Ivan must be drunker than he thought he was. He could have sworn he knew his way around Vivienne's parents' house, since she wanted to introduce him last week and showed him the place, but maybe they have a... secret... upstairs... bar? where Vivienne's room is supposed to be? And most certainly was last time he checked? He's never going to find the sweater she sent him up looking for here, anyway. Why is there a secret upstairs bar in Vivienne's parents' house?
"But it should be all done soon. Do you want anything else to eat?"
"Yes," sighs grownup him. "Yes you do."
When the food is gone, and his bones are done, and his sister has been informed by Bothari that she must wait to teach him to walk until it's clear that the results will persist beyond the magic bar, and various last-minute purchases for the little alts have been made and packed up for transportation, and Linya and Isabella have both picked up and hugged their little one and enclosed letters to her various grownups, and Tiny Ivan has had his hair ruffled and been advised against trying aged fish and in favor of being nice to Koudelka girls -
the small alts, and Bothari, and boxes upon boxes of stuff, go home.
Lalita is carrying Mark.
Mark is giggling.
Stalas is trailing behind them, looking fondly exasperated.
"Either you were up there a very long time, or your time dilation was behaving uncooperatively."
"We were up there a while," Lalita says cheerfully.
"...Who the hell beat you at Strat-O?"
"Um," says Miles. "I did, technically."
"You missed some more alts."
"There was one of us who was about four, and a five-year-old Miles and a six-year-old Ivan. Oddly enough, the us and the Miles were siblings, her being adopted. She didn't look like us, either. Linyabel got pictures."
"I don't know what you mean about our time dilation behaving uncooperatively, then," says Mark. "If I'd come down here and there'd been small children all over the place I'd've turned right back around."
"But they were so cute."
Stalas gives Mark a slightly concerned look. Miles catches it, and gives them both a slightly concerned look.
"What's the issue with small adorable children? Who were, interestingly, from a universe that is just like ours only very secretly magical."
"I don't want anything to do with small adorable children," says Mark.
"Well, they've been sent home with all their souvenirs, so you will not have to have anything to do with them."
"T'hy'la, do you want to see our picture with Nika, the little us?"
"Sure," says Lalita. He sets Mark down and ruffles his hair and goes over to Isabella.
It's Linya who produces the picture from her pen: her balancing Nika on her hip with one arm and taking the holo with the other hand, Isabella standing on Nika's other side, Nika gesturing expansively and beamingly. In the background, Mileses playing Strat-O and one Ivan reading to another Ivan are visible.
"Well, that's thoroughly adorable."
Meanwhile, Stalas is holding Mark's hand again.
"Part of the secret magic business was that none of these children - nor Bothari, the little Miles's bodyguard - were humans, according to Bar. Nika was a secret dragon, little Ivan was a secret firebird, little Miles was a secret unicorn."