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Legally Blondes

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Music bounces through the room, Lup is humming along and occasionally belting out a good line as she tries to put together her outfit. Clothes are strewn everywhere, makeup compacts are open on almost every flat surface, and Garyl has his toys stranded hanging from half open drawers. Lup pulls on a leather jacket, black with red and orange acrylic paint flames decorating it, before she stares in her full length mirror and pulls it off.

“Hey, magenta.” Taako says, waving his hand over his shoulder. He pulls his hand back and resumes applying his eyeliner as Lup whistles in confirmation. She spins over to the shared dresser and lifts a magenta ponytail holder. She throws it across the room underhand and Taako swipes it out of the air, rolling his eyes as he pulls his hair up. Garyl sits up from his perch on the bed, watching the fabric go flying before he stretches and flicks his tail upright.

Taako scrutinizes his reflection, turning his head back and forth. “Ugh, actually, I change my mind. Gimme the gold one.” He pulls the scrunchie back out of his hair and throws it back, Lup barks a laugh and swats it down to the floor. It bounces and Garyl trills before he dives across the floor to catch it between his teeth.

“Garyl,” Lup whines. She sighs and steps in beat with the music across the room to one of the shared dressers. She bounces her head back and forth as she swirls her finger over the piles of mess on the dresser. She snaps, and plucks a gold sequin scrunchie from one of the piles. She stretches is back on her finger to shoot it over, it snaps into the back of Taako’s head, and he huffs in faux pain. A few of the sequins catch in Taako’s hair making the band hang and he reaches back to grab it.

“Thanks, oh sweet baby sister.” Taako sings ironically, looking at her reflection in his mirror.

“Not a problem, sweet baby brother.” Lup sings back, not looking at him or the mirror to his infuriation.

“You are so lost on him, you know that? It’s revolting.” Taako says, making a gurgling noise and opening his mouth wide to imitate gagging.

“Jealousy talking, blah blah blah.” Lup tucks a curl behind her ear, and puts her hands on her hips. “I still can’t decide what to wear.” The curls falls forward again and Lup huffs before pulling her short hair into a ponytail atop her head.

“It’s just a date Lu, you’ll look better than him no matter what.” Taako turns from his stool, looking at her. “What’s up?”

“He talked about visiting his grandmother. The one with the shit ton of old money. And traditions. And...”

“And?”

She takes the tip of her thumb in her mouth. “I think- I think he got the family’s engagement ring.”

“Oh shit- d’you-”

“I don’t know!” She covers her face with her hands, before she takes a deep breath and throws her arms up across her head. “I-I love him Taako.”

“Hey, no shit, he’s lucky to have you.” Taako kicks his legs out and rests his chin on his palm. “So you’d say yes?”

“It’s- it’s not so easy-” She throws her arms down, and folds them across her middle.

“Well, if this is an important date then we need to go get you a new outfit. Wanna get Maggie and Ren?”

Lup nods, and pulls her leather jacket back on. She turns to her reflection and sighs again, fixing her hair. She sees Taako stand up from his stool in the reflection and when she turns around he’s disappeared to look presentable. Lup sighs for what feels like the hundredth time and looks down at Garyl, still ravaging the scrunchie. She drops to a squat, and tilts her head.

“What do you think?” She asks. The cat looks up at her, gives a slow blink, and returns to his new toy. “Yeah, you’re right.” She pushes back upright, and slaps her hands against her thighs.

“You ready or what?” Taako calls from outside, knocking on the door from the other side.

“Shit, yeah- I’ll-” She brushes down the front of her shirt, adjusts her shorts and goes for the door. She pulls it open, flinching as dozens of voices cheer and silly string and confetti start flying.

“Congratulations you two!” Seemingly every person in the school cheers, hands going to hug Lup and rub her arms.

“What's all this?” Lup smiles, a laugh worming out from her chest.

“I can't tell you, when I came out here I didn't get nearly this reaction.” Taako tries to play cool, but his smile betrays his words. He's still wearing his chill clothes, but he's also getting wrapped up in hugs and cheers. Thankfully Ren is the one to bring sense (as usual).

“Y'all beat the old GPA record!” She smiles wide, and takes Taako in a strong hug before taking Lup. “Four point three four is one hell of a semester point average!”

“I didn't even think it was possible!” Magnus appears from the crowd, a beeline straight for Lup as he chucks her into the air and onto his shoulder. Lup is laughing and hunched over her friend, tears welling in her glee.

“Yeah, that's higher than you can count, inn'it my man?” Taako teases, Magnus barking a laugh completely unbothered. Lup smacks the top of Magnus’ head, and folds over to wrap herself around his head.

“Alright you animals- Lup's got a big date! We gotta go!” Taako calls, although he keeps his arm over Ren's shoulder. “You two are helping out, Lup has a hunch something big is gonna happen tonight.”

“Oh?” Both Magnus and Ren smile, wiggling their eyebrows. Lup leaps from Magnus's shoulder, she puts her hands on her knees before she stands.

“I think- he's gonna propose.” She crosses her arms, and smiles softly. There's a chorus of awh -s and a few people bump elbows or shoulders with Lup and she giggles.

“Double grats!” Magnus picks Lup up in another strong hug, “I was thinkin’ of proposing to Jules soon, you've gotta tell me how he does it-”

“Yawn!” Taako yells, laying his head on the side of Ren's, “If you wanna be ready for this big night we gotta shop- Now .”

“Alright drama queen-”

“That's drama queen of honor to you-” Taako snorts, pushing off of Ren and moving to punch Lup in the arm.

Lup takes it, and rubs her burning cheeks with her palms.

 

Magnus drives the four of them to the nearest goodwill, and Ren most surprisingly is the first out of the car.

“Alright, what are you thinking?” She pops her hands on her hips and swishes her skirt. “You don’t weigh quite as much as me so you should be able to layer up-”

“Oh, layers?” Taako pops out next, rubbing his hands together. “Have fun Lulu, I’m gonna go put on so many shirts and jackets and coats and scarves that I’ll cease to be human.”

“There he goes, you just had to say layers.” Lup unbuckles her seatbelt and pushes her door open. Taako disappears into the store and Magnus runs in after him. “I was thinking something with layers, I wanna look good but I still wanna be me.”

“Now that it’s just girl time, we can make that happen.”

 

Lup twirls the skirt, looking at herself in the dressing room mirror. It’s red, a cascade of warm hue flowers decorating it and trailing up to the bodice. Then it’s like a corset, and underneath Ren insisted she wear a flowy cinch sleeved shirt. Then over her arm is her jacket, and her tights and boots.

“I don’t know Ren, this feels kinda weird.”

“Alright, what’s weird?”

“I don’t know- my stomach is just in knots and my reflection feels weird-”

“That’s not the outfits fault hon, you’re nervous.” She knocks on the door and Lup leaves the fitting room. “Oh, you look beautiful.” She smiles, clenching her hands together.

“I feel good, I just-” She huffs a breath. “I don’t know.” Ren rushes forward, pulling Lup from her leaning on the door frame into a tight hug. Ren is soft and short, she wraps Lup up in thick arms and holds her close.

“You’re gonna be fine Lup, you’re just nervous about what you’re gonna say.”

“What am I gonna say?” Lup lets go and Ren smiles.

“What are you gonna say?”

“I think I’m gonna say yes.” She smiles, before letting loose a breathy laugh. Ren cheers, scooping her in a hug again and Lup clings to her.

“You face the facts?” Taako emerges from the next dressing room and crossing his arms. He's still smiling, he's found a huge sunhat and he's wearing three jackets over a crop top, and it feels so Taako. Lup lets go of Ren and moves to him instead, Taako giving a nervous laugh as he hugs her back.

Lup cups her hands around her mouth, and yells into the store. “Magnus! Come spin me around!”

“I'll be right there!!”

 

Lup stuffs dozens of bobby pins into her short hair, checks her makeup for the sixth time in as many minutes, and takes a deep breath. Magnus drives her to the restaurant, he's not subtle at all in the way he regretfully informs her he won't be able to pick her up, she'll have to have her date give her a ride home tonight (or tomorrow morning, he says before Lup socks him in the arm). She enters the restaurant, butterflies in her stomach and glee across her face plain as day. When she spots him, she rushes over, heels clacking as she throws herself into her seat.

“Hey babe-” She smiles, looking up at her boyfriend. And it’s at this point if Lup could go back in time, she'd jump forward and throw the table into the air, or scream, or even just play the record scratch for the other diners at the restaurant who are about to see one of the lowest moments in her life. But she can't, so she just smiles at her boyfriend.

“Hey doll,” Greg replies, tapping his fingers along the lip of his wine glass. “Was afraid you'd be late.”

“Blame my brother,” Lup rolls her eyes, and folds her hands on the table. “I wouldn't miss this date for the world.”

“I'm glad, we have a lot to discuss about our future together.” He nods, and lifts his glass. Lup smiles, and lifts her own. They clink together and Lup takes a long drink, while Greg sets his right back down on the table.

“I am-” Lup breathes, “fully amenable to that discussion.” She takes another drink of her wine, and then one of the small water glass beside it. Greg smirks, before he opens his mouth to show off his gold tooth and Lup giggles.

“I need to be serious,” He says, leaning forward in his chair and taking Lup's hand. She leans forward in return, tightening her hand around Greg's. “I can't keep screwing around when I'm s'pposed to be a senator by the time I'm thirty.”

“You're part of a legacy, I get it. There are, traditions in place and shit.” Lup feels her chest start to buzz, and she can't notice Greg's absolute indifference through her excitement.

“I gotta stop screwin’ around, and that means we're gonna have to- Lup.” He says, taking her (left, she notices) hand in both of his. “We've been datin’ for three years. And they've been a wonderful time. But things have to change.”

Lup feels the words buzzing on the tip of her tongue.

“So, I think the only natural thing to do-” Lup opens her mouth as Greg continues talking and their words overlap each other.

“I do-”

“Is break up.”

Lup blinks, and feels the color drain from her face. “What?”

Greg gives a sigh, it sounds like he's complaining about a lost sports game. “I need someone serious, Lup. That just ain't you.” He gives a half assed smile and Lup retches her hand back. She scrubs it against her bodice, and stares Greg down.

“What do you mean? I'm serious!”

“No, you're not. You're- you're not the kinda person I want society see me with. I love you sure, but I can't marry you.” He says it like it's the most obvious thing in the world, like he isn't making Lup's world come crashing down around her feet.

“What do you mean-”

“You're not serious doll, you're wacky and wild and colorful and it's- It's not wife material for a guy like me.”

Lup is staring at him still, she hasn't moved and she's not sure if she's still breathing. Hot tears well up in her eyes, and she swallows a shaky half formed word.

“I'm going to Harvard, I'm gonna be a senator. You just don't cut it.” Greg's voice is carefree as usual, like this isn't a discussion, a mutual decision, something that changes both of their lives and tears Lup apart for being herself.

“I-” Tears roll down Lup's cheeks and she pulls the tablecloth into two fists. It pulls all of the plates and silverware, both wine glasses fall and she doesn't even move to apologize. Instead, she shoves down on the table and throws herself upright, rattling the table and sending her chair to the floor. “You're breaking up with me because you can't marry someone like me ? Someone you've been in a serious long term relationship with for three years ?!”

Greg looks around the restaurant, the low music coming to a stop as Lup starts yelling. He moves to grab the empty glasses and wave over a waiter, speaking to Lup through grit teeth. “Lup you're making a scene-”

“Of fucking course I'm gonna make a scene! I love you Greg! I-I thought you were going to propose and we would be happy together and instead you're leaving me because- because what?! I dye my hair?! I have a brand - I-I don't let assholes step all over me and I'll fight for what I believe in!?” Lup snaps her mouth shut and tears at the tablecloth again, throwing plates and glasses to shatter on the floor. A few waiters start approaching the table and Greg stands up trying to take Lup's elbow. She gives it to him, right into his chest before she shoves him to the floor.

“You're- You're right. I'm not right for you. I'm better than you.” Her words are strong, but still betrayed by the sob that interrupts her, the shake and the snarl that falls to babbling. “I despise you Greg Grimaldis! You're a disgusting, lowlife, slimy- skeevy son of a bitch !”

And with a few more shoves out of her way, Lup rushes out of the restaurant to a confused chorus of onlookers. Nobody stops her, she doesn't even hear Greg as she rips bobby pins out of her hair, scrubs at her eyes makeup be damned. She's sobbing on a nearby park bench when she finally feels put together enough to dig her phone out. She swipes it open, and calls Taako.

“Ugh this better not be a butt dial while he's getting your pants off-”

And Lup bursts out another sob, uncontrollable as Taako just talks about Greg.

“L-Lup? What's-”

“H-he… H-” She tries to take a deep breath before she rocks forward in another cry, “He broke up with me!” She screams, a few dogs and dog owners turning towards her in the low light of the park.

“Oh my god-” She hears Taako fumble with his phone, the loud whine of Garyl, and then what she guess is Taako running down the hall. “Magnus! Magnus fucking Burnsides this is important we're going now- ” And he puts the receiver back to his mouth. “Give us five minutes we'll be there.”

Lup nods, and tries to sniffle only resulting in a choking whimper.

“Do you want me to stay on the line? MAGNUS- We're going or I will literally fucking kill you -”

“N-No- I just-...” Her voice dies down, and she pulls her leather jacket from her side to cover her head like she can disappear and forget the entire evening ever happened. That she didn't get her heartbroken, scream, and make some poor employee's evening a complete hell. “I just don't know w-why- or what I…”

“You didn't do anything Lup, he doesn't fucking deserve you.”

“I wasn't serious enough- but I… I was seriously in love with him, w-wasn't that enough?”

“Lup, we’ll be right there. Just keep breathing, where are you?”

“Wright Square-”

“In and out babe.”

She turns her phone off and shrinks down on herself, hiding under her jacket. It feels like barely any time at all when she hears Taako's favorite heels clicking on the brick.

“Hey,” Taako breathes. He starts to lift the jacket away as Lup shoots forward to cling to him, ruining his shirt and holding onto him like the lifeline he is. Magnus lifts the both of them up, holding Lup tight and leaning forward to cradle them. She's crying on and off, but Taako and Magnus listen and let her. Taako pulls her into the backseat and she follows blindly. When she blinks, they're back at the dorms and Taako is try to coax her up. She takes his hand numbly, and falls into bed.

Chapter Text

Taako is laying lounged out across the bed, Lup is tunneled into his side with one of her legs locked over her brother's. Some shitty soap opera is playing over their rinky little tv and Lup barely pays attention to it. Garyl is curled up in the space between the twins, mostly on Lup's chest purring as he rubs his face along Lup's chin, he has her full attention. Taako hs both of their focus in the show, he's loudly critiquing the love triangle. He swings his arm a bit too wide, making Garyl bolt up from his spot and swipe at Taako's sleeve.

Lup grunts and takes a deep breath. “Hey.” She lifts the cat by his middle and sets him down on the edge of the bed.

“She speaks-” Taako says, looking over at her. “How are you doing?”

“Functional again.” She feels her shoulders slump, but she believes it. “Hungry.”

“Functional indeed, you want something easy or real food?”

“I don’t wanna get up-” Lup whines, falling forward down on the bed. Garyl flicks his tail, climbing right back onto Lup’s side then the small of her back. “Garyl agrees.”

“I agree too, but somebody’s gotta get the snacks.” Taako digs himself out of his blanket wrap and pushes upright on the floor. “I’ll be right back,” He pads over to the door and pulls it open. Lup zones out looking at the TV, she lets Garyl meow and after a few moments she looks up at the new figure in the room. Magnus gives a small wave, and a sad timid smile that does not at all suit his towering frame or his bright band-aids.

“Hey.” He says gently.

“Hey.” She replies in a monotone. She turns her head back to the TV, out of words.

“Lup, you should eat some real food, get out, see the sun.”

“Three days for three years, it’s fine.” Lup says. Magnus sits down on her bed, and Lup worms her way over to lay her stomach across his thighs. She lets out a low groan, and Garyl echoes before climbing up onto her back.

“When Taako gets back, I wanna take you guys out.” Magnus runs one of his hands over Lup’s head squeezing a greasy tuft of her curls.

“Gasp, what will Julia say?” Lup says, “I can’t believe you-”

“Jules loves you, she wanted to march back to Greg’s apartment and break his legs the moment I told her what happened.”

Lup hums and adjusts her head on a pillow, looking up at Magnus.

“He’d deserve it.”

“He does.” Magnus smiles again sadly at her, “You know what always makes us feel better? You’re hair’s already nasty anyway.” Magnus keeps talking as Lup hums unsurely, “No- no no no. You’re slimy and Taako’s chewed his nails and I've nearly destroyed mine, it’ll be good. You don’t even have to put on real clothes. Maybe something clean, but I think walking around with me grants you sweats privileges.”

“I can’t be bothered enough to put on real clothes. Sweats sound good. Can it wait until after snacks?”

“Snacks always come first.”

 

Lup isn’t as chatty as she normally is on the drive to the beauty parlor. Magnus and Taako make up for it though, Magnus has a long explanation as to why dogs are better than humans and Taako barely gives into his topic before trying to switch him to a different track. Lup laughs, and the entire car seems to take a breath. They climb out of Magnus’ beat up van and file into the salon, Taako already adamant in his color choice and Lup plucking at her split ends.

“Gonna color it?” Magnus asks, pulling open the door.

“Yeah,” Lup replies as she walks through, “Haven't gone red in a while.”

“You gonna bleach the hell out of it?” Taako calls over his shoulder, signing the sheet at the front desk.

“Gotta make sure my red is fire truck, little mermaid, obnoxious, screaming ‘I’m-better-than-you’ red. I have a brand to uphold.” Lup gives a tight lipped smile, and Taako squawks in reply.

“Oh fuck yes!”

 

Taako feels his lip curl, and his eyebrows furrow. He has an idea. He looks over his shoulder, careful to not disturb the woman doing his nails. Lup is seated in the chair just opposite his across the empty space of the parlor. The bleach is out of her hair, it looks sad and dead but her hairdresser is starting to apply the color and wrap it in foil. She notices his look, and quirks a brow.

“So.” Taako says.

“So?”

So- He-”

“Taako, I don't wanna talk about him.”

“I get it-I really do- but just hear me out.”  Lup can’t move her head, so Taako holds her conversationally hostage. “He said you weren’t serious enough. What’s more serious than beating him at his own game of life.”

“Are you-” Lup squints at her twin, “Taako are you suggesting we go to law school?”

“No I’m saying we go to Harvard and just- be better than him in every aspect of his life.” Taako says it like it’s the most rational thing in the world, like it won’t cost thousands of dollars to get back at her shitty ex-boyfriend. Like Greg when he was breaking up with her.

“Alright- I’m in. How hard could it be?” The red sinks into her hair strong, she jokes with the hair stylist and Magnus and Taako take the seats around her to talk. The stylist washes the red out, and her new look helps settle the nerve and the uncertainty in her chest. She doesn't need him. She is better than him. And she is going to make his life a living hell.

Lup and Taako start looking into what it takes to go to law school, what it costs. The money almost turns them away as soon as they see the tuition. They made it to where they are because of scholarships and savings. Harvard for the both of them, it won’t nearly be easy. Lup’s the one who finds the scholarship qualifications, some for academic excellence, for minorities, for staying on campus, for extracurriculars. They cut it down, if they can manage to hook every scholarship they can fit the cost is a little less terrifying. Magnus catches them counting their savings and slams down a blank check. Ren offers next, then Johan and Avi, friend after friend after friend comes together over the following week. Not everyone can help with a hundred bucks, some offer books, some offer food and drinks, some share tips and tricks for studying, for essays, for what the colleges will want to hear and want to see.

The money is the hardest part, once they have the first part done and locked down, it’s on to talk with their counselor about transferring credits and all the easy shit.

“So, what are you two interested in?”

“We want to go to Harvard.” Taako says, leaning forward and tapping on the guy’s desk. “So fix our shit up for transferring.” He pops his chin in his hand, elbow propped on his knee.

“What?”

“We’re going to Harvard.” Lup says, “So get everything wrapped up.”

The counselor pauses, he pulls his hands back from his keyboard and he looks over at them. “That’s a top three school.”

“And we’re the top two students here. Four point three four GPAs” Both twins say.

“Yes, but you’re incredibly specified majors,” the counselor starts typing away on his desktop, he turns the monitor to gesture to it. “You’re both double majors, yes, but a culinary and chemistry, and a music theory and chemistry. Harvard won’t care.”

“Well that fuckin’ sucks for them, cause they’re gonna take us anyway.” Lup pops her lips and rubs her hands together.

“What are your backups?” The counselor turns the monitor back to his side, and Taako sighs very loudly.

“We don’t need back ups. I think if we have a backup counselor we should change to them though.” He sings, looking over at Lup. She smiles, and flips up her collar.

“T’s got a point. We’re going. And if you won’t listen to us, we’ll find someone who will.”

“You two can’t be serious.”

Lup sits upright from her lounging in the chair, “I’m serious. And I’m going to Harvard Law school.” Taako sits upright next,

“And I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t start the transfer of our credits and GPAs before we get you dumpster diving for ham scraps you six piece chicken mcnobody.” They don their catlike twin grins, and the counselor gives a disenchanted wheeze.

“Alright. You’ll need excellent professor recommendations,” He types away at his old keyboard, “ and one hell of an admissions essay- and at least a one seventy five on the LSATS.” He prints something from the maschine on the side of his desk, and he staples the pages together to make a booklet. He drops it on his desk, and Lup swipes it up as she stands.

“Thanks.” She says, smiling as she starts walking out. Maybe she smiles a little brighter when she hears Taako knock over the counselors pencil cup. Maybe.

 

Textbooks are expensive as hell. They don't bother with the newest copy of any unofficial book, they splurge on the official shit. It's really unsettling, watching their receipts shoot into triple digits, their reservation for the test costs more and it sets their hard deadline for after finals. Two months. Two months to learn law, then they just have to take the LSATs, pass, take the Harvard entrance exam, and pass that too.

Lup and Taako struggle at first, balancing their current work and wrapping up their classes with learning law, but they find a way. They spend nights studying, their evenings turn into glancing at the cookbook they’re following, and then glancing slightly to the left and reading up on the next definition of a law term. They recite everything they can remember as they cook, sometimes Magnus sits at the counter and reads aloud every so often pausing for one of the twins to fill in the right word or phrase. It’s rocky, the official business way of bullshitting through a sentence, a claim, it’s hard to pick up on. They get thing after thing wrong, but they don’t stop. Every time she stumbles, Lup grits her teeth and tries again. Taako calls case names through their dividing wall as he gets dressed, Lup yells back between passes in brushing her teeth. Their class notes are littered with half parsed pieces of latin and errant thoughts of the law relating to a string of chemical equations. Lunch time falls into quizzing each other, Ren picks up their banner in feeding the dorm and the two of them, even checking up on Garyl while they’re at the library. Parties are quieter, the twins room is almost always off limits although any late night passerby can hear glimpses of Lup playing her violin and singing along with a song that’s more memorization than music. It’s exhausting, the stress, the weight takes its toll on the both of them. Taako lays awake at night, listening to his sister play and her mumbles of terms, but more so he hears the sadness in her vibrato, the uncertainty. Lup sees Taako’s pride start to melt away, he sleeps in and shows up to classes late, dressed almost normally. Simpler patterns, calmer colors, it’s not him but at the same time fashion has long since faded from their focus.

Ren and Magnus are infinitely supportive, Julia comes around and the five of them form a study group. Their breaks are frequent and healing, the conversations are mindless and lighthearted in the perfect way. Julia calls out a case name while she flicks Garyl’s toy around and if neither of the twins get to it Ren offers a tidbit. Magnus is in over his head in the studying aspect, but he’s their biggest cheerleader. He patrols their dorm when there are parties, he delivers food and coffee, he listens and rubs their shoulders when things get hard. Magnus helps the both of them exercise, he picks up a few things that the twins chant while they do stretches, and he is so proud. When finals week passes, it comes time for practice exams. Ren steps up to the plate yet again. What free time she had goes straight to Taako and Lup, she prints out the practice exams and staples them, and on Saturday nights they get together in the library to run them. She times them, she congratulates them, and grades them with a copy of the answer booklet. Ren slides them back across the table, only to see both of them asleep more than once.

The day of the LSATs is the long awaited peak of an endless mountain, and at the same time dropped on their doorstep before they’re dressed. Magnus drives, and the car is ripe with anxiety. Julia feeds them fresh pastries, Ren brings coffee from her late night shift at the coffee shop. They don’t talk about the exam, they don’t do any last minute studying. Taako is bouncing his legs and can barely eat, Lup’s hands are shaking and she was careful not to wear any makeup. They’re dressed up at the very least, back to their usual panache. Everyone in the car knows it’s armor. Taako’s got his nails painted his lucky color and Lup has her favorite choker on. They unload out of the car, and everyone passes hugs around like it’s a funeral.

Pencils scribble on the test booklets, chairs squeak and grind against the linoleum floor. It’s harsher than Lup expected, it’s cold and each word is twice as long as it needs to be. But she knows it. She knows she knows, she recognizes lyrics and tunes, she reads a question in Taako’s voice because of how he drilled it into her memory. She hears questions from Ren, from Julia, she lists in Magnus’ chants and she feels every person in her dorm, in her family, right behind her as she answers each question. She’s going to pass this test. And she’s going to show up Greg.

After the test she’s confident. Confident that she either studied hard enough to pass or that she didn’t study nearly enough. Taako passes her desk, and takes her hand. He’s more put together, his hands twitch but he looks on cloud nine. She sees the stress melt from his shoulders, she sees him smile and crinkle his eyes, he fiddles with his hair drapes himself on her like everything is normal. Outside everyone rushes to hug them again, questions flying everywhere like a poorly organized shooting range. Magnus picks Taako up in a strong hug and Julia does the same to Lup.

“Well? How was it?” Ren pats the both of their sides, she claps her hands and fiddles with everything she can reach.

“It’s done,” Taako says, melting into Magnus’ hug. “I’m fuckin’ done- I feel like I don’t even gotta go to Harvard, I studied so much my mother tongue is latin now.”

Julia and Magnus laugh, and Lup echoes him. “Exhausted babe, Proud of how we did and absolutely horrified of the results.”

“You guys did great-” “We know so!” Julia and Magnus say as they set the twins down.

“Let’s go get hammered!” Lup cheers, earning raucous cheers from everyone else.

 

Taako sleeps a lot. Like, a lot after the exam. It takes some time for the results to get sent over and Taako spends every minute waiting asleep. Lup is more functional, she goes through her stuff and makes a sick nasty bonfire in the parking lot of all of the stuff Greg got her or that reminds her of him, a janitor that’s friends with Ren shows up and gives her some lighter fluid when she starts to cry and chicken out halfway through. Taako makes her a nice dinner that Ren delivers. The dorm empties out but they still celebrate, Taako makes an absurd amount of food at any given point and they all wait for the two big envelopes.

Magnus is gathering the mail when they arrive, he forgoes any other piece of mail in the box to snatch them up and sprint back into the dorms. He screams and wakes up anybody who may have still been asleep, but soon there’s a small crowd rushing to the twins door, banging on the wood, the drywall, Garyl hisses both of the twins awake.

"The results-" Lup breathes, falling out of bed.

"The results!" Taako yells, practically leaping out of bed with far more grace, tearing the door open. The twins are torn out of their room, Magnus hefts each of them onto his shoulders and Ren passes them up their packets. They tear through the orange paper in sync, flipping through papers while every person in attendance holds their breath. Taako finds his paper first, but Lup doesn't bother reading the text on the page aside from the three numbers printed in the center.

"One seventy nine!" They both cheer, before they throw their arms up and scream. "One seventy nine!"

The hall around them erupts in cheers and every person screams that very number back at them. Magnus nearly throws them to the ground to get his arms around them, Ren catches Taako and pulls him into a tight hug that Lup piles in on, and Magnus wraps around all of them. The hall is filled with cheers, with laughter, and love.

That night Lup sits down while Taako cooks, she goes through her phone and starts looking at the harvard entrance exam.

"You've still got time doll." Julia pushes her phone down and drops on the couch next to her.

"Excuse me, you're not a student, how did you get in the dorms after hours?" Lup asks, faux surprise on her face.

"It's called love. And the fact I sleep with the nonofficial security guard, but that also falls under love so it's fine." She smiles, and Lup snorts a laugh. "You two did it, you're gonna be law students. Relax." Julia clicks Lup's phone off and pats her hands.

"It's weird," Lup says. "We're geniuses, natch, but just thinking. Us. Taako Lup and Lup Taako. Attorneys at law." Lup lets the sentence hang in the air, and Julia nods.

"Hard to believe it at first. But the fire in you, the dedication is what proved me wrong." She smiles, "Moment I heard Magnus talkin' 'bout you two studying, I knew it was gonna happen. You don't let the universe show you wrong Lup."

The two of them laugh as Magnus tries to sneak into the communal kitchen, only for Taako to chase him out with a beater.

"Are we doing it for the right reason?" Lup asks quietly. "What if it's not right, or it's horrible, or we can't do it?"

Julia rolls her eyes and punches her in the arm. Lup gasps, and rubs her bicep.

"Hey!"

"What did I just say Lup? You don't give the universe a chance to prove you wrong. You better not now." Julia pats Lup's head and grins. "And it doesn't matter why you're doin' it. Your hearts in it. I see it in your eyes. Sure, beatin' Greg is an admirable goal in itself, but if it was just about Greg it wouldn't be like this. We'd jus break his legs."

"I heard you wanted to do that." Lup nods sagely.

"You and Taako are thrivin' under this, you two are more interested in the human side. You wanna help people."

Lup blinks, and nods.

"You're gonna do great things. It'll be nice to have a lawyer out there who isn't some soulless sack a shit in a suit."

"Nice alliteration." Lup nods again, and brushes her thumb down the side of her nose. "Alright, nice. Nice. Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it." Lup adjusts herself on the couch, laying her head on her friends shoulder.

"Not a problem. I do expect some representation when Greg sues me for breaking his legs though."

Lup squawks a laugh, and the both of them are doubled over on the couch when Magnus drops down on Julia's other side with a suspiciously spoon shaped red mark on his cheek, which only makes their wheezing worse.

Chapter Text

After the LSATs, Taako and Lup learn that the Harvard exam is a hell of a lot easier. It's not easy per se, but damn. They know it. There's no way they don't nail this part, they already know they know it, so there's no worry. They leave the testing room just as pleased, without any of the worry. They got it. They're going to fucking Harvard. They go out drinking again, Ren leaves part way through but she didn't have to pay for anything and the twins still owe her the world on a plate. When they get their acceptance letters, Magnus is again their man on the ground who offers to help them move. Most of it can fit in the car, but they end up shipping most of their closet just so there's room on the ride. The five of them stick together, they're close and although Magnus gets weepy helping them pack everything up and clean their walls, he's even more weepy when they're on the road and he realizes his siblings got into Harvard and they're going to be lawyers. Julia takes a cautionary extra hold on the wheel and Taako gets a few cat claws in his hair. It's still really nice. Lup drives for a while, then Julia, then Taako. It takes longer than necessary just because they're excited, food and bathroom breaks keep the ride from being horrible. Ren is at the wheel after her late night and early morning drive when she yawns and elbows Taako in the passenger seat. He writhes awake and squints around, catching a glimpse of a sign before it passes. Cambridge.

"We're here." Ren smiles, pulling over. "Now somebody else get us there, 'fore I fall asleep at the wheel."

Julia is the one who manages to get the car to campus, they follow a few of the signs to student parking lot close-ish to the dorms.

"We'll go get our ids and shit, so then we know where to take our stuff." Lup cracks her back as she steps out of the car, and Taako sets Garyl's carrier on the ground so he can get some air too.

"How's my look?" He asks, doing his own stretches and swinging his arms to show off his six different layers of varying transparency, and clanging his mountains of bracelets and bangles.

"Obnoxious." Lup grins, doing a quick lunge and cracking her neck, "Me?" When she stands her chains rattle against her belt, she cracks her knuckles in her fingerless gloves and pops the collar on her flannel.

"Bi."

"Perfect." They both grin, before devolving into snickers. Ren sleeps in the back of the car while Julia and Magnus dip to go find breakfast. The twins are off, following the sea of mediocre sweaters and ill fitting khakis to student check in. The attention is wholly welcome, they're stunning and they know they are. Taako catches wind of some mumbled slur and flips his hair, glaring in the direction and hurriedly silencing them. They definitely don't fit in, they're loud and bright and killer compared to the eight people they see all in a group wearing almost identical brown corduroys. Lup finds the desk and puts a hand down, leaning forward to the poor dunce running the thing. Taako pops Garyl's carrier up on his hip and the kid glares for a few seconds.

"Check in." Lup spits. "Lup Taako and Taako Lup." She doesn't move when the kid shimmies away, she watches them leaf through welcome packets and nearly dump them on the tabletop.

"Class list. Building hours. Books." They gesture at the pile and Lup slowly picks them up, although she feels her nails start to dig into the papers.

"Anything else? Something fun?" She smiles, feeling her hands flex and her eyebrow twitch.

"If you want fun go check with the director on the lido deck." The kid scoffs, "This is a real school."

Lup tears into her packet, and Taako takes his before it gets shredded to.

"Not worth our time Lulu, let's find the room so Garyl can stop trying to murder me." His voice is also dangerously sharp, but he guides the two of them to a bench where they can sit down and find their shit. To no surprise the person sitting at the far end stands up as they sit down, but it's whatever.

"At least they followed the requirement." Taako says, looking through his pages on top of Garyl's carrier. "They didn't try and split us up."

"One good thing so far," Lup mumbles, sliding her id card into her wallet and putting it back in her pocket. "Wanna try and play nice, or should we go back to the lovebirds?" She looks around the quad, seeing a few heads turn away when she looks nearby. There are people who don't seem to care about them though, some look focused on their phones, deep in books, some talking to others.

"I think we didn't feed Magnus enough, he'll probably be eating for the next two hours."

"Julia's with him," Lup looks over at her twin.

"And she'll eat for three, your point being?"

"You are correct," Lup smiles, folding her booklet and dropping it back in her envelope. She pops her lips surveying the crowd, a very distinct figure catches her gaze. "Hey, I'm gonna go try and make friends-"

"Oh I recognize that breathy tone- don't go gettin' frisky before we have a room-"

"Yea-" Lup waves her hand as she walks over to the three figures standing underneath a tree. One is tall and slender, they have a build similar to Lup which really clicks one thing in her head. The other is a short woman, even shorter red buzzed hair holding the first figures hand. And then there's just- a dad. Like that's it. Jeans, white tshirt, muffin top, weird mullet.

Lup waves her hand and catches the goth figures attention, they look over and nod at her.

"Hey. I'm Sloane." She calls, waving Lup over. The other two turn to look at her, and Lup feels inexplicably on show like some kind of zoo animal.

"I'm Lup." She grins like she isn't bothered at all, she pops her lips and checks out the others.

"Hurley," The halfling woman says, extending a hand and shaking Lup's. She's got a good grip, calluses and firm. "I'm not a student. Here for my girlfriend." She points up at Sloane, standing almost a foot and a half taller than her. Sloane nods, and swings their interlocked hands. Lup sighs in her head, but doesn't let on she's sad.

"Blue jeans." The dad spits out, staring at Lup's torn up skinny jeans.

"Is- Is that an observation or an introduction?" Lup asks with a shaky voice, before bursting into laughter.

The guy jerks upright from his slouch, he's turned almost bright red and he's waving his hands back and forth as he tries to fix his fuck up.

"Alright, Barry fuckin' Bluejeans, nice to meet you." Lup sticks her hand out and shakes his, he nods sharply and looks down.

"So what brings you guys here?" Lup pops her hands in her pockets.

"I've got a PhD in women's studies, with a major in the history of combat." Sloane says, "Single handedly organized the marches of lesbians against police brutality last year."

"It's where we met," Hurley smiles and Sloane returns the gesture, Lup feels her heart soar for them.

"I'm uh- I've a masters in biology and a bachelors in chemistry. Been- I was doing work with big corporations on the topic of biodegradability and resource management until I got sick of needing a translator." He smiles, and Lup grins.

"I did double Music theory and chemistry bachelors." She says, making both Barry and Sloane squint.

"Why'd you decide to do law?" Sloane asks.

"Woke up one morning and decided, and hey. Why not?"

The answer doesn't seem to settle well with Hurley and Sloane, but Barry calms down a little bit and he nods.

"Uh, what- where are you classes on monday? We could do lunch or something."

"Smart, smart," Lup leafs around in her envelope and grabs her schedule. "My first class is- Ah. Davenport." She says.

"Hey, me too." Barry smiles, "I hear he's rough."

"I have one of the Wonders, Edward." Slone mumbles. "Well maybe we'll see each other around."

"I hope so," Lup smiles. She holds a hand out, and they high five. "Nice meeting you. You too," She smiles at Hurley, and they high five next.

"I'm hungry, let's go find some grub." Hurley says, tugging Sloane out from under the tree.

Lup and Barry watch them go, and when Lup glances over to see Taako staring. She waves him over.

"Hey, let me introduce you to my brother." Taako sets Garyl's carrier down and crosses his arms. Barry on the other hand freezes right up again. He looks Taako up and down and Lup raises her eyebrows. Taako breathes a laugh.

"You got a name chump?"

Barry goes into his nervous wheezing, and Lup giggles. "I'm callin' 'im Barry Bluejeans."

"Fitting. Nice to meet you Barold." Taako shakes his hand and Barry looks down at the grass.

"Oh Barold, even better." Lup grins. "Hey, did you manage to find the room?"

"Two sixty two," Taako replies, "ready to go check it out?"

"Yeah, let's grab the lovebirds and Ren. See you tomorrow Bluejeans." Lup gives him a wave goodbye and he returns it far more stiffly, but Taako snorts as they walk away.

"Figured you went for the goth. Didn't think you'd fall for the nerd." Taako jeers.

"Ha, fat fuckin' chance, and he checked out you as much as me." Lup rolls her eyes. "Maybe one day when I'm done with Greg I'll consider guys again." Lup links his free arm in her twins, "I think you're about as much testosterone I can handle."

Taako snorts a laugh, and pulls her back towards the parking lot.

"Ironic." He smiles.

 

Moving in is pretty easy, putting up posters and photos is the hardest part, the clothes just get dumped in every available closet and drawer even though there's more clothes on the way. Ren naps on their bed, and Magnus stands guard. It's wholly unnecessary and wholly appreciated. Julia lounges on one of the chairs in the room, she watches the twins go about decorating and making the proper mess offering advice here and there.

When the room is appropriately set up and Garyl has accepted his new home they leave Ren and Garyl to sleep. Magnus drives them to the bookstore, and both of the twins try their best to not wince at the price tags. It's absurd, they're in a few different classes so they have to buy more books than they thought. Magnus and Julia are angels sent right from heaven, they help split the receipts and buy lunch afterwards.

Magnus is sipping his caramel drink, watching the twins skim through their new fancy smart person books.

"How are you guys feeling?"

"Nervous," Taako says at the same time Lup says "Excited."

"Oh boy," Magnus laughs, seeing his girlfriend roll her eyes. "Yeah same flavor there. Do you guys need us anymore?"

The twins both look up, at the couple then at each other. "We should be good," Taako says, "God knows you two wanna go down on each other anyway." Julia punches him in the arm and he whines.

"We're just gonna be looking over our books and shit, you guys can head back home and get back to work." Lup smiles, "Thanks for everything."

"Not a problem," Julia rubs Lup's shoulder across the table and Taako glares at her. "Lup used her nice words!"

Taako huffs a breath and looks away, waving his hand like there's a fly in his face. Magnus laughs, loud and booming which makes Julia laugh and lean against him. They press their heads together in laughter and Lup watches them. It's soft and kind and filled with love. Taako pats her gloved hand and Lup swallows whatever strange feeling is burning in her throat.

"Well we may not be able to run back up here at the drop of a hat, but we are just a phone call away."

"Yeah, yeah. We know." Taako waves his hand and pulls at his collection of bracelets. "I need to catch up on my readings. Let's head back to the dorm and grab Ren."

Ren sleepily hugs Taako, then Lup, and Magnus ends up carrying her but everything is still soft and healing. They leave and the twins spend the rest of the day in their room. On the one hand it's nice to have their space, their area, but on the other hand it's not quite their space yet. They leaf through their books and spend the rest of the afternoon and the evening watching their rinky little tv. It's them against the world again.

The alarm that splits through the air at six fifteen shoots the both of them up, and Garyl jumping from Taako's bed.

"First day of school." Taako says, stretching his arms above his head.

"Let's make a first impression." Lup grins. She pulls on a showy outfit, something bold and strong and inarguably her. Taako dons his armor too, they lock hands after cinching their bags on their sides. People stare as they go, all boring and normal and serious people. There's mumblings, there are thrown insults and shitty comments but the twins walk with pride. Taako finds his class first, and Lup lets him go. They have an unspoken breakfast date after the morning classes. Lup walks, hands with her pockets to the classroom she's looking for, walking in to find most of the seats already filled. She doesn't see Greg, both thankful and bitter. She does see Barry though, he's sitting at the front of the lecture hall, taking the far end of a three person desk. He doesn't see her, he's talking to the kid sitting next to him. And Lup blinks, because he's talking to a literal kid. There's a kid in here, he looks like he can't be older than fifteen and he's talking animatedly, pointing to something in the textbook.

Lup goes through a couple thoughts quickly. It's nice to see Barry, weird to see this kid, and fuck- she didn't bring the textbook. She glances at the clock on the wall and curses under her breath, but walks to the center table with the two of them and sits down. They both look up at her, and Barry smiles. He seems calmer this time, although he still flushes a distracting shade of pink.

"H-Hey Lup." He grins.

"Hello Lup!" The kid parrots, turning fully to her and holding out his hand.

"Shit, hey there. What's your name?" Lup gives him a sideways high five.

"Angus McDonald ma'am!"

"Miss," Lup corrects. "Nice to meet you, probable hallucination."

"Oh I'm a real boy! Flesh and all!" Angus says, pushing up on his seat. And that… that answers a few questions Lup didn't even know she had.

Barry nods like he had the exact same reaction earlier. "Did you do the reading?"

"Fuck- I was so preoccupied with move in I forgot," She breathes, at least grabbing her note materials. She clicks her pen a few times and scribbles the days date at the top.

"Well-" Angus starts sliding his textbook over, and the door to the classroom slams shut. Everyone snaps to attention, laptops thud shut and textbooks hit the tables in a solid wave. Lup turns to the door, and swallows a breath. Entering the room is professor Davenport, a short gnome with graying red hair. He has a prominent moustache, but the most telling thing about him is how he walks. He carries a briefcase that swings exactly forty five degrees from his waist, his shoes (well polished) snap against the floor as he enters and approaches his desk. His back is perfectly straight, his face is perfectly schooled, and Lup feels very very afraid.

"Good morning class." His voice booms across the room in absolutely no regard to his size, and everyone mumbles the greeting in return. No one wants to stand out. "My name-" He clicks open his briefcase and withdraws a few stacks of paper, setting them down in perfect shape. He turns to the chalkboard at the head of the room and snatches the chalk without a pause or fumble. "Is professor Davenport. I will be your lecturer for this class and this semester." He writes his title and name, swiping his hand under it without looking. It makes a perfect line. "In this classroom, you will learning the basics of our legal system. There will be tests, pop quizzes, and research assignments, and if you have any qualms I suggest you leave the room right now. I am not here to make this easy. I am here to push you and pressure you- until you either turn to diamonds, or crumble to dust. Is that a problem for anyone?"

Silence.

"Excellent. Let us start, with a quote." Davenport walks around to the front of his desk, lifting a piece of paper that he walks to one of the front tables. The student takes it, and nods, before writing on it and passing it down. "The law is reason, free from passion." He nods his head, and walks with patience and balance to the other side of the room. "Who knows the author of that quote. Law is reason, free from passion."

Silence.

"Now surely one of you must," He clasps his hands together and gives a dry smile. "Nerves getting the best of you all?"

Lup blinks, and writes the quote at the top of her note page. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Barry raise a shaky hand.

"You, in the front."

"Aristotle?" He calls.

And as if sensing his fear, Davenport approaches. He stares up at Barry, and Lup can only watch. "Are you sure about that?"

"U-Uh. Yeah. It's Aristotle." Barry adjusts his glasses and draws his lips tight.

"Would you bet your life on it?" He interlocks his fingers, his expression completely calm and unperturbed.

"Well… I guess." Barry gives a one armed shrug, and Davenport takes one calculated step to his right, to stand in front of Angus. He gestures at the kid, still looking at and speaking to Barry.

"What about his life?"

Barry blinks, he leans back in his chair and looks over at Angus, shaking his head just slightly in confusion.

"Uh… I… N-no."

The piece of paper reaches Lup and she looks at the seating chart, signing her name and passing it to Angus. Davenport nods, his face unbothered.

"Then you do not know it at all." He returns to his desk. "There is much room for interpretation in law, and absolutely none for self doubt. You must know before you speak. You must have the utmost confidence and faith in what you are saying, because you are fighting against a system designed to both demonize and victimize every party in play."

Silence.

His face breaks for just a moment, Lup sees his eyes shine and his crows feet crinkle around his eyes. "And you were right. It was Aristotle." His smile is soft and kind, just barely mischievous. Barry seems confused but enthusiastic, he starts scribbling in his notes. The small break into humanity makes Lup genuinely interested in learning, he's not impossible or a monster. He wants to see them succeed.

"Well, opening exercise aside I believe our best course of action is to discuss the prerequisite reading. You should all be familiar with the reading and the topics discussed therein," Davenport says, walking to the far edge of the room and taking the now completed seating chart. "Good luck those is the front rows, you have the hot seats."

He looks over the chart and reads names as he returns to his desk. "Mister McDonald, you're the one I spoke to over email, correct?" Davenport places the chart down and flips through some of the paper piles to grab a packet.

"Yes sir, that is correct." Angus pipes up.

"Well, here's what you requested." He drops the packet for Angus to take and deposit in his bag. Lup watches completely enamoured, when Davenport turns to her.

"Care to tell us about the reading, Ms. Taako?" He turns to her. "What is the purpose of an abstract of judgement?"

Lup blinks and moves back an inch. "Uh." Angus raises his hand and Barry looks at her with a kind but worried expression.

"What's the difference between an ancillary administration and a normal administration?"

Angus raises his hand again and Lup flinches. "I don't- I didn't know there was a reading," She gives her best smile, "Sorry, that one's on me."

Davenport nods as he steps away, and Lup feels inexplicably like she let him down.

"How about you, Miss Clarke?" He calls up, looking at someone deeper in the tables. Lup turns to see with a rather plain looking woman, dark skin and hair dyed white to make a silver cloud around her head. She looks pretty young, but her dress shirt and frumpy clothes age her twenty years.

"Ancillary administration is administration of an estate's assets in a state that is not the home of the claim, where normal administration by comparison in in-state." She looks dead at the professor, not even bothering to glance at Lup. "And an abstract of judgement is a written summary of a judgement stating how much the losing party owns to the winner of the lawsuit, the rate of interest to be paid, any court costs they are to pay, and any specific orders they must obey." She says it all in almost a single breath, both hands taking notes as she speaks.

"Those are both correct." Davenport gives a smile, and he keeps looking at her. "And Miss Clarke, do you believe it is fair to teach a student who doesn't complete their work?"

"No." She says, matter of factly. Lup's eyes go wide. "I don't."

"And if I were to ask Ms. Taako to leave my classroom, and come back only when she was prepared, do you believe that to be just?"

"Yes, professor." She turns to look at Lup, and even if she wasn't in a higher aisle, Lup knows she would still be looking down at her. "I think that would be just." Angus slides his hand back down to his lap, and Barry is glancing between both women. Lup gives a silent snarl, she shoves her notebook back into her bag before she storms out of the classroom.

Chapter Text

The air of the quad is cleansing, which is good because Lup is fuming as she stomps over the grass to collapse on a bench beneath a shade giving tree. She stomps her feet a few times, mimicking the snooty girls voice. To her surprise, somebody on another bench nearby reacts.

"Are you… okay?" He asks, sliding over to look at her. Lup snaps her head over, ready to tell him off before she sees him. He's a really good looking guy, dark dark skin and long well kept dreads.

"I'm-" She bites her tongue. "Yeah. Sorry. Just a little heated is all. Do they all just- put you on the spot!?" She pulls at her hair, and sighs.

"The professors? Yeah. Kinda their job." The guys gives a small laugh. "Who's giving you trouble? Wonder?"

"Davenport." She presses her cheek into her palm and the dude winces.

"Oh. Yeah. Yep. Makes sense." He catches a loose dread and tucks it behind his ear, a small bird skull earring catches the light that makes Lup sit just a little straighter. "I had him, I guess he kicked you out."

"Yeah, rude as shit."

"He just expects a lot from his students. A lot of them end up more his kids and pupils than strangers by the end. He did make me cry in class though." He smiles, and Lup gives a weak one in return.

"Haven't even had him for twenty minutes but I can totally sympathize." Lup watches him close the fancy looking folder in his lap, and put it in an equally fancy briefcase.

"It's great fodder though, now all I have to do is think about him saying-" He jerks his back perfectly upright and tilts his head to the side, " I'm not upset, just disappointed- and boom. Waterworks for any scene." The guy rubs one of his cheekbones with a nervous smile, and Lup blinks.

"Theater nerd huh? Wasn't expecting it but I can totally see it."

"Oh no, you really shouldn't- I'm quite terrible. Very bad. But it's fun." He says, and Lup gives a genuine laugh. "Who else do you have? Maybe I can help out."

Lup shuffles around in her bag and pulls out her class list. "Davenport, Roswell, Wonder, and Jack." She says, pointing at it.

"Which Wonder?" He scoots to the end of his bench, and Lup moves to meet him at the corner.

"Uh, Lydia. Are there two?"

"Twins. Edward and Lydia. I-" he pauses, "Oh god I never introduced myself." He laughs, extending a hand. "My name is Kravitz." Lup takes his hand,

"Lup. Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too. I was saying, Lydia and Edward are a lot alike but Lydia really likes people who are opinionated. Take a bold stance and you'll do great. Roswell," Kravitz gently tugs on one of his earrings. "Right, take a middle or back seat. Big booming voice. Saw them blow out a kids hearing aide once. And Jack, always check the footnotes. He has a habit of ripping specific questions from there." Lup fishes out her lucky pen as she scribbles a transcript of her notes on the class list.

Kravitz points at is as she writes, "Nice pen." She twirls it over her thumb, watching the blue, purple and pink blend together in a bi-colored swirl.

"Thanks. Gotta represent."

Kravitz laughs gently, and pulls one of the silver rings off his fingers, his left thumb (Lup realizes at this moment his nails are also painted black) and shows her the inside, a rainbow. "I'm not quite so bold but, I agree."

"Hell yeah man," Lup lets herself relax fully now, she folds her schedule back in half. "We gotta stick together." She watches him put the ring back on and nods. "By the way, are you a third year or somethin'?"

"Oh I was saying before I actually-"  Kravitz keeps talking but the bell rings loud over the quad, she sees his lips move and can't hear his voice. When the bell stops she opens her mouth to apologize and ask again, but a different voice calls out.

"Lup?" Her blood runs cold, she feels her eyes unfocus. When she turns away from Kravitz, Lup sees Greg standing no more than ten feet from her. He's in some atrocious fucking polo and slacks, and if Lup had half a mind she'd start bullying him about it. But she holds her tongue, she shakes her head to reposition her hair and glares at him.

"Greg." She says, although her voice shakes at the very end.

"What th' hell are you doin' here?" His laugh is incredulous and disbelieving.

"I had class." She states, before looking over at Kravitz. He's bristled up, Lup can almost see his suit jacket ruffle up at the shoulders like feathers. "Hey Krav, go on and head to wherever you gotta go. Just an ex."

"You sure? I get bad vibes."

"I'll be fine skeletor. Get goin'." She pats his hand and he blinks in confusion before grabbing his briefcase. Lup hears him mumble the confused nickname as he leaves and it's a little comforting. She pushes up from her bench and walks over to Greg, arms crossed and lips drawn. "What do you want Grimaldis?"

"Lup, you . Had class ? Just admit you came to visit me. I won't be mad." He leans to his side, he snakes a hand out towards her hip and she smacks it down as hard as she can. He recoils, clutching his wrist. "Fuck!”

"Don't you touch me. I'll take you to security."

"Since when were you attending Harvard?" He spits, half facing her. "You got in at all?"

"What," Lup raises her shoulders and takes a half step forward tilting her chin up. "Like it's hard?"

Greg takes half a step back and Lup feels powerful. And then over Greg’s shoulder, she sees the prim and proper girl from class. She walks up, and looks at Greg holding his wrist. “Did she hit you?” Again she doesn’t even look at Lup, like she thinks she’s so far above Lup there’s no point in even acknowledging her.

"It’s fine Lucy,” Greg smiles, looking up at her. She winces, and makes a sound of annoyance.

“Lucretia.” She snaps, “Come on, we have class. Don’t let some dropout get in your way.” She says, taking off again. Lup feels herself fuming again, she wishes she could just- light fire in her hands and roast Lucretia up in flames, but instead a tiny frame comes barrelling into her side.

“Please don’t get in a fight on our first day!” Angus calls, pulling on her jacket sleeve. She looks down at him and sighs, before patting his curls.

“Yeah, you’re right kid.” He pulls away and Lup gives him a thumbs up. “How was class?”

“Very good, I regret to say! Here though-” He shuffles around in his bag, and withdraws the packet Davenport handed him. “A copy of the lecture notes.”

She takes them, looking over the opening only to see Davenport followed what little she was there for almost exactly. He knows what he’s doing. “I’ll get it back to you Mango, I appreciate the help.”

“Alright, well good luck! My next class starts soon- I’ll see you around!” Angus takes off quickly, his satchel swings at his side and his polished penny loafers click on the sidewalk. Lup leafs through the packet as she heads towards the dining hall, she pulls out her pen and circles the bolded terms, she grabs her highlighter and highlights the readings due for next class. She finds Taako in the cafeteria easy enough, he’s lounging and rather effectively keeping a table to himself. Lup drops down at his side, head on his shoulder.

“You alright Lulu?”

“Rough first class.” She says, “How about you?”

“Yeah, group exercises like introductions don’t fly well for one man planes,” He mumbles. “Wanna go out today? Get some touch ups?”

“I think it would be nice.”

 

Taako finds a beauty parlor within walking distance of the dorms, it looks pretty small and person owned, so maybe it won’t break the bank. Lup walks them in, a small bell over the door jingles as they enter and sign in.

The beautician at the counter looks up from his magazine, and smiles. “Welcome to the garden, what can I do ya for?” He sounds exactly how he looks, crunchy and a little high, but his voice is clearly kind.

“Nails,” Taako says.

“Hair,” Lup mimics.

“Nails I can do,” He pushes down from his chair at the front, waving for Taako to follow. Lup gives him a little hip check and he follows. “Name’s Merle.” He says, climbing up onto another chair. He wipes his hands on his hawaiian shirt  and starts pulling various tools and wraps of tools from his various drawers.

"Taako.”

“Alright kid, what’re you lookin’ for?”

"Simple, can’t exactly afford a lot right now. Lavender if you’ve got it.” Taako sets his hands out, his long nails clicking against the top of the table.

“Ooh, nice choice.” Merle says, tapping a few of his tools together. “What’s eatin’ ya?” Taako scoffs, looking away.

"None a’ your business, I’m just here for nailwork.”

“It’s alright, you don’t gotta talk about it if you don’t wanna.” Merle is completely unbothered, he has all of his tools set up and takes one of Taako’s hands in his own. His fingers are rough and calloused, Taako sees a tanline of a wedding ring without the ring. But he’s gentle, he looks over Taako’s own fingers, and runs his thumb along the ends. “I do hold the fate of your cuticles in my hands though,” He says, grabbing a cuticle pusher.

He works in silence for a bit, tinny music playing from the overhead speaker mixing old pop hits and static. Merle wipes away what paint Taako had left from doing it himself a week ago, and whistles. “Thought these were acrylics, but you’ve just got nice nails.”

“Thanks,” Taako says, “Important to me.”

“I can understand that front.” Merle says, nodding to the various small plants strewn about his desk. He also flexes his left arm, showing off ink Taako hadn’t even noticed. It’s faded with age, but it looks like wood texture and bark cascading down like a sleeve. “There’s strength in what you love.”

"Do you talk like a normal person or am I just having my nails done by some crusty fortune cookie.” Taako says, halfway between an ask and a statement. Merle just laughs, he pats Taako’s hand.

"I’m just a crusty fortune cookie,” He says. “Hey, you understand women?” He asks, getting to work on each nail individually.

"Oh man you’re asking the wrong dude, I’m gay as hell.” Taako says.

"Any advice?”

"What’d you do? Zero promises I’ll know what to do or even be able to help but. Whatever.” Taako lets Merle file the edge of his pinky nail and Merle sighs.

“Ex-wife.” He says. “Can’t quite say I love her to bits anymore, I think I may not even love women.”

“Oof. That’s rough buddy.” Merle laughs in response, and Taako rolls his eyes still inexplicably fond.

“Yeah. I’m still tryin’ to be a good dad, but I sure as hell can’t quite be the husband she wants. And I’ve got a customer and a delivery man who are more my speed.” Taako gags and Merle blows a raspberry. “It’s not you, jackass.” Taako slides his other hand into Merle’s for him to file away, and Taako sees Lup in the reflection of a small mirror on Merle’s desk. He turns, watching her walk to sit in a hairdresser’s chair.

“Sister?” Merle asks.

“No, I’ve never seen her in my life.” Taako says.

“Didn’t wanna be rude, god knows you’d play the all blonds look the same card.”

“Read me like an open book there my dude.” Taako turns back, and gives a sigh. “It’s rough for us right now, but I think somethin’ happened today. She didn’t wanna tell me about it.”

“Well shit kid, here.” Merle finishes filing and drops a hand towel on Taako’s hands. He grabs his polish bottles and drops them in his shirt pocket before waving Taako up. Merle guides him over to Lup, sitting him in the seat next to her. Merle takes the chair on Taako’s other side and pulls it over, so that the twins are turned close enough to see each other.

“What are you doing.” Lup sighs, closing her eyes.

"I had nothing to do with this for once!” Taako calls, Merle snatching his hands back to start the treatment.

“Talk it out. Better an’ cheaper than murder.” Merle says, smiling at Lup’s hairdresser who just rolls their eyes.

Lup hums. “Saw Greg.” She says, and Taako feels his shoulders rise.

“Disgusting.”

“Yeah,” Lup laughs. “Looked like a normal loser. Serious. Tried to start some shit, I almost started a fight. I got interrupted by this girl- she looked young but she dressed like a grandma. Wouldn’t even look at me, called me a dropout to my face.” Lup is snarling by the end and Taako breathes a curse.

“What a bitch.” He says, “Guess we’ve got more than just Grimald-ass to upstage then.” He says, relishing in the snort Lup gives.

“Seriously? That what you’re calling him?”

“Hey, I think it fits.” Taako nods, dully noticing Merle’s hands tighten around his own as someone else enters the parlor.

“Be right with you,” Merle calls, leaving an errant stroke of nail polish on Taako’s finger. He doesn’t complain, he turns to watch Merle go, and hums when he sees the new visitor. It’s a tall pale man, salt and pepper hair and heavily aged face that lights up when he sees Merle. He can’t hide his blush, he sets the package down and Merle adjusts his beard as he signs, neither of them really say anything but Taako feels the energy radiating off them in waves.

When Merle returns he’s messing with his bun, tweaking his glasses and doing countless fiddling actions.

"That the sexy ups man?” Taako smiles smugly.

“Stuff it kid, Or I’ll charge you double.”

"Oh that definitely was,” Lup teases next. Even her hairdresser nods as they set the dye in Lup’s roots.

“Can’t hide it.” They say.

"You can shut up!” Merle purses his lips, and snatches Taako’s hand to fix the polish streak.

“For the record I think your chances are very high, he looked like a walking corpse.” Taako says, making Merle laugh.

“Jeez, thanks asshole.”

“I think it’s sweet.” Lup smiles softly, and Taako tries desperately to ignore the weak edge of her hopeless romantic heart.

 

Taako and Lup have the same class the next morning, they wake up at the same time and scramble together some snacks from their room before going. As they enter the room (early, very early this time) Lup spots a recognizable figure. It’s Lucretia, sitting in the dead center of the room. She’s got a laptop and two notebooks in front of her, she’s by herself and in another drab outfit, high collar turtleneck and ancient looking string of pearls around her neck. Lup grits her teeth, and mumbles to Taako.

“Wonder likes people who are opinionated.”

“How’d’you know?” He mumbles back, walking up to an empty bench, above Lucretia.

Lup runs her hands through her hair and drops down next to her twin. “Heard from an upperclassmen. Gave me advice on all of my professors.”

“Get me one’a them, make him good looking and the perfect vers while we’re at it.” Taako mumbles, huffing when Lup punches him in the arm. “What, if we’re allowed to build a magic friend who fixes all our problems-”

Lup rolls her eyes and hits him again. “Har har har. Anyway, yeah. I told you. I can’t let this class get the better of me.” Lup sets her books down, she opens her notebook and sets the textbook to the side. "Not quite sure what kind of teacher she is, but I have a few motherfuckers to prove wrong." Lup raises her voice at the end, and again Lucretia doesn't even acknowledge her.

"That the girl?" Taako points his pencil down at Lucretia, and Lup nods. "Ugh. I can totally see it." He flips open his own notebook as people start filing in. "Just once I'd like to see someone with style in this godforsaken school-"

Taako's cut off by the final wave of students rushing in, Greg is one of the last in the room and Lup sneers. But Taako doesn't notice him, he's more interested in the figure behind Greg. The figure is wearing a sharp and wild suit, perfectly tailored to show off her collarbones and her dangling necklace. She's wearing wildly shaped sunglasses, which she takes off to reveal equally bold makeup.

"Good morning class!" She calls, the last few students skittering quickly to any empty seats. "My name is Lydia Wonder, and I'll be your professor for the semester. It's nice to meet each and every one of you, and don't worry, I'll get to names soon. Some-" She glances around the room, and her gaze stops on Taako. "Some may be quicker than others." She gives a smile, and Taako drops his pencil on his notebook. Lydia keeps smiling as she passes around the seating chart.

"I know where all the style went Lup," He mumbles, "It congealed to form my perfect teacher." Lup snorts into her hand and ignores his fanboying.

Lydia walks to her desk, setting up her laptop and her custom briefcase. She spends a few minutes getting everything right before rolling the chair out in front and sitting on it backwards. "Important news for you all too, I’ve gotten permission from the board again for my internships. So not only will you be competing with one another for the top spot in my class, but you will also be competing for one of four spots at my firm. These may lead to summer associate positions, and Wonderland is no chump change firm.”

Lup just barely hears a mumble from Lucretia down below, and she stares at her for a moment, before signing her name on the list. Taako quickly signs his most elaborate signature and Lup smiles. She’s glad he’s found a decent role model, she knows law school hasn’t been his thing since he doesn’t have a fire like Lup.

"My twin brother and I own and operate Wonderland, some of you may be lucky enough to have the both of us as professors because we do both teach here as well. But, that’s enough about me.” She collects the seating chart, looking down at the names  “Shall we start with a discussion on the reading? Taako, care to start us off?”

There are a few snorts, a snicker here and there but Taako lights up like a candlenights bush. “What’d’ya wanna know teach?”

“Would you rather have a client who committed a crime malum in se, or malum prohibitum?” She sets the paper on her desk and resumes her straddling of the chair.

“Well, to be honest I’d rather have a client who’s innocent since you’re asking.” Taako calls back, making Lup and a few people giggle. Lucretia almost seems to tense up, she raises her hand. When Lydia composes herself again, she calls on her.

"Nice thought, if a bit hopeful. Lucretia?”

“Malum prohibitum. I’d rather have a client who has committed a regulatory infraction instead of a dangerous crime.” Lucretia states, showing off that she knows the definition of both, before glaring up at the twins.

“That is correct, malum in se is a violent crime, malum prohibitum is a regulatory infraction.” Lydia taps her hand against the back of her chair. “It was one of the first comparisons in the reading, if you didn’t know it then you get a pass for now, don’t forget to take notes. Another-” Lydia’s cut off by Taako’s hand shooting up, she blinks before calling on him. “Taako?”

"I take it back.” He leans forward on the table, and Lup can feel the anger radiating off him in waves. “I’d take the dangerous one. I’m not afraid of a challenge.” He says, giving his best proud smirk and staring dead at the back of Lucretia’s head.

“Bold choice,” Lydia smiles.

Chapter Text

The twins leave the classroom practically on cloud nine, they rush out of the room to the quad, collapsing on the grass to stare up at the early afternoon sky.

“She’s so cool!” Taako says, clenching his fists, “She’s literally cool ! The only fucking cool person in this whole school aside from us!”

“Alright there fanboy,” Lup says, laughing and bumping elbows with him and folding her hands behind her head.

“I can’t get over it, it’s- like a beacon of fucking hope that you don’t have to be a nobody to make it! Like you don’t have to hand over your sense of style to get a degree here.”

A voice calls from a bit away on the quad, “As if you two’d get a degree anyway.” And Lup sits up, taking a deep breath which Taako mirrors. Greg is seated on one of the benches, hunched forward and looking at the two of them.

“Fuck off- we were here first.” Taako snarls.

“The quad is for everyone, you trying to say you own the grass here?”

“Leave us alone Greg. We don’t have anything to say to you.” Lup says, spitting in his direction for emphasis.

“You’re hurtin’ my feelings Lup,” Greg cooes, raising his eyebrows. “You don’t mean it.” Lup tilts her chin down, and Taako sees a few errant emotions work their way through her eyes.

Taako kicks up to stand, and draws his hands to fists at his sides. “You stay away from us- you stay away from my sister.”

Greg stands up now, and he’s definitely bigger than Taako, he’s got half a head on him as he nears. “What are you gonna do about it?”

“If you keep letting dropouts agitate you you’ll never graduate yourself.” Lucretia calls again, interrupting them like it’s her goddamn job. She walks up, and puts herself right between Greg and Taako. She turns to Greg, also definitely outmatched on the height front. “Are you going to class or not?”

Greg flinches back, he swears under his breath and turns back to the building. And Lucretia stays for a few moments. Taako expects her to turn and give him a lecture on picking fights. But once she’s hung around long enough, she just follows after Greg. She doesn’t give him the time of day, look at him, even talk to him.

“Fine! Get lost!” He snaps, returning to Lup’s side and dropping to sit cross legged. “Fuckin’ bitch.”

“She’s not usually like that,” somebody mumbles, walking up behind the twins and situating himself to sit on the grass. It’s the dad, Taako realizes, the one that’s seemingly got the worst crush on one of them. Or both of them? Hard to tell.

“What, you friends with Lucretia?” Lup asks, going back to laying on the quad grass. She plucks some stands to knot together, although her face is more sad than enraged.

“I guess,” Barry says shakily, “I mean I don’t like hang out with her or anything. I’m a bit old to be hanging around with the young perfect pupils,” Barry rolls his eyes and sets his his chin in his hand. “But she never seemed like the kinda person to be so judgmental.”

“People change,” Lup says, pulling a few blades so tight they shred before sprinkling them back on the ground.

“She’s a decent person, somethin’ must be up with her.”

“Actually, every time she’s interacted near us- she won’t interact with us- she’s done nothing but act down on us. Like we’re not alive.” Taako says, jabbing a finger towards Barry who raises his hands in surrender.

“Maybe she’s just jealous is all,” He says.

“Envy doesn’t work on her.” Lup calls back.

The three of them bounce around conversation, Barry starts to relax even as the twins find an immense joy in teasing him. Taako realizes pretty quickly that he’s falling for Lup, although she seems completely oblivious. That’s gonna hurt when she has to let him down, she’s sick of relationships at the moment. But aside from that looming threat, Barry fits in rather well. He’s a bit ahead of the twins so he can offer some advice, and in all he ends up joining them for lunch. Angus finds them not soon after they start eating, and Sloane even ends up tripping on their table. It’s nice, knowing they’re not completely alone.

Lup sets up with a box of dinner at her desk, Davenport’s textbook cracked open. She has her lucky pen, her notebook, every note taking tool she could need, and a will to rival no force on earth. She reads each passage, taking detailed notes and highlighting the book itself. She writes her remembered version of certain passages next to the sections, she memorizes the important phrases and definitions, she slams the book shut just a short time after midnight. She’s not going to be shown up again.

 

The next morning Lup pulls on a more ‘reasonable’ outfit, Although her touched up red hair brings it up that final step above these average schmucks. She’s in her seat half an hour before class begins, surprised to see Angus already in his seat, looking over the textbook. He perks up as she sits down, he drags his chair towards hers.

“Hello Miss Lup!”

“Good morning Mango.”

“Good morning to you as well! And my name is Angus!” Angus smiles.

“Yeah, I know.” Lup sets all her stuff out as a few people slowly start to enter. “You going back over the homework?”

“Yes’m! I did the reading already but I want to make sure I’ve got everything remembered proper!” Angus is super cheery as he points at the textbook. “I want to prove to Professor Davenport that I’m a studious student.”

“You want me to quiz you on the homework? I did it last night and I think I’ve got everything down pat.” Lup flips through her textbook as evidence, showing the sticky notes, the highlighting, the annotations. Angus goes starry eyed, he clasps his hands together.

“I had never thought of taking notes in the textbook! All my notes are in my personal notebook,” Angus pulls a small thick journal from his satchel and flipping through to show Lup small tight cursive writing in bricks of text.

“Well, what’s a tort?”

“That’s-” Lup sees the gears turning behind his huge glasses, “That’s anything specific someone can be held responsible for.”

“What are the primary torts?” Lup smiles as Angus purses his lips.

“There are…”

“Here,” Lup smiles, grabbing a blank sticky note and setting it down. “I remembered them through fitted cab.”

“Fitted cab?” Angus leans closer, and Lup laughs.

“Yeah, false imprisonment, trespassing land, trespassing personal property, emotional distress, conversion, assault, and battery.” She writes the first letters of the main ideas on the note, making the phrase fitted cab.

“Fitted cab,” Angus mumbles, “That’s quite clever Miss Lup!”

“Hey-” Lup starts talking when there’s a scuffle from the front of the room. Barry is walking away from Lucretia, who’s standing staring rather wide eyed at Lup and Angus. Lup blinks, she doesn’t look judgmental or vicious. Just surprised. Lup turns to Barry as he sits down. “What was up with that?”

“I dunno, I was coming in and going over the textbook and Lucretia was just standing there. Ran into her.” Barry sets his book down and flips through the pages while Lup watches Lucretia walk her way up most of the steps to the table she sits at.

“I sure hope she’s alright.” Angus mumbles, pointing to Lup’s sticky note. “Anyway, Miss Lup do you think we could study together sometime? Usually I go for exact memorization and it takes a very very long time, but if I try your way I think I can get it quicker!”

“Sure thing lil dude, you can help tutor my baby brother.” Lup pats his shoulder and turns to check out the clock on the wall, and takes a deep breath. As soon as it strikes the hour within a blink Professor Davenport is again walking into the classroom, the door slamming shut behind him.

“Good morning class,” He booms. He surveys the seats, eyes stopping just briefly as they land on Lup. “I take it everyone completed the reading for today’s class?” He drops his gaze to his briefcase, pulling out the seating chart and marking attendance. There are a few murmurs that are quickly silenced when Davenport finishes his marks. “Miss Taako, care to tell us about torts?”

“I’d like nothing more Professor.” She grins, spark in her eyes and wolfish glee in her smile.

 

Davenport seems impressed, but that only makes his firmer. He assigns their first research assignment, a short group paper and Lup snatches up Angus and Barry. They set a date to go to the library after class when Lup freezes up.

“Oh, the bell-” She shovels her notes and textbook back into her bag, “I’ll see you guys later! I gotta see if I can find someone!” She takes off out of the room and holds her bag strap tightly. She gets back to the quad, relishing the chilling autumn air and looking around the throngs of people. The bench she occupied is full, and as she looks around she doesn’t see Kravitz. She frowns, cocking a hand on her hip.

“Jeez, I knew he was gay but damn.” Lup mumbles to herself.

“Looking for someone?” A familiar voice chimes to her right, Kravitz stopping nearly mid stride. He’s smiling though, he’s got a smug expression that makes Lup grin back.

“Hey there bone man!” She gets to his side and Kravitz relaxes too. He’s dressed really nice again today, black dress shirt and grey vest with a red tie and gold accenting this time. It looks like gold skull earrings and cuff links, red pocket square tucked in the vest pocket.

“Where did that come from?” He laughs.

“The bird skulls, well just the skull motif in general. You look like a hot undertaker, sexy grim reaper kinda vibe.” Lup points to his wrists, “If I didn’t know any better I’d call you a nerd.”

“That, I will not lie about.” He swats away some of his free hanging dreads and grabs one of his sleeves. “But I think I am a rather cool nerd,” He lifts it just slightly, showing off what Lup thinks is ink, dark black against his dark brown skin. Lup whistles, punching his bicep.

“Oh hell yeah! Def got some cred there Krav.” Somebody bumps into her, sending her bag swinging before colliding back with her side. The sharp edges catches her by surprise, and she sighs before adjusting Davenport’s book. “Shit- right- I wanted to say thanks for the other day.” Lup pats her bag, “You helped me out and it meant a lot to me.”

“No problem, you seem rather different compared to some of the other students here,”

“I will choose to take that as a compliment-”

Kravitz laughs, “It most definitely was, but I can understand the ambiguity. I guess I’m impressed, hopeful for you making it in the legal world.”

“Most of the assholes around here have the exact opposite approach, think since I’m different I can’t cut it.”

“Hm. Their loss I suppose. Not to be rude, but I did have to see Lydia, is there anything else I can do for you?”

“You busy this weekend?”

“Lup, I-” He switches hands holding his briefcase, and holds up his left thumb where a familiar silver ring sits.

“No- yeah, no- I know- I mean- Hang out. Study together? I’m gonna be at the library with a few friends, my brother and I. Figured it would be nice to introduce you. Nice people gotta stick together.”

“Didn’t I tell you? I’m not a-”

“Hey! Lup!” Taako yells, nearly in a sprint on his way over. He barrels into her side, stopping for just a moment to eye up Kravitz. “Ooh~ nevermind Lup, whatever it was can wait.” He holds a hand out, “Name’s Taako. Charmed.”

“Kravitz,” he says, taking Taako’s hand. “And I am.”

“Oh-” Taako’s reply is tiny, and Lup gives her brother a hard shove before turning back to Kravitz. “Ignore him, go on get to your shit. Maybe see you at the library on Saturday?”

“I’ll do my best.” He gives a small wave before disappearing off the quad, back into the halls of the school.

“Why didn’t you tell me you found the perfect man-”

“It’s the guy you made fun of me for, he’s the upperclassmen who gave me advice for the professors.”

“Bad news, I’m stealing him. He’s gay right? I saw highlighter on those cheekbones, he cannot be straight- God cannot be so cruel to me as to-” Lup covers his mouth with her hand.

“Alright horny boy, why did you come running out to find me.” Lup says, letting him go after a few seconds.

“I came to tell you I may have ruined what little relationship I had with Sloane.”

“You what?

“It was stupid- a class discussion that we ended up on different sides of and things got heated and some things were said.”

“How bad?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t say anything I regret-” Taako is rolling his hand as he speaks, he looks at his nails as Lup interrupts him.

“You don’t have regrets.”

“Not the point.”

Exactly the point. Goddammit Taako.”

 

Classes slowly settle as the first week passes, Taako flexes unnecessarily hard in Wonder’s class and Lup burns a strong and steady flame in Davenport’s. The other classes are more normal, homework takes up most of their free time. Lup doesn’t see Kravitz again, and Sloane stops eating with them, but what’s one more person against them? The murmurs die down just a little, the twins ignore the slung insults and the assholes. To Lup’s immense surprise Taako actually takes to Angus, they study a bit before they end up talking about Angus’ favorite book series one night. Lup occasionally chimes in but it’s nice to see Taako keep an eye out for the literal child at law school.

Greg is an eye sore, but the twins take to living their lives in his gaze. Might as well give him something to look at. If he’s going to watch them, why not make sure he seems them thriving? Tensions rise between them, but almost every time Lucretia passes by and totes him away like a dog owner with a vapid chihuahua. When she doesn’t, Lup slowly grows her teeth back and puts Greg back in his place. As angry and betrayed and heartbroken he left her Lup still feels those emotions, she doesn’t forgive or forget, but she moves on. She regains her confidence, she works on putting herself back together stronger. Some of his actions echo from the past, red flags she never saw through rose colored glasses. But she still watches terrible rom-coms. She still watches soap operas, and feels her heart turn to mush when she sees a couple holding hands, arms entwined under a tree on the quad. She moves on but she’s still a romantic at heart.

Barry and Angus seem to be their only heroes, Angus takes to Taako and Barry takes to Lup. On Saturday they all meet a the cafeteria for breakfast before trudging off to the library. They find a table and spill out papers and textbooks, Angus shoots off to find texts and Lup and Barry start outlining the paper. Taako snags one of the computers and does his own work. And it’s quiet, as libraries tend to be. Angus brings back some texts. Lup has a breakthrough in the thesis. Barry helps support it. Angus brings the support. Barry does the first pass of the introduction. Lup starts on the body paragraphs. Angus cites the quotes and proofreads. They break for lunch feeling like it’s been a productive hour, only to realize it’s been five. Lup lays herself on the open textbooks on the table, burying her face in the center of one, muffling a groan.

“It’s not too bad,” Barry says, rubbing at his eye and uprooting his glasses to catch them in his hair. When he brings his hand down his glasses stay stuck, and Angus giggles.

“Don’t motorboat the books Lulu,” Taako says, placing one hand on the back of Barry’s chair and plucking the glasses from his hair. Barry winces but takes them with a mumbled thank you. Taako drops into the only empty chair and runs his hands through his hair. “How’s the nerd patrol rolling?”

“You also attend Harvard sir."

"Wow I'm sure glad I can't hear the frequency at which children talk, I'm truly blessed." Taako knocks a few books around, before putting them into towers.

"We've got some stuff down, good bases for the paper. Still gonna take some time but it's a good thing we came early," Bary waves his around at the people that had been slowly trickling in and out. "Glad we got the good books we did too."

"Alright, Barry is positive. Duly noted." Taako shoots finger guns at him, and Barry returns the gesture.

"Tell that to my depression."

"Again duly noted. How about food break?"

"Can we just chill for a bit? Let my brain wind down?" Lup sits up from her book, propping her chin in hear hands.

"I like that idea! My legs also fell asleep so I don't think I could walk yet." Angus chimes in, batting his chewed pen back and forth across the table. Taako takes a lazy swipe at it and Angus giggles, batting it back and forth quicker.

"How are you feelin'?" Barry scoots his chair closer to her, and Lup smiles at him.

"Tired as fuck. Haven't been sleepin' well."

"Shit, I'm sorry." His voice is gentle and raw in a way Lup doesn't expect, she looks away.

"It's fine. With how Taaks 'n I are treated around here I'd be surprised if my subconscious didn't get snippy with me." She flicks one of her stray pens, watching it bounce along the tabletop.

"Well you're not alone." Barry pulls over a tower of books to lay on. "Hard going back to school when everyone thinks it's a lost cause for your age. Not everybody goes to the right school in their teens or their early twenties. Life happens for your entire life." He sighs, and Lup giggles despite herself.

"Uh yeah, I sure hope it does?" She says making Barry start to laugh too.

Somebody shushes them and Lup has to suppress the urge to snap at them. Instead she ignores them and looks at Barry as he looks back at her. He’s tinged pink again, his smile is gentle and real and Lup feels her own cheeks warm, she looks away and coughs into her fist.

“Hey, Lulu,” Taako says as he continues batting at the pen Angus is bouncing around. “You think we’ll lose our table if we leave for lunch?”

“Probably, people have been filtering in for a while, right?”

Barry nods, “I think Davenport’s not the only one who assigned a research assignment. Or upperclassmen are doing shit like theses and final research for presentations.”

“Have you guys got enough done for today?” Taako looks up at the two of them, and for some reason Lup’s blush worsens.

“I think we’re good.”

“M-Me too.” Barry echoes. Lup spies Angus snatch the pen in his hand and hide it in his lap, and she smiles.

“I think we’ve gotten further than some other groups. And my legs are less asleep!” Angus smiles.

“I’m not carrying you.”

“I wouldn’t expect you too sir!”

They all take another moment to breathe, listening to the shuffling of students around them, pencils on paper on the desks, books and chairs moving. It’s quiet but also not, it’s peaceful. And as per usual, in comes Greg to ruin the peace. Angus sees him first, he’s looking around for a table and when he spies Lup, Angus goes still.

“M-Miss Lup-” He says, before Greg puts a hand on Lup’s shoulder from behind. She recoils, hunching into herself for a split second as Greg leans down to speak next to her ear.

“Hey th-” And that’s as far as he gets before Lup throws herself upright and smacks her head against the side of Greg’s. She stumbles out of her chair, clutching her now pounding head as Greg also stumbles back. Lup at least manages to stay quiet although the rest of the table is quick to call her name. Greg isn’t quiet, he’s swearing up a storm as Lup trips, Barry stumbling from his chair to catch her.

“Jesus fuck!” Greg yells, both hands holding the side of his head. “What the hell!”

“Greg-” Sloane of all people comes up behind him, she puts a hesitant hand on his shoulder, “What happened?”

“Lup, you alright?” Barry has one hand on her bicep and one on her back. People around them start mumbling, a few people leave.

“She headbutted me!”

“Well you deserve it you creep!” Taako pushes himself upright next and Sloane steps in front of Greg.

“You leave my partner alone-” She says, making Taako snort.

“Thought you were gay-”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it-” Sloane tilts her head down, and Taako tilts his up in turn.

“U-Uh-” Angus mumbles shakily, still in his seat. Chaos is starting to ensue, Greg is still yelling and Sloane and Taako are getting into each others business- Angus gathers what he can of the paper, putting everything in a folder and keeping their hard work safe from anything too brash.

“You can’t just touch whoever you want-” Barry says, looking up at Greg.

“You gonna stop me-?!”

“No, I will .” Then there’s a shrill note that interrupts everyone, and in turn each person turns towards the sound. It’s Lucretia, dropping a small whistle from her mouth for it to hang on a lanyard. She’s in a soft blue sweater, with a name tag pinned to the front. “You all are going to leave the library right now.”

“I wanna file a complaint against these two-” Taako jabs at Greg and Sloane, “They antagonized us!”

“Lup smashed her skull into mine!” Greg snaps, “I didn’t do nothin’!”

“It doesn’t matter. Leave the premises at once before I contact security. And you two-” Lucretia points at Taako, then at Lup as Barry helps her stand. “I had better not see you here again. I don’t care if you plan to waste your time. I won’t let you waste other, serious students’ time.”

If Lup was still composed enough to see Greg as a person she’d see him flinch at the word choice, but instead Lup pushes herself upright and turns to Lucretia. “Don’t you dare tell me what I am and what I'm not.” She says, pointing at her.

“Get out of my face and leave. You don’t belong here.” Lucretia says, her own voice brimming with rage too.

“I paid to get here- I studied- We got into the same school- I-” Lup’s shoulders are shaking as Lucretia steps forward.

“You don’t deserve to be here.” And it’s a very very busy next few seconds as Lup throws her arm back readying to punch her, Taako and Barry scrambling to grab her before she gets herself expelled. Sloane and Greg disappear into the aisles and Angus takes off running out of the building before he gets in trouble too. The two men get her restrained, but she fights the entire way as they all rush out of the library. Lup writhes out of their grasps and almost trips on the sidewalk, before she hunches forward her forearms on her knees.

"Fuck Lup!" Taako pulls her upright and fists his hands in her shirt. "You can't- You coulda got yourself expelled!"

"I know!" Lup yells back, shoving away from him and holding her arms. "I know, alright?!"

"Just breathe, okay? Let's fuckin' hope they don't try and press charges or anything." Barry wipes sweat from his forehead and Taako pulls at his hair.

"I-! God- I'm going to get a drink!" Taako storms away, leaving the other two standing in the cool autumn air heaving breaths.

"I'm- I'm going back to my dorm." Lup adjusts her bag, and scrubs at her eyes with the back of her other hand.

"Take care of yourself, okay?" Barry doesn't try and touch her or shush her, he folds his hands and lets Lup decide what to do.

She nods, and takes off down the sidewalk the opposite way Taako went. Barry doesn't follow her.

Chapter Text

Lup is nestled on her bed curled in a tight ball when Taako returns. Garyl is curled up in her curl, he's a tiny motor as Lup pets him. Taako takes a final sip of his ice coffee before chucking the cup into one of their bins.

"Hey." He says.

"Hey." She says.

"You wanna tell me why you almost got yourself expelled?"

"Not especially." Lup twirls Garyl's tail around her finger, the cat playfully butts his head against her chin.

"Alright. It's whatever I guess." Taako kicks a leg out as he drops down onto Lup's bed, both she and the cat bounce up but resume their lounging soon enough. "Have you heard from Magnus or Ren lately?"

Lup watches him shuffle around in his pants, before pulling out his phone. "No, it's only been a week."

"Well they're family or some shit like that." He swipes his phone open and taps away, calling Magnus and putting the phone on speaker then on a nearby pillow. It rings twice before he picks up.

"Hey Taako!" Magnus' voice is more familiar and comforting than it has any right to be. Both of the twins feel more relaxed and sink down into the bed. "What's up?"

"We just wanted to chat." He elbows Lup gently, and she scoffs.

"Yeah. Wanted to check in."

"Hey Lup! Yeah uh- everything's pretty great around here." His voice catches a little wrong, and both the twins squint at the phone.

"Something's up."

"Something is definitely up."

"No such somes are thinging! Happening! The thing market is down! Thing recession!" Magnus babbles back.

"Whoever's got my fiancé on the line better be important-!" Julia's voice calls, far off and distant.

"Fiancé?" Taako asks. Lup feels a weird mix of emotions that she tries desperately to suppress. Magnus must cover the receiver, their voices are static and muffled until about a minute later they're clear.

"Magnus proposed." Julia says. Lup can hear the smile in her voice, the infectious happiness that sends sunshine and shadows across Lup's heart.

"Jules said yes." Magnus' voice mirrors hers and thankfully Taako takes over the conversation.

"Congrats Mr and Mrs meathead-" He interrupts himself to laugh at his own joke before finishing, "How'd he do it?"

"We we out to our favorite bar and we ended up lounging in the quad after hours. We watched the stars and kissed under the full moon." Julia's voice is soft and sweet.

"Jeez you big sappy oafs," Taako says. "Keep yourselves together. Has anything else happened?"

"Ren quit her job," Magnus says and Taako blinks.

"She what?"

"Yeah a guy kept harassing her. I offered to help but she didn't want to get in trouble with her boss by trying to report- or having a friend beat the shit outta a customer."

"God what a scumbag." Lup spits, "Some guys just think they can do whatever they want."

"People are gross. Dogs? Infinitely better."

Taako bites back with the same line from when they were driving to the salon what feels like years ago. Things change so fast.

"We have dinner reservations," Julia interrupts, "so we gotta get goin' soon. It was nice hearin' from you two, it's not the same round here without ya. Take care alright?"

"You too," both of the twins say in return. The line goes dead not long after, and Lup rubs at her eyes.

"You're such a romantic," Taako teases, rubbing her shoulder.

"I'm happy for them, I just-"

"You didn't let your shit interrupt their happiness. You're growing, you're doing better." He hugs her, officially displacing Garyl as the cat fucks off to probably stretch his claws in one of Taako's skirts.

"Ugh." Lup groans.

"Yeah."

 

Classes become everything. Lup enjoys her free time, sometimes she goes out to the quad and plays her violin. But she came to learn, so learn she will. Her quiz results are shaky at first before she sets a schedule, the twins set up side by side nearly every night as they pour over texts and references. Barry and Angus work their way back into the circle, sometimes they rope Kravitz into a session or a conversation on the quad. It's difficult, but the paper comes back with a B+ and a handwritten note at the top, Excellent. Always room for improvement . It's not heartbreaking, she's proud of her work and of her team.

Taako is thriving in Wonder's class, she's a wonderful role model and when Greg starts talking Taako's even more out there as himself (Loud, bubbly, opinionated). Lydia memorizes his name and Taako almost shrieks. It's not easy, but it's fulfilling. They worked hard to get here and now that they're here they're going to work hard to stay. Work hard to graduate. Sure the science and the math come easy, but the human aspect has their attention more than anything else. Cases aren't just numbers, they're messy histories of people and situations and injustices. And the twins find more issue in that than anything else. They fight for the right thing even if it's unclear what it is. Not using the law as loopholes or bricks of text that trick people to signing away their lives. Lup and Taako may have decided to start out of spite, but they let this decision lead them to an island of humanity in a sea of greed. They visit Merle's salon pretty routinely. Not exactly once a week, sometimes less sometimes more. But it's always safe, Merle always listens and always talks, they tease him about the ups guy and he tries to support their interest in law although he has absolutely no understanding of it.

Barry and Angus ferry books back and forth of the library, the twins don’t want to press their luck on that front. They do press their luck with Lucretia in class though, and after the first few weeks they reach a kind of plateau. Lup reels back in her fight urges, she uproots one of Lucretia’s arguments in Davenport’s class and instead of getting angry in return Lucretia seems surprised. Lup gives her best grin and Lucretia still doesn’t get fired up. They reach an equal footing after Lup proves herself, they don’t start screaming in arguments (Like Taako and Sloane apparently). They gain a mutual respect slowly. It’s not real respect, Lucretia still ignores Taako at any possibility but Lup can get her to make eye contact now. It’s a competition, the twins aren’t just against the world and Greg, now Lucretia’s got a big red target on her head too. Taako and Lucretia get into an argument in Wonder’s class, the professor throws the first bone and sits back watching them tear each other apart, dismantling beliefs and correcting citations. Needless to say all three of them are fighting tooth and nail for the top spot, and a position as a Wonderland intern. Greg gets opinionated after a while watching them, other students chime in here and there but the rivalry turns into the twins versus Lucretia versus Greg.

 

"And what's the point of diminished capacity?" Lydia points at her chalkboard, where the two words are.

Taako’s hand shoots up and Lydia smiles as she calls on him.

“To negate mens rea.” Taako says. He sees Lucretia tilt her head down before turning up to look at him. She’s still jugdy, but she’s looking at him more quizzical than angry.

“That is correct- and what is mens rea?”

 

Davenport taps his pointer against the chalkboard, “Miss Taako- you’ve filed a claim. What next?”

Lup looks up and rubs residual sleep from her eye before drawing her lips. “You need reasonable belief your claim has evidentiary support.”

Davenport smiles at her for a brief moment, before he looks up in the seats. “And what are some examples of evidentiary support Mister Adavi?”

Angus gives Lup a high five under the table.

 

Lydia is pacing around her desk as Greg talks, before she sits on a flat space facing the class.

“The donor had full right to visitation, as the biological father he should have been able to talk over hours with the couple. It’s as much his child as theirs.” He says, making a vague hand gesture.

“Can you go into further detail and give your claim support?” Lydia asks, crossing her arms. “The donor was an habitual donor not a single time one.”

“Well without him, the mother could never have had the child. Without him there would be no child.” Greg says. “It’s not harassment if the client was just trying to exercise his right to his child.”

“Now you’re thinking like a lawyer,” Lydia smiles at him, and glances around the room. “Greg here’s got a good stance, anybody oppose his findings?”

Taako shoots his hand up to the shock of everyone sitting around him, Lup included. He was never one for familial laws or court proceedings in other discussions. “Taako?”

“So following Greggy’s line of reasoning, this guy shoulda been harrassing every other couple that used his jizz, right?” Taako pops his lips, “Unless that is he was specifically looking for these parents because of who they were. He should have a laundry list of records looking into every single child he’s produced as a habitual donor and speaking with those parents respectfully and cordially since he’s been donating for years. Otherwise a laundry list of his trespassing reports because this is just how he tries to visit his children .” he supplies air quotes for the last part, and Lup raises her hand next. Taako gives her a high five and she continues his speaking.

“If we’re also treating this freak’s cum as life from the second he had fun in a cup, what about any suspicious tissues in his bin? Reckless abandonment? After he donated he’s given up any right in some kind of freaking ownership, because the people giving to donors aren’t looking for families. They’re looking for some spare cash.” Lup gives Taako a high five back and he grins.

And unless he’s called every person he’s had a one night stand with, checking if a child resulted in those unions, he has no parental claim in any parental situation.” Taako finishes, popping his chin in his hand.

There’s a stifled laugh from the back of the room, a few of the other students look around in awe, and Lydia smiles up at the twins.

“I believe you’ve just won your case.” The bell rings, and Lydia talks over the shutting of laptops and books. “And Taako, Lup, can you hang around for a few minutes? I’d like to talk to you two.”

They fix up their outfits before trudging down to the desk, Lydia is also packing up as she speaks to them. “Impressive work today. Have you considered applying for my internship?”

“How many slots are there?” Taako asks, arms crossed.

“Four, don’t worry.” She replies, placing her final folder in her case. “I think you two are some good new blood, people should be able to see law isn’t always a boring ugly thing. If you two are interested, feel free to drop your resumes off with me or my coworker, I think he’s already left. I’ve heard good things about you and your work in class speaks for itself. I’d really consider it.” She pulls her case off her desk and starts for the door. The twins follow, nodding.

“Thank you professor.” Taako says, elbowing Lup for her to echo him. They’re practically vibrating with glee as they rush out of the halls, sprawling themselves across the grass of the quad. Taako buries his face in the grass and nearly squeaks, Lup lays face up and grins at the clouds, hand flapping back and forth.

A shadow falls over then, but it’s not entirely unpleasant. “Hello there,” Kravitz says, “You two did great today.” He smiles, brushing down the back of his pants before sitting on the grass with them.

“Hey there skeletor, you heard about our roasting?” Lup sits up and Taako rolls onto his side to face them.

"I did, I actually had a bit of an ill timed laugh." Kravitz smiles, pulling his locs out of their band for them to fall down his back. "You two really have a knack for law."

"Hell yeah man, we're not goin' anywhere." Taako winks and acutely notices the way Kravitz takes it with glee. "What are you doin'? Class?"

"Had to deliver some stuff." Kravitz pulls off his suit jacket (a deep plum number) and sets it on the grass. "I think you two would do great in Lydia's internship, have you considered applying?"

"She actually stopped us on the way out to remind us we should." Lup starts plucking blades of grass from the ground, rolling them around in her fingers. "Feel like we could do it with a little more studying. Gotta be good enough for a real professional like her."

"Well it'd help to know how she thinks." Kravitz smiles. Lup flashes back to their first conversation, and smiles too.

"Hey, are you gay?" Taako asks, lounging across the grass in a splay of poofy shirt and flowing skirt.

Kravitz blinks, "Uh, y-yes. I don't normally like to make a big deal out of it but yes I'm only interested in men."

"Nice, nice." Taako kicks his leg up into the air, "You acted so fuckin' suave the other day I wanna see what else you've got my man. You be interested in a date?"

"Quite the difference from the blushing mess last time yourself," Kravitz swipes at Taako's leg, and he goes rolling to avoid him.

"Hey!" He says, covering his mouth with his hand as he starts to laugh.

"I'd be very interested in taking you on a date Taako." Kravitz grins, Taako losing himself to a giggle fit.

"Alright, we're in public don't be indecent now-" Lup leans over and swats at the both of their faces. They make small grunts and Taako swats at her in return, the twins start elbowing each other and faux wrestling. Kravitz watches in awe, delving into his own laughing fit.

 

The twins keep up their work. It settles easier, now that they've spent so long studying and working. They repeat their gestures that helped the first time. Quizzes over lunch, vocal tests getting ready in the mornings and unwinding each night. They loiter around the library after a few weeks, they learn Lucretia has the morning shift courtesy of Barry and he brings them in and helps them study. They pull late night study sessions, sometimes even when one of the twins has class or something else. He helps Lup and he helps Taako, and in return they help him. Barry and Lup pass books back and forth in class and in their free time. When it's not textbooks Barry shares his favorite sci-fi novels, and Lup shows off her small but personal graphic novel collection. They talk about work yes, but also each other. Taako joins in and they form a tight knit triangle, with Angus as the little brother balanced carefully in the center protected on all sides.

Barry calls Lup early one morning, and she mumbles into the receiver.

"The internships were announced!"

"We'll be right there." Lup throws herself out of bed, dragging Taako along- they still have an hour and a half before classes and this is important- They find the swarm of people around the teacher's bulletin board and shove their way through. Taako manages to accidentally snatch Lucretia's sleeve as he passes by but soon enough they're both cheering, Lup tossing her brother up into the air and the both of them screaming in the middle of the hall. Barry rushes up next, grabbing the both of them in an awkward uncomfortably angled hug that they adore.

Taako Lup

Lup Taako

Lucretia Clarke

Greg Grimaldis

A small bubble edges around them, and Lucretia is surprisingly the one to enter it. There are some swears, some spat insults and rumors leaked talking about how the twins got their internships, but Lucretia speaks louder.

"I'm glad you're excited," She says, her voice lacking any notion of glee or joy.

Taako jumps down from Barry's hold and dusts off his atrocious pajamas, "If you're going to treat us like people I think we can work well together." He crosses his arms.

"I think I won't have a choice, but in a professional environment I should at least give you the benefit of doubt." She extends a hand and Taako takes it.

"This is much better than catching a fist to the nose, lemme just say." Taako shakes her hand twice, and looks over to see Greg approaching.

"Hey." He tilts his head up in a small semblance of a nod which Taako repeats. "We're gonna have to get along at least a li'l bit for this big shot big shit now."

"As long as you learned your lesson kemosabe, we won't have an issue. And you keep your hands to yourself."

" Not in the mood for another concussion on the eve of my first shot in court." Greg scratches the side of his jaw, and Lucretia huffs a breath.

"You won't actually get to do anything, we're mainly going to be running coffee and learning from observing."

Lup saddles in besides Taako and chimes in next. "You playing nice?"

"Yes." Taako, Lucretia, and Greg all say at once. Lup snickers into her brother's shoulder.

"Alright, guess we'll all meet up at-" She squints at the paper. "Wonderland I guess?"

"I'll check with professor Wonder during lunch." Lucretia offers. "I'll text everyone, what are your numbers?" They swap information around and it feels weird but nice to clear the air a little between them all. There's still competition but the violence is nullified to leashed dogs instead of wild ones.

"We're gonna intern at Wonderland, that's like- the place to be."

"There isn't a specific office that's the big news and everybody has to work for, that's absurd." Lucretia opens something on her phone, typing a paragraph a minute.

"Lucretia's got a point. It's big news but it's not the big finish end of the line kinda thing. An important step." Taako says, brushing some of his bedhead away from his face. "But I'm hungry as hell and practically naked. So! I'll see you nerds later." He links elbows with Lup, and drags her off. Lup follows, matching his pace.

"We did it Koko," She mumbles, bonking heads with him.

"We sure did. But let's not get ahead of ourselves now. After class today, we're going to be working at Wonderland. Still a big thing."

"You scared?"

"Scared for our competition, definitely." He grins, making Lup snort a laugh. “Barold! Go grab us breakfast!” He calls over his shoulder. Distantly down the hall, there’s a confirmation.

Chapter Text

Taako dons his finest flowing shirt and Lup her nicest suit for their introductory meeting. Lucretia sends them a group text, they're meeting at Wonderland to go over their case before talking to the client. They arrive early, after Lucretia but before some of the other official lawyers on the case. Lydia smiles and waves them in, they take seats next to each other at the table and wait patiently. Greg arrives just in time, and Lydia looks around for one more person before adjusting her tinted glasses.

"Alright- we've been hired to represent a relative nobody. The special thing about this case is the victim was Maureen Miller of Miller industries, the multimillion dollar corporation." Lydia starts handing out papers, and an almost mirror image of her hands out papers to the rear of the room, Lup realizes it's Edward. Of course he's here. They dance around each other distributing forms and papers. "Maureen was shot and we have two witnesses who placed our friend at the scene of the crime. Lucas Miller, the victims son, and the groundskeeper. Our defendant is Killian Crushbone, an orc woman 25 years old." Lydia flips through her own clipped collection of papers when the rear door to the room opens.

"Took you long enough McAllister-" Lydia smiles. "You all know my brother and I from class but this is another one of our associates Kravitz McAllister. You may know him from lurking around my classroom."

Kravitz gives a passive hand wave as he takes a seat, both of the twins send surprised but happy looks his way.

"We don't know much more, our preliminary hearing of Killian is in half an hour so after this meeting we're heading straight over. Any questions?" Edward asks.

"What's Miss Crushbone's relation to the defendant?" Lucretia is hurriedly writing on a legal pad and Lydia snaps her fingers into a finger gun at her.

"Killian was Maureen's personal trainer for the last six months. Apparently the only trainer Maureen ever got and the only person Killian worked for." Lydia sets a few things in strategic piles on her desk and wipes her hands down the front of her blazer. "I don't know much aside from that though. We'll have to ask her ourselves."

Taako nudges Lup’s chair and he mumbles to her. “Exercise gives you endorphins, right? Endorphins make you happy.”

“Happy people just don’t murder people.” Lup nods back. It’s really simple, but they both know the real science behind it, there’s more to it but that’s all they need to say. Something seems odd here.

 

Taako and Lup pile into Kravitz' car with Lucretia in the front seat next to him.

"You never said you worked with Wonderland," Taako says clicking his seatbelt into place.

"I attempted to, but the situations never seemed to let me." Kravitz adjusts the rearview mirror and meets his eyes. "Is that date off now?"

"Date?" Lucretia says, voice more snide than anyone present has ever heard.

"It might be best if you two wait until after our internship. It might give people the wrong idea." Lup calls, laying back against the seat and looking out the window. The ride to the detention center is as relaxed as anyone can imagine, that is to say not at all. They unload out of the car and Kravitz catches Taako's sleeve just briefly.

"I'm sorry if bringing that up gets you into any trouble, my lips are sealed from now on."

"Nah my man, don't worry. I woulda blabbered about my incredible luck sooner or later." Taako rubs his forearm, "I'd still like a rain check though. Let's get to work." They all file into the detention center, they beat the Wonder twins and Greg and get situated in the interrogation room. A few guards walk Killian out, she's big like an orc and she keeps her hair in a pretty traditional braid, gold ring on the end they at least didn't take from her. Her eyes are downcast as she takes a seat in the metal chair closest to the door. They don't uncuff her wrists or her ankles, Taako has a strong feeling it's because they're racist.

She momentarily perks up when the Wonder twins arrive- she starts talking before Lydia holds a hand up and silences her.

"Alright, tell us what happened."

"M-My name is Killian Crushbone." She nods slowly, "I came back to the house from being- out. It was around two thirty if I had to guess. And I didn't hear a gunshot or anything. I-I went into the house past the foyer. I went to the mainroom, and then I saw-" She takes a shaky breath. "Maureen was laying on the floor. And everything gets-" She rubs the ball of one hand against her temple.

"Orcish rage?" Greg asks, pointing lazily at her.

"Most likely." Lucretia says, looking up from her transcribing.

"What does everything get?" Taako asks, leaning forward.

"Fuzzy. I got really scared, and then I got mad. She looked so sad, but at peace. I tried cpr- I guess I must have lost it." Killian returns to staring at the metal table.

"What's your alibi for before the murder occurred. You said you were out?" Lydia and Edward are pacing around the room, their steps spaced and timed perfectly like one entity.

"I can't tell you." Killian fists his hands in her jumpsuit, she draws her lips and stumbles a little around her fangs. "Listen I didn't kill her, she was- is- was- an amazing person. She was more than a client, she cared about me and I cared about her. She made me feel safe and loved and we worked well together and I can't help but feel responsible for what happened, if I had been there-" Killian digs the balls of her hands into her eyes again.

"Tell us the alibi and we'll believe you." Edward says.

"I can't- and if you put me on the stand I'll lie." Killian spits, "I can't tell you where I was. But I can tell you I didn't kill her."

"If you can't tell us your alibi, we can't trust you." Edward reaches the front of the room, standing directly over Killian's left shoulder.

"And if we can't trust you, the only thing you can trust is that you won't make it out of this alive."  Lydia stops over her right shoulder, and waves her hand before the two Wonders turn heel and leave the room. Greg is quick to shove his shit into his bag and rush after the twins, Lucretia and Kravitz take a little longer properly packing up and Lup follows not soon after. Taako stays. He knits his fingers and looks at Killian. She slowly looks up from the floor.

"Who are you covering for." He says, more a statement. He knows she's hiding something, he recognizes the fear and hard defense in her pose, her voice.

"I can't tell you." Her voice is soft, it's real in a way it wasn't with the others present.

"Are they worth it?" He starts pulling his stuff together now. She watches him.

"Maureen was a wonderful woman, you have to know. She was like a mother to me, she cared for me and wanted me to be happy just like she wanted her son to be happy. She practically adopted me, I’ve only ever felt safe and loved when I was on the estate with her and Brian. And she wouldn't want me to lose her and my love. She's worth it." Killian looks back at the table. "They're right, I can't afford to hire you guys and not work with you but-"

Taako puts a hand on her shoulder as he reaches her side. "I believe you. We'll get you your not guilty verdict."

Killian watches him go, and Taako steps a little stronger out of the detention center. Kravitz is standing against the drivers door when Taako gets out, he tilts his head at him. “You good? What was that about?”

“Nah,” Taako waves his hand. “It’s nothin’ bones. We got anything else to do today?”

“Aside from some preliminary discussion and digging, not really. We’re not supposed to let the interns in on certain early stuff anyway.” They both slide into their seats, surprised to see just Lup waiting inside, scrolling absently on her phone. “Lucretia took a ride with the Wonders.” Kravitz supplements.

Taako nods, and taps his nails against his lips. “Hey Lulu, you in the mood t’go to the salon?”

 

Merle welcomes them, he waves Taako over and to his surprise Lup follows. She pulls a chair over as the trio sits, Merle grabs his bottle of acetone and cotton pads.

“You guys get the thing?” Merle asks, leaning down and shoving his hand in a drawer.

“Yeah, we just got outta it actually.” Lup props her elbows on the table and Merle barks a laugh.

“After you worked so hard to get in, I’m shocked.” Lup and Taako both roll their eyes as the man smiles at his own shitty joke. “How’s it treatin’ ya?”

“Boring as hell.” They both grumble, Taako handing is palm over for Merle to take.

“That is law,” Merle says. “Can’t you find anything interesting about it?”

“I dunno, case numbers are easier compared to this. This there’s real people. I thought it’d be a good thing but- Nobody’s listening to her. It’s like the rest of the stuffed suits are running on autopilot, ignoring the humanity.” Lup is idly sliding around knicknacks on Merle’s station, she clinks bottles together and plays with some of the brushes. Merle lets her, bless his heart, he doesn’t seem bothered at all.

“So you two are bringing the humanity.”

“It’s not easy to do that and make it. Hard enough to make it in a world where people are out for our blood, not considering we’re trying to make it and change it.” Taako says next. Lup looks over at him curious, and he sighs. “Yeah, it’s been bothering me too. As much as I want this to be some perfect easy thing, this is just a huge toll.”

Merle doesn’t say anything this time as he puts top coat on Taako’s nails, but the elf withdraws his hands and Merle takes Lup’s instead. “Shit’s rough. But eventually it will pass. You got this thing, right? Maybe more good things are coming. But you’ll only find out if you hang around.” Merle shuffles around his drawer again before filing Lup’s shorter nails.

“Yeah yeah.” Taako grumbles. “Got through to her anyway, might get more than these stuffed suits.”

“Oh hey Merle,” Lup is looking out the front window while Merle works, “Somebody interesting’s comin’ in.” He blinks, eyebrows drawing close as the bell over the Gardenia Gardens door rings.

“Delivery for Merle?” The dead ups man calls, already smiling with cheeks flushing. Merle in return smiles, not even bothering to finish Lup’s middle finger before standing up and rushing to the counter.

“Hey John,” He smiles, taking the pen from John’s hand to sign the little screen.

“Hey,” John echoes, pulling at his collar. “How you doin’?”

Taako blows on his nails as the two men dance around any real conversation. When he looks up Merle is walking back, dropping the box on his tabletop.

“Just tell him you’re interested.” Taako says, “I got myself a date with a man so beautiful I could cry.”

“I didn’t ask for advice,” Merle grumbles, finishing Lup’s hand and blowing on the drying polish.

“Actually, you did.”

 

A restless nights sleep and day of classes pass by, Barry, Angus and the twins catch lunch before they head off again to Wonderland. Lucretia welcomes them, and they talk while the professionals arrive.

“Did you do the reading for Davenport yet?” Lup makes herself a cup of coffee, sitting next to Lucretia.

“No, I usually do it on the evening bus rides.” She says, drinking from a thermos. Lup gives a small sniff, realizing Lucretia drinks tea.

“You ride the bus to school?”

“On campus wasn’t exactly an option for me.” She taps her thermos, and takes a deep breath, as if she’s not sure how much she wants to tell. Taako drops down on her other side, the twins bracketing her.

“You live off campus?” Taako takes a slow drink of his own coffee. Lucretia nods.

“I tend to eat on campus though, I’m not the best with my own kitchen.” She taps her thermos rhythmically.

“I can teach you if you want to learn anything.” Taako offers, looking down at his drink. Lucretia doesn’t respond immediately, the other more adult adults filtering around the room fill in the silence with ambient noise.

“I’d appreciate it.” She says, taking a sip of her drink.

“We’re buildin’ a bridge here, you gotta meet us halfway.” Lup drinks her coffee next, and extends her cup towards Lucretia. She indeeds meets their cups, the metal of her thermos making a small noise against Lup’s paper cup.

“I’ll be interested to learn from you.”

“Woah some personality- there it is.” Taako smiles, making Lucretia huff a laugh into her drink. They hang around while the final people filter in, Kravitz takes a seat next to Lup and Greg filters in on his other side. Edward leads the discussion this time, he starts passing out folders.

“So, who are we all considering?”

“Killian is hiding something.” Lucretia says, all fondness gone with the wind. A few of the people at the table nod, Lydia points at her.

“She is, it’s obviously where she was. She can’t give us an alibi which heavily wounds us, and limits what we can do for her in general.”

“I think she did it,” Greg says, tapping the conference table. “She can’t give us an alibi ‘cause she killed the woman.”

“I can’t help but think that,” Edward points at him, and a few of the nobodies around the room nod.

Taako clenches his hands, “I don’t think she did it. There are two other suspects here, let’s talk about them.”

The two Wonder twins sigh, Lydia looks at him. “Taako, doll, we will but Killian is clearly hiding something.”

“Maybe it’s not what you think,” He says. He looks around, and Kravitz give a thoughtful hum.

“It’s a possibility that she’s hiding something benign, but if that's the case there would only be a small number of things that would be worth her going to jail. I do think the other two witness are rather suspicious though.”

“Lucas Miller, the deceased’s son, and-” Lucretia squints at her notebook, “ Magic Brian?”

“Brian Spinne, an ex-B-list actor who was hired by the Millers for groundskeeping duties.” Kravitz rubs his forehead, “He would only be submitted as a witness under the stipulation of that stage name.”

"Oh we stan-" Taako says, before coughing. "So what's up with them?"

"Lucas Miller is the deceased's son. Pupil and bright mind. Had benefits from the company and adored his mother." Edward flips through his collection of papers, and Greg leans over to look.

"Had inheritance and was an only child. Maureen was never married… There’s a few times Lucas has been rewritten in the will, but her most recent is cosigned by him and he’s still getting a lot." Lydia says next, gesturing at her brother.

"Most recent? Is there a reason Maureen already had a will written? She was in good health in her mid 50s." Kravitz slides his folder between himself and Lup, and Lup scrutinizes the pages where Kravitz has already written and highlighted.

"Head of a multimillion dollar company, beloved by thousands, still probably had some enemies." Lydia says back. "And Brian is just like you said, ex-B-list actor. Grateful to the Millers for giving him a job, dedicated to work, personable and he adored Maureen."

Lup squeezes her hands together in her lap, and looks over at Taako. He's staring at his own packet, scribbling over conjecture with a pensive look on his face. He looks up quickly, and Lup blinks. "Can I talk to you outside?"

Lup follows him out without a question, and Taako puts his forehead in his palm. "I'm gay."

"I know this, anything important?"

"No like- I talked to Killian."

"And?"

"She's covering for someone, she can't say where she was because I think she was with someone important. Hence the gay."

"Like what, a girlfriend?" Lup folds her arms and leans against the wall.

"That's what I was thinking, I just-." He takes a deep breath and looks up at her. "I don't think Killian did it. Instead of just assuming she's lying and she's guilty, I think that it's something else entirely. If she did it she could just lie right? Not just withhold like this."

"You gonna go talk to her again? I can cover for you."

"No, I'm the only damn one who can see through it, if I go they'll probably suspect me of coercion or falsifying evidence." Taako rubs his face, careful to avoid his eye makeup.

"I'll go. You keep an eye on Grimald-ass." Lup pulls him into a hug, "If you think something's up, then there must be." Taako takes a deep breath, composing himself before returning to the conference room with Lup in tow. She returns to her seat and pulls on Kravitz' sleeve. "Hey, can you take me to the detention center?"

"I mean, I suppose. Right now?" He grabs his suit jacket from the back for his chair and Lup stands up. "We'll be back Lydia, we're going to do some groundwork."

The woman herself barely registers it but waves him out, and Lup counts her blessings Kravitz is a real and decent person.

 

Kravitz pulls up to the detention center and pulls the key from the ignition. "So you think we can get something from Ms. Crushbone?"

"I think I can. Wuh-luh-wuh powers my man."

"I trust you." Kravitz says, pocketing his keys and pushing his door open. "I'll be out here then."

"You're not gonna-" Lup pushes her door open and clambours out, looking at him over the roof of the car, "-pressure me into letting you join? Or demand to see her?"

"If you think you can get through to your client on a personal level, it's great experience to learn how. And I want to get her a not guilty verdict, anything helps." Kravitz withdraws his phone from his pocket, closing his door and leaning against it.

"You're not gonna wait in the car though?" Lup wipes a smile from her lips, already walking towards the entrance.

"I'll kill the battery with the radio. Now go!" Kravitz shoos her off with a smile and Lup takes off.

Lup is sitting in the interrogation room idling on her phone when Killian is escorted in, practically chucked into her seat. Her wrists and her ankles are cuffed, she realizes. Probably racism. Killian is calm and composed, she doesn't seem the type to break into a random bloodlust. She adjusts herself in her chair, and folds her hands on her lap.

"What's up?" She taps back and forth on the atrocious orange jumpsuit and Lup puts her phone away.

"I wanted to talk to you."

"Listen, you can't put me on the stand and-"

"I wanted to talk about your girlfriend." Lup says, noticing the way Killian freezes, her hands flexing open and quickly shut before she sets them on the table.

"Taako tell you?" She says, looking away.

"He did. But he's quite the peacock himself. Figured a similar perspective would be more appealing. Pretty even splits for guys and gals myself but girls- Very good." Lup smirks as Killian relaxes a little.

"Alright. Yeah. I was with my girlfriend." Killian rolls a hand over the table, palm up. "But I can't tell anyone. Her family's not… She has a great cousin but it just wouldn't be good to out her."

"We can get her protection, this alibi could be the key to saving your life."

"She can't testify." Killian says, voice flat.

"Why not?" Lup leans forward, "I'm sure she loves you, she doesn't want to see you go to prison."

"She does love me. And I love her. But- she can't testify if they think she's someone else." Killian shuts her lips, and Lup watches for a few moments. A flurry of emotions cross over her face before settling on some mix of embarrassment and displeasure. "I shouldn't- it’s her decision who she's out too this was a-"

"No, it's okay. I'm trans too." Lup says, "I know what it's like, my brother was in the same spot you were in. Has she started hrt?"

"She's not even sure what her name is, we're working up to talking about it." Killian rubs the side of her head, fiddling with her braid. "I can't put her- I can't make her go up on the stand and put her through attack by the prosecutors. I'm fine with my name getting dragged through the mud. I won't let her be terrorized too."

Lup nods slowly, looking down at her own hands. "You love her a lot. I'm glad she has someone like you."

"I do." Killian whispers, staring at her own hands.

"Can you tell me about your date? Anything leading up to it?"

"I usually take my breaks at the estate," Killian coughs briefly, adjusting herself in her uncomfortable metal chair. "But I told Maureen about my girlfriend and how excited I was to spend time with her and- she was always so supportive. A lot of the time we could move around exercises and warm ups which meant I could do dates and stuff. Maureen- she acted kinda weird when we met up the last time."

"Weird how?"

"I told her I was hoping to stop by uh- her favorite bakery and Maureen nearly demanded that I cut the lesson short to have lunch with my girl. Maureen, she was really serious. When I asked why, she- she said it would be best if I wasn't on the grounds." Killian swallows some spit, "It means something but if I had been there- if I had just stayed and ignored her demand-"

"Then maybe you would be the corpse in the morgue." Lup says, making Killian flinch. "She knew something was up, she put you out of harm's way."

"Wait, like she knew she was gonna die?" Killian's eyes are watering and Lup shuts her mouth drawing her lips into a line."Please- I didn't do it- please find who did, please she doesn't deserve this-"

"We're going to do our best," Lup extends a hand for Killian to take in both of hers, practically engulfing it. "We're going to prove you not guilty. Without your alibi."

"Please- I need you guys, this isn't an easy case but-"

"We're going to do it Killian, you can count on us. Or at the very least, my brother and I."

"I can't thank you enough, I'll do whatever you guys need me to do." Killian shakes Lup's hand before she wipes her eyes and nods. "Thank you. From the both of us."

 

Lup leaves the detention center, pulling off her suit jacket and gripping it in a fist. Kravitz looks up from his lean on the car, Lup thinks she hears a familiar few piano notes before he hastily turns off his phone.

"You get what you were looking for?"

"Killian's innocent." Lup pulls her door open, and drops into the passenger's seat. "She didn't do it."

"What's her alibi?" Kravitz slides into his seat, starting the car and glancing at her.

"I can't tell you." Her gaze levels at the road ahead, and Kravitz squints.

"Can't?"

"I can't." Lup says, determined but at the same time soft. Kravitz sits with his hands on the steering wheel for a few moments, before he nods. He shifts gears and looks over his shoulder, pulling out of the parking spot.

"She's innocent," He says, "Let's get to proving it."

Lup looks over at him, and smiles. “I’m glad you’re not a butthead right now.”

“Why would you call me a butthead?” Kravitz laughs airily, merging onto the main road back to Wonderland. “Nobody’s called me a butthead since like, ninth grade.”

“Maybe not to your face.” She snickers.  

Chapter Text

"What do you mean you can't tell us?" Greg slams his hands on the table, and nearly everyone else in the room seems ready to too.

"I mean I can't tell you. Killian's innocent." Lup stares him down.

"Lup, doll, if she's got you so sure you need to tell us her alibi." Lydia is leaning forward over the table, her voice is laced with thinly veiled annoyance.

"It's not my alibi to give. I promised her I wouldn’t tell, I gave her my word." She says.

“Can- can somebody talk some sense into her?” Lydia gestures vaguely towards Lup, and Greg sighs.

“Who cares if you gave her your word?” He says, “It’ll look really good for this case- hell, for you if you turn it over.” He leans over the table towards and she leans up too. “You might get a internship or a summer associate spot.”

“I gave her my word.”

“It doesn’t really matter, think about you.” Greg smiles, his gold tooth shines and Lup wants to reach over the table and rip it out. She sits down.

"We're not going to be able to prove her innocent if you don't tell us." Edward mirrors his sister, same tone.

"Well then we're not very good lawyers." Kravitz interrupts, flipping idly through his folder and re-organizing a few pieces of paper. “If Lup believes she’s innocent, I believe her. She’s shown great skill in her classes up until now, she thinks well on her feet and she doesn’t give the universe a chance to prove her wrong.”

“Kravitz, that’s easy to say,” Lydia runs a hand through her hair and sighs a heavy breath. “Fuck- alright. We’ll be in court tomorrow. We did a fair bit of legwork today, got some information on everyone and we know who’s testifying tomorrow. Greg, Lucretia, Taako, you got to see how we work. Let’s break for lunch, if you want to leave for the day that shouldn’t be a problem.” She pulls at her suit jacket, unbuttoning it and taking a few deep breaths.

“Taako, could I interest you in a cafe not too far from here?” Kravitz puts his papers away in a new order, and closes the folder. Taako blinks, and stands.

“Sure my man, I don’t see why not.” Lup snags his sleeve as he stands, and Taako looks down at her.

“You were right.” She whispers, Taako smiling down at her.

“I usually am,” he gives her hand a brief pat before striding over to Kravitz. Lup rolls her eyes, although it is nice to see her brother acting like himself again. She shakes a hand in her hair and blows out a low breath before looking back around the room. To her surprise, Lucretia is approaching.

“Heya Luce,” She smiles, kicking Taako’s abandoned chair out and waving for her to take it. Lucretia does, she leans forward and props her chin in her hand.

“You really get her alibi?” She asks, incredulous.

“I did. And she’s innocent. But it’s not my alibi to give out.” Lup shrugs one shoulder, tussling her hair again.

“I-...” Lucretia pauses, “I think that’s really mature of you.” She says, giving a kind smile.

“Oh? Is that respect ?” Lup’s voice raises on the word, tilting her head nearly ninety degrees to one side. Lucretia laughs into her hand, and nods.

“I may regret it at this rate,” She’s still smiling as she speaks, “but yes. This is a pretty big thing. Do you want to hear what you missed?”

“Shit- yeah, could you fill me in?”

 

The cafe Taako is walked into is soft, it’s dimly lit in the best way with some chump in the back playing a violin. Coffee is the strongest smell that lingers through the room although its not overpowering, there’s pastries and soups, salads and sweets on tables and plates.

 “Exactly the kinda place I’d expect from you bones,” Taako smiles, letting Kravitz take the lead. He laughs quietly as he passes, looking over his shoulder for Taako to follow.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Good cause it was,” Taako follows to a small table in the corner, tucked away close to the musician but not deafening. Kravitz pulls out his chair and Taako rubs a hand under his nose to hide his tiny gleeful smile. Kravitz sinks into his own chair and smiles. Taako notices he is definitely wearing highlighter.

“I’m not really- school is just doing a good job of pounding my ass just so you know,” Taako says, not expecting the way Kravitz jerks forward into a laugh.

“Definitely not what I was expecting to hear,” He pulls at his tie, “It’s quite hot in here actually, would it be alright if I take off my jacket?”

“Hey as long as I don’t have to pay to see the hottest man alive take off some layers I’m not complaining.”

Kravitz smiles again, and looks down probably blushing. “Oh goodness,” He looks down as he fiddles with his sleeves, before pulling off his dark red jacket. As soon as he does, Taako lets out and low and long whistle. “Wasn’t expecting the short sleeved shirt but am I damn glad about it.”

Kravitz rubs some lint from his elbow, tracing the black swirls and feathers decorating his skin in ink. They’re almost full sleeves, and they don’t look like they stop at the shoulder. He flexes just briefly, “Rather modify myself than spend all my money on cars like my colleagues tend to do.” He grabs his menu, and Taako mirrors him. “And I understand about- not exactly looking for a relationship. I still thought it would be nice to get to know each other though.”

Taako hums as he looks over the menu. “Well you know Lup so,”

“So?”

“We’re twins. People usually assume we’ve got one brain cell and it’s on rich vacation in the bahamas.” Taako says with a bitter scoff. “Assume we’re the same person.”

“You’re not though,” Kravitz still doesn’t look up from his menu. “Lup bounces her leg where you fiddle with your jewelry.”

Taako blinks, and looks up. “Creepy much?”

“Observant, sorry if it’s impolite. You two are just stunning.” He looks up now, and Taako winces.

“Yeah.” He spits.

"I’m sorry if I offended you, I-”

“No you’re- people just see what they want to see. A couple of blithering dumbass blondes with daddy’s plastic.”

“But you’re not that.” Kravitz says like it’s the simplest thing in the world. “You’re brilliant and sharp and human.”

That actually manages to throw Taako back the right way, “Elf actually, check the ears.” and Kravitz has another giggle like when he was listening to the debate.

“I mean, you’ve fought long and hard to get where you are now. You’ve earned your internship- I can see it, I can feel it being around both you and Lup. You’re amazing.”

Taako has a couple hundred dismissive comments at the ready to shoot down the praise, but he finds he doesn’t want to. “Thanks,” he says. “But if you’re really going to stick to this whole gentleman routine I hope you know that means you’re paying.”

They have a wonderful lunch, conversation slows but never stops. Jokes are plenty but never harsh. Stories are told and none unheard. They exchange numbers, and Taako offers Lucretia’s and Lup’s. He tries his best not to smile even when he sees Krav add the twins into his favorites list. Even when Kravitz accepts and pays the tab, and rain starts to fall on the cafe’s windows neither find themselves minding that they’re going to be soaked.

Taako pushes his chair in and wipes a smile from his face, before speaking. “I know- I said I wasn’t looking, or I wasn’t on the market per se.”

Kravitz nods, standing and doing the same.

“Fuck- I don’t know, it just- it feels different- with you- I guess.”

“It’s easy,” Kravitz smiles.

“Yeah. Fuck you for that by the way.”

“Usually that’s after dinner dates Taako,” Kravitz replies, grabbing his jacket. Taako squawks a laugh, and they both walk to the front entrance shoulder to shoulder.

“We’ll see how this goes.” Taako nods, seeing rain pour down over the glass exit door.

“The rain, or us?” Kravitz smiles, fiddling with his jacket in his hands.

"Yeah.” Taako nods again, and jumps just briefly as Kravitz drapes his jacket over his head and shoulders.

“Let’s find out,” He smiles, reaching a hand out.

They run through the parking lot hand in hand, screaming with laughter as their clothes are drenched in the downpour. When they get inside the car they’re laughing breathlessly, Kravitz cranks up the heat to fight the chill and Taako’s laugh is a warbling high pitched mess.

 

They pick Lup up from Wonderland, she runs out from the awning under her umbrella. She shakes it briefly out the door the car before dropping it to the floor. She climbs into Kravitz’ car immediately after and whistles. “Musta went good.” She meets eyes with Taako, Kravitz’ red jacket still around his shoulders like a cape. They’re both nearly glowing.

“We went to lunch,” Kravitz says with a bright smile, pulling out of the parking lot, “nothing more. Best not to get involved while we’re coworkers.”

“Sure, sure sure.” Lup kicks the back of Taako’s seat and he snorts a laugh.

“How was the loser parade?” He turns over the shoulder of the seat, and she rolls her eyes.

“Pointless, didn’t believe me and spent most of the time badgering me.” Lup lays back on the headrest, watching the rain drum against the windows and the pavement as they drive down the street. “We got some shit to look over though, you take our bags and you can take care of it.” Kravitz turns on the radio after a while and everybody hums with some of the songs. It’s quiet but peaceful.

When they reach the campus, Kravitz pulls up close to their dorm. “Thanks,” They both say, opening the car doors and popping open their umbrellas.

“Have a good night you two, see you for court tomorrow.” He waits for them to get close to the entrance before he takes off. They get close to the door, before there’s a recognizable voice off to the left of the doors. Barry is standing with a girl a few yards down, looking down and making a few vague hand gestures. They’re near one of the spots couples usually sit, pretty secluded for a college campus and the cover keeps it dry. The girl laughs, tipping her head back and Lup grinds her teeth.

“Oh.” Taako mumbles, “Come on, if he’s getting turned down we had better not rub it in or anything.” It’s distinctly not a Taako thing to say, and Lup would probably notice if she wasn’t so angry for Barry. Taako is Barry’s friend too, but he lets Lup go alone. He takes the bag from her tense hand.

“You go on ahead.” She starts walking over, the rain pounding against the concrete drowns out anything she’d be able to hear. It’s pretty clear though when the girl says something and Barry takes a step back, because she gives him a shove back into the rain. He falters and lands ass first in a puddle, his glasses jostle and the look on his face is heartbreaking. The girl disappears back onto the campus before Lup can get to her, but she’s not Lup’s priority anyway.

She watches Barry look down at the concrete, and not make any move to get out of the cold winter rain. She controls her steps to approach quietly. She holds her umbrella out, stopping the drizzle from soaking through Barry’s denim any quicker. He looks up, glasses fogged and waterlogged.

“Hey.” Lup says, giving a small smile.

Barry looks back down. “Hey. You see that?”

“Yeah. I can leave you be if you’d like.” Lup says. “Come on, let’s at least sit on the bench though.” She helps Barry upright, they sit on the stone bench and Lup sets her umbrella down. She’s more than a bit wet, but Barry is drenched so she can't complain. They make quite the picture. The rain still drums against the pavement and filling their conversation with ambient noise.

“Sorry about that.” She says, “People can be assholes.”

“Yeah. I wasn’t sure about her but I thought I’d give it a try. Kinda glad she turned me down but I am not glad about feeling like I pissed my entire body.” Barry says, making Lup snort a laugh and pitch forward.

“Gross! Nasty, nasty boy!” Lup punches him in the bicep, and he takes off his glasses also bursting into laughter. They touch shoulders, and Lup looks over at him. “Why are you happy about being turned down? Don’t you want to have somebody?”

“I don’t want to have somebody,” Barry says, “I want to be in love. If I just wanted to have somebody I could get into necromancy, make any body my body.”

Lup laughs again, spreading infectious joy to Barry as they lean closer again, Lup takes a deep breath that turns into another laugh.

She pauses, still leaning close to him.

“She called me lame.” He says, “Said I was too serious. A weirdo.” He leans against Lup too, he’s warm despite the cold winter rain.

“I don’t think you’re lame. A huge fuckin’ nerd but-” They both laugh again, she leans down and presses her forehead against Barry’s. He leans up into her, their breaths mingle and they press together in laughter. It’s soft and kind and filled with love. Lup remembers Magnus and Julia in the cafe, months ago.

As a twin, Lup often times goes without the joy of privacy. But just this once, Lup is going to get it.

 

Taako is stripping off his coat, pulling his hair up into a topknot and starting a kettle on his (probably illegal) hot plate. It’s not tea or anything fancy, it’s good hot cocoa. Garyl whines like he’s never been fed in his entire life and Taako goes about cracking open a food can and dumping it into his bowl.

“There,” Taako tosses the tin in the bin and wipes his hands on his shirt. “I’ll refill your water after I change.” He starts to the closet room, pulling off his pants and unbuttoning his shirt. He slides on a tee shirt and sweatpants he had stolen from Magnus what feels like years ago, he takes his hair down to put it back up again, fixing loose hairs. Wiping his face with a wipe he bins that next. He walks back to his kettle, pouring himself a cup of cocoa and taking a mug into his hands. Turning the plate on low and leaving enough for a few more cups, he walks by their bags and snags the deposition Lup was talking about. He flips through the pages, humming a string of the tune he and Kravitz were listening to in the cafe. He gets through two of the packets before he starts taking notes in a spare journal so he knows what the hell is going on.

There’s a gentle knock on the door, and Garyl whines. “Shit, right right. Forgot.” Taako sets the papers down on the counter as he passes, he fills a clean plastic cup with water and calls over his shoulder. “Come on in!” He turns back around, walking to Garyl’s water dish and pouring the water in. The shoes that walk into his field of vision are new, but decidedly boring. “Hey Lucretia.” He stands up, popping a hand on his hip. “What’s up?”

“I-” She pauses to look around the room, taking in the decorations and photos. “I came by to grab some of the depositions, Lup had a few extras for you and said I could stop by and loiter for a bit to transcribe copies.”

“Oh, cool.” Taako points at the paper on the counter, then at the pile on his bed. “I’m reading that one right now but you can find the ones I already finished over there. You can sit on my bed or Lup’s, there should be a chair buried under some clothing, somewhere. Thirsty?”

“That smells wonderful,” Lucretia looks over at him as she walks from the main room into the bedroom.

"Uh, natch. I did offer to teach you to cook, what kinda chef would I be if I couldn't perfect hot cocoa?" Taako pours her a mug and walks back to the bed. Lucretia is sitting cross legged on his, looking at one of the depositions and writing without looking. She glances up when he approaches, she swaps the pen into her left hand and takes the mug with her right. Her left continues writing, and Taako whistles as he sits.

"That's some wild shit." He takes a drink of his mug and Lucretia hums as she does too.

"I taught myself to be ambidextrous, looks great on resumes." She sets her pen down, and taako nods again.

"You've probably perfected the resume, let’s be real." Taako pulls out his packet and starts looking over it, he lets Lucretia's pen scribbling be the only noise in the room. She sets her pen down after a few minutes, and when Taako glances up she's staring at him.

"Can I- help you ?" He drawls.

"S-Sorry-" she shakes her head and shuts her eyes. "When I first saw you I thought you were- y'know." She looks back down at her notes and taps her pen against the paper a few times.

"We were…?"

"I thought you were dropouts, people who came to school here just to say you made it. To show off your money, or whose strings you can pull. Or- some very unkind and visibly untrue things."

"What, cause we got style?"

"Uh, pretty much." Lucretia laughs nervously. "Everybody else here has to look serious, or they don't care enough about how they look to wear anything but suits. I guess I saw your skirts like a bull sees a matador." Lucretia is drawing in her notes now, but Taako can find it in himself to complain or point it out. He sips his drink and looks at his page, not actually getting any of the information.

"Well I didn't fuck my way to the top if that's what you're thinking. The only thing I topped was Lydia's exam scores."

Lucretia smiles again, “It’s what I was thinking. But you’re just like me,” She gestures at his outfit, sitting on his bed looking over notes not caring at all how he looks. “You’re human.”

“Elf actually, check the ears.” He flicks his ear towards her and she rolls her eyes. There’s a familiar noise before Garyl jumps up on the bed, Lucretia sits up straight and coos.

“Oh, what a beautiful cat.” She breathes, watching him stride across the messy duvet towards them.

“Real cuddleslut with people he knows.” Garyl approaches her, and rubs himself along one of her knees before traipsing up into her lap and rolling over. “Guess he knows you now.” Taako sips his drink, and Lucretia sets hers down on the nightstand to stroke his long fur.

“What a good boy-”

“Bastard.” Taako sticks his tongue out at him.

“Baby!” Lucretia gasps, scratching the back of his head and melting as he leans up against her. Taako returns to looking over his deposition for a few minutes, letting Lucretia revel in Garyl. She speaks after a few minutes. “Hey can we shittalk Greg?” She looks up and Taako almost snorts his cocoa, he sets it down and blinks rapidly.

“Of fucking course we can - spill it sister.”

“He-” She looks up at the ceiling and takes a deep breath through her nose. “He can’t even do his own laundry.”

“I know! Lup had to do it for him. Talk about spoiled-”

“Spoiled! Yeah- apparently he got waitlisted when he applied!” Taako’s mouth drops open as she continues. “His dad had to make a call- his family made a generous donation to the school and started a scholarship program to help him get in. And I know, I’m here on it.”

“Holy shit-” Taako’s voice dissolves into his high pitched giggling, “He! Oh my- h-he-” He snorts, and Lucretia starts laughing too. The dorm door opens, Lup’s own giddy laugh entering now. She practically skips through the doorway, stopping just briefly to spy Lucretia.

“Oh hey Luce,” She says, fixing her wet and noticeably displaced hair.

“Hey.” She gives a shy wave, and Taako recognizes a certain breathy tone in Lup’s voice.

“Hey yourself,” He smiles, and Lup starts blushing.

“You leave me alone!”

“You kissed a mullet dad!” Taako says, leaning forward on the bed, forgoing the deposition completely. “You did-”

“Leave me alone !” Lup whines- only getting Taako to stand upright and go after her. He chases her into the closet room, where Lup promptly locks the door and changes out of her wet clothes. “So what if I kissed a mullet dad!” She calls through the wood.

“You like him!” Taako cheers.

“So what!” She pulls the door open dressed down in her pajamas, she pelts her wet jacket into Taako’s face.

“I’m just so happy for my sweet baby sister-” Taako gets her in a hug, and squeezes before letting go and slugging her wet jacket off onto the floor. “Come on, we’re shittalking Greg.”

“Oh hell yeah!”

Chapter Text


The twins thank god the court time can align with their classes, they get there just in time for Lydia to welcome them and walk into the courtroom. People are slowly filling in, there’s more time before the hearing starts but all of the interns take seats in the audience. Kravitz and the wonder twins take seats up at the defendants table, they walk Killian out after a few minutes. She sits next to Kravitz, looking dejected at the floor. Lup squeezes her brothers hand, and the two of them watch her sigh. Lup leans in to her brother’s ear, and they have a brief conversation.

“Her girlfriend is a baby trans, she didn’t want to put her in the public eye.” She whispers.

Taako nods slowly, “Guess we just have to find what’s wrong with the other two then.” People filter in, and the judge is announced by a bailiff, everybody stands, it’s just like they read in their textbooks. It’s a little different of course, the judge herself is a lot better looking than the illustrations of crusty old white men and much more intimidating. They do the opening stuff, go over the submitted paperwork, talk about options and proposals, and Killian affirms she wants to go to court. It’s a little faster, it only takes a few hours of legalese and spitting numbers before the judge announces the prosecution can call their witness.

Lucas Miller sits on the witness stand, constantly fixing his glasses and wiping his eyes. He’s wearing almost all black, his scruffy and tightly curled hair is pulled into a ponytail and his face is unshaven with patchy facial hair. His hair looks slightly greasy, but Lup recognizes its recently been taken care of by a professional. A damn talented one, from how many bad hairdressers she's had in the past.

“Your name?” Hudson asks.

“L-Lucas Miller.”

“Profession?”

“Uh- inventor, company- head-” his voice catches like he’s not used to his new title. “Systems analyst in my free time.”

“And when did you return home?”

 

Everything sort of blends together. It’s important for sure, but it’s mundane. It’s routine and boring and by the numbers. Question, answer. Question, objection, recession. Question, answer. Lydia, Edward, and Kravitz seated at the bench watch and work, they take notes and Kravitz slides Killian a note as Lucas is talking.

“And where was she when you came in?” The prosecutor, (Hudson was it? Not very memorable) Hudson asks.

Lucas rubs one of his eyes and looks over at Killian for a moment, “Standing over my mother’s dead body. Drenched, in her blood.”

And everything that follows is just as melodramatic, whine-infused and pathetic. Taako can’t help but sigh as he stands up to leave, he looks over at Lup and rolls his eyes which she returns.

Magic Brian, a drow, takes the stand next, they all go through a lot of the same shit. Brian’s also wearing black, but a black patterned shirt with almost every single button undone, and the sleeves rolled up to bunch at his elbows. There’s a small white spider embroidered on his pocket though and the twins can appreciate the theming.

“Your name?” Hudson asks, standing at his table.

“Brian Spinne, although you can call me Magic Brian.” He’s got a thick german accent, lilting carry as he gestures vaguely with too much wrist movement.

“Profesion?”

“Prior actor, now- poolboy, gardener, general groundskeeper of the Miller estate. Been doing it for years, Maureen hired me initially as a gag but it turned out great.”

Hudson taps his pile of papers on his desk as he nods, he looks up and waves his arm towards the defendants table. “And what’s your relation to the defendant?”

He looks over at Killian, squinting for just a moment like he’s looking for a word. “Lover.”

Killian’s chair moves backwards, everyone looks at her as she stares wide eyed at Brian. Kravitz pours her a paper cup of water which she takes with shaky hands, staring down at the table still shellshocked. Lup and Taako wear similar expressions, it’s not hard to feel the lesbian energy Killian gives off in waves.

“So you were having an affair with Miss Crushbone?”

“Well, define affair.” He twirls a few strands of his long white hair around his finger, leaning back to lounge in the chair.

“Were you sexually or romantically involved with the defendant?”

“Yes.” He gives a lazy smile, “Many times.”

“We WHAT-” Killian crushes the cup in her hand, standing upright and almost knocking over her chair. Kravitz puts a hand on her forearm as the judge reprimands her.

“Defense, sit down.”

“Y-yes your honor.” She sits, staring at the wet patch now on the front of her orange jumpsuit.

Hudson stares for a few moments, before flicking his ears. “And were your jobs in danger because of this?”

“Mine, definitely not. I’ve been around for years compared to Killian’s six months, our relationship only jeopardized her employment. It would be just terrible if Maureen found out, ja?”

“No further questions.” Hudson takes his seat, and the judge sighs.

“We’ll take a brief recess before beginning the cross examination.” People start shuffling around, both of the twins shoot up and rush to the back of the defendants table. Killian looks up as they approach, her expression downright painful.

“I wouldn’t do that to her-” She says, already being escorted out of the room.

“We know-” Lup calls, leaning forward on the bannister separating the seating from the well. She disappears, and Lup leans down close to her mentors. “Magic Brian’s lying.”

“How do you know?” Edward asks, propping his chin in his hand.

“Just look at him-” Taako throws an arm out as Brian walks past, scrolling on his phone and swaying just slightly so his hair swishes as he leaves the courtroom.

“That doesn’t really mean anything,” Kravitz placates.

“And what are we supposed to do, flaunt his romantic and sexual history like laundry?” Lydia snaps, before looking up at him. “Listen, Taako, babe-”

“You want proof? I’ll get you proof.” He glares, pushing past Greg and Lucretia to nearly stomp out of the courtroom.

 

Taako 'bumps' into Magic Brian in the lobby, a quick and fake apology stumbling from his lips.

"Oh," He says, eyeing Taako up and down. "I would complain but you seem way more put together than the rest of the people here- I love your accent dear."

"Yours isn't too bad yourself, shame you're into women." Taako adjusts his braid and smiles, "Quite a shocker to be honest."

Brian seems more confused than ever, before something clicks and he looks around. He puts a hand to the side of his mouth and leans in, Taako does as well.

"To be honest, I'm not really . Stipulations of work, kinda put my life on the line for this case."

"Wait really?" Taako smiles, leaning in closer. "Your secret's safe with me,"

"Well yeah darling, I'm telling you cause I saw you in the audience. You're interested in. Something." He winks, and it takes Taako everything he has not to physically wince.

"I would be lying if I said I had never heard of you, the Black Spider."

"Oh you have!" Brian's ears start to flutter, his shoulders rise. "Listen if you want to meet up after this, I could get you an autograph. My man and I can hook you up."

"Knew you were too good to be straight," Taako smiles, Brian returning the gesture. "Taako's gonna go, but I'll be seeing you later." He gives a half wave and Brian calls out.

"Oh but do not wear those last season prada shoes,"

"These are not last season-" Taakos spits under his breath, stomping back to the defendant's table. All of the other students are watching him, Lydia and Kravitz turning as he approaches. "Grimaldis! What are my shoes!" He throws an arm out, pointing his finger nearly against Greg's nose.

"O-on your feet?" He stammers, Taako withdrawing his hand to take a dramatic bow.

"Gay men know designers, straight men don't." Taako stands, looking at Lydia for some level of respect and admiration. Instead she runs a hand across her forehead, she waves a hand at him dismissively.

"He could still be attracted to women- what, are you suggesting we dredge up every past sexual or romantic relationship in his life and hold them against him? That's not our place." She snaps, and Taako takes half a step back.

He sees Kravitz rub a familiar silver ring of his left thumb. He looks down.

Lucretia is the one that takes him by the elbow. "I think you're right but- let's get back to our seats."

 

Magic Brian takes the stand again, he plays idly with his hair as Hudson relinquishes the questioning. Lydia stands at the table.

"Do you have any proof you were involved with the defendant?"

"Only the love in my heart," Brian says, a hand on his chest. Taako sees something glint in his eyes though, some level of fear and uncertainty in the way he moves. Exaggerated yes, but not as smooth as in the lobby. Stiffer, like he's hiding behind this persona. Like he's hiding something. Taako glances over at the table,  and sees Kravitz doing the same scrutinizing.

"If that's all he has your honor-" Lydia starts to sit down as Kravitz shoots upright interrupting her.

"We still have a few more questions." He leans towards Lydia as she sits. "Let me try something. Witness, what is your name again?"

"Magic Brian."

"And what's the defendant's name?"

"Killian- Crush… bane." He looks over at her and quickly back to Kravitz.

"And where did you take her out on dates?" Kravitz' voice is sharp and fast, Brian squints as he answers.

"P-places- out of state. Where people wouldn't recognize us." He rubs his thumb against his lip, glancing around the courtroom.

"And how long have you been dating the defendant?" He leans forward, and Brian opens his mouth shakily.

"T-two- three months?"

"And what's your partner's name?"

Hudson leans forward looking like he's going to object on badgering and Brian visibly relaxes.

"Boyland." He says, totally carefree. After a few moments he blinks though, and his whole body jerks as the courtroom erupts into barely contained gasps.

"No further questions." Kravitz starts sitting down and Brian throws a hand out.

"Wait- I- I misunderstood! You said partner- I-I thought you meant, like- this is not my first language. Like business partner, ja?" He rubs his arms and looks through the crowd, his eyes landing on Lucas. Taako blinks, looking at him next, and Lucas is completely calm. Not sweating, not crying. He's staring dead at Brian as Brian shakes on the stand.

"Actually I don't know a Boyland! Slip of the tongue! Definitely not my fiancé!"

A voice chimes in from the audience, and most everybody turns to gasp. A dwarven man is standing on a chair, hand pointing accusingly. "How dare you! I'm not your fiancé any more !"

"Boyland!" Brian throws himself forward on the stand, and the Judge slams her gavel.

"I will have order! Sit down witness-"

"Lucas told me to lie!" He spits, "I've never slept with Killian, I'm gay!" Magic Brian waves his arm, looking between the judge and his fiancé. "I love you! Please-"

The court erupts into murmuring that leads to full conversations, people are talking and gasping and pointing even as the judge slams her gavel.

"Order! Order!" Nobody listens, until she yells out over the sea of people. "We need to take an immediate recession- this will continue tomorrow at nine am." She slams her gavel again and people start swarming around the room.

 

The twins take back to the table, Lup drags Lucretia by the hand. "I told you!" Taako says, entering the well as Edward and Lydia are talking quickly to one another. Taako puts his hands on his hips, chest puffed out.

Lydia looks up at him, she pulls off her sunglasses and smiles. Taako stands straighter, and Lydia holds out a hand for him to take.

"Very impressive Taako, I'm proud."

"Oh he is never gonna shut up about this," Lup mumbles to Lucretia, both women smiling.

Kravitz looks up at him next, standing and taking Taako's hand. "Thank you. You were right."

"Oh you can keep saying that for the rest of my life," Taako laughs, and it spreads through the group before Lucretia coughs loudly and looks away. "I think we have some more things to look into now, Brian was instructed by Lucas to lie."

The Wonder twins snap a few times, "Right. Right. We'd better set up this evening doing some further research. Students, you are free to go, Kravitz you too. Actually," Lydia pauses. "Taako, could you meet me in the conference room we have? I'd like to talk to you."

Taako nods excitedly, and Lup swings an arm over Kravitz' shoulder. "Well our boy is gonna be busy, let's go get food!"

Lucretia steps back just slightly, and nods. "I'm going to wrap up some of the writings." She disappears not soon after and Greg takes off without any fanfare. Lup and Kravitz move to the lobby, walking with Taako as he all but cheers.

"This is it Lulu! I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna get a summer associate spot, I'm gonna be at the biggest firm in the state! Everybody's gonna see that I can be a lawyer and look good!"

And on cue Lucretia appears, gently bumping into him. "There's no one big perfect firm. Any firm is a good one." She smiles, noticably strained, and Taako rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah Lucy."

"Lucretia." She snaps, shouldering her bag. "I'm going to the bathroom before I have to pick up the rest of the write ups. See you guys later."

Lup watches her go, she furrows her brow but sighs. "Well Taak's, we'll be out here. Have fun makin' it big."

Taako waves his hands a few times, before running his hands over his bracelets. "I'll be back." His heels clack against the tile floor as he returns to the elevator, then to the conference room, he pushes the door open and pulls it after him. It doesn't close all the way but he doesn't really care. Lydia looks up from her spot at the table, she smiles and adjusts her jacket.

"Hey babe."

"Hey," Taako smiles, taking a seat opposite her. "What's up?" He folds his arms on the table, and Lydia swipes her papers into her folder and taps it against the table.

"I wanted to talk about your future. Maybe our future. You started thinking about where you might be a summer associate?" Lydia starts walking across the room, down the long side of the table.

"I was uh, actually thinking about applying for Wonderland. Maybe if I could prove myself it could be earlier than my second summer." He drums his fingers against the table as Lydia rounds the corner.

"You've certainly impressed me doll," She rounds the other table corner, she drags her fingertips along the surface as she walks. "You've made a stable and reliable relationship with the client, you listened to her. You got good information, did the good legwork, got it good." She nears him now, pushing aside the chair beside him to sit on the table and look down at him.

"I…" Taako's voice dies out, "Thank you." He says.

"When are you thinking about going solo?" She smiles, tilting her head.

"Wait, what?" Taako pushes back from the table, he looks up at her. "I'm not. I got into this with Lup, if we're going anywhere we're going together." He shakes his head and fiddles with his hair.

"Some people have a knack for law, sure. But what’s better is understanding life Taako," She looks over her nails. "Which is bigger. Why tie yourself down with those that don't understand that one is better?"

"Lup's just as skilled- just as smart- hell she's probably smarter -"

"You're smart Taako, and maybe you can see there's something smarter than going into law. Lup could never see it the way you do." She taps her nails against the wood, casually moving them towards him. The clicking makes Taako wince. It covers the small creak of the door opening.

"I saw the way you looked at me on that first day." She says, her hands reaching his. She grabs his hand now, and Taako pushes himself to stand. She doesn't let go, as soon as he reaches his height she pulls him forward into her, she leans back and gets a hand over his shoulders. "You don't have to be a lawyer Taako-" His whole body is frozen as she speaks, "You're stunning. Why bother with the stress, the work? Use that big brain of yours. Or we can let you into Wonderland, you just won't have to work. Keep you around for other business."

He can move now, his whole body writhes as he shoves Lydia back onto the table and falls backwards. He catches himself on a rolling chair, it's unsteady and messy and he pushes back against the wall.

"Fuck!" Lydia moves to fix her ruined lipstick, and looks at him. "Come on babe,"

"Don't you dare call me that." He snarls, making her laugh, disingenuous.

"I thought you'd be different Taako, you can see how serious law is. How boring and stressful and shitty- I'm giving you a chance to get out. To spend your life how you deserve- you want. You don't want to waste your life-"

"I guess I am different that what you expected." He pushes himself up on shaky legs and goes for the door. He throws it open fully.

"I thought you were smart!" Lydia snaps, still half elevated on the conference table.

"And I thought you were someone who deserved respect!" He yells back. "You only picked us because of how we look."

"You're beautiful- that's all you have to be."

"Maybe I want to be more." He snarls, leaving the room and slamming the door shut. He stomps to the elevator, willfully ignoring the tears brimming in his eyes. He steps in as soon as the door opens, the tinny music the only sound beside his struggling breathing. He slams the shut door button, and they slide together.

An arm interrupts them. They slide back open and Taako looks up. Lucretia is standing there, her bag dropped on the floor. Tears are dripping down her own cheeks now, she speaks with a shaky voice.

"You topped something of Lydia's, I guess it wasn't just the scores." Taako feels his tears flow now too, and Lucretia laughs wildly. "I was right! I- I-I believed you!" She laughs again, running a hand through her white curls. “Sleep with the entire firm, get the internship. Sleep with the judge, we can win the case.”

"You know what Lucretia?" Taako's voice is weak as the doors start closing again. "Maybe you were right." They close, and Taako sees his reflection in the metal of the doors. He shuts his eyes, and balls his fists. "Maybe I don't belong after all!!" He screams, taking heaving breaths. He looks at his reflection, his hair tousled and makeup smeared. Tears run down his cheeks, his shirt is rumpled, his eyes are red and he can't believe he was stupid enough to think this was his future. His skin is on fire, everything is hot like it’s hooked up to a live wire. His own face makes him sick, his shoulders feel like there’s a deep gash where Lydia held him. His own body is repulsive, he feels dirty and used.

 

The doors slide open and Taako stomps out, gaze down and blinking rapidly. He walks as best he can, after a few steps he stops and pulls off his heels, practically sprinting through the lobby. He isn't paying much attention, he runs into somebody.

"Oh!" Kravitz turns around, half a smile on his face that drops out immediately "-my god- Taako- what happened?"

"I quit." He says, voice shaking.

"What?" Lup approaches from behind, she appears in Taako's peripheral, her face a matching look of horror. He turns to her next,

"I quit. Lydia only picked us because of how we look."

"What…?"

"No," Kravitz stands straighter, "No that can't be-"

"Oh my god," Lup takes Taako's hand in her own.

"This was a mistake. This was a mistake!" Taako yells. Kravitz reaches out a hand to hold Taako's wrist.

"No it wasn't, you both earned this, you worked hard and-" Taako wretches his hand away and gives Kravitz a shove before gravitating towards Lup.

"And we got picked because we look good. I wonder if it's company policy-" He pushes Kravitz again and rubs his hands over his eyes. Kravitz stumbles back to catch his footing, watching in awe as Lup wraps herself around her brother. Taako sees him go through all five stages of grief but it still doesn’t matter. “This was handed to us. Just like everybody thought. We’re just trying to be something we’re not-”

Lup squeezes him tight, “Something more happened-”

“Lydia made it quite clear I wasn’t more than a pretty face when she tried to feel me up-” His voice breaks and Lup stutters a breath,

“We’re done. We’re fucking done-” Lup pulls him away from the elevator, and they stumble out the front doors. “We’re going home Taako,” Lup’s own voice is breaking now, “I can’t believe her- the- she-”

Taako gives up forming any more words, he breaks into a sob. Then Kravitz calls out, the twins turn to look over their shoulders at him. He’s backlit by the light of the courthouse in the evening darkness.

“You’re trying to be something you are!” He calls, Lup pulling her twin away from the courthouse.

 

Taako cries as Lup guides him, the walk is paralyzingly long and just a blink, this time Taako’s the one who gets pulled numbly into bed. Neither of them talk, they don’t change out of their clothes, take off their makeup, nothing. It’s quiet aside from confused crying and harsh breathing. They lay in one bed until the sun rises, Lup cards her fingers through Taako’s hair and hums, she plugs their phones in and falls into a restless meditation for Taako to sleep.