It happens like this.
Magnus doesn’t think. He rarely does when it comes to life-threatening situations. Merle may have his god, but Magnus privately thinks he has something more powerful; instinct. His father told him to trust his gut and if his gut tells him to break down doors, or leap into a dark building, or dash in front of sharp projectiles to save his friends then that’s what Magnus does.
And so here we are, a moment after it happens. Taako lying on his back, bruised and dazed with a nasty looking gash across his cheek and Magnus lying on top of him. Perhaps ‘lying’ is not the appropriate word, for it almost implies a peacefulness to the action, as though he has fallen asleep and has chosen Taako as a slender, bony, pillow.
This is not in fact, how it is.
Magnus is contorted into an extremely uncomfortable position, one arm bent at an irregular angle (his wrist most definitely broken), with one leg tucked beneath him and the other splayed out beside him. His other unbroken arm is jammed between Taako’s body and the ground. His teeth are stained red, and a trickle of blood snakes a path down his cheek. A large stone spear juts out of the ground mere inches beside Taako’s head.
There’s a spattering of curse words thrown around as Merle picks himself up off the ground in the distance, having been thrown a good couple of meters or so on his backside. A situation that Merle is none too pleased about, and which he eagerly shares with anyone in the near vicinity. Magnus groans and lifts his head. His vision is blurry and he realises one eye is half shut.
“Well shit,” Taako says. The tone is careless but his voice is quiet, and Magnus hears the fear laced within it. He turns his head, wincing as it throbs from the movement. Taako is staring at him with a gaze he can’t quite interpret, and then fingers touch gingerly against his cheek and Taako offers him a soft and genuine smile.
“My hero,” he says, and perhaps in another situation Magnus would deem this as a sarcastic kind of compliment, but then Taako leans forward and kisses his mouth.
It’s so quick that when Magnus blinks, Taako has already pulled away, his facial expression betraying nothing. In fact, for a moment, Magnus wonders if he just imagined it - some kind of lucid dream formed by the injury to his head. (Admittedly, he may have had a similar dream before). He blinks, blinks again, and decides that this is possibly the strangest moment of his strange life. Possibly even stranger than having tea with a bugbear.
Taako grunts beneath him and elbows him none too kindly in the ribs, causing Magnus to exhale in pain.
“Time to move!” Taako says. “Delicate goods here. You’re squashing me you big lump!”
And just like that the moment is shattered and reality comes crashing back in the form of an irritated Merle shouting nonsense in the background and a half-squashed wizard beneath him.
It’s how all their stories end; they knock out some bad guys, rip out some arms, cast a few zones of truth and manage to escape with their lives. They return home triumphant with a few more battle scars.
(Additionally, Magnus returns with something he didn’t quite expect, and that is an immediate, intense and incredible confusion.)
As it happens, Magnus decides to do a very Magnus-like thing and that is, barrel headfirst into this confusion with a series of exclamations and questions thrown at a slightly disconcerted elf who had, prior to this confrontation, been reading a novel (Yes, it is Caleb Cleveland and for the love of god don’t tell Ango or I’ll make you the next murder victim in this fuckin book, capiche?)
Taako is taking his time in replying, so Magnus repeats himself with a much more succinct sentence to really get the point across.
“You kissed me.”
An eyebrow raises so sharply that Magnus fears it may be lost amidst the blond waves of hair forever. Taako looks at him, and the scrutiny of his gaze causes Magnus – the renowned fighter and all around badass who certainly does not get frightened – to squirm as his resolve wavers a little. As that eyebrow returns to its usual place - slightly upturned in an unconcerned and otherwise partially judgemental position- Taako waves his hands around casually.
“It was a thankyou. No bigs.”
Magnus sighs and rubs the palm of his hand roughly over his forehead.
“It kinda is though…isn’t it?”
He feels foolish as soon as the words leave his lips. Taako shrugs and begins inspecting his nails. They’re a light purple colour that Magnus vaguely recalls seeing on the bathroom sink. At least it wasn’t as bad as that time he had upset a bottle of red polish near the rug and their living room had looked like a crime scene for a month. Try explaining to the Director that no, they don’t regularly murder people in their rooms.
“I should have known it would get your panties in a twist,” Taako says, his words thrown around with the cadence of his voice, “What do you want me to do about it?”
“I don’t know,” Magnus says honestly, a little disheartened.
Taako kicks his legs up and stands with a flourish.
“No shit!” he exclaims, and tucks a strand of hair behind a pointed ear, “I’ll take a raincheck on this convo, my man. Put some thought into it next time.” He moves towards the door and there’s a pause as he half turns back to Magnus with a smirk.
“You can always find me if you want the sequel though,” he says with a wink, before slinking away, laughter echoing behind him.
Magnus almost swallows his own tongue.
So it’s a joke of course. Nothing serious. And Taako makes sure he knows it with a few teasing comments thrown about occasionally and some flirting that is so outrageous it can’t possibly be viewed as anything other than a laugh.
It’s something Taako has always done really, it’s nothing remarkably new. He’s the kind that will touch your arm to grab your attention, or brush a speck of dust from your cheek with a wink. It’s not so much affectionate as it is a defence mechanism, and Magnus recognises that Taako’s casual behaviour is more to do with reinforcing emotional distance than anything else. But hey, that’s way off the deep end and something he’s not keen on contemplating at this time, so let’s take it back to nicer things, shall we?
Sometimes Taako rests his head in Magnus’ lap while they’re in their rooms, kicking his feet up on the side of the couch as he studies a recipe book and actually, that’s probably Magnus’ favourite thing ever.
So Magnus and Taako laugh and joke and make fun of their relationship and at first, Magnus thinks that this might be okay and that everything is fine and all is forgotten. The problem is, that Magnus can’t seem to forget.
So now he’s having some kind of teenage crisis at 30 and honestly, that fucking sucks.
They’re sitting in the tavern one night, Magnus, Taako and Merle sitting on one side of the booth, opposite Killian and Carey, the latter of which is retelling a wild story about something Magnus is almost certain never actually happened. The lights are dim overhead and the air is humid, sticky with that feeling of having too many bodies under one roof. Magnus is feeling pleasantly buzzed, and he can’t help but notice the way Taako is pressed up beside him, their ankles knocking beneath the table.
He lets his gaze wander for a moment and it becomes stuck on the point of Taako’s nose. It’s quite sharp, he realises, in fact it’s so sharp Magnus wonders if it could be classified as a weapon. He laughs to himself and lets his eyes drift lower, tracing the curve of Taako’s smile as he says something that must have been a joke because everyone is laughing. Magnus laughs too, so not to be rude. The conversation is picked up again by Carey, and Taako’s smile softens, though it continues to tug faintly at the corner of his lips.
The object of his observation turns, and amused eyes dance their way into focus. Taako glances at the others, and then at Magnus, leaning closer.
“I get it, I’m fine as hell but you gotta stop with the eyes my dude,” he says with a conspiratorial whisper. He’s close enough in fact, that when he speaks, the warmth of his breath ghosts across Magnus’ cheek.
“Cocky,’ he says and Taako snorts.
“Realistic,” he replies with a smirk. “You’re as subtle as a giant fucking purple worm, keep it in your pants.”
“Please don’t refer to my dick and a purple worm in the same sentence ever again.”
That makes Taako laugh, but it’s a quiet sound that huffs out of him in barely concealed amusement. He rolls his eyes and leans back into his original position, crossing his arms across his chest before returning his attention back to the conversation at hand which, thankfully, had not faltered during their interaction.
Magnus does note however, that throughout the remainder of the night, Taako accidentally-on-purpose touches him no less than twenty-three times.
Considering this newly discovered curiosity, or perhaps more aptly termed; hypervigilance, Magnus begins to notice things about Taako that he hadn’t noticed before. He realises that Taako’s smile is crooked, and notes the way the tips of his ears flush when he is embarrassed. How he drums the same beat with his fingers whenever he becomes bored. How he occasionally (see: very, very rarely) laughs so hard that his eyes screw up tight and every inch of his body shakes with the effort.
What most interests Magnus however, is that when he thinks Magnus isn’t looking, Taako is often watching him instead.
And see here’s the thing. In theory, it’s not completely absurd that his friend watches him, is concerned about him or just recognises his existence. Except in this case it’s Taako and it kind of is.
So slowly, the idea develops that maybe Taako hasn’t been quite so truthful with him after all. In retrospect, the idea perhaps should have developed slightly faster considering exactly who we’re dealing with here. Taako has never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and in fact, takes extremely good care of his heart and does not wish for it to be hurt physically or otherwise thank you very much.
(Taako is good out here if ‘out here’ is away from all that emotional shit).
Upon contemplation and a whole bunch of subtle glances, Magnus realises that the way Taako reacts to him is not quite the same as others.
And what Magnus begins to realise, is that maybe it hadn’t been no big deal, that maybe it was some kind of deal or even possibly, a Big Deal that Taako kissed him. Because what that slowly developing idea in Magnus’ mind comes to suggest is that it wasn’t just a thank you, and Taako maybe really wants to kiss him again.
He’s working in his workshop one evening during a surge of creative energy, the kind that only happens in the hours where evening blends with morning and every rational thought nudges you towards sleep but your brain is alight with a need to just create.
Taako had waltzed in to the room about a half hour ago, claiming boredom and a lack of tiredness. (Elf, my man. Sleep is for the weak). He had been sitting in a chair on the other side of the bench, legs up and tipping it back slightly as he rocks to the beat of the tune he hums which Magnus is 99% sure is a terribly flat rendition of the Fantasy Costco tune.
Now however, a weight falls into the bench beside Magnus and an elbow nudges into his ribs.
“Make me something Mags.”
Magnus looks at him, knife pausing in its motion where it presses against the wood.
“Why don’t you make something?” he says.
Taako sighs dramatically, “Oh I should have known it was too much to ask! Free gifts from friend? The scandal!”
Magnus rolls his eyes and passes over some wood which Taako takes hesitantly, holding it loosely in his palm as he weighs it uncertainly. Magnus reaches over, curling his fingers around where Taako’s hand grasps the wood. He holds that hand steady, and then places the carving knife in Taako’s other hand, guiding it between his fingers.
“Like this,” he says, and he moves the hand with the knife in slow, steady strokes. As they work together – or more accurately, as Magnus uses Taako as a puppet - he realises with growing clarity, that Taako is inching even closer. He is pressed right up against Magnus now, leaning into him so that whenever he moves, his elbow brushes against Magnus’ stomach.
“A little close dude,” Magnus says beneath his breath and Taako hums low in his throat, a contented sound that Magnus had, until now, thought could only be made by cats. He resists a wild urge to pet Taako’s hair.
Magnus stills the movement of their hands and clears his throat pointedly. Taako, who is almost in his lap at this point, glances at him before slinking away to a more reasonable distance. He shrugs and offers a poor attempt at an apology.
And he knows this is it, this is where he should bring it up, where he needs to acknowledge what’s going on and address the fact that this is not going to work.
But he remains silent.
In fact, as Taako looks at him and Magnus watches him back, Magnus wonders if he even wants to dissuade Taako at all.
He blinks, swallows, and lays the carving knife flat against the table. Taako slouches in his position, an elbow leaning against the table with his hand dangling freely. His eyes are so bright and keen, that Magnus feels almost certain that he can read his thoughts. He does a few mental tricks to test that theory but there is no reaction from the elf. Thank god, Magnus thinks, because he’s already jealous enough of his casting abilities.
“You good, kemosabe? You’re going all glazy eyed.”
Magnus nods and flushes a little, embarrassed to be caught out.
“Yeah, cool. Just more tired than I thought. I’m gonna head.”
A hint of worry flashes across Taako’s eyes and, if Magnus hadn’t become so accustomed to every aspect of Taako’s being he probably would have missed it. But hey, staring at someone for large portions of the day apparently has its rewards?
“No problem. Thanks for the lesson Mags,” Taako says, and he smiles and suddenly, everything is right. This feeling surges through him and with a sickening clarification, Magnus realises that he wants to make Taako smile again, and again, and again - forever.
‘Night,” he croaks as he leaves.
He doesn’t sleep for a long time.
It’s a little difficult after that, because it’s one thing to be wary of someone else and their actions, but it’s a whole other mess to be constantly vigilant about your own. Combine the two, and you have the incredibly frustrating world Magnus finds himself the resident in.
It’s a cycle – a dance. Magnus watches Taako who watches him. Taako offers one of his rare genuine smiles, a subtle curl of lips which, of course Magnus notices and so Magnus smiles back, which of course Taako notices. Magnus notices Taako noticing and his heart thuds and skitters to a halt as an uncharacteristic flush of self-consciousness curls in his chest.
A few introspective moments lying awake at night (coupled with a solo drunken ramble which Magnus prefers to forget), and Magnus understands.
And what he understands, is that it’s fine.
It’s Taako actually, who stops him on the way back to their place after a meeting with the director one morning. Merle, completely oblivious to the entire situation, continues walking back to their residence without a care, the sound of his voice as he now talks to himself quietens as he walks onwards, out of earshot.
Taako’s fingers are curled around Magnus’ arm. They don’t form a complete circle, because his fingers are small and Magnus’ arm is big, but the pressure of his touch is insistent enough that Magnus turns to him in concern.
There’s a pause where Magnus looks at Taako and Taako avoids his gaze.
“Hey look, I’ve been thinking…” he starts, and Magnus is honestly amazed at the awkwardness he exudes because he didn’t think that awkward was a possibility for Taako– he always has such confidence (even if it’s often misplaced). His concern doubles.
Taako purses his lips and exhales noisily, finally looking at Magnus.
“It’s just, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable you know? I’m no good at this shit…”
Magnus has absolutely no clue what Taako is apologising for, but still feels obliged to forgive him, and so nods.
“I mean this, Magnus,” Taako says, gesturing between the two of them and boy, is Magnus’ concern for the situation growing by the minute.
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable ya know? Like with the flirting or whatever. Hey, I get it I know you don’t swing that way and all.” He scratches at his chin. “We cool?”
It’s not unusual for Magnus to be confused by Taako. In fact, if we statistically categorise recent events, we may in fact find that the probability of Magnus being confused by Taako is much higher than any other emotion induced by Taako, and has, in fact, increased tenfold over the last few weeks. These are just the basic scientific facts.
So while Taako is talking, Magnus feels a very familiar confusion spiral inside of his chest and it expresses itself in the thin press of his lips and furrow of his brow.
“You think I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t like guys?”
Taako shrugs, “I dunno, I mean yeah, I guess? Whatever floats your boat my dude.”
Magnus blinks. And then he laughs, which seems to offend Taako who visibly bristle at the sound. He glares; indignant and hurt.
“Fuck – I mean this isn’t easy Mags. I hate this, I don’t do this shit – and you’re -you’re laughing at me?”
Magnus sobers a little, but his chest is light and he can’t completely quell the smile that pulls at his lips. He reaches an arm out, but Taako flinches away, simmering.
“No that’s not- that’s not it at all,” Magnus says, “You’ve got it wrong.” Restraint slips and is exhaled in a sigh. The next few sentences tumble out in a rush of words that trip and stumble over themselves in an effort to be spoken as quickly as possible. “The only thing that made me uncomfortable was that I wasn’t sure - like you’re all gorgeous and I just, I thought it was fun but then I thought maybe it’s more than that? And I didn’t know what I wanted for myself but then you smiled – I geez, Taako, I just - I realised I wanted you in a not-just-fun-flirting kinda way, and that its fine. I like you. A lot. You know?”
(Sidenote: where awkwardness may be a new experience for Taako, it sure as hell is a common occurrence for Magnus. He knows awkwardness well. He visits often. He owns a holiday house, two dogs and a rental property there.)
Taako’s eyes seem to expand so wide Magnus is sure that his pupils will soon disappear. He is speechless, and Magnus categorises this moment as a minor miracle. It only lasts for a few seconds though before Taako blinks, readjusts, and falls into step.
“Well, I don’t blame you,” he says and oh, there’s that smile. It’s pure and unrestrained and Magnus reaches towards him again and this time Taako lets him. He brushes a large thumb over the curve the smile makes.
They stand there for a few moments, slightly awkwardly as Magnus can’t seem to drop his hand from where it cups Taako’s cheek in a wide palm. But then Taako sighs loudly, and brings two hands up to clench in the fabric of Magnus’ shirt.
And lips are on his own, insistent and eager, and Magnus is laughing, sighing, content, and he can taste the smile that is pressed against his own.
And it’s more than fine.