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don't feed it (it will come back)

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The world hits him with a scorching ray of sunlight and Taako rubs his eyes awake. He lifts his head off of the floor and squints. The light of what is probably the afternoon sun filters in through the window and Taako sees the familiar apartment. Magnus’ living room is littered with red solo cups from the party the night before but the man himself is nowhere to be found. He’s probably still asleep in his own bed.

“G’morning,” someone groans from the couch. It's Carey, Magnus’ friend from the gym.

“It’s uh,” Taako checks his phone that’s thankfully still in his pocket "twelve thirty in the afternoon so good afternoon to you too.”

“Is it really? Fuck, I’ve got to get going,” She starts grabbing her stuff and heading towards the door. “If Magnus wakes up before you leave, tell him I said thanks for the invite and letting me crash.”

Taako mumbles a ‘sure thing’ in response as she leaves, knowing that he won’t. After a steadying breath, he heads to the bathroom. He stares at himself in the mirror. His once artfully styled hair desperately needs a comb. His eyeliner has smudged and his lip gloss is mostly gone, the remains smeared a little on his chin. He pinches his cheeks and then his neck. Pulls it a little. His face is surely swollen from drinking and salty chips and laying weird on the hard floor. He’ll stick to water for the day and hopefully tomorrow he’ll look decent.

“Mags!” Taako shouts, after washing his face, stealing some of Julia’s makeup wipes, gathering his boots and his red bomber jacket “I’m leaving! I forgot my key so lock your door!” After hearing shuffling from the bedroom, Taako slips out of the apartment and into the world.

 

Taako takes a deep breath before stepping into work. The smell of cinnamon rolls fills the air and he sighs before looking at the bake case. The chocolate chip toffee cookies look good. He's glad whoever opened didn't burn them and put them out anyway like last time. He looks wistfully at the muffins but sugar is bad right now so he heads towards the espresso machine. Makes himself an americano, black, and gives Ren a lazy salute when she walks by.

"I see why shit was done correctly today," Taako says after taking a long sip. Ren chuckles.

"Just trying my best," she smiles.

"If the owner didn't insist on Greg staying, I'd have fired him already," Taako takes another sip, "But it is what it is." He sighs and they move on to their own tasks. Ren mans the counter while Taako works on a catering order in the back.

When it's time for his break he grabs another americano and a bottle of water. He tells Ren that after getting wasted last night, his stomach refuses solid food. He tells himself that he'll feel cleaner without all of the sugar and fat and garbage of his usual lunch.

When he leaves at nine he needs to take the bus back to Mag's to pick up his car. He'd felt little too fucked up to drive to work this morning. Magnus is walking out of his building as Taako is walking to his car. He waves.

"Hey, man!" Magnus grins, "You have a good time?"

"Yeah, despite your music. Next time, let me handle the aux, big guy," Taako grins back as Magnus rolls his eyes.

"You can't do karaoke to EDM, Taako," Despite himself, Taako laughs.

"Listen, I just came by to grab my car so you can go do whatever it is you were doing," Taako opens his car door.

"Grabbing snacks for me and Jules' movie night. Forgot the good dip." Taako is sometimes reminded of how Magnus and Julia are so sweet he wants to die about it.

"Sounds riveting, my man. I'll see y'all later, 'kay?" And Taako drives off.

 

The smile leaves his face once Magnus leaves his rearview. The tiredness from not enough sleep and too much partying sets in. He feels the rawness of being ‘on’ all day. These days, after dealing with customers at work he feels like a stripped wire or a scrape after a fall. Volatile, waiting for someone to touch him so he can scream. He tries several deep breaths. At a red light, he pinches his neck, his wrist, his cheek. He tries to ground himself, root himself in his body and finds that he cannot.

When Taako gets to his apartment his hands shake when he unlocks his door. He washes them when he moves into the kitchen. Taps his nails against the counter, and then his fist. Soon, there's an ache in his hand and a thudding in his ears as he bangs on the counter, rhythmically. There's no thought in his head he can grasp onto. It's all pressure and feeling and lights.

He grabs flour from the pantry and eggs from the fridge. Mixes them on the counter as he hums to himself tunelessly. When he starts to knead he starts to relax into the motion. Adds flour as needed and keeps kneading until the dough comes together. Keeps kneading a little after that, long enough that his chest relaxes and he can take deep breaths again. Of the thirty minutes he leaves his dough to rest, he spends fifteen weighing whether he should take a shot of the vodka he's got stashed in the freezer or not. He decides against it.

He divides up his dough and starts rolling it out, nice and thin. His arms actually start to get tired. He folds the sheets of dough over themselves and cuts out each individual noodle with a knife. He tries to keep them as uniform in size as he can by hand. Taako unfolds and inspects each noodle individually, feeling the stretch and thickness. He revels in the light feeling of the flour coating his hands and the texture of the dough. All this is three eggs, a few cups of flour, salt, and his own two hands.

He tosses the pasta into heavily salted water and pulls out a jar of decent premade pesto. He's currently out of pine nuts and doesn't have enough basil in the fridge but this will do for now. He coats his pasta, adds in some pasta water, sprinkles some parmesan, finds a good bowl.

Taako feels accomplished and settled when he finally eats. Taako's earned this. It's into the early hours of the morning when he finishes and he texts the work chat that he's sick and can these people trade shifts and he’s so sorry but he won't be in.

He puts the uncooked pasta in the freezer and washes the dishes and wipes down the counters. Gets into comfy pajamas. And sits at the edge of his bed. He's so close to this day being fucking over.

He stares at the medicine bottles on his nightstand. If he were to take them now he’d be knocked out until late afternoon and the thought of sleeping that long makes him sick. The thought of taking the pills, full stop, makes him sick. He can’t stop thinking about the chalky taste and the uncomfortable feeling of them sliding down his throat. The insidious thought seeps in that they’re poison. He doesn’t fucking know what they’re doing to his brain and according to many articles he’s read neither do the doctors, really. They’re all just guessing.

That guessing is gonna get him killed. He can feel it. He feels so much clearer off them, so much more alive and why would he ingest these chemicals that make him an idiot. For the comfort of others? No thanks. Taako takes care of himself first.

His foot is tapping. He’s rocking back and forth and holding his blanket in a death grip. Maybe he’ll take a shot or two to chill out. He’s got nowhere to be today.