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First Date

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Taako lightly chewed on a manicured nail (hot pink, natch) at the great Chug ‘N’ Squeeze, wondering when Kravitz was going to get here. The reaper was the one who wanted to talk, and it was getting close to six o’clock already. He wasn’t late or anything, but the elf liked a man who can be early, as opposed to his usual style of being fashionably late. He felt a flash of annoyance at himself; getting excited over meeting someone, even if they were a devastatingly handsome man- 

And, end that train of thought. Finally, finally , Kravitz had stepped through the door and hung up his raven-feathered cloak. He slowly made his way over to the table, where Taako had struck a flirtatious pose - head in the palms of his hands as he leaned forward on the table, trying to show off with a flutter of eyelashes. Kravitz just made a face at him as he sat down. Not disgusted, no, more uncomfortable. 

“Hello... Taako,” he spoke, rigid in his seat. Even his tone screamed nervousness, despite the awful cockney accent that was clearly fake. 

“Hey, Bones,” Taako smiled, all teeth, as he began to work on his pottery piece. It didn’t reach his eyes. 

“Well, Taako, this is,” Kravitz began, “… this is, uh, an unconventional place to have an argument about the fate of an entire, well, small community, but I do like wine, so-” He cut himself off, sighing, then continued on in an entirely different and real accent. “I’m sorry, do you mind if I drop the accent? It’s really hard to keep it up, and when I’m not on the job it feels weird doing it. Is that okay?” 

“Oh sure,” Taako chuckled, then dropped his voice like ninety octaves. “S’long as I can drop my accent, too.” 

Kravitz laughed, giving Taako a genuine smile. “Funny.”
“I try,” Taako smirked, now. Kravitz started working on his own piece of pottery. 

“May I ask why you picked a place like.. This, to finish our conversation instead of just finishing it in your dorm?” 

“Well…,” Taako makes his bowl a little wider, dissatisfied with its appearance. “I thought things might getta little weird, ironically, but maybe this wasn’t a great choice. Also, ch’boy doesn’t exactly wanna be alone with the dude who tried to kill me and my friends a couple months ago, you get me?”

“Oh I’m- Don’t worry, I’m not here to collect a contract on you guys, or on the people of Refuge. None of you have bounties on your heads.” Kravitz paused, seeming to think. “I just- rather, I just want to know what makes you and your friends so special . I’ve never, uh, seen anyone else do the things you all do on a daily basis.” 

Taako thinks about what his companion is saying, mulling over it as he takes a swig of wine. Eugh, or rather, key lime gogurt. It still makes him buzzed as he drains the glass, but that same key lime taste is there as it is with every liquid. (There’s a reason he doesn’t eat soup.) 

“Hmm. Look at what I’m sculpting here,” he eventually says, evening out the bottom of his bowl. 

“What are you sculpting?” Kravitz asks, raising an eyebrow. 

“It’s a bowl.”

The reaper makes a face at that. “Yes, I can see. I, uh, do want to-”

He was cut off as one of the pottery instructors came by, scowling at Taako. “Hey, it’s vase day! It’s Cab and Vase! No bowls!” he barks.

“Oh, of course, let me reshape it,” Taako smiled at the burly instructor, the face of picturesque innocence as he slowly made the vase into a bowl. However, the minute the man turned away, his smile dropped into an annoyed scowl as he reshaped his piece back into a bowl. Fuck that guy, he feels like making a bowl , not a vase. Kravitz let out a chuckle, mumbling some comment about liking Taako’s “renegade spirit.”

Taako clears his throat, letting a relaxed smile creep on his face. “Anyway, before we were rudely interrupted, look at the middle of the bowl, where it’s all flat, you know? This is, uh, where all the regular Joe Pastas or whatever are- they’re just all the everyday, ordinary people. They are also the only part that people who maintain the status quo and shit - like you, homie - should be worried about.” 

Taako frowns at his bowl, making the sides a little bit taller now. That’s better. He continues on, “So long you keep all of them under control, and the herd thin in that part, then everything will continue being peachy.” The elven man pauses, trying to find his words. “There’s.. There’s always gonna be edge cases, is what I’m saying. There’s always gonna be people on the fringe that don’t necessarily adhere to whatever rules that are set. That’s everywhere in the universe, on every single plane.” 

Kravitz sits in thought, for a few moments as he seemed to think Taako’s words over. He was making a very shoddy-looking vase. “I mean.. You explained it to me last time we talked, sort of, what you all are doing here, and it sounds very- it sounds important, but the fact I’ve visited you as much as I have means this line of work is just preposterously dangerous. So, why are you doing this Taako? Why aren’t you in a safer career?” 

Taako’s smile became a little more forced. He didn’t look Kravitz in the eye anymore. 

“I’m afraid no one else would have me.”

Kravitz looked taken aback, by all accounts. He didn’t seem to have expected honesty from the elf, not about this. “Oh, I- I didn’t expect you to- I’m sorry, Taako, I-”

Taako laughs, a high pitched, strangled noise. “Listen, if I can’t be honest at the Chug ‘N’ Squeeze then frankly, my man, I don’t know where I can. As- as far as anyone else is concerned, my days of a celebrity chef are over, I can’t put any of the cool shit we do on future resumes, so like, what am I supposed to do?”

Kravitz nodded like he understood. “Yes, I can relate, I suppose. I.. never thought ah, during my life I would end up working a job as a bounty hunter for the Raven Queen.” Kravitz paused, but continues after a few seconds with a soft smile. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be that, of course.”

Taako let his eyelids droop, watching the reaper trying to reshape his vase to make it less sloppy. “Who does?” he murmurs.

“No, ah, I wanted to be a conductor, but…,” Kravitz shrugged, “unfortunately, you know, life finds a way. Or death, I guess, the goddess of death.”

“In this case, specifically, yeah death,” Taako mused.

“I- you know, Taako, I really appreciate you being so open and honest with me,” Kravitz spoke again after a few minutes of silence. “Though, to help sell my case to the Raven Queen, might I ask how much more death I can expect from you and your friends.”

“Well, there’s definitely going to be some,” Taako remarks, earning an eye roll from Kravitz, though the reaper was still smiling. “Though the thing at Refuge was definitely an outlier, I don’t plan to die that many times again. It- it sucked. So that, uh, was probably- listen, here’s what I’m gonna say.” 

Taako chews on his lip, purposely avoiding meeting Kravitz’s expectant stare. He scooted his chair closer suddenly, reaching forward to clasp the reaper’s hands in his own, helping him shape the vase.  What he didn’t expect however was how cold the man’s hands were - it was almost like clutching ice. The elf fought back a shiver, slowly guiding Kravitz’s hands. He didn’t want to see the other’s expression. 

“Oh boy. Oh, boy howdy, that is a clammy one,” Taako announced, his eyes comically wide. “Anyway, listen. If we can overlook that unpleasantness, I think you’re going to find a very acceptable level of death in the days and weeks ahead. That’s what I’m going to say to you - a very normal, sort of corporeal, uh, just a usual amount of death.”

Kravitz chuckles and tells Taako that he’ll close the boys’ and Refuge’s case and after that, the elf honestly had a great time. He and the reaper cracked jokes and drank wine while they made their pottery pieces. Taako’s bowl was amazing, natch. Regardless, by the end of the night as Kravitz held the door open for Taako as they left, the two men were both a little tipsy and delighted with the fantastic meeting. Kravitz opens his mouth, hesitating, but asks a question. 

“Taako- if I may know, ah, was this date for business, or pleasure?”

“Well, my man, it- it’s kind of a bit of both?” Taako giggled, breathless twirling the umbrastaff in his hands. “I- I uh, I for sure don’t want to be dragged to hell or whatever it is you do. Stored in the ghost house with Caspar and the lot. Don’t, um, don’t wanna do that. In- in the mirror, if I remember?” A laugh suddenly rips out of Taako’s throat, involuntary and strained. His voice was clearly nervous, starting to ramble. “I am not interested in that. But, uh also! I love your style. Not crazy about the sort of cold, clamminess of the skin but, yeah, um-”

The elf stops suddenly, his throat seeming to close up. After a minute, he finally blabbers, “You know. It’s- It’s been a while. Out here.” 

As Taako speaks that last sentence, he watches with a sort of morbid fascination as Kravitz takes a step backward, scythe materializing in his hand and black cloak unfurling over him as his skin almost melts off, revealing muscles and tendons, then bone as those disappear too. 

“Oh. Love this,” Taako mumbled, eyebrows raised. 

“I-” Kravitz’s bony jaw makes a clicking sound, his gaze seeming to survey the area around them. “There’s, there’s something here. There’s something here, Taako, it’s-”

“Oh, yeah, I- I feel it too,” Taako interjects, trying to make a joke but his heart pounding with anxiety.

“No, not- not this, there’s something here, I could feel it in the Miller’s lab too-” Kravitz seems panicked . It was hard to tell, as his face was only a skull, but the tone of his voice and his body language was unnerved and agitated. “It’s dead, and- and it’s powerful and extremely close, Taako, I-” 

Kravitz freezes suddenly, then turns to face Taako. The elf couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated, with the reaper leering at him. The umbrastaff’s handle was getting warmer. 

“Are you harboring a dark spirit, Taako?” He demanded. “Do you have suspicions that you might be some sort of vessel?”

Taako swallows back the bile crawling up his throat. “Uh, maybe, I mean it’s been like a few years…,” he mutters. The umbrastaff kept growing hotter. “Was.. was that a thing for a while? I mean, I eat old dead dudes with my umbrella, is- is that a possibility, maybe?”

Kravitz backs off, his jaw making another clicking noise as the tension rose. “No, I- I don’t think it’s that.”

The reaper turned, now, his back to Taako. At that moment, the second Kravitz was no longer facing Taako, the umbrastaff began raising itself. Like it was being controlled by someone that wasn’t the elf. It almost looked like it was charging up a spell . Taako, panicking, quickly raises it skyward (the umbrastaff fighting the whole time) as it launches a flare of fire up into the sky. Kravitz whips around, the red spots in his eye sockets glowing bright. 

“What was that?!” Kravitz shouted. 

“Uh- I- the umbrastaff’s tryna kill you man,” Taako responded, his voice a touch shaky. “It’s not me.”

“... What?”

“The umbrastaff acted on it’s own.”

“I don’t understand, that’s not- can I see it?” Kravitz asked.

Taako shrugs, handing the umbrastaff to the reaper. (for some reason, that action made his heart feel a little hollower than before.) “Yeah, sure.” 

Kravitz looks the item over, skeletal hands brushing over it’s surface. “This feeling, it isn’t- it’s not like a cursed item. Maybe your umbrella is just cursed, but this is- it’s like a lich or something, something big, big and powerful. You’re… you’re not a lich, are you Taako?”

“Not to my knowledge, no,” Taako shakes his head as he takes the umbrastaff back. (Having it back makes him feel better. Just a little bit.)

“Well- no, you’re not, I could tell if you were.” Kravitz sighs, going quiet. “I- I’ll tell you what, I’ve had a really lovely evening, Taako, um- I need to go think about this.”

Kravitz raised his scythe and slashed a a hole through the air, opening a rift to the astral plane. Just before he steps through, the reaper turns to face him again. 

“Just before I go, I really have had a lovely evening. Do you.. think I’ll be hearing from you again?” 

Hearing the hopefulness in Kravitz’s voice makes Taako’s ears perk up, and his next words are said with no hesitance. “Oh, yeah! Yeah, I mean, so long as I don’t, you know… die… again.”

“Well, even so… We have ways of dealing with that,” Kravitz chuckles. 

“Then yeah, that’s pretty much the best excuse I’ll ever have so-” Taako laughs, this time finally genuine and happy. “I think you’ll be seeing me again, for sure.”

Kravitz steps through the portal, his scythe held at his side. “Well, if that’s the case, then hopefully not too soon.” He clears his throat. “Goodbye, Taako.”

Taako waves, though he hopes he doesn’t look too enthusiastic. “Adios!” 

And then the rift closes.