Magnus is used to seeing Taako cry when he’s drunk, but not like this. This is sudden and loud and unintelligible. It’s been a long day of training, but Taako had seemed to be in a good mood earlier - he’d even been humming. But after downing a few in the Bureau’s tavern, he’s positively bawling into his cosmopolitan.
“Taako. Taako hey. Hey. Wh...what’s going on,” Magnus slurs, several drinks down himself. “What happened. Buddy.”
Taako is still shuddering with sobs. “Kr- I- Krav- he- it was…” Barely a word escapes his lips between hiccups and sobs. After a few tries, he gives up and slumps into his arms, facedown on the table. The sobbing, muffled by his sleeves, subsides after a moment.
Magnus takes a second to process, the alcohol slowing his brain function just enough for it to take 20 seconds to click. Then he gasps and both hands fly to his mouth. “Kravitz broke up with you??” His arms drop to his sides and he just stares at the ceiling for a second. “...Damn. We gotta fix that. We gotta… we gotta get you two back together.”
Merle climbs up his barstool to join Magnus and Taako at the table. He blinks slowly, and takes a moment to ask Magnus, “What’s going on?” His bathroom trip has left him smelling suspiciously like skunk, and his eyes aren’t quite focused on Magnus’s face.
Magnus claps a hand heavily onto Taako’s back. “Don’t worry. Taako I have a plan. I have the best plan, Taako. Merle you gotta help too. It is the best plan.” He takes a deep breath, in and out, before finishing the thought. “We gotta make a band.”
Merle laughs for just a little too long. “I play bass. Want me to play bass?”
“Hell yes. Absolutely yes. Play bass.” Magnus turns to Taako, who has begun to lightly snore into the table, and shakes his shoulder. “Taako. Taakoboy. Come on. It’s band time. What part are you gonna do?”
Taako sits up with a start and nods curtly, wiping the tears and snot from his face. “I’m playing guitar, don’t even trip.”
Magnus squints at Taako. “...Do you play guitar?”
“It can’t be that hard.”
He sighs. “How about I play guitar, which I actually know how to do, and you sing.”
“Hell fuckin’ yeah, my man.” Taako grabs a napkin and pen from the table and begins scribbling. He seems completely lucid, but either he’s writing in Goblin or his hands are mutinous when he’s drunk.
“Whatcha writing?” Merle asks, leaning slowly over the table until his face is directly over the napkin and Taako has to push him out of the way to continue his piece of abstract art.
“Band names.” Taako picks up the napkin and holds it up for Magnus and Merle to see.
Merle squints at it for a moment. “Does that say ‘Garyl’s Gonads’?”
“Taako. Those are not words,” Magnus slurs, pushing Taako’s hand back down to the table. “What’s that supposed to say?”
“Coupla options,” he says, smirking. “Tres Horny Boys, obviously. Merle, you weren’t far off, it says Garyl’s Guerillas. Let’s see… god, no, you’re right Magnus, I can’t read this. The last one was Cravats for Kravitz.”
Magnus’s face lights up with a grin. “That one. It’s perfect.”
“What? No, I know I had - ah, fuck it,” Taako mutters. “Sure. Cravats for Kravits.”
Merle’s grin widens slightly. “Talkin about your bone boy? Your boy toy? Your bone dog?”
Magnus squints at Merle for a moment, shakes his head, and turns back to Taako. “Okayokayokay, so. We have… we have a name. What are we gonna sing. We need a song.”
“I know Bridge over Troubled Water,” Merle says. “Or Stairway to Heaven.”
“Are those… are those the only options?” Magnus asks, befuddled. “Those are two very different songs.”
Merle shrugs. “You forget things, at my age.”
Nodding thoughtfully, Magnus tried to take another drink from his tankard, but realized it was empty. He set it down with a shrug and a sniff. “We can workshop it. D’you know the songs, Taako?”
Taako waves his hand dismissively and takes another gulp of his cocktail. “Nah, dude, we don’t need lyrics.”
Magnus has been doing a lot of squinting. “...What.”
“Oh, an instrumental!” Merle says happily. “I can do a mean solo-”
“No, no, no,” Taako says, reaching over to pat the others on the shoulder. He misses both dramatically, putting one hand on Merle’s face and the other on Magnus’s chest. “Don’t worry your lovely little heads. Imma freestyle it.”
Magnus immediately breaks into a wide grin. “YEAH!”
Merle shrugs Taako’s hand off, looking a little put out. “Well, okay, if you don’t need a solo…”
Taako puts his hand right back on Merle’s face, but this time it’s intentional. “Dude, every freestyle rap needs a killer bass solo, am I right?”
With that (and another shift to remove Taako’s hand from his face once again), Merle’s smile is back. “Heeey, Magnus, let’s go get our guitars! Jam a little bit before we go up.”
Taako gives them a thumbs-up and a smirk. “See you in a bit, boys. Taako’s good in here, with the booze.”
As they walk away, Magnus nudges Merle and pulls from his pocket a stone of farspeech.
“Who you gonna call?” Merle says, puzzled.
Magnus grins wider and pulls out a second stone. “Nat 20 on the stealth check, man.” He then taps the second stone and talks into it. “Heeeey. Kravitz. Krav. Hey. It’s Magnus.”
After a moment, a crackle comes along the line, and then a response. “Hello, Magnus. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you.”
“Yeah hey man it’s about Taako,” is what Magnus means to say, but all his words blend together, coming out more like “Yeaheymanizaboutaako.”
“I… Taako? What do you-”
“Come to the moon!” Merle says, bringing Magnus’s arm down so he can talk into the stone. “Meet us on the moon. Then you’ll see.”
“Don’t worry, Krav, it’s gonna be great,” Magnus says, talking over any protestations Krav is spluttering out. “We’ll see you in the moon bar in like an hour.” Then he hangs up, confident that his message has been clearly communicated. He and Merle continue to the elevator, drunkenly and happily chattering about music.
Magnus’s message has not been clearly communicated. Kravitz is sitting in confused silence at his desk, wondering what the hell Taako’s gotten himself into this time. They’d seen each other just last night, and things had seemed fine. What was going on? It doesn’t seem from the way Magnus had been talking that they were in danger, but Kravitz bites his lip with slight worry anyway. He sighs and checks his pocketwatch, deciding he has time to get through some more paperwork before heading to the Bureau.
Taako, meanwhile, drinks some more. It’s probably not a good idea, but he does anyway, and the bartender hasn’t cut him off yet. He’s stirring his latest order with the decorative umbrella that came with it as he talks to the person he’s certain is in charge of karaoke that night. It turns out he’s wrong about the person in charge, but the fourth time he gets it right.
“Listen, Avi, it’s the best idea. Just put us on the list.”
Avi shrugs with a carefree smile. “Okay, sure. You and the other Reclaimers, right? What are you going to sing?”
“Whatever the fuck we want, my man,” Taako says. He goes to lean into the wall, but misjudges the distance and slams his shoulder into the wall about a foot lower than he expects. His colorful drink sloshes precariously in the glass. “We’ll be ready on time, don’t worry.”
Avi glances at Taako’s drink. “How many of those have you had?”
“These?” Taako looks down. “Well, I don’t remember any more than this one.”
When Magnus and Merle waltz back into the cafeteria, they’re each carrying an instrument case. Merle’s skunk smell has been renewed and his smile is wide and sleepy. Magnus is holding his Tankard of Potent Drink tightly in his free hand, walking with an exaggerated sway. Taako is sitting back at the bar, slightly unconscious. He comes awake with a start when Magnus sets his guitar next to Taako’s chair and claps a hand on his shoulder. “Wake up, buddy! Did ya get us signed up?”
“We are good to go, my man,” Taako says, a lazy smile spreading on his face as his eyelids droop. “Second on the list. We’ll be up in about half an hour.”
“Sweet!” Magnus calls the bartender over to refill his tankard. “Til then, I’mma get blasted.”
The boys whittle away the time by drinking, talking, and laughing, til the first performers get on stage. Surprising no one, it’s Johann, and surprising no one, he performs a soulful rendition of Bittersweet Symphony. The applause afterward is not as enthusiastic as it could’ve been, given he’s done this for three weeks straight.
While Johann is bowing, Taako turns to Magnus with an air of urgency. “Water, my man. I need a drink of water, stat.”
Magnus is startled, but shrugs, and hands his mug to the bartender. “Water, please.” The mug is quickly filled and the three boys rush up to the stage. Taako shouts “We are Cravats for Kravitz and we’re ready to rock your asses!” Then he downs the mugful of water as Merle launches into a (pretty killer) bass solo.
Everything in Taako’s world is simultaneously completely clear, mortifying, and baffling. He blinks at the crowd in the cafeteria and looks with panic back to Merle and Magnus, who are both grinning wildly. Taako looks down at his hand, still holding Magnus’s mug. Magnus’s Tankard of Potent Drink.
Magnus’s damn sober-you-instantly-if-you-drink-water-from-it Tankard of Potent Drink.
Taako leans away from the mic and hisses back toward Magnus. “Help me out, pal, what the hell are we doing up here?”
Magnus laughs. “We’re getting you and Krav back together!”
Taako squints at that, confused. “We didn’t-”
“Dude, you should probably start singing!”
The Tankard doesn’t seem to stave off hangovers. Either that, or this is the worst possible situation. “Yeah, man, what are the lyrics??? ”
Magnus’s grin falters at that. “You’re gonna freestyle, remember?”
“COOL COOL.” Taako turns back to the crowd and his eyes land on a dark man, impeccably dressed and looking incredibly uncomfortable. Kravitz. Fuck. He racks his brain, searching for something, anything to sing, anything to say, just anything . It’s the first thing that comes to mind.
“SOMEBODY ONCE TOLD ME-” He can see the confusion in everyone’s eyes, but it’s too late. He just has to lean into it now. “THE WORLD WAS GONNA ROLL ME-” Kravitz’s face is in his hands. Killian is cackling and Carey has never made that expression before. It’s too late to fix it. “I AIN’T THE SHARPEST TOOL IN THE SHED…” He continues blurting out the lyrics, line by line, unable to stop. God, does he want to stop. At the end of the final chorus, Merle launches into another bass solo, finishing off with a high note that harmonizes with Magnus’s final chord. Those two really have their shit together. Somehow.
After the final chord rings out, there’s silence. The audience is in shock. Magnus and Merle are letting the notes settle. Taako just wants to get off the stage and never think about this again.
Out of the silence comes a single pair of hands, clapping excitably. It’s Angus, standing on his chair with a broad grin. To Taako’s utter surprise, more people join in. Killian pounds the table with a guffaw, while Carey claps slowly, tears in her eyes as if her massive grimace is actually hurting her face. Avi’s clap is polite, but pleasant nonetheless. The applause gets louder as Magnus and Merle pack up their guitars and Taako hurries himself off the stage. He’s confronted by the boy detective as soon as he’s past the steps.
“That was really funny, sir! That was a great goof!” He’s starry-eyed, still grinning as he bounces on his heels in front of the wizard. “The chord progression was very different from the original rendition of the song, but you really got us! Nobody expected that, Taako, no sir!”
“Least of all me,” Taako mutters. Then he gives Angus a lopsided smile. “Thanks, kiddo.”
“Yep, you really got us,” a deep voice says over Taako’s shoulder.
Taako whirls around to face the man. “Heeey Krav, what are you doing here?”
“Thought I’d ask you that. But I guess I should just be asking Magnus and Merle.”
Taako looks over at his impromptu bandmates. Merle is pointing and yelling into empty space. “I’m not dense, you stupid - you’re dense , you goddamn hologram horse!”
“Merle. Merle, man, no. Merle, Garyl’s not even-” Magnus is trying in vain to keep Merle out of his hallucinated argument. “Merle, there is no horse-”
Taako turns back to Kravitz. “You might have a little bit of trouble getting a useful answer.”
Kravitz chuckles. “Well, maybe you’ll know the answer to this one.” He places his hand on Taako’s arm. “What do I have to do to never have you three assault my ears like that again?”
Taako gives Kravitz a small smile. “...Maybe just what you did last night, but like. Again?”
“I didn’t think you’d actually put a condition on it,” Kravitz says with a smirk. “But if that’s my only way out, then…” He takes Taako’s hand in his own and bows slightly as he presses a kiss to it. The third performing group has taken the stage, and they start a slow ballad. “May I have this dance, Taako?”
Taako’s face and ears warm, and he grins. Too fucking cute. He loops his long arms around Kravitz’s neck as his hips begins to sway. “I was gonna wreck this shitty band idea anyway, but this def sweetens the pot, my dude.”
Magnus lets out a whoop in the background. “It worked!”
Taako glances over at him, then back to Kravitz. “Can you believe these clowns? For some reason, they thought we broke up.”
“Oh? What happened?” Kravitz’s eyebrows furrow, and however slight it may be, there’s genuine worry in his eyes.
“Well, I may have gotten very drunk earlier, and you know how I sometimes get when I’m very drunk,” Taako says. “I may have thought about you asking me to dance like this last night, and I may have started crying, and Magnus definitely misunderstood.” The elf’s blush deepens.
Kravitz’s laugh is deep and powerful, and Taako’s stomach flutters every time he hears it. “Well, I’m glad it was a misunderstanding. I’d hate to have upset you.”`
Taako’s about to respond to that, but he’s distracted when Merle shoves past the two of them, yelling about making hologram glue. He’s followed in quick succession by Magnus, who accidentally trips Taako as he’s running past. Taako falls backward, but is caught by Kravitz, and it may as well have just been a dip.
Taako exhales. “Whaddaya say we move this dance to a more private location?”
Kravitz pulls Taako back to his feet. “As long as you three never sing again, I’ll dance with you anywhere you want.”