Image: Scene break ornament. End Description.

"Why are you so irresponsible?" Asmeret's hushed voice carried in from the hallway. "You never did the reading?"

"I didn't wanna overload her with information!" Julia whispered back. Phoebe could almost picture her folded arms. The two of them stood near the kitchen, in the house they'd grown up in together. Julia had said she'd repainted the walls but, surely, the pre-dawn shadows still crawled along the walls in familiar ways.

Image: A close-up of a photograph of Asmeret and Julia as children. Both of their aspects have juvenile plumage, mottled black and gray for Asmeret and brown for Julia. They are embracing and smiling. End description.

"But look what happened. She's traumatized, not stupid."

“Even if a reading shows the monster can be killed without hurting her, Cat says it might be a fledgling.”

“He’s putting his ideals over our safety. So are you. That thing should have been killed immediately.”

"Come on," Julia hissed back, "if you're gonna be with us, you need to start taking risks."

Asmeret groaned. "Really?" Phoebe could hear the rising venom leave their beak. "You don't remember all the times you said Yuli would eat me? You don't remember all the hours I spent hiding?"

"We were kids!"

Both of them walked into the living room, and Asmeret adjusted their cardigan with a huff.

Image: Asmeret clutches at their lavender cardigan, looking disgruntled with their head raised. Behind them is the dining room, with part of the table, window, and sliding door visible. The sky outside is dark. They’re wearing a very light purple blouse underneath their cardigan, and gray pants. End description.