It is a dark day. The world is ending—well, it was ending, and then they stopped that from happening, but it might as well still be ending because he, Taako from TV, has just realized that he has maybe developed...emotional attachment. Of the familial variety. To a little dweeb who solves mysteries. It’s not his fault. The boy wonder has somehow wormed his way into Taako’s life like an infestation of bugs you just can’t get rid of. By the time Taako realized what was happening, it was already too late.
Caring about people is so embarrassing. Especially when those people are overeager toddlers that trot along after him like an especially-devoted puppy. If he’s lucky, he can play it off and ignore it until the uncomfortable surges of affection and protectiveness go away. Or until he dies. Whichever comes first. Either way, he just hopes no one else finds out about this.
Lup knows immediately. Of course she does. Even after one of them had their memory wiped and the other was jammed into an umbrella for over a decade, they know each other better than they know themselves.
Taako is filling her in on the adventures and misadventures she’s missed by being inside the aforementioned umbrella. There was a moment after the battle where he considered joining in the cleanup efforts, but he made eye contact with his sister (his sister!) and decided fuck it, he just saved the world. He’s earned a bit of slacking off. Now they’re locked in Taako’s room, sitting across from each other with their ankles tangled together (how that’s possible when one of them is incorporeal, Taako isn’t sure, but he’s not going to question it), catching each other up on their time apart.
There’s a lot to process. If Taako cries during the course of their conversation, well, no one needs to know. He’s got an image to uphold, after all.
They’ve made it through the worst of the emotions (yuck), and Taako is in full dramatic storytelling mode. Lup keeps getting a weird look on her face, and Taako knows she has picked up on something, something that she will most likely weaponize against him in the future. Taako also knows that if he ignores her looks hard enough, he might be able to divert her attention with his fabulous anecdotes and stave off the potential mockery for a bit longer.
He’s recounting some minor incident from one of his training sessions with Angus, embellishing here and there to make it more entertaining, making sure to play up what a brilliant, talented wizard he is and how generous it was for him to deign to help Angus. “I finally told the little goober some lie about spell slots just to keep him from burning himself out. The nerd would have kept practicing all night long. Would have given himself calluses from holding the wand, probably. The boy has no concept of his own limits.”
Lup laughs. “You’re really soft on the kid, huh?” Her eyes are fond, and oh, fuck. That’s what the looks were about. Of course she zeroed in on his weird, complicated Angus feelings in no time flat.
“What? No. Pssh,” Taako tries, already mentally accepting defeat. “Me? Soft? For the snot-nosed little...the uh. The dumb baby? No.”
“You totally are,” Lup says. “Can’t believe you went and got yourself a child. You’re basically a parent!”
“I’m fucking not! Shut the fuck up!”
“You, Taako Taaco, actually care about the wellbeing of a human child,” Lup crows. “I leave for two seconds and this is what I come back to!”
“Try twelve years,” Taako grumbles, looking down.
“Yeah.” Lup goes quiet. “Taako, I’m really sorry—”
“It wasn’t your fault.” Taako leans in for a hug, Lup’s spectral arms coming up to meet him automatically.
“I know that, dingus, but I’m sorry for my part in it. I’m sorry for how it turned out.”
They’re quiet. When they move on, Lup lets the Angus thing go. Taako’s no dummy, though. She’s latched onto this now. When things have quieted down a bit and they’re both less emotional, there will be no escape from her teasing.
Taako thinks maybe he should be annoyed that she can read him so easily. Not even a day ago, the feeling of being so known would have skeezed him out to no end and sent him into a frenzy. He’d have had to burn off his fingerprints and fake his own death to get away from whoever had gotten too close. Now, he thinks he might cry from the sheer relief.
Later, much later, Taako jolts out of a doze to find himself on the common room couch, wedged between his sleeping boyfriend and his sister. Barry dozes on the other side of Lup, and he can hear Magnus and Merle snoring not far away.
He doesn’t know what woke him at first, until he spies Angus hovering by the door as though unsure of his welcome. Taako is still mostly asleep when he jerks his head to call Angus over, but he doesn’t miss the way the kid’s eyes widen slightly or the excited little hop he does as he makes his way across the room. Dork.
“We did it, sir,” Angus whispers, still looking dazed.
Taako smiles. He can’t blame the kid for being a little out of it. “We sure did, mijo,” he mumbles, then freezes. Shit, did he really just call Angus…? Lup must have really gotten in his head earlier.
Oh gods, Lup. Without looking, he knows his sister heard and is about to make a Comment. Probably several, all embarrassing as hell. He elbows her, silently imploring her to leave it alone. “Scootch,” he says, hoping she gets the implied “please not now, not in front of the kid, not when I already have so many new feelings to deal with today” in his tone.
She shoots him the briefest look of understanding, so fast that no one besides Taako would ever be able to catch it, and makes a show of moving fully onto Barry’s lap. Thank goodness for sisters.
The worst part? Taako can’t even find it in himself to worry about saving face because all he cares about right now is getting a hug from Angus. Shit. He wants to hold the kid and reassure himself that Angus is ok, maybe subtly check over him for injuries one more time. Like some sort of sap who cares about people! Lup was right about him, and everything is horrible, and at this very moment he doesn’t even care because the only important thing is that they all survived the battle. They’re here, and he thought he’d never get to do another magic lesson with Angus, but now he will, and the feeling of relief that hits him as he realizes that fact would bowl him over if he wasn’t already sitting down.
He blinks. Angus is still standing by the couch, shifting his weight from foot to foot and looking like he’s not sure what to do next despite the obvious invitation to fill the space vacated by Lup. When Taako looks at him, really looks at him, it’s clear that Angus is exhausted. Kid had a long day. No wonder his brain juices aren’t entirely flowing. Taako takes pity on him, gesturing with one hand and reaching out to help pull Angus into the empty spot.
After another moment of blank staring, Angus gets the hint. “O-oh, are you sure, sir?” Angus’ gaze darts nervously from Taako to Lup and back again. “I didn’t mean to bother—”
Jeezy Creezy, always so considerate. “Agnes. I’m too tired for this,” Taako cuts him off, going for cool and aloof and definitely nothing in the vicinity of parental. “Get up here or don’t, bubbeleh, makes no difference to me.” Gotta have that plausible deniability.
Lup leans over and whispers, “Are you sure? Because it seems like you really want to snuggle with tu hijo.”
Face burning, Taako smacks her away. Of course, his hand goes straight through her, so the effect is somewhat diminished.
She just laughs. “C’mon, Angus,” she says, thankfully taking her attention away from Taako for the time being. “It’s nap time. Join the party.”
Angus hops onto the couch, sitting stiffly between the two elves. Automatically, Taako reaches out and situates Angus on his lap, only realizing after the fact that this is not going to help his case with Lup.
When he glances over, she and Barry are both laughing softly. Traitors. “Can’t believe he calls you sir,” Lup whispers, mercifully passing over the hundred other things she could say about this whole situation.
“Shut up,” Taako shoots back, trying his best to kick her spectral form and freezing when Kravitz stirs. Luckily, after the exhausting day he’d had, Taako’s boyfriend is sleeping like, well, the dead, and he doesn’t fully wake.
“I mean, you, sir. Has he met you?”
“Rude, I’m a very dignified wizard deserving of respect.”
“I’ve seen you trip on your dignified wizard robes and fall flat on your face,” Lup says.
“Shut up, you don’t get to use your twin knowledge against me,” Taako declares, feigning outrage. “You’ve been around me more than anyone else, so you have an unfair advantage. Incidents that occurred in private and things I told you in confidence are not fair game!”
“I’ve seen you shovel an entire package of fantasy mac n’ cheese into your face at 3 in the morning, straight out of the pot,” Barry deadpans, cutting off whatever protest Lup was about to make. “You hissed at me when I tried to take your spoon away.” He holds up a hand to accept Lup’s high five.
“You both suck. Ango, back me up here. I’m the coolest guy you know, right?”
There’s no response. To his surprise, Taako looks down to find the kid already asleep, nose squished up against Taako’s shirt. He’s breathing softly through his mouth like a fish, which somehow manages to be adorable. Disgusting.
“Some apprentice you are, dipping out right when I need you,” Taako mutters, but his chest is swelling with a weird, not-quite-painful-but-definitely-unnatural feeling. It’s like pressure, or weight, but it makes him feel light. It’s the same feeling he got the first time Angus executed a flawless Mage Hand. Not pride, not fondness, but not...not those things. Something more complicated.
He doesn’t want to analyze it, so he doesn’t. Instead, he slouches into a more comfortable position, wrapping his arms tighter around Angus so the boy detective doesn’t slide off his lap. The kid’s going through a growth spurt, and it’s already harder to hold him.
Taako sighs. He will deal with all his strange new emotions tomorrow. Or never, hopefully. For now, it’s been the longest imaginable day, and he’s going to follow Angus’ lead and zonk out as fast as possible.
“Alright, what the fuck is up with you and Mr. Boy Detective?”
“Hello to you, too.” Taako doesn’t turn around from where he’s yanking clothes out of his closet, tossing them into piles and boxes at random. He knows he needs to pack up his room on the moonbase at some point, but so far the muse has not granted him motivation to do it properly. He’s mostly just been shuffling things around, poking at his task like a picky kid moving peas around his plate.
“Greetings and salutations, dearest brother. What the fuck is up with you and Angus?” Lup closes the door behind her and moves beside Taako, using Mage Hand to tug a dress off its hanger and drape it over his bed frame.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Taako tries, studying the pattern on a shawl and running his hands through the fringe.
Lup sighs, throwing a hat across the room like a frisbee before floating down to sit on the floor and starting to fold silk scarves. “I mean, first of all, you hate kids.”
“Incorrect! I am ambivalent to kids, and also everything else, because as a very cool wizard I’m above it all.”
“Taako, when we were younger, you referred to other children our age as ‘soggy disease vectors.’”
“Not my fault they didn’t practice basic hygiene.”
Lup adds another scarf to her neat stack. “When we were on Tesseralia, you rated Magnus’ peewee rebound team based on how puntable the players were.”
“You gave them all at least a ten out of ten. Some got bonus puntable points, which should not even be possible.”
“Deborah had a shrill voice! It made me want to kick her a lot, sue me.” Taako cracks a smile, looking over his shoulder.
“My point is,” Lup says, starting a new stack of folded scarves when the first one begins to teeter, “you hate kids, and yet you voluntarily gave Angus magic lessons.”
“Whatever, it was boring between missions,” Taako says, throwing more scarves at Lup. They flutter to the ground long before reaching her. “I was just killing time.”
“You are the laziest motherfucker I know, but you gave up your precious free time for him,” Lup states.
“Again, there’s not a lot to do on the moon.”
“Cut the shit, Taaks. I was with you the whole time in the umbrella, remember? I know you care about the kid. I want to know why you’re being weird about it.”
“Who’s being weird? I’m not being weird.”
“You’re being so weird. I know you’re allergic to emotions and stuff, but why can’t you just admit you like having the kid around? Even to me?” Her voice is gentle, prodding but not demanding. Taako knows if he looked at her, she’d be making that serious “I’m listening” face. He suddenly realizes she’s not asking because she wants to know, at least not entirely. She’s an incorrigible gossip, but right now she’s pushing him because she knows he needs to talk some things through. Sneaky bastard.
Taako sighs, finally turning and flopping onto the floor next to Lup. At least she waited until they were alone to have this conversation. He stares at the ceiling for a moment, trying to gather the thoughts he’s been successfully ignoring up until now. Where to even start? “I don’t know, it’s just. Well, you know how it is. With us.” Taako fiddles with the pompom on a slipper that found its way near him. “Moving around all the time, getting passed from relative to relative, traveling with caravans.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And then when we finally got out of that life, we were on the Starblaster, and it was a new place every cycle, and everybody we’d known on the planet before was just dust,” Taako continues. “Whether or not we found the Light, they were gone from us forever, so that year was all we had together.”
“And, you know, well. Maybe you don’t. But uh, before I joined the Bureau, I was doing lots of traveling, kinda like when we were kids. Never, uh, never put down roots.”
“My point is, I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere for like, forever. People have always been...disposable, you know?” It sounds terrible, but he knows Lup knows what he means. “Like, if I fucked up and did something bad or embarrassing, it didn’t matter because it was only a matter of time before I moved on and no one would be around who remembered me doing that thing.”
“Right,” Lup says, nodding a little. “We never had to do the hard work that comes with relationships because by the time things got past the surface level pleasantries, it was time to dip.”
Taako nods, shaking his pointer finger at her for emphasis. “Yeah, and it was never worth it to do that hard work anyway. Except with the IPRE crew, but you know, that’s different.”
“But now we’re here forever, right? Like, probably. In some capacity.” Just saying it makes his heart race a little.
“And people aren’t disposable.”
“No, they are not.”
“So what happens if I fuck up?”
Lup inhales through her nose. “Well, Taako, then you just have to make it right. You have to decide it’s worth the effort, and you have to make the choice to stick around and do the work.”
They’re quiet for a long time. Then: “I think I fucked up a lot with Angus.”
She doesn’t say anything, just raises an eyebrow and waits for him to continue.
“I was such a dick to him when we first met. I mean, more than my usual witty repartee.”
She hums in acknowledgement, still not saying anything, just letting him talk himself out.
“I didn’t realize I might not want him to be disposable. And he made me uncomfortable, being all earnest all the time. I don’t know.” A pause. “I stole his silverware.”
Another eyebrow raise.
“He didn’t deserve the way I treated him,” Taako admits. “And I guess I’m just waiting for him to come to his senses and hold me accountable for all the shit I put him through. Or to go latch onto someone else.” Someone more deserving, Taako doesn’t say, but he knows Lup catches his meaning.
“Have you told Angus all this?” Lup has moved on to transferring her scarf stacks into a box, carefully pressing them down so they all fit.
“Pfft, no, are you kidding?” Taako is still messing with the slipper pompom. “I’m not gonna just spill my guts like this to anyone. Especially the little twerp.”
“Ok, well. It might be a good idea to start with an apology.”
“Gross. No. Taako doesn’t apologize to nothing or nobody.”
Lup puts her head in her hands and leaves it there for a long moment. When she looks up, she fixes Taako with an expression that says I’m not mad, just disappointed.
Taako sticks his tongue out at her.
“Angus isn’t going to leave you,” Lup says, matter-of-fact, like she’s sure it’s true. Taako’s breath catches just hearing her say it. “The kid loves you. It takes about two seconds to see that he worships the ground you walk on.”
“As he should,” Taako mumbles.
Lup throws a sweater at his head. “The kid is sticking around. Are you?”
Taako shrugs, then nods.
“Ok, then what are you going to do to make it right with Angus?”
Taako shrugs again.
Lup lets out a long exhale. Taako should have been keeping a count of how many put-upon sighs this conversation has wrung out of his sister. “Well, you can’t change how you acted in the past. All you can control is how you act now.”
Taako rolls his eyes. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery? Live in the moment? Really? That’s what we’re going with?”
Lup throws another sweater at him. This one has sequins. It kind of hurts. “I know you’re being difficult because you’re uncomfortable with emotions, but this is exactly the kind of thing you probably want to avoid with Angus in the future.”
“Maybe try just, like, not actively bullying the kid.”
“Light ribbing is ok. No silverware theft, though.”
“You drive a hard bargain.” Taako sits up straighter. “When did you get so wise?”
“Hmmm.” Lup taps her finger on her chin as though in deep thought. “Probably after we ate those weird mushrooms in Cycle 72. I swear, those things like, expanded my consciousness.”
Taako throws the sequin sweater back at her. It passes harmlessly through her torso. “Hey, for real, I needed that,” he says, trying for sincerity for once. His sister always did know exactly how to help him, even better than he himself knew. Gods, he’s missed her so much. All that time, he hadn’t even known how much of a gap was in his life. How did he do it without her? “Thanks, Lulu,” he says, trying to put his full, complex meaning behind his words.
He can tell she knows what he means. She always knows.
She grins and flips him off. “Don’t fucking call me that, Koko.”
In the days that follow, Taako tries his best to take Lup’s advice. He doesn’t wholly succeed in being nice to Angus, but he thinks the kid knows his teasing is all in good fun. He tries to wrap his mind around the idea of being attached to people, and he doesn’t succeed in that all the way either. He catches himself having those thoughts about leaving everything behind, before remembering that, no, that’s not the plan anymore.
He formally asks Kravitz to move in with him (and isn’t that an awkward conversation? Being vulnerable is the worst), and then it’s a flurry of house hunting and more disorganized packing. Kravitz gamely goes along with his specifications, reminding Taako that he’s lived in the Astral Plane for the last few centuries, so it makes very little difference to him what kind of cabinets the bathroom has. He laughs at Taako’s outlandish choices, noting that each house they look at is bigger than the last.
“You know this isn’t just about me being a flamboyant gay wizard with expensive taste, right?” Taako finally asks, oddly nervous. “I’m kind of a package deal. I have a big family, and I just got them all back, so it’s kind of. Important. To me. That we have space for them.”
“Taako,” Kravitz starts, but Taako keeps talking as though he hasn’t heard him.
“And I know they can all be a lot. I mean, shit, I think I basically have a kid now.”
“Are you ok with that? I know you didn’t sign up for—”
Kravitz is laughing a little. “I knew your family was part of the bargain when I agreed to move in with you.”
“I mean, it will probably be a little weird living with Lup and Barry since I’m sort of their boss, but we’ll make it work. As for Angus...well, I haven’t spent much time with him, but he seems to be pretty great.”
Holy shit, he just told Kravitz he has a kid. He’s never said that out loud before, not even to Lup. Not even to himself. “He is,” Taako says. “The greatest.” It comes out easily, as if Taako is used to dropping casual praise.
“Then I can’t wait to get to know him.”
When they settle on a house at last, Taako prattles to anyone who will listen about the kitchen island and the top-of-the-line fantasy oven already installed. Kravitz is the only one who knows what Taako’s face looked like when he noticed the reading nook in one of the upstairs bedrooms, or how he fake-casually asked Kravitz if he thought a desk would look good against that wall there, or the way he ran his hand along the built-in bookshelves muttering about Caleb Cleveland novels.