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The one that got away (and tries to come back)

Chapter Text

Quentin had never felt more miserable than he did now. Of course, this thought wasn't unfamiliar to him. Often, throughout the years, he had said to himself "This is it, this is the saddest, most hopeless and pointless I've ever felt in my entire life". But now, it seemed to be truer than ever. Because usually he had Julia with him. Sweet, precious, upbeat Julia.

Quentin took a deep breath and sighed heavily, annoyed at himself for always getting back to thinking about her. She was gone, she got into this mysterious, prestigious college 6 months ago and she was staying there, away from him. He couldn't believe she would leave him like that, wihtout even so much as a text. Honeslty, he would have settled for a half-assed "Found an amazing college you'll never know about. See you never". Even James never heard anything else from her, they both got the same e-mail from "Dean Fogg" telling them that their friend was already studying in the best college in the country and that she wouldn't be able to contact them during the school year.

He could barely remember her face. James and him put up a picture of the three of them on one of the bookshelves in their appartment. Quentin always adverted his gaze when he was looking for a book there, he couldn't even bear looking at her. He missed her too much and he was scared that looking at her delicate features would be like a punch in the gut. He couldn't deal with the pain of her absence every time he needed to check his philosphy dictionnary to find the definition of some obscure concept. He remebered her perfume, though. Something flowery and subdued, not too musky but not too sweet. You could only ever smell it when she let her hair loose from her ponytail, or when you hugged her and your nose was so close to her neck. Quentin smelled the same scent a few times since she had gone, in the metro at peak hours when everyone is so crammed together. The memories it brought back of the sound of her laugh and the twinkle of intelligence and joy in her eyes always rained on the days when the smell found its way back to him.

Someone loudly cleared their throat next to him, trying to make themselves known. Quentin pulled himself out of his daydreams, almost surprised to find himself in the bookshop he walked in a good hour ago, judging by the dark sky outside. He looked over to see a tall man wearing a frown and a vest looking at him expectantly. A puzzle look made its way on Quentin's features and he looked over his shoulder to see if the stranger's gaze was meant for someone else.

"Excuse me, I was just wondering if you were done with that" his voice was calm, almost monotonous, as if he was bored by his own question.

Quentin suddenly remembered he was holding Fillory and Further book 4 in his hands, the edition that had been published a few days ago.

"I'm sorry, um" Quentin started, trying to figure out how long exactly he had been standing there with a book in his hands thinking about Julia with an actual customer waiting for him to stop dicking around. "Sorry, yeah, yeah I'm done. Here" he said as he handed the book over to the man beside him.

"I mean, I don't want to take it from you if you were going to buy it" the stranger added. Quentin looked over, intrigued by the way he spoke, detaching syllables. How did he manage to sound nonchalent and interested at the same time ?

Quentin immediately noted how good looking he was, his dark curly hair still damp from rainy New-York, his black trench coat opened on a fancy looking dress shirt and the sliky vest he had noticed earlier. His posture was elegant and proud, Quentin suddenly realised how small and underdressed he must look next to him. He retracted his arm and brought the book to his chest.

"Oh no, don't worry. I'm just a nerd trying to see what's different in those from the last edition. I didn't mean to buy it, it's all yours" Quentin tried to smile to reassure the stranger that it really was no problem but it never quite translated to his lips. He was too impressed and intimidated by him to actually do anything. His whole persona screamed confidence and detachement, and his looks didn't make it easier for Quentin to compose himself.

"Do you mean you have extensive knowledge on those books ?" his eyebrow crooked slightly as he asked Quentin. His voice didn't sound as atone now, it was more serious, almost intreagued.

"Well, I can probably recite most of the best passages. I read them more times than I can count... I know it's lame" Quentin said as he adverted his gaze, getting more self conscious than usual next to his aura of glorious boredom.

"I'm Eliot" the stranger said and his voice definitely coveyed more excitement than anything else at that moment. Quentin looked back at his now smiling face. He had extended his hand for Quentin to shake, which he did with a puzzled look before stating his name as if it was a question.

"Well, Quentin, would you like to get a drink ?" Eliot's face relaxed back into a more laid-back expression, but his eyes were more alive than ever. Quentin didn't really know what to think of this. Was Eliot flirting with him ?

Eliot must have seen Quentin's confusion as a slightly concerned look played on his features. Then, with a serious and calm voice he added : "I just have a few questions about Fillory, and asking you might help me know what book to buy and where to start my research"

Quentin lit up at that. It had been so long since he hadn't been able to talk to anyone about Fillory outside of the Internet. A broad smile appeared on his face and he nodded, looking into Eliot's eyes with excitement. "That'd be great !" he said, trying not to sound too eager.

"Good. Let's get out of here"

Chapter Text

Quentin and Eliot had been sitting in opposite booths of this quiet, grimy bar for hours now. Eliot's flow of questions seemed never ending and Quentin's answers were detailed and he tended to go on a lot of tangents. If Eliot was honest, it was kind of cute. It was as if the nerdiness was spilling out of Quentin, his passion for those books getting the best of him.

At first, Quentin had tried to be composed and laid-back, to match Eliot's attitude. But the excitement of talking about something so dear to him soon overshadowed his will to impress Eliot. Now he was all glowy eyes and serious frown, with a small smile appearing now and then. However, he didn't miss the peculiar way in which Eliot talked about Fillory. Quentin knew he tended to talk about it as if it was a real place, as if the events described by Christopher Plover were history instead of fiction. But Eliot didn't seem to mind, which was odd, as Quentin was used to people making fun of him for taking fantasy for reality. But the weirdest thing was, Eliot also discussed Fillory and its quirky, absurd rules as if it was a real place as well. In fact, it felt to Quentin like they were discussing Fillory the same way Americans talk about Europe. Like something far away and strange, but also like a place which existence was a given.

Eliot was asking about Jane Chatwin in the fourth book and specifically the way she cured herself from an infected wound. Quentin told the whole story of the Lorian assassin that came to kill Jane by stabbing her with the Virgo Blade. When he mentionned this name, Eliot got a sheet of paper out of God knew where and started scribbling with a plain, university issued pen. Quentin kept talking about the roses that gew out of Jane's wound, the bear that took care of her and Eliot was looking at him straight in the eyes. He looked serious now, gone were the crafted nonchalent looks and the bored tone. Quentin didn't really understand why Eliot looked so intense and serious. If his eyes could talk, Quentin was sure they would say "cut the bullshit, this is a life and death situation, get to the point".

So Quentin did and gave up the marvelous and fantastic details and descriptions he had fed Eliot until now. He plainly stated that the rose vines were going to kill Jane unless she gave them the doll her mother gifted her, the doll that looked like her. When Quentin stopped talking, Eliot didn't keep the conversation alive with more questions the way he had earlier. The intense look of seriousness was still clouding his face as he looked in the distance behind Quentin. He was thinking, hard.

"But it's not the doll... A voodoo doll just doesn't work" Eliot mumbled to himself

"What do you mean ? Of course it did, the rose vines took something that looked like Jane in place of the real Jane." Quentin said, frowning. No one would try and make him doubt his knowledge of the Fillory books, not even a dark and pretty stranger.

"But it doesn't work." Eliot repeated quietly. He shot his eyes back into Quentin's. "Why is the doll special ?" the tone in his voice made Quentin feel like it was an order more than a question.

Eliot was inspecting Quentin's face, trying to read his mind. When he saw him in the bookshop he thought he was just some nerdy, naive, awkward guy, nothing to take note of. And when Quentin started babbling about Fillory, he knew he was right about the nerd side of him, and his behaviour screamed awkwardness but he was not naive at all. He was witty and quick, this gave him hope. If anyone could solve this rose vine issue, it was Quentin. And Eliot needed help, big time. Penny was almost dying back in Brakebills and no one in the school knew half as much as Quentin seemed to about Fillory. Even Julia couldn't get passed the failure of the look alike doll.

Eliot looked at Quentin with a serious, expectant look. He knew people like Quentin, he was surrounded by them in Brakebills. Overly intelligent geeks who thrived on competition. He knew Quentin's mind would be more effective under some pressure, he needed to make this a challenge. He tried to convey how important this was in the look in his eyes.

"Because it looks like Jane" Quentin repeated. But his voice faltered, as if it knew it wasn't the right answer. He started to think, to try and make sense of this particular event keeping in mind the whimsical nature of Fillory.

Eliot could pinpoint the moment where Quentin started to understand, to solve his mystery. His eyes grew wider and his lips stretched into a smile, slowly, as the answer made its way to his brain.

"The doll works because it's special to Jane. It's her most prized posession, the only thing she brings from Earth to Fillory. It was a gift from her mother and she would'nt give up the doll for anything in the world" Quentin said with a triumphant smile. Eliot laid back on the cushion, a smirk appearing on his lips and his gaze moving away from Quentin. Again, he stared at nothing behind him.

"Except for her own life. The rose vines took the thing Jane loved most instead of her life" Eliot looked back at Quentin and shook his head slightly. "Brilliant" he added with a smaller smirk. With that movement on his face, he constructed his familiar detached persona. In an instant, he was back to the stranger that cleared his throat in the bookshop earlier.

Eliot took his pen again, and he wrote a few lines on his wrinkled paper. His pen moved slowly, he barely even looked focussed on the task at hand. He looked nothing like the serious guy that scribbled hastily "Virgo Blade" on the first line of the page a few minutes earlier.

Quentin was entraced by Eliot, the way he could change the way he looked so easily, going from eager and intense to bored and proud in a few seconds. The way his hair fell on his forehead and the lazy movements of his eyes following the stroke of the pen on the page fascinated Quentin. When Eliot looked back at him, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket, Quentin realised he had been staring, and Eliot definitely knew it too. He looked smug, the bastard. Quentin blushed and looked away. Eliot laughed softly and got up.

Eliot realised he would have loved to stay with Quentin, maybe get tipsy and give the rest to chance. He didn't know he could be attracted by the nerdy, awkward type. But Quentin's eager eyes and his long hair were definitely doing it for him. He shook his head, they needed the information he got from Quentin back at Brakebills, and he was too tired to try and figure a way to give it to them while staying here.

"Well, thank you very much Quentin. I have to go now, I need to put this information to good use." Eliot said, towering over Quentin in his elegant pose.

"Already ?" Quentin couldn't help but sound needy. He really loved talking to Eliot, and he wouldn't mind looking at him a little more too. "I mean, you didn't even finish your drink !" he added, gesturing to the glass of wine he barely touched

"It's bad wine, not really surprising considering the place it was served in" Eliot looked around, shaking his head as if he was dissapointed in everyone who ever set foot in the bar, including himself.

Quentin couldn't think of anything to say to keep him here, he didn't want to be annoying. But his face must have conveyed how much he wanted Eliot to stay, because when he looked back at him, his features softened and he stepped closer to him.

"Don't look at me like that, it looks like I'm hurting you" Quentin knew Eliot meant for it to sound harsh and teasing, but to his ears it only sounded like Eliot was tired. His eyes were red and rimmed with dark circles and even if he still looked glorious in his clothes and the way he held himself, his shoulders drooped slightly. Eliot took a deep breath and looked at Quentin longer than what Quentin was comfortable with. He adverted his gaze and focussed on a stain on the table. Eliot was getting annoyed at himself for finding Quentin pretty, noticeably pretty, the kind of pretty he would think about for a few weeks, at least.

Quentin heard Eliot take a deap breath before saying with his usual monotonous voice : "Listen, I really do need to go. But I also need to get my hands on those Fillory books. The ones we have at the library are all battered and there are pages missing. If you want to keep nerding out about magic, meet me in front of that bookshop tomorrow at five"

Quentin looked up at Eliot and smiled, nodding. He couldn't believe he wanted to see him again, it seemed crazy to Quentin. This dashing, fancy, handsome man wanted to see him again. Eliot laughed a charming and soft laugh, flattered by the way Quentin was looking up at him, before looking down into his eyes. "Well, see you tomorrow then".

And just like that, Eliot was gone and Quentin was alone with a dumbfounded smile on his lips and a new daydream forming in his head. Images of Julia faded and were replaced by the sound of Eliot's voice and his signature nonchalent pose.

Chapter Text

Eliot was walking the streets of New York as fast as he could without breaking a sweat. He tried mutliple times to create a portal from his room at Brakebills to a few streets away from the bookshop, the same way he did the day before, but he couldn't manage it. He always ended up farther away, so he decided to get as close as he could (a few blocks to the west) and walk the rest of the way to the shop. He wasn't fond of this plan but it was already 4:45, there wasn't time to figure out something smarter, and Eliot was never late.

The relief of curing Penny of the rose vines didn't last long, last night. Once Alice found and sacrificed the thing that Penny treasured most (some piece of paper, maybe chocolate wrapper, Eliot wasn't concerned enough about Penny's life to pay attention), he woke up and started complaining again, the usual Penny way. Eliot was glad he found Quentin and even more happy that his knowledge saved him from reading the Fillory books in one sitting, all night long, to try and save Penny.

But Quentin's case was bothering Eliot. He remembered thinking that his mind worked the same way most of the minds at Brakebills did. Quentin was really brilliant, he had meant that. And he knew no one could be this much of a nerd and not be hard working and passionate about schoolwork. Not only did he have the intelligence required for Brakebills, he also had the willpower to take on the difficult and quick classes of the school. And he was fond of magic in an almost childlike way. It didn't make sense for him not to be at Brakebills.

When he turned the last corner to the street of the bookshop it was 4:57. He smiled to himself, today was not the day his reputation would be stained. He made sure he remembered the spell he had learnt the day before to scan for memory loss. He needed to know if Quentin had flunked the entry test for Brakebills and got his memory wiped, or if Dean Fogg had been blind enough in his seeing days to not spot him and give him a chance.

Quentin had enthousiastically helped him save a life the day before, without asking anything in return. Granted, he didn't know he was doing it, but it was too rare in the magic world for Eliot not to feel like he owed him something. And he had never met anyone so passionate about Fillory. It felt like a disgrace that him of all people, mister "i don't give a fuck" would be given the opportunity to know about Fillory when someone way more deserving than him didn't even know magic was real. Eliot wanted to help Quentin, if he really had flunked the test, there was no way Dean Fogg would accept seeing him again to test him. But if he just flew under the radar and never went to Brakebills, he knew he had to find a way to make the dean consider his application.

Eliot tried not to ask himself why he cared so much about this. Quentin was supposed to be a helpful nerd and that was it. But for some reason, he felt drown to him. The fact that Quentin was also clearly into him wasn't helping. He didn't give him gay vibes but at the same time, Eliot never saw straight men look at him the way Quentin did.

As Eliot approached the bookshop, he saw Quentin turning the corner of the other side of the street he was on. He waited for him in front of the glass window that was displaying the newest releases. The new edition of the Fillory books were there, triumphant and bright in the middle of the other, less significant items.

As soon as Eliot heard Quentin's hurried footsteps coming behind him he recited the words from the spell under his breath (some archaic latin that sounded nothing like the latin he had learned in high school) and he executed the hand gestures needed, in front of him so Quentin wouldn't see what he was doing. He paid particular attention to Popper 17, which he often fucked up, but when he finished speaking the strange words he felt magic flowing through his body and his right hand got a little warmer.

"Hey !" Quentin said and Eliot could hear the eagerness and joy in his voice. He shook his head, almost fondly, and turned around.

"Hi" he responded, calm and collected, as usual. He knew he had to touch Quentin's head with his right hand quickly or the spell would fade and he didn't know when he could fire it up again unnoticed.

He inspected Quentin's face for a second and he noticed a stray lock of hair caught in his stubble. He brought his right hand to his face, thinking it was the best shot he had and hoping Quentin was secure enough in his masculinity to not slap his hand away and scream "I'M NOT GAY" in his face.

As soon as his finger touched his temble to move the hair away from his face, he focussed to look for missing memories. The spell shot straight from his hand to Quentin's brain and Quentin's eyes shut close. Eliot panicked for a second but he could see Quentin's body heaving as he breathed deeply, as if nothing strange was happening. Focussing back on the task at hand, Eliot realised the outer shape of Quentin's memories was like a thick line with dents here and there, as if it was blade that had taken hits strong enough to cut through bits of the metal. Eliot assumed it was normal memory loss, like when you forget the name of your grade 9 Math teacher, or when you can't remember where you put your keys. Nothing was out of place, the line was straight and solid, nothing got patched over and it ran smoothly.

Eliot resumed his movement on Quentin's face, hoping he would get back to consciousness once he stopped touching him. He did, and as Eliot was retracting his hand from Quentin's face, his eyes shot back open and he frowned, looking a little disorientated.

"What happened ?" Quentin asked, confused. "It feels like my mind shut down for a second, it's weird" his voice became stressed and worried

"I don't know" Eliot tried playing it dumb, shrugging. "I was trying to get hair out of your face, you closed your eyes for a while and opened them again" he hoped Quentin didn't feel sick, the spell was supposed to be painless and it definitely felt right when he cast it. "Are you okay ?" Eliot asked, concerned.

"Yeah, I guess... I just feel weird" Quentin's mind was racing, he swore something happened to him, he felt disconnected from himself, almost as if something got pushed between him and his brain for a second. "You're sure nothing happened ?" he looked back at Eliot, frowning.

"I mean something did happen. I wanted to make some cute, gentleman gesture to initiate physical contact without scaring you away" Eliot smirked, hoping that flirting would grab Quentin's attention and push it away from the spell he had just cast on him. It seemed to work as Quentin' frown relaxed and a blush crept up his face.

"Oh." Quentin let out a breath that was almost a chuckle, unable to look into Eliot's eyes. The shock brought him back into his body for a second. He smiled softly. "I mean, I'm not scared of you" he said with confidence, trying to tell Eliot with his tone that touching his face was really okay.

Quentin looked back into Eliot's eyes, they were a colour in between deep brown and dark amber and they carried the same mix of interest and boredom his voice did. He really was handsome.

"It's just... I don't know, maybe it's my new medicine but I just feel shaken up for some reason" he mumbled, trying to figure why he felt out of place in his own body. Was he dissociating ? It never happened before but why not add another mental health problem on top of the huge pile, he thought. He couldn't deal with it right now, in public, in front of this alarmingly good looking guy.

"Listen" Quentin said, trying to compose himself. The world felt foggy and fuzzy, his senses were all fucked up, like the wires between them and his brain got severed and taped back together. "I think I should just go home, I don't feel great"

Eliot was full on worried now. Did he break him ? He was sure everything had gone alright, in fact, he couldn't remember the last time he was this careful and focussed with a spell.

Quentin felt more and more out of it, he couldn't hear anything and his vision was cloudy. He felt like he was about to pass out, his mind was racing and racing but his body didn't respond to it. It was like there was a wall between the two and it was growing thicker and taller by the second.

"Eliot" he said and he couldn't hear his voice, he hoped he was actually talking and speaking loud enough and clearly so Eliot could actually understand. "I think you should call 911" Quentin added, using the last of his energy. He felt himself going to sleep. His vision went completely blank and he lost consciousness before his body hit the pavement.

Chapter Text

Quentin was slowly waking up, he felt counsciousness coming back to him, and with it a small headache. There were voices angry whispering in the room. He tried to focus on them to wake himself up completely, his mind felt heavy and still half asleep.

"How did you even get him inside the wards ?" asked a woman, she sounded annoyed.

"Penny found Mike's alumni key in the grass where he stabbed him" it was Eliot's voice, he sounded unconcerned, as usual. His voice comforted Quentin but he couldn't quite wake up yet, he needed more time, it still felt like his body was far away from his brain.

"Since when Penny helps other people ?" the woman snorted

"Hey ! Just because I don't help you doesn't mean I'm a complete dick" a hurried male voice responded in hushed reproach. "And Eliot told me he was the one who found the cure for the vines" he added in a neutral tone.

Quentin guessed it was Penny's voice, he was starting to feel better, more present, but he couldn't open his eyes yet. He still felt disconnected to everything, his mind and body didn't seem to be one anymore, the wall he had felt between the two before passing out was still there.

"When Fogg finds out about this, because he will, we'll be lucky if we don't get expelled" the woman whispered with anger

"Don't you have a boy toy in Healing you can fetch for me, Margo ?" Eliot responded quietly

Someone sighed and walked away and Quentin heard a door open and close. He guessed Margo was gone, looking for someone to help him. And he definitely needed help. Quentin was starting to panic, his anxiety still active though he barely felt awake, or alive for that matter. His body felt far away, he didn't feel contained by it anymore. He couldn't feel anything, his ears seemed to be the only thing that worked, he couldn't make his body do anything and he really didn't like that at all. He was breathing harder and harder but he still felt not enough oxygen was making its way in. He felt trapped and he knew a panic attack was on its way.

"Dude, he's awake. He's freaking out, I can hear him" Penny said in his normal voice, giving up on the whispers now that he knew Quentin was awake.

Quentin desperatly tried to nod or to do anything that would convey Penny was right but he still couldn't move. His brain was racing and racing, stuck in a loop of "fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck"

Penny felt a headache coming as Quentin's thoughts intruded his mind.

"Calm the fuck down, man" he said in a harsh tone. But Quentin wasn't paying attention, the only thing he could focus on was the overwhelming panic.

"Is he okay ?" Eliot said, and he couldn't hide his concern. Quentin looked okay to him. In fact, if Penny hadn't said he was awake, Eliot could have sworn he was still fast asleep. But then he saw his chest heaving fast, he was hyperventilating.

"I think he's having a panic attack" Penny said, scratching his own head. He swore under his breath and looked in his pocket to find headphones. He put them on hastily in an attempt to drown Quentin's mind invading his own with loud music.

Eliot didn't know what to do, he was scared he was going to make things worse, remembering the last time he tried to help Quentin, a few hours ago. He didn't know if he should talk to him or leave him be, touch him to ground him or stay out of his personnal space.

Margo saved him from his dilemma when she opened the door to his room again, and he was all the more relieved when he saw the third year Healing student behind her.

"You owe me. Big time. You don't even want know what I promised to get him here and make him swear to keep his mouth shut" Margo said to Eliot's ear. Eliot was too worried to try and come up with a witty and lewd comment.

The Healing student (Eliot remembered his name was Andrew) looked dead serious and a little scared. He walked towards Eliot's bed where he had put Quentin when they got here, and Eliot followed behind him.

"Ok, what happened ?" Andrew asked, looking at Quentin carefully and closely, as if he was a sedated wild animal and he was a zoo keeper.

"I cast Malson's on him to see if his memory was intact. I know the spell was right, I'm sure I didn't mess up. When I thouched his forehead his eyes shut close and when I took my hand away he opened them and then he got all weird and fainted" Eliot said, keeping his voice monotonous but speaking faster than usual. He didn't want to lose his cool in front of the company, he had a reputation to keep alive.

"I'm not even going to ask why you did that or why you don't want Dean Fogg to know about this." Andrew sighed. He took off his coat and chucked it in the corner of the room and kneeled beside the bed. He unzipped Quentin's coat and unbuttonned the top of his checkered shirt so he could lay his hand flat on top of his heart. He closed his eyes for a second and focussed. "What did the spell feel like ?"

"It made my right hand warm, when I put my fingers on his temple I could see the outer shape of his memory line. I didn't touch anything or change anything, it just felt like I was looking down on it." Eliot provided more details but concluded with the same statement : "The spell was right though, it felt right"

"Yeah, it does seem right from what you're saying" Andrew said softly, still focussed on Quentin's heart. "He's fine, mostly." he added, looking back up at Eliot and standing up. "Was it the first time you cast the spell ?" he asked and his voice was the same as a doctor's. Interested, clinical, calm.

"Yeah, but I was focussing really hard, I don't remember the last time I was this careful with a spell" Eliot answered, remembering how much will and focus he put in the hand movements and the latin words.

"It might be why you made him like this." Andrew was thinking, trying to solve this riddle. "From what I heard, you're a natural at magic, you don't have to try as hard as anyone to get results"

Eliot was too worried and busy to take the compliment and bask in it as he would have done otherwise. He snorted, shocked : "So I broke him because I tried too hard ?"

"Kind of. I mean I think so." Andrew muttered and turned back to Quentin's body, he sighed. "I can check if you want but you really should bring him to the infirmary"

"Can you do it ?" Eliot's voice was stern and demanding. He wasn't only asking if Andrew had the juice and knowledge. He was asking if Andrew could do this unsupervised and deal with the consequences right now, without someone breathing down his neck to guide him. Andrew knew that from the look in his eyes.

"Of course I can, I wouldn't ask if I knew it was going to mess him up even more" Andrew answered with severity and confidence.

Eliot knew of Andrew's excellent grades, he also knew he got sponsored by the top magician Healer in the country this year, so he trusted his judgement.

"What are we waiting for, then ? Do it" he demanded, looking Andrew straight in the eyes.

Andrew kneeled next to Quentin and hovered his hand over his forehead. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. For a couple of minutes, he didn't move and no one in the room made a sound, Eliot could almost hear the harsh music Penny was blasting in his ears. Eliot was getting impatient in the heavy silence and he could feel Margo's gaze on him. He really hoped Andrew could fix Quentin, he didn't think he could live with himself if something bad (well, worse) were to happen to him. He tried not to think about the risks he was taking. The dean would probably kick him out for bringing a stranger in Brakebills and getting all his friends to help sort him out because he injured him when casting a spell.

"Yeah... You detatched his consciousness from his body when you did Malson's, which is normal, that's what the spell does." Andrew was still kneeling, his hand hovering, he was frowing, focussed. "But I think you did it too strongly and for too long, his mind is struggling to reconnect to his body and brain. He's also on medication for mental health problems, I don't know what it is or why but it's making the whole thing harder." Andrew spoke his diagnosis with a neutral tone, slowly and clearly so Eliot would understand everything.

"What should we do then ?" Eliot asked before he could start and worry about how serious this might be.

"Not much, he just needs to sleep it off. His mind will get a hold of his body eventually. I can help a little though, but I don't know how much it will do because the medication throws the natural process off. Sometimes we can totally heal someone that way but sometimes it fails completely" Andrew craned his neck to look at Eliot, retracting his hand from Quentin. He was collected and he looked confident, which put Eliot at ease.

"Is it dangerous ?" Eliot asked

"Not really, worst case scenario nothing happens and we can make him sleep for a while to give his mind the time it needs to adjust" Andrew answered honestly, shrugging.

"Sure, do it then" Eliot was getting more comfortable with the whole situation, making decisions for someone else's health was stressful and he hated responsibilites. But he was so relieved he hadn't made any permanent damage that he was willing to play the legal guardian for the unconscious almost-stranger.

Andrew turned back to Quentin and put his hand flat on his forehead. He chanted a few words, soft but clear, in a language that Eliot didn't know. The sound was soothing, full of vowels and long humming sounds.

Quentin's panic attack faded as he heard this calming noise next to his ear. He couldn't tell how long the attack had lasted, but he slowly felt his mind relaxing and getting quieter. He became aware of a hand on his forehead, it was warm and even though it didn't physically move, Quentin could feel himself getting manhandled into place. Suddenly, it felt like his conscience got stuck back into his skull and he finally opened his eyes. An unfamiliar face was looking down on him, their eyes were closed but they opened a second after his soft features came into focus. The hand disappeared and Quentin sat up quickly, wriggling his toes and touching his face. He wanted to make sure he was really there. His head hurt a lot and he felt dizzy and heavy and extremely tired. But he wasn't disconnected anymore.

"It worked, but he needs to sleep" Quentin recognized the voice that chanted those heavenly sounds to wake him up. He looked over to see the man that healed him. Doing so, he took in where he was in the dim lights. It was properly dark now and the room's lights were soft and yellowish. Quentin noticed wooden furniture and floor. He felt his heart race and worry starting to form as he realised he was somewhere he didn't know. It was a bedroom -he was sitting on a queen size bed with burgundy silk sheets-, but something was off. It almost looked unreal and there was something strange in the air, something heavy and strong. He could feel it the same way you feel a thunderstorm coming in the weather. Eliot was there and behing him were a small woman and a guy who was putting headphones in his pocket.

"Ok, can I get my key back, now ?" the man said with a harsh tone. He recognized his voice from before the panic attack. It was Penny.

Quentin saw Eliot roll his eyes and sigh, but he fished a golden key from his jeans pocket. He handed it to Penny, adding : "Aren't you going to thank him ?"

Penny gave Eliot a bitter, over-exaggerated smile and turned to Quentin. He said in an affected voice "Thank you so much for saving my life without knowing it by nerding out under the influence of your precious charming Eliot", he turned his head back to Eliot with the same fake smile on his face and took the key before leaving. He shut the door close and everyone's attention came back on Quentin. Had he really saved this guy ? When ? How ?

He grew self conscious under their gaze but the man that healed him talked, and Eliot and the woman behind him focussed on what he had to say. : "A few sleeping pills will do, I'd say he needs to stay unconscious for 10 hours minimum. And make sure he doesn't take the other medicine for a few days, it might slow the healing process"

"Thank you Andrew" Eliot said, looking the man in the eyes sincerely.

What did Andrew do to him, exactly ? It was weird, like alternative medicine. Maybe Eliot was one of those people who believed in chakras and sound therapy or something.

"Yeah, well I was never there" his voice suddenly lost its cool and Quentin realised how young he looked. There's no way he was a doctor.

Quentin started to really worry. What had happened to him ? Why did he faint and how was he cured ? What was this strange feeling in the air ? His head hurt too much for him to find answers but it didn't stop him from asking himself all those questions. Something weird was happening and he wasn't sure he was okay with it.

Andrew left the room without so much as a look towards Quentin and the woman followed him but stayed at the door before closing it to say to Eliot : "Get him out of here"

As soon as him and Eliot were left alone, Quentin stared at him harshly. He was exhausted and still felt a bit dizzy and overall not great. His stomach was churning, he could feel his heart beating at his neck and temple and his inner ear was off so he felt perpetually off balance, like when you sat down after having been spun around and you can still feel the room around you moving.

"Ok, Eliot. What the fuck happened ?" his voice was small but stern, and talking made his head hurt even more. He closed his eyes and pushed his forehead on his open palms, his elbows resting on his thighs.

"There's no time to explain, Margo's right, you need to leave" Eliot explained, hurriedly.

"No." Quentin looked back at him, trying to show him through his eyes he wasn't going to be kicked out of this place before someone explained everything to him. "Answer me, Eliot."

Eliot was surprised to see Quentin like that. He didn't know he was capable of sounding this confident and angry. But he didn't have time to try and explain magic to him and then prove him he wasn't delusional and that magic did exist. And if Quentin really wanted to know everything, Eliot would have to explain Penny reading his mind, Andrew being a magician-doctor of sorts, and worst of all, he would have to tell him he used him and his knowledge because he was too lazy to read books to save Penny's life himself. Someone must have seen him when he appeared in the large spread of grass in the courtyard with a stranger thrown over his shoulder. It was only a matter of time before Dean Fogg would hear about this. He couldn't risk getting caught and getting Quentin in trouble. If the dean were to find him here, there was no way he would consider his application. And if he wiped his memory, no magic school in the world would take him in.

"Eliot. Answer. Me." Quentin was downright fuming, his eyes cold and mouth set in a straight line. Eliot didn't know what to do. He raked his mind for something, anything that would make Quentin leave with him. But looking into his stern eyes made him loose all confidence.

"Ok. I won't try to lie cause I don't even know what I could say." Eliot decided, defeated. "Magic is real." he deadpanned as he inspected Quentin's face to gauge is reaction. He figured it was the easiest way to explain everything without actually going into details right now.

Quentin body swayed back, as if this information had hit him in the chest. He quickly shook his head and snorted. "Yeah, right." he said as he looked away. He looked like he was trying to regain his composure after Eliot's dumb statement. Quentin was sure he was just bluffing, trying to catch him off guard.

"Magic is real" Eliot repeated as he rummaged through his pockets. The movement caught Quentin's attention and he saw him pull out the wrinkled piece of paper he had written on in the bar the other day.

Eliot looked over at Quentin, making sure he was paying attention to the sheet of paper and he set it on fire with the moves he knew by heart. Quentin's eyebrows shot up and his features softened. Eliot could see he was starting to believe him.

"This is a magic school and the dean will literally kill me if he finds out I brought a stranger in." Eliot was speaking fast, Quentin could hear he was on edge but most of his attention was on this new revelation. The dizziness of his mind prevented it from wrapping around this idea. Magic was real ? "Quentin, we don't have time for you to come to term with this right now, just follow me."

Quentin nodded, got up and swayed. He rubbed his eyes with his hands, groaning, and grounded his feet firmly on the floor. While his eyes were closed and he tried to regain balance, Eliot turned around to create a portal to the bookshop in the air. He didn't wait for Quentin to open his eyes and realise what was happening -it would have taken too long-, grabbed his hand and pulled him through it behind him.

When Eliot let go, Quentin was about to protest but his eyes opened wide and the words got stuck in his throat as he realised he was back in New York.

Chapter Text

A few minutes after Eliot and Quentin got through the portal, Quentin felt his eyes closing of their own accord. The shock of the discory that apparently magic was real was just too much for his body. His usual stressed out state mixed with Eliot detaching his mind from his body, having a panic attack and going through a magic portal was just too much.

"I'm sorry, I really needed to get you out of there" Eliot said, his voice soothing and apologetic. He couldn't see Quentin in the night, the street lights were too far and dimmed in the small street to show his face, but he hoped he didn't look as angry as a moment before.

Quentin didn't have the energy to fight, he turned to Eliot and struggled to keep his eyes open and told him in a small voice : "It's okay, just take me home please".

Eliot nodded, suddenly aware of Quentin's state. He remembered Andrew's advice. Getting Quentin home and making him sleep was probably the best thing he could do right now. Quentin's frame was swaying and Eliot imagined his eyes were closed. His voice souded sleepy and he clearly had trouble staying up. Eliot walked to him and zipped up his coat to keep him warm, not bothering with the buttons that Andrew undid a few moments before. Quentin barely noticed Eliot's presence so close to him, he could only focus on not falling over.

Eliot put his arm around Quentin's shoulders and guided him backwards so he could make him sit against the wall next to the bookshop. Quentin was pliant and accepted to sit down with no complain. As soon as Eliot was sure Quentin was not going to fall over he walked to the street and waited for a taxi to pass by. It took a while, his head kept turning so he could keep a eye on Quentin without missing the next taxi. Finally, he spotted one coming their way, he quickly gestured to the driver and walked back to Quentin to pull him up and walk him to the car.

Once they were inside and Quentin was somewhat half awake, Eliot asked him for his adress and repeated it louder for the driver to hear. Quentin's eyes immediately shut close and his head lolled to the side, he got back to sleep immediately. Eliot hoped that waking him up from time to time the way he had done wasn't going to endanger his recovery but he really didn't know what else to do.

The ride was longer than Eliot had expected and when the driver stopped it took a good minute to wake Quentin up. Eliot gave some money to the driver, he didn't even try and count, he just hoped it was going to be enough. The driver didn't say anything so Eliot quickly pulled Quentin behind him and helped him get out of the car without bumping his head on the doorframe or tripping over his own feet. Once they were out, Eliot had to hold Quentin's face and talk louder than usual to keep him awake.

"Where are you keys ?" Eliot said, looking straight into Quentin's dropping eyes. Quentin shook his head.

"Ring 34. James is home" Quentin mumbled in a sleepy and slurred voice. Eliot noticed a few freckled on his nose as he was so close to his face.

Eliot nodded and got Quentin's right arm over his shoulders and gripped his waist to help him walk to the building door. He silently hoped James wasn't Quentin's boyfriend. He shook the idea out of his head, quickly found number 34 and pressed the button. It must have been around 1am so no one answered. He pressed again a few times and finally he heard a annoyed, croaky voice say "Who is it ?"

"I'm getting Quentin home, he's too drunk to get up alone" Eliot had had time in the taxi to figure out what he might say if Quentin didn't live alone so the lie flowed out of its mouth smoothly.

"Can you get him up ?" James' voice suddenly changed, he didn't seem sleepy anymore, just worried.

"Yeah, coming" Eliot said before James buzzed him in.

He let out a sigh of relief when he saw the elevator in front of him. He guided Quentin to it, the doors opened immediately and they staggered inside. Eliot hit the "3" button and up they went.

"Hate elevators" Quentin mumbled when the cabin took off, Eliot smiled. If Quentin was able to complain, it meant he wasn't doing that bad.

When the doors opened again, he saw a tall blond man standing in front of them, wearing pyjamas and looking discheveled.

"James ?" Eliot asked, still holding Quentin up.

"Yeah, I'll help you get him inside" James answered and let Eliot walk Quentin out of the elevator before supporting the other side of him.

Together, they got Quentin inside their flat, it was small and tidy, with more books visible than anything else. James pointed to a door on the right of the sofa and Eliot walked to it, supporting half of Quentin's weight. His legs barely moved now, as he was pulled forward by both him and James. Quentin's room was too dark to make out anything but the bed in the middle. James and Eliot let him fall face first on it and Eliot took a second to stretch and take a deep breath. Quentin was safe, everything was okay.

James left the room and went to the kitchen, Eliot followed him and closed the bedroom door. When James turned on the kitchen lights, Eliot could see the flat better. The living room and kitchen was an open space, the appartment looked modern and clean. He spotted a Fillory book on the small kitchen table and he smiled, thinking about Quentin's joyful eyes.

"He must really be shitfaced if he let you pull him in the elevator. He hates them" James commented lightly before his voice turned more serious. "Is he okay ?" he said as he poured two glasses of water, offering one to Eliot.

"I think so." Eliot answered, and took the glass with a grateful smile, he felt himself composing his usual proud stance and elegrant voice. "He didn't drink that much but he told me about a new medication he was taking, maybe this is why he ended up like this." He took a few gulps and the feeling of cold water cleared his mind. "I think it'd be better if you kept him off it for a few days" Eliot was impressed with himself, he didn't know he could lie so effortlessly and get important information accross at the same time. He raked his brain to find what Andrew had recommended else.

"Would you mind if I stayed the night ? I should keep an eye on him." Eliot asked, hoping James would be fine with it. He tried to make himself look as harmless as possible while driking the water.

James seemed to think, eyeing Eliot up and down. Then he said, carefully : "You didn't spike his drink to rape him or something did you ?"

Eliot choked on the water and coughed a few times, looking at James incredulously. James held up his hands in the air, as if showing Eliot he meant no harm, and added : "Just making sure !"

Once Eliot found his breath again he said : "What kind of idiot would spike someone's drink and bring them back to their flatmate, anyway ?"

"Good point." James said and sighed. "Why do you want to stay, though ? I'm pretty sure he's going to sleep it off and if not, I can take care of him. We've been friends for years" he still sounded suspicious.

Eliot took a deep breath and avoided James' eyes. "I kind of gave him the idea to go get drunk. I just wanted him to have fun, he looked so miserable" he said, hoping the lie would take.

"Feeling guilty, eh ?" James noted with a sleepy smile. He sighed again and rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. "Who are you anyways, I thought I knew all of Quentin's friends" James stated.

"My name is Eliot, I met Quentin a few days ago in a bookshop, he helped me out with some Fillory stuff" Eliot said casually.

"Oh, I've heard of you then. You made quite the impression on him, you know ?" James joked but his laugh was drenched in exhaustion. He sighed and waited a while, surveying Eliot before saying : "I guess you can stay, just sleep on the couch, I'll bring you a duvet and a pillow" James looked at Eliot, his eyebrows raised as if he was asking if he was okay with it. Eliot nodded.

"Should I bring him water and painkillers in case he wakes up before us ?" Eliot asked.

"Sure. I'll even let you take his shoes off cause I just don't want to do it" James let out a strange half laugh and was about to walk off.

"Hey" Eliot remembered Andrew mentionned sleeping pills. He wanted to make sure Quentin got to sleep ten hours straight. "Do you have any sleeping pills for me ?"

James shrugged and rummaged through a drawer. He fished a bottle of painkillers for Quentin and a box of sleeping pills. Eliot took them both and thanked him with a smile. James turned his back to him and walked to another door next to a big bookshelf, probably his room.

Eliot fetched a big glass and filled it with water. He quickly walked to Quentin's room and turned on the lights before leaving all his stuff on the bedside table, struggling to find space between the lamp, the alarm clock and what seemed like more Fillory books, textbooks and overall junk. He woke Quentin up with no qualms and helped him sit up, ignoring his whines.

"Take this, Andrew said you needed them" he said as he gave him the glass in one hand and the pills in the other.

Quentin reluctantly put the pills in his mouth and swallowed them taking huge gulps of water. He handed the glass back to Eliot, eyes closing already, and he unzipped his coat and struggled to take it off. Eliot couldn't help but find his annoyed, sleepy pout adorable. A smug voice in the back of his head made fun of him for that, since when did Eliot go for the nerdy, pouty, adorable type ? He brushed it off and helped Quentin get out of the coat and Quentin then crawled up the head of the bed, plopping down heavily on the matress. Eliot made quick work of his shoes and helped Quentin get under the covers. Once he was all settled and looked as comfy as a baby in its crib, Eliot left the room, turned off the lights and closed the door carefully.

James came out of his room with a pillow and a big fluffy duvet. Eliot felt a little bit more relaxed just from looking at it. He shook his head, trying to focus on what he should say to ease James.

"Quentin's hydrated and tucked in" Eliot said and he realised how tired he felt.

James dumped the beddings on the couch and hummed. He wished Eliot a good night and went straight back to his room. He got to the sofa he turned off the lights and settled on the moutain of fluff and warmth.

A voice in the back of his head kept wondering why he was mothering Quentin this much. Admitedly, Eliot had never cared for someone this way in his entire life. He didn't know why he felt so attached to Quentin and why he felt like he owed him something. Maybe it was because of the twinkle of pure joy and naivety when he was talking about Fillory. Or maybe it was because he was developping a disgusting big old crush on him.

Who knew.

Chapter Text

Quentin woke up slowly, feeling at ease, and overall better than he had in a long time. When he opened his eyes, he saw the pale winter light seeping through his small window and he frowned : he was usually up before the sun. He turned his head to look at the time and the digital clock told him it was the middle of the afternoon. He started to panic and he tried to figure out what day it was. As he searched his memory, he remembered Eliot in front of the bookshop, the panic attack and the the revelation that magic was real. He wondered if that last one was a dream.

He realised he probably should take things slow when getting up. If he remembered correctly, the weird « doctor » he had seen asked for him to sleep a lot and there was some crazy talk of his mind and body being seperated. He sighed, struggling to figure out what was real and what wasn't. At some point, he wondered if he just made Eliot up and was late for class because of some dumb dream.

He sat up slowly, gauging his body's reaction. One thing he remembered for sure was how shitty he had felt before going to sleep, he had been dizzy beyond belief, his stomach had been flipping and diving, making him nauseous. Right now, he felt a dull ache in it but he figured he was probably just very hungry. His head was painfree and he found his balance immediately when sat on the edge of his warm bed. As he drank from the big glass he found on the nightstand, he smelled food. Something rich and full of flavor that made his stomach whine. Did James take the day off uni to make him food ? It seemed unlikely. James was very protective of him but he couldn't cook if his life depended on it.

He got up, slowly, still not trusting his body. He didn't want to rush it for fear of feeling like he had before he went to sleep. The thought alone made him scrunch his nose in pain. As he approach the door, he realised he had slept in his skinny jeans but the disconfort wasn't enought to stop him, the smell of fresh, delicious food guided him out of his room and in the living space.

The shock of seeing Eliot behind the kitchen isle, in his appartment, looking as gorgeous as ever, almost made him gasp. He couldn't help but smile at the sight, Eliot hadn't spotted him yet and he took a few seconds to admire him. The cold light from New York's winter was seeping through the big windows behind the sofa and it made Eliot skin glow like silver. His hair was messy and his shirt wrinkled but neatly tucked in his trousers, making Quentin think he also had spent the night in yesterday's clothes. He was hunched over a frying pan where he was seasoning, stirring, and occasionally tasting the food he was cooking. Suddenly, Quentin forgot all about his confusion.

« Hi » he said in a small, still sleepy voice as he walked to Eliot.

Eliot jumped slightly but when he spotted Quentin he smiled, relieved to see him come out of his room looking safe and sound. His hair was all over the place and his eyes were puffy from the long hours of sleep.

« Hello. How are you feeling ? » Eliot's voice still had the trace of his usual bored tone but it was softer, indulging.

Eliot noticied Quentin's shirt was still half opened from the day before, and it was askew on his torso from the night he must have spent tossing and turning in his bed. The collar was perched on his left shoulder, showing most of his collarbone. Eliot's eyes wandered on Quentin's exposed skin, an interested smirk dancing on his lips. Quentin was too hungry and sleepy to notice him.

« Yeah I'm alright. » Quentin said as he walked over to Eliot to see what he was cooking.

His empty stomach made a sound when he saw the carbonara pasta, his mouth watered and he took a deep breath to try and soothe his hunger. Eliot gave a small laugh when he noticed Quentin's eyes staring adoringly at the food.

« Want some ? » he asked

« Yes, please » Quentin couldn't wait to taste those pasta. « Have you eaten yet ? »

« No, I was waiting for you » Eliot answered casually. Quentin turned around to get two plates and cutlery from the cupboards.

« Aren't you hungry ? It's like 3pm ! » Quentin asked, slightly embarassed. He didn't want to make Eliot wait this long to eat.

« It's fine, I made breakfast this morning, and James and I ate together. » Eliot said and Quentin smiled when he imagined them at the kitchen table eating some gourmet eggs and bacon Eliot cooked for them.

As Quentin set the table, Eliot came with the pasta and filled the two plates generously. He put the pan back on the counter and sat in front of a ruffled and excited Quentin. They ate silently for a while but then Quentin asked Eliot what had happened, telling him he couldn't remember everything and he wasn't sure he hadn't made up most of the foggy memories. He hoped Eliot would say those words again, the ones he repeated twice the day before : « Magic is real ».

Eliot left his plate alone so he could explain everything. His posture was straight and sophisticated, his words spoken clearly and a little slower than necessary. His tone became more and more like the bored one he had used when Quentin met him in the bookshop. Eliot talked about Brakebills for a while, about the entrance exam and the way Dean Fogg spotted promising students to test. He also stressed the fact that when people failed, their memory of Brakebills got whiped. « I wanted to know if you got to sit the test and failed or if you went under Fogg's radar. So I used magic to look at your memory line and as far as I can tell it's fine. It means you still have a chance to get into Brakebills. I want to help you get in » Eliot continued

« I didn't picture you as someone who would do this. » Quentin said, confused. « I mean, no offence but you don't look like the selfless type. »

Now that Quentin's mind was fully recharged and functionnal, he got suspicious. People rarely were nice for no reason in his experience, especially to strangers. There must have been a reason for Eliot's behaviour, he must have an ulterior motive, Quentin thought.

« Yeah, it surprises me too but wait till you hear the rest, I risked suspension for your cute unconscious ass » Eliot shook his head and gave a sigh, looking in the distance as if he was dissapointed in himself. Quentin laughed and tried to hide his blushing cheeks when he took in that Eliot said he was cute.

Eliot told him about Penny and his mind-reading abilities, Quentin felt weirdly violated when he thought too much about it, but he also was glad Penny was there when he was in between consciousness and sleep to warn the others he was having a panic attack. Eliot mentionned Andrew and had to explain to Quentin how Brakebills students were divided according to their discipline.

« What's your specialty, then ? » Quentin asked, curious. He still was weary but his now full stomach and rested mind made him feel better and he decided to give Eliot a chance to explain the whole thing before getting back to why was he so keen on helping him in the first place.

« I'm a Physical Kid, I do telekinesis » Eliot answered, trying to make the statement sound like a throw away comment, something not to swoon over, but Quentin detected a hint of pride in his otherwise atone voice.

Quentin would be lying if he said he wasn't impressed, but for some reason he didn't want Eliot to see that, not before his intentions became clearer. Since Julia disappeared and after years and years of bullying, he had trouble trusting people, and Eliot didn't seem like the most trustworthy guy out there.

Quentin nodded casually and prompted Eliot to continue, which he did. When he talked about James, Quentin saw him cheer up and it annoyed him a little. Quentin loved James, he was a good person and a great friend. And if Eliot and him became friends, he really wanted James to be his friend too.

But James was taller, more muscular and prettier than Quentin with his startling blue eyes and straight nose. When they were together, people always looked through Quentin to pay attention to James's charming smile and effortless conversation. Even though Eliot still didn't sit right with Quentin, he was jaleous of the glint of joy in Eliot's eyes when he mentionned James.

« You slept for 12 hours which is great, if you say you're feeling better I guess everything's fixed. Andrew said you shouldn't take the medication you were on for a few days, I hope it won't be too much trouble » Eliot finished and Quentin realised their interaction was coming to an end and Eliot would have to leave soon.

Quentin nodded and a long silence stretched between them as his mind wrapped around everything Eliot had just told him. « So. Magic is real, then ? » he asked, quitely, as if he didn't want to know the answer. Eliot chuckled loudly.

« Yes, magic is real. And I think you could become a magician. »

Chapter Text

It had been a month since Eliot had brought Quentin home, and so, it had been a month since Quentin went outside, got a full night of sleep, or ate anything that wasn't leftovers from James takeaways. He was miserable, maybe more than before he met Eliot. But he didn't know what to do about it, because it was different this time. It wasn't about feeling inexplicably melancolic, pointless, desperate for meaning and purpose. It wasn't his usual depression state, it wasn't even about missing someone. He didn't think he missed Eliot, per se, nothing close to what he had felt -and still felt- about Julia leaving him. What he missed was what Eliot had represented, for even the tiniest moment : a glimpse of hope.

It was just unfair. Quentin couldn't believe someone gave him so much excitement, joy and trepidation and just let it die out almost immediately. Eliot had promised to help him, to get him into Brakebills, to make him a magician. To Quentin, this was basically a dream come true. Someone coming from the heavens and giving him a clear and exciting purpose. But then, that wannabe angel forgot to keep in touch and let Quentin's hopes and dreams die miserably.

After the first week without any news from Eliot, even though he had assured him he would come back to the flat within days to tell him if he managed to convince the dean to make him take the test, Quentin started to look into his options. Going back to uni was just impossible, he couldn't learn about boring, old, ignorant philosophers when he knew magic was real. Mundanity couldn't do it for him anymore, what he wanted now more than ever was fantastical adventures and magical abilities. He even lost interest in the Fillory books for a while. Of course, after having scanned what felt like hundreds of google search pages for actual spells, Quentin opened his favourite book of the series and despite his dire situation, he felt better reading the familiar words. It reminded him how Fillory always felt too real, almost more tangible and consistent than real life.

After a few days left to his own devices, Quentin figured that Julia must have been accepted into Brakebills, it made so much sense. Eliot had told him about the weird time difference between Brakebills and the rest of New York, about the distance the faculty made the student keep between themselves and their family and friends. When Quentin went back to the email that he received 7 months ago when Julia disappeared, he saw it was signed by a certain Dean Fogg that Eliot had mentionned a lot.

So he tried to contact her. At first, he texted her, a simple « Hi, how have you been doing ? », but she never answered. He tried calling her phone a few times, but it went straight to voicemail. Then, he sent her an email, explaining his situation, telling her he knew about magic and mentionning Eliot. But she never got back to him. He tried searching for Brakebills on the internet, hoping to find an adress or a PO box or anything, but nothing came of it.

He was alone again. His best friend was gone, he had no way to contact Eliot, and his dream school and dream life barely had time to wave him goodbye before they were out of sight. He didn't know what to do. Depression is a weird thing. It crushes you quietly and leaves you lethargic, cold and grey. It's not as if Quentin felt insanely sad or out of his mind with anger and loss. He was just barely alive. And hopeless. So, so hopeless...

Quentin blinked, he had forgotten he was even awake, thinking, going over everything that went wrong in his life. He was laying on his back, tangled in his dirty sheets. His bed had turned into a war zone, pizza stains and openned Fillory books littered the matress. He didn't remember the last time he took a shower and he couldn't move. He remembered James, and how worried he made him. He didn't want James to suffer because of him, he wanted him to be his usual, happy go lucky James. Lately, his oldest friend sounded tired and on edge, his eyes were always puffy and watery. His brain even ruined James in the process of ruining his own life. How pathetic.

Suddenly, he heard a loud swooshing sound in the living room, followed by a bang and then two more. There was the sound of people panting and coughing. His body tensed up immediately and he frowned. What was happening ?

He wasn't moving, though, he didn't think anything, no matter how out of the ordinary, would make him get up. He wondered what he would do if the building caught fire. Staying here and dying in his room sounded almost nice to him. But then he felt something, a change in the atmosphere, as if the air was getting thicker. Something was added to the chemical composition of the air around him, something rich and heavy that made his hair stand on end.

Quentin sat on his bed stiffly, remembering the last time he felt this kind of weight around him. It was in Brakebills, and the feel of the air changing must have meant that magic had happened. Adrenaline rushed through him for the first time in days. He ran to his bedroom door and opened it to see three people laying on the parqueted floor of the living room.

A large hole in the fabric of space was resorbing in front of the kitchen isle, closing a portal to what looked like a dark, thick forest. Quentin was transfixed by this spell and watched attentively as the edges of the portal became less and less bright and glittery. Finally, the trunks and dead leaves disappeared completely and Quentin looked down. The first thing he saw was a small figure and long curly hair that he recognised immediately. Julia was looking up at him with blood on her a face and a broad smile on her lips.

« Quentin ! » she shouted, and her voice sounded half relieved, half tired. She tried getting up but her legs wouldn't bear her weight. Quentin quickly walked to her and he barely had time to kneel on the floor before she threw herself in his arms, a small laugh melting in her shaky breath.

As Quentin rubbed her back, he felt energy and willpower coming back to him, ever so slightly. He figured he should put a little bit of what he felt at that moment in a bottle so he could drink it later when he went back to an intense depressive state. He could feel his brain being kickstarted by the weight of magic all around him and the familiar scent of her hair.

« You were supposed to get us to Bigby, what the fuck is this ? » a harsh voice said and Quentin let go of Julia to have a look at the other two people who came crashing down his living room floor.

It was Eliot, out of breath and dischevelled, and a thin girl with luscious brown hair. Quentin smiled when he saw Eliot, even if the bastard had left him for dead, he was still enjoying his presence in his flat.

« Yeah, well, try casting a portal while running from an evil mothman. You're lucky you're not missing a leg. » Eliot sounded anrgy and exasperated

Quentin got up after him and let out a small « Hi », looking Eliot with shy eyes. He had forgotten all about his frustration and resentment when he saw how tired Eliot looked. He never even thought he might have been in trouble this past month. Running from « an evil mothman » counted as a pretty decent excuse to forget about his promise to Quentin.

Eliot turned to Quentin and responded with a half hearted « Hey », but Quentin noticed that the tension in his shoulders loosened. Eliot rubbed his face and said : « Sorry to burst in on you like that, I guess your flat is the first safe place I thought of in New York. Didn't have the energy to go farther »

« It's fine » Quentin let out softly, it was actually more than fine, it was great, amazing, wonderful.

« I'm Margo, by the way » said the brunette as she got up. She looked Quentin up and down before turning to Eliot. « I guess this is Quentin. He's not as cute as you made him out to be » she added as if Quentin wasn't here anymore.

Quentin blushed furiously but Eliot didn't even budge, he looked at Quentin more intensely and frowned.

« What happened to you ? You look awful » Eliot asked Quentin with a confused frown.

Their interaction was cut short by Julia yawning, and Quentin realised the three of them looked like they just fought someone and ran a marathon before appearing in his flat.

« Are you guys okay ? » he asked but he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer

« Yeah, fine, but we need to leave » said Margo with a stern tone

« We can't » added Julia with a tired but confident voice. Everyone turned their heads to her, she was still sitting on the floor and she looked deep in thoughts. « He's probably still ransacking Brakebills and we're out of juice, there's no way we can make a portal to Bigby»

« So what do we do ? We can't just stay here » Margo answered

« Maybe we can find Penny, there's no way he followed the instructions and went to Bigby. He might cast a portal for us » Eliot said, eyes closed. Quentin made himself as small as he could as to not bother them. He hoped they would talk about something magical if they forgot he was here.

« We don't have time, Bigby is leaving with the students that got to her in 5 minutes » Julia noted with a sigh, looking at her dirty watch.

« Should we just wait until we know Brakebills is safe and then get there ? » asked Margo

« I don't think it'll be safe again. The Beast is probably making sure of that right now » Eliot said in his usual bored tone.

A silence stretched after that. Evidently, no one knew what to do. Quentin decided to step in, he wanted to help them so badly. Even if it sounded dangerous and he didn't like the sound of the Beast, whatever it was. But he was so desperate to be apart of this magic world, he was willing to do anything. So telling his friends they could stay in the flat for a few days was the least he could do.

At this suggestion, they all shook their head, telling one another how dangerous it would be. They were a target and they weren't good enough to make wards that would push the Beast away, whoever that was. And they didn't want to endanger James or Quentin.

« We're not even sure he wants to kill us specifically » Eliot's voice sounded both hopeful and detached, Quentin wondered how he could do that.

« I'm not willing to risk it » answered Julia and they all nodded. « It seemed like he was trying to kill a lot of magicians and even though we're still in training, we qualify as well. »

« So what, are we on the run ? » Margo snorted

Another silence. No one had the heart to joke about the situation. Quentin thought the three didn't add anything because they were too tired and in the middle or a dire, very serious situation. And Quentin was too keen to be approved by them, he didn't want to make a fool of himself by trying to be funny in a moment like this.

But he wanted to help. He wanted so badly to help them, and he hoped if he did, they might take him with them and show him their world. So he raked his brain for any safe place he knew, somewhere secluded, somewhere no one would think to search.

« I know where you can go » Quentin said with a triumphant voice. He looked back at Julia and smiled broadly. « You're going to hate this »

Chapter Text

Quentin hadn't realised how much he missed driving. He got his licence just before graduating from high school, so he never really had the time to enjoy his newfound freedom before moving to New York, where having a car didn't make sense. But as the road was flying under this rented, small car and the pale, setting March sun hit the greening landscapes, he felt his thoughts leaving him. It was so relaxing for him to be free of his own mind.

Quentin knew his friends were in danger, they were running from a mysterious and cruel creature that seemed to want nothing but chaos and destruction. Their school had been ransacked and probably burnt down and they couldn't reach any of their friends. But as Quentin drove he felt his spirits lift. They didn't know how informed and determined the Beast was, but they wanted to be as descreet and careful as possible as they drove to Quentin's grandmother's old cabin. Julia had rented the cars under fake names and she had put simple discretion spells on them both. Quentin didn't really know what that meant, but when Julia told them about the spell she advised they left a few miles between the cars. So they decided to leave 2 hours apart, Quentin and Eliot first, and Julia and Margo following them to the forests of South Virginia. Julia was behind him, in another rented car and they were about to spend an awful lot of time together in a beautiful, peaceful place. He couldn't see her, of course, but knowing she was there, a few miles behind, put a smile on his face.

And a part of him was hoping really hard that Eliot, Margo and Julia were going to teach him magic. And this idea was really starting to rewire his brain, tricking it into releasing more good chemicals and balancing out the depressed feelings. Becoming a magician, controlling magic and being apart of it had been his greatest dream since he first started reading the Fillory books. He was so close to witnessing actual magic and even under such alarming circumstances, he couldn't help but feel excited.

Next to him, in the passenger seat, Eliot was waking up. Quentin would have never admitted it out loud but basking in Eliot's presence also contributed to his joy. As Eliot moved and straightened on the seat, he could smell his own shampoo. Quentin thought Eliot must have used it when he took a shower while Margo and him went shopping for grocery and homewear for the cabin, earlier that day.

« Did you sleep well ? » Quentin asked in a soft voice, barely loud enough to be heard over the sound of the road gliding under the car.

As soon as Eliot, Julia and Margo agreed to follow Quentin's idea and hide away in his grandmother's cabin, a few hours ago now, Eliot had decided he was to take a nap. Margo made Julia get two rental cars while she would go shopping with Quentin, leaving Eliot alone for a few hours. As they were cruising the grocery store in haste, Quentin tried to make himself small. Margo was too cold and scary for him to want to talk to her. But he did get the impression that Eliot had done way too much magic by himself when they were running from the Beast. Quentin didn't understand why but he didn't want to push Margo to say more. Under what seemed like the usual disdain look in her brown eyes, Quentin saw she was still shaken up.

« Yeah...I didn't know how tired I was » Eliot's voice was still rough and slurry from sleep « They don't tell you how exhausting magic is when it's performed out of necessity and for survival instead of in a classroom » he laughed a small laugh that made Quentin smile.

If he didn't know better, he'd say he was happy. The feeling of speeding through the country beside someone like Eliot, the sights all around them drenched in the cool tones of the sunset and the anticipation of spending time in the small, homey cabin lost in the middle of the woods were almost overwhelming. He was just so glad to be here, now.

« How long till we get there ? » Eliot asked and the more words came out of his mouth, the more he built up his usual bored tone

Eliot felt weird in this car, alone with someone like Quentin. Roadtrips always made him uneasy because they called for deep conversations and intimate moments. Who had time for that ? Not him, that was for sure, especially since he had been firing battle magic and shields for hours, protecting his friends who were all out of energy. His power scared him sometimes because it seemed to be so strong and effortless, compared to those of everyone else.

« We're halfway through, maybe four or five hours left » Quentin answered casually, as he turned on the night lights of the car. The sun was almost set and it was getting darker and darker. They would arrive in the middle of the night.

Quentin was acutely aware of Eliot's presence now that he was awake. He figured being alone in a car was the best moment to talk with him, get to know him, and maybe ask him about magic. But he really didn't know how to go about it, what to say, what to ask. He liked Eliot, he was caring and funny when you ignored his annoyingly distant persona and speech. He was beautiful as well, Quentin couldn't lie. But he was also intreaguing, impressive and mysterious. Quentin wasn't sure he would ever really know him. His nonchalent confidence and elegant demeanor were a lot to take in, Quentin never really knew how to talk to him.

« Why did you say Julia would hate coming here ? » Eliot saved him when he broke the silence first. Quentin snorted, remembering the disastrous summer they had spent at his grandmother's cabin as kids.

Actually, Eliot was scared Quentin would ask him anything personnal, so he decided firing the questions at him would be a good way to distract his attention.

« When we were like 11 or 12, we came here during the summer with my granny. We were so excited, we had planned to go on adventures and be like the Chatwins, explore the forest and save the world, you know. » Quentin was smiling fondly, remembering his and Julia's frienship as kids. « But on the second day, Julia broke her leg jumping on rocks to cross a river. » His smile faltered, he could still remember the sound of her scream and how long it took them to go back to the cabin. « We went to the hospital and we had to spend the rest of the holiday reading and playing card games. We got bored quickly and it felt so disappointing, you know ? It was supposed to be the greatest summer of our lives but it turned out to be two ordinary and lonely weeks of nerding out. »

« I'm sure you made the most of it » Eliot said. Quentin realised he had learnt to pick out the small hints of emotion and intention in his atone voice when he noticed his tone was somewhat playful and interested. He figured the intimate and other-wordly atmosphere of the car ride made it easier for Eliot to let go a little and show what he actually thought or felt.

Eliot also noticed he was less careful and the usual wall he built between himself and any other human he came into contact with was thinner here. He didn't really like it.

« I mean we read the Fillory books to one another, we invented new adventures for the Chatwins, and my grandmother taught us how to play chess. We tried exploring a little but with her crutches it wasn't as fun. » Quentin thought for a while. « To me, it was still a great summer because I got to spend it with my best friend. But I don't think Julia ever got over her dissapointment, she was always so keen to discover new things and be around nature... »

Eliot couldn't help but forget about his carefully crafted facade when he heard the smile in Quentin's voice. He was keeping his eyes on the road, careful not to look at his face, but he was sure there was an air of pure joy and gratefulness on it. In a way, Quentin's naivety and eagerness inspired him. He was far from dumb and he knew pain, but there was still this childlike qualities inside of him, despite the shitty world he had to live in. Eliot realised this was a kind of strength he himself could never manage to have. But he tried to mimick Quentin, to see the good in situations that could be nicer than the bleak, chaotic world they were surrounded by.

« Hopefully, despite all the shit and stress we'll have to go through, this can be like a second chance for her » Eliot said sympathically and Quentin was surprised at his comment. He didn't know he could be this nice to other people as he usually put up such a detached facade.

A small silence stretched between them, but it was soothing and easy, the car was pitch black, the night had engulfed the world around them. The sky was starting to sprout stars and they met less and less cars on the freeway. Quentin felt like they were alone against the world now, shielded from the polluted city and from distractions. It was only them now. And in a few hours, it'll only be the four of them making a home out of a summer cabin in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods and wild animals.

« What's the plan once we get there ? » asked Quentin, trying to sound casual even though he was eager to know what was going to happen.

« I guess we'll have to stay up all night casting to make the place safe » Eliot sighed, already annoyed at the work ahead

Quentin had so many questions about magic and spells and what kind of things you could do and how it worked. But he didn't want to bore Eliot with all that, from the way he talked about it, Quentin got the impression it was more like a chore for him. He decided to settle on something less expectant

« I still can't believe magic is real... » he marvelled, shaking his head lightly.

Eliot snorted and said in a harsher tone : « It's not as fun and lighthearted as it sounds, Quentin. Real world magic isn't like Fillory magic »

« What do you mean ? » Quentin said trying to sound conversational even though he knew Eliot's answer was likely to crush his hopes once again.

« It's dangerous and it gets out of control easily. It's really hard and complicated and you have to practice a lot to get things right. It's not spontaneous or effortless at all, it's the opposite. It's a mix of math and grammar, it's demanding and most of the time, it's a nightmare »

Eliot's montonous and detached voice made Quentin a little angry and frustrated, for the first time. Usually he didn't mind, but his know-it-all undertones and patronising words got him worked up. Eliot didn't realise how privileged he was to be able to learn magic. Quentin would give everything he had to be in his place. But he tried not to let his anger overtake him to make the best out of this conversation. Setting his ego aside, he continued as if nothing had happened.

« Will you teach me ? »

« Magic ? » Eliot snorted at first, but then he actually thought about it.

He remembered how fondly he felt about Quentin, and he really did think he had potential even if he sounded more and more like a child wanting to learn magic tricks. Brakebills was out of order and most of the faculty was on the run, the rest of them were dead. Teaching a good man some magic should be doable. Plus, they wouldn't have much to do in the cabin but learn more magic and practice, anyways.

« Sure, why not ? » Eliot said casually

« Wait, really ? » Quentin sounded shoked and it made Eliot smirk

« What else is there to do ? We got you in the middle of a magical crisis, you need to be able to protect yourself, at least »

Eliot was also excited to be the one teaching for once, instead of being the student. And Quentin was so impressionable and eager, making him happy with spells would be really easy, and Eliot loved the way Quentin's eyes lit up when magic was mentionned. It would aslo keep him busy and prevent him from getting sad, which was always good. He knew Quentin was one of those people who get obsessed with something specific instead of entertaining manageable passions. And if he showed to be as good as Eliot predicted he was, he could really do some amazing things. Eliot couldn't see any down sides.

Quentin didn't know how to answer to that, to show how grateful and relived he was. How much it meant to him. « Thank you. Really » he said in a small, sincere voice

« Wait till you start, you'll be sorry you asked for this, it's going to be hell »

« Can't wait » Quentin said, laughing at nothing in particular. He was just overjoyed. He was going to do magic.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Quentin was startled awake by the thumping sound of Julia's heels on the creaky wooden floor. He heard the door of the other bedroom open, and Julia's soft but stern voice through the wall. She was probably telling Margo and Eliot to wake up. In his hazy mind, Quentin tried to conjure an image of what they must have looked like in the queen size bed, their eyes heavy with sleep and their hair in disarray. Margo still scared Quentin, and Eliot confused him, but the thought of them so vulnerable in the morning light made him smile.

He sat up in his small bed and turned his head towards the one Julia had occupied the night before. It was made but clearly slept in, the white sheets and scratchy brown covers were wrinkled. It still felt unreal to be here, with Julia, knowing magic existed and so close to learning all about it.

The door opened and Julia came in, Quentin turned to her and smiled, grateful, comfortable, happy.

« Oh, you're awake ! » Julia said, surprised

« It's been so long since I woke up this early » Quentin added, his voice scratchy. « I'd never thought it would feel this good »

A small laugh escaped his lips and Julia smiled at him.

« I'm glad you feel better » she said in earnest, her eyes looking intensly at Quentin, to show him she meant it. She knew how quickly he could get from deeply depressed to unbelievably happy, his hopeful and easily awed nature battling with the chemical inbalance in his depression-prone brain. Unfortunately, she also knew how short lived those joyful episodes were, and how fast depression could hit him again. She shook the thought, trying to focus on the now. « Come on, get up »

Quentin nodded and left his bed, impatient to see what this day had to offer him. As if Julia had read his mind, she announced :

« Get dressed and join us in the kitchen. I know you want to know all about magic, and you will, soon. But for now you'll have to watch and figure things out yourself, we have a lot of stuff to do » her voice was cheery and almost teacher-like. Good old Julia, Quentin thought.

She left the room and Quentin quickly put some warm clothes on, he ran his hands through his hair to get it away from his face. He went to the window that was between the two beds, facing the door, and opened it. Cold air rushed inside and Quentin breathed in copusly, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He knew the next few days were going to be filled with stress, work and plotting. They needed to stay safe from their ennemies and figure out a way to defend themselves. But he hoped it would also be filled with magic. A lot of magic.

He looked a the trees through the window, watching the wind move the branches and the weak sun coming through the clouds. He tried to see Fillory in his surroundings, as he used to when he came here as a child. Soon enough, he realised he wouldn't be surprised to see Jane Chatwin skip in the distance or ear the high pitch voice of a bird telling him a joke.

Quentin smiled, again. He smiled so much lately, it was so unlike him.

When he finally closed the window and walked out of the bedroom to the kitchen, he was met by the three magicians, sitting around the round wooden table with sheets of paper and coffee mugs spread around them. Eliot was reading one of the papers, eyebrows furrowed as Margo's head shot up from the sheet she was scanning.

« When did you do all this ? Did you even sleep ? » she said in a somewhat threatening voice to Julia. Margo's mood always seemed on the spectrum of anger, going from annoyed to enraged.

« I couldn't sleep, I kept trying to figure out some metamaths for the protection spells, but I needed to write the calculations down » Quentin noticed her voice was quieter than usual and the circles under her eyes were deep and dark.

« You should lie down for a while, leave this to us for a couple of hours. You made some mistakes in those calculations anyways, we need to double check all of it » Eliot said with a sigh. When his eyes met Julia's, Quentin noticed they were pleading. « You won't be any good to us if you're too tired to remember to add in circumstances and basic exceptions ». Eliot's voice carried sympathy and annoyance in equal measure, Quentin figured he must be thinking about the work ahead of him and Margo, hence the impatient tone. Julia had done most of the work instead of sleeping though, something for which Eliot must have been grateful.

Julia wasn't having any of it though, and Quentin knew from her face she was about to try and argue. Julia always found good reasons to keep studying instead of taking care of her basic physiological needs like sleeping or eating. He decided to chime in to cut the conversation short.

« He's right » Quentin slipped in from the open living room area. There were no walls between him and the kitchen but Julia, Eliot and Margo hadn't noticed he was there before he started talking. Suddenly, all eyes were on him and he tried to not feel self conscious and go through with what he had to say. « We all know you're a genius Julia, but you're useless when you pull an all-nighter »

He tried to smile to reassure her, to tell her to be reasonnable and get some sleep. Julia's expression softened and she sighed before caving in. « Okay, fine... But wake me up when you checked everything, we need to protect this place »

Eliot nodded and Margo went back to reading what was in front of her. On her way to the bedroom, Julia smiled to Quentin and said quietly « Don't bother them too much but try to understand those spells. Honestly, it's mostly like math. Or grammar. Try to remember your latin and german classes, it helped me. »

Quentin nodded, frowning, wondering how magic could be like math. Julia hugged him and went passed him. Quentin knew she was eager to get some sleep, even if she didn't show it.

He walked in the quiet kitchen and sat next to Eliot. Him and Margo barely noticed him, they muttered something that could resemble a « hello » if you listened closely, though. They were clearly deep in thoughts, eyebrows drawn together, eyes scanning pages full of Julia's spells, writing on them once in a while.

Eliot was annotating around Julia's rushed handwriting. Quentin smiled as he remembered how Julia always wrote as if her life depended on it, her wrist moving fast and her back hunched up over the paper. Her hand was never moving fast enough for her mind, so the words she wrote always started with a few small, but neat letters and ended in wavy scribbles. Next to hers, Eliot's handwriting was lean, delicate and controlled. Quentin realised Eliot wrote as they did 50 years ago with fountain pens, using long strokes for the loops, almost in italics. He smiled fondly again. Quentin couldn't have imagined a better handwriting for Eliot.

Quentin tried to decipher the spell Eliot was reading through and quickly realised Julia was right. It did look like a mix between grammar and math. At first, he only saw formulas with weird symbols and annotations in them, written back to back but never adding up. But then he noticed the formulas were like words, and they weren't put randomly next to one another, but they followed a structure.

Eliot turned the page he was annotating on and Quentin decided to find something no one was looking at to study alone. He went through a few sheets of paper from the bunch scattered on the table. Julia's handwriting was usually easy for him to read, because he was so used to it. But with all those new symbols and foreign formulas, Quentin tried to find the most well-written spell he could find. He started to understand that the formulas formed sentences and that the end of each sentence was announced by a symbol bigger than the others. It was a vertical rectangle filled with ink followed by a vertical line the same length as the rectangle.

Using deduction and applying the different grammar, math and even music structures he knew to the spell, he felt like he was starting to understand the overall workings of written magic. He couldn't figure out what all the symbols, numbers, words and drawings meant, at least not without a little guidance. But he got the form and methods down.

He couldn't help but feel disappointed. In his mind, magic was wild, mysterious and even a little unpredictable and dangerous. In a nutshell : the opposite of math and grammar. Understanding magic that way, as a langage, with rules and structure, made it less... magical.

« You done with that ? » Margo's harsh voice woke Quentin up from his daydreams. He looked at her tired and annoyed face, realising he must have stared at this specific sheet for at least an hour.

« Yeah, sure. Sorry. Here » he took the page and gave it to her. He noticed the table didn't look as messy now. There was a big pile of scribbled on paper in the middle of it, and a smaller one between Margo and Eliot.

Eliot put the page he had been reading on the big pile and let out a sigh or relief. He stretched his long arms above his head and arched his back. « Who knew actual magic was even worse than what they made us study » he said, his voice strained by his position. From where he sat, Quentin could almost see skin where Eliot's jumper was riding up. He forced himself to look away.

Margo snorted and added : « And we're lucky, Julia's only a first year. Can you imagine correcting and double checking messy spells from those snotty fourth year ? They think making everything more complicated is what makes an effective spell. » She shook her head in disdain. « Idiots ».

Eliot gave an almost silent chuckle at Margo's word. When he looked at her, Quentin noticed, his expression softened. He looked almost admirative. Quentin decided it was in those moments Eliot looked most endearing.

Suddenly, Quentin realised he must have been staring because Eliot's eyes shot to his and he frowned. Quentin started blushing and was about to ramble and stutter some « sorries » when Julia came out of the bedroom. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was still rubbing sleep from her eyes.

Without looking up from Julia's work, Margo said in an arrogant voice : « This isn't too bad Julia, but we had to rewrite a third of it »

« Why, what was wrong with it ? » Julia said with a frown, walking to the table. She started inspecting the corrections and annotations on the first page she found

« First rule of Margo and Eliot's college : Figure shit out yourself » Eliot was backing into his usual expressionless tone, Quentin almost didn't recognise his features from a moment ago, when his face was all vulnerable and relaxed. « I need air, anyways » he added, standing up.

« I'm right behind you », Margo muttered as she finished writing something on the bottom of the page. Eliot was refilling both their cups with what must have been lukewarm coffee and Margo got up. Julia was too captivated by the spellwork to notice them, but Quentin's eyes followed Eliot closely, marvelling at the way his body swayed and interacted with his environement.

Eliot left the cups on the kitchen counted and went to the couch where he had left his coat the day before. He put it on smoothly, taking his time buttoning it. As he went back to the kitchen to get the cups, he smiled at Quentin. A small smile that didn't mean anything, just an expression of lowkey joy, a simple gesture that made Quentin smile as well. Eliot took the cups and joined Margo in the living room. She opened the door for him and closed it behind them.

The clashing sound of the door in the otherwise silence of the cottage startled Julia. She looked up from the spells and sighed. Quentin could tell she was still tired, and she was having trouble understanding the corrections on her work. She leaned her head on Quentin's shoulder and asked : « So, did you manage to understand anything from those messy notes ? »

« Kind of, I think I get how magic works technically. The structures make sense when you're good enough at math and you understand the basics of grammar. » Quentin answered softly, as if trying to sooth Julia.

« Yeah... The tricky part is to learn all those damn moves, names, circumstances, symbols and numbers... » Julia sighed again, almost annoyed this time. Quentin stayed silent, he didn't know how to comfort her. He realised Julia had been learning magic for a very short period of time, a few months, really. She was probably still getting over what Quentin discovered today : magic was as boring as any school subject and demanded effort, time and a lot of work.

Julia straightened up and took a deep breath, focussing back on the paper in front of her. Now, three different handwritings were battling for space. Julia's small, rushed formulas were taking most of the space, filling the center of the sheets in lines of grey pencil. As she went through the first page, Quentin noticed the bottom space was filled with Eliot's elegant words, linked to specific formulas with black arrows. Margo didn't bother with that and simply wrote over Julia's scribbles or in between lines in small, almost cubic cursive letters. Precise, strong, unforgiving.

Julia suddenly yawned, and Quentin got up to make more coffee for her. He watched the way she worked. At first, she had skipped through the pages. Quentin knew she was looking for how many mistakes she had made, she used to do the exact same with her high school homeworks when she got them back. A quick glance at her grade and then she went through the whole thing anxiously to figure out what had gone wrong.

But now, Quentin could see the next step. She was reading carefully, making mental notes, understanding why what she thought would work didn't. She was always thorough, kind with herself but also demanding. She always forgave herself for making mistakes (something Quentin never managed to do), but made sure to never repeat them ever again.

The coffee was done, so he set a cup next to her. She barely looked up from the spellwork and muttered a small « thanks » from the corner of her mouth. Quentin knew better than to bother her while she was this focussed. He knew this was going to take her a while, so he decided to get back to his room, and immerse himself in the world of Fillory, until she was done.

Chapter Text

Quentin was walking through the woods, alone, in the fresh winter afternoon. The wind was blowing through the branches and he could hear small animals fleeing as he walked deeper into the forest. His hands in his pockets and his nose burried in a thick grey scarf, he was basking in warmth, protected from the crisp cold and humidity.

The day was ending, the sky darkened slowly and soon, Quentin was walking through the beggining of the night. The wind died down, the natural sounds of the forest started to fade and even his steps weren't making any sound anymore. Suddenly, everything was silent and dark. Darker than it should have been and Quentin couldn't remember which way the cottage was.

He was walking fast now, trying to follow the path he had been on but moss, bushes and dead leaves were now covering it entirely, so Quentin had no choice but to struggle against the thick forest to keep walking. He couldn't even try to run. He started to shiver in the eerie, black silence.

Suddenly, a crack resonnated behind him and he turned around as fast as he could. He was blinded by light, frozen in place, his heart was still racing. Something utterly bizarre was happening. Getting used to the light, he opened his eyes slowly and noticed a figure, black against the scorching whiteness, approaching him. As it came closer, Quentin realised it was a child wearing a dress, running towards him. Then, when she reached talking distance, the child spoke : « Hurry, Quentin ! »

Her voice was breathless but strong, it almost resonated in the unnatural silence. « Run ! Hurry ! » she added and as she got to where he was, Quentin noticed it was Jane Chatwin. She wasn't slowing down and ran right past him. Quentin followed her through the dark forest. The light from behind them didn't seem to reach that part of the woods and it took a few seconds for Quentin's eyes to reajust to the blackness.

Jane was leading him somewhere, she was jumping and ducking, making sharp turns and avoiding bushes. Quentin followed, mimicking her a few seconds behind. Slowly, the forest cleared and soon enough, they were running in what looked like a field of tall grass. A few steps later, the grass became shorter until Quentin realised they were running in a huge courtyard. It was still dark but the moon was full and stars shone on the even ground.

Jane was running straight for a wooden door. It was small and looked like the backdoor of a tall and imposing building, but in the dark, Quentin couldn't really figure out what it was. A few steps seperated them from the door now, and Jane yelled over her shoulder : « The school library will be safe the day after tomorrow from 2 to 3am »

Jane had reached the door. She turned around and Quentin's feet stopped, he couldn't help but think it was Jane who made them stop the moment she turned to face him. « You need to learn, hurry ! »

Then she opened the backdoor and the same blinding light from earlier flooded the scene. Quentin's eyes shut and he woke up.

He sat up, panting hard, agitated and frightened. Next to him, he heard shuffling and then a voice he recognise almost at once.

« Are you okay ? » Julia's tone was low with sleep and rushed with fear.

Quentin remembered where he was, with whom. His heart stopped racing so much and he caught his breath while Julia turned the lights on. Her eyes were scanning him while he tried to make sense of what had just happened in his dream.

« Do Magicians get visions ? »

~ ~ ~

« Okay, okay, wait, hold on » Margo stopped him, shaking her head as if she was physically trying to wrap her mind around what Quentin and Julia tried to explain.

« You had a dream about a fictionnal child running with you in a forest and now you want to go to Brakebills ? » Eliot asked in a confused and slightly sarcastic voice.

« Oh sorry, have we forgotten to mention there's a 12 fingered monster destroying the school as we speak ? » Margo continued, her eyes wide with irritation.

Quentin took a deep breath while Julia tried to make their case heard. « Listen, » she started in a cool, calm voice « even regular people know that dreams have meaning. Magicians are no exception, and in fact, there has been mutliple accounts of us getting premonitions or warnings in dreams. It happens. »

« Even if we were to believe that freudian bullshit, how would we know this particular dream was one of those Pythia moments ? » Margo asked sharply.

« I've never had a dream so vivid. Usually when you wake up you see how what you just experienced was too weird and illogical and blurry to be real. » Quentin managed to say, avoiding Margo's piercing eyes. « This one feels like a memory, even if the layout and story are kind of crazy, I'm sure I have met Jane Chatwin. The whole thing is still crystal clear in my mind »

There was a small silence, Margo turned her back to them and rubbed her face in her hand out of frustration. Quentin risked a look at Julia, next to him. She looked tense, but he knew she believed him. Quentin's attention was brought back in front of him by Eliot sighing deeply.

« Listen. » His voice was honest, more honest than he'd ever heard it. He was serious. « You can't just go risk your life -and ours- because of a vivid dream. It's crazy. »

It was Margo's turn to sigh. It was more of a violent exhale of air and when she turned back to face them, her eyes showed how much this whole thing annoyed her.

« I might know a spell that could help » she deadpanned.

« Okay, great, what is it ? » Quentin answered eagerly.

« It's arcane, and unpredictable is what it is » Margo almost barked at Quentin. He didn't understand why she was always so angry. « It's secret magic, which is already a pain in the ass, but it's also in old french and really, that's worse »

« Can you do it ? » Quentin asked sternly.

« Didn't you hear the part where I said it's dangerous ? » Margo shot back.

« I don't care ! If Jane Chatwin somehow contacted me and told me to get somewhere I want to know » Quentin's voice gained strenght and he realised how much he wanted this. Magic, quests, doing something worthwhile with his life.

« I can teach someone how to do it but there's no way I'm doing the spell with you » Margo looked defeated, she leaned against the kitchen counter and crossed her arms in front of her.

« I'll do it » Julia said immediately, but Margo was quick to dismiss her.

« You can't, you haven't learned the proper moves and this takes up more juice than you can muster. »

« Hey ! » Julia almost shouted and Quentin took a step back instinctively. Insulting Julia's strength, intelligence or talent was a bad idea, and he knew a storm was on the brink of breaking. Julia never let people underestimate her.

« Do you want this to work or not ? » Margo's tone shut Julia up instantly. She looked angrier and more powerful than ever. Without knowing it, Quentin took another step back.

« Fine... » All eyes turned to Eliot as he spoke. « I'll do it then »

~ ~ ~

« We're lucky about the Circomstances, most of those witchy, ancient spells only work on the full moon after a sheep sacrifice or something » Eliot looked as Eliot-ish as possible. He wore a long black coat, hanging half open on his naked chest, walking in long, lazy strides, sounding half bored half amused.

Quentin, on the other hand, was drowning in stress. He walked alongside Eliot, taking two steps where Eliot only needed one, wrapped in his parka. How was Eliot not freezing ? They were walking at night in the dead of winter and he was only wearing a coat so thin he might as well be completely naked.

The idea that soon, he will be, confused Quentin. Being straight, as he was convinced he was, didn't involve getting shy around other naked men.

At some point, Eliot stopped. Quentin didn't know why there in particular and he was too tired and too cold to ask. Eliot turned to him and started going over what Margo had taught him, listing the requirements for the spell to work.

« Three hours after nightfall, check. On unhabited ground, check. Bathed in salt water... » He paused, looking at Quentin, silently asking him if he did bathe in salted water.

Quentin whinced, remembering how cold and harsh the water felt when he got in the small tub of the cabin's bathroom. He nodded and Eliot resumed his list.

« Out of earshot, check. Naked... » he undid the few buttons that held the coat somwhat closed on his chest. Quentin forced himself to look away as he took off his own clothes. When he stumbled trying to get his jeans off he understood why Eliot hadn't bothered with clothes under his coat.

Quentin felt adrenaline shooting through his body when he saw Eliot's naked frame from the corner of his eye. It helped warming up his skin against the freezing night. When he stood straight again after he got rid of his underwear, Quentin couldn't escape, and he had to look at Eliot. Focussing on his face with all his might, he noticed Eliot didn't have as much qualms. His eyes wandered on Quentin's body shamelessly for one or two seconds, and Quentin felt himself blushing.

« Okay, now the fun begins » Eliot whispered almost to himself. Quentin watched Eliot's face as he was composing himself, collecting his attention and focussing in on the spell he was about to cast.

They had been staying at Quentin's grandmother's cottage for a couple of weeks now, so Quentin had had plenty of time to watch the other three casting spells, exercising their « Poppers », rehearsing together or in front of mirrors endlessly. But it still amazed him to see Eliot cast. His movements were grand and confident, his face looked different as well. It lost its almost perpetual air of contentment and cynism. Him and Margo could joke all they wanted, but Quentin knew the truth. They all loved magic.

It showed in the way they studied it and repeated spells and gestures over and over again. You couldn't be this dedicated to master something you didn't love to pieces. But most of all, watching their hand movements and listening to the intense mantras and chants, he understood how much magic meant to them, how it was almost a part of them, something they couldn't live without.

Their face would become almost blank for a second, but as soon as their hands started moving and their lips started mouthing the right words, their featured relaxed and waves of peaceful concentration washed over them.

« Quentin, you okay ? » Eliot asked, frowning. Quentin focussed back on him. « You've been staring off in the distance for like a minute » he added, almost smirking.

« Yeah, sorry, sorry » Quentin said as he shook his head, getting back to where they were. He had almost forgotten they were naked and started to blush again.

« Okay. So now, it's secrets time » Eliot sighed and leaned back on a tree.

Quentin didn't understand how he could look so relaxed like this. He was about the bare his soul or whatever, naked, in winter, in a forest, with a guy he barely knew.

« So I guess I should start » Quentin said almost as a question. Eliot nodded and managed to look uninterested, even though there was nothing else to capture his attention in the dark woods.

And it started. The worst moment of Quentin's life, a never-ending string of small humiliations. He had decided to first reveal he hadn't lost his virginity until last year to a girl he didn't even like. But to his surprise, it didn't work, even though it was something he never told anyone before. Eliot had the good sense to not make fun of him, and Quentin was grateful for that. But then he had to go to the more gritty stuff. His unconditionnal fear of dragonflies, inapropriate masturbation stories, the small dot of ink on his right bicep from when he wanted to get a tattoo and bailed the second he felt the pain of the needle.

Quentin was nearly out of secrets, now. He searched his mind for a moment. The silence stretched and the sounds of the forest were starting to fill it. When Quentin thought he finally found what would do the trick, Eliot took a deep breath and said in a flat tone :

« I was born on a farm »

Quentin's eyes shot up to his. Eliot was still leaning on the tree but his arms were defensively crossed in front of his stomach. His face was turned away, Quentin could only see his profile. He took a deep breath and continued.

« My whole family are farmers. I left home when I was old enough to drive and came to New York. » He scoffed at himself but then, he turned to look at Quentin dead in the eyes. Quentin saw his pain when one of his eyebrows shot up as he said : « I'm the biggest art project of my life »

They both felt something, a twinge of magic settling in the air, drawing power from Eliot's confession being heard by Quentin.

Quentin didn't know what to say so he settled on the truth, his last big secret.

« I'm in love with Julia », he deadpanned still looking into Eliot's eyes.

« It's hardly a secret Quentin, have you seen the way you look at her ? » Eliot shook his head, but his eyes were still fixed on Quentin's. « I could smell your puppy love from miles away ».

Eliot's tone was almost daring him, his eyes intense, his smile knowing. Quentin realised Eliot knew what Quentin was about to say, even before he did.

« I like you »

Quentin only had the time to watch Eliot's lips curl up into a smile as magic washed through him, before he lost consciousness and saw Jane Chatwin running in front of him again.