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starting to sound like a friendship thing

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Magnus is whittling. He's not sure yet what the end result is going to be – possibly just a smaller block of wood, but that's not the point. The point is to eat up some time and keep himself busy.

He's not sure where the others are, but he isn't too worried about that. Robbie comes and goes, usually wandering in at odd hours and collapsing straight into bed. Or floor. Or table. Merle spends a lot of time outside, watching the stars. And Taako–

–suddenly marches into the room, letting the door bang into the wall and swing itself shut behind him.

Magnus looks up sharply, knife stilling halfway through another pull. "Did something–"

"How much?" Taako interrupts, crossing his arms.

Magnus frowns. "How much what?"

"How much do you figure I owe you? I mean you got the loafers, and I admitted to the gold, so I don't know what exactly you want and I would appreciate if you'd stop waiting for me to guess."

Magnus slowly sets the wooden block on the table, trying to give himself time to think. It doesn't help. He tilts his head. "I have... no idea what you're talking about."

Taako crosses the room and leans over the table, one hand balled into a fist against his hip, the other slamming down with enough force to make the block jump. "Bullshit, my dude. You straight fucking cannonballed into a pit of angry ogres and stopped them from playing tug o'war with my limbs, you think I don't recognize 'oh man that guy still owes me money' tactics at work?"

It takes a second for the meaning of this to sink in, and then it takes another second to not look angry, because he knows Taako will jump to the wrong conclusion about that. People often do. So Magnus takes a deep breath. "That is not why I jumped."

"What, then? What do you - Oh!" Taako snaps his fingers, eyes lighting up, and continues with false cheer: "Oh, I get it, 'Gosh, thanks so much for saving my life! Please let me follow you around until I can return the favor, and in the meantime I'll just shower you with gifts and any money that comes my way!'" His expression flickers back into a glare. "Well, forget it. I didn't ask for your help, so, you know, thanks, but I don't owe you anything."

"Agreed," Magnus says, figuring a one-word response is the best he can hope to interject at this point.

"It's not like I couldn't have – what?"

"You don't owe me anything," Magnus says quickly, taking advantage of the lapse. "You're my friend and you were in trouble and protecting that button clearly wasn't working – really sorry about that, by the way – and I couldn't just stand there and do nothing!"

Taako is staring at him. He doesn't quite slump, just holds himself at different angles as the indignation slinks out of his posture to be replaced by bewilderment. "I'm your what?"

Magnus makes an uncertain journey back through what he thinks he's just said. "Uh – friend? I mean. I think we could be, if we're not yet?" He tries for a winning smile.

Taako's entire face contorts into an expression of sheer horrified disbelief. "Okay, no. I take it back. You have to let me repay you. Somehow. Anything. I don't – do – this."

"You don't do... friendship."

"Yes. No. I don't – emotional attachment. I don't."

With well-exercised skill, Magnus does not glance down at the very old knife in his hand, and he does not let his thoughts wander to the past, and he does not sigh. He just nods, and says, "I can understand that."

Slowly, Taako exhales. Pulls out the chair across from Magnus and sits, drumming his fingers on the table. "So what do you want?"

Magnus contemplates this. "No dogs on the moon," he says glumly.


"Just thinking out loud."

"Dude, no, I could totally magic you up a dog. Imagine the endless hilarity of trying to keep that a secret from the Director."

"And Robbie."

Taako scoffs. "Yeah, Robbie's gonna narc on someone else about a dog."

"It might be fun," Magnus says, daring to let a hypothetical four-legged and floppy-eared shape start to form in his mind's eye. "A secret dog."

Taako sits up straighter. Sharper. "That's starting to sound like a friendship thing," he says, accusatory. "Something else?"

The dog shape poofs back into idle imagination. Oh, well. Magnus can't stomach the thought of anything happening to the real thing, anyway. He stares at the block of wood between them on the table and tries to think.

"Uh," he hazards, "would you mind switching bunks?"

The drumming of Taako's fingers on the table stops so abruptly it's almost more startling than a sudden loud noise would have been. "Switch... bunks?"

"Yeah." Magnus shrugs, sheepish. "I kind of wanted a bottom bunk? But you and Merle took'em pretty fast and I figured it didn't really matter."

Taako is staring again. "We 'took' them," he says, slowly. And keeps staring, like he's waiting for Magnus to get something.

Magnus blinks at him in a way that he hopes conveys the message yeah you'll be waiting a while on that one buddy. "Yes?"

Taako seems to give up. Shakes his head. "You saved my life."


"And in return you want to switch bunks."

Magnus rolls his eyes. "Look, if you don't want to–"

"You are the weirdest person I have ever met. Yes, we can do that."

"Great! Thanks!" So, problem solved. Two problems! A surprisingly productive day. ...Now what?


Magnus reaches into his bag. "Wanna cheat each other at cards and not talk about our pasts?"

"Oh, hell yes."

This has so far been one of the most interesting and stressful weeks of Taako's life, and his life already had multiple doozies to show off in both of those departments. He wants to get out of here. Not permanently – he doesn't want to run, and isn't that a novelty in itself, no, he just wants to do something. Find a relic. Fuck something up. Maybe do whatever the opposite is of glassing an entire city.

But no. They're still just – here. On this fake moon. Which is full of fascinating nooks and crannies and people and creatures and books that he absolutely cannot focus on because someone please just let him out of here.

He gets back to the tiny group lodgings at what he only realizes is a ridiculous hour once he's already slamming the door open – manages to catch it before it can hit the wall, briefly contemplates his options, and stalks into the sleeping quarters.

It's not like he needs to sleep. But it's always an option, and right now it's looking like the best option of all because it involves at least a fifty/fifty shot at his brain shutting the fuck up about everything for a while. (True, it's an equal chance he'll wake up screaming, but he thinks he's exhausted enough to just bypass dreams completely. Like. He's reasonably sure?)

And, well. He hasn't been able to focus properly on his meditation the past few days. So maybe he does need it. For the sake of his spell slots if nothing else. (At least if the night terrors do strike he won't be able to hurt anyone like this.)

He clambers up to the top bunk, collapses facedown, and swears into the thin pillow when his jaw collides with something underneath it. He fishes the thing out and is about to hurl it at the wall when the fact of what it actually is starts to register.

It's a big dog. A tiny wooden Big Dog, unpainted, one pointy ear flopped goofily over the top of its head, mouth open in a pant, sturdily connected tail positioned in a way that somehow manages to suggest wagging.

He gapes at it.

And, before he can think better of suddenly waking their strongest party member from a deep sleep, he swings himself halfway off the bunk and does just that – clings to his mattress frame with one hand and knocks the other against the side of Magnus's bunk.

Magnus wakes with a start and, in what Taako belatedly recognizes as a lucky break, does not murder him.

Taako waves the carving at him and hisses under his breath, in Elvish, "Secret dog?"

Magnus blinks, and then squints, and Taako remembers – human. Darkness. Right.

"Secret dog," Magnus confirms a moment later, also in Elvish, yawning but smug.

Taako rolls his eyes and hoists himself back up into bed. "Weird," he mutters.

"You're welcome," comes the quiet response.

"Why?" Taako demands, already shoving the thing back under his pillow.

"I like making things for people."

Great. Wonderful. Taako bites his tongue to keep from saying what he's thinking – now I owe you again, I didn't ask for this, you're not being kind – swallows the words and shuts his eyes and tells himself very firmly to go to sleep.

Except he forgets, sometimes, that sleep isn't actually any easier to achieve than a workable meditative state. He sighs, opens his eyes, and reluctantly grants his brain temporary permission to think about whatever the hell it wants. So long as it's done in about five minutes.

You recognize this, his brain thinks. Accuses. Taako lies perfectly still and waits to see what thought forms next. He knows better than to try anything deliberate. You fall in with people who don't mind you being there, maybe even enjoy your company, and then one day you piss them off or you fuck something up and they're back on the super cool moon base and you're in a crater of black glass and everyone's dead and it's all your

And then Taako does think, deliberately: He jumped into an ogre fight.

His brain pauses. Scrambles. Comes up with nothing. Well, it admits. Yeah. That's a new one.

Taako stares up at the ceiling for a bit, letting his thoughts chase themselves in circles until they burn out.

Then he shuts his eyes, mutters "super weird," and rolls over and into a dreamless sleep.

Anyway, he won the card game.

So it's fine to keep the dog.