When Margo first met Alice, she understood her immediately. That wasn’t to say that Alice was boring, or predictable, or that there was nothing Margo had to learn about her. It wasn’t that at all. It was more that in meeting Alice, Margo was able to take one look at her and think to herself: ah, now this I know what to do with.
It wasn’t a particularly charitable thought, but Margo still squirmed over the way she’d onboarded the last immortal family member, and while things with Kady had gotten better over time, she was determined to get it right from the jump this go around.
And barring what could charitably be called a rocky beginning, first with the whole Marina Andrieski situation, and then the Penny rescue mission and reintegration, Margo thought she’d done a pretty solid job of it.
The thing with Alice was, she needed a light touch, but you had to disguise it as tough love. You couldn’t under any circumstances, coddle her, but if you didn’t take into account the very messy, brittle, wounded core of her, you could end up twinging a muscle that would take weeks to heal. Mainly, really, when it came to Alice, Margo knew that her best strategy was to let Jules and Kady do the emotional labor. They responded to her, softened her edges, got her to blossom like a wilting flower taking its first tentative sips of water.
Ugh, she sounded like Q during one of his dreaded poetry phases.
And when she and Alice did work together, creating new spells, going over a language Alice needed to learn, discussing the specifics of a job, they fell into a rhythm together that was carefully constructed, each foray into knowing and intimacy built with precision and forethought.
Like when they were breaking into a weapons cache in the middle of Morocco and they knew from Julia’s intel that the protections would include a particular kind of locking spell, and Alice was the one who was going to be doing the sneaking because of her neat invisibility trick: Margo didn’t demand that Alice prove she understood the spell, didn’t order her to practice it before the actual job, and it wasn’t just because she knew Alice would be on it without instruction, it was because she knew that even the suggestion that she didn’t trust Alice to be at the top of her game would be read as a lack of trust. And Alice, building that bridge back to her, volunteered to teach the lockpicking method to Margo and the others anyway, just in case someone needed to fill in during the chaos of the mission.
Or when Alice was stumbling clumsily over unfamiliar German vocabulary, and Margo was having to stretch her own memories to bring the language back into focus (damn Julia, making her teach Alice as a sneaky way of getting Margo to brush up on a rusty vocabulary). Margo set homework assignments for Alice and left her to do a lot of the nitty gritty work on her own, and let Alice set her own due dates because she knew work ethic and long habit would override her lack of familiarity with the tongue. If she ever made Alice frustrated during a lesson, it was damn well on purpose, and Alice pushed and pulled against Margo’s bombastic restraints while relying on them to produce results, because she was starting to trust the method behind Margo’s particular educational madness.
Or when Alice had been scared and confused and overjoyed yet crushingly sad, in the wake of Penny’s return, wondering what would happen now that Kady had the love of her life back in her arms, and she’d come to Margo for advice and comfort, instead of Julia or Quentin or even Eliot, all choices that felt more obvious. Margo had had to think long and hard about how to respond, because Alice was quick to judge and slow to forgive, and she didn’t want to say the wrong thing.
In the end, it was a simple matter of listing facts at her, telling her every little detail she could remember about Kady and Penny and their love for each other, nothing sappy or sentimental, just, objective things like who slept on which side of the bed and who was better at making coffee; Penny’s favorite color and Kady’s favorite café in Spain, places they’d been together, inside jokes they’d giggle about in front of the others, the contexts for which Margo only half-knew. And as she listed things she knew and remembered, she saw Alice’s muscles unclench, the worst of her uncertainty dissipating as she remembered that this was all she’d wanted in the first place, since the day she’d known Penny existed.
Margo had felt proud, and smug, that she’d known how to help Alice in this, and that Alice had trusted her to figure that out.
There was no winging it with Alice. That was the real heart of the matter, the thing she’d known from day one. Everything depended on intention, on planning. You showed Alice you cared by proving that you’d given proper thought to her and how she’d react to any given gesture or topic of conversation or gift or assignment.
As much as Margo liked to pretend she was a creature of impulse and lived by the whims of her wild heart, sometimes it was nice to know exactly where she was heading.