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The Intricacies of Diplomacy

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There should be a limited number of times a person has to hear the phrase “I sense a nice connection between your genitals” in their lifetime, and honestly that number should be zero.

Quentin’s working on two, which— If I had a nickel, right?

“They’re— well connected, yes,” Eliot says, with an amazing amount of steadiness given the absolute curveball their guide had just thrown at them. Quentin, on the other hand, feels like he just got hit over the head, currently immersed in an embarrassingly vivid flashback to Alice’s family house, fucking six years ago now. Eliot’s still talking, though, and Quentin tries to make himself listen. “I’m not sure what that has to do with the banquet this evening, however.”

“It is the custom of our people that visiting dignitaries offer their coital energies to the enrichment of Zalibar before meeting with the Ministers,” their attendant explains, doing the little double half-bow which seemed to be a gesture of respect of the Zalibari, tone far too blasé for someone who just uttered the words coital energies.

“Ah. And they’ll be able to tell if we don’t—”

“Oh, yes, Ambassador. A successful energy exchange between compatible beings would be easily felt by all in the area. The Zalibari are a deeply physical people.”

“Right.” Eliot shoots Quentin a look, half bewilderment and half concern. A little furrow appears in his brow at whatever he sees on Quentin’s face, which is probably— some idiotic deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression. Digging around somewhere inside himself, Quentin conjures up a reassuring smile, because god knows diplomacy is hard enough without Eliot having to worry about Quentin, too. There’s not even anything to worry about, so some aliens expect them to have sex and will be offended if they don’t, so what? Quentin likes having sex with Eliot, it’s like three of his top five favorite ways to kill time. And they have a job to do.

They’re here on this planet in their capacity as official Ambassadors from New Fillory, in the name of opening up diplomatic relations. New Fillory’s a fledgling society, without gods to guide it, and the Kings and Queens fully intend to be more integrated into the galaxy this time around. It’s honestly kind of an amazing job, being sent to places the likes of which even Quentin would be hard pressed to imagine. If the last six years have taught them anything, it’s the importance of having allies.

“Our government mentioned that we should expect more physical contact,” Quentin cuts in, forcibly shaking off the lingering sense of humiliation, which really has a lot more to do with the flashback than his current situation. His cheeks were probably still pink but— whatever, he had a job to do. “I think some details might have been lost in translation, however.”

That’s putting it mildly. They’d been told they’d be expected to hug people— Quentin suddenly hopes this is the only detail their advisors missed. Whatever’s happening on his face must still be happening, because Eliot’s hand comes up to rest solid and steady along the back of his neck, giving it a gentle squeeze. Which probably doesn’t help make a case against their compatible sexual energies or whatever because it does kind of immediately calm Quentin down. Goddamnit.

“Of course, we understand that your culture is different than ours,” their guide says, doing the double bow again, “If there was no sexual familiarity between you, it would not be an act of disrespect not to copulate. However, as you have compatibility, to not engage in sexual exchange would be considered a willful withholding of energy.”

“I see.” Eliot’s voice is still steady, and Quentin’s so grateful, suddenly, that Eliot’s spent his whole adult life practicing putting up a front. It’s apparently an invaluable skill as a diplomat, and one Quentin is pretty abysmally bad at. But Eliot’s straightening up, that take-charge attitude which was, well. Extremely effective at bullying underlings and also, just— unhelpfully hot. “I assume we’ve been given private chambers? That’s a requirement of our culture.”

“Yes, of course!”

And thus they find themselves shuffled off to a spacious room without causing a diplomatic incident.

It’s a gorgeous room— like everything else they’ve seen on Zalibar so far, organic and technological elements blend together seamlessly, giving the impression of stepping into a very high-tech tree-house. A large bed stands in pride of palace on a raised dais in the center of the room, which Quentin purposefully ignores as the guide takes them through the other amenities on offer: food dispenser, waste reclamation unit, some kind of pod containing a bench that looks like what you might get if a bathtub and a carwash had a baby.

It’s the balcony, though, that really catches Quentin’s attention.

Stepping out onto it, he lets Eliot deal with the rest of the pleasantries, staring out with a kind of awe at the cityscape stretching out before them. No city on Earth or Fillory has ever looked so alive. The buildings seemed to be half vegetation— some kind of hyper-strong tree-like plant coaxed and shaped and augmented with stone and metal to form towering semi-organic shapes, leaves spilling out everywhere. The pedestrian streetways are lined with purple and green vegetation; Quentin knew before from their arrival briefing that all transportation vehicles move through tunnels under the city, leaving all above ground spaces free to walk through.

“My whole life, I’ve imagined places like this,” Quentin says aloud after he hears the door click shut, the familiar tred of Eliot’s footsteps as he moves across the room. God, the sunset here alone is breathtaking, breaking over the living shapes of the buildings. Something in the atmosphere here brings out splashes of green in the orange and purples of the sunset, painting the sky like a kaleidoscope of color. “Too bad if we get kicked out because I’m a prude.”

It’s a joke, and he knows Eliot reads it as such from the soft snort of laughter. “You’re not a prude.”

And the thing is, he’s not, not really. He’s an adult, who’s lived with roommates, the idea of other people knowing he’s had sex isn’t— really all that off-putting. It might even have been a point of pride, at one time in his life when any kind of sex at all was an irregular occurance. But there’s a difference between getting a high five from James after one of Julia’s friends ducks out of their apartment, and— well, having everyone at your job know how it went. “This has got to be fairly tame compared to some of the stuff you’ve done before.”

“My wayward youth of orgies and morgies comes back to haunt me, I see.” There’s mirth in Eliot’s voice, and when Quentin turns away from the balcony to look at him, he finds Eliot leaning against the desk at the side of the room, eyes twinkling. He really is just stunningly gorgeous, hair falling in gentle curls just to the collar of his shirt and his soft-looking dark beard. Eliot in his twenties had been beautiful and brittle and sharp, but Eliot in his thirties.... God, it isn’t fair. He holds out a hand and Quentin drifts to him, automatic, like he’s being pulled by an invisible string winding between their chests.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he teases, as Eliot’s hands settle to sit on his waist, firm and familiar, holding him. “I didn’t mean to imply—”

“You did, and you’re not wrong,” Eliot cuts him off, the broad span of his palms running up and down Quentin’s sides before looping around to clasp behind his back. “Monogamy suits me well enough, when it’s you, but you’re right. The idea of people knowing I’ve just had you and had you well doesn’t bother me. Kind of the opposite, actually.”

Jesus,” Quentin breathes, face heating again as he drops it down to rest against Eliot’s collarbone. “At least we’re not expected to like— in front of anyone.”

“Hey,” Eliot says, suddenly serious, nudging Quentin back until they’re looking at each other eye to eye. The tinges of green in the spectacular sunset make olive notes in Eliot’s hazel eyes stand out, and Quentin finds himself caught, entranced. “I’m not— If you don’t want to have sex, we’re not going to. End of story.”

“We’re definitely not going to be able to do our jobs here if we don’t.”

“I really don’t give a fuck.”

“I’ve had sex for worse reasons than this,” Quentin sighs, pushing his palms up the front of Eliot’s chest, just to feel him solid and stable under Quentin’s palms. Touching him feels good, it has always felt good, and even the weird sense of pressure and judgment bearing down on him isn’t enough to make Quentin want to stop. “With people I liked a whole lot less.”

“That... doesn’t really make me feel better,” Eliot says with a frown. “Q, if you don’t want to, we won’t. It’s that simple.”

“It’s not that,” Quentin admits, pulling out of Eliot’s arms, the weird embarrassment still crawling up his spine like chilled fingers. Eliot lets him go easily, and he paces over to the bed to sit down with a sigh, rubbing his hand through his hair awkwardly. He’s probably making it stick up all kinds of weird ways, short enough now to spike weirdly when he messes with it. “Do you remember Traveler Joe?”

The frown on Eliot’s face deepens. “Not really. I don’t think I’ve ever met any travelers besides the Pennys.”

“Yeah— you didn’t meet him. He’s just— He was the one who showed Alice and me how to do the beacon spell, first year? The, you know, the sex magic spell?”

“Ah, I vaguely remember that. I may have been somewhat...”

“— drugged out of your mind at the time? Yeah, I remember.” It’s a bump in the minefield that is their history, the last half decade of their lives littered with trauma like so many explosives. Mike’s death and Eliot’s ensuing breakdown was a mostly healed over wound at this point, hardly the most dangerous thing to navigate around, but Quentin still feels bad bringing it up. Only— “I think he might have come from here.”

“Wait, really?”

“How many sex-forward alien species who look exactly like humans can there be? As far as I know the only way Joe wasn’t the same as a human is that— Well, Alice said his anatomy was— Adaptable.”

A look of curiosity passes over Eliot’s face. “Wow. Guess we’re probably not going to find out if the Zalibari have that particular trait.”

“I mean you could probably ask, I doubt they’d be offended.”

Eliot snorts, pushing away from the desk to amble over to the bed. “No you’re probably right about that.” He sits down close by, and Quentin lets the redistribution of weight tip him in towards Eliot’s body. The warmth and smell of him is familiar, and Quentin can feel it, already, he knows that they’re going to fuck, because when presented with some kind of privacy and an Eliot who wants to touch him, Quentin will alway, always give in to that. Even if the privacy is, well, maybe more an illusion than he’d really like, given that everyone nearby will be able to feel their energy exchange. Jesus. “So what about Joe?”

“He just— used a very similar phrase, about Alice and me being compatible. Except, you know, we’re kind of weren’t?” Quentin scrunches his face up, shooting Eliot a rueful glance. “Like— I don’t know. He gave me like— Lessons? In how to get her off? Because that’s when she told me that I wasn’t, like, actually succeeding at it.”

Admitting it makes Quentin’s face tingle with old humiliation, but it’s not like Eliot doesn’t know part of this story. Never mind the complications of their sordid romance, fifty years in one lifetime and just shy of a year in this one, Eliot’s always been, well— His best friend. They’ve definitely talked through the high points and low points of Quentin’s sexual history, before, and finding out he couldn’t get his girlfriend off was definitely one of the lowest. Still, he’d never really gone into the details surrounding the revelation, which— “You got sex lessons from an alien?” Eliot asks, a note of delight warming his voice. “How has this never come up?”

“They weren’t— super applicable to you!” That makes Eliot laugh, bright and warm, leaning back onto his elbows on the bed. It emphasizes his wide shoulders and narrow waist, and yeah, okay, yeah— Quentin’s dick is getting on board with the idea of sex now please, even if his brain is stuck in second gear. “Anyway, I’m just kind of embarrassed I guess. It’s like I just got told I’m bad at sex all over again. Like— what if they can tell?

“Q,” Eliot starts, all fond and serious again. “You are not bad at sex.”

“I mean— good, I hope you would have told me by now if you thought the sex we were having was bad.”

“Mhmm,” Eliot hums his agreement, clearly deciding to give Quentin space to talk through his neuroses. That’s one of the things that works best in their relationship.

“I guess I just... feel like that’s mostly you?”

Not until the words leave his mouth does Quentin really comprehend this insecurity, but yeah— That’s pretty much it, isn’t it? Something old and calloused over, the fear that part of what had turned Eliot away from him in the throne room might be this very thing; that what Quentin remembered as sex better than he knew sex could be might, for Eliot, have been just adequate, the best available option. He knows better, now, he honestly does, knows Eliot’s self-sabotage had very little to do with Quentin not being enough for him— more the opposite in fact. It’s been a long time since this particular insecurity reared its head, but they’re all jumbled up together now, his failures with Alice and the rejection from Eliot— a tangled snare of embarrassment and judgment.

“Hey,” Eliot protests, pushing to sit up on one palm so they’re facing each other, close, faces near enough that Quentin can feel the gentle warmth of Eliot’s breath. “That’s not true at all.”

“Oh, yeah?” Quentin challenges, but the words come out way more breathy than skeptical. Something sparkles in Eliot’s eyes, and he raises his free hand to touch Quentin’s cheek, sliding up into Quenitn’s short hair to gently scratch his fingernails against Quentin’s scalp.

“Mmm, yeah,” Eliot murmurs, hand moving down to cup the back of Quentin’s head, his neck, tilt his face at just the right angle for Eliot to lean down and— oh, kiss him, slow and tender and deep. It still makes Quentin’s heart race, being kissed like this, by this man, makes excitement bubble in his stomach. The texture of Eliot’s beard, not quite scratchy, almost smooth, the feeling of his broad, warm palms holding Quentin exactly where he wants him, it’s a delicious onslaught of sensation. All Quentin can do is reach for him, get his own hands on Eliot’s chest, up into the short curls of hair at the back of his neck, and open— shiver as Eliot’s tongue fucks oh-so-purposefully into his open, eager mouth— suck, instinctive, until a rumble of a moan builds in Eliot’s chest.

“See,” Eliot whispers, when they break apart to breathe, nose dragging down Quentin’s cheek, down to rub his mouth against the sensitive column of Quentin’s neck.

“I think— oh fuck— I think this is still mostly you.” Eliot’s huff of amused breath sends a sparkle of sensation across the damp skin at Quentin’s throat, and he just— okay, they’re going to fuck anyway, what’s the point of holding back? So he just— climbs up into Eliot’s lap, because that’s pretty much where he wants to be all the time anyway, and it makes kissing easier— levels out their heights, as his weight settles on Eliot’s thighs, enjoying the way it makes him feel spread, legs apart against Eliot’s hips.

“You’re the one climbing me,” Eliot points out, laughter in his voice as he twists enough to hold Quentin steady, big warm hands on his hips, his waist, his back. “You’re so eager, baby. Do you have any idea how hot that is?”

Quentin definitely whimpers at that, and it’d be a little embarrassing, except Eliot’s looking at him with those hungry, hot, heavy eyes, pushing up against him to kiss at Quentin’s mouth, again and again. The shift makes their groins drag together, and neither of them are hard, yet, but it still feels good. It feels good to kiss and move together, to touch each other. Almost good enough to forget that everyone else around them is able to sense this—

“Talk to me,” Quentin asks, begs really, as he moves to start working on the collar of Eliot’s shirt, get it undone at the throat so he can do some necking of his own. The long pale column of Eliot’s neck, god— it’s delicious. If he can just stay focused...

“Okay, I can do that.” Eliot's voice is pitched low, the soft deep rumble he gets when he’s really turned on. “Want me to tell you how good you are for me, huh? Hm? It’s so good, Q. You’re mouth, baby, just your mouth alone. God, do you even know how hot it is, the way you just always want something in your mouth, always need to have something to suck on?”

A surge of heat pulses through Quentin’s body and it’s everything he can do not to whimper, grinding down against Eliot between his legs, feeling the texture of Eliot’s skin under his mouth because— fuck it, he does, he does like it. “Feels good,” he gets out, dragging his tongue across Eliot’s collarbones, and down, until he’s rubbing his mouth against the scratch of Eliot’s chest hair. “You feel so good, putting my mouth on you feels— so good.”

“Let me make you feel good,” Eliot implores, hands sliding down Quentin’s back until his fingers dip below the waistband on Quenitn’s pants, rocking them together. “God, you think you’re not as much a part of this as I am? Then I’m doing something wrong, here, Q, because no one has ever made me feel like you do.”

“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Quentin protests, hazy, because no— being with Eliot is amazing, he’s so lucky to have it at all.

“It’s not just your mouth, or your hands, or your ass. Which are all so hot, fuck, you have no idea.” Eliot punctuates this statement by sliding his hand down to squeeze at Quentin’s ass, as if demonstrating its hotness. “You’re just so eager and sweet, and you just. You give so generously, you just let me in, I still can’t believe it.”

Quentin groans, dragging his fingers down the plains of Eliot’s chest, accessible by the open front of his shirt. “God, El.”

“Can we? I mean, if you don’t want to, we should probably stop.”

“I want to,” Quentin promises, pushing at Eliot’s shoulders until he sprawls backwards on the bed, and Quentin can more easily get to the fastenings on his pants. “Just— don’t make me think about it too much.”

Luckily, stopping Quentin from thinking is one of the things Eliot particularly excels at.

Thus Quentin finds himself riding Eliot’s thick, beautiful dick, washed in the light of an alien sunset. It is, in the end, easier to get lost in it than he would have expected. It’s still Eliot, after all, Eliot spread out underneath him. Eliot, with his dark waves of curly hair, perfect and smooth when Quentin slides his fingers into it as he bends down to kiss him. Eliot’s lovely mouth, hot and generous and familiar, the scratch of his beard sending heat through Quentin’s body. It’s Eliot’s chest Quentin braces his hands against, solid and study, with wiry dark hair that stands out in contrast against his pale skin, perfect to tangle his fingers in. Eliot’s hands, big and broad, supporting hands that hold Quentin as he rides, bracing him, suring him up, reaching for Quentin and saying by the reaching, you are not alone, and I’m here with you.

And, god, that dick, Eliot’s dick, thick and long and hard, pressing against everything inside of Quentin that feels good, drawing along the sensitive rim of his ass, pushing against his prostate with every rock of his hips. It’s delicious, it’s delightful, and he can just— he can just— push back on it and listen to Eliot’s murmured praise, and lose himself, chasing pleasure until they’re both coming, in time with each other and the weird energetic current of this alien world.

“I don’t get,” Eliot starts, in the shadow after-glow mixed with the encroaching darkness after sunset, “—how you can be worried about being bad at sex, and then do that. I don’t think I’ve ever come like that.”

“Me neither,” Quentin admits, feeling— giddy, giggly, tingly down to the tips of his fingers like sparks of sensation are still coursing through him. “I think that was more the whole alien planet—”

“You,” Eliot huffs, muscling up until Quentin’s on his back, looking up into Eliot’s expression of fond exasperation, “–are ridiculous.”

“You like me though,” Quentin quips, and it's half a joke, but it’s— mostly not.

Eliot’s soft smile is just visible in the darkness, as he pushes Quentin’s hair back off forehead. “Yeah,” he says simply, and leans down for a kiss.

Later, dressed and polished and prepared for a banquet, Quentin and Eliot walk hand in hand into the Zalibari state hall and are met with nothing but warmth and friendliness— Not an ounce of judgment in sight.

Apparently their offering was sufficient after all.