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“… and Barry’s theory about the diffusion of energy between planar shifts was actually kind of brilliant. If he and Lup can figure out how to apply the equations to the liches’ magical signatures, it’ll make hunting these circles so much easier in the long run –“

“Oh, word?”

“Absolutely! I mean, he did come up with the idea after chattin’ up a bounty, which, I don’t really know how to make him understand that he shouldn’t talk shop with his targets? But if this pans out, at least some good will come of it.”

“Sure, sure.”

“Anyways – oh, Lup mentioned this series of experiments the three of you ran back in, I think she said it was cycle sixty-nine? I mean, the technical terms she used kind of, kind of flew over my head a bit, but it sounded similar to what we’re working with now.”

“Oh, yeah. That… that was some real interesting shit, absolutely. For sure. Hundo percent.”

“…”

“…”

“Taako?”

“Mm?”

“Is everything alright?”

“What? Yeah, you know me, I’m cool. Fuckin’ chill as an ice cube, baby. Why, what’s up.”

“Well, it’s just that, I said the sex number like thirty seconds ago and you didn’t immediately jump in with terrible innuendo. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. Are you… are you good?”

Taako glances up from the grading rubric he’s been doodling on idly for the past fifteen minutes to frown at his Stone of Farspeech on the table. It’s charmed to glow a serene blue when activated, and crackles brighter when the stone picks up noise on the other end of the call. Kravitz coughs – a nervous habit, rather than out of any actual need – and Taako watches the light shimmer with the soundwave.

He’d been waiting for this call all day, is the thing. All week, if he’s being honest with himself – and Taako makes a point of never being honest with himself, if he can help it. It’s not that he’s missed the sound of Kravitz’s voice. Taako’s a big boy. It’s not like he keeps his stone within arm’s reach at all times just in case Kravitz calls, or that he hangs off Lup’s every word when she gets home from a long day of reapin’ souls, on the off chance she mentions the guy in passing. He’s not pining.

Work’s been busy for Kravitz since the story and the song; he’s been training the newbies all day and then shepherding lost souls all night. There’s a lot of them floating around the Prime Material Plane nowadays, and one too many necromancers who would like to take advantage of that. Keeps him busy.

It’s been three weeks, four days, and fifteen hours since Taako has last seen his boyfriend.

Not that he’s counting.

He’s been waiting to talk to Kravitz all day, and now that he’s finally got him on the line, all Kravitz wants to talk about is his new charges. Taako loves Lup, really, he does, and Barry is basically his brother at this point – and seriously, Taako is so glad they’re not locked up in Ghostanamo Bay for their lich-y crimes, but like – come on.

“If you’re not feeling well, you should rest,” Kravitz says. “I – I can go? Call you back, tomorrow maybe, if –“

“Don’t you fuckin’ dare,” Taako says, picking up the stone. “Listen, you still hunting that cult of Vector or whatever?”

“Vecna?”

“Velcro, yeah, him. You catch those nasty, nasty boys yet?”

Kravitz sighs. When he speaks again it’s a bit muffled, and Taako imagines him scrubbing a hand over his face. “Not all of them. There’s still a few stragglers I haven’t been able to lure out.”

“Guess you ain’t gonna be free anytime soon then, huh,” Taako says. “No rest for the wicked.”

“None at all,” Kravitz agrees. “I’m thinking of bringing Lup and Barry in on the case, actually.” Taako, valiantly, resists the urge to groan. Does it count as cockblocking if the third-wheels aren’t even present? “They’ve been doing a great job bringing in minor offenders. It’s about time I bump them up a level or three.”

“That so.”

“Property damage to active crime scenes has dropped fifty percent in the last month,” Kravitz says dryly. “We’re almost back to pre-Lup levels of arson.”

“Well, fire is her spec-i-al-ity,” Taako snorts. “Speaking of, I’ve got this new recipe I wanna workshop next time you’re around. S’basically ice cream cake, but you douse it with vodka and light that sucker up. Browns the meringue. Fancy as hell.”

“I hope you’re not angling for my expert advice here,” Kravitz says, smiling. “I’m still not entirely sure what a whisk is.”

“Oh, no, absolutely not. Your role is strictly limited to taste-tester, thank you very much. Put that sweet tooth of yours to good use.”

“Singing your praises, you mean?”

“Got it in one.”

Kravitz laughs. “Maybe we can make it a double date sort of thing, have dinner with your sister and Barry. They’ve been needling me about hanging out outside the office for weeks. Apparently we need to bond.”

This time, Taako does groan, a low frustrated whine that he keeps up even as he slumps down and out of his seat. From the floor, he mumbles, “Do you, though? Do you really.”

Kravitz laughs again, a little confused. “What do you mean?”

Taako frowns at the ceiling as the past few weeks – and really, the long stretch of rainchecks and missed connections before that, they’ve both been swamped for a while now – hit him hard. He recognizes the hollow pang in his chest for what it is and scowls. He throws an arm over his eyes.

“I mean, sure, fine, let’s do it,” he says. “Who cares if Lup ‘n Barold already see you more in one day than I do in the entire fuckin’ month. Not Taako. What’s it to me?”

“Are you –“

“I don’t need, like, one-on-one time with my mans, or, or physical affection, or whatever.” Taako sits up. He knows he’s being ridiculous, but his mouth just keeps moving of its own accord. “Who the fuck needs to cuddle, anyways! Not me! If I did I’d get a dog. Do I look like a man who wants to adopt one of Maggie’s hellbeasts? I definitely do not! They’d shed all over my good linen.”

“Taako—“

“Nope. Taako’s just fine. I’m fucking, fucking peachy. I’m so great.”

There’s a long pause, and Taako imagines the look of careful consideration that must be on Kravitz’s face right now. The thought only makes him feel worse. It’s not Kravitz’s fault that Taako has the emotional intelligence of a drunk toddler.  

“I thought you’d be happy that your family and I have been getting on so well?”

“I am,” Taako says, a little despairingly.

“Then what –“ Kravitz pauses again, and then, to Taako’s outstanding horror, he says, “Wait.” He says, “Hold on.” He says, with the tiniest, most infuriating huff of disbelieving laughter, “Are you… jealous?”

“What? No. What?” Taako tugs on his braid. “Look—“

“You definitely did just consider adopting a dog because you missed me, though.”

“Don’t sound so delighted! Wipe that dumb smirk off your face, I can hear it all the way over here in the Material Plane.”

Kravitz tries and fails to muffle his laughter, which is rude, but when he speaks it’s at least sincere. “I’m sorry, I have been talking a lot about work, haven’t I? It’s been a while. I wanted to catch you up on what you missed.”

Taako opens his mouth, and then closes it again. “Well, yeah, you have,” he says, when his ears have stopped burning. “I’m, uh, I’m being a dick though. Like, you pretty much saved my whole entire family’s souls and I’m sittin’ here complaining about it. That’s not cool.”

“It’s been busy,” Kravitz says. “End of the world and all that. Honestly, I expected it to be worse, all things considered. Lup and Barry have been a big help.”

“Yeah, they’re alright, I guess.”

“They are,” Kravitz smiles. “Things should quiet down soon.” There’s a shuffling noise on Kravitz’s end, and then Taako hears the quiet thump of a heavy book closing. “Actually, though, if you’re free right now…”

“Oh, yeah, totally. Just on the line with some guy, you know. Kind of a workaholic. Sounds cute, though.”

His stone flickers as it picks up a sound like the tearing of worlds, and Taako’s ears swivel when he hears it behind him, too. He turns, and there’s Kravitz, impeccably dressed but looking tired and drawn. Still, he smiles at Taako and offers a hand, brow raised.

Taako takes it and heaves himself up and off the floor. “Thought you had paperwork to do, my fella.”

“I think I’ve earned a break,” Kravitz says. “It’s about time Lup learned to file her own, anyway.”

Taako steps closer, leans in and wraps his arms around Kravitz’s middle. He smells like sandalwood and a little bit of smoke; must have been out hunting earlier. Kravitz hugs back. His arms are cool, but it’s warm in Taako’s apartment. It feels nice.

“I missed you,” Kravitz says into Taako’s hair.

“Yeah,” Taako murmurs. “Me too.”