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The In-Between

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Eliot Waugh had never been one for relationships. For him, it was much easier to have unattached, selectively naked fun with attractive men and be on his way. That was what he had always done, and he had never seen himself breaking that pattern as long as he lived, be it long or short. It was easier this way, for everyone involved.

Until it wasn’t. Until he met Quentin Coldwater.

Quentin was shy and reserved and nerdy and everything Eliot had never expected to become so fond of. Occasionally he had been known to take a shy man to bed just to see how long it took to break him—for him to cry out, to discover a whole new world of kink he hadn’t known about himself. One that Eliot would gladly teach. It had been one of his favorite one-night-stand scenarios.

But he had gradually found himself becoming fond of Quentin, of the way he hid behind long locks of hair, the way his wide brown eyes seemed to take everything in with but a word. He saw the world differently than most people—like he was watching from afar, almost afraid to live in it. 

That had drawn Eliot in like a magnet, in ways he still couldn’t explain to himself—in ways he doubted he would ever be able to. Quentin Coldwater was simply fascinating beyond anything he had seen, anyone he had met. 

He was damaged and hurting, he had been wronged in ways he couldn’t possibly have stopped. He saw the world without hue, an old black and white television screen in constant broadcast behind his dark eyes. But despite that, he gave the world more color than Eliot had ever been able to see through his own bleak eyes. 

Quentin couldn’t see it within himself, but Eliot could. He could see the vivid colors emanating from the very spot Quentin stood, blinding him at the best of times to the worst of humanity. Eliot didn’t know if he believed in souls, the very topic pushed him to question things he didn’t necessarily want the answers to. The matter wasn’t if they were real or not, it was if Eliot believed in something so pure, different from the things he had been taught in this world.

But when he looks at Quentin, he knows wholeheartedly that he’s glimpsing direct pieces of his soul. What else could possibly be so bright, so magnetic? It had to be Quentin’s soul, because otherwise it was something else—some other pull he had ignored for a very long time.

It was strong when Quentin was near and Eliot found himself drawn to the comfort, the light. But soon it became strong even when he was alone, big brown eyes and floppy hair nowhere to be found. It was during those times that Eliot slipped a hand beneath his robe or trousers and stroked himself to thoughts of that presence. Quentin’s presence—the warm, startlingly familiar longing bubbling over the surface of its safe place. Its hidden place.

It had gone on like that for the majority of their friendship; Eliot yearning in the dark and Quentin oblivious beyond measure. But then he had shown up on Eliot’s doorstep one night, crying and looking so starved for touch that Eliot hadn’t given a second thought to pulling him into a strong embrace. He had held Quentin’s smaller, shaking body in his arms and waited for him to talk. Even if he hadn’t, Eliot would have only held him tighter.

But he did, eventually. Quentin had revealed many things to him that night, only heightened by the sincere glow of the fire. Things had begun to make sense then, the pieces falling into place seemingly all at once. Eliot was so drawn to Quentin because of the traumatic childhood they shared. They weren’t the same by any means and they both were broken in their own unique ways, but he felt almost… whole looking into those earthy eyes. Like dampened soil in the summer, dark but natural. Inviting.

In that moment, two broken halves had made a whole.

And then Quentin had kissed him, so desperately and yet all too cautiously. It was marvelous, Quentin’s lips and hands and body, unraveling everything he had fantasized about. His thoughts  never could have done this justice: the slim but masculine lines of Quentin’s body, the softness embedded in his lips, the sweet sounds he made. 

That night had brought something to light, something Eliot hadn’t allowed himself to admit. Because if he did, then that made it all the more terrifyingly real. And he would have to let go of the most precious thing he had found in this whole city—in the world. 

Gin, vodka, whiskey, any cocktail anyone could ever make, was nothing compared to the light of Quentin. Eliot held a hidden longing for things he had never wanted before, for things he’d sworn off the minute he had left Indiana. Because the mere fact that booze paled at only a glimpse into the most heart-felt eyes meant that he could never have Quentin. Not like he truly wanted.

Eliot knew what he was capable of and the things he would never let himself forget. The possibility of violence ran through his veins, coiled in his very heart. He would end up hurting Quentin, like his dad had hurt him, his mom, like his brothers had hurt their girlfriends.

Like he had hurt his dad.

So if keeping Quentin safe meant Eliot could never truly be with him, to hold him like he wanted to… then that was a sacrifice worth making. Quentin would be safe no matter the cost. 

He had made it patently clear to Quentin that a relationship wasn’t something he could be in, though he could never truly tell him why. The less he knew, the safer he was. Simply because Quentin would plead with Eliot, flash his round doe eyes and he would give in—he knows he would. How could he possibly resist? 

He had undoubtedly been harder on Quentin than was necessary, an act that had hurt Eliot more than broken bones ever could. But he had to keep boundaries in place, clear-cut lines that he could never cross. Not with anyone, and certainly not with Q. It was the only way to protect him from Eliot, from the things he was capable of. The physical hurt he could cause.

Eliot had meant to keep his distance from then on. It was the easiest way to stop the spread of feelings he couldn’t seem to get rid of, the thoughts of broad shoulders and soft, long hair and the poutiest mouth he had ever kissed.

But then Julia called. 

He had rushed to Quentin’s tiny apartment as fast as he could, faster than he had ever ran before. It was pouring rain but he didn’t feel it, the chill was miniscule compared to the numbing dread heavy in his heart. 

The relief Eliot felt at seeing Quentin more or less well, but alive, was a rush he had never felt before. Fear had rained —poured— through his veins, a storm big enough to rival the one tearing down the streets of Manhattan. He knew then that he couldn’t completely let go of such a person, such a strong, bright person. Not Quentin, not ever.

Tearing himself away from him was a task impossible in Eliot’s eyes. He had kissed Quentin that night, a foolish attempt at mending the almost-grief in his heart. The adrenaline that had propelled him through the raging storm had made a foundation in his bones. He had pulled Quentin against him almost disbelievingly, like he hadn’t been sure until that very moment that he was alive. But he was there, melting against Eliot’s body like butter.

He shouldn’t have tempted himself so plainly, so fully. Or Quentin, for that matter. He couldn’t stand hurting him more than he already had. But he was like a drug, like alcohol, because now that Eliot had another taste… he didn’t think he could ever stop.

Because really, he tempted Eliot like no other.

He had been selfish, Quentin made him whole in ways he simply couldn’t wrap his head around. But he did know one thing, if nothing else. He needed Quentin more than he’s ever needed anyone, more than he’s ever allowed himself to.

Eliot still couldn’t cross the boundary into uncharted, dangerous territory. He simply would not put Quentin at risk like that. But wasn’t this almost as bad, if not more? He shies away from Quentin and the possibility of something real, but he sleeps with him anyway. Eliot’s excuse was that he was only human, but he sure as hell was good at being a bad one, wasn’t he?

He couldn’t stand to let go of Quentin, but he couldn’t let him fully in, either. He had stranded them in some strange, in-between place where they weren’t just friends or just lovers or even just in a relationship. No, instead it was sort of an odd mix of all three.

Quentin made him want things he had never wanted before. Something about him was almost… magical. So much so that he had told Quentin about his past, the Waugh he had shunned. Or, he told most of it, anyway. He had opened up as much as he could, more than he thought possible.

There were still things Quentin didn’t know about him that he probably never would, things about Eliot that would change his perspective entirely. He didn’t think he could handle the horrified look in Quentin’s sweet brown eyes if he told him about what he did to his father.

There were some things he simply couldn’t speak aloud, and that happened to be one of them. Much less to Quentin. He was perhaps the most forgiving person Eliot had ever met, which was why he wouldn’t survive when Quentin couldn’t forgive him.

Eliot certainly hadn’t forgiven himself, so why would Quentin? He deserved so much better than a man who almost killed his own father..

Eliot was weak in the way that he knew what was forbidden to him, yet despite that, he wanted it desperately. He wanted Quentin, more than oxygen or booze or even money. He was worth all the money in the world, more valuable than all the stars in the galaxy. Quentin was strong in a way that he was not, nor would he ever be.

But despite every reason he should walk away, Eliot found a reason to stay. It was Quentin—it would always be Quentin. And he wanted him irrevocably. More than just sex, more than just friends, more than just fun. Eliot breathed him like air, lungs crippling without a taste.

He knew he was far too deep in the world of Quentin Coldwater, he had known it the moment he caught sight of the shy man who stumbled over words and adorned only one sock. Which was exactly why he needed to get a grip on the feelings that were only complicating the steady foundation they had built even further. He had tried to do just that with Sebastian, he had simply been a means to an end—a feeble attempt in forgetting Q. But that was impossible, someone like Quentin Coldwater could never be forgotten. It had gone haywire in an instant, Eliot’s primal desires had taken over the moment he spotted Quentin watching.

He had wanted an excuse to be with Quentin, even one as meager as jealousy, no matter how disastrous it would inevitably become. He wanted Quentin to want him and had, somehow, dared to hope he hadn’t royally fucked everything up once and for all. Sebastian had meant nothing; he was but a piffling spawn in an attempt to distract himself from the addictive air Quentin breathed. 

But no matter what he did, Quentin Coldwater just wouldn’t shake.

Even now, alone and paltry in what he had wanted to be the comfort of home, but now only felt like a shelter. Because it wasn’t home, not when Quentin wasn’t here. Not when Eliot had walked away from his pleading, big brown eyes when his heart had hammered a plea to stay. 

Eliot knew Quentin wasn’t his, being with him wasn’t a choice he allowed himself. Living with that hurt him in a yearning sort of way, knowing what he wanted was right there if he would only reach out and take it.

But now it wasn’t. Quentin was taking a girl on a date tonight, and simply knowing that what Eliot wanted was right in front of him but unable to do anything about it hurt more than any faraway longing ever could.

Quentin wasn’t Eliot’s—he would never be Eliot’s. Whose fault was that but his own?

It was unmistakably clear now more than ever that he was alone, that he would always be alone. Quentin was too good for someone like him. Eliot Waugh was a man who turned to alcohol in times of doubt and insecurity, who ran from a family he didn’t want to be a part of. But that family still followed him, proven only by the very blood coursed through his veins. There was no escaping it, so why should he keep running?

All of the comfort he needed was in his hand.

Eliot, numb and wounded, had found himself stumbling into the liquor store just a block from his house on the way back from Quentin’s apartment. He had purchased the finest bottle of tequila they owned in a daze, mind simply too dull to push away his steaming impulses.

He took note of the bottle now, tequila heavy and right in his hands. Six years of sobriety was screaming at him from some diminished place, begging him to flush the liquor down the toilet or maybe just throw it out the window. He had made it much too far to give in now. He could take a nap and sleep it off or make himself some dinner or—

When the first drops splashed tangy on his tongue, Eliot’s eyes fluttered closed with the familiar rush. Behind the darkness of his eyelids, he saw only Quentin. He was smiling, chocolate brown eyes dazzling under the gleaming shade of a willow tree. 

The next sip slid down his throat effortlessly, as did the next. His body thrummed with an energy he had seemingly forgotten, his blood boiling with that lush sense of bravery alcohol never failed to induce. 

Each gulp of booze seemed to bring him further into a numb dizziness, where nothing but his mind was spinning. But he couldn’t escape it, not the ache of his body or of his mind. Each time he closed his eyes to ground himself, memories swirled in the darkness there, pooling mockingly in Eliot’s weakest moment.

Eliot strolled down the narrow hall of Julia’s apartment, all too eager to excuse himself from the squeals and hugs of the girls reuniting. Margo has always surrounded herself with countless people for as long as he’s known her, though only letting a select few truly in. Eliot had been one of those choice people, lucky enough to have been given a second chance by Margo Hanson. She had seen something in him that Eliot hadn’t been able to see in himself then, and she undoubtedly saw the same in Julia. 

They had met in some class on campus only but a few weeks ago, and now the two were almost as inseparable as Eliot and Margo themselves were. When Margo set her mind to something there was no stopping her, and apparently her latest task had been befriending Julia Wicker. Margo has always been the best judge of character he’s ever known, so he trusted her in her sudden taking to this girl. Eliot had to hand it to her though, Julia had fire. He didn’t know her quite as well as Margo did yet, but even he could see the determined spunk lit like a wildfire inside her. She was small but mighty, much like Margo.

Maybe it wasn’t such a surprise they had become friends after all.

Julia had invited Margo and himself over tonight with the promise of pizza and drinks, though the only thing Eliot would be drinking was apple juice. Maybe a bit of water if he was feeling frisky. But that didn’t mean the others couldn’t drink around him—in fact, he enjoyed observing drunk people whilst stone-cold sober. He did own a nightclub, after all.

Julia had also mentioned a roommate, a close friend she wanted them to meet. Q, she had said his name was. Eliot wondered idly what that was short for. Quinn? Quincy? Q-tip? God, Eliot didn’t blame the poor guy for shortening it with a name like that.

But no matter, Eliot would appear as ravishing and fabulous as ever—first impressions were half the fun, after all. He just needed to find the bathroom to fluff his hair and check there was nothing in his teeth, even though he had brushed them twice, and—

A door opened, revealing a man. His head tilted up towards Eliot with the widest brown eyes he had ever seen, pink lips parted in surprise. “Well, shit, this isn’t the bathroom,” Eliot quips, hoping to ease some of the startlement from his round lids. He looked about ready to run, like a deer caught in headlights.

It fit him well, considering the doe eyes flashing brightly up at Eliot. He seemed to study him for a moment, the deep brown of his iris prominent and ever-wide. Whoever said brown eyes were bland had obviously never taken a glimpse of these ones. Their darkened depth seemed to go on forever, spiraling into oblivion the more he looked. 

“Bathroom, right. Oh, uh, yeah, um, just down the hall there,” he stutters, but manages to point a finger past Eliot’s shoulder. “First door on your left.” Eliot almost smiles at the sheer, stumbling shyness pouring from this boy—this man. Espresso brown hair fell securely over the flaming flush of his cheeks, long enough to almost brush his shoulders. Julia seemed to have left out the coy resplendency of her roommate.

“You must be Q, then, right?” Eliot asks, polite and friendly enough as to not scare this little doe off. The man smiles, a tiny layer of timidity shedding in the blink of an eye. He had a gorgeous smile, really, it was a shame he seemed to keep it so hidden. Eliot would just have to pry it out every so often then, wouldn’t he?

“Quentin,” he confirms. So he wasn’t a Q-tip after all. “Or Q, if you’d like. Jules has always called me that.” Eliot nods, deciding then and there that a simple letter slid off his tongue much smoother than Quentin. But he had a sudden irk to know his full name instead of merely a letter, as if somehow a name held his story.

“So, Q, do you have a last name?” he asks, fishing for as much information as he can. Eliot’s own name held his story, his past. Maybe Quentin’s did, too.

“I, um, yeah,” he stutters out again, tongue twisting in the most flustered way. He was sort of awkward, definitely shy, but Eliot found his curiosity piquing in a delightful way. There was something about him that resonated with Eliot. “Coldwater. Quentin Coldwater.”

Eliot chuckles, almost shocked to feel a smile spread across his face. It had happened so naturally, not forced or fake, but genuine. A real bubble of laughter. “Quentin Coldwater?” he repeats, and God, if that wasn’t a mouthful. No wonder he went by just Q. 

His earthy eyes flickered away from Eliot, down to… his only sock. The man was wearing only one sock.

Oh, how much Eliot needed to teach him. 

Quentin didn’t dare look back up to meet his gaze, preferring to instead keep his head down and shoulders tucked. Seeing him so hunched and small made Eliot realize just how extravagantly more taller he was than Q—at least a whole head. His shoulders, once broad and strong, were now slouched with embarrassment—like if he made himself small enough he may just disappear.

“No, I… I like it,” Eliot reassures. Quentin had just started to open up, they couldn’t afford to take two steps backwards. “It’s unique.” Quentin’s head lifts back up, soft brown eyes round and open like a child’s first glimpse at the world. Innocent and trusting in a way that made Eliot want to give this man just that. 


Eliot smiles at the thought, wondering with the naivety of that same child if he could ever give that so willingly. But for whatever reason, he wanted to try. Especially now, as Q smiled back at him—most of his reserves slipping away like the crack of a shell. To Eliot’s enthral, there was a stunning light of a man underneath.

As Quentin pushed his hair behind his ear, Eliot got his first real good look of his face. He couldn’t help the sharp intake of breath as he realized just how much his hair had hidden. His jaw, for one, was set and strong, a sharp line pebbled with stubble. His cheekbone was almost as sharp, an easy jut that truly pronounced the dimensions of his face.

Soft lines crinkled in his forehead, though he was much too young for such worried lines. Tiny crinkles manifested around the edges of his lips—lips so pink and pale that had absolutely no right to be so utterly desirable. They were almost pouty in the way they were parted, the bottom curve puffy from biting. 

Crinkles and bitten lips—a worrier’s signature look. Quentin ought to be careful if he didn’t want to go prematurely gray.

It was hard to think of him with gray hair when he had such an innocent air to him. He was exactly like the kind of boys Eliot liked to take to bed. He could almost picture it now—kissing those sweet, bitten lips, tearing down each reserved wall brick by brick. Quentin was shy yet undeniably masculine, undoubtedly Eliot’s favorite combination. He would have absolutely no problem ravishing him until the sun came up.

But something about Quentin made Eliot want to know him as more than just skin. He was awkward and hesitant and dorky and just a little inapt, but Eliot related to all of those things indefinitely. Something about Quentin Coldwater made Eliot realize he was just a mix of all those things with daddy issues and a secret insecurity. He himself wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, he simply had a childhood that taught him to hide those things.

But Quentin made him want to let go—be free. He wanted to know the story behind the earth-riddled eyes and the pouty lips, even the wardrobe malfunction.

“I’m Eliot.”

Oh, how far they’ve come from the running man and the shy boy—buck and doe. If only things were still so simple. But, really, had anything truly ever been simple? Simple didn’t make a dynamic connection like this, they didn’t get this far just by being plain. Eliot didn’t do plain. It was extravagant and fabulous and dazzling or it was nothing.

And God, if Quentin wasn’t dazzling.

“I say this with the utmost sincerity… if I die before we finish this don’t think I won’t haunt your lame ass,” Eliot grumbles in Quentin’s direction. He only shakes his head with a muffled laugh, long locks of hair swinging wildly across his face.

“It’s a puzzle, Eliot, not the end of the world,” he chides, but there’s a tiny smile playing at the corners of his lips. Quentin was by far the more patient one between the two of them, determined and logical in every move he made. 

Eliot, on the other hand, was all too anxious to be so concentrated on one thing. Quentin keeps reminding him that it’s the quest that’s satisfying, but he’d really just like to fit the pieces together, coo over a job well done, and put his feet up. Because, come on, should it really be taking this long?

“It’ll be the end of my world if the last thing I do is try to put together this puzzle. How many pieces even are there? We’ve been on the edges for, like, at least a decade now, my hands are crippling as we speak.” Eliot flexes his fingers for effect, knitting his eyebrows in faux agony that brings a heavy roll to Quentin’s eyes. If the nightclub didn’t pay the bills so well, he damn well could have gone to drama school. Maybe he missed his calling.

“It’s been a whopping two whole hours,” Quentin says, though Eliot should not have taken so much pride in his sarcasm. He had learned from the best, after all. But then his eyes narrow, head tilting curiously as he takes Eliot in. “Actually, I think I do see a wrinkle right there,” Quentin says, pointing to Eliot’s forehead. “And, shit, are those eye bags?”

Eliot gasps, reflexively covering the offending area from view. “You do not fuck with me about wrinkles, do you understand?”

Quentin only laughs, cheek dimpling deeply and joyously. He soon returns to studying the puzzle, though his eyes are still gleaming with light.

“What’s this even supposed to be, anyway?” Eliot asks, because all he could make out were various colors and conceptual shapes. Was this what abstract art was supposed to be like? Because he wouldn’t lie, he had never really seen the appeal.

Quentin tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear like he did when he was thinking. His brain was probably twice the size of Eliot’s, the guy was studying to become an engineer for fuck’s sake. “It’s supposed to be the beauty of all life,” he explains, gesturing figuratively at the mix of jumbled pieces covering Quentin’s coffee table. 

“Meaning…?” Eliot inquires, because, again, the little nerd’s brain had a clear-cut size advantage here. 

Quentin paused, glancing sheepishly up at Eliot. Twisting his hair into a bun (which also happened to be a nervous habit as well as a thinking one Eliot had notably picked up on) he could see the faint tint of rose coloring his now-bare cheeks. “Well, that’s the thing,” he chuckles half-heartedly, eyes wide and darting anywhere but to Eliot. “I, uh, I don’t have the picture,” he admits, finally, finally meeting his gaze through heavy lashes. 

“You… what?” Eliot asks again, hoping somehow that he’d heard Quentin wrong. He did tend to speak lower when he was nervous, after all. 

But when Quentin replies, his heart sinks knowing he had heard right. “I got it at a garage sale but there was no picture that was with it. I thought it would be, I don’t know, a challenge?” His voice climbs an octave towards the end to form a question, like maybe he wasn’t so sure anymore.

Truthfully, Eliot had always enjoyed a good challenge. Mostly in the form of how long it took to get a man into bed, though that was hardly a challenge anymore. This was different and definitely not as fun, but he supposed completing a task with Quentin did have its appeals. Preferably his dimpled smile.

“I suppose we don’t need the picture…,” Eliot starts, rewarded with child-like excitement bouncing in Quentin’s sweet brown eyes. A strand of hair had strayed from his bun, instead choosing to take up residence against the curve of his cheek. He looked ready to get to work. “This is our quest, we have to do it ourselves,” Eliot admonishes with a glance to the scattered puzzle pieces. No one said it would be easy.

To say that it had taken sweat, blood, and tears may have been a little over the top, but what can he say? In another life, Eliot was not missing his chance to attend drama school. It was a challenge, though, one he certainly hadn’t anticipated. Mostly because he actually caught himself enjoying it.

That’s not to say he hadn’t been frustrated at times, Quentin just as much. “All I’m saying is that this would be a lot easier if the pieces came already assembled,” Eliot had muttered. It seemed like no matter what they tried, some pieces simply didn’t fit. Super Glue was invented for a reason, he would really just be adapting to his available resources, right? Survival of the fittest something or other.

Quentin huffed, blowing stray strands of hair from his eye. He looked about as ready to give up as Eliot felt, and for a moment Eliot thought he just might. But then he looked him square in the eyes and huffed, “I don’t care if this takes fifty years, we are doing this.”

If Quentin Coldwater was anything, he was determined. And who was Eliot to argue with that? He enjoyed having all ten fingers very much.

Eliot had brewed some tea and threw together a few sandwiches while Quentin tried different combinations of pieces. They weren’t barbarians for God’s sake, and after so long at this thing they both needed some fuel. Eliot, for one, was running on empty.

The food had provided a much needed break, as well as lifted their spirits. So much could be said for the sideways words of being hangry, the tension was almost tastable in the air around them for a few terrifying moments. But, luckily for them, Eliot brewed one hell of a chamomile tea. 

The waters settled after that, all good in the world restored with a sated belly. Eliot had even found it in himself to joke around even through heavy lids, these long hours had taken a toll on his sleep schedule. But not enough to prohibit his abilities of messing with Quentin, that was undoubtedly one of his favorite pastimes. 

“Mm, green,” Eliot said, motioning for Quentin to pick up the green piece resting by his hand. “Yeah, green one,” he confirms as Quentin held up the part in question. “There,” Eliot instructed, pointing to a spot in the lower part of the puzzle. As Quentin moved to place it where he had suggested, Eliot points to a spot slightly higher. “No, no, there,” he corrects.

“There?” Quentin asks, hovering slightly over the new place with questioning eyebrows.

“No. There,” Eliot says again, pointing to an open slot just to the right. Quentin squints his eyes in concentration, trying to follow the exact place his finger is pointing. Eliot can’t help but laugh at the intense focus of his eyes, the scrunch of his nose, too amused to keep up the act. “Just kidding, you had it right the first time.”

“You know what? I’ll tell you where I’ll put this,” Quentin threatens with a wave of the puzzle piece. But the smile spreading across his cheeks diminishes his act of terror and the peeking dimple completely ruins it. He was just a puppy barking hopelessly up a tree.

“Yeah? Come at me, Coldwater,” he teases, the sensation of a smile much too big for his face taking over without permission. He guides Quentin’s hand to the correct slot, feeling a vague sense of triumph when the pieces slide together with a faint click.

They work vigorously and for so long that Quentin eventually got up to make them both cups of coffee. By the time they finish it’s well into the late hours of the night, stars shining brightly through the window when Eliot had sworn the sun reached its peak only a few moments ago.

Quentin slides the last piece into place, right at the heart of the puzzle. Eliot hadn’t really been sure what he was expecting, the ‘beauty of all life’ could mean just about anything. The sun, the ocean, a baby, an animal, the moon, the stars—the list went on for just about ever. 

He hadn’t, however, expected a tree. A willow tree.

Quentin studied the completed puzzle with a wondering fascination, Eliot studying him with what was probably the same. He smiled, just a tiny smile, but when he looked at Eliot his eyes, so full of earth, held a grasp of knowledge Eliot himself had struggled to find. It was no wonder he understood, his eyes were sculpted from the same soil the tree bathed in.

“What are you thinking?” Eliot murmurs, his urge to see inside the intellect of his mind overwhelming him, drowning in a sea of wonder.

“A willow tree,” he states, fascination watering the soil of his eyes. “They stand so tall to practically touch the sky, all while rooted to the earth. It’s the connection between the two extremes of the universe, stars and ground. The tree represents the bringing together of two different worlds that shouldn’t be but works because, I mean, they’re the same existentially. It’s nature finding a way despite the barriers. The beauty of all life.”

Something shifts inside of Eliot, something in his spirit. Everything that Quentin said was true, everything about the stars and the ground and the tree and the universe. Life always found a way to connect things that were meant to find each other. Was it so crazy to think that maybe he and Quentin were connected somehow? They differed in so many ways, yet Eliot couldn’t shake the feeling they shared something deep in their core, something personal. That was the beauty, wasn’t it? The world had brought them together for a reason—just one he couldn’t see yet. “Yeah. Something like that.”

Quentin smiled, triumph dancing in his eyes. He lifted his cup of coffee to Eliot in an obvious manner, clinking his mug against Eliot’s own raised one. “To our first and last day at this thing,” Eliot announces, though it felt like he had been injected with fifty years worth of knowledge. Insight he didn’t know what to do with.

Quentin nodded along, taking a long, well-deserved gulp of creamy coffee. His hair was disheveled from so many stressful hours of running fingers through it, fallen strands resting against the side of his face, behind his ear. His bottom lip was bitten and swollen, stray drops of coffee lingering against the pale color. His eyes were weary but jubilant. Happy.

Eliot felt a surge of revelry seize his heart at seeing their hard work pay off, all thanks to Quentin’s determination. Because without him, Eliot assuredly would have given up long ago. He had a sudden, strange feeling that he would follow this man anywhere.

Quentin had been right all along—it really was about the quest, the effort of the journey. Tonight, Eliot learned that some things were simply worth building.

They had built something immaculate, something gratifying, something real. He and Quentin had done that.

Until Eliot had torn it all down.

He soothed a river of booze down his throat to hold back unshed tears. But as the memories kept coming, he couldn’t stop the single drop that ran down his cheek.

“Eliot?” Quentin called, head swiveling wildly around. “Eliot, are you here? I hope you don’t mind, I let myself in. I got your text.” He carefully steps into the threshold of Eliot’s house, eyes darting around searchingly.
Eliot had chosen a hiding spot behind his loveseat, crouching down low to the wooden floors as to not be seen—his height had always been a drastic turn-on for men, but right now it was an annoying turn- off for him. Legs this long were no good for hiding.

“Eliot?” Quentin called again, walking further into the house and, with a bit of good luck, right towards the loveseat. “Come on, this isn’t funny,” he announced, confusion making way for unease. He wandered into the living room, head turning and eyes flicking around for any sign of Eliot.

Quentin had begun to shuffle his feet around, twisting a strand of hair behind his ear. He just needed the perfect balance of nervousness and weariness to strike. Because, really, what was a scary movie without a good scare?

Jumping out from his hiding place, he grabbed a startled Quentin from behind. It wasn’t too hard, considering he was about a whole head taller, though perhaps it was just a little too easy. If Eliot had been a true attacker Quentin would have been in real trouble. Maybe they should get him some karate lessons.

“Eliot?!” he yelped, his entire body jumping in Eliot’s binding hold. Eliot let him thrash, holding on to his body tightly.
“Your friend Eliot is dead,” he whispered, demonic and dangerous, into Quentin’s ear. He didn’t quite sound like himself, deepening his voice a few octaves lower than normal. A moment passed where Quentin tensed in his arms, muscles as rigid and still as the air surrounding them.

But then Eliot laughed, releasing the smaller man from his grip. Quentin whirled around in a flash, all long locks of hair and tensing muscles, flashing wide eyes up to Eliot. He didn’t say anything for a time, instead allowing himself to silently catch his breath. When he finally did speak, he did so with a jab to Eliot’s chest. “Not. Funny.”

“It was pretty funny, actually,” Eliot rebuffs, pushing Quentin back at his shoulder. He simply stared at Eliot, wide-eyed and open-mouthed and pink-cheeked. He showed no sign of emotion, cold and hard as brick.

But then he cracked a smile, soon dissolving into true hysterics with Eliot’s resounding laughter. “I came here for a scary movie, not an actual jump scare,” Quentin grumbles, but there’s no menace behind it. Only traces of joy and adrenaline marking his words, his breath.
“You were scared, weren’t you?” Eliot accuses, true laughter bubbling through the air. “Thought the big bad monster was gonna get you?”

“No!” Quentin quickly denies, though his cheeks are crimson and burning. He would never admit to it, he was much too stubborn for that, but Eliot knew the truth. It was painted true and clear in the flushing skin and darting eyes, and that was enough victory for him.

Scaring Quentin would never get old, would it?

“Well, darling, that’s what I’m here for,” Eliot reassures as he guides Quentin to the loveseat, this time to sit rather than hide. He much prefers this anyway, he decides, as the pair fall onto the soft cushions and throw pillows. Quentin’s cheeks were still rosy and bright beneath his curtain of hair, though that must have been leftover remains from his scare. Not because they were pressed so close to feel one another’s chest rising with breath, shoulders and knees bumping together.

And certainly not because he had called Quentin darling. He called everyone pet names and such, Quentin knew Eliot well enough by now to know that it didn’t mean anything. 

Except… maybe it did.

Over the past couple months, he and Quentin had become exceedingly close. In fact, closer than Eliot has allowed himself to be with most people. He had met very few individuals whom he had trusted enough to truly get to know, but none came close to the way he had fallen into Quentin’s orbit. He was different from everyone else, he stood out among the rest in a way Eliot hadn’t been able to put his finger on.

But then it had hit him. He cared for Quentin more deeply than he promised himself he ever could. His dawning light had drawn him in, created a sanctuary Eliot hadn’t known he needed until Quentin walked into his life with open arms and swaying hair and doe eyes and the gentlest heart he’s ever known.

He had even begun to find his nerd fantasies endearing, which was a line the old Eliot never would have crossed. But here he was anyway, listening to tales about Fillory and High Kings and magic. Magic that he had even started to believe in.

It was hard not to, not when he could feel the air shimmering around him and Quentin, the tilt of the earth when he smiled, the bright colors pleading to show in the tiny crinkles of his eyes. There was nothing to describe that but magic.

Even now Eliot felt it, munching on popcorn watching teenagers run away from a masked man with a chainsaw. He felt it because Quentin was at his side, brushing hands with each swipe of buttery popcorn. He felt it with each jump of his smaller body, and each time he grasped Eliot in fright.

There was magic all around.

But it didn’t matter if Eliot was the only one who could feel it—who would ever feel it. Quentin wasn’t gay, he wasn’t into men, his track record of exes consisted entirely of women. He had even checked with Julia, who only further confirmed what he had surmised. He was chasing a dead end. 

So what did these feelings matter if Quentin could never return them? It was undoubtedly better this way anyhow, Eliot has known for a long time that a relationship simply wasn’t something meant for him. And he had come to terms with that. He was okay with that.

But when he looked at Quentin, gentle brown eyes and dimpled cheek and pouty lips, his heart broke knowing he had to be okay with not having this kind light of a man.

He could never have him, not like he wanted. But he had become so comfortable with Quentin’s presence that letting him go felt like a void, a hole, he wouldn’t ever be able to fill. Not with people nor material things. So if a friend was all he could be, Eliot would be that—he would be a good one.

And that was exactly what he did, he watched scary movies with Quentin until the moon rose high in the sky. At some point his head had fallen on Eliot’s shoulder, soft hair brushing his neck. And who was Eliot to stop him, when his skin tingled at the very touch, at the solid weight of Quentin pressing against him?

They rested like that for a very long time, Eliot listening to the soft wisps of breath, feeling the air brush the bare skin of his neck. He smiled as his breath slowly mellowed out into the rhythm of sleep—deep and soft all at once.

Eliot didn’t dare move until the credits rolled, when he was absolutely positive Quentin was fast asleep. He gently shifted Quentin away from his shoulder, moving him until he lay comfortably on the loveseat, head resting softly in Eliot’s lap. This space wasn’t nearly big enough for two grown men to fully spread out on, especially not with the length of Eliot’s own legs, and he didn’t dare risk waking Quentin to retreat to his bedroom.

Besides, he didn’t really mind sleeping sitting up. His neck would raise hell in the morning, but he found he didn’t entirely mind, not once he got a glimpse of the man in his lap. He looked more like a boy sleeping so softly, every sign of worry washed away with the promise of dreams. The television cast a soft glow across the calm lines of his face, eyelashes resting lightly on smoothed cheeks.

That same distinct longing surged through Eliot again, squeezing his heart like it wasn’t safe and buried in his chest. He could never have him, he knew. But that didn’t stop him from wanting him so irrevocably.

Positive that Quentin was sound asleep, Eliot leaned down to place one light, hushed kiss over the soft expanse of his forehead like he’s dreamily envisioned doing an uncountable number of times. He had imagined kissing away the worry lines that appeared when Quentin thought too hard, smoothing out the skin and taking away the anxiety that had put them there in the first place.

Eliot shouldn’t have done it, it was a distinct crossing of lines unobtainable to him. But for just that one moment, the brief time his lips had brushed Quentin’s skin, he found he didn’t care about right and wrong, good and bad. All he knew was the insistent longing that pulled him towards this boy like a magnet, every promise of life living within this one person.

Just one single person called out to Eliot more than the treasures of the entire world. Because with Quentin’s head resting in his lap, long hair pooling like the softest blanket, Eliot felt as if he had all he could ever need.

Tomorrow would surely be different when Quentin woke, when the world continued spinning like it was supposed to, but for just this one moment while time stood still… he had it.

Eliot had held Quentin while he slept, keeping him safe in his arms and lap. He had yearned for his touch, his comfort, his light from afar. He had been so distanced from the goodness in Quentin, yet much too close. Eliot was always near him, tortured with the knowledge that Quentin wasn’t meant for him.

That is, until he had knocked on his door that dreary May night, and their worlds had been turned upside down—up was down, wrong was right. Until Quentin had kissed him, and begged for Eliot to take his pain away.

And Eliot had never been, nor would he ever be, strong-willed when it came to Quentin Coldwater. 

Eliot had taken him apart that night, inch by inch with his lips, his mouth, his hands, his cock. For as much sex as Eliot’s had in his life, he had never enjoyed being with another man quite so much. In fact, he doesn’t ever recall wanting it quite so much. It wasn’t even just about the sex, no matter how mind-blowing it was. He wanted to take care of Quentin, to hold him close and whisper sweet words in his ear. He wanted to wake up next to his small, warm body wearing his old t-shirts, make him coffee that consisted of mostly cream, and kiss him until he couldn’t remember how to breathe.

Eliot had never expected to want something so much. In fact, the last time he had felt such an unbreakable pull was the first time he took a sip of booze, that sip turning into gulps and gulps turning into bottles. He hadn’t been able to break its hold over him for a very long time, and until he had miraculously managed to… Eliot had been a completely different person. He hadn’t even recognized himself, all he cared about was the next shot of tequila or vodka or the next bottle of bourbon. He hadn’t been picky.

He also hadn’t been completely sane, either. He stopped at nothing to get what he craved—what he needed. So the fact that Quentin’s pull was far greater than any ounce of alcohol had been and still was… well. Who knows what he would do to keep him… or who he would be if he lost him.

It wasn’t about Quentin not being into men anymore, because that night had clearly changed everything Eliot had thought he had known. Rather, it was about shielding the best man, the best person, he has ever known from the raw, unpredictable violence that ran through his veins.

To keep him safe was to keep him from Eliot.

He watches in dripping anticipation as Quentin takes a hesitant bite of warm pancake. Eliot hadn’t meant to upset Quentin by making them, he wanted to show him that he was there in a way most people just didn’t seem to be for him—past and present. If all Eliot could ever be was a friend, then he would be a hell of a good one.

The air tensed as Quentin furrowed his brow in thought, the tiny little wrinkles creasing his forehead like they always did. Eliot was preparing himself to make a run down to the coffee shop up the street from his house to buy him a muffin or a bagel, confident that Quentin didn’t like them. It was clear that Eliot had made an enormous mistake.

But then Quentin moaned lowly, lips wrapped around his fork in a way that should not have given Eliot filthy ideas of where else he could wrap his lips. He was still a man after all, and men have needs.

“I take it you like them, then?” he asks, but even to his own ears his voice sounds husky—torn. A smudge of chocolate was left on Quentin’s lip as he pulled his fork away, exceedingly dark against the palest of pinks. He couldn’t help the swirl of memories it brought from last night, those same pretty lips moaning around the sound of Eliot’s name.

But that couldn’t be his focus anymore, not when he needed to be Quentin’s friend. 

Quentin, as sassy as ever, remarked, “What gave it away?” though it was light-hearted with a good intent. Eliot had never known him to have anything but good intentions. Quentin was much too good for someone like him.

But as much as that hurt, Eliot knew it was the best chance Quentin had at living a good life—better than the one he’s had. Eliot destroyed things, and he refused to destroy Quentin. That, he wouldn’t do.

What he could do, however, was exactly what he was best at. Hiding pain with ego-inflated humor. “Well, you deserve only the best. And, besides, last night was the best, so I know you must be tired. Cute boys need all the energy they can get, now don’t they?” Eliot asks, flashing a devilish smirk to match the smugness dripping through his voice. Who needed feelings when they could be so easily pushed beneath sarcasm and wit?

But when Quentin spoke, Eliot had a feeling he wouldn’t be pushing them aside much longer. “Speaking of last night…,” he begins, and Eliot has the horrible impression that he knows exactly where this is going. His hunch is only confirmed when Quentin’s large, doe-eyed irises flash up at him, sparkling with something that looked startlingly like… hope. “I- I want this. This- you are something I want.”

Eliot’s breath rattles in his lungs, the air suddenly too thick to breathe when his throat had dried up. He didn’t think that Quentin wanted to be with him, he thought it was just sex. Amazing, mind-altering sex, but still sex —just the feeling of bodies and pleasure. 

The thought of simply being a friend had been so much easier to stomach when he thought this was completely one-sided. Eliot had been able to cope with the fact that Quentin didn’t see him like that, he was chasing a strictly straight man. 

Even if Quentin did like men, and he was fairly certain that he did if the swelling of Eliot’s own kiss-bitten lips were anything to go by, it didn’t matter. He had to know that Eliot could never give him what he wants, no matter how much he wants it himself. Boundaries are set for a reason, and he has to set them now.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Eliot chuckles, putting on a light face and praying to a God he didn’t believe in that he could let Quentin down smoothly. He didn’t need to hurt more than he already did, the loss of his father still painstakingly evident. “I enjoyed last night more than you’ll ever know, but—”

“I don’t just mean the sex,” Quentin interrupts, adamantly stubborn to get his point across. “I mean, yeah, fuck, last night was- incredible, really. But I don’t just want the sex, I want you, El. Us. I mean, think about it. We- we work.” Eliot’s life didn’t work. How was he supposed to put that kind of pressure on someone else? “We know that because we’re living it—who gets that kind of proof of concept? You’re my best friend, Eliot.”

The connection between them was undeniable, Eliot felt it all hours of the day whether Quentin was near or far. It was pure magic that had budded between them, so strong to the point it couldn’t possibly be ignored. But Eliot also couldn’t ignore the bigger picture here. It wasn’t about him, it was about Quentin’s safety.

But before he could even begin to put all of that into words, Quentin was talking again. If his voice wasn’t pleading, then his chocolatey eyes more than were. “You can’t tell me you don’t feel something, because all I can feel is the longing in the way you looked at me last night. You can’t tell me that was just sex.”

Of course he felt something, he felt everything for this boy. But Quentin could never know that, because if he did then he would undoubtedly plead with Eliot until he gave in—and he would. It would only take a flash of his twinkling eyes and blinding smile, and that was a risk Eliot just couldn’t take. “You just dealt with two years of pent-up emotions so… I get that you might not be thinking clearly,” Eliot supplies. Maybe if Quentin thought about this in a week from now or even just a day, he would see that he was blinded by sex endorphins and the lost pain of grief. He didn’t actually want Eliot like he thought he did, he couldn’t.

“No, I’m just saying- what if we gave it a shot? Would that be that crazy?” Yes, it was absolutely crazy. Quentin didn’t know what he had done to his father, how he had beaten him bloody and never looked back. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into. But Quentin was nothing if not brave, continuing with a Hail Mary. “Why the fuck not?”

Eliot shook his head, finding something almost hilarious in how many reasons there were not to do this. Eliot would inevitably hurt him, or lose him, and that was something he couldn’t handle. You can’t lose someone if you don’t let them in—that was the biggest lesson he had learned in the city. Not to mention that he was Quentin’s first gay sexual experience and he needed a lot more than just two hands to count the number of times a partner had claimed to liking men, only to freak out shortly after.

“I know you, and you… aren’t…,” Eliot trails off, unable to handle the sting the words punched. He averts his eyes away, looking anywhere but the gentle brown. Because if he did, he would find the one reason to try… this when the best thing for everyone involved was to stay away. He would believe Quentin’s reassurances and he would kiss him and reckon with destiny, but it would only lead them both down the misguided path of pain Eliot carried in his veins. He simply didn’t trust himself not to lose control with Quentin, it would only end up with him bleeding. Like his dad had done to his mom… like he had done to his dad.

“What’s it matter?” Quentin whispered.
“Don’t be naive. It matters,” Eliot snapped, recoiling instantly from the harsh jab of his own words. Quentin had flinched away from him like he actually had physically hurt him, and he knew then that it was too late. Eliot couldn’t come back from breaking his heart.

He simply couldn’t fix what was already broken.

“Q, come on…,” Eliot murmurs, more gently this time. He didn’t need to make the words hurt more than they had to. “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,” he says, though Eliot wished he did more than anything. Breaking sweet Quentin’s little heart may just have hurt him more than the bruises his dad had left.

He nods, just a miniscule movement. Who knew the right thing would hurt so much? “Okay. I… okay,” Quentin murmurs, though that seemed to be all he could say. Eliot had broken him to the point of draining the fight out of him, any trace of stubbornness left behind moments ago with a different Quentin. One who didn’t adorn a shattered heart.

Eliot couldn’t make it up to him, he knew, but he could offer a few reassuring words. It was important he knew that Eliot still needed him around—he didn’t ever see that changing. “Don’t think I don’t need you, or want you, if that’s where your mind is headed. Because I need you more than you could ever know, but… as my friend. I told you that you deserve the best and that’s just not me. I can’t be that for you.”

Quentin’s eyes, the ones always gleaming and full of light, were now inexpressibly dull. Like infertile soil or chipped wood. Hollow. “Okay,” he said again, and Eliot thinks he may have just put up as many walls as Eliot carried himself. His face was impassively smooth and it hurt Eliot to know that he was trying to cover up the cracks he had left—a look not unfamiliar to his own reflection.

He had caused damage beyond repair. But the worst part of all was that Eliot would never be able to explain why he had broken his heart.

Eliot had tried so fucking hard to protect Quentin, to do what was right even if it hurt. And it did, it hurt like hell, though Eliot was used to pain. But the thing was, it had hurt more than just him… he had hurt Quentin in the process. All this trouble Eliot went through as to not hurt him had done just that—except this wasn’t blood and bruises and things that healed.

This was heartbreak. And sometimes heartbreak lasted a lifetime.

What the hell is wrong with you? Eliot thinks, running frenzied hands through jumbles of curls. What the hell are you doing? Someone good and true loves you, and he went out on a limb. And, yeah, it was a little crazy, but you knew. You knew this was a moment that truly mattered and you just snuffed it out. 

Eliot welcomed the burn of booze trickling down his throat, a constant and steady stream of regret. He couldn’t possibly fuck up more than he already has, could he? There wasn’t much else he could break. He’d done that already—Quentin, his sobriety, his family. 

He had wounded the person who understood him more than anyone else ever could. They shared something personal, the wreckage of a broken childhood. It was almost ironic that something so broken and wretched could possibly bring two people together, but it had. And despite everything… he cared for Quentin impossibly, hopelessly, inescapably, eternally and implicitly. 

Which was why it hurt so goddamn much to know that he could hurt the thing he cared about most above all else in this world. Eliot had justified his absurd actions by saying he was doing this to keep Quentin safe, so he couldn’t possibly hurt him. But hadn’t he hurt him more by pushing him away? Unwilling to give himself over completely? In all reality… Eliot had been scared, scared of what could happen. He still was—why the hell else would he be drinking a whole bottle of tequila. But was that really a reason to hide?

He had pushed away a chance at being really, truly happy over what—a whim? A one in a million chance that Eliot would turn into his father just because he was his son? He cared much too deeply for this one boy to ever possibly hurt him, and he knows that now, he sees that, feels it in the churn of his bones.

It had taken something so surreal as seeing with his own eyes that Quentin was moving on, that maybe he really didn’t want Eliot anymore. Knowing that the man he cared about had found a girl had opened his once-blinded eyes to the fact that this wasn’t perfect. But it was theirs. It was their own little piece of magic.

As he had once told Quentin… magic comes from pain. Hadn’t they been through enough already? He was done feeling it, done causing it, just simply done. 

After longing for one man for so long, Eliot knows now that he simply can’t give him up - at least not without doing everything he can to make things right. Eliot Waugh, for the first time in his life, was done running. He had run for years without ever looking back—whether that be from his family, his problems, men or booze. A time had to come when he planted his feet, and when he did that… he wanted to be next to the light that was Quentin Coldwater. 

Eliot had fought his feelings for far too long, he believes it’s time that it stops. He had found the one thing, the one person, who made clocks tick and the world turn and the sun shine. He had found it in the place he would have never expected—within the heart of an overgrown nerd who wore battered, old clothes, who stumbled over his words and was too awkward for his own good.

But when Quentin loved, he loved purely and with his whole being. He talked with his hands when he was overly excited and knew the entirety of the first Fillory and Further book word for word. His nose crinkled when he yawned and he could probably sleep through the end of the world. But he held so much love in his heart for the people close to him, and Eliot had been lucky enough to be one of those people. 

Eliot didn’t have a choice in who he fell in love with. But truthfully, he wouldn’t ever want it any other way.

Maybe it was the booze that got him here, but he’s known it all along. A ‘what if’ wasn’t worth an entire universe of something real. And he and Quentin… well, they were real. This was the realest thing he’s felt in his entire life—more inescapably solid than pain and stronger than any fear or feeling he’s ever known.

How could he take that for such granted? Eliot had been nothing but selfish, he can admit. Strong enough to deny both of them what they truly wanted, yet not strong enough to stay away like he needed to, like he should have. He kissed Quentin like he was just another fling, falling into bed with him night after night like some sort of friends with benefits scandal. Fear had backed Eliot into a corner between too much and not enough.

And Eliot had walked away when perhaps Quentin had needed him most. He had walked out the door when every cell in his body screamed to turn around, to kiss Quentin until his lips were bruised and just tell him exactly how he felt—tell him the reasons behind his actions and hope on the connection they shared that Quentin would understand. That he would forgive Eliot for everything he’s done in the past and present, all of the misguided decisions and reckless thoughts. 

And now Quentin was going on a date that definitely wasn’t with Eliot, if the almost-empty bottle of tequila in his hand hadn’t given it away. He had even helped him (and made it worse for himself in the process) by telling Quentin to ‘go for it’. He most certainly did not want him to go for it, in fact that may just be the worst idea he’s ever had—which is saying quite a lot in Eliot’s case. Does he need another reminder of the bottle sitting hard and solid in his hand?

His heart was painstakingly heavy knowing Eliot had missed his chance; it was too late for them.

Unless… it wasn’t.

It was crazy and reckless and absolutely stupid and approximately ninety percent of the alcohol talking, but what if he could get to Quentin before he went on his date, what if he could tell him everything? What if he hadn’t missed his chance?

Quentin had gone out on a limb with him, and Eliot had let him down. He wouldn’t let him down again—that, he swore. Maybe it would take a crazy idea, but if he had learned anything… it was that he wouldn’t run in fear anymore, he refused to let it control him like it had done all his life. Instead, he was going to run towards Quentin, towards the gut-swooping joy he induced. 

He was going to run towards the magic.

Before he could overthink it, Eliot was engulfed in the warm night air. There were people out and about, as there always was in Manhattan, and he maneuvered his way through the city crowd. It took more effort than it should have, given the almost whole bottle of tequila making its way through his veins, and a few times he caught himself stumbling from the bright, distracting city lights. 

It wasn’t long before he made it to Quentin’s apartment, he knew the way by heart even buzzing and drunk. He spent half of his time here in this tiny little space, more lively and bigger than it seems when Quentin smiles his dimpled smile. The one that could light up a room, all the while igniting Eliot’s heart.

So by the time he was facing Quentin’s door, Eliot couldn’t possibly wait another second. He had spent much too long burying his feelings, had wasted so much time that he could have spent in Quentin’s arms. Now, any thought of waiting to be with him felt unbearable. He couldn’t possibly wait another second to pull his lithe body close and kiss the pain from his pouty lips.

In his rush to make things right Eliot had barged into the apartment, much like he had the night he thought he would find Quentin dead in his bed. Then, he had been desperate and driven by the consuming grief eating away at each and every crevice of his body, his mind. He had been blinded by distress, exasperated to get to Quentin in time, praying to any and every God he could think of that he wouldn’t be the one to find him without a rising chest.

This time, on the other hand, Eliot was driven by the dire need to admit what he should have much too long ago. He needed to see Quentin, see him smile behind a shy curtain of hair, and tell him everything was all right. There didn’t have to be an obliterating space between them anymore, Eliot didn’t have to deny both himself and Quentin the realest, most sincere feelings he’s ever felt. No more games, not with Q.

He finally understood what all the books were about, all the movies centered around nothing but love. Eliot knew now why people raced to airport gates to stop their love from getting on a plane, he saw clearly how taking a bullet was the easiest decision in the world. He would hold a boombox in front of Quentin’s window if he could.

So when he rushed into Quentin’s apartment, he did so with hope hanging in his heart. “Q—” he starts, words failing now that he was actually here. Maybe he should have planned a speech in his head, or at least something beyond the jumble of words running wildly behind his eyes. Sorry, safe, want, love, pain. “Q, I—”

And then he saw it—saw them. Across the small living space on the couch lay a tangling of bodies, limbs, and flesh. They were so blurred, in fact, that it took Eliot’s brain a moment to disentangle Quentin’s frame from that of a slight blonde. He lay buried beneath her, almost hidden by miles and miles of creamy skin. Most of it was exposed to the open air, Eliot noted, as Quentin ran his hands over the bare softness of her back. They came to rest at the leopard-printed bra strap—a bold choice, Eliot would say—hyper-aware of the fact that it would only take a twist of fingers to remove it completely.

Quentin’s face, previously obscured by espresso brown and lemon light curtains of hair, peeked out at the unmistakable bang of Eliot’s entrance. “Eliot,” he breathed, quiet, but still distinctly audible. Even if it hadn’t been, he knew Quentin’s lips well enough to read the way they formed over his name—swollen and bitten from a mouth that wasn’t his. 

He had walked in on their… makeout session, like horny teenagers hiding from mommy and daddy. Adorable, really. The blonde turned towards him, no doubt trying to decipher what had interrupted them, and Eliot’s breath hitched as he got a glimpse of what were no doubt the largest breasts he’s had the occasion of seeing. Eliot was about as gay as one could get, but that didn’t mean he had complete control over what popped up on his computer screen while watching porn.

Her breasts rivaled those of even the most renowned porn-stars, falling heavily from her chest to be sparsely contained by her straining bra. Her facial structure was strong and sharp from the curve of her nose to the line of her jaw, like the carving of a marbleized Greek Goddess.

It seemed he had the pleasure of meeting Quentin’s life-sized barbie doll.

Fatefully, Eliot had been too late after all. “I can let myself out,” he stammers, unable to stay there another moment, another second. This wasn’t a place for him anymore, these walls and familiar air had lost any sense of the welcoming aura it had once held.

The last thing he hears is a strangled, “Eliot!” bouncing off his back, but it was too late, his legs had already begun carrying him far away from any and all things Quentin. Eliot had walked in on him and his date half-naked and obviously horny beyond measure. Just how close had they been to having sex? It was one thing to fall back into straighter tendencies, but did he really have to pick the hottest girl in Manhattan? B-cups would have sufficed just fine, in Eliot’s opinion. But this… this was a giant ‘ fuck you’ right in his face.

Eliot didn’t stop moving until he burst through the doors of Quentin’s apartment complex and out into the cool night air of the city. Such a sudden change disoriented him a bit (a lot), and he stumbled his way into the chaotic streets of Manhattan. Perhaps the air had nothing to do with it, maybe that was just the alcohol singing in his veins, refusing to be ignored. Maybe it was the shattering of his once-hopeful heart.

He could practically hear the pieces breaking as they fell, bruising painfully and terminally. They kept falling, to his anguish, the faint pitter patter pitter patter becoming stronger with each passing moment. It sounded almost like raindrops or… frantic footsteps.

That was when Quentin appeared, bursting through the doors Eliot had just run through. “Eliot!” he called once he had spotted him, beginning to push his way through the bustling street and aggravated crowds of people. Eliot couldn’t face him right now, not with the image of Quentin hard and horny beneath a busty blonde searing holes in his mind. So, he did the only thing he was good at, the one thing that seemed to stay as an autopilot mechanism in his brain.

He ran away.

Quickly turning on his heel, Eliot wove his way discreetly through the city streets. He didn’t care where he was going, he just simply couldn’t be here. If he didn’t fit here with Quentin, then where did he belong? Not in the city, not in Indiana, he was just… adrift, searching for a safe place to land.

He had been senseless to think Quentin could have been that for him. A cruel twist of fate had shown Eliot that he had been right all along—to keep Quentin safe, to keep himself safe, was to be simply and utterly alone. His life… it didn’t work, it was abundantly clear that nothing would change that. He had been foolish to think that maybe, just maybe, it could.

Through his escape, Eliot took comfort in knowing he had lost Quentin somewhere in the crowd, separated in a sea of bodies. It was fitting, seeing at what he had just walked in on. He was free to be with nothing but the stale city air, reveling in the cloak of night—he could even buy another bottle of booze to bring home, maybe two. He was contemplating exactly which brands to buy when warm, desperate fingers grasped his wrist.

Eliot stumbled, his abused balance put to the test as his center of gravity shifted. He was being steadily pulled into an alley—dark, quiet, alone—and after a second of delayed brain activity, Eliot realized that he should probably fight back against any oncoming threatening attack.

“What’s gotten into you, Eliot?” Quentin asked, and felt the tidal wave of aggression leaving his system as his numbed brain picked up the smooth voice, the long, disheveled hair. He was panting, Eliot managed to note, but couldn’t find it within himself to feel bad. Eliot had run without wanting to be chased.

“What’s gotten into me?” Eliot bites, unable to help the laugh, tainted bitter, bubbling to the surface. It was hysterical, really, just how much has gotten into him recently. Tequila, for starters, suddenly never more grateful for the numbing layer it coated over his perspective of the world. “It’s you, Quentin, you’ve gotten into me. You and... your stupid- nerdy Fillory books and your floppy hair and ridiculous clothes. You. Y-O-U,” he spells, just in case Quentin had missed that part.

His mouth gapes open for the barest of moments, incredulity coating his lips. His fucking kiss-swollen lips. “Are you… are you drunk?” Quentin’s eyes narrow, brows curling in disbelief, concern, maybe. It was too bad, really, that Eliot didn’t need anyone’s pity. Especially not his, no matter how restless his eyes were.

Eliot feels the roll of his eyes, vexation eating at him from the mere fact that Quentin thought he was above this. Didn’t he know Eliot lived for this? It was the one thing he hadn’t been able to run from. “Is it really so hard to believe that you had fun on your date and I got shit-faced?”

Eliot hears the intake of breath hitch through the air, sharp and astounded. He watched through lamentable eyes as Quentin shook his head—trying to make sense of it, trying to believe it, Eliot didn’t know. But he could see the anchor of distraught hooking through his dark irises—darker even in the dim alley. “You mean you did this because… because I went on a date?” Quentin asks, like the very idea was incomprehensible. His eyes were fluttering enigmatically, so dark and yet so opaque. Puzzled. 

Was it so hard to believe that Eliot’s heart could break just as thoroughly as everyone else’s? Did he need to show Quentin the shattered pieces, bits and parts cracked throughout his chest?

“I was fucking foolish to think that I could ever have this, even just for a second,” Eliot bit, seeing only the wretched pain behind Quentin’s eyes. “I wanted to be with you, Q, without all the fucking games and hidden meanings bullshit. But I was too late, you’ve already moved on with little Miss Bubble-Tits upstairs.” He laughed, though there was nothing even remotely funny about it. He learned young that laughing helped cover up the pain, no matter the shape or form. Pain was pain.

Quentin opened his mouth to say something, but Eliot wasn’t done. “You know what, I was right. You deserve better than this God awful train wreck, so why don’t you go run along to your pretty little girl. I wouldn’t let that one get away,” Eliot sneered, turning to walk away from the new-found flood of wonder coloring Quentin’s irises.

But then a strong hand gripped Eliot’s wrist, just as it had before. Strong, unyielding, pleading. “El, wait-” 

“Don’t ‘El’ me like it’s all right, like everything is fine,” he snaps, jerking his hand from Quentin’s supple, grasping fingers. Eliot whirled around to face him, raw energy crackling just beneath his skin. If Quentin were still touching him, Eliot had no doubt his fingertips would have been shocked from the wayward menace igniting his bones—like a thunderstorm of coiling affliction moments away from pouring.

If he wasn’t angry, then he would surely break like glass. If he wasn’t angry, then Eliot would have to face exactly what had become of them. “You were an almost, Q. Almost, but not quite there.”

Quentin didn’t say a word, he only breathed. He regarded Eliot with a fragile vulnerability, every inch of his expression, his body, open and revealing. They were quite the opposite, him and Eliot, in which Quentin couldn’t hold back the clear flood of emotions when he hurt whereas Eliot simply put up another suffocating wall to hold it back. Any and all of Quentin’s walls were broken now, torn by the barrage of pain infused in the gentle doe-eyes that weren’t meant for feeling so much. They drowned in the wave of ache, eating at him until there was nothing left. Until there was only emptiness.

Moisture dampened his chocolate eyes, filling like a current, and Eliot turned away before the first tear fell—like an angel cast from heaven.

He emerged back into the bustling streets feeling like he had shed a part of himself—really only half there. The city seemed duller, somehow, than Eliot remembered from just moments before. The lights weren’t quite as bright, the people weren’t quite as pushy, the aroma of fresh pizza and Thai seemed to lose its alluring scent somewhere in the air. The noise was nothing compared to the parade of thoughts in his own head—even the honking of taxi horns yielded to the emptiness invading his mind. A void, obliterating all color lighting up the world. The color Quentin had brought.

How had they ended up like this? They had fallen in every way imaginable, but the thing was… Quentin was always the one to catch him. Now, there was nothing but the booze in his veins to stroke his insecurities.

Eliot merged with a finality into the city crowd, hoping it would take him home. No, to his house, he corrected, because it was blatantly clear now more than ever that he didn’t have a home. The one he once had was resting in ruins in the nearest alley, foundation crumbling with each fallen tear slipping down Quentin’s cheek.

Not once did he look back.

If anyone were to ask, Eliot would say he was having the time of his life. Sebastian, still asleep in Eliot’s king-sized bed, would most definitely agree. He had a feeling Mike would too, undeniably naked and pressed deliciously against his side. His hangover, on the other hand, would say quite differently. 

Even with his eyes closed, the permeating light of the rising sun pounded bullets into his head. He probably would have preferred a bullet, actually, now that he thought of it. His temples thundered with the remnants of alcohol, raising hell on earth with each shallow breath rattled in his chest. 

God, he really needed a fucking drink.

Sebastian began to stir then, hands roaming across the expanse of Eliot’s bare chest with a soft hum. “Mm, hey, you,” he murmured, accompanied by a trail of slow, sloppy kisses across his neck. 

Eliot had purposefully pursued the attractive British man the previous night (at least he thinks it was last night, time had seemed to blur with the steady stream of cocktails entering his system). Eliot had ventured to his nightclub, because that seemed like the perfect mixture of alcohol and men, and had caught sight of the salt and pepper hair across the dance floor. If he recalled correctly, he had never gotten to quite have his fill of fun with the mysterious man.

Eliot thought it the perfect time to finish what they’d started. And if that wasn’t the biggest ‘fuck you’ he could throw in Quentin’s face, then he didn’t know what was. The two had conversed energetically, making the appropriate small talk and such. Maybe (definitely) a lot of not so appropriate touching had occurred between flirtatious laughs and curious eyes. 

If Eliot remembered correctly—which, admittedly, wasn’t very likely given the liver-drowning amount of alcohol he’s had recently—Sebastian was an aspiring actor. He had come to the club to celebrate his casting in some new-age series, something about a Dark King. A High King? Truth be told, Eliot’s only real focus was getting him into bed.

And he had been about to do just that, pulling Sebastian through the crowd of people by his hand, skin practically thrumming with the need to fuck into him until his headboard broke. Or his mind, whichever came first. But in his hurry to get this unfairly handsome man into bed, Eliot had ran straight into another man.

Eliot barely had enough brain power to notice the sandy blonde hair, the electric blue eyes. What his dick noticed, however, was how Eliot loomed over both these men—how easy it would be to pin them down and fuck into their tight little holes. They were the perfect size, small and compact like Q—

Needless to say, it was no surprise Eliot had woken up naked and pressed against not one, but two warm bodies. Quentin may have fucked a girl with ridiculously giant tits, but Eliot had two ridiculously giant dicks in his bed. One of which was pressed against his thigh now, hardening lusciously. Take that, Coldwater.

“Someone’s up for round two, I see,” Eliot observes, now having come to the conclusion that he needed a drink and a good blowjob. Not necessarily in that particular order. 

Sebastian’s hand dips lowly to grasp Eliot’s own hardening cock. “I’m not the only one,” he whispers huskily, and he’d be damned if that accent didn’t do things to him. “Where should we start, hm? I could jerk you with my hand,” he offers, working Eliot up and down just to prove his point. “Or I could get a taste of that lovely cock for myself,” Sebastian extends further.

Eliot could never say no to a good blow, especially not with the full lips the Brit adorned like candy. He nods lazily at Sebastian’s suggestion, pushing him gently down to the solid throb of his cock. He takes his length slowly, rubbing his tongue over the leaking saltiness of his slit and the sensitive underside of Eliot’s shaft. When his head hit the wet heat of Sebastian’s throat, Eliot moaned loud enough to wake Mike up at his side, blissful and throaty and needy. His eyes fluttered closed in coiling pleasure as Sebastian worked energetically over his length, mouth and tongue and lips working together marvelously. It was enough to boil his blood, hot and steaming and consuming—it was blinding, it was mind-numbing, it was—

“Tits on a motherfucking cracker.”

Eliot would recognize that voice anywhere, it was the source of all children’s nightmares—even most adults’. The heat around Eliot’s cock popped off in an instant, though he couldn’t really blame the poor fellow. Margo was one terrifying woman when she wanted to be.

“Care to join?” Eliot asked, unhurried and in no way done with Sebastian’s pretty little mouth. What was one more person when his bed was this big? Just like his—

“The fuck I do,” she scoffed, like she hadn’t had her fair share of threesomes—foursomes, even. But right now, she seemed in no mood to play. “Out,” Margo ordered, glaring at the two very naked men in Eliot’s bed. When no one moved—probably too shocked to remember how to—she barged her way into the room at a ferocious pace, stopping only when she was face to face with three very naked dicks. Nothing scared that woman—ever, not even when it came to dicks. Especially not then.

“Do you really want to find out what happens when I have to repeat myself?” she threatened, eyebrow arching menacingly in a way only Margo could pull off. “Because I guarantee it’s not the kind of spanking you’d like.” 

Eliot doesn’t think he’s ever seen two grown, naked men run faster.

“Well, there goes my blowjob,” Eliot sighed, resigning himself to at least throwing a robe on. Not that Margo hasn’t seen him naked, they’ve had numerous threesomes before, but judging by the theoretical steam billowing from Margo’s ears, he didn’t want to be any more exposed than he had to. Especially while in kicking range.

“What the actual fuck-”

“Shh,” Eliot interrupts, rubbing his temples between gentle, circling fingers. “Could you maybe take it down, like, seven notches.” His headache came swooping back at even just his own soft words, let alone Margo’s steaming shrieks. He had forgotten just how much the morning after sucked. 

“Are you… no. You didn’t,” she accuses, eyes widening and voice rising, much to Eliot’s dismay. “Are you hungover?” 

“Congratulations, detective, you solved the case,” Eliot leers. But when he finally manages to open his eyes against the penetrating light, all he can see are her brown eyes, normally so impassive and reassured, filled with gentle concern. He can’t help but feel a little bad for snapping, but he was still rightfully bitter about his raging case of blue-balls. 

“El, what the hell happened? You go MIA for days, and when I finally come to kick your ass straight to hell for ignoring me, I find you hungover in bed with two random guys that I know for a fact you have no idea who the hell they are.” That last part wasn’t entirely true, their names were Sebastian and Mike, Dark King and… hot blonde. Obviously he knew them well enough. “You haven’t done this since you met Quent—”

“Everything’s always Quentin this, Quentin that,” Eliot snaps, untamed snark dripping like acid through his lowered voice, “I don’t recall giving him the right to pick who I sleep with.” In his peripheral vision - because focusing on one thing for too long made his head spin—he could see Margo cross her arms across her chest, tapping her fingers against her forearm like a ticking time bomb. 

“Christ in a goddamn cabana, what happened between you two? Last time I checked, you were all lovey-dovey with your head stuck up his ass. You know, all the googly eyes garbage.” And that was just like Margo, getting straight (or not so straight in his case) to the point without missing a beat.

“I’ve simply come to my senses, is all. Thanks for the concern but you’ve got nothing to worry about,” he dismisses, pulling out the half-empty bottle of Fireball from beneath his bed. It wasn’t a morning mimosa, but it would do just as well.

Or it would have, if Margo hadn’t ripped it from his hands. “What the fuck, Eliot? You think this is nothing to worry about?” she asks, indicating the sloshing bottle in her grasp with a wave. She held it clear out of Eliot’s reach and he knew that if he really wanted it, he would have to fight her for it. And that was not something he wanted on a good day, let alone on a hazy and hungover morning. He really didn’t want a repeat of their first meeting, he liked his body without all the angry and blistering bruises very much.

“I’m just having a little fun. Relax, Bambi,” Eliot brushed off with a wave. He had given up his hope for the Fireball, but he wasn’t a moron—he had stashes hidden all throughout the house. This just happened to be one of them.

She raised an incredulous eyebrow, scoffing gallingly. “This isn’t fun, El, this is a distraction,” Margo baffled with a wave around the room. He didn’t know what her eyes had focused on, there was an endless amount of possibilities, really—the empty liquor bottles littering his bedside, the stray pair of underwear that weren’t lush enough to ever be his, the dried cum stain on his strewn sheets. It sure sounded like fun to him.

“Are you really not going to take me seriously? Do I need to remind you who dragged you out of your own little hell the last time? Oh right, me. I rubbed your back while you puked your guts out, I held your hand while you got your stomach pumped, I didn’t leave your side for days,” she bristles, hysteria begging to creep into the sureness of her voice. If she was a cat, her hair would undoubtedly be standing on end. Eliot hadn’t seen her quite so worked up since he got sober. “Who the hell else do you think is gonna have to save your ass this time?”

Eliot shakes his head despite the protestful ringing in his ears. “Who says I want saving?”

Any ounce of anger in her rich brown eyes dissipated, once-livid irises widening to make room for the flood of perplexity. Her features smoothed out gently, showing only concern in the strong lines of her face. Her body, too, relaxed marginally, looking more like a soft puppy than a bristling cat. Margo hated mushy feelings-talk, but she couldn’t seem to help herself now—opening herself to Eliot in a way she knew he needed, even if he didn’t. Margo knew him better than almost anyone, though it hurt to think about who else knew him quite so well.

Eliot ached, and not just from the thumping in his head. There was a Quentin-sized hole ripping through his chest. “I don’t know what teenage drama went down between you and your little nerd, but you need to find a way to fix it.” Been there, done that, Eliot thinks. Didn’t go as planned. “I can’t see you go down this path again,” she murmurs, brushing a stray curl from his forehead. Margo wasn’t by any means the gentlest person in the world, but when she cared, she cared with everything she had. Eliot ought to be grateful she chose a fuck-up like him to love. He hardly deserved it. 

“What if it’s… too late? What if I can’t be saved…,” Eliot whispers. He typically wasn’t one to unload all his feelings so openly, he was more of the suffer-in-silence sort of type. But now, for some ungodly reason, he was spilling his deepest insecurities like it was Saturday Confession in Indiana, like he’s actually been to a church since he stepped off the bus and onto the concrete of Manhattan.

Maybe it was because of Margo’s naked gaze, the one constant comfort he would always have. Maybe it was the debilitating hangover softening his judgment, maybe it was the shattered, jumbled pieces of his heart feebly trying to thump again.

Maybe Eliot just wanted someone to tell him he could be saved. Was that so farfetch'd, even for him?

“Oh, El, honey. It’s never too late,” Margo murmured, unbelievably ingenious. It appeared that Eliot was a big enough train wreck to bring forth some very uncharacteristic sincerity; it was so rare to see on her strong features, even for the amount of time he’s known her, lived with her, even. But when she continued, that fiery, facetious spark that was purely Margo was back and burning brighter than ever. “So for the love of God, grow a pair of ovaries and tell that boy how you feel. I don’t know what the fuck happened to make you relapse but send it straight to goddamn hell because you are not doing this,” she stressed with a wave of the bottle she still held. “Do I have to do everything around here? I should be High motherfucking King for this,” she mumbles, but Eliot can’t bring himself to ask what the hell that meant. Did he even want to know?

“It’s not that simple, Bambi.” Eliot shakes his head again, because Margo simply wouldn’t be able to understand. He didn’t even completely understand, so what did that say?

“It’s as simple as you make it,” she says, voice strong and clear and sure—like the mysteries of the world were but only unequivocal in her eyes. She was so confident that, for a moment, Eliot actually believed she may know things about the universe that were still only riddles to him.

How could she have such a tremendous blind faith?

“Now, I know this isn’t all you have, so come on. Hand Mama the stash,” Margo commands, perfectly-sculpted eyebrows raised in accusation. It was a blessing and a curse to be known so well, Eliot supposed. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Either way, I always get what I want.” That, she did.

Margo would leave with his supply one way or another, and he could either give it to her willingly or merely delay the inevitable. Giving up every drop of liquor he had seemed like a crime, like treachery to his innermost desires. Every cell in his body screamed at him to go down fighting, the mere thought of never having another sip caved in his chest, broke his bones and tore his limbs. His need for another glass was practically overwhelming, every thought circled back to the next drink, the welcomed burn as it slid down his throat. 

How could Eliot possibly give that up, especially now that he’s had another captivating taste?

But he needed to. He needed Margo to take it all away and out of his sight, where he can’t possibly be sucked into the never-ending orbit of temptation. This needed to be Eliot’s own willing decision, otherwise he would only fall deeper into his own makeshift hell. He knew from experience it only burned hotter the longer he stayed.

This time, however, he would be leaving as soon as possible. “Okay. Follow me,” he tells Margo. He gives her every stashed bottle he had, even the ingredients to make his own personal cocktails. He didn’t know what would possibly tempt him, who was to say he wouldn’t run down to the liquor store simply because he had all the ingredients for a martini? It was better to be safe than sorry, Eliot decided, and had begrudgingly handed over any remnants and reminders despite every instinct his body possessed.

It was a step. A baby step, but a step in the right direction. Margo only smiled.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” she asked, skepticism clear in the question of her voice, the narrow of her eyes. “I can make a mean order of takeout, you know. We can even get that God-Awful Thai place you like.”

Eliot bit back his remark about not knowing true class, instead grounding himself with a deep breath. In through his nose, out through his mouth—a breathing exercise Quentin had taught him once upon a time. “I think I just… need to be alone,” he says because as much as he trusts Margo, he doesn’t think he could face the humility of breaking down in front of her. He needed to mend his heart in his own quiet peace.

She narrows her eyes at him, squinting in the way that always made Eliot feel like she was seeing right through him. She never failed to see straight past his bullshit, Margo was level-headed and observant—hiding anything from her was not a likely winnable task. But she must have only seen the pain fissuring in his eyes, hiding beyond the bare, blatant honesty. He didn’t have the energy or the mental capacity to lie right now, especially not to her.

She nods, though reluctantly, seeming satisfied that Eliot had been nothing but truthful. “Okay, well… if you need me for any reason, you know where to find me.” Margo takes him in one last time—God only knew how drastic he looked—and walks through the door with an armful of lost booze.

Eliot would like to say that he spent his time focusing on self-positivity and recovery, but the hard truth was that he wallowed in the depths of his bedroom with a quart of rocky road ice cream and the Jurassic Park trilogy—because what else would make him feel better than watching Alan Grant run from giant velociraptors. 

He may have also had a few teenage wet dreams about Ian Malcom and his ridiculously charming smile, not to mention the crude haughtiness that slipped through his lips like oxygen.

Just when Eliot was contemplating whether or not to buy the Jurassic World movies on Demand—was it really worth his time?—a soft knock tapped at his front door. It was so soft, in fact, that for a moment he wasn’t sure whether it was real or just the screech of another dinosaur. But when it rapped again, much louder this time—could knocks be confident?—he knew he hadn’t imagined it.

Eliot wrapped his robe around himself tightly, padding barefoot on his way to the echoing knocks. It was undoubtedly Margo checking in on him, maybe with some Thai if he was really lucky—comfort food was an absolute necessity, and she never failed to know what he needed. Eliot reached out, practically tasting the fried rice on his tongue, when a voice rose from the other side of the door. 

His hand stopped on the doorknob, rigid and cold. “Eliot?” He would know that voice anywhere; in a city crowd or intrinsic silence, held together by only their breaths. “It’s- it’s Quentin. I have something for you.”

He only had the harsh reminder of wrought fate, two stars unmeant to cross. Quentin had once held the idea of hope in a hopeless world, the manifestation of a bright-hued universe. He had once been proof that one bad day (or childhood) didn’t necessarily mean a bad life. Now he held only pain in Eliot’s eyes—the sorrow of what could have been.

“Eliot, please… I need to see you,” he pleaded, clear even from the other side of the door. Eliot could open it, he could swing the door wide and pull Quentin into his arms and the crook of his neck. Just like he had had his last sip of booze, he could have one last taste of Quentin Coldwater. He could smell his citrusy smell, feel the softness of his worn t-shirt, the silkiness of his hair, he could feel the warmth of his body one last time… he could taste the sweet softness of his lips and finally let him go. 

Eliot’s knuckles whitened on the doorknob, squeezing like that somehow might make this any bit easier—as if it was easy in the first place. He could open it in a second if he wanted to, take a piece of Quentin’s own bravery and face whatever lay ahead for him. “El…,” he sighed, thumping against the door like he was leaning against it. It helped, somehow, to imagine that he was, and so Eliot laid his other hand against the wood where he imagined Quentin’s heart would be. 

“You don’t have to talk to me, but I know that you’re in there somewhere. I just hope you’re okay.” His voice is deeper than normal, rough and gravelly like he had been crying. It was about half a step away from cracking, just barely holding on to the wisps of serenity, and Eliot didn’t know what he would do if it broke once and for all. His fingers tightened on the cool metal of the doorknob, his insides torn between running and opening. They fought vigorously, but the scary part was that Eliot didn’t know which was winning. 

He was stuck in the in between, not running yet not facing the boy just inches of wood away. He simply stood and listened to the shallow marks of breath so close, yet so far from his grasp. “I… miss you,” he whispered, and if Eliot hadn’t been pressed against the door himself he couldn’t possibly have heard it. Maybe Quentin hadn’t wanted him to. But he had, and it ripped a trail of longing through the battered remains of the hollow chest Eliot had left.

How could he possibly open the door when he couldn’t even open his own heart? Some things were better off shut.

“I didn’t want to be an ‘almost’, you know. I wanted to be everything.” The weight lifted from the other side of wood, and Eliot knew he was gone. Even if he hadn’t heard the footsteps padding away, he felt emptier than perhaps he ever had. Eliot knew with a biting finality that Quentin was gone.

Eliot spent what felt like hours contemplating the curious mysteries of the world. Everything from the wonder of existence to the warm mud of Quentin’s eyes. Eliot, no matter how practical he made himself out to be, couldn’t help pondering the idea of fate, of destiny, if every human being was born with an equal soulmate. 

He knew it was all bullshit and astrological garbage, but sometimes he wondered. When Eliot thought of dimpled, warm cheeks and even warmer eyes, he wondered. And to be fair, he thought of those quite a lot. A normal, healthy amount, obviously. Duh.

But right now, those thoughts wouldn’t seem to leave his head. Not even thoughts of Ian Malcolm saving him from a rabid T-rex would do the trick, which was odd because that always dominated any competing musings.

Except his mind always seemed to circle back to Quentin knocking on his door, pleading to only talk. Eliot had been too ashamed to do even that—how could he face Quentin, deprived and thirsty for addiction, when Eliot had already confronted him whilst downing a whole bottle of tequila. 

How could he let Quentin see him so weak, so broken? So Eliot had hid, safe behind the confines of his roof, separated by walls and wood. But hiding was the same as running in an existential manner, it was all just an excuse for his cowardice. Quentin had always been the brave one, though with him gone… Eliot didn’t seem to have any traces of courage left inside him. 

He could have opened that door with a simple flick of his wrist, a gentle flutter of fingers. Eliot remembered it all so vividly; the cold, withering tightness of his hand, the trembling shards of his heart, the rasp of Quentin’s voice between soft breaths, every word he had spoken.

Eliot? It’s- it’s Quentin. I have something for you, he had said, so hesitant like the shy man hiding behind curtains of hair Eliot had met all those months ago. Quentin had had something for him, and he blew it—

Wait. Quentin had something for him? Eliot had been so wrapped up in the cold shock of hearing the grate of his voice that he hadn’t even registered what Quentin had actually been saying. He had brought something?

Eliot eyed the door suspiciously, like it was the one playing tricks on him and not the surreal spinning of his own mind. Surely he had misunderstood Quentin in the heat of the moment, there had been a thousand thoughts running through his head all at once, it would have been so delicately easy to have gotten jumbled up. If he were to open that door right now, Eliot guarantees there would be nothing but empty air behind it. It would be silly of him to even look…

But he had to be sure, right? Just in case? At least, that was what he told himself as he ambled towards the wooden frame.

Upon opening it, Eliot almost smiled. He had been right after all, there was nothing here but the distant flashes of city lights, never sleeping and never slowing. It was as if Quentin had never been here—empty and still alongside the books resting on the step.

Books resting on the step. 

Now that wasn’t Eliot’s style, now was it? He had written high school book reports with less than the back cover to go on, to say he had gone above and beyond to scrape by with the bare minimum would be the year’s—the millenia’s— biggest understatement. Besides, reading was just begging for premature forehead wrinkles, and he couldn’t have that, now could he?

Eliot hadn’t read a book cover to cover since he was but a boy, hiding fairy tales beneath the shelter of his pillow. That is, until his father had found them, and Eliot couldn’t quite walk right for the next few weeks. That had quenched any thirst he may have had for stories, of enchantments and otherworldly places. 

But now the books were here, and Eliot’s father would never be around to catch him. The pages called out to him, the bright and beautiful colors practically dancing compared to the dull gray concrete of the city. He could reach out and take them, if he really wanted….

Even as a grown man, Eliot still looked over his shoulder as he picked up the stray stack, like his father might come barreling around the corner at any second. His hands shook, just a reflexive tremble of fingers, even though he lived as far away from early-morning roosters and fields of corn as could be. 

The feeling of new, crisp pages and soft covers felt so surreal that the actual contents almost escaped his notice. But then the mahogany clock brightens in Eliot’s eyes, only complete with a small girl emerging, as if she could possibly have come from a separate world beyond the grasps of reality. As Eliot flipped on to the next book, a humanoid figure —two figures—almost startled him enough to drop the pages completely. Their faces were human, they stood like any person would, except they adorned curly mats of fur along the plump lines of their bodies. Eliot may have hairy legs, but last time he checked they certainly weren’t long enough to pet. And he most definitely did not have curly horns protruding from his temples, or hooves to clop around the city with. 

This was Fillory. Further beyond anything he had known as a boy. Fillory and Further. Eliot almost smiled.

He flipped through the rest of the books, taking in a throne with a ruby-flecked obsidian crown fit only for a king. He seemed to remember Quentin and Margo mentioning something about a High King, though he could never truly keep up with their dorkish talk. There was a pair of glowing eyes on one cover, and despite it being an illustration, there looked to be a glowing flame beneath the blazing iris that seemed to, almost, go on forever. A chilling shiver erupted along Eliot’s spine at just a glance, and he quickly moved on to the next book.

This one captured an image of the moon that would be exquisitely breathtaking if it weren’t for the dissipating crumbles plummeting away. It looked to be almost split in two, enraged with a haltingly red aura encasing the once-circular shape. Eliot brushed his hand over the tumbling pieces, beautiful and yet so broken, feeling a weak pulse of the diminished shards in his chest. It seemed to throb directly over the placing of his heart.

As he moved on to the last book in the stack, Eliot was startled to find that it wasn’t a Fillory book. It had no bizarre covering and was startlingly rather normal compared to monstrous eyes and humanoid goats he had just seen. That is, unless you counted the seven very tiny men smiling jolly and transfixed on a sweet girl. A princess. She wore a bold contrast of marigold and peacock blue that Eliot would personally never be caught wearing, but she looked natural in its glow despite his reserves. As a boy, Eliot had always thought it brought out the red bow in her obsidian hair, much like his own, and the striking red of her wide-lipped smile.

He was holding a copy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. His hands trembled again with the same nonsensical fear of his dad barging through the door to take it away, to swell his eye shut and show him what it truly meant to be a man. And men didn’t read about princesses.

But Eliot wanted to. He had a crippling urge to run his fingertips along the delicate pages of a timeless story, to feel the childhood essence in the joyful illustrations. Somewhere buried, somewhere hidden and safe, was a young boy trying to crawl out of a man’s body. A youthful innocence that had been forced to grow up much too quickly. Truthfully, being an adult was overrated. 

So what if he let the child out to play for just a moment, so what if he opened an unfinished story? But when he opened the cover, Eliot’s breath abruptly caught at the few words scribbled inside. 

For when you can’t feel the magic. -Q

It was written in his large, awkward scrawl, blocky and slightly uneven. He had drawn a smiley face beneath, as crooked and clumsy as his writing. It was simple, just two dots for eyes and a curved, smiley line, but the right eye was slightly bigger and darker than the left so that it looked almost as if it had some sort of disorder or ailment. It was awkward and laughable and far from perfect, but it was familiar, personal—it felt strangely like home.

Eliot knew that if home was a warped smiley face, he probably had some serious unresolved issues. But it wasn’t that—it was the thought put into it, the care put into each and every scribbly letter. He could imagine it now; the undoubtable squint of concentration brewing between the curve of Quentin’s eyebrows, the downturn pout of his mouth as he tried to make it as perfect as could possibly be.

But that was the thing—it would never be perfect. It may have taken Eliot a crooked smiley face to realize it, but he had been trying to make things perfect that simply couldn’t be… and never would. He had pushed Quentin away all because of a raging case of daddy issues that would probably never really be fully resolved. Eliot had used that as an excuse to pull away, striving for perfection where it couldn’t be obtained.

Nothing about them was going to be perfect, no matter how much Eliot tried to force it to be. The world didn’t work like that, things just weren’t that easy. But nothing good ever came easy. Eliot had learned that quite a long time ago, but had let it be obscured by his overpowering fear.

He had been so afraid of becoming his father and hurting Quentin that he had forgotten to live. Eliot had denied himself something pure, someone as good and true as the sweet boy with the dimpled smile, because he had been living in fear. He had brought it with him to Manhattan all those years ago, unknowingly letting it fester with each breath in his chest, each pump of his heart.

And then he had laid eyes on Quentin. Sweet, sweet, dorky Quentin with the Fillory books and the biggest heart in the whole city—in the whole world.

Eliot had thought it too good to be true for someone like him, in fact he had even vowed never to become attached. God only knows what he could do to such an innocent boy. He was his father’s son, after all.

But now… while running a fingertip across a timeless fairy tale, Eliot sees that his father had been controlling him this whole time. He could almost laugh at the irony of it all, of him leaving home to live in a world without his father, yet he hadn’t truly lived at all, had he? No, not really. Not with the memory of his dad creeping over his shoulder, following him around every corner. 

But he would not be controlled, not anymore. Eliot was not, nor would he ever be, the kind of monster that fathered him. He wouldn’t be charging through the door to take away Eliot’s book this time. He was far, far away, on a sheltered farm in the middle of God-knows-where-Indiana, where he could never hurt Eliot. Or the people he loves, for that matter. He only wishes he had seen it sooner—how much heartbreak could he have saved? For him and sweet little Quentin both. 

Quentin had given him this, these gifts. To anyone else, they were just books—crisp pages with colorful pictures and a classic story. But to Eliot… it was a chance to live the life he had, to move forward with the things—the people— meant for him, and to leave the past behind. He could move on, now, thanks to Quentin. He had shown Eliot the light when he had been shrouded in the dark, and now that he could see again… he wanted the first thing he truly laid eyes on to be Quentin.

Eliot wanted to treasure his eyes, deeper than soil but yet so much brighter than the sky. He wanted to memorize every line of his face, every curve and every dip, every crinkle peeking out when he smiled. He wanted to see the rosy hue of his cheeks, the pale plumpness of his lips like two bundles of a bush, cosmic and torturously light. He wanted to taste them with a new mouth, hear his breath with new ears.

Eliot needed to see him. He had come over earlier, and though Eliot hadn’t been ready then, he couldn’t stand another second without Quentin’s startlingly warm embrace and silky smooth voice. Maybe Eliot hadn’t fucked everything up, maybe he could still save them. He could tell Quentin everything once and for all—his whole past, his father’s fate, his feelings, his cowardice. No more secrets, no more games. 

Eliot hadn’t been able to feel the magic before, but now it buzzed like a current beneath his skin—waves in an ocean of love. It had been there all along, Quentin had merely awoken it like a storm. There was no going back now.

This would never be perfect, there were so many complications, so many ‘what ifs’ that had terrified Eliot right from the start. But maybe Margo had been right, this was only as messy as they made it. Maybe it was time to start thinking simply; time to take Quentin’s slim body in his arms and feel his warmth and take it one step at a time, one moment at a time. That was all he needed, really. Eliot had made this into one big, intricate mess of feelings and daddy issues and sex—none of which was simple by any means.

But it could be. Maybe it was time for a blind leap of faith.

Before he could think, Eliot ran briskly through the door. He was clad in his lounge wear, silk pants and a polo shirt, but for once he didn’t have a concern for how he may have looked. His hair was undoubtedly a wild mess of curls from his day of lazing in bed and he hadn’t shaved in quite a while. But that wasn’t foremost in his mind, in fact his physique had been pushed entirely to the back along with every other thought. Nothing could ever compare to the lovely cerberations of Quentin—everything Eliot deemed important paled to the overpowering urge to see him, his soulful eyes and soft smile and miles of hair.

So Eliot ran through the city like that—not the worst Manhattan had seen by any means, but subordinately rough by his own standards—powered by the lone impulse to find this one boy that made the world go round. It panned out above all else, guiding Eliot straight towards Quentin’s apartment through crowds of people and fake Tarot card readings and angry taxi drivers. 

Eliot had learned an important lesson about knocking, evident from a mistake that he would not make again. He’s walked carelessly into this diminutive little apartment more times than could possibly be tracked, so many times that knocking now felt almost… wrong, like a formality presented for strangers. He had never needed that with Quentin, simply because he hadn’t ever felt like a stranger, even when he had been. Even before Eliot explored every crevice of his body, even before they had danced at parties as much as the bedroom, he had never really been a stranger.

Eliot’s soul had known this boy even before he had. The questionality of souls has always been tenuous in his eyes, the very idea carried along so many queries of life Eliot didn’t know if he could withstand the answers to. If souls did in fact exist, did that mean he was going to heaven or hell? Or maybe some other mysterious, vagrant place where he would wander for eternity, some sort of purgatory. It was terrifying not ever being able to know the truth of the afterlife, of what happened to the lost souls.

But as scary as it was, it also brought along the question of a soulmate. Now, Eliot wasn’t the sappy type that believed in all of that romance garbage, of the love at first sight and true love’s kiss. But he simply couldn’t deny the connection between him and Quentin, tying them together the very moment they had, almost literally, stumbled into one another. And isn’t that what a soulmate was? A bond tethering two people together unconditionally, a magnetic, unstoppable pull where words didn’t need spoken. What Eliot and Quentin had… it’s a tenacious, profound and lingering feeling that words simply couldn’t entail.

Eliot had thought that he wouldn’t feel it quite so strongly if he pulled himself away, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. In absence, he had only felt their connection that more deeply—like Quentin’s magnetic orbit had been trying to pull him back in. Like a soul calling out to its mate.

How could that not be real when he felt it so consumingly?

Eliot knocked on the splintering wood once more, listening for any sign of movement within. There was none. No footsteps, no breath, no moans (to Eliot’s extensive relief), not even the telltale static of television. Nothing. “Quentin?” he calls through the door, jiggling the knob just slightly. The door fell open at his touch, cracking slightly ajar.

That was odd, Quentin always locked his door when he left, and there seemed to be no signs of life inside. Eliot pokes his head in the cracked door frame, dread pooling in his stomach with the realization that he had been right—no one was here. He stepped carefully through the door despite the last horrid encounter that had sent Eliot into a drunk relapsed daze. He had been so focused on himself and his shattered feelings that he hadn’t even given Quentin’s a thought. He’s known for months that he was prone to depressive episodes, how could he have forgotten his own urgent run through the rain to make sure Quentin hadn’t committed suicide? What if he had finally found a way to kill himself because of Eliot’s selfish, vindictive actions? What if his fears of finding Quentin breathlessly still in bed all that time ago had finally manifested into life’s cruelest joke? Now that Eliot was finally able to confess everything, the boy who needed to hear it the most would never be able to.

He flew into the apartment then, abandoning all reserves of formality he had intended to lead with. Eliot ran hurriedly into the farthest room exactly like he had before—breathless, crazed, grief-stricken, chilled. Though this time it wasn’t the storm’s damp residue chilling his bones, it was the icy fear gripping his heart. 

But as he flung Quentin’s bedroom door wide, Eliot practically sobbed with welcoming relief. The bed was completely empty, unless the strewn sheets and Fillory book counted. Bowls and cups were stacked on his nightstand, like he hadn’t left his room in a few days, and worn hoodies lay bundled up in a corner. Quentin had been here at some point, even if he wasn’t anymore, which meant that in some odd corner of the city, he was alive. 

To Eliot, that was all that truly mattered. Quentin could reject him completely, he could move to California with Julia and become the world’s greatest engineer there, and Eliot would live with that because it meant he was alive somewhere, even if it wasn’t with Eliot. As long as he was happy and breathing, and Eliot’s choices hadn’t caused him to end such a beautiful life, he could live with it. He would find a way if it meant Quentin was okay.

This revelation hadn’t dampened Eliot’s quest to find him, no. If anything, it had only strengthened his resolve, intensified the burning need to see his earthy eyes, so gentle and yet so wise—exactly like the soil beneath their feet. He needed to find Quentin now, while the adrenaline pumped through his veins and inclination tickled his skin. Eliot would be able to live with Quentin moving on to be happy, but he simply wouldn’t be able to live with the wonder of what could have been prickling eternally in the back of his mind. 

He was back in the midst of bright city streets in a flash, fueled only by thoughts of expressive espresso irises and a crooked grin and the sweetest giggle akin to spring birdsong. 

Eliot delved into any and every place he thought Quentin could have gone—the bookstore, the coffee shop that sold the cinnamon muffins he ate like he had only just discovered sugar, he even checked his own nightclub just in case Quentin had wandered in for a drink. He had to hold his breath so as to not smell the pungent aroma of cocktails permeating the air, but when he had caught sight of a martini left alone at a nearby table Eliot quickly hightailed it as far away as he could get from the loud music and neon lights and booze-infused air before the temptation pulled him in yet a third time. 

To his frustration, Quentin was nowhere to be found. Eliot wandered the city until the sun started setting, searching every corner and every street for the telltale long, tousled dark hair. He didn’t care that he looked like a crazed madman roaming the streets, his only thought was stuck on one thing. Quentin, Quentin, Quentin, repeated the mantra in his head. Q, Q, Q.

 He looked through the thin window-glass of shops as he passed, sticking his head down each alleyway and every side street. Eliot even observed every individual he passed, desperate for any sign, any indication that Quentin was near. And that was when he saw him.

He was just across the street, practically obscured by the city crowd. Eliot would have missed him completely if he hadn’t been fervently searching, the worn jeans and brown jacket did nothing to help him stand out—especially not in Manhattan where passing colorful clowns and butt-naked people on the way to get a coffee was just a normal day. 

But Eliot saw him, even with the dull gray beanie covering his long locks of hair. It was Quentin.

He raced across the street, sweetly oblivious to the honking taxis zooming by at absurdly illegal speeds. All that mattered was catching Quentin before he lost him once again to the looming city. Q, Q, Q, cried his mind, you, you, you, sobbed his heart with each racing beat. “Quentin,” he breathed the second he was in ear-shot, “I found you.”

He almost dropped the books held in his arm with a startled jump. Quentin turned around to face him, puzzled eyes wide in confusion. Except… they weren’t the gentle doe eyes Eliot had spent what felt like eons memorizing. Instead they were a light brown even lighter than Eliot’s, almost green.

This wasn’t Quentin. “Oh, uh, no, sorry, I’m Brian,” the man says with a polite smile, and Eliot watches with a heavy heart as Quentin’s dimple-ended grin fails to appear. 

He feels foolish for ever having made such a mistake. Brian’s hair was much shorter than Quentin’s beneath the beanie, though it was the same golden-brown under the cast of city lights. The two had similar builds, but Eliot had only ever seen Quentin wear something other than his hoodies and t-shirts on rare occasions. This man may look an awful lot like the Quentin he knew, but Eliot couldn’t feel any of the magnetic magic accustomed to his presence. The city was still a dull gray, an absence of the vivid colors he saw with Quentin at his side.

Finding Quentin had become such a dire task that Eliot had been naive enough to believe anything his exhausted eyes showed him. “Excuse me, I believe I’ve mistaken you for someone else,” he apologizes, stepping amicably out of the man’s path. The man—Brian—raises his coffee cup graciously, and carries on his way with one last parting smile.

Maybe that was Eliot’s sign to surrender his mission for the night. He wasn’t doing neither him or Quentin any good by wandering around the streets blearily with hardly any rest over the expansive past few days. Eliot’s eyes were even failing him now, playing tricks on his mind. He wasn’t making any progress like this and no matter how badly he might want to search the whole city of Manhattan two times over, the sun had set into darkness sometime during his frantic hours of searching stores and streets. His only light now was by the source of the streetlamps and the city’s flashing illumination, as if searching seas of people wasn’t hard enough in the daylight. 

The best thing Eliot could do right now was to go home and try to get some rest, he could call Quentin’s phone again in one last hail mary attempt. Tomorrow was a new day, he could try once more then when the sun illuminated the streets and Eliot had a good night’s rest (as if he could ever sleep like this). He could at least try to clear his head, if only for Quentin’s sake. Eliot would do his best now when he hadn’t before.

So he trudged through the city, lost in thought as his legs carried him back to his house. At least, that’s where he thought he was going. Where Eliot arrived, however, was nowhere remotely close to four walls and a roof. Unless he counted the sky, of course.

Eliot had wanted to go home, and he had, in a sense. This park had been like a second home to him since the day he arrived in New York—it was the place he had gone when hope ineffably escaped his grasp at a blithering fourteen years of age and it was the place he’s come to ever since. He wasn’t a boy lost to the city anymore, no, he was a man lost to the world. 

Where else to go than his naturific home? Eliot curiously wandered the well-known path by starlight, guided by the universe’s elemental lights. The park was as stunning as he remembered it, never failing to take his breath away, though he had never been here after nightfall. He had discovered it to be practically a whole other world lit by the pale moon rather than the bright sun. 

While the bright rays always brought forth the intense, obvious colors of the summer flowers, the moon highlighted their unique hues more softly, subtly. The tulips bathed in the pale bask emanating from the sky, rearing their heads in full bloom to the twinkling stars, letting each little speck into their soft center. Owls’ hoots could be heard from the shelter of surrounding trees, deep and calming rather than the vociferous, jubilant song of birds. 

The biggest tree of all, however, stood tall enough to almost obscure the angle of the moon’s light. It sat full and heavy in the sky just behind the very top of the willow, casting a soft glow on the branches weeping in vain to touch the sky. The farther the dangling ropes of leaves fell, the further they submerged into shadow, making the branches seem to almost reach forever into the cool shine of nightfall. 

But lying beneath the grasp of those branches, angled just perfectly as to be illuminated by the moon’s brilliant, ashen radiance, rested a slim form. A man, to be more specific—lying still and calm, as serene as the moon itself. Or maybe a shard of the moon, a fractured piece that had fallen to earth to manifest here as a human being—the mystic, immaculate, mellow soul of Quentin Coldwater. 

Eliot had found him. He had spent most of his daylight hours searching and most of his nighttime hours longing, but now that he was laid out clear and attainable only a mere distance away… Eliot found his step not resolving, but rather faltering. 

Every old insecurity he’s had came flooding back in the blink of an eye. Quentin looked so… irenic, even harmonious, like he was just a budding part of the fumbling grass and the sky-high tree, the orbiting moon. Eliot had a feeling that wherever he moved, the pale beam of light encompassing his idyllic body would follow him like a child to mother. Instinctual and inborn, like Quentin had been formed of the same galactic stars. The same elemental love child in essence.

What if Eliot messed it up again? What if he lost Quentin forever? Would he be able to handle that, really? He claimed that he would be able to live with it, but would he? Could he survive that? He- he couldn’t—

“Eliot.” His thoughts faltered, and he was startled to find that Quentin was now gazing at him from across the park. It felt as if there was no gaping distance between them—literally and figuratively—in that time-stopping moment, and Eliot knew he had to go to him. There had never been any other way, had there? It was always supposed to end up like this. 

Even as he closed the distance between them, the intensity in the air only thickened further. Eliot imagined that this extreme magnetism was what characters in movies felt as the two leads finally put aside their differences and kissed in the rain or got off a plane with an exclamation of love. Except there was no rain here, there was no intense anticipation building up to a climactic scene. That only happened in Hollywood, and this wasn’t a movie scene. It was simply life playing out, a life where Eliot didn’t know for sure that he and Quentin would end up together like every Hollywood movie guaranteed. 

He wasn’t sure of anything, really, except his unequivocal connection to this one boy. 

Eliot lays down beside him, letting the soft blades of grass hold the neurotic ache of his body. It was silent for a long time, with only their breaths filling the air between deep hoots of night owls and distant crickets playing a song no being could quite understand. Yet they listened anyway, like nature’s own version of therapy. “You found me,” Quentin stated after a moment, and it was perhaps soft enough to be mistaken as a part of Mother Nature’s concert. 

“I found you,” Eliot confirms, and it’s just as soft as Quentin’s words, carried away lightly by the nighttime breeze. And now that he had found him, how could he bear to let him go?

“I didn’t think you’d want to. Find me, I mean. Or be with me, for that matter.” He chuckles, the kind of mirthless laughter that shook with the threat of unshed tears. There was nothing funny about it, though, not to Eliot.

He turned his head to face Quentin then, cheek enveloped by lush blades of grass. It was now or never, he knew. If he didn’t open up now, Eliot knew deep inside that he would never again find the courage-spiked adrenaline that raced through his veins today. Eliot could take the out Quentin had given him, he could say he had come to make sure Quentin was all right and always wonder what could have been. But he couldn’t do that, not when his heart would beat for Quentin Coldwater the rest of his unfulfilled life. 

“I thought I wanted sex,” Eliot starts with a pitiful shake of his head, and now that he had started… there was no going back. “I thought I could pass this,” he gestures between their bodies, as if that could possibly encompass the galactic bond formed with every breath shared, “off as just sex. But it’s… it’s not, it was never just sex.”

He feels Quentin’s sharp inhale as much as he hears it, so prominent in the serenity of the private night. “What?” he asks incredulously, like maybe he hadn’t heard quite right. His soulful eyes are blossoming with the beginnings of hope, but with a blink it’s gone, as if it had never existed. Eliot would think he had imagined it—he was exhausted and still a bit hungover and his eyelids begged to slip shut for just the briefest of moments.  He would have thought he imagined it had he not witnessed the same look in the mirror every day since he met Quentin.

He was pushing away the hope before it consumed him, before Eliot broke his heart again. And he couldn’t really blame him, could he? Eliot’s own weakly pulsing heart was but a reminder of the hurt his own choices had caused.

Eliot had accumulated piles of lost hope, of what he hadn’t truly let himself feel in the fear of hurting worse than anything his father could inflict. But now, letting the summer air flow through his lungs, Eliot let all of that abandoned hope wash over him like a tidal wave. He couldn’t hold back anymore, and with Quentin’s searching eyes glued to his, he found that he didn't particularly want to. He felt himself open up completely without the nagging, self-preserving fears that had locked his heart away. There were no constricting chains anymore, just Quentin. Quentin, and his ridiculously curious, flickering eyes. 

“It wasn’t really sex that I wanted. It was intimacy. Sex just happened to be the only form of that I knew,” Eliot admitted, aware that he could never truly make it up to Quentin for making such a blinding mistake. He only hoped his eyes said what his words couldn’t—he hoped they were soft and sorrowful as they gazed into Quentin’s. “But intimacy is… laughing until you can’t breathe, falling asleep to a marathon of scary movies, spending whole days piecing together puzzles which, if you ask me, deserve nothing less than a trophy.” All of these memories play in stranded flashes behind his eyes, like a movie screen with every blink. Quentin’s own looked so deep and utterly wistful that Eliot couldn’t help but wonder if his mind was as faraway in thought as Eliot’s was.

When he continued, Eliot’s voice was light and nostalgic with each flicker of a remembered smile, a laugh. “Intimacy is feeling safe. That’s what I craved. Crave,” Eliot corrects, because the urge to hold Quentin close and never let him go again was constantly present, even now. Especially now. What had started out as sex had turned into something Eliot never could have imagined. He wanted Quentin. And no, not just laid out and open for him, no matter how intoxicating that might be. He wanted him, with every ounce of his being. It was what turned the world, it was what motivated him to get out of bed in the morning—it was how he had found the strength to pull himself out of his booze-induced state. 

Eliot had never wanted a relationship, he had never wanted to settle down and live a sappy, white-picket-fence life. Not only had he never wanted that, but he didn’t see himself ever wanting that. But Quentin had turned the world upside down in the span of a night, with the width of a smile. And now here he was, wanting all of those things and more—so much, in fact, that the Eliot a year ago would have thrown up and hooked up with some stochastic guy just to prove a point. Eliot wanted to hold him as he fell asleep and make him fucking chocolate-chip pancakes in the morning and listen to Quentin ramble about Fillory over a warm cup of coffee in his very doe-eyed yet enthusiastic way. 

He reached out to grasp Eliot’s hand, fingers tightening slightly over the protruding bumps of his knuckles. Quentin’s thumb traced along the bone there, rubbing circles into his skin like he couldn’t keep still another moment. “Eliot, I—”

“No, wait,” Eliot intervenes. Before Quentin made up his mind and said whatever he had to say, he needed to hear the truth about whose hand he was holding. The whole truth. “I’m gonna tell you something deep and dark and personal now, ready?” he asks, and before Quentin could do as much as nod, words are tumbling from his lips before he can find a way to omit them again. “Good. I almost killed someone.”

Eliot had never said those words aloud, not even to Margo. She knew the gist of it, mostly information she had inferred from his past, but he had never spoken the baning truth of it out loud for the critical universe to hear. Some part of Eliot had expected Quentin to flinch away, recoil from the veracity of contentious information he spew—how could he expect Quentin to welcome them when Eliot could hardly bear the weight of it himself?

But his eyes, his sweet, gentle eyes, stayed impassive—penetratingly dark against the milky light of the moon. He watched Eliot, all of him, even the startlingly repressive parts where his own mouth pulled tight gravely and his muscles tensed with the weight of despair. But despite all of that, Quentin never winced away or gasped or gave any indication of fear that undoubtedly came with such an earth-shattering confession. He only gripped Eliot’s hand tighter, as encouraging and palliative as he had been the last time they lay under this willow tree. 

Except this time… Eliot was ready to tell all of his story, even the worst parts. But even so, he couldn’t bring himself to meet Quentin’s curious gaze as he did that—he couldn’t see the apprehensive trepidation if Quentin really couldn’t look past the worst parts of himself. What if he only saw a monster reflected back in his wide eyes?

So instead he lifted his gaze to the moon, the sky full of stars watching them from far, far above. And in a way that was like looking at Quentin too. The moon’s glow was fragmented by the weeping branches of the willow tree, scattering in different directions to almost shower their bodies in light waiting far below. It wasn’t blinding like the sun’s rays, no, instead it seemed to softly clear his mind like the sun’s harsh light could never do—silvery and exquisitely peaceful. It was beautifully radiant like a shower of refracting diamonds, bounding towards the wonder of Eliot’s eyes—it was exactly what he pictured when he looked at Quentin. 

“I was fourteen… and he… beat me up. Again. My dad, I mean,” Eliot begins, because a confession like this one needed some heavy elaboration. “He’d caught me sneaking around with one of the boys from church. He really shouldn’t have been too surprised—I mean, I’m me, and what did he expect from a kid named Charlton, anyway? It was like the opening of a horrible medieval porn scene.” Eliot chuckled breathily, remembering the innocent, boyish face of his first sexual partner. The whole experience had been new and slightly terrifying, but it was an exhilarating high that had left a lasting mark in Eliot’s blood. He had always known he was different from all the other little boys, but that had only solidified when Charlton kissed him in secret for the first time—in the back of their church of all places, talk about sinning—and Eliot had found his body reacting pleasantly.

He couldn’t completely recall then what the church thought was so bad about this, why his dad beat him for liking fairy tales, for withholding a search for a farm girl to marry one day like his brothers had. Suddenly, though perhaps he had furtively always known it, Eliot had discovered who he really was beneath all the bruises and farm dirt. This was him, the pieces and fragments that tied together not only his muscles and skin, but his soul.  

How could Eliot hide such a thing for the rest of his life? “We were out by the stables which was, in hindsight, not the most romantic spot we could have chosen but… desperate times called for desperate measures,” Eliot continues, because truth be told, as big as the farm was, that was probably one of the most concealed places available at the time as opposed to endless, open fields. Or so he had thought.

“I can still remember every detail; there was a light breeze that day, welcomed amongst the summer heat. The sky was clearer then than it had been all year, no clouds in sight, just an endless, stretching sea of sky. It was perfect. Well, in my hormonal teenage head, anyway. I’ll save you the juicy details, we don’t need to make this about my experimental adolescent encounters, now do we?” He feels the huff of a laugh brush against his cheek, wandering down his neck, and Eliot almost found it within himself to return the gesture. What came next, however, never failed to dampen the mood.

“The next thing I know, I’m being ripped away, thrown to the ground with the scatterings of hay. Tossed with the scum. And all I can see is my father’s face just… leering over me against the perfect blue of the sky.” That was what Eliot’s nightmares were made of—not serial killers, not clowns, not falling to his death. It was his father’s face, perpetually sneering down at him with hellfire in his hateful eyes. “I can still hear the crack of my voice as I warned Charlton to run, and God, I hope he did. I couldn’t see once my left eye swelled shut and I’ve never known if he- he did or not… I don’t know if he saw—” Eliot’s voice broke, he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t even breathe. How was he supposed to talk about this when it felt all too arduously real, like he was living it all over again. He wasn’t built for this, he didn’t talk about things like this for a reason, he couldn’t… he couldn’t do it.

But then Quentin’s hand moves from Eliot’s own fingers to his face, cupping his cheek tenderly. He tilts his head, and Eliot lets him, he lets his gentle fingers guide his gaze to Quentin’s earnest one—strong and brave and tender and everything Eliot didn’t know how to be. “El,” he says softly, so very softly, his name impeccably sweet on Quentin’s tongue. “You don’t have to do this, not if you’re not ready.”

Eliot could take the out he gave him without a second thought, and he knew Quentin wouldn’t blame him for it. It would be easy to put this off for another day, another week, another lifetime. He could do it as easily as he’s been doing it his entire existence— avoiding any potentially-hurtful feelings. But now, gazing at Quentin fully and clearly, with his wide eyes even gentler under the glorious moonlight and the worry-wrinkles making an appearance on his forehead, slender body stretched and open… avoiding this conversation wasn’t a viable option anymore. “If I wait until I’m ready, I’ll be waiting all my life,” Eliot whispers, and silently begs the stars to hold him to this promise.

Quentin gives a brief, shallow nod, running his fingers slowly over the expanse of Eliot’s cheek. His touch didn’t ignite a fire like being so close to Quentin’s temptful presence tended to do. Instead it lit a tingling spark, like what Eliot imagined the embodiment of trust would feel like. “Just know you’re not alone here,” Quentin breathed, and Eliot felt a vague tickle of memory at the front of his mind. He had said that to Quentin once when he had been at his lowest point, in a time that now seemed so long ago. It gave Eliot the push he needed to piece himself back together as wholly as he could muster.

“I felt so scoffingly angry. Because why me? Why was I beaten for being just a little bit different? I remember wondering if I had been a mistake, if my life was just some sort of cruel joke the cosmos entertained itself with. I was just so… so mad, and all fourteen-years worth of pent-up anger flowed through me like the world’s biggest adrenaline-kick. People say you see red in those moments, like your anger is just so intense it actually glows. But they’re wrong, you know. I didn’t see red, I saw pure black. Through my one good eye, at least. Like the smoke from a long-burning fire.” Any time Eliot dreamed about this wretched instant—which was more like a nightmare, really—he imagined smoke billowing from his ears like in the old cartoons. Like he had literally been steaming. 

“Something just… snapped that day. I was so tired of feeling so fragile, futile, looking over my shoulder in case my dad was drinking or in a bad mood. Or both. It was usually both.” Most of Eliot’s memories on the farm consisted of hiding from his father, trying to be as good as he possibly could as to not invoke his wrath. But he always found something that was wrong with Eliot, or something he hadn’t done quite as well as his father would have liked. He had never been good enough in his father’s eyes, and that had left a mark on Eliot’s soul. A stain, a brand. He carried self-loathing like a piece of himself now—like the clothes on his back or the color of his hair. 

Eliot had never really recovered from the damage his father had done. Sure, bruises fade and bones heal. But Eliot would never deem himself as good enough, not in his eyes or anyone else’s. It was a lonely way to live, but it’s the only way he’s ever known. “So I hit him. I hurt my own father, the way he had hurt me. Each punch was like a little victory, and some twisted part of my mind thought it was right, like some sort of thirstful vengeance had taken over to make him feel how I felt all those years.” Eliot, for once in his life, hadn’t felt weak. He felt strong, in control. It was an addictive feeling, one that still haunted him to this day.

“I didn’t mean to take it so far. But once I started I couldn’t stop, I just kept hitting him and hurting him, even though he was twice my size at the time. That’s how badly I wanted it, I wanted to hurt him. Who- who does that? What kind of monster does that make me?” Eliot almost sobbed, though he didn’t quite exactly know who he was asking. Himself? Quentin? The hard-edged stars? 

But then Quentin is soothing him, brushing a finger over Eliot’s lips to shush him. “You’re not a monster. What you did was self-defense, Eliot, you don’t have to punish yourself for that. You’re the most… exquisite, kind person I have ever been lucky enough to know. Please… see the man I see,” he murmurs gently, rich eyes flickering like the stars in the sky. Bright and brilliant, restless and serene all at once. Eliot had never wanted any one thing quite so much.

“Whoever you see… I still don’t know if that’s me. You don’t understand how indulgent it felt, how fucking hard it was to stop. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have stopped if it weren’t for my mother, I would have killed him with my own hands. I would’ve killed him,” he murmured again, the revelation searing through him with a cold iniquity despite the constant summer heat. 

“But you didn’t,” Quentin points out so easily, so calmly. Like Eliot wasn’t almost responsible for his father’s last breath. A human life. Nobody should hold that kind of power in their hands, no matter how much someone might deserve that sort of fate. His mother had saved him from an even worse one—a blackening of the soul.

“I stopped for the wrong reasons,” Eliot confesses. He hadn’t gone so far as to kill his father, but he hadn’t made the conscious revelation that it was wrong, either. He had stopped for himself, his own reasons, not because he couldn’t finish what he had started. He could have, so easily. As habitually as breathing. “My mom, I could hear her… screaming, sobbing, voicing all the awful sounds my father should have been making. I could hear her, somewhere, begging me to stop and I just… couldn’t quite understand why. I was old enough by then to know that she got her bruises the same way I got mine, that cuts from her ‘fall’ weren’t quite as accidental as they seemed. Yet she defended him, against her own son, me of all people. Like I was the one she needed to be afraid of.”

Eliot shook his head in vain, trying to clear the unforgiving fog in his head. He understood her pain perhaps more than anyone else—he knew how it felt to be torn down just because his shirt was too colorful for a man. He knew. Eliot knew when nobody else could. “I knew then that she would never leave him, no matter what he did. Even if it got her killed some day. For some insane fucking reason, she couldn’t, wouldn’t, ever get out of that farm. But I could, because if I didn’t… that would be the only life I ever got to live. My life didn’t work there. I didn’t have much of a life at all, really. So I hopped on the nearest bus and didn’t get off until I landed in New York, no doubt a tourist attraction covered in dried blood and hay. But whatever, this is the city.”

Becoming the person he was today—the exquisite outfits, the snide and witty comments, the expensive house—was the greatest creative project of his life. Eliot had transformed himself to resemble anything but a beaten farm boy, running from an existence he didn’t want. Because out of sight, out of mind, right? That was what he told himself, even through the nightmares and the tremors of his once-broken hand and his almost never-empty flask. He had done a decent job given the circumstances… until Quentin waltzed right into the dark jumbled mess of his heart. 

“I told you I left because I didn’t want to be a Waugh,” Eliot starts, the memory of a sun-kissed willow tree sheltering them rather than a moonlit one blossoming in not only his eyes, but Quentin’s mocha-dark ones just as vividly. “But the reality is… I left because I was a Waugh. I am a Waugh,” Eliot shudders out, merciless self-loathing clinging to all the holes his father’s blood on his hands had left—all the bubbling bruises to his soul that couldn’t quite heal like skin. His name wasn’t something to carry around like a trophy like most people did, he wasn’t proud of it. Eliot held it like a burden, a sleazy reminder of the life he had lived, the things he had done.

The monster peering back in the mirror.

But when Quentin looked at him like this—so devout and warm even under the chill of the moon—Eliot didn’t feel like one. He felt the intrinsic beast slipping away like sand, falling through his fingers and skin every place Quentin touched him. He felt like the man behind the beast when Quentin gazed at him just so, open and inviting and heart-breakingly lovely with each and every breath, every sign of life. “You’re Eliot,” he says, so simply. “And that’s all that matters.”

Oh, how badly Eliot wanted him. This bright boy was a temptation like no other, he called out to Eliot sweetly with each blink of wide, bottomless eyes, dark eyelashes resting gently for the briefest of moments on the palest of cheeks. He looked to be his own manifestation of the moon under the starry light, and what was Eliot to do but allow himself to be sucked into his divine, galactic orbit? He fell into the unapologetic reckoning of Quentin now where their breaths mingled so freely, though it seems he had fallen long ago. Eliot had fallen devastatingly for this one boy.

Could he really, truly, have him? “How could I let myself be with you when my hand still shakes like it had against my father’s cheekbone? How could I let you in when the possibility of me hurting you just as badly, worse, even, was just too great? Hating myself for who I am is one thing, but… to hurt somebody else….” Eliot trails off as he pictures Quentin—sweet, small Quentin—covered in blood by his hands. Was he even breathing? “And so I pushed you away, like I had some destiny to always be alone because of what I’ve done.” 

“So destiny, it’s- it’s bullshit,” Quentin argues, nose scrunching up resolutely like it always did when he made up his mind about something. “But you… you are good in your blood, I’ve seen it. And somehow that makes sense. For what it’s worth, you are a better man than your father ever was. You never could have hurt me, El.” His eyebrows are raised earnestly, like if he could only believe hard enough then Eliot would too. Would it really be so crazy to let Quentin in this time, when he wasn’t pushing Eliot away? He brushed a stray strand of hair back behind Quentin’s ear, letting his fingers linger to trace the light line of his cheekbone, his jaw. No, Eliot decided, maybe it wasn’t that crazy. 

“You were right before, you know,” Eliot tells him, soothing the confused lines from his forehead with a careful brush of his thumb. “I think some people would be so much happier if they admitted things more often. We’re all defined by some sort of memory, fear, disappointment, in a way. You told me once that we’re all defined by things we can’t change, of what we can’t control. If I could change where I came from, I would in a heartbeat. It broke me for a very long time, it changed me, I think, and so I pushed people away before they could hurt me. Or before I could hurt them,” he adds as an afterthought, because that was the harsh reality of it—where all his scars stemmed from. Physically and emotionally. It was all the same, wasn’t it? Pain was pain in every form, as a rose always blooms a rose. 

“But now…,” Eliot begins, but couldn’t quite finish. Not when his breath was taken right from his lungs with just a look at Quentin—unfairly beautiful, dorky Quentin. He looked exquisite as ever under the divided shade of the willow’s weeping branches, half of his face covered in shadow and the other half basking in the purest light of all. Eliot really couldn’t be blamed for touching such celestial skin, soft with the moon’s praising kiss. He was perfect.

“But now,” Eliot starts again, finding the words Quentin had stolen from his tongue, “I see. I can’t change my past, I can’t control that, but I can control some things. For instance, like who I wake up in the morning to see, who I want at my side when I fall asleep at night. And it’s you, Q, I’ve never wanted anything more than you, not even booze. And that scared me more than anything.” It was true, Eliot felt that resonate in his bones even now, even confessing his deepest secrets. The grip the alcohol has had on him the past few days, even the call of it right now, was nothing while laying by Quentin’s side. Eliot wanted nothing more than to pull him into his chest and hold him and love him and cradle his head beneath the pads of his fingertips because he was there. For a man whose desires came with the lavish of darkness, that was something to fear in his eyes.

He was still scared, even now, fearful of the unknown and unlimited possibilities both good and bad that came along with his heart’s wishes. But he had let Quentin in this time, and while that may not be award-winning, it was a step.

“Q, I’m sorry. I was afraid. And when I’m afraid, I run away.” That was the one unbreakable pattern of his life it seemed, just how many things had he run from? His father, his family, his home, booze, love. But he couldn’t run from Quentin anymore, not when it hurt so much.

When he regarded Eliot, it was with the same openness he always did. Earnest and honest and utterly complex. But there was pain there too, just traces of it hiding behind the quizzical curiosity. How could Eliot not have seen that he was the one causing it? 

“You don’t have to run from me,” Quentin says lowly, like if he talked any bit louder Eliot might spook and run away—like a deer, or a cat, maybe. It wasn’t a far-off assumption given Eliot’s track record with that sort of thing, all of his muscles coiled with instinctual self-preservation. But he breathed slowly, just as Quentin had taught him, and felt the indefeasible satisfaction of his body relaxing. Opening itself to Quentin and only him—everything he wanted with him. And maybe, just maybe, some of that hidden pain within the orbs of Quentin’ unfathomable irises was healing—a pain, it seems, the two shared. 

They were connected by so many things, so many cruel experiences—so much pain. But there was also so much light. And that made up for all of the bad parts—all the suffering and all the tears and all the broken hearts. Eliot wasn’t the broken shell of a boy who had run from home anymore. When he was with Quentin, even just the thought of his sweet smile when Eliot was alone at night, he was the whole of a man he never thought he’d be. 

He couldn’t run from Quentin, no, his legs wouldn’t move—his heart didn’t dare budge. But Eliot, having denied himself any chance of a sliver of the happiness that lived in this boy, also didn’t know how to move forward. “I’ve never let myself have this, I’m not… relationship material,” Eliot muses, because he was the furthest thing from. He’s lived in a world full of sex and flings his whole city-living life, so even entertaining thoughts of settling into a life with a whole other person was almost as intoxicating as alcohol was to his addicted brain. It was like diving into a whole new world, like teaching an old dog a new trick. Sit, Eliot. Stay, Eliot. Be good, Eliot. Love, Eliot. 

But he did. Oh, how he did. How could he not when looking at the embodiment of a moonlit-graced angel marveling soulfully deep eyes at him, like Eliot could honestly say that he, of all people, deserved to be gazed at so destructively raptly like a fallen star from the night sky. He struggled to breathe under the warm intensity of Quentin’s luminous irises—Eliot could build a temple in his name, the exact shade of his wonderfully excessive nutmeg eyes. He could swim in the soft rose of his lips, almost deliciously vermilion in the shadowed light. When Quentin spoke, his words were almost lost to the enchanting curve of his mouth with each sensuous form of his lips. Almost. “You’re exactly what I need,” he breathed into the midst of Eliot’s swimming head. 

“How can you- how can you say that when all I’ve done is push you away?” he stutters incredulously. Eliot always says everything he does meaningfully, thought out, carefully worded—all part of the poised eloquence he implemented upon himself in the facade of an attentively-created city boy. But he can’t help but falter now at the blind trust coating Quentin’s words, eyes, safely wandering hand. 

“You sacrifice for the people you love,” Quentin replies, like it was just that simple—steadfast and elemental. Love. Quentin was so utterly positive that it was hard to miss the brilliant lucidity lighting up his very being, almost as if his skin was profoundly glowing. Everything Eliot saw on the inside was now shining bright on the outside, illuminating the dark night more than the moon could ever hope to do. Quentin’s love was so strong it was lighting up the air around them, everything in Eliot’s line of sight. He wouldn’t be surprised if he had lit up the whole world with the very passion in his core. 

Quentin was so sure of Eliot, so sure that Eliot was a better man than he saw himself. He held no fear in the long, lovely lines of his face, no trepidation spiking his eyes, no unease coating his lithe bones. Quentin’s unconditional faith was as constant as the air they breathed, as massive as the expanding starlit sky flourishing above their heads. He loved Eliot, it was clearer than day and truer than night.

How could he have had any doubts about this before? This was what Eliot wanted, it was the purpose stitched to the marrow of his bones the minute he was born, it was the sole reason behind each deliberate beat of his heart. He wanted Quentin—ineluctably, inescapably, eternally. 

He loved Quentin with each set of the sun, each rise of the moon, each grievance of the clouds. It was as natural as all of those things to love so much, to love him so much. Eliot loved Quentin desperately, vitally, exceedingly. He just didn’t know how to love.

But Quentin was still looking at him with the widest doe-eyed gaze imaginable, having put his heart willingly into Eliot’s hands even with the chance of it breaking. Eliot had done enough of that, hadn’t he? Quentin was brave, braver than Eliot would ever be in any world, any lifetime. He thinks he could probably learn something from him, learn to wield courage, discover how to be brave. He could learn that from Quentin.

So what Eliot says next comes directly from the fireball of fearless spirit flowing like a lifeline through Quentin’s veins, running beyond the connection between them buzzing just under Eliot’s fingertips. Like a cord connecting one heart to another—the Greek, golden string of fate. “I think you should probably… hug me.” 

And Quentin does, as easily and as effortlessly as he had said ‘love’, as simple as breathing—almost habitual. It seems that, perhaps, Quentin was the habit Eliot had never been able to break. He had pulled himself out of the depths of liquor’s grasp, and he had done it a second, prevailing time. But there was something about Quentin that made him keep coming back, though Eliot wasn’t quite sure what. There were a multitude of possibilities, really. He captivated Eliot perpetually, in a way even alcohol could never do. 

The strongest drug that existed in this world wasn’t materialistic, it wasn’t even drugs. It was but one person—one single, whimsical boy. How could Eliot quite possibly think straight while high on the warm body in his arms, entangled securely in a bundle of limbs and skin and hair. Quentin’s breath was soft against the exposed skin of his neck, nose nestled into the crook of open shoulder. They couldn’t possibly be closer if they tried, though Eliot wished they could be. He would mold their bodies into one if he could, simply to be connected eternally and permanently.

Though with each beat of his heart pulsing in tandem with the mantra of Q, Q, Q racing through his mind, Eliot thought they were as closely linked as two beings could be. His body was wired for Quentin’s touch, the perfect shape to hold so gently, as his heart was constructed solely for his love. Eliot found himself believing in things he would have merely laughed off many years ago, preposterous things like souls and fate and true love—the things of fairy tales. But now he was living it, Eliot was existing in a world where he had fallen into the magnetism of Prince Charming, holding his very body in the grasp of his arms. 

It didn’t seem so crazy anymore to believe in the power of love, the raw capability born with the stars twinkling overhead, brought into existence by the cosmic strength of the universe. Eliot felt all of these things burning a passage in his soul now that he finally allowed so, accepted so. Maybe it was the all-mighty power of the universe that made him say what he did next, or maybe he was just still high on the smell and feel and sight of Quentin so intricate and real in his grasping arms. Whatever it was, it gave Eliot the strength to say every single thing he’s wanted to since this boy wandered into his world of black and white and gave it… color. 

“You captured my attention so easily. I still don’t know what it was about you that was so… different. Captivating. Enchanting.” Truth be told, it wasn’t just one thing that stood out about Quentin Coldwater. It was everything, even the imperfections. Eliot could never pick just one thing that was special about him, there were a tremendous multitude of things that made him so uniquely Quentin. 

“Maybe it had something to do with that shy little smile of yours,” Eliot continues, and can almost feel the impression of it blossoming against his skin. “Or the way you hide behind your hair when you blush, as if it isn’t obvious. Maybe it’s the way you bite your lip when you’re nervous and pull at your hair when you think too hard, maybe even the way your eyes can light up a whole room at any mention of Fillory. I don’t know, I might just prefer my men with one sock,” Eliot speculates, only to feel the huff of a laugh breathed against the delicate expanse of his neck, tumbling all the way down his chest. 

Eliot could feel his very being coiling with the truth of his next words, the raw tenderness pulling at his heartstrings. “But whatever it was… I realized I was falling in love with you,” Eliot whispers into the ever-reaching universe, because somehow that was easier than saying it directly to the man in his arms. It was a revelation that had Quentin drawing in sticky night air to his lungs, though he didn’t say anything. Maybe he couldn’t. Maybe he didn’t know what to say. But that was okay, because Eliot had enough pent-up, overdue words for the both of them. 

“And I wanted it, even if I didn’t know how to love. I still don’t. The sex was a way to have you,” Eliot emphasizes, because Quentin was truly an addict’s favorite drug, “without failing at all the things I didn’t, I don’t, know how to do. But… I do know that I want to learn with you. 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.” 

And that was the moral of the story, wasn’t it? Eliot would always want Quentin, no matter the circumstances, no matter the obstacles, no matter the hardships. He would always end up here, wanting nothing but Quentin and his care-free laugh and his preposterous wardrobe. It would always be Quentin—in a thousand lifetimes, in a thousand worlds, in a thousand years. 

Eliot would never want anything else except the way Quentin made him feel. It would always be this one boy, wouldn’t it? As unchanging as the ocean but as versatile as the tide in the way Eliot craved him.

Some things simply weren’t meant to change. 

“You know, I don’t know what love means,” Quentin says, dreadfully quiet compared to the odd, melodious tune of the crickets singing just outside their sight. His voice was soft and almost wavering in the way he spoke like the breeze brushing through their hair, though his words were steady as the depth of nightfall. “I was too young to, well, really remember a time when my parents truly loved each other. I don’t remember the… good of it. Love, for me, at least, has always been sort of a far-away concept. Like, I knew it was there, I knew what it was, I knew what it was supposed to feel like. But I really didn’t, not until… I met you.”

Even though Eliot couldn’t see his face, he knew there were a thousand things swirling in his eyes, so many unspoken words fleeting briefly to be seen rather than heard. But he didn’t need to see those things, not when Eliot could feel the warmth of his fingers tracing unknown patterns on his skin, not when he could feel Quentin’s heart beating a thousand miles a minute where their chests connected. Those were words enough, really, to Eliot’s fine-tuned Quentin translation.

He didn’t think he would hear anything else from Quentin, words have never a passion of his to begin with. But he even so, began to speak again, words and sounds and voice flowing together rapidly off the tip of his tongue. “I don’t really know what love is. But, for what it’s worth, when I hear the word I think of you, the things I feel when I’m with you. It’s always you, El, always.” And, God, if that didn’t sound like the jumbled thoughts in his own mind then he didn’t know what would. “I made a mistake with Alice. She- she wasn’t you.” 

Eliot had felt the exact same guilt with Sebastian and Mike and all the other boys he had taken to bed during his drunken, heart-broken spree after finding Quentin with a pile of hot blonde in his lap—Alice. None of them knew Eliot’s body like Quentin did, and he had found that he didn’t want them to. That had only made him even angrier at the time, all the more determined to prove that any boy would suffice just as well as Quentin.

None of them could. There was a Quentin-shaped space in his heart that no other man or woman or person would ever fill quite so perfectly.

“Ah, barbie-girl,” Eliot acknowledges, because that was what he had taken to calling her during his drunken stupor. “My dick is bigger than her tits anyway,” he quips, light-heartedly chuckling into Quentin’s ear. Barbie-girl—Alice—didn’t matter anymore, not when Eliot had an armful of sweet, clinging boy in his arms that he didn’t plan on letting go of any time soon. Sebastian, Mike, Alice—they were all just miniscule specks of importance in the grand scheme of things. Eliot loved Quentin, Quentin loved Eliot. What more did they possibly need?

“You’re so full of yourself,” Quentin jabbed, but was accompanied by a teasing laugh. It was the soft giggle Eliot had oh, so missed in his absence. It was the little things that made the world go round—a giggle, a smile, a joke. And he had missed each one vastly.

“Am I, though?” he asks, because leave it to Eliot to turn a serious moment into a giant—pun intended—sex joke. But Quentin only laughs a genial snigger into Eliot’s neck, genuine, free mirth coating the merry sound. 

He lifts his head from the crook of Eliot’s neck, reappearing in his vision glazed in dim, aural moonlight. He looked almost like an angel under heaven’s luminosity, halo made of mystic shadow and wings formed of pure constellations. “I love you,” Quentin breathes, lasting and silky and rather secure. How was it that Quentin was suddenly so self-assured and Eliot was a mystified, confounded mess?

He saw no traces of guarded hesitation in his sparkling chocolate irises—no, they were as sturdy as the stars in the sky sparkling just above their heads. And Eliot couldn’t say anything, he couldn’t find the words to capture the buzzing in his fingertips, the clarity in his head, the heat pooling in his open chest. His whole body thrummed with the same energy, a constant stream of certainty flooding every sense he possessed. I love you, I love you, I love you. 

But Eliot couldn’t say anything, he didn’t dare speak with such a jumbling barrage of emotions flooding his head and heart and soul—his entire being communicating with one common ground. He couldn’t say it, but he could do the next best thing. Show Quentin just how strongly he felt, let him feel for himself the unbreakable love running through his veins. 

When their lips met, a long-burning flame danced along each and every layer of Eliot’s skin. It licked at the edges of his mind, heating his core from the inside out. There was no doubt that Quentin could feel it just as warmly, just as passionately. I love you, I love you, I love you. 

“I love you,” Quentin whispered against his lips, quiet but louder than any fear Eliot had held in the back of his mind. What had he been so afraid of? How could he ever hurt the boy he loved so much?

“Say it again,” Eliot mumbled with a stray smile, blissful in the way he got to see Quentin, hold him and feel him and kiss him.

“I love you,” he repeated cheerfully. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he blurted between soft, quick pecks to Eliot’s waiting lips. He was smiling, they both were—uncontrollably, in fact. They knocked teeth a few times, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was this. All that mattered was the warm, giggly boy in his arms with the dimpled smile and the soft eyes and the heart big enough for two.

They kissed like they had discovered something new, something warmer than the summer air, something bigger than the monolithic space of the galaxy and all its watching stars. This was theirs, and whether Eliot believed in fate and soulmates or not… this was undeniably meant to be. He could feel the resolute fortitude in his very bones—the limbs meant to hold Quentin so tight, the heart sculpted to find its missing half. 

And Eliot had found that within Quentin, he could feel it beating agonizingly swift right above his own thunderous pulse. It was a cliche thing to think and exactly the kind of sappy feeling that Eliot had avoided at all costs with anyone and everyone. But together, the pain that they had both suffered through their whole entire lives dissipated in ways that it simply couldn’t when they were apart. Eliot was stronger when Quentin was there to pick him up, was it so crazy to think that Quentin was just as resilient when Eliot held his hand and guided him through the dark?

It seemed fitting, somehow, that they had found the light together under the branches of a willow tree. They had built the foundation of a similar tree with the pieces of a puzzle, once. What had Quentin said, exactly? The tree represents the bringing together of two different worlds that shouldn't be but works because, I mean, they’re the same existentially. It’s nature finding a way despite the barriers. The beauty of all life. 

They had found a way. Despite all of the fears telling Eliot this couldn’t be and all of the vindictive ‘what if’s, they had found a way. Love always found a way, it seemed.

So finally, finally, with Quentin soft in his arms and mouth sweet on his lips, Eliot knew. The connection between two people—the tree between two worlds—was the purest form of magnificence there was. Love was the beauty of all life. He felt tethered to Quentin in a way he wasn’t with anyone else, not even Margo. Quentin was the missing parts of him, the better parts, and now that Eliot was whole again with the pieces Quentin had held… everything was brighter, softer, warmer, louder.

The crickets hummed their song and the owls hooted their call and Quentin breathed softly against Eliot’s lips, all of nature’s purest sounds merging to form music more gloriously melodic than any radio hit. Eliot’s skin was alive with acute touch with everything from the soft blades of grass tickling his back to the cozy breeze of warm city air. Even the moon’s glow was a gentle caress through the weeping branches of the willow tree.

And then, like it had come straight from a movie scene, it began to rain. It was just a drizzle at first, lightly falling through the dangling leaves like a cool summer mist. But just as both he and Quentin raised their heads in wonder, a heavy torrent poured from the clouds high, high above.

It came with no warning, but now that it was here, the sky cried fitful tears over their embraced forms. The drops were warm, nothing like the cold spring rain that had infused the city mere weeks ago, but a soft, comfortable shroud. Quentin laughed merrily as the sky soaked their clothes, their hair, their skin. But that didn’t matter, not when Quentin’s eyes were lit up with a joyful, child-like amusement. 

Eliot felt like he was starring in a Hollywood film when Quentin kissed him like that; brought their lips together under the city stars and the pouring rain with rapturous reverence. He was eagerly molding their mouths together, mingling their breaths, like the rain had awoken something urgent inside of him. He tangled his wandering fingers in Eliot’s soaking curls, pulling drops of rain through strands piece by sopping piece.

But he didn’t care, how could he? This all felt unbelievably surreal, like he would wake up at any moment, any second. But Eliot never did—the rain pounded on and Quentin mouthed at his lips and the crickets chirped and he lived. This was his reality, this was undeniably real. This was his. 

“I love you,” Eliot finally murmured, hardly audible above the roar of the falling raindrops. But Quentin heard him, Eliot knows he did. He pulled away to look at Eliot, drawing back from the neediness of his own lips, and all but marvelled down at him with the widest smile Eliot has ever had the pleasure of seeing. His heart lurched forward with the urge to kiss him again, to feel that smile strengthen against his lips and tongue with the slick, wet slide of rain coating their mouths and skin and everything. 

But Quentin was already doing that for him, it seemed. He crashed their lips together once more, bolder that the storm, like he couldn’t possibly get enough. “I love your lips,” Quentin murmured as he kissed them silly, “I love your chest,” he continued as he ran searching hands over the broad expanse. “I love your hands,” he rambled on in between quick, daring kisses, and let Quentin guide said hands to his slim side and up to his dripping and tangled locks of hair. 

Eliot kissed him back just as fervently, as if his life depended on Quentin’s air—like Quentin was the air. His life source. But as he began to guide Eliot’s hand to the hem of his shirt, Eliot pulled away breathlessly; his air was gone.

“Q, this isn’t just sex with you. We don’t have to…,” Eliot trails off. There was some sort of irony in the way that now that he was closer to Quentin than ever, sex wasn’t the first thing on his mind. He wanted intimacy, closeness, sensuality—but for the first time with clearer, crisper eyes, Eliot was acutely aware that he didn’t need sex to have that. “That’s not all you are to me.”

It was true, Eliot didn’t just want Quentin for the sex. Granted, it was mind-blowing in a way he had never experienced with anyone else, but that was because Quentin was grander than everyone else. He was special in every way, in all aspects, not just in bed. It wasn’t that Eliot didn’t want him like that, because he did, oh, how he did. His cock stood stiff and firm with just the thought of Quentin’s bare, gloriously slim body burning with need at his touch, spread eagerly and longingly for Eliot and everything he had to give. 

But he had taken advantage of that before, he had used sex wantonly to keep Quentin close and have him without all the things that truly mattered. Eliot couldn’t let him think he only wanted him for pleasure—he wanted all of Quentin. He sought every exuberant, dynamic, whimsical piece of this boy, every insecurity and every fear. Eliot wanted all of him, not just the good parts or the sunny days. He wanted him when it rained, when he hurt so bad he couldn’t bring himself to get out of bed.

Eliot wants to take care of him, in every way possible.

“You don’t have to hide anymore,” Quentin contends, looking like a blooming flower under the sky’s natural shower. “Let me have you. I want… all of you.” 

Quentin’s eyes are darker than the clouds towering above, darker than anything the night could ever bring. Mysterious and utterly exotic, they bore down onto Eliot as if to see inside his soul, his mind, his deepest secrets. Quentin meant what he said, it was abidingly clear with the parting of lips, the earnest eyes, the tensed muscles. 

Who was Eliot to deny him that? 

“Anything you want, darling,” he murmured, but took hold of Quentin’s slippery hand before he had a chance to pounce. He’d much rather do this in the safety of his bedroom without the possibility of prying eyes—it was the city, after all, and the city never sleeps.

Eliot pulls Quentin down the path leading back to the illuminated streets, running hand-in-hand beneath the splattering trees. His shoes were muddy with the soppy soil beneath their feet and his curls were dripping droplets of water into his eyes, but Eliot didn’t care. He pulled Quentin into a fierce embrace just before they reached the city lights, when the trees still basked them in shadow and the moon gleamed far above through sheltering branches and hanging leaves. Their lips met softly, as tenderly as the first time their tongues had danced, entrusted with a slow-burning passion that flowed as constantly as the pelting rain. 

And then they ran through the flooding streets, though this time Eliot wasn’t running away from love. He was running with it, holding its hand and pulling it from the rain—literally and metaphorically. 

The pair stepped (more like fell) into the safety of Eliot’s home, dripping wet and sodden with slippery rain, but laughing. Laughing with what felt like the weight of the world left outside with the impetuous storm. They had left it all behind; Eliot’s demons were too busy drowning in the downpour flooding the streets. 

They were free. 

“That was…,” Quentin says, a little breathless. His cheeks were stained a rosy pink, covered in a satiny blanket of dripping raindrops. He smiled a charming, lopsided grin, and to say that Eliot’s heart stumbled would have been an understatement.

He looked absolutely ravishing, glossy with fallen rain and high on thrill. “That was,” Eliot agreed. Words couldn’t merely do justice to the thrum of euphoria sweetly glazing his bones. 

Quentin gazed at him and Eliot gazed back, still and wet and thoroughly exulted standing in the depths of his living room. The rain pounded on the walls, splattered the palely-lit windows, almost as fast as the beat of Eliot’s own racing heart.

And then any trace of hesitation was squashed as Quentin practically jumped into his arms, eagerly searching any place he could reach. His lips mapped the line of Eliot’s jaw, brushing delightfully against the rough patches of stubble as his hands swept over his back and shoulders. Eliot could have stayed there forever pressed pleasantly against the slim curves of Quentin’s body, but when his roaming hands began to guide him in the direction of the bedroom he couldn’t say he had any complaints. 

“Pushy, are we?” Eliot teases, though he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t eager to get Quentin out of his clothes as soon as possible. In fact, his fingers were practically itching to rip the worn, soaking fabric and feel the slick slide of skin beneath his fingertips.

“I’ve missed you,” Quentin growls, like that was a perfectly good explanation. It just so happened that it was, Eliot was all too familiar with the rash yearning for Quentin’s strewn moans and soft skin and eager need to please. “Need you, El,” he murmurs hungrily and yet all too softly.

Eliot thumbs at the button of Quentin’s jeans as heat surges through his core at the needy rasp of his name, nickname. “Missed you so fucking much,” Eliot mumbles against Quentin’s eager lips. “Missed your sweet little body,” he says as he pulls Quentin’s sopping shirt over his head, “Missed your cock the most.” Eliot palms the hard bulge of it through his jeans, discarding them rather quickly as the two land heavily on the bed. 

Quentin moans wantonly, shamelessly, as Eliot peppers his jaw in kisses, his soft, straining neck. He feels Quentin peel his clothes away rather than sees it, Eliot is much too wrapped up in the feel of skin and muscle beneath his lips. A tingling vibration sings against his unrelenting kisses with each discarded moan Quentin gives, surging through Eliot’s body and straight down to his now-freed cock. 

The two hadn’t wasted a second getting undressed, clothes no doubtedly strewn in a soaking pile in some odd corner of the room. It could leave a stain for all Eliot cared; now that Quentin’s bare, lush skin was pressed against any and every inch of his body, his head spun with a primal need the furthest away from wrinkles and laundry and hardwood-floor-care. 

Eliot’s mind was overwhelmed with a vibrant mix of lust, elation, yearning, ecstacity—how could he possibly think straight with thoughts of Quentin floating in his head, images of Quentin’s pink cheeks in his eyes, the feeling of electricity budding in each place Quentin’s body was connected to his… which was everywhere. Eliot was delightfully drowning in a sea of Quentin Coldwater. He couldn’t breathe, yet his lungs enveloped every sigh exhaled against his lips with utmost pleasure.

Eliot loved every second of it.

They had been stuck in between friends and… this for the longest time, but when it felt this spine-meltingly good Eliot couldn’t believe it had taken him so long to let himself have this. They were never really meant to be just friends, were they? Every choice they made, every path they took, it would eventually lead them here, to this blissful world that was theirs and theirs alone. 

It felt inconceivingly immaculate to have the privilege of holding Quentin in his very own arms, kissing him breathless, taking him apart and then building the pieces back together again. It was like a high Eliot had never quite reached before, a rush so good that it was beyond even alcohol’s grasp. It was so felicitous in fact, that Eliot craved even more—passion, danger, fire. 

“I- I want to ride you,” he blurts against Quentin’s mouthing lips. He stills almost immediately, pulling away to meet Eliot’s eyes wondrously.

“You do?” he asks, a jumbling mixture of beseeched mystification and marveling curiosity. Eliot could say no, he could take it back and Quentin would accept it in a heartbeat. During all of their sexual escapades, not once had Eliot been on the receiving end of something so intimate. Quentin had never seemed to mind, he had taken whatever Eliot was willing to offer eagerly and willingly, enthusiastically.

But the thing was… it wasn’t just Quentin that Eliot had shied away from being filled so intricately with. It was every man he’s ever been in bed with since farm-boy Charlton. He wasn’t necessarily opposed to it; there have been countless nights where Eliot had opened himself up on his fingers and came onto his coiling belly with a few quick strokes to his cock—in fact his chest heaved with pleasureful breath when he did so. But allowing himself to be so open, so vulnerable with another man, had diluted him into filling someone else and not the other way around. 

Eliot had never let anyone in— both to his heart and to his body, like some sort of packaged deal. He had built walls for a reason and he had never let anyone past them, let alone expected them to want to. But Quentin had. Not only did he get around his walls, he tore them down completely and knowingly. He wanted Eliot in mind, body, and soul, and somewhere along the way... Eliot had found himself giving all those things to him without a second thought.

Eliot wasn’t afraid anymore. He not only wanted, but needed Quentin irrevocably. And Eliot was willing to give this one, kind boy what he hadn’t any other. “I do, I want to,” he confirms, and felt a smile tug at his lips with the knowledge that he really, truly meant it. 

Quentin tugs him into a kiss by his curls, holding on like reins and a saddle like Eliot was expected to giddy-up any second. How fitting, since Eliot was planning to ride this man like no horse would ever dream.

“You’re fucking amazing,” Quentin mumbles between wet, sloppy tugs of lips and teeth. “So fucking hot, El, makin’ me so- so hard, fuck.” 

Eliot could listen to him ramble on forever, he could live blissfully in the hot waves of lust they brought like high tide on a sunny Saturday morning. His entire body was charged like a live wire, just waiting for Quentin to tap it at any moment.

When he did, Eliot wasn’t the slightest bit prepared for the mind-throttling euphoria it would seize. A finger pressed at his entrance, slicked with the lube he hadn’t heard open. Could he really be blamed when Quentin’s soft, needy little moans terminated any other competing sound from existence in the blink of an eye? That was a distraction if he’s ever heard one.

But now Eliot was the one who was moaning, completely helpless to the heavenly groans falling from his lips as the pad of Quentin’s finger pushed slowly but deliberately inside his clenching hole. “Fuck,” Eliot gasped, short-circuiting in the most delightful way. Quentin brushed purposefully against his most hidden walls, rubbing with a vigor not quite enough to be painful but most definitely plenty to elicit the fall of mindless sounds from Eliot’s own lips.

He moaned his appreciation into Quentin’s mouth—who took it all eagerly and willingly—until there was nothing left to breathe but Eliot’s own circulated air and the empty spot where Quentin had just been. Now, however, instead of kissing Eliot’s searching lips, he was mouthing his way across each and every inch of his skin, tasting him with new, fresh lips. Quentin licked and kissed and bit a path over the jut of Eliot’s collarbone and down to his pebbled nipples, almost as hard as his stiff cock where they keened beneath the tug of gentle teeth. He could have stopped there, still with his jaw latched to Eliot’s hardened chest, but Quentin had never been one to give up anything half-way through. 

So his head and trail of slippery kisses traveled even lower, all the way down until the warm, blistering heat of Quentin’s mouth had engulfed the beading tip of Eliot’s cock. A second finger slipped inside just as the sensitive head tapped the back of Quentin’s throat, overloading Eliot’s nerves with an onslaught of pleasure so intense he didn’t know whether to scream or melt into the bed sheets. He felt like doing a bit of both, actually.

It was a constant fight of will as Eliot’s insides tore itself in half in search of two different waves of pleasure. His hips threatened to snap up with each swirling bob of Quentin’s head, itching to chase the heat cresting just on the tip of his lapping tongue. But then the fingers moving so deeply inside his walls would twist just right and just perfectly that Eliot would be left with no choice but to push down on them, to feel himself being opened even further, even deeper. 

He had never taken notice of just how big Quentin’s hands were, but it was impossible to miss now as his long, inert fingers roamed his body from the inside out. Quentin was almost made for this —sculpted as a part of him as much as his earthy eyes and mousy locks. He was deftly capable of such minor things as this, attention fine-tuned into stretching Eliot completely and ravishly. If he didn’t know better, Eliot would say that Quentin could work some optimal magic with those hands of his—he could literally feel it sparking within him.

Eliot’s body began to tingle as eye-squeezing pleasure crested in waves just beyond his reach. “Q, baby, if you keep going, I’m n-not gonna last,” he strangles out, breath coming in ragged spurts between desperate words. For a brief moment, Eliot thought Quentin was going to keep on as he was, sucking his shaft in earnest and fingering his hole lavishly. It looked as if his self-control had slipped away behind the curtain of his eyelashes, blown pupils focused on nothing but tearing moans from Eliot’s lips. 

For a concise second, he thought about letting go and allowing Quentin to guide him through the final, cresting waves of pleasure. But Eliot ached to be filled with something other than fingers, no matter how deftly they moved. He needed to be connected to Quentin in a way Eliot has never wanted with anyone else—he wants to feel the head of Quentin’s cock press inside his most hidden parts with the utmost rippling bliss.

It seems to be that he and Quentin crave the same things because he finally, finally, pulls off Eliot’s slick cock with one final lap at the head. He pulled his fingers free last, twisting gently before slipping free of Eliot’s gaping, clenching heat. 

He missed the prickling fullness as soon as it vanished, like a whopping case of postpartum-depression. Eliot’s mind functioned on only one thought, only one need—filling himself to the brim with Quentin’s lovely cock. 

So that’s exactly what he does. He flips Quentin onto his back in the blink of an eye, muscles powered by the intense craving to be full, thoughts whirling much the same. Eliot was functioning partly by his mind’s need to be close to such burning skin and partly on his body’s primal urge to satisfy the itch only this one boy could sate so well. But, all in all, they shared one simple, common ground.


Eliot was completely overwhelmed with all things Quentin as he began to sink down onto his delightfully slick, flushed cock. His citrusy scent permeated the air all around, a tangy, peachy sweetness mixing with the heat of sex. Eliot’s skin threatened to catch fire with every brush of his electrifying skin, even his unique taste was left dancing on Eliot’s tongue—an instinctively masculine flavor that couldn’t compare to even the finest cuisines in New York. Eliot doesn’t think he’ll ever get his fill, no matter how much of this boy’s lively energy thrummed through the air around them, encompassing Eliot entirely and inescapably.

Even the moan that Quentin let out as the head of his cock breached the tight ring of muscle was more than enough for Eliot’s eyes to flutter closed in soundless pleasure. “Mm, you’re doing so good, feel so good,” Quentin groans. He runs his hands over the bare skin of Eliot’s sides, gripping and rubbing and grasping frantically but somehow soothingly all at once. 

Eliot takes the rest of his length slowly, letting the burn stretch him readily. It was much more intense than Quentin’s fingers had been; his cock was thicker and much longer than any of his exploring knuckles. Eliot has even opened himself up like this before—a fair amount of times, admittedly—for he was no stranger to toys and such. But those were rubber and his own ploring fingers, Eliot was in complete control one-hundred percent of the time. Now, however, Quentin’s slight hitch of hips was a generous reminder that he was not. 

Eliot had been frightened to give up any control to anyone in such an intimate occurrence such as this, allowing another person to enter his body entirely. He had never foreseen himself allowing such a personal act of trust. But now, as Quentin’s indulgent groans of bliss resounded to being completely buried inside of his clenching heat, Eliot knew he had never trusted anyone more. He wanted Quentin to fill him so fully, so intimately, he wanted to be connected so erotically and absolutely. 

The feeling singeing Eliot’s nerves as the burn settled into an unbreakable pleasure was like nothing he’s ever experienced in a world so cold. This was hot, searing hot—enough to boil his blood with each tiny thrust of his own hips. Eliot gave no thought to slowing, he could only chase that hotness stewing in his bones with each passing moment that Quentin filled him just so. 

“Q, baby, you feel so good like this, filling me up so perfectly. So fucking good.” Quentin’s eyes squeeze shut with an unrestrained jerk of his hips, lips parting heavily as he plunged even deeper into Eliot. He circled his hips where they straddled Quentin’s cock, moaning almost thoughtlessly as he felt his innermost walls stretch even further around his nimble length. 

Eliot settled into an easy rhythm, following the almost natural bounce of his hips. He kept pace with Quentin’s now-ragged breath, pushing back against the tingling fullness ever-constant and everlasting like memory foam in his skin. 

He took all of Quentin in from above, angled so highly as to see each and every crevice of his skin, the different hues of his irises. His forehead had scrunched up delectably as it does when he thinks too hard, but the irony here is that he wasn’t thinking. There was no room for even semi-coherent thoughts while such an intense pleasure coated their blood—at least Eliot couldn’t fathom one. Every other part of Quentin was abstractly smooth from the parted lines of his lips to the delicate curve of his collarbone, mindlessly riding the waves of ecstasy just as Eliot was, so gloriously eager. He wanted nothing more than to look at this boy forever just as he was—boneless and natural in his innate state. 

And then Eliot realized that he could. They didn’t have anywhere to be. Eliot wasn’t brushing him away this time, they weren’t going to act like simple friends in the morning. Or even the next day for that matter, the next week, the next month. This was real, this was it. They could take their time like they had never done before. 

In every other bedroom (and sometimes living room) encounter they’ve had recently, none of them had consisted of such sweet love-making. It had been purely about the raw energy, the mindless sex that Eliot knew all too well. But this wasn’t that. Eliot could take his time to feel every single way the two were connected, each way they were joined. He took careful note of the electricity that crackled down his spine with each frenetic grasp of Quentin’s roaming fingers, he felt the mind-numbing sensation of bliss pouring over each and every inch of skin and limb as Quentin pulled him deeper down onto the thick girth of his cock. It was so alike to the hot chase of pleasure they’ve become accustomed to, but it was so much more entirely intense because Eliot knew that this was all his.

Quentin was his. And that alone spread an untamed fire through the long-icy parts of his mind, body, and soul. Mostly his body if he were to be specific, because raw energy was spiraling like tendrils through his nerve-endings, all but begging to be closer to Quentin as if he wasn’t already as joined as could possibly be. 

“Look at you,” Quentin groans, eyes roaming the expanse of Eliot’s body just as much as his hands were, if not more. “You’re beautiful like this, so- fuck, so eager for my cock.” He punctuates his words with a particularly deep thrust upwards, meeting Eliot’s bouncing and swiveling hips with a spine-melting snap. 

“I’m always eager for your cock, I like it even better inside me,” Eliot drawls, shuddering as Quentin bites down on his kiss-swollen lips—teetering now towards a deep cherry rather than a rosy pink. 

“Fuck,” Quentin bites out, gentle irises swallowed by the obsidian pupils blown wide with a lustrous desire. There was nothing gentle about him now, not even in the way he talked. In fact, he was beginning to sound more like Eliot himself usually did. “Touch yourself, I wanna see it. I wanna see you fisting yourself on my cock.” 

A raspy growl resounded through the air that just may have come from Eliot himself. His hand immediately wrapped around his own cock at Quentin’s command, lightly stroking his throbbing length. “You like that?” Eliot asks, though Quentin’s appreciative sharp jerk of air is answer enough.

“I could come just watching you, taking all of my cock and still touching yourself like you can’t get enough. God, you’re fucking- unreal.” Eliot can’t help but jerk into his fist before pressing back down onto Quentin, not quite sure which direction to move his hips. He was going to lose his mind like this.

“Oh, Eliot- fuck, I… I want—”

“Tell me,” he utters breathlessly, but so very strongly. Eliot wants to hear every needy thought churning desperately through his mind, and he’d be the world’s biggest liar if he said he didn’t want to fulfill each and every one of them.

“I wanna fuck you so good, El, I wanna hear you beg for m-more,” Quentin stutters out gaspingly. His cheeks were stained a deep red, maybe from embarrassment. But he didn’t look embarrassed, he simply looked contentedly blissful with eyes tinted in a dreamy-like euphoria. 

He really had no idea of the monumental effect he had on Eliot, did he? “I want that, Q. Fuck me so good,” he pleads, dangerously close to a whine. Eliot didn’t whine in bed, he certainly did not. He was just so desperate to feel Quentin slamming into him that he couldn’t quite picture anything else, think about anything else.

“I’ll fuck your tight little hole so good,” he promises, and in one swift motion flips Eliot flat onto his back. He sometimes forgets just how strong Quentin is, so easily overlooked with the obvious height difference. But he feels a current of heat swim through his core at being manhandled so easily, so flexibly.

Eliot had always been the one who was in control, he had never not been the dominant one in bed—he felt at ease knowing he was the one holding the reins. But with the way Quentin was cradled between Eliot’s legs like he had been made to fit, Eliot found himself wanting to be spread open like so many others have been for him. He wanted to feel Quentin when he stood up in the morning, like he was still fit snugly between his cheeks with every gating step. And with the way Quentin was pushing into him now, Eliot thinks he might just feel him for days.

A hand slithers its way between the tight press of bodies to lock around Eliot’s cock, deft fingers tugging and twisting in time with the snap of Quentin’s tumultuous hips. A tingle prickled the back of Eliot’s neck, gradually moving steadily down his spine and limbs while surrounded by the pressure of Quentin’s quick fist and ladened impossibly full in ways his body could hardly completely process.

Now that Eliot has had a taste of this wondrous new world of sensation, he needed more. “Harder, baby, fuck, fill me up,” he gasps, and pushes back against the proceeding onslaught of heavy pleasure and even heavier thrusts. The slow traipse of time was gone now, replaced with a frenetic chase of pleasure cresting just beneath their searing skin. 

A low, breathless keening fell richly from Eliot’s lips with each hard drag of Quentin’s cock, rubbing deeply inside. He had never moaned an excessive amount in bed before, but when Quentin brushed heavily against the coiled bundle of nerves waiting like a live wire inside himself, Eliot let out a broken, guttural sound loud enough for all of Manhattan to hear. He wouldn’t last much longer, not with the barrage of thrusts aimed specifically at that one spot.

But it seemed that Quentin wouldn’t either. He had thrust into Eliot’s hand and mouth enough times for him to know when he was this close, hips moving jerkily and unsteadily into this newly-discovered source of heat. “‘I’m gonna- gonna—” Quentin breaks off with an inward gasp, lungs full to bursting with the electrified air.

But Eliot knew what he needed, he was so teeteringly close himself. “Inside,” Eliot chokes out, “Come inside me, baby. Wanna feel you.” 

Quentin groans—a low, startling rich and raspy sound—and jolts his stuttering hips into Eliot one more time before he feels a seeping warmth pouring through the deepest parts of him. He buries his head between the pillow and Eliot’s heated skin, bluntly biting down on his shoulder. 

It was all just too much for Eliot to handle, his mind spun in the midst of so much overwhelming sensation. Quentin’s hand still stroked over Eliot’s cock as he continuously plunged gently inside his filling hole, Eliot’s nerve-endings mistook the pain in his shoulder for a brisk, lurid pleasure—even Quentin’s sonorous moans created a trembling whirlwind of bliss.

When Eliot came, he came with Quentin’s name shuddering on the tip of his tongue. He could feel the warmth soaking onto his abdomen, smudging between writhing bodies, consciously aware of the breathy moans seeping into his skin as much as the air as Quentin worked him through such orgasmic euphoria. 

When they cleaned, they did so slowly—where else did they have to be but in the other’s arms? Nowhere important, Eliot deemed, because nothing would ever be more crucial than the boy lying lazily in the tangle of his embrace. 

Eliot would have been completely content to simply enjoy the silence of their calming breaths, the steady thump of Quentin’s heartbeat like a lullaby. But then Quentin spoke, and Eliot was more than happy to listen to that just as well. “Who knew,” he said restfully—not a question, just a marveling statement. 

“What’s that?” Eliot replied, soothing his fingers through the tousled strands of his unruly hair. It was damp with sweat, but Eliot didn't mind—in fact, he only pulled him closer. 

“When you met me, I was just this dorky guy with social anxiety problems and a severe case of depression and yet… here we are,” Quentin states, gesturing between the two of them with baffled hands. But he was right, here they were, naked with an after-sex glow and an unbreakable hold they held each other with. “I mean, I actually only had one sock on when we met. Who the fuck does that?”

Eliot grins widely at the memory of the startled boy hiding behind miles of hair and poor evening attire. “You’re still just as dorky, the difference now is that you don’t have any socks on. Or clothes, really, but I love you anyway.” Eliot particularly enjoyed the absence of clothing, if he must admit, but could Quentin blame him? He didn’t think he’d ever tire of his body, but then again, he knew he would never, ever tire of Quentin.

He huffed something like a laugh against Eliot’s chest, grinning a grin that Eliot couldn’t see but only feel. His heart thumped wildly anyway. “Who knew,” Quentin repeats again, curiously awed. Eliot was awed too, in a way, that he could feel something so pure and powerful so continuously like he does with Quentin.

He supposed he had his lucky stars to thank for that. Or maybe he should thank Quentin for sticking by him despite his fears and flaws and insecurities. Eliot was much too far from perfect, he had never even really come close to anything that was in his life. But right here, in the loving warmth of Quentin’s arms… he thinks he may just have found the one thing that was.

“It’s all in the wrist,” Eliot is telling him, guiding his hand through the precise movements. Quentin feels his wrist flick in a controlled, even motion under Eliot’s directing hand, and can’t help but smile at the perfect circle the pancake sizzled into. 

“Perfect!” Eliot exclaims. Quentin didn’t have to look at him to know there was a wide grin plastered to his lips. “Now you try,” he encourages, letting go of Quentin’s wrist completely. This almost felt like too big a responsibility to handle.

“I’ll try,” Quentin alleges, pitifully eyeing the pile of discarded failures weeping on the countertop. Those pancakes had died for nothing at Quentin’s own hands, and he had no doubt that this one would suffer the same fate. But as he flipped the bubbling batter, he almost gasped at the perfect, chocolatey fluffiness staring back at him.

“I did that?” Quentin questions, because it seemed almost too good to be true. All his life he had never been able to make the perfect pancake, capturing the right amount of fluffiness and trace amounts of chocolate in each bite. But the gooey chocolate oozing from the sizzling fluff proved to be his first success. “I did that!” he exclaims again, holding no traces of questionable curiosity in his voice this time.

“My hero,” Eliot quips, all wit and humor, but more than evidently joyous. After living with Eliot for so long, Quentin could easily come back with a banter of his own. But instead, he could only grin wide and proudly at his perfect creation. 

Pancakes no longer meant loss in his broken mind, they no longer held the pile of ache Quentin carried in his mother’s name. Now, they meant Sunday morning breakfast and a steaming cup of coffee, lazily lounging about with the man he held so dear to his heart and even tighter in his arms. And every Sunday morning, no matter how late they slept in, Eliot would attempt to teach Quentin how to make the pancakes just right like a household routine. They had even had leftover pancakes for dinner one night thanks to all of Quentin’s failed endeavors—crunchy, burnt, gooey, cold, they’ve had it all. They’ve even given some to Julia as a ‘welcome home’ present, who had taken them with a half-hearted laugh and doubting glance.

But now, gazing down at his faultless, steaming ring of cake, he knew they would feast on only fluffy perfection today. 

And so that was exactly what they did. They gathered around the dining room table just like tradition, except this time the pancakes tasted that much sweeter knowing that Quentin had accomplished a long-overdue feat this morning. He smiled the whole way through breakfast, not caring if there was chocolate in his teeth or batter on his lip—he did it. And he had this gorgeously charming man to thank for it. 

Eliot looked magnificent even in the mornings, Quentin had soon found out, and today was no different. His stygian curls fell in ringlets down his forehead, making a delicate home against the curve of his cheek. Sleep still clung stubbornly to his lids, but that only aided in completing his dreamy-eyed look, highlighting the caramel flowing like a stream in his irises.

He wore only a robe, though Quentin had absolutely zero objections to that form of attire—it may just be his favorite part about their morning ritual. The long planes of his chest were lazily exposed, revealing miles of skin and soft hairs as dark as the curls on his head. The chain loosely falling from his neck was unconcealed, in fact it was on full display where it was normally hidden by layers of clothing. Quentin gazed at it loftily, thoughtfully, watching it glimmer in the early summer sunlight streaming through the windows. 

“I’m so proud of you, you know that?” Quentin murmurs, out of context and completely off topic, but necessary, he thought, to be spoken aloud. It didn’t matter that they had been discussing what movie to watch tonight, Eliot gripped the glinting coin hanging from his neck with understanding certainty.

The chip seemed to belong in the space of his fingers, just like Quentin’s body fit perfectly in the width of his arms. Like it was made that way. “One year sober,” Eliot announces, trying for indifferent nonchalance. But Quentin could hear the awe in his voice despite the facade, the proud twinkle in his hazel eyes as clear as the bright day outside. 

Quentin reaches across the table to brush his fingers against Eliot’s, circling his knuckles with thoughts of beseeching admiration. He gazed back at Quentin, the absence of any walls separating them allowing him to see the startled reverence in himself, something Eliot had never allowed himself to feel. Maybe now, with such an accomplishment hanging as a reminder against his chest, Eliot would love himself as much as Quentin did—wholly and completely. 

“You’re so brave,” Quentin praises, because Eliot’s courage never failed to inspire him each and every day. The road here had been full of bumps and tears, and not one second of it had been easy by any means. But Eliot had never given up; the determination set in his eyes was a force to be reckoned with and proved to be an unfailing strength through even the roughest nights. He’s had the unwavering resilience inside him all along, he just hadn’t been able to see it… not like Quentin had. 

Eliot smiles then, charming and lovely as always, but Quentin’s heart fluttered unmistakably with the knowledge that he had put that there. Even after over a year together, the feeling he felt coiling in his blood when he was with Eliot wasn’t getting any older. “I’m braver because I learned it from you,” Eliot says, sincere behind the crinkling eyes and wide grin. He gave those freely and openly these days, confident enough to stop hiding behind the devilish smirk and humor. He still had all those things, of course—that was just Eliot— but he was just as much jolly laughter as he was sarcastic quips. 

He had really come a long way through the hardships he had faced, and was still facing. But hadn’t they come just as far? There would always be challenges to deal with and problems to endure, nothing would ever really be fairy tales and rainbows, not with the lives they’ve lived. 

Quentin himself has fought a battle with depression, just as he’s done most of his life. His father’s death anniversary had come and gone, and Quentin had once again found himself staring straight into the depths of gloom with aching memories and discarded feelings. But he hadn’t plunged completely into the darkness, not with Eliot’s guiding hand pulling him safely above raging water. He hadn’t been sucked into the familiar current, not when Quentin had something— someone— so everlasting to fight for. 

He had found a strength lit brightly inside of Eliot just as he had found in Quentin, like a lighthouse buried deeply inside his soul. Quentin didn’t quite know what the future would bring, what promises or disappointments it had in store. But he did know, however, that the same, fierce luminosity inside of Eliot would guide him through the next chapter, and the next, and the next.

Quentin wasn’t weak without Eliot’s love, though it could be said that he was just that much stronger under the gaze of his warm nutmeg eyes and soft, strong hand. They had fought for this—for the Sunday breakfasts and the movie marathons and the silly dance routines at two a.m. in nothing but their pajamas and graceful illumination of the moon.

And now they had it, they lived graciously in all the things they had fought to become. It was strikingly clear in Eliot’s warm eyes, the fluffy pancakes in their bellies, the shared width of their bed, the sobriety chip hanging artfully from Eliot’s neck. 

Now that he had this, something so full of… magic, Quentin would never let it go. 

And though he and Eliot spent the rest of their day frolicking listlessly in nothing but day-old pajamas and a bad case of bed head, Quentin still felt the irrevocable traces of magic stirring in the air around them. It was strong when Eliot was far away and even more so when he was near, so intense that Quentin could feel it thrumming just beneath his skin like a separate heartbeat when he settled into bed that night.

He lay coddled in his body weight’s worth of blankets, curled cozily to the left of Eliot’s long body. They each had their respective side of the bed set up with their preferred amount of pillows and blankets—which in Quentin’s case was more the merrier—though they always seemed to meet somewhere in the middle throughout the span of the dreamy night. 

Tonight, however, Quentin had a torrential urge to get a head start. He lay curled up against Eliot’s body, close enough to feel the intense heat of his skin even through the endless layers of blankets. No matter how impossibly close Quentin was, he doesn’t think it will ever be enough to satisfy the constant want scorching his veins.

He felt his eyes begin to flutter closed under the dim lamplight, falling into the depths of his mind and soul. Quentin would have fallen completely into the safety of slumber if it weren’t for Eliot’s encircling arms grounding him to the slivers of the world of reality, like an anchor among the waves. Quentin didn’t quite want to let go yet, if only he could melt into the soft shape of Eliot’s skin.

But as Eliot began to speak, just a lulling murmur soothing Quentin’s tired mind, he felt himself slipping further away from Eliot’s earthing presence and towards the land of dreams and fairy tales and magic as strong as the tethering bond tying these two hearts as one. “Once upon a time,” he murmured softly against Quentin’s resting temple, “There lived a lovely little princess named Snow White. Her vain and wicked stepmother, the Queen, feared that one day Snow White’s beauty would surpass her own….”

That night, Quentin dreamed of his own Prince Charming—dapper and elegant but boyish all the same. He grasped his hand beneath the watchful shade of the tallest tree in all the lands, reaching high enough to touch the sky and soil all at once, a phenomenon almost great enough to rival the alluring gold-like hazel of the prince’s eyes. 

When Quentin awoke, he was greeted by the stars glittering brightly in the sky, specks of twinkling lights as vast as any sea. Deep breaths echoed through the still night air, breathed slowly and softly against the tousled locks of Quentin’s hair. He was wrapped inescapably between the tight grip of two locking arms, in between the only place he would ever want to be. 

Quentin knew with an easy, lulling serenity that he was fit into the place more remarkable than any princess or starlit tree or whimsical land—even Fillory. This, he knew, was a magic greater than any fairy tale. 

Quentin Coldwater was no longer the boy reading about a mystical world, wishing so desperately to be a part of all the wonder. Now, he had something so divinely better.

He got to live in it.