“I got so old,” Eliot said, the memories flooding back to him in waves: how it felt to age as they worked on years of mosaics, Quentin’s thousands of pastel drawings, the nights in Fillory.
“You died,” Quentin replied, staring at his friend in shock. He remembered digging the grave. He remembered finding the golden tile. He remembered bits and pieces of-- how many decades had they spent there?
“I died,” Eliot said, breathing heavily. It frightened him, to know how it felt. But there was more. He could barely face it. “You had a wife, and we had a family.” Ted. Ted was Quentin’s son. But Quentin couldn’t have a son. And there were grandchildren, somewhere. Were they still alive?
“How… how… how do we remember that?” Quentin asked, mouth agape, the juice from Eliot’s peach dampening his shirt sleeve. The overripe scent of the peaches and plums overwhelmed him. He remembered Arielle-- her hair, her smile, their child-- and then he remembered her illness. For a moment, grief swallowed him whole.
“I don’t know,” Eliot laughed mirthlessly. He couldn’t look at Quentin; every glance sent Eliot’s brain reeling back in time. It was dizzying. Days and months and years played through his mind in a flash. There had been magic, a ladder, a quilt. There had been a garden.
“I loved... so much,” Quentin stuttered, handing the letter to him. He shook his head, trying to clear the fog that seemed to exist between their lives then and their lives here.
Eliot didn’t know if he was talking about his wife and child, or something else. He knew what Quentin was feeling. They’d known everything about each other for decades, a hundred years ago. And people they’d loved were long gone. It felt strange, a cobweb of a dream haunting the back of his mind. He picked up the letter and read it himself.
Quentin grabbed his arm. “I think we might have…” Quentin started, eyeing him intently. Eliot knew that look. Quentin was searching him for clues. He cleared his throat. “I mean, we were…”
“Oh, yeah, I definitely remember something to that effect,” Eliot said, aiming for nonchalance. He considered it the best option, if he could pull it off. Otherwise, they might have to deal with their memories, and he could already sense how inconvenient that would be. He stood up, handing the letter back to Quentin. “We need wine. Like… a week’s worth of wine.”
“It’s morning,” Quentin pointed out. Eliot ignored him, wanting to be anywhere else in the castle. He started pacing, trying to think of effective ways of erasing his memory that didn’t involve magic, or losing his mind altogether.
“We could, um,” Eliot began, closing his eyes against the morning light streaming through the castle windows and running his hand through his hair. “We could ask Tick if there’s a potion or a Fillorian spring somewhere that would make us forget painful memories--”
“El, stop,” Quentin said, moving towards him and grabbing his hands to still them. “I don’t want--”
“I know,” Eliot interrupted with a hollow laugh. He bit his lip to keep himself from saying more.
“I don’t want to forget about it,” Quentin finished stubbornly. They were inches apart again. A memory of Quentin’s lips pressing against his flashed across Eliot’s mind, and his chest ached with longing. “I think… I loved them more than I know how to love anyone.”
“Sounds painful,” Eliot huffed a small laugh, trying to cover. “Carrying around needless pain doesn’t make you a hero, Q.”
“That’s funny, because you told me once that’s exactly what it meant,” Quentin said, pushing up on his toes to kiss Eliot lightly on the mouth. He tasted like peaches. Eliot stared at him, an unreadable expression on his face. “What?” Quentin asked, pulling Eliot’s hand to his own neck and leaning into the caress the way he knew--remembered-- Eliot liked to do. “Tell me you don’t remember.” He turned to kiss Eliot’s palm.
“I remember everything,” Eliot said, clearing his throat. “Or, nearly everything. I just-- what are we supposed to do with that?”
“Look, no one’s asking you to do anything,” Quentin pointed out, breaking away to fold the letter and tuck it gingerly into his pocket. “I just wanted to remember something. Something I realized when you were gone.” His voice cracked.
They didn’t have to say anything. Eliot swallowed and laced their fingers together, pushing Quentin gently to a nearby pillar until Quentin’s back pressed against it. He bent down to kiss him again. Quentin grabbed his hips and brought them closer. “Peaches and plums,” Eliot inhaled sharply. “I smell them.”
“We should be quiet,” Quentin whispered, nodding towards the sleeping Prince Consort in the corner. Eliot nodded, nuzzling his nose against Quentin’s before kissing him again. “God, I’m glad you’re not dead,” Quentin gasped into the kiss.
“I’m glad I’m not old,” Eliot replied, canting his hips forward for emphasis.
Quentin looked down at Eliot’s thigh pressing between his legs. “Yeah, this is… familiar,” he said, smiling at his friend. Eliot’s lips were swollen, his expression somewhere between surprise and desire. Quentin didn’t break eye contact as he reached down and unbuckled Eliot’s belt, then unbuttoned his own jeans, making sure Eliot was watching him. Eliot bit his lip to stay quiet as Quentin slid their pants down one at a time: first his own, then Eliot’s. With a sly smile, Quentin turned around, bracing his hands against the pillar for support.
Eliot paused to take in the sight. He was blindsided by Quentin’s confidence; it would have been uncharacteristic of him, before, but now Eliot could see what Quentin was trying to show him. He remembered everything . Eliot leaned forward and brushed Quentin’s hair to one side to kiss the nape of his neck. His hands went to Quentin’s shoulders to massage them lightly before moving down his back. In some other lifetime, they’d done this so often it had become habit. He knew exactly what Quentin wanted.
He knelt down, spreading Quentin’s thighs apart. He squeezed his buttocks, then pulled them apart, leaning in to taste him. Above him, Quentin’s teeth sank into the flesh of his hand as he tried to stay quiet. Eliot licked inside of him and reached around to stroke him in time with each thrust of his tongue.
“Um, El?” Quentin panted, his voice a low whine.
“If you’re going to tell me to slow down, full disclosure: that train has left the station,” Eliot said, standing up so their bodies were aligned again. His arms wrapped around Quentin’s chest, pulling him closer.
“No--god, no,” Quentin stumbled over the words, pressing back against Eliot until he could feel his cock slide wetly across his tailbone. “Just, can you-- are you sure you can--?”
“I can,” Eliot whispered into his ear, readying himself behind Quentin. Since magic had disappeared, whatever spell that had kept him faithful to Fen had broken. He pressed into Quentin slowly, wanting to take his time, but Quentin bent forward and drew him in deeper. Eliot chuckled in genuine surprise, then groaned as Quentin rocked on his heels. “How did you know--” He broke off, trying to concentrate on the sight of Quentin’s back, the muscles straining with exertion.
“It feels like we’ve waited too long,” Quentin murmured into the pillar, moving faster. He grabbed Eliot’s hand from where it was wrapped around his chest, and brought it down to his cock. Eliot found the rhythm he knew Quentin liked immediately, as if he’d practiced just this. Quentin ground back harder against him, snapping his hips faster and faster.
“Jesus,” Eliot gasped into Quentin’s hair, fisting him in time with every thrust. Quentin was muttering to himself, words Eliot couldn’t make out. Maybe it was a spell, something that had once had meaning and now sounded like nonsense. Before the time loop, Eliot had fantasized about this, about fucking Quentin right here in the castle, with no faeries or friends to bother them. Now his old fantasies mingled with the memories of their lives working on the puzzle: nights by the fire, lazy afternoons, making up after a fight. As Eliot watched Quentin’s hands grapple for purchase on the pillar, he had a flash of those hands scrabbling against a peach tree, against sand, against a patchwork quilt. How many times had they done this? Eliot leaned closer, pushing deeper, and Quentin tightened around him. “You’re close,” he whispered.
“Right there, you knew that, you knew that--” Quentin was coming, his hand closing around Eliot’s around his cock, tightening their fists together as shudders worked their way through his body. Eliot remembered this, he did, he remembered how Quentin drove him crazy, how they’d fought, how they’d made up. He pulled out and turned Quentin to face him.
“Kiss me,” Eliot commanded, taking Quentin’s face in his hands. Quentin’s hands reached down to cup Eliot’s cock as they kissed, tongues sliding against each other, Quentin tugging at him roughly, his thumb smearing over the head the way Eliot loved. Eliot broke the kiss to stare down at Quentin’s hands on him, loving the sight and missing it simultaneously. As he raised his gaze to meet Quentin’s, a lifetime of feeling overwhelmed him all at once, and he came, swallowing a sob. He crumpled into Quentin, resting his head on his shoulder.
Quentin reached up to stroke his fingers soothingly through Eliot’s curls. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Quentin said, over and over, until Eliot went still.
“I don’t know how it’s possible,” Eliot murmured into Quentin’s shoulder, “but I think I miss you.”
“I’m right here,” Quentin reassured him, hands still carding through his hair. “Peaches and plums, right?” He kissed Eliot’s head.
“Peaches and plums,” Eliot replied, holding him close.