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Old Man Taako Outruns Death* and Lives Forever**

Chapter Text

Taako is supposed to die on the 18th of October, 652 A.H. Taako knows this. Taako stole Kravitz’s calendar-slash-agenda and on 10/18/52, it is marked in red: “Take Taako home.” There’s an asterisk mark with the addendum, “buy flowers maybe?”

Taako had grinned to see that. Even centuries after their wedding, his husband’s a sap. Guess people don’t change much. Taako knows he hasn’t.

He’s older, sure. His face has more lines, his knees hurt when he runs, there’s no way he’s doing his flip wizard routine anytime soon. He’s hung up his headmaster’s hat, checking into the school is mostly a formality these days and the Taako™ brand chugs along without his help, really.

But. Ch'boy’s still got it.

On October 17th, 652 A.H., Taako goes to sleep next to his husband. On the morning of the 18th, Kravitz is confused to wake up alone. He rubs his eyes and gropes around the bed half-asleep, expecting another body to be there.

“Taako?” he says. “You in the bathroom?”

Silence. Kravitz looks around. The bedroom is the same as last night. He notices a note on his nightstand. He picks it up. It’s Taako™ brand stationary.

He unfolds it.

“CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, BABE! LOVE, TAAKO ‘GONNA LIVE FOREVER’ TAACO”

It’s punctuated with a hot-pink lipstick kiss. Kravitz stares at it blankly, and then laughs. Okay. So that’s how it’s going to be. Kravitz summons his stone of farspeech. He dials a code that he knows by memory.

It rings once, twice, then the click of the line connecting.

“What?” Lup asks, mumbling. “It’s too early for work, Krav, callmebacklater.” She yawns.

“So you don’t want to help me hunt down your brother?” Kravitz says.

“He ran?” Kravitz can hear Lup’s grin.

“Mmhmm. He, uh, left a note.”

Lup laughs. Her voice gets farther away, as if she’s talking away from the phone.

“Barry? Babe, get up, sorry to wake you but we gotta go reap Taako’s ass.”

“What?” Barry’s voice, echoing. “Whuh? Okay—”  

“Give us fifteen, and we’ll be right over,” Lup says into the stone of farspeech, and then the connection clicks out.

Kravitz puts the stone away and sighs. He was going to do it easy, romantic. He had his house — their house — all ready, too. He even bought flowers. But, well, and Kravitz smiles, Taako wouldn’t be Taako if he did things the easy way.

Kravitz claps his hands, and his pajama-clad flesh form burns away into a be-suited skeleton. You know, for old times sake. He summons his scythe.

Alright. Time to track down his beloved husband.

Chapter Text

It's been a while since Taako's been to Neverwinter. Maybe a couple of years or so, he thinks. It's changed a lot — humans move fast, jeez. But at least the building he's looking for is in the same place, just as shiny and new as the day it was built. Magic's a helluva thing.

Taako pays admission for the first time ever. He figures he might as well, for the novelty of it all, and besides, he's incognito. If he came here as his wonderful self, he'd be mobbed in a heartbeat. And that's all well and good — gotta give the people all the Taako that they want — but it's kind of against his whole "running from the death police" thing, today.

His stone of farspeech vibrates. Taako picks it up without looking at the number. He knows who's calling him.

"Hey babe!" he says, wedging the stone between his shoulder and ear as he shoulders his way through the crowd. Jeez, lotta people out today, he thinks. Must be 'cause it's a weekend. "What's up, bone daddy?"

"Taako, where are you?" Wow, Krav must be really focused, if he's ignoring the 'bone daddy' comment, Taako thinks. Guess he got him good.

"Oh, you know, places," Taako says, stepping over a velvet rope. Some guy starts yelling at him. Taako ignores him and keeps walking. Nice and empty on this side.

"Define places," Kravitz says slowly.

"Just, places!" Taako says. The guy starts walking after him. Taako walks faster.

"Love," Kravitz says, and oh no, pet names aren't gonna work here, Taako is one-hundo percent committed. He's been planning this for months. Ch'boy ain't dying today.

The man starts running. Taako also starts running. Ow, his knees. Shit, maybe he'll have to drop his disguise, if he wants to avoid a scuffle.

"Sir, you can't go over there! That ship's an antique!"

"I'm an antique!" Taako yells back.

"Taako, who's the guy talking?" Barry's voice floats through the stone. Taako trips.

"Shit, am I on speaker? Hey Barold! Hi Lulu! How's the reapin' going?"

"Don't play coy, babe, you know what we're here for. Hand over that soul, 'ko, or else—" Lup sounds like she's trying to keep herself from laughing.

"—else what, Lulu?" Taako asks playfully. "You gonna come after me?"

"You know this is, uh, sort of pointless, Taako, right? Like, you've already agreed to become a reaper?"

"Barold, my man, I literally do not know what that has to do with this," Taako says. 

"Love, you know you have to come home sometime," Kravitz sighs. Taako laughs.

"Nuh-uh I don't, Taako's an alive boy! Later, assholes! Also loveyoubyeKrav!"

Taako hangs up. He shoves the stone in his pocket. He stops running, and whirls around. His cloak flares in a gratifyingly dramatic manner.

"Stop!" he says to the man chasing him, along with the couple of dudes he called for backup. "Do you even know who I am?"

The security offers stop as well, ready to spring into action, unwilling to be the first to accost what looks to be an ordinary old man.

"You're trespassing, sir," the first guy says. "This exhibit is off limits to the public."

"Nuh-uh," Taako says. "You're trespassing."

The officers look confused. One of them starts walking forward, handcuffs in hand. Yeah, okay. Taako figures this charade has gone long enough.

He claps his hands together — not that he needs to, it's just for the effect — and the illusion he'd cast over himself dissipates like fine morning mist. The guards gape. The crowds of people milling around the museum turn their heads at the sound, and keep their heads turned. Murmurs amongst them, nobody expects to see a celebrity, much less a living legend. Now that's the sorta attention he deserves, Taako thinks.

"Holy crap," one of the security officers says. "You're Taako, from TV!"

"Shit, he owns the building," one of them whispers to the other. "It's his ship."

"Hell yeah it is," Taako says. "Now lemme at it. Baby's goin' for a joyride."

___

The connection clicks out. Kravitz rubs his forehead, and then remembers he doesn't have skin. Bones clack. Lup snorts.

"So, operation kill-my-brother is a go, then?"

"It sounds so gruesome when you say it like that," Kravitz complains.

"Well, it's what we're doing," Lup says. "Murdering ch'boy."

"It's not murder, he's supposed to die," Kravitz says. "That's how life works. I planned the whole thing. It was gonna be romantic."

"And you call me morbid," Lup says, good-naturedly. 

"Can we, uh, focus for a moment?" Barry says. "Where did it sound like he was?"

"Well. Crowds, tour groups, a loudspeaker talking about show times," Kravitz lists. 

"And someone yelling about how 'that ship's an antique...'" Barry continues. Lup slaps her forehead.

"Aw, fuck. He's stealing the Starblaster, isn't he."

Chapter Text

Nobody stops Taako from climbing up the ladder onto the deck. The crowd murmurs, stares at him. Alright, that's getting a lil' weird, Taako thinks. He looks down at the crowd. Man, that's a lotta collateral if he fucks this up.

Taako shouts from his perch in front of the gnome-sized helm, "Alright! Everyone outta the way! I've gotta date with death that I'm doin' my best to avoid, so clear the takeoff strip! You! Security boys, get m'dudes outta here!"

Davenport had stipulated that the Starblaster be flight-ready, when he donated it to the Museum of Story and Song (subsidiary of the Taako Institute). The museum had complied by placing the Starblaster at a diagonal, pointed toward an open skylight. Ready for liftoff.

The security officers follow Taako's directions, herding everyone toward the outer edges of the hall. Taako's technically their boss, by way of being the Grand Head Lead Wizard CEO King-and-God — his official title as nominal head of the Taako™ brand. Taako turns his attention to the helm. Steering wheel, buttons, levers and foot pedals. All sized for someone half Taako's size.

He whistles. It's been a couple of centuries, and by a couple, he means maybe a half-dozen, and by a half dozen, he means maybe he bribed Lup to sub in for his training when Davenport insisted that everyone learn to pilot the ship.

But hey, if Magnus could do it. Taako experimentally presses a lever down. The engine starts to rumble. Nice! He presses the green button because that seems appropriately colored, and the dashboard blinks to life. Nice! Now everything's got labels — Taako is briefly insulted that Dav' had thought they would need labels — and he turns the knob that says PUSH TO START, and gingerly presses his foot lightly down on the foot pedal that says LIFTOFF. Jeez, Taako thinks. Dav must really have thought they were idiots. Hm. Nothin's happening. Maybe he oughtta press harder. He slams his foot on the pedal.

The Starblaster shoots forward. Taako's arms are jerked in their sockets, and he screams as the ship launches itself into the air, through the skylight, hurtling away from the ground. Taako manages a glance over the side of the ship, Faerun is spread out below him, and Neverwinter looks like a toy.

Taako wrenches his foot off the pedal and the ship slows into an easy glide across the sky, bond engine humming. Taako slumps over the mini-helm. Whew. Nice! Ch'boy did it! The ship wavers, and Taako snaps to attention. Right, steering, right.

___

"Shit, we just missed him," Barry says, staring at the ship streaking across the sky. Lup snickers.

"Dummy forgot we could make portals, and now we know where he is. Krav, you wanna do the honors?"

Kravitz extends his scythe and swipes it through the air. A bright black tear in reality appears, the space inside turning to the Starblaster's deck.

"Way ahead of you," Kravitz says, and steps inside. Barry and Lup jump in after him, and the tear sews itself up behind them.

___

He's getting the hang of this, Taako thinks. All you have to do is keep your arms steady, easy peasy. Kinda boring, though. He thought that flying a spaceship would be more fun, from the way Davenport went on about it.

Gee. Wonder when his family is gonna show up. 

A noise like the tearing of worlds, like the fabric of reality unstitching itself. Well, speak of the devil, Taako thinks. 

"Hello, love."

Taako grins, and glances over his shoulder. His husband is stepping neatly out of a dark tear, and oh, he's in his work clothes. That's a blast from the past.

"He-ey, baby," Taako says. "How's work goin' today?"

"Oh, well, same old," Kravitz says. "Some powerful wizard refuses to die and we had to track him down, chase him around Neverwinter, 'cause somebody decided he didn't want to come home with his husband."

"Aw, babe. You know I love you."

"I love you too," and Taako can tell that Kravitz would be smiling like a dork if he had a face to smile with. "Now, stay right there, won't you?"

It's so cute, that he thinks Taako will go quietly.

Lup rolls her eyes as she walks out of the tear, followed by Barry. Barry waves. Taako waves back.

"Hey, stop bein' sappy! We're here to kill him, you can flirt on your own time," Lup says. "Didja forget we can make portals, goofus?"

Taako grins wider.

"Nope! Did you dipshits forget that I can, too?"

Taako turns back to the helm and slams the steering wheel, tilting the whole ship into taking a nosedive to the ground.

Then he casts teleport, and promptly disappears.

__

The three reapers all stumble when the ship dips downward. Lup scrambles for the helm, Barry following.

"Oh shit!"

She jerks the steering wheel back up, and the ship wavers but keeps heading toward the ground. Kravitz leans over the two of them, surprisingly unconcerned despite the couple's panic.

"There's no autopilot?" he asks.

"As if Cap'nport would put an autopilot on his baby?!" Lup shakes her head.

"Should we leave then, maybe?" Kravitz says dryly. "Go catch up with Taako?"

"We can't, Dav will kill us if we crash it," Barry says. "Oh shit, we're gonna crash it."

"You're already dead, technically," Kravitz points out.

"Yes, but he'll kill us if we crash it!" Lup turns to Barry. "Do you know how to land?"

"I bribed Magnus to take my shift!"

Lup groans. "So did I!"

__

Taako re-materializes in a pretty swank office. It's not just swank, it's old-money nice. Lots of mahogany. He's spent a lotta time in this office, he thinks, brushing invisible dirt off his robes. He's distracted by the voice of a small child squealing his name.

"Uncle Taako!"

Taako beams at the kid running through the doorway.

"Mini-ango! How's it hangin'?"

Chapter Text

 "Uncle Taako!" the kid throws herself at Taako, who catches her handily. "Uncle Taako, I have a name."

"Sure ya do, Mini-Ango," Taako says, ruffling her hair and prying her from his chest. "Hey, you got glasses! Guess the nerdery is hereditary."

"Stop teasing Amy," a voice from the doorway says, with amusement in her voice. "I thought you weren't visiting until next month, Uncle T?"

"Ah! Mini-Ango's mom, other Mini-Ango!" Taako spins around

"I'm forty-two," the woman says. She's smiling, though.

"I'm seven-hundo," Taako says. "Y'all are all kids to me, kiddo." She rolls her eyes.

"Seriously though, I thought you were in the middle of something? Last week when I called you about the weird magic thing happening down in Branchside, you said you were too busy to help."

Mira McDonald smiles at her honorary great-great-great-etcetera uncle. "Not that we're not happy to see you." Amy nods emphatically.

Taako shrugs and grins back, rocking back and forth on his heels. "Well, you know. The thing I'm busy with? Might be callin' in a favor."

"What's up?" Mira herds her kid away from their hereditary uncle.

"Well, you might be gettin' a visit from the boner squad, pretty soon, can ya stall 'em for time if they come? Tell 'em I went to the Highchurchs' place, or something? And can I borrow the car? You know, the experimental one."

Mira frowns. 

"Uncle T, what are you planning?"

"Don't worry, pumpkin." Taako walks over to the woman and pats her on the head, which is a bit of a ridiculous gesture considering she's two inches taller than him. "Just messin' with your other uncles and Auntie Lup."

"Taako," Mira says, in an exasperated tone of voice. And, well, she'd figure it out pretty quickly, might as well have her in on it from the start. Mimi's got a sense of humor, she'll probably think it's funny.

"Well technically, I was kinda sorta supposed to die today," Taako says. "Like, I'm offing it." Mira's brows rise and Amy runs over to him and wraps her arms around his legs and looks up at him with wide eyes. Jeez, kids, no sense of personal space.

"Uncle Taako, if you're going to die, are you not going to visit anymore?" Amy's lower lip trembles, and oh shit, Taako's going to have to do some damage control. Augh, why'd he have to visit Ango's spawn. Feelings.

"Of course I will! It's no big deal, m'dude, Krav's mom and Istus got it all sorted out, no problemo, I'm just tryin' to screw with Krav," he says. "Gotta job as a scythe boy, after I let the husband catch up with me."

"A scythe boy?" Mira says.

"Yeah, a scythe boy. A reaper. Raven Queen's emissary," Taako explains. "Krav and Lulu pulled some strings, ain't no way they were lettin' their boy slip away."

"Why are you running, then?"

Taako shrugs. "Iunno."

Mira sighs, but she's smiling. Ha! Taako knew she'd think it was funny.

"Alright, you can borrow the car. But, I was in the middle of talking to some clients when I heard you pop in," Mira says, and Taako waves a hand at her.

"Yeah yeah, go do your job, Mini-ango. You're only proving my point about the nerdery!"

Mira laughs. "Don't keep Amy too long, she's got math tutoring in fifteen minutes."

"Uncle Taako could tutor me?" Amy says, hopefully. Taako shakes his head.

"Nope, no-can-do. I never learned math, who needs it. School's for fools."

"Stop encouraging her," Mira says, "Amy, tutoring's non-negotiable, but you can hang out with Uncle T until Evelyn gets here, or until he needs to leave, okay?"

"Okay," Amy says, and turns back to Taako as her mom leaves. As soon as Mira leaves the room, Taako crouches eye-level with Amy, who stares back at him.

"Hey, Mini-Ango, give this to your mom, okay?" He pulls a folded piece of paper out of his cloak. "It's, you know, mildly important, so don't lose it, m'dude. You can look at it, though."

"Okay," Amy says. "What's in it?"

"Grownup stuff," Taako says. "It's not super interesting."

"I'm still gonna look at it," Amy informs Taako. "Will you really be back, even after you're dead?"

Taako nods.

"Of course, Mini-ango. Ain't seen the last of me, kiddo. I'll just be real fuckin' goth looking, that's all."

_____

"Okay, I got him!" Kravitz walks through a slice in reality back onto the deck of the Starblaster, followed by Magnus, who runs over to the helm and knocks Barry and Lup out of the way as he grabs the steering wheel.

"Holy crap you guys were about to crash!" Magnus exclaims, veering away from the ground. He wrenches a couple of levels and everyone braces themselves as the ship shudders.

"Yeah, well, that's why we had to get Krav to get you," Barry says, looking queasy. "We, uh, don't know how to fly the ship."

"We're breaking so many rules right now," Lup says, sounding entirely un-displeased by the fact. Kravitz sighs.

"I can't believe neither of you know how to fly this," Magnus says, pressing a series of buttons and expertly handling the wheel. "We had a century."

Barry looks sheepish. Lup shrugs.

"We were busy, mmkay? Cut us some slack, big guy."

"It was a century! Literally a hundred years," Magnus says. "Okay, where do you want me to land this thing."

"Uh, wherever's good," Barry says. "Thanks for the assist."

"Of course," Magnus says, glancing at the trio of reapers huddled behind him. "Why're you flying the Starblaster, anyway?"

"Taako stole it," Kravitz explains. Magnus nods.

"Oh yeah, he's supposed to die today, isn't he?"

"Supposed to," Lup says. Magnus grins.

"He's not makin' it easy, huh?"

"Your death was a cakewalk compared to my husband's," Kravitz complains, but his heart doesn't seem in it. Magnus shrugs.

"Well, I was ready. And I had people I wanted to see."

"So does he! What about all of us, huh?" Lup says. "That dummy's whole goddamn family is death."

_____

Taako whistles as he walks through the hallways of the McDonald mansion. Pretty nice house, he thinks. He remembers when it was built. Jeez, that was centuries ago. He's getting old. He glances at his watch. Alright, he's probably got a bit of time before the boner squad figures out where he is. Probably enough time to drive over to Goldcliff, he figures. Might have to open a portal. Taako mentally calculates how many spell slots he has left. It's enough, he decides, in case he needs to spare one.

The garage is more of a hanger, filled with antique vehicles and experimental cars and other, more esoteric devices. The one that Taako's looking for is near the end, past the helicopters and elevator-car hybrids, tunneling machines, etcetera. Gosh, the McDonalds have really amassed a weird amount of stuff, Taako thinks. Oh right, I gave 'em half of it.

The vehicle he stops in front of is a sleek battlewagon-derivative, developed jointly between the Taako Academy for the Magically Gifted and the Miller Labs (and that had been a hard sell, for Taako, collaborating). The results spoke for themselves, though. Aerodynamic, slick, and polished to a chromium shine. Taako grins. Oh yeah. This is gonna be fun.

_____

Lup's stone of farspeech rings just as they touch down on the earth. Lup, fishes it out of her pocket and checks the caller. She makes a face.

"Aw fuck, big momma's calling."

"Stop calling the Raven Queen big momma," Kravitz says, for the thousandth time. "It's disrespectful."

"She likes it!" Lup says. "Big momma thought it was funny. Said it made her feel like a mob boss."

"We're er, not a mob," Kravitz says.

"We're kind of a mob," Barry says pensively. "I mean we do run around killing people, sorta."

"You're my family and I love you," Kravitz says. "But sometimes I don't like you very much as people."

He snatches the stone of farspeech from Lup and holds it to his ear.

"Hi mo— er, I mean, ma'am," Kravitz sputters. "Sorry! Sorry. Erm. Why are you calling?"

The Raven Queen laughs.

"Put me on speaker, won't you, Krav?"

"Of course," he says. He taps the stone and sets it on the deck.

"So, what's this I hear about you breaking one of the dead out? You've got an extra soul with you — hello Magnus," the Raven Queen says.

"Hi ma'am," Magnus says, cheerfully. "They were gonna crash a spaceship!"

"In our defense, none of us know how to drive a spaceship," Lup says solemnly.

"It was, uh, definitely necessary," Barry adds.

"Istus says Taako was just at the McDonald mansion," the Raven Queen says. "He probably hasn't left yet."

"Are you just telling us this 'cause you think we need the help, big momma?" Lup asks.

"Yes," the Raven Queen says.

"Oh," Kravitz says. "Thanks."

"That's flattering," Barry adds.

"And put Magnus back where he came from, before you head over," the Raven Queen instructs.

"Sure, we'll get right on that," Barry says. "We're uh, really sorry."

"Super sorry," Lup says.

"We'll put him back," Kravitz says.

"Good," the Raven Queen says warmly. "Good luck, darlings!"

The connection cuts out. Barry takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes.

"Bus-ted," Magnus whispers.

"Shut up, Maggie," Lup says. "Okay, babe, you wanna take Mags back, and me and Skeletor will hop over to the McDonalds' place to catch 'ko?"

"Please stop calling me that," Kravitz says, with no real hope of Lup ever stopping.

"Uh, sure," Barry says. "Right, Magnus. Thanks for the help, again." He takes his scythe and rips reality in front of him.

"Sure, sure," Magnus says. "This was fun! Let me know if you're ever crashing the Starblaster again."

"Say hi to Jules for me!" Lup says, as Barry and Magnus step through the portal. "Tell her I probably won't make our coffee date 'cause I'm killing my brother!"

"Okay!" Magnus yells back through the portal as reality stitches itself back together.

Lup turns to Kravitz.

"Time to pay the Mini-Angos' a visit, then?"

"Mmhmm," Kravitz says as he shears a portal in front of them. "You know they have names, right?"

Chapter Text

"He's not here," Mira says without turning away from her client, who had frozen at the sight of the three reapers. "Okay, now can you give me any of the paperwork that she signed? That'd be an enormous help in establishing a paper trail."

"Where'd ch'boy go?" Lup asks, leaning on Mira's shoulder. Mira still doesn't turn. "Spill the beans, Mini-ango. We gotta kill him, and our boy Krav misses my bro cause they're one of those gross couples."

"Um. Detective, there's a couple of reapers behind you," the client whispers, glancing nervously at the two reapers standing behind Mira.

"We can hear you, you know," Kravitz says, waving a hand dismissively and completely ignoring the latter half of Lup's comment. "Oh don't worry, we're not here for you. Mira, has Taako been here?"

Mira sighs theatrically.

"He was here, but now he's not."

"Well, where'd he go?"

Mira shrugs, dislodging Lup. The client looks terrified. Mira smiles at him sympathetically.

"Sorry Leigh, can we actually finish this up later? Family business,"  Mira says with an apologetic shrug. Leigh nods rapidly.

"Yeah, sure, sure, no problem. Family business. With. Reapers. I'm just, I'm just going to go?"

"Farspeech me about rescheduling!" Mira calls as Leigh practically runs out of the office. She finally looks over her shoulders at the visitors.

 

"What did I tell you guys about barging into my office in your work clothes?" Mira says, scowling. "You scared my client!"

"Sorry Mini-ango," Lup says without any hint of apology. Kravitz sheepishly turns back into his flesh-form. Lup continues. "It's sorta an emergency. We gotta find Taako, and big momma said he was just here."

"Well, he didn't tell me where he was going," Mira says. "Have you tried the Highchurchs' place?"

"Hm, that's worth a try, I suppose," Kravitz says, nodding. "Maybe we'll —"

 

He's interrupted by a door clanging open.

"Mom! Uncle Taako said to give this to you!" Amy runs in waving a piece of paper around. Mira expertly plucks the piece of paper out of Amy's hand and unfolds it. "Oh hi Auntie Lup, Uncle Krav!"

 

"Hey kiddo," Lup says, hugging her. "You seen your Uncle Taako?"

"Mmhmm," Amy nods.

"You know where the doofus went?"

"Mm-mm," Amy says, shaking her head. Lup releases Amy.

"Eh, worth a shot."

"He probably went to Goldcliff," Mira says abruptly, without looking up from the paper. "He took the racecar, the tricked out one that his academy and Miller Labs collaborated on. He probably wants to race. You can grab anything from the garage that you want."

"Huh?" Lup says.

Mira looks up from the paper and smiles, though it's a little shaky. "Trust me, which one of us is the detective, Aunt Lu?"

"Thank you, Mira," Kravitz says.

"Sure," Mira nods. "Go get your husband, Uncle Krav."

__

 "I wanna gank a motorbike," Lup says, staring at the expanse of vehicles in the garage. Kravitz rubs his eyes.

"Sure! Whatever! First Taako stole the Starblaster and, and now he's got a race car, grab a motorbike! Today can't get any vehicularly weirder."

Lup laughs and inspects a row of motorcycles.

"Oh c'mon, Skelebro, don't tell me you're not enjoying this. It's the most fun I've had in months, ever since that job with the robo-lich with the weird lil' minions. And now we're going on a car chase, and y'know I love car chases."

Kravitz cracks the suggestion of a smile.

"Well, okay. It's not the worst thing."

Lup pats him on the back.

"That's the spirit! Oh, and call Barry, he should be done by now."

__

 Amy looks over her mom's arm and pulls her sleeve to get her mother's attention.

"Hey mom, what'd the paper say?"

Mira wipes her eyes on her sleeve. She's not exactly crying, but her eyes are damp. 

"Your uncle, that sentimental idiot, left us everything! We don't even need it, that big dummy!" 

Despite her words, she's smiling.

__

Taako unfolds himself out of the vehicle. Jeez, the driver's compartment is pretty cramped. He's not really a great driver, either. Joints pop as he stretches. Good thing he's not gonna be the one driving.

Nobody looks too closely at him as he walks down the street. Cool cars are not really that out of place in Goldcliff. Neither are celebrities. Also, Taako had magicked himself up a really big hat and sunglasses. Old-school incognito. He's parked near the center of town, where the Tree is.

The Tree is enormous. Probably the size of a small office building, more or less. Maybe a big office building. It's autumn, so the green leaves and pink flowers have been replaced by a cascade of orange and red, a riot of color  like a bonfire. Well, the girls always cleaned up nice, Taako thinks, as he walks over. Now how the hell does he get them to wake up? Last time he saw them was a couple of years ago, and they had been the ones to find him. He contemplates the tree-trunk for a moment, and then starts wondering if that's the dryad equivalent of starting at someone's chest for too long. Okay, that's enough analogies for one day, he thinks. Maybe if he just....asks them? He cups his hands to his mouth and shouts.

 

"Yo! Hurls, Sloane! It's ch'boy Taako here. Wanna help me win a race against the grim reaper? I got a shiny new battlewagon for you to drive, if you're in?"

He feels pretty stupid, yelling at a tree. Nothing happens. Yeah, this bit was a mistake. Time to figure out his plan B, i.e. mostly using his sick wizard magicks and winging it.

Taako turns away from the tree. Guess he should go get the car.

 

A hand grabs his arm. Taako slaps it with his other hand instinctively. He hits bark. He turns back. Hurley's holding his wrist firmly. Behind her, Sloane is pulling herself from the tree. Guess they heard him after all! Both women look excited.

"You're racing death?" Sloane asks. "You mean your husband?"

"You've got a new battlewagon?" Hurley asks.

"Technically, running from death," Taako says. "And hell yeah I do. You in?"

"Oh, we're in," Sloane says from behind Hurley. "Show us your ride, and we'll get rollin'."

Taako grins. "Hells yeah."

__

Even in Goldcliff, which is unusually accustomed to weird vehicles and vehicular experiences, a motorbike, followed by a car zooming out of a portal is sort of a new one. Pedestrians gawk.

"Outta the way!" Lup hollers. "We got a boy to catch!"

The streets clear pretty quickly.

__

"Jeez, I thought they'd be here by now," Taako says, tapping his foot and staring out the window of the gunner's compartment. "Thought they were some sorta hot-shot bounty hunters."

The racecar is stationed at the beginning of the track, the engine purring, the car ready to shoot forward. Sloane and Hurley had negotiated for the driver's seat, and now Sloane is in the gunner's compartment with Taako, while Hurley cheerfully sits in front of the steering wheel.

"Did you tell them you were gonna be here?" Sloane asks.

Taako shrugs. "Finding me is their problem." 

"Wait," Hurley says, glancing through the opening to the gunner's seat. "You hear that?"

"Hm?" Taako says, and perks an ear up. There's a low mechanical rumbling in the distance. Oh, speak of the devil. "You ready to rock 'n roll, Hurls?"

"Oh, I was born ready," Hurley says, and revs the engine.

__

Just as Mira had suggested, the reapers find Taako's car parked at the beginning of the Goldcliff racetrack — the old one, the one that ends at the edge of the cliff, the one that a bunch of people died at before it was closed. As they approach — Barry and Kravitz jointly manning a slick black racecar with a set of awfully big guns, and Lup riding a dangerously red motorbike — the silver car leaps into action, zipping away from them.

A magically projected voice yells at them, "Gotta win the race if ya want ch'boy!" Kravitz grins despite himself, and slams his foot on the gas pedal. Lup is already way ahead of him.

__

Taako is having the time of his life, firing potshots at his husband and sister and brother in law. Barry's firing back, and Lup's zigzagging closer and closer.

Magically projected messages fill the air.

"Babe, I've seen better drivin' from Merle!"

"Love, your aim seems to be a bit off, are you trying to get caught?"

"Barold, you couldn't hit the side of a barn!"

"Who the fuck is driving, Taako, no way you'd be able to do this!"

"Fuck off, Lu!"

 

Despite Hurley's best efforts, the reapers continue to gain on them. But that's no big, that's to be expected. No way the boner squad didn't juice up their engines on the way here. But winning isn't Taako's goal. Ain't no way to win conventionally, cause if he stops, he's toast, he's a dead boy, even if he beats 'em to the finish line.

The three vehicles edge closer and closer to the cliff. Taako glances at it every once in a while. Just a bit closer...

__

"We're getting near the end of the track!" Barry yells, sticking his head out of the gunner's compartment from the porthole above. Kravitz shifts gears. Lup nods.

"Aight, this has been fun, but it's time to get to work!" Lup yells back, her voice magically projectd. "I'll be back in a mo,' boys!"

Barry nods and drops back into the gunner's compartment. Lup deftly lets go of the bike's handlebars and draws her scythe. She slices a hole in space, and lets herself be thrown through it, the bike careening across the track without a rider.

__

 Wind whistles around the sleek silver car. The edge of the cliff is looming. Excellent, Taako thinks.

"We're getting to the end of the track, Taako!" Hurley yells from the driver's seat. "Which way do you want me to turn?!"

"Don't turn!" Taako yells back. "I've gotta plan, but holdup, first  I gotta send you guys back!"

"What?" Sloane says, whipping her head around to stare at Taako, who promptly grabs both her and Hurley and casts a variant of teleport, popping the two women out of the car and back near their tree. As they disappear, Taako scrambles through the entrance to the driver's seat to grab the steering wheel.

 

"Thanks ladie— ohshitLup?!"

 

Just as Taako places his hands on the wheel, his twin sister barrels out of a portal and into him from behind, smashing him against the windshield. Lup laughs. Taako yells.

"Geddoff, Lulu!"

"Gotcha, baby bro!"

"I'm six minutes younger than you!" Taako shouts, squished against the console. "And like hell you have!"

The car flies over the finish line and continues over the edge of the cliff. Taako grits his teeth, grinning against the glass, and casts Planar Shift.

__

Taako's car veers over the cliff. Kravitz hits the breaks. Barry is thrown forward in the gunner's compartment. Kravitz runs out of the car. Barry rubs his shoulder, and follows.

"Well, that's one way to kill him," Barry says, scrambling out of the car to the edge of the cliff. Kravitz is already staring over the side.

"Huh," Barry says thoughtfully.

"Yeah," Kravitz says.

There's nothing at the bottom of the cliff.

"I guess we should call Lup?"

__

New York City, home to billions of souls, transit hub for billions more. The seething masses of humanity, the weird and the devastatingly mundane all congregating.

Despite the automated systems put in place in the twenty-four-hundreds, the traffic is atrocious.

And the traffic system is definitely not set up to accommodate a portal opening up high above Times Square.

A sleek silver car being steered by two screaming elves — one ancient and dressed in what looks like wizard robes, the other young and dressed like she came from a particularly goth funeral parlor — comes barreling out of a rift from nowhere in a high arc that crashes into a billboard with a loud electric screech, before falling to the ground.

Fortunately, the traffic system is good enough that the self-driving cars scoot around it. No casualties. 

 

A couple of people glance up from their phones and watches and digitally projected screens. A few people snap photos.

"Jeez," one commuter says to his companion, looking up from his Taako(TM) brand phone. "They're doing crazy things with CGI these days, huh?"

His companion rolls her eyes. "It's not CGI, Dean, it's AR. Totally different thing. But yeah. The effects are very good." She kicks the tire as they walk past. "Ow! Fuck, hardlight tech has come way a long way since the twenty-threes."

 

Inside the car, Taako rubs his head. Shit, that was bumpy. He forgot to cast featherfall. Whoops. Lup stands over him.

"Ow," Taako says.

"Oh shit, are you okay, 'ko? Wait, why am I asking if you're okay, I'm supposed to be reapin' you? How dead do you feel?" Lup pokes her brother cautiously.

"Stop poking me, dingus," Taako says, rubbing his head. He wipes some blood on his robes. "It's just a scratch."

"Tis but a flesh wound," Lup intones. "Okay babe, now hold still..." She begins to raise her scythe. 

"Wait." Taako holds out a palm in the universal sign for 'hold the fuck up for a second.' "Before you go all stab-happy, I gotta tell you a thing. Guess where we are? We're outside the material plane, baby."

Lup wrinkles her nose for a moment, thinking. Then she tosses the scythe on the ground and tries kick it. It's ineffective. "Fuck!" she says. "Fuck, you're right!"

Taako laughs wildly. "Can't touch this, Lulu! Taako's outside of your jurisdiction!"

Chapter Text

 The two elves stand off to the side of Times Square, next to the remains of the beautiful car. Most of the pedestrians ignore them. A couple of tourists snap pictures. Lup poses. Taako also poses. He's gratified by the number of people with Taako(tm) brand gear.

"What is that advertising for?" Taako overhears someone say.

"Probs some fantasy race car thing," the pedestrian's companion says. "It looks super fake."

Taako is kind of offended. "We're real, you know!" he shouts, but by then the pedestrians are gone. Lup snorts. Taako turns to his sister. She's back in her flesh-form, not the spectral fire deal that she's been wearing for the last half-hour on the bike. She's polishing her scythe with the hem of her jacket.

"So-o," Taako says, drawing the word out into at least three syllables. "You wanna go get tacos?"

"Hells yeah I do," Lup says.

____

 

Barry dials Lup's number by memory.

The stone of farspeech rings once, twice.

"Hey babe," Lup says, but it's muffled. Barry frowns. He can hear the sounds of people talking, and the clink of what sounds like...chewing. He sits down on the edge of the cliff. Kravitz sits down next to him.

 'Put it on speaker,' Kravitz mouths. Barry puts the phone on speaker.

"Are you eating something? Where are you? Are you okay? is Taako with you?"

"Yeah, everything's cool, homeslice. Me and Taako got tacos."

"Taako got Taako's? What? Oh, tacos."

"Yeah, this is the plane they're from. We're in Brooklyn right now."

"I have no idea where that is."

"Me neither! They make good tacos though," Lup says, but her voice is muffled by the sounds of chewing.

"Hi Barold!" Taako's voice echoes from further away.

"Hi Taako," Barry says. Kravitz leans over his shoulder.

"Lup, not to question your judgment, but should you really be getting tacos with Taako right now?"

A sigh crackles over the line. In the background, Taako's high-pitched laughter.

"Ch'boy sent us to the plane of intelligence, Ghost Rider. Outside our jurisdiction."

"Fuck," Kravitz says, with feeling. "Can't you um, open a portal back?"

 The sounds of a brief scuffle. Then Taako's voice, closer than before.

 "Uh, hey, hey babe? Hey honey? If you think that this boy wouldn't ghost the fuck over to the other side of the planet at the first sign of Lup opening a portal, babe, have we been married for a zillion years or what? C'mon. You know me better than that, Krav."

 

Kravitz tries not to laugh. He fails. Over the farstone, the sounds of another scuffle, a muttered "hey, gimme back my—," before Lup's voice is back.

 

"So, can you two go talk to Big Momma about the bureaucracy stuff? Or talk to the, uh, external communications guys? I forget who we're supposed to ask about this."

"Sure, Lu," Barry says. "We'll get on it."

"Just keep an eye on your brother, please," Kravitz requests. "It might take a bit."

"You got it, bone-buddy. Bye babes!"

"Bye, loveyouKrav!" Taako says, and then the phone connection cuts out.

 

Barry turns to Kravitz.

"Er. Who do we have to talk to?"

Kravitz rubs his temples, pinches the bridge of his nose. 

"External Communications."

_______

 

Wedged between two larger buildings is the best taco place in multiple planes. It's unassuming, it's got a green awning that just says TACOS, all generic-like. it's been around for maybe two-hundred years. Taako is a big fan — they do them better than he does, maybe, and he's had centuries to perfect the art.

Him and Lup have both cast glamours on their ears and the more alien bits of their features. Now they just look like a particularly goth model and a particularly dramatic old man who probably used to be a model and is a little too into wizards as a concept, both sitting on the stoop of the building next to the taco place. No one even gives them a second glance. Lup licks salsa off her fingers. Taako wipes his hands on a napkin and folds his paper plate up.

 

"Now what?" he asks Lup. "When's the rest of the boner squad landin'?

It'll take, oh, iunno, a week," Lup says. "And I'm sticking to your ass like Barry sticks to his jeans, you aren't shakin' me here, mister."

"Cool, no sweat, that's chill," Taako says. "Family vacation. Twin bonding. I'm into it."

"Call it whatever, old man," Lup says. "We're goin' everywhere together."

"We're the same age!"

"Yeah, but you're a-n-cient," Lup says, dragging out the last word. Taako sticks his tongue out at her, and throws a chip. Lup dodges it.

"When's the last time you were back here?" Taako asks.

"Uhh," Lup says. "Few centuries ago?"

"No shit?" Taako whistles. "Well, y'wanna do some sightseein'?"

"Nah, not really," Lup says.

"Cool, me neither. Wanna go eat our way across the city?"

"Oh, fuck yeah," Lup says, emphatically, and gets up. She offers a hand, and hauls Taako up after her.

 

_____

 

Barry and Kravitz slice into the waiting room of External Communications. It's very dark. All the Raven Queen's buildings are very dark. It's part of the aesthetic – lots of feather motifs, jet inlay, burning sconces and dark stone. There's a desk built into the wall with the words RECEPTIONIST carved in. The receptionist is playing a game on her stone of farspeech. They have apps, now. 

"Um, hi?" Kravitz says, using his work accent. The woman looks up. Behind him, Barry is struggling not to laugh.

"What are you looking for?" the woman asks.

"Er, we were wondering who we need to talk to, or what we need to fill out —"

Barry bursts into laughter. The receptionist looks alarmed. Kravitz turns.

"What are you laughing at?" he says, in his normal voice.

"Your, your accent, holy fuck, I haven't heard it in ages. It's still amazing. Keep doing it, please. I'm sorry, Sorry," Barry says again, to the receptionist. "We're looking for how we'd get temporary jurisdiction to reap someone in the Plane of Intelligence?"

 "Er," the receptionist says. "I think you want the guys down the hall?"

"Thanks," Kravitz says, in his work accent.

____

 

Taako and Lup get tacos, and then more tacos, and then ice-cream from a bougie place that insists on doing everything to 22nd century standards which makes no sense because 22ndcentury standards were pretty bad, and then they go to a bar and get margs, and then to another bar and get flaming shots, and then they go to a third bar and get something called a "cosmic starfucker blast" which is apparently like "if a pan-galactic gargle blaster and a milkshake were whirled in a blender and and flash-frozen." They serve it at a bar counter made out of synthetic gold. Taako has no idea what synthetic gold even is.

It tastes pretty good, and leaves Taako's tongue tingling. The plane of intelligence is really onto something.

"This is fun," Taako says. "I will admit, Lulu, I had a bunch of stuff planned regarding this plane, and making you guys chase me around, but I'm not entirely unhappy you slammed into my physical form and made me crash my cool car."

"I didn't make you crash your car, you crashed it all on your own," Lup says. "I was gonna kill you, you know. I was looking forward to killing you."

"So-orry Lulu," Taako says, and orders another drink.

Their glamours have worn off, and they're nearly sprawled across the bar stools and counter.

"You guys cosplayers?" the bartender asks. Lup, lightning quick, gets up real close to the bartender.

"Do we look like cosplayers?" she says, squinting. The bartender shrugs, impassive.

"Well, yeah. Lil' bit."

 

Lup frowns. Taako leans back to watch the show, but Lup just relaxes back and takes another sip of her terrifyingly fortified milkshake.

"Yeah, we're deffo cosplayers, mmhmm, one-hundo percent. Yup. Big scythe. Just for show."

____

 "Okay," Barry says, squinting at the papers. To get them, Kravitz and Barry had to go down three corridors, one basement filled with traps, talk to seven receptionists, and a couple of people who speak in eldritch tongues and seem to do consulting work. It's a little unclear. "So we have to fill out form....21-a, and then 42-319-B, and we have to go talk to the guys down in accounting....why do we have to talk to the guys in accounting?"

"Barry," Kravitz says seriously. "If you fill these out for me, I will be in your debt, forever, how does that sound? Sounds good? Okay, thankyousomuch, see you later."

"What?" Barry says, but Kravitz has already teleported away.

Being married to Taako teaches you a lot of tricks for getting other people to do work for you.

 

____

 

The second day, Taako and Lup go shopping.

"How do these sunglasses look?" Taako asks.

"Like the heinous lovechild of your lack of fashion sense and Kravitz's gothiness."

"Great, excellent, I'm buying these for Big Momma."

"Ooh, yeah, she'd love them," Lup says. 

____

 

Barry barges into Kravitz and Taako's bedroom midafternoon on the third day. People barging into Kravitz and Taako's bedroom is not uncommon — but it's usually Lup. Barry is dressed for work. Kravitz is not.

"I miss my wife, this paperwork is terrible, I refuse to do it for you, we're gonna go talk to the big boss," Barry announces. "Let's go." 

"She's not gonna help us," Kravitz says, but it's token protest. "Did you just open a portal into my bedroom?

"Lup does it all the time," Barry says.

"That's not the point!"

"You're her favorite," Barry says. "No way is she gonna say no to you. C'mon, Kravitz. Get dressed, or I'm gonna make you do the paperwork."

That's enough to get Kravitz out of bed.

___

 The Raven Queen's throne room is not built on mortal scale. She is a monolith, a dark slick pillar of shadow. When she moves, there is a cascade of black wrongness that is not able to be articulated. Kravitz and Barry look very small, standing in front of her.

"One elf. And not even a criminal," the Raven Queen says.

"He's the most powerful living wizard in the planar system," Kravitz says.

"And your husband," she adds.

"And my husband," Kravitz says with a completely straight face. The Raven Queen stares down at the two of them for a few moments. Kravitz fights the urge to scratch his nose. Barry polishes his glasses on the hem of his robe.

Finally, she smiles.

"Well, I suppose bending the rules a little bit more won't hurt, darlings. And Istus wants him to visit soon." 

She waves her hand and a piece of nothing turns into a cascade of feathers turns into a neatly wrapped scroll.

"Here's your permission slip," the Raven Queen says. "I'll smooth things over. Have fun, don't break too many things."

 "You're not actually our mom," Barry says, and then looks mortified that he actually said that. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean..." He trails off. The Raven Queen laughs.

"Someone's got to watch out for you," she says, and waves them away. Literally. They disappear from the throne room in a cloud of black feathers, and reappear in the anteroom of her chambers.

"That went well," Kravitz says, surprised.

"Told you, you're her favorite," Barry says smugly.

 

______

 

On the third day, Taako and Lup go fishing. They buy fishing poles with cash that they won hustling pool the night before, and teleport over to a nice riverbank a couple of miles from the city. It's been a while. It's just like old times. They did this a lot as kids. Fish is free food.

The riverbank is quiet, just the soft swish of leaves falling and rushing water. Taako and Lup sit shoulder to shoulder, legs swinging over the river. They look like two halves of the same picture. This is you then, this is you later. Lup, young, Taako, old.

"This is nice," Lup says. "I'm glad we got the chance to do this."

"Yeah, you're welcome," Taako says, smiling. "Thanks for crashing my chase, jerkface."

"You're welcome, dingus."

"Are we interrupting something?" Kravitz's voice floats over from behind them, and Taako whips his head back to see his husband stepping out of a portal. His eyes widen. He tosses his pole away and scrambles to his feet, eyes darting around, looking for somewhere to go. He thought he had a week! Serves him right, for trusting Lup.

 

"Oh, shit shit shit!"

Kravitz smiles. Behind him, Barry walks through the portal.

"Hi hon, hi Taako," he says, and pulls out a scroll. "Guess who's got jurisdiction?"

"Time-out's over, you're toast!" Lup cheers, and lunges at Taako, throwing the fishing pole behind her.

Taako scrambles back — right through a portal that Barry has opened in spacetime.

"Oh, fu—" Taako says, as he's crushed by his sister and thrown through the portal, back to Faerun. Green leaves and the sounds of a riverbank turn abruptly into cool air conditioning and the quiet ticking of a clock.

 They tumble into Taako and Kravitz's bedroom, flung onto the bed. Taako bounces once, twice, and Lup keeps a firm grim on his wrists as they wrestle.

"Stop fidgeting, we already got ya!" Lup yells. "Just lemme off you, already!"

"Nuh-uh," Taako yells back, trying to yank his hands away from his sister. Behind them, Kravitz and Barry run through the portal. Taako sees them out of the corner of his eye. Shit, this isn't good, none of this is to plan. Hell, his plan's been derailed since Lup crashed into the plane of intelligence with him.

 Well, nothing for it, then. Guess he's gotta pull out all the stops. Taako stops struggling. Lup slackens her grip involuntarily, confused. Taako grimaces false-apologetically, and says, "This is a lil' weird to do to you, and I apologize in advance to everyone but Kravitz!" Then he snaps his fingers for dramatic effect.

 

Black tentacles spring from the ground, ensnaring everyone within their grasp. Lup shrieks. Taako snickers as he yanks his arm out of Lup's hold.  Oh man, he loves this spell so much. Evard's black tentacles: a classic.

"Taako!" Lup screams as she hacks at the tentacles, "This is super gross!"

"You bone Barry when you're in your bonesona, you can't say jack shit about being gross!" Taako yells back as he disentangles himself. He didn't think this through, he thinks. Well, nothin' for it. Guess he's going to have to spend a coupla more spellslots.

"You've boned Ghost Rider in his bonesona, hypocrite!"

"What's your point, dingus!"

"Can we please stop talking about everyone's sex lives?!" Barry shouts from where he's nearly buried in black coils.

"Please," Kravitz adds, even as he unsuccessfully attempts to extricate his arms from the writhing mass.

"No!" Taako yells, casts teleport, and promptly disappears.

Chapter Text

A minute passes, one that the three reapers spend trying and failing to free themselves from the tentacles. It's very upsetting for everyone involved, the black limbs looping and flailing and generally refusing to be dealt with in a reasonable manner.

But the spell ends, and the tentacles disappear in a puff of black smoke, depositing the three reapers on the bed with a thud. Lup shudders.

"Oh thank gods," she says fervently. "Right, that's it, he's dead, I'm sorry Krav, I know you kinda wanted to do this personally but I'm calling dibs."

"I'm surprised he didn't pull this earlier," Barry says. Kravitz sighs.

"Do we have any idea where he went?"

"Absolutely not, my man," Lup says. "Holy shit, I'm going to kill that nerd when I catch him."

"That's the plan, yes," Kravitz deadpans. "But I think we're right back at square one."

"We could ask big momma?" Barry suggests. "She's been, uh, pretty cool so far."

"Oh hell no," Lup says. "She's bailed us out twice already. This is getting embarrassing. We're supposed to be professionals!"

"We are professionals," Kravitz says. "Unfortunately, so is Taako."

"Hm," Barry says, and casts a locating spell. He shakes his head. "He's not within a thousand yards of us, or at least he's passed running water."

"There aren't any rivers around here," Kravitz confirms.

"We could call him?" Lup suggests.

 

Kravitz dials Taako's number.

_____

 

Taako appears on the beach. He figured it would be pretty quiet on a weekday, and that this stretch of the Sword Coast, near the Highchurch's place, isn't really the sorta place tourists go for. He spent a lot of time here, with Merle. Lots of beach parties. Teleporting here is easy as pie.

He rubs his face in his hands. Jeezy creezy, Lup following him got all his plans out of whack. He had all this stuff set up in the plane of intelligence. No biggie, though – he's just a little ahead of the timeline. All he has to do is go finish setting some stuff up — if he's being honest, he doesn't really have an endgame planned. But there's the stuff in Barry's old cave-office, and the thing that he's got set up near Phandolin – although that might be a bit of a stretch, and basically, well, ch'boy's got plans. No biggie.

 

His stone of farspeech rings. Gotta be the boner squad, he thinks, and motions to answer it.

 

Oh wait, actually. He casts a quick spell to cancel out the noise of the waves. There. Now they can't track him by sound — he'll have a good extra bit of time.

He picks up the stone.

 

"So how'd you like those tentacles? Like that tent' porn?"

_____

"Taako," Kravitz says, loading the word with as much exasperation as it can carry. Taako giggles.

"Aw, babe, that's not what you said last night."

"Taako!"

If Kravitz wasn't a skeleton at the moment, he'd be bright red. Lup starts snickering.

"What, I'm just sayin'! You guys get loose yet?"

"Taako, where are you?" Barry cuts in.

"Wouldn't you like to know," Taako says. "C'mon, you guys already tried that. Runnin' out of ideas?"

"Fuck no," Lup says, taking the stone from Kravitz. "But it'd be better for you, if you told us where you're at. Or else— "

Taako cuts in. "O-ooh, you playing good cop bad cop at me?"

"No, it's bad cop worse cop," Lup snipes.

"M-hmm," Taako says. "Yeah, I ain't buying it. Ciao, kids, Taako's gotta scram!" 

 

The connection cuts out. Lup hands the stone of farspeech back to Kravitz.

 

"Well, shit," she says, summing the situation up nicely. "I got nothin', from that."

Kravitz nods, frowning. "I didn't hear anything either."

Barry's head snaps up. "Oh, wait, I've got an idea." Kravitz and Lup turn toward him.

"What is it, babe?" Lup leans against him.

"Doesn't Miller Labs have a bunch of tracking tech in development?"

Lup claps her hands together.

"Ooh, are we gonna steal?"

"Borrow," Kravitz says. "We're going to borrow."

_____

 

Taako cuts the connection just before the spell wears off. Whew, just in time.

Hm, but now what. Taako shifts from foot to foot, contemplating his next move. This was maybe not the best place to come to, he thinks, staring out at the ocean. It's a little too far from everywhere else to be practical. Maybe he'll head to Barry's old office. Yeah, he can pick everything up from there.

But that plan needs a whole bunch of spell-slots. High level ones, too. Enough that even Taako, strongest wizard in the planar system, needs to be saving them.

So teleporting's out. Hm.

Taako stands on the beach, hemming and hawing for a few moments, just one old elf on the beach. Then he slaps his forehead.

Oh, duh.

 

Taako casts Phantom Steed. Garyl's beautiful, spectral form blooms into existence. Two horns, lush mane, strong limbs. Just as majestic as the day Taako first summoned him.

"Garyl, my dude, you ready for a journey?"

"Ready when you are, man."

_____

 

Breaking into a lab is easy when you can teleport. Kravitz cuts a neat doorway from his and Taako's bedroom leading into the large central laboratory of Miller Labs.

Miller Labs, along with being a university, has the largest research and development lab in Faerun. It bustles with activity all hours of the day and night.

The scientists and mages freeze when they see the crack in reality that the three reapers step out of. One of the scientists stands and begins to speak, but Lup shakes her head.

 

"Uh-uh," Lup says. "Momma's talkin'. Hand over the most advanced piece of tracking tech you've got, or imma take a swipe at you with this bad boy." She strokes the blunt edge of her scythe. The implication is clear.

"She's kidding," Barry says hastily. "Definitely kidding."

"She's not kidding," Kravitz says. "Mostly. Look, we need to find somebody, and if you give us the means to find him, nobody will get hurt."

"Except Taako," Lup says.

The researchers still look generally alarmed. The one who got up speaks.

 

"Listen. You're not, uh, here for anyone here, right?" she asks, tentatively.

 

Barry shakes his head. "Nope. Not today, although if you," and he points at one of the mages sitting at a desk piled high with books. "If you keep researching that shit, we might be after you in a half century or so. Oh, don't give me that look, you're reading "Devaenia's Necromancer's Handbook, Volume One," I recognize the cover, and everyone reads that when they're starting out."

"Babe, stop baiting the baby necromancers," Lup says, patting Barry's back soothingly. "Anyway, yeah, we're not here for anybody, but that doesn't mean we're not gonna kick some ass if you don't cough up your tech."

"Please," Kravitz tacks on.

 

The standing woman sighs. She looks like she wants to bury her face in her hands. It's been a long day. Weirder things have happened at Miller Labs, though, even weirder than three reapers showing up and announcing that they need to find someone, and that one of her team members might be a necromancer-in-training.

"Gerald, show them to the GPS room," she says. "And me and you are going to have a long talk about your research."

Gerald, the mage reading the necromancy book, gets up sheepishly.

"Uh, if you want to follow me?" he says, and the trio follows him out of the room, the rest of the researchers still gawking.

 

____

"So how you been, Garyl?" Taako asks. It's kind of hard to talk on a moving binicorn, but he manages.

"Same old, you know, just not existing when you don't call me into existence and all," Garyl says calmly.

"Cool," Taako says.

____

The three reapers peer down at a large illuminated map of Faerun. Gerald had set it up for them, complete with a little blinking light that represents Taako's current whereabouts.

"Hey, he's moving," Lup says. "Look at him go."

"Why's he going to...is that near Phandolin?" Kravitz says, bemused.

"Looks like it," Barry says, squinting. "Wait, it looks like he's heading near my old cave. Why's he going there?"

"Weird, I wonder why— oh my gods, you left your cloning equipment there," Lup says.

"Seven hells, did Taako clone himself?" Kravitz looks gobsmacked by the prospect of two of his husband. "No, that can't be it, right?"

"Why else would he be going there?" Lup argues.

"Well, we have to cut him off before he gets there, then," Barry says. "Right now he's still in transit."

"If we corner him, he'll just bolt again," Lup shakes her head. "We need to give him a reason to stay. Or a reason to want to get caught."

"Just tie Krav up with a nice decorative bow, then," Barry says.

"Hey," Kravitz says, but doesn't deny it. "Hm."

 

The three of them stare at the map with Taako's slowly moving blinking light. It's a tough question. How do you catch a man who can teleport anywhere in existence, who knows all your tricks.

"Fuck! Wait, I've got it," Lup says, and promptly starts dialing something into her stone of farspeech. The stone rings a few times. Kravitz and Barry watch Lup as she absentmindedly drums her fingers on the edge of the map. Gerald seems to disapprove. Finally, the click of someone answering. Lup grins.

 

"Hello?"

"Hey lil' man, I need a favor..."

___

Taako's stone of farspeech rings again. He awkwardly answers it. It's kind of hard to answer a message while riding a horse.

"Sup," Taako says.

"Hello sir!" Angus is, despite no longer being a kid, still wildly enthusiastic when saying hello. Taako smiles reflexively.

"Oh hey Ango, what's up?"

"Nothing much, sir. I was just wondering when you were coming over?"

Oh shit. was that today? Is today a Saturday? Today's a Saturday. On most Saturdays him and Krav go to Magnus's house. It's like a family thing.

"Er," Taako says.

"I heard from Kravitz that you were going to be a reaper, and that you'd be here more often," Angus says. "Is that true?"

"Uh, yeah," Taako says. "I mean, that's technically not incorrect. Listen. Bubbele. I'm kinda in the middle of something. Can I call you back later?"

"Okay!" Angus says. "I miss you, sir. We all do!"

"Yeah? Well, I don't miss you! Bye Ango!" Taako immediately hangs up and shoves the stone of farspeech deep in his pocket.

"Stupid kid," he mumbles.

"You know, you didn't have to be so mean to him," Garyl says.

"Yeah, well shut up Garyl, he didn't have to say he missed me, Garyl, I mean, who even does that?"

"Just trying to help, man," Garyl says in his soothing equine voice. Taako pats Garyl.

"You know, Garyl, you're the only real friend I've got in the world, I want you to know that."

"Thanks, man," Garyl says.

"Stupid kid," Taako says again.

___

Angus turns back to Lup. Her and Kravitz and Barry are standing in Magnus's kitchen, listening as Angus talks with Taako on the phone. They had left Miller Labs as soon as Angus had agreed to help them. Magnus is eavesdropping, carving something at the kitchen table as Julia watches the four of them with tolerant amusement.

 

"Think he took the bait, ma'am?"

"Betcha he did. You laid it hella excellent, kiddo, where'd you learn to lie so good?"

"You and Taako, mostly," Angus says. "Honestly, though, I wasn't lying. I do wish he'd come back soon."

 

Lup groans and ruffles his hair. He lets her, even though he's taller than her.

 

"Gods, Ango, why do you have to be so genuine all the time."

"The rest of you sarcastic bastards need someone to keep you honest," he says cheerfully. Lup laughs. She loves the kid so much.

____

Wind whips Taako's hair as Garyl gallops across the countryside, swallowing miles beneath his feet. Taako isn't thinking about any of that. Taako is thinking about the last three days. And the last three fourths of a century. Most Saturdays he'd be at Magnus's about now, heckling his family and drinking all of Magnus's wine. He hasn't kissed his husband in literally forever, Taako thinks.

 

Taako sighs.

"Alright Garyl, it's been cool, it's been fun, but I think we're going to have to say goodbye now," Taako says.

"No sweat," Garyl says calmly. "See you next time you need me."

"Bye," Taako says, and dismisses him. He falls lightly to the ground. He cracks his knuckles, rolls his shoulders. Time for some serious spellcasting.

 

If Taako's gonna get caught, ch'boy's gotta get caught with style.

____

They're in the middle of a game of Fantasy Monopoly when Taako appears in Magnus's living room.

Or, well, a larger than life, spectral projection made of glowing light, that bursts into existence in a shower of sparks and phantasmal music. It scatters game pieces everywhere and glows so intensely that they have to squint to look at it.

"Alright!" the projection bellows. "I ain't got jack shit idea about where you are, but I figure you'll hear this! I used like six spell slots on making this! Lucas's old lab, two hours from now, Krav baby, come alone or don't come at all! Time for a showdown!"

 

Taako's spectral form claps its hands and disappears in a brilliant shower of sparks.

 

"Show off," Lup says, but she's smiling. "Gottem."

Chapter Text

Lucas's lab fell to the earth centuries ago. The engine gave out, and it crashed ingloriously in a shower of pink gemstones. The ruins still sit in the mountains, a heap of sparkling tourmaline.

It's a relic from another age, they call it. Sometimes there are tours. Taako and Kravitz went on one once, just for the hell of it. It was a pretty good tour, except they got every one of the details wrong.

Taako walks through a crack in the wall. The room is nearly intact. It's in good shape, for such a ruin.

The pink tourmaline twinkles in the daylight seeping through the cracks of the ceiling. Taako brushes aside little cracked pink gems from a crystalline bench and sits down to wait for Kravitz.

 

He's not left waiting for long. Footsteps, and the long shadow of his husband in his work clothes.

 

"Hey, bone daddy," Taako says, waving a hand languidly.

"Stop calling me that," Kravitz says reflexively as he looks around the chamber. "Oh, this is where we first met."

"Mmhmmm," Taako says, getting up. "Hey, come over here."

 

Kravitz obediently walks over to stand skull-to-face with Taako. Taako reaches up and taps Kravitz's forehead.

 

"Not that I don't love your bonesona just as much as your flesh body, but it ain't exactly good for kissing."

"Oh, you're going to kiss me now, are you?" Kravitz says. "You just spent a week and a half running away from me, and you just challenged me to a "showdown," and now you want to make out?" His face is already transforming back to the handsome man Taako's woken up next to for nearly a thousand years. He's smiling.

"Yep, it's a kiss-off," Taako says, and pulls Kravitz in by the tie.

 

It's a very nice kiss. They've had centuries to practice. Kravitz cups his hand around Taako's head, runs his fingers through his hair as he pulls away.

 

"It was going to be so romantic, too," Kravitz says wistfully.

"We're in a cave of pink tourmaline, m'dude. The place we first met. C'mon, thug, that's at least a lil' romantic," Taako argues. Kravitz shakes his head, still smiling.

"Taako," he says. "Now will you come home with me?"

"What's the magic wo-ord," Taako says, sing-song, even as he wraps his arms around Kravitz's shoulders.

"I miss you," Kravitz says. Taako pouts, aghast. 

"Fuck! No fair!"

"It's true," Kravitz says, smiling broadly and rubbing more salt into the wound. "I missed you. I missed having you around, I was looking forward to working with you and seeing you even more. I missed coming home to you, darling."

"Krav, you can't just say that," Taako says, burying his face against Kravitz's chest so he won't see him blush. Kravitz rubs his back. It's nice. Taako's missed his husband too.

 

"Love. Come home with me," Kravitz says. "Please." Taako takes a deep breath. His husband's clothing smells nice. It's nice, standing here like this. 

"Alright," Taako says, muffled into Kravitz's chest. "Let's go home, babe."

 

Kravitz gently disentangles Taako from him. Taako's face is kind of pink. He runs his hands through his now kinda smushed hair to rearrange it back into it's original position.

 

"Maybe lie down?" Kravitz says. "It'll be easier that way."

"Sure, thug," Taako says. He compliantly lies down on the bench he had been sitting on when Kravitz walked in. "Hey, should I like, pose or something?"

"If you want."

"Hells yeah," Taako says, immediately draping himself over the bench dramatically, as if he had been caught off guard by an enemy. "Ain't no one gonna say that Taako died of old age."

Kravtiz chuckles. "Are you ready?"

Taako shrugs noncommittally. Kravitz peers down at him, concerned. 

"Are you scared?"

"No," Taako says. "Why the fuck would I be scared? My husband's the grim reaper, and like three-fourths of my friends are dead."

"Most people are," Kravitz says.

"I," Taako says haughtily. "Am not most people."

"Sorry," Kravitz says. Taako shrugs again, and reaches up to pat Kravitz's arm.

"S'all good my dude. It's just, well, I'm the last one, aren't I? S'like the end of an era, ch'boy's offin' it and now we're all gone."

"Well," Kravitz says. "Um. I, uh, actually don't actually have any advice. I love you? Your friends miss you? Your family is waiting for you? Did I mention that I love you?"

Taako laughs. The moment breaks. "I love you too." He closes his eyes. "Aight, one Taako, ready to be reaped when you are." 

 

It's easy. Kravitz kneels down next to the bench and kisses his husband in the flesh for the last time. Taako smiles into the kiss. Then Kravitz gets up and stares at his husband lying on the gemstone beneath him. He looks like he's sleeping, Kravitz thinks. After three-quarters of a millennium, he knows the body beneath him as intimately as his own. The pink tourmaline makes interestingly colored shadows play off the planes of Taako's face.

 

Kravitz takes his scythe and holds it out. He takes a deep breath. 

"Any time now," Taako says, cracking an eyelid open. Kravitz groans. "I'm doing it, I'm doing it!"

 

Kravitz swings his scythe downward, a flash of necromantic energy separating Taako's soul from his body. He hooks a bright light out of Taako's chest that swirls into a shimmering spirit, which coalesces into the very image of his husband, young as the day they met.

 

Taako blinks and stares down at his hands, and then over at his corpse. He leans over it.

 

"Fuck, I got old," Taako says, peering down at his body. It looks like a husk. He tentatively touches the body's hand and shudders, though he can't feel anything. "Least I looked better than Maggie did, when he offed it."

"You looked great," Kravitz says. "You looked great at every age."

Taako snorts. "Of course I did!" He turns to his husband and grabs his hand and then pauses.

 

Taako looks at their hands clasped together, and then up at his husband's smiling face.

 

"Oh," Taako says. "You're warm."

 

 

Chapter Text

"You're not wearing that," Lup says. "I love you like a brother, but you're not wearing that, babe."

"I am your brother," Taako says. "And uh, last I checked, you ain't the boss of me, Lulu. "

"Your mother in law is, and she likes me better than you," Lup says, sticking her tongue out.

"Guys, can we please go already," Barry says. "It's been half an hour. We're, uh, actually late?"

"Nobody asked!" both elves snap. Lup follows it up with a "Sorry babe, I love you. Tell her we'll be there in like, ten."

Barry rolls his eyes, but he's smiling despite himself. He's already dressed for work — crisp black jeans, chambray shirt patterned with little embroidered skulls, and a black cloak.

"Alright, honey," he says, because its no use arguing with Lup-and-Taako when they're being Lup-and-Taako. He materializes his scythe (wrapped at the handle with denim) and cuts a hole between the planes straight into the Raven Queen's waiting room. "Don't take too long, gotta make a good impression on the first day."

"She already loves me!" Taako yells as the portal closes. "She says I'm the best thing that happened to Krav in centuries!"

"No, Taako. You say that," Lup says. Taako waves a dismissive hand. It's accentuated by the rings he's wearing. They're gorgeously wrought, set with precious gemstones the size of fingernails. They're absolutely blinding, reflecting the light.

Taako is also wearing sunglasses — heart shaped.

"Same thing," he says.

"No," Lup says. "Listen. You know I love your style, but we have to stay on brand ."

"I'm on brand," Taako says indignantly, gesturing to his outfit. "Taako brand."

He's wearing purple sequin shorts, a gauzy silver top, and the biggest hat that he owns. This is paired with a black velvet cape and 6-inch heels. Taako has really been enjoying having his young body back. So many aesthetic possibilities.

Lup pinches the bridge of her nose. She sighs.

"Can you at least swap your shorts? They don't exactly scream 'death is upon you, foul mage,' and we can work with the rest of your outfit, but that's sort of the aesthetic we're going for here."

She's wearing dark red combat boots, ripped black jeans, a tank top, and a flame-patterned cloak. Taako shakes his head.

"Nuh-uh. I need these babies."

"For what?"

"Check this shit out," Taako says. "Pretty cool, right?"  

He rubs his hands across his butt, and the sequins change color from sparkly purple, to sparkly pink.

“Checkit,” Taako says. “Color. Changing. Sequins.”

“Okay that's very cool,” Lup admits. “I kind of need them, actually.” She shakes her head. “But they don't strike fear in the hearts of men, Taako.”

“Listen, I'm plenty terrifying,” Taako says. “I'm, uh, Taako?

A rip in reality interrupts the conversation. Kravitz, beskulled and becloaked, peeks his head through the tear.

“Um, everything okay in there? We're running late.”

“Your husband refuses to stay on brand,” Lup complains. “I had our look all planned out!”

Kravitz turns to Taako. If skulls could blush, he would be blushing. Taako leans forward to kiss the side of his smooth bone.

“Lookin’ spooky, baby,” he says.

“You look lovely, as always,” Kravitz says, resting a hand on Taako’s butt. If anyone else was wearing what Taako was wearing, Kravitz would give them a dressing down of majestic proportions.

“Oh my god, you're too gay to function,” Lup groans. She whirls on Taako. “Fine! We’ll let big mama call you out, let's get our asses in gear and go kick some ass.”

#

The Raven Queen stares down at Taako. Taako grins back up.

“You look nice,” she says. “Very colorful. Turn around for me?”

Taako obligingly whirls around, short cape flaring.

She nods.

“You have something on your butt, dear.”

Taako looks down over his shoulder. Lup starts snickering. Barry chuckles. Kravitz buries his face in his hands, and if skulls could blush, his would be bright red.

A single skeletal handprint, outlined in pink sequins.

Taako looks back up at the Raven Queen.

“It's intentional,” he says. “I'm on brand.”