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an ever-fixèd mark

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March 8.

"So," Quentin says, "if you look at the, um—the way these are raised, here, feel?"

He hesitates, then sets his hand on the Monster's, guiding his fingertips to to the etched-in marks on the stone, where the spell wells up under the Monster's touch: and the Monster takes a deep breath, his arm brushing against Quentin's chest.

"I think it's like your organs," Quentin says, turning his face, as he picks up the one they got from Iris, setting it beside the Monster's fingertips: "I think that might be—your name, maybe." This close to him, all Quentin can smell is his body. "Can you feel what it says?" Quentin asks, resting his hand over the Monster's again. Trying. Desperately, to keep his brain—

"It feels," says the Monster, and then—tilts his head: looking down at Quentin with that odd, bird-like expression of consideration; uncertain, so unlike Eliot.

Quentin swallows, and shifts closer: it should be—straightforward, really: he can just—rest a hand on the Monster's, the Monster's right hand which is—Eliot's hand, it's nothing, it's nothing, Quentin has touched him just like this a million times, so he just has to put one hand on Eliot's hand and then if the other rests low on Eliot's back as he sidles up close to him at his side the way he used to do to get Eliot to put an arm around him, press a kiss to his forehead—what'd be wrong. In that. So—he has one hand on the Eliot's hand, which is the Monster's hand, and then he steps forward, to—and the Monster flails out wildly, stumbling away from him, crashing into one of the bar stools and knocking the fucking—magical god-organ toward the refrigerator, and Quentin tries to grab it but misses, but he does manage to bash his face against Marina's fucking granite countertops.

Quentin croaks, "Oh fuck," sliding down to the floor: as he presses his sleeve to his searing-sparking smashed-in nose. He can feel wet seeping out against cotton and skin. The spell stone. On the—Quentin sets his shoe over it.

"Quentin." The Monster lurches back over, crouching next to him, looking—

Well. Confused, mostly, as Quentin blinks up at him, the edges of his vision shivering with nauseatingly bright light. Then the Monster frowns, and crooks a finger, and Quentin screams: he fucking—hates it when, when he heals him without warning, fucking Christ, that hurts—

The Monster brushes a finger over the healed bridge of Quentin's nose. "Better," he says, and taps the tip; and Quentin flinches. "There's a lot of blood," the Monster adds, approvingly.

Quentin swallows. "Yeah," he says. "I, uh—sorry. Is it okay? Your, um. Organ," he says; and then—horrifyingly—he can feel himself start to blush.

"Hm, organs," says the Monster, and pushes up to his feet, heading around the kitchen island. A series of thumps ensues: as Quentin thunks his head back against the island, more or less in time, and then lifts his foot up to pocket the stone. "There are Cheetos under the fridge!" the Monster calls, delighted.

"Uh—don't eat those," Quentin says, struggling up to his feet. "We can go to the bodega—Cheetos from under the fridge aren't people food," he explains; but the Monster is, predictably, already shoving one in his mouth: "Oh my God, bad, don't do that, you're going to make yourself sick," Quentin snaps, knocking the other two out of his hands.

"Blech." The Monster turns, spitting. "Linty."

"Yeah, so maybe don't eat the Cheetos you find under the fridge." Quentin sighs. "Jesus, you're like a toddler."

The Monster holds up the thing he got from Iris. "My organ is fine," he tells Quentin, and then—

—then he looks: the way he's been doing more and more and more, lately: his gaze slipping down Quentin's still-bloody face and chin to linger, slow and thoughtful, at the notch of Quentin's throat.

Quentin swallows, hard. That surge of adrenaline, slamming back up into him: throbbing in the tips of his fingers as the Monster reaches out, and, very gently, rubs his left thumb over the jut of Quentin's collarbone.

Resting. Just—just for a moment, as—as his face—

"Hey," Quentin says, very quietly; watching him blink sleepy-hazel eyes.

"Hi," he says, and then shifts: his hand. Sliding. Around to the back of Quentin's neck. Petting, very gentle: as he murmurs, "You should change your shirt, before we go to the bodega."

Quentin swallows. "Yeah," he croaks; and then swallows again.

"And put on a sweater," he adds, and then—he brushes his knuckles up over Quentin's cheek: oh—Christ— "You hurt yourself," he says, disapprovingly: and then—

—there is a strange, confused expression passing over his face; and then, gaze dropping, he brushes his whole hand down to close gently over Quentin's throat: as Quentin goes suddenly, humiliatingly hard in his jeans.

(Mm, Eliot'd said. Are you—; and Yeah, I'm sure—pl—ease, Quentin'd said; and then squirmed and panted and squirmed while Eliot had just—squeezed—)

His eyes. Quentin is watching him helplessly, blood rising up in his cheeks, with—with Eliot's hand on his throat and—and Eliot looking straight into his eyes—

"Why do I—want to eat you, a little," the Monster asks, a little uncertainly; and Quentin shivers all over, flinching back.

The Monster lets him. Watching him, eyebrows furrowed, with that bright intent expression of perplexed curiosity.

"Can people eat people, only a little?" the Monster asks, very slowly.

"No," Quentin croaks; and then swallows. Taking another step back. "No, if you eat us, we die," he says. "Even if you just eat us a little."

The Monster's expression is shifting, truculent. "Eliot ate you a little," he says, sullen, resentful; and Quentin can feel himself blushing. Julia was right, this was—he doesn't—and then the Monster says, "You liked Eliot to just—," and then leans in to put his mouth over Quentin's: held still, and soft, and sweet.

Quentin breathes in. He can taste—blood, mostly. Neither of them has closed their eyes.

The Monster pulls back. Looking at him. His cheeks are pink, and God, Quentin'd used to have to work so hard, so fucking hard, to get Eliot to blush like that, but—

"That's not eating," says the Monster uncertainly, and then touches Eliot's mouth.

Quentin swallows. "No," he says, very quietly. "Not eating." He takes a breath. "He was my friend," he explains, looking up at the Monster, "he—we did that because we were friends"; and "—oh," the Monster says, and then—hunches, a little, into his coat, shooting Quentin a confused, uncertain look.

Quentin takes a breath. "I have to go change my shirt," he says.

The Monster straightens, and asks, "Why?"

 

March 6.

For some reason it not having a name is a problem. "You could give me a name," it suggests.

"I... think that's a bad idea, probably." Quentin says, tightening the towel around his hips. That little. Dip, just along the bone: tasty, it is thinking, for some reason. It boosts itself up onto the counter to watch.

"Why?" it asks. "I thought people loved naming things. You name your roombas. You name your kids."

Quentin pauses, and then closes the medicine cabinet. "Are you sure you can't remember having a name?" he asks, squirting shave gel into his hand, which smells a very peculiar Quentin-not-Quentin way and turns white and gets bigger when he rubs it on his face, which reminds it of—

Shifting, it says, "No," which is a lie. It does remember having a name. It remembers being named Eliot. It hadn't liked being named Eliot, a lot of the time—Eliot hadn't even liked being Eliot, so it seems like being Eliot is something everyone can agree was not good so it doesn't understand what the big deal is with how it isn't Eliot anymore. Now Eliot doesn't have to be Eliot anymore, either, and it can be—like Eliot, only better. It can be a much better friend to Quentin, the kind of friend who fixes him when it breaks him and plays with him about his dead dad and doesn't break his heart, which is an odd wispy dandelion-fluff thought that tickles inside the back of its nose, and is confusing: because Quentin's heart does not appear to be broken: his heart is still inside him, thump-thump-thumping away, it can hear it; and earlier, when it had broken several hearts, the people around the hearts hadn't gotten better after.

"Do people get better from broken hearts?" it asks Quentin, while it is sitting on the bathroom counter, watching Quentin shave off the little short scratchy hairs on his chin. He does this every morning but he hasn't always let it watch: he does now, though. This—pleases it, for some reason. It makes a waving-prickling-up feeling start very low down inside it and then shiver up through it and out, until it wraps around its shoulders like—like fur, warm and soft and good, good for patting; or—or armor. Making it. Stronger.

"Um—are we talking literal, or metaphorical?" Quentin asks. A little muffled, because of the way he's holding his mouth.

It tilts its head. "I'm not sure," it admits. "What's the difference?"

"Literal heart-breaking, like—make hearts physically split in two—no. People don't get better from that." Quentin shaves over his jaw, down his soft soft throat. "Metaphorical: it just means—someone did something to you that hurt you, a lot? Like—made you really sad." He rinses the razor. "Have you been on the internet again?"

"Hmm," it says. "People get better from metaphorical broken hearts."

"Yeah, sometimes." He sounds distracted: working on the tricky bit just above his lip, which it watches, very intently. It likes looking at Quentin's mouth. It makes him think about—eating. Sort of. Did you get better when Eliot broke your heart, it wants to ask, but Quentin isn't thinking about Eliot right now and so it doesn't want to distract him since Eliot is stupid and pointless and cruel and a murderer and a trainwreck and even Eliot knew he wasn't good enough for Quentin because he made Quentin taste sad and need to look at other things. It doesn't want Quentin to look at other things. Right now Quentin is looking at Quentin in the mirror, but his eyes keep darting to it, which makes it feel—pleased, all over. Quentin's nipples—a bizarre and pointless appendage—are little, and pink, and peaked at their middles, with little crinkly hairs all around them that—

It frowns, and then reaches out to touch one; and Quentin jumps.

"Uh—wow, uh." Quentin steps back, turning—pink. In splotches. All over his face and his throat and his collarbones and his chest, spreading down towards his even-pinker nipples. "You can't—don't do that without asking. It's rude, and—and it's scary."

And oh: it doesn't like that at all. "Scary," it echoes: because Quentin doesn't feel scared, or not—just scared: Quentin feels—hot, and tangled-up, and—excited, it is realizing: excited in the way that it feels—excited: all the way low down in the middle of its belly. Its nipples. It rubs a finger over one through its T-shirt, which makes it feel shivery and hot and good, all over. Quentin is watching it, cheeks flushed under the streaks of shaving foam. He's breathing hard, and—

"You smell," it says, and then stops.

"I, um," Quentin says, and puts down the razor.

"Good," it says, feeling—

The thing it likes least about remembering being Eliot is that sometimes it remembers being Eliot when it doesn't want to, remembering—eating-not-eating Quentin his mouth to Eliot's mouth and the little soft noises that Quentin made under him while they didn't-eat each other and how—how that'd felt, how that'd made Eliot feel hot and clever and—and satisfied, because—because he'd made Quentin get all hot and squirmy and—and hard, at his nipples and his—

—his—

—when Eliot'd made him smell—

"—good," it says. Hunching over its— "Why does it do that," it asks Quentin, feeling—angry, it doesn't want to— "why does it keep—wanting to do—the rubbing thing," it says, which for some reason makes Quentin turn very, very red, "when I look at you?"

"I, um," Quentin says, and then laughs. "It's. An autonomous response? It's not something we—our bodies. Have total control over."

It frowns at him. "Why are you embarrassed?" it asks.

"I—ohhh, that would take." He takes a deep, slow breath. "Like thirteen years to explain to you, I think, but that—that is. Uh, the rubbing thing—masturbation—is, um. It's just private, it's not—something we talk about, or—do. Where other people can." He swallows. "See," he says, finally.

But you did it with Eliot, it is remembering, which makes it get very, very angry. It makes it feel—hot, and furious, and—frustratingly pointless and stupid the way Eliot was pointless and stupid even though it's—better, it's so much better, it can be so much better, for Quentin, it doesn't have to be pointless and stupid, it will make Quentin taste happy and not need to look at other things, h-he is good at making Quentin happy, he is good at making Quentin be the way he wants Quentin to be, because Quentin keeps looking at him, those little—darting—glances that make the waving-prickling-up feeling start up all over—it again: quivering, all over its spine.

Quentin picks up the razor again. His hands are shaking, a little, so he has to go extra-slow when he shaves—

"I can do that for you," it reminds him.

"No! No, it's." Quentin takes a breath. "It helps me feel better, to do it myself. It makes me. Less sad. You can—watch—um": with an odd little squeak at the end, his eyes darting to its in the mirror: wide.

"Oh, fine," it sighs; and lets Quentin shave, and doesn't even do the rubbing thing, even though his body is telling him that it would be so much more interesting if it—if he could just—if he could watch Quentin in a towel shaving, eyes fixed on his in the mirror, watching Quentin watching him while he did it.

 

March 9.

Quentin jerks awake in the dark, hearing—

—that sound, unmistakable: skin on skin and the hot rushing pant of breath, just behind the back of his neck, and—he can feel himself flushing. All over.

"Uh," he croaks; and the Monster makes a hot torn-up noise behind him and then pushes Quentin's face flat to the pillow.

"No," says the Monster, thick, "you're—mm, not here, I'm good, I'm not supposed to—when you're here but I, I just have to—"

Quentin swallows, tucking his chin down: the Monster's fingers are winding up in his hair: his left hand. "It's okay," Quentin says, rough, "if—if the other person says it's okay, so—it's okay, you can—" and then gasps, tensing up all over, as the Monster rolls his whole body over on top of Quentin's back.

El, Quentin thinks: a bomb, bright as sodium in water. The smell of Eliot's body in the winter when the river was too cold for bathing after—after fucking hours in bed, God: delirious Quentin squirms, tucking his chin down as he braces his forearms, pressing—up—back—: and the Monster moans against the back of Quentin's burning neck. Quentin can—he can feel him, he can feel it, and it'd take—nothing. Nothing. A flick of his wrist and a twist of his fingers, nothing, and Eliot would be—

—just—

pushing back into him

—and Quentin groans, as panting the Monster bites down on the back of his shoulder, hooking the fingers of his left hand under the waistband of Quentin's boxers and dragging them—

"I," gasping, "I, mm—why do I, I want to—" as he nudges his—his dick oh Christ sweat-slick-sliding and Quentin is, is shaking all over: as—as El is rubbing his face against the back of his shoulder as he fucks the crack of Quentin's ass and shaking, Quentin flails back, grabbing at his ass—

And the Monster freezes: his whole big heavy body pinning Quentin to the sheets.

God. Fuck. Quentin blinks, sparks in darkness: fucking Christ, he can't—

"What are you doing?" the Monster asks. Rough: and Quentin closes his eyes.

"Touching you," he manages, somehow; and then swallows. "Like," he says, with difficulty, "like you're touching me." He takes a breath. "Like—I did with—"

—and the Monster shifts, hips lifting, and then fast-fast-fast pushes—back—and Quentin can't help the "Ungh—" it pulls out of him or the clawing, desperate-starving want rising up in him, dripping—dripping out of his eyes, and his mouth.

"Please," Quentin whispers, shivering, "please just let me—"

"This is what it wanted," says the Monster. He's still twisting his hand in the ends of Quentin's hair, dragging him—back: "Not—not the. Rubbing?"; and Quentin swallows, painfully thick.

"Both, probably," he admits, because sometimes—sometimes sex isn't better, "sometimes—sometimes it wants, uh—something—"

The Monster nuzzles up under the back of his ear: "Something," he echoes; as Quentin is shivering all over.

"Something easy," Quentin manages. Breathless. He's still painfully hard: he probably shouldn't be, but—but Eliot's body smells right and feels right and he hasn't—he hasn't even wanted it, not—not in—years, not since—

"...easy," El is murmuring, right against the back of Quentin's neck; and then kissing. Kissing. Kissing: his rough-sweaty face hot under the ends of Quentin's hair as Quentin pushes back against him his whole body arching remembering Eliot bullying him up onto his knees when Quentin was already so shaky and fucked out he felt almost ready to cry and then El l-licking at him, kissing the back of his neck so so tenderly, just like that, just before he—pushed—

"No," the Monster pants, rough, "stop—missing him, don't—" and presses his right hand to the back of Quentin's head, shoving his face down. Heavy breathing hard as the tip of him is—sliding—thickslick and heavy just catching at—the rim of him, face buried in his hair as—as he—

—slides his left hand under Quentin's belly; and shuddering Quentin's voice cracks in his throat.

 

March 10.

Warm. Warm: the first thing it knows and the last, the warmsoftheavy taste of—of Quentin. Who is.

Lying tucked up against its body, asleep.

It lifts up the duvet and looks. Its jeans are still undone, but on, the leg on the left pushed up uncomfortably so it's all tangled around its thigh. Quentin isn't wearing any clothes. It sets the duvet down again, frowning at him, then pokes him in the middle of the chest.

"Quentin," it says. "Quentin": and Quentin jerks back into consciousness, his brain churning out of the slow disorganized sea of sleeping into the too-fast too-complicated—it pokes him again; and Quentin bats at its hand, muttering, "Stop it. Bad. God": so it flattens its hand out on Quentin's bare chest instead.

Nipples.

Pink: Quentin's heart under his ribcage goes thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump: his eyes are very big and very brown and all—soft at the edges, which makes it feel all—fluttery, and—warm, for some reason—

"Why didn't you tell me my body wanted me to rub it on you?" it asks. It feels—annoyed. Impatient, and also—. "That was much more interesting." It explains, "If I'd known I would've done that weeks ago."

"I—uh," Quentin says, and then—laughs, a little. He's—blushing, he supplies, the way he always does when and stop, it thinks, enraged: shut up. Quentin says, "That's sort of. A touchy subject, for—me, for. Most people."

"Touchy," it echoes: sliding its hand—up, to cup over Quentin's throat; and Quentin. Shivers. "Like this?"

"That's not what touchy means," Quentin says, thick. It doesn't know why. It's not even squeezing. "Touchy like—it's uncomfortable to, to talk about."

"It's uncomfortable for you to even think about," it corrects. "But you think about it anyway."

Quentin turns pinker. "Yeah," he says, rough.

"You think about it a lot," it observes; and Quentin's ears go a painful, tingly-hot red.

It doesn't know why, but—Quentin does. He's thinking about it right now. It's not—clear, just—a snarled mess of heat and touch and memory and wanting, all tangled up with Eliot Eliot Eliot, so it kneels up closer to him, with its hand still just—holding, feeling—

Anger. Angry: it keeps telling him it doesn't want him to keep thinking about him but he just won't fucking stop

"Stop," it tells him, yet again, "stop thinking about—"

"I can't," Quentin says, "I can't stop," and then—whines, as it—squeezes the swirling mess of Quentin's thoughts bursting out fireworks-bright but he's still thinking stupid Quentin things like sad and miss and lonely and that is—that's so—stupid, and boring, because it is right here, but then it kneels up over Quentin's hips as Quentin's eyes go dark and huge and ohhh, yes, yes, yes, because there is a big black pit opening up inside Quentin as it is pushing down against him and now, now, he isn't thinking about Eliot, is he.

"Oh—yes," it says, pleased, "see, I can make you, I can make you not think about—"; and Quentin's brain flashes bright-white-terrified as it lets go of his throat so it can push its jeans down, because the open metal—zipper thing hurts where it digs into the soft parts of its body.

"Wait," Quentin gasps: the problem with needing both hands to— "Wait," Quentin repeats, resting a shaking hand on its belly. "Please," Quentin says, a little unsteady, "just—wait, I—"

And it feels—

"You keep saying 'wait' but that is a stupid idea," it says, angry. "Waiting is boring, and when I wait you keep—thinking about Eliot—"

"Yeah, because it's easier!" Quentin bursts out; and then flushes. "It's—I don't—," he says, and then licks his lip before saying, very fast, "I don't want to think of you as a monster and you hate it when I think of you as Eliot but you haven't told me your name, so how am I supposed to think of you, exactly?"

"I don't have a name," it says, irritated; and Quentin rubs at his face.

"Yeah, I know," he says, muffled; and then sighs. "Look. I know this is weird for you, but—people have names, people think of other people with their names, especially when they're—uh, you know—"

"Rubbing," it supplies, because Quentin is remembering shivering all over gasping, E—eliot—, and—

"Yes, rubbing," Quentin bites out; and then sighs. "We say—I mean." He sighs again. "Oh, 'fucking,' probably."

"Fucking," it repeats, sitting up straighter: oh, it is thinking. That tastes good, fucking. He thought that meant—something else. "I thought 'fucking' meant 'angry,'" it says, and then—considers. "You are a little angry at me," it concedes.

Quentin ducks his head. Shoulders slumping.

"Look," Quentin says, after a second. Inside he's all—orange-purple, lopsided. He says, "Can't you just... pick a name, or something?"

It frowns at him. "Just... pick one?" it asks.

"Yeah, or—"

"Teddy," it says immediately; but that was wrong, because all the color drains out of Quentin's face so fast there is a hot-red surge of fear and protectiveness inside of—inside of him, wanting—wanting to keep Quentin—safe, to not—: "Not Teddy?" it asks, uncertainly.

No, says Quentin mouth, moving, but it doesn't make any sound, so—not 'Teddy', not 'Alice', not 'Julia', not fucking 'Eliot'

"Desmond," it decides; and Quentin blinks at him.

"I—okay," Quentin says, and then hesitates. Squinting. "...Like from Lost?" he asks, looking—

"What's Lost?" it asks, but its brain is already filling in: made-up things; moving on screens; boring; blah.

"Uh—never mind," Quentin says, and then— "It's a good name, Desmond—Des": and—oh, that is better, it is realizing, because Quentin is looking at it with this big-complicated-warm bubble swelling out inside of his chest as he is looking at it and thinking, Des, Des, Des, not fucking Eliot; and it wants to—to eat but that's—it knows that one now that's—this, bending its mouth down against Quentin's as Quentin shivers and puts his arms around its shoulders, clutching his fingers in its t-shirt which it'd got—crusty human things on anyway and if it weren't wearing it there'd just be—skin, Quentin's hands on—on his skin—so he pulls back, peeling—and Quentin's hands find his skin his skin his skin as Quentin licks up into his mouth making that little hot noise that he—he can make that better, can't he, if he—if he puts his hands just—

here

—and it is on its back with Quentin sitting up above it reaching out for the nightstand for his hair tie—no, that's—wrong, because its Quentin doesn't need hair ties, Eliot, so Quentin is reaching for—and looking back down at it with those vast dark eyes and it—it doesn't—its hands are lying limp next to its head and it is breathing very hard and Quentin hesitates, looking down at him, licking at his own red (rubbed) mouth, then says, "Des?"

Des: and that makes it shiver-shiver-shiver, all over: its spine lifting—up as Quentin bends back down to brush his mouth over its, very gently. Its knuckles. Curling, against the pillow. It feels—he feels. Good. Good, it feels—good it is being—so good—

"Are you going to—rub me more," it asks, because—it definitely—that hot-prickling knot of wanting means wanting—everything, all of that, but it— "You don't have a hair tie," it says uncertainly, feeling—

—sad, because he—

—and Quentin laughs, a little, bending down to eat-not-eating the—the hottendersoft skin under his throat, thinking: Des; then says, "No," and then—licks: "Do you want one?"

It breathes in deep, lifting its hands to Quentin's hips: "No, I want—"

"Kiss me again," Quentin whispers, bending down, so he kisses him again: ki—issing, kissing which is like eating it likes the—the eating parts of— "Good?" Quentin asks, and—it is good, it is so good, it makes it feel like—it's good as Quentin is kissing it again and again and again because Quentin is thinking, kiss me again, I want you to— with a stone-sharp force behind it and so he, he, he kisses Quentin again, helpless: because the alternative would be to not give Quentin what he wants and that is that is that is that is—unthinkable so he kisses Quentin again squirming above him—and dark-eyed and close and panting as Quentin's hand slips between them to just—rub

—and it puts its hand over Quentin's. Feeling—

—its heart. Fluttering, all over.

"Should I stop?" Quentin asks, very low, with those big dark eyes fixed on its as his hand is just—petting up over its softhard human parts and it feels all—strange, and trembling and empty and—and like Eliot, it is remembering and it hates that it hates that it hates how—uselesshungryhollow it is in—side but: "Quentin," it says, because—because Quentin is undeniable, warm and soft and good and thinking, Des, Des, Des, as he looks down at him: "Quentin," he says, "Q, I want to—"

"Yeah," Quentin breathes, "so put your hand—here": drawing its fingers to Quentin's hip, his—ass, as he is bending his head back down to kiss him thinking that same hard deliberate flower-unfolding mantra: Des, Des, Des and it doesn't matter that it isn't his name, because if Quentin keeps thinking it like that it could be, he could be—just exactly—what Quentin wants, except—

"That's," he says, because above him Quentin is breathing in deep, pushing back against his—fingers but those don't— "that's not what that's for?" it says, but it's—not sure, because Quentin—; Quentin is bending down laughing, a little, to kiss him again.

"It can be," he says, soft; thinking, Des: it shivers, all over, as Quentin—arches, looking down at him, dark-eyed.

It swallows. Feeling—

—a memory: an odd, lopsided, useless-Eliot memory: half-terrified half-excited like—like Quentin feels around him all the time lying next to half on top of—someone else, as they were—touching—

Quentin cups his chin, holding him in place as he bends down to kiss him: not eating; "Mm—Des," Quentin says as he is all warm-right-wanting inside which makes him—shiver: "Look at me," Quentin says, "now": a little too loudly.

It looks at him.

Quentin's eyes are wide and dark and gleaming, something—cracked, somehow, in his face even though it's not cracked, it's in one piece, and the only holes in it are the ones that are supposed to go there, and then—

"Good boy," Quentin says, very low; and—

—gasping. Flushing all over thrilling up with that prickling-waving armor-fur feeling as Quentin is pressing back against his fingers, saying, "You're such a good boy," and then, "Do you—do you want to be better, for me?"

 

March 10.

"Quentin," he says, uncertainly; and Quentin bends down, brushing their mouths together as El—Des is taking a deep, shaky breath: "It's okay," Quentin says: it's okay, it's okay, it's going to be—: "It's okay," Quentin breathes, "we're friends, aren't we?": and—

"Yes," he gasps, grabbing at Quentin's ass, "we're best friends."

"Yeah, we are," Quentin says, and sits up, a little, so he can grab the tube of lube from his nightstand. "Very," he says, "best," bending down again, "friends": while E—Des, Des, Des is making a little hot-high un-Eliotish noise underneath him and Quentin reaches back to rub his wet fingers over the long-warm familiar wet fingers just-barely brushing against and then Quentin takes a deep breath fucking his hips back onto E—his left hand as, underneath him, Des's eyes go wide, and hot, and shocked. "Hey," Quentin says, ducking down. "Best friends kiss, while they—" and Des surges his head and shoulders up so quickly their mouths clack painfully together, a burst of sharp-copper flavor against the edge of Quentin's teeth. Des, Quentin is thinking, Des, with his—lovely hazel eyes and long long—fingers justfitting into him just, just the way Quentin likes, because—because he knows, because he's so—smart and handsome and—and Quentin loves him, desperately, Quentin loves him with every fucking part of his heart and his body: kissing him over and over and over his clever mouth and thick tongue and sharp teeth scraping at the edge of Quentin's mouth while Quentin braces his hands on the mattress behind the pillow and kisses him over and over and over again.

"Mm—" Des rubs his mouth across Quentin's: "I—"

"I want you to fuck me," Quentin tells him, heart pounding, as Des is—arching, breathing in deep: blinking up at him with those pupil-wide hazy eyes: "It's—just like rubbing," Quentin says. Unsteady. "It's just—you're just going to rub it inside of me": and under him, Des's long lovely bare body shivers, head to toe. "Yeah?" Quentin asks, bending down; and Des makes another high, trembling sound, as Quentin reaches back over for the lube. "Kiss me again," Quentin breathes, and—Des kisses him, wet and wide-open and hungry: just exactly like—

"Mm—Q—uentin," he says, thick; and Quentin bites down shuddering on his bottom lip slicking him up with his hands shaking as he says, "It's good," rough, "it'll feel—good, it'll be—i-interesting, yeah?": voice catching as under him the M—Des, Des, Des makes another broken-desperate noise, gasping, "Y-yes": hips jerking up, just. Just catching, while Quentin breathes out, steady-slow, holding him as he—as he is—remembering his body remembering as he—lowers. Himself. Down.

"Oh," Des gasps, "unh—Quentin—more, more, I want—": and then he moans, eyes squeezing shut tight as Quentin.

Moves.

"Hey." Quentin pets his cheek. "Hey. Kiss—"

—and he flails up for Quentin's hair, left-handed.

Quentin gasps, right into his mouth: as blinking up at him unsteady he is—

"Q," he says, thick, blinking; and Quentin cups his cheek.

"You trust me?" Quentin asks, heart pounding, as he—moves staring down as his eyes flutter shut. "Please," Quentin says, desperate, "please, please—"

"Yeah," Eliot says, rough, "I—"

"Shh, kiss me," Quentin says, and kisses him again: "Just—keep kissing me, please, trust me—kiss me"; as under him Eliot's mouth is opening with Eliot's hand stroking down to settle light, uncertain, on the back of Quentin's neck as Quentin moves and Eliot kisses him as Eliot moves and Quentin kisses him moving as under him Eliot is arching up, breathing in, blinking, as his face, as he is asking, "...Q?" and kissing him desperately Quentin gets his hand around the charmed stone in his nightstand; and says, "Desmond," to activate the spell, and then slams it down hard against the center of Eliot's chest.

 

March 7.

"No," Julia says, flat.

"If all we need is to get him back in control, for like forty-five seconds—"

"Too much information, there, Q," Julia says, "but no."

"—to finish the binding—what, you don't think it's worth it?"

"For you to get flayed while trying to use your nonexistent sexual wiles—no offense—to get the Monster to focus on you instead of—"

"Yeah, I mean, why would I take offense at that," Quentin says, flat; and Julia sighs.

"Quentin, you know I love you," Julia says, with her stomach tight and sour-tasting, "but you are not precisely skilled in the art of seduction."

Quentin takes a breath. "Yeah, well," he says, "Eliot never had any complaints"; but it stumbles at the end: weak, and airless.

Julia's heart thuds. "Q," she says, gentle, reaching out for him; but he steps back, hands up, shaking his head.

"I don't—look, I know," he says. "I know I'm not exactly the picture of objectivity, here, and I know I'm not exactly the ideal person," he says, "to go around f-fucking people into submission, but it can't possibly have escaped your attention that Eliot is already bleeding through. He's not—that is not the same fucking Monster that was here a month ago, he's changing, he has been ever—ever since—"

He stops, then. Pressing two shaking hands to his face.

Fuck. She fucking hates this, what do you even—say to that, she doesn't know how to—to help him—

"Ever since Eliot magically got out to say hi to you?" she suggests, as gently as she can; and Quentin sighs, and drops his hands.

"Yeah," he says. Even. "Ever since Eliot magically got out to say hi to me"; and meets her eyes.

She takes a breath. "It can read your mind," she reminds him, very quietly.

"Yeah, but he's shitty at it," Quentin says; and takes a breath. "He—look. He can tell what I'm feeling, but he doesn't—there's obviously not any context. He doesn't understand loyalty, he doesn't know what love is, his understanding of feelings is—like, when T—um." He takes a breath. "I mean. I have literally met three-year-olds who were emotionally more sophisticated than he is." Another breath: his hand fisting in his hair. He stops. Scrubs it back. "The Monster gets all—cross and embarrassed and unhappy when I'm angry with him because then I don't want to play, but that's—about as far as it goes, okay? He can understand, like—sad, and lonely, and missing Eliot, but he still doesn't understand why I can't fucking just—run find-replace on my life. He would fucking love it, if I could find-replace Eliot with him, so—"

He throws his hands up, stepping back.

"So why the fuck not," he says, rough; and Julia shifts, then gets up, putting on the kettle for tea.

Mugs. Honey. Tea, lavender-chamomile. Neither of them needs more caffeine.

"You really think Eliot would appreciate you maybe killing yourself trying to get him back?" she asks, finally. "Maybe killing yourself with his body?"

Quentin lets out a long, exhausted breath, dropping his head back against the cupboards. "I think he's not fucking here to get to have an opinion," he says; and she—

—flinches.

"What if it works?" she asks, and her voice cracks.

"Well, fucking good," he says; and she swallows, thick.

"Quentin," she says, unsteady, "you broke up."

Ducking. Her head: and Quentin.

Steps back.

"You think," Quentin says, and then stops.

"I think," Julia manages, voice rough, "that he's not fucking here to get to have an opinion"; and Quentin huffs, helpless, disbelieving; and steps back again, staring at her, wide-eyed, as he shakes his head.

The Monster lumbers in: cleanish shirt, a pair of Penny's grey jeans. Quentin had got it to shower, at some point. She isn't asking.

"Bacon," it says, holding out its right hand, and then drops a family-pack of thick-cut on the counter. "But it's wrong, Quentin."

"Yeah, it's not cooked." Quentin lifts the top edge, where the pack is already open: "Did you eat some already?"

The Monster scowls at him. "No," it says, defensively, and then hunches. "I spit it out"; and Quentin sighs.

"Okay," he says, "I'll—cook you your bacon, but—you do remember that I'm a really shitty cook, right?"

"Yes," the Monster says, sullen; and then, only mostly inexplicably, "rabbit."

"Well." Quentin licks over his bottom lip. "Just so you've got your expectations set correctly"; and the Monster hums, and reaches out to squeeze Quentin's shoulder, left-handed, then pat—

—his ass.

Quentin takes a breath, and looks at Julia.

Julia swallows. Watching, as the Monster boosts Eliot's body up onto the counter, transparently watching Quentin bend over for a pan.

After a moment, Julia puts her mug back up on the shelf.

After another, she goes to her room.

 

April 30.

Eliot finds Quentin in the stacks, sitting on the floor at the base of the Brakebills offerings on hauntings and exorcisms. He looks like he hasn't showered in—ohh. About six weeks. Eliot sits down across from him, and waits.

Quentin rubs at his forehead. "So Alice sent me something she thinks might help—the kids on Plover's estate," he says, "it's actually a variation on—"; and then he stops, his mouth.

Twisting.

"Mm," Eliot reaches over. Touches Quentin's knee: and Quentin flinches, hard.

Eliot swallows. Drops his hand.

Eliot clears his throat. "So—I think maybe... we should go for a walk," he says, "I somehow... don't think this is a conversation for public consumption," and pushes up to his feet.

Holding down a hand.

Quentin swallows, but he takes it, just long enough to let Eliot pull him up.

Outside, the grounds are quiet. It's that odd little wedge of time between when all but the most advanced classes wrap for the day and when the kids start looking for a party, or a hookup, or just something to fucking do that isn't another nine hours of research or essays or problem sets: the sun is hanging low in the west, turning the sky a clear, honeyish golden, and out in the woods behind the cottage, the moss is soft and sweet-smelling where it crushes down under their feet, above them the trees rustling quietly with the breeze: Eliot came in around noon, from Fillory, and spent an hour in the woods, just—just recording them. He hadn't remembered them quite right.

"Do you want an update on Julia?" Eliot asks, after a minute.

"Julia doesn't want me to get an update on Julia," Quentin says, rough; and Eliot swallows: of course. Of course, that was—a really fucking stupid thing to say.

Wasn't it.

"I'm not Julia," Eliot says, after a second; and Quentin laughs, harsh, and says, "No shit"; and Eliot sighs.

He hadn't remembered Q quite right, either. How could he? Quentin's been hiding on campus for months, on Fillory. Weeks, here, at least.

"So." Eliot clears his throat. "So, for starters, I remember—bits and pieces. Not—everything, I don't think. But what I remember of you was—pretty okay with me, Q": and Quentin ducks his head, turning. Pressing a palm to a tree.

"Would you tell me if it wasn't?" he asks. Rough.

Of course I would, sweetheart, Eliot wants to tell him. In a heartbeat.

"Honestly?" Eliot asks, squinting. "Probably not." He sighs, and rubs at his forehead. "But look, there's not—from my point of view," he explains, "you had one job, and you did it. In a... sort of amoral and potentially terrible way, yes, but you got it done, and it worked, and you got me out, and—right now that's what matters to me. That I can—come find you at Brakebills, and walk with you in the woods, and tell you that you—really, really, really need to take a shower; or that I can—know that tomorrow I'm going back to Fillory, where I get to help Margo seduce my wife and terrorize the populace—Quentin, I missed you, I want you, I want you to come home with me—for me everything else is just sort of." He rubs at his forehead. "Side plot," he says, quiet.

Quentin leans back against the tree. Watching him. "You get what I did, right?" he says, rough.

Eliot shifts. "Stopped showering as soon as I came back?" he says, but it's weak and he knows it, even before Quentin's eyes squeeze shut, throat bobbing, his head dropping back against the tree trunk.

"Yeah," Eliot says, then. "Actually." Breathing in. "I do."

Quentin doesn't look at him. "Look," he says, rough, "I know it doesn't fix it and I know it doesn't make up for it but I told myself over and over and over that it wouldn't—that I could take it, if you never wanted to see me again, if you just fucking—made it out alive."

Pressing. His hands.

To his face.

"Yeah," Eliot says, quiet; and then shifts, and asks, "Well, what if I do want to see you again?"; and Quentin sighs, and drops his hands. Looking over at him, bleak.

"I just—I'd rather you hated me forever, if the alternative is—El, I don't know if I can take it, if you change your mind," Quentin says, unsteady, low and rough with honesty: "it's going to kill me, if I lose you again"; and Eliot swallows.

"Okay," he says, and tucks his hands in his pockets. "So." He shrugs, stepping closer. "What if you don't?"

Quentin swallows. "Yeah, you—pretty sure you don't have to marry your r-rapist, in 2019," he says; and Eliot sighs.

"Look." Eliot steps back, rubbing at his forehead; and then sighs. Blinking up at the canopy of trees. "I've got enough fucking trauma in my life that I don't feel the need to go borrowing more." He takes a breath. "And, you know—I love you, and I finally—can say that to you." He swallows. "Which counts for a lot. But—how I feel about what happened actually isn't exactly about you, okay?"

Quentin takes a deep, slow breath.

"It took over my body," Eliot says. "It locked me away. It used my body to kill people. To brutalize my friends."

Quentin swallows. "It was a child," he says, very rough.

"No, it wasn't," Eliot says, sharp, "it wasn't a person at all"; and then—

—sighs.

Quentin isn't looking at him.

"If the thing tearing you up is whether or not it was my choice to fuck you—screw that, Quentin," Eliot says. It scrapes in his throat. "I don't—I don't care if it's—fucked up or morally suspect or terrible politics or—whatever, but half the time I feel like every choice I've ever made has been just incredibly shitty, and probably we'd all be better off if I didn't make them, so—and if it's about what I want—what I actually want, well, I want you. I want you back, okay?" He swallows, shaking his head. "I just—I want a fucking reset, Q. I want—I'm so fucking tired of—all these fucking disasters, getting thrown down in between us, God, I made this—one incredibly shitty fucking choice and I regret it and—I, I paid for it, didn't I?"

Quentin pushes up on his feet, coming towards him: "El," he says, bleak, "no, you didn't—"

"If you tell me right now I didn't deserve anything other than having an evil supernatural being move into my body and terrorize everyone I love, Q, I swear to God, I'm going to flatten you," Eliot tells him; and Quentin huffs, looking up at him.

"Sure," Quentin says, voice raw, "a little domestic violence, that's—definitely what this relationship needs": but then lays a hand on Eliot's hip, tentative; and Eliot lets out a breath.

Leans down, to press a kiss to Quentin's forehead.

"I miss you," Eliot says, very quietly.

"Yeah," Quentin agrees, "I miss you too," and takes a breath. Sliding—

—his arms, warm, around Eliot's waist.

"I'm so sorry, El." Quentin's voice is rough. "God, I'm so fucking—"

"Shh," Eliot murmurs, and kisses his hair—eaugh. He takes a breath. "You trust me?"

"Yeah," Quentin sighs.

Eliot nods. "Then trust me," he says, as Quentin's arms tighten. Solid. Familiar.

Eliot touches Quentin's shoulder. The side of his throat, and then slides his hand to cup the back of Quentin's warm neck.

"You need a shower," Eliot tells him, very gently, because—

"I know," Quentin says, muffled.

Eliot squeezes him. "Like, really really bad, baby," he says; and Quentin laughs, wet; and lifts his head, saying, "Okay. I—okay. Okay. Okay": as Eliot wipes his fingertips over Quentin's hot, wet cheeks.

"So we're going to go back," Eliot says, gentle, "and you're going to shower, aren't you?"

Quentin nods.

"And then—dinner, okay?"

Quentin nods again.

"Good boy," Eliot says; and Quentin shivers, and then presses his whole warm smelly body back against him, and buries his face in Eliot's throat.

Eliot strokes his hair, even though it's greasy and disgusting. Quentin's shoulders are hunching up, as he keeps—trying. To press closer.

"You get so turned around, don't you," Eliot says, quiet. "When I'm not here to look after you"; as slowly, warm against him, Quentin takes a breath.

"Yeah," he says. Voice thick. "Yeah, I do."