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you said the words, and they altered the universe

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Don’t want to get attached.

“It’s beautiful out here.” Quentin closes his eyes and smiles, letting the breeze blow over his face. When he opens them, having to blink against the brightness of the afternoon sun glinting off the water, he looks to his right and sees Eliot eyeing him in that speculative way of his, just like he had when Quentin had stumbled onto the Sea with his hair mussed and mouth agape.

“It has its moments,” Eliot agrees, taking a final drag off his cigarette before tossing it in the blue water. “Come,” he says simply, striding away, and Quentin does, because what else is he to do?

Eliot leads him down a flight of wide stone steps that lead down to a handsome Victorian boathouse, right on the Hudson. The magically-influenced weather is warm, sunlight heating his skin in one fashion, and the presence of Eliot heating it in another.

The interior of the boat house holds several slim boats (“double scull,” Eliot tells him, because of course he knows, he was probably born on a boat and summered on one with his cousins Buffy and Trent and their small Schnauzer named Gerald). Quentin has no idea how to row a boat or a scull or what the fuck ever it’s called, and he tells Eliot as such.

Eliot arches an eyebrow at him as he levitates the boat (scull) down from its rafter into the water. “Q,” he says, with all the ease of someone who’s known Quentin for years and not the four days he’s been at Brakebills, “We’re certified sorcerer-geniuses. How hard can it be to row a damn boat?”

Well, pretty fucking hard, it turns out. Rowing is not an olympic sport for nothing. They manage to get maybe 500 meters outside of the boat house before Quentin’s arms start to ache and his chest starts to heave because holy shit he’s out of shape and he’s a smoker, and hey, so is Eliot. It’s around that time that Eliot remembers he’s a magician and, with a lit cigarette that is more ash than filter dangling from his lips, he moves his hands in a few tuts that Quentin watches with wide eyes. The oars start dipping into and out of the water, slowly moving them down the river.

They are facing each other in the boat, and Eliot reclines as much as he can since the boat may have been made for two, but not when one of them has legs for days. Quentin winds up bracketed by Eliot’s calves and one of Quentin’s feet is pressed up against Eliot’s thigh and Quentin tries very hard not to flex his toes.

Eliot has a life jacket stuck behind his back, and he tilts his head back and blows smoke rings and arrows into the air, making Quentin think of when he’d first set eyes on Eliot. Had it not even been a week ago that he’d left his Yale interview confused and irritated and had followed a piece of paper into a world he always suspected existed, but never thought he’d actually find?

Eliot had been lying across that Brakebills sign, reclining in a similar way to how he is right now, and he’d slowly sat up, looked at the card in his hand and said, “Quentin Coldwater?”

God he’s beautiful, had been Quentin’s second thought, right after Am I hallucinating? He hadn’t been, magic was real, he’d passed the test, and now here he was, exploring campus before classes started the next day. He’d spent his days with Eliot, as most students were arriving that evening or the next day, so they were the only two in the Cottage. Eliot had educated him on the ways of the university, shown him around campus, walked him through the hedge maze, and now was taking him on a slow boat ride across the Hudson.

Is this a date? Quentin wonders, not for the first time in the past few days. Having Eliot’s attention was surprising and intoxicating, and Quentin had often wondered if he only had it because he was the only option available. Eliot had mentioned his friends, Margo and Josh and how they would be returning soon, and Quentin suspects the strolls across campus and watching videos on Eliot’s laptop will stop as soon as they arrive.

He hopes they don’t, though. Something about Eliot electrifies him, draws him in. Eliot is very tactile, touching his shoulder and arm frequently, but he’s never made anything Quentin would consider a move. Then again, neither has Quentin—and he desperately wants to. It had taken him all of an hour to stare up at Eliot’s face and wonder what Eliot’s lips would feel like pressed against his own. If his curls felt as soft as they looked or what his fingers would feel like when they were sinking into Quentin’s skin. Quentin’s face would burn, and he’d turn away from Eliot, but he’d often look back to see Eliot smiling softly.

He’s halfway considering flat-out asking if this is a date, or even if he can kiss Eliot when the summer day abruptly vanishes around them and becomes chilly and gray. Eliot smiles as Quentin glances around nervously and tuts so the oars start turning them back the way they came.

“We’ve reached the school boundary,” he explains. “The edge of the concealment charms that border the campus. Inside it’s always warm and summer and lovely. Out here, in the real world, it’s cold and ugly.” He hands Quentin his cigarette, the same one that was just caught between his own lips, and Quentin takes a slow drag. “Try to stay within the pretty as long as you can,” he advises.

They waste twenty minutes rowing up past the change and then drifting back down again, up and back, watching the sky change color, feeling the temperature drop and then soar and then drop again. Eventually Eliot magics the oars to a stop, and they drift with the current, enjoying the summer sun on their faces. It is the real sun, Quentin reminds himself. Magic has just enchanted it for a little while, for the better.

“Do you ever think about what your life would be like if you didn’t have magic?” Quentin asks, stealing Eliot’s idea and relaxing back on a life jacket, one of his arms settled over Eliot’s leg.

“God, no,” Eliot says, one hand lazily coming to rest on Quentin’s ankle. They’d taken their shoes off, and Eliot’s thumb swipes up over the rim of his sock, brushing under the hem of his pants against his bare skin. It sends a shock wave up Quentin’s leg, and he tries to not let his body tremble. He thinks he fails, from the small smile on Eliot's face.

“If Brakebills hadn’t found me, I would have found them,” he says, chuckling. “I'm gonna tell you something deep and dark and personal now. Ready? When I was fourteen I killed someone using my mind.” He seems to enjoy how Quentin’s eyes widen, and he wraps his fingers around Quentin’s lower calf. His hand is so large it makes Quentin feel dainty. His hand is also very warm and Quentin focuses on slowing his breathing, begging his dick to behave. This is definitely a date, he thinks. Then, wait, he killed someone?

“A school bully, when I was fourteen,” Eliot continues, his thumb moving in little circles over Quentin’s skin. “He was a contributing factor to my horrible life, along with my three brothers and my father who thought he could beat the gay out of me. So one day I'm walking on the street eating a candy bar, 'cause by then I already ate my feelings at a professional level, and I saw him crossing over.” He shrugs. “I barely thought the thought.” He pulls another cigarette out of his pack, lighting it with a snap of his fingers. “I knew immediately what I’d done. My nose started bleeding. Logan Kinear died instantly and I ruined my favorite button-down.” He locks eyes with Quentin and exhales a steady stream of smoke. “And that is the story of how I discovered I was telekinetic.”

He says it effortlessly, casually, but Quentin saw the slight tremble of his hand as he lit his cigarette, the way his eyes dim slightly that tells Quentin he’s hearing something not many others—maybe no one else—has ever heard. Why me? Quentin thinks. How did he get selected to hear Eliot’s deepest darkest secrets? Maybe he feels it too, he thinks. This raw potency between them, an invisible string wrapped around his heart that pulls tighter every time he looks into Eliot’s eyes. He lowers his own hand to Eliot’s calf, resting right next to his thigh. Eliot is so tall there’s no way he can get his hand on bare skin, but he gently circles his palm until his fingers are wrapped around Eliot’s clothed calf and gently squeezes. He sees the corners of Eliot’s mouth perk up as he watches Quentin, waiting to see what he’ll do next.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Quentin says, his eyes flickering down to Eliot’s throat, to the chest hair peeking out above the top buttons he’d left undone.

“I’m not,” Eliot says, pulling himself up into a sitting position, shifting Quentin’s foot out of his lap and next to him. “I’m very happy here. Some people need their families to become who they’re supposed to be. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” he says, his gaze flickering down to Quentin’s lips and then back up to his eyes. “But there are other ways to do it.”

“Are there?” Quentin asks, leaning forward. “Can you show me?”

Eliot smiles then, big and broad, before reaching over and grasping Quentin’s hand. “Absolutely,” he says, tugging him forward. They sort of fall into each other, the small boat swaying slightly, Eliot still smiling when his lips meet Quentin’s.

~~~

exposed wiring

Quentin exhales shakily, trying and failing to control his breathing. His fingers dig into the fabric of the orange armchair, one nail slipping into a rip, pressing against soft stuffing.

Eliot runs his palms over Quentin’s thighs, his gaze fixed on the bulge in Quentin’s pants. He’s kneeling in front of the armchair, his knees pressing into the hard floor of the Observatory Tower. “Someone’s ready for me,” he says wryly, his eyes flickering up to Quentin’s face. Quentin freezes at the heat and desire he sees, knowing it’s reflected within his own.

“I’m always ready for you,” Quentin whispers, and one corner of Eliot’s mouth perks up. He reaches for Quentin’s belt, and Quentin grabs his wrists.

Eliot looks up at him questioningly, and Quentin loosely wraps his fingers around Eliot’s wrists. “Take off your shirt,” Quentin says, trying to sound commanding, but it really comes out as, Take off your shirt, if you don’t mind, please? and Quentin tries not to roll his eyes at his own ineffectuality.

“What’s wrong with my shirt?” Eliot asks, even as his hands move to undo the buttons, starting at the top, moving down slowly.

“Nothing. I want to see you,” Quentin says, breathless, and Eliot’s smile fades as he holds Quentin’s gaze, unfastening each button until he can pull it off and down his arms.

Quentin will never get tired of looking at him. Long neck, sharp collar bones leading down to a light brushing of chest hair over small, dusky nipples. His stomach is flat, his chest moving with each breath. The tower is well-heated, so it’s not a chill that makes Quentin shiver in his comfortable armchair.

Eliot’s hands return to Quentin’s legs, and god his hands are so large one practically spans the entire width of his thigh, and Eliot pushes them up and up until one slides right over Quentin’s hard cock, the pressure of it sending a jolt of pleasure straight up Quentin’s spine.

Eliot makes quick work of Quentin’s belt, licking his lips like he can’t wait to get his mouth on Quentin’s dick, and dizzily Quentin wonders if it will always be like this. It’s only been a couple of months of dating (if that's what they're doing; Quentin isn't entirely sure), fucking, discovering each other and all the different ways their bodies want each other, and still every single time it’s a revelation. Quentin had no idea his body could feel this good, he could want someone, anything this much.

He lifts his hips and Eliot pulls his pants and boxers down in one go, to his knees. His hands return to Quentin’s thighs, and the warmth of skin on skin, the thought of where Eliot’s fingers will be in moments makes Quentin’s eyes flutter shut, a harsh breath pushing through his lips.

Eliot’s hand skips over Quentin’s dick entirely, instead landing on his stomach, pushing his shirt up his chest until Quentin is forced to raise his arms and pull it the rest of the way off. He tosses it to the floor on top of Eliot’s, and then Eliot’s hands are on his face, pulling him into a filthy kiss.

Quentin moans into it, sinking into the feeling of Eliot, the soft heat of him licking into his mouth, his hand gripping the back of Quentin’s neck, in the way that always makes Quentin go pliant. Then a firm hand pushes Quentin back against the chair, and Eliot bends down, licking a stripe down the back of Quentin’s cock and back up again.

“Fuck,” Quentin hisses, one hand digging into Eliot’s soft curls, the other gripping Eliot’s shoulder. He licks at the head of Quentin’s dick, lapping around it, sliding in the slit, and then takes him in deeper, hollowing out his cheeks as he sucks and moans around him.

Quentin makes himself keep his eyes open so he can watch Eliot’s lips around his cock, watch his hand reach to fondle his balls while the other clenches Quentin’s thigh. Quentin knows Eliot is hard right now, had seen the outline of his cock against his thigh, and the thought of returning the favor, of choking on Eliot’s dick while he fucks Quentin’s mouth makes Quentin’s nails dig into the bare skin of Eliot’s shoulder. Eliot moans around his cock, and he makes eye contact with Quentin for a second, before moving his mouth faster, the hand at Quentin’s balls reaching up to rest on Quentin’s collarbone, firmly pressing him back against the chair.

God, the desperate hunger with which Eliot regards his cock is unlike anything Quentin has ever seen. Like he’ll die right this second if he doesn’t taste Quentin’s come on his tongue, if he can’t bury his nose in the wiry hair between Quentin’s thighs.

“Yes,” Quentin moans, the hand in Eliot’s hair tightening as Eliot moves faster, his lips rubbing over the sensitive skin, his tongue pressing on the underside of Quentin’s cock, the hand on Quentin’s thigh gripping harder. “Goddamn you’re so hot, you look so good on my cock. Suck it, make me come.”

The obscene sound of Eliot lapping at his dick combines with Quentin’s pants and moans and just moments later Quentin feels the delicious pressure in his entire body, like he’s a star about to implode all over the tower. “El, I’m gonna come,” he warns, and Eliot’s fingers spasm against Quentin’s chest as he takes him down to the root.

Quentin’s balls draw up tight and then his orgasm crests through him, like waves on a violent ocean, rising and falling throughout his entire body. It’s electric and undying and calming and blissful all at once, and Eliot laps him up until Quentin has to pull away.

Eliot wipes at the corner of his mouth, peering up at Quentin who’s sagged back against the chair with his pants around his knees.

Eliot pushes up fully on his knees, leaning in for a kiss, and Quentin sucks on his bottom lip before thrusting his tongue into Eliot’s mouth, relishing the salty taste of himself on Eliot’s lips. He’d never tasted himself before Eliot. He’d never done a lot of things before Eliot.

“Fuck, you’re good at that,” Quentin says into Eliot’s mouth, enjoying the feel of Eliot’s lips pulling up into a grin. He pulls away a few more inches and, snaking a hand between them and sliding his palm over Eliot’s stiff cock, says, “But I’m better.”

~~~

it’s always been the rule

And then Eliot does something Quentin has never seen him do before, even after everything they’ve been through together. He sobs. He turns away and walks a few steps down the beach with his back to them, arms crossed, head down.

“No,” Quentin says, understanding ripping through him like a tornado, tearing a gaping hole in his torso. He looks from Eliot to Ember and back again, staggering away from the horned god. “Fuck you, no. I’m not leaving. This isn’t how it ends. I’m the hero of this god-damned story, Ember!” He’s yelling, fire and brimstone boiling in his veins, but as the words leave his mouth, as he watches Eliot’s shoulders shake, his voice lowers until it’s just a whisper, barely audible. “The hero gets the reward.”

“No, Quentin,” the ram says. “The hero pays the price.”

Quentin stumbles the few steps over to Eliot, reaching, grasping at his arm and Eliot turns immediately, swallowing up Quentin into a fierce hug, tucking him right under his chin like he has so many times before. He’s not crying as fiercely, but tears are still streaming down his face, spilling onto Quentin’s scalp.

“I love you,” he says and Quentin can’t stop the choked sob that escapes his lips. So many years, so many quests and keys and niffins (okay maybe just the one of those) and this is what it takes for them to finally say it. When they’re about to lose each other forever.

Eliot suddenly pulls away from him, grasping his forearms, staring down into Quentin’s eyes, wide and red-rimmed. “This is not the end. Okay?” he says, so fervently Quentin almost thinks he believes it.

“Then why did you just say that?” Quentin asks, looking up at the dark sky, now full of twinkling stars. Fuck every single one of them. “If it’s not then why—”

“Because I’m a fucking idiot, Quentin. I should have told you; I should have said it. So many times. I have for so long. Since you stumbled through the forest and asked me if I was a fucking hallucination. I will love you for the rest of my goddamn life.”

“Eliot—” Quentin’s heart is breaking, his soul being ripped in two. He was a fucking king, and now he’s being ejected from the only place, the only person that ever truly felt like home. “I—”

“Don’t,” Eliot says, his fingers pressing into Quentin’s skin, his warm, strong fingers that might leave bruises that Quentin hopes will never heal. “I will fucking find you,” he says, a ferocity in his gaze that Quentin has never seen before. “I don’t care what I have to do. I will bring you back. Whatever comes next will come, and that will bring us back to each other.” Tears are stinging at Quentin’s eyes and he looks behind him, at Ember and Josh and Poppy and he quickly turns back to Eliot.

“I love you so fucking much. You have to know—”

Eliot drops his forehead against Quentin’s, his hand cupping Quentin’s cheek. “I know,” he whispers. “I’ve always known.”

“I don’t want to leave you,” Quentin whispers. “I don’t think I can.”

“I don’t want you to.” His voice breaks again. He clears his throat and continues, “But you have to.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls something out, grabbing Quentin’s hand and pressing it into his palm. “I got this for you. I was going to give it to you when we got home, when I…” he falters, and then, “It doesn’t matter; here it is now.”

Quentin looks down and sees a silver pocket watch. He knows instantly where it’s from: the little clock-tree that had been growing in the magic clearing in the Queenswood. Eliot must have harvested it when he went back there. It ticks away merrily, as if it's happy to see him again.

“Eliot. It’s beautiful.”

“I want it back. In the same pristine condition,” Eliot says. Then he pulls Quentin to him, kissing him on the mouth, cradling his face in his hands, Quentin’s upper lip fitting between his own. Quentin can feel the kiss on his mouth, his throat, his fingers, burning in his veins, and only Eliot’s hands keep him from toppling over from the force of emotion surging up inside of him.

“It is time.” Ember's voice intones behind them, and Quentin looks back to see him standing there on His stupid little ballerina hoofs.

He looks up at the heavens, at the huge horned moon of Fillory, wondering if this would be the last time he’d ever see it. Then he looks at Eliot’s face and wonders the same.

With a shaky breath, Eliot holds the button out to Quentin. He can hear Josh and Poppy talking behind him, but he really can’t be fucked to think about them right now. He looks again at Eliot’s beautiful face, his dark curls, hazel eyes rimmed in red, strong jaw and full lips fighting to stay steady. Remember this, he thinks.

He pushes forward and kisses Eliot again, hard. Then he takes the button, and floats away.

~~~

proof that impossible things are still possible

“Q.”

His head, which had been hanging in defeat after narrowly escaping Alice, snaps up. He hasn’t heard that voice in nearly three years. And the last time it had rung in his ears, it had been laced with tears and pain.

He turns to the doorway, and his breath leaves his body, replaced with a joy he hasn’t felt since… what feels like forever ago. Eliot is standing in the doorway, his Fillorian court finery so out of place in the drab, spartan surroundings of the old townhouse. He’s holding a tumbler from the kitchen in one hand, full of whiskey, which hangs at his side as his eyes travel up and down Quentin’s frame.

“Eliot,” he whispers, and then he strides forward, gathering Eliot in a hug so tight Eliot startles and drops his glass, shattering it all over the floor. He doesn’t seem to care much as he hugs Quentin back just as fiercely.

God, he smells just like he should, like spices and cinnamon, and for just a second Quentin could be in the Cottage, leaning into Eliot as they watch a movie together. Eliot is real and solid and Quentin’s heart feels like it’s going to explode, beat out of his chest as the moment he’s been dreaming of is finally here.

“How are you here?” he asks into Eliot’s neck, his hands sliding along the back of Eliot’s shirt.

“Does it matter?” Eliot asks, muffled as his lips are pressed into Quentin’s scalp.

“No,” Quentin says, and then he pushes up as Eliot ducks down, their lips meeting in a kiss Quentin feels all the way to his soul.

After a minute Quentin tugs Eliot further into the room, shutting the door. He’s running his hands along Eliot’s waistband, sliding his fingertips under his shirt to touch on bare skin when Eliot chuckles and says, “You sure your girlfriend won’t mind you mauling me?”

“What?” Quentin asks, the words not really registering as he drags his nose across Eliot’s throat, Eliot’s hand sliding into his white hair.

“Plum. Charming girl. I assume you—”

“No,” Quentin sighs, manhandling Eliot over to the bed, Eliot grinning down at him.

“Not even once?” he asks. “It has been a few years.”

“I’m well aware of how long it’s been,” Quentin says as he sits on the edge of the bed, pulling Eliot down next to him. “I was waiting.”

Eliot’s eyes soften as he wraps a hand around the back of Quentin’s neck, and Quentin’s eyes fall shut at the familiar touch; the one he’d dreamed about and would wake up, overcome with sadness at the emptiness in the bed next to him. “For what?” Eliot asks softly.

“For you to find me.”

Eliot smiles down at him then, so big and bright that Quentin can’t help but smile back. Even with the evil soul of their old friend floating through a cosmic doorway just a few feet away, with the heavy feeling in his stomach that Eliot hasn’t managed to return to Earth just to bring Quentin home, the fact that Eliot is here, at the exact moment when Quentin needs him most, makes Quentin believe. That anything is possible.

“I told you I’d find you,” Eliot says, kissing Quentin softly, one hand cradling his cheek. He pulls slightly away. “I had to, really. You have something of mine.”

Quentin wraps a hand around Eliot’s wrist and reaches into his pocket with the other. The watch is never far from him, almost always on his person or in arm’s reach. He knows he looks like a lovesick fool sometimes, when he pulls it out of his pocket and stares at it, like it might hold some kind of secret message from Eliot. He pulls it out now, displaying it in the palm of his hand. “In pristine condition,” Quentin says. “As requested.” Then he frowns. "Well it doesn't actually work anymore. But I figured that was a Fillory thing."

Eliot takes it from Quentin and, without a second glance, sets it on the nightstand. “Yes, that’s all very nice,” he says, turning back to Quentin, framing his face with his hands. “But I meant my heart.” Then he pulls Quentin to him, kissing him with all the passion that’s built up over the past few years.

Quentin doesn’t think of Plum sitting downstairs, probably wondering (well, she won't wonder for long) what the fuck is going on, as he and Eliot tangle together on the cheap, lumpy mattress, laughing when Eliot asks him how he can sleep on such a thing. He doesn’t care about sound wards when Eliot makes him gasp and yell with his fingers and hands, and he certainly doesn’t think about Alice, probably rolling her eyes like she used to back at Brakebills when he and Eliot would stumble together up the stairs to the attic bedroom.

All that exists, his entire world right now, is Eliot. The way his hands leave a trail of sparks in their wake, down Quentin’s arms, his belly, his thighs. The sharp edge of pleasure pain when he slides his fingers into Quentin’s hair and tugs. His legs, tangling with Quentin’s, wrapping around him, pinning him down as he moves inside Quentin. His lips and tongue, dragging down Quentin’s neck, his chest, wrapping around his cock as Quentin babbles about how much he’s missed this, missed him.

It’s everything and nothing like Quentin remembers, having Eliot as close to him as another person can be, inside him, stroking and stretching, hands clasped together as they stare into each other’s eyes like they might die if they look away. It’s rushed and fevered as they come together, and Quentin thinks he will die if they are ever separated again.

After, as Quentin's head lays on Eliot’s sweaty chest, the adrenaline crashing and Quentin trying to stop himself from crying in relief of having someone who knows him, really knows him by his side, Eliot sighs and presses a kiss into Quentin’s forehead. Quentin moves so he can look at Eliot, but still keeps as much of their bodies touching as he can; legs slotted together, one hand gently caressing Eliot’s chest, arm, anything he can reach.

“It’s good to see you,” Quentin says, unable to stop the grin from forming on his face, even as he's still tamping down tears in his throat. His hand settles on Eliot’s chest, curling into the thin hair there. To be able to touch him, in real life and not just in his mind's eye, is a relief so strong it could have knocked Quentin off his feet.

Eliot smirks at him, eyes flickering down his naked body. “Obviously,” he says. Then he softens. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come sooner. Circumstances finally presented themselves for me to cross over.” He frowns, and before Quentin can ask what circumstances, he says, “So, Plum tells me you made a land. And your dead ex is there?”

“She’s not my ex,” he says instantly, annoyed. Three years removed and he can never escape this argument. “Or dead.”

Eliot tilts his head. “Wrong on both counts. But let’s focus on the fact that you’re going to tell me you think that the crazy magic rage-demon living on the other side of one of those magic portals you’re so fond of jumping right through is Alice, your ‘not-ex’ who died seven years ago.”

Quentin sighs, his head falling back onto the pillow. “First off, it’s a doorway. And Alice and I were never—” He breaks off, sitting up, reaching for his underwear. “Did you come all the way to Earth just to have this same fight again?”

“No—No, Q, come here.” Eliot reaches for his arm, and Quentin allows himself to be pulled back into the bed. “I’m sorry,” Eliot says. “I—uh.” He chuckles, looking around the room. “When I was on my way here, I don’t know what I expected. I guess finding you living with a beautiful woman and Alice floating around upstairs was... not it.”

Quentin looks at him for a long moment, at his stupid beautiful contrite face attached to his unfairly gorgeous naked body, and smiles. “The fact that I jumped you as soon as I saw you didn’t clue you in that maybe I’m still ass over feet in love with you?”

Eliot shrugs, a rare gleam of insecurity in his hazel eyes. “It’s been three years. I didn’t know if you would even want me to find you.”

“El,” Quentin says, one hand coming up to cup Eliot’s face, turning so he meets Quentin’s gaze. “There is no lifetime where I will not want you to find me.”

Eliot smiles, leaning forward so their lips meet in another soft kiss. Quentin pulls away, and says, “Okay. So tell me what’s been going on in Fillory for the past three years.”

Eliot sighs, reaching over and pushing Quentin’s hair behind his ear. “We should probably put on pants for this.”

~~~

he never thought he would

“So,” Eliot says, settling back against the tree. The clocks inside its trunk ticked and ticked away, creating an odd little symphony at their backs. “You brought Alice back. You became a god. Created a new Fillory. Gave up on being a god to become a magician again. Where you created a new land to bridge New Fillory to Earth.” He smiles down at Quentin, nestled into his side, a blanket over their legs. “You are a mystery wrapped in an enigma, Quentin Coldwater. Why’d you do it?” His arm tightens slightly around Quentin’s shoulder.

Quentin glances up at the polished moon shining down at them, the stars hanging above them like crystals on a chandelier. He’d been surprised to find a clock-tree in the Fillory he’d made, but after he thought about it, why would he be surprised? He’d made it, it would have anything in it he wanted. “Why’d I do what?” Quentin asks, catching a shooting star out of the corner of his eye. I wish…

“Give the power back?” Eliot asks. “I don’t know if I could have done it.”

“It wasn’t mine,” Quentin answers simply, the same way he had said it to Julia those few weeks ago. “I let it go.” He looks up at Eliot, at how the moonlight hits his face, giving him an ethereal glow. “It was easy,” he continues, reaching for Eliot’s hand and slotting their fingers together, “knowing you were waiting here for me.”

The corners of Eliot’s mouth perk up, and he brushes his lips against Quentin’s forehead. “It’s too bad,” he says. “Would’ve been fun, I think. Being married to a god.”

Quentin’s breath catches in his throat. He didn’t think shooting stars worked that fast. “Married?” he questions, trying to keep his voice steady.

Eliot full out smiles then, and glances down at their joined hands. “Do you still have the pocket watch?”

Well, of course he fucking does. Quentin, bewildered, pulls it out of his pocket and drops it into Eliot’s waiting hand. Eliot casts a quick spell, and before Quentin’s wide eyes, a little square disappears from the back of the watch, revealing a secret compartment, deep enough that Eliot has to dip a finger inside to pull out its contents. Quentin has seen compression spells before, but never used like this.

He can’t see exactly what it is that Eliot pulls out until he holds it up for Quentin to see—a ring. It’s silver, with some kind of flashing grey stone making up a groove around the center.

“The middle band is made from the polished rocks from the Silver Bank,” Eliot says as Quentin gapes at it, at him. “So you’ll have at least one piece of old Fillory with you.”

“Are you fucking with me right now?” Quentin asks. “Because I’ll be really pissed if you are fucking with me right now.”

“No, baby,” Eliot says. He sits up straighter, and Quentin turns towards him. “I know I said I didn't need a family to become who I was supposed to be, but it turned out that I did. And it’s you. It’s always been you.” Quentin lets out a startled laugh, tears forming in his eyes as he glances back up at the heavens. He swears the moon is spinning just a little bit faster tonight. “I love you, Quentin. I told you I’d love you for the rest of my goddamn life, and I plan on following through. Let’s make it official.”

Quentin looks from the ring to the watch, feeling light-headed. “Was this in there the entire time I had it?” he asks in disbelief. “Years?”

Eliot shrugs, his mouth pulling into that half-smile that drives Quentin nuts. “The timing got a little messed up,” he admitted. “But I always knew we’d find our way back to each other.” He swallows then, looking at Quentin. “So?”

Quentin is still staring at him, mouth open, trying to process exactly what the fuck is happening. He realizes he’s supposed to answer, and he jerks, letting out a startled, “Oh! Yes. God. Yes.” Eliot breaks into another smile, and slides the ring on Quentin’s finger. It fits perfectly. Quentin pulls him in for a kiss, laughing against his lips.

“What if I’d thrown it in the river in a fit of rage?” Quentin asks. “Or lost it somewhere in all the bullshit of the last few years?”

“I’m a certified sorcerer-genius,” Eliot says, kissing his way down Quentin’s jaw. “I would have figured something out.”

The clocks tick in time to the beating of Quentin’s heart, under the heavens that Quentin had mended with his own two hands.

~~~