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All We Need is Six

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Lina sighed as she browsed through the store. She couldn’t believe she’d let Anne, Anna, and Cathy talk her into this, but... well, who could say no to all three of them at once? It was the first year all six of them were together, after all. Now that Kit had regained her memories, the queens could celebrate the major holidays as a unit. 

Which is how Lina ended up in her current predicament. Valentine’s Day was fast approaching and the queens wanted to do gift exchanges for one another. It was Anne’s idea, naturally. Anna and Cathy had joined in on it and now, the queens were looking for the perfect Valentine’s gifts for each other. 

Brushing her fingers over an expensive felt pillow, Lina hummed. She knew the other queens were likely out looking as well, so she’d try to avoid them. The problem at present was wondering what to get them all. Jane, Cathy, Anna, and Anne were all easy. She’d known them for years, so she could think of a few things off the top of her head and narrow it down. Kit would be the real obstacle. Compared to the others, Kit was still new, even more since she was only a year into having recovered her memories. 

Personally, Lina thought it would be a good idea to just ask Kit what sort of things she liked. Unfortunately, that had been shot down by Anna, claiming that it would ruin the fun if everyone knew what they would be getting. So, instead, here Lina was, walking through a store looking for gifts for all of her favorite people. 

This would be so much easier if they were still back in the Renaissance. Back then, she could have picked out a luxurious gift for all of them. Of course, none of them really knew each other back then, not the way they know each other now. As easy as it would have been back then, Lina would never trade their bonds now for anything from the past.

She and Anne had been shaky when Anne regained her memories, but now she couldn’t imagine Anne not being there in the late evenings with a cup of tea. Cathy was a ray of sunshine, even though they’d hardly seen one another in the previous life. Being able to take care of her in this one had been one of the best experiences of either life. Anna was another bright spot, capable of turning almost any situation positive, and helping everyone see the upside. Her optimism had made plenty of things over the years feel a little less stressful. Jane was a massive help in keeping the household in order. The two of them together kept everything running smoothly. If either of them were off their game, the other would pick up so everything stayed on track. And Kit. Kit was an absolute sweetheart, sassy like her older cousin, but with an underlying sweetness that couldn’t be denied. Lina wouldn’t trade her for anything, especially after finding out about her past life.

And because of all that, her queens needed something extravagant. They needed something that showed how much Lina loved them all. In this new life, she couldn’t imagine being without them, even for a short time. They deserved to know that they were worth so much more than what Lina could put into words. 

With a sigh, Lina made to leave the store. Honestly, nothing seemed to really scream out to her, which was irritating. She couldn’t be empty-handed on Valentine’s Day.

Before she could leave, though, something caught her eye. She turned in shock and a small smile bloomed across her lips. Well, perhaps this would be easier than she thought. She couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces when they saw these.

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Anne hummed to herself as she made her way through the mall. She strutted along the corridors, checking through every shop window. She needed to find something for the other queens. She wanted this Valentine’s to be awesome. Her five favorite people needed to know she loves them, after all.

Valentine’s Day may be a day for romance, but it was also a day for love, the purest love, the love of family and togetherness. There was nothing stronger in Anne’s heart than the bond she shared with her fellow queens.

Lina was there for her, after her eighteenth birthday, when she regained her memories. Lina may have been holding a grudge for what happened in the previous life, but she still helped Anne understand what was happening, what had happened. For those first few months, she was there to help Anne through the nightmares and the memories and the absolute chaos her mind had become.

Because of that, Anne knew exactly where to go for her gift. She dodged and weaved through the crowd until she found the correct shop. She didn’t bat an eye at all of the knickknacks and trinkets lining the shelves She already knew where her gift was waiting, having seen it days prior.

As she made her way along, Anne also considered another member of the household: Anna. Anna was probably the chilliest person Anne had met in either life. Yes, they hadn’t known each other in the past, but Anna had still taken care of Anne during that month she wasn’t herself while her mind reoriented itself around having two sets of memories. Anna was strength when Anne couldn’t be strong, she was calm when Anne tended to panic. Anna was like a comforting huggable brick wall.

Thankfully, what she could get for Anna was also in this shop. She snatched it off the shelf on her way to Lina’s gift. A grin bloomed over her lips as she eyed the present. Lina would love it, she just knew it.

Next up was a different shop for the next set of presents. This time, she was after Cathy’s gift. Cathy tended to be the strangest of the group just because of how much knowledge she had. The girl was bookish beyond belief, but not at all in a bad way. Anne couldn’t be more grateful for her, actually. Without Cathy, some of the schedules Anne had made for the theatre would have fallen apart.

That’s why Anne breathed in the scent of fresh paper and ink. Yeah, she knew exactly what she was getting Cathy. Interestingly, Anne spotted something she knew Jane would like, too.

Jane and Anne had been a little stiff with one another after Anne regained her memories. Jane, being older, was more accustomed to her memories. She’d been dreading the day Anne would remember, but at the same time, Jane rejoiced in a chance to make amends for their past. She hadn’t pushed Anne to forgive her and was very patient while Anne worked through her previous life’s feelings about the whole thing.

Yeah, Jane would totally love this.

Stepping from the shop with her purchases, Anne made a beeline for the last shop. She could never forget her little Kitkat, after all. Kit was Anne’s entire world. She’d broken from her shell spectacularly after Anne gained custody of her. She still tended to have trouble trusting, exacerbated by the returned memories, but Kit was still the brightest thing in Anne’s life. Anne couldn’t imagine a time when she and Kit weren’t thick as thieves, sometimes literally. Kit needed something that showed her just how much Anne loved her.

All of her purchases in hand, Anne made her way back out to the car. She couldn’t wait for Valentine’s Day. The other queens were going to love her presents for them!

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Of course Jane had been roped into something like this. She couldn’t say she was complaining, though. A chance for them all to have a feeling of togetherness with one another, something they would never have gotten in the previous life. There was always so much pressure, so much stress and fear back then. Not to mention the tension between the first three queens. From what Jane gathered, the last three queens were on more amicable terms with one another. Now, with Kit having regained her memories the previous year, they could all share in this family they made.

Because of that, Jane decided she would do something different than she usually would. Normally, she would make a painting for Valentine’s. Everyone knew she was an artist, so they would all probably be expecting something like that, but Jane had a different hobby she’d recently taken up that she wanted to try out instead.

Anna’s was the first one she tried. She and Anna had been friends for a while, even before they regained their memories. Anna was playful and relaxed, convincing Jane to go with the flow. She tended to be the perfect buffer for Jane’s need to please others. Anna cared more about Jane being happy than Jane making others happy. Honestly, if Henry hadn’t been such an ass, Anna would likely have made an amazing queen.

Lina’s didn’t take that long either. Like Anna, Jane had known her longer than the others. It was Lina who helped her when the memories of her past life surfaced. Jane didn’t know what to do with herself for a month and Lina was patient with her, guiding her through the motions. Even though she held herself with a regal air, Lina didn’t look down on her not once. Jane understood why all of England had viewed her as the rightful queen until her death. She was practically a paragon of royalty, commanding and comforting, in charge but not forceful. Jane would never be able to express how thankful she was to Lina.

The one for Kit took a bit more thought. Jane knew what Kit liked and what her tastes were, but Jane wanted to do this right. It wouldn’t just be an apology for how they’d all treated her last year, but a promise. A promise that they would always be there for her, now and forever. Even though Kit was barely into her twenties, Jane still couldn’t believe how thoughtful, selfless, and kind Kit was. From babysitting Edward to helping around the house, Jane couldn’t imagine life without Kit’s bright smile and equally as bright hair around to liven things up.

On to Cathy. Cathy always was an enigma to Jane. Her intelligence, her patience, the way she would speak on behalf of others as much as herself. These became even more pronounced after she regained her memories. Catherine Parr was a shining beacon for so many, pushing for reform, pushing for the freedom of others. She sought to make life better, not just for herself, but for everyone. Cathy in this life may have been quieter than what Jane assumed Catherine had been in the past, but she was attentive, observant, she looked out for them all even when they didn’t know it. It’s no wonder she made such a good queen. Jane hoped Cathy knew how amazing she was.

The last one gave Jane pause. She remembered how she’d been in the past. Courted by the king, chosen to stand by his side at the execution. She’d been giddy to have earned his favor. Yes, she did love him, dearly, even as he raged and raved around her. However, in this new life, all of those memories were accompanied with a tinge of guilt. Guilt that she stressed the woman she was supposed to serve, guilt that she could have been part of the reason Anne lost some children. Being happy to be by the king’s side during an execution?

Honestly, Jane just… wished she could make all of that up to Anne. Yes, they’d managed to work through those feelings thanks to their memories of one another in this new world, but still. Jane despised what she had been back then, hated that she had taken that stance. Anne didn’t deserve that treatment. She was so smart, outspoken. She had such fire and discipline, and she wasn’t afraid to put her foot down. Just because that had led to her beheading didn’t mean it was wrong. Of all of the queens, Jane was the most thankful for the chance to reconcile with Anne.

Once she finished up, Jane made her way to the bathroom. Using her hands for the next few days would be a little difficult, but it was no big. Her queens deserved to know how much they matter. That alone was worth the effort and the injury.

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Anna couldn't contain her excitement. There was no way she would ever pass up a chance to dote on her fellow queens. All of them were exactly that, after all. Queens, strong and regal in their own ways. It was fitting that Lina had nicknamed her house The Castle. With all of their unique personalities, only a castle could hold them all without utterly collapsing. 

The problem was that Anna couldn’t think of anything to pinpoint her feelings for her fellow reincarnated royals. She loved all of them in their own ways. Each one was unlike anyone else she’d ever met, and because of that, she couldn’t quite think of a single present for a single queen.

And that’s how she found herself here. Animals were a way to reach almost anyone’s heart! And even better, each animal was special, just like the queens. Dogs, cats, lizards, turtles, mice… all of them had a personality all their own. Anna just needed to find the right one.

She needed something refined, regal. Lina always held her composure, even under stressful situations. Poodles, Labradors, every breed of cat imaginable… All of them would be a good fit for Lina.

Alongside that, Anna had to find something playful and smart. Anne was always down for a prank. The cunning ways in which she staged some of them made Anna wonder why she didn’t go into designing security systems instead. Retrievers, pits, and mice would be better for Anne.

Then there was the need for something patient and affectionate. Jane was probably the most supportive person Anna had ever met. Even though she ran the art gallery, she still found time to be there for the rest of them when they were upset or stressed. Anna was almost as impressed with her ability to be there with a cup of tea if ever someone needed as she was with Jane’s artwork. Huskies, tabbies, and turtles would probably fit perfectly for Jane.

Of course, there’s the problem of noise. Cathy was quiet, observant, and smarter than anyone Anna knew. She watched and waited for information. When it wasn’t coming, she actively sought it out. But Cathy was also unbelievably affectionate, almost as much as Jane. Anna could see her petting a cute fluffy head while she read over something on her laptop. Persians, American shorthairs, calicos, or a lizard would be best for Cathy.

Naturally, it was the last member of the household that solidified the choice. Playful and smart, quiet, affectionate, comforting. Kit was a soothing presence in the house, offering hugs if necessary, helping wherever she could, squirreling herself away if she was upset. She reminded Anna so much of Katherine and yet, at the same time, they were completely different people. But there was definitely something the two had in common.

And thanks to having all of the queens on mind, Anna found exactly what she was looking for. Yes, this little one would be coming home with her. She’d get the adoption papers signed and head immediately for the pet store. She couldn’t wait for Valentine’s Day. There would be one more queen of the castle.

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Kit had known them all for so long. Even before she'd come into Anne's custody, she knew them all. Anne would share stories about them every time she visited Kit. Stories with the promise of one day meeting them, of being able to watch Lina cook or read one of Cathy's stories, hear Jane sing or go for a run with Anna. 

As she worked in her room, Kit thought of each of them carefully. First was Jane. Jane was warmth, patience. She helped Kit with her homework, took her to the store if she needed more supplies, insisted on paying Kit for watching after Edward. Whenever Kit thought of Jane, tea came to mind. Tea and a warm sweater, a cozy fireplace, and a glass of brandy. Yes, that’s exactly it. She could visualize it perfectly.

Next was Lina. Lina was elegance, discipline. She taught Kit Spanish, helped her with history, taught her how to cook for herself, encouraged her to hold her head higher. Lina wanted Kit to succeed on her own merit and no matter what. When Lina was around, Kit thought she could rule the world if she tried. When thinking of Lina, Kit saw gold, a spotless scepter and crown, a throne, a lioness overseeing her cubs. That was perfect. Lina was majesty and regality given form. Even with her flaws and mistakes, she still held herself like the queen she once was. Kit didn’t slow in her work.

Once finished with Lina, Kit moved on to Anna. Anna was passion, protection. Out of all the queens, Kit was the most familiar with her in the former life. Anna taught her German, she taught her what it meant to be carefree, to hold herself with pride. Even as the entire court degraded her as ugly to appease Henry’s temper, Anna stood strong against it all. Thinking of her best friend, Kit could see it clearly. A sprawling forest, beyond which lay an expansive field, a magnificent palace towering over the yards, animals of all kinds, a tall glass of mead and a wide grin. Even death hadn’t stopped Kit’s ability to visualize her beloved best friend. Anna’s gift was done before Kit even realized it.

Kit’s fingers faltered when she came to the next one: Cathy. Cathy was knowledge, conviction. While they hadn’t shared the same level of familiarity in the past life that Kit had with Anna, she could still remember the times she and Catherine would talk about whatever kind of knowledge Katherine had asked for. She hadn’t been particularly academic back then, but she’d taught herself to read and write, and listening to Catherine talk about everything she knew made Katherine feel capable of so much more. Yes, she often had missteps in court for being low born (even in the illustrious Howard clan), but with Catherine, those missteps didn’t feel like a potential end of the world.

Cathy was still everything Kit remembered her to be. Intelligent, noble, supportive. Yes, they had all had the weeklong hiccup after Kit regained her past life memories, but… Kit could see it. The books, the candlelight, the velvet chair and glass of cider. Pens and ink, parchment and paper, a pair of glasses. Cathy was everything that came with knowledge. Kit took a deep breath and resumed her task, her fingers only slightly shaky. She needed to focus.

Finishing with Cathy’s, the only one left was probably the most important. Anne. Anne was freedom, independence. They hadn’t met in the previous life. Anne went to England the year before she was born, and by the time Katherine made it to court, Anne was six years dead. But that didn’t matter because from the moment Kit was born in this new life, her entire world was Anne. Annie was her big cousin, her protector, the one who looked out for her when no one else would. Annie kept her from getting too badly hurt while playing, Annie ripped apart an entire house with her bare hands in retribution for Kit’s mistreatment, nearly killed someone for daring to lay a hand on her baby cousin. For Kit, Anne was her savior from the life she could have led in the past.

Because of that, Kit couldn’t think of just a few things for Anne. So many things came to mind. The theatre logo, music, instruments, the stage, cats, string in a can, baseball bats, chicken soup, teddy bears, hot chocolate, warm blankets, meatball subs, television, cake and ice cream, pancakes, roller skates, pizza, bicycles, a megaphone, and so much more. Kit would do her best, but there was no way she could possibly fit all of it. She didn’t mind, though, so long as she fit enough that Annie knew how much Kit was grateful for her.

At last, Kit finished up with her presents. Eyeing her handiwork, she grinned to herself. Yes, the other queens deserved the best for Valentine’s Day. Kit loved and cherished each and every one of them.

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Cathy was many things... including low on sleep. But that was a constant. She always had some project or other that she wanted to work on before heading to bed. Tonight was one of those nights.

The others will probably scold her for pulling an all-nighter, but she couldn’t help it. The thing about holidays was that Cathy loved them. She loved that feeling of being together. The romantic together of Valentine’s Day, a community coming together for Halloween, familial bonding for Christmas, she loved it all. Feeling like she mattered, expressing how much she cared for those closest to her, and being able to bask in the jovial atmosphere with her loved ones were things she looked forward to all year long.

This time was even more special because it was all of them. All of them came together through circumstances that have nothing to do with their pasts. Their former lives were remembered because of Henry, but the lives they led now? The ones they were in charge of? These were their own and they could have the other queens with them without being afraid of getting beheaded or divorced. None of them had to fear Henry’s temper, social ostracizing, or dying from the plague. They were in control and they chose to be close to one another, chose to stay together after regaining their memories.

Because of that, Cathy wanted a way to showcase that. She wanted to show them how much they’d taken control of their lives. Yes, some cosmic force had made sure they all met up, but even then, the choice to stay together after remembering who they once were was all their own. Lina could have cut herself off from Anne, Anne could have done the same to Jane, Cathy could have done the same to Kit. That last one made Cathy flinch a little. All of these people, these queens, had been in her life for as long as she could remember. Being without one of them just felt wrong now.

Cathy had spent several days gathering supplies, not wanting to leave anything to chance. She knew how long everything would take to dry should she use glue. Hopefully, the tape would be enough. For several long hours, she sorted, organized, cut, taped, and occasionally glued. She wanted everything to be perfect. The Castle, these queens, meant the world to her. Valentine’s Day was about being together with love and there was no one Cathy loved more than the residents of the Castle.

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The Castle was abuzz early that February 14th. The previous day had been spent with everyone comforting Kit through her anxieties. All of them remembered the previous year’s February 13th vividly and didn’t want to take any chances. Someone was with Kit around the clock. They tagged out if someone had errands to run, but for the most part, everyone made sure Kit wasn’t alone. The anxiety wasn’t as bad as the previous year, but Kit was grateful she had her family to help her through the memories surfacing involuntarily.

Today, though, the air was filled with excitement. Anne was the first one awake for once, practically vaulting herself down the stairs with her bags. She arranged the bags around where she knew each of the queens enjoyed sitting. This was gonna be so rad!

Lina came down after her, smirking as she watched Anne bounce off the walls. She neatly arranged her bags by her armchair and called playfully, “How much coffee did you drink?”

“Oh ha ha,” Anne huffed, unable to keep the grin off her lips. “I’ll have you know, Cathy drinks the coffee. This is au naturale, babe!”

“Somehow not surprised,” Lina laughed.

A soft coo made the both of them turn. Jane made her way in with a single bag in one hand and Edward wrapped in her free arm. She settled in her regular spot and waved to them. “Morning, you two,” she chuckled. “I take it someone was excited?”

“She was down here before I’d even finished my morning prayer,” Lina replied. “I’d swear she drank half a pot of coffee.”

“Cathy may have to watch out on the holidays.” Jane shot a cheeky grin at Anne as she rocked Edward in her arms. “She’ll have competition.”

Anne stuck her tongue out at both of them and made her way toward the kitchen. Might as well put the energy to good use. Before she started breakfast, though, she made up a bottle for Edward. Couldn’t eat without the little guy, after all.

The scent of pancakes drifted up the stairs and woke two more members of the household. Kit’s nose twitched and she shifted with a sleepy groan. Something warm under her cheek made her eyes flutter open and she blinked. Oh, she was sleeping on someone. Who was the last person with her yesterday? No point in trying to remember as the answer presented itself in the form of a yawn.

“I think it’s time to get up,” Cathy mumbled. “Was your sleep alright? I know it’s usually Anne who sometimes sleeps with you at night.”

“Yeah, it was actually okay, thanks,” Kit responded. She pushed herself up and stretched. “Annie is probably losing her mind waiting for us to go down.” A mischievous glint sparkled in her eyes. “How mad do you think she’d be if we showered to draw it out longer?”

“Pretty livid,” Cathy laughed. “Come on. Don’t want her wrecking the house in her excitement.”

Kit grabbed up the bag with her gifts in it and headed out. Cathy stepped into her bedroom to grab her own bag before they descended the stairs. Stepping into the living room, they sat their bags down by their usual spots. Kit leaned down to coo at her godson while Cathy bade everyone good morning.

“Just waiting for Anna?” she asked.

“Pretty much,” Jane said. “She either slept in or is still out for her morning run.”

“She better get back soon or Kit might eat all of the pancakes.” Cathy avoided a couch pillow to the head and smirked at the offended party. “Tell me I’m wrong?”

Kit huffed. “Annie’s likely to eat them before I do!”

“Got that right!” Anne shouted from the kitchen. From the muffled way it sounded, they could guess she was already eating something.

Kit gravitated toward the kitchen and the others soon followed. Anne gestured to the plate piled with pancakes and Kit transferred it from the counter to the table. Anna strode in just as they were all digging in. She ruffled Kit’s hair and cooed to Edward before taking a seat.

“Happy V-Day, queens!” she grinned, chomping into some pancakes. She was immediately met with a chorus of “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Unlike most other mornings, breakfast went quickly so they could all get to the gift sharing. Kit and Anne were practically twins, bouncing off the walls as they waited for the other queens to get settled in their spots. Lina threatened them with no dessert after dinner and finally got them to calm down.

“Lina, you first!” Anne ordered, bouncing her leg.

Lina tried to look annoyed, but the effect was diminished by the huge grin spreading over her lips. She reached down by her feet and lifted the small bags. She distributed each one to the correct queen. Lina sat straighter as they all peeked into their bags.

“I saw these in the store and I thought of all of you,” she said, coughing nervously.

From her bag, Cathy withdrew a beautiful statuette of a woman in fine clothing. Sage leaves were patterned all over her flowing dress. In her hands, she held an entire handful of the leaves. “Sage is wisdom,” Cathy murmured softly.

Now the others couldn’t help eyeing their gifts more closely. The flower on Anne’s was a cute pink color. Cathy leaned over and said, “Bouvardia. It means a few different things, but a common one is enthusiasm, usually about life.” Anne’s cheeks tinted pink and she shot Lina a small grin.

Jane help up hers curiously. “Chrysanthemum,” Cathy explained. “Fidelity, joy, and a long happy life.” A grin practically split Jane’s face at the explanation.

“Me next!” Anna gasped, holding up her statuette.

“It’s a Gladiolus,” Cathy told her. She eyed the pink flowers with a smile. “It’s faithfulness and honor.”

Anna looked down at the statue before shooting a beaming grin over at Lina.

Kit stroked one of the red flowers on her own and Cathy gave her a small smile. “Amaryllis symbolizes worth beyond beauty.” Kit’s mouth fell open in shock, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.

“These are absolutely beautiful,” Jane finally said as the others admired their statuettes.

Lina cleared her throat awkwardly and gave a sheepish smile. “All of you are worth so much more than just your past lives. I… wanted all of you to know that.”

Kit launched herself across the small space and wrapped Lina in a hug. Anna stood and did the same. “You really are just a big softie,” she laughed.

“Tell anyone and I’ll kick you out,” Lina joked, hugging them both tightly.

“Anne, you’re next,” Jane chirped, showing the statuette to Edward.

“Wait,” Lina said. “Jane, look in your bag again.”

Jane blinked at her and peeked in. Her eyes widened and she gently withdrew a baby statuette, this one with a different flower. Cathy tilted her head and said, “Daffodil. Chivalry and rebirth.”

A small laugh bubbled from Jane’s throat. “Sounds about right.” She glanced to Lina. “Thank you. These really are amazing.”

Lina returned the smile before waving to Anne. “Let’s see what you’ve got up your sleeve, Boleyn.”

“You say that like I’ll play a prank or something!” Anne huffed with a sly grin. “Go on, open’em up!”

Kit took the plunge first. As soon as she opened her bag, an explosion of silly string hit her square in the face. Laughter erupted from everyone as Kit shook the sticky strands off the best she could. She leveled a pout at Anne. “You suck.”

“Only on Fridays,” Anne smirked back, ruffling her hair. “Go on, check the bag.”

Kit peeked inside and squealed happily. A plush cat with a tiny guitar greeted her, big green eyes staring up at her innocently. “I couldn’t find one with a lute,” Anne chuckled sheepishly. “Figured you wouldn’t mind, though.”

“It’s adorable!” Kit cheered, lifting the cat so everyone could see.

Anna went next, curious about what could be in hers. Confetti spilled from her bag and she shook her head in disbelief. From her bag, she pulled a plush dog holding an equally plush mug of beer. “This is the best!” Anna gasped.

“I saw it and immediately thought of you,” Anne told her.

“I’m gonna name him Holbein!” Anna hugged the dog to her chest.

Cathy shrugged and proceeded to open hers. Thankfully, having seen the previous two, she was cautious with her bag. The caution helped save most of her fingers from the ink lining the lip of the bag. She shot a mock-exasperated look at Anne. “This is going to take forever to wash off.”

“Yeah, but it’ll be worth it,” Anne sang, gesturing to the bag.

Cathy peeked in, still half expecting confetti to the face. Instead, she found a quill set waiting for her. Underneath was a roll of parchment paper. “Whoa,” she breathed.

“Bookworm’s gotta have the right writing supplies, right?” Anne grinned over at her.

“Thanks, Anne!” Cathy laughed. She didn’t dare touch the set yet, though. Not until the ink dried, both on her hands and on the bag.

Jane decided she should be next, so she peered into her bag and found… yarn. A lot of yarn. A truly alarming amount of yarn. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at Anne. “Your present is under that,” Anne explained.

Jane dug through the yarn until her fingers found something solid and she slipped it (and several strands of multicolored string) from the bag. It was a book on knitting. Anne shrugged. “I found some yarn in your favorite spot a while back and figured you might like this.”

“It’s perfect, Anne, I can’t wait to read it.”

Last but not least came the queen herself. Lina sighed and opened up her bag. As expected, a spray of confetti greeted her and she did her best to send Anne a frown, to no avail. Instead, smile covering her lips, she reached in and lifted out a statuette of a queen. No queen any of them could recognize, likely just a generalization, but the meaning behind it was pretty clear.

“You were queen,” Anne told Lina seriously. “Even after he cast you away and ostracized you, the people agreed that you were their queen. All the way to your death, you were their queen. No one can take that from you, not then and not now.”

Lina had no words for that. Instead, she stood and wrapped Anne in a hug. The others watched them quietly and Anna snapped a shot of the hug. After a moment, Lina settled back in her seat and gestured to Jane. “Looks like you’re up.”

Jane shifted a little nervously. She handed Edward to Kit and reached down into the bag at her feet. She removed a few bundles of fabric and handed one to each queen. She took Edward back once she was done so Kit could properly look over the gift.

Anne, impatient to see what Jane had come up with, unfolded her bundle first and snorted. It was a sloppily knit dark green sweater. In bright yellow letters on the front were the words ‘Sorry Not Sorry’. It was such a her thing and it was perfect.

Seeing Anne’s, the others hurried to unfold theirs. Laughter floated around the living room as the queens congratulated Jane on her gift. Lina’s yellow sweater read ‘Donde Esta My Crown’ in black across the front. Anna’s red sweater had ‘Queen of the Castle’ in white. Kit absolutely adored the pink sweater with ‘Please No Portraits’ in black and Cathy’s blue sweater read ‘Tell Your Story’ in white.

“These are the greatest!” Anna and Kit chorused. Both immediately set about slipping the sweaters on. Yes, they were sloppy and didn’t fit very well, but Jane had made these for them. They didn’t care what the sweaters looked like because they were made with love.

“Looks like getting you that book was a good idea,” Anne laughed. “I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.”

Jane rolled her eyes and reached into the bag, pulling out a sweater of her own. A silver one with ‘Rose Among the Thorns’ in black. “I appreciate the book, Anne,” she said, showing the tiny ‘First Steps’ sweater she made for Edward.

All eyes switched to Anna and she gave them a sheepish smile. It was then that they all noticed she didn’t have anything with her. “It must’ve been too hard finding something for all of us, huh?” Anne joked good-naturedly. She wanted Anna to know that there wasn’t any pressure if she didn’t get anything. Yeah, sharing gifts was nice, but it wasn’t an obligation.

“Not exactly,” Anna said, standing. “I’ll be right back.”

They all watched curiously as she headed for her room. None of them could fathom what she could have gotten that would require her hide it until her turn. They didn’t have much time to ponder it, though because she was back in a matter of moments with a cat carrier.

As soon as they saw it, Kit and Anne let out matching gasps of excitement. Jane and Lina only shook their heads. They should have expected something like this. It was Anna after all.

“I was at the shelter because, I mean, we’re all queens, right?” Anna looked around at them all. “Lina’s large and in charge, Jane’s patient and kind, Cath’s so smart scientists are scared of’er, Anne’s a fun little ball of mischief, and Kit’s an absolute cutie.” All of the queens blushed at the compliments, but Anna wasn’t done. “So, I mean… I figured if I’m gonna get a buncha queens something for Valentine’s… why not another queen?”

She reached into the cat carrier and gently withdrew a silver tabby kitten. The kitten blinked around at them all adorably as she took in her surroundings. Jane, Anne, and Kit all leaned closer and the two cousins noticed something. Around the kitten’s neck was a line of black fur. It circled all the way around. The both of them lifted their hands to their necks where their scars were, Kit’s hidden by a scarf as always.

“She’s beautiful,” Cathy breathed. She reached out to the kitten, letting it sniff her before carefully petting it. A soft purr filtered from the ball of fluff and everyone melted.

“I guess that’s unanimous,” Lina chuckled. “The kitten stays. She’ll need a name.”

“How about Queenie?” Kit asked. “Since she’s in a house of queens?”

Anne tapped her chin. “Doesn’t have enough pizazz, though. She’s gonna be living under Lina’s roof after all. It needs to sound refined. Like Reine.”

Cathy thought for a moment. “How about Reina?” she tried. “It has the same meaning.”

They all shared glances and Kit scooped up the little kitten happily. “Hear that, cutie?” she cooed. “You’re gonna be our La Pequeña Reina!”

While everyone took turns passing around Reina to get her accustomed to all of their scents, Kit reached down for her bag. From it, she pulled a folder. All eyes were on her and she took a breath. She passed a Valentine’s Day card to each queen. There were no fancy poems or anything like that. All of them had drawings of the things each queen reminded her of. In the middle of each card was a saying Kit had come to associate with each queen. ‘I’ll be queen til the end of my life’ for Lina and ‘Don’t lose your head, just have some fun’ for Anne. Jane’s card read ‘Who had the son is number one’ and Anna’s said ‘Not very prim and proper, can’t make me stop’. The last, Cathy’s, read ‘No holding back, raise your voice’.

The queens looked over the cards carefully, each one uniquely made and covered in drawings. Jane blinked at the cup of tea on her card and asked, “Is this why I found so much glitter in the bathtub earlier this week?”

Kit gave her a sheepish grin. “Sorry about that. The stuff is way harder to clean than I expected.”

“These are amazing, Kit,” Lina praised her. “I’ll cherish it always.” The other queens nodded in agreement.

Kit ducked her head, trying to hide her blush. She tilted her head toward Cathy, indicating her turn. Cathy straightened up and waited until she had everyone’s attention. “Like Anna, I didn’t get separate things,” she said. “Not technically.”

Reaching down to her bag, Cathy pulled out a large book. On the front read ‘Tudor Womanhood, Would Recommend’. “I made this for all of us,” Cathy explained. She opened the book up and inside were pictures of everyone. Of Lina and Cathy when Cathy was still small, of Jane and Lina after they’d met, of small Kit and Anne, of Anna and Anne, of all of them.

“It’s… a photo album,” Anne murmured, leaning closer for a better look. “Of us?”

“All of us,” Cathy affirmed. She passed it to Anne to look. “I gathered all of the pictures of all of us that I could find. From Jane’s art gallery to Anne’s theatre, Anna’s dog training, all of it. All of us.”

They all spent some time looking through the pictures. More of a surprise was that it wasn’t just the six of them. The six ladies who had reincarnated with them were also in the book. Cathy and Maud, Anne and Maggie, Jane and Joan… everyone.

“I can’t even think how long this must have taken you,” Jane murmured, stroking a picture of Joan doing a piano duet with her.

“Most of it was just hunting for pictures and learning how to scrapbook,” Cathy shrugged. “But I thought, since this day is about love, I would fill it with the people I love most.”

They all moved in for hugs at that. This was it. This was what love meant. It didn’t have to be flashy or loud or romantic. Just having this new life and this new family was enough for the queens.

After a while, they all pulled apart. Jane stole a glance to the clock and grinned. “We’re ahead of schedule,” she laughed. “Plenty of time for everyone to shower and get ready.”

“Oh, this is gonna be good!” Anna pumped a fist in the air as she raced for her room.

The next part of Valentine’s Day was only six showers, four blow dryers, and two insistences on wearing the new sweaters away.

Chapter Text

Bessie yawned as she finished cooking breakfast. It was pretty late in the day, but most of them had nothing to do for the day. Maud shuffled in, likely lured by the smell of the food. Bessie directed her toward the coffee pot and Maud shot her a grateful smile.

A soft melody filtered from Joan’s room and Bessie chuckled. Glad to know even her day off couldn’t keep her from the keys. Bessie was surprised she didn’t play in her sleep. Though, probably better not to tempt the universe lest Joan learn how.

Maggie and Rocky made their way in together, both yawning. From the way Rocky tugged Maggie by the collar, it was clear she likely stopped Maggie from following the same lead as Joan. “Mornin’ weirdos,” Bessie greeted them, setting their plates on the table.

“You’re the early bird,” Maggie snorted. “I’d say that makes you weirder than us.”

“Yeah,” Bessie smirked. “And yet, Maria is up earlier than all of us for her morning prayer, so who’s the real weird one.”

Rocky and Maggie shared a glance before they and Maud all responded, “Her.”

The melody in Joan’s room tapered off and her door opened a moment later. Finally, the last two members of the household make their way in. Bessie set their plates down as well. They gave her thanks and everyone settled down to eat.

They had barely started when a knock came at the door. Bessie’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Were we expecting visitors?” she asked.

“Not that I recall,” Rocky muttered.

“I’ll get it,” Maria told them, standing. She made her way to the door and peeked out the peephole. Nothing but darkness. That could only be one person.

Opening the door, Maria glared at Anne reproachfully. “You know Joan hates it when you do that,” she said.

Anne gave a shrug and bounced back so Lina could hug her friend. “You’re looking good,” Lina said. “Having the six of you under the same roof hasn’t resulted in any murders I take it?”

“You ask that every time, M’lady,” Maria chuckled. “If Bessie and I haven’t killed Maggie and Rocky yet, I doubt we ever will. Who knows, even if we did, they’d probably just reincarnate to spite us.”

The group laughed as Maria led them inside. At the sound of the laughter, Maggie and Maud straightened up. Maud was out of her seat first, racing for the living room with Maggie on her heels.

“Cat!” Maud cheered, launching herself at her cousin. Cathy caught her easily and pulled her into a proper hug. “What are you all doing here?”

“Probably best to wait for everyone to come in before we answer that,” Cathy told her.

As if on cue, Rocky and Bessie strolled in, Joan right behind them. Jane opened her arms and Joan happily walked into the hug. While Joan knelt by Edward’s carseat to coo at him, everyone else settled around the living room.

“To what do we owe the pleasure?” Rocky asked, ruffling Kit’s hair.

All of the queens shared smirks before shouting, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

The ladies stared at their mistresses in confusion as each queen produced a gift from behind their backs. Jane handed a dark gray sweater to Joan excitedly. Joan stared at it in wonder, unfolding it to reveal the white writing. ‘Life’s Composer’ etched across the front of the sweater and Joan grinned.

“Did you knit this?” she asked Jane.

“Sure did!” Anne piped up. “All of us got one!”

“I’m never taking it off!” Kit added, pointing to the sweater she was wearing.

Jane blushed at that. “You’re all too much.”

Joan hugged the sweater to her chest before slipping it over her head. “I love it.”

Anne tossed a bag to Maggie, who caught it easily. “If this is a can of silly string, I’m kicking you out,” Maggie joked. Anne only smirked at her.

When Maggie opened the bag, a silly string bomb just like the one Anne gave Kit sprayed from inside. Laughter erupted from everyone as Maggie shook as much of the string off as she could. “You suck,” she told Anne.

“Only on Fridays,” Anne and Kit chorused, still trying to stifle their laughter.

Maggie shook her head at them and looked into the bag. From inside, she pulled a bear with a guitar and she grinned. “Sweet, this little guy and I are gonna tear up the stage with our sick riffs!”

“Try not to bring the house down,” Bessie called.

Kit passed the last of her cards over to Rocky. Rocky stared down at it curiously. Chandeliers and ornate archways decorated it, broken up by glasses of wine and beautiful calligraphy letters. Inside, there was a simple line: Fairest of the fair.

“It’s beautiful, Kitty,” Rocky told her, reaching over to bring Kit into a hug. “Thank you.”

Lina reached into her bag and carefully handed Maria her statuette. Cathy eyed it curiously. “Gardenia’s,” she said softly. “Purity and innocence, meant to convey joy. To whoever receives one, it means, you are lovely.”

Tears gathered at the corners of Maria’s eyes and she held the statuette close to her chest. “It’s beautiful, M’lady.”

Lina gently pulled her into a hug. “You deserve it, Maria.”

Maud bounced in the seat beside Cathy, waiting eagerly for her gift. Cathy didn’t move, though the smirk on her lips indicated this was purposeful. The others tried to stifle their snickers as Maud grew impatient. Finally, she threw herself at her cousin, knocking them both off the couch.

“Cathy!” Maud pouted. “Don’t be such a-.”

“Be careful, you two,” Kit cut in smoothly.

Cathy laughed and reached up, retrieving a book. This one was smaller than the one she’d gifted the other queens, but no less special. “I made a photo album with all of us, but this one is just you and me.” She looked up at the other ladies. “If ever you wanna see the full album, it’s at our place.”

“We’re going to set it on the mantle,” Lina said nonchalantly.

Maud flipped through the album with a beaming grin on her lips. “I love it, Cat,” she whispered.

Anna stepped up to Bessie’s side and Bessie bumped shoulders with her. “So, how ‘bout you?” Bessie asked playfully. “Not letting the other queens show ya up are you?”

“As if they could,” Anna huffed in a mock snooty voice. She pulled another cat carrier from behind her back and said, “I brought Reina home for the Castle, but it would do no good if the ladies didn’t also have someone.”

Bessie peered into the carrier and found an adorable tortoiseshell kitten gazing back at her. “Aw, look at her!”

“We got a cat?” Maggie gasped. “Aw, hell yeah! She’s gonna be the snobbiest lil shit.”

“I thought that was you,” Rocky called, causing another round of laughter.

Maggie stuck her tongue out at Rocky and looked in at the little kitty. “Since you guys have the queen, maybe we should have a princess,” she said.

“What, like La Princesse?” Maud asked, being careful to pronounce the French correctly.

“Oui!” Maggie chirped. “La Petite Princesse!”

Bessie snorted. “I’ve got no complaints. But maybe we should shorten it to Princess.”

“It’s settled then,” Maria said as Joan joined Maggie in eyeing the new addition to the household. “Welcome to the family, Princess.”

Anna set the carrier down so that they could let Princess explore. Now that the gift-giving was finished, the queens relaxed and struck up regular conversation. The ladies kept their gifts close while they chatted with their former mistresses. The atmosphere wasn’t heavy, there was no looming threat of divorce, or beheading, or pressure. It was just one big family. And that’s the way all twelve of them liked it.

Chapter Text

Kit took a deep breath. They’d all arrived back home not too long ago. The Ladies insisted they stay for dinner, so it was pretty late by the time everyone dragged themselves into the house. Jane and Lina headed for bed as soon as they were through the door. Anne joined Anna for videogames in her room and Cathy had disappeared into her room as usual.

Kit had been invited to join the gaming squad, but before she could, there was something she needed to do. In her room, was another card, one she had intended for someone specific, but hadn’t delivered. The vibrations in her chest wouldn’t let up and made her too nervous to present it, especially in front of the other queens. However, she knew she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she didn’t at least try.

So here she stood, outside Cathy’s door. Kit took another deep breath. She could do this. It was just Cathy. They’d known each other for four and a half centuries. She could do this.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Kit lifted one shaking fist and knocked hesitantly at Cathy’s door. She waited anxiously as footsteps sounded from behind it. When it opened, she looked up at Cathy with a nervous smile.

“Hey, Kit,” Cathy said, tilting her head curiously. “What do you need?”

“Nothing,” Kit responded. She flinched and cleared her throat. “Uh, ac-actually, I… I had another Valentine gift to, um, to give you.”

Cathy gave a soft laugh. Of course Kit would be the one to think of something more. “Do you need help gathering everyone else in the living room? I know Lina can be a little grumpy when disturbed.”

Kit swallowed thickly and shifted in place. “Uh, no. No, it’s, um, just for you. The-the extra gift, that is.”

Now Cathy paused. Kit seemed more nervous than usual. A slight blush rose to tan cheeks as Cathy realized what must have been happening. “A gift just for me?” she whispered.

Heart pounding in her ears, Kit pulled another card from behind her back. She gently handed it to Cathy. Silence weighed heavily between them as Cathy looked over the card.

This one was decorated similarly to the one from earlier. Ink, and pens, candlelight, velvet chair, glasses and cider were all present, but there was more. Two different hands with their fingers laced, two hearts side-by-side, a cup of cider toasting a glass of wine, two silhouettes cuddling one another in front of a beautiful sunset. The quote in the middle was different than the other card as well. “The love of both my lives” shone up at Cathy in bright blue.



Cathy’s hands shook. This… this was a Valentine’s card. Kit… Kit was confessing. Cathy’s mind spun at the implication, the realization hitting her at sixteen hundred kilometers per hour. Her vision blurred for a moment as she tried to find something to say in response.

Kit watched Cathy anxiously. She knew Cathy wouldn’t hate her, or at least she hoped Cathy wouldn’t hate her. She had no way of knowing Cathy’s reaction to something like this. However, from the lack of reaction, Kit figured it probably wouldn’t be a good one.

“I-I’m sorry,” Kit said quickly. “I shouldn’t have- You don’t have to say anything- It was stupid to push this on you- I’m gonna just go- Have a good night- Sorry to bother you- I’ll just-.”

“Wait!” Cathy gasped. She reached out and caught the sleeve of Kit’s sweater. She couldn’t let Kit run off, not after something like this. Cathy had to… Cathy had to tell her.

Kit stared up at Cathy fearfully and Cathy could perfectly understand that. Everyone she’s ever expressed romantic interest in has hurt her. Even those she didn’t have any romantic intentions with had hurt her. Kit didn’t want to put her heart on the line like that again. There was only one thing Cathy could do.

“Um… stay here a sec?” Cathy asked quietly.

At Kit’s nod, Cathy retreated into her room. She gingerly set the new card beside the other one on her dresser. Stooping to the bottom drawer, she pulled out another album. It was similar to the ones she’d given the other queens and Maud. It wasn’t as big as either of those, though. This one… this one was more special.

Cathy returned to her doorway. The blush on her cheeks was much more visible now, matching the one Kit had. She cleared her throat awkwardly and held out the album. “I, uh, I wanted to give this to you for Valentine’s Day, bu-but I didn’t… I didn’t wanna assume that would be okay, you know? I didn’t wanna put you on the spot in front of everybody, so I just… kept it.”

Trembling fingers closed around the album and Kit stared down at it. On the cover was a picture of Kit and Cathy. It was the first time Kit had smiled genuinely for a picture. Cathy had just gotten her Monsieur Chat Rose, her giant pink cat plush and Kit proudly held him up for the selfie. Underneath read, “My Favorite Queen, K Howard”.

Tears pricked Kit’s eyes as she looked up at Cathy in shock. “This is for me?” she breathed in awe.

Cathy nodded. “It’s… it’s every picture I could find of the two of us. Um… check- check out the last page?”

Kit hurried to open the album and flipped to the last page. It was a picture of the two of them from today. Hot chocolate mustaches from earlier and everything. The picture was surrounded by little hearts and cupid arrows. Underneath read, “We’ve got this far”.

“I finished it just before you knocked,” Cathy whispered.

Not that she was going to, but she didn’t have time to say anything else because a second later, Kit’s arms were wrapped tightly around her neck. Kit buried her face into Cathy’s shoulder. “I love it,” she said, muffled by the fabric.

Cathy wrapped her up in a hug, a relieved smile blooming over her lips. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Kit.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Cathy.”

Throughout the rest of the house, the other queens shared grins at the exchange. Lina and Jane couldn’t help silent laughter at the two youngest of the group. They were just too adorable. On the stairs, Anne and Anna shared quiet high fives and silently cheered for their friends. They knew how much courage it must’ve taken for Kit to approach Cathy. All around, everyone was happy for the pair. Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.