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The Making of Margo

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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.

Chapter Text

The year is twelve hundred and something something. Margo can’t remember the specifics, when she thinks back on it now.

They’d been working a job for several weeks now, and the details of that have gone fuzzy as well. It had involved surveillance, endless days of waiting for the right piece of information to drop, nights taking turns on watch for signs of movement from a nearby camp.

She knows they were somewhere dry and warm, can feel the phantom grit of sand between her toes when she lets her mind sink into the memories. Julia would be able to tell her the exact year, probably, and where they’d been, and why they’d been there, but for Margo, just because something is important in the moment, doesn’t mean she needs to hold onto it forever.

Mostly what she remembers is the heat.

Inside the tent, El and Q are drowsing in one corner, Julia lying with her head in Margo’s lap in another. The temperature control spell they’d put on the comfortably enlarged canvas is starting to wear thin; they’ll have to reset it in the morning. But for the moment it’s bearable, cooler in the tent than it is outside, but just warm enough to impart a feeling of sluggish, peaceful oblivion over the four of them.

She can’t remember, now, why they could all lie around like this with nobody on watch, what the circumstances were for them being there all together, her entire world gentled in repose after a long day, curled up or stretched out like a litter of cats.

She’s comfortable here. She’s warm, and she’s safe.

She’s bored.

Margo fights back against the feeling of restlessness for as long as she can, but something in her won’t let sleep come, won’t let the night sweep her away. Margo is used to boredom, of course, has lived through centuries and has experienced the utter extremity of the emotion, the way it burrows into the center of you, somehow even more deadly than grief. Margo has rarely ever truly wished for the end of her life, but when she has contemplated it, it’s usually because of boredom more than anything else.

This isn’t that bad, of course. But it’s bad enough that Julia notices her less-than-sanguine energy, and blinks open one eye, looking up at her.

“Not ready for sleep?”

“Mmm,” Margo says, noncommittal. She’s not ready for sleep, but she’s not sure she’s ready to move, either.

El shifts his head and tilts it at her, a silent question. Am I needed?

Margo dismisses him with a flick of an eyebrow, and Eliot settles back in with Q, whose breathing has gone even and slow, the slightest wheeze on every inhale.

And then Julia, rolling her head along the meat of Margo’s thigh, lifts a hand and pets it quietly over Margo’s stomach, another question without words.

Margo answers with a shift of her hips, with a hand coming down to pet softly through Julia’s black hair. Until Julia suggested it, Margo couldn’t have said that this is what she needed, but it’s obvious now, the way to break through the ennui, to settle herself into a measure of true calm.

She’s stressed, and it’s been some time since she’s been really stressed, working a job. Even after all this time, Margo is not by nature a patient soul.

Julia slides up her body in a sinuous movement and nudges her nose into Margo’s chin, inhaling deeply to smell her, and Margo turns her face into Julia’s hair, sniffing the musk of a long day of anticipation and no action. There’s a sourness to it, a dissatisfaction to the day, and it tells Margo that Julie needs this too, something to mark the day worth it, a point of pleasure to ground them in the moment so that this day doesn’t slip past and into the mists of time like so many others.

At this point, Margo does a cursory check on the other occupants of the tent. Julia’s hand is splayed on Margo’s stomach, up under her shirt and branded warm across her skin, and she’s sliding her palm in slow circles, moving lower, ever lower. In a minute, she’ll shift, her fingers will turn downward, they’ll slip—

El is looking at her, eyes shining in the dimness. Margo smiles at him, and he very slowly, very deliberately, brings a hand down and adjusts himself, running his palm against the bulge tenting the thin blanket he’d been using to cover his legs.

Julia kisses Margo then, so she’s distracted by the hot, slick slide of her lips, almost too warm in the growing heat of the tent, and then there’s the dance of a skilled lover’s fingers, now playing just at the edge of the dark curls between Margo’s legs. But when Julia lets her go and drops her face to Margo’s neck, sucking a slow mark that will fade within minutes, right against her pulse point, Margo looks back over to see that El is still staring, and that Q is not as asleep as she’d previously assumed.

His own eyes are flickering between El and the women, like he can’t decide where to look, and then El decides for him, grabbing Q’s arm and enacting a tricky maneuver that flips him over and lays him on his back, and from there, things go…

Things go molten, and as hot as a mirage in the desert; fabric is shoved away, clothing discarded into a shared puddle in the middle of the tent, breathing going shallow, sweat beading along brows, hair sticking messy to the back of necks.

Margo sinks her head onto the rolled up blanket she’d been using as a pillow, as Julia shifts, grinds herself on Margo’s thigh, and finally slips her fingers into the wetness between Margo’s legs. Margo makes a sound, something punched out from her chest without her permission, and it breaks a seal of silence, as El follows the sound with a quiet little sound of his own, an anticipatory groan, rumbling through his chest. There is the sound of kissing, of rustling, and Margo bites her lip as Jules slips two fingers inside of her, turning her head so she can see—

El, kissing Q like he means to suck the life out of him, Q, surging up to meet the touch like he’s starved for it, like they’ve been apart, and are finally snapping back together. How long has it been for them? For all of them? Oh, her Julia is so smart, to know they needed this, to make it happen for everyone.

“More,” she says, eyes on Q, on the way his hands have dug hard into El’s lower back, pushing and pulling on his bare skin until Margo can see the white indents that he leaves behind, as his hands move lower, as Eliot’s hips rut forward. They’re not connected, just sliding against each other with impatience and need, and yet it’s still slow: even as the intensity builds, it’s languorous and drenched in heat, in slick, and Margo can smell them, and smell Julie, smell herself, fuck.

Julia crooks her fingers, and captures Margo’s mouth again, demanding her full attention for a moment, but even without the visual, the sounds of Q and El are the perfect accompaniment to the growing swell of feeling low in her gut. It’s all happening quickly, the way she’d known it would the second Jules began touching her, and sure enough the steady rhythm of Julia’s fingers increases to keep time with the slap of skin from the other side of the tent, and it grows in tandem with Julia’s own squirming, her hips twitching, a wetness soaking the crease at the top of Margo’s thigh.

Julia places the heel of her hand against Margo’s clit and grinds down, and it’s almost too much pressure all at once, but Margo’s right there and she gasps, calling out wordlessly as she comes, the whooshing in her ears fading down just in time for her to hear a low grunt from El, an accompanying whimper from Q.

Clumsily, arms shaking, Margo reaches a hand down and curls it around Julia’s hip, urging her on. She’d flip her over, give her her fingers or her mouth, but she knows Julia, knows her sounds, and knows she’s so close, right there, teetering on the edge. Sure enough, Julia swears and bites down on Margo’s earlobe mere moments later, her legs spasming gracelessly, a shiver overtaking her entire body.

They don’t really talk, during the comedown. Tonight isn’t a night for words. It’s hardly the first time they’ve done this, and it won’t be the last, but Margo takes the moment and she marks it in her mind. She’ll remember how a day of nothing, of frustrating stagnation, contained at least this one moment of simple, carnal release.

And the dangers of boredom are held at bay.

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Margo didn’t remember her childhood.

Or, rather, she didn’t remember it in a way that was possible to put to words, to articulate easily; she couldn’t say things about the home she grew up in or her parents or her childhood playmates or the routines of her life, the chores she’d done, her favorite games, what she’d learned, who had taught her to read. For the first couple of decades of her existence, there was very little Margo could put a name to, declare with certainty. If every piece of her had been replaced since then, chopped off and grown back (sometimes fucking literally), was she still the person she’d been?

It was a philosophical question, sure, but also one Margo felt she knew the answer to, implicitly and confidently. The answer was yes. It was still her, she was still herself and always had been, memory be damned.

Kady thought she was lying about it. Alice too, maybe. She could see it in their eyes, or feel it inside of them when they did their meditations together. Margo didn’t talk about her early life, and while she knew Q and El and Jules all believed her that this was because she had no memory of it, the newer kids seemed to suspect she might be holding something back.

Two truths can exist at once.

Margo did not remember her father’s name.

She remembered the way he smelled, sometimes, like smoke and sweat, a man who did at least some measure of manual labor, although at what, Margo will never know. She remembered sitting on his knee, remembered the bittersweet afterimage of affection, of safety in the presence of someone big and strong whose job it was to make sure she was always protected and cared for.

Margo did not remember her mother’s name.

She did remember that her mother had loved her, and had left early. Maybe she died. Maybe she wandered away, maybe she was taken, or maybe Margo was taken, maybe her father had stolen her away from—she didn’t remember, she would never know. She remembered a scar on the outside of a pinky finger, light against darker skin, and sometimes traced along the same spot on her own hand, trying to remember the woman attached to the finger.

Margo did not remember her full original name.

But she knew she had once been called Navvi, and cherished this piece of her as one remaining aspect of the person she was, before she was the person she now knows. She was Margo, of course. This was not a lie or an artifice or even a partial truth. She was Margo, fully, as much as she was Navvi or any of the other names she’d taken over the centuries. Navvi wasn’t lost to the mists of time. Navvi was still alive. Navvi was still in there, and sometimes El called her that, and it made her feel safe in a way she knew meant she’d had love in her life, people who cared for her and called her by that name and imbued it with enough affection to bolster her through a lifetime, even one as unnaturally elongated as her own.

Margo did not remember if she’d had siblings.

She did remember the feel of holding a smaller human against herself, close to her chest, but in this remembering she didn’t know how old she was, how old the child—a little sister or brother, lost to the mists of time? A cousin, a neighbor’s child? Her own child—

But no. Margo did not remember being a mother.

She wanted to believe this was something she couldn’t forget, but how could she ever know? She was old enough, when death came for her the first time, to have been wed, to have borne children, but she was not lying when she told the others that this part of her life was a great, all-encompassing blank, an unknowing she would never untangle.

She didn’t want to have been a mother. Had never wanted it, to her knowledge.

(This was the worst, most sickening part of not remembering, of course. Not that she might have had a husband or children or both, but that she might once have been a person who wanted those things, cherished them. A person she couldn’t recognize in herself now.)

Margo didn’t remember much of anything, and she was not ashamed, embarrassed, or even much troubled by that fact. The truth was, memories of this sort faded even for people with lifespans under a century. It seemed fundamentally human, to remember vagaries of her youngest years but none of the concrete details. And Margo, for all that she couldn’t remember about herself, about being young and growing up, knew that these things had happened to her, and thus knew, beyond the doubts that some of the others often espoused, that she was human. Exceptional, certainly, but also the same as anyone else.

El was missing even larger amounts of time than she, and was shaky on what he’d done during nearly the first hundred years of his immortal life. Julia remembered the names of her husband and children, but these days could not find the exact location of her childhood home on a map, or through extensive exploration. And Alice Quinn, still within the years of a normal human lifespan, couldn’t remember the color of the paint on the wall in her kindergarten classroom. She couldn’t remember which of her relatives had given her the stuffed animal she’d once slept with as a kid, couldn’t remember how old she’d been when she’d started her period.

So Margo was the same person she’d been as a young girl, in the same way that everyone else was. That was to say, not at all, and also entirely. She had grown so far beyond herself, lived through more of life than any individual soul was designed to bear, and yet she bore it, and somehow held a complete picture of herself and her identity in her mind with her at all times. Memory was fickle, but what Margo couldn’t remember still belonged to her, as much as anything else. The trick, of course, was to accept the malleability of the individual, to acknowledge Navvi and Margo (and Marisol and Janet and Marco and Jack and Lola and Natasha and Freddy and Minnie and and and all of them) as being one person, one changeable, beautiful, complete whole, who had been a child, and now was not.

Sometimes, Margo wished she had a way to honor the family who had once raised her. Knowing nothing else, she’d known she had love in her life, at least as a very young child. Or else her brain was supplying false memories for her, supplanting trauma with a more palatable version of reality. She could never know, and, honestly, regret was a waste of her time.

Margo had been a child once, a child named Navvi. Statistically speaking, this fact hardly seemed to matter. But she was stubborn enough to make sure it did.

Chapter Text

The first time Margo ever saw a moving picture, it reminded her of illusion magic, and she marveled at the industry and creativity and power of those who couldn’t make the world bend to their will the way she always had, and yet had found another method of attempting it.

She never became fascinated with film quite the way Q did, right from the start, but she enjoyed going to see the shows as much as anyone.

She had a few favorites, of course. Most of them were cartoons, because she could look at ordinary people any day. Her favorite favorite film, for reasons so sentimental she dare not say them out loud, was Disney’s Bambi.

Over the long centuries of her life, Margo had taken on many names, each as good as the next, as far as its functional purpose went. She knew who she was, and found the label relatively unimportant. But she did love her family, and what they called her took on special significance because of that. “M” was a common, all-purpose nickname, meant almost as a tease for the number of names she’d picked beginning with that letter. “Navvi” was another, simply because it was her first, and the name she’d borne when she’d met Q and El for the first time. It tended to come out most often in times of vulnerability or stress, but sometimes the simple intimacy of it was just another way for the people she loved most in the world to tell her she was loved in return.

El in particular liked to translate the name into various languages, call her little doe or baby deer, tease her for being a fawn on shaky legs if she ever fell over during a fight, or stare into her big brown eyes and call her his ‘deer one’, a pun so terrible that when Kady explained it to Alice for the first time, she groaned aloud and stole the chocolate bar El was eating in punishment.

But relatively new in the pantheon of these nicknames, each one a reference to their beginnings, to the time in their lives when they first came to know each other… was Bambi.

“Look, he’s got your eyes, Navvi,” El had whispered to her in the cinema, watching the spotted little creature hop around the beautiful painted forest. “All big and wide and guileless, as innocent as a baby deer ought to be.”

“Every time you call me innocent,” Margo had replied, allowing teasing venom to coat the words, “I add something to the list.”

“What list would that be?”

“Of wicked things I would like to do to you.”

El had thrown an arm around her shoulder, twirled a finger in her hair. “Oh, Bambi. Why do you think I keep doing it?”

She could roll her eyes all she wanted, but she loved it, of course. She loved every pun that El could come up with, every reference, each one positively coated in affection and admiration. El and Q were her first loves. At least, that she could remember, and that was all that counted. They knew her in a way nobody else could have, because in those early years, when she’d wandered alone searching for the men she’d seen in her dreams, she hadn’t had any way of protecting herself, of cultivating armor around her. Of becoming the version of herself she was most proud of.

She had been a bit like a deer then, swift and determined and, she flattered herself, obviously beautiful. But also weak, open to the wiles of predators, separated from the herd and easy to pick off. She had been picked off, in fact, on more than one occasion during those long years of travel and searching. There were those that would take advantage of a lonely traveler, especially when they got close enough to see her petite stature, her feminine build. Her vulnerability was no less real just because she could always get up and keep moving after it was all over.

So ‘Bambi’ and ‘my deer’ and ‘little fawn’, on and on and on they went, it all reminded her of a time when she’d been something else, but not something worse. Something, someone, that El and Q, already entwined with one another, already so achingly in love that to look at them was to feel a pang of jealousy no matter how hard you tried not to… well, someone that they wanted. Someone that belonged with them, and could be their equal. Their leader, in fact, before too many years had gone by. If they were a herd, Bambi was their matriarch, a mama deer who refused to be shot by a hunter, or who would at the very least proceed to get up again after the shooting was over, to the astonishment of the unseen man with the gun. She’d use her metaphorical hooves to stamp on anyone who dared threaten her and her boys.

On occasions when nostalgia overcame her, or when a hard job or a fruitless mission had worn her down to the bone, she commanded her family to gather together, and she made them watch movies. She positioned Julie on one side of her, El on the other, allowed the others to crowd in where they pleased, and they fought over what to watch. Margo never suggested that they watch her favorite Disney film of all time, but El knew when she needed it, would calmly lift their VHS copy through the air using magic, slot it into its spot, and start the film before the others even knew what had hit them. It was a good movie, if nothing else, to fall asleep to. Nobody, when they saw the title card flash up and heard the swelling of the music… love is a song that never ends… dared ever protest.

Penny would drift off, head against Kady’s shoulder. Julia would get restless and turn in her seat, curved against Margo’s body, and start a conversation with Q in American Sign Language so as not to interrupt the movie. And El would pull Margo in just that tiniest bit closer, and kiss her on top of her head. They had collected a lot of love languages over the centuries, so many ways to say, without saying at all, that they held the bond between them to be sacred and precious and more important than words could ever express. This, though, surrounded on all sides by the family they had built and fought to keep, might have been the best I love you of all.

Chapter Text

Someday, it’ll happen. Margo tends to imagine something violent and glorious for her own end. She will be in the center of courageous battle, throwing her body in front of the vulnerable. And then the stark realization that her miraculous protection has fled from her. An appropriate amount of wailing and lamentation from her family as she fades away in someone’s arms. El’s, maybe. Julia’s. She’ll be surrounded by the people she loves, and that will be worth the loss of an eternity.

She relishes the concept of an ending, at least as an occasional fantasy. The thought of something new. Of, maybe, what comes next. But then her traitorous mind always tries to imagine what the world looks like in the aftermath. That sour twist of sadness at the thought of the rest of her family going on without her. They’d never fully recover, of course, but they would keep going, and they’d hold tight to one another and they’d find a way to survive it. Like they’d done when they’d lost Penny.

Selfishly, she hates the very idea of it.

But still, someday, it’ll happen.

In moments of sentimentality, she imagines a softer ending. She’s leaning against the kitchen counter while El cooks dinner. A soft gasp, and then El turns around and holds his finger up to the light, a small nick where he’s been careless with a knife. He wipes away the droplet of blood and holds his hand out in front of him, waiting for the cut to heal itself, but another droplet of blood seeps out. And another, when he wipes that way.

The kitchen goes deadly quiet for a long moment. And then El looks at Margo, eyes widening with horror.

“Q?” he calls, and Q is entering the room instantly, concern on his face. He’s heard the distress in just the single syllable, and has run to be by El’s side where he belongs.

Q looks at El, uncomprehending, as El holds out his bleeding finger. Eventually understanding comes. Margo can see the universes crumbling in Q’s mind in the space of a moment. The unceasing denial and grief ready to pull him under the waves. He’s yanking the knife out of El’s loose grip and scoring a thin line against his own palm before anyone can stop him.

(In the nightmare version of this daydream, Q’s palm heals, and they never know peace again.)

But here, Q’s palm continues to bleed, and El lovingly wipes it clean, wraps a cloth around it and then kisses just above the wrapping. They’re looking at each other in that way that can be alienating, a world for two, but then El’s turning and reaching a hand out to her, and Margo is folded in the middle of their embrace as well.

Q offers her a clean knife, and Margo takes it.

“Do we even have bandages?” Julia asks a while later, sucking on her own bleeding pointer finger. “We should have checked if we had bandages before we all went around stabbing ourselves.”

It makes them all laugh. Everything is giddy and good. They retire on the spot from the dangers of saving vulnerable lives, and nobody feels guilty about it. They spend decades going through their insane amounts of stockpiled money. They indulge in any corner of the world they haven’t managed to visit yet, see the things they always figured they’d get around to. They buy anything they want to buy, or read all the books they wish to read. They rewatch their favorite movies or relisten to their favorite music and ignore the fact that time is running out to discover anything new. (Turns out, everything is new, even the most familiar things, when viewed through a mortal lens.)

They try to imagine the future of a world they now know they won’t get to see, and the speculation is more thrilling than anything has been in ages. Maybe the world burns, or maybe humanity pulls out a win against all odds. They’ll never know, either way, will they?

When they’re old enough that the appeal of constant motion has passed, they settle down in luxury and comfort, and pass off the remaining wealth they can’t use to those who seem to have good ideas of how to help people with it.

They stare in wonder at every strand of silver hair, every wrinkle, every minute change to one another’s bodies. They fall even more in love. They’ve all been stuck in amber for so long. They’ve all loved each other so deeply and in so many different ways, that finding a new way to know one another is a bounty of joy that never runs dry. Ironically, there couldn’t be enough years in a thousand lifetimes to grow tired of it. Nobody is left behind, so there’s nothing to regret.

And then one day they all die, it all ends, and it’s okay. There is one last kiss, the fading of the mind into darkness and peace, and Margo’s imagination never wanders farther than that.

Usually, she finds a good bottle of wine and a couple of orgasms are enough to knock this maudlin little fantasy straight out of her brain. She thinks back on it when she’s in a more typical state of mind and can’t imagine why she’d ever want any of this to end. Life has its complications, but she’s more happy with what she’s built than mere mortals will ever get to experience.

But someday, it’ll happen. And maybe she has no reason to believe they’ll get the gentleness of time, the joys of old age, given the way they’ve chosen to live their lives. But if she’s going to think about an ending, she might as well pick the best one there could be.