So, Eliot is tall. It’s the first thing Quentin had thought when they met. Not, oh good, someone who can explain what the hell is going on. Not how can this person look so bored after watching a stranger appear from out of a bush. No, it was, wow, that guy has long legs and he knows exactly how to display them. And watching Eliot now, gliding through easy, practiced movements an entire head above everyone else in the crowd, it’s still the first thought that comes to him.
It’s never been a thing for Quentin, tall guys. Not that he’s had much opportunity to figure out what his type is, if he even has one. He wasn’t exactly the most outgoing person in undergrad, and his experience with guys is pretty much limited to a couple makeout sessions at parties. Enough to confirm that, yup, definitely attracted to guys, but not enough to glean much more information than that.
But Eliot. Gorgeous, tall Eliot. He’s the first guy that Quentin’s seriously crushed on, and it’s gotten bad. It started innocently enough. You meet someone new, someone who’s all confident and social and funny, and you get a crush based on who you think they are, not who they really are as a person. It’s natural and harmless and goes away quickly, right? Except that every single moment Quentin spends with Eliot, he just falls harder and deeper. It’s like he’s plunged down into a canyon, but just when he thinks he’s about to hit the bottom he gets swept up in a river, sinking lower and lower as the current swiftly takes him to the ocean where he’ll no doubt plummet deep into a trench to never be heard from again.
It’s possible he’s being a touch dramatic.
It’s just that he’s never known anyone even remotely comparable to Eliot. Someone who just gets him. Who doesn’t expect him to be anything but himself. Someone who spends so much effort exuding a carefully constructed persona, but saves the best parts of himself – the caring, thoughtful parts – for his closest friends. A group which, through some miracle, seems to include Quentin.
He’s also the most attractive man who’s ever lived. And he’s very tall.
As if the universe is actively mocking him, Eliot chooses this exact moment to reach up for a glass on the highest shelf of the bar. Even Eliot, with all his multiple stories of height, has to stand on his toes and extend his long body as far as it will go to reach, stretching his fingers out and— Ok, Quentin can’t let himself think for too long about Eliot’s fingers or there’s going to be a whole situation.
God, Quentin is drunk. He’s drunk and he can’t handle this torture anymore. Watching Eliot in his element like this always gets him keyed up, but this Thursday (yes, a Cottage party on a Thursday, the end result of several long scheduling discussions and compromises Quentin couldn’t be bothered to follow) he’s feeling particularly jumpy. This whole week has felt like it’s been building up to something. That, or Quentin’s going insane. Which is entirely possible.
To an outside viewer, it probably wouldn’t seem like anything at all was different about this past week. He and Eliot had walked to class together every day, same as always. Eliot did things like put his arm around him, sit next to him, and drag him by the hand away from his textbooks, none of which was unusual. Eliot’s always been tactile. But recently, it’s felt different. The touches have gotten a bit more intimate. And Eliot’s seemed almost… shy about it. As though shyness is actually an emotion Eliot doesn’t have full immunity to.
Last night was probably the most extreme instance. Quentin had been up late with a small group of physical kids in the common room, casually drinking, smoking, and chatting about nothing in particular. It started normally enough. Quentin was sitting next to Eliot, their legs brushing but otherwise a perfectly respectable, friendly distance apart. When Alice got off the couch to turn in for the night, Eliot shifted to sit up against the arm of the couch, spreading his legs out in front of him, knocking right into where Quentin was sitting.
“You know, like Alice, I too am a human who takes up space, and unlike Alice, I’m still sitting here,” Quentin had said, giving Eliot his best mock glare.
Eliot just grinned and said, “Well, guess it’s either scooch up, or scooch off.”
Quentin had rolled his eyes and lifted his butt up to sit on top of Eliot’s legs, mostly trying to make a point. But he lost his balance and fell sideways against Eliot’s stomach. He quickly readjusted so they were facing the same direction, settling in between Eliot’s legs with his back against Eliot’s chest, refusing to give into his own clumsiness and let Eliot take the whole couch.
“Why, hello there,” Eliot had said into his ear, sounding amused. “Guess you decided to scooch up.”
“You got yourself into this situation, so don’t you dare tell me to move.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
At some point Eliot wrapped his arms around Quentin’s waist, and something about it was different from their normal touches. It wasn’t done carelessly in the middle of Eliot telling some story. It was careful, hesitant, and his arms only tightened when Quentin leaned back into it.
As the night had gone on, Quentin let his head rest back against Eliot’s chest, not feeling tired at all but using it as an excuse. Eliot was unusually quiet, hardly participating in the conversation to add much more than the occasional witty comment. His hands started twitching toward Quentin’s, not quite touching them, until Quentin tentatively rested a hand on top of Eliot’s. Eliot didn’t pull away, and it was less than a minute before their fingers were interlaced together. When Margo brought up some insane story from a party last year, Eliot replied with a grand swooping gesture of his hand, and he didn’t let go of Quentin’s when he did it. It made Quentin shiver. Something about it just felt so incredibly intimate to him. That even when Eliot was talking to someone else, he reserved a part of himself just for Quentin and didn’t care if everyone saw.
Then Margo had gotten briefly distracted by some silly argument with Kady, and Quentin took the opportunity to turn his head back toward Eliot, intending to do a quick eyeroll communicating look how ridiculous our friends are. But he was met with warm, hazel eyes staring into his, their faces closer together than Quentin had realized. They’d stared at each other like that for a long moment. The urge to lean in was overwhelming. To press his lips against Eliot’s soft mouth and claim him as his for the night. Show Eliot that he was all that Quentin wanted.
He could have sworn Eliot’s eyes started to flutter closed, that his chin started to dip down. But Margo grabbed their attention back with a loud, “El, I need you as backup. Tell these first years they’ve got their heads up their asses.”
And that had been that. The moment was gone, and the party broke up about fifteen minutes later.
So, anyway. That was yesterday, and Quentin’s still a little worked up. Is it possible that it was all in his head? Absolutely. Under normal circumstances would he ignore it for fear of fucking everything up? Definitely. But right now, the effect Eliot’s perfect curls, light stubble, beautiful laugh, and impossibly long legs are having on him does not allow for normal circumstances. Decision made, Quentin marches up to the bar.
“What can I get for you?” Eliot asks with a smile that feels like it’s just for him, private even among the dozens of people drinking and dancing around them.
“Um, I thought maybe we could try something from that book we found the other day?”
“Ooh, magic drink additives. I like the way you think. But I thought we were waiting before breaking those out. Do some taste tests, work through the ratios. You know I don’t like releasing anything untested to the masses.”
“Right, well, I’m not the masses. It could be, you know, just for us. We could even make it upstairs so people don’t, like, try to get some for themselves, you know?”
Eliot cocks his head to the side. How obvious is Quentin being? He’d like, vaguely thought this through. It had seemed like a reasonable plan to get Eliot alone, but maybe plans are best made when not drunk and insanely horny.
“Alright, works for me,” Eliot finally says, expression unreadable. “Lead the way.”
Quentin closes the door when they get to his room, sound wards kicking in that reduce the party to a low muffle. Quentin grabs the book and opens it on the floor, kneeling down in front of it. Eliot sits down next to him, leaning in to see the small text better.
Quentin has never believed that pheromones were a thing in humans. It least, not a thing that actually has a real effect. Being around Eliot has forced him to amend that belief. Eliot’s scent is intoxicating, and it’s all the more powerful when he’s sitting right next to him, their shoulders brushing together, alone and in his bedroom. It’s not Eliot’s cologne, either. Quentin knows exactly what that smells like, and while it’s certainly good, this is something else underneath that. It makes Quentin want to touch, and kiss, and taste, and—
“This one looks fun,” Eliot says, snapping Quentin out of it. “Might be a good starter. Says it makes you experience a period of euphoria while counteracting the negative effects alcohol has on judgement and thinking.”
“Yeah, uh, euphoria sounds good.” Quentin reaches out to smooth over the page of the book, purposefully letting his hand brush over Eliot’s. He leaves it there. As good as that potion sounds, he’s kind of appreciative for alcohol’s effect on his judgement right about now. It’s giving him the courage he knows he wouldn’t have otherwise.
Eliot looks up at Quentin, his eyes briefly darting down to where their hands are touching. “Um. Right, so…” Eliot looks kind of lost. Quentin doesn’t say anything, he just leans forward a bit more, not quite crowding into Eliot’s space, but bringing their faces noticeably closer together. Eliot swallow and says, “Do we need to get, um, ingredients from… somewhere?” Eliot’s tongue darts out and licks his lips. Quentin’s cock twitches.
“Right. Yeah. There’s uh, actually something else I’d like to try first.” He can feel his heart racing.
“Yeah?” Eliot whispers.
They practically fall into each other, their lips meeting over and over in between soft, desperate gasps. Quentin grips Eliot’s tie and pulls him closer, and Eliot doesn’t fight it one bit, running his hand up through Quentin’s hair to tilt his head into the perfect angle.
Quentin kind of can’t believe this is happening. But it is. And it’s happening in his own room. Somehow whenever he pictured this – and he’s pictured it a lot – it was always in Eliot’s room. Easier, somehow, to separate the fantasy of getting to have Eliot like this from his daily reality. But that’s out the window now.
It’s a little bit strange at first. It always feels that way for Quentin when kissing someone new – not knowing what they like, figuring out how much to lead and how much to follow. At first he tries his best to not let himself get carried away too quickly. But with the way Eliot’s acting, how he’s all over Quentin in less than thirty seconds flat making beautifully obscene noises, Quentin decides coming across as too enthusiastic isn’t actually something to be concerned about here. He finally lets go, giving into every primal urge that comes to him.
He stops paying attention to each physical action, to the individual sensations. It doesn’t matter that Eliot is pressing him into the bed, tracing gentle yet somehow still frantic kisses along his neck. It doesn’t matter that Eliot is taking off Quentin’s shirt, sucking on his nipples while tracing the outline of his cock through his jeans. No matter where Eliot touches him, or how he touches him, Quentin’s heart isn’t going to slow down from beating a mile a minute. Nothing can stop the waves of warmth and giddiness flowing through his chest at steady intervals. Because he’s with Eliot. He’s with Eliot and everything is perfect.
Quentin wakes up to an empty bed. For a brief instant he wonders if he dreamed the whole thing. But the pillow next to him smells like Eliot, intoxicating in that way that shouldn’t be possible. Quentin smiles to himself before getting changed and heading downstairs.
“Hey Margo, you seen Eliot?” He’s usually ready to head out before Quentin, but today he’s not waiting in his usual spot on the couch.
“Yeah, he fucked off early to go over some assignment with Sunderland. I’ve never known that boy to willingly spend more time with a prof than necessary, but who knows. Maybe he’s finally found a subject that doesn’t completely bore him.”
“Oh. Um, ok. Guess I’ll just… head out on my own then.”
Margo’s right, it is odd. Eliot hadn’t mentioned it to him, and there was certainly ample time last night for a quick, ‘hey, by the way, can’t walk to class together tomorrow.’ Is Eliot avoiding him? Quentin tries not to work himself into a panic on his way to class. They’ll talk eventually.
When Quentin can’t find Eliot during their lunch break, he decides that ‘eventually’ is going to happen today, whether it wants to or not. He knows Eliot’s schedule, so he waits outside the door of his last class. He doesn’t bother being subtle about it, like he just happened to be walking by. Neither of them have ever acted like they need an excuse to spend time together, and Quentin isn’t going to start now. When he sees Eliot come out, he jogs a bit to catch up and starts walking beside him.
“Hey, how was Cooperative Casting? Did they finally let you do that three-person spell?”
Eliot startles, but instead of a usual warm greeting or arm thrown around his shoulder, he turns his head forward and keeps walking. “No, uh, he said we aren’t ready yet. Some bullshit about not enough of us ‘feeling the flow.’”
“Oh. Well if you want to practice any of the two-person stuff, I’d totally be down. I haven’t gotten to do anything cooperative yet. I’ve heard it feels, like, way more intense than normal spells.”
“Yeah, thanks Q. But you haven’t been taking the class, there’s a lot to it. It takes time to learn.”
“Oh. Ok.” Eliot stays quiet as they keep walking. It’s not the kind of comfortable silence they’ve grown accustomed to with each other. It’s awkward. Why can’t Quentin think of anything to say? This is stupid, there’s no reason to be acting any differently.
“So, if you’re not doing anything tonight, maybe we could actually make one of those drinks?”
Eliot tenses beside him. “I’m actually busy tonight, but some other time.” He glances over to a group of students across the lawn. “Oh, got to go. I’ll see you, Quentin.” He swiftly turns and walks away with long, fast strides.
Things don’t get much better over the weekend. It’s hard to say if Eliot’s actively avoiding him, or just not putting in any effort to see him. Regardless, it has the same effect. Eliot’s usually the one pulling him into things, making him go to barbeques instead of studying, keeping him up late with drinks and stories. Quentin decides that even if he’s not going to be directly invited to things, he’s not going to let himself be a complete social recluse. On Sunday he heads out to the patio and hangs out with Eliot, Margo, Alice, and some other residents of the Cottage. And things mostly seem normal in a group setting. Nothing feels awkward, at least. But he misses the warmth of Eliot sitting by his side, the private looks they’d give each other when someone was being ridiculous, the snide comments whispered only for him.
By the time Tuesday evening comes around, Quentin decides that enough is enough. He’s not going to let this continue without some kind of explanation. He marches right up to where Eliot is digging through the drawers underneath the bar and clears his throat. Eliot looks up at him blankly, seeming annoyed at being interrupted, if anything, and for a second Quentin almost loses his nerve. But before he can think better of it he points his chin up and says, with no preamble, “Why is it weird now?”
Eliot cocks his head to the side. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
God, he can be annoying. “I mean that after we…” he gestures his hands around vaguely, “…you know… it’s been weird. You’ve been weird.”
Eliot purses his lips. “Still not sure I’m following.”
“Oh, come on. We used to do everything together, talk to each other all the time, and now it’s like… you basically refuse to even be within 5 feet of me, much less spend time alone together in any context.”
“Things are busy,” Eliot says nonchalantly, looking back down at the drawer.
“Bullshit. If I’d known that… that one stupid night would like, wreck our whole friendship, then—”
Eliot’s head snaps up. “Right. One stupid night.” Something flashes across his face, but before Quentin can process it, Eliot’s standing up straighter, emanating the same intimidating coolness Quentin remembers from when they first met. “No need to get all sentimental on me about the power of friendship. We’re still friends, Coldwater. I get that this might take some adjusting for you. I’ve seen it before. We fucked, it was fun. Now there’s no need for me to pull all that flirty crap with you.” He shrugs. “That’s all.”
Oh. Ouch. “Um, so what you’re saying is…”
“I’m more than happy to hang out, but don’t be surprised if I give you less attention. It’s nothing personal.”
“Um. Ok. Yeah, sure,” Quentin says weakly. He should’ve known better. He’d thought he was, what, special to Eliot? Important? How pathetic. He’d mistaken meaningless flirting for Eliot actually having feelings for him. And the worst part was, he’d seen Eliot be like that with plenty of guys. He should have seen this coming, should never have even gotten himself into this position in the first place. He can’t be here right now. He needs to be in his bed wrapped in a blanket away from people. If Eliot says anything more to him as he rushes up the stairs, he doesn’t hear it.
“Alright Coldwater, what did you do to him?” By the time Quentin looks up from his book, Margo’s already sitting down on his bed. He really needs to put up wards when he’s in here. Though somehow he doesn’t think that would stop Margo.
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“Margo, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about our boy, dumbass. He’s been mopey for days and flinches at the mere mention of your name. So spill.”
“There’s really nothing to report. He fucked me and moved on. I’ve barely seen him since, so whatever he’s upset about, it doesn’t have to do with me.” He’s really not in the mood for chitchat. Surely Margo must know all this already. She probably knew Eliot’s plan from the beginning. Was her friendship all a lie, too? He hadn’t had the emotional space to even consider that yet, being so stuck on Eliot, but the realization hurts more than he would’ve expected.
“Wait, you slept together? You’re serious? And he didn’t tell me?”
Wow. Quentin knew he wasn’t important enough to be more than a blip on Eliot’s radar, but not being worth even a passing mention stings. “Well, that checks out I guess. Evidently he didn’t enjoy it much.”
“Christ on a double stuffed Oreo. Listen, puppy. Eliot does not hide things from me. Not of this magnitude. It just doesn’t happen.”
“Please, I’m sure he doesn’t bother telling you about every random guy he bangs.” Quentin flips a page of his book. Not like he can actually read with this conversation going on, but maybe if he goes through the motions Margo will finally leave him alone to sulk in peace.
“You’re not some random guy,” Margo says, looking at him incredulously. “Are you serious right now?” Quentin blinks at her. “Ok, let me spell it out for you. I’ve never seen Eliot fixate for longer than a few days on anybody. He’ll seduce them, fuck them if they’re interested, and move on before the week is out.”
“Ok, well that sounds like exactly what happened, so I don’t—”
“He’s been fucking obsessed with you for months. And the weirdest part – he’s had plenty of chances to sleep with you, but he’d always make some shitty excuse. Until now, I guess.”
“I really don’t know what you’re trying to do here Margo, but Eliot’s not interested in me. At all. He probably just finally got bored enough to give it a go. It’s whatever.”
“It’s so obviously not ‘whatever’. You’re sitting in here moping over your entire Fillory collection eating ice cream like you’re the dumped chick in a sitcom doing a Ben & Jerry’s product placement.”
“I like these books. You like these books.”
“They’re a defense mechanism, and I need you to snap out of it. We have work to do. First things first, you need to tell me everything. And I mean everything.”
So Quentin tells her. He tells her about the night he and Eliot kissed. How it turned into more than just kissing pretty quickly. How Eliot had fucked his brains out only to disappear the next morning. And that Eliot’s basically ignored him ever since.
“—so when I confronted him about it he said we could still be friends, but that he’s not interested in me like that. So… yeah.”
“Ok, you need to listen here, and listen good. That right there is some serious Eliot Waugh bullshit if I’ve ever heard it. I don’t know what exactly went down in that conversation between the two of you, but I can guarantee you there’s no way he isn’t interested in you. Other people might put up with Eliot’s bs, but I do not. Under any circumstance. Now you’re coming with me.”
Margo yanks him up by the arm and drags him out into the hallway.
“Margo, what the fuck?” She starts marching him up the attic stairs. Oh, hell no. “Margo, no,” he says in the most commanding voice he can. “Bad idea, I’m not— this is a terrible idea—”
But before he can protest more, Margo tosses him into Eliot’s room and slams the door behind him. Eliot looks up from the textbook he has splayed out in front of him on the bed – huh, guess he does actually study when no one’s looking – and his face immediately hardens.
“Ok, what the fuck?”
“Hi, hey,” Quentin says, stumbling in. “So Margo said that—”
“Jesus Christ,” Eliot mutters, and goes to open the door. It doesn’t budge. Eliot does a Mann reveal and curses under his breath. He pounds his fists against the wood while he shouts, “Margo, open the damn door!”
“Not until you two idiots work this out,” she says sweetly. Eliot stares at the door in disbelieving silence for what feels like at least a minute.
Quentin clears his throat. “So, um, Margo told me that you were, uh, upset? And that maybe we should talk?”
“That’s none of your business,” Eliot says, still facing the door. Then he yells through it, “And when I talk to Margo about something, I expect her to keep it confidential, not fucking spread it around to everyone in the Cottage.”
“Ok, well, maybe I’ll tell you why I’m upset then.” Eliot turns to look at him and doesn’t say anything, so Quentin decides to take that as enough encouragement to keep going.
“I’m upset because when I got to Brakebills, I met this amazing person. And for some reason, he seemed to actually like hanging out with me. He introduced me to his friends, and acted interested in what I had to say, and… for once in my life I felt included. Like I could actually be a good friend to someone who hasn’t known me since kindergarten.”
Quentin averts his eyes for this next part. He can feel heat spreading to his cheeks, but powers through. “And, being the idiot that I am, I got like, a massive crush on him. Because how could I help it, right? He’s perfect and gorgeous and kind and talented and stubborn and dramatic and just… perfect. And it seemed like maybe… maybe he felt something for me too? But then I come to find out that, oh hey, guess I wasn’t actually special to him at all. He just wanted to fuck me once for kicks.”
Ok, at this point it’s stupid to keep up all this ‘he’ nonsense. He tilts his head back up to look Eliot in the eye.
“And that really hurt. Because our friendship, El? It’s been so important to me. I don’t… I don’t click with people like we did— like I thought we did, at least. So if you’re just saying you want to be my friend because you feel bad for me or whatever then, I don’t need your pity, ok? Just tell me so I can try to move on like a normal person and make friends with people who might actually give a shit about me one day. But Margo said… Margo said that maybe, that maybe that’s not what’s going on here?”
He hates how hopeful he sounds. He’s always had trouble covering up his emotions, for better or worse. Eliot, shockingly, hasn’t interrupted Quentin once through his whole ramble of a speech. He’s just staring, mouth hanging open.
“I… you…” Eliot’s eyebrows are doing something. Idly, Quentin thinks it’s actually pretty impressive how he’s able to wiggle and furrow them independently of each other. But in an instant, Eliot’s face goes from shocked and open to hard, verging on anger. “You said it was just ‘one stupid night.’ That’s what you said, Q.”
“I didn’t mean… Eliot, you were ignoring me completely. You’d gone from being the person I would spend almost all my time with to someone who’d barely say hi passing me in the hallway. If one night could manage to do that to us, then yeah, sue me for being a little bitter about it.”
Eliot swallows. He takes a few seconds to respond, but Quentin waits patiently. “I didn’t mean to… I thought… You really mean all that? What you said?”
“Yeah,” Quentin practically whispers.
“And you’d want to…” Eliot smooths his hand over his tie and takes a breath. “All that stuff about our friendship being important to you, is that… that’s what you want?”
Quentin is scared. He’s so scared. But he also knows what Margo told him. That, and the look on Eliot’s face right now – open and vulnerable, and maybe a little bit hopeful – gives him the courage to take a few steps forward and put his hand carefully on Eliot’s cheek.
“I want to be your friend. I never want to stop being your friend. But I also want… I…” Fuck words. Quentin surges up and kisses Eliot clumsily but softly on the lips. He tries to communicate everything through it. All the tenderness he feels for this man, everything he’s meant to him these past few months, everything they could be together. It’s closed-mouthed and brief, but Quentin can hear his own heartbeat in his ears for how fast and hard it’s pounding afterwards.
“Q,” Eliot whispers, and he sounds completely dazed. Quentin loves that he can apparently have that effect on him. “God, Q,” Eliot practically moans as he leans in to capture Quentin’s lips again. This time there’s nothing soft about it. Their tongues fight against each other, hands tangling in each other’s hair. Quentin doesn’t realize they’re moving until he feels the press of mattress underneath his back, Eliot pushing him into it from above. Quentin feels so much. He’s safe but overwhelmed, he’s completely content yet he wants so much more. He’s all sensation and need and he quickly realizes they’re not going to get any more talking done until after this is over.
“Oh my God,” Eliot says into Quentin’s collarbone as he nibbles at it feverishly. “Oh my God, you have no idea Q. No fucking idea what you do to me. Jesus Christ.” As if to prove it, he grinds his hard-on right into Quentin’s thigh.
“El. Eliot please.” He needs… he doesn’t know what he needs, just that he does. He wants Eliot’s body flush against him, but also Eliot’s cock in his mouth, but at the same time in his ass. And he wants his own mouth on every part of Eliot at once, and there’s no way to accomplish all of that so instead he digs his fingers deep into Eliot’s hips, pulling him as tight as he can against his body.
“I never want to stop doing this with you,” Eliot pants. “I want you so fucking much. All the time, in every possible way. You don’t… Q.”
Quentin makes some kind of wordless sound in reply, and he can only hope that Eliot understands. They don’t manage to get their clothes off for a while, kissing and grinding against each other. Quentin feels insane with it. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this worked up before, and they’ve barely even done anything yet. It’s like last Thursday night times ten, because this time Quentin knows what he’s feeling isn’t one-sided. He knows that, while they still haven’t talked about everything, Eliot has feelings for him, too. Eliot’s not just important to Quentin, they’re important to each other. And that’s pretty fucking perfect.