The light over the dining room table was flickering. Which wouldn’t normally bother Kravitz. Kravitz had bigger issues to stress about, he didn’t have time to worry over things like that. Normally he’d make a note to change the lightbulb or check the wiring, and be done with it.
Tonight though, he wondered if it was an omen.
He’d been half-present all through dinner, even as he talked with Taako about their days at work, events they both had that week, and their opinions on the movie Fantasy Groundhog Day. In fact, Kravitz would say he was being overtly anxious, but Taako didn’t seem to notice. In fact, he was seeming a bit off tonight as well. Kravitz had to wonder if Taako knew what was on his mind. Kravitz had to wonder if Taako already had his answer.
Above the table, the light flickered, and under the table, Kravitz worried at the hem of his shirt.
The food was incredible—of course it was, in the years he’d known Taako he’d never cooked a meal that was less than perfect. Tonight Kravitz could barely eat it, stomach churning the way it was. He pushed a bite of food around on his plate and then reached into his pocket just so that he had something to do with his hands. There was some small relief in feeling the box still safe inside.
With another flicker from the light, Kravitz took a deep breath.
“Taako, I’ve been—”
“So, Krav—” They both cut off, staring at each other, before their faces broke into nervous smiles. Under normal circumstances Kravitz would offer Taako the opportunity to speak first, but he had a sinking feeling that if he didn’t start talking in the next few seconds he was going to lose his nerve. Taako must have seen something in his face, because he gestured at Kravitz to continue.
“I’ve been, uh, I’ve been thinking lately,” Kravitz admitted, rubbing his clammy palms on his slacks.
“Unusual.” He laughed at that, not because it was particularly funny but because he was not sure how to continue and the laugh bought him two extra seconds to think.
“I—We’ve been together for, for a while, and I, I—I realized recently that I don’t want to, to not be together anytime soon. That is to say, I’ve been thinking about, um, about permanence, for us.” He glanced up quickly to gauge Taako’s reaction. His boyfriend was staring at him now, the teasing smile he’d had a moment ago vanished from his face, replaced by curiosity and possibly a bit of apprehension.
Kravitz took that as his cue to stand up. He walked around the table to him, clenching his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. As he lowered himself down to one knee beside Taako, he pulled the box from his pocket with shaking hands. This was the most terrifying thing he’d ever done. “Taako, will—will you marry me?”
There was a moment of silence, the longest Kravitz had ever lived through in his twenty-nine years of existence. And then, “Fuck, I—yes? Yes, of course, fuck!” Taako leaned down and pulled him into a kiss, where Kravitz could feel his smile pressed against his own.
The relief prompted Kravitz to bring his hands up to Taako’s face, trying to pull him somehow closer and dropping the box in the process. They broke apart and Taako laughed as Kravitz fumbled to pick the ring up off the floor, before sliding it delicately onto his finger. Taako admired it for a moment, and then cleared his throat.
“So,” he said, voiced pitched slightly higher than usual and cheeks a bright pink. “This makes what I was going to ask a little weird, possibly, but. Do you wanna stay with my family for Candlenights this year?”
As the door swung open, Kravitz plastered a smile on his face, hoping it would look genuine and not like he was in immense pain. Smiles, he’d been told, went a long way in terms of good first impressions.
“You must be Kravitz!” said the woman who answered. “Please, come in!”
As he kicked off his shoes at the door, he looked around. The house was elegant, but cozy. Cluttered in a way that made Kravitz feel at ease; this was just a normal house, filled with normal people (and elves, probably, and maybe other races too; Taako had not given him much information on his family). The woman closed the door behind him. Her hair was a striking white against her dark skin, and her smile was kind and wise. The sort of smile Kravitz felt he could trust.
“Your room is just upstairs,” she said, gesturing for him to follow her. “I assume the one bed won’t be an issue?” She turned to wink at him, and he laughed.
“No, one bed is fine.”
“That’s what I thought.” They reached the top of the stairs and entered a room on the right. “You can leave your luggage in here. The others are in the living room.” Kravitz nodded, leaving his duffle bag on the foot of the bed and following her back down the staircase. Now that he wasn’t carrying anything, he was able to fidget freely, wringing his hands together as he tried to settle his nerves.
“Please don’t be intimidated,” the woman said without looking behind her. “We don’t bite too bad. And from what Taako’s told us, you seem very charming.”
Kravitz raised his eyebrows at that. “Well, perhaps to the easily charmed,” he said, hoping the light-hearted self-deprecation would make him sound modest.
The woman stopped in her tracks and turned to face him, her expression growing icy.
“Are you calling Taako easily charmed?”
Kravitz’s eyes widened. “No, no, that’s not what I was—” He cut off as he recognized the glint of humor in her eyes. She smiled, winking again, and he chuckled, a bit embarrassed. So it had been a goof.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Barry fell for that one too.”
Kravitz felt more relaxed as she led him through the kitchen and down another hallway. He liked this woman.
“So, you’re Julia, right?” Taako had mentioned that he thought Kravitz would get along with Magnus’s wife. The woman in front of him stopped abruptly again, and he almost bumped into her.
“Oh, sorry, I must have forgotten to introduce myself,” she said. She turned her head slightly, but didn’t look at him. “I’m Lucretia.” Kravitz froze. This was Lucretia? The horrible woman Taako had told him to avoid at all costs? She must have seen the recognition on his face, because her smile turned bittersweet. “I’ll make myself scarce when Taako arrives, don’t worry.”
Kravitz felt a rush of guilt. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s fine, please. It’s been years, this isn’t a new development.” A small part of Kravitz wanted to ask what had happened, but he shut down the impulse. This night was going to be difficult enough to get through without him prying into everybody’s personal lives. “Anyway,” Lucretia said, turning away from him again, “everyone’s just in here.” Kravitz took a deep breath and followed her into the living room.
“I mean, there’s really not a lot to know,” Taako claimed, leaning back on the couch. Kravitz scoffed.
“There’s no important information I should know about your family?” he asked with raised eyebrows. Taako grunted and looked away.
“I mean, not really.” Kravitz leaned on the grand piano that he really didn’t have room for anymore.
“Are you on good terms with them? It’s a little weird we’ve been dating for years and I’ve never even met them, right?”
Taako threw his hands up. “I don’t know! They just—they all live far away, it’s not, it’s not like I’ve been hiding you from them. I just… I wasn’t sure how to…” He trailed off, crossing his arms.
“How to what?” Kravitz asked.
“Fuck, you know, like… You—I’ve never been with anyone as long as you, bones. And I’ve never been—I’ve never been as serious about anyone. And, and I didn’t know, like, when I was supposed to introduce you to them, or how, or where, like fuck, this is sort of uncharted—uncharted territory, y’know?”
Kravitz frowned, crossing the small apartment quickly to sit beside him.
“Yeah,” he said. “I get it. I’m glad I’m finally meeting them, Taako.” Hesitantly, he put an arm around his shoulders, and Taako sighed, leaning into him. “So we’ll get there on the third?”
Taako nodded. “Yeah, my flight should get there forty minutes before yours.”
“Are you flying straight from Rockport, or…?”
“Nah, I have to transfer in Refuge.” Kravitz rubbed gentle circles on Taako’s arm.
“So who will be there?”
Taako blew a piece of hair out of his face. “You know, my sister and her husband, my brother and his wife, my dads. Ugh, and Lucretia, I guess.”
“Lucretia?” Taako pushed himself off of Kravitz, but didn’t force him to move his arm. He glared across the room at the dark TV screen, crossing his legs.
“Old family friend, the—the thing is at her house. I don’t know why it had to be at her house, but. Oh, important information is fuckin’ uh, stay away from her. And keep me away from her.” Kravitz frowned.
“Okay. May I ask why?”
Taako shrugged. “She just sucks, my man, nothing—there’s nothing else to it.”
Kravitz suspected there was something else to it, but he didn’t press. He squeezed Taako’s shoulder lightly.
“So we’ll meet at the airport, get a cab to Lucretia’s—”
“We could stop and grab some food first, I probably won’t have time to get lunch in between flights,” Taako said. Kravitz smiled a little at the obvious attempt to put off seeing Lucretia.
“Okay, we can grab a bite to eat. We’ll get there in the early evening, have dinner with them, any—any topics I should steer clear of when I’m talking to people? Sore subjects?”
Taako thought for a moment and then his eyes widened.
“Actually fuck, yeah. Don’t uh, don’t talk about work with Barry. Um, Lup’s husband,” he clarified. Kravitz nodded, wondering if he should be writing this down.
“Why, what does he do?” Taako made a face.
“It’s… it’s not important, it would just be awkward as hell. Trust me on that one, bubbeleh.”
Kravitz smiled, kissing Taako on the cheek.
“Okay,” he said. “I trust you.”
When Kravitz entered the room, a man twice his size immediately stood up to greet him.
“You’re Kravitz? Nice to meet you, I’m Taako’s brother, Magnus.” With that, the man pulled him into a hug.
“Brother…” Kravitz repeated as he pulled away, because Magnus looked… nothing at all like Taako.
“I mean, adopted, obviously,” Magnus said with a laugh. “Taako didn’t tell you? Fuck, well yeah, we’re all adopted. This isn’t, uh.” He gestured to himself. “He didn’t get his looks from me, that’s for sure.”
“I think that’d be if you were his dad,” Kravitz said with a smile. Magnus laughed.
“Oh, a smart guy. Makes sense; the twins have always had a thing for nerds!” A pillow flew across the room at him, and he didn’t even dodge it, just kept laughing as it hit him in the side of the head.
“Guys, please, June’s sleeping,” said a woman on the couch, who was holding a bundle on her lap. Magnus smiled, but it was strangely sharp for someone who had just earlier seemed so easy-going.
“That’s my wife,” he said in a stage-whisper. “Honey, come meet Taako’s fiancé!”
She sighed. “Yep, I’d love to. Lucretia, could you—” She handed the baby over and pushed herself off of the sofa, looking exhausted.
“Hi, I’m Julia,” she said, holding out a hand. Kravitz took it, and in an instant he felt all of the bones in his hand break. She had quite a grip.
“Hey, speaking of Taako, where is he?” Magnus asked, putting a hand around Julia’s shoulders. She shrugged it off.
“His flight got delayed because of the snow, he was stuck just a couple towns over when I texted him earlier,” Kravitz said, forcing a smile. “He should be arriving in the next hour, but he told me not to wait at the airport for him in case it got delayed any more.”
Kravitz had very much wanted to wait at the airport, he still sort of wished he was at the airport, actually. On top of the fact that meeting Taako’s family was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things he’d ever done and he wanted some support with him, he hadn’t seen Taako in about three weeks and missed him like hell.
“Y’know, we haven’t seen that guy since he stayed with us last July,” Magnus said wistfully. Kravitz thought a moment. July… oh right, that had been the week he’d spent in Phandalin for a training seminar, and Taako had flown out to Raven’s Roost.
“Yeah, I’m sure he had a lot of fun sleeping on our couch,” Julia said, with a hint of… was it malice in her voice? Whatever it was it flew right over Magnus’s head.
“Right? Gods, I can’t wait to see him again.” Julia pursed her lips.
“So, Kravitz,” she said. “Where are you two living now?”
“Well, right now we’re in my studio apartment in Goldcliff, but uh.” He fiddled with his cufflinks, smiling despite himself. “There’s been some talk of moving somewhere further out. Somewhere with a bigger kitchen.” Julia nodded, looking entranced.
“That sounds nice. We’ve been living with my dad for gods know how long. It’s getting pretty cramped.”
Magnus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and I just love hearing your thoughts on that while we’re talking to Taako’s boyfriend.” Julia glared at him.
“I was just making conversation,” she said. Magnus ran a hand over his face, and when he spoke again his voice was a bit louder than before.
“No, you know what you’re doing, you’re—”
“Can we—fuck, can we not do this right now?” she said quietly, looking around the room. Magnus stopped mid-sentence. With a sigh, he brought a hand up to the back of his neck, looking sort of guilty.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said.
Kravitz was very uncomfortable with the energy the two of them had created, so he politely excused himself and wandered over to the couch. There was Lup, sprawled out on the lap of a human Kravitz could only assume was Barry. She smiled at him, and her smile looked so much like Taako’s Kravitz was taken aback a little.
“Good to meet you, Kravitz,” she said. “We were starting to think my brother was making you up.” Kravitz laughed. He wondered if he was laughing too much tonight, or if his laugh sounded forced.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” He shook both of their hands. After that there was a pause, and Kravitz had a weird feeling they were leaving it to him to fill it. He scrambled for conversation starters, and landed on, “So what do you guys do for work?”
Wait. Fuck. He’d had exactly one subject Taako had told him to avoid and he’d brought it up within ten seconds of meeting Barry. Fuck. This was going to lead to something awkward for sure, he wondered if he was a stripper or something. Or maybe a mediocre Fantasy YouTuber.
What he wasn’t expecting Lup to say was, “Oh, we’re both professors at U of N.”
Kravitz blinked. The University of Neverwinter was hard for students to get into, even harder for professors. These two must have been the cream of the crop. Had Taako just worried it would seem like they were bragging?
“Both of you?” Kravitz asked, impressed. “That must be fun.” Lup shrugged.
“Well, we don’t really see each other a lot at work. The evocation building is pretty much across campus from the necromancy department—”
“Sorry, what?” Kravitz asked, sure he’d misheard her. She frowned, confused.
“I mean, we don’t teach the same subject. I teach evocation magic, specializing in fire, and Barry teaches Theory of Necromancy. Which, no explosions, super boring.” Barry rolled his eyes before planting a kiss on her cheek.
Kravitz was frozen, the smile on his face half faded.
“So what about you?” Barry asked, and Kravitz’s mind began to race.
He couldn’t tell them, right? That’d be bad. If he told them he was part of a special militia task force that hunted down necromancers, things were sure to go downhill. Fuck, this was probably the exact situation Taako had wanted to avoid.
Okay, all Kravitz had to do was lie about what he did for work. He could do that. He just had to name a place.
What his brain supplied him with was, “Um, I don’t… know.”
Lup frowned. “You don’t know what you do for work?” Barry swatted her arm.
“You mean you’re in between jobs?” he asked.
“Yes,” Kravitz agreed. He then realized these two people now thought that their brother’s fiancé was unemployed. Fuck, he wasn’t good at this. Lup looked sympathetic, at least.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. When I talked to Taako he made it sound like you guys were doing great. Was this recent?” Kravitz nodded.
“Pretty recent, yeah.” He didn’t want them to think he was fired, so he said, “I left a few weeks ago because, um, because I just didn’t believe in the work.”
Lup nodded sagely at that. “Yeah, I hear you. Once I worked for like two years at a pencil company? All we sold was pencils, it was the most boring thing I’ve ever done. Where did you used to work?” And it was back on Kravitz to think of a lie again.
Places he could work. A college—nope, they were both professors, bad lie. The grocery store—nope, he didn’t want to work there even in a made-up scenario. Suddenly his mind latched onto an establishment he passed on his way to work everyday.
“The Goldcliff Orphanage,” he said. Lup’s ears perked up at that, and Barry squinted. They both began to speak at the same time.
“You left an orphanage because you didn’t believe in the—”
“Wait, did you say Goldcliff Orphanage?” Kravitz didn’t want to bring any attention to what Barry had been saying, so instead he nodded, looking at Lup. She looked delighted, a brightness in her eyes he hadn’t yet seen from her.
“Okay, did you ever know a kid named Angus McDonald? Lived there, maybe about three years ago?” Barry began to look sort of excited too, and they were both staring at him so expectantly, Kravitz didn’t want to disappoint them.
“Um, Angus? Yes, yeah, I did. Uh, good kid.” Lup was beaming, and Kravitz instantly knew he’d said the right thing. She laughed a little.
“This is such a coincidence, you wouldn’t believe… Angus, pumpkin, come over here please!” Kravitz froze, and he instantly knew he had made a terrible mistake.
Not two seconds later he was face to face with a boy of about ten or eleven, with curly hair and enormous metal-rimmed glasses. Lup tousled his hair, and he squirmed away.
“Kravitz, this is our son, Angus! Sweetheart, you remember Kravitz? From the orphanage?”
Angus glanced at him, blinked once, and before Kravitz even had time to ponder that this was probably definitely the end of his engagement, he was smiling and saying, “Yeah, I do! It’s good to see you again, sir!”
Kravitz shook his outstretched hand, body still tensed as if prepared for an assault. “It’s, uh, it’s good to see you too, Angus.” There was a glint in the boy’s eyes that Kravitz wasn’t entirely sure he liked. He leapt onto the couch to sit beside his parents.
“So, what did you do there?” Barry asked. “At the orphanage, I mean.” Kravitz nodded, his mind coming up blank.
“Um.” He scrambled. “Well, I um, I did some work in uh, I, I was a—”
“He used to read me stories before bed!” Angus supplied cheerfully (strategically, Kravitz realized as the boy pushed his glasses further up his nose and fixed him with an innocent gaze). Kravitz latched on.
“Yes, I was, uh, somewhat of an assistant. Reading, supervising meals, just making sure the children were happy.” Lup nodded.
“Rad,” she said simply. “It’s great that you two could see each other again, I know Angus had been missi—”
She cut off abruptly as Kravitz’s phone began to ring. Very loudly. And Kravitz remembered, belatedly, that three weeks and two days ago exactly, Taako had changed his ringtone for a goof, and Kravitz hadn’t changed it back yet. So as the song Bring Me to Life by Fantasy Evanescence began to fill the room, Kravitz jumped to his feet. He cleared his throat as Lup hid a smile behind her hand.
“If you’ll excuse me, I uh, I think that’s Taako.” And with that he took off. There was loud laughter from behind him as he made his way down the hall, pressing the green button on his screen.
“Taako?” he hissed, bringing the phone up to his ear as he got to the kitchen. “Gods, please tell me you’re close.”
There was a nervous laugh on the other end, and Kravitz felt his stomach drop.
“Yeah, um, about that, my guy. All—” He paused. “All the flights out of Refuge are cancelled.” Kravitz almost dropped the phone.
“Okay, chill, it’s alright. The earliest flights out of here are gonna be tomorrow afternoon. If—if it stops snowing. But there’s a hotel near enough to walk to from the airport, and I can stay there for the night.” Kravitz took a shaky breath in.
“Taako, I don’t know if I can understate how badly this evening is going,” he said.
“Talking about work with Barry bad?” Taako asked hesitantly.
“Worse, a lot worse.” There was an intake of breath from the other end, and Kravitz could picture the grimace Taako was undoubtedly making. “I—I didn’t want to tell them what I do, but now they think I’m unemployed, and I accidentally said I know their son, and, and it’s… it’s not good, Taako.”
“Hoo boy, that’s—that sounds pretty bad.”
“Is there any way you can get here sooner? I could drive over—”
“My man that’s three hours both ways when the roads are good, and you, you know they aren’t gonna be good tonight.” It was a good point but Kravitz was more than a little stubborn and wanted his fiancé.
“I can still—”
“Besides, the car’s back in Goldcliff. You literally couldn’t drive here if you wanted to.” Kravitz shook his head, even though he knew Taako couldn’t see it.
“Someone else could—”
“Nope, the only one of you bozos that did not take a plane there is Lucretia and I am sure as fuck not spending three hours in the car with her.”
Kravitz sighed, deflated. “Yeah, that makes sense,” he said quietly. “So tomorrow afternoon, I guess? What do I—Fuck, what do I do until then, I’m, I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, Taako. Almost everything I’ve told Lup and Barry so far is one big lie—”
“First of all, no one says ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ anymore, you old man. Second, just change the, change the subject to something you don’t gotta lie about, dingus. Oh, also! Is Angus with you right now?”
“Uh, no? I’m in the kitchen.” Taako laughed.
“You can never be too sure, that kid is sneaky as fuck. Here, uh, he probably is, so just say you know he’s there, and that I wanna talk to him. Say it out loud.” Kravitz looked at the phone in his hand doubtfully.
“Er, Angus, I know you’re there. Taako—um, your uncle wants to talk to you?” For a moment, there was silence, and then the boy slinked into the kitchen, looking at his shoes. Kravitz’s eyes widened. He raised the phone back to his ear. “Uh, yeah, you were right. He’s in the kitchen now.” Angus frowned at that, looking up at Kravitz.
“Uh-huh,” Taako said. “Put me on speaker.” Kravitz lowered his phone and tapped the speaker button. “Hey pumpkin,” Taako said smugly.
“You got me, sir,” Angus said. “Kravitz didn’t even know I was there, did he?”
“He had no clue. Really, bubbeleh, this is a bad habit you might wanna work on.” Angus rolled his eyes.
“Panic induced lying isn’t much better. No offense, sir,” he added, glancing up at Kravitz. Kravitz took a bit of offense, actually, but Taako just laughed.
“Yeah, can you believe I’m marrying this dumbass?” he said. Kravitz glared at his phone even as he tried to keep from smiling at the mention of their wedding. “Anyway kiddo, here’s the deal. If you don’t make this night any worse for my future husband, I’ll bake that gross caramel pecan shit you like for Candlenights dinner. What do you say?”
Angus leaned his head from side to side, in a dramatic display of contemplation. Then he put his hands on his hips. “Only if you guys do all my chores while I’m here.” He ticked them off on his fingers. “Setting the table, drying the dishes, taking out the trash, and any other ones my mom and dad give me.”
Kravitz was almost taken aback by how mature this kid was—maybe he’d misjudged his age, earlier. He felt like he was in the middle of a business transaction.
“Nah,” Taako said. “How about the dessert, and you pick one chore you don’t wanna do this week.” Kravitz thought that seemed reasonable, but Angus had that glint in his eye again and this time Kravitz knew he definitely didn’t like it.
“Hmm. How about I’m a little boy who knows that Kravitz has never worked for the orphanage, and if I tell my mom and dad your fiancé’s gonna be in a lotta trouble.” There was a pause. “How about that, sir?”
Kravitz was frozen in shock for a moment, and by the stunned silence on the other end of the line, so was Taako.
And then, “Jeez kid, you’ve gotten, you’ve gotten better, huh?” Angus raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. “Fine, fuck, we’ll do your fuckin’ chores. Happy?”
“Yep. See you tomorrow, sir!” said Angus, voice undeniably smug. He left the kitchen with a bounce in his step. Taako grumbled something along the lines of that fucking kid.
“Okay bone boy, are you gonna be good for tonight?” Kravitz sighed, resigning himself to an extra day without Taako.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll be alright.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow.”
“Can’t wait.” Kravitz smiled, feeling worn out and a bit empty. “I love you,” he added, but the call had already ended.
Kravitz stood in the empty kitchen for longer than he’d like to admit before heading back.
Kravitz was sitting on the edge of the bed when Taako came out of the shower. He watched, lost in thought as his boyfriend pulled on an old t-shirt (there was a good chance it was Kravitz’s own), combed out his hair, and finally, looked over at him.
Kravitz startled out of his reverie. “Hm?”
“You—you good?” Taako was staring at him from the bathroom doorway, concern tinting the edges of his countenance. That wasn’t right. Kravitz didn’t want him to worry.
“I, uh. Yeah.” Kravitz climbed further onto the bed and lowered his eyelids, in the flirty way he knew could still make Taako flustered. “I guess I’m just drinking up the sight of you while I still have the chance.”
“Shut up,” Taako said with a roll of his eyes, but Kravitz didn’t miss the way his ears twitched with interest. “It’s just three weeks.”
Kravitz felt the playful facade he’d just thrown up begin to fade. “I know…” he said, because he did know. His voice sounded smaller than he would have liked.
After a moment of silence, which sat heavily on Kravitz’s chest, Taako laid the brush down on the counter and flipped off the bathroom lights. He crawled into bed beside him and trailed a hand down his chest.
“Hey,” he said softly. “Are. Are you still cool with this?” There was a note in his voice Kravitz didn’t remember hearing when they’d first discussed it, a certain softness. “I get it’s long, and it’s right before Candlenights, and meeting my family, and… it’s a lot. It’s not too late for me to back out–”
“Are you joking?” Kravitz said, sitting up. Taako pouted, pushing himself up as well.
“No, actually, I was trying out seriousness for a change. I heard it’s all the rage for married couples.” Kravitz cracked a smile. Then he shook his head.
“Taako, I’m going to drive you to the airport tomorrow morning. And you’re going to cook for a billion people, probably, and you’re going to be amazing and I’m going to miss you like hell…” He took one or Taako’s hands in his own. “And then I’m going to see you in three weeks and we’re going to spend Candlenights with your goddamn family.” He brought Taako’s hand up to his lips. “And after that I’m going to marry you and we’re going to be so, so happy. How does that sound?”
Taako snorted. “Yeah, that actually sounds pretty great, handsome.” He pulled Kravitz back down onto the bed, and guided his arms until they were wrapped around him. “Mm, perfect,” he mumbled into Kravitz’s shirt.
“We haven’t turned off the lights,” Kravitz said with a laugh. Taako snapped his fingers and the room went dark. “Wow. Okay, I’ll admit that was pretty good. You learn that at elf practice?” Taako swatted him in the face, and Kravitz couldn’t keep the smile off of his lips. “Taako, I haven’t even brushed my teeth.”
“Nasty boy,” Taako murmured. “Just do it in the morning. Now is sleep time.”
Well, Kravitz couldn’t argue with that logic. He wrapped his arms a little tighter around his fiancé.
“Do you really think it’s going to go okay?” Taako asked quietly. Kravitz didn’t know if he meant the tour, or the wedding, or maybe their future in general.
Regardless, the answer was: “Yes, I do.” Taako sighed, nuzzling his face closer. There was a long stretch of silence, and Kravitz was half-sure Taako was already asleep, when he asked the darkness, “Do you think your family is going to like me?”
And he felt Taako smile against his chest.
“How could they not?” he whispered sleepily.
Taako’s family hated him, Kravitz was almost completely sure as he bolted out of the house and into the snow covered yard.
Things had gone fairly well for a while, after the phone call. Kravitz had changed the subject like Taako had suggested, and he’d managed to stop digging himself into a ditch. Angus had even helped him out of answering a few more questions about the orphanage, smiling at him. (When his dad told him it was time for him to head up to bed, Angus had made a pleading face at Kravitz. “Oh, he can stay up a little later, right?” Kravitz asked. Barry had hesitated, but caved in the end, and Angus was awake for another hour.)
The time had flown by and the moon had risen higher in the sky until Kravitz couldn’t see it through the living room window anymore. Kravitz had talked with everyone, and drunk a few glasses of wine, and by the time pizza came, it had stopped feeling like schmoozing higher-ups at a work event, and more like spending time with close friends. He wasn’t even shocked when Lup screamed and slammed his slice of Hawaiian onto the floor.
“Sorry, babe,” she’d said. “Taako would kill me if I let you eat that. Hawaiian pizza is forbidden in this family.” Kravitz had rolled his eyes, thinking back two years to when he’d first eaten pizza with Taako and remembering the shocked expression, the threat of divorce despite the fact that they weren't married, or even engaged then.
“Who ordered it, then?” he’d asked Lup.
“That would be me,” Lucretia said, grabbing a slice and stuffing almost the entire thing into her mouth, keeping steady eye contact. Kravitz cast an accusatory glance back at Lup, who put her hands up helplessly.
“Hey, she can eat whatever she wants, she’s not marrying my brother.”
He’d started to feel… comfortable, with these people. Taako’s family.
Kravitz had a family of his own, of course. He had two loving mothers who had given him an amazing childhood, and he loved them both dearly. But… both of their families had cut them off, so Kravitz had never had reunions, or big family holidays, or anything like that. Kravitz had his mothers, and he had himself, and that was all the family he thought he needed. Until… until now, when he had started to realize that this was... kind of nice.
This could be his.
Things fell apart when there was a knock at the front door. Lucretia had leapt to her feet, swaying a little.
“Oh, that must be Merle and Dav. I’ll get it.” Lup raised her glass in approval, and Kravitz emptied his own. Taako’s parents… they were probably who he was most nervous about meeting. Would they like him? Would they think he was good for their son? He fidgeted with his hands a bit, setting his glass down.
Lup had elbowed him. “Yo, calm down dude. They’re chill guys.” She hiccuped. “Mostly.” Kravitz nodded. He’d known he was being ridiculous, the nervousness should have all but vanished at this point, three glasses of wine in and hours after he’d started feeling comfortable with the rest of the family. But he had a weird feeling about this, and his nerves refused to be calmed.
When Lucretia entered the room with a dwarf and gnome in tow, Kravitz realized with a start that his gut had been right. He was absolutely fucked.
A few years ago there had been a operation involving a powerful local cult. It was a dangerous group, and Kravitz had had a tip that they were getting a new shipment of spell components. So when he tailed one of the members and witnessed an exchange happening in a dark alley, he had moved in, tackling the dealer to the ground.
It so happened that the dealer had not possessed any spell components, only marijuana. It was one of the biggest embarrassments of Kravitz’s career.
So when his eyes landed on the dwarf that had just entered the room, and realized that he was that exact same drug dealer, Kravitz had frozen like a fucking deer in headlights. Merle’s eyes had met his and the recognition was instant and obvious. He raised an accusing finger.
“Wait a minute, you’re that cop that broke my arm!” The room fell silent.
“Um, this is Kravitz, Taako’s fiancé,” Barry said slowly.
“You think I’d forget a face like that? I’m telling you, that’s him!” Merle asked.
“Wait, did you say cop?” Lup asked. Presumably at this point, they all looked at the couch where Kravitz had been sitting. But all that was there was a Kravitz-shaped dust cloud, because Kravitz was already sprinting down the hallway.
He was out. This was fun, and dating Taako had been fun and the idea of marrying him had been fun but it was all over because Kravitz was getting on a plane now and flying to the fucking moon. He shut the front door behind him as quickly as he could.
He realized as he stumbled down the front steps that his suitcase was upstairs. And his wallet. So, no cab, and no airport. He slowed to a stop in the grass, breathing heavy.
It was snowing, big flakes that swirled around him and stuck on the ground. He took in a deep breath of the frozen air, his mind clearing a bit. He’d always liked the sensation of the cold in his lungs. It felt like something special, especially when you lived in Goldcliff and the most change the seasons brought was whether it was lukewarm and humid or lukewarm and dry.
Kravitz didn’t have anywhere to go. He knew he wasn’t leaving, but he couldn’t really go back inside after that scene, could he? Merle was probably filling everyone in on the fact that he’d been lying the entire evening.
Kravitz ran a hand through his hair. No, he couldn’t face them. He just wanted to stay out here in the cold. He just wanted everyone to like him. He just…
He just wanted Taako.
A sharp wind hit his face, and he could feel the flakes sticking to his eyelashes as the sound of an engine reached his ears. A car pulled up in front of the house, and for a second, Kravitz thought he was hallucinating as out climbed Taako, who walked around to the back, grabbed his suitcase and waved to the driver. Then he turned.
Their eyes met and the world froze. Kravitz wasn’t imagining him, there was no fabricating the way Taako stared openly, eyes wide and hair falling out of his braid. The streetlight casting a halo on the top of his head, the snow catching on his shoulders. He looked ethereal, and for a long moment, Kravitz couldn’t move.
The spell was broken when a grin formed on Taako’s face, and he started running forward. Kravitz opened his arms and Taako practically leapt into him. They hugged so tightly that Kravitz couldn’t breathe, and he didn’t want to.
“You… you’re here,” Kravitz said. He felt tears pricking at his eyes, but he didn’t wipe them away, not wanting to remove his arms from around Taako.
“I’m here,” Taako repeated. “Gods, I missed you, holy fuck. I’m never going on tour again.” Kravitz laughed.
“We can talk about that later,” he said. He released his grip slightly, pulling back. “How… how did you get here? I thought all the flights were—“
“No, yeah, they were. It—it was super lucky, like, Candlenights miracle lucky, but uh. There was this girl in the airport, a fan of mine, whose friend was picking her up and driving her out here, and she—she offered me a ride.”
Taako leaned in to kiss him, and Kravitz was happy to reciprocate. It was long and slow, a kiss between two people who hadn’t seen each other in far too long but knew they had all the time in the world. Eventually they had to break apart so they could both breathe.
“So uh, how—how’s your evening going, handsome? Because I just, I just got some pretty buckwild texts from Lup a couple minutes ago.” Kravitz groaned.
“It’s not great, Taako.”
He grinned. “Ango sell you out?”
“Nope, it was uh, it was Merle, actually.”
“Yeah, Lup said you broke his arm maybe?” Kravitz looked anywhere but his face, feeling his cheeks grow warm.
“No, yeah, I did do that.” Taako burst into laughter, and Kravitz suddenly felt defensive. “He was dealing drugs to a cult, Taako!”
“Holy shit, I just. This evening sounds—it sounds like a complete wreck, bubbeleh.”
“It wasn’t all bad,” Kravitz said. He pressed his lips back to Taako’s again, shorter this time. “Your family’s nice.” Taako rolled his eyes, but he didn’t stop smiling.
“Yeah, they’re pretty okay.” He pushed Kravitz away theatrically and grabbed the handle of his suitcase. “Okay, Taako’s here, have no fear, or whatever. You ready to go in and fix everything?”
Kravitz, being the sap they both knew he was, couldn’t keep his eyes off of Taako, even as they both turned to face the front of the house.
“Yeah. I’m ready.”