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You In My Head

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After everything, Q disappears.

Not right away, of course. First, they’ve got to destroy the stolen siphon, and Bambi—wonderful, beautiful Bambi—is doing something with a lizard? Alice is there, surprise surprise, and so are two versions of Penny. It’s all a blur to Eliot, who is busy reacquainting himself with having control of his own body, mostly by gulping every drop of water in sight.

Apparently, the Monster hadn’t cared much about hydration. Eliot hasn’t been this parched since Ibiza 2012.

He falls asleep on Bambi’s shoulder in Fillory and wakes up with his head in her lap on Earth, in a nice hi-rise apartment of some kind. They’re in the living room; there’s an actual fucking spiral staircase in the corner and huge windows. Who owns a two-story loft in New York City and can he suck their dick later? Because that seems like a more powerful magic than anything they’ve yet encountered.

“Hey El,” Bambi says, stroking his hair. It feels too long and his face itches. Eliot wants a mirror, immediately. “Sit up, Q made quesadillas.”

She gets him up. His whole body aches like the flu. “What,” he starts then cringes. Fuck, his voice is so loud in his own ears.

“Hey.” It’s Q, with a plate full of carbs and cheese. His hair is pulled back in a ponytail and he’s got weird bluish paint crusted near his right ear—something to do with the spell to banish the Monsters—along with a series of bruises across his jaw and on his neck. It looks like someone tried to strangle him. He smiles at Eliot, a small, unsteady thing and offers him the plate.

Eliot reaches out and there’s a moment as the plate wobbles between them before Margo steadies it. Q pulls back; Eliot had been reaching for Q’s hands on the plate, but Q steps away and sits on the coffee table. His hands knit together between his knees.

“Hey, El, c’mon.” Margo holds up a quesadilla slice. The smell is nearly overwhelming. Eliot’s stomach clenches up but then his mouth floods with saliva. He takes a nibble straight out of her hands then grabs another piece himself and shoves half of it down his throat in a few bites, because apparently eating hadn’t been super-high on the list of the Monster’s priorities, either.

-o-

The first few days blur together like that. He sleeps most of the time, waking up just long enough to guzzle water and eat the most boring, cheddar-cheese-on-a-cracker shit that someone puts in front of him. Anything more flavorful than unsweetened tea knocks him on his ass. Everyone gets used to talking in low voices, which Eliot appreciates, but considering the topic of conversation is…jarring. There’s some kind of war going on between the Library and hedgewitches and hearing it talked about from his place on the couch is like the world’s most fucked up ASMR video.

Sensory deprivation is a bitch, and his brain hasn’t processed anything in…

He sits up, swallows a couple of times. “How long. Was I gone?”

Kady and Alice are the ones sitting closest to him right now, along with some asshole in a suit whose name Eliot’s pretty sure he should know but can’t be bothered to retrieve. He can smell the asshole wafting off him, though. He has an Eau de Asshole scent.

“Uh,” Kady whispers, glancing at Alice and frowning. “I think about six months?”

Six months. Motherfucker. He wobbles upright and makes his way to the kitchen area of the open-concept loft. Behind him, Alice makes anxious noises at unacceptable volumes and Eliot waves a hand to make her stop.

Neither Margo nor Q are in the kitchen, but one of the Pennys is. “Hey man,” he says then winces when Eliot does and quickly lowers his voice. “Shit, sorry. Sorry. Do you, uh, need some help?”

“Hmm.” There’s a barstool next to the counter, a whole row of them. He can do this. Shoulder arm forearm hand finger-and-thumb, oh fuck him, that’s a loud noise. Who made a chair that scrapes on the floor that loudly? Why? Ugh. Foot ankle calf thigh hip butt touchdown.

Eliot takes a few moments to congratulate himself on the successful maneuver. Then he squints at Penny. “Only one. Of you?”

“Uh, yeah. The other one kinda had to…go back to the underworld.” He glances out to the living room section of the loft as he speaks. Oh, yeah, Kady. The other one must have been 23. “He seemed pretty okay with that, though, so. Go him, good perspective on life, I guess. Or death.”

Eliot nods because okay. He’s never personally had a good perspective on anything, much less life and death, but he hears it’s nice for some people. “Margo?”

“Oh, yeah, she, uh, she left you a message.” Penny crosses to the fridge and takes down a piece of paper. It says: HAD TO GO BACK TO FILLORY. FEN IS HIGH KING NEEDS SECRET HELP. YEAH I KNOW. LOVE YOU BITCH BACK SOON.

Eliot reads the note several times. “Fen?”

Penny shrugs, his eyebrows lifted. “You got me. Apparently some shit went down over there while you were gone.”

Shit is always going down. Eliot really hopes that the other side of the room can handle the current shit, because he’s feeling like a wet noodle. “Quentin?”

“Oh, he’s uh.” Penny’s voice goes up half an octave. “I think he’s with Julia. They’re doing something for Kady.”

Great. Of course they’re already getting sucked into the new shit.

Putting his head down on the cool countertop, Eliot decides to take a nap.

-o-

The next day he sleeps twelve hours, eats toast with strawberry jam, and asks Julia where Quentin is. “Oh, he’s running an errand for Alice,” she says, forgetting to whisper, and this time Eliot hears the lie.

-o-

“What the hell do you want from me?” the young man demands. He’s scared, shaking, trying to pull away. He’s got blood on his cheek.

“i want you to play with me.”

-o-

On the fourth evening, Eliot corners Julia out on the balcony. She’s sitting in one of two metal chairs that have been pulled close together, with an overflowing ashtray set on the concrete between them. It’s a bespoke tableau of late-night conferences and whispered confessions; there are several such pockets of desperation hidden all over the house. Eliot is beginning to hate tripping over crumpled tissues and discarded, scribbled notes written in increasingly fragmented script.

He goes right for it: “Where’s Quentin and what’s wrong with him?”

Julia looks deeply unsurprised by the question. She also looks pretty low, especially for a woman who has Penny hanging around making eyes at her. “I don’t know where he is,” she says, staring blankly at the horizon. “He said he just needed some space. He promised he’d be back.”

“Yeah, that would be more convincing if your voice had even the slightest bit of inflection right now. Once more, with ANY feeling.”

She cocks her head at him, flicking ash from her cigarette. The smell is intense, burning in Eliot’s nose. “Things got rough, while we were trying to get you back. How much did you see, in there?”

Break my bones. Strangle me. Too tired to care.

“Pieces. Not much.”

She looks a little relieved, which makes Eliot much less relieved. “It started out killing people. You shot it with a gun so that’s the game it wanted to play. We...tried to mitigate the damage, but there’s more than a few bodies we had to disappear and it got bored fast. 

“Then it started hurting your body. Drinking too much. Drugs, lots of pills, threatening to OD.”

“Ah. That would explain why I feel like I’ve been lightly beaten by tennis rackets.”

“Q got it to stop.” Julia’s sitting forward now, her expression more alert and her voice picking up speed. “He threatened to abandon it. We didn’t have—it could have killed any one of us in a second and there’s nothing any of us could do to stop it, but it LIKED Q. It wanted his attention, his help, his...companionship.”

Eliot has a bad, bad feeling about this. He says nothing but gestures for her to continue. Julia takes a drag of her cigarette first, eyes dancing between memories in her head. “It behaved itself for a few days but then—I don’t know when exactly, there was other stuff happening with the library and hedge-witches but then it. Discovered sex. It started picking up random people and having sex with them, then usually killing them afterwards.”

Eliot definitely didn’t catch any of those parts. He swallows down his nausea and forces his face to smile and his tone to be light. “So you’re saying I should have an STD battery, hm?”

“Q already took care of that, too, and he. He made a deal.”

Oh, shit. “What kind of a deal.” But he knows, he knows. Of course Q found the most terrifying option and flung himself at it.

“He offered it sex,” Julia tells him bluntly. Ripping off the bandage. “I don’t know exactly when it started but I know it happened more than once. Eliot—he didn’t know what else to do. The Monster wanted to feel good, it wanted to have fun. When I tried to get him to stop, he just said it was better than the Monster walking around killing people.”

“Did it hurt him?” Such a cowardly question: of course it did. He knows it did. The bruise on Quentin’s neck...

“I don’t know.” A cowardly answer. Julia stubs out her cigarette and scrubs a hand over her face, sighing. “He stopped telling me about it.”

“Julia. Where is he?”

“I really don’t know. He won’t hurt himself.” She’s got a hand over her eyes, shoulders hunched. “He promised. He’ll be back.”

“You shouldn’t have let him leave in the first place!”

“Well, what should I have done to make him stay? Had him committed again? He’s a fucking magician, Eliot, if he wants to do something he can. He...he promised me. That’s the best I’ve got, okay?”

She fumbles for another cigarette. Eliot stands up then thinks better of it and leans down to close his fingers briefly around hers, giving them a fleeting squeeze before he goes

-o-

“If I tell you to stop,” Quentin is saying, “you have to, to stop.”

It tilts Eliot’s head. “why.”

“Because! Because that’s what you have to do, or else we stop the game. Because I won’t want to play anymore, and you, you said it was more fun when I like it, right? So–”

“i think,” the Monster interrupts, leaning in close, “that your eyes are doing that twitchy thing that means you’re lyyyyying. what are you lying about, quentin.”

Quentin’s pressed back against the edge of the couch, pinned by the Monster’s body. His fingers on the back and arm of the couch are rigid, digging into the fabric. He takes short breaths through his open mouth.

“oh.” The Monster smiles again. “you don’t want me to stop even if you tell me to. do you, quentin.”

-o-

Brakebills has had some scary-slick redesign and now looks a lot less quaint. There are people walking around in uniforms. Yiiikes.

The physical kids cottage, thankfully, is still there. Eliot can’t help but shiver in relief as he steps inside. He thought he might be sick of the place by now—six freaking months, what the fuck?—but apparently it really is the happy place. He surveys his former domain. Someone’s kept the liquor shelves stocked, yay. The MP3 player is playing some kind of weird drumming music…he thinks it might be a soundtrack to something. There’s no one downstairs right now but it’s—he checks—5:30am. Whoops. His internal clock is really messed up, but at least that means he doesn’t have to talk to anyone.

Sighing happily, Eliot reaches out to turn down the music.

Abruptly a buzzing noise fills the room and a female voice behind him says, “Hey!”

Eliot turns quickly then yelps and throws his hands over his face. “What oh god! What the fuck!”

“What the fuck?” demands a heavily-pregnant Poppy, who kneels naked in the center of the living room, a blanket spread on the floor underneath her.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like?”

She sounds out of breath. “Right there?” Eliot asks incredulously. “In the middle of the happy place?”

“Duh, I’ve got a cloaking spell rolling! Or I did, until you interrupted the casting. Can’t you read?”

In retrospect, there’s a sign hanging above the MP3 player that clearly states, DO NOT TOUCH, MAGIC.

“Sorry. I, uh, I’m looking for Quentin?”

“Oh. He’s upstairs, I think.”

“Thanks.” Eliot peeks. “Is that a Bad Dragon dildo?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Hmm. Bold. Anyways, sorry to interrupt…khaleesi.”

Poppy’s flushed face lights up and Eliot quickly cranks on the music. She disappears. Eliot cocks his head to one side, but there’s no buzz of brave little motors. He mentally marks down that spell for future use and makes his way upstairs.

When he pokes his head in Quentin’s old room, however, both beds are currently occupied by people who definitely aren’t Quentin. Easing back out of the room, Eliot stands in the hallway for a moment thinking, then on instinct moves down the hall.

His old bedroom is still the same color. Whoever lives here now has an impressive bong collection and an appreciation of non-weed-related plant life, judging from the excessive number of potted plants in the window sill. Some of them aren’t even weed. The layout is basically the same, but there’s only so many ways to rearrange a midsized dorm room.

Lying on the bed, Q is curled on his side above the covers, his hands tucked between his drawn-up knees. He’s fast asleep but wakes with a start when the doorknob clicks shut behind Eliot. He looks up and his glassy eyes widen.

“It’s me,” Eliot says quickly. When Quentin doesn’t relax he adds, “Mosaic number 473 was clearly the most beautiful.”

That works: irritation cuts through the fear on Q’s face and he huffs. “Bullshit. 604.”

“Too much yellow.”

Quentin rolls his eyes and sits up, scootching to the edge of the mattress and putting his bare feet on the floor. He fumbles out a cigarette. “What’re you doing here?”

“Finding you.”

Quentin tilts his head back to look up

look up. His eyes are wet, glassy. He’s pinned flat and he’s not struggling, not even protesting. He just breathes and looks up.

The Monster’s got Eliot’s hand around his throat and Eliot’s finger pushing into the side of Q’s mouth. Q arches his neck and turns his head, sucking at the finger.

“you like it,” the Monster says, tipping Eliot’s head to one side. “you like that I’m strong and you’re weak.”

at Eliot. Who wants to go sit down next to Q on the bed and ask, what the fucking fuck were you thinking? but instead stays over next to the door.

“You weren’t around.” Eliot shrugs. “I wanted to. See you. Talk to you.”

“About what?”

I’ll be braver is a lot easier to think inside your own head, especially when your own head is being invaded by alien memories that simultaneously turn him on and freak him out. “Sounds like I missed a lot in six months,” Eliot says instead, and wants to smack himself but would probably fall over in the attempt. “What exactly did you guys do to my parasite friend?”

“Oh. It was a blah blah blah blah incantation blah blah blah paint blah blah unity blah underworld blah dissolved.” Eliot lets the details wash over him, happy to hear Quentin babble again. Eventually he runs out of topic, though, and just sits staring into space pensively, not even smoking.

Eliot frowns. “You…cared about it. Didn’t you?”

Q looks away, his hair falling in his face. Eliot registers profound irritation before he even identifies the source: in Fillory, in their little cottage by the mosaic, he would forcibly tie back Q’s hair so Q couldn’t hide all the time. It’s shorter now but he recognizes the way Q turns his head to let the hair spill forward.

Fuck. What a weird feeling. The memories feel like dreams—not quite real but too detailed to be brushed aside as a fantasy. They weave together with the memories of the Monster.

“He wanted his sister back,” Q says, still not looking at Eliot. He. His.

“He hurt you.”

Q just shrugs. Like it’s nothing. “Not much. Mostly he wanted to play games.”

Boy did he ever. Eliot pauses then decides to just rip the bandage off, too. “Yeah, Julia mentioned what kind of games he wanted to play.”

Q does flinch at that, dropping his cigarette into a half-full glass of water beside the bed. “Uh, sorry about that. I couldn’t—think of anything else to, to keep it occupied.” It. “It was getting impatient and I, I didn’t want it to hurt anyone. Hurt you. I know, if you’d—but I figured you’d rather be alive than not, even if it meant non-consensually having sex with me.”

His lips twist. Eliot says, “I did, yes, thank you for that. And for the record, sex with you is something I’m highly unlikely to object to under any circumstances.”

Q laughs, totally oblivious to the attempted confession behind Eliot’s words. “Uh, thanks. That’s real sweet, I’ll note that for future emergencies when sexual diversions might be needed.”

Eliot cringes. God, fuck him, he’s gonna really have to do this, isn’t he?

“Why sex?” he asks. “I mean, you could have given it a bubble bath, a massage, why did you—?”

“Why the fuck do you think?” Q snaps, a sudden rise that rings painfully. He shoots Eliot a glare but then quickly subsides. “I’m sorry. You just—got your body back. It must be pretty horrifying, to hear about all the things that happened. I’m sorry that I—look, we’re not going to talk about it after this, so, it had your face and your eyes and your voice and I know, I know it’s dumb and not something you want to hear, that you didn’t—have any choice, again, that you were stuck with me, again, but I just. I did that, okay, and I liked it because the whole time I could pretend it was really you in there. And you can hate me for it if you want, but I didn’t want you to die.”

His voice splinters at the end and he ducks away, moving like he’s gonna just walk out, and Eliot grabs him. Grabs the side of his neck, where his hand fits perfectly into the bruise.

Oh look, a metaphor. Great. Eliot hates metaphors.

Q goes to pull away, wincing, and Eliot digs in, saying, “Q. Q, close your eyes a second.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I can’t, with you looking at me. Sh, sh, close your eyes.” He manages to get his other palm clamped over Q’s eyes. The lashes feel wet against his skin. They’re standing close enough that the toes of their shoes bump together.

Q’s shoulders are rigid. Eliot almost backs off, wondering what kind of games the Monster played, but he’s too close. It’s now or never.

Or almost now. “Can you see me?”

“No. My eyes are closed and you’ve got your hand—”

“Okay. Love confession time. Ready? Go. I’m in love with you.” Eliot wants to die. He said that so loudly. Softer, he continues, “I have been for a while, before our fifty-year timeloop adventure. I think since you crowned me and made that little speech about me being a good king. I never told you because let’s be honest, outside the context of a cottage in the enchanted fucking forest, I’d almost certainly sabotage the relationship somehow, likely by cheating on you then sinking into a self-loathing spiral of drugs and alcohol—”

“Eliot,” Q interrupts, reaching out to put his hands on Eliot’s forearms. That’s about all he can reach; it’s so easy to forget how small Q is when he holds so much inside of him. His belief, his love, his sadness—they’re all huge and overwhelming things. No wonder his brain gets lost in there sometimes.

“Right,” Eliot says, “yeah. Anyway, the only reason I’m telling you now is because I don’t want you beating yourself over the idea that you somehow took advantage of me. Because I’d always choose you, Q,” and now he’s definitely over the edge, past the point of no return. Rocks below, divers beware. He looks at what he can see of Q’s face below his own hand: uneven mouth, pointed chin, hair curling at his jaw. Eliot thinks that there’s never been anyone so ordinary and special as Quentin Coldwater. “I’d choose you in a forest cottage, I’d choose you in New York City, in whatever place or timeline or circumstance you can think of. And I hope to fuck you had me in your head the whole time you were fucking my body, because screw that asshole. No one else should ever get to see you like that.”

They stand there for several moments in silence. A hundred words bubble up Eliot’s throat, parachutes to undercut or diminish the moment and give them both an out. He swallows them down and waits, agonized.

Finally Q speaks: “Can I open my eyes now?”

Eliot hesitates then takes his hand away. Getting the full force of Q’s eyes on him sucks and he looks down, away. His turn to hide.

“You said no.” Quentin’s voice sounds neutral. Maybe a little angry. “I asked, before, and you said no.”

“Yeah. Well. The last guy I caught feelings for, I...killed.”

“Fifty years. We have a son together. We have grand-children.”

Definitely angry. Death by a thousand pokes would be kinder. Eliot closes his eyes. “You know how your brain breaks sometimes? And it doesn’t make sense, and you can’t stop it from happening, even if you want to? This is like that, for me. It’s—fifty years, and the whisper never went away. ‘If Alice had come with us, he wouldn’t have wound up with me.’ Or Margo, or Penny, or fucking Todd. Whoever. I was so grateful to get stranded there with you, Q, because outside of literally getting trapped together in some kind of insane puzzle-quest world, I genuinely can’t imagine someone choosing me.”

Q gets quiet after that. When Eliot peeks, he’s kind of staring into space. “I did care about it. I couldn’t not—it was your body. Sometimes it even moved the same way as you. And I thought... I can have this. Even if it’s awful and hurts, it should be, because I’m awful for pretending that it’s Eliot and that he wants me...”

A tear slips out, sliding down the side of his nose. Eliot goes for it—why not? He’s already doomed, might as well commit fully. He gets his hands on Quentin’s face and kisses the tear, takes it between his lips like he can swallow Q’s sadness.

He kisses Q’s cheek and his lips and after a second—thank every dead god who Eliot’s hands have killed in the last however long it’s been—Q starts kissing back. He lets Eliot cup his bruised neck and makes needy sounds; he kisses so clumsily, always has. Fifty fucking years and he still startles like a deer when Eliot gives him a tongue handshake.

Eventually they pull apart and sit down on the bed, because Q needs to blow his nose and Eliot is starting to shake, either with belated nerves or muscle strain from standing for too long. He sips some Pedialyte while Q calms down. Downstairs the music has clicked off so Poppy must have finished riding the Bad Dragon.

“That kid is gonna be so messed up,” he observes.

Q laughs shakily. “No argument. I tried to, uh, suggest that maybe she should think about it, give it up for adoption, but she’s. Pretty set on keeping it.”

“It’s not…”

No. She says it’s not, anyway.” Q sniffs then says out of the fucking blue, “I like getting tied up and hurt. I mean. I figured that out, with the Monster.”

Eliot, who has met Quentin and had sex with him once in this timeline and remembers several times in an alternate timeline, says with a deeply profound lack of surprise, “Okay.”

Q makes a face at him despite the tears still clinging to his eyelashes. “What do you mean, ‘okay’? I didn’t know that about myself. Did you know that about me? Eliot! Don’t—why are you smiling?”

“I’m not,” says Eliot, who is definitely smiling. They’d dabbled a bit, in their past lives. There’d been Arielle, who was sweet and funny and great with knots; after she died, though, there’d been Teddy living in the same cottage as them. They’d kept things pretty lowkey, and then by the time Teddy had left home they’d both been old enough to warrant some…caution.

That doesn’t mean Eliot hasn’t considered the possibilities. Q tends to approach the world with his eyes, arms, and mouth wide open. Of course he wants someone to get him on his knees. They’d been happy in their cottage in the forest, but that doesn’t mean Eliot’s not looking forward to this time around, in a modern context that includes the Stockroom website and same-day delivery.

But that’s getting ahead of things. Right now he slides his hand into Quentin’s and waits, though he doesn’t try to wipe the pleased smirk off his own face. Q huffs at him irritably. “I’m just—saying that because I know what Julia thinks, and I don’t want you believing that I was just…lying back and thinking of you. I mean, I was, but…you get what I mean.”

“I do. How does your brain feel right now?”

Quentin’s face twists up and he starts crying again. “Goddammit. I’m not sad. I’m not.”

“You’re something,” Eliot tells him, hooking his arm under Q’s short little legs and pulling them across his own lap. “Congrats, you have survived about a week of sub-drop and have entered the aftercare zone.”

Making the necessary sacrifice of taking his hands off of Q for a few seconds, Eliot dims the lights in the room, fills the air with lavender and jasmine, and adjusts the temperature up a few degrees. Fuck, it feels good to have magic at his fingertips again.

Quentin opens and closes his mouth a few times, looking uncomfortable even as the room shifts around him to the ultimate feel-good cocoon. “I…really don’t need—”

“Shut up. You don’t get to tell me no right now.”

That closes Quentin’s mouth and opens his eyes up wide. If Eliot were a cat, he’d be purring; he pets Q’s hair back, tucking it behind his ears and stroking the dark circles under his eyes. “Thank you for fighting for me, Q. You did good—you kept trying until you found something that worked. Julia told me how hard it was. But you got me back and you didn’t have to end the world or sacrifice yourself or anything. Which honestly is some kind of record for us, we tend to make bigger problems than the ones we’re trying to fix, so. Good job.”

He keeps going like that, telling Q good things about himself until he stops squirming and protesting and just sits there with his wet face pushed into Eliot’s neck. Eliot levitates a few pillows over and gets comfy.

“I’m still kind of mad at you,” Q tells him softly.

“Oh trust me, you can be mad at me all you want, Q.” Eliot runs his fingers back through Q’s hair and scritches at the base of his skull, smiling when Q moans and pushes a little closer. “Just be mad at me from right here, that’s all I ask.”

“Okay,” Q mumbles, already half asleep.

-o-

Margo is in the magical hi-rise when they come back. She stands, frowning, with her little stick arms propped on her hips. “Where the fuck have you two been, huh?”

Julia immediately appears from the living room section, takes one look at Q, and swoops him away for a whispered conference. Eliot lets them go and shuffles over to fold himself around Margo. “Hi, Bambi. Sorry to make you worry, I didn’t know you’d be back yet. Why the fuck is Fen the High King?”

“Because I needed to be able to leave Fillory to come save your skinny ass. You look like you’re prepping for a Christian Bale role, asshole.”

She tries to bully him into a barstool, but even in his current state Eliot is twice her size. “You gave up your crown for me?”

Margo takes a deep, long breath. “Yeah, of course I did. It’s you, El.”

Her chin wobbles and this time she doesn’t struggle as El wraps himself around her. For, like, a minute, and then she does succeed in getting him on a barstool and dragging out cold takeout for him to eat, though she deigns to let him use a fork instead of challenging his dexterity issues with chopsticks.

Julia and Q are out on the deck talking and smoking. Julia’s seated but Q is standing up with one hand in his pocket. He’s gesturing with the hand holding the cigarette. His hair is tied back.

Something pokes him. A chopstick. Margo’s on the other end, her eyes narrowed. “What?”

“You know what,” she says. “Spill.”

Eliot smiles. When they’d woken up this morning, he’d asked Q for more details about the nasty stuff that he and the Monster had done together. It’d totally been a trap: he’d let Q get himself all worked up then not let him touch his dick while Eliot mused about which of those things he’d like to do to Q. Then he’d let Q suck his dick because he’d asked so nicely. The person whose room they’d been in had come home halfway through the blowjob and could only be persuaded to leave with bribery. Q had been so embarrassed, more so when Eliot murmured that maybe he should have invited the guy to watch, to have offered him Q’s mouth instead of money.

It’d been a good morning, all things considered.

Margo lifts her eyebrows, tilting her head to one side and pursing her lips. “Really? ‘Cause I had the impression that Quentin was gonna need some alone time.”

Eliot shrugs one shoulder, spearing some pork. He doesn't especially want to explain about the whole fifty years of perspective that he and Quentin are both bringing to this particular issue now that they're on the same page. “When do we ever get time to process trauma? Hey, remember that time you lost an eye and my baby was stillborn?”

Margo chops a hand through the air. “Say no fucking more or I’ll gut you myself. Want some rice?”

Eliot takes some, his eyes drifting to the balcony again. This time Q is looking at him. Their eyes catch and hold through the glass. Probably if they were other people, Eliot thinks, they would need some time apart to process this more. Probably that would be a lot healthier if they did. But there’s always the next shit to deal with, which—from the conversations in the living room—is bearing down on them fast and involves some kind of brain worms.

Wonderful.

The corner of Quentin’s mouth lifts a little. He’s still looking in through the balcony door at Eliot. A breeze ruffles his hair; he’s got it back in a ponytail and it shines in the sun. There’s a faded bruise on the side of his neck and a new one on his collarbone, just barely peeking over the edge of his shirt.