Actions

Work Header

split like light refracted

Work Text:

i. Eliot

“Hey, so—” is not much of an opener, when you have a guy inside your head all of a sudden, frantically grabbing at the banister of your Mind Palace, but that’s Penny for you. Eliot’s been trapped in here for so long that he’s not picky. He’ll take any bad company.

“Hey, so, yourself,” he says. “What’s up.”

“I can’t stay long,” Penny says. “I came to warn you. We’ve got a way to get you out of here, but we don’t know if it’s gonna work, and it might—”

“I’ve had plenty of time in here to get used to the idea of my death.”

Eliot does not add that he’s been used to the idea of his death for a long, long time.

“It might hurt,” Penny finishes. “Getting split in two.”

Eliot opens his mouth and manages to say, “Uh?”

Penny bends forward, like something invisible is grabbing at his chest. It must ache, to travel inside someone else’s head. “Shit—I’ve gotta—”

A second later he’s gone, and it’s just Eliot and Charlton, rattling around in here like spare parts. Eliot looks down at his hands and thinks about which parts they’re going to take from him in order to put him back together again.

 


 

ii. Alice

The last time she was here, Alice had split in two.

It hadn’t lasted long. But, now that she’s so vitally aware there are two people inside of her, Alice can’t stop thinking about it. Is it just those two, or if, had they found more dotted lines to cut along, would there be more? Bitchy Alice could be broken into that same hard-headedness, and the insecurity that produced it. Meek Alice, what was left behind, might become studious and socially inept, studious might become curious and desperate.

The Eliot situation is a little different. They don’t know how it’ll work. It was Alice’s idea, and it had killed her to suggest it. Wait. We can use the mirrors. Her own dissatisfaction with the plan was reflected on Q’s face, but beside it, the way he’d been pining for Eliot for weeks, torturing himself to get Eliot back, and Alice needed to do something. She still cares for him. Not like that, but… enough. And she’ll do whatever it takes, even if it hurts them both.

Even if it hurts Eliot. This is all they have.

They’re using the same room in Brakebills, the same mirrors, the same table set-up in the middle. This is a room for saving people. A spell—not for saving people, but it seems to have that effect anyway.

“What do you want me to—” Q begins, just as Alice says, “Stay back while I get this ready.”

Margo turns to Q and raises one eyebrow. “Just stand there and look pretty.”

The Monster, Eliot’s body, is standing in the middle, with Alice. They’d lied to him. Margo’s idea. Not about the main purpose of the spell—that, soon, the Monster will have his own body, and Eliot will be out of his head—but what else the spell is going to do: leave the Monster in Eliot’s weak body, no more capable of fighting back than he is now.

It’s not like the Monster is the only one who doesn’t know what’s coming next. Q and Margo don’t care about consequences, they just jump in and hope for the best. All they care about is getting Eliot in his own body, the Monster out of his head. Not that Alice is bitter, but she doesn’t really know Eliot apart from the fact that her ex wants to fuck him, and she’s the only one who thought this through in any capacity. Which is what makes it even crazier that she’s going along with it, just to make them happy. It’s like the Eliot Lovers Club in this room, and Alice. And the Monster.

Sometimes she wishes she could go back to being a monster herself. She’d even settle for being Bitchy Alice full-time. Just so she could stop caring about these damn people, and the person they love.

 


 

iii. Julia

So, the Monster and his Sister are unkillable.

So, the others are busy giving the Monster his own body, and god only knows what he’ll do with it.

So, she’s given a choice: to be human? Or to be a god?

 


 

ii. Alice

She supposes it must show on her face, that look of consternation she’s never quite been able to tame, because Q asks, “What’s wrong?”

She hates that he still knows her so well.

The Monster, Q’s resident mimic, says it too, with that blank inflection of his: “What’s wrong, Alice.” He sounds so much like Eliot. She doesn’t know when he learnt her name. From what she’s heard, he doesn’t usually bother with that sort of thing.

“It’s not working right,” she says, giving in. “I don’t know why.”

“Want me to have a look at it?” Q asks.

Don’t come too close,” Alice says.

He doesn’t; reliably himself, ever cautious. Q bends down, squinting at the set-up in between the mirrors. He trails his eyes along the crystal they’re using as the spell’s refracting prism.

“There’s a crack.”

How had Alice been so careless with her own set-up? So human? “Let me—”

“No,” he says, “I want to.”

Can’t bear it, Alice thinks, that she might be the one he’s in debt to, again. Wants to play a part in saving Eliot himself. She lets him. Because she cares about him.

The Monster says, proudly, “I taught him how to break things.”

“You sure did,” Quentin says, almost fond. “Now I want to get better at fixing them.”

“How does it work?” the Monster asks, tilting his head curiously, childishly. “Will you use the light to—”

He doesn’t get to finish his question. Somewhere in there, while Alice was looking at the Monster, Q had managed to fix the crystal, and now all the parts are in place. The beam is connected and it thrusts right through the Monster’s centre, flinging him back into one mirror and out of the other, as another person. Himself.

Eliot,” Margo says, something resonant and almost otherworldly in her voice. She rushes forward and towards the beam, still glowing between the mirrors.

It all happens in a split second:

Alice doesn’t know if something could still go wrong if they break the set-up now, if it’s finished, or—god, she was stupid, she’s losing more of herself every minute, losing the ability to judge whether or not it’s a good idea to perform an experimental spell on someone who’s in real danger, trapped inside while he’s puppeteered by someone who is real danger.

She calls out, “No, don’t.”

It’s not Margo who reacts. It’s the Monster. He lifts one long leg and kicks the table over, breaking the spell—

 


 

i. Eliot

—and the first thing he sees is the familiar way he moves his own body. So this is what they’ve done to him. He reaches out and—

 


 

iv. Margo

—she falls into his arms, pulling him close, sobbing shamelessly into his chest. She knows which one is him immediately and, fuck, she missed him. She hopped on the first traveller out of Fillory for this man the moment she knew he was alive. She stood back and let the others cast the spells, because she knew if she tried she’d get too emotional and fuck it up.

Of course, she hasn’t told this to anyone else. Can’t have them thinking she’s any less than a heartless bitch.

Eliot, though. Eliot is her heart; he’s always had too much of it, even when he pretends otherwise. Eliot is unsteady on his feet but he has his arms wrapped around Margo and his face buried in her hair, and right now she has enough heart to set the whole of Brakebills on fire.

Eliot says, “My friend.” No, the Monster says it, with Eliot’s voice, in a twin copy of Eliot’s body. “My friend,” the Monster says, “where is he?”

Alice says, “Q…”

The four of them take a collective breath in and Margo and Eliot split apart for long enough to look into the mirror that Eliot just stumbled out of, to see Quentin reflected back at them.

In Margo’s arms, Eliot crumples like a paper bag. Alice lets out a gasp that’s half a sob.

The Monster disappears.

 


 

iii. Julia

She doesn’t know if she’s excited to tell them the news, or—or what? It’s not exactly good news. The part of the news that was just for her wasn’t good or bad, either. It was like a book lying open on a coffee table. A page she had to turn.

The Binder is dozing with his head down on the kitchen counter and Julia’s sitting at the opposite end of the couch to Penny 23. That’s another thing she’s still puzzling out: how she feels about him. He’s got this whole unwavering devotion thing going on that she would be lying if she said she didn’t find kind of hot, but other than that… what is there? There are his memories of another her. There’s that emptiness inside her that, at the end of the day, she doesn’t think she needs to fill with a boyfriend.

She thinks he knows that, too.

She’s drifting off when the door opens and Margo stamps in, followed closely by the Monster, and then Alice. And Q? No Q? Julia’s on her feet right away, walking towards them. Penny 23 stands up, too; his earnestness is sort of alarming.

“It didn’t work?” Julia asks. Her mind is screaming, Where’s Q?

“It worked,” Eliot says. Eliot. Julia’s heart leaps because she knows Q’s heart would leap. Eliot adds, “It worked a little too well.”

“Quentin’s trapped in a mirror, and the Monster’s on the loose again,” Margo says, succinctly but with feeling.

Shit. Julia turns over her shoulder and shares a guilty look with Penny 23. “We can help with one of those things,” she says. “Maybe.”

“The Binder told us about the Monster,” Penny 23 says. “Monsters, whatever. Long story short, they’re unkillable.”

“Great,” Eliot says, “so now I have an immortal twin.”

And he’s looking for his sister,” Alice chimes in. Julia wonders if it’s Q’s absence that’s kept her so quiet until now, but she doesn’t think so. She thinks it might just be that some of Alice’s finest magic had terrible consequences. Again. She follows Alice’s gaze towards the kitchen; Alice says, “Um, who’s he?”

The Binder steps forward and gives a mock bow. “The Binder assumed Alice Quinn would know better,” he says.

There are a few seconds of silence. Margo says, “What the fuck.”

“The Binder helped Julia understand the Monsters, with a very fine piece of storytelling, that The Binder is sorry you all missed. And now, The Binder is happy to inform you that he can help you with your other problem.”

 


 

v. Penny

Honestly, he’s mad at himself for not working it out sooner. The mirror world. The Underworld. Both places you can’t travel to the normal way. There are mirrors everywhere in the real world; even where you don’t expect them to be, corners where light refracts in just the right way to send it somewhere else. The mirror world is what the Underworld branch of the Library uses to collect their information on everyone’s lives. Put it in a book, send it back to the surface. Total internal reflection.

There are multiple dimensions of space, and infinitely many universes as there are ideas. But a parallel universe is a special place, the flipside of a coin, the tails to its heads. Time, the fourth dimension, doesn’t stop running when you die. It starts running in parallel.

This is first year traveller curriculum. And maybe if Penny had got any further than first year, he’d have made the logical connection that there’s some kind of parallel space going on with mirrors too. But, Penny reflects, he dropped out before he could learn more about parallel universes, because he was kinda busy with saving not one but two universes from destruction instead of being a loser nerd.

So, yeah, no great loss.

 


 

iii. Julia

“Okay, so assuming it doesn’t take too long to get Q back from the Underworld,” Eliot says, “how long do we have before the twins come back and wreck our shit?”

“There’s no way of knowing,” Julia says. She hates it as much as he does. Q is their glue; they all do.

“We’ll need to get past a dragon first,” Alice says. She looks at her feet. “The Monster smashed up my mirror magic set-up.”

Julia sighs. “I’m all out of priceless objects to give as tribute.”

Alice says, “Kady would know.”

Out of instinct, Julia turns to Penny—Penny 23. He looks back at her, blank.

“Kady’s a little busy with the whole hedge witch rebellion thing,” Penny 23 says.

“More power to her,” Margo says, “but this is some pretty cosmically bad timing for our plant in the goblin market to be otherwise occupied.”

“Do we know anyone else who’d have this shit on hand?” Eliot asks. He’s getting impatient.

“No,” Julia says, as it dawns on her, “but we do know someone who knows all about what dragons like.”

 


 

v. Penny

He snatches a moment alone with Julia before they go.

“You know it’s gotta be me who goes to the Underworld, right?”

Julia gives him a sad smile. “Yeah. You’ll be able to travel once you’re there, so you can find Q more easily. And it’s better that the rest of us stay here, so that we’re on hand to fight the Monsters when they come back.”

“Yeah,” he says. “If anything happens—”

“Spare it,” Julia says, that beautiful teasing look she gets flickering across her face before it slips away again. “Let’s not say our goodbyes, okay? You’ll come back with Q. I know you will.”

Only, she was never the one who was good at devotion, was she? Not even in his timeline. She let herself be adored, and she loved him, she did, but never the way he loved her. Not then, not now.

Was it the same with Penny 40 and Kady?

“Fine,” he says. “No goodbyes.”

She kisses him on the cheek, and it sure as hell feels like goodbye.

 


 

iv. Margo

“I wish Quentin was here,” Poppy says, with an overblown sigh. She frowns, then brightens up and rubs her hands together atop her bulging belly. “But isn’t this a fun little reunion?”

“No,” Alice says. She does not elaborate. She went frosty the first time Poppy said Quentin’s name, and in the fifty times it’s happened since she’s become downright hostile.

Eliot is shitting himself too, and okay, Margo does find it kind of funny, even though she feels bad for him. They’re all here for Quentin. Alice, Eliot, and whatever Poppy thinks she meant to him. Margo’s got her own suspicions about that, but she’s polite enough to keep them to herself. And while those three are having some kind of Who Cares About Quentin The Most stand-off, Julia and Penny 23 are all weird and mopey, and the atmosphere in this sweltering dragon hatchery is so thick you could serve it for dessert.

Of course, the upshot of all this is that Margo’s the only one compos mentis enough to ask the questions that need answering.

“Okay, I’ll get to the point. You know shit about dragons. We need to get to the Underworld, and we don’t have time to find something fancy. Anything simple, anything easy we can give to them… ?”

“A common object that’ll nevertheless charm a dragon,” Poppy says, slow and musing. She taps a finger to her chin, just to draw it out.

Margo is on Alice’s side here.

Poppy’s eyes dart to her unhatched egg. “You could always give a dragon back its child.”

“I thought you cared for that egg like it was your own,” Julia says, baffled.

Poppy shrugs, calculatedly cool. Now Margo isn’t sure who’s side she’s on.

“I did,” Poppy says, “but I care about Quentin too, you know. I want him back as much as any of you.”

“I sincerely doubt that,” Eliot says.

And,” Poppy says, giving him a venomous stare, “I’ll have my own kid to take care of soon. I don’t need this on my mind too. I need to be, you know, responsible.”

The air in the room grows a little heavier. They’re all looking at each other for answers.

Too many feelings. It’s the kind of situation that needs a heartless bitch.

“We’re not fussy,” Margo sing-songs, shrugging. “We’ll take it.”

 


 

v. Penny

“Of course,” says the Hudson River dragon, “it’s not mine. I can make sure this egg gets back to its rightful owner, but I can’t accept it as payment. It is not my place.”

If Poppy were around to hear this, she’d go spare. All that for nothing. Worth a shot, but now they’re right back to square one.

The gift is a formal matter. An etiquette thing. The door to the Underworld is just on the other side of the dragon’s nest, but if they tried to step around her she’d set them on fire. Penny really, seriously contemplates it. He wonders if he could slip past without her notice, if they had enough of a distraction that the dragon would take her eyes off them for long enough for him to make a run for it. Maybe he’d get past and the door would be locked. There’s only one way to find out

Some god must be listening to his thoughts, because his ideal distraction arrives in the form of the Monster, carrying a prone woman’s body in his arms.

“You still haven’t found my friend,” the Monster says. “Never mind. I have a more important problem: my sister has a body, but it is too frail to hold her. I need something more… powerful.”

 


 

vi. Margo

If it’s hard for her to look at the Monster, she can’t imagine how impossible it would be for Eliot. Maybe they bled into each other a little when the mirror spell pulled them apart, because there’s something terrifyingly familiar about how the Monster holds himself, how he speaks… how much he cares for Quentin. Okay, creepy. Margo’s not gonna think about that one.

The Monster’s eyes lock on Julia.

“You. You’ve got room for all this power.”

“No,” Julia says.

“Oh yes,” the Monster says. “You already have the space, goddess…”

Funny, Margo thinks, why hasn’t lovesick Penny 23 spoken up by now? Then she clocks him, and he’s eyeing the door behind the dragon. With her left eye, Margo can see that the door isn’t even locked. What kind of security… but the dragon is fixated on the egg, which Margo herself is holding—with gloves on, of course. Margo’s left eye sees the dragon, almost ready to be born, squirming beneath layers of shell.

In a glorious moment of clarity, everything coalesces around Margo. She knows what she has to do. She might get burnt to a crisp by a dragon, but, hey. No fun without a little risk.

“Fire,” she whispers to Eliot, “give me fire.”

Eliot, bless him, never questions it when she bosses him around.

She holds out the egg in her gloved hands as Eliot hands her a flame, sparkling and warm. A crack appears on the surface of the egg.

“Hey, Monster,” Margo says, “forget that townhouse. You want a mansion?”

 


 

v. Penny

The doorknob singes his fingers to the touch but there’s no repulsion, no booby trap waiting at the other side. He slips through and puts his back to the door, breathing hard.

Okay, okay. No time for fucking around. Penny pushes ahead to the elevator at the end of the long hallway, and presses the down button.

 


 

iii. Julia

The Monster doesn’t get a chance to claim the dragon egg for his sister, because the Hudson River dragon snatches it away in one swift motion, and then chases them all out with a torrent of flame. Alice expertly wards it off. Julia watches this incandescent with jealousy; she misses magic so desperately she can feel it all through her body.

What it might feel like to have all that back, burning its way through her veins—

She steps forward from the flames and puts out one hand like a stop signal.

“I’ll be her body.”

Penny 23 isn’t there, so there’s nobody to shout Julia, no! She kind of likes that. Nothing riding on this choice. Nobody to disappoint, since Q isn’t here either. She wonders what it’ll be like to be trapped inside her own mind. She feels like a relapsed addict. Throwing her life away for magic, yet again. But what else is there? What else to make her whole again?

Then a new voice cuts through her consciousness: “The Binder sees that Julia has made her choice.”

“Sorry,” Alice says quietly. She’s holding a book. “I brought him with us, just in case.”

“The Binder is thankful that Alice brought him, otherwise this may have ended in disaster. The Binder would not have liked it if Julia chose godhood and he was not there to hear.”

“Oh,” Julia says. So this is what it feels like to be sure of yourself.

The Monster prepares a spell. The Binder prepares a spell. Alice prepares a spell too, probably just to be on the safe side. Margo and Eliot are gripping each other’s hands.

Julia closes her eyes.

 


 

v. Penny

He’s there, waiting for himself.

Penny 40 has such a fond smile on his face. It’s almost painful to see.

“I couldn’t read your book,” he says, “but I thought I might see you here eventually.”

“No shit,” Penny 23 says. “I was gonna die eventually.”

“We have a lot to talk about,” Penny 40 says.

Is he for real with this serene bullshit? What’ve they been feeding him down here? “We don’t have time to chat,” Penny 23 says. “I need you to do something for me.”

Penny 40 rolls his eyes. “Okay. Lay it on me.”

“Quentin is trapped in the mirror world, which it turns out is in the Underworld.”

“I know.”

“Well, I didn’t, asshole, and you’re not the one up there yet. I need to you to find Quentin and take him back.”

“Yet,” Penny 40 says, scrutinising his double. His calm facade breaks; he scowls, and Penny 23 thinks, Much better. “You want me to take him back?”

“Listen, man,” Penny 23 says. He was preparing this sales pitch all the way down the elevator. “You know we’re always doing this self-sacrificing shit. This time it’s my turn. This isn’t my timeline. There’s nothing up there for me. Kady misses you. I think they all do.”

Penny 40 hisses at him, “I made my peace with this. You can’t just make me do a one-eighty because you think it’s—”

“But it is better,” Penny 23 says, “isn’t it? We’re travellers. You take my body, I’ll take yours. I’ll learn the ropes in no time.”

“No way,” Penny 40 says. Is he crying? “No fucking way.”

Penny 23 knows himself too well. He knows Penny 40 has convinced himself that this is the life he wants, in the library forever. Penny 23 had managed to convince himself of the same in an alarmingly short time. His version makes more sense: time here runs parallel. 23 comes before 40. If he were to go by the books in this library, his story would already have been written. The Underworld is where a dead man belongs.

“Please,” he says.

 


 

vi. Quentin

Quentin is not dead.

He feels like it’s important to keep reminding himself of this. The mirror world is probably the scariest place he’s ever been, and that’s certainly saying something, but he’s alive. Eliot is alive. And surely, surely, one of them is coming to get him? Back there at Brakebills, as he stood looking out into the real world, he watched them mouthing at him, words he could only half-reconstruct. Things like we’ll get you back and I promise. Alice looked distraught; Eliot had been crying.

But they’d left, and—that had been a while ago. Quentin isn’t sure how time passes in here.

It’s hard for him not to be a fatalist about it. He runs from nightmare creatures, hides in corners, and whispers to himself, “But I’m alive.” He thinks about Eliot saying I’m alive in here. Me too, Quentin wants to shout. He checks back on the Brakebills mirror every now and then. Nobody comes by.

It must be hours, maybe even a day, before he sees a familiar face.

“Penny?”

“The one and only,” Penny says. He frowns at himself. “Jesus. Anyway, I’m here to save your life, so I figure you owe me big time.”

Quentin hugs him. He expects Penny to be stiff as a plank in his arms, but Penny relaxes, even hugs him back. Maybe it’s Opposite Day as well as the mirror world out here.

“Long story short,” Penny continues, “the mirror world is part of the Underworld, 23 came down here to get you, then I travelled to find you—we swapped bodies. It’s kind of weird. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Um, okay, no problem,” Quentin says, even though it’s the weirdest thing he’s heard in ages, possibly even weirder than the fact that there are now two Eliots wandering around.

“So let’s just get out of here.”

“Is there a catch?” Quentin asks. “Like, do I have to, um, not look over my shoulder, or something?”

Penny narrows his eyes. “What? Dude, you’ve got the myth all wrong.”

“Oh.”

“The catch is we both survive this one.”

“Okay,” Quentin says. He reaches out and takes Penny’s hand, because what the hell, right? Penny doesn’t push him away this time, either. “I like the sound of that.”

 


 

ii. Alice

The Monster is long past the point of getting used to his new body. He crouches on the couch like a gargoyle and twists his fingers together. In a very small voice, he says, “I don’t know what I am without my sister.”

Julia is off somewhere relearning her way around omnipotence. Margo is getting ready to go back to Fillory; she’s had a number of alarming messages from Fen and Josh in the last few hours. Alice doesn’t really want to know the details. Of either. So it’s just her and Eliot, sitting in the living room of the penthouse with Eliot’s evil twin.

“You’re still you,” Eliot says. Alice knows all too well that, after so long with someone else piloting your body, you go a little soft on them, no matter how evil they are.

“No,” the Monster says, looking at his hands. “I think I might be human.”

Me too, Alice wants to shout.

“Welcome to the real world,” Eliot says. “Enjoy your stay.”

The Monster sinks lower into the couch. “I don’t get it. I thought I would be angry that my sister is trapped inside someone else’s head.”

“We call that one ‘cosmic irony,’” Eliot says. Alice supposes he thinks he’s being helpful, but now that there are two of him, it’s just kind of annoying.

“I don’t know what to do next,” the Monster whines.

Alice reaches her boiling point and snaps, “None of us do.”

That shuts both of them up. And she might have had something cruel to add, if the door hadn’t—

 


 

i. Eliot

—swung open out of nowhere, startling the hell out of him, and the Monster too. His evil twin.

When Penny walks in with Q they all spring to their feet. Eliot is more than a little bit embarrassed by how many traits he and the Monster apparently share, now. He can cope with Alice having a crush on the love of his life, but the Monster? Hard pass on that one, thanks.

“You know what,” Alice says, looking not at Q but at Eliot and the Monster, “you know what it means to be human?”

The Monster shakes his head like a curious schoolboy.

“It means losing a bit of yourself to your grief. Every. Single. Time.”

“Alice—” Q says, confused.

Alice points a finger at him; she’s still looking the other way. “It means putting other people first. Q did that for you, Eliot.”

Oh, he thinks, she wasn’t talking to the Monster at all.

She says, “You better treat him right.”

Alice,” Q says again.

“Come on, Penny,” Alice says, storming towards the door. “Let’s go see what Kady’s up to.”

“Whoa,” Penny says, “how did you know I—”

“You what?”

Penny shrugs. “I’ll tell you on the way.”

They slip out the door and out of the apartment, their footsteps eventually disappearing into the distance. In the uninterrupted silence Eliot stares at Q and Q stares at him and maybe, maybe, something like understanding passes between them.

“Being human,” Eliot says, “is being brave enough to say you fucked up.”

“Yeah,” Q says. He takes a step forward, arms out. “God, El, I missed you—”

“It’s being brave enough to ask for a second chance,” Eliot interrupts, because there’s no way he’s letting Quentin steamroller the confession he’s spent all that time planning, locked inside his own head.

Speaking of which, Eliot turns to the Monster.

“Being human,” he says, “is having the ability to read a room, and get yourself somewhere else when two people are about to kiss.”

 


 

vi. Quentin

It doesn’t end there. The hedge witch rebellion is ongoing, and on top of that Kady is coming to terms with her boyfriend coming back to life; Fillory is in magical, and therefore political, turmoil; Julia has a new problem to deal with every day as she grows more and more into Our Lady of the Trees. Alice and Penny are part of the rebellion, alongside Kady and Pete and apparently Zelda the librarian, too. Margo spends most of her time in Fillory. Eliot is teaching the Monster to be human. He’d wanted a name; Kady chose Nigel, for reasons that she refused to explain, but which made her and Margo share a very potent smirk at the time.

Quentin, for his part, sleeps in most mornings.

Ostensibly, he has a room to himself, only the bed is Eliot’s as much as it is his, and sometimes Nigel crashes too. It’s pretty weird. Quentin has stopped overthinking it. He’s learning to let that go. He’s back on his meds. Some days he doesn’t even know what’s going on with his friends, what new and exciting ways they’ve found to save the world. He feels kind of… incredible.

All that time, he’d been looking for a doorway out of this world. He’d always thought he’d be happier somewhere else. Not even Fillory had given him that—except for that time he fell in love, started a family, and discovered that the beauty of all life wasn’t something you could capture in a picture. He thought he’d lost that when the timeline was erased. He thought he’d lost it when Eliot said he wasn’t willing to give them a try.

Turns out he’d just been waiting to find it again. He’s beginning to think happiness is not just tied to places and not tied to people; it’s the point where you stop worrying about when it’ll go away again. Happiness sticks because it has to.

Forget quests. Quentin sticks around because he’s happy.