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Indistinguishable From Magic

Chapter Text

Julia is sitting down at a table in Kady’s new apartment. She’s not sure what drew her here, but after everything that happened in Fillory with the Beast and everything before she couldn’t think of anyone else to turn to. Marina pointed her in the right direction after some light cajoling, there was no way in Hell Julia believed for a second Marina didn’t keep tabs on every single one of them. Marina was simple though and after you gave her something she wanted she would do the same for you and they were on much more polite terms anyways after what happened that night.

That’s how she found herself knocking on Kady’s door and impatiently shifting her foot while she waited for the other woman to open the door. When she finally did answer the door Kady only stood there looking dumbstruck before Julia collapsed into her arms. Despite the unexpectedness of the entire situation Kady had done an admirable job of holding up her weight and then wrapping her in a tight embrace as she led her inside. The apartment wasn’t particularly done up by any means but it was an adequate space with red brick walls and a wood paneled floor that made it feel homey. It reminded Julia a lot of her own apartment actually, not that she ever planned on going back there again.

Kady was over in the kitchen area doing something and Julia could hear various pans and utensils clinging and clanging but she didn’t have the energy to look and see what was going on. She wasn’t sure what she had expected when she asked the Beast to make a deal, in her endless naivety maybe she had actually thought it would be the end to all of her problems. As soon as they were separated from the others however he had cast some sort of spell that made her drop to the floor unconscious and taken the blade, at least that’s what she assumed because she sure as Hell didn’t have it, and somehow expelled her from Fillory where she woke up on the side of the highway and somehow managed to drag herself back to civilization.

She had fucked up, again, and this time even more of her friends could be dead because of it. Quentin and the others had been in a bad way before she and the Beast left and she could only imagine what he planned on doing now that he had a blade that could kill a god. Reynard was still out there and the only peace she found in that whole situation was that he hadn’t found Kady, she was still okay. She was going to hunt down and kill that bastard anyways, but if he even laid a finger on Kady he was going to regret every second of it tenfold. How exactly she was going to go about hunting down and killing him was a mystery especially now that the Beast had both the blade and her friends held captive in Fillory. She really was fucked.

Apparently she was supposed to go to Brakebills and study right alongside Quentin. Apparently the first 39 times Jane Chatwin had expected her to be a hero, maybe even this time too. Now she wasn’t sure what she was except a lost, broken soul who had essentially sold out her friends to have even a sliver of a chance at revenge. And now even that was gone and the chances of putting the millions of pieces her life was currently shattered into back together were getting slimmer and slimmer.

A whistling sound drew her attention towards the kitchen area but there was a wall between her and most of the room and she couldn’t bring herself to actually walk over there. Whatever Kady was doing sounded like it was almost done and Julia hoped that it wasn’t some hedge witch something or other that was supposed to make her feel better because she had had enough of that shit to last fifteen lifetimes.

As she sat there and continued to wait for Kady to make a reappearance she thought back to simpler times. She could vaguely remember the person she had been before everything happened. Richard and the small group of eclectic individuals that they had brought together to form the Free Traders had given her a family and sense of purpose that she hadn’t had in a long time. She had been happy, ridiculously so, for once in her life and now it had all gone to shit and she was left to try and pick up the pieces of her life again. She didn’t even know where to start.

“Watch yourself this is hot,” Kady’s voice drew her out of her reverie as the other woman sat down a bowl of something in front of her.

“I wasn’t sure what you liked, but I figured everyone likes chicken noodle soup,” Kady said as Julia moved her gaze to see that the bowl did in fact contain said soup. “Oh shit, I forgot the tea.”

As the other girl bounded back into the other room Julia resigned herself to having a staring contest with the bowl of soup until she got back. It wasn’t that she didn’t like chicken noodle soup, she liked it in fact, she just hadn’t had much of an appetite since everything happened.

“There you go,” Kady said from behind her as she sat a cup of what she assumed was tea down in front of her, so that’s what the whistling earlier had been.

“I thought it would be best if we didn’t break out the alcohol just yet,” Kady said as she moved to sit in the seat beside hers with her own cup.

After several more moments of staring contest Kady spoke up, “You don’t like it.”

“No,” Julia said quickly. “Thank you, I just haven’t felt that hungry since everything happened.”

“Yeah,” Kady said nervously. “That makes sense.”

“You need to eat though,” she continued after a pause. “Need to keep up your strength if we’re going to go after that bastard.”

“Who said we were going after him,” Julia said hiding a smile.

“Your face did,” Kady said. “And if you’re going after him then there’s no way I’m letting you face that shit alone.”

Julia reluctantly grabbed her spoon, “I don’t know.”

“You’re too tense,” Kady said after a few moments of just looking at her.

Before Julia could respond to that the other woman was behind her. Julia immediately tensed as she felt hands on her shoulders.

“Hey, hey,” Kady said in a comforting voice. “It’s just me.”

Kady began to rub slow circles into her shoulders and Julia slowly began to relax.

“You’ve been through so much recently without ever taking a moment for yourself,” Kady’s voice caressed her ear.

As the shoulder rubs continued to get more and more purposeful Julia felt herself let out the briefest sigh of pleasure before clamping down on her own reactions and tensing up again slightly.

Kady must have felt it as she said, “It’s okay, it’s just me, no judgement here, just relax.”

So she let herself relax and soon she was feeling more at peace than she had in a long time, maybe even since before getting rejected from Brakebills in the first place.

She became so lost in the whole thing that she barely registered Kady’s voice saying, “I know you think you have to be focused all of the time but you’re of no use to anyone dead.”

“Eat your soup,” Kady said still in that soft tone of voice Julia had never heard her use before and when she used that voice Julia was pretty sure she would never be able to say no.

So she raised the spoon to her mouth and began eating the soup. It was a little colder than it would have been if she had eaten it when it had been first made but it was still up to par. She drank the tea too, which was an even better treat that had a hint of berry flavor she couldn’t quite place. The entire time Kady kept up rubbing her shoulders and she wasn’t sure she had ever felt more content in her life.

When it was all said and done Kady just went back to her seat and said, “Now tell me what’s going on.”

So she did and while she didn’t feel like she had her life together again she was pretty sure she had a good idea of where to begin. Picking up the pieces of her life started with Kady and as far as she was concerned that was already going pretty successfully. Maybe they really could do this, figure out how to take down Reynard. Maybe they could even take down the Beast and get Quentin and the rest back too. Whatever happened Julia was sure of one thing, she wasn’t alone.

Chapter Text

He had offered to take her Shade, whatever that was, and insisted that doing so would help her push past what had happened to her. She had been tempted, warry of his underlying motives, but tempted nonetheless; who wouldn’t have been. She had expected to feel something when he finally did it, maybe some sort of pain from being separated from whatever part of herself comprised her Shade, but nothing had happened. Instead of feeling pain she had just felt empty, like he had taken something more from her than just her pain from that night.

She hadn’t felt like herself anymore, it was almost as if some dark force within herself was finally free from whatever had been holding it back. She felt herself slowly losing control and had quickly told him to put it back in her panic of what could happen. Thankfully he had obliged and she had immediately felt herself coming back.

As she splashed water on her face, still a little shaky from the whole thing, she wondered if that is what had happened to Martin Chatwin. Had he given up his Shade in an effort to get rid of the pain from his memories of what had happened to him and inadvertently let out the dark part of himself that became the Beast. Of that she could never be sure and it wasn’t like he was the most forthcoming person with information about his past, but she wasn’t going to let him turn her into some evil sidekick as long as she could help it.

She had pain, a lot of it from that night and even some from before, but she wasn’t going to lose herself in an effort to get rid of it. She was going to get through it on her own time, in her own way, and was going to come out a more well-rounded person on the other side, at least that’s what she hoped. In reality she was lost without a clue of where to begin. She wondered if this is what Quentin had felt like after having one of his mental breakdowns, broken, lost, and unsure of where to go next. She wished he was around to talk to instead of the monster currently occupying her living room.

The Beast’s words and tone of voice echoed in her head, “I’ll be here if you change your mind,” he had said as if he was certain she would. He wouldn’t forcibly try to take whatever it was he thought she needed to get rid of, would he; of course he would, she would be an idiot to think any differently. She would have to be on her guard then if she was going to hang onto whatever part of her humanity he sought to take away.

“Julia,” she heard his unmistakable voice call to her from the living room.

“What,” she said once she got there.

“This Kady girl,” he said and she instantly froze. “It’s interesting she’s so worried about you, considering your past with each other.”

She stood there still stunned for a moment before asking in a tone not at all as strong as she had wanted it to be, “What did you do to her?”

“Me, I’ve done nothing,” he said. “You on the other hand left her in quite a hurry without a word about where you were going.”

“Reynard was out there, still is in case you’re forgetting our deal,” she said pointedly. “It was best we weren’t together.”

“Ah yes, it seems she wasn’t aware of such a strategy,” he said with a smirk. “Her level of worry is surprising, however, given your history.”

“Our history is fine,” she said defensively. “How do you even know she’s worried?”

“Fine isn’t the word I would use to describe it,” he said. “As for how I know, that’s not really important right now.”

“If you so much as lay a finger on her our deal’s off so I’d say it’s pretty damn important,” she said.

“Ah, Ah, Ah,” he said wagging his finger. “That’s not how it works I’m afraid, she wasn’t part of the deal; I could snap her neck right now and you wouldn’t be able to do anything to me, at least not with that blade and I doubt you’ll find a suitable replacement.”

She stood there for what felt like an eternity, the words “You bastard” hanging on her lips, but remained silent.

Eventually he said, “Good, I think we’re clear now, away with you.”

He shooed his hand in the direction of her room and almost without conscious thought she found herself making her way there. Her mind was a whirlwind as she laid face down in her bed. Kady was worried about her, that part wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise though the way he said it made it seem like Kady was trying to find her which was admittedly a possibility she hadn’t considered. If she wasn’t currently in the company of such a crazy being she may even have tried to find her and tell her she was alright, but that wasn’t a possibility now.

No, she would have to continue to keep her distance in case the Beast got any more brilliant ideas of how to fuck with her through Kady. She hadn’t anticipated this and she mentally kicked herself for not seeing how little power she actually had. He could use Kady as leverage to get her to do anything he wanted and she couldn’t do anything to him with the tools she currently had. He could attempt to let that dark part inside of her out again and she might not be able to stop it. She could lose herself. She buried her head in her pillow and tried not to think about it.

As he heard Julia shuffling around restlessly in her room the Beast couldn’t help the smile that appeared on his face. People were so weak and thus so malleable once you found out their weaknesses. It had taken only a little time and research while Julia busied herself in the bathroom to investigate the situation between Julia and this Kady. Admittedly he hadn’t been sure his threat would work, maybe their relationship wasn’t as close as it seemed, but no he had been right as usual and watching someone like Julia flounder was a distinct pleasure he hadn’t indulged in in quite some time. She would be his before long now no matter how strong willed she was, because if there was one thing he had learned in all his research it was that Julia Wicker would do anything to protect Kady Orloff-Diaz and that was exactly what he was counting on.

Chapter Text

It started with a game of chess of all things, believe it or not; it certainly took Kady long enough to figure it out. They had been having a good time testing various strategies on the 8x8 chessboard that comprised the field of battle. Chess as it turned out was one of Julia’s favorite stress relievers and Kady, though she wasn’t exactly playing the game constantly, thought her skills would at least be able to match Julia’s.

It had been going well actually, maybe not so much for Kady’s pieces or competitive spirit, but at least Julia was smiling and having a good time which was still a pretty rare occurrence, even in the wake of Reynard’s defeat. “Checkmate” Julia had called out as she moved her Knight into position to take Kady’s King and Kady being the sportsman that she was bowed out gracefully without protest. That’s where it had started to go downhill.

“You know at Brakebills they have this game called Welters,” she had blurted out in her infinite wisdom. “It’s sort of like a giant game of chess except you are the pieces and you have to use magic to advance yourself.”

That wasn’t exactly how it worked, she knew, but it was a pretty apt description that didn’t overwhelm Julia with unnecessary details, at least that’s what she had thought when she said it. Under ideal conditions the statement would have been innocuous and innocent, maybe even welcomed as playful banter, but for Julia it had apparently triggered something. One look at the other woman’s face told Kady all she needed to know, at least on the surface, about what she had done wrong.

“J, you know I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said trying to reign the situation in. “Who needs Brakebills and their stupid games anyways.”

“No,” Julia said raising her hand in a stop motion. “Just don’t.”

With that Julia walked out the door of their apartment and disappeared from Kady’s view. She had briefly considered the idea of following the other woman, but quickly thought better of it; Julia was the kind of person who needed time alone when they were going through something, the kind that would come back for comfort when she was ready. So Kady waited on the stone, front steps of the building where their apartment was located and watched the snow fall in the symphony that was a winter storm.

Snow had always fascinated her, something that could come down in flakes where no two were ever the same was something truly magical in her opinion. For all she knew, there actually was some sort of magical process or person behind it, but she wasn’t about to ruin the mystery by trying to find out. Maybe there was a real Elsa out there and this was just them letting off steam or whatever. In Kady’s experience though, even if there was really an Elsa type witch out there she was probably a bitch. No the snow just being snow was just fine and served as a welcome distraction while she waited for Julia’s return half an hour later.

As Julia bounded her way towards the door Kady slowly patted the space on the stairs next to her in a welcoming gesture. The other woman looked semi-reluctant, but eventually lowered herself down onto the stone. They didn’t say anything for several minutes before Julia broke the silence.

“My jeans are probably going to be wet from sitting here,” Julia observed absentmindedly.

Kady let out a small laugh at that before responding, “I had to sit out here for thirty minutes, I think you’ll live.”

Another silence settled over them and Kady could see that Julia had a lot on her mind, so being the ever helpful person that she was she prompted, “Whatcha thinking about?”

There was another short lull in conversation before Julia responded with a huff, “Brakebills.”

“What about it,” Kady asked.

“Just wondering about what kind of person I was in the other 39 timelines without all of this shit happening to me,” Julia answered honestly. “Was I a better me in those other timelines?”

“Hey,” Kady said grabbing Julia’s hand with her own and beginning to rub it casually with her thumb. “You’re you, the most you you’ve ever been right here and now.”

“Those other Julias,” she continued after a breath. “They may have gotten into Brakebills and they may have not had to deal with Reynard the Fox or even Marina for that matter, but that doesn’t make them better than you.”

“Maybe they had their own shit to deal with and maybe they didn’t,” she continued because she might as well keep going if she’s on such a roll. “But that doesn’t mean anything because they weren’t you, you’re you because of what you’ve been through and don’t you ever forget that.”

“Are you always this good at knowing what to say,” Julia said with a smile as she laid her head on Kady’s shoulder.

“No,” Kady said because there was no point in getting her hopes up. “So don’t get used to it.”

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Julia said her smile widening. “But thank you anyways.”

“You shouldn’t hold those other yous in such high esteem anyways,” Kady said a half smile on her face as well. “They all got themselves killed one way or another so they couldn’t have been all that.”

Julia let out a laugh at that before saying, “It’s just sometimes I wonder what it would have been like, to go to Brakebills, to have all the experiences the rest of you did.”

“You’re here now,” Kady said. “That’s all that matters.”

“If I had to die 39 times just to be here with you in this moment then I guess it was worth it,” Julia said leaning up to kiss Kady softly on the lips.

“Do you have any idea how cliché that just sounded,” Kady said.

“You started it,” Julia said.

“I did not,” Kady said defensively.

“You’re here now, that’s all that matters,” Julia repeated soaking every bit of cliché tone out of the words that she could. “If that doesn’t sound like something out of the next hit rom com I don’t know what does.”

“Fine,” Kady conceded. “Just don’t tell anyone.”

“No, I think I’ll keep soft Kady all to myself,’ Julia said playfully.

“Call me that again and I’ll show you how hard I can be,” Kady said.

“Was that innuendo,” Julia said barely containing her laughter.

“Your mind’s always in the gutter isn’t it,” Kady said.

“Only when it comes to you,” Julia said smirking.

“Maybe we should do something about that,” Kady said already pulling them up from their sitting position.

“Maybe we should,” Julia said challenging.

“I’m going to wreck you so hard,” Kady said as she began walking towards the door.

“Nothing too crazy K,” Julia said. “We have to meet Q and his new “date” at the restaurant in two hours.”

“Like I’m going to miss that clusterfuck,” Kady said as they made their way up the stairs to their floor. “You’ll still be capable of walking and forming coherent sentences, don’t worry.”

“Someone’s confident,” Julia said as Kady fumbled with her key.

“You of all people should know I never bluff about anything,” Kady said as the door opened much too slowly for her liking. “Especially sex.”

With that she was on Julia in a fever, the other woman barely having time to kick the door closed. They eventually made their way to the bedroom where Kady proceeded to show Julia, again, just how much she didn’t bluff about sex. Later as they stood at the entrance to a fairly upscale restaurant in the center of town eyeing the booths as they looked for Quentin, Kady found Julia grabbing her hand much like they had done on the front steps earlier that day.

“Really thank you for earlier,” Julia said. “I know I’m a little emotionally out there sometimes, but you’re always there to bring me back; I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Life would probably be a lot less interesting,” Kady said drawing another chuckle from the other woman. “And don’t mention it, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“I know,” Julia said smiling.

“There they are,” Julia said pointing in the direction of a booth in the far corner.

“This is going to be fun,” Kady felt a smirk appearing on her lips.

Upon their arrival at the booth in question Quentin gave them a short once over before saying, “Hey guys, this is Whitney.”

The beautiful blond haired woman, atypical of Quentin’s usual fare recently, reached out her hand for a shake.

“She’s a nymph,” Quentin said almost as an afterthought.

Yes, Kady thought, this was definitely going to be an interesting night. At least Julia’s most recent emotional crisis was in the bag and she was back to her usual, quiet but bubbly self. She and Whitney seemed to be hitting it off quite well actually. A very long night, Kady thought, as she tried not to let her jealousy flare up onto the surface. She sat back in her seat taking a sip of her soda, alcohol definitely wasn’t a good idea right now. She could probably beat this Whitney at a game of chess if it all came down to it.

She felt Julia squeeze her hand as she whispered in her ear, “After what we just did I can’t believe you’re jealous.”

“It’s not every day you start competing with a nymph,” Kady said in a hushed tone.

“You’ve been staring at her more than I have since we got here,” Julia whispered. “Maybe I should be the one that’s jealous.”

With that Kady flushed and quickly tried to find somewhere to put her eyes that was nowhere near the nymph sitting across from her.

“You’re so cute,” Julia said before leaning up and giving her a quick kiss.

Maybe not such a bad night after all, Kady thought, as she turned to see the properly chastised looks on Quentin and Whitney’s faces.

“Are we just ignoring the ground rules about PDA now,” Quentin said and Kady chucked a piece of bread at him.

Not a bad night at all.

Chapter Text

“In what year did the Battle of Gettysburg take place,” Margo heard the moderator say from the front of the room.

She quickly moved to jot down 1863 on her sheet while briefly contemplating how easy a question that was. Something a little more obscure like the Battle of Jutland or the Battle of Agincourt, while not necessarily capable of stumping her would have at least required a little thought. She was sure one of the idiots in this room would inevitably get even something that simple wrong. They weren’t exactly the cream of the crop that she was used to playing with, but things were difficult and she had to make do.

“Which music group is the only one to have a #1 hit before, during, and after the career of the Beatles,” another question broke her train of thought.

That was more like it, something that wasn’t immediately evident to the casual player. The Four Seasons was clearly the correct answer and she made sure to write that down, but a little challenge never hurt anyone. She briefly looked around to see stumped faces on many of her competitors and felt a brief swell of pride in her own intelligence and memorization skills. She really had perfected this whole thing into an art form and while some of the players in her usual group could give her a run for her money none of these posers even stood the slimmest of chances.

“Name the two elements that are liquid at room temperature,” another question came from the moderator.

Mercury and Bromine were on her answer sheet with barely a conscious thought. It was easy in this room, surrounded by people that while glaringly less intelligent than herself at least weren’t trying to kill her, to forget that they were about to go up against the Beast again and try to take him down before he wreaked havoc on Earth like he did in Fillory. Fillory was Eliot’s problem now and she hoped that he was faring better in his task than they were in theirs. Sure Quentin and Alice had went to visit the Dean’s fuckbuddy and gotten access to more advanced battle magic, but Alice was still having trouble mastering it and she wasn’t able to stand twiddling her thumbs in the corner anymore so she came here. They wouldn’t miss her and if they did a place like this would be one of the last they’d look for her. She’d let a little too much slip with the Rhode Island thing, but they were still in the dark.

“What famous general had the nickname the Desert Fox,” the moderator moved on to the next question.

She moved to write down Erwin Rommel and then took stock of the room again. There were a few who looked content with their answers but for the most part the crowd was stumped. It wasn’t even really a competition at this point, but at least her brain was getting a workout. Soon she would have to go back to being the confident, disinterested Margo that she made herself be around Brakebills. It wasn’t that she wasn’t both of those things, but she had found throughout her years that people often liked someone who was over the top one way or the other than a complex person who didn’t let themselves be put into boxes. It was a good way to shield what she was really feeling most of the time too, which was good because she didn’t feel like getting particularly touchy feely with anyone, even Eliot.

“What year did Queen Victoria die,” that was the last question if Margo was counting right.

1901, she made sure to write it down before giving the entirety of her answer sheet a once over. She was actually feeling confident about all of her answers and while there was no prize money being handed out tonight the satisfaction of proving her mental superiority would be reward enough. She handed her sheet to the moderator and then leaned against the wall as she waited for them to call the winner. Her victory was an inevitability.

“Alice Quinn,” the name felt like a roof collapsing on top of her. “Congratulations.”

Margo watched on shocked as the blond haired girl who she was sure had been practicing her battle magic and in no way should have been aware of her presence here walked up to receive some sort of certificate signifying her victory. How had she missed her, Margo wondered; she hadn’t been looking for people she knew in particular while looking around the room, but she was fairly certain she should have noticed if Alice had been there the whole time. Significantly adding to her horror was the fact that it looked like Alice had noticed her and was slowly making her way towards where she was leaning. She briefly thought about making a run for it, but reasoned that that was a little childish.

“Margo,” Alice said flashing a smile. “I had no idea you were so good at this, it was a good fight.”

She reached out her hand and Margo eyed it warily before shaking it.

“I wasn’t exactly expecting you to,” Margo found herself saying. “I was hoping for some time alone.”

Alice’s face fell a little and Margo briefly wondered if she had been too harsh.

Before Margo could contemplate too much Alice said, “Well we’re ready to proceed with the plan and I was tasked with tracking you down and I love trivia so can you really blame me for getting in on the action."

The thing was that Margo couldn’t blame her, if she was more like Alice she would have done the same thing.

She wasn’t Alice though so she just said, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Alice again looked slightly taken aback but still said, “Ok.”

“If you tell anyone about anything you saw in here,” Margo said not knowing where she was going with the sentence.

“I get it,” Alice said and they walked out of the small club together.

She hoped that that was the end of it. Alice wouldn’t say a word, she definitely wouldn’t say a word, and they could all get on with their lives like Alice hadn’t caught her in the middle of enjoying her secret love for trivia. It was back to being just plain old nonchalant, dismissive Margo. As the Dean rambled on about them having to get very drunk she found herself smiling. This was something that she could definitely do, fall back on all of her party experience and just allow herself to get wasted. Hopefully neither she nor Alice got drunk enough to let anything about what happened slip through the cracks.

“Here’s hoping,” she mumbled to herself as she started her way through one of the bottles the Dean had laid out.

The façade was back up. She was just as terrified and unsure of herself as the rest of them, but there was no way she was ever going to let them know that.

Chapter Text

When they were kids she used to spend hours upon hours with Quentin under that table mapping out various adventures that they wanted to go on. Fillory was a place of escape for both of them, an escape from just being two quiet geeks in the back of classrooms who always got picked on. An escape from the horrors of the real world that they faced on a daily basis. Kings and queens, knights, and the presence of magic in a world of whimsical adventure could only be an upgrade from a world that seemed like it was constantly against them.

How stupid they were to actually believe crap like that. The Fillory that they had dreamed of as children no longer existed by the time they actually made it there and perhaps had never really existed in the first place. Magic just presented another way for the world to fuck with you, and fuck with her it definitely had. Jane Chatwin’s time manipulation spell had caused it so that she never got into Brakebills, never got to meet the people or have the experiences that she could have had in a place where students got to hone their magic skills in a relatively safe environment.

She was cast aside like a toy and thrown to the wolves that prowled the world of hedge witches. Marina had found her, used her, and cast her aside just the same after she got what she wanted. But unlike those pretentious bastards at Brakebills Marina had come back when she really needed her. After Reynard, another sick product of magic, had his sick, twisted way with her Marina had helped her remove the memory from her mind. Quentin only came to find her when he needed her because he couldn’t get into Fillory himself.

Now Marina was dead, The Beast was dead, and Reynard had the blade all because of them. Her world was crumbling around her. She had Kady, so she wasn’t completely alone, but that didn’t make her feel any better about the situation. She had resolved it in her head never to contact Quentin again and that if he ever contacted her to stop his bullshit before it could even start and tell him to fuck off. To her surprise she actually had the chance to act out her plan.

“You really shouldn’t have come here,” was the first thing she said to him when she opened her door to find him standing there.

“Alice sacrificed herself to destroy the Beast,” was his response. “It’s over Jules, we can help you look for Reynard now, if you want.”

“Fuck you and your self-righteous bullshit Q,” she said. “I didn’t need your help before and I sure as Hell don’t need your help now.”

“The Beast needed to be stopped Jules,” he said. “The safety of the entire world was at stake.”

“The Beast may have been a manipulative bastard,” she conceded. “But he was more of a friend to me these past few days than you’ve been in a long time."

“He wanted to destroy everything Jules,” he said. “And you picked him over us, left us to die, do you know how fucked up that is?”

“I know you like to think you’re the good guy in all this Q, the big hero, but you took away the only person who could have helped me defeat Reynard when we were right there and allowed someone to be tortured and killed because of it,” she screamed out. “So get the fuck out of my doorway.”

“Killing the Beast was for the greater good,” he said not moving. “You used to know what that was.”

She punched him, she didn’t mean to but her anger just overtook her.

“Fuck you and your greater good Q,” she spat at him. “I don’t want to see you back here again.”

With that she slammed the door in his face. Not having the energy to move she slumped against the doorway and hugged her knees, laying her head back and shutting her eyes. Their friendship had been over for a long time, maybe even had started to break down before real magic was ever a part of their lives. She had been preparing herself to cut it off, but that didn’t help the pain in her chest that persisted at having put such a dramatic exclamation point on things.

She didn’t know how long she sat there letting whatever tears she had flow freely. It was Brakebills, it was the Free Traders, it was Marina, it was Quentin and a lot of other things too. Which ones were the cause of which tears couldn’t be deciphered as she turned into a steady stream of physical sadness. She heard footsteps and before she could look up and try to get herself put back together Kady spoke.

“I’m not good at the whole comforting thing, but do you need anything,” she said rubbing her arm nervously.

“Alcohol,” was her response as she pushed herself up from her sitting position. “Lots of it.”

“I think I can manage that,” Kady said moving over to the kitchen.

A few minutes later as they continued to down shots Kady spoke again, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Our friendship’s been ending for a long time, this is just the nail in the coffin,” she said. “What is there to talk about?”

“Something like that is never that easy to just throw away,” Kady said looking around nervously. “I would know.”

“This isn’t like you and your mom,” she said.

“Isn’t it,” Kady said. “I hated my mom for a long time, for a lot of stupid reasons, but that never changed the fact that deep down I still loved her.”

“The things that Quentin and I have done to each other aren’t the kinds of things that you can just forget about,” she said.

“I just don’t want you to have any regrets,” Kady said.

“I don’t,” she said.

“Okay,” Kady said. “More?”

“Do you even have to ask,” she said holding out her glass eagerly.

When they were kids she and Quentin used to sit under that table for hours mapping out the things they would do together in Fillory.

“Got my back Jules,” he would say.

“Always,” she would reply.

How stupid they were to ever delude themselves with such fantasies. In the end, the world sent them on different paths. He had gotten to go and live something similar to the fantasies they had believed in and play hero. She had been cast aside time and time again by a world that still seemed like it was constantly against her. They were opposite sides of the same coin maybe, but still opposite sides.

“I’ll be high king of Fillory and you’ll be my queen Jules,” he had said once.

“Can’t wait,” she had replied.

How stupid they were.

Chapter Text

Margo lay awake in bed trying to get her breathing under control. Ess had already gotten up and went to do whatever it was that douchebag princes did to start their day, probably to grab a few of his lackeys and throw tomatoes at prisoners or something else stupid like that. One look at his face as he left had told her all she needed to know about whether she had accomplished what she had sought to accomplish when she took him to bed the night before. His smug smile and air of arrogance made it clear that he thought she was his now, that he thought she was under his thumb. Guys like him were too easy and she almost felt bad about playing him like that, almost.

No, the whole situation with him had gone exactly as planned. He was no doubt distracted now and wouldn’t be ready for further negotiations when she decided to drop the bomb on him. It had been a good use of her bad girl, seductress persona that hadn’t seen use since they first traveled to Fillory and on any other given day she’d be celebrating her victory. Today wasn’t a normal day however and she wasn’t feeling particularly victorious. No, after the whole thing with Penny in her nightmare she was feeling something she hadn’t felt in a long time, vulnerable.

It afforded her peace of mind that Penny had only stumbled upon a showing up late for an exam and standing naked in front of the class nightmare. While that kind of lack of confidence in herself wasn’t something that she put forward with her day to day persona it was easy enough to dismiss as the kind of nightmare that everyone had. If Penny had stumbled upon anything more specific to her when he entered her dreams she wasn’t sure what she would do. Her mind drifted back to a not so distant memory.

“Everything is ready Miss Hanson,” a professor named McManis said to her as she led her back into a faculty area. “Though I still don’t know why you don’t want to take the exam with the rest of the class.”

It was second year, a philters class that just so happened to have the distinction of being her first exam of the year.

“I just don’t like taking tests in front of people,” she said putting on a smile.

That was at least partially true, she didn’t like taking tests in front of people, but not due to any nervousness about the test itself or anything like that. No, she knew that she would inevitably be one of the first ones to finish the exam no matter how hard she tried to slow herself down, and then the others would all know that she wasn’t quite as much of a party all the time kind of girl as she put on. She had worked it out with her professors the first year and she would do the same in subsequent years. She was building a persona and even her own intelligence wasn’t going to get in the way of what she was doing.

“100 %,” McManis said handing the exam back to her several days later as she returned to the same faculty area to pick it up. “Have you ever considered being a TA?”

That comment stopped her dead in her tracks because one she didn’t even know Brakebills had TAs, she just assumed every one of her teachers was a professor, and two because being a TA definitely wasn’t the kind of thing that would fit with her persona.

“No,” she said in a tone that she thought was decisive.

“If you’re worried about the other students finding out we have charms for that kind of thing,” McManis said surprising her.

“What,” she said dumbfounded.

“Oh yes, I’ve figured it out,” McManis said. “Margo Hanson is crafting herself as a party girl and is afraid her own intelligence will give her away as being not all that.”

“How did you,” she started.

“It was all quite easy once I started looking into it,” McManis said. “I can’t say I approve but I understand and like I said we have charms for that, no one will know it’s you teaching.”

“Okay,” she said resigned.

That feeling of resignation, like she was only doing it because she had been found out and not because she wanted to clouded her first few days of teaching. However, as time went on she started to really enjoy it and by the time the current year rolled around she was actually looking forward to it more than her own classes. The Beast had inevitably screwed that up but it had been fun while it lasted.

Shaking herself out of the memory she mentally punched herself, if Penny had stumbled into her mind right there he would know everything or at least everything that was worth knowing. Letting the Rhode Island thing slip had been one thing, a brief lapse in her filter that could be covered up with an air of superiority and a roll of the eyes. This was different, this was her letting her guard slip, this was her getting too comfortable around the people she found herself with. The cracks in her persona were becoming more and more pronounced and she needed to put an end to them before something that couldn’t be explained away slipped from her carefully guarded mind.

Her breathing now under control, she picked herself up from the bed and went about constructing the physical part of her persona. She was a queen and she needed to look like royalty, deserved to look like royalty. With her air of confidence returning to her and a practiced smile on her face she marched down the halls of the Fillorian castle. Queen Margo had been sitting on the sidelines, letting others tell her what she could and couldn’t do and fraying at the edges because of it, it was time to let her out to play again. She needed something big, something that made it clear that she wasn’t to be trifled with. Eliot may be High King and have the ultimate final decision in theory, but she knew how to play him better than anyone else. This was going to be fun.

As she watched Ess’s face fall and scrunch back up into a guarded smirk after she announced the declaration of war on Loria she knew that her persona was firmly back in place at least for the masses. The royal advisors were properly shocked and Eliot looked confused as to how he found himself agreeing with her during her diatribe. It had all gone according to plan. Penny of course would require a more cautious eye and rigorous guarding of her mind before he would stop snooping. For now though Queen Margo was back and it felt so good to be in control again.

Chapter Text

She had him right where she wanted him, after the weeks and weeks of him being one step ahead of her Reynard the Fox was finally in her sights, all she had to do was pull the trigger. Of course that’s when Persephone, Our Lady Underground herself, finally decided to show up, not to help her of course or anyone else worth helping, just to help her son and by proxy herself. It was all very fitting that she wouldn’t get her own hands dirty to stop her though, just interject herself where she wasn’t needed or wanted and give her some speech about how sparing him was the right thing to do.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said in that eerily calm voice of hers. “But the choice is yours.”

She thought about it, against all sense she actually thought about sparing him for a moment, but then she really thought about it and snapped back to reality. All the people he had killed, all the people he had violated like he did her, they were counting on her to do this and she wasn’t going to let them down. He had looked at humanity as his playthings, using a person for all they had of value and throwing them away after they were broken beyond repair. It was what he had tried to do to her, what he still thought he actually accomplished, but he was wrong. She had out-tricked the fox and she was going to make him pay for it.

“You really are a selfish bitch,” she gritted at Persephone.

She pulled the trigger, stealing one last look at Reynard’s face to see the shock that rested there. Persephone’s face on the other hand wore a look of barely concealed anger. The gods all thought the way Reynard did to a certain extent, lesser beings like humans were nothing more than playthings to be manipulated and rewarded how they saw fit until like Pavlov’s dogs no reward was even required for their manipulation to take root. The old Julia would have been sickened by that fact and would have relished in sending a giant middle finger to the whole pantheon through this act.

“So be it,” Persephone said as Reynard fell to the ground dead before she herself disappeared again.

She looked down at the lifeless body of the creature who had tried to ruin her life and while the exact emotions were still somewhat a mystery to her she knew that this was a good thing for her and the world. Then she looked up to see the smile on Kady’s face and couldn’t help but smile back. The memories she could draw on as well as her recent experience made it clear that Kady and how Kady felt were important to her so she knew that if Kady was happy it should make her happy. She knew that she hadn’t been truly happy in a long time, since before her shade was even taken, and it wasn’t something she entirely understood, but with Kady everything seemed easier, so she decided to just go with it and look at it for what it was.

“You did it,” Kady said wrapping her in a hug.

“We did it,” she said accepting the contact.

Kady stepped back immediately however and began nervously rubbing her arm, “Sorry, I got a little carried away.”

“Reynard is dead, we accomplished our goal,” she said. “Getting carried away is probably acceptable.”

“You’re right,” Kady said. “This calls for drinks.”

The drinking was alright, an acceptable activity in the wake of victory enjoyed for centuries, but the fact that she couldn’t feel the effects of the alcohol in the drink made the whole thing kind of moot. Still Kady was enjoying herself and that would have made the old Julia happy so she endured it. After a while however Kady began picking up on her disinterest in the drink in front of her and plopped herself down onto the couch next to where she was sitting. There was look of concern on her face for a few moments as she scanned over her face with intense concentration.

“I’m sorry you can’t really enjoy this J,” Kady finally said. “I mean you killed a god, you should be feeling badass right now.”

“As long as Reynard is dead and can’t hurt anyone else ever again my shade was a necessary sacrifice,” she said.

“Still, it’s like he’s still hurting you,” Kady said. “You’re not the person you were because of what he did.”

“I’m not the person I was because of what he did,” she repeated. “But that had nothing to do with my shade.”

“You know what I meant,” Kady said.

“I always do,” she replied.

“Maybe there’s another way to get her back,” Kady said.

“After what we just did I doubt Persephone will be accommodating,” she said. “Besides, she’s been gone too long now for me to have any reasonable chance of finding her.”

“Maybe there’s something in the Library,” Kady said. “I could have Penny look.”

“If there was we would have found it,” she said. “We both knew the consequences when we decided to help Alice’s shade instead, it’s fine.”

Kady laid her head on her shoulder, “Do you think the gods will be mad, we did kill one of them after all.”

“Unlikely,” she said. “Reynard tricked gods too and they’ll be just as happy to see him go as we are.”

“Persephone,” Kady questioned.

“She may yet pose a threat, but if I see that bitch again I have another god-killing bullet with her name on it,” she answered.

“You made another one,” Kady said in disbelief.

“It’s always best to overprepare,” she said.

“Even without the shade I’m glad you’re still you,” Kady said.

“I wasn’t,” she said. “But you helped me find myself again, if still a little impaired.”

“I’ll take you right now over most people any day,” Kady said smiling.

She wasn’t fully herself, the emotions surrounding how the old Julia would have felt at receiving such praise, particularly from Kady, were all still foreign to her, but with Kady she was learning and maybe one day they wouldn’t be so much. She had captured Reynard the Fox and put him down like the dog he was. It wouldn’t bring back the people he killed or remove the stain of what he’d done to others who still lived, but it was the best she could do. And now, sitting back with Kady on her couch, she wasn’t sure what would come next. Reynard the Fox and getting back at him for what he had done to her had been the focus of her entire existence for so long that thinking of what came next was daunting.

For now though, Reynard was dead and Kady was happy and those two things were two of the only things that would have ever made the old Julia feel content so she decided to just sit back and enjoy her victory as much as she still could. There would be a time for deciding what to do next, how to deal with Persephone and Hades if they ever showed or how to just go on living while continuing to miss an important part of what had made her her. For now though she would settle for just sitting back and listening to Kady breathe, because that was another thing that would have made the old Julia feel contentment even in the midst of the most impossible chaos.

Chapter Text

Julia bounds her way into the large lecture hall ten minutes before her class is even supposed to start carrying a small assortment of notebooks and binders. She’s early because she’s the TA and she thinks it’s important to set a good example from her position of authority, but also because she’s always been sort of an overachiever when it comes to attendance. Luckily there’s not another class in the room at the moment and she can actually go about getting herself prepared for her first day as a TA. There’s a professor assigned to the class too so she won’t actually have to be teaching anyone anything, and thank God for that because that might have actually sent her into a nervous breakdown, but she’s still there in a position of authority and that’s a big responsibility. She sits herself down at the front of the room and proceeds to flip through her notes as she waits for the professor to show up.

Dr. Quinn is decidedly not what she pictured when she thought up what a literature professor would be like. They haven’t had any face to face meetings before this and she couldn’t shake the image of an old man barely clinging to life in a tweed jacket and Daniel Quinn is decidedly not any of those things. First off he suggests that both she and the class at large refer to him as Daniel rather than Dr. Quinn. He apparently has a daughter her age that is some sort of chemistry genius, but when he asks her if she knows her she has to answer in the negative, she doesn’t know many people outside of her tight circle of friends which in of itself is mostly just Quentin and whoever he decides to drag with him. This year it’s Eliot and Margo, a pair of graduate students who he likes to party with and who apparently have both taken him to bed. She’s not one to judge but that’s really not what she’s into.

The fact that his daughter’s so close to graduating is probably contributing to his clothes that practically scream midlife crisis. Skinny jeans on a fifty something year old man should really be against the law and while his sweater vests and hipster glasses weren’t what she’d call bad it all still left her with a strange feeling in her gut. Regardless he’s charming in his own way and seems to really know what he’s doing so she’s content to just bear with the quirkiness for a semester and earn her credit. Her attention doesn’t stay on him for long anyways once the class starts. At first that’s simply because she’s so focused on her own work that she’s only halfheartedly listening to the introduction lecture that she already got the gist of in her preparation for today’s class, but then he calls her name and asks her to help him pass out a practice test and she has to bring her eyes up to take in the room again.

As she turns her gaze in the direction of Daniel’s voice her eyes also take in a new figure who she hadn’t noticed walking into the room. It’s a woman about her age with long, curly brown hair wearing jeans and a tank top and jacket combination that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Julia briefly wonders what she’s doing standing at the front of the class until she herself answers Daniel’s question in the affirmative and sees her sign something in the direction of the middle rows. Julia gets up to pass out the test and tries not to let her gaze linger too long on the other woman, staring is creepy and Julia is determined not to be a creep no matter how attractive this mystery woman is. At least that’s what she tells herself when she has her back to her and it’s easy to pretend she isn’t even there. When she sits back down, Daniel starts talking again, and the woman’s hands start moving a mile a minute however, it is a much harder proposition.

She spends the rest of the class mesmerized by the various movements of those hands and she briefly wonders if something like that is weird to find attractive about another person. Daniel goes on for as long as he can about exactly what they’re going to cover in the class, but even his energy can’t go on forever and he dismisses the class for the day. The enrolled students all bound out of the lecture hall as fast as they can and Julia really should take that as a cue to tear her gaze away, but those hands and the signs they were making have her in a daze. It’s only when the hands and overall figure of the person attached to them make their way closer and closer to her spot on the other side of the front podium that she realizes her mistake. The piercing blue eyes that meet her gaze when she pulls it upwards don’t help matters.

“If you’re going to spend the whole class staring at me you should at least buy me coffee,” she says as a matter of greeting. “I’m Kady by the way.”

“Julia,” is all she manages to get out before Kady is turning on her heel and making her own way out of the classroom.

Since Kady doesn’t leave her with her number or really any other way of getting into contact with her it’s a few weeks before they actually manage to make it to the coffee shop. Julia’s nervously nursing a hot chocolate as she waits for Kady to actually make an appearance. She showed up early to this too so it’s understandable that Kady’s not there as soon as she gets there but she can’t shake the feeling that maybe Kady realized the creepiness of the whole thing and decided against getting even closer to her. Julia would understand, but she’d also be severely disappointed. As Quentin keeps telling her, her love life has been like a barren desert for almost a year. She wants to argue back to him that just because she doesn’t sleep with everything that has a pulse and gives her five minutes of their time doesn’t mean she isn’t trying, but their friendship’s already rocky enough as it is.

“So it’s not just me you enjoy staring at,” Kady says plopping down unceremoniously in the seat across from her.

“Kady,” she bolts up to extend her hand before letting it fall away and nervously rubbing her arm, she really isn’t good at this.

“Sorry I was just thinking,” she says sitting back down.

“About what,” Kady says in a suggestive tone that leaves Julia questioning what she got herself into.

“Nothing,” Julia says blushing anyways. “Just about my friend Quentin.”

“Not like that,” she adds at the look Kady gives her.

After a few moments of silence she blurts out, “So where’d you learn to sign like that.”

“My sister’s deaf, I picked it up,” Kady says shrugging. “It’s no big deal.”

“You’re really good at it,” she says letting a little wonder slip into her tone.

“Being bad kind of makes it hard to communicate with someone,” Kady says shrugging again.

“What made you want to do it in a professional capacity,” she says.

“Professional, no not really,” Kady says. “This is only a gig for the schoolyear, I’m here anyways and I had the skills to pass the certification so I thought why not.”

“Why are you a TA,” she continues.

“Credit,” is Julia’s simple answer.

They have a variety of other small talk for the next half hour before Kady looks at her phone and proceeds to start getting up.

“I have to go,” Kady says. “This was nice.”

“We should do it again sometime,” Julia says.

“Yeah,” Kady agrees.

“I’ll see you in class I guess,” Julia says.

“I’m sure you will,” Kady says smirking.

Julia’s not really sure if what just happened constitutes a date, but she’s not going to feel so bad about staring in the future if Kady’s going to keep smirking and looking at her like that.

Chapter Text

Julia sat on the floor of her apartment looking at the burning ember of the lit cigarette in her hand as she held it parallel to the floor. Smoking inside wasn’t usually her thing, it was a fire hazard for one and the smell lingered long after the fun was actually over in any case, but this cigarette wasn’t for smoking; if she was looking to smoke her problems away she would have gone for something much stronger anyways. In the next moment her gaze shifted to her outstretched arm, long sleeve of the plaid button up she was wearing pulled up above her elbow to reveal the prominent hedge witch tattoos Marina had once taken from her that she had since reclaimed as hers again. It had been a while since she’d done this, but it was like swimming or riding a bike, something that once it was in your mind never quite left you. With one quick motion she turned the cigarette so that it was pointing downwards and drove it into her fragile flesh.

Quentin was probably looking for her in order to get a jumpstart on the next phase in the quest to bring magic back, but he could wait. The initial flash of pain from the burn settled into a familiar numbness and she reveled in it. She wasn’t looking to do any serious damage however and quickly lifted the cigarette after several moments, swiftly moving it slightly to the right before pressing down again. She mentally cursed herself for allowing the situation with Kady to get her to this point in the first place. Kady had a right to be mad. The situation with Reynard had been a clusterfuck from start to finish and at the end of the day a shadeless version of her who couldn’t understand why he had to die ended up sparing the bastard. Julia certainly had blamed herself in the initial aftermath enough to understand how Kady felt. That didn’t make the betrayal hurt any less.

Once upon a time she had been an overachiever in tight control of her life that strived for perfection. This had allowed her to obtain an acceptance to Yale, a stable relationship with James, and a nicer apartment than most people her age could hope to have in such a short span of time. The flights of fancy that she and Quentin had gone on in their youth about Fillory and magic had been pushed to the wayside in favor of a drive to achieve something tangible. Over the course of one day however magic reentered her life like a hurricane and threw everything into chaos. It had started with Brakebills itself or more specifically Jane Chatwin who in an effort to throw a new variable into the fight against The Beast deprived her of the access to the sanctioned magic education that she had had in 39 other timelines. She was sure that Jane would say that her plan worked to perfection considering The Beast was now dead, but Julia was inclined to disagree wholeheartedly.

Another lift of the cigarette, shift to the right, and downward motion shot a jolt of pain through her again before settling into numbness. Without that sanctioned magic education she had been forced to seek it out elsewhere. Marina had appeared like a beacon of hope offering community and knowledge and Julia had latched on to that hope with everything that she had. In the end Marina had just been using her to achieve her own goals and proceeded to cast her aside at the first available opportunity once they were achieved. Kady’s mom had been a brief respite in the whole thing, someone who while not completely all there was good at heart and genuinely wanted to help her, but Marina had ended up ruining that too. She hadn’t been in a good place then either but in that case she had had her sister looking out for her.

She had never been a fan of rehab, but Richard and the Free Trader Beowulf group actually managed to pull her back from the brink and give her something to shoot for again. There had been days then, good days, where her entire life consisted of studying up on different spells with Kady and trying to advance within the group’s ranks. Studying had always given her a certain amount of pleasure and studying magic was another realm entirely. In the end that had all gone to shit too because of Reynard. If there was anything that was going to actually succeed in breaking her beyond the point of no return it would have been that flashpoint of cruelty visited upon her in the form of a trickster god. Despite everything though Kady managed to escape from the situation relatively unscathed and that fact was the light at the end of the tunnel that kept her going.

Martin had been her best shot at tracking down and actually managing to kill Reynard quickly, she still believed that with her entire being. She had had to commit her own act of betrayal against Quentin and his friends in order to do it, but she had been right at the cusp of actually pulling it off before Quentin and his own heroic streak managed to get in her way. Martin ended up dying because of it, Marina ended up dying because of it, and she had been left with little to go on as far as taking down Reynard at that point. Kady stepped up to be by her side in the aftermath and as a team they actually managed to find another way to kill the monster that was Reynard the Fox and prevent him from ever hurting anyone else again.

Another quick motion and the cigarette found purchase on another patch of skin. Inevitably even her own body managed to fail her. Being shadeless had allowed her to say and do things that she had always secretly wanted to but had never quite had the self-confidence to actually follow through with. And Kady had stuck by her side the entire way even offering to act as her conscience when it came to decisions that were really important. It hadn’t been enough though, the shadeless version of her just wasn’t “her” enough and it could never understand the personal reasons why she wanted Reynard to die with a burning passion. She did get her shade back as part of the whole ordeal, but the look on Kady’s face made any joy she felt at finally being whole again feel hollow. One day she was going to try to right that wrong, to find Reynard again and finish the job, but without magic it was pretty much impossible so she was kind of stuck.

Needless to say she would have preferred that her first meeting with Kady in the aftermath of it all had taken place in a more neutral setting. She would have waited for Kady to come to her for one thing because Kady wasn’t the kind of person you could just force into a situation and expect the outcome to be anything other than more resentment. She also would have preferred talking to her alone or at the very least not bringing her into a situation where, with Quentin and Josh flanking her as she entered the room, Kady felt like she wasn’t on an even playing field and thus proceeded to get defensive. The wonderment of her still having magic was at least enough in the moment to prevent a direct confrontation that wouldn’t have ended well for anyone and for that Julia was grateful.

She had had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t have multiple opportunities in their future endeavors together as a group to have a discussion about what happened and so she hadn’t pressed too hard to engage her directly. Kady had always been out for her own goals though, had never intended to help them or more specifically her, and that realization hurt more than the physical act of betrayal ever could. The one person who had always been on her side no matter what, since she’d actually gotten to know her, no longer thought of her as someone who could be trusted. A few more less precise strikes with the cigarette into her arm came in quick succession before she put the offending object out in an ash tray. She briefly looked over the damage and sighed in relief when she didn’t find anything too substantial. She would need to make a conscious effort to wear long sleeves for the foreseeable future though lest Quentin start asking questions. Quentin had come back to her eventually despite everything; she hoped that Kady would too. She wasn’t sure if she could handle someone else leaving her for good. She rolled her sleeve back down her arm and steeled herself for Quentin’s inevitable knock on the door.

Chapter Text

The theory of the multiverse posits that there’s an infinite number of parallel universes existing simultaneously alongside our own. In a sort of grand cosmic chess game all possibilities are allowed to play out to their ultimate conclusions. In a world where magic is real the powers that be are sure to educate magic users about the possibility that they may encounter or even enter an alternate universe at some point in their lives. There are certain warnings that must be issued before someone does something stupid just because they can and rips a hole in the fabric of spacetime. There’s the usual don’t interfere with the course of a universe unless you have to because you never know what consequences your actions might have. That one’s pretty copy and pasted from warnings about time travel. There’s also warnings about meeting yourself within these alternate universes. And it’s not even like time travel where at least the you you’re potentially meeting there eventually becomes you in a vacuum.

The thing about alternate universes is that the yous you could potentially meet there aren’t really you at all when you get down to it. They may look, sound, and act like you on a surface level but there’s also the potential and even likelihood of vast differences. It’s the old nature versus nurture debate. Some things are innate about a person but a lot of what builds up our mindsets and personalities depends on our specific experiences. Infinite universes leave open the possibility for infinitely different experiences. The you you meet could have lost their mother at an early age whereas you still see your mother every day. This experience would give them a vastly different outlook on a variety of subjects than your own. It’s important to realize this before potentially going to an alternate universe not only to protect oneself from the dangers of trusting an alternate you implicitly but also to avoid viewing the actions of that alternate you as a reflection on your own character. Any alternate you you meet is essentially an entirely separate person, a stranger in all but name, and should be treated as such.

Growing up in the Library Harriet had been instructed on these warnings more times than she could count. The thing that was kind of a grey area even to the Library, or at least the parts of the Library she actually had access to, was the space that existed outside of any defined universe. It of course was a factor to consider when thinking about traveling to an alternate universe, something could go wrong with the spell or artifact you were using and you could simply be lost to the ether before you ever even got close to another universe. Some research existed that tried to explain the nature of this other space, but the findings were vague and consisted mostly of speculation. This was the space that Travelers moved through to get from one point to another in an instant, but to them the traveling also happened in an instant and they didn’t know much more than the average person. She knew all too well what the space between universes was like now though.

“Are you okay,” she signed to Victoria who was floating a few feet away from her.

“Fine,” Victoria signed back.

That was a silver lining at least. Victoria hadn’t been looking too good before the mirrors shattered. The blood loss was still something to consider if they ever got out, but at least her condition hadn’t gotten worse.

“Can you move,” she signed.

Victoria flapped her arms and legs around briefly before signing, “No.”

“Me neither,” she signed in response.

That wasn’t good. Her initial plan had been to try and use Victoria’s Traveler abilities to see if they could just travel somewhere and allow their current location to act as a sort of waystation. It wasn’t going to be that easy and if she was being completely honest with herself she didn’t really have a Plan B that took into account the fact that they couldn’t move. Certain theories posited that there was a way to access every universe from the space in between, like an infinite number of doorways just waiting for someone to turn the knob, but that didn’t take into account their inability to move either. And even if those theories happened to be true there was no way to know for sure if the “door” they were opening led to their home universe. Granted there was no guarantee of that with her Traveler plan either but she had been hoping that something within Victoria’s abilities would be specifically attuned to her home universe which was why when she and other Travelers traveled their movements stayed confined there. It wasn’t a completely concrete hope but it wasn’t exactly far fetched either. None of that mattered if they couldn’t move though.

She tried a few more times to will herself over to Victoria’s position but all it produced was just the feeling of swimming in Jello with no actual results. Her mind began to wander to her mother. What was her mother doing? What would she say if she saw her now? She’d probably scold her before moving to get her out. That was how it always was growing up. Everything was a lesson. It wasn’t exactly the most personal approach to parenting and when she was younger Harriet had resented her for it, but now that she was older she was capable of understanding what was really going on. Her mother was insecure, afraid of losing her, and that manifested as a strict overprotectiveness. She didn’t hate her mother, but she couldn’t completely love her either, especially not after their last conversation. Maybe her mother was working to get her out right now, using the Library’s resources to find a solution to find her missing daughter, or maybe she was initiating her plan to even further restrict access to the Library’s information. She couldn’t be sure.

She flipped through the pages frantically again. This was the book. This had to be the book. Harriet was gone and if this book didn’t have the answers she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to call in another favor and get a different one. Her source had promised her that this book would hold the answers that she sought. It was an overly vague platitude but she hadn’t let been let down by that charming smile before and she wasn’t about to start doubting it now, not when their daughter was the one in danger. But the more she flipped through the pages the more the contents revealed themselves to only be slightly more in depth versions of writings she had out on the public shelves. Vague theories about the nature of the space in between universes was not going to help her physically get her daughter out of there. She began flipping through the pages again looking for the hook that would tell her all the answers. It wasn’t like she had anything better to do.

“Dammit,” the word hit Julia like a punch in the gut.

Frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, desperation, regret; a cocktail of emotions was there too.

“What’s wrong,” Kady’s voice pulled her out of the sensation.

“Someone needs help,” she said. “I can feel their desperation.”

“Help them then,” Kady said.

If only it was that simple. No, Dean Fogg had helped her realize the dangers of that thinking all too well. Some things that people complained about within the confines of their own head were not for her to “fix”. The temptation was still difficult to avoid though. She was trying her best but it wasn’t like there was a step by step guide on how to be a god. Ember and Umber only saw their charges as playthings for their entertainment. Reynard existed in that same vein but took on a much darker edge. Persephone presented herself as a moral authority but ultimately was indifferent to anything that didn’t directly affect her. And Iris, Julia hadn’t known her long, but she seemed to take on the role of a detached scientist conducting a lab experiment. Jane Chatwin took on the role of a god too when she created timeline after timeline, throwing variables at the wall until someone was finally able to kill The Beast, and she was far from benevolent. She in a way had taken things a little too far the other way initially and finding a final middleground was still eluding her. Still it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

“I’ll be back,” she told Kady before disappearing in a burst of light.

She was still getting used to the fact that her new powers could just send her to wherever a person in need was without more than a thought. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Briefly stopping to take in her surroundings it was clear that she was in the Library. Hunched over a desk frantically flipping through the pages of a book was a woman she recognized as the head librarian; Zelda, the name came to her instinctively. She cautiously made her way over to the desk and took a closer look at the scene in front of her. It was odd to see a woman she had never seen present herself as anything but the perfect picture of composure looking so frantic as she flipped through the pages. She wasn’t exactly her favorite person and the organization she represented wasn’t close to benevolent in her eyes either, but she needed help. It couldn’t hurt to ask.

“What’s with the book,” she said.

She startled so much she almost fell out of her chair.

“What are you doing here,” was the response after taking a moment to regain her composure.

“Your emotions were really loud,” she said. “And I’m kind of a god now so I figured I’d come and see what the problem was.”

“You’re a god,” the skepticism was obvious.

“Sort of,” she said. “It’s complicated.”

“That’s not what I’m here to talk to you about though,” she continued. “I’m here to talk about what’s bothering you, maybe that book if it’s relevant.”

When no immediate response came she said, “I could just read through the book myself and draw my own conclusions.”

“Go ahead,” the book was practically thrown at her chest. “It doesn’t matter.”

After a brief skimming of the pages she set the book back down on the desk and said, “The space between universes; what’s so important about that?”

“It’s where Harriet is,” was the response.

“Harriet, the free information activist who hates the Library,” she said confused.

“Yes,” the nervous aversion of the eyes drew her attention.

“Ignoring the fact that I thought people who got stuck between universes just ended up dead why do you care so much about her,” she prodded.

“Because she deserves it,” a vague answer. “At least once.”

Regret accosted Julia again accompanied by shame and love, familial love. The picture was coming together for her now.

“She’s your daughter isn’t she,” she said.

The aversion of the eyes and lack of denial was all the answer she needed.

“How do we get her back,” she said. “And Victoria too, if Harriet’s still alive so is she.”

“I don’t know,” was the frustrated response. “All I know is that they’re not dead and that that book was supposed give me answers.”

“Maybe it did,” she said. “It was your frustration and desperation flipping through the book that drew me here.”

“I’m a god now,” she continued. “Maybe I can pull them out.”

“A god yes,” some form of understanding spread across her features. “He must’ve known.”

“Who,” she asked.

“It’s not important,” was the quick response. “We need to go to the mirror so we’re trying this from the same point of entry.”

“Makes sense,” she said. “Lead the way.”

The mirror was shattered and shards of glass were strewn everywhere but none of that deterred her as she reached out her hand and pictured herself going through the wall. In reality it wasn’t so much going through the wall as it was simply the wall no longer actually being there.

It’s always been said that time doesn’t exist in space. The idea is that while in the middle of an undefined vastness without a reference point to base the passage of time off of days, weeks, months, and years all begin to run together. Time still exists of course, it isn’t totally a human construct, but for all intents and purposes the person in question no longer experiences it as an active component of their life. Harriet couldn’t be sure how long they spent just floating there but eventually she looked up to see Julia seemingly appear out of thin air. Her first thought was that it was some sort of sleep-deprived vision, a mirage taunting her with a somewhat familiar face. Her mind then got the horrible idea that Julia had somehow gotten herself trapped with them. But Julia was moving and moving towards them and before she knew it the other woman was grabbing her arm and pulling her and Victoria back towards where she appeared. She wouldn’t say they passed through anything per se, but there was definitely a noticeable change when her feet were touching solid ground again. Her mother had her in a hug before she could even realize they were back in the Library.

Julia didn’t know a lot of sign language. A few basic phrases but she was nowhere near as effortless at it as Kady was. It wasn’t hard to tell when you were intruding on something you shouldn’t be though.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to it,” she said. “I’m sure Josh’ll be happy to find out about Victoria anyways.”

The verbal thank you from mother and signed thank you from daughter occurred almost simultaneously.

“Don’t mention it,” she said. “Just typical god stuff.”

With that she turned to Victoria, injuries nothing more than a memory now, and brought them home. Family was a complicated thing. Biological family was complicated. Non-biological family was complicated. At the end of the day it didn’t matter it was just complicated. And some issues weren’t the kind of things that you could solve with just one conversation. She wasn’t exactly on positive terms with her mother either. She couldn’t be sure if her actions were going to make any lasting changes in the relationship between mother and daughter for them in the long run. She saved two lives though, from a fate that she would only reserve for her worst enemies, and that was something unequivocally good. This whole god thing was still new to her and she wasn’t perfect at it, but she was trying and at the end of the day that was the most important thing. As long as you were trying you could be sure that some good was going to eventually come. Maybe it was a selfish, romantic, and hypocritical thought but she really hoped Zelda and Harriet were trying now. In the multiverse anything was possible.

Chapter Text

Kady liked her new apartment. It was spacious, secure, and above all it helped her remember Sam when she felt further away than Kady was capable of grasping out of thin air. It all felt strange, this fear she had of losing the alternate persona that had been forced on her through magic based on a character from an obscure comic book. A part of her recoiled at the thought of “someone else” existing inside of her body and wanted to run away from the reminders and get back to being just Kady again. If Julia had made one thing at all clear in their conversation the previous night it’s that that’s what she thought she should do. She still wasn’t sure how she felt about that conversation or the emotions it stirred up in general, but the larger part of her that longed for that connection to Sam was winning out and there wasn’t enough resistance within her to stop it. She wasn’t sure. Maybe it wasn’t the same for the others. Maybe they could just dismiss their alternate personalities as characters forced upon them and go about their days. She couldn’t do it though. At the end of the day she was Sam and Sam was her and she was perfectly fine not changing that.

Her apartment these days is a little more crowded than she’d like. Quentin was fine when he wasn’t acting like an arrogant douche and she wouldn’t be able to bring herself to turn Julia away even if she wanted to, but living with people always brought you into conflict with them in greater frequency. The whole thing with Julia the night before wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t under one roof, the case files would have never come up in the first place. And that was on top of the general lack of personal space and privacy that came with having other people around more often than not. Which was why she was in her room curled up in bed and letting her mind wander right now instead of walking through the apartment to try and get a grasp on Sam. Quentin was on some sort of baking kick and so he was going to be occupying her kitchen for the foreseeable future. And Julia, well Kady didn’t really know what Julia was up to truth be told, they’ve kind of been avoiding each other since last night. Her room was still her sanctuary though and that wasn’t about to change while she was still drawing breath.

The case files lining the bookshelf next to her bed were all in manila folders and arranged by crime. There were enough murders, disappearances, and thefts to keep her occupied well into the foreseeable future especially now that she no longer had access to police resources. A brief image of herself walking into the local precinct with her hair done up the way Sam liked it, in a dress shirt and jacket that weren’t her style at all, and a confidence that wasn’t hers briefly flashed into her mind. She’d smile and try to keep her tone of voice to Sam’s pitch as she said hi to Rodriguez and Taylor who were always shooting the shit at the water cooler. She’d tease Barnes who had a desk across from hers if the computer was giving him any trouble and he’d call her “kid” and probably give her the finger. She’d walk into the Captain’s office and report on her recent undercover activity before asking if there were any other pressing matters she needed to attend to before she could get to cracking on the case files piling up on her desk. She’d do all that if Sam still existed as more than just a character on a page for anyone else. That was the thing about magic though, when it got rid of something it was very thorough. She still wasn’t sure why her own memories were spared.

A tentative knock on the door pulled her out of her own head.

“Who is it,” she asked the obvious question.

“It’s Julia,” the other woman said in voice that sounded as unsure as her knocking. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” she said after a moment’s hesitation of her own.

She really didn’t want to have another fight right now, but if something was wrong she wasn’t going to just sit back and do nothing.

“Let me get the door,” she said already getting up out of bed and rearranging the blankets into something more presentable.

The face that greeted her at the door was a strange mix of anxiety and determination. Knowing Julia she was sure the determination was going to continue winning out. Whenever Julia set her mind to something it got done one way or the other regardless of whatever else she was feeling.

“What’s up,” she asked taking a seat on the bed as Julia positioned herself to lean against a nearby dresser.

“What are those,” Julia asked instead of answering her question.

Without hesitation she knew Julia meant the rows and rows of manila folders.

“They’re nothing,” she tried to play it off.

“They’re case files aren’t they,” of course Julia was smart enough to figure it out anyways.

“Look if you came here just to rehash our conversation from last night you might as well just turn around and walk back out now,” she said trying not to sound too agitated. “Because we’ll both end up saying things we’ll regret and I really don’t want that right now.”

Surprise flashed across Julia’s face at that before the heat of embarrassment colored her cheeks.

“No, I uh,” Julia started saying before clearing her throat. “No I actually came to apologize for that.”

“Oh,” she said some of the tension leaving her. “Proceed then.”

“I was a jackass,” Julia stated bluntly.

“Yeah you were,” she said cracking a smirk.

“This is obviously something you want to do, something that makes you happy,” Julia continued. “And I don’t know where I got off trying to tell you that you shouldn’t do it just because I was worried about you.”

“You were worried about me,” she cut in raising an eyebrow.

“I uh, yeah,” Julia was very deliberately not looking her in the eye right now, “And it was selfish of me to let that get in the way of what you wanted, especially after you opened your door to me and Quentin and let us in without a second thought, and I’m sorry if I damaged our relationship further by putting my foot in my mouth.”

“Well as long as we’re apologizing,” she found Julia’s eyes again. “I’m sorry I blamed you for my mom when I should have blamed Marina.”

“You didn’t even know me back then,” Julia shook her head. “It’s not the same thing.”

“Your mom, Martin, Reynard, this,” Julia listed. “I’ve betrayed your trust so many times and yet you still invited me in.”

“Well yeah I care about you too or are you the only one that gets to do that,” she said feeling slightly defensive. “I mean fuck Julia, I betrayed you during the key quest too and you still came back and saved my life.”

Julia’s cheeks were pink again. Silence descended on the room and Kady thought about asking what the blushing was about.

“You’ve saved my life too,” Julia said seemingly realizing the silence had gone on too long.

“You’re one of the best people I know and the world needs you,” she said. “I need you.”

“I need you too,” Julia said after a moment’s hesitation. “And the truth is I’m worried about you doing this and adding more danger to your life because I’m scared of losing you.”

She stood up at that, “Say that again.”

After a moment’s hesitation Julia repeated, “I’m scared of losing you.”

“I’m scared of losing you too,” she put her arms out to the side, “If you want me take me.”

The implications of her statement were clear, but she could already tell that Julia was overthinking it.

“Julia,” their eyes were locked again. “Stop overthinking it.”

“If it’s something you’re not comfortable with that’s one thing,” she continued. “But don’t talk yourself into thinking I don’t actually want this.”

She wanted this, had wanted this for longer than she was willing to admit.

“If you want me take me,” the invitation was there again.

It was only another brief moment’s hesitation before they were kissing and she felt herself being pushed back towards the bed.

Kady had never really been a fan of the so called “morning after”. From what she could gather Sam had never really been a fan either though she hesitated to dive too far into Sam’s sex life because then images of Margo started coming into her mind and she really didn’t need that. Regardless Kady had slept with enough people that she didn’t care about seeing again that she knew exactly how the whole awkward getting out of bed and putting your clothes on and hoping that they don’t wake up before you’re gone and on your way home thing worked from both sides. It’s different when it’s someone you actually care about though. There’s no rushed exit or awkward goodbyes. You can just lay there and enjoy the company of the other person even while they are still asleep. Julia was still asleep and Kady was in no rush to wake her. They could discuss what happened last night and what it meant going forward. Regardless, Kady hadn’t felt this good about their relationship in a long time. She briefly wondered what Sam would think. Their friendship was messy. Things could get even messier now that they’ve thrown sex into the mix. They had a history, but they also had a connection, a connection that Kady wasn’t sure either of them could do without. At the end of the day Sam would probably approve. Kady was certainly smiling.