The city is a bustle of energy, always, even during easy hours. There’s something about the nonstop noise of New York that Eliot never quite got over, after years of living in a quiet backwoods Indiana town where the loudest noise he experienced was probably his father’s tractor starting up. Here, nothing was ever quiet, and he found that he liked that a lot. The hum of background noise was comforting almost, even if it was road raging cab drivers and sirens.
Eliot finds himself a bit hungry as he rounds the corner, heading home from Margo’s apartment after having crashed at her place for the night. It had been a planned crash, a night off which they filled with drinking wine and eating junk food while watching Gossip Girl instead of their usual partying. It wasn’t like Eliot didn’t get in a lot of party time in the first place, he owned a rather popular club called Mosaic. He often tended the bar when he was really in the mood, he was the best bartender the place had ever seen. He was the best bartender any bar had ever seen, he was sure of that much.
But last night had been a night off, and after a late breakfast and a lot of dawdling around, Eliot had finally left. He hadn’t eaten since ten o’clock, and now it was closer to three, which meant he needed sustenance. He glances up at the sign of a cute little diner window he almost passes by, strangely named The Hedge by the swirly cursive black letters in the window that top a decal of a plain green hedge in a long red planter. Eliot shrugs and steps inside, deciding to take a look around.
It’s decently busy for in between hours, which seems promising, and there’s a smell of coffee, pastries, and something greasy cooking. There’s two people in line at the counter, and a few others scattered about through the tables, booths, and barstools. There’s a man at the counter taking orders, writing things down on a pad of paper as well as typing it up on the register before him.
By the time Eliot approaches the counter, the first person in line takes their receipt and heads off to find a seat, the other one stepping up. Eliot gets in line behind him, eyes scrolling the menu board above for what he’d like. There’s a guy sitting at the barstool, a mostly eaten order of fries and the remnants of a burger on his plate while he reads from a book on the counter.
He’s cute, Eliot notices the way his feet hang precariously off the ground from his stool and don’t even reach the rest made for people’s feet to perch on. He watches the young man quickly tuck a strand of hair behind his ear, smiling softly down at his book as he flips the page.
“Can I help you?” The man at the front pulls his attention away from the cute guy, and he finds that this boy is also very cute. His nametag dubs him James, and he has very pretty blue eyes.
“I’ll have whatever he’s having,” He jerks a thumb over towards the young man at the bar stool, who glances up with a small frown. “Seems like a guy with good taste.” He says, smirking slyly at the young man, who blushes and ducks his head, hiding behind a curtain of long hair.
“All right,” James looks hesitant, but he rings Eliot up, who then pays shortly afterwards. “Coming right up.” He gives Eliot another wary glance, which he decides must be a mild case of homophobia, then steps away.
Eliot steps up to the bar stools, placing his hand on the one next to the young man he had his eyes on. The man fidgets with his book, picking it up and putting it down, grabbing his drink to take a sip from the straw. The awkward factor adds to the attractiveness, he always did love little nerds who didn’t know what to do with themselves.
“May I sit?” He asks politely, the young man nods his head shyly, Eliot gracefully stands on his toes and slides onto the seat. “Thank you.” He smiles, propping his arm up on the bar and turning the rotating stool so he can face the other. “I’m Eliot.”
“Quentin,” He sticks a hand out, Eliot notes it’s rather sweaty when he shakes it.
“What are you reading?” He asks, leaning over slightly to look, Quentin quickly closes the book.
“O-Oh it’s nothing.” He tries to hide the book away on his lap, but Eliot catches sight of the title.
“Fillory… I think my friend has those.” He says, turning his head when the server sets his drink down.
“You’ve never read them?” Quentin inquires gently, Eliot shakes his head.
“Not much of a reader, although I like audio books.” He doesn’t mention the fact that he’s dyslexic, as he isn’t one to share such things when trying to pick someone up. “Is it worth the read?” He reaches carefully, taking the book from Quentin and glancing over the cover.
“I’ve read each of them about a million times, so I’m probably biased.” He offers with a nervous chuckle, Eliot nods his head and sets the book down on the counter.
“Maybe you could tell me about them?” He asks, looking for a reason to keep the man around, who seems at the end of his meal.
“I-I wish I could, but I have to get going, I’m supposed to meet a friend.” He explains, Eliot hides his disappointment, nodding slowly. “But I come here a lot, maybe we could meet up here tomorrow around this time?” He grimaces a little as he suggests the idea, as if unsure as to whether Eliot would think it a good idea or not.
“It’d be my pleasure,” He assures, Quentin grins and slides out of his chair, leaning between the stools and into Eliot’s space to grab his book. He grabs his satchel off the counter, throwing it over his shoulder and tucking the book inside.
“Tomorrow, at 3.” Quentin says to make sure, Eliot nods his head and offers his hand again, which Quentin takes. He pulls on it gently, turning his hand palm down and leaning over to kiss the back of his hand. Quentin’s face turns a dark color and he lets out what might be the cutest nervous giggle Eliot has ever heard.
“It’s a date.” He says softly, Quentin nods and then scurries out. Eliot turns to his plate with a victorious smile, picking up a fry and biting into it.
The next day, Eliot wakes up around noon, having spent a late night in the club. He gets showered, dressed, and out the door by two. He doesn’t want to be late for his date, Quentin seemed like the worrying type and he didn’t want the man to think Eliot stood him up. When he shows up to the Hedge, he spots Quentin inside, on his same stool. He seems to be eating the same meal as last time, and Eliot finds it odd that he had ordered without him.
He steps into the diner, spotting a woman behind the counter, talking to Quentin. They’re smiling and talking, she says something that has him grinning into his hand. He feels a flare of jealousy that he immediately squashes down, jealousy was ugly.
“Ordered without me, then?” He slides up onto the stool next to Quentin, the young man turns his eyes to Eliot and looks at him blankly. “The same thing as well, you are a creature of habit.” He jokes with a small smile, Quentin’s eyebrows cinch together and he frowns.
“D-Do I know you?” He asks hesitantly, Eliot blinks in surprise.
“Wow, that’s a little rough.” He says with an awkward chuckle, adjusting his legs against the perch of the stool and turning towards the counter. “If you didn’t want to go on a date, you should have just said.” He mutters, Quentin continues to stare at him, an intense frown on his face.
“Oh-kay…” He says, as if Eliot was the crazy one here. “Jules, I have to go, my dad’s expecting me.” He says, leaning over the counter to see the woman who had crouched beneath it.
“Why would you even show up if you didn’t want to go out?” Eliot finds himself saying, a little pissed off that he had been anticipating this date only to get fucking humiliated by this dickhead. Quentin gives him another look, sliding off his stool. The woman behind the counter is giving him a bit of a glare, Quentin turns and hurries out, glancing back with an almost nervous look on his face.
“Hey,” The young woman smacks a towel on the counter in front of him, he scowls. “Leave him alone.” She insists, Eliot scoffs and shakes his head.
“I guess you’re his girlfriend, well just so you know he agreed to go on a date with me yesterday.” He says with a jerk of his thumb over his shoulder, the woman, whose nametag says Julia, sighs and glances down at the table.
“I’m not his girlfriend, and he doesn’t remember that.” She says, mopping up something near the end of the counter. Eliot gives an incredulous bark of laughter, did she really think he was going to believe that?
“You expect me to believe that?” He snorts, Julia gives him a serious look.
“About a year ago, he got into an accident, a really bad accident. He hit his head, and he lost his short-term memory, he really doesn’t remember you.” She snaps at him, Eliot leans back on his stool, letting out a heavy exhale. Damn, that was heavy shit.
“So what, he doesn’t remember anything?” He asks, Julia leans against the counter on her elbows.
“He remembers everything up until March of last year, the day before his accident. Every day he does the same things, lives the same day, and when he wakes up the next day he does it again.” She tells him, picking up the rag and stepping back. “You gonna order something?” He shakes his head so she turns around and heads back into the kitchen, leaving Eliot with his thoughts.
Same day, every day. A sad existence, an oblivious one surely, and if Eliot just went about his way it would never be anything different. He wondered how Quentin would react day after day, waking up to being older. He’d never meet anyone, never get married, just keep living day to day.
But that was none of his business, he slides off his stool and walks out.
It takes a week before he realizes he can’t forget it, he wishes he could. But every day around three, it doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he thinks about how Quentin is most likely sitting at that same stool eating the same thing. It’s ridiculous, how he can’t shake some poor sap who wasn’t even the hottest guy he’d ever met from his mind.
One afternoon, he wakes up with an idea, and decides that there’s not much to lose.
When he steps into The Hedge at three, Quentin is there, reading his book. He doesn’t see Julia, there’s nobody really at the front counter, so he takes the chance to step up to the stools. He pulls himself up onto one, leaving space between himself and Quentin. The young man barely glances up at him, and they share a brief smile.
“What are you reading?” He asks casually, Quentin glances over at him and his eyes flash with panic.
“Um…” He closes the book, showing Eliot the cover, who nods his head.
“Those are kids books, right?” He questions, Quentin blanches a little, and he pulls his book off the table and grabs his satchel. “No, no, that wasn’t a dig.” He assures, Quentin shakes his head and slides off his stool.
“I have to go.” He turns and hurries away, Eliot sighs and watches him go, feeling defeated.
“What’s your game?” He startles, turning and finding Julia standing before him. “He doesn’t need you snooping around, he’s happy.” She insists, Eliot shakes his head.
“What would he say if he knew?” He asks with a tilt of his head.
“He doesn’t. Leave. Him. Alone.” She points a finger at him, then jerks a thumb towards the window leading into the kitchen. “Or I’ll have my cook throw you out.” She says, and Eliot catches sight of a dark-skinned man staring out curiously at him, who quickly disappears.
“Whatever.” Eliot sighs, and gets up.
He gets there at two-thirty the next day and stands around outside not far from the door to the diner. He must look like an idiot, leaned against the side of a building for twenty minutes, especially in this weather. It’s cold outside, but luckily there’s no rain, and it’s not long before he sees Quentin coming.
He quickly realizes that it’s not going to seem too great if he just walks up to a guy on the street to flirt with him, so he figures out a different approach. Eliot pretends he’s looking down at his phone and slams right into the guy, both of them stumbling and Quentin hitting the ground on his ass.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” He reaches down and offers the young man his hand, Quentin flashing him an embarrassed smile and takes it, getting to his feet.
“I-It’s okay.” He assures with a small smile, adjusting his satchel.
“It’s really not, I should have been looking.” He says with a small shake of his head, glancing around before acting as if he caught eye of the diner. “Could… Could I buy you a coffee or lunch?” He asks gently, Quentin blinks at him in surprise.
“You’re either rich or you don’t run into people often.” He jokes with a small grin, Eliot chuckles.
“I don’t usually run into such cute guys.” He says boldly, and Quentin’s cheeks start to turn pinker than they were from the cold.
“Me neither.” He says in return, Eliot holds out his arm.
“So?” He urges, Quentin ducks his head, reaching up to tuck his hair behind his ear before gently taking Eliot’s arm. He leads them into the café, and luckily, James is there so he’s not too worried. “What’s your name?” He questions, Quentin smiles as Eliot directs them casually to a booth in the back.
“Quentin, and you?” His eyes are sparkling excitedly when he looks up at Eliot, sliding into a spot in the booth.
“Eliot.” He introduces himself, then slides into the seat across from him. “So, what’s good here? You ever been here?” He asks, Quentin nods his head and grabs a menu out of the holder near the wall to hand to Eliot.
“My friends own the place, I come here probably four to five times a week.” He explains with a sheepish look, and Eliot nods.
More like every day, he thinks to himself.
“Know what you’re getting?” He asks as he browses the menu, Quentin shrugs.
“Might get a burger.” He says noncommittedly, Eliot hums as he glances over the choices.
“How old are you?” Eliot inquires with a smirk, Quentin crosses his arms on the table self-consciously, still smiling.
“Twenty-four, I’ll be twenty-five in June.” He explains, and Eliot does the math. That makes him twenty-six, if he still thinks it’s March of last year, considering it was almost December. He’s a year younger than Eliot then, he wonders if Quentin has noticed that he looks older, or when he would start to.
“I’m twenty-seven.” He says in reply, Quentin nods.
“That’s cool.” He says, then shifts in his seat.
“I’ll go order for us, if you know what you want.” He tells Quentin, who hums under his breath.
“Okay,” He agrees, Eliot watches fondly as the young man shrugs off his bag, using both hands to push his hair behind his ears again.
“You ready?” He asks to Todd, who nods his head as he crouches in the alley way. “All right, there he is…” He watches Quentin approach, walking steadily down the street. “All right, now.” He hisses, Todd reaches out and grabs him.
“Gimme your wallet!” He throws Eliot up against the brick wall, holding up a pitiful looking pocket knife that makes him want to call the whole fucking thing off.
“O-Okay!” He scrambles for his pockets, watches Quentin stop right in front of the alleyway.
“Hurry up!” Todd snaps, doing that stupid macho voice that sounded like such a put-on. Margo could have done a better job at this. Quentin comes cautiously walking up behind Todd, eyes wide in fear, and Eliot starts to regret this.
“U-Uh, hey!” He says loudly, Todd turns his head and Quentin holds something up. There’s the sound of spraying and then Todd screams, staggering back from Eliot. Okay, so he didn’t think Quentin carried fucking mace.
“Oh my god.” Eliot watches Todd stumble into a few trashcans, holding a hand over his eyes. Quentin is still cautiously holding up his mace canister, grimacing as Todd howls in agony and rolls on the dirty pavement.
“You okay?” He asks, shuffling closer to Eliot, who nods.
“Um, yeah, thank you so much.” He winces in sympathy when Todd moans loudly, curled up on the ground.
“Should we call the cops?” He asks, Eliot quickly shakes his head.
“No, no harm done…” He says weakly.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” He questions, touching Eliot’s arm, looking up at the older man with sincerity.
“Yeah, just shaken I think.” He says as they step from the alley, Quentin’s hand still on his arm. “C-Can I buy you lunch?” He asks, Quentin looks taken aback.
“Really?” He chuckles, Eliot nods his head.
“For my savior, of course.” He says jokingly, Quentin laughs. “I’m Eliot.” He holds out his hand, Quentin takes it gently.
“Quentin.” He returns.
“At least you don’t live with your parents.” He says with a laugh, and Quentin’s smile fades to an awkward frown.
“I live with my dad,” He mumbles, Eliot blinks. “Is that such a problem?” He questions, Eliot quickly tries to shake his head, but he knows he’s fucked this day up.
“I didn’t mean it like that, I just mean people who don’t try to get out, you know? People who don’t have a job or whatever.” He says quickly, Quentin’s frown turns into a glare.
“I’m unemployed.” He deadpans, Eliot stares at him for a moment.
“Shit, I’m sorry…” He says quietly, Quentin shakes his head.
“I’m sorry, I should go.” He mumbles, throwing down the cash for his meal and getting up, grabbing his bag.
“No, Quentin, wait.” He spots Julia giving him a pissed off glare from across the room and drops down the money for his meal. “Wait!” He stops Quentin outside, who shoots him another look.
“Just… Leave me alone, all right?” He sighs, turning and heading down the sidewalk, disappearing in a crowd of faces. Eliot sighs and leans against a wall and wonders why he even bothers.
Eliot stirs awake at movement next to him, sighing in content when he opens his eyes to find Quentin laid next to him. They had quite the day the day before, including a romantic evening that ended with them back in Eliot’s apartment. He smiles gently as Quentin’s eyes open, and watches the young man blearily blink at him.
“Morning, handsome.” He says with a chuckle, Quentin’s eyes widen and he lets out a scream.
“HOLY SHIT!” He scrambles upright, falling off the bed, still naked.
“Wait! Wait! I can explain!” Eliot insists with his hands held out in a calming gesture.
“W-Where am I? Who… Who are you?” Quentin presses his back against the wall, hands over his exposed crotch.
“My name’s Eliot, we had a date last night.” He says quietly.
“Was I blackout drunk?!” He hisses, Eliot shakes his head.
“N-No, you weren’t… I uh…” He sighs, nervous and unsure where to go from here. “Call Julia, she can tell you what’s going on.” He points to the bedside table, where Quentin had dropped his phone.
“Yeah, Jules…” Quentin leans forward and reaches for his phone, then pauses with his fingers over his phone. “You know Julia?” He asks, unsure, Eliot shrugs and then nods.
“Been to the diner a few times.” He offers vaguely (more like dozens of times), Quentin lifts his phone.
“Right, the diner.” He mumbles, grabbing his underwear off the floor and pressing his cell between his ear and his shoulder.
Eliot sinks down on the mattress with a sigh, rubbing his forehead and not for the first time wondering why he goes through this. But he couldn’t stop, it had gone from a fun thing to an addiction. Meeting Quentin, wooing him, talking to him and spending time with him. Sometimes they went over the same things, and yet Eliot was always happy to hear the younger talk
He couldn’t give this up, he couldn’t give Quentin up. Eliot listens to Quentin talk to Julia, sounding worried and confused, and then soon they hang up.
“Um, she wants me to meet her somewhere… And she wants you to come.” He says awkwardly, finding his shirt and putting it on.
“Me?” Eliot asks, Quentin nods.
“Um, I’m Quentin by the way… If you didn’t know.” He offers his hand, Eliot takes it.
“I do, I’m Eliot.” He says, voice a whisper, Quentin nods and looks embarrassed as he ducks his head.
“Of course you do, we slept together and I don’t remember your name.” He says, sounding mildly hysterical. “How much worse could this get?” He mumbles.
“A brain injury?” Quentin says, sounding hoarse as he accepts the photo album that Julia offers him. They had taken the subway down to Julia’s apartment, and her and the James guy (her boyfriend) had ushered them inside.
Julia had broached the subject rather abruptly, and Eliot had flinched at how harsh the words must have hit Quentin. Quentin takes the photo album and flips it open, Eliot leans over to see as well.
There’s a picture of what seems to be Quentin, broken and battered in the hospital. His body is almost mangled, there’s casts on one of his arms all the way up over his elbow, and on both of his legs. He’s on a ventilator, the right side of his face a mass of purples and grays. His head is shaved, a big line of stitches over one side of his skull.
“What… What happened?” Quentin asks weakly, Eliot looks to Julia, wondering the same thing.
“You just… had a bad day I guess. I didn’t know and I probably should’ve.” She shakes her head, leaning into James, who wraps an arm around her. “You jumped in front of a speeding car in the street.” She says quietly.
Eliot looks to Quentin, whose eyes are wide and wet, his lip trembling as he flips the page to see a more recovered picture of himself. He’s raised up with the help of the gurney, tiredly smirking at the camera with James sitting on the other side of the bed.
“I couldn’t even kill myself properly.” Quentin’s voice quivers, shaking his head. “And now everything’s fucked up, my life is ruined… And in twenty years I’m going to wake up wondering why I look so old.” He runs a hand through his hair, pausing to touch the side of his head where the stitches had been.
“Most days, you just kind of do what you always do. But lately…” James looks to Eliot, and Quentin follows his line of sight.
“W-Who are you, again?” Quentin asks, sniffling and wiping at his face.
“He’s kind of your boyfriend, I guess.” Julia says, Quentin scoffs, looking at Eliot with awe filled eyes.
“Why would you want to date me?” He murmurs, Eliot shrugs slowly, sighing.
“Because you’re the nerdiest, sweetest little dweeb I’ve ever met… And I can’t get you out of my head.” He admits, reaching out gently and taking Quentin’s hand into his own. “Most days, you seem to really like me.” He promises, and Quentin chuckles.
“Most days?” He asks, Eliot nods.
“Some are better than others.” He allows, Quentin laughs again, blinking more tears from his eyes. “But I know that I’d meet you over again a million times if it meant I get to see you every day.”
“I won’t remember you tomorrow.” Quentin says, almost forlornly.
“I’ll remember you though, and I’ll remind you.” He promises sincerely.
“Um, how about we go out and get to know one another? Or, well… I’ll get to know you.” Quentin huffs, Eliot nods his head and squeezes Quentin’s hand in his own.
“I’d love that.” He says.
Quentin wakes up to the sound of waves crashing distantly, seagulls calling out loudly. He slowly sits up, confused, as he’s not in his usual bedroom. He wipes his face, noting that he’s in a completely different set of pajamas than he remembers. His heart begins to nervously thump in his chest, unease rolling through him. He drops his feet off the side of the bed, and spots a laptop sitting on a chair nearby with a sticky note on it.
He reaches out and pulls the chair closer, grabbing the laptop.
“Play me,” He reads out loud softly, opening up the laptop and frowning at the video screen that pops up. He pushes a finger onto the mouse pad and slides it across the surface, tapping the play button.
“Hey Q,” Julia appears on the screen, Quentin smiles gently. “I know you’re confused, but there’s a lot to get through in this so just sit back and watch.” She says with a small nod.
He watches an amalgamation of images, pictures, of him. The concern is there, briefly as it is, to see himself in such a devastating state. He reaches out and brushes his fingers to the screen, on a picture of himself in the hospital with James at his side. He hears Julia explain what happened, how it happened, and the things he’s missed. It’s been a while since all of this occurred, and apparently he met a man.
“Hey, Quentin, you may not know me but we have spent a whole lot of time together.” He’s very handsome, with dark eyes and curly hair that’s coifed neatly. “We’ve been boyfriends for about a year now, and although not all of it has been great, we’ve had a lot of fun.”
Images flash across the screen, boat rides, restaurant photos, kisses caught on camera. Quentin looks so happy, and the only thing that bothers him is that he can’t remember it for the life of him. His lip wobbles slightly at the sight of him in front of a birthday cake, his twenty-seventh. God, he was old, a few years away from thirty.
“Now, I’m probably somewhere nearby.” Eliot reappears, smiling brightly. “You’re more than welcome to head downstairs and find me, and I definitely will not object to a kiss if you’ve brushed your teeth.” He flashes a pearly white smile. “But I’ll leave you with a message from yourself.” He explains.
The sight of himself in front of a camera, filming something he can’t recall is more than strange. He looks different, not extremely old or anything, but just different. On screen, Quentin shifts left and right as he adjusts on whatever he’s sitting on out of frame. He brushes a nervous hand through his hair, then looks up at the camera with an awkward smile.
“Uh, hey.” He says with a sigh. “I know this is all pretty crazy, I just learned about it this morning too.” He snorts, shaking his head and glancing away with amusement. He looks to someone behind the camera, someone says something off-camera and Quentin’s smile grows a little more.
“Say something!” Someone else says a little louder, and it sounds like James.
“Okay, so… Things are pretty insane, and we fucked up pretty bad.” His expression sobers as he meets the camera lens again, frowning slightly. “We did some stupid shit, but luckily enough we have a lot of good people around to help us.” He smirks a little then, and Quentin finds himself mimicking it.
“I wish I met Eliot before I did what I did, but I didn’t.” He says quietly, he looks away again. “Don’t waste a second with him, because even if we won’t remember tomorrow, it’s amazing while it lasts.” He shrugs his shoulders and then claps his hands together. “And then tomorrow you get to do it again, and it’s never the same but it’s always good and I know that because it’s Eliot.”
“Q, do not make me cry.” A voice he’s come to recognize as Eliot’s comes from off-screen.
“Okay okay,” Quentin himself looks a little misty-eyed, he smiles a little brighter, showing his teeth off this time. “Go kiss your boyfriend, idiot.” He waves a hand, and then the video cuts off.
“Hey,” He startles, turning his head and finding a slightly sleep rumpled young man before him in the doorway. “Morning.” He offers a hesitant smile.
“H-Hi…” Quentin breathes, nervous because this man knows far more about him than Quentin knows about Eliot. It’s nerve-wracking and he’s unsure of it all, not to mention he wonders why Eliot’s gone through so much for him.
“You’re always cute in the morning when you find out.” Eliot chuckles, it’s a wonderful noise. “Go brush your teeth, I’ll make you eggs and bacon.” He nods his head towards the bathroom.
“Hey,” He says, before Eliot can exit.
“Yeah?” He looks back.
“Why do you do this?” It’s the first thing he can come up with, and Eliot frowns and blinks once, twice.
“Because…” He sighs, then meets Quentin’s eyes seriously. “I want you no matter what, even if I have to remind you of what we have. No matter how long I’ve been doing it, I haven’t regretted it yet. Not yesterday, not today…” He shakes his head.
“How long are you willing to do it?” Quentin stands up.
“Forever, if you’ll have me.” Eliot gives him that beautiful smile again, and Quentin feels like he’s been swept off his feet. “Enough mushy stuff, discussions of feelings over!” He claps his hands, then quickly exits the room, leaving Quentin behind.
He can’t figure out if Eliot's insane or totally in love, but Quentin's totally into this, and he hopes Eliot keeps his word.
Yesterday, today, forever.