People were uncertain - the Monster and his sister dispatched - if what they had done could reasonably be considered Saving The World™. Certainly, they had been successful at directing the Monster’s wrath toward The Library, thereby taking a rare and coveted ‘two birds, one stone’ approach to their sundry problems. The Monster was understandably vengeful and suspicious of Librarians but, well, how long before that rage turned on Magicians as a whole? So it transpired that they killed him probably at the best time, when he’d served his best purpose, even if he hadn’t posed a threat to the entire world. Certainly, from what little Eliot could see of him from the inside, he’d have terrorized it at least a little.
Eliot, now himself and for perhaps the first time in this reality, grateful to be himself, was left reeling and depleted. They all were, really, drifting like specters through Kady’s perfectly appointed apartment, picking up random objects and setting them down, wandering along hallways, sitting on the couch in silence while the sun moved across the entire sky. They slept a lot; magical exhaustion for everyone who cast to save Eliot. Eliot didn’t have that excuse for himself but he slept whenever he could. He thought he’d be plagued by what the Monster had done whenever he closed his eyes. He did dream of it but it didn’t present as nightmares so much as hazy but pleasant memories. A bit like watching a movie he liked; nice but separate from himself. Really, the vaguely positive associations should have been worse, but it let him sleep and get stronger so he tried to compartmentalize it away into a box called Various Bloody Monster Horrors and moved the fuck on.
When he was awake and couldn’t bear to look at Quentin’s bruised eyes, how he was clearly hurting inside and out, he turned to memories of Fillory for comfort. He wanted desperately to ask if Quentin was doing the same thing but in light of how he’d pushed Q away it seemed cruel to ask that, of all things. Not until they were both in a place when everything didn’t feel so crushingly raw and painful.
So, sweet memories of Fillory. Something he’d not allowed himself since he’d told Q no, reckoning he’d lost the privilege, but which he desperately needed now. Quentin’s smile when it lit his eyes, Teddy spinning until he fell over, Eliot handpicking them food he’d grown himself, from the soil to his hands, to his family’s table. And a couple weeks after the Monster was dead, when his body stirred in interest, memories of drawing Q close, pressing against him. Ducking his head for the kisses Q was so free with. Them in their handmade bed, the lights down low, Eliot going to undress Quentin and-
Eliot going to undress Quentin and-
What the fuck.
“It’s all fade-to-black?” asked Margo, when he went to her to complain, still damp from the shower in which he’d made his terrible discovery. Eliot reclined on the couch and put his head in Margo’s lap.
“The most family-friendly bullshit you can imagine.”
“Well fuuuck,” said Margo, rubbing his shoulder consolingly. “On the one hand, totally unfair to you, on the other hand, I kinda get it.”
Eliot looked up at her indignantly. She shrugged a shoulder. “If I was a magical land where quests were mostly done by Earth children who were siblings...”
But Eliot was unmoved.
“Bambi you won an election on the beastiality vote, I don’t think this magical land can throw any stones.”
“Huh. Well, apparently Fillory has limits to its fucked-upedness.”
“So long as it’s just the potential incest thing and not latent homophobia,” said Eliot darkly.
“Royalty gets a husband and a wife, El,” Margo reminded him.
“Right,” agreed Eliot, “how could I have forgotten my dear Idri?”
“I’d also wonder,” said Margo dryly, “if the answer weren’t so obvious.”
“I’m that bad?”
“He’s literally the only one who doesn’t know. Even Miguel noticed.”
“The pizza guy.”
“Of course, Miguel.”
“Are we getting pizza?” Quentin asked, having just wandered into the living room. His hair was fluffy and he had pillow creases on his cheek from his nap. Eliot wanted to die seeing it, just a little bit.
“Why not,” said Margo, reaching for the phone, “pizza all round.”
She patted Eliot’s cheek with what he read as condescending sympathy. Whatever, he’d take it. His sex-with-Quentin memories were gone but his murder-with-Quentin memories were not. Magical adulthood was balls.
Eventually, things got better. For one, magic levels returned to normal. Once everyone could cast properly, it meant they could defend themselves properly, and people were more intrepid about venturing into the world outside the apartment. As they dialed it down from hermit-level shut ins to regular millennial shut ins they saw a bit less of Miguel, and a bit more of the world outside. Eliot was able to correct his wardrobe and if he thought he had felt off kilter about it, he had nothing on the twin looks of relief in Margo’s and Quentin’s eyes the first day he came downstairs in a tight waistcoat and tie. His poor darlings had obviously suffered so.
But the better everyone felt the more the inevitable conversation loomed. Eliot would have to explain himself to Q and own his actions, neither things he was fond of. If only he could get drunk and stay drunk he’d never have to truly face this. But the allure of their life in Fillory was headier than drink. It was strange to strengthen yourself with the memory of a son who ultimately never existed but it worked, somehow.
Eliot sat next to Quentin at the foot of Q’s bed, took his hand, and held his gaze.
“I was a coward, Q, and I’m sorry.”
Quentin smiled tremulously. “It’s okay. You’re back and that’s what matters.” He genuinely sounded like he meant it too. Eliot was officially the worst.
Eliot squeezed his hands. “It’s not ok and more importantly I have a monologue so no throwing me off my rhythm.”
“Oh, sorry,” said Quentin, with some humor. “Carry on.”
Eliot cleared his throat. “Yes. Well. Being happy never seemed like an achievable goal, you know?”
Quentin looked away and nodded.
“Finding out...” Eliot took a steadying breath. He had a singer’s lungs, his voice shouldn’t waver like this.
“Finding out it was dependent on another person was terrifying and I was too scared to reach for it. I shouldn’t have suggested you wouldn’t choose me and I shouldn’t have lied that I wouldn’t choose you. I regretted saying it as soon as the words were out of my mouth. Before, even. I’ll always choose you, Q. I’m sorry I said I wouldn’t.”
Quentin was crying, Eliot chose to focus on that rather than his own swimming vision. He gathered Quentin close and just held him, tucked perfectly under his chin, and rocked him until finally, a long while later, they were down to sniffing and steadier breaths. Quentin hit Eliot on the shoulder with the edge of his palm. It wasn’t very hard and Quentin refused to put any distance between them to do it. He just stayed tucked up against Eliot and hit him. Eliot bore it with grace, catching Quentin’s hand and pressing a kiss to his palm.
“I’m sure I deserved that, but what exactly was it for?”
“For pushing me away.” Said Quentin, but he seemed on the edge of saying more so Eliot waited him out.
“It was the only time...” Q said brokenly, “it was the only time you sounded like the voice in my head.” He sounded lost, hurt.
Eliot made a wordless sound low in his throat and clutched Quentin as tight as he could.
“Never again, Q.” Eliot pressed a kiss to his forehead, inwardly surprised he could be so gentle when he felt so fervent with love and want, almost mad with it, “You’ll have to run me off, baby. I’m not leaving you.”
“Word as bond?” Asked Q, and Eliot remembered now, that that was how they’d said I promise for all those years in Fillory.
“Word as bond,” he swore.
Eventually, after one very salty kiss they washed their faces and flopped on Quentin’s bed, emotionally drained but happy. Together.
Q laced his left hand with Eliot’s right, and turned on his side to face him.
“Hey,” said Eliot, smiling giddily enough that he was glad Bambi wasn’t here to see it, “you remember the mosaic?”
“Uh, can you... remember everything?”
Quentin grimaced, it was clear he knew what Eliot was asking.
“It doesn’t bother you?” Asked Eliot.
Q shrugged with one shoulder.
“Not really? I thought you weren’t interested so I’ve been thinking of it as a feature, not a bug.”
“Baby,” said Eliot, and leaned in to kiss him.
“I think it’s unfair,” said Eliot, after he settled back down. “We solved for the beauty of all life and it’s hiding some of our answer from us.”
“I dunno,” said Q, “I kinda wish I could just-” he waved his fingers in front of Eliot’s face, “all my exes, you know?”
Eliot, who had more past orgies than past boyfriends, did not know. He shook his head no.
Quentin sighed. “I’d just like to be able to retain my dignity after.”
“Why wouldn’t you have your dignity?” Said Eliot, confused.
Quentin went bright red and changed the subject.
“He seemed normal when we fucked him that one time though, right?” said Margo, when Eliot told her everything later on.
“I mean we were kinda high on emotions...”
“Right but we would have noticed if he had a weird dick or something.”
“Crass but true, as always.”
“So it’s not that.”
“Maybe he’s just shy?” Eliot posited.
“Ask him,” said Margo, “have you seen that boy, El? He’ll tell you anything.”
Now there was a tempting thought.
In the end though, Eliot decided to put his infernal curiosity about Quentin Coldwater aside and resolved to let Q tell him anything he needed to know. In the meantime Quentin and he kissed in doorways and held hands in bed, more innocent than even Eliot’s PG13 memories, and Eliot was struck by how this thing between them could be so old and yet so new. This world and its conventions were so different. He’d never sent Quentin a flirty text, he’d never met his mother, he’d never taken him on a date that didn’t involve some kind of agricultural fair.
Eliot took him for ice cream so they could kiss sugar sweet and tongues numb, on the street in New York City where no one cared. They went shopping, stocking up on clothes and eyeliner and decent liquor because Brakebills was back to normal and all of them were still without degrees. He took him dancing in the Village the night before they all had to go back upstate.
That is to say Eliot and Margo danced and Q waited prettily for them at the bar, let himself be bought drinks, flirted with, manhandled a bit by them both. Eliot didn’t mind, what was his was Bambi’s, and he enjoyed the defiantly pleased look Quentin wore when people saw him with Margo and then saw him with Eliot and then saw him with Margo again. They got him steadily drunk and Eliot loved the weight of Q’s gaze as he watched Eliot dance; like a live wire that reached across the bar to fizz along his spine.
They were a happy tipsy when they got home, and how long since Eliot had been able to manage that? Quentin was heavy-lidded and obvious, his eyes never leaving Eliot’s mouth for long. Bambi actually pushed them into Q’s room and cast the soundproofing spell herself, as Eliot and Quentin giggled from the other side of the door. She stalked off when she was done, leaving them to reach for each other.
Eliot kissed Q like he’d been so desperate to this whole time; wet and filthy and dialed up to 11. Q’s arms came up around his neck and he swayed into him, just so easy; pliant and all for Eliot. Eliot took him by the hips and walked him back towards the bed.
“Can I undress you?” He asked. It was a memory he still had; he’d asked Q this a thousand times before. Even as they got older he’d never stopped wanting to. Quentin was like a present just for him.
Q smiled; he remembered too. But familiarity with the question wasn’t enough to stop the goosebumps as Eliot stripped him down, ghosted touches over him, tumbled him to the bed. Eliot pressed against him, still dressed to the nines, all that lovely fabric against Q’s lovely skin. Quentin moaned and clutched at his sides.
“You like that, hmm?” He kissed the line of his jaw.
“Yeah,” Q shivered, “you’re all dressed and I’m-”
He didn’t seem able to finish the thought out loud.
“Naked,” said Eliot. “On display for me.” He put some distance between them so he could just look his fill; Quentin all flushed and twitchy under the scrutiny. He balled his hands into fists, probably to keep from covering himself. He was so good.
“Please El,” he said, his voice rough.
“You’re trying so hard to let me look, aren’t you baby?”
Quentin nodded, his eyes were huge and earnest and Eliot would blame the Monster for how badly he wanted to devour him except that these feelings dated to, oh, just about Quentin’s second day at college. He was obsessed, okay? But it was all fine because here was his obsession, squirming under his gaze, asking him sweetly for who knows what.
“So good,” said Eliot, leaning back in to blanket Q with his body, getting his elbows on the bed so he could put his hands in Quentin’s hair and tug as he licked into his mouth.
“Whatever you want, Q. Just tell me.”
Q’s breath hitched, maybe because he was thinking about all the things he wanted, maybe because Eliot had moved one of hands from Quentin’s hair to his chest, and was teasing the stiff pebble of his nipple with warm fingers. His hips were starting to move in tight little circles, grinding up against Eliot’s clothes for friction.
A part of Eliot was furious that memories like this had been taken from him, but another was grateful that he got to learn Quentin all over again; each new breath and sound and shiver. How many times in fifty years had he got to run his hands down Quentin’s chest, thumb the cut of his hipbones, hold him down on the bed? Countless, in all probability. But here they were again and it was new new new. Q’s eyes were squeezed shut as Eliot’s hand closed around his cock and asked him again what he wanted.
“Fuck me, El, please.” He begged, like Eliot needed any convincing, and the bedroom lights were bright electric, not candle, so Eliot could see every freckle, every pale pink bite mark he’d left.
“God yes,” he said fervently, even though he really wasn’t that fond of gods anymore.
He got the slick and was about to wet his fingers when Quentin bit his bottom lip and shot Eliot such a look from under his eyelashes; just sex and heat, that Eliot momentarily forgot what he was doing to fall on Q like an animal, kissing his mouth hot and swollen.
“Jesus Christ,” said Eliot, when he’d somewhat recovered himself and was slowly pushing a finger into Q, “How are you even allowed?”
But Q wasn’t listening, he was instead spreading his legs, wanton, pushing himself onto Eliot’s finger, demanding more. He wanted more kisses, he wanted another finger, he wanted Eliot to pull his hair and press him into the bed again. He asked so sweetly that Eliot gave him everything, chasing the high that came from making someone else feel good.
Eliot didn’t bother undressing. Q liked that he was clothed and anyway, he’d have other chances to lie skin to skin with Q. Instead he pulled away from Quentin, took his fingers back and ignored the small, hurt noise Q made at being empty, so he could get his cock out of his pants while he still had a shred of sanity left. Q was so still while Eliot pressed inside him. He stared up at him, his fingers clenching and opening where he was holding onto Eliot.
“Good?” Asked Eliot, and got a shaky nod in return. He moved the tiniest bit and got a gasp, Q’s fingers closing in the fabric of his clothes, gripping hard.
“Baby, am I hurting you?”
“Yeah,” said Quentin, but he sounded blissed out, “little bit,” and he rocked himself on Eliot’s cock anyway.
“Fuck,” said Eliot, because what do you do with an answer like that? He tried to stay as still as possible and let Quentin move instead, screwing himself on Eliot’s cock until Eliot thought he’d go mad if he didn’t move. Eventually he couldn’t stand it.
“Q, I gotta-” he thrust for real and they both groaned.
“Again,” demanded Quentin, and Eliot grinned sharply, bent to snatch a kiss and then put his back into it.
Afterwards they lay with Eliot on his back and Quentin curled against him, his head on Eliot’s shoulder, their legs tangled together in the sheets.
“So now you know,” said Q quietly, starfishing his hand over Eliot’s heart.
“Mmm?” Said Eliot, who frankly couldn’t be blamed for still being a bit out of it.
“Why I don’t have much dignity in bed,” Quentin said, his voice tight with embarrassment, shoulders tense, “I always want it too much.”
“Hey,” said Eliot, belatedly realizing this was a serious conversation. He dragged his mind out of its pleasure-filled stupor and applied himself. “Hey, hey, no. You want it the perfect amount, baby. You were so hot I could barely keep it together. I want to give you everything you want, okay?”
He pressed a kiss to Q’s forehead and felt the tension slowly leave his limbs.
“Okay,” said Quentin eventually, taking a deep breath. “Okay.”
Eliot hummed a little to himself, running an idle hand down Q’s side. “So you’ll tell me then?”
“What?” Said Q.
“Whenever you want something, you’ll tell me?”
“Uh, okay,” said Quentin reluctantly, sounding very much like a boy with a list of secret desires. Even though there was no one to see it, Eliot hid his smile in Quentin’s hair.
Apparently they had a lot of new memories to make.