That morning Barry, Lucretia, and Magnus all found notes inscribed on their doors: Important Meeting Before Dinner Tonight .
When they came into the common room, the air was rich with the smell of stew simmering and a row of chairs was set out in front of the long table. On the other side, just two chairs, and in them: Taako and Lup.
“Please take a seat,” said Lup.
The others exchanged glances.
“Lup, sweetie, what is this about?” said Barry.
“I’m sooooo glad you asked, Barrold,” said Taako, “and we’ll get to that, but first, make yourselves comfortable.”
So they sat, Magnus in the middle, Barry on his right directly opposite Lup, Lucretia on his left facing Taako.
Magnus cleared his throat.
“So yeah. What Barry said. What are we doing here?”
Lup opened her mouth, but before she could answer, the door burst open.
“Hey don’t start without us!” said Merle.
“Nobody invited you, old man,” said Taako.
“Looks like a team meeting to me, and I never miss a chance to bond with my pals, and what’s the team without the captain?”
Davenport, right behind Merle, frowned slightly and put his hand on Merle’s shoulder.
“Maybe we should--” but Merle talked right over him: “Nope, we’re all family here. No secrets among sailors?” And he winked.
“Ugh, don’t even,” said Lup with an exasperated groan.
“What do you have to tell us that isn’t appropriate for the whole team?” said Lucretia.
The twins shared a long look.
“I mean, it’s only fair.”
“I suppose. Might be awkward?”
Their eyes widened in unison.
“Did you ?”
And then at the same time, “okaaaaay…” and thoughtful nods.
Lup said, “Yeah, you can stay. But you have to behave .”
Merle and Davenport took up a spot on the common room couch.
She continued, “We’ve called this meeting to answer a very important question--”
“--that’s come up a few times in our lives,” interjected Taako, “but now we’re in a good position to answer definitively--”
“--thank you so much for interrupting, Taako. We want to know: which of us is the best lay?”
“I mean, that’s a subjective question?”
“I’ve seen, but I can’t say from personal experience?”
“Um, gosh, you want me to, oh, wow, I can’t, y’know”
“One doesn’t like to -- uh -- judge?”
“Also, this seems like a problematic framing. What’s to say--”
“I guess, y’know, I don’t think of it like that?”
All three are looking off in different directions, Barry having turned bright red, Lucretia twirling a lock of hair around her fingers, and Magnus rubbing the back of his neck. Taako and Lup rolled their eyes at each other.
“See? This is what I was afraid of,” said Lup. “These nerds are--”
“--the nightmare scenario. I know.” Taako’s gaze swept across all three. “Let’s try this again.”
“We won’t hold anything against you.”
“Maybe a bit, Lulu? Just a little bit?”
“That’s on you, Koko. I’m in it for science .”
They glared at each other for a second, and then at the three humans. Lup pointed at Barry.
“Lup, you’re the light of my life, the most beautiful--”
“Nope, try again,” she said. “‘Cretia?”
“I still dispute the entire premise of this question, not to mention I don’t feel I have the requisite--”
Taako tsked loudly.
“Sorry, Lucy, I don’t buy it. Mags?”
Magnus simply blinked furiously and gulped.
Into the silence: “This is what you need ol’ Merle for.”
Then they all felt a strange shivering sensation as Merle called out to Pan -- then an awkward silence fell over the room.
“Go ahead, try it again,” said Merle. The twins exchanged a look.
“Thank you, Merle, I think,” said Lup, “although I’m sure we’re all going to regret this.”
“Cha’boy is already one-hundo percent regretting this, but it’s too late now, probably.” He looked like he was about to say something else, but instead snapped his mouth closed and waved his hand. “Lucy, would you care to try again?”
Her eyes went wide and she twisted her hair even more tightly.
“I mean...Taako, you wouldn’t know what to do with a girl if someone wrote you a guide and drew a map, and Lup is a genius of oral sex, so.” She swallowed hard; on the other side of Magnus, Barry nodded enthusiastically. “But on the other hand, Magnus says that when you’re not being lazy that you fuck with, um, ‘exquisite perfection’? And the rest of the time, you let him do everything he likes?”
Lup started chortling, while Taako’s expression darkened.
“He thinks it’s great for both of you….” She gave Magnus a stricken look, begging him with her eyes to please help her out, or something. Magnus just raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, you’re just soaking up the attention and I’m lazy? And you’re telling me Lup is better than Multiple Magnus there?!”
Lucretia chewed on her lip.
“Oh gods, Taako, why did you make me go first? Yes, Lup is more skilled than Magnus. There, I said it. I mean, yes Magnus is amazing, but it’s taken a while for him to learn?” She put her head in her hands. “I can’t believe I said that.”
“Fucking Zone of Truth,” mumbled Barry.
“Oh yes, let’s hear from Barrold,” said Taako, an odd note of glee in his voice.
“I believe that Barry dear has already made his preferences clear, darling brother.”
“No no, I want to hear it in his own words.”
“Well, I mean, um. Yeah. Lup is the best at oral, no question. And I love her. I love her more than I’ve loved anybody basically ever.” His face was still bright red and his voice was somewhere between a grumble and a squeak. “But, um, sometimes, um, I mean not in a while? But dudes being dudes? That’s...uh...fun?”
“Your boyfriend thinks I’m fu-un,” said Taako in a sing-song voice.
Then a voice from the back of the room: “Well, you are a pretty fun fella in the sack, that’s for sure.”
At that, Lucretia, Magnus, and Barry all twisted around in their chairs.
“What? It’s my Zone of Truth, don’t I get a say?”
Magnus looked back and forth between Taako and Merle three or four times before finally settling his gaze on Taako.
“The hell, dude?” he said.
Taako’s ears twitched wildly.
“It was the one time , jeezy creezy.”
“But you are a needy fucker,” said Merle.
“ I’m literally dying right now ,” said Taako.
“Whereas Lup, on the other hand, has a much better sense of give and take.”
Now Taako was staring at his sister.
“Oh gods you did. For reals, no joking.”
“Merle’s got great hands, Koko. I mean, right?”
“Uh and how does Barrold feel about that?”
“I was there,” mumbled Barry. “Lup’s kinda, uh, insatiable? So we’ve tried some stuff? Some of it took, some of it, yeah, I dunno, maybe not a great idea?”
“Ok, now I am genuinely sorry that I ever even thought about asking this,” said Taako. “What the fuck.”
“Too late now, baby bro.”
He ran his hands through his hair until it stood up in all directions.
“Well, there’s still one person we haven’t heard from. You just gonna keep mum until this shit wears off, Mango?”
A small sly smile played over Magnus’ face.
“You saved!” shouted Taako. “You fucker.”
“Yeah, but Lucretia’s not wrong about anything I told her. I love fooling around with you a lot, Taako.”
“Flattery will get you… Well, ok, everywhere. Fuck you for resisting Zone of Truth.”
“I wasn’t really? Trying? To resist?”
“Ugh. Great? No, not great. This is terrible, this is all terrible. I’m an idiot.”
Lup put her hand on Taako’s arm.
“You’ve not an idiot, Koko, you’re my beautiful brother and I love you to pieces.”
“Damn it, Lulu, this wasn’t supposed to be an emotional moment. This was… I just wanted to show you up for once; you’re so much smarter and cooler than I am.”
They rested their foreheads together, and Lup took Taako’s hands in hers.
Then Magnus stood and grabbed both of them out of their chairs and into a hug.
“You’re both the best.”
“Magnus Burnsides, you are in my personal space,” said Taako, “...and I love it.”
“Best hugs,” said Lup. “Sorry Bar.”
“S’okay. It’s true, anyway.”
“Well, come get some hugging, then!” He let go of the twins and threw his arms wide; Barry and Lucretia both came over. “You two in the back, too. Hugs for everybody!” By some strange quirk of physics, Magnus managed to encompass the whole crew in a hug, or at least, they were all hugging each other.
“Doesn’t matter who’s best in bed,” he murmured. “Matters that we’re all together.”
A few days later, Lucretia came into the kitchen to find Davenport chuckling at a chart that had been posted on the wall. It looked to be a repurposed chore chart with all their names on it, but in Taako’s sprawling handwriting, retitled Recognition for Excellent Sexing .
“Oh dear,” she said. “He did that.”
“I’m afraid so.”
She watched the gnome thoughtfully as he went about getting his morning tea.
“So the other day. You managed to…”
“Not spill all the beans about my sex life?”
“When it comes to Zone of Truth, take it from an expert, the only way to win is not to play.”