“And that’s the fucking last time we tried that,” Taako cackles, and Lup snorts into her glass, nearly choking as she drains the last of her liquor. This makes Taako laugh harder, and he slaps her on the back as he says something in a mix of Elvish and Spanish. He doesn’t speak either.
Lup nods and says something back, giggling as she stumbles to her feet, dragging Taako up with her.
“Beddie- bye for us, Mags” she winks at him, bending to kiss his head as she heads towards the hall. Taako grabs the rest of the bottle and passes it to Magnus as he follows Lup out, ruffling his hair as he passes.
“Sweet dreams Maggie, still on for tomorrow?” He asks, and Magnus gives a sleepy grin and a nod.
“Yeah. G’night, you two.”
Lup and Taako stagger towards their rooms, giggling and whispering down the hall, and the easy way they lace fingers makes something in Magnus’s chest burn. Their door closes with a soft thud, and then he’s alone on the floor of the common room, the silence oppressive and the walls spinning.
He studies the rest of the liquor in the bottle. The fun giggles were about a glass and a half ago, and now he’s just so so tired. It really is time for bed.
But fuck, his bed sucked ten years ago and now it shakes and creaks whenever he moves, and his sheets are cold and his walls are bare and- he flicks the cap off the bottle, and takes a long drink.
Muffled laughter floats down the hall from the twins' bunk, and he takes another pull.
Jealousy was not a thing Magnus was well equated with. The first time he’d felt it, that treacherous burn in his sternum, he’d been watching Lup braid Taakos hair. He’d thought it was a crush, really. But then he felt it again when he watched the way Lucretia curled up with her journal and tea, the way Davenport and Merle could pass hours without a word. Even Barry- Lucretia never banned him from going through her journals (he’d never spilled ink in them, but that was besides the point), and he played off the twins like they were all old friends, effortlessly teasing taako and switching sides to gang up on Lup, snarking and ribbing till they were crying laughing.
And everyone loved him, he knew. Of course he knew. Ten years in meant ten meticulously crafted cakes from taako, countless workout sessions with Lup, endless patience from Lucretia as she tried to teach him whatever hobby had struck his fancy that week. Everyone loved him, and no amount of birthday cake could fix the numbness at the pit of his stomach.
He should go to bed. But at least the common room is warm and crowded with reminders of his crew mates, and if he keeps drinking, he can pretend it’s the alcohol gnawing through his insides. He takes another sip.
Magnus is just wondering if they have another bottle somewhere, and if another glass would make him feel more or less when Barry pads into the common room, pink lines from a pair of goggles etched around his eyes, the offending goggles perched in his messy hair.
“Lup, can you--” he starts before he’s even through the doorway, and he stops short at the nearly empty room. “Oh, hey Magnus. Did Lup already go to bed?”
“Jus’ me”, he waves sloppily at himself. “Sorry to disappoint,” he says, and Barry frowns at him, and oh no, he really is disappointed. Magnus goes to take another sip, only to find the bottle empty.
Barry still stands in the doorway, still frowning.
“I just need some help-”
Magnus’ ears perk.
“- In the lab, can you come hold a part still?”
Magnus abandons the empty bottle on the coffee table, and follows Barry down the hall.
“So I can’t clamp it cause it’s a weird shape,” he says, presenting Magnus with a shiny chunk of a machine, “but I need to replace the spool through this port, so I need someone to hold it”
“Yeah,” Barry starts, picking up a pair of pliers and craning his arm into the gap, “little higher? Perfect.”
Magnus zones out while Barry tinkers with the equipment. The bright lights of the lab are helping, but he still sways where he stands. Barry hums softly to himself, muttering as he works.
“No, not you,” he tells a wayward wire, “yes, thank you,” he whispers to the machine he finally dabs sauter in the right place.
His movements are swift and sure, and he grabs tools from behind his back without even looking. This isn’t the nervous man who’d stumbled through the press conference, he’s at home, in his element, amongst beakers and microscopes and tools Magnus couldn’t even begin to name.
“Mags, you good?”
He snaps to, and realizes that Barry’s not working on the machine anymore, that he’s sitting on a stool, looking up at him expectantly.
“I -” he starts, and realizes his arms are shaking, so he sets the equipment down with a soft clink. “I’m just tired,” he says, and he watches as Barry pretends to buy it. It’s not <i>technically</i> a lie.
“My bed creaks,” he starts, trying to sell it, and Barry huffs a laugh.
“Gods, of course, not built for big guys,” he pats his own belly. “Fixed mine a few years back, I’ll add a brace to your’s in the morning,” he says.
“You can build stuff?”
Barry makes a so-so motion with his hand. “Ehh, first few labs I worked at didn’t have the budget for a lab tech and a repair guy, so I know a few things. I’ll show you. But, it’ll be loud, so maybe after breakfast?”
Magnus nods, and Barry makes for the door, but Magnus can’t quite make his feet follow. The lights in the lab are warm, and he likes hearing Barry talk to the machines, and the way the sensors in the corner let out happy, lazy beeps.
Barry stops at the door, his hand hovering above the light switch, and looks Magnus up and down.
“You ever go camping?”
Magus sways, and shrugs noncommittally. “Sometimes.”
Magnus lines the sleeping bag up next to Barry’s on the deck of the ship, and flops down next to Barry, who sits cross legged under a knit blanket he saw Lucretia working on a few cycles back.
“Thanks bud, been meaning to test these out. Picked ‘em up last cycle, better to figure out here if they’re not warm enough than out in the field, right?”
Magnus isn’t that tipsy anymore, and he’s not as dumb as people think he is, but he accepts Barry’s kindness, and pretends to believe him.
“Happy to help.”
They sit in silence for a moment, listening to the cold wind whistle through the grass beneath the ship.
“Yknow,” Barry offers after a few moments, “I wasn’t really sick last week.”
“Yeah, it was,” he stops, and takes a deep breath. “It was my mom’s birthday. Woulda been eighty-five, this year,” he says, voice thick.
“I was, uh, I was kind of crying too hard to get any work done in the lab,” he says, and Magnus nods nest to him.
“I- sorry, I wish I’d -”
“No, I didn’t tell anyone, you couldn’t have helped if you didn’t know.”
“Yeah, that’s- that makes sense.”
Barry’s looking at him now, and he nods. “Good.”
He turns back to the stars, and Magnus busies himself with the tie on his pajama pants, wrapping and re-wrapping the string around his index finger as he tries to get the words out.
“I used to go camping all the time,” he finally manages, and Barry keeps his gaze on the night sky.
“Yeah, my brothers- I had two of ‘em. Well, Percy got a job as a camp counselor, but Auggie _”
“Wait,” Barry laughs, Magnus, Percy, and Augie?”
“Perseus and Augustus. My mom really liked- ” he pauses as his voice cracks, and Barry nods like he understands.
“Augie?” He promts.
“Yeah, he was afraid to go to camp,” Magnus huffs a chuckle, “so my parents sent me too and got the camp to let him bunk in my year instead of his own.”
Barry’s turned to look at him now, leaning back on his elbows, nodding as Magnus tells his story.
“And since Percy was a counselor, and Augie had everyone just wrapped around his finger, we’d swipe camping stuff from the shed and go sleep out on the dock by the canoe lake.”
Barry grins. “That rustic hospitality’ll let you get away with anything, huh?”
“Look, you should have met my brothers. No, we’d get fussed at sometimes, coach’d put us on dish duty…” he trails off, thinking about the time he’d turned the sprayer on his brothers, how they’d darted through the kitchen using serving trays as shields, how’d they’d been soaked to the bone by the time dishes were done.
They’d ended up in Percy’s cabin, sprawled out on the floor in their pajamas as their clothes dried on a line on the porch.
On the deck, Magnus tries to suppress a shiver. Maybe the equipment isn’t warm enough, but he’s unwilling to break the comfortable silence that they’ve settled into. Besides, the narrow bunk will be even colder.
Barry cranes his neck and lifts an arm, the blanket around his shoulders draping into a wing. Magnus shifts closer, and Barry wraps an arm around his back, pulling him close. Magnus lays his head on Barry’s shoulder.
Magnus wakes up stiff from the hard metal of the deck, but warm from sleeping curled into Barry’s side. They roll up the packs in companionable silence, and Taako is piling a huge stack of pancakes on a plate when they stumble into the kitchen. Lucretia passes him a cup of coffee with too much cream and sugar, just the way he likes it, and Lup drenches a pancake in syrup before passing it down the table. Too full of pancakes, he does his best to pay attention as Barry crawls under his bed, voice muffled as he explains what he’s doing, and all the different names of the tools.
“Come see,” he says, so Magnus crawls under the bed too, laying on his back next to Barry among dust bunnies and a few rouge socks.
“I’m running a beam at an angle to the frame, it’s stronger that way,” he explains, fitting a new piece of wood snug against the worn beams.
“You’ll wanna drill a pilot hole first, so the screw goes in straight,” Barry says, and Magnus nods, warm and full and sleepy. They manage to secure his bunk, or rather, Barry does most of the work, and when Magnus collapses into bed after, the bunk doesn’t creak.
Magnus pulls the screwdriver out of the toolbelt Steven had lent him, and gives the bolt securing the wood block to the frame one final twist. He crawls out from underneath the narrow bunk and sits on the straw mattress, surveying the bare room he’d just rented. He gives the bed an experimental bounce, and the frame doesn’t move an inch.
Something in his chest squeezes so hard it hurts, so he strips off his toolbelt and outerwear, and climbs into the cold, narrow bed.