Chapter 1: Present
“Bye Honey, have a great day at school,” Quentin said, giving his son a quick squeeze and kissing the top of his head as he took his daughter’s hand and led her out of the classroom. The teacher was looking at him with some exasperation, and he shot her a small “what’re you gonna do?” grin. Harry was already seated at his table in the brightly-decorated kindergarten classroom, showing his friends the string necklace he made that featured a special, shiny pink bead that had been a gift from his best friend. He was one of the youngest in the class, having been born in the summer, and maybe that was why he still wanted to be walked into the classroom by a parent and kissed goodbye. Or maybe he was just like that. Either way was ok, thought Quentin-- he treasured Harry’s sweetness, knowing that it wouldn’t always be quite like this.
Margo held on to Quentin’s hand and frog-jumped exuberantly all the way down the elementary school hall. He laughed as they went, encouraging her enthusiastic jumping skills. She then insisted on pushing the giant, heavy wooden door open by herself, and nearly got started frog-jumping down the tall stairway to the sidewalk before Quentin took her hand and stopped her.
“No no nononono, sweetie.” he stammered urgently. He knelt down to her level, checking to make sure there was no panic or anger in his voice. “I can’t let you jump down these high stairs. That wouldn’t be safe, and you could get hurt. You can either hold the railing and my hand and we can walk down, or you can go down the ramp and I’ll meet you at the bottom.” Margo thought about it and said, “I’m taking the ramp!” She walked backwards down the zigzag of the long wheelchair ramp, eyeing Quentin as if daring him to try to stop her. Quentin carefully didn’t laugh, even though she was adorable. He loved her stubborn, fierce spirit. He did let her practice her jumping on the walk to preschool, and fondly indulged her in stopping several times to pick tiny wildflowers from the grassy areas along the way. Quentin loved being a dad.
When he got home, he set to clearing up the breakfast dishes and picking up discarded pajamas. He had just poured himself a second cup of coffee and was looking at the back garden through the kitchen window, enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning, when his cell phone rang. Quentin scrambled to set down his coffee and fish it out of his back pocket and answer it without accidentally hanging up; the ringtone told him this was important, and he was a little excited. “Hello? Hi. Anne? I mean, hi. It’s Quentin. Well, you called me, so you know. Um. What’s up?” He listened for a minute, walking in small, nervous circles around the kitchen, waving his free hand as though he was conducting the caller’s voice. “Okay, yes. I’m free and I definitely want to do that. I’m… I’m glad you called. Ok, I’ll be right there, um, bye.” He cringed a little bit, wondering how he never learned to talk on the fucking phone, but it wasn’t enough to sour his good mood.
Snagging his english muffin, Quentin hurried to the bedroom to change clothes. His professional wardrobe didn’t get much use lately, but looking like he knew what he was doing put people at ease. He quickly exchanged his jeans and long-sleeved tee for slacks, a button-up, and a brown herringbone sport-coat with a sliver of a lilac pocket square-- thank you Eliot, he really kind of loved the combination-- slipped into his tan loafers, and checked that his hair was still neatly in its’ bun and no jam was on his face. Finally, Quentin slung his leather bag over his shoulder, double-checked that the house was locked, then headed upstairs to the study. He closed the study door and turned to face it, steadying himself, and performed the complex twisting finger-motions of the two-handed tut to open the portal to Brakebills. He shook out his hands, held his breath, and stepped through.
Quentin let out the breath he was holding, and took in a deep one, drinking in the subtle mix of flowering trees and sunshine and so much magic in the air as he looked out over Brakebills. It was wonderful, and he enjoyed the moment, and reflected lightly on how much he enjoyed enjoying the moment. It was perhaps a little less convenient in terms of travel time than arriving in an office, but he and Eliot were in complete agreement that they liked their portal to open onto the green.
A short time later, Quentin rapped gently on the glass before letting himself into Professor Lipson’s office. “Quentin,” she said, rising from her desk and offering him a half-handshake-half-hug, “thank you for coming.”
“Of course, yeah, I’m really glad I could make it” he replied, cracking a big, warm smile. “How are you, Anne?”
“I’m well,” she said, with genuine fondness. After all that they had been through, Anne had become a friend as well as a colleague. “How are your kids?”
“Big,” said Quentin, “and energetic, and smart, and, and messy! They keep me busy, but I’m happy to be here. How can I help?”
She led him down a corridor to the infirmary while filling him in on the details of the case. A lump formed in Quentin’s throat, and he swallowed around it. He took a deep breath and let it out before pushing through the swinging double-doors behind Anne. On the bed was a young man in his early twenties, propped up against the headboard on pillows, two other students seated at his side. The friends rose as they approached.
“Good morning,” Lipson began, “This is Doctor Coldwater-Waugh, our wound specialist.” The title wasn’t strictly accurate, in either traditional sense, but Quentin allowed it. He listened to the students’ names and shook their hands.
One of the students did a double-take. “There are two?” she began, clearly confused.
“I’m his husband,” Quentin supplied, “on-call for special cases.” He grinned and met her eyes, half-cheekily daring her to have a weird reaction to that.
The student stammered a little but seemed relieved as her cognitive dissonance lifted. Quentin smirked slightly to himself as Anne requested privacy for the healing process and saw the additional students out.
“Hi,” Quentin said kindly to the young man in the bed, “do you mind if I examine your wound?” His name was George; he was lanky, with light brown hair and full-body freckles. Quentin gently unwrapped the bandages around his torso. A long, deep-looking gash crossed the boy’s pale abdomen, its edges red and raw. It was held together with thick, black stitches.
Quentin nodded, covering for himself, and forced out, “Looks good so far. Professor, I’ll be right back, just a moment, please,” before willing himself to walk, calm-looking, out the door and into a side-room, locking the door behind him.
Quentin turned his back to the door and slid down it to the floor. He gasped, mouth open and eyes wide. This was just… oh my god. His breathing was shallow and his heart raced in his chest, as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the images that were flooding his mind. Eliot, bleeding out on a forest floor. Eliot, unconscious and battered in an infirmary bed. Eliot’s stomach, bisected by an angry gash with horrible black lines. He gasped again, and nearly choked on a sob. He couldn’t… he could barely breathe.
Gripping the bottom of the door so hard his knuckles must have been white, Quentin forced himself to take a deep breath, let it out, take another. It wasn’t Eliot. It wasn’t. Eliot was fine. He was ok. He was fully healed. He was alive and well and on the other side of campus. It had been sixteen years, and Eliot was alive, and it was going to be ok. It was already ok.
Quentin continued to breathe. He curled his toes and uncurled them. He tapped on the pressure-points on his brow. He lifted his feet and stomped them flat on the floor. Slowly, the flight-or-fight response receded. Quentin stood up and planted his feet and grounded himself in his body, trying to get his residual anxiety and frantic energy to drain out of him through the soles of his feet into the ground. He shook out his hands, crossed to the little sink, and got himself a drink of water in a paper cup. He counted backward from twenty, twice, visualizing himself descending in an elevator as he did, feeling each floor before reaching the ground and stepping out. Finally, he felt calm. Finally, he was in the present. After checking in with himself to see if he could think clearly, finally, he straightened his jacket and went back to the infirmary.
“Sorry about that,” he said, pretending that this was perfectly normal, that a healer disappearing for twenty minutes was perfectly, perfectly normal. Anne rose from the seat she was in and gave him a concerned glance, but he focused on the patient and plowed ahead. “Now I understand this was caused by an enchanted sword? May I?” Having gotten the nod, he lowered George’s blankets and settled his fingertips around the wound. He knew the answer already, but wanted to give the boy the chance to explain.
While he half-listened, Quentin gently probed beneath the wound with his magic, examining the layers of damage and the surgical and magical healing that had already been done. It had been done perfectly; the gashes in his smooth muscle had been tightly sutured and three layers of stitching held the fascia, muscle, and skin firmly. Anne was a gifted trauma surgeon, and had clearly saved George’s life. Quentin knew that she was treating him for pain, as well as guarding against infection. He had been brought in to do the finishing work, as it were.
The sword-fight story now over, Quentin removed his hands and looked George in the eye. “What I’m going to do,” he said kindly, “if it’s alright with you-- and it’s your choice-- will be to use magic to help your tissues heal, a little bit at a time. I work with my hands about here,” he held his hands slightly above the gash, “and it won’t be painful for you, ok?” George was listening, and Quentin wanted to reassure him, as well as explain. “This is a medical specialty of my discipline, which is Minor Mending. It works very well on wounds like the ones you have. There’s a lot of damage to a lot of different layers here, so it will take a long time, I’m guessing probably about six hours, but we can break that up into several sessions-- probably two today and one tomorrow. When it’s over, you should be almost completely healed.” He smiled softly. He loved that he could do this, could help people like this.
“Another option would be to allow your wounds to heal on their own, but it will take months that way,” he swallowed and forced himself to stay in the present, “and will leave a lot of scarring. You may also have some nerve damage, and some loss of muscular function. But it’s your choice.” Quentin knew that these weren’t really the only options; he had to do this ethically. “Or, if you really wanted, less-extensive wound-healing methods do exist, that take less time. They wouldn’t fully restore your body to the way it was before, but they would help. Professor Lipson oversees a number of very talented healing students.”
He stepped back and looked away, nervously, awaiting a decision, and was relieved when it turned out that George was perfectly comfortable with being his patient. They got him settled on his back, with full pain-control and a mild sedative to help him remain still, before Anne left the room. Quentin took off his own jacket and set it aside, rolled the cuffs of his shirt up to his elbows. He adjusted the seat of the rolling stool to the right height and positioned himself at the side of the infirmary bed, shook out his hands again, and got to work.
As soon as he settled his fingertips above George’s stomach, Quentin felt his whole body relax. He was able to stop acting like a doctor, worrying about whether he was pulling it off, trying to keep himself in the present… and just be there. In the moment, in his magic, just doing what he did. It was wonderful, in the true sense of the word.
Quentin felt through the layers of skin and muscle to George’s deeper wounds. He gently tuned his fingers, feeling the energy of the smooth muscle, the jagged edges, the torn cell walls, the new joinings held by careful silk stitches. Beginning at one end of one cut, he carefully removed the silk and let the whole cells find each other, re-fusing the connections between them, dissolving the scar tissue that had begun to form. As he worked, microscopic nerve channels branched through the tissue and reconnected; electrical and chemical exchange reestablished, and cells began to contract and release in gentle rhythm. Quentin focused, carefully waking the newly-healed smooth muscle, allowing it to remember what it was. Satisfied, he moved on to the next wound.
It was like creating music, for Quentin, healing like this. He moved smoothly between parts, gently feeling, channeling, encouraging, repairing. He loved the feeling of collagen fibers realigning; letting blood flow through un-collapsed capillaries was like bringing in the violins. Whatever gracelessness Quentin had felt in his life was gone now as he sat over his patient, fully immersed in the beauty of his work.
After a couple of hours, Quentin had finished healing all of the wounds to the interior organs, and the visceral peritoneum covering them. He sat back, and slowly lifted his warm hands away, flexing and stretching his fingers, then shaking them out. George had fallen asleep. Pleased with his progress, Quentin collected his jacket and left the infirmary. He spotted a healing student who didn’t look busy. “Hey”, he said, “could you do me a favor?” He didn’t really have to ask; he had authority and the students were normally eager to help, but he asked anyway. When the student looked at him like they were actually excited to run an errand for him, he continued, “would you, ah, run over to seminar-A and tell Professor Coldwater-Waugh that his husband is at the infirmary and would like to see him as soon as possible?” The student started to book it for the door, and Quentin called out, “Tell him I’m working at the infirmary, please!”
Eliot was wrapping up his upper-level seminar on advanced magical shielding; the eight students arrayed around the tables in the small seminar room were busy with a lively debate on a theoretical question to which there was, as yet, no satisfactory answer. It required coaxing, every single time, and a level of patience that he had had to cultivate, but he wanted them to work through the ramifications themselves. Different theories about the fundamental nature of magic led to different hypotheses, design approaches, and results. He needed to get the students to the point where they realized that, given that several supposedly mutually-exclusive theories all led to their own positive results, there was a fundamental flaw in the way the question was being asked.
They always got there, eventually, but the first student to figure it out was going to receive some major classroom props. This seminar heavily featured Eliot’s own work in advanced tessellated magical shielding; it sometimes drew in students with the potential to be good research assistants. He was a popular professor, thank you very much, and always had a bit of a following, but he didn’t need groupies. He needed smart, reliable students with proven interest in his field. Thus, he coaxed.
Eliot heard the soft knock on the door and felt a stab of impatience at the interruption, but he got up and answered it while his students carried on. “Yes,” he asked, as kindly as he could, staring down the student who was looking up at him.
“Professor, um Coldwater-Waugh,” they said quickly, “Doctor Coldwater-Waugh is in the infirmary and needs you to meet him. Um. As soon as possible, he said.” Eliot blanched: was Quentin all right? The student added, “He said to tell you he was working. At the infirmary.” Oh. Okay. Thank God. He let out the breath he was holding.
“Thank you for relaying the message,” he said, “please excuse me.”
Turning back to his seminar, Eliot clapped his hands. “All right, people,” he said theatrically, and the students fell silent. “I’m sorry to have to cut our time a bit short, but I’ve been summoned by one of the few people who could pull me away from all of you. Feel free to stay and discuss if you like.” He was packing up his briefcase and grabbing his books. “For Thursday, I want everyone fully prepared to discuss Margineaux’s Cordorata Arcanum , and I want to see your progress on tessellated cellular architecture, so I expect you to practice . If you haven’t I’ll know.” He gave all of them a playful, exaggerated glare and swept out the door.
Eliot cut a dashing figure as he stalked across the quad in his perfectly-fitted three-piece suit. His style was slightly less flamboyant than it had been when he was a student, leaning more toward “intimidating” than “insouciant” these days, but it was only a subtle change; he was still very much himself. Confident and comfortable in his own skin, he carried himself with an ease that would have been affected when he was a younger man. Eliot didn’t mind the attention directed his way as he broke into an easy lope upon nearing the infirmary, and he threw a cheeky smile to a faculty member that he passed as he headed for the door. Quentin was inside; Eliot could hardly wait to see him.
He found him in Anne Lipson’s office, evidently discussing a patient, but Quentin fell silent when he saw him, and his smile lit up the room. “Eliot,” Quentin said, with apparent relief, and Eliot quickly crossed the room and pulled him into a warm but brief hug, then kissed him on the cheek. He turned to his colleague, his arm still around Quentin’s shoulders. “Anne,” he said fondly, “busy morning for you two?”
“More for Quentin than for me,” she replied lightly, giving his shoulder a squeeze. “I’ll let him fill you in. I’ll go get us all some lunch, shall I?” She took her jacket and bag and backed out of the office with a small smile, closing the door and leaving them alone.
Well that was… unusual. But okay. Eliot turned to Quentin, who had wrapped his arms around him the moment the door closed. He circled his arms around his shoulders and held him tight, knowing from experience this was what Quentin wanted, and kissed his forehead.
“Hi Sweetheart,” he said, “What’s going on?”
He could feel the tension in Quentin’s smaller frame. Quentin replied, with relief in his voice, “El. I’m so glad to see you. Um, could I just hold on to you, for a few minutes, please? I just need to feel you being alive.” And fuck, that was heavy, but yeah, of course. He would do anything for Q, anything he needed.
“Sure, of course you can,” he said, and Quentin was pressing his ear over Eliot’s heart, now. After a couple of minutes of just holding, Eliot said, “Q, are you okay?”
“Well yeah, I’m kind of, yes and no, you know?” Quentin gave Eliot another squeeze and then loosened his arms to lean back and look at him. He looked serious. “El, I need to look at your scar. Can I do that?” And that knocked the breath out of him a little more, but he hurried to agree.
“Yes. Here, let’s do it like this.” He pulled back from the hug and faced Quentin, still close-in, and untucked his shirt and twisted his fingers, unbuttoning all of the buttons on his shirt and vest with a quick little bit of magic. He pulled his shirt open in the front and lifted his undershirt, so that Quentin could see, so that he could run the fingers of his hand across the light-colored scar that stretched across his abdomen. Q appeared to be in a daze, and Eliot placed a finger under his chin and lifted it to catch his eyes. “Q, what’s going on?” he asked, as gently as he could.
Quentin was having a little trouble meeting his eyes-- he didn’t seem ashamed, just maybe like this was hard to say. “I had to tell myself that you were ok, that you were healed and alive. So, so I just needed to see your scar so my brain could complete the process of, you know, verifying that, like… like finishing a circuit.” He was gesturing with his hands as he spoke, his eyes serious and his tone a little frustrated. He also looked… sad. Quentin looked at him. “El, I had a panic attack in the middle of meeting a patient. It’s been so long since that happened. I got away and it,” he swallowed, “it was okay, eventually. But it was so awful.”
And oh, this was fucking hard to hear. Eliot’s heart hurt. They had been doing so just beautifully with Quentin’s mental health, lately, like they were really, really good at this. He was taking his meds and they were working. The major depressive episodes weren’t great by any means, but they were down to about two per year, and they knew how to get him through them; it wasn’t terrifying, like it had once been. And his healing work was so good for him right now. Well, normally. Eliot pulled him in and held him tight. He grimaced a little, while Q couldn’t see.
“Baby. I’m sorry” he said softly, “are you ready to talk about it?” Quentin nodded. “And can I um?” he gestured to his shirt, and got a small smile in return.
Eliot lead them over to sit together on Anne’s small sofa, as he began to do his buttons back up. Quentin sat down sideways, leaning against the arm of the sofa and pulling his knees up to his chest. Eliot finished dressing and regarded him fondly as he sat down like a normal person who knew how to sit. Some things never changed.
“So what happened?” He took Quentin’s hand and looked at him gently, waiting for him to be ready.
“Sword fight,” said Quentin.
Quentin sighed. “It’s a huge gash,” he illustrated by drawing a finger across his own abdomen, “right here. It’s deep, El, with a lot of damage.”
And Oh. Fuck. Eliot immediately understood. He acted almost involuntarily, reaching across and pulling Quentin in. He was half in his lap in the middle of an academic office, but it didn’t even matter. Eliot let out a deep breath and held Quentin, shaken. Finally he said, “I’m here. I’ve got you.”
Those familiar words. Over and over, over the years. This was always it, always what Quentin needed to hear, half of what he needed to know.
“I love you.”
The other half.
Quentin’s body had gone soft in his arms, almost collapsed, but after a minute he stirred and sat up. “So I handled it okay,” he said, “I mean, I got out okay, and got somewhere safe, and I did all the things. Like, I got through it. It was… it was hard but I was ok.” He smiled at Eliot, sweet and a little goofy. “You would have been proud of me, El, I was so doctory.” He laughed, a little chuckle, but to Eliot it was like music. “But, but once I started the work I was fine, I was great.”
“You were able to still do the healing?” Eliot was deeply impressed.
Quentin nodded. “Yeah, I finished the interior cuts already, but it’s gonna take a lot more. I can do it now, it was just… my initial reaction. I had flashbacks, they caught me off guard.”
“So you’re going to do the whole healing? You’re ok with that?” He took both of his hands and looked him in the eyes. Eliot wanted to know if Quentin was genuinely all right. He couldn’t even imagine what it would be like for Quentin, being confronted for hours by such a tangible reminder of when Eliot was nearly lost to him, when he nearly died. When they both did.
“Yeah, El, I am,” Quentin replied. “I was fine, the whole time. When I’m working it’s just… it’s really peaceful, you know? And… and magical.” Quentin smiled, and had a bit of that beautiful look of innocent wonder in his eyes. Eliot loved this about him. It was one of his favorite things. He took his face in his hands and gently kissed him.
“Is there anything I can do to help you?” He asked. “I can pick up the kids. Or do you want me to stay here? We could see if Julia’s free.”
“Um, could you get them?” Quentin asked. “I’m going to do another session after lunch, and I’d like to, just, come home to you all? If that’s ok? Then I’ll come back in the morning.”
“That sounds perfect,” said Eliot. They could have lunch with Anne, and he would reschedule his office hours and go pick up the kids from school. And when Q came home, they would all be there. He kissed him again, sweet and tender. This beautiful man. His husband. His heart swelling with pride and protectiveness, he put his arm around him and just held on.
Chapter 2: 15+ years ago
Quentin sat at the dining room table in the huge, absurd shared apartment that he and Eliot were fortunate enough to still inhabit, mostly peacefully, now about eight months since Eliot had come back. It was cold in New York in late fall, but Quentin enjoyed layers and soft, warm clothes and blankets and tea, so that was all right with him. He had an enormous mug of hot tea; was wearing corduroys, slippers, and a cardigan; and was pouring over a text book, taking copious notes in an untidy hand into a spiral notebook.
Quentin had a pretty good handle on musculoskeletal anatomy, now, and was studying the central nervous system. It was amazing and kind of beautiful, the way the skin, the brain, and the nerves of the body were all part of one system, formed from the same embryonic tissues and forever connected. The nerves of the skin grew inward toward the spinal cord during infancy, and adequate touch was essential to that process of formation. With a puzzled look, Quentin got up from the table and made his way to the kitchen island, where his old laptop was plugged in, to google something. Google scholar was great. Animated physiology demonstrations were great. He wanted to do more than understand this: he wanted to grok it, to really, really get it.
Quentin had a quest, and that was really great.
Because the best thing, honestly, the part of his life that was just fantastic, was Eliot. Quentin smiled into his mug of tea, thinking about him. Eliot was taking such good care of both of them. He was different, after the Monster. He was more honest and open than he had ever been, and his priorities had totally changed. He was intentional, and he was brave. He loved Quentin, loved him, and they were together, finally, and it was working.
But Eliot’s body had serious problems. The Monster had left him with severely damaged joints, with mangled cartilage and ligaments that were over-extended and torn. He had been malnourished, with several serious vitamin deficiencies. He’d had cavities. He’d had scurvy. Scurvy, for fuck’s sake. He still needed vitamin B12 shots. And even though he was walking without his cane most of the time now, and his joints were slowly improving, Eliot was still struggling with peripheral neuropathy that made it hard for him to use his fingers and toes. He had a hard time holding things. He had a hard time feeling things, sometimes. And most importantly, his magic: casting was so difficult. Eliot didn’t complain, very much, but it still broke Quentin’s heart. His beautiful magician’s hands, with those long, elegant fingers that Quentin loved.
Right now, Eliot was at physical therapy, which he had three times a week with Lipson. On off-days, Quentin liked to help with his exercises. The way Eliot was dedicated to the recovery process filled Quentin with pride, but also something else-- a feeling more subtle but more important. He was doing it for himself, but he was also doing it for them . That ongoing devotion, like the way Eliot cooked for them, like the way he refilled Quentin’s meds and checked that he had taken them every day… it was making Quentin feel safe. And safety, it turned out, for Quentin now, was a key component in happiness.
Quentin took his notebook and sat on the giant couch. He read through his notes, then set them aside, and laid his left hand on his lap, facing upward. Taking a deep breath, Quentin held his fingertips over his wrist, and moved them minutely, probing. Nothing really called to him-- there was no damage there to pull his magic and his focus in, so it was hard to examine the structures at the incredibly small level that he wanted to reach-- but he kept at it. Eyes closed, he focused and felt inside the median nerve.
Nerves were amazing. And mysterious. Quentin wanted to be able to feel them working, to sense the electrical-chemical exchange. And feeling it with magic was much better than anything in a textbook, or created by an artist… anywhere.
The nerve branched, and Quentin followed it up to the tip of his ring finger. It seemed to be pulling him there, and he tried to examine his nerve endings. Gently turning his hand over, his focus and his magic settled on a small, red scratch beneath his cuticle. He could feel the minute tear in the upper layer of his skin-- not with his body, but with his magic. He opened his eyes. Carefully, Quentin focused his mind and his magical energy on the edges of the cells, warming them slightly and letting them pull gently toward one another. He felt the fusion happening, the scratch repairing itself, watched it disappear. Quentin’s heart soared, and he broke into a huge grin.
It was about a month later, coming up on Christmas, when Quentin was ready to show Eliot.
He had been studying, somewhat openly, because of course he wanted to understand what they were dealing with. And he had been practicing, entirely secretly. Neither Eliot nor Julia, who still lived with them most of the time, had picked up on the way Quentin kept stubbing his toes and bashing his elbow into things. He drew the line at cutting himself-- that wasn’t happening. They had razors and kitchen knives in the apartment again, now, and in no way would he betray that trust. But he was, pleasantly, completely free of shaving nicks these days, and felt a bit smug about it. There was also a cat, an elderly neighbor cat that Quentin had befriended, that was feeling much more spry lately than it had for years. So.
It was after dinner, and he was finishing up putting away the dishes when Eliot’s arms wrapped around him from behind and a soft kiss brushed his head. “Want to come cuddle with me and have a glass of wine?” Eliot asked.
Well yeah, of course he did. “I’ll be right there.”
He joined Eliot a few minutes later on the giant couch. Julia was out for the evening, and Eliot had poured them a glass of wine and put on a record. They drank lightly now, and it was nice. Eliot looked so beautiful. He was in his own lovely clothes, a finely made button-up and slacks, with his hair shorter again and handsome sideburns, and he looked relaxed. Happy. Like he was at home. Quentin accepted his glass and took a sip, set it down.
“Hey,” he said.
Eliot looked up from under his eyelashes with a small smile, the look of a memory in his eyes. “Hey.”
Quentin took Eliot’s hand. “El, I’d like to try something. Could I please?”
“Um,” said Eliot. He didn’t know what this was about. Quentin massaged his knuckles.
“Do you trust me?”
Eliot looked at him, and it only took him a moment. “Yes,” he said, “I do.”
“Ok, just… I’ll tell you when I’m done, ok?”
Eliot nodded, and Quentin turned his hand over in his. He scooted closer and set it on his lap, spreading his fingers apart. Quentin held his own fingertips barely above Eliot’s ring finger, and focused on his second knuckle. (Because come on, he had a sense of romance, and he was only going to do this for the first time once.) He glanced quickly up at Eliot, whose eyebrows were raised, but who held his hand still.
Quentin focused carefully on Eliot’s finger and concentrated on the joint, probing and exploring gently with his magic. It was just as he had expected, and he let the damage draw his focus to the cellular level of the ligament. Tuning his fingers like he was playing a sensitive instrument, he began to mend the tears, drawing the cells to one another. As he worked, the collagen fibers of the injured joint unbound from disordered clumps and reconfigured into smooth, functional matrices; fluid lubricated the joint; and connective tissue was repaired. When he finished, a slight warmth enveloped the knuckle.
Quentin lifted his hands and gently shook them out. He looked up at Eliot.
“Okay,” he said, “how’s that?”
Eliot lifted his hand and moved his finger gingerly. Then he flexed it completely, extended it completely, curled and uncurled it.
“Baby….” Eliot said, stunned. “You did that?” He spun his hand around slowly, looking at it with wonder. “Oh. Q…” He broke into the most beautiful, sincere smile. “You did that!”
Quentin grinned at him. “Minor mending, bitches.”
And then Eliot kissed him. Oh, wow… wow did he kiss him. The amount of… of love, of sheer adoration that Eliot poured into that kiss… Quentin thought… all those months of research would have been worth it… just for this kiss.
Eliot was making breakfast. Cooking was something he enjoyed, and he hummed to himself as he worked. Feeding them properly meant a lot to him, actually; his body had to learn how to be twenty-eight years old and healthy, again, and taking care of Quentin was, if not his entire raison d’etre, certainly a huge part of it. Every day he was grateful for this second chance with Quentin, and he was not going to fuck it up. By cooking for him, he could tangibly show Quentin his love. And as much as he was making a sincere effort to communicate his feelings with words these days, since it had become clear how valuable it was for Q to be told that he was loved, rather than expected to just intuit it, Eliot was still all about the tangible.
He sauteed kale and mushrooms in a little browned butter and thickly sliced multi-grain bread for toast, cracked eggs into a heated pan and slid them into the oven. As he worked, the fingers of his left hand felt almost normal, without the constant aches or the sharp pains that he was used to since his body endured months of being a poorly-fed marionette. He spun around as he took out plates and little beautiful Japanese rice bowls, practically dancing them to the countertop and spooning in fruit salad.
Eliot was still a little stunned, if he was honest, in the way that something can be so surprising that it doesn’t seem like it can be even allowed . It had been obvious that Q was doing well, lately. He was relaxed and happy and he looked just fucking gorgeous these days, with his hair grown out enough to pull back again and light in his eyes and some color in his cheeks. Eliot’s personal math about how that happened had factored in working medication, the natural end of a depressive cycle, having worked through a mess of traumatic feelings already, hanging out with Julia, the safety of a predictable life where he wasn’t being mortally threatened by anything, lots of frankly fantastic sex, and possibly, hopefully, being desperately loved might be helping, too.
What he hadn’t factored in was that Quentin had a quest. And when his beautiful little nerd had a quest, it was like he was lit up from the inside. And the quest had been to learn how to mend Eliot’s broken body, with his magic. And as if that wasn’t already the best fucking thing possible, Q had chosen to show him this amazing, miraculous thing using his left ring finger, which, holy fuck. Happiness kept bubbling up inside him like a goddamned fountain, and he found himself grinning like an idiot over the stove.
Eliot buttered the toast and arranged it on the plates, topped it with the vegetables and slid a beautiful baked egg on each piece. He seasoned each plate, placed the fruit salad, plunged the french press, and brought the food and coffee to the table.
“Breakfast is ready, you two!” he called, and secretly loved it as Quentin and Julia practically scrambled into their seats like a couple of kids. Quentin’s seat was at the head of the table, with Eliot and Julia on either side; ostensibly, this was so they could both sit by him, but really Eliot didn't want to feel like some kind of weird dad when he was serving food, and he wanted to be able to touch Quentin-- it was important.
Eliot took off his apron and folded it on the kitchen counter, washed his hands, tried to compose his face into something a little more dignified, and joined them. Quentin leaned over and kissed him on the cheek as he took his seat. “This is wonderful, babe,” he said. He poured Eliot a cup of coffee.
“Yeah, thanks Eliot,” Julia added.
Julia leaned in and elbowed Quentin, “Remember that time you tried to make eggs benedict, back in our first apartment?”
“He did?” asked Eliot, trying not to sound as incredulous as he was.
Quentin swallowed his bite. “Yeah, well, the hollandaise sauce was from a packet, but that wasn’t the most tragic part. Wait,” he said, “Jules! We didn’t know we had it, but maybe you used magic to put out that fire!” He was laughing, and it was so goddamned lovely. Then Eliot was laughing, too.
“The secret extinguisher!” Julia announced in a dramatic whisper, and blew out an imaginary flame on her finger-gun before they all dissolved into laughter. Her brand of dork really was adorably compatible with Quentin’s brand of dork.
A bit later, as they were finishing up, Julia said “So, this is the big day, huh?”
“Yes,” replied Eliot, “this is the day we give the healer overseeing my care a heart attack.”
Quentin sputtered into his coffee. Eliot looked over, and Q may have gone a bit queasy at that.
“Oh Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I’m sure it will be fine,” Eliot quickly added, chagrined. “Lipson has repeatedly lamented their inability to repair my joints with magic. She’s going to be thrilled.” Eliot got up and walked over behind Quentin, bending to put his arms around him and kiss the top of his head. “Your ability is really quite remarkable.”
Julia reached out and took Quentin’s hand on the table. “We’re really proud of you, Q,” she said.
Quentin relaxed a little in Eliot’s arms. “I… ok. Thanks, you guys,” he said.
When they got to Lipson’s office for his appointment, Eliot held Quentin’s hand as they walked in. She was expecting them both, but Eliot hadn’t told her why. Quentin was nervous, but Eliot was nearly giddy.
“Professor!” He greeted her with a two-handed handshake.
“Hello Eliot, Quentin,” she said. “How are you feeling? Ready to get started?” She was efficient and poised as she picked up a clipboard and began to head to the physical therapy room, but Eliot jumped in.
“I have something to show you,” he hurried, “please, could you have a look?”
She turned and looked like she was about to give him an exasperated look, but at the look on his face she softened. “What is it? Has something happened?”
“Look,” said Eliot. He approached her and held up his left hand, gesturing for her to take it in hers. She cupped his hand, and watched as he rolled and flexed his fingers, wiggled them, extended and spread them, made a fist and released it. She held her hands around his fingers and closed her eyes, performing a magical examination. Her eyes grew wide.
“Your joints appear to be fully healed,” she said with wonder. “The ligaments, the cartilage, the inflammation…”
“Not the nerves,” said Quentin, quietly. He looked down. “Yet,” he added.
Lipson looked at him, then she looked at Eliot. She sat down on her sofa. “Explain,” she said.
Eliot took Quentin’s hand again, and gave it a squeeze. “Quentin’s disciple is Minor Mending. He’s been sort of expanding the field , you could say, to include,” he held up his hand and wiggled his fingers, “um, this.” He couldn’t help but smile.
Lipson looked flabbergasted. She looked straight at Quentin. “You applied minor mending to living tissue?”
Eliot was impressed as Quentin looked her straight in the eye and said, “yes.”
It took a moment for that to settle in. “Have you ever healed anything else?”
Eliot looked at him encouragingly, and Quentin took a deep breath before he said, “well, I did research for a couple of months first, but then, yeah. I’ve healed a lot of little cuts and scrapes, from, from like shaving, and also stubbed toes and bruised elbows. And… and most of a cat.” Quentin finished waving his hands and gave a little shy grin.
Lipson looked like she needed to sit down. She was already sitting down. She gestured to the sofa, which had one remaining seat, so Eliot pulled up a chair and sat in it while Quentin climbed onto the sofa and sat on his feet. Finally, she asked, “... and how much of this work have you done so far, on Eliot?”
“Only the twelve knuckles of the four fingers of his left hand. We wanted to leave the other hand until after we met with you. It’s only been a few days,” replied Quentin, “and also I’m not ready to work with nerves, yet, so those are still, you know, not healed. Still.”
Lipson slowly regained her composure. After a minute, she asked, “How would you both feel about providing a demonstration?” Quentin looked at Eliot for confirmation, and he nodded. Of course it was okay. Lipson continued, addressing Quentin, “perhaps the distal joint of the left thumb, if you’d be comfortable with that? I’d like to see what you’re doing, and have you explain it. I think I’d also like to get an MRI, of both hands, and perhaps we can go from there, in planning the rest of your partner’s treatment.”
Quentin smiled, “Yeah. That sounds good,” and he glanced at Eliot, a long, knowing glance with a quirk of his mouth, a wonderful dimple. And just like that, Eliot was trading seats with Lipson and his partner was taking his hand and healing yet another painful, damaged part of him. On this couch, in this office, and Eliot was trying not to lose it here because it was just a scooch emotionally overwhelming, honestly.
Lipson was impressed, and that was putting it mildly. Floored, might be more accurate, but she tried to maintain professionalism as she offered to design a custom course of study with Quentin to allow him to learn everything he needed.
It was a longer appointment than Eliot was used to, and involved portaling to an MRI machine and back, followed by a great deal of discussion and planning between Q and Lipson, who were now, evidently, his “care team,” followed by actual physical therapy. Lipson asked Quentin if he could go grab them all some sandwiches while they finished up. She clearly wanted to talk with Eliot one-on-one, and Quentin gracefully agreed and headed off to the student union.
Once they were alone, Lipson turned to Eliot and said, “Did you know that Quentin saved my life, once?”
“No,” Eliot said, startled, “he… He never told me about that.”
“He did,” she continued. “When magic was gone, he pulled me off the edge of a rooftop. I was determined, but Quentin stopped me.” Eliot was at a loss for words, but she had more to say. “If he hadn’t saved me that day, we probably would have lost you. You would have died of your wounds. So in a way, he saved your life, too.”
Eliot felt exposed by this, by the intensity of what it brought up. Emotional sincerity wasn’t exactly his forte, but something was telling him that this was important, a test, that something big might be pivoting on this conversation. “Quentin has saved my life more than once,” said Eliot, swallowing around the lump in his throat. Lipson only nodded.
“What I’m telling you,” she said, “is that Quentin in very special. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more caring person, and the abilities that I saw from him today were singularly remarkable.
“I completely agree,” said Eliot.
Lipson said, “Eliot, I’m not his physician, but I’ve treated him enough to know he’s depressive. I want you to know that, if you have any trouble managing that, you can come to me for additional support, all right?”
Well that was… a relief, actually. “Thank you,” Eliot said, and meant it.
“Take care of him, okay?” She asked. He looked her in the eye and realized she was beyond serious. Jesus. “I will,” he said. “I do. That’s kind of, actually, my whole plan.” She considered him for a moment, and seemed satisfied.
They finished their exercises and Quentin returned with sandwiches and fruit. As they ate lunch, they discussed the plans for their next several meetings, and Lipson turned to them and said, “How would you both feel about calling me “Anne?”
Eliot looked at Quentin and took a breath. “That sounds perfect,” he said, smiling. “Anne, it is.”
Back at the apartment, finally, Eliot was sore nearly everywhere, and a little tired. Quentin brought him ibuprofen, and rubbed his neck and shoulders as they sat on their bed. “Would you like to take a nap?” Q asked.
“Mmmm… yeah,” said Eliot. That sounded perfect. “Cuddle with me?” He didn’t have to ask Quentin twice. They curled up in the bed, Q’s head on his shoulder, and Eliot turned toward him a little, just to be closer.
“Could I work on your hands some more, later?” Quentin asked. “Yeah, of course,” said Eliot. And suddenly the enormity of that just. Caught him off guard. Eliot shuddered and choked a little, as tears suddenly filled his eyes, and his impulse was to panic, to pull away and hide it. It was an old impulse, to hide this depth of feeling, a survival strategy that he had learned young. But he was trying to be better, so instead he held Quentin tighter, as a small sob worked its way into his throat.
“El?” asked Q. “What’s the matter, Love?”
“Honestly?” Eliot tried to pull himself together enough to explain. “Sweetheart, I’m just a little overwhelmed that you’re doing this for me. Um, well for one thing, less than a week ago I kind of thought I was just going to be permanently disabled. You know that I can’t run anymore, or dance or walk or even fucking stand for very long at all, and half the time I can’t feel my fingertips, and I just can’t...” he held his hands up and moved them ineffectively in front of him, trying to explain without having to actually say it. He felt Quentin wrap around him a little tighter, “but, um, it’s not really that. It’s more that it’s just so. Um. So huge, Q. It’s so much, and I don’t.” He nearly whispered. “I don’t deserve it.” He was shaking, a little bit, and Quentin just held on to him.
“Oh El,” he said softly, “it’s ok.”
Eliot was starting to breathe normally again after a few minutes, and Quentin leaned up on his elbow. He reached out and touched his chin, turning his face and catching his eyes. “For the record, though, that’s bullshit. You do deserve it.” Eliot began to deflect that, with an ohwellyoumaythinkso sort of an eye roll, but Q caught him. “Eliot, I think you deserve everything . Like every possible good thing. I love you. Of course I want to help you.” And that was. That was pretty fucking tangible, wasn’t it? Eliot cupped the back of Quentin’s head, and pulled him in for a kiss, sweet and slow.
“I love you, too,” he said, still feeling tender and shaky.
Quentin leaned up and looked him right in the eyes. “El, you know that I’m with you, don’t you?” Eliot raised his eyebrows, but didn’t interrupt. “I mean, I’m not dating you, right? Like, there’s no part of me that’s going, ‘I wonder if this will work out.’ I’m all-in .”
(He maybe knew this, already, kind of, but it was so amazing to be told. How, in another life or another time, could he ever have held back on Q?)
“Q,” he said, as he pulled Quentin close in to his chest and held him tight, and somehow his heart managed to pack more than a single lifetime’s worth of feeling into that one word-- it came out half-strangled, relieved, desperate and reverent.
And Eliot thought, as he held Quentin as tightly as he dared, that this was definitely not the right time and place for a proposal: lying in bed and crying after a medical appointment was not good enough for Quentin. But soon.
“Q,” he said again, without letting go, feeling him beneath his hands. “Q, Baby, I’m all-in too. I’m all-in. I’m yours.”
Chapter 3: 11 years ago
Quentin folded up his laptop and slid it into his messenger bag with his notebooks and slipped out of the lecture hall and into the sunshine. Medical students streamed past him as he took his time adjusting to the light and feeling his surroundings. He was at Columbia North this morning, studying in the CUMC department of neuroscience. Incognito, of course, which made him feel like a ridiculous, tweed-wearing knowledge-spy, but he was used to it.
Quentin headed across 168th street to catch the A-train back to their apartment in West Harlem. He was having lunch with Julia before a shift at the clinic at the City College of Magical Arts, then he had some magic homework for the Brakebills’ degree he was still chipping away at, and later Eliot would be home. Quentin grinned just thinking about that last part. He adjusted his personal shield to what he thought of as “subway setting”-- a small concession to his sweet, protective husband-- and headed down the stairs.
Back in their building a little while later, Quentin dropped off his bag and jacket before heading down the hall to Julia’s place. “Q, come in!” she yelled through the door, and he let himself in. Her apartment had a lot of natural light, and was packed with beautiful, carefully-tended, mostly-enormous houseplants. It was comfortable and lovely, and made Quentin feel great about how well Jules was doing. She was happy and energetic as she gave him a big hug.
“You’re gonna love this,” she said as she headed around the corner to the kitchen. “The sauce is almost magic, ” and she laughed as she pantomimed spooky finger wiggling before picking up a whisk and giving the bowl of sauce a stir. Julia held it high up in the air and drizzled it over two big, handmade earthenware bowls filled with piles of roasted vegetables and olives and beans and grains and greens. “Bon appetit!” she said as she handed a bowl and a fork to Quentin and headed to the couch.
“Jules, this is amazing,” Quentin said over a mouthful as he moved to join her. It was really good. “Lemon and…” he didn’t even know, but is was great.
“Ground coriander,” she said, “tahini, maple syrup, cayenne.”
“Could we have the recipe?” he asked, trying to slow down.
“You do,” she said. “I just gave it to you.” She watched him look at her, incredulous, and then winked at him. “All right,” she said, “I’ll write it down for Eliot.”
“Thanks,” he chuckled, and smiled at her. “I’m really going to miss you this summer, you know. Do you think you’ll be able to come visit?”
“Maybe for a couple of weekends,” she said between bites. “There’s still a lot to do with the school, even without adding a summer term. I have the curriculum committee, and we’re adding an instructor, and I have to deal with the library contracts… it’s a whole thing, Q. But I’ll see if I can schedule some time away, and maybe we could travel a little? I love exploring Fillory with you.”
“That would be awesome,” he said, pouring them a couple glasses of water from a pitcher in the fridge, “thank god the time-dilation problem is solved. I couldn’t even go if I didn’t know I’d be able to deal with my medication.”
“Thank Eliot and Alice, more like,” called Julia.
“Yeah,” Quentin replied. He thought for a few minutes as he sat back down and enjoyed the lovely bowl o’ goodness that Jules had made for him. “You know, I’m getting to like, like it again? Like, not resent it so much, for not being what I wanted. It’s nice to be able to make it better, a little bit. But I’m glad I got some space, and I’m glad I don’t have to be, you know, in charge.”
“Do you like working with the Centaurs?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “they’re great. Could be a bit more modest, though.” He giggled as Julia punched him in the shoulder.
Quentin watched Eliot grading papers after dinner that night, seated in his leather arm chair. He had his ankle resting on his knee, and was holding the papers on his lap, looking at them through reading glasses perched low-down on his nose. He was wearing his cognac-colored monk-style shoes, argyle dress socks in a palette of spring colors, tailored slacks and a fitted waistcoat, a silk tie, and a button-up shirt in a subtle violet floral, with the cuffs rolled up to his elbows. Quentin loved the way Eliot dressed. He liked it because it was lovely and sophisticated and sexy, but he loved it because it was Eliot.
He was totally staring, but Eliot hadn’t noticed. He had a couple of curls brushing the sides of his forehead, his gorgeous hazel eyes peeking out above those very attractive glasses, his soft, nearly red lips… and his long, elegant fingers gently rifling through papers on his lap… Quentin thought, for the thousandth time, that his husband was definitely the most beautiful person he had ever seen.
Deciding finally that the slight risk of being shooed away was worth taking a chance, Quentin set his book down and slid off the couch, skirted the coffee table and crawled over to Eliot’s chair, stood up on his knees, and ran his hands straight up Eliot’s thighs to settle on his hips. He had his attention immediately. Eliot scrambled to set his grading and glasses aside on the side table by the lamp, fully aware of the fact that Quentin was just then climbing up and straddling his lap. “Quentin,” Eliot said, with a tone of delighted surprise.
Quentin grinned at Eliot and Eliot set his hands on Quentin’s thighs. His thighs. So of course, Quentin grabbed his tie and leaned in and kissed him. And… it was just that easy. Eliot kissed him back, wonderfully, warm and wet and sensitive.
Quentin was turned on just by kissing him, by being on his lap and kissing. He carefully untied his tie by feel, listening to the lengths of silk pull through the knot. Eliot got Quentin’s hair loose and pushed his hands into it while Quentin carefully undid the buttons of Eliot’s vest. His fingers gently rubbed his scalp, carded through his long hair, gathered handfuls at the back of his head and gently pulled, and-- Oh. Their mouths moved together, lips and tongues and teeth, giving and feeling, as Quentin delicately unbuttoned Eliot’s shirt and unbuckled his belt and trousers. He was beginning to untuck his shirt and undershirt when Eliot leaned back and gave him a little smile, and suddenly all of Quentin’s buttons, buckles, zippers, and laces were undone at once. They smiled at each other and laughed a little as they scrambled to get one another out of their clothes.
Quentin was on his knees in front of the chair again, but he eagerly surged up to kiss Eliot. He wanted him so much, and Eliot was just-- fine with that. Great with that. Totally, totally giving and wonderful and in love with him back, and Quentin was still thrilled and grateful that they actually got to have this. He pushed his hands back through Eliot’s hair at the sides of his head and held his head as he kissed him, pressing his body up between his legs and flush against him, and that was… amazing… really just outstandingly erotic and awesome, and Quentin could be totally, completely happy doing just this, but… he had goals. So… Eliot’s hands were around his waist, but Quentin ducked down to suck a mark onto his throat, then kissed his way down Eliot’s chest, lingering at his lovely, stiff nipples, before hitting his knees once again. He took a moment to appreciate his gorgeous, arching cock before taking it into his mouth.
This was one of Quentin’s very favorite things in the world, and he wasn’t shy about it. He wrapped his hands around Eliot’s hips and held him up as he sucked and licked and rolled him around on his tongue and Eliot arched a bit under him, his hands in his hair. Quentin knew this wasn’t all that he wanted, and he knew that he couldn’t, couldn’t keep Eliot busy all evening-- they really would only have time for one go-- but for a little while he could let himself just have this, could just love it.
Finally he pulled back and looked up at Eliot. “El, could we, um?” he began, and “of course,” said Eliot, “Sweetheart, come here,” and just like that, Quentin was back up in the chair. Eliot sat forward and wrapped Quentin’s legs around his back, pulled him in and kissed him, wrapped one wonderful hand around his back and the other around his cock and gave him a few long, blissful strokes. “Do you want to ride, Baby?” he asked, and Quentin nodded as he kissed. “Fingers first?” “Uh-huh.” Eliot knew him so well. Eliot performed a little finger-rubbing tut for some warm lube, and quickly slicked his own cock before circling a finger gently around Quentin’s opening and slowly pressing it inside. He kissed his mouth and his neck and his shoulders and his ears as he slowly worked him open, first with one finger, then with two, letting Quentin squirm and buck and ride on his long fingers as he stroked him expertly, taking him apart as he opened him up.
“Please,” said Quentin, nearly lost in Eliot’s hands, “El, please… now,” and Eliot gently removed his fingers and positioned Quentin, lifting him slightly and then lowering him as he slowly pressed inside. Quentin felt the delicious stretch and slight burn as his body took Eliot’s in. He lowered himself down and rolled his hips a little, feeling full and deep and close , before reaching his arms around Eliot’s waist and pulling him in tight against him. Eliot gasped, a little, and Quentin kissed his neck, his cheek, his forehead. He was so, so beautiful, and so, so good, and Quentin loved him. And he could. He was allowed -- he didn’t have to save his feelings up, or hide them, it wasn’t… wasn’t weird or awkward or too much-- he could love Eliot with his whole heart just like this, their bodies close and tight and moving together, kissing and riding in Eliot’s leather chair.
Eliot took hold of Quentin’s hips and helped him set a slow, rolling pace, but it wasn’t very long before the feeling was just too intense, and Quentin needed more. He rose and fell harder and faster, leaning back so that Eliot’s cock hit hard against his prostate. That feeling, the surge of pleasure over and over, was overwhelming, and Quentin arched back, catching himself with his hands on the edge of the chair. Eliot reached around and put a hand on the small of Quentin’s back, letting him lean and helping to hold him up. Quentin felt him lean over him and kiss his nipples and his throat; he gasped as Eliot took his cock into his other hand while he thrust up to meet him. Eliot hit Quentin’s sweet spot over and over, stroking him perfectly as Quentin bucked against him, until finally his orgasm punched through him and he curled around Eliot’s hand, spilling violently over both of their chests. He was clenched tight around Eliot, who pushed inside him in a series of fast, hard thrusts. The shocks of his own orgasm smashed into the beginning of Eliot’s, so that it rolled through both of them like a crashing series of waves, rolling and cresting and smashing into them as they held each other’ eyes, each other’s bodies, as they finally collapsed into kisses and laughter.
Eliot was in his tiny office at Brakebills, surrounded by books and doing preliminary work on his dissertation, when the call came in from Julia. Cell phones were still fucked on this campus, but what was magic for if not solving stupid problems, and under no circumstances was he going to be unreachable while Quentin was in the city. So, a dedicated magical line for Quentin and Julia, and now it was ringing.
“Eliot,” she said, quickly and urgently through the line,” we need you at the college. We’re in the clinic. We got some patients with pretty serious injuries, and Q is physically ok but he’s having some kind of anxiety attack. I think he really needs you, can you come?”
Eliot was already up and ready to go. “Can I come through your place?”
“Yes,” said Julia. “Just get here.”
Eliot flashed through the portal on his office door, performing the tuts so fast that he didn’t have to stop walking. His long strides carried him into their apartment, out the front door, down the hall to Julia’s apartment, (fingers rapidly breaking her wards and unlocking the door,) and spinning around, hands ablaze with magic, straight through Julia’s door and into her office at CCMA. “Julia Wicker, Assistant Dean,” read the sign on the door as it closed behind Eliot and locked itself while he disappeared down the hallway.
The infirmary-slash-medical clinic was housed in a separate building, and Eliot hit a bit of a run on his way there. He pushed through the doors and said “Where’s Quentin?” to the person at the desk. “Office in the back,” she said, and Eliot was already gone.
Quentin was curled up in a ball, hugging his knees on the weird, uncomfortable office sofa with a blanket around his shoulders, and Julia sat beside him. Eliot crouched down in front of the sofa and put his arms around him, pulled Quentin’s head to his shoulder. “Q, I’m here. I’ve got you,” he said.
“Eliot…” Quentin said, into his chest, “El I, I can’t.” He was shaking.
Jesus fuck, thought Eliot. He held Quentin tight and looked at Julia, forcing a modicum of calm into his voice as he asked her, “What happened?”
“There was a knife fight,” said Julia. “Also a gunshot wound, and some magical damage that looked, I think he said, concussive? We got the losing side of the fight in the doors about an hour ago, five people.”
Eliot swallowed. “Did they all…”
“They all made it,” she finished. “Thanks to Q.”
Eliot nodded, and gave Julia a look of thanks. They had a pact. It wasn’t exactly a secret. They were both devoted to Quentin, and his mental health was a very high priority.
Quentin stirred and sat up. He put his hands on Eliot’s forearms and looked up at them. He looked rough and a bit panicky, like he might bolt out of there at any moment. “Did they. Did those kids all go?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Julia. “We sent a couple to an urgent care, and the others went home.” She reached out and set her hand on top of his. “You did great, Q.”
“That was, um that was really rough?” he said, as though it was a question.
“I thought you were amazing,” said Julia, and Eliot knew she was trying to buoy Quentin up, but that wasn’t what he needed. He was looking for permission to not be okay.
“Q, are you ready to go home?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Quentin said. “Yeah, um, let’s do that, please. I’m ready.”
“Come by later? For dinner?” Eliot asked Julia. He knew they were going to have to talk.
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” she said. She hugged Quentin and gave Eliot a sad smile and a wave as he put his arm around Q and led him back to her office. Eliot cast a flexible shield around both of them. They were only walking across campus, but this school was chaotic at the best of times, and Eliot wasn’t taking any chances with Quentin.
Back in their apartment, Eliot got Quentin settled in the corner of their sofa, with a soft blanket and truly an absurd number of fluffy pillows. He made him the world’s quickest cup of tea, and cuddled up beside him, arm around his shoulders and sharing the blanket.
“I’m here, Sweetheart,” he said. “I’ve got you. We can talk if you want to talk, or I can just sit here with you-- whatever you need.”
Quentin sort of, melted, into his side. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” said Eliot, and very much meant it.
He held Quentin for a while as he drank his tea. Finally, looking far out the window into the distance, Quentin said, “Eliot, I don’t think I can do this job.”
“Will you tell me about what happened?” Eliot asked, looking away to give Quentin the staring-out-the-window space that he seemed to need. Quentin took a sip, and a deep breath. He pressed his lips into a tight line.
“It was some kind of, of a hedge-witch turf fight, or something,” he said, “I don’t know. They were young, only one of them was even enrolled, not that that matters, exactly. But, um, they were pretty badly cut up, and there was a gunshot wound in like a shoulder, and this weird…” He trailed off for a moment. Quentin had been gesturing with his hands, and now he held them in front of him like they were physically stuck. Finally, “I don’t know, it was like this big wound with tissue just crushed…”
“So, um… it was mainly just me, and my skills weren’t, like, totally suited, for all that. I don’t have great traditional healing techniques, you know. And I had to figure out what was important to do first, so no one would die, and then not take too long to do it, so no one else would die, or like bleed too much or go into shock… Um...”
Words were tumbling out of Quentin now, in uneven but urgent bursts, and Eliot chanced to look at him. He looked so brave and so intelligent, but also a little… haunted. Eliot held on to him as Quentin continued.
“So, El, I felt like I was going to throw up, from like the pressure of all that and how important it was that I not fuck it up, and also because all the blood and like, chaos and pain going on reminded me of.” He stopped, suddenly horrified, and looked at Eliot like he was so sorry. And yeah, this was kind of a shitty thing to feel, but whatever. Eliot would be damned if he was going to let Q feel bad about it.
“Hey, it’s ok,” he said tenderly, taking Quentin’s hand with his free one. “It reminded you of hanging out with the Monster?”
“Yeah,” said Quentin. “And then, while I was trying to seal these wounds and deal with people in pain and like so many things at once, I… I think I kind of started to freak out? And like, my heart was pounding like crazy, and I was having trouble getting a breath, so I was kind of dizzy and I had to sit down and I. I sort of thought maybe I was having a heart attack. And, and…. And then I thought of you. And I was like, ‘I can’t die right now,’ and so finally Jules showed up and helped me, like take breaths and stuff, and we finished getting everyone, um, not bleeding. But then after, I was freezing, and shaking. I’m, I’m so glad you… thank you for coming, to get me.”
Eliot realized that anger was not the most productive emotion for this situation, but fucking hell, he was so angry. He wrapped both arms around Quentin and just, fucking, rocked him on the couch while he cried a little bit, making himself take deeper breaths than usual, counting backward in his head, trying not to be too obvious. This wasn’t any of their fault , precisely, so there was no great target for how mad he was, how much it hurt, that this had happened to Q. The last thing Q needed right now was to feel responsible for Eliot’s feelings; Eliot could, probably would, break down over this later, but right now he was going to hold his shit together for the man he loved.
So. He stopped rocking and rubbed Quentin’s back with the flat of his hand once he settled down, breathed a little more, and said, “I’m so sorry that happened, Q.”
Quentin hugged him back, now. “Thanks.”
“I don’t want you to go through that again, Sweetheart.”
Quentin laughed a bit, darkly and half-hysterical. “I think we can agree on that goal. It really fucking sucked.” He curled in on himself a bit more, and Eliot just curled around him, held on until he felt him relax. Quentin said, quietly, “El, I really don’t think I can do this job.”
And Eliot felt… so protective, and so relieved. He had some sharp edges when it came to keeping Q safe, and he was working on it. When Quentin had decided to take these shifts at the clinic, (“It’ll be great, El, it’ll be like a real-world chance to use my skills… It’ll just be minor injuries and wounds, not like infectious diseases or anything… It’ll help Julia so much, it’s such a good project…”) Eliot had had some, unfortunately, rather vehement reservations. And that had resulted in Quentin yelling, “I’m not a child, Eliot!” and storming off… which, well, obviously Q was right about that, storming notwithstanding. So. That had been about a month ago, and Eliot did not want to dredge any of that up again.
“That’s ok, Sweetheart,” he said, gently. He pulled Quentin’s head to his shoulder and kissed his hair. “We’ll figure something else out.”
They took it easy that afternoon. They cuddled, and made more tea. Eliot talked Quentin into reading to him on the sofa for a while, tucked up against him where he fit so perfectly, his back against his chest and his head on his shoulder. Eliot didn’t want to let go of Quentin for even as long as it would take to cook, so they ordered some takeout to be delivered that evening before Julia came over.
She seemed a bit worse for the wear when she came in, definitely tired and worried, and Eliot felt a stab of tenderness for her, as well. They got situated in the front room with their curry, Quentin and Eliot still on the couch with their legs tangled up, because this cuddle situation was not even remotely over. Julia was obviously relieved to just sit and eat, and she kept glancing at Quentin, checking on him. There was a trust among them all now, a friendship that was more like a family than most family turned out to be, and Eliot knew that, in spite of all the ways they had both failed Quentin in the past, they genuinely had his back now. Whatever responsibility Julia may feel for today, he wasn’t going to blame her.
“So,” she finally began, setting her bowl down. She accepted the glass of wine that Eliot had levitated over to her, took a drink. “We’re going to have to reorganize the clinic. Harriet agrees-- we don’t have a healing program right now, and this isn’t going to work.”
Quentin tentatively offered, “I could take appointments, if you can make that work. I’ll let you know my class schedule, and when I’m at Brakebills with Anne, and if you have someone who needs my kind of help I can come in for them. Maybe we could block out some good times?” He paused for a moment, “I’m sorry, Jules. I just can’t… I don’t think I should do triage and trauma surgery.” And Oh thank God Eliot didn’t have to say that himself.
Julia gave Eliot a look that pretty clearly said she couldn’t agree more. “Ok, Q,” Julia said. “We’ll talk it over. We wanted to provide a service to people, but we’re obviously over our heads. We need to think about what we can responsibly offer.” She reached over and took his hand, “I’m sorry you got caught up in that today.” Quentin and Julia looked at each other, and Eliot wasn’t a psychic, but between them he could practically hear the I know you are, and I forgive you, and mutual thank you for understanding, and mutua l I love you. They squeezed hands and let go. Those two were such ridiculous, perfect friends. Eliot thought wistfully of Bambi, their long summer visit only a month away.
“I wanted to be able to do it,” said Quentin a little later, finishing his dinner. “I thought maybe I could make a really good healer.” He looked sad, and a little chagrined, defeated.
The Fuck No , thought Eliot. He put his hand on Quentin’s thigh to get his attention. “You’re better than a really good healer, Q. You developed your own field. You can do things that no one else can do.”
“Which, by the way,” Julia interjected, “I hope you’ll be open to teaching your specialty some day.”
“Agreed,” continued Eliot, nodding. “Maybe it wouldn’t be a good fit for you to work in, say, a magical E.R., but there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Yeah,” said Julia. “Q, you’re a specialist. Your mending work is really, really special. ”
“It really is,” said Eliot. “Quentin, you fixed me entirely in your first year at this. I could barely stand up and sit down, and didn’t think I’d ever reliably feel my fingertips again, and look,” he wiggled his fingers suggestively and gave Quentin a look , “fully functional, wouldn’t you agree?.”
Quentin, who had been ping-ponging his attention back and forth between them, blushed bright pink to the tips of his ears. “Yeah, you are,” he said with a smirk. Julia rolled her eyes.
“Q?” asked Julia, “aside from today, do you still enjoy it? Healing people?”
Quentin smiled, “Yeah, I do,” he said, with a little hint of wonder on his face, “I love it.”
“And we love you,” said Julia. “We’ll figure it out, Q.”
“We both support you,” said Eliot, “and so does Anne, for that matter. This experience could just be, ultimately, a part of refining your goals.” Eliot was trying to sound airy with that comment, but it came out a little closer to desperate. Quentin looked at him somewhat dubiously. “Sweetheart, I mean, you don’t have to be good at everything, even in the field of healing. You can be the foremost expert in your thing, and there’s still going to be plenty for you to do. Your work is brilliant.”
Quentin smiled at him. Eliot breathed a literal, if hopefully subtle, sigh of relief. He had said something true, and Q had heard it, even through all his racing thoughts and self-doubt. “Thanks, you guys,” said Quentin, and he snuggled into Eliot’s side.
Later that night, after Julia had gone home, Quentin came up to Eliot as he was walking around in his robe and pajamas and put his arms around him. Honestly, this was always welcome.
“El?” he asked.
“Yes?” Eliot replied, closing his arms around him, “what is it, Baby?”
“I know I can be, um, stubborn about it,” he began, and he seemed… almost shy? “But. Um… Don’t stop protecting me, ok?” And Oh? Oh, wow. “I love how you make me feel safe.”
“Oh, Q,” said Eliot, his heart swooping loop-de-loops in his chest, “I would never.” He swallowed, choking up. “I could never stop.”
Quentin had his jacket folded and tucked over the top of his bag when he headed home, late that afternoon. The warm spring sunshine felt good on his arms and face. It had been a long day, but finishing a second long healing session with George had left him feeling grounded and happy. He strolled across the green to their spot in the treeline, performed the familiar gestures, and stepped through, emerging behind a tall privet hedge at the side of their house.
It was a two-story tudor-style home in a nice, older neighborhood, and Quentin probably just looked like he had been checking something around back as he came up the walk and let himself in the front door. None of this was necessary, really, but he liked the feeling of coming in the door to his family after work.
No sooner was he inside than he was mobbed by children. “Daddy! Daddy, me first!” “Noooo, I wanted to be first!” “I want a double hug!” “I want a double double super super hug!” It took him a few minutes of hugging and listening to excited childhood news before he could stand back up, and when he looked up he saw Eliot, standing in the kitchen doorway with a chef’s half-apron tied around his hips, his shirtsleeves rolled up, smiling at him with a fond, bemused look. “Um, just a minute kids,” he said, “I want to say hi to your Papa.”
Quentin made his way across the front room and set his bag and jacket down, stepping into Eliot’s waiting arms. He nuzzled his neck and breathed in the soft smell of his cologne, raised up on his toes for a tender kiss. “Mmmm hi Sweetheart, how are you?” Eliot asked.
“Really good,” said Quentin, holding his husband by the waist. “It’s nice to be home.”
“I’m just about to start dinner,” said Eliot, “would you like to come in the kitchen with me? Or play with the kids for a bit? They’ve been kind of excited to see you.”
“I’ll take them outside for a while, and then see if I can slip away,” Quentin said, smiling. He kissed the side of Eliot’s jaw and turned back to the living room, where their kids were bouncing and rolling around on the couch. “Let’s go outside and play!”
The kids were so generous with their enthusiasm, Quentin mused, pushing them on the old-style swing set that he had built in the backyard. Children really did give back whatever you gave them, and so simply when they were this little. They soaked up love and attention and respect. Not that everything was easy, but all of it was worth it. He blew bubbles for them to chase on the lawn, then got them settled playing in the sandbox before heading inside.
Eliot had set the table by the french doors at the back of the main room, and was in the kitchen, working on dinner. Quentin poured them each a glass of red wine from the bottle on the counter, and leaned back as he watched Eliot cut up vegetables to slip into a large pot of boiling water. The house smelled wonderful: they usually went for healthier food, but El had clearly decided that tonight called for homemade macaroni and cheese. Quentin grinned to himself. His husband was beautiful to watch and he made amazing mac and cheese.
“So the afternoon session went really well,” Quentin said.
Eliot put the lid on the boiling pot and set a kitchen timer for four minutes. He wiped his hands on a towel and came over to stand next to Quentin. “Did you feel okay doing it?” he asked, “the whole time?” He picked up his glass and turned to look at Quentin’s face, searching.
“Well, mostly,” Quentin replied. “There was a point where I took a break between layers, and it started to feel intense again, but not in a panic-attack way. It just felt like I was, I guess, sort of mending something else, in my mind.”
“What do you mean, Q?” asked Eliot. He looked concerned, but it wasn’t-- Quentin needed to explain that it was ok. He turned and put a hand on Eliot’s shoulder.
“You know how I said that I needed to see your scar so I could verify in my mind that you were alright? Like closing a circuit?”
Eliot nodded. “Yes,” he said, as he crossed back to the stove and took the pot of vegetables to the sink to drain. Steam wafted up around him dramatically as he emptied the boiling water into the sink and shook the pot over a colander, his shoulders broad and elbows sticking out to the sides. When he came back over to Quentin his face was flushed and moist from the steam, and his curls were springing up interestingly around his forehead. Eliot had a little bit of silver in his hair at his temples, now, and the curls there were more relaxed… he was distractingly lovely. Quentin shook his head to try to focus. He took a drink of wine and tried to bring his ability to speak fully back on line.
“Okay,” he finally continued, “well, it felt kind of like that, only more, um, meta? I guess?” Eliot was possibly not following this, yet, judging by the patient but baffled look on his face. “I wasn’t freaking out, this time. I was just feeling something, kind of intensely.”
Quentin wasn’t sure how to articulate this, but he’d try.
“It felt like… like I was helping a wound close up in myself, El. You know, even though it brought up all that horrible stuff this morning. Dealing with that gash, that was so much like yours was, and being able to actually fix this one… it feels like… like it’s almost that same feeling, of completing something in my mind.” He looked Eliot fully in the eyes, wanting him to understand this, to see where he was coming from. “I couldn’t heal yours, when you were hurt, and that was traumatic, and terrifying, and awful. But now I can heal that kid’s. I can face it, and I can take care of it. So, I mean, that doesn’t mean the trauma is gone or I’ll never be triggered again, but it feels like doing this is actually, really helpful.”
“Wow,” said Eliot, “Q, that’s kind of amazing.” He pulled Quentin into a hug, holding his head to his shoulder. Quentin relaxed into it; this was one of the places he belonged. “You’re kind of amazing.” They stood there for a couple of minutes, in the steamy kitchen with the smell of dinner coming from the oven, just holding one another.
“Do you think you could be there, tomorrow, when I finish the healing?” Quentin asked. “When that gash closes up and disappears, I really want you with me.”
“Oh my God, Q, of course,” Eliot replied, holding him tighter. “Absolutely, I’ll be there.”
They called the kids in to dinner not long after, with a little extra time for hand-washing and putting on music. Sitting at the table wasn’t a strong skill for either Harry or Margo, but they tried, with a couple of dance breaks, to teach them to eat meals with some level of good manners. Harry had recently begun actually talking about his day at school with his dads during dinner, which was nice, but otherwise eating together was always a little bit chaotic, with Margo constantly climbing into Eliot’s lap. Finally, the kids were full and excused from the table, and Quentin was able to just sit in the relative peace with Eliot for a few minutes, enjoying his company.
“We should tell Julia about all this,” said Eliot, “don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” Quentin replied. “We should. I want to be able to talk to her about it in person, here. Why don’t we see if she’ll come for the weekend? The kids could use some Aunt Julia time, too.”
“You know, I do actually enjoy her company too, and not just because she brings out your adorable dorky side,” Eliot pointed out, smirking.
“All right, fine,” said Quentin, “we’ll share Aunt Julia with you, too.” He laughed as Eliot threw a napkin at him. “Will you call her and ask while I put the kids to bed?”
“Sure,” said Eliot, running a hand across his back and dropping a kiss on the top of his head as he headed into the kitchen.
The bedtime routine took a long time. The kids needed a bath, and Margo’s hair had to be detangled, (thankfully, Eliot did that part.) They let them watch one of the relatively sedate, witty, slightly surreal British children’s cartoon shows that Eliot favored while they got their pajamas on, had some milk, brushed their teeth. Harry tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a later bedtime. Finally, it was time for bed, and both kids got elaborate hugs and kisses from their Papa before Quentin took them by their hands and led them to their room.
This was one of the parenting jobs that they traded back and forth, based on who was feeling like it on any given night, but Quentin was very glad to be there with them this evening. He helped the kids pick out some stories-- “Frog and Toad” for Harry and “Goodnight Moon” for Margo-- and they all settled onto the end of Harry’s twin bed, cuddled up against the headboard, to read. He liked these old, simple stories that made childhood feel sheltered and innocent.
As he read to his children, Quentin felt the echoes of his memories from another life, reading the stories that he and Eliot wrote and illustrated themselves to Teddy by candlelight. Those memories were both his and not-his, from a life that he remembered but never got to live. So many things were different in his actual life, now, but this-- loving his kids, holding them and reading to them before they went to sleep-- was exactly the same.
Quentin finished the stories and carried Margo to her toddler bed on the other side of the room. He tucked both kids in, telling them he loved them, kissing their foreheads, wishing them sweet dreams, then settled into his rocking chair by the window to wait for them to fall asleep. Sometimes, a lullaby was requested; sometimes, restless little people needed to be re-tucked into their beds. Harry needed his presence more than Margo did, but Quentin didn’t mind. Tonight, the kids were tired and drifted off easily.
As he listened for their slow, regular breathing Quentin thought about those memories from the Mosaic that bedtime often brought up. He was grateful for them for many reasons, but the most tangible was that they had helped him know that this was what he wanted: being married to Eliot, and raising their family together. It was exactly what he wanted: this beautiful life. Quentin rose quietly from his seat by the window and left the children’s room, closing the door softly behind him.
Eliot tidied up the house and did the dishes while Quentin was reading to the kids. Magic was extremely useful for this kind of thing, and he enjoyed all the little domestic spells that made it easy and quick. Sending brooms around the floors by themselves and floating toys and dishes to their places was fun, in an “I’m in a disney movie” sort of way. It was going to be so delightful doing this with the kids, once they reached the age when they could be discreet about having magic in their family. Eliot loved his children, he absolutely treasured them, but after six hours or so he would be happy to have a little time in a quiet, clean house with his husband. It would be a trade-off, he supposed-- more magic, but a later bedtime.
When nearly everything was done, Eliot gave Julia a call. She answered right away.
“Hi Eliot, what’s up?” she said.
“Hey, Jules,” he began, “Q ran into a kind of mental health snag at Brakebills today, mending a patient with a very monster-reminiscent abdominal wound.”
“Shit,” she replied, “is he ok?”
“I really think he is,” he said, with a little wonder in his voice. “It was pretty hairy for a while: he had a panic attack, but he got himself through it, then he wanted to keep going. Fucking surprising, honestly-- he’s going to finish the whole thing, and he’s talking about, um, completing circuits in his head? Anyway, I’m really proud of him, I think this is kind of major for him, in a possibly breakthough-ish way. He asked me to be there tomorrow, when he finishes it up.”
“Wow, El,” said Juila. “Shit. That does sound big. Can you believe it, after everything?”
“I know,” he said, with not a little drama. They had all been through a lot, with this. “Anyway, we’d like to be able to talk about it together, and were wondering if you could come for the weekend? The kids haven’t seen you in a few weeks, so having some time all-together would be good, too. Maybe we could put in the spring vegetables?”
“You know, I think that sounds great,” she said. “I don’t think I could make it in time for dinner on Friday, but how ‘bout if I came later, after the kids went to bed? Then I could surprise them in the morning.”
“That sounds perfect,” said Eliot.
“Ok,” she said, “give Q my love and tell him I’m proud of him. I’ll see you in a few days. Love you, El.”
“I will. Love you too, Jules.” He hung up.
Eliot turned around and saw Quentin leaning in the kitchen doorway, wearing his shawl-collared cardigan, and with a soft, fond expression on his face.
“She sends her love, and she’ll be here late-ish Friday night,” he said.
“Ok, good,” Quentin said, “I’ll make sure the guest room’s ready.” He crossed the kitchen and put his hands on Eliot’s waist, leaned up for a sweet kiss, which Eliot was more than happy to give him.
“I told her a little bit about what’s going on, and she said she’s proud of you, Q-- which makes both of us,” said Eliot. Quentin’s eyes sparkled as he grinned a bit at that. “Are you still feeling good about doing major wounds in general?”
Quentin only thought about that for a moment. “Yeah, I am. I mean, it’s one of the best ways to apply my skills, and it doesn’t usually freak me out. But still no emergencies, you know?”
“I know,” said Eliot, pulling him in for a hug. “I’m so glad we got that sorted out.”
“I still love helping people,” said Quentin, his head against Eliot’s shoulder. “I love the healing, it’s fascinating, and it’s what I want to do. But my magic’s really a gentle process, El. It’s… peaceful. I need it to be that way.”
“I know,” said Eliot. He hugged Quentin tighter. God, he loved him so much.
“Oh, that reminds me,” he said, leaning back after a minute to look at him. “I think I’ve found a way for the Centaurs to communicate with you about their patients over the summer. Much better than messenger bunnies.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Quentin.
“Yes, but we’ll have to keep it to ourselves,” he said, conspiratorially, “I am not making magical cell phones for all of Fillory.”
Quentin laughed. “What about Margo and Fen? Can they use them?”
“Well, I could probably make another one,” he thought for a moment, “but it’s only a two-way enchantment. They couldn’t use them for the whole diplomatic corps, or anything-- just with us.”
“So, more like magical walkie-talkies,” said Quentin. “Of course we’ll keep it quiet. I love all the little secret projects you do for me.” He smiled and kissed him again.
Eliot said, “You know Bambi and Fen are going to little-prince-and-princess the hell out of the kids while we’re at the castle?”
“Yeah,” said Quentin, “but we’ll get them almost back to normal at the lake house during Julia-month.”
“We’re going to have to really work with Harry on what he can and can’t tell his class about his summer vacation, though,” said Eliot.
“I know,” Quentin replied, “I think he’s old enough to be discreet, but it won’t work with Margo. She’d just tell the whole preschool what we told her not to talk about.”
“Well, she isn’t going to be shy and quiet like Harry was.” Eliot thought about it. “I guess we’ll just have to hope they appreciate her great imagination. If we have to, we can try to pass it off as a family game: ‘Daddy works at the centaur hospital in the woods.’”
“Yeah,” Quentin laughed softly. He seemed lost in thought for a little while. “I do love working with them, you know, and they get so many more really just creative injuries. Well, I mean, and their healing techniques are creative, too, and I really can’t use most of them here. Eliot, if they had any idea how many times I’ve had to minor-mend bite marks out of my wooden shoulder…”
“I’m sorry,” said Eliot, laughing. He was sorry, but also kind of not-sorry. “It’s easy to forget, in the moment. It really is beautiful work.”
Quentin shoved him in his shoulder, Eliot picked him up and spun him around, and they collapsed into each other, laughing.
It was a little over an hour later, and Eliot had been reviewing some course material and making lecture notes while Quentin read a book on the opposite end of the sofa. They had their legs curled up together between them, Quentin’s more or less over the top of his. Eliot watched him over his reading glasses. Strands of his soft, sandy hair had come loose and were framing his strong jawline. His shirt collar was open, and his sleeves rolled up, showing off his incredibly masculine forearms and hands. There was his beautiful, brilliant husband, enjoying a fantasy world full of dragons and monsters. For half of his own life, Eliot thought wistfully, the life that he had now would have seemed more unlikely than that.
Eliot set his work aside and reached out for one of Quentin’s feet, beginning to rub his muscles through his soft, fuzzy socks. “Mmmmm, that feels nice, El,” Quentin smiled, continuing to read. Eliot spent about five minutes on each of Quentin’s delightful feet, softening up his muscles and loosening his arches, enjoying watching him sigh and smile while he read. He finished rolling his toes between his fingers and looked up again to find Quentin grinning softly at him. Eliot knew he was returning the look as he slid his own stockinged foot slowly up the inside of Quentin’s thigh— a question. Quentin took in a sharp breath and looked at Eliot with a hungry twinkle in his eyes— an answer. So Eliot reached out a hand for Quentin’s, and pulled him up to straddle his lap.
And there he was: happy, gorgeous Quentin, on Eliot’s lap. Perfect.
Itching to get his hands in his hair, Eliot reached around to the back of Quentin’s head, where his bun was tied. “May I?” he asked. Quentin nodded, and Eliot carefully slid the tie out of place. He pushed his fingers up against his scalp, loosening the knot and combing out the strands. He rubbed his thumbs behind Quentin’s ears, and gently gathered his hair in his fingers, close up against his head. He looked in Quentin’s soft brown eyes. “You’re so beautiful,” he said.
Quentin smiled. “You are,” he said. “El, you’re stunning.” And then Eliot leaned in and kissed him, and Quentin’s hands were in his hair, fingers pushing through his curls, firm against his scalp. Eliot pulled him in closer. Sliding his hand to the back of Quentin’s neck, he gently turned his head, and deepened the kiss. Quentin sighed against Eliot’s lips, soft and open and pliant, just from that. He loved being kissed; he always had. Eliot kissed him, and kissed him, and kissed him.
The thing was, for a long time, Eliot hadn’t asked. He’d felt so fucking lucky to have Quentin, and so honestly floored that Quentin wanted him, as he clearly didn’t deserve him… he had been frankly afraid to break the spell. But now he trusted this. Trusted him. It had taken a long time, but now Eliot could be seen, and known, and he had learned to ask. So.
He sat stretched out on their sofa, with Q up on his lap, and kissed him practically senseless. One hand on his back, the other in his hair, he felt what Q wanted and he opened and slid and breathed into him, as they took their slow, languid time. Eliot did finally break the kiss, though, and did lean back enough to look Q in the eye, and did ask him, “Can I take you to bed?”
“Fuck yes,” said Quentin.
Quentin did not want to stop kissing, however, on the way to bed, so Eliot steered him into the bedroom, hands on his hips and bent down to reach his mouth; they stumbled only slightly in their eagerness. He quickly lit a couple of candles while Quentin closed and locked the bedroom door, then they practically collided at the foot of the bed, mouths and bodies pressing together.
“Clothes off?” Eliot asked.
“Yes,” Quentin replied between kisses, “clothes off,” and he was already untucking Eliot’s shirts and sliding his hands over his sides and back. The feeling of Quentin’s hands on his skin was fantastic-- solid and strong. He loved that, and took in a deep breath as he nearly melted into his touch.
Coming back to himself slightly, Eliot moved his lips to Quentin’s neck, alternating hard and gentle kisses. His discipline was very convenient for removing clothes: he undid all of the buttons and other fasteners keeping their skin separated and slid everything off, and they stepped out of their trousers and socks before he laid everything over a chair in the corner without ever having to stop kissing Q. He followed the slide of Quentin’s shirt to kiss his collarbones and shoulders, and trail his fingertips down his arms and over his chest.
Eliot felt Quentin wrap his arms around his chest and press his body up against his. The smooth, warm feeling of his skin against him was outstanding, and oh-- hello there-- Quentin was hard against him, hard because of him… and wasn't that still the most fucking spectacular thing?
“Q,” Eliot began, but he lost the ability to speak for a moment because Quentin had taken one of his nipples into his mouth and was rolling it between his lips over his teeth. “Nnnnnnngh…” he let out, and Quentin laughed softly and pulled back.
“Yes?” said Q.
Eliot grabbed his ass and pulled him up against his hips, making them both gasp a little bit. “I want to get my mouth on you,” he kissed him, “ and my hands,” he kissed him again, “in you,” he bent down and sucked on his throat as Quentin’s head fell back, “is that okay?”
“Yes,” Quentin said, and his voice was sure and steady. Eliot pulled back and looked him in the eyes, and Quentin held his gaze. “I’d also like you to fuck me, though, for a really long time.”
“I’d love that,” said Eliot, and smiled and kissed him again, “All together?” he asked, kissing him, “or shall we go twice?”
Eliot backed Quentin up against their bed, and Quentin scrambled up and backwards to the center as Eliot followed him. It was a little chilly, and Eliot did a simple spell to warm the air, then climbed over Quentin and covered his body with his own. Eliot felt the solid warmth of Quentin under him, and nestled his hips between his thighs as he wrapped his arms around him and leaned down to kiss him.
It was such a lovely thing, kissing Quentin, and Quentin loved being kissed by him. Everything about this was perfect, and Eliot was elated. He loved Quentin. That was a deeper, more ingrained part of who he was than pretty much anything else had ever been. It was innate. And he could pour that love into a kiss, along with all of the tenderness and desire and fierceness and pride and protectiveness and gratitude that his beautiful husband also inspired, and Quentin would take it all. He wanted it. It was so fucking perfect.
After a little while, Quentin’s hands became more frantic against Eliot’s back and in his hair, and his hips were rising up to meet his, their cocks sliding deliciously together, his breath beginning to come in gasps. Eliot kissed and nibbled his way down Quentin’s chest, pausing to tongue his stiff, pebbled pink nipples. He slid back, and gently sucked and slid his teeth over each of Quentin’s sensitive hip bones while lifting his thighs and settling between them. Quentin sucked in a breath, and let out a soft, low moan. He curled his fingers on Eliot’s shoulders, and Eliot felt grounded by the touch.
He smirked a little to himself: a doctorate in magic, and the most useful spell was still the one for warm lube. He rubbed his fingers together in the simple tut, then began to gently massage Q’s opening while he nuzzled around his lovely, thick, hard cock. He slowly worked him open, fitting in one finger and then two, glancing up to watch Q writhe and the muscles of his stomach and chest stiffen as he stroked against his prostate. Quentin’s hands found Eliot’s hair, then his nails were trailing along his spine and up over the back of his head, and softly pulling… mmmm. He took the head of Quentin’s cock into his mouth and began to tongue and circle and suck, then slid down to take him in.
Eliot knew all kinds of things that Quentin liked, and he applied himself to building and drawing out pleasure. He loved the way that Quentin responded, how he trusted him, the way that he just fell apart in his hands and under his tongue. Eliot wanted him, absolutely, wanted this, but more than just the taste and stretch and feeling of Quentin’s cock in his mouth, or the mind-numbingly erotic little noises he made as he squirmed and arched up off the bed, (and those noises really were fan- fucking -tastic,) he just wanted to give him… just… everything.
Eliot’s young self would never have imagined that he could feel this way about someone. He wished he could tell him, about his future.
He had paused, slightly, overcome with feeling, and Quentin said, “Fuck, El, I’ve changed my mind.” Eliot stopped, pulling off with a tender kiss to his glans, and Quentin gasped, still writhing on his hand, “Can we… could we… now?” He tugged gently on his shoulder, “Please.”
“Yeah, Baby, anything,” said Eliot. “Anything you want.”
He carefully climbed up to hover over Quentin, leaning up on his elbow, but kept his fingers in place, still and waiting. Quentin reached up and took Eliot’s head in his hands, pulling him into a searing kiss, and pressed down on his fingers, hard.
“Now?” he nearly whispered, and Eliot knew what Quentin needed, and how he needed it.
“I’ve got you, Sweetheart,” Eliot said, and drew himself up between Quentin’s thighs. He put his free hand in the center of his chest and pressed, grounding him, while he slowly slid his fingers free, slicked himself with lube, pressed against Quentin’s soft, open hole, and carefully sunk inside him.
The feeling of Quentin tight-hot-wet around his cock was phenomenal, and Eliot honestly blanked out for a moment, unable to even think, but he recovered and leaned down to cover Quentin’s body with his, hooking his hands under his shoulders and bending to kiss his neck behind his ear. He felt Quentin bring his knees up around his hips, encouraging him to move, so Eliot moved.
They did last a long time, joined together, rocking into each other, enjoying the long, slow, slick drag of a marvelous, langorous fuck. It felt amazing-- Quentin always felt amazing. Eliot moved him where he wanted him. He took both of Quentin’s wrists in one hand and held them down to the bed, over his head, and kissed him while he fucked him, and Quentin whimpered. He just melted for Eliot, and it was the hottest, most incandescently lovely thing.
Eliot kissed Quentin’s neck, his shoulders, across his chest, his mouth-- all while pinning him down and tenderly fucking him. “I love you so much, Q,” he said, and knew it wouldn’t pull Quentin out of this, because it was part of it: part of being held, safe and contained and loved, part of what he needed.
When Quentin started to gasp and buck up underneath Eliot, seeking more friction, he reached between them and wrapped a hand around him, thumbing the head of his cock, slick with pre-cum. He leaned on his forearm over Quentin’s arms, to keep him pinned, as he moved harder and faster into him, stroking him in rhythm with his thrusts.
“I want you to come for me, Sweetheart,” Eliot said, “whatever you feel, all of it, that’s what I want.” And Quentin tensed all over, let out a loud, keening groan, and did.
He clenched around Eliot, riding through his climax, and Eliot let up on his arms and dragged them around his own back. He held Quentin tight and thrust sharply as he felt him buck up against him, and then he was coming too, explosive and urgent, as Quentin held him down, pressing his nails into his back and his ass, pushing as hard as he could up around him.
He collapsed on top of him, after, and Quentin just held on to him, his legs wrapped around his thighs and arms around his back, tight like he wouldn’t mind if he never had to let go. Quentin wasn’t weak; he could hold Eliot’s weight. He felt him kiss his temple. “I love you too, El,” Quentin said.
They did have to roll apart, eventually. Eliot lay on his back next to his husband, holding his hand and wishing, for the thousandth time, that he still smoked-- just for this. He took some deep, slow breaths, just to capture the sensation a little bit.
Quentin spoke softly, into the warm air, “Do you know that I’ve known you for half my life, this year?”
Oh, that was a strange, sweet thought. Eliot considered for a moment. “In two more years, I’ll be able to say the same for you,” he said. “But you’ve been married to me for over a third of your life.”
“This time,” said Q.
“Yes,” said Eliot, an impossibly tender feeling brushing his heart, “this time.”
And he wouldn’t have asked, except that this was such an intimate moment, and he felt buoyed by that lifetime of memories, and being brave and vulnerable was, it turned out, an ongoing process: “How does it feel?”
Quentin looked over at him, fond and thoughtful, like he knew what it had taken him to ask that. He lifted Eliot’s arm and curled up on his shoulder, wrapping his arm over his chest and hooking a leg around his. Eliot put his arms around him. “It feels wonderful, El,” Quentin said. He smiled and nuzzled into Eliot’s chest. “It’s been the best third.”
And Eliot knew that many things about Quentin’s early life had not been good, to put it mildly, but it was, nevertheless… so gratifying. The sweetness of that. That Quentin would consider his years spent with Eliot to be his best.
“Are you happy?” he asked, and Quentin replied, “Yes, I am. I’m very happy. You have that effect on me.”
Eliot smiled, sincerely. “I’m grateful for any small part I can have in making you happy, Q.” He meant it.
Quentin held him tighter. “Big part,” he said, simply, and settled into his arms.
Eliot knew that they weren’t talking about sex, now, although they maybe were, just a little bit. But he was still thinking about it: about how happy it made them both; about how he never had to try to be anything other than himself, anymore, in bed; about how much he loved taking care of Q like this. He always would.
This wasn’t a revelation. Eliot didn’t even have to think about it, really. He just knew it. He knew that he would be happy to make love to Q, pretty much every day, for pretty much the entire rest of his life.
Eliot bent his head down to kiss Quentin on the forehead. “You still want to go again?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Quentin smiled into his shoulder, “I do.”
Greatest thanks for impeccable workshopping, cheerleading, and pushing me when I freaked out, as always, to my dear fandom friend somegoldcanstay, who has been with this fic since it was a smattering of ideas on a page. Beck, you're amazing. Thanks also to advance reader winterlane, beta reader adjovi, sex scene beta coldwaughtersq, and sensitivity beta AlexxAplin, for all of your invaluable help. Finally, thanks to ceeainthereforthat, who graciously agreed to let me use ideas from her own work for Eliot’s academic discipline. I’d like to apologize to any Queliot writers whose sex-scene ideas I may have inadvertently copied: I’m sorry, it seems that your work has just sunk in and become cannon sexual history for them in my brain. I tried to be careful, but probably failed.
If you like this work, please consider subscribing to the series. I predict more to come about Julia’s story and her role in their family; I may finally write that engagement scene; there really is so much more to tell. A lot of the motivation for writers comes from readers, so please comment if you’d like to see more. <3