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Eliot swatted at something in the darkness.

It wasn’t big, but it was itchy, and it kept poking him in the eye.

“Stop it,” he said to the darkness, swiping his hand over his nose.

Stillness. Silence. Ah, that was better. He shut his eyes. It didn’t make a difference in the darkness but it made him feel less…

Feel less. That was it.

He tried to remember how he got here. One moment he was sitting on the staircase of his happy place and then the next he had been here…the void. He couldn’t decide which was worse. Not that he didn’t like reliving Margo’s twenty-third (twenty-second? twenty-fourth?? The ecstacy must have addled that memory) birthday party, but that was a night Quentin had been particularly grumpy about how he and Margo and him had had a threesome and that wasn’t exactly what he would call a happy memory even though he and Margo had danced the Macarena in nothing but four of her bras and sure maybe Q’s hair had been particularly floppy that night–  

Poke. Poke. Pokepokepokepokepoke.

“Fucking Christ on a croissant,” Eliot snarled. “Will you stop it?

No response. He looked around the space, some outlines starting to take shape, like when you wake up in the middle of the night in total blackness but then your eyes start to adjust and you can see. Something stood in front of him, the outline of a body, shoulders, a head on top. He squinted, then his stomach swooped and he wasn’t looking forward, he was flat on his back staring up at the figure.

He felt it on his shoulder. A push. Fingers digging in.

Eliot felt the first cold press of fear. “I don’t know what you are but I don’t know what I’m doing here so please don’t–”

Then Eliot heard it. So far away–strained, sobbing, broken.

“Eliot!”

The figure leaned against his shoulder. Eliot recognized the feeling of a forehead.

Oh. Oh.

He was being rescued. That was charming. Better get moving then.

Oxygen flooded his lungs all at once, burning like a forest fire. It raged through his blood, cauterizing open wounds he hadn't realized he had and leaving him in a state of inhaling, his chest expanding until his ribs ached.

Feeling. Too much feeling.

“El–  Eliot, you need to breathe out–”

That voice. He recognized it. He wanted to see who that voice belonged to, but his eyes were burned shut, surely they had burned away too and he would never see again.

“Let me help–Q–give him room to breathe!”

The pressure disappeared from his shoulders and he could finally exhale, the burning pulling through him like a vacuum and exiting his body in a rush of fire and wind and then–

He opened his eyes.

Quentin. Margo.

Both were tear-stained, the latter with last Tuesday’s mascara running down her cheeks. The former… his eyes were set deeper and darker than Eliot remembered, floods pouring out of them like the leaky faucet in the upstairs bathroom. Shorter hair, chapped lips, but it was him. Margo had Quentin’s wrists locked in her grip, but he strained forward, falling on his hands and knees beside him.

Forehead to Eliot’s shoulder. Huh. Eliot recognized the feeling from before. Something about it was wrong. Too much. Wrong .

“Eliot… did it work? Are you there?”

It took him a few minutes to be able to say so, but–  

“Yes. I’m here, Q.”

*

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*

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*

As soon as he started breathing with regularity, Eliot realized that he was cold, and then that he was soaking wet, and that the was lying in some godforsaken field in the middle of nowhere on some sort of stone altar. It didn’t matter, none of it did, until he realized he wasn’t soaked with water.

He stood there next to the altar, arms not touching his sides because he was slowly freaking out and the last thing he needed was more of his body touching his body because it was all too much, and when his sense of smell came back it was way too much , all rust and metal and the twisted scent of death coming from the red blood covering him from neck to knee.

The battle wasn’t over, that much was clear. Apparently getting Eliot his body back had been more of a third act lull than the tender epilogue Eliot had been hoping for. A big hulking form of something appeared, spitting fire and what looked like raw ether and fighting his friends and ok that was probably urgent. Penny and Quentin and Alice stood toe to toe with it, did some kind of casting and then it went down, dying, or maybe just gone.

Then they started…walking around.

“Q?” He said to the flurry of his friends around him. They didn’t look up and he had no idea how loud his voice had been. They had to clean up the scene, and quickly, it appeared, but to Eliot it just looked like they were all in walking circles, occasionally picking up an item and putting it somewhere else but nothing that he could understand. Quentin kept brushing his arm as he went by, his skin like a brillo pad, repeating the same words in different sequences:

“I’m here.” and “Hold on.” and “We’ll get you home in a minute.”

Eliot understood business before pleasure, but it wasn’t like he was looking for a parade. He just wanted his eyes to focus and for the smells and sounds bombarding his senses to take a chill pill. At one point the wind blew and his blood-soaked t-shirt touched his bare abdomen beneath it and that was it.

“Guys,” he said, trying to keep a level voice.

They all stopped their revolving, looking up. From the raspy feeling in his throat, he must have shouted. He tried for normal volume.

“Guys. I’m freaking out here.”

Quentin was on him in a instant. Beautiful, wind-swept, magic-flushed Quentin but when his hand touched Eliot’s arm in felt like agony.

His knees hit the soft grass.

“Ah–”

“Oh my god–we need to get him out here–Penny–”

He smelled grass next, and dirt, and probably every earthworm that had taken a shit in it since the dark ages.

Then darkness.

*

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*

Scratch. Scrape. Pull.

He woke up in a bed. Not a familiar bed, but a very soft one with soft sheets. He shifted, and he could feel every fiber of the sheets, every thread down to the atom, and when he shifted again–  

“Fuck,” he whispered, tears springing to his eyes.

He flailed out, kicking his arms and legs wildly. He grimaced through the pain until the offending top sheet was gone, and his skin was exposed to air.

“Eliot–hey, it’s alright–”

He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, but when he did at least the room was dark. The unfamiliar shades were drawn and it was warm, like a cocoon. He was dry. The blood was gone.

Quentin sat in a chair next to the bed, one hand gripping the sheet that had offended Eliot to his core and the other reaching out. Just reaching, but not touching.

“Eliot.”

It was almost like Quentin had forgotten the rest of the English language, replacing nouns and verbs and prepositions with just one name. Eliot wanted to hear him say more, maybe string together a few sentences for old time’s sake, but there must have been a ceiling fan going somewhere in the house because Eliot could hear the whoosh, whoosh, whump of its blades, drowning out everything else.

Q’s lips moved, but Eliot couldn’t hear him.

“What?” He said, hoping it came out audible. He focused, screwing his eyes tight, and managed to hear the tail-end of Quentin’s next words.

“...you feel? You scared us back there.”

“I’m…ok. Hold on, let me try something.”

Slowly, he braced himself on his hands and lifted himself up into a sitting position. The sheets against his palms was tolerable, much more than having his whole body touching the bed.

Quentin followed the motion with his own hands, as if to catch Eliot if he fell, but he didn’t touch him.

“Alright, that’s a little better.”

“What can I do?” Quentin asked, sounding helpless.

Eliot shook his head.

“Everything is a lot right now,” Eliot said. “Has everything always been this much?”

Quentin pursed his lips. “I think you’re experiencing some kind of sensory overload. Your body hasn’t had control of itself in months.”

“Months,” Eliot repeated, dropping his head back. “How many?”

“Almost eight.”

Eliot sighed. “Ok. I can live with that. I tried— a while back, to get through to you, I don’t know if you heard it— it was all pretty fuzzy afterwards. I think I saw Penny–”

“I heard it.”

Eliot nodded, looking down. “Good— good. That’s good. I’m glad it helped. Now—“

“Eliot.”

Eliot swallowed, pursing his lips. “Right. Ok.”

Eliot tried to imagine it, if this scene could have played out in a timeline where they could touch each other and Eliot’s skin wasn’t on fire from touching high-quality bedding. Quentin would have held his hand, and touched his face with the other. Eliot would have pulled him forward by the shirt collar and breathed him in before kissing him until they were in a huge tangle on the bed.

“Eliot we don’t have to do this now, you’re exhausted—“

But, alas. Words would have to do.

“I’m not tired. I’m really messed up right now but I’m not tired,” he reassured, punctuating each word.

Quentin sad back in his chair, his chest rising and falling a little quicker.

“Let me get this out, Q. I’ve been waiting to for… eight months apparently.”

Quentin nodded, mouth tense. Eliot took a deep breath.

“I love you.” He said, fighting to keep his eyes open despite his sense going haywire on him. “In every way. You’re my best friend, and I want to give this a try, like you said last year, if you still want to.”

Quentin sighed, a tear escaping from his eye and running down his face. He didn’t wipe it away. Eliot wished he could do it.

“Of course I do, El.” He sniffed, a mess of snot and tears and Eliot loved him. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Eliot could say so much, but he would save it, they’d have time for more confessions, more declarations, for now this was enough.

“I missed you too.”

Quentin laughed, just a little, with relief. “I want to kiss you so badly right now—“

Eliot smiled. “I know. Who wouldn’t?”

“Eliot…”

“Right. Serious. If we were to kiss right now I would fly into a million pieces but— we will.”

Quentin nodded. “We will.”

Eliot couldn’t touch him, so he settled for deep, lingering eye contact.

“Soon.”

*

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*

Soon turned into days, days stretched into a week. They took him back to the cottage at Brakebills to recover, and soon his vision returned to normal, the smell of food stopped making him gag, and sounds began to dull back to their original timbre but–  

But.

Each time he tried to cup Quentin’s face between his hands or lovingly wrap an arm around Margo’s shoulder he was rewarded with a zap if he was lucky, or a full on body spasm if he wasn’t. Of course, Quentin thought it was his fault every time and did everything he could to make sure Eliot didn’t feel guilty about it at all, which meant that Eliot was wracked with even more guilt in spite of himself.

They figured it out when he started going to physical therapy.

He needed help walking at first. He could feel his legs but they weren’t exactly excited to hold him up. Three times a week Quentin or Margo or a mixture of both would take him to the Brakebills Infirmary for healing spells, and just good old fashioned western rehabilitation medicine. They had one of those walking paths with the handrails, and he was supposed to get from one side to the other by the end of the week.

He took one look at the smooth plastic covering the handrails and almost threw up in his mouth, without even knowing why.

“Ok, easy does it Eliot,” said the healer when he stepped onto the walkway, reaching out to grasp for the handrails and then–

The pain was so much that he blacked out. Woke up gasping from a waking spell done hastily by a new healer that left him with a headache and Quentin looking green around the gills.

They tried covering the handrails with a sheet, that was a no no. Then the most beautiful refined silk that could be found at a failing grad school, but that burned like acid. Then Margo had said:

“Maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. Give him some raw silk gloves.”

Everyone had stared at her blankly until she had sighed and ran back to the physical kids cottage, returning with a light beige pair of rough looking gloves.

They stared at her when she offered them to him.

“What? Just because we’re always in crisis doesn’t mean I can’t dry brush. They’re raw silk. Now try it.”

He grimaced as he sunk his hands into the gloves, waiting for the pain, the blackout, and then—

Nothing. Actually, it felt good.

“At least they’re silk,” he said, his body practically singing as the rough material rubbed against the sensitive skin of his palms.

He grasped the hand rails and by the end of the week he was walking to the end of it easily, with Quentin waiting for him on the other end.

It came down to smooth versus rough. Margo and Q went to Target and got him 200 hundred thread count cotton sheets, along with a polyester shag rug to shimmy around on when the hardwood floors were just too smooth. Soft bristles were exchanged for an extra hard toothbrush. He ordered his own raw silk gloves using Quentin’s amazon prime account and massaged himself raw every morning.

As his body kept reawakening, the touch sensitivity increased. His old clothes were out of the question, all smooth fabrics that hugged every curve without a even the slightest snag to keep him content in this new world order. To his dismay, Quentin made another target run and came back with a knock-off Carhartt jacket and two pairs of the roughest work jeans he could find.

Eliot bundled up in all the coarse layers, feeling relief down to his errant soul.

“I never thought I could hate an outfit so much but also feel so good in it,” he said, burying his head down into the canvas collar of the jacket.

And most horrifically:

Skin was smooth. So smooth. Quentin’s skin was so beautiful that it made Eliot forget how smooth it was. He’d reach out, like he used to once upon a time. To hug him, to brush his shoulder, to connect . He always remembered too late that he was the human equivalent of a frayed live wire, and he’d get zapped for it.

“Bet my dad wishes he had had access to this technology for when he was trying to scare me straight,” Eliot said on one particularly low day, a bottle of whiskey wrapped in Velcro tape set in front of him on the coffee table. He had to have his feet on the shag rug to stand sitting on the perilously smooth and worn-in couch.

Quentin had his own bottle and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. “Is it ok if I laugh at that?”

“Of course. But only if you describe the taste of your cigarette in detail to me.”

Smoking had lost all of its pleasure, who knew they really meant it when they said smooth sensations?

They did laugh that day, but sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes Eliot threw things, yelled things, especially if Quentin had left the house for the day. One morning Quentin came home with a bag of groceries to find Eliot on the floor, broken glass around him and holding a nail file of Margo’s so tightly in his hand that it drew blood.

“Here,” Quentin said, squatting down beside him and slowly working the file from his grip. Eliot relaxed, and it fell away, just a trickle of blood beading up on his palm.

“What a fuck up, right?” He said, trying to smile.

Quentin shook his head. “No, Eliot. A fucked up thing happened to you. You aren’t a fuck up.”

Eliot leaned his head against the kitchen cupboard as Quentin stood to throw away the file and and run the water. He returned with a damp cloth, the oldest and roughest one in the cottage.

“Rest your hand on your knee, then I can clean it,” he said quietly.

Eliot obeyed, watching Quentin’s small and careful motions. The sting that came from the wet cloth felt good, enough to ground him.

“Probably not what you signed up for, right?” Eliot tried again to joke.

Quentin didn’t laugh. “It’s exactly what I signed up for.”

His voice had a rasp to it, as if Eliot hadn’t been the only one crying in secret. Quentin wiped away the last of the blood, setting the towel to the side.

“If you’re going to yell and scream,” Quentin said quietly,  “I’ll yell and scream with you. Don’t wait until I’m gone.”

Eliot shook his head. “That’s all well and good but I don’t want to be scary with you. You’ve had enough scary.”

“That was the monster.” Quentin handed him a freshly unwrapped bandaid. “Not you.”

Eliot let a beat of silence pass. The stinging in his hand died away. What a shame.

He sat up straighter, looking Quentin in the eye.

“Ok, but same goes for you, Mr. Strong but Silent,” he said, knocking his knuckles on the ground next to Quentin. “No secret crying jags in the car.”

“What?”

“Don’t think Julia didn’t tell me how you kept it together while I was… indisposed. How you were cold and focused and wouldn’t let anyone see you upset. That’s over now. This is your time to process it all. With me.”

Quentin looked at him, absorbing the words. Then he stood and rummaged through a cabinet, coming out with an old glass from a wine tasting in the Finger Lakes. He hefted it in his hand, feeling the weight, then he cocked his arm back and threw it clear across the room.

The shattering was like music.

He grabbed another glass, wrapped it in another rough towel, and presented it to Eliot.

“Your turn.”

Three shattered glasses later Eliot was laughing and hurling entire plates.

“You throw like a theater nerd, Coldwater.”

“At least mine made it across the room—“

They fell asleep on the living room carpet (the only place not covered in shards of glass), face to face, inches apart. Eliot woke up a few hours later with a wicked pattern imprinted on the left side of his face, but he felt good. Light.

The front door creaked opened and Margo strode in, shucking her jacket and taking in the scene around her with wide, appreciative eyes.

“I can’t believe you threw a party without me,” She said, smiling coyly.

“Yeah,” Eliot said, settling back down next to Q, his hair flopped delicately over his eyes like an impressionist painting. “It was a wild one.”

*

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*

“Hair!” Quentin yelled one night, busting into Eliot’s room wildly.

Eliot was huddled on his trusty shag carpet, scraping his hands back and forth to soak in the roughness before he would have to get back between the smooth sheets.

“You’re going to have be more specific.”

Quentin touched his own head, pulling at his hair. “Hair is rough.”

“Um.” Eliot set his hands on his knees. “Maybe my hair is rough, but last time I checked you were born with it, and it isn’t Maybelline.”

Quentin shook his head. “No–  Listen.” He knelt down beside him. “Hair isn’t smooth if you bunch it up like this.” He took a handful of his hand in his hand and squeezed, grinding the fibers together so hard Eliot could hear it.

“You’re going to give yourself split ends, dear.”

Quentin sighed, flopping back. “It was a thought, if you don’t want to try it–”

“I didn’t say that,” Eliot snapped, suddenly very possessive of the opportunity to touch Quentin, no matter how far-fetched. “Come a little closer.”

Quentin barely paused a moment before tilting his head forward as if Eliot was going to baptize him, letting the long part of his hair fall in front of his face. Eliot reached out, stomach suddenly in knots.

“Go for it,” Quentin said.

Nodding, Eliot kept moving until his fingertips met the outermost fringe of Quentin’s hair.

Zap.

“Ouch, fuck.” Eliot drew his hand away.

Quentin shook his head. “You have to just–” he demonstrated. “Grab it, in a chunk, all at once. From below. Then it’ll be rough.”

“This is a lot different than the last time you asked me to pull your hair.”

Quentin smiled. Eliot wanted to keep that smile thing going, so it was paramount that his next attempt be a success. He reached out.

This time he wasn’t tentative; he grabbed for a chunk of Q’s hair like it was the last pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the grocery store and held on, grinding the fibers together until they felt rough against the too smooth palm of his hand.

“Well?” Quentin asked, his neck still bowed enough that he couldn’t see. “How does it feel?”

“Like I’m wrecking my boyfriend’s hair.”

“El–”

“It feels good, Q. Feels like I’m touching you. Can you look at me?”

Quentin nodded slightly. “Just make sure you don’t touch my scalp ok?”

“There goes my number one kink,” he said as Quentin rose up, his face flushed a little from being bent over.  And nerves, probably.

“Gorgeous,” Eliot said, all the humor gone from his voice.

Quentin smiled, his eyes wet. A laugh bubbled up from his chest. Eliot used his other hand to grab another chunk, messing up his boyfriend’s hair to his heart’s delight.

*

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*

Eliot let the water stream over him, the shower so full of steam that it clouded his vision. He needed the water to be hot hot hot , and the pressure to be almost at the point of overwhelming to even stand it, but as long as he didn’t touch the smooth tile walls showering had become one of his favorite pastimes, post-monster possession.

Especially when he had company.

The door opened, momentarily letting some steam escape and setting Eliot’s hair on end before the it snapped shut again, and Quentin pulled back the curtain to hurl himself into the shower.

“Oh my god it’s cold outside,” he said, carefully winding around Eliot to get at some of the scalding hot water.

“Did people stare at you again?”

Quentin shrugged, water beading up in rivulets on his shoulders. “I’m just a guy, standing in the snow in a t-shirt so that he can take a shower with his boyfriend.”

Eliot laughed. It was so ridiculous, but it had become a very necessary ritual since they had discovered it. This way he could look at Quentin’s naked body without it being weird because of the no touching thing, and Quentin could–

Be crafty and sly, as Quentin was as often as not. Again, it was gloves. This time the neon colored ones you found at bath store outlets that were supposed to be for exfoliating, but in this case were for giving Eliot the sensory experience of his life.

Quentin pulled them onto his hands, looking like a very excited Pillsbury Doughboy.

“Ready? You sure?” Quentin asks, while soaping up the gloves generously with one of those bars of soap that had beads of fucking sand in it or something.

“Yes, yesyesyesyes…” Eliot practically hissed, presenting himself like a prized pig. “I’ve been waiting all day for this.”

Quentin always started with his shoulders, pressing down and around in circular motions that made him melt. Eliot spent all day so tense, so worried about what was going to touch him and send him reeling next. Quentin moved down his arms, pressing into the skin and pulling down to his fingertips, loosening up his tense and aching joints. Next was a light touch to his abdomen, and then around to his back. Quentin circled around behind him for that, and Eliot got to feel his breath on the back of his neck.

Then came his favorite part.

Quentin circled back around and dropped to his knees in front of Eliot, moving his hands along the line of Eliot’s legs, scrubbing away at the crawling nerves that twitched under his skin. Eliot always tried to focus at this part, to try and feel Quentin’s fingers inside the gloves, how they varied the pressure and–

Quentin stopped moving, and the crawling feeling returned. Eliot opened his eyes and looked down.

Quentin was staring, wide eyed, at what was Eliot’s very obvious erection.

Well, that hadn’t happened in a while.

“Sorry,” Eliot blurted out, embarrassed about a hard-on for the first time since he was fourteen, his face burning for reasons other than the hot water.

“Don’t be sorry ,” Quentin said, still staring and on his knees and oh my god Eliot wasn’t going to be able to handle this. “Should I…?”

No ,” Eliot said emphatically. “Get up here.”

Grinning, Quentin rose back to his feet. “You sure? Because I’ve got these nice gloves…”

Eliot suppressed the urge to laugh and to cry out all at once. “I don’t think we should–  Not that it’s not tempting. Oh my God, I can’t believe this is what I’ve turned into.”

Quentin laughed, water streaming in rivulets down his nose. “Should I feel rejected?”

“Don’t you dare. Now get out, I have to calm down and I can’t use the cold water to do it.”

Quentin left, shutting the door behind him and leaving Eliot with his thoughts.

Masturbating was out of the question. Last time he had tried he practically had a seizure, his joints locking up dangerously from the feeling of his own hand against his skin. Quentin had been so worried, pacing and wringing his hands until Eliot had emphatically declared:

“I’m not going to the infirmary too tell them I almost killed myself jerking off.”

Since then he had to ignore any and all calls of nature of that type, including the sleepy morning kind that were his favorite.

He dried off with a rough towel and quickly dressed in a few thick layers of denim and canvas, catching sight of himself in the full length mirror in his bedroom. Yet another reason to hate the monster: now he could pass as butch . At least the canvas button down, was slightly tailored. He shrugged and topped off the look with a pair of rough wool socks. Might as well go the full way so he didn’t have to shimmy around on the shag rug.

He found Quentin in the kitchen, still a little red and splotchy-skinned after their shower. He was boiling water for macaroni and cheese for himself and chopping up a giant pile of kale, presumably for Eliot.

“Ugh,” he said, sitting down at the table. “I can’t believe I have to eat healthy on top of everything.”

“Rough foods are healthy foods.” Quentin shrugged. “Except those tortilla chips we polished off last night.”

“What a nice memory,” Eliot mused.

They sit in quiet, domestic silence for a while, Quentin preparing food while Eliot scrolled through his phone, answering a few texts from Fen, the cell phone she had in Fillory enchanted to be able to send and receive his messages. The Velcro on the back tickled his fingertips, pleasantly grounding him in the moment.

The giant roll of Velcro tape had been the only thing Alice had donated to the cause, setting it in front of him one day without a word before leaving the house and disappearing for going on almost a month now. It had been the most useful material, the soft side and the rough side serving their needs equally. It had made it possible to hold his phone without sandpaper on his hands, and had made holding eating utensils near bearable.

“Have you heard from Alice?” Eliot asked, because why not wreck a good moment.

Quentin dropped the wooden spoon onto the counter with a splat . “No, why?”

“No reason.” Scroll scroll. “Just wondering when she was gonna come around to make puppy dog eyes at you again.”

Quentin turned around, brow furrowed. “She’s on some sort of mission with Penny 40 in the library.”

“Ah, I see.”

Quentin turned back around and there was silence once more, now with something hanging in the air.

Eliot chewed his bottom lip. The steam from Quentin’s boiling water clogged the air, reminding him of the shower.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind,” he stuttered, “You know, helping you out if you were feeling frustrated, about our situation.”

He regretted the sentence as soon as it was out of his mouth. Quentin’s shoulders tensed.

“Who says I’m frustrated?”

“I’m not saying anything,” Eliot said quickly, “Just that I wouldn’t hold you to anything if you— needed a helping hand.”

Quentin whipped around, his face flushed for an entirely different reason now.

“How could you say that?”

“What? I’m trying to be a generous boyfriend.”

“By pushing me onto the first woman you can think of?”

Eliot scoffed a little. “I mean, Alice isn’t just anyone, you were with her, it wouldn’t be out of left field.”

“Yes, it would,” Quentin insisted, waving the wooden spoon around. “Alice and I are done. Been done. Ancient history.”

“I wouldn’t call it ancient—“

“Why do you keep doing that?”

Eliot played dumb. “Doing what?”

“Acting like you know better than me when it comes to what I want, when I’ve told you what I want.”

Eliot didn’t know how to answer that. He drummed his fingers against the roughspun placemat.

Quentin shook his head.

“This is just like—“

“Just like what?”

“Like Arielle!” Quentin threw his hands up. “You practically pushed me on top of her, you weren’t happy until me and her were married and—“

“You loved Arielle.” Eliot shook his head. “We both did.”

“Of course we did.” Quentin pursed his lips. “I loved her then but I loved you too. I love you now. I would have been happy for a hundred years with you. Only you.”

Eliot couldn’t look at him. He stood up, kale be damned and stalked back to his room, slamming the door behind him.

He laid a rough towel on his pillow and breathed into the cotton scent for a few minutes, sitting up to punch it more than a few times. He knew— he knew — that Quentin was right. He was more angry at himself because shouldn’t they be past this by now?

Eliot closed his eyes and tried to envision how it would have gone differently, when he had told Quentin that he loved him, if his body had been broken.

Instead of just staring at each other and crying, Quentin would have kissed him after he had first woken up, held his hand and smoothed his hair back from his forehead. He wouldn’t have let go of his hand for days, and they would have slept pressed against each other, Eliot playing the little spoon until he felt safe again. Then they would have remembered their dicks and how much they wanted to touch each other and Quentin would have been his , so easily. He already knew, he knew how easy it was between them, how Quentin bloomed like a wildflower under his hands.

He knew, and yet he couldn’t have it.

There was a soft knock on the door. Eliot sat up.

“Can I come in?” Quentin called.

“Of course.”

The door opened. Quentin leaned against the doorframe, just barely inside.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “This is hard for you. I shouldn’t have snapped.”

Eliot shook his head. “That’s the thing, Q. Yes, it’s hard for me, and it’s hard for you too. I didn’t mean— I don’t want you to have sex with someone else.”

“That’s a relief,” Quentin said, and then smiled.

Eliot sighed, relieved. “Sometimes I think I might burst from not touching you, as much as it hurts when we do.”

Quentin stood for a moment, obviously thinking. Then he entered the room fully and shut the door behind him with a click.

“Will you let me try something?” Quentin asked, and Eliot nodded. Anything. “And it’s not because of what we just talked about. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think there’s a way to ease into this.”

Eliot parted his lips. Swallowed. Quentin had been thinking , and that was his favorite thing that Quentin did.

“Of course.”

Quentin sat down on the bed, careful not to touch. “Hold your hand up,” he said quietly.

Eliot obeyed, holding his left hand up. Quentin wet his lips nervously, pulling on the fingers of his left hand with his right as if he had to loosen up the joints. Get some flexibility. Then, slowly, like how people do when they don’t want to scare away an adorable forest creature, he reached out, taking the meaty part of Eliot’s hand between his thumb and forefinger.

Eliot inhaled through his nose, the touch sending a small shock down to his toes. It was surprising, but not painful yet.

“Ok?” Quentin asked, frozen.

Eliot nodded, dedicated to seeing this through. He adjusted, letting his his foot fall off the bed to the floor to steady himself. Quentin studied him, his face a delightful mixed of concentration and pure love–  enough to probably overwhelm Eliot right out of this exercise if he wasn’t careful. He took a deep breath, clearing his mind, and closed his eyes.

“Keep going.”

Quentin didn’t respond but Eliot heard him shift forward. Getting closer. Eliot could feel the nervous breath moving in and out of Quentin’s body, warm and slow but also nervous, shaking slightly on the exhale.

“Q?”

Quentin swallowed audibly, the sound thick. “I’m going, I just don’t want to hurt you.”

As a show of good faith, Eliot shifted forward as well, bringing them infinitesimally closer through his closed eyes.

“You couldn’t. I want this so much, Q. I want you to touch me.”

Quentin exhaled again. So shaky.

Without a verbal response, Eliot couldn’t brace himself for the Quentin’s next move, a smooth slide of his fingers up to Eliot’s pinky finger, then a flattening of his palm against the side of Eliot’s hand, his fingers curling around to touch his knuckles just so slightly.

“Ah…” Eliot breathed, in through the nose and out through the mouth, as heat shot up his arm, almost burning, almost…

“We should stop–” Quentin started pulling away.

“No–” Eliot gasped, pushing back into Quentin’s hand, and sending another beat of fire into his chest. “It’s ok. It feels…”

He didn’t know. He needed more to be able to know.

“Q, please.”

The timbre of his voice was pleading, aching, like…

Then Quentin pressed their palms together, flat.

A wave crashed over Eliot, and he tried to remember something he learned in eighth grade science, about how you could feel an earthquake before it started, feel the vibrations rock your center of gravity. That was the sensation pouring into him from the nerves in Quentin’s skin into his, and it was:

Familiar.

His back arched, the sensation settling and he knew that he must be hard again in his pants, and if he had known that touching would lead to this he would have let Q lay on top of him a week ago–

“El,” Quentin breathed, and it wasn’t fearful this time, it was like the night at the Mosaic when Eliot had taken him apart piece by piece using only his mouth, the stars watching them from above.

Eliot open his eyes just in time to see Quentin steel his gaze and pull Eliot’s hand toward himself with two of his own, flattening his fingers and pressing his palm to his mouth.

Eliot threw his head back, groaning as his legs twitched and the pressure released, waves and waves of sensation washing over him and leaving his ears ringing.

When he came down he was panting, and Quentin still held his hand.

“Did you just– ?” He asked, eyes wide with something like fear and something like… horniness.

“I definitely did.”

Quentin exhaled, and it sounded like relief. A smile. He still held his hand and Eliot moved experimentally, lacing their fingers as if they were just any odd couple walking into a movie theater together that wanted everyone to know hey we have sex when we’re home alone .

Quentin stared at their joined hands, and Eliot wondered if he could come in his pants at this point too.

“This just means that I…” Quentin started, looking like it was Christmas morning. “That we have to do this bit by bit. Piece by piece.”

Eliot smiled, squeezing his hand. No pain, just the good stuff, like the tingle that went up his spine at the thought of holding Quentin’s hand for the rest of their lives.

“I can’t think of any better way to spend our time.”

The next day some of the gang was over to go over some plans, splayed out in the living room. Eliot and Quentin came down the stairs, Quentin trailing after Eliot with their hands clasped between them.

Margo’s eyes widened.

“That’s new,” she said.

Eliot smiled, squeezing Quentin’s hand gently as they sat down on the couch next to Kady.

“We’re working it out,” Quentin said, smiling ear to ear.

*

*

*

*

*

Things settled into a pattern after that. Wake up next to Quentin with a burlap blanket between them, find his right hand in the dark and hold on for dear life. Their days were quiet, the rest of the gang taking care of whatever adventures that needed to happen, while Quentin and Eliot just got to exist together.

It made him feel a little lazy, but at the end of the day, they had earned it.

One night in particular felt very indulgent.

The house was quiet, everyone gone for the weekend. The kitchen was dark, they had already eaten (one whole bag of extra crunchy granola for Eliot, a quesadilla for Quentin), and they sat in the dim light of the living room together.

Eliot looked up over his phone at Quentin, immersed in some thick book that would help their friends with whatever trial they were facing that week, when he noticed something.

“Q?”

“Hmm?”

“When was the last time you shaved?”

Quentin looked up, brow furrowed.

“I don’t know, maybe three days ago. We’ve been holed up in here so I didn’t see the point–”

“Sh. Don’t be offended.” Eliot dropped to his knees onto the shag carpet and shimmied over to Quentin’s armchair. “I’m not complaining. I want to try something.”

Quentin continued looking confused until Eliot lifted his hands, letting them hang in the air as if he were revving up an engine.

“I’m going to touch your face.”

Quentin leaned back, raising his eyebrows. “What? You’re not ready for that yet—“

“Your face is pretty much all five o’clock shadow right now. No exactly smooth.”

The cogs clicked into place in Q’s head. His eyes widened.  

“Oh— that does make sense— El

Then Quentin’s breath caught because then Eliot’s hands were on his face, carefully only touching the places where the bristly shadow reached. His heart pounded and when nothing happened, he experimented with drawing his fingers up and down, letting the beginnings of Quentin’s (quite straggly, Eliot had seen in real time) beard catch and pull on the sensitive nerves of his fingertips.

He let out a shaky exhale, the sensation of Quentin’s skin right against his skin shooting right down to his groin.

“Get down here,” Eliot practically growled.

“Right— um—“

Quentin tossed the book he had been reading to the side and fell to his knees to meet Eliot on the floor. That gave Eliot an all access pass. Quentin had stubble on his neck too; he dragged his fingertips over it and flattened his other palm against his cheek.

The heat and roughness and waves of pleasure rolled over Eliot, and he unconsciously rolled his hips against nothing. Seeking. More. He needed more. He walked forward on his knees and Quentin’s eyes widened when he realized what he was going to do.

Just a brush, not even a real kiss, and his mouth was touching Quentin’s face.

“El…” Quentin sighed.

Eliot shivered. “I should have made you grow a beard weeks ago.”

“What does it feel like?” Quentin asked.

Eliot dragged his lips over Quentin’s skin, pressing proper kisses to his cheek, his jaw, then down his neck. Quentin let out an honest to god groan that vibrated in Eliot’s kneecaps. Then he brought Quentin’s face close to his, dragging their cheeks together, guiding Quentin until he was touching him too.

“Like you. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, Q, maybe if I just—“

Eliot had returned both his hands to the sides of Quentin’s face, and made a split decision that would either kill him or maim him or—

Quentin exhaled against his mouth and then they were kissing , close mouthed and chaste like middle school but they were. Quentin’s lips were smooth and chapped but Eliot kept his hands braced on the the shadow on his face and it counteracted any negative effects that might be brewing.

Eliot whined from deep in his throat, experimenting with allowing his mouth to open just a little, just enough to feel like they were kissing like grown-ups. Quentin responded slowly, parting his lips until they locked gently.

Zap.

Eliot rocked back, breaking the connection and falling onto his ass. Quentin drew back, his eyes concerned and a little guilty.

“Sorry, Sorry, won’t do that again. Are you ok?”

But Eliot was laughing. He threw his head back and laughed because was that all? Was that all the curse left by this prehistoric hell-beast could do? Just a little zap, in comparison to kissing the man he loved?

There was no comparison.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said, the smile still in his voice.

Quentin nodded, mimicking the smile but still looking worried.

“It’s up to you,” he said. “Do you want to stop?”

Eliot thought on it. He had already touched him, kissed him, maybe it was reckless to want for more.

But then there was Quentin, sitting on his heels with lips begging to be kissed again. They weren’t shiny and red like they should be had he been truly well-kissed and Eliot could see the stiffness in his pants that he was trying to hide with his hand.

So he made some calculations in his head.

Eliot couldn’t touch him, even over the pants. They were too soft and worn and old–  but. Eliot was wearing denim and denim had been his best friend since day one of this hellscape post-possession land— and denim hadn’t let him down yet.

“Lie down on the rug,” he said finally, keeping his eyes on Quentin to gauge his reaction.

Quentin’s breath quickened: a low, quick rush of sound. Then he stood, scrambling to comply as Eliot crawled over to him.  

Hunger. Eliot was starting to feel it again. He was ready to risk the pain.

“Lie back,” he repeated, and Quentin did. Eliot crawled over him, straddling one of his thighs and balancing on his hands. They weren’t touching, not even their clothes were touching, but already Eliot’s heart was beating a tattoo against against his ribs and his pants felt tight. Tight-er.

Quentin laid a hand on Eliot’s sleeve. It wasn’t a real touch, but it was so close, and Eliot shook.

“El… if this doesn’t work. It’s ok. I just want you to know it’s all ok–  if it never works. I’m just happy to be here with you.”

His wonderful, beautiful Q.

Eliot kept his eyes on Quentin’s, their gazes locked, and he nodded.

He slid his knees back and lowered himself down to his forearms. Eliot’s hair flopped forward and brushed Quentin’s forehead.

“Keep your arms above your head,” Eliot whispered, his lips just brushing Quentin’s stubble again.

Quentin nodded, reaching his arms above his head and grasping his own wrists. In any other other situation, he would enjoy having Quentin splayed before him, but this , the necessity of it–  

Eliot took a deep breath, clearing his head. He lowered himself the last few inches, pressing them together from hip to chest.

Quentin let out a shaking breath that lacked the nerves from before and felt like something else entirely and Eliot could barely breathe at all. He could feel him, feel how warm and alive and present Quentin was and oh .

It was better than any memory.

“Are you ok?” Quentin asked, his voice already breathless.

“More than,” Eliot said, his voice thick and clumsy because he was on top on Quentin, their hips pressed together and he could feel him, the hard length of him. “Do you want me?”

Quentin laughed. “I would think that would be obvious now.”

Eliot kept his face serious as a heart attack. He was a master of seduction, and this was his opportunity to make up for lost time.

“Answer me. Do you want me?”

Quentin’s smile disappeared, and Eliot saw it. Hunger, one to match his own.

“I want you. More than anything.” He swallowed, Eliot followed the undulation of his throat with a brush of his fingertips. “Now, El?”

“Yes?”

Move.”

Eliot didn’t see the point of dragging it out any longer, so with slow, careful deliberation, he braced his knees against the carpet and ground his hips down.

Sensation flowed over him like a wave, but it was less like a tidal wave and more like one you would let crash into you on a typical beach day. One that you could take over and over again until you were sore and ready for a nap in the sun.

So he did it again.

Quentin groaned, lips parted. Eliot started to get into a slow rhythm, grinding and pushing them against each other until the pleasure could build. He kept his hands braced on either side of Quentin’s head, hands clench his fists. Quentin panted beneath him, arching his back and putting on a show worthy of an Oscar and sometimes it looked like his hands were slipping.

“Don’t forget— your hands,” Eliot said, breath ragged. He didn’t stop, finding a particularly good pocket of Quentin’s hip to grind against.

“I’m not— oh my god, El—

Even through twenty layers of denim Eliot could feel himself starting to unravel. It was almost too much, but so much more not enough and he craved more of Quentin’s skin.

Quentin started to fidget beneath him, and Eliot pulled back, but Quentin’s eyes were still full of fire. He jerked his chin, trying to convey something.

“Use your words, baby.”

Quentin did smile at that. “No just, get between my legs, then you can get closer.”

Eliot immediately complied, backing away so that Quentin could part his knees and then he settled back between them and there it was . Quentin’s legs wrapped around his hips and that was familiar. Eliot started to move again, rocking and pressing and it punched another moan out of him because how many times had they done it this way? Naked, covered in sweat in the Fillorian summer heat, with Eliot pressed inside of Quentin enough to feel his beating heart. The long, slow slide of skin against skin.

So smooth.

“Q…” He got his lips against Quentin’s neck again, kissing and licking and sucking in rhythm with the thrusts of his hips. Quentin met each thrust with a roll of his hips, making the pressure that much sweeter.

Soon Eliot could feel the build, feeling it curling inside of him.

“Q, I’m gonna…”

Quentin nodded frantically, scraping his face against Eliot’s, their lips almost brushing again.

“Yeah, yeah come on—“

It took a few more motions but then Eliot was there— the sweet release of pressure that radiated down to his toes. One hand flew out to find something to hold onto and he bit down wherever he was, sinking gently into Quentin’s skin to ride out the pleasure.

It lasted longer than it ever did, leaving Eliot shaking when he finally came down. He realized where his mouth had ended up, far from the stubble that had kept him grounded and instead on the smooth skin of Quentin’s shoulder where his t-shirt had been pushed aside in all their wiggling. His stomach dropped, and he backed away slowly.

“El, stay still,” Quentin said, a little bit of anxiety slipping into his voice.

“You got it.”

Then he realized why Quentin was scared.  

Eliot had one hand wrapped around Quentin’s wrist above his head, and Quentin’s other hand had somehow made it under the two layers clothing Eliot was wearing to touch the skin at the small of his back.

A very smooth wrist and a very smooth hand.

“Are you in pain?” Quentin asked.

“Only the kind they talk about in medieval times.”

“Ok,” Quentin swallowed. “Maybe this is ok?”

Eliot bit his lip. “Maybe? But we probably shouldn’t push it.”

Quentin nodded. Eliot stayed completely still, memorizing the feeling of Quentin’s hand on his skin to save for later.

“Alright. Move your hand slowly and I’ll take mine off of yours.”

Quentin nodded, lifting all five of his fingers, then the palm, and finally curled his arm away. Eliot gasped when he felt a little pull when the touch was finally gone, like the snap of a rubber band against his skin.

“Bad?”

Eliot shook his head. “Nothing so terrible.”

Eliot relaxed his hand where it hand been gripping Quentin’s wrist, pulling it up and away. Again, just a snap when their skin parted.

He rolled off of Quentin, collapsing on his back and closing his eyes.

“My god,” he said, catching his breath.

“Right?” Quentin breathed.

Eliot opened his eyes, rolling onto his side and propping his head up with his hand.

“You’re still hard,” he said, eyes flicking down to the tenting in Quentin’s pants.

Quentin smiled and still managed to shrug earnestly while lying on his back. “It’s fine—“

“No it’s not,” Eliot said. “Unless you don’t want to touch yourself for me.”

Quentin let out a shaky breath, a disbelieving laugh on the tail-end. “I do. Christ, El.”

“So then we’re agreed? I’ll tell you what to do of course, that way you can focus.”

“Oh my god.”

“Unzip your pants,” Eliot started. “Please.”

Quentin hastened to comply.

“Now sit up against the chair. I want to see you.”

Quentin sat up and swung his legs forward so that he was sitting up against the legs of the chair.

“Good.”  

Eliot enjoyed the fire that sparked in Quentin’s eyes, filing that little bit of information away for later.

“Push your pants down, just around your hips, that’s it.”

Quentin moved slowly, playing the innocent act but Eliot knew better. And Jesus, Quentin had a nice cock. How had he let depression and latent alcoholism keep him from just looking at it these past months?

Eliot wet his lips, suddenly parched. “Stroke yourself, just once.”

Quentin started at the base and stroked himself up slowly, wringing out a sigh and dropping his head back against the cushions.

“Now What?” He asked, just a tinge if roughness already in his voice.

“Do it again, but don’t stop this time until I tell you.”

Eliot kept his instructions specific, always stopping before Quentin got too riled up. He used every memory in his arsenal, every slow, aching night spent together in Fillory, to remember what Quentin liked. And if he knew anything, it was that Quentin liked for his patience to be rewarded.

Eliot ,” he practically sobbed after Eliot had told him to stop stroking himself for the fifth time. “Please… please.”

Eliot adjusted himself where he laid, his pants already uncomfortably tight again. Focus on the task at hand.

“Do you want to come?”

Yes, please.”

“Then come for me."

Quentin gasped as he sped up the motions of his hand and came, hips jerking come splattering his stomach where his shirt had ridden up.

“I can’t wait until I can lick it off of you,” Eliot said, voice almost a whisper.

Quentin’s breath hitched one last time at that, his eyes opening.

“Holy fuck,” he said, a dopey grin already on his face.

Eliot practically giggled , grabbing a towel from the coffee table and crawling over to Quentin. He cleaned him up, running his lips over that wonderful, miraculous stubble once again, before zipping him up and flopping back onto the carpet. He grasped onto the rough hem of Quentin’s t-shirt and dragged him down with him.

“Oof,” Quentin exhaled, boneless, the side of his pinky finger just barely touching Eliot’s where their hands lay at their sides. “That was…”

“Fuck.”

“Exactly.”

They laughed again, the warmth of contentment blooming in Eliot’s chest.

“We should have done that weeks ago,” he said.

“I think,” Quentin started, choosing his words, “At this point we can assume things are happening when they are supposed to happen.”

Eliot turned to look at him, meeting his gaze where Quentin had already been watching him. Eliot leaned forward, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“Soon,” he whispered, letting his lips catch against the skin. “I’m going to touch you everywhere. Kiss you every morning. And then I’m going to fuck you slow, and let you fuck me, and…”

Quentin sighed, shivering.

“Soon.”

*

*

*

*

*

In some respects, soon turned out to be a sunny morning two weeks later.

The sun was melting the snow. The water ran off of the roof in rivers and splattered loudly to the ground below. Quentin was already up and in the bathroom, the water running. Eliot stretched slowly, ran his hands along the luxurious, wash-worn, soft sheets that had been gathering dust in his closet for months.

Quentin had put them on the bed a few days ago, at Eliot’s request. It had been time, and his skin no longer crawled at the feeling. They were nice, a return to normalcy that he had been craving. Then Eliot had scrambled eggs for breakfast another morning, albeit with a stack of almost burned rye toast, but he had them. Finally, he had been able to draw on a pair of his old pants, slowly and surely, and wore them the entire day.

Back in bed, he inhaled the scents of Spring–water, dirt, the first flowers, all good things. At the same time, Spring meant change, and being courageous enough to welcome that change.

Eliot swung his legs over the side of the bed, setting them on the smooth wood floor. He braced himself for the burn, any sign of impact, but there was nothing. Just cool, smooth, nothing.

He took a shaky breath.

“Quentin?”

“In the bathroom!”

Eliot walked gingerly to the bathroom, careful not to brush by anything on the way. He didn’t want anything ruining his momentum. The door was already open a crack, he could see Quentin finishing up shaving in the mirror. He pulled it open.

Quentin smiled, the one that was just for him.

“Hey, I’m almost done. Breakfast?”

Eliot’s voice caught in his throat, wrecking any chances of him giving a normal answer.

Quentin frowned. “Are you ok?” He looked in the mirror. “It’ll grow back tomorrow, I just can’t become the bearded lady again–”

“No,” Eliot interrupted. “Don’t grow it back.”

Quentin’s brow furrowed but he returned to the sink to wash away the rest of the shaving cream. He grabbed a towel and dried himself while meeting Eliot in the hallway.

“What do you mean? Is this not working anymore? I promise El, we’ll find a way–”

“Quentin.”

“Yeah?”

“Hush.”

Quentin quieted immediately, confused, but then his eyes widened when it dawned on him. Eliot nodded in response, balling his hands into fists at his sides. It was now or never. He lifted his hands–

And placed them on Quentin’s face.

He pressed his feet into the floor, curled his fingers, braced for impact, but there was nothing. Just the continued sound of water falling from the roof, of Margo walking around downstairs singing some song off-key, of the smell of Quentin’s shaving cream circling down the drain. None of it offensive, none of it too much. Just the world and the smooth planes of Quentin Coldwater’s skin beneath his hands, his to touch.

They both exhaled. Inhaled.

And crashed.

Eliot pushed Quentin forward and against the wall, pressed every inch of their bodies together, and kissed him. Quentin fisted his t-shirt in one hand and dragged the other underneath, running it over Eliot’s back, his chest, down his stomach. Eliot whimpered into his mouth: an old sound, with no pain, no dealing with it , only exactly what they wanted.

Eliot slotted a thigh between Quentin’s legs and pressed closer, opening their mouths and pressing his tongue inside to taste him. Quentin was just like he remembered, everything and more, gasping and holding on as if Eliot was the only thing rooting him to the ground, the only person in the world worth kissing.

When he had gotten as much of Quentin’s mouth as he could he moved to kiss his jaw, dragging his teeth, down his neck, dipping his tongue into the grooves of his collarbones to feel the fucking geography of him.

Was this it? Was the world open to them now?

Quentin never stopped touching him. His hands had found their way under his pajama pants, squeezing his waist and kneading into his ass to bring them closer, closer, closer. He was hard, Eliot could feel it pressing against his hip.

Eliot backed up a few inches, Quentin groaning in disappointment until he saw Eliot’s plan. He only got the button undone and the zipper halfway down but that was enough to get access, so he bypassed the rest and shoved his hand down Quentin’s pants to feel him. Quentin’s head hit the wall as Eliot stroked, slow, slow, then faster.

Eliot.

So smooth, so much skin, how had he not had this the last three months?

He dropped to his knees, intent on getting the rest of that zipper down so he could get his mouth exactly where he wanted it when Quentin laid a hand on his shoulder, holding him back.

“Wait, wait, Eliot, hang on.”

Eliot froze, looking up. “So you’re saying you don’t want me to suck your dick?”

Quentin laughed: a breathless, very aroused sound.

“Of course I do, I just want to get to the bed first. We’re in the hallway.”

Eliot’s eyes darted around. Oh, right.

He stood, grabbing Quentin’s hand and pulling him towards their shared bedroom. Quentin laughed again, and Eliot knew if he got a shot of himself in the mirror he’d have the most embarrassingly goofy smile on his face.

He didn’t care.

As soon as they got there he tossed Quentin on the bed, immediately kneeling down before him and attacking the rest of his zipper.

“Off, off, off ,” he said, pulling Quentin’s pants down faster than he could lift his hips. He pressed one hand against Quentin’s abdomen, pushing him back to lie down, and the finally got his mouth on him.

Quentin cried out and his back arched off of the bed. Eliot pressed a kiss to the tip and then sucked, circling his other hand around the base. Quentin got his fingers tangled in Eliot’s hair and pulled just slightly enough to make Eliot’s hips rut into the empty air as he took more of him into his mouth. He bobbed his head, taking the length of him as deep as he could, coughing and pulling back when his cock hit the back of his throat.

Quentin sat up, panting, hair a mess, debauched.

“Are you ok? Maybe we should–”

Eliot shook his head. “It’s just been a while. I’ll go slower.”

Quentin didn’t protest when Eliot’s mouth was back on him, this time with his hands circling the base where he couldn’t reach. He tried to remember why this had felt bad before, why there had ever been a time when he couldn’t touch Quentin. He knew how to do this, had done it for years in the middle of the goddamn Fillorian forest where he and Q had fallen so hard–  

He felt Quentin tense, and sped up his motions.

“El, I’m gonna–   oh .”

Quentin ran his fingers over Eliot’s face, brushing over where his lips were wrapped around his cock, and came.

Eliot swallowed what he could and worked him through the rest of it with his hand, pulling off and panting from the effort. Quentin had already sat up, reaching for him.

“C’mere, I want to kiss you again.”

Eliot couldn’t refuse such a request, so he allowed himself to be manhandled slightly. A second later he was under Quentin, being kissed filthy and deep by the man he loved.

Quentin broke away only to breathe and run his hands over him. Eliot moaned at the contact, his pajamas so blissfully, thankfully thin, but why was he wearing them at all? He sat up slightly and pulled his shirt off, tossing it off to the side.

“Touch me?” He asked.

Quentin looked at him with a little fear, a little reservation, and a lot of lust.

“What if,” he started, his eyes scraping down Eliot’s torso. “What if I hurt you?”

“Then we’ll stop,” Eliot promised. “I’ll tell you if we need to stop.”

He took Quentin’s hand and pressed it to his chest, over his heart. He sighed. When had Quentin’s hands gotten so soft?

“You can’t imagine how good that feels, Q.”

That seemed to assuage Quentins fears, for now, and he sat up only to pull his own shirt over his head. He lowered himself back down, and they were finally skin-to-skin. Eliot tangled their legs together and wrapped his arms around his back, pulling them closer together, seeing if he could rid themselves of the space between. Quentin’s mouth searched, kissing his neck and then down to his chest, his tongue slowly circling a nipple until Eliot arched his back and panted into it.

“Ah, keep doing that, right there baby, please–”

Quentin settled in as if to do a independent study at Eliot’s chest, sucking and biting at one nipple while fondling the other with one free hand, the other tracing lines up and down his ribcage until Eliot was dangerously close to coming in his pants again.

“Don’t come yet,” Quentin said against his skin before licking a stripe up his abdomen.

Eliot hissed. “I’m going to kill you. Back up a second. I have to calm down.”

Quentin sat back on his heels, still straddling Eliot’s regrettably clothed hips. Eliot let his head fall back, concentrating on not ending their festivities early.

“If this is how if feels now,” he says, breathless. “Then I’m going to ascend to the astral plane when you touch my dick.”

Quentin huffed a laugh, pushing his hair back from his face. “How do you want me to do that? I’ll do anything you want.”

Eliot gave it some earnest thought. How did he want Quentin to touch him next? The options were dizzying.

“You could fuck me,” Quentin suggested, pressing his hips down just so .

Eliot swallowed back a moan. “I could… and certainly will. But for now–”

He rose up, pulling Quentin down on top of him. His lips brushed his ear.

“For now I just want your hands on me.”

Quentin moaned, biting down on Eliot’s shoulder.

“Ok–  yeah. I can do that–”

Eliot found himself on his back a few moments later with his pants in a puddle somewhere across the room, with Quentin lying on his side next to him, giving him the slowest, most thorough handjob of his life.

He was so close already, sounds he had never made before spilling from his lips in chains of babble. He didn’t know where to focus. Quentin’s lips were pressing absent minded kisses into his shoulder, his right leg was between Eliot’s drawing circles over his ankle, his free hand cradling Eliot’s head with his fingers in his hair–  

And also touching him, in–  oh. The right ways.

“Does it feel good?” Quentin asked, and it wasn’t teasing. Curious, and careful.

“Feels like the first time, only way better–ah,” he twitched as Quentin twisted his hand over the tip. “If you speed up I’ll come.”

“Do you want to come?”

Eliot opened his eyes, staring up into the dark depths of Quentin’s, breathing in his air.

“Do you want me to come?”

Quentin’s eyes fluttered shut and he blushed, hiding his face in Eliot’s shoulder.

Well, that was worth exploring later.

Quentin’s hand sped up, and Eliot remembered he was being touched, remembered that he was on a precipice about to fall over.

He gave himself over to it.

Quentin kissed him on his open mouth while he came, swallowing the moans and shudders that came with wave after wave of pleasure that brought him nearly off of the bed. He grasped onto Quentin’s shoulder, pressing bruises into his skin as it hit him, over and over again.

After he finally came down from it, Quentin was just as breathless beside him.

“That was…” He said.

“I know,” Quentin answered.

Clean-up be damned, Eliot caught his breath and turned over, pulling Quentin close so that his back was pressed to his front. Proper spooning, without the burlap blanket. After a few moments of silence, Quentin spoke.

“How are we…” he started.

Eliot buried his face against the back of Quentin’s neck, kissing just below the hairline.

“How are we what?” Eliot prompted.

Quentin reached back for Eliot’s hand, pulling it over him so that it was over draped over his side.

“How are we ever going to go out in public ever again?”

Eliot snorted, the laugh bubbling up out of him.

Quentin turned around slightly, showing him his smile. “At least we don’t have to leave this room today, unless we need food.”

“Margo will bring us food, she’s good people.”

“I know but–”

“Q, shh… just cuddle with me until we can go again. The plan right now is to touch you forever, then we can figure out what happens next, ok?”

Quentin turned, facing him. He kissed him again, slow and soft and with everything that would have turned Eliot’s blood to acid a few days ago. Then he kissed his nose, and brought their joined hands to his lips, kissing Eliot’s knuckles. He shivered.

“Sounds like a good plan.”