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Sound & Color Queliot fanfic cover depicting Eliot and Quentin kissing

When Eliot had stepped through the clock after Q, this wasn’t what he’d expected. What had he expected, though? He hadn’t exactly contemplated next steps. His Bambi had sent a messenger bunny to alert them to her distress, and Eliot had gone charging in, dick swinging in the breeze.

He was kind of lost, honestly. He often was, between the wine and other things. Survival for Eliot had long consisted of maintaining a positive mental outlook and not giving a shit about anything, both accomplished through sheer fucking will. He’d managed to shrink his world down to Margo and magic, at least until Q came along.

There had been ill-fated forays into caring on other occasions, but those exceptions had only proved the wisdom of the rule.

“Ah, shit.” Eliot took a deep breath and looked around, disoriented, then stared at Quentin expectantly. This Fillorian BS was his wheelhouse.

Quentin lapsed immediately into Fillorian nerdery, and Eliot followed him through the magic-rich forest, basking in the tingle under his skin even as he tried not to think about how long ago they’d traveled. (But honestly, what year was it back on earth? Sometime in the late 1800s maybe? Ugh.)

“So in the Fillory books,” Quentin started, and Eliot latched on like a drowning man, never more grateful for Q’s comprehensive appetite for dorky shit. “Jane, um, she decides to try the Mosaic, right? Uh, but she’s too late. Someone had already solved it first.”

At that, Eliot produced his trusty flask and took a healthy swig. Honestly. What else could anyone expect him to do? Probably respond.

“Who?” It came out sounding blunter than Eliot had intended.

“Well, I dunno. But maybe it’s us, and that’s why we’re here now.”

Q strode over the underbrush, leaning on his walking stick for balance. Why did he need a walking stick? El was the one making friends with his scotch…a friendship becoming all the more necessary as he pondered what Q was saying.

“I dunno… Time travel only really makes sense to me when I’m on a good deal of pey—” He almost tripped, caught himself, and finished, “—ote.”

Fortunately, they reached a clearing before Eliot took a tumble and made a greater fool of himself in front of the cute boy. He’d only fucked Quentin like point-five times, since a threesome wasn’t the same as one-on-one. Queer as Eliot was, he’d played house with Margo more than once, and he couldn’t blame anyone else for wanting her, but it did nothing to persuade him Q had been in that bed for any reason but her.

A half-fuck meant Q was categorized as only a partial conquest, and therefore Eliot was still honor-bound to impress him.

These impulses flooded through Eliot and were gone in a moment as the sunshine washed over him, along with Fillory’s opiate breeze. A none too promising rundown shack stood before them. A ragged old man crouched out front.

And that, dear friends, must be the Mosaic.

Well, it didn’t look like much.

“Hmm…” Eliot swaggered forward, taking the lead because Q’s social anxiety could only be exacerbated by time travel. That was basic fucking math. “Yoo-hoo!”

When the man glanced their way, Eliot capped his scotch and raised a hand in an abbreviated wave. “Hiya.”

The old grump grunted, stood, and exhaled. “It’s all yours.” He looked at them with obvious frustration. “If you don’t mind wasting your gods-damn time.”

Disgruntled in the extreme, the old fellow stumped past them and into the woods, leaving them alone with the Mosaic. Eliot immediately engaged Bright Side mode in the face of despair.

“Ah,” he said, looking at his eternally moody crush and summoning mild hopefulness. “Well. Auspicious signs abound.”

Eternally moody—and yet strangely crush-worthy—Q sighed. “Ay."

 

~*~

 

Eliot really hadn’t dressed for this. His dapper togs had been designed for a much more reasonable adventure, one in which he’d storm the high court of Fillory and demand Margo be released from whatever revolting marriage contract she was being forced into now. Forced marriages were an Eliot thing anyway, and much as he loved Margo, she had to stop coming for his brand.

Regardless of intent or desire, however, Eliot now heaved stacks of fucking tiles as Q logged colors and numbers with mathematical and statistical clarity. El’s head was kind of swimming from the scotch and the heat, but he refused to break a sweat. At least they had magic back, right? So his clothes could stay unmussed and perfect throughout the beleaguering experience.

“All right,” Q said, taking notes. “So seven hundred eighty-four tiles in fifteen colors. Uh…”

Eliot’s brain was too big for his skull. It throbbed.

“So that’s seven hundred eighty-four factorial,” Quentin droned on. “Uh, divided by…”

“Seriously?” Eliot blurted, unable to stop himself. He straightened and gazed down at Quentin. “You’re trying to calculate the beauty of all life?”

Quentin, a little abashed and trying resolutely not to look it, glanced away and back. “Uh, well, I’m just trying to see what we’re in for.” He settled in more comfortably, digging in. “There’s a finite set of possible solutions, so…” Bending his head, Quentin pored over his notes. “Um…”

Eliot edged around him to better look at the Mosaic’s denuded base. He glanced from that barren canvas to Quentin as Q sighed.

“Okay. Yeah. That’s a lot of zeroes.” Q scratched his head like that might alter the outcome.

“Um, how many zeroes?” El countered.

“Uh.” Quentin blinked. “To be exact?”

Eliot stared at him. “Yeah.”

With a trace of fatalistic humor, Quentin answered. “A shitload.”

So they got started.

 

~*~

 

Magic, they both hoped, was the answer. Since Quentin was more gifted both with sobriety and arithmetic, he was the one to execute the complex hand movements that would possibly transform their godawful first attempt into the puzzle’s perfect solution.

So far, that hope was proving futile.

“Yeah,” Eliot said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice. “They’re still not moving, Q.”

Q looked on the verge. “Son of a…”

He snatched up his notes and turned his back on Eliot like he needed privacy to process his failure.

“I checked…” he began, turning back around and flicking the page. “Look, I’ve checked the Circumstances, and the Slavic is perfect. It should work. I don’t…”

“Unless,” Eliot conceded quietly, “magic doesn’t work on this.”

“Great.” Quentin gesticulated angrily, flailing his notes around. “Brought back to a time when magic exists except on the one thing that we need it to!”

“Okay, okay.” Eliot talked over Quentin’s frustration, trying to head it off at the pass. “So—So what?” He looked at Quentin seriously, trying to get through to him, trying to impart a sense of calm determination. “We do it the old-fashioned way. We’re smart. We can do hard things.”

Before Eliot even closed his mouth, Quentin put his hand on his hip and gave Eliot sassface. “This is an impossible thing, Eliot.”

Impossible? Eliot didn’t believe in impossible. They were here for a reason.

Spreading his hands demonstratively, he lifted his chin in defiance. “We have to show the beauty of all life.”

“The beauty of all life?” Quentin echoed, sounding a little unhinged.

“Yeah!” Eliot bounced a little, ready to get into it, about to launch into his spiel when Quentin interrupted.

“What does that mean—”

Eliot just kept talking. “Well, we’re not gonna—”

“And how do we show it—” Quentin carried on, interrupting rude interrupter.

“—show it with—" Eliot bulled ahead, voice rising.

“—tiles?”

“—fucking math, Quentin!”

Quentin hurled his notes at the ground. “This is the stupidest puzzle!”

“No,” Eliot growled. “No, no.” They were not giving up.

Stooping, he scooped up the notes as Quentin paced, smoothing the pages Quentin had worked so hard on.

“I…” Quentin started.

“This is our quest.” Eliot rose smoothly and moved toward Quentin. Weary, still determined, he added, “We have to do it ourselves.”

As Quentin stared at the Mosaic representing the frustration of all life, Eliot joined him, neatening the edges of the notes as he directed his gaze from Quentin’s exasperated face to the colorful tiles.

“I’m not saying that it’s not going to take a while.” He stood close and slipped his hand behind Q’s arm, guiding him, walking him toward the Mosaic again. “Logic this with me for one second, okay?” He glanced down at Quentin, patient with his moods as he’d always been, caught up in his urge to care for this fragile, brilliant creature. “Hmm?”

When Quentin didn’t interrupt, Eliot took it as a positive sign and continued.

“Jane came along too late, right? Someone came to the Mosaic and solved it before she even got here. Gets here? Will get here.” He queried internally, gave it up for a bad job, and shook it off. “You tried to convince me that someone was us. Hmm?”

Quentin looked up into Eliot’s face, his ponytail a mess, long strands draping his cheek. Irritation radiated from his boyish moue. “Yeah, but I didn’t think that it was gonna take a decade.”

Eliot inhaled sharply and fussed over the notes. “Well, in the absence of a better option, let’s—Let’s at least try, huh?”

When Quentin groaned and stared at the ground, Eliot took it as a sign of surrender—to Eliot, that was, not defeat.

 

~*~

 

A decade.

Though Quentin didn’t allow himself to ponder it too deeply, if he was being completely honest with himself, he knew it was more than a decade. Just looking at this ridiculous quest like an elementary school art project, the mathematic probability—the sums that Quentin undertook to try and wrap his head around the magnitude of the problem—had made it worse.

He envied Eliot’s relative calm, his ability to be in the moment and to face the quest as something that just might take…a decade.

Just thinking about it set the panic rising in Quentin’s chest, so he focused on the tiles, on moving them at the moment in no particular order, because, well, he didn’t know what he was doing, and art had never been in his wheelhouse.

Creating a systematic way to catalog their designs, that was something Quentin could do. However, it made him acutely aware of how impossible this task was.

The sun set as Quentin pounded a final tile in. Their first real attempt.

He stood and stared down at the mosaic, knowing there was no way it was right, but he still waited expectantly for something to happen.

It didn’t.

He turned to see Eliot staring down at the mosaic, fiddling with the cap on his flask.

Quentin sighed loudly, shoving the hair out of his face. “I’m exhausted.”

“Fortunately,” Eliot began as he gestured with the flask toward the shack, “whoever set this puzzle has provided us what I’m sure is a very adequate cottage.”

Pocketing the flask, Eliot held out his hand to help Quentin up. “C’mon, Q. Let’s check out the complimentary accommodations.”

Quentin took Eliot’s hand to stand. He took one last look at the mosaic. “We can record that in the morning, I guess.”

What he wouldn’t give for a long, hot shower, but he was pretty sure there was no indoor plumbing, let alone hot water. On the bright side, they had magic, but Quentin was too worn out mentally and physically to cast anything more than a fire spell so he could see where he was going in the cottage.

The inside was grim. It certainly wasn’t made for entertaining.

There was an area with an empty basin, likely for washing up. Rudimentary dishes were stacked on a rickety looking table with no chairs, and, of course, just the one bed.

Bed was a very charitable name for the wooden frame with a dusty quilt covering a very lumpy mattress that, well, who knew what it was made of?

“Ah!” Eliot brightened as if things weren’t objectively horrible. “I know a spell for the bed.”

Ominous that it was singular, but Quentin would settle for a less lumpy mattress right now; all he wanted to do was collapse and sink into oblivion for a while.

With a series of deft hand movements Quentin only sort of followed in his weary state and what sounded like Arabic, Eliot transformed the bed into a postered, canopied, sheer-curtained, silken-covered, lavishly pillowed monstrosity worthy of a seraglio. However, it was only queen sized at most, and there was still just one.

“Go on,” Eliot urged. “Sit on it. It’s a feather bed. Very posh.”

If Quentin had had the energy to think, he might’ve wondered how Eliot managed to cast while being so inebriated. Then again, when wasn’t he?

Quentin moved forward to the side of the bed, swung his arm to the side to move the curtain, flopped face-first onto the bed, and groaned in pleasure and pain at the feeling of his stressed muscles being given a chance to relax.

He turned his head to the side, looking over his shoulder at Eliot. “There’s only one bed in the shack at Fillory. I think I’ve read this fanfic before.”

Eliot rolled his eyes. “Of course you’ve read Fillory fanfic. You enormous nerd.” He was smiling though, and his eyes sparkled. He looked…content, like this wasn’t the shambolic semblance of a proper adventure but exactly what he’d signed up for.

Loosening his collar and removing his vest, Eliot sat down next to Quentin and then swooned backward, legs hanging off the bed, face level with Quentin’s as he gazed over at him. Quentin relaxed back into the bed, face turned toward Eliot’s, and El reached out to tuck a loose strand of Quentin’s wrecked ponytail behind his ear.

“We’ve got this, Q. It’s gonna be okay. I’ll make us some dinner and cocktails, we’ll get a good night’s sleep, and we’ll just…we’ll rough it.” He flicked his hand gracefully around the silken cave in which they were ensconced, as if to demonstrate roughing it Eliot Waugh-style.

“Glamping, right?” Quentin turned onto his side and toed off his shoes. Given the tenor of most of those fanfics, he wondered if he should be worried where this was going, but instead, he let Eliot soothe him. “We wanted magic back, I guess we got what we wanted, sort of.”

Still, the idea of a decade loomed large in Quentin’s mind. “Can I tell you something, El?”

Eliot had toed off his shoes when Quentin did and now kicked him gently with a socked foot. “Anything.” The way he said it, the way he gazed into Quentin’s eyes, was so genuine-seeming. When Eliot wasn’t working the mean girl angle, he could be surprisingly sincere.

“I’m not a very good artist. Even if I was, I’m not sure how I’d work with tiles.” He met Eliot’s gaze, both needing reassurance, but also apologetic that he’d dragged Eliot into the middle of all this nonsense. Of course, king that Eliot was, he was handling it with grace and style. “Do you really think we can do this?”

Eliot didn’t hesitate. “Of course we can, Q. We do impossible things all the time.” He stroked Quentin’s cheek with the backs of his fingers, still smoothing Quentin’s unruly hair. His own, somehow, still looked perfect. No way that was natural. “In fact, I’m going to bet this is less about artistic perfection and more about something deeper. Ember and Umber never struck me as art critics.”

“Not sure if that’s better or worse.” Quentin closed his eyes, just enjoying the touch for what it was. Then he thought of the fanfics and opened his eyes again as he glanced around wildly. “Guess there isn’t really room for another bed in here.”

“We’ve shared a bed before, Coldwater. I promise not to compromise your manly virtue.” Eliot sounded so droll, and a shade offended, which was the last thing Quentin wanted. Sometimes he just stuck his foot in his awkward mouth. But Eliot smiled anyway, brushing aside Quentin’s anxieties with the same deft touch he always did, as if he could make the world easier for Quentin simply by willing it so. “Besides, we’re safer in one bed. If a talking bear shows up in here in the middle of the night all reverse Goldilocks, you’ll be grateful I’m here.”

Quentin wasn’t certain in what world that made sense, but Eliot was so confident about it.

“What about your manly virtue? How can you be so sure of my intentions?” Quentin grinned but averted his gaze, feeling silly about it. “We have shared a bed. That’s what I’m worried about. You’re a blanket hog.”

With a gasp of protest, Eliot shoved Quentin’s arm and then started laughing. “Blanket hog, my perfect ass.” Still smiling, he sat up and moved toward the hearth. “Let’s see what we can do for dinner, hm? Hogs in blankets, maybe.”

He said nothing, Quentin noted, about his virtue.

 

~*~

 

After dinner, which was surprisingly good for being crafted from roots Eliot dug up in the forest and seasoned with salt he found in the shack’s minuscule kitchen, Eliot went outside to relieve himself—they’d been right about no indoor plumbing.

Everything felt more manageable with some rest and a full belly. Quentin hadn’t expected Eliot to settle into domesticity so well, but perhaps he was just trying to keep calm for Quentin’s sake. The thought made him feel a little guilty. He needed to hold up his end of this quest, keeping spirits up for Eliot as well.

Part of that would be taking care of himself.

Quentin pulled the elastic band from his hair and shook out the strands. He paused, eyeing the truly luxurious bed before looking down at his gritty, grimy self. Sure, he’d already dove in, but that was easy enough to remedy.

He used a simple cleaning spell on himself, one that he sometimes used in dark times when he couldn’t bring himself to care about hygiene. They could probably rig something for bath or shower time in the future. There was something to be said for the curative powers of hot water.

For now, he stripped down to underwear and tee shirt. If he’d known they were going to be here for a while, he might’ve packed.

Groomed and feeling a bit better, Quentin sat on the bed as Eliot came in. Those big eyes glittered as he took in the sight, Quentin’s hairy bare legs on display but the rest of him less disheveled, sitting awkwardly with his toes faced in.

Now that Eliot was standing there staring at him, Quentin felt incredibly awkward. “I didn’t want to— I mean, the bed is so nice and… this isn’t a fanfic?”

That wasn’t a question, but now Quentin was flustered, so he decided to just get under the covers and stop talking. Why did his every attempt not to make things weird make things weird?

Eliot gave him an indulgent, slightly annoyed smile as he undressed to Quentin’s comfort level and then slid in next to him. Before Quentin could say or do anything, Eliot turned his back on Quentin, apparently deciding to give him that privacy.

Or, Quentin had stepped in it again.

Eliot’s breathing seemed a little fast, maybe even a bit shaky, like maybe now he was letting himself think about the long stretch of time they faced. And that he was facing it with Quentin, who couldn’t even be normal about sleeping in the same bed.

Quentin gently placed his hand on Eliot’s back, soothing him with a slow movement of his thumb. When Eliot seemed to relax into it, Quentin scooted forward, conforming his body to Eliot’s. Being the big spoon to someone that much taller was a little awkward, but at Eliot’s relieved sigh, Quentin got over it.

“I read that the best defense to a blanket hog is a good offensive.” Quentin slipped his arm over Eliot’s waist and hugged him. “We’ve got this.”

“Mm. Right.” Eliot sounded a little dubious, but then, more confidently, he added, “We’ve got each other.”

Chapter Text

They took turns completing the Mosaic puzzle. Eliot reserved his patience as best he could for his own turns while remaining supportive of Q on his. Marking down the patterns was tedious but necessary, like one of Mayakovsky’s damnable exercises. It helped that they curled up together at night, bellies full enough and hearts brimming with whatever fragile, desperate feelings inhabited them both. Eliot tried not to think about how much he was enjoying having Quentin to himself.

On one hand, it was perfect. He could watch Quentin for hours.

On the other hand, somewhere in the future, his Bambi was being forced into an onerous marriage and the gods alone knew what else, magic was gone, and chaos reigned. His guilt over taking what amounted to a working vacation plagued him. He numbed that guilt with wine.

Lots of wine.

If there was one thing Eliot knew how to do, it was ferment flora into dizzying drinkables.

So the days passed, and they kept at it. The constant failure wore on Eliot, though, and as much as he tried to behave always with grace and aplomb, this was a fucking nightmare. The opium-laced air could only do so much, after all. Eliot had quite the tolerance.

Quentin still tried to base his tile placement on math, but Eliot wanted to express himself artistically. He’d always been a bit of an arts dilettante, dabbling in different modes, reading about art history so he could keep up the illusion that he’d been raised in a home that cared about such things. It was exhausting, honestly, trying to act like one summered with Kennedys when in reality it was just farm chores day in and day out, waking up at the ass crack of dawn to feed lowing, slavering cattle.

His thoughts spiraled along that path until he placed a last tile, slid it home, and sat back on his heels. He muttered a prayer to the universe pleasepleasepleaseplease and breathed deep, meditatively.

Fucking nothing. Nothing happened. It had been such a pretty one too. The sun rising over blue mountains and a valley full of flowers.

Exhaling in frustration, he clenched his fists on his knees. “God damn it!”

Something snapped in him, and rather than give in to rage, he took the more gracious route and simply slumped slowly onto his side on the tiles, stretching out on the cool, now-familiar surface as Quentin shaved several days’ worth of beard from his face. “I’m done.”

“Okay.” Q sounded unbothered, which was good, because Eliot couldn’t handle anyone else’s mood swing right now. “Just don’t take it apart until I write it down.”

High pitched, strained, Eliot called, “Okay!”

He breathed deeply, soaking in the care Quentin provided him, the support and help. They were in this together. All Eliot needed to do was lie here, sip from his wineskin, and breathe deep of that junkie-loving air.

Hey, on the bright side, Quentin was grooming himself properly again. Eliot looked forward to cuddling up to him in their bed and feeling Q’s baby-smooth cheek against his shoulder. Living in the moment meant always finding something worth living for.

He could live for Q.

 

~*~

 

Quentin’s turn. Eliot sat at the table they’d set up for note-taking, bare feet propped comfortably as he checked out Q’s ass. Sometimes this whole situation had its upsides. Its upsides were mostly Q’s backside.

And the booze. So much booze.

Then Quentin finished the puzzle, rose slowly, hands held carefully as if he might jinx himself. Then he sighed in genteel defeat. “God damn it.”

Eliot flopped a hand Q’s direction as if to dismiss the failure. “I’ll write it down.”

 

~*~

 

Eliot’s turn. They’d set up a perch to get a more aerial view of the puzzle, and Quentin sat atop it directing Eliot’s efforts. He’d run out of artistic inspiration two days ago, but the show must go on.

(Inside his heart was breaking, his make-up might be flaking, but his smile still stayed on.)

Birdsong was great, but Eliot would’ve kicked a puppy for his Spotify playlist.

“Okay, yeah,” Quentin was saying, motioning with one hand and clutching the notebook with his other. “So you just fill in—"

Eliot stared up at him, wondering how Q could simultaneously be so cute and so irritating.

“—fill that in with red,” Quentin finished, finally getting out the words.

“Oh, my god,” Eliot muttered.

 

~*~

 

Eliot sat in his favorite chair once more, sipping his hooch, watching Quentin grow ever more despondent.

“You know,” he said as Quentin stalked over with the notebook, “you’re not going to get very far if you’re this frustrated after fourteen days.”

Quentin propped his ass against the table, slouched, and sighed. “How are you not?”

Slurring a bit, Eliot motioned toward the wineskin. “Oh, Q.” He lifted it and shoved it into Q’s hands. “You know the answer.”

Quentin eyed Eliot’s mug and then shrugged and opened the wineskin for a long drink. He eyed Eliot as he swallowed, then wiped his mouth off with his arm. Sometimes Quentin could be such a boy.

His hair was chaotic again, strands having been pulled loose from frustration. Q didn’t seem to realize that he had a habit of rubbing his head, working strands loose. By the end of the day, it became obvious how at wits’ end he was by disheveledness alone.

It was kind of adorable.

Or maybe that was the wine.

Quentin paused, held out the wineskin to examine it, and then looked to Eliot. “What’s this made from?”

“You don’t want to know that.” Eliot raised a brow and lifted his mug in salute. “You really, really don’t want to know.”

He drank deeply, smiling to himself, enjoying the enigma he presented.

Quentin watched Eliot drink, his eyes a little wide, credulous as always as if he wasn’t sure how serious Eliot was. Then he shrugged and helped himself to another long swig. “I assume it’s not unicorn blood. Or fairy farts.”

He paused, seeming to ponder what he would or would not drink, then took another drink from the wineskin.

Eliot didn’t answer. Instead he drained his mug and stumbled to his feet. Still smiling a little, he held out his hand to Quentin and led him into the woods. Time for a break.

It took Eliot more brainpower than he had to avoid tripping over his own feet, let alone the underbrush, so he leaned on Q more heavily and remained silent as they ventured down the slope toward the creek. Looking at the expression on Quentin’s face, Eliot laughed and bumped their sides together as they splashed in up to their ankles.

The shock of cold, rushing water over Eliot’s bare feet sobered him a little, and he widened his eyes. “Let’s go swimming.”

“I’m not sure I’ve had enough of that Questing Beast spittle to think that’s a good idea, El.” Quentin held Eliot’s waist tightly as if he was afraid that he might fall. The rocks could be mossy. Probably a good idea to hang on. Plus, it was nice to have Quentin holding him so tight. “Also, I don’t think this is deep enough to swim in, unless you’ve got some kind of Antman spell you’re holding out on me on.”

“Ugh you are so aptly named. Coldwater. Cold water wet blanket.” Eliot wasn’t really annoyed though. The smooth stones under his feet and the warm strength of Q’s body pressed against his own had him in a slightly altered state of bliss.

Using Quentin for balance, he waded upstream. “There’s gotta be deeper water somewhere, right? Heh. Cold water. I’m going to just soak in it.”

“Hey, I’m fun.” Quentin looked a little wounded, but he was smiling wryly as if he knew just how unfun he could be. He couldn’t have been too upset because he kept hold of Eliot, walking with him, indulging him while continuing to be concerned for his safety. “I am just really in Waugh of your brewing skills.”

Even Quentin wrinkled his nose at the hamminess of that pun. “Sorry, thought we were doing a last name thing. That um, whatever it was… um… feeling a bit better now, I guess.”

“You…are so cute.” Eliot chuckled and gazed at Quentin, looking down into his sweet, sad eyes. There was always something a little haunted in their depths, but god, was El a sucker for it. It would’ve been so easy to lean in and kiss him, blame it on the booze…

But Eliot wasn’t going to do that. Even tipsy, he remembered the fall out last time he’d given in to this attraction and tanked Q’s relationship with Alice. No. If they ever…

Q was gonna have to make the first move.

Besides, it would just get messy, and here they had no privacy, no personal space, no way to get away from each other…

El had made enough messes in his day.

Dragging his gaze away, Eliot resumed trudging upstream, laughing for no reason as they waded progressively deeper.

Through it all, Quentin hadn’t turned away or demurred. He’d just looked up at Eliot, appearing more curious than anything else.

Damn him.

It might be easier if Quentin was more of an ass about it, but in moments like that, he was always so hard to read.

Quentin stumbled a little. So the alcohol was having some effect, or the cold. Or the closeness.

“Now I really know you’re drunk.” Quentin gave Eliot a squeeze. “How deep do you want to get? Think we might find a Questing Creature so we can wish the Mosaic finished?”

The way Quentin said it suggested that wasn’t really an option. The tiles didn’t respond to magic.

“I dunno, Q. I just wanna be drunk with you, get into some kind of minor mischief, and work up an appetite for dinner.” Eliot could hear the whine in his voice, so he turned on the charm, giving Quentin a sidelong smile and bumping their hips together hard enough they both stumbled. Laughing and clinging to Quentin, Eliot turned his face and nuzzled Q’s silky hair. He smelled like sunshine. Under his breath, he whispered, “This is the simple life.”

“All right. I think we can have some mischief. Hard to know the beauty of all life without some fun.” Quentin kept his arm around Eliot as he kicked the water, splashing them playfully as they went. “Guess we should get down to underwear so we have something dry. Unless you’re going for it in full El?”

“Full El? Is that like the Full Monty? Are you asking to see my dick, Quentin, because you could just ask to see my dick, Quentin.” Eliot laughed merrily and stomped the water, splashing them both. “I would show you. I mean, you’ve seen it before. In all its majesty.”

“I meant the opposite, fully dressed but, um, I appreciate your generosity with your dick.” Quentin’s face was bright red, but he was smiling, eyes sparkling but also a little glassy from the drink. His gait was a little less steady and he leaned a little more into Eliot. “But for the record, I’m not against seeing your dick. If you want to rock out with your cock out, don’t let me stop you.”

He said that, but Quentin looked bashful. But then, bagboy that he was, he’d apparently put the wineskin on without Eliot’s notice. He pulled it up and took a quick drink. He held it out to Eliot with a questioning look.

Eliot braced himself with a hand on Quentin’s waist and leaned down to let Quentin tip the wineskin into his mouth, grinning madly as Quentin complied. He looked so embarrassed about it, but oddly pleased too, and Eliot lived for it. He was thriving. The frustration of the day and the puzzle ebbed away as their gazes met and held.

While Eliot wasn’t so gauche as to slobber all over the wineskin’s lip, he did hollow his cheeks as he sucked at it, momentarily taking him back to that fucked-up night their emotions had been running wild and Margo had helped him bed Quentin. She didn’t find Quentin as irresistible as El did, but seducing appealing straight boys had long been a particular passion of theirs.

That memory stirred Eliot enough that he knew he was leaving his clothes on this time.

He chuckled as wine dripped down his chin when he stopped drinking a moment before Quentin caught on and quit pouring. He was so tempted to go for Quentin’s mouth, to lick the wine from his tongue, but no.

Quentin had to make the first move.

So Eliot pulled away with a Herculean act of will and teetered over to a smooth boulder at the bank to sit with his legs in the water. “Sit, Q. Let’s…meditate on the moment. Enjoy this small victory.”

“Not such a small victory if I’m remembering correctly.” Quentin didn’t look at him as he said it. There was a quirk to his lips that affirmed that Q was talking about what Eliot thought he was, but he simply sat next to Eliot and then bent over to roll up his pants so that his legs could freely dangle in the water.

When he was done with his own, he turned and started on Eliot’s, rolling them gently up to his knees. Then he sat back, resting on his arms behind him, and looked up to the sky.

His leg swung gently, lingering on occasion against Eliot’s. Whether that was accident or on purpose was impossible to tell. “So what are we celebrating exactly?”

Eliot knocked his ankle against Quentin’s under the cool rush of water. He leaned back too, propping himself on his elbows and turning his head to watch Q. His eyes tipped down at the outer corners just like his mouth, a sort of perpetual sadness to his features that tugged at Eliot’s heart. Sighing, he listed off, “Being alive. Magic existing. All the wine we can drink. A working vacation. What more do you need? It’s a beautiful day, Coldwater, and it’ll be a beautiful night.”

Quentin side-eyed Eliot and then gave him a little knock back with his ankle. He flattened to laying on the rock, gaze skyward again. “Decades-long enforced working vacation where we’re cut off from everything else. I guess that’s good… Wow I really am a wet blanket, aren’t I?”

He turned his head to smile morosely at Eliot. “I’m sure you wish I was Margo, but for me, I’m glad it’s you here with me.”

“Oh Q.” Eliot’s heart clenched up painfully in his chest, and he felt entirely too drunk. He gazed into Quentin’s big dark eyes wistfully. Then he reached out and tucked a strand of Q’s hair behind his ear, fingertip lingering on the velvety helix. “I’m glad I’m here with you too. While being parted from my soulmate Bambi is no doubt trying, and while I have a feeling Margo would have solved this puzzle on the first day through sheer fucking balls, I am enjoying our time together.”

Eliot smiled, just a little, and dropped his hand from Quentin’s face. “You’re better company than you think.”

Then it was all getting far too emotional, so Eliot heaved himself to his feet and held out his hands to Quentin. “Let’s get back before dark. I need to figure out what to make for dinner. Is it root vegetables or root vegetables? Maybe some pickled lichen and root vegetables? Just so we can live large for the night.”

“We could fish. I mean, they might talk back to us, but…” Quentin looked down at the stream, then took Eliot’s hand and stood up a little too close to Eliot, but he didn’t back away. He barely even seemed to notice as he scanned the water.

Quentin then weaved slightly and grabbed onto Eliot for balance, blinking rapidly.

Lightweight.

He looked up at Eliot, shades of that first moment they’d laid eyes on one another, Quentin seeming a little awed by Eliot. Only this time he was so close that he could feel Quentin’s breath, practically feel his rapid pulse as he searched Eliot’s eyes.

“Um. Lichen sounds good, I guess.” It was almost hard to understand the words Quentin was saying. It didn’t make any sense, given their proximity and how Quentin gazed at Eliot’s lips.

But then he stumbled back a couple of steps, releasing Eliot’s body, but he took his hand again.

“Lichen,” Eliot agreed slowly, the spell broken.

They headed back downstream, holding hands and soaking in their drunken silence. The mood had changed between them. What had been careful and awkward in daylight hours now rested in the open. They were glad to be here together. They’d acknowledged it. Whatever weird, imperfect chemistry they had might prove unsustainable, but for now, it would carry them through.

When they reached the forest trail again, Eliot steered Q onto it and out of the shallow stream, comfortable at his side now. Their hands felt natural linked together. The intermittent brush of their sides was only reassuring. They shared space so perfectly, like El and Margo shared space. Easy. A single being divided into two separate bodies, united by a single goal.

Back at the cottage, Eliot had sobered enough to perform magic, so he dried them both and sent Q to the well for fresh water. Given Q’s state of drunkenness, it might’ve been better to spell him dry after, but Eliot kind of enjoyed Q all mussed.

As Q retrieved the water—so obedient—Eliot began making dinner. It was all simple, vegetarian fare, but honestly the whole clean eating thing was so trendy now.

Or well. It would be trendy. In the time they came from. It probably wasn’t trendy now because now was like 1895 or something godawful like that, and wow, Eliot’s head hurt.

Fucking time travel.

They ate their dinner alternating between Q’s awkward conversational gambits, Eliot’s amused responses, and cozy silence. In the dim firelit glow, Quentin looked otherworldly, some tragic, wan boy spirit. Eliot shifted his chair closer to Q’s so their sides pressed together. It was innocent, devoid of Eliot’s earlier desire, a pure response to Q’s ever-present melancholy.

By the time they crawled into bed, that closeness held. Their limbs bumped together gently as they stripped down to underwear, and then they tangled together in the silken sheets, effortless.

The next day, they quit taking turns on the Mosaic. Instead they worked side by side, occasionally brushing against one another. It was easier, maybe, to be close. To encourage each other as they worked. To combine Quentin’s mathematical approach and Eliot’s expressionistic ideas.

It was good.

Two weeks down. Five hundred eighteen weeks to go. A decade. They could do this.

Chapter Text

Days passed. Weeks. Then months.

“Can you imagine Margo putting up with this tedium?” Eliot asked as he and Quentin worked together on a tile pattern. Colored chalk used to mark out their efforts stained their hands like rainbows.

Quentin laughed. “No, not even a little.”

Eliot never stopped missing Margo, but he knew Quentin was insecure about her status as Eliot’s other half. Mentioning her unsuitability to this quest made Q smile.

In truth, Quentin missed her, too. Missed all their friends.

“She’d have blown it up day two,” he reassured Q, retiring to his favorite chair to sneak a few sips of wine. Then he raised his brow. “What is that anyway?”

Good humor vanishing, Q snipped, “You know, not everything has to look like something, Eliot!”

Suppressing amusement, Eliot mused, “Ah, it’s the eternal argument. Realism versus abstract expressionism.”

Quentin stalked over like he might murder him and shoved the notebook at him. Eliot just smirked. When their gazes met, he offered Quentin some wine. Tension simmered between them.

Quentin accepted, but that night they didn’t snuggle as they fell asleep.

They were tangled together by morning, though, long boyish limbs entwined, Quentin’s hairy fucking legs tickling behind Eliot’s knees.

 

~*~

 

“Mm, okay.” Eliot perched atop a ladder so he could direct Q’s efforts. This was less fun but possibly more efficient than working side by side. As the patterns got more complex and less realistic, their methodology had to change. “Green.”

Quentin finished placing a brick red tile.

“Green,” Eliot repeated, knowing he was being a brat. Eliot would never come out and admit how much he loved telling Q what to do, but he did, deep down. There was something thrilling about assuming control over his moody friend, guiding him…even teasing him.

Quentin reached for the green obligingly. “Yeah.”

“Yeah, green one,” Eliot agreed as Quentin turned his head and showed the tile for Eliot’s approval.

As Quentin tried to place it, Eliot said, “There. No, no, there,” and pointed with his directorial stick. (Quentin called it his dictatorial stick, but Eliot felt it was the same difference.)

“There?” Q asked, looking up at Eliot, trying to please him.

“No.” Eliot pointed to the grid space beside the one Q had chosen. “There.”

Quentin’s frustrated efforts at obedience both satisfied and chastened Eliot. He sat back on his perch and confessed. “Just kidding. You had it right the first time.”

“You know what?” Quentin picked up the tile, twisted at the waist to stare right at Eliot, and gestured with the little green ceramic square threateningly. “I’ll tell you where I’ll put this.”

Delighted, Eliot crooned, “Yeah? Come at me, Coldwater!”

Out of nowhere a lilting female voice called, “Peaches? Plums?”

Quentin quickly passed the tile to his left hand, just in time to catch a thrown stonefruit in his right. His attention shifted from Eliot, who felt its loss like a cloud had passed over the sun.

Both men stared at the newcomer, their first company in so long. She was beautiful. Her gaze moved from Q to El.

“Arielle,” she said by way of introduction.

“I’m Eliot,” he said, turning on the charm as he took the lead socially. (Q had never been the best in these situations, and months out of practice, he was probably worse than ever.) “This is my friend Quentin.”

Arielle looked to Quentin as he stood, cute and blushing, to greet her.

“Hi there,” she said with a smile. She thought he was adorable; Eliot could tell.

“Hi.” Q lifted the plum to wave at her, realized what he was doing, and dropped his hand.

A tall, muscular snack swaggered up carrying a basket of fruit, and Arielle motioned toward him. “Oh, this is my helper, Lunk.”

Lunk greeted Arielle with a kiss that left Quentin plainly uncomfortable, but Eliot just smiled. She wasn’t single, thank the gods for small mercies. Quentin getting distracted was the last thing they needed.

 

~*~

 

A blazing torch lit the Mosaic, casting Eliot’s aristocratic face in gold and rose. Far above, stars shone, and Fillory’s moon graced the sky. They sat on a patchwork quilt amidst the tiles with plum wine Eliot had made from Arielle’s wares.

“Happy anniversary, Q.” Eliot lifted his cup to toast. “To our first and last year at this thing.”

Quentin smiled a little as their eyes met. They drank. It was a lot better than whatever Eliot had been making before Arielle (and Lunk) came along.

“Mm.” Eliot made an appreciative noise as he set aside his wine, plainly enjoying the change of pace as much as Quentin was.

That little sound stoked something in Quentin, though, and he looked over at Eliot, sitting close, right there, lanky and sprawling and somehow still perfect after a year of this.

It had been a year, a whole year. The first of ten, probably. At least.

If they’d been lovers, this would be a romantic moment, but nighttime snuggles aside, they weren’t.

They had been. Once. Just the once which Quentin only remembered in flashes. Sometimes he wished he remembered it better, but then the fallout was so spectacular that he always felt ashamed.

But here they were, away from those lives and Alice. They’d been together a year, getting along even through both of their brooding moods, their need to escape, Eliot’s occasional glibness that hurt Quentin’s feelings.

In all, they complemented each other well. And it was an anniversary.

Quentin sucked in a deep breath, turned to face El in the firelight, and said, “Hey,” like the eloquent motherfucker he was.

Eliot met his gaze without hesitation and responded questioningly. “Hey.”

“I. Um.” Quentin couldn’t articulate what he felt, and his courage might not last, so he took Eliot’s face in one hand, braced himself against the quilt with the other, leaned up, and kissed him. Then he drew back, smiling with the dregs of his bravery, and searched Eliot’s face.

Eliot shifted closer somehow, so gracefully Quentin couldn’t quite tell what he’d done, covered Quentin’s hand on the quilt with his own, and stroked over its back soothingly. Then he echoed what Q had done, taking Quentin’s cheek in his other hand, cradling Quentin’s overheated face, and leaning in to kiss him.

This wasn’t brief and chaste like Quentin’s kiss had been. It was slow, tender, thorough. They’d only just started drinking, and there was no real excuse, not like there’d been before, but Eliot didn’t seem to need one. He moved in like a storm front, like a force of nature, and claimed Quentin’s mouth sweetly, with more skill than he’d ever experienced.

It was a lot more than Quentin had bargained for. Sure, they’d been together before, and friends had pointed out the way Eliot looked at him, but Quentin had never really believed Eliot wanted anything more than they’d already had.

They’d been close, but Eliot had never escalated. Now it felt as if he’d just been waiting.

Now that they were kissing, now that Eliot was moving in on him, Quentin realized he’d been waiting, too.

It was as if he’d been underwater and was coming up for air. He wrapped his arms around Eliot, pulling him closer, mentally preparing himself for Eliot to pull back, to maybe not have really intended the kiss as it seemed. But Eliot just smiled against his mouth and returned his embrace, trailing an elegant hand up Quentin’s back and stroking soothing stripes over it through Quentin’s hoodie.

Eliot kissed Quentin like he cared about him, like Quentin mattered, like this was inevitable, not a mistake. It was nothing like what he remembered from before when everything had been muddled and overwhelming. This was crystalline, every sense honed to the moment, every moment ticking by sharp and clear.

When Quentin thought he was going to suffocate, El finally broke the kiss only to rest their foreheads together. They fought to catch their breaths, a task made more difficult by Eliot’s hand clutching at the cotton covering Q’s back like he wanted to rip it off.

Quentin looked around. It was unlikely anyone would rush up on them out here, and certainly making out on the Mosaic would say something about the beauty of life, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable.

He fisted the fabric of Eliot’s vest, hazy with lust and a surging need to be close. Part of him was afraid of jinxing things, but he whispered, “Inside?” and pulled back slightly to face Eliot and gauge his reaction.

Eliot looked at him so fondly, like Quentin had done something right for once.

“Inside,” he agreed. He rose to his feet as Quentin did, the two of them staying close. Eliot kissed him again once they were upright, a fleeting thing that only whetted Quentin’s appetite for more.

Quentin didn’t know what he was doing, only that he needed this and it seemed like Eliot did, too. Q wasn’t lonely, exactly. Nor would he characterize his feelings as simply horny. He longed to touch and be touched, to stretch out their simple brushes together to something more purposeful.

He wanted more than to be held; he wanted the kisses and the contact and those sweet looks Eliot gave him. He wanted to be naked with Eliot and feel him naked. He wanted to touch him, to watch him cum up close, not in sneaked peeks when they pretended not to notice each other masturbating.

Eliot helped Quentin off with his shirt, and instinctively Quentin’s hands covered his thin build, as if Eliot hadn’t seen it a thousand times by now. In this context, with Eliot looking at him with desire and not just friendliness, Quentin worried that he really was so thoroughly average.

“Hey,” Eliot whispered as he reached for Quentin, drawing him in with one hand on either side of his waist. “Don’t be shy, not with me. This isn’t— It’s just us, Q. You and me. We both want this right?”

His voice sounded too breathy, gravely with what Quentin recognized as lust. He tightened his grip on Quentin’s waist and smiled, tipping his head to one side as he studied him in the firelight. “I’m never going to do anything you don’t want, and I’m never gonna look at you any differently than I ever have.”

Quentin wasn’t sure if it was good or bad that Eliot wouldn’t look at him differently. Quentin might look at himself differently. Would that be so bad? Maybe, like magic was a realization of a truth about himself, he’d learn something more about himself through this.

Or maybe this just was what it was. “Yeah, um… yeah.”

He set about undoing the buttons on Eliot’s thin shirt. After a year, their clothes were starting to get a little worse for all the wearing.

Quentin kept waiting for something inside to tell him to stop, or Eliot to tell him to stop, but he got down to the last button, and there were no alarms going off. There was just arousal as Quentin pushed Eliot’s shirt and vest off over his broad shoulders. He rolled up onto his toes to kiss Eliot again as their bare chests pressed together.

Eliot teased Quentin with little nips and darting licks, never quite doing what Quentin expected, but his hands were certain and comforting on Quentin’s back, gliding up and down his spine, warm and strong. Every time Quentin dared to go a little deeper, Eliot rewarded him with an approving moan only to draw back again, keeping things playful.

Then, when Quentin was getting paranoid Eliot might not be into this, Eliot nibbled along Quentin’s jaw to his ear. El’s breath gusted hot over his skin, and he whispered, “You have no idea how hot you are, do you? Just relax. This is gonna be good.”

Before Quentin could respond, Eliot walked him purposefully toward the bed and reached down to caress Quentin through his pants. “Remember, Q… I’ll never do anything you don’t want. You’re safe with me, yeah?”

“I trust you.” Quentin did trust him, with his life. What had happened between them before, well, neither of them had been overly aware in the end. Their mental states were all over the place and alcohol had made it all worse.

The idea of him being hot, well, Quentin wasn’t sure what to do with that idea. Eliot was probably just being nice, but it was kind of him to say that. “Guess you’ve already seen everything. No point in being shy.”

Yet Quentin was feeling very shy. He leaned against the bed and toed off his shoes. He didn’t mean to make this weird. But then, he didn’t know how to not make it weird.

As Quentin removed his shoes, Eliot gave him a slow, appreciative smile and then kicked off his own. “Exactly. No point in being shy. Besides, bashful boys just turn me on more. You’re going to overwhelm me, Quentin. I’ll spurt. Then what’ll we do with our night?”

While Quentin tried to process that, Eliot pushed Quentin’s shoulders until he sat upright on the bed before working on his jeans. Then Quentin didn’t have time to think because Eliot was taking off Quentin’s pants and kissing him again, so soft and sweet that Quentin’s top half and bottom half didn’t seem to be in the same scene.

“Mm I can smell you,” Eliot murmured against Quentin’s lips. “Like sweat and sex and peaches. I’m going to fucking devour you. You want that, don’t you, Q?”

Then Eliot was sliding down to his knees meaningfully and gazing up at Quentin through his lush lashes, his mouth looking very red in the firelight.

Quentin’s body felt hot despite being fully naked now. No one had said anything remotely like that to him before and he wasn’t really sure what to say in return. “Um, thanks?”

That was probably terrible, and if this hadn’t been Eliot, Quentin probably would’ve grabbed his clothes and slunk away to be humiliated in private, but Eliot didn’t laugh, just gazed at him like he was a sweet dork, which was kind of embarrassing anyway.

“Kiss me again?” Quentin reached out to cup the side of Eliot’s face and brought him in to feel his reassuring mouth and gentle caresses that helped soothe Quentin’s nerves.

Eliot kissed him deeply now, deep enough that Quentin couldn’t catch his breath, deep enough that when Eliot curled his fingers around Quentin’s dick, Eliot could swallow Quentin’s strangled sounds. Eliot’s other hand cradled Quentin’s nape, thumb rubbing against his hairline, and it was all so much sensation, so much pure fucking feeling after a year of almost nothing that Quentin was too overwhelmed to do more than go along with how good it felt.

When Eliot broke away to let Quentin breathe, he nuzzled into Quentin’s throat, kissing and nibbling, and then kissed his way lower, pausing to lavish focused attention on Quentin’s nipples. Somehow Quentin hadn’t realized Eliot would be into that, since he wasn’t into women, but he treated Quentin’s sensitive flesh with the same care and enthusiasm Quentin imagined someone like Margo expected of lovers. A tiny flash of memory came back to him from that fateful night, a glimpse of Eliot doing this to Margo, and no wonder he was so fucking good at it.

It wasn’t like Quentin was a virgin—well, he was a virgin with guys, but not a virgin-virgin?—but this was all so new and he’d never really gotten the most practice, and Eliot was doing things that made Quentin’s toes curl already. Just the weirdly perfect heat of Eliot’s hand around Quentin’s shaft, just squeezing a little, not even stroking, was so intense Quentin could hardly stand it.

As Eliot worked lower, Quentin could only watch, dazed, self-conscious, aroused, and yearn for unutterable things, things he wanted without knowing how to articulate them. But it seemed like Eliot knew anyway. Of course he did. King of the party.

Eliot tightened his hand on Quentin’s cock, a firm ring of pressure around the base, just shy of uncomfortable. Then Eliot tilted his head to the side and gave Quentin a coy look, dark eyes sparkling beneath mussed curls. “Let’s see how long you can hold out, hm? It’s been a little over a year, right? Since you were with someone. Bet you feel so sensitive you’re about to pop off even with me. I’m going to have such fun with you, Q.”

Quentin gasped. He really probably wasn’t going to last long, but that was hardly the point. He stroked Eliot’s hair, enjoying that it was messy, that he was smiling and seemed so happy, though there was something self-deprecating about how Eliot was going about it.

Relatable.

He stroked Eliot’s cheek, then slid his fingers over Eliot’s bottom lip, smiling when he took them into his mouth. Just watching Eliot suck his fingers made Quentin squirm and whimper. “Not getting off even with you, because of you. I’m not pretending you’re someone else, El.”

That seemed to please Eliot. He grinned and suckled Quentin’s fingers harder, swirling his tongue around them and bobbing his head over them, putting on a show, holding eye contact. Then he pulled back and licked his lips. “Mm well how could you? I’m inimitable.”

Then he reached down and squeezed himself through the pants he was still wearing, like maybe Quentin had said exactly the right thing for once. “You mind if I—”

“Yeah. I mean. I wanted to… you know, if that’s okay?” Quentin’s arm wasn’t quite long enough to reach Eliot, but he thought it was pretty obvious what he was going for. The thought made him blush again, but he supposed all things considered, Eliot wasn’t going to be shocked that Quentin was curious about touching him.

Not that it was even the first time, if his memory served, which, he wasn’t honestly sure it completely did. But at the very least he wanted to have a specific memory of touching him.

“And come up on the bed with me? I want…” Quentin wasn’t sure what he wanted other than to be close to Eliot. Well, maybe he did, but he wasn’t ready to articulate that.

“Oo, bold choices,” Eliot crooned, sounding somehow surprised, proud, and pleased all at once. He stood and watched Quentin intently as he stripped, putting on a little show. He unzipped his fly enough for Quentin to see Eliot’s sizeable erection pushing against the fabric and then turned his back, giving a little shimmy as his trousers fell down around his ankles.

Eliot stepped out of them neatly and then bent over to touch the floor, grinning at Quentin as he straightened again and smacked his own perky ass. Lanky as he was, there wasn’t much meat on it, and he wasn’t as curvy as Quentin had gotten used to, but there was something unmistakably compelling about Eliot’s body, his confidence, the possibilities…

Then Eliot turned his side to Quentin and pushed down his snug black boxer-briefs until his cock sprang free and then his ass was bare, and then Eliot was completely naked and climbing onto the bed next to Quentin.

This was what he wanted and yet he was terribly nervous. That was sort of his natural state anyway, but this was like being a virgin again, only Eliot seemed quite pleased and not at all like he was hoping Quentin’s awkward fumbling might be over soon.

Quentin scooted back to give Eliot more room and lay in his usual spot for sleeping so they could line up facing one another. He put his hand on Eliot’s chest, quietly thrilled with the sparse hair there. Nipples worked the same, and he assumed if Eliot had done that to Quentin, he probably liked it, so Quentin slid his hand down to lightly pinch Eliot’s nipple as he chewed his lip.

Eliot moaned quietly and gave Quentin a dreamy look, like Quentin had done something wonderful, and then leaned in to kiss him again, tentative at first until Quentin kissed back, and then eager and searching. As they kissed, Eliot reached down and squeezed Quentin’s cock again, and it hardly seemed fair Eliot was so much taller and could reach everything easier. Then Eliot shifted forward with a soft whisper of, “Let me just…get a little closer.”

Their legs brushed together, Quentin’s feet against El’s calves, and then Eliot’s intimidatingly large cock brushed against Quentin’s thigh.

Quentin shifted his hips even closer, whimpering at the touch. He searched Eliot’s face and saw nothing but pleasure there, and so Quentin reached for Eliot’s dick, wrapping his hand around it, shivering at actually touching him and his expression of delight.

That gave Quentin even more confidence as he firmed his grip to about what he liked and started to stroke. Quentin leaned in to kiss him, moaning as he moved even closer, pressing their bodies more fully together. His pulse raced, and he was so incredibly hard. This was what he wanted. It felt amazing and, really, so simple.

“Oh god, Q,” Eliot gasped. He raked his teeth over his bottom lip and then bit at Quentin’s mouth, seeming as aroused as Quentin felt, although it was hard for Quentin to imagine anyone getting that excited about him.

Eliot was, though. His cock throbbed in Quentin’s hand, veins pulsing under the satiny skin, and he rolled his hips forward to push into Quentin’s grip like he was dying for it. Then Eliot buried his face in Quentin’s throat and mouthed at him.

“Oh God, I want to suck your cock, Q. I want to just suck your brain out through your slit so you’ll quit thinking for a little while and just feel.” His voice roughened to a growl on the last word, shocking Quentin with how greedy El sounded, how genuinely fucking turned on by that he sounded.

At that point, Quentin was so aroused, he’d probably agree to almost anything. The idea of Eliot’s mouth on his cock made him tremble, and he hadn’t even moved yet. “You… you want to?”

That seemed unimaginable but not without precedent. He kissed Eliot again, his other hand up to Eliot’s nape to kiss him harder. God, Quentin wanted to stop thinking, stop worrying, to see Eliot down there, sucking his cock, to feel that wanted. He whimpered into the kiss and whispered, “I want that.”

Eliot jerked Quentin’s cock slowly and nodded, his nose rubbing against Quentin’s. He laughed softly, breathily, and brushed their lips together. “Yeah? You want me to make you feel good, Q? Just take you inside me and take care of you? You need a little spoiling don’t you? It is our anniversary.”

Then Eliot pushed Quentin’s shoulder, pressing him onto his back, and rolled on top of him. He kissed his way down again, not as slowly as before, and then he was biting Quentin’s hipbones and sucking little marks into them that made Quentin squirm. He looked almost angelic like this, gilt and rosy in the firelight, his expression relaxed and so delighted, like he was way drunker than he was.

“Don’t laugh if I don’t last long.” Quentin’s face was hot, and he put his arm over his eyes, wishing he hadn’t blurted that out. But then, this was Eliot, and well, he’d already joked about maybe coming too fast too, and maybe that was okay with him.

He raised his arm to peek at Eliot and pressed his lips together, squirming a little under Eliot’s gaze. “I mean, probably don’t laugh in general while I’m naked. I’m a sensitive boy.”

It had felt nice having Eliot’s weight on him, but he wasn’t ready to think too much about that yet. “I don’t know if I should watch or not watch.”

“Mm definitely watch,” Eliot answered decisively, scanning Quentin’s body to meet his gaze. “You don’t want to miss this. I’m locally famous for my blowies.” He grinned like none of this was that serious, like it wasn’t a big deal, like it was okay to just enjoy it for what it was.

Then Eliot curled his fingers around Quentin’s cock again, pinching the base. “If you think you’re about to come too soon, tap my shoulder or something, okay? And I’ll give your cock a little choke to hold it off.” He said that like it was no big deal, like Eliot really didn’t think Quentin was awkward or a loser about it. “When you’re ready to lose control, just let it happen. No judgment. This is to make you feel good for a little while.”

“Okay.” Quentin almost couldn’t believe this was going to happen. That sounded altogether too practical and too easy, but then Eliot was pretty casual about things and, well, it wasn’t exactly his first rodeo, so it probably wasn’t as serious for him.

That took some pressure off Quentin, though, and he was very excited to watch, even if he was a little worried he’d come too fast. But then, Eliot knew how to handle that, too.

Quentin exhaled slowly, relaxing as much as he could. His toes were already curling, and all Eliot was really doing was breathing on him. “And it’s okay if I touch your hair?”

The smile El gave him at that was breathtaking. Quentin didn’t know he could make Eliot look like that. Eliot reached up and took Quentin’s hand in his own before drawing it down and combing it through his dark hair. “You should pull it a little if you get real excited,” Eliot confided, raising his brows as if sharing a wicked secret.

Then he folded his forearm across Quentin’s hips, pinning them down, and lowered his head to mouth Quentin’s tip. His gleaming eyes stayed trained on Quentin’s face the whole time, his expression blissful, as if he could imagine nothing better than tasting Quentin’s cock.

That in itself was thrilling. Quentin’s breath caught as he watched Eliot’s mouth, saw his eyes still watching him. Quentin sat up on one elbow so he could see better, kind of amazed. “Jesus.”

He breathed heavily, reaching down to keep Eliot’s hair out of his face, unable to tear his gaze away. God, he was so sexy, hollowing out his cheeks, taking him deeply enough Quentin quietly choked on his own breath.

Eliot smiled at that, eyes crinkling as he eased off a little and worked his tongue over Quentin’s head slickly. Then he sucked him deep again and groaned as if having Quentin’s cock in his throat was all he’d ever wanted. It blew Quentin’s mind how Eliot could seem so completely into this, like all he wanted was Quentin, like this was everything he’d ever dreamed of. It was…nice, even if it was provably untrue.

No one else had ever paid this kind of attention to Quentin’s cock, ever acted like it was some amazing thing worthy of worship and lavishing attention upon. He’d known, theoretically, and sort of practically, that Eliot liked dicks, but this seemed like much even for that. This was…remarkably intense, for Eliot.

Quentin’s hips moved almost involuntarily, not far since he was pinned down, to try and get more of Eliot’s mouth. Part of him just wanted to buck wildly and let go, but he also enjoyed letting Eliot have control.

It almost wasn’t going to matter, because the exquisite heat and wetness of Eliot’s mouth and tongue were crowding out all other thoughts and his body was responding with tremors and tightening, the need to release.

“I’m… um…” Quentin whispered breathily in warning. His head fell back as his body tensed.

Quentin didn’t know what to expect, but Eliot swallowing around him and gagging on him wasn’t it. Before Quentin could process a thought, his body took over completely and he spilled down El’s throat in violent, needy pulses that tore through him like catharsis. Eliot smoothed his hands up Quentin’s body, stroking his skin and then pinching his nipples and sending a fresh rush of bliss through Quentin.

It seemed to last forever and be over too soon all at once, and then Eliot was licking Quentin clean and grinning. When Quentin was so sensitive he didn’t think he could stand it a second longer, Eliot rolled over onto his side and shifted up to lay on the pillow next to Quentin.

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah.” Quentin was still breathless. His skin tingled everywhere Eliot had touched him. He felt amazing and humbled. And shy that even if he wanted to return the favor, he’d heard enough jokes from Eliot about giving bad head that he was well and truly intimidated.

But he’d done enough hand work on himself that he felt pretty confident about that. He traced Eliot’s length, gazing at him, a little aroused and a little mortified that Eliot had swallowed his cum.

Eliot rocked his hips into Quentin’s hand encouragingly and reached out to stroke Quentin’s cheek as their eyes locked. “That feels good, Q, but you don’t…” Eliot’s brow furrowed, and his smile faltered for just a moment. “You don’t need to do that.”

“I want to. This is um, this is how I like it… but show me how you like it?” Quentin gazed urgently at Eliot, bringing his other hand to slide over Eliot’s chest. He caressed Eliot’s neck, then ran the backs of his fingers over Eliot’s cheek and pressed his thumb into Eliot’s mouth. “I want to make you feel good, too. I… like it. It’s um… exciting and um… I like seeing you… you know.”

Eliot’s whole expression softened at Quentin’s words, and he suckled Quentin’s thumb as if content to do just that while his lower body rocked closer. Then, lazily, Eliot reached down and grasped his own cock roughly, jerking it quick and hard so the head rubbed against Quentin’s belly hair. Then Eliot turned his head, pulling his mouth from Quentin’s thumb, and murmured, “You wanna get me off, Q? Wanna make me come?”

Quentin scooted closer. If he hadn’t just come he’d probably be hard again. As it was, he felt the flutter of excitement in his chest. “Yeah. I wanna make you come. I’ve never um… so you like it rougher? Like this?”

He took over Eliot’s stroking, pressing the tip against Quentin’s belly, feeling a thrill that it was touching him, even if it made his face hot. “Show me. Please?”

“Look at you being brave.” Eliot sounded a little surprised, and he moaned as Quentin touched him more firmly. “You’re so cute.”

Then, decisively, Eliot rolled onto his back and slipped his arm under Quentin’s shoulders, pulling him close to pillow his head on Eliot’s chest. It wasn’t much different from how they often lay together except for all the ways it was completely different, but it did give Quentin a great view of what he was doing.

Holding Quentin with one arm, Eliot extended his other to curl his fingers over Quentin’s hand and guide him. He tightened Quentin’s grip a little and then lifted his hand to work what Quentin belatedly recognized as a lubrication spell. Suddenly Quentin’s fingers were slick, and Eliot groaned approvingly.

“That’s it. Yeah, so good.” Eliot rolled his hips, thrusting up into Quentin’s fist, and then stretched his legs, flexing his toes and arching like Quentin’s hand felt way better than Quentin had ever known his hand to feel.

This was… exciting. Quentin was doing it, he could hear Eliot’s heartbeat through his chest, saw the head of his cock dark and purpling, protruding through his fist and vanishing again. Quentin rolled his thumb over the tip, fingering the moisture on it and relishing how Eliot moved and groaned.

Quentin was mesmerized by the vision, but he felt an uncontrollable urge to kiss Eliot, and so he lifted his head so he could, biting Eliot’s lips the way he’d nipped at Q’s. He kissed El’s chin and down his neck, then back up again to meet his lips, finding himself whimpering back, mirroring Eliot’s urgency.

God he wanted to make Eliot come, he wanted to hear it, see it, feel it.

Eliot licked Quentin’s lips, and Quentin could taste his own cum on Eliot’s tongue. It could’ve been weird or gross, but it just drove home again that Eliot had done what he did, that he’d given Quentin that kind of pleasure. The afterglow had wrapped Quentin up warm and safe, and nothing could bother him with the tension melted out of his limbs and his thoughts.

“Yeah, Q, just like that.” Eliot kissed him again and again, moaning encouragingly, and Quentin felt powerful with that same innate, discovered might as his first spellwork. It was that familiar blend of intuition and honed skill, challenging and exhilarating.

Breathing shaky, Eliot strained upward into Quentin’s hand and hugged him closer, clinging to his shoulders, and stroked Quentin’s arm and fist like he couldn’t believe Quentin was doing this for him.

Quentin could barely believe it himself, and yet he was so into it, euphoric. He kept looking up at Eliot, at his face, at the way that he gazed back at Quentin and then down at his hand, twisting slickly around Eliot’s cock, surprised by how big it was, and how much Quentin loved touching it.

He hadn’t thought through what it would be like, not really, but now feeling this, having Eliot looking at him that way… Not pitying, not indulgent, but needy, as if Quentin had something to give and now Quentin was giving it.

He leaned in and nuzzled Eliot’s face. “Come for me, El. I want you to come. Please?”

Eliot made a rough, gasping sound and crowded closer to Quentin. “Oh Q,” he rasped, and then he went taut and his hips jerked upward, staccato and pleading, as Quentin stroked Eliot through his climax. El’s cum spilled over his hand hot and wet. Quentin kept going, determined, teasing Eliot until he put his hand on Quentin’s to stop him.

Then Quentin stared down at the mess on Eliot’s belly, jizz mingling with the black hairs around his navel. It was… strangely sexy, giving Quentin an odd sense of accomplishment.

He looked at his hand, the way the cum stretched between his thumb and forefinger. He brought it up to his mouth and tasted it, then realized he was being watched and blushed.

“Um, so… yeah.” Quentin dropped his hand, quietly wiping his fingers on the sheets.

“Q, you dirty boy,” Eliot purred, grinning wide and stretching across the bed, luxuriating. His eyes had almost closed, long lashes casting crescent shadows on his high cheekbones in the firelight. He looked…happy, but still as far out of Quentin’s league as he’d ever been.

Then Eliot reached for Quentin’s hand and began licking and sucking his fingers and palm, gazing into Quentin’s eyes as he cleaned him. His eyes crinkled, and he nuzzled into Quentin’s hand in pure affection.

Quentin touched Eliot’s face softly, running his fingertip over those lush lashes, his thumb over Eliot’s eyebrows, then traced down over his high cheekbones down the hollows to his lips again. He had to admit, he thought a lot about those lips. More than was strictly friendly, but Eliot didn’t seem to mind.

He pulled his hand away long enough to cast a cleansing spell just so they wouldn’t wind up sticky and then he nestled in next to Eliot as they usually slept.

El murmured, “Thanks, Q,” and snuggled into Quentin, seeming not to mind the naked cuddling or…whatever had just happened between them. He kissed Quentin’s temple and nosed his hair before sighing. “That was…” Eliot breathed deeply, like he was inhaling Quentin’s scent. “This is exactly what I needed.”

Then Eliot stroked Quentin’s hair, smoothing it back from his face, and started humming a lullaby like he could hear Quentin’s brain trying to switch on. It really was soothing though, being petted and lullabied, being fussed over and cosseted, by Eliot no less. Relaxation emanated from Eliot’s long body, the afterglow still flowing from him, and Quentin couldn’t help but be satisfied he’d done that.

Quentin wiggled around so that he could pull the blankets up over them, glowing with pride that Eliot was so pleased. “That was what I needed, too. Happy anniversary.”

He grinned up at Eliot briefly and then snuggled in, ready to drift off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The events of the night before hung over them, cuddlier and more pleasant than the sword of Damocles, but just as fraught. If Q had some kind of straight boy freak-out, Eliot honestly didn’t know what he was going to do. They were stuck here together. They had to make it work. Possibly for a decade or longer.

Eliot did his best to give Quentin space that morning, making breakfast industriously and humming Angel of the Morning with a profound sense of having gotten exactly what he wanted at possibly too high a price. It comforted him a very little to know he was not the first, Q was not the first, and fate willing, this would not be the last time some overly involved friends got carried away with their mutual chemistry one night.

Was the chemistry mutual though? As Eliot fried eggs and toasted bread, he mulled over the times Q had reciprocated Eliot’s persistent, unmissable flirtation. He didn’t come up with much, except that when Eliot had offered to seduce Quentin should he return to a mundane life, Quentin had seemed to enjoy that idea.

That was it. That was really what Eliot was clinging to here. Of course, given how oblivious and awkward Q was… Well. There was really no telling, was there?

He watched Quentin while trying to seem not to watch Quentin as they ate breakfast in relative silence. Eliot tried to gauge every breath, every movement, so he could respond with appropriate casual languor, never letting on that he desperately wanted to kiss Quentin. They weren’t like that. They’d probably never be like that. Maybe Quentin wasn’t as straight as he thought he was—he’d tasted Eliot’s cum, what was that about?—but he was also in a situation without other outlets, and this probably meant about as much as being Quentin’s prison wife.

Which, if Eliot remembered his HBO Oz correctly, could be a fulfilling relationship, however temporary, and which Eliot in no way objected to. He just had to play his cards right. This friends with benefits situation was really the best case scenario for a decade of puzzle-solving, and Eliot ached with how badly he wanted to protect that.

Just… he couldn’t let Quentin realize Eliot had feelings like a normal person. That Eliot was a sadsack lush with a crush on his best guy friend.

This would be so much easier if he could just talk to Margo. She’d long helped him moderate his emotions, process things in a less needy way, control his impulses and maintain the all-important veneer of cool that dictated Eliot’s daily choices. Without her, he was working much harder for much lesser returns. Sometimes his feelings slipped out. He couldn’t afford to alienate Q with them, now especially.

He started drinking earlier than usual, just a few sips of scotch to get him in the right mindset, and then he settled in at the Mosaic, ready to get to work. Except, mostly, “ready to get to work” meant he sat there and stared into the morning light as it lifted the shadows from the forest. When Quentin joined him after doing the dishes—it was only fair; Eliot had cooked—Eliot purposefully relaxed himself and refused to let the nervous, giddy tingle in his gut at Q’s closeness influence him.

Eliot tried to look busy, Quentin settled in, and the feeling of impending conversation redoubled.

“Um, so.”

Classic Quentin opening gambit.

“Yeaaah.” Eliot noticed Quentin wasn’t quite looking at him. Not a good sign, really. Was he blushing? Was that exertion? Studying Quentin, Eliot ventured, “Um…let’s just save our overthinking for the puzzle, yeah?”

Quentin looked at him, paused for just a second, and agreed. “Yeah.”

And that was it. To Eliot’s immense relief, Quentin let it drop.

 

~*~

 

Do not overthink. We’re not going to overthink. Overthinking is bad.

And yet, Quentin couldn’t ignore how drunk Eliot was so early in the day, not typical even for him unless he was in crisis, and how he wasn’t quite looking at him.

Had Quentin taken advantage?

He’d thought this time at least they’d both been sober enough to know what they were doing, a plus. And no one would get hurt by them messing around, another plus. And really, no one to be scandalized by it.

Other than them, and it seemed like Eliot was unnerved and Quentin felt terrible about it. Normally when shit went this bad, he’d ask Eliot how to deal with it, but that was clearly off the table, so Quentin concentrated on placing the tiles and trying not to think.

But it had been so good.

Quentin stared at the back of his hand atop a green tile. Green, was that right?

He looked back and Eliot was looking at him.

Not knowing what else to say, Quentin asked, “Flask?”

“Flask,” Eliot acknowledged, reaching for it, uncapping it, and taking a swig before passing it to Quentin. Either Quentin was imagining it or Eliot was eye-fucking him a little. Which was, on reflection, nothing new at all, but also a little bit of a relief after how impersonal he’d been so far today.

Quentin took a couple of hard swallows, trying not to taste it. He wasn’t really much of a straight liquor kind of guy, especially not right after breakfast, but if he was expected not to think, well, he was going to need it.

He smiled at Eliot and took another swig before handing back.

“So I was thinking…” At Eliot’s expression locking down, Quentin put his hand up in the air. “About the Mosaic… what if we did a key in the middle? I mean… maybe the key thinks it’s its own beauty of all life?”

Eliot laughed, and that was a relief too. He sounded so normal. “So you think this key is just super vain, huh? I can get on board with that. Let’s try it.”

Scrambling up onto his knees, Eliot reached for the notebook and chalk. It gave Quentin a really excellent view of the tight curve of El’s ass, and that brought with it a whole host of impulses Quentin had to ignore and try not to overthink. Then Eliot sank gracefully back into place and started marking out the key pattern on the chart.

Quentin watched him marking it with little scribbles of color. He reached over and drew his finger in a radiating diagonal line coming from the curve of the key. “We could do, you know, like yellow here like the key is radiating its beauty or something?”

The alcohol didn’t seem to stop Quentin’s brain from working overtime on things, but it did have the effect of making his shoulders relax, which was nice at least. Fogg had hoped Quentin wouldn’t need medication once he could do magic, but given how much magicians frequently drank, he wondered if magic was nearly the cure-all that Fogg seemed to think.

“Mm yeah. Radiating beauty.” Eliot took Quentin’s suggestion and marked out the yellow boxes with a little smile. “I hope this key is exactly as vain as we’re hoping and takes this earnest portraiture as the total suck-up maneuver that it is.”

He glanced at Quentin as he said suck-up maneuver, and it brought back a whole host of remembered sensations. Then El reached out and brushed back a strand of Quentin’s hair, tucking it behind his ear with the casual intimacy Quentin had been terrified they’d lost.

Quentin smiled and felt his cheeks flush at the gentle tease. He leaned slightly into the touch, then drew back, not sure what it meant or if he was—Damn it, he was overthinking again. He couldn’t help it. “It’s worth a shot. But you did tell me to overthink, and that’s the most I’ve overthought how to please a magical key. I think. I guess I could think more about it.”

He squeezed a little closer to Eliot, watching as he continued to plot their new grid. Eliot bumped their shoulders together companionably and carried on marking the squares, smiling a little and glancing up at Quentin now and then.

The day went by faster after that, almost normal. They laid out the squares together, shoulders and hips brushing as they placed tiles and moved across the Mosaic. At lunchtime, Eliot went inside to make food and brought it out to Quentin so they could eat as they worked. It was their usual routine now, just working together, living together. Simple. Good.

As the afternoon wore on, though, Eliot started flirting. Kind of. A little bit. Like he’d always done, but it meant more now. Or did it? It confused Quentin. He didn’t know how to take it.

He couldn’t ask about it; that would be overthinking. And Eliot didn’t seem bothered anymore. The weirdness between them from breakfast had dissipated. Or had it?

As they placed the final tiles together, Quentin held his breath, waiting. Hoping. But nothing happened.

Eliot sighed. “We’ll try again tomorrow.”

Then he reached out and tugged Quentin’s hand, drawing him toward the cottage. “Time for dinner, Q. We’ll do variations on the key for the rest of the week. It was a solid idea. It bears further iterations.”

“It still could be just math. You know, math is the basis for a lot of magic and really the universe, so it could be the basis of the beauty of all life.” Quentin squeezed Eliot’s hand back as he allowed himself to be pulled into the cottage. “But, you know, Fillory, so it could be just very, very literal too.”

He was babbling and he knew it, trying so hard not to overthink dinner or going to bed. It had been their anniversary, and so they went a little over the top. It was fine. Eliot was pretty casual about blowjobs, as Quentin well knew, and well, it was just a handjob. That was practically a handshake for Eliot.

They’d had fun. It was good. Now they could and should really focus on the Mosaic. That’s all Eliot was saying, and he was right.

Eliot gave him a knowing look and smiled as he started the magical preparations for dinner. Once the potatoes were frying and the vegetables were chopped, Eliot turned his attention fully on Quentin and arched a brow. “On a scale from one to ten, how much did you want a repeat of last night? Is it like a ‘one, never do it again’ or like a ‘ten, please suck my cock, Eliot’? Because we may be stuck here for a very long time, and if last night proved anything, it proved that you need to get off like ninety percent more often, Q.”

After a beat, Eliot added, “Please don’t take that the wrong way. You’re excellent company. But you’re really excellent when you sleep through the night without anxiety dreams.”

That was not what Quentin thought Eliot was going to say and he just took a moment to stare at Eliot, then shifted uncomfortably because his pants had suddenly gotten really tight.

“Um…” Was there a right or wrong answer? If he was too eager, well… that would be uncomfortable. Indifference meant, well, that wasn’t an option, considering he was just standing there with his mouth open, searching a spot over Eliot’s head as if there would be an answer there. “I mean, if my anxiety dreams are bothering, you… maybe we should?”

Eliot narrowed his gaze and cocked his head, seeming to evaluate Quentin, and then nodded. “Last night was the best sleep I’ve gotten since we arrived here. You?”

“Yeah.” Quentin had started nodding before he could get his mouth to work and he was pretty sure it was plain on his face that he was way overthinking any of this, but he couldn’t think of a time where he’d been propositioned at all, let alone by someone like Eliot.

And Eliot probably just didn’t want Quentin to turn into a clinger like he’d kind of been at Alice, which was understandable. Quentin put his hand on one of the chairs they’d cobbled together, trying to affect casualness. “Yeah, I mean, it was good. Good sleep. Good um… yeah, and good that we can sleep well. Right?”

“Right.” Eliot smiled like he knew exactly how awkward Quentin was being and was choosing to overlook it. Then he turned to resume cooking, elegant hands moving through the tuts as he magically enhanced their food. “Good sleep is crucial for mental acuity, which is going to prove critical to our task. Also, good sleep is important for better physical and psychological outcomes. I feel like this is an obvious choice, but it’s not one I could make for you.”

After a second, quieter, sounding fond, Eliot added, “Also, you’re adorable in bed.”

He peeked back over his shoulder like he just knew Quentin was blushing.

“Adorable? Not… sexy?” Quentin tried not to duck his head, though he knew his cheeks had to be bright red. He decided to go ahead and sit down because the speed in which blood was flowing through his body was making him a little dizzy. “But yeah, definitely better for mental acuity. Very practical concern.”

He looked down at the table, trying to restrain the grin on his face.

Eliot just hummed and turned the potatoes. Then he said, “Who says adorable isn’t sexy? Maybe some of us are tired of aggressive masculinity. Maybe some of us really enjoy cute and sweet and awkward.” Before Quentin could process or respond, Eliot added, “Maybe some of us are interested in sucking awkward’s cock again. After dinner. Because some of us are civilized and know how to wait for a good thing.”

Quentin whimpered softly and looked away, because he didn’t want to be so aggressively weird about it, but Eliot had just brought up doing that again as if it was no big deal and it probably wasn’t to him. Quentin just had to get a hold of himself. Or a hold of Eliot, which had been rather nice.

“Yeah, that sounds like a plan. I should… you know… I’d hate for you to have anxiety dreams. So, you know, strictly for the sake of… mental health.”

Eliot went very still for a few moments and then answered lightly, “If awkward wants to extend reciprocity, smooth will cordially accept. Let’s see how awkward feels after dinner. Smooth really doesn’t expect anything.”

“Awkward wouldn’t be able to sleep. And, you know, it was… enjoyable.”

It was one of the most exciting moments. Quentin chewed his thumbnail, trying to seem casual. “I mean, I know I’m kind of remedial in that area, but I like to think I’m a quick learner.”

Eliot started plating their food, and he’d managed to make some kind of meat, fried potato wedges, and a meadow-y looking salad seem delicious. He really was a good cook, and if he hadn’t been here, Quentin didn’t want to think about what he’d have been eating. Eliot had just taken over feeding them like it was no big deal, but as he placed the plate in front of Quentin, he squeezed his shoulder and leaned down to kiss the top of his head briefly, reminding him of… what? Maybe how a Mad Men housewife would take care of a big shot husband. Or, maybe a little less flattering, how a good dad would take care of his moody kid.

Then Eliot sat opposite him and smiled, the expression so wicked it was at complete odds with the tenderness of moments before. “If you want to learn, you’ve found the right teacher. We’ve got all the time in the world, and I am so bored. And you, Quentin ‘Awkward’ Coldwater, really like school, don’t you?”

“Depends on the teacher.” Quentin looked down at his food and then remembered, yes, eating was a thing and he should do it. The food smelled really good. “I mean, I don’t know what you heard.”

He thought about how he’d had to meet with Alice’s mom’s lover to satisfy Alice. That had altogether been rather humiliating. Eliot wasn’t like that, though. Or at least he wasn’t a complete stranger who was fucking his girlfriend’s mom, so there was that.

“Ooh I stepped on some trauma.” Eliot winced, reached out, and caressed the back of Quentin’s hand, just a brief, reassuring touch. “I just meant that you are absolutely that hardworking little nerdy boy who will read every book over the summer and study until you pass out. Which… honestly, I can think of a few things to do with you until you pass out.”

He smiled then, just a little, compassionate, and added, “All I was saying, Q, is that I would love to spend our days solving an impossible puzzle and our nights experimenting until you learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your body. And mine, when you’re in the mood.”

“Just don’t want you to think I’m trampy.” Quentin turned his hand over to take Eliot’s, giving it a squeeze before he started in on his dinner. “But mostly I think you just like seeing me blush. Which is all right. I think… I think that sounds really good. I know you don’t like bad head.”

“Okay, first… I like trampy people. Like, I excessively like them. I think of myself as a relatively trampy person.” Eliot raised a brow as if chiding Quentin for his implicit slut-shaming. Which, he’d been away from Margo for a year, but Quentin could still imagine how hard she’d kick his ass.

“Second,” Eliot continued, saving Quentin from beating himself up. “I do love seeing you blush. I really, truly, madly do. It’s the cutest, and possibly most entertaining, thing in this hellhole. Lastly, no one likes bad head. What I do like—” Eliot took a moment, studying Quentin and picking at his own food without even glancing at it. “What I do like is when someone cares how I feel. And Q, you are physically and emotionally incapable of not caring.”

“Are you still trampy if you wait a year?” Quentin smirked playfully at Eliot. He felt bad; he hadn’t exactly meant it that way… More that if El was Penny this wouldn’t happen, but then, Quentin and Penny probably would’ve blown the cottage and each other up by now. They hadn’t been the best roommates. “You’re really important to me, El. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. I don’t just mean here.”

It looked like Eliot was getting uncomfortable, so Quentin put his attention into his food. “This is really good. Thanks for dinner.”

Eliot murmured, “Mhm,” and then flicked something at Quentin’s face. A chunk of potato wedge hit him in the middle of the forehead and then fell down onto his plate. Eliot laughed and slapped the table in apparent glee. “Oh, Q. You’re so earnest. I can’t stand it. Sometimes I’ve gotta give you a little shit. Just a little. Don’t hate me.”

“Really?” Quentin picked up the wedge from his plate and ate it, play sulking at Eliot. He frowned at his food, took another bite, and then turned his head to the side, putting on the sadness briefly, until he flicked a potato wedge back at Eliot. “Oops.”

“Ah!” Eliot shrieked campily and picked up the potato chunk that had hit him in the nose. He sniffed it, shrugged, and popped it into his mouth. Grinning, he whispered, “You’re toast, Coldwater.”

Then he performed a quick series of tuts, and a barrage of fried potato flew at Quentin’s chest.

Quentin responded quickly and curtly, stopping the potatoes, then shredding them. “We are definitely going to need new clothes after this.”

Controlling the newly mashed potatoes, he swirled his finger, and the mashed potatoes spun like a potato twister. Then he held his hands out, throwing the whole mess at Eliot. Eliot threw up a reflective shield, but given he was shrieking and flailing a little as he did it, the mashed potatoes only kind of bounced off. Some landed all over him, in his hair, on his face—and the rest rebounded onto Quentin, who wasn’t at all prepared for it.

They stared at each other in momentarily stunned silence, and then Eliot belly laughed until he fell out of his chair. Quentin pounced.

“I’m still hungry. Can’t waste this food!” Quentin laughed as he leaned in to kiss the potatoes from El’s forehead, kissing down his nose to gaze into Eliot’s eyes. He meant it as a slightly serious moment, but then Eliot opened his mouth to say something and potatoes glopped from Quentin’s face into El’s open mouth.

Quentin threw his head back in laughter, and Eliot nommed on the potatoes, making loud noises of appreciation. “Mm. Mmm yum. Nom.”

Then Eliot rolled them over, pinning Quentin under him with his longer body, and started nibbling potatoes off Quentin’s eyebrows. He laughed between nibbles, the sound giddy and delighted, warming Quentin’s heart. Then, a little belatedly, he realized the pressure against his leg wasn’t Eliot’s knee.

Quentin slid his leg back against that pressure as he closed his eyes, letting Eliot kiss and lick away the potatoes and grind on his thigh. “Are we sploshing?”

“Q… How do you even know what that is?” Eliot’s voice was ripe with amusement, but he didn’t deny it. He kissed the corner of Quentin’s mouth and then slipped between his legs, bringing their groins into contact. Eliot’s hard cock pressed against Quentin’s crotch as Eliot nuzzled him. “Then again, you’ve always surprised me with your…unexpected depths.”

After being called unexpectedly deep, Quentin wasn’t sure how to admit that he knew about it because of a fanfic mishap. He hadn’t been against it, but it hadn’t really been that interesting. At least, not reading it. With Eliot on top of him grinding against him, well, he could see the merits of being covered in potatoes.

Kind of.

“Listen, I’m a modern man of many interests, Eliot.”

“A modern man,” Eliot teased, grinning as he reached down to caress Quentin’s cock through his jeans, making him squirm. Then Eliot sat back and worked a quick charm to clean them both, raising a brow. “Let’s explore some other interests then, if you have so many.”

Then Eliot reached for his plate and forked up a bite of the meat. “Sit up and let Daddy feed you like a good boy. I said after dinner.”

“So now we’re feeding?” Quentin sat up and took a bite, kind of dizzy from Eliot fondling him and now being asked to eat. He didn’t know how to feel about any of it, but it didn’t really seem to matter if he was awkward. Eliot didn’t seem to find any of this strange, so Quentin rolled with it. “What happens if I don’t? Spanking?”

“Mm, you said it, not Daddy.” Eliot smirked and readied another bite for Quentin, who opened his mouth to be fed because why the hell not. Eliot seemed to take real pleasure from fussing over Quentin, and Quentin liked to make Eliot happy when he could. Then Eliot took a bite himself, alternating between them and rewarding Quentin with little kisses and murmured praise.

“You want me to call you Daddy?” Quentin took the bite and leaned in against Eliot, not sure why they were still eating on the floor, but he didn’t really mind. For lack of other adventures and this being a quest already… he thought again about how bored Eliot said he was, and Quentin felt bad. Not that this whole thing was necessarily his idea… and really, he’d been ready to bail immediately. “Feed me, Daddy?”

“Oh god, Q, don’t say that. I’m going to cream my trousers, and then you won’t respect me anymore.” Eliot said it in his highly animated, teasing way, but based on the flush across his cheeks, Quentin suspected it wasn’t wholly untrue. His eyes were wide as if Quentin had shocked him.

Was he teasing? Quentin hadn’t really considered that Eliot might have a daddy kink; he’d always thought it was more of a joke to him. Now Quentin wondered. He had to admit, the idea of really arousing Eliot to where he’d cream his pants was highly appealing. “You want me to be a good boy and finish my meal, Daddy?”

“Quentin.” Eliot actually whined a little and gave Quentin a chiding look, like this was all just too unfair.

“Aww, poor Daddy.” Quentin knew he was probably blushing, too. He felt a little bit silly, but this was a new power that he seemed to have, and it was very provocative. “I’m eating. I’m being a good boy.”

Quentin took another bite of food and hummed quietly as if he was really, really enjoying it.

With a long-suffering sigh, Eliot reached down to adjust his highly obvious erection and then spent a few moments tucking Quentin’s hair behind his ears, fussing over him and touching him gently. He didn’t quite meet Quentin’s gaze, but it was remarkably intimate, just sitting there on the floor together, a plate of half-finished food resting on Eliot’s knee.

“You are a good boy,” Eliot said finally, his voice startling in its sincerity. He smiled a little and then forked up some salad. “Now eat your vegetables.”

“You’re really worried about my nutrition, aren’t you?” Quentin took the bite, amused but also a little confused. Normally, he felt like he could read Eliot, more than he could most people, but at the moment, he felt like he was in way over his head. He finished chewing and whispered, “Daddy.”

Eliot cleared his throat forcefully and gave Quentin a look. “If I had tits, I would be flashing them at you right now, just to give you the same annoying spike of excitement you keep giving me. You do not deserve to wield this mighty weapon. You do not understand its magnitude.”

Then Eliot set aside the food, which he’d barely touched himself, and stood before offering Quentin his hands and helping him up. Then, gazing into Quentin’s eyes, Eliot leaned in slowly and cradled Quentin’s nape in one hand, obviously intending to kiss him.

“It’s a new power for me. Guess I’m a little heady with it.” Quentin slipped his arms around Eliot’s waist, leaning in to kiss him back. As their mouths moved together, Quentin slid his hands under Eliot’s shirt, stroking his chest, rubbing his thumbs over Eliot’s nipples, trying to indicate that his chest was sufficiently sexy for Quentin.

Eliot shivered under Quentin’s touch and whispered, “You seriously underestimate how sexy you can be, Q. You’re gonna kill me.”

Then Eliot backed Quentin toward the bed, smiling against his mouth, hands sliding up the back of Quentin’s shirt to rest on his skin. “It feels good though, doesn’t it? Knowing someone wants you. Knowing you make them crazy. Guess I can’t begrudge you that.”

Before Quentin could respond, Eliot pulled up his shirt hem, dragging it up his body and stripping it from him.

“It may surprise you to know that most people don’t really see me as a smooth sex symbol.” Quentin flushed again. His hair half came loose from his little ponytail in the suddenness of his shirt coming off. He blew his hair from his face as he started unbuttoning Eliot’s shirt. “I mean, unless I’m literally a fox. That seemed to work out okay, I guess.”

Eliot rolled his eyes as he shrugged out of his unbuttoned top. “Q, you don’t need to be smooth to be a sex symbol. You’re…” His expression went through a few contortions and then he said, “Maybe you just need to try with someone who’s…sex-positive and laidback, you know? Nothing against your girlfriend, but she’s a challenging individual.” Eliot spread his bare arms and tilted his head to the side, a lock of curly dark hair falling into his eyes. “I’m easy.”

She wasn’t really his girlfriend. He wasn’t sure what they were. Just another complicated relationship that he’d fucked up beyond repair. Or she’d… or… Quentin didn’t know. Her dad had died, and she wasn’t even sure she wanted magic back. They were always on different pages, it seemed like.

“You’re a lot of things, El, but easy isn’t one of them.” Quentin cupped Eliot’s face and kissed him tenderly. Maybe out of commiseration as much as desire. Eliot’s track record with relationships beyond Margo probably outpaced Quentin’s as far as heartbreak went.

Breaking the kiss, Quentin pressed their foreheads together. He curled his fingers under Eliot’s chin, just stroking absently, just because he liked having permission to touch him. “I really enjoyed last night. I’d like to… do that again. Okay, Daddy?”

Eliot nodded mutely, vigorously, and went in for another searing kiss, one that caught Quentin off-guard with its passion. Eliot was usually so contained, so cool, but this wasn’t that. This was Eliot letting loose. Never had Quentin imagined Eliot could muster that kind of desire towards him, and maybe it was just the Daddy kink, but it felt amazing.

Quentin went for Eliot’s pants, quickly unbuckling, then unbuttoning and unzipping, sliding his hands down the front of his boxers, giddy at touching his cock again, almost surprised with how much he really wanted to. But that kiss really did something to Quentin. It made him feel reckless and wild. Sexy and lusty, like he really did want to save his overthinking for the Mosaic. Now all he wanted to think about was Eliot and touching him, keeping him so frenzied.

Eliot groaned at Quentin’s touches and turned them around so Eliot could sit on the bed, as if his knees had given out. He gazed up at Quentin with wide, lost-looking eyes and then smiled and pulled Quentin in by his hair to kiss him again. As Eliot kicked off his trousers and stretched out on the bed in his boxer briefs, he drew Quentin down on top of him and kissed him wildly, fucking his mouth with his tongue and making low, desperate sounds.

Under Quentin’s hand, Eliot’s cock hardened completely, straining against the cotton and filling Quentin’s palm. As he touched it, Eliot rocked his hips upward into Quentin’s touch and bit at his mouth. Then Eliot’s hands were on Quentin’s waistband, unfastening his jeans, and it was all happening so fast, but it felt so natural, like this was just how it was supposed to go. It was familiar, after yesterday, and he trusted Eliot, and all Quentin wanted was to keep Eliot just this turned on, just this happy with him.

“Just wait till I get my mouth on you,” Eliot whispered, and it sounded almost like a warning, like he was going to do something mind-blowing. “You’ve been a good boy. You deserve a little treat.”

Quentin shuddered, so aroused now that it was growing painful.  He wiggled out of his jeans, letting his boxers go with them. He didn’t really care about modesty anymore. All he wanted were his hands on Eliot, to keep kissing him, to find out what this treat was. Then Eliot stripped out of his boxer briefs, and they were both naked, and Quentin just stared as he stroked him.

God, he loved touching Eliot’s cock, the sounds that Eliot made when he did it. It was as if El was surprised that Quentin was touching him, let alone that Quentin moaned into his mouth about it.

If he weren’t so turned on, Quentin might feel embarrassed by Eliot’s surprise, but his brain had been short-circuited and all he thought about was the way Eliot looked at him, the way he’d felt coming in Quentin’s hand and how badly he wanted to do that again.

Then Eliot was kissing him again, messy and all-consuming, rough and hungry like nothing Quentin had ever felt before. Eliot was so tall, and there was so much of him, and his short beard rasped against Quentin’s skin, pushing the thought of anyone else far from his mind. It was just El and Quentin, just them, just this, just their electric kisses and the hot, hard throb of Eliot’s cock against Quentin’s hand.

Eliot rolled Quentin under him then and started kissing his way down his body, slowly shifting to the side so Quentin lay on his back, his erection jutting up needily above his belly, and El knelt beside him where Quentin could keep his hand on Eliot’s cock. He had only a moment to marvel at how smoothly Eliot had positioned them so Quentin could keep doing exactly what he wanted and then Eliot’s lips brushed against Quentin’s cock head, and everything whited out in a rush of pleasure.

“Mm, my sweet, sensitive boy.” Eliot was practically purring as he dragged his lips along Quentin’s cock and gathered Quentin’s balls into one hand, rolling them gently and tugging at his sac just enough to feel good, just enough to be noticed through the intensity of everything else. Then Eliot grasped the base of Quentin’s cock with his other hand and swallowed him halfway down in an instant, sucking and stroking in tandem and making Quentin’s toes curl in startled bliss.

“Yes. Yes, Daddy.” Not that Eliot needed any more goading to go for it, but knowing that Eliot liked it, well… it made Quentin feel sexy to drive him to that. It took him a moment to coordinate himself to continue to stroke Eliot. His mouth felt so fucking good, it was almost impossible for Quentin to concentrate on anything but that heat around his cock.

And yet, stroking Eliot’s cock, hearing and feeling him moan, it was all just too good. When he could, Quentin opened his eyes, gazing down at Eliot, looking at his cock in Quentin’s hand, but the visual along with the physical stimulation was going to make him pop too soon.

He flattened one foot on the bed, the other leg forced down by Eliot’s long body.

“Jesus,” Quentin whispered for lack of anything else to come to mind, anything else to think.

Eliot grinned and looked sidelong at Quentin, eyes sparkling, and then pulled away, repositioning them again. Quentin almost protested the loss of sensation, but he knew better than to argue with Eliot’s mysterious ways.

Now Eliot stretched out on his side and rolled Quentin onto his so they each faced the other’s feet. Then Eliot pulled Quentin’s leg up and over his head, nestling into his crotch in apparent contentment and making soft, appreciative sounds as he snugged Quentin into place. Then he sucked Quentin’s balls into his mouth and lavished them with his tongue, making the most obscene suckling noises and little groans like he’d never been happier in his life.

Not far from Quentin’s face, Eliot’s cock twitched with excitement, precum beading at the tip. Eliot’s muscles had all gone taut, his long legs stretching, feet flexing, like he was just overcome with how good this was.

Was Quentin ready for this? He had asked kind of and explained he hadn’t done it before. He took Eliot’s cock in hand and started to stroke it, rolling his thumb over the tip, spreading the precum over the head. It was big, even bigger swinging in his face like this.

Quentin tilted his head and stretched out his tongue, trying just a lick to see how he felt about it, to see how Eliot would react.

Whatever he’d expected, it wasn’t Eliot curling reflexively into a ball around Quentin’s head and gasping so hard Quentin’s balls fell out of his mouth. Eliot sounded like he’d been gut-punched, and he gripped Quentin’s leg hard as if it was all that tethered him to this plane.

“Oh my god, Q…” Eliot shivered and then laughed. “I didn’t—Um. I thought you were just going to… with your hand. But if you want to explore a little orally, I’m not going to stop you.” His words came out shaky, like he wasn’t breathing quite right. After a moment, Eliot added with quiet pride, “I always forget how brave you are. Fucking Gryffindors.”

“Are you sure?” Quentin tried to restrain the panic from his voice. Now he worried he’d gone too far. “You can stop me if you want to. I won’t be offended. I know I’m not…”

“Oh Q.” Eliot laughed again, the sound warm and inviting. He lifted his head and looked at Quentin between their bodies. “You really… This is like something out of a really forbidden fantasy. Calling me Daddy, putting your mouth on my dick. You’re going to be the death of me.” Eliot paused and clarified with a wry smile, “In a good way. The best way. If you want to explore and experiment and play with my body, you can do whatever you want. I mean… It’s you, Q.”

He said it like that made perfect sense, like anyone else would give Quentin carte blanche to touch them and play with them anyway he wanted.

“Yeah?” Quentin tingled in a way that surprisingly had nothing to do with Eliot touching his dick. He wasn’t sure how to explain to Eliot that for the most part, him being Quentin was a drawback when it came to intimate touching.

But then, Eliot had always looked at him a little differently. They were close.

Somehow, Quentin just always thought Eliot was just joking. But maybe he wasn’t.

“Okay, Daddy.” Quentin flashed Eliot a quick smile, then steadied Eliot’s cock so he could run his tongue over the slit, tasting the new pulse of precum curiously.

“Oh my god, Q.” Eliot exhaled heavily and went boneless aside from his rock-hard cock, breathing shakily and then writhing just a little, like he was trying to hold still and just couldn’t quite do it. “Quentin,” he said, like it meant something to him, like it mattered it was Quentin doing this.

Eliot sucked in a breath and curled inward a little, hollowing his belly and gazing down at Quentin as if mesmerized. “Don’t be shy now, Q. You could literally turn me upside down and jackhammer me and I’d be happy as a drunken clam, so by all means, have your way with me.”

“I don’t know that I’m really the jackhammering type? But I’ll keep that in mind.” Quentin blushed.

Then he made a decision he might well regret, but he felt very encouraged, and, well, it was intoxicating.

Quentin squirmed free and rolled Eliot onto his back, then settled in between his legs. Holding Eliot’s cock by its base, Quentin mouthed the tip again, then licked it with the flat of his tongue, teasing around the head, then flicked the tip of his tongue along the underside of the cockhead.

He watched Eliot, intensely curious what he would do.

What Eliot did was squirm and writhe and lose his cool completely, like he’d been tasered. He made a low, resonant keening sound and reached for Quentin with both hands, touching his hair gently, his face, reverent and sweet. His big dark eyes stared at Quentin like he was seeing the face of god. As if he needed to be closer, Eliot wrapped his legs around Quentin’s body, hugging him with his calves.

It had to be the element of surprise because Quentin had no real idea what he was doing, just what he’d seen in porn or what had been done to him. This power was heady. He loved how Eliot looked at him, how he reacted, and it spurred Quentin on to acts of even more daring.

He carefully wrapped his teeth with his lips and tried to form a seal around Eliot’s cock. He had a couple of false starts, the suction being off and breaking, making Quentin feel more than a little foolish, but the way that Eliot gazed at him so adoringly kept Quentin at the task.

He could do this. He wanted to do it. He found he rather liked having his mouth full of Eliot’s cock, though pushing it much further got to his gag reflex and he choked. He pulled back, a little flustered as he tried to catch his breath.

“Oh, Q.” Eliot reached for him with both hands, pulling at him and rising partway to meet him. “Kiss me, you filthy slut. You gorgeous, gorgeous, sweet, gorgeous boy. Bring that sexy mouth here.”

“Not great, sorry.” Quentin felt bad, he’d somehow thought he wouldn’t choke. Or he hadn’t thought about it. He wasn’t sure. But now he was kissing Eliot and his self-consciousness melted away. He really loved touching Eliot, touching his face, his hair, down his back, then one hand down to wrap around Eliot’s cock again.

“Not great?” Eliot writhed under Quentin, pushing up into his grip. “Sorry?” He sounded disbelieving and then cradled Quentin’s cheeks in his big hands and gazed up at him with such a kind, understanding light in his brown eyes that it stopped Quentin’s breath. “Q, baby boy, you are better at this than I ever dared hope you’d be, and I am a very proud papa. I know I make sucking cock look easy, but I’m expert-level proficiency. Hours upon hours upon hours of practice.”

He paused, smiling a little, and leaned up to kiss Quentin’s nose. Then he nestled back against the bed, still gazing at him. “So I heard we have like nine years left here. That’s plenty of time to turn you into a champion cocksucker, if you so choose, and my dick is pretty much available nightly for practice rounds.”

Eliot’s eyes crinkled at the corners like he was genuinely happy, and then he continued, a little drier, “First and most importantly, at no time did your teeth make unwelcome contact with my cock. Secondly, your mouth was perfectly wet and hot and once you figured out positioning, you got excellent suction going. Third, you initiated that all on your own. Super fucking hot. Ten out of ten, would let you suck my cock again.”

“Nine years.” That wasn’t the kind of timeframe that Quentin could wrap his head around. Eliot seemed so casual about it. Like he was casual about hours of sucking cock, which was something else Quentin couldn’t really think about or he would get way into his head about his inadequacies.

He was trying not to panic. After all, he wasn’t here alone. He had Eliot. They’d always gotten along well for the most part. Quentin tried to concentrate on the positive things, and pressed himself against Eliot, tucking his face against Eliot’s neck, inhaling his mannish scent, distinctively different now that they drank so much peach and plum wine.

“Oh Quentin.” Eliot wrapped his arms around Quentin and held him close before literally manhandling him into his lap and sitting up. He dragged Quentin with him as he propped himself against the pillows by the headboard and then rocked him and hummed as he kissed his face. “You know, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than here with you right now. It’s all right if you don’t feel the same way. Just… whatever the voices in your head are telling you, they’re probably wrong. And you’re gonna be okay.”

Then, startling Quentin, Eliot spat on his hand and reached down between Quentin’s thighs to caress his cock with a deft touch. His lips brushed against Quentin’s ear, and Eliot murmured, “You should let me get you off, sweetheart. You’re too tense. Let’s just take some deep breaths and relax, all right? Deep breaths.”

As Eliot’s slick hand stroked over Quentin’s cock, Eliot breathed deeply, slowly, until Quentin joined in.

“It’s just a lot of time. Working on a Mosaic. Knowing it’s an impossible task, you know?” He felt bad that Eliot thought it might have to do with him. It was the task and the time. Being with Eliot was really the best part, but he figured if he said that everyone would get uncomfortable.

So he just sighed softly and started to kiss Eliot’s neck, rocking his hips to enjoy Eliot’s hand. Quentin kissed up the side of Eliot’s throat and then gazed into his eyes before kissing him deeply, so grateful that he was here and wanting him to know that Eliot was the only thing keeping him sane.

“It’s not impossible, Q. We’re gonna do it. I believe that.” Eliot kissed Quentin with more tenderness than before, as if he’d seen how fragile Quentin was. Eliot never seemed to judge him for that though. He didn’t expect Quentin to be some indestructible manly man or the leader or even competent. It always seemed like Eliot took Quentin as he found him and liked him where he was.

As Eliot stroked Quentin’s cock, he leaned over and spat on it again. His nimble hand swept up and smoothed the saliva back down Quentin’s shaft, working him steadily. He could feel Eliot’s own erection pressing against his hip where he was nestled into Eliot’s lap, still reassuringly firm if not as hard as it had been.

Quentin shifted so he could reach Eliot’s cock, keeping one arm around Eliot’s shoulder. Repeating what he’d seen, he spat on his hand and took Eliot’s cock. “Yeah. We have to. We’ll do it. It’s just a lot. But we’ve got each other. A good decade to tame my gag reflex… Daddy.”

Eliot groaned, a harsh, surprised sound, as his cock stiffened in Quentin’s hand. Then he laughed and nipped Quentin’s jaw. “You’re the worst, Q. And the best. Just… everything. You’re everything, Q. Just all of it.”

Like this, Quentin could hear Eliot’s breath as he stroked him. He repeated the lubrication spell he’d heard Eliot cast, which was better than the spit. It made him feel quite accomplished briefly, but then he was again swallowed up with lust, watching Eliot’s cock in his hand. Would he ever get over how sexy that was? He couldn’t imagine it.

Eliot released Quentin’s cock just long enough to reach back and steal some of the lube before he spread it over Quentin’s head and shaft and worked him faster. Then Eliot’s lips were against Quentin’s temple, and he shivered as if Quentin had done something very right.

“You like that, sweetheart? Daddy’s big cock in your hand? You’re so good at that, aren’t you?” Eliot’s breathy voice betrayed how aroused he was, and the timbre of it sent a thrill through Quentin, if the words weren’t enough already. But Eliot didn’t stop. “You’re gonna suck it tomorrow, huh? We’ll work on it again. Every night, Quentin. You’re going to get so good at it, and I’m just going to go weak in the knees when you wink at me.

“We’ll be working on the puzzle, and you’ll catch my eye, and we’ll both be all business, just focused on the Mosaic, and then you’ll wink, and I’ll be so hard for you, but I’ll have to wait until dark, won’t I? I’ll be rushing through cooking dinner, burning my fingertips on the stove, cursing and distracted… You’ll come in, feeling yourself, swaggering a little, because you know I’m a fucking mess over you. You could do that, Q, if you tried.”

Eliot’s hand flew over Quentin’s cock, twisting and rolling up over his glans just so, stimulating all the best spots, and Eliot just kept talking, his voice low and throaty and wicked. “Think I could do that to you? Have you turned on and frustrated for hours? You gonna be aching, waiting for my mouth on you? Waiting for me to go down on my knees at the dining table because I can’t wait to suck you off.”

“Fuck!” Quentin’s body tightened, balls drawing up just thinking about it. With that vision of their future, Quentin couldn’t really question being here. It seemed impossible that Eliot would be that turned on by him, and yet here they were.

He kept up with Eliot, stroke for stroke, moving as he did, but Quentin was already cresting over, coming between them, just thinking about Eliot between his legs, Quentin’s cock in his mouth, about driving Eliot crazy.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Quentin kept pulling Eliot even as Eliot milked Quentin of his last. “Come on, Daddy. Come for me, Daddy. Show me you like it. Show me I’m doing it right. Come for me, and I’ll lick it off you.”

“Oh, Q.” Eliot moaned and half-sobbed, like Quentin had taken it just too far. His long legs shifted under Quentin’s body as he pushed his feet into the bed for leverage and arched up into Quentin’s grip, gasping for breath as he came.

Quentin watched, hypnotized, as pearly fluid spilled from the slit of El’s cock, shooting up into the air and striping Eliot’s lightly haired chest, his flat belly, dripping down over Quentin’s hand… It pulsed out of him like it wasn’t going to stop, and Quentin just kept stroking him, mesmerized, as Eliot leaned in and kissed him roughly. Their lips and tongues clashed, breathing ragged, and Eliot muttered against his mouth, “So fucking hot, Quentin Coldwater. How do you not know you’re so fucking hot?”

He was rather surprised by that himself as he kissed Eliot back, biting his lower lip and nuzzling his face, enjoying the scrape of his scruff. No one had ever made him feel so sexy before. Not like this. Not beyond the moment it took to seduce someone.

The closest he’d come was pretending to be Mayakovsky, which was an ugly, crazy time and had nothing to do with him.

Blocking that out, Quentin kissed down Eliot’s chest, lapping loudly at the cum, smacking his lips. If someone had told him he’d be doing this at any point in the past, he wouldn’t have believed it. But here he was with Eliot and loving the noises he coaxed out.

Eliot sighed dramatically and stretched, making his muscles flex under his skin as Quentin licked him. He was unmistakably masculine for all his fabulousness, and now probably wasn’t the time to think about how much Quentin didn’t fucking mind. Eliot’s heavy gaze on Quentin just kept the hum of satisfied arousal going, kept him on task as Eliot brought his own sticky fingers to his mouth and put on a show as he licked Quentin’s cum from them.

That was so hot. Eliot was so hot. Quentin put on more of a show too, working downward to Eliot’s cock, which he cleaned lavishly, rolling and flicking his tongue. “You bring this out in me.”

He wasn’t entirely sure why, maybe because Eliot seemed honestly aroused by Quentin. Though Quentin always wanted to please his lovers; he just didn’t always know how, and he was really bad at guessing, usually. “Guess because you’re so easy. Makes me feel kind of… easy too.”

Eliot chuckled and arched his hips, wiggling a little to make his spent cock flop around comedically. “You’re so much more fun than you give yourself credit for. You’ve gotta see that, yeah? Give you the slightest encouragement, and you’re an absolute wild man. I, for one, am here for it.”

Quentin smiled as he got cozy, coming back up to kiss Eliot again. “Maybe I have more daddy issues than I thought.”

It was easier to say that than to analyze or discuss his other sexual partners. It felt like a betrayal of Alice to discuss her or their sex life. He’d met her parents; he knew she was… Well, she didn’t want to be like them. And in a way, Eliot was more like her parents, so maybe even if their untimely threesome hadn’t happened, things would’ve grown tense with Eliot and Alice.

But that was all very personal, and his lack of confidence wasn’t really her fault. Among other things, it was a result of his depression.

He settled in next to Eliot, wrapping a possessive arm around him. Eliot snuggled up to him and laughed, seeming a little drunk on the sex since Quentin knew for a fact El hadn’t had much to drink this evening.

“You’re cute, Quentin.” Eliot kissed him softly and then looked him in the eye. “Just remember… We don’t overthink this. We have our fun at night, and we work hard during the day. It’s a necessary balance. We can do this.”

“Unless I wink at you after I’m good at blowjobs, and then the whole day is thrown off.” Quentin smiled and tried to stop thinking. That was easier said than done.

Chapter Text

For two weeks, it was paradise. Eliot and Quentin worked all day, ate dinner together in the evening, stealing mischievous glances, and then fooled around until they fell asleep. Quentin never exactly got good at blowjobs, but he tried, and Eliot gave him full credit for that. It was hot he even tried.

Then they woke up and did it all again, all business during the day and all snuggly making out at night. It was honestly all Eliot could ask for, unless you counted butt stuff, but he figured they’d work up to that. They had nine years. Time was on his side.

Then, something changed. Maybe?

Or maybe they changed.

Eliot couldn’t tell if it was an external thing or an internal thing or some frustrating combination of the two.

Quentin’s mood turned. Eliot had experienced this before. Quentin was a moody boy. This time Quentin blamed his mood on the impossibility of the puzzle, on the fact they were separated from all their friends, lives suspended until they finished.

It seemed to Eliot nothing some devoted pampering and cocksucking and engraved invitations to top couldn’t fix. By his logic, mighty men had fallen at his attentions, and Quentin was a known dork who should be easily cheered by the prospect of getting off just fucking spectacularly with Eliot Waugh. It could be a good life here, for as long as it had to last. At least, Eliot thought so.

If the daddy issues were bringing Q down, Eliot could play a different game. He could play whatever game Quentin wanted, whatever would make Q feel good about himself and be playful and cute again instead of a ruthlessly negative, hopeless grump who had to be forcefully rousted out of bed every day.

That’s when everything fell entirely apart.

Quentin didn’t want to fuck Eliot. It didn’t bother Eliot at first that Quentin wasn’t ready for it—it was understandably a line Q might not feel comfortable crossing as an ostensibly straight boy—but the way Quentin rejected the idea started to sting. Eliot had his pride.

Then it got worse, unbelievably. Suddenly Quentin couldn’t get off at all. Eliot knew logically it wasn’t his fault; his skills were impeccable, and he was really applying himself, giving it one hundred percent like any dedicated prison wife. But Quentin couldn’t come.

Then Quentin couldn’t keep it up. That was hard not to take personally. Like Eliot had gone from being a fun diversion from the boredom to a less boring diversion from the boredom to worse than boredom.

It was all spiraling painfully, circling the drain, and Eliot didn’t know what the fuck to do about it. Sex and alcohol were ninety-five percent of his coping skills, and the last five percent was mockery. None of those were working.

This was their life. This was what they had. They had to make the best of it, and Eliot had been doing that. Eliot was the fucking king of blooming where he was planted. Indiana had taught him to cultivate a rich inner world and fucking live in it when necessary. Unfortunately, he couldn’t really bring Quentin into that world, and that left Quentin sleeping until noon because he didn’t care enough to get out of bed while Eliot set up the Mosaic for the day on his own.

Because Quentin didn’t care anymore. He didn’t see the point. He was on the verge of quitting. Quitting the puzzle, quitting life… Eliot didn’t know, and he didn’t want to know. They had to keep going.

“Q?” he called, frustrated. He thought he’d heard Quentin wake up and start moving around. “Q? I’ve drawn up today’s pattern.”

When Quentin finally bumbled out of the cottage in sour silence, rumpled from oversleep, still fastening the new clothes Eliot had made them, Eliot steeled himself.

“We could be done tomorrow for all you know,” he said, hearing the heat in his voice and unwilling to temper it. “We can’t just throw away all this time we’ve invested.”

Hurt pulsed through him at the unspeaking way Quentin beelined for the chair and fucking sat down instead of moving to help.

“You want to live your life, live it here,” Eliot snapped as he stalked across to the table with his handful of patterned pages and threw them down.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Quentin asked, and Eliot couldn’t tell if he was being stupid or snarky, but either way his answer was the same.

Without deigning to look at Q, he said, “You know exactly what that means.”

He sensed movement from behind him, and then heard the scraping of tiles against tiles, the clatter as a stack toppled. He’d spent all morning arranging those goddamn things.

Turning to face Q, already on edge, Eliot opened his mouth to respond.

Quentin stared him down and then shrugged unconvincingly. “Oops.”

“Fucking ‘oops’?” Eliot felt tears threaten, but he ruthlessly suppressed them and grew sharper, harder instead. “Grow the fuck up, Quentin. This matters. Pull your head out of your ass and see that, if you can’t see anything else.”

“Yeah, yeah, it matters. It matters so much that we have to sacrifice our whole lives for it.” Quentin glared down at the tiles, then picked one up, a strange, angry light behind his eyes that Eliot hadn’t really seen before. It was manic and filled with rage, and he flicked his wrist hard, throwing one of the ceramic tiles at the side of the shack.

What the fuck were they going to do if the tiles were destroyed?

Fortunately the tile just bounced off the wood and landed with a thunk on the ground. Enraged, Quentin picked up another, throwing it harder this time with the same result.

He screamed at the sky, fists clenched at his sides, and started to knock over all the piles, even casting a few spells that should’ve shattered every last tile. They stubbornly remained intact, though not in place.

Then all the fury vanished from Quentin’s expression. In its place was despair, followed by frustrated tears that Quentin jerkily tried to wipe away.

“Q.” Eliot stared, horrified, and then stepped forward with his arms extended, trying to draw Quentin into a hug. What is going on?

Quentin went right to him, which was a relief given how avoidant he’d been lately. He sobbed, his face against Eliot’s neck, tears streaming. “I can’t even break it right. I can’t… do anything.”

“Quentin,” Eliot crooned, stroking his back, his long hair. “You don’t have to do anything. Just… Just keep going, yeah? One foot in front of the fucking other. It’s all anyone’s ever really doing, just muddling through.”

“What if I can’t? What if I can’t muddle through? I need more. I can’t just… watch life and the world pass by, just keep doing this quest. What about the rest of life? What about family? Children? Christmas? We don’t even get seasons changing here.”

Tension flooded Eliot, a horrible gush of bad feelings and carefully avoided conversations bubbling up from deep in his gut. He took a deep breath and tried to wade through the muck toward some kind of productive answer. His hands petted Quentin idly as his brain churned.

“I—” Eliot’s mind blanked. “Q, I’m not the one to ask. I never… That’s not my life.”

It ached that Quentin needed more when just this was enough for Eliot.

Quentin pulled back and stared at Eliot, pain plain on his face, the intensity of his emotions terrifying. Then Quentin just looked a little lost, sniffed, and nodded. “I’m sorry… about the tiles. I’ll just…”

He turned and started to collect them again, slowly like a zombie. Eliot followed him, worried as much as he was scared, and tried to help, their shoulders brushing together, hands touching.

“It’s okay. I’m not angry anymore, all right? I was, but I… It doesn’t matter.” Eliot flailed internally with the sensation of edging out ever farther on thin ice. “Do you…need some time off? We could… I’ll play with your hair? We can make out?”

They never did that in the daytime; it was against the rules. But given how upset Quentin was, the hollow look of him, Eliot didn’t know what else to offer.

“I do want to make out, but I don’t think it’ll matter.” Quentin gave a smile that he plainly didn’t feel. “I just need to um… one foot in front of the other, right?”

Eliot’s chest clenched, and he frowned as he reached out to touch Quentin’s hand, glancing sidelong at him. “One foot in front of the other, making out when you feel like it.”

“It’s not dark yet.” There was something tortured about Quentin’s expression which was almost impossible to read. Did Quentin agree to after dark because of shame? But then, they hadn’t been doing much of anything lately. And it had been Eliot’s rule.

Meant to motivate, but now he wondered what that had translated to in Quentin-speak.

“Daddy makes the rules. Daddy can break them.” Eliot gave Quentin an insouciant look, hoping to cheer him at least a little, and brought Quentin’s hand to his lips to kiss it. He couldn’t tell whether he was putting himself too far out there or not far out there enough.

Children? Christmas? What more exactly did Quentin need that he thought Eliot could possibly give him? Eliot was pretty limited, honestly. He had an endless supply of scotch, of fruity wine, and of delicious and nutritious somewhat constrained locavore menus, but not a lot else, if blowjobs were off the table and Q didn’t want to fuck.

Quentin gave Eliot a sad smile, then walked over to him and kissed him very gently, almost chastely, but with great affection. Then he looked at Eliot, almost expectant, but what he wanted, Eliot couldn’t understand.

Frustration and hurt seethed beneath Eliot’s carefully placid surface as he studied Q. He brought his hands to rest at either side of Quentin’s neck and rubbed his shoulders as he gazed down into his eyes.

“Hey, Q. What’s this look? What am I missing?” He was proud his voice sounded soothing, calm, when everything inside him was a raw nerve.

Quentin’s brow furrowed, and he reached out to touch the side of Eliot’s face. He sang softly, “Kiss me, please kiss me, but kiss me out of desire, babe, not consolation…

Quentin wore a sad, strange smile as he sang Jeff Buckley, and then he shrugged and turned. “We’re already so behind today. I should get to it.”

Several things happened at once inside Eliot. One, he felt a weird surge of pride and arousal that Quentin liked Jeff Buckley, which made Q significantly cooler than Eliot had previously believed him to be. Two, his stomach flipped over because somehow Quentin didn’t think Eliot wanted him, and that was so impossible it, three, hurt his brain.

“Do you think I’ve been pityfucking you?” Eliot blurted incredulously, almost choking on the words.

Quentin looked over his shoulder, and the haunted expression made Eliot regret saying anything.

For a second, Quentin looked angry, then it seemed like all the feeling drained from him, as if he didn’t have the energy for even that. “Fucked if I know, El. I’m shit at guessing what you or anyone wants from me. Just let me fail at another day of this, okay?”

Eliot wanted to say about a thousand things at once, all different variations of, “Are you fucking blind?” But none of them would help. Quentin wanted a family. He wanted children. He wanted a life here beyond what Eliot could give him.

Long since having accepted that he was on his own with his family of choice, Eliot didn’t ask for much traditional comfort from this world or any world. He’d taken his arranged marriage with what dignity and grace he could, and he’d been a lousy husband to Fen because he was clearly not cut out for that life. The disastrous relationship he’d begun with Mike while Quentin was away at Brakebills South just proved the point that Eliot wasn’t meant for romance. He pined for the straight boy, or he fell head over heels for the Beast’s puppet, or he consistently disappointed a good-hearted weaponsmith’s daughter who just wanted him to validate her continued wifely existence.

Now… what? What? What did Quentin want from him? If Eliot couldn’t give Quentin what Quentin wanted, if Quentin couldn’t give Eliot what he wanted, and if just keeping things casual and being there for each other wasn’t e-fucking-nough for Quentin Emo Coldwater, then Eliot didn’t know what to fucking do.

“Yeah, okay,” is what he finally said instead, unwilling to put his heart and ass on the line again so Quentin could emote at him about why it wasn’t good enough because it didn’t come with the nuclear-family-sitting-by-the-Yule-log upgrade option.

Eliot left Quentin to his depressing work of righting everything he’d fucked up of Eliot’s morning tasks. Without another word, he went indoors, uncapped his flask, and drank deeply of his never-ending scotch in hopes of eradicating Quentin’s haunted eyes from his memory. It was killing him to know Q was so miserable and that Eliot couldn’t do a damn thing about it. It hurt physically, a bruising sensation beneath his ribs, his helplessness eating at him.

What could he even do? Here in Fillory, Eliot was without recourse to psychiatrists and Prozac and cognitive-behavioral therapists. He couldn’t even take Margo aside and ask her if she thought boner pills would help Quentin get past this whole impotence thing so they could try taking their games down a more Quentin-centric path.

And they still had magic, so it wasn’t like Eliot couldn’t… What? What was Eliot going to do? Glamour himself a pair of tits so Quentin could live his hetero fantasy? As if that would ever work or be enough. As if Eliot would ever disrespect the persona he’d so carefully crafted by pretending to be someone he wasn’t.

Either Eliot was good enough for Quentin as he was, flat chest, giant fucking dick, and all, or Eliot was never going to go there with Quentin. Which… He’d kind of always assumed he’d never go there with Quentin, but then Quentin started calling him Daddy and eating his spunk, and El’s head got all fucked up and confused, and now he wanted that all the time, and Quentin wasn’t going to ever give him that again.

“Fuck.” Eliot breathed deeply until his emotions evened out, until he could maintain an illusion of indifference, and then he drank some more scotch just to be safe.

A wild thought appeared, rustling through the whiskey-flavored bushes of Eliot’s brainscape. He had a trump card here in Fillory, didn’t he? And sure, maybe this trump card hadn’t been super helpful last time, but Eliot knew for a fact the Great Cock of the Darkling Woods knew how much Eliot loved Quentin and would at least be sympathetic.

Eliot sat at the dining table and worked out the circumstances on a sheet of paper, hands shakier than he wanted them to be. Tension thrummed through him, impossible to dispel, the unmistakable remnants of the feelings he refused steadfastly to feel. It took him longer than it should have, but Eliot finally had a workable dream summoning.

He considered just climbing into bed and doing it there, but…

Looking out the window, he saw Quentin diligently plugging away at his work, trying so hard to make right what he’d fucked up. Eliot couldn’t just leave him out there alone, not when he was so unhappy. Q didn’t do well when left alone.

So Eliot memorized the spell, tucked the paper in his pocket, and headed out to the chair in the sunshine by the Mosaic. He sank into it without talking to Quentin, drank deeply from his flask, and performed the tuts for the dream summoning. Then, gazing at Quentin, he breathed deeply until the magical sleep took him.

He found himself again in the Darkling Woods. The spread was glorious as it had been, all silver and crystal, a gorgeous halo of candlelit chandelier hanging over them with a string quartet playing. The Great Cock was gloriously adorned in turquoise and green, his head tilted and an expression of curious amusement on his face. “Sleep summonings are my sister Napster’s specialty. But for you, I am here, future High King Eliot.”

“Oh thank fuck you still know me. I wasn’t sure, with going back in time, but then…” Eliot shook his head and remembered his manners, bowing to the Great Cock to make sure he stayed on his good side. “Thank you for graciously answering my call. I had hoped with your great power you would exist beyond the ordinary Fillorian timeline. Um. Is that—Is that accurate? Are we still… Do you remember my quest?”

“In broad strokes. It doesn’t do for me to get too mixed in with the details. Or too committed to a timeline. But we can cut to the chase.” The Great Cock returned the bow and then took a seat on a comfortable-looking throne that appeared as he sat. “I cannot solve any quests for you, but I am certain you know that, so what do you require of me?”

“My um… The Fool? My floppy-haired brother of the heart? He’s not doing so hot.” Eliot frowned as he admitted it, not certain how to articulate the problem but certain the Great Cock would understand anyway. “You seemed to see him pretty clearly. To see us pretty clearly. So um. Could you… I don’t know. Share your cockly wisdom?”

“Ah, yes, I have observed your… problems.” The Great Cock gently waved his hand between his legs in an imitation of a flaccid cock, which was… strange. Not just that he knew that, but that he must’ve been watching them? “Certainly, you know spells for that. Or perhaps some prostate work. He is very sensitive in that area.”

“Um.” Eliot blinked. That was… good to know, for all the use it was to him right now. It kind of made it worse knowing, actually.

Visions of Quentin moaning in pleasure as Eliot thrust into him… No. Nope. Not helpful.

“Look, he’s depressed. He’s just…really depressed. I need him to be…not depressed, but nothing I do is enough. I don’t think I’m capable of being enough.” Humiliating to admit, but Eliot took it on the chin, announcing it with squared shoulders, standing tall despite the way it made him want to curl into a little ball and sulk.

The Great Cock tilted his head to the other side, examining him the way a bird might a bug. “Depressed.”

He started to pour tea for them both, now appearing lost in thought. That was, in retrospect, a very Earthly concern that a Fillorian questing beast might not entirely understand. “He wants something you are not capable of producing? This has resulted in his…”

That gesture again. Quentin would probably implode with humiliation if he knew.

“God, I don’t know. Maybe? He wants a family, children, Christmas… I’m not family enough for him, I guess, and I can’t give him children, and fuck Christmas. But…” Eliot shook it off and reached for the cup of tea. He sipped it, momentarily startled out of his brooding by how damn good it was. “Wow, this tea is amazing. Is this… Is this Fillorian? It’s like…Darjeeling but with an even more delicate liquor.”

“Ah, it is a special brew from herbs harvested here in the Darkling Woods. Hand-picked by me and spiced with, well, a special ingredient.” The Great Cock’s eyes sparkled. “Not what you’re thinking. I’m not like that. But it does have some calming properties.”

The Great Cock sipped his tea, gestured, and marzipan appeared before Eliot. “Your brother of the soul requires a Christ-mas? I do not know what that is. But procreation… There are spells, certainly if you wished to carry.”

“What? No!” Eliot’s frustration returned in force. This was such a mistake. What had he really expected this fucking cock to do? “Quentin won’t do anything that’d get me pregnant anyway, which is kind of half the problem. He has all these vestigial straight-boy impulses and wants, and I can’t—won’t—change myself to satisfy them.”

Eliot rolled his shoulders as a fresh wave of tension surged through him. He couldn’t stand it. This was too fucking much. Fucking baring his soul to a giant goddamn cock. “What I need is for Quentin to be happy so we can finish our quest. Just…that. Is there some way you can help me with that? He has to live long enough to help me solve this puzzle. Right now… the way he’s going…”

“Straight in Earth land is…” The Great Cock raised his index finger as if he was doing math, tilted his head at Eliot again, and then raised his finely manicured white brows. “You believe that Quentin Coldwater is only interested in heterosexual relationships? After he ate your tea?”

Tea? Did he just call tea…? Jesus.

The Great Cock took another sip even as Eliot pushed his own cup aside, then nodded sagely. “Ah, yes. Okay. Depressed meaning contemplating going to the Underworld. I see. Yes, that is a problem. I can resolve this for you, but if I do so, it may not be the path you would prefer.”

“Look, I know Q’s not as straight as he maybe thinks he is, but he wants straight-boy things. No shit—pardon me, mighty Cock—that’s not going to be the path I’d prefer.” Eliot rubbed his temple and forced a smile. “If you can resolve this, then I…” He sighed, smiling harder, like that would make it real. “I would be very, very grateful. I’m worried, okay? Quentin is… he’s in a dark place. Please help me help him.”

“All right. Done. But I do think—” The rest of what the Great Cock said was lost to the sound of girlish giggling.

Eliot discovered he was laying on his side across the Mosaic. He’d fallen asleep in the chair, and now he was here, awake, apparently just chilling. Waiting. That seemed proof enough the Great Cock had, in fact, been involved.

Then the giggling again, and Eliot turned his head to look behind him. There were Quentin and Arielle. Kissing.

A horrible throb of jealousy spiked in Eliot’s chest only to relax as he realized it had worked.

They needed a family, children, whatever, to get Q out of this funk, and now here was Arielle, minus Lunk, giggling and kissing Quentin.

Eliot could work with this. Eliot could…

A traitorous thought threatened that everything would change and be miserable, but Eliot locked down his doubts and focused on the solution the Great Cock had presented.

Eliot was amazing. He was Fillory’s High Fucking King. He could handle a farm girl joining their little household. It wasn’t like Q was sleeping with him anyway. It wasn’t like they were a couple.

Still, she had to know how things worked around here. Stretching languorously, Eliot rolled onto his other side and gazed at them intently. “He’s a good kisser, isn’t he?”

Quentin had the grace to blush and lower his head, but Arielle just smiled and nodded. “He is. I’m sure he’s not the only one.”

Her grin was slightly mischievous, but her eyes were wide, as if she was used to playing at being sweet and innocent. “Found Lunk holding someone else’s peaches. Quentin’s cheering me up. He said you’ve been making something good out of my peaches?”

“Ah, yes, my fruit wines.” Eliot smiled faintly and rose to his feet, approaching the pair with all the dignity he could muster, which was, he felt, a kingly amount. He reached for the wine skin and then offered it to Arielle. “I make other dishes with the peaches and plums as well. Salads, cobblers, pies…”

He looked to Quentin then. “It’s so sweet of you to cheer Arielle up.” He was proud he didn’t sound passive-aggressive at all.

Quentin mussed his hair; clearly he wrestled with guilt. “Yeah, um…”

Arielle took the wine skin and grinned brightly at Eliot. “He was trying to teach me to juggle. I offered to help with your game, but he said that was something between you two and I respect that.”

She gave him a brief, meaningful nod and then took a swig of wine. “Oh, this is amazing. Where do you ferment?”

“I have a vat behind the cottage, with secondary fermentation vessels beside it. It’s all Fillorian honey oak.” Eliot motioned to Arielle to follow him and then kissed Quentin’s temple as he walked past, giving Arielle the winery tour. There wasn’t much to see because Eliot achieved most of it magically, but he’d invested enough time into trying to produce Fillorian champagne as king that making a few gallons of peach wine was nothing.

He retrieved the wine skin from Arielle as he showed her the shady area where he made the magic happen. Sipping a bit, he returned it to her so she could get lit too, and then they could gossip about how cute Quentin was and work on becoming sister wives. Eliot wasn’t sure that was Quentin’s plan, but he was pretty sure it was the Great Cock’s intention.

Quentin drifted behind them, looking nervous and mortified, as if he expected the whole situation to explode. Given his history, that made perfect sense, even if Eliot wasn’t that kind of boy. There was some satisfaction to be gleaned that Quentin must’ve felt something for Eliot to be so worried.

Arielle admired the vat and sipped the wine. “I can’t have too much. I’m a lightweight, and I’ll need to get home before dark so my family doesn’t worry. I’m one of nine, so if they start a search party, it gets pretty out of hand quickly.”

Her dark eyes sparkled as she looked between Eliot and Quentin. She passed the wine skin on to Q.

“Oh, big family.” Eliot smiled at Arielle and gave her a once over. “Are they all as cute as you are, or did you inherit the looks in the family?” He looked between her and Quentin, carefully dodging unwanted, intrusive thoughts and sticking to the script that would help him navigate this securely into happy, polyamorous waters.

Arielle blushed and laughed, shaking her head. “Dad says I look like mom, but I don’t remember her very well. She died not long after my little brother was born. Dad and Brook have been taking care of us ever since. He’s dad’s help mate. I’d love to take some of the wine back for them. They’ll be thrilled with what you’ve made of it. They’re quite proud of our orchard.”

Quentin took a sip and then passed the wine skin back to Eliot. His gaze was searching and maybe a little apologetic.

Eliot met Quentin’s gaze, smiling a little, and then reached out to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Quentin’s ear fondly. It was easier, knowing Quentin felt bad. That Quentin had taken whatever they had seriously, even if he hadn’t really been into it long-term. Which, well. Eliot hadn’t really expected that of him.

He’d sort of hoped, but he hadn’t expected.

At least, that’s what he was telling himself.

“I’ll send you home with a couple bottles for your dad and Brook. They sound lovely. If they like it, maybe we can make a deal. Trade peaches for wine? You be my supplier, and I’ll be yours.” Eliot gave her a rakish grin and retrieved a couple wine bottles from the tiny cellar he’d built behind the cottage. They bore Eliot’s mark, a magically etched EW in the glass. It looked pretty professional really, for what it was, which was an 1890s Fillorian effort.

Tucking the wineskin under his arm, he held out the bottles to Arielle. “A little gift for your family, from ours.”

“Oh, these are beautiful! You could sell them in Applecart. My dads would be so proud to be part of this, I’m sure.” Arielle spent a few moments really looking at the bottles, admiring them in a way that felt genuine and gratifying. “But I probably should get back. I was in a terrible mood when I left. Because of Lunk. But I’ve really enjoyed my visit. I’d love to come back tomorrow if you’ll have me?”

She looked to Quentin and then to Eliot. “I can bring more peaches and plums.”

Quentin flashed her an anxious look, and then his gaze rested on Eliot as if he was leaving it up to him.

“Of course. Maybe you can come by around lunchtime? I’ll cook.” Eliot took Arielle by the elbow and guided her around the front of the cottage, back toward the main path. “We can day drink and have a good laugh about how Quentin keeps blushing like the two of us haven’t figured out yet how awkward he is.”

He shot a glance to Quentin, raised a brow, and then returned his attention to Arielle. “Sound good?”

Arielle nodded, pausing to gather her basket. She placed the bottles in and then turned to smile at them both. “He’s very sensitive. It’s sweet how much he cares. He feels a lot. It’s not a bad thing.”

She leaned in and kissed Quentin softly on the lips, then looked up at Eliot as if she wasn’t sure how she should say goodbye to him. She held her free arm out to invite him for a hug. Eliot gracefully stepped in and embraced her, lowering his head to kiss her cheek in a manner he hoped conveyed his coolness with the situation. He’d been the third in a relationship before, sometimes even on purpose, and he didn’t want her to feel awkward or like she was unwanted.

She might be their salvation, after all. Sent by the Great Cock to make Quentin pull his head out and get on with puzzling.

“No, it’s not a bad thing at all,” Eliot agreed belatedly, giving Quentin a look he hoped read as fond. Then he moved to Quentin’s side and wrapped his arm around Quentin’s waist, hoping to Cock that Q wouldn’t choose that moment to get uncomfortable with Eliot’s affection.

Quentin did stiffen for a second, but when no one erupted in anger, he relaxed against Eliot and looked at Arielle in that sort of friendly puppy dog way that he sometimes gazed at Alice and, at times, Eliot. “We’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“You will.” She gave them a little wave and then headed up the trail. She turned back once, a few yards away, and smiled at them, looking sincerely pleased.

Why wouldn’t she be?

After she disappeared over the horizon, Quentin looked up at Eliot sheepishly. “You were sleeping, and I couldn’t wake you up, so we just…”

“Started making out?” Eliot asked dryly, studying Quentin intently. He opened the wine skin and took a deep swig before offering it to Quentin. “I am…surprised and impressed by the speed with which you lassoed our cute neighbor the minute she was single.”

“Well, I mean… she kind of…” Quentin scratched his head, moving strands loose.

Because of course she did.

Quentin ignored the wine, so Eliot took another sip. Quentin started babbling again then.

“You know, she just kind of… you know, she was worried that maybe she wasn’t very good at… and thought I might give her a perspective, and you know. I just… Are you mad at me?”

Eliot laughed, because that was precious, and he stroked Quentin’s cheek with the backs of his fingers. “We’re not like some exclusive couple, Q. I don’t…have any claim on you that you didn’t give me yourself. We never talked about… So no, I’m not mad. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

He huffed then, swigging some more wine, and then said a bit cryptically, “You could even say she may be an answer to prayer.” With a deep breath, he averted his gaze and continued, fingers futzing with the wineskin’s lip. “You need things I can’t—won’t—give you. You’re adorable, Q, but you don’t even want to fuck me. Maybe she’s what you need. And did you hear her? Two dads. Fillory’s super chill about this stuff. Remember the royals get to marry one of each?”

Quentin’s face went bright red and he looked down at the ground. “It’s not that I don’t want to fuck you. It’s just… it’s those things, I guess. I wanted… I want…” Quentin frowned and looked more at a loss for what he wanted than unwilling to say the words. “And then I couldn’t anyway, and I mean, she’s probably going to be disappointed, too, so I don’t even know what I was thinking. She just seemed nice, and she was down, and I just thought I’d show her a couple of card tricks, and we were juggling, and then out of nowhere, just about…”

“You’re too sexy, Quentin. You can’t blame a girl for trying.” Eliot smiled a little and stepped in closer, moving into Quentin’s space. He dropped the wineskin and grasped Q’s chin, tipping up his face to look into his eyes. Then he lowered his head and brushed his lips against Quentin’s, tentative, seeking, hoping to Cock that Quentin would still give Eliot this much at least.

Quentin cupped Eliot’s face and kissed him so thoroughly it drove out all thought. Under Quentin’s onslaught, Eliot stepped backwards, practically tripping over himself, until he was backed against the wall of the cottage.

Q tasted of the peach wine and something else, someone new. Eliot didn’t hate it.

Then Quentin stopped and pressed their foreheads together. His arms extended on either side of Eliot, strangely forceful. Then he met Eliot’s gaze and ground against him, cock hard on Eliot’s thigh.

Eliot bit back the question of whether that was for Arielle or him. He didn’t want to know. He just wanted to enjoy the triumph. Reaching down, he stroked Quentin through his pants and cocked his head to the side, baring his throat and watching Quentin from the corner of his eye. Voice low and throaty, he murmured, “You gonna show me how you feel, Q? Missed your hands on me. Missed your cock hard against me. Anything you want, handsome. You can have anything you want.”

“You want this, right? You want me? It’s not just… It’s not because you feel bad for me, right?” Quentin looked up at Eliot, all but pleading for him to deny it. Even if Eliot had pity fucked him, he couldn’t have said so to that face.

Eliot’s breath came out in a shuddery rush. He was so excited he could barely contain himself; something about the way Quentin was looking at him seemed very close to surrender. “I want you, Q. I want your stupid sexy puppy face and those soft lips and your perfect, compact body that’s just so much stronger than it has any right to be, and your clever, clever hands—you’re so good with your hands, Q—and I want your cock. I want it in my mouth, I want it inside me, I want it in my hand and between my thighs and rubbing up against my cock… You’re so much hotter than should be allowed, and it has been fucking with my head since we met, and I just want to fucking devour you and then put you in my pocket and keep you and never let you out of my sight again.”

It all came spilling out on its own; Eliot didn’t have to try. It was like it had all been caught behind his teeth, and the moment he released his choke hold on the sap, it poured from his tongue like Eliot was just a garden-variety lovestruck idiot.

Quentin made that choked sound in his throat that meant he was extremely aroused. It usually preceded Quentin doing something daring.

God. Please, please, please be daring tonight, Q.

Quentin cupped Eliot’s cock through his pants, teasing. “Sometimes thoughts just… get in my head, and I can’t… It’s not you. It’s this thing my brain does. I think things and… and I want you, El. Please don’t think I didn’t want to fuck you. I did. I do.”

Quentin kissed him again, searching, his cock so hard against Eliot that it almost hurt.

“I want you so much… it messes with…” Quentin stopped again, making a frustrated noise, and Eliot worried he’d lost his erection again, but he hadn’t. “You want me to fuck you, Daddy? You want me inside you?”

“Yeah, I do. My sweet boy.” Eliot’s chest felt tight with hope and something else, something he wasn’t willing to examine too closely. “Want you to take me slow and sweet, your body melting into mine, the two of us twined together on our bed, breathing each other’s breath and close than close. Daddy’ll tell you just what to do, show you how to make it so good, and we’ll just ride it out, see how far it goes.”

Eliot’s own cock was so hard now he could hardly think about anything else, throbbing like a second heart. He pushed into Quentin’s touch and rasped, “Kiss me, Q. Kiss me like it matters.”

“It matters. You matter. You matter so much to me. Don’t you get that?” Quentin didn’t give Eliot time to answer. He kissed him hard, their mouths slamming together, jarring in its neediness. The force caught lip against tooth, and Eliot wasn’t sure whose blood he was tasting. It didn’t even matter, not when Quentin pressed so hard against him, not when he whimpered like that, not when his hands were all over Eliot, moving down to squeeze Eliot’s ass possessively. As if it was Quentin’s now, as if he was claiming it.

Now and finally. Q stroked it, slid his fingers down Eliot’s cleft over his clothes. The touches were reverent and needy, demanding. As if Eliot didn’t get Quentin inside, he’d fuck Eliot right here.

Eliot considered it for a moment—it wasn’t without its charms—but he wanted Quentin’s first time doing this to be special. Maybe, a little, he wanted it to be special for him too, especially if it was the only time he ever got to be with Q that way, or at least, just the two of them.

“C’mon,” he whispered, smiling against Quentin’s mouth and dragging him along toward the cottage door. “Daddy needs his boy.”

And he did. He was so ready for this his body ached, so ready his hole was already clenching and clutching at nothing, desperate for Quentin inside. He wanted him so much it eclipsed reason and consequence, so much it didn’t even matter if they couldn’t finish it, if Q had to stop partway through. Eliot just wanted a little, just a taste at least to carry him through.

Quentin followed, his gaze hazy with lust. They burst through the door, kissing and pawing each other, tripping over one another’s feet. With a few gestures, Quentin lit all the candles, making the little cottage warm and romantic even though the fading light was still streaming in.

Then Quentin pulled off his clothes, tossing them aside. He went for Eliot next, helping him undress, gaze and hands greedy for touch, Quentin’s cock hard with a shine of precum on the tip. He made no excuses now, showed no doubt about his intent or his need.

“Show me how you want me, Daddy.” Quentin smirked, a little wry but also extraordinarily fond. He was breathing heavily, perspiration already beading on his forehead.

Eliot couldn’t remember a time anyone had looked at him like that. Lust, sure. But there was something so tender in Q’s expression. Something that warmed Eliot’s heart as well as scared him to his core.

As much as he wanted this, he knew Quentin was overly intense, clingy, needy. He juggled enormous feelings on the daily when Eliot avoided enormous feelings like it was his job. Was Eliot really ready to tap into the vena cava?

He couldn’t resist, though, not with Quentin’s puppy eyes and the clothes strewn hither and yon. Not with Arielle coming back tomorrow and everything changing, maybe forever. Eliot had gotten a couple of perfect weeks with Q, before things went awry, and now maybe…

What? Quentin might marry the girl next door. He might have kids while they lived here, working on the puzzle, and it would all be Eliot’s doing. Eliot’s choice.

This had to be his choice too, no matter the consequences. He needed this more than he feared the fall out.

Licking his lips, Eliot moved to the bed and stretched out across it, head nestled on the silk pillows. He extended his arms to Quentin, beckoning, and murmured, “C’mere and kiss me, handsome. Get your fingers slick and work Daddy open, get him wet for you. It won’t take much. Want you so bad already.”

Quentin stepped onto the bed on his knees, crawling over to lay beside Eliot. He smiled, the sweet boy with the slightly pained expression. Q bit his bottom lip, then with a few more tuts, his fingers glistened.

He scooted closer to Eliot, looking briefly worried, but then he slid his hand down between Eliot’s legs. Quentin worked his fingers under Eliot’s sac and then had another moment of confusion before he started to tease Eliot’s opening. Clearly not a complete stranger to fingerbanging.

As he slid his finger in and felt him out, Quentin leaned in to kiss Eliot deeply and crushed his cock against Eliot’s side, hard and slick. Clearly ready to go.

Was this really going to happen?

Fucking finally.

“That’s good, baby,” Eliot whispered reassuringly, shifting closer and slinging his leg over Quentin to give him more room to work. He slid an arm under Quentin to hug him and combed his other hand through Q’s long hair, playing with it, tugging a little as they kissed. He sighed blissfully. “More, Q. I’m so ready for you. Just wanna feel you inside me. Won’t hurt me, I promise.”

Kissing along Quentin’s jaw, Eliot kept up a steady stream of encouragement, words tumbling out sweet and low, mostly nonsense, all of it eager.

Quentin fed him another finger, exploring, curling them as Eliot instructed until he found that spot. He really did have elegant fingers, and now three of them were inside Eliot, pressing into him, stretching.

“How do you want me, Daddy? God, I want to be inside of you so bad.”

Clearly, something was swarming in Quentin’s mind, but at the moment, he seemed to be all action, short-circuited, beyond thinking. He rolled them over, settled between Eliot’s legs, and bent down still fingering him to kiss Eliot’s cock.

Quentin’s hair had fallen from its ponytail, leaving that fine, straight, floppy hair covering his face and tickling Eliot’s torso. Eliot pushed it out of the way so he could see Quentin, so he could watch every second. He arched his hips, rocking onto Quentin’s fingers, fucking himself with profound relief that they’d finally crossed this line, that they’d gotten this far, that Eliot could hold onto this whatever happened.

“Oh god, Q, that’s so good. Just…”

Quentin curled his fingertips upward and rubbed Eliot just right, and he groaned, throaty and desperate, about to writhe out of his skin.

“Just like that, Q. Think you can hit that spot with your cock? Just…thrust into me and aim for that spot right there. Touch it. Memorize it. Put that big sexy brain to work analyzing the angle. You can fold me into a pretzel if you want, just fuck me like that, okay, baby boy?”

Eliot licked his lips, his mouth dry, and he pulled at Quentin’s shoulders. “C’mon. Need you, Quentin. Right fucking now. Just fuck me, baby. Fuck Daddy, okay? Just get into position, look me in the eye, and thrust home.”

“Okay.” Quentin sat back and looked down at his hand as the other held Eliot’s balls out of the way. He watched his fingers fucking into Eliot as he chewed his lip, as if he was really considering how he would do this.

For a moment, Eliot worried Quentin was going to stop, but then he slipped his fingers free and pushed Eliot’s legs up, folding him in half. Eliot groaned in relief and arousal, eyes rolling back in pre-emptive excitement.

Quentin cast another lubrication spell and then lined himself up. The head of his cock pressed against Eliot’s opening. Eliot just wanted to grab him and bring him home, but Quentin paused, looking down, and appeared to get strangely emotional.

He looked up from his cock and gazed into Eliot’s eyes, looking so vulnerable for a moment, and then he leaned in to kiss Eliot, slowly sliding into him as he did.

Quentin let out a long, sighing moan as he met Eliot’s lips, as if he was falling into bliss. Eliot gasped into the kiss and shifted so he could curl his legs over Quentin’s shoulders and hold him in place with their weight. He wanted as much of his skin on Quentin as possible, the two of them joined as completely as two humans could be.

Caressing their mouths together, Eliot whispered, “Just like that, Q. Feels so good. I’ve wanted this for so long.”

His voice hitched, like Quentin’s emotions were catching, and Eliot wrestled with the sudden need to cry, like that made any sense. Instead he combed his fingers through Q’s hair and gazed at him, letting Quentin see in his expression what this meant to him, wanting to give him something, even if he couldn’t give him a family or kids or…whatever other unspoken things it was Quentin wanted from him. He could give him this, his love, his loyalty. His open-hearted, clear-eyed admiration that saw Q as he was and wanted him anyway.

Quentin sighed again, the breath heavy, body solid. He moved a little faster, nuzzling Eliot’s face. It was so sweet and so… loving. Eliot liked to call it banging or fucking, but Quentin gazed and kissed, shifted his hips until he found that spot and then kept it consistent.

He whispered something softly, and it almost felt as if he was trying to say he loved Eliot, but he stopped midway and kissed Eliot again instead, putting whatever secrets he had into the kiss. It was long and lingering, wet and soft against his tongue, clingy and intense. Then Quentin dug his arms under Eliot’s body, hooking his hands over his shoulders, fucking Eliot so deeply that it was almost hard to breathe.

“Oh my god,” Eliot gasped, shifting and writhing, moving with Quentin and struggling to hold onto that thread of thought he’d been having, that moment of trying to figure out what Q was trying to communicate. It all slipped away, lost to the slow, thorough glide of Quentin inside him, every other consideration erased when Quentin bottomed out.

Eliot lay engulfed in Quentin, with Quentin inside him, under him, on top of him, Quentin’s mouth stealing his breath, Quentin’s sweat rubbing into his skin. It was too much suddenly, way too much, and Eliot panicked a little, overwhelmed with the intimacy he’d coveted, with the closeness he’d craved. He closed his eyes and whimpered, torn between pleasure and something avoidant inside him that needed to escape.

Straining to get a full breath, Eliot got a heady whiff of Quentin’s distinctive scent, the piney, musky spice of him, and suddenly he was okay again. It was just Quentin. Quentin wouldn’t hurt him, wouldn’t push, wouldn’t do anything but take care of Eliot, whatever shape that took. Q was good, and pure, and wholesome, not the kind of trash humans Eliot usually hooked up with and then avoided ever after.

Q was a keeper.

Eliot didn’t get to keep him, but Q was a keeper.

As Quentin fucked him, Eliot nuzzled into Quentin’s neck and buried his nose in the crook of his shoulder, inhaling deeply of Q’s perfect scent.

Quentin started to pick up the pace, just this side of rough, like he wanted Eliot to really feel it. Or he really wanted to feel Eliot. Maybe it really was their first and last time and Quentin also wanted to hold onto this moment.

“Getting close,” Quentin whispered. He shifted onto one arm and slipped his hand between them to wrap around Eliot’s cock. “Come on, Daddy… Show me how much you love it, Daddy.”

“Oh, Quentin.” Eliot shivered and gazed at Quentin, looking up into his face with his heart in his eyes. “So good. So fucking good, baby boy. Just…squeeze a little more like… Yes. Just like that, Q. Oh my god.”

Quentin had long since mastered giving Eliot a handjob, and this was better than that, so much better, with Quentin stimulating him inside and outside, Quentin consuming all his senses. Every thrust rubbed against Eliot’s prostate, and Quentin’s slick hand choked Eliot’s cock, and Quentin was looking at him with such unspeakable sweetness, such awe, like this was something special to him, and Eliot took in the magnitude of this moment all at once. It hit him all at once, and he cried out, clenching hard around Quentin’s cock, clutching at his hard shaft, arching into his thrusts.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Eliot chanted, half out of his mind with how good it felt, with how lost he was in Quentin. He gazed at Quentin’s earnest, tender expression, smiled up at him, and exulted utterly in every breath, living completely in this perfect, amazing moment. Nothing came before, and nothing would come after.

There was just the two of them, this incredible chemistry between them, the gravity of their souls, and Eliot let go of every restraint. The pleasure flowed through him like the tide, dragging sensation from the soles of his feet, from the depths of him, and he cried out Quentin’s name as he came, his mind a white-hot glorious flame that burned away thought. It was all just flesh, just Quentin’s hard, solid cock inside Eliot, just Quentin’s hard, solid body pinning him down to the bed and wrapping around him and keeping him safe and loved. There was nothing else.

Nothing else. Just Q. Just Eliot. Just them.

Quentin gasped and then let out a shout as he came too. He clenched hard for a moment, biting Eliot’s shoulder, then milked himself inside Eliot’s body, hips rocking into him as Eliot met his last, staccato thrusts. Q was wet with perspiration, but so was Eliot, and it didn’t matter. As Quentin finished, he blew gently over Eliot’s face and then gave him a long, sweet, somewhat messy kiss.

Then he pulled back, sliding out of Eliot, and helped Eliot move his legs. Quentin guided each limb down as if Eliot was precious. As if Eliot hadn’t been more contorted before and bounced back. But it was sweet and so very Q.

Once Eliot was comfortable, Q rolled onto his side next to Eliot and slid his hand through the cum on Eliot’s belly, tracing strange patterns with it instead of just using a cleaning spell.

Then he grinned playfully and asked, “Did I make Daddy happy?”

“Oh god, yes. You’re Daddy’s favorite baby boy.” Eliot combed sweat-damp hair back from Quentin’s temples, smiling into his eyes, and then sighed in contentment. “That was everything I wanted it to be, Q. That was… That was really good.” He sighed again, blissed out, and snuggled closer.

Gazing at Q, he added, “You don’t realize it yet, but someday you’re gonna understand… The most important thing, the sexiest thing, is your brain, and you have just…this amazing mind, Q. You really do. It’s so mean to you, and it picks on you, and it’s a big bully, but when you fight back… You’re just incredible.”

Eliot leaned over to kiss Quentin’s forehead noisily. Then he pulled back and grinned. “That was the Eliot Waugh Says I’m Good In Bed Seal Of Approval. It’s a very prestigious honor given only to the sexiest, most satisfying lovers.”

After a moment, Eliot reflected and admitted, “First time I’ve given that one out, actually.”

Quentin blushed and looked delighted, smiling brightly with a bit of embarrassment. “Thank you.”

He looked pleased with himself and pleased in general. “I don’t want this to stop. You know, even if… Arielle…


“I still need you. My King and my Daddy. I need us to still be us. Is that… Can you?”

“Are you saying you want me to be your side ho, Quentin? Because if so, I am honored and thrilled to be your bit of strange while you pursue a healthy, god-fearing relationship with the peaches girl.” Eliot smirked. “We’re always going to be us, Q. Arielle isn’t going to change that. Besides, I mean… she knows. She’d probably be disappointed if we never fucked in front of her.”

“I got that vibe from her, too.” Quentin laughed softly. “But let’s be real, she’s the side ho. Bros before Fillorians. If that’s even what she wants from us. We’ll find out tomorrow. I need a nap before dinner, though.”

“Mm nap. I’m going to sleep right here in the wet spot because I am a filthy animal and also I want proof this happened.” Eliot grinned and rolled onto his side, gazing at Quentin intently. “It’s gonna be okay, Q. All of… It’s gonna be okay. Promise.”

“I trust you, Daddy.” Quentin smiled and then pulled the covers up over them for their nap.

 

Chapter Text

Quentin hadn’t quite shaken the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed by the Mosaic puzzle, but he decided to try and fake it until he made it. Being with Eliot, being able to perform, had buoyed his confidence a bit, and the prospect of Arielle returning, well, that was pretty nice even if he wasn’t sure what to make of her sudden and kind of aggressive presence.

Sure, she’d always laughed at his dumb jokes, but if her taste ran to the Lunks of the world, well, Quentin wasn’t sure what drove her to kissing him aside from morbid curiosity. Or maybe she just needed a win on a bad day, too.

Either way, he was grateful for the ego boost. It had been what he needed, and hopefully she was feeling better, too.

If he was being completely honest, he thought she might be returning more for Eliot than for him, which was just natural. He was taller, hotter, cleverer, and a better magician. Shit, he was a king even if he didn’t have his crown at the moment.

If that was the case, Eliot would probably enjoy her if he was in the mood and then quickly and quietly shut it down. Pretty as Arielle was, if Eliot turned down Margo, he just wasn’t into a long-term thing beyond friends with a woman.

Gamely, Quentin tried to speed through putting together a Mosaic pattern while Eliot made a special lunch. At least having all this to think about put Quentin in a mode where he was just executing the pattern without thinking too deeply on how it wasn’t going to work.

In fact, today, he kind of didn’t want it to work because he wanted to see what the night would bring.

He’d just put another tile in place when he saw Arielle coming up the path, wrestling a wheelbarrow full of fruit. Apparently her dads were down for some wine.

Quentin hopped up and ran to help her. “Hey!”

She smiled but looked frustrated as she tried to push the wheelbarrow forward. “Oh hey! Sorry it’s taking so long. I hate this thing. Can’t tell what’s wrong with it, but it hasn’t worked right in years.”

“Sorry. Hm.” Quentin crouched down and gave the underside a hard look. He wasn’t exactly handy, but the situation seemed to call for at least some manly contemplation and concern, so he stared hard at it.

As he looked, he realized that the wheel wasn’t quite round. A couple of spokes were missing, and it seemed like at some point someone must’ve put lots of pressure on the wheel.

“Lunk kept trying to fix it, but he just made it worse.” Arielle looked down at him, her expression measured, as if she wasn’t sure she should trust Quentin with this task either.

“Well, I think… um…” Quentin did a quick mending tut, focused on the wheel, and then put his hands on it as if he was pushing and pulling, straightening it out.

“Oh! Be careful!” Arielle brought her hand to her mouth as Quentin pretended to warp the wheel.

He stood up and wiped off his hands. “Try it now.”

Arielle frowned slightly. “It’s okay, it’s been like this for year— Oh! It works. This is… oh my gods, Quentin, you did it!”

She jumped up and down and then hugged him tightly as if he’d really accomplished something.

Quentin felt a little guilty—he hadn’t even mended much—but it was nice that she was so excited. “I’ll roll it on in. So your dads liked the wine?”

“Oh, they loved it. They want to meet you both, but they said not to tell you that yet so you don’t get spooked.” Arielle laughed as she walked alongside the wheelbarrow, patting its side lightly. “I can’t believe you fixed it.”

“It was nothing, really.”

“I think it was great. You’re really clever. I like that.” Arielle smiled at him and Quentin tried not to blush as he guided the wheelbarrow toward the cottage.

As they approached, Eliot stepped out, wiping his hands on the apron he wore. He’d made them new clothes recently, using some cloth from Applecart and the tailoring charms he’d picked up at Brakebills to perfect his and Margo’s wardrobes. The apron was a little incongruous, but El looked really nice all dressed up. More like his old self.

He lifted a hand to wave at them and called, “Hi, Arielle. Wine was a hit, huh? Guess we’re in business.”

He didn’t approach though, just hanging back by the door for a moment. Then he headed back into the cottage like the food was gonna burn or something.

“He’s a good wife, isn’t he?” Arielle said as she skipped along beside Quentin.

“No, no, it’s not like that. We’re not…”

“Copulating?”

“Well…” Quentin frowned. “Not married.”

She nodded and laughed lightly. “Labels, right?”

“Yeah, he’s not into them.”

“But you are?” She helped him steady the wheelbarrow around a turn to put the fruit by the fermenting vats.

“Sometimes. I mean, sometimes it’s hard to know where things stand. I don’t always… Ambiguity can be confusing.”

She nodded and then leaned in and kissed him softly. “Then I’ll just tell you that I think you’re very cute.”

Quentin just about tripped over the wheelbarrow. That was direct. “I’m not really a Lunk.”

“I’m not really Eliot.” She grinned impishly.

“Um…” Quentin parked the wheelbarrow and eyed her.

“My point is, I liked Lunk for who he was and what he was at the time. I wasn’t even bothered by him being with other people; it was the lying about it. I would’ve joined in if he’d wanted, or just enjoyed hearing him talk about enjoying himself. I don’t have to be the only other person in a man’s life.” She leaned in to kiss him again, and Quentin rested his hands on her waist.

But he gently broke the kiss as he looked at her. “Did you come here to watch me fuck Eliot?”

Her brows raised, and then she laughed. “I wouldn’t say no, but I thought we were going to have lunch.”

She seemed delighted with his response, though, and wrapped her arm in his and brought him to the front of the cottage.

He opened the door for her, still at a loss for how to respond. “Well, lunch is in here.”

“Hello, strangers,” Eliot said as they entered. He’d removed the apron and laid out plates at the little dining table. It was strange seeing three there instead of the usual two. Eliot tapped the back of the middle chair and said, “Q, why don’t you sit here?”

Then he approached Arielle, gently separating her from Quentin, and wrapped her in a warm hug. “You sit here,” El said, motioning Arielle to the chair nearest the door.

That left Eliot with the chair closest to their tiny kitchen, which was probably the least comfortable but also allowed him to hop up and check on things.

“Sit, sit.” El gestured at them and then retrieved a bottle of wine. “Now, I know this is just a casual lunch, but any excuse to get absolutely plastered is a good one, right?”

“I like how you think.” Arielle grinned up at Eliot as she sat, an amused gleam in her eye. “I should confess to you that wine is a pretty rare treat. Only the wealthiest can usually afford it, and even when they can, it’s usually not as good as what you made.”

Quentin took his seat where he was told but felt strangely competitive with Eliot at her admiration. “I fixed the wheelbarrow.”

Arielle turned and smiled at him, reaching out to place her hand on his arm. “He did. Lunk tried to several times, but Quentin actually fixed it.”

 Eliot rested his hand on Quentin’s shoulder, giving it a little squeeze. “Quentin’s very handy around the house. He fixed the chairs we’re sitting on, and the table too. This place was a mess when we arrived. Q’s the one who made it so comfortable.”

Then Eliot poured glasses of peach wine for each of them, filling Quentin’s all the way to the top. Before Quentin could ask about that, Eliot settled in and motioned to their plates. “We have sautéed almonds, mushrooms, and green beans, roast chicken with plum sauce, and sweet rolls. I know it’s not much—we don’t have a lot of coin, wine aside—but I think you’ll find it surprisingly satisfying.”

Which Quentin knew to be true because Eliot knew his way around culinary spells.

After a moment, Eliot asked, “You think we could sell or trade our wine profitably then? If your family wants to partner with ours, it might prove a wise venture for both sides. Mutually beneficial.” Smiling faintly, Eliot glanced to Quentin and then back to Arielle. “You seemed interested in partnership yesterday…”

“Oh this is a feast!” Arielle looked very impressed as she took in the meal before her. “And yes, my dads sent me back with the wheelbarrow full of peaches, but we have bigger methods of conveyance if you need them. I know you two are working on your project out front, but I’d be happy to cart things back and forth for you, if you like. Gives me a better excuse to come out all this way.”

She beamed at Quentin and then back to Eliot before she took up a fork.

Quentin took a long swallow of his wine, thinking he probably needed it if Eliot was pouring like that. The idea that she may have been coming to visit them for more than to sell them a few peaches brought a smile to his face, even if she was just saying it to be nice. “I like to fix things. I guess I haven’t done a whole lot recently.”

“It’s the puppy eyes, isn’t it?” Eliot asked, smiling at Arielle as if he knew a secret. “You kept coming around because he has those puppy eyes, and it’s hard to forget them.”

 

Then he looked to Quentin and motioned around the cottage with his fork. “Lots of fixing up to do, if you feel so inclined.” Then, expression turning wicked, he added, “We could try breaking the bedframe, if you really want something to fix…”

Eliot sipped his wine, drinking deeply, but it didn’t seem like he probably needed it if this was already what he was going to be like.

Arielle smirked and raised her glass, looking between Quentin and Eliot. “It’s a very nice bed.”

“That was Eliot’s doing. I just… I’m… pretty plain.” Quentin raised his glass to clink with Arielle’s, not entirely sure what he was toasting to.

“I think it is the puppy eyes.” Arielle grinned at Eliot. “He’s already invited me to watch.”

Eliot opened his mouth, giving Quentin a scandalized look, and whispered, “Q!” Then he beamed and looked at Arielle. “I’d no idea things were moving so fast. Quentin’s usually so shy. He must really like you.”

“Do you like me?” Arielle grinned at Quentin and then started to eat her lunch.

“I mean, yeah. I just… we’d talked about… and I wasn’t sure why you came, and…” Quentin’s body felt hot, and he swigged more wine because he was pretty sure they were both teasing him. He set down his glass and started to eat his lunch, deciding it was probably better just to keep quiet.

“You really are so cute.” Arielle patted Quentin’s arm and then returned to her meal.

Eliot’s smirk suggested he agreed with her. He nibbled his food with the mannerly air of born nobility, occasionally sipping his wine, and then said, “Arielle, you’ll have to forgive Quentin’s awkwardness. He’s never been great at socializing, and since we came here, he’s hardly seen anyone but me. It seems like that’s not a problem for you, though.”

He nudged Quentin under the table, then rested his leg close against his. “It’s good for him to make friends. He needs more stimulation than I can provide alone.” Eliot tilted his head to the side and raised a brow at Arielle. “I could probably use more stimulation too.”

Then he changed the subject entirely. “How’s lunch? Does anyone need anything?”

Quentin tried not to choke on his food at what Eliot said and looked between them. It felt as if they were conspiring and Quentin wasn’t sure if that was good or fucking terrifying. “I’m good.”

“It’s excellent. Very tasty, thank you, Eliot.” Arielle’s gaze roved over Eliot as if she was considering the possibilities. “I’m more than happy to help with your stimulation needs. Applecart is pretty boring compared to all of this. There are a lot fewer live sex shows than you’d think.”

Quentin did choke that time and shook his head. “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“It was the best offer I’ve gotten all day.” Arielle set her chin on her hand and grinned at Quentin. “But I am teasing. You don’t have to entertain me.”

“We usually have rules about keeping such activities until after dark—we’d never get any work done otherwise—but I have to object that, as our guest, we do very much have to entertain you.” Eliot smiled and reached out to caress Quentin’s cheek before dropping his hand into Quentin’s lap and squeezing his groin playfully.

Arielle’s pupils dilated as Quentin squirmed under Eliot’s touch.

Quentin looked at Eliot, feeling a little helpless and hapless. Did he really want to do this? And do it now?

“My family knows where I am. I don’t have to leave before dark.” Arielle looked between them, her dark eyes even darker now. “There’s no rush.”

Quentin finished his wine. His pulse raced.

He froze, no idea what to do or to say. They’d joked, or so he thought. The night before had felt like a turning point between he and Eliot. He wasn’t sure what Arielle’s arrival would mean, but it had felt as if the window was closing on his relationship with Eliot, and he’d been desperate to keep it open.

Now, here was Arielle, who he knew but in other ways barely knew. She reached out and caressed his cheek. “You really do think so much, don’t you?”

“He really does,” Eliot practically purred as he shifted closer and leaned in to kiss Quentin’s other cheek. He sighed and relaxed his hand between Quentin’s legs, curving it possessively over Quentin’s cock. Then Eliot dragged his lips up Quentin’s jaw to his ear and whispered, “Sorry if I’m embarrassing you. I just wanna suck you so bad. Can I do that? Just get on my knees under the table and make you come?”

Quentin shivered and met Arielle’s gaze.

She licked her lips and set aside her utensils and picked up her wine. She gave him a gentle smile.

“As a good guest, if you want anything of me…” She reached into her wrap top, separating the fabric to reveal her breasts.

Quentin could hardly breathe. He turned his head and met Eliot’s lips to kiss him, needing familiarity to anchor him even as he watched Arielle rub her breasts, toying with her nipples. Eliot met Quentin’s lips eagerly, tongue sweeping into his mouth with a rough little moan. He stroked Quentin’s cock through his pants, squeezing and caressing.

Eliot broke away for just a moment to finish his wine and then he pushed out of his chair to crawl under the table and reappear between Quentin’s knees. Eliot looked up at him with big, gleaming eyes verging on manic and then neatly reached for Quentin’s fly, parting it to reach inside and touch him skin on skin.

“You needed more, Q,” Eliot reminded him, voice husky and sweet. “This is more.”

Quentin was dizzy with everything going on around him. More?

That wasn’t what he’d meant, was it? Quentin hadn’t entirely been sure what he meant, how to ask for it. But he was pretty sure he hadn’t meant more people.

But what could he say now? Arielle was here and she was beautiful, and Eliot was down between his legs. Quentin caressed the side of Eliot’s face and whispered, “Thank you.”

Arielle stood, moving slowly toward Quentin. He reached up, hand shaking slightly as he reached to her breast to touch her. She looked down at Eliot as she pressed Quentin’s hand to her chest.

Eliot glanced up at her, smiling, and then drew Quentin’s cock from his pants to stroke it. Without a word, Eliot lowered his head and took Quentin into his hot, wet mouth, one hand grasping the base of his erection tightly. His other hand slid up beneath Quentin’s loose shirt to rest over his heart, and with as quickly as things were escalating, that sweet, innocent gesture soothed him. It was what Eliot did when they were falling asleep sometimes, feeling for Quentin’s heartbeat, singing him to sleep.

Quentin put his free hand on Eliot’s hand, holding it there even though part of him felt like it was breaking him apart. Eliot was doing this for him?

He was so touched that he wasn’t even sure what to do with all his emotions. He reached under his shirt to take Eliot’s hand and twined their fingers.

Arielle moved closer, at least in part to watch it seemed. She stroked Quentin’s hair as he sat back and moaned from Eliot sucking him.

Quentin squeezed her breast, rolling his thumb over her nipple, feeling it harden.

She set her leg up, resting her toes on the edge of Quentin’s chair. Pulling her skirt up, she touched herself, sliding her fingers over her flesh. Then, bringing his hand down from her breast, Quentin took over, fingering her clit with his thumb as he curled two fingers inside her wet opening.

Eliot glanced up, raising an eyebrow at the view, and playfully turned his head so Quentin’s cock was distending his cheek while Eliot admired the proceedings. It was irreverent and funny and so much like the Eliot Quentin remembered from Brakebills that it was kind of a relief. There was nothing awkward about this now, nothing stilted or forced, and Eliot practically glowed with his amusement and pleasure. He squeezed Quentin’s hand where it twined with his, reassuring, and glided his tongue over the sensitive underside of Quentin’s cock as he bobbed his head.

“Fuck.” Quentin gasped as Eliot teased him more, sliding down a little in the chair as his hips moved. He released Eliot’s hand to put his hand in Eliot’s hair, holding him in place as he fucked Eliot’s mouth.

“Mm, yes,” Arielle whispered, moving her hand down to show Quentin just how she wanted to be touched, setting him up to please her. Then she leaned down to kiss him, fucking his hand.

Eliot moaned encouragingly and let Quentin thrust freely, taking everything Quentin gave so enthusiastically it was impossible to feel bad about it. Quentin could hardly wrap his head around what was happening between his hand in Eliot’s silky hair, his other between Arielle’s legs, fingers sunk into her slick heat, her tongue in his mouth and his cock in Eliot’s throat. It was good he couldn’t think, though, because it meant he was free just to feel, to glory in all the attention, in being so lavished with affection, treated like he was special.

The hand over Quentin’s heart tightened like El wanted to remind Quentin he was there—as if Quentin could forget—and then Eliot freed his hand and reached up to sink two fingers into Quentin’s mouth alongside Arielle’s tongue, joining the kiss in his own way.

She pressed kisses to Eliot’s hand, looking down at him as if she wasn’t sure if she should cross that boundary. After all, she’d kissed Quentin, and she’d offered her body up but hadn’t demanded he touch her. It made him happy she was so respectful, even if he was pretty sure Eliot would roll with whatever. It just made it easier for Quentin to feel more toward her, even though he was still a little uncertain where this was going.

However, with all this feeling, all this stimulation, Quentin wasn’t going to last. He shuddered, feeling his body contract. He stilled his fingers in her, feeling her moving faster as if she was trying to join him.

Quentin sucked Eliot’s fingers as he fucked El’s face. God, he was way too good at this. Unable to stop himself, Quentin let go, pouring into Eliot’s mouth.

Eliot made a soft, approving sound and swallowed around Quentin’s cock, devouring him hungrily and stroking Quentin’s cock to milk him of every drop. It felt so good Quentin struggled to catch his breath, and when Eliot finally lifted his head and let Quentin’s cock slip free, it was only a moment before Eliot pushed Quentin’s chair back and surged upward to kiss him, replacing his fingers with his tongue.

Quentin kissed him back gladly, wrapping his arm around him to hold him close, almost completely overwhelmed, but in a good way this time. He squeezed Eliot’s ass now that he could reach it and kissed down the side of his neck.

Arielle was clenching around him, her hand over his, helping him out, but she appeared absolutely enthralled with Eliot and Quentin kissing. As if that alone was enough to do it for her.

Quentin tried to pull Eliot up, kneading his ass, bringing him closer. Eliot moved as Quentin gestured and tugged, putting Quentin at face level with Eliot’s erection. Quentin rubbed his face against the fabric, mouthing him through his pants until Eliot pulled himself out and fed his cock slowly to Quentin. He’d just sucked the tip in when Arielle started to tremble, moaning loudly as she fucked herself on Quentin’s hand.

“That’s it, sweetheart,” Eliot encouraged her, his voice raspy from sucking Quentin’s cock, and that was hot enough to make Quentin wish he could come again. As Eliot slowly, gently took Quentin’s mouth, he leaned over and kissed Arielle’s forehead and whispered, “Come on, pretty girl. You gonna come for us? Quentin’s hand feels so good, doesn’t it? He’s always been so good with his hands.”

She steadied herself by holding Eliot’s shoulder as she pumped harder on Quentin’s fingers. Quentin had a harder time watching now that he was absorbed in sucking Eliot’s cock. Even while he was having his depressive episode, he’d play with his gag reflex, trying to make himself feel less useless.

Even when he couldn’t get hard, he’d still wanted to touch Eliot and mostly Eliot let him. So he felt better about his abilities as he started to bob his head, sucking in his cheeks like he knew Eliot liked. With one hand in use, he was just going to have to neglect the balls.

Thinking about Eliot reminding him don’t neglect the balls made Quentin smile as he sucked Eliot and fingered Arielle. Multitasking. Hard to feel useless when he was being used so hard and so well.

He kept Eliot’s cock steady with his hand. His gag reflex relaxed but he wasn’t quite up to being able to have his face fucked, so he controlled the speed, following the sway of Eliot’s hips.

Arielle grew louder and more unsteady. Quentin knew she’d come before, but this one seemed bigger as he learned her body—and as she watched Quentin sucking Eliot off.

Eliot laughed gently and wrapped one arm around Arielle to help her balance, holding her against him protectively and crooning praise. His other hand combed into Quentin’s hair, stroking and playing, petting him tenderly. That was familiar too; Eliot always loved Quentin’s hair.

“That’s so good, Q.” Eliot rocked his hips restlessly, not giving Quentin too much to handle, but obviously getting closer. It felt good, knowing Eliot was enjoying this, that Quentin was enough for him. “You gonna make Daddy come for you? You want it, huh? You want my cum, baby boy? Bet you’re desperate for it.”

Then Eliot was nuzzling Arielle, nosing into her hair and hugging her sideways as she strained against Quentin’s fingers, obviously as caught up in Eliot’s filthy mouth as Quentin ever was. Eliot laughed again, sounding genuinely joyful, and teased, “You’re just going to have to come back another day, aren’t you, pretty girl? Come back again so Quentin can fuck you. He’s good at that. So patient and caring. Thoughtful. You can tell that about him already, huh? He’s a good man. You want him to fuck you, Arielle? Maybe I’ll just watch, take myself in hand, admire how good you’d look together…”

That seemed to do it for her again as she built up to yet another climax. She nodded, panting for breath. “Any… time…”

Quentin’s eyes watered as he choked slightly, surprised at the dirty talk and how into it Arielle seemed.

“Mm,” Quentin hummed around Eliot, trying to show him how much he wanted Eliot to come. He concentrated hard, flicking his tongue, swallowing him down, feeling the burn in his jaw to handle Eliot’s length and girth.

He was so aroused by everyone coming around him that it made it easier to just let go, to focus on how much he loved having Eliot lodged in his throat, how he loved the wet heat around his fingers. And fucking. Fucking them both… How was that his life now?

Eliot tightened his hand in Quentin’s hair and trembled, a shiver running through his lanky frame, and Quentin had just enough sense to catch his breath before the first pulse of spunk hit his throat. Eliot groaned and clung to Arielle, hiding his face in her hair like it was completely natural, and maybe it was to him. Quentin knew exactly how seamless a team Eliot and Margo were. He could only imagine how much El must miss her.

Maybe having Arielle around would be good for him too.

Not that there was much time to think with Eliot pumping into Quentin’s mouth, coming hard and pulling Quentin’s hair, seeming like he might writhe out of his skin.

Arielle put both arms around Eliot, holding him tight as they both came. Both of them, from Quentin. It was a heady feeling to have done that.

He swallowed all Eliot’s cum, then released his cock to lap at it slowly until Eliot startled at the oversensitivity, but El didn’t immediately draw away, seeming to enjoy a bit of masochistic pleasure. He luxuriated in it for a bit and then sighed and turned loose his grip on Quentin’s hair before leaning in to kiss his crown.

Once Arielle finished, she stepped down and pulled away, but her legs failed her, so Quentin and Eliot propped her back up as she caught her breath. Eliot laughed, as if he wasn’t wobbling on weak knees too.

Quentin couldn’t believe he’d done all that. He licked the last of Eliot’s cum from his lips. “So, um…”

Arielle leaned in and kissed him, then returned to her seat to arrange her clothes. Eliot kissed him too, even more thoroughly, and then returned to his chair too, pouring himself another glass of wine.

At least that much was predictable.

As Eliot tucked his spent cock back into his trousers, he watched Quentin with an appraising look. “Let’s not overthink, okay, Q? Sometimes good things just happen. You deserve good things.”

Arielle finished her glass of wine and tilted it toward Eliot for a refill. “That was a really amazing thing. I, for one, am going to think about it a lot.”

Quentin grinned at her and laughed, nodding. “Right? Wow.” He sat back in his chair, then finished his wine and went in for a reup as Eliot topped everyone up.

Taking in Eliot’s mischievous smile, that knowing look, Quentin said, “So, um, good lunch.”

Arielle lifted her glass. “To more lunches. Or dinners. Should probably keep to your ‘after dark’ rule, or I won’t get anything done either.”

Quentin and Eliot clinked their glasses to hers.

Everyone could drink to that.

Chapter Text

Eliot wiped his sweating brow on his sleeve as he finished telekinetically crating five score wine bottles for Arielle’s dads to distribute. His winery sideline was coming along nicely—they’d made some tidy profits that permitted them to improve their culinary options considerably, as well as allowed Eliot to acquire nicer cloth for their outfits—and he had to admit that, taken as a whole, this Arielle situation was coming along handsomely.

Did Eliot miss those perfect weeks when it was just him and Quentin and what felt like a crazy amount of lust for each other? Yeah, he’d reluctantly admit those days held a special, secret place in his heart.

Was he disappointed that Quentin and Arielle got along so well?

Eh…

It was hard to resent the situation when Eliot liked her so much too. He’d missed having female energy in his life. Missed sassy quips and a busty partner in crime. In some ways, the time since they’d started dating Arielle seemed like a golden era of its own, full of laughter and orgasms. Lots of orgasms.

Quentin seemed to be past that dark period of bleak depression, which was all Eliot could ask for. Seeing Q smile again as he dressed in the morning, like being awake and alive was a good thing…

It was all worth it. More than worth it.

So maybe Eliot drank more than was strictly wise, and maybe he kept the depth of his feelings carefully tucked away where Quentin wouldn’t notice, but it seemed like things were balanced now. Like Quentin had chosen both of them. Like Eliot was still welcome to be part of this little ménage à trois and not just a third wheel.

It was more than he’d asked the Great Cock for, really. A good life.

As dusk approached, Eliot went inside to start dinner. Arielle would be coming by soon—she came over most nights now—and he wanted to make something special to celebrate two months of dating. If Quentin really wanted to have a family and kids, Eliot had to keep nudging things along, because it didn’t seem like Quentin was going to.

Eliot was determined Quentin would have the life he wanted—the life he needed—no matter what Eliot had to do to make that happen.

He chilled three bottles of peach wine and a carafe of fresh water, tossed a fresh meadow salad with garlicky plum vinaigrette, and smoked venison sausage and goat cheese from Applecart served with freshly baked rosemary toast. The cottage smelled amazing.

But the cottage wasn’t where Eliot wanted them to eat. Instead he packed everything neatly into a picnic basket with a blanket to separate hot and cold foods, and then hurried to change his clothes. He could hear Arielle outside already, chatting with Quentin as Q put the last touches on the Mosaic puzzle.

For just a moment, Eliot hoped desperately today would be the day they went home…

And then he heard Quentin grumble. No such luck.

So Eliot pulled on something flattering—the muted red of his tunic really brought out his eyes, and while he wasn’t exactly competing with Arielle, nor did he want to fade into the background—and then gathered up the picnic basket and stepped outside into the evening’s pleasant cool.

“Good evening, Ari,” he murmured as he stepped forward to press a kiss to Arielle’s temple. “Happy anniversary. It’s been two months. Can you believe it?”

Then he stepped back and slipped his free arm around Quentin’s waist, snuggling against him as the scent of their dinner wafted on the breeze.

“Isn’t an anniversary a yearly event?” Arielle beamed as she took in Eliot’s clothes. “Oh, you look great. Red is my favorite color. That smells wonderful.”

Quentin looked at Eliot with an expression of befuddlement. “Oh, is that new?”

Oh, Q.

Arielle had ridden in on a cart Quentin had repaired, pulled by the talking horse they’d hired to help them out.

“Hey,” said Mr. Belvedere, a light chestnut Belgian-type draft horse, who seemed to have no idea his name was the same as a 1980s American sitcom, because how would he?

On his back, an orange tabby cat named Alf flicked his tail, and Eliot couldn’t even start with the irony of that. It was all a little family-friendly entertainment for him.

They greeted the animals and turned their attention back on each other.

Arielle nodded in the direction of the basket. “Are we going out?”

“Yeah, I finished the mosaic a little early.” Quentin frowned at it over his shoulder.

“Ah. Still not happy with it?” Arielle seemed to regard Quentin and Eliot as perfectionist artists. None of the townspeople seemed to really know what the Mosaic was for. Some regarded it as a haunted cottage where people went mad, which… Well, Quentin had come close.

“We’ll know when it’s done,” Eliot answered simply, giving Quentin a look.

They hadn’t exactly told Arielle they were magicians from earth here to solve a puzzle and obtain an impossibly powerful legendary key. If Quentin wanted to have kids with her, though, she deserved to know that they might fuck off back to earth at some point soon. Or at least, in a little less than nine years.

Changing the subject, Eliot tugged Quentin and then started into the woods. They’d worn a path through the undergrowth in their little over a year here, exploring and finding spots to relax in a world without Wi-Fi. One of Eliot’s favorites was a little clearing with a spring and riotous purple flowers growing on vines that wound up the nearby trees. It was perfect as only Fillory could be.

As they entered, the twilight stars reflected off the spring, and Eliot placed the picnic basket beside it. He pulled the blanket free and shook it out before spreading it across the soft, mossy grass. Then he uncorked the wine bottles and gave one to each of them, smiling.

“So technically an anniversary is a yearly event,” Eliot said, acknowledging Arielle’s earlier point, “but I live for parties, and I will leap at any excuse.”

“I am so spoiled.” Arielle took a swig from the bottle of wine.

It was sweet how much she appreciated things like the wine and the good food. She also seemed well attuned to Quentin’s moods and would jump in if Eliot needed help. For his part, Quentin now took breaks to put together furniture. Creating seemed to help him deal with the constant disappointment of the Mosaic.

The sex didn’t seem to hurt either.

As they settled in, Quentin said, “It’s true. Eliot loves a party. He’s the perfect host. Guess we haven’t been doing a lot of partying lately.”

Arielle shrugged. “Not a lot of people who would know how to appreciate a party. Though they do have dances and festivals in Applecart. Mostly people socialize at the market.”

“If that’s the local idea of festivities…” Eliot trailed off and laughed before sipping his wine. “I’m happy to throw parties for three, though. We have a good time together, don’t we?”

He leaned against Quentin and tried not to be overly needy as he pressed their sides together. “But maybe someday we can go to a festival in Applecart. Get all dressed up, laugh at drunkards. Try not to be the drunkard getting laughed at…”

Quentin leaned back against Eliot, seeming very comfortable with his nearness, though there was something to the way he looked at Arielle. As little as Eliot wanted to compare the relationships, Quentin and Arielle did seem to have moments, quiet whispers together, long walks where they probably talked about feelings or something else that would make Eliot uncomfortable.

Arielle always seemed to go out of her way to include Eliot if he wanted to go, which Quentin sometimes forgot to do. If it was forgetting. Assuming he didn’t just want Eliot to stay behind so he didn’t harsh the vibe.

“They don’t really have wine, but there is grain alcohol, and it is…” Arielle shook her head and made a face. “Some of them drink too much and get rowdy. They do a lot of these fertility rituals, which are pretty silly, but it’s all in good fun.”

“Hm.” Quentin took a drink of wine, then reached out and took Arielle’s hand.

“Q’s not much of a partier,” Eliot murmured, averting his gaze from how Quentin clung to Arielle. They’d gotten close so fast. Probably because Arielle wore her heart on her sleeve, something Quentin responded to. Eliot wished he knew how to get close to Q that way, but he just…couldn’t be that vulnerable.

“Here. Eat up.” Eliot made sure they each had a plate of food and some wooden flatware. Then he tucked in, eating his feelings. They tasted like smoked sage.

“Not much of a dancer either. Eliot is great at both. Maybe someday Daddy will teach me.” Quentin grinned over his food, looking at him with a naughty expression.

“You have mentioned that he’s taught you a lot. Best not tease him over dinner or he might give you a spanking.” Arielle giggled and waggled her brows. She probably would want to watch that. She seemed to share a passion for watching. “But really, if you two want to get away from the cottage, you could come to my dads’ farm. They want to meet you both, but they said not to bring it up too soon or it would spook you.”

“I’d love to meet them.” Quentin sat up a little straighter. Of course he would. His heart was always ahead of his head. “I’d like to see the orchard, too.”

“It’s beautiful, and it smells amazing, of peaches. Sweet and crisp. You can meet my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Some cousins out there, too. It’s a party every night.”

Eliot smiled a little and shrugged. “Okay, okay. We’ll go,” he conceded, since Quentin seemed determined. “Can’t promise I’ll be sober, but I’ll come meet your people, Ari.”

Then he nudged Q with his shoulder and said, “Eat, baby boy. You can’t grow up to be an amazing dancer and partier if you— Okay, look, that’s a lie. A lot of amazing partiers and dancers don’t eat at all if they can help it, but that is not healthy, and I worked hard on this meal. So eat.”

Pointing at Arielle with his fork, he said, “You too, sweetheart. Nibble your greens like a good little bunny.”

Arielle ate fast, probably a habit from growing up on the farm. She also had a habit of eating everything on her plate, which was gratifying. She was also appreciative, which Quentin often forgot to be until reminded. “Oh this is so good. Um, Eliot, can I ask you for something?”

Quentin ate, looking between them. He leaned in closer to Eliot as if lending him his support.

Eliot’s stomach knotted immediately. “Sure, Ari. Ask away.” He forced a smile and swigged his wine, gazing at them both and reaching out to stroke Quentin’s back to steady himself.

Quentin nodded to her like he was encouraging her, and Eliot wondered exactly what she was going to propose.

Arielle toyed with her braid, a little shy and girlish. “It’s just that… you and Quentin always look so… I mean, your clothes are really nice, and I was wondering if… I mean, Quentin said you liked dressing him, so I wondered if maybe you’d make me something?”

“You want me to dress you?” Eliot grinned, his anxiety melting away. “Of course, Ari! You’ll have to tell me your favorite colors, and we’ll have to talk fabric and purpose, but I’m reasonably confident I can have you looking super fab in no time at all.”

He rubbed Quentin’s lower back and leaned over to kiss his cheek before whispering, “You just want Daddy to take care of both of you, don’t you?” He laughed and tugged Quentin’s hair before returning to his food. “We can go shopping for fabric in Applecart together, if Q wants to come along too. You two seem pretty inseparable these days.”

Not that he took all those long walks personally. It was just… Well. He wished he was the kind of person who could enjoy a long, feelsy walk without crawling out of his skin. But then it seemed like at least part of their conversation must’ve revolved around asking Eliot to dress Arielle, and that was nice. Part of him wondered how much he came up in conversation on those walks, but then he wasn’t sure he could handle the answer, no matter which way it went.

“Good!” She set her empty plate down and clapped softly in her excitement. “Red is my favorite color. I love that tunic. All my clothes were hand-me-downs, but I did some embroidery.”

She gestured at the collar of her wrap top that, now that he looked at it, was too big for her. Probably didn’t even start out its life as a wrap top. Probably a men’s shirt that she’d altered.

It reminded Eliot painfully and sweetly of his life as a boy misplaced on an Indiana farm, how he’d dreamed of better clothes, a better future. In those ways, she was a lot like Eliot. Big lust for life, appreciation of fashion and wine. Questionable taste in men.

Maybe the same taste in men.

“I can work on the Mosaic if you two want to bond. I don’t have much of an opinion on clothes. I like what you’re wearing. And when you’re not wearing it.” Quentin grinned as if he was being very cheeky. He leaned in and kissed the corner of Eliot’s lips. “I told her you’d be happy to.”

“You two have already given me so much. I just hate asking for more. And maybe Eliot can show me what the, um, lingerie was that you like, Quentin?”

Quentin coughed as he stirred the vegetables around on his plate. “I just asked if they had that kind of thing at the market. I thought that was just between us?”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Arielle grinned with a playful glint in her eye that told Eliot that she knew full well what it was and just wanted to make Quentin blush.

“Lingerie, Q?” Eliot laughed and nudged him. Then he issued Arielle a fist bump for making Q so pink-cheeked and pretty. “What’s this about lingerie? Are you missing the underwear back home?”

Eyeballing Arielle, Eliot tilted his head. “What about you, Ari? You seem to be living the good life, commando style. You gonna let this dork put you in scratchy knickers just to feed his no doubt healthy fantasy life?”

She laughed in surprise and shrugged. “Only if you’ll wear it with me. It’s a thought someone may have had about… stockings?”

“You know, there are some things I really did think were private, and I told you that was just a dream I had.” Quentin turned to Eliot, not meeting his gaze. “I mean, you do have nice legs.”

Eliot didn’t know whether to be hurt Quentin had shared a fantasy with Arielle instead of him, amused Quentin was so embarrassed about a little stocking fetish, or flattered Q apparently thought Eliot had legs worth putting in stockings. He decided to be amused and flattered, packing the hurt away carefully to examine later. He’d always thought he was easy to talk to, but maybe he hadn’t invested as much time lately in listening to Quentin’s confidences as he used to. It was something to work on.

“You are the weirdest boy, Quentin Coldwater. You want to see your daddy in stockings? Is this some kind of leftover damage from seeing Rocky Horror during your formative years? Because if it is, I whole-heartedly approve. You know I love a damaged boy with kooky fetishes.” Eliot grinned and leaned over to take Quentin’s chin in his hand and tip it toward him so he could brush their mouths together. Rubbing his nose alongside Quentin’s, he whispered, “Don’t you know I’d do just about anything to make you happy?”

Quentin pressed a kiss to Eliot’s lips, seeming to relish the closeness. “It was just a little thing in a dream I had. I didn’t think it would be something you were into. I’m not even sure it’s something I’m into, but you did look really good. Might be a Rocky Horror thing. Tim Curry shows up in kind of a lot of my fantasies, come to think of it.”

Some straight boy Q was. Honestly.

“What is Rocky Horror?” Arielle looked between them, brow furrowed. This was starting to happen more often as Quentin and Eliot let down their guard around her. “Is Tim Curry another one of your friends from Brighthaven?”

“Q…” Eliot studied Quentin and then sighed. He searched Q’s face for any sign he was willing to tell Arielle the truth, that Quentin trusted her with that. How could Quentin be so wrapped up in her if she didn’t even really know him?

Then again, Eliot had gotten wrapped up in plenty of people he barely knew. He just thought probably this was a “do as Daddy says, not as Daddy does” situation.

He frowned and whispered into Quentin’s ear, too soft for Arielle to hear, “Don’t you want to be real with her?”

Quentin looked at Arielle, who was watching them with mild confusion. He fiddled with his hair, a sign of his agitation. Rightly or wrongly, Quentin was worried that if he told Arielle who they were and what they were doing that she’d bail on them.

He’d alternate between extreme fear that she would leave and believing that to continue their relationship he needed to tell her.

“Yeah, um…” Quentin grabbed his bottle of wine and took a deep drink. He’d picked at his food as was typical. He set aside the plate as he turned to face Arielle. “I guess we should… probably tell you. We’re not from—”

“You’re not from Brighthaven.” Arielle gave him a sweet smile as she grabbed her bottle of wine. “I figured. You got a lot of things about it wrong.”

“Fillory. We’re not from Fillory.”

That seemed to honestly baffle Arielle. “What?”

Quentin scooted closer to her and, briefly, explained that they were from earth and were on a quest.

At first, she laughed, then she looked at Eliot as if she thought Quentin had honestly lost it, then she drank more of her wine. “So you could just… vanish… at any time.”

“I mean, maybe. I’m not sure how it will work when we solve it. Maybe we vanish back to earth, or I might have time. I just don’t want to promise to say goodbye in case Fillory kicks us out immediately.” Quentin had taken her hand, but she still looked as if she was waiting for someone to tell her this was an elaborate joke.

The simplest solution Eliot could think of was…

Drawing sigils into the air with forefinger and thumb, Eliot manipulated the carafe of chilled water from the picnic basket across to hover over Quentin’s head. Then he adjusted his fingers, twisted off the lid, and dumped the entire contents onto Q.

“We’re magic, Arielle. You’re gonna have to trust us on this.”

“What the fuck, El?” Quentin turned back to Eliot like he was a complete maniac. “That was cold!”

Arielle’s mouth dropped open and she just stared for a moment. “So you’re earth boys? Why aren’t you at Whitespire?”

Quentin stood up, pulling off his shirt as he shivered.

“It’s, um… This is our quest.” Quentin seemed to realize it was too cold out to simply remove his clothes and have that work, so he did a quick tut, and he was dry, though still shirtless. “I know people from earth are generally rulers but sometimes we have things we have to do other than that.”

“Will you be kings?”

Quentin looked at Eliot, then back at her. “No. I mean, yes. But not for a really long time.”

She crawled over to Quentin and put her arms around him to warm him. “And you have magic.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s how you make wine so fast.” Arielle looked at Eliot with a brow raised.

“Guilty.” Eliot grinned, knowing his eyes had to be sparkling from his glee at dousing Q. He shifted closer and wrapped his arms around Quentin too, snuggling up to him from the side opposite Arielle so Q was enveloped. “It’s how I make the clothes too. And how I make the food taste so good. And why our bed is so nice when the rest of our cottage is just humdrum. I knew a spell for the bed.”

Laughing, Eliot murmured in Quentin’s ear, “You should finish getting naked. We’ll keep you warm. Otherwise, why did I waste that perfectly good water?”

“There were so many other fucking spells you could’ve done. Honestly, if you’d just wanted me naked you could’ve just made me naked.” Quentin sounded huffy and a little peeved, but Eliot knew that Quentin wouldn’t stay mad at him over it. “I’m cold. I’m not taking any more clothes off.”

“That sounds like a challenge.” Arielle met Eliot’s gaze, mischief in her eyes. She lowered her hands to Quentin’s waistband on her side and raised her brows at Eliot to do the same.

“C’mon, Q. Don’t you want to make love under the stars?” Eliot lipped at Quentin’s ear as he grasped Quentin’s waistband on his side. Working together, he and Arielle started stripping Quentin, and when Q’s shoes got in the way, Eliot worked his fingers in a quick tut and left the boots lying on the grass a couple feet away. Then he winked at Arielle, pleased to show off the fun uses for his skills.  

Once Quentin was undressed, Eliot worked a spell to create a bubble around them that would contain their body heat so they didn’t get chilled. It had saved his ass at Brakebills South, and he fully expected it would earn brownie points tonight.

Arielle sat back and started pulling off her own clothes as Quentin pretended to sulk at them. He would’ve been way more convincing if he could stop smiling.

She stood and pulled off her skirt, tossing it outside of the bubble. “It’s probably best if we keep it quiet. I don’t really know how people would react. But I guess if we’re confessing things… women in my family line tend to die young. Some people think we’re cursed. I don’t really know. But it’s part of why I have what Dad calls an adventuresome spirit. If I don’t get long, I want to have as much fun as I can.”

Quentin stared up at her, then crossed his fingers over each other, making a square to look through. “I don’t see a curse.”

Eliot followed suit, interrupting his stripping to examine Arielle magically. “I concur. You look magically healthy. Maybe you’ll get a good long life.” Shrugging off his clothes, Eliot added, “Maybe you’ll even spend some of it with us.”

He pushed aside their mostly empty plates and balanced their wine bottles elsewhere before stretching out on the picnic blanket and holding out his arms, entreating Quentin to snuggle. As if Quentin could ever resist naked Eliot snuggles. He was quite predictable like that.

“I’m saying that I might also vanish out of nowhere. Life’s uncertain like that. I appreciate you telling me. It makes some things I didn’t understand make sense.” She watched Quentin crawl to Eliot and then she followed, kneeling beside them.

Quentin turned his back on Eliot and held his arms out to Arielle. His expression had been hard to read, but he didn’t look thrilled. “They called my dad’s cancer a curse. It can go down family lines.”

“I’m fine, Quentin. I just want to live as much as I can, and if it turns out I have a good long life, then I’ll have a good long time to have fun, right? Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow. We talked about that, right?”

“Right.” Quentin kissed her neck, and Eliot just knew he was probably not going to drop it that easily.

“Q…” Eliot wrapped himself around Quentin and Arielle both, taking advantage of his long limbs, and then sighed as he waded into deep emotional waters. “Part of love is that you love even with the risk of loss. Life wouldn’t be as beautiful if it were a sure thing. We have each other now—you, me, Ari—and it’s amazing, isn’t it? We have to live in this moment, be present in this moment. Maybe we’ll solve the Mosaic tomorrow and be gone. Maybe we’ll be here another fifty years. Who knows? I don’t want to know.”

With a deep breath, Eliot kissed Quentin’s hair and plunged onward. “With everything out, cards on the table now, don’t you just want to hold onto a good thing while we can? Maybe take things a step further?”

They had discussed this, though Quentin had been resistant—probably because she didn’t know about the magic, which they used constantly in the cottage. There also seemed to be something else holding him back, something strange in the way Quentin looked at Eliot when he proposed Arielle moving in. Like Quentin wanted Eliot to object.

Eliot was probably reading too much into it. Quentin might be afraid to upset Eliot. It pleased Eliot to think Quentin would even care how Eliot felt about it, and Eliot did have feelings, but he wasn’t going to hold Quentin back. Arielle was good for him. She seemed to meet Q’s emotional needs in ways Eliot couldn’t—and wouldn’t think about too hard, because his inadequacy preyed on him.

Anyway, it didn’t seem like a huge deal to invite Arielle to live with them; most nights she stayed over anyway. She’d leave in the morning so they could do their work and then return at twilight to join them for dinner.

Still, Eliot felt like he and Q talked about all sorts of things while they worked on the Mosaic, but apparently not Quentin’s kinky dreams of ladies’ lingerie. Funny what Q didn’t share with Eliot.

He spent a lot of time these days trying not to be hurt. He’d been in triads before; he knew better than to feed his jealousy. With a minor mental exertion, he pushed aside his insecurities and focused on his strengths. Without Eliot, this whole thing with Arielle would devolve into a mess. They were better as three than Q and Ari would ever be as a couple.

Then Quentin was taking the plunge, and Eliot shut down his thoughts entirely, watching them.

“Eliot and I were talking about it, and we thought maybe, if you wanted to, you could move in.” Quentin stroked her face, then down to her breast, fondling her affectionately.

Arielle looked pained, though, as if she’d pushed them into this invitation. “You don’t have to feel sorry for me. I wasn’t trying to manipulate you. Just, people in the village all know, and I thought you should know too.”

“We discussed it before that.” Quentin sounded stubborn now, not tentative. “That we should tell you everything and invite you.”

Quentin’s hips slid forward, and his leg went around Arielle, pulling her closer. Arielle caressed Quentin’s body, hand’s sliding back to also touch Eliot. He reached up to twine a strand of her hair around his finger and tug gently, his own show of affection.

Arielle sighed. “I guess there’s room on the bed. I could bring my paints. If you really want me. I can still do the deliveries. But it would be nice. Then maybe I can even see you solve the puzzle.”

“I do want you.” Quentin whispered to her, and then they kissed, seeming to seal the deal.

Just like that. She was going to live with them.

Eliot slapped her ass, startling her out of the kiss, and announced, “Welcome, Ari. We expect you to keep the party going, except when it’s not time to party. Which is rare, in my opinion, and all the time in Quentin’s opinion. So you know, use your judgment.”

Then he reached past Quentin to cup her chin and drag her in so he could kiss her forehead. “We both want you here. I have less interest in your pussy than Q, but I assure you I am very fond of your sprightly personality and mischievous humor. You are cherished, sweetheart.”

Releasing her, Eliot turned his head to nibble on Quentin and added, “As are you, Q.”

Silently he acknowledged that Quentin was his everything, but it was too much to say aloud. He filed away that thought with the rest of his unspoken sentiments.

Quentin turned his head and looked at Eliot with so much tenderness, so much adoration that Eliot instinctively put his hand over Quentin’s mouth. He wasn’t sure he could deal with hearing what he was going to say. Not here, not now.

Especially not when he was probably feeling that way because he was grateful to have Arielle in the house. It would give Eliot too much hope and he’d spend too much time trying to parse his words and torture himself.

Quentin’s brows rose as if he was surprised, then furrowed, but he finally wound up kissing Eliot’s hand and that seemed to be enough.

“Thank you, Eliot.” Arielle smiled at him and leaned in to kiss Eliot’s forehead. “Thank you for sharing your love and talents with me. Whatever you want from me is yours. Even if you wanted me to back off. I know I’m the interloper here.”

“You’re not an interloper.” Quentin had turned back to look at her. “We love having you around.”

She returned her attention to Quentin and then leaned in to kiss him softly. “Thank both of you. I’ll try to be a good… um… guest?”

“Lover?” Quentin tried, because of course they needed to label this. “Partner?”

“Sister wife,” Eliot supplied, beaming at Arielle’s look of confusion. “Where we come from, some people marry multiple women, and the women who live together as his wives without necessarily fucking each other are called sister wives. It’s a thing.”

He looked to Quentin and raised a brow, challenging him to object. It was kind of a ballsy move, admittedly, putting himself on Arielle’s level, subtly—or not so subtly, honestly—positioning himself as equal to her in Quentin’s romantic commitments. She could give him a family that Eliot apparently couldn’t—Quentin had said he needed more—but Eliot had been pulling the strings this whole time to make sure Q got what he needed, and this was his relationship as much as Q’s.

“Oh, Jesus.” Quentin covered his face with his hands. His shoulders were shaking as if he was laughing, and his body had warmed so, probably, he was just embarrassed by the whole thing. “You make it sound like I have a harem.”

Arielle grinned at Eliot, biting her tongue as if to say Isn’t he just so adorable? “Sister wife. I like that.”

“I thought you were Daddy,” said Quentin, his voice still muffled by his hands over his face. “I have some serious questions about how this family tree works.”

“Oh, Q. I don’t know how to break it to you, but I’m not your real dad. You just call me that because it turns me on.” Eliot laughed, though it was slightly bitter; he still wasn’t entirely over the way Quentin led him around by his dick with that game. “But just because I’m your daddy doesn’t mean I can’t be Arielle’s sister. I’m your sister-in-law-cum-Daddy. You know how much you like when Daddy cums.”

“Daddy wife?” Quentin took one of Eliot’s hands and twined their fingers. There was something strangely hopeful to how he said it, but Eliot couldn’t see his expression.

The way Arielle looked at Quentin was slightly pitying. What kind of conversations had they been having?

She put her hand on Quentin’s shoulder and squeezed. “One big family. How’s that?”

“One big family. With sister wife and daddy wife. Sounds like us.” Eliot smiled and snuggled into Quentin, trying not to let his heart outpace his head. He always struggled with that around Quentin; sometimes he had to refuse to feel anything at all. Now, though… There was so much goodness and light to bask in, hope and happiness and a future full of fun.

“Does that make me the baby boy husband?” What Eliot said must’ve been the right thing because Quentin turned around to face Eliot. He smiled up at him while Arielle kissed Quentin’s shoulder. She slid her hand down his side and moved forward to wrap her fingers around Quentin’s cock.

Eliot grinned at Quentin and leaned in to kiss him slowly, taking his time to lick at the seam of Quentin’s lips, to devour him a bit at a time until Quentin was gasping for breath. Then he pressed his brow to Quentin’s and whispered, “You’re always going to be my baby boy husband. And Arielle is my sister wife. And it’s a good thing, Q. We’ll make sure you always have what you need, okay? You just have to let us take care of you.”

He reached out to caress Arielle’s side, stroking his fingertips up her arm and silently encouraging her to keep teasing Q.

Quentin tangled his legs with Eliot’s. That wasn’t really how Eliot thought Quentin would react to adding Arielle to their household, but it was nice that he wasn’t ignoring Eliot entirely.

Arielle scooted in closer, closing the space that had been left and reached out to bring both of their cocks in her hand, causing Quentin’s eyes to flutter closed as he exhaled in enjoyment of being teased. “We can all take care of each other, right? You deserve this, Quentin. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.”

She kissed his earlobe and then his neck, and he leaned back against her, his lips parting, begging to be kissed again, so Eliot leaned in to meet that demand. Their tongues clashed, soft and hungry, and Eliot moaned and pressed closer, crushing into Quentin and letting himself feel the arousal that caution had held at bay.

“What do you want?” Eliot asked between kisses. “We wanna know, promise.” Smiling against Quentin’s mouth, he added quietly, “I’ll find some stockings later, but tonight…”

“I dunno, now you’re sisters and all, seems inappropriate.” It was hard to tell if Quentin was joking or not. His face was flushed but more with arousal than anything else.

“Don’t be coy, Quentin. I said I’d do it if he was willing.” Whatever it was made Arielle blush, so it had some real promise.

“Ooh I don’t know what this is, but Daddy likey.” Eliot rolled his hips forward against Quentin and grinned wildly. “She doesn’t blush, you know. She’s a bona fide libertine.”

Smirking, Eliot reached down to caress Quentin’s cock, hand moving with Arielle’s, and then he twined his fingers with hers, meeting her gaze past Quentin’s shoulder. “I practically have to do it now. Assuming it’s not like… I don’t know. Autoerotic cannibalism? I’m not sure what I’d say no to, honestly, if it makes you two act like this.”

“It’s just, you know, I mean, you’ve seen my browsing history.” Quentin wouldn’t meet Eliot’s gaze, and indeed Eliot had seen Quentin’s phone and though a quick spell had gotten into it, but there was honestly a lot of porn on there.

“Care to narrow that down?”

“Browsing history?” Arielle’s brow furrowed.

“It’s a long story.” Quentin turned slightly toward her. “Not really that interesting.”

Quentin turned back to Eliot. “You know, where… there’s like…” He held up his hands, his fingers pairing off improbably as he tried to figure out how to represent a threesome, apparently. “And like, Arielle is here and I’m here and you’re there and we’re both…”

“Oh. DP. You want to double-team Arielle. I assume you take pussy duty and I bring up the rear?” Eliot grinned and looked between Quentin and Arielle with challenge in his gaze. “I’m not surprised you blushed at that, Arielle… Even a seasoned pleasure-seeker might have a rough time convincing two guys to go in at the same time. There’s a lot of cock friction going on.” Then he laughed and met Quentin’s eyes. “That’s probably like half the appeal for you. You get to fuck a beautiful, willing woman with your Daddy-husband’s cock right there rubbing up against yours. It’s so intense it’s pretty much trademark Coldwater.”

Eliot leaned in to kiss Quentin again and teased, “What a pervert. I can’t believe I agreed to this.” He rubbed their noses together affectionately and then lifted his head to look at Arielle. “Please tell me you’re as good at butt stuff as you are at everything else.”

Arielle giggled—kind of a nervous giggle—but her pupils were wide and she fairly well glowed with anticipation. “Lunk only wanted threesomes with another woman. He wouldn’t ever… but yes. I have done…butt stuff. Never at the same time, but I liked it.”

Quentin looked like he might faint, but in Eliot’s hand, he was so hard. “Can you really feel… I mean… we’d feel each other, too?”

“Of course.” Eliot studied Quentin, mildly concerned. The only real cure for that was to give Quentin the low-down. Practically purring, Eliot elaborated. “It’s only a delicate, hot, wet swath of Arielle’s eager and stunning body separating us. There’ll be a lot of pressure. Arielle, you’ll probably feel like you’re being torn apart—in a nice way, I hope; I’ll be gentle—and Quentin, you’ll probably feel like I’m grinding on you while you’re also inside our favorite Fillorian sister wife.”

Beaming, he added to Arielle, “I don’t really sleep with women, in general, but if I’m going to, that’s definitely my favorite way to do it. It’s pretty cockalicious. For you, obviously. For me too, though.”

“Are you both sure? I’ve got the easy part, really.” Quentin looked over his shoulder at Arielle, who kissed him briefly.

“I’m very sure. Eliot knows what he’s doing. I trust you both. We can try it, and if it’s too much for any of us, we don’t have to do it.” She looked across Quentin to Eliot and gave him a sweet grin. “Daddy can take care of us, right?”

How could Eliot do anything but smile at that? It made his chest tight and his skin warm all over, tingly in the best way. He was vaguely aware that this whole Daddy thing allowed him to dodge deeper emotional and psychological questions and labels, but he saw that as a convenience rather than something to be analyzed. With both of them looking at him like he was in charge, all he could do was rise to the occasion.

Quite literally, too. His cock was rock hard.

“Daddy will take the very best care of both of you. Arielle, you’re going to be in control of how much you take at any given moment. If anything’s uncomfortable, just say so. We’re magicians. You’d be surprised what we can do when properly motivated.” Eliot pulled away from Quentin long enough to sit up and arrange his long legs spread comfortably, feet braced.

“Q, come sit in front of me. Line up your cock so it’s almost against mine. Maybe sit on my thighs so you get some elevation; she’s going to want you deeper than me. Logistics are very important in a three-way.” Eliot glanced at Arielle and winked before making a kissyface at her.

Then he reached for Quentin and helped him get situated with his legs akimbo, spread on either side of Eliot’s hips, and his cute little ass braced on Eliot’s long, thin thighs. He adjusted them minutely until they were just right and then performed the lube charm on them, slicking both their cocks, and then smoothed the slick liquid over their shafts himself, making certain of the job—and maybe just enjoying the excuse to touch—before leaning in to kiss Quentin again.

This time, he poured his heart into it, wanting Quentin to know he was loved, that Eliot adored him, that Eliot was doing all of this for him. He sighed as their lips parted and then settled back a little to make room for Arielle.

“C’mere, sweetheart. You’re going to straddle Quentin. You can face him comfortably and cover his cute, anxious little face with kisses when it’s time. Myself, being an enormous rake, will just nibble on your neck instead. But first…” Eliot reached out to her and dragged her closer before helping her stand between their bodies, feet spread. Then he worked a rather clever charm that Margo had perfected for ladies’ personal hygiene before such events, chanting briefly in Sumerian. Satisfied, he drawled, “There. Fresh as a daisy. Q, do right by your wifey and eat her pussy, will you? She needs to relax before I try fitting in that teensy ass.”

Arielle had paused, taking a longer look at Eliot’s cock. She’d seen it, of course, but only Quentin had really handled it. Her eyes got big, and then she took a deep breath and nodded as if she were accepting a quest. In that moment, Eliot realized he really liked her. She had the same libertine spirit as Margo and the love of adventure—particularly sexual adventure.

She wasn’t Margo—who else could be Margo? But he could see Margo being friends with her, enjoying her company and debauching her. Maybe they could find a way to bring Arielle back with them when the time came. She could be a hedge witch or…

Arielle stood over Eliot, in front of Quentin who leaned forward and started eating her out. If it was one new thing he’d learned about Quentin, it was that he did seem to have a bit of an oral fixation. He’d gone down on her several times and never worried about personal hygiene. Probably a straight boy thing.

Quentin sucked her clit as she moaned, fingering her generously. His fingers glistened and dripped as he slid them back to the cleft of her ass, apparently preparing her for Eliot, which was thoughtful. Or maybe he just wanted to finger her ass. He did have real lust for her body, and objectively, she really was lovely.

More bottom heavy than Margo, though Quentin seemed to really like that. Julia aside, his taste did seem to run to curvier girls. But then, he apparently also had real lust for Eliot’s body, or his legs at least. That was…unexpected, but nice to be part of his fantasy life. Made it seem like Quentin didn’t just fuck him out of boredom, anyway.

Both of Quentin’s hands moved to Arielle’s ass, drenched in spit and her natural juices. He worked two fingers from each hand inside of her. He might even be overshooting what Eliot had to provide, which was kind of sweet, but she appeared to be plenty aroused and relaxed now.

Eliot stroked himself and Quentin together, though Quentin obviously loved eating her, because he was dripping precum. Eliot wasn’t quite as excited, but as he rubbed his cock against Quentin’s, he shivered in growing anticipation. Soon, he’d be inside Arielle, feeling Quentin crushed close against him from within the heat and pressure of her lush body.

“You ready, Ari?” Eliot leaned in and bit the undercurve of her ass playfully. “I’ll help you get low. Take just Q at first, okay? Let him fuck you until you’re feeling stretched and hungry, and when you want more… Well. We’ll take it in stages.”

“Here, you can slide between my cheeks if you want.” She looked over her shoulder, a little nervous but interested. Her gaze swept down to his cock, and she winced slightly. It was kind of cute. She turned back to face Quentin as he sat up and wiped his mouth on his arm.

Such a boy.

Quentin’s hair was a mess, pulled from his ponytail in places, stuck to his face in others. “Okay. You ready?”

“Yeah, I’m ready.” Arielle put her arms around Quentin’s shoulders, and he peered around her to check in with Eliot.

Quentin slid his hips back, leaving Eliot holding only his own cock. Then he shifted, and both Quentin and Arielle moaned as he sank into her. Eliot licked his lips as he watched Quentin’s face over Arielle’s shoulder, the way his head tipped back and his eyes closed, the transported expression… It was fucking hot.

As they moved, Eliot angled his hips to thrust against Arielle’s cleft, his slick cock gliding between the generous curves with just enough friction to keep Eliot at maximum excitement. He leaned in to nibble her shoulder, watching Quentin the whole while for any sign Q felt uncomfortable with Eliot’s attention to her. He knew better than Quentin how these things went, though, and Eliot wasn’t about to fuck Arielle in the ass on command while ignoring her the rest of the encounter.

Rude.

Instead, he caressed her skin and nuzzled her neck as he murmured to them, “That’s good, isn’t it? It’s gonna get better. I’m gonna take such good care of you two.” Eliot reached around Arielle to touch Quentin’s face, brushing the backs of his fingers against Q’s stubbly cheek. “Is this what you wanted, baby boy?”

Quentin nodded before he answered. “Yeah.”

He moved with her, hands on her breasts. When Eliot shifted closer, Quentin slid his hand down Arielle’s back to meet Eliot’s cock as it slipped between her cheeks. Eliot groaned at the contact, encouraging Quentin’s touches.

Arielle and Quentin kissed deeply, and when the kiss broke, he nuzzled her cheek before moving his face over her shoulder and tilting his head to kiss Eliot. Eliot surged forward to meet him partway, crushing Arielle between them in a bear hug as Eliot and Quentin kissed, tongues clashing sweetly.

Eliot dropped his hands to her hips, setting a faster pace as he grew impatient, working her harder onto Quentin’s cock until they were both gasping. Eliot nipped at Quentin’s mouth and then turned his head to kiss Arielle’s jaw, the corner of her mouth.

“How do you feel about coming so hard so many times we have to carry you home? We are celebrating.” Eliot smirked as he slid one hand around her hip to dip between her legs and caress her clit, giving her something to rub against as she fucked herself on Quentin, every roll of her hips cradling Eliot’s slicked cock between her cheeks.

“Yes, yes… gods yes.” Arielle put one hand behind her, grabbing Eliot by the back of the neck, the other around Quentin to hold him close. “I think I’m ready.”

Quentin shuddered as if just the idea was doing it for him. Part of Eliot wanted to say just you wait, Quentin Coldwater but better than saying that was Quentin feeling it, so Eliot slowed them down, giving him control so they wouldn’t rip her apart.

“Okay, Q, patience, sweet boy.” Eliot reached down to grasp his own cock at the base and then urged Arielle up off Quentin’s cock. “Take me in first, okay? Go slow, sweetheart.”

Arielle obediently rose and pushed back onto Eliot, gasping at the first slippery, blunt pressure of his head against her hole. He adjusted the angle so he wouldn’t slip into the wrong entrance, holding himself steady.

“Deep breath, Ari. Relax on the exhale and let gravity pull you down.” Eliot tore his focus from Q as Arielle followed his directions and took in just a couple inches. It was enough. Releasing his hold on his base, he gripped her hips instead, helping her hold steady. Then he looked to Quentin. “All right, baby boy. Take it slow. Guide yourself into position with your hand. She’s gonna be almost too tight. Be careful not to bruise her trying to force your way in.”

Eliot glanced up at Arielle’s exultant, slightly scared face. “Keep breathing deep, sweetheart. You’re gorgeous. Perfect. You’ve got this. It’s gonna feel so good. You’re gonna bring us together in a whole new way.”

Quentin’s knuckles brushed against Eliot’s shaft as he complied, and Arielle stiffened between them as Quentin’s head pushed against Eliot’s cock, slipped around for a moment, and then, thankfully, slid inside her cunt. Eliot could feel it.

Fighting down the urge to thrust, Eliot kissed Arielle’s shoulder. “That okay, sweetheart? You’ve got both of us now. Feels amazing inside you. Tell her how amazing that is, Q.”

“Oh my god.” Quentin’s mouth opened wide and his eyes rolled. He looked too overwhelmed for speech, which was all right because Arielle also seemed too full to do much more than gasp or moan as Quentin shifted.

Bit by bit, Arielle relaxed a little more, pulling Eliot in closer, making the space inside her ever smaller.

“Feels so… amazing, Arielle. Shit.” Quentin wrapped his arms around the both of them, holding them tight as everyone adjusted to what was happening.

Arielle let out a choked whimper, moved her hips, and then sighed in what sounded like bliss. Sweat trickled down her back as her body exerted itself to allow this.

Quentin’s shoulders and forehead also glistened as he gazed lustily at Eliot. “I can feel you.”

Arielle rested her face in the crook of Quentin’s neck, mouth open against the flesh. As Quentin shifted, she bit, slowing him down to minute motions as he whispered apologies.

Eliot smiled at them, an overwhelming fondness swelling in his chest. He was part of this, part of them, not a third wheel and not extraneous. He kept his hips still so Arielle could set the pace but reached around to play with her clit again even as he crushed closer to steal another kiss from Quentin. It was perfect in its own way, the two of them enveloped in sweet flesh, Arielle’s eager, yielding nature making no fuss about sharing, Quentin’s mind shut down for once with the overwhelming sensation.

Quentin kissed back, eager and needy. He seemed so out of his mind aroused that he’d lose track of what he was doing and then hiss when Arielle bit him for getting too rowdy. But then she seemed to get coordinated with them, doing the moving, grinding against Eliot’s finger as well as squeezing hard around both of them.

This was headier than Eliot had imagined it would be. This wasn’t his first time at this, but it had to be the first time with a boy who looked at him like Quentin did between kisses.

Arielle found her pace and started to moan and move more freely, clearly getting close to coming already, like she found this as arousing as Eliot did. She lifted her head and joined their kiss by peppering little kisses over the sides of their faces and the corners of their mouths until Quentin turned and brought her into it.

Quentin started to tremble as Arielle came, her cunt clenching, pulling them both tight within her.

“Not yet, Q.” Eliot grunted with the effort of holding back and broke their kisses to look into Quentin’s eyes.

As they all moved together, shifting minutely, movements so small with effects so great, Eliot bit back a whimper. This was as close as he could get to the heart of this, and it comforted him to have Arielle’s small, soft body pressing against him, rippling around his cock, her floral, feminine scent in his nose, her long hair brushing against his chest. She wasn’t Margo, but something about her…

A sense of peace grew inside Eliot alongside the bliss of passion, something warm and glowing beneath his skin, making him tingle and flush everywhere. He shifted his fingers, pressing the heel of his hand against Arielle’s mound, avoiding the sensitive nerves of her clit and letting her grind into the blunter, softer pressure. With his other hand, he guided Q’s head down to her breasts, wanting to prolong her pleasure, to drag out the waves of it until she was too exhausted to do more than cling to them.

She sank deeper onto them, her body relaxing, muscles so strung out they just let Eliot and Quentin take what they wanted. It made it that much easier to feel Quentin moving inside her, and that alone was so phenomenally fucking hot Eliot had to close his eyes and breathe.

“God, Q, you’re right…” Eliot trailed off, breathless, opened his eyes dreamily, and rocked into Arielle slow and steady. “Right there, Q. Ari, can you take just a little more? Just… Just breathe deep and let Q fuck you.”

“Yeah. Yeah, hang on.” Arielle shifted again, adjusting her legs and arching her back as she leaned in against Quentin.

“Wait…” Quentin pulled out, removing some of the delicious friction.

Eliot groaned in protest before Quentin helped Arielle to lay back against Eliot, the both of them sprawled out atop the blanket in their warm bubble. Once they were down, Quentin settled between their legs. He looked down at them spread open, probably offering him a scintillating view.

Quentin took a moment to enjoy that, sliding his fingers over where Eliot’s cock disappeared into Arielle, making them both moan. Then Quentin dove in and rolled his tongue over them both. Eliot and Arielle both made low, startled sounds of pleasure, and Eliot shuddered as he fought for self-control.

Then Quentin knelt up and moved until he lined up with Arielle. “Ready?”

“Yeah, please,” she whimpered back, pulling him down on top of them.

She exhaled as Quentin slid in, and Eliot felt every inch of it with only a layer of hot, slick flesh between them. Like this, Quentin had more leverage to move and Arielle wasn’t quite so strained. But best of all, Eliot could feel Quentin’s cock pushing against him with more force.

As Quentin thrust into Arielle, Eliot did little more than arch his hips under her weight, shifting restless and aroused. He curled his hand over Arielle’s mound again, playing with her, teasing, making her squirm. He lifted his other hand to pull out what remained of Quentin’s ponytail and then combed his fingers through the wild hair falling down around his face.

Gazing up at Quentin, Eliot growled, “You gonna fuck us good, baby boy? C’mon. Wanna feel you so deep inside our sweetheart here.” He couldn’t reach Arielle to kiss her—he was too much taller—but he kept up a string of low, dirty whispers. “You so full, Ari? So full of us you can hardly stand it. Bet you’ve never been used like this before, been stretched like this. Tell Quentin how good it is. Let him hear you.”

“Fuck yeah, so good. Ungh,” Arielle moaned. Tension mounted in her body, like she was working up to another orgasm as Quentin moved harder into her. She seemed more than happy to take everything they gave her, lost to garbled cries of bliss.

Her arousal dripped down between them, flowing with her pleasure, cresting and ebbing as Quentin worked. His face was flushed red, glistening, his hair matted against his face. He gazed at Eliot, stare boring into him as he pumped faster, like he was determined to truly fuck the both of them, through Arielle if he had to.

The rougher he got, the more Arielle seemed to enjoy it, and the more Eliot felt of Quentin’s cock and his arousal. Q started to quake, moving erratically now, the orgasm coming down upon him despite how fiercely he fought it, as if he wanted to make this last all night.

All Eliot wanted was to see Q lose control at last, to feel Quentin and Arielle moving against him as they all spent. He thought of having this for as long as they stayed here, how good it would be to see Q this happy every day. Somehow that seemed more important than the quest now, more important than anything else.

“C’mon, baby boy.” Eliot cradled Quentin’s face in his hand, holding his gaze, absorbing its frightening intensity because for once at least he had a human shield between them. “You gonna come for us, baby? You gonna get us all wet and messy?”

Straining upward, Eliot worked into Arielle desperately, glorying in the ripple of Arielle’s muscles, the ever-moving pressure of Quentin’s cock rubbing against him. Then Quentin was coming, and Arielle trembled with it, mewling with the overwhelming sensations. It was too much, too perfect, and Eliot cried out too, wordless and breathless as his balls tightened and he shot into Arielle’s body, feeling her, feeling Q, out of his mind with it. He slammed his head back against the blanket, arching and writhing as ecstasy pulsed through him.

Then he subsided back against the ground, sighing as Arielle’s weight and Quentin’s pressed down on him. He wrapped his arms around them lazily and squeezed, eyes closing for a moment. He sighed and then looked at them again, smiling a little. “Well done, babies. Daddy’s very pleased.”

Quentin had flopped boneless on top of them, but after a few minutes, Arielle grew restless being squished between them. Quentin rolled off her and then helped her off Eliot. She was a little unsteady on her legs, which was understandable.

She giggled when Quentin caught her and then gingerly helped her sit back down on the blanket. She fanned herself with her hand. “Wow, that was…”

Quentin nodded, looking sheepish. “Sure you want to move in with us?”

She laughed. “Uh, you’re going to have a hard time keeping me away after that.”

Quentin lay down next to Eliot and put his head on his chest. “You’re such a good Daddy. Thank you.”

Eliot basked in the moment, wrapping his arm around Q, and kissed his hair, watching Arielle as he snuggled the smaller man. “It was my pleasure.”

When she smiled at him, he smiled back. They understood each other. Nothing was more important than taking care of Q. They’d do it as a team.

Chapter Text

Since it was that time again, Quentin and Eliot helped Arielle load up the cart with bottles of peach and plum wine to drive back to her family farm so they could make sure it was set for sale in Applecart. They’d agreed it was better for people to believe it came from the farm, as Quentin and Eliot didn’t need people showing up or distracting them with business deals.

As long as they had what they needed, the money didn’t matter.

Arielle hugged Eliot and then Quentin. She grabbed his ass and gave him a quick kiss, and then, looking at both of them said, “I’ll be back tonight, but I just want you to know that I’m pregnant.”

“What?” Quentin looked at Eliot, shocked and thrilled and maybe a little scared, but he grabbed Arielle in a hug and squeezed her tight. “I’m going to be a dad?”

“That’s the idea.” She squeezed him back, and he pressed his hand to her belly.

Eliot opened his mouth like he was going to say something. Then he closed his mouth. Then he opened it, said, “Wow,” and shut it again.

Quentin was in enough of a state that it took him a moment to notice how awkward Eliot was being, and by the time he collected his wits, Eliot had donned a smile and leaned down to kiss Arielle’s cheek.

“Congratulations, sweetheart.” Then Eliot excused himself and headed back into the cottage, giving Arielle and Quentin a little privacy.

“Should I stay?” Arielle looked after where Eliot had gone with concern.

“Um… no, go tell your family. No more picking up bottles, all right? Are you sure you should—”

Arielle cut off Quentin’s questions with a kiss. “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. Go practice your daddying skills on Daddy. He needs you. I’ve got Mr. Belvedere and Alf to keep me company and to help if I need it. Right?”

“Of course. We’ll look after her, Quentin.” Alf walked from Mr. Belvedere’s back down the cart to get his chin rubbed. “I was the first to smell it on her.”

“Oh. Good. Thanks?” Quentin wasn’t sure what to say. He both loved and was horrified by the talking animals. It was one thing to be rubbing a cat’s tummy and have them suddenly nip at you and quite another when the cat had the presence of mind and ability to say, whoa, that’s a boner. Stop petting!

“You’re welcome.” Then with a grand flourish, Alf turned around and headed to his spot on Mr. Belvedere’s back.

Arielle whispered, “Actually, it was Mr. Barkles at the farm who smelled it first, but let Alf have it.”

Quentin nodded sagely. “All right. Just… take care of yourself.”

“Always. I’ll see you in a few hours.” She kissed him goodbye and then hopped up onto the cart, and Mr. Belvedere headed toward the farm.

Quentin took a deep breath, trying to unscramble his brain from the knowledge that he was going to be a dad. A dad in Fillory. Which… Well what did he think was going to happen? He knew how sex worked. He knew that he wasn’t even so much as pulling out.

If he was being completely honest, Quentin really wanted to be a dad. He’d just always pictured it in the more traditional sense, on earth with earth babies and far less opium in the air.

At a time where he was settled, bought a house, not on a quest, solving a Mosaic. He certainly never pictured himself conceiving a child while fucking someone he was calling daddy.

And what if they vanished? What if he never met his baby? What if he vanished at a formative time?

Quentin headed to the cottage, and by the time he got there, he had started to work himself into a full-on panic. That wasn’t fair, though. He needed to be there for Eliot, who was probably worried for his own reasons.

He walked into the cottage to find Eliot already drinking.

Quentin rubbed his head, dislodging his hair messily. “So, um… that was big news, right?”

Eliot lifted his glass of wine in salute and leaned back against the kitchen counter next to the half-full bottle. “Well done, Q. I know you wanted kids. I didn’t expect them quite so soon, but…”

Trailing off, Eliot averted his gaze, not quite making eye contact as he sipped his wine. He wore a faint smile, but that could mean anything, really. Eliot wasn’t given to moping visibly.

“You wanted a family, and now you’ll have one.”

“Are you not ready to be a granddad?” Quentin joined Eliot, standing next to him, pressing his body to him as he slipped an arm around him. “I didn’t intend to… I mean… not here.”

“But Q… We have to live our lives here. We can’t… What good does it do to put life on hold for a decade?” Eliot leaned against Quentin and took another deep swig of his wine. “If you want to be a dad, be a dad here. We’re magicians. We can figure out the rest when the time comes.”

“I could still have children in a decade. I’d just be in my thirties.” Quentin poured himself a glass of wine because if he was being honest, he wasn’t so sure it was going to just be a decade. If they were here until the Chatwins showed up… well, he couldn’t think about how long that was without completely shutting down. “But, I mean, is it fair? We could just vanish on Arielle and now a child, too. And how do we explain to a child who we are and what we’re doing?”

“Q…” Eliot sounded actually disappointed in Quentin, which was more than Quentin could handle. Then Eliot kissed his temple and took the edge off. “People are always saying that. ‘How will I explain this to my kids?’ You know, kids are extremely resilient. You just use smaller words and be patient, and they’ll get it. That’s never an excuse for anything.”

Sighing, Eliot looked at Quentin dead-on and said, “Arielle has family. If we disappeared, her dads would help her raise a kid. She wouldn’t be without resources, and the child wouldn’t be without family to love them. And if we don’t disappear…”

For a moment, Eliot said nothing. Then he sipped his wine and continued quietly, “Isn’t this what you needed to be happy? You told me, when you were… You said you needed more. That you needed a family, and kids, and Christmas. There’s never been a Christ in Fillory, and we don’t even get winter here in the Southern Orchard, so Christmas is a wash, but you’ve got a family now, and you’re going to have a kid. Everything’s working out, Q.”

“It’s not… I’m… How do I explain that I might bail out on the child’s life and it’s not my choosing?” Not that Quentin was bailing out, and parents died and children survived it. She did have a big family, but Quentin furrowed his brow. “I don’t remember saying I needed kids or Christmas. I said that? I do want to be a dad. And Arielle is great. And you’re great. I mean, provided we don’t just vanish suddenly, that would probably be a very well-loved child.”

“Children grow up like that all the time. Military kids, kids whose parents travel. Lots of kids live in single-parent families. It’s not…” Eliot sounded frustrated, as if Quentin was ungrateful for a personal gift. “You were unhappy, Q. You said you couldn’t just watch life go by. I know it’s hard for you to be happy. Contentment is tough for you. But this is… This is a blessing, Quentin. And you’re gonna be an amazing dad, just like Ari’s going to be an amazing mom.”

“An amazing dad who can’t be content. Sounds like that’s going to be fun for a child.” But still, thinking about a baby, a little child running around, even with Quentin’s fears of how it could all go so wrong, it made him smile. “You’ll be an amazing dad, too. I mean, you’re raising me already.”

Eliot’s blank expression softened, a shy, sweet light coming into his eyes. He took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “So you want me to help raise your baby? I mean… I…” Clearing his throat, he rubbed the back of his neck and then sipped his wine. “Should I call myself Uncle El?”

“Uh, yeah Daddy-husband-wife-sister whatever. I mean, I can’t really directly tie you to getting her knocked up, but I’m sure you were present, so it’s your baby, too.” Quentin grinned at Eliot and wondered that he must’ve thought somehow, what? He’d be kicked out? “I guess we can’t very well have our baby calling you Daddy since that’s what I call you.”

Quentin drank the rest of the wine in his cup and poured another. This was such big news. He kept cycling between elation and terror, but knowing Eliot was there with him helped.

Eliot held out his cup for Quentin to top him up, a little smile curving his lips. “My baby too, huh? Maybe I’m Papa and you’re Daddy. It’ll get complicated, but honestly, is anything about this situation simple?”

He seemed pleased now, like Quentin had said the right thing. Like maybe he liked the idea.

Quentin was still pouring when Eliot took the bottle and set it and the cup aside. Then he slipped his arms around Quentin and dragged him into a hug.

“God Eliot, a baby. What are we going to do?” Quentin squeezed him back, pulse racing. “Obviously we’re going to need to expand this cabin and… how do you even babyproof Fillory?”

The more anxious he got, the tighter he gripped Eliot. The tighter Eliot gripped him back, the better he felt about the whole situation. “You promise you’ll be there for me, right? Arielle’s great and I love her, but Eliot… I need you.”

Eliot hid his face in Quentin’s hair and made a soft, choked sound. Then he laughed and pulled back to look into Quentin’s eyes. “I promise, Coldwater. I’m not going anywhere.”

Looking around the cottage—to which Arielle had made some material improvements—Eliot said, “You know, maybe we just live like the ‘70s. Babyproofing? I don’t know her.”

After a moment, he whispered, “Q, we’re magicians. We can ward the balls off this joint.”

“That’s true. Probably some noise cancelling… and you can make little clothes. And I can teach them how to read and math, and you can teach them about… Patrick Swayze and musicals.

“And yeah, you’re right. Arielle has a big family. If something happens to us… or to her… there will be plenty of family. And Christmas? I mean, every day can be Christmas.” Talking things through with Eliot helped to steady Quentin as it always did. He looked at Eliot’s face. “Our family is growing! How many should we have?”

“That’s a question for Ari.” Eliot raised a brow and held up a single finger. “Let’s start with one.”

Then Eliot’s expression clouded, like he wanted to say something serious. It was rare he did—he was usually allergic to genuine sentiment—but after a beat, he said, “I’m really happy for you, Q. You deserve this.”

Tears started to form, and Quentin tried to blink them back because he knew that kind of thing made Eliot uncomfortable, but it meant a lot for him to say that. He rolled onto his toes and kissed Eliot, deciding to channel his energy into affection rather than an emotional display.

Then he stopped and thought again about a child, raising someone into the world, and he was overwhelmed. The tears that came this time were happy tears. Eliot kissed them away tenderly and then wrapped his arms around Quentin and just held him for long moments, surprisingly still and sincere, letting Quentin have his emotions.

It was progress.

Quietly, unfussed, Eliot sighed, “Love you, Q. I’ll always be here. Promise.”

“Good. Because you know I can’t do this without you, right?” It felt so good to hear those words, to know that Eliot meant them, at least as far as their friendship went. “Love you, too… Daddy.”

Eliot groaned like Quentin had licked his dick and kissed Quentin roughly, hands in his hair, on his ass, roaming over him greedily. He turned them then and backed Quentin toward the table. It smacked the backs of Quentin’s thighs, and then Eliot’s hands were on his hips, lifting and shoving him until he sat on the tabletop. Eliot’s hungry mouth robbed Quentin of any chance to question the sudden passion.

Quentin wrapped his legs around Eliot’s waist because really, he was only human and was weak to Eliot’s charms. He hadn’t really intended to cause this much of a reaction, but then, it hadn’t been just them for a while.

He slid his hands in Eliot’s silky, curly hair, mussing it the way that he liked it as he lightly held him in place for a good, long kiss. “Mm yes. You need me, Daddy?”

“You know I do.” Eliot gazed into Quentin’s eyes, expression dark and heated. He kneaded Quentin’s thighs in his big hands, breathing rough. “You make me crazy, you little shit. I swear you call me that just to rile me up.” He rocked his hips forward, pressing his hard cock against Quentin’s groin, and then gave him a speculative look. “You should probably save yourself for your wifey. She’s going to want you when she comes back from the farm. It would be terribly rude of me to celebratorily fuck you before she gets a chance.”

“There’s plenty of time before she gets back. You’re the first wifey, aren’t you? You get dibs.” Quentin rubbed back against him, gripping Eliot’s ass with both hands. “You want me to fuck you, Daddy? You want me inside of you? We can be quick, then get back to work.”

“Oh god.” Eliot bit his lip and flexed his cheeks under Quentin’s hands, an open invitation. “It’s been a while.”

Eliot beamed and started stripping them both, like he couldn’t wait to get Quentin inside him. It still stunned Quentin that Eliot wanted him like this, that Eliot got so excited to have Quentin’s attention.

As Eliot peeled off Quentin’s shirt, he murmured, “You hard for me, baby boy? You want me? Just me, just the two of us?”

“Yeah, I want you, Daddy. I need you.” Quentin was so hard for Eliot, beyond ready. When Quentin had fucked Eliot lately, it was with Arielle watching. There wasn’t a rule—no one ever said anything—but living with them, she was usually just there.

Now he wondered if he should try to give them each individual time or if that—No, he wasn’t going to start thinking. There was too much going on to get lost in his thoughts. Right now, he wanted Eliot and just Eliot.

Getting up from the table, Quentin went to his knees in front of Eliot and grabbed his cock with both hands, starting by suckling his tip. Eliot moaned and threaded his hands into Quentin’s hair, petting him and staring down at him like Quentin was unspeakably beautiful. It felt good to have Eliot’s gaze trained on him, Eliot watching him with no one else in the room to take his attention.

As much as Quentin knew Eliot wasn’t attracted to Arielle the way Quentin was, El always included her, was always careful to kiss her too, to touch her too. It kept their little household happy and healthy, no doubt, but sometimes Quentin missed what he and El used to have, the quiet connection between just the two of them, the way Eliot would drop his guard and give Quentin a glimpse of what really lay behind his teasing and smiles.

Sucking cock had gotten easier with practice, as Eliot had told him it would, but Eliot was still careful, reverent, letting Quentin control the pace. He caressed Quentin’s face and gently rocked his hips to meet the bobbing of Quentin’s head, and the way he looked at him…

“Oh god, Q—” Eliot cut himself off and tensed, stomach muscles flexing beneath his lightly haired skin. “Baby boy, fingers. I’m… Get me ready.”

Quentin released Eliot’s cock and spat on his fingers obligingly. He rubbed them over Eliot’s wet cock and then slid his fingers down and between El’s cheeks to tease his opening.

Before this detour into Fillory’s past, Quentin had wondered if he could be this way with Eliot. Would Quentin be able to perform? Would he enjoy it?

Now he had his answer. He loved doing it, at least for Eliot.

From the moment he’d laid eyes on Eliot, Quentin knew his life was going to change. He’d had no idea in how many ways. There had always been something extra special about him, even beyond being the first face Quentin applied to the magical world. After all, Eliot was, through blood right, the High King of Fillory. And Quentin had been one of the few who believed Fillory was even real.

It had to be more than coincidence that they were put together. More than Jane Chatwin’s machinations, because on top of this strange, entwined fate, they had something else. Something special and different. Something that Quentin caught sight of when they were alone.

It was as plain as Quentin told him. He loved Arielle, but he needed Eliot.

What that meant in practical terms, Quentin couldn’t wrap his head around. Not beyond this. Yet this felt like the tip of the iceberg. As if there was so much more between them that they couldn’t get to. He’d felt so close to Eliot, and yet, like something was being held back from him. It had made Quentin feel lonely and inferior and…

Right. He had said family, hadn’t he?

The thought was bittersweet as he gazed up at Eliot and wondered again if this was just all in Quentin’s head. Like the fragments of Fillory that Quentin had held onto and believed in so fervently, even with no evidence, surely there had to be something.

But Quentin was getting in his head again as he worked Eliot open. He paused for a lubrication spell that eased his fingers in better than just spit and then he stood to kiss Eliot, just to feel him close. “You need me, Daddy? You want me to take you over this table?”

“Yeah, Q.” Eliot sounded breathless. His face had flushed, high cheekbones stained crimson. It made his dark eyes glitter, and Eliot leaned in slow to kiss Quentin again and again, looking at him between their lips’ caresses with something deep and secretive in his gaze. It always gave Quentin pause, that light in Eliot’s eyes, that mystery to him no matter how close they got, no matter how deep Quentin thrust inside his body.

“Stop that,” Eliot chided, stealing another kiss while Quentin was caught off guard. “Stop overthinking. It’s just us, and it’s perfect, Q. Just fuck me, baby boy. You want that? You’re gonna fuck me right here over this table because I need you too badly to wait till we get to the bed. C’mon, yeah? Just take me.”

“Oh yeah, that bed’s pretty far away.” Quentin beamed up at Eliot, amused by the roleplay, which he could get into. “Can’t wait for all the way over there.”

He gripped Eliot’s arm and then whipped himself behind Eliot. Grabbing Eliot by his nape, he pushed Eliot’s head down on the table. It made him feel powerful to command Eliot in such a way, heady and strong. He slid his fingers along Eliot’s cleft again, just teasing him because Quentin enjoyed feeling Eliot under his hands, loved teasing that spot inside that made Eliot’s knees grow weak and his feet shuffle.

“Missed having Daddy all to myself. Can’t be cross with me for wanting to play a little, can you?”

“No, baby boy. Never cross with you for playing.” Submitting, Eliot spread his legs wide to bring his ass low enough for Quentin’s shorter stature and stretched across the table, gripping it with both arms like he had to hold on for dear life.

At this angle, his ass was a tight curve, and the dimples at the bottom of his spine stood out like targets for Quentin’s kisses. Everything about him was long and lean and elegant, different from anyone else Quentin had ever been with. He still couldn’t get over the fact he was allowed to touch, to take, to use however he wanted. Eliot encouraged it. Eliot wanted it.

As Quentin rubbed little circles against Eliot’s prostate, Eliot groaned and arched his back, curly hair tangling around Quentin’s hand where it pinned his nape. El struggled against it weakly, like he wanted to take charge but not really. His body flexed and rippled around Quentin’s fingers, entirely too tempting, and Quentin’s brain supplied a vivid sense memory of being deep inside him, cock enveloped in El’s heat.

“You gonna fuck me, baby?” Eliot whispered it, sounding so desperate and working himself on Quentin’s hand. “You gonna fill Daddy up? C’mon, Q. You know Daddy needs it.”

“Yeah, Daddy. I give you what you need, don’t I?” Quentin slid his fingers from Eliot, gazing down at him spread out before him as if he was worthy. Before self-doubt could take hold, Quentin took his cock in hand and pressed it to Eliot’s opening. “You gonna take it from me, Daddy? You want it so bad? Need me inside you?”

He thrust forward, feeling Eliot go slightly rigid and then melt as Quentin made room for himself inside of him. He reached for Eliot’s nape again, tightening his fingers on it as he stretched out over as much of Eliot’s back as he could cover. “You’re so sexy just laying there ready for me. Asking me for it.”

He pressed kisses where he was, rubbing his face against Eliot’s skin as if he could mark him like a cat, have him smell of Quentin. Rising up a little, he kissed Eliot’s spine, then pulled back his hips and pushed into him again, taking his time, aiming each thrust, wanting to hear each and every sound Eliot made.

Eliot actually whined, a low, pleading sound torn from him as Quentin’s cock rubbed him just right, and Eliot’s knees buckled. His long fingers curled against the table as he pushed back onto Quentin’s shaft, taking him in greedily and letting out a long sigh of relief, like Quentin’s cock was all he needed or wanted in the world. “That’s so good, Q. God.”

He writhed a little under Quentin’s touch and then whispered, almost too quiet to hear, “I missed this.”

Quentin smiled hearing it and slid way out to just the tip of his cock and then thrust deep, as deep as he could get, surrounded by Eliot’s body, hearing the grunt and loving how it made Eliot all but tremble. “I missed this, too. Missed making my Daddy feel so good.”

He started to move a little faster, keeping up the intensity of his thrusts. Their bodies slapped together, but Eliot seemed to be enjoying the roughness, and Quentin wanted to give it to him. “Going to hollow you out, Daddy. Are you ready for that?”

“No, but I need it.” Eliot pushed into Quentin’s thrusts, meeting them with emphatic little sounds that seemed punched from the core of him, like Quentin was literally slamming the words out of him, making Eliot open up in ways he wouldn’t otherwise.

“Q,” El whimpered, sounding overwhelmed. “Q, oh god.” Eliot’s knuckles turned white where he clenched his hands against the table’s edges, like he was clinging on with all he had. “Fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me.”

As Quentin complied, Eliot let out a little sob, seeming to choke on it. “I need this,” he whispered like a confession. “I needed this so badly. Just wanted you so much. Still mine, aren’t you? My best friend, my baby boy. Still my Q.”

No one had ever seemed to want Quentin this much. And if they had, he wasn’t sure he could give it to them. Not like he could to Eliot. He fucked him harder, putting everything he had into it, aiming himself just so with both hands on Eliot’s back.

He held him tight, sliding his hands down to his waist to pull Eliot onto him, increasing how hard he took him. “Still your Q. Nothing changes that, El. Not ever. No matter what we do. No matter who else…”

Quentin didn’t want to think too much about that, and he didn’t want Eliot to get weirded out with Quentin’s intensity. “Still yours. Will you always be mine? Be my Daddy?”

“Always be your El.” Eliot squirmed like he didn’t like admitting it, like Quentin was forcing his honesty, like he couldn’t dissemble with Quentin so deep inside him. “Always love you, Q. I’ll always, always love you.”

Eliot writhed under Quentin’s hands on his waist, struggling with and against him like he just wanted to feel Quentin’s strength. “When you’re a dad, I’ll still be your Daddy. And you’re gonna be such a good dad, Q. You’re gonna be so good. You’re such a good husband to us, baby boy. You’re so good. You take such good care of us.”

Quentin had to pause as a wave of feelings hit him. He wiped his eyes quickly, so happy that Eliot thought he was a husband at all, let alone a good one. “That’s all I want to do. I just want you to be happy, Eliot.”

He took a deep breath, trying not to be too obvious that he’d gotten so emotional. Squeezing Eliot’s waist, Quentin started moving again. He wanted to make this so good for Eliot, wanted him to really feel how much Eliot meant to him.

In so many ways Quentin still felt like an inferior life partner to Eliot than Margo would be, but this was something he could give Eliot. “You’ll always be my Daddy. Even when you’re other people’s Daddy, you’re still mine.”

“Oh sweet boy,” Eliot sighed, sounding like he was swooning a little, like Quentin had said just the right thing. “I just want you to be happy too. Everything I do, everything I’ve done since we got here… I just want to do right by you, Q. I’m not good at…but this…”

Eliot dropped one hand from gripping the table to stroke his cock, legs trembling. “Just want you, Quentin. Wanna feel you come in me. You gonna fill me up, baby boy?”

“Yeah, I am. It’s coming Daddy. Can you take it? Take all of it?” Quentin beamed, slamming into Eliot, loving the sounds he made, that he could reach him this way. Pleasure rolled through him, and it was more than Eliot’s warm, sucking insides, more than feeling him at Quentin’s absolute mercy. It felt as if he was seeing that part of Eliot that so often eluded him, as if Quentin wasn’t completely imagining it.

Quentin shuddered growing closer, moving fast and hard, bending down and press his forehead to Eliot’s back, tasting the salt of his sweat on his lips. “So fucking sexy. Fuck.”

The orgasm damn near took Quentin by surprise, building in his body as his mind spun out, his heart so full that he almost couldn’t stand it. As he started to come, he grabbed Eliot’s cock, pulling it with him, needing to feel him coming too.

Eliot cried out, body tightening around Quentin, shaking beneath him. His cock throbbed in Quentin’s hand, spilling hot cum over Quentin’s fingers in sticky pulses that felt like triumph. They moved together, rocking together, gasping and quaking as each milked the other of every drop.

As Quentin began to pull away, Eliot reached back and grasped him by the hip, holding him there, keeping him inside him.

“Just…” Eliot’s whisper-soft voice sounded ragged with need. “Just stay. Just…stretch out on top of me and just…stay for a minute.”

“As long as you want.” Quentin stretched his arms out over Eliot’s as if he could completely cover the larger man. He wanted to protect and touch every inch of him even though that wasn’t possible. Quentin just felt so close to him and didn’t want to give it up, especially since it seemed like Eliot felt it, too.

He had another one of those paradigm-shifting feelings now, as if nothing between them would ever be the same again. But, he hoped, it was in a good way. He brought his hands up to Eliot’s and entwined their fingers and closed his eyes, just enjoying the rise and fall of Eliot breathing.

Eliot shivered, once, as if with strong emotion, and then went still beneath Quentin, matching their breathing. It was a habit he’d developed to help Quentin with his panic attacks, to mimic each other’s breathing. So they just breathed together, just stretched out and took in that sweet, opium-tinged air and exhaled the lingering tension.

Then, with seeming reluctance, he shifted, making Quentin’s softening cock slip from him, and Eliot turned his head, eyes closed, seeming to bask in Quentin’s nearness. He looked angelic that way, debauched certainly but innocent too, with long dark lashes and his mouth pursed softly like a nascent kiss. Then his lids fluttered open, and he caught Quentin watching him and smiled.

“Not gonna be much time for this once the baby comes,” Eliot murmured, looking a little guarded once again. “But it’ll be worth it. You’re going to be such a natural, Q.”

“Maybe not, but maybe so. We have three of us against one baby, seems like the baby will be outnumber and outmatched.” Quentin leaned in and kissed Eliot’s lips, sucking the bottom one just because he liked it, because he wanted to and for once he didn’t want to overthink and worry. “I mean, we may not be able to do it on the table, but we could probably do it out on a rock or against a tree.”

He beamed at Eliot and cupped his face. “I want one of those baby slings, you know? So I can wear the baby while we work if needed. And hey, we’ve got magic if all else fails, right?”

“Oh my god, Q. A fucking baby sling.” Eliot rolled his eyes, but he was grinning like he found Quentin cute. Always a good look.

Sighing, Eliot squirmed away and started straightening up. As he shifted away, Quentin saw the slick shine of his cum on the inside of El’s lean thighs, and then Eliot worked a cleaning charm and started dressing.

“Speaking of work…” El shot him a sidelong little look as he pulled on his shirt. “Let’s get started.”

 

~*~

 

Ari’s whole pregnancy thing was actually kind of amazing, at least to Eliot’s mind. She was literally growing a tiny Q-adjacent person inside her, and while he didn’t regret telling the Great Cock to fuck off about the idea of carrying such a creature himself, he did feel a certain awe toward Arielle as she grew and grew and grew.

He couldn’t help loving her just that much more because she was giving Quentin this gift, this thing he needed. Because it was becoming ever more obvious that Quentin was meant to be a father. Eliot might be Daddy, but Q was such a dad.

Quentin and Arielle gave the cottage a full makeover. It went from a temporary place to sleep while working on an impossible puzzle to an honest-to-Umber home. Eliot helped rearrange all the furniture and install a loft above their opulent bed, but mostly he let Q and Ari nest. They seemed to need it. Eliot focused on the Mosaic.

By the time Arielle’s final trimester drew to a close, the cottage was ready, and Quentin was buzzing with excitement. He fussed over Arielle constantly, and it might’ve been annoying except Eliot was doing the same damn thing despite himself. He’d even stopped drinking so much wine because Arielle couldn’t join him in it.

She had, somehow, become central to their existence. A vital part of their relationship. She bore the brunt of Quentin’s intensity and neediness, which gave Eliot space to breathe and exist without sole responsibility for Q’s moods and happiness.

Of course, theoretically, he knew Q’s feelings were his own responsibility, but Eliot had long ago embraced his codependent need to fix everything for his baby boy. And, if not fix everything, rig the game in Q’s favor.

There was too much joy to make room for jealousy most of the time, anyway. Arielle answered Eliot’s need for a smart woman to join him in his escapades, and she really was a dear friend to him, someone he trusted to always have Quentin’s—and his own—best interests at heart. She was going to give them a baby—both of them, because she’d made clear Eliot was the father too—and then they were going to spend their lives together becoming ever more of a family.

At least for the next eight years.

Maybe longer. They could have a real life here, and maybe when the quest was done, they could come back, and…

Eliot missed his Bambi like a phantom limb, but he couldn’t deny in the privacy of his own head that he wanted to keep what he’d built here. He had a feeling Quentin did too. Even without a baby, they were something special, Q and Ari and Eliot.

More and more, this was what Eliot wanted. Part of him, deep down, still pined to have Quentin all to himself, but the rest of him… Well, one big happy polyamorous family felt about right.

This was, in so many ways, more than Eliot had ever dared hope for. He was at peace.

Then Arielle shouted from inside the cottage, and Q’s head went up like a pointer’s and he sprinted to the door as Eliot stood from the Mosaic and brushed off his dusty hands on his trousers.

It was beginning.

The midwife arrived from Applecart by evening, retrieved by Mr. Belvedere and Alf, who went into town so Eliot and Quentin could both stay with Arielle. She was an old woman, but she bustled in with an air of competence and immediately went to Arielle where she lay in the bed cuddled up to Q.

“I heard you got yourself a pair of young men,” the midwife said as she kissed Arielle’s forehead. “Your fathers are so proud and excited. They’ve been crowing about this bairn to me for months.”

Then she turned her attention on Quentin, who looked as anxious and overwhelmed as Eliot knew him to be. “I’m Clara,” she said, extending her liver-spotted hand toward him to shake. Then she turned on Eliot and shook his hand too.

Her critical gaze took them both in, seeming to evaluate them, and then she grunted approvingly. “Better for you than that Lunk, Ari.” Her stare moved to Quentin. “But you need to take a deep breath or five, young man. Arielle will come through all right. She’s a feisty one.”

“We hadn’t noticed.” Eliot smirked and leaned in to kiss Arielle gently, brushing his lips against hers. Then he tugged at Quentin’s hand. “C’mon, Q. Let’s give Clara some space to do her thing.”

“Shouldn’t I be here?” Quentin looked to Arielle and Eliot could read all the anxiety in his expression, the longing to be there for her, and the worry. Tension radiated off him in waves.

Arielle smiled and took his hand. “Go with Eliot. I’ll be fine.”

“But, the miracle of birth and…”

“The what?” Arielle looked up at him, merriment in her eyes. “Go on, Quentin. But c’mere first.”

Quentin leaned over and kissed Arielle sweetly and nuzzled her face. “You look so beautiful.”

Arielle laughed and rolled her eyes. “We’ve had such an honest relationship up until this point; don’t lie to me now.”

“I’m not! You’re just… it’s… Okay, you’re sweating, but you’re having my baby, and it’s beautiful.”

“Save it for your Mosaic.” Arielle laughed and pushed him away. “Eliot, get your baby boy out of here. I’ve got some work to do.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Eliot grinned at Arielle and leaned in to kiss her one last time before collecting Quentin and hustling him outside. He parked Quentin on the outdoor bed and then headed around back to where he made the wine.

There was a nice shady spot there, and Eliot collected from it all the wine they could drink. Also, he’d stashed some really excellent pipeweed, and it seemed like the best way to make Q relax and take deep breaths. Gathering their dad-to-be supplies, Eliot returned to find Quentin looking a little queasy with apprehension with the sun setting over the trees casting shadows and golden rays across his face.

Sometimes he was so lovely it stopped Eliot’s heart.

“Hey, Q.” Eliot flopped down on the bed next to Quentin and patted the space next to him. “Let’s get drunk. We’re literally living in the past. We’re allowed.”

“What, allowed to smoke cigars and wait for the womenfolk to do their business?” Quentin’s wryness didn’t mask his worry about not being inside. He took the drink, though, and sipped the wine. It had been funny trying to explain to Arielle about the CDC’s warning about drinking while pregnant. They’d finally just convinced her it was an Earth tradition. Then she didn’t drink and neither had Quentin in solidarity. “It’s really happening. We’re going to be dads.”

Eliot nodded, his chest a little tight at the thought of Fen and their baby. Eliot hadn’t been ready to be a father, and he certainly hadn’t been ready to deal with raising a family with Fen. No matter how much he liked her, he hadn’t chosen her. He had minor heebies at the permanence of this, and he’d orchestrated it.

He squeezed Quentin’s shoulder in camaraderie and then packed a pipe. After he lit the bowl and got it going, he passed it to Q. “Deep breaths. Babies can sense tension, not to mention Arielles. Smoke out.”

As their gazes met, Eliot projected all the calm and certainty he could. “When you’re thoroughly chill, maybe we’ll go get a status update, but honestly… These things take time.”

Quentin took a deep breath as instructed and held it, taking a moment before he slowly let it out. “Gotta stay straight enough to help if… if things go wrong.”

Of course Quentin would fixate on all that could go wrong. Even on earth with all the best intentions and quick access to medical facilities, things could go wrong. Out here, in a cottage with an old woman, well… Quentin wasn’t wrong to be nervous, but he also seemed very excited. “I just feel like I should be doing something. I mean, he have a crib and… everything’s built, but shouldn’t I be… I don’t know, heavy breathing or something?”

“Lamaze? Q…” Eliot gave him a sympathetic look and swigged the wine. “You didn’t study how to be a birthing coach or anything. You’d just be hyperventilating the moment something got freaky, and Ari would forget to focus on making a human happen and be all obsessed with helping you enhance your calm. This is her big moment, and she’s Fillorian, and from what I understand through Fen, Fillorians do things in their own way. Sometimes loving someone means giving them space.”

Not that Quentin had ever excelled at that aspect of love. He was phenomenal at the rest, though.

“Anyway we’re right here, and if she needs us, she or Clara will shout. We’ll come running. For now, though…”

Quentin lit the pipe again, inhaled slowly, and held it in. A sure sign that he agreed with Eliot, which was a relief. He lay back on the bed and stared at the sky. “I forgot you’ve been through this.”

Then realization seemed to dawn on Quentin, and he rolled onto his side. “How are you doing with this?”

“Well, this time my wife didn’t get kidnapped by fairies and spirited away to another dimension where I can’t reach her or…” Eliot sighed. He didn’t really want to recount his numerous failures as a husband and father. Then he swigged the wine and traded it to Q in exchange for the pipe. After a long toke, he croaked, “I’m fine, Q. Thanks for asking.”

“It all seems so far away now. Which might just be good weed, but also… it’s like, now we’ve got magic and each other and Arielle and then a baby, and now I can’t… quite… remember what it was I was so hell bent on getting back to, you know? It’s like I didn’t know what to do with myself at first, and now I just… I don’t even know if I want a phone, let alone have one with me all the time. But I guess it’s easier too because we’re in the past. So we’re not missing Margo’s forced marriage and… whoever Alice is becoming.”

That was quite the ramble. Eliot raised a brow at Quentin, trying to ignore the way he still twinged a little at the mention of Alice, trying to push away his worries for Margo. He sank back onto the bed and curled around Quentin, holding the pipe carefully away. “Yeah, it’s good we’re in the past. Still plenty of time to save the world. In the meantime, we just have to live in the moment. It sounds like you’re starting to do a little of that.”

With a weird burst of neediness, Eliot leaned in to kiss Quentin, letting the hunger overtake him, just for a moment. Then he exhaled shakily and settled back against the pillow, staring up into the twilight.

Quentin scooted closer and rested his head on Eliot’s chest. “It just makes me wonder what I’ll do if we finish and our family is here. You know? And it’s like, part of me thinks I don’t even need to worry about it because it’s decades before the Chatwins show up. And maybe we finish and then do what we need and return at the right time to pass the key along, or maybe it’s… and then I hear your voice in my head telling me to stop thinking.”

Eliot pressed a kiss to the top of Quentin’s head and whispered, “Stop thinking, Q.” He laughed a little, sighed, and then admitted, “I think about it too. I think about our friends, and… Maybe this isn’t a perfect situation, but life’s never going to present you with a perfect situation. It’s entirely about making the hand you’re dealt work for you. And this is working, isn’t it? So let’s just… Let it be what it is.”

“I can’t wait to meet him or her. And all those little clothes Arielle’s family sent over. So tiny. I was going to name them after my dad. You know, Theodora or Ted. Theodora Jane or Ted Rupert Coldwater-Waugh.” Quentin pushed the wine from Eliot’s hand so he could hold it. “Arielle thinks those names sound exotic.”

“Coldwater-Waugh,” Eliot echoed, marveling at the sound of it. He rubbed his thumb over Quentin’s knuckles tenderly, holding back a wave of emotion. “Is that what we are? The Coldwater-Waughs?”

Quentin started to stutter as if he worried he’d overstepped. “Well, I mean, if this is your baby too, but I don’t know if… I mean, I know you have a wife, and we haven’t really… I mean, Arielle always said weddings were for rich people and landowners, and we’re technically squatting, so…”

“Q.” Eliot leaned over and kissed him, lips gentle and searching. Then he lifted his head and looked into Quentin’s eyes in the gathering dusk. The lamps on the front of the cottage reflected from their depths.  “We’re Coldwater-Waughs. It’s a thing now. You can’t take it back. The Coldwater-Waugh family.”

Eliot relaxed back against the bed and stared up at the stars, giving Quentin a little squeeze. “This is everything it needs to be.”

“Okay? Because…” Then Quentin stopped and said, “I’m going to stop thinking now. But what’s interesting is that Fillorians don’t all go in for surnames because, at this point, they’re small communities, and everyone kind of knows who belongs with whom. Like Fen was basically knifemaker’s daughter. So having a surname at all is going to be kind of a novelty, but you know, maybe when we’re back in Fillorian present, we’ll be able to trace the family line.”

“Oh my god, Q, you’re turning into one of those genealogy geeks. How did I not see this coming?” Eliot projected drollness, but he secretly thought it was super cute. It was wild to think about returning to Fillory of the future (present?) and having descendants. Would they realize that High King Eliot Waugh was that Eliot Waugh?

Would they even remember him? Or would all the glory go to Quentin the spunk-giver?

It was a little bleak, that thought, and it sneaked in around the side of his smiles. If they had to leave to continue their quest, would Arielle raise the baby with stories of both of them?

Maybe. Fillory did seem super chill about the My Two Dads sitch Arielle had grown up with.

The pipe had gone cold. Eliot set it aside with the abandoned wine and then rolled Quentin under him. Sprawling out on top of the smaller man, Eliot whispered, “You’re gonna be a father, Mr. Coldwater-Waugh. We’re gonna have a family, right here, tonight. We’re gonna raise a baby with that gorgeous woman in there carrying your child, and we’re gonna teach them all the crazy stories we loved growing up, and they will be simultaneously the weirdest kid in Fillory and the most loved, and if that doesn’t inspire us to find the beauty of all life, what will?”

“Oh god, El, what if that means we’re going to be zapped away now? It wouldn’t be so cruel, right?” Quentin wrapped his arms and legs around Eliot, surprisingly sexual in some ways, though he was clinging and clearly feeling some distress.

Then he said, quietly and in an adorably befuddled voice, “Can I even read the baby the Fillory novels? Should I read a story by a pedophile? Is it technically historical fiction or sci-fi?”

“Oh Quentin.” Eliot kissed Quentin’s forehead and sighed.

As they snuggled, Clara appeared in the doorway amidst a halo of firelight. She gave them a grumpy look, as if regarding their cuddles with suspicion. “The baby’s almost here. Crowning. Ari’s asking for you both.” Then her wizened face cracked into a smile. “She’s doing just fine. Come see.”

Eliot scrambled to get up fast enough as Quentin tried to bolt for the cottage, almost tripping over the blanket. Then they were both up and dashing inside.

Clara presided over the birthing bed with the air of a benevolent goddess, and whatever enchantments she’d used made the whole ordeal far less bloody and messy than Eliot had expected. He got one good look at the “crowning” situation and then averted his gaze; he’d had enough of that growing up on a farm.

Staring exclusively at Ari’s flushed, sweaty face, Eliot smiled and gave her a little wave when she noticed him beyond Quentin’s far more emotional reunion with his sister wife.

“It’s happening! Oh Ari, it’s a baby!” Quentin’s observation was… well, cute. At least he was enthusiastic.

She nodded at him and laughed. “Yeah, what did you think I was going to have? A kitten? I told you, me and Alf are just friends.”

Quentin’s eyes were glassy as he laughed and took her hand. “It’s okay if I watch? I just… I want to see our baby.”

“Didn’t get enough of the view going in?” Arielle took a deep breath, apparently another contraction. Her toes curled, she gritted her teeth, and the baby’s head came through.

“Yeah, well, you know I’m a—”

“Pervert? Yeah, I know.” Arielle exhaled slowly. It seemed to be going well: no high drama screaming, Arielle cracking jokes.

“I was going to say sap, but you’re not wrong.” Quentin’s eyes glimmered with feeling as he reached down to stroke the baby’s head. “Come on out, baby. We’re ready to spoil you.”

He looked up and over at Eliot. “A baby!”

“Yeah, Q. It’s your baby.” Eliot smiled at him, inexplicably charmed by Quentin’s absolute nerding out over the kid’s arrival. He looked past Q to Arielle and gave her thumbs up as Clara coached Arielle through the last of the pushing.

It wasn’t exactly pleasant-looking—Ari seemed like she might strangle Clara if the old woman bossed her one more time—but with the head out, the body followed easily, and Clara caught the baby with expert care. It was purple and slimy and gross, but Quentin looked enraptured.

Eliot guessed he could see why.

Clara called orders, and Eliot scrambled to bring a basin of water and the baby’s blanket as Quentin petted Arielle and reassured her that she was a fucking champion. Everything was kind of a blur, and it probably wasn’t just the wine and pipeweed. Some of it was the happy tears in Eliot’s eyes that he steadfastly refused to acknowledge were happening.

They were happening to Q and Ari too, anyway.

Then the baby let out a mad little wail, and Clara crooned, “It’s a boy! Look at him!”

Clara hurried to clean the baby and then brought him to Arielle, draping him across her bare chest.

“A boy!” Quentin looked just the slightest bit disappointed, as if he was hoping for a girl maybe, but he beamed anyway, reaching in to examine the tiny fingers. “So Theodore Rupert Coldwater-Waugh.”

“It’s a mouthful.” Arielle held the baby loosely so Quentin and Eliot could see him.

“Yeah, we can just call him Ted. That was my father’s name.” Quentin leaned in and kissed Arielle and then kissed Ted’s purple little head. “You like that name? You like being Ted? Your name is Theodore, but Theodore is really long, so we can just call you Ted.”

“Ted,” Eliot echoed, hanging back a little, not wanting to intrude as the baby made weird snuffly little baby sounds and rooted around looking no doubt for Arielle’s nipple.

Like father, like son.

As the baby latched on and started nursing, Eliot looked to Clara and murmured, “Thank you so much. Is there anything we can do for you? A cup of tea? Something to eat?”

Smiling, Clara nodded and herded Eliot toward the little kitchen area. “Arielle’ll need something to eat too. Gotta keep her strength up. It was an easy delivery, but even the easiest delivery takes something out of a woman.”

Eliot nodded solemnly as he put the kettle on to boil and started frying some eggs and smoked sausage. Protein would be good, right? Maybe a veggie omelet…

As Eliot worked, he glanced toward Quentin and Arielle, admiring the perfect little family they made, the adoring way Quentin looked at Ted—and at Arielle, for giving him Ted. Something twinged in Eliot’s chest, but he couldn’t be anything but relieved. Arielle was safe. Ted was healthy.

“It’ll be good they have you to look after them,” Clara said quietly. “The other one’s a pretty boy but witless.”

Eliot gaped at Clara, offended but also delighted with the catty, Margoesque remark. Then he shook it off and replied crisply, “Yes, well, he’s the father, but I’m the Daddy.”

He didn’t expect Clara to grasp the significance—she was ancient, and this was the olden days of Fillory—but she gave him a sly look and eyed him up and down. “I bet you are.”

Flustered, Eliot pushed a cup of freshly steeped tea into her hands and cleared his throat. Clara laughed and took her tea back over to where Quentin and Arielle fussed over Ted as he sniffled and snorted and gobbled up milk.

“She’s going to need a lot of rest,” Clara told Quentin, addressing him with a TV schoolmarm’s authority. “You’ll have to do the household chores until she’s feeling back to normal. Some fathers try to slack off, but if I hear you’ve been remiss in your duties, I’ll come back and tan your hide for my Ari. I brought her into this world, you know.”

“You did?” Quentin looked so happy; it was as if he only heard about half of what she’d said. He looked so excited, and not for the first time Quentin reminded Eliot of a puppy. Had Eliot ever seen so many of Quentin’s teeth? “Then Ted’s got a great start, doesn’t he? We’ll take care of things and take care of Arielle.”

“They take really good care of me, Clara. The fight is convincing them that I can walk on my own two feet sometimes. Treat me like I’m a princess and not a farm girl. We’re both going to be so spoiled.” Arielle kissed the top of Ted’s head and caressed his face. “I smell food, though. I won’t complain if someone wants to feed me.”

“I’m on it, Ari.”

Eliot plated the food and brought it to her as little Ted finished nursing and gurgled sleepily. Clara picked up the baby and carried him over to the changing table Quentin had built. She diapered him with the soft cloth diapers Arielle’s family had sent—hand-me-downs from their own brood—and swaddled him in the baby blanket. Once he was bundled and content, Clara turned toward Quentin and Eliot and raised a brow.

“All right. One of you feed Arielle, and one of you burp little Ted and keep him cozy.”

“Burping might get spittle and messy, right?” Quentin looked like he was about to jump out of his skin to snuggle with the baby. The way he said messy even sounded like Quentin was happy to have little Ted barf on him. More power to him.

Quentin took the baby and held him as if he was a professional at it already. He set a little piece of fabric over his shoulder and cuddled Ted close, patting his back gently. He whispered what must’ve been the secrets of the universe to him, because Ted actually seemed to be listening.

Arielle watched them fondly and then turned to Eliot. “I thought I smelled you cooking. Thank you, Eliot. I’m almost too tired to eat. Almost.”

She took the plate from him and balanced it as best she could. “I don’t know if we’re ever going to get Ted back from him. Guess it’s a good thing we get along, huh?”

Eliot nodded to Arielle and then leaned over to kiss the tip of her nose. As he drew back, he gazed into her eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.” He jerked his head toward where Quentin was happily babbling to sleepy lil Ted and smiled.

“Even if we didn’t always get along,” Eliot told her quietly, serious for once, “we’re family now. You’re part of us always.”

Then he turned his head to look at Quentin, feeling his expression go a little dopey. He sighed. He’d never seen Q look so happy, let alone while he was being actively vomited upon.

Whatever this had cost, whatever the Great Cock thought, this was worth it.

 

Chapter Text

Quentin took point on most of the baby chores. He didn’t mind changing the diapers and even did it by hand because he worried a magical cleaning might chafe Ted’s tender skin. Eliot presided over Sandman duties, singing Ted to sleep, gently rocking him, tucking him into his cradle effortlessly with those big, nimble hands. Arielle was on feeding duty, a job that couldn’t really be shared in the absence of breast pumps and baby formula, but she seemed to relish the quiet time with Ted nestled against her chest.

Between the three of them, everyone did plenty of bonding with baby Ted, but also they found time to pair off and meet their more adult needs. It kept them so busy Quentin didn’t have time to overthink. He wasn’t even overly fussed when the Mosaic didn’t surrender its secrets. He didn’t really want to leave yet.

Each day seemed to bring a new gift, more proof that Ted Coldwater-Waugh was clearly a genius baby and perfect in every way, not that Quentin was biased. Quentin also had a surprising calming effect on Ted. Whenever he got too fussy, Quentin would take him and settle him back down. The crying that frustrated Arielle and Eliot just elicited empathy from him; he didn’t mind at all.

Eliot had made Quentin the baby sling he’d requested and made one for Arielle to assist with feeding. Overall, raising Ted took a village, and Quentin wondered how single people did it while also working. Heroes, all of them.

Shortly after Ted was born, Arielle’s dads came to visit, and Arielle promised them a visit to the orchard when she felt up to it. It became the big goal motivating them. Help Arielle recuperate so they could go show off baby Ted to all her family members and catch a good buzz while listening to embarrassing stories about baby Ari.

But despite how easily the labor went, her recovery took a year. The slowness would have unnerved Quentin if he thought about it too much, but fortunately he didn’t really have time to brood. Eliot and Quentin kept working on the puzzle, Ted in a sling against Quentin’s body, Eliot playing gopher, and Arielle rested indoors or on the outdoor bed in the sunshine.

Mr. Belvedere and Alf were more than capable of making deliveries on their own. Eliot’s wine-making business thrived, making Arielle’s family more money than they’d ever had. Quentin continued making and repairing furniture. Everything was good.

Today Mr. Belvedere and Alf were finally delivering the family to the orchard along with all the boxes of wine. The humans all sat on the cart’s small bench while wine occupied the back, so Ted sat on Arielle where he could feed, and Quentin sat on Eliot’s lap where he could feel Eliot’s erection.

Eliot had dressed them all in their best clothing for the outing, especially baby Ted, whose dusky pink playsuit covered in frills and embroidery was perfectly tailored to his chubby little physique. Eliot wore a long red wrap tunic that cinched at the waist and slim trousers with tons of laces that made Quentin want to unwrap him like a present. Arielle was clad in a soft peach-colored wrap gown that coordinated with Eliot’s outfit and displayed enough of her impressive cleavage to make plain the swiftness with which Ted’s lunch could be produced was a deciding factor in its design. Quentin matched them too, his outfit less fussy but a red-plum color that tied them together as a family thematically. It was super comfortable—Eliot had magically tailored it to him before they left—and made Quentin feel like maybe he didn’t need to be a King of Fillory to live like Fillorian royalty.

Things were pretty damn good. And Eliot clearly admired how Quentin looked all cleaned up. He’d barely taken his hands off him since they walked out the door. Judging by how Arielle kept smirking at him, she’d noticed too, and even if no one said anything about Eliot’s cock pressing against Quentin’s ass cheek, they all seemed to realize it was happening.

Including Alf, who just looked extra smug in his ineffably feline way.

The road through the forest was clear, kept well maintained by the wine money and Mr. Belvedere’s repeated travel between the Mosaic cottage and the Stonefruit cottage. They all bounced together, and Ted clutched at his mama as he looked around big-eyed and awed at the change of scenery. He seemed completely enchanted with the day, babbling nonsense as he chewed on his fist. He was a perfect little man, and Quentin could hardly believe how lucky he was to be wrapped up in Eliot’s well-dressed arms, watching their son snuggle his beautiful mother, as talking animals conveyed them to his in-laws’ enchanted Fillorian orchard.

The smell of sunshine on fruit carried on the breeze, and Ted perked up and looked around raptly, inhaling the delicious scent. He waved his fat little arms and cooed, “Mama mama mama,” like he expected Arielle to supply him immediately with some the pureed peaches Eliot had canned for him.

Eliot laughed and snugged one arm around Quentin’s waist tight and then reached out his other hand to catch Ted’s fist. Ted curled his fingers around one of Eliot’s and held fast. “Papa papa,” Ted intoned seriously, big noggin wobbling a little with the cart’s jostling.

Then, seeming overexcited, Ted stretched madly toward Quentin, straining to reach him, howling, “Dada dada dada dada,” until Quentin leaned over to kiss his little face and blow raspberries on his chubby cheek. It really only served to make Eliot’s entirely inappropriate erection that much more obvious as it dug into Quentin’s butt.

Not that Quentin really minded.

Then, inevitably, Ted grabbed Quentin’s ponytail where it had slid over his shoulder. He tangled his stubborn baby fingers into the long strands and yanked while happily gurgling, “Dada dada dada!”

It took almost until they reached the Stonefruit cottage to extricate Quentin from Ted’s nefarious hair-pulling schemes, but they did it. Quentin had lost a few good soldiers in the battle, but he wasn’t bald yet, and this was a near-daily occurrence. He was still red in the face and wincing as they pulled up the final dozen yards to the cottage to spot Arielle’s dads already standing outside waiting for them.

They raised their hands in tandem greeting, in sync like only lifetime companions could be, and rushed the cart moments later, both gruffly demanding Ted snuggles. Ted flinched back and started to cry at all the commotion, prompting Arielle to pass Ted off to Quentin, who was still perched on Eliot’s lap and pinned in place by one iron arm.

The next moment, Arielle’s dad Cob scooped her into his arms and twirled her in a circle, tears streaming down his face in excitement at seeing his daughter. Then her other dad Brook swept her into a hug and swayed with her like he was dancing to a song no one else could hear. This was Quentin’s future, too. Someday Ted would be grown and leave home, and Quentin would be this overwhelmed to see Ted return home, to get to hug his little Ted all grown up.

He cuddled baby Ted closer, soothing him with back rubs and kisses until he settled down. Eliot pressed a kiss to Quentin’s temple and then slid them all toward the steps. He gently displaced Quentin onto the bench and slipped out from under him before leaping down and then held out his arms to take Ted so Quentin could step down.

“Quentin!” Brook blustered, coming to offer him a hand down. “That repair you did to our wagon… It’s better than new! Come on, I’ve got something else for you to fix.”

Cob looked over from where he had his arm looped around Arielle’s shoulders and grinned. “Brook, let the kid get a drink in him before you drag him out to the shed. It’ll keep.”

“Definitely let him get a drink in him,” Eliot advised drolly, his expression contented. He bounced Ted in one arm as he motioned toward the many crates of wine. “We come bearing gifts. Let the day drinking commence.”

“Might be better to get me before I’ve been drinking. Who knows what kind of repairs I’ll wind up thinking are reasonable?” Quentin watched Eliot snuggling Ted. It always surprised him just how much Eliot seemed to enjoy his Ted time. Not that he thought Eliot was made of stone, but the daddy type Eliot aspired to was very different than the one Quentin did.

Of Arielle’s eight siblings, only two brothers were present. Three others were tending the market, and her three sisters had coupled and were off having adventures and families of their own. The two brothers left, Tinder and Bumble, were the closest in age to Arielle, Tinder being a year older and Bumble a year younger. Ironically, they apparently had trouble dating.

Arielle greeted them with excited hugs, but they seemed wary of holding the baby, which was just as well. Meant Quentin would have more Ted time again sooner.

“Yep, looks like a baby,” Bumble assessed. He let the baby grab his finger and looked up at Eliot, seeming thunderstruck by his presence. He was, by far, the tallest person around. “Hi, I’m Bumble.”

“Eliot,” Eliot announced, sounding simultaneously friendly and bored, like he was too cool to really care how he was perceived. Which Quentin knew was a full-on lie. Eliot had been looking forward to this for months.

Bolstering his grip on Ted, Eliot kissed Ted’s chubby cheek and said, “And this is Theodore Rupert Coldwater-Waugh, the most beautiful child in Fillory and the multiverse.”

Ted giggled and waved his free hand around in a gesture reminiscent of a beauty queen greeting her admirers. Eliot gazed at Ted like he was the center of the universe and smiled indulgently.

Brook and Cob closed in on Eliot from either side like they were flanking their prey, and Eliot went alert, head up and poised like a buck’s. He narrowed his big brown eyes on his approaching in-laws and lofted Ted into the air, up and out of the way where no one but Eliot could reach him.

“Someone must pay the baby toll,” Eliot intoned, invoking the game he played with Quentin and Arielle in which he would surrender Ted only in exchange for kisses or wine. “Who will pay the baby toll?”

Tinder raised his brows. He didn’t seem quite as in awe of Eliot as Bumble, which was good as far as Quentin was concerned.

“What is the baby toll?” Bumble asked. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the baby.

Quentin furrowed his brow. “Give him some wine if you want to hold the baby.”

Arielle raised her brows, apparently hearing the tension in Quentin’s response. “The theme here seems consistent. Let’s get some wine, pass Ted around.”

She ducked in, kissed Eliot, and took Ted from him. “You guys wanna see the house?”

“I hear there have been some material improvements made since our little winery business began to blossom. I know Arielle is curious to see them…” Eliot tugged at a strand of Arielle’s hair playfully and then gave her bottom a friendly swat. “Lead the way.”

He hung back, though, clearly waiting to fall into step with Quentin and reaching out to drop an arm around his shoulders. Quentin sighed softly and relaxed against Eliot, wrapping his arm around his waist. He knew that look; Quentin remembered feeling the same way on seeing Eliot the first time.

Arielle passed Ted off to Cob, who seemed to be who she called “Dad” and then Brook was Brook. Not out of hostility, just probably what everyone was comfortable with.

They walked through the house, which was beautifully maintained with obviously new floors and several extensions that were added over the years, it looked like. Probably as the family could afford it. Cob explained the several generations that his family had been here, the ups and downs of the stonefruit trade.

Ted seemed enraptured by his deep baritone and combed his little fingers through Cob’s long gray beard. He seemed inured to baby fingers tugging on his facial hair. So many kids, including his many siblings, which he explained, walking through a long hallway. There were several paintings of the families along the way.

Arielle pointed to the most recent one. “This is the one I did. I’ll do one of us one of these days. Just haven’t felt up to painting.”

The words made Cob frown and trade a look with Brook.

“She painted the shutters on the cabin, did these really cute designs and on the awning. I guess we’ve been kind of distracting.” Quentin gave them his best smile, even though he felt a stab of worry.

“I’m fine. Takes a lot of creative energy to make a baby that cute,” Arielle said, rolling her eyes. “And all the feeding. And before you ask, the guys take great care of me. I hardly have to lift a finger. Just a lot of boob lifting. Nipple soreness. Eliot’s started extracting peach oil from the pits, and Quentin rubs it on for me.”

Brook and Cob snorted and averted their gazes as if this was a common tactic of Arielle’s to deflect concern. Cob bounced Ted in his burly arms and huffed a little, sounding amiably put out.

“Ari, you know we just—” Cob started, but Brook cut him off.

“She knows. Let’s make today a good one, honey.” Brook gave Cob’s shoulder a loving squeeze and then advanced on Arielle, sweeping her into another embrace. “We’re just old men who worry. Gotta let us have that. And we don’t hardly see you these days. Time was you brought the wine shipments yourself, helped out Bel and Alf. You gotta expect us to fret a little.”

Eliot made a soft, yearning sound like it physically pained him to see fathers be so tender toward their kids. He snuggled into Quentin’s side without seeming to realize he was doing it.

“I’ll get back to making deliveries. I’m Ted’s food supply right now. I’d have to bring him with me, and I’m not sure Quentin’s heart can take being parted for a few hours.” Arielle smiled and joined in the snuggle on Quentin’s other side.

“What? Well, I mean, yeah, but… I guess it’s just a few hours.” Quentin felt a little silly and put on the spot. He hadn’t forbidden Arielle from taking Ted, but he did spend a good portion of the day with the baby strapped to his chest.

Arielle laughed lightly. “We can discuss it. Do you want to see my room?”

She’d been the final girl, so she’d claimed the room she’d originally shared with her older sisters. She led them down the hall to the last door, and inside was a girly space all done up in pinks and reds with fanciful paintings of pegasi and unicorns. “Don’t tell Mr. Belvedere about these paintings. He’s got this whole thing about flying horses and unicorns. I think he’s just jealous.”

“You’re saying I shouldn’t tell him? Because I feel like I’m obligated to tell him. He deserves to know the truth, Ari. You’re a traitor to ordinary equine kind.” Eliot grinned over Quentin’s head at Arielle and reached over to pull her braid lightly. It was probably fair; he’d braided her hair this morning himself. He’d been taking care of her a lot these days, in little ways.

From the living area, Ted warbled, a sound somewhere between singing and wailing, and the four grown ass men taking care of him all laughed like it was overwhelmingly cute. Which, it was. Quentin’s baby was perfect in every way.

Arielle was slapping playfully at Eliot’s much larger hands as he toyed with her, reaching around Quentin to torment and delight, which was pretty much his modus operandi at all times. Then Eliot ducked around Quentin suddenly, scooped Arielle into his arms, and carried her dramatically to her bed before spreading her out across it and flopping on top of her like she was his pillow. Between her breathless giggles and Eliot’s smirk, it took little more than Eliot making room for Quentin to read the invitation to snuggle in Arielle’s childhood bed.

Quentin hopped in with them. The bed was small, certainly small for three people and it squeaked under the weight. There was a brief silence from the living room, and then the men started laughing again, probably at them, thinking they were going to get busy in her room.

Arielle hugged them both. “I used to lay here and dream of what my life would be like. Would I end up with Lunk? Would I wind up milking his family’s goats? What kind of life would I have? I lacked the imagination to think it could be this good. You treat me like a queen, and I love you both very much.”

“I love you, too.” Quentin was careful with her breasts, knowing they could get sore, but sometimes he couldn’t resist a light squeeze.

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “I guess at least Ted’s interest in my boobs comes naturally.”

“I also love you both,” Eliot intoned, sounding very formal as he curved one hand over Arielle’s other breast and mimed squeezing. “And everyone is interested in your boobs, Ari. They have a soothing and mesmeric effect. Would I neglect them? Perish the very thought.”

Then, equally seriously, Eliot reached over and squeezed Quentin’s pec with a quiet honk noise. “You also have lovely titties, Quentin. Have you been rubbing the peach oil on them? I think they’re getting bigger.”

Eliot hid his smirky face in Arielle’s neck as they cuddled her between them, obviously trying to keep the mood light despite the lingering, unspoken worries.

“No. No one’s biting my nipples hourly, so Arielle gets all the peach oil. I may have put some on my lips. Are my lips looking perky?” Quentin grabbed Eliot’s pec back, grasping his nipple. “What’s your beauty secret, Eliot? What have you been doing to your nipples?”

Arielle giggled and squeezed them tight. “You two bicker like old married people. Or children. I’m really not sure sometimes. Is the orchard what you thought it would be?”

“It’s beautiful.” Quentin gazed at her and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

“I know you worry about me and Ted if you guys finish your puzzle, but this is where we’ll go. Ted could work here, or we have money set up for him; he could apprentice just about anywhere he’d want to. He’s kind of far down on the family tree to inherit, but this place is so big. We’ll all always have a home here. All of us if you wanted, which I know you don’t and can’t, but you would be welcome if you did.” Arielle sounded a little tired, as she often was. Apparently, breastfeeding took a lot out of a woman. Plus her sleep schedule was kind of everywhere.

“You need a nap?” Quentin sat up to look down at her.

She nodded. “I wouldn’t mind a quick one. You guys have some wine and get to know my brothers.”

She flicked Eliot’s nose. “Not too well. Though if you have any advice for them, they’ve got no… What do you guys call it? Game?”

Eliot feigned offense, as if he could possibly pretend he’d never seduced anyone’s brother before. Then he leaned over and kissed Arielle lightly, brushing their lips together in the mostly chaste way he had with her. It reminded Quentin of how he’d been with Margo. He rarely mentioned her anymore, and Quentin had the idea it hurt too much to talk about, but it seemed at least a little like Arielle answered that lingering need.

Then El got up and slipped from the bed. “Teach your brothers how to get their dicks wet. Got it. Any other requests?”

“I love how you assume she meant just you teaching them about dating.” Quentin tried to keep a serious face at their amused looks. “Oh sure, laugh, but who has two partners?”

Arielle giggled and leaned in to kiss him. “You’re lucky you’re so cute. Now go on, have some fun. I’ll be out in a bit.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Rest well.” Eliot shot her a lingering look that Quentin recognized as concerned, but it looked remarkably similar to eyefucking. Then Eliot headed out the door and waited for Quentin to follow.

They closed the door behind them and headed back to the living area where Brook was tossing Ted into the air and catching him, making the baby cackle and gurgle. Cob sat on the couch watching and drinking wine. He looked up when they approached.

“Where’s Ari?”

“Taking a nap,” Eliot replied, tone so even it betrayed his worry.

Brook stopped tossing Ted, bringing him in to snuggle against his chest. He looked to Eliot with furrowed brow and then looked to Quentin. “Gotta say… That was quick even for fellas your age.”

Before Quentin or Eliot could respond, Cob sighed. “They didn’t. She’s just needed to rest. The cart trip wore her out.”

“Yeah, she’s making milk to feed this little chunk.” Quentin grinned at Ted who seemed quite at home with his granddads. He wasn’t sure what to say about his stamina and didn’t really want to talk about it. “Eliot’s been canning some peaches for Ted, so we’re moving him onto other food, too. Hopefully once she stops breastfeeding she’ll get her energy back.”

That was what she’d told him, anyway. The pitying looks everyone was giving him made him think it wasn’t quite true. Quentin looked down at the floor, shuffling his feet, a little embarrassed and trying not to panic.

Eliot was standing behind him then, chin nestled atop Quentin’s head and arms wrapping around him so Quentin could lean back into his lanky strength and match breathing with him. It was like Eliot was his therapy dog or something, a solid, warm presence whenever Quentin got too into his head.

Ted burbled and punched Brook repeatedly with both fists, seeming unconcerned by the grim aura that consumed the adults. Brook sank onto the couch beside his husband without speaking, like no one knew what to say to Quentin.

Then Ted reached for him and said, “Dada dada? Dada dada dada!” He squirmed and wriggled, climbing from Brook onto Cob and then toddling along the couch, holding onto its upholstered back to get closer to Quentin.

Quentin sniffed, sucking back his feelings as best he could to go grab Ted. He took him into his arms and snuggled, bouncing on his toes which made Ted giggle. He kissed the side of Ted’s head and inhaled his peachy scent. “It’ll be okay no matter what, right, Ted? Right, baby? We take care of your mama mama mama, yeah? We give her kisses and make sure she eats, and if she’s tired, she sleeps, and if she doesn’t want to talk about it, we don’t.”

He wondered if he could get her to the centaur retreat, if it even existed now. They’d healed him from the injury he’d gotten from the Beast, built him a whole prosthetic shoulder. Maybe there was something they could do, but he wasn’t sure he should say anything to her family about it.

A smaller part of him wondered if this was like went wrong for his dad. How he’d gotten cancer after Quentin got magic, how suspending magic had put him in remission. Did Quentin do this to her?

Eliot tugged at the hem of Quentin’s shirt, reeling him back in and wrapping his arms around him until he could reach Ted and nom on the baby’s fist. His presence was comforting, although the fact he said nothing weighed on Quentin.

Then Cob grunted and gripped Brook’s knee. “Her mama died young. Ari’s always been afraid she’d do the same. Her older sisters are all fine, though. They’re fine. Arielle will be fine too.”

Quentin relaxed against Eliot, needing him in more ways than he could say. It made him feel less vulnerable to be a dad holding a baby who might lose his mom knowing he had another dad.

Also, it was true, Arielle had felt she was going to die young before Quentin was even in this Fillorian time. If she did, well, it probably wasn’t him. Just the way her life was going to work.

And yet it was still so sad and tragic, and he didn’t want to think about raising Ted without her. Even though he totally believed he and Eliot could handle it and that Cob and Brook would support them, it made him sad for himself and for Ted, and for everyone who loved her.

“If she’s still so tired, we can take her to a healer in Brighthaven. We’ll figure it out. Maybe she’s low in b-12.” Quentin tried to smile while the Fillorians in the room gave him a confused look. Right. “Or whatever. Her energies or something. Like you said, her sisters are fine.”

“And the wine makes us plenty of money,” Eliot added, sounding a tad defensive and cuddling Quentin and Ted. “Cost isn’t an object. Arielle will have the best care Fillory has to offer.”

“That’s true,” Cob ventured quietly, giving Brook’s knee another squeeze. “They’re good providers,” he told Brook, like he was reassuring himself as much as his husband. Then he looked back to Quentin and Eliot. “I know you boys’ll do whatever it takes to keep our Arielle happy and healthy. She chose well.”

Brook nodded. “But don’t blame yourselves if… We wasted a lot of time being angry and disappointed in ourselves when her mama died so young. If it happens… Sometimes it’s just Fate’s way.”

“Fuck fate,” Quentin muttered. And fuck cancer. Fuck everything that would take a mother from her child and a loving life.

The anger subsided as Ted gurgled and smiled at him, and Quentin pulled him in to kiss his precious little head. “But I hear you. We’ll handle whatever happens. Do our best. We’ve got to keep it together for our little Ted, don’t we? Yes, we do. Yes, we do!”

Ted giggled and chirped, happy to have Quentin’s attention, but he yawned and his good mood could turn quite ugly if he tried to remain awake. “Should probably put him down for a nap, too. We can see what you need fixed in the shed?”

Cob stood and gave Quentin a knowing look. Then he grunted assent. “Aye. Let’s do that.”

 

~*~

 

“Are you ready, Teddy?” Eliot crooned, holding Ted’s hand as he toddled around the yard, helping him balance over the uneven ground. “You ready to sing with me?”

Ted trilled off a few wobbly baby notes, and Eliot smiled encouragingly.

“That’s it! You have a beautiful voice, baby T. Listen to you!”

Ted was eighteen months old now, adventurous like his mama, and he looked more and more like Quentin all the time. Eliot adored him.

As Quentin worked on the Mosaic and Arielle had an afternoon nap, Eliot tried to wear Ted out for an afternoon nap of his own.

Trilling again, Ted pulled free of Eliot and ran on stumpy legs across the grass toward the shade of the woods, babbling musically. Eliot joined him in his song, matching la-la’s to Ted’s nonsense until Ted spun around and giggled.

“La la la!” Eliot sang, bent over at the waist as he gave chase, grabby hands extended in front of him.

“La la!” Ted sang back, shaking his diapered butt and both little fists as he stamped a foot on the ground in his best attempt at a dance.

“Oh we’re dancing now.” Eliot glanced toward the Mosaic to make sure Quentin wasn’t looking and then started la-la’ing and copying Ted’s dance moves.

Ted shrieked in delight and jumped up and down, pointing at Eliot like he was inviting everyone in the greater Applecart area to mock him. Eliot kept dancing and singing la-la’s anyway. Fuck it. Dignity, once lost, was lost for good. There was only dancing now until he died an ignominious death.

Ted’s dance grew more aggressive, his arms up, taking ponderous steps that turned to stumbles. He shrieked again and giggled, then put his fingers in front of his lips and crouched down.

It was a strange little dance.

Eliot only had a second to register what he was looking at before Quentin hopped on Eliot’s back with a loud, “Rawr!”

That’s what Eliot got for turning his back on Quentin Coldwater.

Ted was so amused that he fell on his butt in a fit of giggles.

Quentin wrapped his arms around Eliot’s shoulders and his legs around his waist. “I gotcha!”

“Q, honestly…” Eliot fronted like he was put out, but really, despite the humiliation, he loved when Quentin surprised him with affection. Putting on a groan, Eliot staggered under Quentin’s weight as if he couldn’t bear it and collapsed to the ground near Ted, who shrieked again and jogged over to snuggle both his fathers.

“Dada dada dada!” Ted scrambled over Eliot, trying to get at Quentin, and then started singing his la-la’s again.

“Yeah! That’s your dada! Good singing, baby T!” Eliot reached behind him to grab Ted’s little foot, giving it a squeeze that made Ted pull away with another shriek and climb higher onto Quentin.

The combined weight of Quentin and Ted had Eliot lying facedown in the soft, sunny grass. He groaned again like it was all too much and then started singing along with Ted. “La la la, dada dada!”

“We got him, didn’t we Ted? We got papa!” Given the high-pitched shrieking, Quentin was probably tickling Ted. “Who did we get?”

“Papa papa papa! La la, papa!” Ted giggled and sang. His little feet tried to gain purchase on Eliot’s back, but he was far too unsteady to stand on him.

“You know what we’ve gotta do, Ted?” Quentin sounded like he was having way too much fun right now, and Eliot knew what was coming.

“Za za za!”

“That’s right! Zerbert!”

Quentin slid back on Eliot’s torso, pulled up his shirt, and started blowing raspberries on Eliot’s back. Ted tried, but he hadn’t quite gotten the hang of it, so mostly he just put his face on Eliot’s side and slobbered, blowing hot breath. It was really gross, and ticklish, and Eliot lasted only a few moments before he dissolved into pained, gasping laughter.

“Oh my god, baby T, how dare you! Traitor!” Eliot squirmed, but not too hard, not yet. The token battle was necessary for working Ted up to maximum enjoyment. He loved to feel like he’d triumphed over the largest member of the household.

Something else he had in common with Quentin.

“Baby!” Ted chirped, and then he slobbered on Eliot some more, proud of his accomplishment.

Eliot allowed them their illusions of dominion and then overthrew them entirely, twisting from beneath them to pin Quentin under him and cover him in kisses. Ted squealed and threw himself into it, kissing Quentin’s face and hair and arms with as much saliva as he could muster.

“Oh no! Help! Help!” Quentin cried, though not too loudly as he obviously did not really want to be helped. “And that was really good, Ted! Baby! Did you hear that? Bay-bee.”

Quentin gave a fake attempt at wrestling away and then just gave a big sigh and allowed himself to be defeated.

“Oh, fierce menfolk,” said Arielle. She looked a little rumpled from sleep, but she was beaming. “I see you have caught the scoundrel. I’m very proud.”

“Mama mama mama!” Ted gave up his pursuit of covering Quentin’s face in baby drool and ran to embrace Arielle’s legs.

She picked him up and laughed. “That’s right. And you’re my baby.”

She kissed the side of his head. There were circles under her eyes, and she looked a little pale and thin, but she could still lift Ted, still swing him around. “Hello, men. I see someone’s tempted you away from your puzzle.”

Eliot hung his head in approximation of guilt. “Ted had already tempted me away. Quentin was valiantly toiling onward as I chased our little hellion around the yard.” Then he took advantage of his lowered head to kiss Quentin’s face again. “It took both of us to lure stalwart Q into the fray. A paragon of virtue, this one. What a hunk.”

“Oh yes, of course. You’re both so difficult to distract.” Arielle laughed and shook her head. “Did they wear you out, baby? You ready for a nap?”

“No!” Ted looked around manically as if he could escape the dreaded nap.

Quentin grinned up at Eliot and stole a kiss. “Think he’s still kind of riled up. Sorry we got so loud.”

Arielle shook her head. “Giggling and tickles are a great thing to wake up to.”

She bent to let Ted down but didn’t quite let go of him. He tried to run but couldn’t get anywhere, and she beamed at his childish frustration. “What? Don’t you wanna see Papa and Dada?”

Ted looked back at her, nodded, and then tried to run again. Arielle bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing as she subtly restrained him.

“Mean Mama! Is mean Mama teasing you?” Eliot put on a pouty face and stretched toward Ted, making grabby hands and straining noises. He kind of flopped on Quentin in the process, but all was fair in love and babies. “Baby T! Come to Papa! C’mon! Papa looooves you.”

He rolled off Quentin onto his back, presenting a large target for Ted to aim at, and squirmed in the sunshine and the grass, reveling in the wonder of this day. He’d never once imagined his life would go this way, but he fucking loved it.

“So mean!” Arielle said, her eyes bright with amusement.

“Mama mama!” Ted wailed, raising his fists in childish outrage.

Arielle picked him up by his middle and held him up like he was flying and ran with him, zooming around Eliot and Quentin who playfully tried to reach for him.

“Oh no! Ted, you’re flying too fast! I can’t get you!” Quentin cried, making very slow attempts to grab at him.

This kind of keep away thrilled Ted, who giggled wildly that he was the fastest flying baby in Fillory.

Eliot reached sluggishly for Ted, putting on a show of how hard he was trying. “Unh! Ted! Come baaack.”

He rolled toward Quentin and sprawled across him, both of them reaching in tandem for the baby. It was like a slow, syncopated dance, both of them working together in futile quest to nab Ted’s hand or foot. Arielle never had the strength to do this for terribly long, so they let her take it to the limit and then, when she finally relinquished giggling, overexcited Ted, Eliot claimed him and swooped him down into a snuggle.

“Oh baby T, my little man, look at you. You flew all over!”

Eliot shared his baby snuggles with Q, and with Arielle when she sank down beside them in the grass to catch her breath. Ted loved having all his parents in one convenient place for maximum cuddles, and he squirmed until he could touch them all. Eliot laughed as Ted once more blessed Q’s face with baby spit, this time while rubbing his eyes crankily.

Then, deliberately, Eliot started getting quieter and humming the chorus to “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon. It was Ted’s favorite lullaby.

“Nooo,” Ted wailed at hearing those notes. He glared at Eliot, packing a lot of power for a little guy, and then clung to Quentin like Q would let him stay awake. “Dada? Dada!”

Eliot rubbed Ted’s little back in soothing circles and kept humming, giving Quentin and Arielle meaningful looks.

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy,” Arielle joined in, singing at the chorus, harmonizing with Eliot.

Quentin yawned dramatically and stretched. He blinked slowly and then made himself comfortable on the soft grass as if he was going to start his own nap~*. He reached for Ted who, with only a soft whimper of protest, settled in against the curve of Quentin’s body.

Eliot cuddled up on Ted’s other side, hemming him in and covering his tiny tender noggin with little kisses as he sang. He reached across Quentin for Arielle, grasping her hand and twining their fingers before resting their joined hands on Quentin’s belly. As Quentin mimed sleep and Ted started to succumb, Arielle and Eliot twined their voices like their fingers and serenaded their lil sleepy man.

It was kind of perfect, really. It was all Eliot could ever ask for.

~*~

Eliot sat on a little bench Quentin had built, leaving him perched just above Quentin as they created a new pattern on the Mosaic. It was a little odd, somewhat disjointed close up, but Quentin had designed it to look as if the lines wove through each other.

He still didn’t consider himself an artist, but he had to admit he was getting better at this. It only took seven years.

While he was distantly aware the end of the decade was coming, a countdown of which he’d have been achingly cognizant just a couple years ago, the day-to-day kept his mind occupied.

Quentin heard Ted and Arielle stirring within the cottage. The fantasy that she’d get better after she was done breastfeeding was long abandoned.

She wore her exhaustion in the circles under her eyes and the slouch of her shoulders as she carried Ted out of the cottage. He wished she wouldn’t exert herself like that, but it was a losing proposition. They all knew her time was limited, and she intended to enjoy life for as long as she could.

Almost immediately she set Ted down, and he ran at Quentin, flinging his arms around him. Quentin sat up on his knees, lifted Ted, and gave him a kiss on the head. “Good nap?”

“Yeah.” Ted nodded and then rubbed sleep out of his eyes.

At five, Ted was way too big to wear in a sling while Quentin worked, but he was also old enough now to know his colors and loved to help retrieve the tiles.

Arielle headed to the outdoor bed to sit. Over the years, she’d gardened, planting flowers around the Mosaic, but now, as her energy waned, she took up sewing, cutting squares to create her own Mosaic in the form of a beautiful quilt she seemed determined to finish.

Eliot reached over and ruffled Ted’s hair before dropping a hand to rest on Quentin’s shoulder. He squeezed it briefly, comforting and familiar, and then cocked his head to the side as he looked at them. “You know, Ted, you’re getting awfully big. I don’t know how I feel about that. Do you think maybe you could get small again? Just for me? Maybe be… Oh… I dunno. Like two feet tall and a little squirmy baby who can’t talk?”

Ted gave Eliot a scrutinizing look and crossed his arms over his chest. “No, Papa. I’m a big boy now.”

It was a recurring argument, wherein Eliot tried to convince Ted to be a baby again and Ted proudly proclaimed his bigness.

Eliot feigned sorrow and then held out his arms as if only a Ted hug would comfort him.

Ted almost tripped over Quentin as he went to Eliot, requiring Quentin to perform a quick stabilizing maneuver on Ted’s posterior. Ted didn’t even seem to notice. He scrambled up into Eliot’s lap and claimed the hugs that were rightfully his. Eliot snuggled Ted close, shaking him back and forth like he was a Papa Bear, and then released him and turned him around with a little swat.

“Go get three light blue tiles for Dad.”

It was a good way to teach Ted numbers and colors, anyway, and he was quickly grasping patterns as well between their puzzle and Arielle’s quilting.

“Three, okay!” Ted’s little voice was sing-songy as he headed over to the stacks of tiles, sorted by color.

There weren’t exactly schools as such in rural Fillory, which wasn’t a surprise. Quentin had taken to writing his own children’s books for Ted. Mostly just retellings of some Chatwin adventures or some of the less angsty tales of his friends and family. Arielle had illustrated.

He was really coming along in reading because he was obviously a genius.

“One… two… three.” Ted counted out the dark blue tiles, then turned his head to see the light blue ones. He frowned briefly and then set the dark blue tiles back down and counted out the light blue ones.

Genius.

He came back to Quentin with the three tiles. “Very good. So helpful!”

They weren’t sure about the rules of the Mosaic, if Quentin and Eliot had to be the ones to place them, but Ted wasn’t really coordinated enough to get them in just so yet anyway. A discussion for another day.

“Now get Papa five white tiles, please.” Quentin grinned at him as he started laying the light blue tiles down.

Eliot clapped his hands together as if delighted by the impending gift. “Five white tiles for little ole me? Whatever shall I do with myself?”

He feigned swooning and then flopped in the chair until Ted had counted out the tiles and returned with them. Ted made a soft, put-out sound at Papa’s dramatics and said, “Papaaa, get uuup.”

“What?” Eliot straightened as if just regaining consciousness and looked at Ted with one brow raised. “Do you have something for me, Ted?”

Ted rolled his eyes, which was also a genius response to Eliot much of the time, and then placed the tiles in Eliot’s lap. “Five white tiles.”

“Receipt of delivery confirmed.” Eliot gathered the tiles and then lurched forward off his seat and almost tackled Ted, who saw the telegraphed movement in time to step aside.

“Ohhh, denied,” Eliot groaned as he collapsed onto the puzzle. He rolled over to where the white tiles needed placing and sighed as he sat and started positioning them all just so. Then Eliot glanced toward Arielle, which told Quentin she was his real audience.

Quentin might be the one sexually attracted to her, but Eliot’s affection for her ran deep too. The sicker she looked, the harder he played, as if it might bolster her spirits enough to turn things around. Or maybe it was Quentin and Ted whose spirits he was trying to lift. Gods knew they all needed it some days.

Arielle giggled, still such a beautiful, magical sound. Quentin wrap his head around it not being there, and for now, he pushed it out of his mind. Being upset didn’t do any good and just put her in the position of having to comfort him, which was the last thing he wanted.

After placing his tiles, Quentin got up and headed over to Arielle to give her a kiss.

“Ew!” Ted protested.

Quentin grinned at Arielle as she shook her head and giggled again. “What was that for?”

“Because you’re so beautiful.” Quentin brushed her hair from her face with his fingers.

“Oh, so you’re going to lie to me now?”

“You’re just going to have to accept being the most beautiful woman in any world. Even when you don’t feel well.”

Arielle rolled her eyes, but she was still smiling. “You’re grossing out the baby.”

“Which one?” Quentin chuckled at his own joke before sneaking another kiss.

Eliot showed up a moment later, messily licking his way into the middle of the kissing, more like a big dog than their usually elegant sister husband. His grotesque kissy noises made Ted gag and protest louder, though he was probably missing the way Eliot had curved a hand over each of their asses to squeeze possessively.

“Papa!” Ted whined, like he couldn’t understand why Eliot was betraying him this way.

“Te-ed,” Eliot whined in return, laughing and turning his face to kiss Arielle properly and then Quentin before drawing back.

Teasing Ted was far too easy and fun, and he was mostly past the time where he might have a fit of temper over it. Instead, Ted just started to pick up more tiles to put down himself.

Quentin sighed and then kissed Arielle’s temple. “No rest for the wicked, which is why only you get to rest.”

He grabbed Eliot’s hand after giving him a sneaky ass squeeze and pulled him back to the Mosaic. “All right, all right, back to work.”

“No more kissing!” Ted declared. He stomped to emphasize his point.

Which really left Quentin and Eliot with one option. They traded a look and then descended upon Ted, each one taking a cheek and loudly smacking a kiss as Ted squealed and giggled. Then Eliot scooped Ted into his long arms, and Ted scrambled like an orangutan around Eliot’s back to ride him.

“Yes, kissing,” Eliot insisted, leaning in to kiss Quentin with Ted clinging onto him. Ted wailed, but when Eliot bounced him a little and swung Ted’s face toward Quentin, Ted settled down enough to noisily kiss Quentin’s stubbly cheek.

Then, laughing, Eliot carted him over to Arielle and demanded, “Kiss Mama.”

Ted complied, satisfied now he got to treat Eliot as his personal steed. Arielle laughed at the dutiful affection, but she looked a little green, like her pain was bad.

That was happening more frequently now. The healers in Brighthaven could really only give her analgesics, primitive ones that were almost as bad as the pain.

Quentin cast a wellness and comfort spell, hoping to take the edge off. That was really all anyone could do. She blew a kiss at Quentin and settled in to resume her sewing. The quilt was almost done. Quentin lamented the notion of her ever finishing it; it felt too much like a parting gift.

“Stop staring, Quentin. You’ve got work to do.” Arielle smiled gently, a little sadly, as she looked back down to continue her work.

Quentin rubbed his head. His hair was longer now, longer than he’d ever grown it. Both Eliot and Arielle seemed to like it that way. At least it was harder to pull from his ponytail now.

“Yeah. Yeah, I should... I just… don’t know where to get tiles from. It seems like we had someone here who knew where to get them, but… he’s gone.”

“Uh oh.” Eliot smirked as he rounded on Quentin, Ted clinging to his back and peering over Eliot’s broad shoulder. “Does Dad need help?”

Eliot sank down beside Arielle on the bench, perched a little wonky to accommodate Ted. “Seems like someone should do something about that.”

“No!” Ted protested as Eliot peeled him off his back and swung him around in front. Eliot plonked him on his knee and grinned at him in that ineffable Eliot way. After a beat, Ted ventured, “No?”

Eliot raised a brow.

“No,” Ted whined, apparently realizing he was losing. He didn’t seem to even know what he was fighting, just that he wanted to win and somehow couldn’t because Eliot had this one expression he sometimes wore that made all argument irrelevant.

Sighing, Ted flumped down onto the grass and then scrambled over to join Quentin at the puzzle. He gave a half-hearted salute to indicate he was reporting for tile duty.

“That’s a fine young man,” Eliot called, as if he had no part in the whole thing. Then he curled up next to Arielle and rubbed her shoulders while she sewed.

Quentin smiled at them, pleased to see how Arielle relaxed into Eliot’s massage. Then Ted’s bumbling drew his attention. Without instructions, Ted just started handing Quentin random tiles, which Quentin took and set aside patiently.

“Hold on, hold on! Okay, I need five red tiles.” He held up his hand, wiggling all five fingers to remind Ted of the number.

Nodding, Ted headed for the red tiles.

Chapter Text

When you try your best but you don't succeed 
When you get what you want but not what you need 
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep 
Stuck in reverse

 

Quentin sat in the back of the cart with Arielle’s body as they took the dusty path back to her family’s orchard. He held her head in his lap because he didn’t want her to be alone. Because he still loved her and all she’d brought to their family. Her spirit, her art, her gardening, and, of course, Ted.

Their son was still too young to completely grasp what was happening. The body scared him. He needed comfort and while Eliot was hurting, he could still supply that for him.

He’d make Quentin feel better too, but Quentin wasn’t ready to be comforted. He still had only tears.

 

When the tears come streaming down your face 
'Cause you lose something you can't replace 
When you love someone but it goes to waste 
What could it be worse?

 

Seeing the family had been comforting. So many people who felt as he did about Arielle’s passing. He got and gave hugs. He watched them decorate her body, then lower it into a box, then into the ground next to her mother.

Cob and Brook patted his back. Eliot stayed near for hugs, and as much as he could, Quentin kept Ted on his hip.

He met the sisters who didn’t die young and tried not to resent them. He listened while the brothers who got to know her longer recounted tales.

Even Lunk showed with his Neanderthal brood.

There was so much Quentin wanted to say, but not to any of these people. He wanted to laugh about it with Arielle, but grief knocked him sideways for that thought, and so he shadowed Eliot, leaning on him while saying little. Letting Eliot make the conversation with other mourners while Quentin wished he could wake up from this nightmare.

 

Lights will guide you home 
And ignite your bones 
And I will try to fix you

 

“I can’t. I can’t right now. I just can’t.” Quentin had left their worktable where they’d been trying to work out a new design. Ted was at the table, using chalk to color in some line art that Arielle had left for him to play with.

Quentin sat on the other side of the cottage on a bench seat he’d made from found wood and contorted to his will. A bench he’d made for their family, to make their cottage a home.

He didn’t want to keep crying. He wanted this endless cycle of misery to end, but he couldn’t let it go. No matter how many cathartic cries or well-intentioned conversations, sometimes it just overwhelmed him, and he had to step away so as not to traumatize Ted.

After a beat, Eliot was there, holding him.

He said nothing, but Quentin could feel his want to get Quentin some help. But what help was there in Fillory? No grief sessions, no Prozac, just the feeling of failure and loss, compounded by how he was failing Ted.

“Maybe… maybe Ted can stay at the orchard a few days. Give you time to decompress?” Eliot held Quentin tightly, smoothing his fingers down Quentin’s back.

The idea made Quentin cry harder. Being separated from Ted sounded like agony.

And yet, he could see on Ted’s face the toll Quentin’s misery took. So he nodded. “Just a few days.”

 

But high up above or down below 
When you are too in love to let it show 
Oh but if you never try you'll never know 
Just what you're worth

 

Quentin lay in bed, listening for the sounds of the cart returning. Eliot had taken Ted to the orchard. Let him run and play with cousins instead of watch his dad deteriorate.

It felt like being a big sucking void of need, and Quentin couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, or even just turn the volume down.

He needed Eliot.

And Eliot would return soon, but even with periodic dozing, time felt like it was dilating. That Quentin would be here alone forever.

Despair was closing in when he heard the creaking sound of the cart’s wheels. Eliot returning. Giving pleasantries and carrots to Mr. Belvedere and meat treats for Alf.

And then there he was, silhouetted in the doorway of the cottage. He looked tired but defiant, and he smiled a little when their eyes met.

“Hey.” Eliot shut the door behind him and closed the distance between them in a few long strides and then he tackled Quentin back onto the bed and wrapped around him like a big, warm, weighted blanket and breathed him in even as Quentin was sucking in lungfuls of Eliot’s distinctive scent.

“I’m so proud of you,” Eliot murmured, voice muffled by where his mouth pressed into Quentin’s hair. “You made it till I got home. I know it was hard.”

All Quentin had to do was wait, and even that felt like an accomplishment. How useless was Quentin?

No. Not useless. Quentin tried to fight that feeling, because he was needed here. Ted needed him. The quest needed him. Maybe even Eliot needed him.

“I missed you.” Quentin slid his hands over Eliot’s body, taking reassurance in his smell and his weight, in the freedom he felt to touch him. He slipped his hands under Eliot’s tunic, needing the comfort of his warm skin.

Quentin had just been sleeping in his underwear, and as he spread his fingers out on Eliot’s back, it worked his tunic up so that their abdomens touched, skin to skin. Alive where he felt numb with grief.

“Missed you too,” Eliot whispered, lifting his head to look into Quentin’s eyes. Eliot wore his sorrow differently from Quentin, with a sort of determined air, like no matter what the world threw at him, he was gonna sass his way through. He seemed more than just alive, but strong, still capable of feeling all the things Quentin wished he was feeling instead of…this.

Then Eliot lowered his head to brush their lips together, and it was soft and hot and seeking, like Eliot was searching out the new shape of things for them without Arielle there to ground them.

Quentin moved his hands from under Eliot’s tunic to cup his face as they kissed. He could feel Eliot growing hard against him, comforting even if Quentin’s body wasn’t responding in kind. When his body refused to respond to his wants, Quentin never knew what to do.

It piled another failure upon his general list, and that cycle savaged his psyche, but he no longer had the luxury of dwelling there. Not that luxury was even the right word. That and indulgence was what people would call it, but that was far from how Quentin felt about the disconnect.

No, it made him feel panicky and low.

Impotence.

The perfect word.

But that didn’t mean Quentin didn’t want to keep touching Eliot or feel his closeness. When he was younger, shame kept Quentin from trying to push through. Desperation now kept Quentin pressing forward, kissing Eliot hard as he reached down between them to stroke him.

Hearing Eliot’s moan at the touch took some of the edge off Quentin’s angst, made him feel, well, useful at least. But it also fed something else in him, a craving for closeness, a feeling of life.

“Oh, Q.” Eliot nipped at Quentin’s mouth and thrust against his hand, caught up in their connection maybe, not yet questioning or judging Quentin’s lack of equal response. He seemed the same as ever, the same as always, lusty and playful and present. Even if Quentin’s body wasn’t aroused, something about Eliot roused his spirit, made him feel a little more here, a little more real.

Then Eliot reached down to caress Quentin’s groin, and after a few fruitless moments of stroking his limp dick, Eliot lifted his head again and searched Quentin’s face. “What’s going on, Q? Should I—Do you want me to stop?”

“No. No, please don’t stop.” Quentin gazed up at Eliot, feeling tears prickle his eyes. “I don’t know what… I just… I still need….”

He wasn’t sure how to articulate it. Words were thick and frustrating when he was in this mental place. “Still kiss me. Still need to feel close. Please don’t stop, Eliot. Please.”

“It’s okay, baby boy. I’ve got you. Daddy’s got you.” Eliot’s low croon released some of the tension knotting in Quentin’s gut, and then Eliot was kissing him again, slow and sweet, deep and loving, and Quentin could just melt into Eliot and let Eliot be part of him, two of them together, united by this awful grief and the shared lifetime behind them and ahead.

As they kissed, Eliot stroked Quentin’s body in innocent places, his side, his arm, his leg. Those long fingers trailed over him in reassuring caresses that made Quentin think maybe Eliot could still want him, even if he wasn’t functioning, even if he was…like this. Eliot didn’t seem to care, didn’t seem to want anything but more of Quentin, and Quentin clung to that want like a lifeline.

“Let’s do this naked, sweetheart.”

Despite his anxiety, Quentin nodded, and Eliot pulled away just enough to peel off his tunic and then he helped Quentin with his underwear, and it was better with all their skin touching, better with the faint tickle of Eliot’s chest hair against him telling him it was just Eliot and no one else.

Eliot stripped off his pants too, and then there he was, hard for Quentin, ready for adventures, and Quentin was just…soft, unresponsive, and the guilt and frustration hit him again before Eliot kissed him hard and wiped it away with his need. He stretched out over Quentin in the most intimate way, like the whole point was just to be touching, just to be and not to do.

“That’s so good, Q,” Eliot whispered, like he didn’t need anything else but this, like he was somehow, despite everything, happy to be here with Quentin.

Quentin reached for him again, reassured by the weight and feeling of Eliot’s cock in his hand. He loved to hear his moans, feel his desire. He kissed Eliot softly, then harder, then tenderly again, losing himself to the slide of their bodies, the feel of Eliot’s tongue searching his mouth.

He rolled under Eliot, sliding his hands up and down his back, squeezing his ass as Eliot’s erection pressed its neediness against his leg. Quentin wanted to tell Eliot that he loved him and that he needed him, but he knew that even the barest hesitation from Eliot would crush him.

So he tried to show Eliot in how they moved together, in how he touched him. How Quentin would fuck him if he could. He fingered Eliot’s opening gently, not dipping inside of him, but caressing him. Reverent and loving, quietly claiming it and Eliot. This is what he would do if he were able. He wanted to make love to him, to take that reassurance and put it into Eliot.

Eliot arched into the touches and sighed, seeming to enjoy every moment, like there was nowhere he’d rather be than here with Quentin, no matter what a needy sadsack Quentin was being. Then Eliot whispered, “You wanna fuck me with your fingers, baby boy? You can have me.”

With a few quick movements, Eliot had performed a spell to slick Quentin’s fingers, and then he reached back and caressed Quentin’s hand, encouraging him. “Go on. You know I love your hands. You’re so good with your hands, Q.”

He was glad that Eliot had. Quentin wasn’t sure at the moment how his magic would come out. He remembered all but sucking Brakebills into a black hole over a game of Welters. Drowning in lube would be a sad way to end their quest.

The thought made Quentin chuckle a little as he started to tease more inside of Eliot.

“Yeah, I wanted to be inside of you. I wish I could… and maybe… I mean, the desire is there. You know that, right?” He worked two fingers inside, spreading lube and also teasing Eliot, finding that spot that made his breath catch and then toying with it, just for the simple pleasure of the sounds Eliot made.

But also being inside him, surrounded by him, comforted. He nuzzled Eliot’s face and kissed him again, other hand on Eliot’s nape to hold him in place, even though it was a stretch for Quentin and required Eliot to contort, bringing up his knees so he straddled Quentin.

Eliot rocked onto Quentin’s fingers as they kissed, making low, satisfied sounds that fed Quentin’s soul and kissing him so deeply he couldn’t breathe for long moments at a time. Eliot’s cock rubbed against Quentin’s belly, hard and waiting, proof he was enjoying Quentin’s fingers even if it was all Quentin had to give right now.

Then Eliot was whispering in Quentin’s ear, low and filthy, “That feels so good, Quentin. Your fingers are so good. You’re so sexy, baby boy. Can you feel how much I want you? You don’t have to give me anything but this. Just this. This is so good for me. You’re always so good for me.”

It was hypnotic, the praise, the reassurance, and then Eliot tugged Quentin’s earlobe with his teeth. “I have an idea. Do you trust me?”

Quentin was nodding before his brain entirely caught up with what he was being asked and long before he could form words. He did trust Eliot, probably more than he should. Not that there would be any harm in trusting Eliot. Probably.

“I trust you.” Quentin kept playing with Eliot. Crouched as Eliot was and big as his cock was, it was temptingly close to Quentin’s mouth. He sat up a little to mouth the tip, then he gave Eliot the best smile he could and said, “I trust you, Daddy.”

Eliot sucked in a sharp, gut-punched breath and shivered all over like Quentin had done just the right thing. Quentin basked in that for a few moments as Eliot held position like he was frozen to the spot. Then Eliot drew away, leaving Quentin momentarily bereft.

“Okay, baby boy. You are so, so good, and I love you so, so much, okay? I need you to take deep breaths with me and relax, and I’m going to see if we can’t make you feel a little better.” Eliot stretched out on top of Quentin again, gazing down into his eyes intently, and the love there looked just as real and sincere as it had before Ari died. Just as protective and tender as the way he looked at Ted.

“Okay.” Quentin matched his breathing with Eliot’s, taking his cues from him, their foreheads pressed together so all he saw was one big Eliot eye. It did help calm him, make him feel a bit more at peace, centering better in his body. His cock even twitched, which Quentin didn’t think was a spell.

He didn’t want to rely on spells for that. It was risky to do, and Quentin worried what it might do to his psyche if he started down that path. “You love me?”

“Of course I love you,” Eliot answered immediately, no hesitation. He kissed Quentin softly and sighed. “I don’t say it often, I know, but I feel it always.”

Then he rubbed their noses together gently, nuzzling Quentin, and asked, “Do you love Daddy too?”

“Yeah. I do. I didn’t want to… scare you.” Quentin worried that by saying it that way, he was exposing how deeply he felt that love. They loved each other as friends. That had always been true. Without Arielle to absorb some of his intensity, Quentin wasn’t sure where to put it now, and he wasn’t sure Eliot would want it.

“I love you…” It was too much. Quentin was too scared to just let that sit on its own, so he added, “Daddy.”

Something softened in Eliot’s expression, just a little, just enough to ease Quentin’s fears, and then Eliot was kissing him again, devouring his mouth, seeming wild with it, like he was feeling more than he could put into words. Quentin knew exactly how that felt, brimming with emotion, drowning in it, not knowing how to express any of it, how to share it, how to get out in front of it or keep his head above the storm surge.

Then Eliot was kissing his way down Quentin’s body to his nipples, teasing them with lips and teeth before he pressed his cheek over Quentin’s heart and exhaled slowly. “You have a good heart, Q. I love your heart. It’s big, too big, and tender, and… It’s a liability sometimes, but it’s the greatest gift in any world, and I’m going to fight to protect it. Okay? Daddy’s going to take care of you.”

While Quentin had kind of expected Eliot to go for his dick and start sucking—the first reasonable stop on the way to erection, it seemed like—what Eliot did instead was watch Quentin as he worked another lubrication spell, this time on his own hand. Then he shifted and said, “Spread your legs for Daddy, baby boy. I’m going to see if we can bypass the crossed wires and get your motor running again.”

“What?” Quentin did as he was told, spreading his legs, even pulling his knees up to expose what he was pretty sure Eliot was after. All of this happened before his head really caught up with what was going on.

They hadn’t talked about it, even in their kinky doings with Arielle. Quentin hadn’t known if Eliot wasn’t interested or… Well, Quentin was too embarrassed to bring it up. He wasn’t supposed to want that, right?

But then, he wanted a lot of things he wasn’t supposed to want that he liked very much. And, well, if anyone knew what they were doing, it was Eliot.

Quentin thought of Eliot inside of him, and he couldn’t really picture how it would feel, but he liked the idea. He wanted to be that close to him, so Quentin exhaled and tried to relax again, legs up like a wanton slut, which made him let out a soft chuckle at himself.

“You know how much I love your hands, yeah?” Eliot smiled down at Quentin, his expression gentle and a little wry. “I’m going to give you a reason to love mine too.”

He stroked along Quentin’s exposed cleft, and as vulnerable as it made Quentin feel, it was exciting too. It felt good that Eliot wanted him, that Eliot was going to make sure they stayed close even if Quentin couldn’t perform like he wanted to. Then Eliot’s slick fingers rubbed over Quentin’s hole, shocking him with how sensitive it was, with how vulnerable he felt.

“Deep breaths, baby,” Eliot crooned, taking deep breaths with him, giving Quentin a model to match his breathing to. Eliot’s gaze fixed on Quentin’s face, intent as he’d ever seen him, and then he smiled a little wider. “So good, Q. Listen to Daddy, okay? I’m not gonna do anything that hurts you. We’re just going to stimulate you a little, see if we can jump start you. When I push inside you with my fingers, you’re going to bear down on the pressure, okay? Push into me, and it’ll be a little uncomfortable at first, but then it’s going to feel really good. If it doesn’t, you tell me, and I’ll stop right away. Okay, baby boy? Tell Daddy you understand.”

Quentin took a deep breath as he was instructed. “Yes, Daddy. I understand.”

Obviously, this had to feel good or else why would people do it? He’d fingered Eliot enough to know it must be good, so Quentin followed Eliot’s instructions, bearing down as he felt Eliot’s finger slide into him.

It didn’t hurt, but he wasn’t sure it felt great. It felt like, well, Eliot had put his finger in Quentin’s ass. He followed Eliot’s breathing, his body bore down kind of on its own, as if he needed to push the finger back out. It made his whole body feel hot; sweat broke out on his forehead.

He brought his hand up to his mouth and chewed on his thumb nail. “Am I doing this right?”

Eliot’s face was flushed, his dark eyes bright, and he nodded emphatically. “So good, baby. Just give me a little more.”

Then Eliot pushed his finger just a little deeper, and angled it, and then it sparked against the nerve endings there like something catching fire in Quentin’s numb brain. Eliot crooked his finger again, stretching Quentin just a little, rubbing against that spot like Quentin always did for Eliot, and oh gods, Quentin could see why Eliot liked it. It scratched an itch Quentin hadn’t realized he had, something deep and primal and greedy, and Eliot leaned in and kissed Quentin again as he caressed that little bundle of nerves.

“There we go,” Eliot whispered, voice deep and husky with arousal, like just having his finger inside Quentin was doing it for him. “So good, Quentin. Can you tell me how that feels, baby boy? Do you want me to stop, or do you want more?”

Quentin’s toes curled and he pushed into the friction, his breath catching. He could hardly believe what he was feeling. Yes, it was still awkward, and he felt full, but that pressure deep in him. “More. I need more.”

That sounded so… desperate, and if he were capable of shame in this moment, he might’ve turned his face away or something, but his cock was starting to harden, and all he could really feel in the moment was wonder.

His pulse raced as he gazed at Eliot. “It feels… really good. Shit. More, Daddy.”

Quentin bit his bottom lip as his hips moved, trying to force Eliot right where he wanted him. It was surprising how quickly everything had changed, the way his body seemed to know how to move. “Fuck. Yes, Daddy,” he moaned as he collapsed against the bed, spreading his legs wider, hips tilting up to meet Eliot’s finger.

Then Eliot was working a second finger into Quentin, and it slipped in so much easier than the first, like Quentin’s body just wanted it now, like he’d been primed for it. Eliot ground two blunt, smooth fingertips against Quentin’s prostate then, making Quentin arch and slam his heels into the bed for leverage as he moved with Eliot. The sheer amount of sensation he was capable of feeling in that part of his body blew his mind, and as much as he’d always known there had to be reasons Eliot wanted him inside him…

This was a whole other order of magnitude.

As Eliot manipulated those sensitive nerves, Quentin’s cock responded. It was impossible to overthink it when he was so full, when the burn of Eliot’s fingers invading him drove out everything else, rational and irrational. There was just feeling, so much of it, igniting Quentin’s nerves and blazing inside him.

It made him wonder how much more intense it would be if Eliot was inside him. Stretching more, for sure, probably not as deft as fingers, and yet… the idea of Eliot inside him filled Quentin’s belly with butterflies. The idea seemed romantic as much as erotic.

Quentin grabbed his cock, coaxing it harder as he gazed at Eliot, thinking about being fucked by him. “Come on, Daddy. You want to fill me up? You want me, Daddy?”

“You getting hard for Daddy, sweetheart?” Eliot smiled, sweet and wicked, and his voice carried a note of relief and triumph even as he groaned and fucked Quentin harder on his fingers. “You like that? You’re such a good boy. You needed this, didn’t you? Just to be this close, to open up to me like this.”

Then, belatedly, it was like Eliot’s brain caught up to what Quentin had said, and he blinked, mouth moving mutely for a moment. Then he surged forward and kissed Quentin hard, biting at his lips and working his fingers inside Quentin slow and deliberate, thrusting the tips against that place that made Quentin crazy.

Breathlessly, Eliot asked, “Do you want that, baby boy?” He seemed to struggle a moment with his words, and then more tumbled out in a rush. “I’ve wanted you since I met you.”

“You have?” Quentin was surprised but gasping with need. The idea that Eliot wanted him was almost overwhelming, that he wanted him since they met… Well, he’d thought he’d been giving Eliot what he’d wanted. “You want me like that?”

Quentin squeezed his cock, moaning at how close Eliot was, at the kisses, swooning with the thought of Eliot inside of him. “Yeah. I want that. I want to be that close to you. I… I think I need that, El. I didn’t know you wanted… and I… this… I want you inside of me.”

“Oh god, Q.” Eliot trembled above him, seeming as overwhelmed as Quentin, and then he kissed him again and again as he worked another finger into Quentin, stretching him on the long, slender digits, and Quentin had the feeling that, short of Eliot shoving his whole hand in there, nothing was really going to get Quentin ready for his cock.

It didn’t matter though. He knew what he wanted now. There was strength in that, in maybe finally being certain of something he wanted.

Eliot exhaled shakily and whispered, “I never thought you’d… I really just… Quentin.”

He sounded like he might cry or something, but then it was gone, and Quentin wondered if he’d imagined it when Eliot kissed him again and then pulled away entirely. “Roll over. We’re going to do this right.”

Quentin’s face felt hot, like he’d really pleased Eliot. He felt a little guilty he hadn’t asked before, but then, in this moment, it felt so right. As if they both needed it in this moment especially. That he shouldn’t feel bad that it didn’t happen before.

No, he wanted to experience this on its own, without the rest of it. No grief, no guilt.

And that maybe Arielle, wherever she was, could see them doing this. Free of pain, she could enjoy her men fucking in a new way. And if Quentin thought about it like that, he didn’t feel as bad about how excited he was to be here with Eliot like this now.

He rolled over onto his stomach, pulled a pillow under him, and looked back behind him. With Eliot’s fingers out of him, he felt open, empty. Needy.

Like this, he felt vulnerable, but instead of nervous, he was oddly calm. He knew Eliot would make it good, that Eliot would be there with him after, that he’d stop if something hurt. But mostly, he craved the closeness, and right now, he was a lot less worried that his intensity would drive Eliot away.

No, right now, Eliot’s intensity matched Quentin’s own. For the first time Quentin could remember, Eliot was taut with anticipation, eyes feverish, hands shaky and excited. His usual cool had been stripped away by Quentin’s admission of desire, and now he was like a plucked string vibrating at the perfect frequency to banish Quentin’s anxiety.

Quentin barely had time to think about what was going to happen before Eliot grasped Quentin’s cheeks in either hand and spread them wide. His thumbs pressed against Quentin’s center, stretching his entrance. Then Eliot sprawled out on the bed and nuzzled in, startling Quentin with the first swipe of hot, soft tongue against his opening.

“Oh my god!” Quentin pressed his face into the pillow, shocked and aroused that Eliot was doing this to him. It felt, well, so warm and wet. The softest touch, creating sensation somewhere he’d never really considered a particularly sexy place. At least on him.

It felt so good, though. Better than he would’ve imagined.

He ground his knees into the bed, pressing greedily up to Eliot’s face, just soaking in the sensual softness. “That feels… so fucking good.”

Eliot murmured something like agreement and kept licking, kneading Quentin’s cheeks in his hands as he lapped at him. Quentin couldn’t help melting at the treatment even as he arched closer. Eliot nibbled at his entrance gently, a new rush of sensation. Then Eliot sank his thumbs into Quentin’s entrance and opened him up bit by bit as Eliot nuzzled deeper, working Quentin open on his tongue and fingers, leaving Quentin squirming and feeling his emptiness more keenly.

“You going to be part of me, Eliot?” Quentin knew Daddy was sexier to say, but right now he wanted to say Eliot’s name, wanted to be Quentin and Eliot, not Daddy and Baby Boy, fun as that was. He felt open and ready for Eliot, not just physically, though his body did seem to crave him now, but mentally, he also needed Eliot inside of him, to feel carved open by Eliot, to make room for him, to be marked in that way.

Quentin stretched out, spreading his legs and his arms over the bed, surrendering himself completely to what Eliot wanted. Eliot lifted his head then and kissed up Quentin’s spine, slowly slinking up Quentin’s body, covering him bit by bit.

“My sweet Q.” Eliot sighed heavily and nuzzled Quentin’s nape, then kissed the tender hollow behind his ear. He rubbed his nose against the shell of Quentin’s ear and then whispered, “I want to look you in the eye when I take you, Quentin Coldwater. I want you looking right at me, seeing me for who I am, letting me in anyway.”

He ran his hands along Quentin’s arms, stretched his legs out along Quentin’s, covered Quentin in his larger body, and kissed down the side of his throat. “I love you. I want to be inside you. I want to be your first. But you have to want this, Quentin. Don’t just…” Eliot’s voice hitched. “Don’t just do this because you’re too broken to tell me no right now.”

“I’m letting you in because you are Eliot Waugh. Because you’re you and because I need you. Because I love you.” Quentin closed his eyes, sad that Eliot worried about that, but this was what he wanted.

He squirmed under Eliot until he could turn over so he could face him. “This feels right to me. Even my body… I mean, I probably could fuck you now but… but I want this. I want you inside of me. I can’t tell you I’m not broken. I mean, clearly….”

Quentin’s eyes watered. “I’m never not going to be broken, but I want you. I’m a bunch of messy pieces, I’m a mess, and I get it if you don’t… but know that I want this. I want you.”

Eliot gazed into Quentin’s eyes and shook his head. “No, Q, it’s… It’s perfect. I want all your messy pieces.” He smirked faintly. “I’ve always liked a messy boy.”

Then he kissed him slow and deep as he propped himself up on one arm and reached down with the other to arrange Quentin’s legs where he wanted them. He pushed Quentin’s knees up and slotted his own lean hips between Quentin’s spread thighs. Eliot’s hard, slicked cock nudged against Quentin’s balls, making Quentin clench in anticipation, and it shocked him how badly he wanted this, how overwhelming the craving for it was. Whatever Eliot had done to him, he’d done it right.

“Wrap your arms around me, lover,” Eliot murmured, and there was something unspeakably sweet about it, like he was inviting Quentin’s clinginess, like for once he was asking for it, for all of it, all Quentin’s neurotic, obsessive, needy parts.

Quentin wrapped around Eliot as best he could, gazing into Eliot’s eyes. The only thing really strange about it was how calm Quentin was. What they were doing was new, but this was Eliot—his Eliot—and he loved him. And Eliot loved him back, and they had a little family, and a future, and each other now.

He mimicked Eliot’s breathing, synchronizing with him in a way that was beyond words. Quentin didn’t need to tell Eliot that he was ready; Eliot could read it on him, knowing Quentin’s thoughts more clearly than even Quentin did.

Sighing, Quentin took the head of Eliot’s cock inside of him, bearing down as he had with Eliot’s fingers. The stretch was so much more intense, and Quentin’s breath caught, mouth open on a gasp. Then Eliot blew gently on Quentin’s face, reminding him to breathe.

Quentin’s body struggled against the invasion briefly, and he moved his hands down to pause Eliot’s hips, needing a moment. Eliot stopped right away, kissing Quentin’s forehead, whispering reassurance.

Quentin teared up again, eyes stinging. This was intense, but it wasn’t the pain that drove him to tears; it was how close to Eliot he felt. How he was really letting him in, and not just physically. Their connection was somehow complete.

The tears came from relief. Relief that life could go on. Would go on. Relief that what he had with Eliot was real and not Quentin’s neurotic imagination. Relief because Quentin finally felt like he could do this quest. That he didn’t need to lie to himself about how long it might take or what his feelings toward Eliot were.

Because he felt like he could just be.

Then Quentin released Eliot’s hips, ready for more.

Eliot thrust into him slowly, gazing into Quentin’s watery eyes, head tilted to the side a little as he watched him. “That’s so good, Quentin. Just take it slow. Let me know if I get carried away. Just want you so much.”

And Quentin could sense it. Eliot’s voice was thick with it, rich with emotion so often held back, and when Eliot lowered his head for another kiss, it was all breathtakingly intimate. Eliot was inside him, around him, the taste of him on Quentin’s tongue, his scent filling Quentin’s every breath. It had never been quite like this, not before Arielle and not with Arielle, but this… It was like her final gift to Quentin, that she’d somehow left a void they both rushed in to fill, a void that without her had been a wall.

Then Eliot wrapped his slippery fingers around Quentin’s cock and stroked as he thrust into him just right, like stars bursting across Quentin’s senses, everything too much and not quite enough. Whatever sound Quentin made only encouraged Eliot, and he did it again, and again, and again, with such precision and control that Quentin could only relax and let himself be taken care of.

This was why Eliot was Daddy. Whatever game it had always been, a crutch to help Quentin feel sexier and more confident around worldly Eliot with his long list of conquests, Eliot always took care of him. It wasn’t just a game, not when Eliot was touching him like this, looking at him like this, so sincere and open and—

For once, at least, Quentin felt like he could see the real Eliot. The less than perfect, less than cool, too earnest farm boy who’d rebuilt himself from the ground up to become a paragon. It all lay before him now, the sweetness and insecurity, the yearning.

And Eliot yearned for Quentin.

Quentin pulled Eliot closer, kissing him again, melding with him. Sore and grunting sometimes, but also panting at how good it felt, how much he needed this. He didn’t feel lost in Eliot, he felt real with Eliot. Like this was how love was meant to be, that this was a real life they were building between them.

This was what Quentin wanted, what he needed. In Eliot’s eyes, he saw the future, their future, their love and connection, and it was real. It might not be real forever; Quentin didn’t know how love worked. But Eliot was who he wanted, who wanted him. To love and be loved in return. Was there any greater thing?

He moved with Eliot, no longer afraid of the pain. Not just the physical, either, but also free from the pain of being kept at arm’s length. Like he and Eliot were on the same page again.

“I love you,” Quentin whispered against his lips. “Can this be… just us… at least for a while?”

“It can be just us as long as you want, sweetheart. Did you see me bringing home cute guys?” Eliot laughed and kissed Quentin urgently, licking into his mouth and rocking their hips together as he stroked Quentin’s cock. Then he nipped his bottom lip and sighed. “Love you too, baby. Don’t want anyone else. Just…just this, just us. Just you. If you need… But we’re a family now. We’re…”

“We’re dads.” The tears were happy as Quentin smiled. “I don’t need anyone else. Don’t want them. We have family here now if we need help. But this… I only want this with you.”

Quentin moved faster, toward the goal, wanting Eliot to fill him up, to release inside. Quentin’s cock was so hard now in Eliot’s hand, and Quentin’s balls were drawing up. The stimulation drove his need. It felt good, so good. He grunted louder now, each impact forcing the sounds out of him. Yet even as Eliot took what he needed, he drove Quentin incredibly to the edge.

Then Eliot tightened his grip on Quentin’s cock, squeezing the base a shade too hard, choking back the rush of lust.

“Not yet, baby. Not just yet. Let it keep building. Don’t want this to be over yet.”

Quentin’s abruptly denied climax frustrated him, but he couldn’t argue with Eliot’s logic. This was special, meant to be savored.

Then Eliot was fucking him again, slow and steady, and their breathing synced up again, and Eliot kissed Quentin until he could do nothing but arch closer and whine for more. He didn’t know where Eliot was getting his control from, but that control was as much a part of Eliot as Quentin’s intensity was part of him. They were both always dancing on the ragged edge of disaster, but somehow when they came together…

“Q,” Eliot whispered against his lips as he sank deep into him, so deep Quentin could hardly stand it. “Love you, Q,” and then it was like Q could take anything, like nothing Eliot ever gave him would be too much because Eliot loved him, and Quentin would take anything, do anything, for that kind of love.

He rocked back against Eliot, barely believing that this was his Eliot saying these things to him, but here he was, so devoted and genuine. Quentin was so full that he thought he might burst. Full of Eliot, full of love and gratitude.

Quentin soaked in it, letting it permeate his entire being, feeling it like that first tingle of magic, like the first big stretch of the morning to wake his limbs.

And that’s how he felt. Alive.

“I love you, El. So much. So, so much.” Quentin squeezed Eliot closer, wanting to escape inside him. Eliot was right; Quentin did want this to last longer, to last forever if it could.

Eliot was in him so deep, hitting that spot, but also hollowing him out and then filling him up again, and Quentin wanted that. He clung to Eliot, kissed him until they couldn’t breathe, then clung again, letting his need radiate out and finding it met on every level by Eliot. It felt like their souls were connecting.

Quentin pressed his face against the crook of Eliot’s neck, breathing him in, tasting the salt from the sweat gathered there. Tasting him.

The idea fascinated Quentin, thrilled him, and he kissed and lapped away Eliot’s sweat, not even caring how needy and strange it must’ve been because Eliot seemed to love it, tilting his head and craning his neck to allow Quentin to kiss and lick anywhere he could reach.

“Steady, Q,” Eliot crooned, soothing and arousing at the same time. “Breathe with me. Stay with me.”

Quentin tried to obey, conditioned by now to do what Eliot said, to trust him in bed, to just follow his lead. It was so much easier that way, easier when Quentin didn’t have to think and Eliot just made things happen like they should. Quentin kept laving Eliot’s skin with his tongue as Eliot moved inside him, as they breathed together, and the world shrank to just their bodies thudding together, the slick sound of Eliot moving inside him, of Quentin letting him in. It was just their ragged breaths and gasps and the way Eliot’s hand felt on Quentin’s cock, stroking sweetly but never giving him enough to come.

Every other feeling fell away until it was just Quentin clinging to his Eliot, just Eliot demanding everything of Quentin, the two of them joined in the flesh as their lives and fates were joined. The grief ebbed and flowed around that single great truth, ever-present but no threat to them, more a shared mindset, something that pulled them closer together instead of pushing them apart.

It went on and on and on, so long Quentin forgot the ache, forgot the burn, so long he felt like this was his body’s only purpose. It was more a profound embrace than fucking, more tender than anything Quentin had imagined Eliot capable of. There was no room for artifice between them, no space for attitude or hauteur. They were both stripped down to nothing, and here at the heart of them, they were joined.

Then Eliot finally changed his grip, changed his angle, started to use Quentin’s body in earnest, knocking the breath from him and breaking the spell. “Need you, Q. You want me to come for you? Tell me what you want, baby. Tell me how you need me.”

“Yeah. I want you to come inside of me. I want to…” Quentin wasn’t sure how to explain it, but he felt like Eliot knew anyway, that he felt the same. There was something about Eliot coming in him, leaving part of himself there, something claiming. “Need you right there. Like that.”

Quentin’s brows furrowed as he shifted, Eliot mercilessly pounding that spot, and it felt so good. He never could’ve imagined it would be like this. On another day with another man, it wouldn’t have been. It was like this because this was Eliot, because of their lives together here, their shared experience weaving them together even more strongly.

“Oh Quentin.” Eliot sighed, seeming almost beside himself, growing so close his body trembled over Quentin’s. There was something so melancholy and romantic about him, something like a hero out of one of Quentin’s books, dashing and enigmatic, but here in Quentin’s arms, Eliot belonged to him. Quentin didn’t doubt that now, not with the way Eliot made him feel.

Then Eliot cried out, low and shaken, and went taut above Quentin. He slammed into him over and over, losing rhythm and gaining force, and Quentin felt the slick heat spreading through him, heard the wet sound of Eliot’s body moving inside his now, the way Eliot’s spend eased the burn, and then Eliot whispered, “Q, my baby Q, my beautiful, beautiful Q,” and it seemed like no one else had ever made Quentin feel quite like this. This vulnerable. This safe.

When Eliot went still, Quentin clung to him, holding on desperately to the moment until Eliot lowered his mouth to brush against Quentin’s. They kissed in tiny, aching bursts, both of them breathless and strung out, and as Eliot eased out of Quentin slowly, he released Quentin’s cock to instead press three fingers inside him. Eliot’s spunk dripped from Quentin’s opening, and he felt simultaneously filthy and exhilarated, and when Eliot gathered it on his fingertips and pushed it back inside Quentin, it made Quentin’s toes curl.

Before Quentin could lament being left aroused and used like this, Eliot kissed down his body and then drew Quentin’s needy cock into his hot, wet, perfect mouth, suckling Quentin even as he stimulated him with his fingers.

 It was almost too much all at once, but it also felt so amazing. Quentin was surprised he hadn’t come with Eliot, he’d been so excited, but then, he’d been awed too and hadn’t wanted to miss a second. Now he watched Eliot’s lips wrapped around his cock, how El hollowed his cheeks. His dark curls fell in his face and Quentin brushed them back, needing to see this.

He was reminded again of what Eliot had said, about Quentin knowing it was Eliot taking him, and he whispered Eliot’s name softly, over and over. He tightened his fingers in Eliot’s hair as his hips caught a rhythm.

Eliot’s fingers felt so good, not as big or complete as his cock had, but more focused, and they kept Eliot’s release inside him where it belonged, where Quentin needed it. 

Quentin’s head dropped back as his body started to quake and draw up. He was going to come. Quentin tugged Eliot’s hair to warn him, but surely he knew.

Then he was coming, moaning Eliot’s name louder as Quentin reached out wildly, fisting the sheets as his release tore out of him to spill down Eliot’s silken throat. Eliot made a low, hungry sound like a growl that flooded Quentin with a fresh surge of lust, and he dug his heels into the bed, driving into Eliot’s mouth as his long-denied climax flowed through him in irresistible pulses.

Eliot swallowed him down, licking and sucking until Quentin couldn’t take anymore and whimpered helplessly for mercy. Only then did Eliot lift his head and gaze at Quentin. For once, though, it wasn’t a knowing smirk or lusty mischief in his expression in the afterglow, just something quiet and satisfied.

He left his fingers in Quentin as he shifted up Quentin’s body to kiss him again, smiling softly as he closed his eyes and leaned in. Their lips touched, and Eliot whispered, “You were perfect.”

“You were perfect. More than perfect.” Quentin wrapped his arms around Eliot as tears prickled his eyes again. Happy tears. Relief. Grief and warmth and acceptance all at once. “I needed that. Needed you. You don’t mind that now, do you? It’s not… I’m not… too much.”

Eliot sucked in a deep breath as if bracing himself for something—giving Quentin a moment’s dread—and then shook his head, kissing Quentin again. “No, you’re not too much, Q. You’re… You’re perfect, baby boy.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Eliot adopted a manner that seemed offhand and decidedly wasn’t. “Am I enough? It’s—It’s okay if you don’t know, or if—But we’re family now, no matter what. We’re part of each other. Parents together.” His voice pinched a little, telltale, as he asked, “Yeah?”

“Can we keep doing what we just did?” Quentin was pretty sure he knew the answer. He bit his bottom lip. “If you love me and I love you and we’re parents together, that’s… That’s what I want. That’s enough. I’m not… I’m not as scared as I was. Are you? Were you?”

“Yeah, we can keep doing this.” Eliot smiled and looked into Quentin’s eyes from dizzyingly close before kissing Quentin’s forehead. “I’m not as scared anymore either. We’ve had seven years here, Q. Seven years to…figure things out. This works, I think.”

Cocking his head to the side, Eliot lifted his head and raised a brow. “It’s going to be hard for a while. Maybe a long while. It’s not…” Eliot pressed his lips tight together as if swallowing an emotion and then continued more quietly, “It’s never going to be the same again, but it can be good. I’m going to do everything I can, Quentin. Everything I can do to be enough, to make you happy on the days you can be happy and keep you going on the days you can’t. I promise you that, and I don’t make a lot of promises.”

“Before, I just… We weren’t… and I just kept thinking how I wasn’t enough. We were starting over, and I was scared. I kept feeling like we had to get back, and each failure was… I was letting everyone down.” Quentin settled in closer to Eliot, tracing patterns on his shoulder. “But now we have Ted, and we have this, and we have Arielle’s family, and it’s… it’s a life. We’re dads.”

Quentin laughed, finding it suddenly funny now. “Us. We’re dads together. And I’m so… happy about that. I miss Arielle. I loved her. But I was also really scared about how to move forward without her. But in a way, we’re not. In a way, she’s still here with us, right? She brought us closer together. She gave us the tools to get us here. We needed her. But now we can do this. I feel… I was scared but I feel like we got this now.”

“We do got this, Q. We definitively, fabulously got this.” Eliot’s expression went gentle and sweet, his eyes gleaming like dark honey. He wiggled his fingers a little inside Quentin before pulling them out slowly and kissing him again with a dirty little moan. Then he rolled over and pulled Quentin in close against him. “Arielle will always be with us, for the rest of our lives here. She’s part of Ted, the soul of this cottage. It’s going to be okay.”

After a moment’s thoughtful silence, he said quietly, “I loved her too. More than I’ve ever loved a woman besides Margo. I didn’t—I didn’t think I could, but I loved her. She gave me Ted, and she gave me you in a way I…”

With a heavy exhalation, Eliot trailed off. He closed his eyes for a moment, like he was processing things he couldn’t put into words. Then, with a wistful little smile at Quentin, he finished, “She gave me you in a way we both could handle. And I think now… I think she gave you me in the way you needed me to be. This whole little family will carry her legacy of love and courage.”

Then Eliot fluffed the pillows and settled in anew with Quentin before performing a neat cleaning charm that seemed to clean both of them from top to bottom—except for inside Quentin, which seemed like a purposeful oversight.

“Enough deep thoughts, Coldwater. Cuddle with Daddy.”

Quentin grinned and pictured Arielle again, imagining her watching them, touched that her boys were going to be all right. He pressed his head on Eliot’s chest and sang a fragment of song he remembered from earth. “Lights will guide you home and ignite your bones. And I will try…to fix you.

Eliot smiled into Quentin’s hair, hands gentle as they skated across his bare skin. “Like I said… You’re perfect.”

Chapter Text

“Did you finish your schoolwork?” Eliot rose from the almost-full Mosaic to peer over Ted’s shoulder at the little table in the sunshine.

Ted tried to hide his papers under a book so Eliot wouldn’t see he’d been doodling on them. He looked up at Eliot with big, Quentin-y eyes and offered a hopeful smile. It didn’t work.

“I’m melt-resistant, doodleboops. Focus.” Eliot pulled the papers free and pointed to the next blank space. “I know you don’t think math matters, and yes, when Dad starts going on and on about the beauty of numbers it can be whelming, but honestly, when you inherit all the money I’m leaving behind as your inheritance, you’re going to want to know how to calculate compound interest. Pull it together, little man.”

“Papa…” Ted verged on a whine, his eight-year-old freckled face pinched with disappointment. “But it’s so nice out. I want to play.”

“You and me both, Teddykins, but I have my job, and you have yours. Work before play.” Eliot tapped the worksheet again. “Multiplication tables for you, unsolvable puzzle for me.”

Pouting, Ted returned to his work, giving Eliot an impressive sidelong glower that came straight from the Quentin Coldwater Collection.

So cute.

There was a lot of Ari in him too, though. His love of play. His urge to make Quentin laugh every chance he got. His instinctive compassion for human foibles.

And, naturally, his hatred of math.

The Southern Orchard didn’t exactly have its own independent school district to send Ted off to weekdays; there was a schoolhouse in Applecart, sort of, occasionally in session with a talking fox for a teacher, but it was an awful long way to send Ted when the schedule was so haphazard. Quentin insisted they could homeschool Ted and that he’d get plenty of socializing in with his cousins and their friends, which…

Well. Q was a major introvert. He probably felt that was adequate. Fortunately for Ted, he took after his father in that. Eliot’s own childhood memories of growing up in a small farming community gave him some serious extrovert PTSD about the whole thing, but he was really trying not to project.

Just because Eliot would kill for another rager to attend didn’t mean Q or Ted shared in his party fever.

It was strange, though, living here in the middle of nowhere with only Quentin and their son for company. With Arielle around, it had been lively and before she got so sick, she always had gossip from Applecart and the surrounding farms to convey. Now…

Well. It had been two years and change, and Eliot still missed her every day.

Better to think of other things, though. Better to focus on the way the sunlight looked reflecting off Q’s long, long, eternally messy hair and how Ted had gotten back to his numbers, and how this latest batch of Eliot’s wine was by far the best he’d ever made. He’d crafted a special limited-edition series of bottles for this one—Coldwater-Waugh Private Reserve—and expected it to sell like hotpants. (Hotcakes was the saying, but Eliot didn’t know why anyone would want those.)

As Eliot sipped an especially potent plum wine, he watched Quentin place the final tile of their design. As always, he held his breath for just a minute, but nothing happened. No great loss, really. They’d solve it eventually—it was their tenth year here—and until then, it was just as well. Eliot liked his quiet life at the Mosaic cottage more than he’d ever admit.

“Good effort, Coldwater. Hit the showers.” Eliot jerked his thumb toward the outdoor shower around the side of the cottage and leered.

“Gross,” Ted muttered without looking up or missing a beat.

“What, you rather I keep stinking?” Quentin’s eyes sparkled as he crossed to Ted. He hugged him from behind, sweaty and covered in chalk dust while he tickled Ted. “Do numbers bore you? You need a pep talk?”

“Papa already gave me a pep talk.” Ted squirmed at the tickling, not bursting into gales of laughter as he had as a baby but wriggling and making silly, excited noises that encouraged his dads to keep pestering him. “I’m fine! I swear. I just—” Ted gasped on a laugh as Quentin hit just the right spot under Ted’s arm.

Eliot laughed and carried on drinking his wine, one eyebrow raised in amusement. “I didn’t actually pep talk you. I just said you’re going to want to know math to properly manage your immense winery fortune.”

Quentin picked Ted up from his seat. He probably wasn’t going to be able to do that for much longer. But he grabbed him by the middle and twirled. “What have I told you about the beauty of numbers? You understand the underpinnings of the universe, and then you can run it.”

Ted rolled his eyes but seemed to enjoy the snuggles for the moment. Probably not much longer for that, either.

Quentin set him down and pointed at a problem. “Oh, come on. You know that one.”

“I might know it if your stinky armpit wasn’t blasting pit reek up my nose holes,” Ted sassed, and Eliot lifted his wine glass in salute. That was the kind of content he was here for.

“Hey! Who taught you to talk back to your dad?” Quentin mussed Ted’s hair but narrowed his eyes at Eliot. “This is a manly smell. The smell of work.”

Quentin lifted his arms, pumping his fists as if he was a bodybuilder, which he most certainly was not, but Quentin knew that. “Get to work. I’ll get cleaned up. If you’re good and finish this sheet, we can get up early tomorrow and go swimming.”

“Really?” Ted bounced in his seat and gazed up at Quentin with worshipful eyes. He was still young enough to think his dad was the coolest person in the world. He immediately turned his renewed attention to the worksheet and applied himself to the task as Eliot strolled over to join them.

“Sounds like a deal, hm?” Eliot leaned down to press a wine-soaked kiss to Ted’s crown and then trailed around the side of the house with Q to the shower. “Ew. Sweat. Gross. How dare you perspire in front of our progeny?”

Grinning, Eliot held his cup of wine away in one hand and pressed the other against Quentin’s shoulder, pushing him back against the cottage wall. Widening his eyes in feigned innocence, he leaned in and rubbed his face against Quentin’s throat, licking a stripe through the salty sweat between neck and shoulder.

Quentin tilted his head to the side, biting his lip presumably to mask a moan at Eliot’s touch. He chuckled, pulling up his tunic to toss it off to the side. “Guess not everyone is quite so repulsed by my manly musk, hm?”

He rolled up to his toes to kiss Eliot. He hadn’t been drinking wine and instead just tasted of a minty tea he favored. It was rare for Quentin to day drink, but after Ted went to bed, he would join Eliot. That’s when things usually got fun.

“Oh, no, I’m repulsed, Q. I’m revolted. I’m…” Eliot kissed Quentin again and then reached for Quentin’s hand, twined their fingers, and dragged it up to pin it against the wall as Eliot leaned in to bury his face in Quentin’s armpit. The curly hairs tickled his nose, but Quentin’s scent was so strong there, so unmistakable and blessedly pure that Eliot just breathed him in in lungfuls and then bit his side playfully.

“Oh!” Quentin sounded very surprised by what Eliot was doing, his skin turned a delightfully rosy hue. He squirmed, apparently as ticklish as Ted under his arms, but he didn’t fight particularly hard against Eliot restraining him. His voice low, Quentin asked, “What are you doing?”

“Mm…” Eliot hummed as he considered his answer and licked Quentin’s sweat with a smile. “I’m so grossed out, Q. It’s awful.” He licked him again and nuzzled him harder. “So filthy. You should be ashamed. Are you a dirty boy, Quentin Coldwater?”

Eliot pulled away and handed Quentin his wine for a moment so he could work a quick Damson’s Shielding around the table where Ted sat. It would keep most anything from harming Ted—and alert Eliot immediately if Ted left the shielded area. Eliot had gotten very good at that particular spell.

Then he retrieved his wine, took a deep swig, and kissed Quentin again before abruptly dropping to his knees and nuzzling the front of Quentin’s trousers, burying his face at the crux of Quentin’s thighs where his scent was the strongest.

“I am dirty. So dirty, Daddy.” Quentin’s gaze darted toward the front of the cottage. His arms were still up where Eliot had left them, head tilted down, hair pulling from its ponytail.

Life and lean eating had given Quentin’s body a bit more definition than it had when they started the puzzle. No greater bulk, just more carved. His abs glistened in the fading light. Eliot bit them for good measure. They weren’t an improvement on the original soft, nerdy Q as much as a feature of constantly picking up a sixty-pound kid and flopping him around, and for that Eliot loved them.

“I’m so ashamed. Are you going to clean me up?”

Eliot grinned up at Quentin and tilted his head to the side, gaze narrowed. “Why would I do that?”

Then he sipped his wine and performed a quick, one-handed maneuver to unfasten Quentin’s tie-front trousers. They fell open and bunched around his feet, and a fresh burst of musky sweat hit Eliot’s nose. He made a show of breathing it in and then nuzzled Quentin’s crotch again, looking up at him as he did.

“I like you dirty.”

Quentin brought his hands down and placed them on Eliot’s head. “Is that because you’re so dirty?”

He looked mortified but aroused, his cock responding. Obviously, Quentin loved it even if he was blushing brightly. He shifted his hips uneasily; he couldn’t move his feet far. “You want this, Daddy?”

“I always want you, baby.” Eliot nosed Quentin’s slowly hardening cock and sighed in contentment. He gripped Quentin’s hip and then suckled his head through his sweaty underwear. Smirking up at Quentin, Eliot licked his lips. “What if Daddy sucks your dirty cock and then sends you to the shower? I have another little boy who needs attention, you know, and dinner to make for both my boys. I think I can trust you to wash—inside and out—and get ready for our bedtime games. Think you can be ready again by bedtime?”

“Yeah. I can be ready.”

That hadn’t been a problem since that night. How strange now to think back on how fragile Quentin had seemed. Only took a decade.

Quentin ran his fingers through Eliot’s hair, gazing down at him adoringly. Eliot looked up at him with mirrored adoration, sighing his contentment. This was perfect. This was what Eliot wanted.

Trusting to his Damson Shielding, he peeled down Quentin’s underwear just enough in the front for Quentin’s cock to spring free. Mouth watering, Eliot leaned in and rubbed his face against the shaft, like hot silk against his cheek. Then he captured Quentin’s tip in his mouth and held the base steady with one hand, pushing Quentin’s ass harder against the side of the cottage.

There was something special about doing this in the sunshine, in the open, where anyone—except Ted—might stumble across them. Eliot loved it. He loved the risk, the reckless, wide-open feeling of his heart right now with Quentin’s cock pushing needily toward his throat.

Then Eliot focused on the moment, and with a glance up at Quentin, he brought his full powers of cocksucking magic to bear on Q’s sweaty, tired, unprepared self. With a soft moan, Eliot choked himself on Quentin’s cock and swallowed around him, purposefully gagging on him and then sliding off just enough to catch a breath through his nose before choking himself again, knowing the sound as much as anything was making Quentin’s toes curl.

Tears streamed from Eliot’s eyes, and he relished it, relished giving Quentin something no one else ever had, something only Eliot with his enormous fucking man face could offer. He worked Quentin over relentlessly, sucking and bobbing his head and gagging and choking and moaning. He kept going even as Quentin tapped at his shoulder and pulled his hair, only goaded to greater efforts by Q’s increasing desperation.

Smirking up at Quentin through watering eyes, Eliot slipped his hand between Quentin’s legs to rub his prostate from the outside. When Quentin gasped and came convulsively, bending at the waist and curling around Eliot’s head, Eliot felt a bone-deep satisfaction that entirely made up for the fact he’d be saving his own climax for after Ted’s bedtime.

When Quentin’s knees gave out, Eliot pulled away and let Quentin slump awkwardly to the ground, back against the cottage wall. He leaned in for a slow, deep kiss, sharing Quentin’s salty, masculine flavor with him, and then sat back on his heels and finished his wine like it was all in a day’s work.

Wasn’t it, though?

Quentin wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, like a child. The stray wispy hairs that had escaped his ponytail stuck up where they weren’t matted, and his face was still rosy and glistening from his exertion. He still looked a little bewildered by what had happened and even more so that Eliot wasn’t undressing.

“Okay, so… um… I should… What was I doing?”

Eliot stood and offered Quentin his free hand, helping drag him to his pants-hobbled feet. He kissed him soundly and then turned him toward the shower and swatted his ass. “Go clean up. Inside and out. There’s a good boy.”

Quentin staggered away, not even thinking to free himself from his pants until he reached the shower. He leaned on one hand and finally toed out of his shoes and pants, kicking them aside when it appeared to occur to him that he didn’t know where his shirt went.

He looked back over his shoulder at Eliot and then at his shirt. He blushed when he met Eliot’s gaze. It was so cute that he could still affect Quentin that way after nearly a decade. Then Quentin appeared to get bashful and stepped into the shower, pulling the little gate closed before he took off his underwear and turned on the water.

What a nerd.

Eliot grinned as he neatened himself, adjusted his erection to be less noticeable, and headed back around the front of the cottage to refill his wine. Ted glanced up as Eliot joined him, giving him a brief smile before returning his attention to his worksheet. Eliot strolled over and squeezed Ted’s shoulder before leaning down and kissing the top of his head. He smelled like sunshine and the orange blossom shampoo Eliot made for him.

“I’m gonna go start dinner, champ. What do you want?”

Ted propped his elbow on the table and rested his chin on his hand, making an overly loud hmm noise as he thought.

“Sweets don’t count as dinner,” Eliot reminded him, wry and suppressing his amusement.

“Aw, man.” Ted huffed and then narrowed his gaze on Eliot. “But can we have peach cobblers after dinner?”

“You may have a singular peach cobbler after dinner, yes.” Eliot ruffled Ted’s hair and headed inside, taking that as tacit permission to make as many vegetables for dinner as he wanted.

One thing Eliot had learned about Fillory was that their vegetables were much, much better than what they sold in the average grocery on earth. At least, the Southern Orchard, which was almost entirely farmland as its name suggested, had the most delicious homegrown produce, and Eliot had them all on a plant-based diet that was far more healthful and flavorful than what he’d been accustomed to subsisting on back at Brakebills.

Tonight, they would dine on ratatouille, fried eggs, some crusty seeded bread left from yesterday’s baking, and copious amounts of wine for the adults with some fresh cold goat milk for Ted. Eliot enjoyed their domestic little life rather more than he’d ever have expected in his early twenties. Now…

Well. It was satisfying. Deep down he was still a little bit of a party boy maybe. Maybe a lot. But scandalizing Q, making him blush, and honing Ted’s natural sass was everything he needed on a daily basis.

And a few times a year, the harvest festivals in Applecart scratched the itch.

Tonight, this was their own little party, just for three.

As Eliot put the finishing touches on their plates, he called for Ted and Quentin to come inside. It was just starting to get dark outside, bringing the sound of their mutual nerding over Fillorian constellations as they appeared in the twilit sky. At Eliot’s shout, Ted bumbled in, worksheet in one hand and Quentin’s hand in his other. Q looked adorable, all freshly washed, long, long hair still damp, dark eyelashes framing those doe eyes that crinkled at the corners as he herded Ted indoors. Quentin had left his mane down while it dried; it fell midway down his back and glowed golden in the candlelight as he shut the door. He took the worksheet from Ted’s hand and held it up to Eliot.

“Look at this. Ted finished it, and they are all one hundred percent correct because he’s a genius.”

They were simple problems in Eliot’s estimation, but Quentin always got extra excited when Ted was interested in math—even if that interest was stoked with bribery. Ted seemed more interested in play and athletics but also the land and farming, which he apparently came by naturally.

Quentin liked to speculate what magic Ted would specialize in; his current favorite was Natural Magic. It would likely be a few years before he’d even start to show potential. Eliot hoped he’d have enough magic to continue wine production, anyway. It would be good to know Ted would be provided for.

“Very good, Ted. A hundred percent correct on your math means swimming in the morning, which means eat up and then go to bed early so you have plenty of energy for the rope swing.” Eliot grinned and held out his fist for Ted to bump. Then Ted slid his fist atop Eliot’s and stuck out his pointer finger like a horn. Eliot wiggled his fingers beneath like tentacles.

“Unicorn squid!” they pronounced together, ritually.

Then Eliot swatted Ted’s bottom with a dishtowel and urged him toward his seat. Turning his attention on Quentin, Eliot raised a brow. “You’re taking me with you to the swimming hole, right? Someone has to keep an eye on you two.”

As Ted and Quentin settled in, Eliot made certain each of their placesettings was complete and then joined them at the table. A fourth spot sat empty but for the glass of wine Eliot always poured in Ari’s memory.

“Yeah, of course. If you want to get up that early for physical activity.” The bland way Quentin said it made it almost possible to ignore the snark, or the look between Ted and Quentin.

All right, so maybe Eliot wasn’t a fan of mornings, but he did enjoy swimming. Also ogling mostly naked Quentin glistening with water in the morning sun.

Quentin took his seat and then a sip of his wine after raising his glass to Arielle’s empty chair. “Ted says we’re having cobblers tonight. Plural.”

“I told you, Ted-man. Just the one cobbler. Singular.” Eliot pulled a faux-sad face and then lifted his own glass toward Arielle’s chair before clinking his wine glass to Ted’s milk cup. Then he motioned to the ratatouille topped with sunny-side-up eggs and crusty warmed bread. “Tuck in, boys. No cobbler—singular or plural—until you clean your plates.”

Ted whined but obeyed, forking up a huge mouthful of food and shoveling it into his mouth. His cheeks chipmunked out, ballooning comically as he tried to chew.

“I told you it was too good to be true.” Quentin smirked at Ted and then cut in with his fork, eating more casually, but also taking the time to more obviously appreciate Eliot’s hard work. “This is really good. I may not have room for cobbler.”

That notion appeared to excite Ted, who offered right away to eat Quentin’s share of cobbler. Any other conversational gambit anyone made after that Ted managed to work back around to eating Quentin’s dessert, which Quentin let him do.

Not that Ted was spoiled or anything.

But as a result, Ted was a little more sugared up for bed, so Quentin ran him around outside to burn off some energy and then returned to clean up while Eliot got Ted settled in his loft. Eliot enjoyed putting Ted to bed; he’d been doing it since he was a tiny bab. It was gratifying to see Ted’s sharp gaze soften, eyes drifting shut, long lashes dusting his cherubic cheeks as he finally slipped into dreamland while Eliot sang him a lullaby.

Tonight was no different. Ted put up a token fight, protesting that he wasn’t sleepy even as he curled around his pillow and the plush unicorn squid Eliot had given him for his seventh birthday. Ted seemed convinced unicorn squids really existed somewhere in Fillory; Eliot didn’t have the heart to tell him it was something he’d hallucinated once while very, very high on magic mushrooms back in New York.

Ted smiled as he drowsed while Eliot stroked his hair and sang “Blackbird” by the Beatles. Eliot couldn’t help smiling too. Every night it was like this, the half-hearted protests, the inevitable settling down. Quentin downstairs washing up, listening to Eliot sing and singing along in his own off-kilter way.

When Ted had sunk into a deep enough doze, Eliot blew out the lamp and came down the ladder from the loft before renewing the loft’s soundproofing and Damson Shielding. Then, assured Ted’s innocence was properly protected, Eliot came up behind Quentin, slipped his arms around him, and started kissing his neck.

“You ready to work some magic, Coldwater?”

Quentin relaxed back into Eliot’s arms, then cast a quick spell to finish the drying and then put away the dishes. “You got him to sleep quicker than I thought you would. Good job.”

He’d put his hair back while he worked, leaving plenty of access to his neck. He turned his face to the side to nuzzle Eliot’s face as he reached back to cup Eliot’s cock. “More than ready. All clean, as Daddy requested.”

Slipping away, Quentin headed out to the Mosaic, moving swiftly and silently, even though he didn’t really need to. He seemed to take pleasure in doing perverse things on the site of so much frustration. It put him in a good mood when he started to get exasperated and Eliot whispered a reminder of what they’d done in that spot.

Eliot had figured Quentin would be a willing participant, but even better, Quentin was fucking eager to try even the filthiest of ideas. After some blushing, of course.

They’d worked a few sex magic spells—levitation, obviously, and some other fun physical effects that drew on Eliot’s telekinesis—but tonight Eliot wanted to try a more spiritually demanding practice. He’d made sex magic a major part of his field of study—he and Margo both took an interest in it, and they’d spurred each other on—but he’d never had a partner with whom he was as attuned as with Quentin. He and Q just…got each other sexually after all these years. They knew how to give each other pleasure without the need for words—though often their words were part of the giving of pleasure.

Without grimoires available for study, Eliot could only progress their spellwork slowly, night by night, gradually building on what had come before. Quentin didn’t seem to mind. It had started simple and escalated a little at a time. Now… Well.

Eliot went in for a rough kiss as he stripped Quentin in the cool night air. Peeling off Quentin’s tunic, he dropped it to the ground where it would no doubt serve as Quentin’s pillow and then kissed him again, and again, hungry for Q’s taste, for his closeness.

“Are you hard for me yet?” Eliot whispered between nips at Quentin’s plump bottom lip. He snaked a hand down to squeeze Quentin’s groin, rubbing him through his clothes. “You wanna help Daddy with something special tonight?”

“Yeah. Getting hard for you, wanna help with something special.” Quentin was growing harder in Eliot’s hand, pushing more aggressively for touching. He was so trusting, open to whatever Eliot wanted.

He went for Eliot’s clothes, pulling his tunic off so he could run his fingers over Eliot’s chest, thumbs teasing his nipples. “What about you, Daddy? Hard for me?”

He slid his hand down the front of Eliot’s pants to stroke him directly, far from that shy boy who handled Eliot so uncertainly, as if he worried that Eliot would break. Eliot loved it. He loved his Q shameless and needy, bold and confident. He’d spent these last years doing everything he could to make Quentin feel safe and wanted, and the payoff was mind-blowing.

“Mm, you know I am,” Eliot murmured as he tipped back his head to give Quentin access to his throat. When Quentin leaned in to lick and bite Eliot’s neck, Eliot groaned and thrust into Quentin’s hand in response, knowing it always turned Quentin on that much more to feel Eliot’s arousal. He thought Quentin probably needed it, that proof Q was sexy, that Q was desirable. It helped banish his anxiety that Eliot didn’t really want him, and Eliot was all for that. Whatever it took to get Q out of his head and into Eliot’s pants.

Eliot kicked off his own shoes and then shucked his bottoms and tossed them aside so Quentin could appreciate the view. While Eliot had never expected Q to get that into looking at him, he was remarkably grateful for opportunities to stare, to touch. Eliot tried never to question it, never to wonder whether Quentin missed Arielle’s smaller, softer body when he was alone with Eliot’s bony, lanky frame. It did no good to let her ghost come between them when all Ari ever wanted was to bring them together.

Still, Eliot craved that reassurance. He put a hand on Quentin’s shoulder and pressed him down to his knees in front of Eliot, smiling down at him faintly. “Open yourself up while you suck me, baby boy.”

“Mm.” Quentin sank to his knees, moving some clothes under them for a cushion. He took a moment to nuzzle Eliot’s cock, striping it lightly with his tongue, as if he knew Eliot needed the admiration and teasing.

Then Quentin worked on swallowing Eliot, trying as ever to take him as Eliot took Quentin’s cock. And to Q’s credit, he had a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of caring and he was getting very good at it. Helped that Quentin seemed to enjoy it so much.

While steadying himself on Eliot’s cock, Quentin did a quick lubrication spell, then gripped Eliot’s base. Q’s other hand moved down behind him, and he fingered himself exactly as Eliot had ordered.

What a good boy. Eliot’s cock gave a happy little twinge at that. He loved when Quentin followed his directions.

Having become an actual father, he had a greatly renewed appreciation of obedient boys who did as they were told. It had always been hot when Q did what El said to, but now it relaxed Eliot too, just like a drug.

“You look so good on your knees,” Eliot crooned, gathering Quentin’s long, long hair in one hand, so much longer than Quentin used to keep it, but Eliot loved stroking it, and they both loved him pulling it. So his hair was long.

Eliot pulled it free of the loose cord Quentin had tied it back with while doing dishes and then looped the silken, golden-brown tresses around his palm and gripped tight. “So sexy getting yourself ready for Daddy. Look at you, all blushing and debauched. Can’t even hide your excitement. You’re so ready for this, aren’t you?”

Eliot paused and stroked Quentin’s cheek with his free hand, caressing his flushed face. “Tonight’s going to be special, baby. So special. It’s what we’ve been working toward all this time, and it’s only gonna get better from here.”

“Mm?” Quentin looked up at Eliot, mouth full of cock, dark eyes wide. Then Quentin released Eliot’s cock and tilted his head. “Yeah? What are we doing tonight?”

Sometimes Eliot wondered if Quentin was going along with this, allowing himself to be a guinea pig for Eliot’s sex magic experiments out of love or curiosity. In the end, it seemed like both, maybe. It did seem to appeal to him that he was helping Eliot.

Eliot sighed, gazing into Quentin’s eyes and letting his love for his sweet, awkward boy overwhelm him for a moment. He’d never imagined he’d feel this way for anyone. He’d always thought the way he loved Margo would be the most he ever felt for another human. But this…

“Tonight we’re going to connect body and soul,” Eliot said quietly, his tone aiming for light and landing somewhere far graver.

“Is it dangerous?” That wasn’t a no, but Quentin’s brows went up, probably alarmed by the grave tone.

Of course, everything they did had some risk, magic or not. Magic introduced a new level of danger, if only because they could fall while levitating, among various other possible casting mistakes. Eliot had been keeping a notebook with their experiments and theories. There was always a margin of error.

“No more dangerous than anything else we do.” Eliot hoped. He licked his lips and then playfully swatted Quentin’s face with his erection, swaying his hips to bump him gently. “Supposedly it would…entwine our fates. Which, if you ask me, our fates are already pretty entwined, but the side effects of the spell include ferociously intense orgasms and profound—temporary—empathy.”

Eliot shrugged one shoulder and raised a brow at Quentin. “What do you think, Coldwater? Up for the challenge?”

Quentin chuckled and playfully swatted back at Eliot’s erection before he caught it with his hand and gave it a long stroke and then a soft kiss to the head. “Yeah, we’re pretty entwined already. Pretty intense orgasms, too, but… you know… profound empathy sounds interesting.”

“I…” Eliot bit his lip and tugged lightly at his handful of Quentin’s hair. “I want you to feel how much I love you, Q. I just think sometimes if you could just know… But you don’t realize how fucking special you are.”

Eliot scritched his fingernails over Quentin’s scalp. Softly he added, “And I’d like to know what it feels like for you too.”

“Yeah?” Quentin actually looked a little worried. The insecurity he often felt around their relationship came through, confirming for Eliot that Quentin needed this. “It’s not going to… like, I mean, I have really big feelings. But you know that now, right?”

He pressed his lips together. “But you have really big feelings too. I just don’t see them all the time.” Quentin fidgeted. “Promise you won’t flee in terror?”

“Pinky swear,” Eliot said, holding out his pinky to Quentin. “The most solemn of vows.” He smiled a little. “I’m in this to win it, Q. I’m not going anywhere.”

Quentin held out his pinky and shook on it. “And you want me to feel… everything?”

He bit his lip, looking up at Eliot, a little bit shy still. “What do you need me to do?”

“Well, to avoid nasty surprises, we need to be in complete harmony. That means we communicate openly throughout this. You know how it is, with sex magic.” They’d gotten pretty good at that, honestly. Quentin was learning to speak up and make his needs known, which Eliot enjoyed about as much as Q did.

Still, Eliot felt the need to reiterate, “You’re going to have to be explicit tonight. Talk about exactly what you’re feeling and exactly what you need and want. I’ll do the same. If we do it right… well, we’ll be working some next level sex magic. You ready, baby boy?”

“Yeah. I’m ready.”

Quentin took the idea of sex magic very seriously, which made him the perfect partner. Eliot had always thought it would be he and Margo going down this rabbit hole together, if he got this far at all. Quentin might’ve been the last person Eliot would’ve believed he’d be this compatible with, but then, Q was the fantasy. A perfect amount of submissive and stubborn. But also nerdy enough to get into the weeds, checking logic and excited by new knowledge.

“My knees aren’t totally happy right now. You want me to stay down here?”

“Oh no, can’t have that. Stretch out on your side naked. Use the clothes to pillow your head.” Eliot considered for a moment and then worked a featherbed charm related to the magic he’d used to craft their canopy bed. It made the surface of the Mosaic considerably softer, or to be technical, enchanted the half inch of air above it to be more cushy.

Eliot watched as Quentin got comfortable, stroking his own cock as he watched the muscles ripple under Q’s skin, and then he telekinetically placed the votive candles they’d need for the ritual at each cardinal point. It was all a little skewed here in Fillory, but they’d worked on this enough times to get the circumstances down. The votives all smelled like rainwater, which was perfect for this spell, symbolic of rain washing away impurities, and they glowed a faint pink that made Quentin look like he was blushing all over.

Delicious.

Eliot poured them both another glass of the Reserve, giving Quentin enough time to get comfortable—and maybe to start feeling a little uncomfortable again. Then he settled in behind him, stretching out along Q’s length and fitting their bodies together.

“The tricky thing about this one, as it’s written, is that you can’t approach it directly as a goal. You have to follow your desires through their winding paths together until you’re completely attuned. The magic draws on each caster’s intent to please the other and be pleased themselves.” Eliot kissed the back of Quentin’s neck and slipped an arm around him, nestling in and rubbing his cock slowly against the small of Quentin’s back. “You won’t have any trouble with that, will you? You’re already so sensitive to everything I want, aren’t you, sweetheart?”

“So if I ever really wanted a backrub, this is the time to bring that up?” Quentin took a swig of his wine and then set it aside. He reached back to fondle Eliot, pressing Eliot’s cock against Q’s back. “I mean, mostly I just want to feel your hands on me, maybe a little oil.”

Well, he did tell Quentin to speak up. It was good he was taking this so seriously.

“Do you want a backrub, baby?” Eliot smiled and tipped Quentin’s face up toward him so he could lean in and kiss him slowly, lingering, enjoying the feel of their bodies pressed close. Quentin’s soft lips were heaven, and the faint scratch of his late evening stubble sent a pleasant shiver through Eliot. “You want me to massage you until you’re melting into a puddle of sexed-up boy and your pretty little hole is clenching and flexing and begging for me to fill it? Is that what you want? To just be taken care of and pampered like a day at the spa, inside and out?”

“Yeah. I want that. I want you to massage me inside, too. I want to feel your long fingers inside of me. Probing deep. You want that, Daddy?” Quentin nuzzled Eliot’s face and then kissed him again, reaching to hold his face close. “You said winding path, right? And tell you anything that I want?”

This could get interesting. Quentin usually let Eliot lead, and even when asked, he would often demur. But every so often, he brought up something particularly stimulating.

“Yes. Anything you want. If I don’t truly please you, if you’re not honest about what you want, it could have some less than desirable side effects. So be candid, be forthcoming, and let’s see this through, baby Q.” Eliot kissed Quentin again and then pushed him over onto his belly and telekinetically summoned a bottle of massage oil, not wanting to leave Quentin’s side. He rolled it between his hands to warm it a little and then poured out a measure into a cupped palm.

“Deep breaths.” Eliot leaned in, kissed Quentin’s shoulder, and swept his hair out of the way before drizzling the warmed oil down his spine. It glistened in the candlelight and made Quentin’s smooth skin gleam temptingly. With a sigh of pleasure, Eliot gently pressed his thumbs into the muscles between Quentin’s shoulder blades and started working in little circles, testing Quentin’s tolerance before adding more pressure and more of his hand until he was kneading the oiled muscles upward toward Quentin’s neck.

“I’m gathering the tension in my palms, baby. All right? Daddy’s taking all the tension and stress right out of these muscles, gathering it together, and smoothing it away a little at a time. When I’m done, you’ll be so loose-limbed and relaxed, you’ll barely be able to move. You’ll just lie there and feel.”

“You always leave me loose-limbed and relaxed.” Quentin stretched his arms out, turning his head to the side. He exhaled happily. His back popped and his muscles rippled under the skin, glistening and smelling of peach oil. He had knots, probably from all their work being hunched over and moving tiles.

He spread his legs as Eliot moved down, gripping Quentin’s ass, massaging the muscles, enjoying his tension and the way he moved his hips, greedy to be touched. “You like that, El? The idea of me being restrained?”

“I like the idea of you being so blissfully lax that you just lie there and let me have you. No restraints, just pleasure.” Eliot leaned in and kissed Quentin’s back, shifting lower and lower as he worked his hands down from Quentin’s ass to his thighs. “Going to make you feel so good you cry.”

Eliot shifted down again, pressing his face into the small of Quentin’s back and kneading his calves. Quentin squirmed a little under him, and Eliot knew what he wanted, but he intended to make Quentin ask for it.

Quentin moaned softly, flexing his feet as Eliot massaged his calves. He shifted again and let out a frustrated little huff. “You gonna eat my ass, Daddy, or are you teasing me?”

He looked over his shoulder at Eliot and grinned, glowing in the soft haze of the candles. “You like when I surrender and give you what you want? Do you like when I tell you what to do?”

“I like everything, with you,” Eliot answered quietly, meeting Quentin’s gaze. “I want to do absolutely everything with you, Quentin Coldwater-Waugh. I love when you surrender, when you just give me all of you, and I can use your beautiful body for my own perverse whims. But I also love when you tease and tempt and get a little cocky and start ordering me around like a spoiled little prince. I love knowing you’re spoiled because I spoiled you.”

And he really did. When Quentin was feeling himself, when he got sassy, it filled Eliot’s heart with pride and affection because Quentin had been so insecure when Eliot met him, and now… Well.

Then, to avoid saying anything more, Eliot nestled his face between Quentin’s pert little cheeks, scruffing his beard against the tender skin before engaging his teeth gently against Quentin’s entrance, biting just a little before soothing with a long, lush stroke of his tongue.

Quentin’s breath caught as he startled and then exhaled breathily. He obviously loved having his ass eaten, though there had been a time when he could barely say that out loud. “I like everything with you. I trust you. I feel… safe with you.”

It seemed slightly strange to say, and Quentin could sometimes express himself poorly, but then, Quentin was also aware of how lethal Eliot could be. It was one thing with a fling, someone who knew Eliot less intimately, or even with those who knew things and just saw him as a bad boy. But Quentin was neither of those things. He was close and intimate. He knew Eliot’s ugly and his shortcomings. He’d successfully navigated the labyrinth of Eliot’s heart, and a lot of times Q didn’t seem to realize how close he was.

Sometimes that was painful, even if Eliot knew it was a function of Quentin’s illness. To hear him say Eliot made him feel safe touched him, and that was the thing about Quentin. It was his offhand comments or sheer enthusiasm that disarmed Eliot.

Sure, Quentin was depressed and had anxiety, but each day he fought through that. As terrifying as it had been to have seen Quentin so debilitated, Eliot was glad to have that understanding of who he was now. It helped him better appreciate what Q was up against.

His brave Q, always fighting on, always battling his demons to get through the day. God, Eliot loved him.

He lavished Quentin’s opening with attention, kneading his ass, lower back, and upper thighs in both oiled hands as he worked his tongue in deeper. Moaning his excitement, Eliot rubbed his nose and chin against Quentin’s cleft, striving closer, fucking Quentin’s hole shallowly with his tongue as Quentin squirmed and gasped.

Eliot adored seeing Q like this, in the grip of sensation, out of his head with it, free from his overthinking for once. It made Eliot redouble his efforts, dive back in, eat Quentin’s ass like he intended to stay all night.

Quentin spread his legs wider, pulling his knees up to give Eliot as much room as he wanted. His moaning and whimpering made Eliot so glad he’d soundproofed the loft, though anyone walking by would get quite an eyeful.

“You want me, Daddy? You trying to get inside of me? You want to crawl in, make room for all of you in me?”

Quentin got so morbid sometimes in his intensity, but all Eliot could think or say was, “Yes,” and he sighed as he pushed closer, lipping and licking at Quentin hungrily and growling his pleasure. He abandoned massaging Q to slide an oiled finger inside him, opening him up, and then added a second finger as Eliot’s cock twitched with anticipation. God, he wanted to fuck Quentin. He wanted to bury himself in that sweet, tight heat and get lost in Quentin’s world.

Quentin lifted his hips, pressing on his knees to get his ass up for Eliot. He pushed back on Eliot’s fingers, squeezing hard as Eliot worked in a third finger. “Your fingers feel so good. I like it when you—”

Eliot pressed his prostate, teasing him in a way that made Quentin cry out in desperation. “Yes! Love when you fuck me. When you’re just… using me… fucking me and doing magic, and you’re so…”

Quentin’s voice was so breathy and broken. Tryin”g to communicate but he was having trouble keeping his thoughts and words in order. “Love watching… you fuck me.”

“Yeah?” Eliot lifted his head to look at Quentin as he fingerfucked him. “You like to watch, baby boy? I like when you watch me.”

Eliot pulled his fingers free of Quentin long enough to adjust the cushioning spell, modifying it to be reflective too, and then worked three long fingers back into Quentin’s body, stroking that spot until Quentin’s thighs trembled. The air beneath them shimmered silver and gold where light hit it, showing their embracing bodies and the night sky above them. Eliot shifted, adjusting Quentin until he was on display for himself.

“You see that?” Eliot whispered. “You see how pretty you take me, sweetheart? Look at that needy little rosebud, blooming around my fingers all shiny and pink. You love that, don’t you? You love it like I love doing it. You’re so beautiful, Q, so beautiful, and you never knew it. You never realized how beautiful you are.”

“That… um… That wasn’t what I was… expecting.” Quentin’s cheeks were so rosy, which made him look so sweet. His gaze appeared locked on the reflection. “You really think… I’m beautiful? Even… there?”

“You don’t?” Eliot smiled and leaned in to kiss Quentin’s entrance where it was stretched around his fingers, trailing his tongue around the whitened rim and the red flesh just visible. Then he bit Quentin’s ass cheek and rested his face against it. “You’re perfect, Q. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Eliot lifted his head to look at Quentin, studying him. “I love your body. I always have, even before I got to see much of it, and the more I’ve seen, the more there is to like.”

It ached in Eliot’s chest that maybe Quentin didn’t feel the same way about Eliot’s body that he did about Quentin’s. Of course, he couldn’t complain; Quentin reciprocated all the love and attention Eliot poured into him; he seemed incapable of doing otherwise. Quentin was like a mirror himself, reflecting all the good—and the bad—that Eliot put into this relationship. If Eliot was tender and attentive, Quentin was sweet and doting. If Eliot put space between them or shut Quentin out, Quentin was neurotic and despondent.

Ten years ago, that would’ve seemed exhausting, but now it was a relief. It was easy to know what Eliot needed to do to take care of Q. He just had to be willing to do it. And now he was. It was always worth it.

“Not even make me a little taller?” Quentin squirmed on Eliot’s fingers, exposing his own insecurities. Probably things that had been said to him in the past. “You feel so good to me.”

Quentin paused and then moved away, turning over so he could face Eliot and lay on his back, spreading his legs for him. He reached out and pulled Eliot in to kiss him sweetly. The way Quentin gazed at him after the kiss was so full of intensity and adoration. “I want your cock inside me. You want that, Eliot?”

“Yeah,” Eliot answered, smiling crookedly. “Yeah, I do.”

He stretched out on top of Quentin, getting comfortable, and sighed as he breathed him in. “You’re just right, Q. If you were taller, how could I rest my chin on top of your head? That’s my favorite thing in the world.”

Curling around Quentin, Eliot slotted their hips together as he embraced him and kissed him again and again, stopping him from even answering, devouring his words. Then, eventually, he relented and caught his breath as he thrust idly between Quentin’s legs.

“All I want right now is to be inside you, but I’m not sure I’ve melted you enough yet. Are you going to melt more if I give you my cock?” Eliot narrowed his gaze on Q appraisingly. “I’m trusting you here. This is very complicated sex magic. I need real answers.”

“I’m torn between wanting you to fuck me and sucking your cock.” Quentin smiled up at Eliot, his hands on Eliot’s back, sliding down to grip his ass, squeezing hard. “Got a magic spell for that? And one that lets me fuck you while you fuck me? Or is that how the profound empathy works?”

“Mm I suspect that is how profound empathy works, actually.” Eliot raised a brow, considering, and then flexed his cheeks under Quentin’s grip, playful. “As for me fucking you while you suck my cock… That’s really the best idea you’ve ever had, and I completely approve, Quentin, of your initiative, ambition, and sex drive.”

Eliot considered for a moment and then rolled over onto his back, pulling Quentin on top of him. “So let’s do this the non-magical but relatively safe way where my horny ass won’t accidentally blast us into next Tuesday.”

Manhandling Quentin happily, he maneuvered the smaller man into straddling his chest facing Eliot’s feet so he could suck Eliot’s cock while Eliot played with his ass. It was, on the whole, a worthy arrangement even if not quite as thrilling as Eliot literally fucking and getting sucked simultaneously, which…

That had to be possible. He’d never missed the Brakebills library so much.

“Mm. You know, we really should be able to make some wickedly clever dildos.” Relaxed like this, Quentin appeared to be full of interesting ideas. And after a beat, he was full of Eliot’s cock as it slid down his throat, taking him deeply.

Such a good boy.

His legs were relaxed, spread out over the ground, leaving his ass cheeks parted, his opening wide, slick, and waiting for Eliot to plunder. It made Eliot curious as to how much Quentin could really take. He thought of Quentin’s question—“You want me, Daddy? You trying to get inside of me? You want to crawl in, make room for all of you in me?”—and wondered if Quentin really knew quite what he was asking for, what Eliot was capable of.

No one had ever let him do it—and he’d thought about it often in college, at Brakebills, for a little while after when ruling Fillory—but maybe Quentin would be game.

Maybe.

Quentin was almost always game. Then again, so was Margo, and she’d taken one look at the size of his hands and said, “Fuck no.”

Alas, Eliot was cursed with a desire to fist someone and massive stuffgrabbers that frightened off those concerned about their bodily integrity.

There was magic for that, though… And Quentin did like things intense. And Eliot was supposed to be forthcoming and honest about his desires on the meandering path toward their souls joining…

“What if I had something better than just a dildo?” Eliot asked, trying to sound casual but unable to keep the lust out of his voice. He performed the lubrication tuts again, this time magically slicking not only his hands but inside of Quentin. He knew from experience how squirmy and excited Quentin got when he did that.

Quentin stopped and looked over his shoulder. “Well, I mean, yeah, it’s kind of a fantasy, but didn’t you almost die because of the golem? I don’t even know where we’d get living clay. Well, I have some ideas where it might exist in Fillory if it does at all, and… That’s not what you’re talking about, is it?”

“No, although now I know how bad you want me to double-team you, I’m definitely giving that thought.” Eliot grinned and teased a finger of each hand into Quentin’s ass, playing and stretching. “I was thinking more along the lines of… If you want me to fucking wreck your flesh, I’ve got a lonely hand I practically never use for masturbating anymore.”

“You haven’t wrecked me with your fingers yet. Your cock’s pretty big, El. I mean…” Then Quentin’s brow furrowed, and he tilted his head. “Wait, do you mean… your whole lonely hand?”

“Mm, a little light fisting almost never hurt anybody,” Eliot purred, adding a second well-slicked finger from each hand. “I’ll take such good care of you, baby boy. I’ve never done it before, but theoretically I’m a fisting master. I’ve seen enormous amounts of it in the backrooms of clubs.”

He considered for a moment before adding, “No one I’m into has ever wanted to do it though, and the people who are into it solely because I have big hands are not my target demographic. So you could, in a way, be my hand’s first.”

Quentin moaned at the stretch. He didn’t seem to be a size queen, in particular, but then he’d only ever been with Eliot that way, and Eliot was, if he did say so himself, decently endowed. Some had even said large or, on occasion, compared him to a horse.

“Have you been fisted? Is it… Wait, what clubs?”

“Sex clubs?” Eliot said, uncertain what other kind of club would have fisting in the backroom. “Not that you probably went to sex clubs. Or any clubs. Maybe book clubs.” Which was honestly so cute. His innocent little Q.

“My invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail.” Droll Quentin.

“And no, I’ve never particularly wanted it done to me,” Eliot added, realizing he hadn’t answered. “I never wanted anyone that much. Although…”

Eliot closed his eyes and imagined, feeling the dreamy smile blossom across his face as his insides tingled. Then he opened his eyes and looked at Quentin. “I would definitely let you do it to me.”

“You would?” That seemed to ease some of Quentin’s nervousness. “And it’s something you’ve wanted to do?”

He looked down, biting his lip, considering, but Eliot knew him well enough to know it was going to be a yes. “I’d ask to see your hand again, but it would probably just scare me. We can stop if it’s too much. But… yeah. That should be some, um, powerful sex magic, right? Maybe you’ll feel it, too?”

“Yeah, maybe. Profound empathy.” Eliot smiled at Q, triumph surging in his veins. He slipped a fifth finger into Quentin, stretching him wide and then starting the chant in Aramaic. It was easier to focus on the magic with Quentin flexing around him somehow, the right mindset coming naturally, the intention of joining flowing through Eliot without conscious thought.

The magic surged and crackled, drawing on the candles, on Eliot, on Quentin, pooling between their bodies in the starlight. It wrapped around them, and they breathed it in. It tickled in Eliot’s throat, in his lungs, in the top of his nose, like a curl of cigarette smoke. He reveled in it, throwing back his head and arching his hips as the pleasure suddenly shot through him—not from Quentin’s mouth on his cock but from the surreal sensation of his fingers in his own ass while they were inside Quentin.

Quentin’s pleasure fed into Eliot’s fed into Quentin’s fed into Eliot’s, a feedback loop of ecstasy. Eliot gasped with startled delight and then groaned as he felt deeper things beneath the physical, fragile things, blazingly intense emotions.

“Fuck.” That really seemed like an understatement. Quentin stilled at the stretch and paused again as the magic rolled over them. He wrapped his mouth around Eliot again, then groaned as he apparently felt that as well.

He stiffened when Eliot moved his hand, and he hadn’t even tried his knuckles. Quentin seemed to know that. Their connection was such that he might well.

Quentin breathed, taking what he could of Eliot, swallowing him down, and then Eliot could feel more of Quentin’s mindset.

His nerves were slightly frayed, but his heart was wide open. Quentin didn’t just like sucking cock, he truly loved that it was Eliot’s cock. His nervousness was around pleasing Eliot, but there was also a thrill. Eliot could feel it like a flutter of butterflies.

And also the great pleasure and pride that Quentin felt being first at something for Eliot. It was almost unbearably sweet.

It didn’t matter how kinky what they were doing was; Quentin was so pure that this was pure too in its own way. Eliot’s heart filled with it, and he knew Quentin could feel that too.

As Quentin sucked Eliot’s cock, Eliot pulled his fingers from Quentin, slicked his hands anew, and then worked his right hand slowly into him again, three fingers at first, their tips rubbing against Quentin’s sweet spot—which sent a spark of sympathetic pleasure through Eliot too—and then he worked in his pinky, stretching Quentin deliberately and gasping as Eliot felt it through their connection.

“Oh god, Q,” he whispered, feeling drunk on sensation. “Oh my god.”

But he didn’t need Quentin to tell him he could take more because he could feel Quentin’s desire to see this through, his willingness to keep going. Eliot pulled his hand back a little and angled his hand anew, making a wedge of his spindly fingers, thumb and pinky tucked underneath.

Quentin was so slippery inside, stretched and eager and relaxed, but even so it took patience and effort and breathing deep together, syncing their breathing, to get Eliot’s fingers in up to his knuckles, and to go beyond that seemed almost impossible. Eliot leaned up and licked at Quentin’s taut rim, soothing it with his tongue, and he could feel the relief of it as if it were being done to himself.

Breathing shaky, moaning with every exhalation, Eliot licked at Quentin and pressed steadily inward, willing him to take it, willing him to keep breathing deep, to take it all.

“This is as wide as it gets, baby boy,” Eliot promised. “Just a little more, Q. You’re so good. You feel so good. Just a little more, just a little…”

Quentin swallowed around Eliot’s dick; the undulation felt unbelievable. And Quentin felt it too, because he shuddered.

He clenched tight around Eliot’s fingers, then slowly released his dick. He still stroked it, but he seemed to need to catch his breath.

Looking over his shoulder, Quentin gave him a quick nod, lips parted. The strain was apparent on his face, but Eliot could feel it, too. And the stretch was… really exquisite. Pain, but also something indescribably sensual.

The flare of emotion when Quentin gazed at Eliot was unmistakable and humbling. The pleasure of the stretch was entirely that it was Eliot doing this, and the way that Eliot looked at Quentin in having this urge fulfilled.

The magic soared again, spooling around them and then under, as if diving deep into the Mosaic. Then it came shooting up through the middle, flaring from gold to white to silver, fluttering down on them like confetti as Eliot worked his knuckles past the border, fitting his hand inside Quentin’s body.

Once the knuckles had breached him, the rest slipped in to the wrist, and Eliot and Quentin groaned as one. Eliot had never felt anything like this, their twinned pleasure, the soul-deep connection between them, the magic pulsing and swirling through them. He’d always thought he’d done damn near everything, but this… It really was next level.

He gasped for breath, feeling too damn full to think, too damn full to move, and Eliot deliberately reset his breathing, made it deep and relaxing and meditative. He waited for Q to match it, and it didn’t take long, not with the two of them so wrapped up in one another.

It all got easier then, the immense pressure, the overwhelming intimacy. It felt somehow natural, like this was just one more way for them to connect, and that was all Eliot had ever wanted maybe. Superficially he’d been after shock and awe, after perversion for perversion’s sake, but deeper down, all he’d ever wanted was to be this close to his Q.

Quentin had rested his head on Eliot’s thigh, breathing lazily on his cock, which had softened a little at the breach and attention elsewhere. He clung to Eliot’s legs, hugging him close as if he needed to ground himself by holding Eliot in any way that he could.

Usually Quentin radiated a low-level anxiety. Even at his most relaxed, he could feel fragile. But at the moment, Quentin radiated only contentment. No other thoughts but how close he felt to Eliot, how much he needed him, how connected he felt.

Warm wet tears dribbled down Eliot’s legs, but he could feel through Quentin that it wasn’t alarm, just an overabundance of emotion trickling out. Quentin let out a long, soft sigh and said, “I love you, El. Can you feel that? I feel you. Inside me but also all around me. Like you’re my other half.”

“Yeah,” Eliot murmured, about to brim over with emotion himself. How much of it was Quentin’s? How much of it was just Eliot letting go for once? “Yeah, I can feel it, Q. Love you too, baby boy.”

This was profound, was what it was. Deeper than anything Eliot had ever felt, which seemed counterintuitive when it was just his hand. Shouldn’t his cock feel more personal? But then… This was different. It wasn’t even entirely sexual, was it? It was, but there was something else to it, some other component of breaching a social norm together, of pursuing a deeper debauchment together, joining however they could, desperate to be closer.

It wasn’t what Eliot had imagined; it was so much more.

With anyone else, it might’ve been a weird one-and-done, something to try and then move on from, a perversion ticked off the bucket list. But this…

“Quentin,” Eliot whispered, closing his eyes to feel, searching the bond between them, trying to experience more of Quentin. “Quentin, it’s like you’re my other half too. I can—You’re right there. Like the barrier between us is just…dissolved. It’s… trippy, and… amazing.”

And it was. Almost psychedelic, and Eliot knew from psychedelic.

Slowly, feeling it in his own flesh, Eliot shifted his hand minutely and applied pressure to Quentin’s prostate that made Eliot’s own body tremble. The strain was ever present, a heavy, meditative throb, but the pleasure ebbed and flowed around and through it, maddeningly good.

“Oh god.” Quentin panted softly, then he snuggled in closer and dragged the flat of his tongue over Eliot’s shaft. Between that and the pressure on their prostates, Eliot’s cock started hardening again. But he could feel not just his stiffening, but Quentin’s.

Sure, he’d split his consciousness before, between himself and his golem, but that had been born of necessity. Or at least—admittedly that was rude to Fen—a desire to escape Fillory.

That was the last thing Eliot wanted now. He wanted to feel this with Quentin, to test the borders between them, penetrate them, obliterate them.

The Great Cock had called Quentin his other half, and now Eliot internalized just how true that was. Quentin was brave in the ways that Eliot wasn’t. If anything, Quentin felt too much while Eliot tried his best not to feel.

And while Quentin tended to brood, Eliot was resilient. He could brush himself off and keep going. They brought out the best in each other. Where Quentin was weak, Eliot was strong, and vice versa.

Who else but Quentin would be brave or foolish enough to give their whole heart to someone like Eliot?

Who else but Eliot could or would provide such nurturing care of Quentin?

And, at first, it hadn’t been this way, but they’d found their way to this place together.

Quentin wrapped his lips around Eliot’s cock, sucking slowly, taking his time. Eliot could feel Quentin’s enjoyment in doing it. Quentin wasn’t thinking about anything else, just the pure joy of sucking Eliot’s cock, and that was mind-blowing.

The sheer love Quentin felt toward Eliot’s body, his sense of possession and need, overwhelmed Eliot. Could Quentin feel Eliot’s own possessive love of Quentin’s body? His wonder and awe at being allowed to do this? His lust and tenderness?

“My sweetheart,” Eliot whispered shakily. “My beautiful sweetheart. My precious baby boy. Quentin, I—” Eliot cut himself off, but he knew Quentin could sense the I love you, that Quentin could feel Eliot’s passion, his affection, because it surged so powerfully through Eliot it must be unmistakable.

He shifted his hand in tiny increments, and the intensity stole Eliot’s breath. He flexed his fingers, and the ripple of his knuckles…

Quentin’s thighs trembled, and Eliot crooned, “Good, so good, sweet boy. Just a little more. Just… So close.”

“Mm.” The sound vibrated around Eliot’s cock. Quentin was close too; his body quivered with the need to release. It was like static, growing in intensity, slowly taking over the clear signal of adoration between them until there was nothing but the white noise of their trembling bodies.

The pressure on their prostates, the stroking of their cocks, nerves caught in heat and warmth, tripping off until their bodies couldn’t take it anymore.

When they came it was white hot, firing down Quentin’s throat so hard that Eliot could feel it. It shot down through him, warm to his belly. Whether that was real or Quentin’s fanciful perception was impossible to know.

But Quentin felt more powerful now, as if he’d absorbed Eliot’s essence, some strength he could draw on.

It was difficult to process the extent of Quentin’s regard for Eliot. In another mental place, in another time, Eliot would’ve fled. Instead, he found it comforting.

Quentin really wasn’t regretting being stuck here with Eliot. He wasn’t lamenting the life they’d left behind a decade ago. He was here, present, living in the moment with Eliot and relishing every second they spent together this way.

It was more than Eliot could ever have imagined.

Because Eliot didn’t regret this either. These had been among the best years of his life.

Tears prickled his eyes, and he shuddered as an aftershock flowed through him, his cock pulsing wearily. It was too good, and too much, and too raw. Quentin was more than Eliot would ever deserve.

But the magic wrapped around them comforted Eliot, and he drew on it, on Quentin’s impossible closeness, and let out a long, sated exhalation. “Fuck.”

Quentin slowly released Eliot’s cock but didn’t move to slide off Eliot’s hand, leaving it there for now as he curled to look back at Eliot. “Yeah. Fuck. That’s… really intense. My skin still tingles.”

“The magic is still… It’s still working. I thought it would end when we came, but…” Eliot blinked a few times and widened his eyes, feeling oddly dizzy, like the world was too real and he and Quentin weren’t quite here. Deep breaths. “One moment.”

Eliot chanted again, bringing the spell to a manual end, since it hadn’t appeared to figure out they were done. Of course, they weren’t quite done. Eliot was still inside Quentin. Probably better to figure out getting out of Quentin if Eliot wasn’t distracted by the fullness of his own hand.

Then he sighed and stretched, finally aware of Quentin’s spunk on his belly, smeared over his treasure trail, and he laughed and thought about how badly they were both going to need to wash up before they could sleep. But this was nice, lying here still linked together, still seeping magic and pleasure into the Mosaic. This was what married life looked like, for them, even if they’d never had a ceremony, even if Eliot would never say marriage out loud.

He cherished the look on Q’s face, the sweat beaded on his sweet furrowed brow, the puppy eyes he’d turned on Eliot, like Eliot was the center of the universe.

But that was Quentin, wasn’t it? Center of Eliot’s universe, a twin sun paired with baby T, the two of them all Eliot’s gravity, all his light and warmth.

“When I get my hand out of you,” Eliot started quietly, “I’m going to kiss you and make it better. You did so well, Q. So fucking well. I’m so proud of you, baby boy. You doing okay?”

“Yeah. A little afraid to move too much if I’m being honest.” Quentin gave Eliot a sheepish grin. He hugged Eliot’s leg and bit his lip. “But I did really enjoy that. I could feel… I mean… I guess I knew kind of… intellectually. But I felt it. I mean, obviously your hand and all, but I mean, I felt how you feel.”

“Yeah? And how did I feel?” Eliot leaned in and kissed Quentin’s ass cheek affectionately, chasing it with a little nip. “Could you tell I’m fucking crazy about you? Because whatever this is between us… I’m into it, Q.”

“I could feel that, yeah.” Quentin winced at the movement but smiled. “You even said the words. I heard them. You can’t take it back now.”

“Oh I can’t?” Eliot smiled back and sighed. “Guess we’re stuck in this blissful perversion forever then.”

He relaxed his arm as much as possible and made his hand as small as it had been going in, then murmured, “Guess I can’t just stay inside you all night. Deep breaths, baby boy. Let’s restore your perfect little ass to pristine condition. Ease off when you’re ready.”

Quentin exhaled slowly then synced up their breathing. “I have a feeling it’s going to hurt more out than in, but this is no way to live.”

He grinned playfully but then rested his cheek on Eliot’s leg.

Eliot worked himself out slowly, each movement made Quentin flinch a little but didn’t seem unbearable. His loudest groan was when Eliot was finally all the way out.

“You’re going to have to carry me everywhere from now on.”

“Oh, I will. Thrown over my shoulder like a kidnapped damsel, carried hither and yon as my gorgeous prize. Now just lay still and let Daddy take care of you.” Eliot laughed and leaned in to kiss Quentin’s ass better, all lips and tongue and wet and heat, soothing the abused entrance.

Quentin rolled flat onto the Mosaic and moaned at Eliot’s ministrations. “Feels so empty without you in me.”

He was still so wide open, easy to rim. Quentin flexed repeatedly as if trying to capture him or cope with the emptiness. Quentin sighed, and it sounded so contented.

“You know right where I belong. Your body knows.” Eliot sighed, happy beyond words, and then gathered their things telekinetically before rising up and manhandling Quentin into his arms like a bride. He kissed his lips sweetly, nuzzling Quentin’s face, and then carried him inside to their bed.

“Stretch out on your belly,” he instructed, helping Quentin move his lax, weary limbs. “I’m not done with you yet.”

Chapter Text

Even though Quentin had been to several of these festivals in Applecart, he couldn’t shake The Wicker Man vibe the whole thing gave off. Maybe it was the animal heads some of them wore, or just the straight up talking animals. There certainly wasn’t any violence to speak of and just a regular bonfire at the end of the night.

Because there were no seasons to speak of in Fillory, growing and harvest seasons were mostly staggered so that towns and nomadic workers could move easily to farm to farm that needed them and festivals came quarterly.

The measure of time was a gift—or a curse—from the Children of Earth so that Fillorians had an organized sense of the passing of days. But July was much the same as December and magic-controlled rain came at appointed times when it was needed for the crops.

Festivals were just an excuse to party, so naturally Eliot loved them.

They didn’t attend them before Arielle. They didn’t even really know about them, but even when they did, they weren’t sure how the people would respond to strangers. With Arielle introducing them, everyone had been very kind and delighted to meet new people.

There were a few people who were worried about the people who lived in “the haunted cottage” but it had been years since anyone regarded it as such and so the Coldwater-Waughs were always welcomed.

In years past, Ted would hold Quentin’s hand until they got to the entry, but at a bold thirteen, Ted didn’t need any handholding. Once the festival was in sight, Ted ran head to meet up with his friends and cousins, leaving Quentin and Eliot behind.

Quentin had the sense that Eliot was dying to get in there as well, but Quentin, though he enjoyed the people and the company, mostly found parties tiring and wasn’t in a particular hurry to get there. “Go on. I’ll catch up, El.”

Eliot gave Quentin a searching look and held out his elbow as if to escort Quentin personally. “It’ll still be there when we get there.”

That was new. Usually Eliot couldn’t wait to get on with the celebrating. Maybe Ted growing up was having an effect on him too.

Quentin took Eliot’s arm and squeezed it. “You worried I won’t make it there alone?”

The last time they went, after Ted caught up with his friends, Quentin had found a quiet, out of the way spot and just sipped from the wineskin and watched people. Arielle’s dads had stopped by and he chatted with in-laws, but mostly he’d stayed out of the way until Eliot was ready to go home.

The parties had always been his thing. When they came with Arielle, she would drag Quentin around, get him to dance. Eliot would vanish, sometimes for hours. Quentin tried not to speculate on what or who he did. Questions were summarily shut down, and Quentin felt bad for even asking.

Since Arielle had passed, Eliot was more present, checking in with Quentin and never really leaving his sight, but he’d remained mostly independent. Of course, then Quentin had always had Ted if he got lonely; the kid was happy enough to take a break from playing with the neighbors and his cousins to come sit with Dad and eat treats. Now though…

This was more couple-y, wasn’t it? Maybe Eliot had finally gotten too old to care about the partying like he used to, although he wasn’t yet forty.

No, the way he looked at Quentin suggested something different, a more settled cast to his features, like he was looking forward—crazy as it sounded—to being here with Quentin.

“I’m worried one of these thirsty ladies is going to steal you away to plow her fertile fields,” Eliot teased, leaning in to kiss Quentin’s temple. He smiled a little, big dark eyes strangely soft. “I’m determined to defend what’s mine.”

Quentin chuckled and shook his head. “You get some news about fertile ladies that I didn’t?”

Sure, sometimes Arielle’s old friends would stop by and visit with him, and he supposed some of them had brought their daughters by for introductions. He’d assumed that was meant more for Ted’s future benefit than his.

Though, he was still really young, and the daughters were… not as young. “But I’m more than happy to have a date.”

Eliot smirked and paraded into the festival with Quentin on his arm like he was some kind of bigshot, looking entirely too pleased with himself. Of course, they were popular enough in the area—after fourteen-odd years of supplying the local wine trade, at least a few people had figured out where it was coming from—but this was more than Eliot basking in the attention of their neighbors. Although, he certainly enjoyed that too, glory hog that he was.

But no, this was something softer. More domestic. Quentin thought he might be imagining it—it wasn’t really very Eliot—but that sense persisted.

Then one of Arielle’s old friends spotted them and rushed over, waving and yoohoo’ing. Eliot covered Quentin’s hand on Eliot’s elbow with his own and seemed to brace himself for the onslaught.

“Larissa! How lovely to see you.” Eliot somehow managed to sound thrilled and not thrilled at the exact same time, like if you squinted, you’d be presented with an entirely different interpretation of his tone. His expression was so pleasantly blank as to be no use at all.

“Quentin! Eliot!” Larissa bustled over, looking like ten pounds of curves in a five-pound sack, and embraced them both, though Eliot made it a little awkward by refusing to release Quentin.

Quentin was a little confused but enjoyed the attention. It was usually an oddly lonely day where he was surrounded by people. “Hello, Larissa. I was sorry to hear about your man.”

She sniffed lightly and put her hand on Quentin’s arm as if she might like to pull it away into her grasp. “I know you know something about losing a close partner.”

“Yeah. We miss her.” Quentin squeezed Eliot’s hand and looked up at him, a little melancholy at the reminder.

“We do miss her, every day.” Eliot inhaled sharply, reminding Quentin that he felt Arielle’s loss keenly too, in his own way, even if he hadn’t had the same relationship with her as Quentin had. They’d been close, by the end. Huffing, Eliot reeled Quentin closer and slipped his arm around Quentin’s middle, hugging him sideways. “But we still have each other, and our Ted, and that’s what matters. You’ll find happiness again someday, Larissa.”

“Oh yes, Ted is getting so big and handsome! What a beautiful child.” Larissa looked from Eliot to Quentin, and for whatever reason, she touched Quentin’s hair, which seemed oddly personal. “He looks just like his daddy.”

“Thank you.” That seemed like a compliment, right? He looked up at Eliot, not sure how he was supposed to respond to that or the touching. He resisted the impulse to swat her hand away because that seemed like it was rude and maybe not part of the party vibe, but they were barely even in the festival yet.

Music was in the air and the scent of flowers and fruit. People were chatting and dancing; younger children played chase through the crowd. It seemed like everyone had a function at a party, knew their friends and knew their places, and here was Quentin with an acquaintance stroking his hair and puzzled as to how to make it stop. “He’s out there somewhere. I think he was planning on meeting someone. He’s too cool for his dads these days.”

“Do you ever…” Larissa’s smile shrank to something small and weird that made Quentin feel funny. “Do you ever think of having more children?”

“No.” Eliot sounded so casually dismissive as to be rude and then he did swat Larissa’s hand away from Quentin’s hair, which seemed like something Eliot would usually refer to as a party foul but was committing himself, which—What?

Then Eliot lifted his free hand into the air and waved. “Henning!”

A beefy, hairy older man tuned at Eliot’s shout and waved back, and then Eliot was maneuvering Quentin away from Larissa with brutal efficiency. “Enjoy the festival,” El told her in parting, and then he was dragging Quentin away.

Quentin gave her a little shrug and let Eliot pull him away, gratefully. “Maybe I do need defending. What was that?”

He clung to Eliot, not sure what made him a hot property all of a sudden. Or maybe there had been other awkward moments at festivals that Quentin had just ignored. Moments where he felt awkward and Ted would come running seemingly out of nowhere to sit in his lap and give him hugs.

“You’re so tragic and sweet, and it’s like catnip for all the hungry pussies around Applecart,” Eliot whispered, though Quentin could hear the smile in his voice. “Surely you realize Arielle told all her old friends about our adventures. They used to approach me, too, until they realized I was a thousand percent more interested in penis. Then they’d try to approach you instead, but you just never know when you’re being flirted with.”

Now Eliot sounded blatantly amused. “It used to be funny to watch them try, but Larissa has gotten bold since Trek died, and I’m not having it. You’re mine.”

Eliot kept them on course toward Henning, who looked at their approach with enough anticipation that Quentin had the sneaking suspicion Henning wasn’t straight.

“And you’re mine. So…” Quentin looked up at Eliot again, a bit more determined than he’d ever really been at a party or in dictating much, if any, of Eliot’s social interactions. It felt a little strange to put his foot down like that. It had never seemed like his place. But if Eliot and Ted had conspired to keep Quentin away from lusty ladies, he felt as if it was his right to also stake a claim on Eliot.

Not that he’d wanted to flirt with anyone but Eliot, not really.

But then as he took in Henning, who was almost precisely the opposite of Quentin in all ways, he wondered if Quentin was even Eliot’s type. Was this the kind of man that Eliot would be with if he weren’t stuck with Quentin?

Henning waved them over, and Quentin realized he was standing beside a cart selling little apple tarts. Henning had an apple tart cart in Applecart.

“One for me, and one for my Q,” Eliot demanded as they approached. He didn’t remove his arm from Quentin’s waist, and as the big man offered them each a tart in exchange for a few of Eliot’s coins, Eliot leaned in and kissed Quentin’s temple again. “Henning, this is my Quentin. You met our son, Ted, a while back, but Q’s always off by himself. He’s not much of a partygoer.”

Somehow it didn’t sound like Eliot minded that about Quentin; his tone was more playful than judgmental, as if he were sharing one of Quentin’s more endearing quirks.

“Ah, Quentin. I’ve heard so much about you.” Henning raised both eyebrows and maybe Quentin was imagining it, but he’d have sworn the older man waggled them at him. “Your young man here’s very fond of you.”

Eliot scowled and rolled his eyes, but it looked put on. “Oh shove it, Hen. Q knows. Don’t embarrass me, or I’ll tell your husband about you-know-what.”

Then Eliot bit into his apple tart with an obscene moan and motioned to Quentin to do the same.

“It’s a nice apple tart cart you have here in Applecart.” Quentin had questions about what Eliot could tell Henning’s husband, but he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. What good would it do to get angry about something that might have happened in the past?

Instead, he took a bite of the apple tart and understood why Eliot made the obscene moan. It was really good and he regretted not trying them sooner. But then, that would’ve required being social and possibly seeing things he didn’t want to see. “Mm, this is really good. So you’re married? That must be nice.”

Quentin shot Eliot a quick side eye but then smiled at Henning.

“Oh, we’re about as married as you and yours,” Henning said with a wicked little grin. “Fact, I think you two’ve been together longer than me and mine.”

“Fourteen years.” Eliot smiled a little, and Quentin noticed a smudge of apple tart filling clinging to the sparse black beard atop his upper lip.

“Wow.” That was true, but Quentin had never really thought about it in those terms. He rolled onto his toes to nip away the apple tart from Eliot’s lip and grinned up at him. “Only took me nearly a decade and a half to meet your friends. Keeping those apple tarts to yourself, huh?”

Eliot seemed a bit startled by Quentin’s nipping, but then he turned his head and chased Quentin’s mouth back down to kiss him. He lingered there a moment, eyes closed, looking blissful, and then slowly pulled away and gazed at Quentin as if disoriented.

“Mm.” He sighed happily and said nothing more.

After a beat, Henning laughed. “I think you lost him there, Quentin.”

Quentin blushed, feeling a little lost as to why such a small kiss had so surprised Eliot. “Uh oh. If he’s lost, then we’re just going to wind up in a corner drinking. I’m so bad at…” Quentin gestured around vaguely. “How did you meet? Apple tarts?”

“Arielle.” Henning offered Quentin a sad smile and another apple tart. “She used to sell me peaches and plums, and we had a bit of a friendship, I suppose. She always was fond of men who’re fond of other men.”

Eliot sighed again, more melancholy this time, and buried his face in Quentin’s neck, lipping at him softly. “She introduced us years ago when Henning was trying to work up the courage to ask his husband Dieter to go courting. Arielle thought I might have some slick moves to impart.”

“Hush, you.” Henning’s tone took on a harsh warning note that just made Eliot snort. Whispering, Henning said, “If Dieter ever finds out I had help, he’ll never let me live it down.”

Quentin grinned, thinking of Arielle and her affection for gay men. His eyes watered, but he blinked it back, but still he felt a sense of pride that she was so well loved by others. “Sounds like the slick moves worked anyway. That’s the important part. Eliot’s so good at seduction. And, well, everything actually. I might be a little biased, though.”

He tilted his head to the side, letting Eliot kiss his neck, closing his eyes happily at the affection. “If I’d known there was this much kissing involved in socializing, you could’ve gotten me out here a lot sooner, El.”

He turned and met Eliot’s lips softly, not wanting to be too lewd and embarrass Ted. Eliot slipped his hand into Quentin’s waistband at the small of his back, and the touch of skin on skin ignited sensation that rippled through Quentin like electric shocks.

“There’s never been this much kissing before,” Eliot whispered, smiling, and then he lifted his head and smiled at Henning. “Anyway, now you’ve met my Q. He’s everything I said, and now there’s proof.”

Henning laughed. “I admit I was dubious, but you didn’t lie.”

Then another group of customers approached, and Henning waved them off to sell more tarts. Eliot guided Quentin away toward the sound of music with his hand still tucked just beneath Quentin’s clothing, steering with the gentle pressure of his fingers.

“Dance with me, Q.”

Never this much kissing? Not even at the sex clubs?” Quentin allowed himself to be guided to where everyone was dancing, a live band playing a slightly wild sounding flute and violin combination which had a dance that everyone seemed to know.

Eliot definitely knew the steps. This was the sort of thing that Eliot was good at. Quentin had watched it enough times to know it, and he knew that Eliot had caught him playfully practicing with Ted before, even if Quentin didn’t usually dance in public.

At least, not since Margo said his dancing hurt her heart.

Well, and other than with Julia that time to get into Bacchus’s party.

“Never this much kissing at the Applecart Harvest Festival,” Eliot clarified, which was something anyway.

Then he swooped into the midst of the dancers, doing the moves with a lanky grace Quentin knew he couldn’t match. He held onto Quentin’s hand, though, and encouraged him along, making silly faces and laughing at the whole situation like he was having the time of his life.

Nearby, Ted was dancing too, his hand clasping that of a teenage girl at least six inches taller than him. They were that age where the girls were often much taller, not that Quentin could say much about having much taller partners. The best thing he could do right now was to not totally embarrass everyone, so he focused on the steps, committing to them as best he could, laughing along the way.

It was so camp, but then, the whole dance was, so maybe that was all right. Eliot seemed entertained, and Ted pretended that he wasn’t there, which was probably the best he was going to do on that front.

The girl he was with was very pretty with dark, curly hair, big brown eyes, and a dazzling smile. She beamed at Quentin, not seeming embarrassed by Quentin at all, which endeared her to him. Ted studiously pretended he didn’t notice and carried on dancing with considerably more aplomb than his father.

As the rollicking dance ended, a slower one began, and Eliot pulled Quentin into his arms to sway to the rhythm. As they turned in place, Ted and his partner began to sway as well, his hands on her waist rather than looping around like Eliot and Quentin, but it was still the most adult Quentin had ever seen him. He gazed up at her with the worshipful look of a massive crush.

“He’s going to leave us.” The words came out before Quentin had a chance to contextualize them and before his head caught up with the sudden shock of knowing that Ted was growing up. And not in a theoretical someday he’ll live a life of his own kind of way, but in a we only have a few more years to raise him kind of way.

Before he could look too hopelessly at Ted, Quentin pressed his face against Eliot’s chest, thinking about that question about whether he wanted to have more children. Did he?

No. Not really. He just didn’t want his Ted to grow up. Or at least, not yet.

“You were always so worried it would be us leaving him,” Eliot said quietly, one hand curling over the back of Quentin’s head as if to protect him from his own thoughts.

The music was beautiful, and Eliot’s body was strong and vital in Quentin’s arms, heartbeat steady. But it still felt like everything was coming apart. Eliot held him like he understood, stroking his back and keeping him close.

“This is what parents do, Q. We raise him to be strong enough to survive on his own, and then we hope we did right by him and he’ll come back with grandkids someday and fill our home with another generation of little brown-eyed troublemakers.” Eliot sighed. “Ted adores you. He’ll never go far. Even if he did, never forget: We’re magic.”

Quentin chuckled, inhaling Eliot’s scent, taking comfort in his nearness. He felt ridiculous that this was suddenly a shock to him but comforted that Eliot knew immediately why it had struck Quentin so hard. “Yeah, we’re magic. We should be able to stop him from growing up, right?”

He looked up at Eliot, smiling so Eliot knew that he was joking. “They always said kids grow up so fast, and I guess… being a kid it didn’t feel fast at all. Doesn’t help that you’re not aging at all, you vampire.”

Quentin stroked the side of Eliot’s face. “But yeah, he won’t just vanish. It’s not like…” Losing Arielle.

“He’ll still be our boy, Q. No matter what.” Eliot leaned in and kissed Quentin gently as they swayed, rubbing their noses together and caressing his nape. Then he lifted his head to look into Quentin’s eyes. “Besides, you still look like a college kid yourself, Mr. Coldwater-Waugh. So sexy. It’s a good thing we can’t get pregnant, or we’d be raising about five more kids for you to freak out about.”

“Yeah. I mean, we’re magic. There’s probably a way. And a baby with our combined genes would… Well, probably take over both worlds, so it’s probably best not to pursue that.” Quentin turned to see another young man approach to apparently ask the girl Ted was dancing with to dance with him.

Quentin may or may not have cast a quick spell that made the boy slip. He didn’t fall completely, but the girl saw, and the boy was too embarrassed to continue his pursuit. “You know, Alf’s always bragging about his conquests. Maybe we can get him to bring us a kitten.”

“Quentin!” Eliot sounded scandalized. He pinched Quentin’s ass and whispered, “Did you just jinx that boy?”

Not a word about a kitten.

“What? Like you weren’t about to do the same thing.” Quentin play sulked at being caught but he’d felt Eliot’s hands move. Quentin had just been faster.

The music changed again, and people started bouncing around, but Quentin still wanted to sway with his man, so he just tightened his grip on Eliot until he got the idea, which didn’t take long.

Quentin looked up and kissed Eliot slowly.

In the distance, he heard Ted say, “Ew, gross. Daaaads!”

Eliot’s hand moved behind Quentin’s head, and Ted made a loud sound of protest. “Rude!”

Laughing, Eliot kissed Quentin again and murmured, “I flipped him the bird. He’s thirteen. That’s old enough, right?”

“You asked that when he was eleven, which is probably the only reason he knows what that means.” Quentin laughed and pushed at Eliot’s chest. “I guess making out on the dancefloor is kind of a party foul, isn’t it? I mean, that’s what I heard. No one’s ever really wanted to make out with me on a dancefloor before. But I remember thinking it was kind of rude and show off-y at school dances.”

“I wouldn’t know. I never went to school dances. At my parties, it’s not a foul. It’s pretty much expected you’ll put on a live sex show.” Eliot grinned and swatted Quentin’s ass. “You’re so lucky I value your modesty and our son’s innocence, because I guarantee you there are people in this crowd who are dying to watch us go at it.”

That surprised a laugh from Quentin, and he was suddenly mortified and wondering who was watching them wanting to see them go at it. “Guess I never went to your parties because I don’t remember live sex shows at the cottage. Did I just go to bed too early?”

“Mhm,” Eliot hummed as he leaned in to kiss Quentin again. “I was always hoping you’d stick around and join in. I was dying to see you naked.”

“You did see me naked. Like, you famously saw me naked. The entire cottage knew. I think even Dean Fogg knew. And you’re just teasing me now, aren’t you?” Quentin rolled his eyes and kissed Eliot back, just enjoying being able to do that now, even if he heard more complaints from Ted.

“Ted, your dads are cute. Leave them alone.”

It was official. Quentin really liked that girl.

Ted said something Quentin didn’t quite catch, but it sounded fond. Then Eliot had his hands in Quentin’s hair and was turning him in slow, dizzying circles and singing to him softly. It figured he’d know the harvest songs here after so many years, but he never sang them at home. It was something highly suggestive about sowing seed and juicy peaches, and Quentin knew Eliot was only singing it to embarrass or seduce him, possibly both, though neither was necessary.

They weren’t the only couple kissing—most of the greater Applecart metropolitan area was present and swooning into their partners’ arms—but it still felt like they were the only couple that mattered. Eliot’s lips hovered just above Quentin’s, maddeningly close, and El’s breath smelled like apple tarts, and he was gazing down into Quentin’s eyes all sweet, and Quentin couldn’t help closing the distance.

Eliot kissed him back hungrily, like Quentin had taken the bait in an elaborate Quentin-trapping trap, and then Eliot was leading him away to the sidelines, laughing and looking as giddy as a boy.

Quentin followed, holding his hand, watching the way his face radiated mischief and glee. People greeted Eliot, patting him on the back. Eliot reacted regally, as he always did, as if he expected the attention as his due. It seemed like he knew everyone even though he rarely left the cottage.

Though Quentin was also a king of some variety—vice king?—Quentin couldn’t be Eliot. It was clearly in his blood. Fillory had chosen well.

They sat together on a wooden fence around the square, people making room for them as they settled in, and Eliot slipped his arm around Quentin’s shoulders, holding him close as they watched Ted and his girl cavort through a complicated step that left Ted flush-faced and giggling. One of their neighbors offered them a tankard of hard cider, which Eliot shared with Quentin, the two of them getting more and more elated the more they drank, and Quentin had never felt so much a part of this place before.

Ever since Arielle had passed, they’d been isolated at their cottage, doing their own thing, separate from the rest of the Southern Orchard. Now here they were in the heart of Applecart, the little village bursting at its seams with revelers, and Quentin fit in here as much as he’d fit in anywhere in his life. Though Quentin kept to himself, with Eliot beside him and Ted dancing before him, he could enjoy this through their eyes.

As the dance drew to a close, Eliot went still and whispered, “Oh, Q, watch our boy…”

Then right there, in the midst of the crowd catching their breath, Ted tiptoed and kissed his partner, one hand on her shoulder for balance, and she kissed him back softly before ducking away and laughing. She grabbed Ted’s hand and drew him away toward the other edge of the crowd, but before he disappeared into the throng, Ted glanced back at them with a million-watt smile.

Quentin clutched his heart and looked at Eliot with his mouth wide open in shock. Tears formed in his eyes as he let out a laugh of joy and triumph. “He must get that from you. I’ve never been that smooth.”

He knocked his shoulder against Eliot’s and shook his head in amazement. It reminded him of returning to the cottage at Brakebills with Margo and Eliot barbecuing and feeling a sense of being home in a way that he hadn’t before. The connection between them being Eliot.

Ted was going to leave. He was going to grow up and find love and make a family. Another family. Their family, too. But it would be all right because Eliot would still be there.

Quentin leaned in and whispered into Eliot’s ear, “I love you.”

Eliot sighed and pressed his chin to the top of Quentin’s head, tucking him in against his long neck. “Love you too, Q.”

Then, soft and sweet, he whispered, “I don’t think he learned it from me, though. You know how I knew what he was going to do before he did it?” Eliot kissed Quentin’s hair. “He got this look on his face like you got before that first time you kissed me all those years ago. I’ll never forget it. And then he put a hand on her waist and on her shoulder like you do to kiss me, and I knew she was a goner, just like I was.”

“I hope his opening line was better than, ‘Hey.’” Quentin smiled, giddy that Eliot was being so sweet. “I really thought I was just going in for a sweet kiss. I didn’t really think you’d kiss me back. I didn’t think we’d… but I’m glad we did. I’m glad we’re here. I’m glad it’s us.”

He snuggled against Eliot, closing his eyes. “I used to think magic would fix everything, that it would make me happy. And I guess it did since it brought me to you.”

Eliot made a dramatic gagging sound like Quentin’s sweetness was causing him to retch, but he kept his arms around him and kissed Quentin’s temple. They were both just drunk enough now to relax and not worry quite so much about all the million things that had gone and could go wrong.

“Your opening line turned out to be perfect,” Eliot said after a brief pause, sounding thoughtful. “Worked on me, anyway. And whatever Ted said, it worked on her.” He snuggled Quentin closer. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Q. If Ted’s a little charmer, he got it from you. I’ve always found you thoroughly delightful.” Another pause. Then, “You’re such a good dad, Quentin.”

“And you’re such a good Daddy.” Quentin grinned into Eliot’s chest, knowing he was being bad in public, but it seemed like Eliot’s tolerance for sap was already maxed out. But it did delight him to know that Eliot thought he was doing well as a dad. “He’s a really good kid, isn’t he? Arielle would be so proud, too. Of him. Of us.”

He’d confided so much to Arielle, about his feelings and his fears. She’d always reassured him that Eliot loved him, that they’d get here. It still felt surreal in so many ways, but this was Fillory, a place of real magic.

“Yeah,” Eliot answered after a beat, hushed. “We should tell Ted that, when he comes back all shook up and excited. He needs to know this is who Ari would’ve wanted him to be, dancing and kissing pretty girls at festivals, living his best life. She wanted him to have everything, be everything, do everything. And we can’t ever hold him back, Q. We have each other, we give ourselves to each other, but we’ve gotta give him the world.”

“Do we tell him that before or after I let him know he’s not allowed to grow up?” Quentin sat up and grinned at Eliot, still a little queasy at the idea of his little boy becoming an adult, but Eliot was right. “And if he wants to kiss boys… even better? I mean, it seems like that would’ve been Arielle’s position. Or maybe kiss everyone, choose the best kisser. And also, drink all the wine while you may. Don’t trust Lunks.”

Talking about Arielle made Quentin smile. He knew she wouldn’t want him to be sad thinking about her, and it had taken a while, but he’d finally gotten there.

Eliot laughed softly and nodded, seeming content. “We hit him with both and follow it up with ‘Papa says it’s okay to grow up, but never to grow away.’”

Then Eliot kissed Quentin’s temple and hopped from the fence, extending both arms toward Quentin to help him down. “C’mon, baby boy. This dance looks especially naughty. Come rub on me in public and show the youngsters how to do it.”

Chapter Text

“Okay, family meeting.” Eliot stood in the doorway and clapped his hands together just before dinner, catching Quentin and Ted off-guard where they were tossing a ball around in the yard according to some complicated rules Ted had learned from his cousins. As far as Eliot could tell, it was nothing Quentin would ever grow comfortable with, but he was doing it for Ted because that was the kind of quality A+ dad he was.

At their questioning looks, Eliot held up a crusty sock he’d discovered under Ted’s pillow while doing the laundry. Ted immediately recognized it judging by the look on his face, at which Eliot quickly waved him off.

“No shame. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Honestly, same, if I didn’t have your dad. But it’s brought to my attention that we have overlooked The Talk. It’s time to discuss puberty. Over dinner. The three of us.” After a heavy pause, Eliot added more lightly, “I made Puberty Cake. It has coconut!”

The resemblance between Quentin and Ted was especially keen in that moment as they both just stared hard at Eliot, lips parted as if they wanted to ask questions but didn’t even know where to start.

“Puberty?” Ted didn’t seem to really know what he was in for, because how would he? There wasn’t internet, porn, not even after school specials.

Quentin stared at the sock in horror, then at Ted, then back to Eliot. “Cake?”

“Yes. Cake. A delicious coconut, citrus, and strawberry cake to celebrate Ted becoming an adolescent. We knew this day was nigh when we saw you with Tara at the harvest festival, but I didn’t realize you had blown through so many sign posts on the way to puberty town as to have taken up residence there for the foreseeable future. Wash up, come inside, and sit at the table. We’re going to have a Ted talk.” Eliot smirked and raised his brows at them as if to make the point resistance was futile and then he headed back inside to put the finishing touches on his rather fancy plating of their dinner.

He’d spent most of the day helping Quentin with the Mosaic, so it wasn’t as elaborately themed as he might’ve liked, but it did feature fresh fish they’d caught that morning and a delicious array of vegetables of all colors, some wild rice, and a butter-garlic sauce over everything. Eliot felt quite satisfied it would serve as celebratory dinners went.

Stripping off his apron, he hung it in their tiny kitchen area and then placed the wine glasses at the table along with a cup of goat milk for Ted, who was growing fast now and definitely needed the calcium. Eliot and Quentin could probably use more calcium too, but really, Eliot wasn’t going to pass up the wine tonight. As chill as he was about the idea of Ted growing up and having urges, it didn’t mean it would be easy to find the right words not to forever scar the child’s burgeoning sexuality.

Ted preceded Quentin into the cottage, but they both wore that pained and slightly paranoid expression, as if something very scary was about to happen. God only knew what Quentin must’ve said to him.

“Am I… Am I not supposed to kiss girls?” Ted took his spot at the table and stared hard at his goat milk as if he thought he was in trouble.

“Well, I mean, yeah, you can kiss girls if girls are willing. You can kiss boys, too. Really, kissing is fine as long as everyone involved wants the kiss. This isn’t about— You didn’t do anything wrong, Ted. We just need to explain some things to you about how your body is changing and, you know, how to um… you know… manage things.” Quentin’s brow furrowed as he stood next to Ted, his hand on his shoulder. Then, apparently satisfied with the vagueness of his statement, took a seat as if that settled it.

Oh Q.

Eliot smiled. “Do you remember what we told you after we came home from the Harvest Festival? About how proud your mother would be of you? And how proud we are of you? You’re definitely not in trouble, but you’re…becoming an adult, Teddykins. It’s in our job description to provide you with guidance.” Eliot set the plates at their settings along with the traditional glass of wine for Ari. Then he looked to Ted, a little wry, and added, “Also, to teach you important lessons about hygiene, like never leaving a crusty sock under your pillow, because ew.”

Before Ted could get any more humiliated, Eliot held up a hand. “When I was a teenager, I had my fair share of crusty socks, but that was because I didn’t realize there were viable alternatives. First off, I’m fairly sure you’ve been jerking it dry, which is terrible. I mean, suboptimal in the extreme. I’m going to provide you with a bottle of lubricant that I expect you to use for the health of your skin and your mental state. Major upgrade, trust me.”

Ted’s cheeks grew bright rosy red, and he looked at Quentin, expression pleading, as if Quentin could make the conversation stop.

Quentin sipped his wine and gave Ted a sympathetic look. “Just try it that way. We don’t need to know when or… whatever. You know, the shower is also a good place. We’ll just, you know, make sure you have the space to take care of things as you need to. In private. There’s nothing wrong with it but like you don’t like seeing us kiss, we don’t…” Quentin gestured vaguely. “Really want to know everything. But if you have questions, you know, we’ve been your age and know that while it can be kind of embarrassing sometimes, it’s natural.”

“Yes, natural as any other bodily function,” Eliot agreed, giving Quentin an encouraging smile. “Like your dad says, if you need privacy, just let us know. We’ll make ourselves scarce. It’s important you feel comfortable in your own skin as your body changes.”

After a moment, Eliot added, “But really, practice with the lube. Then, when you’re ready to actually penetrate someone, you’ll have more stamina and less system shock at how good it feels.”

“What? Dad, make Papa stop!” Ted covered his face with both his hands.

Quentin’s brows were up, and he held his hands up to slow Eliot down. “Papa is skipping ahead. A lot.”

Ted peeked at Quentin through his fingers.

“There is no need to penetrate anyone or anything any time soon. You may feel the urge to; you may not. Not everyone does, and if you don’t, that’s okay, too. The important thing is for you and your partner to both be ready mentally and physically. But that’s, you know, up to you.” Quentin finished his glass of wine and set it down. He tapped it and looked meaningfully at Eliot.

Ted put his hands down. “Alf said I could probably make babies now.”

Quentin cleared his throat. “Um, I mean, you could probably. Technically. But babies are a lot of work, and you want to—”

“Alf said you want to make sure that your line continues, so you want to have a lot of babies.”

“Well, that’s more of a cat thing. Humans work a little differently…” Quentin looked at Eliot for help.

Refilling Quentin’s wineglass, Eliot motioned to him to start on his food. It was dinner, and no one was eating yet. The food was going to get cold.

Honestly.

“If you want to have a lot of babies, you’d better have a plan for them, because this cottage is tiny.” Eliot’s smile widened, even though he wasn’t really joking. “I had a lot of brothers and sisters, and we didn’t have a lot of money growing up on the farm, and it was rough. Money probably won’t ever be a problem for you—I’ve done very well, and I’m leaving it all to you—but that brings its own complications.”

Settling into his own seat, Eliot picked up his fork and stabbed a bite of flaky fish. “You’ll need to be careful that you don’t have accidental children with people who might be after you for your inheritance. You’re an extremely handsome boy—just like your dad—but you can’t trust just anyone to be genuine in their interest.”

“You think Tara danced with me because Papa has money?” Ted turned to Eliot who was about to put a fork full of food into his mouth.

“Um…no, honey. I don’t think common law necessarily applies here anyway, and… the point is that while sex can be wonderful and enjoyable, it’s even nicer with someone you care about. And someone you want to raise babies with if you’re going to have them.” Quentin winced and shot Eliot a brief glare. “Let’s you know, just talk about where babies come from.”

“Uh, I’ve seen babies and animals birthed, Dad.” Ted rolled his eyes and started on his dinner.

“Yeah, okay, but how they get there is also important, and what Papa is trying to get out is that finding the right person to be with can be… complicated. And that family planning is an important consideration.”

“Huh?” Ted finally looked away from Quentin to Eliot. “You’re my family.”

“We are your family.” Eliot grinned just saying that. “But someday you may want to settle down with a nice someone or someones, and then they’ll be your family too. And any children you bring into the world together count as family you might want to plan.” Eliot gave Quentin a pleading look, way less comfortable with this portion of the talk than the sex tips portion.

Then he looked back to Ted and met his gaze. “Do you think you might like to be a dad someday? Or do you think maybe you’re not sure yet? You’re pretty young. Either way, you’re going to want to learn about protection. Not that there’s really venereal diseases in Fillory—at least not ones condoms will prevent—but that’s beside the point. You gotta wrap it before you tap it, buddy.”

“Wrap what in what?” Ted turned back to Quentin and then back at Eliot. “Um, yeah, I wanna be a dad someday. Do I have to right now?”

“No, no. It can take a while to find the someone or someones you want a family with. It might not happen for many years or it may happen sooner. The point right now is really to just have the conversation, to let you know you can ask us and we won’t be angry or upset. We just want to give you good advice because we are your family and we want the best for you.” Quentin had taken a few bites of dinner and he looked considerably less pale than at the start of the conversation.

“Okay. So what am I wrapping and then tapping?”

Eliot rubbed his hands together in anticipation for the part he actually understood. “Right. There are these things called condoms that protect your penis from harm and also catch all the semen—that’s the white, sticky stuff that shoots out—so it can’t go inside a vagina. Um. You remember we had that talk about penises and vaginas, right?”

Ted had been little, but they’d needed to explain to him about the differences physically between sexes so Ted would stop waving his little peen around in front of his cousins and causing havoc.

“If your semen goes into a vagina, you can make the person pregnant, which is where the planning comes in. If your semen never goes in a vagina, you’ll never make a baby personally. But if you want a baby without the vaginas and pregnancy part, you can always adopt one.” Eliot felt he could speak to that with some authority. “Eventually. When you’re ready for a family.”

“Right. So where do I get a condom?” Ted looked at Quentin who just shrugged and looked back at Eliot.

“Where I’m from, they’re made from latex mostly, but if you have a latex allergy—or there’s just no latex, like here in the Southern Orchard—you can use lambskin condoms, which is just like a snug sock for your penis made from a lamb’s intestine. It’s, you know, natural, I guess, and contains your spunk so it doesn’t stray where you don’t want it.” Eliot frowned. That didn’t sound like the most romantic or sexy way to sell Ted on safer sex, but honestly it had been so long since Eliot even needed to think about it.

“They have those at the apothecary,” he finished, somewhat lamely.  

Ted looked horrified. “You want me to put a lamb’s intestine on my penis? Do you do that?”

“Neither of us have vaginas, so…” Quentin looked like he was desperately trying not to laugh. Or maybe he was going to cry. It was hard to say. “But look, I mean there are lots of things that you can do that don’t involve penetrating a vagina—”

“Like butts?” Ted asked.

Quentin’s brows rose and his face went red and he just nodded mutely.

Eliot suppressed his amusement at Quentin’s apparent embarrassment. “But if your semen goes in the butt of someone with a vagina, it’s possible it can drip and get away from you, so really if someone has a vagina, it’s better not to put your penis down there at all. Mouths are a safer option.”

Eliot raised a brow and then added, “If you’re both fairly coordinated and your sizes are not completely incompatible, putting your mouth on each other’s parts at the same time is extremely rewarding, and no one will get pregnant.”

“My mouth?” Ted seemed less upset by that prospect than sheep intestines, so there was that. “Doesn’t it taste bad?”

“Um, not bad. I mean, it’s not peach cobbler, though I guess the texture with peaches and…” Quentin stopped and pressed his lips together briefly. “You probably want everyone to have washed up before, at least to start. The point of it is really to, you know, make the other person feel good. But it’s a very personal thing to do in a very intimate place. Some people are more comfortable with doing that sort of thing than others. It can be something that means a lot to some people, and others just enjoy doing it and sharing. You just… want to try to make sure before you do it that you’ve got similar ideas about what it means.”

Well that felt pointed.

Eliot gave Quentin a searching look and then shrugged. “It’s true, Ted. It’s true about everything you do with someone you’re attracted to though, even just a kiss. It means different things to different people and you can’t make assumptions about it. But…”

Seeking the right words, he finally said, “You also want to be careful not to overwhelm someone you like by demanding answers. In the best relationships, you give each other time to figure out where you stand. Less pressure, more patience."

Reaching across the table, Eliot took Quentin’s hand and drew its back to his lips for a quick kiss. He squeezed it before he released it and then looked at Ted seriously. “If you take after your dad, and I think you do in quite a few inordinately charming ways, you need to make sure you take care of yourself and your feelings. You’re a cutie, kiddo. People are going to be interested in you. Make sure you’re interested in them too. Don’t just get swept away into things you don’t really want, and don’t put up with anyone making you feel unimportant. You deserve to be loved and respected on your own terms.”

Quentin grinned at Eliot. “And sometimes how you feel about sex changes over time. It can be fun, and it can be meaningful, and it’s just… You know, it’s complicated when you let people into your life, getting that close. You might take after your mom, and she… you know, she had a real lust for life. I just want you to… you know… It can all be really intense, but it can also be fun. Like kissing is fun and touching and being touched is fun.”

“Doesn’t sound like it’s much fun for lambs.” Ted looked between them again.

“I know the apothecary has some herbs for pregnancy situations,” Eliot mused, brow furrowed as he tried to remember if Arielle ever told him about that. He hadn’t been paying a ton of attention. It hadn’t had anything to do with him. He looked at Ted. “If you’re staunchly against putting a lamb’s intestine on your dick every time you want to put it in a vagina, then we’ll have a conversation with her about your options. But you know, with your mother, we were all adults, and we wanted a family, so…”

Looking to Quentin, Eliot asked, “We can do that, right? Go into town and talk to the apothecary? She’d know.”

“There was a plant; Arielle made a tea. Still growing out back. I’m pretty sure most of the people with vaginas know about it, but it is putting the onus on them to handle and manage the situation. With a condom, then you’d have more assurance but, yeah sheep intestines… I didn’t get the impression too many people really use those.” Quentin squeezed Eliot’s hand and then reached out to ruffle Ted’s hair. “I can show you where it is, how to harvest and brew. It doesn’t taste terrible, kinda grassy.”

Ted nodded, taking that in. “And no lambs have to die.”

“If a lamb is going to be eaten, I’m guessing they use those intestines. But yeah, it sounds pretty creepy. Maybe stick with people who are cool with drinking the tea, unless you’re ready to chance a baby.” Quentin gave Ted a soft smile, seeming to have relaxed into the conversation finally. “Communication is really important in all of these situations. And consent. Making sure everyone is having a good time. Papa is good at that.”

Eliot smiled, touched by Quentin’s words, and rubbed his foot against Quentin’s calf under the table. “Thank you, Q.” Then he looked to Ted. “Sometimes you’re going to be really excited to do something, or maybe your partner or partners are really excited, but like I said before… Don’t get swept along if you don’t really want someone or something. One of the most important things we can teach you is to get to know yourself. Figure out what your interests are, experiment with safe people—or by yourself—and definitely talk to me if you ever have any questions about how to do something safely.”

He took a moment, pondering how to say what he was going to say. He didn’t think his Ted would ever assault or harass anyone—hadn’t they raised him better than that?—but he also knew too many parents never taught their kids the ropes because they felt it was too awkward or they didn’t need to worry.

Meeting Quentin’s gaze briefly, Eliot smiled again, softer, and then turned to look Ted in the eye. “You need to always check in with your partner or partners to make sure you’re not sweeping them along either, okay? Because you wanting something isn’t the same as them wanting something, and if you want it to be good—if you want to be a good partner, and a good person—you have to make their desires as important to you as your own. And sometimes that’s going to require patience, and work, and taking ‘no’ for an answer—or even taking ‘maybe later’ for an answer. And dropping it, and letting them bring it up themselves when they’re ready. Never push anyone for anything—even a kiss—unless it’s a game they initiated, and you can ask if it’s a game if you’re uncertain. Never assume.”

Quentin’s hand was still close to Eliot’s, and he covered it with his own larger one. “It took a long time for your dad to get around to kissing me. I wanted him to all the time, every day, but I knew he was…special, and that his feelings were very big, and very complicated, and so I waited for him to make the first move. It was killing me, but I was ready to wait forever, if that’s what it took. I tried to be as loving and supportive as I could, and I’d made my interest clear in the past, and I hoped.”

He looked to Ted and cocked his head to the side, grinning. “You see how that worked out.”

“Really?” Ted looked between them and then furrowed his brows. “Gross.”

Quentin rolled his eyes and smiled as he turned his hand over to twine their fingers. “And this is where communication is key. I wouldn’t have waited so long if I’d known Papa was serious. But you know, sometimes things just work out the way they need to. If we’d been better at communicating, we might not have you. You and your mom made us better people and better to and for each other.”

At that, Quentin looked down, then to Arielle’s glass of wine. Finally, his gaze rested fondly on Eliot. “Anyway. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to spend your life with your best friend, finding more reasons and ways to love them every day.”

Eliot felt the heat rise on the back of his neck, and he ducked his head, feeling a little awkward but delighted too, like Quentin had fed something hungry in his soul. He huffed and dragged Quentin’s hand up to his mouth to kiss its back and then each knuckle, gazing into Quentin’s eyes. He gave his fingers a squeeze and then returned their hands to the tabletop before reaching for his wine. He took a long swig and sighed, unable to quite hide his pleasure.

“Anyway, Ted, my best advice about sex is to always get them off before you try to put your penis in them. It’s very good for relaxing your partner prior to penetration. Plus, once they know you care about their pleasure, they’ll like you so much more and be so much more willing to try new things. If you need tips, you can ask your dad; he always kept your mama and me very satisfied.”

“Gross,” Ted said again, no longer paying attention to them visibly, instead determinedly eating his food. His cheeks were red, but he was smiling, probably happy that his parents got along. Fillory was a magical land, but people were still people and not everyone’s parents were together. Or happy.

“Yeah, stick with that.” Quentin grinned, his face pinching up as he threw his head back and laughed, shaking his head. “This is a lot more thorough a talk than I ever got. Well, from my parents.”

Quentin paled and looked into space, and Eliot knew he was probably thinking about Joe, traveler from the Neitherlands and Alice’s parents’ lover, who apparently had to give Quentin tips on sex.

Quentin had been drunk when he’d confessed that situation to Eliot—he wasn’t sure if Quentin even remembered telling him—but Eliot was sure that was where he went. The talk had worked for him, apparently. Penny had come back, and Quentin had had his first experience with sex magic.

“Hey,” Eliot said, their old stand-by, and gave Quentin’s hand a tug. “Come back to me, gorgeous.” When Quentin looked at Eliot again, he smiled and caressed his cheek. “You’re perfect just the way you are, and it doesn’t have to be so difficult, okay? Some relationships are way more complicated than they need to be, and you’ve just gotta find someone you fit with naturally.”

Tilting his head to the side, Eliot gave Quentin a private look, letting some heat come into his gaze since Ted wasn’t looking anyway. Then he murmured, “We fit, Q.”

Clearing his throat, he looked to Ted. “One more piece of advice, Ted: Don’t get so hung up on someone you let it destroy or obsess you. Sex makes things very…invested for some people, and if you’re one of them, like your dad, you’ve gotta be ready to cut the cord when it gets too much. You deserve happiness, little man. Your fathers want you happy. Now finish off those veggies, and you can have some Puberty Cake.”

“Puberty cake,” Ted echoed, sulking as he ate his vegetables. It seemed like he was done with the conversation, which was fair. It was uncomfortable, but they did get some good information to him. Whether he remembered it or not, well, at least the door was open.

“Puberty cake!” Quentin said with more enthusiasm, back to himself and grinning at Eliot. “For when you start getting hair in strange places, and your voice changes and you get taller! You’re growing up. Too fast. You sure you want to do that?”

“What, grow up? Or eat puberty cake?”

“Both.”

“I definitely want cake.”

Quentin laughed and nodded. “Me too. Let’s see this thing, El.”

Eliot polished off his wine so he could refill it while he was up and then headed over to their little kitchen area to open the cold oven and produce a beautifully decorated cake frosted in buttercream and covered in toasted coconut, sliced strawberries, and bits of candied orange peel. It looked like early summer, and it smelled like heaven, and Eliot knew exactly the look he would see on Ted’s face when he produced it.

Brandishing it in front of him, Eliot headed over to the table as Ted scurried to clear room for the cake. Eliot hadn’t actually finished his own food, but that was fine. He wasn’t worried about it. All he wanted was for Ted to have good memories of this, unlike Eliot’s had of his own father’s horrible version of the talk. (That had consisted of “no point explaining it to you; not like you’ll ever sleep with a woman,” and it had scarred Eliot permanently.)

Placing the cake in the center of the table, Eliot beamed at his son. Their son, his and Quentin’s. “We’re really proud of you, Ted. Tonight is to celebrate you and all you’ll become. Never forget Dad and Papa have faith in you, little man.”

“Oh wow!” Ted looked delighted. He had packed the rest of his dinner into his face in anticipation of cake and probably cramming as much of that into his face as he could.

“That looks and smells great, El. I admit, I was a little worried about how literal you were going to be about it when you mentioned coconut.” Quentin beamed at Eliot as he finished his plate of food and then set it aside to partake. “What do we say when someone makes a cake for us, Ted?”

“Yum!” Ted wiggled in anticipation, but at Quentin’s look, he rolled his eyes and said, “Thank you, Papa.”

“You’re welcome, baby T.” Eliot ignored Ted’s look of affront—he had long insisted he was not a baby—and leaned over to kiss the top of his head, closing his eyes a moment to commit to memory how Ted smelled and the texture of his boyishly unkempt hair.

Then he cut a huge slice for the puberty boy and placed it on a little plate for him. “Take it slow. I don’t want you throwing it up again.”

Sometimes Ted got a little too excited about desserts.

Looking to Quentin, Eliot cut a second, smaller slice, knowing Q wouldn’t have the growing teen’s appetite. “It’s a coconut-flavored cake, not a literal shaped-like-a-ball cake. I wasn’t going for full humiliation.” Keeping his tone light, Eliot glanced at Ted and continued, “I figured telling Ted about the importance of not overlooking oral sex would be upsetting enough.”

“Ugh, I just want to enjoy my cake, Papa!” Ted huffed, pulling his cake closer to him as he hunched as if he could cover his ears.

“Don’t worry. Papa saves his full humiliation for me.” Quentin took a bite of the cake and nodded. “It’s very good. Almost as tasty as your Papa’s balls.”

“Daaaaad!” Ted whined as Quentin bit his lip, apparently trying to hold back his laugh.

Eliot refilled Quentin’s wine as a reward for being so outstandingly…well…Quentin. Then he refilled his own and lifted it to toast. “To the Coldwater-Waugh men and their extremely gratifying future sex lives.”

Quentin held up his glass to toast to that.

Ted wrinkled his nose and eyed them both as if it was some kind of gambit to steal his cake or embarrass him again. But he did finally pick up his goat milk, clank it, and take a drink. “You’re both really weird, but I’ll let you know if I have any questions.”

Quentin nodded to him. “Thanks for attending our Ted talk.”

Chapter Text

Ted spent more and more time in Applecart after that fateful talk, spreading his wings, Eliot liked to think. Or maybe just being sweet and awkward and holding hands. But honestly, it had been three years. Ted was sixteen. If he and Tara weren’t fucking, Eliot really didn’t know what to think.

Then again, Ted was allowed to be a late bloomer. Eliot didn’t want him getting sucked into the “weirdly precocious and yet completely miserable self-loathing powerslut” lifestyle his papa had previously pursued. While Eliot was certain that many people were precocious powersluts without being weird, miserable, or self-loathing, he wasn’t at all certain any child of his and Q’s could achieve that high bar. He’d prefer Ted to go at his own pace and only experiment when he was ready.

Besides, Dad and Papa did plenty of experimenting, enough for several households. Quentin had recently passed his fortieth birthday, which he had once not expected to live to see, and since then, Eliot and Quentin had been ravenously devouring each other in the Fillorian equivalent of a midlife crisis, struck by their own mortality and the fact it had been much longer than ten years since they started this project. They were working some incredible sex magic now, though, stuff Eliot was legitimately proud of, and considering they did it all with only rudimentary help from the grimoires Eliot could remember and the little Quentin had already known…

It was pretty damn impressive, really.

They’d bonded their souls a few more times—like maybe thirty bajillion—just for the profound empathy and intense orgasms, and maybe a little because it was romantic, but Eliot would never cop to that out loud. And if they were getting really intense in their old age, it was fine, right? Because Quentin had always been intense, and Eliot was finally catching up. They were leveling out. And if that involved some light bloodplay and edging and doing literal blood-and-sex magic together of an evening, it was chill.

Eliot stared out the window as he made dinner, wondering if Ted would make it home tonight. More and more he ate dinner with Tara’s family, who raised vegetables at the other end of the Applecart area. Sometimes he spent the night, since it was quite a walk. Which, really, if they weren’t fucking…

It was nice, though. Maybe this was a simpler life, a simpler world. Maybe Ted would marry his first love and make Eliot and Quentin grandfathers in the next few years. It could happen. It seemed likely to happen.

And Quentin adored Tara. Eliot liked her too, but Quentin beamed when she was around, so proud his son was in a happy relationship, that his Ted was having the outgoing, well-adjusted adolescence Quentin had been denied.

Eliot called for Quentin and started plating dinner for two and wine for three. Venison stew (made from non-talking deer, of course) with big chunks of carrots, turnips, celery, and potatoes swimming in a brown, garlicky gravy served in hollowed out bread bowls with the extra bread on the side and bold, spicy plum wine. Quentin would no doubt be in the mood for some fucking afterward, especially if they had the cottage to themselves again, but in case he did want a non-Eliot dessert, Eliot had baked some buttery, nutty cookies with almond meal that would no doubt prove rich and crisp-chewy enough to satisfy after the stew.

Funny that Eliot had never thought of himself as especially domestic when he’d always so loved throwing parties and playing host. He’d settled into this role so naturally, and even after eighteen years here, Eliot still enjoyed it.

There was a slight hiccupping sound before the door creaked open. Two figures about equal in height darkened the door, but one was hunched over, sniffling.

“Oh no, you didn’t even make dinner for me!” Ted sounded high strung and dramatic, reminding Eliot of someone. No accusations, though.

“You can have mine. It’s fine. Papa usually makes more than we need anyway, right?” Quentin looked up at Eliot. He was growing a beard, which was silvering faster than his hair, though his hair was definitely frosting as well. His forehead wrinkled, eyebrows drawn together in empathy. “Come on, sit down. Here, you can have my wine.”

“Really?” Ted looked briefly less miserable. Quentin and Eliot had given him tastes of it on special occasions; he wasn’t usually offered a whole glass.

“Go easy,” Quentin warned as Ted reached for it.

“Of course I made enough,” Eliot chided, as if he’d ever let either of his boys go hungry. He turned to the stove and ladled up another bread bowl full of the hot stew before returning to the table and setting it at Ted’s spot. “Thought you were having dinner with Tara’s people though. Is something…wrong?”

Obviously something was wrong.

Eliot considered for a moment and poured a fourth glass of wine. He had a feeling they’d all need their own.

Quentin frowned briefly at Eliot. He didn’t want Ted drinking too much too young, he’d said. Something about the brain not maturing until twenty-five, not that either of them had abstained. But he let it go, and so it had to be big.

“We’re not… Tara… she… she wants other things, she said.” Ted swallowed the wine. He looked like he was going to try to drink all of it, but Quentin stopped him after a couple of swallows.

“Whoa, easy, Ted.” Quentin took it but didn’t set it away from him. “She wants other things?”

“Yeah. Some guy named Todd.” Ted covered his face with his hands.

Quentin traded looks with Eliot, but that seemed highly unlikely. It was a common name, even here. “Fucking Todd.”

“Fucking Todd,” Eliot agreed, squeezing Ted’s shoulder sympathetically. That sucked. His first broken heart.

After a moment, Eliot sank into his own chair and studied their son, taking in his slumped posture and hitched breaths. “You know… First love is rough, Ted. You don’t know how to love wisely, only too well. You go all in, give away everything… Love immoderately. It’s… Some people don’t outgrow it.”

He glanced at Quentin with a faint smile before returning his attention to their kid. “And some of us got so badly hurt the first time we never let ourselves go that deep again, which is, I am told, no way to live, so don’t take this too personally. First loves almost never work out long-term. People grow, and grow apart, when they meet that young.”

“Never?” Quentin and Ted asked at the same time, looking at Eliot in shock and horror.

It was almost cute. Making the same expression, Eliot could really appreciate how much Ted looked like Quentin, and see the Arielle in there, too.

Quentin sat down at his spot but moved his chair closer to Ted. “I think you should always go all in, obviously. If you really want to be with someone. But… sometimes even when you’re both trying really hard to make things work, it just never really comes together the way you hope. It can be growing apart, or other circumstances. Sometimes the timing is just…off. When I was your age, being with the same person for more than a couple of months was practically married.”

“There’s not that many really pretty girls in Applecart, though.” Ted huffed as if his standards were way too high for anyone else. “Anyone else is just a step down.”

That seemed to strike Quentin quiet as he just stared.

“Why does a less pretty girl automatically mean a step down?” Eliot asked, and he could hear how put off he was in his voice. Trying to moderate himself, he tried a different tack. “Do you think you are the best-looking guy in Applecart? And, if you do, are you also the bravest, and smartest, and strongest? Because—and Papa loves you more than anything—if you tell me you’re the best young man in Applecart in every way, I’m going to call you a liar or a narcissist, and I can’t decide which is worse, honestly.”

“Just, you know, the other guys. They were always so jealous. And now… and we really, you know, we were getting along so well. And her family is nice. But then…” Ted sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know. She said I was too much. I don’t think I’m the bravest or smartest or best-looking. She made me feel like I was.”

Quentin handed Ted back his wine and held out his finger as if to remind him to pace himself. “Were you making plans?”

“Yeah! I thought she’d like that. You know picking out names for our children and picking out where we could live…”

“Mm, yeah. I mean, it’s nice to have those thoughts and dream big, but,” Quentin gestured at Eliot, “not everyone, um, knows what to do with all of that. You know it’s like Papa’s peach cobbler. It’s really good and we love it, but…”

“I could eat it every day,” Ted insisted.

Coldwaters and their damn cobbler.

“But what if that was all you could have? No apple tarts?” Quentin looked to Eliot as if he could bail him out.

“Tara wasn’t sure she was ready to commit to the first cobbler she met. You basically suggested she live the rest of her life without ever sampling another type of dessert.” Eliot tapped his wine glass with a fingernail and then ate a bite of his stew. As he dabbed the napkin at the corner of his mouth, he said, “Before you brought up baby names, she was probably just taking each day as it came, Ted. You brought the future into focus. But she wasn’t ready for the future yet. She’s still living in the present, exploring Todd’s apple tarts. It doesn’t mean she prefers apple tarts to Ted cobbler, but it does mean she’s probably afraid of growing up too quickly.”

“But Todd is awful. He doesn’t make her laugh. He never laughs at anything. He always looks like he’s in a bad mood unless he’s with his other friends and then he does mean things. Not to me because, well…” Ted gestured around. “There’s a rumor we’re all witches or something.”

Quentin sipped his own glass of wine and shrugged. “We’re not not witches. But what are they doing? Are they mean to your friends?”

“I don’t really… I mean, after I got together with Tara…”

“Oh, Ted.” Quentin sighed and nodded as if recognizing problems with his own past. “So you haven’t been hanging around with Edbert or Armen? I thought you guys were close.”

“Yeah, we were. I guess it’s just… Tara thought they were dorky.”

Eliot couldn’t suppress an anguished sound. “Teddy.” Eliot closed his eyes for a moment to center himself and then sipped his wine before spreading his hands demonstratively before Ted. “There’s an old Earth saying, and I’m going to need you to say it with me: mates before dates.” He raised a brow as if to inquire whether Ted got his meaning. “Your friends are an important and irreplaceable social support network. Even—and maybe especially—the dorky ones. Your best nerds are going to be there with you for life, and hotties… Well. They come and go, sometimes literally.”

After a moment’s pause to let Ted absorb that wisdom, he pointed at Ted with his wine glass. “Say it with me. Mates…”

“Before dates?” Ted frowned and looked down at his wine. He finished the glass, and Quentin didn’t stop him.

Quentin was staring into space, apparently thinking hard about something. Hopefully not about putting a curse on Todd, because Q was a good guy, but sometimes he got a little crazy. “Okay, so tonight, you can have one more glass of wine, but that’s it. I don’t want you to get sick. That just makes things worse. Then tomorrow, let’s go to Grandpa’s. We’ll get together with some of your cousins, figure out what we can do to make it up to Edbert and Armen. We’re not going to think about girls. Not for dating. Not for a while.”

“Oh, Lenore has some pretty friends,” Ted said looking excited.

Quentin shook his head. “No. You need to relearn how to be a friend. If you want to be friends with Lenore’s friends, fine. But let’s just… have a break. Learn to be a good friend. Maybe sample some desserts. Sometimes when you… no longer can eat one dessert, you just jump into gorging on another, and sometimes you’re just so happy to have dessert you don’t even think about whether you like it or not.”

“Truth.” Eliot sighed and wagged his finger knowingly at Q. “I have eaten many desserts I didn’t especially enjoy simply because my sweet tooth nagged me to have a dessert, any dessert. And by ‘sweet tooth’ I mean libido, and by dessert, I mean sexual partner. I am saying that my general teenaged horniness drove me to sample far too many desserts—or, if you prefer, boys—and then I realized I really wasn’t enjoying myself at all. It was all complicated and—Ugh. Honestly, some of those people were really just…suboptimal partners, with poor grooming habits and ugly fashion and—”

He looked at Quentin, his life partner, with his shaggy beard and long, graying ponytail and clothes made decent only by the fact Eliot literally made all Quentin’s clothes himself. Even then, Quentin sometimes managed to assemble ensembles that Eliot had certainly never intended or envisioned. It was like he had a knack.

Ugh.

Ugh.

Shaking it off, Eliot clarified, “Some of them were not very intelligent, not generous lovers, and certainly far beneath me in every conceivable way. You need more in life than a warm, willing body, Ted. You need someone who excites you. Don’t settle, okay? Find something special, something just for you.”

Then Eliot reached out to take Q’s hand, biting his lip as he gazed at him. “If you do, maybe you’ll get back some of that…special first love feeling. Or maybe you’ll realize first love had nothing on lasting love.”

Quentin gave Eliot a tight smile, apparently feeling called out as he touched his beard with his free hand and then his hair, completely missing Eliot’s attempt at sap. “But um, yeah. Try to be a little in the moment. You don’t have to grow up so fast, and if you want to and you do, well, there are probably people who will be more on your wavelength.”

He caught Eliot’s eye and gestured at his beard as if he worried Eliot hated it, and that was probably going to be a whole other thing later. “Have fun, go to parties, kiss some people, just, you know, let’s keep things casual, all right?”

Can you keep things casual, Ted?” Eliot asked, motioning to Ted to eat up. “Talk while you eat. You’ll be feeling that wine if you don’t get some food in you.”

Then he looked to Quentin, reached over, and grabbed him by the beard. With a little tug, he reeled him in for a soft kiss. He kept it chaste in deference to Ted’s heartbrokenness and role as their child, but he imbued it with just enough heat to hopefully remind Q that Eliot desired him just as he was. Then he kissed the tip of Quentin’s nose and whispered, “You’re special, Q.”

Sitting back, he released Quentin’s beard and reached for his wine as he returned his attention to Ted.

Ted stabbed at his food, but he didn’t seem terribly interested in eating. He probably wanted to feel the wine, and who could blame him? Heartbreak and grief were terrible. Eliot had spent a significant portion of his life trying to avoid those kinds of feelings.

“I don’t know. I guess. There were kissing games we played sometimes. It just… I don’t know. It’s not as nice as kissing Tara.” Ted sighed loudly.

Quentin sat back, fingering his beard thoughtfully. “Might be too early to worry about that.”

Ted sat back and looked at them as his eyes filled with tears.

Quentin jumped up to hug Ted, letting him sob against Quentin’s shoulder. “I know, I know. I’m sorry.”

This was not the romantic dinner alone Eliot had foreseen for himself and Quentin, and it seemed highly unlikely they’d be doing any kinky sex magic tonight, but looking at the way Q comforted their boy… Well.

Polishing off his wine, Eliot rose from his chair and moved to join the hug, wrapping both of the smaller men in his long arms. “It’s going to be all right. No matter what else happens in your life, no matter what changes in your world, your fathers will always, always be here, Teddy. We will always support you. You’re so loved, kiddo.”

“Except when you leave. You might leave any day, right?”

They’d had to tell him young. There was no avoiding that.  No matter how coached Alf and Mr. Belvedere were, Quentin had wanted to make sure that Ted knew that he was loved and that it was just a thing that was going to happen, and they didn’t know when.

But sometimes he would get anxious in moments like these.

Quentin tightened his arms around Ted and rocked him gently, moving Eliot with them. “We will love you no matter where we are or where you are. Like your mom loves you from where she is. You have so much love in and around you, Ted. I know it hurts. I know. But I also know you’re irresistible, and you’ll find the right person. Or persons if you want.”

“Exactly,” Eliot agreed, swaying with his boys. “It’s going to be all right because we believe in you, kiddo. You’re an amazing young man, and you will definitely find what you’re looking for someday soon.”

As they swayed and snuggled, Ted still seeming miserable and Quentin fussing over him like the perfect parent, Eliot shot a longing glance toward the wine bottle on the counter. Only for a few moments, though, and then he kissed Quentin’s hair and Ted’s crown and said, “Honestly, I like Tara, and I’ve always liked Tara, but fuck Tara. You’re our boy, and you’re gonna be okay, little man. You’re going to grow into your intensity like your dad did, and you’re gonna live large like your mom did, and you’re going to look around someday and find yourself completely content where you are, like your papa did, and it’s gonna surprise you as much as it did me, and it’ll be sweeter for it.”

“Yeah but weren’t you two like thirty?” Ted sniffled and looked at them with the pure anxiety of youth to whom being in one’s twenties or thirties was an eternity.

“Well, um… yeah, I mean, Eliot’s older.”  Quentin’s head popped up, and he grinned at Eliot playfully. His eyes were red, like he’d been crying with Ted. “And just look at him. He’s magnificent!”

“So you mean it’s going to take me even longer?” Ted practically wailed. “Tara was just so…”

“She wasn’t perfect, Ted. I mean, obviously she now has questionable taste in men.” Quentin patted Ted’s hair. “You’ll get through this. I promise.”

“You’ll definitely get through this, and you’ll be a better man because you understand heartbreak.” Eliot knew it seemed impossible to Ted, that feeling better seemed so far away, and happiness out of reach, but he sighed and hugged them both again. “You’ll come through this, and on the other side you’ll be so much wiser. If you want to be a dad someday, a husband, you have to understand how love works, and this, sadly, is a big part of that.”

“I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” Ted sniffed and rubbed his face with his hands, breaking up the hug. “This feels awful, and I don’t know what to do!”

Quentin nodded as he sat back. “The only thing to do is to keep going. It gets easier, but it still hurts. There will always be part of you that hurts in that place, but you meet other people, and you find different ways that you fit with them.”

“But how? I don’t want to… I want her back!”

“It won’t be the same. Even if you get back together with her, this has changed things. But also, if someone wants it over, you can’t want them more than they want you. It doesn’t work. Trust me on that.” Quentin put his hand on Ted’s shoulder, staring at him seriously.

“You think you want her back, but you don’t realize how many other amazing people there are in the world for you to meet. Life is… It’s bigger than Applecart, Ted. Fillory’s enormous, and amazing, and you’re not just some small town farmboy who’s never going to go anywhere or do anything.” Eliot felt those words in the core of his being, the deep certainty of personal lived experience. “We don’t want to lose you, and we never want you to leave us, but you’re smart, and you’re funny, and you’re bold like your mother, and this cottage isn’t gonna hold you much longer, champ.”

Deep in Eliot’s gut, he felt it. The knowledge Ted had a fate much larger than keeping his fathers company. He sighed and admitted, “I kind of hoped maybe you’d fall in love with Tara, grow up and marry her, raise kids, and never leave our circle. Always be just right there on the other side of Applecart, working on her family’s farm, bringing up your own family that we’d see every weekend for a big family supper. But you’re Quentin’s and Arielle’s and mine, and none of us were ever content with the local flash. This is in your blood, kiddo. It’s in your bones and your brain and your goddamn balls. You’re built to go out and do something special with your years above the soil.”

Then Eliot poured himself another glass of wine and took a long, thoughtful swig.

“You really think so? Adventuring?” That seemed to light something up in Ted. “You know, it would be kind of neat to see more of Fillory. You guys have seen it, haven’t you?”

“A lot of it, yes. Not all of it.” Quentin traded a look with Eliot, seeming to regret that they couldn’t move from this spot by much. Not with their current quest. “But I could draw you a map of what I know. My friend Julia and I did that once.”

He looked a little sad. He hadn’t talked about Julia in at least a decade and it was she who he dreamed of Fillory with when they were Ted’s age. That was a long time ago now. Or a long time in the future.

God, Eliot missed peyote.

Ted smiled finally and nodded. “I do want to work on Grampa’s farm. They’ve been teaching me a lot, but it would be nice to see more of this world before I do.”

“So go take a break when you’re ready. Go see the world, explore, have adventures, and then come back to us here. Come back to us, and to your grandfathers, and see if you haven’t changed your mind about what you want out of life. You just need perspective, Ted, and you’re gonna find that a lot easier farther from home.” Eliot frowned a little, already missing their boy, and then sipped more wine as if that would tamp down those feelings.

Then, manufacturing a smile, he said, “I’m proud of you. We’re both so proud of you. And you don’t need Tara to be worth a damn, Ted. You’re a complete person without her. You just need to take some time alone to figure out who that is.”

Quentin looked like he might be ill. To his credit, though, he also tried to be supportive, squeezing Ted’s shoulder. “Yeah. I’m proud of you, Ted.”

In a lot of ways, Ted was already much more worldly than his counterparts. He could read and write, do math. He could dance and sing and juggle and even knew some basic magic. He might not have qualified for Brakebills, but he wasn’t a bad Hedge Witch in training.

“Thanks. I like that idea. I can learn some more hunting. Grandpas say that we have a little family everywhere.” That seemed to give Ted his appetite back, and he sat forward starting to do more than just stir his food around.

Eliot continued sipping his wine as he motioned to Quentin to return to his seat. Then, as soon as Quentin had sat down, Eliot perched in his lap like an oversized housewife and slipped his arm around Quentin’s shoulders. He whispered in his ear, “You’re such a good dad,” and then kissed his cheek before returning his attention to his wine and watching their son clean house on his venison stew.

“We’ll teach you some battle magic and… give you some money. We can plan this out, and it’ll be… It’ll be all right. You can send back messages so we know you’re okay.” Quentin wrapped his arms around Eliot’s middle. He didn’t sound or look happy, but he looked determined, which was about all anyone could ask. “It’ll be good.”

Sounded more like Quentin was trying to convince himself more than anyone else.

“Thanks, Papa. I’m really excited.” Ted grinned at both of them. “I’ll keep in contact. I promise I won’t let you worry, Dad. I love you. It’ll be good for me. Mom will watch over me.”

“She will.” Quentin sniffed and pressed his face against Eliot’s chest. “We’ll make a plan. It’ll be good. So good.”

“It’ll be wonderful,” Eliot agreed, snuggling Quentin protectively and already doing the mental gymnastics, working out the circumstances for what he’d need to do to comfort Q later. Stroking Quentin’s long hair, he gazed at Ted and smiled. “I baked cookies. Let’s celebrate.”

Chapter Text

Quentin watched Ted put on his messenger bag, the final piece to all the luggage they’d put together for him to get from place to place. It included an emergency tent, a blanket roll, and reference notes for magic that he might need along the way.

Instead of Eliot’s never emptying flask, they’d created a never emptying canteen so he’d never be without water and secreted money in different bags in case one got lost or stolen. There were no more excuses Quentin could reasonably make. He’d already delayed Ted’s leaving by two years.

He’d wanted to slip in some way to track Ted on the map, but Eliot had talked him down from that. Sort of. Mostly he refused to help and threatened to let Ted know Quentin was going to do it.

It’s Fillory, Eliot had argued, as if Fillory was safe.

Though admittedly, Quentin grew up reading of adventures children had in the land, and they were far less prepared than Ted was.

So the morning had come and Ted turned around. Quentin tried to avoid eye contact, worried that he’d mist up or do something desperate like beg him not to go.

Eliot had coached Quentin, so he glanced at Eliot before saying, “Come visit soon.”

They’d planned Ted’s first adventures nearby, crisscrossing so he could check in frequently.

“Of course.” Ted smiled and almost laughed at how dramatic Quentin was being. It reminded him of Eliot and Arielle. Things were so obvious to them, so easy.

Quentin couldn’t help his anxiety. This could be the last time he’d see Ted.

Not necessarily because Ted wasn’t prepared or couldn’t handle himself. They might solve the Mosaic.

On the bright side, he wouldn’t have to worry that he was abandoning a child. It still felt like his heart was tearing in two. “If we’re not here—”

“I know, Dad.”

It had been drilled into him by now. Quentin wondered if Ted even took their vanishing seriously. It would be better if he didn’t, probably.

Quentin stared, tilting his head, trying to keep it together.

Ted stared back, growing serious. “I love you, too.”

Quentin grabbed him into his arms, hugging him tight. To his immense relief, Ted hugged him back. Breathing him in, Quentin wished he wouldn’t have to let go. This was the last time Ted would smell of their home. Last time he’d be Quentin’s little boy.

He was a man now, and it was time to let him go, hard as that was.

Eliot remained quiet but broke up the hug when it seemed like Quentin wasn’t going to let go.

Quentin wanted to point out Ted wasn’t letting go either, but that seemed pointless.

Eliot hugged Ted and whispered something to him that made him smile. Then Ted turned and was off, backpack ties waving as he walked into the forest.

Eliot put his arm around Quentin, squeezing his shoulder.

As little as Quentin wanted to watch Ted leave, he couldn’t tear his gaze away until he could no longer make out any further movement. Then he waited a few minutes more for good measure, hoping that Ted would lose sight of them and then realize he wasn’t ready and come running back.

That wasn’t going to happen.

Quentin let out a long, shuddering breath and let Eliot fold him into his arms, tucking him safely away against him. Eliot’s big hands roamed over Quentin’s back, soothing and familiar, and he kissed Quentin’s hair as Quentin breathed in Eliot’s good, accustomed scent. Some things never changed.

“He’s going to do amazing out there, Q,” Eliot murmured, lips pressed to the top of Quentin’s head. “He’s going to have grand adventures, and then he’ll come back to us, and we’ll be so proud, and so happy, and it’ll always be hard to say goodbye, but it’ll get less scary.”

‘It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. Right?” Quentin knew that was true, but he wanted to hear it. Somehow Eliot saying things made them feel more real.

Having the cottage to themselves had advantages, though. There was that to look forward to. The way that Eliot was starting to paw at Quentin made him think that was exactly where Eliot’s head was at.

“That’s right. See you later.” Eliot caressed Quentin’s back and down lower, giving his ass a squeeze in the way that—between them—signified comfort as well as arousal. He pulled back just enough to look into Quentin’s eyes and said, “You’re gonna be okay, Q, and so is our Teddykins. It’s just a natural transition. And you’ve still got me, baby boy. You’ll always have your Eliot.”

He squeezed Quentin tighter and then tilted his head to the side as if inviting a kiss. Tilting his head to the other side, Quentin kissed him softly, already tasting the peach wine on his lips.

Ah, so that was why he was so calm. Quentin slid his hands over Eliot’s chest, undoing the little button on Eliot’s wrap shirt, awkwardly set in at one point due to Ted’s modesty about Eliot’s chest.

Teenagers.

Quentin was going to enjoy getting to see Eliot’s chest as much and as often as he wanted, at least. Even if now it was interspersed with silvery hairs. Or maybe because it was. He was definitely starting to look like a daddy. Silver fox?

It was just them now. Well, them and Mr. Belvedere, but he was a lot less social since Alf had passed on.

They were getting older; it was just a fact. But they still had each other and were reasonably flexible. Other than his knee. And sometimes his elbow. And his back would go out.

Eliot kneaded Quentin’s ass in both hands and walked him across the yard toward the daybed, apparently determined to get in some public area making out now that they were empty nesters. He chuckled a little, a wicked sound, and whispered, “This is going to be fun. I can ravish you in the kitchen again while making breakfast. Bent over the dining table. Pushed up against the wall. Right out in the goddamn open. It’s been years.”

Ever since Ted had gotten old enough to dictate his own bedtime and his comings and goings, their escapades had been seriously impeded. Eliot was of the mind that it wouldn’t kill Ted to walk in on them—and that maybe Ted would learn to honor the age old wisdom of not showing up unexpectedly—but Quentin had persuaded him there were some things their son just didn’t need to see.

“We don’t know if Ted will turn around and come back. Are you sure this is a good idea? You know, if we’d put the tracker on him…” Quentin’s voice faltered at the way Eliot looked at him. It was arguably a new spin on the old argument, but Eliot ignored it in favor of moving Quentin onto the daybed and covering his mouth in a long, lusty kiss.

Quentin’s body responded, a little more sluggishly than it used to, but eagerly nonetheless. He wound his arms around Eliot, pulling at the back of his shirt because some outdoor sex did sound like a good way to declare their nest empty.

Eliot removed his shirt obligingly, and Quentin made a happy noise at getting his hands on Eliot’s bare skin. El wasn’t quite as lean as he used to be, but he was still trim and fit, and Quentin loved his body now as much as he’d ever loved it—more, if that was possible, because now they had two decades of history between them, two decades of Eliot becoming ever more permanent, of Quentin learning more and more ways to make Eliot squirm and sigh. He stroked his fingertips down Eliot’s bare back to slip his hand beneath El’s waistband, and El sighed like Quentin knew he would, contented and excited, like he wanted nothing more than for Quentin to undress him.

So Quentin did. He unfastened Eliot’s sash and his trousers as Eliot toed off his shoes, and Eliot growled happily against Quentin’s mouth as he rolled his hips forward to let Quentin feel how thick El’s cock was already. They didn’t have to try as hard anymore to take their time; their bodies were familiar, each second nature to the other, and they had their own rhythm.

Eliot never gave things a chance to get routine, though. He always surprised Quentin with new ideas, with new sex magic, with something kinky and fresh. Sometimes Quentin had ideas of his own, and Eliot had never once shot him down. Whatever Quentin wanted, Eliot gave him—at least, when it came to sex, booze, and dinner.

The unspoken things that had once been so difficult to live with were non-issues now. Quentin could feel Eliot’s devotion. For years now, he’d seen it in Eliot’s dark, lusty gaze, the sardonic twist of his lips when he smiled at Quentin across the room and demanded he go take a shower only to follow Quentin out to the shower and suck his sweaty cock like it was a special treat.

Then Eliot was naked under the sunshine, the silver in his curls gleaming bright, but somehow not as bright as his mischievous eyes as he undressed Quentin in turn. Quentin cooperated as best he could as Eliot stripped him, pausing now and then to brush kisses across Quentin’s exposed skin. Quentin kissed back, wherever he could reach, and El just took it as encouragement, lingering to torment Quentin’s nipple with his teeth as he tugged Quentin’s trousers down.

There had been a time when making love outside wasn’t as rare a treat, but it had become one, especially during the day. The breeze felt good. The sun warmed their skin. Quentin slid his hands down Eliot’s back, sitting up to reach his ass, which he gave a good squeeze for measure. “So are you going to ride me, Daddy? Does Daddy still cut it? Should I start calling you Granddaddy?”

Quentin laughed as his hands wandered over Eliot’s body. Every inch of it he knew, he’d kissed and caressed. “I love you, you know. Granddaddy.”

“Gross.” Eliot made a face and rolled his eyes as if exasperated. “I’m not a Granddaddy yet, Q. Don’t put me out to pasture before my time.”

Then, laughing, he chased Quentin’s mouth for another kiss, suckling his bottom lip until it throbbed. Then he nipped it and pulled back to look into Quentin’s eyes. “Besides, I’m your daddy. I’ll never be your granddaddy. You’re getting older too, sexybuns.”

Eliot reached for Quentin’s cock and stroked as he gazed at him, sizing him up. “You want to be ridden, baby? Stretch out in the sunshine and relax and let me do all the work?”

While El had never possessed the greatest work ethic in general, he was remarkably devoted to their sexual regimen.

“Oh now it’s gross?” Quentin reached for Eliot’s cock, teasing him just because he could and because he loved touching Eliot. “I do want to watch you doing all the work. But you know me, I always find a way to work too.”

He cast a lube spell on Eliot’s cock so he could more smoothly tease him, getting fairly rough with it as he knew Eliot preferred, especially with lube. “Besides, I’m sad. You should do anything to cheer me up.”

“Valid.” Eliot smirked and thrust into Quentin’s hand, his long body still graceful. “I’ll do whatever it takes, baby boy.”

Quentin wasn’t really much of a baby boy anymore in some ways, but El still looked at him the same way he always had, like Quentin was someone special, like looking at him was uniquely satisfying. His gaze weighed heavy on Quentin’s skin as Eliot worked a spell with his elegant hands and slicked Quentin’s cock. Then Eliot shifted and straddled Quentin’s hips, moving slowly, deliberately, giving Quentin something to watch, something to anticipate.

As Eliot knelt over him, he reached down to stroke Quentin’s erection, angling it just so, and then lowered himself onto him, not taking him yet, but letting Quentin’s cock slide between Eliot’s cheeks. Grinning, Eliot teased Quentin, one hand planted in the middle of Quentin’s chest to keep him in place.

“You’re such a sad boy,” Eliot murmured as he rolled his hips. The slippery friction was good, but it wasn’t as good as what was yet to come. His smile softened. “But I’ve always been a sucker for a sad boy.”

Eliot tortured Quentin for a few more moments, taking his time, gliding over him with lazy finesse, and just as Quentin was about to lose his mind waiting or play the pity card, Eliot grasped Quentin’s cock at the base, held it steady, and pushed back onto it. El’s moan as Quentin penetrated him sent a thrill through Quentin, a heady satisfaction in knowing Eliot loved this as much as Quentin did, that Eliot wanted him this way.

Then Eliot leaned back, lifting his hand from Quentin’s chest, and undulated slowly over Quentin as he took him deeper bit by bit, the fit impossibly snug. Eliot was almost too tight, not having prepared himself at all, but sometimes Eliot liked that, liked the edge of pain to their lovemaking, and Quentin wasn’t about to tell him otherwise.

As Eliot worked himself over Quentin, Quentin gazed at him with a profound gratitude that somehow, despite everything, they had this. They had each other. The Mosaic still wasn’t fucking solved, and Quentin had gained and lost a wife and, kind of, a son now that Ted was moving out, but Eliot was still here, still beautiful, still as wrapped up in Quentin as he’d ever been.

And really, there were worse things than falling in love with a best friend. It had been difficult at first, growing together, frustrations they’d never had with each other because there had been somewhere to retreat to before. Here at the Mosaic, it was just them, and Quentin couldn’t imagine getting to this point with anyone else.

Quentin brought his hands up and took Eliot’s, linking their fingers so Eliot could brace against Quentin. “It’s not fair how sexy you still are, El. You feel so good.”

He closed his eyes just to enjoy the sensation for a moment and also so he could slowly open his eyes and see Eliot there above him, sunshine a halo around his head, as if he was a heavenly creature.

Releasing one of Eliot’s hands, Quentin returned to teasing Eliot’s cock. “I’m all yours now. You like that, Eliot? I like having you all to myself, I have to admit.”

Eliot grinned and hummed, soft and contemplative. “I’ve never been the most possessive of men, but I do enjoy having all your time, attention, sex, and affection because I am colossally spoiled now and no one else could ever possibly hope to provide for my grotesquely inflated emotional and sexual needs.”

He curled his hand around Quentin’s on his cock, positioning it just a little differently with the casual ease of a whole lifetime together, and then he sighed his approval and rode Quentin harder, more purposefully. Then Eliot lifted his hand to stroke his own chest, running those long, lovely fingers over his own skin as if putting on a show for Quentin. He obviously thrived on Quentin’s admiration, on the way Quentin still stared at him, the way Quentin never tired of him. If it had been too much once, it wasn’t anymore.

“Mm, yeah. I like that. Pinch your nipples harder. Make them red.”

Quentin shifted his hips, aiming to hit Eliot just right deep inside of him, loving the show he put on as he complied. Watching Eliot had always been fascinating, whether in their old lives, watching the sensual movements of the way he cast, the smooth control of creating his cocktails, even just watching him walk from class to class had made Quentin feel bumbling and inadequate.

Now Quentin just liked to watch Eliot because he loved him so much. It filled his heart with joy even when they were just moving tiles around or Eliot was cooking. Even better when Quentin ordered Eliot to touch himself, to admire his movement along with his body.

For Eliot’s part, it had once taken a whole campus of people to feed his ego, but he seemed content with Quentin, a thought that made Quentin smile and adore him more.

If they hadn’t been shuttled off to this quest, he probably never would’ve experienced this Eliot. Quentin would never have even thought to ask, knowing he’d be shot down even if he’d somehow gotten past himself and his daily conflicts on earth well enough to really explore this side of his sexuality.

Eliot wasn’t the first man Quentin had ever found attractive, but he was the first one who had given him pause to think beyond idle admiration. It wasn’t just their threesome. They’d always had a special connection. He’d hoped they’d be friends for life. He hadn’t dreamed of this.

“Kiss me,” Quentin said, reaching up for Eliot to bring him down, happy with his show and now wanting to feel him.

Eliot kept rocking his hips as he lowered his head to meet Quentin’s craning neck. Their lips brushed together, and Eliot all but purred approval as Quentin’s tongue swept into his mouth. They worked together, their bodies flowing like poetry, and Eliot sucked at Quentin’s tongue like he wanted all of Quentin inside him.

“Stroke me,” Eliot demanded in turn, when they broke apart for breath, mouths hovering inches apart. “C’mon, sad boy. You gonna make Daddy come?”

Quentin reasserted his grip around Eliot’s cock, taking the adjustment he’d made, and pulled his cock faster. With his other hand, Quentin grabbed Eliot’s nape and kissed him hard again, needing him on all fronts. “Mm, yeah, Daddy. Going to fill you up and make you come. I love you so much. Show me you love this. Show me how good it is.”

“So good, baby,” Eliot whispered, voice deep and breathless, devoid of his habitual dry humor. It was sincere, like he barely knew what to do with himself. He fucked Quentin’s hand restlessly, working between fingers and cock like a wild thing, his rhythm syncopated and unpredictable, like he was chasing his own pleasure. But Eliot’s pleasure was so much of Quentin’s pleasure that it might as well be the same thing, and knowing Eliot took so much enjoyment from Quentin’s body was still almost unbelievable, still one of the most remarkable things in a crazy, magical-quest-filled life.

Eliot kissed Quentin’s eyebrows, his eyelids, his cheekbones, murmuring sweet words of assurance and bliss, a steady stream of sweetheart and yes and so good, there, just like that. It devolved into filthy, growled fuck me fuck me fuck me that seemed drawn from the core of him, like he was lost to all logic and syntax and all that remained was that desperate demand. Every thrust seemed to knock the breath from Eliot, and Quentin couldn’t strive any deeper, but he tried.

He gave Eliot everything he had, all of it, his world shrinking down to the sunshine beating down on them, making him sweat, making Eliot’s skin glow and go slick under Quentin’s hand. His curls matted to his temples, damp and corkscrewed. El kissed Quentin over and over, peppering his face and hair with little kisses that were almost bites, like Eliot might take a chunk out of Quentin in his excitement, and somehow Quentin didn’t mind. He just wanted Eliot to take whatever he needed. Quentin would give him anything.

Eliot pulled away and worked a spell as he rode Quentin, his expression suddenly focused. His beautiful fingers shaped the magic as it sparked and crackled gold and red between his flexible hands. It expanded and grew, enveloping them, and it seemed like it reached for the Mosaic too, like there was some power there it drew up or anchored to, and Eliot rose higher and came down harder on Quentin, fucking himself on Quentin with a strength that made his thighs and torso flex and ripple under his sweat-gleaming, sunkissed skin.

Then Eliot placed his hands on Quentin’s chest, and the power went into him, focusing inside him, and Quentin could feel Eliot’s magic surge through his body, familiar after so many years and so much cooperative magic. It felt almost as good as the sex, almost as good as the obvious love written on Eliot’s dear face. After a beat, Eliot leaned down once more toward Quentin’s mouth as Quentin strained upward for a kiss, and Eliot’s mouth clashed with his, surprisingly rough, drawing blood from Quentin’s split lip. Eliot suckled at it, licking away Quentin’s blood, and the magic responded, pulsing between them, and Quentin felt acutely seen, as if Eliot was scrying inside his head, as if Eliot knew every secret corner of him.

“My sad, sweet boy,” Eliot crooned before he soothed Quentin’s bruised lip with a swipe of his tongue. “Sad, sweet boy,” he echoed as he worked them both toward climax with brutal effectiveness. He knew just how to twist his hips, just how to drive Quentin crazy, and Quentin rushed to pull it together, to keep up, to match his hand on Eliot’s cock to the frenetic pace of Eliot’s hips.

Crying out, Eliot clenched around Quentin’s cock, and he pumped into Quentin’s fist, striping his chest with cum and panting, “C’mon, baby boy, fill me now.”

Quentin couldn’t help but obey, and the crescendo of sensation blanked his mind as he shot into Eliot’s tight, grasping body, surrendering to the sensations and the comfort of Eliot’s affection. The loneliness and loss had ebbed away, the hollow in Quentin’s heart filled with Eliot’s magic, with some ephemeral essence that felt like being hugged by El on the inside. That bliss washed through him in waves that ebbed only slowly, leaving him lax and sated as Eliot finally pulled off Quentin and stretched out beside him.

As Quentin caught his breath, Eliot drew runes in the spunk he’d left on Quentin’s belly, propped on one elbow and gazing down at him. “Love you, Q,” he said softly, barely audible.

“Love you, El.” Quentin watched Eliot’s fingers work. “You branding me, Daddy? What is this magic?”

Blood and sex and cum, building blocks of a lot of spells, some dark and some less so. “Trying to stay inside my mind?”

“Protection,” Eliot answered with a little smile. “Well, from bad moods. It’s supposed to prolong the afterglow, keep you in a sense of intimacy and well-being until this bogus refractory period ends and I can pound your cute little ass. Or, you know, until tomorrow morning, whichever comes first.”

“Ah, magical Prozac. Or Valium maybe?” Quentin grinned as he toyed with Eliot’s hair. “You know the way you look at me does that for me most of the time. I can’t believe we had a child and now he’s grown up and in the world. Us. We did that. We produced a child who is going out into the world to do good.”

The spell must be working because the sting of loss wasn’t as keen, but he was overwhelmed with gratitude to Eliot and love for everyone. “This is so not where I thought this quest was going to go.”

“Really? You didn’t picture us growing middle-aged together and teaching our teenager how to get ethically laid on an adventure across the Fillorian countryside like a hundred years in the past? Because this is exactly what I imagined.” Eliot’s wry grin and the tiny kiss he placed to Quentin’s brow brought with them a sense of rightness. Then Eliot said thoughtfully, “You’ll have to keep wearing my cum for the spell to work, I’m afraid, but you’re a filthy, dirty, nasty, kinky boy so you won’t mind that, I’m sure.”

Quentin wrinkled his nose. It was true, he was kinky, but drying cum got itchy, something he’d learned from being a dirty boy. Or kind of a lazy one. “It’ll crust off eventually. You’re going to want me to shower after the Mosaic, provided I don’t sweat it off.”

He supposed he could do the Mosaic shirtless, but he wasn’t going to do it naked. Too much risk with pointy tiles laying around.

“Mm well in theory it’ll keep working if it…ew…crusts off. That sounds disgusting, Quentin. Way to make it unsexy that you’re literally marked with my ejaculate. It should be hot, but now I’m vaguely unsettled.” Eliot made a face and then leaned in to give Quentin another kiss. Their lips lingered and then Eliot laughed softly. “I guess we really can’t take the whole day off. The puzzle isn’t going to solve itself.”

“I mean, we could. But maybe today’s the day. Or maybe… you have to try so many times before it just clicks in. I dunno.” Quentin pulled Eliot in for another kiss in apology that he made things weird. It was kind of his job, but he felt bad. But only so bad because of the spell. “You love me. You love that I’m awkward and weird.”

“I do. I do love your awkward weirdness that has persisted well into middle-age and will apparently be with you all your life no matter how much time you spend with an aggressively charming motherfucker like myself.” Eliot smiled and nuzzled Quentin before he pulled away and stood, proudly naked in the blazing Fillorian sun. “I suppose we should get on with it, much as I would cherish snuggling up to you until the sun bakes us both to a crispy golden brown and we smell like smeg and armpits.”

Quentin laughed as he sat up slowly. “Sounds more like my awkward weirdness is rubbing off on you.”

He reached down for his pants and undies and pulled them on. Standing, Quentin stretched, looking up into the big, beautiful sky, and he had to admit, he felt really good.

Chapter Text

Eliot Waugh had never imagined he’d be staring down sixty with such good grace. He’d always subscribed to the “die young and leave a pretty corpse” school of thought, really, but Quentin was a colossal mess and needed him, and Eliot had simply never found the right time to go out in a blaze of glory. Besides, he didn’t want to leave Q, not for any reason.

Maybe they were a little enmeshed after thirty-one years alone together in Fillory’s past, a little codependent, but Eliot had stopped fighting it ages ago. He just didn’t think about it. If he did, it would terrify him. So he put it resolutely out of mind and lived in the—usually really good—moment.

And this next batch of moments was going to be special. Their thirtieth anniversary, at least as Eliot counted it: The thirtieth anniversary of that first night together, just the two of them, confused and lost and fumbling toward meaning. The thirtieth anniversary of Quentin saying, “Hey,” and changing Eliot’s life forever.

So Eliot had been sneaking around, going into town with their new talking horse, Steve—Mr. Belvedere had retired years ago—and making plans to surprise Quentin under the guise of delivering cases of wine.

Not that Quentin wasn’t keenly aware Eliot was up to something, and it wasn’t as if it would escape Quentin’s notice that their anniversary was coming up. But Eliot wanted to make it amazing, do something to really show Quentin how grateful he was they still had each other in this apparently never-ending quest.

And not going to think about that too hard either.

Ted, his wife Bedelia, and their three kids had settled near Applecart on acreage adjacent to Stonefruit Orchard. While Ted had never achieved the magical prowess to take over Eliot’s winery, he did have the skills and talent to manage a vineyard with his family. When Brook and Cob had passed on, the cousins asked Ted to take over management of the orchard, too, and he made it thrive.

Ted’s grapes allowed Eliot to finally, blessedly drink a goddamn glass of real red wine. It wasn’t bad! Sort of Merlot-y and magically enhanced. Apparently an acquired taste, since his peach and plum wines still far outsold the grape variety, but Eliot and Q were delighted just the same. Eliot charged outrageously for the grape wine, making it desirable to wannabe sophisticates, which was exactly how Eliot liked it.

He sometimes thought Arielle must be watching them with pride, seeing how her fellas and her family had prospered.

As Quentin took an afternoon nap, Eliot accepted delivery of the object he’d been waiting for. He made the talking bear who delivered it help him set it up, tipped him well, and sent him off as Eliot performed a few necessary enchantments to what he suspected was Fillory’s first-ever barbecue grill. In the kitchen were some excellent smoked sausages, and he’d spent the morning baking fresh buns—not that Quentin had identified them as anything other than ordinary bread with the illusion charm Eliot cast on them—and there was beer in the chiller. Fresh corn cobs and myriad jars of pickled vegetables were on hand, as well as freshly whipped butter, a wheel of delicious aged white cheese, and Eliot’s secret recipe barbecue sauce.

By late afternoon, Ted and his family were milling around the yard, two boys and a girl playing silly games, and Eliot was dressed in his most dapper outfit, silver curls styled neatly, sipping a very pleasant sangria as he grilled. The sweet scent of apple pie wafted from inside the cottage as an apparently awake Quentin stood with the door open taking in the scene. Eliot lifted his wineglass in salute and then beckoned Quentin over with his barbecue tongs, beaming at him as he studied him for a reaction.

Quentin’s smile spread slowly and then he laughed, rolling his eyes as he headed straight for Eliot. “Don’t call me a sad sack this time.”

His eyes filled with happy tears as the grandkids squealed and ran for “Grandpa Cute.” They’d never really cottoned on to Eliot calling him Q. In their wee minds, Eliot called him Cute, so that’s what they called him, which seemed to please Quentin. “Were you guys just going to let me sleep through the party?”

“Course not. I just…wanted you to get your beauty sleep. Because you’re just really… I mean… Look at that mug.” Eliot wrapped his arm around Quentin’s waist and dragged him in, pinching his bearded chin as he turned his face toward Bedelia and Ted. “Look at this beast. He needs all the naps.”

The grandkids squealed with laughter and shouted more about Grandpa Cute, and Eliot laughed and nuzzled into Quentin’s neck, rubbing his stubble against Q’s throat. “You’re precious, but if you’d been awake, I couldn’t surprise you, now could I? Happy anniversary, baby.”

Bedelia aww’ed volubly, seeming as enchanted with her in-laws as she’d ever been. She draped herself over Ted’s side and whispered something to him that made him smile.

Straightening, Eliot demanded of Q, “Beer, red wine, peach wine, plum wine, or this really excellent sangria I made that’s got actual slices of fresh summer fruit in it and will make your lips taste like actual heaven?” After a beat, Eliot puckered up and tried to speak without unpuckering. “Taste.”

Ted rolled his eyes. “You two. You sure you want us here?”

Quentin chuckled and then leaned in to taste from Eliot’s lips, not at all coyly as he had when Ted was younger. Now he seemed to delight in trolling Ted and the kids. “Mm, definitely the sangria. So what do we have here? Brakebills Fillory?”

Their granddaughter, Arielle, pulled at Quentin’s pantleg, and he bent down and picked her up to hold on his hip. He would probably complain about Eliot letting him do that later, but Eliot knew better than to try to keep Quentin from cuddling the grandkids.

“You’re going to be too big to pick up soon,” Quentin said before blowing a raspberry on her cheek.

“No!” That was her favorite word, but Eliot suspected she meant just that. She loved to be carried. The boys were way more rambunctious, which Q often used as an excuse to dote on Ari. Eliot suspected Quentin just wanted the experience of raising a baby girl.

Her middle name was Margo, which touched Eliot, knowing it was because of the fond stories he’d told Ted about her. Rated PG, of course. He wondered if Margo would be flattered or appalled.

Eliot poured Quentin a glass of the sangria as Q snuggled the bab and then returned his attention to the grill. He’d carefully arranged the corn shucks and sausages just so, and he clucked his tongue at Quentin as he rotated the food for the prettiest grill markings. It smelled honestly orgasmic, and Eliot’s mouth was already watering.

The boys bumbled up with a ball, giggling and whining at the same time because baby Ari was getting all the snuggles. Eliot finished his own drink and set it aside before squatting laboriously so the boys could climb onto him and help him with the grill. They weighed a fucking ton, they were squirmy, and if Eliot wasn’t so used to manhandling an entire grown-ass Q around, he would probably collapse.

“All right, kids, I want you to observe how Grampa L does things.” He shot Ted a knowing glance and then looked toward Grandpa Cute. “When Q and I were young, we went to a special school together, and I liked to throw parties.”

Ted snorted. “So much has changed since then.”

“This?” Eliot snorted in turn, giving Ted a narrowed-eyed stare. “This is not an Eliot Waugh party. This is a private, intimate, family gathering. Tell ‘em, Q. Explain how old age has slowed me down.”

“And lack of entertaining space and a helpful cohost.” Quentin turned to Ari and grinned. “Aunt Margo was a much better cohost, but I’m told she was also far less distracting and ended fewer parties early due to… well… things that come up.”

Quentin laughed as Ted sighed and shook his head.

“Seriously, Grampa L was the king of parties. He’d make special cocktails and… who even knew what was in them, but they were always exactly what you wanted even if you didn’t even know that yourself. Lowered the grade point average of the whole cottage. I think the school, too.” Quentin didn’t edit himself as he once did for Fillorian ears. At this point, most who knew about them just thought they were a pair of kooks who made good drinks in the haunted cottage. “He always made sure everyone was having a great time. This is our…thirtieth? That makes me feel old.”

“You’ll never grow old, baby Q.” Eliot kissed Quentin’s whiskery cheek and smiled. “You’re still the same as ever.”

And Q was, in so many ways, still the passionate, confused, magical boy he’d always been. He still acted like Eliot was some kind of sophisticate, like he knew something Quentin didn’t. He was young at heart, and it made Eliot yearn for him in a way at once immediate and physical, but also deeper and more mystical that had only grown with the years.

After all this time, after all the magic between them, all their shared experiences, Quentin was as much a part of Eliot as his own soul.

The boys clambered over Eliot to reach for Ted as Eliot began serving the food. “Okay, everyone, we’re going to go in the back garden to eat.”

Quentin hadn’t yet seen the back garden, but Eliot couldn’t wait to show him. He’d done some illusions work to make the back of the cottage look like a miniature Physical Kids’ Cottage to really complete the barbecue scenario but with Quentin’s beautiful hand-wrought furniture for everyone to sit on instead of the Brakebills benches and tables. It was a merger of their two worlds, a potent reminder of where they’d started and where they’d ended up—and that they were doing this together, still, after so many years.

“Oh! Look at this!” Quentin’s eyes filled with tears as he looked around, a little more stiffly than he might’ve in years past. “Good ol’ Brakebills.”

Having said that, Quentin seemed to devolve into memories with a misty smile on his face. Ari wiggled to be let down, and he set her down carefully.

Ted was well aware of who his parents were and, to an extent, what they’d been. He knew a little magic, but Quentin had insisted on not too much so as not to affect the timeline of Fillory more than they already were, if they were. Peasants knowing magic could affect the Chatwins or any number of events that were to come.

Though, Quentin would sometimes say, all of that should be accounted for already, shouldn’t it?

It gave Eliot a headache to think about, so he would just nod. Ah, his kingdom for peyote.

For his part, Ted bore the strange references and stories with detached interest. There were so many things about their old lives that he couldn’t wrap his head around, and it wouldn’t benefit him to anyway. To Bedelia and the children, Ted played it all off as if his parents were kooky but harmless, and so she just gave Quentin an indulgent smile as he rambled on.

“That day I was so sure I was going to be expelled. I had that crystal with me, but my bags were packed and then…then I could stay and there you and Margo were. BBQing like an old married couple, laughing at god knows what, students already passed out from the rigors of your day drinking. Or maybe you two wore them out. I don’t know. But I’d never felt so at home before. Never belonged anywhere like that. I was so relieved.” Quentin moved to Eliot’s side and wrapped his arms around him. “I always liked to think that if my mind had been wiped and I’d been sent away, you would’ve found me anyway.”

“Promised I would, didn’t I?” Eliot hugged Quentin in turn and leaned in to press a soft kiss to Quentin’s brow. In an undertone, he whispered, “I was really looking forward to the seduction.”

Then, chuckling at their private joke, he looked toward where the grandkids were cavorting around with their sausages on buns, barbecue sauce staining their faces and fingers streaked with butter from the corn on the cob. Ted was nomming on a pickle with great gusto—Eliot had initially thought relish and then corrected himself because this situation was corny enough—and Bedelia appeared to be delighted simply to have two additional adults around to monitor their brood.

The sky above was broad and blue, studded with puffy white clouds, and the gentle breeze carried the scent of the woods as well as that of the grill. It was, Eliot thought, about as good as life could get. He gave Quentin’s hair a kiss and then shepherded him toward a bench with a plate of food and his glass of sangria. Eliot settled in beside him a few moments later with his own plate and started feeding Quentin as if Quentin couldn’t feed himself just fine.

“Corn is about a thousand times better here than it was on earth,” Eliot observed as they nibbled messily at a cob. “Or else I’m just so used to going without sugar that it tastes fucking incredible.”

“Bad word!”

Eliot looked over to see the younger of the boys—named Quentin but always called Pip for his habit of eating seeds that most people spit out—giving him a scandalized look. Raising a brow, Eliot leaned over, shook his corn cob at his grandson, and carefully enunciated, “Fucking incredible.”

“Papa!” Ted seemed like he wanted to scold, but Eliot saw the laughter beneath the façade.

Pulling an innocent face that seemed to work better now he was a harmless old man, Eliot said, “I’m teaching my grandkids about my culture.”

Pip just giggled wildly and nibbled his corn as if Eliot had made the world’s best argument for its deliciousness. Which he obviously had.

Quentin ate slowly, seeming a little lost to reverie, then snapped out of it to laugh at something crazy the grandkids did. Or to take a bite of the food Eliot fed him when he seemed to drift away too much. Overall, he looked very happy. He rested one hand on Eliot’s knee, giving it a squeeze when something appeared to particularly tickle him. When he seemed overwhelmed, he’d turn and press a sweet kiss on Eliot’s lips and smile as if he couldn’t believe this was his life.

It was a good life. Not one that Eliot would’ve chosen for himself, but one that made him happy. Especially on days like today, with Q in such a good mood, and their Teddy and the grandkids around.

“What’s for dessert?” Quentin asked before polishing off his second sangria.

“Fresh apple pie straight from our American memories,” Eliot said with a laugh. “I thought you might be tired of my peach cobbler and in the mood for nostalgia.” Eliot did make peach cobbler a lot. It was a miracle they weren’t both far chubbier. Probably all the sex-related cardio.

“Sit tight,” Eliot added as he pushed himself to his feet. His knees weren’t the greatest these days, and they creaked as he stood after having sat for so long, but it was what it was. He really should’ve paid more attention in his medical magic classes, but he’d never imagined a scenario where there wouldn’t be a healer available or… Honestly, on the same planet. And Fillorian doctors were hardly doctors.

The scent of the apple pie filled the cottage as he stepped inside and retrieved it from the oven, along with some fresh whipped cream from the chiller. He looked up as Bedelia followed him inside to help and accepted her kiss on the cheek with a smile.

“Smells delicious, Eliot. Thank you.”

He studied her for a moment and then sighed before nodding. “You’re welcome, Delia.”

Had Ted put her up to coming to help, or did Eliot just look so frail now she assumed he needed the assistance? He was a telekinetic marvel. He could move all their plates outside with his brain and a flick of his fingers.

Not that his fingers were as nimble as they had once been. And not that he hadn’t worn himself out with the illusion work and the magic he’d put into this batch of sangria. But still.

Hrmf.

Together they carried out trays of warm, fresh pie slices dolloped with fluffy white cream, and Eliot once more sank down gratefully next to Quentin. He was a little tired.

Really tired, if he was honest. It had been a long day.

Still, looking at his Q, he couldn’t help grinning mischievously and booping Quentin’s snoot with a dot of whipped cream. Laughing, Eliot leaned in and licked it off, prompting a chorus of giggles from the grandkids.

Quentin laughed and then dabbed some whipped cream on Eliot’s lips and wiped it away with a few quick flicks of his tongue. “Smells amazing, but you know I’ll never get tired of your peaches.”

The words sounded innocent enough, but the glimmer in Quentin’s eyes told a naughtier story. Should Eliot really have invited everyone today? Then again, they’d be leaving soon.

If need be, Eliot would politely suggest they depart.

Ari crawled up on the bench next to Quentin, and he scooted back to let her crawl into his lap where she could “help” him eat his apple pie once she’d finished hers.

“Thirty years. Hard to believe. Not sure I’ve had a relationship last much longer than thirty days before. Guess that’s a benefit of falling in love with your best friend.” Quentin had one arm around Ari and the other around Eliot, and he squeezed everyone close as Ari stuffed her face with pie with both hands while Quentin wasn’t watching her. “Happy anniversary, Eliot.”

“Happy anniversary, Quentin,” Eliot returned, ears burning with pleasure at Quentin’s words. He leaned over to kiss the corner of Quentin’s mouth, lips tickled by his soft white beard. Then he straightened in time to defend his pie from his elder marauding grandson, Eliot, named after him.

“This is for Grampa L. Go beg your mom.” Eliot ruffled Little Eliot’s hair and then shooed him away.

Bedelia mouthed, “Sorry,” and then shot Ari an indulgent look where she was sucking gooey apple from her stubby fingers, absolutely spoiled rotten.

The sun was getting lower, shadows stretching across the verdant lawn. The forest cast a chill over the clearing, and Eliot snuggled closer to Quentin as if he could protect him from it. He sipped his sangria and ate his pie, watching Quentin interact with the grandkids—he seemed to have so much more energy for it than Eliot did now—and tried not to get too freaked out that they’d been doing this for an entire lifetime without hope of reprieve.

Looking at Q, though… It was worth it, wasn’t it? He’d always wanted Q, from the moment he saw him, and now Q was his. It hadn’t really been Quentin’s first choice, and if Arielle had lived, Eliot didn’t know how it would’ve turned out long-term, but it was a good life. Eliot was proud of his wine empire, proud of Quentin’s inexhaustible mathematical options for puzzle solutions, proud of their handsome, charming Ted and his lovely wife Bedelia and their beautiful grandchildren, all of whom bore the Coldwater-Waugh name.

He exhaled long and slow, satisfied, and whispered to Quentin, “You’ve given me a life worth living, Coldwater. No regrets.”

“Not even Lunk?” Quentin whispered back at Eliot, brows raised. Sometimes he did that, bringing up men from their past, men that Quentin apparently felt inferior to no matter what anyone said or did. At least now he seemed to be mostly joking.

Two could play at that game, but Quentin didn’t give him a chance, instead covering his mouth with another kiss.

Unlike Ted, Ari didn’t seem totally repulsed by them, but she was impatient with not being the center of attention, so after a quiet whine, she slipped off Quentin’s lap to return to her mom’s. “Mama, I’m sleepy.”

Eliot smiled against Quentin’s lips and whispered, “I think they’re going to leave us to our own devices in a moment.”

Then Bedelia spoke up, beating out Ted’s apparent embarrassment at his fathers kissing. “We’ll clean up before we go.”

For a moment, Eliot considered telling them it was unnecessary, but then he realized he’d rather save his strength for anniversary sex and acquiesced. “Thank you, Delia.”

Ted gathered up the plates on trays as Bedelia cleaned Ari for the trip home. Little Eliot and Pip rushed around trying to help their dad. Eliot stayed put, arm around Q, remnants of a sangria in his free hand, and pressed his lips to Quentin’s ear to whisper, “Not Lunk. Not Henning. Not Ari’s cute little brother. You’re second to none, Q.”

Quentin grinned, a full smile, one of those that was so rare back on earth. Eliot got them easily now that Quentin seemed so contented. “Look at that, Ted helping out. Delia has done what we couldn’t, El. She’s trained him to help.”

“She did not. I can just see you two hobbling around everywhere and don’t want you passing off all the chores to my wife.” Ted grinned back at them, wrinkling his nose playfully at their gentle jibes.

Laughing, Quentin stood up and helped out as well, hindered by Ari, who demanded to be carried while they worked. “You know I don’t have any more apple pie for you, right?”

“I know,” she said, clinging to Quentin, toying with his beard. “We’re gonna go soon so I want more hugs.”

That appeared to melt Quentin, and he did his best to help finish up and then bundled Ari up for the trip home in the cart pulled by Steve.

Just Steve.

“Get them home safe for us, Steve.”

“Always do,” he huffed. Not as fun as Mr. Belvedere, but he did his job, and that was all anyone could ask.

Eliot walked around the cart doling out small forehead kisses and pressing little gifts on the children—Grampa L always gave lots of presents, usually candy and toys, because grandchildren should be spoilt—before returning to Q’s side and watching as they headed off, little voices calling out to Grandpa L and Grandpa Cute. It was less dramatic these days when Ted left the cottage. He lived just down the road, and it was no great effort to see them all.

Really, they were lucky. Eliot had never imagined having a family he’d so enjoy spending time with. But here he was, arm around Q’s shoulders, gazing after the cart as their son and his own family vanished around the curve of the road and into the trees.

Then he turned his attention on Quentin and raised a brow. “What are you in the mood for, Coldwater?” Before Quentin could answer, Eliot reeled him in for a kiss, laughing a little at the tickle of Quentin’s beard before turning the kiss absolutely filthy, all tongue and wine-drunk hunger. He wasn’t young anymore, and maybe he couldn’t go all night, but Quentin still did something to him, something thrilling and gut-twisting and inimitable.

“Didn’t get my dessert. Might have to settle for some cake?” Quentin squeezed Eliot’s ass, which was always a winner in Eliot’s book. “Wanna do it back behind the cottage, like we’re at Brakebills? We can keep our eyes out for Dean Fogg to come and tell us we’re expelled for public indecency.”

Quentin held up his hand before Eliot could object. “I don’t need to know you’ve been caught and that’s not what he says.”

Eliot smirked. Quentin was a mind-reader. “Okay, Q. Let’s go back to Brakebills and risk our academic futures for a piece of each other.”

He laughed about it, but honestly… Eliot probably would’ve risked his academic future for a piece of Quentin back then, before he knew they’d have a lifetime together, before Eliot knew Quentin was capable of falling for him.

Taking Quentin’s hand, Eliot drew him back around the cottage to the Brakebillsian setting, now drenched in evening light and long shadows. Eliot gathered the blankets the kids had sat on in the grass and spread them out to make a place big enough for two grown men. He sank down gingerly, mindful of his stiff joints, and grinned up at Quentin as he held out his hands to him, beckoning him to join him.

Quentin got down more nimbly, but in fairness it was a shorter distance. He sat next to Eliot and summoned their sangrias as the sun set behind the trees. With another couple of gestures, the torches were lit, reminding Eliot of that special first night.

Thirty years since that, thirty-one since they’d come to Fillory. It seemed impossible. At the beginning, each day seemed to drag immeasurably, but now it felt as if time flew by, marking them gently with streaks of gray and white and a softening of their bellies, lines around their eyes and mouths. Laugh lines that Eliot saw blossom and grow.

Would Quentin’s face be lined the same way if they hadn’t been here? Would his brows furrow heavier and his lips draw downward?

Quentin grinned at Eliot. “Hey. Where’d you go?”

“I was just thinking how absolutely perfect you look in this light,” Eliot replied with a little smile as he reached up to tug at Q’s beard. “This is who we became together, left to our own devices, and it suits you.”

The thought of all the other paths they could’ve taken might always haunt a part of Eliot, but looking at Q like this, those things seemed so far away. He sighed and leaned in to kiss Quentin softly, more to reassure Quentin he wasn’t drifting than anything, but as their mouths met, that low simmering want piqued in Eliot’s belly, and he bit gently at Quentin’s bottom lip and tugged, mischievous, and pulled back to look into Quentin’s eyes.

“Given all the apocalypses we faced in the other world, I don’t know if we’d have made it to this advanced age.” That thought seemed to sober Quentin. He paused and looked down, then cupped Eliot’s face to kiss him more fiercely and possessively. This was nothing like the first tentative kiss they’d shared, but one more sure, practiced and tender.

Quentin leaned in, moving Eliot onto his back where Quentin straddled him and started working open his tunic. “You sure this isn’t a spot where Dean Fogg will find us?”

Eliot laughed and raised an eyebrow, playing along. “Fogg never looks behind the cottage. He doesn’t want to know what goes on out here.” He smiled as Quentin undressed him, reaching out to slide his fingers into Quentin’s soft white hair. It was pulled back in a low ponytail, so Eliot gently untied it and tugged the long strands loose. “It’s completely safe. Well,” he added, smiling wider, “Mostly.”

“Mostly?” Quentin shook his hair out. It was long and wild, making him appear wizardy and magical. He untied his wrap tunic and slid it off before looking around with feigned nervousness. “Who is going to find us, Eliot? Magic is my life. I can’t get expelled.”

“You won’t get expelled, Coldwater. I’ll take the fall. I’ll tell everyone I seduced you, and you were so blindsided with desire you just went along with my crazy plan to fuck behind the cottage when we had perfectly good beds twenty-five yards away.” Eliot beamed up at Quentin, more than a little charmed, and ran his hands over Quentin’s shoulders and chest.

Everything was so soft now, their skin papery and delicate, their muscles not as defined but their veins standing out just the same. And Quentin was still beautiful to him, which seemed crazy to the shallow boy he’d once been but only made sense to the man he’d become. Of course Quentin was still beautiful. With those soulful eyes, with that sweet smile, how could he ever be anything but beloved?

He pinched Quentin’s nipple playfully and whispered, “We won’t get caught, Q. We’ll set wards. No one will find us. It’ll be our secret. It has to be outside; if we did it inside, people would know. People would talk.”

Quentin’s eyes fluttered shut at the squeeze, and he let out a soft moan before unfastening his pants. He managed to shuffle out of his them with surprising grace, considering. “Yeah, I don’t want to damage your reputation by having people know you’re into me.”

He bit his bottom lip before leaning down to kiss Eliot. His soft white hair smelled of peach and mint as it flowed over Eliot’s face and body, almost ticklish. Eliot sighed his pleasure and arched upward, pressing closer to Quentin and tangling both hands in his hair, holding him close as their tongues slid together.

Then, slightly snarky, Eliot murmured, “Everyone with eyes already knows I’m into you. Not pretending they understand—you dress like a hobo—but there’s something so cute about you I can’t stop staring.”

“A hobo?” Quentin laughed against Eliot’s lips. He nuzzled Eliot’s face before kissing him again, tugging lightly on Eliot’s chin before he started moving down to kiss his neck, fuzzy beard tickling him again. “Here I am thinking I’m serving Dumbledore realness.”

Eliot chuckled helplessly, unable to resist between the tickling and the idea of Quentin serving lewks. Dumbledore realness indeed. Quentin probably did think of himself like that. Still laughing, Eliot squirmed a little under Quentin even as he tipped his head back, giving Quentin more room.

“I take it back. Iconic queer wizard fabulosity. Ravish me at will, professor.”

“Yeah, I run this bitch. Don’t forget it.” Quentin pulled back and grinned at Eliot, so silly and wonderful, though Dumbledore was maybe not the sex bomb that Quentin thought. He nuzzled his way down Eliot’s body, hair tickling, tongue rolling around Eliot’s nipple, moving so sweetly. “Remember how we were going to save all our overthinking for the puzzle?”

“Oh god, let’s save our overthinking for the puzzle,” Eliot groaned and laughed simultaneously. After thirty years, he had surely escaped the DTR convo, right? Defining the relationship was for the young. Quentin and Eliot were almost definitely common-law husbands decades ago.

He pushed Quentin’s hair out of the way so he could look at Quentin’s face. “I love you, Q. If Fogg catches us, that’s what I’ll tell him. ‘I love Quentin Coldwater.’ Just like that. He’ll be so shocked I’m capable of romance that he’ll give us a pass on it this time.”

“Yeah? Would you really tell him that?” Quentin’s eyes sparkled in the growing gloom. He raced up Eliot’s body to kiss him again, happily and with enthusiasm. It was as if he couldn’t get over Eliot saying he loved Quentin. Each time was met with the same puppyish pleasure. Quentin practically wagged his tail. “I won’t tell him anything because your dick will be in my mouth.”

Keeping to his word, Quentin slid back down, settling between Eliot’s legs to wrap his lips around the tip of Eliot’s cock, gazing up at him with that sweet merriment that made him seem like he was still a twentysomething behind the Physical Kids’ cottage at Brakebills.

For a few years at the start, Eliot had wondered if he’d ever get over this, if it would ever stop being so fucking endearing, but he’d learned a long time ago this was just his personal kink. Just Quentin’s sparkling eyes, Quentin’s genuine pleasure in giving pleasure to Eliot. He was so unutterably, indescribably precious, and Eliot loved him with an aching ferocity that mellowed only a little with the passing years.

As Quentin mouthed Eliot’s cock, he let out a shuddery breath and gathered all Quentin’s hair in one hand, holding it out of the way and arching his hips, just a little demanding. “I really would,” he answered belatedly, suddenly remembering they’d been talking. “I’d tell Fogg I loved you, and he’d just stare at me like I’d grown an extra head, tsk at us, and walk off grumbling about how we could at least set some wards.”

Eliot was trying to keep up with the game, but Quentin’s mouth was so distracting, and he hissed as Quentin took him a little deeper, making Eliot’s cock twitch. He sucked in a deep breath and whispered, “You’re unfairly good at this. Practice makes perfect, and you are. Perfect, baby Q.”

Quentin grabbed the base of Eliot’s cock as he pulled away. Saliva dribbled down it in a way that was simultaneously kind of naughty and highly enjoyable.

“Thanks, Daddy.” He smirked up at Eliot before he swallowed his cock, drawing it deep into his throat and taking it with an ease Eliot thought might rival his own. But, in fairness, Quentin had learned from the best.

Eliot just moaned incoherently and pulled Quentin’s hair a little, playfully, and rolled his hips. He eased himself back and forth through Quentin’s lips, fucking his face gently and making needy little sounds he couldn’t begin to help. It felt so good, and Eliot just basked in the fact this was for him, that after three decades, it was still for him. Quentin still wanted him this much. They were still this crazy about each other.

Maybe it was because there was no one else. Maybe it was because they were united by an impossible quest. But whatever it was, Eliot wasn’t going to feel anything but gratitude that Quentin’s master-level cocksucking skills were being employed for his benefit.

“My darling Q,” Eliot whispered, the words bubbling up from deep inside him as Quentin’s wet, hot mouth drove him slowly mad. “Thirty years. I’ve been so happy with you, baby Q. So happy with you all this time. You’re the best relationship I’ve ever had with a man. Just…the best, Q. The very best.” His voice hitched, and he tightened his hand in Quentin’s hair. “Just feels so good, baby boy. That feels so good.”

Quentin lifted off Eliot’s cock again, pulling it with his hand as he grinned down at Eliot. “You’re the best relationship I’ve ever had. Just… period. I love you. Also… thirty years is the pearl anniversary. Think I deserve a necklace.”

Before Eliot could react, Quentin swallowed him down again and started to probe his opening, lubed fingers moving swift and certain. Eliot just groaned low and lusty and spread his legs wider, giving Quentin room to maneuver.

“You’re such a dirty boy, Q,” Eliot murmured approvingly, so distracted by bliss he couldn’t formulate a more original thought. He clenched around Quentin’s fingers, shifting to get them right where he wanted them, chasing after the tips as Quentin tried to tease him.

“Fucking—Q, give me—Uh!” Eliot protested, writhing a little and trying not to throw out his goddamn back while still pursuing that elusive sensation. He pulled Quentin’s hair a little harder and fucked his mouth, panting for breath already. “Q, just… C’mon, Q. Brat.

Quentin lifted his head again and grinned as he slid two fingers into Eliot, curling them just so. “Sorry, Daddy.”

He lowered his head and kissed and licked the stretched skin, teasing with the tip of his tongue. Then he tilted his head and sucked Eliot’s balls, now bratty in a totally different way, though it was difficult to complain, because everything he did felt amazing.

“You’re the worst,” Eliot grumbled, but he loved it. He flexed his toes and shifted restlessly, more aroused by Q’s brattiness than he’d ever admit. He wrapped his legs around Quentin’s back, pinning him in place, and tightened his fingers against Quentin’s scalp. “If you want that pearl necklace, you’re gonna have to work for it.”

“Oh am I?” Quentin looked playfully defiant as he gazed up at Eliot. Admittedly, it was difficult to really see his expression with Eliot’s massive dick in the way but somehow it came across. “You want me to stay down here or you want me to fuck you until you’re right there and then let you come on my chest?”

“What if…” Eliot narrowed his gaze at Quentin and reached down to flatten his cock against his stomach so he could see him better. “What if you fuck me until I’m right there, and I hold out valiantly, just long enough to properly bestow upon your beard-y neck the glorious spunk jewelry you so covet? And then we’ll go take a long shower and I’ll wash your beard for you and comb the beard oil through it and pamper you obnoxiously.”

“Deal.” Quentin shrugged out of Eliot’s grip and crawled up his body enough to press against his opening. He grinned down at Eliot, then flipped his hair to one side so it was more in control. “You want it like this? Your back is okay? Need a pillow?”

Eliot would be insulted but he noticed that Quentin had gathered the blankets around his knees to pad them from the hard ground, so he was probably just being sweet. “I’d hate for Fogg to think I was inconsiderate if he walks in on me plowing you.”

“Oh, that would be awful. You’d never recover if Fogg thought you weren’t a thoughtful lover.” Eliot laughed because he suspected Quentin’s admiration of Fogg went awkwardly far, but in this context, that was just hilarious.

Rolling his shoulders and stretching, Eliot considered and then summoned pillows telekinetically because he could. He slipped one under his hips and lower back and then handed another to Quentin to put under his knees. Once they were both situated in deference to their various aches and pains, Eliot smiled up at Quentin and reached for him with both hands. “C’mon, Q. Fuck me. I’m ready.”

“I thought we were still doing a thing.” Quentin snickered before getting himself back into position. He cast another quick lubrication spell. He teased Eliot a little with the tip of his cock, then slid in firmly, taking Eliot in just the way that he liked it—a little abrupt, forcing Eliot open—and then Quentin angled his hips just so, moving until Eliot moved against him. Once he found that spot, he stayed there.

He really was a very considerate lover; even when they were playing rough, he’d check in and dote. He spoiled Eliot, and Eliot couldn’t help loving it.

“Mm,” Quentin moaned before leaning down to catch Eliot’s lips, thrusting inside of him, growing more aggressive and possessive as he built a steady rhythm.

“Oh, Q,” Eliot sighed, winding his legs around Quentin and holding him close as he threw back his head and gloried in being taken like this by the man he loved.

Thirty years.

It was almost too much to wrap his head around. Eliot clung to Quentin and moved with him, heat pooling liquid beneath his skin like it always had, untouched by time. This was his life, and it was good.

Eliot embraced his fate. He would grow old here with Q, just the two of them, and someday, somehow, they’d solve the puzzle. Eliot still believed that. It was possible to believe almost anything with Quentin touching him like this, with Quentin making him feel young and reckless.

After so many years, Quentin knew exactly what he was doing, exactly how to drive Eliot right out of his mind. Eliot clutched Quentin as he rocked into his thrusts, laughing a little in sheer delight at doing this out behind the cottage like kids. The bliss of it sang through his veins, and he arched to rub his cock against Quentin’s belly.

Quentin lowered onto one arm, bending his elbow and using his other hand to grip Eliot between them. He moved steadily and intensely, instinct and need for release temporarily overcoming the stiffness in his joints.

Now it was just as they always were, a strange sort of magic between them that Eliot was pretty sure was more than just his homebrew sex magic experiments, but the warmth and tenderness between them.

“I love you, El. Love you so much.”

It was hard to argue after thirty years, all that trust and caring, raising a child together. The happiness that Eliot had never expected to feel, especially with such a simple, domestic life. He was so full of Quentin, so full of the sweet beauty of that life.

“Love you, Q,” Eliot whispered, flexing around Quentin’s shaft, arching into his grip, fucking between his cock and his hand slow and needy. It was all he could bear, suffusing his weary body with such pleasure and making his soul rise up, yearning toward Q’s, aching to be closer.

Sighing his exultation, Eliot tightened his legs around Quentin and pulled him in, demanding more, taking Quentin as deep as he could go and then grinding against him greedily. Desperate little noises spilled out of Eliot’s mouth, soft, half-vocalized babbling as he lost his wits to the flow of their bodies together. Quentin was being a little rough, just the way Eliot wanted, but there was still such gentleness in his expression, and Eliot stared at Quentin’s perfect, dear face beneath his lowered lashes as he writhed into every thrust.

“Just a little,” Eliot begged, half-coherent. “A little more, just a little.”

It wasn’t going to take much with Quentin’s fingers curled around his cock like this, with Quentin pounding into him just right, spearing him open, rubbing insistently against his prostate and making sparks fly across the red velvet inside Eliot’s eyelids. He pulled Quentin’s long hair and bucked upward harder, not caring that he’d regret it later when his back got stiff. Right now all that mattered was this moment, the way Quentin fucked him, the perfect connection of their bodies and the smell of the green grass crushed under their blanket.

“Mm, don’t forget my necklace.” Quentin gazed down at Eliot, that soft smile on his face. It was so sweet that Eliot almost forgot how naughty Quentin could be. “You want one? Because if you do… getting close.”

“Oh, do I get jewelry too now?” Eliot laughed and struggled upward to catch Quentin in a kiss, panting with the effort and the pounding and everything else and laughing again at how ridiculous it was. He pressed their lips together almost chastely and then kissed Quentin harder, fingers gliding through his hair to cradle his nape, holding Quentin steady as Eliot licked into his mouth and stroked their tongues together.

When he ran out of breath, he relaxed back against the blanket and just beamed up at Quentin. “It’s our anniversary,” Eliot mumbled, feeling dazed and well-fucked and right on the edge of a really beautiful climax. “I think we both deserve to be complete and utter filthy messes. Just the nastiest, sappiest old men in Fillory.”

“Yes.” Quentin’s thrusts grew rougher, and he bit his own bottom lip, brow furrowed as he started to make those sexy, deep, guttural noises that meant he was getting close. Then he backed off and moved his hand to his own cock as he pulled Eliot up to sitting, Quentin on his lap.

Once they were in position, Quentin returned his hand to Eliot’s cock. Eliot closed his on Quentin’s shaft, and they pointed their cocks at each other, breath coming in loud gasps. It felt reckless and ridiculous and somehow deeply immature, but Eliot loved it. Thirty years later, they were still horny dorks just making their own fun.

“What would Fogg think?” Eliot teased as he leaned in to kiss Quentin again between breathless chuckles. “He was always so worried I’d corrupt you. Now look at you.”

Eliot jerked Quentin’s cock hard and fast, keeping pace with Quentin’s hand on Eliot, though it was an act of will to focus when all Eliot wanted to do was squirm under Quentin’s weight and fuck into his hand while he clenched around the emptiness Quentin had left inside him.

“Worried? He sent you to get me!” Quentin let out another laugh and then shuddered. “Come on, El. Come on. Come for me.”

Quentin was growing breathier and more determined, grinding into Eliot’s fist until he cried out, leaning into it. Jizz spattered onto Eliot’s chest, decorating him and rolling downward. Even though he was spending himself, Quentin kept up the pace, pulling on Eliot, concentrating hard so Eliot could come.

It didn’t take much more than that to tip Eliot over the edge, and somehow it was Quentin’s sweet determination more than anything that hit Eliot hardest. That love, that pure, selfless need for Eliot to be happy, Quentin’s insatiable drive to do right by Eliot. It was, somehow, both perfectly innocent and unbelievably arousing, and Eliot let out a soft, gut-punched gasp as he came.

The sheer joy of it blanked Eliot’s mind for long enough that he’d forgotten what he was doing when he finally relaxed again and batted Quentin’s hand away from Eliot’s oversensitive cock. Then he realized Quentin’s long, white beard was absolutely glittering with “pearls” and started laughing.

“Oh my god, we’re such messes,” he drawled as he grabbed Quentin by his sticky beard and pulled him in for another kiss.

Quentin laughed against Eliot’s lips and kissed him sloppily between chuckles. He wiggled on Eliot’s lap, and they just kissed, tacky and a little clammy in the cooling air, but perfect just the same. When Quentin sat like this, it put them on the same level, making kissing easier.

“I guess we could’ve planned that better.” Q pressed his forehead to Eliot’s and held him, legs wrapping around his waist to draw him in. “It was a perfect day, Eliot. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Q. I expended all my planning energy on the grill and décor and exactly none of it on the pearl necklaces, but I feel we’re both beautifully adorned.” Eliot stroked his hands over Quentin’s hair and down his back, caressing him reverently. It still seemed impossible they’d had thirty years of this when Eliot’s desire for Quentin still burned as brightly as it ever had, tempered and banked with the wisdom of years but unmistakably yet a fire.

Sighing, Eliot kissed Quentin’s wayward eyebrows and his whiskery cheeks, covering him in affection, and then smacked his ass. “Up, Coldwater. It’s time for our shower. If my spunk dries in your beard, it’s never coming out.”

“You promised to oil it.” Quentin grinned as he got up and then offered a hand to Eliot to help him up. “I’m holding you to all of it. Leave it Brakebillsy for a bit. I think we can get a few more good nights out of it.”

“Yeah?” Eliot let Quentin pull him to his feet and went in for another kiss. “We can leave it Brakebills as long as you want. If we keep tempting fate, Fogg’s bound to show up eventually.”

Still holding Q’s hand, Eliot tugged him along toward the shower, a dumb, fond smile on his face every time he glanced at Quentin. They’d grown old, but they’d never entirely grown up.

That was just as Eliot liked it.