmly. “C’mon, bed.”

Magnus tries to protest a third time, but Julia scoops him up in her arms like a child in one fluid motion and then he’s too busy trying not to be sick as the world blurs and spots dance before his eyes.

"Mmnh,” he says, when he can think again, face pressed into her shoulder. “Stoppit, dizzy.”

"Yeah, that’s why we don’t work on projects when we’re dying of plague.”

“...Touche.” Still, as she sets him down in bed, he can’t resist adding, "Not actually dying of plague, though.” Fantasy flu, maybe. Not plague.

"Mm. Not on my watch.” Julia tosses blankets over him, one after another, heavy and soft, until he’s pleasantly crushed in them and drifting. She presses a kiss to his brow. “I’ll finish the chair. You just rest.”

And he does.

-

Magnus takes Fantasy Dayquil as soon as he gets back to the dorm. Would have before, but with Taako and the glaring and the mask he just. Forgot, a bit. (S'what he gets, really, for bolting.)

But whatever. He's taken it now, is the main thing.

And it helps. He squeaks less, which, nice. (But he starts squeak-coughing again well before they wear off, which. Less nice.)

-

Merle enters the shared space and without preamble offers him a weird and highly questionable remedy. “It’ll fix ya right up!”

"It” is a yellow-green uprooted thing with curling, red-spotted leaves and soil still clinging to its underside.

"You gotta eat the dirt too,” he confides. “It’s got all those antioxidants. And it tastes real good too. Crunchy.”

Magnus decides he’s probably joking, probably well-meaning, and definitely going to accidentally poison him, so he politely declines.

Merle shrugs. “Suit yourself!” And he tucks the plant through a belt loop and leaves.

-

When Taako arrives, some time later, there’s a few moments of peace, of companionable silence—and then Magnus coughs and Taako tells him to go choke on air somewhere else.

Magnus grumbles and dawdles, but ultimately goes. Wonders if Taako would relax if he bought his own face mask, or just get all snippy about it.

Considers.

Taako’s already snippy. What’s the harm?

-

So Magnus buys a few. Buys Fantasy Cough Drops, too.

Pops a few in his mouth, a mask on his face, and heads back to the dorm. When he gets there, he immediately tears his room apart looking for a pen, and when he finally finds one he draws a huge open smile on the mask.

(After a moment’s thought, he gives it sharp teeth.) (Another moment’s thought, and then it has dimples, too.)

Taako laughs at the mask, when he sees it, but otherwise doesn't comment. Seems mollified. Ish.

Magnus calls it a win.

-

More meds, an early bedtime, plenty of fluids, he's going to kick this thing in the ass.

-

Fuck.

His voice has gone a bit strained. Not much, but enough to be noticeable.

So he pitches it lower, affects funny accents, stage whispers, and drinks tea with extra honey all through the morning.

And then for good measure takes a full dose of Fantasy Dayquil and stuffs a handful of Fantasy Cough Drops in his pockets before he heads out to meet Carey.

-

"Nice mask,” she says, with a laugh that uncoils the weird tension between Magnus’s shoulder blades.

"Thanks,” he says, voice pitched low so he sounds mostly-normal, with a grin to match his mask, minus the fangs. “Decorated it myself.”

"I can tell.” Carey makes a show of looking it over, and he pretends he doesn’t notice she’s really looking him over—an illusion that feels sullied when she asks, gesturing to the mask, "Still feeling off?”

Magnus waves a hand. “Nah, m’fine. S’just some belated manners here, is all. Hospitality, y’know.”

"Oh, sure.”

He squints at her. Does she look dubious, or is she just laughing at him? She’s probably just laughing at him. That’s her I'm-not-laughing-I-swear face. Probably. (It’s a little hard to tell, today.) "I do have rustic hospitality!”

"Sure,” she agrees, and yeah, okay, that’s definitely the face.

"Mneh,” Magnus says, swallowing back a cough. “C’mon, let’s get learning!”

This time she does laugh. “All right. So today we’re just gonna….”

Magnus makes it through the lesson without coughing or sniffling or spacing out too bad, and the time training’s over, Carey says she's glad to see him feeling better, and Magnus d’aw thanks’s and that's that, mission success.

-

He coughs all the way back to the room.

-

Lunchtime rolls around, and rolls right past him. He’s too busy trying (and failing) to finish the duck book.

Merle trudges in with his shirt full of pretzels, offers him a couple. Magnus accepts on autopilot, and boy they hurt to swallow. It’s sort of worth it, though, for the crunch. (How long has it been since he’s had such a good crunch…? Years, it feels like. Since those carrots he and Julia grew, maybe.) (Not that the pretzels entirely measure up, of course—but they’re close.)

(They’re close.)

-

Midafternoon and he still hasn't finished the book.

Early evening. Same thing.

Taako saunters in the living room, and Magnus half-listens to his immediate spiel about the cafeteria food. Nothing new, the usual complaints. Undercooked, underspiced, and most of all underwhelming, boring, lacking flair.

Magnus fills in his usual responses, tries to inject a little vigor. Must fail a bit, because Taako rolls his eyes and asks what he's reading.

Magnus talks his ears off for a good five minutes before he realizes Taako doesn't actually care and isn't even pretending to. (Is, in fact, all the way across the room, scribbling something on a piece of paper—probably notes for how to improve the dish of the day.)

“...Anyway, they're really cool,” he finishes.

"Uh-huh.” Taako underlines something. “Fascinating.”

"I think it's cool,” Merle chimes in. “Hey, what about their feathers? Do they have weird feathers?”

Magnus launches into another speech. By the time he winds down, his voice is edging more towards raspy than croaky, but on the other hand his entire self is buzz-buzz-buzzing and he hasn't been this jazzed all day and maybe even all week, so, win some lose some. Lose some win some? He isn't super clear on the order of operations, here.

It was nice, is the point. Evens out.

Though now he needs to. Do something. Doesn't know what, just something.

So he gets up, paces round the kitchen, wipes down counters, finds another block of wood, starts a new carving (a duck, this time), makes tea, goes back to the carving and then to the book and then wriggles a little in place because oops reading it made him buzzy again.

And then he carves some more, and chatters away to Merle and Taako and tries not to cough too much even into his mask because Taako’s starting to look super skeeved and pet peeved again, if that's even a phrase, Magnus isn't sure. Should be.

He pops a few Fantasy Cough Drops, calls it good. Keeps at the carving.

Sets it down earlier than he plans because suddenly it's just. So hard to keep his eyes open.

-

Morning comes with tea and more Fantasy Cough Drops and a voice like a cloaked figure in the back of a cave offering power and glory and eternal life. Or like a chain-smoker.

One of those.

Both, probably. Both.

Magnus picks up a new mask, draws a clumsy X instead of a mouth this time, and puts it on.

-

"You sound like shit,” Taako says, when Magnus rasps a greeting.

"Happy to see you too.”

"Seriously, dude, quit talking. You’re killing my ears.”

Is he? He might be. He’s killing his own throat, for sure, and he knows there’s a few sounds Taako actually can’t stand (wet flip-flops, open-mouthed chewing, and…something else, Magnus forgets). Maybe this is one of them? Or maybe it’s the germ-thing again. Or maybe Taako’s just grouchy. It is kinda early, and Taako doesn’t do early….

"Mm,” Magnus says, and makes more tea.

-

He wanders the moonbase. Pokes in on the voidfish, pokes at Johann, half-heartedly does a few pushups, drops by the library, picks up another few books he won’t finish reading, and swings back round to the room to get started on them.

Abandons the first midway through to convince Merle they should paint each other’s nails.

Sure, Magnus could do his own, but he’s wriggley and bored and anyway it’s more fun when you can rib someone for not keeping still, and see their eyes light up as they admire your handiwork, or their mouth quirk sideways as they inspect it for imperfections Taako.

But Taako’s not part of it, this time, just Merle, so there’s fewer lip-quirks while he paints and a less-delicate touch while he’s painted. (Though, actually—not as indelicate as it was the last time they did this. Maybe Merle’s been practicing?) (Now he thinks of it, Merle’s had colorful nails a fair bit lately….)

Magnus admires the finish, and thanks him, and flaps his hands to speed up the drying process, and then goes back to the book, chattering scratchily over the top of it now and then.

-

Unexpectedly, he reads straight through til two in the morning, unable to put the book down until he’s reached the last page.

And then he can't sleep, too busy mulling over what he's read.

His mind winds down eventually, like an old clock, and he slips, hazy, into something like dreamland, and his breath evens out—and then it hitches and he coughs himself awake.

Once he catches his breath, Magnus groans. The dream was really cool, firebreathing duck and all, and now he'll never know how it was going to end. Maybe he would've adopted it as a pet. Maybe it would've burned his hair off. Maybe it would've gone after Taako's. Maybe it would've just set campfires for them. Maybe it would've liked Fantasy S'mores. Maybe....

Flashes of a campfire, and Fantasy Marshmallows, and a duck, and the Director, and hot diggety—

Magnus coughs awake again.

He tries to will himself back to sleep again, follow that thread, properly relive that Candlenights miracle, but can't. He keeps coughing whenever he gets anything like close, jolting awake with a predictability and unpleasantness that makes him want, on a burning, soul-deep level, to thonk himself in the face. (He doesn't, of course. It won't help, long-term.)

But eventually, finally, fter a few more frustrating near-misses in the sleep department, and several aborted movements in the direction of his own skull—he knows better, he knows, but he's so tired—Magnus crashes.

-

His eyes hurt. They hurt and they're heavy and probably bloodshot and definitely very distracting.

Also distracting is that his throat now feels like it's got an axe embedded in it when he swallows, sometimes. (He tries not to swallow.)

He's gonna sound awful. Like—like a bunch of geese swallowed knives and screamed all at once. Like Merle after a Chesney concert. Like Taako ate a Magic Missile. Like.

He's gonna sound like absolute garbage. Ripe, smelly garbage, the kind that's been out in the sun too long and also looted through by raccoons.

 (And that's if he sounds like anything at all. He's got a sneaking suspicion he might not.)

And it's definitely gonna hurt. It's just. It's gonna be a bad time. Really, he should probably just not talk at all. Go back to bed. Sleep til he can blink or swallow without any ouches.

But he's got stuff to do, he can't just laze around. And even if he had the world's clearest schedule, he'd still couldn't. He'd go stir-crazy.

...Not talking, though. There's an idea....

Magnus weaves through his morning with nods and hums and headshakes and mm-hms and gestures, delaying, delaying, delaying.

A nod when Merle asks if he's all right, a handwave when he says he heard him coughing in the middle of the night.

A good-natured middle finger when Taako mocks his tea-prep for the thousandth time.

A hum when he passes Davenport in the hall. A grin when the gnome hums in return and nods at him.

A cheery wave when Carey greets him, an mhm when she asks if he's ready to dive in, a punch to the air when he succeeds.

Finally, a dramatically whispered stealth practice (which, yes, hurts as much as predicted) when Carey catches on and questions why he's not talking.

He fully expects her to call bullshit, but she takes the answer in stride and they carry on.

It's nice. Easy.

-

By the time he gets back to his room, the fuzzy, satisfied calm of a quiet morning with a good friend's worn off, leaving mostly just the fuzzy bit.

Also worn off is the Fantasy Dayquil he vaguely remembers taking. (Or thinking about taking? Or. In any case, he's coughing again, all crackly. Sort of a step past crackly. Sort of...crunchy. Not, uh, super great. Not. Not ideal.)

Those things are probably related. The fuzzy and the medicine he may or may not have taken. (Probably hasn't.)

He should probably fix 'em, probably...something. Medicine? Tea? Steam? All of the above?

...All of the above sounds right.

But Magnus has to get up to do all that, and. No. Nope.

He stays in bed and coughs instead. Reads some. Tugs at the increasingly itchy face mask.

He could take it off. Taako’s not in here right now. He could. He could.

He doesn't. (Taako walks in and out all the time, they all do, their bedroom claims are more like guidelines than hard and fast rules, so. Better to be safe.)

Keeps keeps tugging at it instead, and squirming, and pretending it doesn't feel a bit suffocating (he can't breathe out of his nose today, and inside the mask it's muffled and hot and that's not helping).

If there was just somewhere else he could go, without having to worry about getting anyone else sick, or anyone making sympathetic faces or asking is-he-all-right or glaring at him or bringing him weird roots or—

But there isn’t. Maybe some distant part of the base, if he explores long enough, but Magnus isn’t that desperate for space, so he doesn’t, just scratches at the stupid material, fiercely, and goes back to reading.

Some hours (and several pages) later, falls asleep.

-

Crammed in a pod on the way back to the moonbase after a wildly successful mission. (Another relic collected, neutralized—and with minimal casualities, even!)

Magnus’s limbs thrumming, Merle’s grin wide, Taako with a lazy smirk, and all of them talking, laughing, repeating their best one-liners, anticipating the adoring crowd, planning a nail-painting afterparty, glancing at the window as the base draws nearer.

Smoke, rising thin over the moon.

Thicker now, as they hurtle in, thicker, nearly obscuring the charred wreckage, the crumbled remains of the domes. Thicker and thicker, filling the pod as it opens, stinging Magnus’s eyes, seeping into his lungs—

-

Magnus snaps upright, coughing. Stumbles out of the room, peeks in on the shared space.

There’s Merle, snoring on the sofa. Taako, in his sleepy sack in the corner, meditating (not sleeping, Magnus can tell the difference by now—not hard, it’s all in the ears; if they’re still, he’s not asleep).

He watches them a moment, blearily, leaning against the doorframe, and then heads back to bed.

-

Magnus continues like this for another few days. Settles into a loose routine, going about his business, pretending he’s not exhausted, retreating to bed or the library for quiet, emerging for food and to trade good-natured jabs with the others, now and then (if he speaks sparingly, his voice doesn't complain too much).

It’s simple. (Almost easy.)

-

Magnus pulls up his abandoned mask and turns his head to the side to avoid coughing on his half-made example duck. Hides a wince. (Hurts, and tugs at his temples besides.)

Carey doesn’t bother hiding hers. “That bug’s really hanging on, huh?”

"S’just the cough,” Magnus lies. Then, "Hey, that feather’s pretty good!”

"Huh? Oh, thanks! I dunno, I think the shape’s a little…”

"Nah, just keep going, add some detail. It’ll come out great.”

-

Magnus blinks at the cupboard. And blinks. And blinks again.

He was here for...something. Something, he’s pretty sure. What was it.

….Food. Food, right. Some...uh. Some. Soup? Maybe soup.

That’s tricky, though. Taako doesn’t allow Fantasy Campbell's in the kitchen, calls it a crime in a can, and Magnus has no idea where Merle’s secret stash is hiding today.

And that’s fine, really. Magnus knows how to make soup from scratch, has done before, loads. Thing is, it’s just. It’s so many steps, is the thing. He’s not sure he has the patience for that many, right now. Or the attention span.

(Or the energy.)

The last, quiet admission almost has him hauling out the ingredients out of sheer spite. But he just blinks at the cabinets again instead, and gets stuff out for eggs.

Stares at the collection of things for a long moment. And then a longer one. And then kicks himself and starts making them.

Makes them, a little haphazardly. (Nearly cracks an egg straight into the trash, nearly burns the final product—heroically catches himself in time.)

Sits at the counter and eats, slowly.

Ignores the funny look Taako gives him as he enters. (It’s a bit harder when the look intensifies, after Magnus swallows wrong and starts coughing into his shirt, but he manages. Part of him feels bad, but another part says that Taako’s not shown any signs of coming down sick, so at this point he’s probably not going to, so probably he can stuff it. Magnus isn’t sure which part’s winning out. Is almost too drained to care.)

Finishes his eggs. Goes back to bed to read.

-

Magnus blinks awake to chirping crickets.

He frowns at the shadows on the ceiling, muzzily. That’s weird. Crickets are weird. Why are crickets weird. There’s always crickets. They’re just not usually so loud, because—

Magnus rolls over, and there’s Julia, still in bed after all. But not snoring, so definitely awake.

"Y’alright?” Even as he hopes it wasn’t another nightmare, he’s running through their cabinets in his head, trying to figure if they have any Fantasy Marshmallows left for cocoa. Might not. He’ll have to improvise.

"Mm,” Julia says, from the other side of the bed.

He turns to look, squinting in the dark, and she’s curled up with all the blankets wrapped around her, head just barely poking out the top. He rolls over to her, a small, concerned sound in his throat, and brushes the hair out of her eyes and oh.

She’s warm.

He makes another concerned sound and wraps his arms around her as far as they’ll go, switching rapidfire from Fantasy Marshmallows to carrots. They have carrots, definitely, fresh-grown. Carrots and a chicken frozen somewhere, and. Do they have noodles? They probably have noodles. Spices, for sure. And tea, up in the top cabinet.

In the morning, he’ll take them all down and set to work.

For now, though…

He holds Julia closer, running his fingers through her hair occasionally, until she stops trembling and her breath evens out and the crickets are drowned in familiar, rumbley snores.

-

Magnus is acutely aware, as he walks to the Official Reclaimers Training Session, that he’s not at his best.

That he’s a little below full capacity. Maybe a little sluggish. Maybe not going to be quite as useful as he usually is.

But good enough, most definitely, and anyway like hell is he skipping out on some sweet sweet sparring—and even if he wanted to, it’s not like they can have a proper session without him. (Reclaimers work in groups of three, a little voice in his head says. It sounds a lot like the Director. Probably because it is the Director, because he stole the phrase and it’s his now forever, to repeat whenever he feels like it and sometimes when he doesn’t.) (Reclaimers work in groups of three.)

So on he walks, bumping shoulders with the others.

-

Magnus trails behind the others, tunes out their chatter.

It went...okay. Adrenaline carried him through, mostly, and he got some solid hits in. But he still flubbed a few old-hat maneuvers, and got winded a little quicker than he should’ve, and his reaction times were, honestly, super embarrassing.

But it’s not like it was all bad! He got a few hits in. He didn’t cough on anyone (except when he got hit in the chest, but like, that’s allowed). And he and Merle did this really cool combo move where he launched him forward like a hairy cannonball, so. Pretty awesome. Totally worth the pulled muscle he may or may not have acquired in the process. (Probably didn’t, doesn’t really feel like it, he’s just sore. Sore and dramatic.) (He blames Taako for that. You pick up a thing or two, rooming with someone this long.)

All in all, Magnus decides, total success. Probably.

He should speed up a little, cram between the others, start a rapidfire play-by-play of all their best moments. (It's the usual thing, and it's fun.)

...But he doesn’t. Stays walking a few feet behind, instead. One foot in front of the other, one hand trailing absentminded on the wall beside him. Smooth. Nice.

Know what else would be nice—

But there’s no water in his bag, when he reaches back and checks. Dammit. He’s so thirsty. (And, if he’s being honest, a tiny bit dizzy. Training that intense without any water’ll do that to you. He’ll drink an entire gallon when they get back, fix himself right up.) (For now, though—)

One foot in front of the other. (And no leaning on the wall.)

They’re back before too long, and Magnus grabs a glass of water and drinks about half before he goes and crashes on his bed.

(He means to change out of his sweaty clothes and work on something for a while, but he’s tired, and naps are good as hell, and he’s earned this one, so whatever, it’s fine. He’s fine.)

-

The blanketpile shifts. Magnus whines, grabs at it, tries to tug it back. (He needs it, he’s so cold. He’s gonna freeze.)

No dice, though. The pile lifts up on one side and the cold air crawls on his skin and his teeth chatter and he tries to curl smaller and can’t get small enough and.

Suddenly, warmth. Arms round him, big, soft, and someone—Julia—at his back and blanketpile settling down again and.

He uncurls, a little. (Still cold, still aching—but something like comfortable, now.)

In minutes, he’s boneless. A hazy hour later, asleep.

-

Doesn’t open his eyes. Back still hurts. Head, too, now. And his chest, a little bit, like there’s bricks on it, or maybe in it. (He’s not sure if that’s the cough, or the blow he took earlier. Both, probably.)

Some steam might help.

But, he thinks hazily. But then there’s the sitting up, and the finding the floor, and the walking, and the finding a clean bowl, and the waiting for the water to heat up, and the standing, and the filling the bowl, and the walking with it without spilling it and—

Too much. Later.

For now, sleep.

-

None comes.

Instead, more coughing, tight and harsh. Sends knife-tipped waves through his skull.

Magnus curls smaller, pretends it doesn’t hurt his spine, pretends he isn't fifty percent ache. Pretends the blankets round him are heavy enough. Warm enough.

Stops pretending cause it only makes it more obvious how they aren’t. Stretches back out, wincing.

Clings to a pillow and calls it good.

-

Harsher cough. Leaves him gasping, comes up sour, green. (Probably not great, but whatever. Better out than in, isn’t that the how the saying goes?)

-

The next room over, Merle chatters and Taako snaps and Merle chatters more . A conversation, of sorts, about. About. Organization? Merle’s lack thereof.

A familiar argument. He'll have to get up soon, sort out what time it is, try to play peacemaker, but for now—

Magnus pulls the covers over his head. Five more minutes.

-

Flashes of an ornately carved chair, and stained fingers, and brown eyes, a yellow scarf, and a conversation, and the warmest grin Magnus has ever seen.

-

He wakes with tears in his eyes, welling hot.

Tries to breathe slow, will them away, but—useless. Only makes him cough, cracking sharp, which makes the tears spill over anyway, and then there’s more, and more, and more, and his face crumples.

It was such a nice dream.

Mostly memory, and without any ash. Just her smile, and her calloused hands, stained from one of her favorite projects (she was so proud of that chair), and her scarf.

He picked out that scarf. Saw it in a shop window, thought of her, bought it on impulse. Frayed its edges on the walk home so she could fiddle with them. Gave it to her the second he walked in the door, wrapped in only his jacket because he’d forgotten paper and was too impatient to find something in the house to wrap it in properly, he wanted to see her smile immediately. So he gave it to her, and she rolled her eyes, and undid the coat, and smiled in that way that crinkled up her eyes, and put it on, and kissed him.

(It hung in the workshop, mostly, and she fiddled with it as she passed by, but sometimes she wore it, and sometimes she let him borrow it.) (Always a delight. It was pretty, and stimmy, and smelled of her besides.) (Really, it was—so nice.)

(He misses it. Wishes he still had it. Wishes—)

He smiles, watery and tight, because it’s a nice memory, and she’d want him to. (Doesn't stop crying, though, silent, shoulders quivering, chest seized up.)

-

He lays still, face hot and stretched and heavy.

Should get a drink, he thinks fuzzily. Rehydrate. Rehydrate and get up and.

And.

He muffles a long, rough cough in his blankets. Ow.

"Ow,” Merle echoes from somewhere above him, sympathetically, as though he’s heard and agrees.

Magnus jumps. Regrets it instantly, when invisible gremlins use his brain like a weird squishy gong.

"Easy, just me,” he says.

Magnus pushes himself up, eyes closed against the sudden wooziness and mild agony that comes from one's brain being mistaken for a percussion instrument. Pries them open, gropes for words for a long moment. “...Need somethin?”

Merle’s face does a thing. “Came to see if the rumors were true.”

Magnus doesn’t have the energy to take the bait.

Merle plows on. “Taako said you were dead.”

"M’fine. G’way.”

"Well, all right. Y’want anythin first?”

Water. Soup. Blankets.

Scarf.

Magnus lays back down, eyes burning all over again. “Nn-mm.”

"Kay. I'll be over here, shout if y’need me.”

"Mm.”

-

He sleeps fitfully, tossing and turning among itchy, sweaty blankeys. (Trying not to toss and turn cause it makes the gremlins in his skull super angry.)

-

Wakes, thirsty, achy, annoyed.

Goes to the kitchen. Gets water.

Drinks.

Back to bed.

-

Magnus coughs, knuckles his chest with one hand, places the other flat against the wall.

Slips out of bed. Stumbles to the kitchen, trying to keep his upper half as still as possible (even the slightest shift makes his head pound somethin fierce, now). Makes tea. (Tea should help.) On a whim, goes digging for Merle’s hidden stash of Fantasy Campbell's.

Finds it. Makes a can. Sits down with spoon and bowl and steaming soup. Has a little. It’s not as bad as Taako says, but skimpy on the veggies (a few chunks of celery, and no carrots at all).

Three more bites, then he pushes the bowl away. (Isn’t as hungry as he thought.)

Goes back to bed.

-

Magnus’s throat hurts the smallest amount possible, his nose doesn’t even remotely qualify as runny, and he definitely doesn’t have anything approaching a headache—yet. But still he throws himself dramatically on the bed, announces that he’s dying, that only one thing can save him.

"I’m not making you soup.”

"Aww.”

"You’re fine, Mags.”

"But Jules,” he says. “Pleaaaase.”

"No.”

Magnus grumbles. Scrubs his itchy nose. “Okay.” He scrubs it more. Then, “...What if we made it together?”

"Together,” Julia repeats.

"Yeah! Like, I hand you the ingredients, or you hand me the ingredients, or we split the chopping, or. Something,” he says, running out of steam. “I could stir?” He hates stirring; it’s boring, too much standing in one place. But if it gets him soup….

“...All right,” Julia says.

Magnus punches the air.

"If you wash your hands first.”

"Done!” Magnus says, and scurries off to do just that.

"And get all the stuff out!” Julia calls after him.

Once his hands are clean, he pulls out the big pot, the chicken, the onions, the carrots, the weird lettuce….

And then Julia joins him, and they begin, working side-by-side, brushing shoulders.

-

Magnus can’t stop coughing. He's running out of makeshift tissue to spit into. Needs to find more.

(Also needs to find where he left the Fantasy Dayquil. Should really get up and look. Take some. He should really...)

-

Not enough blankets.

He’s not. Not chilled, exactly. But there aren’t enough blankets.

-

Okay.

Okay. Chilled, now. Chilled and.

The thought slips away.

He shivers. Clings to a pillow.

-

Magnus covers his ears.

Murmuring in the other room, pitched too low to be comprehensible, but loud enough it makes his ears shudder. Shifting, scraping feet. The dull, droning hum of the moonbase wards.

His hands drop down as he coughs long and hard. Wheezes. (Crackly breath and roaring ears. More for the chaos list.)

When he catches his breath, the murmuring’s stopped, but now there's footsteps and door creak and shuffling and callused hand on forehead and muttering and.

The blankets lift up.

Magnus waits, but they don't come back down. (No one slides in.)

The penny drops. Magnus swallows. (His throat aches, low and flat.)

Reaches for wherever his blankets went. Whoever stole them, since it wasn't. Since.

Can't find them. Not within reach, and he's too. It's too much work to look over the side of the bed, or demand them back from the thief. (Maybe they're not even on the moon anymore. Maybe they've been launched planetside.) (Wants to laugh at the mental image of a pod full of blankets, careening down to the ground, but. Too tired.)

So he lays there, instead.

Feels bad. Prickly. Open window. Feather fall. Line of sight. (Wrong words. It's something else. Something.)

He presses his back to the wall, curls around a pillow.

Shivers, coughs.

-

Something warm pressed into his hands.

Mug? Mug.

He wants to tell whoever’s given it to him to go away, let him sleep, he can make his own tea.

...But he's thirsty, and it's warm, and he isn't sure he can talk just now anyway, so. He sits up a little, drinks.

Bitter. Very very bitter. (Have they never heard of sugar? Of milk? Of honey?) (Gods, but Magnus would kill for some honey right now. Some sweet honey-lemon….) (But instead, this. This bitter...Thing.) Medicinal, tastes like. Oversteeped. Awful. Makes him cough.

Magnus drinks it anyway, slowly. (It’s so warm.)

And then the mug is taken from him, and then. Nothing.

-

Still no blankets. Still too. Something. (Less cold, though.)

Magnus curls up small. A minute later, lays flat. A minute later, rolls over. A few seconds after that, rolls the other way. Wraps his arms around himself. Curls again.

Doesn’t work. Doesn’t work, unsatisfying, wrong. Can’t get comfortable. Needs blankets, for that. Wants—

-

Time passes, in an agonizing stretch of shifting positions and weird skin and half-dreams of giant soap bubbles (and socks inside the bubbles) and shivering and coughing and gray.

-

And then Magnus sits up, slow. Scrubs his face, drops his hands to his sides. Lifts them a little, watches them tremble. Wonders how long it’s been since the...what did he last eat. Illegal soup? Illegal soup. He should make some more.

...Or maybe not. Even the illegal kind seems like too many steps, right now. Maybe just some bread. ...With some jam on. It’s healthy if there’s jam, right? That’s fruit. There’s nutrients in fruit. Vitamins. All that good stuff. Yeah.

Yeah. He’s gonna get some bread with jam. He’s gonna. (Any minute now, he’s gonna.)

Finally, he stands. Steadies himself on the bedpost. Not—not so much dizzy, exactly, as lightheaded (there’s a difference, he maintains), and sort of. Shaky. (Good thing he’s getting food.)

Makes his way, a little off-kilter, to the kitchen, and makes a beeline for the bread.

"Hey,” Merle says, from startlingly close by (how did Magnus not see him), over by the mugs. "You’re up!”

Magnus nods. (Then makes a face because, uh, ow.)

"Feelin better?”

Magnus considers. Gives a thumbs up, then grabs a slice of bread. And another.

"Not in a talking mood, huh?”

Magnus shrugs, shuffling over in search of jam (Merle always puts it back in the weirdest places, it’s a scavenger hunt every time). It’s less that he’s not in a talking mood and more he hasn’t spoken in…ages, it feels, and it’s gone comfortable, and he doesn’t want to break that. (That, and he’s not super sure he even can talk, just now, and’s in no rush to try. So.)

"That’s all right,” Merle says. “I can talk enough for both of us.”

Magnus cracks a tired grin. He’s not wrong. (And ooh, there’s the jam, in with the plates.)

"Got a lot to fill y’in on, after all. Missed two days of gossip!”

Two? That’s not too bad. Could’ve been worse, he reflects, as he slathers jam on one slice of bread and sticks the other on top, and closes the jam again, leaving the knife sticky on the counter. (It’s gonna make Taako yell, later, but whatever. That’s a problem for future Magnus.)

"Like, you won’t believe what Avi—”

Magnus wanders over to a stool, takes a bite of his jam sandwich (sort of tasteless, mostly sticky), and lets Merle’s tidal wave of information wash over him, only half-listening. Gets snatches, here and there, of incomprehensible memes, kick-me signs, something about green milk—was there a prank war?—And what Merle describes as "a real banger” from Johann, before he rounds off with, "And that’s what you missed at the good ol B.o.B.”

Magnus gives him another thumbs up. Takes another bite of his sandwich (half-gone now).

"So anyway,” Merle says. “I was here for...What was I here for.” He pats at his pockets, looks around, frowning. “Oh.” He takes a mug out of the cabinet. “Tea! Y’want any?”

Magnus shrugs. He can take it or leave it.

Merle takes out a second mug. “I heard yes!”

Magnus rolls his eyes. Smothers a yawn. Takes another bite.

By the time he’s finally finished the sticky sandwich, there’s a mug in front of him, steaming. He picks it up absentmindedly, drinks, and burns his tongue on an awful bitter mess. (The same, he’s acutely aware, as before, when he was all. Like that.)

"Careful,” Merle says, with poorly-disguised mirth. “It’s hot.”

Magnus flips him off half-heartedly. Takes another sip, smaller. Makes a face, because it’s still bitter, because of course it is.

"It’s not that bad.”

It really, really is, actually, but Magnus wipes the look off his face anyway and takes another sip.

Merle laughs. “I kid, it’s terrible, I know. You want cream and sugar or?”

Magnus takes another awful sip. Decides the food and drink’ve woken him up enough to try speaking. “S’fine.”

"Uh-huh.” A pause, as Merle drinks his own tea. “Speaking of fine,” he says casually. “About earlier.”

Magnus winces. Goodbye chill vibe, hello burning embarrassment.

"When y’said you were good and didn’t want anything, what you really meant was ‘Taako was right, I am dying, please save me, o wise and mighty and handsome cleric.’”

Despite himself, Magnus laughs. (It makes him cough something terrible, but. No regrets.)

Merle laughs, too. “See, that’s what I'm talkin about. Dying. That’s a dead person noise.”

He laughs again. Coughs again. Winces and says, good-naturedly, "Shut up.”

"Naw. Said I'd do all the talking, didn’t I?” Merle’s eyes twinkle a moment, then go serious. “But really, kid. For future reference, that ain’t fine.”

Magnus shrugs. He’s had worse. And anyway— "S’just a cold.”

"Oh buddy, you’re way past that.”

Magnus blinks. “...Oh.”

"Yeah.”

He shrugs, uncomfortable. “Well. Wasn’t that bad.” Wasn’t fun, but he’s used to muddling through unfun things. And it wasn’t, like. He wasn’t on death’s door or anything.

"Agree to disagree,” Merle says lightly. “But next time your good buddy offers you a blank check, maybe just take it. Y’know, just go hog wild.”

"The hoggest of wilds,” Magnus says. Then, "Wait.”

Merle snorts tea everywhere.

Magnus shields his face, makes a disgusted sound. “It wasn’t that funny!”

"Your face,” Merle splutters.

Magnus ignores him. Slips off the stool, carefully, in search of honey. Adds it to his tea. Sits back down to drink it, suddenly drained all over again.

When he’s finished, he leaves the mug where it is, waves at Merle, and trudges back to bed. (Sleep. He’s gonna sleep now. For like, a whole week. Maybe a month. Maybe a year.)

Except. Except there’s no blankets.

He’s so tired, and there’s no. There’s.

He sits down on the bed. Stares at his feet. Looks up, sluggish, as he sees one Merle Highchurch approach.

"Y’want anything?” Merle asks, one eyebrow raised. It sounds like a challenge.

Tastes like one, too, as Magnus chews over his answer. He’s very, very tempted to fail it out of spite—fuck Merle, he’s not his dad, and Magnus can handle himself just fine—but. But.

"I want,” Magnus says, glaring. “My blankets back.”

Merle grins. “Sure thing.”

And he retrieves them, and dumps them on top of Magnus, who falls back, resituates himself, fixes the blankets, curls round a pillow, and falls asleep in seconds.

-

Magnus stands in front of the pot and stirs. Shifts back and forth on itchy feet, makes sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Walks round the kitchen, comes back to stir again. And another loop. And another. His legs tire, and then his arm, and then his eyes, and he wants to do something, anything else, but doesn’t. Keeps stirring.

After a while, Julia walks up behind him, takes the spoon from his grasp.

"I was doing it,” he protests.

"I know. My turn now.” And she pushes him to a nearby stool and takes over.

He doesn’t fall asleep watching her, but it’s a near thing.

-

Magnus wakes to the smell of—something. He isn’t sure. Food, of some kind. Savory. Soup? Stew? (He hopes soup. Stew’s a weird texture, sometimes.)

He stands, a little more alive than last time, a lot less lightheaded, and wanders to the kitchen, and plops himself down on a stool. “Hey.”

Taako flicks an ear at him without turning around. “Yeah, hi.”

"Whatcha makin?”

"Soup.”

Score! “Ooh, can I have some?”

“...Sure. Needs a minute first.”

"I’ll wait.”

Taako stirs a bit more, shakes something in, stirs again. Turns off the heat, ladles some into a bowl and sets it in front of him with a spoon. “Voila. Best damn chicken soup you’ve ever had, right there.”

"I’ll be the judge of that,” Magnus says. Tries some. (It is, of course, heavenly. Just about everything Taako makes is.) (Except that pasta, that once. But then, that doesn’t really count. It’s not Taako’s fault Magnus can’t stand white sauce, after all.) (No such problem, here. This is—) Magnus tries more. Relishes being able to actually taste it, tries to parse out the flavors, ingredients.

"Well?” Taako grins. “It’s baller, right?”

“...It has carrots.”

“...It, uh. Sure does, m’man. But that’s not, like, an actual answer. Is it or is it not baller?” A pause. “Bear in mind there is a right answer, here.”

Magnus laughs. “Sorry, yeah. It’s great. It has carrots.”

Taako squints. “You’re weird.”

"Mm,” Magnus says, already stuffing his face with more soup. “What’s the occasion, anyway?” He pauses, struck. “Y’make it for me?”

"Don’t flatter yourself, Mango.”

"For yourself?” Magnus lowers his spoon, a knot forming in his stomach, and looks Taako over. “You’re not sick, are you? I didn’t—?”

"You,” Taako says, brandishing the ladle at him and rolling his eyes, "Are very tiring. But no, you didn’t give me your stupid moon-plague. Relax. Sometimes a guy just feels like makin soup.” A pause. “That, and someone left some contraband on the counter yesterday, so. Y’know. Spite.” Another pause. “Wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

Contraband…?

...Oh. The Fantasy Campbell's. Crime-in-a-can. Which he. Abandoned, a little bit. Magnus feels his cheeks heat up. “Um. N-o…?”

Taako squints at him. “Mmmmm.”

Magnus shifts. And then squirms. And then, "It was Merle’s!”

"I knew it.”

“....Imadeithough,” Magnus adds in a rush.

"Traitor!”

"Sorry,” Magnus says, half-laughing, and curls his arms around his bowl protectively, in case Taako tries to take it back as punishment. "Wasn’t as good as yours,” he offers, to bolster his chances.

"Damn right,” Taako says, and makes himself a bowl, and takes it out of the kitchen. "Don’t finish off the whole pot!” he calls over his shoulder.

"I won’t!” Magnus calls back. (It’s only half-lying if he only takes half, right?)

-

Another day later sees Magnus fit as a fiddle, or near enough. (Still coughing up gross stuff, some, but up and alert and moving at regular speed, which he figures is good enough.)

First thing, he finds Carey and apologizes for disappearing on her. She just shakes her head, says it’s no big deal, she heard he was down for the count and’s just glad he’s up and about again. (She’s using her sincere voice, like before, but doesn’t rest a hand on his shoulder this time, just bumps it with her own. It’s...nice.)

-

Back in the dorm, Magnus paints Taako’s nails. Taako inspects them when he’s through, as ever, and then paints Merle’s, who does Magnus’s again after that.

While they wait for their nails to dry, Magnus tells them about marsh ducks. Merle shares a little about the weird poison plant he almost killed Magnus with (not actually poison, it turns out, but useful in a variety of medicines, if prepared the right way). Taako expounds on the fifteen different ways his soup is superior to “that shit you insist on putting in your trash body, Merle.”

It’s nice.

Merle falls asleep, right there on the ground, and Taako laughs at him and talks about drawing something crude on his face, but doesn’t actually move to do it, and five minutes later he’s out, too.

And then it’s just Magnus, squished between them now, after all their reshuffling during the infodump sesh. And in theory he can totally extricate himself without elbowing them, if he’s careful, if he’s slow, no problem. Might even leave them asleep, if he plays his cards right, puts his budding rogue skills to work. Slip off to the comfort of his own bed.

But he doesn’t want to, is the thing. It’s comfy enough down here, and he’s tired, and his rogue skills aren’t that great yet (or great at all, really, if he’s being honest, he’s got a lot to learn still, a lot of quality time with Carey in his future), and he doesn’t want to risk waking them, so.

He stays put. Drifts off to Merle’s snoring, and the soft thwip of Taako’s ears hitting the floor now and then.

-

Wakes, briefly, in the middle of the night, to find that Merle’s using him as a pillow, and Taako—now wearing his CPAP mask—has commandeered his right arm.

Merle’s snoring’s a little grating this close to his ears, and Taako’s giving him a bit of a dead arm, and the floor’s not great for his back, and none of them had the good sense to bring blankets down here so it’s weirdly open, and Magnus should probably hate this, but. He’s heard worse sounds, and slept worse places, and the weight’s nice, and Merle’s grounding and Taako’s soft and everything’s pleasantly hazy and warm and it’s. It’s nice.

So he drifts again—despite the noise, and the pins’n’needles, and the ghost of backaches future—drifts, something like comfortable, into easy, dreamless sleep.