A couple of months had passed since that day. The day that one hundred years had been revealed and danced across the minds of every plane and every existence, and the day that the Hunger, John, was finally defeated. For many, it was a time of celebration. For six birds, it was a time of betrayal, and war, both with the Hunger and with themselves. For the final bird, it was a day of repentance.
Since then, the world changed. Lucretia, the final bird, labored away at tedious paperwork. After that day, she spent her time converting the Bureau of Balance, into the Bureau of Benevolence. Instead of collecting relics of mass destruction, she and her friends would spend as long as it took rebuilding towns that faced destruction at the Bureau, the bird’s, and the Hunger’s hands. Believe it or not, however, doing this was time-consuming, and contained a lot more paperwork than she originally thought.
Lucretia loomed above a small packet, working at it furiously, completely focused. Her hand dug into her grayish scalp, that had been shaved recently, ridding her of her short, white hair, a far cry different then her shoulder length, pale hair that she had on the Starblaster. She just found it easier to work without the distraction.
Suddenly, there was knocking on the door to her office. Her focus was broken and her pen slipped out of her hand, crashing onto the polished, white tile floor, and echoing throughout the room. Hanging her head in shame, Lucretia stood and walked to go get the loud object, while shouting out “Come in!” Cringing at how her voice echoed, she realized that maybe she should put in a rug or something. Just something to absorb the echos.
Those echoes start up again, following the sound of light and long footsteps, and then a sudden stop as the character stood above a crouching Lucretia.
“Luce, we need to talk.” Came the unmistakable voice of Taako. Lucretia quickly swooped up her pen and stood up straight to face the wizard. She was about a foot shorter than him, not including his hat. It wasn’t much of something that was you’d really focus on. Nothing more than an observation. However, for Lucretia, it made the world of a difference.
Since the day, Lucretia bore witness to a different Taako. Different than the hundred years, different from their time at the institution, different from when he worked as a retriever. It was more akin to when she first met him. Distanced and, for once in a long time, quiet. Now, being alone with him, as he towered over her, with a look that was foreign and unreadable, even to his friend of a hundred years, there was so much distance between them that it was tangible in that moment, as well as Lucretia’s panic. Being alone and way from most of your family for ten years is nothing short of torture, so to have one of them standing directly in front of you, and feeling more alienated than ever, Lucretia seemed to be on the brink of a breakdown.
“Hey, Lu, breathe.” Taako said, leaning down to be eye level with her, and placing a hand on her shoulder. Lucretia realized that she had been keeping a breath at bay, and exhaled slowly. Taako sighed as he looked at her. It felt like more than that, though. It felt like he was analyzing her, like she was a science experiment that just didn’t make sense. His eyes bore into her skin and her soul, burning her flesh and eating her up from the inside out. Lucretia had to make a conscious effort to keep breathing.
There was a moment of silence, of them just standing there while Taako picked her apart and Lucretia tried her damnedest to not fracture under the stress of her family trying to read her as if she were a stranger. The silence and stillness was finally broken when Taako let out a quiet, and drawn out phrase that made Lucretia’s glass crack.
“What the hell were you thinking?” He whispered, gripping tight at her shoulder, his head dropping, and his long blonde braid slipping off his back. Lucretia was stunned. She knew that this would come up at some point. That she would have to face this nightmare of a question that she asked herself every night. But that didn’t mean she was prepared for it. All she could do was stand there and try her best to look as composed as possible.
“Goddamnit, breathe.” Taako said in a somewhat scolding manner. He looked up again, his braid scooting to land on his shoulder. Lucretia let out another breath, quieter than last time.
“Sorry.” She said. She couldn’t look into his eyes, but she knew that they were conflicted. They were angry, and annoyed, and frustrated.
“Don’t apologize.” He bit. His voice was now no longer emotionless, but, instead, too full of emotion, and it was overwhelming to try to sift through them all. He sighed again and spoke.
“I love you, Lucretia. You’re family. We’re all family. Cap’n’port, Mags, Lup, and all the rest. You’re all... important to me. And we appreciate each other, despite our past mistakes. But, what you did, was too much for Taako.” And there it was. That was the string, and it snapped. Lucretia, once again, had no words. It felt, almost like there was nothing for her to contribute. Lucretia, through her false composure, was shaking. This was just too much and it felt like a storm was brewing in her. Taako noticed and retracted his hand from her shoulder, to which, almost immediately, Lucretia started pacing. It was easier to sort out her thoughts like that, and Taako knew this.
The elf watched as she paced, trying to figure out what he was going to say next. He was about to continue, but Lucretia beat him to it. “But it worked.” She said as she stopped in her tracks to look at Taako. She was still shaking, but her facial expression looked more confident than it was before. What Lucretia said, spread through his brain and his veins. His face produced an expression that spoke a clear ‘what the fuck’.
“W-wha... just because it WORKED doesn’t mean that it was RIGHT.” He snapped, disgust dripping from his tongue. Lucretia immediately regretted saying that. Taako was right, but Lucretia couldn’t just back off of this line of thought. This was her ride and she was stuck on it now.
“I didn’t say that it was right, I just said it worked.” She replied, starting to pace again. “It-fuck- You don't think that I already know that it wasn’t right?! You guys didn’t listen to me! I spent years on it and you guys just threw it away-“
“We did NOT just ‘throw it away’!! We considered it and said that we would do it in the next cycle if Barry and Lup’s idea didn’t work! So don’t you DARE go pulling that shit!” Taako interrupted, his voice raising a little. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to make Lucretia’s head start screaming at her, and for her legs to work faster as she went back and forth.
Lucretia tried to start defending herself again, though she knew it was undeserved. “We-“
“No.” Taako took over the conversation again. “No, we couldn’t have. In the end, it wasn’t your plan that worked, anyways.” Taako just glared at Lucretia.
“Well, it wasn’t yours either.” Lucretia muttered, stopping in her tracks once more.
“Your right, it wasn’t Barry and Lup’s plan either.” Taako said, calming down, watching her closely. Lucretia saw him trying to analyze her again and couldn’t stand it.
“Can you stop that!?” Lucreita cried out, out of frustration. Taako cocked his head to the side, seemingly genuinely confused.
“Stop what?” He asked.
“Stop... stop looking at me like that...” she realized how crazy she sounded after the words escaped her mouth. “The way you’re- it’s- it feels like you’re trying to tear me apart. Like I’m... I dunno. It’s hard to explain.” No it wasn’t. She knew the exact way to describe it, she just didn’t know how without sounding insane. She sighed and ran her hands through her no longer there hair. “I’m sorry.”
Taako rolled his eyes. “What’d I say about that? You don’t have to apologize for little things like breathing or even feeling like I’m tearing you apart.” He sighed as he tilted his face down to instead look at the bottom of her long, slick dress, and took a second to think. “I guess I am trying to ‘tear you apart’, somewhat. It’s more, I just want to know what you were thinking, and what I think about you.” He paused to look up at Lucretia, who was gripping at the sides of her dress, anxiously.
“What you did... y-you. You took my sister from me. You took my family from me. That. That is something that I can’t and will never forgive.” Taako explained. Lucretia looked down and nodded, rubbing her hand over her face, finding comfort in the pressure. “But... you are still part of that family, and nothing is going to change that.” He finished.
Lucretia nodded. There wasn’t much to say. Taako was right. She knew that he was right, but just hearing what she’d done. It was just... painful. That was the best way to put it. Taako could see the gears turn in her head, and see how her thoughts seemed to overtake her.
He watched her for a second before walking over to her and extending his arms. Lucretia hesitated and shook her head no. Taako put his arms down and just watched over her as she absorbed the situation. She finally looked up towards him and said, again, “I’m sorry.”
Taako nodded and put out his arms again and this time Lucretia accepted, clutching at his shirt. “It’s not okay.” Taako said. He held her almost like a mother holds her child. He kept one arm around her, while the other arm came up to her head and just held her close, like she was going to disappear. “But, hopefully, it will be. Once again, I’m not going to forgive you, but I do want to, kinda, shove it to the side. But that’s going to take time for Taako.” He explained, and Lucretia nodded as much as she could while being shoved up against his chest. “I love you, Luce.”
“I love you too,” Lucretia responded, holding Taako tight.