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The Construction of Kady

Chapter Text

The dust took a couple of weeks to settle, after Kady’s abrupt departure from her old life and chaotic intrusion into her new one. She’d been in the middle of war with her own people when she’d died for the first time, and the others had found her desperately attempting to steal magic from a rival hedge group in order to survive, too anxious about her own life to properly mourn for her mother’s death, and certainly too caught up in her own frantic mind to trust any of these new people, much less believe them about their immortality, or her own.

But eventually she did grow to know them a bit. It didn’t mean she was ready to completely cut off the plans she’d had for herself, the path she’d expected her life to take, but it got to the point where she could sleep in a room down the hall from Penny Adiyodi and the others, and not feel like she needed to keep her guard up all night. These people were strange, and definitely dangerous, but she’d come to believe, foolishly or not, that they didn’t mean her harm.

Margo, with an authoritative finality that Kady appreciated when she herself felt so aimless, had ordered them all to run to ground and get some rest after the tumult of the past couple of weeks. They’d arrived via Penny’s Traveling to a well-furnished and magically enlarged home somewhere in the French countryside, and while Kady felt a certain amount of curiosity to explore a country entirely unfamiliar to her, she also didn’t mind following Margo’s instructions to lay low and get some rest before striking out on a sight-seeing tour.

So that was where she was, huddled under blankets in a room of her own, a fire damped in the grate across the way, lanterns still lit despite the late hour. She wanted to be asleep, but she found she couldn’t quite get her brain to go quiet. It was like now, after everything, she finally had a chance to think about all that had happened to her, and it was too much to hope to silence the thoughts with the expediency of unconsciousness.

She’d been reading a book earlier in the day, and decided to go fetch it from the drawing room, see if the words of Sir Walter Scott could send her into the land of dreams. On her way down the hall and past the entrance to the dining room, she heard a quiet murmur of voices. Her instinct was to freeze and back away, but she ignored it and kept going forward. She had no reason to feel uncertain of her place here. If anything, she was doing them a favor by staying where they’d told her to stay, instead of running away from the insanity they all represented.

It was Eliot and Quentin, standing just in the doorway, and as Kady walked by, she saw that Eliot’s hand was curved against the line of Quentin’s jaw, their heads tilted together in intimacy.

Now she was rethinking her boldness, but it was too late to turn back. Quentin heard the creak of a floorboard and spun to identify the intruder. His posture went tense as if to attack or defend, but then he softened when he saw her. Eliot’s reaction was a beat slower than Quentin’s, but when he saw that it was Kady who had come across them here in the dark, he didn’t relax. In fact, he pinned her with a look, almost a glare, sharp enough that for a moment Kady was rendered speechless.

Then, it occurred to her that the look was a silent question, and a warning, rolled all into one. She nearly laughed, despite her shock at finding them this way. “Oh, you don’t need to worry,” she told them, trying for a smile. “Um. Not on my account, anyway.”

“We weren’t worried,” Quentin said, matter-of-fact.

“I didn’t know,” Kady said, and then wished she hadn’t.

“No,” Eliot said. “There are those who would make trouble.”

“I’m not like that,” Kady said, and then, in an effort to explain, because for some reason the idea of being judged unfavorably by these two men was unbearable, she rushed on. “I’d have to be a hypocrite.”

At this, Eliot finally did soften, raising a curious eyebrow. “Why, Miss Diaz. I had no idea.”

“It’s not like Margo and Julia bothered to hide that they’re sharing a bed,” Kady blurted. “I’d hate to think you felt deception necessary on my account.”

The two shared a look, and she’d seen them communicate silently this way before, but she’d never noticed the love behind it until now. They were good at hiding what they were to each other, and the thought made Kady terribly sad.

“The deception was more for the world in general,” Quentin finally said, and he shifted a bit so he was leaning against the broad expanse of Eliot’s chest. Eliot hooked an arm around his waist, a gesture so automatic she was sure they’d been standing this way for years. Or. Or for centuries. How long had they… “Sometimes it’s easier to keep up certain appearances. Let people think whatever they want. It’s often not wise to add unnecessary fuel to an already high-tension situation.”

Kady swallowed, thinking of the discretion she herself had used on those rare instances when she allowed herself the luxury of a dalliance. Male or female, any partner she chose would cause some measure of scandal, even the relatively uninhibited underground world of New York hedges.

“Well,” Kady said. “You’re home now. With people you can trust.”

She hoped they understood she wanted to be included in that rarefied group of trusted confidants. Eliot smiled at her, surprising in its warmth after the guardedness of his expression when she’d first stumbled upon them. “To be clear,” he said, affecting nonchalance but still smiling at her, “sometimes we don’t bother with discretion, and we just kill anyone who gives us grief.”

Quentin was smiling too, but she couldn’t quite tell if it was in response to a joke, or was meant to be silent confirmation of Eliot’s words.

“Um,” Kady said, thinking of the carnage of the past several days, and wondering what these two would be capable of when they didn’t bother to hold back. “Well, I guess I’m glad we’re on the same side.”

She fetched her book, and on her way back up the stairs she saw Quentin and Eliot sharing a kiss, something chaste and familiar, still in the doorway where she’d found them. It wasn’t a performance strictly for her sake, but she couldn’t help but think they’d timed it so she’d see. So she’d know they’d be themselves around her from this point forward.

When she found her way back to her own room, she discovered she was ready for sleep at last.

Chapter Text

Kady was born in the year 1799, in the home of a hedge witch. A clean one, well situated, surrounded by people who knew medicine and magic. Her father in the next room, his friends waiting with him for news of the delivery. All very quaint, when she thinks back on it now. She’d been born, quite literally, into a ready-made community. New York hedges, most of them Jewish like her parents, many of them immigrants or the children of immigrants. Right there on the verge of a new century, the whole wide future available to her from the jump.

She’d been a happy kid, mostly because she hadn’t known any better. Isolated from the world at large, her Brooklyn had been the Brooklyn of magicians only, and while prejudices and cruelty could seep into even the most protected of spaces, for the most part she never had to worry about who she was and what it meant to the world at large. She could grow up strong, surrounded by people who viewed magic as the first measure of a person’s worth, instead of their gender or their origins or anything else about them.

She knew the streets, the pathways between her home and the homes of everyone else in their hedge network. The quickest route between her own front door and the meeting lodges where dozens of witches gathered together for important announcements or ceremonial purposes. Her education was a thing of malleable, ever-chaotic splendor, one kindly old man teaching her fire magic while her parents weren’t watching, then strict, bookish instruction in various languages from her father, then adventures with her mother, flying from place to place to find something new to learn.

When she grew older, her Brooklyn was a place of laughter and mischief, where she could find a pretty girl and show her the best place to be alone, or look at a childhood friend with new eyes when he hit a growth spurt, becoming a man who she could allow to touch her. It was the place she tasted forbidden fruits and refined dangerous skills to a razor’s edge, wielding violence with the grace of a dancer.

The Orloff and Diaz families had connections, relations, in every corner of the neighborhood. Centuries later, Kady can still hold the map of the area in her head by remembering which family lived on which street, how to bounce from her mother’s cousins in Borough Park all the way over to one of her best friends in what was now called Prospect Heights.

Looking back over the span of centuries, Kady now knows that she’d been born at the start of some things, and the endings of others. Her Brooklyn had been on the cusp of true urbanization, the site of Revolutionary fervor scant decades before her birth, the nascent home of what would become a true hub of every type of power imaginable: political, economic, magical, cultural. She had been born before it had exploded into all of that, but the signs had already been there. New York had grown up with her. It had been her sister, a part of her family just as much as the extended network of cousins and aunts and uncles making up the various hedge affiliate groups in the burgeoning magical underground. She’d never been quite sure which ones were truly blood relatives, but that hadn’t mattered.

Brooklyn, New York was where she became a person and a hedge witch, where she cut her teeth on magic and where she figured out what mattered most to her, which battles to fight to the death, and which she could let go. It was a home that would always be there for her, even when she resented it for that.

But upstate? Looming like a premonition of all that was to come? The newly established Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy.

B is for Brooklyn, B is for Brakebills. It’s another story, another chapter of Kady’s young life, but it all blends together with the cruel passage of time. Before Brakebills, Brooklyn was a sanctuary. After Brakebills, it became a reminder of all that could go wrong.

Now, her relationship with the haunts of her childhood is rather complicated. Tragedy strikes, and Kady is cut adrift, no longer entwined with a community that protected and shaped her from the moment of her birth. She will always be a New York hedge, a Brooklyn hedge, some part of her will always think ah, I’m home when she walks down a certain street or notices a landmark familiar from her own time. But it’s not a warm embrace, these homecomings. It’s all laced with trepidation, with uncertainty about the kind of welcome she might expect. Hell, the last time she’d spent any real time in New York, Marina Andrieski had decided to kidnap and torture her and all of her friends. It only made sense that she’d be skittish about the city now.

But it’s the place she met everyone who matters to her. Now, and then. She was born to a family, started her life thinking these people were the ones she would spend it with. And then scant decades later she met a new family, created bonds with them that surpassed blood-ties and ethnicities and countries of origin a thousand times over.

New York will forever be the place her mother died right in front of her. The place she was forced to say a final goodbye to her father, fading into the mists of memory before he could start to wonder why she never looked any older. It was the place she’d been forced to run from on more than one occasion, when her reputation began to catch up to her.

And it was the place she met Penny Adiyodi, in a warehouse, scared for her life. The place she met Alice Quinn, in a study room on Brakebills campus, a place she swore she’d never go again unless it was for the purposes of burning it to the ground.

Kady carries it with her, a version of this place that grows and changes and yet is somehow at its core the very same. It twists itself up and takes a beating from the outside in, and the inside out, but the inexorable march of time sweeps it along just like everything else. It was Brooklyn then and it’s Brooklyn now. She’s lucky, to be able to point a finger on a map, to walk down streets, place a hand against a wall and know the bones still remain. It’s more than many of the others can say. Sometimes, she wishes she could erase herself from this place, and erase its influence from her, but she knows she’d miss it if it were gone, if only the faded records of history, the crumbled remains left behind for scientists to study, could attest to its ever having existed in the first place.

If she lives as long as the oldest members of her family, someday she’ll get to know what that feels like. But for now, she’ll remember to appreciate what she still has.

Chapter Text

She’d been resistant at first, to the whole enterprise. Not Penny, not the way she felt for him. That, she’d more or less decided to let happen from the jump. There was no fighting against it.

But… the romance.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about the fact that Penny Adiyodi, who most of the time marched through the world with pragmatism to the point of brusqueness, who said what he really thought and did whatever he wanted to do, was also… deeply, irrepressibly… sweet.

He’d bring her flowers, and offer her his arm when they were out in public. He’d compliment her clothing and pull her chair out for her during meals. And during their very first date, the first real moments of alone togetherness they’d ever shared… he made her dinner, and they ate it in the warm glow of candlelight, artfully arranged around a small dining table set for two.

(The year was 1826. Electricity had not been an option. But that was hardly the point.)

She’d already fallen a little bit in love with all of them by this point, still flailing in confusion and worry over the loss of her old life, still adjusting to the realities of the new. But they’d all been kind to her, welcoming, and they were all beautiful, and clever, and intense, and had so much to teach her, so much to offer.

Penny stood out from the others, mostly by virtue of the attention he paid her. While all of them had worked to make Kady comfortable, Penny was the one who asked after her every morning, inquiring after her sleep, asking if she needed anything. Better than that: bringing her things she needed before she’d even said she needed them, to the point where at first she’d doubted the strength of her mental shields.

Penny had seemed affronted at the suggestion that he might be taking a peak at her thoughts. “I pay attention, that’s all.”

And that was all. It was why their first evening together had gone so well. Penny had paid attention to the foods she liked, to the places she said she wanted to go. He’d taken her to the seaside in Italy, a place she’d never been but had wondered about. He did music magic to fill the room with intimate sounds, and adjusted the spell until he found what she loved best. He paid attention to her, and got it all right, without fanfare. The only thing she didn’t understand was…

“Why?” she asked, over dessert. “Not that I’m not deeply impressed and gratified, but why… are you taking an interest?”

Penny cocked his head at her. “You’re worried I have unscrupulous aims? Because I do, but I’d be happy to conceal them from you for the time being.”

“I don’t really have scruples in that area,” Kady admitted, annoyingly charmed by his determination to dismiss societal prudishness while still showing her the deepest personal respect. He walked such tightropes with ease, and it left her off-balance. “I meant, you have the others. You don’t really know me yet.” It had been a year, but she’d already started thinking in terms of centuries. Time stretched in front of them, unthinkable in its unending march. She hadn’t been around long enough to matter.

“I’d like to know you,” Penny said, with a frown. “And I’d like to think I already do, at least a little. I suspect I’d hardly be very original if I told you I thought you were beautiful, but that’s definitely the truth.”

She didn’t want it to be working on her, but it was. “Margo and Julia are beautiful.”

“Yes they are,” Penny agreed easily.

“But I suppose they’re also spoken for.”

Penny froze, then took a small sip of wine and set the glass down. “So that’s it, then. You’re worried I’m interested because I’m the odd man out.”

“Well,” Kady said, looking behind her in trepidation even though she knew they were alone, in this private residence Penny had procured for the evening. “It can’t have been pleasant, being alone, without a lover, around such…” she trailed off, unsure how to finish. Margo and Julia. Quentin and Eliot. They were beautiful together, but also difficult to comprehend.

“It’s been more than pleasant,” Penny said, contradicting her at once. “I don’t want to shock you, but I haven’t exactly been without companionship from those I love most in this world.”

Kady wasn’t blind. She’d been with them in close quarters for months now, getting to know the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of their relationships. Still, she’d never quite been sure, or known how to ask. “Julia?” she ventured a guess.

Penny shrugged. “Yes, sometimes.”

Kady swallowed before trying again. “...Eliot?”

“Considerably more often.”

“With Quentin too.” That wasn’t a question.

Penny nodded. “You said you’d… with women and men before, yes?”

Kady took a gulp of her own wine, trying to understand how the conversation had gotten here. “You haven’t scared me away, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Delighted to hear it.” Penny gave her a look, appraising, confident yet not overly so. “The point is that I’m not here, with you, alone, simply out of loneliness.”

“So then I repeat my question: why?”

“I think you’re interesting,” Penny said, with a little shrug.

Kady let out a laugh, refusing to be embarrassed. “You’re three hundred years old. I’ve got to be one of the least interesting things about your life at this point.”

“Quite the opposite,” Penny said.

She wasn’t going to ask why again. She had her pride. Penny saw it on her face anyway.

“I don’t know, Kady,” he said. “Do you find me interesting? Beyond the immortality, I mean.”

“Yes.”

“Can you list the reasons why?”

She could, maybe. At least some of them. She’d never been shy, but the prospect was a tad embarrassing.

“I take your point.”

“You were running for your life when I met you, and you reacted with healthy skepticism to the arrival of a merry band of magicians conveniently arriving to help you escape, but after that… you took it all in stride. Everything you’ve learned, everything we’ve all told you. You’ve handled the truth a lot better than I did, that’s for sure.”

“But that’s not…” Kady trailed off. “I’ve been terrified.”

“Yes, I know. But you’re ready for it all anyway. Despite the fear.”

“You like me because I’m brave,” Kady said, huffing in disbelief.

“And beautiful. And open-minded. I’ve just told you I semi-regularly share a bed with two other men and you’re still sitting here enjoying the meal.”

“I am enjoying the meal,” Kady said. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

“See, that,” Penny said, grinning again and shoving up from the table, coming around to help her to her feet. “That’s what I like about you.”

“What?” she said, as she was pulled forward into Penny’s arms. She was pleasantly aware that she was about to be quite thoroughly kissed.

“You take the world as it is, and you find a way to appreciate whatever you find there. I have a feeling you’ll extend me the same courtesy.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, she thinks the others have forgotten how to grieve. Yes, they’ve all lost people. By definition, practically. Their families, their original families, are centuries, sometimes millennia gone, and their loss is subsumed by the bigger and stranger loss of entire civilizations, cultures, ways of life. They are people out of time, many of them.

Kady has never felt that way. When she was a woman in her twenties, she got into a spot of trouble. Her mother got in even worse. And then, right in front of her eyes, Kady Orloff Diaz watched her mom die. She died, and Kady had scant seconds to process how that made her feel, before she too was cut down in the prime of her life.

Of course, she got up again afterwards. Her mother decidedly did not.

Things had not been simple between them, by the end. Her mother had gone to a dark place and Kady had tried to follow her there, which only made it all more painful for the both of them. They hadn’t been close since Kady had decided to go to Brakebills, despite her loyal reasons for doing so, and in the aftermath it had become clear that whatever affection had existed between Kady as a child and the woman who raised her, it had been warped into something nearly unrecognizable now that Kady was an adult in her own right. It hurt, to lose something she’d so taken for granted that she hadn’t even had the words for it. Motherhood, childhood, that bond, it had mattered. And it had been broken, and there had been attempts to mend it, and then… the end. Dead mom, perpetually alive daughter.

Even if Kady’s mother had lived to be one hundred, she’d have been long dead by the twenty-first century. And maybe that should have mattered, maybe it should have made the grief taste different, but it didn’t. Kady still remembers what it was to be the daughter of a mother, and she remembers viscerally the feeling of having that cut away from her, violent and sudden.

El, Q, and Margo cannot commiserate with this grief because their relationships to their long-dead families are, at best, mythic fairytales, shakily recalled in moments of nostalgia. Q can remember a name or two, the dreams he’d once had as a mortal man, the shape his life would have taken. El and Margo don’t even have that much. El isn’t even sure of his original homeland, holding onto certain identities more out of habit than out of conviction that they’re real or true.

Julia and Penny can’t commiserate either, not really. They’d both left their families and gotten the rare opportunity to watch from afar as the people who mattered to them grew old and died natural deaths. They remember names, they remember events, concrete and solid, but their extrications from their old lives had been gentle things. Abrupt, at first, as they’d realized the truth of their new existence and then run away to learn more about it, but then gradual in the end, as they’d allowed themselves to return to familiar haunts, a ghost frozen in youth as middle-aged parents became elders. As kids grew to adulthood, as descendents sprawled out and moved away from familiar cultural context.

That isn’t to say that the others don’t have their own measure of grief, of regrets, of pain when recalling the deaths of those they’d loved. Kady has shared memories with them during meditation, had felt the shock of grief in Julia’s heart as her grandchildren died, elderly and fulfilled, while she watched on from a distance, a stranger to them, mourning in solidarity with a family she no longer had.

But Kady doesn’t feel her grief for her mother’s death as an immortal person should: a complicated combination of personal loss and larger, societal shifts. Kady is… in her heart, Kady is still young, uncertain of her path in the world, a woman who lost her mother and still wishes to turn to her for advice in moments of doubt. Kady grieves for her mom like the young woman she feels herself to be, not the two-hundred-plus-year-old immortal that she has literally become.

Of course, there are years there in the middle where Penny’s death wipes away everything else from her heart and her mind. Where grief for him makes the rest of the world tiny and insignificant in comparison. But even in the first wails of disbelieving agony, she can recall remembering how much she’d wished her mother could have known Penny, known that her rebellious, troubled, powerful young daughter had found someone to keep her grounded, steady, fulfilled. And despite her age in years, she’d still felt, at Penny’s loss, like a young widow, still in the bloom of love. She’d wanted to turn back to childhood, go to her parents’ family home and cry into her mother’s lap. But that home hadn’t existed anymore, and her mother has passed out of all living memory, save her own.

This is why she’d fallen in love with Alice Quinn.

Well. No, it would not be charitable to say that grief is the only thing that binds them, but it is the first string, the foundation that tied them to one another years before Alice had even become one of them. Because Alice does not grieve her losses like an ancient being from the mists of time. She does not lament the passage of the centuries, the shifting sands of unceasing change. She still grieves her brother Charlie with the sharpness of immediate loss, of knowing that were the world a just place, her brother would still walk upon it. The way Alice talks about Charlie, the way she lashes out in anger at the unfairness, the cruelty, the capriciousness of magic and of life itself… it’s how Kady had felt about losing Penny. And even when she gets Penny back, it’s still how she feels about the time she spent without him, and about all the years she lost with her mother.

Someday, Kady will slip from the grief of a child over the loss of a parent, to… well, whatever it is the others are. She will become someone who looks back on early nineteenth century New York with a smile at the quaintness, the mythology, of what once was and can never be again. One day maybe she will be like El, squinting into his hazy past before shrugging and declaring, quite truthfully, that it doesn’t matter where he came from or who he might once have loved. He’s forgotten them, and thus forgotten to be sad for them.

But she’s not there yet. She grieves for a loss she can remember as if it happened only yesterday. And nobody else in her life understands that like Alice. She decides, even knowing herself to be impossibly old in Alice’s eyes, as foreign as any of the others in the unnatural longevity of her life, to hold onto the grief while she has it, to remain young in this one way. Someday, inevitably, she and Alice will both take death for granted, and Kady is not convinced the softening of her anguish will be worth it.

Chapter Text

Every day, Kady woke up and remembered. She made herself do it, carefully, methodically, every detail of Penny’s face, and the way his hand fit in the dip of her waist. The way he washed her hair for her sometimes, and told her she looked beautiful when she’d put in a special effort. Complimenting her style, not the body beneath it all. Although, of course, he appreciated that part of her too, and found ways to sing her praises without saying a word.

And so Kady would lie awake every morning for fifty years and she would think about Penny Adiyodi and the space of emptiness where he should have been.

Now, everything was different. She still woke up every morning and made herself remember. She thought of nights alone, of fights in her own head between despair and defiance. Anger, bubbling over, at the way the people she loved most had chosen to grieve. Anger at herself, for letting it all happen, for running away instead of standing firm.

It was important to remember the worst parts of her life, to measure the weight of every day of that desolate half-century. If she didn’t ruminate on them in those first few bleary moments of her day, she’d forget just how grateful she should be for what she had managed to achieve in the aftermath.

Kady wasn’t like most of the others. Not only was she still young enough to appreciate the passage of every year, she also staunchly refused to lose that aspect of herself, to allow the tide of centuries to sweep her under and wash her up sometime in the far flung future, with only hazy memories of who she had been and where she had come from.

So she forced herself to honor her earliest life, then the happiness of her young immortality, then the lacuna of devastation, and then the gift of Penny’s return.

Of Alice’s arrival.

Every day, Kady woke up in a bed and thought of Penny not being there, a time where they were apart, as Kady had thought, forever. And then she smiled and turned to the man lying at her side, nuzzling her face up into the hollow of his throat. Even asleep, Penny responded to her, an arm opening to invite her into that closeness. She had woken him up so many ways before, and he had woken her up in just as many, and she fought to remember every single one, to invite them into her and never lose sight of what made each day special.

On Kady’s other side, Alice slept. This wasn’t the case every day, but it was happening more and more as the months dragged on towards years, and they all accepted the fact that Penny was back, and that Alice was here to stay.

Alice didn’t like to touch people while she slept. Kady had learned the edges and malleability of Alice’s wants and needs over the period of a couple of months, between when she had first shown up in her life, and then that day that had changed everything. The news of Penny that had turned Kady from remembering the past, to racing towards an terrifyingly uncertain future.

There had been a break, then. Alice and Kady, still drawn to one another, but afraid to touch. They hadn’t known what Penny would mean to them. Kady hadn’t—had room, to think of Alice, for a while there. She couldn’t hold space for anything else in her mind during those weeks and months of preparation. And in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s miraculous return, the mere fact of him swallowed her up entirely.

Alice had been patient, though. She’d been, Kady now knows, a little bit hurt at Kady’s focus on Penny, but she’d also known the hurt to be unreasonable, demanding, selfish, and she’d hidden it away, thrown her whole self into the same mission as all the others, fighting to save Penny from exile and bring him home. She’d never met Penny, and she’d still fought so hard. It’s the only reason they’re here now, like this, all of them together. Because Alice had understood what Kady needed at a time where Kady had been unable to return the favor.

Today, Alice groaned and stretched and then rolled herself closer to Kady in the bed, kissing her on the shoulder in greeting. “What time is it?”

“Early,” Penny said, with his eyes still closed. “Go back to sleep.”

Kady blinked one eye open and found the vibrant red of a digital clock on the bedside table, wavering hazily in her blurry vision. “It’s 8:42. Not exactly the break of dawn.”

“So what?” Alice said, uncharacteristically. Alice wasn’t exactly a morning person, but she was a punctual person, a to-do-list-making person, the kind of woman who hated being up early but did it anyway to be sure she had enough time in her day to get everything done.

“So,” Kady said, reluctantly thrust into the role of the responsible one. Penny’s breathing was already evening back out into slumber. “So, we’ve got Margo’s debriefing today. Which one of you wants to tell her we’re late because we slept in?”

There was a beat of silence, and Kady counted in her head one, two, three, then smiled as she heard twin groans of realization and shifting in the bed, as Penny and Alice each rolled to the edge.

They’d stayed up late last night. They’d had a lot to drink, which, for them, didn’t matter so much. It took quite a bit of alcohol-soaking to achieve the proper effect, and it never lasted particularly long. No hangovers too, a nice fringe benefit of immortality. But really, they’d stayed up late and they’d talked. Alice still had so many questions, so many stories to hear about Penny and Kady’s lives together, about Penny’s life for the centuries before meeting Kady, too. And Penny, the thoughtful man that he is, had made sure to ask Alice questions back, and to understand when Alice preferred not to answer some of them.

Yesterday had been good, and difficult, the way talking about the bad days always could be. Today would be frustrating, and rewarding, the way working with the rest of the family often was, too many strong personalities in the room for even the likes of Margo to wrangle entirely.

She wanted to stay in bed for another hour, but she shimmied her way to the edge and joined her partners in their drowsy stumble to the bathroom. She studied the muscle on Penny’s bare back, the soft curve of Alice’s thigh under the large T-shirt she’d worn to bed. They were a study in contrasts, and somehow Kady was the bridge between them. How’d she get so lucky?

Every day was different, and many days did not feel like a gift. But Kady held onto each one of them with identical care and reverence all the same, recording them inside the cradle of her heart.