Waiting for Eliot is torture. Every moment leading up to the duel has been… difficult, and seeing Eliot take a hit was agonizing, but waiting for him to come back after he’d run off after King Idri? It’s the hardest thing Quentin’s ever done, and that’s before magic blacks out.
His legs go out from under him and he maybe screams, and he’d like to think he doesn’t, but what is dignity even?
What does it matter?
“Q? Q, it’s okay.” Margo tells him, gripping his arms tight until she manages to get his attention, until he’s almost steady on his feet. “I’m going to go get Julia and we’re going to fix. It.”
“Julia has my notes.” He nods. Julia could fix what he couldn’t, she’s had all this time to study his notes while she’s been with Fen. And she’s…
Better? He’s not sure. She seems better, but not herself. But then, she wasn’t herself the last time he saw her. And they haven’t exactly had catch-up time because of all the crises.
“Wait here for Eliot, okay?” She says. “No offense, but you’re going to be fucking useless.”
Quentin nods again, silent. Margo squeezes his arm one last time and sweeps off, and Quentin waits.
Would he know? If Eliot fell, would he feel it somehow? He pulls the ring out from under his tunic and wraps his hand around it and he tries. Without magic, it’s even more ridiculous to think he could, and yet he believes it. He believes he just would, because…
Because that’s how it’s supposed to be, that’s how it is in stories, and when the world goes to shit, Quentin’s always sought refuge in stories. Because he loves Eliot, desperately, and when you love someone desperately like that, you’re supposed to just know.
Twilight is falling when Eliot emerges from the forest, staggering unevenly. Quentin doesn’t think he breathes from the moment he spots him to the moment Eliot is finally before him, falling to his knees and dropping his sword.
Eliot takes Quentin’s hands, holds them to his cheeks and gazes up in to his eyes, draws in several shaky breaths. Just… looks at him like he’s been lost in the desert going on three days and Quentin is the first water he’s seen.
“Eliot, are you hurt?”
“My king.” He presses Quentin’s hands emphatically, as his eyes close, and then he wraps his arms around Quentin’s waist and leans into him.
“You’re hurt.” Quentin strokes through his hair. Movement catches his eye and he sees King Idri rejoining his own people. “Eliot!”
“No, no, it’s okay.” He pushes his face into Quentin’s midsection, squeezes him tight. “It’s okay. We’re… working on a peace treaty. Shh, just… oh, Q. Oh, baby, I love you. I do.”
“El…” Quentin’s breath catches in his chest, his eyes sting. He tugs Eliot away gently, fingertips ghosting over the planes of his face, shaky.
“Where’s Margo?” Eliot’s brow furrows.
“She, uh, she went back-- she and Julia fixed magic? I guess?”
Eliot nods, and takes Quentin’s hands. Closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Quentin another long moment.
“So what’s… what’s going on?” Quentin asks, because clearly something is. “Can we get you to a healer?”
“In a minute. Do you have the ring I gave you?”
“Yeah. I never take it off. I mean-- I take it off, like… to bathe, and stuff, but-- geez…”
Eliot smiles up at him, rubs his cheek against the knuckles of one of Quentin’s hands like a big friendly cat. “Well can I see it for two seconds or will it pain you to take it off?”
“I mean should I be concerned about any of the shit that’s going on right now and how badly you might be hurt, because like I saw a guy hit you with a sword. And now that guy is, like he seems fine, and you’re on the ground and you’re a little hazy right now?”
Still, Quentin takes the ring off the cord, and hands it over to Eliot. Eliot, who catches his hand again, who holds the ring, poised, like he’s about to slide it back onto Quentin’s finger.
“Quentin Coldwater. I love you. I’m in love with you. Wow, that feels, that’s-- Hey. So, you should marry me. I want you to marry me. I want to be married to you and I know it’s huge and I know it’s scary, and I-- And it’s not normal and it’s not what we deserve, but I love you and I want you and I need you. And we don’t have a lot of options. But-- I mean, will you?”
“Will I… marry you?” He asks, and tries to determine if he’s passed out and this is a dream or if he’s maybe gone mad with grief because Eliot didn’t really come back. Because this can’t be what’s happening, can it? Because he can’t marry Eliot, he can’t date Eliot, he can’t kiss Eliot. None of this is possible, so why ask?
“Look, today has been kind of terrifying for me, so if you could just give me an answer very fast, I kind of feel like I’m dying right now. I mean no pressure, just. This is a very scary question to ask.”
“You’re already married. Sorry, am I going crazy here? Like, just to check, because it wouldn’t be the first time reality and I weren’t, you know, totally… sympatico.”
“Oh. Right. Yes.” Eliot shakes his head. “Sorry, long day. I get a husband. Granted, it’s supposed to be so that I can make two alliances by marriage, one man and one lady type, but King Idri assumed that you were already my political hubby and clued me into the whole thing by accident and so I didn’t kill him. I mean, I wasn’t going to anyway…”
“Because he’s a zaddy?”
“Are you seriously still on that while I’m proposing to you? Because I-- because I’ve killed enough people and I really don’t enjoy it.”
“Okay, that’s fair.” Quentin nods. “You’re seriously… you want to marry me?”
“I mean is this crazy?”
“Yeah.” Eliot says. “But you’re the one bright spot in everything that’s happened to me lately. And I’m not allowed to kiss you unless we’re married.”
“Can I think about this? I mean, god, yes, I want to kiss you. I want to be with you. But this is a lot for me to process right now.”
“Okay.” He swallows. “I-- Okay.”
“Also, you’re proposing to me with a ring you already gave me…”
“How many rings do you want?”
“No-- no, I-- just, put it on me. Put it on me for now and we’ll… we’ll go back, we’ll figure this out. Eliot…” Quentin strokes his cheek. “I’m in love with you. And I want to kiss you. A lot. I just… Long day. So… can we have this conversation after I’ve recovered from… all this?”
Eliot holds his eyes, pressing the ring to his lips before sliding it onto Quentin’s hand.
Which, okay. Overwhelmed as he is, there’s still room in him to be even moreso, because that was… yeah. Good. That was something.
In the carriage on the way back to the palace, Eliot lets Quentin bandage his bleeding arm, with a strip Quentin tears from his tunic, and his stomach flips at the way Eliot smiles at him, like he’s shy and knowing all at once. Like he’s everything Quentin is feeling right now.
“Sorry, healing’s a little-- a little different from mending, or I’d-- yeah.”
“Yeah.” Eliot covers Quentin’s hand with his own. “No, this is perfect. Boys think scars are sexy, yes?”
“I don’t know what boys think. Do you want to know what I think?”
“I’d love to know what you think.” He says, and there’s the familiar tilt to his chin, the teasing smile that hides a depth and a warmth that blow Quentin away every time he catches everything that Eliot is.
“I think you’re sexy.” Quentin shrugs, glancing away. “And I don’t think you could stop being sexy. And I think when we’re ninety years old, I’m still gonna wanna climb you like a tree. And even if your scar isn’t sexy by itself, it’s going to be sexy if it’s part of you.”
“Yeah. Well. Um, does it hurt a lot?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad actually, I climbed a tree and that might have been a bad move, but I wasn’t thinking about my arm as much as I was thinking about the rest of me.”
“You climbed a tree like this?”
“Settle in for storytime. Let me tell you all about Eliot’s Adventures In The Big Dark Scary Forest.” He tugs Quentin in to a cuddle, propping his long legs up on the seat across from them and urging Quentin to swing his own up over them.
He’s pretty sure storytime involves a little creative license on Eliot’s part, but having Eliot back more or less in one piece allows Quentin to enjoy his theatrics.
“And I thought about you.” Eliot noses into Quentin’s hair. “While I was up that tree. And that I wish I’d said all the things I wrote to you out loud.”
“What things that you wrote to me?”
“The letter I left, for if I died.”
“Well… can I read it?”
“No, bitch, it’s full of private feelings.”
“Private feelings you wished you’d told me.” He lifts his head, giving Eliot the puppy dog eyes. It’s not fair, at all, and he knows it-- Eliot has a definite weakness and Quentin knows it. But maybe it is only fair, because Eliot’s got a side Quentin rolls right over for, too, and that’s not exactly a secret, either. So be gives him the puppy dog eyes, and he bites his lip a little and runs a hand over Eliot’s chest. “Please?”
“Rules are rules, if you read that letter and it’s not because I’m dead, then the embarrassment will kill me, and it will be a posthumous letter as it was destined to be.”
“El…” Quentin grabs his hand, guides it up to the cord around his neck and watches something sharpen in his gaze.
“All right, but… we will never speak of the… embarrassing parts.” Eliot says, fussing with the cord a little and then just settling his hand warm around the back of Quentin’s neck. He guides him back down, to lay his head against Eliot’s chest. “Shh, there you go, baby… where was I?”
“You were up a tree. Thinking about me.”
“Mm, that’s right.” Eliot strokes his hair. “All the things I never got to tell you… all the things we never got. And wondering what your magic would feel like, the way you felt mine.”
“Well, that’s easy.” Quentin sits up again. “Here.”
He can’t fix Eliot, but he can fix his slashed-through clothing, and Eliot should still be able to feel his magic as he does it. He focuses, guides every torn thread to re-weave itself, makes sure any shreds of fabric that might have stuck to the wound instead find themselves mended back into the cloth-- that cuts down on the likelihood of infection a little, at least. When he looks back up at Eliot’s face, he sees a wondering grin, a near-silent giggle.
“That’s you.” Eliot whispers.
“That’s me. Why-- what am I like?”
Eliot’s brow furrows as he puzzles his way through the weird sensory experience that is someone else’s magic.
“Like a sunrise.” He says at last. “Pink and yellow, like a sunrise, and cool, the way it is right before it’s warm for the very first time. Sweet, almost? I couldn’t taste it but it-- but I knew? And… tingly. Down to my fingertips.”
He wiggles them at Quentin for emphasis, makes him laugh and grins even brighter despite his pain.
“Like a sunrise.” Quentin echoes. “I like that. It means we match. Sort of-- or, not match, but-- we go together.”
“We go together.” Eliot nods. Quentin rests against his chest once more.
“Yes.” He mumbles into the quilted velvet doublet. “I want to marry you.”
“Of course I do.”
“You’re really sure?”
“Yes, god. I said I needed a minute to take it in, not, like…”
“It’s just-- I’m… terrible, and you deserve… better, than me.” Eliot says, pained.
“Are you taking back your proposal?” Quentin glares at him. “Because that would be a really shitty thing to do right after I accept. I don’t know what I ‘deserve’, El, but I know what I want. And barring that, like… I guess we get married first and date second, okay, it’s unconventional. But I know I want you.”
Eliot actually looks like he’s going to cry, and not the ‘I’m so happy you’re marrying me’ kind, and Quentin has no idea how to fix this, how to handle the way that Eliot touches his face and looks at him and the way his lip wobbles and how wet his eyes look.
“I just-- I never had a love I didn’t kill.” He whispers.
“Well you won’t kill mine.” Quentin promises. “I love you. You’ve shown me the best and the worst of Eliot Waugh and I’m going to keep on loving you.”
“You haven’t seen the worst of me.”
“Well… you’ve told me about the worst of you, and we’ve seen each other through some highs and lows. And that’s enough for me. I know you. I love you. I’m going to marry you, so shut up and let me.”
“Cute.” Eliot taps a finger against his nose. “Do you tell your high king to shut up now?”
“I tell my fiance to shut up, when he starts talking shit about the man I love.”
“Mm, some time in the dungeon will straighten you out.” He teases, and yeah, actually, it was totally fair of Quentin to employ the puppy dog eyes against him because Eliot has the power to reduce him to jello with a single sentence. At least if that sentence involves words like ‘dungeon’ and ‘you’.
“You’ll only encourage me.”
“Is that so?” Eliot chuckles, one arm tight around Quentin, the other hand moving back to toy with the cord around his neck. “Such a little brat I have on my hands.”
“No, I’ll be good. For you.” He winds his arms around Eliot’s neck in return, leaning in closer. “My king. My hero.”
“Oh, nice as that is…” Eliot stops him with a finger to the lips. “I actually did mean that about not being able to kiss until we’re literally married, so… let’s save this hero talk for when I can take full advantage. And maybe let’s not… ugh, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s not go here just yet. But… yeah?”
“Yeah.” Quentin nods.
Eliot shivers, his eyes fluttering closed just a moment. “Ohh, baby-Q, my fun-sized little Almond Joy, the wonderful things I am going to do with you.”
“I’m an Almond Joy now?”
“Don’t dissect my sweet talk, I’m high on my victory on the field of honor and you agreeing to marry me, and all the endorphins my brain is pumping out to make up for the amount of pain I’m in. You should be nice to me, an injured hero.”
“I thought I was supposed to can the hero talk.”
“... Dammit.” Eliot frowns briefly. “Well… save the kisses. But, you know… flatter me a little.”
Quentin snuggles right back down into his chest with a sigh. “You are a hero, you know. History books will talk about King Eliot the Spectacular… how he revitalized agriculture in Fillory and then became the first man to defeat Idri of Loria in single combat…”
“Yeah, what else will the history books say about me?”
“Mm, that you were Fillory’s most handsome king. And that you married King Quentin and lived happily ever after. And any other great deeds.”
“Do history books in Fillory say ‘and they lived happily ever after’ very often?”
“Given the way most monarchs here have gone, definitely not. But ours will.”
“Okay.” Eliot tucks a lock of hair behind Quentin’s ear. “Carriage is slowing down… I think we’re close. So I guess it’s time to tell my pregnant wife I’ll be moving into your bed.”
“I don’t know, I might need the healer after.”
“El. Healer first.”
“Healer first.” He sighs. “Don’t go thinking you’ve got me wrapped around your finger just because I give you everything you want.”
“Don’t I?” Quentin smiles down at the ring on his hand.
“Maybe a little.”