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Kravitz clears his throat and begins to read from the book that hovers in a cloud of gray smoke before him, awash in dark, divine energy that makes the hair on Taako’s arms stand on end. Taako can’t see the page, but he knows exactly what it says: Taako Taaco, seven deaths. Merle Highchurch, fifty-three deaths. Lup Taaco, ten deaths. And so on.

“Taako Taaco, you are found guilty of -”

“Of breaking the natural laws of life and death as governed by Her Majesty the Raven Queen,” Taako recites from memory, waving a hand. Impatient, bouncing on the balls of his feet, the speech has gotten boring after the thirtieth time hearing it. “Yeah, yeah, I gotcha. You caught me.”

Kravitz blinks, startled by the interruption and that Taako had presumably taken his exact words out of his mouth. “Yes, that’s correct - and between you and me, I’m intrigued as to how you pulled it off. Seven deaths without checking into the Astral Plane, that’s nearly unheard of.”

“Oh, you flirt.”

“Why on Earth are you smiling at me like that?” Kravitz scowls at him, clearly not used to the kind of reaction Taako is giving him.

He’s grinning really, his cheeks hurt from it. It’s been so long. It’s been so long and it’s so fucking good to see him, he wants to throw his arms around Kravitz, to kiss him, but he tries his hardest to stand still, instead. “Just missed you, Bones,” he says, means to sound cute, coy, but it just comes out painfully honest. He has missed him. So much it feels like he hasn't been able to take a full breath this entire time.

Missed me?” Kravitz’s brow furrows, and Taako should be used to this part by now, he’s been through it so many times. But he thinks it will always be the hardest thing, remembering that they’re strangers. The total lack of recognition in Kravitz’s eyes when he looks Taako over, the fear that this will be one of the cycles that Kravitz doesn’t believe their wild tale - Taako can’t blame him for that, but it still feels like a punch to the gut every time. “You seem to be under the impression that we’ve met. I don’t know you.”

“Nope,” Taako agrees. He reaches into his pocket, his hand closing around a small disk. Kravitz doesn’t miss the gesture, his hand curling tighter around his scythe, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. Taako tries not to flinch. “You don’t, but I know you.”

“If you think that you can trick me into letting you go -”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, babe.” He winks, reaching for Kravitz’s hand and pressing a small coin into it. It doesn’t look like anything special; brass, worn by years of being handled and unadorned except for the rune engraved in the middle - the only sign that it’s enchanted.  His hand lingers for a moment too long on Kravitz’s, on the familiar coolness of his skin, until Kravitz draws back, peering suspiciously at the coin like it’s going to bite him.

“That’s a recording device,” Taako explains. “It’s gonna tell you what you need to hear and it’s - uh, it’s gonna sound buckwild, but just listen, mmkay?”

Kravitz shakes his head, as expected, and tries to give the coin back. “Whatever you’re trying to do -”

“Kravitz,” Taako says softly, taking Kravitz’s hand in both of his. and curling it around the coin. This time Kravitz doesn’t pull away. He stares at Taako, eyes piercing red, and Taako imagines that he’s seeing recognition in those eyes, happiness at seeing him again. Maybe, just maybe, love. Too much to hope for, of course, but that has never stopped him. What do the two of them have besides hope? “Just… listen.”

Kravitz doesn’t have a chance to answer before the coin crackles to life and his own voice - tinny, scratchy, but still undeniably his - sounds from within it. Kravitz’s eyes go wide, and despite himself, Taako’s heart leaps at the sound, familiar to him, brand new to Kravitz.

Your name is Kravitz MacAllister…

But this is not the beginning of their story.

Beginnings are a funny thing. Like threads in a knot, you can't quite tease out which one will unravel it all. You could say it began when two runaway elves cast their first spell, desperate for the warmth of fire on a cold, lonely night. Or years later when those same elves joined a mission to the stars and left behind a world that could never hope to contain them, or when a Light fell from the sky and brought with it enlightenment and destruction.

But you've heard that story already. Perhaps further back, on another cold night, when a goddess grasped a wayward soul in the palm of her hands and, for reasons she herself didn't yet understand, decided this one will have a second chance, for even a goddess is not exempt from Fate's spinning.

All threads of a vast tapestry, one small part of a whole. But at one point all of these threads tangle for the first time, so entwined that Fate herself cannot fix them no matter how she tugs. She’s rarely seen anything like it.

“Huh.” She takes a step back and ponders this a moment. That thread, just there, represents the one who will be, and has always been, and has yet to be her emissary (time is less linear, in the Plane of the Gods, especially for Fate). A silvery, rainbow hued thread, all her favorite colors. Wrapped around and around a thread of black - ah, yes, of course. She smiles. “Well! That should be interesting.”

She doesn't tie off that string. Not yet.