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A Quiet Refrain

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Taako wakes to a smooth, rich baritone wafting down the halls of his home.

He growls at the sunlight streaming through his windows as he rolls out of bed. In a quick flick of his wrist he changes out of his sleep shorts and into a flowing nightgown. Sure, Kravitz saw him fall asleep in his shorts, but this nightgown is an aesthetic he’s hella proud of - there are sequins pressed in layers down the back of the gown, right over his shoulderblades, reading out the double-Ts that are part of the Taako brand, baby. Rhinestones glitter down his arms, from shoulder to a fabric hook over his middle finger, so if he needs to flip someone off, he can do so with extra pizzazz.

Unsurprisingly, the music is coming from Kravitz. He’s humming a song Taako doesn’t recognize with a smooth, simple melody as he attacks the pan with a spatula. Kravitz never had much talent for cooking in life, and his undeath changed nothing, but Taako is an excellent teacher. After plenty of one-on-one lessons Kravitz now knows his way around a frying pan. The most important ability for a basic chef, in Taako’s opinion. On the agenda next week is some fresh-caught unicorn dick. It’s a Burnsides favorite.

Stifling a yawn, Taako wordlessly wraps two arms around Kravitz’s stomach and rests his head on his shoulder. 

“Good morning, Taako,” Kravitz says. He looks consideringly at Taako for a moment, and Taako buries his face deeper into his shoulderblades in response. Resigned to an elf-shaped leech hanging off his back, Kravitz nudges the cabinet open with the tips of his fingers and grabs a plate, before returning to cooking.

Kravitz cooks in silence, letting Taako savor the sensation of waking up to the smell of eggs and bacon and Kravitz’s beautiful, deep voice. There’s a cool patch along Taako’s skin where Taako has mashed his cheek against Kravitz’s neck.

After a couple of minutes of jostling as Kravitz plates whatever he’s made, Kravitz prises Taako gently off his back and holds him upright. Shaken from his half-dozed state, Taako blinks his eyes open and settles his gaze on Kravitz, who smiles at him.

“You’re makin’ breakfast,” Taako observes, a sentence that really comes out more like a smushed string of syllables.

“Well, you’re cooking dinner. I thought it would be nice to feed the chef before he feeds us,” he says, and hands Taako a plate.

“Wouldn’t trust family dinner to anyone else,” Taako grumbles. Gods, he has stories. One time, Mags tried to cook a casserole, and when he took it out of the oven it was so charred as to be inedible. They’d had to order takeout from a fantasy ethnic place on an entirely different plane.

The plate’s warm. He looks down. Two egg-eyes peer up from said plate. Below them is a crooked string of bacon, fried perfectly, grinning at him.

Taako can’t help himself. He bursts into laughter. “Did you make me a - a fuckin’ smiley-egg breakfast, bubbeleh?”

“...I did.”

“Oh my gods, my dude, I love it,” Taako snorts, warmth lodging itself in his chest.

“I’m glad you like it,” Kravitz replies, completely sincere. There’s a warmth in his eyes and makes the gentle warmth in Taako’s chest flare happily, and Taako thinks oh no.

Taako vaguely realizes that he’s staring at Kravitz blankly, but his thoughts are a runaway train that’s about to go smashing through a bunch of glass into a revelation that Taako’s not sure he’s ready for.

Kravitz is honest to a fault. He’s disgustingly sincere. Whenever there’s a problem, Kravitz will just...let him know. He’s the exact opposite of Taako in that regard, because Taako’s fuckin’ good out here, homie, especially when it comes to emotions, but...around Kravitz, Taako never has to doubt. The man says exactly what’s on his mind and it’s good, it’s secure and it’s comfortable, knowing that if Kravitz isn’t saying something’s wrong then there’s really, really not something wrong.

Plus, he laughs at all of Taako’s dumb jokes and so smite him if it’s not the most gorgeous laugh Taako’s ever heard. Before this, Taako would never think of a laugh as gorgeous, especially one peppered with as many snorts and occasional wheezes as Kravitz’s, but the sound just is; it’s a sheer expression of dorky merriment that Taako loves, and he loves that he can make Kravitz laugh.

“Smell’s ten out of ten,” Taako says, just to have something to say. He takes a bite, and the dish is...mediocre. They’re eggs. They’re eggs with a little too much salt and zero other seasonings, not even pepper. “I’d give the taste a solid seven.” An eight. A goddamn eleven. These are the best eggs Taako has ever had.

“And how about the plating?” Kravitz asks teasingly, gesturing toward the plate. He’s wearing oven mitts knitted by Merle with vines wrapped around their seams. He’s the literal incarnation of death, he has nothing to fear from an panhandle burn, but he always wears them, insisting that they have to set a good example for the child living in their home.

“That’s a solid zero, homie,” Taako says. “Plus one for creativity but negative one off the bat, because reasons.”

“Hmm,” Kravitz hums, his smile growing impossibly wider. To Taako’s horror, he is suddenly aware that he, too, is grinning like a fucking fool. He tries to rescind the smile, but it won’t go away. His muscles live there now. “It made you smile, though,” Kravitz points out, “so it’s more than a zero in my book.”

“You can’t prove anything,” Taako says. “Now clear out, homie, Taako’s gotta start prepping for family dinner and I want a sous-chef that doesn’t burn his pasta.”

Kravitz sighs good-naturedly, taking off his oven mitts and folding them neatly, replacing them in the drawer. A rush of affection, almost physically painful, sweeps through Taako at the sight. If it were Taako he would’ve left them strewn on the counter for someone else to pick up, because cleaning is not Taako’s groove, but Kravitz is so infuriatingly considerate and - and kind.

“Shall I retrieve Lup, then?”

“Please,” Taako replies, managing at the very last moment to infuse sarcasm into his word, instead of the sheer fluff he’s feeling at the moment.

Just as Taako thinks Kravitz is gonna vanish and leave him to his mental breakdown in peace, he makes matters a thousand times worse: he leans forward and lands a gentle kiss on Taako’s cheek.

With one last smile in Taako’s direction, he says “Enjoy breakfast, love,” and disappears into the hallway.

It takes all the concentration Taako has to wave an airy fork in Kravitz’s direction. Because, like, he knew that Kravitz loved him, and he knew because Kravitz said he did. And it was this whole thing, finally getting to trust Kravitz, because Sazed was an absolute asshole and fucked him up - but then he got Lup back, and then Lup beat some sense into him, and then Angus told him in this adorably piping voice that he deserves to be loved, and Kravitz keeps up this sheer overwhelming persistence at loving him. And Sazed isn’t shit anymore, and Kravitz loves him, and Taako knows that for a fact.

And he thinks....

No. No, put that thought on hold, homie, that train’s not pulling into the Taako station tonight. Taako doesn’t do emotions, he doesn’t do goopy feelings-reveals, and he slams the brakes on those wheels and tries to go back to the eggs, but it’s a futile effort because he’s literally surrounded by love. Gods, literally - his and Kravitz’s room is right down the hall, Lup and Barry’s is on the other side of the hallway. Their entire top floor is dedicated to Magnus’s and Angus’s possessions from when their frequent visits. Merle’s got a room toward the other end of the house, far from the kitchen, because Taako can't smell what he's cooking when half the house smells overwhelming of flowers and honey. His hallways are covered in pictures that Lucretia keeps taking and Kravitz keeps insisting on framing and Magnus keeps making frames for.

Even his fucking eggs are smiling at him.

That warm comfortable safe feeling isn’t going away. It leaves Taako with a half-extended fork brandished toward the door through which Kravitz disappeared and a huge doofy grin on his face. It persists as Taako takes little nibbles out of his bacon, as he wipes his hands on his nightgown to get rid of the grease, as he eats the slightly-rubbery whites of his eggs. It’s such a nice feeling, it’s comfortable and secure, just like he is with Kravitz. He thinks of the most horrendously-plated breakfast he’s ever had the misfortune of eating, and in the middle of the kitchen by himself, Taako laughs.

And he laughs, and he just keeps grinning like a fool, because...he’s in love.


The door splinters inward with a smash. “We won!” hollers the voice of Magnus Burnsides, rattling the glass of the table beneath Taako’s crossed ankles. “Kicked their little butts three to one!”

“Hi, Mr. Kravitz! Hi, Taako!” pipes a little voice from high up on Magnus’s shoulders.

“Who’s our hero? Ango’s our hero! Yeahhhhh!”  

Taako looks up from the couch he’s sitting on, besocked-and-bejewelled feet tucked beneath himself, just in time to watch the door fly across his living room and smack into the far wall. He saves a couple of Angus’s drawings (those, too, are framed), a ticket from the first opera he ever attended with Kravitz (during which he hustled an unwitting patron for shoes), and a flyer for the Hammer and Tails (which Merle graffitied with vine motifs around the borders), from an untimely demise with a flick of his hand.

“Stop wrecking my shit, Mags!” he hollers.

“I made that door, you’re fine.”

“Then you’re paying for a new one!”

“I’ll just make you the new one,” Magnus grins, then plops himself right next to Taako, then folds over the couch and shakes his head like the dogs he so loves until Angus dislodges onto the cushions.

“Hello, Agnes,” Taako says as Magnus straightens up behind him. Angus smells absolutely rancid, face still covered in dirt and grass, knee scraped and swollen. “Score any winning goals?”

“I play defense, sir,” Angus chirps, enthusiasm utterly undiminished.

“Isn’t that the one with the gloves?”

“No, sir, you literally couldn’t be more wrong.”

Taako licks his finger and wipes the dirt off of Angus’s face, undeterred by the boy’s protests. “I know enough to cheer loud when your team scores, and that’s all I gotta know, little dude.”

For a moment, Angus looks haunted. Probably the time Lup set the other team’s goal on fire. Which wasn’t Taako’s fault. Then he shakes it off and says, “But I made a couple of really good tackles that could’ve become goals!”

“Hell yeah, lil’ man, that’s how we do in the IPRE,” Taako says, conjuring a quick Mage Hand between them. Angus does a little bounce before conjuring a Mage Hand of his own and booping their fists together. “Knock ‘em down ‘til they’re not standing, kid.”

“That’s a foul, sir. That could get me kicked out of the game.”

Taako shrugs. “They got in your way, Ango. Had it coming.”

Without warning, Magnus scoops Angus back onto his shoulders and veers toward the garden. He yelps and grabs Magnus’s sideburns for support. “We’re gonna go brag to Merle now,” he says cheerily. “Out in the garden?”

“Yep. Make sure he’s not chattin’ up some plants before you get in sight.”

“Gross!” Angus says, at the same time Magnus rolls his eyes and bounds out the door, already shouting for Merle.

The moment he leaves, two wary heads poke out from the doorframe. “Is he gone yet?” Lup’s voice asks in a stage-whisper.

“Think so.”

“This calls for cake,” says Barry. “Definitely cake.”

“You just want to eat some, my man, don’t even fuckin’ lie.”

Barry shrugs unrepentantly. “Yeah. Ango still deserves it.”

“He’s real lucky Taako’s been itching to bake something anyway,” Taako says, uncaring that he crit fails spectacularly on his bluff check. “Now go rescue Merle or something, if cha’boy’s gotta whip up dessert on short notice. We all know how much you love talkin’ to him about botany or whatever the fuck he specializes in. Oh, and go grab Dav for the celebration, he owes us a meal.”

Family dinners are not taken lightly in this household. There’s nowhere on Faerun his family could hide; he has not one but three reapers in his house, each equipped with interdimensional teleportation abilities with a swing of their handy scythes. No escape. No excuses. Their Captain got a pass from the dinner a couple days ago because he was navigating a particularly treacherous part of the Churning Chasms, but Taako isn’t about to let him go again.

“Fine,” Barry huffs.

“And I’ll grab Lucretia,” Lup says, daring Taako to retort. He just waves a dismissive hand in their direction.

“Whatever. Now scram.”

They do. Kravitz watches them go. “Collecting people like that is really an abuse of our abilities, darling.”

“Eh,” Taako says, shrugging expansively and yawning as he stretches. He leaves his comfortable recline atop Kravitz’s chest reluctantly, standing. “Your boss hasn’t caught ‘em yet.”

“More like she thinks they’re entertaining, heaven knows why,” Kravitz grumbles, then follows suit and stands. Even though Taako was pressed against his front not two seconds ago, his sweater looks perfectly pressed. “Need a sous-chef, dear?”

“Sure.”

A quick flick of his wand settles an apron around his neck. He leaves it untied, just so he can turn to Kravitz for assistance. The reaper obliges, fingers cool against the nape of his neck.

“Hmm. Lup might be a good help,” Kravitz says. “She’s never gotten a zero out of ten for plating.”

“We need to orchestrate your redemption arc somehow, bubbeleh,” Taako replies, already amassing the ingredients needed for a cake. This isn’t gonna just be any cake, no sir - Taako’s going all out for his beautiful magic boy. He’s thinking at least five tiers, pink frosting, maybe chocolate drizzle arranged like hexagons. Soccer balls have hexagons on them, right?

“Was that a bard pun, Taako?”

“Of course not.”

His grin gives him away. Kravitz flicks his ear, and his ear swats Kravitz right back. “Don’t mess with the ears, homie.”

Kravitz chuckles, leaning against the counter. “No promises,” he hums, and when Taako shoots a glance his way his brows are furrowed in concentration as he rummages through his pockets. Then, with a small, pleased “a-ha!” he produces a handheld radio.

As Taako sets about pulling out the flour, sugar, vanilla, conjuring more cinnamon, and the rest of the ingredients from the cabinets, Kravitz hums a series of six notes into the radio that makes it crackle to life. Taako’s ears flick backward. He pauses and watches as Kravitz hums a quick scale of about fifteen notes that flips through a bunch of channels, each a half-second of static or wailing music, before he lands on one that meets his standards.

“New invention?” Taako asks.

Kravitz’s laugh is fond as he sets the radio aside. “I’m not sure you could call it an invention, truthfully. It’s more of a tweak. These radios are fairly common, I’m sure you’ve seen them before, but I’ve been...er, messing around with them, to make it easier to find the right station without having to fiddle with the dials.”

“Also you’re a bard. Scales are your thing.”

“Nominally,” Kravitz says, ignoring Taako with grace, “it’s a hands-free invention.”

“But we both know you take any chance you get to sing, thug,” Taako sing-songs, poking him with a clean whisk.

“That too,” Kravitz concedes.

Taako turns back to the batter. “So you just sing at it?” he asks, and that’s all Kravitz needs.

He launches into an enthusiastic explanation of just how the spell works, a whole bunch of babble about resonance and tuning that goes way over Taako’s head. Kravitz is super-excited about it. Even though he understands, like, maybe one word out of three, it’s nice to hear Kravitz so clearly animated. Taako picks up what he can as he bakes, asks questions at the right moment, and lets Kravitz explain magical resonance to him with glee as Taako pulls the batter together.

Finally, Kravitz’s explanation dwindles, and Taako bakes in silence for a bit, motioning for a certain ingredient every so often. More often than not, now, Kravitz has what he needs ready before he needs it.

“And done,” he mutters to himself, sticking the pan into the oven. He tosses his mitts to the side and turns to find Kravitz conducting.

He’s leaning against the counter, eyes closed peacefully. The spoon Taako had used to sample the batter is in Kravitz’s hand, being flicked to the tempo of the music. Taako closes his mouth against whatever inane comment he was about to make about Angus’s soccer game. Kravitz looks so content like this, animated and masterful, that Taako can’t help but watch. The stupid dumb warm safe feeling in his chest flares brighter, and he contents himself with observing.

Eventually, Kravitz’s eyes flicker open, and he flushes a little bit. Before he can make some self-deprecating comment that Taako doesn’t want to hear - he’s not interested in his favorite boy putting himself down - Taako crooks a grin at him and says, “I had you pegged more as the fantasy My Chemical Romance type, babe.”

Kravitz arches an eyebrow at him. “You’re not too far off,” he replies, setting the spoon into the sink and rinsing it off. “I definitely had a fantasy Evanescence phase during my living years.”

“Oh my gods, you dork,” Taako snorts, crossing the kitchen to lean against Kravitz. “That’s such an aesthetic.”

“You do not get to judge me for my music tastes, given that your favorite song is fantasy Darude’s Sandstorm.”

“Ironically!”

“It’s not ironic, Taako, I’ve seen you dance to that song, and your dance has way too much hip for it to be ironic - ”

Taako jams a hand over Kravitz’s mouth, shushing him desperately, checking over his shoulder to make sure his sister - or gods forbid, Merle - aren’t around him. “You can’t just say stuff like that out loud!” he hisses.

Kravitz tries to say something and fails through the hand muffling his mouth. Instead of licking him, like Magnus would have done, or just straight-up biting him like a gods-damned animal like Merle would have, Kravitz plucks Taako’s hand away from his mouth and kisses the back, all gentle and kind like a motherfucking gentleman.

Somehow, that’s worse. “Stop it,” Taako protests, snatching his hand back with cheeks flaming. The sight of Taako’s face sends Kravitz into peals of laughter, and Taako presses both hands against Kravitz’s shoulder and shoves. “Taking advantage of me at my most vulnerable,” he whines, draping himself across Kravitz’s chest.

Kravitz composes himself enough to catch Taako as he begins to slip down the neatly-pressed material of Kravitz’s sweater. “Aren’t you supposed to be baking, darling?” Kravitz asks, amused.

“I got distracted.” A grin creeps across Taako’s face, and he wipes the back of his hand unrepentantly on Kravitz’s sleeve before resting his hands on Kravitz’s chest and leaning forward. “One of the disadvantages of having a gorgeous sous-chef, my dude.”

He laughs, and Taako catches himself thinking the same thought: it’s gorgeous. It’s such a nice laugh, warm and comfortable and safe and gods help him, he’s so in love.

Something sticky hits him in the nose. Taako blinks, eyes crossing, and finds batter.

“Retribution,” Kravitz explains over Taako’s indignant spluttering. Spluttering that would probably be much more indignant if he weren’t grinning like an absolute loon.

“For what ?”

“For being so criminally handsome,” he says, and then presses a kiss to Taako’s cheek, and Taako is melting faster than the chocolate chips in the pan behind him. He buries his face in Kravitz’s chest, uncaring that he’s going to land a spot of batter right on the nicely-folded suit.

“Can’t help it,” he mumbles, trying to force the edges of his mouth back down and failing.

“I know.” Kravitz pushes him back to his feet, then brushes the batter off his suit and smears it along Taako’s cheek. “Now come on, this cake will burn if you don’t attend to it.”

“Don’t you worry ‘bout the cake, homie, it’s not gonna burn on Taako’s watch,” he says, mustering his normal bravado.

“Of course, of course.” He pauses, glances down at the batter on his suit, and chuckles and gives Taako a quick kiss. “I love you, Taako.”

He’s already turned back to his handheld radio by the time the words register in Taako’s mind. This isn’t the first time Kravitz has told him this, but it’s the first time Kravitz has said it after his ridiculous smiley breakfast two days ago, and he realizes that he wants to say it back.

Taako takes a deep breath, trying to persuade himself to look at Kravitz and failing. Gods, there are so many ways this could go wrong. What if he says it wrong, what if Kravitz is actually just lying, what if this is just an act and he’s pretending to - but no, he’s not. Disgustingly sincere, remember?

“About that,” Taako says.

Kravitz freezes. A look of deep alarm passes over his face. “I - I’m sorry, is that - ”

“No!” Taako replies, realizing it sounded like he was gonna - like he was gonna ask Kravitz to stop saying that, of all things. “Nope, derail that thought train right there, thug. No sad faces in the cocina de Taako, got it?”

“But - ”

“Hush, it’s emotions time.”

Kravitz blinks. “All...right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, time for those good good words,” he says, and there are the klaxons going off in his head telling him to flight the fuck outta there, but he silences them with a great deal of mental effort and picks fight. He takes another deep breath, channels a hundred years of Magnus-rushes-in, and says “There’s something I gotta - something I want to tell you.” Deep breath. “Kravitz, I love you too.”

There’s no response. He looks up to find Kravitz staring at him, jaw slack.

And he panics. “I mean, if you’re cool with that, bubbeleh. It’s just, you’ve been sayin’ it for a long time, and I figured - well I figured out that I loved you too, and I thought you’d be happy to hear it?” he explains hurriedly, trying to bat down the anxiety welling sharp in his chest, because Kravitz is still staring at him, mouth partly open and eyes frighteningly wide. “You’re, like, super-sincere 100% of the time and I don’t know how you do it because let’s be real, Krav, people are shitty, and you do dumb shit like put library books right back on the shelf after you take ‘em and you always fantasy Google what Ango’s learning before his tests so you can help him with his homework,” he rambles, and look. Taako is an actor, his entire countenance is made of walls, his persona is a public one and he layers deceptions over lies over half-truths and this should be easy, saying these words, because it’s just speaking, they’re just words -

But they mean something, and the weight of their meaning terrifies him. In this moment, Taako isn’t acting at all; he’s being completely sincere, and he’s scared. He drops his eyes to the batter stain on Kravitz’s nice sweater. “And if you’re not down with that, I can stop - saying it, unless you want, uh, something else to change, in which case, we can totally work something out - ”

“Taako - ”

“I just thought you’d want to know, y’know, in case - ”

“Taako, love,” Kravitz says, voice soft, “hush.”

Taako hushes.  

Kravitz pauses, like he’s debating something, then leans forward and kisses him. It’s nice. His lips are cool, and he still tastes like the five-fantasy-Michelin-star pancakes Taako whipped up this morning, and oh.

After a moment he leans back, and Taako, still dazed, follows suit. Then Kravitz rests a gentle hand on Taako’s cheek, cupping his jaw tenderly, and says, “Thank you, Taako. I...I’m glad you feel the same.”

“Yeah, well. You’re gross and sincere all the time, so...yeah.” He can feel his cheeks flushed flaming red, because the hand on his cheek is even colder than usual.

“Taako,” Kravitz says, eyes crinkled with fondness, “you’re indescribable. Every day with you is unique. After so long as a reaper life grew boring, and you were a spot of light in my life that I will never find anywhere else. You are beautiful, and you care so deeply for those you love, and Taako,” he says, gaze indescribably soft, “I am so honored to be counted among their number.”

“Stop, stop, stop it,” he protests, cheeks flaming, and brandishes a finger at Kravitz. “Don’t one-up my confession of love.”

“I can’t help it,” Kravitz says. “I love you, Taako.”

“I love you too,” Taako says again, just because he can. “Thanks...thanks for sticking around long enough for me to realize, I guess.”

“You make it so, so easy,” Kravitz smiles, gently, and gives him a kiss on the forehead, soft and tender.

Taako feels lighter, somehow. Even though this definitely constitutes as more pressure in the relationship, now that they’ve tromped on past the big L-word, he doesn’t feel like he’s being squeezed. He feels freer, somehow. More solid. Like this vague, happy future that he’s only begun to imagine for himself has become even more tangible. Like his stupid, stupid family, who’s probably laying waste to his garden right now, has just comfortably expanded to fit one more member.

Then Kravitz plucks his radio off the counter, and with an insufferably smug grin, he says, “The cake’s burning.”

It’s a charred, unsalvageable mess. Taako blames Kravitz. Kravitz shrugs and turns his smirk to his radio.

Taako sets about making a replacement, and the kitchen settles back into comfortable silence. And even though Merle leaves mud tracks all over his living room when he finally tromps back in and Barry accidentally puts a gash in his walls with his scythe as he and Davenport step into the house, Taako can’t stop smiling.