While the brief moment of perfection in the kitchen had been nice, it was just that; very brief. Magnus hadn’t been in a relationship in many years and he was pretty rusty. Meanwhile, Taako was…
He was being Taako.
He was vague and secretive and damn near impossible to talk to sincerely. Put the two together and you had a “couple” that Magnus was unsure if he could use that term to describe them with.
Despite his freedom to give Taako gentle, affectionate touches here and there and the kisses on his cheek as the elf flounced out of their shared bathroom in the mornings (usually after having used up all the hot water), and the soft head after head of curls on his shoulder during nights where they and other bureau members got together for drinks, there wasn’t much talk between them about what they WERE. Despite the light those sweet moments brought to the fighter’s life, there was the looming shadow of his very human mortality next to Taako’s near-eternal vitality.
Assuming Magnus were to live to a ripe old age, would that mean Taako watching him wither away while the wizard remained unchanged and beautiful?
Not to mention the discussion of sex.
They hadn’t done much besides kiss and maybe grab a handful of ass in a moment of heat, but even that sometimes left Magnus anxious to the point where he’d pull back, to which Taako would run a reassuring knuckle over one of his sideburns, lay a kiss on his nose, and rest his head across the carpenter’s broad chest.
No questions or guilt.
He seemed to understand the source of the discomfort and didn’t pry for confirmation.
Then, there was the matter of Kravitz.
Magnus knew from that day in the kitchen that Taako was seeing the bounty hunter. He would also find the elf floating back into their quarters late on certain nights, looking particularly dreamy, and he had heard whispered conversations into a stone of far speech coming from Taako’s room. That was enough to confirm that he and Kravitz were still in contact, but what did that make Magnus?
He only had the nerve to ask once, and Taako had only smiled cryptically and patted his cheek, cooing, “Oh, don’t worry. We’re still on, bubbale.” and had scooted off before a further explanation was to be found.
Fuck, Magnus hated that.
If he could be real with the wizard for more than ten seconds at a time, he would have let him know, but for now that didn’t seem to be the case.
Surprisingly the answers to what his relationship with the reaper was didn’t come from Taako, but from Kravitz himself.
Roughly two months after the cooking lessons that had turned into a confession via impromptu makeouts, Magnus was dozing off after a rather brutal day of training with Killian and her team or regulators. The room was dark and just warm enough to turn the edges of everything soft and coaxing, until the fighter was suddenly very, very awake.
Someone was in the room with him.
“You and I need to have a chat, don’t we?” Came a familiar voice.
Magnus bolted upright, fist closed around the dagger under his pillow.
Sure enough, there stood Kravitz in his usual sharp, black suit. He would have been indistinguishable from the shadows of the room if not for the inhuman glow of his eyes, and the luminescent skull painted on his face.
No… Magnus blinked.
That WAS his skull, glowing gently through his skin. He wasn’t sure if that was just a side-affect of being death incarnate, or if it was an attempt to intimidate him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Like I said, I’m here to talk.” Kravitz responded, enunciating in a way that suggested he shared the craftsman’s enthusiasm for the interaction.
“Oh, so you’re not here to kill me this time?”
“I’d prefer not to, if that’s alright with you. It goes against protocol, seeing as your bounty has been cleared.”
“Right… Taako mentioned something about that.”
“Yes, we discussed what happened in Refuge and he explained your three’s situation, so I’ve made special arrangements. That’s not what I came to speak to you about, though.”
“It’s not?” The fingers around the knife handle loosened.
“No. May I sit?”
“Uhh…” He scooted back, not bothering to cover his bare torso but making room for Kravitz to sit on the bed, seeing as there wasn’t any other option besides the floor.
Past murder attempts be damned, he still had his sense of hospitality, and he couldn’t really risk having Merle walking in on them in the living room and summoning Della Reese.
“Have a seat.”
The light source in the room shifted as Kravitz made himself comfortable, angling to look at Magnus, his hands clasped on one crossed knee.
“Now, Magnus, I want to talk to you about Taako.”
The fighter rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I kind of figured since you’re not here to take my soul or anything - ”
“Oh, no. Water under the bridge. Believe it or not, I don’t LIKE killing people. It’s just a safeguard to keep things balanced.”
“I mean, I GUESS that makes sense, but you did TRY to ki-- ”
“Okay, yes. I tried to kill you and I’m very sorry. Are we good?”
“Fair enough.” He shifted, re-focusing on the issue at hand. “Magnus, I don’t often pry into Taako’s private affairs, but I have to ask; what are your intentions with him?”
“... What do you mean?” Magnus didn’t like where this was going.
“Are you two seeing each other?”
“I -- yes? I think so? I-I’m not really sure…”
Kravitz looked surprised. “You’re not sure? How hard can it be to know whether or not you’re in a relationship with someone?”
Magnus reached for Steven’s ball on his bedside table for something to fidget with. The fish swam his usual serene loops around the glass, oblivious to his owner’s distress.
“I mean that Taako’s not the easiest guy to talk to. You’re dating him. Surely you know that.”
“Wait, I don’t understand - what’s he not telling you? Start from the beginning.”
“Well, we kissed… Like a lot. And that’s pretty much been it. We haven’t really talked about what it means, especially when YOU’RE in the equation.”
“Alright, the hesitation around the two lovers thing I get. Let’s start there. What if I told you that I don’t mean to hurt Taako?”
“Oh, that’s not the problem.” Magnus is surprised by the straightforwardness of the bounty hunter. “I mean, I figured if you wanted to take his soul or whatever - ”
“Still on that, huh?”
“YEAH. KINDA. But I didn’t think you were trying to hurt him. Besides, Taako can hold his own pretty good in a fight.”
Kravitz smiled a bit, an odd contortion of human-looking lips over the teeth of his skull. Almost bashfully, he tucked one of his long dreadlocks behind his ear.
“That he does.”
Magnus would have snorted at the tender motion if he didn’t totally, completely empathize with the feeling behind it.
“Ah, dip.” He sighs, earning a look from the reaper. “You really like him.”
“Wh-...” There’s a pause where Kravitz’s eyes dart around the room and Magnus swears he’s blushing. “... Well. Yes. I do.”
“Yeah… Same.” He looks down in his lap at Steven rather than having to keep up the eye contact.
“That’s what I was afraid of.” A finger taps the suit-clad knee, searching for the right way to phrase the issue at hand. “... Magnus, I know enough about you having fought you once already, and hearing about you from Taako - ”
“He talks about us?”
“All the time. Mostly you, but also Merle and this little ‘Agnes’ fellow.”
The carpenter snorts. Poor Angus, always getting the short end of the stick from the three of them.
“My main concern is the matter of your… Mortality.”
Fuck. Here it was again.
More tapping of that finger against Kravitz’s knee, and he can’t help but wonder if it’s an idle movement or a nervous tic. Imagine that: death getting nervous.
“I know better than any of us that we all must die, Magnus. What tends to make an impact is WHEN we do. There’s not one true outcome for any of us, but rather, many possible truths that shift depending on the choices we make. Do you follow me so far?”
“I think so.”
“I think I know you well enough to understand that you are not one to put much value on his own life, and I can see in front of me as well as hearing from Taako that you’ve sacrificed a number of years for the sake of your team, but for a human such as yourself - ”
“I get it.” His voice comes out gruff. “It was a stupid choice but it was what had to be done.”
“I know you’ve probably gotten this lecture already - ”
“... You like to talk over people, don’t you? Listen, Magnus, what I’m trying to say is… I don’t want Taako to get hurt.”
There it is.
Magnus stares at Steven’s ball for a moment. “... I don’t either. But regretting the stupid things I’ve done isn’t going to get me anywhere. If I were to die tomorrow, I want to at least spend my last day making him happy.”
“That’s a very noble cause.”
“I’m a noble guy. Listen, I know this isn’t going to end well for us. Even if I’m an old man somewhere down the road, he’s still an elf. An elf who’s REALLY good at running away from danger. I just… I need to look out for the people I care about until I can’t anymore, and then I’ll stop when I drop dead. Maybe it’s a setup for both of us getting hurt, but rather than him shouldering all of this fucked-up stuff we see on his own, I HAVE to protect him. I HAVE to look out for Taako. If that means letting him love me for as long as I have left, I’ll do it. And if that means trying to live longer, I’ll do that too for him.”
Kravitz chuckles. “Your wife was right about you.”
Magnus suddenly can’t breathe. “Julia?...”
“She’s happy that you’re happy.”
He wants to say something, but a thousand words at once are bottlenecking on his tongue and not one can escape.
Kravitz looks down, pulling back a sleeve to reveal a stone of far speech embedded into a wristband. It lights up and an inhuman high-pitched hiss emits from it like a ghostly tea kettle.
“Bollocks. I have to go.” The bounty hunter stands, straightening himself and looking to the dumbstruck Magnus. “Allow me to give you a bit of advice before I leave. You said that you’re unsure of where you and Taako stand?”
“Talk to him. For the love of the Raven Queen, talk to our boy, Magnus. I’ve been in this world far longer than the two of you and I can assure you that leaving things unspoken always ends poorly. If you truly want to make him happy, take care of yourself and make him speak.”
Another moment of speechlessness.
“... You know what, Kravitz? You’re pretty okay.”
The reaper grins. “You are too, Burnsides. No hard feelings about the attempted killing?”
“Nah, I think I’m over it.”
“Splendid. And about me and Taako…”
“Listen, the same goes to you. Make sure he’s happy. You have a lot more time to do that than I do.”
Kravitz softens a bit as a rift opens behind him. “I plan to. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, buddy.”
The rift closes behind him and Magnus’ room is dark once again. The fighter sighs, head thumping against the wall, wide-awake after the exchange he’d just had.
Talking things out with Taako sounded stressful at the least and disastrous at the worst. With Julia ( I can’t believe Kravitz told her about Taako what the shit. I’m never going to hear the end of it when I die. ) they had grown up together, and she had come from a very close and open family that it was easy to talk things out when they had their disagreements. Taako was secretive and aloof, and as far as Magnus knew, didn’t have that kind of relationship with anyone. He never mentioned family or - Istus forbid - Sazed, and he had only just learned about the reaper, obviously. Even Angus would sometimes try to casually grill Magnus and Merle on Taako’s past, trying to pass it off as curiosity about his mentor but what was really just the boy detective being a snoop. To the kid’s disappointment, the reclaimers weren’t trying to mess with him; they literally had NOTHING to tell him. It was a small victory to get a straight answer out of Taako when asking what he’d had for lunch.
Having a conversation with Taako about their relationship would be difficult, but Kravitz was painfully right. How was Magnus supposed to make him happy when he didn’t know what the elf needed from him? And furthermore, hadn’t Taako scolded him for not taking care of himself? He was failing already to heed his wishes by holding all these ugly thoughts in and making himself miserable. The conversation with the reaper had made that very clear; this wasn’t just for Taako, but for Magnus, too.
There were a lot of things that Magnus wasn’t. He wasn’t a smart man - not in a scholarly way at least - and he could no longer consider himself young, but if there were two things that he was certain of, it was that he was strong and good. While there were plenty of moments where he had fucked up or couldn’t save someone in time, Magnus had always held the belief that trying to be good and protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves made you a better man, and that had been the way that Magnus had lived his life for as long as he could remember. As for his strength, there was no question that he held the sheer muscle required of one of his particular skill set, but he felt he was also strong of heart. It wasn’t ego, but rather the strength to push past his doubts and regrets to continue being a better Magnus. That same strength of heart kept him present so he could enjoy his friends’ company rather than agonize over the shadows of things like Julia or Phandalin.
As he sat there, considering Steven in his cupped hands, Magnus started to formulate a plan. Not a smart man, no, but a good man. A strong man. A man who needed to talk to the elf who had captured his heart, to use that strength to reach him, so that the better Magnus of tomorrow could do what he did best; protect.