Length: 1700 words
Content notes: No warnings apply.
Author notes: Takes place during 4x12 "The Secret Sea", during the scene where Alice, Penny, Quentin, and Plover are in the Drowned Garden. I wanted to dig into Alice's perspective on, well, everything in the episode. For fan_flashworks challenge #260 - Cave, and my fan_flashworks bingo card square "step".
Summary: On her better days, Alice can believe that she once understood the world, enough to live in it like a person, a person with a soul. The person she was before she was a Niffin, before she cursed her friends to obscurity and herself to the Library's imperfect incarceration.
both her terror and her gentleness
Soooo this is currently posted at the fan_flashworks community; when the challenge ends I'll post it to AO3 and update my post here with the tags etc.
The title is from the following quote by Hildegard von Bingen:
She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans.... But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.
Now my girl Hildegard was talking about the Femine Divine, and I love that phrase "both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans" because it feels so very Alice, while at the same time being so very fucking feminist and therefore true to all women, however one comes to be a woman. [Hildegard was writing in the 12th century CE!]
The thing is -- okay, I'm generally not one to write episode reaction fics, but throughout 4x12 it felt like Alice was in one story, and Quentin was in a really really different story, and I really wanted to write a female character after all the words I've spent on Quentin and Eliot. And particularly Quentin. Who I love. But also ladies.
Like -- in Alice's story, Quentin totally forgave her for all her terrible shit! And wants to rebuild their relationship! And they shared this amazing kiss! And Quentin is bringing her along on his quest! She'll be so supportive and really listen and not become an abusive sociopath this time!
But in Quentin's story -- and, like, I hope in canon -- Quentin just lost his other best friend to the fucking Monster, two of the people he loves are going to fucking die, Alice has been helpful and not awful and is one of only two people he cares about still standing (see also Margo). He's not going to make it through this without someone else there. So he swallows his concerns, summons up the energy, and reaches out to Alice. And she -- kisses him. He... doesn't stop her from kissing him. Why are they kissing? Why does Alice think their romantic relationship is restarting? He just wanted to see if they could be friends again, if he could rebuild his trust in her after everything. Plus also two of his best friends are probably going to die. It's not the best headspace.
So I wanted to poke a little at Alice's perspective on things, because I genuinely believe she has been trying and making progress in dealing with her (epic) shit; and while it hurt to watch, I can totally believe her jumping right to "and now we're dating again!" If Quentin can forgive her, if Quentin can still want her after everything, then maybe she really can forgive herself. Maybe she can be okay again.
The thing is -- you can't ever get your shit right if you're relying on someone else to make it right for you. You can't forgive yourself for the shit you did by proxy, through someone else's forgiveness.
And it is really, terrifically sad to see Alice desperately jump to "making things the way they used to be", while also being completely plausible and in character for her to do so. Just -- in 4x11 "The 4-1-1", season one Alice says to season four Quentin, "You were the best thing that ever happened to me." And (setting aside whether that piece of characterization is actually consistent) that line sets up everything that subsequently happens between Alice and Quentin in 4x12.
Sooooo here's my last-minute effort to get this episode reaction fic out there before tomorrow's season finale. Hoo boy.