Quentin spends a lot of time daydreaming, which means his actual dreams often suck in comparison, when he even has them. They're usually mind-numbingly boring, repetitive tasks that he never gets to the end of, and when he wakes, he feels guilty and unaccomplished for never completing them.
He hasn't had a wet dream since he was fourteen, and it was a very confusing dream about Harry Potter and Professor Trelawney. He was almost relieved to grow out of that particular stage in his life. Especially since he's never loved Hogwarts as much as Fillory. It doesn't have the nuance, or that feeling of truth about it. Not just because the Chatwins were real, but because Fillory always felt more tangible than Hogwarts.
But that's why he's here. That's why he's checked himself into this drab, dreary hospital, because Fillory is calling to him again. It's always had a pull, but just the last few weeks, the books call to him. He spends hours rereading them instead of writing papers. He just needs a meds adjustment, probably, but he can't deny the feeling of pointlessness when he thinks about anything outside of Fillory.
It's been two days and he doesn't feel any better. He feels significantly worse, actually, and falls asleep curled around book three of the Fillory and Further series.
The dream is unexpected and visceral. There are two women having sex, two vital, gorgeous women, and this is anything but confusing. They are beautiful and clearly in love, and more than the sex, that is the part that fills Quentin with longing. He wants someone to love him the way these women love each other.
The dream shifts, like dreams do, and only one woman is left on the bed – the one with the colorful hair and braids. She is painting her toenails. She turns to look at him. "What are you doing here?"
Quentin turns around to see if the other woman is somewhere in the apartment, but he doesn't see her.
"Yeah, you, dumbass," she says. "What are you doing here?"
Quentin looks down and shrugs, mumbling something unintelligible and trying to turn himself invisible. The people in his dreams never interact with him.
She twists the brush back into the bottle of nail polish and stands up, still naked and glorious, and Quentin averts his eyes again. "Sorry," he says. "Dreaming."
"Duh," she says, and when he looks up at her, he sees a pale image of her standing next to the bed where she and her partner are clearly asleep. "But what are you doing here?"
"Um," Quentin says, tucking his hair behind his ear. It's a nervous habit. "No clue?"
She nods, and he apologizes again. "Sorry. I don't usually… meet people in my dreams."
She smiles at him, a broad, confident grin that takes his breath away. How can one person be so full of all the life that is missing from his own. "I'm Amanita," she says, holding out her hand. "I meet people in my dreams all the time."
"Really?" Quentin asks, holding out his hand too, reaching to shake hers.
She lifts it up at the last second, laughing. "Just kidding. Can't actually touch, you know." She tilts her head toward her sleeping form on the bed. "This is my apartment. And that's my girlfriend, Nomi."
Quentin brings his hand back in, making an awkward little wave at the end. "Quentin. I'm… in New York. In a mental hospital."
"Oh," she says, a look of pity crossing her face. He hates those looks. He looks down at his shoes again.
Amanita clears her throat and when he looks back up at her, she's back to grinning brightly. She has amazingly nice teeth. "Well, hey, this is San Francisco, so… way to travel for your first time."
"Uh, thanks," he says, taking a moment to look around the loft, and then going over to one of the windows to look out of it. "I never really believed in this stuff."
She smiles. "Well," she says, looking down at her girlfriend. "Nomi is part of a group of eight people born at the same time that can astrally project to each other. Or even take over each others' bodies to, you know, do stuff for each other. Like drive, or fight."
Now Quentin knows he's dreaming. That's the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard.
"I know it sounds crazy," Amanita says, "but it's true. They're people from all over the world. They helped me save her from the hospital."
Quentin looks up sharply at the word hospital. She nods at him. "I don't trust hospitals," she says. "You should leave, if you can."
He gives her a tentative smile. He'd checked himself in to get away from this kind of thing, the crazy shit his mind got up to. He should try to leave this place and get back to his safe, normal… bed in a mental hospital. He runs his hands over his face. Why does this dream feel so real, so much more real than his life? Why does this dream feel almost like…
"Are you real?" Quentin asks. "Like, I can look you up in the phone book, real?"
"Of course," Amanita says. "But Nomi's easier to find. She has a blog. Nomi Marks." She reaches out to him before seemingly realizing she can't touch him. "There are more things in heaven and earth," she says, letting the line dangle. He hates it when people do that.
"I know, I know," he says. "You just feel… more real than my life. You feel more like Fillory."
"Fillory?" Amanita squeals. "I love those books!" She gasps. "Is Fillory real? Have you been there?"
"No," he says, because of course that's absurd. "No one's been to Fillory."
Amanita's mouth twists up into a sly smile. "The Chatwins have been to Fillory."
He rolls his eyes. "Fillory isn't real, it just feels real. Like this. Fake real. But better than my boring life."
Nomi shifts on the bed, and Amanita looks over at her, leaning down to brush a hand over her forehead. She actually goes through it, a little, and Quentin shivers. "Life is real, Quentin. There's more out there than you can imagine. You just have to go find it. It's not going to come and find you."
Nomi moans, and Amanita turns back to him. He'd forgotten she was naked, but he flushes again as his eyes sweep down her and he can't help himself from flicking his eyes back up to her breasts. "Sorry," he mumbles again.
"Don't worry," she says. "And stop apologizing."
"Sorry," he says again, and she laughs.
"You're a trip, Quentin. I have to go. Nomi's getting a migraine – I have to wake her up. I hope you find your door to Fillory."
"Thanks," Quentin says, watching as Amanita carefully crawls onto the bed and drops into her body. She takes a deep breath and sits up on the bed.
"Nomi, honey," she says, shaking her girlfriend. "Wake up, you need a shot."
Amanita looks up at him. "Wake up, Quentin. You've got a life to go live."
Quentin is yanked back to his body, a sickening rollercoaster sensation, like being reeled in from a hook in his belly. He slams into his body and his eyes snap open. He's looking up at the dull grey ceiling tiles of the hospital. He has a sense of hope for the first time in a long time. Maybe Yale is going to be different. He gets dressed and thinks about what he's going to tell the doctor about being ready to check out.