I'm begging for you to take my hand,
wreck my plans,
that's my man.
- 'willow', Taylor Swift
Eliot Waugh had it all figured out.
He had his undergraduate degree, and now he was doing a Masters in Magic. Magic. Who’d have thought?
Despite all odds, Eliot has lived to see the ripe age of twenty-three with an undergrad degree under his belt, a best friend who knew him in every way, and magic. He was living his life of sex and decadence, and he was enjoying it. This right here, at the Cottage in Brakebills with Margo–this is all he needed. And he had no plans to change that; even after graduation, him and Margo were going to take their parties into the outside world, and continue as if they had never left Brakebills. They liked to talk about it extensively on one of their nights of boredom.
Yes, Eliot Waugh had it all figured out.
Until he didn’t.
The guy that stumbled up towards him as he smoked on the Brakebills sign was adorably sexy, and he probably didn’t even know it. Eliot watched as he approached with this wide eyed look of awe on his face, trying to take in the campus as well as Eliot himself lounging on the sign. He hid a smirk by taking a drag from his cigarette, blowing out the smoke–he knew how good he looked. And when he jumps down to step up to the guy, their height difference was not lost on him and Jesus Eliot could work with this. He really, really could work with this. But the guy had to get into Brakebills first. Eliot hoped he would pass, because then he could do his usual routine of seducing his first year boys.
And then Quentin Coldwater did get into Brakebills.
And the more time Eliot spent with him under the guise of seducing him, the more he began to realise that he’s in serious fucking trouble.
It had started out normally–Eliot showing him around campus with Margo, having wine with him, hanging out with him all the time… But the more he hung out with Quentin, the more he found his stuttering rambles endearing even if he couldn’t figure out what he was talking about half the time, and the way he would gesture with his hands as he talked was captivating, and the way his hair fell in front of his face when he was hiding was annoying because Eliot liked looking at his face, liked being able to see his eyes, and–
Fuck, he was actually crushing on this guy.
And somewhere in between all of that, Eliot and Quentin had somehow become friends. Like, actual share-your-secrets-and-I’ll-share-mine kind of friends; I’m-here-for-you kind of friends; I’ll-seduce-you-so-life-retains-its-sparkles kind of friends. Wait, no–
But then Quentin had to go to Brakebills South.
And Eliot ended up meeting Mike, who was also cute, and nerdy but not as much as Quentin, and he was sweet, and loving, and good in bed, and not as much of a disaster as Quentin, and not as much of the disaster Eliot hides. And Eliot–Eliot was really torn. He was beginning to like Mike a lot, but also… A part of him was still holding out hope for Quentin. That maybe after all that time spent with him, flirting with him, would awaken something while Quentin was away. Maybe, in all the time Mayakovsky had them silenced, Quentin will realise Eliot has been flirting with him all along and… And he’ll come back, and they can date, and drink together, and have sex.
But before Eliot knew it, he began to forget about Quentin being his previous target, because his senses were suddenly filled with Mike. And Mike actually wanted him back. Because for all the time they spent together, Quentin had never, not once, shown interest in Eliot romantically and well–that maybe hurt more than Eliot cared to admit. But Mike showed his interest from the get-go, and who was Eliot to deny potential like that? So he grabbed it with both hands. And when Quentin came back from Brakebills South, he had to work hard at not showing his disappointment that Quentin came back with Alice, but it’s whatever; Quentin had Alice, who he was clearly romantically interested in, and Eliot had Mike, who was romantically interested in him and who Eliot was beginning to really fucking like.
And then–then he had to kill Mike. Because what the fuck? What the actual fuck is his life now?
He hadn’t counted on Quentin fucking Coldwater stumbling into his life and derailing his plans for this year, and he certainly hadn’t counted on finding romance any time soon, but then Mike came along. And he definitely hadn’t counted on having to kill that romance before it had even begun to take off because it turned out–it had never really taken off in the first place. Eliot never really knew Mike, because Mike had been possessed the whole time. And wasn’t that just the next great tragedy in the life of Eliot Waugh?
But he bounced back, because that’s what he did; Eliot never dwelt on his next great fuck-up for long, because he would drown if he did that.
(Even so, he can’t stop thinking about that threesome. Quentin, naked. Quentin, kissing Margo. Quentin, hard for both of them–Eliot had never come so hard in his life.)
Sometimes, in the quiet of his room, Eliot allows himself to lose his thoughts in the imagined brown depths of Quentin’s eyes.
The biggest surprise came when it was made apparent that Eliot is High King of Fillory. Again: what the actual fuck is his life now?
Eliot had never even read the books. But then Quentin was crowning him, talking about destiny being bullshit, and Eliot had to hold back tears because someone other than Margo was seeing the potential Eliot had to be better, that he could do better. And it was Quentin who saw that. Quentin, who liked to believe the best in people. Quentin, whom life had kicked down time and time again, but still found the strength to stand back up. Quentin, who had this belief that Eliot could do the same.
And Eliot would try–God, would he fucking try–just to see Quentin’s lips quirk into that smile he would so often give to Eliot; that soft, sweet smile, a bit on the shy side, a bit awkward, and yet charmed all the same. Like he was captivated by Eliot too. And Eliot would give anything–do anything–to win more of those smiles from Quentin.
Even if it meant marrying a complete stranger. Even if it meant having to live out the rest of his days in Fillory, unable to leave. Even then.
Fuck his life.
When Eliot took on the crown, he hadn’t planned on becoming a puppet king and being sent on a quest to find keys to save magic, but here he was.
With Quentin. In the Fillory of the past.
Which was fine. They’ll solve the mosaic, get the key, and go save Margo from her wedding. All in a day’s work for Eliot the Spectacular.
Except–it took longer than expected. Much longer.
A day turned into two, and two turned into a week. A week became a month, and before they knew it, that month became a year. A whole year he spent with Quentin at the mosaic, getting frustrated at the patterns, ribbing each other, gardening, growing their own fruit and vegetables.
And then, on the night of the one year mark of them starting the mosaic, Quentin kissed him. Just like that. He’d leaned in and planted a brief kiss, like it was no effort at all, like it was something he did every day, while Eliot–Eliot’s heart was beating loudly. But maybe…
Without overthinking it, he took the plunge and reeled Quentin back for another kiss. And then another. And another. He couldn’t seem to stop. It felt like… God, it felt like he’d been waiting for this since forever, like every moment since he’d met Quentin had been leading up to this very instant. And Eliot seized it with both hands.
He took Quentin on the blanket that night under the stars, and it was better than the threesome they had had before. So much better. Because they were sober, and it was slow, and it was tender. Loving. It was everything Eliot had only been able to hope for before, and more.
And the next morning, he could see Quentin beginning to overthink it, wanting to say something and Eliot–he didn’t want to see the rejection, wouldn’t have been able to handle it, so he’d told Quentin to save his thinking for the mosaic. And Quentin had agreed, making Eliot feel relief that he had been able to put off the inevitable, at least for now.
They continued to live like that; spending the day working out new patterns, bickering and teasing and arguing, getting frustrated with the puzzle and themselves before coming together at night for dinner and slow kisses, timidly learning each other with the time they never had the luxury of having before.
And Eliot began to feel himself falling and he watched as Quentin fell too, for both him and Arielle, and it was a beautiful tumble down the slope of love; their little family with the cottage and the mosaic as their backdrop, with the sounds of birds, and rustling leaves, and little Ted’s laughter, and the feeling of magic in the air flawlessly playing together as their soundtrack as the first year drifted into two, and then two into three, and three glided into decades.
And Eliot watched the whole time as Quentin fell like an autumn leaf, slow and golden, and he watched as he married Arielle, and he watched as Ted grew up, and when Quentin went on a spiral after Arielle’s death, and when Quentin began to show gray in his hair, and when Ted left for his own adventure. And he could feel himself, very slowly, begin to forget why they had arrived in the first place, because isn’t this where they belonged? In this beautiful little corner of the world that they had claimed as their own, had made their home?
The plan Eliot had had for his life before faded into nothing as he drank in the sight of the love of his life working at the mosaic one last time.
Eliot had a distinct feeling he was missing something. Like a large part of himself just… wasn’t there anymore. And he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
Margo had stopped them going through to Fillory just in time, appearing like an avenging angel with the key they had just been about to go and retrieve. She told them all about the letter Quentin had sent to her, from like a century ago somehow, and how it told her of their life together at the mosaic, and how they had both lived full and good lives, and had died there. And Eliot–Eliot found himself yearning for that, for the peaceful life they were never going to have anymore because Margo had stopped them from travelling back, and while a part of Eliot felt relieved that they weren’t going to be spending decades trying to get one key, a greater part of him was disappointed. A long, peaceful life sounded good right now (he tried very hard not to think about the fact that he would have spent it with Quentin).
But then they were back in Fillory–present Fillory–and they were sitting on the stone steps of the throne room, and Quentin was beside him reading his letter and Eliot had just taken a bite from a peach when–
For a moment, the scent of the throne room blurred into one of fragrant flowers, and the smell of fresh rain and chalk, and–above all–the smell of ripe sweet fruit.
And they remembered.
Somehow, miraculously, they remember the life-that-would-never-happen. They remember Arielle, and Teddy, and grandkids. The mosaic, the patterns, magic. Growing old together, a life well lived. Quentin remembers Eliot dying.
And it is wonderful but also bittersweet, because here, in this timeline, they couldn’t get that. At least, not now. Even when Quentin asked for it. Because Eliot–Eliot couldn’t stand the fact that Quentin had been stuck with him, had only settled for him because there had been no one else other than Arielle to choose from, that their life together had been situational, because of the quest; he knew, in this life, Quentin had Alice, and that if it had been a choice between him and Alice–
Eliot had to swallow his memories away, and it was painful, but he had to give Quentin that choice.
He doesn’t tell Quentin that he also remembers them standing under an ivy arch in their own handfasting ceremony.
Being possessed by a god-monster and stuck in his own mind had most definitely not been in Eliot’s life plans.
His heart ached, knowing what everyone was going through with having to deal with Not-Eliot. What Quentin was going through. He could see him spiralling (half a century he’s spent with him, of course Eliot knew the signs) and he felt like screaming; why could no one see it? Why wasn’t Julia doing anything? Surely she could see it too? What about Alice?
Eliot so badly wanted to scream. The god-child was destroying his body, and taking everyone else down with him. And Eliot couldn’t do anything about it. He’d never felt so helpless in his entire life, not even back in Indiana, and that–that was really something. He had to get out.
He needed to get out.
He thought reliving his worst memories, from Indiana and Brakebills, was bad enough, but nothing–nothing–compared to the pain of reliving the moment he turned Q down. Of seeing the hope and light he killed in Quentin’s eyes as he brushed their entire life together under the rug. But it wasn’t just that, was it? By dismissing their life together, he had also dismissed Quentin’s feelings, the family they had had together, Teddy–fuck.
When he gets out of here, he’s going to take that plunge. Going to be brave. For Q. For Teddy. For Arielle.
Walking through that door and seeing Q–his Q, not Memory Q–felt like coming home. But he didn’t have long, he could already feel the god-child taking control again, so he had to think fast. How to tell Q that it was really him? Something only he would know, right? That’s how it usually went in the movies.
He took that plunge.
And he didn’t have the words to describe the relief and the love–pure, unadulterated love–that washed over him when Quentin looked at him and saw him. And he really wanted to kiss him, but he was slipping, and he only had seconds but he wanted more; he wanted minutes, an hour, a lifetime–
Eliot had to run back to the Memory Cottage, slamming the door behind him and leaning against it heavily. Fuck, that had drained him more than he had thought. But he had broken through, and that meant neither Quentin nor Margo would let the others kill Eliot, not while knowing he was still alive inside, not unless it was absolutely their last resort.
Eliot wouldn’t blame them if there was no other way. He’d understand.
He just wished he had had more time to say his goodbyes to Margo, to tell Alice to look after Quentin, to tell Quentin that he loves him so he wouldn’t live the rest of his life thinking Eliot hadn’t loved him. At least he had managed to tell Quentin somewhat. In a roundabout way.
He would have preferred it if he could have actually said the words directly though.
With the image of Quentin’s eyes suddenly sparking with a fire that hadn’t been seen in months, Eliot closed his eyes.
And he hoped.
Eliot hadn’t planned on being axed almost in half, but there he was.
Not exactly how he wanted to make his grand entrance back, but it seemed he didn’t get a choice. Fuck, it was painful, and–he could feel himself actually dying, which – hell no. He was not going out like this; not lying on the ground bleeding to death, not with Bambi crying and shouting over him, not ever.
He fought against the weight trying to pull him under, and clung onto life harder than he had ever clung before.
He clung on long enough to talk to Bambi before he slipped into blissful unawareness with the distinct feeling that he was forgetting something.
Eliot sluggishly blinked awake.
His sight was a bit blurry around the edges, and something heavy was still weighing him down. Was he dead now? Was he floating in some sort of purgatory?
But no. Little by little, his senses started coming back to him; the beeping came first, and once his sight cleared up, Eliot could see they were coming from the heart monitor next to him. And then he could see the white of the walls, the tall windows that showed familiar grounds, the thick blanket that was the heavy weight on him, could breathe in the stark smell of sterilization.
The infirmary then. At Brakebills.
He breathed a sigh of relief–he had, somehow, miraculously, lived.
And then his memories came back, every single one; being possessed, finding Brian-Q (who had looked more adorable than he had any right to be, thank you very much), watching Q get his memories back and realising it wasn’t Eliot, escaping from his happy place, being brave, and getting axed, which–ow Bambi, what the fuck?
He struggles to sit up a bit, and even that takes so much effort that his limbs are quivering and his stomach is flaring white-hot and he can’t stop the groan from leaving his gritted teeth.
And then a lump of clothes at his bedside he hadn’t noticed before shifts and moves, and his heart both swells and jumps into his throat at the soft look a sleepy Quentin is giving him.
He’s still half-asleep, not quite computing that Eliot’s finally, finally awake, and Eliot just blinks back at him like the dumbass he is because Quentin looks like he had slept here all night. Surely not. But before he can think more on it, Quentin is jumping up because he’s suddenly processed that Eliot’s awake, and he’s staring at him, shocked and elated and shaken all at once.
The relief he feels at the sight of Quentin, of being alive, of both of them still being alive, is so profound that it sweeps through Eliot, and he has to slump back against his pillows, still weak and shaking, and sweat gathering on his forehead.
It was not how he had planned to get all hot and sweaty with Quentin, yet here they are.
Quentin’s hands flutter over his body, nervous, anxious, and Eliot has to catch them in his own to still them. Quentin sucks in a breath, and his lovely, warm brown eyes lift to meet Eliot’s, and Eliot’s breath catches in his throat because God, he loves this man so much, how could he go on living without him and–he runs a hand up one of Quentin’s arms until he can settle it round the back of Quentin’s neck and pull him down.
Eliot hadn’t planned on telling Quentin like this, but he takes that plunge once again anyway.
So it takes several more months than Eliot had planned to recover from the axe wounds (Jesus, Bambi really did a number on him), and even then he still has to walk with a cane for several more.
It also takes both Eliot and Quentin a lot of months to unpack their shit before they reach a level where they don’t feel like the other is going to slip through their fingers like running water. It’s painful, and excruciating, and tender, and raw, and Eliot has never felt so mentally exhausted in his life.
But he does it, because Quentin deserved better than the mess Eliot had been before the possession, and Eliot was going to be that person Quentin needed him to be because he loves him, and that meant Eliot was going to have to work to change if he wanted to continue being beside Quentin’s side.
Eliot’s never worked harder in his life.
And as part of that journey, he talks with Alice, and that’s when he gets the run-down of what happened in the Mirror World; after exorcising Eliot, Penny, Quentin and Alice had gone into the Mirror World to banish the two gods into the Seam. And Everrett had shown up.
But before he could do anything, Quentin had shot at him using Kady’s gun that he had slipped into his back pocket. He’d fired several shots, enough to fell Everett and throw the trapped gods in. They then hauled Everett in for good measure, making sure the entire world was rid of all three for good. Hearing this, Eliot’s heart welled with pride; for Alice, for Penny, for Quentin. For all his friends for not giving up on him, for fighting so hard just for the right to live. They have had many painful experiences in their young lives, more than any other person had any right to experience, and they have all used that pain to fight the world that has tried to break them.
Magic comes from pain indeed.
Looking at Alice, he knows he has one more painful conversation he needs to have with her–about Quentin. But before he can say anything, she takes his hand and squeezes it, giving him a sad smile as she tells him that she knows. About the mosaic, about their family, Arielle, everything. That Quentin had told her all of it in the week Eliot had been laying in a coma. And she continues to smile sadly as she asks him, how could she ever hope to compete with fifty years?
Eliot hurts for her, so he tells her in a whisper that it isn’t a competition–they had been friends once, hadn’t they? Quentin loved both of them, because he was messy like that. He tells her that Quentin still loves her, because he knows he does. And maybe that’s what Alice needed to hear, or she heard some inflection in Eliot’s voice because she looks lighter than she ever has before, and her smile turns to one of hope, and she tells him that she hopes maybe one day, both Quentin and Eliot will forgive her for what she had done because it had been her fault for melting the keys in the first place that allowed the god-child to escape, and that they could maybe all be friends again someday.
Eliot kisses her on the forehead, and tells her there was nothing to forgive, that he had never stopped considering her a friend. And he finds that he isn’t surprised to discover that that is the truth–he had forgiven her a long time ago.
When Eliot is walking around again, both him and Quentin start going to see a therapist (a Magician therapist, whom had taken a lot of time to find because apparently no Magician needed a therapist despite all the trauma a ton of them go through in their lives). They both go alone and together, and Eliot finally begins to understand that he does deserve to live his life, and he does deserve love, and no, it’s not his fault that he was possessed and had to watch his friends and the love of his life (lives? Lifetimes?) be traumatised.
Eliot’s never shed so many tears in his life, but apparently his life never wants to follow his plans anyway.
And they both eventually come out the other side, both stronger for it.
Eliot hadn’t felt nervous before, but he's feeling it now.
He smooths down his suit, triple checking it isn’t creased, and Margo glares and nudges him. And then he doesn’t have any more time to fret because the music starts and he turns to face–
Quentin is walking towards him, and he looks–amazing, really. Fuck, Eliot hadn’t counted on him looking so good in a white suit and black bow tie. Fuck. He couldn’t wait to peel that off him later, when they were all alone.
He realises he’s smiling so wide when his cheeks start hurting, but he can’t help it. Quentin’s looking at him fondly but with a little heat warms Eliot from the inside, with Eliot’s smile mirrored on his own lips, as he steps up to the spot next to him. Eliot slips his hand into Quentin’s and squeezes, lifting it to his lips in greeting. Quentin flushes a lovely shade of red and leans in to kiss his cheek before they both turn to the officiant.
Eliot ignores his speech for the time being as he turns his head to whisper into Quentin’s ear, never taking his eyes off the man in front of them.
“Peaches and plums, motherfucker.”
He grins as Quentin lets out a laugh, and sighs happily when Quentin reels him in for a kiss before they’ve been told to do so.
When he pulls away, he sees Margo throwing her hands up in exasperation before handing him his ring with a roll of her eyes, muttering under her breath about how she was never going to help him plan for anything ever again if he was just going to throw it all away in the end.
But Eliot only has eyes for the man standing in front of him as he slips the ring onto Quentin’s finger, and has his ring slipped on for him too.
Quentin Coldwater has always wrecked all my plans anyway.