A string that pulled me
out of all the wrong arms, right into that dive bar;
Something wrapped all of my past mistakes
in barbed wire.
Chains around my demons,
wool to brave the seasons;
one single thread of gold
tied me to you.
- 'invisible string', Taylor Swift
Eliot let the sounds of the waves wash over him as he closes his eyes and dozed for a moment. The sun was warm on his skin, and the smell of the ocean pleasantly surrounded him. He could hear the sound of children and families happily shouting and laughing and talking, and an ice cream van somewhere in the distance as it sings its siren call.
Eliot smiles as he lazily opens one eye and adjusts the sunglasses perched on his nose before going back to dozing.
Soon enough, he can hear some light giggling and whispering disturbing his peaceful slumber, so he slowly blinks his eyes open and peers out behind the safety of his sunglasses. He lets out a quiet sigh at the small group of young women sitting nearby, blatantly staring at him.
Even after all these years…
He cocks his head at them and gives them a wave, causing them to burst into more giggling. He pretends to go back to sleep, settling back into his deck chair, but he watches them behind his shades. It’s not the first time this has happened, so it’s only a matter of time –
Ah. Here they come.
Two of them, both brunettes and objectively beautiful, gather up the courage to approach him. The shorter one pushes the other forward, whispering encouragingly, before they smile down at him.
“Hi,” the tall one says flirtatiously, sitting on the empty deck chair next to him.
Eliot doesn’t sit up from his casual sprawl, but he does push his shades down a bit to peer at them over the top for a moment before sliding them back into place and giving the women a blinding smile. “Hello,” he replies, looking between them.
They exchange a look before the shorter one also takes a seat next her friend.
“So. Me and my friends–” the tall one gestures back at their group, to whom Eliot throws a quick glance, “–are throwing a beach party later. We were wondering if you wanted to come along?”
Eliot gives them a boyish grin as he pretends to think about it. “Hm… I’d love to, but–”
The two women share a delighted look, but before he can finish his sentence, someone is clearing their throat as a shadow falls over Eliot. He turns his head to the side and up, trailing his eyes up from his attractively strong thighs, lingering around his shorts area, and then up a bare chest, following the happy trail until he meets sardonic brown eyes behind a pair of sunglasses that were a touch lighter than his own.
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting something? It’s just. Well. You’re in my seat,” he nods awkwardly at the chair the two women are perched on.
“Oh, I’m–sorry?” the one who invited Eliot to the party says, not sounding sorry at all. Neither does she make a move to vacate the seat; only shifts to cross her legs and lean forward more.
The man standing next to Eliot snorts before heaving a sigh. Next thing he knows, Eliot has a lapful of aftershave and muscular thighs and man, and then he’s being kissed fiercely with strong hands tugging in his hair. A small noise escapes Eliot’s throat that suspiciously sounds like he’s dying, and then they’re breaking away and Eliot is pushing his shades to sit on his unruly curls so he can blink dazedly up. He gets a wink in return before they both turn to the gawping women.
“Sorry ladies, but this one’s taken for the day.”
The silent-so-far one recovers herself first, elbowing her friend sharply in the ribs who gives her a scowl before painting a smile back onto her face. She shrewdly looks between the two men before saying, “Well. I’m sure we can work something out?”
Eliot muffles a laugh into the man’s neck, wrapping his right arm around his waist to keep him in his lap.
“Uh, yeah, no, not happening.”
“Who are you, his boyfriend?” Her tone takes on an even sweeter pitch, but her eyes are sharp.
“Oh no, not at all. Just his husband, darling,” Quentin drawls casually, taking his sunglasses off with his left hand so his ring catches the sun.
Eliot grins against Q’s neck, nipping him lightly for being such a little shit, holy fuck before he lifts his face away and holds up his hand to show off his own matching ring. They both watch, smirking at each other as the women’s eyes widen, before the shorter finally, finally speaks.
“You’re not–um–pretending, are you? To be–together, I mean,” she squeaks out, flushing red when they all look at her. “Just. Just curious.” She stutters, shrinking under their gaze.
Before either of them can answer that–wouldn’t be the first time, though Eliot can tell she didn’t mean it in a condescending way like others have before her–a happy voice sounds.
They all turn to see a blur of light brown hair before Quentin’s letting out an oomph as a miniature torpedo runs into them, almost toppling the couple into the sand.
“Hey Teddy, did you get your ice cream?”
Even now, four years later, Eliot’s insides liquefies at the soft tone Quentin uses; the one reserved for Teddy, and Eliot himself in the dark of night.
“Aunt J got mint!” the boy exclaims happily, looking up at his father and blissfully unaware of the sticky treat all around his mouth as he grins.
Eliot leans forward, smiling fondly at the toddler. “Mint choc chip?” He inquires, pretending to be very serious and interested.
Ted pouts for a moment while he thinks before nodding seriously. “I ate it all!”
Eliot laughs, forever delighted at the answers children come out with these days.
“Theodore Rupert Coldwater-Waugh!”
Ted’s eyes widen, and he looks pleadingly up at Eliot. “Uh oh.” He states, before he buries himself into Eliot’s arms, trying to hide.
He wraps his arms around his son, hiding a grin into his hair before he looks up to see two figures quickly cutting their way across the sand. Quentin quirks an amused brow as Margo plants herself in front of them, hands on her hips.
“Theodore Rupert Coldwater-Waugh,” Margo repeats sternly, hands on her hips. “You know better than to run off like that.”
Quentin snaps his gaze from Margo, and Julia just behind her, down to the boy trying his best to burrow himself into Eliot’s chest.
“Ted–” he starts, but before he can say anything else, the toddler lets out a little wail.
“I’m sorry! Was just excited to tell you and Papa! And. And. It wasn’t far! Look, you can see the ice cream from here!”
Eliot glances up, indeed seeing the ice cream van just there on the road, and the long line of people queueing on the pavement.
“Hey, hey now. Teddy,” he says softly, lifting him up so he can see his face, quivering bottom lip and all. Eliot melts, as quickly as he is sure Ted’s ice cream had melted in the heat of the sun. “No harm done, right, little one?”
Teddy’s eyes go bright in adoration as he nods quickly, turning into a bobble head. Eliot covers his mouth to stifle a laugh as Quentin shakes his head at him in exasperation.
“Alright Teddy, let’s go build a sandcastle,” Julia says, grinning.
Eliot sets him back on his feet, and he runs off with Julia to find the perfect spot on the beach for their sandcastle. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Quentin turns to his husband.
“You spoil him, you know that?” He scolds lightly.
Margo points at Quentin, her other hand still on her hip. “What he said.”
Eliot grins and kisses Q’s cheek, nuzzling his nose into his jawline. “Come on Q, he was right–you can see the ice cream van from here.”
“You’re such a softie,” Quentin sighs even though he’s looking at Eliot lovingly, eyes liquid-gold in the sunlight.
Eliot winks at him, but then a choked sound grabs their attention, and they look at the two young women still sitting in Quentin’s deck chair. Oh…
“Did–Are you–You’re the Coldwater-Waughs?” The taller one breathes out, a slight tremor in her voice, eyes wide in disbelief.
Margo’s eyes cut to the two women before taking in Quentin still on Eliot’s lap, one arm hooked around his neck to anchor him. She rolls her eyes in slight annoyance. “Again?”
Eliot hums while Quentin gives a shrug, though Eliot can tell he’s still in a bratty mood and–he just can’t seem to stop the grinning. Margo lets out a huff before shooing the two women away with a glare so vicious that they recoil away, scampering back to their group who had, undoubtedly, been watching them this entire time. Margo tosses her hair over her shoulder before sliding herself onto the newly-vacated deck chair.
“You–” she says, pointing at Eliot, “–enjoy that far too much.”
“Well, of course I do if it means I get to see a very hot, jealous Q.” He says casually.
Quentin squirms in his lap, flushing red but also shrugging unapologetically. Eliot pulls him down by the nape of his neck for a brief but heated kiss, until Margo loudly clears her throat.
“Kid incoming,” she says in a sing-song voice.
Eliot inwardly curses being a parent for a very brief moment before feeling bad about it because–he wouldn’t change it for the world. He really wouldn’t. He loves Q, will always love Q, but he also now loves Teddy, their sweet, smart, happy child and. The Eliot that used to be scared of this, of love and family, well. He’s a very, very distant memory now. Now he thinks of the stained glass art hanging in their kitchen window where the sun hits it every day, throwing beautiful colours onto their floor; and the vintage music box with delicately painted roses on the lid sitting on the dresser in their bedroom; and the photos lining the walls up the stairs; and Quentin’s guitar in its corner in the living room; and his own classical ballet CDs on the shelves; and Teddy's colourful drawings on their fridge door.
This is his family–Q, and Teddy, and Margo, and Julia–and he wouldn’t change this life with them for anything.
And when Teddy runs up to him with his arms outstretched, Eliot easily picks him up and bounces him up and down a few times, wide smile on his face as Teddy giggles and the warmth of his husband’s hand is on his lower back, and Julia is sitting in Margo’s lap giving her a kiss on the cheek, their own two wedding bands glinting in the sun.
And Eliot thinks of two golden tiles set into the little window in their front door, commissioned by both him and Q when they had first moved in with Teddy; both tiles imprinted with a flower on the inside of the door, and matching keys on the outside.
Catching Quentin’s tender gaze over Teddy’s head, he briefly thinks my key to greater magic–love.
Then he’s thinking the beauty of all life as he sets Teddy back down so his dad can pick him up and give him a big sloppy kiss on his stomach, blowing a raspberry for good measure.
And Eliot Coldwater-Waugh forgets about his hellish journey, long and winding, because it brought him here to his greatest love and his family–and like Q, he’s not one for destiny, but he also believes something had aligned for them to meet that day.
Perhaps the Fates of Old had smiled down on them, and had woven a single thread of gold.