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“Why did Marina have so many DVDs? I thought we all collectively ditched these things years ago.”

Someone—Julia—had decided it was group movie night. She said it was because they needed to relax and bond over something normal and non-life threatening. She’s now sorting through countless boxes.

Penny thinks the real reason is she wants an excuse to drag Quentin out of his room. He’s been lowkey hiding in there since he and Alice broke up.

“They’re Baba Yaga’s. I asked. She said they’re included in our rent,” Kady says. “She’s not a fan of streaming. Thinks it gives too much power to the media companies.”

Julia nods. “Well. Can’t argue with that, I guess.”

So, whatever. They bond by having group movie night now. It’s more relaxing than the shit they’ve been doing the last few years. And after everything, Penny guesses hanging out with them isn’t the worst thing he could possibly do with his time. They’re cool, at this point. Even Coldwater.

And even Kady, who sort of isn’t Penny’s girlfriend anymore. But that’s okay. He loves her and she loves him, and maybe that’s going to be in a just friends way from now on. Doesn’t mean they can’t hang out and watch a movie together.

The only thing is, they all may have been able to pull their shit together to save the world, and magic, a couple times over, but they can’t fucking agree on a stupid movie to watch for stupid movie night. Even though their weird penthouse comes stocked with basically every movie imaginable.

Penny gets it on the record right away that he doesn't give a shit what they watch. He’s here because there’s snacks, and he’d heard a rumor that apparently Josh is bringing some weed. That’s it.

Margo and Eliot want to watch a romantic comedy. No one else is on board.

“Moonstruck is a fucking classic,” Margo argues.

Why does that sound familiar?

Oh, right.

Everything from his time in the underworld is kind of blurry, like he’s remembering something that happened in a dream, or like it happened to someone else. Until Quentin had showed up. Just like he’d been expecting.

Quentin had been puzzled and sad, but ultimately, resigned. He’d seen his—their—friends mourning him and accepted that, in their grief, they would grow stronger and create a better world. Just like Penny had been expecting.

Quentin was going along with the plan. Until he wasn’t. He had been about to step through the door, and then he’d stopped. Turned around with a frown on his face.

“Wait,” he’d said. “This isn’t—this doesn’t feel right. Penny, I think there’s something...something’s wrong. Here. With you. With—everything.”

Penny remembers smiling vaguely and saying some stupid bullshit about how everything was exaclty how it was supposed to be, and soon Quentin would see—

And then Quentin had slapped him and yelled, “Snap out of it!”

All of a sudden, everything came rushing back.

“Dude! What the fuck! Did you just fucking slap me?”

Like, really just fucking slapped him across the face, like some lady in the soap operas his mom used to watch? Unbelievable.

“Oh thank god, you’re back,” Quentin said.

“Did you just slap me,” Penny repeated, “and tell me to snap out of it ?”

Quentin shrugged. “It’s from a movie. Moonstruck. I don't know. It’s just the first thing that came to mind. To quote Margo, it’s a 'fucking classic.' She and Eliot made me watch it—”

At the mention of Margo and Eliot (probably just Eliot, if he’s being real...Penny had read enough of both of their books in the Library to be pretty sure of that) Quentin went pale and wide-eyed.

“Penny, we have to get out of here. Please tell me you know how we can get out of here. I have to get back to—and you can’t stay here either, you know your contract with the Library is complete bulslhit, right? Do you—”

He was frantic and desperate and annoying. Man, how had Penny forgotten how annoying he was?

But he was right. Penny hated when Quentin was right. Shit. It really was completely fucked. What the hell had he been doing down here all this time? Man, Kady was going to be so pissed at him.

“Yeah, yeah, calm down, Coldwater. I got it. Give me a second.”

He felt his knees buckle a little and crouched down until he could regain his balance. Quentin stood there and literally vibrated with nervous energy.

Penny took a second to breathe, try to adjust to the blood and every single damn thing he’s ever felt or thought in his life rushing back into his system.

Well. Plenty of time to deal with all of that later.

“Alright. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

“Q, come on, you liked it when we watched it,” Margo says.

Since coming back from the dead, Quentin’s mind has been a closed trap. Penny doesn’t know if Quentin has just gotten better at keeping up his mental wards, or if their shared underworld experience and forcing their own resurrections has something to do with it. Either way, he can’t hear shit. Which is good.

But he can’t unknow what he already knows. Unfortunately. And he knows the pained expression on Quentin’s face has a lot behind it.

“Um, yeah, it’s—you know, it was good, but I’ve already seen it?” Quentin mumbles.

“Oh, like you haven’t watched your little sci-fi fantasy nerd movies a hundred times—”

Eliot puts his hand on Margo’s arm. He doesn’t really look at Quentin at all. Not that Penny notices that. Or cares.

“Uh, last time I checked, you liked my little sci-fi fantasy movies too, but whatever,” Quentin mumbles.

Julia wants to watch some old back and white movie, and Kady wants to watch Step Brothers. Of course she does. Penny loves her shitty taste in movies.

“Absolutely not,” Eliot says firmly.

“What? It holds up,” Kady shrugs.

Eliot snorts.

“In order for a movie to hold up, it would have to be good in the first place.”

Kady crosses her arms.

“It’s a funny movie, you’re just being an asshole.”

“Josh is bringing the weed, and he’s late. And I’m not drinking right now. There is absolutely no way I am subjecting myself to that sober,” Eliot counters. “That also means Josh doesn’t get a say in the movie, which is good, because I’m sure his choice would be less than inspired.”

Quentin looks over like he wants to say something. Then he doesn’t.

Penny only notices this because he’s sitting between them, he’s not purposefully trying to pay attention to the intricacies of whatever is going on here.

Eliot not drinking is kind of a significant thing? Not like Penny had spent all his time at Brakebills paying attention to what Eliot was doing, he had his own shit going on, thanks. But it was hard not to notice that Eliot drank. A lot.

Sometimes in a fun, party way, and sometimes in a way that was clearly not fun. Anyone could tell just by looking at him when they’d gone to Fillory for the first time that he was severely fucked up. They all were, but there was shit to do. And there continued to be shit to do until Penny, you know, died.

Then his “to-do” shit became really weird, and involved calmly plotting for the death of one of his friends. Yeah. It’s still fucked up.

Quentin isn’t holding it against him. The—other him, Penny 23, had accepted his apology before bouncing to go who knows where. Seemed like he didn’t particularly care where, as long as it was away from all of them. Can’t blame him. Alice...well, she said she understood, but she still seemed kind of pissed about it. Again, can’t blame her.

Speaking of Alice, she wants to watch, of all things, High School Musical.

Everyone stares at her.

“What?” she sniffs. “It’s fun.”

“Have you secretly been a High School Musical fan this entire time?” Margo asks. She sounds more impressed than anything.

“Well. Maybe. But we’ve all died at least once and done things to really be ashamed of, so I figure there’s no point in being embarrassed in what movies we like, is there?” Alice says with a tilt of her chin. “But I guess maybe it’s not as terrible as daring to enjoy Garden State.”

“Oh my god,” Quentin groans, “That was years ago—”

“Okay, okay, how about we pick something no one has seen before? Julia loudly interrupts.

Thank god. Penny is not about to sit here and listen to Quentin and Alice do their post-breakup routine.

A movie none of them have seen sounds fair enough, but it’s practically impossible to find something that fits that bill. Margo alone has seen what seems like every movie known to mankind.

“When did you have time to watch literally every Academy Award nominated movie from the last few years? Haven’t you been in Fillory most of the time?” Penny asks.

“Oh, yeah, I figured out a spell that basically lets me boost wifi and cable from earth,” Margo says casually. “You should see Fen with access to Netflix. I might have to change the password on her if she tries to make me watch Gilmore Girls with her again. It’s bleak, guys. I’m about to do a belly flop off the deck of the Muntjac and drown myself if I have to hear Carole King sing that song again. No offense to Carole personally. Tapestry is an iconic album.”

So that’s how they end up in the selection of Pixar movies. Fuck yeah. Penny could be down for that. Everyone would probably be surprised to hear it, but he’s enjoyed a Pixar movie here and there. They’re entertaining and have some jokes, and shit can get a little rough in the middle, but there’s usually a nice ending. Those are a little harder to come by in real life.

“Aren’t these like, for kids?” Eliot asks with a wrinkled nose.

“God, kids are people too, Eliot, movies made for kids don’t have to be bad,” Quentin snaps. Hey, Penny is with him on that one.

Eliot raises his eyebrows.

“Jesus. Fine. Didn’t realize you were such an aficionado of uh, Waldo, or whatever.”

“It’s called Wall-E,” Quentin says, his tone absolutely withering. Shit.

Yeah, something is definitely up. And if Penny had to guess, which again, he doesn’t want to, because this definitely falls under the none of his fucking business category, but if he absolutely had to, he’d be pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that Q and Alice aren’t together anymore and yet Eliot still hasn’t made a move.

“How about this one?” Julia asks. “Look, it seems cute. There’s a dog in it. We could all go for some heartwarming entertainment these days, right?”

“I actually missed this one,” Quentin says.

“Seen it,” Margo drawls. “But don’t let that stop you. Better than Ratatouille.”

“Hey,” Penny says before he can stop himself. “Ratatouille is the shit.”

Margo raises her eyebrows. “You haven’t said a word all night and now you chime in to defend the honor of Rata-fuckin-touille?””

Penny shrugs. “Yeah, and so what?”

“Nothing, I’m just learning a lot about everyone tonight. Alice is a Zac Efron fangirl, Penny has a hardon for the cooking rat movie...good stuff.”

Alice meets Penny’s eye and shakes her head like what can you do. Agreed.

“Well,” Julia pipes up. “It still sounds like this other one is the least controversial choice, so are we in agreement?”

“God, just put it in already,” Quentin groans.

“Okay, no, that’s just too easy,” says Margo. “You wanna take this one, El?”

Eliot startles, like he hasn’t been paying attention to the conversation.

“Huh? What am I taking?”

“Are you feeling okay, babe? You’d normally never miss a chance to make a joke about Quentin getting railed.”

Quentin mutters a comment under his breath.

“Oh uh, right,” Eliot mumbles. “Yeah. Good one, Bambi.”

Margo stares at Eliot and reaches out to press the back of her hand to her forehead.

“Huh. No fever.”

“I’m fine,” Eliot insists.

Margo doesn't look like she believes him. Can’t blame her.

Again, he just happens to know, and can’t unknow, that it had seemed like Quentin was pretty determined to get back to the land of the living to tell Eliot how he felt.

They’d busted their way out of the underworld and burst into the penthouse, and everyone had screamed or gone silent with shock. Then Kady had yelled “you asshole,” and sped over to Penny and threw her arms around him. He’d kind of lost track of things after that.

He remembers seeing glimpses of Alice crying and hugging Quentin. Then Julia doing the same. Then Quentin finally breaking down when Eliot cautiously approached him and reached out as if to touch him.

Anyway, Penny had kind of assumed they’d talk and then Quentin would talk to Alice, and it would all work itself out from there. Penny felt kind of shitty about that; Alice deserved a lot better. Honestly, there was a time when the only person Penny had any goddamn respect for in the Physical Kids cottage and Brakebills in general, was Alice.

The way she’d been the only other one in the group who had stuck it out with him and learned battle magic the hard way, while everyone else had given into the emotion bottles again—that had been pretty cool. He remembers thinking she was someone he could be friends with. They’d never really had the chance to do that, but Alice was still okay in his book.

And yeah. There was the part where Quentin had cheated on her—fucking idiot—and Penny knows too well what happened after that. They never talked about it after that initial “we’re cool” discussion. It had been weird and messy, but he can’t say it had been a bad experience. At all.

Clearly, Alice was gorgeous in addition to being scary smart. He was sure she’d find someone else in no time.

But it didn’t really seem like much talking was going on. Quentin and Alice were still a couple and Eliot went off to Fillory with Margo for a long awhile.

And Penny was actually getting plenty of talking of his own in, with Kady. That first night had been mostly crying and fucking that was mostly out of pure relief than anything else. Then the talking had begun. And the yelling. Can’t forget the yelling.

Kady was pissed at him for a lot of stuff. Most of it was warranted. Dying. Staying dead. Becoming a “fucking Stepford Wife Underworld Freak.” Almost killing Quentin, for good. Yeah. the greatest hits. He deserves that.

He didn’t expect her to forgive him right away. Kady could’ve kept yelling at him for days. He could take it. But what he couldn’t do was explain the thoughts and feelings of his other timeline self.

And Kady was loud about everything else, but when it came to Penny 23 and Julia and that whole thing and how weird it was, she got all quiet and moody, which freaked Penny out more than the yelling.

“Look, I get it, but I’m not him. Penny from the other timeline.”

“I know,” Kady mumbled.

“Julia’s cool but I’m not into her like that.”

“I know,” Kady said again.

“So what is the fucking issue. I don’t—oh.”

Kady looked miserable.

“So...you don’t think I have a thing for Julia. But maybe you do.”

“Uh,” she sniffed, not meeting his eyes. “Maybe. I think...maybe I do.”

“And she maybe feels the same way?”

A nod.

“Okay,” he said, because well. She didn’t owe him anything. He didn’t even want to ask too many questions, like if anything had happened yet. A lot of shit had happened, in general. He didn’t really want to know, and she didn’t really need to explain herself. He had been dead. For good, for all Kady knew.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I forgive you. It’s not about that.. And I still—I mean, I do love you.”

“Yeah. I know. Me too.”

They hadn’t broken up in those words exactly. They were “seeing where things went.” Which really meant that Kady was seeing if there was something there with Julia. He’d wondered offhand if she’d suggest some kind of threesome relationship. Which in theory should be the dream, right.

But he hadn’t been lying when he’d said he wasn’t into Julia at all. Yeah, she was objectively hot, and funny and a nice person. But it just wasn’t like that, and he didn’t know if it ever could be.

Not with Kady, not after all this. Maybe the other Penny could’ve made that work. But it was just too much and too weird.

Kady hadn’t mentioned it. He was weirdly relieved.

Penny was leaving her to it. She deserved that much from him.

“Anyway, I’m gonna start the movie now,” Julia announces. She’s trying really hard.

It’s clear she’s not really sure how to act around him. He’s not really sure how to act around her either. Or what’s going on with her and Kady, exactly. He assumes it’s something though. They’re not being obvious about it, but Penny isn’t stupid. Julia’s definitely wearing one of Kady’s button-ups. It doesn’t look too different from something Julia would normally have on, but if there’s anything Penny knows well, it’s clothes that belong to Kady.

It’s feels. Weird. Not great, obviously, but he doesn’t feel like he needs to pull a Coldwater and go hide in his room or anything. Life fucking sucks sometimes but it’s a lot better than being dead. And he knows this for a fact.

The little Pixar lamp guy bounces onto the screen. They all re-up on snacks and settle in. Alice smiles at him and holds out a bowl of popcorn. He’s not sure if she knows what’s going on and feels bad for him or if she’s just being nice. Either way, he takes some fucking popcorn. Why not.

Penny has seen this movie before, and he remembers liking it well enough.

There hadn’t been to do in the summer in Florida, when you were a broke teenager in a shitty foster home and it was so humid you could barely breathe outside. So Penny would go to the movies. It was easy enough to buy a cheap matinee ticket and then stick around all day, hopping from theater to theater. The employees usually weren’t paying attention and if they were, they didn’t give a shit.

Sometimes guys or girls he knew from school would be working the concessions and he could bum a cup of soda or a bucket of popcorn. And here and there, maybe some weed.

The overpowered air conditioner was the true highlight, and most of the movies sucked, but a few were worth watching. As for this one, Penny can only remember a few vivid details, like the floating house and the talking dog. He remembers that as being one of the days he’d managed to score some pot and he had already been feeling it when the movie started.

This time around, Kady and Julia are barely paying attention, whispering to each other and laughing under their breaths. Alice is eating popcorn and occasionally glancing at the screen, but most of her attention is on the book in her lap.

Margo is looking at Eliot, who is looking in the direction of the screen, but not like he’s registering much of what’s happening. Quentin is doing the same.

And Penny is paying attention to all this shit for some reason. Damn. He needs to cut it out. Still none of his business. Get your shit together, Adiyodi.

He focuses back on the movie. Great. A happy couple getting married. Not exactly the right material for this crowd at the moment. Oh yeah. He remembers a little bit of this now. The couple getting married and growing old together.

He thinks he was too stoned then to cry then, but he definitely feels himself tearing up a little bit now.

The scene where they’re lying on a blanket staring at the clouds is sweet. Shit, dying and coming back to life and then getting dumped has turned him into a softie.

To his right, Penny hears a weird noise. He turns to look and sees Quentin staring at the screen with more intent than he had been before. His eyes are watering. The weird noise must have come from him.

Up on the screen, the clouds turn into the shapes of babies, and Quentin lets out a definite sniffle.

What—oh. Oh right. As much as he wishes he didn’t, Penny gets it.

The happy couple paints a nursery. Then there’s a shot of them at the doctor. It’s clear kids aren’t in their future.

Quentin starts to cry. Not like, loudly or anything, but it’s definitely obvious.

Fuck. Fuck. If only Penny hadn’t been too stoned the first time he saw this movie to remember this montage was like, weirdly specifically too close to home for a couple members of the group.

But just because he’s a Psychic and happens to have been basically all-knowing at one point while he was dead, what, suddenly it’s his responsibility to monitor their media consumption? Fuck that.

“Q? What’s wrong?” Julia asks, finally tearing her attention away from Kady.

He hasn’t told her? Well shit, Penny isn’t about to explain it.

“It’s nothing,” Quentin whimpers, “I’m fine.”

Very convincing.

The montage rolls on, and the couple, now old, are in a hospital room. The wife is sick. The husband is at her funeral.

Quentin cries even harder. Penny would say this counts as sobbing.

It’s clear no one has any clue what to do.

“Uh,” Margo says. “maybe we should watch something else—what the fuck. El?”

She watches in horror as Eliot frantically wipes tears that have started rolling down his cheeks.

Penny groans. Here we go. Well, it all had to come out sometime.

He glances over at Alice. She’s always been a hard one to read. And obviously she’s a pro at keeping up her wards. But the look on her face seems more like okay let’s get this over with than anything.

“Q, I—” Eliot says, his voice thick and wobbling. Quentin shakes his head.

There’s now a cute little kid running around on screen. None of them are watching it, though.

“No. No. Don’t talk to me.”

Quentin abruptly stands up and walks out of the room.

They all just sit there. A door slams shut.

The movie is still playing. The cute little kid is now talking to a golden retriever. The old guy from before is there, too. This is the part Penny remembers. Fucking Pixar and their sneaky emotional bullshit.

After a moment, Julia says, “Um. Well. I should go see if he’s okay.”

“No.” Eliot stands up. “I’ll go.”

Julia stands, too, and crosses her arms. “It kind of seems like he doesn’t want to talk to you right now.”

It’s kind of funny, watching her stare down Eliot, who has probably an entire foot of height on her. But Eliot’s eyes are red from tears and Julia is scary. Penny would be intimidated, if it were him.

“Julia,” he says, and she turns to him in surprise. “Let him go. Just. Trust me on this one, okay?”

She stares at him, hard. She may not be a goddess anymore, but you could’ve fooled Penny.

Then, she nods.

Eliot rushes off.

No one says a word. They hear his footsteps down the hallway, then a knock. Some mumbled words, and a door opening.

A few moments of silence, and then...yelling. And crying. It’s definitely both at the same time.

“Should we put a ward?” Alice wonders, glancing over in the general direction of the bedrooms.

“No,” Margo and Julia say at the same time.

They’re both listening intently with narrowed eyes.

This is uncomfortable. This is not something Penny wants to be a part of. He agrees with Alice. They should definitely put up a ward, since both Quentin and Eliot are assholes who didn’t have the consideration to do it themselves.

More tearful yelling. First Quentin. Then Eliot. Then Quentin again. Some overlapping. He can’t make out the words, but Penny has a good enough idea of what’s being said. What everyone else thinks is going on, he has no idea. Again, not his place to tell.

This sucks. He needs to look into selective memory wipe spells. He wants to know absolutely nothing about anyone’s extremely personal life—or lives, in Q and Eliot’s case—going forward.

Things are quieter now. One of them, it sounds like Eliot, is still talking, but his voice is a low murmur. Penny can barely hear it over the sound of the movie.

As if reading his mind for once, Margo reaches for the remote and hits mute. Not what he was going for at all. But whatever.

He shakes his head at her. She rolls her eyes.

“Oh, no one is watching it anyway. Let’s stop the charade.”

Some more murmuring. Maybe some more crying. They don’t sound pissed off anymore, at least. Seems like maybe the fight is over, for now. They don’t come back out of the bedroom, though.

“What the fuck is going on,” Kady mumbles.

“Who knows,” Penny says. Well, he does. But no one else is going to find that out.

By this point in the movie, the kid, the dog, and the old guy are in their balloon house on their way to South America, or wherever it is. The sound is still off, but you can still pretty much get the gist of what is going on. Not that anyone cares.

After awhile, Julia sighs. “Maybe I should go—oh.”

Yeah. Oh. There are more sounds coming from the bedroom now. And they are distinctly not of the fighting kind.

“I knew we should’ve watched Ratatouille instead,” Penny mumbles. This shit never would’ve happened if they’d just listened to him.

“Eliot, you lying bitch,” Margo murmurs. “I am going to kill—”

“Hey hey motherfuckers, what is up? Sorry I’m late!”

The entrance to the Fillory clock has swung open to reveal Josh, who is standing there with a tray of baked goods, a bottle of vodka, and a bag of what can only be his signature gummies.

Penny watches as he takes in the scene. The movie playing on mute. The...noises coming from the bedroom. The way they’re all sitting there in silence.

“Okay, I think I missed something,” he says.

“Uh, ya think?” says Margo.

“Hey Josh,” Julia waves. “Uh, make yourself at home, I guess.”

Josh takes a seat on the couch next to Penny and nods towards the bedrooms.

“Doing the math here and noticing who’s missing, is that...Q and Eliot?”

“Yep.”

“Are they—”

“Yep.”

“During Up? Seriously?”

“Tell me about it.”

“Someone turn the sound back on,” Julia says, sounding frantic as the noises get even louder somehow. Yeah, hearing your best friend doing what is some definite passionate fucking is not anyone’s idea of a good time.

Alice clears her throat.

Oh shit. Alice. This is awkward for everyone, but he had forgotten about how it would be worse for her, specifically.

“At this point, does anyone object if I actually put up a ward?” she asks, her eyebrows raised.

Jesus. Right. The ward. A magic solution to their problems. They’re all morons.

Please,” Julia says.

Alice does her thing. Blessed silence.

“Well. This is a surprise. It is, right? I know me being in Fillory most of the time makes it complicated, but I’d hope one of you would’ve filled me in on all the hot goss I was missing,” Josh says, when the silence turns from nice to awkward.

Julia confirms it is indeed a surprise to them all.

“Cool cool. Good for them. Oh. Sorry, Alice. I didn’t mean—”

Fucking Josh.

Alice shrugs like what are you gonna do. “It’s fine. We broke up. And I can’t say I’m all that surprised, actually.”

Yeah. Penny has a feeling he’s not the only one who has read Quentin’s book in the LIbrary. It’s still gotta be awkward as hell. When Alice announces she’s going to take a walk—the alone is implied—instead of continuing with movie night, everyone gets it.

“Well shit, if she wasn’t surprised, couldn't she have filled me in?” Margo gripes when Alice is out the door.

Penny’s pretty sure no one is going to want to watch Up ever again.

“Dude, if you were gonna go with Pixar, why didn’t you guys choose Ratatouille. Ratatouille fucks,” Josh says.

“Man, that is exactly what I said,” Penny exclaims. “Well, basically.”

Josh holds out his tray. “Ah, a fellow man of taste. Brownie?”

They spend the rest of the night partaking in Josh’s libations and they end up watching Ratatouille after all. Everyone, even Margo, ends up agreeing that it “fucks.” That might just be the gummies and the booze talking, but Penny will take it.

So movie night ends up not being so bad after all. If you ignore the first part.

Quentin and Eliot don’t come out of the bedroom.

-

The next morning, they all get up late.

Josh is making crepes. Penny helps himself to a cup of coffee and sits on a stool at the counter next to a sleepy looking Kady.

“Weird night, huh,” she yawns.

“When do we ever have a not weird night?” he snorts.

“Yeah, that would probably freak me out.”

It’s nice, sitting here with her. This is the kind of thing he misses. Yeah, the relationship-specific stuff, too, but mostly, he just. Really likes Kady. He wants her in his life. There aren’t too many people he’s been able to say that about.

“So how are you doing? Things good? With you and Julia?” he asks in a low voice.

Josh is clueless, singing to himself as he flips a crepe in the pan.

She looks surprised. Then she nods.

“Yeah. I think so. How about you? You doing okay?”

He really thinks about it. Of course he doesn’t want to make her feel bad, but it feels good to realize that when he says “yeah, getting there,” he means it.

Julia and Margo enter the kitchen, complaining about something. No doubt it’s Quentin and Eliot related. Seems like neither of them had any idea there was something going on, which is wild. Shit, Penny’s just glad he’s not the only one who knows anymore.

“I swear, I am going to take him back to Fillory and have him questioned by the hedgehogs—”

“The—what, hedgehogs?”

“Yeah, the High Inquisitor Hogs. I’m instituting reform so that we’re more humane these days with our prisoner interrogation tactics, but they’re still scary as shit.”

“Don’t ever get on their bad side. Seriously. They may look cute and cuddly, but—whoa.” Josh confirms.

Fillory is seriously so fucked up. Penny hates it there.

They’re all slumped over cups of coffee, waiting on their crepes, when Eliot swoops into the kitchen looking annoyingly perky and refreshed.

“Ah good, the gang’s all here.”

Alice is notably missing, but that’s probably fine. She can afford to miss whatever’s happening here.

“First of all, I wanted to apologize for last night, and I’m sure you are all confused and have many questions.”

Penny rolls his eyes. Eliot can be so annoying. Like, he likes the guy and everything, but he’s just...a lot.

“Oh, we have questions, alright, El,” Margo says, her voice dark. “And if you don’t start talking right now—”

“Bambi, I hear and appreciate your concern. All will be addressed. But before that, let me introduce to you—ahem. Q?”

Quentin pops his head around the corner.

“Um, hi, guys.”

He looks similarly bright-eyed and smiley and it’s very obvious, even if they didn’t already know for a fact, what he had been doing all night.

Julia shakes her head at him in clear disappointment.

“Were you just waiting there to jump out at us like fucking Freddy Kreuger?” Margo groans.

Quentin pouts in that annoying way he has. He looks like a kicked puppy.

“Don’t listen to her, Q,” Eliot says brightly. “Anyway, as I was saying, may I introduce—”

“It’s Quentin. We all know who Quentin is.”

Thank you, Kady.

Eliot glares at her.

As I was saying, may I introduce, Quentin, for the first time officially...”

He reaches out and Quentin steps forward and takes his hand. They’re grinning like idiots.

“...as my boyfriend,” Eliot concludes.

Penny hates them so much.

“Uh, hey, congrats, you two! Also, everyone, the crepes are ready,” says Josh.

-

Later, after lots of explaining and some more yelling, and multiple rounds of crepes for everyone, Penny finds Alice alone on the balcony, her arms wrapped around herself. She has a book with her, but she’s not reading it. She’s staring out at the city, wind blowing in her face.

Alice isn’t a smoker, so he’s not used to seeing her out there.

He doesn’t want to pry. But it would be an asshole move to not at least check in on her, so.

He opens the door and steps out.

“Hey.”

She turns around and doesn’t quite smile.

“Hey. Is something wrong?”

“No, it’s all good. I just. Wanted to see if you were doing okay. After, you know.”

She laughs a little. “Yeah. I’m okay. Like I said, I wasn’t shocked, let’s put that way. I don’t think you were, either.”

He nods. There’s no point in trying to hide it. Plus, she’s giving him that super piercing stare that he sort of thinks of being an Alice Signature. Anyone who’s seen it would think twice before lying to her.

She hasn’t given him the “leave me the fuck alone” signal yet, which is a good sign.

He slides the door closed, since it’s pretty fucking cold out, and he knows someone’s bound to yell about a draft in a minute or so.

“It’s still shitty though,” he says, leaning up against the balcony rail next to her.

“Yes,” she nods. “It is. Thanks for saying that. It’s just...nice to hear. From someone else. ”

She glances over at him and then looks away again. “For you, too. I mean, about you and Kady. I’m sorry.”

She’s right. It is nice to hear someone else say it.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Alice clears her throat. “Also, I wanted to let you know that—I’m not mad about what happened in the mirror realm. Well. I am, but not at you. I know you weren’t really...yourself at the time.”

That means a lot, coming from her.

Penny feels weirdly emotional about it and he just nods. That could come across as weird. She seems to get it, though.

“God knows I’ve done plenty of things that people didn’t have to forgive me for,” Alice sighs. “But they did. So. I think everyone deserves that.”

All Penny can do is say thank you. So he does.

They stare down at the street below in silence for a minute or two.

“It’s getting cold,” Penny finds himself saying. “Guess summer’s over.”

Wow. Genius.

Alice nods. “I like it, though. I was thinking maybe—”

She raises her hands and does something quick and complicated with her fingers. A little ball of flames sits in the palm of her hand. She pushes outward and the flames rush to the center of the little table they have set up. Alice shifts and molds the flames until they’re the size and shape of an impressive camp bonfire.

Not that Penny ever got to go to camp as a kid, but he’s seen movies.

With a flick of her wrist, Alice adjusts the settings of her homemade fire so that the flames are a little more manageable and the air around Penny now feels pleasantly warm instead of scorching hot.

”It should contain itself and be indefinitely self-sustaining,” she says.

“That’s really cool.”

She shrugs, looking flattered. Which is a little weird, because she’s like a certified magical genius. She should be getting compliments all the damn time. If she’s not, that’s messed up.

“Thanks. It’s just a little something I thought up.”

She takes a seat at the table and grabs her book.

“Want some company?” Penny finds himself asking.

She smiles. It’s small, but it’s real this time.

“Yeah. That would be nice.”

“Or, you know, we could go inside and watch High School Musical,” Penny says as he claims a chair of his own. “Your choice.”

He’s not sure he’s ever heard Alice really laugh before. He thinks he could get used to hearing it more often.