Sister? Siiii-sterrrrr? Are you here? Where is here? It’s small…I don’t like it. They can’t hold me in here for long…might as well, take my time and think…think of where you might be, sister. Where would you have gone? You wouldn’t leave me in here would you? No, no….no, no, no you wouldn’t sister. It must be them! How dare they! Just as I was starting to like this world, they took it away from me. They took you away from me. Silly, silly magicians…they’ll see…they’ll all see.
“…and that is why you’ll give it to me.” Everette was standing in front of Quentin, hand outstretched, threatening magic that would destroy them all. Q couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe that they couldn’t have just gotten to The Seam a few seconds earlier. And he couldn’t quite let himself believe Everett’s words that Eliot was ok: he would believe it only when he saw Eliot with his very own eyes.
But now, would Q ever get to see Eliot again?
Stop thinking like that – Q told himself, his eyes darted around the room looking for an escape. There had to be a way. The mirror to The Seam was shattered, yes, but that was just a simple minor mending. Q stopped that line of thought dead in its tracks – no, there was no telling how magic would react in the mirror world, even to such a tiny spell. Too risky.
Q racked his brain as Everett grew impatient in front of him, “Quentin, give it to me.”
Desperation and panic began to cloud his thinking. Was there any other option?
Then this small voice inside of Q’s brain, a voice that was all too familiar, reminded him of the part of Q that was just so terribly and completely exhausted. Didn’t he deserve some peace? Some rest? And he could save them all, with one minor mending. How poetic. How truly heroic.
But as he looked past Everett’s shoulder, Quentin saw Penny and Alice. Penny’s eyes were closed and his nose was bleeding – he was trying to get inside Everett’s mind but didn’t seem to be getting far.
And Alice…the look on Alice’s face was half pleading, half desperation – they had said they would do this together, and yet here he was, placed in the position of making a decision for the both of them. Seeing Penny and Alice still fighting gave him the strength he needed to what had to be done.
After all, what if Quentin gave him the bottle? Everette would absorb the monster’s power and become a god. He might kill them all. But he also might not, not if they played their cards right. And if there was one thing Q was good at, it was playing cards.
Besides, they had their own god anyway…well, goddess really. Penny had told them as he was painting his blood sigil on the mirror that Julia was on her way to goddesshood. Penny had incepted her subconscious and found the true answer there: Julia wanted to be a goddess more than anything. Quentin could tell Penny was hurt by this, but was determined to honor Julia’s wishes. The Binder was working his magic to start the process, with no real timeline for when it would be complete.
“Give me the bottle, Quentin.”
“Ok…ok…here…ok, it’s here – take it.” Q could barely breathe he was so nervous.
“Everyone will see you as a hero.” Everette replied smugly. The edges of his face and shoulders kept shimmering with the power surging through him.
Q highly doubted that. As he stepped closer to hand over the bottle, his hands shaking, he saw Alice grab something up off the table behind Everette. She was thinking of an escape plan too. Then he heard Penny in his head, “As soon as you give him the bottle, go to the right right. He’s still human and can't use magic here. We're gonna out run him the fuck outta here - you got it?"
Before Quentin could react however, he felt the bottle shake violently in his hand. Ambient magic, it seemed, had finally run out.
The bottle burst apart.
Shards of ceramic cut into his hand and arm and he heard both Everett and Alice scream as a glowing red mist filled the room and barreled straight towards his face and then…
Quentin was back in Filory.
He could feel it in the air. As he tried to make sense of the woods around him, he saw it. The cottage. His cottage. And the mosaic, still incomplete, tiles strewn all about. And then he saw Eliot.
Eliot was standing at the far edge of the mosaic, an orange scarf draped loosely around his neck, his pants smudged with tile dust. He was looking down at several tiles in his hands, apparently contemplating which one to put down.
“W-What? E-Eliot?” Q could barely get the words out through his mix of relief and disbelief. He was still very disoriented and unsure of where he was, “Is it really you?”
“Shhh, Q…”Eliot replied in a mock scolding tone without looking up from the tiles in his hands, “it’s hard to concentrate as it is. I can’t decide if it should be purple next to green, or blue – which combination says more ‘meaning of all life’ to you?”
“Oh my God, Eliot.” Quentin ran straight for Eliot, throwing his arms around him and pressing his face hard into his chest so tight that it was hard to breathe. And then the tears came – all of the tears. The one’s he’d been somehow keeping at bay for this whole fucking year while they were apart. As soon as he fell into Elliot, Q felt those familiar lanky arms gently wrap around him, cradling the back of his head. It was Eliot, not the Monster. It was really him.
“Woah, woah…hey Q, it’s ok. I love you too, but…”
Q’s heart skipped a bat and he pulled away slightly, wiping tears from his eyes, worried that what would come next would be another blow that he just couldn’t take again. Not now.
Then Eliot continued, “but you’re making it really hard for me to picture the beauty of all life when all I can see in front of me is your floppy brown hair.”
Eliot ran a couple of fingers through Q’s hair, brushing it gently out of his eyes.
“….hmmm, on second thought, your hair is pretty damn gorgeous, so maybe we should just make the whole mosaic brown.”
At that, Q looked up into Eliot’s face and saw those two gentle dark eyes gazing down at him. Oh God, how he had missed those eyes. And then they were kissing, and Q was so happy. So happy he couldn’t even remember a time when he’d been this happy before.
“Daddy! Elly! Are you done with today’s picture yet – I’m bored!”
After Eliot’s kiss, Q didn’t think his heart was capable of melting any further, but it did at the sound of that little voice.
“T-Teddy?” Q let go of Eliot and spun around to see the source of the voice – and sure enough, there was his son. His son. God, how could he forget? Little Teddy, only 10 or 11 years old, standing there hugging himself, waiting for Daddy and Elly to finish the day’s mosaic so they could play, or walk in the woods, or tell fairy tales, or practice magic spells, or sometimes, even regular card tricks.
Before Q knew what he was doing, he was running to his son, knocking over piles of tiles as he went – to which Eliot called after him in half-hearted protest. But all Quentin could think of was holding his son in his arms again. And once he had reached Teddy, he once again found himself unable to stop his tears.
“Daddy? You’re being weird…what's wrong?” Teddy’s little voice sounded slightly frightened now, and that somehow snapped Q out of it.
He stopped crying and pulled back to rest his hands on his son’s shoulders, taking a moment to quickly wipe his eyes with the back of one hand, “Nothing is wrong. In fact, it’s perfect. So, so perfect.
C’mon – why don’t you help us with this one before El makes it all one color.”
“Hey now, there’s nothing more beautiful than a good brown head of hair,” Elliot called back from behind them, with mock annoyance.
“But my hair’s yellow!” Teddy squealed in protest, “Can we make it all yellow this time?”
He jumped a bit with each word, getting more and more excited about being able to help.
Quentin and Eliot exchanged a look over little Teddy's head. There was so much they didn’t have to say to one another to know what they were thinking. Oh, how Quentin had missed those looks.
“Of course, little bud,” Elliot replied as he reached down, picked up a yellow tile and held it out to Teddy, who snatched it up gleefully and ran to place it down on the mosaic, “Can’t argue with that logic.”
After a few days, Quentin began to realize something strange was going on, but he was too happy to care. Almost.
Eliot had no memories of ever being possessed by the Monster when Quentin had finally tried to bring it up. And he found himself wondering why no one else every showed up at the cottage. Yes, he knew Arielle had died, but even after that, passerby had been frequent – peddlers, talking animals. But now the three of them seemed to have the entire woods to themselves.
But then Teddy needed something, or El invited him to come to bed, and he would push his doubts aside – determined to spend as much time with Eliot and Teddy as he could. For all he knew, this could be a time loop and while he seemed to be reliving those years in Fillory, it could very well be completely real for Eliot and Teddy.
But then one day, Teddy asked him to play in the woods and they’d gone further from the cottage than before, and Q suddenly noticed that the trees in the distance weren’t trees – they were just colorless outlines of trees: black and white vertical lines against a blank white sky beyond.
Quentin slowed to let Teddy go on ahead for a moment so he could hide his reaction. Teddy didn’t seem to notice. This had to be some sort of spell. But then he heard Eliot calling them both back to the cottage for dinner, and he just shrugged and decided that, for now, he didn’t care.
He was exactly where he needed to be.