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my mouth (your lips) your hands (my hips)

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“How'd your student orientation thing go?” Margo asks, as she twirls in Eliot's arms. The party they've organized for the returning students is hopping and there's a soft warm glow of pride in her chest over it. “Was Casey as hopeless as you were afraid he'd be?”

Eliot throws her into a deep dip and kisses her cheek before answering.

“Definitely hopeless,” Eliot says. “But very sweet. And his name is Quentin.”

“Oooh, you like him enough to care about his name? You'll have to introduce us so that I can tell you if I think he's worth screwing.” Margo slid her hand along Eliot's arm and added, “I met a couple of prospective first-years, too. Total Fillory dorks. Maybe boyfriend and girlfriend, but that wasn't the vibe I got.”

“Bangable?” Eliot asks.

“Yeah, I think so,” Margo says, after a moment of consideration.

“As a pair?”

“Naughty,” Margo teases but she grins at him, too. “It's a possibility.”

“Names?”

Margo waves her hand breezily. “I told them I'd learn their names if they were still around tomorrow.”

“I'm sure they appreciated that comment,” Eliot says, definitely laughing at her.

“Totally bitched me out about it. It was cute,” she says. “I'm gonna try to bang at least one of them, if they stay. You gonna try to bang Quentin?”

“I will successfully fuck the living daylights out of him, thank you,” Eliot says, mock-offended.

The next morning, she finds the two dorks chilling by Woof Fountain, chattering away excitedly about magic school and comparing it to all the fictional ones they've read about. They're both still kinda obviously nerdy, in a way that Margo has carefully made certain she never presents as, but they're also pretty adorable.

So, she crashes their breakfast, sliding in between them and saying, “I guess you two aren't total failures after all, huh?” and companionably wrapping her arm around the girl's shoulder. The girl blinks at her, surprised, but doesn't push her away.

“You're that... girl from yesterday who wouldn't tell us her name,” she says, with a noticeable pause. The boy startles at Margo's sudden nearness. It's hilarious on him, all wide eyes and long hair falling into his face.

“That's me,” Margo agrees cheerfully. “Congrats on surviving the first of many trials at Brakebills. Let's hope the next one doesn't set you on fire or boil your brain!”

“Surviving? Boil our...?” the boy asks, and his face is practically giving her anxiety right now, and it's a good thing she hadn't chosen him to wrap herself around. She gets the impression he might have startled himself into an early grave. “Um? Jules, maybe this isn't actually-”

“She's kidding,” Jules says. She gives Margo an uncertain look. “You are... kidding?”

“I have never made a joke in my life,” Margo says, gravely. But she can only hold it for a second before giggling. “So, you two lovebirds looking forward to screwing around with sex magic? Couples often find it hard to resist.” She lifts her eyebrows up in an exaggerated motion.

“Oh, we're not-” Jules makes a little distasteful face that wrinkles up her nose. The boy looks vaguely resigned about it, which tells the entire story of their relationship right there. “I do have a boyfriend, but he's not- I don't think he can do magic.”

And her voice gets soft when she mentions the boyfriend, so Margo crosses her off the list of potential targets, turning her smiles towards and fluttering her lashes at the boy, who still looks a bit nervous.

“You probably won't die,” Margo says, and though her voice is still more mocking than reassuring, he does look like he finds some comfort in her words. “I can mentor you and make sure of it.”

The boy blinks for a moment, realizes that she's staring right at him and asks, “Um. Me?”

“Jules seems competent enough not to need me,” Margo says. “You, though, are definitely a hot mess. Let mama take care of you.”

“Uh. Wow. That is- flattering? But I- um. I already- you don't-” But there's a hot flush across his cheeks despite his protests.

“Some guy already offered to be Q's mentor,” Jules says. “And, no offense, but he was a lot nicer than you.”

Margo leans herself against Q's body and-

Wait.

“Q?” she asks. “Is that, like, a nickname based on a cue ball or like-”

“It's short for Quentin,” he tells her with what is, honestly, a very nice smile. He seems unaware that he has changed the entire playing field. Some guy, huh? A lot nicer than her, huh? Fuck that right up the ass. She's fucking nice. She's nice for days. She is the motherfucking queen of niceness.

“You can have more than one mentor,” Margo says. Is it true? Maybe? It's not like student-to-student mentorship is an official title or anything. She leans over to whisper in his ear. “I promise you I will teach you things about magic that'll knock your goddamn socks off.”

“I mean... I guess it can't hurt to have two?” Does he always seem this constantly startled? He'd been like this yesterday, too, though he has less of a mouth on him today.

Jules sighs heavily and stands. “Catch up with you later, Q. Um- hey, I still don't know your name?”

Margo spares her a look up and down. “Margo Hanson. Pleasure to meet you, Jules. I'm sure we'll see a lot of each other.”

“Can't wait.” Her tone is as dry as the desert, which Margo kinda has to respect. “Try not to get so lost in her eyes that you miss your first class, Q.” And, with that, she leaves.

“I like your friend,” Margo says, which makes Quentin scrunch his face at her, like he's trying to decide whether or not he believes her. She puts her hand on his knee, to see his reaction. He looks down at it uncertainly, like she's just presented him with an unsolvable math problem, so she takes it off again. It's hard to judge exactly how syrupy-sweet she should be to get him to prefer her over Eliot. “But I like you better.”

He definitely doesn't believe her. Well, she has one weapon left at her disposal that she knows for a fact El doesn't have.

“I heard the two of you yesterday, you know. Talking about Fillory.” She doesn't touch him this time, but trails her hand just above his arm like she might touch him at any moment. His face closes down a little, since she hadn't fessed up to her own reading habits in that convo, so- “And I have to agree with you about Jane. Even though she gets the most narrative time, her story does get overshadowed by Martin's in the third book and it pissed me the fuck off.”

And... motherfucking checkmate. His eyes light up.

Is it unfair of her to try to win the game before Eliot even knows they're competing?

Probably.

Would Eliot do the same to her?

Absolutely.

So Margo talks to Quentin for maybe half an hour about the Fillory books, and by the time she's helping him gather up all his belongings and getting him headed in the right direction for his introductory class, he's relaxed enough that she can tuck her hand inside his elbow and steer him along.

And when she leaves him at the door, she pops up onto the balls of her feet to place a soft kiss on his cheek that leaves him red-faced and startled again.

Back at the Cottage after her own morning class, she kicks back on the sofa with a cocktail and smiles up at the ceiling. She bets it'll be less than a week before she coaxes Quentin into her bed. And maybe he'll even be good. But if he isn't, what matters most is that she's gonna beat out El.

“You're in a cheerful mood.”

It's Eliot, so she beams at him beatifically.

Ecstatic,” she says. “I made a lot of progress with my little first-year.”

“Me too,” Eliot confesses and she-

-blinks.

“You did?” Maybe he just meant the initial mentorship conversation they'd had, before Margo had talked to him.

Eliot practically floats down to sit next to her, his long arm extending along the back of the couch as he lets out a pleased sigh. “Mmmhmm. Just got back from seeing him. He's settling in now, I think, because he wasn't so much like a camera-shy rabbit today. Jesus, Bambi. He's gonna make the best noises when he gets fucked. I can tell.”

“When you say that you saw him,” Margo prompts. She nudges him with her knee. “You mean...?”

“I mean about five minutes ago,” Eliot says. He lifts up his head and squints at her. “You're acting very strangely about this. I promise, even if he moans like a porn star, he won't replace you in my heart.”

“That's sweet,” she says, distracted. “What exactly did he say that made you feel he was into you?”

“Bambi?”

And, okay, looks like it's confession time.

“So, turns out, funny story. Fillory dork is Quentin.” Margo laughs airily. Eliot narrows his eyes. “Isn't that so funny, El?”

“Hilarious.” Eliot wraps his arm around her shoulders and tugs her in tight. “I seem to remember that you had two options? How about you go for the girl Fillory dork – who I'm guessing is Julia – and I'll go for Quentin.”

“Yeah, that's gonna be a hard pass,” Margo says, pressing a firm kiss to El's temple and bouncing up off the couch. “Jules has a boyfriend which- I mean, I'm sure I could woo her away in time but, that seems like work. Quentin, though... I'll have him eating out of my hand by the end of the week.”

“Oh, will you?” Eliot relaxes into the couch, but his eyes are sharp. “I think that'll be difficult for you to pull off while he's busy on his knees for me.”

“You think you can win against me on this one?” Margo puts her hands on her hips, cocks her head to the side. “I am gonna kick your ass so hard, you'll still have bruises ten years from now.”

“Sure, tell yourself that,” Eliot says, and his smugness makes Margo want to kick him in the shins. “But I know a natural bottom when I see one, darling.”

“You think I can't top like a boss when I need to?” Margo stands even taller. “Oh, it is on, you dickwad. This is motherfucking war.”

 


 

 

“This has been such a strange day,” Quentin says, lying with his head off the edge of his bed.

“You don't need to say it out loud.” Penny sighs. “Seriously, I don't get how your friend has such great natural wards and you're just-”

Quentin squints at him, trying to make out his face. Penny is- blustering and definitely thought Quentin was a total nerd for liking 'kids' books', but he's been a little nicer to Quentin since realizing Julia is his best friend. It's... not a totally unfamiliar occurrence.

“Ugh, I hope I'm not that shallow,” Penny says, arguing with Quentin's thoughts, which doesn't seem particularly fair. “Life isn't fair.”

“Yeah, well, I had no clue magic existed before yesterday-” Desperately hoped? Sure. Actually had a clue? No. “-so maybe give me a minute to learn how wards work before you hate me for not having any.”

Penny sighs again, which seems to be his main form of self-expression, and comes over and sits next to Quentin on his bed. “Look, chances are good that Julia's right, you know? Those two second-years you keep thinking about... dude, I doubt either of them is seriously interested. They're probably fucking with you.”

“Probably,” Quentin agrees, feeling wistful. He's never really been the kind of guy to inspire deep feelings in others. You're cute enough, he remembers John saying, but please stop trying to talk to me when we're around other people, okay? I have a reputation.

“I wish you'd stop thinking so loudly,” Penny moans. “Your thoughts are fucking depressing, dude.”

“Then teach me how to ward them,” Quentin says, because it's easier than cringing at the idea that Penny had heard that.

Penny looks conflicted about it then- “Yeah, okay. I guess that's fair.”

Penny is still teaching him to 'clear his mind' and 'close his thoughts' – both of which are bafflingly hard to do – when Julia pops her head into their room. She looks frazzled.

Penny's attention immediately shifts over to her which, again, is not unfamiliar. Honestly, it'd been so much weirder that- that Eliot and Margo had paid more attention to him when Julia had been right there, too.

“Hey, Jules,” Quentin says, not getting up from the bed.

“Hi, Julia.” Penny does get up from his bed, wiping his hands off on his pants. She has a boyfriend, Quentin thinks at him, deliberately and loudly. His name is James and they've been dating for almost four years.

Penny gives no indication he heard a thing.

“Oh, hi, Penny. You don't mind if I crash here to bitch about my roommate with Q for a while, do you?” Julia drifts over to Quentin's bed and hops on it with a bounce, laying down next to him, her hair a dark cloud floating off the edge of the bed.

“Always welcome,” Penny says. He goes over to his bedside table, picks up a pack of cigarettes. “You okay if I smoke in here or should I go outside?”

“You can if you share,” Quentin says. Penny blinks as if he's half-forgotten Quentin is still in the room. Quentin rolls his eyes and holds out his hand for a cigarette. “Do you have a light?”

“Oooh, I learned a trick for that,” Julia says excitedly, and she burns his fingers, but it works, which is pretty impressive for their first official day as magic students. So – Penny sits on his own bed and smokes quietly, while Julia shares a cigarette with Quentin and tells him about how annoying her roommate is, which mostly centers around how Julia is internally freaking out over how intimidatingly cool her roommate is, honestly. And the tail end of it, she asks, a little hesitantly. “Did that Margo girl find you again?”

“That Margo girl,” Quentin repeats, amused. “No. I haven't seen her since breakfast. Um. I did see- uh. Eliot. I ran into him after we got out of class.”

“Literally zero hot older students have offered to mentor me,” Julia says. “Did I forget to shower or something? Be honest, Q, do I stink right now?”

“You reek to the high heavens,” he tells her cheerfully, handing back the cigarette. “It's a shock I can stand to be this close to you, honestly.” He laughs and now he's thinking about- about the way Eliot had smelled, something inviting that had made Quentin want to lean closer so that he could- “Eliot. Um. He invited me to a party at, uh- he called it the 'physical cottage', which I'm hoping isn't a euphemism. But he said I could bring friends if I wanted. You wanna come? It's tonight.”

Guiltily, after a beat, Quentin adds, “Um. You can come too,” in Penny's general direction.

“Your wards are not good enough for me to put myself through that,” Penny says, with a snort. “But. You know. Have fun or whatever. I hope no one's pulling a She's All That on you.”

“Wow, was that genuine concern?” Quentin asks and Penny immediately makes a disgusted face but doesn't, like, deny it. “What about you, Jules? Gonna keep me company?”

“If I say 'no', will you actually still go? To a party? By yourself?” Her voice gets increasingly disbelieving as she goes on.

“I might,” Quentin says, which honestly is a bit of a surprise even as he says it. “I mean. If Eliot really does want to be my mentor, I should probably show up?”

“Okay, then I'm definitely going with you,” Julia says, looping her arm in his. “Let's stop by my room, so I can get changed.”

 


 

Officially, Eliot is tending the bar.

Unofficially, he's keeping a careful watch on the door to make certain Margo won't be able to swoop in on Quentin if – when – he arrives.

Margo has declared herself the hostess of this impromptu shindig, of course, and is glam'd up in a glittering ruby top with a black micro-mini and six-inch heels that could probably kill a man. He just needs to make sure Quentin isn't that man.

Eliot hands a Manhattan to a third-year he may have fucked in Ibiza last year but who, honestly, pales now compared to the thought of Quentin. It may have started as a healthy, casual desire to hear Quentin screaming his name but now- now, it's a fucking battle to the death, no survivors allowed. There is not a chance in hell that Margo sees that boy naked before Eliot does. Over his dead goddamn body.

“Are you feeling okay?” Todd – ugh, Todd – asks, with the concerned pout of his. “You look-”

“Amazing? Glorious? Like a breathtaking work of art?”

“I was gonna say 'nauseous'? But- yeah, of course! You look great!” And Todd gives him a double thumbs-up of encouragement and – it's a genuine human tragedy. That's what it is.

But then the metaphorical clouds part, and a ray of hope enters-

Which is to say, Quentin walks in.

He's with that friend of his – 'my best friend Julia'. She's dressed up for the party in a semi-appropriate way. Quentin-

-is not. Still, no matter. With luck, he won't be wearing those clothes for long anyway.

Eliot abandons the bar without a second glance, making a bee-line for his target, and gleefully noticing Margo is distracted in the far corner, dancing with some third-year boy whose name Eliot can't bother to remember right now.

“Quentin. Julia.” Eliot infuses his voice with nearly equal enthusiasm for both names. “I'm so glad you decided to come. How'd your first day of classes go?”

He puts a hand in the center of Quentin's back, maneuvers them all away from the swaying horde and towards the couches, emptying one of them with an impatient hand gesture. He settles Quentin down on the cushions and fixes a look of rapt attention on his face as he curls up next to him. It's- not terribly hard, honestly. Quentin is a certified nerd and Eliot has always found it rather charming to hear a cute boy ramble on about dragons or spaceships or wizards. And Quentin himself is particularly captivating, completely focused in the moment and illustrating each point with his strong, expressive hands.

“I'm pretty excited about what we're going to learn,” Julia says. She sits carefully on Quentin's other side and she's studying Eliot, forehead slightly wrinkled. He gets the impression that she finds him... confusing, which he'll take for now.

“She can already light a cigarette,” Quentin offers and, at Eliot's encouraging smile, he continues, going on about what they'd seen in the rest of their classes that day. What had stood out most, it seemed, had been a girl, Alice, being called up to the front of a class and demonstrating a nifty bit of physical magic to mold a glass ball into a horse and have it gallop around. Quentin is extremely impressed, even now, hours later.

Well, Eliot can certainly do better than that.

While he thinks about something more intricate, he motions with a lazy finger and floats over a bottle of wine and three glasses, pouring them all a drink in mid-air and then hovering them until Julia and Quentin actually reached out to take them.

Quentin has just plucked his glass from the air, delighted, when Margo arrives, like the footsteps of doom.

“Q! Jules! This is such a lovely surprise,” she gushes, laying it on way too thick, in Eliot's opinion. But then, from the depths of her bosom, she tugs out a sparkly little necklace and says, oh-so-innocently, “Look what I found tucked away in my jewelry box.” It's a tiny golden clock charm and it makes both Quentin and Julia gasp, though Julia looks around afterwards, like she's afraid someone might judge her for caring.

“It looks just like the cover on the first edition,” Quentin says, half-standing, reaching towards the charm but then yanking his hand away again when he realizes how close he is to Margo's tits. “That's- uh. Wow.” He collapses back down between Eliot and Julia, his wine dangerously close to spilling over, and all his attention on Margo.

“I could use somewhere to sit,” she trills happily, giving Quentin those big doe-eyes that had inspired Eliot's nickname for her and that he'd trusted her never to use to undermine him.

“There are plenty of places to sit. At other sofas,” Eliot points out. “This one is full.”

“Yeah, but Q and I never finished our talk about the flying forest,” she says, sticking out her lower lip. “So, if some kind gentleman were to offer his lap?”

Eyes wide, Quentin says, “Um. Yeah. Okay?” but looks startled as hell when Margo takes him up on it, perching herself on his knee, her back to Eliot. In response, he scoots closer to Quentin, stretches his arm along the back of the couch and leans so that he can at least see her profile and keep an eye on her.

“Mentors are- uh. Really hands-on at Brakebills,” Quentin says, and his hand not holding his wine glass is flexing and clenching into a fist. That's definitely a point to Bambi.

“I just believe so much in the importance of learning,” Eliot says. He hears Margo snort incredulously and, through a heroic effort, ignores her. “I do want to thank you for coming to my party,” he adds, lowering his voice and playing with the ends of Quentin's hair, which earns him an uncertain blink. “Forgive me for saying this, but you don't seem like the partying sort?”

“Not. Not normally. Not unless Jules is forcing me.”

Right now, Julia looks like she's trapped between laughter and fainting, sitting on the very edge of the couch and looking pretty much anywhere except at the three of them.

“I appreciate you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone for me,” Eliot says, daringly. He's about seventy-thirty on whether or not Quentin's ever been dicked down before, but he's running about ninety percent sure Quentin would fucking love it. Quentin's flush at Eliot's words tempts him to push the percentage even higher.

“Yeah, this is a great time for new experiences,” Margo chimes in, leaning down towards Quentin to give him a better look down her top which is- definitely cheating, like she's been doing the entire time. Maybe Eliot should have worn chaps.

Ugh, no. Not even for a good cause.

He... accidentally gives her a telekinetic shove and she wobbles on Quentin's knee before she catches herself, shooting him a poisonous look over her shoulder. His reaction backfires on him, though, as it turns out that Quentin's response to seeing Margo almost fall is to reach up to brace her, his hand low on her back. He looks flustered about it for a moment, but when Margo doesn't try to move, he relaxes again, leaves his hand where it is.

Well, fuck.

“Okay, I'm going to- go,” Julia says abruptly, standing up jerkily. “Meet some new people. Mingle. You good here? Q?” Quentin makes a half-strangled sound in the back of his throat that she must interpret as a 'yes', because she leaves to join the general throng. In quite a hurry.

“If you're feeling overwhelmed by the crowd, we can go up to my room and chat about Fillory,” Margo offers, playing with that clock charm again. “And Eliot can get back to impressing his other guests.”

Oh no, she isn't going to win that easily.

“Actually, Quentin, after hearing you talk about it, I've been thinking of re-reading the books myself,” Eliot says, and Margo's betrayed glare warms his heart. “I read them when I was younger but barely remember a thing. You can help jog my memory.”

And so, Eliot ends up spending his night lying chastely on Margo's bed, listening to Margo and Quentin talk and talk and talk about the inner workings of Fillory. He remembers enough vague outlines to toss out a sentence or two, but mostly listens. It's actually a fairly nice evening, but it does mean that neither of them see Quentin with any of his clothes off that night, though he does fall asleep about three hours into the conversation, which is kind of adorable.

“Okay,” Margo admits, from where she's lounging on the other side of Quentin. “This may take longer than a week. Especially if you keep pussy-blocking me, you douche.”

“Turnabout is fair play,” Eliot says, peaceably. He tucks a lock of Quentin's hair back behind his ear. “I suppose it won't kill me if it takes longer than a week. He is awfully cute, Bambi.”

“Not that cute.” But her eyes are soft when she says it. “But, you know, he's growing on me. And I'll definitely get something up his ass before you do.”

“You're terrible,” Eliot says, interrupting himself with a yawn. “I wonder if the party survived without us.” Quentin, all nerdy and mousey and, well, sarcastic and charming in his own very specific way, is obviously already tarnishing their hard-won reputations. Last year, when those reputations had been brand-new and fragile, he thinks the idea would have bothered him more. “We did disappear on everyone. Bad form for the second party of the year.”

“Last night's big opening bash mattered more,” Margo says. “And everyone was pretty drunk by the time Q and his friend showed up. Anyway, as long as you still think I'm the baddest bitch you know, I could give a fuck what everyone else believes.”

“Mmm, same,” Eliot says, his throat a little tight. He swallows, then adds, “But I'm still going to fucking destroy you and dance on your bones.”

“Ha, just try it,” Margo retorts. “I'll make you cry like the first time you had your pubes waxed.”

“Nasty,” Eliot says, approvingly.

About an hour later, Quentin startles himself awake again, which is... an interesting process. First, his nose twitches. Then, his hands bat out like he's fighting someone but, like, with no force behind them. His feet kick and his whole body shivers and then he finally opens his eyes, looking very confused.

“Um. Hi?” His post-nap voice is smaller and more shy than it was before, and he bites nervously at his lower lip.

“Hey there, little Q,” Margo coos, running a finger up his shirtsleeve. Quentin blinks at her some more but doesn't pull away. “I missed you.”

“The room was definitely a lot more boring while you were out,” Eliot says, reaching forward and resting his hand on Quentin's sock-covered ankle.

Quentin's eyes shift suspiciously between them. His ankle flexes under Eliot's hand. “Um.”

Eliot wants so badly to make a more obvious move, but anything he tries, Margo will block instantly. He needs to get Quentin alone to really make it clear what he wants. His fingers tap restlessly as he thinks.

“I should probably get back to my dorm,” Quentin says, but he sounds hilariously unenthused by the prospect.

“You can sleep here if you want,” Margo says. “I only bite with permission.”

Quentin is more awake by now, but still mostly looks bewildered by their flirting.

“Don't frighten the boy,” Eliot says, reflexively. “So, Quentin, what's in your dorm that you don't want to go back to?”

“My roommate reads minds,” Quentin says. “He's not- ugh. He's not, like, a terrible person or anything but I-” His face effectively communicates how little he likes the idea of anyone reading his mind. Quentin is- a bit of a fussy, anxious guy. So. Eliot gets it, maybe.

“I can teach you some fairly reliable wards,” Eliot says. “If you're interested.”

“Oh, please, you ward with the consistency of a drunken hyena,” Margo says. “Let me teach you, Q. I have a much more delicate, refined touch than this lumbering giraffe.”

Eliot scoffs. Loudly. “Delicate and refined? You? Spare me. You cast like a gorilla playing the piano for the first time.”

“Um,” Quentin says. “This seems like a- uh. A long-running argument? I should probably let you. Talk in private.”

He sort of... sidles away from Margo and falls off the side of the bed. Gets up after lying there a moment.

“Thanks for, uh. Inviting me? And listening to me- listening to me about Fillory?” Quentin says, while backing away towards the door. “Have a good talk!” And he darts off, briefly impacting his shoulder against the doorframe in what looks like a very painful way.

“Yeah,” Eliot sighs. “It's gonna take longer than a week.”

 


 

Quentin slinks back to his room around four in the morning. He feels oddly like he's just done a walk of shame, even though no sex had happened at any point. He really wants to talk to someone about his weird fucking night, but he hadn't seen Julia when he'd crept back out of the 'physical cottage' and he doesn't want to wake up Penny, so.

It's just him and his own thoughts trying to figure this out.

Item One: Eliot was assigned to greet him and show him to his test. This possibly explains why Eliot offered to be his mentor? And Eliot is probably just the sort of person who communicates through touch which is... honestly practically a foreign language for Quentin. So, that's Eliot explained.

Item Two: Margo is a little more difficult but... she is a fan of Fillory. It's probably hard for her to find other fans, especially since she's, well, sharp-tongued and intimidatingly beautiful, so there's plenty of idiots out there who would assume she can't love nerdy shit.

Item Three: Margo and Eliot obviously have some kind of rivalry going on? He thinks that's probably what the flirting with him was. What he thought was flirting was just. A weird way of using him as an intermediary for their own antagonistic relationship.

Quentin studies his conclusion and can't poke any immediate holes in it.

It certainly makes more sense than two people who look like Eliot and Margo genuinely being interested in openly flirting with him. So, that's a relief.

Maybe disappointing, too, but mostly a relief. He has enough to deal with now that he's going to fucking magic grad school, holy shit.

So, he goes to class and it's way more actual work than he expected literal magic to be.

Julia seems to take to it like a duck to water which... tracks. The girl he'd noticed in class that first day, Alice Quinn, also seems like a natural. Penny is good but hates doing homework or behaving as though he cares more than the bare minimum, so he's always just skating by during class. And Julia's roommate Kady prefers communicating solely in grunts. At least with him. From what Julia says, she does manage the occasional conversation when Quentin isn't in the room.

But it's Eliot and Margo who are Quentin's life-savers. They each take their self-appointed duties as his mentors very seriously, though their methods are... not similar at all. Eliot is laid-back and will watch Quentin make several mistakes before gently pointing out exactly what he's doing wrong and then offering him a drink to relax him. Margo will literally grab his hands and push his fingers into the right positions, while muttering to herself about it not being that hard and why is Quentin so dense all the time.

Usually, he sees Eliot out on the back patio, while Margo inevitably drags him up to her room, because she thinks more clearly up there. Both of them are- are extremely touch-orientated while teaching, in a way that Quentin isn't really used to but, on the other hand, magic requires a lot of finger movements, so it's probably not that strange for mentors to offer hand massages.

Probably.

There have been a few occasions, so far, where Eliot was already teaching Quentin and refused to let Margo drag him away and those got... pretty tense. Not to the point of raising voices, but neither of them actually needed to be loud in order to be incredibly scathing. Margo has a foul mouth when she wants to, while Eliot is capable of getting positively shakespearian in his insults.

But they're both pretty charming when they're alone with him. So much so that he's glad he already knows not to take them seriously, since otherwise, he'd be in danger of developing a crush or two.

Thus goes most of his extremely busy first few weeks, puttering along in what seems to be his new normal.

Right up until the Saturday when Julia pops by his dorm, an odd tone in her voice as she says, “Um, Q? I saw Margo and Eliot kissing out on the lawn today.”

Quentin, who has been trying to focus on his coursework which is – of course – actually really fucking hard for him, because nothing is ever allowed to be easy, snorts and says, “Uh-huh. And I saw Penny making out with Alice.”

“Did you?” she asks, a little sharply, as she drops down next to him on the bed. “Are- are Penny and Alice a thing?”

“No, of course, not,” Quentin says. “Just like Eliot and Margo aren't. They hate each other.”

“His mouth was either on her mouth or right next to it,” Julia says, flatly, and her voice is serious enough that he looks up. “And, uh- I asked around? After I saw them together? Apparently, they're actually inseparable. Been best friends since last year.”

“I almost never see them together,” Quentin argues. “And any time I do, they're fighting.”

“Okay, yeah, but they were one hundred percent kissing today. Or, at least, there was definitely a kiss,” she corrects herself. “I only saw one kiss. But they were also holding hands? Which you usually don't do with people you hate.”

“Weird,” Quentin says. He's honestly not sure how to process this. No one has ever, actually, technically said that Margo and Eliot dislike each other. He's just kinda assumed from how they constantly took potshots at each other. “I wonder why they fight so much.”

He gathers up his books.

“Where are you going?” Julia asks, but she sounds like she probably already knows. “I thought you were working on the homework for Sunderland? We can work on it together.”

“Um, well, it's tough? So, I'm going to go find one of my mentors and see if I can get some help,” Quentin says. She grimaces and he rolls his eyes. “What? I'm not gonna make any assumptions. They've been really nice-”

“-to you-”

“-yes, to me, so I'm gonna actually talk to them and see why they act like they hate each other when they're around me.” Quentin stuffs his books into his messenger bag. “And if you're right and Margo has, like, some diabolical plan to humiliate me-”

“-I never used the word 'diabolical'-”

“At least I'll know,” he finishes up. “We're years away from high school, Jules. You can stop trying to protect me.”

 


 

 

The alarm spell that Margo has tucked around the perimeter of the Cottage buzzes in her head and she bounces up from the couch, jostling Eliot as she does.

“Hey,” Eliot objects, but lazily.

“Thirsty,” Margo explains and she heads vaguely in the direction of the bar until El isn't paying attention anymore and then redirects to where her spell told her Coldwater crossed the threshold. She almost can't believe that Eliot hasn't picked up on her spellwork yet but, hey, gift horses and mouths.

She opens the door half a second after Quentin knocks, grabs him by the wrist.

“Look at you! You're so overwhelmed, poor thing,” she says. She tugs on his arm and he doesn't move. “Let's get you settled down and go over your work.”

“I'm- uh. Actually here about something else?” His tendons feel tight under her fingers. She raises a questioning eyebrow as he glances around the common room. “Oh, good. Eliot's here.”

“You're here for Eliot?” Margo tries to keep any obvious disappointment out of her voice.

“I wanted to talk to, um. To both of you,” he says. Normally, he seems to want to avoid being around both of them at the same time – they do tend to get a smidge competitive, she supposes – so this is a twist. Still, it's not as much of a blow to her chances as it would be if he wanted to see El alone.

“Want a drink?” she asks, as she tugs again, this time towards the bar. Quentin goes with her and watches her make him a gin and tonic. “Not as fancy as one of Eliot's overdecorated monstrosities, but you seem to like simple things, too.”

“Are you insulting my taste in front of Quentin?” Eliot calls from where he's lounging. “That is a dangerous road to go down from a woman who I've seen match stripes with polka-dots.”

“It was ironic and you know that, you pretentious bastard.”

Quentin sips at his drink. This is normally when he tries to duck uncomfortably out of the conversation, but he's wrinkling his face up and studying them carefully this time. “You know each other really well,” he says, and his voice is strangely flat.

“I mean, Eliot's the best,” Margo says but, no, wrong message to send. Quentin can't be thinking Eliot's the best. He needs to be thinking she's the best. “You know. If you like overgrown dandies with no work ethic and a drinking problem.”

“Classy re-direct,” Eliot says, with a snort. “Very subtle. As you can see, Q, Margo suffers from extreme delusions of grandeur and can't handle anyone else getting positive attention for more than a millisecond. It's tragic.”

“Uh-huh.” Quentin wanders over to the chair facing Eliot's couch and sits on it. Not one to be left out of things, Margo comes over to lean over the back of the chair so she can keep an eye on both Quentin and on Eliot's face. Quentin looks the way he does when he finally figures out the right way to hold his hands for a tut which is... odd in the context of having a conversation. “I mean... you really know each other. You're friends.”

“I mean, yes?” Eliot's voice swings up in confusion. “Bambi is, I suppose, the least-awful person at the school. Apart from you, of course.”

“Of course,” Quentin repeats. “Um. You fight a lot. For being friends.”

Margo purses her lips together for a moment. Had she and Eliot never-? Was this the first time that-?

Oh. Huh.

“Well, we're competitive bitches,” she says, almost absent-mindedly, as she goes back over the times when she's been in the same room as both Quentin and Eliot and- okay, yeah. They've groused and poked and bitched at each other the entire time, every time, until Quentin got so awkward about it that he would literally run out of the room. “But he's my- best friend or whatever, yeah.”

Quentin downs the rest of his drink. “Right,” he says. “Best friends. 'Bambi'. Competitive. Okay.”

Eliot straightens up a bit on the couch, eyes fixed on Quentin. “Is everything all right, Q? We weren't- we weren't trying to keep it a secret that we're friends. I'm sorry if we gave that impression.”

“What exactly have you been competing over?” Quentin's voice is, again, very lacking in inflection. “Because, um. You've been fighting every time I've seen you together?”

Margo locks eyes with Eliot and- shit. That's- okay, the truth would actually be kind of an asshole thing to say, honestly? We both wanted to bang you and so we've been tearing each other down to see who could get you naked first? Not exactly smooth. On the other hand, she's seen plenty of teen movies in her time, and if they lie to him, she just knows they're in for a horribly overwrought dramedy of a third act that involves a painful revealing of the truth. So.

“You're cute,” she says, going for a light and casual 'we're all friends here' tone. “We both wanted to be your intro-to-Brakebills. Got a little heated over it, I suppose.”

“Yeah, okay.” Quentin says and she can't- can't read his voice at all. He puts his glass down and he gets up and-

“You don't have to go-” she says and he-

“Yeah, well, I'm not gonna fuck anyone here today, so I guess I better. Um. Go do my actual work.”

His voice isn't- harsh or anything, but she still takes a step back.

He walks out.

“You weren't much help there,” she says to Eliot, who is sitting with his arms propped up and dangling between his knees now. “You kinda left me out to dry.”

“Oh, that situation was not getting any better,” Eliot says. “Give him a hot minute to vent to his friends about what assholes we are, okay?”

Margo plops down into the chair Quentin abandoned and curls up in it. “I mean. We're both really fucking gorgeous. He doesn't need to act offended we want to bang him.”

Eliot fiddles with his glass. “I don't think that's what was bothering him.”

“Oh, are you suddenly one of the psychic kids now? Do we have to move all your shit to their stinky-ass house?” Margo picks up Quentin's empty glass and sighs. “El. If you tell me that you think we should apologize to him for thinking he's cute enough to screw-”

“You can do whatever you want,” Eliot says. “I'm not allergic to the occasional 'I'm sorry'.”

“Because you still want to fuck him or-”

“Bambi, not right now, okay?” Eliot looks down and gives off a do-not-touch vibe that she remembers well from the start of first year, before they'd taken down enough of their walls around each other to start to be real friends.

“Do you want me to go?” she asks, in a small voice, and she's much too relieved when he shakes his head. Even more when he beckons her over. She goes to him on the couch and sits next to him, leaning her head against his shoulder. After a moment, he wraps his arm around her, and they sit together for a while.

 




Julia isn't still in Quentin's room when he gets back, which is a relief because he's not ready to talk about this yet. He's not even entirely sure what he thinks about this or how he feels, so trying to explain it to someone else would be a nightmare.

Penny is there which is... complicated. Quentin's wards are a lot better now, thanks to Eliot and Margo, so he doesn't bother Penny the way he did when they first started rooming together, but Penny does still think of him as a boring nerd, so... it's complicated.

“Hey,” Penny says, without looking up from his own work.

“Hey.” Quentin unslings his bag onto his bed. Collapses onto it with a heavy sigh.

There's a long silence, where he can faintly hear Penny whispering to himself as he practices spells. It's peaceful, almost. Quentin thinks about pulling out one of his Fillory books, to maybe make himself feel better but-

-ugh, all he can think of now are the conversations he's been having with Margo, about Fillory. She used to dream about being an Ambassador to the Outer Islands, and it had been sweet and cute to imagine little kid-her, reading the same books as him and having the same daydreams. Now, it's... confusing and weird.

“Hey, your wards are getting messy,” Penny says. “I'm not getting any details, but- thought you should know.”

“Sorry,” Quentin says. He tries to think more quietly.

A couple of hours later, he looks up at a knock against his doorframe, expecting Julia, probably.

His brain freezes a little when he sees Eliot, leaning his long body against the frame and looking at him... sympathetically. Eliot looks... serious and maybe kind of sad. Maybe? Eliot's eyes flick over, to where Penny is, then back at Quentin.

“Can we talk alone for a minute?”

Quentin shrugs and gets up. He feels graceless and clumsy, so close to Eliot, now that he's not certain what any of his conversations with Eliot had actually meant. But he follows.

Eliot takes him down to a little patio behind the first-year dorms. Pulls out a cigarette and offers it to him. Quentin shakes his head, and Eliot lights it for himself, with an effortless flick of magic. They sit there for a bit, Eliot smoking and Quentin just trying not to let his legs shake too much under the patio table.

“There are two things I wanted to start with,” Eliot says, tapping out some ash. “First. I'm sorry. We made you feel like shit and- even if we never meant to, we did. So. That's the first thing. The second thing is... we weren't making fun of you or setting you up for a fall. The flirting was real.”

“Okay,” Quentin says, maybe too quickly. He's not sure. “I mean it's- you know, whatever. Um. The thing is- ah, you said-” His hands are trying to tuck his hair back without his permission, so he yanks them down and presses them flat against the table. “Um. If I'd- if I'd slept with you or- or with Margo. That first. That first day. Or at that party. Would you have talked to me again? Afterwards? Would you have still- um. Still been my mentor after that?”

He can't quite look at Eliot. Not his face. He looks at Eliot's hands instead, elegant, with long fingers, moving restlessly as he holds his cigarette.

“I don't know,” Eliot says.

It's mostly what Quentin has been expecting but it still-

It still kinda sucks to hear.

“Yeah, okay,” he says. Just nonsense words to fill the silence. “Okay.”

He really hopes he doesn't cry.

“There was this thing that Margo and I did, last year,” Eliot says. “We'd pick out a cute student that caught our eye and we'd compete to fuck him. Usually 'him'. But everyone involved knew it was just- just sex. We all had fun and no one got hurt.”

“That you know of.”

“Yeah, I guess that's true,” Eliot says, more softly. “I'm sorry we didn't make things clear, at the start of this. But you aren't- look, Margo and I didn't make anything up. She really does love that book series of yours. She's thrilled to have someone to talk to about Fillory. And I- I like listening to you. That wasn't fake. I do still think you're cute, Quentin. If you wanna fuck, I would be up for it. But... honestly, I'd rather be your friend than have a one-time hook-up.”

Quentin watches Eliot's fingers, slender but strong and-

And.

“So if we- uh. Even if we did have sex now, you wouldn't- wouldn't ghost me afterwards?” Quentin asks. His fingers start tapping on the table. He straightens them to make them stop. “We'd- um. We'd still be friends?”

“I promise,” Eliot says. And he sounds sincere.

And- and-

Quentin wants him to prove it.

“Okay, yeah,” he says. He forces his eyes up, and Eliot is- is staring right at him. Probably has been the whole time. “Fuck me. And- and be my friend. After.”

Eliot's eyes widen and he blinks, uncertainly.

He stubs out his cigarette.

Holds out his hand.

Quentin takes it.

 


 

Eliot takes Quentin back up to his dorm room because he is not taking the risk of going all the way to the Cottage and possibly running into Margo.

Which is mostly for Quentin's comfort, and only a tiny bit for Eliot.

Quentin's roommate is still up there but when he sees Eliot tugging Quentin in by his wrist, he gets the message loud and clear and after a strangled “Hey, Coldwater - make good choices!” and a tight grimace, the roommate clears out, headed- somewhere else.

Eliot doesn't really care where.

“I've been dying to see what you look like under these things,” Eliot says, flicking his fingers against the sleeve of Quentin's shirt. He feels shaky, but the only thing in his system is a couple of cocktails. And the thought of fucking Quentin. Finally, finally, finally. He tugs at the collar of the open button-down that Quentin is wearing over his actual shirt and – okay, Eliot doesn't have much room to talk shit about layering, but the sooner he can yank all this useless fabric off Quentin and get to skin, the better. “I can kiss you, right?”

Quentin nods, eyes wide and mouth slightly open, so Eliot goes for it. Wraps his hand around the back of Quentin's neck and leans down and licks right into Q's mouth. Backs off to press tiny kisses to his lips and the corners of his mouth. Quentin kisses him back clumsily, maybe a little rusty at it, but he relaxes into it, lets Eliot take the lead.

Eliot had only glanced at the room, but he has a fairly good spatial memory, and when he pushes Quentin back in the direction he thinks the bed is, he's not surprised when Quentin makes a startled noise as his legs hit the mattress and he sits down abruptly. Eliot stands between his legs, cups his face, thinks about-

“Have you been fucked before?” He's not entirely sure what he hopes Quentin's answer will be.

Quentin blinks up at him for a moment, then says, “Um. Not with, like, an actual dick?”

“Meaning?”

“A girlfriend-” Quentin makes a face. “Secret girlfriend, I guess. She didn't want Julia to know. Um. She would- uh. Peg me? And there was- um. A guy back in high school who. I gave him blowjobs and he liked to finger me while I- uh. While I jerked off? But we never actually- um. Fucked.” A secret girlfriend. And a 'guy in high school', carefully not labeled a boyfriend.

Eliot thinks about that as he pets at Quentin's shoulders, thinks about how easily and quickly Quentin had realized Margo was talking about sex, back during their big blow-out.

Be my friend, after.

“Should we- uh. Should we lock the door?” Quentin sounds... nervous, maybe worried. That his friend Julia might walk in on him? Eliot brushes Q's soft hair back, tucks it behind his ears and strokes over the thin skin there.

“I can lock the door and blank out the room so that sound doesn't get out,” Eliot says. He rubs a thumb over Quentin's mouth and adds, “I don't mind if someone hears. I bet you make amazing noises.” A deep flush floods across Quentin's cheeks and Eliot traces it with his fingers. “But if you'd be more comfortable with a ward up, I can do that.”

Quentin bites down on his mouth and Eliot can see his hands twisting up into fists and-

“We probably should,” he says, reluctantly, and there's definitely a hint of an unexplored desire hiding in those words but- for now. Eliot locks the door telekinetically and then creates the silencing ward inside the space of the room. Quentin watches his hands carefully, studying for later. His eyes dart down Eliot's body and he asks, “Do you want me to blow you, before you- ah. Before you fuck me?”

Eliot cups the side of Quentin's face, smiles when Quentin leans into it. “Not right now. Daddy isn't gonna have any issues getting hard enough to fuck you.” Quentin brings in a sharp quivering breath. “Do you have any preferences about position?”

“I don't have-” Quentin huffs out a breath. “Um. Julia's friend would. She liked me on my back for it? But she was-” His mouth twists and there is- definitely a land mine here that Eliot needs to know about before he even gets close to Quentin's ass.

“Why did she like it?” He strokes at Quentin's neck again, which makes him sigh a little. “Is it something I should avoid doing? You don't sound thrilled about whatever it was she liked.”

His nose wrinkles up. “Um. She- she- I guess she wasn't that nice?”

“Physically or verbally?” Eliot asks, and he turns his caress of Q's shoulders into something of a light, gentle massage.

“Both?” Quentin's voice pitches up in tone, like he's not sure he's allowed to say it. “She just- uh. She liked that I wasn't hard, I guess, and she would talk about it and. Um. Smack my dick around? That part didn't hurt, not really, so. I don't know if that- uh. If that counts as not being. Nice.”

“It counts,” Eliot says, and he tucks away all of those words away to unpack later, when he has the time and the emotional energy to deal with how they're making him feel. “Well, I'm definitely planning on getting you hard before I fuck you, baby, so you don't have to worry about any of that.”

Hands and knees, then, to keep it different from his memories. And make really fucking sure he's turned on while he's getting screwed.

He yanks off Quentin's button-down and tosses it onto the floor. Pushes Quentin back onto the bed and climbs into his lap. Gets in some serious kisses, because Quentin- Quentin melts under them, kisses back eagerly, like he's afraid it could go away any second. He slips his hand under the collar of Quentin's other shirt, but doesn't try to pull it off yet. Slow and sweet is the way to go with Quentin. He's pretty sure of that now.

Eliot tilts up Quentin's head up, runs his thumb along the trembling column of his neck. Q's pulse flutters under his fingertips, a runaway train.

And Quentin is definitely getting hard now. Eliot rolls his hips, lets Quentin feel that he's stiff, too. “Ready for your shirt to come off?”

“Uh-” Quentin swallows and Eliot feels it against his palm. “You first?”

“We can make that happen,” Eliot says. “Hold my hips? Brace me.”

Quentin's hands land low on his waist, sliding a little under his trousers to touch skin. Eliot leans back, stretches his arms up as he does, and Quentin's grip tightens to keep him safely in place. He unbuttons his vest. Unbuttons the first button, flashing Quentin a teasing look that makes him bite his lip. He's not wearing a tie today, which he really regrets right now, because he'd be able to loop it around Q's neck, tug him close for another kiss...

He undoes another button instead, rocks his hips against Quentin's.

Eliot's never technically done a strip tease or a lap dance, but he understands the concepts well enough to do an approximation. He puts on a show for Q, leans in to brush a kiss against his mouth every now and then, keeps his body moving against Quentin's, and slowly, slowly takes off his vest and drops it on the floor. He'll worry about wrinkles later.

Quentin watches with blatant fascination and Eliot is- is relatively certain Quentin's never had this done to him, either. After Eliot unbuttons the very top of his shirt, he slips his hand inside, cups his own throat, and as he continues down the line of buttons, he pushes his shirt open, pinches his nipple hard to make himself gasp and enjoy how Quentin licks at his lower lip hungrily. Eliot reaches out, palms the back of Quentin's head. “You wanna suck? You can. Use your teeth a little.”

He guides Quentin's mouth to his chest and Quentin just fucking goes for it- licks at Eliot's pec and latches onto his nipple with his teeth, sucking and tugging, and each yank jolts right down to Eliot's dick.

“That's a good boy,” Eliot says, petting through Quentin's silky hair, then tugging at it, to see how Quentin reacts. Grins to himself when Quentin tries to buck up against him on the bed. “You are making daddy very happy right now, baby. You can even be rougher if you want.”

And so Quentin fucking bites him on the pec, and Eliot's body straightens up in delighted shock.

When he relaxes, Quentin is licking at the bite mark, making these adorable tiny worried noises. “You're doing wonderful,” Eliot coos, reassuringly. “That felt real good. You have such a lovely mouth.”

Quentin smiles at him, wide and almost dazed – definitely wider than he's ever see Q smile before – and Eliot makes a mental bookmark to think about that later, too.

“You should be more naked,” Quentin tells him, and there's a blush bright on his cheeks but he sounds gloriously bossy and determined about it.

“Then take my shirt off,” Eliot says, flicks his finger against Quentin's own shirt. “And yours?”

Quentin sets to the rest of Eliot's buttons while Eliot drapes his hands over Quentin's shoulders and plays with his hair. Quentin gets distracted easily, reaching up to brush his knuckles across Eliot's nipples again or stroke over his chest hair or lick and bite at his skin as it gets exposed. He pushes impatiently at Eliot's hands when it's time to shove his shirt off his shoulders and Eliot laughs at him, but only a little. His own shirt, he takes care of quickly, yanking it up and over his head and throwing it away like it's garbage.

Eliot smooths his hands over Quentin's shoulders, broader and stronger than they seemed under those clothes of his. He tweaks a nipple, which makes Quentin let out a small yelp that he looks horrifically embarrassed about a second later. He soothes it, gently, and Quentin reacts better to that, eyes getting dreamy again. Quentin's chest is flushed, too, which is an enchanting discovery. Eliot presses his mouth against every inch of heated skin, spending some extra time lapping at Quentin's nipples, which are already tight and twitching under his tongue. Quentin's hands pet at his sides, in an almost repetitive, calming way.

It's been too long since he kissed Q, so Eliot fixes that, mouths up the side of his neck, licks at his jaw and chin, and then presses his tongue between Quentin's eager, open lips, loving how it makes Quentin's fingers flex against his skin. He slides his hand into Quentin's hair so that he can tug him back, look at his startled wide eyes and trembling mouth. “I want my hands all over you, baby. I'm thinking a massage. You want that?”

Quentin just- blinks at him, for a while, like he's trying to process the idea. “Um. I guess?”

“It's a good way to relax your body,” Eliot explains. “It'll make it easier for you to stay turned on while you get fucked.”

“Oh.” Quentin takes that in. “That sounds- okay, yeah.”

Regretfully, Eliot gets off of Quentin's lap and takes a look at what he has to work with for their bed situation.

He's already – blessedly – forgotten how cheap and thin the pillows are in the dorms that the first-years get shoved into before they get assigned their discipline. He expands and softens the pillows with a quick set of tuts and places one in the middle of the bed. “Luckily, magic fixes so many of life's little problems,” he says, cheerfully. “Okay, babe, let's get your pants off.”

First, they have to get his shoes and socks off, which Eliot takes as a good cue to shed his own, trying to toss them in the approximate direction of the rest of his clothes.

Quentin pokes at the pillow. “Is this gonna stick?”

“Until I undo the spell,” Eliot says. “Pants, Q. Take off your pants.”

Impatiently, he reaches forward and tugs Quentin to him, unbuttoning and unzipping and yanking them down. He leaves Quentin's boxes on. He can work around those for now. He motions for Quentin to sit on the bed so that he can pull his pants the rest of the way off and throw them aside.

“Up. Lie down on your front. Pillow under your hips.”

Quentin stares at him a moment, then scrambles up on the bed, nearly slipping off. He lies down and- and clearly has never had a massage before, because he has no idea what to do with his hands, keeps moving them around. Not that this is going to be a real massage, but still.

“You can relax,” Eliot says, gently. “This part is just supposed to feel good.”

“I feel. Good. Already,” Quentin says, face smashed against his other pillow. “You could just fuck me now. Or whatever.”

“I'll fuck you when I'm ready and not a damn second earlier,” Eliot says, and Quentin shivers which is- okay, that's nice. He rubs his hand along the line of Q's back. Quentin has a lot of strength under his clothes, but not much inclination to use it. Eliot can sympathize. He uses clothes to hide, too, just in a different way. “I'm gonna conjure up some massage oil, if you wanna watch me do the tuts.”

Quentin props himself up on his elbows so that he can look over his shoulder.

It is- really cute, the way Quentin loves magic. Eliot has never loved magic like that.

Eliot makes a show of the spell, and Quentin watches his hands eagerly. “I'm gonna do a similar spell when I get you ready,” Eliot says, and Quentin's gaze snaps to his face. “Slightly different consistency in the oil. We'll see if you can spot it in the tuts.”

Quentin nods, lays his head back down on the pillow, wrapping his arms around it in a hug.

Hs skin is already soft and smooth but, fuck, even with all the kissing and teasing, his muscles are tense. Eliot glides his hands along, firm but soothing. Any masseuse would laugh at this being called a massage, but Quentin doesn't know any better, and he does relax under Eliot's hands, slowly but surely. When Eliot feels like the time is right, he delicately tugs Quentin's boxes over the curve of his ass, presses his fingers into it now that he can finally see how pert and perfect it is.

He urges Quentin to lift up his hips, slides one hand down the front so that he can gently cup Q's dick – semi-hard, still – and protect it while he pulls the boxers down. He tugs them all the way off and then spends time on Quentin's legs, caressing and rubbing as he makes his way back up to his ass. He pulls the cheeks apart, takes a look at the tight pink furl of Quentin's asshole. He rubs a thumb over it, watches Quentin twitch in response.

Eliot slides his hands up along Quentin's back, rubs his shoulders. “You wanna see the lube spell, baby?”

Quentin nods into the pillow, but slips a little as he tries to get himself back up on his elbows to watch. Eliot bites back a smile. His boy is getting good and relaxed. Eliot gives another gentle stroke to Q's shoulders, then pulls his hands back so that Quentin can see him do the tuts for the lubrication spell. Quentin's eyes narrow as he studies Eliot's hands.

“It protects, too,” Eliot says, brushing his knuckles across the meat of Q's ass. “But we can use a condom, if you want. I know you haven't fucked using magic before, so I don't want you to feel unsafe.”

Quentin's mouth twists a bit, as he thinks about it. “You used Popper #39, which is used in healing spells,” he says, as if to himself. “And the Circumstances would account for- um.” His forehead wrinkles and he whispers a couple of other things too quietly for Eliot to hear. Then his expression clears and he says, “Uh. Yeah. I mean, it seems legit and I-” He gives kind of a half-shrug. “I mean. Since we're just doing this once, I feel like- I kinda want the full, um. Experience.”

Oh, right.

They're doing this to prove to Quentin that they can be friends afterwards. That Eliot isn't going to just drop him once he's gotten into his pants.

It's not that Eliot had forgotten that, exactly. Just.

“I'm a great experience,” he says, with a bright smile. “You'll want to give a rave review, I promise.”

To prove his point, he spreads open Quentin's ass, leans down and licks against his hole. Quentin makes a strangled gasping sound and collapses back onto his pillow. Eliot presses a slick finger against Quentin, teases him. Quentin twitches against him and Eliot can see the effort he's putting into making himself relax, like he's not expecting Eliot to do any of the work for him. Even if Quentin hadn't told him, it would be clear he'd been fucked before. But by someone who had bullied their way inside, who had cared more about seeing Quentin quiver and flinch than whether or not he was having fun.

Eliot thinks he wouldn't like Julia's friend much at all, if he met her in real life.

So, he slows down even more, fucking makes out with Quentin's asshole like Quentin really will be leaving a review afterwards. Keeps his fingers away for now, just licks and sucks and presses soft kisses against the puckered skin. And he was right, so right, about the sounds that Q would make during sex. He starts out soft, trying to hide away in the pillow, but the deeper Eliot's tongue goes, the less Q can control himself and he's whimpering and grunting and making all those wonderful noises. If he were paying attention to himself, he'd probably be embarrassed, but Eliot has him caught up, distracted in the feeling.

Once Quentin is actively trying to shove back onto his mouth, that's when Eliot brushes a finger across his hole, and it opens up for him so much easier now, with so much less obvious effort by Quentin. He just holds his finger there a moment, lets Quentin push back onto it, let Q fuck himself.

“So desperate, baby,” Eliot says, because he can't help it. Quentin's hips stutter, then he rocks faster, trying to get Eliot's finger deeper. He pulls his hand away and Quentin pushes helplessly against the air. “Are you hard for me?”

He slides his hand between Quentin's legs, cradling his balls for a moment before continuing on, stroking his fingers up the heavy shaft. Quentin is hard, swollen and eager, the tip of his cock beaded with precome. Ideally, he wants Q to come while Eliot is fucking him, though that can be- tricky, sometimes, in practice.

Quentin rocks against his hand and Eliot allows it for a while because, fuck, the noises he makes. Then he slips his hand away again, grabs at Quentin's hips to pull him away from the pillow.

“Can you stay up on your knees?” he asks, petting Quentin's ass. “Watching you hump the pillow is very cute, but I don't want you to come before I fuck you.”

The only verbal response he gets is a weak moan, but Quentin doesn't collapse back down immediately when Eliot stops holding him up, so he takes it as a win. He spreads Quentin's asscheeks wide again with both thumbs, licks at him with the broad flat of his tongue, then pushes two fingers inside.

Quentin is very relaxed now, because they slid right in.

He fucks them in as far as they'll go.

Eliot still needs to- to stretch Quentin, because even relaxed, he needs to be more open for El's cock not to feel on the bad side of too much but, first, he takes a moment just to enjoy himself. Quentin is tight around his fingers but not tense, and he's so warm and satin-smooth that Eliot pets at the inside of him, to feel him. Licks at the place his fingers disappear into Q.

Then he- he pulls his fingers out and tugs Quentin's hips backwards so that he's sitting back on his heels, with the pillow closer to his chest than his stomach. It's a little awkward and it won't last while Eliot's actually fucking Q, but it'll keep his dick away from any contact while Eliot finger-fucks him.

Eliot has done- has done a masterful job of ignoring his own cock pressing hard against the seam of his pants, but the situation is becoming... acute. So, before he gets back into it, he shimmies out of the rest of his clothes, jerking his dick once or twice when he has it free, then lets it hang heavy between his legs. Quentin has been... so good, staying right where Eliot put him, with his hands drawn up into tight fists.

“Hey there, pretty boy,” Eliot says, making his voice sweet, almost cloying. “You need something, baby? You look like you're waiting for someone.”

He rests his hand on Quentin's ass. Rubs it 'round in gentle circles. He's not sure whether or not Quentin is actually in a place, right now, to join the conversation. But if he is, then he wants Q to have the space to do it. Quentin takes a few shuddering breaths that move his whole body.

El...” Quentin says it in a whine, long and drawn out. “Jesus, Eliot. I- fuck.”

“Hmm, 'Eliot, I fuck' is not an entirely inaccurate summary,” Eliot says.

Quentin snorts.

Asshole.”

“Also fairly relevant,” Eliot says, thumbing the asshole in question and watching Quentin jerk into his touch. “You're good at this, baby.”

“You are such a dick,” Quentin pants out, and it takes him a little while, but it is a full sentence. “Just- ah, just fuck me already.”

“Tsk-tsk, now I seem to remember saying something earlier,” Eliot says, and Quentin lets out a frustrated groan. “What was it I said?” When Quentin doesn't say anything, Eliot gives him a light smack, right on the tempting curve of his ass. “What was it I said, baby?”

“Ahh, you- you wouldn't fuck me until- uh. Until you were ready,” Quentin says, rebellious and sullen and it's... it's darling. Eliot wants to wrap this moment up and keep it in his pocket forever. “But I'm ready now.”

“It takes two to tango, baby,” Eliot says, rubbing his fingers over the place he'd smacked Q. It had been light enough that it hadn't even gone pink but oh, he wishes he had. “You haven't even screamed for me yet.”

Quentin huffs out a bratty little laugh. “I don't- uh. I don't scream during sex.” His voice is haughty and certain and Eliot absolutely must prove him wrong now.

He slides one hand over to lie flat and heavy across the dip of Quentin's back, pushes those two fingers back inside. And- lovely, lovely boy. Quentin's body isn't just relaxed anymore, it's welcoming, clinging tightly to him. He doubts Little Miss Pegging bothered to do any actual exploration, though maybe High School Boy did. Still, he thinks Q would have mentioned it, if someone had tripped his prostate before now.

When Eliot does find it, Quentin bites back on a gasp, his body shaking with the effort.

So, it's gonna be like that, huh?

Never let it be said that Eliot doesn't rise to a challenge.

He's not heavy-handed about it – his primary goal is still to stretch Quentin out for his dick – but he makes a point of rubbing against Q's prostate on each slide in and out, and he can see how much Quentin is liking it. But the fucker refuses to raise his voice.

“I had no idea you were such a brat,” Eliot says, trying to sound scolding instead of thrilled. “You are so much work, baby.”

And Quentin – delightful asshole that he is – laughs. It's broken a bit by his attempts to hold back his whimpers and moans but, yes, it's a real laugh that makes his chest shake. Eliot presses a kiss to the curve of Quentin's ass, nips at the skin, keeps steadily fucking him with his fingers. Eliot fucked – honestly, he's not sure how many – a lot of other students last year. Quentin is- by a devastatingly large margin, his favorite.

He goes as long as he can, and Quentin keeps swallowing down any sound louder than Eliot's own voice.

“Fine,” he says, because his fingers are cramping and Quentin is shiver-shaking with each thrust. “God, fine. You win.” Quentin's laugh has turned into something of a giggle and Eliot bites down on his own laughter. “I'll fuck you now. You impossible stubborn little thing.”

He has to wrap his hands around his dick, get it slicked up with lube again, because he spent so long with his fingers in Q's ass that it feels too dry now, to stick right inside. Eliot shakes his head, smiles to himself, pats Quentin's ass affectionately. He presses the head of his cock against Quentin's hole and- he can practically feel it clutching at him already.

“Ready, baby?” Eliot asks again, just to be a dick. Before Quentin can do more than grouse incoherently, he pushes in, slow but inexorable. Q is loose enough, relaxed enough, he knows it, he knows it, and he's right, fuck, he slides in as easy as breathing. Glides with colors sparking at the edges of his vision, until his hips are pressed tight-tight against Quentin's perfect ass.

He doesn't have to ask Quentin if this is better than Pegging Girl.

He doesn't have to ask.

Eliot presses his body down against Quentin's, rocks his hips slightly, whispers in his ear, “Mmm, any better than the last time you got fucked?”

There's a mumble, so Eliot leans closer, presses a kiss to Quentin's cheek.

“What was that?”

“...you know it is, you fucking asshole...” but the words are soft and fond and laced with the hint of a needy whine.

Eliot gathers up Quentin's wayward hands, holds them against the small of his back and admires the way it makes him arch against the sheets. Quentin's hands are- strong and muscular, but Eliot can still press his wrists in place with one hand, if he stretches. Then he can put his other hand between Quentin's shoulder blades and push down as he pumps his hips, and Quentin moans for him, though he tries to bite down on it.

It's not the best position – Eliot can't get any real force into his thrusts this way – but fuck, Quentin looks pretty. And he's not in a hurry. Jesus, he's not in any fucking hurry.

“How close are you to coming?” Eliot asks, and Quentin's answer comes half-choked off into a whimper. “Oh, I should slow down more? Thanks for letting me know, baby.”

Quentin bucks against him and his wrists tense and twist in Eliot's hand. He pants against the bed and grinds out, “Harder. Harder, you selfish fuck.”

“I mean, it's just tough to hear when you're being so quiet,” Eliot says, flattening his hand out over Quentin's back to hold him still. “Have you thought of. Speaking up?”

“Oh, my god, you dickhead, just fuck me,” Quentin says, his voice finally getting loud enough that they're getting some use out of those silencing wards. “Fuck me before I fucking die of old age.” And his voice gets louder and more high-pitched, almost shrill. It's amazing. And Quentin can't go anywhere, not with half of Eliot's weight bearing down on his shoulders and back. “Oh, my god, Eliot! Christ! Fucking move!”

“Well,” Eliot says, feeling profoundly satisfied. “You only had to ask.”

He releases Quentin's hands, grabs onto his hips, and gives him a hard, deep thrust like he's been begging for and, in response, Quentin grunts like El just punched him in the stomach, scrabbling to clutch at the sheets. His ass twitches and clings to Eliot's dick and it's-

-it's good, it's so good. Maybe he can- can talk Quentin into going again, tomorrow maybe. He just- this absolutely cannot be the only time he fucks Q. Not when Q takes it so well, like he was born to have a cock in his ass. Eliot tilts Quentin's hips, slams into him so hard he fucking bounces off him, and Quentin is yanking at the sheets and trying his best to shove back just as hard.

He needs to- to make sure Quentin comes.

There is nothing more important in the world right now than Q coming while Eliot fucks him. Nothing.

He braces with one hand, gropes under Quentin to find his dick. Smiles when he feels how stiff Q is. Pegging Girl can take her bad screwing etiquette and jump off a goddamned cliff. “You gonna come for me, baby?” he croons, half-tugging at Q's cock and half letting his thrusting do it for him. “You gonna mess up your bed? Gonna have to clean it up before your roomie comes back in, smells the sex all over-”

“You dick,” Quentin says, half-sobs, as he comes into Eliot's hand. And, yeah, that's a big checkmark for his little Q being a closet exhibitionist. Eliot keeps jerking as Quentin's cock spurts and dribbles all over the sheets. He smears his hand up Quentin's stomach, getting him good and messy, then pushes him down against the bed.

Quentin shivers under him as Eliot chases his own orgasm, letting out tiny moans and whimpers when Eliot rubs past his prostate. Coming inside Q is- a lot. His ass takes it so well, quivering and trembling around his dick as it empties into him. Eliot keeps bucking, a little, as he comes, because Quentin is just so lovely around him.

“Oh fuck me,” Quentin moans, as Eliot pulls out, which-

“Your timing is off, babe,” he points out, and he gets a flailing hand smacking at his arm as a reprimand. “Just saying. That part already happened.”

He shifts over and – gracefully – collapses next to Quentin, on his side, so that he can look at Q's post-orgasm face which is... ridiculous, honestly. His cheeks are red and he's panting like he just finished a marathon and his hair is a fucking bird's nest.

Eliot kinda already wants to fuck him again.

Instead, he reaches over and pets at Quentin's hair while he comes down. It takes a while, Quentin's face still smashed into the pillow, and his whole body heaving as he breathes.

Finally, though, Quentin props himself up on his elbows and says, in an unenthused voice, “Ugh. I really am going to have to wash these sheets before Penny gets back.”

“You aren't,” Eliot says, fondly. “Magic, remember?” And he does a series of cleaning tuts and watches Quentin's face brighten up in joy as the mess vanishes. “So. Are you feeling any better?”

Quentin rolls onto his side, facing Eliot. “I- uh.” His face is unexpectedly serious. “I guess I am. But- um. You don't-” His mouth twists and his eyes are focused on Eliot's chin. “You don't really still have to- uh. Be my friend. That's not- um. I get that I can't actually trade sex for- for friendship. I was just. Mad. Or whatever. I understand if- uh.”

Jesus.

Eliot cups the side of Quentin's face, which makes him stop talking. He rubs his thumb along Quentin's cheekbone.

“We're friends,” he promises. It makes something twist in his stomach but that's- that's not the important thing here. “I'm not gonna pretend I don't know you when we're around other people, okay? We're friends and we fucked, but we're still friends.”

“You barely know me,” Quentin says, soft and small and vulnerable. “You don't have to-”

“Well, I bond fast,” Eliot says, injecting as much breezy nonchalance into his voice as he can manage. “When you think about it, time is an illusion, isn't it?” He strokes through Q's hair. “I won't ghost you, okay?”

“Okay,” Quentin breathes.

They lay there for a while longer, and Eliot keeps petting through Quentin's hair, soothing.

“I should probably get dressed and let Penny back in,” Quentin says. He doesn't actually get up. “If- do you think he's out there somewhere?”

“I honestly don't care,” Eliot says. Quentin's hair is so fucking touchable. “He's definitely not a physical kid, so I don't have to think about him.”

“That is... really cold, Eliot,” Quentin tells him, but his mouth is twitching, trying to avoid a smile. “Have a heart, will you?”

“Too much work,” Eliot says. “And much too stressful.”

“Uh-huh.” Quentin watches him with soft eyes. Then he groans and rolls away, onto his back. Makes a face like he regrets that particular choice. Rests his hand on his stomach and stares up at the ceiling. “I need to talk to Margo, don't I?”

“She said she's not planning on apologizing,” Eliot says, by way of a warning.

“Yeah, I don't really get the 'sorry' vibe from her,” Quentin says. He doesn't sound too bothered. “But, like you said earlier, she doesn't have a lot of people to talk to Fillory about, so.” He sort of implies a shrug without actually moving. “She'd still be my friend too, right?”

There's subtext in Quentin's question that Eliot is absolutely certain he's too fucked-out to pick up on, so he says, eloquently, “Huh?”

“I should get dressed,” Quentin says, and he falls out of the bed. Picks himself up again, wincing.

“Oh, you mean now,” Eliot says. “You're leaving right now to go talk to Margo.”

Quentin gets dressed, piece by piece. Gets stuck in his shirt for a bit before he manages to yank it over his head. Falls over while he's putting on his shoes. Eliot just- watches. All he really wants to do is tug Quentin up close to him all naked and sweet-smelling and take a nice long nap together but that's... not in the cards, so he just watches.

“Um. I guess you can stay here?” Quentin says, distracted. “While I talk to Margo. It'll probably take a while? If she still wants to, I mean. I came kinda hard, so-”

“Oh,” Eliot says. He feels like an idiot. “You're going to- to go ask Margo if she wants to screw.”

“I mean, yeah?” Quentin says, in a tone that implies 'of course'.

“Because you want to get it out of the way and focus on the friendship,” Eliot says. For clarification. “Like with us.”

“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, obviously relieved that he and Eliot are on the same page.

Eliot starfishes against Quentin's bed, taking up every inch of real estate possible. “You know, a couple of those times when Margo and I chased the same boy, we both ended up in bed with him.” He can feel Quentin looking at him. “So, yeah. Have- have fun. I'm cool to... to crash here for a while, though? You wrung me out, baby.”

“Yeah.” It's softer this time, and he feels Quentin's hand against his forehead. “You can crash here while I go talk to Margo. Um. You should cover up though.” And he feels Quentin flip a sheet to cover his dick. Or, well, most of it. “If you're still here when I come back, maybe we can go over that homework I have for Sunderland.”

“Sounds great,” Eliot says. He closes his eyes and feigns going to sleep. Listens as Quentin walks away, unlocks the door. Leaves Eliot alone.

Well.

Fuck.

 




Quentin feels...

…different? God, how weird and cliché is that, to say that getting fucked literally changed his life? But it's not just the ache in his ass, which El's clean-up spell did nothing to fix. He also doesn't think- no, he knows for a fact, that he's never had sex that good before. Not even close.

And, maybe, the idea is hitting him that there are people who want to fuck him and then actually also want to be his friend afterwards? That's an even more pathetic thought than the first one. But he's never had that before, so- so yeah. He bites down on his lip, thinks of the sound that El had made when he'd-

“Oh, fuck you very much, Coldwater. I'm never getting that washed out of my brain.”

Quentin blinks himself out of the thought, puts his hands on his hips and glares at Penny, slumped in a chair in the entrance hall on the way of their dorms. “I'm not taking the blame for that. It's not like you didn't know what we were doing in there.”

“Well, it's not like I was expecting you and your shitty wards!” Penny throws up his hands. “Why isn't fucking Waugh doing the walk of shame out of here? Is he- is he still in our room? Please tell me he's not still in our room.”

“He's still naked,” Quentin says, just to twist the knife. Penny flinches, dramatically. “You know, if you were dying to get a peek.”

“Not everyone wants to fuck Waugh,” Penny says. “Please tell me you understand that.” Then he sighs. “Quentin. I don't think that was an example of you... making good choices. I just had to say it out loud. At some point.”

“Jules will probably agree with you,” Quentin says. He gazes off at the doorway. Julia would agree even more if she knew where Quentin was going next.

“Oh, seriously? Come on, now I've gotta think about that, too?”

“Not my fault!” Quentin jogs off, out the door and in the direction of the Cottage.

“Yes, yes, it fucking is!”

Penny's voice fades as Quentin gets some distance. He kinda regrets the jogging, though. He slows down, tries to rub at his butt as discretely as possible. Funny, when Heather had been pegging him, it had hurt during, but this aches a lot more afterwards instead.

When he creeps into the cottage, he doesn't see many people around. He definitely doesn't see Margo. He stands near the stairs, indecisive. Barging into her room feels weird. Rude, maybe? Especially if it turns out she isn't there.

“Oh, hey, are you looking for Eliot and Margo?”

Quentin pivots to face the voice. It's coming from a dark-haired boy that he vaguely recalls seeing flit around. Tad? Or, no- “Todd? Um, yeah. I needed to talk to Margo.”

“She sulked off to her room a while ago,” Todd says. He leans against the wall. “I guess she and Eliot had a fight and they made up but then he bailed on her? That's what Mark said, anyway.”

Quentin has no idea who Mark is.

“Um, yeah. That's what I wanted to talk to her about. She was sulking?” It's hard to picture Margo sulking for real.

“I know, normally she just yells,” Todd says. “Did Eliot send you as a go-between? You're their... um. Project, right?”

And, okay, wow. He doesn't have to wonder what the rest of the physical kids think of him, apparently.

“That's me,” he says, because there's really no point in not. Plus, he's literally here to see if Margo still wants to fuck him after knowing Eliot got there first so, really, it's not like he has any kind of moral ground to stand on. “The group project. You have a bar, right?” He doesn't wait for the answer; he knows they have one and he knows where it is.

He goes there and looks underneath, grabs- fuck it, he grabs some vodka.

“Eliot really doesn't like it when people touch his things,” Todd says, alarmed.

Quentin waves a dismissive hand. “Yeah, well, Eliot will deal with it.”

Todd trails behind him up the stairs, then mutters, “Okay, your funeral,” and peaces out.

Quentin stands outside Margo's door for a minute, then knocks.

“Unless it's Eliot, fuck off!” she yells.

Jesus, he's such a fucking idiot for not realizing they were friends. He swings open the door, leans against the doorframe.

Margo doesn't see him right away. She's sitting at her little desk, brushing her hair, which looks fine already. She breathes a heavy sigh, puts down her brush, glances over her shoulder and says, “El, I-”

Freezes when she sees it's him. For a moment, she looks... remorseful, maybe? But it's gone in a second, so it was probably just his imagination. Her chin tilts up and her eyebrow lifts.

“I'm not fucking groveling for thinking you're cute enough to screw,” she says. She turns back around, looks at herself in the mirror. “So, if you're here for an apology, you should leave.”

“Eliot said you probably wouldn't,” Quentin takes a step into the room and lifts the bottle. “But maybe you wanna get drunk and see what happens?”

She stands up, turns around and leans back against her desk. “Is that a- are you hitting on me, Coldwater?”

“Do you still think I'm, uh. 'cute enough to screw' if Eliot already screwed me?” Quentin asks, coming closer. Her eyes narrow and she studies him. “Because, um. Eliot won the- the competition. So, if that's all you cared about, then I guess that's all we need to say to each other.”

“What happened with you and Eliot?” she asks, and her voice is softer than he expected.

“You want the details?” He opens the bottle with shaking fingers, gulps some of it down and shivers when it hits him. “I mean, he fucked me. Pretty straight-forward. I could draw you a diagram if you want.”

“Maybe later,” she says. She holds out her hand. He gives her the bottle but, instead of drinking from it, she puts it on the desk behind her with a quiet clunk. “Quentin. I'm not great at- squishy bullshit feelings. I don't really want to be. But we're, you know.” She hesitates.

“Friends?” Quentin offers.

“I mean, I guess if we have to put a label on it,” she says. “You could use. That one. It's as good as any. Seriously, though, Eliot- you know what he's like-”

Does he?

“-so excuse me for wanting more detail than 'open ass; insert dick'.” She folds her arms over each other, levels a steady gaze at him. “Spill. You know you want to. You're, like, made of feelings.”

Yeah, that's him, all right. Bullseye, right to the fucking target. Quentin Coldwater: messy wreck of stupid feelings.

“Eliot said if we screwed, it didn't change anything else,” he says, with a shrug. “We'll still be- be friends. So, you know. We decided why not go for it?” Boldly, with 'cute enough to screw' on fucking repeat in his brain, he reaches out and brushes his knuckles against her arm. “He said that you two ended up in bed together a couple of times. And you're still- whatever you are. So why the fuck not?”

“He said that.” Margo drops her arms, straightens up from her lean against the desk, and his hand brushes against her breasts for the briefest of moments before he snatches his hand back, flushing. “Eliot said those words.”

The doubt in her voice makes him bristle, a little.

“Jesus, Margo, if you don't want me now that it doesn't win your stupid game, just fucking say that,” Quentin snaps, taking a step back. It had seemed like such a smart idea, back in his dorm. Just go to Margo, make the same things clear to her that Eliot had made clear to him. Get everything sorted out. But Quentin wasn't Eliot – not like he didn't fucking already know that – so he'd fucked it all up. “Don't fucking hide behind Eliot.”

“Who's fucking hiding?” Margo takes a step forward, heels clicking on the floor. “How dare you. After El and I took you under our goddamn wings-”

“-right, yeah, your big project.” And his voice cracks which is- horrifically embarrassing but Margo doesn't- doesn't back down because of it, just tilts her head slightly. He reaches forward and cups her face and, fuck, his hands are shaking still, he doesn't get how Eliot made this so easy, and he tugs her towards him clumsily. Stands there like an idiot, with his mouth an inch away from hers, not willing to take the plunge if she doesn't-

She kisses him.

Oh, thank christ, she fucking kisses him.

He kisses back, frantic. He steps into her and they bump backwards against the desk and, okay, that's easy to fix. Quentin slides his hands under her, pulls her up to sit and now he can push closer, in between her legs and press his whole body up against hers.

There's a sharp clink, then liquid sloshing harshly, as Margo's hand knocks over the vodka bottle. Margo tastes like alcohol, but not vodka. She's been drinking up here alone, then, since Eliot left- left to come talk to him

To come fuck him.

Quentin breaks the kiss, breathes against her skin, whispers, “Is this okay? Are you okay?” as he pets trembling fingers down the sides of her shirt.

“I'm always fan-fucking-tastic,” she says, taking his chin in her hand and tilting his face towards hers. “I assume El got you off. You gonna be able to get it up for me?”

He takes in a steadying breath, rocks his hips against hers. “Yeah, I got it covered, thanks.”

Quentin pulls her in for another kiss because that- that makes sense, that feels good. Because if he doesn't, he's not sure what to do with all the feelings sparking through him. Made of feelings, he thinks. Cute enough to screw.

Maybe it won't be like with Eliot, maybe she won't still want to be around him, after, not in public.

Only one way to find out.

He slides his fingers into her hair, which is- thick and glorious and he uses it as an anchor to press her against him more tightly. Kisses up the line of her jaw and licks under her ear, asks, “Naked – can I? Can I see you?”

“Tit for tat,” she says back, her hands ghosting up and under his shirt, nails scraping against his skin and making him shudder. “You wanna see me with my clothes off? You go first, Coldwater.”

Yeah, okay. That's fair. He backs away from kissing her, shrugs off his button-down, reaches down to yank off his shirt-

-fuck, gets caught up in it as he tries to pull it over his head, and he hears her laugh, feels her fingers press against his stomach and she says, low and mocking, “Take your time. No rush.”

He can feel himself flushing all over, embarrassed and too hot, and her fingertips trace the lines of heat all over his chest where he gets blotchy and red. He finally manages to get his fucking shirt off and throw it down on the floor and her face is bright and amused.

“Your turn,” he manages to spit out, breathless. Her legs wrap around him, yank him tight against her, her skirt bunching up around her waist. His hips roll against hers, involuntary, wanting-wanting-wanting. He puts his hands near the bottom of her shirt, which he thinks – does it have both buttons and a zipper? It does. Shiny buttons down the front and a zipper along the left side. He thumbs the tab of the zipper, feeling bemused.

“Oh, no, honey. You are not helping me with this,” Margo says, still chuckling. “You'd tear my skin off by accident.”

He blushes harder, slides his hands down to her hips, over the tight fabric of her skirt, out of the way as she unzips and lifts her arms and... and shimmies the top up and over her head. Her breasts are still in a black lacy bra, but it's partially see-through, and he wants to... He rubs his thumbs over her hips, glides his hands up over her skin, soft and smooth. “I learned-uh. Eliot taught me a spell. For, um. For protection, but I don't know if it-”

“I've been angling to bang you for weeks now,” Margo says, and she braces her hands back on the desk. “Trust me, I'm prepared.”

She looks like she might start laughing again any minute so- clumsily, desperately- Quentin kisses her, hands circling around to her back, tugging at her bra and undoing it. He yanks her up against him so that he can works the straps off, kisses down her throat, nips at the upper curve of her breasts.

“That's right,” she says, thoughtful, and her hands are gentle on his shoulders. “El likes it when his boys go rough on his tits, doesn't he? Did you leave marks, honey? He likes that, too.”

Quentin breathes out against her skin, unsteady and dizzy and why can't he fucking make her stop thinking about Eliot? He kisses the slope of her breast again, more softly, nuzzles down to the nipple, licks at it and sucks.

“Mmm, yeah, mama likes that,” she purrs and what is with this thing she and Eliot have, anyway? Why do they both- she yanks on his hair, hard, then soothes her hand through, cooing at him. “There we go. Are you a good boy, Coldwater? Or are you a naughty boy?”

“I don't wanna play games,” he says, pressing his heated cheek against her skin. “Can't we just fuck?”

She tugs on his hair again, pulls him away so that his face tilts up towards her. “But I like games. Jesus, your face is red. Do you have any blood left for your dick?”

As an answer, he rocks against her, presses his painfully-hard cock against the heat of her pussy that he can still manage to feel through three layers of cloth. She flexes up against him, her legs tightening around his ass and making it ache again.

“Besides, you're the one who came to me still limping from how hard my best friend fucked you,” she says, with an edge to her voice. “I'm not sure you have any room to complain about games.”

It is- fuck, so fucking unfair of her to- when they were the ones who-

“Then make me forget him,” he says, instead, because he's not going to get his- his messy feelings all over her. “Unless you think you can't manage that.” Her hand tightens in his hair until it hurts, and he bucks against her without meaning to.

There- he recognizes that look in her eyes. He hadn't know what it had meant, had thought it was that she didn't like Eliot, but he knows now that it's the light of- of competition, of getting there first. Or harder and better, maybe, in this case.

“I'll make you forget your own goddamn name,” she growls, yanking him down for a kiss. She bites at his mouth and it stings and he thinks he might even be bleeding and-

“Prove it,” he says against her mouth, because if she wants to play games so badly, then he can- he can. “Do you want- the bed or- or right here?”

He remembers, dimly, that he hasn't shut the door into the hallway. There are people, down in the common room. Todd, and some others whose names he doesn't know.

If it doesn't bother Margo, he won't let it bother him.

Her hands are on his waistline, tugging his pants open. He hears her mutter to herself, under her breath, yanking and sounding irritable and then- then his pants and boxers are gone and-

“Jesus, are you gonna fucking make me walk out of here with my cock hanging out?”

But her hand is on his dick now, and she's not being gentle about it. Her hands are small but strong, and doing all sorts of fancy things with fingers that make him feel- why are you so dense, Coldwater?- the words come back to him with a burst of shame, because it's so fucking obvious, looking back, that she hadn't been complaining about his spellwork.

“Don't get your balls in a twist,” Margo says, the lazy tone of her voice at odds with the brisk, harsh touch of her hand. “I'll give you something to wear on your walk of shame. Something you can keep as a souvenir.” She laughs, low and throaty. “A trophy.” She yanks him even closer, using his dick like a leash, and he buries his burning face against her shoulder.

She presses the head of his dick against her panties, and he can feel the wet heat of her pussy just on the other side. Slides it up, so that he rubs up against her soft stomach. She reaches around him, grabs at his ass, yanks at him, exposes him to the air and- fuck, fuck the door is open right behind him.

“Shame El cleaned you up,” she says, her fingers pressing against him, his muscles twitching uncontrollably. He gasps, ruts up against her skin. “It would have been kind of fun to stick my fingers in while you were still wet from him.” He strokes her back, shaking and helpless.

They've been loud. There isn't a ward on her room, he doesn't think, because- because when he left his dorm, he'd been able to feel the buzz of magic slide over his skin as he left the room, and he didn't feel that coming in here. And the door is open.

“Can I- can I fuck you now?” He can barely get the words out. Her fingers press right at where he remembers Eliot pushing into him, and his ass clenches and spasms and he only just manages to stop himself from- from asking her to please do it, shove her fingers in, do it hard. As if she heard his thoughts, a curious fingertip breaches the ring of muscle and slips inside. He feels sore and dry and tense and it takes everything he has not to- to hump back onto her hand.

She laughs again, pulling her finger out, and he jerks at the sound of it, cock twitching against her stomach. “Is that what you want?” She says something else, a phrase he recognizes from Eliot, and when her finger presses against him again, it's slick and smooth and slides right inside. “You wanna fuck or be fucked, honey?”

“Please,” he whispers against her skin, flushed and humiliated and aching. “Please, Margo.”

His ass is- fuck, loose from what Eliot had done, and she plays around for a few aching minutes. One finger at first, circling around the rim and dipping inside. Then she slides two in, finds that place that Eliot had – his prostate, Quentin remembers from his- his own research – and he can't help it, fucks himself back against her hand.

As soon as he does, she pulls her fingers out, smacks his ass once with the flat of her hand, hard enough to make him shudder. “I shouldn't let you fuck me. You haven't earned it,” she says, but she's touching his dick again. “So, you know, don't think this is for you. This is for me.”

Margo doesn't take her panties off. She just- just tugs them to the side, guides his dick to her pussy, and his hips twitch, and he's inside her, shallow, just his cockhead. She's wet- so wet- and burning hot, and he has to hold still and take deep, gulping breaths, just to keep himself from coming as soon as he's inside.

She wraps her hands around his shoulders, lifts herself off the desk, her legs tightening against his back, until he's as far in as he can go. He flails out to get some purchase as she pulls herself up against his body, his hand thumping against the mirror. “Shouldn't be surprised you're making me do all the work,” she says, and she sounds disappointed and he mouths at her breast apologetically, licks to try to find her nipple. Her hips presses against his. “And you're definitely smaller than the last dick I had in me.”

“Sorry,” he breathes against her skin. Flinches when he hears his own voice. He hadn't meant to-

“Well, you can't help it,” she says, petting the back of his neck. “How about we figure out a way for you to make it up to me?”

He holds himself up against the mirror, tentatively strokes the dip of her lower back with his other hand. She smells like Eliot, when he's this close, and he wonders if they share body lotion or- or something. “I'm not- I don't really know what to do,” and there's a relief there, in actually admitting that to someone, that he's had sex but he's not sure how to make it good. Because Margo might – will probably – make fun of him for it, but she also might- might tell him what he should be doing.

“I can tell.” Her hips are still working against his, and her voice is- mostly kind. “Okay, that hand of yours isn't doing any good on my back. Bring it around to my cunt. Find my clit and touch me there.”

That's a- a lot to try to remember. Quentin does his best, holding himself up with one hand and slipping the other one between their bodies. He fumbles against her skirt, manages to press his fingers against the wet heat of her slit.

“Higher,” she tells him, impatiently. “Harder. I've gotten better friction from my goddamn pillow, Coldwater. Put some effort into it. If you come before I do, you won't be fucking happy about it.”

She says that, but she's- relentless, fucking up against him so hard that it jolts him, her heels digging into his skin and her fingers gripping his shoulders so tightly he thinks he might bruise. He rubs where she tells him, hard and fast, bites down on his swollen lip to distract himself from how Margo feels around his dick.

Quentin sways, his hand sliding against the mirror.

Margo feels so amazing and he can't-

He can't.

When he comes, his knees buckle, and he lands on the floor with a harsh thump that reignites the lingering pain in his ass. His left knee cracks against the leg of the desk, and it hurts but beyond the physical sting, he- “I couldn't- couldn't hold on,” he says, shame pooling in the center of his stomach.

“Put your hand back where it belongs,” she tells him, and her voice is sharp but he deserves it. She unwraps her legs from his back and – fuck, at least he'd taken the brunt of the fall, not her -- she straddles him. His cock is still inside her, but he can feel himself softening, and he shivers when she rocks her hips.

He rubs at her clit and he doesn't need to brace himself anymore, so he uses his other hand to tease her nipples while he kisses and sucks at the curves of her breasts. He doesn't feel relaxed or relieved, like he should after coming, still feels keyed up and anxious.

“That's it,” she coaxes, and she circles and works her hips against him, and it- it's so much, as her pussy clings at his dick, trying to keep him inside, every little movement too-too much against oversensitive skin. He tells her that, in a tiny voice. She strokes through his hair. Says, “Well, that's your own fault, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” he agrees, almost voiceless, pressing his mouth against her skin. “Yeah.”

She tightens around him, that ache sharpening, and he yelps out, high-pitched and pathetic – then she's touching his wrist and she says, “Okay, honey, I'm pulling off now.”

Margo looks a fuckton more relaxed and- right, yeah, of course. She had to push and yank him into place to make it work, but she got what she wanted out of it, in the end.

She tugs her skirt back down, reaches over and picks up her bra and top, starts putting herself back together while Quentin sits on the floor and watches her. “Um. Margo, do you have silencing wards on your room?”

“Only when I bother to put them up,” she says, not looking up from where she's yanking her bra into place. “And since I wasn't expecting company – or, well, not that kind of company – we gave the Cottage quite the little show back there. If anyone was paying attention.”

Quentin draws his knees up under himself. Now that Margo's almost dressed, he feels weird about being naked. “Um. What did you do to my pants? Are you really gonna- uh.”

“Your pants are fine,” she says, and she rolls her middle finger over her pointer finger, and his pants pop out of the air and land on his face. He pulls them off, flushing again. “No, I wasn't really gonna make you walk back without them, Q. I'm a bitch but I'm not that bitch.”

“Yeah,” he says. “Okay. Thanks.”

It takes him a bit to get off the floor, especially since Margo just leans back and watches and doesn't lift a finger to help.

He puts his pants on first. Margo didn't bring back his boxers from wherever she'd banished them but that's- fine. He has others. It's only after he's half-dressed that he finally dares to glance behind at the open doorway. No one in sight.

“So, are we good now?” Margo asks and it's-

It's such a surprising question. Or maybe the way she asks it is what startles him. Like- like he's the reason they did all that.

“Uh,” he manages. Tries to stall for time. “I don't know?”

“Seriously?” Margo sighs and looks up at the ceiling, like she's asking for strength. “Coldwater... go back to your dorm. Drink some water. Sleep. And, ugh. Fine. Whatever. I'm not sorry for screwing you but I guess I'm sorry for- I don't know. Hurting your feelings?”

“Wow, Margo.” Quentin picks up his shirt and wrestles it over his head. “I really felt the sincerity.”

“Go sit on a dick,” she says, reflexively, but then she grins. “Oh, too late, huh?” Then she gives his face a critical look. “Shit, I did a number on that mouth of yours.”

“I think you left bruises on my shoulders, too,” Quentin says, reaching up and rubbing over the dim ache, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “You have a pretty strong grip.”

“Magician's hands.” She holds them up, wiggles her fingers. “Yours are coming along, so don't get jealous.”

“Margo, I... we're good,” he says. And he's not sure if it's true or not, but he'll make it true.

“Okay, then get going. I need to brush my hair all over again now.” She waves him away with impatient hands.

Going back out into the hallway is- well, no one is out there and all the doors are shut, so it's kind of anti-climatic, honestly. Quentin rests his hand on the bannister as he drifts down the stairs. He's left the vodka in Margo's room, but she'll probably get better use out of it than he would, anyway. He tells himself, as he walks down each step, that he's not gonna look into the common room when he reaches the ground floor. He's just gonna walk out the door.

He looks. Of course, he looks.

There's a handful of students chattering together, Todd among them, and they fall silent when he glances over and he wonders if they heard. Wonders if any them had come up and watched.

His skin feels hot all over, too tight.

He takes in a quick breath, goes out the door.

Quentin doesn't go back to the dorms right away. He wanders a bit, even though all the walking makes his ass twinge. He keeps licking at his mouth and being surprised at how it stings. They left fingerprints all over him. He walks until it starts to get dark out, then turns his feet in the direction of his dormitory.

Penny isn't still in the entrance hall. Maybe he went for dinner. Maybe he went up and kicked Eliot out of their room.

Quentin goes to Julia's room, knocks on the door, waits a bit, pushes it open.

Julia isn't there but her roommate is. At first, it seems like Kady is just going to grunt a greeting and ignore him, like normal, then she takes a second look at him, and her eyes widen.

“Christ, Coldwater. Who rode you hard and put you away wet?”

Quentin gives kind of a helpless half-shrug. Goes over and collapses on Julia's bed. Face-down, because that seems like a better idea.

He feels Kady sit next to him, gingerly put her hand at the small of his back. It's kind of a huge gesture for her to make towards him, so he does his best not to stiffen up and pull away. “If you- need to talk about some shit- I guess I can listen until Wicker gets back.”

“I'm fine,” he mumbles into Julia's pillow.

“Yeah, you look... fine,” Kady says. “Loving life, obviously.”

“You can be funny when you bother to talk,” Quentin tells her. “You never talk in class. Or outside it, really.”

“Most people are too boring to talk to.” She shifts on the bed, her hand moving away. “I mean, you and Wicker talk about kids' fantasy books. Not super-interesting when we actually have magic in real life. If I'm gonna bother to read a book, I want it to have, you know, at least some soft-core porn in it.”

“Flawless logic,” Quentin says, and he even mostly means it. He presses his face against the pillow.

“Are you falling asleep on me, Coldwater?” she asks, sounding more amused than indignant.

He closes his eyes and lets time float away from him and only opens them again when he feels a hand – familiar and dear and trusted – brushing over his shoulders, encouraging him to roll over onto his back. He winces a little as he does, squints up at Julia's face. “Hey, Jules.”

“Hey. Shove over so I can get on my own bed, dummy.” And Julia climbs up next to him and snuggles in. “I'm guessing the talk with Eliot and Margo didn't go well? It's been a while since I found you hiding out in my bed. Like, pre-Brakebills, a while.”

“Do you remember Heather?” Quentin asks, and Julia's nose wrinkles and her forehead creases.

“Um, yeah. Sure?” Julia props herself up on her elbow and gives him a closer look. “I haven't thought about her in months. She moved to- uh... to London, I think, after graduation. We kinda lost touch.”

“Yeah, it was London.” She'd told him about it, the last time she'd fucked him. She'd smacked him on the thigh and joked what a shame it was she couldn't pack him up in her bags and take him with her. But, of course, that would have meant telling Julia. Or anyone, really. “We were dating. Kind of.”

“You never said. She never said.” Julia sounds... beyond shocked. That's probably something he should find insulting, but that seems like it would take up too much energy to care about, right now. “I didn't think you even liked each other.”

“Yeah,” Quentin says. Stares up at the ceiling. Thinks about telling her about the first time Heather had kissed him, helping him clean up after a party. How she'd gone icy cold afterwards and made him promise not to tell anyone. Or about when she'd pulled out her strap-on and how much it had hurt when she'd jammed it up in him and how she'd rolled her eyes at him and called him a wimp who couldn't handle a little rough sex. “I guess she thought it would be weird.”

“It is kinda weird,” Julia says. “We were only really friends because she did that work-study with James. Did you two even have anything in common?”

“Not much,” Quentin admits. She'd liked his card tricks at first, but she'd gotten bored with them pretty quickly. She never got tired of the sex, at least, but he- he hadn't liked it. They'd had tons of sex, she'd fucked him so many times, and he'd never really liked it. How had he not realized that before?

“Everything before Brakebills feels so far away now,” Julia says. Then, “I broke up with James. On the phone, which is- such a coward's way out.”

“I'm sorry.” And he reaches over and tugs her down into a hug. “I know how much you- did you think about- about telling him?”

She laughs a little. Then she cries, pressing her face against his chest. He cups the back of her head, gently, then smooths his hand down her back. Months ago, a lifetime ago, there might have been a tiny asshole part of him that would have been relieved to hear she was single again, but now... now he just hurts for her.

After she cries herself out, she goes and grabs water for both of them.

Kady has long-since retreated to her own bed, earphones firmly on and blasting some random song from, like, the eighties or something, but when Julia comes back with three bottles of water, she takes one greedily, and chugs half of it down straight off.

“Yeah, you're welcome,” Julia says to her, sitting back down on her own bed and handing Quentin a bottle. “You didn't say how things went. With Margo and Eliot. You went off on that tangent about Heather instead. Do I- uh. Do I need to punch Margo?”

“What?”

Julia's hand touches his mouth, hesitantly, where it's scabbed over. “Did she hit you or-”

And that is- that is so completely not what-

Quentin giggles, high-pitched and hysterical, slams his palm over his face just to stop the noise. Julia looks even more concerned now. And he doesn't want her to try to hurt Margo because that seems like it could go so badly for everyone, so-

Well. Not unless you mean with her face.”

“You kissed Margo? Or- did you have sex with Margo?” Julia's face is, again, almost insultingly incredulous. “Today? Just now? Is that where you were for, like, eight hours? Wait. No. Uh. Start from the beginning. You left the dorms to go to the physical cottage-”

It feels like. Like a lifetime ago, honestly.

“Yeah. So, the reason-” He almost has to think back to remember why. “Um. They both wanted to- uh. Have sex with me?” He can't even blame Julia for how disbelieving she looks. He can't really believe it either. “I guess they have- um. Pretty strong competitive streaks, so it started off as just, you know, a little thing. And kinda snowballed as they tried to-. They didn't even realize how much they were fighting in front of me.”

It's funny, actually, in retrospect. Right?

“Did they make you pick?” Julia asks, brushing his hair out of his face. “Must have been weird for you, having a guy say he wants to fuck you.”

“What do you mean?” Quentin frowns at her, confused.

“I mean. Because you're straight?”

Quentin blinks at her for a long moment.

“Um. I'm... not?” He was, like, ninety percent certain he'd told her this, before. “We've literally talked about how we'd both sleep with Zac Efron?”

“Celebrities don't count. Do they?” Julia looks horrifically conflicted, maybe because of all the times she's sighed over how beautiful Mila Kunis was. So. She obviously needs some time to process that on her own for a while. She seems to realize that, too, as she asks, faintly, “Wait, but you did sleep with Margo? You said that's where your cut lip came from.”

“I mean. Not just with Margo.” Because he can talk about it, that's part of the fucking point. They'd been openly chasing him and they'd gotten him and he was allowed to talk about it. Eliot hadn't cared whether or not Penny knew and Margo hadn't cared whether or not the entire physical discipline knew. Even if he never got anything else, even if they did just- just ignore him tomorrow, they couldn't pretend they hadn't ever wanted him.

And he thinks- he thinks he believes Eliot when he says that he won't- won't start ignoring Quentin now. And if Margo is as good a friend of Eliot's as Quentin is beginning to believe she is, that means Margo won't ignore him either.

“Wow.” Julia flops onto her back dramatically. “Was it... good? It seems like they went kind of... rough on you? For a first time.”

“I've had rougher,” he says, and he can feel Julia's eyes practically burning a hole in the side of his face. “But. Yeah. It was-”

He hesitates. Licks at his lip.

“It was pretty intense.” He'd felt – exposed and raw and seen. In a way he wasn't sure he'd ever been before. Even now, he feels like- like the scab on his lip does, like too much pressure would break it all open again. “But- uh. You don't need to punch anyone, I promise.”

“I would, you know,” she tells him. Reaches over and grabs his hand with hers. “If you wanted me to, I would.”

“Thanks, Jules.”

 

Chapter Text

“Undetermined?” Quentin's going to throw up. It's gonna happen. “Is that even possible?”

“Rare but possible,” Sunderland sighs as she stares down at the potted plant which has, apparently, definitively proven he is not a Nature student. “We'll test you again next year to see if your magic has cleared up by then.”

Cleared up. Like his lack of magical definition is a rash of some kind.

Then, a horrifying thought occurs.

“Does this- does this mean I'm staying in the dorms for the next year?”

Sunderland frowns down at the plant, waves a distracted hand at him. “Not my department. Check with Fogg.”

Fogg frowns, too, when Quentin knocks on his door and pokes his head into the Dean's office.

“That seems fairly irresponsible of you,” he tells Quentin, deep and disapproving. “You failed all of Professor Sunderland's tests?”

“Um. She said it wasn't a pass or fail kind of-”

“Yes, yes, but that's simply because everyone always passes something,” Fogg says. He steeples his hands together and studies Quentin carefully. He hasn't seen much of the Dean past his first couple of days here, but Julia has had many glowing things to say about his depth of understanding and his skill at mentorship. Quentin, personally, doesn't see much evidence of either right now. “Hmm. Do you have any friends here, Coldwater?”

“Um.”

“Not Ms. Wicker. You wouldn't fit in with her discipline at all. Any other friends?”

“Uh-”

“Oh, not Mr. Adiyodi, either, for that matter. I shudder at the thought of you in the Consciousness Building.”

Quentin hadn't, actually, been about to suggest that Penny's his friend. Though they do generally tolerate each other at this point, and Penny is definitely Julia's friend, claiming his own personal friendship with Penny seems like a bridge too far.

“Eliot and Margo have been mentoring me?” he offers.

“Hmm. Well. There are worse options. All right, it'll do. Move your things to the Physical Cottage and stop taking up my time. It is quite valuable.” Then he turns back to his paperwork, the matter, apparently, all settled.

Quentin gathers up his things – Penny's side of the room already emptied out – and takes his suitcase and messenger bag in the direction of the Cottage.

As far as destinations go, it's not a bad one?

Eliot and Margo haven't stopped mentoring him after that wild day when he'd had sex with each of them. Honestly, the only real changes seem to be that they touch him even more than before and Eliot will occasionally call him 'baby' unprompted, including sometimes in public. Quentin is pretty sure that the rest of the Cottage still thinks of him as 'Eliot and Margo's Project' but...

Like Fogg said, there are worse options.

When he gets to the Cottage, Alice is outside, glaring at the front door. She turns to him and says, “There's no doorknob,” in an extremely frustrated tone of voice. He checks and, yeah, the doorknob has disappeared. She lets out a sharp, huffy breath. “I suppose we're meant to use magic to break in. Ugh.”

“We could,” Quentin says. “Or, we could check and see if the back door is screwed up, too.”

Quentin leads her into the familiar back patio where, yep, there's a doorknob clearly still in place. He opens it for Alice with a flourish and she actually smiles at him, which warms her whole face up. He leads her through the halls to the kitchen, because he might as well give her a proper tour while he's at it. He steals one of Margo's granola bars for himself and one for Alice.

“Are these for everyone?” Alice asks, standing up very straight next to the counter instead of leaning on it like he is.

“Nope,” Quentin says, cheerfully. He unwraps his and takes a bite. “But the worst Margo will do is yell at you and maybe make you buy her more. It's not a big deal.”

Alice stares down at her granola. Carefully places it on the counter unopened. “I think I'm okay.”

Todd wanders into the kitchen, “Huh. Where'd you- oh, Quentin. Hey! Eliot's making our signature cocktail for all the new Physical Kids if you wanna go claim yours.” He grabs one of his trailmix bags and tsks at Quentin and his stolen granola bar. “You do like living on the edge.” Todd eats a handful of mix and then says, to Alice, “Hi, new girl! Name and speciality?”

“Is that any of your business?” she asks, stiffly. Then, with a sigh. “Alice Quinn. Phosphoromancy. You already know Quentin?”

“I mean, he's here all the time,” Todd says. “Not a shock he ended up being one of us. Plus, Margo and Eliot would have thrown a fit if he'd ended up in any other discipline. Can you imagine?” That last bit, he directs towards Quentin with a laugh.

Quentin gives him a queasy smile.

“Do we get assigned a room, like in the dorms?” Alice asks, and she's looking at him, not at Todd. Quentin half-shrugs.

“First come, first serve,” Todd says, mouth full of more mix. “Well. Quentin is probably going to be in the room across the hall from Margo. She kicked Tim out of it last week.” He winks at Quentin.

“How thoughtful of her,” Quentin says, weakly.

Todd has never admitted that he saw Quentin and Margo having sex that day, but Quentin is pretty much a hundred percent certain that he did. Or at least heard them. He's also about eighty-percent sure that Todd thinks they're still having sex on and off, which they aren't but Margo does like to mentor Quentin in her room with the door closed, so he can't really blame Todd if that's what he's thinking.

Instead of dealing with any of that, Quentin smiles at Alice. “Wanna go try your first cocktail as an official Physical Kid?”

 


 

 Open parties are all well and good, but there's something precious about this Physical Kids-only soirée, too. The room isn't as full as it gets for normal parties, but everyone here understands that specific wavelength of magic, understands knowing the material aspect best, instead of wading off into the weeds or barging into people's heads.

Eliot grins as he watches glasses and bottles soaring above students' heads, and even if some of them wobble, there's always someone there to steady them before anything breaks.

His smile widens when he sees Quentin coming into the common room from the back hallway. He's been pretty sure Quentin would end up as a Physical Kid, but magic could get weird sometimes. Quentin spots him right away and gives a shy wave. Eliot beckons him over and he comes, bringing that blonde Quinn girl along with him.

“El, hey,” Quentin says, and he's about to take a seat at the bar, so Eliot fixes that by grabbing his wrist and tugging him back behind to be with Eliot. He hands Quentin a cocktail and pushes another one towards Quinn.

“You took your time, baby,” Eliot says. “Bambi was getting ready to send out a search party.”

Quentin dimples at him, charmed and relaxed even before he's had anything to drink. Eliot strokes his wrist fondly, then turns to Quinn.

“Did you let Quentin help you cheat your way in here?” he teases, but she gets slightly paler. “Oh – Alice, right?” She nods. “Don't worry. No one here really cares as long as you get in somehow.”

Quentin takes a sip of his cocktail and touches Eliot's shoulder. “Hey, it's really good.”

“Thanks for sounding so surprised,” Eliot says. “I'm touched by your faith in me. Drink up, Alice. I put a lot of work into these.”

She does, looking a touch surprised at her own instinctive obedience. Well, he likes her better already. “Todd said we pick out our own rooms?”

“Mmhmm,” Eliot says. He brushes Quentin's hair back and adds, “Q, we have a space cleared out for you already.”

“Todd mentioned that, too,” Quentin says, drily. “What would you have done if I'd been sorted into a different house?”

“Please don't call it that,” Eliot chides. Quentin's shirt collar is uneven, so Eliot straightens it for him, tugging out the fabric and then smoothing it down. “And you didn't, so it doesn't matter. Do you want to take your bags up, get settled in?”

“The room across from Margo's?” Quentin asks.

“That's the one.”

Quentin nods, looks at Alice. “You wanna go up and find yourself a room now, too?”

“Yeah, you can help me figure out the floor plan,” Alice says, and her face softens when she smiles at Quentin. “Unlike some people, I've never been here before.”

Eliot watches them leave together. Makes himself a quick cocktail and downs it before settling back into making drinks for other people. He has- almost completely come to terms with this ache of wanting someone who only wants to be friends with him. It's not completely unfamiliar, but it's not something he's had to deal with much over the last few years, so he's rusty at it.

The door blasts open as another new Physical Kid arrives – a dark-haired girl in ripped jeans and a leather jacket. She glares liberally at all the other students. Eliot waves his hand to reset the entrance spell and she jumps as the door thumps shut again. A third-year finds her and starts talking to her, so Eliot doesn't have to worry about helping her get settled in. He does prepare a fresh signature cocktail and puts it to the side for when she makes it over to the bar. She looks like she enjoys a good drink now and then. Or often.

Quentin is gone for about twenty minutes, and comes back downstairs without Alice along for the ride. In that time, their newest addition – the very angry Kady Orloff-Diaz – has already stomped over and finished her drink, and is sulking at the bar over something Eliot isn't going to bother to care about.

On the plus side, Margo has also found her way to him, and is perched up along the left-hand side of the bar as she sips at her own, more personalized drink. She lifts her glass happily when she spots Quentin, grins when he immediately heads over to hang out with them.

“Hey, guys,” he says, letting Margo reel him in to stand pressed up against her crossed legs. “Hi, Kady! You were the last one scheduled to see Sunderland, right? So that's everyone?”

“Yep,” Kady says. She's leaning back on the bar with one elbow, studying the crowd. “She barely even needed to test me. I think I was there for all of thirty seconds before she told me I'm too good at breaking things to be anything but a Physical Kid.” She sounds kind of annoyed by that.

“Ugh, yeah,” Quentin says. He leans across Margo's lap to steal one of the drinks from in front of Eliot. “She's like that with everyone, I think.”

“Penny says she's nice to him.”

And, wow, Eliot really does not need to hear anything else about all this first-year drama. “Nothing more about teachers,” he says, as sternly as he can manage. “It's terrible party-talk.”

“Sorry, El,” Quentin says, but he's more cheeky than apologetic. “Um. I could talk about the inherent bleakness of Danish films instead?”

“Not again, little Q,” Margo says, actually stern. “You spent a whole hour on that during our last party. You made that one girl fall asleep. She spilled wine all over the sofa.”

Quentin laughs, because he is, in his heart of hearts, such a darling brat.

Then, because he's also a sweetheart, he smiles at Kady and says, “You should go up and find a room. There's a few free ones, still. I think some of the people who got assigned here are distracted dancing and haven't claimed one yet.”

“Good looking out, Coldwater,” she says, with a smack to the shoulder that makes him wince slightly.

After she's gone, he rubs where she hit him. “Why do all the women I know have such strong arms?”

“You're just lucky, I guess,” Margo says, with a bit of a wicked smile. “You bang that friend, too?”

Quentin flushes a deep, deep red. “What? No! I'm- I-” Margo laughs as he continues to sputter out protests. Eliot finds himself relaxing. He hadn't even realized he'd tensed up.

“I guess not.” Margo sips at her drink and re-crosses her legs.

Eliot and Margo have... sort of talked about that day they both fucked Quentin. In broad terms. Neither of them have really dished on the details, the way they have with past conquests. But, then again, they don't normally stay friends with conquests, so that's part of it, he thinks. It might be awkward to know if Quentin had made the same choked-off sounds with Margo, if he'd been just as much of a stubborn brat with her, if he'd kissed her with the same heat.

“Can we talk about literally anything else?” Quentin asks, dramatically draping himself around Margo's shoulders in an adorable attempt to elicit pity. Eliot rewards him by petting his hair consolingly. “TV shows? Cigarette brands? Maybe even some magic? I could show you a card trick?”

“Do you actually have cards with you right now?” Eliot asks, interested despite himself.

“We're not talking about card tricks,” Margo declares, putting her hand on the back of Quentin's neck. “This is your first official party as a Physical Kid! We have to celebrate.”

Quentin groans and it makes Eliot's dick twitch.

“What's wrong, baby?” he asks, sifting his fingers through Quentin's hair.

“I'm not,” Quentin says, sounding genuinely upset now, and not just playing at it. “I'm- fuck. I'm 'undetermined'.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Margo asks. She rubs Quentin's shoulders. “It's their job to figure out what your magic is for – they seriously failed at step one?”

“But they assigned you here anyway, right?” Eliot checks. Even if they didn't, Quentin's bags are here now, so he's staying. But, just in case, it's good to know.

“Basically? I mean, I said you two were my mentors, so the Dean cleared me to be here.” Quentin doesn't appear to realize he said anything particularly touching, so Eliot does his best not to look touched. “But I was really hoping, you know. That if I knew my discipline, that would give me some... direction, I guess? Or purpose?”

“We're still grad students,” Margo says. “We don't need a purpose yet. Lighten up, little Q. Relax and enjoy the chance to avoid real life for a couple of years.”

“Ugh.”

“Eloquent,” Eliot teases. “I suppose we can celebrate your silver tongue.”

“My non-existent silver tongue, sure,” Quentin agrees. “Just make me a drink, El.”

Eliot gasps in faux-shock, puts his hand to his chest. “Some small measure of politeness when asking a favor is considered de rigueur. Bambi, have you been teaching the boy bad manners in my absence?”

“You wound me, Eliot. You truly do,” she says, gravely. “I would never.”

Quentin rolls his eyes, but capitulates. “Sorry. Sheesh. Eliot, would you please grant me the great kindness of making me a drink? Preferably one with high alcohol content.”

“I don't know if I should be letting you get drunk,” Eliot says, with a concerned pout. “You're just a fresh-faced first-year, after all. So tender and innocent.” He reaches out to cup Quentin's chin. There's a moment of hesitation, then Quentin shakes his face out of Eliot's grip.

“I will steal your entire liquor cabinet,” he says. “If you don't make me a drink in the next two minutes.”

“Descending so quickly into base threats.” Eliot tsks. “Well, I suppose I had better.”

He makes Quentin a drink first, then glances at the other students who have been sidling up to the bar while he's been busy talking. He sighs and turns back to Margo and Quentin.

“Duty, I'm afraid, calls,” he tells them, patting Margo's knee. “Bambi, see if you can talk Q into dancing. If not with you, at least by himself in the corner.”

“You're awful,” Quentin tells him, clutching at his glass. “Um. Thanks for the drink.”

Margo presses a kiss against Eliot's cheek and then hops off the bar, dragging Quentin away with only mild protests on his part. Quentin will probably not end up dancing, no matter what Margo tries to say to convince him, but at least he'll end up situated on a comfortable couch for the rest of the party.

Eliot spends a couple of hours running the bar before he finally gets tired of it and slips out to enjoy the rest of the party. The dancing is still going strong and he throws himself into it for a while, letting the beat move his hips, grinding up against a few willing participants. He's got a boy pressed up against him – another second-year... Timothy, maybe? – when he spots Quentin and Margo. She's reclined on the couch, with a drink in her hand that he certainly didn't make her, and she's talking animatedly to Quentin, who is tucked up on the floor in front of her, arms wrapped around his legs to make himself even smaller and also definitely a tripping hazard.

Eliot leaves Timothy with one last ass pat, then makes his way over to his friends.

Quentin glances up and smiles at him, warm and welcoming, and Eliot gracefully collapses onto the couch to join Margo, resting his head in her lap. He's just about eye-level with Quentin this way, which is a nice bonus.

“Are you two talking about anything interesting or are you talking about Fillory again?” he asks, enjoying the outraged look on Quentin's face. Margo smacks his shoulder. “What you should be talking about is whether or not this vest suits me. I'm not sure about the color. Does it compliment my eyes enough?”

“It's just brown,” Quentin says, which makes Margo gasp in outrage. “What? How is that anything other than brown?”

Eliot settles back and lets Margo defend the honor of his chestnut vest with gold and crimson threading. Quentin gets so adorably baffled over anything fashion-related. Maybe now that Quentin is living in the Cottage, Eliot will be able to at least get rid of some of Quentin's worst outfits.

He daydreams about that for a bit, listens to the rise and fall of Margo and Quentin's voices as they argue.

 


 

“See, this dress actually shows off your tits, instead of just bunching them together and pulling all your seams too tight,” Margo says, with admirable patience. Alice wrinkles her nose and stares at herself in the mirror.

“I don't really want to show off my- my chest,” she says, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot. “Look, you don't need to do this.”

She's been saying that all afternoon, but she also keeps trying on the dresses Margo hands to her, so Margo is having a hard time taking her too seriously. She's seen Alice shut down a fellow first-year cold when he asked her out, so she certainly knows how to say 'no'.

“I've seen the way you keep looking at our little Q,” Margo says. “But he's not one to take a subtle hint. You have to hit him over the head with it.”

“Like you did?” Alice asks, with a nervy glance towards Margo's face. “And I don't- I don't keep looking at him. I've looked once or twice.”

“Like I did,” Margo agrees, evenly. She wonders if Alice would appreciate Quentin's begging properly. He'd been all flushed and sincere and shameful about it in ways Margo still thought about sometimes when she got herself off. “Kitty cat, are you being weird about this because I've screwed him?”

“I'm not- completely unfamiliar with the idea of open relationships,” Alice says which-

“What?”

“Oh, my-. My parents-”

“No, I'm asking – do you think I'm in a relationship with Coldwater?” And if Alice thinks that, how many other people do?

“Of course you are,” Alice says. “Aren't you?”

“Okay, Alice, you're young-”

“I am one year younger than you-”

“-and maybe you don't understand, yet, that just because a woman as talented and gorgeous as myself bangs a guy as... let's say as straight-forward as our Quentin, this is not something that inevitably leads to a relationship,” Margo runs her hands down across her hips. Frowns at the line of her skirt in the mirror. “Sometimes, a fuck is just a fuck.”

“Sure, fine,” Alice says, but she doesn't look convinced.

Anyway, it makes Margo do a little investigation and it turns out Alice is right. Pretty much the entire Cottage is under the impression that she and Coldwater are in a serious – though sexually open – relationship.

“I mean, you touch him a lot-” Tim points out.

“Didn't you two dance at the last party? And he never dances,” Rita says.

“You're always in your room together with the door closed,” Mark mentions.

“Plus, there's that time before he moved in when you forgot to shut the door while you were- you know,” Todd informs her, when she finally reaches the center of the gossip chain. “It seemed pretty intense. Like, too intense to be one-time thing.”

“Am I the only person in this entire building who understands what casual sex actually is?” Margo asks, baffled. “It's not that fucking deep.”

“That's what she said,” Todd jokes, then his face pales when he sees her expression. “Um. Sorry. It's just you-” She raises her eyebrow. “Yeah, dumb joke. I won't bring it up again.”

“You better not,” she says. “Especially not around him, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Todd agrees, shamefaced. “Um. I'll just... go?”

“Probably a good idea.”

She sinks down on one of the couches – the common room has emptied out now, possibly not linked to how angry she still is but she couldn't rule it out.

She's not sure why she's so mad about it? Like, it is kinda funny, when she thinks about it logically. They're friends, they banged once, and isn't it amusing anyone would take that too seriously? It is funny. It's hilarious.

It's probably ironic that it's Quentin who finds her in the middle of her – she can admit it – in the middle of her sulk. He's coming in from a class, his bag slung over his shoulder, and he spots her sitting on the sofa.

“Wow, is there someone walking around with a black eye right now?” he asks, dropping his bag off in a chair before settling next to her on the couch, all coiled and awkward, with his feet in unnatural places. “Because you look like you just punched out someone's lights and want to find them again for more.”

“You don't think we're dating, right?” Margo asks, maybe a little more aggressively than she would normally but- it's been a bad day.

“Um, no?” Quentin blinks at her, and he looks appropriately surprised. “We're friends. Like you and Eliot.”

Jesus, what a fucking relief. She unwinds, grabs his ankle and yanks his foot into her lap. “That is completely the right answer. Good boy.” He flushes slightly. “Want a foot massage? I do have amazing hands, if you'll recall.”

“You do,” he agrees, with a flustered smile. “Um. My feet probably stink, though.”

“Ugh, how long have you been here and you still haven't realized there's a spell for all that petty shit?” Margo shakes her head, tugs off his shoe. Does a cleaning set of tuts on his socked foot before she pulls the sock off. Then she creates some massage oil for her fingers and starts digging them into his muscles and tendons, making them relax. It's calming for her, too, to do this. Helps her set her mind back into order, remind herself she doesn't care what random people think, as long as the important people aren't thinking weird shit.

After she gets done with his first foot, she has him give her the second one. She feels almost at peace by then, but she hates to leave a job half-done. He tucks his other foot under his knee, and it should look painful but he doesn't seem to have any issues. She's pretty goddamn healthy, but she envies Q his flexibility.

“What did you two do to chase the rest of the Cottage away?” Eliot asks as he swoops into the room. He cuddles up next to Margo, and then tickles the bottom of Quentin's foot, which makes Q nearly kick her in the face.

“I am working here,” she tells him, very seriously, but she accepts a kiss on the cheek. She pets Quentin's ankle to let him know she doesn't blame him for El's behavior. “Some people just don't understand the concept of casual sex, is all, and it pissed me off.”

“Ah, I see,” Eliot says. He looks down at her lap, where she's working on the ball of Quentin's foot. Presses another kiss against the corner of her mouth and she can feel him smiling. “You know, it's been weeks since you gave me a foot massage.”

“I'm gonna be all massaged out after this one,” she says.

“Um. I could try,” Quentin offers, and he sounds so relaxed he's almost loopy. “It might be better than nothing?”

“Since you're a beginner, I recommend you start with a simple foot rub,” Eliot says. “If you really want to do it?”

“Mmm, I can practice the spell Margo showed me,” Quentin says, and there's nothing their little Q loves so much as magic, so that's him definitely sold on the idea.

They rearrange after she's done with Q's feet, since she doesn't want to get squished in between them. She sits behind El so that she can play around with his curls, and he slips off his shoes and stretches out on the couch to put his feet into Quentin's lap. Quentin fucks up the cleaning tuts the first time, but nails them the second. The oil one he doesn't need help with, and she suspects he's been using the variation on it when he jerks off which... fair enough.

Other people start filtering back in after a while, though a few of them shoot nervous looks in her direction. That much she doesn't mind.

She presses a kiss to the back of Eliot's head and watches Quentin rub earnestly at El's feet, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrates. It's not a bad view. Not bad at all.

 


 

Mentorship week is a nightmare.

It doesn't start that way. Quentin honestly doesn't care all that much about getting an alumni mentor. He's already got two student ones and they're enough of a handful to deal with, if he's being honest. So, he's not really concerned about securing a mentorship.

Eliot and Margo, on the other hand, consider it a matter of life or death. It's vaguely fascinating, at first, to see them competing over, well, something that isn't him. And it's a lot easier for him to see how little they mean the insults and the backbiting now that he actually knows them.

Then he gets the news that his dad has contacted the school, and his week goes to shit.

He takes Julia with him, because she loves Ted, too, and so she's with Quentin when he finds out about his dad's cancer. It helps, somewhat.

Not much.

It means he has someone's hand to hold after he hears the news. He holds her hand too tightly, but she doesn't object. They have to walk a few blocks to get to the bus line and that's- that's good, that's familiar enough from when they were kids. They don't talk, because neither of them really have the words yet. His dad is, like, the one good parent they ever had between the two of them so.

It sucks. It sucks a lot.

It means, in general, that he comes back to Brakebills in a shitty-ass mood. He might still have his pills here, but he hasn't had a chance to talk to a therapist since he took the entrance exam and he's not entirely sure how he could now that magic's a real thing in his life anyway, so things could be worse but they could also be better. It means that he snaps at Alice when she asks him how he's doing and trails a dark cloud of misery all the way to his bedroom, where he seals himself in alone.

It means that when Margo pops her head in the door to try to wrangle him to practice for a game of something she's been calling 'Welters', he tells her he doesn't give a shit and buries his face in his blankets.

“You thought Welters sounded 'intriguing' this morning,” she says, mildly reproachful. “What happened while you were out with Julia to change your mind?”

He doesn't mean to. It's completely inappropriate. But he can't help it. He starts laughing, shaking against the bed, and he can't stop.

Margo is petting his back and saying his name over and over and she sounds so lost and baffled and he just- he just can't stop. He can hear her raise her voice, and then she's talking to someone else, and- Eliot comes in the room, he knows what Eliot's walk sounds like. Quentin blinks and Eliot is- is kneeling down in front of the bed, cupping his face.

“Do you need us to go find Julia?” Eliot asks, and his voice is maybe softer than Quentin's ever heard it before. Quentin shakes his head because- because Julia is a lot better at getting her ass into gear than Quentin is, so she's off to read up on some maybe helpful things in the library. She doesn't need, like, five fucking hours to process some simple news. “Would it help to talk about it?”

And staring at Eliot's face gives him a- it reminds him that-

“Magic is real,” Quentin says, which makes Eliot crease his forehead at him in confusion, because it's such a stupid thing to say. “Um. Magic is real and my dad- uh. My dad-” he feels his face contort and he wants to bury himself back in the covers but he forces himself to keep looking at Eliot. “-has cancer. Can we- can we fix that?”

Eliot's expression gets shuttered and drawn which is- an answer, probably, but it's the wrong answer, so Quentin curls himself up into a ball and peers over at Margo hopefully.

“Cancer can't be healed by magic,” she tells him bluntly, because- well, Margo doesn't believe in talking around things, especially not important things. She does keep stroking his back. “All the big things, magicians have been trying for years, sometimes centuries, to fix.”

“Um, but. Don't we have a lot of experienced magicians here? For mentors' week?” His heart is a fluttery, useless thing in his ribcage, trying to batter its way out. “I could- could ask?”

“Sure, of course,” Eliot says, his hand moving to Quentin's hair. “We can ask.”

“We,” Quentin repeats, almost voicelessly.

“We,” Eliot says, firmly. “You're not alone here, Q. You have me and Margo, and you have Julia. You have your other friends, too, Alice and Kady and maybe even Penny.” Quentin's not certain if any of those last three count as actual friends but- well, they don't hate him.

Part of him wants to hide away in his bed until all of this just- just disappears. But it won't and he knows that it won't so-

He makes himself sit up.

“Sorry,” he says, just as a general apology for- everything. Existing, maybe. “Who do- um. What mentors are here that know more about healing?”

Margo makes a list of names, which Eliot adds some commentary to – then they split up the list, to cover ground more quickly. Eliot also offers to go find Julia, to make sure they pool their efforts instead of trying the same things, which is- which is smart.

Quentin ends up talking to three different alums, and only the last one is at all helpful, giving him a list of books to investigate, though she does warn him that none of them are likely to succeed. Still, at least it's something. He meets up with Eliot, Julia, and Margo in the library, and after a bit longer, there's a spell that maybe might work.

“I'm just saying, we need a test subject,” Quentin argues.

“This kind of spell is pretty tricky,” Margo says. “Gerrold is practically the mascot of the Cottage. We can't risk his life. We'd be murdered in our beds.”

“How can he be the mascot when I've literally never seen him?” Quentin asks.

“Well, the third-years keep him up in their rooms,” Eliot says. “He's very old, for a puppy.”

“I'm sorry, I'm still kind of stuck on the entire idea of a 'cancer puppy',” Julia says. “Out of... curiosity, why can't we use whatever spell is keeping that little guy alive on Quentin's dad?”

Margo grimaces. “Oh. That... that would not be a good idea. Have either of you seen a little cult classic called 'Death Becomes Her'?” She seems to glean from their faces that they have not, because she elaborates, “Gerrold can't die or grow any older, but he can get sick and get hurt.”

“Wait, are you saying he's in constant pain?” Quentin asks.

“Any magic that powerful always has drawbacks,” Eliot says, sympathetically, which is not a 'no'.

“But that's horrible,” Julia says.

“Anyway, the third-years would never let us,” Eliot says, and he reaches up and tugs Quentin down to sit on his lap in big library armchair. “They're very fond of him.”

“We can't just give up,” Quentin says, but he lets Eliot pet over his back and doesn't try to pull away. “What's the point of having magic in the first place if it can't solve any real problems?”

“Magic doesn't have a point, honey,” Margo says, sitting on the nearest table. “It just is, like hydrogen or iron.”

“That can't be right.” Julia drops into the armchair mirroring across from Eliot and Quentin. “Magic is- no, there has to be more to it than that. Look, I'll try to- to rewrite the spell to make it safer. Then maybe we can convince your third-years to at least let us try to heal Gerrold.”

“Sure, knock yourself out,” Margo says. “It's not like anyone would be unhappy if you managed to solve this. Just keep in mind that magicians have known about cancer a lot longer than muggles have, and none of them have cracked it yet.”

“I'll take it under advisement,” Julia says in a steely voice. She looks over at Quentin and her face softens. “Q, why don't you take a break while I work on this?”

“I can help,” Quentin says, which may or may not be true, but even if it isn't, this is his dad.

In the end, no one takes a break. At some point, Alice wanders into the library to do some homework and, when she finds out what's going on, offers to stay, pouring through books to help Julia find details for her meta-composition reworking of the spell. After about three hours of solid work, Margo goes and gets them all some dinner, half-heartedly and insincerely complaining about how much time this is taking away from Welters practice.

They stay up half the night, and around three in the morning, Julia says, blearily, “I think it's as safe as I can make it.”

“The third-years will decide if that's safe enough,” Eliot says.

It turns out that Gerrold is literally the smallest dog Quentin has seen in his entire life. This would be utterly life-ruining if Quentin actually let himself think about it for more than five seconds, so he refuses. The third-years, led by a woman named Erika, all study Julia's version of the healing spell very very closely for several hours before they so much as let any of the group touch Gerrold.

“Next year, you might be in charge of looking after Gerrold,” one of them – Ryan? – tells Eliot, touching his arm softly and staring at him with inviting eyes. “It's a sacred duty.”

Eliot doesn't- flirt back or anything, and maybe even stiffens up a little before he moves away, which is. It's nice Eliot is taking this whole thing as seriously as Quentin is, is all.

The third-years do, eventually, say that they'll let Julia try the spell. Under supervision.

It's a cooperative spell and Quentin... Quentin wants to be the one to do it with Julia, because it's ultimately for his dad. But that's also why he- he has to think about what's most likely to actually work and out of all the people here, Alice is the one closest in power to Julia so.

So it's Julia and Alice who place little Gerrold in the ritual circle, and who do the spell over him.

Quentin watches from the corner of the room – he can't get too close because of all the third-years – and he wants to pace but holds back, limiting himself to fervent foot-tapping. Other people casting spells usually feels like it takes less time than casting himself does, but this one has several backstops and countermeasures put in place for safety, so it takes a while. He tries not to feel too impatient but he's not having any real success.

At the end of the spell, there's a flash of light, and everyone waits, hushed and still.

“Well,” Erika says, pleased. “He didn't blow up.”

“Was that a possibility?” Quentin asks, feeling slightly ill.

No one answers him.

“How do we know if it worked?” Julia asks. “Something happened, but how do we know whether or not the cancer is gone?”

“That sounds like a job for Lipson,” Eliot interjects. “Unless you want to trust him to the Healing students.”

There's a general murmur from the group that this isn't an acceptable option.

Alice scoops up Gerrold but doesn't look too happy about it, so Quentin takes him from her. “Well, this is for my dad,” he says, rebelliously, in the vague direction of the third-years. “So I'll take him.”

“By all means,” Erika says, thoughtful in a way he doesn't really trust. “What was your name again?”

“Quentin. Um. Coldwater.” Gerrold licks under his chin, which is something of a comfort. He cuddles the puppy closer.

“Well, Coldwater, congratulations on learning one of the most important rules of being a magician,” Erika says. “A whole month early too.”

Margo coughs. Quentin narrows his eyes at her, because Margo's fake cough is... not very much like a real one.

“But I'm getting ahead of myself,” Erika says. “You have permission to take Gerrold to Professor Lipson, Coldwater, and then bring him back immediately afterwards. Don't fuck it up. Not when you're doing so well.”

And, on that note, she and the other third-years go about their own business.

A little while later, Lipson holds the diagnostic glass in front of Gerrold and makes concerned noises. And then thoughtful noises. And then more concerned noises. Gerrold squirms in Quentin's arms.

“Which one's the meta-comp who worked on this spell?” she asks, as she peers even more deeply. “Don't raise your hand, since I'm not looking. Just talk.”

“Oh. That would be me,” Julia says, in that particular tone she always got when she was called on in class and wasn't certain if she knew the right answer. “Julia Wicker. I spent last night trying to make it... safer.”

“I can see that,” Lipson says. “Hmm. Good thing, too. You know, the original version of that spell needs vast amounts of power or it, well. The results aren't pretty.”

“So, now we know what the spell didn't do,” Alice says. “What did it do?”

“I think I understand your intentions. You wanted to cure Cancer Puppy's cancer. Very cute. Very first-year of you. I remember what it was like to be a first-year. All full of plans and hope and cheap alcohol.” Lipson switches to a different color of glass and motions for Quentin to turn Gerrold around to face her head-on. “Feels like a century ago.”

“Does he still have cancer?” Quentin asks.

“Oh, yes,” Lipson says, and it's like all the air has left Quentin's body. “Absolutely teeming with it.”

He startles, when he feels Eliot's hand go around his shoulders, but then leans into the touch. “Um. What did Julia's spell actually do?”

“De-neutered him, it looks like,” Lipson says. “Reversed the big snip and restored him to his original condition. Not that it matters much, since he's stuck as a puppy.”

“Interesting but sadly useless at this time,” Eliot notes. “Is there anything you can glean from the results that might help Julia refine the spell in a way that will actually do something about the problem we're attempting to solve?”

Lipson sighs. “Do you know how many magicians have tried to cure cancer, Mr. Waugh?”

“Okay, sounds like a big fat 'no' to me,” Margo says. “Is the little poop bomb cleared to go back to his adoring fans?”

“Hmm? I suppose. There's nothing new wrong with him.”

With that Lipson seems to dismiss them entirely from her thoughts, turning back to the book she'd been reading when they'd come in.

The third-years are glad to have Gerrold back, but Quentin, of course, is stuck in exactly the same place he started. Maybe worse off, because now he knows exactly how little magicians know about cancer.

“I'll keep trying to rework the spell,” Julia tells him, lying down next to him on his bed. “I promise.”

“Thanks, Jules.”

But the burst of energy that had held him up through the day and night is fading fast and he mostly just wants to sleep for a thousand years now. Julia senses it, because she brushes his hair back and he blinks up at her and she says, “I'll check back in a few hours. We'll get lunch together, okay?”

He can hear her talking to someone at the door as she's leaving but can't make out the words.

 


 

 Eliot props his head on his elbow and watches Margo pace. Back and forth and forth and back, without end, as she mutters about her plans for the upcoming Welters match. He supposes it is an honor that the third-years asked her to be on the team. He's just glad he wasn't graced with said honor.

He sincerely hopes Quentin doesn't also develop a deep love of the game. One Welters devotee is more than enough.

Quentin had been sleeping the last time Eliot checked in on him, but his feet are itching to go back and look in again. He doesn't, because he has some self-control, thanks. But it is a temptation. Jesus, the poor kid. Quentin has a father who, apparently, actually loves him and treats him well, and this is the kind of news he has to deal with. Eliot would be more than happy to transfer Ted Coldwater's cancer over to his own father, if only a spell existed for such a purpose.

“Do you think Quentin likes any games?” Eliot asks. Then he sighs at himself because a) obviously Quentin must like some games, b) he needs to stop doing this, and c) if he doesn't stop doing this, Margo is definitely going to realize what's happening. Or, well, what Eliot maybe wants to have happen again.

“He's gonna fucking like Welters once I talk him into practicing with me,” Margo says. She launches herself from a standing position into a dive on the bed, landing somewhere near his knees. “Ugh. I was hoping Wicker would make that spell work for him. She's clever and she was so hopeful about it.”

“I'm just glad they didn't kill Gerrold,” Eliot says. He reaches down and pets Margo's hair. She's put it up in a ponytail, so he tugs at it a little too, to tease her. She grumbles at him and kisses his knee. “Still, she managed to remove the backlash from the spell with only a night's worth of work. We give her enough time and our little Miss Wicker might end up actually figuring out how to make it work the way we want it to.”

The big question, in Eliot's mind, is if she can do it in enough time to save Q's father. And the answer to that is probably somewhere between 'hazy; ask again later' and 'unlikely'.

“Knowledge students always gotta show off,” Margo says, but with a fondness to it.

“Ah, yes, we certainly never feel the need to show off,” Eliot drawls, floating them a foot above the bed to make his point and to make Margo laugh. Which she does. He drops them back down again with a bounce. “Has Madame Razien said anything to you about her intentions?”

“Not yet,” Margo says. “So I really need to bust ass on this match. Showing I can keep up with the third-years will go a long way to earn her favor. How are things with you and the twins?”

“Greg and Giselle haven't yet confirmed or denied an interest in mentorship,” Eliot says, with a sigh. “Greg has indicated an interest in other things.”

Nice. He's pretty fuckable.” Margo pats his calf. “You gonna go for it?”

Eliot thinks about it. It's been a hot minute since he screwed someone. And Greg is- hmm. Five inches shorter, which is a good height. Eliot isn't a fan of the buzzcut, but he can work with it. And his clothing sense is... acceptable, if not expensive. But his eyes are a touch vacuous, his fingers are a bit stubby for a magician, and he's altogether too quiet.

“I don't know if I feel the chemistry,” he says. It's probably a good idea anyway, even if he doesn't feel completely on-board, just to get other things out of his system. But. “He has a weak chin.”

“Fair enough,” Margo says, companionably. “Hey, I hear one of the Nature Kids cooked up a new variety of brownies. Special blend. Wanna go steal a plate?”

Now that is something Eliot can agree to easily.

The brownies smell amazing and the cook assures them that the special properties are sure to lift any mood, so. “We should give a couple to Q.”

“I'll grab drinks and snacks from our kitchen,” Margo says, but the cook offers her some of the home-made stash the Nature Kids have, so Margo and Eliot load up before they leave.

“Come back anytime,” the cook tells them, with an extra smile for Margo. Eliot is pretty sure he's a third-year? But he doesn't spend much time with the Nature Kids, so he can't be certain.

“Yeah, sure,” Margo agrees absent-mindedly. She's already nibbling on one of the brownies.

Quentin is still asleep when they get back to the Cottage which is-

-it's a little worrying. Eliot sits on the bed, chews at his lip. The idea of having a father that's worth all this pain and stress is a strange and complicated one for Eliot to turn over in his head. It's not that he's unaware that non-shitty fathers exist in the world. He's just not entirely certain he's ever personally met one.

He strokes his hand through Quentin's messy tangle of hair, then rests it on his neck.

“Still out, huh?” Margo taps Quentin's exposed ankle. “Like a fucking light. You want me to leave some brownies and snacks? I kinda gotta practice some more if I wanna kick third-year ass hard enough to get the Madame's undivided attention.”

Eliot nods, gaze caught by the way Quentin's mouth twitches as he dreams.

He's not sure how long he waits for Q to wake up. It's easy to focus and drift in the moment, stroking his thumb across soft, thin skin. Quentin looks concerned, even in his sleep, like nothing can wash away his fears. He's wearing his clothes from yesterday, rumpled and probably still with dog drool on the shirtsleeves.

In time, it looks like he might be stirring.

“Hey, sleepy boy. How're you holding up?” Eliot doesn't try to hide the fondness in his voice. Quentin has fast become a close friend. He's allowed a measure of fondness.

Quentin comes awake slowly, which isn't normal for him. Generally, Quentin almost seems to startle himself awake, like he's constantly getting up from a nightmare, though he says that isn't the case. Today, though, he nudges against Eliot's hand and sighs unhappily and purses his lips and arches like a cat before falling back down to the bed again. But with effort, like he's moving through water instead of air.

“It's a bad day,” Quentin says. And of course it is. He only recently found out his father has cancer. But Quentin says it like it means something special.

“Oh?” Eliot rubs his hand across Quentin's back. “I'm sorry, Q. I wish the spell had worked.”

“Of course, it didn't work,” Quentin says, the words long and drawn-out. “Nothing ever works. Even magic is- is pointless and worthless. Why did I ever think-” He glances up, meets Eliot's eyes, frowns. “Sorry, I didn't mean to- I'll shut up. I'm just being...” he doesn't finish the sentence.

“You don't have to shut up,” Eliot says. “I can listen.”

He lies down next to Quentin, keeps pressing long, even strokes along his side and back. He'll mention the food later. Right now, something else is going on, and Eliot can't help if he doesn't know what the problem is. Quentin- doesn't look directly at him, looks down at his chin instead. He does that sometimes, when he feels uncomfortable or raw.

“You know how I take those pills?” Quentin asks, and his voice is wobbly and all over the place, pitch-wise. This is obviously hard for him to talk about, so Eliot treats it with the seriousness it deserves, makes a soft 'mmmhmm' noise but doesn't interrupt. “Um. They're for- uh. I- two days before. Two days before you met me. I was- um. I was at the Midtown Mental Health Clinic. Voluntary check-in. For- uh. Because I'd-”

Quentin has to take a break and breathe for a while. Eliot keeps petting him, tries to keep his hand steady and even. This conversation would easier with alcohol or maybe something harder but- here they are.

“Sometimes life feels pointless? You know?” Quentin reaches up and scrubs under his eyes with his palm. “Being here feels. Pointless. And it seems like it would be- easier? Not to. Be here. Or anywhere, I guess.”

“Is that something you still... that you still think about?” Eliot asks. He tries not to sound as careful and fragile as he feels.

“I don't know if it ever really goes away,” Quentin says. “It's quieter sometimes. It was- quieter. For a while.”

“But still there.”

“Yeah, still there,” Quentin agrees. He twists his hand around and it ends up almost looped into Eliot's tie. He can feel Quentin's fingertips brushing against his throat, just barely. “I guess I'm- uh. The last I- the last time I almost- what stopped me was- I thought about my dad. About how it would make him feel when he found out that I had-” He leaves the rest unvoiced but it's clear enough. That if his father dies, that's another tether to the world that Quentin loses. And Quentin... he feels guilty about that, too, Eliot suspects. Guilty that in the middle of his father's tragedy, any part of Quentin is worried about himself.

“I can't promise to make anything better,” Eliot says, but he wishes desperately that he could. “I don't know if we can get a spell that will work on this. But... but I can promise that no matter what happens, you won't be alone. You aren't alone, Q.”

Quentin takes a quick, shuddery breath. “Is. Um. Is your dad still around?”

“I don't know,” Eliot says, and now Quentin does look at him, unsteady and with wet eyes. “He wasn't a great father or a great person. We haven't kept in touch.”

“I'm sorry.” Quentin lifts up his hand, wrinkles his nose in confusion when he has to untangle it from Eliot's tie, then strokes clumsily at the side of Eliot's face. “I can listen, too, if that would help?”

It's terrifying. It's also tempting. It's so fucking tempting. To just spill his past out in front of Quentin and trust him not to use it to break Eliot in the future.

Eliot wants...

...and that's exactly why he shouldn't.

So he reaches up, interlaces his fingers with Quentin's, and says, “It's a long story, baby. Maybe another day?”

Quentin frowns, but he doesn't push. Says, “Yeah, okay.”

 


 

So, Margo kicks almighty fucking ass at the Welters tournament, secures Madame Razien's coveted mentorship in the complicated arts of hydromacy – kissing cousin to her own discipline – and hooks up with Greg after Eliot turns him down.

Everything in her life is coming up roses.

The mentorship week closing party they host is epic and wonderful.

Except.

She sits down next to Quentin on the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, hands him a drink. “We won't give up on your dad. I promise. We're fucking magicians. And your friends – Julia and Alice – both have the makings to be masters one day.” There's a slight twinge as she essentially admits she doesn't fall into that category herself. But she's got plenty of other things going for her. “They might be able to crack it. Especially if they make friends with some Healing students over the next couple of years.”

Quentin just nods. He's been all over the place since he found out, which is fair. Her own dad is- a whole bundle of issues for her, but she does remember what it was like to have a father that thought the world of her. She didn't lose that through death, but she did lose it, so she can maybe understand around the edges.

“And all that hurt we feel, over the crap we go through in our lives,” Margo says, feeling herself slip involuntarily into mentor-mode. “It fuels our magic. One of the teachers likes to say that magic comes from pain and... well. Pain doesn't seem to hurt casting any.”

“That kinda sucks,” Quentin says, and he leans his body against hers. “Why can't magic come from... I don't know. Love? Or- or cocaine?”

“Guess that would make it too easy,” Margo says. She ruffles his hair. “Do you want to come back to the party or are you gonna sulk on the stairs? Either is valid.”

“I don't think I'm up for celebrating right now.” He rubs his fingers together. “Sorry. I know you worked really hard. Welters looked neat. I just wasn't up for-”

“Yeah, that's fine.” Margo stands, holds out her hand. “Actually if you're gonna sulk, let's go sulk in my room. It's more comfy.”

“You don't have to leave the party for me.” But he lets her tug him to his feet, lets her yank him up the stairs.

“Eh, I came, I saw, I conquered. I'm good.”

She lights a cigarette when they get to her room, offers it to him. He shakes his head, flexes his fingers and manifests a card from his hand, flips it around to show her – queen of diamonds.

“That me?” she asks, because the card looks altered, has thick dark hair that doesn't match the red color scheme. “Clever. You barely used anything to do that.”

“I guess I was doing it before I even knew I could do magic,” Quentin says. He lies back down on her bed and sighs up at the ceiling. “I thought I was a really great close-up magician. Um. Muggle magician. But part of it was real magic. Not sure how I feel about that.”

“Mmm. I wonder how you'd do in a game of Push,” Margo says. He hadn't gotten into Welters the way she'd hoped, but maybe... maybe Push would be more his speed.

“What's Push?”

Margo settles down next to him, passes him the cigarette, and starts explaining the in-and-outs, with a few interruptions from Quentin for clarification-

“It's just about having the highest card?”

“It's about probability. Mostly about manipulating it.”

“So, you're supposed to cheat?”

“Oh, yeah. You fuck with chance and hope she doesn't fuck you back so hard you lose.”

After a while, Quentin pulls his deck of cards from his room, shuffles it, and he and Margo play a few practice rounds. It takes him a bit to get the hang of it, but once he does-

“You are a fucking card sharp,” Margo says, with admiration.

They play a few more rounds, with Quentin absolutely walloping her. About three deck-worths later, Eliot pokes his head in, says, “Ugh, Push?”

“No whining. Q is actually really good at this.” Margo tosses her hair, says confidingly to Quentin, “Eliot despises literally every single magic game in existence.”

“There's no need to qualify it with 'magic'. Games and sports in general are a waste of time,” Eliot declares, settling behind Quentin on her bed and wrapping himself around Q like a limpet. Or a koala. “If I want to kill time, please let me do it with alcohol or drugs, thanks. Not cards or balls or running around in circles.”

Quentin pets Eliot's hand. She doesn't even feel the magic that turns whatever she had before into a three right before she plays it, the delightful bastard. He hadn't even been looking at her.

“If you're gonna play a card game, at least bet something on it,” Eliot grumbles. “Make it slightly less boring.”

“I'm not gonna fucking bet on it, El. Do you know how long it's been since I won a hand? Since the third goddamn round.” Margo snuggles back against her pillows and she really likes how much Quentin has brightened up since she started showing him the game. Confidence looks pretty hot on him, which she hadn't expected. “He should join the New York Push Club.”

“Don't they bet for ungodly high stakes?” Eliot notches his chin into Quentin's shoulder. “Is he really that good, after just an afternoon of teaching?”

“I think he might be,” Margo says. “And he wouldn't be in with the high rollers right away.” She presses her toes into Quentin's shin. “Maybe the reason Sunderland couldn't figure out your magic is because it's got some probability mixed in. That's a rare one. Not physical, though, so if she did fuck up and miss it, I'm glad. You'd be stuck with- well, your friend Julia, I guess. Probability's a Knowledge discipline.”

“I'm good here,” Quentin says. He holds another card up an inch from his deck, so she grabs one too and-

She tries hard on this one, gets herself a queen of spades. But Quentin has the king of spades, literally just one fucking card higher. And- oh. “It's El,” she says, reaching out and stroking her finger over the curls. “He looks good in a card.”

Quentin flushes as Eliot takes the card off the bed and examines it.

The face has finer-boned features than the original printing, plus those curls. It's pretty unmistakably Eliot. There's a blush on the real Eliot's cheeks now, too, as he runs his fingers over the card.

Margo considers the tableau for a moment.

Quentin kneeling on the bed, pink-cheeked with a touch of embarrassment but mostly pride. Actually dressed up for the party in a nice dark button-down and slacks. The decks of cards messily stacked in front of them. Eliot pushed right up against Q's back as he touches the card that looks like him, with a soft look in his eyes. Dark purple vest with a lighter violet tie, blue shirt.

“I think we should screw,” she says, thoughtfully. “It seems like a good night for it.”

Eliot stills almost completely, not even blinking, though his fingers tense on the card.

Quentin gawks at her, his mouth opening like he's gonna talk, and then he doesn't.

She frowns at them. “We're friends who screw sometimes, right? I think it's a good night for it.”

“Are we?” Eliot asks, and his voice is, like... crazy high-pitched. “Have you and- have you and Quentin been... been doing that?”

“No!” Quentin blurts out, before she can say anything. He flails around on his knees so that he can be in profile to both her and Eliot at the same time, and his hands are like a windmill as he talks. “Just the one time. That you already know about. We haven't- um. Done it again. Since that time.”

“Yet,” Margo adds, which draws their attention back to her. “I mean, if you don't want to, just say so. But I'm up for a strings-free fun time if you are. You're both looking fine as fuck and I'm still in a celebrating mood.” She shrugs.

“I'm not saying I don't want to,” Quentin says.

“You aren't?” Eliot asks, real quickly, almost before the sentence is out of Q's mouth.

“Um. No.” Quentin is playing with a card nervously. “I just hadn't realized. That anyone was thinking of it as a- continuing thing. But I don't- uh. I'm-” He glances down at the card, which looks like the ace of hearts from where she's sitting. Straightens up. “I mean- sure. Having sex every now and then doesn't- doesn't take away from our friendships.”

“Yeah, of course not!” Eliot agrees. Then his eyes drop down to Quentin's lap and he licks his lower lip. So, he's definitely down for it. It's just boys being silly and not realizing a question has to be asked in order to get an answer.

“Do we want the door open or closed?” Margo asks, lazily lifting her leg and running her toes along Quentin's calf. The last time she banged Quentin, they'd been mad at each other. It'll be interesting to see if he's different in bed when he's not pissed off. “And do we want silencing wards up?”

“There's a lot of people downstairs,” Quentin says, which is not an answer. He rests a hand on her bare ankle and she pops an eyebrow up to prompt him. “Like. A lot.” His voice gets lower, a touch husky. “We probably should.”

“A higher than average percentage of those people have already seen me or El naked,” Margo points out. “It's not that big a deal to us if it isn't to you.”

Eliot sprawls out sideways on the bed, touches Q's leg just under where her foot is. She glances at him and he looks- she's not sure. Focused, maybe, like he's concentrating really hard on something right now.

“Closed,” Eliot says, softly. “Let's close the door.” He wraps his fingers around Margo's ankle, tugs her an inch closer to him and Quentin. “And wards. At least this time. There are a lot of people out there.”

Eliot uses his free hand to gesture as he telekinetically closes and locks the door, while Margo does the tuts to put up the ward. Quentin gathers the scattered cards and they disappear up his shirtsleeve and then... disappear in general. Probably back into the card pack.

“Um, I'm not sure how to-” Quentin clears his throat. “I've never had a threesome before.”

“It's not so different,” Margo says. “Just more bits to keep track of – hey, honey, you want El to fuck you again? And then I can finger you while you're wet with him? You seemed into the idea when I talked about it last time.”

Quentin pales, and then flushes, and then bites his lip. “Yeah, but I- uh.” His eyes dart over at El, then back to her again. “It's been- like, a really long time since I- since I had a chance to give anyone a blowjob.”

“No one since high school boy, huh?” Eliot asks, which means they've been talking about sex without her. Totally unfair. “How big was his dick?”

She's not entirely sure what she's expecting Quentin's answer to be, but she certainly isn't expecting a cheeky, “Oh, you know, enormous. Like, twice as big as yours.”

“Fuck you,” Eliot says, smiling. He hooks his fingers into Quentin's waistband and tugs gently. “Be honest, baby.”

Quentin's knees slid apart on the bed and he wobbles a little. She doesn't think he's doing it on purpose, but if that tone in his voice is tempting her to swat him for being bratty, Eliot must be thinking it twice as hard. Then again. Maybe she's been underestimating him. Maybe it is on purpose.

“I don't remember,” Quentin is saying. “It was literal years ago, El. His dick was dick-sized. I liked sucking it. I don't really remember many details beyond that.”

And, yeah, that tone is definitely getting to Eliot. His eyebrow is lifting, ever-so-slightly, and his lips are parted. She can see his dick starting to press up against his pants, too. She rotates her ankle in his hand, reminds him that she's there. He blinks a little, pulling out of it. Strokes her calf.

“Okay, you want to blow El,” she says, and Q definitely hasn't forgotten she's there, because he nods without startling or looking at her. “I want to finger you after he fucks you. And El... I'm pretty sure El wants to paint your ass red. I think I might want it, too.” Now Quentin looks at her, forehead all creased up in puzzlement. Then it hits him – she can see it in how his cheeks blaze with heat. “You think you might like that?”

There's a tense, still moment as they wait for Quentin to think it over. His flush hasn't died down at all and his breathing is faster than normal.

Finally, there's the faintest of nods.

Then another one that looks more certain.

Margo grins at Q, looks over to share the moment with Eliot, but he seems hesitant and his attention is entirely on Quentin's face.

“It wouldn't be just for fun,” Eliot says, and there's something in his voice she doesn't recognize, that isn't just anticipatory lust. He lets go of Margo's ankle and strokes up Quentin's inner thigh. “You know you deserve it.” Quentin sways into Eliot's hand. “You keep talking back.”

“Pretty sure you like it.” Quentin's voice wavers when Eliot's hand brushes against his cock.

“That doesn't mean it shouldn't come with consequences.” Eliot leans forward and kisses the side of Quentin's leg through his pants. “Right, Bambi?”

She isn't expecting the dizzying hit of relief she feels when he invites her back into it. There's been something- something different about Eliot tonight. He's not acting like he has before, when they've shared someone. But this is familiar. They've done this part before.

“Little Q likes consequences,” Margo says, because she remembers that from when she had him – the yearning, desperate reaction he'd had when she'd told him he better not come before she did and then his needy, whimpering compliance when she used his softening dick to get herself off after he did come too quickly.

She wraps her leg around the back of his knee, and it's an interesting position, given what they're talking about – her and El essentially laying at Q's feet, talking about how they're going to put him on his knees.

Quentin nibbles at his lip, a little off-center. God, is that right where she'd bitten into him that night? She thinks it might be. “Well,” he says, his hips shifting against Eliot's hand. “I guess I do. If I deserve them.”

Margo makes her face very serious. “So, if you're at all a brat after this talk, you know what that means for you, right?”

He nods.

“Say it out loud, baby,” Eliot says. “I like your voice.”

That prompts another deep flush across Quentin's face. It looks for a minute like he's not gonna be able to do it, his mouth opening and closing a couple of times without any sound. “How- um. Should I just say 'yes' or-”

“Say what it means,” Margo says. “Spell it out for us, honey.”

Which would set their expectations, too.

“Okay,” Quentin says. He reaches out, puts his hand on Eliot's shoulder, just to steady himself, it seems like. “Okay. If I- if I talk back or- or tease you. You're gonna- uh.” He lets out a quick breath, then glances up at the ceiling and just breathes a while longer. His neck looks so long like this, and begging for marks all over it.

“If you can't say it, you won't get it,” Eliot says. And he lifts his hand off Quentin's crotch, rubs at his hip instead. “We can just do blowjobs and fucking.” Quentin's body goes tense all over, she can feel it happening.

“I can say it,” Quentin says, sharply, his eyes dropping down to meet Eliot's. “You'll spank me if I'm a brat. There, see. I can fucking say it.”

“That one's free,” Eliot says. “Unless you don't want it to be.”

“Don't do me any favors,” Quentin snaps, peevishly.

“Okay, then you're up to two,” Margo says smoothly, and Quentin shivers. “You want more?”

“Um. Wha- how are we-” Quentin makes a vague hand gesture that could mean literally anything.

“How do we want you?” Margo asks, because that's the next item on her agenda and Quentin can contradict her if he means something else. “We'll get there soon. We're not done talking terms yet.”

“We didn't talk so much last time,” he says. Whines, actually, because he apparently really fucking wants to get spanked red. “We just fucked.”

“Three,” she says, evenly. His hand clenches into a helpless little fist. “So, if you're blowing Eliot, I want your mouth on me, too. Fair?” He nods. “Words, honey.”

“Okay, so, first of all-” Quentin taps his fingers against his thigh. “All this talking is stupid. Of course I want to- to eat you out. It's ridiculous to even- to even ask. Last time you just- just took what you wanted and I- honestly, you know, I think I'm- I'm insulted. I'm insulted you think I wouldn't want to- to do that.” And she's figured out what he's tapping for. He's trying to count out how many he wants them to give him. Even in this, he's a fucking nerd. “I could be off having- having sex with-” he pauses for a moment as he obviously gropes for a random name to throw at them. “-with Todd! Or Alice! Or- or- so, you know. You're not my only choice.”

“I think that's nine total,” Eliot says, amused. “Does that match your count, Bambi?”

“I got eight,” she says. “But let's go with nine for now.”

“Seems fair,” Eliot says. “Q, I was really upset last time that I wasn't wearing a tie. You have any objections to me using one on you this time?”

“Using?” Quentin asks. “Um. What does that mean exactly?”

“Tying you up, blindfolding you, maybe gagging you, though... probably not that last one, I do like to hear your voice.” Eliot grins, slides his hand up Quentin's shirt a little ways. “Oh, and baby? Maliciously trying to stop yourself from shouting absolutely counts as bratty behavior. Just so you know.”

“Each- uh. Each time?”

“Oh, most definitely,” Eliot purrs, and Margo is going to do her best later to pry out all the details of his earlier encounter with Q, because she's not a fan of in-jokes that she doesn't share. “Now, we should probably warm up your ass first, yeah? Get your clothes off.”

Margo relaxes her leg so Quentin can scramble off the bed. While he's stripping, he asks, “What if- what if I earn more- um. During?”

“Do you want to get spanked again at the end, when you're all loose and sore from getting fucked and fingered?” Margo asks, and she's genuinely curious.

Quentin pauses for a moment, his hands on his zipper, not quite meeting either her or El's eyes. “I mean. If I deserve it?” His fingers fumble as he tries to take his pants off. “It should happen if I deserve it.”

“If we gave you everything that you deserved, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week,” Eliot says, with fond amusement. He rolls onto his back, his feet dangling off the side, because he's so stupid-tall. He's still dressed to the nines and Margo gives that a moment of consideration. She'd tossed her shoes aside a while ago, during the first few rounds of Push with Q, but the rest of her is still party-ready. Should they stay dressed during the fucking or should they strip down too?

Quentin's naked now, though, so she'll think about it in a minute.

Already hard, too, or most of the way there.

“Hey there, sweet boy,” Eliot says, and he beckons at Q with a long, languid hand. “Come lay across daddy's lap, hmm?” And she's watching pretty closely, so she sees Quentin's quick swallow before he nods. It's not the approach she would have taken, exactly, but she can't argue it isn't working for Q.

Eliot pulls himself up to sit at the side of the bed and Quentin – a mottled flush all down his chest – approaches. Margo slides off, cups her hand around one of his ass cheeks. He stills at her touch, just breathes. “Hands and knees, I think,” she says, softly. “Better angle.”

“Well, I'm not one to argue with a lady,” Eliot teases. He shifts back slightly. “You heard Bambi. Up you go. Hands and knees.”

Quentin settles into place and- yeah. Definitely better. Not just for the angle, but because Q won't be able to just fall into himself. He'll have to actively work to stay where he's been put.

Just to prove it, Margo rests her elbows on his back and leans over him to press a kiss to Eliot's cheek. She doesn't put all her weight on Quentin, but enough that she feels him adjusting his position to stay stable. She wonders if he's nervous. She reaches down, cups his ass again, presses her fingers in. “Wanna alternate?” she asks Eliot.

“Mmm, yeah. And Q should count it down for us.” Eliot puts his hand over hers, and Quentin is able to feel them both this way, with her much smaller hand tucked inside Eliot's. He shifts his fingers over, twines them with hers, and lifts her hand up to kiss her knuckles. He looks down at Quentin. “Ready, baby?”

“Uh. Yeah.” And Quentin is nervous. She can hear it in his voice. She smiles at Eliot, mouths 'you first' at him, and strokes her fingers over Quentin's shoulder blades and down his back. She can feel him relaxing under her fingertips.

The sharp smack of Eliot's hand against Quentin's skin makes him flinch and almost pitch forward before he catches himself with his elbows. He lets out a startled half-laugh. They give him some time to adjust, then Margo gently prompts, “If you forget to count, we'll have to add to your total later on.”

“Oh!” Quentin takes in a few unsteady breaths, then says. “Uh. Nine.”

“Good boy,” Eliot says, voice low and coaxing. Margo strokes her hand down, down, down. She can see the fading mark left by Eliot's strike and she soothes her fingertips over it. She slides her feet apart slightly, aims for the lovely outmost curve of his ass cheek, and hits hard, and, goddamn, it gives way under her hand lovely and satisfying.

“Eight.” Then, more quietly. “Fuck.”

Seven makes Quentin bite back a whimpering yelp – she remembers that sound, he'd made it right at the very end the last time she'd been with him – and Eliot tsks sternly. “Well, that's one for the end now, isn't it?”

Quentin... wiggles, no other word for it really, just kind of shimmies in place on the bed, and she's gotta touch his dick before she smacks him. No choice about it. She's going for it but then Eliot snags her wrist. She looks up curiously.

“Gentle,” Eliot breathes at her, barely any sound to it.

She tilts her head, mouths back, “Talk later?” and he nods.

So, Margo slides her hand under Q's belly and traces her fingers over his heavy, drooping dick, and is gentle-gentle, the way Eliot wanted. Quentin can take rougher handling, from what she's seen, but Eliot is- Eliot's been weird about Quentin, tonight. She doesn't want to- to fuck anything up for him. Even if she isn't really sure what's going on.

She curls her fingers around Q's balls, tickles at the stretch of skin between there and his asshole. There's a lovely splash of color on his ass, still, and she leans down, impulsive, to press her mouth against his heated skin. “You look good in pink,” she tells him. “Remind me to get you a jacket or a shirt this color.”

“Jesus fuck, Margo,” Quentin says, and he sounds winded. “Christ.”

“No need to bring religion into this,” Margo says serenely. She gives his cock one last soft pat, then pulls out her hand so that she can hit him again, lower this time, almost where his ass cheek meets his thigh.

Quentin's learned his lesson for now – he doesn't try to hide his yelp this time. “Six,” he says, after, panting, his head hanging down between his shoulders. Then, quieter, “I can't believe I'm doing this.”

“Which part, baby?” Eliot asks, and he's rubbing his hand all over Quentin's whole ass, digging his fingers into the pinkest places, then massaging it out again. “Two at once or taking what you deserve for being such a brat? You're taking it very well.”

God.” That seems to be all Quentin can say, for a while. He's arching back into Eliot's fingers, though. “Both? I've had- uh. A lot of sex dreams about. About threesomes. I mean. I know that isn't- special or anything, a lot of people dream about threesomes, I'm-” And Quentin rambles for a while longer, like his mouth got unstuck or something. Margo strokes up his back, then pets at his hair. It's El's turn, and he seems to just want to listen to Quentin for a spell, keeps making tiny 'mmmhmm' noises to prompt him to keep talking, so she takes her time, tugging at his hair but remembering Eliot's request to stay gentle. She's not sure if that was just about his dick or not but- well, they'll talk about it later.

And Quentin can talk, for fucking days, honestly, but he finally winds down for now, apparently exhausted on the subject of his threesome dreams and his own impromptu analysis of his psyche based on them. Eliot doesn't give him the next one for a while still, but when he does, Quentin pushes his head into her hands, straight-up whines at her before he manages a quiet, “Five.”

Margo works her way back down his body, caressing as she goes. She tugs at his asscheek, exposes his hole. Rubs her finger over it thoughtfully. He's tight and tense there, now, but she remembers what it was like when he was loose from El's dick, how easy it was to slip inside. She presses against it, like a promise. Then she does four right on top of the red mark Eliot left behind and Quentin hisses like a scalded cat before counting it out.

“I've been thinking about what happens next,” Eliot says, and he rests his hand on Quentin's lower back. “I'm thinking he can take turns using his mouth on us. But I don't know if it's better to blindfold him or tie up his wrists. What do you think, Bambi?”

Margo slides her hand into Eliot's, then rubs her thumb across Q's skin. “Hmm. Tricky. I guess the question is whether it's easier for him to keep his eyes shut or hold his hands between his back.”

“Probably easier for him to keep his eyes shut,” Eliot says. “Though I suppose we could ask his opinion. Little Q, baby? Your input is requested.”

It takes Quentin a second to answer. “Eyes. Easier to close my eyes.”

“So, we use the tie to blindfold him, then?” Margo checks, and Quentin whines again, but doesn't protest. She pets at his shoulders with her other hand. “You don't want us to go too easy on you, do you, honey?”

“...no.” And she hadn't actually been expecting an answer to that question, so getting one is rather delightful.

“You ready for the next one?” she asks him and she feels him tense up in anticipation. “Because I'm not in charge of it, so who knows when it's happening, really.” He laughs, startled, and then shouts – for real and loud – when Eliot smacks him a good one in the middle of it. He loses his purchase, elbows sliding out from under him and his face landing on the mattress.

“That was so unfair,” he says, smushed up against the sheet. “Eliot. I wasn't ready.”

“I don't see how that's my fault,” Eliot says. “And that's two for later.”

“It is, it is your fault,” Quentin insists, his ass wiggling at them, all pink and red.

“You're up to four now, after I fuck you,” Eliot tells him, brushing his knuckles over the back of Q's thigh. “One for that remark and another for forgetting to count.”

Quentin breathes heavy against the sheets and Margo wonders if he's gonna push his luck. She brushes his hair back from his profile, and she can see his mouth tremble and his eyelashes flutter. She can't help but poke. “Well, aren't you gonna count for us?”

“I'll- I'll get to it,” he says, huffy. “Be fucking patient. Fuck.”

“I'm not blessed with an abundance of patience, little Q,” Margo reminds him. And also, “Six. And get back to counting. Unless you want more?”

“God. Uh. Four. I think that was four?”

It had been three but, well. Quentin is the one doing the counting.

“Sure,” she agrees, cheerfully. “Four.”

Which means three is her responsibility now. She kinda likes Q like this, all tilted up, still on his knees but his face pressed down against the bed. She pushes her knuckles into the skin between his shoulder blades and thinks about her next move. If she were the one in charge, she'd be tempted to put him on his back for the last couple, smack his inner thighs, maybe even his dick. But she's not sure how El would feel about that. He's clearly fine with a- a certain amount of roughness towards Q, but there's a line and she's not sure exactly where he's drawn it.

She and El are gonna have a long talk the next time she gets him alone. He's been holding back important info from her.

For now, though, for now. She kisses the small of Quentin's back. Rubs at the backs of his thighs. Tugs at his ass to open him up, and hits him on the inner curve there, where he hasn't been touched so far. She earns herself another of those yelps Quentin seems so embarrassed by, and a shuddery tiny, “Three.”

“Almost done, baby,” Eliot says, and Quentin squirms a bit, just at the sound of his voice. “Then we're gonna use your mouth until your jaw aches, okay?”

“Oh, god.” Quentin clutches at the sheets, knuckles white. “Okay. Yeah.”

It's a goddamn shame she hadn't known before how much he wants to use his mouth but there's no point in dwelling on the past. She knows now, and she plans to take full advantage.

She takes both of Quentin's ass cheeks in hand, pulls them apart, and quirks a eyebrow at Eliot. He presses a knuckle against Q's hole, which prompts a “Ah-ah!” and an attempt to push back against Eliot's hand, which El teasingly doesn't allow, pulling his hand back just enough to only keep the barest pressure on Q's skin. He slides his hand down further, out of view, but Quentin's whimpering reaction and his attempt to hump at the air tells a story all its own.

It occurs to her that they haven't talked about Quentin's orgasms yet. He'd come so easily with her, the last time. But if he's their bratty boy tonight, then they should probably be in charge of when he comes.

Eliot might already have a plan for that. He seems to- seems to have already figured out a lot about what he wants to do with Q. Margo's gotten herself off to the memory of the time they fucked, but she hasn't really thought of it outside of that. She's getting the impression Eliot has maybe thought about it even when he isn't jerking off.

She slides her hands up Quentin's back, rubs her knuckles along either side of his spine. She considers for a moment about how to ask diplomatically but, honestly, fuck it. “El, are we gonna try to control Q's orgasms or should he get to come whenever he wants?”

“Jesus fuck,” Quentin says, muffled and faint.

“Not now, the grown-ups are talking,” she tells him, which gets her another shivery breath. “What do you think, El?”

“I don't want him to come until I'm inside him,” Eliot says firmly, and then he blinks, as if surprised by how much he means it. He strokes Quentin's hips and says, more gently. “If that works for you, Bambi.”

“We can make it work,” she says. Reaches up and clasps Eliot's hands in hers. “We'll all end the night satisfied. That's your money-back guarantee.” She lets go of his hands and nods in the direction of Q's waiting ass.

Two is a little softer, maybe, than Eliot's previous smacks have been, and he caresses Quentin's skin afterwards with a distant look on his face. Margo waits only long enough to hear Quentin murmur the word before she gives him the final spank, sharp and high up on his ass, just above where El is still touching him.

She tugs Eliot's tie out from under his vest, even as Quentin is saying, “One?” and sounding slightly disappointed they've reached the end. She undoes it deftly, then loosely wraps the silky violet fabric around her wrist to get it out of the way for now.

Eliot knows what he wants, because he's scooting back on the bed, yanking Quentin with him. “You can be good and do it without your hands, right, baby?” She's heard Eliot with this pleading tone before, but usually only when he's the one getting down on his knees to suck a guy's dick, not when he's the one about to get blown. He frames Quentin's face with his hands, pulls him in for a messy kiss. Margo follows them up onto the bed, rubs her hand over Q's hip, and watches Eliot's expressions, hungry and frantic.

She frowns. Not- not much. But.

What reason had Eliot given for not wanting to bang Greg, again? A weak chin? And he hadn't banged Antonio last week, either, even though the boy had been panting for it. How long has it even been since El hooked up with someone? She can't remember. He always had a reason for blowing them off, so she hadn't given it much thought.

“Bambi?”

She blinks and refocuses.

“You wanna kiss Q before we blindfold him?” Eliot asks. Margo studies him carefully, looking for signs of- what? If he really wants her to, maybe? She slides her hand up Quentin's back, leans down and nips at his shoulder – gently. Very gently. Grabs his hair and turns his face towards hers for a kiss, just a brief taste. Quentin melts into her, warm and pliant.

“You remember where my clit is, right?” she asks, mostly teasing. Quentin smiles at her, small but sincere. “Or should I draw a map?”

“I mean, if you feel like it, you can. I'm not stopping you,” he tells her, and she flicks him on the nose.

“That's seven now, honey,” Margo says. “Seven smacks on your aching ass after you've been fucked.”

“I guess you don't have a choice.” His smile widens, skin dimpling in. She kisses him there, right by the corner of his mouth. “It is my fault.”

“Absolutely your fault.” She's waiting for- for Eliot to tell her to stop, she thinks, but he doesn't. He just sits on the bed and watches, his hand on Q's other shoulder. She kisses Quentin again, more deeply, and he gives way so easily, letting her fuck into his mouth with her tongue. “You remember how we like it, right?”

“Mmm, try to give you more friction than your pillow can,” Quentin says, sounding half a second away from laughing. “But I didn't get to- didn't get to touch El's dick last time. So I don't know what-”

“I'll tell you,” Eliot says, and he palms the side of Q's head, so close that she could kiss his wrist if she moved her chin just slightly. “We'll clear away all those cobwebs. It's like riding a bike.”

“Um. I'm pretty sure it's not,” Quentin says. “Anything like riding a bike.”

“Eight,” Eliot says. “You really want a sore ass at the end of tonight, don't you?”

Quentin tucks his lips behind his teeth, but his eyes are still smiling. She gives him one last peck of a kiss, then gracefully collapses onto the bed, stretching her arms up over her head. He looks her over, and the heat in his eyes makes her nipples tighten.

“Eliot, dearest, come lie down with me,” she says, and then there's a bit of logistics involved. First to decide whether or not to take off their clothes – they decide not yet, just undoing Eliot's pants and pulling his dick out, and Margo tugging her dress up over her hips and sliding off her panties. Then since Eliot is so ridiculously tall, they go with Margo sprawled top of him, and she shivers a little as his dick rests heavy in the curve between her leg and her cunt. It's sensible – it means Quentin won't have to move so far to switch between them, but it also feels excessively indulgent, like having ice cream for breakfast. Her legs rest bracketed inside his, and she fits entirely on his body, the big giraffe that he is.

Because they are still mostly dressed, the position itself feels familiar, not so different from what they do just lounging around the common room.

Eliot slings an arm just under her breasts and she beckons to Quentin. “Time for lights out, honey,” she tells him. “Go ahead and kneel between our legs.”

Once he's in position, she holds up her arm and Eliot uses his telekinesis to unwind his tie from her wrist. Quentin's eyelids flutter shut as it approaches him and it carefully drapes itself around his head, a swirl of motion in the back as Eliot knots it into place and loops the hanging tail up out of the way. He's also carefully adjusted Quentin's hair so that it's mostly not caught underneath, flopping back into place and hiding the tie everywhere except on his face.

“Hands behind your back,” Eliot says. “Pretend your wrists are tied together.”

“Now then,” Margo says, a touch breathless already. “Get to work.”

It's clumsy. They were expecting that. Quentin bends over and his face ends up around Margo's belly button area, mouth full of cloth. He nuzzles his way around, wobbly and uncertain. Finds El's dick first, because it's a big target. Kisses around the head and his nerves show on his face, flushed and twitchy. High school boy, that's what Eliot had mentioned, so it's probably been at least four years since Q had his mouth on a dick. His forehead creases slightly as he concentrates, feels his way down Eliot's cock with his lips and his tongue.

He stumbles across her mound, first his breath huffing over her skin, then he licks down, noses against her, until his tongue finds her clit. She arches up against his mouth, feels El's dick slide against her skin as she does.

“When's the last time you ate a girl out?” Margo asks, with a sudden flush of curiosity. She bets a lot more recently than high school. He seems less rusty with it. Quentin's mouth freezes on her, and Eliot's arm tightens around her chest.

“A few months,” Quentin says, and he presses a kiss against her. “Um. It's only been a few months.”

He licks at her and it's more hesitant, almost delicate, like she's breakable. He pushes down further, sucks a kiss against her cunt, pushes his tongue inside but it feels almost... mechanical, by rote. All that trembling passion she's been enjoying so much is gone. The mood's changed and she's not sure why exactly or how to get it back. She'd been planning on just letting him play around, but she reaches down instead, anchors her hand in his hair.

“Hey, still having fun, honey?”

Quentin twists his head, her hand sliding out of his hair, and kisses her wrist. He doesn't answer.

“Thinking of that last girl, huh?” Margo asks, and he nods. Bad memories, then. She gets that. She's had her own share of encounters that turned sour. The simplest way she's always found to get over bad sex is to go get some good sex, but she knows not everyone works that way. “Do we need to take a break?”

He kisses her hand – palm and fingertips.

“I'm okay,” he says. “I'm okay.”

He turns his head back, licks at where El's dick presses up against her. Kind of just breathes there for a moment.

“Baby, do you want the blindfold off?” Eliot asks. “You barely got the chance to appreciate how pretty Bambi and I are right now. We can put it back on later if you want.”

Quentin nods shakily, she can feel it against her hand more than see it, so she adds, “Okay, blindfold off for now,” in case Eliot can't see either. After a minute, she feels it falls against her wrist, loop around and knot off gently there. Then Quentin blinks rapidly, looks up at them and then smiles, the way he was smiling earlier.

Hey,” he says, and he sounds shy but eager, pressing a teasing kiss right at the base of El's dick and then one over on the wet slit of her pussy. He licks into her and he's shaken off that odd vibe of being fragile now, pushing his whole mouth against her and getting messy again.

She sifts through his hair, strokes her thumb around his forehead, raises her hips in lazy movement that rub El's dick through the crease of her pelvis. Quentin's eyes close as he presses his face against her, but blink open whenever he pulls back and then his eyes always flick up to find her and, beyond her, El.

He pulls away from her, with one last kiss to the top of her slit, and shifts over, first nosing down to suck at Eliot's balls, then licking and kissing his way back up the shaft.

It gives her some space to pull away from the growing pleasure and to think a little. Be gentle, Eliot says, but no objection to the idea of spanking. So, 'gentle' means something very specific to Eliot right now, something he's been thinking about a lot. Ever since he fucked Q, probably. El clearly knows a lot more about Quentin's sexual history than she does, maybe because he actually asked, so that one's probably on her. Still, she can fix that later today, if she gets the chance.

Margo takes a moment to appreciate the blissed-out look on Q's face when he wraps his lips around Eliot's cockhead. He really has been missing it, apparently. Silly boy, why wouldn't he just ask Eliot if he could suck his dick? That's the main benefit of having friends with benefits.

Why wouldn't he just ask?

Quentin takes Eliot down, probably as far as he can without without trying to deepthroat, and his eyelashes flutter as he sucks.

Margo strokes her other hand along Eliot's arm, over the thin fabric of his shirt. He's trembling slightly and she wants to see his face but that isn't terribly practical in this position. Okay, next best thing. She clears her throat and says, “He looks good with a dick in his mouth, doesn't he, El?”

Eliot's arm twists around so that he can caress her forearm. “He always looks good. But. Yeah. It's a nice view.”

“You wanna fuck his face?” She doesn't know whether she's expecting a 'yes' or a 'no'. He doesn't say anything at all at first, but his tie unwraps far enough to brush softly against Quentin's cheek.

“Not today,” he says. The tie pulls away, tucks back against her wrist, buried deep in Q's hair. “Maybe next time.”

And there's an unfamiliar caution in his voice and surely he can't think Quentin would turn him down for a friendly fuck in the future? Not when he's been so eager.

Quentin doesn't seem to be listening right now, too absorbed in his task. His cheeks hollow out as he sucks, and he seems to have taken El's constant statements about liking to hear him to heart because he's noisy with it, with little whimpers and soft satisfied grunts.

“You should watch him play Push sometime,” she continues, shifting a little on El's body. “I've got a theory about his discipline based on what I saw him doing.”

“Mmmhmm?” And he's not really listening to her anymore either, not that she blames him. He's bucking up against Q's mouth, lifting them both slightly off the bed.

Just as he starts doing that, though, Quentin pulls off and flashes a sly smile up at them. Presses a kiss right under the head of El's dick and asks, “Time to switch?”

He doesn't give either of them a chance to object, ducks down to lick his way into Margo's cunt again. Her fingers tighten in his hair and she tilts up towards his mouth. And okay she'd been working on an emotional epiphany of some kind back there, but getting eaten out is a lot more enjoyable, so she'll think more about it all later, when she doesn't have a pretty boy giving her head.

In addition to being a brat, Quentin is most definitely a tease, switching whenever of them gets particularly pushy or vocal. Until his jaw aches, Eliot had said, and Quentin appears to be taking the instruction very seriously, drawing it out as much as he can. His hands, held obediently at the small of his back, flex and clench into fists but he keeps them there as if they really were tied in place.

Margo has never been opposed to a touch of orgasm delay, so she lets herself rise as he works at her and then recover and pull back from the edge when he moves to El.

Eliot is normally good at waiting too, prides himself on his self-control but it feels like it hasn't been that long when he reaches down - with his hand and not just his telekinesis - and runs his knuckles down the side of Q's face, right over the bulge in his cheek.

“Q. Baby.” He pets there a moment, thumbing at his own dick through Q's cheek. “Do Bambi. Until she comes. Okay?”

Well, she's not gonna complain about that idea. Before he does, though, Quentin sucks El's fingers into his mouth, nips at them when he lets them slid out.

Then his mouth is back on her clit, sucking and pushing hard. “Definitely better than my pillow,” she tells him and she feels him laugh, more than hears it. She squirms on El's body and grabs at his arm as Quentin's tongue presses against her.

“So good at that,” Eliot says, and he sounds more self-possessed now, more himself. “After you make Bambi come, we'll open your ass for my dick. It's been. It's been a while since we- I've gotta remind you how to take it.”

And Quentin really likes that idea, because he moans against her pussy, his nose nudging her clit now as he buries his face deeper.

She braces against Eliot and wraps her leg around Quentin's shoulders as he goes for it, desperate and messy and passionate. She makes herself release his hair, reach for the sheet instead, so she won't yank so hard she pulls it out.

She arches up against Quentin. Feels herself tense.

“She's almost there, baby,” Eliot says, gentle and coaxing. “There you go, make her come.”

Eliot's voice.

That's the last piece that takes her over the edge.

Her body takes a second to realize she's done, staying all knotted up before finally relaxing against Q's face.

When she pushes back against Eliot's chest and tilts her face upward, she can see the top of his head, curls and forehead and just a glimpse of his eyes. This is, probably, the most they've touched while having sex with someone, even if they do have most of their clothes still on.

Even so. She's not sure how she feels about El's voice being what sent her over, especially since he hadn't even been talking to her. That rough-voiced fondness and approval had been for Q.

She doesn't have time to think about it now.

Quentin is kissing the head of El's cock and sending him pleading little looks in between each touch and El is just... petting Q's hair and there's something about it that makes her feel… she's not sure. Weird.

“We should move,” she says, instead of dwelling. “Or do you want Q to ride you?”

Eliot's chest vibrates under her as he hums thoughtfully.

“That could work,” he says. Then, “Hands are okay again now. Do you want me on my back, baby?”

Quentin brings his hands from around his back, shakes them out, then rests them on Margo's inner thighs. He licks his reddened lips, opens and shuts his mouth a few times and wiggles his lower jaw from side to side, like he's testing out how it feels. The shine on his face catches the light and Margo takes a mental snapshot, to think about the next time she takes matters into her own hands.

“Yeah,” he says, voice hoarse.

“You want me to rim you?” El asks.

If it weren't for Quentin's fingers softly stroking her thighs, she might feel left out, she thinks. But he's mapping out tender lines on her skin, and it makes her feel seen, feel present, even while he looks up at Eliot.

“I wouldn't last long enough for you to fuck me,” Quentin admits, with a light blush. “You're- uh. Really good at it. Um. I think I can take fingers but even that is. Pushing it?”

“Hmm. There is-” Eliot hesitates and Margo can't handle not being able to see his face anymore, feels like she's missing a whole unspoken conversation going on behind her back. She unwraps her leg from Q's shoulders and shifts up, bracing herself as she carefully slides her other leg out from under El's dick. Quentin lifts his hands up and lets her pull away.

She kneels next to Eliot, puts her hands to the small of her back and stretches out and up, like that was the reason she moved.

“All good, Bambi?” Eliot asks, and she can finally see his face again when he talks and it's immediately relaxing.

“Much better,” she says. Looks at Quentin, specifically his dick, heavy and leaking, just from giving head. She reaches out a teasing hand and he snags her wrist before she can touch him.

“I really. Uh. Really can't, if you- um.”

“Flatterer,” she says, but she pulls back her hand. “And I'm going to assume, El, that you were going to mention Pertrick's Easy and Ready?”

“Patrick's Easy and Ready?” Q repeats, in a strangled voice.

“Pertrick's,” Eliot corrects. And now she can actually see him staring at Q all soft and wet and she thinks - she can't help it - she thinks of Bambi. The movie. And the animals talking about being 'twitterpated'. That's how El looks. Except, she's always thought... she's been assuming… that Eliot's like she is. But maybe he's not. And that's a… a bit of a lonely thought. Even as she thinks that, he reaches out and runs the back of his hand over Q's cheek, eyes practically sparkling. “And yes. That's what I mean.”

Twitterpated, for certain.

“What's it do?” Quentin glances between them, ready to learn more magic, as always.

“It's a prep cheat spell,” Margo tells him. “If you're feeling lazy or too on-edge, Pertrick's slickens and stretches the subject of the spell. Specifically the asshole, because ol' Pertrick was basically the Eliot of his day.” She watches Quentin for... jealousy or something. She doesn't see any particular signs of it. Maybe only Eliot is afflicted. Which… would not be great.

What's she gonna do if Quentin breaks El's heart? Would she need to stop being his friend? She would probably definitely need to stop fucking him.

Ugh.

Well, no point in fucking borrowing trouble. She'll at least hold off until she has a chance to talk things out with Eliot before she starts worrying and shit.

“It might be a good idea,” Quentin says. He settles himself back on his heels. His mouth twitches slightly and she wonders how his ass is feeling. “How's the spell go?”

Eliot bites his lip and gives Q a good look up and down, that warmth in his eyes heating up. “You know what I bet would feel amazing? If you balanced up over my dick and slid down as soon as the spell took.”

Quentin is up on his knees before Eliot finishes talking and Margo reaches out instinctively to help him get steady when he wobbles. “Yeah,” he says, unnecessarily. “I can do that.” He wraps his fingers around Margo's arm and lets her help him lift up and hover right above Eliot's dick, and asks, “Margo, can you, um, maybe hold Eliot in place? If that's- if that's okay, El?”

Margo waits for Eliot to say, “Of course, it is, baby,” before she reaches down and takes Eliot's thick dick in hand. She doesn't stroke him, but she does feel how soft his skin is and how much her hand has to stretch to even get part of the way around him.

Her other hand is on Quentin's lower back, and she can feel how nervous and tense he is, so she says, “It's a little like getting a massage inside your body. It feels good. You'll probably lose your balance when it takes, but I'll make sure you land on El's dick, okay?”

“Yeah,” he says, and he cups her face for a moment before settling his hand on her shoulder. “Yeah, okay. I'm ready.” And he stares at Eliot's hands, waiting for him to cast.

“Pertrick, being a classicist, used Ancient Greek for the spell,” Eliot says, archly. He slides into the tuts, speaks the words clearly and crisply so Quentin will remember them later. Out of all the pluses of mentoring Quentin, this one is relatively minor, but it has done wonders for their enunciation.

Quentin's eyes widen and he absolutely does lose his balance, gasping as he slips down onto the first inch or so of Eliot's dick. “Holy shit. It's still- I can-” Margo rubs his back encouragingly. He hasn't quite fallen down as far as her hand on Eliot's cock, but he's far enough, so she lets go, puts that hand on El's stomach to feel it tremble. “How long does that- um. That massaging part last?”

“A little while longer,” Margo soothes. She wants to touch Q's dick, but she's about eighty-percent sure it would make him go off like a rocket, so she refrains. “You're getting all stretched out. It's a clever spell. Since Eliot was the one who cast it, it's basing how much you need off of his dick size. Isn't that impressive?”

“Yeah,” Quentin says, faintly. “Impressive.”

His hand tightens on her shoulder and he bites at his lip. It's been a bit since she saw Pertrick's in action – maybe last year, also with Eliot and... fuck, what's that guy's name?

Margo casts her mind back. Taller than her but shorter than El, which doesn't exactly eliminate a ton of suspects. Short hair... she wants to say it was reddish-brown? Blue eyes. Or maybe hazel.

...maybe green.

Anyway, some guy, and it had been a couple of months after Ibiza and after she and Eliot had confessed their innermost truths to each other and all that jazz. They both thought the guy was cute, he'd thought they were cute, and Eliot had sucked his dick for a while. Then he'd slapped the Pertrick's on him because they'd realized they all had class in an hour and had to hurry things up if they wanted to fuck but still have time to change.

And then they'd never really talked to him again.

She pets the small of Quentin's back. He's shivering. She's not sure if that's because the spell is still working at him or if he's just like that when he has a dick in him. “I've never had it used on me,” she tells him, to maybe distract him so he doesn't just explode on them. “I'm too fussy. If anything's going up my ass, I want fingers and a mouth and a fucking ticker-tape parade first.”

“And a crowd shouting 'all hail Margo',” he says, shooting her a tiny smile. His hand has loosened slightly on her shoulder, but it doesn't seem like he has any intention of letting go. “You like it okay?”

“You asking for a reason, Coldwater?” she teases. “But, yeah, sure. Most of the reasons it feels good to you still apply to me. You just get the bonus package.”

“Most of the reasons,” he repeats, with an odd little laugh. “Sure.”

“You're taking your time, baby,” Eliot says, and Margo blinks and looks away from Quentin's face. Obviously she hasn't forgotten Eliot is there; Quentin is literally on his dick. Just- Q could be distracting sometimes, is all. “Are you still adjusting?”

“To your ridiculously large cock?” Quentin asks, but his laugh this time is warmer. “Mostly. I kinda feel like if I move, I'm gonna come, like, instantly? And I wanna last longer than that.”

“Whatever you need,” Eliot says, and he brushes his knuckles across Quentin's thigh, then rests his hand back onto the sheets. “You're in charge right now.”

Quentin considers that idea, his gaze drifting off to the side as he sways. “Um. Do you think- maybe the blindfold?”

Margo feels it unwrap from her wrist again, gently dart around her neck with a soft, affectionate touch, then it wraps around Quentin's face as he blinks against it. It settles into place and El knots it off. Quentin reaches up with one hand to feel it, brush over the fabric.

“You look lovely,” Eliot says, and the flush on Quentin's face stands out even more with the violet tie over his eyes bringing out the color. “Try not to fall off.”

“You're such a dick,” Quentin says. He hesitates. Asks. “Um. That was bratty, right?”

“If you insist,” Margo says, steadying him when he wavers again. “That makes nine?”

“Yeah,” Quentin says, on a sigh, as he lowers himself. He keeps his hand on Margo's shoulder, uses her to brace himself, and chews at his lip as he slides down El's dick. She's got a good view, can see the way Quentin's hole stretches as he moves. His tension is gone, thanks to the joys of magic, but his forehead is crinkled up in concentration.

“You really are big,” he mutters, and she thinks maybe he didn't mean to say it out loud, not like that, all breathless and genuine and not teasing, because his flush deepens, patchy and red all down his chest when Eliot replies-

“Thanks, baby,” in a voice so uncomfortably gentle that Margo briefly wishes she had the ability to astrally-project herself to, like, Australia so that she doesn't feel so much like she's just walked in on Eliot doing something too intimate for an audience.

Which is stupid because… she and El can do anything in front of each other and it isn't a big fucking deal. She's helped him up from being passed out in his own vomit in their very early days as first-years, when the combo of party magic plus drugs had knocked him on his ass, and that is pretty fucking intimate. Eliot being happy Q likes his dick is nothing special, compared to everything she and El have gone through together.

And they're in her goddamn room.

So. She fucking leans over and kisses Q, because- she's not sure, but she has to do something. He kisses back eagerly, opening up to her mouth like he's been waiting for it. She kisses him and helps ease him down on El's dick until he's bottomed out, slides her hand down his back so that she can feel where he's tugged open and gaping around El. He's still pretty relaxed and when she pulls away and glances down, his dick is mostly hard and she wants her hand back on it.

“Can I feel you up while you adjust or will it make you go off early?” she asks, thumbing one of his pretty nipples.

“Please,” Q says and she can't see his eyes but she's heard that tone of voice often enough that she can picture the wrinkles at the corners as he smiles. “Yeah, I'd- please.”

Before she does, she shoots a glance back at El, who is watching avidly, mouths, “Gently?” at him.

“That sounds like a fun show,” he says, and it seems meant both as an answer to her and encouragement for Q.

So, gently, then.

She ghosts her hand down Quentin's torso, making him giggle and squirm on El's dick, which has gotta feel pretty good to all involved. Teases at his cockhead, all wet and eager. Like Q himself, really.

Quentin's hips lift up to chase after her hand, and Eliot groans, his grip on Q's thigh tightening. Q also keeps his face pointed in the direction of her voice, pushing out his lips a little, begging for another kiss. She obliges, braces herself on El's stomach as she kisses Q for all she's got and he gives it back to her just as hard. She keeps her hand on his cock light and moves with him as he fucks himself on El's dick.

“Do you like it big?” she asks him, in between kisses, tickling that sensitive place under the head of his dick. “Is our little Q a size queen?”

“I like Eliot's,” he says, which is way too earnest and not enough sexy. “He makes it feel good.”

And, okay, that's a step in the right direction.

“What else do you like?” she prompts, because, well. Eliot does enjoy his voice so much. And she doesn't mind it. “You like being spanked for being a brat?”

He bites down on his lip again, raising himself up on his knees. “Um. Yeah?”

“What did you like about it?” She does her best not to roll her eyes because Q might not be able to see her right now but El very much could. “Try to be specific.”

Jesus motherhumping Christ on a unicycle. It was like she could actually see baffled question marks floating over his head.

“Did you like the sting? The surprise? The heat? The ache?” Margo runs her thumb over his dick, spreads around the dribbles of precome. “Is it more a headspace thing? You like being punished? Being bad?” She gives him a second to think it over.

“I'm not bad,” Quentin says, hesitant and blushing like a swooning virgin, but talking anyway at least. “Um. I… I...”

“You're not bad at all,” Eliot says, firmly. “Just a sweet little brat who likes attention, isn't that right, baby?”

Quentin relaxes. Says, “yeah” all soft and relieved.

Ah. Attention. Not on her list but, yeah, she gets it now. Not just during sex either, from how he'd acted when they'd first adopted him to mentor. It does, hmm. It does make her think about some of their earlier interactions a bit differently, she thinks. Or it will, when she has time to reflect over them. Because he'd been nervous as anything, when they'd first taken an interest, and he doesn't like people he doesn't know well to be too familiar with him, so it's not indiscriminate attention, she suspects. He wants it from the people who already matter. She licks at his mouth to get him to open up for her again, and puts it aside to think about after.

Q's starting to move faster now, so she pulls away, holds her hand around him loosely so that he's fucking up into her fist. She glances over to get a read on Eliot and-

Yeah. Twitterpated and staring at Q like he's the only person in the world. A tiny, selfish part of her wants to stamp her feet and scream out that he promised – promised – that the two of them are in it for the long haul. Fucking life partners and companions. No extra goddamn baggage.

Then Quentin's hand flexes on her shoulder and he says, “Ma- Margo. If you- I'm gonna, is it okay if I-” and he's flushed and his dick is twitching in her hand and- well, if El is gonna get weird for any guy, at least it's a cute one.

“I think Eliot would like that,” she says, makes it sweet. “But you might make his clothes messy. Do you want that?”

Quentin's mouth twists as he thinks. And it's gotta be rough, poor thing, so close to orgasm.

“Yes?” He reaches down with one hand and fumbles around until he smooths his fingers over El's rumpled vest and shirt. “Yeah. Can I see, after?”

“You can, my darling boy,” Eliot says, because he's utterly senseless, with no apparent hope of recovery.

Margo tightens her grip on Q's dick, jerks him off faster and faster as he rides Eliot, until he's making those wordless noises El loves so much and coming wildly, leaving trails of white all over Eliot's lovely, if now hopelessly mussed, outfit.

Her hand is wet, so she wipes it on El's vest, which earns her a mildly outraged look she absolutely does not deserve, thanks. “You're already covered in it,” she points out.

She knows El's next move, has seen it multiple times - it's time for him to roll over and fuck Q until he shouts. But Eliot doesn't show any signs of moving to chase his own orgasm, just stares up at Quentin all dewy-eyed, reaching up to pet at him lightly. Q's dick is softening between his thighs now and she wants to tease him but- gentle, she thinks. What was it Eliot had said? A sweet brat who wants attention.

So. Maybe she'll talk to El about that sort of thing first, make sure she doesn't hurt Q in the bad way. Maybe try to feel out if she already did, the first time they'd fucked.

“El, can I see?” Quentin asks, his hand half-raising towards the blindfold but- but not all the way.

And- and then she watches as Eliot blinks a few times and that shiny, starry look fades. Not completely, but enough. His tender smile tilts up into a smirk as he plays out a rhythm on his thighs and the tie pulls away from Quentin's face. Q squints out into the light of the room, then his eyes fall to the pattern of splotches and drips his come left on Eliot's clothes.

Oh,” he says. Presses his fingers against the marks. “Will you be able to clean them?”

“If you want me to,” Eliot says, and his voice is still fond, but not as excessively as before. Quentin notices the difference too, she thinks, because he frowns a little. But he's still captivated by the stains, rocks forward so that he can trace them higher on Eliot's vest. “Mmm. You wanna bounce on my dick until I come or should I put you on your knees?”

“I like the view up here,” Quentin says. He tugs at Eliot's vest, straightens it, then rumples it up again rubbing his fingers against a wet spot. “Maybe you could. Um. Come up too?”

“Certainly.” And Eliot turns his wrists up and his tie flutters around, wrapping around one wrist and then the other, then tugging him smoothly upward, his arms going up and around Quentin's head and ending up behind him. As soon as Eliot's face is close enough, Quentin leans in for a series of light, noisy kisses all over his chin and cheeks.

Now Quentin is kneeling astride El's lap, and he finally, after all this time, lets go of Margo so he can brace himself with both hands on El's shoulders. They're so close that Quentin's hair falls against Eliot's and clings to it. There's probably some kind of poetic metaphor in there that would make Eliot giggle and swoon.

Margo rubs her fingers against her own shoulder, settles back on her heels. Smooths her dress over her hips. Her clothes aren't as trashed as Eliot's but she'll need a cleaning spell, too, at the end of this.

Eliot stretches the tie taut between his hands, presses the fabric against Quentin's neck to tug him into another kiss, deeper and longer. Quentin is rolling and circling his hips and the part of his profile she can see looks fucked-out and thrilled.

He breaks out of the kiss, tilts his head back, and kind of smiles up at the ceiling for a bit, caged in by Eliot's arms and the tie. Then he bites down on his lip, and glances over at her. Smiles a little shyly and says, “It feels weird I still haven't seen you naked. Is it weird? Do you not like- um.” He trails off, awkward as ever.

“You saying you want a floor show while you get fucked, Coldwater?” Margo asks, arching her neck. “And I seem to remember you getting me half-undressed last time.” Still, she doesn't hate the suggestion.

He gazes at her hopefully and- well. It is a shame he hasn't seen her completely nude yet. She's fucking glorious. So she leans in to kiss him on the mouth and, while she's there, she kisses Eliot too, who kisses her back in a way that feels- maybe a little apologetic for how often he's been ignoring her tonight.

After all, this is her room.

So, she slips off the bed and grabs one of her reliable standby pearls. She's not looking to put anything inside her tonight, but good vibrations never hurt anyone. She looks over and... and Quentin is looking back, though his body moves in rhythm with Eliot's. First, she tugs her dress over her head, so she's just in her bra, lacy and with a little extra bounce for the party. She undoes the back, lets it fall away, keeps her eyes locked on Quentin and asks, “Naked enough for you?”

Quentin's gaze skates downward, taking her in. He lets out a shuddery breath.

“Wow.” Not eloquent but very sincere.

He gets tugged into another kiss by Eliot, presses into it eagerly, but his eyes go to her afterwards, yearning. And, well, it's certainly not the first time she's masturbated for an audience. She hops back up on the bed, leans against the headboard and spreads her legs wide, one knee up with her foot flat on the bed and the other laying bent at an angle. Perfectly positioned for Quentin to see her over Eliot's shoulder, because she is a fucking artist at sex. She lets her eyes wander down El's long, elegant back. He's in no particular hurry to end the evening. She knows why now, at least, and and will know more once little Q is out of earshot.

But, for now. For now, she just enjoys the view. She can see Quentin's face, his eyes darting over El's shoulder to look at her, then going back to Eliot for more eager, hungry kisses. She can't see any dicks, but that's fine. She's seen both of them already and she's got a great imagination. She lets her eyes drift half-shut and tugs at her nipples. Turns on her little pearl and reaches down to rub it against her clit, letting her body arch up against the bed. Lets herself be loud, as loud as she'd be if it were just her here in her room, getting herself off.

She's most of the way there when she hears Eliot's heartfelt, “yes, baby, that's perfect,” and that laugh he makes right before coming, so she blinks her eyes open again, just in time to see Quentin half-fall off Eliot's lap as he pulls away, both of them giggling a bit.

Quentin presses a kiss to Eliot's shoulder, ducks out from under his arms, and rests the side of his face against her calf. “Want a hand? Or a mouth?” he offers.

“Mmm, stay just like that,” she tells him, because she likes the warm, sated glow in his eyes as he stares at her. “You look good there.”

Eliot rubs his hand over Quentin's back, sits sideways next to him. Now that Q isn't looking at him anymore, that sappy twitterpated expression is back on his face.

Quentin mouths at her leg, just seems to want to taste her skin, and wriggles against Eliot's hand. The tie is hanging slack from El's wrist, the fabric pooling in the small of Q's back. Quentin looks like such an eager puppy of a man, wide eyes and open mouth and sweaty long hair. Well-fucked and relaxed.

Margo eases her legs open wider, flicks the pearl to a higher setting and presses it right up against her clit. And after she comes, she's going stick her wet fingers inside Q's ass, feel how loose and slick he is from El's dick.

She glances up again, and wants to laugh at how messy Eliot looks. Curls tugged askew, vest yanked half off, come stains everywhere, big soft dick hanging out of his pants. Pretty, though, maybe even more than when he's all polished perfection. She feels a sharp burst of warmth, unrelated to anything her fingers are doing, just a flood of happiness that she and El found each other, found someone who understood the need to hide your soft bits to protect them.

Quentin's breath is hot against her skin and she lets herself say his name, feels the pleased gasp from him when she does. She'll get his mouth on her again at some point, and she'll pet through his hair and be- so very very gentle.

Her hips press up against her hand, lift off the bed.

She comes on a soft exhale, pulls her hand away and lets it fall to the bed.

“You like the show, honey?” And now that she isn't chasing anything, she has enough focus to lift up her leg and rest it on Q's back.

Eliot strokes her ankle, his much-abused tie fluttering against her skin.

“You know you're pretty,” Quentin tells her, inches closer and licks at the back of her knee, which kinda tickles. Not enough to tell him to stop. “Of course I liked it.”

“Bambi is the very prettiest,” Eliot agrees, ruffling Q's hair. “You ready to have her pretty fingers in your sore asshole, baby?”

Quentin flushes up, and she guesses it's kinda cute that he still gets affected by the idea even after already coming. “Yeah,” he says. Then, “Um. I'm not sure I could stay up on my knees for it. Though.”

“Face-down with a pillow under your hips, then,” Margo says. “It'll be good for your post-sex spanking, too.”

“God,” Quentin says, and buries his hot face against her leg for a moment.

“If you get it up again, during, let us know,” she adds, and he whimpers against her skin. Then he whimpers again when Eliot digs fingers into his ass, tugs aside an asscheek to study his hole.

They end up putting two pillows under him and Eliot cuddles Q's face in his lap, very close to his dick, which Quentin gives a friendly kiss to and then is happy to rest his cheek against. Eliot sifts his fingers through Q's hair, says, “All yours, Bambi.”

Which is definitely not true, but she appreciates the attempt. She spreads Q's legs wider, takes an admiring look at his firm ass. The flush from his earlier spanking has all faded, and she looks forward to giving him more, but first.

First, she cups his ass with her palms, spreads him open. She can see how messy and loose his hole is, El's come already slipping out in drips and droplets.

Quentin lets out a sharp gasp, either from being exposed or touched. Maybe both.

She doesn't always like getting her mouth dirty, but he's so tempting. She leans in, licks up El's spunk. Q actually moans, pushes back against her face. She presses two fingers against him, testing the give. Easy and eager. So eager that she adds another finger, sliding all three inside smoothly.

She pumps them a few times, watches Q squirm and his asshole twitch. “You are a good time,” she says approvingly, finding his little nub of a prostate and rubbing it until he whines and hitches his hips back against her fingers. “We need to use the benefits clause of our friendship more often, don't we, honey?”

“Please,” Quentin says, fervent and low. Belatedly, she glances up at Eliot's face, but he doesn't seem bothered by what she said, seems more concerned with how Q is rubbing a stubbled cheek against his dick. She twists her fingers around inside Q, delighted by how easily his body lets her do what she wants.

“Do we want to divide up the spanking again or do you want me to do it?” she asks Eliot. “You look cozy over there.”

“Very cozy,” Eliot agrees, fondling Q's neck and shoulders. Quentin has progressed to placing tiny kisses along Eliot's shaft and balls. “You can do the honors for us both.” His voice gets a touch more intimate as he directs it towards Q. “You like kissing my dick after it's been inside you, baby? If you like that, then you should rim me next time.” He says 'next time' more easily now, with more assurance.

Quentin is busy, so she says, “I'll count it out for us. You just focus on feeling good and making El happy, okay?”

“Yeah,” he says and she's not certain if he's answering her or Eliot, but either works.

She pulls her fingers out, but kisses the curve of his ass so that he knows she isn't far. She sits up a little higher on her knees, deliberating on where to start. This isn't a great angle but she's a motherfucking magician. She can make it work. She does a dirty-fighting spell, a quick set of tuts that'll make a small slap feel five times harder, adds a snapping trigger so she can stick her fingers back inside when she wants without hurting him.

She doesn't warn him, just smacks him lightly at the tight, high curve of his cheek. His skin compresses and reddens and it punches a surprised breath out of him. “Nine,” she says, and snaps her fingers to flick the spell off, rubbing that same hand over the red mark and cooing admiringly. She can't feel the answering sting in her own fingers, which honestly she prefers. Eliot thinks of it as cheating but- she looks at him, biting his mouth and staring down at the boy in his lap. Eliot is occupied.

Margo slides her finger back inside Quentin, just one to tease him. He shifts on the pillows, trying to push back for more and deeper. She pushes in her thumb too, and his rim convulses as he stretches around her. Even her whole hand wouldn't feel like too much after getting fucked by El, she thinks, but fisting seems like a road too far to go, at least without talking about it first. Pre-sex, with clear minds.

So, for now, she pulls out again, holds him open with her left hand, snaps with her right and then brushes the lightest of touches across his quivering asshole with the tip of a finger.

“Shit!” Quentin makes that familiar startled little yelp as his rim reacts to her magic, jerking wildly. Can't do that with regular spanking, she thinks with a touch of pride. She snaps it off again, bends forward to soothe the sting with soft kisses along the crease of his ass and against his rim.

“Eight.” She presses the word into his skin. “Was that too much, honey?”

He laughs, in a weird bubbling up sort of way, like he might start hiccuping or crying at any moment. He doesn't, though, and she waits it out, kissing his warm skin.

“It's a lot,” he says, after a moment. “But it- um. I like. Uh. I like that you- I feel like. I mean, you'd stop if I asked?”

“Of course,” Margo says, mildly horrified.

“Yeah, I thought you would,” he says, but there's a hint of relief there that makes her want to find someone to punch. She glances up and Eliot's face isn't surprised, just sad.

“Of course I would,” she says again, making her voice as firm and inflexible as possible. As an apology for making him think too much about it, she presses her mouth against his hole, licks him out until he's squirming against her face.

“You're gonna make me come again,” he tells her, with a better, less overwhelmed laugh than before.

“Are you hard already?” she asks him, smoothing her hands along the backs of his thighs.

“Just a little,” he says. “But. If you keep- I probably will be. Soon.”

“Will you hump against my pillows, get them all stained like you did El's clothes?” She runs the flats of her nails back up to his ass, to give him a different sensation. “You wanna mark your territory?”

“You're so weird,” he says, but he sounds a little breathless over it.

“It's alright if you do.” She pats his ass, spell still off, so he just twitches slightly. “Mama doesn't mind an eager puppy.”

“So weird,” he repeats. Then, more quietly. “Um. Okay.”

She snaps her fingers, but doesn't spank him right away, nuzzles against the backs of his thighs for a while. She understands, maybe, more of the reasoning behind some of El's choices tonight. She's not always good at being tender, but Quentin is one of her very few friends and he deserves some happy, uncomplicated orgasms.

“If you need more than the pillow to come, let me know,” she tells him, slapping his left asscheek lightly and watching him jerk forward into El's lap. “Seven.”

He's not actively trying to blow El, but his mouth is on El's dick, sloppy and open. She can see him trying to lick from time to time, too, but he's clearly too distracted to properly focus. Eliot doesn't seem to mind, tracing his fingers over Q's face and stroking through his hair. His tie pets at Q, too, fluttering around like a one-winged bird.

Margo does two quick hits in a row, slightly off-set from each other, and Quentin moans, the sound muffled by Eliot's skin.

“Six and five,” she tells him, and snaps it off, presses now-gentle fingertips against his burning skin. “Half-way there and you are being such a sweet little puppy. Maybe we won't need to take you to obedience training after all.”

“Not gonna bark for you, no matter what you say,” Quentin says, but she can hear the suppressed laughter in his voice. “You want that, you gotta find someone else to do it for you.”

“Not even one tiny bark?” Eliot teases. He's getting hard again too, his dick slowly filling out and lifting as Q lavishes affection on it. “How about a neigh? Then Bambi can tell you all about her talking horse fantasies.”

“What, you really gonna give a girl grief for having a touch of Catherine the Great envy?” Margo swirls her fingers along Quentin's skin. “Anyway, Q's a Fillory fan. I'm sure he's fantasized about centaur dick at least once.”

“I plead the fifth,” Q says. He pillows his cheek on El's cock, which is probably big enough to be a centaur's anyway.

“That means 'yes',” Margo trills out happily. She snaps her fingers and slaps Q's upper thigh. Catches him off-guard, to judge by his funny squeak. “Four.”

Since Quentin had, essentially, given her permission earlier, she uses her left hand to spread his ass open again. Kisses him on his trembling hole, then presses one of her juiced-up fingers there right away.

She gets that high-pitched yelp out of him again, so she says, “Kinda sounded like a bark to me.” Takes her finger away and snaps off the spell, slides three fingers inside him. All the spanking has made his muscles try their best to tighten up, but he's still so wrung out that it's not doing anything to keep her from fucking her fingers in as deep as she wants.”El?”

“You're the expert on puppies,” Eliot says, as he plays with Q's hair. “I bow to your judgment.”

“Mmm, as you should in all things,” she says. “Let's see. We just did 'three'. Almost done, little Q, then you can suck on El like a lollipop while you hump my bed.”

“Charming as always, Bambi.” Eliot doesn't actually object to any part of it, though, so he's just providing commentary and not requesting alterations. He does palm the back of Q's neck, guides him down to lick at El's balls.

She refrains from making another puppy joke, though it hurts to keep it to herself, shoves her fingers down deep and then teases them out again, with a light, delicate touch. She runs her fingertips over the part of Q's balls that peek out between his body and where he's squished into the pillow.

Pulls her hand back for another hit, then pauses. “El, wanna do the last two together?” He glances up at her and she wiggles her fingers. She sees understanding flash in his eyes and then the tingling creep of his magic washes over her hand, surrounding her palm and each digit.

Eliot's telekinesis guides her hand and dictates the force of the blow. She feels the sting of the impact in her palm, but in a jarring, uncontrolled way as she lets herself be limp in El's grasp. “Two.”

It's Eliot this time, not Margo, who uses her hand to caress over the heated, reddened marks on Q's skin. Eliot can't exactly feel what he touches telekinetically, but he does get a better sense of it than she or Q would in the same situation.

The last hit lands high and hard, right on the meaty part of Q's ass that always looks the most tempting. “Last one. Good job, little Q,” Margo tells him. Eliot releases her hand and she quickly does the tuts to cancel out the dirty-fighting spell so that she doesn't accidentally trigger it later. “Your reward is sucking El's dick. Congratulations!”

Quentin nuzzles in against Eliot's balls with a quiet sigh. Margo does a variation set of tuts to slick up her fingers and massages Q's skin, focuses on the reddest, most achy parts. His hips are shifting under her hands, humping the pillow like a good boy as he works his mouth back up the side of El's cock, humming contentedly when he reaches the head again and kisses at it.

When his ass is glistening from the oil, she slides two fingers inside him. This is another version of the classic oil spell, one more geared towards soothing out aches and pains, and she can already see Quentin going limp against the bed as the magic bleeds through his skin and into his muscles.

It'll feel interesting inside him too, not a sting but nice shiver of sensation. She fucks him slow with her fingers, twisting around to reach every inch of him. Then, when she's sure he's coated inside and out, every place they stretched and smacked him, she focuses in on lazy thrusts that will glide right over his prostate, in and out.

He's sucking El's dick properly now, and Eliot has buried one large hand into Q's hair. His other hand - and she's not sure when this happened - his other hand has found one of Q's and tangled their fingers together tight.

Quentin comes first. She feels his ass convulse around her fingers and his hips still against the pillow. It makes him practically melt onto El's dick, barely moving, just holding it inside his mouth and sucking earnestly. Eliot smiles down at him, eyes warm, and tugs gently at his hair.

Margo slips her fingers out and wipes them on the pillow, since they'll be spelling them clean soon anyway, and lets her hand rest on Quentin's lower back, feeling him breathe and watching his mouth as he blows El. He's dazed and dreamy over it, and it makes her vividly regret all the past mentoring sessions she's had with Quentin that didn't end with his mouth on her pussy.

Eliot strokes Q's forehead with his thumb, says, “I'm gonna come. You okay swallowing or you wanna jerk me off for the last bit?”

A smile tugs at the corner of Quentin's stretched-out mouth and he sinks down a little more on Eliot's dick which, well, is answer enough. Eliot doesn't take his eyes off Quentin when he orgasms, watches intently as Q swallows it down and licks his lips as he pulls off.

“What a good boy,” Eliot says, pressing his thumb against the center of Q's lower lip. “Bambi had a wonderful idea tonight, didn't she?”

Quentin makes a happy sleepy mumbly sound and- oh no.

His eyelids are already half-mast. He's falling asleep in her bed.

Her messy, sex-scented bed where all her favorite pillows and sheets are firmly nestled underneath Quentin's body.

Margo huffs out an annoyed breath, slides off. “Eliot, do something useful and lift up Quentin so I can get my pillows back out from under him.”

“You have more,” Eliot says, but that is not the point. He sighs, then unnecessarily and far too showily waves his hand, and lifts himself and Quentin up from the bed. Margo uses her own, more limited telekinesis to help yank out the pillows and the cover sheet, and cleans them up with a quick set of tuts.

Eliot has already lowered himself back to the bed, but he's moved towards the headboard, leaning up against it, with Quentin's head still in his lap as he pets softly at Q's hair.

“You know, his own room is literally across the hall,” Margo says, but she settles on the bed next to them, runs her hand over Q's forehead. He's going quick into sleep, though he's not quite there yet. It has been a long week for him. “It's not an arduous trek through a mountainous landscape of nocturnal predators or some bullshit.”

“We're not kicking Quentin out of your room this late at night,” Eliot says. “The party was getting ready to break up when I left to come find you and got waylaid and mercilessly seduced. With Q's luck, he'd definitely run into someone the second he stepped outside your door.”

“That's not a bad thing, is it?” Margo asks.

“I thought you wanted people to stop thinking you and Q were dating?” Eliot sounds like he might be genuinely asking which- hey.

“Dating, yeah. I don't want people to think that. But I'm not ashamed of screwing him. He's cute. Good in bed. Not great at pretending he's already asleep, but everyone's got their flaws.”

“I'm almost asleep,” Quentin protests, with a yawn. “It's your own fault. Gossiping about someone who's in the room.”

“Well, little Q, you wanna stay here or do the walk of shame the five fucking feet between my door and yours?” Margo asks. Quentin yawns again and snuggles against Eliot's stomach.

“Wow, you make it sound so appealing,” he says, “But, yeah, I'll stay here if that's- um. Okay?”

“If I wanted you out that badly, you'd be on your ass in the hallway by now,” she says, which he accurately realizes is permission to reach out and snuggle against her, too. Eliot is still in his rumpled, sex-streaked clothes, so she does a little translocation and pops his clothes off his body and over a nearby chair, where they scatter.

“You could have put more effort into that,” Eliot complains.

“Fold your own damn clothes, pretty boy.”

With a final yawn, Quentin lists against them, going limp, and he's asleep for real this time.

She waits a beat, to make sure, but she's a long-time expert in the whole fake-sleep experience and he's definitely down for the count. She glances up at Eliot, who looks tempted to flee but then sighs and strokes Quentin's hair again.

There are a number of things she could bring up, but she starts with the most likely to get answers. “So, Coldwater's had some bad sex, huh?”

Eliot winces. “Yeah. I don't know... a lot more than you do, but, yeah.”

“And you wanna respect his privacy, I get that,” and she mostly does. She's been thinking her relationship with Eliot went above things like that but, well. Live and fucking learn. “Just tell me the red flags.”

Eliot thinks about it for a little bit. “Getting fucked on his back. I want to avoid that for a while. I think it has a lot of bad memories. Fucking him when he isn't turned on, though that's not a temptation anyway.” His eyes go a little distant. “The idea of someone banging him in private and ignoring him in public, but we don't have to worry about that.” He shrugs and makes a piss-poor attempt at looking casual and nonchalant about it. “And you heard what he said tonight.”

“Yeah, someone didn't stop when he said 'no',” Margo says, and saying it out loud brings back that surge of anger. “So, you are all gentle-gentle back there. Why didn't you try to nix the spanking?”

“I almost did.” He touches his knuckles to the corner of Q's mouth. “And trust me, Bambi, I was paying very close attention. If he'd- well, I had an excuse prepared to move on to the next thing.”

“I bet you did,” she says, in an undertone. “Eliot. Do you want me not to fuck him again?”

“What?” And she can't quite tell if Eliot is actually surprised or playing at it. “What do you mean?”

“If you want me not to fuck Q, I can do that,” she says. Because screwing Q had been a great time, but El was El. “Just tell me if that's what you want.”

“That's not what I want,” Eliot says. Very softly. “I think having... having good sex is- a nice thing for Q, right now. And I want him to have nice things.” And at least he isn't trying to deny having caught feelings. She doesn't think she could handle him lying to her about that.

“Sex with me isn't just a nice thing,” she tells him, reproachfully. “It's a breathtaking, showstopping experience.”

“He could probably use a few more of those, too,” Eliot says, and he touches her cheek, the same gentle way he'd touched Q's. “Anyway, I'm not trying to stake a claim, Bambi. He's a friend, for now. Anything more than that is... something to think about in the future.”

She studies him carefully, looking for cracks or signs that he's covering up worry or jealousy. She doesn't spot anything in particular, so she folds her fingers around his – attempts to, anyway – and leans her cheek against the side of his hand. “Okay, then. You'll let me know if it changes?”

“I promise.”

She pushes herself up, kisses the corner of his mouth to seal the deal.

Trusting Eliot has been one of the greatest decisions in her life. She's not gonna break the habit now.

 


 

Erika wanders between the tables, looking over everyone's progress critically. Five hours left to go in this first trial and Quentin thinks they might actually do okay. It helps that he and Kady have Julia in their group. She'd flat-out lit up and wiggled with excitement when Erika and her second-in-command had explained the rules.

Reilly - not Ryan, which is what Quentin had thought his name was - wanders around soon after, and he pauses over Quentin's shoulder for way too long. “Coming along nicely,” he says, and abruptly puts his hand on Quentin's shoulder and-

Okay, Quentin doesn't mean to fall out of his chair. These things just happen sometimes.

“Ow,” he says, and gingerly avoids Reilly's hands as he gets up by pretending he doesn't see them.

Julia's “Shit, Q, that looked painful” mingles with Kady's “You okay, Coldwater?” and Quentin sort of shrugs in response to both.

Reilly gives him an odd look as he moves off, shaking his head.

“What I don't get-” Kady starts, with the air of someone continuing a conversation. “-is why your sugar mama didn't warn you about all this trial bullshit.”

Over the last month, Quentin has kind of managed to convince the Cottage that he's not actually Margo's boyfriend that she cheats on all the time but he's not entirely sure how he feels about them landing on him being her boytoy instead. It's more accurate, he supposes? She does buy him things and attempt to bully him into nice clothes at every given opportunity, but he feels like 'friends with benefits' should be easy for grad students to understand.

“Because she's a bitch,” Julia says, though not with the venom she might have used back at the beginning. “I don't get why Eliot didn't tell you, though. I thought he was the nice one.”

“No, Eliot's also a bitch,” Quentin says, which nets him a scandalized look from a girl at another table. He thinks she's one of the Illusion Kids. “He's just better at hiding it. I'm pretty sure they both thought me finding out with everyone else was hilarious.”

He's vaguely disappointed the Brakebills rumor mill is much less concerned about the times he's stumbled out of El's room in the mornings while fixating so much on when he comes out of Margo's but if there's one thing he's learned the past few months it's that magicians are just people, shitty biases included. Julia would just tell him to wear the bi-flag messenger bag she gave him. Or the bracelet. Or the, quite frankly, somewhat disturbing 'baby slut' t-shirt with the words colored in like the bi-flag and which states vividly on the back 'I have two hands' in bubblegum pink script. And which Julia had apparently had custom-made and that she thought was the funniest thing in the world.

Anyway, he's not prepared to do literally any of that and he's also not prepared to take Margo's suggestion to 'accidentally' get caught having public sex with Eliot “like you did with me” she'd said cheerfully, and all of that seems to mean everyone will continue to assume he and Eliot are straight-forward friends, without benefits. And attribute any excess affection from Eliot as him just being overly familiar with his best friend's favorite sex-friend, since anything Eliot does in public with Quentin tends to be done in that same absentmindedly fond manner that his attentions to Margo are. Which, well, maybe the rumor mill has a point there.

Quentin sighs and peeks over at the paper Julia is frantically writing notes on, her hand moving almost too fast to follow. Focuses on the task at hand.

After they pass the first trial, they're told they get to take a break before the next one. So, Quentin invites Julia and Penny back along to the Cottage, where he — accurately — guesses El and Margo are throwing a post-trial bash.

“I had every confidence in you,” Eliot tells him, with a kiss to the corner of his mouth.

“I was planning on smuggling you back in if they tried to kick you out,” Margo says and she tugs him close for an identical kiss.

“Any hints about the second trial?” he asks, but the looks on their faces already give away the answer. “Is it too late to trade sex for secrets?”

“Why buy the cow, etcetera,” Margo says. She pats his back just above his ass. “That ship has long-since sailed, honey.”

“Besides, it's character building,” Eliot adds, wrapping his arm around Quentin's shoulders. “You'll understand when it's over.”

“No one ever likes being told either of those things, El,” Quentin points out. “And you don't give a shit about character building exercises.”

“Fine, then. It's fun to watch you squirm,” Eliot admits. Quentin feels his cheeks heat up, even if Eliot doesn't mean it in a sexual way this time. “Would you really want to deprive Bambi and myself of one of our few pleasures?”

Quentin snorts. “Few? Uh-huh.”

“Is that an accusation, Coldwater?” Eliot's hand plays with his hair and Margo's hand slips lower, onto his ass.

“Common room,” he reminds them, a bit reluctantly, and Margo heaves an annoyed sigh and slides her hand up again. “Literally all of my friends are at this party.”

It's maybe kind of pathetic to be happy to be able to say that and have it mean, like, a whole handful of people instead of just Julia and whoever she's conned into tolerating him this week but- yeah. It does feel good.

The party is fun for a while and it's especially nice to spend more time with Julia, who has been pretty engrossed by her classwork lately, plus a special project she doesn't want to talk about. Penny hangs out with them, too, though he does his best to pretend he's only there talking to Julia.

As is typical these days when either of them is visiting the Cottage, Kady comes by to aggressively flirt for a while and though Penny flirts back good-naturedly, Julia is hilariously awkward about it all. Quentin isn't sure if those three are heading towards dating in any combination or just a good friendship but he's fine staying a spectator in that particular social drama.

Alice has gone to bed early, looks like, which is fairly normal for her, too. She likes to get up at ungodly hours of the morning, which he mostly knows from stumbling into her at four am. Quentin has never outgrown his habit of waking in the middle of the night, riddled with anxiety, but his strange pre-dawn conversations with Alice have become a nice way of winding down again afterwards.

When Quentin feels himself about to slip into the low-grade misery that oversocializing can give him, he throws a tiny wave goodnight in Margo and Eliot's direction and slips upstairs.

Tries to. Reilly corners him at the top of the stairwell. Quentin looks longingly at his door, but Reilly is a third-year, after all, so he resigns himself to having at least a polite amount of conversation.

“Coldwater!” Reilly's voice is way too enthusiastic for how little he and Quentin know each other.

“Oh, hey,” Quentin manages. Reilly claps a firm hand on his shoulder. Quentin tries to subtly shake it off, but his grip is like fucking iron. “I was just heading to bed. Gotta get rested for the second trial.”

“You really don't,” Reilly says and he does a releasing tut with his free hand, the kind that quick-casts a held spell.

Quentin blinks at Reilly, head foggy, and feels his knees give way.

When he opens his eyes again, he's lying on his back, on top of something cold and lumpy, with what feels like a tree root pressed up against his butt. He blinks up at the… leaves? Overhead. It looks like mid-day. In a forest.

He rolls over to his side. Definitely a forest. Trees and nothing but trees as far as the eye can see. The last thing he remembers is- talking to that third-year, Reilly, at the Physical Cottage.

“Coldwater, glad you could join us.”

It's not Reilly's voice, but it is vaguely familiar. He glances over his shoulder and, incongruously, Erika and Reilly are sitting at a little round table. In the middle of the forest.

“So, I feel like it's safe to assume this is the second trial?” Quentin doesn't know if the daylight is a charm or if he's been unconscious long enough for it to actually be noon, but he definitely doesn't feel like he's gotten any sleep. “Or do you just liking kidnapping people into the woods?”

“Relax, Coldwater,” Reilly says, rolling his eyes. He's not wearing his outfit from last night, but has on khaki shorts and hiking boots. Erika's in camo overalls. “Look, you just need to take that bow in your hands-“ Quentin feels the weight of it materialize into his palms and he flails a bit, trying to hold onto it. “-and complete a simple task.”

“I'm starving,” Erika says, and Quentin glances at the table, which is covered in picnic-style food. “I don't just want food for today. I want it for the future. Go find a nice, edible plant and bring the whole thing back.”

Camping is… not a thing Quentin has ever had the opportunity or inclination to pursue. Camps, yeah, all those week or month-long 'get this frustrating child out of the house for the summer' camps, those he did plenty. But there was no actual camping involved at any point.

His parents had also not been the type to use their limited yard space to set up a garden, either before or after their divorce. Beyond a potted rose bush that had regularly died and had to be replaced. So unless he actually sees something he recognizes, like a ripe strawberry or a banana, he's shit out of luck.

Although. This is a Brakebills trial. He sets the bow down for now and does a halting but, he thinks, recognizable locator spell. Nothing happens.

“Oh, magic won't work for this one,” Erika tells him and at least she's having fun. “But I think you can figure it out. Off you go. Shoo!”

Reluctantly, he shoos.

He wanders around the fucking woods for… a while. He looks at plant after plant and is just- fucking baffled. They all just look like random-ass plants. In the distance, he sees familiar blonde hair so, well, at least one of the other students is stuck here too, so he might as well see what she's up to.

“Alice, hey!”

He waves as he gets closer. She glances up from her intent study of the moss on the tree in front of her. She has a rope looped over one arm and is definitely also in the outfit he remembers seeing her in before the party.

“Quentin.” She sounds relieved, which unfortunately means she hasn't figured it out either. “Were you also assigned an absurd task?”

“Kind of,” he says, leaning against his bow. Alice makes an unhappy tsking sound, so he pulls it up again, sheepishly. “What's yours?”

“I'm supposed to chop down a tree,” she says, darkly, her hands tightening on her rope.

“Sheesh, not an easy ask.” Quentin frowns. Thinks back to the last time he'd talked to Erika. Because she'd said something back then, just about a month ago. About him learning something early. “Something important for magicians to learn.”

“What?” Alice blinks behind her glasses. “Oh, yes, it is a trial! Except we can't use magic.” She grimaces. “Maybe Kady might have a better idea? She thinks outside the box. Mostly to blow it up, but I think that still counts.”

“You saw Kady?” Quentin asks. “Where? Have you seen anyone else?”

“Only from a distance,” Alice admits. “I was too busy trying to find out the trick to my task to go talk to her. I haven't seen anyone else, but we could look?”

They set off on the direction Alice last saw Kady and she's… halfway up a tree and cursing loudly. When she spots them, she leans her head back against the trunk and moans, “Please, tell me one of you figured out this bullshit, because I found the damn horse but how the fuck am I supposed to capture it with this?” She brandishes a small shovel.

“You're supposed to catch a horse with a spade?” Alice asks, so that's… probably what it actually is.

Wait.

He looks at Alice consideringly. Specifically, at the long length of rope looped around her forearm. Useless for chopping down a tree but if you need to lasso a horse…

“We're supposed to pool our resources,” he says. “Trade tools and jobs. But we're missing someone.”

“What do you mean?” Kady asks, as she shimmies gracefully down the tree.

“You need a horse. Alice has rope.” Quentin gestures between them. “Oh. And I have experience, though I don't know how the third-years know about it?”

“You've got experience with ropes, Coldwater?” Kady asks, raising an eyebrow. Quentin — and, from what he sees, also Alice — flushes.

“With horses. I went to Junior Cowboy Camp.” He'd hated it, but that was beside the point.

“Anyway, the point is, we can solve your problem. But, um. Alice needs to chop down a tree-”

“It's not that hard,” Kady says. Then she looks at his bow and her spade. “Ah, I see your point.”

“And I need to find an edible plant and bring back the whole thing. Either of you good at that?”

They both shrug — Alice sharply, and Kady almost lazily. But he has an idea.

“Um. If Julia's around. She minored in botany-“

“Why?” Kady asks. “She likes flowers and shit? Fuck.”

“She's actually allergic to a ton of them,” Quentin explains. “But it made her interested in the science behind why some make her tear up and others don't. Anyway, if she's here, I bet she has a way for us to chop down a tree for Alice. And a reason for this thing.” He holds up the bow.

“You're gonna break it,” Alice mutters, and snatches it away from him.

They spread out a bit, call for Julia and, sure enough, when they find her, she has an axe that Kady claims with a laugh of relief, and a job to bring down a pheasant, which no one has to ask whether or not Alice is capable of doing. Kady also hands her the spade, says, “Coldwater needs something edible. What's your favorite flower that doesn't make you sneeze?”

Julia stares a moment, wide-eyed, then. “Snapdragons are pretty.”

“I like the name,” Kady says, with a grin. “Okay, team, we ready to nail this trial?”

When they deliver the items to Erika and Reilly, the two third-years do a set of tuts and- break the illusion apparently.

“Well, that explains why we couldn't do any magic,” Julia says, satisfied.

“Next trial starts at sundown. Be in the main lecture hall about half an hour before,” Erika tells them, then waves them away. “Off! We still have three more teams to process.”

“I would recommend not eating a heavy dinner,” Reilly says. “Oh, Coldwater. See if Eliot's free tonight? I'll be tied up here for a while, but I'm open after that if he is.”

“Sure,” Quentin says, easily, with no intention of doing it.

When he gets back to the Cottage with Kady and Alice, Eliot and Margo are in the common area, arrayed prettily on the couch and sipping colorful drinks. He slouches over to them, keels over Margo's lap dramatically and announces, “I hate you both. Ugh. That was awful.”

“Yes, yes, you poor thing,” Margo says, in her most mocking tone. “You're just in such terrible condition.”

“Hey, I'm exhausted,” he tells them, and Eliot reaches over to pet his forehead. “Whatever spell it was that knocked me out, didn't give me any actual rest.”

Eliot tsks disapprovingly. “Sign of a weak magician.”

Quentin hides his smile against Margo's stomach. “Can I just rest here until they need me for the next trial?”

“Of course you can, baby,” Eliot says. “Bambi and I are going to talk about some vacation plans, so feel free to chime in if you manage to stay awake.”

Quentin tucks his face against Margo's dress and does his best to take a nap. Eliot and Margo's voices are familiar and relaxing, and so are Eliot's fingers in his hair, so he does get some sleep in before he hears Margo's voice sharpen to say, “Coldwater, ass in gear. You've got a deadline to meet.”

He blinks up sleepily at her and lets them push him to his feet.

Before he heads out, Margo yanks him close and drops a soft kiss on his mouth. “Don't be a stranger.”

Quentin wrinkles his nose at her, confused. Then Eliot tugs him over, kisses him too.

“Stay safe. Don't get too cold.” Eliot flicks Quentin's nose and then turns him in the direction of the door.

The lecture hall is about as full as it ever gets, and instead of just Erika and Reilly to greet them, Professor Sunderland is there too, dressed in a fluffy winter coat that doesn't match the warm day outside, though she doesn't seem uncomfortable.

“Congratulations, first-years,” she says, leaning back against the lectern. “There's just one more trial, then you'll finally get to reap the benefits of your hard work and sleepless nights.”

She claps her gloved hands together loudly.

“Being a magician is about more than how fast your hands move or how much raw talent you have. It must be focused. Refined. That's the purpose of your next few weeks-” Weeks? Was that why Margo had said... “-in our satellite school. I'll be heading down there by portal, to air it out and get things ready, but all of you will be taking the long way.”

She waves a hand at Erika and Reilly.

Erika grins at the group. “Does anyone know why cooperative spells are more than twice as strong as casting alone?”

“We reflect off each other,” Julia says. She's standing with a cluster of other Knowledge students. “It's a positive feedback loop.”

“Precisely,” Erika says, pointing at Julia. “Now you've all done minor cooperatives in class but tonight is going to be the first chance for most of you to participate in a major cooperative spell.”

“You'll need a partner for the spell,” Reilly says. “But not just anyone. You need to choose someone you can be honest with, because tonight, you're doing secrets magic.”

“Be careful who you pick,” Erika says, and there's a touch of a sly smile on her face. “It's an intimate ritual. You want someone you can trust.”

“All right,” Reilly says. “Go ahead and find your partner.”

Quentin heads in Julia's direction because, well. It's Julia . But when he gets to her, she's staring all soft and uncertain at Kady, who has just shoved a handful of red snapdragon flowers into her hand.

“-if you wanna.”

He catches only the very last words of Kady's question but there's no mistaking the glowing look on Julia's face.

“Yeah,” Julia says, clutching the flowers to her chest. “I'd like that.” Then she glances over and spots Quentin and winces. “Oh, Q!”

“Hey, Jules, you and Kady partnering up for this one?” he prompts, and she gives him a pleased smile with a hint of relief at the edges. She nods. He pats her on the shoulder. “Have fun.”

“You too!”

And she and Kady head off to where the settled partners are gathering by Erika and Reilly.

Quentin hears a heavy and familiar sigh behind him.

“Hey, Penny, guess we both missed our shot at Jules for this one,” he says, pivoting around.

Penny is staring off after Julia and Kady.

“Yeah, they were really the only two people I wanted for this,” Penny admits, gruffly. “Ugh. I fucking hate knowing other people's bullshit secrets.”

“I hate telling people my bullshit secrets,” Quentin says dryly. “It kinda sucks.”

“Yeah.”

They watch other people pairing up for a minute.

“Um, Penny-”

“Hey, Coldwater-”

They both stop.

Quentin wonders if he really wants to do this.

“The thing is, I already know a ton of your bullshit secrets already,” Penny says and apparently they're doing this. “So maybe learning another one wouldn't be the worst thing ever.”

“I'm sorry, was there a question in that somewhere?” Quentin asks. “Because I didn't, actually, hear a question.”

“You are spending way too much time with the Lord and Lady of Bitchery,” Penny says. “Do you wanna be partners for this thing or not, Coldwater?”

And, honestly, it isn't like Penny has ever gossiped about all the shit he saw in Quentin's head before Quentin had functioning wards, so he's a much safer choice than any other non-Julia first- year would be.

“Yeah, of course,” Quentin says.

“You are such a little shit,” Penny tells him, and months in the Consciousness Building haven't changed that exhausted tone he gets when he's frustrated.

So, they go to Erika and Reilly, get two pots and two sets of rope and some instructions on how to cast the ritual.

“Then you just need to dig into yourself until you find the core of your identity, and share it with your partner,” Erika finishes as though those aren't some of the most terrifying words Quentin has ever heard. “Once the spell takes, you'll know where to go next.”

“Got it,” Penny says.

“What'd Eliot say?” Reilly asks, abruptly, staring at Quentin.

“Reilly, you can send messages on your own time,” Erika tells him. He rolls his eyes and looks back at her. “Or just talk to Eliot yourself instead of-”

“-it's not like I could have known,” Reilly argues back. Quentin exchanges a look with Penny and they both start backing away as subtly as possible.

“-trying to get poor Coldwater to flirt by proxy as if he has nothing better-”

“-if Eliot would actually have a conversation with me instead of freezing me out-”

“-and whose fault is that, Reills? Come on, you had to know he...”

Their voices fade into the distance as Quentin and Penny leave the building and head toward the roof area they've been assigned.

“You okay with all that?” Penny asks, tossing up his pot of paint and then catching it again. “Mr. Third-Year Hot-Shot trying to move in on your boy?”

“Eliot's… Eliot's not my boy ,” Quentin sputters in protest, after a moment of silence. “We're friends.”

“If you think I've forgotten being kicked out of our dorm so that you could get yourself screwed senseless by Waugh... then I only wish I could have whatever you've been taking, because I'd love to blank out that whole day, Coldwater,” Penny says. “So, yeah, you can sell that 'just friends' bull to someone else.”

“Friends have sex sometimes,” Quentin says, maybe a little defensively. Then, because he feels the need to clarify, he add, “Not all friends! I'm not, like, having sex with Julia or- or Alice or Kady.” Or Penny, of course, though he's still not certain whether or not Penny considers him an actual friend.

“Don't worry, I already knew you weren't sleeping with Julia or Kady,” Penny says, dryly. “Okay, this is us. Up the back stairs and we want to be right at the edge for... a little extra push? That's a weird note, but whatever.”

Once they get on the roof, Quentin can vaguely see another pair of students off on the building next door, and he thinks there's a team down over on the lawn, too.

“Do you think we have to get all the way naked?” he asks. “Or can we keep, like, boxers on and stuff?”

“I've already seen both yours and your not-boyfriend's junk,” Penny says. “Just take your damn clothes off so we can do the spell.”

And, technically, Quentin has seen Penny naked, too. They did share a room for weeks. But, still. Back then he'd tried not to look, or at least not too much. This time, they're gonna have to stare at each other's faces.

Penny then proceeds to start stripping, though his habit of never buttoning his shirts certainly makes it faster. Quentin follows suit including, after a moment of hesitation, yanking off his underwear and putting it on the pile with the rest of his clothes.

They paint as much of themselves as they can reach but eventually, there are places where they need to lend each other a hand.

“Your wards are a lot better,” Penny says, as he strokes out a line of paint between Quentin's shoulder blades, making him shiver. “I can't even tell if you wanna bang me right now.”

“I'd call you an asshole for assuming that just because I'm bi, I'd want to- but, um.” Quentin shrugs. The thought had definitely crossed his mind a time or two or... several, back when they were rooming together and his wards were a lot shittier. “So, I'll just accept the compliment. Thanks.”

Honestly, if Penny could read his mind right now, it wouldn't be entirely PG. A hot guy has his fingers all over Quentin's body. It's not a PG situation. But Penny is hot in an abstract 'if he weren't crushing on my best friend' sort of way, more than anything else these days.

And Quentin is already having more and better sex than he's ever had in his life, so he doesn't even really think he's got the emotional space to add another friend with benefits to the list. Margo and Eliot are- well, there's a surprising amount of cuddling involved. Though he supposes that's the friendship part of it.

When they're done, they can feel the magic shimmering in the air around them, which means they did it right.

“So now we just... talk,” Quentin says. This is definitely the worst trial. “About ourselves. Until we say something that counts as, uh-” he peers at the instruction card. “-our 'highest-governing internal circumstance'. Our 'utmost truth'. What a fucking nightmare.”

“No disagreement here.” Penny plucks the card from him and reads it over again, flipping to make sure there's nothing on the other side, which Quentin knows there isn't, because he already looked earlier. “Well, you have experience with therapy, right? You go first.”

“That's not really the goal of therapy but- okay,” Quentin says. He holds up his wrists for Penny to tie them up, and then clumsily returns the favor.

Then he squints out into the sky. Do his- are his worst thoughts his utmost truth? Or is it something better? He doesn't want his- his fucking depression to be his utmost truth.

“You already know I'm- I'm a nerd. Maybe that's... I like to read fantasy stories and imagine myself living in those worlds, if they were real.” He tugs at his wrists. Still wrapped up tight. He didn't really think it would be that easy, but he- he hoped. It's not as hard to look at Penny when he does this as he thought it would be. Penny does look a little annoyed but he's probably heard a lot about Fillory, at least, in talking with Julia, so maybe he understands better. Why people care about that shit.

Quentin clears his throat.

“Sometimes, those worlds were more real to me than this one. Certainly, they were a lot- a lot less... they gave me hope, I guess. Um. Hope that I wasn't alone. That some part of me was- was seen by these authors, who wrote the stories. Jane Chatwin – you know, she, uh. She started the series after her big brother was injured in the war. Writing out the imaginary games they played as children, trying to cheer him up. I would pretend I was Rupert and she was- um. That she was writing to me, too. I wrote her a fan letter once and she- she sent back, uh. Just a signed bookmark. It wasn't a big deal but. I don't know, I still have it.”

He putters out after that, yanking at his wrists.

“You try something,” he tells Penny.

“Utmost truth?” Penny lets out a heavy breath. “I think I might be falling in love with Julia.” He lifts up his still-bound hands. “Or maybe Kady. Or both?” He twists his wrists. “Well, it's not that.”

“Is it that serious?” Quentin asks. “Between you- uh. You three?”

Penny laughs. “You gonna give me the shovel talk, Coldwater? Tell me not to hurt your best friend or else?”

“I doubt Julia would appreciate that,” Quentin says, smiling back. He shrugs. “I mean, if you hurt her, then she'll be pissed at you, so if anything, I should warn you that she was pretty good at pranks as a kid.”

“I'd ask you to give me an example, but I'm pretty sure a bug just bit my ass, so I'd rather hurry this ritual up,” Penny says. “I will be asking about that again later.”

He takes in a deep breath and lets it out again.

“So, okay. I've been in the foster system which. Whatever. It has good and bad people, like anywhere else. It took me a while to get adopted, because-” Penny sighs. “-well, racism is alive and well, so that's part of it but also. I was the weird kid who heard voices in his head. Freaked people out a little. So, yeah, it took a while but- they're good people. Never got around to calling them 'Mom' and 'Dad' but. Decent, even in their heads. That's kinda rare. But they aren't magicians.”

Penny pauses, tilts his chin up and stares at the stars.

“I have a home I can go back to. And they're good people. But there's a part of me that's still- still searching for where I belong.”

Penny's hands flex as the ropes fall off his wrists.

Quentin twists his wrists against each other and feels the burn of the rope. He doesn't want to- he doesn't want to talk about- “I've been, uh. Sleeping with Margo and Eliot for a while-”

“This better not turn into a Penthouse letter,” Penny warns him.

“No promises, but- um.” This seems safer than talking about other things, but it's still not easy. “I guess I don't quite get why they... being at Brakebills has been fucking strange. I've never had so many friends in my life. And El and Margo are the- I mean, you've seen them.”

“Seen more of Eliot than I'd like,” Penny says. “But, yeah, sure, insecure nerd is baffled by the popular squad wanting to bang him. But it doesn't like the most important thing in your life, right?”

“Right,” Quentin agrees, absent-mindedly. But they are- they're tied to all the important things. If Margo and Eliot hadn't decided to bully their way into his life, he suspects Brakebills would have ended up just like Columbia, where he drifted on the edges of Julia's social life instead of having one of his own. “I guess not.”

Fine then, time to take the plunge. Fuck, he wishes they'd thought to bring along something to drink.

“I've been institutionalized, more than once,” he says, as bluntly and factually as possible. His heart is beating way too fast and he hopes he's wrong. He hopes this one doesn't work. “I take pills. I guess you've seen the bottles. Jules... she says I run away. That I find secret doors and I run away from- from myself. And she's right.” His voice cracks. “We're in- in fucking magic school, Penny. My best friend is here with me and we are learning all of the most amazing things we dreamed about as kids.”

He has to take a moment, just to- to try to calm himself.

“But even with all that. Even with- fuck, two of the most amazing, fascinating people I've ever met befriending me and- and-. Even with all that. I'm a wreck.” He blinks away tears. “I still feel- worthless and- and just this person I fucking hate.”

It works. Because of course it works.

He doesn't have much time to dwell on it.

A searing pain lances through his body.

He lands on the ground, hard.

Distantly, he hears Penny fall, too.

Everything hurts, inside and out.

“I don't like this spell,” he manages to say. Whimper, honestly. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. I really don't like it.”

Sharp, prickling agony creeps over his skin.

His insides feel like they're moving and shifting, distorting.

He's getting smaller. Compressing.

He's being stabbed with thousands of tiny knives from the inside out. Pushing out of his skin.

Quentin shivers on the roof, then-

Then.

It stops hurting and the shivering-

-the shivering has turned into fluttering.

He lifts up his hand but he can't and it's- it's not a hand. It's the tip of a wing. He tries to swear, and a strange noise comes out of his mouth. And he's seeing funny. He can see more? No, less.

He can see different .

Quentin honks thoughtfully, presses his webbed feet against the floor. He can see Penny and despite never having met enough geese in real life to tell them apart, he somehow knows instantly that that goose, right over there, is definitely Penny. And that he'll never mistake him for any other goose.

There's also-

An urge. A desire. To travel. To move. To see- a place, a very specific place. Penny feels it, too, as he waddles over to the edge of the roof, falls off and then rises away, flying up up up into the sky.

Quentin makes his way to the edge. Looks down. Waits for vertigo that never comes.

Tips himself over.

And takes flight.

 


 

Eliot stubs out his cigarette against the table, watches as Quentin and the other first-years fly off. He's got a few weeks, now, to get this crush under control and not let it ruin one of the few good things he might actually get to keep.

He glances over at Margo, who is nursing a glass of wine. In her own nod to Q's temporary departure, it's a red.

“Do you think he'll like Brakebills South?” Eliot asks, lightly. “All that bracing cold. Isolation. Trapped with no way back until they teach you how to open the portal to the main campus.”

“Yeah, he's gonna be miserable,” Margo agrees. “But it does mean he'll appreciate Ibiza even more. Sun, sand, us in tiny bathing suits.”

“We haven't actually asked him yet if he wants to come,” Eliot points out.

Margo waves that objection away. “Pfft, I'll put on that magenta bikini. He'll say 'yes' before he realizes it.” She finishes her wine and gets up. “You gonna mope out here for a while or come back inside with me?”

“I think I'll mope,” Eliot says, tries to put a bit of an edge of sardonic humor into it. And at least she didn't say 'pine'. “But not for too long.”

He gives her a kiss on the cheek before she leaves.

It's strange to imagine long weeks ahead with no Quentin to fuss over and tug into his room to kiss and to fold his hands over to teach him how to-

Eliot sighs.

He's gotten used to having Q around, is the thing. Quentin is like – well, a bit like the puppy Margo's called him a few times. He gets underfoot and he makes messes and he looks at a person with such big sad eyes.

Eliot rubs his fingers together. Debates whether or not he wants another cigarette.

Hears the sound of someone clearing their throat, so he glances over.

Ah.

“Hey, I was hoping you'd still be up,” Reilly says. Eliot considers just getting up and going inside. Reviving the grand concept of the cut direct. “Did Coldwater give you my message?”

“Quentin didn't mention you, no, but he's an excellent judge of character, so I'm not surprised,” Eliot says, icily. Reilly winces a little. Eliot leans back in his chair. “Look, I'm fine with being polite to you around other people, but I'm not interested in-” he gestures idly, makes certain to keep his hand loose and relaxed rather than tightening into a fist the way it wants to. “-anything that involves you pretending you actually know me.”

“I'm trying to apologize,” Reilly says, his hands jammed deep into his pockets. “Clear the air.”

“An apology usually starts with the words 'I'm sorry',” Eliot says, acidic. “For future reference.”

Reilly stares at him for a moment, and his eyes are hard to read, this late at night. He's still just as pretty as he was last year – tousled dark hair, those cool green eyes, and a strong chin – and just as obtuse, as well, it seems.

“I'm sorry,” Reilly says. “I didn't realize- but I've been thinking about you a lot recently and I wanted to talk. I am sorry.”

Eliot goes ahead and lights that cigarette. He's gonna need it.

“Yes, I'm quite memorable,” he says. “You were less so.”

This time, when Reilly flinches, Eliot feels a warm pulse of satisfaction.

“I'm not asking you to date me or jump back into bed with me,” Reilly says, his voice rough. “Just maybe try out being friends.”

“Oh, I'm not ready for anything so serious as friendship with you,” Eliot says. He takes a drag from his cigarette. “But I'll take your apology under advisement and let you know in a week or so whether or not I accept it.”

Reilly purses his lips together and Eliot wonders what he's stopping himself from saying.

Decides he doesn't care.

“That will be all,” Eliot says. He puts his cigarette to his lips and pointedly looks away.

After another moment or so, he hears Reilly leave.

He presses his fingers over his eyebrows, staving off a headache.

It's bad enough that it'll be weeks before he sees Quentin again. Eliot doesn't need the additional hassle of Reilly fucking Leary trying to become friends with him. Big-mouthed, impulsive Reilly who can't keep a secret to save his goddamn life.

He hadn't even been that good in bed, and it's a venomous little thought, but a true one.

What had Reilly said to Quentin, exactly?

Hopefully, he'd just given Q a simple message and not talked out of turn.

Eliot is- he plans to tell Quentin about his past. Eventually. Maybe when they're ninety.

He just... well, he likes the way Quentin looks at him.

If Quentin learns that all of Eliot's impressive peacocking is just a fragile candy-coating over a huge fucking mess...

Eliot takes a deep drag on the cigarette, trying to drive the fear away.

He is who he has created himself to be. Who he's chosen to be. This is the real Eliot Waugh.

But Quentin has... a kind heart. He would probably understand the need to hide away from prying, judgmental eyes. Maybe it wouldn't so bad. Eliot tries to picture himself saying it to Q – I'm from Indiana. My parents are farmers. I found out I had magic when I killed someone – and his mind chokes on it.

He'd told Reilly because he'd been drunk, in his first month at Brakebills, overwhelmed at the idea that there was a way to actually control the dangerous things his mind could do. He'd told Margo because he'd had no choice, not if he wanted to finish the trial and continue on with his education.

The idea of telling anyone else is... horrifying. Too many people know some of it already, thanks to Reilly's slip of the tongue late last year.

Eliot smokes and he watches the sky.

And he worries.

 

Chapter Text

Eliot lies sprawled out on his bed.

He doesn't want to go to class. He doesn't want to throw a party. He doesn't want to do anything except become an elegant, beautiful bed slug that never moves again.

It's possible he drank too much last night.

He doesn't normally get hangovers, and he'll spell this one away once he's awake enough to cast but-

-he'd come close to making a mistake last night. Or maybe, in choosing not to act, he'd made his mistake already.

If you keep turning all the pretty boys down, eventually they'll stop asking, Margo had said last night, before waltzing away with a pretty boy of her own. She has a point. It's not as if Quentin expects or wants fidelity of any kind out of Eliot. It's not as though Quentin will be upset, once he comes back from Antarctica, to find out that Eliot's been screwing other guys while he's been away.

Be my friend, after.

And Eliot has. And he will.

He just wishes it stopped the wanting.

Since he can't, in fact, spend all day lounging around, he gets off his ass and takes care of his hangover. Dresses for the day. Carefully, every piece of his intricately-constructed persona put into place and smoothed down.

He stops by Margo's room, to see if she's still entertaining last night's guest, but there's no one at home.

The Cottage feels different with the first-years gone. Before they were assigned, it had mostly felt the same as the end of last year. Now that they've been here and gone, it feels... empty. It's not just Quentin. It's the whole rowdy lot of them. They'd been all over and into everything, breaking things and talking loudly and taking up space.

The third-years are all intent on their thesis projects, so the only class that's really active and around right now are his fellow second-years. He knows them too well and, honestly, all of them except Margo are fucking bores anyway.

He heads over the Greenhouse, to see if the Nature Kids have cooked up anything interesting and new. If he can't have enjoyable company, he can at least fog up his head a bit.

“This is my baby.” He's told, fondly, by a third-year that he's pretty sure is already baked at ten in the morning. “I've been developing a strain that lets you — no shitting you I swear — see into other worlds.”

“Is that your… thesis?” Eliot asks, mildly interested.

“Nah, Professor Li said Brakebills can't have that on the record,” he says, mournfully, pushing up his glasses. “My thesis is way more respectable and dull.”

“Ah,” Eliot says. Disappointing. That puts some limits on his potential options as well. “I'll try out some of your baby tonight. You coming to our party on Friday? If you are, feel free to bring supplies.”

“Gonna try. Vicki misses your parties,” he says, enthused.

Eliot gives him a bit of a closer look, eyebrow raised. He generally didn't bother to remember the names of non-Physical Kids, but Victoria was the only traveller in her year and, gossip said, the only one in a while before Penny had come along in Quentin's class. Everyone knew her.

“Didn't you two have a messy breakup last year?” Eliot asks. “Fucked her best friend, so she dropped you in Woof Fountain from forty feet up?”

“Thirty,” he corrects, and Eliot remembers his name now — Hoberman. Well, Josh, but he'll stick with Hoberman for now. “We made up.”

“I suppose that's her business,” Eliot says. “Don't piss her off at the party.”

He takes the weed and pockets it for later.

He attends his morning class, which is dull, dull, dull. Cross-disciplinary training is all well and good but his wards are fine as is. He doesn't need to buff them any more.

At least when he gets back to the Cottage, Margo's back, so he settles in next to her on the sofa. “How was your thing with the Madame?”

“We portal'd to Niagara and she had me sensing current and volume and shit like that. It didn't suck.” There's a warm glow of happiness around her that Eliot soaks in. “Got some ideas about my thesis but I wanna tell Q first.”

“Is it a nerd thing?” Eliot asks, nuzzling against her neck.

“Very much so,” Margo says contentedly. “D&D-level shit.”

“Well, no shame in porking a dungeon master.” Eliot had even, reluctantly, been dragged into a couple of games himself last month. Lots of books, lots of little dice, but he'd gotten the chance to use his hot elf fighter guy as an excuse to flirt with Quentin for a solid handful of hours, so it hadn't been a total loss. And he thinks it made Julia like him better too, which was a nice bonus.

He sighs.

“Are you pining again?” Margo asks, suspiciously. “Ugh, mea culpa. I shouldn't have mentioned him.”

“I'm not pining,” Eliot says, with as much dignity as he can manage. “I can survive a few weeks without Quentin Coldwater around.”

Margo hums doubtfully.

“I'm a full-grown, nearly-responsible man,” he tells her. “And it's just a crush, anyway. It'll sort itself out by the time he gets back.”

“I suppose you're the expert,” she says. “Are you sure you don't want to try to fuck him out of your system?”

Eliot doesn't respond right away, kisses her shoulder to occupy his mouth while he thinks. He probably should at least try it. But the problem is that his little infatuation doesn't have as much to do with Quentin's body or even his delightful sounds, as it does with his… Quentin-ness. With the vulnerable tremble of his mouth when he'd talked about worrying about his dad and his unvoiced fears for his own future. The enthusiastic, charming gestures of his hands while he chatters on about something Eliot doesn't really care about in other circumstances. With how brave he'd been, back when he'd confronted Margo and Eliot about why they were mentoring him. The sex is good and has only gotten better, but even if Quentin had been a hopeless mess in bed, he'd be worth it.

And Eliot doesn't quite know how to explain any of that to Margo.

“I'll think about it,” he says.

Later that week, he deigns to go up to the cluster of rooms claimed by the third-years and raps on Reilly's door. It's closer to two weeks now since they talked and Reilly hasn't pushed, so… let it not be said that Eliot refuses to consider an olive branch, when offered.

“It's open!”

Eliot twists the handle and lets the door swing in. Reilly's room is very different than he remembers it looking at the start of last year, now that there are books scattered all over his desk and bed and even the floor.

“Eliot, I'm glad you came by.” Reilly's face brightens up and he moves a handful of books from his desk chair and gestures towards it. “You look good.”

“I know,” Eliot says, and doesn't take the chair. “I've decided to accept your apology. So, you can mark that off your task list for the year.”

Reilly tugs the chair around, sits in it himself. “Yeah? I wasn't trying to fuck anything up for you. I didn't know it was, like, a secret or whatever.”

“Yes, I see now how changing my accent and never publicly saying where I was from were impenetrable clues too difficult for anyone to pick up on,” Eliot says, dryly. “I should have put out a campus-wide memo. Or announced it at a party. How else could you have possibly realized I wanted my personal history kept confidential.”

Reilly scrunches up his face and if he actually cries, Eliot is leaving immediately.

He doesn't cry so, against his better judgement, Eliot stays.

“I suppose,” he allows, “-you're officially unbanned from any parties I throw for the rest of the year.”

“Thank you, Eliot,” Reilly says. He stands back up and holds out his hand.

“Oh, we're not doing that,” Eliot tells him, taking a step back. “There's no need to be introducing physical contact back into our interactions at this delicate hour.”

“You don't have to put on the act with me,” Reilly says and- well, he hasn't learned much at all, apparently.

“As far as you're concerned, this is all there is,” Eliot says, straightening his vest with quick, sharp motions. “Stop pretending you know me because a shitfaced first-year cried on your shoulder once upon a time. You don't fucking know me. Okay?”

“Sorry,” Reilly says. “I'll try.”

Eliot huffs out an annoyed breath. “You didn't… mention any of this to Quentin, when you were asking him to ferry messages for you, did you?”

“To Coldwater?” And Reilly looks baffled at the question and Eliot feels a knot twisted up inside his gut unravel a bit. “Why would I?”

“Finally, you got the right answer,” Eliot says.

On that high note, he leaves.

He goes back downstairs to the one person here who does know him, and curls up with his head in her lap. Margo doesn't ask what's wrong, but she strokes through his hair gently, chattering brightly about their plans for the party on Friday.

 


 

Quentin sighs heavily, rolls over on his thin, narrow bed, and stares up at the ceiling.

It's not that Brakebills South is terrible or anything.

Most of his friends are here. He's learning exciting new ways of doing magic. There's a great view from every window.

It's so fucking cold.

And he hasn't been able to talk in a week.

And non-verbal magic is really goddamn hard.

And, sure, most of his friends are here, but Julia, Kady, and Penny are caught up in this weird silent dance that seems to be taking up most of their time when they aren't practicing their tuts and casting, and he and Alice don't exactly know each other well enough to have wordless conversations that go beyond – hey, still cold, still can't talk – so that's... what it is.

It's hard to imagine El and Margo here, last year. Eliot and Margo under an enforced charm of silence seems much more unnatural than being under one himself.

His eyes drift half-way shut again, though, as he does start to imagine it. He rests his hand on his belly and... thinks.

They would get frustrated not being able to talk – they talk about everything, all the time, he's drifted off to sleep more times than he can count listening to them chatter on and on about what just happened or their plans for when they wake up or just random banter.

They like him making noise too – he thinks they view it as some sign of how great they are at sex – so they'd want something else, maybe, to make up for not being able to hear him.

Hickeys are so middle-school, but maybe they would- if they couldn't hear his voice.

Quentin really shouldn't do this. The locks on the doors are magic-based and he hasn't figured the non-verbal variant of that spell out yet. Anyone could walk in on him.

He takes a quick, nervous glance at his closed door. Slides his hand inside his sweats. His fingers are dry and he's mostly soft but he hasn't jerked off since he got here, too nervous and lonely. And, well, he's still both of those things but they feel like they matter less now.

How does he want to-

He's- he's sitting in Eliot's lap, maybe. And Eliot is naked. Definitely. Eliot's naked and hard and- and he can't possibly be as huge in reality as Quentin's memory is trying to tell him that he is but- well, he goes with the idea. Eliot's big cock, poking up between Quentin's legs. Quentin's naked, too. Maybe- maybe his hands are tied up? So he won't touch his dick.

Quentin strokes his finger along his actual dick, thoughtfully.

Margo is pacing in front of them, her heels going click-clack on the wooden floor.

Why is Margo dressed if he and Eliot are naked?

Margo is pacing and she's annoyed because he and El slipped out of a party without her and she had to entertain without her favorite co-host. Okay, that works.

She rants at Eliot about how mean he is for leaving the party without her, and Eliot snaps back lazily, one of his hands around- around both his dick and Quentin's, jerking them off while he's talking to her. Margo is- she's wearing one of her fancy party outfits, with the swooping bits that show off her breasts and a high skirt to show off her legs, and tall tall heels so that Eliot doesn't tower over her quite as much.

Quentin leans his head back against Eliot's chest, and his legs are looped on the outside of Eliot's, and he's spread wide but Margo doesn't say anything about it yet.

He strokes his thumb over his dick and thinks about- okay, it's right after the second trial. And everything from it had disappeared except, for whatever reason, that rope. He takes the rope back with him to the party and when Eliot sees it, he whisks them upstairs, gets them naked or-

Quentin takes a shaky breath and it's strange not to even hear himself breathe. It makes every tiny sound of touching his dick and shifting his hips on the bed so much louder.

His hands are tied up – against his chest? – Eliot's done one of those fancy porn rope things, maybe, where the rope is wrapped all around Quentin's body, rubbing against his nipples every time he moves. And he's facing out, and he wants so much to touch his dick and touch Eliot's but he's not allowed because-

He stutters to a halt for a second on that. Rewinds a little.

He wants to touch Eliot but he's not allowed because-

Quentin is- ah, when he'd come back from the trial, he'd- he'd flirted with someone at the party and Eliot-

Eliot wouldn't care.

Quentin huffs out a breath, annoyed at himself.

Okay, Eliot can care in his own fucking daydream. It doesn't matter that Eliot wouldn't really get jealous if Quentin ever managed to flirt with someone else.

Quentin flirts with – um. Not Margo, obviously, that wouldn't bother Eliot. There isn't really- obviously, Eliot wouldn't actually feel threatened or for-real jealous.

Ugh, this whole line of thought is just- not working.

Okay, maybe he- Quentin comes back with the rope and- and someone makes a joke about how- about how he's brought his own leash this time. It kinda sounds like a Margo joke, but it's someone else who says it. Whatever. Todd, maybe. And he says something about- about how's anyone gonna know Quentin's really been trained if Eliot and Margo never show him off.

And Eliot sees the look on Quentin's face, and maybe he'd been thinking about whisking Quentin away upstairs. But he changes his mind, tugs Quentin over to-

Right, over to the couch.

Eliot takes his clothes off first, without any hesitation. Just strips right in front of everyone. Smiles at Quentin and tells him to put on a show.

Quentin- skips past that part in his head, gets to where, yeah. He's naked in Eliot's lap and his hands are all tied up, and Margo is pacing. But now they're in a room full of their classmates – is it just the Physical Kids or... no, it's a full party, so it's all sorts of students from all over campus. Quentin would be hot and flushed everywhere, embarrassed. Margo is annoyed- she's not annoyed at Eliot. She's annoyed at the other students, for thinking she doesn't know how to-

-she's annoyed at them because insulting Quentin's sex skills is... it's like insulting her honor or something.

Eliot isn't jealous, but he is- warm and possessive, maybe.

So, Quentin isn't allowed to touch himself because he has to show off how well he obeys.

He tugs his hand out of his pants, licks his palm and fingers, and reaches down to wrap it around his dick.

Margo kind of rolls her eyes at them when they take their clothes off, but she's turned-on, too, not just amused. Would Eliot actually fuck him at a party?

Probably not but he can- he can picture it. Eliot jerking them both off until they're hard. Margo pressing her knuckles against the front of her dress, telling Eliot that he shouldn't just use his hands, that Quentin wants Eliot's dick in his ass.

Yeah, yeah, he can-

Eliot might do it if Margo asked. Of course, Bambi , he would say.

And Quentin's being loud, of course, the way they like, and his cheeks are- are burning hot, knowing that everyone in the party is watching and listening.

Eliot does- does that spell, Pertrick's, and when Quentin is slick inside, he sits on El's dick and- he has to prove how well he listens, so Margo tells him how fast to go.

Quentin tightens his fingers around his cock, fucks up into his hand, and he can hear the springs of the mattress squeaking under him.

He wonders what rooms Margo and Eliot had last year – did they get to be together? Probably not. But maybe they snuck into each other's rooms to, well, not to talk but to cuddle and mentally commune or whatever.

Will they still want to- when he gets back?

He squeezes his eyelids shut, focuses on- on the party, Eliot's dick stretching him wide and full, ropes rasping over sore nipples, Margo's voice telling him he's doing it right, making El happy, and the hushed – shocked? – whispers of the students watching, not expecting even Eliot and Margo to do something as hedonistic as this right out in public.

Some random student asks if they- if they can have a turn, after, and Eliot says, he says no. But how does he-

Okay, first Margo teases a little, says they can look but they can't touch without paying first. But Eliot says-

Eliot wraps his hand around Quentin's dick and he calls him 'baby', all soft the way he does sometimes, when he's really turned-on. And he whispers, just for Quentin to hear, not to take Margo seriously. They've invested- uh, invested too much effort into Quentin to just loan him out like that. Unless he wants it. Does he want it? And Eliot's voice is low and tempting.

And-

Not in the real world, obviously. But in his head, Quentin flirts back. Says maybe he does want Eliot and Margo to watch other people fuck him.

It's too much work to actually come up with some stranger to play the extra part in this, so Quentin stays right on the cusp of it, of the offer, the idea of it turning around in his head.

As long as you're still there , he would say to them. As long as you're watching .

Quentin's hips lift off the bed and his dick jerks as he comes, twitching in hesitant spurts. He works his cock until it's empty, until it starts to soften.

And now his hand is wet. He opens his eyes again, glances around at the white, sterile, boring as fuck room. His door is still closed. The bathrooms are shared and he doesn't really want to walk down the hallway with his hand full of spunk so.

He licks it off.

Quentin doesn't really like the way he tastes, not the way he likes Eliot or Margo, but it's okay.

He rolls off the bed and gets changed out of his sleep sweats and into the – white, sterile, boring as fuck – uniforms that they're all supposed to wear down here. He tugs open the drawer on the nightstand, plucks out his pills and swallows one dry. Professor Sunderland had handed them to him just after he'd arrived, said, “Lipson told me you take these, so I suppose you shouldn't go without for weeks on end. Don't lose them. I'm not allowed to leave you alone down here, so I can't exactly portal back to campus for a new bottle.”

Sunderland is different, away from the main campus. She hates the building, hates the cold, hates the isolation. So, it's like she feels like she has to be warmer herself, to make up for how chilly the environment is. She's the only voice any of them can hear these days and she talks a lot, like she knows exactly how disheartening the quiet can be. She's not nicer, exactly, but she seems more relaxed. Less intimidating.

She's told them all about why they need to learn non-verbal casting – talking makes things easier, but any spell can be cast with just gestures and willpower if the magician has enough talent – and she's told them about the history of the building, and she's told them about the creation of the trials, which were put in place by the very first Dean of Brakebills, back in 1763, though only a rough form of them, at the time.

He's learning a lot, honestly.

He just kinda- well, Julia's still his best friend, of course. But he thinks maybe it's possible to have multiple best friends. It's not a subject that had ever come up for him, before, but it's hard for him to imagine putting Eliot and Margo lower in some kind of friend hierarchy than anyone else is, so- horizontally placed. Also best friends, just ones that he sees naked a lot.

If they still want to.

When he gets back.

 


 

Margo happens to be looking over towards the entranceway when she sees the boy barreling out the door – the same boy that Eliot had tugged upstairs not less than fifteen minutes ago.

She sighs, puts her own plans for the party on hold, and excuses herself.

Eliot's door is open wide. She leans against the frame, takes in the scene before she enters.

He's sprawled in the middle of his bed, vest and tie lying on the floor, shirt half-unbuttoned. His fly is open, dick pulled out but mostly soft. There's a cropped jacket on the covers that must belong to the guy who just rushed out. She certainly can't picture El wearing it.

“Didn't work out, huh?” she asks. “What'd you say to him, anyway?”

Eliot rubs the base of his hand under his nose, sniffles a bit. Cautiously, she shuts the door and approaches the bed, climbing up onto it and lying down next to Eliot. His hand is still covering his face.

“I was utterly pathetic, Bambi,” he says, and, oh. “You'd be ashamed of me.”

“El, did you-” She rests her head against his shoulder. “Did you call him Quentin when he was...?”

He stiffens up, every bit of muscle going tense.

She pets at his side and stomach, soothing as best she can.

“It might not be just a crush,” she tells him. It feels weird and backwards, for her to be the one telling him that. “It's okay if it's not just a crush.” She breathes out a soft little breath. Thinks. “Do you wanna talk about him?”

“Not really,” Eliot says. She hates seeing him like this, all twisted up on himself. Romance is the actual worst. And she's pretty much tapped out her own skills when it comes to helping on anything like this. He laughs and it's the saddest fucking sound she's ever heard.

“If you want, I could blow you,” she offers. “I wouldn't mind if you called me Q.”

He laughs again, and it's less heart-breaking this time.

“Appreciate the offer, dearest, but I think I would be able tell it wasn't really him.”

He brushes her hair back from her face, presses his thumb against her chin.

“If you're sure.” But she reaches down and tucks his cock inside his pants, buttons him back up. Then she props herself on her elbow, studies his face carefully. “I'm gonna ask you something for a second time and I don't want you to be all self-sacrificing about it. I want you to be honest. Do you want me not to fuck Q again? I like screwing him. It's fun. But you matter more to me.”

Eliot's eyes go distant and thoughtful. She waits it out.

He lets out a soft breath.

“We're going to Ibiza when he gets back. A whole week of drugs, magic, and sun-drenched debauchery,” he says. A smile curves up the corners of his mouth. “Let's enjoy it to the fullest, hmm?”

He leans up towards her and places a soft kiss against her cheek. She turns into it, kisses him back on the corner of his mouth. Snuggles down next to him. The party can take care of itself. She has more important things going on right now.

“We could have some fun with Quentin in Ibiza,” she admits. “If we wanted.”

“Yeah.” It's more a breath than a word. He strokes her hair. “If I still feel this way after Encanto Oculto, I'll tell him. And we'll see what happens.”

 


 

Quentin bends his fingers together, focuses on the pile of nails on the table. One of them trembles. He narrows his attention to that specific nail, straightens out his joints, twists, and the nail lifts up… for about half a second before it clatters back into the messy heap.

He lets out a soundless sigh. Still, it's closer than he's gotten before.

Julia, across the table from him, is having an even harder time, though that's mostly due to her not being Physically-inclined.

Sunderland enters the chilly room, bringing a warming charm with her, attached to a small lamp. “A gift from Ms. Orloff-Diaz.”

Kady has picked up non-verbal magic like a breeze and is only slightly lording it over the rest of them. Not that he blames her for using every advantage she's got.

Penny isn't doing so hot at the magic, but at least he always understands everyone's gestures, no matter how frantic or lazy. It makes trying to communicate with him a bit less frustrating, though he does still purposely misinterpret sometimes, just to keep up his aloof dick persona, Quentin assumes.

Alice isn't quite the natural that Kady is, but she's definitely picking it up faster than Quentin. The other boy learning with them — Mr. Harrow, who almost certainly has a first name but Sunderland hasn't mentioned it — is a Nature Kid, Quentin thinks, and he's struggling a bit, though Sunderland has assured him that the next segment will be more to his liking.

At least Quentin only has this small group to compare himself to — Sunderland had split the first-years up into groups of six as soon as they'd arrived, separating them while they were still geese, to get their 'natural clustering patterns' she'd explained.

He spends another hour or so focusing on the nails before giving it up to go get lunch. Actual class times aren't really a thing right now — Sunderland just roams between the different floors to check on them. From what she's said, that'll change once they all succeed at non-verbal casting and can move on to the next section.

Alice joins him for lunch and they have a semi-successful conversation using hand gestures. Kady has been, somewhat haltingly, teaching them ASL — or well, Quentin assumes it's ASL — but he's pretty sure she sees it as a way to flirt with Julia and Penny right now more than anything else. It seems to be working well enough.

He has, actually- he's looking forward to being able to talk to people again, because he really wants to talk to Jules about how that's going. He's fairly sure Julia has already fallen into bed with one of them — he thinks Kady — but the flirting has kept up, pretty steadily.

And. It's not the same, of course. But it's made him consider some possibilities that he hadn't thought of as real options before.

Like.

Maybe if he were to- he thinks sex first is a good way to start. So much of what's happened with them has been all about sex. So, maybe. When he gets back, if it looks like they still- if they're interested in sex.

Maybe it wouldn't be weird or stupid to suggest, like, going out to see a movie or going to dinner together.

Quentin has- technically, he's not sure if he's ever been on a date, at least not one that wasn't a well-meaning but disastrous double-date with Julia and James and whatever friend of theirs they'd talked into coming.

But he can picture going out with Eliot and Margo. To some cheesy Sci-Fi B-movie for them all to mock and, whatever, make out on the back row maybe. Or out to dinner together, though he'd probably have to let them dress him up for it if he wanted to look like he belonged with them and wasn't just someone's dorky cousin they'd been forced to bring along.

He's never really gotten the chance to do any of that shit, between his brain fucking up all the time and his non-existent personal charm. Margo and Eliot will probably think it's childish and dumb, maybe. But if he doesn't ask, he'll never know, so it's worth it. Just trying, at least.

He's got plenty of time to think it over, anyway.

After lunch, he finally gets one of the nails to drill down straight into the table, but then fails when he tries it a second time, the nail twisting at the last second and going in at an angle. Still, it's a victory and he'll take it.

When he jerks off that night, he thinks about — going to a Broadway show. Off-Broadway. A musical, maybe. And Eliot hums the music in the taxi afterwards — not that he's ever seen Eliot in a cab — and Quentin blows him, while Margo strokes softly through his hair. And they stumble out of the car together and Eliot sweeps Margo up for an impromptu dance while Quentin watches fondly, still tasting Eliot at the back of his throat. Then Margo- she tells him he can't just watch, and tugs him close for a kiss while he laughingly tells her he doesn't mind, he can't dance.

Eliot wraps around him from behind and they're… they're on the Brakebills lawn and Eliot kisses the back of his neck and says… says they'll teach him and-

Anyway, then Quentin comes, so he doesn't really follow the thought further.

 


 

“Why Healing?” Giselle asks. She's sitting at her writing desk, her clothes all feathers and fluff, sketching him as he poses on the window seat.

Eliot shrugs and she tsks sternly at him for moving.

“All the potential Physical mentors were so boring this year,” he says. “You stood out among the crowd, an oasis of beauty and charm in the desert of dullness.”

She twinkles cheerily at him, and she barely looks his age, let alone almost ten years older. “Very sweet of you. And I'm sure my dear brother would be devastated to be left out. Now, do I have any chance of getting a real answer? And remember to keep your chin up.”

Eliot angles his chin, obediently.

“I have some thoughts about my thesis project,” he admits.

“I do hope so,” Giselle says. “What thoughts?”

It's complicated. He thinks it might be beyond his abilities, which makes it hard to even think about. Though he'll have to, at some point.

“Still sorting them out,” he says, vaguely and he doesn't blame her for that disappointed sound she makes. “Is the sketch finished?”

“You're less patient than you look,” she tells him, but she sounds amused. She works for maybe twenty minutes more before she proclaims the job done.

Eliot takes the sketch from her hand and- it's quite astonishingly lifelike, for being just pencil on paper. He focuses, holding the sketch in one hand while he casts with the other. A tiny grey splotch appears on the chest of the sketch, as if hovering over it.

“Nicely done,” Giselle says, approvingly.

“And that's…?”

“Some scarring on the lungs. Probably a good idea for you to smoke a bit less.” Giselle sighs. “Though I'm hardly one to talk. It looks like you've got a drinking problem as well, hmm?”

Eliot passes his fingers through the mark over where his liver would be, in the sketch. He can see fainter marks in other places and is grateful for Giselle not mentioning them. Childhood scars, and she must have a guess or two. He presses a knuckle against the barely visible discoloration he can see peeking around the side of his back, and swallows.

“Professor Lipson uses colored glass for diagnostic work,” he says, his voice a little rough. “Why do you do sketches?”

“Lipson, hmm.” Giselle's mouth twists a little as she thinks. “She had a background in proper, scientific medicine before she found magic. She still thinks of those old non-magic instincts first, I'd wager. The glass method is faster and shows immediate trauma better.”

“What were you, before you found magic?” he asks, then he hesitates. “Wait, let me guess.” He studies her again, because there's something in the way she holds her head. In how she walks. “Dancer. Ballet? Did you like it or did people expect it of you?”

“Hated it,” she says, cheerfully. “Envied my brother something awful, getting to play baseball and soccer. My parents were always telling me I was too delicate, which is ridiculous, if you know anything about dance.”

“And they had those expectations from the moment you were born, I'd guess, giving you that name.” Eliot runs his thumb over the messy faded set of lines that lay out, dispassionately, where his arm had been broken in three places. “Our parents expect a lot from us.”

“They do,” she says. “You can take that back to Brakebills if you like. The longer it rests, the more it reveals. Takes longer than Lipson's method but you learn more in the end.”

“Thank you,” Eliot says.

When he gets back to his room, he studies the sketch for a long while. Presses his fingertips over each mark as it appears.

After a time, no more new lines or splotches appear.

Eliot dispels the diagnostic spell with a quick flick of his fingers, leaving just the lovely, flawless drawing. Eliot Waugh, as he's meant to be seen.

Maybe he'll give it to Margo.

 


 

They all yell out into the darkness and it's amazing how good it feels, to have a voice after being silent for so long.

“And again,” Sunderland encourages them, as she presses her hands over her earmuffs to keep them in place. “You'll feel much better for a good long scream. Feel free to swear, too, if you want.”

Quentin's voice cracks a little, shouting into the night, but he's not the only one.

Once everyone seems sated, Sunderland gathers them around in a big circle.

“You've all shown acceptable progress,” she tells them, briskly. “Now that we've made a good start on your non-verbal casting, we're going to delve into something a bit more intimate and dangerous.”

“Intimate?” Alice's voice, slightly hoarse.

“Mind control,” Sunderland says, quirking an eyebrow. Alice's face gets paler and Sunderland smiles at her. “Only with insects. Nothing beyond the bounds of morality, Ms. Quinn, I assure you.”

Mind control is, Quentin soon learns, the actual absolute worst.

They stay in their group of six, so Quentin finds out that 'Mr. Harrow' is Nick — Nicky to his friends, he explains cheerfully, his voice lower than Quentin had been expecting — and his specialization as a Nature Kid is influence. Which, he makes sure to stress, is not technically mind control on its own. Just a helping hand.

Still, Nick picks up the exercise quickly, as do Julia and Penny. If the Physical Kids had an advantage during non-verbal casting, they all have a harder time with this.

There's something odd and slippery about it, even slimy. Alice's instinctive revulsion makes a lot of sense after trying it out for a while. Sneaking inside something's mind, even a mosquito or fly, and having it act in a way counter to its own instincts…

It just feels wrong.

“It just feels like magic,” Julia says, when he talks to her during lunch. They've squirreled themselves away in her room, alone for the first time since they got their voices back. “They're bugs, Q. It doesn't seem like that big a deal.”

Quentin shrugs uncomfortably. “I guess. Um. You and Kady were looking pretty close the other day. You coming to terms with that big-ass crush you always had on Mila Kunis?”

“You're a dick,” she says, without heat. “And, yeah. But… I don't know. Isn't it weird that we're both bi? Like what are the odds?”

“Isn't it weird we both have magic?” Quentin runs his fingers together, looks down startled at the cigarette that popped into his hand. The brand looks like one of El's. He lights it with a gesture, hands it to Julia. “Maybe the things we have in common are part of why we stayed friends, even the parts we weren't aware of yet.”

“Putting that Philosophy major to good use, I see,” she teases him, but doesn't argue and does take a drag off the cigarette. “But, yeah, she's actually really sweet, in an 'I'll beat up anyone who hurts you' kind of way.”

“And what about Penny? Is that an 'instead' situation or an 'in addition to' one?” He reclaims the cigarette from her and it definitely tastes like one of El's.

“Don't know,” she says, abandoning her meal to fall backwards onto her bed with a huff. “How do you deal with weird jealousy issues?”

He assumes it's rhetorical, but then she lifts up her head and stares at him pleadingly.

“Uh? I mean… Jules, you know I'm not actually in a relationship, right? It's just sex. With friends.”

She raises a dubious eyebrow.

“Is it, Q?” she asks. “Because you spend pretty much all your time with them.”

“We're friends. And they're my mentors. And we screw sometimes.” He cringes when he hears how defensive he sounds. “Okay. Okay. Maybe I've been… thinking about asking if they would maybe want...” he shrugs. “More, I guess?”

“Well, you could do worse,” she says. She holds her hand out and he gives over the cigarette. “Back to my question?”

“There haven't been any jealousy issues,” Quentin says, trying to sound like the experienced polyam person that Julia apparently believes he is. “It's, uh, I mean, we don't have any commitments but I haven't-” The week before the trials, Margo had hauled off some bulky third-year Illusionist guy to her room to bang and then, over breakfast the next morning, she'd talked about his fingering technique and complained about his wonky dick and it had just been… funny, honestly. He doesn't know if that feeling would change, if they were actually. Dating, or whatever. “It hasn't bothered me, I guess.”

“That is… not very helpful,” she mutters.

“Do you want me to try talking to them?” And he snickers when she looks horrified at the idea. “Then I guess you'll have to ovary-up and do it yourself?”

“Ovary-up?” she asks, amused.

“Oh! Margo,” he says, by way of explanation. Julia laughs, twiddling with the cigarette. “She has very firm… um, anyway. You should just talk to them about it, make sure you're on the same page. That's my plan, for whenever we make it back.” Grimly, he adds, “If we make it back.”

“Jesus, no wonder you like those two so much,” Julia says. “They really feed your dramatic impulses, don't they? It's only three more weeks, Q. I think somehow you'll survive.”

“If I don't flunk out because of some stupid insects,” he says, and he gets an echo of that shivery-gross wrong feeling again, just talking about it. “Speaking of, I'd better get back to it.”

He gulps down the rest of his lunch and heads back.

 


 

Margo perches on the edge of the sofa, watching Eliot as he works on a sketch of Louisa, a second-year Illusionist — Margo had volunteered, of course, but he'd wanted to see how well he could do on someone he doesn't know like he knows her. Eliot has always had a fair-enough hand at drawing and it's better now, as he pours his magic into the paper with each scritch-scratch of the pencil.

She's been giving serious thought to their upcoming year, and beyond. She's not sure whether or not El is, yet, at least not past them sticking together.

Margo hates thinking about the future as much as Eliot does, but they can't afford to put it off forever. She's not sure if they're going to be having the same discussion that they would have this time last year, though, not with-

Well, Eliot will probably be useless on the matter until after they've talked to Q about his plans too. Margo is, as ever, in favor of simply presenting Quentin with a fait accompli and encouraging him to go along with it, but she suspects El would not be thrilled at the suggestion. He does always insist on making things more difficult for himself.

A resort, she thinks, would do for them. Or a bed and breakfast, if a resort is too rich for Quentin's taste. One with portals to all sorts of enjoyable travel destinations. A lovely jewel of a magicians' retreat.

Some place where she and Eliot can employ their considerable charm and skill at engineering delightful social occasions. And Quentin… well, she can talk to him about a games parlor, where he can host Push and, on rare nights when the stars align, perhaps even some D&D. Eliot had liked it more than she'd expected him too — or, well, he'd certainly liked getting to flirt his way past Quentin's NPCs.

Margo holds her palm up in front of herself, concentrates. After a lung-achingly long moment, a droplet of water condenses in her palm, the warmth of it leeching back out into the air until she has a tiny ball of ice rolling around in her hand.

The moment she stops concentrating, it melts again.

Margo lets out a hiss of annoyance. That, she suspects, will end up being the hardest part of her thesis project next year. Getting the fucking thing to stay created.

There's a clatter of footsteps as a pair of students come down the stairs — Kasey Palan and Reilly Leary, both third-years, she notes with a quick glance up. Palan is ready to head off but Leary taps his elbow, 'be right back', and ducks into the common area.

Margo doesn't have any strong personal opinions on Leary, except that Eliot's been mad at him since the big party end of first-year, so she's frozen him out in solidarity. They seem to be patching things up, but she plans to keep an eye on the situation.

“Eliot! Kasey and I are headed out to dinner, wanna join?” Leary sends a look her way, adds, “Margo is invited too, of course.”

Eliot's eyes lift from his work, flick up and down Leary, then back down to his sketch. “Family buffet-style, I assume? I'm sure I have nothing to wear to a place like that.”

Leary sighs, gently, and she gives him a closer look.

He is dressed casually but better, she thinks, than normal. Making a vague effort before talking to Eliot.

Hmm, she could warn him, but watching him try and fail at a play for El's affection would probably be funnier.

“Maybe next time,” Leary says, and Eliot makes a vague, noncommittal noise.

After he leaves. Well, when he's probably left but if he is close enough to hear her voice — which naturally carries across a room — that's not her fault, she asks, “So, do we not hate him anymore?”

“We're in a state of indifference,” Eliot says, in a tight voice that is not as breezy and uncaring as he wants it to be. But it means he doesn't want her to push.

She adores Eliot more than she's ever cared about anyone in her life, but they've never really been the sort of friends who talked shit out. They're more the kind that get drunk together and then fuck someone pretty.

This is not a coping mechanism that will continue to work for them now, post-Q. The thought arrives with an unwelcome thud in her brain.

They've been puttering along for quite a while using the same patterns they fell into right at the start — even their secrets trial had only been a blip, a confirmation that this is what they need from each other — and she's not quite sure of her footing, all of a sudden.

She remembers — as vividly and brilliantly as if it had happened just moments ago — she remembers the first time she and El met.

She'd been overwhelmed at the idea magic was real, as geeky in her enthusiasm as Q or Julia ever were. Maybe more, because she'd spent years burying her childhood fantasies under the pantyhose and lipsticks and sex that had terrified authors like C.S. Lewis so much. She'd said something about… hoping she got sorted into Slytherin and she'd heard a voice, low and clear, with a little bit of an unfamiliar accent around the edges.

He'd said, “Oh, a nerd, huh?”

They'd both been out on the lawn, after the written test but before they were called in to talk to Fogg. She'd noticed him, of course, because it was hard to miss six-foot-infinity of lankiness wandering around, and she'd bristled at his voice, saying defensively, “Hardly counts. Everyone knows Harry Potter.”

He'd chuckled, and said, “Don't be embarrassed. Nerds are hot. If you were a guy, I'd be asking for your number.”

And the way he said it.

Margo has never felt- butterflies in her stomach, or her heart beating faster for reasons that didn't have an obvious biological reason. But she thinks maybe, that moment on the lawn, meeting Eliot the first time… it wasn't a nervous or fluttery feeling but it was-

-oh, something inside her had said. Let's keep this one.

She still feels that way, every time she looks at him.

In all the ways that really matter, she's sure that Eliot is the big love of her life. She's never said exactly that out loud, because words are clunky and bullshit, but she thinks — she hopes he knows. She's told him the most important part of it, anyway.

“Keep me updated,” she tells him and comes over to drop a kiss on the top of his head. He blinks up at her from the couch, long and sleepy, like a cat.

“It's hardly a riveting melodrama, but I'll let you know if anything changes,” and he turns back to his work, sketching out the flowing lines of Louisa's curls. “Are you headed anywhere interesting? I can change.”

“Clubbing, I think,” Margo says, vaguely. She feels an itch to be around mundanes, to fuck someone who doesn't know about magic and really blow their mind. “You can come if you want, of course.”

She wants him to say 'yes', she realizes, about half a moment before he does say-

“Thanks, Bambi, but not tonight.”

She likes Quentin. She's adjusting to the reality of Quentin being a part of their lives and their relationship. But she's not sure how she feels about Quentin changing things even when he isn't actually around.

“You want me to stop by your room, after?”

“Always,” he says, firmly, glancing back up at her and then leaning far enough to briefly press his mouth against her chin. “Have fun, dearest.”

“Always,” she echoes back to him.

 


 

It takes him and Alice the longest to master the mind control exercise. He's not surprised about himself, but he hadn't been expecting Alice to be as bad.

He can't argue with her reasons, though.

“It seems so cruel,” she mourns, dropping down to sit on the edge of his bed. He's stretched along the length of it, naturally, because that is literally what beds are for. “Even if they are just bugs.”

“Yeah,” Quentin sighs in agreement. “It's hard to, I don't know. Reconcile what I want magic to be with what it actually is, sometimes. Magic that's about pain or control doesn't feel like magic.”

Alice makes a sharp disgruntled sound, then leans back on her hand, studying him with a closeness that makes him wiggle a little, uncomfortable.

“You're kind,” she says. “But you don't always want people to know it. Like Margo and Eliot, I guess.”

It's a strange sort of compliment but he smiles at her.

“She suggested that I ask you out sometime, if I wanted to. On a date.” And Alice is- fluttery and nervous in a way she never is and part of him admires for-for doing something that really is so… so incredibly brave. “Or, well, she was really suggesting I ask you if you want to have sex with me, but that's not really-”

And she keeps talking after that, but it has a hard time getting to him. He feels- cold and weird and- and something.

“-you think?” Alice finishes up, an eternity and a half later, and there's a soft hope on her face that he can imagine finding appealing, in another life.

“I don't know,” he says, and even his lips feel stiff and heavy. “Give me some time to think about it?”

And then he's alone and he just-

That last time, the last time Heather had fucked him. She'd slapped his thigh. Joked about wanting to take him with her to London in her suitcase.

He didn't enjoy the sex. He knows that now. They didn't really talk when they were together. They didn't even have anything in common. He would have been miserable there, if he'd gone with her. Some part of him had known that, even then, he thinks.

It hadn't stopped him from shamefully — desperately — asking. No, begging, begging for her to take him anyway. He'd already been crying, and he must have been a fucking mess, tears and snot and his soft cock on display the way she liked it.

“Oh, Coldwater, come on,” she'd said, all airy and dismissive. “You knew it had to end eventually. No need to get all weepy. I'm sure you'll find someone else to fuck you. Hell, if you want, I can write up a reference. Anonymous, of course.” Lightly, like it was a joke they were both in on.

And she'd yanked her strap-on out of him — leaving him aching and open — and it was like- like she'd just flipped off a switch. Or maybe there hadn't ever really been anything there to begin with.

He still doesn't know.

He still, apparently, hasn't fucking learned a goddamn thing.

Margo and Eliot are being- a lot nicer about it, trying to soften the blow by setting him up with Alice. It's probably… after a while, he'll think of it as sweet.

They'll… still be his friends. He thinks. There won't be any parting comments asking him not to come to a goodbye party, to avoid him causing a scene. They'll just… drift back into being regular friends.

And they gave him time to get used to the idea, didn't spring it on him in the middle of nowhere during sex. They probably expected Alice to- to bring it up a lot sooner, right after they all arrived.

He should be grateful, honestly.

Quentin curls around his pillow and-

He flushes, wonders how the conversation had gone. In his head, Margo is playing the role of a used car salesman, while Eliot elegantly drapes himself along the furniture in the background. This one only has a few months of wear-and-tear, she's saying, plenty of life left in him for a discerning customer.

It helps, maybe, to make it ridiculous. So he doesn't have to think-

Well, so that he doesn't have to actually think.

After Heather had left, he'd drifted in a fog for most of the summer. Until things had gotten bad enough that he'd- he'd checked himself in, to make sure he didn't do something stupid.

It won't be like that this time — Julia knows already, so he won't just be stewing in his own thoughts for weeks. It's not a secret, in any possible way. Everyone knows.

Of course, that also means that literally everyone will know they're done with him, which. They probably already-

Oh.

That message that Quentin never delivered. From that annoying third-year boy who wanted Eliot to know- what was it? That he was free to talk that night? Something like that. He would have already known Quentin would be leaving that night for Brakebills South.

If Eliot had- had told him too, and- all Quentin's silly fantasies about Margo and Eliot talking about him… he doesn't want-

He hopes they haven't been-

No, he knows them better than that. They wouldn't-

His mouth twists as he remembers laughing when Margo told him and El about the guy she'd banged with the bent dick.

“Get over yourself, Coldwater,” he says, out loud in his cold, silent room. He knew going in that this was just sex. That it was only going to be for as long as Margo and Eliot wanted him. And he needs to get the fuck over it before he gets back to Brakebills proper.

He isn't going to be able to take Alice up on her offer, though. He needs to- to at least see them again, first. See their faces. Make sure.

And then he'll get over himself and be a fucking grownup about it.

 


 

Less than a week to go and Margo is gonna drive him off a cliff with all her second-guessing about Encanto Oculto.

“It's a good gift, Bambi.” Eliot lounges on the couch, cocktail in hand, and tries to sound reassuring but it's been exhausting, watching her tear through everything the Cottage has to offer. “Even the Elders don't want sand in their unmentionables. They'll love it.”

The small anti-sand flute is certainly an improvement over the literal bag of dicks they'd brought last time.

There's quite a crowd gathered at this point, to watch Margo work herself up. Even most of the third-years have come downstairs as her noise level has escalated.

He doesn't, necessarily, blame them.

Encanto Oculto is fun and warm and sensual once you get in, but it's also invite only, and there are a bare handful of other Brakebills students on the list.

Margo has also been trying on prospective outfits while she searches for the perfect gift, and Eliot may not be a breast-man himself, but he does feel a vague sense of sympathy towards any lady-inclined persons, watching Margo bounce around in a tiny bikini with decorative fringe and sky-high heels spelled to give her perfect balance.

Between those two enticements, Eliot doesn't wonder much at the other Physical Kids for drifting towards her like moths to the assuredly deadly flame. It's completely understandable.

“Ugh, but is it enough to cover all three of us?” Margo asks, fretfully, as she drops to her knees to search through another box. “You remember what Daro said last time: 'please put some effort into the exercise, children'. All drawling and sarcastic.”

“Three?” The voice is, regrettably, familiar and Eliot glances over to see- Todd, looking unaccountably excited.

He's leaning against the banister, wearing an ear-to-ear grin.

“Yeah, three,” Margo says, in a voice that clearly implies, and what of it?

Todd does not pick up on her tone at all, because his response is an enthusiastic, “If you're taking a third person along this year, I'd be more than happy to tag along. I can even bring my own gift!”

“It's not a lottery,” Eliot says, and Todd's head whips around towards him. “It's for Quentin.”

“What, Coldwater?” Reilly's voice from… over there, in the corner with Erika and Kasey. Eliot hadn't noticed him joining the general group. He- he doesn't bristle or stiffen up, instead makes himself relax even more languidly against the couch. “That nervous little thing of yours, on display in Ibiza? Jesus, Eliot, you're rough on your toys.”

He notices the room get quiet but only hazily, at the corner of his awareness.

No one is surprised. That's the thing that hits him. Oh, they're looking at Margo and at him, to clock their reactions, but there weren't any gasps of shock that Reilly would say something like that in the first place. Only that he would say it in front of them.

This is something people have been saying about Q behind his back. For fuck knows how long.

He wants to-

-to lash out, of course. To defend Quentin. But what would… what would he say? Yeah, we fuck him but it's not like that. Not like you're making it sound.

“I don't have to be rough on him, because he knows how to keep his fucking mouth shut,” is what Eliot actually does say, sharp as glass. He doesn't stand up. He's not entirely sure that he could stand up right now. There's a dizzying rush of anger bubbling under his skin, pushing him off-balance.

Reilly flinches and that's what Eliot had wanted but- he doesn't feel like he won anything.

“Quentin is our business, not yours,” Margo says, tilting her chin up combatively and taking a step towards Reilly. “Back the fuck off.”

And Margo may be small but she packs the steely glowering stare of a goddamn empress when she wants to, and Reilly holds his hands up, backs away.

“Sorry, didn't mean to overstep.” Reilly is still mostly facing towards Eliot. “And I wouldn't say anything if he were here, of course, I wouldn't. Even the easiest lay can get fussy if-”

Reilly's words are cut short by the grip Eliot's telekinesis seizes around his vocal cords.

It only lasts a moment before Eliot drops it again, horrified at himself. He's not sure anyone else noticed or if they just think Reilly stopped himself because of the fury on Margo's face.

“I'm sorry,” Eliot says, smoothly. Calm as he can force himself to be. He has to stay calm. He can't afford to get so mad that things — or people — start breaking. “You were saying something?”

He stares up at Reilly, and Eliot needs every inch, every ounce of his armor right now, to will Reilly to back the fuck down.

“Just that I'm surprised you're taking him,” Reilly says. His hand lifts up, towards his throat, but drops before it gets there. “That's all. Your business, of course.” He shoots a wary glance over at Margo, still battle-ready and glaring.

“Glad we got that cleared up,” Margo says. “Now, darling, I have a few more outfits to pick for Ibiza. Be a sweetheart and come help me decide.”

“Of course,” Eliot says, and he uses his magic to bolster the steadiness of his muscles and tendons, so that he won't wobble or shake as he stands. “I would be delighted.”

They sweep up the stairs together, stately and in unison, until they're in Margo's room, door shut and — with a few tuts from Margo — a silencing ward placed around them.

“What the fuck?” Margo drops down to the edge of her bed, shaken. “Abusing your discipline like that could get you kicked out. What were you thinking?”

“I wanted him to shut up,” Eliot says, distantly. It's probably for the best that she'd noticed, even if part of him wishes she hadn't.

“We could have handled that with words. Or, fuck, I could have kneed him in the balls. That was dangerous, El.” She's right, of course. The memory of Logan lingers, as always, in the background. The evidence of exactly how dangerous Eliot can be, when provoked.

He fiddles with a picture on her dresser — one of her newer ones. It doesn't only have the two of them, but has Q's whole group of friends jammed into the frame, too. Julia, her hair in pigtails, is squished up next to Q, with Kady almost climbing on her back and Penny keeping a careful inch of space away. Alice, crammed right in front of Quentin, is showing off a spell, bending a beam of white light into a prism. He remembers Margo taking it, an impulsive selfie she'd used a tut to power her cell up to shoot.

“An easy lay,” Eliot says, quietly. “Jesus.”

It's so counter to how he views Quentin that his mind stutters to think of it, even now.

“I think it might be my fault,” Margo says and-

No,” he assures her, fiercely, going to his knees in front of her, taking her hands in both of his. “Of course, it isn't, Bambi. Why would you even think that?”

She tightens her fingers around his. “I think I- when Quentin first moved in, there was that rumor he was my boyfriend. And I came down on it really fucking hard.”

“Oh,” Eliot says. And he can see it now, he thinks, the strangled line of twisty gossip that led from there to here. “You were so mad about it that even the third-years were nervous about going into the common room.”

“But not Quentin. He came right in and I was all over him,” she says, resigned. “I threw him to the goddamn wolves when I did that, and I didn't even realize it.”

“The Brakebills rumor mill is not your responsibility, dearest,” he tells her. He gives her a comforting kiss on the sweet-smelling bend of her neck. “Do you think Quentin knows?”

“I'm certain he doesn't.” She sighs, lets go of one of his hands so that she can cup the back of his head. “I put the fear of me into everyone. Much more effective than the fear of God.”

“We should get everything packed up and ready before he gets back,” Eliot says, with another soft kiss against her neck as he clings to her. “So we can head off to Ibiza before the wolves have a chance to tattle to him.”

“Do you think anyone would?” she asks.

Reilly might. Eliot certainly would, in his place.

“I need some time with him,” he says, instead of answering directly. “I need to tell him-”

Except he's still not certain what, exactly, he plans to tell Quentin. All he has, right now, is the list of things that Quentin isn't: not a toy or a game or a passing fucking fancy. A friend, of course, in the same overwhelming, drowning way that Margo is, but that's not quite right, either. He's never accidentally said Margo's name while getting blown.

Well, Quentin will be back in five days.

Eliot's got that long to figure it out.

 


 

Being a fox is, possibly, the most amazing thing Quentin has done in his life.

He takes another running leap at a snowbank and buries himself head-first in it, wiggles out again. Rolls around on the firm, cold but lovely lovely snow.

He'd been worried when Sunderland had said that animal transformation was their final lesson. Becoming a goose had been awful. Being a goose, not so bad, but the process had-

-well, really fucking hurt.

That is, apparently, because his body had been too used to being only one thing. The main thing is to teach his body that it can be other things, too. And once the barrier is broken, it gets easier.

Which is a huge fucking relief, because being a fox is like being wrapped up in the fluffiest blanket in the world, sipping cocoa and staring out at the snowy winter night. He's glad that he doesn't have to go through feeling like several thousand shards of glass are being poked through his skin in order to get here.

He snuggles down into the snowbank, feels his tail – his tail! – shift to help him balance.

Having a tail is a revelation. He can say so much with it! He feels so much more graceful with a tail, too, helping him navigate his way around the big tall world outside the hulking Brakebills South building.

Maybe he can keep the tail, when he goes back to being a human person.

Quentin coils around himself, turns that thought over and over in his head.

Being a human person feels like such a waste of time. It's all- talking to other humans and figuring out what they mean and trying to read their faces to figure out their thoughts. Exhausting!

Kissing is good. He would miss kissing, probably, if he stayed a fox.

He's thinking this, thinking very hard, when he feels himself suddenly bowled over.

Quentin lies sideways on the snowbank. Assaulted. Destroyed. Betrayed at every turn.

Julia licks his nose and yips demandingly at him to come play.

Playing does sound, on reflection, like a thing that could be enjoyable. He rolls himself onto the soft pads of his paws, takes a teasing feint towards Julia's neck, and bounds away, towards the others.

He pounces on Kady while she's distracted. Ends up tumbling head-over-tail when she stands her ground. He nuzzles at her apologetically until she relaxes.

Then, when she lowers her guard, he jumps up again, this time managing to knock her onto her side.

Quentin celebrates his victory by sitting on top of her until someone else — Alice! — knocks him back down again.

And so it goes, until they've all exhausted themselves out and lie panting in small piles. He's not sure how long it's been – even if time weren't hard to tell as a fox, some part of him remembers that days and nights down here aren't the same as what he's used to. He's dozing, half-covered by Penny and lying across Julia, with Nick's tail hitting his face every now and then, when he suddenly feels his body being lifted up by the neck.

He cranes around, trying to see. He doesn't feel in danger – it feels... comforting, in an odd way. When he wiggles about, he can make out the tall, rangy body of the wolf that Sunderland had turned into after they were all foxes. He's been aware, in a vague way, that she was circling around their play area, to keep them safe, but he hadn't seen much of her.

She carries him into what looks a bit like a horse stall, drops him onto a pile of white material.

Oh, a uniform.

Her long muzzle nudges his side, then she turns and trots off, pausing to push the door to the stall closed with her body.

Right, time to be a human person again.

Quentin focuses on himself, like she'd explained in the lesson earlier. Feels his current body, all small and compact and much more sensible than his normal one. His warm fur that he doesn't have to worry about changing or whether people approve of how it looks. His twitching, sensitive nose that smells so much more clearly than his own usual one.

Now, he has to- think about being human.

He tucks his muzzle under his paw. Being human is so much work.

And when he becomes human again, when they all do, it'll be time to go back to Brakebills.

Brakebills is... complicated, like all human things are complicated.

He hasn't wanted to deal with any of the Brakebills-related things and they've been so busy that it's been easy to avoid thinking about it. Going back means dealing with- means adjusting to a new reality.

Will Margo and Eliot be- be disappointed in Quentin if he comes back obviously not coupled up with Alice?

Quentin noses into the white clothes under his body, paws not enough to cover his whole face.

Will they try pushing him towards someone else?

Julia has spent years, really, playing the 'have you met my friend Quentin' game. It's excruciating enough coming from her, even after he'd mostly gotten over his crush on her. He's not sure how well he could handle it coming from-

Especially since it's not as though any of Julia's attempts at setting him up ever went anywhere. Even before his- whatever with Heather- he was always awkward and weird and rambling about things that he only later realized they were finding completely boring.

Quentin sighs, which turns into something like a whine.

Good things. Good things about being human.

Reading. He can't read as a fox. Can't even turn pages.

He wouldn't be able to go visit his dad again, if he stays a fox.

He wouldn't-

He misses them, he does miss them. They're probably together right now, talking and drinking and smoking. Eliot all long and languid on a couch, with his head on Margo's stomach.

Maybe he can convince them they still want him? He's not seductive or sexy or anything like that, but he knows the sorts of things they like. If he has a- he wants to talk to them about it anyway which will be-

-it'll be difficult, he knows, because Eliot ducks away from conversations that feel too personal, deflects whenever Quentin tries to find out more about him. And Margo always turns it into a teaching moment of some kind, then teases him out of it. They know so much more about him than he knows about them. No wonder they're bored of him.

Quentin curls his tail in between his back legs.

He tries to remember what that boy looked like, the self-important third-year who wanted the message passed along to Eliot. A little taller than Quentin, but not much. Dark hair, he thinks, but not as dark as Eliot's. Pale eyes.

Honestly, a lot more attractive than Quentin is, though nothing compared to Eliot, of course.

“Quentin?” Julia's voice, from outside the door. “Is everything okay in there?”

He wiggles more deeply under the pile of clothes, squishing himself as tiny and small as he can manage.

“Do you need me to get Sunderland?”

He stays very silent and still and pretends he isn't there.

The door swings up and he feels the entire bunch of clothes – himself included – lifted up into Julia's arms.

“You've been in here for over an hour, Q.”

Has he? It hasn't felt that long.

He peeks up out of the fabric and licks the underside of Julia's chin. Maybe he can just-

-stay a fox. Become Julia's familiar or whatever. That sounds like a viable career choice.

“You're gonna feel weird about doing that when you're you again,” she tells him. Ridiculous. He's just as him as he ever is. “Come on, let's get you back to your room. Maybe that'll help.”

She dumps him on his narrow little bed. It's even less comfortable when he's a fox, somehow. She puts the clothes next to him.

“Is it...” Her voice softens and she strokes his neck, digs her fingers into his thick fur. “We didn't talk about it, but something's been bothering you. Is that why you don't want to be you again?”

It's Julia's gentlest tone. Her Quentin-just-came-out-of-the-hospital voice.

Part of him wants to protest against it.

On the other hand, he's also still a fox and is having a hard time coming up with reasons to be human again so-

Maybe she has a point.

He crawls into her lap and makes himself the tiniest of balls there, resting his muzzle on his thigh.

“Oh, Q,” she sighs. There's a quiet moment, her hand resting on his neck.

Then she starts, in a familiar cadence, to recite the opening lines of Fillory and Further. He tucks himself in more tightly against her, listens to the well-known words, to the rise and fall of her voice.

He does, slowly, start to feel more and more of-

-of Quentin Coldwater, human person who reads books and loves Fillory and magic and-

-seeping back into him, as she talks. Quentin Coldwater is not terribly impressive, as people go. But he is not entirely unloved. He has a friend who will sit with him and tell him their favorite story from memory when he doesn't feel up to human-ing. That's a pretty great thing.

He has magic. Undefined and not particularly flashy, but magic all the same.

He has a future, stranger and brighter and better than he'd imagined it could ever be, before he stumbled onto the bright campus of Brakebills.

He-

-is naked and overflowing on Julia's lap.

“Um!”

He falls off, onto the cold floor.

“Ow.”

He feels some fabric get dropped down onto his lower body.

“Thanks, Jules,” he says, cheeks hot but, hey, human again, so that's probably for the best. “I'll meet you in the entrance hall?”

“See you there,” she says, her voice full of – thankfully suppressed – laughter. “And we'll talk back at Brakebills, okay?”

She dashes out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Quentin lies on the floor for another minute. He does feel a little embarrassed over licking Julia's face and climbing into her lap, but it's easy enough to dismiss those as fox-things. It's all the nagging human things that are still bothering him so much.

After he gets dressed and goes to the entrance hall. Once they're all there. It'll be time to portal back to Brakebills. He'll need to talk to Eliot and Margo and see if maybe-

-there's a chance, maybe, that they weren't actually trying to end things. Alice doesn't strike him as the type of person to share though, so he can't imagine them suggesting anything to her and it not meaning that they're bored of fucking him? But they don't know Alice as well as he does, probably, so there's a shot.

Or even if they are bored, maybe he can think of something to change their minds. He's been- hesitant to make suggestions himself, so maybe he's been too- passive. Maybe- maybe they think he's bored.

Okay, no, that's a stupid thought. He's always too much of a flustered mess at the end of things for them to ever think that.

Quentin makes himself get up, drags on his underwear and pants, then he sits on the edge of the bed for a while.

He can feel his brain trying to tick into patterns he doesn't want to repeat. Margo and El have made it clear, very loudly clear, that they are not interested in fucking him in ways he doesn't enjoy. Even if he would- would rather let them than lose them, they don't want that. Margo would grab his chin and ask, hey, you still having fun, honey? Or Eliot would cup the back of his neck and say, we can skip this and do something else.

If they really are done with him, he might not have any cards he can play to convince them to change their minds.

He pulls the shirt over his head, tugs it down.

He doesn't have enough information. He doesn't know why. They'll tell him that much, at least. And he'll explain that he doesn't- he won't expire and die if he goes for a few months without sex. That there's no need to throw other people at him, even if they aren't interested anymore.

Quentin feels a touch more settled as he finishes getting dressed, grabs his nearly-empty bottle of pills and stuffs it into his pocket.

He's the last one to arrive but Sunderland's smile seems... tolerant.

“Portal work can be intricate and delicate,” she tells them. “Watch me carefully, but none of you should worry if you don't pick it up.”

Her hands move gracefully, but at a steady pace, so that they can watch. She does it non-verbally, and it shows in her gestures too, more forceful and staccato. When she finishes, she swings open the door and-

-it's the bright, sun-drenched lawn of Brakebills, rolling out on the other side, tempting and home, in a way nothing has ever been.

When it's his turn to go through, he pauses at the threshold.

“Are you still feeling the aftereffects of transformation?” Sunderland asks, sounding slightly more fussy than normal. He wonders if she still feels a little bit like a protective mama wolf looking after a troublesome set of puppies. “They'll wear off in a few more hours.”

“Mostly just nervous,” he admits. “Brakebills feels like a dream. Like once I step through the door, it'll be months ago, and none of what happened there was real.”

He takes a deep breath, and steps through anyway.

Being back at Brakebills is-

Quentin breathes in the warm air, his body stunned by the differences between the two places. Like stepping into a cozy house after being out in a snowstorm, but even better. He can feel the buzz of strong ambient magic in the air, coating every breath he takes in.

He follows the cluster of other first-years. Part of him wants to rush back to the Cottage, see Eliot and Margo but-

Then he'll have to talk to them, which is going to be a lot to deal with. So, instead of following Kady and Alice back to the Cottage, he trails behind Julia and the other Knowledge students as they head to the library and the Attic.

As they troop into the library, he spots a few students studying and it's an odd thing to realize – that they've been doing normal class work while he's been out being a fox and a goose. He cheerfully says “Hey, stranger!” to Todd as he passes by and-

-and Todd lifts his head, and says, “Shit, Quentin, you're back already?” in a voice that's much too loud for the library and gets him a few annoyed stares. More quietly, he whispers, “Congrats on Ibiza. That's a pretty big deal.”

“I was in Antarctica,” Quentin says, slowly. “At Brakebills South.”

“Did they-” Todd's face crinkles up, confused. “They didn't tell you they're taking you to Encanto Oculto?”

There's really only one 'they' that Todd means when he says it like that, all reverent and low.

And, now that he mentions it, that is something that sounds vaguely familiar from- from a conversation Margo and Eliot had just before Quentin left. Vacation plans.

“I wasn't really listening,” he admits. “They just said, you know. A vacation?”

“They didn't tell you they're taking you to magic orgy week?” Todd asks. Loudly. There are more stares and one student hisses at him to keep it down.

“Magic what week?” Julia asks from behind him, her voice sharp.

Wow, and no matter what Todd means by that, Quentin does not want to have this conversation in the middle of the Brakebills library, so he grabs Todd by the elbow and yanks him up out of his chair.

“Um, Jules, is it okay if we talk in your room real fast?”

She's... glowering, when he glances behind himself, which is awkward because-

-well, she's making some assumptions, he thinks, that she probably shouldn't be making.

Anyway, he's not surprised when she follows them into her room and shuts the door firmly, still glaring.

“What the fuck is 'magic orgy week'?” she asks and that's- look, he appreciates that she cares, but there are other things-

“I mean, it's a huge deal. There's a Bacchanal – rumor has it Bacchus himself appears? I've never been and they don't really talk about it, so I can't – and it's basically like, a solid week of drugs and sex and magic.” Todd says all this with the starry-eyed expression that Quentin is pretty sure he himself has when talking about Fillory which is... a thing to think about later, maybe. “Margo and Eliot wrangled an invite last year – through an apparently hilarious story that they refuse to actually tell – and they're taking you this year.”

“Why?” Julia asks, suspiciously, and he really should tell her to let him do the talking on this one? Except he's not certain what to ask because he's not really sure what to think.

Todd looks- deeply uncomfortable. Kinda like he'd be running out of the room if Julia weren't standing in front of the door. He darts a look at Quentin, who shrugs.

He's honestly- he's not sure how this fits into his earlier theory about why they'd told Alice to ask him out. And he's not certain what 'orgy week' entails in terms of, uh. Watching them have sex with other people or having sex with other people while they're watching? Which is a thing that's hot in his daydreams but he's not sure how well it would translate to reality.

“I mean... to have... sex with?” Todd's voice gets more and more high-pitched as he works his way through the sentence. “I assume? I mean, that's what.... Fuck. Margo's gonna kill me.”

“Why would Margo be mad?” Quentin asks. “I mean, uh. Our mutual embarrassment aside-” and he can practically feel Julia's empathetic stare beating against the side of his face, but first he's gotta deal with Todd, apparently. “It's not a secret that I'm- um. Friends with benefits. With, uh. Them.”

“So you do have sex with Eliot too?” Todd asks, then he holds his hands up. “I mean! Wow! Not my business! Your sex life is absolutely none of my business and I should go now.” He looks pleadingly at Julia. “I should go now?”

“Why would Margo be mad?” Quentin asks, again, more firmly. “Seriously. It's not that big a deal?”

“Okay, I'm pretty sure it is, in fact, a pretty big deal?” Todd fidgets. Looks longingly at the door. “Like, Margo almost punched out a third-year over it?”

“What are you talking about?” Quentin asks. “When did- over me?” That can't be right.

Todd looks around, then seems to resign himself to his fate. “Look. Margo has made it really clear she doesn't want us, like, gossiping about you? I'm sorry I brought it up. I just assumed you already knew about Ibiza but I guess they-” he shrugs. “I guess they didn't make it clear what it was about. Which... you probably have the right to know. Dammit. I- Quentin-” he lets out a heavy breath, glances between Quentin and Julia. “I have a lot of admiration for Eliot and Margo, I do. But they aren't the nicest people in the world. And just- just because they think they own something doesn't mean they actually do?”

“I don't... what?” Quentin feels so much more confused now than when the conversation started.

“What do they think they own?” Julia asks, and there's a deceptive amount of sweetness in her voice, for people who don't actually know her.

Todd glances over at Quentin, nervous and quick and then flicking again and- which.

What?

“What?” Quentin says again, out loud. “That's ridiculous.”

“Q, we should talk,” Julia says, and she steps away – Todd immediately makes a break for it, her door bouncing off the hallway wall as it slams open and he bolts out. She closes her door again, with a sigh. “Is this why you were upset at Brakebills South? And so nervous about telling them you wanted more than what you already had? Did they say something to make you think that-”

“-that they own me?” Quentin finishes, incredulously. “Jesus, no. That's not- that's not an issue here, I swear.”

“You don't have to protect them,” she says, fierce and sweet and- completely misguided. “I know you might feel like you owe them a lot for being your mentors-”

“Jules, listen to me, okay?” Quentin interrupts. “That is so completely not the issue.”

Jesus, maybe they don't want to fuck him anymore-

-which, okay, as a theory, he doesn't think it holds up after this new information but-

-they don't think of him as a fucking possession.

“Look, I don't want to believe it either,” Julia says, but-

“Then don't,” he says, flatly. “It's not true, so don't believe it.”

“What were you so worried about, then?” she asks. “You didn't even want to be you again.”

“I was too all up in my head about things, I think,” Quentin says. “Everything that happened here was starting to feel too good to be true. That's all.”

“I want to talk to them about it,” she says, mulishly, which sounds like the worst possible-

“Please don't,” he says, pained. He goes to her and wraps her up in a tight hug. “Come on, you like them now too. Admit it. You can trust them a little bit.”

“Conditional affection, to be immediately revoked if they mistreat my best friend,” she says, hugging him back as tightly. “Let me at least give them the shovel talk.”

“We aren't actually dating,” he reminds her. “I still need to tell them I even want to, remember?”

“I could pull off a friends-with-benefits shovel talk.” She brushes his hair out of his face after she pulls back from the hug. “You gonna tell them before this big Ibiza trip?”

“I mean, that's- wow,” Quentin says, because his brain got stuck there for a moment and he'd actually forgotten there was even a magic orgy week involved in any of this. “Um. Do you think I should? I mean, it sounds like a sex thing. If I ask and they say 'no', then either I won't actually get to go or it'll be. Awkward?”

Julia laughs. “Are you saying that you think the orgies won't be awkward if you don't tell them?”

He sorta shrugs. “I mean- um. They won't try to trick me into doing anything I don't like, Jules.”

“Oh my god.” Her eyes get real wide. “You're totally up for the orgies, aren't you? Holy shit, Q.”

It's a lot more than he wants Julia to know about his sexual fantasies, to be honest, but at this point, he's not sure how to avoid her knowing way more than makes either of them comfortable.

“I know you trust them,” she says, after a moment, more gently. “But- be careful, okay? You're right. I shouldn't have believed Todd like that but- he's not wrong that they aren't always nice. So, look after yourself around them.”

He kisses her on the cheek, tender and grateful. “I promise.”

 


 

The Physical Cottage has been a sharp-edged, walking-on-eggshells mess since the big blow-out last week. Margo kinda fucking hates it, the way things go quiet and everyone gets nervous when they see her or Eliot enter a room.

Reilly hasn't told any of the teachers or Fogg about Eliot's slip-up.

Theoretically, he could, at any moment.

Eliot isn't worried about it, or so he says. He's more worried about Quentin getting wind of the rumors.

Or so he says.

There's no way to be sure exactly when the first-years will come back or where Sunderland will place the return portal, though, so it's all just a waiting game now. They have their own bags and Quentin's all packed up for the trip to Ibiza, most of them danging in miniature off a charm bracelet on Margo's wrist, and that's the best they can do until he gets back.

She needs some relaxation and debauchery now more than ever. And because of this- situation, they'll be leaving early, roughly two days before it starts, if Quentin gets back soon, so Margo's arranged for a little villa on the northern coast until the official party begins. It's a good idea, actually, to ease Quentin into the idea of it before just throwing him at a beach full of orgies and sex magic.

She's making a drink for herself when the door opens and- Kady and Alice come in, chattering away, oblivious to the tension already in the room. Looks like Brakebills South did their friendship good.

She waits a moment, but Quentin doesn't come in after them.

Well.

Margo doesn't bother trying to be subtle about it. She perches on the chair opposite Alice and Kady. Asks, “Where's Coldwater?”

“Oh, I think he went with Julia,” Alice says. “Do you need him for something?”

“He's my friend,” she says, as much to the tense stillness in the room as she does to Alice and Kady. “And it's been a while since I saw him.”

“They went to the Attic,” Kady adds. She's the first of the two who seems to pick up the vibe in the room, because she glances around curiously. “Probably still there? Coldwater's generally a talker, once you get him started on something.”

“Mmmhmm, thank you,” Margo says. “So, don't know if Sunderland told you, but it's spring break now. Enjoy it! Do someone fun.”

She winks at them and hops up from the chair, heading out to the back patio, where she's hoping-

Yeah, Eliot's still there, practicing that diagnostic medical spell on one of his sketches.

“Time to jet, El,” she tells him and his head pops right up.

“Yeah, okay,” he says, in that distant, distracted way he's been ever since-

Anyway, he rolls up the sketch and tucks it away, then gets up and takes her hand, and they head in the direction of the library's Attic housing for the Knowledge students. Eliot is, as he's been throughout this past week, much too quiet for her tastes. She wishes he would confide in her more about his fears. Fuck, she wishes she were better at asking about it.

They run into Quentin when he's leaving the library- almost literally, because he freezes like a wild deer the moment he spots them. Which, well. Fuck.

“You took your time,” she says, disengaging from El's arm so that she can sweep up Quentin's. Instead of heading back towards the Cottage, she starts a nice, leisurely stroll towards the door they've cleared with the faculty to have set up as a portal to the beach at Cala Comte. It's not terribly close to where Encanto Oculto itself will be held, but she thinks Quentin will like the nearby restaurant. “We have a lovely surprise for you!”

“If you want it,” Eliot says, from a step behind them.

Margo rolls her eyes. She refuses to be part of whatever ridiculous self-sabotage schemes Eliot may have in mind. “There's this party on the island of Ibiza.”

“A magic orgy party?” Quentin asks, dryly and, well, if that's all he heard, then things aren't so bad.

“Some might call it that,” she says, maybe a touch haughtily. “Honestly, little Q, it's a chance to relax. Let your hair down. You can have as much or as little sex as you want. Though, it's true that it's about the safest place for banging that exists.”

“It's been used as a yearly retreats for centuries,” Eliot says, and he's come up along her other side now, properly joining the conversation. “Centuries upon centuries of magical wards being reinforced annually. Protection from disease, protection from conception, protection from violence.”

“Plus, it's fucking gorgeous.” She leans her head against Quentin's shoulder as she steers him. “Protection from UV rays is also part of the warding, so you can lay out on the sand as long as you want.”

“Of course I want to go,” Quentin says and it's-

-well, of course, he does. Why wouldn't he? Silly to worry.

“Um, you know, the funny thing is-” Quentin is still talking, so she fixes her attention back on him. “-I'd actually talked myself into thinking that you wanted to stop. All this. That you'd gotten tired of- uh. You know.” He laughs, and it does sound... relieved. Relaxed.

“Well, now you know better.” Margo pats his hand. “El and I rented a nice little house on the island so that you can get used to the climate and culture a bit before all the frenzy and the screwing starts. You ready to go see it?”

“Right now?” He startles a little, looks at them curiously. “Is there a rush?”

“It's officially spring break,” Eliot says, and he still hasn't touched Q yet, since he got back. “No point in wasting the time we have.”

“Unless there's something you're itching to do here first?” Margo prods. Quentin shrugs. “Then now works?”

“Sure?”

And he has good timing, because they come up to the little door on the side of the administration building soon after that. Margo taps on it, activates the portal, swings the door open.

The beach of Cala Comte awaits, glorious white sand and a perfect shimmering ocean beyond. It's glorious and exactly what she would have wanted Quentin's first glimpse of Ibiza to be, so she tugs him on through, Eliot following after.

Quentin is- she's not sure how much traveling he's done, beyond the big trip he just made to Antarctica, because he seems completely stunned, looking all around and blinking rapidly against the bright sunshine.

She tugs an extra pair of sunglasses out of her bag and hands them over, putting on her own pair as well. “Are you hungry? It's a bit of a walk to our destination.”

They're all a little overdressed for the climate, especially Quentin in that clinging but cozy white Brakebills South uniform, but that's fine for right now.

There aren't many hours of daylight left, and if he's not feeling up for the restaurant, there's also the little bar over at the edge of the beach. But he nods, so they have a lovely dinner, al fresco to enjoy every moment of the delightful warm afternoon as it turns to evening.

As the day dips towards the glories of sunset, they head out.

Margo turns around, walks backwards a bit, watching the way Quentin keeps looking at Eliot, then looking away again, and the way Eliot carefully isn't looking at Quentin and why-

-why is she forced to deal with this sort of nonsense, really?

“The uniform really brings out the shape of your dick,” she says, brightly, to make him blush. “So do most of the outfits we packed for you, so well done.”

“Yeah, I don't really have anything suitable for-” he gestures around at the wide expanse of paradise around them. “-so how did you manage to pack anything for me?”

“Oh, baby,” Eliot says, soft and fond, because this is her life now. “We bought you new clothes, naturally.”

“We weren't going to let ourselves be restricted by your fashion sense,” Margo adds. “Because, honestly, honey? It sucks ass.”

“Aw, I thought you liked that,” Quentin says. Teases. “There go my plans for the evening.” And them he looks around and – upon seeing no one – reaches down and tugs up his shirt, over his belly and chest, and then over his head. He wrinkles his nose when it's all the way off, wads it up into a ball. “Am I suppose to return this to someone?”

“We ritually burned them, our year,” Eliot says, reflectively. “Which smelled horrible, so I don't recommend it.”

“Yeah, that was fucking unholy.” Margo purses her lips, remembering. “It was like we were summoning a goddamn demon from the Abyss or some bullshit. Oh! That reminds me. Q, guess which bitch is gonna learn how to create weapons in her hands like a fucking warlock?”

It startles him into a laugh, crinkles up his eyes and makes his chest and stomach tremble. “I'm gonna take a wild leap and say you.”

“Is this the thing you wouldn't tell me?” Eliot asks. He turns towards Quentin, though still not close enough to touch. “She has been cock-blocking me on her fucking thesis project for weeks because she wanted to tell you first.”

“She has?” And why does that make Quentin flush up all over?

“In fairness, I've been doing the same,” Eliot admits, casually, like it hasn't been a goddamn ordeal to hear him fuss over his ideas while he's refused to actually share enough for her to know what he actually plans to do.

“You have?” Quentin's head is on a swivel, basically, as he looks between the two of them.

“Well, you're the biggest nerd I know,” Margo says. “And El's dealing with some weird self-confidence issues. Not sure what's going on there.”

“Thanks, Bambi,” Eliot says, rolling his eyes. “I appreciate your support.”

“What- uh. What are you making the weapons out of?” Quentin asks. “It sounds like you aren't just manifesting something you already own.”

So she tells him about her plan, as far as she's outlined it so far, and by the time she's gotten him and Eliot all caught up, they're at the door. It's dark now, so she can't show off the outside of the house to Quentin, but there's always tomorrow.

There's an odd moment once they get inside, and she thinks she knows why. They'd been banging for a while and then all of sudden, Quentin was just gone for weeks, so they fell out of the habit. And since she's the only one that's still been screwing people in this fallow time, it's up to her to get the ball rolling again.

“El, make us some drinks,” she demands, and goes over to Quentin to claim his sweaty shirt so she can throw it away. “Little Q, you want the grand tour or do you wanna relax first?”

His eyes on hers are, maybe, a bit unsteady. Uncertain.

She brushes her knuckles across his mouth, and he opens up for her, his jaw dropping slightly. Then he falls to his knees, abrupt, with a sound that makes her wince, wraps his arms around her and presses his mouth against her dress, right over her clit. He can't possibly taste anything through all the fabric, but he makes a hungry sound anyway.

“Oh, you got all worked up while you were away, didn't you.” She strokes his hair away from his forehead, leans over to place a kiss on the top of his head. “Got yourself convinced we didn't want you anymore, you said?”

He nods against her.

His hands are tugging at her dress, then smoothing it down again before he pulls it too high. Waiting for permission, like a good boy.

“Go ahead, honey,” she tells him, and then she has to hold onto his hair for dear life as he yanks up at the dress, pulls down on her panties, puts his mouth on her and suck at her like she's the only water in the desert for miles around. “Slower. You can go a little slower. Take your time.” She hitches her leg up over his bare shoulder, sways against him. His mouth gentles against her, less like a fucking vacuum cleaner, the poor desperate boy.

She looks up, and Eliot is leaning against the bar, just watching, eyes dark.

“Get over here,” she mouths at him, but he shies back.

She doesn't have the brains to think about it for long, because Quentin braces one hand around her back so that he can slid the other between her legs, fingers pressing and searching. “You just want to eat me up, don't you,” and she arches up against him, rolling up onto the ball of her foot so she can press against his mouth. “You- ah! You missed it so bad.”

He doesn't answer – or maybe he does, with the licks and the kisses from his mouth and the thrusts and twists from his fingers – and she yanks at his hair and feels half a second from falling over.

Then she feels-

-caught, safe, secure. She leans against the air behind her, suddenly solid enough to hold her up, and looks over at Eliot again.

Who is lowering his hands from a tut.

She frowns but can't focus on it, not with Quentin between her legs licking up at her like he'll die if he takes his mouth away from her cunt for more than long enough for a hasty breath before diving back in. And okay, it's not as intimate as El using his discipline, but she can still, she can-

Margo pushes her shoulders back against the barrier, feels how solid it is, reaches down for Quentin's hand and says, “Hold me- hold me up,” and uses her own, more limited telekinesis to help herself balance so that she can- can wrap her other leg around Quentin's back too, bury him between her thighs.

There's something about not having her feet on the ground – reminds her of flying, maybe, which she can only do in fits and starts. She locks her ankles together behind Q's back, flexes up against his mouth, and relaxes into it, letting Q's hands and Eliot's wall and just a touch of her own magic keep her from falling on her ass as he eats her out.

And she has missed him, too, because he's learned her body so well, knows just where to put his fingers to-

The sound she makes when she comes makes her regret, for a moment, how isolated this place is.

But he'll make her come again during Encanto Oculto, no doubts about that, and there'll be plenty of people around to hear her then.

She doesn't try to move away, lets him keep licking at her and fucking his fingers into her cunt. She's sensitive, but he's so needy that he's trembling for it, and she has some compassion. “That's a good boy,” she tells him, and he whimpers against her pussy. She pets through his hair, sweaty and messy already.

Carefully, she unwraps one leg and sets her foot carefully on the ground as she lets her weight drop onto it again. Quentin makes a grumbly unhappy noise when he feels her pulling away, so she tugs at his hair with a hint of reproach.

“Get up here so I can kiss you, dummy,” she says, and she feels him relax.

He slides back up her body, his hands dragging her dress higher and higher, and she tastes herself on his lips. “You feeling a little less raw now? Mama give you what you need?”

Yes,” Quentin says, into her mouth, kissing the word into her skin. “Yes, yes, yes.” He rubs his wet face against her cheek, licks it off again. He rests his cheek against hers, on the side away from Eliot. Asks, in a quiet undertone, “Eliot hasn't- um. Does he not want...?”

She pulls away, frames Quentin's face with her hands. “You been missing El's cock too, huh?” She can feel his skin heat under her fingers. She strokes his cheeks with her thumbs, says, “You know he likes your voice. Ask him for it.” She does her best to sound- encouraging. Soothing. He stares at her, wide-eyed and nervous.

For a minute, she's not sure if he can.

Then he whispers, “Okay. Okay.” Kisses her again, quavering and tender.

And he goes back down on his knees.

Her dress is all rucked up along her torso and there's no point in keeping it on, so she pulls it off while Quentin is composing himself, tosses it aside. She clocks the nearby furniture – Eliot's still leaning back against the bar, moody and quiet. There are a couple of barstools there that might be useful at some point.

Behind her are a pair of couches set in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that can double as a magical projection screen, if needed. Glass coffee table. She presses back against the invisible barrier that Eliot put up, firm but not completely unyielding.

Quentin is looking down, and she can see his mouth moving slightly. Trying to practice what he wants to say, what'll get him what he needs? Hands on either side of his kneeling body, fingertips pressed lightly against the floor.

And Eliot, watching.

“Eliot, I-” Quentin looks up, catches sight of El, and his gaze darts off again, to the left.

She's not sure why they can't just- just ask for what they want and then take it but, to her incredible frustration, she can't do it for them. And her yelling at Eliot wouldn't help anything right now.

“Please come here?” Quentin sounds lonely, his voice shaking.

Eliot straightens up, takes a step forward.

Quentin's eyes flutter shut and his chin tilts up, hopeful. “El?”

With each step closer, she can see Eliot pulling more tightly into himself, but he keeps walking until he's standing in front of Quentin. He ghosts his hands along the sides of Q's head, and she's never wanted to be anything other than a Physical Kid, but she sure as fuck wishes she could read his mind right now.

Eliot drops to his knees, too, and she can see the twist of confusion on Quentin's face at the sound, but he keeps his eyes closed. El's still ridiculously taller than Q, of course, but-

He puts his hand against the back of Quentin's neck, tugs him into a kiss.

Margo lets out a relieved breath that she's grateful neither of them hear.

It's a soft kiss, and it's almost funny, really, since Quentin must still taste like her cunt, but they kiss like they're sitting on a porch swing in a teen drama, no tongue, a dozen or so tiny kisses in a row. Eliot looks wound up tight as clockwork, but his mouth is gentle against Quentin's, barely pushing at all.

When they break away from it, Quentin smiles. “There you are, stranger,” he says, breathy. Darts forward to kiss El's chin. “Where've you been?”

Eliot touches Quentin's cheek with his knuckle.

“Stuck in my own head,” he says, and he leans down for another kiss, open and deep this time. Mouths down the side of Quentin's neck. “You've got some experience with that, hmm? Gonna pull me out again?”

Margo doesn't want to interrupt — if this is what El's been needing, she wants him to have it — but she's certainly not planning on making a quiet exit. She presses back against El's wall, lets herself slide soundlessly down until her bare ass is on the cool stone floor.

Eliot is kissing Q's chest now, fingers tugging at his nipples until he gasps. Quentin clutches back at Eliot, hands twisted into the back of his vest.

So needy. That's what comes of not blowing off any steam in between.

Margo slides a lazy finger down, between her folds, teases at herself.

Eliot presses Quentin backwards, and Quentin moans at the stretch but goes, bending back until his shoulders are touching the floor. And like she noticed before, those white pants do put his dick on display, especially when he's hard, his stiff cock poking defiantly at the fabric.

El kisses down Quentin's taut stomach, nips at his hip, and he tugs down the rest of Quentin's clothes to mid-thigh, exposing his dick, which bounces into the air and then subsides again under its own weight.

She licks at her lips at the same time El licks at his, but then Eliot can lean down and suck the tip of Quentin's dick into his mouth. She wants-

Margo presses her fingers against her clit, rubs harder, and lifts her other hand to her mouth, sticking just the tips of her fingers inside, echoing Eliot and sucking in the same rhythm. Quentin is lost in it, arching helplessly against Eliot, his hands in tight fists on the floor as he breathes harshly through his mouth.

Eliot slides his hands under Quentin's ass, encouraging him up, to fuck deeper into El's mouth and throat. And, fuck, Quentin is flexible. She should make him do yoga with her sometime, just to watch him in the poses. She pulls her fingers out of her mouth, trails a wet line down her throat, cups her breast and circles her thumb around her nipple through her bra. The sensation makes her hips jerk and she can feel her clit twitching against her fingertips.

Quentin moans when he comes, gasps afterwards, his hands still tightly wound up at his sides. She's close, but not quite enough to tip over, so she gentles her touch on herself, to see what El plans next – he hasn't come yet, after all.

Eliot presses wet kisses all over Quentin's jerking dick and his balls. In the crease between his thighs and his pelvis. Then Eliot slips his hands under Quentin's back, tugs him back up to sprawl upright, messy and swaying. “Do you want to blow me? Do you want me to fuck you? Tell me what you want, Q.” El's voice is hoarse, but sincere in a way that makes Margo's pussy clench.

“Wanna make you happy,” Quentin mumbles, and it should be a good answer, all hot and desperate and put-me-on-my-knees, but it makes Eliot frown. Quentin sees it too, because he leans forward against Eliot's chest and nuzzles up at his neck, and he says, more clearly, “You can do anything, El. I want it.”

Eliot cups the back of Quentin's head, then says, roughly, “You know, I think I could use some sleep.”

Quentin blinks up at him as Eliot presses a kiss against Quentin's forehead and gets up off his knees.

“I don't understand,” Quentin says, plaintive, and fucking co-signed. What the fuck is Eliot doing? “Did I do something wrong?”

Eliot sighs, and it's soft and tired. “No, baby. You were perfect.” He looks up, straight at Margo with those withdrawn, unreadable eyes and says, “You can get Quentin to bed, right, Bambi?”

“Sure?”

And Eliot walks away, towards the stairs that lead to the second floor.

Quentin stares after him, mouth trembling.

Fuck, she's not good at this bullshit. Emotional aftermath and all that. But since she's all he's got right now, Margo crawls over to Quentin and wraps herself around him, both of them mostly undressed.

“How about we get you a shower?” she suggests. “Everything's better when you're clean, honey.”

Quentin clings to her while she stands him up, and leans on her all the way to the bathroom. They left his clothes downstairs and she slips off her bra before she tugs him inside. She turns on the water, pulls him under the shower head with her.

She does a set of tuts that soap up her hands and Quentin barely seems to notice.

“Why don't you tell me about Brakebills South?” She starts with his chest, rubbing slippery hands over slick skin and hair. “Hmm? Did you hate the mind control lesson as much as I did?”

“I- uh, yeah,” Quentin says. He shivers a little. “It was awful. I liked- um. I liked being a fox.” He blinks at her, his hair limp around his face, and she tries to picture him as a fox, all sharp-faced and bouncy. It's hard to imagine. “We played around for- I don't know. Hours.”

“When Eliot and I were foxes,” she says, wiping along his arms now. “We were the most anti-social of foxes. We ran away from everyone else and burrowed down into the snow together.” She presses a brief kiss against his nipple, pebbled up from the wet and cold. “Jesus, we hated it down there. The isolation and the cold and, of course-” she makes her voice get brighter, adds a light laugh. “-we didn't get to take our own clothes with us. The horror!”

“It must have been agony,” Quentin agrees, but he's being genuine and not teasing, damn him. “I forget sometimes, that you and Eliot did all this just last year. All the hazing and the trials and the nervousness about what it all means to be a magician.”

“You think we got nervous?” She tilts up her chin.

“Yeah,” he says. “I kinda do.”

That sort of rank insolence can't be ignored, so she punishes him by tickling under his armpit until he giggles. She tucks herself under his arm and thinks about trying to explain Eliot to him.

It sounds like... a massive, exhausting undertaking. One she would probably fail.

She cleans him off in silence for a while, then has him turn around so that she can scrub at his hair and massage his scalp. “You know, I thought of becoming a hairdresser for a while. When I was ten or eleven.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmm, it seemed... magical, watching people change their appearance so drastically.” She's fairly certain he doesn't bother to condition his hair normally, but she does it now. “My father said I could aim higher.” She doesn't bother keeping the scorn out of her voice.

“You have good hands for it,” he tells her. “If you felt like taking it up as a hobby.”

She stifles a laugh against his shoulders. “I'll take that under advisement.”

Margo washes the conditioner out of his hair and considers her options.

“You wanna wash me?” she asks. He turns to face her, cups her cheek.

“Of course.”

She stands under the water, lets it beat down her body. Quentin's hands are slightly shaky and she thinks this might be the first time he's ever showered with someone else. Like this, anyway.

“Margo, I-” He bites back the words, slides his hands along her sides. “Do you know what I did wrong?”

“It's like I said earlier. El's just been weird the last few days. It's not your fault.”

Quentin nods, but clearly doesn't believe her, because his next question is, “Um. Do you want me to sleep with other people?”

Margo considers the question carefully, because Quentin seems to be putting a lot of weight on it.

“Encanto Oculto... 'magic orgy week' isn't so far off, as a description,” she says. “But you don't have to fuck anyone else if you don't want to.”

“That's not what I asked.” Quentin's voice has flattened out. “Just, uh. You guys told Alice to ask me out?”

“We did?” Margo blinks against the water, baffled. “Why would we do that?”

“I don't know?”

Then, like fog clearing from a mirror, Margo plucks out a dusty memory of Alice, breasts spilling out in one of Margo's dresses as she frowns at her reflection, and Margo suggesting-

“But that was months ago,” she says.

That was before. She never would have suggested it after she realized how Eliot feels about him.

Oh.

She might understand what Quentin really wants to know. Maybe. If he's maybe feeling things, too.

“It would be really hot to watch other people fuck you,” she says, cupping his face with her hands. “But part of that is because we want to watch other people fuck you. We're still fucking you when we do that, okay?”

He nods, leans down for a kiss. It's more like the comforting kisses she shares with Eliot, doesn't seem likely to tip over into sex, but she kisses him back anyway.

“And you don't have to do anything you don't want to,” she reminds him.

“I know that.” And he sounds- frustrated, almost, which makes her wrinkle up her nose, because, hey, she didn't do anything wrong here. He kisses her again, on the cheek, as an apology. “Sorry, just- maybe we can sleep on it. Talk in the morning?”

“Probably for the best,” Margo agrees. Maybe by then Eliot will have taken that huge stick out of his ass. “You want company?” Quentin isn't awful to sleep with, doesn't kick or anything like that, though he's prone to waking in the middle of the night and wandering off.

“Please.” Quentin kisses her shoulder, rests his head there as the water falls over them. “Yes, please.”

 


 

“I was born in Indiana,” Eliot says, quietly, to the glass in his hand. He downs the whiskey, refills it. Leans back against the headboard. “My parents are farmers.”

Homophobic pieces of shit.

“I found out I could do magic by pushing a school bully into traffic. Killed him.” He swirls the whiskey around in the glass, salutes the empty corner of the room. “I almost fucking killed someone again last week. How about that.”

He lets out a shuddery breath. Reaches out to levitate a delicate green vase off the accent table but then lowers it again before he actually-

“Fuck.”

He can't taste Quentin in his mouth anymore, which is the only downside of the drinking-himself-stupid plan. Q is a natural giver, but Eliot would gladly spend his life worshipping at his altar if-

He snorts. Drinks his fucking whiskey and pours himself some more.

At this point, he should give up pretending he's only having a glass or two. Just drink from the bottle but he still has-

He still has some standards, thanks ever so much.

If Margo were so inclined, honestly, he'd fucking encourage the two of them to- fall in love, get married, let him be the friend they bang on the side every now and then. That'd be a kick in fucking Reilly's assumptions, wouldn't it? If Eliot ended up being the toy?

Moot point, anyway.

This might be his last shot at any of this. Might be, they come back to Brakebills, and Eliot gets hauled in front of the Dean and-

Boom, all of it gone. No more Brakebills, no more Bambi, no more Q.

But his magic would stay.

He'd asked the Dean once, early in his first year if his powers could just be- plucked out from inside him. And the answer had been a most definitive 'no'.

He could lose everything good and only get to keep the thing that fucked it all up in the first place.

He reaches into his pocket, pulls out that sketch Giselle had done of him, weeks ago now. Flattens it out, and the charm on the paper removes the creases, leaving only perfect, flawless Eliot Waugh. She'd told him she would be drawing him, so he'd made even more of an effort than usual. Each curl is placed just so. He's wearing the vest that flatters the lines of his body the best. Her work remains exquisite.

Shame the original is so tragically flawed.

Eliot laughs at himself because, fuck it, he has to at this point.

If he went and tried to figure out which bedroom Q and Bambi are tucked away into... they would welcome him in. As always, Eliot himself is the thing keeping him from his own happiness.

“Just like mama always said.” He salutes the corner again, drinks.

Though she'd meant- find a girl, go to church, get married, play pretend all his life.

Her words had been nicer than his father's, sure, but the meaning behind them had been just as poisonous. Stop being himself, start being-

How many generations does it take for poison like that to wash out?

Eliot lets out a shaky breath. Tries again.

“Quentin. I want to be honest, just for a minute. I'm bad at it, I know, but I want to try. You asked me about my father and I wasn't ready to-”

He needs another drink.

“Bambi. Q. I know I've been acting strangely. I've been- I made a mistake. And it means I might not get to stay at-”

Eliot closes his eyes. It hadn't been a mistake. That was the thing. That was the real thing that would get him kicked out. If Reilly told on him. If the Dean questioned him. If they forced him to be honest. Eliot would considered too dangerous to stay at Brakebills.

Instead, he'd get tossed back out into the world, with no memories of the best two years of his life.

Probably end up in a hedgewitch safehouse somewhere. If he was lucky.

Before Quentin had come back, Eliot had played around with the idea of waiting until the end of Encanto Oculto to tell him. Tell him and Bambi both. He knows now he can't do that. It had been hard enough not confiding in Margo. Would have been impossible if she hadn't been so caught up in plans and packing. But seeing Quentin, kissing him-

Eliot can't spend a whole week with Quentin and have this fucking axe waiting to fall over their heads the entire time. He needs to tell them.

He has no fucking clue how to even start.

Margo, at least, will probably guess once he starts talking about it. But Quentin...

Lovely, sweet, stubborn Quentin.

Eliot reaches his hand out – dramatic and unnecessary but that is his brand – and lifts the vase up from the table. One slow, steady inch upward. Then two. Then a full foot. Perfect control. Even when drunk.

“Lucky me.”

If he hurts someone, he has the comfort of knowing it was completely on purpose. Not like his-

Well.

That thought did make the vase shake.

He lowers it carefully down to the table. It's a lovely house. He doesn't want to break anything here.

He leans his head back against the headboard. Starts practicing his speech again.

Morning comes, and he splashes water in his face and does his best to talk himself into being brave. It's never particularly worked before, but more things in heaven and earth, and so on. He tugs his smaller bag out of his pocket and makes it full-size again, picks out a casual outfit, suitable for wandering around an island paradise. No vest or tie today, just linen pants and shirt.

Eliot is a little unsteady, coming down the stairs, but nothing he can't handle. Margo and Quentin aren't up yet, so he investigates the kitchen. Margo had said she'd arranged for supplies and there's a bounty here, much more than they need just for two days.

He makes breakfast. Eggs and bacon, something Quentin will find familiar and comforting.

When Margo and Quentin come down the stairs, they're giggling and happy, with Margo pressing a soft kiss to the corner of Quentin's mouth as they turn into the kitchen. They both turn hesitant, when they see him, so he smiles as best he can.

“I thought about breakfast in bed, but I didn't want to intrude,” he says, pushing the plates towards them.

“You're always welcome in my bed,” Margo says, reproachfully. “You know that.” She skirts around the island counter, tugs down his face to kiss his cheek. She looks at him critically. “Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Do I look that bad?” Eliot jokes, reaching up and touching under his eye.

“You look good,” Quentin says, firmly. “Just tired.”

Quentin looks good too. Margo gave him one of the outfits they picked out, beach casual, and Margo is dressed to match, all floaty material and the implication that maybe someone could make out her nipples if they stared really really hard.

“So, Quentin wanted to open up a discussion about orgies,” Margo says, because she apparently wants Quentin to cough up his orange juice all over his pale blue shirt. Eliot sighs and does a cleaning spell while Quentin wipes pointlessly at the wet spot.

Jesus, Margo.” Quentin's face is already turning pink. “That is- that's not- I'm not the person who signed us up for magic orgy week!”

“Who told you about it, anyway?” Eliot asks, because they never did fully assess the potential damage. Unless Margo did that after he left. “No one who actually goes to Encanto Oculto would call it 'magic orgy week'.”

“Oh, um-” Quentin looks adorably hesitant, like he doesn't want to throw the traitor under a bus. “Todd?”

“Todd?” Margo huffs. “Well, now the nickname makes sense. He's never been. Wants to go, of course.”

“So many do,” Eliot adds. He affects a soft, regretful sigh, which Quentin watches avidly like the theater that it is. “He was hoping we'd ask him, when we said we were taking a third person along this year.”

“He did seem-” Quentin's mouth twists unhappily and- okay, yeah. Todd had definitely said something else, too. “I don't understand him, honestly? Because he acts like he likes you but he also thinks you're- I don't know. Awful people?”

Todd is, apparently, more perceptive than Eliot has given him credit for.

“Awful how?” he asks, breaking off a piece of bacon and popping it in his mouth.

Quentin straightens up on his stool, puffing up like an angry little chicken or one of those tiny dogs that thinks it's a wolf. “He didn't- okay, he didn't technically say anything, but he implied-” he lets out a harsh breath, and he's completely abandoned his food in favor of forcefully gesticulating at the air. “He thinks you're- you're the sort of people who- he thinks you're like- and you're not. I would know. I know the difference.” He shakes his head, roughly, like a dog shaking off a river of water. “It's like with- like Julia, thinking she needs to protect me from you and I don't need-”

He's so worked up. Eliot can't help himself, reaches out a hand to place on Quentin's shoulder, drawing him back from his agitation.

Quentin stares at- not quite at him. Just off to the side of his shoulder.

“I know what I'm doing,” he says, but his voice quivers slightly. “And- uh, I don't know. I just wish people would actually believe that every once in a while.”

Now, whispers a quiet voice at the back of Eliot's mind, now would be a great time to confide in Quentin.

“Which means what, exactly, with regards to your thoughts on orgies?” Eliot asks, instead, light and cheerful. “Is this a pro or anti-orgy argument, baby?”

Quentin glances over at him, smiles shyly, the thunder and fire draining away. “Um. Tentatively pro? But I don't... uh. I don't want anyone else to actually-” He chews on his lip a minute before he manages. “-to actually fuck me. In, um. Anally.”

He lifts his hand to cup Quentin's face, pulls him in for a soft kiss, and Quentin is all thrilled and pliable and-

Eliot pulls away again, says, “Yeah, I like it better that way, too.”

Quentin dimples at him, lovely and happy. Eliot can't possibly break any bad news to him when he's like this.

“I trust you to make it feel good,” Quentin says, and, fuck, it's like someone just kicked him in the chest. He can't lose this, not any of the memories he's built. Eliot presses his lips against Quentin's forehead, reaches his hand out wildly for Margo, who catches it, holds it safe.

“I like making you feel good,” Eliot says, and he wants Quentin in his mouth again, more than anything in the world. He nuzzles his way down Quentin's face, stopping off for more messy kisses along the way. “Baby, I wanna suck you off, okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Quentin agrees, startled but willing.

Eliot keeps hold of Margo's hand while he does it, squeezes maybe a little more tightly than he should. He has to work Quentin up to being fully hard and he wonders if Margo and Quentin had some morning sex before they came down-

-well, good if they did.

A sleepy handjob, maybe, with Margo throwing off the sheets so she can see Quentin's body as she jerks him off. He smiles as he imagines it, Quentin surprised out of sleep, half-coming before he's even awake.

Quentin can't really fuck his face from this angle, but Eliot is willing to do the work, encourages Quentin to grab at his hair and force him down. Fuck, he loves Q's dick, he loves-

Eliot pulls off for a moment, to catch his breath. Quentin strokes through his hair, asks ever-so-sweetly if he's all right. And he's not, of course he isn't. But that's not what Quentin is asking, so Eliot just says-

“I really missed this,” as he fits his mouth over Quentin's cock again. Sucks him hard until Quentin is clinging to him and coming down his throat.

“Don't run away this time,” Quentin tells him afterwards, breathlessly. “I don't- I don't know what's wrong, but just let me help, okay?”

Eliot loosens his grip on Margo's hand, but she's holding just as tightly, and doesn't let go. He rests his head on Quentin's thigh, panting. He's hard, so hard he aches. He could sweet-talk Quentin into rolling over for him, distract from any more conversation.

And then when Eliot finally does work up the courage to actually talk about anything important, Quentin will be able to look back and see, in exacting detail, just what a fucking coward Eliot is, all the time.

He imagines – okay, even if he can't say the words, he has the sketch. He could show them- but he'd have to explain it. Or let Margo... she knows some of it. Enough to guess at the rest.

All the stupid bullshit that he'd thought he'd fixed himself up enough not to ever have to worry about again.

“You are helping,” Eliot says. “I promise.”

He presses a kiss against the dip of Quentin's hip.

“Any other rules you wanna make?”

Quentin huffs out a considering breath, petting over Eliot's shoulders and back. “I don't know. I'm willing to- um. Exchange blow jobs, I guess. I like those? And eating out, um. If that's- hand stuff all seems fine? I don't know if I wanna fuck anyone else, like, uh- it just seems more- is that stupid?”

“There are no stupid rules for magic orgy week,” Margo says and Eliot has to peek over to see if she managed to say that with a straight face – looks like, just barely. He can see the laughter trembling at the edges. “Are those 'you' rules or 'us' rules, honey?”

Quentin gets very very still, then asks, in a small voice, “I can make 'us' rules?”

“You can certainly suggest them,” Margo says. “If you overstep, we'll let you know.”

“Can- uh... I think I would feel better if we-”

“Jesus, Coldwater, spit it out.” But her voice is fond, not heated.

“If you stayed in the same place as me,” Quentin says, in a rush. “If I can still see you, even if you're with other people.”

“That sounds like an easy 'yes',” Eliot says, stroking over Quentin's thighs. “Bambi?”

“Sure, sounds hot,” she says, and she rubs her thumb against his wrist. “Q, honey, the whole reason we invited you to Encanto Oculto was to share the experience with you. That's easier when you're actually, you know. Around.”

“Will there be any other Brakebills students there?” he asks, and his voice is hovering somewhere between nervous and that blazing 'fight-me' energy he'd had earlier. “I don't think I wanna have sex with any of them.”

“Noted,” Eliot says. “And there might be a few, so Bambi and I will keep an eye out. None of the teachers go, which is a huge personal relief, of course. That would have a lot of potential to get awkward.”

Quentin shudders and then laughs.

“I would never be able to look them in the eye again,” he admits. “Do you- uh. Do you have any rules for me?”

“Only take food, drinks, or drugs from us,” Margo says, immediately. “Encanto Oculto is as safe as magic can make it, but no system is perfect.”

“Oh,” Quentin says. “That's… practical.”

“Were you hoping for some sexy rules to try to hold yourself to, baby?” Eliot asks, delighted. He looks up at Quentin's face, runs a hand up to touch his flushed chest. “We can do that.”

“You do it,” Margo says. “My rules are all safety tips and they are fucking mandatory.”

“Bambi takes her orgies very seriously,” Eliot teases. Then he gives the matter some serious thought, thumbs idly at Quentin's hardened nipple. “You like being our sweet brat. You like it when we pay attention. Hmm. How about- anytime you feel like you're about to orgasm, you excuse yourself and come back to me or Bambi to get you to the end?”

“What if you're- uh. Already busy?” Quentin is blushing so hard.

“Well, a good boy would wait his turn, but-” Eliot plucks at Quentin's nipple, makes him gasp. “-you need it too bad to wait, don't you?”

“I need it,” Quentin says intensely, and he sounds like he really means it, despite his cock still resting limp and used between his thighs. “Fuck, El, at least let me touch your dick? I don't care if it's a handjob or I blow you or you fuck me — just let me touch you. Please.” His voice has high-key shifted up into what El thinks of as his bratty boy voice, whiny-edged and torn between begging and demanding.

And, fuck, Eliot hadn't meant to-

Stupid of him, really, not to realize denying himself — punishing himself — would make Quentin feel punished too. Or, at the very least, confused. It's not fair to expect Quentin to come back and know the magic words to say to get Eliot to stick his dick in him.

Eliot kisses Quentin's soft dick, finally lets go of Margo's hand so that he can move around properly.

“You miss my cock while you were off in Antarctica?” he croons, rubbing his face against Quentin's thighs. “Did you jerk off thinking about it?”

“Yeah, I-” Quentin shifts on the stool. “I kept thinking that it can't be- uh. Can't be as big as I remember it.”

“Can't it?” Eliot asks, with a warm flush of amusement. “Do you know how you want it?”

Quentin bites his lip, looks overwhelmed and Eliot hadn't seen it last night, hadn't guessed that maybe Quentin couldn't pick because he wanted it all too much.

“You want Bambi to pick for us?” Eliot asks, because, well. Margo deserves a show, for taking care of Q so good last night after Eliot fell down on the job. And maybe he's feeling a touch overwhelmed too, relieved and giddy with it.

Quentin nods.

When Eliot looks over towards Margo, she's finishing up her breakfast, but she gives him a thumbs up while her mouth is full.

“Let me put the rest of this away for later, then you can fuck Q over the counter,” she says, patting the marble surface of the kitchen island. “I can hold his wrists on the other side, maybe steal some kisses.”

Eliot occupies himself with Quentin's cock — he feels better fucking Q when he's hard, and he thinks about what Q had, falteringly, been trying to say earlier.

Trust him to know what he wants.

Trust him to know his own limits.

It's a terrifying thought, even only knowing the bare edges of what Quentin went through before, and Eliot has to temper it with- pay attention, don't go too far too fast, be worthy of his trust. He's been failing at the first and last so far this trip, but hopefully he can make it up to Quentin and do better.

When Margo says she's ready, Eliot stands up between Quentin's legs, gives him a fond kiss.

“You wanna get a grope in before I bend you over?”

Quentin breathes in sharply, puts his hand down to trace to shape of Eliot's dick through his paper-thin linen pants. “I can see it too,” he says, dreamy-eyed. “You have such a pretty dick, El.”

Then he flushes up, pink and adorable.

“I like being pretty,” Eliot reminds him, mildly, before he can try to apologize. Q touching him makes him ache to just stuff him full but- “You want me to open you up or do you want Pertrick to do it for us?”

Quentin thinks about it as he trails his fingers over Eliot's dick. Eliot rocks against the touch, instinctively seeking more friction.

“Pertrick's,” he says, after a moment. “I just…”

“You just really need daddy to give you that deep-dicking you've been craving?”

“Yeah,” Quentin says, bright red now. “I need that.”

So he turns Quentin around, with his pants around his ankles and his shirt still on, has him bend face-down over the counter. After Margo latches onto Q's wrists, Eliot does Pertrick's Easy and Ready, then puts his hand on Quentin's lower back so he can feel him shiver as it works.

“I tried this on myself once, at Brakebills South, but it went all weird,” Quentin says, and it's the cutest thing Eliot's ever heard. “It felt like something was trying to blow air up my ass, so I canceled out the spell.”

“It's a clever spell, remember,” Margo says. “It knew you couldn't stick your own dick inside your ass.”

“We could get you a dildo, put some spells on it, then you'll be able to take care of yourself,” Eliot suggests, cautiously. Quentin freezes up under his hand and- no, then. Still too many bad memories. “Or you could just stop going off on trips without us.”

That makes Quentin laugh and protest, “Hey, I didn't know! Stupid secret trials.” But there's an edge of real frustration there, under his playfulness. After, Eliot thinks to himself. We'll talk about it after.

For now, he presses his fingers against Quentin's asshole, to see if he's ready. He gives so beautifully that Eliot can't resist sinking his fingers in deep, to feel Quentin squirm and listen to him moan and beg for more.

He pulls them out, trails them down to cup Q's balls, teases at the base of his cock. Q's thickening up nicely, but he'll need some time to get all the way there.

Eliot jerks himself off, just enough to slick up his dick, then presses the blunt head against Quentin's hole. Q tries to push back against him, but Margo has his wrists tight, possibly augmented by magic.

“Eager is good but pushy boys get reprimanded,” Eliot says, holding his dick in place with one hand and running the other up Q's back, to tug at his hair. “Do you need consequences, baby?”

Quentin whimpers, soft and desperate, then says, “Yes, please. I want-” he wiggles back against Eliot's dick. “After you fuck me, I want-”

Did he try practicing this down in Antarctica too? Saying the words? Or is this all a darling impromptu performance?

“Say what you want, honey,” Margo prompts. No, coaxes, her voice warm and full of promise. “Tell us how to give it to you.”

“Your hands,” Quentin says, and it's like the dam broke and he's talking the way he would about Fillory or D&D or the details of close-up card tricks, a million words in his head and only most of them making it out of his mouth. “On- on my ass and inside me and you- you should touch my dick but not too hard? After I come again. And I want to- Margo, I could use Pertrick's on you, and then rim you?”

Eliot strokes his hand through Quentin's hair as he keeps talking, tries to keep track of everything that his bossy, bratty boy wants.

“Eliot could- um. He could spank me while I'm- while I'm doing that. Not with- I don't wanna count or keep track? I want to focus on Margo and- um, I like it when-” Quentin takes in a handful of gulping, overeager breaths. “-I like it when I can't sit down afterwards? I like. And, um. You can- you can- it's actually kinda hot when you- uh. Call yourselves. Um.”

The back of his neck is flushed pink, so Eliot can't even imagine how hot his face must be.

“You like it when I call myself 'daddy'?” Eliot asks, and that is, most definitely, the best gift of all. “Little Q deserves such a big reward for sharing that news.”

He sinks his cockhead inside Q's clinging hole, past the trembling, needy ring of muscle. Quentin is all talked-out for the moment, it seems, because he makes a strangled sort of moan, laying his head down on the counter.

“You wanna kiss mama's ass, make her yell?” Margo asks, and she's not even trying to hide her smirk. “You can do it, honey. I'll let you. Do you wanna say it back to us too? You can, you know. It would probably make El go off like a rocket, though, so I'd hold off for a minute.”

“Oh god, I hate you,” Quentin whines, trying to push back onto Eliot's cock. “Can you- kiss me, please, I want-”

And Margo does kiss him, so whatever else he wants is lost in her mouth for now.

Her grip on Quentin's wrists slackened when she leaned down to kiss him, so Quentin manages to wiggle back another inch or so onto Eliot's cock.

“Brat,” Eliot says, fondly, rubbing his hands over Quentin's hips and then holding them tight so that he can't squirm back for more dick before he's allowed. “You get fucked at my pace, baby.”

And he wants to savor this.

Apart from his one failed attempt at getting a blowjob, Eliot has only had his own hand the last few weeks, and just being inside Quentin at all is something to treasure.

He forcefully pushes away the part of him fretting over whether or not this week will be the last time he gets to even see Quentin, let alone-

Bambi would take care of him. Even if she doesn't- even if she doesn't care about Quentin the same way he does, she cares plenty. She'd look out for him.

Eliot takes it slow, relishes each tiny thrust inward, how hot and soft Quentin is for him, how Eliot can feel how strong he is underneath the yielding welcome of him. Thrills at the stifled sounds Quentin makes against Margo's mouth.

“Lovely boy,” Eliot tells him, when he finally bottoms-out, presses his hips against Quentin's ass. He tugs at Quentin's cheeks to spread him open, wriggles even closer. “Taking care of my cock, letting it inside all cozy and snug.”

He rocks his hips against Quentin's — he can't get any deeper, but the friction is exquisitely addictive. He smooths his hands down Quentin's back. He wants to stay in, stay this deep inside Quentin forever, but he's also so hard he could burst, balls already tight and high, and he needs to move, to fuck.

Eliot starts slow, not wanting to leave the haven of Quentin's body, but the clutching grip around him as his dick slides out is difficult to resist. He knows Q's body well enough to make sure he can slide right up against his prostate when he fucks him, so takes advantage of that as he works up a rhythm.

Quentin's louder, Margo giving up on trying to kiss him now that Eliot is thrusting harder. The counter is sturdy, thankfully, barely shaking as Eliot picks up speed.

He's greedy, wants to be buried deep inside Q and sliding against him all at the same time. And he wants Q to come on his cock, so he reaches down, holds Quentin's dick, hard and swollen and ready.

He's selfish, but he uses it, channels it towards his desire to hear Quentin yelp and moan and shout out his name. He uses his carefully built-up pride too, takes every helpless twitch of Quentin's cock in his hand as a personal 'fuck you' to Pegging Girl, who is still managing to hurt Q after all this time.

“You gonna come for me,” he asks, sweet and encouraging. “You gonna come for daddy?”

Quentin clenches around him, tight and hot, and he'd meant it when he said he liked it, he'd meant it. Eliot nuzzles between Quentin's shoulder blades, moves his hand on Quentin's dick as he comes in spurts and heaving breaths.

He lets Quentin recover for a moment, his touch on Q's dick lightening as it begins to soften under his fingers.

Eliot presses a kiss to Quentin's shirt, can feel the warmth of his skin underneath the thin linen — then another, then a whole fleet of grateful, delirious kisses. Quentin relaxes around his cock, and Eliot could move again now, if he wanted, but first-

First, he wants to run his mouth over Quentin's satin-soft skin. So, he tugs up at Quentin's shirt and licks at what he uncovers. Fuck, he feels like he could get drunk off Q's sweat.

“You're perfect,” he tells the curve of Quentin's back. “Jesus, if I cast a spell to make a boy just for me, he'd still never be half as good as you.” Quentin shivers and Eliot hopes he knows it's the plain simple truth.

He pushes his hips forward, tucks in against the curve of Quentin's ass. Leans over Quentin's body, pressing them together every possible inch. And then Quentin cranes his neck around, Eliot doesn't even have to ask, and he gets to kiss Q, shallow but as pleased as he can make it.

“What a good boy,” he mumbles into Quentin's mouth, feeling as empty-headed and brainless as he ever pretended to be. When he breaks out of the kiss, he has to breathe for a moment, hook his chin over Quentin's shoulder. He licks his lips, sees Margo's slender wrist, her hand caught in a tight grip on Quentin's arm. “Bambi, dearest, I-” he doesn't have words, so he tilts up his face and she kisses him, because she's the smartest person he's ever known-

He needs somewhere to focus, to push his feelings so he doesn't just melt all over Quentin worse than he already is, and Margo accepts it, his clumsy lips and forceful tongue and the half-strangled words he isn't brave enough to say out loud yet.

Quentin is so soft under him, but he's not passive at all, still trying to squirm and wriggle under the blanket of Eliot's body. Eliot pulls away from Margo so that he can hide his face in the curve of Quentin's neck as he starts to fuck him again. He tries to stay gentle — Q has gotta be sensitive — but it's hard to hold back against how yielding and welcoming Q's body is as he thrusts.

Joy bubbles up inside him with his orgasm, unstoppable and fizzing through every part of his body. He buries a giddy laugh against Quentin's shoulder, kisses at his neck as his cock jerks inside Quentin, god, filling him up.

“You feeling good, baby?” he asks, nosing happily against Quentin's sweaty hair. “Am I forgiven for last night?”

Quentin makes a rumbly 'mmmhmm' sound, and Margo must have let go of his arms, because he's reaching up a shaky hand and petting at the side of Eliot's face, clumsy but sweet.

“Am I as big as you remembered?” he teases, as he feels himself soften inside Quentin, slipping out despite his best intentions. “Did daddy dick you down the way you like?”

“You're never gonna let that go now,” Quentin says, and the part of his face that Eliot can see looks flushed and warm. “I have- I have so many regrets. And alliteration alone doesn't make something high class. If you were wondering.”

“It's a good start,” Eliot says. “You still feel up to eating Bambi's ass?”

“Um. Not in here? I think. Maybe a bed would be nice.”

The bed that Quentin and Margo had slept in last night is still rumpled, sheets thrown aside. She climbs up onto it, wiggles her ass at them, then collapses in laughter. She keeps giggling as Quentin settles down next to her, slides her dress up her legs and over her hips.

“You've really never had, uh, had Pertrick's done on you before?” Quentin asks, but the hint of wonder in his voice makes it clear that it's not that he thinks Margo's lied to him, just that he's astonished it's something he gets to do for her. In any case, he doesn't wait for her to respond, just does the starting tut that designates her as the subject of the spell and then goes into it.

He has definitely been paying attention to Eliot, because he pulls it off beautifully, and Eliot can see the exact moment it starts, when Margo's body tightens and her giggles shift into a gasp.

“Holy motherfucking balleaters,” Margo says. Loudly. “Son of a blighted twat. Jesus.”

Quentin grins, leans down to nip at her hip, then spreads her asscheeks apart with his hands, then he pauses. “Oh, I don't- I need help balancing, I think?”

The implication is obvious. And Eliot knows Quentin has no reason to think Eliot's telekinesis would be off-limits now, when it's never been before. But he-

Not Bambi. Not Q.

Not when he might hurt them.

When he doesn't say anything, Quentin glances over his shoulder and- and he frowns when he sees whatever Eliot's face looks like and this is-

Eliot leaves.

He leaves the room, he leaves the fucking house with the door swinging open behind him.

Stumbles out onto the beach and is quietly, messily sick on the sands.

They followed him out because-

Well, of course they did.

Eliot is doubled over on his hands and knees, wearing stupid see-through linen clothes, and he can't-

“El, are you-” Quentin doesn't finish the question. It must be obvious that Eliot isn't okay, in any possible stretch of the imagination.

He sees the watery vomit underneath him vanish from view. Bambi, of course. He lets her tugs him off his knees, into an embrace.

Quentin kneels next to him, touches his face and frowns again. “Eliot.”

Eliot swallows, mouth still tasting like stomach acid. He tries to look Quentin in the eyes, and fails. What the fuck good is a magician who can't stand the thought of his own discipline anymore? Even if Fogg doesn't kick him out, how can he even-

“Is this about-” Margo doesn't finish her question either. It's a fucking epidemic.

“What's going on?” Quentin asks, plaintively. “Is it- is this related to- um, why you didn't want to have sex last night? Or-”

“Not everything is about you,” Eliot says, sharp and brittle and he hates himself the second he says it. Quentin flinches back, and he's already hurting Q. Fuck, fuck fuck.

“Right, I'm sorry,” Quentin says. “I shouldn't have-”

“You're fine,” Margo says, firm. “Eliot's just being a selfish dickhole.” But she doesn't let go of him when she says it, at least.

Quentin huddles down in front of him, carefully not touching and that is-

It's fair. It's what he deserves. It really fucking hurts.

“Eliot, you have to talk to us,” Margo says and- he knows that. He's been trying. The words catch in his throat and stick on his tongue and his lips clamp down on them. He stares at Quentin's hands. Nervous and shaky and hurt. Eliot did that. One mean sentence, when Quentin was soft and vulnerable from sex, and is he really any better than-

“It might be easier if it's just you,” he says, in Margo's direction and-

Quentin winces again.

“I'm sorry,” Eliot says, and it's not enough, because Quentin's knees go up around his shoulders and then he's pushing himself off the ground and saying-

“No, I get it. I'm not Margo.”

And all Eliot can see now are Quentin's feet – bare and fragile and half-buried in the sand.

“You don't have to go,” Margo says. “Q, honey.”

“It's fine,” Quentin says, but it's not his 'fine' voice at all. Eliot wants to- to wrap him up and call him 'baby' and tell him everything is gonna be all right. But he can't even fucking- fucking breathe. “I understand. I'll- uh. I'll go to that bar you pointed out when we got here. That way, you can use the house.”

They both sit there, silent, as Quentin leaves.

“Are you gonna talk to me, at least, asshole?” she asks. Gently.

He fumbles down, towards his pocket. He'd put it in there when he'd gotten dressed, when he was talking himself into trying to be brave.

Hesitantly, he holds the folded sketch up, waits for Margo to take it.

Then Eliot – and he's done this so many times over the past few weeks that it's as easy as breathing – he does the shortened tuts of the spell that duplicates the effects of that first one. The lines and smudges will blossom out much faster this time and, after a minute, Margo asks, “El, what does this mean?”

And she sounds hurt and worried and-

“They're old,” he says. “Mostly.”

“I don't know medical magic,” she says, but she sounds-

Some part of her suspects.

“I keep thinking about my father,” Eliot says.

“That nasty old man.” Margo drops the page on the beach. Eliot's gazes shifts and he can see- the rainbow of colors up and down. The bruises and broken bones. The smudges where his own addictions mock him with how similar his tastes are to that nasty old man's, in so many fucking ways. “Why waste any time on him?”

“How much do you think we get from our parents?”

Margo lets out an impatient breath. “Are you- Eliot, you can't think-”

He shrugs.

Violent, hateful, especially to the people who loved him the most. Who wanted to love him. “I kicked the shit out of a friend in school for looking gay,” he tells her, tonelessly. “I killed a bully, though you knew that one already. God, I almost killed- I almost killed someone just last week. How the fuck am I-”

He swallows the rest down.

He should try to ask her to leave, too, like he did with Q.

God, Q.

But then he would be completely alone and he's selfish enough-

-he's selfish enough that he can't quite do that to himself.

“I remember... I remember as a kid, I wanted so badly to make my father happy.” His mouth twitches and he tries not to laugh because it is- this is the worst part of the joke. “And I never did, you know? But he was- that asshole was so fucking pleased with himself. He was happiest person I ever fucking met. He had- he had my mother under his thumb. The church fucking adored him. My brothers all wanted to be just like him. And then there was me. Even as a kid, he knew I wasn't quite like the others.”

He'd tried. He'd tried so hard to fit into the mold his father set out for him. And every time he failed, he got another set of bruises or another fucking broken bone, and another disappointed speech from his mother about trying harder not to stand out so much.

Margo just sits and breathes with him for a minute. Then she says, hesitantly, like she's not sure she's allowed, “I used to be afraid I was like my father, too.”

He glances over at her, wipes the tears out of his eyes. “What do you mean? You never- he wasn't your truth.”

“Like I said, why waste time on dickwads.” She rolls her shoulders, like she's stretching, in that way she does when she's trying to pretend she doesn't feel uncomfortable. “But, yeah. I spent a lot of time in college wondering if- if the reason I didn't get the swoons for anyone was because- because I was broken inside. That maybe I could only love- just so far and no further. That I would never be able to- to really care about someone. My love would always be hollow or come with conditions. Like his.”

“That's bullshit,” Eliot says, and he grabs her hand. “You have such a huge heart, Bambi.”

“'Yeah, I do,” she says, without hesitation. “There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not my father. You aren't yours, either, El. I promise.”

He shakes his head, looks away again.

“We need to talk to Q,” she says, more quietly. “You need to talk to Q.”

And the idea is-

-too much. It's too much.

“I don't think I can,” Eliot says. “Bambi, I don't think I can.”

“He's just as dumb over you as you are over him,” she tells him, and he shakes his head again. “You think I'd lie to you?”

“You want me to be happy.” He tugs her hand up, kisses her knuckles. “My sweet Bambi, who taught me what love really looks like.”

“You are such a fucking sap.” But she smiles at him, and it's soft and sad at the same time. “El. If you aren't willing to take a risk, you're gonna lose him to someone who'll actually have an honest conversation with him. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” he agrees, in a whisper. “I wish I- every time I think about telling him, my throat closes up. I can't, Bambi.”

Because self-protection has always trumped bravery, for him.

 


 

Quentin steps on a rock halfway to the bar. A sharp-edged one, possibly used by a seabird to murder helpless beach life. Whatever, like he knows shit about fucking Ibiza. It could be true.

It slices his foot up pretty badly, which feels like it could be a horribly apt metaphor if he lets it.

So he just-

-doesn't.

Instead, he tugs off the flimsy shirt that Margo had dressed him in, just a few hours ago, and uses some basic mending tuts to make it into something of a bandaid. Not a great one, but better than bleeding all over Ibiza.

El had been so small and sad and-

-not lonely, of course. He has Margo. He's never really lonely.

The thing is-

-the thing is that Todd is wrong. Quentin knows that much. Eliot and Margo aren't like- they aren't like her. They like spending time with Quentin and listening to him talk and playing games with him. They don't just humor him until it's time to push him onto a bed and take his clothes off.

But- but they are a... they are something of a closed circle. He'd thought that maybe- maybe.

Anyway, he won't let it bother him too much. He likes the sex and he likes the friendship and if he's not- if he's never been-

He's never been the sort of person anyone likes that way. This is just one more time.

It's like Julia, though, so it's better than the crushes he had that just fizzled out entirely.

Well, he never had sex with Julia, but apart from that.

He feels like- he thinks that if he laid out this situation to Julia, she'd tell him. Tell him to stop sleeping with them. But, honestly, that seems like such a pointless- realistically, he's only got another year and change with them anyway, at the most. Then they'll graduate and it'll be-

When Quentin gets to the bar, it's closed, of course. Since it's, like, eleven in the fucking morning.

He sighs, leans against the door.

“I'm going to London,” she'd told him. Almost off-hand. He'd assumed she meant for, like, a vacation or whatever at first but. “No, silly, I'm moving there.”

He'd been crying already, because she liked it when he- she got off on it, and he let her, because that's how fucking pathetic he was. He'd asked her what he'd done wrong.

Like he did with El last night.

“Nothing,” she'd assured him. “We're just done.”

He'd begged her- he'd-

She'd told him when she was still buried inside him. He'd been stretched around her favorite dildo, her hips pressed as close as they could get, her hand wrapped dry around his soft dick and tugging and pinching and slapping so it would hurt. He'd been doing all the things she liked best, he was being good for her-

None of it had mattered, because she was moving away and so she was done with him.

She'd told him not to come to her going away party.

“God, no. I don't want you there, making a mess of yourself. I mean, what if someone guesses?” And she'd shuddered, like it was the worst thought in the world. Patted him on the thigh while he was still trying to catch his breath from how she'd pulled out of him without warning. “Can you imagine? My reputation would be in tatters. I'd never be able to look any of them in the eye again.”

It won't be like that.

When Margo and Eliot are done with him, it won't be like that.

Quentin turns around, slides down the door, stares out into the blissful, perfect day. He's borrowing trouble. They aren't done with him yet. This is just a-

-just a gentle reminder that there's El-and-Bambi, and then there's everyone else.

He finds a bird in the sky, watches it dip and float on the breeze.

Most Physical Kids can fly. Eliot told him that, at some point during his first semester. Well, he said that, at least. Quentin has honestly seen no evidence it's true. It might just be one of the things Eliot was bragging about, early on, to try to get in his pants before Margo did.

Which is funny, because it's not like it's hard to get into Quentin's pants or anything.

If he does end up being a Physical Kid, though, it would be nice to fly. Being a goose had been exhilarating, after the pain had faded. He supposes he could always just be a goose again. Or some other bird more common to Ibiza. But flying as himself sounds- different. Nice.

He rests his head back and tracks a fluffy cloud, one of the ones that all long and puffy-looking. Julia or Alice would probably remember what it was called. Something based on where it is in the atmosphere. He never cared enough about that specific subject to dive into and give a shit about the distinctions.

The restaurant is probably open, and it's not far but Quentin just kinda wants to sit here until the door opens and he can just... fall backwards onto the floor and then maybe drink until he feels like he won't be intruding to go back to the villa.

He sees her, then, on the horizon, in that fluttery dress he'd helped her put on this morning.

Margo, but no Eliot.

Still, he sits there and waits for her to come close.

“Hey.” He shifts over the on the doorstep, so that she can sit with him if she wants. “Um. Is El okay?”

“Not really,” she says, and she joins him, presses her hip against his. “But I guess that's going around. How are you?”

He shrugs.

Then he asks the question he's been bracing himself to ask. “Do you want me to go back? To Brakebills, I mean.”

“No,” she says, and she tucks her arm into his elbow and leans her head on his shoulder. “He wants to tell you, Q. It's just... hard.”

“Yeah,” he says. He pets her hand. “It's fine, Margo. I know I'm not- that he doesn't feel the same way about me that he does about you.”

Margo laughs, but it isn't- isn't mean.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing,” she tells him. “Look, you know El-”

“Do I?” His voice doesn't crack, but it comes close, wobbly and much too honest. “How can I? I don't know anything about him. Where he was born, what he majored in, his first love. None of it. How can I even pretend that I- that I know him?”

“Oh, honey,” she says. That's all she says, for a while. “You might have guessed this, but El and I were partners for the secrets part of the trial. We were already friends. It was an easy call.”

He nods.

There's a couple on the beach, down by where the sand meets the waves. He can't tell much about them from this far away, but he hopes they're enjoying themselves.

“I can't tell you what he told me,” she says. “That's his secret.”

Sure, he's not expecting her to-

“But I can tell you what I told him.”

He glances over at her, off-guard. Her face is open and serious, with no hint of a joke anywhere.

“Okay,” he says. Agrees, he guesses, to listen.

She looks away, fixes her eyes somewhere in the distance. “You remember how it was, all nudity and nerves. Easier with me and El, than some others, but still awkward. We painted each other's bodies and tied up each other's wrists and I went first. He was scared about what he might say, I think. What it would mean about him.”

There's a tug of a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“So, I talked about- I told him, I like being a bitch. It catches people off-balance. Lets me weed out the people I don't wanna deal with. I told him about how angry I am, all the time.” Her smiles widens. “And that wasn't it. I spent so long with my anger. It had been my most important thing for so many years. But it didn't work.”

She's smiling but saying 'congratulations' seems inappropriate somehow, so Quentin just kinda makes his best approximation of sounding understanding and encouraging and hopes it's enough. It doesn't seem to offend her, anyway.

“I couldn't figure it out at first,” she says. “Rage was my- my fuel against all the fucking C.S. Lewises of the world who thought growing tits meant losing my soul.”

“Fuck C.S. Lewis,” Quentin agrees, on firmer ground with this. He and Margo have had several long conversations on how much better a storyteller and world-builder Jane Chatwin was in comparison to Lewis. “What- what was it? Your truth?”

“Be patient, Little Q. There I was. Naked and smeared with paint and I couldn't figure out why I was different. And then Eliot said. He said, 'hurry, your ass up, Doe-eyes, I'm freezing over here'.” Margo huffs out a soft laugh. “And I knew. I told him. You're it. You're my truth, you whiny, vain bastard. I wanna spend the rest of my goddamn life with you in it, because somehow you make the whole shitshow fucking worthwhile.”

“And the ropes slipped off,” Quentin says. It's not a question.

“The ropes slipped off,” Margo affirms. “And, god, the way he looked at me.” Her voice is a little choked up, but she wouldn't thank him for pointing it out. “And he promised- he promised he'd stick with me too. Partners. I don't-” she clears her throat. “I'm not ever planning on getting married, so I guess that's as close to a proposal as I'll ever get.”

“I don't know how I ever thought you hated each other,” Quentin says, but that was a lifetime ago, so he can maybe forgive that past him. “Thank you. Uh. For telling me. Helping me understand better.”

“You can thank me with some quid pro quo,” she says. He frowns at her, confused. “Q… tell me about the girl.”

Quentin does possibly the stupidest thing he's ever done in his life. He blinks at her and asks, “What girl?”

She rolls her eyes at him, says, “No games, honey. Not today. I've had my fill. You know which girl.”

“Did Eliot- um. Tell you?” He's not sure how he feels about that idea. Or- he does know, it makes something weird and cold set up camp inside his ribcage but he- it's like Margo just said. She and Eliot are life partners in some complicated way and he's just him.

“Not much, just the red flags,” she says, gently. “He wanted to respect your privacy.”

Oh.

“What red flags?” he asks. He can't see what sense that makes in this context. She studies him a long moment but he has- he doesn't know what she's looking for in his face.

“To stay away from bad memories,” she says. That doesn't seem like an answer? But she doesn't stop to let him question it. “Let's start simple. How did you meet her?”

“I don't really remember,” he says and it's startling to realize that's true. He hadn't- hadn't fallen in love at first sight or whatever. She'd just been one of Julia's outer circle of friends.

Julia always had so many, or at least it seemed like that to Quentin at the time. Knowing Margo and Eliot has taught him a lot about the various levels of acquaintances versus real friends, but he hadn't really understood that back then. All he'd seen was that Julia could somehow always find a friend at any given party, while he hovered awkwardly in the corner or rambled to small groups until they got bored and left.

“Okay. When was the first time you noticed her?” She's taken his hand in both of hers, cradling it softly.

“Um- we- we were both at a party and I. Julia was throwing the party, so I was helping clean up. And Julia-” It was hard to remember why it was Julia had left. “-she had to return something, I think? But it was probably an excuse to make out with James in a taxi, honestly. And. She was there, too. I guess she volunteered to help. And she kissed me.”

“You didn't notice her before that? Guess she wasn't as pretty as me,” Margo says, with that reflexive vanity that she and Eliot both seem to retreat behind to lighten the mood. He smiles at her, knocks his shoulder against hers.

“Well, who is?” He looks down, at their hands all clasped together. “She was pretty. I was just- I had a crush on Julia. So I- uh. I didn't really notice her until she face-planted onto my lips, I guess.”

“Not a great kisser either, huh?” Margo says.

“It's not a competition,” Quentin says, puzzled. “It doesn't matter whether or not she was a good kisser?”

“I'm a bitch. It's my brand,” Margo says easily, but that hasn't really been his experience of how she normally treats other women so it's- he frowns. She pokes his stomach. “Hey, I am not the topic of discussion, Romeo. Tell me about this big first kiss.”

“It was, uh. Short?” It hadn't been- he hadn't known how important… it had just been a kiss. Brief and dry and mostly memorable because- “She pulled away before it was really anything. Said it was a mistake. That I shouldn't tell anyone.”

“Did you?”

“She seemed upset,” Quentin says, trying his best to unspool the memories. “She was- um. Rich? Like, Jules and I were from the suburbs. Julia's college boyfriend, James? He was- like a trust fund kid. And she was-um. She was a lot richer than him. She didn't want her friends-” she hadn't said all that at the first party, most of it had come later. But she'd been upset at the idea that James or the others might find out, so he'd- “I didn't tell anyone.”

“Then what?” Margo asks. “What happened?”

“Nothing for, I don't know. A while.” She kept coming to the parties but ignored Quentin, though he'd noticed her more because of the kiss. “Then she came by to, uh. To talk to Julia, but Julia wasn't home and she- um. Kissed me again.”

Margo mutters something too quietly for him to understand. He nudges her but she shakes her head, stares off for a moment. “She good friends with Wicker?”

“Um. Not really?” Quentin says, and Margo nods, thoughtful and downcast.

“Yeah,” she says. “So, let me lay out a timeline. She comes over to talk to, ah. To talk to Julia maybe a handful of other times. There are some more accidental kisses and then... how long after that before she invited you over to her place because she was just desperate to see you without interruptions?”

Quentin blinks.

“Uh, a couple of weeks, I guess. How did-”

“I'm really fucking smart, honey,” Margo says, sharply. Then she squeezes his hand in hers, like she's trying to be supportive. “And it stayed a secret? You didn't tell- Julia doesn't know about this?”

“She knows now,” Quentin says, and he feels defensive but he's not sure why. “I told her, uh. I told her after I- after the first time you and I- that we-”

And that, for some reason, makes a tear well up in the corner of Margo's eye.

“Hey, hey, what's wrong?” Quentin asks, dropping Margo's hands so that he can touch her cheek.

But Margo says, very fiercely, “This is not about me right now.” She tugs his hand down from her face. “Okay. Tell me- tell me about being fucked on your back.”

It's so blunt that it startles a laugh out of him. “What?”

“You don't like it,” she says, and that's- sure, okay, but- “Tell me how it started. With-” she hesitates. “-with the girl.”

Part of him wants to- to try asking, well, how do you know she ever-

But Margo is right. Games haven't helped him any so far.

“It's hard to talk about,” he says, and he knows he's echoing El's excuse, that Margo had given for him.

But this is... buried in a shame deeper than sex.

“You just had sex at first, right?” Margo says, and that's, yeah. It was never the kind of wild sex that he's been having with Margo and Eliot, but it was good, he thinks. “What changed?”

Quentin can't quite help it — he pulls away from Margo, tucks inside himself.

“Um.” His brain stutters as he tries to think of a way to have this conversation with Margo without admitting… but there isn't… that's what it was about. It can't be talked around. “I got new meds.” And his voice is- fuck, breathy and high and nervous. “For my- I take- anyway. I got new meds and there was- my side effects normally aren't too bad, but with this one, I couldn't. Um. I couldn't get.” He considers the last word like Socrates and the hemlock. But he doesn't have a choice, really, either. “I couldn't get hard. At all. It was like-” he laughs and he's trying for light and breezy but it comes out pitchy and cracked. “I didn't even get morning wood there, for a while.”

“Okay,” Margo says, but she sounds a bit confused.

Quentin wets his lips. “I told her about- that we would need to, uh. Take a break. From sex anyway. We could just, hang out or whatever.”

'Why would I want to do that?' she'd said, because she'd gotten bored with his card tricks and his conversation by that point.

“She wanted me to prove it. That I couldn't, uh. That she couldn't make me.” It had been, maybe, the worst afternoon of his life. Not because she'd hurt him but because, it was- the way she'd touched him like it was fascinating but it was happening because his brain didn't- didn't work right and the thing that was supposed to make his brain better was doing this to him instead and she acted like it was a good thing. “She liked it, I guess. Um. Better that way.”

“I'm sorry,” Margo says, and she touches his shoulder very gingerly. “I'm so fucking sorry, Q.”

“I-” he shrugs, but doesn't try to move away. “Thanks? I guess? It was- but you wanted to know about- um. The next time I, um. That I saw her, she asked if I was still having trouble- uh. Getting it up. And she said she had something she wanted to try instead of, uh. Of me fucking her. Since I couldn't, anyway.”

“So, she pegged you,” Margo says. She breathes out, slowly. “And she hurt you while she was doing it. And she didn't stop when you told her 'no'.”

“God, you make it sound like-” Quentin shifts uncomfortably on the step. “-I mean, it was just rough sex. I can take some rough sex. I'm not a porcelain doll. I won't break.”

“Whose words are those, Q?” Margo asks. “Because they don't sound much like yours.”

Quentin drops his gaze to his hands, tries to stop himself from fidgeting.

“She didn't make me do anything, not really,” he says, quietly. “I wanted to make her happy, so I compromised for her, like you're supposed to do in- in relationships. You're getting mad at her but it's not her fault. I'm just not- um.”

“What compromises did she make for you?” Margo asks. “Because it sounds pretty one-way from how you tell it.”

“Being with me at- at all was a compromise for her,” Quentin says, soft and bewildered. “Isn't that enough?”

“Quentin. Honey. You didn't even want her. She chased you. From the start. So how the fuck is getting what she wanted a compromise? Because she told you over and over that you weren't good enough for her?”

He must have told it all wrong, if that's what she got out of it. But he's exhausted — how can he be so tired when it's only noon — so even though she doesn't- doesn't understand, he still wants-

“Can I come back to the villa now?” he asks. He doesn't want to make El feel awkward, but he really wants- “Can you, um. Take a nap with me?”

“Yeah, honey,” she asks, and she kisses his cheek, tender, like she does with Eliot. “We can do that.”

When they get up, and he winces, Margo notices his foot and — with a few muttered curses — she cleans the gash out and re-bandages it, says, “How the fuck you managed to get hurt on a goddamn vacation to paradise is just fucking- can you walk? You can walk, right?”

He assures her that he can walk fine, it just throbs a little. But it's kinda nice, anyway, to have her fuss over him.

“You didn't do a bad job with this shirt, though,” she tells him, rubbing her fingers along the mended seams. “Just some minor mending, right? But skill matters just as much as raw power. It looks good. I'm gonna show you some tailoring spells later. I think you'll pick them up pretty quickly.”

It reminds him of what Sunderland had been saying about refining and focusing, before they all went to Brakebills South. Of course, Margo and Eliot would have gotten her speech too, last year.

“Thanks,” he says. “I'd like that.”

When they get back to the villa, Quentin isn't sure what to expect. He feels weird already — talking so much about Heather feels like a violation of trust, more than just telling Julia they'd dated had. Like, the shit people do in bed should mostly be kept private, right? Especially since Margo — who has so much more experience than he does — seems to think it was wrong somehow. Bad sex or whatever.

Anyway, he's not sure what he's expecting but when they open the door and Eliot is sitting on the stairs, there's a sharp, warm pang of relief in his belly. Stupid, probably. Not like Eliot would skip out on Encanto Oculto. But he'd been so upset.

“Are you okay?” Quentin asks, and he's trying to reach for Eliot, to make sure, but he forces his hands back. It's not his… he doesn't want to push Eliot away. He wants to ask, again, what he did wrong earlier, but it won't- Eliot already said it wasn't about him.

“Not particularly,” Eliot says, his hands resting loosely on his knees. “Are you- what happened to you?” His voice sharpens as he looks Quentin over. “Why is your shirt on your- is that blood?”

He gets up, reaches for Quentin and tugs him close and Quentin relaxes, heart fluttering as he says, “I stepped on a rock.”

“God, baby.” And Eliot kisses his forehead, nuzzles into his hair. Quentin clings to his shirt, now that he has the nebulous permission of Eliot touching him first. “I'm sorry I was a whiny bitch earlier.”

“You weren't,” Quentin says, pushes back so that he can crane up to see Eliot's face. “I was- um. I know I don't have- it's okay. I was being pushy.”

“I don't mind pushy,” Eliot says. “Have you even met Bambi?”

It makes him laugh, which was probably the point.

“I was gonna take a nap with Margo,” Quentin says, feeling inexplicably shy. “You wanna…“

Eliot touches his face, traces a thumb along his cheekbone. “A cuddlepile sounds perfect, sweetheart.”

He hasn't used that one before but it's- it's nice.

They don't go to the room he and Margo had slept in last night, and where the sex had gone so wrong this morning, instead piling into a room down the hall.

He finds himself firmly planted in the middle, despite his, well, not too sincere protests.

Quentin expects to fall right back to sleep — it had been his idea, after all — but he can't stop thinking about his conversation with Margo.

He knows — from extensive conversations with therapists trying to convince him to confide in them — that keeping secrets can distort perspective. He hadn't considered this the sort of secret that qualified but maybe he's been wrong about that.

Margo, pressed up against his back, has started that tiny cute snore she does that Eliot has sworn him to secrecy about. He snuggles into Eliot's chest, and this is so much more than he'd ever imagined having. Selfish to want more, honestly.

He always wants more. Ever since he was a kid, trying so hard to impress his parents with card tricks and facts he'd read out of books. He's never been great at being satisfied with what he's got, despite knowing it's more than he's really earned.

“I can hear you thinking, baby Q,” Eliot says. His hand is resting on Quentin's hip, fingers tucked under the waistband of his pants. “You gonna be able to sleep with all that going on upstairs?”

“I talked to Margo about- um.” He thinks this should be okay. Eliot is always willing to listen. It's just that he doesn't like sharing back. So Quentin can still, maybe, get a second opinion. “Julia's friend.”

“Pegging Girl, right,” Eliot says. “I'm glad you told Bambi about her.” He untucks his hand from Quentin's pants, strokes along his side. “How'd that go?”

Quentin wrinkles his nose. “I don't know. She wanted to know, like, my whole history with her? And she, uh. I don't know. She seemed to think, okay, this is gonna sound extreme or whatever, but it seemed like Margo thinks, um. That she did something wrong. Like, actually wrong? Or, um.”

“What do you think?” Eliot asks, and it's almost a therapist question, but he doesn't ask it the way a therapist would. “Do you think she did anything you didn't want?”

“That's not the same thing,” Quentin points out, tapping his fingers against Eliot's bare chest. “I- I mean, I let her, El. I know I'm not strong compared to, like, you or whatever but Heather was half a foot shorter than me. I could have stopped her if I wanted.”

“Strength isn't the only thing that matters, baby,” Eliot says, softly. “So, if you want — only if you want — you can tell me. If, uh, if Heather did things you didn't want her to do.” He feels a pang of guilt when Eliot says her name. He hadn't meant to-

“I was just embarrassed,” Quentin says. “And, um. It hurt a little, I guess, but that's just- it's just like that sometimes.” It hasn't been, with Margo and Eliot, but they're, like, really good at sex. He can't be mad at Heather for not living up to that standard.

“Hurt a little like being spanked hurts, or worse than that?” Eliot asks and the question makes Quentin twist his mouth and maybe hide his face because the sense memory washes over him instantly, despite this not really being the right time for it.

“It's not the same at all,” Quentin says, when he feels like he has his blush under control. “Um. It feels. I actually. Uh- that's just, you know. It's nice. When you and Margo- um.” He wishes his hands were free so he could make his point better, but he also likes that they're pressing against El's chest.

“That's good to know,” Eliot says, though he doesn't really sound surprised which is- good. Quentin's glad Eliot already knows how much he likes it, even if it does still make him get all hot and flustered. “And it also isn't the same as how achy your ass is after getting fucked?”

No! I mean- you always make it feel really good, El-”

“I'm not actually fishing for compliments right now, but thank you anyway, sweetheart.” Eliot kisses the top of his head, all firm and tender. “We're just… establishing a baseline. How- how long were the two of you together?”

“Most of senior year, I guess,” Quentin says, after a moment of thought. And he's been thinking about it too much, because he immediately gets thrown back to- to her face, the way she'd looked when she said she was leaving. “Anyway, it can't be what Margo thinks, you know?”

“Why not?” Eliot asks. And he's reaching up now, to pet through Quentin's hair.

“Because I didn't want her to leave,” Quentin says, earnestly. “If she were really a- a bad girlfriend or whatever, wouldn't I be glad it was over?” Instead, he'd cried and begged and made a mess of himself. “I was the one who wasn't good enough, El, not her.”

It's a relief to say it out loud to someone, honestly. The only girlfriend he's ever had, and he hadn't been able to keep her happy or get her to stay.

Eliot's hand stills in his hair, then he starts petting through again, more slowly.

“Baby. I-”

He feels Eliot's mouth press against the top of his head. Then Eliot's hand slides down to the back of his neck, encouraging him to tilt his head back to look Eliot in the face.

“Hey,” he says, a touch startled. Does Eliot want to-

But he wants to touch Quentin's face, it seems, run his fingers over his cheeks and his nose and his mouth.

Quentin blinks and softens his jaw and tries to figure what Eliot wants him to do.

“You are- you're more than good enough, baby,” Eliot says, as his fingers brush under Quentin's chin. “You are good. And honest and true and- fuck, so brave. Anyone who doesn't see that is a fucking idiot.”

“Oh,” Quentin says. He's not really- he doesn't have-

Brave?

“I suspect, Q, that you got tangled up with a predator,” Eliot adds, which is- Quentin wrinkles up his nose. “And that, dearest, is not your fault.” Dearest is… that's something he's heard Eliot use with Margo. Eliot touches his nose lightly, and his eyes cross a little, trying to focus. “I grew up with someone who made me feel like that. Like I would never be good enough.”

“She didn't do it on purpose,” Quentin says, but the larger part of his brain catches on- Eliot, talking about something from his past. “I'm just- my brain is broken, El. You know that.”

“Nothing about you is broken,” Eliot says, inflexible and firm. “You have-” he hesitates a moment. “-depression, right? Maybe some other stuff going on, too? But that's not-”

“I don't- it doesn't help to pretend I'm normal, El,” Quentin says, but gently, because Eliot is- he's trying to be understanding and it makes his chest go all warm and tight. “My brain breaks. It's a thing. Meds can help, but, um. I'm not sure anything can ever fix it. Not even magic. I'm always gonna be me.”

“I like you,” Eliot says. He kisses the bridge of Quentin's nose, abrupt and maybe awkward. “Being you is good enough.”

Quentin doesn't- he twists up, so he can kiss Eliot on the mouth, though it's still- shallow, barely a real kiss.

“It's not easy, to talk about the parts of ourselves that we're ashamed of,” Eliot says. “Or to trust people when you've been hurt so badly in the past. I don't- deserve your trust, Q, but thank you anyway, for giving it to me.”

Quentin takes in a shaky breath, slides up his hands so he can touch Eliot's face, gathers up all that bravery Eliot seems to think he has. Says, “Um. You don't have- to tell me anything. But I can listen. I- I want to listen.”

Eliot catches Quentin's wrists with his hands, holds them in place, his eyes miles and miles away.

He's mouthing something to himself.

Then he seems to come to some sort of decision, nodding, just slightly. His fingers tighten on Quentin's wrist, not enough to hurt.

“While you were gone, I fucked up,” he says, and he's staring at Quentin's mouth or his chin. “Oh, god. I really fucked up.”

Quentin has- he has no context for what Eliot might mean. If they were dating, maybe he would think Eliot was talking about cheating or something, but they aren't, and Eliot sounds like he did earlier this morning, like he might cry or throw up again.

“We'll fix it,” Quentin says, which is a bold promise considering he has no idea what Eliot's talking about but- “Whatever it is, we'll fix it.”

Eliot smiles, but it looks pained.

“You might not be able to,” he says. “I- I used magic against another student. I could have- I could have killed him.”

Quentin blinks.

“What- what happened? Did he hurt you? Who was- are you okay?” He tugs his hands out of Eliot's, pats along his body but, no, he thinks Eliot is okay physically at least. “Does Margo know who- do you want us to-”

“My little hero,” Eliot says, in the voice he normally uses during sex, all soft and fond.

Quentin flushes.

Julia has, on occasion, complained about how he always, if she's venting to him or whatever, he'll start giving her advice on how to fix things, when she really just wanted him to listen. But Eliot doesn't seem annoyed, at least.

“I mean, I want to help,” he says, his hands still uselessly fluttering over Eliot's body. “What- um. Does the school, uh?”

“Not yet,” Eliot says. “If he- if he tells the Dean, I might- I might get kicked out and that-” he laughs, airy and cracked. “-when they expel a student, they take away. Ah. Take away their memories of- of everything that happened at Brakebills.”

Eliot would forget Margo, then, if they kicked him out. But that's okay. That's fixable, too. Quentin relaxes because even- even the worst case scenario is fixable.

“We need a plan, then,” he says and plans are- plans are good, plans are someplace firm to stand. “First, we figure out if we can keep the Dean from finding out. But we need- need a back-up plan in case we fail. Having DNA helps with locator spells, right? So we'll keep something around, so we can find you if he does- does kick you out.”

Eliot is staring at him like he's never seen him before.

“You'd come find me?”

“I mean, yeah? Of course,” Quentin says. He narrows his eyes at Eliot, feeling- “Of course, I would. You're-” he can say something true, even if it isn't everything. “El, you're one of my best friends.”

They're talking too loudly, because he feels Margo stirring at his back, but that's for the best. She can help plan.

Eliot presses a thumb against his mouth and says, with wide eyes, “I… me, too.”

Quentin kisses his thumb instinctively, says, brainlessly, “Is there a word for best friends with benefits or is it all kinda the same?”

Eliot leans in, presses a hard kiss against Quentin's mouth, his thumb still trapped between them. “Honestly, I'm making it up as I go along.”

And, well. Quentin can understand that.

That's basically his whole life.

Chapter Text

Margo adores Eliot and she holds an ever-growing fondness for Quentin.

But oh, holy shit, does she wish they would get their heads out of their asses already.

When she rolled over last night, she thought she was witnessing the energized aftermath of weepy confessions of eternal love but no.

No.

It had been the aftermath, apparently, of confessions of best friendship.

They are her favorite people in the world but, oh lord, they are as fucking clueless and helpless as day-old kittens. And it's not her job to fucking shepherd them to emotional growth and happiness. She came to Ibiza for fucking magic orgy week and she is gonna goddamn enjoy it no matter what.

Especially since there's a chance they might have to take on the Dean for El's sake once they get back.

“Even if Reilly did tell someone, Eliot is safe here for now,” Margo reassures Quentin during dinner-slash-breakfast after they all get up from their nap and her boys get her up to speed on current events. “We're not the only people on the island early and they've had to deal with attempted party crashers in the past. These days, only magicians with invites can portal in for the whole week before Encanto Oculto starts.”

Still, they do come up with the bones of a plan — assess the situation with Reilly, see if he can be reasoned with then, if not, be prepared to sneak into the Dean's back office for El's memories once they're removed.

“It's against policy to just snap them out of existence,” Margo tells them. She's learned a lot about it from an angry girl she occasionally screws who'd been tossed out and is hedging it while trying to get her memories back. She doesn't tell them that part. Quentin, she thinks, might be disappointed she isn't trying to help Marina get her memories back, and Eliot would be disappointed she's banging a hedge often enough to get life updates. And she's not sure how well 'she's a grade-A bitch who deserved to get kicked from Brakebills' would go over as a defense in either case. “Because if the situation changes and they get invited back, then they also get back their memories.”

Once they have their rough plan in place, they refocus on the week ahead. Margo is frustrated her boys didn't actually confess The Big Love when they had the perfect fucking opportunity, but it also means things haven't changed yet. She's not entirely certain what will change once the l-word gets brought out, but Eliot is already getting more monogamy-minded by the day, so Encanto Oculto might be her last week of getting to have her two favorite people in bed with her.

But for now, she can still tug Quentin towards her and remind him how much he wanted to lick her ass. He flushes and says, “yeah“ in a voice that makes it clear just how how bad he wants it. She pilfers pillows from multiple rooms this time, so that she and Quentin can both be tucked up on them, because Quentin also still really wants his spanking from El but Eliot is feeling hesitant about his telekinesis still.

She kisses Quentin to warm him up, long drugging kisses while he tugs and twists at her nipples and she wakes up his dick with soft, teasing touches. She understands better now, she thinks, about the kinds of things that might hurt him. Enough that she can stay far, far away from them.

Once she's face-down on the bed again, fully-nude this time and breasts pleasantly tender, she feels his hand on her lower back for a moment. He casts Pertrick's and — fuck, it still feels so much more amazing than any descriptions could make her believe. It's not quite as startling as when he did it on her earlier for the very first time, but it's still a fucking lot.

“Oh, honey,” she pants into the pillow. “That's-”

He kisses her wet asshole and she gasps and pushes back against him. Quentin kisses her and tongues her and puts gentle strong fingers in where she's open and willing for him. She can also feel it every time El smacks him, the way it makes him shock up against her and then redouble his efforts to please.

And he does, he does, until she's squirming back onto his face and cursing with every breath. Her cunt aches for attention but she ignores it for now, wanting more of Quentin's mouth and hands right where they already are.

“You should- ah! Fuck my ass, little Q,” she tells him, her hair getting caught in her mouth when she tries to talk. “No time like the- the present.”

He flips her over on the bed which is — really pretty hot — puts his hand on her belly just above her quivering, desperate mound. “But we didn't have a ticker-tape parade,” Quentin says and that is- what a fucking sap, to remember exactly what she'd said.

Eliot catches him from behind, runs his hands over Quentin's hips.

“Special exception,” she says. “Just this once. And maybe afterwards, you can finger me, because I do desperately want my pussy stuffed.”

“I could do that,” Eliot says which-

He doesn't appear to notice her reaction — he kisses Quentin's cheek, brushes his knuckles over Q's hard dick and clarifies, “We could fuck you at the same time.”

Which- they've double-teamed boys before, but he-

“Yeah, okay,” she says, because she doesn't want to make it weird if it doesn't already feel weird to him. “I can ride you while Q fucks me from behind?”

And Eliot looks like he genuinely thinks that's a great idea so, sure. Okay.

“I need to get stretched out if I'm gonna get fucked by your monster dick,” she points out.

He whispers something in Q's ear to make him flush and nod. Then Eliot looks down at her, eyes dark. “As my lady wishes.” It sends an unexpected zing of heat through her body.

They lie down on either side of her, do it together, their fingers getting all tangled up as they tease and stretch her. Quentin gets his mouth on her tit, licking and sucking the nipple between his lips, lightly nipping at her with his teeth. Eliot — with his stupidly-long body — kisses her mouth and neck.

She doesn't ask him if he's sure. It seems insulting somehow. But he answers anyway, tells her, “I'm in a rare mood, dearest. And, rumor has it, I'll be able to feel his dick inside you.”

“Yeah,” she confirms, breathless. She's done it before, had dicks coming from all angles — actually, she thinks the most recent time was during last year's Encanto Oculto — and they'd told her they could. They could feel it. Though people say all kinds of things, during sex.

They stretch her until they can each fit in two fingers, pulling her apart from both sides, and until she comes, shuddering, splayed out and opened up.

She climbs up on El's naked body and- fuck, the way he studies her is intense and hot. He's so present, maybe, not mindless at all in his arousal. Quentin presses up against her, puts his hands on her hips. That familiar look flashes across Eliot's face when he glances at Q — twitterpated as fuck — but then he's back with her again, a curious hand tracing over her stomach.

He's only got a semi, so Quentin says, “Oh! I can-” and ducks down to blow El until he's standing up proud and hard. He keeps his hand on El's dick after, which is probably a smart choice all-around.

Margo hesitates a moment, then Eliot blows her a kiss, as fond as ever, so she lets Quentin put him between her legs and-

“Oh, shit, hold up a second,” she gasps. “Encanto Oculto hasn't- hasn't officially kicked off, I need to-” and she does the spell against conception while awkwardly hovering over El's cock.

But then she's good and she's sliding down Eliot's cock and she says, a little dreamy, “Jesus, we joke about how big your dick is, but fucking teatime in goddamn hell, it really is like a motherfucking horse's, Christ.”

“Yes, I'm sure Jesus would appreciate being the sandwich for a conversation about dick size,” Eliot says, dryly, as if he isn't a million times more lapsed than she is. “Don't go too fast, Bambi. You can take your time.”

He doesn't have to warn her. She's not gonna rush this. She loves fucking Q, and she's enjoyed fucking all the people she's been with in the last while, but it's been some time since she had anything quite as big as El's dick inside her.

Quentin watches it all with eager eyes, gaze fixed onto where Eliot is slowly disappearing into her cunt. He slides his hand down as she moves lower, finally flattening it out and then pulling away once she sinks, fuck, all the way down.

“Wow,” Q says, the way he does when he learns a new spell or she blows his mind with metatextual analysis. He touches them both like they might pop like soap bubbles and it's cute but really not necessary.

She grabs his shoulders, yanks him over to straddle El backwards for a minute so that she can make out with him and reach down to pet at his dick. He makes a concerned little noise, probably worrying that the cleaning and lubing spells aren't enough to make his mouth kissable after going at her ass, because he settles down after she says, “You taste good; stop fretting.”

Then Margo pushes him away playfully, says, “Get behind me, foul tempter,” and gracefully collapses onto Eliot's chest once Q's out of the way. Shifting like that moves the way El's dick is angled inside her, makes her shudder.

Eliot brushes her hair out of her face, says, “You feel nice, Bambi,” in much the same way he's told her he likes her outfits — with a great deal of affection and fondness and aesthetic approval and a great lacking in the desire to bend her over and stick his dick in her.

“Right back atcha, El,” she says, and she folds her arms on his chest, leans her chin on her wrists, and gazes up at him, feeling unaccountably comfortable and soft, considering the circumstances.

Quentin moves her hair off the back of her neck and she shivers, clenching around El's cock. He kisses her, kisses a warm line down her spine, his hands softly caressing as he goes. Pulls her asscheeks apart and licks her there again, delicately, goes down further to kiss at where the base of El's dick is jammed up against her pussy.

She feels his hair against her thighs but not his mouth for a while and she thinks, based on context clues, that he's sucking on El's balls, rolling them in his fingers to make Eliot gasp and shift.

Margo's always loved the way Eliot looks when he's turned on – he's the happiest motherfucker in the world when he has a boy's hand or mouth or ass on his dick, all giggles and smiles. He's still like that with Quentin, but he also gets quiet and thoughtful at times, like a whole lot more is happening in his brain than just an orgasm. Maybe that's what love – goopy romantic love – is about. It'll be interesting to watch, anyway, once he's willing to actually open his mouth and say the words.

Quentin kisses his way back up to her ass again, really digging his face in and licking into her. He's so hungry and desperate, all the time. It's a fucking crime to take that kind of enthusiasm and-

She buries the thought, pushes back against Q's mouth.

“Fuck me already before I get bored,” she says, and Quentin laughs and kisses her harder. He cups a handful of her ass and pulls away for a moment.

“Can I?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she tells him, already tensing up in anticipation. He gives her – ah! – three sharp strikes, then digs his fingers into her hot skin.

“That felt fantastic,” Eliot comments to Quentin, she thinks, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and tugging her up a little on his dick. “Do it again, baby.”

Because he's a good boy – he's Eliot's very good boy – Quentin listens and Margo gets the benefits, wiggling and squirming and moaning on El's dick as Quentin smacks her ass. She's honestly not sure how long he does it. She loses track.

She's shivering even with light touches by the time he stops and her ass must be bright red and she wants-

“Q – Quentin, there's a- there's a camera in my bag, I wanna have – El, are you okay if Q takes a-”

Eliot translates her babbling successfully, directing Quentin to manifest her camera out of her bag in the other room and into his palm. Then Eliot takes her ass in both hands, hoists her up, checks in, “You want my face in this, Bambi, or just my dick inside you and your gorgeous ass?”

“Face,” she says, instantly. “I wanna see you later.”

Eliot's hands slide down to frame her thighs, and she doesn't even have to try to picture it, because she's gonna be able to look later, see the way El's cock is splitting her wide and how flushed her ass is from Quentin's hand. She hears the camera, and it's a fucking expensive one so she hopes Quentin knows how to operate a real camera and not just his phone.

He doesn't sound like he's dropping it, at least.

“Take a fuckton,” she shouts out, wriggling in El's hands. “I'm not trusting you to get the perfect moment or angle. Give me options.”

“Oh, god, stop moving around and let me concentrate, holy shit, Margo,” Quentin says, and he's using his frustrated nerd voice, so she settles down a little, because that means he's probably studied it, at least enough not to completely fuck up. “If you got disciplined for being bratty, it would take your entire life to actually carry out the damn punishment.”

“Mouthy,” she mutters, but she stops moving. Waits for him to take some pictures. “Are you done yet? Stick your dick in me, already.”

“You asked me to-” he breaks off, laughing again. “Fine, fine. I'll fucking stick my dick in you, you classy bitch.”

“You fucking bet I am.”

And she hears him set down the camera on the table, come back over and put his hands on her. In contrast to his voice, all impatient and annoyed with her, he kisses her skin like she's his goddess, licks at the dip in her back, holds her hips like she's priceless treasure. She can feel him getting in place behind her, pressing the blunt head of his dick against her asshole and it – it's been a while since she had anything up there and she's stretched out but she's also, fuck, already so full with El.

When he slips inside, it's like all the air gets pushed out of her in one long breath. There's just- there's just not enough room for anything else. The first real thrust makes her squeak and slides her body up along Eliot's cock, and her eyes fly up to El's face, where his mouth is twitching up into a helpless smile and she knows he feels it but she asks anyway, “Is it good? Is it what you wanted?”

Eliot strokes through her hair, nods, says, “Yes, I- I can-”

His head lulls back against the pillows and he bites at his lip. Quentin fucks into her again, and he's holding onto her hips, so that when he pulls out, he tugs her back down onto Eliot, mama adores a clever boy, and she can see it on El's face, his eyelashes fluttering as he takes it in.

“He's such a good boy to daddy and mama,” Eliot says, and she loves it when their minds are hitting the same groove, and his voice is all husky and low as he pulls at her hair. “Fuck, what a good boy.”

Quentin's fingers tighten on her hips. His next thrust makes her yelp and bury her face down against her arms. She feels so fucking weightless right now, like she'd float off into space if she weren't tethered by Quentin's hands as he fucks her up off of El and then yanks her back down.

He smooths his hands over her hips, leans over her and kisses her shoulders, asks, hesitant and breathy, “Is- is mama getting what she needs?” and it fucking punches her into an orgasm that leaves her gasping and Eliot, Eliot going-

“Holy fuck, Bambi,” as her cunt tightens around him like a vise. “Jesus, I don't blame you, but don't break my dick off, okay?”

“Mouthy,” Margo says again, faintly. “Mouthy boy.”

She's gonna feel that one for a while.

Quentin keeps still a moment, and she lets him, but then she says, “Keep fucking me, honey. I want you to cream inside me.” Because she's sensitive as fuck, but she is gonna milk every second out of this particular screw. She still can't quite believe he actually said it for her.

She feels like- gelatin or pudding or – ha! a gelatinous cube, she should tell that one to Quentin, afterwards, he'll get a kick out of it – and she's not participating at all, really, anymore, just shuddering as Quentin moves her with his hands and his dick. He's so good at – she needs to tell him this sometime – he's so good at making sure no one feels left out when they're fucking. He keeps talking to her, tells her how he wants to be good for her, and for El, and he touches her like a person, not a hole he's fucking so his dick can rub against Eliot's.

He'll be a hit at Encanto Oculto, really, with those instincts of his. They'll have to beat people off with a stick, to make sure he isn't overwhelmed.

Margo hears him moan deep and loud, tug her hips back harder, and she doesn't feel it when he comes and she's already so wet inside from the spell that she can't really tell the difference, but she twitches, anyway, just from knowing. He slips out of her slowly, but she can't even feel empty for more than a second, with Eliot still taking up what feels like most of her stomach and ribcage. She feels... open, though, and tender.

Quentin presses his mouth to her again, kisses himself out of her.

She manages, just barely, to lift her head up to look at Eliot.

“You wanna?” she asks him, and he touches her face so sweetly she almost wants to cry.

“How about Q cleans you off me?” Eliot suggests, gently, and she nods and lays her head back down on his chest. She shivers as he wraps his hands around her ass again, gently tugs her up and off, and now she feels empty, hollowed out, and he rests her back down and she can feel the hard bulk of his dick leaning against her ass. She still feels fucking melted, so she just lets herself sprawl there uselessly as Quentin licks up El's dick, kisses her ass, touches his fingers to her cunt but backs off when she hisses softly.

She does watch Eliot's face as Quentin mouths over his dick, all the shades of desire and pleasure and adoration. His mouth twitching up into a helpless smile and his eyes crinkling up and his throat swallowing reflexively. El is, by far, the prettiest man she knows, and she gazes up at him like he's her own personal Starry Night, sees the delight that overtakes him as he comes all over her ass and lower back.

Quentin cleans it up, of course, though she'll still want a shower later.

“Thanks,” Quentin says, petting over her ass. “That was- you guys are so good at sex.”

“Yeah, that was definitely all us,” Margo says, amused beyond belief. “You had nothing to do with it.”

“I'm not good at sex,” Quentin says, like it's a fact. Margo stops smiling. “You guys are really, um. Good at making it feel good, though.”

“You cannot possibly believe you're bad at sex,” Eliot says, in a flat voice. “Bambi, let's get you over-” He shifts her to the side so that she can lie next to him. She still feels like she doesn't wanna move for about a million years, so that's good. “Get up here, baby.”

Quentin blinks, but goes, cuddling up next to Eliot on his opposite side.

“I didn't say bad,” Quentin says, like the clarification matters. “I just said 'not good'. I- um. I'm like- like play-doh-” and his face twitches a little and she has a sudden awareness that this is not a metaphor that he came up with himself. “-you know? I'm good at. Um. Being the shape people put me in. But it's the other person who- uh. Who matters?” His voice has been getting more and more questioning as he goes on, and she wonders if this is the first time he's said this aloud himself, if before he was always listening to that fucking girl say it. “I can- I can figure out what people like and try to do it? But that's still- um.”

Eliot is biting down on his lip, probably to keep himself from crying because- holy fuck.

“You aren't play-doh,” Margo says, as gently as she knows how. “You're a person, Q. You don't- you're more than-”

She has to blink to keep herself from tearing up too. She reaches across Eliot's body and snatches up Quentin's hand and she is gonna fucking- fucking talk to Wicker. Figure out who this friend of hers was and fucking track her down and have a very very important conversation with her.

“You matter,” Eliot says, and he kisses Quentin on the forehead. “I don't- we don't care about you because we've... molded you into the right shape, okay, baby? We care about you because of you. And I will say that-” he traces his knuckle down Q's cheek. “-I will say that as many times as you need to hear it, okay?”

“Don't fucking 'Perfect Mate' yourself for us, okay?” Margo says, sternly. He blinks a moment, and he can see it when he gets the reference, all soft and 'oh' and thrilled at her for making it in the first place. Since Eliot, just as obviously, does not get the reference, she explains real quick, “A bride becomes whatever personality her future hubby wants her to be.” Then she turns back to Q. “Honey, is that girl the only time you had a lot of sex with the same person? I mean, before us.”

“Well, I mean, yeah,” Quentin says, again like it should be obvious. “I had- uh. Some hook-ups, I guess? But no one has ever- I'm not really boyfriend material, you know?”

“Of course, you are,” Eliot says, devoted and tender and all prince charming in the third act of a disney movie. “You deserve all the love in the world, baby.” And then he stops. She knees him in the side and he fucking ignores her. She's gonna punch him when they're alone again, for missing what is literally the best fucking opening in the goddamn world.

“Thanks, El,” Quentin says, hesitant and awkward. “I- um. You do, too.”

She hates them so much.

 


 

The opening ceremony for Encanto Oculto is... a lot.

Quentin doesn't- he's not technically clinging to Eliot and Margo. That's not a thing that's happening. He just happens to be standing close to them because they're the only people he knows.

But after the sword dancers and the fireworks and the nearly-nude musical number-

-and, okay, Quentin really sees why Eliot and Margo love this event so much, it was basically invented for them-

-then it's time to 'meet the Elders', which is not a thing Quentin even realized was a thing until about five seconds ago, so that's just a bit stressful. There's a long receiving line and apparently there's several clumps of Elders to save time on the process which would be more of a relief if he knew literally anything about it all.

“You'll be fine,” Margo says, patting his hand. “We're covering you for the gift. And they go easy on virgins.”

“I'm not-”

“-virgins to the Encanto Oculto experience, little Q,” Eliot clarifies, sandwiching him from his other side. “It's like going to see Rocky Horror the first time- did you ever do that?”

“Um, I meant to-” Honestly, it had all sounded fairly intimidating.

Then they're in front of about five people who are all very attractive and not wearing a lot of clothes. Four of them look like they might actually deserve being called 'Elders', though they're pulling it off really well, but one of them looks the same age as Quentin.

“Oh, I remember you two,” says a lady he thinks might be in her fifties. “The bag of dicks. Very droll.”

She doesn't particularly sound like she means that.

“They made up for it later on,” says the guy around Quentin's age. “Still, I hope you went to a greater effort this time, children.”

“Yes, Elder Daro, we believe we did,” Eliot says, producing a flute and handing it over.

Daro studies it, flips it around. Blows into it and nods, then hands it off to one of the others.

“Acceptable.” Then his focus is on Quentin and- okay, yeah, there's no way this guy is actually the same age as him. Not with eyes like that. Quentin tilts his chin up, which doesn't do too much, since the guy is definitely close to Eliot's height. “And is this one getting a temporary pass as a playtoy or is he being vetted to join?”

“Join, of course,” Eliot says, and he's at his most haughty and flippant and it makes Quentin's heart tumble over in his chest. “This is our dear friend, Quentin.”

Quentin does his best to look like a- like the sort of friend who gets invited to orgy parties.

“Brakebills student?” Elder Daro asks, tilting his head to the side. His hair is long, too, longer than Quentin's, and spilling over his shoulders and down his back. “Physical discipline. Already enjoying the spirit of the week, it seems.”

“We all are. Enjoying it so very much, Elder Daro,” Margo says, using her brainless party girl voice, which can't possibly be fooling this man, though- Quentin thinks for a moment. Maybe the masks are part of the point. “And I do hope to be seeing more of you again this week.” She winks broadly and it's so blatant and obvious that- it has to be part of the whole game, right?

“Hmm.” Elder Daro studies him for a long long moment and if this is what 'going easy' on someone looks like, Quentin isn't sure he wants to see the alternative. Still, he's not gonna fucking let some random orgy ringmaster push him around, so he does his best not to look cowed. “I hope so as well. Enter and be welcome, Quentin Coldwater-” and, okay, literally no one had said his last name, so that's- “Margo Hanson. Eliot Waugh. May all your hungers be sated, darlings.”

He waves them away.

Once they're a handful of paces away, and the Elders are focusing on the next group, Margo and Eliot relax.

“That's 'going easy'?” Quentin asks, because now he can. “He had a stare like- I don't know, fuck, looking at a galaxy a million miles away.”

“We kind of said that so you wouldn't lock up and panic,” Eliot says, kissing his cheek. “But you were wonderful, baby.”

“Also, is he- um. Human?” Quentin asks, and he glances behind to see Daro giving that same intent stare to a new set of people. “He kind of seemed... like he maybe isn't.”

“Well, he's looked like that for as long as anyone who attends can remember,” Margo says. Which means, if the other Elders are like him, how old are they that they actually look old? “So, you know. Trust your instincts.”

“Did you, uh, um?”

“Yes, we had sex with him last year,” Margo says, stroking his wrist. “It was- interesting.”

“His semen tastes like cotton candy,” Eliot says, and it makes Quentin laugh, even though he's pretty sure Eliot is being honest. “So decide for yourself if that's something you want in your mouth this week.”

“He's actually one of the friendliest of the Elders,” Margo says. “And he liked you, honey. 'Spirit of the week' ha! I knew it was a good idea to blow you again right before we left the villa.”

The idea that some of the people here can literally look at him and tell he's been having sex recently is- a thought he is going to put aside for later.

“He knew my last name,” Quentin says, because he just wants to- put that out there. “Is that... um. I thought my wards were better than they used to be?”

“You're under his protection,” Eliot says. “The Elders as a whole, of course, but like Margo said, he's one of the nice ones. The world of magic is a lot wilder and stranger than just Brakebills. Some of the magical creatures that exist don't need to be able to read your mind in order to know things about you.”

“Well, that's terrifying,” Quentin says, as cheerfully as possible. At least it's only being used for the dubiously worthy prospect of a group sex party and not, like, invading planet earth from outer space. “Just what I always wanted – more people to know things about me.”

Margo giggles and presses her breasts against his arm. She's not wearing one of the bikinis she brought – or, well, she is, but it's under a slim, form-fitting dress for now – but he can feel her nipple through the fabric. “They only really care about sex and getting high and having fun,” she says. “Or, at least, that's what they say, and it seems to be true enough.”

Most of the people at the party are dressed in the same kind of 'casual' – but actually expensive – beachwear that Margo and Eliot are wearing and that they dressed him up in. They mix in with the crowd as they move around the beach. There are a lot of people but it doesn't feel overwhelming. He can see tents all over the place and the waves rush up against the sand and there's a scent that's floral and sweet but doesn't seem to actually be coming from anywhere.

And then there are the servers. They're wearing very little already, just like Daro and the Elders, and when one of them gets close enough for Eliot to pluck some food on a tray, Quentin gets a glimpse of their eyes, and they're just as fathomless and deep as Daro's were. Not human, then, though they mostly look human.

Eliot smells the – bread roll? – that he pulled off the tray, then tears it into three pieces. “This will taste like the best parts of home,” he says, as he hands it over, and that's such an odd-

Quentin takes a bite and-

-the smell of crayons and wood, huddled underneath a table with Julia, looking up at the map of Fillory they'd just drawn on the underside, where no parents would find it to punish them or paint it over again-

-rushes over him. Also, cinnamon.

“Okay,” he says. “Um. Okay.”

Eliot is watching him with a tiny smile, so he takes another bite-

-the taste of cigarettes on his tongue and a strong cocktail washing down his throat, Eliot's hand on his arm, Margo smiling at him and telling him to pull another card-

-and swallows.

“That's- that's a lot.” He also realizes, a little distantly, that he got hard without realizing it. But it doesn't feel- oddly, it doesn't feel urgent at all. It feels like an option. Like, if he pulled out his dick and told it to settle down, it would obey.

He eats the last bite of bread and it's-

-fuzzy, like a dream, he sees Jane Chatwin at a writing desk, the way she looks in her author picture, smiling to herself as she works, humming quietly-

-and also, he thinks there might be a hint of cardamom.

“Is all of the food here like that?” Quentin asks. Eliot and Margo ate their shares of the bread, too, while he was distracted. “Because that was- holy shit.”

“Not all of it, but enough,” Margo tells him. “Some people honestly do come just for the food.”

Quentin can believe it. And maybe, in the future, he might even be one of those people and-

-wow, is some part of him accepting the idea that he might get to go to something like this more than once in his life? Is he getting bolder or is it the bread talking?

There's a table of champagne fountains because, yeah, that tracks. Eliot and Margo circle the display slowly, examining it closely for no particular reason Quentin can work out. Then Margo takes one glass and holds it under a sparkling stream of liquid, filling it up. She hands it to Quentin.

“All the taste, none of the loss in judgement.” She and Eliot use a completely different stream of champagne to fill their own glasses.

Quentin takes a sip and- it doesn't taste like champagne. It tastes like a rich red wine, mellow as he holds it in his mouth. He swallows, looks at the glass. It definitely still looks like champagne.

“Who showed you the ropes, when you first came?” he asks because. Well, there's no way they could have figured it all out on their own. Right?

“Some guy who thought I was really hot,” Eliot says, off-hand, and there's a laugh in his eyes, though his mouth stays serious. There's more to the story, but nothing horrible. “If we see him this time, we should probably steer clear.”

“He might be mad?” Quentin asks, with a flush of concern.

“Settle down, my little hero,” Eliot says, and pats his cheek. “Embarrassed, more like. He thought I would want to see him again after the week was over.”

Quentin tries to wrangle up some of that confidence that Eliot and Margo wear like coats. “Not as good at sex as me, huh?”

It gets him a very fond smile. “No, baby. He definitely wasn't.”

“So, uh. Not to sound pushy but I don't actually- see any orgies?” Quentin bites his lip when that prompts a bubbly laugh from Margo.

“Our eager boy.” She rubs her hand along his arm. “That's what the tents are for – out here is for mingling, eating, drinking, getting high. General merriment. The tents are for fucking. And when you need to take a break, maybe get some sleep, we'll take you down to the shoreline. There's a section cordoned off as a waterbed. It's actually pretty soothing.”

“Huh.” Quentin tosses back the rest of his drink, whatever it actually is.

“Do you want to go to a tent?” Eliot asks.

Desperately.

“Sure, yeah. I mean, that's- we came for that,” Quentin says, attempting to project an aura of nonchalance. Eliot absolutely doesn't buy it but- honestly, pretending to believe someone's lies while definitely seeing underneath seems to be a big thing here, so- maybe, for once, Quentin is actually... fitting in? What a weird fucking place for it. Or maybe it's just Eliot and Margo, making him fit, the way they've managed to do with all the parties at the Cottage this last year.

He starts to drift in the direction of the nearest tent, but Margo and Eliot tug him away from it, heading towards one nearer to the ocean. After everything else he's seen so far, he's pretty sure they have a good reason, so he goes along with it.

They duck inside the flap of the tent and-

-okay, okay. This is a fucking mansion.

“Some Timelord shit, huh, honey?” Margo teases. She pulls her dress up and over her head, hangs it on the coat rack next to the door. Because it's a heavy wooden door now, not a tent flap. With her dress off, she's just in a tiny blue bikini, only barely covering her nipples and the slit of her pussy. Eliot is also pulling off his shirt and hanging it up, though he leaves on his pants.

There's a place for shoes, too, and Margo and Eliot shuck their footwear and carefully place it on the shelf.

“Is there a dress code?” Quentin asks, inanely, his fingers frozen on the buttons of his shirt. He's the one who wanted to go in right away, why is he hesitating now?

Eliot's hands cover his, tug them away from his shirt. He looks up and Eliot touches his mouth, light as air. “Comfort level. You can keep everything on if you want. There are plenty of ways to have sex with your clothes on.” Quentin pushes up so he can kiss Eliot's fingers, then nods.

He slips off his shoes and puts them in between Margo's and El's. Wiggles his bare feet in the plush rug on the floor – stone floors, but so many rugs everywhere.

There's the main door they came in, a wide staircase in front of them, and an archway on either side. Eliot takes him by the hand and they go right, through the shimmering pulse of a silencing ward and on the other side-

-first, he notices the moans and whimpers and the shouts. The room is dimly lit, but he can't see a light source, unless it's the mist itself that blankets and softens the air. The floor here is covered with rugs piled high and heaps of blankets and pillows and, well. People.

Probably less than a dozen, honestly, but walking into a room with a dozen people all having sex is an adjustment. Eliot's hand in his is sure and cool and comforting, though, so Quentin pulls closer to him.

Over in the corner, a blonde woman has her legs splayed wide and someone with a long dark braid of hair and a really amazing ass is licking at her, their head clutched tight to her pussy.

He can see someone else getting jerked off, and there's a pile of people – four in total, he thinks, – all moving together in ways he can't quite figure out from here.

Eliot tugs at his hand, leads him over to an empty cushion.

“Easier if we start with just us, hmm?”

“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, breathless already. He breathes in the mist and it's- it smells like the air outside, and his head feels clear and fuzzy at the same time. “This place is a lot, El. I- I think I like it? But it's a lot.”

“Is there something you feel comfortable doing in front of other people?” Eliot asks, cupping the side of his face. “We can always go back out and have more food, show you the waterbed.”

“There's a pie that tastes like sunrise,” Margo says, resting her hand on his lower back.

His eyes dart over Eliot's shoulders, to that blonde lady arching her back as she comes against her friend's mouth. Or stranger, maybe. He doesn't have any reason to think they know each other.

He licks his lips.

“I'm good here,” he says. He sits down. Falls, kind of, really. But everything is soft here, so it feels fine. He looks up – up and up the long length of El's body – marshals up his courage, and says, “Be even better with someone in my mouth.” He looks over to Margo, so she knows the invitation is for them both. Then he lets himself collapse all the way back onto the cushion. It's like falling into a cloud, but it stops, holds him firm.

Quentin thinks he can hear them talking, but there's a rising moan from another part of the room that distracts him. He can't see the archway from here, would need to crane his neck all the way over to make it out, and there's something freeing in that, that he doesn't know who might be coming or going.

Well, he has a guess as to who might be coming soon.

It's Margo who straddles his face first, and he brings up his hand to tug the tiny triangle of material away so that he can lick into her without anything between them.

He loves- he loves the way she tastes, the sharpness of it at the back of his throat. The sounds she makes, so shameless and open. He closes his eyes and opens his mouth, holds her thighs with his hands, presses thankful kisses to her clit and her cunt.

When she comes all over his face, thighs tight around him, for a moment he can barely breathe from it. Then she's pulling away, touching his cheek and saying, “You've got an admirer, honey. They wanted to come say hi.”

He blinks up at her, then shifts his eyes. The person who'd been eating out the blonde girl, with the long braid and fantastic ass. “Hey,” he breathes out. They have a nice handful of tits, too. He thinks they're maybe a handful of years older than him.

“You're new,” they say. “I'm Jo. I'd totally be into blowing you, if you want.”

“Yeah, okay.”

And just like that, he's really doing this.

He can't quite see Margo or Eliot right now, but he knows they wouldn't be far. They promised. If he could lift his head more, he could try looking around, but he's not-

Jo is really fucking amazing with their mouth and he lets himself sink into the feeling. It's a little strange to have a new mouth around his dick, someone who is definitely not El or Margo. But good. He tentatively reaches for their head, pauses after touching until they pull off to say, “Yeah, go for it.”

Then it's getting too good and he's already so fucking close and he pets at their head desperately, whispering, “You're wonderful, but I can't- I have to-”

Jo pulls off, looking slightly disappointed. “Not into it anymore?”

“So into it,” he says. “But I- um. I have a rule. I gotta.”

Their eyes light up with amusement. “Dance with the one what brung ya, huh?”

“Something like that. Margo or- um. If you know Eliot.”

“Yeah, I know 'em,” they say, still very amused. They glance around. “Okay, looks like Margo has found her way into a three-person situation and Eliot is getting a handjob. Preference?”

Margo sounds busier, so he says, “El. Um. Eliot.”

They help him get going in the right direction and then head happily back into the mist of the room.

El isn't far, definitely set himself up where he would be able to keep an eye on Quentin and Jo. He's sprawled against the cushions and it's just- it's so ridiculously natural. He looks debauched and lovely and at home. There's a boy between his legs — well, Quentin thinks boy because of how Eliot talks about these things, but the guy is definitely older than both of them. Anyway, El is getting a double-fisted handjob and Quentin doesn't want to interrupt except-

Except for how he really does.

He sinks down to his knees next to El, completely ignoring the other guy, which is- really rude of him, honestly, and tells Eliot, “I need you.”

Eliot gives him a blindingly brilliant smile, then turns away to look between his legs. “Nate, this is Quentin. He's a brat. Q, say hello to Nathaniel.”

Reluctantly, Quentin looks at Nathaniel — thin mouth, unfairly laughing pale blue eyes, sharp cheekbones. “Um. Hi?”

“Hey, cutie Q,” Nathaniel says, in an accent he doesn't quite recognize. “Here to join in?”

One of Nathaniel's hands leaves El's dick, reaches out and hovers over where Q's is sticking out of his pants. He's not as close as he was a minute ago, so he huffs out a hesitant, “Yes.”

El's hand slides up the back of his shirt, bracing him, and Nathaniel explores his cock with soft fingers. Tests the heft of it, slides down to tug at his balls, swirls teasing patterns up and down the shaft.

Quentin slumps back against Eliot's hand, and feels a pang of guilt for being so selfish already. “Um, can I- do you want-”

Nathaniel looks at El which is-

-hot? It makes something twist and spark up in Quentin's stomach, anyway. He looks too, and Eliot reaches out and touches his face, tracing lightly along his cheek. Both of El's hands are on him, El's attention is on him and he squirms and-

“Nathaniel, um. You have to- to stop touching me,” Quentin says, even as his hips are trying to twist towards Nathaniel. “I gotta-” he breaks off to breathe, trying not to fuck up into Nathaniel's hand.

Which is suddenly gone, which sucks, even though he asked.

“Did you want to blow Nate?” Eliot asks and sounds- genuinely curious? He thinks? “Or do you just feel like you should? There are plenty of people here, baby. He won't be put out if you don't want to.”

He hasn't- hasn't seen the guy's dick yet or whatever but-

“Kinda yeah,” he tells El. “Um. But I'm really close and if I uh- if I blow him, I might come.” He doesn't think anyone here will judge him for that. But it needs to be El — or Margo — who makes him.

“Mmm, okay,” Eliot says, and then he turns his attention back to Nathaniel. “I'm gonna take care of my baby, but if you stick around, I promise his mouth is worth it.”

Quentin kinda sorta hears Nathaniel agree, but is more into Eliot, who is letting Quentin crawl into his lap and press kisses under his chin. Then El's hand is on his dick, not jerking him off right away, starting out by exploring and assessing, the way Nathaniel had. Quentin squirms in his lap, very aware of Eliot's big dick rubbing up against his thigh.

“You know what my dick feels like, El,” he complains.

“Keep that up and everyone at Encanto Oculto will know just how much of a brat you are,” Eliot says, but he doesn't sound unhappy about it. “Should I be asking you to keep track of your smart mouth? So I know what you deserve later?”

“Please?”

His voice almost embarrasses him, or maybe it does, he can feel heat splashing across his cheeks but- he means it. He wants it.

“Well, whatever you want,” Eliot says, sliding his fingers down to cup Quentin's balls, which- El must be able to tell how badly he needs to come. “You wanna start at zero or at one?”

“One,” he breathes out.

He's been close enough, for long enough, that even just admitting that makes him go off, spurting up over himself and Eliot in messy streaks.

Fuck, this place is-

-in a fucked-up way, it's almost what he always wanted magic to be, though his dreams were more PG when he started. But a secret hideaway where magic is just used to make people happy-

He presses his mouth up against El's throat, says, “I really want to blow Nathaniel?” It's easier to say it to Eliot than to the man himself. “He has nice shoulders. Does he want me to?”

“Baby, I don't think you'll be getting too many rejections this week,” Eliot says, a little dryly, but his fingers on Quentin's dick are soft. “Go forth and blow Nate. You gonna swallow or spit?”

“It's safe here,” he double-checks, and Eliot nods. “Yeah, I wanna take it down my throat.”

Eliot touches his throat and Quentin feels him leaving spots of wetness behind — Quentin's come. It makes him shiver and kiss El on the mouth before sliding out of his lap.

Then he's facing Nathaniel again and he feels- stupid? Shy? “Hey,” he says, softly. Nathaniel does have nice shoulders, and a nice collarbone, and- and a real nice dick. Skinny but long. “Are you- did you wanna keep jerking off El while I-?”

Nathaniel puts a hand on his shoulder, leans in and kisses his cheek. “Sure, let's put you on the floor.”

Quentin has always been a big fan of floors in general and this one is so soft and lovely. He lies down on his back, kisses Nathaniel's ballsac before taking his cock in hand and tugging it down towards his mouth. He can see Eliot's dick from here, see Nathaniel's hands on it and should it make him jealous?

He sucks on the tip of Nathaniel's dick and thinks about it.

He'd meant what he told Julia at Brakebills South. He wanted to ask Eliot and Margo if they wanna… date or whatever. He wanted to take them places and buy them gifts and do dorky shit like have an 'our song' and stuff like that. And he knows now that's not gonna happen with Margo. It's not for her. But he doesn't know for sure about El, yet. So maybe, he would...

But that's- would that change the way he feels about things like this?

Quentin jerks off the part of Nathaniel's dick that won't fit in his mouth, presses his tongue under his cockhead. Different from El's, and from the boy he dimly remembers from high school. Skinnier and floppier even when hard.

El comes, with a laugh, and Nathaniel runs his hands over El's big dick, working out every last drop. It looks like he's asking El something and getting a languid sentence in reply.

Nathaniel sits back on his heels, tugging his cock out of Quentin's mouth. Before Quentin has time to- to protest, Nathaniel is asking, “So, do you wanna suck Eliot's come off my fingers?” And that- wow.

Quentin grabs Nathaniel's wrist with both hands and pulls it down to his mouth, licking as soon as he gets close enough. The taste of Eliot's come makes his eyes close with how bad he wants it, and he probably looks silly and desperate but-

-Nathaniel had asked. So maybe it's okay.

“You're a natural,” Nathaniel tells him, and Quentin flushes. “Seriously, I hope you come again next year.”

He's cleaned off Nathaniel's hands, so Quentin reaches for his dick again, eager to get it back in his mouth, but he feels hyper-aware of Eliot watching him.

Nathaniel is still talking to him, so, guiltily, Quentin does his best to listen.

“-walls of this place are, like, double reinforced. I don't know if you've played D&D, but I kinda think of the tents as like Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, you know?”

God, wow, he's a genuine nerd. That's kinda reassuring. Quentin cradles his balls and licks the tip of his dick and maybe feels a little less like-

“I'd offer to set up a game later,” he says, pressing a kiss to Nathaniel's cockhead. “But it's probably not the right place?”

Nathaniel laughs and it makes his stomach tremble and Quentin fumbles up a hand so he can feel it and then sucks his dick until he moans.

“Yeah, see why Eliot likes you,” Nathaniel says, and tugs at Quentin's hair. “Shouldn't be surprised, really. I think he fucked every geeky guy here last year, ha!” The last bit turns into a barking sort of laugh as he comes and Quentin holds the come in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. It feels thicker than El's, almost coating his throat.

“I have a type,” Eliot admits, lazy and unashamed and tugging up Quentin to kiss him. “I'm gonna make out with Q for a while. Tell Antonio 'hi' if you see him?”

“He'll be thrilled to know you made it out this year,” Nathaniel says, and he swoops up Quentin's hand for a kiss before he leaves, adding, “You're cute for a virgin, Quentin. Stick around.”

Quentin blinks after him before Eliot touches his cheek, reminding him he has kisses to collect. He loses himself in Eliot's mouth, surfacing to ask inane questions like “should I try to set up a game here?” and “okay, so is this mist, like, an aphrodisiac?” before getting distracted by Eliot again and never waiting to get any answers.

They spend hours in the room — Quentin doesn't keep track — and he honestly isn't sure how many dicks he sucks or cunts he fingers or how many times he crawls back to Eliot and Margo so they can make him come. Time feels different, almost indifferent, if that makes sense.

Margo is carefully rubbing at the corner of his mouth when she says, “I think that might be enough for one night.”

Quentin feels… good but also kinda loopy, so it's probably a fair point but, oh. “I made a new rule with El,” he tells her. “Been keeping track of- um. Being a smart-ass.”

“Oh, does honey need a parting gift before we head back into the no-fuck zone?” she teases, reaches down to glide her hand over his ass, which has been groped a few times but nothing else tonight. “Do you want us to make a big deal over it?”

“God, no,” Quentin says because- okay, people watching is hot but asking people to watch sounds excruciating and embarrassing. “Just, like, in the corner?”

“You're loud,” she reminds him, and he flushes. “If people notice?”

“That's their business,” he says, though he's pretty sure his face is bright red. “I mean. I deserve it.”

Her face softens and she gives him a very gentle kiss.

“You absolutely do, little Q,” she says. “You deserve so many wonderful things.” And that hadn't been how he meant it but- it's nice.

So, she goes and collects El, who is wiping off his mouth after blowing some guy who is built like a football player, jesus, and she whispers in his ear.

He gets thirteen smacks, because that's the number he tells El. He's not a hundred percent sure it's right, but it seems like a good number and El and Margo go with it. He ends up hard again when they're halfway through and he's certain now there's something stamina-boosting in the air, because wow. And Quentin's last orgasm of the night comes from El's mouth while he kisses Margo's breasts, so that's nice, too.

“This is fun,” he tells them, when they're at the door getting dressed cover the essential bits and yanking their shoes on. “But you're my favorites.”

Margo beams at him. “Well, we are quite fabulous.”

“You are,” Quentin agrees.

The whole ocean-waterbed situation is fascinating. Because he can see, past the glowing lines that mark off the boundary, that there are people splashing and wading in the water. All of it with that giddiness that the atmosphere and food and sex encourages. If he focuses, he can almost see wisps of magic escaping individual magicians to join the mist around them.

He leans back on the shifting 'mattress' of water and gazes up into the sky — he can't see stars and it looks like the sky might be blue up there but the mist fogs out the light in this section, like the ocean is on a dimmer switch, and he doesn't think he'll have any trouble falling asleep.

“We can't leave until it ends?” he asks, trying to remember what they'd told him before leaving the villa.

Margo, curled up on El's other side says, “We can leave, we just wouldn't be able to get back in. The circle is- complicated. Old magic. Maybe even older than any humans have been magicians at all.”

A circle that is filled with magic and feels like another world. People who look human except they aren't quite right, with a galaxy of stars in their eyes. And they like to be brought gifts and it means something when they know your name. Maybe it would be dangerous, if they knew someone's name but they hadn't been brought a gift?

“Todd thought Bacchus would be here,” Quentin says, and Eliot snorts. “But it isn't anything like that. It's… I don't know. Almost ethereal.”

“It's better magic than Brakebills or hedges have,” Eliot says. “Maybe because it's so old. Keeping the secret is part of the deal, baby, but it's also just fun. There are enough rumors out there about what Encanto Oculto is like that all you really have to do is look appropriately mysterious about it all.”

“Julia is gonna ask about the orgies,” Quentin reflects. “God. Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could find the words? It's sweet. How can an orgy party be sweet?”

“That's what makes it dangerous,” Margo says, though her voice stays soft. “A little, anyway. Coming here last year- El and I had just spent weeks in a snowy hell after being forced to bare our feelings. Even if it was just to each other, it was rough. Then we got invited to Encanto Oculto and- well, we fucked and drank and ate ourselves silly. Then it was over and we were back in the real world and-” she sighs. “I don't know. You can spend a lot of time fucking and getting fucked up out there and still only rarely get as blissed out as a goddamn bread roll can make you feel here. Some people live their whole lives waiting for this week to come around again.”

“If I hadn't met Bambi, but had come here anyway, I might have been one of them,” Eliot adds, sleepy and earnest in a way that tugs at Quentin's heart. And, yeah, Quentin gets that. He gets that painfully well. If he'd somehow found his way here without El and Margo, it could have become a new kind of Fillory for him to want to hide away inside.

“I'm glad you shared this with me,” Quentin says, deep and sincere. “I'm glad that you- I like that a place like this, you know, exists. Outside the human world, I guess. I've always loved hidden worlds, they were just always fictional before.”

“Mmm, still no centaur dicks, though,” Margo says, feigning disappointment. “So they can't fulfill all my teenage fantasies.”

“You're awful,” Quentin tells her and she laughs and the mist around them dampens the noise so it won't disturb any of their neighbors. “And I still won't neigh for you, either, so don't ask.”

“Brat,” she says, fondly. She rests her open palm up on El's stomach, so he reaches over to grab it with his. “You gonna be able to sleep?”

“I think so. In a little while.”

He thinks El is already asleep, even breaths moving his stomach where Quentin is holding Margo's hand. He nestles up closer, tucking around Eliot like a blanket, and listens to the ocean underneath them, rocking them to sleep.

 


 

Eliot isn't waiting for Daro to find them — just because he'd seemed a little intrigued by Q didn't lock anything in. But he isn't surprised when, at the beginning of the third night, he looks up from a dessert tray to find Daro standing on the other side of the table.

“Elder Daro,” he says, his armor carefully in place, despite missing most of his usual trappings. “Delighted to see you among the throng.”

“Yes, I suppose you must be,” Daro says. His face always reminds Eliot of a wild wolf, narrow and hungry, with eyes as dark as midnight. “You brought longing and lies with you this year. Both gifts are deeply appreciated. And the flute is nice too.” His hair is pulled back and up tonight, in a complicated series of braids.

“A good host deserves only the finest gifts,” Eliot says. “And the Elders of Encanto Oculto are known to be gracious hosts.”

“Certainly, if it is known, it must be true,” Daro replies. He picks up one of the cookies and doesn't eat it. “You and your friends are invited tonight. I hope to see all of you.”

Eliot inclines his head in an implied acceptance, waits for Daro to turn around and vanish before collecting the rest of the food he'd been sent for and heading back to Margo and Quentin on the ocean.

He dumps the food down in front of them, then takes a seat, cross-legged, and says cheerfully, “We're invited to the tent of the Elders, tonight, so we'll need to grab the makeup bag out of our luggage.” Margo, who had moved their bags to an ankle charm bracelet before they left the villa, tugs off one of the charms and pops it back into being a full-sized suitcase. “Quentin, sweetheart, some quick rules.”

“Be vague with them if you can,” Margo starts, digging through the bag. “They like fancy, so we're all gonna wear makeup, okay?” Quentin nods, solemnly, studying them with that face that means he's playing nerd-close attention.

“They can tell whether or not you're interested in fucking them, so don't lie about that,” Eliot says, reaching out to touch the corner of Quentin's eye, and he shouldn't find it cute that there's a touch of sleep still there. Longing and lies, indeed. “Don't insult their honor.”

“Most of this stuff is what David – that's the guy who invited us – it's what he told us last year, but it seems to check out,” Margo says, sitting back on her heels as she tugs out the makeup bag. “Don't worry about offending them if you want to say 'no' to sex, okay? There's a reason this place is like it is.”

“They like masks though,” Quentin says, quietly enough that Eliot thinks he isn't expecting a response. “Even obvious ones.”

Eliot hadn't thought of it quite like that but, hmm.

“I guess they do,” Eliot says. Quentin blinks at him, all wide-eyed and sweet. He adds, “They might think our rules for you are cute, but you have permission to ditch them if you want to.”

“Are you expecting- how many Elders are gonna be there?” Quentin's voice is soft and careful. Margo turns his face towards her and gets to work on him, first getting him to be a clean canvas, then adding lipstain and eyeliner.

“Elder Daro invited us, so he'll be waiting in the court up the stairs,” Eliot says. “The others may be there or might be wandering. It's impossible to say.”

“There were seven in the tent last year, when El and I were summoned.” Margo laughs. “Well, when David was summoned and told to bring his new friends. They do- hmm. They like the idea of friendship, though I'm not entirely certain they understand it.”

Quentin is… exquisite, and Eliot tugs him over to tie his hair back and up, leaving a few wisps to frame his face. “You've read enough fantasy to know to be careful with your words.”

His clothing is fine as is, since it likely won't be going up to the court with them, so Eliot and Margo busy themselves with getting pretty too. Quentin eats while they put makeup on each other and then, soon enough, they're ready.

The tent of the Elders is the same one Quentin had wandered towards their first night and that they'd steered him away from entering. It has something of a magnetic pull, in any case, and if someone doesn't pay attention as they walk around, they always end up going that direction. So, it's easy, to unfocus and just let impulse take them to the correct destination.

“Remember Bambi's mandatory safety tips,” Eliot says, right before they head inside. David's warning to them last year had been more blatant. And he'd gotten in a little bit of trouble for it, so- Quentin would understand.

He puts Quentin in the middle and firmly takes his hand, while Margo claims his other side. David had taken the middle last year, when they'd gone to see the Elders, happy to have extremely beautiful armcandy and then disappointed when Margo and Eliot had been asked to stay longer and he'd been politely dismissed.

Once inside the tent, the marble entryway is more dimly-lit than the other places they've taken Quentin. The lights are all for the sake of the humans anyway so here, in the tent claimed most obviously by the Elders, it's as dark as it can be while still letting them see well enough not to trip over anything.

Margo unbuttons her dress enough to pull it off, then hangs it up on the coat rack, left in a golden bikini. Her shoes go neatly on the shelf below. Quentin has been getting more and more comfortable, so he sheds everything but the boxer-briefs they'd picked out for him. Eliot does the same.

Technically, the stairs in any tent lead to the court of the Elders, but going up the wrong ones can be- disorientating. Not necessarily dangerous but... well, better to go the correct way.

Eliot and Margo reclaim Quentin's arms and lead him up the stairway. Unlike the entryways in most of the tents, there are no rugs here, their feet walking on bare stone.

The upper floor slowly turns to a more rough-hewn look and the mist flickers. Quentin is fascinated and Eliot pets his arm fondly. The final barrier into the room of the Elders shimmers as they approach it.

“We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” Margo tells Quentin, wryly, then she tugs him through, and Eliot follows.

When they reach it, the court is old, not quite a cave, but definitely more related to one than it is to the fancy rooms below. The Elders don't stand on ceremony here in their home and there are about a dozen in the room, eating and laughing and lounging — not on rugs and cushions but on moss and soft patches of dirt.

Daro is chatting with another Elder around his age, one with her dark hair in a lazy ponytail, but he notices them immediately and waves them over. The other Elder gives them an amused look, but doesn't stay to chat.

“You're enjoying yourselves,” Daro says. He swallows a grape whole. “Are you impressed, Quentin Coldwater?”

“Yes, of course. Uh. Elder Daro,” Quentin says, breaking off his perusal of the room. “I've never been anywhere like this- I mean- I only just learned this last year that magic was real. Um.” His mouth twitches and Eliot gives his arm a reassuring squeeze. Daro smiles, slowly and warmly.

“You'd like something to eat,” he says, and holds up a grape.

“Thank you for the- uh. The kind offer,” Quentin says, with a trembling politeness. “But I just ate.”

“I suppose you did,” Daro says, and eats it himself. “Are all your hungers being sated, children?”

“Always,” Margo says, easily. “You throw a wonderful party, Elder.”

Daro's eyes focus on Eliot, one eyebrow raising questioningly.

“It's a work in progress,” Eliot says, because Daro is looking at him with laughing, sharp eyes again. “Your hospitality is noted and appreciated as ever, Elder Daro.”

“Mmm.” Daro studies them and Eliot wonders exactly how deeply he sees. Last year, Eliot had been pretty high when he'd come to this room so his memory is- okay, but not as clear as he'd prefer. “Our hospitality is truly our dearest gift to the world. Do you believe you'll return next season, Quentin Coldwater?”

“I haven't seen anything that would- that would, um- make me not want to come back,” Quentin says, and it's a torturous sentence, but Daro seems as amused by it as they might hope for. He reclines on the moss, wolf-eyed.

“You haven't had physical pleasure yet this evening,” Daro says, and his gaze flickers over all of them. “Do you wish to partake before you leave the court?”

Eliot — and Margo, he sees — looks to Quentin.

“Uh-” Quentin hesitates and Eliot strokes his arm and hopes Quentin remembers to be honest. “I think. Um. I think I would regret it if I didn't. Is that-? I mean. Yes.”

“I'm down for it,” Margo says.

“It seems we're all in agreement,” Eliot tells Daro.

They join Daro on his bed of moss. He'd been wearing minimal clothes when they walked up, but he's nude now. Maybe all the Elders' clothes are just tricks of the light. Daro touches Quentin's mouth, light and curious.

“You want this?”

Quentin kisses his fingers, instinctive, and Daro curls them inside. Tugs Quentin closer by the mouth, onto Daro's body.

“You want this,” Daro says again, pleased and certain. “Sate your hunger.”

Eliot wonders for a moment, if he and Margo are going to be bystanders, voyeurs, but once Quentin is kissing his way down Daro's lean, hairless chest, Daro waves the two of them closer. He pulls Margo in for a long kiss, directs her to curl up at his side and press soft kisses against his neck. Then he looks at Eliot, brightly.

“You're so hungry, Eliot Waugh.” His delight in it is obvious. “I could try to feed you for a thousand years and never fill you up.”

“Not due to any fault in you, Elder,” Eliot says.

Daro pets Quentin's hair, hums happily as his fingers dance over the stands. “It is true I am faultless,” he says, with casual grace and arrogance. “As are all who live without the cares of the world. Your hungers trouble you?”

“No more than I can handle,” Eliot says. He takes up one of Daro's hands, kisses his palm. Quentin is sucking Daro's cock now, with the pained joy he reserves for giving head, like he enjoys it so much he might die from it. “I wouldn't give them up.”

“As you wish,” Daro murmurs, turns his head back to capture Margo's mouth again.

Freed from expectations, at least for the moment, Eliot watches Quentin. The way his whole face — even his eyebrows — tightens as he concentrates. His desperate, agile mouth as it stretches around Daro's cock. His hands, muscular and knowing, stroking over Daro's shaft and down to touch his balls.

He places a trembling hand on Quentin's back, spreads the fingers wide. Daro won't feel left out, he knows, not with Eliot's longing like a living thing in the room. Quentin's muscles relax under his hand, his body recognizing Eliot's.

This is, on some level, a rigged game for the Elders. They provide the venue and then feed off the desires, sex or food or otherwise. The house always wins and anyone who tries to cheat, really tries, gets thrown out.

That's fine. Eliot isn't tempted to cheat here.

Margo moans into Daro's mouth — another Elder has joined them when Eliot wasn't looking, is kissing Margo's neck and whispering a question in her ear. At her soft, “oh yes, please,” they slide a hand between her thighs, working at her cunt.

No one approaches Eliot. He's not surprised. Like Daro, they can all taste his real hunger misting off his body like perfume. He strokes down Quentin's back, his lovely boy-

-he strangles that particular thought. He doesn't want to be too possessive in this room, not even in his own head. They like challenges as much as they like games or sex.

When Daro orgasms, it's like a sigh, and he relaxes against the moss even more deeply. “You're still hungry,” he says to Quentin, not sleepy but languid. “I'd like to watch you get taken. You want it.”

Quentin licks at the corner of his mouth, says, “I made a rule with Eliot. That I would only- um. With him.”

Daro's eyes sparkle, like distant stars colliding. “Your terms are acceptable.”

Eliot glances over to check in on Margo, who is- yeah, she's doing pretty great over there. He rubs Quentin's back. “We can't do magic in here,” which he probably should have mentioned sooner, but there's so much to remember about this place and some details are bound to slip through the cracks. “Not in this room. Do you want me to open you up, Q?”

Quentin rolls over onto his side, his cheek resting on Daro's thigh. “Yeah.”

Daro is watching them closely, with a hint of mischief that makes Eliot's stomach flip over nervously. He pushes at Quentin's shoulder until he's flat on his back. “Like this?”

A host of emotions race across Quentin's face before he says, careful as trying to unpick a ward, “If I'm on my hands and knees, I feel more comfortable.”

“Do you?” Daro asks, sharply. He puts his hand — skinny but with long fingers — over Quentin's throat. Playfully. Quentin swallows and stares up at him. Eliot doesn't move, does his best to not even think. “Hmm. I suppose that's true.”

Daro lifts up his hand, watches as Quentin scrambles up to his knees.

Eliot can see the outline of Quentin's dick, pushing hard against the fabric of his underwear. He puts his hand on Quentin's ass and asks, “Ready, sweetheart? Tell me what you want?”

“Please,” Quentin says. “Please fuck me, El.”

He tugs off Quentin's boxer-briefs and presses his mouth against him. No magic and no lube means- a stronger taste, here. It means he needs to take his time, too, get Quentin as relaxed and stretched as possible. The fog in the room dances as if in response to his thoughts, feels thicker and wetter against his fingers.

Eliot can hear Daro's voice, pitched low and not towards him. Talking to Quentin, asking a question. He can't make out the words but he hears Quentin's response flash through him like lightning, “It was- uh- it was the first time it- um- it didn't hurt.”

He presses his tongue deep into Quentin's ass, makes him squirm back and moan so that Eliot doesn't have to think about the person who hurt him. She isn't allowed here anymore.

He lets himself get lost in it, the escalating pitch of Quentin's voice and the roll of his hips and his skin under Eliot's fingers. Still hungry. Oh, yes.

Eliot's fingers are slick from the mist when he slides them inside Quentin, and there's a thrum of old magic against his skin. It always tastes of magic in here, he remembers that now, like going back into a half-forgotten dream. Bambi's voice is nearby, loud in her pleasure, and he lets that beat against his skin too.

He mouths up Quentin's spine, pulls his fingers out and smacks Q's ass to make him noisy. He feels half-delirious from it all — the taste of magic and Quentin and not just his own aching desire but Daro's and any other Elder who might be watching.

“Sweetheart.” He pets Q's back, his shoulders, his head. He presses his face against Q's hair, sweaty and damp from the mist, breathes him in. “My little hero. Daddy wants inside you so bad. Can he?”

“El,” on a sigh, a breath. “Please.”

So he fits himself up against Quentin, slides home. Presses kisses to every bit of skin he can reach. He starts to slide a hand around, toward Quentin's cock, but Q gasps out, “Wait, I wanna- wanna-”

Eliot stills his hand, stops moving so Quentin can catch his breath.

“This place. I'm so close.” Quentin has to stop every few seconds to gulp in a deep breath. “I wanna- I think I can- you don't need to touch me, El. I think- I think I can anyway.”

Eliot kisses between Quentin's shoulder blades and says, “Yeah? Lemme know if you can't?” and his voice is thick and familiar from long ago. He drowns himself in the push and pull of his thrusts, feeling more kin to the ocean outside than a man. Inwards, the waves rush the shore and break, and outwards, drawing back to the sea of himself.

Q does come — Eliot feels the constriction, hears the rolling, echoing moan of it. He crushes Quentin's body back against his, tugging him off his hands so they can sway upright and exposed and vulnerable.

“They see you,” Eliot says, bracing one hand on Quentin's stomach and then sending the other hand up and up and up, to delicately cup Quentin's throat, to overwrite Daro's touch with his own. “They see how glorious you are. You're inside a hidden world, Q. And it loves you.”

Quentin shivers against his hands, but something catches his moan.

When Eliot blinks the sweat from his eyes, he sees Margo — lovely perfect Bambi — leaning in at an angle, so she can kiss Quentin but let Daro keep his view.

“Dearest,” he says, voice cracked, and she kisses him, too, trades kisses between the two of them until Eliot bites at her lip as he begins to come, hiding his joy in her mouth.

“You performed admirably,” Daro says, and Eliot's eyes can't quite focus on him. Or maybe he really is fuzzy at the edges. It's entirely possible. “I do appreciate enthusiasm.”

“Glad to- glad to share this time with you,” Margo says and Eliot is grateful for her ability to keep steady no matter how drained she might feel inside. “I hope- hope to see all of you again, Elders. Next season.”

“Next season,” Daro says agreeably. He waves a hand and three other Elders — younger than Daro, he thinks — help them stand on wobbly legs and lead them back down the stairs to the marble entryway.

Eliot hadn't noticed the heat while he'd been in the court, but he feels the coolness of the night now, hitting his skin like the first snowfall of winter.

He helps Quentin get dressed, falls to his knees to kiss Q's ankles and his calves and- everything before he tugs up Quentin's pants and does up the buttons. He rubs at Quentin's feet before he helps Q slide on his shoes.

“It's a lot, the first time,” he says. Smooths his hands over Quentin's soft linen pants. “Regrets?”

“Seems like it's still a lot when it's not your first time,” Quentin observes, his arm resting around Margo's bare shoulders. “Was that a-” he stops at the warning on Eliot's face. They're still too close to the court to ask too many loud questions. “No regrets. Just- real tired.”

“We can nap,” Margo says. Quentin kisses the corner of her mouth and she bats at him with her hand and a fluttery laugh that really does mean she's exhausted. “So, honey, was it cotton candy?”

It takes Quentin a moment to remember their conversation earlier, about Daro's semen. Eliot uses that time to get to his feet and help Margo into her dress. She winces as he tugs the bust back into place, her nipples dark and slightly swollen.

“More like buttercream frosting,” Quentin says, after a moment of consideration. “From a homemade cake.”

Then he tries to help Eliot get dressed, which is a mild comedy of errors. “Maybe nudity really is your natural state. Clothes do seem to be your worst enemy,” Eliot says, rebuttoning his shirt so that he's not off by two buttons. “Have you considering forswearing them altogether?”

Eliot,” and it's a whine but it's a fond one.

Once they're all reasonably put together and no longer walking like they're drunk, they head back outside. The temperature feels what it should again now, warm but with the breeze from the ocean.

“They won't ask again this visit,” Margo tells Quentin. “Daro would have challenged my request if they wanted us back another night.”

Quentin makes a thoughtful noise at the back of his throat. Eliot realizes he's been staring at said throat and carefully redirects his eyes a bit higher.

They cuddle together on the ocean, and Margo pulls a fuzzy blanket out of one of her bags for maximum comfort.

“I said this back there, to them, but I am- I'm so glad we got to share this with you, Q,” Margo says, tucked in between the two of them. “Sex is-” she shrugs and gazes up at the sky, and Eliot sees the fuzzy implication of stars up there. “Bodies make sense to me. How they touch and move together. Finding this place, last year, it- it was finding one fucking place where I could connect with people in the way that made the most sense to me. One place where it didn't come with all the implications that it does-” she waves her hand towards where the expanse of ocean shimmers past the edge of the circle. “-out there.”

“Where someone doesn't get called your boyfriend at the drop of a hat,” Quentin says, and he thinks — there's an edge of wistfulness in his voice that Eliot thinks Margo missed and that Eliot- well, he's not entirely sure what it means.

“Exactly,” Margo sighs. Then she presses her face against Eliot's shirt and groans. “Shit. Eliot. It has come to my attention that we may have made a slight error in judgement.”

“Probably several,” Eliot agrees. “Which are you thinking of?”

“Our motives were pure.” She pauses. “Our motives were definitely not pure. They were real goddamn self-serving, if I'm forcing myself to be honest.”

“Is this about rushing me off to leave campus with you without saying goodbye to Julia or literally anyone?” Quentin asks. He sounds amused. “Yeah, she's gonna be pissed but don't worry, I can take it.”

Margo bristles up like a wolverine. “Don't you fucking dare.” Her venom-laced tone would probably be more effective if she stopped playing with Q's hair. “You are falling onto exactly zero grenades for us, little Q. Wicker better goddamn yell at us or I'll have words with her about it.”

“Noted,” Quentin says, dryly. “But it won't be that bad, honestly. I told- um. She knows we're friends who have sex- uh, well- I mean, god. Obviously, I don't mean that Julia and I are-”

“We know what you meant,” Eliot says, gently.

“Well, I-” Margo hesitates, glances up at Eliot's face. “Yeah, we know, honey.”

“It's good for you to talk things out with Julia,” Eliot says, suddenly and painfully certain he hasn't said it directly before. Sure, he and Margo hadn't asked Quentin to keep anything a secret but… “Even if you feel awkward about it?”

“Yeah, it's- I know you aren't like- um. I know that you're trying to- uh.” Quentin blows out a frustrated breath. “You aren't ashamed of- of having sex with me. I do know that.”

“And you know we're… that I…“ There are so many reasons to try to lay out what Eliot's been feeling. It's just hard to remember that under the voice telling him that- hey what they have now works. He managed to luck himself into something that actually feels good for everyone and he knows himself. Eliot knows he's not good at making things work, just at fucking them up. The more of himself he tries to put into the- the relationship, the more likely it is that the jenga tower will collapse, wood blocks all over the floor. Sometimes less movement, less change is better.

“Yeah,” Quentin says, and he's playing with Margo's hand in lieu of waving his own around. “I mean. I never had a reputation before? Except maybe as the guy most likely to bore you at a party? So it doesn't, um. I already knew they thought of me as your- um- your project? Honestly, being your- your- ah- he never said exactly but I guess what implied was, um- that you think. Mmm. That you- you own me? Or whatever, you know. Like some sort of possessive thing which is kinda silly? But, yeah.”

Margo stiffens up again, and Eliot knows how much she hates getting angry when the target of her wrath isn't around to be appropriately dealt with. He kisses the top of her head and she grumbles.

“Fucking dickholes who don't understand casual fucking sex between friends,” she mutters. “Jesus turtlehumping Christ on an elephant. That's it, El, I'm only fucking non-Brakebills people for the rest of second-year, because I am tired of the drama of it all. It is fucking goddamn decided.”

“That's only a couple more months,” Quentin points out.

“I am a forgiving soul,” she says, and proves it, he guesses, by ignoring how that makes Eliot laugh. “If their heads are out of their asses next year, I'll reconsider. Ugh, plus all the self-important thirdies will be gone.” She packs so much disdain in that sentence that Eliot has to laugh again, even though he kind of agrees. Learning what so many people had been saying about Q – and implying about Margo and Eliot into the bargain – has definitely made his opinion of the Cottage as a whole take a tumble. They'd come to Margo and El's parties all year and praised them to their faces, while thinking that behind their backs. Really, only the first-years are innocent in all this, since Eliot knows from experience that no one ever tells first-years shit until after they make it through the trials.

“Um, on a- a related note,” Quentin says. And his voice is a touch quavery, so Eliot strokes down his arm and pays very close attention. “If you guys, um. Stop wanting to have sex? With me, I mean. Please don't try to- uh- try to- um. To set me up with. With, like, other people?”

Eliot closes his mouth on his first response, to say that there's literally zero chance of that happening, because it's clear that's not the kind of reassurance that Q is looking for them to give him.

“I'm sorry about that,” Margo says and – Eliot cranes his neck down a little, so that he can stare baffled at her for a moment – she kisses Quentin's cheek. “I said all that to Quinn before our little Push how-to, and... I didn't really understand-” she hesitates. “-I assumed you were more like me than you are, honey. I get now why you wouldn't want that.”

“What exactly is the story here?” Eliot asks, carefully, and he's not going to let himself feel hurt, because Margo just said that it was before- before her teaching Q about Push, so it was before the two of them had talked about Q and about Eliot's- well, about Eliot. Quentin wriggles around so that he can look at both of them, taking the blanket with him, looking slightly bewildered.

“You know what it's about?” he says, but he sounds uncertain and he's tensing up. “Right?”

“I have never heard any of this before,” Eliot says. He reaches out and touches Quentin's knee, and relaxes when Quentin doesn't move away. “What talk with Alice?”

“It was back when the first-years got placed into their disciplines,” Margo says. “It wasn't even a- it was just that I'd noticed she liked you-” Quentin looks adorably confused at this statement, which. “-so I told her to go for it. Rah, rah, embrace your sexual desires and all that. Plus she looked really cute in my dress.”

“How did this not come up before now?” Eliot asks. “If it was months ago?”

“Oh, um,” and Quentin is staring down at his hand now. “She didn't say anything until Brakebills South?”

“Is that why you thought we didn't want you anymore, when you got back?” Eliot asks, and he is not going to be mad at Bambi. She didn't mean to hurt Quentin. He can't quite look at her right now, though, needs a little time for his head to settle and move past the instinctive desire to bundle up Q and protect him.

Quentin shrugs, his hair falling down around his face. “I don't know. I guess? I mean, I probably would have thought it anyway.” His mouth twists and he says, more quietly, “I mean, I've been assuming you would eventually?” He peeks up at them through the strands of his hair and it would be cute if it weren't actually a horrible fist around Eliot's heart. “Like. I know it's not gonna- um. Last forever? But it's here now and that's- um. That's a good thing. It's a very good thing. But I mean- you guys aren't gonna be calling me up for a- ha!- a booty call or- you know. Once you've graduated. And I won't- um. You know.”

Eliot doesn't... entirely know how to answer that. The entire premise is flawed in a way he can't quite wrap his head around. He doesn't know how to start unpicking it.

“You think we're gonna drop you after we leave Brakebills?” Margo asks and, yeah, that's a good place to start. “Fuck, Coldwater, you know how fucking rare it is I find people I can stand to have actual conversations with? You are stuck with me.”

“I... I second that,” Eliot says, tongue feeling numb and useless. “Quentin, I don't often find things worth caring about but when I do... I like to keep them around.”

It's not enough. He can see it in Quentin's face, in the lingering sadness that reminds him of a quiet room, months ago, listening to Quentin confide in him but not being able to the same in return. He hadn't been brave enough that day.

Eliot is... god, he's so fucking tired of being a coward.

“They aren't just booty calls, you know that,” he adds, helplessly lifting his hand up to touch Quentin's cheek. “They aren't-”

He leans forward and touches his lips against Quentin's, and Q startles but then melts into it, kissing him back eagerly. He slides his hand down to Quentin's shoulder, tilts his head for a better angle, presses inside.

Quentin is such a sweet kisser, not passive but he gives and gives. Eliot takes, but does his best to give too, tries to stay soft and caring and not turn this into- into just sex. His fingers itch to tumble Quentin down against the water, kiss him until he can't breathe.

He breaks off the kiss and leans his forehead against Quentin's.

“I know,” Quentin is saying, their lips still almost touching. “You're nice-”

“-I'm not,” Eliot says, because he's never pretended to be that, at least. “I'm really not, Q.”

“You are,” Quentin says, and his hands are on Eliot's shoulders, pushing him away slightly. He glances to the right, where Margo is. “You're both actually really nice. I mean, yeah. You're bitchy and weird about it sometimes but, um. You're nice. You're just- uh. You're good people.”

“Being nice only to the people you like doesn't make you a nice person,” Margo says. Eliot looks over and she's wrapped her arms around her knees, all tucked up against herself. “I'm not just bitchy sometimes. I'm a bitch, Coldwater. Fucking proud of it.”

“I don't- I mean, of course, you're a bitch,” Quentin says, in a reassuring tone that strikes Eliot as more than a little hilarious, considering what he's saying. “You're just- you know. Other things, too. When I found out about my dad, you were both- um. You were both really great about it. So I know it's- uh. I know it's not just sex. I know we're- I know we're friends, too. I just- I don't want to- to make assumptions? About- because I know you're- something permanent. Together. It's just- you know. You two have something a lot bigger than- uh- than just being friends.”

“We did spend a while creating our own little two-person bubble against the world,” Margo says. A smile pushes up the corner of her mouth, for just a moment. “We felt safe there.”

“I get that,” Quentin says, earnestly, and Eliot is sure he does – with Fillory and Julia and all his hidden worlds.

“It's possible we prioritized safety over other things that were just as important,” Eliot says, feeling cautious and stilted and as nervous as if he were venturing out on a high-wire. Wobble too much and he ends up a splat on the ground far below. “I did,” he clarifies, with an apologetic look towards Margo, who is radiating hostile tension towards him that he honestly deserves. “You are- you're really brave, Q. And I envy that.”

“I-” Quentin blinks and cuts himself off when Eliot puts a finger on his mouth. He looks down at it, cross-eyed and mildly put-out, but he doesn't try to yank it off or move his head away.

“Not only friends,” Eliot says, taking the next step out on the wire. “Maybe- maybe something more like-” Quentin's eyes are so wide, and smeared with the eyeliner Margo had put on him earlier. He looks beautiful and fragile and Eliot wants so desperately not to break anything here. “-when we get back to Brakebills. Maybe I could take you out to dinner?”

“Like a...?” Quentin mumbles, Eliot's finger still on his lips.

“Christ, yes, like a fucking date,” Margo snaps. There's a silent moment in the air and then she buries her face in her knees and says, as loudly as she can through her skirt, “Sorry. I shouldn't have- you were having a- a fucking moment or whatever. You were just- taking a long-ass time with it.”

“Oh my god, Margo-”

“Bambi, you can't just-”

But the moment doesn't feel as fragile anymore, with Quentin indignant against his hand and Margo making insincere apologies. It doesn't feel as much like something that will fade away away with the fairy circle. He twists his hand around, runs a knuckle down Quentin's lips, and chin, and throat.

Eliot rests his knuckles against Quentin's collarbone, swallows, and walks out on the wire. “Yeah. Like a date.”

“Not, like, just a pre-sex dinner?” Quentin asks and Eliot isn't so far up his own ass that he can't recognize hope in Q's voice. Eliot smiles, leans in and presses his face against Quentin's neck. Not kissing, just resting. So much of his upper body is resting on Q that he's practically in his lap which is... a thought. “I have- um. There are a lot of places I've been to in- uh. In New York that I went- I went there kinda for double-dates with Julia, James, and whoever they could talk into coming. But the places were nice. Good, um. Good food?”

“Yeah,” Eliot says agreeably, against Quentin's skin. “You can make a list.”

“All this talk of dinners,” Margo says, brightly. Eliot forces himself to pull away from Quentin so that he can look at her as she bounces up to her feet, all energy all of a sudden. “I'm starved enough to eat a dragon, scales and all. Any requests while I'm up?”

“Oh,” Quentin says. “Margo, you don't have to-”

“Literally, I do, or I'll have to eat one of you. And it'll probably be El. Taller. More meat.” She leans down and drops a kiss on Q's head, ruffles his hair. “Requests?”

“Um. I liked that- um, sort of fish thing?” Quentin offers. “And those peaches were good, too.”

“Check and check. You, El?” she asks.

He reaches up and captures her hand, turns it to place a kiss on the inside of her wrist. “I trust your judgement, as always, Bambi.” She smiles down at him, and he can feel some of that frenetic energy dissipate.

“I'll be back in a bit,” she says. “Try to get the mushy stuff out of the way while I'm gone?”

“As you wish, dearest,” he tells her, and she makes a face at him and presses a kiss against his forehead before she heads back to shore.

Then it's just him and Q, all the sound around them muffled by the mists.

“You think there might- might be mushy stuff?” Quentin asks. “Are you- um- are you sappy when you're dating someone? I mean, we kinda just started, so-”

“Did we?” Eliot asks, feeling reckless and wild. If he's balancing over a high-wire anyway, after all, he might as well go for a show. Somersaults and that fake wobble and maybe a bit of skipping at the end. He cups Quentin's face again, with both hands this time, feels dizzy and silly and lets himself feel it. “You're such a pretty little thing. How'd I get so lucky?”

“You're a dork,” Quentin tells him, but there are dimples under Eliot's fingertips, so he likes it. “Margo will definitely- um. Tell you off for it.”

“Are you sad Bambi doesn't-”

Quentin shakes his head, not hard enough to knock away Eliot's hands.

“She told me, uh. Before we- when we were at the villa,” Quentin says, more seriously. “While we were talking about something else. I know she doesn't want things like that. I didn't know how- if-” He gives Eliot a pleading look that's easy to translate.

He gives Q the kiss he's begging for, gives him a dozen. Presses him down into the blankets on the shifting ocean and kisses him until his mouth hurts from the effort, slick and swollen.

They can't screw out here and won't be able to get it up for a while anyway, but that's for the best. The last thing Eliot wants is for Q to think this is another way to get sex out of him.

He rolls them over so that Q's on top. Studies him in the dim, foggy light. Red mouth, from the kisses and the lipstain Margo applied earlier. Hair all mussed from his hands, and Daro's earlier, completely released from how Eliot had arranged it before they'd gone to see the Elders. Thin white linen shirt that Eliot wants to unbutton like a gift, but he restrains himself.

“My lovely boy,” he says, reveling in how flushed and flustered Quentin is over all the kisses and maybe his words. “I am going to spoil you so thoroughly, sweetheart.”

“Yeah?” Quentin lays down on top of Eliot's body, rests his head on Eliot's chest. “I think I might like that,” he admits, on a breath of a thought. “Fuck, I am tired though.”

“The Elders can take a lot out of you,” Eliot says. “But it doesn't last too long, not here. Sleep, Q. I'll wake you up when Bambi gets back.”

 


 

In some sense, Margo is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Eliot and Quentin still haven't admitted soppy romantic whatevers to each other, yet, but they're actually identifiably on the road to it now. Still for now, during Encanto Oculto, they're both enjoying the spirit of the week.

It's a little different than before – Eliot always wants to keep touching Quentin, during, and he's taken to hand-feeding him which- not her kink, but okay, it's not like it wasn't funny when Eliot had boys doing it for him. But he also likes holding onto the back of Quentin's neck as Q gives other people head, including her, so that part is more than fine. Eliot isn't really touching anyone else, though he is letting them touch him while he focuses on Q.

Quentin seems just as hungry to get on his knees as he did before, especially for her.

The big changes will come after they get back to Brakebills, probably. After they deal with Reilly and maybe let Wicker yell at them for a while about whisking Quentin away to an amazing island paradise where he's had the fucking time of his goddamn life.

She's happy for Eliot. That's the thing.

Living in their own private world has been comforting. She thinks they both needed it. She thinks they've helped each other.

Still, tugging open the door to that world to let Quentin in is... it's a good choice, even if... well, no matter what, she thinks it's a good thing.

An idea whispers at the back of her mind, so she leans on Quentin on their way back to shore, on the last night of Encanto Oculto. Kisses his cheek and says, “New York Push Club. I'm gonna introduce you when we get back. No more excuses. You can do some introductory games while we're at Brakebills, then smoke 'em during the summer lull. It'll be hot as fuck.”

It's a semi-serious suggestion. She's not sure she wants to hang around New York during the summer. But if they do, watching Quentin play Push could be a fun time.

“If you really think I'm good enough...” and he sounds thoughtful.

“I've got a deck of cards in one of my bags,” she tells him, and he glances down towards her ankle bracelet with their luggage charms. “Pull it out. Full-sized. Manifest us an object, honey.”

“I think I have to do it the way I would if I were doing a trick,” Quentin says, after squinting at his outstretched and empty hand for a bit. He pulls away from them, spins around to face them. “You know, Margo, I'm not sure you washed your face enough this morning.” And he reaches out, and plucks a card from behind her ear.

“I thought that one was for coins,” Eliot says, transparently delighted.

Quentin shrugs. “Gotta be adaptable in the cutthroat world of magic, El.” He twinkles at them, stage-whispers, “I think you might have lost something.” He yanks Eliot toward him, slides his hand down inside Eliot's pants and tugs out another card – and Margo is paying attention this time, sees it shimmer into existence right at the edge of El's waistband.

He slides a few out of his shirtsleeves, pulls a handful from the pocket of Eliot's shirt, cups Margo's breast as he glides two fingers down inside her dress and gets several from her cleavage. He swipes his thumb over her hard nipple after that one and gives her a showy wink.

After he has all fifty-two cards, he does a fancy-looking shuffle, then sticks them in his pocket for now.

“Object manifestation is a Physical discipline,” Eliot mentions, as they stroll towards the food. “So it seems a likely candidate. You're very good at it, sweetheart.”

“I mean, I might not be a-” he pauses, takes a look at their faces. “What?”

“He didn't notice,” Margo says, amused.

“To be fair to him, there was a lot going on,” Eliot concedes.

“Still, you'd think he'd have paid attention to that, after fretting over it so much the last few months.” She reaches over and tweaks Q's nose, and he bats at her hand with a 'hey'. “Dear little Q, Elder Daro sensed it on you during your presentation. You're a Physical Kid. We just don't know what kind.”

Quentin's whole face moves as he throws his memory back to that first meeting with Daro, and she can see when he remembers. “Oh,” he says. “Oh, wow.”

He's walking on air after that – almost literally, his feet leaving the ground a few times, which Eliot points out with glee as further proof of his discipline, if he needs one – and handsy as fuck, nearly too much for outside the tents, but he's too happy for either of them to want to mention it.

Eliot tugs him close to his side when they get to the tables, and feeds Q his dinner piece by piece – slices of fruit, mostly, sticky enough that Quentin needs to lick him clean – and Quentin nips at his fingers afterwards, nuzzles into his hand. Doesn't even object when Margo calls him an adorable puppy.

When they get inside one of the tents, it's hard to even get Quentin out of his clothes – he's kissing them so much, tugging at them to drag them into one of the rooms faster, trying to climb El like a tree once they get inside and toppling him back against the wall. “I can't- I can't hold you up forever, baby,” Eliot tells him, laughingly, as Quentin nuzzles up against his neck and wraps his legs around Eliot's waist.

“I'm holding me up,” Quentin mumbles, blatantly doing nothing of the kind. “You're just here to look pretty.”

Margo should probably go find someone else to play with but Quentin's joy is... infectious. She rubs her hand down his back and he arches into the touch.

“See,” he says, triumphantly. “Margo's holding me up.”

She presses up against him, kisses the back of his neck. “Yeah, you're not so heavy,” she tells him. “I don't know what El's whining about.”

“That's it. I'm not going to take this type of blatant disrespect standing up,” Eliot says, and he slides down the wall to sit on the floor, Q in his lap. Margo follows them down, ends up on her knees behind Q, still inside the sprawl of Eliot's legs.

“What do you want, honey?” Margo asks Quentin, kissing under his ear. “You want to sit in El's lap and have him fuck you?”

“That sounds nice,” he breathes out. His head lulls back against her shoulder. “And you could sit in my lap?” He snorts. “Lap-ception.”

“You are not using that correctly,” she says, but he's not listening, too busy laughing at his own joke. Eliot tweaks one of his nipples, trying to get his attention, but he's absolutely impossible today. They do bang that way, the way Quentin wants, with his back pressed against El's chest and her facing him as they fuck and giving him teasing kisses while El sucks at his neck. Margo does her best to fully appreciate every slide of Q's dick up inside her, because if he and El do couple off when they get back to Brakebills, she's really gonna miss fucking him.

She tells him – “your cock feels amazing, honey” and “that's it, you've gotten so good at using your hands on me” and “come inside mama, little Q, cream me all up” – and kisses him until her mouth almost hurts.

Quentin is wrecked and giddy after they're done with him, and leans his head back onto El's shoulder and says, “I think I just wanna sit here if that's... okay? I might be all orgy'd out? You don't have to stay with me.”

Which is ridiculous and she and Eliot both tell him so. She pulls off his dick, carefully, and helps him off of El's, and then she sits in his lap again, closing off their circle so that everyone else knows not to approach.

“It's the last night,” Eliot says, petting Quentin's hip. “Some people do a final burst at the end, but others like to ramp down. There's no wrong way.”

“Mmm, this was fun, though,” Quentin says, his hands rubbing over Margo's breasts almost absent-mindedly, she thinks. “I wouldn't- um. I wouldn't want to do it all the time but it's- it was fun.”

“We can come back next year,” Eliot says, as lazy and self-satisfied as any cat. “Anniversary trip.”

Which makes Quentin blush, even literally after just getting fucked. Margo kisses one of the splotches of heated skin, says, “An orgy party as an anniversary gift sounds better than exchanging some fucking paper, so congrats to you two on that.”

They sit together until the mist begins to coil and condense, the room lighting up around them, though visibility remains limited. Quentin glances around, eyes wide.

“It's time,” Eliot tells him, and they all get up and make their way back to their clothes.

The fog is dense outside, clinging to them, wet and warm. Margo and Eliot collect a glass of plum wine for themselves and one for Quentin. “Something of a tradition,” she tells him. “We drink it to complete the circle and say farewell. Every last drop, Q.”

As they drink, the fog continues to get thicker and thicker, until they each stand alone surrounded by the endless white light. It won't lift until everyone is finished, so Margo downs hers quickly, then drops the cup, reaching out to find Eliot and Quentin's arms.

Quentin's forearm is tensed, and she strokes him comfortingly, waiting out the mist.

Slowly, very slowly, it dissipates.

The sun shines brightly on the sands of the beach – no tents, no tables, no Elders – only magicians left.

Time to go home.

 


 

Quentin is tentatively prepared for a few things when they arrive back at Brakebills – for the second and third-year Physical Kids to treat him like Margo and Eliot's possession, which is apparently how they've thought of him for months. For Julia to be mad at him or, just as likely, to be mad at Eliot and Margo for carting him off to Encanto Oculto without a goodbye. Possibly for the Dean to try to kick Eliot out. He and Margo have their back-up plan in place for that, but hopefully they won't need to use it.

What he actually gets when they come in is, well, Julia and Kady and Alice and Penny sitting in the common room of the Physical Kids Cottage, no one else around. Julia looks over the three of them intently – and Quentin becomes suddenly very aware that he's holding Eliot's hand while Eliot is also holding Margo's hand.

He doesn't let go, though.

“Oh, hey guys,” he says, as casually as he can manage, which is honestly not very. “Have a good spring break?”

“Your wards are slipping,” Penny says, with a pained look. Quentin does his best to hastily shore them up. “And, congratulations, I guess? Orgy week a big success?”

Quentin is also now vividly aware that the linen clothes he's wearing are somewhat translucent. “Um. Went great. Thanks.”

“Did you meet Bacchus?” Julia asks. She's carefully not looking below his waistline. “Wine, women – er, people? - and debauchery?”

“Some of those things definitely happened.” He glances longingly towards the stairs. “We're gonna go- change?”

“We'll talk to you kiddos once your boy is decent again,” Margo tells the group – which makes Alice and Kady stiffen up indignantly – and she tugs on Eliot's hand, which means that El tugs on his hand, and they escape up the stairs to get dressed in something less 'orgy beach casual'.

“Do you think they murdered the rest of the Physical Kids?” Margo asks, sounding almost as if she hopes the answer is 'yes'. “I was kinda getting a serial killer vibe.”

“Please don't joke about that, Bambi,” Eliot says, with an elaborate fake shudder. “You know we'll be next.”

Still, though, all the bedrooms in the hallway had been shut up tight. Some of it could be explained by people not being back yet from break, but that seemed unlikely to explain all of it.

Quentin glances over himself in the mirror after he's changed back into clothes that Julia would reasonably expect him to be wearing. He does have a hickey on the side of his neck, which is his own fault, really, for spending who the fuck knows how long cuddling in the dark with Margo and Eliot at the end.

Eliot and Margo want to spend a ridiculous amount of time dolling themselves back up as the party royalty of Brakebills, but settle for only spending an absurd amount of time doing it.

“It does occur to me that your friends are extremely powerful magicians, even as first-years,” Eliot says, as he carefully buttons up a light brown vest. “Julia and Alice, in particular, might become master magicians some day.”

“Are you afraid?” Quentin asks, cross-legged on the bed, watching Eliot and Margo as they finish up. “Because I can go down there alone.”

“You will not,” Margo says, strapping her feet into tall wedge-shaped heels. “Just, you know, be ready to throw yourself in front of El if it looks like one of your lady friends is about to throw some battle magic at him.”

“Bambi!” And Eliot laughs and yanks her over to give her a kiss on the temple.

“What? They're not gonna blast him,” she says, tugging playfully at his tie. “I'm just thinking of everyone's safety and continued well-being.”

Quentin's kinda hoping that maybe some of them – or all – will be gone when they go back downstairs.

No such luck.

Eliot immediately heads to the bar and says, “You know what we need right now? Cocktails. Signature Physical Kid cocktails.” Margo also goes to the bar and leans back against it. Quentin just kinda stands there awkwardly for a moment.

His four friends have somewhat rearranged themselves while he was upstairs. Alice is now sitting primly in the very middle of a couch, with that downturned expression that means she's having strong feelings she doesn't want to show. Kady and Penny are sitting in a loveseat together, with Kady collapsed a little on top of Penny – they'd been talking quietly when Quentin had come back downstairs but stopped before he actually heard what they were talking about.

And Julia was standing just about in the center of the room, tapping a foot impatiently.

Her gazes moves over from Eliot and Margo, back to him. “You took your time.”

“It was a long week,” he says. Definitely the wrong thing to say; her expression tightens. “Um... where is everyone?”

“Minding their own fucking business,” Kady says, smugly. “And maybe worrying a little bit less about everyone else's fucking business.”

Julia briefly lifts her eyes to the ceiling, as if calling upon an unknown goddess.

“Julia told us what people were saying about you,” Alice says. She pauses, adjusts her glasses self-consciously. “Well, Julia told Kady and Penny. Kady told me.”

“Oh,” Quentin says, faintly. “Great.” He wonders exactly how detailed Julia's explanation had been.

“Obviously, we weren't going to let people to continue to gossip about you behind your back in such a hurtful way,” Alice continues. “So, we made it clear we were ready to go to Dean Fogg to report them.”

“You went to the Dean.” Quentin spins around in a circle, looks over at Eliot and Margo. Eliot, determinedly making enough cocktails for everyone. Margo, slowly becoming one with the bar. “Um- what. What exactly- how much- uh- did you-” He coughs. He's not sure he can actually ask whether or not they told the Dean about the details of the rumors. He's honestly not sure if he wants to know.

“No, dumbass,” Penny says rolling his eyes. “We just threatened to go to the Dean. Do you still have sand in your ears?”

“That worked?” Margo asks. She gives Kady and Penny an appraising look up and down. “You're not that much scarier than us.”

“I also punched a guy,” Kady volunteers. Cheerfully. “That helped.”

“It showed how seriously we took the issue,” Alice says, with no apparent qualms about said punching. “How seriously we take any threats towards our friends.” And her chin raises up aggressively. Tilts in Margo and Eliot's direction.

“Shovel talk?” Margo asks Eliot, in a loud stage-whisper.

“Definitely a shovel talk,” Eliot agrees, in a similar manner. Then, towards everyone else, “Cocktails are ready, dear first-years!”

None of them make a move towards the bar.

Well, Quentin goes over and grabs a drink, looks vaguely in Julia's direction, though not quite at her, and says, “Concern noted but- uh- not needed in this specific, um. In this specific case.” He takes a sip and- he's been wondering how normal food and drink would taste after having, well, fae food and drink, but El's cocktails are still good.

“We tried to go,” Julia says, and she's definitely looking at him. He avoids her eyes. “No portals allowed if you aren't invited. Apparently.”

“It's a very strict policy,” Margo says, consolingly. “Too many party-crashers in times past.”

“I tried to get an invitation from my parents,” Alice says, in a soft voice. “But they said they'd never been, which was a bit surprising, since they're obsessed with, well, with sex magic.” More firmly, she says, “I don't particularly enjoy asking my parents for favors.”

“Yes, well, I see your point,” Eliot murmurs, into a glass of his own.

“I couldn't even travel or astral-project there,” Penny admits. “Which was damn shocking. They have powerful fucking magic.”

“Literally,” Kady adds. “The whole island vibrated in the key of sex for our scrying spell.”

“It's old magic,” Quentin says, flushes at the memory of- of being in the court of the Elders, offering himself up and enjoying it. “You didn't, um, see anything in the scrying spell?” He really hopes not. There was... a lot to see.

“All we could see a white wall of mist and fog that felt like… well, like sexual desire,” Alice says. She shifts on the couch. “No people.”

“Thank god,” Quentin mutters, under his breath.

“You're really okay?” Julia asks, coming closer.

“I'm… yeah. I'm good,” Quentin says, in what is honestly the biggest understatement of his life. “I promise, Jules.”

And she grabs his arm and yanks him into a hug and says, fiercely, “I am so fucking mad at you, asshole. I chased down every rumor and it was-” she pushes away far enough to wipe at her eyes. “-part of me did want to go to Fogg, just to get them all kicked out for saying that bullshit about you.”

He grabs one of the cocktails El made and presses it into her hands. “I guess it ended up being like high school after all, huh? You protecting me.”

“Well, it's my job,” she says, with a teary sniff. “Fucking angel watching over your future, remember?”

“I do,” he says, with a soft smile. He glances around at the others, at Penny and Alice and Kady. “Thanks for- um. For trying to come to my rescue. Even if I didn't need it.”

Penny and Kady both make dismissive noises, all blustering attempts to pretend they don't care but he knows them well enough now, to know when they're faking. Actions always reveal more than words with those two, and, while it's obviously not his call, he kinda thinks either or both of them would be good for Julia, and he wishes her good luck with them.

Alice just says, solemnly and sincerely, “You're welcome, Quentin.” There's a hint of a shadow in her eyes and he remembers a half-finished conversation from Brakebills South. And maybe it's obvious enough that he doesn't even need to talk to her about it, but… but she deserves a straightforward 'no' instead of being forced to make assumptions.

So he presses a fond kiss into Julia's hair before letting her go and then he says, “Alice, you had a question for me. Before. Maybe we can take a minute to talk?”

“Of course,” she says, standing up.

He grabs a cocktail for her, heads into the back hallway, into the kitchen. Hands her the glass.

“Oh. Thank you,” she says.

It's the location of most of their pre-dawn talks, when Quentin would be stumbling around from anxiety-induced insomnia and Alice would be determinedly starting her day, hours before anyone else in the Cottage was awake.

“I'm sorry you had to talk to your parents,” he says. They're talked a little about their respective home lives and Alice's mom reminds him rather too much of his own. She's got a raw deal with her dad, too, who ignores her most of the time. Like him, she has one reliable person — for him, it's his dad. For her, it's her older brother, Charlie, the only person in her family to pay any real attention to her. She misses him a lot, she's confessed, and she's looking forward to spending her summer hanging out with him. “I didn't know they were- uh- into sex magic.”

“Ugh, yeah,” she says, rolling her eyes and sounding years younger. “It's not really something I advertise. I couldn't ever bring over friends. If, you know, I'd had any.” She sounds a touch bitter, but he can't blame her.

“Alice, I…“ Quentin studies her. She's all put-together and dressed up, more than normal and he doesn't know if that's because she isn't trapped at Brakebills South anymore, with the limited wardrobe they'd had there or… well. If it was because she knew he was coming back today. It seems almost breathlessly arrogant to think that, except that, she'd said she was interested. “I'm sorry. That your parents are like that.”

“Yeah, me too.” She takes a gulp of her cocktail. “Was it really all orgies?”

“Not all orgies, but there were some,” Quentin says and she nods and half-smiles, awkwardly. “And, um. Alice, when you asked me, at Brakebills South, if I wanted to go out sometime…“

“I doubt I can compete with an orgy,” she says, soft and shy and sad, the way she almost never is.

“Of course, you can,” Quentin says, putting his own glass down with a clink. “Alice, that's definitely not- there isn't anything wrong with you. I've been wrapped up in this complicated thing for months with- um. With Eliot and Margo. My heart is all- is all wrapped up in that, but if I didn't already- I like you a lot, Alice. I really do.”

“Just not like that,” she says, with a sigh and a half-shrug and-

“I don't want to hurt you, but I figured- it's better to know for sure, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” she says, quietly. “It is. I do prefer honesty, Quentin, so thank you for that.” But her voice is forlorn and, well, these things take time. “We're still friends?”

“Who else would I talk to at four in the morning,” he says, and she laughs. Shaky and not as loud or genuine as normal, but a laugh. “You wanna head back to the others yet or- um. Did you get a chance to talk to your brother when you got back?”

Her eyes light up. “I did! I actually talked to him first. I was hoping to avoid talking to my parents at all.” She rolls her eyes. “But-”

And Quentin talks to her about that for a while, and then tells her he knows for sure he's a Physical Kid, though he's vague about the reasons beyond 'someone at Encanto Oculto can sense these things', and she's happy for him and-

-and they're gonna be okay.

When they go back into the common room, he gives Alice a hug before he heads back towards the others, and her return hug is stiff but tight.

Eliot is out from behind the bar now and he and Margo are having a conversation with Julia, Penny, and Kady.

“-like something really fringe, you know?” Julia is asking. “I guess I just want to know more.”

“Gotta wrangle an invite for that, cupcake,” Margo says, then, kindly, “It isn't dangerous, not really, but you gotta follow the rules if you wanna come back.”

“Quentin could invite you,” Eliot says, consideringly. “He won approval rights. I suppose you have almost a year to- sweetheart!”

Having realized Quentin is close enough to touch, he guesses, Eliot snags Q's hand and tucks his body in between Eliot's legs. It isn't so different from what Eliot might have done before Encanto Oculto, not really. But it feels different. Quentin leans back against Eliot's chest and plays with his hand.

“Julia wants an invite to next year's big beach bash. Since it'll be our anniversary and all, figured you should make the call,” Eliot says. “You don't have to give her an answer any time soon.”

“They won't tell me anything,” Julia says, frustrated. “Not even whether or not Bacchus actually attends the Bacchanal! Come on, Q. I'm your best friend.” She gives him her highest-caliber pleading eyes but, luckily, he's immune.

“If I tell you too much, I won't get to go again either,” he says.

“Wait, you guys are full-on dating now?” Kady asks. “Julia said it was friendly banging or some shit.”

“Um. It was?” Quentin says. He kinda wants to look behind himself, see Eliot's face but- Eliot's the one who'd said 'anniversary' like that. Eliot's the one draped around Quentin like a coat. “Things changed.”

“You scored a real relationship at an orgy?” Penny asks and he sounds begrudgingly impressed. “Not sure if that's dorky or sweet and- nah. It's dorky.”

“Thanks, Penny,” Quentin says, dryly. Accusations of being a dork don't sting very hard after a week like the one he just had. “I- uh- appreciate your input, as always.”

Kady is still watching them, thoughtfully. If she were a cat, her tail would be twitching. “Like, just you two-” she gestures towards Quentin and Eliot. “-or Miss Hot Stuff too?”

“Um. Eliot,” Quentin says, cautiously. “Margo doesn't- uh. Date much.” Alice is giving him a weird look and- oh, because of what he said in the kitchen, probably.

“Bambi is a goddess that we can only hope to adore and worship,” Eliot says, lightly. “Too glorious to be pinned down by mere mortal man.”

“Jesus, Coldwater, dating him is gonna make you even weirder,” Penny announces, mournfully, just as-

-someone darts down the stairs and out the door, without stopping in the common room at all.

“You really do have them terrified,” Margo says, after a beat. “That's fucking hot. Well done. See, El, I should have just kneed him in the balls. Problem solved.”

“Ah, yes, there, see, just like a goddess… always vulnerable to the desire to smite the unworthy,” Eliot teases. “Little Q-” and that specific endearment makes him avoid Penny's eyes in particular. “-do you want me to kidnap Bambi for dinner so that you can be with your friends?”

His friends.

The thought makes something fuzzy and soft unfurl inside his ribcage. Because they really were, weren't they? Even the persistent doubts that always whisper at the back of his mind have a hard time poisoning his brain with this much contradicting evidence right in his face.

“Yeah,” he says, feeling content. “That sounds nice.”

 


 

Before Eliot leaves with Margo, he presses a soft kiss against Quentin's mouth. It's a chaste nothing of a kiss, really, but somehow thrilling. It's funny. He's had boyfriends before, so he should know how it all works, but Quentin is-

“Are you thinking sappy thoughts again?” Margo asks him, her voice indulgent. “And I thought the pining was bad.”

“Deepest apologies,” Eliot says, insincerely. “My thoughts are fixed only on you.”

“Dumbass.” She takes his hand up as they head off to a portal to find a place in the city to eat.

They have sushi and then go out to a bar afterwards. Margo glitters under the lights, so he dances with her, of course.

They get back around eleven, he thinks, and not as drunk as they would be after a normal night off campus.

Quentin is — adorably — in Eliot's room, still dressed and all twisted around himself on Eliot's bed. Fillory and Further: Book Whatever resting open on his chest, spine-up.

“Should we wake him up?” Eliot asks, very hushed tones. “He looks so uncomfortable. Though at least he took his shoes off.”

“Unless you feel up to using magic to help him strip,” Margo says and the thought of using his telekinesis is still a white-hot streak of pain so… that's out.

Margo hovers in the doorway for a moment before he tugs her inside. “It's easier with two.”

Eliot plucks the book off Q's chest and tucks his little bookmark into it, placing it on the nightstand. Then he gently pushes at Quentin's hips to try to get him to straighten out his body.

Quentin mumbles and moves easily at his touch, and doesn't wake up. There's a heavy line between his eyebrows, so fretful even in his sleep. “Margo, help me with his jeans.”

They tug those off but leave his boxers. Pull off his top layer of shirts but leave the second one. Then Margo helps him shift Quentin under the sheets. At some point in the process, Eliot realizes that Quentin is, in fact, awake again, but just letting them do all the work.

“Brat,” he says, fondly ruffling Q's hair. Quentin pushes up into his hand, every inch a sleepy, spoiled kitten of a boy. “You wanted to wait up for us, huh?”

Quentin's eyelashes flutter as he peeks his eyes open and he's so pliable under Eliot's hand — and so obviously, obviously exhausted. He yawns and asks, “Have fun?”

“We did,” Eliot says. “The last week hit you like a tidal wave, didn't it, sweetheart?”

“Ugh, yeah,” Quentin says. “Come here.” He reaches up and tugs at Eliot's arm, then flails in Margo's direction. “I'm cold.”

“We're still dressed, baby,” Eliot says, but it's such a temptation. “Give us a few minutes?”

Quentin flops his arm back down, dramatically stretching it across the bed like a period-piece movie heroine dying of consumption. “Ugh, fine. Whatever.”

He keeps making ridiculously put-upon sounds the whole time Eliot is changing for bed, and makes extra-annoyed noises when Margo says she has to go grab something to sleep in.

“I'll get it,” Quentin says. “Tell me what it looks like.”

And after she describes it, Quentin smiles slyly.

“Oh, are you sure it isn't already here?” And he gestures for Eliot to come closer — shirtless but still with his pants on — and he pushes his hand into Eliot's pocket and tugs out the silky nightshirt like a magician producing a scarf. “Ta-da,” he says, with the laziest jazz hands imaginable.

So, obviously, once they're dressed for the night, they snuggle up on either side of him.

“Demanding little thing,” Eliot says, and he gives Quentin a sweet kiss as a reward. “Always so much work.”

Margo hugs him from behind and strokes his arm. “It won't hit you so hard next year. Your body was doing a lot of new things. And Q?” Her voice softens further. “Don't get concerned if you don't get hard for a while. You gave a lot of yourself away. It's natural to hit a lull. It happened to El last year. It's nothing permanent.”

Quentin thinks that over, and there's a hint of worry on his face as he takes it in.

Eliot knows there probably isn't anything he can do right now to erase the fear that got instilled into Quentin but- well, he has to try. He tucks some hair behind Quentin's ear and says, “It lasted a few days for me.” Sounds as casual and matter-of-fact as he can. “I think I spent most of it cuddling Bambi, the most valid of life choices.”

“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, quietly. He rests a hand over where Margo's arms are looped around his body. “Definitely a valid life choice.”

Eliot gives him another kiss, this time on the vulnerable stretch of his forehead.

The next morning, Eliot wakes up to find Quentin tangled messily on the far side of Margo, a sure sign he was up in the middle of the night, wandering, and then crept back into bed as stealthily as possible. Eliot presses closed-mouth kisses to both their cheeks, then gets up and belts on a robe to go downstairs.

He has the urge to make breakfast in bed, so he searches through the cabinets for pancake mix and starts getting set up.

Making breakfast in bed for a lover is something he's considered more often than actually done. Most of the boyfriends he had at college preferred to be the one to do the cooking. And he hasn't really dated at Brakebills, just kinda screwed around.

He's halfway through cooking when he hears someone come into the kitchen. “I'll be done in a bit,” he says, distracted. “Unless you just need juice or milk. I saw some in the fridge.” He turns with a smile and then blinks. “She got you good, didn't she?”

Reilly reaches up and touches his banged-up nose, looks sheepish. “Yeah, I- Coldwater's friends are pretty passionate about him.” He leans back against the doorframe, keeps his distance.

“He's a good guy,” Eliot says. “You didn't get it healed?”

Reilly shrugs. “Lipson's still on break and the student healers are always hit-or-miss.”

“You probably deserve to keep it for a few days,” Eliot says. Reilly winces a little but doesn't argue and Eliot feels a pang of guilt. “You didn't- uh. You didn't deserve what I did.” An actual apology still sticks in his throat and he's not sure he could make it sincere yet but- he has to start somewhere.

“What, for scaring me?” Reilly asks, face wrinkling up. “It's not like you hurt me, Eliot.”

Eliot isn't sure what to-

“You know what I did to Logan.” His voice drops, involuntarily. “I could have-”

“If you'd wanted to, sure,” Reilly says, not sounding terribly concerned. “You want to know what I remember most about that- that shit-faced first-year? I remember how much he hated himself because his magic came out in a way that hurt someone. I remember how desperate he was to learn how to control his magic. You aren't a killer, Eliot. You're just powerful. We all are. We're fucking magicians. You don't need to hate yourself. You just need to be careful.”

“If I'd been angry enough-”

“Eliot, you remember my discipline, right?” Reilly snaps his fingers and a flame dances across his hand, brushing against skin and not hurting it. He closes his hand around it again, snuffing it out. “And your friend Margo could freeze the blood in your body if she tried hard enough. We're all dangerous. Anyone strong enough to snag a seat at Brakebills is strong enough to kill someone, if they want to.”

Reilly hesitates, then adds, “Not trying to read your mind or- or assume I know, okay? I know it's different because- because it isn't just theory for you. But you've worked incredibly hard to control it. What happened two weeks ago only proved that to me.”

Eliot bites down on his lip. “I'm sorry anyway,” he says, and he means it. “I hadn't told Q what he meant to me yet. So finding out what people assumed...” He shrugs, but there's nothing casual about it.

“I was being an asshole too,” Reilly says. “A thoughtless asshole, which is why you stopping talking to me in the first place.”

It's the truth, so Eliot isn't really sure what to say back. “I better get upstairs before they wake up.”

Reilly nods. “Would it help for me to apologize to Coldwater?”

Eliot isn't entirely sure if Quentin knows who Reilly is, beyond him being one of the third-years but. “Sure, I can't see how it would hurt.” Then, after more thought. “Not in public, though.” Eliot himself might enjoy the spectacle of receiving a public apology but he doubts Q would.

He gathers up the breakfast tray in his hands and heads back up the stairs, propping it on his hip for a moment so he can open the door physically, not telekinetically.

Margo is still fast asleep, snoring lightly, but Quentin is awake, tucking her hair back repetitively. Eliot gets the impression he's been doing it a while.

“Room service,” Eliot says, sliding the tray onto the top of Margo's dresser. “But I need a tip.”

Quentin looks at Eliot, then at the covered tray.

“You sound like the start of a porno,” he says, and then he beckons for Eliot to come over. Quentin is still all tangled up in the sheets, and Eliot would love to climb right back into bed with him and Margo and sleep the day away, but-

There's breakfast to be had.

So he gives Quentin a soft morning kiss, then reaches over to push at Margo's shoulder. “Bambi, there's food. If you don't get up, I'm gonna give it to Todd,” and that gets her awake, ready to fight for her share.

They eat on the bed, because they can always spell it crumb-free later, and it's lovely and decadent. As much as Eliot feels the urge to spoil Quentin, Q's been dreadfully indulgent of him, too.

It's last day before classes start up again, and Eliot takes advantage of it by keeping Margo and Quentin as close as possible. No sex – he wants to wait until Quentin is in the mood again, and that might take a while.

Because Quentin has his other friends, too, they spend part of the day hanging out with Alice, Julia, and Julia's suitors. Slowly, too, the news gets around that Quentin's friends probably aren't going to punch anyone else as long as everyone behaves, so the other Physical Kids start wandering through the house again, looking a bit less hunted and worried.

“I am impressed with your problem solving skills,” Margo says again, to Kady. “Your whole group will be something to be reckoned with in the future, if you stick together.”

“Yeah, I think we will. Quentin's a loser but I guess I like him anyway,” Kady says, with the air of someone who would definitely punch anyone else who called Quentin a 'loser'. “And Julia and Penny are, you know, pretty good in bed. So I'll probably stick around them.”

Margo silently holds her first out and Kady bumps it.

Quentin also shows off his object manifestation skills for his friends and Alice, in particular, asks him a lot of questions about how he feels while he's doing it and how naturally it comes to him. She would make a good practical magic researcher of some kind, if she felt like turning her hand to it. Julia is interested at first, and then gets frustrated at the lack of actual casting involved.

“You Physical Kids,” she says, with a frustrated sniff. “It's all just about fucking willing things to happen. You don't even know how you do it, do you?” And Quentin shrugs, which frustrates her even more. When Penny laughs, she glares at him, too. “You aren't any better!” But then she kisses him, so Eliot doubts Penny takes it too much to heart.

Eliot mixes drinks for them and spends more time listening than talking. He's still processing his conversation with Reilly from this morning, turning over some thoughts in his head about honesty and control. So when Margo asks if he wants to go out that night again into the city, he says, quietly, “I think I need to talk to Q about something.”

He helps her pick out an outfit for the night, all swish and flirt, and kisses her on the cheek before she heads out.

He decides to have the conversation in Quentin's room because- he's not entirely sure. It feels right to be in Q's space for this.

And Q listens.

Of course, Q listens. That was never the issue, only Eliot's hesitance to talk.

Eliot lays down on the bed, his head resting on Quentin's stomach, and he tells him about growing up in Indiana. About his family. His father's violence and his mother's scoldings. His brothers' silence. About Logan. About-

Until his voice runs out.

“Magic wasn't this beautiful thing I hoped for and dreamed about finding,” he says, near the end. “It was- scary and it made me something scary. And when I found Brakebills, I thought it meant- that maybe I could stop running away from myself. That I could control myself instead.”

Quentin's fingers are gently resting in his hair, not really moving, just holding Eliot in place with their presence. He hasn't talked much, just made encouraging noises from time to time. Now, though, he observes softly, “You're good at being in control.”

“Yeah,” Eliot agrees, on a sigh. “It was part of my great reinvention, my finest creative achievement. The rebranding of Eliot Waugh, from cowering closet case to loudly and proudly queer. Star of every party. Master of libations and every kind of sin. What my family would have called 'sin', anyway. Though, to be fair, they called almost every goddamn enjoyable thing in the world a 'sin'.”

“Do you feel guilty sometimes? When you do things they'd disapprove of?” Quentin asks and the question-

Eliot reaches up to stroke Quentin's ankle, to ground himself.

“I do,” he admits. “There is a part of me that still feels- dirty. For existing. I hate it, but it's there.”

“For what it's worth, I think you're spectacular,” Quentin says, and his voice is the most dear sound in the entire world. “And I'm sorry. For your family. For the way they treated you.” There's a tremble in his voice and Eliot recognizes it – that urge Quentin always has to fix things, to make it better. Eliot's little hero.

He turns his head, nuzzles into Quentin's stomach. He has an idea for how Quentin might be able to help him, but he wants to wait to suggest it.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” is all he says for now.

They cuddle together until they both fall asleep.

The next day, classes start up again, and Eliot forces himself to think about what his reluctance to use his telekinesis might mean for his potential thesis projects, next year. Students aren't required to focus on their discipline for their project, but it certainly makes everything easier. And his favorite idea, the one that he picked out Giselle as a mentor for, because he needed more of a grounding in healing magic to make it work – telekinesis is a vital part of that project.

In other words, he needs to get over himself and get back on track.

Easier said than done. Still, he manages. He and Margo throw a couple of relatively low-key parties, and have some private conversations with everyone else who had been gossiping about Q, to get the story set straight.

Eight days after their return from Ibiza, Quentin says, in a thoughtful tone, “I miss having sex.” They're in Eliot's room and Eliot had been working on a sketch of Quentin's face, but Quentin's words make his pencil skip across the paper, leaving some unsightly marks.

“You wanna?” Eliot offers. Margo is out freezing Woof fountain to see how deeply she can get the ice to layer, and he should maybe wait for her to get back, except, well. There's his idea. When Quentin nods, Eliot adds, very casually, “Because I've been thinking we could try switching a few things up.”

His voice is, possibly, not as casual as he thought, because Quentin immediately straightens up from his lazy sprawl sideways on the floor to peer up with interest at Eliot.

“What things?” he asks.

Eliot leans back on the bed, put his drawing pad and pencil on the nightstand. “I like to be in control, normally. But I think it might be… helpful to remind myself that part of control is trust.”

Quentin thinks that through carefully and slowly before he asks, “You want me in control?” He sounds conflicted, the darling.

“Limited, predetermined amounts of control,” Eliot clarifies and Quentin relaxes. “We won't throw out our playbook entirely, sweetheart.”

“So, what, you want me to-” Quentin's eyebrows come together and he frowns slightly. “Fuck you?”

“Maybe.” He wouldn't mind it, but- “Mostly, I want to redefine a few things for myself. Sin and punishment.”

“I don't want to hurt you, El,” Quentin says, tone rising uncertainly.

“I wouldn't ask you to,” Eliot says, soothingly. “That's the whole point. Just enough of a sting to make me feel it.”

Quentin scrambles up onto his knees, and that's lovely and familiar and Eliot certainly wouldn't mind tugging him over to suck Eliot's dick but… he has other goals tonight.

“You like it,” Eliot says. “And I've played around with it in the past, just never with much intent.”

“I don't know if I'll be any good at it,” Quentin says, but he sounds intrigued. “Are you- are you sure, El?”

Eliot beckons with a lazy finger and Quentin climbs up on the bed, in range to be pulled in for a kiss. “I trust you, my little Q,” he says, against Q's mouth. “I trust you to take care of me. Will you take care of me?”

“Of course,” Quentin says, and he kisses Eliot's nose. His voice gets firmer. “Yeah, of course, I will.”

“What's bad here?” Eliot asks. He brushes his knuckles along Quentin's cheek. “Talking back? Or trying to take control back from you, maybe?”

“You're not bad. You're perfect,” Quentin says, stubbornly, apparently choosing to forget most of the last year and how often Eliot had fucked up. “If we want to, um, to redefine things, then it shouldn't be something you get for being bad. It should- it should be a reward. For being good. For- uh. For using your words and- and doing what I say. Because you want it.” His voice gets a touch wobbly at the end, questioning.

“I do want it,” Eliot confirms. And he wants this, too, as part of it. Q deciding.

“One then,” Quentin says, and he touches Eliot's throat, right above where his tie is knotted off. “For being… for being good. For being a good boy.” He's almost subvocalizing now, nearly too quiet to hear, searching for something that feels right to him. Eliot waits, patiently. “Not 'boy', that isn't- my- my-” His expression clears. “My love.”

His voice wavers and he isn't looking Eliot in the face any more, but he flattens his hand out over Eliot's shirt. Says in a thick voice, “My love, who is always so good to me.” It comes out a little awkward and Eliot suspects Quentin doesn't have much experience with endearments. But it's sincere enough that it makes Eliot ache. Brave, brave Q.

“I want your clothes off,” Quentin says, lifting off his hand. “I wanna watch. Do that for me, my- my love?”

Eliot slides off the bed — gracefully, because Quentin is watching with hot, dark eyes that never manage to go above his collarbones. Embarrassed even when he's giving an order. Or, well, a request, really.

“Fold your clothes after you take them off,” Quentin says, when Eliot's hands are at his vest buttons. “And put them on the top of the dresser. Don't be messy.”

So Eliot unbuttons the vest with exquisite care. He's waiting for Quentin to get bored — there isn't even any skin yet — but when he glances towards the bed, Quentin is watching intently. Eliot slides the vest off his shoulders, brushes off some invisible dirt, and carefully folds it. He wouldn't normally fold most of this clothing, would want to hang it up if — god forbid — he planned to wear it again before it was cleaned, but he follows Quentin's request to the letter, placing the folded vest on the top of the dresser.

He loosens his tie but- he sneaks another glance at Quentin, wonders out loud, “Someone might find this useful at some point tonight,” as he pulls it over his head.

“That's a great idea,” Quentin says, and he holds out his hand. Eliot comes back over, drops the tie into his palm. Doesn't even touch him, but just being this close to Q when he looks like this makes the warmth in Eliot's body increase. “That deserves 'two', I think, for making a suggestion. Thank you, Eliot.”

The gentle gratitude in Quentin's voice is- Eliot bites down on his lip, nods an acknowledgment, then turns and walks back towards the dresser, a little shaky.

He takes off his shirt the same way as the vest, but now his fingers are less steady. Folds like- like it would be in a department store. He worked in one, for a while, when he first came to New York.

There aren't any visible marks from his childhood. He was able to make sure of that, smoothing it all away with cosmetic magic once he learned how, slowly, piece by piece so as not to strain the magic the way an appearance alteration spell might. So he knows his skin is flawless, apart from the tiny marks here and there that nature gives. He stretches his arms out over his head, turns around slowly, so that Quentin can see all of his chest and back. Rubs his hand over his chest, flattening his chest hair down and then feeling it spring back up again.

He drops his hands to the buttons of his pants, undoes the top one idly, then flicks his thumb against the fabric of the waistband. He's not entirely sure if Quentin wants to see his ass or his dick more, so he asks, “Should I turn around?”

“No, my love,” Quentin says in that quiet voice, so that means Q wants to see his dick. “I'm glad you checked in, though. Three.”

Eliot takes off his pants as slowly as he can manage without feeling awkward. There's a slight sense of ungainliness as he balances on one leg and- hesitantly, he dares to use a touch of magic to keep himself from wobbling. It's safe enough to use it on himself, after all. He folds the pants, too, turns to put them on top of the shirt and the vest.

“That's enough for now,” Quentin tells him, so Eliot stops his hands from going to his boxer-briefs. “I miss kissing you.” Eliot comes to him, sits down in front of him on the bed and offers his mouth. Quentin smiles at him, closed-mouth but thrilled. “Four and five, then, for undressing for me and then coming over when I asked. You're so good at this, El.” He leans up and kisses Eliot's mouth, and Eliot softens his lips, parts them for Q, but doesn't try to take control of the kiss. It's slow and soft and shallow, but Eliot feels breathless by the end.

“You like it,” Quentin says, in his thrilled nerd-voice, and his hand is on Eliot's thigh, far enough away not to touch his dick through his underwear. “Okay, okay, I can- um. You should lay me back on the bed and- and give me a blowjob. Really really slow.”

Eliot kisses Quentin's cheek, then takes Q's hips in his hands and slides him back on the bed. Quentin doesn't help, has Eliot do all the work, and he would be a brat even when he's doing his best to dom someone. Eliot kisses Quentin's chest through his shirt, then his stomach, then right over the zipper of his pants.

Quentin didn't say to make a show out of it, but he makes a delighted sound when Eliot unbuttons and unzips him with just teeth and tongue. He rests his hand in Eliot's hair, doesn't pull. Eliot noses his way into Quentin's boxers, kisses far too much fabric before he hits skin.

“You should- um- should rub your stubble against my dick. Not hard. I just want to-uh. To feel that you have it, I think,” Quentin says, and Eliot shudders as he presses his mouth against the shaft of Q's cock, turns his face to lightly brush his cheek against the soft skin. He kisses Quentin helplessly, until he works his way up to the tip of Q's dick and licks right over the head. Quentin strokes gently through his hair and says, like it's a surprise to him, “I think I do wanna fuck you.”

Eliot breathes a 'yes' against Quentin's skin, much too quiet for him to hear.

Not yet, though, he's barely had his mouth on Quentin's dick at all. He takes Q's cockhead into his mouth, doesn't even suck, just lets it rest inside and breathes over it as he feels it harden. Quentin's hands stay in his hair, barely moving. Quentin fills his senses like this – the pulse thrumming through the hot skin of his dick, the salt of his skin and the glimmers of precome, the musky scent of his body, and the mostly steady sound of his breathing.

“You look really pretty right now,” Quentin says, his hand briefly touching Eliot's cheek before returning to his hair. “You're- you're always pretty but you look-”

Eliot flutters his eyelashes and pouts his mouth around Quentin's cock, not too exaggerated just to- add a little emphasis. Make it prettier. He lets the heat of his mouth warm up Quentin's dick, until it's as hard as it's gonna get, and leaking at the tip. Quentin's breathing has sped up, but his hands still touch Eliot like he's a delicate thing.

“Um, I should-” Quentin's voice cuts off like he's biting at his mouth, but Eliot keeps himself put where he is, doesn't look up. “I should- I might not have thought this through.” He's quieter now, thinking out loud. Quentin doesn't need Eliot's input yet, so Eliot doesn't offer any. “I didn't- um- didn't think about whether I should- I should spank you first or- or fuck you? You've done both to me and I liked it- uh- I liked it both ways. Ha! That's- um, that's funny because I'm- I guess it isn't really that funny.” It's not funny, but it is still kinda cute. Eliot presses his tongue up against Quentin's dick, hums under his breath. Quentin's breath catches and his voice sounds hesitant when he says, “I don't wanna do it wrong.”

Eliot pulls off Quentin's dick. Gives it a soft kiss in case Quentin decides for them to do something else, and then looks up and says, “How do you want to fuck me? That might help you decide.”

Quentin looks so relieved that Eliot wants to tumble him over and kiss him breathless and give him everything he needs but-

-he leans his head against Quentin's thigh, the fabric rough against his face. He wonders if he'll have better luck convincing Quentin to update his wardrobe now that they're officially dating.

“The tie,” Quentin says, shyly. “I thought- you gave it to me. I could tie your hands to the headboard. If that's okay? And safe?”

“We can make it safe,” Eliot assures him. He thinks carefully about how to structure his next question, ends up with, “What do you want to look at when you fuck me, baby? My ass and my hair, or my face and my dick?”

He waits while Quentin thinks it over.

“I think- I think I wanna see your face,” Quentin says and he brushes his fingers over Eliot's cheeks and his nose. “And you don't- it doesn't bother you to-”

“It doesn't bother me,” Eliot says, firmly. “I'd love to look at your face while you fuck me, sweetheart.”

Quentin's mouth opens in a startled and pleased little 'oh', which makes Eliot very aware of his own dick pressing against his boxers and how fond his dick is of being in Quentin's mouth. There will be other blowjobs, he reminds himself. Probably a lot, so settle down.

Then Quentin sighs unhappily and he says, “Oh. I was gonna... gonna add to the count, but I lost track.”

“Five,” Eliot says, promptly. “For coming over to give you a kiss when you asked.”

“You're so good at staying focused,” Quentin says, brightening up again, and it's a tiny, silly thing for him to sound so impressed by and it's even sillier for Eliot to enjoy hearing that tone in Quentin's voice so much but, well, Eliot doesn't have to worry about his dignity right now. All he has to worry about is Quentin. “Um, so that's- six for the blowjob, doing it slow the way I- the way I wanted it. And then seven for helping me decide how to- how to fuck you. Um, if-” Quentin frowns again, but he's just concentrating this time, not fretting. “I don't want you on your back after you've just been- um- when you might be sensitive. So, I'll- we'll do fucking part first, and the- um- the other part afterwards.”

Eliot honestly doubts Quentin could spank him hard enough to make it too painful for him to get fucked face-up but it's sweet of Quentin to be concerned.

“Do you want to tie me up now?” he asks. “I can teach you the safest way to do it.”

“Oh, I- yeah,” Quentin says.

So Eliot teaches him, lying back amid his pillows and gently correcting Quentin with tiny suggestions. Quentin bites down on his lip and- it should be a little funny, because his dick is sticking out of his pants and his face is so very serious. It should be funny, but it somehow isn't at all. Quentin slides Eliot's boxes off, gets up and folds them and then puts them with the rest of Eliot's clothes on the dresser.

Quentin comes back to the bed and sits down next to Eliot, resting a hand on his hip. “I'm going use- um. Pertrick's on you. If we- uh- if we decide to do this again, I wanna do the long way but I'm- this time, I wanna make sure it's...”

Eliot relaxes against the bed, letting his wrists press against the headboard through the fabric of the tie. Quentin does the motions of the spell, then licks at his palm and jerks Eliot off for a while, though he doesn't need much to be fully hard. Eliot bites his lip as the spell works inside him, making him loose and slick for Quentin. It's not as intimate as fingers or a tongue, but it's intense.

“If I start to suck your dick, I'll get distracted,” Quentin admits, rubbing his knuckles at the sensitive spot under the head of Eliot's cock. “Um, I don't know if I'll be able to- uh- get you to come while I'm- so maybe after.”

“You can suck my dick after,” Eliot says, agreeably.

Quentin seems to notice, all of a sudden, that he has his clothes still on. He sheds them in jerky motions and drops them on the floor, with none of the care he'd taken with Eliot's. Then he climbs back onto the bed. He pushes Eliot's legs back, fussily, gets him to put his feet down flat so he can push his knees wide.

“You have a lot of leg,” Quentin comments, as he edges one of Eliot's feet further back on the bed. “I don't understand how you can be so graceful when your legs are so long.”

“Practice,” Eliot says. He managed to sneak some dance training in, when he was young, until his parents found out. Took it up again for a while in college. But mostly- “I put myself through my own homeschool version of finishing school, sweetheart.” He'd practiced walking gracefully, talking without his accent, how to mix drinks, how to smoke without coughing. Completing that self-assigned work had been more essential to him than his actual degree, to be perfectly honest.

“Kind of like magic,” Quentin says. Eliot tilts his head questioningly. It's a flattering comparison, given how Quentin feels about magic, but he's not sure how it tracks. “You're-um. You're the magician and you're also the- the material the magician casts through. Anyway, you can relax if you want to, my- my love. You can be- be graceful if you want, but you can be clumsy, too. It's okay.” One of Quentin's fingers presses against Eliot's hole, testing. “Does that feel- is that good?”

“Very good,” Eliot tells him, angling his hips towards Quentin a little more. He can feel the stretch in his thighs, but just enough to feel it, not enough for it to hurt. He almost asks if Q wants to fuck him now but- no. He'll let Quentin get to it in his own time.

Quentin kisses his knee, which is not a part of him Eliot's ever been particularly satisfied with, though maybe no one likes their knees. His in particular, though, always feel bony and poky and weird. Quentin doesn't seem to mind, anyway, leaning his cheek against the bend of Eliot's leg as he pets inside him. He pulls out his wet fingers and strokes them up Eliot's dick, swirling them around the head, then back down again, a few touches against Eliot's balls before the fingers slip back inside him.

“It might be a weird time to ask this,” Quentin says, his fingers deeper now. “But I- uh. I realized that we're- we're dating now but we haven't technically been on, like, a date yet. Do you wanna- tomorrow night, maybe? We could go out to dinner.”

“Yes, sweetheart.” And Eliot is so hopelessly, hopelessly fond of this boy. “Did you make a list?”

“Yeah,” Quentin admits. “There's- uh, and you might have been to some of them- probably, you have-” he rambles for a bit, all while his fingers press and explore inside Eliot's body. Eliot listens more to the sound of his voice than the specific words. He'll be happy anywhere Q picks. Eliot has worked hard on refining his palate, but he can eat pretty much anything, if he needs to.

He isn't sure how much later it is when Quentin says, “-do you- are you ready?” But he hears the difference in the tone of Quentin's voice, how it sharpens from 'thinking out loud' to actually needing an answer.

Eliot makes a soft humming “Mmmhmm, yeah” sound. He feels practically liquid at this point, except for his cock, sitting up hard and needy from the puddle of the rest of him. Quentin hadn't been focusing on Eliot's prostate but he hadn't avoided it either, so there had been occasional pulses of intense pleasure alongside the smoother feeling of Quentin fingering him.

Before Q fucks him, he leans down to kiss him. It's a deeper kiss than he'd given Eliot earlier, and Eliot opens his mouth to Quentin's tongue and enjoys being explored here, too. After Quentin pulls away from the kiss, he rubs his hands down Eliot's arms, stretched up against the headboard. “Still comfortable, my love?”

Eliot nods and Quentin gives him another kiss.

Quentin reaches down, taking his cock in hand, presses it against Eliot. Pushes in shallowly, just the cockhead, and then, like he can't help himself, his hands go to Eliot's dick instead, like he's reassuring himself that it's still hard, like he won't believe just his eyes. Quentin is only barely inside him, feels more like he's holding the entrance open than actually fucking him, and Eliot has to restrain himself from bucking up into Quentin's familiar, lovely hands. If he moves at all, he's pretty sure Quentin's dick will slip right out of him, and that's the last thing he wants.

“You're good,” Quentin says, in a whisper clearly meant for his own ears. “It's good for you. Okay.” Eliot thinks Q maybe doesn't even realize he's talking out loud, so he keeps his own mouth closed.

One of Quentin's hands moves to brace on Eliot's hip, but the other stays on his cock.

And slowly, agonizingly slowly, Quentin slips inside him.

It's maybe the most drawn-out screw Eliot has ever had. Quentin takes his time. Strokes and pets and coos over Eliot's dick. Leans down to kiss at Eliot's nipples. Bites them a little, then soothes the sting over with more kisses. His hips are jerky and hesitant, at first, as he fucks, but the motion smooths out as he falls into it.

Eliot wants to pet Quentin's hair and tuck it back behind his ear and give him a kiss there, right at the hairline, like a secret. He tugs at the tie holding him back, but only half-heartedly because- he'll get to do those things later, when Quentin lets him. It's a warm thought to hold onto, Quentin letting him.

Quentin's dick feels good inside him, and the way Quentin closes his eyes and shivers when Eliot tells him that feels even better.

At some point when Quentin is sliding back in, Eliot feels the tingle in his wards that means someone with permission to cross in has just opened his door, and that can only mean one person right now. His eyes flicker over, at where Margo is peeking inside, looking a touch uncertain. Her cheeks are rosy – from chilling Woof fountain, from letting her power move through her.

He lets out a soft breath, says, “Sweetheart, sweetheart. Bambi's here.”

Quentin blinks at him, dreamy-eyed, shivers to a halt inside him, and turns his head. “Margo, hey. You wanna kiss me?” His voice is an odd mix between the demanding brat he plays for them so often, and this new thing he's doing for Eliot right now, but he hasn't fallen out of the mood, which is a relief.

“Frequently,” Margo says, and she proves it by sliding onto the bed and leaning over to press a light kiss against his mouth. “I can leave if this is a two-player game.”

“I- hmm.” Quentin closes his mouth as he thinks it over, petting at Eliot's dick. After a solid minute or so, he asks, “Eliot, my love, do you want your Bambi to watch you get rewarded for being very very good?”

Margo's eyes are lit up with curiosity. She'll go if he wants, if either of them want, but her own preferences are obvious. She's seen him get fucked before, but not often. And never like this.

Has he ever been fucked like this before?

“Yes,” Eliot says to Quentin, because Margo makes even already wonderful things better. “Yeah, she can watch. I'd like that.”

Margo settles herself on the bed, leaning on one hand and not quite touching either of them. Quentin resumes his torturously-slow rhythm and it's even more torturous and amazing with Margo's eyes on them, on how Quentin makes him shudder.

“What did Eliot do to deserve a reward?” Margo asks.

“He's Eliot,” Quentin says, and Margo hums as if that's an answer that makes complete sense.

“He looks pretty like this, all tied up,” she says. “You did a good job, little Q.”

“Thanks.” Quentin leans forward, presses his fingers against Eliot's wrists. “He showed me how to make sure I wouldn't hurt him.”

Margo makes another thoughtful noise at that.

Quentin looms over Eliot, as best he can with a body that wasn't made to loom, and kisses all over his face, avoiding Eliot's mouth for what feels like an eternity. When he finally does press their lips together, Eliot opens up to Quentin with an eager whimper. His mouth feels sloppy, which it never does, but that's fine, he's not guiding the kiss anyway. Q is.

“Your dick feels- it feels really hard, but try not to come, okay?” Quentin kisses his jaw. “I wanna have you in my mouth when you come.”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Eliot says, heart soaring. He is hard, so fucking hard, and could easily come if he let himself focus on it, so he forces his attention onto other things instead. He thinks about sketching and his project, his- he used telekinesis on himself, earlier, so maybe it would-

Quentin's not moving much faster, but there's more force, more intent in his thrusts.

When Quentin comes, he gasps and shivers and jams himself in as deeply as possibly. His hands tighten on Eliot's hips and he half-collapses on Eliot's body, inside the cradle of Eliot's pelvis. “You were so good,” he murmurs against Eliot's skin. Q's stomach is a heavy, quivering weight against Eliot's dick, and Eliot bites down on his lip to make sure he doesn't come too.

The first thing Quentin does, when he recovers, is brace himself up on his elbows and touch Eliot's dick, tentatively.

“You liked it,” Quentin says, and he smiles, relieved, and turns to Margo. “He liked it.”

“Baby, don't keep doing that if you still want me to come in your mouth,” Eliot warns him, trying to keep his hips from twitching into Quentin's hands.

“Oh! Sorry,” Quentin says, and takes his hands off Eliot's dick which- okay, he'd literally asked for it, but also he wants Q's hands back on his dick. “I do want it- um, I should do that first, before your reward.”

“That wasn't his reward?” Margo asks, but quietly enough that it's clear she doesn't need an answer.

Quentin pulls out of him – slowly – and then presses his fingers against Eliot's hole. Not inside, just lightly against the rim. He ducks down, kisses Eliot's dick tenderly. He slides his fingers back inside Eliot at the same time he takes Eliot into his mouth. It's still gentle and slow, and Eliot can see Quentin's eyes slide shut as he sucks. He's had a lot of boys on his dick, but Quentin loves it in such a rare, whole-hearted way.

Eliot honestly thinks that if he could just have this for the rest of this life, he might actually manage genuine happiness.

He wants to tell- he wants to say-

“Bambi,” he says, because everything's easier if he's saying it to Margo. But he makes sure his voice is loud enough. Q will hear. “Bambi, can you give Quentin a message?”

Margo plays along, as ever the perfect Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire. “What message, El?”

“I've wanted to- to tell him for a while,” Eliot says. Quentin's fingers paused when he first started talking to Margo, but only for a moment. Only enough to let Eliot know Quentin's listening. “But being vulnerable is- I'm not great at it.”

“You seem pretty vulnerable right now,” Margo observes, glancing up at his bound wrists.

“Yeah, but only- ah! Only because I'm- I choose to be,” Eliot says because- well, he could easily undo the tie, if he wanted. And then he could tug Quentin on top of him, kiss him senseless. Part of him has felt the urge to do just that this entire time. There's been an enjoyment in pushing back that desire, forcing it to be on the backburner so that he can let himself be nudged and contained and enveloped by Quentin.

Eliot's eyes roll back as Quentin carefully takes him into his throat. Just a little, for just a moment, then he pulls back again, lets Eliot's dick rest in his mouth.

“I wanna tell him- that I think I...”

Quentin's eyes are still closed and that makes it easier, too, to stumble his way through this confession he's been holding onto to for- fuck, months now.

“...I've been in- I've been in love with him for a while,” Eliot says, and Quentin's breathing goes unsteady and he can feel Quentin's mouth quivering around his dick. “And he deserves to know. But I've been- I've been scared to tell him. I love him so much, Bambi. Can you- can you tell him?”

“Of course, El,” and she smiles at him, and then she swoops down, presses a kiss against Quentin's cheek, which is, oh, right over the bulge of El's dick. And she asks, in a grave voice, “Quentin, would you like to hear a message from Eliot?”

And Quentin is definitely laughing around his cock right now, which is a fantastic feeling and Eliot says, “Oh, I'm- sweetheart, I'm-” as he tenses up and releases into Q's lovely mouth.

Quentin pulls off his dick and tugs his fingers out of Eliot's ass, leans his cheek against Margo's for a moment, then pushes himself up to press his mouth against Eliot's. He doesn't open up right away – Eliot didn't see him swallow, so he wants to see if Eliot-

Eliot parts his lips, and Quentin kisses his own come into his mouth.

It's not Eliot's favorite taste, honestly, but he loves Quentin's tongue and how shaky and eager and trembling he feels against Eliot's body.

“I'm gonna untie you now,” Quentin says, and he rubs at Eliot's wrists once they're freed. “Thank you for being so- so good for me, my love. Um, I think we're at- um, eight for letting me tie you up and fuck you. Nine for- for telling me you wanted Margo to stay. And ten for-” Quentin flushes, and he touches Eliot's throat. “For being honest. So, ten.”

“Oh, that's the reward,” Margo says. “How are you gonna do him?”

Quentin thinks about it for a moment. “I'll sit back against the headboard and he can- um. Lie across my lap. Or. He's tall for that, I don't want his legs to be- It should be lengthwise. I-” He purses his lips. He's back to caressing over the pulsepoints in Eliot's wrists. Eliot lets himself rest in the peace of not really needing to be involved in the decision. It's more freeing than he'd been expecting. He thinks maybe it wouldn't be that way, if it were someone he trusted less than he trusts Q.

Margo ends up sitting against the headboard, with a pillow in her lap for Eliot to rest his cheek on while the rest of him stretches out along the bed. His hips – his dick – are resting in Quentin's lap, and he can feel Quentin's soft cock against the weight of his own. There's something almost peaceful about it, especially when Margo starts stroking through his hair and humming softly. Eliot loosely wraps his arms around Margo's body and lets the moment exist.

Quentin touches Eliot's ass for a good long while, pressing his fingers into the flesh and teasing at the relaxed, used rim of his asshole. When he does smack the curve of Eliot's ass, it sounds loud in the quiet of the room but the sting is faint and fades quickly. He hears Quentin whisper, “one,” so Eliot doesn't have to try to keep track of it himself.

The next hit is higher, harder, and the ache lingers a few seconds.

Eliot feels Quentin's fingers cupping his ass, like something precious and that-

He smiles against the pillow, lets himself lie limply across Quentin's lap. A reward. He hadn't thought about it in too much detail, really, what it meant for Quentin to define it that way, but he feels it now. The way Quentin touches his skin like it's the finest silk-

Well, Quentin doesn't care much about fabric, so more like... the priceless pages of some first-edition of a favorite book. Like he's delicate and fragile and beloved.

Eliot shudders and rolls into Quentin's next strike, feels it in his whole body. Then the tenderness afterwards, the way Quentin traces over the lines of muscle and bone. Like Quentin can read the whole story of him, know him down to his core, and want to keep having him anyway. Eliot feels... owned, in a gossamer, tangled-thread way. Feels Quentin's affection wrapped around him like a million invisible ribbons cocooning him and he could break away from them if he wanted to but-

This is home, he thinks, for him. Margo and Quentin touching him, loving him. This is home, if he lets it be.

Quentin's hand lands right in the center of an asscheek, hard, making Eliot gasp. Glorious boy, he thinks. Maybe he says it out loud. He's not sure. His glorious boy that Eliot was brave enough to be honest to, and that he might get to keep. Margo carefully pushes some hair back, out of his face, and she traces a finger around the top of his earlobe.

A soothing touch flutters over his body, Quentin's gentle, talented fingers. He barely feels this one, and he's not sure if that's because it's softer or because he's so relaxed he's practically melting into the bed. He feels Quentin's fingertips more, afterwards, lightly gliding over the hot ache. There's something his brain pokes at the edges of, then backs off again, to think about later. Something about that edge of pain immediately followed by a tidal wave of soft care and comfort, it nudges at something inside him.

“You okay, El?” Margo asks, quietly.

He blinks, wet lashes against the upper curve of his cheek. Margo rubs her thumb under his eye, wipes away tears. He can feel Quentin's hand resting on the dip of his back, with a hint of a nervous tremble.

“Real good,” he says. He tries to think of a way to- to make Quentin calm about it again, fumbles for an explanation that might work for him. “I'm good. What's that wizard you guys like say? Not all tears are evil.”

“Oh, god, please don't attempt to quote Gandalf when we're naked,” Quentin says, repressively, but his hand relaxes. Margo is straight-up laughing, back to petting through his hair. “That's not sexy, El.”

“I don't know. I'd probably fuck Sir Ian, if you said I could,” Eliot says. “Or, he could fuck me. Whatever. He's hot for an older guy.”

“Not as Gandalf,” Quentin protests. The next smack he gets is maybe a little bit of punishment, then, for making Quentin think of unsexy nerd things while he's naked, but he also instantly starts petting at the heated skin again, all soft apologies.

“Sir Ian is definitely hot,” Margo says unapologetically. “If he were into girls, I'd fuck him. He can even wear the beard.”

“I hate you both,” Quentin says, as his fingers gently stroke the curve of Eliot's ass. “You are the worst people I've ever met. And you didn't even get the quote right.”

“I didn't actually watch the movie,” Eliot says, enjoying Margo and Q's twin gasps of horror. “What? It's long.”

“El, please tell me you know there's more than one movie,” Margo demands. Eliot laughs against the pillow and refuses to answer, because of course he does, but this is so much more fun. “Q, honey, can I fucking spank him for being the bane of my life?”

Quentin laughs now, too, a bubbly sound that mostly stays in his throat and is disconcertedly attractive.

No, Margo! It's not a punishment,” Quentin scolds her, breathless. “Don't cross the streams.”

And that makes Margo laugh again.

“Fine, fine,” she agrees. “But we're fixing that problem before third year, mister.”

They're still laughing when Quentin hits Eliot again, and his breath comes out of him in a huff. He has no idea what number they're at, but he's not sure it matters. It all just feels good, the sting of the spanking and then the soothing afterwards.

Quentin's dick is pushing up against his now, not much but enough to feel it. He's not sure if it's the focused attention Quentin is putting on Eliot or all the nerd talk or something else. But it feels nice, too. Another sharp smack and Eliot moans, shifting on Quentin's lap, turning his head to bite into the pillow.

And again, and Eliot is definitely getting hard, too, from feeling Quentin's cock stiffening next to his, from Quentin's hands on his body. Then after the next, he hears Quentin say, “Okay, that's it. That's all of them,” and he can't hold himself back any more, shoving himself up onto his knees and grabbing Quentin's face and kissing him until he's whimpering into Eliot's mouth.

“You're such a good boy,” Eliot tells him, and Quentin blinks at him, lips parted and breathing harshly, and Eliot can actually see the moment his brain shifts gears and he goes pliable and needy in Eliot's arms. “Daddy is so fucking happy with you, sweetheart.”

Quentin's smile is a sweet and tremulous thing. “Yeah?”

“You wanna eat Bambi out while I jerk us off, baby?” Eliot asks and Quentin nods eagerly. Eliot glances up, to check where Margo's at with everything. Her hands are resting on the pillow in her lap and she- there's an odd little conflicted expression on her face, and he hadn't thought she might stop wanting- “If she feels like taking off that dress, anyway,” he adds, to give her a graceful out, if she wants to take it.

“This old thing?” Margo says, with a breezy one-shoulder shrug. “Not even sure why it's still on.”

It's an exquisite crimson number, with black and gold accents, and it hugs her curves like it was painted on. He's pretty sure it's one of the new dresses she's gotten since they got back from Ibiza, in fact.

“Oh, yes, it's practically rags.” He reaches out and runs his knuckles down the center line of the dress. “I wanna lie down next to Q. Do you wanna sit on his face or do more of a sixty-nine thing?”

“If you're okay with me licking your dick by accident, I'd rather lie down,” Margo says, so that works. Quentin lays down flat, with Margo skimming off her dress and getting on top of him. Q's always so desperate with his mouth, tugs her down as soon as she's close and starts licking at her cunt.

“Don't kick me in the face,” Eliot warns her, and he curves himself around their bodies, resting on his side and getting one leg up over Quentin's body so that their cocks can touch. He does feel Margo's mouth brush against his fingers and his dick, as he works his hand over both his and Q's cocks. It makes him feel soft and warm, like the way he'd felt inside her, before Quentin's dick had rubbed up against his through her body.

He has a good view of Margo's legs spread out over Quentin's face, and the sounds Q makes as he sucks on her clit. In another life, maybe, in a world where his relationship with Quentin had taken a different path, he might feel insecure at how much Quentin obviously loves eating pussy.

But Quentin is gorgeous like this, pushing his face up against Margo's body, going for it like he's dying of thirst. His shoulders even come off the bed, so he can press his mouth against her harder.

“Eight days without Bambi's cunt is a long time for you, isn't it, baby,” Eliot croons. Margo is sinking her mouth onto Quentin's dick, her cheek and hair brushing against Eliot's cock. He moves his hand down, out of her way, to roll and caress Quentin's balls. “You take as long as you need to drink her in.” Margo's hips are rocking now in a steady rhythm, rolling against Quentin's face.

She deserves at least as many orgasms as they got, probably more, since they started off without her. He feels her mouth against the back of his hand, so she's taking Quentin down all the way. Maybe she's been missing it, too, even if she's been getting her own fun on her outings in the city. He twists his hand around to rub a knuckle against Quentin's dick, and his finger slips into her mouth. He can't really see what's going on – her head is down and there's just too much hair all over the place – but he can feel her mouth moving as she swallows and sucks around Q's dick.

He feels her come, because her mouth goes still for a moment and the rest of her body tenses up, and Quentin's face gets wetter. Quentin pulls back slightly, laps at her more gently, but he doesn't stop.

Eliot tugs his finger out of Margo's mouth, wraps his hand around his dick. He has to brush away some of Margo's hair, doesn't want to tug on it and hurt her, then he shifts his leg to get a little closer and starts jerking off, dick pointed vaguely in the direction of Q's stomach and Margo's tits.

Margo is bobbing up and down Quentin's shaft now, and he can see flashes of dick as her hair bounces around. When Quentin comes in her mouth, Q lets go of Margo for a moment, collapses back down to the bed with a moan. Margo shifts onto her knees, like she's thinking of moving, and Eliot touches her shoulder.

And, like Eliot was thinking might happen, as soon as Quentin gets his breath back, he's shoving himself back up to kiss at Margo's cunt some more.

Seeing that- that hunger, that neediness in Quentin, cuts through to Eliot's core. His hand steadies on Margo's shoulder, and he says, “Gonna come soon. Want me to move, Bambi?”

She shakes her head, but braces herself on her elbows, opening more of a space between her body and Quentin's. “You can- I don't mind if it gets on me,” she tells him. So he takes his hand off her shoulder and puts it back on his dick, tugging steadily now, watching Quentin's mouth as it moves.

When his orgasm races through him, he holds his dick loosely, lets it twitch and shiver in his hand. Then he rolls to his back, keeps his head angled so that he can look as Margo stops holding herself up, going limp over Quentin's body, her legs spreading even wider as her knees slide apart.

Eliot watches dreamily as Quentin brings Margo to two more orgasms, her body clenching and shuddering, until she says, voice thick, “My heart might give out if you keep going, little Q. And I'm too goddamn young for a heart attack.”

She rolls off Quentin the opposite direction as Eliot had and as she turns, he sees the smear of his come across her chest.

Quentin lays there panting for a while, cheeks and mouth shiny-wet and flushed.

“You're always so pretty after Bambi's been on you,” Eliot says. He touches Quentin's slick cheek. “One of my favorite Quentin looks. You have a good time buried in her cunt, baby?”

“So good,” Quentin says. He turns his face towards Eliot's hand, kisses his fingers. “I never cleaned you up. After.”

“It's still after,” Eliot points out.

Quentin does the tuts of the clean-up spell, targeting all three of them. Then he tugs at Margo until she's facing the same direction as the two of them.

“How'd the cryomancy research go?” Eliot asks, as Margo tucks her body up against Quentin's. “Successful?”

“I froze the fountain down about five feet and left it that way,” Margo says. “We'll see how it looks in the morning.”

The sheet is bunched up at the foot of the bed. It's just- just fabric. He can't hurt it. Eliot lifts it, carefully and slowly, brings it up and over their bodies.

Quentin has already fallen asleep. He'll get up again in the middle of the night then, brain tumbling about a mile a minute. Eliot rests his mouth on top of Quentin's sweaty hair.

“You two were in the middle of something new and fun-looking,” Margo says, kissing Quentin's shoulder. “Was that couples' sex? Should I not have interrupted?”

He and Quentin didn't talk about Margo, when they talked over things that might be different now that they're dating and not just fucking as friends. He thinks they assumed they were on the same page, and tonight reaffirmed that's probably true but still- they should have the talk anyway. All three of them together for this one.

“We both invited you, Bambi,” is what he says now, mildly. “And we all enjoyed ourselves, right?”

“Mmm, yes,” she agrees, and he can't quite see her hand, but from the movements under the sheet, he thinks she's tracing invisible lines over Quentin's chest. The motions reminds him of protective runes. “You and Q are always a good time. You know that.”

Yeah, they definitely need to talk to her in the morning.

 


 

Margo is debating the merits of slipping out early.

Pros: she gets to check on the fountain probably before any professors find it and fix it. If there's gonna be any messy aftermath of having sex with Q and El post-Ibiza, she gets to delay it. Eliot was giving her a look last night like he wanted some kind of mature adult conversation, and she's hoping to avoid any of those until after graduation.

Cons: definitely will not get Q's fingers in her pussy this morning if she leaves before he wakes up. He did that thing he does in the night, where he goes off in a fretful daze – usually not fretful about anything in particular, just his normal baseline fretfulness kicking in – and then comes back to bed. It means that she's rolled towards Eliot, with Quentin cradling her from behind, and one of his hands is resting on her stomach, literally inches away from her clit.

So, only one con, but it's a big one.

She shifts a little, to see how easily she could sneak out from between the two of them. One of her hands is pressed up against Eliot's chest hair, and the other one is basically on his ass, so she moves that one first, to his hip. Both the boys are sporting wood, with Quentin's pressed up against her lower back.

Then Quentin is sleepily kissing the back of her neck, asking in a rough voice, “Are you awake? You feel awake. You wanna do something?”

And, well.

She does like Q's fingers.

“Yeah,” she agrees. “Stick your dick between my legs and touch my clit, honey.”

He mouths at her shoulder as his dick slides between her thighs, rubbing against the sensitive folds of her pussy. His fingers slip down just far enough to play with her clit. She presses against his body, feels his hard nipples against her back.

It's not a surprise El wakes up, now that they're making so much noise.

“You're having a good morning,” Eliot says, and he tugs the sheet down so that she and Q are exposed in the dim light of dawn, then rests his hand on her hip, heavy and careless. He leans forward and kisses the corner of her mouth, then settles back and looks down at where Quentin's dick peeks out as he fucks between her thighs, at where Q's hand is working at her clit. Eliot makes a thoughtful noise, reaches down and presses fingers against her, spreads her labia lips open so he can get a better view of Quentin touching her.

She makes a sound that probably isn't actually a word, shudders against Quentin. She can't stop watching Eliot's face, as he watches Quentin please her. There's something so oddly scientific about him in these moments, and it gets to her.

Margo comes all over Q's dick and over their hands. Lays there and shivers while Quentin chases his own orgasm, his fingers on her moving away from her clit and just stroking over her pussy lightly.

Quentin spurts out over their thighs, some of it landing right on El's cock. He kisses her shoulder one last time, slides back, then climbs over their bodies to get his mouth on Eliot. She's happy to roll to her back and watch Quentin kiss and bite at El's nipples, then slide down to suck on his dick.

Eliot's hand is cupping the back of Q's neck now, petting gently as Quentin blows him. Soft, silly, twitterpated expression on his face.

After he swallows Eliot's come down, Quentin rolls to his back, too, panting and pleased with himself.

“We haven't talked yet about how dating might change all this,” Eliot says and, fuck, she got bamboozeled into having an adult conversation after all. “Or, I guess, should dating change any of this?”

“Oh,” Quentin says, staring up at the ceiling. “I like this.”

“Bambi?” Eliot prompts. “How do you feel about screwing someone in a relationship?”

Which is a trick question and he knows it. She huffs at him, annoyed. She'd kick him, but Q is in the way, and he doesn't deserve it, so she smacks Eliot's arm instead.

“More seriously, I agree with Q,” Eliot says. “I think what we have works. But I'm not sure what you want.”

“I'm not dating anyone,” she says, firmly. Neither of them look surprised. “I can bang whoever I want.” She tangles her fingers in Quentin's hair and sighs. “But, you know. I wouldn't mind keeping the benefits clause of our friendship. I don't know. I thought you might get all weird and exclusive now that the big 'L' is out there.”

“Um, I- I guess I've kind of seen you and El as a package deal,” Quentin says, pressing up against her hand. “From the very first time I slept with either of you.”

“Oh, fuck, yeah, you got up from getting hardcore reamed by El and came right to me,” Margo remembers, with a flash of heat. There are some things about that first fuck that she would change, in retrospect, now that she knows more about Quentin's past. But the desperation and the heat, touching his ass and knowing El had been inside him. That part had been amazing.

“I was already a little in love with you then, I think,” Eliot says, which makes Quentin glance up at him, startled and wide-eyed. “And then fell deeper and deeper the more I got to know you.”

“It took longer for me,” Quentin confesses. “But I- I love you, El. I do.” Then he looks over at her. “And I love you, too, Margo. I know it isn't the same for you, but that's okay. I'm not asking to be your boyfriend.” He kisses her thigh. “I like being your friend with benefits. And I've been thinking a lot about- um. Jealousy and stuff. Jules and I talked about polyam stuff when we were at Brakebills South. She thought I was some kind of expert which, you know. Hilarious.”

“You do pretty good,” Margo says.

“I concur,” Eliot says, and he moves his hand down to Quentin's hair too, his fingers brushing against hers. “So, we're in agreement, then, everything settled?”

“Have you two talked about being exclusive outside of fucking me sometimes?” Margo asks, because if she's doing an adult conversation, she's gonna make sure all the bases are covered. “You wanna be sure to get that clear so that one of you doesn't think you're doing monogamy while the other one thinks fucking around is fine.”

“Oh, I- I'm good with- um. You and Eliot,” Quentin says. “You're- until Encanto Oculto, you were the only people I'd had sex with since coming to Brakebills and it's been- it's been good. I feel like- if we're going back to Ibiza next year-” there's a slight questioning uplift in his voice. “I'm good with the- um. The rules we had this time. I don't really want anyone to- to fuck me except Eliot. But I like- uh. Touching people and tasting is- that was nice.”

“I'm happy with that plan,” Eliot says, tousling Q's hair. “You look good on your knees, sweetheart. So, exclusive with a Bambi clause and the Encanto Oculto exception?”

“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, and if he keeps pushing into their hands like that, she's not gonna be able to resist a puppy joke.

“Well, that was less painful and awkward than expected,” Margo announces. “But I got all tense during, so if someone wanted to relax me again...”

So Quentin rolls over and licks her until she comes against his mouth.

Then they get cleaned up and dressed and go check out Woof fountain together, where there's still a thick layer of ice. Margo raps her knuckles against it happily, and lets it be water again.

“I'm gonna fucking destroy my thesis,” she says, satisfied.

They separate then, to go to their respective classes.

When Margo gets back to the Cottage later that day, it's a lot more settled than it was a week ago, when they'd first arrived and all the upperclass Physical Kids were walking around hilariously terrified of Quentin's friends.

She doesn't historically give a shit about too many people, but she is impressed with Quentin's friends. One day, maybe, she'll even be willing to call them her friends too. Stranger things and all that.

Alice is sitting on the couch in the common space, looking less prim and put-together than normal. She actually looks a little frazzled. Margo puts on her mentor-hat and sidles up next to her, asks, “What's wrong, kitty-cat?”

“I might not be able to go stay with my brother this summer,” she says, and she sounds miserable about it. She's clutching a letter in her hands. Margo gestures towards it and Alice offers it up.

She skims through – brother Charlie lost his job, so he's not sure he'll be settled enough to offer Alice a place to stay.

“That sucks big hairy balls,” Margo says, sympathetically. “What are your other options?”

Alice makes a face like she just smelled something three days dead. “My parents.”

“Hmm, well, something might come up that's better,” Margo says, her brain sifting through options. “Hang in there, pretty kitty.”

“You can call me Alice, you know,” she says, holding her hand out. Margo gives her back the letter.

“With your sharp claws? Kitty is much better,” Margo says. She hesitates, then adds, “Hey, sorry I set you up for failure with Coldwater. It wasn't on purpose. I didn't realize the dummies were falling in love. Still, you didn't deserve any backsplash from it.”

Alice shakes her head. “Oh, I don't blame you. I waited months to get up the courage to talk to him. That's my own fault.” And Alice really is very pretty, even if she insists on wearing clothes that don't quite fit.

“My door is open if you want to stop in,” Margo offers, and she pets Alice's knee before getting up. “Orgasms are relaxing and extremely therapeutic.”

Alice doesn't answer her, just stares up at her, mouth slightly open.

Given her previous track record on these things, Margo figures Alice might take her up on that sometime during their next year at Brakebills.

The world is full of wonderful things, after all.

 


 

So, really, most things don't change much, after Brakebills South and Encanto Oculto.

Eliot touches Quentin almost the same as he did before, which makes a lot of sense, now that Quentin knows Eliot's been in love with him for a while.

For, like, quite a while, which is a lot to process.

Margo is still Margo, and she looks like a goddess and her pussy tastes like a dream, and he feels like he can put her securely in 'best friends' territory these days.

Some of the second and third-years have apologized to him, which has been weird but Eliot and Margo look thrilled whenever one of them pulls him aside, so he guesses it's fine if it makes them happy.

He knows for certain that he's a Physical Kid, which is- it would be nice to know his exact discipline, sure, but even knowing the general type of magic he has is pretty fucking great. He visits his dad a couple of times, shows off genuinely magic card tricks for him and gets Ted to smile at them in a way Quentin's normal card tricks haven't done for years.

After a party, about a month until the end of the school year, Quentin lays out on the moonlit lawn with Julia next to him, sharing a smoke.

“You got Penny and Kady figured out yet?” he asks. He's see both of them orbiting her pretty regularly, still. “Or are you stuck in the trial phase?”

“Almost figured out, I think,” Julia says. “We've been working on a project together, not just having sex all the time, you know.”

“I didn't,” Quentin says, propping himself up on one elbow. “What's the project?”

“Long-term,” she says, her smile a little pained. “We think it'll be our thesis for third year? We've roped in, um, Nick from the Nature Kids – you remember him, right? – and Bethany from Healing for it. I don't think you know her.” She reaches up and brushes his hair back. “We're working on that spell. For your dad. To make him better.”

“Oh,” Quentin says. There aren't, maybe, any other words. “Oh, fuck. Really?”

“Really,” she says. “I wanted- I can't make any promises that it'll work. Or that we'll get it done in time to save him. But we're gonna try.”

Quentin collapses onto the grass, overwhelmed. It had been the hardest thing in his life, but he'd put his dad's cancer in the box marked 'unfixable' and done his best not to think about it every day. The idea that it can potentially come out of that box some day is...

“Thank you, Jules,” he says. “Jesus... that's... thank you.”

“Yeah, well, he's practically my dad, too, in the ways that matter most,” she says.

Quentin contemplates the stars overhead, and asks, “Do you ever think about James?”

“Oh, god. Am I a terrible person if the answer is 'not really'?” Julia asks. “We haven't talked about him since I broke up with him, have we? God, when was that? Oh, yeah, you were telling me about that girl you dated behind my back-” she nudges his shoulder, companionably, and he feels cold and shivery and guilty and lost. “-you sly dog. Who did you say it was?”

“Heather,” Quentin says, quietly. “It was Heather.”

He presses his fingers to his mouth, does a party trick spell Margo taught up, his lips going icy as the spell takes effect. Sucks in some smoke, blows it out and makes it Ember's seal from Fillory and Further.

“Nice,” Julia says, because this is just a normal conversation for her. They did the difficult stuff already, talking about his dad.

Quentin hands her the cigarette.

“Margo and Eliot think she raped me,” he says, and he hears Julia's breath suck in, shocked. “They didn't- um. Use that word. But they made it- that's what they think.”

“Did she?” Julia asks, and her voice is so careful now.

“I never thought of it that way,” Quentin says, which he knows isn't an answer. He's not sure what he believes about it. “It was rough sex. She had fun. I wanted to make her happy. But, uh, if Margo and Eliot ever ask you for her last name or anything, it's probably not to send her a gift.”

“I might talk to them about it even if they don't ask me for it,” Julia says. “Do you- do you wanna...?”

“I think I- I think I want to try to find a therapist,” Quentin says. “I never- she wanted it to be a secret, so I never even told-” he sighs and stares upward blankly. “She used my depression against me. During sex. Which was kinda a dick move, even if she didn't-”

He's not sure Julia understands what he means by that, but he's not up for explaining it further. He rolls up off the ground, onto his hands.

“I wanna go back to the Cottage,” he says. He wants to- he wants to at least be in the same room as Eliot and Margo again. “You wanna go back and hang out for a while?”

“Q,” she says, soft and sad.

He gets up on his feet and holds out his hand, helps her up.

It's late enough that the Cottage is quiet. Margo and Eliot are still downstairs, directing Todd as he repairs some glasses that got broken during the party. Quentin sits down between them on the couch and nudges Eliot, who floats him one of the mostly-intact ones. Quentin works on mending it. Margo and Eliot aren't particularly good at little things like this, but Quentin is developing a bit of a knack. It's a nice feeling, to have something in his hands that he can fix.

“Julia, tell them about your project,” he prompts. And that cheers her up, makes her look less heartbroken, as she starts to tell them the news. Margo's hand rests lightly on his thigh and Eliot's arm is around his shoulders.

That was the past. This is his future.

 


 

“Eliot, this is amazing,” Quentin tells him, momentarily distracted from the mission that had brought him into Eliot's room. He stares down at the sketch Eliot drew this morning, when he was finally feeling secure enough in his telekinesis again to know for certain what he wanted to do for his thesis project. “You're gonna have wings?”

“If I can get the healing magic to work right,” Eliot says. He touches Q's wrist, fond and familiar. “And I might ask for your help, too, baby.”

“My help?” Quentin asks, sounding stunned.

“Object manifestation is part of how it'll work,” Eliot tells him. “Manifest the wings, use healing to tie them into my shoulders, then the actual flight is aided by my telekinesis. And it'll be hot.”

“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, fervently.

They're interrupted by Margo popping her head in. “Hey, I've got all the other nerds assembled. It's go time.”

Quentin sets down the sketch, lifts up onto his toes to plant a kiss on Eliot's mouth, then starts tugging him towards the door. “Yes! It's time. We got it all set up.”

“I don't see why it's necessary,” Eliot complains, but mostly just for the sake of complaining. He lets Quentin and Margo haul him along easily enough, amused at their stubbornness on the issue.

They've completely re-done the common room and turned it into a mini movie theater. It's not something he would have chosen to do, but here they are. Classes are done and they have a week until they'll be heading off campus on their almost-romantic world tour.

Almost romantic, because Margo and Quentin somehow managed to invite all of Quentin's friends along too, and apparently literally none of them have other places they'd rather go this summer.

Said friends are now settling into the couches that are facing the large screen that Margo and Q have set up. Penny and Kady are complaining too, though they shush when Julia tells them to shush. Alice seems genuinely interested.

“I don't watch or read much fantasy,” she confesses, after he gives her a lovely breezy cocktail that suits her better than the swill she tends to drink when she's left to her own devices. “But Quentin speaks very highly of the visual and practical effects and I want to see if there's anything I can re-create using magic.”

“There are breaks built in. Sort of,” Quentin says, sliding out a book that is actually a dvd case. “But if anyone needs to pee, go now while I'm setting up.”

“You have to come back,” Julia says, sternly, as Penny and Kady both make breaks for it. “You better come back!”

Eliot isn't particularly worried about it. They'll be back in time.

“I'm only watching if I get to comment on everyone's appearance,” Eliot says, pulling Margo down onto a couch with him. “And talk about which actors are most bang-able.”

“Deal,” Margo says, way too quickly. “Hey, I've seen this multiple times, babe. We can do commentary on it. I'm good with that.”

Eliot floats the dvd case over to himself once Quentin is done futzing with it. The back cover has a group of people wandering in a very tall stairway.

“What exactly does 'special extended' mean? How extended is it?” he asks, as he flips it open to look at the inside. There's a booklet tucked into the inside flap. He tugs it out and opens it up. Flips the pages. Pulls out one of the pages to show- “The dvd set needs its own flowchart?” This is possibly more intimidating than he was giving it credit for being. Margo laughs and pets his hand. He holds onto his own drink tightly, takes a sip.

Then it's time, and Quentin comes over to their couch, snugging in on Eliot's other side.

Penny and Kady are back, in plenty of time. They're sitting more separated than he is with Q and Margo, because Julia takes her movie watching very seriously, apparently, so Kady is next to Alice on her couch, while Julia and Penny hold down the opposite corners of their own.

There's a page on the screen, with writing he can't read at the top and the bottom – the fictional languages he's been told Tolkien was so good at, he supposes – and then the dvd menu, which is a bit of a blast to the past in general. It's been a while since he watched any dvds. Quentin turns up the volume, and some instrumental music starts.

And, well, the details don't matter. Eliot honestly doesn't care if he likes the movie. He gets to hold Quentin's hand in a dark room while Bambi nestles against his shoulder. So, it's good.

He's looking forward to whatever happens next.