“You guys know our lives are about to get weirder in some insane way that we can’t possibly predict?” Margo said as she looked around her at her friends, taking it all in, and ready to solidify their place in this new Fillory by pushing the button and letting the Fillorians out of the seahorse.
“Yes,” replied Fen, Alice, and Josh all at once.
Smiling, Josh continues, “But I find that somehow, perversely comforting”
“So do I,” Alice said, “And that’s how I know it’s our story.”
Margo grinned, truly excited for the adventure about to unfold, and pressed the button.
As soon as she woke up, the first thing Margo heard up was Josh saying, “Ugh, my head hurts. What happened.”
Sitting up and looking around, Margo was shocked to find herself in the last place she thought she’d be. “We’re back at fucking Brakebills?! Christ on a cracker what the fuck is going on.”
Alice put her head between her knees as she sat up. There was a headache coming on from this, she just knew it.
“Well, it looks like we’re back on earth.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
“Quiet Margo, please. I can literally feel my brain throbbing. And I don’t know why we’re here. It could be anything. New Fillory itself kicked us out, one of the Fillorians we let out zapped us here, literally any other thing since our lives are so weird. Also Fen isn’t here, so maybe we can use that as a clue.”
Josh thought to himself for a second before replying, “Well since we’re at Brakebills, let’s go see Dean Fogg. Maybe someone on earth did something.”
“Maybe,” Margo said, “And Fogg is pretty useless, but fuck it, we have nothing better to try. Let’s go find him.”
Margo stood up with Josh and Alice following suit. The walk from the lab where they appeared to Dean Fogg’s office was not a long one, but it still felt strange. It had been a while since they had been to Brakebills with no students around in classrooms or in the hallways.
“So… where do you think everybody is?” Josh asked.
“My guess is that In earth time Brakebills isn’t even in session. It’s probably the end of summer so they should be running the exam soon,” Alice replied.
Margo nodded her head impressed, “Maybe you do have all the answers blondie. I know I’ve spent so much time in Fillory I haven’t paid any attention to earth time, and can only assume it’s the same for Josh.”
“You got that right. All that timey-wimey nonsense in the Neitherlands, back to Brakebills for a bit, then to Fillory, back to earth, and back to Fillory again. Now we’re here. Time is an illusion and I have no idea what day of the week it is, let alone what month it is. Who knows, I might not even know what year it is!”
Both Margo and Alice laughed at that, so that was a success in Josh’s book.
Once she finished laughing, Alice said, “It’s not that difficult to figure out though. It’s hot out, and there’s no one here. There’s not many times in the year when Brakebills is totally empty. They do have some summer courses.”
Margo hummed in agreement. The rest of their walk to Dean Fogg’s office was in silence, none of them quite sure what to expect, and just hoping that Fogg was there. Once they arrived, Margo opened the door to Fogg’s office and they all walked in and sighed in relief as Fogg was sitting at his desk.
“Fuck, it’s you three. Why wouldn’t you be here? I suppose being able to escape you all, although it seems like that isn’t possible. You and your group of friends are worse than the entire class of ‘16.”
“But I am part of the class of ‘16.”
“Can’t you see how that makes it worse, Mr. Hoberman? It means you have gotten yourself into trouble more times than I care to begin counting.”
Josh awkwardly grimaced, mimed pulling his collar, and looked away in response to that. Not like he could argue against it.
“Not that you two are much better,” Fogg continued on his tirade and turning his gaze towards Margo and Alice, “Becoming a niffen, going to Fillory, and then staying to rule it. All of you disappearing without a word. Not a single one of you or your friends bothered to drop out either. Your files are an absolute nightmare.”
Alice took a step forward towards Fogg. “You’re right. We didn’t drop out. So what does that mean? Are we still enrolled at Brakebills?”
Fogg sighed deeply before replying, “I wish I could say no, but technically yes. Everyone in your friend group is still enrolled. You would need to test out of year 2 and complete year 3. By all means though, fill out the drop out paperwork. It’s bad enough some of you have decided to come back to complete their third year.”
“Some are coming back? Who?” Margo demanded.
“The rest of your little group, quite annoyingly.”
“Yes, Ms. Wicker took the year two test. I’m sure she could have passed the third year test but she wanted to stay with her friends. They have all been living in the cottage since you three left and Ms. Orloff-Diaz missed a payment to the Baba Yaga and got herself evicted. It’s a funny story actually.”
“Once we don’t have time for,” Margo interjected. “Why are we here? Did someone perform a spell to call us back? And why isn’t Fen here?”
“To answer your questions in order- I don’t know, I don’t know, and to be honest I do not care. You’re back. So please either fill out the dropout paperwork or I will see you all in class in two weeks. I have too much to prepare right now. Good day to you all,” Fogg said as he waved them out of his office.
As soon as they left, Margo angrily said, “I knew talking to him was going to be useless. And now what? Everyone is going back to school like nothing ever happened? Fuck this, we’re going to the cottage now and finding out what the hell is going on.”
Sharing a look and a shrug, Josh and Alice just followed Margo. They needed answers and if anyone was going to get them, it was Margo Hanson.
Margo is frustrated that nothing is going as expected, but honestly what’s new. She is really looking forward to seeing Eliot though. One moment she thought she would never see him again and would live out the rest of her days in New Fillory, the next she was walking right back to where it all began, the physical kids cottage.
With zero hesitation Margo threw the cottage door open. As soon as she stepped over the threshold, quickly followed by Alice and Josh, five sets of eyes honed in on them.
“Margo,” Josh whispered in a low voice, “Are you sure we’re in the right timeline? Because call me crazy, but when we left Quentin was dead.”
Margo wasn’t ignoring Josh per say, but she wasn’t listening to him either as she felt too wrapped up in her own shock of seeing Quentin.
After a long pause Margo said in a hushed tone, “Quentin? This better be real, because I don’t know if I can handle whatever this is not being real.”
At that Eliot stood up from Quentin’s side and walked over to Margo. Quentin, Kady, Penny, and Julia sat silently watching the scene play out before them.
Eliot put a hand on Margo’s face, wanting to give her the tactile comfort she expected of him to help with the confusion he could see so clearly in her eyes.
“Once you were gone,” Eliot began, “I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. So much has happened with everything Bambi. I loathe to admit it, but I could feel myself beginning to spiral, and without you I didn’t know how to stop it or if I even could. But then Julia- she came to me with this idea of how we could save Q, how we could get him back. So after a few months of research we found out we could power up Plum Chatwin for a round trip excursion. That research grounded me Bambi. It kept me out of the spiral.”
Eliot took a breath and continued, “Simple version of things is that basically we needed some magic freely given from another time traveler. So we tracked this guy down using a modified locator spell. He agreed to help in exchange for helping get rid of this other time traveler guy who tracks time travelers down for their magic to power himself up. Anyways, we figured out we could get rid of him by throwing him into another reality. You can travel to different lands and time, but jumping timelines isn’t something he could do. So we used the other time traveler to bait him and chucked him through the tesla flexion and destroyed it. Not like timeline 23 can get too much worse with him there so… yeah. Anyway, after completing our end of deal the traveler powered up Plum and bing bang boom all we needed to do was grab Q before he got killed and here we are.”
Margo, Josh, and Alice all stared at Eliot as he finished.
“Wait, months?” Alice asked.
“Yeah,” Quentin said, finally walking over to the group who had not left the entryway.
Quentin grabbed Margo and Alice, pulling them into a hug. Josh, not to be left out, came in to hug Quentin as well, putting him in the middle of the group hug.
“Quentin,” Alice said, holding him tight as tears started making their way down her face, “I missed you. I mourned you. Eliot and I both did. I… I really don’t know what to say.”
“That’s ok Alice. We’ll get there together. A lot has changed since I’ve come back, and there’s a lot to talk about. But for right now, maybe we should all just sit and relax?”
“Oh I’m ready for a damn drink after today,” Margo interjected.
“Seconded,” added Josh.
“Well have no fear, any drink your heart desires is on the menu tonight,” Eliot said, sliding behind the bar and gesturing to the wall of liquors behind him.
As everyone started shouting out their drink order to Eliot, Margo, Josh, Alice, and Quentin went to go sit down. With one couch already taken up by Penny and Julia on one end, and Kady on the other, Margo chose to sit down on the other couch next to them, plopping herself down next to Josh. She leaned into him, getting comfy, while Quentin took the other seat beside her, and Alice sat in the chair on Quentin's other side.
Margo grabbed Quentin’s hand to hold, still in disbelief that he was here and not some kind of crazy hallucination. Not wanting to lose him again, her grip tightened on his hand. It was hard to believe that all of the most important people to her were here, safe in the cottage, with nothing crazy going on, no one trying to kill them, and the weirdest thing being that for some reason her friends wanted to finish school at Brakebills. Quentin just smiled at her and squeezed her hand back.
Josh looked over to Kady, Penny, and Julia and said, “So… it’s been months since we’ve been gone huh? For us it seemed like barely a day after we went with the world seed to New Fillory. And it was so cool guys, I’m talking margarita pizza everywhere!” Josh exclaimed, but quickly got serious once more. “So I get that we missed a lot here, I do. I’m really getting tired of all this time travel stuff. But here’s what I don’t get- how did you all decide that you want to go back to school at Brakebills. What happened there?”
“Well,” Julia began, “Once Q was back the adventure fizzled out. We have no degrees, no jobs, and after the Baba Yaga kicked us out of the NYC apartment, we had nowhere to go. So we decided we should come back here. I talked to Dean Fogg and convinced him to agree to let us use the cottage since no one else is on campus.”
“Oh, that seems reasonable I guess,” Josh said.
Julia smiled and laughed. “Yup! So what are you guys going to do now that you’re back on earth?”
Alice sat up a little straighter as she quickly said, “I’ll finish school too. I’m definitely not going back to living with Stephanie, so Brakebills it is. Besides, there’s still things to learn here.”
“It’s not like I’m going to leave Eliot now that we’re back together, so you’re all stuck with me,” Margo replied, smirking.
Finally, Josh smiled and added, “I’m not leaving you guys either! Third year part three here I come!”
Margo rolled her eyes at that, but was secretly a little relieved that Josh was staying. He really was the only one of them that had a good relationship with his family, so he actually could leave and be fine.
“Excellent,” Eliot said, bringing over a tray of drinks, “The gangs all back together again then.”
After setting down everyone’s drinks, Eliot squeezed himself between Quentin and Margo, the ideal place for him to be. He picked up his glass to raise a toast, and downed his first drink.
The first thing that Eliot notices when he wakes up is that his neck and back are in pain and that something is tickling his nose. As soon as he opens his eyes he sees that that something tickling him is Quentin’s hair. Eliot may not be in the most comfortable position but with Quentin snuggled into his chest he is not moving unless the cottage is literally on fire. As he looks up he sees that there is very little room on the couch as Josh was laid out completely with Margo half laying on top of him. Quentin took up the rest of the room with his legs on top of Margo and Josh’s. Eliot internally grimaced as Quentin would probably be in a lot more pain when he woke up.
Looking over to the other side of the room Eliot noticed that Kady, Penny, and Alice were still sleeping. Julia on the other hand was awake and waved at him. In a moment of confusion he watched Julia point at her phone and mouth blackmail at him. Eliot quickly realized that she had taken a photo of himself and Quentin while they were sleeping. He couldn’t find it in himself to be angry though, he really just wants to see the picture.
After another half hour, more people started to wake up. Luckily this included Josh as he took it upon himself to make his way into the kitchen and start whipping up pancakes and bacon. Quentin, Penny, and Julia made their way into the kitchen to grab breakfast while Kady and Alice were still asleep.
Seeing an opportunity Margo gave Eliot the look that he had come to know as the ‘spill the tea’ look.
“So, what’s up with you and Coldwater? You were looking pretty comfy there when I woke up.”
Even though he shared everything with Margo, Eliot still tried his best not to blush at the insinuation. He may be completely comfortable sharing every dirty sex detail with her, but mushy romantic stuff is difficult. But this was his Bambi he was talking about, so even if he didn’t tell her, she would find out what had happened between himself and Q.
“When Quentin came back Bambi, that was it. After all this time I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and… I told him how I feel. We have a complicated past to say the least, and our lives have been intertwined in a way that I could have never imagined before Brakebills. I didn’t act soon enough, and I never got to tell him in real life how I truly felt about him. With him back I couldn’t take a second of Q not knowing. So I told him. I poured my heart out, Bambi. And with you and Alice and Josh being gone, there was no reason for us not to try and see what a relationship looks like with us. We’ve been taking it slow, Q said we shouldn’t rush things and honestly I agree. It didn’t work for me with Mike- it only made everything worse after what happened with him. But I’m happy Margo, even more so now that you’re here. I really missed you.”
Margo felt so relieved that being with Quentin seemed to open up Eliot in a way that even she hadn’t seen. In a few minutes, Eliot showed more emotional maturity than she had ever seen in him. As his platonic soulmate, Eliot’s happiness was extremely important to her after all.
“So…” Eliot continued, “What’s up with you and Josh? Still going... strong?”
After having Eliot be so open with her, it was only fair to do the same with him. Margo smiled as she said, “Damn straight we are. Aside from you, no one has shown me the kind of loyalty that Josh has. I’ve forgiven him for the whole Fen thing anyway, I get it. Josh is sweet, kind, and he makes me laugh. He gets me. A few years ago I would have laughed you out of the room if you told me I would ever be happy in a relationship with anyone like Josh Hoberman, but you know what? Fuck it. I’m happy so who gives a shit. Enough feelings talk though, let’s get us some pancakes.”
Just before walking into the kitchen, Eliot called over his shoulder, “Wakey wakey ladies! It’s time to join the land of the living.”
While Eliot may not have seen it, Alice had a pretty good laugh as she was waking up at the middle finger Kady threw his way without even opening her eyes.
As Eliot and Margo walked into the kitchen Penny was saying, “So we have a week left before classes, what are we going to do?”
Eliot smiled and chimed in, “We are going to eat, drink, and be merry!”
“Here, here!” Josh cried.
“Dude,” Penny said, “We can not just spend a whole week drunk.”
“Maybe you can’t,” Margo sneered.
“Come on guys, he’s right,” Julia said. “I’m sure we can find something more productive to do with our time. Like trying to convince Dean Fogg to let us keep the cottage for the year. Or helping Margo and Alice pass the year 2 exam. Or even figuring out how Margo, Josh, and Alice came back here.”
The first prospect greatly interested Eliot. One of his eyebrows raised, he said, “So no Todd? Intriguing, go on.”
“Well, what if we petition Fogg to let us all keep the cottage for the year. See if we can convince him. Do you really think he wants more students falling under our ‘terrible’ influence? And do you think that anyone really wants to live with us after all the bad things that happen when we’re around? Probably not. So I think we might have shot at convincing him.”
At this point Kady had walked in to get pancakes. “She’s not wrong. If I wasn’t a part of this group I wouldn’t want to live with us either. Shit literally doesn’t stop happening when we’re around. Worst he says is no, and at best eight people, one house? Sounds pretty good to me.”
Josh hmm’d as flipped a pancake and added, “Not that I wouldn’t love to live here with you guys, but do you think he would let me, Julia, and Penny? Because technically I’m a naturalist, Penny’s a psychic, and in every other timeline Julia’s been a knowledge student.”
“After all the shit we’ve been through? He can suck my clit. You three are physical kids now.”
“Aww thanks Margo,” Julia said smiling. “That’s sweet of you in your own way.”
Margo threw a wink at Julia replying, “Hey, never say I don’t look out for my own. After breakfast let's pay Fogg a little visit. Julia, Alice, and myself will go talk to Fogg. We probably have the best chance at convincing him and/or bribing him. Whatever it takes.”
“Alright let’s do this!” Julia cheered.
“Ok that was a little too easy,” Alice said.
“Eh who cares, Fogg really just doesn’t want to deal with us. So what, we have to greet some newbies and escort them to the exam? Easy peasy. That’s one day of work for a whole year of no Todd.”
“Aww come on Margo, Todd isn’t that bad,” Julia said.
Margo turned and stared into Julia’s eyes as she said, “Yeah, he really is.”
“Either way,” Alice said, “Let’s go tell everyone the good news!”
When the girls got back to the cottage, Eliot was the only one downstairs. After breakfast everyone else went off to do their own thing, including Eliot tidying up the bar and putting everything back in its rightful place.
Seeing the door open Eliot asked, “What’s the word ladies? Do we have a private abode this year?”
“We do!” Julia said excitedly.
“Excellent, because while you were gone I had a wonderful idea. We are going to transform the bedroom situation. With only eight of us we need a lot less bedrooms. So we combine some into beautiful suites for ourselves. All it will take is a little cooperative magic.”
Margo was grinning as she said, “Oh you know I can’t resist a nice bedroom El. Even if it won’t compare to the high king’s chamber in Fillory.”
“Sounds good to me,” Alice said. “How many rooms do we need?”
“All depends on who’s sharing a room together,” Margo replied while throwing a wink at Eliot.
Eliot quickly said, “So Julia and Penny, and Margo and Josh. Those are the only couples here. Yup.”
Margo shot Eliot a confused look, but caught on fast once he started looking at her and moving his eyes towards Alice. Obviously no one had had that conversation with Alice yet, and Margo did not want to be there when it happened. So change the subject it is.
“Who says Josh and I are rooming together?”
“You’re not going to?” Eliot asked, feigning confused.
“That’s a conversation for Josh and I to have. You know, the way it’s important for people to have open conversations with each other about relationships?”
Eliot rolled his eyes. Margo was laying it on a little thick. He knows that he needs to have a conversation with Alice.
“Well I’m going to go find Josh and have that conversation. Julia, you want to come help?”
“Alrighty see you bitches later then!” Margo said, walking away with Julia in tow.
Eliot sighed. He had kinda hoped that Q would have this conversation with Alice, but at least their relationship was stronger after their trip to the mountain top. Not great, but stronger nonetheless.
“So that was weird.”
“I know. Look Alice,” Eliot sighed, “I don’t know how to say this without hurting you, and I kind of thought Q would have taken the lead on this, but here we are. Anyways. What I wanted to say was that Quentin and I got together after you were gone. We never expected to see you again. Any of you. And like I said on the mountain top, Q and I had fifty beautiful years together. Once he was back, I didn’t want to waste a second without telling him how I felt. I know this must hurt, and for that I’m truly sorry.”
As he talked, Eliot watched Alice shut down. He could almost see her walls going up.
“Eliot, thank you for telling me. But I’m… I’m going to need a bit. This is… a lot.”
“Of course. Your room can be the first we do.”
“Alright. Are you and Quentin going to share a room?”
“I don’t think we will- for now at least. I can’t promise that won’t change.”
Alice took a breath and as she turned to leave she replied a soft, “Ok,” before heading upstairs to process everything.
“Alright, now that we’re gone El can sort out his shit with Alice. I do actually need to talk to Josh though, so I’ll see you later.”
“Gotcha. Well, I’ll go find Q and let him know what’s going down. I’m sure he’s buried in a book somewhere around here. Hope your talk goes well!”
As Julia walked away Margo rolled her eyes as she headed outside. It was Josh, she didn’t need luck talking to him.
Looking up from the flowers he was watering and seeing Margo, Josh beamed and said, “I’m giving us some curb appeal. Whatcha think?”
Smiling back at him, Margo replied, “It looks good, the patio definitely needed some sprucing up. Anyways, we’re going to rearrange the whole bedroom situation in the cottage.”
“Nice! So we all get giant bedrooms then?”
“It does if you want to share a room with me.”
Josh’s eyebrows raised at that before asking, “Margo, are you asking me to move in with you?”
“Yeah, I am. We shared a room for a little bit in Fillory, why not here too?”
Josh stood up from his flowers and stepped over to Margo, grabbing her hand. “I’d love to move in with you. Nothing would make me happier than waking up every morning and seeing your beautiful face.”
At that Margo felt her face heating up, but that feeling was quickly overtaken by Josh leaning in to give her a gentle kiss before it quickly deepened into one of passion.
“Q! Glad I found you. There’s something you have to know.”
“Ok, what’s up?”
“Eliot is telling Alice about you and him. Right now.”
“Alright, go make sure no one blows up the cottage. Got it. I’m heading down now then.”
Quentin put his book down and began walking towards the stairs. As he was going down, Alice was going up. Seeing him, she looked away and walked faster towards her bedroom. Quentin sighed and prayed that this would all blow over fairly quickly. Once he had walked over to Eliot, he grabbed his hand to provide at least a little comfort in the moment.
“Eliot? Are you doing alright?”
“I’m fine Q, I just really wasn’t expecting to be the one having this conversation with her.”
“Well, what’s done is done. How’d she take it?”
“Could have gone better. Alice is going to take some time to process this.”
“Hey, that’s fine. We all probably need some processing time right now anyway. Why don’t we grab a snack and watch some TV? Turn off our brains for a while.”
Quentin ran to the kitchen to grab some crackers and cheese slices before returning to Eliot in the living room. Eliot had already put on house hunters, since he enjoyed commenting on the houses and the dumb requirements people had on the show. Quentin leaned up against him knowing that everyone including himself just needed a little bit of time to get used to things. He hoped anyway.
Excited to post this as it gets a little more into the story here! And thank you for reading <3