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no more desperate a creature

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"Hey."

Quentin looks up from the book in his hands and finds Eliot standing in the doorway, leaning against it like the weight of the entire multiverse is pressing in on his shoulders. He looks older, somehow, than he did before the monster took him, like he's aged a lifetime in only a few short months. But then, they'd both aged a lifetime in a matter of minutes when they remembered the mosaic. It seems to happen to the two of them a lot.

"Hey," he says, uneasy. "How— how are you feeling?"

"Better," Eliot says. "Thanks for keeping my body safe."

"Yeah," Quentin says. "Of course, I—"

Eliot sits down next to him and gently takes the book from his hands to set it down on the table.

"Listen, Q—"

"Eliot, you don't have to—"

"I was scared," Eliot cuts him off. "I thought you didn't really—"

"Eliot, how many times do I have to tell you—"

"That it doesn't matter?"

"That I'm attracted to you," Quentin counters. "How many times do I have to come with you inside me before you get it through your head that—"

"Even straight guys can like—"

"I'm not straight," Quentin snaps.

He didn't mean to shout it. He's just— he's so tired of having this conversation.

"I'm sorry," Eliot says quietly.

Quentin looks away, staring at the wall instead of at Eliot. This was so simple in Fillory. One hook up turned into twenty, turned into ten years, turned into fifty. He should've known actually talking about it up front would be much harder.

"When I was trapped in there," Eliot says after a long moment, "and I was trying to get a message out to you to let you know I was alive, I had to revisit my most traumatic, shameful memory. I went through an entire list of shit I've done that I'm not proud of, and some of it was pretty fucking dark. But the worst, the one that finally let me break through to you, was the day I turned you down."

Quentin's head snaps up and he turns to look at Eliot. "What?"

"That was the worst," Eliot repeats. "The thing I'm most ashamed of." He stares down at his own hands. "I was— no, I am scared."

"But we know that we work ," Quentin sighs. "We already know ."

"Yeah," Eliot answers. "That's what scares me."

"What—"

Eliot reaches out and presses his palm against Quentin's jaw. Quentin has always loved the way Eliot does this, loves the warmth of his hand and the way he uses it to angle Quentin into the best position for kissing. He leans into it without thinking and the corner of Eliot's lips quirk up into a half-smile.

"I'm not very good at being happy," Eliot says finally. "And you...you make me very happy."

Quentin covers Eliot's hand with his own. "So what are you saying, El? Because I can't keep— you can't touch me like this and then tell me no. If that's your answer, fine. I can accept that. I'll back off and we can be friends. But you can't do this with me and then act confused when I like it."

"I know." Eliot strokes his thumb along Quentin's cheek. "I'm not saying 'no.'"

Quentin's chest constricts. "You're not?"

Eliot leans in and kisses him, a soft brush of his lips to Quentin's and nothing more. He pulls back just enough to press their foreheads together and whispers, "I can't— I won't say 'no' to you anymore."

Quentin grips Eliot's hand tighter. "El, it— I don't want to be the person you have to be with. I want to be the person you want to be with. You don't owe this to me. I didn't save you so you'd fall into my arms. I want— god, I want , but. You said we wouldn't choose each other. You're my choice but I don't want this if you don't choose me ."

Eliot kisses him again, fingers curling at the nape of Quentin's neck in a way that Quentin tries not to allow himself to think of as possessive. He could drown in this. He could fall into Eliot's arms and into his bed and wake up five years from now with a boyfriend who resents being 'stuck' with him and still inexplicably thinks he's straight. And he won't do that. He doesn't just want the lack of a no from Eliot; he wants an enthusiastic yes .

"Quentin—"

"What are you afraid of?"

Eliot closes his eyes and reflexively pets at the back of Quentin's neck. It feels so good, so gentle, and it brings back a hundred memories from their life in Fillory. He could spend days wading through all the memories he has of those hands.

"Things aren't usually worth caring about," Eliot says finally.

"You told me this," Quentin says. "When Mike—"

"That didn't turn out so great," Eliot points out. "Remember what it did to me?"

Quentin swallows. He does. He remembers the drinking. The drugs. Eliot nearly getting them all killed.

"I'm not—" Quentin starts. "This isn't the same."

"I know," Eliot says quietly. "I love you so much ."

"I love you, too."

Eliot's fingers toy with the hair at the base of his neck. Quentin's still not sure how he feels about the haircut Brian gave him, but he likes this . He has always liked this.

After a moment, Quentin adds, "I'm not asking you for forever. There's no ring in my pocket and this time I don't have a son for us to raise. This...this won't be like it was there. I know that. But...we have to start somewhere ."

Eliot kisses him a third time, pressing into him until Quentin eases onto his back and lets Eliot cover Quentin's body with his own. It's so easy to tangle his fingers into Eliot's hair, to part his thighs to let Eliot settle between them, to bracket Eliot's hips with his knees. They've done this hundreds — thousands — of times, and his body moves as if by muscle memory without him even having to think. But still—

"Eliot."

"Yes," Eliot says, already reaching between them to tug Quentin's shirt up enough to get his fingers onto bare skin. "Yes, Quentin. I can't— yes ."

"Do you mean that, or are you just trying to get into my pants?"

Eliot laughs, low and hot. It sends a spike of arousal through Quentin's stomach but he doesn't allow himself to give in, not just yet.

"I mean it," Eliot says finally, then grins. "Getting into your pants is just a bonus."

And Quentin...Quentin believes him. And that's all he ever needed to hear.