Taako doesn’t kill Barry.
Lucretia comes out onto the deck of the Starblaster. Unlike Merle and Davenport, who had passed out several feet away from each other, Barry’s hand is loose on Taako’s arm. Over the last several decades, it’s become second nature for the crew to reach for each other for comfort. But Barry and Taako – they’ve been near inseparable since Lup disappeared.
The cold guilt that Lucretia had managed to suppress even through the blank look of unrecognition that Magnus gave Fisher, even through the captain’s head lolling back when she levitated him, even through copying down Merle’s notes so she could take care of his plants, wells up inside her chest, her throat, pressing out. She believes in her cause, and that should be enough. This is only temporary , she reminds herself, as she so often does. But.
They’ve lost so much already.
She really shouldn’t change the plan now. It’s too far along to take that kind of risk. She hasn’t really looked at either of them in weeks -- Barry’s desperate, distracted eyes are too much to handle and even as wan and sharp as Taako is these days, he looks too much like his sister. Lucretia can’t give them Lup back; gods, what wouldn’t she give to do that if she could. She can’t even change the plan much. But she can adjust it.
They won’t remember Lup – that ship sailed as soon as Fisher worked their curious tentacles around the waterlogged pages of the very first journal – but Lucretia can make it work without her. Fabricating memories is much more difficult than taking them away, but she won’t be able to live with herself is she doesn’t get this right.
When Barry wakes up on the couch with the pattern of the cushion pressed into his face, he blinks at the blurry figure in the kitchen. “Who’re you?” he groans. He fumbles across the pillow for his glasses, but finds only the edge of the wool blanket carefully tucked over him.
Whoever it is comes through the door, snags Barry’s glasses from the table beside him, and pops them gracelessly onto his face. As Barry blinks and pushes them up his nose, Taako comes into focus. “Your worst nightmare,” Taako says, in what may or may not be a fantasy Batman impression. “Aside from whatever the fuck you drank last night. So hungover you forget your very own brother? That’s low.”
“Not as bad as the time you pushed me out of a tree when I was twelve,” Barry counters, although his insistence on following his new, fascinating foster brother into the tree had been more to blame than anything else. Gravity has never worked on Barry’s side. Taako, who at that point was bony enough that Barry’s mother was still plying him with thirds and fourths every meal to make up for years of scrounging for food, could have jumped up and down on the branch without it cracking.
“You did that all by yourself,” Taako says, faux offended. “Anyway, better get up. I was about a minute away from throwing water in your face. You’ve got class in twenty. You’ve got the absent-minded professor look down pat, though.”
“It’s like those stress dreams where you have a final you haven’t studied for, except it’s a final that I haven’t written,” Barry says. “Where the fuck are my notes for class?” The room is surprisingly clean, at least by their standards; Barry hasn’t seen the floor of their apartment in he-can’t-remember-how-long. Unfortunately, without his strategic paper piling system, he has shit all idea where his work has gone.
“Do I look like I know?” Taako asks, leaning over to push a plate of scrambled eggs into Barry’s hands. Barry obligingly takes a bite as Taako watches expectantly.
“Cooked to perfection, as always,” Barry assures him. “Like magic. I keep telling you, you should go pro.”
“Mm, maybe,” Taako says. “But don’t blame me when the apartment is swarmed with paparazzi.” He squints at Barry, then runs his fingers, which are still buttery from the eggs, through Barry’s hair to counteract some of his perpetual bedhead.
Barry laughs through a mouthful of egg, dodging away from a second swipe. His students may zone out during lectures, but they’ll definitely notice if he smells like popcorn. “You’re so gross,” he says.
“Well, you’re almost presentable now,” Taako says. “No need to thank me.” He goes over to the hooks by the door and starts sorting through coats to find something that matches what he’s wearing. Barry may still be in a rumpled button down, but Taako is immaculate. “Magenta or red?” he asks Barry.
“Red,” Barry says immediately, without quite knowing why. Taako puts the magenta jacket back with its many fellows, all heaped upon a single hook. Barry’s jacket is on the hook beside it. Nothing at all is on the third hook. Barry almost suggests that Taako move some of his coats to the extra hook, but the words die in his throat.
“I hate to say it, but you were right, red does go better,” Taako says. When Barry doesn’t respond, he glances over at him. “You alright, brother dear? Need me to grab you a fantasy aspirin? Or tell the university you’re playing hooky? After the explosion last week, I think they’d be a little glad if you missed a day.”
Barry looks away from the hook, and the pressure swelling in his head fades. “No,” he says. “No, I’m alright. Tenure track professors should be able to handle a little headache.” He shovels the last forkful of egg into his mouth and stands.
As he pulls his coat on, something catches his eye. “Did you get a haircut?” he asks Taako.
“Nah,” Taako says, tugging on the end of his hair, which falls just above his shoulders. Barry could have sworn he was wearing it longer recently, although the way it falls around his face looks oddly familiar.
“Oh,” Barry says. “Well, it looks good.”