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Fire and the Flood

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Lucretia arrives to the shared Bluejeans-Taaco household (which is really two houses on adjacent lots with a Magnus-built enclosed corridor joining them at the center), a bottle of wine in hand. The houses sit a half-mile outside of Neverwinter in a protected cove that's deep enough for all but the largest boats to moor in; a dock sits at the bottom of a gentle slope that leads down to the coast, an ever-burning lantern at its end lighting the way home for weary travelers. The houses are one-level but sprawling, a subtle testament to their inhabitants' perhaps not-so-unconscious desire for open spaces after everything they've been through.

Barry's the one who answers the door, a warm smile forming when he sees her. Lucretia returns the smile albeit somewhat less readily, still not entirely sure of the reception she'll get. It's been over a year since the Day of Story and Song and three months since Carey and Killian's wedding, but Lucretia is still working to make amends with her family for all she's done to them.

“Come on in,” Barry tells her, welcoming her in with a companionable hand on her shoulder. Of all of them, Barry and Lup seem to have forgiven her the easiest, something that continues to baffle Lucretia. She tore them apart and took their child from them, and yet they still welcome her into their home on a regular basis. Angus is thriving at Lucas Miller's Academy of Arcane Sciences and is a day student there, returning home to his parents after classes are done each day. Their jobs as reapers for the Raven Queen allow them a mostly flexible schedule, and if they're not there, Angus can just go over to Kravitz and Taako's place, as his uncle is usually there working with Ren on the massive amounts of paperwork that're involved in setting up his own school.

Tonight is not about work, however. Tonight is about good food and family. Lucretia banishes all thoughts of work and steps into the warm house, breathing in the tantalizing scents that float through the air.

“It smells amazing in here,” she says, making Barry chuckle.

“Yeah, Lup and Taako have been cooking pretty much all day,” he replies, a deeply fond expression on his face as he says it. “They banned the rest of us from the kitchen about two hours in. Dav and Merle arrived about a half hour ago by boat. You're the last to get here.”

“Well, hopefully this wine I brought will go well with whatever the twins are making,” Lucretia says, holding up the bottle of wine. Barry glances at the wine and then shrugs.

“It'll get drunk one way or the other. I don't think anyone will mind if it matches exactly with what's being served.”

Lucretia nods and follows him deeper into the house, the sounds of laughter and rapid-fire conversations filtering through the spacious halls the closer they get. Lucretia steps into the dining room to find it full of family and friends who have become family, Barry whisking the wine bottle away from her before directing her to an open chair between Carey and Davenport. Lucretia settles in, her nervousness fading away slowly but surely as she's welcomed by those already there.

Lup and Taako come into the room both bearing steaming dishes aloft on matching Mage Hands. They set the dishes down with a flourish, and Lucretia realizes with a start that the scene before her is the one they all witnessed just before the last battle with the Hunger. She keeps her observation to herself, soaking in the warm atmosphere as dishes are passed around and drinks are poured.

Dinner is a lively affair, as these occasions usually are, and Lucretia loves every second of it. Her family is the very definition of chaotic good and are forces of nature and change in the world. The fact that the world they've so affected is letting them help repair it is amazing and astounds Lucretia every day.

At the meal's end, Lucretia finds herself standing on the back deck of the house, leaning against the deck's railing as she watches Merle and Davenport cast off from the dock, the rays of the setting sun gilding the water in beautiful golds and reds. She sighs happily, tilting her face up towards the sky and closing her eyes. Her solitude is broken about ten minutes later as the glass door behind her slides open and light footsteps tap against the wood of the deck. The warm scents of cedar and bergamot let her know who it is that's coming to rest by her side before she even hears him speak.

“Enjoying the evening?”

Lucretia opens her eyes and turns her head to look at Taako in the rapidly gathering dusk. His expression is hard to read, partially because of the loss of light and partially because of how neutrally set his face is.

“It's been a good night,” Lucretia replies, turning to look back out across the water. “Everyone seems really happy.”

Taako hums, leaning against the railing as well, his forearms braced against the wood. He's silent for a long stretch of time before he speaks, his voice low.

“You know, I almost didn't invite you tonight, but the others convinced me I should. You...” He sighs, the sound nearly blending in with the rush of the water on the shore. “You pulled a lot of shit, Lucretia, and while I understand the reasons behind it, it was still fucking horrible.”

Lucretia goes to speak but Taako holds up a hand, stopping her.

“Don't. Just... Let me finish. It was shitty and fucked up, but you did your best to fix it, even if it took a long time. I don't think I'll ever forget what you did-- none of us will, to be honest –but I'm not gonna hold it over your head.” Taako laughs softly. “Well, too much, anyways. You've been my second sister for over a century, 'Cretia, and I'm not about to forget it. Just... Just don't forget that we're family again, okay? That shit isn't going to fly any more.”

Lucretia puts a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob, tears starting to pour down her face. Taako glances at her and then holds out an arm for her in a clear invitation. Lucretia leans into him, breathing in shaky gulps as Taako holds her close. She swears she feels a kiss pressed against her hair. She may not be entirely forgiven, but even being this close to it feels like a weight dropping away from her.

Endings can be hard, sometimes even harder than beginnings. Finding the right words to close out a story with without making it seem trite or saccharine is tough. As Lucretia wipes the tears from her face, she knows that this story that she and her family are making? It hasn't ended with the Day of Story and Song. It's ongoing, chapter after chapter after chapter, and like all the best stories, ends with three simple words:

 

To Be Continued