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wreck my plans (that's my man)

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"Then, what you're going to say is—" Jesus, Eliot was sick of hearing this plan.

 

“I still really don’t think anyone is going to be swayed by any of this, Margo."

 

“Um,” piped up a sweet little voice on the other side of the room. “I do. I mean like, I think it's... swayable."

 

Eliot tipped his head back, hoping it hid his stupid, helpless smile. “Bambi,” he said with a teasing lilt. “Your assistant is being mean again.”

 

“What?” Quentin said. Eliot could see the indignant frown without even looking over. Because he couldn’t, if he still wanted to conceal his shit-eating grin. “No I’m not! How am I being mean?”

 

“It’s mean to lie.”

 

Jesus, I’m not lying—”

 

“Fucking Christ, you two. I don’t need this! Not ever, but if you fucking nail this, like I know you can—if not for you, then for me—then I’ll be generous and let the two of you pull each other’s pigtails till your heart’s content. And that’s a euphemism if you want to be.”

 

“Ooh, don’t threaten me with a good time.” Here Eliot did look over at Quentin, whose arms were tightly wound around his own chest. He glared at Margo's name on Eliot's phone until she said his name, as if sensing his insubordination, and it smoothed out to something placid, if mildly, respectfully scared. No wonder Margo liked him so much.

 

Enough to have told him to back off before Eliot had even laid eyes on the guy.

 

And Eliot had to remind himself of that, over and over. Annoyingly. Like, every subsequent time he laid his eyes on Quentin. Like right now, when Quentin met his eyes—because, when they did, like they were two fixed points meant to lock onto Eliot, Eliot watched Quentin's face and neck break out into a flush. Watched the ever so slight hitch in his breath, the way it emphasized how despite Quentin's best effort to hide it with endless hoodies and flannels, the basic black tee stretched across a tight, fit chest—

 

Back off, Eliot reminded himself. He was allowed to look—hell, he didn't know how he was expected not to and for his own health he probably should look, every once in a while, but that was where the buck stopped. It didn't matter that—Eliot was experienced. He could taste it in the air when he was with someone with whom he would have great sex with. He and Quentin would have great sex, and as little as he knew about Quentin, he knew he could probably do with some great sex.

 

"Listen here you big slut," Margo had told him as she handed him his green juice. "I have a new assistant and he came at Josh's rec, of all fucking people, so I did not want to hire him, and more than that he could not be your type than if I made a blood sacrifice to conjure that up myself, but unfortunately he is super fucking competent, and kind of a bitch in the way I covet, so I had no choice. As a result, not under any circumstances do I permit you to fuck him."

 

Unable to resist, Eliot had said, "Well, can he fuck me?"

 

"I feel pretty confident in saying I don't think that would be as much of his thing, but no, you asshole."

 

When Eliot first met Quentin, the second he had walked out of the room, Eliot had leaned over to Margo's ear and said, "I'm—not gonna fuck him but, uh wow, you weren't kidding."

 

Then again, he wouldn't frown and pout nearly as much if he was getting some good dick, and that would be a loss in Eliot's life. Not to mention how Margo was right - it would just fuck up a good thing. She hadn't been this happy with her job since those delirious early days, where Eliot hadn't even known it was possible to like someone you were working with this much. He'd seen her go through Todd, then Josh. And after that, Fen, when her and Josh worked a little too well together, and then Margo and Fen worked even better. Then a bunch of nameless nervous wrecks until Quentin landed in her lap, and it actually worked in all the way a boss-assistant relationship was supposed to work.

 

So, all-in-all, it was probably for the best. Weighing up all the factors, the everything about everything... it was fine. Eliot would find a different, cute little nerd to seduce. Cuter, littler, even. That was well within his powers.

 

He may not have a lot left, but he had that.

 

It had been almost two months. Two months of New York. Or more accurately, two months of no L.A. If you had told undergrad Eliot that he would one day resent coming back to New York, that he would miss Los Angeles... well, he wouldn't have been that hard to convince, truthfully. He had been a pretentious little theater kid, wide-eyed and optimistic about the Great White Way, but there was a reason Eliot dropped out so eagerly for a role in a gross, bizarre little horror movie that was mildly buzzy at the time, but mostly lived on as an cultish 2000's gem. No regrets—it was fun watching millennials squint at him until they realized what exactly they knew him from, and visibly paled. If they were a dude, anyway. Girls tended to by and large reminisce about their sleepover days.

 

There were worse legacies. It is, after all, what drew Margo to him in the first place:

 

"You seem great but I have to tell you, seeing your dick get bitten off brought me a great deal of catharsis in my teenage years," she had said, hand extended out toward him. The buzz of the party went quiet when he took it. "Margo Hanson. Talent Management."

 

He took her on. Mostly because he liked her, but whatever, a manager seemed like the kind of thing he should have, if he wanted to go places, even if there wasn't a lot of managing that he needed handling.

 

Until Mike.

 

It had been exciting at first. Eliot was stupid, and easily swayed by the prospect of being swept off his feet by an actual celebrity. And yeah, the delicious, taboo of it all. Sneaky handies and limo blowjobs because God forbid the nation discover that the beloved child star of their favourite 80's sitcom was a nasty little queer. The parties, the drugs, those were all fine. It was tragic, even raunchy, but middle America drew a line at gay. Not that Mike had ever made Eliot feel like it was a sweeping, romantic affair. A love that dare not speak its name. There wasn't a whole lot of love, but... well, he figured maybe one day it would get there. They were having fun but they also had genuine moments of genuinely having fun. Of laughing about almost getting caught, stopping for tacos on the way back home at 4 in the morning. Something sustainable had to be buried somewhere in there.

 

Times were different, there were even opportunities to be had from coming out. A new audience to tap into who currently were uninterested in his career. Eliot begged Mike to consider it constantly, not only because Margo said it was the only way this could avoid spinning out of control, but because Eliot wanted--he had wanted something real. Something he could have in the light of day. And it became inescapable when a ravenous pap caught them in a pretty undeniable position in an alley behind a club. Mike, with white smeared across his nostrils. Eliot too, but it just wasn't capture for the world to see because he had been on his knees, back to the camera.

 

Mike's people elected to make Eliot the fall guy. Eliot Waugh, once star of a perverse comedy horror about hostile vaginas, had preyed upon America's former sweetheart at his messiest and more vulnerable time. Your classic tale of gay predator. It was primitive and insane, but it had been what happened. The web that had been spun.

 

It hadn't been the worst of it. Because that Eliot could have handled. Margo could have handled it, could have twisted and rightfully called out as the homophobia it was. But in the end, it didn't get the traction Mike's people wanted, nor the one he and Margo dreaded. So it wasn't that, the worst.

 

It was that Mike didn't tell him. Mike didn't even apologize, after. Mike simply never spoke to Eliot again.

 

So Eliot leaned into it. He let himself be exactly who the trashy magazines were going to end up telling the country he was. Not all the time, but enough that they continued to eat it up, even though he was a fucking nobody. It didn't matter that all he had was a leading role in a one movie and a smattering of guest spots on sitcoms and dramas across the years. One mini arc on NCIS. It didn't matter. So Eliot leaned into it. 

 

It cost him jobs. He knew that because he was told that, more than a handful of times, to his face. Not to mention the times he wasn't. It also got him others. For a while no such thing as bad press was true, and then even after it was never truly false.

 

The problem wasn't the press, in the end. Or Mike. It wasn't even Margo, telling him he was going to make her go gray, at her wit's absolute end.

 

The problem was Eliot, and his stupid, bleeding heart, and how it loved to betray him. He could never fully shut it up, never actually get it under his control. Never not let it rule him.

 

"Margo I can't—I can't fucking be here anymore," Eliot had sobbed into his phone. 10 months after Mike. Honestly remarkable he held out this long, even if it was pathetic that he had needing to be holding out at all.

 

Margo had sighed. "So we'll find you a new place, Eliot. It's not—you're drunk, and you're upset, and this isn't worth getting drunk or upset about—"

 

"No, not the apartment," Eliot said. "Not—not here here. I mean this city. L.A. I can't fucking—stand it anymore."

 

Margo had been silent. "Thank God," she said finally. "Eliot. Eliot."

 

Eliot slowed his breaths until he could hear her over the awful dying noises he was making.

 

"Eliot, let me handle this. If you let me, I can and I will handle this. But - you have to let me. I need to hear that you are handing this over to me. Like for real, actually putting it in my hands."

 

"I hand it," he had said. "It's handed. Just—I trust you."

 

Famous last words. Now? He was in New York.

 

He was in New York and he was supposed to be trying out for a play.

 

"No way," Eliot had said when she first told him. Not because it was a play, even though that was not ideal. No matter what Broadway expats liked to convince casting directors, it was a different muscle, and it did spasm if you stopped stretching it. Turning up on set, where you didn't even always have to know your lines before you arrived, versus months of rehearsal and then saying the same damn lines over and over, night after night, and still having to be present and fresh like they were the first time you were saying them? It was a different muscle. And if Eliot was forced to use it again, he was going to be extremely sore. The last thing he needed was a flopped project to add to his soured reputation. That was even if he got it—this was... huge. Huger than Dentata, huger than... anything. Beloved children's franchise, spanning movies and TV shows, now making it on stage. There was no way the people in that room would take on America's current bad boy to be involved with that. And he wasn't about to embarrass himself by making them think he thought he had a shot.

 

But more than that it was in New York. And since he had left it, Eliot had tried the New York thing again. There was some twisted longing in his heart that told him his business there wasn't finished. There was something still to be accomplished there, that could only be accomplished there. Something legitimate and actor-y.

 

It was bullshit. Stupid, romantic bullshit. Story of Eliot's life.

 

In L.A. there were various reasons you wouldn't get cast that didn't have anything to do with him, not really. Like, just industry crap. He was taller than the actual lead, which would throw audiences off; or his energy was too gay, or not gay enough, or not the right kind of gay; or there was already another white actor on the show with curly brown hair so they needed a white actor with differently-colored hair to fill out the poster. Or more often than you'd think: someone's godson's nephew had more Instagram followers and wanted to try a hand at the acting thing. Nothing that could knock your ego too much, if you understood it was all bullshit. There was comfort, even, in the bullshit.

 

New York made you feel simply untalented, and that there was no getting around that fact. Eliot wasn't going to let himself face that again, especially now.

 

"I could handle a fun little getaway, but I never signed up to be back in New York long-term."

 

"You were the one who told me you couldn't be in L.A. anymore."

 

"I was drunk."

 

"It's a fucking meeting, El," she had said. "Take the meeting. If not for you, then for me."

 

That Eliot couldn't argue with. Because of the tired, sad look in Margo's eyes when she said it. The miserable pang of seeing what the last few months had put her through. What he had put her through. And how he could finally begin to make it right.

 

Or, you know. How he could have, if she had fucking turned up for it.

 

"It's not an audition!" Margo reminded him, now. "They just want to talk, hear your take on the role, and talk you through it."

 

"I didn't even want to meet with them," he reminded her. "How do you know I won't play hooky?"

 

"Because if you do, I will hang you by the balls for all of Times Square to see. But also, that is why I sent my sweet little minion to make sure you do as you're told."

 

The minion in question raised his brows and nervously avoided Eliot's gaze, giving Eliot a perfect glimpse of his perfect glossy eyelashes. Like a cow. Sweet and little didn't even begin to cover it.

 

Damn it. Damn Margo to hell.

 

"So do as you're told. Go eat a bagel. Go get coffee. Go to the meeting, and fucking nail this."

 

*

 

Eliot did not fucking nail it.

 

"Well that was fucking humiliating," Eliot said as he pushed out of the building. To no-one in particular, because Quentin was somewhere behind him, struggling with the revolving door, even though there was a perfectly decent, non-revolving door right beside it, which Eliot had used himself.

 

"Um, I wouldn't say—"

 

Eliot whirled around to face him. Quentin's legs had worked fast and caught up with him, so as Eliot stopped, Quentin slammed right into him. "Ah, God, sorry—"

 

"Look, if you want to lie to your boss for your little Eliot status report I'm sure the two of you are keeping, that's your business, but you don't need to patronize me about being a shitty actor in a shitty meeting, for... whatever reason you think you need to."

 

Quentin had the nerve to look hurt. “I’m not—I wouldn’t—look, none of what you said in there was shitty. I don’t think it went shitty.”

 

“I think going off on the producers of a play I’m being generously even looked at for about how if they don’t let me play the character gay then I refuse to do it.”

 

He had gone in there with that pitch in mind. Margo, just as much of a nerdy fan of these books as Quentin, had been the one with the idea. Eliot had shot it down, thinking no way that the big rich men in charge of the children's property would go for making one of their leads a homo. But it had been in the plan, Margo had briefed him on exactly why it made sense, gave him passages to use as evidence and he was going to run with it. He was an actor after all. He could act like this was his own genius interpretation. And, well, Rupert Chatwin? Dude seemed pretty gay.

 

Then, something about how he could barely get his mouth open before some stuffy, visibly thrown middle-aged lady waved her hands saying, "Well, we don't need to discuss those kinds of... details, at this stage," really rubbed him the wrong way. Really pissed him off. That they weren't even going to hear him out, when they were the ones who were happy to meet with him, fucking known gay disaster, at this point the thing he was most known for. It got him going on some rant about how actually, when it comes to kids, the subject of the existence of queer people was entirely relevant. How it was kind the most relevant kind of media to discuss that, and if he had had something like that, to watch or read about, when he was a lonely, neglected kid sitting on a hay bale in Whitelaw, Indiana

 

“But you were right!" Quentin cried, gesticulating wildly. "There’s—like, scholarship about the queer undertones of Rupert Chatwin’s character, his arc, hell even other adaptations. Maybe Margo will be pissed but if they seriously don't cast you over what you said, then you shouldn't do it. Then it shouldn't—it shouldn't even exist, it shouldn't open, it would be wrong. Why make a play about the life of Rupert Chatwin after the Fillory books as he struggles to settle into adulthood if you're not going to talk about who he'd—date? That he'd date men? That's shitty. It's stupid and—and shitty and yeah, actually, homophobic. You were right to say it was. I—I'll tell Margo that myself if I have to."

 

Quentin finished his gay rights speech, whilst they were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, a little flushed and out of breath. Quentin broke the lingering eye contact first, glancing down and letting his hair fall in front of his face. After bravely declaring he would defend his honor to Margo. What a... bizarre little guy. Eliot really had to work hard to not be obsessed with him. To keep his promise. Don't fuck the new assistant, under any circumstances, even if he was being—unfairly

 

It wasn't relevant. Like, actually not.

 

But right now he had Quentin all to himself, and yeah, he'd promised to not go there with him, but that didn't mean he couldn't do anything with him. It was spring, in New York. Notoriously the second best time to be there, right after fall, and with the other two left being basically uninhabitable. He wondered if Margo deliberately double-booked herself on this day just to gift him this, to settle his nerves beforehand. To congratulate him, if this worked out. Or something to distract him when it inevitably didn't. It was exactly the level of schemer she is.

 

"Are you free right now?"

 

Quentin looked back up, startled. "Um, well... yeah. I need to check with Margo if she needs me at her next meeting at 3pm but, yeah I mean. Obviously I don't—have anything else to do now. Uh, why?"

 

"Let's hang out."

 

"Um, are you asking or are you—telling?"

 

"Asking, I guess." Wasn't about to force the poor lamb to keep him company.

 

"Well—usually asking sounds more like, 'do you want to hang out with me?'"

 

"Why, I'd love to," Eliot smiled.

 

Quentin scoffed. "You—you—fine. Sure. What did you, uh, have in mind?"

 

"We never did get that bagel and coffee, as the doctor ordered." Maybe he wouldn't have fucked it up on a non-empty stomach, but, hey, it was done now.

 

"Okay," Quentin said. A little slow, that he hadn't expected  that kind of itinerary from Eliot. Eliot almost asked what he had thought he was going to suggest. Wondered if it was anything like what Eliot would love to suggest, and not here, on the corner of Brakebills Production's offices, but back in their kooky little rented loft, while Margo was still out, which conveniently had a lot of very nice, horizontal surfaces and even an indoor swing—

 

Down boy.

 

"Okay," said Eliot. And then hated himself for the next part because, ugh, it was true, but he hated saying it: "I know a spot."

 

 

*

 

 

"Oh my God," Quentin said, the first bite of his bagel not even yet fully chewed in his mouth. The weirdo had insisted on a a plain bagel with cream cheese. Toasted, at least, but nothing else. At first Eliot had thought he was just being frugal, and then polite when Eliot said it was on him, but it really was what he liked best, apparently, given the obscene noises he was making as he could barely finish swallowing before diving in for more.

 

"You'll give yourself hiccups," Eliot said mildly, unable to look away.

 

"Sorry," Quentin said, taking a break to sip on his iced caramel macchiato. He hummed in relief, pressing the cup to his cheek. His own, reusable one, of course. Eliot was the heathen with the single-use plastic one.

 

"It's—fine," Eliot said. "Just advising you to slow down."

 

Quentin nodded, distractedly. He stared down at the bagel in his hands. "I'd forgotten how—good the bagels were. Like I knew but it's different, tasting it again for the first time in forever. The coffee too."

 

"You know I've heard that thing about the water is a myth. I've had plenty of pretty good bagels in L.A. And I've had really good coffee in L.A."

 

Quentin rolled his eyes. "I mean—even if that could be, actually debated—that's like, not the point."

 

"Pray tell, what is the point?"

 

Quentin shrugged, looking out in front of them at the families and the college kids and the actual kids, chasing after giant bubbles. Just around the corner from the offices-slash-theater for Brakebills was the one bagel place Eliot would frequent with any regularity, and just a stone's throw away from there was Washington Square Park, where he would sit and eat his bagels, when he was shiny and dumb, and would make the trip all the way down from Purchase to sit there and pretend that he had actually gotten into NYU. At the very least, hoping the people who walked past him thought he was a real NYU student, like the rest of them. At best? His wildest fantasy was that he would be—God, spotted, and asked to be a student film, or... a play.

 

Life was unbearably annoying.

 

"It's just—really nice," Quentin was saying, "being back in New York." Just as Eliot had been thinking the opposite.

 

Then Quentin froze, crinkling the wrapper in his hands. "Not—not that I'm glad, obviously, about. What happened. Back in—you know. That—that sucked."

 

It was strange. In so many ways, Quentin felt like he was on the fringes of Eliot's life. He only came attached to Margo, if he was around at all, and other than a few stray lines Eliot would throw his way, he mostly knew Quentin to be a cute, albeit sour face behind a glossy flop of hair.

 

But because he came attached to Margo, he couldn't help but be so in Eliot's life, and so central to it at that. And with someone who had half of Quentin's painful, strange sincerity it would have been invasive to comment on the way Eliot's life had reached an exploding point, and only continued to make destructive waves after that. The only part that was difficult was Eliot's inability to meet Quentin where he was at, to show him how grateful he was, deep down, under all the panicked squirming at being seen and known, that Quentin was seeing him and caring and caring enough to be nice to him about it.

 

"The bagels are better," Eliot said. Admitted. Quentin was right, they were. Eliot only knew some of the ones in L.A. were "pretty good" because he had gone on many a quest in search for anything that came close.  And this was the closest he could manage to return Quentin's kindness.

 

Quentin smiled at him, like he did understand. Like the two of them had a shorthand they hadn't even needed to work for. "Yeah," he said.

 

"Sorry you got stuck with babysitting me," Eliot threw out, and then was shocked that he had, because he hadn't realized he'd been feeling that way. But he was sorry. If Quentin really loved New York, there were a billion better ways he could be spending his time than being on... some weird, random hang out with his boss's client and best friend.

 

Quentin looked at him sideways then, an odd look on his face.

 

"What?" said Eliot.

 

"You're—you..." Quentin shook his head, laughing sharply, with no humour.

 

"You're laughing."

 

"Well—yeah!"

 

"Why?"

 

"Because," said Quentin. "You're apologizing to me. It's laughable."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because," Quentin said, more forcefully this time, "you're a famous actor hanging out with some loser just because—your actual friend, who is my boss, is too busy today. I'm—I'm the one who's sorry that you're stuck with the lousy company. That you've been stuck with the lousy company, these past few months. Both of you. With me in the—loft, taking up space. Margo arranged it to make work easier but I know you wouldn't actually choose to have me around. That I wouldn't even be here if this wasn't ultimately a work trip."

 

"Quentin—"

 

"Look, it's fine, because it is great to be back in New York, and Margo's weirdly the best boss I've had. Like, I like her and I like you too, and trust me, I've been assistants to actors before and even though I'm not yours, you're far from the—I just mean: I don't feel like I'm babysitting. I know we're—not friends, but I'm not babysitting you. We're just... hanging out. And it's not... a hardship, or annoying, or... babysitting. Not for me." Once again, Quentin had let his hair obscure his expression from Eliot, maddeningly so, because if he didn't know any better, he would be hearing an edge of... something in Quentin's voice, sharp and frustrated and—

 

"I like you too."

 

Quentin frowned. "What? Are you just—repeating what I said back to me?"

 

"No, I mean like. I also like you. I... like you. Too."

 

At that, Quentin balked. "You—wait, you do?"

 

Eliot almost laughed. Because... yes. Always had. More than—more than he should have. But ultimately, simply... that was it. "Is it that surprising? Have a little more self-esteem, Quentin," he teased, to cover up for how he was actually reacting to Quentin's adorable bewildered expression.

 

"Oh," Quentin said. "I just—I just mean that we don't know each other all that well so I didn't, you know, know know. I assumed you didn't—hate me, or whatever."

 

Eliot did laugh then. He was so delightfully weird. "Well, that's good."

 

"I—uh, yeah," Quentin blinked, then breaking out into the sweetest, shiest smile. He looked up at Eliot through those ridiculous eyelashes, like the two of them were sharing some wonderful, scandalous secret. Fuck. This was—Margo's rule was so stupid. He knew why it was there, but right now, the fact that he couldn't just, fucking—lean in—it would be so easy, so small, it wouldn't have to mean

 

With what he could imagine was her supreme powers of horny detection, Margo chose that exact moment to text them both. Quentin lunged for his messenger back to fish for his phone and Eliot wiped his sweaty palms on his pants before going in his pocket for his.

 

To Eliot, she said: Looking like I'll be swamped for the rest of the afternoon. Will try to get home in time for dinner. Be nice.

 

Eliot typed back, I'm always nice. To which Margo said, very rudely, Hm. Bitch!

 

Whatever she texted Quentin, he didn't quite get to see, but it made Quentin's eyebrows rise into his forehead. He would have given anything to know exactly what it said, but what Quentin relayed was, "So, Margo doesn't need me. I'm, uh, done for the day, basically."

 

He glanced over at Eliot nervously, and Eliot realized that was his way of telling him that he could still hang out more, if Eliot wanted. That Quentin wanted, and he was putting the ball in Eliot's court.

 

Eliot sucked at tennis. "I actually think I'm going to head back, to the apartment. The, uh, loft I mean. I'm... I kind of just want to lay down."

 

"Oh," Quentin said, because he was trying to kill Eliot, apparently. "Yeah, sure. Of course. I, um, wanted to go to a bookstore while we were in Soho so I'll—just. See you later I guess."

 

"I guess you will," Eliot said, and then Quentin smiled. See—nice. Eliot was always nice.

 

Even when he didn't want to be.

 

 

*

 

 

You know what else was nice? Wine. Lovely, dependable red wine.

 

Eliot finished off his third glass and waved the bartender over for his next. Because he was in a city he hated, but didn't actually—what he hated was that he didn't hate it, after years of telling himself he did and that he was done with it and it was done with him. He hated that for a moment, just a split second before that meeting, he had felt it. That old pang of longing and excitement—of wanting a job because it would be meaningful beyond keeping his lights on. Because he would have been fucking great at it, actually. He would have been great, in New York, on stage, which once upon a time was the only think he wanted and could imagine wanting, for the rest of his life.

 

Except he flubbed it. Because he was—too much. Couldn't keep his big, gay stupid mouth shut so that the nice, straight theater producers would actually hire him.

 

It hadn't even been an audition. He didn't even get to suck at that stage of the process.

 

"Eliot?" Someone was saying, which was strange, because he didn't recall telling the bartender his name. Maybe he knew someone in this bar. Worse—maybe someone in this bar knew him. He didn't want to deal with either of those options, but didn't get a choice when a hand was wrapping around his wrist and pulling it away from his face.

 

Quentin's hand, it turned out. Attached to Quentin, and his sweetly concerned face. Three glasses of red hadn't been enough to get Eliot more than buzzed since high school, but still, any happy wine feelings evaporated immediately. Instead, what replaced them was shame. And then confusion, because—

 

"How did you know I was here?"

 

Quentin's turn to look guilty. "I, uh, have you on Find My Friends. Margo's orders."

 

"Great," Eliot said, barking out a laugh. "So much for not babysitting me."

 

"Hey," Quentin said, worried frown shifting to something more indignant. "I only used it because you told me that you were going to be back at the loft, and you weren't, and then I wanted to be sure that you were actually—okay, and that your phone wasn't stolen or something."

 

"Because you think I'm a child. Because you think I can't even keep track of a cellphone."

 

"Because this is New York, and you told me you were going to be somewhere, and you weren't there, and if I didn't check then Margo would kill me."

 

Right. Margo. Quentin's boss. The real reason Quentin had any real investment in Eliot's wellbeing.

 

"Jesus, I just wanted to have a drink." He picked up his empty glass. "See? Call off the search party."

 

Quentin rolled his eyes. "I'm not gonna apologize for doing my job, but—I'm just glad you're okay."

 

He clutched tightly at his messenger bag, gaze locked on the floor.

 

Ugh. Ugh. Eliot sighed, rubbing his face. "Fuck, I'm sorry. I'm just. I felt... like shit, about today, and I kept thinking about it, on the way home. I was going to go to the loft, but I... got a little side-tracked. I didn't think to let anyone know, I just... I just wanted a drink. I—sorry."

 

Quentin's shoulders drooped down, his head cocked to one side. "Do you want to head back?" he said softly. Like he was handling Eliot with care.

 

"Yeah, okay," Eliot mumbled. He pushed himself off the stool, turning to stand up. Apparently, at this same time, Quentin had been reaching to help him stand up, maybe naively assuming Eliot would be drunk enough to need assistance with that. What this resulted in was: Eliot, panicked at Quentin's proximity, shoving him back, and Quentin, not expecting it, didn't have time to catch himself. Which meant Eliot had to, grabbing his forearm, momentarily marveling at how firm it was, and maybe pulling him onto his feet with too much force. Quentin yelped, stumbling into Eliot's chest face-first.

 

"Fuck, I'm sorry!" they cried out in unison.

 

"No, no, it's my bad," Eliot said, righting Quentin by his shoulders. Quentin rubbed at his ski-slope nose, which looked a little rosier than usually, but otherwise good. Thank God. If Eliot had ruined that nose, he wouldn't have been able to live with himself. "I, uh. You took me by surprise."

 

"Ha," Quentin huffed. "I see that. It's—fine. Why don't you just call the Lyft and we'll call it even?"

 

They manage to make it out the bar without further injury. As they waited outside, Quentin worriedly rubbed at his nose, even though it was definitely fine, which was more charming than it had any right to be.

 

It wasn't until later, when he was staring out the back window of that Eliot, ears now bleakly attuned to that sort of thing, realized he was pretty sure he had heard the shutter of a camera as he had gallantly held open the door, testing out to see if it made Quentin laugh (it did).

 

But that could have been anything, he convinced himself. Who would have been interested in taking a picture of him, and some random guy, clearly soberly getting into a car?

 

*

 

Turned out? A lot people.

 

Like. A lot.