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lock and key

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Taako wasn't normally very curious about Sazed or his possessions. In fact, during the best of times, he could honestly give a rat’s ass less about what the tiefling did. But there was… just… something. And Taako couldn’t rightly place it, but… something just wasn’t right. Ever since the two of them had… had disagreements about the future of the show, his show, mind, his assistant had been pissy. And mean. And violent.

And he had no idea what to do with his feeling of unease besides run with it, so he did, as he typically did, without any real thought or impulse control…

The elf was now prowling through Sazed’s room.

It was a conjoined part of the stagecoach-- a small wagon that Taako had splurged on early in his career to give his hired help somewhere to stay. And, in a less philanthropic mindset, to get him out of his hair and away from his space.

So, essentially, he was a being a big ol’ privacy invader. Not that it mattered that much, this whole stagecoach belonged to Taako. Even Sazed’s part. So, like, really… what rules were he breaking? Ethical? Moral? Semantics. It all came out in the wash, right? Right.

Nonchalantly, he picked up a book from a small table, shrewdly peered at it, shook it around, and then dropped it… he snooped around on a rickety shelf the two of them had pillaged from a ruined village somewhere near Rockport-- nothing of interest, some old daggers, cook books… you know, really kind of vanilla stuff.

Taako was still intent to chase this uneasy feeling, though, kneeling down to peer under Sazed’s bed… and there, he saw something. A lockbox. A small silver box. There were various other things littering the underneath of the bed, but… the glint of gold from the keyhole caught the elf’s attention… he put himself on the floor, biting his tongue as he stretched an arm out to snag the weighty box… he drug it closer to himself, and then out…

“The hell..?” He sort of shook it, plopping down on Sazed’s bed, turning the container over in his hands… Now, this… Taako was perplexed by this. What… did he have that he had to keep in a secret, hidden lock box where Taako wouldn’t find it?

Now, there was more than one way to skin a cat, and Taako was more than sure with his magical abilities, though they were still kind of fresh and limited, he could certainly find his way into a dumb non-magical box without too much difficulty.

Except, problem, someone else had entered Casa Sazed-- Sazed himself.

The tiefling was shaken, for a moment, by the sight of his partner propped on his bed with his possession in his hand… But Taako didn’t get to see that part, for the man smoothed it over, leaning in the doorway and just watching him for a long time.

Of all the fuckin’ selfish, nosey, self entitled…

It was a good thing Taako didn’t normally see outside the end of his own nose… because a couple of quiet steps put the tiefling about a foot away from him, arms crossed over his chest, and he cleared his throat to make himself known.

Taako didn’t move, though his fingers did tense around the box a bit… one ear cocked up toward the man, and the elf rolled his eyes and glanced at him, finally, after a looooong pause, “‘Sup, big guy?”

“Don’t ‘sup’ me, Taako, what the hell are you doing?”

The elf cleared his throat, turning to face him a bit more directly on the bed, and when he went to open his mouth, Sazed lifted a hand to stop him.

“Uh-uh, no, I see that look on your face. Don’t craft me some bullshit lie, you think I don’t know that scheming, ‘get me out of this corner i put myself in’ face when I see it?”

Taako scoffed, shrugged his shoulders and… held the box out toward the tiefling, though he was loathe to do so, who instantly snatched it out of his hands. A scathing look crossed Sazed’s face.

“I - you- Don’t gotta-- I mean, you don’t have to get all up in arms,” Taako wasn’t exactly defensive, though there was a touch of it in his voice. He leaned back on the bed, propping himself with his hands, “what’s yours is mine, right, boyo?”

Sazed felt his shoulders tense, and he grit his teeth. Taako, God, what the fuck was wrong with him that he just thought prowling around his crap was okay? Like this was a totally good and okay thing to do..?

“Yeah, no, that’s not actually how it works. Sorry to burst your bubble. Can you, I dunno, fuckin’ amscray now?”

“What’s in the box?”

“Absolutely none of your fucking business, Taako. Why does it matter? You don’t care about anything I do, basically ever, so what does this matter now?”

Taako hummed, looking thoughtful, “It just does, I guess.”

“Not gonna cut it, sorry.” Sazed tucked the lockbox in the front of his tunic, which was crossed over his chest and fastened with a belt at his waist.

And it was then that Taako gave him a dead on look, examining him for the briefest of moments before… noticing a single golden key hanging around the tiefling’s red neck. He eyed it, chewing the inside of his lip for a second, “You haven’t had that long.” He spoke vaguely, motioning toward it.

“How would you know?”

“Listen, my guy, I’ve got eagle eyes,” and he tried to sound dramatic as he motioned two fingers from his own eyes and toward Sazed, who rolled his own eyes in response.

“You don’t. You only notice things if they have to do with you, Taako, you’re a self centered prick. And this doesn’t involve you. You wouldn’t see a man burning alive if he didn’t matter to you. So come off it, okay? And get out of my room.”

Taako huffed, ears pinned back, “Listen, okay, first of all-- true. You’re not wrong. I got it. I get you. I see you. But second of all, this does sort of involve me now, because I- well, I want to know. We don’t have secrets, me and you, right, bubeleh?” He angled his head, a smoother lilt to his voice… Coax it out, come on, the curiosity was sort of burning him up now.

“Don’t try to smooth talk your way out of it, dumbass,” Sazed was getting testier by the minute, because of course, Taako had to play his stupid games, “just get out, before I put you out.”

“Ooo, real tough guy now, over a box, huh?” But Taako sort of… felt like he might mean it, that one. He was a lot stronger than him, and Taako knew it, both from experience and from just, well, he wasn’t the most threatening figure. And Sazed was kind of monstrous in form, yeah?

“Yeah, more like over you blatantly disrespecting my privacy and then acting like you’re entitled to it, like I’m not a fuckin’ living, sentient creature, just like you.”

“Coulda fooled me--” and Taako barely got the words out of his mouth before a palm slammed into his cheek and mouth.

The elf was thrown to the side and onto the ground by the strike, stars in his eyes for a moment as he jerked a hand up to press into the damage.

“I-- I, fuck you- !” Taako spat, fumbling to get off the floor, “I have a show tonight,” he was fuming, removing his hand to check for blood.

But Sazed was fucking done. Taako had spouted some racist garbage and Sazed wasn’t having it. He was finished. Absolutely and completely. He reached after the elf, who smartly scrambled back-- oof, that brief look of fear on Taako’s face was pretty nice-- and he snatched him by the braid on the back of his head.

“Yeah, should have thought about that, right? We’re not-- we’re not anything anymore, got it? Don’t come in my room. Don’t get into my shit. And don’t try to smooth talk your way out of being an asshole. It won’t work on me anymore, you fuckin’ snake in the grass.” And he jerked him up, ignoring his protests as he bodily threw him out the door of his wagon.

“Don’t you have a show to get ready for, princess?” And he slammed the door so hard it shook the whole frame of the wagon.

Taako was on his ass on the ground outside the smaller wagon, staring upward at him… and he took a deep breath, dusting the dirt off of his posh chef’s uniform… It took him a bit, but he got to his feet… and he seethed there for a moment, trying to think of some scathing way to have the last word, to-- do something, fuck.

He was so tongue tied and frustrated and honestly hurt by what happened that the best he could muster was two middle fingers right at the tiefling’s wagon and a kick, if it could even be called that, to one of its wheels before he prowled off to the main stagecoach-- whatever. Whatever! In an hour or two he would forget that even happened. It didn’t matter. He gave no shits anymore. He wouldn’t give him the pleasure of giving a shit.

Back in the wagon, Sazed stood, quivering… his hands shakily drew the silver lockbox back out of his tunic, and he swallowed, but it was dry. It was cutting. It was bitter. He deftly removed the chain from around his neck, and unlocked it with the shimmering, golden key… Though his hands shook as he did so, breath coming in quick bursts through his nose as he eyed the contents of the box he almost lost to Taako.

Inside sat a single, ornate amber bottle of a muddy, gray liquid. An apothecary note was scrawled across the front in almost too neat cursive…