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the skin i'm in

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“So don’t get me wrong, kid, I know I’m basically the best wizard ever. But I thought you were doing this magic lesson shit with Taako?”

They’d been working for maybe an hour on the spell Flaming Sphere, and Angus was distracted enough from his casting when Lup spoke that the spark he’d just managed to conjure fizzled out immediately. Admittedly, he hadn’t actually planned this far into the day. He’d been a little bit convinced that she wouldn’t show up, if she’d even agreed to come at all. Then, when she had, when he realized this was happening, he’d thrown himself into the lesson to try to distract himself from his nerves.

The World’s Greatest Detective was supposed to be good at revealing secrets. Apparently, that only applied to those belonging to other people. Not the ones he was keeping.

“Well? Spit it out.”

He took a breath. At least, he was pretty sure he’d taken a breath, though he wasn’t sure how there could be any room for him to breathe around the knot in his gut. Looking down at the floor made it easier to get the words past the lumpy, sick feeling.

“Okay, ma’am. Well. I just…I was hoping you could teach me a spell.”

“That’s kind of what I thought we were already doing.” He risked a glance up, and locked eyes for a moment with a frowning, furrow-browed Lup, before returning his gaze to the relative safety of the floor.

“Not… I mean, I appreciate you teaching me Flaming Sphere, but I could probably have asked Taako about that one. I was kind of hoping to ask you about something else?” The words fell out of his mouth in a tumbling rush, so fast that when he dared to sneak another peek, Lup looked more confused than before. No, the floor was definitely safer.

It took several moments before she responded, and the knot wormed its way higher in Angus’s belly when he heard her careful tone. “Oh…kay. What spell did you have in mind?”

Now that he’d started his confession, he couldn’t quite seem to stop the flow of words from pouring out, as much as, in the moment, he kind of wanted to. Maybe this was what happened to the criminals he caught, when he confronted them with the truth. But easy or not, it still seemed like too much, too big a request to put into words. And yet he was doing it anyways.

“It’s just that after that whole light-flashing story thing, and seeing everything that happened to all of you, and everything you are, I thought you would know, even if I wasn’t sure if Taako did, although I guess it would make sense if he does? And I’ve been wondering for a long time now, it was kind of why I started learning magic in the first place, because my grandfather couldn’t remember how everything was supposed to be but I knew that wouldn’t work forever, and if you don’t know that’s fine, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, and-”

“Kid. Angus. Breathe, okay?”

He was breathing. Wasn’t he? The tightness in his chest was just nerves. But she’d asked, so he took a shuddering breath.

“Okay, good, that’s good.” She sounded…worried? Why was she worried? “Now another one.”

There was silence for a minute or two after that, filled with Angus slowly realizing that no, he really hadn’t been breathing through the entirety of the stumbling speech that still hadn’t managed, for all its wordiness, to bring him around to the point.

“I was hoping,” he said after his lungs had stopped burning, the words sounding too loud after the silence, “that you could teach me how to look like myself. I mean, how to make my body look right.”

And then there was silence again.

It lasted longer this time, because Angus held out longer, staring at the floor because the floor would never tell him that he’s too young for this, and how does he really know, and everything else he’s dreading hearing. But curiosity always wins out over fear in the end, and when his grew too much to overcome, he glanced up to find Lup smiling.

“Well alright, my dude,” she said when she saw him glancing cautiously through his eyelashes. “Let’s get to work.”