He doesn't put it off. As soon as he has the chance, he goes to his room, and leans down in front of the mirror.
Time to check the damage. With a furl of his hand the spell dissipates, and his face-- his self-- ghosts away to reveal the aftermath.
"Oh," he mutters, reaching towards the glass. His other hand comes up to trace the new shape of his lips, his nose, and he frowns beneath the touch.
Maybe it's not so bad, he rationalizes. The horror of it is slow to find him, but it does, and that argument dies in him like a candle going out. It's not all for the sake of vanity. He's vain, for sure, but there's something else that curdles in him. It's being stuck in something alien. Something not quite right.
He couldn't see his father anymore, or at least not as well. It used to be there, in the brow, the slope of the jaw and nose, the knob of his chin. His mother, or what little there had ever been, was gone entirely from his eyes and lips. He sighs, and it warbles. So in somewhere between outrage and disgust he turns his back to his reflection, and quakes there, then stomps up to get a blanket to throw over it like that does anything to cure the injustice.
It's not fair, he thinks. It's more rage than self-pity, but both coil around in his belly taking shots at whatever they can. He regrets it. He should have refused. So what if somebody else would have to get it worse. They're not here right now, and Taako can blame them all he likes, sinking bitterly into his own arms. Stewing, stewing, in the thought that he used to believe he'd hit rock bottom.
There's a knock on the door, so he frantically scrubs his watering eyes-- shit, forgot the mascara-- and blurts out a panicked, defensive "Yeah!?"
"It's Magnus," comes a voice. "Can I come in?"
"Uh-- sure--" and he nearly slaps himself for accidentally giving conformation, scrabbling to retrieve the umbra staff from where he'd left it by the bed. "Just gimme--"
It's too late, and Magnus is in the room. So Taako keeps his back turned and cups a palm over his face. He only quakes for as long as it takes to grab the staff, mutter the spell, and prepare a deliberate smile before he turns around.
"Sup mags," he offers, balancing the staff on its tip and leaning on its curved handle. The support keeps any shaking invisible. Don't let em see you sweat. Never.
But Magnus knows him too well. He looks at him once, and then ducks his head to rub a palm to the back of his neck, averting his gaze politely. Taako worries the spell didn't take, just enough to glance at the mirror. Of course, he only sees the blanket he'd thrown crudely over the vanity, and thinks whoops, that'll do it.
"I, uh. Wanted to talk to you." Magnus lowers his hands to fidget, tracing index fingers around each other. "I wanted to thank you for what you said back there. About forgetting..." There's a moment where Magnus searches for a name, flinches, and stops. "You and Merle... made that a lot easier on me than it could have been."
He isn't sure what to say. "Well, we're a team, buddy."
Magnus beams, but the size of the grin makes his crows feet more obvious. Taako tries not to let the pang in his stomach reach his face, to unknowable success, and Magnus continues. "Yeah, we are. I've just..." He searches, shuffles, then straightens out when he finds his words- Taako marvels at how such an impulsive guy is so deliberate, when it comes to speaking, when it comes to people. "Taako, I've been trying a lot to learn to share the load." Snrk. "And-- I know you're not, much of a load sharing guy. Normally. Which is okay. No judgement." He pauses, looks him in the eye, like he wants that to sink in. "So I wanted you to know that when you were there for me, it mattered. A lot. And I really appreciated it. It was a special moment for me."
Wow. What does he say to that?
He's not really... equipped for this conversation, he finds. He could mumble something dishonest, like it had meant the same when Magnus refused to condemn him for his quereling. In the moment, it hadn't. It does now, but only in retrospect.
Maybe because he just doesn't want to be alone, Taako stumbles back into the love seat by the wall, nudges aside some of the loose clothes and trinkets, and pats the cushion to invite him down. It's about the best he can do. Magnus, of course, rushes in.
"You doin okay, bud?" Taako offers. He's not sure why. Maybe it's just that he still looks so old, and, well. He's pretty sure he'd fucking leap at the opportunity to forget Sazed, but now having to look at the aftermath, maybe it's better to hold on to your life the same way it is to hold on to your face, even if it's something bad. It's still yours, so it's still something to lose.
"Yeah," Magnus sighs. "It's still. I don't know. I'm not sure if it was the right thing, for me, but. It was the rightest thing in a bad situation." He looks over, and smiles. It's genuine, even if there's some pain in it, and Taako even sort of-- sort of wants to-- aw hell, sort of wants to make it better, somehow. But that skill just ain't on his character sheet. He's had to make peace with that a long time ago. "Oh-- and Merle went downside. To see his family. Can you believe it?"
"Oh, I can believe it," he agrees. "He totally had that dad vibe."
Magnus laughs. "What's a dad vibe?"
"I'll tell you when you're older," he jokes, tapping Magnus on the chest, who erupts into snickers and giggles. He's glad-- the joke could have fallen flat or gone too far, but it didn't. And that, more than anything, starts to make him feel genuinely better. Almost.
"Ahh, shit," Magnus says, as it settles. "Sorry. Hey, are you..."
He barely contains the urge to shrink away, when Magnus looks him in the eye. He's just not sure what happens if they go there. He knows where this is headed, and he hasn't really gone there in a long time -- children and immortal demigods don't really count as healthy targets for mutual vulnerability. Which had been, he thinks, subconsciously deliberate. But the look lingers, and in time the spark of panic wilts into a dim little coal, and so he only shuffles oddly, waiting for the inevitable question.
"Are you okay?"
He can see Magnus' eyes darting, now and then, to the blanket over the mirror. So he rolls his shoulders in what could be an indifferent shrug or an uncomfortable squirm. Magnus closes his eyes and holds both hands up, palms out-- the missing finger on the left hand is chilling to see, now.
"You don't have to tell me," Magnus says firmly. "Anything. Not my business. But if you're not, and there's anything I can do, you let me know. Because we're--" He can see a team die on Magnus' lips, for some reason. "...you're important to me."
The words squirm around in his belly, of what he could say. And maybe there's some curse on the room-- some lingering zone of truth, or whatever, because when he opens his mouth to dismiss the notion, what comes out is "I just--" And then a pause, like he's trying to swallow back the urge to vomit-- "I don't look like my parents anymore."
Magnus' reassuring smile falls a mile, down into a look of pure, shocked sympathy. "Oh." Just oh, at first, and then more. "Oh, dip. I didn't even think of that."
"I didn't either," he confesses, again resenting his past self for the deal. Fucking liches. There's executive members of his psyche scrabbling to patch the dam, but for as long as it's broken more things stumble out of his mouth. "But I guess that ship's sailed. No takesy-backsies, huh."
Magnus frowns, folds his hands on his lap and worries his thumbs together like he's fighting an urge to do something else with them. "Did you-- did they, uh...."
"When I was twelve," he says, automatically. What are you doing??? "They got sick."
Understatement. But he isn't ready to drop the whole story on Magnus' lap any more than he's ready to take up competitive weightlifting.
"That.... really sucks," Magnus concedes. "I'm sorry."
"Hey," he pops both hands up over is shoulders, splaying the fingers wide. "It is what it is, right? We did what we had to. I'm done with it, honest--"
He doesn't get to finish, because Magnus pulls him into a hug. Oh.
He does wiggle, a bit, but it doesn't quite get him out of it-- not that Magnus is squeezing or really trapping him, it's just... "Dude, come on. You got it worse in there. Easy."
"Bullshit," Magnus reassures. "It wasn't fair for any of us. We were all victims, and we all get to feel bad about it. And yeah, it's over-- but we don't have to feel bad about it alone." Those arms shift and settle back down around him a little closer, a little warmer, and it starts having a decidedly soporific effect on him. One by one, the alarm bells in his head just start turning off, because it's just Magnus, just him and Magnus-- so before he knows it, he's curling into the embrace, tucking his arms between their bodies and bracing his cheek on Magnus' collar. Wow, he's warm.
It's just nice to be held. So nice, that he lets it happen. So nice, that he eventually sneaks an arm down to snake about Magnus' waist and hold him back, and his face nuzzles down into the bulk and give that Magnus' chest has to offer. Maybe he's grown, or Magnus has grown on him, or maybe he just can't be as bad of a person with Magnus around. Maybe there's worse things that could be true, than that.
"Taako?" Magnus asks, finally.
"Mnn?" He isn't sure what's coming. He suspects he won't like it, but right about now, he trusts Magnus to say just the right thing. So he waits for as long as it takes, raking his nails casually into the little bit of chest hair escaping from the cut of the man's tunic.
"...Do you wanna take off the spell?"
He shudders at the thought. No no no. But actually...
Well. He sits back, and Magnus unfolds to let him go. It's cold in the room now, in comparison to their shameful canoodling-- can he call it that? Whatever, not actually a thing he wants to think about. With anybody else, the answer would be no, but there was all that sappy talk from earlier and he's kind of tired and Magnus is the safest, best person he knows... He scoots away a little, straightens out the loose bits of his clothes, and banishes the spell again with another wave of his hand. Instinctively, his ears droop-- he wilts more as Magnus' expression changes. He already knew, of course. But back then wasn't the time.
"Oof," Mags says in sympathy. "They made you look... more human."
He's glad not to get placations. He's not sure he could handle them. "Yeah."
Magnus frowns, and reaches in for another hug, but Taako stops him with a hand to the chest. Instead they just sit close, legs crossed over each other's haphazardly, and settle down into a kind of nervous fidgeting. Taako keeps himself from looking him in the eye.
"It's not--" He stops, not sure where that was going. Towards a big waste of time, probably. Anything but honesty right now is going to be a betrayal of everything that came before, so he sighs, puts a thumb between his teeth to chew on the nail and pulls it away when it doesn't feel right. "It's not me," he says finally. Me is all I have. Me is what I've always had, at the end of the day. To have that compromised shakes him. More than he wants to say. More than he can say, even to Magnus.
"I know," Magnus says. He lifts his hands up from the couch and hovers them there between them, like he's hefting something invisible. "Can I...."
Taako nods. Hands come up to cup his face, which he didn't expect, but there's only a bit of hammering in his chest-- no genuine desire to push Mags away. Not even when his face is tilted up to look right back at him, and he can see all the new wrinkles and gray hairs, and winces audibly in regret and a little shame. Magnus blinks slowly, then meets their foreheads in a gentle nuzzle.
"You're still gorgeous," Magnus mutters. Hoo boy, there's a spark of something in Taako's belly that's almost enough to make this whole venture not a total loss. But for now, he files it away, and only melts into the hands on him as much as he thinks he'll get away with. "I know that's not the problem, but I just thought-- err. Well, it's true. You should know that."
"Thanks," he says, a little breathless. They're close enough he can feel it every time they speak. "It helps, Mags. Really."
"Then I'll say it as many times as you want," he quips, sounding genuinely cheerful. They both chuckle, and Magnus' big, coarse thumbs are rubbing sweet circles into his cheeks, and he does feel better. He does, he does, he does.
"You're all old," he offers back. "That sucks."
Magnus sighs, and nods. "Still handsome though, right?"
"Oh yeah. Total Clooney vibe goin on, my man. You're gonna have to fight 'em off." He dares to reciprocate, taking gentle handfuls of the sideburns. "Tell 'em to save some for Taako, though. I saw ya first."
This is getting dangerously genuine, he thinks, but he's drunk on it. Made worse by the fact that every time he dares closer, Magnus plays along instead of flinching away.
"Okay. I will." And there's the little peck of lips on his forehead that melts him down, and he doesn't care what this is-- doesn't care where it lands on the nebulous plane between friendship and flirting, because whatever it is, it's good, and it's enough. It's more than enough.
He reaches for Magnus' left hand, and takes it down, pulling it there between their bodies. He traces his thumb very carefully on the new stump, very delicate, as if it were still a raw wound.
"They didn't have the right--" he stops, stumbles on the word. He doesn't want to choke up, because this isn't about any of that. "To take a single part of you. Not you." It doesn't work completely, of course. His chest and throat are still aching by the time he has both hands wrapped softly around Magnus' big, rough paw, holding it like it's porcelain. "You're too good for that. Every last bit of you should be here. Right here." With me, he wants to add, possessively, but that's not really fair. He's not good enough to lay any claim on Magnus at all.
Magnus doesn't speak right away. "Yeah" finally escapes him, though it's sort of breathy and wondrous, like he hasn't been told that in a while. Then I'll say it as many times as you want.
He just holds him again, tucking him down under his chin like it's his turn to get possessive and clingy, like it helps to turn fragile (not at all) little wizards into stuffed animals for hugging. Taako doesn't mind, not right now. If Magnus wants to hug a wizard, Magnus gets to hug a wizard.
"We're still here," he says. "It's still us. We're just some poor handsome dudes that got cursed by evil liches." Taako sighs as an answer, and feels the echo of it fill and empty Magnus' chest, and burrows greedily into the embrace while he can. "...Hey, maybe there's a way to break the spell. Like in storybooks."
Taako snorts. "Yeah. That'd be fuckin sweet as hell, my dude." Which is exactly how he knows it won't happen. When something is gone, it's gone.
Above him, Magnus continues. "Like a magic apple, or a cool potion, or something."
He gives a lazy rub of his cheek into Magnus' torso, made thoroughly stupid by his own contentment. Stupid enough to say what comes next; "Or true love's first kiss."
They both freeze up a bit. It takes a little while for them to slink back and meet eyes, and the thought is out there irretrievably. They sit there awkwardly in each other's arms for one second, two seconds, until Taako goes fuck it, and gets beaten by a second to the little lurch towards each other's mouths.
It's embarrassingly fumbling. Teeth click, then their lips press a little too hard, and then they pull away before they find something comfortable because they're both a little shocked at themselves. And then they wait, two seconds, three seconds. Four seconds.
Magnus speaks first, sighing, and smiling in defeat. "Welllll, it was worth a shot."
Taako's face cracks into a grin he can't withold. "Sure was."
Alright. No more. He escapes from the cozy bubble in a flourish, tugs the blanket off the mirror, and doesn't recoil from his reflection this time. "Okay, hombre, enough. No more moping! You and me. I'm gonna steal us some liquor, cook us some grub, and we are gonna straight up fucking chill the whole rest of the night. I am gonna pamper the shit out of you."
"Oh nooooo," Magnus feints, giggling all the while. "Help, I've been trapped by another evil wizard!"
"That's right. I'm the worst there is." He gets another look at himself before he turns around-- still gorgeous , Magnus had said. "You're stuck in my wonderland until you at least learn how to moisturize, buddy. I mean, now you're gonna need it. Round one; pocket spa."
Magnus takes his hand when offered, smiling like an idiot. Taako smiles right back, strange new lips and all.