#taz balance Tumblr posts

  • phenomenal-eggplant
    20.01.2022 - 2 hours ago

    Every TAZ Live Show

    Griffin: You find yourselves in a--

    Justin: Where Is My Husband.

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  • balance-and-bonds
    20.01.2022 - 10 hours ago

    Summary:

    “What the… what are you all doing? We have work to do!” It’s a justified reaction, Lucretia thinks, to finding your entire crew literally lazing about on deck not an hour into this new cycle. “This one's on me,” Taako says. “It’s a new trend I like to call: taking a fucking break.”
    Cycle Nintey-Five. Everyone’s maybe not doing so good and could use a little warmth.

    Read on Ao3 or below...

    “Well,” Lup says, materializing on the Starblaster with the rest of them. “That one sucked.”

    There isn’t time for anything else as Barry rushes over, scooping her up and causing a small shriek of laughter. She had been gone for months, as had Merle, and at the very end, even Davenport.

    Lucretia glances around out of long habit, noting everyone in their designated spot. Merle back after another Parlay, Magnus again looking hale and whole, no longer with an arm in a sling from an incident with local marauders. Taako has that old familiar presence that had been missing through the long months without his twin, the dark bags under his eyes are gone, his skin no longer ashen. Barry, too, is less pallid and sickly looking after suffering a long bout with a respiratory disease the past few months, but had been strong enough to fly the ship on the final day.

    “Cycle Ninety-Five, everyone,” Davenport says from the helm, quickly checking over the navigational instruments and setting their course. He doesn't look particularly fazed after being struck dead during a last-ditch effort to get the Light. His voice, though, betrays his exhaustion. “Good work getting out of there.”

    Merle is already striding over to him, clapping a hand to his shoulder. “Made it through another one!”

    “Made it through is right,” Taako says, but even he’s smiling as Lup and Barry split apart and she throws herself at him.

    “Missed ya, broseph,” she says, holding tight.

    “No you didn’t,” he replies, holding back just as tight. “Have a nice nap?” After so many years their losses had become easier, but it didn’t stop them from hurting, nor from missing each other like hell.

    “Hope this one’s better than the last,” Magnus says, already moving towards the front besides Merle and Davenport at the console. The others join soon after, except for one.

    Lucretia stays back. She had smiled at first, for their sake, but it’s forced and anyway no one notices her. The flimsy mask slips off and she moves to the window’s edge, laying a hand on the wall to steady herself.

    “This one looks promising,” Davenport says, tilting the ship in a slow circling curve so the world comes more into view.

    It must be already past midday, so startling bright Lucretia has to squint and lay a hand over her brow to see. The world below is iridescent, full of blue-green forests and rich red stone, with rolling hills, winding rivers, and a distant turquoise sea on the horizon. It’s a welcome sight. After landing on the last cycle there had been no sight of the sun, perpetually cold and damp with gray seas and heavy gray skies choked with ash. The people there had a similar gray look and feel, as rugged as the terrain. Some had been hospitable and helpful but many others had been warlike and wary. Still, it was a shame to have not found the Light. But they had escaped once more. As always with a new cycle, there’s work to be done.

    For now, though, Lucretia slips away and no one notices. They should be able to enjoy being together again without her sullen attitude. Out on deck, going along the helm and adjacent greenhouse, past the squat stern of the ship and around to the other side, there’s a sturdy wooden bench bolted down tight, courtesy of Magnus. There, Lucretia sits, staring blankly out, seeing little more than blue sky and distant purple-gray stormclouds.

    The ship stops it’s circling and steadies out, sailing on straight and steady. Her head and body is in the shade at this angle, but at least there's sunlight on this plane, thank the gods. For a time she sits with her hands folded over her stomach, feeling it rise and fall as she sifts through her emotions.

    “I made it,” she whispers, and then shivers, pulling her red robe closer, the chill of the previous world clinging like a fog. At least now she doesn’t have to tell the others. It doesn’t matter anymore.

    The last cycle, Lucretia had tried to kill herself.

    She survived, though. It’s good, of course. Distantly, she realizes it’s good. But she’s still so damn tired. Even if this new world is better than the previous one—which was remarkably bad—it doesn’t stop the looming danger over their heads. Nothing has really changed. She’s already so fucking done, and now she has to do it all over again. It was easier before when she hadn’t felt so alone. But more recently there’s been a slow acting poison in her veins that she’s finding harder and harder to struggle against, a voice that tells her she’s not needed. Not really. She’s not wanted, even by those who she calls her family.

    So what’s the fucking point?

    She breathes that in and feels it sit hot in her chest, and then tells herself to not be stupid. Things are fine; she needs to stop being so dramatic. They made it. They’re all back and safe. She should go try and help before she gets in trouble for shirking her duties. She just needs a minute. A few minutes. They won’t miss her, anyway.

    She dips her head lower, trying to fight against that thought. It’s been harder, though, ever since the end of Cycle Ninety-Two when they had decided on a grand plan to beat out the Hunger, with her own plan so thoroughly dismissed. It's like they hadn’t even listened, or like she’s still seen as a child, a silly little girl. But she should be used to that.

    Her job is the chronicler. All she’s meant to do is be quiet, stay on the sidelines, and record the stories of those who actually matter. Not her. Of course they wouldn’t listen to her. Why should they care what she thinks?

    No. No, of course they care. She knows that. After so many years she shouldn’t be questioning this, she can’t afford to be so weak hearted. Her eyes shut tight as she wishes she could scratch out these feelings, tear them out of her head like a page of her journals. New cycle, new body, but these thoughts cling on, stubborn as a tick.

    Well, she’ll just need to keep a tighter lid on herself. With everything else going on, with so much at stake, there’s no need to bother the others with her issues. She’s gotten better at being self-sufficient after Sixty-Five, or, perhaps, a bit worse. But she can handle this. She can pretend for their sake, anyway. They’re probably together now; she should join them, just not yet. They won’t notice if she’s gone a bit longer.

    “Wondering where you ran off to,” Taako says from off to her right, coming from the stern as she had. It’s easier to go undetected that way, out of sight of the helm's broad windows. Her hands tighten in her lap.

    “Just needed some quiet.” She had assumed he’d be spending the new day with Lup and the others, but it’s not surprising he’d want to check on her. Taako sits beside her, slouching low and letting his long legs stretch out across the wooden deck, his feet in the sun.

    “How ya doing?” he asks.

    “Fine.” She’s mindful enough that being silent is not a comforting response, nor does she want to worry him with the truth. Not anymore. New cycle and all that.

    He’s quiet, and so is she.

    She needs to be careful. He alone knows what she did last cycle. It was he who had pulled her from that oil-slick ocean, freezing and retching, and had stayed with her on that rocky shore as she broke down. He had listened to her. He hadn’t even shouted that much, which she appreciated. Then he had comforted her and half-carried her back to the silver ship, had gotten her warm food and into a soft bed, and stayed with her even then. When the others arrived back from their expedition, he kept her secret. In fact, they never openly talked about it after that day, but he was gentler with her, inviting her to spend time with him in the kitchen, and keeping her company during the days and restless nights.

    He had been wonderfully kind. Still is, of course. But he doesn’t need to do that anymore. It’d be better to let him think it had been a momentary weakness and that she’s not still that pathetic. He’s got his sister back and the rest of them. He’s done enough.

    “I’ll be fine,” she tells him, sitting up straighter and actually sounding like it. “You should go be with the others. I’ll be there shortly.”

    “Uh huh.” He doesn’t move, though, other than idly twist his heel. Then his foot stops mid-twist. Without a word he yanks off his boots and socks before kicking his bare feet into the sun. Dammit. So he’s apparently not leaving anytime soon. She slouches down beside him, feeling like she’s being babysat.

    At least the others have no reason to worry about her. Lucretia glances back at the familiar ship, considering that. “You didn’t tell them, right?”

    “Nuh,” he says with a faint shrug. “You asked me not to. I can respect that.”

    She nods, settling back again. “Thank you.” It wouldn’t matter anyway, when their deaths are fleeting. Why should anyone care if she had killed herself, or tried to? Still, she doesn’t want them to know. She can’t bear that kind of pity.

    “Ya made it through, though,” Taako says with an attempt at optimism. “Survived another one.”

    “Yeah. And what was the fucking point?” The bitter words slip out before she can stop herself. She shuts her eyes, because she shouldn’t be doing this. “No. Sorry. I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—“

    “Chill, Luce,” Taako says in a low voice. “Don’t do that. It’s okay.”

    She’s careful to breathe evenly, her eyes burning hot, and she doesn’t want to cry right now.

    “I know I made it. That’s a good thing. And it’s a new cycle, a new chance, I know all of that. But nothing’s really changed. I… don’t want to keep doing this. I can’t.”

    “You gotta keep hanging in there.” He doesn’t look at her, his eyes distant. “We all are. And maybe it’ll keep sucking for a bit, but you’re here. We gotta keep trying.”

    “I guess,” she says for lack of anything else. That alone isn’t reassuring. She’s not sure if she wants to be here, nor anywhere. How much longer does she have to keep going? Although of course they now have an answer to that question. She appreciates he doesn’t mention that there's a plan to defeat the Hunger at last, just not her own. That place in her heart is still soft and purple bruised.

    “At least that last cycle is over,” Taako says in a more normal voice, not like he’s tip-toeing around her. “That’s gotta be in the top five worst ones. Cha’boy’s missed the sun. I can’t pull off the vampire look, and those vitamin things of Merle’s were gross. And that fucking plague?”

    “That fucking plague,” Lucretia says in agreement.

    “Fucking thing kept coming back, that was just unnecessary. Magnus kept me up for weeks with that cough of his.”

    “I’m sure that was rough on you,” she says, smiling despite herself. Taako’s easy to be with.

    “It was! Big guy kept coughing on everything, can’t believe I didn’t keel over from that alone. Then that tsunami hit, and those firestorms. Oh man, and the people? Don’t get me started on those assholes. Yeah, mark it down in your records, Luce. Ninety-four: shitty as hell.”

    “And the one before that,” Lucretia says, easing a little with the familiarity. It doesn’t feel so much like letting down her walls as peeking over them. “Awful.”

    “Fuck yeah, that one super sucked!”

    “I’ll mark that down, too.”

    “Good. This year’s gotta be better than those.” He pauses before rapping his knuckles on the wooden bench beneath them.

    “Maybe,” she says. For a moment the hope is almost catching, and then it fizzles out once more. “But maybe it doesn’t matter.”

    He lets out a long breath at that.

    “Sorry,” she says quickly, because she’s really not trying to make him leave. She doesn’t want to push him away. “Y-you’re right, maybe this one will…” But he waves a hand to quiet her and she lets the false words die, wishing she could feel better. At least he doesn’t leave.

    After a moment he stretches his arms high overhead, a long cat-like motion with even his toes flexing ahead. She watches, bemused, as he then slips down off the bench, almost gelatinous, and sprawls out flat on the deck of the ship. He sits up again a second later, only to slip his arms from the sleeves of his IPRE jacket and yank off his woolen sweater, mussing up his braid and bangs as it comes over his head. When he lays down again, it’s only in shirt sleeves. He sighs with evident satisfaction.

    “Join me, Luce,” he says, not opening his eyes against the glare. His skin and hair and clothing take on a golden edge in the light of this world’s sky. A minor deity, she muses. Narcissus, perhaps. Or, more kindly, Apollo, that twin god of beautiful and refined things, of truth and of sunlight.

    Lucretia hesitates and then follows his lead, pulling off her robe, then her light jacket, and then her other long sleeve shirt—she always ran cold as her mother used to say—setting them on the bench and remaining in a white tank top. Tentatively she kneels down as Taako moves his left arm up into a crook for her head to rest. The wooden beams are still cool, the chill seeping through the jacket laid out beneath them, but the sun here is warm and the sky above nearly cloudless and the color of a bluebird's wing. She shifts closer to him, a warm presence, and she breathes.

    It’s… nice. It’s wonderfully warm and she soaks it in, a great relief after the last world’s frequent storms of sleet and hail and freezing rain. The sun beats down, not too strong that it’s unbearable, but pleasantly so, raising gooseflesh on her bare arms as it reddens her eyelids. The dark thoughts are still there like shadows. But, like shadows, they’re chased away by the light and it’s not just that of the sun.

    Fuck, she might have needed this.

    “We’re gonna get through this shit,” Taako murmurs, sounding half asleep. “And we’re doing it together, don’t forget.”

    “Yeah,” she whispers, because she had forgotten. “I know.”

    “It’d have been an asshole move if you left me alone with Magnus and Cap,” he says. It’s joking but doesn’t quite land.

    “You would have been fine, we both know that,” she replies quietly, hoping it will come off as reassuring. He makes a little noise in his throat. Without looking she knows that he’s frowning.

    “We’d have missed you. We always do.” His head turns a bit, and she tilts her chin up to meet his soft gaze. “We’re better with you here.”

    She lowers her eyes, not wanting to argue but also not sure if she believes him. Ever since Ninety-Two she’s felt more and more out of place. After all, she was the only dissent. It was her idea that was so thoroughly rejected. Wouldn’t it be better for them to not have her there? Not like they have much choice. Well, unless she makes the decision for them and cuts her cycle short. She would do it for them. Would they be happier that way?

    It’s a chilling, miserable thought and she pushes it down. Perhaps she’s that obvious, or he’s just that good at reading her, because his arm tightens around her.

    “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re here,” he whispers. He sounds so sincere. It makes her want to believe him, clutching at that slender hope. She nods, pressing her lips tight.

    “Cause of you,” she manages to say. “Thank you. Really, Taako.”

    She loves him, all of them, and she can’t forget that in her self-pity. It’s easier, just a little, to want to keep going. For him. For them.

    “Course,” he says, his voice high and pleased before then dipping low. “And, l-listen, I get how hard it is, and it fucking sucks, but you’re still here. We both are. So… I’m proud of ya, Luce.”

    Her eyes jump open at that, and the bright blue sky is suddenly a watery haze that she has to blink away. She holds onto those words, pressing them like a flower between pages, tucked away safe. It’s strange, being told she might have done something good. Despite it all, he’s still here, he cares, and that’s something, at least. Perhaps that’s what she needs, now: something to hold onto.

    But she’s reminded that Taako does understand her, all too well. It’s hard for him, too, especially whenever he loses Lup. He had only mentioned it once, so offhandedly she had nearly missed it, but she knows. He’s also struggling but he pulled through, and she now finds that same pride reflected.

    “We made it,” she says, this time for his sake.

    “Yeah.” His breath shudders as he lets it out. “Yeah, we fucking did.”

    She inches closer and lays her head against the sharp point of his shoulder, her body curling towards his. Maybe she’s not as alone as she had thought.

    “I’m glad you’re here, too,” she murmurs.

    She expects a quip at that, something flamboyant and self-assured. Instead he slips his arm out from over her head and brings it down between them, gripping her hand and not letting go, and she holds right on back. The sun is bright overhead and they close their eyes, both of them set out to thaw after a long winter.

    Not long after she hears the main door leading outside slam open. She idly wonders if it’s Magnus or Lup, but she’s too comfortable to do anything about it.

    “Lucretia?” Magnus calls out from the other side of the ship, shocking her into alertness. Listening more closely now, she thinks she can hear the door to the greenhouse also open and close. “Luce?”

    She sits up as Taako lets out an annoyed groan, laying an arm across his eyes like that might shut out the noise.

    “Luce!” Magnus shouts again from the back of the ship. He rounds the corner and spots them, swearing and racing over before dropping to his knees. “Luce! Are you okay?”

    “I-I, yes, I’m fine. What’s wrong?” She would have gotten to her feet if he wasn’t gripping her shoulders. “What’s happening?”

    “Wha… nothing,” Magnus says, visibly confused and still considerably anxious. “You just disappeared earlier and you weren’t in your room or the kitchen or, like, anywhere.”

    “Sorry.” She’s so thrown off she’s not sure what to say. “I uh, just...”

    “I told you I was taking care of it,” Taako mumbles. Lucretia glances over and so does Magnus, who lets go at that but frowns, almost dejected.

    “Right. Yeah.” He pulls away and clumsily gets to his feet, looking out of place as he stands over them. “But you guys are okay?” His hand shields his eyes as he glances to the sun. “Kind of a weird place for a nap.”

    “We’re fine,” Lucretia says reassuringly, not wanting to worry Magnus who already worries too much about all of them.

    “Peachy,” Taako adds. Then he lifts his arm and looks up to Magnus, apparently considering something. “Yo Mags, join us. It’s ballin’.”

    Fortunately this part of the deck is wide and accommodating because he’s awfully quick to join them, laying down on Lucretia’s other side with little fanfare. She’s content to settle back between them, tucked close.

    “Okay, yeah, this is nice,” Magnus says after a minute and the other two hum in agreement. Like them, he shrugs off his winter clothing, shoving the cable knit sweater onto the bench besides hers, his jacket spread below as a blanket.

    It’s not even that warm, truthfully. The air is cool at this altitude, high and crisp in her nose and lungs, but it simply makes the sunlight more welcoming. It’s like springtime in the mountains, bracing and full of promise.

    Magnus clears his throat and asks conversationally, “Hey, uh, so anyone else real fucking tired of running and fighting shit all the time, or is that just me?”

    “So fucking tired,” Taako says.

    “Cool, cool,” Magnus says, nodding.

    Lucretia’s left hand is free and so she reaches out to lightly take his, not thinking much of it but simply a quiet reassurance because she doesn’t feel like talking much. But when she does, he grips her hand back so fast and with such alarming fierceness that she flinches. It hurts. Quite a lot, actually, but she doesn’t pull away. Barely moving her head, she glances over and sees him staring straight at the sky, jaw clenched and holding his breath in his chest. She stares, that feeling seeming to catch in herself as well. He keeps holding on tight, painful and desperate as if afraid to let go. Slowly, Lucretia swipes her thumb over the edge of his knuckle, a small gentle motion. He quietly lets out that tense breath, his eyes awfully bright. Bit by bit, his grip loosens.

    Right. They’re all going through this hell together. She hadn’t thought how much Magnus might be struggling, trying to protect them all as they die over and over. They’re all so damn tired. They’re all suffering. It’s strangely comforting. At least they’re not alone.

    His eyes flicker over to hers, a question and apology because he probably didn’t intend to crush her hand. She smiles in answer and doesn’t let go. With that reassurance he sinks down, his strong shoulders relaxing. She subtly slips her other hand into Taako's and he lets her. They continue to lie there, holding hands like children and breathing easy. Despite the hard wood at her back and the overhang of the deckhouse above them, she can almost believe they’re back home in a grassy park, watching the clouds overhead and making pictures. There might still be that innocent joy somewhere in them, even now.

    Soon they hear Lup and Barry near the pointed bow of the ship. They’re out of sight but Lucretia can picture them in her mind, close together with arms full of instruments and pads of paper, the usual scene at the beginning of every cycle. There’s chatter between them, largely indistinct, and Lucretia thinks they should maybe go help. The others don’t budge, though, and anyway she’s feeling a bit like a warm puddle.

    “Thought they’d be shagging right about now,” Taako mutters, and Lucretia laughs.

    “Who even says shagging anymore?” Magnus says. “What decade are you from?”

    “I’m almost ancient, my dude. I’m an elf of many decades.”

    They’re not so quiet to escape notice, it seems, as the voices pause and are replaced with approaching footsteps.

    “Oh. Huh,” Barry says, and Lucretia creaks an eye open to find him blinking down at them.

    Lup appears at his shoulder and then tips her head sideways. “You good over there?”

    “Luce needed some Taako time,” Taako says with a small squeeze of his hand, which Lucretia is grateful for.

    “Yeah?” Lup sounds thoughtful as she comes closer. “That so?”

    “I’m here, too,” Magnus says, lazily waving an arm.

    Lucretia squeezes his and Taako’s hand back, memorizing the feeling, and then starts to sit up. “It’s fine, though. We can—“

    “No, no, no, this looks important,” Lup is quick to say. A moment later she’s straddling over Lucretia’s entire body, her face inches away and her hand cradling her cheek. If they hadn’t spent almost a century together this might have been startling, even terrifying. As it is, Lucretia is quite touched.

    “You doing okay, hon?” Lup asks, eyes locked on her own with great intensity, apparently trying to read into her soul.

    “Yeah,” Lucretia says, smiling faintly. Better, anyway. She knows what her reset looks like: the same dark circles under her eyes—a reminder of that last sleepless night before their voyage—and the unfortunate spots of acne, the same dark hair at the exact same length. But she imagines her eyes might indeed betray that deeper exhaustion, the fears and worries she’s been so careful to hide.

    “Last year was kinda awful, huh?” Lup mutters, stroking her thumb over her Lucretia’s cheek before gazing around: from Taako to Magnus and the open space overhead. She does this a few times, left, right, and left again before finally slumping down between Taako and Lucretia, half crushing both of them until they squirm out from under her.

    “Hey!” Taako says with an undignified squawk. “Go find your own cuddle puddle!”

    “Just did,” Lup replies, sprawling an arm across Lucretia’s stomach, which Lucretia clasps on reflex.

    “Welcome back, Lup,” Lucretia says softly, now feeling a touch guilty for running off earlier, and also because she’s truly missed Lup. Even when she hadn’t spoken much with her these past couple years, she misses that beautiful light that she brings with her, same as Taako and all the rest. Truth is, she’s been missing Lup for a long time.

    “Was wondering where you ran off to without giving me a hug,” Lup whispers, her face against Lucretia’s shoulder as she snuggles closer. Despite the lighthearted tone, there’s a quiet concern beneath that does something to her heart. Before, Lucretia hadn’t wanted to worry the others for selfish reasons—more out of a desire to not deal with any of it—but now she remembers she really does hate causing them pain. She pulls her arm out from between them and curls it around Lup’s skinny shoulders.

    Barry continues to stand near their feet, the four of them now pressed quite close and almost out of space width-wise. He doesn’t move nearer, though, looking unsure with his hands in his pockets.

    “Joining in?” Lucretia asks. When he meets her eyes, he’s so tired.

    This last year has been hard on him. It always is, losing Lup, and he had kept busy off the ship even more afterwards so that Lucretia had barely seen him. That had seemed for the best. She had convinced herself she was handling her own dumb emotions and didn’t need to bother him. He was—and is—going through a lot and doesn’t need Lucretia’s problems on top of all the rest. But it’s not just that. She had pulled away after his and Lup’s decision was chosen over her own. Some older, mature part of her mind knows she had been acting childishly, yet she still let that distance grow. She had left him to suffer alone this year, and guilt now gnaws at her. She hadn’t meant it to go so long. It never should have gotten this bad. They have too much history, too much love between them, to give up.

    “Come on, babe,” Lup says gently. “We got space for ya.”

    But rather than slot between them he steps around, squeezing past the bench and stooping to pat Magnus’s shoulder as he goes. With slow movements he lays down near their heads, perpendicular to the rest.

    “If you’re gonna be there, scooch,” Taako says lightly, waving his hand forward. “I could use a pillow.”

    Barry concedes with a sigh. “Been a while, huh?” is all he mutters as he moves closer to all of them. It feels like another piece of a puzzle fitting into place, another tension in her heart loosening just a bit more.

    A hand comes to rest on her bare shoulder—the one Lup is nestled against—and she knows its Barry by pure touch. Against her skin he writes out a question in the cryptic language they had created over the decades, borne from accident and necessity.

    You okay?

    She means to answer back the standard affirmative response. Then she decides otherwise because in fact she’s not terribly good, and maybe right now that’s a little bit okay. Therefore, when she reaches up and across her chest to respond, it’s only to rest her hand over his own. He hesitates at that. She can feel his fingers twitch, troubled and restless as he interprets that. For a moment, she thinks he’ll pull away. She wouldn’t blame him. Then there comes one more message, written with care:

    Okay.

    He squeezes her shoulder, a comforting touch, and that’s enough. He doesn’t move his hand away, and she grips his tighter, leaning her head against it. It’s good to have him back. Maybe they can talk again. She misses that. He might miss it, too, now that she thinks about it.

    Merle is next.

    “You guys aren’t dead, right?” he asks when he comes up on deck, staring at them and scratching at his beard. “Cause I don’t think I’ve got that much healing in me.”

    “Not yet,” Taako says. “Give us a few months and we’ll see.”

    “Just getting that good ol’ vitamin D you’re always harping about,” Lup adds.

    “I thought you’d have already gotten that with Barry,” Merle says. Lup aims a kick at his shin, while the others laugh or groan.

    They’re definitely running out of deck space between the bench and the railing, so Merle sits cross-legged against the wooden side of the ship near Taako and Barry’s heads. He doesn’t need any extra prodding to start shedding layers, yanking off his own jacket and hooded sweatshirt. Lup and Barry had already de-robed a bit as well, whether to fit in or because the sun feels really good, it’s hard to say.

    “Did I miss much the last go-around?” Merle asks conversationally.

    “No,” says everyone.

    “Well that’s good.”

    “Gonna go do Parlay with that asshole again?” Magnus asks from the other end of the pile.

    “Eh, maybe, maybe not. Not gonna be anytime soon, though. He might not be pleased to see me after I called him a sanctimonious bastard and told him to kiss my ass—“

    “Nice!” says Taako.

    “—But all the same… Eh.” He shrugs. “Truth is I’ve missed you fellas.”

    “Missed you too, Merle,” Lucretia says with a look over, and he gives a warm smile in return.

    “It’ll be good to have you back,” Barry says, reaching up to lazily tap Merle’s knee. She doesn’t remember seeing those little touches much lately, like they’ve all been closing themselves off in their grief and anxiety. Lucretia thinks again that maybe they’re all, in fact, needing this just a bit.

    “Cripes this is nice,” Merle says after a little time, pants rolled up and hands hanging loose over his legs, head tilted up towards the sky and looking more like a cleric than usual. “I feel like a plant.”

    “Gross,” Taako mutters from beside him, now half curled around his sister.

    “But mood.” Lup, in turn, has shifted to lay spread eagle over everyone else, not that anyone complains.

    Soon after there comes the sound of the helm door opening and closing, and then the echo of light footsteps from around the corner. It’s quiet for a moment, movement again, and then it stops once more. Lucretia opens her eyes from her half stupor, thinking they’ll need to get to work soon. The others shift around her, but it’s half-hearted at best.

    In the silence they can all hear their captain mutter, “Where the hell…?”

    “Over here,” Magnus calls out. Taako and Lup groan in sync from her other side.

    “What the… what are you all doing?” Davenport barely pauses as he storms over, full of righteous fury. It’s a justified reaction, Lucretia thinks, to finding your entire crew literally lazing about on deck not an hour into this new cycle.

    “Uh…”

    “We don’t have time for…” He stops, the indignation fading fast as he stutters to a halt, sharp black eyes quickly taking them all in. “Uh. I-s everything okay? This isn’t some sun poison or anything, right?”

    “Nah,” Merle says with a lazy wave of his hand. “Don’t think so, anyway.”

    “Good.” There’s clear relief, but also a growing confusion. “But then you all need to get up. We have work to do. What are you even doing?”

    “This one's on me,” Taako says. “It’s a new trend I like to call: taking a fucking break.”

    “Actually this is my fault.” Lucretia raises her hand. “I needed this. Emotionally.”

    “Give us five minutes, cap,” Lup adds. “I also need this emotionally.”

    “Same,” Magnus mutters. “I’ll take ten minutes. Last year kicked my ass.”

    “Last few years, more like,” Barry says.

    “When we get to a full century I’m gonna demand a pay raise,” Merle says. “And R&R.”

    “Yeah, all right,” Davenport says, conceding more easily than expected. “I suppose we can spare a few minutes.”

    “Got some space over here,” Merle says, patting his leg. “Join us plants.”

    “Still gross,” Magnus mutters.

    Davenport sighs, leaning back on his heels. It’s clear he’s considering stepping away to continue his work, not giving up the authority of captain that he’s worn for so long. Too long. It’s only then Lucretia realizes it’s been forever since the two of them had gone stargazing, spending the night with his telescope on top of the deckhouse and telling stories of the constellations, not as captain and crew but as friends. She’s been cold to him, too, and now that seems a bit unfair.

    “Come on, Cap,” Lucretia says, propping an arm under her head to look at him. “It’s pretty fucking nice.” One of these nights she’ll have to bring him tea. If he’ll accept it, that is.

    His mustache twitches as his gaze flickers over them, his back still stiff but he’s wavering, undeniably. He takes a moment to glance over the railing and gauge where the ship is sailing towards. As far as she can tell, it’s clear, open skies. He sighs in defeat.

    “Why not.” When he looks at them again with that same critical eye, there’s a new question there, and a new bright glint. “Is undressing a necessary part of this?”

    He’s answered by a chorus of: “Hell yeah!” “Obviously.” “Wait, can I take more off?” To which the answer is no.

    There’s a faint laugh as he bows his head. “All right, then.” He unbuttons his jacket—scuffed in the shoulders, rubbed thin at the elbows, with the mark of a captain over the breast—before carefully slipping it off, shedding that heavy shroud of leadership, and then two more layers until he’s about as dressed as the rest of them. Davenport slips into the narrow space between Taako and the deck railing, laying his head on Merle’s lap and letting out a long and weary breath.

    Then all seven are there, sprawled on the deck with their faces turned towards the sun. For a time Lucretia is pleasantly conscious of her surrounding family and of her own deep breaths and the steady beating of her heart.

    “Longest two-month mission of my life,” Davenport remarks, which is met with scoffs and laughter.

    “Pfft, no shit.”

    “Hey, uh, not to put a damper on this,” Barry says reluctantly with an arm over his face, “but I’m gonna fry if I stay out here.”

    “Oh, I’ve actually got something for that.” Lucretia takes back both her hands and raises them overhead, fingers dark against the blue of the sky. She pauses, trying to recall how it goes before spreading them wide with a whispered incantation. A translucent shield bubbles around them, flickering briefly before fading almost entirely. It becomes slightly darker than before and the burning sensation on her skin fades. Her hands drop as she settles back, quite content. “That should hold for an hour or so.”

    “What’s this?” Barry asks. Lucretia rolls her head backwards to see him poke an arm through the barrier, silver magic fizzing around his skin.

    “UV Blocker spell,” Lucretia says lightly, but can’t quite disguise the pride. “I created it a couple cycles back when we were traipsing through the desert with that caravan. Haven’t had a chance to use it since, but yeah. Should have thrown it up sooner, thanks for reminding me.”

    “Damn, just making up spells?” Merle says with a soft chuckle, gazing about.

    “That’s very impressive,” Davenport says, sitting up to better see it.

    “Thanks.” Her lips twitch into a smile, unused to hearing that kind of praise, not in a long time anyway. “You know, I’m actually pretty fucking good at shields.”

    She winces a little at that, and then winces harder, her face scrunching. Fuck. She honestly hadn’t meant anything by it. It was meant to be a little proud, a little in jest, but those words could easily come across as bitter. That’s not what she meant. Especially not now.

    “Wait, shit,” she mutters, her face burning for a different reason. “I-I didn’t—“

    “Hell yeah you are,” Lup says brightly, once again throwing an arm over her and pressing tight. Barry, too, squeezes lightly at her shoulder. Magnus chooses that moment as well to fling a heavy arm across her stomach right alongside Lup’s. It’s overwhelming, just a little, and she holds her breath.

    She chances a glance over at Davenport, who’s looking at her with a gentle smile. “No arguments here.”

    That clenched, cold feeling in her gut tightens for a moment, and then dissipates all at once as she lets out a long slow breath, emptying her lungs and letting her head lay back, her neck and shoulders loose. She soaks it all in: the sun and the air, and the comforting presence of her family.

    Yeah. She really fucking needed this.

    They perhaps stay longer than intended. Merle is almost certainly asleep, mouth hanging open and chin to his chest. Barry is faintly snoring, an arm intertwined with Lup’s which probably wasn’t the most comfortable position, while Lup’s other arm lay across Taako’s chest, her leg over Lucretia’s thigh, apparently aiming to sprawl over as many as possible. Magnus is also out like a light, curled up beside her with his jacket for a pillow.

    It’s hard to see Taako from where she lies, just the top of his hair and the tip of an ear. Slowly she reaches around Lup to him, accidentally smacking his cheek before finding his shoulder, and he lifts his head in response. So not asleep, then, or not anymore. Good. She doesn’t want to forget him amidst everything else. The truth is that she wouldn’t be here without him. She might exist in this plane, sure, because that’s out of their hands, but she wouldn’t be laying there, surrounded by loved ones. He saved her. It was Taako who came looking for her when she had felt so alone. He brought her back to herself, along with all of them. A bright, golden presence. A wonderful friend. Her brother. Her family.

    Against his sun-warm skin, she carefully writes:

    Thank you.

    His hand finds hers, his long fingers brushing over her knuckles. He also pauses before responding with a simple message that makes her heart skip.

    Love you.

    “That’s cringe,” she says aloud, like an idiot. Taako lets out a bark of laughter, and she’s holding back her own a little, because it's that or start crying.

    “Do I even wanna know?” Lup asks drowsily, creaking one eye open.

    “Nah,” Taako says with a long contented sigh. “It’s good.”

    “Hmm, yeah.” When Lucretia smiles this time, it’s genuine. “We’re good.”

    At the very least, they’re getting better.

    #taz balance#lucretia#taako#starblaster#Stolen Century#fanfic#ao3 fanfic#emotional hurt/comfort#angst#bittersweet fluff #aka the only kind I apparently know how to write #might be a bad idea posting the whole thing here but oh well #meant this to be a drabble #On the Deck of the Starblaster
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  • pixelrhys
    20.01.2022 - 13 hours ago

    oh yeah i drew taako as a request on discord. this one is basically a spin off of my old design and the design i did on pony town, lol.

    #taako taaco #the adventure zone #taz #the adventure zone balance #taz taako#mcelroys#podcasts#dnd#d&d#digital art #artists on tumblr
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  • 3sides1eye
    20.01.2022 - 14 hours ago

    thinking again abt bow taz graduation is the best of the taz arcs.

    #taz g#taz balance#taz grad#taz amnesty #yes. I do mean better than balance #no i am not joking
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  • holdmecloser-gandydancer
    20.01.2022 - 15 hours ago

    Chapter six is up!! It's been a minute but this is a bit of a beefy chapter so i hope you enjoy!!

    #something bigger than the sky #taz#taz balance#tazb #the adventure zone #lup#taako#magnus burnsides#merle highchurch #the eleventh hour #reese writes#reese collabs
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  • liltaz-asatreat
    20.01.2022 - 15 hours ago

    Also, I've always wanted to draw this scene, but alas, I have no artistic abilities, and I love what Carey did with it

    And Garyl is Rarity confirmed

    Just look at his cutie mark lol

    Also, same Lucretia. This is me everyday

    #lol#taz#taz balance#taz gn #petals to the metal
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  • liltaz-asatreat
    20.01.2022 - 15 hours ago

    Dead after reading the ending to Petals to the Metal GN My heart HURTS and Barry was looking at a picture of him and Lup and it ending with the Hunger watching the moon base and MERLE ASKING WHAT HEARTLESS PERSON WOULD MAKE SOMETHING LIKE THE SASH AND LUCRETIA TRYING TO COMFORT HIM BECAUSE SHE KNOWS HE'S THE ONE WHO MADE IT AND TAAKO BEING 100% ON BOARD AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED AND THEY ALL LOOKED SO SCARED WHEN THE HUNGER SHOWED UP CAREY PIETSCH IS SO GOOD AT DEPICTING THEM I WANT TO CRY

    #taz#taz balance#taz gn #petals to the metal
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  • paramoregf
    19.01.2022 - 16 hours ago

    nothing funnier than the fact that i listened to so many podcasts during highschool and the only ones that permanently affected me and still to this day affect me Deeply are 1. mabel podcast (complex faerie Weird Girls and a haunted house and gay love and constant abtruse poetic rambling) and 2. the adventure zone: balance (4 men making dick jokes while playing dungeons and dragons)

    #i still love taz balance so much i literally dont care. its so good still
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  • stroobae
    19.01.2022 - 17 hours ago

    some taz balance doodles :p

    #my art#taz#taz balance#lup#lup taaco#sloane #petals to the metal #the stolen century #the adventure zone
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  • mothmanatee
    19.01.2022 - 20 hours ago

    Redraw

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  • liltaz-asatreat
    19.01.2022 - 20 hours ago

    MY DAD JUST FINISHED THE BALANCE CAMPAIGN I'M SO HAPPY I HAVE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT WITH HIM NOW AND HE LIKED IT AND AAAAAHHHHHH

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  • captainswan618
    19.01.2022 - 1 day ago
    #taz balance #the adventure zone #the adventure zone balance #barry bluejeans
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  • liltaz-asatreat
    19.01.2022 - 1 day ago

    Oh my God they trans-ed Maarvy's gender good for her love that for her

    #taz#taz balance#taz gn #petals to the metal
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  • phantasmagoric-acquaintance
    19.01.2022 - 1 day ago
    #the adventure zone #taz#taz balance#blupjeans#lup#barry bluejeans #a hali original #this is pure cheese and it was a lot of fun to write
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  • growing-nerd
    18.01.2022 - 1 day ago

    Sometimes during your study date, your partner takes a break to play an indie Pokémon game.

    Here’s a reminder to take a break, do some stretching, get some water, and a snack. Feed your body so your mind can grow. 🌱

    🎶Study playlist reccomendation: “the adventure zone lofi hip hop radio- beats to quest/study to” by Saint Ocean on YouTube

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  • deliverusfromsburb
    17.01.2022 - 2 days ago

    ‘who would be the one human in a Muppets adaptation’ is a discussion I have seen raised in multiple places recently and I have to be honest my understanding of muppets is minimal but. Murderbot Muppets AU where SecUnit is the only human actor. is this anything

    #mentally running thru this rn #taz balance: john hunger #ars paradoxica: sally grissom obviously #in TMA would jon start as a human and BECOME a muppet.... #EDIT: wait no jon starts as a muppet and BECOMES human #and that's why everyon'es like oh no jon you're turning into a monster but he's just turning into a human among muppets
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  • unprofessional-author
    17.01.2022 - 2 days ago

    I’m thinking about her (Lup Taaco)

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  • deadmanscas
    17.01.2022 - 2 days ago

    lup wears these on a dare from taako and barry can’t look her in the eye the rest of the day

    #taz#taz balance #the adventure zone
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  • holdmecloser-gandydancer
    17.01.2022 - 3 days ago
    #taz#taz balance#tazb#ipre#lup#taako#davenport#magnus burnsides#merle highchurch#lucretia#barry bluejeans#blupjeans #just put barry in a jar <3 #thank you !!!!! #reese writes #basically this is like. a magical/scifi realism version of our world #anistarrose #the adventure zone
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