Bottles on the counter.
Floor to ceiling windows.
A heated kiss.
A unicorn t-shirt.
A hand on his ass.
The smell of fruit.
A shoulder brush.
A kiss against the wall.
An awkward smile.
A sea of strangers.
The taste of fruit.
Eliot groans awake into the land of the living.
Jesus fuck, what happened last night?
He lifts a hand to his hair to run his fingers through his curls, blearily blinking to adjust his eyes to the day. Christ, his head is pounding. What had he and Bambi gotten up to last night?
He shifts up onto his elbows, vaguely noting that he’s naked, and stares down at the strawberry-blonde still asleep next to him. Eliot rubs a hand over his eyes before looking around the strewn clothes for his pack of cigarettes. When he eventually finds it, he rolls out of bed with one in his mouth and goes to the small balcony for a smoke, tugging on his shirt and his silk boxers for some warmth, though he leaves his shirt unbuttoned. He glances back at his apparent entertainment for last night to make sure he’s still sleeping, before he turns back to his view of the city.
A click of his fingers.
Eliot inhales, holds, then exhales slowly, blowing out the smoke into the chilly morning air. He lets his feet dangle, lightly swinging, as he sits there and watches the citizens begin to wake up; the smell of street food beginning to fill the air, the distant honking of impatient drivers, the hustle and bustle of the streets several stories below. Eliot takes another hit of nicotine, his headache fading ever so slightly, as his eyes dart around the buildings surrounding him, taking note of his location.
He assumes Bambi found her own entertainment for the night. He’s going to have to get back soon before she starts worrying.
A small groan sounds from the bed, and Eliot half turns to watch him stretch, catching a glimpse of chest, and hair, and abs.
He doesn’t need to get back so soon though.
Eliot stubs out his cigarette and then flicks it over the balcony before gathering himself back up onto his feet to lean against the door, his arms crossed. He watches as his boy for the night half sits up in bed to blink at the daylight streaming in; he sees the moment he catches sight of Eliot half naked at his balcony door, because his mouth drops open just a bit and a quiet oh is huffed out. Eliot grins, unfolding his arms and pulling himself up tall to saunter back to bed, lifting a knee up on it seductively.
“Hi,” Eliot purrs, smirking as he watches the guy flounder for words.
Hm… Clearly he is a lot more confident with alcohol in his system. Eliot can work with that–wouldn’t even be the first time. Or the last. Before he can find the words to talk, Eliot rests a hand on his hip, smoothing circles into the skin, and delights in the breath he audibly sucks in. He leans down to place a kiss into his inner thigh, flickering his eyes up in silent permission. A pause, then a slow nod, and Eliot stretches up to give him a filthy kiss, a hand already searching for lube.
Yeah, he can wait a couple more hours before getting back.
Bottles on the counter.
City skyline in the windows.
A unicorn t-shirt.
Vest and tie.
A shoulder brush.
An effortless smile.
A silver flask.
A sea of strangers.
Quentin quietly blinked awake into the land of the living. His head is a little fuzzy, and he can only remember brief flashes of the night before. He sighs as he sits up, pushing his hair out of his eyes and climbing out of bed. Quentin rubs at his eyes, pressing his fingers lightly into them as if that would help keep the rapidly oncoming headache at bay, and then reaches for his meds, shaking out a couple into his palm. He stares at them, contemplating maybe not taking this round, but then he remembers his interview later and he swallows them dry.
Quentin peers out of his door without pulling back the curtains covering the window panels. The loft is quiet and there’s still some mess from the party, but it’s manageable. He gives another quiet sigh and closes his door, searching the floor and his wardrobe for a clean pair of boxers and a t-shirt.
He’s got the kettle boiling and the kitchen looks less messy by the time the city is waking up, and he takes his cup of tea to the window to look out at the skyline, and to watch the people below bustling about to get their morning coffees and get to work. He cracks a pane open to breathe in the city air, giving a small shiver at the slightly chilly breeze that blows in. Quentin pushes a strand of hair behind his ear and takes a sip as he listens to the distant blaring of cars in traffic, zoning out as he stares out across the city.
The next breeze that blows in brings with it the smell of fruit, potent enough that Quentin thinks he can taste it on the back of his tongue. The back of his neck tingles and he peers down into the street, wondering which bakery it’s coming from. He rubs at his neck, absently trying to get rid of the goosebumps that broke out as he finishes his tea and wanders back to the kitchen to rinse his mug out.
He’s just finishing his slice of toast when Julia stumbles out of her room. Her hair’s a mess and her eyes are bleary, but she gives him a smile and goes to the kettle to put it back on boil.
“Morning,” she croaks, putting a slice of bread into the toaster and reaching into a cupboard for a mug.
Quentin grins at her. “Rough night?”
“Mm… I don’t want to think about it,” she groans, throwing a glance at him over her shoulder before turning back to make her coffee.
He chuckles as he starts making his way back to his room.
“You still wanting to come with me?”
“To your interview? Of course, Q,” she calls back, not turning away from the kitchen counter.
“See you in a bit then!”
Quentin’s eyes flicker to the still-open window pane as he crosses the floor back to his bedroom, and he briefly wonders if they’ll have time to go to a bakery before the interview. He finds he’s suddenly in the mood for something fruity, like maybe a slice of fruit cake.
He’ll see if he can convince Julia to go with him.
“Bambi!” Eliot calls out, shutting the door behind him.
He makes his way to the bar and pours himself a drink—not a particularly strong one, but enough to take the edge off. He spots Margo on the couch reading a magazine and pours another glass before ambling over, moving her feet into his lap so he could sit down. She closes her magazine and sets it down, smiling, as he hands her her glass.
“I trust you had a good time last night too?” he asks, taking a small sip of the amber liquid.
She hums, lightly tapping a nail against her glass before nodding. “Not as good a time as you though, apparently,” she teases. “Morning sex?”
“You know it.” he winks, leaning back onto the couch and stretching his free arm out across the back.
“How did you even find out about a college party in a coffee shop anyway, El?”
“Just got talking to the cute guy in front of me in line. He was the one who told me, but I don’t think he even showed up last night.”
They both take a sip of their drinks in the lull of the conversation, comfortable in each other’s presence. Then Margo stretches out, wiggling her toes in his lap, and Eliot finishes his drink so he can rub her feet. She sighs in contentment.
“College parties aren’t particularly my scene, but the place was nice.”
Eliot firmly presses his thumbs into the arch of her foot, massaging the muscles there. “The loft was a lot more spacious than it looked on the outside,” he comments, briefly thinking of the high windows and the sheer amount of people that had been able to fit in the space. “Bigger place than I expected from some broke college students.”
Margo snorts and finishes off her drink. “Yeah, I don’t think they were broke. Or, at the very least, their parents aren’t.”
Eliot raises a brow at her.
“Oh c’mon, I know money when I see it, and that had ‘Ivy League’ written all over it. It was such a nerdy place; didn’t you see the bookshelves?”
“Hm…” Eliot responds neutrally, thoughts sliding momentarily to something about the dark souls of Danish people. Had he hallucinated that? “I think I was a bit busy to be noticing bookshelves. But I’ll take your word for it.”
Margo rolls her eyes, but she’s smirking at him.
“So how was your entertainment for the night then? Was he any good?”
Eliot tilts his head in a so-so gesture, though he doesn’t stop massaging Margo’s feet. “He was good enough for one repeat performance, anyway.”
“Oh? Was he a virgin or something?”
“Not quite. I was the second time he’d been with a guy,” Eliot says smugly, “And you can definitely bet I made it better than his first time.” he wiggles his brows at her jokingly, to which she responds by poking him in the thigh with her big toe.
“Yeah, yeah, everyone’s gagging for your massive dick, we know,” she rolls her eyes at him again.
Eliot lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug, retrieving a bottle of wine with merely a thought. They both watch as it pours them a glass each before settling down gently on the table. Then Eliot floats the now-filled glasses towards them, and they each take their own.
“Show off,” Margo comments, taking a sip.
“Have to use it for something,” he replies lightly, gulping half of his down.
Margo lifts her feet out of his lap and shuffles across the couch until she’s resting against his side, head on his shoulder. He settles his free arm around her shoulders, and plants a kiss on the top of her head.
They sit in companionable silence, sipping at their wine as they people-watch and occasionally make comments to each other, and bitch about Todd. Eventually though, Margo sets her glass back on the table and sits up, half-turning to Eliot.
“Fogg came by early this morning. Said you’re to meet a prospective student.”
Eliot lets out a loud groan and tilts his head back so it rests on the couch. “Ugh, why me?” he laments at the ceiling.
Margo swats his thigh, saying, “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. You only need to take them to the exam and then leave. You probably won’t even see them again.”
“But I just want to stay here and drink wine with you,” he protests, lightly waving his glass at her.
“You can do that after. And you can tell me all about whether they’re cute or not then too.”
Eliot sighs. “Fine, fine. Even though, as you so rightly pointed out, they probably won’t make it. Or even if they did, they might not last long enough to stay.”
“Oh please, even if they don’t last long, they’ll be here for at least a couple of weeks.” she says dismissively.
Eliot waits a few seconds before sitting up to finish his glass of wine. “Well, I might as well get going then.”
He sets his glass on the table and then places a kiss on Margo’s cheek before pulling himself to his feet. “Netflix and wine later?”
“You know it,” Margo blows a kiss at him as she reaches for her magazine again, flipping it open.
Eliot makes his way across campus to Dean Fogg’s office.
" Quentin Coldwater?”
“I’m Eliot. You’re late.”
“I’m Eliot. You’re late.”
Quentin blinks up at the gorgeous, tall human-being standing in front of him. He—what? He doesn’t even know what he’s late for.
“Sorry, am I hallucinating?”
Mr Sex-On-Legs abruptly turns, almost making Quentin bump into him.
“If you were, how would asking me help?”
Quentin can only stare. He had a point; if he was hallucinating, then Eliot would probably only tell him that he wasn’t. Still—how could he not be hallucinating? Because. Because if he wasn’t, then that meant there was someone like Eliot walking around in the world. Someone who was beautiful, and gorgeous, and perfect, definitely out of Quentin’s league and absolutely had a soulmate waiting for him somewhere.
A soulmate who isn’t Quentin.
He swallows, nods at himself, then continues to follow Eliot through halls and doors. He knows he should probably be looking around at his location, but he just can’t help staring. At Eliot. At the back of his head, where his curls sat so perfectly—
(Where he wants to run his hands through them.)
—and how he had perfect posture compared to Quentin’s slouch—
(Where he wants to run his hand along his shoulders and down his back.)
—and his long, long legs—
(Where he wants to kiss and lick and bite and suck.)
—and his ass—
(Where he wants to—)
—walk right into Eliot. Because Eliot had stopped walking, and had turned to look at him. Fuck.
“Um—I—um. I’m sorry,” he stammers out, blinking at Eliot’s chest. And then looks up—and up, and up. Because Eliot’s just so fucking tall, and he didn’t even know he had a thing for tall guys, but apparently he does.
Have A Thing.
For tall guys.
For tall guys named Eliot.
For tall guys named Eliot, who smirks at him and gives him another once-over. Fuckfuckfuckfuck.
Out loud, he says, “Um.”
Quentin wants to sink through the floor. He can feel his neck and his cheeks flare hot, and his eyes skitter away from Eliot’s perceptive gaze. But then Eliot is turning back to the door, and he’s opening it and basically manhandling him through it, which—okay. Apparently is a thing for him as well.
He has A Thing for tall guys named Eliot who smirks at him and looks at him and manhandles him through doors.
Okay, he can deal with this.
He still doesn’t know what he’s doing here, but he can deal with this.
Because it turns out that tall guys named Eliot are the least of his problems.
Eliot smokes in his room, especially when he wants to be alone.
Everyone knows this.
Todd knows this.
Bambi knows this.
Only Bambi is allowed in his room, even when he wants to be alone.
Todd knows this.
Bambi knows this.
Which is why they’re sitting at his open window, smoking a joint between them, and sipping on yet more wine. Because if Eliot is going to regale Margo with tales about the nerd he just showed to his exam, then he is going to do it while getting drunk and high.
Eliot never lies or holds something back from Margo Hanson, especially when it comes to sex.
Everyone knows this.
Todd knows this.
Bambi knows this.
And yet, here they are; Eliot smoking and drinking as he tells Margo about how cute and nerdy and high-strung Quentin Coldwater is. And Margo smoking and drinking while she listens to his ramblings about how cute and nerdy and high-strung Quentin Coldwater is.
But Eliot doesn’t tell her about how Quentin’s lips would look perfect wrapped around his cock, or how he wants to kisslickbite his way down Quentin’s blush, or how he wants to just sink into Quentin’s heat, or how he wants to see Quentin fall apart underneath him, or—
Point is, he’s holding back from Margo, and he never does that. And he can’t quite put his finger on why he’s doing it now, except—
Except he kind of wants to keep Quentin to himself? At least, for a little while.
He doesn’t know why he’s so taken with this particular nerd, it’s not like he’s the first one he’s come across that he’s wanted to fuck, but. There’s just something drawing Eliot in; it’s in the way Quentin looks at him, with that reverential awe in his eyes with a tinge of heat; it’s in the way he stammers, tripping over his tongue; it’s in the way he tries to hide behind his hair, and then tucks it out of his face in the next moment; it’s in the way he flushes oh so beautifully across his cheeks and down his neck; it’s in the way his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows nervously; it’s in the way he grips at the strap of his messenger bag with those hands, with those fingers.
Eliot takes a sip of his wine and thinks about those hands.
(Hands palming cards.)
He closes his eyes as he savours the taste of his drink.
(A cursory glance.)
He looks back at Margo, reaching for the joint.
(The taste of fruit.)
Smiles, slow and dopey.
“Are the Naturalists baking a fruit cake today?”
Quentin couldn’t sleep that night.
Energy was buzzing just under his skin, and he was sweating slightly, feeling more than a little nauseous, and a whole lot of anxious. His stomach wouldn’t stop doing that stupid swooping and flopping thing, and he was pretty sure he was halfway to a panic attack.
It took several more hours of tossing and turning before he could even drift off into a restless doze.
And then he woke up, feeling like the exact same person he was hours ago.
He blinked up at his ceiling for a few moments, just waiting, and then clambered out of bed. He stares at himself in the mirror, not daring to let his eyes stray from Mirror-Quentin’s eyes—not wanting to confirm what he fears.
But he has to.
He knows he has to, because his dad and Julia will be waiting downstairs for the news. So he takes a deep breath, and slowly twists and turns in the mirror, checking every single spot.
His fears are confirmed.
And when Julia and his dad sees his face when he finally makes it downstairs, the first thing they both do is hug him.
His dad cries, just a little bit.
He doesn’t cry.
He doesn’t think he has the emotions anymore.
He’s cold inside. He’s dead inside. He’s numb inside.
Because his fears are no longer just fears. They are reality.
Quentin doesn’t have a soulmate.
Quentin is a magician.
Quentin is a magician.
Quentin is a Magician.
He is buzzing. His mind is blown.
Magic is real.
He’s still not entirely sure he isn’t hallucinating. Or dreaming, which totally could also be what’s happening here. Except—
Except it feels right; being here, knowing he can do magic, knowing he belongs here, with Julia. He feels like a large part of him that’s been missing has finally been found. He doesn’t feel empty anymore. He doesn’t feel numb. He doesn’t feel like he’s just going through the motions of living—he is living.
(He ignores the gigantic cavity in his soul he’s had since he was sixteen.)
For the first time in forever, Quentin wants to live.
And okay, so maybe magic doesn’t fix the fact that Penny, his roommate, is an absolute ass. And maybe it doesn’t fix the fact that Julia has already made friends and he hasn’t. And maybe it doesn’t fix—
(That gigantic cavity in his soul.)
—the fact that Quentin can’t. stop. thinking. about. Eliot.
The thing is, Quentin wants to be friends with Eliot, he really does. He wants to hang out with Eliot; he wants to be able to talk to Eliot about his classes, and his coursework; he wants to be able to have study sessions with Eliot; he wants to be able to joke with Eliot; he wants to be able to drink wine with Eliot; he wants to be able to look at Eliot without blushing; he wants to be able to talk to Eliot like he’s normal and not like his heart is going to jump out of his chest.
But he also wants to be able to kiss Eliot; he wants to run his hands through his hair, and tug on those curls; he wants to be able to hold his hand; he wants to know what Eliot tastes like everywhere; he wants to know what he’s like in bed; he wants to know what he likes in bed; he wants to know what he looks like when he’s having his dick sucked; he wants to know what he looks like all blissed out; he wants to know what he looks like in the mornings.
Jesus Christ, Quentin knows he’s fucked, and not in the way he would prefer.
But he locks those thoughts into a box in the furthest corner of his mind, and he works on just becoming Eliot’s friend. He only unlocks the box in the dark of night, when Penny is asleep because he’s a Psychic and can read his mind—fucking hell—because he can’t have the thoughts running rampant when he’s talking to Eliot in the daylight. So he tries very hard not to think about it during the day, but when he’s alone in his bed, he thinks about them.
Quentin thinks about how perfect Eliot always looks.
(A patterned vest and tie.)
He blinks up at his ceiling.
(A passing glance.)
He closes his eyes.
(A silver flask.)
(An effortless smile.)
Falls into sleep, slow and easy.
(“I’m Eliot. You’re late.”)
Eliot couldn’t sleep that night.
Energy was buzzing just under his skin, and he was sweating slightly, feeling more than a little nervous, and a whole lot of excitement. His stomach wouldn’t stop doing that stupid swooping and flopping thing, and he was pretty sure he was halfway to hyperventilating with anticipation.
It took several more hours of tossing and turning before he could even drift off into a restless doze.
And then he woke up, feeling like the exact same person he was hours ago.
He blinked up at his ceiling for a few moments, just waiting, and then clambered out of bed. He stares at himself in the mirror, not daring to let his eyes stray from Mirror-Eliot’s eyes—not wanting to confirm what he suspects.
But he has to.
He knows he has to, for his own peace of mind and because his mum will be waiting downstairs for the news. So he takes a deep breath, and slowly twists and turns in the mirror, checking every single spot.
His suspicions are confirmed.
And when his mum sees his face when he finally makes it downstairs, the first thing she does is hug him.
She doesn’t cry, though her eyes water just a little bit.
His dad doesn’t react, because he doesn’t care enough to ask.
His brothers don’t care either.
He doesn’t cry.
He doesn’t think he has the emotions anymore.
He’s cold inside. He’s dead inside. He’s numb inside.
Because his suspicions are no longer just suspicions. They are reality.
Eliot doesn’t have a soulmate.
Eliot is friends with Quentin.
Eliot is friends with Quentin.
Eliot is friends with Quentin.
He is buzzing. His mind can’t quite believe it.
His life is sparkling.
Eliot gets to spend time with Quentin without it being A Thing. He gets to talk to Quentin every day; he gets to look at him without it being weird; he gets to smile at him without it being weird; he gets to drink wine with him without needing an excuse; he gets to hang out with him without needing an excuse; he gets to touch and hug Quentin without it being weird, or needing an excuse.
Because Eliot is actually a very tactile person. Chalk it up to his shitty childhood or whatever—
(It’s definitely because of his childhood.)
—but Eliot finds touch comforting, so he uses it to reassure himself that he’s solid. That his friends are solid. He’s always hugging and kissing Margo, and since they’ve taken Quentin under their wing, he’s now also touching and hugging Quentin too. Margo finds it a little strange, that’s he’s gotten attached so fast, but she doesn’t complain (she only watches, with her knowing gaze—but Eliot ignores it because she doesn’t know what she thinks she knows).
And for the record, Quentin doesn’t complain either.
In fact, Eliot has noticed that Quentin seems to enjoy his touches.
When Eliot pulls him into his side—he doesn’t pull away, but leans into it.
When Eliot pulls him into a hug—he lets him, fitting his head into the hollow of his neck.
When Eliot rests a hand on his shoulder—he straightens his stance, like he’s taking strength from his confidence.
When Eliot rests a hand on the small of his back to lead him somewhere—he flushes and follows.
When Eliot laid a hand on the back of his neck that one time—he melted, mouth falling open just slightly, eyes going just a little bit wide and glassy, which—
That was definitely a thought for later.
Point is, Eliot is friends with Quentin, and he really, really likes it. And yeah, if he maybe has to go off with someone for some fun more often than usual, well.
That was no one’s business but his own.
(And if he sometimes jacks off to the thought of a naked Quentin in his bed to also help take the edge off, well. That was also no one’s business but his own.)
And while he continues to be friends with Quentin, and have fun with other boys, and jacks off to thoughts of naked Quentin, Eliot continues to ignore Margo’s consistently knowing look.
Because she doesn’t know what she knows.
And she doesn’t actually know what she thinks she knows.
Which is nothing.
Because Eliot is friends with Quentin, and everything is fine.
Well, maybe not everything is fine, because someone on campus keeps baking some pastry or other and the smell of it has been driving him mad—every time he smells whatever they’re baking or experimenting with, he can feel it buzzing under his skin, like static. He hasn’t been able to figure out who is doing it; the Naturalists keep insisting that it’s none of them, but Eliot knows only Naturalists can bake something that smells that good, or has that kind of magical effect.
(With the exception of him, of course.)
Point is, he lives with the fact that Quentin is most likely Not Interested in him (because apart from their first meeting, Quentin hasn’t shown any interest whatsoever), and that he is forever going to be Just Friends with Quentin, and that he’s going to have to get used to the smell of whatever the Naturalists keeps baking and experimenting with, accompanied with the maddening buzzing.
But apart from that, everything is fine.
Bambi doesn’t know what she thinks she knows.
After a month at Brakebills, Quentin comes to a few minor realisations about magic:
Magic has a smell to it.
Magic has a taste to it.
Magic has a feel to it.
His magic is a little sweet, pooling at the back of his tongue, and raising small goosebumps along his skin with its gentle touch whenever he successfully casts. He guesses it’s because he recognises his own magic that he can pick it out from everyone else’s.
Most everyone’s magic smells like ozone; the air surrounding Brakebills is always filled with that smoky smell, kind of like burnt tires. It has that sharp sort of flavour to it, like he’s always being fed a small forkful of lightning, quick and bitter. It branches through him, fleeting and white-hot, raising the hairs on his arms.
Quentin is exhilarated by it every time.
God, Eliot’s magic is the most delightful.
It’s fruity-sweet, heavy on his tongue while somehow also being light at the same time, and rests on Quentin’s skin like a second layer. It makes his neck tingle, causing him to give a slight shiver every time it caresses him, and yet it also electrifies him in the same moment, leaving him wide-eyed and breathless.
It’s just like Eliot.
The first time Eliot used telekinesis in front of Quentin, it was just to call several books over to them from the Cottage’s mini library because they were having a study session (even if Quentin was the only one studying), and Quentin had needed those books but he had forgotten to take them off the shelf and he knew that if he got up now, he’d use it as an excuse to procrastinate even more. So Eliot had called them over instead without even so much as a flick of his fingers, and—
Quentin had to duck behind his curtain of hair because Jesus Christ that shouldn’t have been as hot as it was.
Magic came so easily to Eliot—he seemed to live and breathe it. The way he could just command his telekinesis, no matter how far or how heavy the object was (and Quentin knows that the heavier and further the object is, the more difficult it is to move), to do his bidding with such an ease—it was impressive. The way his long, elegant fingers twisted and turned while performing tuts; Quentin had to think about ice baths and his parents having sex that one time when he was seven.
And Quentin wasn’t jealous, exactly, but. Eliot’s control over magic was so unfair because—it didn’t come so easily to Quentin, who had believed in it all his life. And it was so unfair, because Eliot always made it look so easy, and he always looked good while doing it too. And he never studies! He has no right to make it look so good and easy and fluid when he doesn’t even study.
Quentin couldn’t fault him though. Eliot has this air about him where he definitely knows he is a natural at magic, and probably the strongest telekinetic out of all the Physical Kids (and possibly the strongest telekinetic in like, the last twenty years, if rumours are to be believed), but he never flaunts it.
In fact, Quentin would go so far as to say he wastes his talent for it.
He’d waste it on trivial things like using it to mix several drinks at once during parties, or he’d learn the tuts for getting wine stains out of clothes (“That is not useless at all, Quentin!”), or to fucking call books to them from across the room.
He wastes his talent on trivial things when Quentin knows—he just fucking knows—that Eliot could do so many more amazing things with his magic if he would just put his mind to it.
But telling Eliot this is a lost cause because he always just scoffs at the idea of studying and using his magic for more useful things, so Quentin has given up for the most part in trying to encourage him to do more.
(The fact that Eliot always gets this look in his eye—like he’s seen a ghost—whenever Quentin brings it up is not lost on him, and may be a large part of the reason why he stops talking about it, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The most Quentin can do is go to Eliot whenever he has a study question, because Eliot will know the answer. He always knows the answer, and he knows how to explain it to Quentin in a way that isn’t patronising or makes him feel like an idiot.
(The fact that his best friend since eternity is a fucking Knowledge Student and would probably be much more help than even Eliot is also not lost on him, but that’s likewise neither here nor there.)
So in his own quiet way, Quentin tries to encourage Eliot to do more, all the while ignoring Margo’s increasingly significant looks she casts at them whenever they’re all together.
“I’ve never really seen you care about something.”
“Things aren’t usually worth caring about.”
“With some limited, but very important, exceptions.”
Quentin sometimes forgets about important things.
Sometimes he forgets about important things because he doesn’t care enough about the important thing; because it’s not the most important thing in his life in that given moment.
But usually it’s because they give him a sort of anxiety that he doesn’t want to deal with, so he just… pushes it to the back of his mind.
Usually, this also results in him remembering when it’s too late, which then results in him panicking and being even more anxious about it.
Quentin finds himself forgetting about soulmates (and his subsequent lack of one) whenever he’s around Eliot. Or, well, whenever he even thinks about Eliot.
Which is a lot of the time.
Like maybe ninety percent of the time.
(Maybe closer to like, ninety-five percent, but who’s counting?)
The thing is, Quentin forgets about soulmates, because he doesn’t have one. And since he doesn’t have one, why should he think about them?
Unless he’s planning to hook up with someone—only then will he think about soulmates, because it’s just plain rude to fuck someone who has found theirs, without express permission; unless they’ve invited you to join them for a night or whatever, people who have found their other halves are off-limits.
(Which doesn’t even matter anyway, because he’s not planning to hook up with someone—anyone.)
(He definitely does not think about getting down and dirty with a certain tall guy with the name Eliot, who likes to smirk at him and look at him and manhandle him.)
(Which he’s perfectly fine with, for the record.)
It’s just… it’s very, very easy to forget about the whole soulmate thing when he’s with Eliot. Because Eliot likes to talk, and he likes to touch, and he likes to flirt.
(Which he is also fine with: Quentin wants that on the record too.)
Not that he ever knows how to respond except to overheat and lose his train of thought and stammer like he’s a fucking virgin.
(Which he isn’t. For the record.)
So Quentin usually doesn’t really care about important things unless they become immediately relevant to him, and he certainly does not care about soulmates because the universe has dictated that he doesn’t get one, but also because Eliot makes it so easy to not care about soulmates.
But sometimes he wonders…
Eliot’s currently pacing and ranting about—about something that Quentin has been tuning out in favour of staring at him, but pretending he isn’t by holding a book in front of his face. Because while Quentin likes to look at Eliot, he also can’t—directly look at him right now because. Even now, a month into the semester, Quentin still finds Eliot absolutely breath-taking; he’s wearing a light purple dotted shirt with a patterned golden tie and a darker vest on top. All paired with some pinstriped navy dress pants with a brown belt (with his pants making his already long legs look even longer somehow) and just—Quentin exhales slowly and lifts his book higher to hide his wandering eyes and his rising flush.
And then promptly startles when a weight settles down next to him on the couch, an arm thrown casually around his shoulders. He half closes his book to see Eliot staring down at him with a raised brow and that oh-so-easy grin on his face. Quentin’s hands involuntarily tightens around his book and he has to force them to relax, though he’s feeling an unfathomable nervousness.
“Um—” he clears his throat. “Can I help?”
“Why yes Q, you can.”
Quentin ignores the thrill that shoots through him at Eliot’s nickname, because that is not conducive to his determination to be Just Friends with Eliot (and he definitely ignores Eliot’s suddenly heavy gaze, like he knows what Quentin’s thinking. Which he doesn’t, because he isn’t a Psychic.) Instead, Quentin lets his brows tick up in curiosity and he turns slightly to be able to look at Eliot properly. “Oh?”
Eliot nods, smile curling at his lips. “I need a partner to practise some magic with.”
Eliot waves his hand at nothing in particular with a dismissive, “She’s out for a manicure."
“Uh, okay. Um, what kind of magic?”
At this, Eliot’s smile turns salacious and downright filthy—and Quentin has to think very, very hard about cold showers and the grandmother he only met that one time.
“Sex magic, little Q.”
His brain short-circuits. Oh god. Oh god. He’s pretty sure Eliot was sent here to kill him. He sinks further into his corner of the couch and opens his book again, lifting it high so he can retreat behind it once more. “Sorry, but uh. I’m a little busy so. Um. Next time?” he squeaks out.
Oh Jesus, why is he like this? Next time?
“Q, come on. I can see your ears turn red from here.”
Quentin clears his throat and pointedly turns a page, drawing his knees up oh-so-casually because—yeah, he did not want Eliot seeing anything. Down there. Because Eliot just can’t spring things like this on him: it wasn’t fair. Not when he looks—like that, and can have his pick of anyone on campus. Not when it’s so easy for Quentin to forget about soulmates in favour of imagining him naked, tangled in his sheets, sprawling like he was on that Brakebills sign, smoke curling up from his mouth as he exhales.
(Also: sex magic?!)
He turns another page despite not having even read the previous two.
“Alright, alright,” Eliot says pacifyingly, giving a long-suffering sigh. “Relax Q, I’m just kidding. It was a joke. I’m just bored.” he complains.
Quentin cautiously peers at him over the top of his book. “Um. Don’t you have a thesis idea you’re supposed to be working on?”
Eliot gives him an unreadable look, full of weight, before sweeping his curls away from his eyes in exasperation. “Right, okay. Suppose I should go and do that then, yeah?”
Quentin lowers his book so Eliot can see the quick smile he sends his way. “Have fun,” he teases, voice light and not betraying the turmoil boiling just underneath.
Eliot gives him an irritated look before he hoists himself up to go upstairs, presumably to go up to his room to start studying. Quentin relaxes his grip and smooths out the pages he’d unintentionally crumpled in his fingers, breathing a sigh of relief. It was getting more difficult with each passing day to just not jump Eliot and climb him like a fucking tree. God, he wants to feel him everywhere; on his skin, in his mouth, in his ass. He even just wants to be able to feel his particular brand of magic in the air, weighing him down like a blanket, enveloping him with its soft yet electrifying touch and its fruity tang on his tongue.
He needed to get laid like, yesterday. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have many people calling at his door, and he’s too awkward to just chat someone up for a casual one-night stand. And well, there was that whole pesky business with people having soulmates; it was considered rude to ask someone if they even had one.
(Quentin had tried that one time during his undergrad, and gotten a whole drink dumped on him for his trouble so. Lesson learned.)
He didn’t know how Eliot managed to find so many people who didn’t have soulmates waiting for them—he should probably ask him, but. Yeah, that was another conversation he wanted to avoid with Eliot. But maybe Margo?
(He briefly wonders if perhaps Eliot and Margo are—a thing. Soulmates. Whatever.)
(They certainly act like they’re something a bit more platonic than is normal, and Quentin doesn’t entirely get it, but he also gets it because he has Julia, so.)
(Maybe they had been fuck buddies at one point, which would count for how well they know each other.)
Quentin discards the thought immediately. Anything he says to Margo—particularly about Eliot—will probably get back to him so. He might just have to suck it up and ask Julia if there’s a polite way of broaching the subject. Probably not. Most likely not. He’s accepted the fact that he doesn’t have a soulmate by this point, rarely even cares about it anymore, but God, Eliot is just. There, being all—hot, and gorgeous, and—
—Yeah, who is he kidding, Quentin still cares about the whole soulmate thing.
“You do not have to make me feel better, really we… Basically just met each other.”
“Well, I bond fast. Time is an illusion.”
Eliot is forced to admit that he is attached to one Quentin Coldwater.
Not because he is physically forced to, on pain of death, but because he’s started recognising that okay, yeah, maybe he’s been spending a lot of time with the first year, and maybe he’s been spending a lot of time thinking about the first year, and maybe he’s been spending a stupid amount of time jerking off to his thoughts of the first year, and yeah, maybe, just maybe (it’s not a done deal yet) he has been entertaining the idea of being—more than friends with Quentin.
Not that he’s been thinking about it a lot.
Because Eliot doesn’t do dating.
Or romance in general.
It was messy, and definitely not Eliot’s kind of messy. Not the kind he likes.
(The fact that Quentin Coldwater is exactly Eliot’s kind of mess is ignored.)
Eliot is perfectly happy staying Just Friends with Quentin, and if he sometimes likes to push his buttons and flirt with him just to see him flounder and blush, well.
Only Eliot needed to know.
(He’s still ignoring Margo’s increasingly irritating Looks. She still doesn’t know anything.)
So Eliot is attached to Quentin, has bonded with him faster than anyone he’s ever met— including Margo, because they hadn’t bonded until their Trials—so it’s only natural that he wants to spend all his time with the first year when he isn’t with Margo.
Of course, that means Eliot gets antsy when the first years go off to Brakebills South. The near-constant buzzing under his skin has finally stopped, and whatever the Naturalists had been experimenting with has stopped permeating the campus air with that fruity flavour, but it sets him on edge. He’s gotten used to the feeling, the smell, over the last few months, so now that it’s gone, it’s left him feeling unsettled.
And he doesn’t have Quentin to distract him from the absence of it.
And it’s exactly when Margo corners him.
“So when are you going to fuck him?”
Eliot fumbles the plate he’d been washing, only able to catch it last minute because of his telekinesis. “Uh—what?” he splutters, turning to face her with the plate held up between them like a shield.
“Coldwater. First year, high-strung super nerd, Coldwater? Don’t play dumb with me, it’s not cute.”
Eliot frowns at her before turning back to the sink to continue washing the dishes. “I don’t know what you mean,” he sniffs.
Eliot scrubs harder at the plate, scowling down at his hands. He hates washing up, hates it with a passion, but sometimes he liked the manual labour, the repetitiveness of soaping and scrubbing and rinsing and drying. And then after; methodically putting the dishes and glasses away, and making sure to moisturise his hands so the water doesn’t dry them out, and—
He sighs, setting the plate onto the drying rack and turning back around so he can face the proverbial music.
“What do you want me to say, Bambi?” he lifts his hands in a what do you want me to do? gesture. “I’m friends with him. I want to fuck him. I want to stay friends with him. Is that it?”
Margo’s grin is sharp as she rests her elbow on the counter and props her chin on her fist. “Now was that so difficult?”
Eliot huffs and crosses his arms, arching a brow. Get to your point, Bambi.
“So what, you want to be fuck buddies?”
He sucks in a deep breath and briefly glances up at the ceiling, half to show his exasperation and half to find the time he needs to search for words.
“It’s… complicated.” he finally settles on.
Only to see that Look in her eyes.
Margo may know something after all.
(He hates her.)
“So here’s what we’re going to do. When baby Q gets back from Brakebills Hell, we’re going to throw a party. And you’re going to dress up in your finest, and you’re going to dance with him, and you’re going to drink with him, and you’re going to seduce him, and then fuck him. Capisce?”
(He loves her.)
“Uh huh… And his soulmate?”
“Well, has he mentioned them?”
That gives Eliot pause. He doesn’t think… But maybe he had… And Eliot hadn’t been listening…?
“As I thought. He hasn’t mentioned them, which most likely means he hasn’t found them. So you are both free to do whatever.”
Eliot inclines his head, in both resignation and acknowledgement. Bambi always knows how to get him to think clearly and reasonably, and he is always grateful for that. She also knows how to cheer him up, even if her outrageous plans never actually came to fruition.
“And what about the morning after, hm? I fuck him, and then what? Drop him?”
Margo scoffs. “Of course not. You ask him out,” she pauses, cocking her head in contemplation. “Maybe have that conversation about soulmates first,” she adds.
Eliot laughs, uncrossing his arms as the tension finally leaves him. This is more their pace; make hypothetical plans about their problems instead of actually talking about them. Eliot can deal with this. He can do this.
“On a more serious note—we do have an actual party to plan for the first years’ return.”
Eliot grins, wide and bright. “That we do, Bambi. That we do.”
She winks at him.
“So destiny is… It’s bullshit. But you are High King in your blood, and somehow that makes sense, you know? And I—I just—for what it’s worth, I think that you are going to be a really good king. Um. So um. I—I dub thee… Um… I don’t know, would you say, like, you’re more brave or merciful?”
“I’d say I’m neither. But I still plan to be a spectacular monarch.”
“I hereby dub thee… High King Eliot the Spectacular.”
It’s common knowledge that Eliot and Margo are the Party King and Queen of Brakebills.
They throw the best parties, with the best alcohol, and the best entertainment.
Eliot alone holds the record for single-handedly dropping the GPA of the Physical Kids, while increasing the number of alcohol-related accidents.
(A record he is proud of, thank you very much.)
(And no, that one incident regarding champagne, the library and a djinn was not his fault.)
(Not entirely, anyway.)
So when the last of the first years return from Brakebills South, the Cottage party is already in full swing.
And Eliot can’t stop watching Quentin, who has not left Julia the Knowledge Student’s side and has also, somehow, made friends with Alice Quinn, of all people. He frowns at the trio as he mixes drinks, wondering what had happened in the South to bring these particular nerds together.
He’ll probably get the story out of Quentin later.
A finger snap in his face brings his attention back to the bar, where Margo has planted herself with one hand on her hip.
“Show time!” she says cheerfully, before dragging him over to the first years.
Eliot only just manages to remember to float all their mixed drinks with them to the trio, who each take a glass in hand. Quentin briefly glances at him, hiding a smile behind the rim of his glass, and Eliot’s heart—stops, and then restarts. Thump-thump, thump-thump, it shouts, trying to jump up his throat.
Eliot lifts his glass in a mock toast before taking a sip, half turning away from Quentin before the first year can see in his eyes what his heart is trying to say.
He meets Margo’s calculating gaze, bright and lightly narrowed. She subtly jerks her chin at Quentin, who is too busy talking animatedly with Julia, cheeks a tipsy-red. Eliot internally sighs and downs half of his drink in the name of liquid courage.
He may also have sent a prayer out to Lady Luck.
Just a minor one.
And then he turns to Quentin.
“Julia said you’re good at card tricks, baby Q. C’mon, show us a trick.”
He can see Margo smother her surprised laughter behind her hand, eyes wide and full of delight. He can hear her say ‘that’s your pick up line?’ without her needing to actually say it.
Honestly, fuck her.
Because Quentin is looking at him in surprised delight, different from Margo’s. Like he can’t believe Eliot remembers this little detail about him. Like even after these few months of being friends, he still can’t quite believe Eliot is friends with him. Wants to know him.
In all truthfulness, Eliot wants to climb into his skin and live there, but.
That’s just a touch on the creepy side, so he buries it deep, deep down.
And he focuses on Quentin, who has somehow produced a deck of cards from somewhere and is shuffling them like it’s second nature, all confident and composed that actually—
Really does it for Eliot, apparently.
He downs the rest of his drink and calls over his entire bottle of wine.
And he continues to ignore Margo’s gaze, heavy with meaning.
And he keeps his eyes on Quentin the entire time; his bright eyes, his flushed cheeks, the soft strands of hair falling into his eyes. All the way down to his shapeless flannel shirt, his strong hands, the fanned cards held delicately in his fingers.
He takes another large gulp of his wine, hand tightening around his glass. Maybe if he held it tight enough then he wouldn’t compulsively reach out to touch Quentin instead.
As much as Margo was laughing at him, he can see her interest as Quentin leads them through his first trick, and something warm bubbles in his chest. But then Quentin does something—he’s not entirely sure what—a sleight of hand that Eliot didn’t catch, but he knows it happened.
Because he felt Quentin’s tingle of magic, that slight static-y buzzing under his skin that had been driving him mad on a near constant basis. Which isn’t exactly significant in and of itself, because it makes sense that Quentin has been using magic for his card tricks without even knowing that’s what he’s been doing, even before Brakebills.
But the smell of fruit invades his senses, stronger than it’s ever been; sweet and ripe, like he’s in an orchard, and sitting heavy on his tongue.
He can taste it.
The floor falls from beneath his feet.
Eliot looks around him at the loft, still hand in hand with Bambi. Music is thumping through the walls and the floor, vibrating under his feet. The entire room is filled with college students; dancing, laughing, talking, drinking.
There’s a group doing body shots on one side of the room, and another group playing beer pong on the other.
Eliot leads Bambi to the group doing body shots, as they’re also the closest to the refreshments table where party food are laid out in bowls and, more importantly, where the drinks are. He wrinkles his nose at the choice of drink before opting for Tanqueray, pouring one for him and one for Margo. They raise their red cups at each other before downing it—he’s going to have to be really drunk, really fast, if he’s going to have any chance of ignoring the terrible choices in alcohol.
College students: they don’t know taste if it floated in front of their faces.
So they pour another drink for themselves and then wander to the group nearby.
And they take shots.
And they keep drinking.
And then Eliot is doing a body shot off some really cute guy—Matt—with strawberry-blonde hair.
And Margo is doing a body shot off some chick.
Then they’re dancing, and Eliot gets tangled in a heated kiss with the cute guy, losing sight of Margo. He finds himself grinning, drunk on alcohol and the thrill of seduction, when they pull apart and Eliot trails his hand up Matt’s arm while Matt reaches round to grab his ass, pulling him closer.
And behind Matt, he spots him—another cute guy in a flannel shirt, sitting against a pillar and watching some girl in a unicorn t-shirt dance, awkward and adorable as all hell.
But then Matt spins him out of his arms and then draws him back in again, and Eliot laughs and loses sight of Flannel Guy.
The next time Eliot gets a glimpse of him, he and Matt are back at the makeshift bar, and they’re taking shots. The room is satisfyingly wobbly, and he’s buzzing under his skin, and there’s a pleasant smell of fruit lingering in the air, and—
There’s Flannel Guy, several feet away, showing a card trick to a couple of girls, and he no longer has that awkward air around him; instead, he’s confident, self-assured as he shuffles the cards and fans them out expertly, palming one away and then making it reappear in a way that Eliot, even being able to do real magic, can’t even follow.
But then his attention is ripped away again by Matt handing him another shot, and they clink their shot glasses together and down it, and then do another.
And then Matt’s asking, “Wanna get out of here?”
And Eliot’s nodding, smirking, and he takes Matt’s hand in his and sways them towards the loft’s exit. But then he realises, in order to get to the door, he has to pass by the cute nerd who has stopped his card tricks and has now moved on to talking animatedly with his hands, and his heart inconceivably—stops, just for a millisecond.
But it’s enough for him to feel it.
He absently rubs at his chest with his free hand, but he doesn’t veer from his path, determined to take Matt home for the night. Or well, not home-home because he’s a Muggle, but to Matt’s home.
Which he hopes is close by.
Because he doesn’t think he could wait another minute for a cab ride, or for the subway, or whatever.
So he hopes it’s not far.
And then they’re almost at the door, and Eliot distantly hears something about how Danish people have a dark soul, and he goes to pull Matt in close but he sways, just a little, and—
His shoulders brush Flannel Guy’s, and Eliot involuntarily shivers at the touch, glancing to the side.
His breath catches as his eyes meet the dark ones of Flannel Guy, long hair tucked behind an ear on one side. There’s a flicker, a brief moment of ‘do I know you?’ before the gorgeous nerd is giving him an awkward smile and turning away, mumbling a barely audible “Sorry.”
And then Eliot and Matt are outside in the night, and he’s pushing Matt up against the wall for a fierce kiss, his hands in strawberry-blonde hair even while he’s imagining them in long, silky brown locks.
But that thought is fleeting, and then they’re in Matt’s apartment, and clothes are coming off, and there’s a nice bed to fall into, and Eliot forgets all about long hair and flannel shirts and card tricks and Danish souls (or was it people?).
But he falls asleep with the taste of summer fruit on his tongue.
Quentin doesn’t know what’s wrong.
One moment, Eliot had been smiling and laughing with him, looking at him with those striking golden caramel eyes that warms him all over, and the next he’s looking at him like he’s seen a ghost; all colour had drained from his face, and he’d had to hold onto Margo to keep from wobbling and falling over. He’d lost his grip on his glass of wine, fingers going slack as his eyes go wide in some form of shock, and Margo supports his weight somehow.
She supported him up the stairs, presumably to his room, or maybe hers, leaving the wine stain to spread on the rug.
Quentin tries to clean it up with a tut, but he doesn’t quite manage to get the stain out entirely.
(He ignores the thought that Eliot would appreciate his efforts.)
(He also ignores the thought that Eliot was right: knowing how to get wine stains out of fabric is useful.)
Eliot’s been weird around him ever since, and Margo… Margo’s been watching him even as she sticks by Eliot’s side, like—like she’s irritated with him, but also like he’s glass and she’s afraid he’s going to shatter.
And he doesn’t know what to make of that.
Eliot won’t meet his eyes.
Conversation is stilted.
He’s not avoiding Quentin, not exactly, but he won’t be alone with him in a room either. He always makes sure there’s other people around, or that he has Margo by his side, and it feels like he’s using her as a buffer between them for some reason.
And Quentin can’t figure out why.
He hazily remembers the party on the night of their return from Brakebills South. Everything had been great; he’d been talking to Julia and Alice, whom they had made friends with during their time at Hell on Earth (awkward moment when Mayakovsky had tried to push Quentin and Alice together sexually notwithstanding). The back of his neck had been tingling the whole time, and he’d somehow known Eliot had been watching them; and then he had joined them with Margo, more drinks floating behind them. And then Eliot had asked to see card tricks, and holy shit he hadn’t thought Eliot would remember that tiny detail about him. Hadn’t thought Eliot ever listened to his and Julia’s nerd talks, hadn’t thought someone like Eliot Waugh would pay attention to a couple of nerds like them.
(Well, Julia may be a nerd, but she’s also popular because she’s not a walking human disaster full of depression and anxiety, but that’s neither here nor there.)
So he doesn’t understand why Eliot’s now pulling away from him, and he won’t speak to Quentin to tell him what he did wrong, so Quentin can’t even go about fixing it.
(And isn’t that just ironic? Because, as it turns out, Quentin’s discipline is the Repair of Small Objects—his very magic is built for him to be an expert at fixing things.)
So Quentin has been going through the past week in a quasi-joyful state, in which he is happy that he managed to survive Brakebills South and won’t be flunking out any time soon, but he’s also less than content with his discipline—because he had hoped it would be something cool at least, but of course he can’t even have this one thing in life—and he’s definitely not satisfied with whatever is going on with Eliot.
But because no one will talk to him about it, he decides to ignore it and throws himself wholeheartedly into studying instead, and spending time with Julia and Alice for the entire week.
And he ignores Eliot and Margo, whom have currently taken up whispering furiously with each other across the room from his little reading corner.
He resolutely keeps his eyes to his books and practises his tuts, unconcerned with how the whispering abruptly stops.
He’s studying, and they’re being distracting. Whatever they’re arguing about, they can do it more privately rather than out in the open.
Clearly they don’t want to plug him in in whatever’s going on, so he’ll just mind his own business.
As the pair makes their way upstairs, Quentin scowls down at his books and restarts his tuts.
“Eliot, you have to tell him.”
“I said no.”
Eliot stubbornly buries his face into his pillow. He feels like screaming. He wants to yell; wants to pound his fists into his pillow like a child throwing a tantrum. Why can’t Margo understand why he can’t tell Quentin?
He ignores her sigh of frustration, hears her start pacing in his room. He rolls over onto his back and blinks up at the ceiling.
“I don’t understand why you can’t just talk to him like an adult.”
“Because, Bambi, it’s not like I haven’t done magic in front of him before. He would’ve known from that alone, but every time, he hasn’t said anything. So clearly he’s not interested, or he doesn’t want me.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Margo stop right next to him, hands on her hips.
“Or, more likely, he doesn’t know about soulmates.”
“How would he not know, Margo? Everyone has a soulmate, even the Muggles. It’s part of their education system! So unless you’re saying he’s been living under a rock his entire life, I don’t see how he won’t know about soulmates!”
Eliot lifts his hands to rub at his temples. Jesus, he needs a drink. Or ibuprofen, because he can feel a migraine coming on.
“I meant, maybe he doesn’t know about Magician soulmates,” Margo says, plopping onto the bed beside him.
He continues to rub circles into his temples. “Margo. Bambi. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but his best friend in the entire world is a Knowledge Student. Are you telling me that there’s something even a Knowledge Student doesn’t know? Something as basic and fundamental as soulmates?”
“Who’s his best friend?”
Eliot snorts, knowing she’s just being obstinate now. Because of course Bambi hasn’t missed who Quentin’s best friend is. They know all the gossip at Brakebills, know everyone who’s anyone. Hell, if Eliot didn’t know better, he would have thought Margo’s discipline would have had something to do with gossip.
“Okay, listen. You need to talk to him. You need to tell him. And then you can continue to seduce him.”
Eliot lets out a groan, hands falling to his sides. “Bambi.”
“Eliot.” she mimics in the same tone. He can just see her raised brow without having to look at her. “Look,” she continues after a slight pause. “You’re clearly in love with him—”
Eliot chokes on air, sitting up so fast he feels dizzy and nauseous. “I am not in love with him—”
“Halfway in love then,” she cuts in, heedless of the way his heart is thump-thump-thumping. “So at least seduce him, and then you won’t have to keep pining like some pathetic gentleman thirsting after a maiden in a Jane Austen novel.”
Eliot hates her.
He hates that she can read him like an open book.
He hates that she’s determined to talk about this.
He hates that she’s right.
He needs to talk to Quentin.
The problem is, he doesn’t know how to even begin to broach the subject. How does one tell their soulmate that they’re soulmates when the other person apparently hasn’t realised it yet? Surely if Quentin was even remotely interested, he’d have given Eliot a sign. But he hasn’t; he hasn’t responded to his flirting at all, doesn’t even flirt back. But he also hasn’t told Eliot to back off, so.
What’s he supposed to do with that?
How’s he supposed to deal with these mixed signals?
Rejection? Fine, he can deal with that. Just sex? He can absolutely deal with that. Friends? He can handle that too. But all this back-and-forth, this push-and-pull?
Yeah, what the fuck?
“Seriously El, just seduce him already. Whatever happens after that, happens. Alright?”
Eliot hums, neither answering in the affirmative or the negative.
“How about I find you, and I don’t say magic is real, but I do seduce you and so lift your spirits that life retains its sparkles for decades.”
“…Yeah, that sounds nice. Thank you.”
It’s two weeks later when Eliot breaks, because he just can’t take it anymore.
He can’t take the fact that he keeps reacting like this to Quentin’s magic every single damn time.
He can’t take the fact that there’s this chasm between them.
He can’t take the fact that he doesn’t know how to talk to Quentin.
He can’t take the fact that they haven’t hung out together since before Brakebills South.
He can’t take the fact that he wants to spend time with Quentin.
He can’t take the fact that he wants to kiss Quentin.
He can’t take the fact that he wants to fuck Quentin.
He can’t take the fact that his soulmate is so close and yet so far.
So at the next Cottage party, Eliot moves forward with Margo’s original plan, the one he was supposed to pull off two weeks prior: seduce Quentin Coldwater.
This time, he’s very careful to look his best. He makes sure Quentin doesn’t lose sight of him in the Cottage, and he makes damn sure he looks good every time Quentin so much as turns his way, and then when Margo drags him over to their little group, he makes sure to touch Quentin as much as he had before; an arm draped casually across his shoulders, pressed into his side, kisses on his head, a couple of heated looks, more than a few compliments.
And each time, he delights in Quentin scrambling for words as his cheeks glow red and he looks at Eliot shyly, cautiously, with that little half-grin of his that makes Eliot want to sing.
But he still can’t quite gather the courage to say hey, can we talk? and Margo’s Look keeps increasing in intensity and meaning until she’s all but glaring at him, which makes his throat seize up every time he opens his damn mouth to try and get the words out. So instead, he just—
Goes out for a smoke instead.
Because that’s what he does, doesn’t he.
When things get difficult, when he can’t talk about things like a normal, mature adult—which is a lot of the time, he knows that—he deflects by drinking too much, smoking too much, partying too hard.
And it never fixes anything; usually it just makes a bigger mess of it than what it was originally. But Eliot, for once in his entire fucking mess of a life, wants to try. God help him, but he wants to try.
Instead, he’s out here smoking, halfway to drunk, because he can’t get his shit together long enough to even figure out how to try. Eliot leans back against the wall of the Cottage and sighs, watching the smoke he exhales rise towards the stars in their lazy haze, ephemeral in the way his own love for life had been. He flicks his cigarette and ignores the ashes that drift to the ground exactly like his own hopes and dreams; the ones he had held close to his chest when he had turned sixteen, and which had promptly turned into dust right before his eyes the next morning.
And he’s filled with anger, a sudden rage, at the world for treating people like shit; for being so fucking disappointing that they make people wrap themselves in glossy armour in the attempt to spare themselves, with only the hope that one day, they’ll meet that person the universe has deemed is right for them, and everything will fall into place.
Most of all, Eliot’s angry at himself.
He’s angry at the world for not nurturing the people who deserve it the most—people like Quentin, and Margo, and—and he’s angry at his younger self.
The Young Eliot, who had decided that drinking and drugs and parties and sex were the way to get rid of the empty hole in his soul; the one who had decided that the world hadn’t wanted him, so why should he want it?
The Young Eliot, who had been so impatient that he went so far as to brand himself a hedonist before the world could do it; who didn’t trust himself enough to see that there is someone out there just for him even if there isn’t a physical Mark; because he could believe magic is real, that he’s telekinetic, but he couldn’t keep the belief that he had a soulmate.
Because Eliot, despite all his posing and pretences—behind all his vests and ties and disdainful aloofness—still needed that Mark to feel validated.
And he was angry that he still felt like he needed it, even after all these years of suppressing it. He had gotten used to the idea of living a life without a soulmate, damn it, so why did he still feel the need to be shown that approval from a world who had never given it in the first place?
And why did he have to find his soulmate now, after he had given up That Eliot who had believed?
Eliot blinked up at the moon as he smoked—and smoked, and smoked. He hadn’t known how long he had been out here until the door is sliding open, and Quentin is stepping through, smiling when he spots him. Eliot wordlessly offers him his pack of cigarettes to which Quentin rejects, choosing to lean against the wall next to him instead.
“Hey. How come you’re out here?”
Eliot keeps his eyes trained on the moon. This is his moment, isn’t it? This is when he should tell Quentin, here, now, while they’re alone.
“Needed a smoke,” is what he says.
God-fucking-dammit. Why couldn’t his mouth listen to his brain?
“So. So like, I always kind of hated that people would say this to me but like—stop thinking so loud.”
Eliot cuts his eyes to Quentin in slight alarm—can he read minds now?—but Quentin is smiling at him, a teasing gleam in his soft brown eyes, and Eliot relaxes. He offers a small smile—a half-smile, really, barely there at all—in return, and lights another cigarette with a snap of his fingers.
And he takes pleasure in Quentin’s wide eyes staring in glee at the end of his cigarette because no matter what happens, Quentin retains his childlike wonder of magic and every time Eliot gets to witness that wonder, it does something warm to his heart.
“So how come you’re out here too?” Eliot finally asks.
He sees Quentin duck his head before he’s lifting it again, tucking his hair behind his ear in that way he does when he’s anxious-nervous.
“I was looking for you,” he replies. “You were gone for quite a while, I think Margo was beginning to worry.”
Eliot smiles around the cigarette in his mouth and drapes his arm across Q’s shoulders, pulling him into his side like he usually does. “Just Bambi?” he teases, quirking a brow as he takes the cigarette with his other hand.
And Quentin goes that lovely shade of red again that Eliot just wants to lick, to taste, to touch.
He doesn’t realise he’s leaning in until Quentin turns his head to look at him, and Eliot is suddenly faced with his expressive eyes staring up at him, noses only just brushing, quietly sharing breaths.
Eliot’s heart threatens to hammer out of his chest.
“Hey,” Quentin says quietly, eyes searching Eliot’s.
“Hey,” Eliot responds, just as quiet.
And Quentin pushes forward to kiss him, quick and easy, like it’s no effort at all.
Like it’s something he does every day.
Oh Q, you brave, brave man.
But he’s pulled away before Eliot can really react, stealing his breath with him, and he’s looking at Eliot—watching him—with a tentative smile, and Eliot—
Drops the cigarette he’s holding and uses his hand to wrap round the nape of Quentin’s neck instead so he can lean in and kiss him properly.
His heart is singing. The blood in his veins is racing, rushing into his ears, and he’s drowning, drowning, drowning.
Kissing Quentin is everything he’s ever imagined, and more. It’s gentle and sweet, slow and hot all at once. It leaves Eliot longing for more; he’s a daisy in the light of the sun, turning his face to drink in the rays; he’s a piece of driftwood, swept out at sea; he’s a match, lighting and sparking at Quentin’s touch.
Eliot shivers and steps forward into the kiss, pressing Q against the wall, distantly aware that his other hand is cupping the back of his head to protect him from the bricks, fingers tangling in hair; Quentin’s arms are around his waist, pulling him close, waist-to-waist. Eliot grinds into him, just once.
“Bedroom, now—” Quentin gasps out, pulling back from the kiss just a bit.
“Yesyesyes,” Eliot groans, ducking to suck and nibble at Q’s neck.
Quentin huffs out a laugh and pushes on his chest, just light enough to make him step back. But then he takes a step forward, away from the wall, grabbing Eliot’s hand and pulls him back through the patio doors and through the party that is still ongoing, though a bit more hectic now than when Eliot had left it for a smoke. They stumble up the stairs together, and Quentin hesitates at the top, like he’s now suddenly unsure that this is what Eliot actually wants.
Eliot draws him in for a kiss, reassuring with touch when he can’t do it with words, and Quentin folds into him, letting slip a small whimper and Jesus, bedroom, now—so Eliot drags him up to his own room, shutting the door behind them with his telekinesis and immediately twisting his fingers into the tuts for his wards.
Then Quentin’s on him, pulling at his clothes, and there’s skin-on-skin, and electric currents running up and down Eliot’s arms and back as he undoes Quentin’s fly, pushing down his jeans. Now that they’re both touching, they can’t seem to stop; fingers skimming across naked skin leaving goosebumps in their wake, warm lips following the path of their fingers, pushing and pulling clothes out of the way. Quentin takes one of his hands and places it back at his neck, silently letting Eliot know what he wants, what he likes.
A moan rips its way out of his throat, and he nudges Quentin towards the bed until they both fall on it, Eliot moving to straddle him. He quickly shrugs out of his unbuttoned shirt before leaning down for another kiss, hungrily licking into Quentin’s mouth like he needs it like the air he breathes.
“You want to be opened the slow way or the quick way?” Eliot murmurs, brushing a strand of hair out of Quentin’s face.
Quentin shudders at his touch, eyes blown wide. “What’s the—fuck—the quick way?”
Eliot sits up a bit and grins, heat spreading out from his chest because god, even in the middle of sex, Quentin still wants to see magic. Eliot is more than happy to indulge him if it means keeping that look of awe and admiration in his eyes.
“It’s going to feel a little weird, okay? But here, I’ll show you,” and he shows Quentin the tuts for cleansing, stretching and protection, and then he spreads his hand across Q’s navel, transfixed at the sight of his large hand resting there, just about covering his waist.
Quentin squirms, sucking in a breath at the feeling of the spells at work inside him, face flushing a deep red. “El—shit…” he breathes out, eyes boring into Eliot’s.
Eliot only winks at him and recasts the lube spell, slicking up his cock, stroking teasingly. Quentin watches him, wrapping his legs around his waist to pull him closer, eyes dark and hooded with want and need. Eliot strokes himself a few more times before falling forward onto one elbow, nose-to-nose with Q.
“You ready?” he asks. Half of a whisper.
Quentin rolls his eyes and tightens his legs around him, wriggling his ass a little in the effort to entice Eliot to hurry the fuck up. “Jesus El, you know I am,” he grumbles, draping his arms around Eliot’s neck to pull him down for a quick kiss. “Now would you hurry up and dick me down already.”
“Sexy,” Eliot comments drily, but he laughs, charmed despite himself.
And then he’s slowly pushing in until the head of his cock has made it past Q’s tight ring of muscle, pausing when he feels Quentin clenching down on him. Eliot noses along his jaw, nips and sucks at his neck; leaves a hickey at the juncture between his shoulder and neck—he’s not possessive, he’s not—because he likes the idea of marking Q up, likes the thought of him looking in the mirror and seeing a reminder of what Eliot did to him.
He feels, more than sees, Quentin’s nod, feels him relaxing around his length, and Eliot exhales slowly before pressing the rest of the way in, inch by inch. He can feel sweat pooling in the small of his back with the effort to not just roughly shove in and encase himself in Quentin’s velvety heat—god, he feels so good, so tight, but Q deserves more than just a quick fuck; he deserves romance, and dates, and flowers, and—
—And everything Eliot can’t give him.
With a growl, he thrusts in the last couple of inches until his hips are pressed right against Quentin’s ass, and Q is whining, scrabbling at his back for purchase, clenching and unclenching around Eliot in a way that makes him grit his teeth.
“Sorry—sorry Q,” he pants against the soft skin of his neck, mouthing at his pulse point in apology because he hadn’t meant to just shove in like that but—he couldn’t help himself either; Q was just so hot, so perfect around him, and yeah, maybe a secret part of him wanted him to feel it the next morning, wanted Quentin to walk around with the reminder of Eliot’s dick inside him, fuck—
Quentin lets out a weak laugh and turns his face to silently ask for a kiss which Eliot grants, fucking his mouth with his tongue in a pale imitation of what he so desperately wants to do, but he reminds himself about what he should be giving Quentin instead, at least for their first time together, and he waits to be given the green light to start moving.
And then Quentin slides his hands into Eliot’s curls and tugs, just lightly enough to get his attention, and he breaks the kiss to gaze down at the boy beneath him.
“El, ‘m ready—god—you’re such a dick—why are you so big—”
And it shouldn’t be so enthralling but it is—it really fucking is—that Quentin’s idea of dirty talk includes insulting him in a sex-haze; in the far-off reaches of his mind, Eliot reconsiders his entire list of kinks and he has to—laugh, because the only other option would be to unattractively cry due to the realisation that of course it could only be your soulmate who could devastatingly change your entire view about yourself in one single moment, but—
Eliot leans back down to nuzzle along Quentin’s jawline, sucks at his earlobe to distract himself in the tiny noises Q makes because he can’t think—doesn’t want to think about—and so he leisurely starts plunging into the enveloping heat of Quentin, groaning at the way he clings onto his cock, like he’s trying to keep Eliot inside him.
“Fuck—fuck, El—feel so full—”
“Yeah? God—so good for me—”
Quentin honest-to-god whimpers at that, and Eliot’s brain is very, very close to short-circuiting because—he’s just so perfect, so fucking perfect, for Eliot; fits him like a glove, challenges Eliot in a way no one else has done before, compatible in a way even Bambi isn’t.
(He adamantly refuses to acknowledge that that’s the whole point of having a soulmate.)
He peppers kisses all over Q’s face before licking his hand and sliding it down to his cock, stroking in time with his hips. Quentin gasps in his ear, mumbled yesyesyes-es tumbling from his lips like they’re being punched out of him with every slide in, every roll of Eliot’s hips.
And then Eliot shifts—just slightly—changes the angle, and Quentin keens, tugging at his hair harshly that makes him mutter a curse.
“Oh my—god, right there—yes—yes—harder, El, please, please, please—”
Eliot hides his grin against Q’s cheek and gives in to his demands; he picks up the pace, fucking into him with a force that shoves Quentin up the bed a couple of inches, causing him to untangle himself from Eliot’s curls so he can grip the headboard and push down into Eliot’s thrusts, eyes half closing even as his mouth falls open in a long, drawn-out moan.
And Eliot drinks in the sight of him like this, all spread out and flushed and overwhelmed with pleasure; brands it into his memory as he bends down to tease at Quentin’s nipples, gently biting only to lick over them after to ease the sting. Quentin’s shoving down in earnest now, hands tightening periodically where they’re still wrapped around the posts in the headboard, chasing that crest with abandon.
Fuck, Eliot is in over his head.
He’s so in over his head, consumed with thoughts of Quentin, of the smell of Quentin, of the feel of Quentin, that he’s not sure he’ll ever find a way back out.
He’s not sure he wants to.
“Q. Q, sweetheart, look at me. Wanna see you,” Eliot coaxes, all soft and gentle like he isn’t fucking Quentin to within an inch of his life, smiling when his eyes flutter open. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous,” he breathes, heart beating loud in his chest.
Quentin groans, a half-smile pulling at his lips. “Want you to—want you to come inside me El, please?” he slurs.
“Jesus—you’re gonna kill me—baby—”
And Eliot grinds into that spot inside Q, thumb pressing into place just below his cockhead on the next upstroke of his hand, and Quentin clamps down around him—so fucking tightly—as he shudders through his orgasm, head tossed back on the pillow in a silent moan. Eliot ducks his head down, forehead resting on Q’s shoulder as he mouths at his silky skin, letting Quentin’s velvet heat pull him into the tide of pleasure. His hips twitch, continuing to grind as he empties himself, distantly aware of Quentin whispering into his ear and stroking through his curls.
It takes Eliot a few more minutes to carefully pull out and cast a couple of cleaning tuts before flopping down on his back beside Quentin.
“Shit, El—” Q laughs, quiet and full of wonder. “Holy fuck, that was amazing,” he rolls onto his side to stare at Eliot, reaching out a hand to trail his knuckles lightly down Eliot’s cheek. “You’re amazing.”
Eliot shivers at Quentin’s touch, turning his face to lean into it and kiss his palm. Quentin smiles at him, all tender like—
(Like they’re dating.)
—he cares about Eliot as—
(More than just friends.)
—Margo cares about him, in that same way—
(Partners care about each other.)
—he also cares about Margo, but Quentin is—
—something different to him, means something different, and he can’t quite. He can’t quite voice it yet, so instead he—
“Q? What’s your take on soulmates?”
But he doesn’t look away from Quentin, knows that his armour is in place before he had even consciously made the decision, so he knows he just looks appropriately mildly curious. It doesn’t stop the shutters closing down on Quentin’s face though, or hide the tension that has suddenly filled his limbs and floods over into the space between them, souring their afterglow.
Quentin blows out a breath and rolls onto his back again, staring up at Eliot’s ceiling, jaw working like he’s chewing the words before spitting them out.
Eventually, he says, “It’s uh—like a really good concept? Like. I guess it—it’s um. Really comforting to know that there’s like, someone who is perfect for you, you know?”
Eliot can feel his eyebrows ticking up, half-amused, as he watches Q’s face go—on an interesting journey. “But…?” he prompts, because he can hear a but in there.
“But in practise, it—what are the chances, really, that you find your soulmate? There’s—you know—over seven billion people on Earth, so what are the chances you find yours before you die? You know their initials, then what? You know nothing else about them. You could meet someone with the same initials that are on your skin, but it might not be them. Probably isn’t them—in fact, if you do the maths, you’re more likely to meet someone with the same initials as your Mark than you are to actually meet the right one who matches, and it’s—it’s just actually really shitty in practise.”
Eliot has to bite down on the fond smile he can feel curling at his lips, because this is clearly something Quentin has thought a lot about, if his enthusiastic rambling is anything to go by. Not to mention the fact that Quentin even knows the stats for Soulmates—yeah, if he doesn’t head this off now, it’s going to develop into a Major Quentin Coldwater Nerd Rant.
Which he isn’t usually opposed to, because fuck does he enjoy listening to Quentin talk, but it’s apparently not the reason why his traitorous mouth brought it up in the first place.
But he also does not want to open that particular can of worms just yet, so—so he just leans over for a quick kiss, surprising Quentin into silence.
He surprises himself too. He’d only meant to change the subject.
(His cowardice is nothing new though.)
“Hey,” he says, when they eventually come up for air.
“Hey,” Quentin responds, eyes crinkling in the corners as he smiles.
Eliot stares at the boy next to him in bed; drinks in his amused eyes and messy hair, his charming smile that threatens to spill into a grin, his silky-smooth skin. He doesn’t think he could ever get enough of looking at Quentin like this.
“Sleep?” he asks, pulling his duvet up and over both of them.
Quentin hums and squirms in closer to Eliot’s chest until he can tuck his head into the hollow of his neck. Eliot places a kiss on the crown of his head, lips lingering there for a second longer than usual, before he snakes an arm around Q’s waist to hold him close, letting his eyes fall shut.
And if he thinks he feels a warm, butterfly kiss on his chest, light and brief, well.
It was probably just Eliot’s half-asleep imagination.
“Yeah… Um… Lets just–save our overthinking for the puzzle, yeah?”
Quentin doesn’t so much as wake up as he floats from whatever pleasant dream he’d been having into slow consciousness.
It is, probably, the most relaxed way of waking up he’s ever encountered in his entire life.
Jesus, is this what waking up next to Eliot is like?
Quentin could live with that. He could very much live with that.
But does Eliot want that?
He knows Eliot is not the dating type—how many times has he seen Eliot hooking up with people at Cottage parties? How many of them has he kept around for more than a couple of days?
Absolutely none of them.
But—Quentin and Eliot are friends, first and foremost. So maybe… Maybe Eliot won’t drop him after a couple of days? If they like—had sex more than once? Maybe Eliot will keep him around, even if he only just wants to have sex a few times, because they’re friends. Right?
Quentin squirms back just slightly, trying not to wake Eliot, just so he can take a proper look at a sleep-relaxed Eliot in the morning light.
He’s just as beautiful.
Eliot Waugh is truly breath-taking; every time Quentin looks at him, it’s like he’s being sucker punched. But a sleeping Eliot…
A sleeping Eliot is otherworldly, almost fay-like; his fair skin is almost glowing in the light of the morning sun, and his curls lay across his forehead, messy but artfully, like he had arranged them like that anyway. His lips are slightly parted, small puffs of air escaping as he sleeps, and Quentin can’t help but to lightly trace a finger over the shape of them. And then, because he apparently can’t control himself, Quentin runs his finger up and down his nose a couple of times before tracing his cheekbones, and then over his eyelids. They tremble under his touch, which makes him pull his fingers away.
“Oh, don’t stop on my account.”
Quentin startles, eyes flicking over Eliot’s face. His eyes are still closed, but he has a small smile curling the corners of his lips.
“Jesus—how long have you been awake?”
Eliot blinks his eyes open, and Quentin has to suck in a breath because. He has this tender, affectionate look in his beautiful eyes, like Quentin is the only thing in the world that matters to him, and he’s not sure what to do with that because—they’re just friends, who just happened to have sex last night.
“Hm… I think I kind of woke up at the point you started tickling my nose.”
“I was not tickling—” he huffs at the grin that suddenly makes an appearance on Eliot’s face.
They lay in silence for a few moments, just staring at each other, basking in the few rays of sun that manages to filter through Eliot’s curtains. But Quentin can’t ignore the question that has started weighing heavily on his mind.
“So—so like. Are we—still friends?”
He watches as Eliot props himself up on one elbow, resting his head in his hand.
“I think it’s a bit late in the semester to be asking if we’re friends, no?” Eliot teases.
“You know what I mean, dickhead.” he rolls his eyes but he can’t quite stop smiling, which definitely lessens the exasperated effect he was going for.
Eliot hums, reaching forward to twist a strand of Quentin’s hair in his fingers. “Do you want to stay friends?”
Quentin blinks because—well, that’s a nonsensical question. Of course he wants to continue being friends with Eliot, as if he would want to go back to a life where he isn’t friends with him?
“Of course I want to stay friends. Do you?”
Eliot smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Yeah, Q. I’d like to stay friends.”
Quentin can feel his brows crease together in mild confusion. Why did Eliot sound like that was the last thing he wanted? He clears his throat, eyes darting to the side nervously before fixing back on Eliot’s. “So um, are we like—friends with benefits then?”
“We can be. Do you want that? Or do you just want to be friends?”
“Um.” Quentin chews on his lip, eyes roving over Eliot’s face to try and gauge what he’s thinking. “As long as like. Nothing changes between us except having sex, I’m fine with friends-with-benefits.” Because—if friends who occasionally had sex with each other was the closest thing he could get to some sort of relationship with Eliot, he was going to take it. Because Eliot doesn’t date, so why would Quentin be the one to change that for him? So he continues to watch the other, but he’s not reacting to what Quentin’s saying in any way he expected him to, and he doesn’t know what to make of that. “Oh, um—if you want that?”
“Friends-with-benefits is fine with me. Nothing will change.”
“Okay,” Eliot echoes.
They continue to stare at each other, assessing, and Quentin feels off-kilter. Like there’s an awkward air between them now that hadn’t been there before, had never been there before, and Quentin doesn’t know how to shake it off. Everything before had been so easy with Eliot, even falling into bed together, that this awkwardness feels weird. What’s worse is that he can’t assess what Eliot is thinking; he can usually read what sort of mood Eliot is in, whether it’s anger, or frustration, or happiness. But right now, Eliot just feels — detached. Like he’s somewhere far off where Quentin can’t reach.
“Q, last night you said something about meeting soulmates. Have you—?”
“Oh, no. No, I haven’t met my soulmate.”
The last thing Quentin wanted to talk about with Eliot, of all people, is soulmates. Why does he keep bringing it up? He would’ve thought Eliot would want to avoid the topic too, considering he hadn’t appeared to care about it before; he was always hooking up with people that Quentin had just taken it as a big fuck you, I’ll be with whoever I want kind of thing, which was—very on brand for Eliot? Or so he had thought.
But like… No time like the present to rip the band-aid off though, right?
“I, um. I don’t actually, like. I don’t have a soulmate? So. Yeah, um—it’s a bit difficult to meet your soulmate if you don’t, you know, have one.”
Quentin watches as Eliot’s face pulls—an interesting array of expressions that he has no hope whatsoever in deciphering. He watches as Eliot settles on neutral-sympathy (at least, he thinks it’s neutral-sympathy? He’s not entirely sure) though he’s giving Quentin an equally unreadable look.
“I’m—sorry. To hear that.” Eliot eventually says. A pause, then— “I haven’t met mine anyway, and I don’t think I ever will.”
“Oh.” Quentin frowns, biting his lip in indecision before deciding to just ask, “Why’d you think that?”
“Well, like you said, chances of actually meeting the one meant for you is very, very limited.”
Quentin nods in understanding. He had said something to that effect, hadn’t he? Though it kind of makes him sad and guilty that something he’s said has made this pensive look cross Eliot’s face; a face that was made to look regal and majestic, not this sad or brooding look he is currently sporting.
“Well, um. For what it’s worth, I bet your soulmate is just as spectacular as you.”
Eliot smiles and gazes at him, all gentle and fond. “Yeah, I like to think they are.”
Quentin has to beat down the well of emotions that arises because even though he still can’t get a read on Eliot, he knows that this time round, that expression was not for him.
Eliot’s soulmate, whoever they are, is one very, very lucky person.
“So what’s your name?”
“I’m Eliot. Don’t tell me anything else, I don’t want to know. Don’t want to get attached.”
So Quentin became friends-with-benefits with Eliot, which was—actually really, really nice? Apart from that first morning, they didn’t have any more awkward moments between them; in fact, Quentin would go so far as to say they had gotten even closer than before.
He realised this when he started noticing that Eliot would drag him out into the city for a day, bemoaning the fact that being at Brakebills every day is so very boring, I need to get out every so often while they got coffee and went window shopping or whatever.
He realised this when Eliot would convince him to skip a class in favour of a picnic and wine, laying on the grass just a little off from the side of the Cottage as they blew smoke-shapes into the air and got day-drunk.
He realised this when Eliot would invite him into his room, but only to cuddle and watch Netflix on his contraband laptop, and argue about what to watch because they had such different tastes in genre, but they’d always end up napping halfway through whatever they were watching anyway.
He realised this when Eliot would sit him down in the Cottage kitchen so he could act as Eliot’s guinea pig for a new cocktail, or so Eliot could cook them a decent meal because an apple and one cracker is not a meal, Quentin, Jesus.
That’s not to say they never hung out with Margo either. If he wasn’t alone with Eliot, it was always because Margo was with them; sometimes she’d join them in watching Netflix, or would drink with them and chat nerdy shit with him while Eliot listened, or she would join them in the city for window shopping, which would always end up with Margo giving them a fashion show in whichever shop she chose that day.
He is really great friends with Margo too, would even go so far as to say she’s one of his best friends. But his friendship with Eliot is different from his friendship with Margo; Eliot knows things about Quentin that, up until now, only Julia knew. He has no doubt that Eliot probably tells Margo, and he has no problems with that, because he knows that Eliot’s friendship with Margo is something akin to what he has with Julia. To be perfectly honest, Quentin is glad he doesn’t have to rehash all his problems to Margo if Eliot is telling her everything, so it’s a relief really; he’s not trying to hide anything from Margo, it’s just—telling Eliot already takes so much out of him emotionally that he’d rather Eliot just told Margo so he wouldn’t have to. But the fact that he’s willing to tell Eliot in the first place cements the knowledge that they have gotten closer since their new status has taken effect.
He also realises this when Eliot barges into his room and flops down onto his bed, drunk off his ass, and blurts out his childhood secrets to Quentin, who had been startled from his book, and then fondly amused when Eliot had gone on his drunk ramblings, and then alarmed when he realised this was a topic Eliot couldn’t talk about unless he was—as inebriated as this.
So Eliot knows all about him being institutionalised and his depression and his medication, and he knows all about Eliot’s life in Indiana, and his father, and Taylor, and Logan Kinnear.
And Quentin found that beautiful; the fact that Eliot had trusted him enough to tell him, that it was something he wanted Quentin to know, even if he had to tell him while drunk. All the sex was just a bonus.
And god, was there a lot of sex.
Sex in Eliot’s room, sex in Quentin’s room, sex in the kitchen one memorable night, sex in the closet during a party…
They’d even had sex over a professor’s desk in one of the classrooms.
The mortification Quentin felt the next day when he’d realised they’d done it in the room his Healing class—his favourite class—was held in was all-consuming. He’d taken one look at the desk and had turned such an alarming shade of red that Julia had thought he’d needed to go see Lipson.
He’s going to kill Eliot.
The point is, Quentin considers Eliot his best friend, and the sex is amazing, but—
It’s not exactly the kind of relationship he had hoped to have with Eliot. The frustrating thing is, he knows that’s partly his fault; when Eliot had asked if he wanted to be friends-with-benefits, he should have told him right off the bat that he wanted an actual relationship. Instead, he now has to accept that he’ll only ever be friends with him.
(Do you want that? Or do you just want to be friends?)
Jesus, why is he such a disaster? Why couldn’t he just talk like a normal person and say no Eliot, I’d like to date you, and hold hands with you, and kiss you whenever I want, what would he have had to lose? At least he would have tried, even if he had been rejected.
(Yeah, Q. I’d like to stay friends.)
Besides, why had Eliot been looking at him like that anyway? Like—he’d been expecting a different answer? Had he thought Quentin would say no thanks Eliot, I got what I wanted, I don’t want to know you anymore after having the best sex of his life? Yeah, like that would ever happen. If Quentin was being perfectly honest, it kind of hurt that Eliot would think he’d be so shallow as to drop a friend as soon as he’s had sex with them. If Quentin was being honest, he would tell Eliot that it hurts to see him lead another boy upstairs because he wants to date him, and be more than friends. With benefits.
But he’s not being honest.
So he tucks his feelings away into that little corner of his heart, and turns his attention away from Eliot’s disappearing back in order to tune back into Julia and Alice’s conversation, taking another large gulp of his bright blue drink.
Out of sight, out of mind.
(Friends-with-benefits is fine with me. Nothing will change.)
He ignores Margo’s Look and takes another gulp of his drink, keeping that bundle of feelings tightly wrapped up, to be examined another day. Or never at all.
(Nothing will change.)
He takes a shot with Julia.
(Nothing will change.)
He performs his usual card tricks.
(Nothing will change.)
He finishes his drink, and gets another.
(Nothing will change.)
He dances with Alice.
(Nothing will change.)
He takes another shot, with Margo.
(Nothing will change.)
He dances with Julia.
(Nothing will change.)
He takes another shot, with Alice.
(Nothing will change.)
He downs another drink.
He sings karaoke.
He makes out with some redheaded stranger.
And he ignores that little bundle of feelings that threaten to consume him.
“We will go back. We just have to do one more thing first.”
“Eliot, stop. I’m serious. Turn the ship around. I’m never leaving Fillory again.”
“Just one thing. You’ll like it.”
“I don’t think I’m going to like it.”
“Oh, you’re going to love it. It’s an adventure.”
Eliot has no fucking idea what the fuck he’s doing.
No really, how did he go from seduce Quentin Coldwater and tell him we’re soulmates to friends-with-benefits is fine with me because—he has no clue how he managed to fuck this up so bad.
Even this is a whole new level for him.
He lets out a long-suffering sigh and leans back into the couch, calling his glass of wine over.
“Do not tell me you are moping again,” a voice calls, before Margo steps around the corner with a platter of cheese and crackers.
Eliot takes a rather generous sip of his drink, closing his eyes to focus on the taste of the wine instead of the peachesandplumspeachesandplums that are still wanting to slide down his throat alongside the wine.
He’s choking on it.
He wants to drown in it.
“I’m not moping,” he says instead, half-opening his eyes to watch Margo place the plate on the coffee table in front of him and slide gracefully into the space beside him, curling up into his side.
He slides his arm around Margo to hold her close, dropping a kiss to the crown of her head, as she uses her own limited telekinesis to float the cheese and crackers closer to them.
“El, you can’t go on like this. You’re going to have to tell him.”
“I’m not telling him. He’s happy as friends, Bambi, I’m not going to ruin that.”
“What about your happiness?” she responds sharply, throwing a look up at him.
Eliot presses his lips together before deliberately relaxing and taking another sip of wine, the very picture of decadent casualness.
“I am happy. I have you, and I have Q, in every way he’ll let me have him,” he says, light and airy. A pause, then a— “And that’s been a lot of ways.”
“Gross,” Margo responds, wrinkling her nose.
Yet her eyes are amused as he smirks at her and takes a cracker with cheese on it. They sit in companionable silence for a while, sipping wine and eating their platter of crackers. Eliot perhaps drinks a bit more than he should, but he just can’t wash down the taste of tropical fruit from his mouth, and it’s making him restless.
It doesn’t help that he can feel Quentin’s brand of magic in the air, making him shiver every time it runs through him.
God, this is torture.
And then, because his life is one big massive cosmic joke, Eliot sees Quentin through the windows of the Cottage, talking enthusiastically with a brunette who is definitely not Julia.
“Oooh,” Margo purrs, glee dripping from her voice. “Looks like baby Q is getting all the girls’ attention.”
Eliot straightens in his seat, eyes narrowing at Margo, who isn’t even looking at him. “What do you mean?”
“I’m just saying… I think that’s the—fourth?—person who has shown an interest in him since last week’s party.”
“Last week’s party? What happened at last week’s party?”
Even while staring at Q through the windows, Eliot can still see Margo’s sly grin from the corner of his eyes. He doesn’t remember much of last week’s party; he does remember drinking a lot, and dancing a lot, and… He had taken someone upstairs, hadn’t he, someone who was Decidedly Not Quentin Coldwater.
“Oh, not much. Unless you count our boy here sucking face with Poppy.”
“Poppy? Poppy Kline?” Eliot asks, half incredulously, half derisively.
Poppy was—well, she’s a third year, but word got around, and rumour has it that she’s incredibly into dragons. Like, on a weird would-fuck-them-even-if-it-killed-me into them. And he knows Quentin’s a nerd, but Eliot likes to think he knows him by now, and—he doesn’t think that’s Q’s particular brand.
“Shit,” he breathes, feeling his eyebrows do something complicated in response to that little tidbit of information. “Did he—?”
“Oh no, not at all. They shared maybe one or two kisses, and then he spent the rest of the night looking like a kicked puppy,” Margo pauses for dramatic effect before continuing, “Because you’d disappeared upstairs with another boy.”
Eliot starts, head whipping round to stare at Margo and ignoring the Cottage door opening and the sound of Q’s footsteps on the hardwood floor.
“Oh hey El, Margo!”
Margo appraises Eliot for a beat longer, brows raised meaningfully, before she swivels round to greet Quentin. “Hey baby Q, come sit with us!” she calls cheerily, with a flirtatious undertone.
Eliot gives her a light jab in the ribs with his elbow for that, but she doesn’t react except to smile wickedly, though her eyes are still on the boy at the door.
(He hates her.)
Quentin’s eyes quickly darts to Eliot before he smiles uncertainly at Margo, wary of her keen contemplation. Then he swallows, hands flexing around his bag strap, and makes the short walk from the door to the couch, slumping down into the space next to Margo. She immediately cards her fingers through his hair and he sighs, closing his eyes and leaning into her which—
Eliot clears his throat quietly, looking away so he could school his features into something less—sappy and heat-filled even as he silently summons another wine glass for Q. They’re both going to be the death of him one day, he swears.
He’s just not sure which way he’d rather go.
“We could be done tomorrow, for all you know. We can’t just throw away all this time we’ve invested! You want to live your life, live it here.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what that means.”
Quentin is studying with Julia and Alice in the library when everything goes to shit.
Well, it was actually after their study session when everything goes to hell, but it certainly started in the library.
The three of them are sitting there in their usual corner, debating the merits of Horomancy, when Margo somehow manages to creep up on them. She all but slams her hands down on the table as she takes the seat opposite Quentin, making all three of them startle out of their debate.
“Alright Q, please tell me you know so we can skip part one of what’s going to be a very difficult conversation.”
“Jesus Margo, we’re a bit busy—” he slams his mouth shut at her glare, his teeth clacking together.
“Soulmates, Coldwater. I’m talking about soulmates.” Margo continues, like Quentin hadn’t just tried protesting her presence.
Quentin flinches at the word, and just at the edge of his field of vision, he also sees Julia wince.
“Uh, what—” he clears his throat, “What about them?”
Margo pulls the biggest eye roll he’s ever seen, including the ones she aims at Todd, and folds her hands together. “Your soulmate specifically, Q.” she clarifies.
Quentin blinks at her blankly for a few seconds before exchanging a quick look with Julia. She looks just as baffled as he does, so—
“Your soulmate? Your life partner? Jesus Q, did you wake up without your brain today?” Quentin frowns at her, opening his mouth to object in indignation, but before he can, she continues, “I’m talking about Eliot, dickwad.”
And Quentin just—continues to blink at her. Because what? Is she…?
He lets out a breath and shakes his head in the attempt to clear it.
“Yeah okay, he clearly didn’t tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
Her smile is sweet, but Quentin can see the sharp edges of it, like she’s challenging him. Are you telling me there’s something my best friend hasn’t told me?
Quentin casts another glance at Julia, who is looking at him in concern. She quirks a brow at him, a quick uptick, and he shrugs in reply. Then he turns back to Margo.
“Um, I. I don’t exactly—” he pauses, takes a nervous breath— “I don’t have a soulmate, Margo.”
He sees Alice jerk in her seat on his left, but his eyes don’t leave Margo. But she’s only staring back at him coolly, which. Well, it’s not exactly the reaction he thought she’d have for such a momentous bit of information. They continue to stare at each for a few moments before Margo blows out a sigh and sits back in her chair.
“Well, fuck me sideways—you don’t know.”
Quentin feels his brows furrow at that because. Why isn’t she reacting like everyone else has before?
“I’m—sorry? What don’t I know?”
Margo taps her fingernails against the table, contemplating him, before she flips her hair over her shoulder and leans forward on her elbows, resting her head in her cupped hands.
“You do have a soulmate, Q. Everyone does.”
But he’s already shaking his head, because he doesn’t. He’s known that since he turned sixteen.
“I—I don’t, Margo. No Marks, no soulmates. Everyone knows that.”
“Yes, but not everyone are Magicians now, are they.”
Quentin feels his heart stop. Is she telling him—? No, she couldn’t be. Could she? That’s just too much to hope for. As he stares wide-eyed at her, trying to get his heart to restart, Julia leans forward in her seat.
“Are you suggesting Magicians have a different way of finding their soulmates?” she asks, eyes fixated on the other woman.
Margo turns to her, smirk curling at the corners of her lips. “Oh sweetie, I’m not suggesting. I’m telling.”
Alice leans forward in her seat, sliding her glasses back up her nose. “Theory is, Magicians have had a different way of finding their soulmates since Merlin’s death.”
Quentin finally manages to get his heart to start beating again, though it’s erratic. “How did—how come no one’s told us?” his voice comes out strangled, which is embarrassing, but. He’s just been given a life changing bit of information that has somehow evaded his knowledge for the past four months, so sue him.
(He ignores that little tidbit about Merlin, for now. That’s a whole other thing for another day.)
“It’s Brakebills, honey. Magic runs on pain.” Margo throws a glance at Julia, adding, “Though I’m a bit surprised no one from your cohort told you.”
Julia presses her lips together in a frown, displeased at that revelation though there’s nothing she can do about it now; but she makes a mental note to give them an earful later.
“So how does—how do we know?” Quentin asks, because that’s currently the most important thing on his mind right now.
Margo turns her sharp smile onto him, though her eyes soften and she winks playfully. “Tell me, Q. What does magic smell like to you? Or what does it taste like? Or what does it feel like, even?”
Quentin tilts his head in thought, thinking back to when he had first noticed he could feel magic, could taste it in the air, could smell it around campus.
“It’s like ozone. Like um, like lightning. I guess.”
“That’s great.” Margo looks between him and Julia before settling on him once again. “Magic’s like that for everyone.”
“Wait—you really didn’t know? Neither of you?” Alice is staring at them both with an appalled look on her face, with a hint of guilt. “If I’d have known, I would have told you,” she says, sad frown tugging at her lips.
“It’s okay, Alice,” Julia says gently. “You couldn’t have known unless we told you. We just thought—well, we thought Magicians found their soulmates the same way as everyone else.”
Quentin reaches over to squeeze Alice’s hand reassuringly. “We’re being told now, so it’s fine. Okay?”
She nods and gives him the smallest of smiles, though he can see that the guilt is still weighing heavy on her mind. He gives her hand another squeeze before turning back to Margo, catches her gaze darting to his hand on Alice’s before meeting his eyes. Quentin flushes with self-consciousness, but he doesn’t move. Alice is his friend too.
Margo grins at him, amused, but doesn’t comment on it.
“So. Lightning?” Julia prompts, shuffling her chair closer.
“Magic is the same for everyone,” Margo responds without missing a beat. Then her focus narrows in on Quentin. “Now riddle me this, Q—what’s Eliot’s magic like?”
Quentin relaxes, feels his lips twitch up into an automatic smile. “It’s. Well, it’s particularly strong when we’re in the same room, or when he uses his telekinesis. I assume that’s because it’s his discipline?” then, without waiting for an answer— “It makes the back of my neck tingle, different from the usual jolt I feel whenever anyone else uses magic. Eliot’s is gentler, like—like a caress.” he can feel himself getting even warmer in the cheeks at that description, but he couldn’t really think of another word for it.
Julia snorts at him, letting out a quiet, “Jesus, Q.”
He ignores her.
“And, um. It smells like fruit? Tropical fruit. Quite sweet, but a nice kind of sweet, you know? Smells like fruit too. Oh! I think it’s peaches and—”
His eyes go so wide that he distantly worries they’re going to pop out of his head, but it’s barely a thought compared to all the blood thundering through his ears, drowning everything else out.
Magic smells like ozone.
(Magic’s like that for everyone.)
A forkful of lightning.
(Magic’s like that—)
Flashing through him in white-hot shocks.
But not Eliot’s.
Eliot’s magic has always been different, has always been the exception. How had he never thought to question that before?
Fucking hell, he’s been such a fucking idiot.
But also—why hadn’t anyone told him about how Magicians find their soulmates by their distinctive smell, and feel, and taste of their magic? Why has it only come up now? Why, in a school that teaches magic, is there not a class about it?
Faintly, he can hear himself say, “Holy shit. Eliot’s my soulmate.” High and tinny. He can’t quite believe it, not yet. “Did he—does he know?”
“Mm…” Margo hums, and Quentin takes note of the amusement dancing in her eyes. “He’s known for… a little over two months, now?”
Quentin’s head spins, and he has to grip the edge of the table in order not to fall over in his chair. “Two months?” he squeaks, shocked, loud.
They all ignore the harsh shhh! from some random student because—Quentin is going through something and none of them care about anything else right now, least of all being quiet in the library.
“I—Jesus—why didn’t. Why hasn’t he said anything?”
“Because, baby Q, Eliot’s scared to chase his own happiness. It’s a character defect that he’s still working on.”
“In other words, he’s scared of fucking up his friendship with you,” Julia says to him, and—is that a note of admiration in her voice?
Quentin opens his mouth and then closes it, because he literally does not have anything to say to that. His brain feels like it’s melting, he’s that overwhelmed, and all he can do is blink at Margo and Julia helplessly.
Alice squeezes his hand, the one that’s still holding onto her, and says, “You should go talk to him, Q.” Soft, gentle, encouraging.
He nods, and nods. “Yeah, I—I should probably go do that.” he manages to croak out. Still nodding; he feels like one of those bobble-heads.
And then, with a start, he jerks to his feet and pretty much runs out of the library. He can hear Julia call out to him, can hear the women rush about collecting their things to chase after him.
He bursts out of the main building, startling a few students who were just about to walk through the doors, and glances about. He pauses long enough for Julia to catch up to him, carrying his bag.
“Q, Jesus, you left your bag.”
Quentin turns to take is bag from her hands, giving her a sheepish smile. He just catches a glimpse of Alice hurrying her way to them, and Margo just behind her, walking leisurely like she has all the time in the world.
And then he’s hit with a stray spell.
Julia turns, furiously looking for the culprit, but looks back at Quentin in alarm when he stumbles into her, reaching his hands out for balance.
“Fuck, Q, how are you feeling? Shit, I don’t even know what hit you,” she frets, hands hovering all over him.
Alice and Margo catches up to them, Alice already performing the Mann Reveal and scanning over Quentin. His vision swims, and he grabs at Julia’s arm.
“Jules—think I’m—” he sways, knocking into her and making her stagger to try and hold them both up. “I’m gonna—”
And then he’s falling backwards, backwards into darkness.
Quentin watches anxiously from the kitchen counter as he watches Jules answer the door.
Again, and again, and again.
He pours himself a drink, and then a shot, and then another drink. And he watches as the loft continues to gradually fill with people, people he doesn’t know. His hands twitch, itching to move, restless. He’s vibrating with nervous energy, he knows, but he can’t help it; he’s not a party person, even less so if it’s filled to the brim with people he doesn’t know.
But this is their last night before they become grad students, and he had agreed to this, after all.
Even though, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t a great idea.
The more he drinks though, the more he loosens up, just a bit. People have started doing body shots now near the refreshments table, and Quentin drifts over, hovering just on the edges of the group just to soak in their good party mood. He drinks more while being so close to the refreshments table, smiling as the students cheer around him, encouraging their friends to drink more and take more shots.
After a while, he feels the need to sit before he topples over, so he drifts over to one of the pillars, the one that faces the large windows, and slides down onto the beanbag placed there with his red solo cup.
He comes to the realisation that there is an attractive student dancing alone by the window, directly in his line of sight; she’s wearing a unicorn t-shirt, and a white fluffy sort of jacket, and short shorts. But he realises he’s staring, which is probably disrespectful? So he—hides behind his cup, doesn’t he, because he’s really fucking awkward like that, and god, why couldn’t he just be normal for once?
So Quentin finishes his drink, and then goes for another, and another. And then he finds himself performing card tricks which garners him a small audience, as per usual, but they lose interest when he starts talking about close-up card tricks which makes him remember—oh, people aren’t really interested in his ramblings. Which leaves him drifting around the fringes of the party again for a little while, drinking even more in the efforts of leaving his anxiety and awkwardness behind.
Soon he finds himself rambling again, about original fairy-tales and dark Danish souls, with his hands gesticulating around him as they are wont to do whenever he’s talking about something he’s passionate about, which is a lot of the time.
And then he feels it.
A brush of the shoulders.
He glances to the side, apology on the tip of his tongue, and then has to adjust his eyes upwards, eyes catching on the silver glint of a flask, because—Jesus, the guy is so much fucking taller than him, and oh fuck, he’s also absolutely gorgeous.
Quentin shivers when he catches his eyes, dark curls just shy of falling into them, and he squints at him just slightly to try and get rid of the blurriness around the edges of his lean form; and Quentin finds himself thinking ‘do I know you?’ But he realises he’s been staring too long, feels his cheeks heat up in embarrassment, so Quentin gives him an awkward half-smile and turns away back to the people he had been talking to before, mumbling a quiet “Sorry.”
And then the striking young man walks out of his life, there and gone again like smoke in the wind.
“Do you think they’re okay?”
“They were knocked out cold, at the same time. I don’t think that qualifies as ‘okay’.”
“Will they be okay?”
“…They better fucking be okay.”
She had stolen away in the middle of the night, dressed in rags and long dark hair covered with a hooded cloak in the efforts that no one would recognise her. She rode hard and fast until the sun started to rise, bathing everything in a golden light.
They met on the spit of a beach, where a small ship awaited just on the cusp of the horizon. He was standing next to the little rowing boat that was bobbing in the sea; tall, silhouetted against the rising sun, dark curls just shy of falling into his eyes that she knew to be russet-coloured, reflecting the dawn.
She tumbled down from her horse and flew into his arms, and he caught her just as she knew he would, and she couldn’t stop the joyful laughter that leaves her lips to ring in the morning air. He picked her up and twirled her round, laughing himself, before he sets her back on her feet and leans down for a kiss.
“I missed you,” he murmurs, soft against her lips.
“Oh, and I you,” she responds, eyes sparkling.
He helps her into the boat, and he rows them the short distance to the ship where his closest friend was waiting, and thus they sailed away.
She had escaped, for a while. But neither of them had predicted the war that would follow them across the seas; the war that would rip their world apart, would tear them asunder.
Ten long years of blood and war, only to end in her soulmate’s death. And they took her back anyway, back to her prison, back to the husband she has never loved.
She pretends to anyway, for the sake of living a full life.
She is the face that launched a thousand ships.
She is the woman who stayed in a loveless marriage until her death so she could fulfil a promise made long ago, to live a full and happy life.
She never once forgot the face of her soulmate though, the one from long ago on the shores of that beach, wild curls falling across his forehead.
Oh, how she longed to see him again, to look into those eyes that sparkled in the gold of the dawn, eyes that she would recognise anywhere.
“Fuck! How long has it been?”
“Lipson said it shouldn’t be long—the spell should only last a couple of hours at most.”
The first time he saw her was at a soirée that garnered a lot of attention from his peers, and so he had been pulled along despite not wanting to.
And there she sat, the most beautiful in the room—a Queen in every sense of the word—in a white silken dress and another beautiful maiden at her side. Their heads were tilted close together, and they were whispering and giggling.
Her hair was done in small braids all over, and the gold of her jewellery heightened the colour of her gold-flecked eyes, lined out in black kohl. Her gaze flicked up at his entrance, meeting his from across the room, and his breath caught.
Gods, she is beautiful.
Their love burned bright and fierce; meetings in secret places, stolen kisses in the night, lingering looks in the heat of the desert.
He divorced his wife for her.
He challenged the ire of the senate because of the divorce, for her.
He allowed his brother-in-law to hate him, for her.
And it was all worth it.
She gave him three beautiful children, and they were going to leave everything to them so they could rule after they were gone from this world. They were going to build an empire for them, secure their futures so they would never want or need for anything.
And then war came to them, and the ashes of their future blew away with the sand.
While he had been on the front lines, he had gotten news of his Queen, his Pharaoh, being poisoned. Thinking she could not bear the thought of losing him and their children, he had believed she had taken her own life than carry that grief. And so he had fallen on his own sword, because he could not bear the thought of a future without her, the strongest, most beautiful woman he had ever known.
And so they died, to be buried together in her tomb so they could meet in the afterlife, their empire burned away in the fire that took their great library.
“Isn’t this taking longer than Lipson said?”
“Are they even safe? Do we even know what the spell is doing?”
“They’re just knocked out.”
“Yes, but it’s been hours! How do we know they’re not—that they’re—”
“Don’t you fucking dare ask that question. They’re not, because I won’t allow them to.”
They were both young when they met.
His soulmate had been just a Prince, golden haired and arrogant, but with a soft heart that he tried to hide behind armour. He hadn’t known then, what the Prince would grow to mean to him, but he had known he’d be someone important; his magic had told him so. And then he’d gotten a job at court—he was to be the Court Magician.
And with the job came more time spent in the Prince’s presence.
They were polite to each other—when they weren’t being antagonistic, that is. But then he saved the Prince’s life for the first time.
And then the second time.
And then the third time.
And he thinks, over the years of saving his life with his magic, they had grown to be close friends and, in time, secret lovers.
He saved his Prince countless times, but his Prince had saved him just as much. He believed in his Prince like he had never believed in anyone before, and his magic believed in him too. Even the magic in the fabric of the world believed in his gold-touched soulmate, he could feel it.
His Prince had been destined to usher in the Golden Age, and he was to be by his side.
He watched as his Prince became King.
He was with him when he assembled the Round Table.
He was with him on his quest for the Holy Grail.
He was with him when he married his Queen.
And as he became entombed in a cave—betrayed by one of his own students—his heart and magic crying out in bitter, bitter pain, he felt the moment his Prince, his King, his soulmate, died on the battlefield.
And he could not even be there for him as he died alone in a friendless world; his knights dead before him, his Queen alone on the throne, thinking his soulmate had abandoned him.
He howled his agony, heard it echo back at him in the darkness as his magic spluttered out—useless in the one time it really mattered—tearing the earth beneath his feet.
He fell, fell, fell.
And then he grew; first a sprout, and then a sapling—somehow, impossibly, he grew in the darkness of that cave, his magic digging roots and branching out into unknown parts, sluggish and docile.
But always, always nudging the fabric of the world, pushing compatible strands of magic together over the centuries, feeling out for that spark he would know anyplace.
“It’s been too long, we have to—”
“No. We don’t know how other spells will react with this one. This is unprecedented.”
“We also don’t know if they’re actually okay!”
“Look at them—are they bleeding out of their orifices? Are they having seizures? Have their organs failed, or exploded?”
“Well, no, but—”
“They’re sleeping. In a coma. That’s all.”
“Look. Lipson’s keeping an eye on them, alright? She’s the best in the field, so if she says there’s nothing worse going on, then there’s nothing worse going on.”
“Alright! Fine. Doesn’t mean I’m still not going to kill those students who can’t fucking control their own spell.”
“I expect nothing less, darling.”
He was a sailor, just one of the crew, when he met him.
He was rescued, actually.
Their ship had gone down in a pirate attack, when another pirate ship had sidled up to the wreckage, fending off the other and then calling out for survivors once their opponents had been defeated.
He and his best friend were the only two survivors.
And so they were taken in, trained in the art of the sword, in helping to actually man the ship. He became the ship’s repairman, because they’d found he was the best at fixing things.
The pirates were led by a pair of Captains, who commanded them with iron fists.
And oh, their Captains were a sight to behold—one a beautiful woman with flowing brown locks and a sharp gaze, and the other tall and lean with dark curls that fell into his eyes and a sinful mouth that had a perpetual smirk tugging on it.
Oh, how he wanted.
How he wanted to kiss that smirk off his perfect face.
How he wanted to pull on those curls so they became a wild mop on his head.
How he wanted to pull his breeches down and sink to his knees.
How he wanted to worship him, in every capacity he’d be allowed.
Then, after a vicious attack, he was allowed the privilege of seeing his tall Captain without his shirt, because he’d been one of the few to get out of the fight fairly unscathed.
And so he had been called on to attend to his Captain’s wounds.
He’d fought very, very hard to keep his eyes respectfully on the wounds he was tending and not letting them stray even an inch. Because he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his impulses under control with all that temptation laid before him; his Captain’s finely toned chest, the muscles in his arms, the dimples in his back.
But then he found it, his Captain’s Soul Mark, and—it matched.
It matched his initials, but his own Mark were…
“We’re a match,” his smooth voice revealed, low and gravelly. “I’ve seen yours. We match.”
He’d walked back round to his front so he could look into his russet brown eyes, see the flecks in them that were the golden colour of a new dawn. His heart thump-thump-thumping as they stared at each other, motionless; a moment of ‘I know you’ passed between them, charged with an inexplicable current, electric yet gentle and familiar all the same.
And then they kissed and kissed, like their lives depended on it, like they were long lost lovers that had finally found each other again.
And the ocean had heaved a great sigh, like it was relieved, and they were rocked to sleep in the Captain’s bed, tangled in each other, skin-on-skin.
“What if they remain comatose for years?”
“Please shut up.”
“What if they never wake up?”
“I said, shut the fuck up.”
“…I’m just saying.”
He is the second son of the duke, and despite not being the heir, his parents still insisted on making a good match for him.
And so here he is, uncomfortably stumbling his way through the annual social season as he watches his best friend effortlessly navigate her way through the dances and polite conversation, looking for her own match.
He subtly raises his champagne flute at her before taking a sip.
And then his eyes catch his from across the dance floor; tall and willowy, with a mop of curls artfully styled, and very, very dapper in his vest and puff tie.
He can see his knowing smirk from here, and he hastily turns away, cheeks tinging pink.
It’s hot in here, he can pass it off.
He listlessly moves a bit further down the hall, hovering on the fringes of conversation, only speaking enough to give the illusion that he was mingling successfully so if anything got back to his parents, they cannot deny his participation. He smiles and nods when looked at, speaks the bare minimum when asked a question, and then moves on to the next group.
All the while, he is hyper aware of the smirking, elegant young man across the room, who not only appears to hold court like he is royalty himself, but also appears to be able to dance just as elegantly as the ladies in the room. They catch eyes several times over the heads of dancing couples, causing him to blush redder every time.
Eventually, he has to go into the gardens for a breath of fresh air—in the fear that he would faint with heat like a maiden.
He sighs deeply as he stares at the inky sky in all its glory, with the moon shining cold and silver on its fabric backdrop, and the stars sewn in around her like little jewels on a dress. He wonders if he can disappear for the rest of the season; he’d made his appearance, hadn’t he? And he has not met a girl he likes enough to make an advantageous marriage. His parents cannot fault him if he leaves tonight; he’s attended every event since the beginning of the season, he has talked and mingled and danced (though not as gracefully).
Someone clears their throat behind him and he startles, spinning round to see who was interrupting his melancholic thoughts, hand on his heart like an alarmed lady at court.
“I did not mean to startle you,” the curly haired stranger apologises, though there’s a small smile playing at his lips.
He offers a wary smile in return, a little bemused as to why he is out here when he is so clearly in his element inside. But the stranger is looking at him—
(Do I know you?)
—like he is also wondering why he is out here alone instead of dancing and having the time of his life inside, so he—gestures up at the sky clumsily.
“The um—the sky is beautiful tonight,” he mumbles. An excuse, and a poor one at that.
“Yeah, it is,” the stranger responds quietly, though he doesn’t look up from his eyes to even observe the stars.
He shivers even while he reddens, averting his gaze. He tucks a strand of hair behind his ear self-consciously, wishing that this alluring man would leave but—
He’s also never before wanted someone to stay more than he does now.
So he says nothing, just continues to stare up at the moon, wishing upon the stars that he can find an appropriate conversation starter so he can make the man stay longer.
The man clears his throat, and he turns to find him in a half-bow, hand held out.
“May I have this dance?”
And it’s only then that he hears the music; the soft cadence of the string quartet from inside, playing the beginning notes of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Grande Valse Villageoise.’ He furtively looks around, but they are alone in the garden; every gentlemen with their ladies are in the ballroom, flirting and courting.
So he takes his hand, makes that leap, and allows himself to be led into a waltz.
By all the rules of society, he should be embarrassed and humiliated at being led through a dance by another man, but he cannot stop staring up into his eyes; at the golden flecks he sees in them whenever they catch the lights a certain way, at how warm and open and sparkling they are, like dawn breaking out across the ocean.
He usually has trouble maintaining eye contact with anyone, but with him, it is so easy; everything else melts away, and he’s ensnared.
He is not sure if he ever wants to be free.
So they waltz, and they waltz; he can feel his large hand spread out on his lower back, heat seeping in even through his vest and coat, searing hot. He’s shorter than him, and he knows—somehow, instinctually—that if he leaned forward, stepped into the space of his open arms, his head would fit just right under his chin.
Like he was at home.
He takes in a shallow breath, and he can smell the woodsy scent of this waltzing man, tinged with something sweeter; it is heady and thrilling, unlike anything he has smelled before. Or indeed, unlike anything he has felt before.
They maintain eye contact through one waltz, then two, and then three; there is a charged sort of silence between them as they share breaths, as he allows himself to be warmed by the hand on his back, allows himself just this one moment to rise with the dawn in his eyes.
And then they step back and bow to each other, both lightly panting with their exertion, and grin.
“May I have the honour of knowing your name?”
“Quentin?” the stranger asks, with a mild bit of incredulity.
It’s not a particularly common name, so he does not get offended. Instead he nods, a touch amused.
“I’m Eliot,” he says, stepping towards him again, hand held out for another dance.
Quentin hesitates, biting his lip, before thinking to hell with it, and he places his hand in Eliot’s again.
And Quentin knows he is home.
“When do you think it’s going to be a concern for Lipson?”
“When they’re literally withering in their beds.”
“Relax, it’s a joke. Half of the staff here are self-medicated, and they’re not in any immediate danger, so I doubt she even remembers they’re here except for a few moments per day before the staff start their daily drinking again.”
“Another joke. Mostly. Jesus—will you just take a chill pill?”
“I don’t know how you expect me to be calm about our best friends—”
“Yeah okay, that’s it. Out. We’re going for a drink ourselves.”
He can’t help staring at the young man in front of him.
He’s just—incredibly sophisticated and gorgeous, so self-possessed unlike anyone he’s ever seen.
He envies that, he really does.
He’s spent his entire life with thoughts of how stupid he looks (because no matter how many times his best friend has told him, yes his face does, in fact, look like a foot), or how awkward he is, or how—fucking neurotic he is about, well everything.
As a child, he knows these thoughts aren’t entirely his fault—that they stemmed from anxiety driven by his parents, through no fault of their own.
Okay, maybe just a little.
Or a whole lot.
The point is, his parents arguing all the time in places where he could overhear them did not help his anxiety levels. The fact that he could overhear their arguments in the first place gave rise to his anxiety of ‘not being good enough.’
He’d heard it a lot, as a child; he can’t even hear us, he’s just in his own little world again! or, he needs to grow up, he’s not a child anymore! or, why did you throw your books out, you loved them when you were younger, or, he breaks everything, why shouldn’t I try to protect my stuff? or, and this was perhaps the worst of all—this life is not enough anymore, you can’t make me stay.
As if he, her own child, had not been worth protecting, not as much as the objects he had allegedly broken.
As if he, her own child, had not been worth staying for.
As if he, her own child, had not been worth keeping.
He remembers days and days spent under the table with his best friend, where they would lie on their backs and stare up at the map they had drawn on the underside, holding hands as they told each other stories of their adventures far away in the efforts to drown out his parents’ voices.
He remembers days and days of crouching under his desk, his best friend crawling in beside him with two pairs of headphones so they could listen to music loudly in the hopes of keeping his feelings of loneliness and neglect at bay, while his parents argued directly below them yet again.
He shakes his head, trying to clear the memories; they did not belong here, in this boat, on such a beautiful day.
They must have been high to even think about rowing up the Hudson, but they both had gone through with it anyway, and so here they are, laying in the boat as the currents lazily drift them downstream again, back to the summer heat of Brakebills.
They cast smoke rings, and wave at the Muggles, and giggle about their confused looks when the weather changes from summer to autumn and back again whenever they row in and out of the wards.
It’s a beautiful day, but he can’t stop staring at the young man in the boat with him. His eyes are shining, glinting off the water, classy in a way he could never be, and the breeze gently ruffling his hair like—like he was a model standing in front of a wind fan for a photoshoot.
He doesn’t understand why a guy like Eliot wants to spend time with him, but he’s not complaining; he’s having the best time, getting to talk to someone like him, getting to look at someone like him without needing an excuse or it becoming weird. And Eliot appears to be enjoying his company, so—it’s a win-win for both parties.
“Q, look at this!” Eliot says, before blowing a large amount of smoke into the air and charming it to take the shape of a pirate ship.
He looks at the somewhat-familiar shape, a weird sense of déjà vu falling over him, before he shakes it off and grins at Eliot. His breath catches, because Eliot was already looking at him with—a strange, unreadable look that makes him flush and tuck his hair behind his ear on reflex.
But Quentin can’t stop looking at those sun-kissed eyes, and he knows—
If he had a choice, he would choose them every time.
“How much longer, do you think?”
“Probably still have a few days left, knowing those fuckers.”
“…Yeah, that tracks.”
He was staring down at a letter, a flattened, dried-out cigarette lying next to his leg. The handwriting was—pretty, for lack of a better word. Elegant in its calligraphy, just like its writer.
Dear Q, it read. He scans the letter once, twice. Then reads over it again, slow now, like he’s drinking the words in, taking the time to really read them and soak in their meaning.
He can’t quite stop his eyes from straying to the last paragraph of the letter.
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 was you.
We’ll meet again.
He can’t quite pinpoint what exactly he is feeling; he just knows that this letter, reading those words, feeling them as he delicately runs a finger over them—is making him face the feelings he knows he has, but hadn’t really wanted to actually look at.
Why? Why had he ever been scared? What had he been so scared of that had made him turn away?
He knows it’s because he had been afraid of losing this—of losing him. His soulmate.
But he had lost him anyway, hadn’t he? He’d lost everything the moment he had made the colossal mistake of sleeping with other people while he had been in a relationship.
And now here he was all alone, injured and holding a letter that managed to be both devastating and exhilarating at the same time, having both lost the woman he loves and his soulmate.
He runs his finger over the words again, brands them into his memory; how the letter ‘Q’ curls in that unique way he writes it, how every word is written carefully, like he had hesitated to write them, as if he had agonised over every detail.
As if he had poured out what he hadn’t said into every curve, every dot, and every cross of the Ts—Quentin could feel them.
Maybe it was part wishful thinking, but there is one thing he knows without a doubt.
Eliot, with his wild curls and eyes like the rising sun, loves him.
“What do you think they’re dreaming about?”
“Hopefully how they’re going to talk their shit out once they’ve woken up.”
“What about—do you think—the spell will actually work?”
“If it worked as it should, they’d be awake by now. They’d have woken up hours ago.”
He’s staring down at the object in his hand.
It’s a silver pocket watch, with a star chart that moved, showing the phases of the moon. It was beautiful, almost delicate—like the person who had given it to him.
It doesn’t tick, not like it used to, and he thought—bitterly—about how that was a metaphor for his life, wasn’t it, because. Because he had been like this pocket watch, once, hadn’t he. He had worked, his life had worked, and he had ticked merrily away in a now-lost land; he had thrived there, as Fillory’s King, but just like that, he had been banished.
Like he hadn’t mattered.
And now—now he was dead inside, like this pocket watch. He was broken; he had no use.
He had been banished, and he was back on Earth alone. He’d lost the woman he loved, and he had lost his girlfriend, and he had lost his soulmate to Fillory, with only this silver pocket watch to remember him by.
He wanted to scream.
He wanted to cry.
He wanted to stamp his feet, pound his fists against the floor, and scream this isn’t fair!
But he couldn’t.
He has to trust he will find his way back.
He closes his eyes against the rain, feels a kiss on his lips, a kiss he had felt even through the numbness—
(Sorry, but you were kissing everyone else.)
—remembers the feeling of long, strong arms holding him close—
(Sorry, but you were—)
—the tremors in both their hands—
(—kissing everyone else.)
—the devastation in his eyes—
—and he slips the silver pocket watch back into his inside pocket beside his heart, hoping the slow beat of his heart will encourage it to start ticking again, and then slowly blinks against the rain.
And then Quentin steps forward on the path on Earth, alone but not alone, the weight of the pocket watch and the ghost of a kiss on his lips driving him forward.
“There’s got to be a reason why the spell had this effect on them. Once we figure that out, maybe we can reverse it.”
“It had this effect on them because they’re dickwads who can’t get their shit together.”
“I… Don’t think that’s quite how that spell works.”
“I don’t care. Even magic thinks they’re fuckwits that it felt the need to keep them locked in their dreams long enough to make them work their crap out.”
“But—are they actually sharing dreams?”
“They’re soulmates. It’s pretty much guaranteed.”
He’s standing on a cliff, too far from the edge to really take in the view, but he doesn’t care about that anyway.
He can’t tear his gaze away from the beautiful boy in front of him; a boy with curls that framed his face marvellously; a boy who was kneeling in front of him, a small, fond smile on his lips; a boy who was looking up at him with eyes that shone with unshed tears; eyes that said you know me. You see me.
He looks down into those eyes, heartbeat loud in his ears, his own smile wide on his face—
—and he gently places the crown on his head.
I see you. I know you. And I love you.
And then he holds his arms out for the boy to grasp, to help him up from the ground, and he rises a man—a king—and they haven’t broken eye contact yet; and for a moment longer, it’s just them two on the edge of that cliff, the world stretched out below their feet, waiting for them if they would just take that plunge.
“Thank you,” Eliot, his King—his soulmate—says quietly for his ears alone.
And Quentin feels his heart swell and burst, like the sun surging up from the horizon and lighting up the gold in Eliot’s eyes.
It’s only later, when he’s alone in Castle Whitespire, that he realises Eliot had still been holding his arms like he hadn’t wanted to let go.
“Do you think there’s a spell that would let us see into their dreams?”
“My, you’re a curious one, aren’t you.”
“Knowledge Student. It comes with the territory.”
He’s sitting on a blanket, on top of a barely half-formed colourful pattern, the torches lit around him. It’s night, but it’s not chilly—Fillory is on the cusp of autumn, but the nights are still warm enough that he’s fine with just his hoodie currently.
“Happy anniversary, Q. To our first and last year at this thing.”
He can’t help smiling at the man sitting beside him as he lifts his clay cup. He mirrors him, and they clink their cups together before taking a sip.
An entire year of this, together, trying to solve an impossible puzzle. An entire year of living in each other’s pockets, bickering, arguing, talking in a way they hadn’t before; more intimate, teetering on the edge of friends and… something else.
An entire year of this back-and-forth, of this push-and-pull, of this will-he-won’t-he, should-I-should-I-not, and—
He is tired of it.
And he takes that plunge.
He goes in for that kiss, the one he’s been wanting to give since—since that hazy night they had a threesome. Since Day fucking One, really. Since the day of his entrance exam, since the moment he saw him lounging on the Brakebills sign, looking like a fucking snack.
And Quentin was starving.
So—so he just goes in, doesn’t he, almost vibrating out of his skin with nerves and anxiety even as he pulls away after to try and gauge his reaction.
But instead of saying anything, he just slides his hand across the blanket to cover Quentin’s, his other hand coming up to cup the back of his neck, and Quentin is—melting already, his insides are liquefying with that touch alone even before he’s leaning in for another kiss.
And God, is Eliot a good kisser.
Quentin feels a whine clawing up his throat as he brings a hand up to fist in Eliot’s shirt, pulling him down until Eliot relents and is crawling on top of him on the blanket, one knee sliding into the space between Quentin’s legs.
They make love right there on top of the Mosaic—because fuck the Mosaic—under the stars, and it’s beautiful.
It’s everything Quentin’s ever fucking wanted.
He catches a plum tossed his way, and looks up—
The girl is beautiful, with her strawberry blonde hair and sweet smile and basket of summer fruit, as she introduces herself as Arielle. Of course, that means she’s taken. But that doesn’t matter, because Quentin has Eliot, and they’re enough for each other.
But then Arielle does end up becoming a part of their little family, and Quentin does end up falling in love with her too because he’s messy like that, isn’t he—he just can’t do anything normally, but Eliot doesn’t seem to mind sharing him, and Arielle doesn’t seem to mind that she’s not Quentin’s soulmate, and—
They work. Against all odds, against all logic, they work; as a three, and then as a four when Teddy is born.
And even when Arielle gets sick, and even after she departs from this lifetime, life is beautiful for a very, very long time.
“Do you think… Maybe this is reflective of like—past lives or something? That’s a thing, right?”
“Sure, if you’re romantic as shit.”
“Okay, so—think about it. The spell is only supposed to last a couple of hours, at most. It’s supposed to help you find your soulmate or whatever. What if—assuming past lives are a thing—your soulmate has been the same person every time? And the spell just. Shows you that?”
“Bit of a stretch, but go on.”
“Well. What if you’ve had many past lives? Like, say twenty? And the spell shows you every single one? That could account for why it’s taking forever.”
“…Shit, you are a romantic, aren’t you.”
“That’s what you got out of that whole theory?”
He’s sitting on the stone steps of the throne room, letter dangling loosely in his hand. The sense of disbelief and wonder is overwhelming, because—
Jesus fuck, they’ve somehow remembered a now-void timeline, a timeline that doesn’t exist anymore and therefore shouldn’t be possible to remember.
But they do. Somehow.
Peaches and plums, indeed.
He blinks into space for a moment longer, but then—
“I know this sounds dumb, but us… We… I don’t know, think about it, we—we work. We know it, ‘cause we lived it. Who gets that kind of proof of concept?”
And he can’t help looking at the man next to him on the steps, hope in his eyes and in his voice; lets it fill his entire being because—
A second chance to spend another life with his soulmate, his best friend, one of the loves of his life?
Sign him the fuck up.
But then Eliot’s leaning forward with that self-deprecating smile of his, tinged with fondness for him, and saying, “We were just injected with a… Half century of emotion, so I get that maybe you’re not thinking clearly.”
What the fuck.
“No, I’m just saying, what if we… Gave it a shot? Would that be that crazy?” He knows he’s looking at Eliot imploringly, but Eliot can’t even keep eye contact. “Why the fuck not?”
Eliot shakes his head, just a little, as he glances back at him. “I know you, and you… aren’t…”
“What’s it matter—?”
“Don’t be naïve, it matters. Q, c’mon—I love you, but… You have to know that that’s not me, and that’s definitely not you, not when… Not when we have a choice.”
What the fuck.
Quentin can feel anger and indignation rising in him but the heartbreak overpowers it, engulfing him in its currents, and he reels back from Eliot. He can’t look at him, because he knows Eliot, and. And he knows that this Eliot doesn’t have the security that the Mosaic had provided; he knows that here, back in their own time, surrounded by their friends and the chaotic nature of their lives, that Eliot feels like their relationship will just always be about the next big disaster. He knows that El thinks he will fuck up somewhere, because their lives here have all the things that their life at the Mosaic didn’t have—there are drugs, and drink, and magic that doesn’t work; there are too many factors that could go wrong in Eliot’s eyes, and he’s scared of that. Quentin knows that Eliot is thinking of all of this, and yet…
Quentin can’t stop the memories of the Mosaic from bleeding through; and he knows that they could make it work in this life too. He knows that they’d be just as beautiful in this chaotic life as they were in that simple Mosaic one. He knows that, just as sure as he knows that Eliot doesn’t feel ready to be soulmates in this life.
And that really fucking hurts.
But he takes a breath, and he tucks all his feelings away into that corner of his heart, folding them inside each other, and he agrees with Eliot.
Because even if he can’t have him in the way he wants, at least he still has Eliot in a way that matters; he’s Quentin’s best friend, and he’ll be damned if he loses that too.
“So, how many lives do you think they’ve lived?”
“Twenty seems reasonable.”
“None of this is reasonable.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Want to bet how much longer they’ll be?”
“I say a few more hours. It’s already been days.”
“Yeah, so what’s one more?”
He’s staring across the divide between them, at the creature with his voice and his hands and his hair.
But not his eyes.
He’s spent more than fifty years, in this life and the other timeline combined, staring at those eyes and so he knows them like he knows his own; the caramel-brown of them, the way they turn golden in the sunlight, dappled like the shadows of leaves overhead.
And this creature wearing Eliot’s face, and using Eliot’s hands, and speaking with Eliot’s voice, does not have the same eyes as his soulmate.
The eyes he sees are dead, cold, dull; there is none of that shine to them that are usually so full of life, sparkling with love and fondness and exasperation that Eliot so often held for him.
And it hurts. It hurts so fucking much, to see the face of his soulmate and know that he’s lost. He’s numb inside, can hardly even muster up the energy to be angry at seeing the creature before him, with the audacity to pretend to be Eliot for whatever sick mind game he’s trying to play now.
He is done.
He is so, so tired.
He does not care anymore.
“Fifty years. Who gets proof of concept like that?”
His heart stutters. He stops breathing.
“What?” he says shakily, disbelief colouring his tone.
“Peaches and plums, motherfucker. I’m alive in here.”
The smallest of sparks ignites in his chest as he stares at Eliot—real Eliot—with a private smile on his face that speaks of fifty years, eyes with that warm glow he hasn’t seen in so long. Eliot, who is larger than life itself, has always been, who has always been Quentin’s everything even before he had even realised it.
“Eliot—” he breathes, exhilarated for just a moment, heart jumping wildly in his chest.
But he’s gone again and without thinking, Quentin pushes him aside so Alice doesn’t spill their concoction on his soulmate, killing him, and his vision blurs for a split second; he sees another moment when their roles had been reversed at a bank heist, and a golem with Eliot’s consciousness shielding him from being sliced open to death.
They’d been protecting each other on instinct even then, have been doing it for years.
He’d be damned if he lets their friends kill the creature now without trying to save Eliot first.
“Did you just see that?”
“Did they just twitch?”
“…Yeah, I think so.”
“Maybe they’re waking up?”
“Jesus, about damn fucking time.”
He’s staring round at his friends sitting there in the dark, the glow of the fire casting light on the tense lines on their faces, emphasising the stress and grief in their eyes.
And he looks round at them all, love and pride for each and every one welling up inside him, even for the ones he hadn’t know all that well—Kady, and Penny from Timeline Twenty-Three, and even Dean Fogg. His heart aches for Julia, his best friend, his ride-or-die, the one who knows him on a level no one else does. And he aches for Alice, the girl he had fallen in love with, the one who had so badly wanted to do the right thing that she had ended up doing the wrong thing, and then had tried so hard to fix it and do better, the one who had taught him that he can always be better.
He watches as they pay tribute to him, throwing objects into the fire that they most associate with him, and he can see the moment in their eyes when they are slammed with memories, and he—
He can’t help smiling, because yes, they are sad, but they are also celebrating his life; they’re remembering the life he had with them, and it means so much to him that they can all sit here now to celebrate it, even the ones who have had rocky relationships in the past—Kady and Julia, and Kady and Penny Twenty-Three…
But then he’s choking up, because fuck—his soulmate.
Watching them sit there—Alice, and Julia, and Kady, and Penny Twenty-Three, and even Dean Fogg—he thought he was okay with his decision, okay with leaving them behind because it had meant they were alive and safe; what was one life compared to saving six of them?
But watching Eliot walk into the circle, leaning on a cane and Margo for support—Quentin chokes up. Fuck, he hadn’t meant to leave Eliot on his own; they’re soulmates, they were meant to be together by each other’s side, supporting each other, living a life together—a beautiful, full life. And now…
Now Quentin is dead, is probably about to move on from the afterlife or wherever, and Eliot is—well, he’s breaking apart, Quentin can tell, just barely holding it together, but he’s alive, which is the most important thing; Eliot’s alive, which makes everything he’s been through with the creature and—and everything else worth it, because he never gave up, not once, on his soulmate because he knows Eliot would have done the same thing for him, had almost done the same thing by trying to kill the creature first before Quentin had to stay in Blackspire for eternity. And Eliot has Margo, and Julia, and even Alice; their friends are still alive and here, in the way Quentin can’t be anymore, and he knows Eliot will be fine.
Even if there’s a small part—a very small part—of Quentin that wishes that maybe, just maybe, he’d get to live. But then he closes his eyes, lets their singing fill him for a brief moment; he lets the memories of the past several years wash over him, all the ups and downs, all the smiles and the tears and the fall-outs—
And then he lets them go.
He thinks he’s doing a good job of holding it together, but then he sees Eliot bring out a peach and—and he almost loses it, right there, because.
No one else around that fire knows its meaning, why Eliot would choose to pay tribute to him with a peach, but Quentin knows.
He knows it’s Eliot’s way of acknowledging the Mosaic, something he had been too scared to do before.
He knows it’s his way of saying, it was real.
He knows it’s his way of saying, we loved each other for a very, very long time.
He knows it’s his way of saying, I still love you.
He knows it’s his way of saying, it was beautiful.
He knows it’s his way of saying, I want to be life partners with you.
He knows it’s his way of saying, fifty years: proof of concept.
He knows it’s his way of saying everything he couldn’t articulate before, that he had been too scared to say before; he knows Eliot is saying everything without having to say anything, because Quentin gets him, and Eliot had understood him in turn. While Julia had understood him on a level no one else had, Eliot knew him at a fundamental level, a soul-deep level, and Quentin—doesn’t know whether he wants to laugh or cry, because that was the point of being soulmates, wasn’t it? To live your life with the person who just gets you, sees all your jagged pieces and rough edges and still love you; who looks at you in all your flaws and past mistakes and think, I still want to spend my life with you.
It was just too late for them now, at least in this life.
Maybe, if the Underworld is anything like the Greek rendition of the afterlife—Quentin will get the choice to choose rebirth. And maybe, just maybe, Eliot will choose the same when it’s his time, and they can meet again in the next life, in the next timeline.
He drinks in the sight of his friends, his love gained and lost, of his soulmate one last time before he turns away, bittersweet tears tracking lines down his cheeks.
And then Quentin steps through the doorway with his black card.
He pauses in the sudden darkness, the light behind him gone.
He hears a whisper, only just perceptible, and he takes a step forward.
He continues walking, even in the darkness, confident that nothing will hurt him though he can’t say how he knows.
He just feels it.
He’s getting tired—how long has it been?
But something in him pushes him forward, and he takes another step.
The whispers have stopped.
He thinks they may have stopped a long time ago.
He can’t remember why he’s here.
Why is it dark?
What is he doing here?
What is his name?
And then he sees it—is that light?
Is he hallucinating?
He propels himself forward.
What is this doorway doing here?
Where does it lead?
Why is he here?
Who even is he?
Then he steps through.
Who is he?
Who are they calling?
They’re getting louder, almost deafening.
Are they calling him?
Quentin wakes with a gasp, disoriented.
Where is he?
He blinks rapidly, trying to get his eyes to focus. His head is pounding, and his mouth is so fucking dry. Jesus, what happened? Did he get black-out drunk?
“Water,” he manages to croak weakly.
Sweet, sweet coldness slides down his throat, and he gulps down the water from the glass that was pressed into his hands. When he’s done, the glass is taken from him, and he struggles to sit up in—his bed?
He blinks, eyes squinting as they still try to adjust to the light.
He’s in the infirmary.
What’s he doing here?
“What happened?” he asks, after clearing his throat.
A blurry blob, vaguely humanoid, comes into the edges of his vision, and he blinks once, hard, as Julia slowly swims into view.
“Hey,” she says. Her voice is soft, quiet, like she’s… scared? “How are you?” No. Like he’s delicate, fragile.
He swallows, throat clicking with the lingering dryness, and he reaches for the glass on the bedside table which Julia hastily refills from the jug sitting next to it. He drinks half of it this time, slower so he doesn’t make himself sick.
“I feel like I’ve taken like, four ecstasy pills and a shot of heroin on top.” he finally says, setting his glass down.
Julia frowns at him. “That’d be an overdose.”
“The sentiment still stands,” he waves a hand dismissively. “So what happened? Did we party too hard or something?”
Julia sighs, quickly casting a glance up at the ceiling like she’s searching for patience. “Um. You were hit with a spell and… Got knocked out? Well, you and Eliot both.”
The back of his neck tingles, and Quentin throws her a sharp look. “Me and Eliot? But you just said I was hit with the spell.”
“Yeah, well. It was a spell designed to help the caster find their soulmate, except—”
“It somehow went wrong,” Quentin interrupts, sighing. “Of course it did. So what happened?”
“Julia has this theory that because you already found each other, the spell showed you your past lives instead.”
Quentin shuffles up the hospital bed a bit, before remembering to hit the button that will help prop him up. He looks past Julia to Margo, who is poking her head around a white partition.
“Margo? Is Eliot—”
Before he can finish his sentence, Margo grins, all teeth, and wheels the partition out of the way. Quentin’s eyes immediately fall on Eliot, who is smiling tentatively at him, and at the sight of him lying in a hospital bed but okay makes thousands of memories slam into him all at once.
He wheezes, trying to suck in breaths, as he continues to stare at Eliot—his soulmate, fuck—alive and breathing, and he’s distantly aware that he’s crying but he can’t stop, why won’t he stop crying?
But then Eliot’s climbing out of his bed to get into Quentin’s, and he’s being pulled into a hug, his head slotting into that space in the hollow of his soulmate’s throat; it’s a position he’s been in dozens of times, thousands upon thousands of times, and he just—breathes his scent in, of wood-smoke and oak and fucking peaches and plums, and he hiccups, hiding his face in Eliot’s chest as he tries to get himself under control. He’s dimly aware that a hand is rubbing up and down his back soothingly, and he knows it’s Eliot, knows the feel of his hand like it’s his own, knows what the warmth seeping through his clothes from it feels like.
“So um, want to tell us what exactly happened?”
Quentin feels more than hears Eliot’s question; feels the rumble in his chest against his cheek as he speaks, and he can’t help smiling as he finally calms down enough to wipe his tears.
“So some third year accidentally hit Q with a soulmate spell. Lipson says it’s a spell that’s supposed to help you locate your soulmate by, well, using magic to track magic,” Margo starts, making Eliot move his long legs so she can hop up onto the bed.
“Except—well, it knocked both of you out instead of—you know, highlighting your soulmate’s magic to your senses,” Julia jumps in, eyes flitting between the two men on the bed.
“Yeah, Julia thinks it’s because that you two have already found each other that the spell… had a different effect than usual.”
Quentin pulls away from Eliot’s chest a little, and they exchange a look; it’s brief, a quick glance, really, but it’s heavy with a back catalogue of knowledge that they’ve somehow, impossibly, retained.
“So, is it true?” Julia asks, leaning forward in her chair eagerly.
“Uh—is what true?” Quentin asks, tentative.
“Past lives. You were out for four days, Julia thinks that’s about the equivalent of twenty lives.” Margo rolls her eyes, but she’s also giving them a curious look. Nonchalant, but she’s also dying to know.
Quentin swallows nervously and looks back at Eliot because—well, it’s up to Eliot to decide if he’s ready to talk about this because he can’t help thinking—
(You have to know that that’s not me…)
—about their last life, the one that went so right but so wrong at the same time—
(Not when we have a choice.)
—but this is their new life, isn’t it, and in this one, Eliot had been the one to even bring up soulmates, so—so that has to mean something, right?
And he sees Eliot flinch from his knowing look, making his heart slam against his chest for a quick second, but then he sees resolve in his sunrise eyes, and his heart steadies.
“Twenty lives?” Eliot asks, head tilting in thought. “What do you think, Q? Think twenty’s a bit short?”
Quentin ignores Julia’s eyes popping out from her head to turn to grin at Eliot, eyes lighting up. “You’re right. Twenty isn’t enough, is it? Was it thirty?”
“Thirty?” Julia chokes.
They both ignore her.
“Nah, couldn’t have just been thirty. Fifty?”
Quentin’s heart jumps, and he sees Eliot’s eyes soften just a fraction though he’s still got that look of mirth in his eyes.
“I don’t think even fifty covers it,” he says after a quick pause, and he’s glad his voice is even, still with that teasing tone to it because—that’s something they should unpack in private.
“Fifty?” Julia squeaks.
Even Margo’s looking at them with wide eyes. They share a grin before Eliot sighs, seriousness falling upon his impeccable features.
“You’re fucking with us, right.” Margo says flatly, eyes now narrowed and focused on Eliot.
“Yes—well no, but yes.” Eliot replies.
At Margo’s frown and Julia’s confused look, Quentin settles back into the bed to get comfortable.
“We uh—we’ve been soulmates since like, forever?” he hesitantly starts, glancing at Eliot for confirmation.
Eliot nods, tapping his chin with a thoughtful finger.
“How far back is ‘forever’?” Julia asks.
“Um, like—like the dawn of time, basically?” Quentin says.
Eliot smiles indulgently before saying, “Put it this way—the Trojan War? I was Paris—”
“And then we were Antony and Cleopatra—” Quentin jumps in.
“Yeah, and then we were Arthur and Merlin—”
“And dukes in Victorian England—”
“Oh, that was particularly spicy, that dance we did—” Eliot smirks as Quentin says this, prompting him to lightly smack his chest in reprimand. “Shut up,” he mutters, flushing red.
“And then we lived forty lives here, at Brakebills—” Eliot continues, catching Quentin’s hand and not letting go.
“Kings of Fillory most of those lives—”
“Fifty years in an alternate timeline in Lifetime Forty, trying to solve an impossible puzzle—”
“It was beautiful though—”
“It really was—”
“But then you had to go and die—”
“Oh, I died? What about that one time you became the Beast—”
They both shudder at that, Eliot squeezing Quentin’s hand like he needs to reaffirm that he is here, in the present, with him.
“Okay, but what about that time you got possessed by a fucking god—”
“Not my fault—”
“You fucking died trying to save me like an idiot—”
“Yes, because I was in love with you even after you had broken my heart—”
“Like I said, an idiot—”
“Says the one who gave me a silver pocket watch and a kiss but wouldn’t make a fucking move—”
“Yeah well, neither did you—”
“I made a move thousands of times—”
“I made a move last time and this time—”
“And then went and told me you wanted to be friends-with-benefits—”
“That was you—”
“While also telling me you don’t have a soulmate in the same conversation—”
“Because you didn’t tell me, which—what the fuck, Eliot?”
Eliot falls quiet, guilt filling his eyes and—
Fuck, he hadn’t meant to kill their banter-filled bickering, but he is really annoyed that he had to find out about Magician soulmates from Margo instead of, you know, his actual soulmate, who had apparently known for a few months, give or take.
“Okay,” Margo lets out a low whistle, drawing the word out like oooh-kay, which gets their attention.
They’d forgotten Julia and Margo were still here.
Julia’s staring at them, eyes bugging out, while Margo looks normal, but Quentin can tell she is still shocked.
“You’re saying—you go back thousands of years?” Julia finally asks, faint.
“Brings a whole new meaning to ‘we go way back’, doesn’t it,” Eliot says wryly.
Quentin goes to smack him in the chest again—not the time, Eliot, Jesus—with his hand, but realises that Eliot is still holding it, and he has to work hard to not think about that, not yet, because they still haven’t talked about this whole soulmate thing even though Quentin thinks—
They might actually be okay this time?
At least, Eliot seems more open to being soulmates this time around, unlike their last lives where they had somehow just talked past each other.
(He ignores the fact that they had almost done the exact same thing in this life too.)
Margo clears her throat, and Quentin startles; he realises he’d been staring at Eliot, having forgotten they weren’t alone again, but Eliot had also been staring back with his own tender look, and they’d both been leaning in, pulling each other into their own gravitational field like they were a couple in the sappiest rom-com film to ever rom-com—
Margo’s giving them an amused, if slightly disgusted, look which makes Quentin wildly blush. He wants to sink down into the bed. Preferably through it. Maybe even sink through the floor into the void too, while he’s at it. But Eliot’s hand on the small of his back is warm and comforting, and Julia’s still looking shell-shocked, but she also looks happy for him; her eyes are bright, and she’s giving him her go get ‘em tiger! smile which is—embarrassing, but also heartening. So he offers her a sheepish, half-shy smile, and then he cuts his eyes to the door and lifts his brows at her.
She rolls her eyes and then nods, but also gives him The Look: this conversation isn’t finished.
He huffs a sigh but shrugs, showing her he accepts his fate, and she smiles her shit-eating grin before standing and dusting herself off. “Well, I think that’s our cue to go. They clearly have a lot to talk about,” she says.
Julia pauses and looks at Margo significantly, who rolls her eyes so hard that Quentin wonders if it hurt, but she slides off the bed anyway. She follows Julia to the door, but then stops and turns round, pointing at Eliot.
“Don’t choke up now,” she says, threateningly sweet.
Without a beat, Eliot says, “Oh honey, I definitely plan on choking on something.”
She cackles, letting the door fall shut behind her, cutting off Quentin’s splutters and his scandalised “Eliot!”
When Margo leaves, all of Eliot’s confidence leaves him, and he slumps against the hospital bed, taking up half of Quentin’s pillow. He closes his eyes against the hospital room’s white lights, feeling a light headache approaching, but he turns his face towards Quentin when he feels him sliding down the bed with him so they’re both half laying on their sides, angled towards each other.
“So um—” Quentin starts then stops.
Eliot opens his eyes and is faced with Quentin’s honest, unguarded ones, doe-like in all their sincerity and nervousness, and his heart—slams into his ribcage, knocking all the breath out of him. His eyes are so very lovely; a cinnamon brown, neither light nor dark but a perfect balance in between, liquid in their warmth that Eliot just wants to fall into them for eternity.
He supposes he has been perpetually falling into them.
Eliot’s surprised to find that that thought doesn’t scare him half as much as it would have four days ago.
“We should definitely talk about this,” he finally says.
Quentin blinks at him in surprise, mouth opening with a small oh, an exhalation really, like he hadn’t meant for it to slip out and Eliot has to smile wryly. He is fully aware of the irony of him being the one to suggest they talk when recent… history… shows that avoiding a genuine, truthful talk is all he’s ever done.
He recognises that doing that has also been true of him in this life too, until—well, now, it seems. But Eliot doesn’t know where to begin, can’t seem to gather his thoughts enough to string two words together and he just.
He really wants to just kiss Quentin right now.
Quentin, though, clears his throat, eyelashes fluttering as he lowers his gaze before lifting it back up to Eliot’s face and saying, “So. Cleopatra, huh?” and he holds his serious look for another beat before his face cracks into a shit-eating grin.
Eliot huffs, sending his gaze upwards in exasperation before he’s also smiling. “I could say the same for you—you were Helen first.”
Quentin snorts, shifting to try and get more comfortable. “El. We started like, all the major wars in fucking classical history.”
“Shit,” Eliot breathes, eyes widening at the implications of that statement. “We really did, didn’t we.”
And Quentin breaks into laughter, his disbelieving, borderline hysterical kind of giggles that he tries to hold back by covering his mouth. He may have been able to just keep it together if he hadn’t also set Eliot off into his own fit of giggles, and they lay there for what feels like hours trying to get themselves back under control, gasping for breath.
“I can’t believe—did we really—” Quentin wheezes, clutching his side.
Eliot tries to suck in air, a few more giggles escaping him. “It happened.”
Quentin rolls over and flops onto his stomach, mashing his face in the pillow as a few more tremors run through his body. He eventually resurfaces, face red from laughter, and props himself on his elbows so he could actually look at Eliot, and Eliot is bowled over by the complete look of affection he sees there. It’s overwhelming, the idea that someone could feel so much and be so open about it that they wear their heart on their sleeve. The concept of that alone still gives Eliot the feeling of nausea, like a roiling mass in the pit of his stomach that he’s going to throw up at the first sign of feelings; he’s so used to adopting an air of aloofness, like he doesn’t go deeper than surface level, because only certain people are allowed to see through the chinks in his armour to the tender heart beneath.
But he swallows all of that down now, ignoring the acrid taste of feelings it leaves behind and smiles at Quentin, who hasn’t stopped staring the entire time.
“So—soulmates, yeah?” Quentin asks, brow raised.
And Eliot bites his lip, still guilty about keeping that particular bit of knowledge to himself. “Yeah,” he sighs after a long moment, lips twisting into a wry grin. “Sorry about not telling you, but—”
“I’d just told you I didn’t have one, I get it.” Quentin nods, a quick bob of the head which—tells Eliot he’s still peeved about it.
“Look, I know I should have told you—”
“Yeah, you should have. I had to hear it from Margo—”
“What’s wrong with Bambi?” he cuts in, half-offended on her behalf, but he snaps his mouth shut at the look Quentin gives him.
“I had to hear it from Margo instead of the person who matters most in these situations—my actual soulmate.”
Eliot purses his lips. “She did say you’d take the news better if it came from me.”
“I take a lot of things better when it comes from you,” Quentin says, the slightest hint of molten heat creeping into his eyes.
Eliot blinks in surprise, mouth opening and then shutting. Then he chuckles, falling back onto the bed. “Alright, you smooth motherfucker. It’s gonna be like that, is it?”
“‘Oh honey, I definitely plan on choking on something,’” Quentin quotes, adopting Eliot’s low timbre as close as possible, brows raised sardonically.
“That was horrible. I do not sound like that,” Eliot laughs even while his heart balloons in his chest with fondness.
Quentin gives him a flat look.
“Sometimes,” he concedes, grin still in place.
They lay like that, staring at each other for another few long moments, just drinking in the sight of the other like they’re really seeing each other for the first time—and Eliot supposes they are—before Quentin wriggles onto his side, complaining of pins and needles in his arms.
“You were at my college party.” Quentin states, eyes scanning over his face.
“I was,” he nods, somewhat surprised that Quentin remembers that particular memory in light of everything else.
Thousands and thousands of years of memories, and this is the one he wants to talk about first? It’s so very Quentin that Eliot leans forward to plant a quick kiss without thought, startling both of them. When he leans back to gauge his reaction, Quentin’s smiling his open, happy smile; the one that crinkles his eyes and makes Eliot’s stomach swoop.
“I can’t believe we met and didn’t even remember it,” he finally says, carefully reaching out for Quentin’s hand.
“Well. We were pretty drunk,” Quentin offers, staring at their hands before lacing their fingers together and giving Eliot a bashful look.
“Did I hallucinate the whole ‘Danish people have dark souls’ talk?”
Quentin laughs, surprise and mirth filling his eyes. “Oh no, that definitely happened.” And then— “Peaches and plums, huh?”
“Peaches and plums, motherfucker.”
It slips out before Eliot can stop it, and then it’s out there, hanging in the space between them, too late for him to take back, and they both freeze. He feels Quentin’s hand spasm against his, an involuntary squeeze of Eliot’s hand before his fingers flex, and the guilt is so overwhelming, so all-consuming, that Eliot lets go of Quentin so he can scrub his hands over his face, closing his eyes so he doesn’t have to look at Q’s stricken face; but it’s already branded there in Eliot’s memories, and in his soul, and it hurts.
It hurts so fucking much, to know just how much he had hurt his soulmate.
Even when he knows it wasn’t him, not really.
It still doesn’t change the fact that it was still some version of him though, does it.
“Q, I’m sorry.”
“For what? Not like it was your fault.”
“It… kinda was.”
Quentin reaches a hand up to cup his face, eyes soft. “El, that wasn’t you, not really. I get it, okay? It was us in another life. I’ve seen the memory of what—that Eliot had to go through for just five seconds of control. I know he regretted it, I know he was just scared to take that leap; most people are. I don’t blame you.”
And Quentin’s eyes are—so, so, so warm, and his hand is so gentle and tender against his cheek, and Eliot has to slam his eyes closed in the effort to stop the onslaught of tears building up; but a few must have escaped anyway, because he feels Quentin’s thumb brushing them away along his cheekbone. He hadn’t realised how much that guilt had been weighing on him, how much he blamed himself, until Quentin absolved him from it.
“El,” Quentin says, quiet but firm.
Quentin hears Eliot’s breath hitching before he’s blinking his eyes open, latching onto Quentin’s face which breaks into a small, private smile just for him as soon as they make eye contact. Quentin thinks Eliot is unbelievably beautiful like this; tears clinging to his long lashes like dewdrops in the morning, eyes still a little misty from the ones he hasn’t shed yet, curls falling on his forehead in a way he’s rarely seen, softening his features in a way that makes him look even younger, more vulnerable.
Quentin strokes his thumb a few more times along his cheekbone before he leans up and in to kiss Eliot, slow and sweet, like it’s their first kiss but without all the desperate heat that usually predates their nights together. They kiss for a long moment, chaste and unhurried, until they need to breathe. But then Quentin leans forward again, this time licking into Eliot’s mouth, slowly stoking the fire he knows is there flickering between them; and he smiles against his lips when he feels Eliot shiver ever so slightly.
He breaks the kiss so he can cast a few quick tuts—not an invisibility spell, not quite, he needs more ingredients for that, but he casts a ward around them that will make wandering eyes slide right past them, and he casts a silencing ward around them, an alarm spell that will trigger if anyone tries to break through their bubble, and a final one to resize the bed so they’d both fit comfortably on it.
(Not that he’s complaining about having to lie so close to Eliot in a small bed, but it’s just not practical currently.)
All the while, he’s aware of Eliot’s heated stare watching him cast, watching how he brings his hands together and how he twists his fingers. As soon as the last spell takes shape and their bed expands, they’re kissing, this time scorching with desperation, and Quentin rolls until he’s on his hands and knees caging Eliot in on the bed. He grins down at the man beneath him, his lashes now clumped together by the tears he hadn’t bothered to dry, his dark curls stark against the white of the pillow.
“Weren’t we supposed to be talking?” Eliot murmurs, blinking up at him.
“Mmm,” Quentin hums. “We did talk.”
He watches as a complicated series of emotions cross Eliot’s face, and before he can settle on the doubt and self-loathing that Quentin knows he’s grappling with, he says, “We can talk about your penchant for bottoming instead.”
Quentin visibly sees Eliot’s brain short circuit, eyes wide as he stammers out a “My—what?”
Eliot moves like he’s about to sit up, but Quentin quickly lays a hand flat against his chest and pushes him back down, keeping his hand there when Eliot falls back on the bed. He smirks when he feels Eliot sucking in a sharp breath, feels the jump in his chest against his palm.
“Nah-ah. Nope,” he sing-songs. Then he switches to the tone he’d used before, the one from ten minutes ago; quiet and firm, though he pitches it lower this time. “Don’t deny you like receiving dick.”
Quentin watches with satisfaction as Eliot’s eyes darken with desire, even while he tries to contain the quiet moan that had started to build up by biting down on his lip. He taps his index finger against Eliot’s chest, a silent instruction to keep still, before he sits back on his knees and takes his hands in each of his own. He scans Eliot’s face for a moment, looking for signs that this isn’t okay, but all he sees is eagerness in Eliot’s eyes, in his face, so he crosses his slender wrists together and draws them up above his head.
“Don’t move them. Can you do that?”
“Can you do that?” Quentin repeats, unyielding. He raises a brow, as if to warn him: don’t make me repeat myself.
Eliot’s eyes are blown wide, a small whimper escaping before he can bite down on it, and he’s nodding—nodding so quickly that his curls bounce.
“Words, baby,” Quentin adds, tapping his index finger once on his lips.
“Yes,” Eliot hisses out, half on a whine.
Quentin tilts his head, turning a thought over in his mind, then says, “Good boy.” Voice low again.
Eliot’s hips jerk up, seeking friction while a loud groan tumbles from his mouth, but Quentin moves with them, not giving him the satisfaction—a move Eliot’s used on him dozens of times before.
He can’t help his eyes widening slightly, and his dick definitively gives a very interested twitch, because Jesus Quentin had thought he had a praise kink, but apparently Eliot has an even bigger one. Sadness flashes through him as he briefly thinks about why that is before he shakes it off, dipping down to kiss Eliot to distract him from those thoughts.
Eliot desperately kisses back, arching his neck so he can tilt his face up to meet Quentin halfway. He wiggles his hips impatiently, to which Quentin responds by bringing his own hips down to effectively pin Eliot to the bed, not allowing him even an inch to wiggle. He pulls back, grinning, when Eliot huffs. It’s so rare to see him like this; hair all dishevelled, lips swollen and wet from kisses, desperation just on the fringes in his eyes. Usually, Quentin’s the needy one, desperate for whatever Eliot’s willing to give him; he had never really been sure what this had meant for the other man, what he meant to him, so he’d ate up every iota of attention he’d received because he hadn’t known if it would be his last. But now that he knows…
Fuck—a needy Eliot is really doing it for Quentin.
His eyes flick up to Eliot’s wrists, still crossed above his head, and Eliot flexes his fingers like he knows just what he’s thinking about.
“So?” Eliot prompts, a smirk curling the corner of his mouth. “You’ve got me where you want me, what now?”
Quentin sits back, brow arched, and reaches for Eliot’s shirt to begin the process of unbuttoning it. “And you call me a brat,” he says, faintly amused.
“Oh, you’re definitely—”
Whatever Eliot had been about to say gets cut off with a surprised moan as Quentin grinds down, smiling sweetly as he innocently says, “I’m sorry, what was that? I don’t think I heard you.”
Fire sparks in Eliot’s eyes, but before he can say anything, Quentin shuffles back a bit so he can reach down and palm over his erection through his pants. Eliot gasps, hips automatically arching up into Quentin’s hand.
Quentin chuckles, leaning down to track several kisses along his waist, while his hands work at getting Eliot’s pants and silk boxers off, making sure he brushes against his cock for good measure. The muscles in Eliot’s thighs jump with each touch, and he’s shifting around on the bed, like he can’t help moving in the attempt to get Quentin to touch him where he really wants—but he also wants to listen to Quentin’s earlier instruction and keep still. He smiles against Eliot’s skin, letting his hair fall into his face so Eliot can’t see it, and leaves a gentle kiss on his hip.
He furtively casts the lube spell, lets it sit in his hand to warm up for a few seconds while he distracts Eliot with leaving hickeys on the soft skin along his waist where Quentin knows he’s sensitive, and then wraps his hand around Eliot’s stiff cock when he least expects it, immediately stroking him hard and fast.
“Holy—shit, Q!” Eliot shouts, his hands coming down to grab at Quentin’s wrist.
Quentin immediately withdraws from his cock, even though all he really wants is to see Eliot come undone like this by his own hand, and takes Eliot’s wrists instead.
He beats down the delight he feels, and opts for levelling a disappointed look at Eliot instead. “Oh El,” he sighs.
Eliot’s brows scrunch in confusion. “Why’d you stop,” he complains.
In answer, Quentin holds up Eliot’s hands, biting back his grin when realisation dawns on the other’s face, making him squirm. “Thought you were going to be good for me,” Quentin replies, shaking his head.
“I am—I will,” Eliot whines, looking at him with pleading eyes. “You just surprised me.”
Quentin hums as he reaches up to place Eliot’s hands back where they were before. “I probably should punish you, give you a spanking,” he comments absently.
“Probably,” Eliot easily agrees, nodding.
“But we should talk about that first before we try anything.” Quentin looks down so he can drink in the sight of Eliot’s flushed face and hazy eyes, dipping down to give him a reassuring kiss. Eliot returns it with enthusiasm, a little messier than usual, but Quentin likes that.
God, does he really like a desperate Eliot.
It makes something primal rear up in Quentin’s chest—he wants to ruin Eliot, completely wreck his image of control until he’s a quivering mass of need.
But maybe another day.
For now, he’ll settle for this; the man underneath him, desperate for his touch, for his kisses, willing to take whatever Quentin will give him. Yeah, he is definitely enjoying this role reversal, much more than he’d anticipated.
Quentin hurriedly strips, feeling the need to suddenly be naked and skin-on-skin with Eliot. He gives himself a few strokes to take the edge off, only just now realising how turned on he is at the knowledge of what he can do to Eliot, how he can take him apart layer by layer until he’s just a bundle of nerves, thighs shucked up around Quentin’s hips, shaking with the effort to keep still, follow instructions, be good. Quentin lets out a quiet groan, heady with the sway he holds over Eliot, and dives down for a filthy kiss.
“Fuck, El—what you do to me—”
“Yeah?” And Eliot sounds so smug, if a little breathless, that Quentin has to—
Without any warning he grabs at Eliot’s hips, holding them down as he takes his length into his mouth and getting down as far as he can without choking, and then glances up. Eliot’s tossed his head back, mouth open on a silent shout, and his hands—his hands are twisted tightly into the bed sheets but they’re still above his head, wrists still crossed, fighting to keep still even as his legs twitch sporadically, wanting to close around Quentin to keep him there but also wanting to fall open to give him more room. Quentin can feel his hips straining, wanting to jerk up and fuck into his mouth, so he tightens his hold on them and keeps them against the bed as he teases the head of Eliot’s cock with his tongue before relaxing his throat and sliding further down, hollowing his cheeks.
Then he catches Eliot’s gaze, heavy with arousal, and he quirks his brow at the man above him as if to say not so smug now, are you?
He sees Eliot’s mouth shape around the silent words of holy shit, catches him bite at his lip as his lashes lower, watching Quentin suck him off with half-lidded eyes. He sees the muscles in Eliot’s forearms tense as he clenches the bedsheets with his hands at intervals, and Quentin strokes his thumbs along his hipbones as a soothing reward for being good. He hears Eliot moan quietly, sees how his chest is heaving and how his flush has spread from his cheeks down to his nipples, feels him squirming against Quentin’s hands as he fights to continue to be still and—
Quentin pulls off so he can really take in the sight of Eliot like this; squirming, completely undone just from his instructions and Quentin’s mouth on his dick and a bit of light praise, desperate for more. Jesus, Quentin doesn’t think he could ever get enough of this.
“Q—Q, please, need you. C’mon, fuck me.”
And Eliot sounds so wrecked already, like he’s been the one sucking cock, and a flash of intense arousal sweeps through Quentin at the sound causing him to shiver. He quickly casts the necessary cleansing and protection spells, and then recasts the lube spell, but he doesn’t cast the prep spell—no, that he wants to do himself.
He nudges Eliot’s legs until they’re splayed on either side of him with his feet planted on the bed, trailing kisses up his torso as he presses a finger to his hole, just resting there teasingly. Quentin slides up his body so he can suck on Eliot’s nipples, lightly biting and then soothing it with his tongue on first his right, and then his left; his finger gently breaching Eliot’s hole, dipping in then out repeatedly, still teasing.
“Shit—Q, c’mon, that all you—”
Quentin roughly bites down on the nipple he’s sucking on as he finally inserts his finger at the same time, grinning in amusement and delight when a surprised moan tears its way out of Eliot’s throat.
“Aw, is someone desperate already? Just from a blowjob and a few touches?” he coos, wriggling his finger around before beginning to thrust it in and out.
“Fu—uck, I can take more, Jesus,” Eliot pants, hips undulating.
Quentin chuckles, low in Eliot’s ear, and watches as a shiver wracks the length of his body. “Mmm… I’m sure you can baby, but you’re being so good for me,” Quentin taps Eliot’s wrists above his head with his free hand, “Gonna reward you by giving you the attention you need. Give you all the time you deserve.”
Eliot whines, eyes fluttering closed as his flush takes a darker hue. “Yeah? You like that? Like being rewarded?” Quentin presses a kiss into the juncture between his shoulder and his neck, dips his tongue into the hollow of his throat at Eliot’s barely imperceptible nod.
He slides his finger out before twisting back in with two this time, slowly stretching and scissoring Eliot open. He smiles as he watches Eliot move in time with his hand, wishing he had more so he could run fingers up the planes of his body, wrap a hand around his cock and stroke it, fondle his balls all at the same time—properly worship him the way he wants to.
The way Eliot deserves.
Quentin rolls his hips against Eliot’s thigh, giving himself some relief as he gets Eliot ready for him. He presses kisses into the skin of his neck, leaves a hickey on his pulse point as he inserts a third finger and curls them, searching, searching…
Eliot keens, back arching as his cock spurts in his sudden orgasm, taking Quentin by surprise as he watches, fingers still pressing into his prostate, stimulating him through it.
“Holy shit El,” he breathes, eyes wide but voice heavy with heat.
Eliot groans, blinking his foggy eyes open to catch Quentin’s and tilts his head for a kiss that Quentin is all too happy to grant him; it’s wet and messy, sloppy but so fucking hot—Eliot’s still dazed from his surprise orgasm, so his mouth is slack and he lets Quentin lead.
They make out for a long moment, Quentin giving Eliot the time to come down from that high before he carefully removes his fingers from inside him, smiling when he gives a low whine at the slow drag of his fingers leaving.
“Fuck—that was so hot, El. You’re so hot. So good to me,” Quentin murmurs, pecking his lips once, twice, three times.
“Didn’t realise I was so close.” A slow, lazy smile spreads across Eliot’s kiss-swollen lips as he drawls, “But I can go again.”
Quentin feels his eyes widen in disbelief and wonder, because—god, how did he get so lucky to land a perfect soulmate as Eliot Waugh? Eliot, who cared so much but tried to hide it; who loves his friends unconditionally; who lets Quentin see him like this, blissed out and drunk on arousal and heat.
“You want to go again?” he double checks, pressing another kiss to his chin.
“Want you to fuck me,” Eliot hums, still in that drawl that he knows drives Quentin wild on a good day.
And it is a very, very good day indeed.
Quentin mutters a few choice words under his breath as he casts the lube spell again and slicks up his cock, giving himself a few strokes. He’s still incredibly hard, and even though he just came, Eliot’s also pulling on his own length as he watches Quentin, smirk curling at his lips.
Quentin raises a brow, eyes flicking down at Eliot’s hand before up to the one still laid above his head. He looms over Eliot, as much as he can while being shorter, then takes the hand on his cock and laces their fingers together. “I’m sorry,” he says pointedly. “I hadn’t realised I’d given you permission to move your hands again.”
Eliot sucks in a shaky breath, eyes going wide as his hand tightens its hold on Quentin’s. “Q,” he moans, wiggling his hips.
Quentin smiles even while he draws Eliot’s hand back up to its previous position, saying a quiet, “One more time, yeah?”
Eliot huffs but nods, not breaking eye contact as Quentin swaps his hold on Eliot’s hands to his left so he could use his right to line himself up. “Ready, baby?”
In response, Eliot spreads his legs even wider and lifts his hips, as if he could get Quentin’s cock inside him just from that alone, and Quentin chuckles and leans down to suck at his neck as he steadies himself and slowly pushes in. He feels Eliot shudder, clenching around him tightly that makes him groan, but he pauses to allow for Eliot to adjust. They don’t do it this way often, and when they do, Eliot is usually the one who has control over how fast he takes it; usually Quentin’s the one on his back with Eliot on top riding him, controlling how fast or how slow they move, and Quentin never has any complaints (how could he?) but he really hopes they get to do it like this more often.
Maybe on one of the days when Eliot’s being particularly annoying and dramatic.
Hm… Now there’s a thought.
Once he’s seated all the way in, Quentin grinds his hips, trying to get deeper into that silky heat, and hears Eliot curse under his breath. His thighs are twitching around Quentin’s hips, and he’s tightly holding onto his hand that’s pinning him down because he can’t move them anywhere else.
“Christ El, you feel so good. So tight and hot for me,” he mumbles into his neck, nipping at the delicate skin over his pulse point.
“Move, Q, you can move.” Eliot wraps his legs around Quentin and digs his heels into his ass to urge him to start thrusting. “Please,” he adds, craning his neck so he can meet Quentin’s eyes.
Quentin gets his free hand on Eliot’s dick, slowly jacking him off even as he picks up his pace. He’s a bit hesitant, unsure how sensitive Eliot’s feeling after already coming once, but El’s showing interest; his cock is half hard already and slowly filling more the longer Quentin keeps his hand on him. He skates his hand up his stomach, feeling his abs clench at the light touch, to his pebbled nipples so he can rub over them and gently pull on them. Eliot squirms, panting in his ear, hips pushing down to meet Quentin’s.
Then Quentin changes his angle and slams in, punching a gasp out of Eliot that turns into a low whine, and—fuck, that was really, really hot. He does it again, adding a slow grind right into that spot on his plunge in this time, watching how Eliot writhes on the bed with his head thrown back, curls a tangled mess on the pillow.
Quentin hadn’t thought he could be so turned on in his life, but of course Eliot would be the one to prove him wrong; Eliot has been a lot of firsts for him—multiple lives notwithstanding—and he’s looking forward to many more. He desperately hopes he’ll get to see Eliot like this again, spread out on the bed for him, willing to take whatever Quentin’s giving him, soft and pliant.
He ducks down to kiss the other, slow and deep, a mirror of how he’s fucking him, then trails his lips to his ear. “God El—you’re so good. So good for me.”
Eliot keens, an interesting mix between a whine and a mewl that Quentin doesn’t think he’s ever heard him make before, and he smiles delightedly. He licks along the shell of Eliot’s ear, sucks at his earlobe before saying, “You’re taking me so well. So good. Jesus, you’re so beautiful El, you know that?”
And hell, Quentin’s so hot for this; everyone likes being praised once in a while, God knows he certainly does—but Eliot eats it up like he needs air. And he’s always found dirty talk to be awkward so usually preferred it when his partner did it, but Eliot makes it so easy to fall from his mouth like it’s normal, like he says this kind of stuff every time he gets down and dirty.
Which just isn’t the case.
But with Eliot?
Yeah, he could do it every night.
Especially when it makes Eliot react like this, reduced to just a mass of neediness and nerves.
Quentin speeds up his hand on Eliot’s cock, making him all but wail, his long legs tightening around Quentin’s waist. He thrashes against his hold, hole fluttering deliciously around his cock in a way that makes Quentin groan and drop his head to Eliot’s shoulder; he’s really fucking into him now, like it’s the last thing he’ll ever get to do, angling for his prostate with every slide in, his hand matching the pace of his hips.
“Q—Q, I can’t—”
Quentin lifts his head just enough to catch Eliot’s eyes, sees the pleading and the desperation there, feels him squirm like he doesn’t know whether to move away from all the stimulation or move into it, but not being able to do either because Quentin still has a hold on his wrists, is still holding him down.
“Just one more? For me?”
He’s hesitant to ask, to push when they haven’t talked about something like this yet, but he’s confident that Eliot would stop him if it really was too much. As it is, he pauses just for a moment, long enough for Eliot to gather his senses and give him a small nod, and—Quentin has to dive down for a kiss, because as much as Eliot likes to believe that he is just some aloof asshole who has no depth beyond drinking and parties and the occasional drugs, Quentin knows that he has a tender heart; violence doesn’t come easily to him, that he actually detests it, and that he’s so full of love and loyalty for his friends, his found family, that it scares him to show that to people because it wouldn’t be the first time it had been taken advantage of.
And yet, he is so, so willing to show Quentin all the facets of himself. He’s given Quentin his heart, possibly without even knowing it, and allows him to see all the soft parts, the parts that probably only Margo has ever been allowed to see—and even then, probably the parts that Eliot doesn’t even show her.
Quentin breaks the kiss, brushing their noses together, and then says, “Gonna come for me, El? I know you can. You’re so good to me, you give me everything. Won’t you give me this?” And then, when Eliot shakes his head and hides his face in Quentin’s neck— “Don’t you want to be a good boy for me?”
And Eliot’s shaking apart beneath him, a high whine escaping his lips that tapers off into a gasp, eyes falling closed as his back arches while Quentin fucks him through it, chasing his own pleasure. Eliot clamps down around him, drawing a groan from Quentin; his legs are trembling as his body is wracked with aftershocks of his second orgasm, longer than his previous one.
“Holy—fucking shit, Q—” Eliot pants, eyes half open and a little cloudy.
Quentin manages to smirk before he feels that crest sweeping him away, and he plunges in one last time, hitting Eliot’s prostate and grinding against it as he comes. He feels Eliot’s silky heat spasm around his cock, a dry sob wrenching out of his throat as he shivers with overstimulation.
He’s still shivering, trembling with aftershocks, when Quentin carefully pulls out of him and casts a quick cleaning charm over them both. It won’t fully wash away everything, but it’ll do for now until they can get back to the Cottage. As it is, Quentin settles for a spell (or two) before he slowly brings Eliot’s hands back down from above his head, massaging his wrists and his shoulders. He murmurs quiet praises as he does so, peppering small kisses up and down his arms, before he slides the hospital bed duvet over them and settles them in a position where he can spoon Eliot, arm around his waist and their legs tangled together.
“Q?” Eliot eventually says, voice scratchy and just on this side of hoarse.
“Just… Thank you.”
And he knows what Eliot’s saying without Eliot having to say it: thank you for seeing me. Thank you for knowing me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for catching me. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for being you.
Thank you for loving me.
Quentin can’t see Eliot’s face right now, but he can imagine the complex emotions that are probably running across it so instead of saying anything, he presses his lips to the nape of Eliot’s neck, just below his unruly curls, and smiles when he feels him give another shiver. His heart is so full, brimming to the top with—with love for this man. Quentin hadn’t known that one person could feel so much love for another, and for the first time—he understands the enormity of their soulmate bond in particular, he really does.
He loves Eliot.
He has loved Eliot.
He is in love with Eliot.
They are so right for each other, so perfect for each other, that the universe had mind-bogglingly deemed them soulmates for thousands of years.
But even without the memories of their past lives, Quentin thinks he’s been in love with Eliot for a while now. He’d just been too scared to admit it; too scared to look too closely at how his heart would jump whenever Eliot entered a room, or how he always managed to draw Quentin’s attention no matter what he was supposed to be doing, because he had never been sure where exactly he had stood with the other man. But now…
Even if Eliot doesn’t say it, even if it’ll take him months or even years to say it, Quentin knows Eliot loves him too.
He sees it in the way Eliot looks at him.
He sees it in the way Eliot always makes sure he’s included in everything.
He sees it in the way Eliot always gives him his full, undivided attention whenever he’s talking, even if it is just one of his many nerdy rambles.
He sees it in the way Eliot is always touching him; a hand on his shoulder, or on the small of his back, or an arm draped across his shoulders.
Eliot has always shown his love through his actions—and that was true of his past lives too. Christ, how had he been so stupid?
“I love you.” he says quietly, into Eliot’s curls.
But Eliot’s already sleeping, his chest rising and falling with each gentle breath he takes. That’s okay though, because he knows they have a choice this time, and they have chosen each other.
And he’ll say it again in the morning, when they’re both wide awake and getting redressed before Lipson walks in on them, and maybe he’ll get on his knees and suck Eliot off again before they go back to the Cottage just for good measure, just to drive home the fact that he loves Eliot. And then maybe they’ll do magic together, cast silly little parlour tricks just to feel each other’s magic wash over them, to taste that flavour of summer fruit, of the peaches and plums that has somehow carried over into this life.
Quentin’s loved him for over a thousand years, give or take.
What’s a thousand more?
(What Quentin actually says in the morning is, “You told me you hadn’t met your soulmate yet, you fucking liar!”)