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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.

Chapter Text

Eliot and Quentin were in the thick, humid woods on the outskirts of Brakebills, squatting behind a particularily big bush. Eliot's eyes were fixed on his watch, but Quentin's were wandering on the transluscent bubble that surrounded them. Eliot and Julia had worked together to craft it, Julia had said it was a simple noise insulation bubble, but her and Eliot had added an invisibility spell on it.

« You can't really be invisible in it, it's more like an attention diverter than an invisibility spell » Julia had explained in her focussed, flat tone that she used when teaching something complicated to someone who didn't understand anything about it. « You'd need a phosphoromencer or an illusionist to make you invisible, physical magic alone isn't that strong. »

Against all odds, after discovering Jane Chatwin did send Quentin a message, Eliot and Margo agreed to help him get to the Brakebill's library to steal books. Quentin suspected they planned on quieting him down and keeping him out of their ways by feeding him magical theory and exercices.

To Quentin's relief and disbelief, Eliot hadn't brought up that last sentence he had said before they both lost consciousness and experienced the Jane Chatwin dream together. Quentin felt like he was doing him a favour for now, but as soon as they got out of trouble, Eliot would bother him about it. He seemed to be one of those people who tease you relentlessly as soon as they overhear or discover something embarassing about you. Or maybe that was more Margo's style. After all, Eliot knew about his crush on Julia and never made fun of him about it.

« I hope Julia was right about that spell, we should have checked the metamaths one more time » Eliot's voice was a rushed whisper and it brought Quentin back to what was at hand. This was no time to let his mind wander.

« Julia's the smartest person I know. She's probably right » Quentin tried to make his tone reassuring but he knew it wouldn't be enough. Eliot had looked the most damaged when they all came hurtling in his appartment a month ago now.

Through the weeks, as Julia told him about the Beast and the incident in Brakebills, he understood that somehow, Eliot had faced the Beast in more ways, or longer, or more violently than the others. Quentin could see how Eliot would never want to see that monster ever again. Yet, he had been the first to volunteer to chaperone Quentin. The fact that Margo and Julia had nodded solemnly and hadn't tried to argue proved to Quentin that Eliot had had some kind of special encounter with the Beast. Margo and Julia must have thought he would be better equipped than them to face him again. If it came to that, which hopefully, it wouldn't.

« Okay, it's nearly 2am » Eliot whispered as he slid his sleeve over his watch.

Eliot put his hands together as if praying, keeping his thumbs away from his other fingers so that Quentin could see a right angled corner between his tumbs and the rest of his hand. Then, he pressed his index fingers against one another and brought the point of contact down, bending his fingers outwards. He did the same with his middle finger and then seperated his palms and extended them in front of him, his thumbs still towards him, his index and middle finger still connected.

Through the triangle that his hands formed, he watched the bubble closely. Quentin tried to shift to see through it as well, but Eliot stopped the spell before Quentin could manage to steal a glance at what he was seeing.

« Everything looks strong and fine » Eliot sighed, watching the school in front of them intently. « We just need to wait him out. We're lucky he destroyed the protection field around Brakebills. » Eliot paused, his voice totally lost its aloof charm, and Quentin could hear how stressed he was. It seemed that talking was a coping mechanism for him, he couldn't stop and Quentin didn't know what to say. « At least we can watch him and get in without triggering anything. If Julia is right, the magic residue from years of spellcasting will hide this spell from him. I've never seen the school from this angle, when you can only see it up close it looks so big and beautiful and a little scary, even. From this far it's not as imposing.... »

In front of them laid a huge grass field, not unlike the one Quentin had seen in his dream. In the middle of it there was a stout and long building, in the pale moolight it looked like an english manor, probably haunted. He wondered how much more « imposing » a building could look without being a european gothic cathedral.

Quentin tried to spot the wooden back door Jane had lead him through but the wall was smooth in the place he remembered from his dreams.

It was probably a metaphor, like taking the back entrance to knowledge. Not following the ordinary path -that would be Brakebills, the school with teachers to guide you- but making you own -stealing books from a school library and asking your wizard friends how to move your hands to make noise-cancelling bubbles-.

Quentin was coming to the conclusion that he wasn't really scared of the Beast, his heartbeat was only a little bit faster and stronger than usual, but anxiety wasn't overpowering him. But as he noted the lack of sweat and adrenaline rush and other tell-tale signs of stress, the huge wooden doors of the main building sprung open and a tall, heavy-set man walked briskly out, whistling a merry tune.

Quentin's heart went up his throat and the full realization of what they were about to do -of what they were doing- pushed on his shoulder and around his ribcage, it made him shrink into a puddle of nerves and horror.

But the Beast was walking away from them, towards the river that ran up North. Quentin made himself breath in and out slowly, and he focussed on Eliot's face, trying to decipher what he was feeling. His features were blank, but he was blinking more than necessary. They waited together, making sure the Beast was really gone. One minute went by, and the weight around Quentin's body started to lift, but his heart was still pounding. Another minute or two passed, and nothing happened, the wind was blowing through the trees but other than that, there was no movement. Brakebills looked more and more like a picture than like reality. It looked like it had in Quentin's dream.

Eliot breathed out slowly and finally looked at Quentin, nodding solemnly. « Let's go », he whispered calmly.

They both got up from behind the bush as one man and started rushing towards the school. They didn't have to discuss it to walk fast. They knew the Beast could return at any time.

Quentin couldn't help but feel like Harry Potter under his invisibility cloak when they reached the open wooden door the Beast had walked through a few minutes before. Eliot and him were on an adventure. It was exciting, not scary. Harry would probably enjoy visiting the ruins of Brakebills.

If the outside of the school looked as pristine as a realist painting, the inside was more like a Dada work of art. Chaos. The walls were half destroyed, most of the pretty, carved wooden doors were torn down, the main hall was covered in junk.

They sped through corridors, taking sharp turns. Eliot was leading him and from the way he walked and the look on his face, Quentin could tell he wanted to go as fast as possible. Suddenly, Eliot opened a door and they were in a big, great library.

The shelves were all wood, tall and long, they looked never-ending. Most of the books had been thrown out of their designated place and littered the floor. There were burn marks here and there and remains of tables, chairs and more shelves.

Quentin didn't have time to gawk about the architecture, Eliot was pulling him to the right. He was a man with a plan, and Quentin wouldn't be able to stall him.

« Let's get the books and get out » he mumbled, walking towards a corner of the room, where most of the books were still shelved.

Quentin reached for his empty backpack and unzipped it fast, Eliot was already skimming through titles Quentin couldn't decipher. Eliot, Margo and Julia had compiled a list of books to get for Quentin and it seemed like Eliot remembered it pretty well. He was expertly pulling out books of all shapes and sizes, handing them behind him, without looking at Quentin. He really wanted to get this over with.

Quentin put them in his bag in haste, some of them were huge but they didn't weight more than a magazine. Some of them were old and battered, with hardback covers of leather and yellow pages. Some of them looked like they were printed in the 70s, with psychedelic, over-the-top artwork on the front covers. Eliot pulled out 10 books at once, they were plain white, tall and thin, like picture books for kids. The black, small titles all read « Popper » followed by roman numbers : from 1 to 10. In a few minutes, his bag was full. He zipped it shut, put it back on his back and opened his messenger bag. The ordeal resumed and soon, his second bag was full as well.

« Ok let's go » Eliot said stiffly and they both turned around.

The Beast was there.

Quentin instinctively took a step back and bumped into Eliot. He tried moving away but suddenly he was frozen in place. He couldn't move his feet. Couldn't move period. Paralysed.

The Beast laughed. It wasn't an evil laugh, Quentin thought. Nothing to do with the theatrical laughter of kid's movie villains. Don't get him wrong, it wasn't a genuine laugh, it was a forced, ironic sound. But the Beast did look amused more than he looked villainous.

He started pacing around them, whisteling that same tune from earlier. Quentin tried following him with his eyes, the only part of his body he could will into moving. He wondered how Eliot felt and if he could find a way to unfreeze them.

For now, the Beast didn't look like it was going to hurt them, but they had walked through the ruins of the school he had destroyed. They were on the grounds he claimed as his after invading Brakebills and killing and hurting everyone on sight. He was dangerous.

After a while, the Beast stopped his pacing and came to a halt in front of Quentin and Eliot, where they had first laid eyes on him. He stopped whisteling and his features suddenly lost their relaxed, joyous tint. His eyes became cold and his whole face changed. That was the villain. The scary evil monster Quentin had pictured.

« Well, if it isn't Quentin Coldwater » he said in a thick british accent. He talked like a school boy from 50 years ago, with dramatic intonations and a joyous tone. His voice contrasted horribly with his manners.

Quentin didn't even have time to worry about the Beast knowing his name before he kept going. « I knew you would find a way, you always do ! Can't get rid of you ! »

He had a stiff, short laughter, like it was punched out of him. His eyes were staring right into his own. Quentin felt like he was scanning his every thought, trying to make sense of him. Like a scientist would regard a cell. « What are you ? How do you work ? What will you do next ? »

« The gods know I tried... » he whispered, shaking his head.

« So ! » he perked up again, his face sank back into the merry childish look his voice never lost. « What's the plan, now ? » he asked looking behind Quentin, at Eliot. « You got yourself your usual boyfriend to teach you Popper number 3 so you'll be able to kill me ? » he tisked. « Now you know that wouldn't be enough, right ? »

He turned around and kept talking, walking around the library, behind shelves, stomping on books, sitting on chairs...

« Do you even have the whole gang together yet ? I'm guessing since your boyfriend, his girlfriend and that Julia vanished together running from me, you at least met them. » He seemed to give this idea a thought. « Well, I'm guessing they matter the most. You'll be missing battle magic and structured power but we all love Eliot's chaotic ways better anyways »

Another long pause. The Beast was playing with them, like a cat would play with a mouse before eating it. They were toys to him. Quentin let himself get angry. Angry was better than scared. The Beast hid behind a long shelf, Quentin could hear his footsteps but he was no longer able to see him anywhere. Long minutes passed, he was still out of view.

Suddenly, he appeared on their right. Quentin heard him more than he saw him, his field of vision couldn't reach this far to his right. When he spoke next, Quentin guessed he was inspecting Eliot's face.

« You were always my favourite. Cursed, tired, lonely Eliot. » he sighed, almost longing. « Alice will think she's the most powerful, because she's more educated and organised. She'll know the inner working of her magic. » he snorted, disdainful. « But don't be fooled, Eliot. You're the power. You don't even know it, cause your magic goes way beyond your understanding. Even your teachers don't know what to do with it. » he paused, but stayed put.

« Be careful Eliot, you could lose everything. I know you think you already have. Believe me, it's only the beggining... »

With that, the Beast turned around and walked away. Quentin watched him leave the library. At the sound of the door shuting close, the spell paralysing them snapped and they could move again.

« Let's get the fuck out of here »

Chapter Text

The trip back to the cabin was awful. Quentin had to drive, so he couldn't let himself panic, he needed to stay focussed. He could feel self-loathing rising up in his chest when he stopped listening to the radio and let his mind wander, as it did every time he was in a car. Eliot kept asking questions to the air. After 10 minutes in the car, Quentin realised he didn't want any answer, he was just talking to himself. He tried to tune it out but Eliot was loud, and he told himself he'd rather listen to him groan and moan than slip into a panic attack while driving.

Eliot seemed angry at everything and everyone. At first, he cursed himself for not being fast enough, he snorted at Julia's spell that were clearly not good enough, then he had a go at Jane Chatwin. « Of course it was never going to work ! This kind of quest-like whimsical adventures don't work in the real world ! »

When Eliot kept riling himself up and started to insult Fillory and Christopher Plover, Quentin said, sharp but quiet : « Hey, leave Fillory out of it ».

Eliot made a sound that Quentin interpreted as him saying « Unbelievable ! », but he did find another innocent person to throw his frustration onto. Quentin tuned out again and desperately tried to ignore the discomfort in his chest. Deep down, he knew this was all his fault, he should have never gone to Brakebills and put his friends in danger for a few silly books.

After an hour or so, Quentin noticed Eliot had stopped yelling. He risked a glance at him, to see if he was alright. He looked less tense, blurting out his feelings instead of bottling them up as he seemed to usually do probably helped him. Quentin heard him take a deep breath and slowly breathing out.

« I'm sorry » he said weakly, but gaining back his usual, levelled voice.

« It's okay » Quentin answered, almost instinctively. He didn't want Eliot to think anything he could ever do would bother Quentin. « This was all my fault anyways » he sighed, focussing hard on the road ahead.

« It's not, you'd never met the Beast before. To you magic was still this immaculate, inspiring force that makes the world comforting and beautiful... » Eliot trailed off, knowing he was baring his soul a little too much in that sentence. He wasn't expressing what he thought Quentin felt, but rather explaining how he had regarded magic before the Beast came. « We should have known better than to go to him like that, it was stupid. »

A silence settled in the car, the song that was playing on the radio died down. Quentin didn't know what to say, because it had been stupid on both their parts. He should have never listened to his dream, because it was too good to be true. One of his favourite character from his favourite books couldn't just come to him in his sleep to give him the best gift he ever hoped to get : a quest.

« Magic is still beautiful, even with the Beast around. He might be an evil asshole but he doesn't get to.... » he hesitated, trying to find the right word. « To soil magic like that. He can't spoil it for us all. It's not fair. » Quentin said and he heard a twinge of anger in his voice.

« That's sweet Quentin, but you still think our magic is like in Fillory and Further. » Eliot's voice had lost its edge, he was speaking softly, patronizingly, almost pityingly. « I guess you'll figure out soon enough that it's a lot messier and harder than that. It's not about fixing your best friend's glasses or making flowers grow faster or something.... »

« I know that, Eliot. » Quentin said sternly, offended. « I did watch you and Julia and Margo doing it, I read the spells, I understood the words, I saw the hand gestures. I know it's not about flicking your wand and chanting made up latin »

« Yeah, well » Eliot snorted and Quentin could tell he didn't believe him. « You'll have a chance to experience it first hand now »


And he did. Oh boy he did.

He learned the Popper moves. It took him a whole day to execute the first two correctly. Not even to put magic in them but to get his fingers to bend and twist and move like the book wanted them too. After two hours, his hands hurt like hell. The skin between his fingers felt raw, his joints were sore and his wrists were limp. But he had kept going, facing Margo, then Eliot, then Julia, then Margo again. They were watching him in turn to make sure he was going in the right direction.

After a week he had gone through half of the first book, and Margo announced that it was time for the pebble. She became his teacher for a while, self appointed, to his surprise. She taught him how to create magic, how to dig deep inside of him to summon it to the surface and shape it and direct it towards the world. Supposedly, she was mimicking a class that she took at Brakebills, it seemed too well rehearsed for it to be improvised.

She gave him a small rock. It was polished and almost perfectly oval. There was a hole in the middle, the size of his pinky finger. It wasn't an ordinary rock and he wondered if it was Margo's. If she kept it months after taking that Brakebills class she was now giving it to him.

She wanted him to make it hot. It seemed easy enough, he had read through the spell and he knew three of the four hand gestures. There wasn't any words to be said.

It took him 5 hours.

They met every other morning in the kitchen, and for an hour, Margo stayed with Quentin and helped him. Then he had the day to figure out the spells by himself. After that first lesson, Margo taught him how to make the rock fly, how to make it into water, how to make it dissapear, how to make it change colour, how to make it follow him wherever he went, how to make it beep when it was about to rain... Dozens of pointless exercices that took him less and less time to master. After a few weeks, when Margo showed him the spell to make the rock shine like a miniature sun, it took him only one try to get it right. Margo smiled and Quentin realised it was the first time he saw a smile of hers directed at him.

But he kept wanting to learn, his brain hungry for more spells, more power, more kowledge. So Julia took over and together they practiced the rest of the Poppers. They learned it all, the 10 books, in less than a month. Eliot thought it ought to be a record. Most students had to wait for 3rd year to know all this.

Quentin's hands were changing rapidly, the same way his mind was. They both became more muscly and bendy. As his brain made room for new knowledge, he saw the world in a different light. He started to understand why Eliot seemed to watch invisible shapes and designs in the air when he was casting. Quentin started to see them too. The cogs that made the universe run, the inner workings of matter and the power of magic.

But Quentin was skipping too much. He wasn't following the Brakebills courses, he was walking in the dark, grabbing at anything he could get his hands on. Well, technically, he was reading through everything Eliot had grabbed for him.

Soon enough, it was Eliot's time to tutor him. And the real stuff began. He wasn't learning futile spells or meaningless hand gestures anymore. This was about real magic. He learned about the Circumstances, he learned about how to gain power, how to cast with multiple people, how to make shields and force fields, how to shape the world at will. The spells were getting longer, more intricate, more exhausting. More magical.

Six months passed, Quentin kept learning and learning, one day with Margo, the next with Julia, and the rest of the week with Eliot. He was surprised to see how willing Eliot was to teach him everything he knew. At first, Quentin assumed Julia would be his appointed teacher, given that she loved to tutor and that she was his best friend.

But Eliot was having fun, Quentin realised. He seemed to feel like he was sharing something with Quentin, something he never shared with anyone else, even Margo. When Eliot was teaching him, they would leave Julia and Margo behind in the cabin and go for the woods, out of earshot, out of sight.

Eliot was, surprisingly, a good teacher. Quentin realised Eliot must have always been one of those people who learnt by doing. Contrary to Julia who needed to understand, to get the theory sorted before she could do anything in practice. Eliot was a doer. So they practiced together, going through the oldest, shabbiest books Eliot had picked out. They were thick and dusty, full of intricate spells and ancient words. They spent hours on end sitting cross legged on the damp ground, casting and casting.

They became accustommed to each other. They adopted one another, learnt to read each other's expressions and silences. Quentin started to feel this odd sense of intimacy, the same kind of bond he had spent years to create with Julia. Quentin thought it was happening so fast with Eliot because casting a spell and sharing magic was somewhat more vulnerable and intimate than sharing classes and dreams and feelings.

Quentin started to understand magic, really understand what is was, where it came from in his body. He started to sense it more clearly, to get an image of it in his mind. He could picture what it was doing, how it gathered in his sternum and flowed through his hands and then got filtered by words and mouvements and shot at the world around him. When he cast with Eliot, he could feel his magic melt with his own before it got to his hands. At first it had felt weird, like hugging a teacher, a physical contact that shouldn't happen. But he got used to it quickly and now Quentin was sure he could recognize Eliot by his magic alone. It was steady and solid, but also delicate and precise. He knew what he was doing with it.

To Eliot, Quentin's magic felt hesitant and warm, pliant, curious and beautiful. He lacked the rigor and strength you get once you become more confident and after months and months of spellcasting. But Eliot could see that he had potential, he only needed a push to unleash his hidden power.

As weeks and months went by, Eliot witnessed how Quentin's magic became more to the point, it didn't wander around as much and their casting got better from it. Quentin's hard work was paying off, he was on his way to become a magician.

But one day, something odd happened. The spell they were trying to do didn't work. Eliot frowned, looking at the book like it had made a mistake. They tried again. Nothing. For the first time in months, the world wasn't changing at their command. Eliot's face scrunched up in frustration. Usually, they would go through a spell, rehearse everything seperately for a while to make sure they got everything right, then they would do it, and it would work exactly the way it was supposed to. Behind them were the days where Quentin would make mistakes on the first few tries and jinx it. It had led to some interesting effects, though. Once, they were following a spell to make water rise up from the ground, but Quentin had messed up Popper 59 and stumbled over a few words and instead of water coming up to meet them, the whole worm population of their surrounded rose from the rich soil and flooded them to their knees.

But that was months ago, now Quentin knew his shit. He had rehearsed the Poppers and other hand gestures so many times with Julia -quizzing one another, doing to movements backwards, behind their backs, with only one hand- that he knew he didn't make any mistake anymore.

So Eliot checked the words. It was old english, Eliot's strong suit, but he didn't see any mistake in it. They rehearsed every part again, making sure they got everything right. Double checking one another's work. Going through the circumstances one last time. And they tried again. Still nothing.

They had been going at it for hours now, and Eliot was getting really frustrated. He wasn't used to things not working for him, magic wise. He was such a natural, no spell resisted him usually. He got up and walked away sulkily, trying to clear his mind.

Quentin took the spellbook in his laps and read it aloud, every instruction, slowly, deliberately, trying to gauge where it had messed up. Everything seemed fine. He looked up at the sky and breathed in slowly. It was getting dark now. They couldn't end the day on a failure.

« I got it ! » Eliot was running back to him with a huge smile on his pale face. He looked as excited as a labrador puppy. « I got it ! » he repeated, gleaming as he stopped to sit in front of Quentin. « So you know when it's winter, Popper 3 changes to this » he did Popper 3 but instead of tucking his index finger under his pinky finger he pulled it flat against his palm « right ? »

Quentin nodded absent-mindedly. Most of the time when they worked together, Quentin could keep his stupid little man crush burried under his focus and love for magic. But this was too much for him. Eliot's eyes were big and round and excited, his whole face was lighting up. He talked in a rush, looking at his hands and back at Quentin's eyes. He felt a smile making his way on his own lips.

« But when you do that and then Popper 77 the metamaths get fucked » his voice was getting high, he was about to tell Quentin what he had found. « So you need to add something there » he was looking at Quentin straight in the eyes but his hand pointed at some part of the spell, « to keep the equation right ».

Quentin suddenly understood what was wrong, he was full-on smiling when he said « So if you add something like this » he paused and moved his hands in what resembled the « peace and love » sign, lifting the pinky finger as well, then made a first with his hand and opened his hand flat again, « then it'll work ! »

Eliot nodded enthusiastically and without further debate they went back to the spell. There didn't even need to look at the book anymore, so they looked into each other's eyes, with delighted excitement and the pure joy and satisfaction you only get after solving a challenging puzzle.

They made the right gestures, chanted the right words and then it worked. A fireword erupted from their hands, sending pink and purple and blue sparkles in the darkening sky above them. Quentin looked up at the lights, smiling bright, then looked back at Eliot. He looked so happy, the light from the fireworks dancing in his eyes. This is what magic was, Quentin thought. This. Him. Eliot.

When he looked back at Quentin, still smiling bright, Quentin couldn't help but lean towards him and kiss him softly, the way he had dreamed to do for almost a year now.

Chapter Text

Quentin was stuttering and blushing, one of his hands still laying on Eliot's chest, once he realised he was actually kissing him.

« I'm sorry, I'm sorry I don't know what happened, I'm sorry » he was rambling but if he wasn't so busy keeping his eyes off Eliot's face he could see he was smiling.

« God, you're such a nerd, Quentin » Eliot whispered, shaking his head.

At that, Quentin stopped stumbling over apologies and looked up at him. He had never seen his face look so relaxed, his eyes were overflowing with tenderness. He leaned down and kissed Quentin on the lips, almost chastely. The touch was so soft Quentin could barely feel it. And now that he was actually fulfilling his most persistent daydream, he wasn't going to settle for this.

Quentin slipped his free hand in Eliot's hair and urgently pressed his lips against his, Eliot sighed and it made Quentin smile. He felt Eliot's hands reaching for him and finally finding his waist. It was even better than what he had expected. Eliot was slow and deliberate, his hands anchered Quentin in the moment. He was grateful for the steady pressure of his palms against his hip and back. Without it, the kiss would have made him forget where he was, who he was kissing. How happy he was.

« I can't believe you managed to find a boy toy in the middle of nowhere. You must have a superpower » a voice said behind him and as Quentin broke the kiss hastily, Eliot kept his eyes closed and lifted his head up slowly.

Still without looking at their intruder -a tall guy wearing a long shirt ubuttoned on his otherwise bare chest- he said in an exasperated but calm voice : « What the fuck are you doing here Penny ? »

« I need your help, asshole »


Penny seemed to be in a neverending state of casual anger. He spoke in a harsh tone, used insults as punctuation and Quentin felt like he was perpetually trying to kill people with his eyes. Penny reminded him of Margo, and Quentin immediately hated him.

Penny wouldn't tell Eliot what was wrong before they got inside. He barely acknowledged Julia and Margo, who were sitting on the battered couch reading, when he stormed inside the cottage. He started casting complicated spells in rushed movements even before Quentin had the time to get inside.

Julia's eyes had shot up from her book and they found Quentin's. He shrugged and shook his head. He couldn't believe this guy.

Once Penny was satisfied with what Quentin assumed were shields, he turned to them all and started talking.

« Ok so first of all, don't interrumpt me. Most of the shit I'm about to tell you will sound insane but you'll just have to trust me. » He paused and looked at everyone intently, taking the time to prolonge eye contact longer than necessary.

« So, » he resumed in his stern voice « I went to Fillory and it's gone to shit. »

« What ? » Quentin couldn't help himself, he would have stayed quiet if Penny had said he went to Mars and played chess with Michael Jackson while he was there but Fillory was too important to him for someone to joke about it.

Penny dagger-eyes darted to Quentin, he stayed silent, his lips in a straight line. His eyes had the same look tht teachers give you when they caught you chatting with your lab partner instead of paying attention.

« No actually, Quentin is right. » Margo interjected, « What the actual fuck Penny. » her voice was flat but her eyebrows arched up in disbelief.

Penny sighed and closed his eyes, as if to ask God to give him the patience to keep going. « Ok losers listen up. The multiverse is real, I'm a traveler, I visited other worlds, Fillory isn't just a book series. » He paused to give everyone the time to process it. Then he repeated, detaching each syllables « Fillory is real. »

« Prove it » Julia asked after a minute or so of thick silence.

Penny sighed again, making sure everyone saw how annoying they were. Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and vanished. Someone gasped discretely, everyone was looking around where Penny just was.

« I'm here you idiots » Penny's voice was coming from the kitchen, he was sitting on the counter. « Good enough for you ? » he asked Julia, corking an eyebrow.

« You can travel from the living room to the kitchen, it doesn't mean Fillory is real » Quentin said pointedly.

« Okay fine ! » Penny yelled and reached for his back pocket. Everyone walked to the kitchen to get a closer look at the object Penny had produced.

It was a small watch, old fashionned and dirty. It was gold but there was scratches on it and the glass was broken. It was still ticking happily in his hands though. Penny turned it and opened the back to show it to them. At first, Quentin thought it was a normal watch, cogs were turning inside. It was beautiful but not fillorian.

But then, he looked closer and he noticed the mechanism wasn't.... mechanical. It was magic. He could see the pattern behind each cog and the energy coming from it was like nothing he had ever felt. He guessed everyone noticed it too. This wasn't like Earth magic, like a spell cast on a ordinary object. The object was, in its essence, magical.

« Is this one of the Watcher Woman's ? » Quentin's voice sounded small and astonished to his own hears

« It is. I met her there, she gave it to me as a last result if we don't manage to beat the Beast » Penny answered in his harsh voice. He managed to make a perfectly innocent sentence biting.

« Wait, » Eliot said, shaking his head as if trying to wrap it around those new informations « so you mean the Beast is from Fillory ? »

« The Beast is the reason why Fillory is fucked up. Will you let me get on with this whole story now ? » Penny asked and kept going when he saw everyone nod. « Okay, so I went to Fillory and let me tell you, it's nothing like those books. There's no cutesy animals and even the opium in the air can't balance out the depressing desert it is.
« Anyways, I was there because Bigby sent me. When the Beast attacked she grabbed the students she could find, cast a portal and sent us to her safehouse. We've been living with her ever since and trying to figure out how to get Brakebills back. Dean Fogg ended up joining us but he's useless. Drunk most of the time, or sleeping.
« Once Bigby figured out I was a traveller, she said we should visit Fillory and see if everything's okay there. Did you know she's a fairy ? Bigby ? She told me later on, I figure that's why she knew so much about Fillory. »

Penny's account was messy and hard to follow, especially for Quentin who had gathered Bigby was probably a teacher at Brakebills, but was struggling to understand who Penny even was in relation to Eliot, Julia and Margo. And what a traveller could actually do.

« So, turns out the Beast is a magician and he destroyed Fillory before coming to Earth. We think he's going back and forth between this world and Fillory but we don't know why. We're trying to investigate what's happening but it's not easy, the Beast knows what it's doing.
« But one time, when I was in Fillory, I met the Watcher Women. She's way less scary than they make her out to be. Petite women, pretty, british accent. Anyways, she hinted we should get the whole gang together, so I've been trying to find people from Brakebills. A lot of them don't want anything to do with us. Most of them fled to the other side of the country, or the other side of the world and they enrolled in a normal college. They don't want anything to do with magic anymore. I don't blame them, to be honest. I did find a few who were willing to fight, though.
« We've been looking for you all for months. You might be a bunch of assholes but your wards are airtight, I'll give you that. The only reason I found you is because you two must have forgotten to renew Doisneau's before casting that fireworks spell. » he said, looking at Eliot and Quentin evenly. He was in strategy mode now, his voice had progressively lost it mean edges.

« So, now that I've got you, you need to help me find Kady and Alice, the old fashionned way. Then we kill that son of a bitch and save Fillory »

Chapter Text

Penny had convinced everyone to move. The cabin in the woods was great when you needed to hide, but now they needed to search. They were after Alice and Kady and since magic wasn't helping -Penny had gone through every spell he had cast to try and find them to convince Margo it was no use wasting more time on magic-, they had to move to a city where they could access the internet, newspapers, and other magicians.

So the day after Penny arrived, they had packed their bags, emptied the house and left in the two small rental cars. On their way to the closest decent-sized city : Charlotte.

On the trip there, Quentin insisted to be alone with Eliot in his car. He hoped they could at least talk about that kiss. Ever since it happened, he was scared Eliot was mad at him or something. He was distant and wore a perpetual frown on his tired face. To both his relief and his frustration, Eliot had slept most of way to Charlotte. He wouldn't have known how to go about asking him what was up, Quentin reassured himself. At least he was able to spend the car ride listening to music and not worrying about his love life.

When they entered the city, Penny jumped in the car with Eliot and Quentin. Penny and Eliot worked together to find an abandonned house in the suburbs, they started cruising the city, noticing things Quentin didn't see nor understand. Quentin wondered what kind of past adventures Eliot had had that made him so good at searching for empty homes.

Soon enough, they stopped in front of a half destroyed manor with cardboard on the windows and an overgrown garden that made the building invisible from the street. It was stuck between a dingy corner shop and another house in even worse condition.

They spent the rest of that day casting every shield they knew on the house, reusing the one Julia, Eliot and Margo had worked on for the cabin. Then, Eliot and Quentin cast a noise and weather insulation charm and Julia cast the « invisibility » spell. As night fell they ordered pizzas and that night, they slept on the newly cleaned tiles of what used to be a living room, judging by the dusty and destroyed sofas.

The next couple of weeks went by in a haze. At first, no one really knew what they were doing, they roamed the public library for recent newspapers and searched the internet for any sign of Alice or Kady. If he was honest, Quentin started to doubt the existence of those girls. They couldn't even find birth certificates, school records or billing informations from online websites. They were invisible.

They had decided to all live together in the big living room, leaving the rest of the mouldy house empty. After a week of sleeping wrapped in a coat on the hard floor, Eliot said they should steal some money from the corner shop and rent hotel rooms. His argument was that if the Beast wanted to find them, it would have by now, and the luxury to sleep in an actual bed would be nice. Julia and Penny shut him up quickly. Making this much fuss would be too noticeable and they should keep a low profile. But since the search for the lost girls was not going anywhere, they decided to steal small amounts of money from 50 different ATMs over 2 days, and they bought air matresses and comfortable pillows and sleeping bags. Soon, the living room looked like a 8 year-old's sleep over party or a 19 year-old's college dorm. The matresses were pushed to a corner of the room, there were spell books, newspapers and city maps covering the floor and empty takeover boxes overflowing black trash bags.

After two weeks of fruitless research, they decided to look for hedge witches.

It was a tedious process. Every day, Quentin woke up with the others, had a small breakfast and then they decided who was to search which area of Charlotte. Since they had no connection in the city, they had to look for traces of magic by walking every street, getting into every bar, trespassing in any large enough private estate. Each of them left at 9am and they met at the manor every night at 9, debriefing for a few minutes on unlucky days, sometimes until 2 or 3 am when magic traces were spotted.

Quentin was surprised to see how much magic there was here. From what he had gathered, magicians were quite rare, he estimated there was approximately one or two thousands living magicians in the USA. Of course, by magicians he meant classically trained magicians, people who got into Brakebills and stayed there for 5 years, graduating and getting an alumni key. Hedge witches were impossible to trace, he had no idea how many of them there could be.

Most of the time, he came home empty-handed, sometimes he did spot a magic stain, carefully hidden or in plain sight, but nothing ever came of it. Once, he did think he was onto something. He had walked through a small and dark alleyway and felt the proximity of something (someone?) magical around him. It was a strange and slimy presence that made his fingers tingle with leftover magic and his hair stand on end with discomfort. The next day, everyone came to the same spot to investigate but it was gone, the alleyway was as ordinary as the next one.

This kind of false lead occured a lot in the span of the first week, but then everyone started to recognise what was worth their attention, and soon they had little to discuss when they got back home at night.

Except one night, Penny barged in the house panting. He was the last one to come back and his eyes were wide. As soon as he got to the living room, he said hurridly : « I found a safehouse ».

The excitement quickly vanished, because when they got there the next day and entered the small and decrepit building, no one had heard of an Alice or Kady, or anyone that fitted the descriptions Julia and Penny had given.

They decided to search for the rest of the city but nothing came of it, and a few weeks later they were on the road again, on their way to the next city.

They went through Atlanta, Montgomery, Nashville, Memphis but no traces of Alice or Kady could be found. Quentin started to feel like those people who lived in vans, or a permanent camper. They all shedded most of their personnal posessions, and everyone was now living off one backpack and a small gym bag. They upgraded their air matresses to stronger, more expensive ones and they foud spells to make them more comfortable, they learnt how to use solar showers and wash their clothes by hand.

Julia was working on a new finding spell, but it was tricky and long. Margo had wondered many times if they shouldn't just get back to Bigby and try to save Fillory on their own. Every time she did mention that idea, Eliot would ask Penny why Fillory was even worth saving and it would result in a huge fight. Julia always remembered Eliot that the goal was to kill the Beast to get Brakebills back but Quentin would whine and moan about Fillory being the best place in the world, and if they couldn't see the appeal in saving it then he didn't want to be friends with any of them. Of couse, Eliot's skepticism hurt him more than anything. His refusal to save Fillory made Quentin feel like he had to chose between his new found affection for him and his everlasting and childish longing for Fillory.

Is Memphis, after three weeks of thorough magic search and edge witch hunt, they gatered in the small abandonned warehouse they had adopted to discuss where they should go next.

« We're not going fast enough. » Julia sighed. Her hair was longer than Quentin had ever seen it and he realised how long it had been since they all appeared in his appartment. They had been in hiding for two and a half years.

« Jane told me we needed to get together if we wanted any chance at defeating the Beast, there's no way we can do it without them. » Penny's voice was losing its mean and rough undertones, Quentin thought that Julia's presence was softening him. She did have this effect on people.

« So what, we should spend our lives trying to find people who don't want to be found while a crazy monster is destroying magic ? » Margo asked harshly, and produced a bitter chuckle.

« He's not destroying magic, he's destroying the school » Eliot added lazily from his bed, he was reading a spellbook Julia had bought from a hedge witch in Nashville.

« He's also destroying Fillory, guys. And as far as we know, Fillory is magic. » Quentin said in a sad, small voice.

Eliot's answer came quick and biting : « It's not the same and you know it. »

Quentin sighed and wondered what happened between them, what he had done for Eliot to start despising him that way. And to think he assumed his passion and love for Fillory was endearing to Eliot...

A silence stretched in the small office they had transformed in their living area, in the back of the decomissioned factory.

« We don't even know if they're still in the US. » Margo was trying to speak in an even tone. « What's the point in searching each major city we come accross if they've left the country ? »

Another defeated silence. Quentin wanted to keep going, he never really lost the sense he was on a quest, he wanted to hang on to the important and meaningful role he had been given by Jane. But the repetitiveness of their road trip and their never-ending false hopes and failures was starting to wear him down. Was he actually doing anything to help ? Or was he desperately swimming against the current, trying to find a rock to keep from drowning ?

« Should we find a way to contact Jane and ask for advice ? » Penny asked

« I'm not sure she's the type to answer a doorbell » Eliot said bitterly, barely looking up from his book.

« Well, we have to try something. This obviously doesn't work and I'm sick of those hedge witches anyway. They care so much about not being found, you'd think they have something to hide or information to protect. Turns out, they never do. It's annoying. » Margo stated, her arms crossed over her chest

They talked for hours, throwing ideas in the air, arguing about whether or not they were good enough to follow. Each conversation punctuated by long, empty silences. At some point, it became clear that sides were forming. Penny, Julia and Margo wanted to keep searching for Alice and Kady, maybe going with the magical approach, working on Julia's spell or getting into the hedge scene to learn more spells. Eliot and Quentin, on the other hand, wanted out. Quentin because he loved Fillory so much and needed Jane to guide him. Eliot because he could care less about those first year students who clearly didn't want to be found. So they decided to split.

Julia, Penny and Margo would keep travelling the country to get their hands on Alice and Kady. Eliot and Quentin would be dropped off at the cabin and work some magic to contact Jane.

Chapter Text

After Penny, Margo and Julia dropped Eliot and Quentin off at his grandmother's cabin, a strange awkwardness settled in between them. Quentin figured it was because of the weight of their undiscussed kiss, and of Eliot's grumpy behaviour. He didn't understand what was happening, why they couldn't talk anymore, why Eliot's presence wasn't making him feel at home, the way it had when they were last here.

Being alone with Eliot with nothing else to do but be together made Quentin see another side of Eliot he hadn't noticed before. Running around foreign cities, debriefing and studying old magic books had kept him from actually seeing Eliot and what he was becoming.

Actually, Quentin couldn't remember the last time Eliot had been sober, it seemed like he always had a bottle of vodka at hand's reach. Quentin didn't miss his trips to the kitchen where he would produce a small orange container with someone else's name written on it, and pop a few pills. He looked tired, with deep, dark circle under his eyes, his skin both pale from exhaustion and sun burnt from the never-ending day excurtions of the last 8 months. His hair had gotten long, curling on his cheeks. Soon, he'd be able to tie them in a bun if he wanted to.

They were still eating junk food, stocking up on frozen pizzas and cheap ready-meals every couple of weeks. It had been months since either of them had had a real, healthy, nutritious meal. Quentin didn't even remember what vegetables tasted like. He remembered that time -it felt like centuries ago-, when he woke up to the smell of fresh food and discovered Eliot cooking in his kitchen, in New York. Maybe eating healthier would help Eliot, at least a little. He might sleep better and look less miserable. But when Quentin broke the silence that had fallen upon them and outstayed its welcome, and asked Eliot if he wanted to start cooking again, Eliot hadn't even look up from the sheet of paper he was scribbling on and said they didn't have time.

So frozen pizzas and cheap ready-meals kept flooding the fridge.

Quentin wanted to throw the old spellbooks and battered Poppers manuals at a wall, and yell for a while. He didn't even think contacting Jane was possible, and if they miraculously happened to find a way to talk to her, it wouldn't do them any good. He had re-read the Fillory books enough times to know that when you get a quest, you don't get extra help form the one that gave it to you. Their mission was to find Alice and Kady, calling up Jane to ask for extra details wouldn't get them anywhere. She told them to look for Alice and Kady for a reason. Somehow, they must be the only ones who would be able to find them.

Quentin could see Eliot loosing any kind of hope and motivation. And he was sinking deeper and deeper. He was getting skinnier, some days he slept for 20 hours straight, others he would write and read and talk to himself in a drugs-fueled frenzy for hours on end. Research was the only thing keeping him from getting really bad. Quentin knew what it was like to be an overly-intelligent, obsessed strudent. And that's what Eliot was at that moment. He didn't have time to think about what he was doing. He didn't want to. He only needed to get it done.

Weeks went by, and Quentin and Eliot's spells were all failing. They couldn't figure out what was missing, what wasn't working. Quentin had had time to mourn the times when they could do magic together and it felt as natural as breathing. Now they had to struggle their way through every move and every word, their magic sometimes refusing to cooperate, sliding against one another instead of colliding and joining forces. Quentin and Eliot were becoming exhausted, frustrated and desperate. Quentin knew the only reason why he wasn't falling in a bottomless depression pit was because Eliot was in even worse shape than he was. Someone needed to drive the car to the nearest supermarket every other week, and that someone couldn't be perpetually-high Eliot.

One day, witnessing their spell failing was just too much. Eliot just laid down on the wooden floor, pushed a pillow on his face and yelled, screamed and moaned for what seemed like hours. Quentin stayed there, sitting against the wall, flabbergasted. He had never seen Eliot loose it that way. His limp body and never-ending pleas were all raw emotions. Anger, fear, hopelessness. He needed to do something. He tried to think about what he would want someone to do if it was him instead of Eliot, loosing it on the floor. He crawled to him, sat cross legged next to his head and took one of his hands in both of his. Eliot didn't stop screaming, but he squeezed Quentin's hands in his and hold onto it until he exhausted himself into sleep.

Chapter Text

It had been a couple of days since the last spell debacle. Eliot had stayed in his room, sleeping. Occasionnaly, he had appeared to get something to eat or to drink, or to pop a few pills, and retreated back to his cave without saying a word to Quentin who was following his every moves with careful eyes.

Quentin decided he needed to do something. He couldn't let Eliot spiral down like this. Soon, he would give up on finding Jane and then there would be nothing to keep him from hitting rock bottom. God knew if he ever would climb his way up from there.

So Quentin gathered everything he knew about Eliot, and put together a plan. He called a fancy restaurant, used a charm spell on his own voice to convince the manager to get the cook to make him takeaway food for two. He spent the whole day cleaning the cabin -which needed it badly-, and then drove to the city to pick up the food he ordered from a very confused manager, who didn't know how he had allowed the whole ordeal. When he got back, he set the table, lit the candles he had bought and found the cleanest, best looking clothes he had with him (a black knitted sweater and jeans with only one hole in them). After so many months using magic as his only mean to act on the world, actually using his body made Quentin feel better. The time he had spent cleaning the cupboards and the kitchen counter, tidying spellbooks and notebooks, sweeping the old floor, gave his mind time to wander pleasantly, the way it did when he drove. Focussing on something as mundane as cleaning up left him relaxed and satisfied with his day.

Quentin looked at his creation. The cabin looked almost the way he remembered it from his childhood. The fireplace was clean and a deep red fire was crackling softly in it. The sofas and chairs where battered but cosy, with blankets spread on them. The persian rugs were clean and brighter than he remembered, but maybe that was a result of the time he had spent scrubbing them to get all the nondescrepit stains off. The light from the lamps scattered around the open kitchen and living room gave Quentin a nostalgic feeling, he started to breathe in all the joy he remembered feeling here. He got the same sense of homeliness and warmth that envelopped him everytime he would follow his grandfather inside after a long car ride from his parent's house.

He had made so many good memories here. Reading, laying down on the rugs with a pillow under his neck and a croched blanket on his belly. Talking to his sleepy grandfather and his sharp, witty grandmother at the table while playing board games. Learning how to make crepes with Julia in the kitchen. He hoped that Eliot could see this cabin one day and remember something good about it too. Not only the despair he seemed to feel, the never-ending frustration and his poor coping-mecanisms. But the days fake-arguing with Margo about Julia's invisibility spell, the joy of casting with Quentin, the warmth of the fire on his hands after spending hours walking outside amongst the trees. Maybe tonight would be one of the good memories too, Quentin hoped. Maybe it would be the first of many more to come.

Quentin took a deep breath and walked to Eliot's bedroom door. He knocked once, twice and waited, trying not to panic. Finally, he heard the covers ruffling and Eliot's muffled steps. Eliot opened the door in a haste, frowning, but his movement stopped when he saw the living room. Quentin watched him take it all in. The fresh flowers on the coffee table, the books stacked tidily next to the sofa, the smell of the fireplace and citrus detergent.

Eliot's face was blank, like he didn't understand what was happening. But then he chuckled and for a second he looked like old Eliot again.

« I had forgotten how nice this place is »

Quentin let out a breath, almost chortling out of relief and satisfaction. He looked over at the living room again and said, without thinking : « Me too, I used to love coming here. Lately it feels like hell to wake up in this bed »

« I know what you mean » Eliot's tone wasn't as grim as usual, his voice sounded fuller, if still rough around the edges.

Quentin quickly stirred the conversation away from these dangerous waters, tonight was about making Eliot feel better, not make him remember why he was miserable. « I thought we both needed an actual meal, so I called a restaurant and.... convinced them to make us takeout »

« You mean you magically manipulated them to » Eliot joked curtly, in his old Eliot way. He was in a joking mood, then.

« Well, you wouldn't get your ass up to teach me how not to burn pasta so I had to make do » Quentin retorted in the same fake-sharp tone.

Eliot looked down at him and at first Quentin thought he had gone too far and hurt his feelings, but a barely noticeable smile was playing on Eliot's chapped lips, and his eyes softened. Quentin tried not to frown but he was confused. Surely, cheering Eliot up couldn't be this easy. Five minutes ago, he was in the middle of digging himself a hole to possibly die in, and now he was throwing jokes and smiles around ?

The truth was, no one had ever done anything like this for Eliot. He still felt like utter shit, and if he was honest he was still on a drowsy high from the last pills he had swallowed a few hours before. But he could barely wrap his dazed mind around the fact that someone cared about him enough to go out of their way to do something nice for him. Knowing what the cottage had looked only 10 hours earlier, Eliot realised Quentin must have spent the better part of the day tidying and cleaning and dusting and... chopping wood ? How did he manage to light an actual fire ?

« Are you okay ? » Quentin asked in a whisper, and when Eliot turned his face to look at him, he could almost see the cogs turning behind his eyes, trying to understand what he was dealing with, here.

« Quentin, I'm obviously miserable. » Eliot's voice was firm but not mean, he was just stating a fact. « But we're not going to dwell on it, and while I'm still half high from those pills we'll have a nice dinner. Plenty of time tomorrow to feel sorry for myself. » He added with a forced smile.

Quentin nodded, and they sat at the kitchen table. They drank a little too much wine, they ate the most delicious meal they had had in two and a half years, and they laughed about the most ridiculous stuff. Hearing Eliot's high pitched laugh made Quentin feel better, even if he knew the glint in his eyes wasn't as genuine as the smile on his lips led to believe.

They had a nice evening. And Quentin was right in thinking it might be the first of many.

Chapter Text

Life in the secluded cottage started to get easier. Everyday, Quentin would call the restaurant and use magic to order the day's special menu to take out. He would ride to town and back alone, which gave him and Eliot much needed alone time. Because now they were actually spending all their time together, reading silently and sharing a blanket, or talking about what spell they could use to reach Jane. They mostly argued about who had to venture in the cold forest to bring back some wood for the fire, though. Quentin assumed Eliot knew a spell to make a fire out of thin air, and he was sure he himself could figure a way to create a whole new spell for it, but he suspected Eliot liked the effort of lighting a real fire as much as he did.

After a few months of endless spell research, spell testing and spells failing, Quentin and Eliot had mostly abandonned the idea to ever reach Jane. Every few weeks, Julia would call the cabin's landline from a payphone, to update them on their women hunt and demand news of Eliot's wellbeing. Soon, it seemed obvious to both of them that reaching Jane was out of the question. First of all, they couldn't figure out how to do it. And even if they did, Julia had to agree with Quentin : a quest didn't work that way, you couldn't get extra clues from the quest betower because you were stuck on level one.

So for a while, they were free. After Julia, Margo and Penny agreed to stop searching for Jane, they had to figure out something else to be doing. It seemed the three road trippers didn't need any more help. They weren't getting anywhere but adding two more people to a failure wouldn't make it hurt less. So Eliot and Quentin were on holiday until Julia, Margo and Penny decided what to do with them.

Which meant they had time to kill.

The first thing they did is go on a day out in the small city closest to the cabin. They went to see a movie, ate fast food, bought books and new clothes, visited an art museum and came back exhausted and happy. After that day, Quentin had had the best night's sleep he could remember having. Unfortunately, it was cut short by someone banging on his bedroom door. He was still sitting on the edge of the matress when Eliot barged in.

« You know what ? I'm going to teach you how to cook. »

And he did. Quentin drove Eliot to the supermarket, then he followed him around the aisles with a cart that was getting fuller by the minute. Eliot was chosing vegetables, picking spices, comparing brands in a spectacle that reminded Quentin of the way he cast spells. With broad and confident movements, his face focussed and relaxed, his eyes trusting, as if he had no doubt the world would conform to his every whim.

When they got back to the cottage, Eliot couldn't stop smiling. His hair was now tied at the back of his head, which let Quentin see his whole face. The dark circles had disapeared, his skin looked smooth and healthy, his face seemed to glow. Quentin suddenly remembered it had been a while since he'd last seen a bottle of alcohol laying around, or the stolen orange pill containers in the cupboards.

Quentin was a really bad cook, and he was more focussed on Eliot's moving lips than the words coming out of them, which meant the risotto they ate that day was mostly the product of Eliot's expert hands than Quentin's clumsy ones. But neither of them cared, Eliot's goal here had been to spend time with Quentin, to involve him in something he loved, and to reconnect with it himself. He really did love cooking, and he hadn't realised how much he had missed it.

After their meal, Quentin insisted he should do the dishes as Eliot had done most of the cooking, which lead to Eliot sitting in his chair, watching Quentin's back whilst he cleaned plates and pots. He chuckled under his breath when he noticed how long Quentin's hair had gotten. It reached his armpits now. The new black button up he had convinced him to get made his shoulders look broader and fell nicely above his butt. Eliot knew this was dangerous territory, letting his eyes linger on Quentin's thighs and wondering what his skin would feel like under his fingertips wasn't what friends were supposed to do. And he definetely wanted to stay friends with Quentin. He didn't know what he would do without him.

Eliot had abandonned fooling himself. He was past this whole « I shouldn't let myself have feelings » Brakebillian phase. Quentin was the kindest person he knew. He was smart and eager, as sensitive to beauty as he was to stress or sadness. He was a ball of life, his heart jumping at every small joyful hump in the road and sinking at every sad crack in the tarmac. And he had helped him so much over the last few months. He couldn't deny the love he felt for him.

Chapter Text

It had been a week and Julia still hadn't called. Quentin tried not to worry : Julia was strong enough to take care of herself, she was surrounded by two other great magicians, and they weren't in any immediate danger, he would remind himself. And spending time with Eliot, without responsibilities or any impossible task to fulfill was helping a lot. The cabin was regaining its old homey feel as the days went by, and Quentin hoped Eliot was starting to feel at home there too. The scent of wood burning mixed deliciously with the smell of food - which was still mostly Eliot's doing, even if he insisted Quentin was helping him greatly when he would only drop knives and spend 5 minutes cutting a sigle onion. Quentin was reading his old battered copies of the Fillory books and more often than not, he would find Eliot peaking above his shoulder, reading along.

More than slipping back into his old self, Eliot was growing. He was putting less of a show, leaving behind his purposefully nonchalent airs and replacing them with fond looks and genuine smiles. He was softening, growing into himself and finding the sensitivity he thought he had lost for good. He still hung onto his sarcasm and dark humour, but he told his jokes with a glint of joy in his eyes that his mock-frowns couldn't overshadow. Quentin didn't know where this drastic change came from, but he was glad to witness it.

As for Eliot, he suspected the reason for his good mood and new aura was Quentin. Somehow, from the beginning, Eliot had admired him. His open heart, his hyper-sensitivity, the way you could read his every feeling, his every thought in his eyes. No matter how much he hurt, he kept throwing himself at the world with a naive hopefulness. Eliot hadn't understood, at first, how someone could be both so depressed and so willing to believe in the magic and the beauty in the world. Eliot's own child-like amazement had been stripped from him when he was so young, and he had worked really hard to keep it burried. But as he lived with Quentin, he realised how much he missed it. No wonder he was miserable, he feared getting hurt so much he had closed off his heart. Vulnerability was for other people, the ones that got a raincheck on the inevitable torments of life, he had reasoned, jaded. Sooner or later, pain and shame and sadness would rush towards them and keep tugging at them, like ocean waves scratching at the beach over and over again.

But Quentin seemed to have found a cheat code. He was both the saddest and strongest person Eliot knew. His brain didn't know how not to hurt him, and life hadn't been kind to him. But he still managed to keep the fire in his heart alive. Margo had been right that time she confessed to Eliot she thought Quentin was the only person she'd ever met who actually believed in magic. Really believed in it. He had faith in its goodness, in its power to change the world, in its utter beauty.

Now, Eliot wanted to feel that. He wanted to believe in the world, blindly and absolutely. Maybe it made him an idiot. Thinking everything could be good – would be good eventually – whilst his world was in such dire straits. And wanting to wear his heart on his sleeve for anyone to throw it to the ground and stomp on it until nothing was left. But somehow, it didn't scare him anymore. Making himself vulnerable didn't seem like such a bad idea. Because all the good things that could happen as a result were great enough to counter-balance all the terrible ones. Of that, he was sure. Because Quentin was walking proof of it, because his messed up brain and shitty life hadn't managed to tear him down. Vulnerability was his strength, and Eliot wanted to be strong.

« I need to get my hair sorted out, it's way too long and it's annoying me » Quentin's sulky voice pulled Eliot out of his head. He looked over to his side of the couch to see him struggling with a hairtie, his arms straining to get all his hair in a bun.

Eliot chuckled lightly and pushed his own – way too long – hair out of his face, putting down the book he had zoned out on. « I should get mine cut too, it's getting ridiculous », he added.

Quentin looked back at him suddenly with a serious expression. « Eliot, I don't think you're even capable of looking ridiculous », he said sternly, his hands still shuffling behind his head.

Eliot stiffled a laugh to say in an affected proud tone : « Well, you might be right ». His countenance broke and he smiled at Quentin who felt himself blushing, realising what he had said. « But I still want a haircut »

« Yeah... Me too... » Quentin added before a pensive silence fell on them.

« Wait, we have scissors here, I'm sure we can do it ourselves » Eliot suggested

« Please, don't tell me you want me to cut your hair. » Quentin whined, « I'll probably mess it up and then you'll be mad at me forever »

They both knew old Eliot would have been, but the Eliot he was turning into would probably laugh it off.

« Quentin, we're magicians, there's probably a spell that could help us »

And so they went to get the textbooks they had put away when Julia allowed them to give up on finding Jane, and they worked together to create a spell. It had been months since they hadn't worked in harmony, understanding each other perfectly, sometimes even not having to speak to communicate. But, Quentin realised, it must be like riding a bike. No matter how long it was since their minds and their magics worked together, as soon as they collided again, they would work wonders. When they tried different versions of their spells by cutting through sheets of paper to see if it would work, their magic immediately merged together and Eliot and Quentin cast as one.

They hadn't realised how much they had missed it. It was so easy to cast together, so satisfying. They felt like they were reconnecting through this spell, becoming more comfortable with each other.

It took them the whole afternoon to figure out a good hair-cutting spell. But Quentin knew they could have been way faster. They weren't creating the spell from scratch, they were only piecing a few different simple spells together to ensure they would cut in straight lines and avoid mistakes. It was basic metamaths and logistics. He suspected Eliot was slowing down the process to bask in the feeling of their magic working together. Quentin understood, casting with Eliot like this emptied his head of worries, it anchered him in the moment and left him content and a little giddy.

As the sun was setting, they tried the spell one last time. When they saw how straight and controlled the lines the scissors made were, they decided it was good enough.

So Quentin volunteered to get his hair cut first, because he'd rather get a funky haircut than give one, to Eliot of all people. So Eliot pushed the kitchen table against the wall and put one of the chairs in the middle of the cleared-out area. He cast the spell on the scissors while Quentin was in the bathroom, getting his hair wet and casting the untangling spell on his messy locks.

When he came back to the brightly lit kitchen, Eliot tried his hardest not to stare at Quentin's naked chest.

« Did you lose your shirt in the process ? » he chuckled

« I didn't want to get hair all over it, it's a nice shirt » Quentin shrugged, and as he sad down in front of Eliot he added : « Besides, don't act like you don't love it »

Quentin silently congratulated himself for facing away from Eliot when he said it, so he could hide his blushing cheeks. Eliot was shocked for half a second but slipped into seduction mode in record time.

« Oh, so we're flirting now ? » he said softly with a smirk as he approached the chair. He reached for Quentin, lowering his upper body to hover over him and slid his fingers lightly along his arm before almost whispering : « Careful, Quentin. You're not going to win »

Eliot let his hand linger on Quentin's hot skin for a while, then he laughed the mood away and started gathering Quentin's long hair in his hands. Quentin let out a nevous breath and tried to get his heart to calm down. The way he saw it, if Eliot won this game, Quentin wouldn't be the loser. After all, getting seduced by Eliot could never count as a failure.

Eliot cut Quentin's hair with care and gentleness, he took his time, not wanting to mess up. The room stayed silent, Quentin could hear the snap of the scissors and Eliot breathing, since he was so close to him. By the time he was done, Quentin's hair was mostly dry and he could feel it grazing his shoulders as he turned his head to the side.

Eliot went around the chair to face Quentin and admire his handywork. Quentin ran his hands through his newly cut hair with a smile of relief on his face. Eliot's eyes lingered on Quentin's torso stretching and his chest expanding as he drew in a breath and tied his hair easily on the back of his head.

« All better ? » Eliot asked, shaking any innapropriate thought away.

Quentin nodded and got up dusting off his torso to get the small hairs to drop of the floor. Eliot almost reached out, thinking he could help him and use it as an excuse to touch him, let his fingers linger on his shoulders and his chest. But Quentin looked back up at him when he got most of the hair off and said « Your turn ! »

So they exhanged places and Eliot took off his shirt, deciding Quentin actually had a point. Getting hair out off clothes was the worst. And honestly, being half naked with Quentin so close to him was a pleasing idea.

Quentin was as careful and gentle with Eliot as Eliot had been with him. Just like him, he spent way too much time making sure everything was even, and cut slowly to ensure he wasn't making mistakes. The spell they had cast on the scissors were making them cut precisely and they would change direction on their own if you were on your way to cut too much hair at once. They were a lifesaver for Quentin whose hands were shaking with nerves.

When he was finally done, Quentin laid the scissors on the kitchen table and walked around the chair to face Eliot. « So ? » he asked, his voice half nervous, half proud.

« I haven't even seen it yet, Quentin » Eliot said with a chuckle as he got up and walked to the bathroom.

Quentin followed eagerly, wanting to know what Eliot thought. Quentin tried to recreate what he remembered Eliot's hair looked like the first time he saw him, in that library, so, so long ago.

As soon as Eliot caught a glimpse of himself in the batroom mirror, he smiled and ran his hands through his hair. « You did a really good job, Q ! », Eliot said reassuringly, his eyes meeting Quentin's in the mirror.

Quentin smiled, almost bashful. To hide his embarassment he reached for Eliot's shoulder and started dusting off the small hair gathered on his skin. After a few seconds, he noticed Eliot taking a deep breath and he looked back at the mirror to see his face. Eliot was already looking at him. His eyes were intense and loving, a small smirk played on his lips. He looked strange, both enamoured and hungry.

« Well, don't stop, Q. You were on the way to win this game » Eliot's voice was playful and low, he looked excited and expectant.

Quentin realised it was his hands on Eliot's skin that got him like this. He never thought he'd have this kind of power over someone like Eliot. But the look on his face couldn't lie, Eliot was enjoying this simple touch, as innocent as Quentin had tried to make it.

Quentin wasn't very good at flirting. He didn't really know what to do with the hands that were still resting on Eliot's shoulders. But the knowledge that Eliot wanted him, that Eliot was willing to let him touch him, was enough to give him the courage he needed to turn Eliot's body around and press his lips against his.

Chapter Text

Eliot would never have thought Quentin bold enough to cut to the chase so soon. He was ready to stand days and days of coy compliments, lingering stares and grazing touches. But with their bodies pressed together the way they were and Quentin's lips softly playing on his own, Eliot soon stopped thinking altogether.

For once, Quentin's overthinking brain hadn't stopped him from going after what he wanted. Kissing Eliot was as good as he remembered, sweet, exhilirating, fun. At first, Eliot was careful, not knowing what Quentin had in mind, how he wanted this to go. But soon, the slow, inquiring kisses turned into a deep and heated makeout session. Eliot felt like a teenager kissing a boy for the first time, if he was honest the last time he had felt this eager to touch someone was in high school. His hands were pressing on Quentin's back to get him as close to him as possible. Quentin grabbed Eliot's shoulder eagerly and pushed his own back against the bathroom wall, bringing Eliot with him. Eliot broke the kiss in shock and something that sounded half like a laugh, half like a moan escaped his lips when he found Quentin's body pressed so close to his.

Quentin's mind was deliciously blank, it was as if Eliot's skin under his fingers and his naked stomach brushing against his own were chasing away his thoughts. He ran his hand through Eliot's newly cut hair and kissed him hungrily, high on the feeling of not thinking anything.

Eliot adjusted their position, snaking one of his legs between Quentin's. Quentin gasped and threw his head back against the wall, eyes closed, basking in the new pressure against his groin. Eliot took advantage of the easy access and kissed all over Quentin's stretched neck.

Eliot didn't know if it was because it had been so long since he had sex, or because it was Quentin he was touching, but everything felt so much better than any other time he had hooked up with someone. Quentin's skin was invintingly hot under his touch, the small gasps and jagged sounds he made seemed to make Eliot's heart beat faster, the smell of soap and faint deodorant got Eliot hungry for more. So much more.

Eliot detached his body from Quentin's, keeping his head burried in the crook of his neck, kissing and lapping at the skin there as he let his hands wander on Quentin's naked torso.

« So, » he began in a whisper, trailing his hand down, down, down until he reached Quentin's belt and kept going. Quentin's throat released an appreciating sound. « I'm guessing you wouldn't object to moving this to my room ? » he said, smirking, as his hands started palming at Quentin's erection.

Quentin nodded, breathing hard, when Eliot walked back from him to give him time to answer. Eliot's eyes raked over Quentin. His chest and shoulders heaving, the outline of his hard on clearly visible through his jeans, small strands of hair had escaped from his bun, and his eyes were full of lust. Eliot raised one eyebrow, egging Quentin on. He wanted a clear, definite answer. Consent was on his mind but he also couldn't wait to hear Quentin ask him to fuck him.

Quentin seemed to get the hint. He relished in the way Eliot's eyes moved purposefully on his body, tracing the places his hands had been only a few seconds before. Eliot was dischevelled and dark, Quentin felt a shiver running through his spine as he realised he had this much of an effect on him. He raised his chin defiantly with a playful smirk on his lips. « Let's go » he said, his voice raspier than usual.

Eliot mirrored Quentin's ravenous smile, turned his body slowly towards the door, keeping his eyes focussed on Quentin's until the last moment. Just before he turned his head towards the bathroom door, he noticed Quentin's eyes leaving his to lose themselves on the expanse of his back. Eliot walked out of the door, a devilish smile on his lips as he started hearing Quentin's steps following him towards his bedroom. This was going to be fun, he thought. He made every single one of his movement purposeful and slow, knowing how his hips would sway if he adjusted his walk, feeling his back muscles contract in that delighful way as he made his steps casual and slow.

As soon as he opened his door, Quentin was on him. Pressing his front to Eliot's back, one of his hands reaching in front of him to paw at Eliot's lower stomach and past his belt, his lips leaving open mouthed kisses along his back and his hips inadvertently stuttering against Eliot's butt. Eliot smiled knowingly as he arched against Quentin, predicting how nice the pressure would feel on Quentin's clothed dick. His smile broadened when he heard Quentin moan softly against the back of his neck.

It seemed Quentin wanted to take this whole ordeal in his own hands, because he turned Eliot's body around and backed him up against the bed until he fell on the mattress unceremoniously. Quentin followed him immediately and climbed on top of Eliot on all fours, careful to get one of his legs between his. Eliot was discovering a new glint in Quentin's eyes. It was curiousity, mixed with something primal, something wild and exciting. As Quentin lowered himself onto Eliot, he whispered in his ear : « You have no idea how long I've wanted to do this »

He pressed himself against Eliot, keeping himself up on one elbow next to Eliot's head as his other hand ran on his torso and found his way to one of his nipples.

« Touch you like this », Quentin added, his eyes following the movement of his fingers, his ears tuned on Eliot's shallow, quickening breaths.

Quentin's shyness and insecurities had flown out of the window when he realised Eliot wanted him as much as he did. When his usual, self-pitying voice started ringing in his brain, he forced himself to picture the look in Eliot's eyes when he had touched his shoulders, the way he had looked at his body after kissing him. It seemed to shut the voice right up.

Eliot's hands found their way to Quentin's ass, kneading. He was overtaken by desire, every fiber of his being wanted to feel Quentin, to be as close to him as possible. Quentin rolled his hips slowly against Eliot's while watching his mouth opening in ecstasy and his back arching on a quest to friction.

As they moved together, Quentin's lips found Eliot's neck and kissed it slowly. Eliot had no idea Quentin would be this deliberate and deft, he had figured this would be quick and dirty with the bittersweet feeling of ruined friendship afterwards, maybe. But no, Quentin had definitely thought this through, and Eliot was enjoying the ride.

Quentin was sliding down Eliot's body, kissing the skin that appeared under his mouth as he got lower and lower. When he reached Eliot's belt, he started peppering kisses on his lower stomach, squeezing his fingers under the waistband of his underwear, teasing. Eliot was having more and more trouble keeping still and silent, his neck stretched awkwardly to the side to see Quentin's handywork. He didn't want to scare the boy away. As Quentin's tongue started darting closer and closer to his waistband, Eliot let out a small moan, though. Quentin looked back up and caught Eliot's stare, the mischevious glint in his eyes convinced Eliot to stop worrying. Quentin smirked, looking straight into his eyes as one of his hands started dancing lightly, almost imperceptibly, on his clothed crotch.

« Fuck » Eliot let out in a breathy, high voice as he threw his head back on the matress. But as soon as he felt Quentin's free hand unfastening his belt and unbuttoning his jeans, his head shot back up. Quentin's focus shifted to Eliot's face and he said hastily : « Get rid of them », before working on his own belt.

In a few seconds, they were both in their underwear and Quentin's face was back in close quarters with Eliot's crotch. Quentin's hands were roaming Eliot's thighs, his thumb gliding closer and closer to Eliot's straining cock. Just as Eliot was about to open his mouth to plead Quentin to just do something, he felt his lips mouthing at his dick through the fabric, and a moan escaped him instead. Quentin laughed softly in response and the vibration from his voice went through Eliot's body deliciously.

« You'll be the death of me, Quentin Coldwater », Eliot exhaled.

« Not if you undo me first, Eliot Waugh », Quentin answered.

Eliot almost found it in himself to laugh, but Quentin was sliding his underwear off and suddenly, Eliot couln't remember anything to laugh about. He watched as Quentin licked his lips, looking at the last bit of Eliot he hadn't seen before and smiled in anticipation, and then the only sounds that came out of his mouth were ragged moans and sharp intakes of breath.

Quentin was licking and sucking on all the right places, replacing his tongue with his hands to whatever place his mouth had to leave to focus somewhere else. He did everything to keep Eliot on edge, letting go when his hips started twitching, or slowing down when his breathy moans started turning into small, desperate grunts. Eliot realised Quentin wanted more from this than just a dick to suck, and the thought of what he could do to his body gave him the strength to gently push Quentin's head away and motion him to the head of the bed.

Quentin looked confused, and Eliot could see his anxious mind rebooting and starting to feed him insecure thoughts. So he moved his hand to the nape of Quentin's neck and kissed him thoroughly. There was no place for such nonesense in this bed.

Eliot could feel Quentin's thoughts leaving him as he kissed him back with more and more enthusiasm and purpose. Eliot's lips left Quentin's to take up residence on his neck, lapping and kissing the skin there until Quentin resolved to lay back and enjoy himself.

Eliot couldn't believe he was finally allowed to touch Quentin the way he was, to hear the sounds he made, to feel his adam's apple bob against the soft touch of his lips. Eliot shifted to get a proper look at Quentin, the scattered hair on his chest, his nipples hard with arousal, his ribs jutting out, his stomach rising and falling rapidly. His legs spread apart and his hips rolling against the air as Eliot continued licking absent-mindedly at his skin.

« Well, aren't you gorgeous » he said in a breath, letting his hand dance on Quentin's lower stomach. Quentin let out a shaky breath that was almost a laugh. The sweetest sound Eliot had heard in his entire life. Quentin knew he was blushing but he didn't care anymore.

Eliot told him to get rid of his underwear and he did while Eliot fished something from under his bead. Quentin had a pretty good idea what it was even if he didn't see the small plastic bottle. He was too busy looking at Eliot's body stretching and folding, moving gracefully on the bed to finally meet him. Eliot was looking him in the eyes when he started palming at his dick, sending shivers up his body after all the teasing. Eliot revelled in the way Quentin's face turned from blushing and horny to wanton. His eyes darkened, his mouth opened, almost in shock and his head dug into the matress as his back arched ever so slightly when Eliot increased the pace.

When Quentin started moaning, Eliot decided it was enough and lowered his hand to lightly circle Quentin's hole. He heard Quentin take a big breath and a smile appeared on his lips. He looked so fucking content, Eliot didn't waste any more time and squeezed some of the lube on his fingers and returned to their place, working more purposefuly.

By the time his first finger was pumping in and out of him gently, Quentin was a mess. Soft moans escaping his erratic breaths.

« C'mon » he urged Eliot, and his tone was so pleading Eliot didn't even tease him about it. He moved down the matress and between Quentin's legs and worked a second finger in. The view from this side was even better. Quentin's hands had come to rest on his forehead and Eliot marvelled at the way his stomach contracted and rose with each bolt of pleasure.

Quentin was softly rocking against his hand, his legs spreading further, his back arching once in a while. The sounds he made kept Eliot hard, the barely-audible moans, the broken groans, the erratic breathing. When Eliot touched the most tender part of Quentin, he would keen and take huge breaths. Eliot wanted to hear every combination of sounds he could elicit from Quentin, but to do that, he thought, he'd have to replace his fingers with what Quentin really wanted inside of him right now.

He extracted his fingers carefully and Quentin whined at the loss, his head rising to ask Eliot to keep going. But when he saw Eliot pouring lube on his own dick and motionning closer to Quentin's body, he shut up and looked at Eliot's face. As he started penetrating him, his eyebrows drew up in pleasure and his jaws set in concentration. Quentin watched as Eliot's hands gripped his hips to keep him still, but soon, Eliot was inside and Quentin's head was back to the matress, eyes closed to take it all in.

It had been literal years since he'd felt this full, he couldn't believe all the pent up sexual tension would feel this good in its resolution.

Eliot stayed still for a while, letting Quentin adjust and giving himself time to regain some composure. But when Quentin's hips started gyrating again while a demanding moan excaped his lips, he couldn't help himself. He started pulling out and in again, one hand one Quentin's hips and the other on the matress, supporting his weight. He looked back at Quentin to ensure he was okay, but the same wanton look on his features, his closed eyes and the soft sounds leaving his throat made him go faster. Quentin's lips stretched in a smile at the change of pace but it was quickly shoved away by a whine when Eliot started hitting the spot he had found earlier with his fingers.

Eliot paused to lay back, his hand pressed on the mastress beind him to give him leverage. Quentin's curious eyes found him changing position on the bed but quickly closed again when he started moving and hitting all the right places from the new angle. Quentin's back arched and Eliot groaned loudly, the sound whithering in a high moan. Quentin was moving with him now, his hips thrusting into his, driving them both mad with pleasure.

Eliot's hand found Quentin's dick and started messily plaming him, jerking him off clumsily. It was enough to make Quentin moan again though, and clench around Eliot's dick. He was panting by now, slowing down and picking back up again, trying to keep himself and Quentin on the edge.

Their bodies moved together the same way their magic had. They melted and clashed, chasing one another. Quentin's stomach started to contract more and more, his thighs tight around Eliot, his hips thrusting up in Eliot's fist, his ass squeezing deliciously around Eliot's dick. He was loosing it, his moans fading into breatless pants until he came in a high whine, his body moving of its own accord to chase the pleasure. As Eliot watched him coming undone, strips of cum pooling on his belly, clenching around him, he came too, his head threw it self back, his hips jutted forward as bliss took over him.

As he regained his senses, he pulled out and looked up at Quentin. He looked shamelessly well-fucked, his arms still folded up near his head, his legs carelessy spread wide around Eliot, a spent smile was playing on his lips and his eyes looked hazy and satisfied. It made Eliot laugh as he threw himself on the matress next to him.

« Well, aren't you gorgeous » Quentin said, repeating Eliot's words. Because he was, his chest still raising and falling fast, his features relaxed, his body lax and graceful on the white sheets.

Eliot smiled and kissed Quentin, and they fell asleep in seconds.

Chapter Text

Sex with Quentin had been mindblowing, so much so that Eliot and him had spend most of the day after in bed sharing breaths and merging together. At some point, Eliot had had enough headspace to take a step back and realise how happy he was, laying in a warm bed with Quentin so close to him.

Unfortunately, life couldn't stop being a bitch for too long, and after indulging them for a few days, it had to pick up where it left off and throw itself at them again. They were still making out when the landline phone rang in the cottage. Quentin started, his teeth grazing Eliot's lips in a jerk. Eliot laid back with a chuckle as Quentin groaned but moved off the bed to rush to the phone.

« Hello ? » Quentin said, annoyed and distracted by the taste of Eliot lingering on his lips

« Quentin, it's me », Quentin could hear Julia's ragged breath and a lot of white noise. « You won't believe this, we found Alice and Kady. Turns out they were in Antartica the whole time. I know, it's crazy, right ? » Quentin didn't have time to answer or ask Julia to slow down before she continued. « We're in New York right now, the girls are crazy tired but we're coming to you right now. Is Eliot back on track ? »

Quentin had to stiffle a laugh, but thinking about the last couple of days he felt himself blushing. « He's getting there », he said longingly and he swore Julia instantly knew what had happened between them.

It seemed she didn't really have time to dwell, though, because after a few teasing words she went back to her matter-of-fact run through of her plan : « We'll be there tomorrow, and once everyone has a full night's sleep we'll train together to face the Beast. The girls have some crazy stuff up their sleeves, we have a lot to learn ! »

Quentin smiled at the sound of Julia's excited tone. What a fucking Ravenclaw. Her passion and never-ending need for knowledge made Quentin believe in the future for some reason. If Julia was looking forward to learning how to fight the Beast, Quentin guessed their chances of defeating it were pretty high.

« Great, be safe ! » Quentin concluded fondly.

« We will ! Bye ! »

Julia hung up and Quentin turned around to face Eliot who was leaning against the bedroom doorframe. His glum and disappointed face contrasted horridly against Quentin's enthusiasm and the memory of Julia's excited tone.

« What's wrong ? » Quentin asked, frowning, his voice faltering.

Eliot scoffed and crossed his arms against his chest protectively. « Quentin, do you realise we're a bunch of college dropouts about to try and fight an evil mega monster ? There's a good chance none of us are going to make it. How can you be so happy about it ? » His tone had gone from collected and haughty to frustrated and sad. He shook his head, looking away from Quentin as if to say « I can't believe this guy ! »

Quentin knew that. He knew him and his friends were at high risks of dying. He knew they were about to embark on an impossible mission to save the world. Well, one world. Namely Fillory. The most magical, beautiful, pure and whimsical place he knew of. The one world in the universe that was actually well worth dying for.

« If Jane gave us the quest, it means she knows we can win » Quentin said calmly, envenly, walking towards Eliot with soft steps as if he was a scared and dangerous animal. « I know this is weird and it probably goes against all your beliefs but you need to have faith. »

Eliot looked back at Quentin and said dryly, his eyes cold as ice : « Jane isn't a god, Quentin. And we're not heroes. We're not even real magicians. We're barely functionning humans. There's no way in hell we're saving Fillory. »

« We will, cause we have to, Eliot. There's no other way. I won't let Fillory die » Quentin's tone was getting more tense, if Eliot thought he'd be able to back out from this he was wrong. Quentin wouldn't let him leave Fillory behind.

Eliot's eyes surveyed Quentin for a while, looking for something in his face, behind his anrgy gaze. They stayed frozen in silence for a few minutes and Quentin tried to look as determined as he felt. Finally, Eliot looked away, his eyes wet, shaking his head in disbelief and retreated back to his room. He shut the door close and suddenly Quentin was alone in the living room.


As soon as Julia, Penny, Margo and the two new girls arrived at the cabin, Quentin's morale left him. They looked miserable. Even Julia, whose voice had gotten him to hope they could do this a few hours before, looked a mess. Her eyes were bloodshot, her hair in tangles, her whole face looked defeated. Margo didn't look much better, the dark circled under her eyes seemed to swallow them. Penny looked angrier than ever, his jaw set, his eyes dark.

After the brief introductions that allowed Quentin to recognise the blond girl as Alice and the tall, scary one as Kady ; Julia told him and Eliot what had happened in the few hours since they'd last talked. The Beast had found Bigby and the students she was sheltering and killed everyone, including the Dean. Penny, Margo and Julia had spent some time with her in the last few months, working with her to find Kady and Alice. She was the one that suggested going to Antartica.

« Worst of all, » Penny began in a strained voice, « I can't travel to Fillory without Bigby. She was the one making portals for me and she never told me how I could travel by myself. So we're stuck here until we figure that out »

There was silence for a while, Quentin didn't know what to say. He didn't even know what to think of it all. Kady cleared her throat to break the thick tension and said in a self-assured voice : « Guys, listen. I know you think this whole thing's doomed, but we're not totally screwed. There's a reason why Alice and me spent all this time in Brakebills South, and we know for a fact that if we work together, we can win this. »

« Yeah ? And how are we going to do that if we can't even go to Fillory ? » Penny asked in a rush, his tone sharp and rude.

« We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, » came Alice's small, girly voice, all eyes shifted to her. She was looking down at her feet, avoiding everyone's gaze, when she continued : « For now you need to train, and we have a lot to teach you. It's likely to take weeks so we'll have plenty of time to figure out how to get to Fillory. »

« So what, we should spend all our waking moments investing our energy into learning how to kill the Beast without knowing if we'll ever going to face him ? » Eliot asked bitterly.

« What we're not gonna do is we're not going to act like we are cursed to fail » Margo's strong and demanding voice seemed to smash against Eliot. He looked desoriented for a second as her piercing gaze confronted his wavering eyes. « And this goes for all of you » she added, looking around, stopping longer on Penny who was looking everywhere else but at her.

« We've spent years on this bullshit, and there's no way we're stopping now. We've gone too far to give up » Margo's abrasive and proud aura slapped them all in the face. Instantly, they all knew she wasn't going to let them give up. Quentin envied her authority, her fierce eyes, her august posture, the way she could dominate a room full of people with a few well-spoken words.

« So now », her tone softened, a smile played on her lips as she crossed her arms ceremoniously. « We're going to listen to Alice's plan, we're going to learn what Kady can teach us, and we're going to shut the fuck up. »

And so, they did.


Alice's plan was so ambitious it seemed impossible for them to achieve. There was just too many unknown facts and assumptions. First of all, it would require a way to get to Fillory, then a way to find the Beast without being found by him first, and a way to lure him to an appointed location. But most of all, this plan required Alice to be the most powerful being Quentin had ever encountered.

According to Alice and Kady, there was a professor in Brakebills South who lived as a hermit but who was also powerful enough to divert the Beast's attention from him and his school. That man – Alice had repeated his name 2 or 3 times but Quentin could only remember it sounded russian and unpleasant – had taught Kady more battle magic than she already knew, and trusted Alice with a deadly spell of his own making. Something powerful enough to kill a god, she said.

When Eliot cut her off and asked with a sneer how a tiny, insecure, mouse-girl like her was supposed to power a spell that big. Kady had told him to back off angrily and answered instead of Alice. The russian professor had entrusted them with a battery with enough stored energy to power the spell once. Then, Penny asked to see it and Alice and Kady threw him a glare so harsh and protective he took a step back. Evidently, they would keep any more information about the battery to themselves.

« No offense, but why should we trust you with this ? » Quentin asked tentatively, trying not to anger Kady more than she already was.

« Quentin... » Julia whispered next to him, trying to get him to back off.

« No, Julia, he's right. » Alice chimed in, in her small voice, still looking at her feet. « You have the right to know who and what you're dealing with here, we're all risking our lives to get this done. » She paused, trying to look at everyone but only managed small glances. « That's also why we want to train together, we need to trust one another if we want to get this right »

« And also. » Kady continued, looking at everyone square in the eyes. « Believe me, we want that bastard dead as much as any of you. I lost a lot more than a school when Brakebills got destroyed. And Alice did too. We want to give that son of a bitch a taste of his own medecine. »

Chapter Text

Sure, Eliot was pissed at him. Sure, a monster was destroying the only place in the universe Quentin had ever had faith in. Sure, him and his friends where about to throw themselves at the face of pure evil, risking painful death or lifelong traumas at best. But he was so, so happy.

His excitement even made him brave enough to ask Penny about his trips to Fillory. After a lot of pestering and annoyed looks, Penny had painted him a more than depressing picture of what Quentin thought used to be the most beautiful place in the universe. Penny described the grey, heavy sky and the huge black clouds that prevented the two sun's light to reach Fillory. He talked about the decimated forests, the burnt-down villages, the graveyards and dead animals scattered everywhere the eye could reach. He hadn't seen castle Whitespire, but Quentin didn't have much hope for it. Penny had felt something in the air though, he said it had felt like being the perfect amount of high. But there was no magic around, no gods or spirits. Fillory had lost its energy.

But Quentin was learning so much from Kady and Alice. Battle magic, powerful stuff. When he went to bed next to Eliot, thinking about how cool battle magic was almost made him giggle. It was all about control and raw, pure energy. It took a lot out of him to keep his emotions in check, and he basked in the challenge, trying over and over again. He failed, was angry for a few seconds, then sat back down on the ground, took a deep breath and worked at it again. Kady had tried to teach him meditation, she said it was the only way to get your emotions levelled enough to attempt the spells. Little did she know, Quentin had a long history with meditation and yoga and all the things people tell you to do when you hint at how sad you are. All the things you scoff at, then try anyway because you're desperate. Meditating had never worked for him, but Quentin did as he was told, and he tried.

It hadn't cure his depression, nor did it sooth his anxiety. But after a while meditating would calm him down enough to get one good spell out. Once again, Quentin realised how much he loved magic. He loved the way he could feel it bubbling inside of him when he called to it with the right words and gestures. He loved how it ran through him and saturated the air around him with thick power prints and faint buzzing sounds. He loved to see the world being shaped by his will. It was exhilirating.

It took a week for Eliot to stop sulking and give in to the pleasure of working his magic again after such a long hiatus. Soon, he was smiling to Quentin again, seemingly forgetting his earlier outbursts. Something told Quentin he wasn't off the hook yet, but for now, feeling Eliot's presence next to him and watching his eyes glitter with joy was enough.

It felt good to be near Julia again too, to see her everyday, to watch her cast perfect spells with little help from Kady. Even behind her protection mask of superiority, Quentin could tell Kady was impressed with her. He felt a surge of pride at that. Julia was truly wonderful, and he was grateful he got to call her his friend.

Alice never trained with them. She would disappear for hours in the woods and come back looking worn out and frustrated. Quentin learnt not to question her, or even look at her. Any form of attention seemed to make her uncomfortable. But when Penny and Eliot started to be more vocal about their suspicion of Alice's power and strenghth, she decided to let them see her cast one spell. One, and only one, she was adamant about letting them know there wouldn't be a second time. The spell definetely shut everyone up and dissipated any doubt about her abilities. She chose a natural spell, one of the most unpredictable kind of magic after battle magic. It demanded dexterity and a great deal of intuition. It wasn't like other types of magic where you could bend the world with your will alone, master it completely and make it do what you wanted. With natural magic, you needed to work with nature, instead of against it, which was a tricky business.

After she told everyone she would cast in front of them to prove them she was powerful enough, she produced an apple from her pocket, kneeled on the muddy ground and dug a small hole with her hands. As she put the apple inside and covered it with more mud, everyone realised what she was attempting. Making a tree grow from seeds was one of the least impressive and dramatic things you could do with magic. It didn't require long mantras or broad gestures. But it was certainly one of the most difficult spells to master, and not every magician – even the strongest – could manage it. Quentin thought that it she was as powerful as she said, she would be able to quicken the growth process to produce a three year old tree in a few minutes. That's what Julia told him was the standard spell. But Alice was everything but standard. It took her 30 seconds to grow the seed into a sprout and 30 more to get it to become a three year old tree. This was an impressive record and it was definetely enough to convince him of her power. But she wasn't done. And with nothing more than a small frown, she kept growing the tree, it reached 7 feet, and kept going : 10 feet, 12 feet, 15 feet. Heads turned to watch the branches grow out and thicken, then they saw leaves sprouting from them, and apple burgeons appear. And then those grew too, and became small, green apples, then fattened and reddened. One apple fell, the ripest of them all. All eyes followed it, exepect Alice's. With her lids closed, she reached a hand in front of her, and the apple fell directly on it.

Silence fell over everyone, she opened her eyes and looked down immediately, not even checking her results. She turned around without a word and walked to the secret place where she trained everyday. After that, no one dared doubt her skills again.

Days and days passed, apples kept falling from the tree as they became ripe. Kady would pick them up from the ground and cook them into the most rich and sweet apple sauce they had ever tasted. Quentin learnt to control his feelings long enough to cast more and more complicated spells. Julia started to retreat to her citadel of meditated peace even when she wasn't casting. Apparently, meditation was doing something good for her. Penny was decent at battle magic, but his true advantage was his transportation powers. Him and Kady would battle far from the house for hours, he was the only one Kady would actually get better from a battle with. Eliot and Margo, as usual, learnt with grace and apparent ease. Though, Quentin heard Margo go out at night and practice on her own. She wasn't as naturally talented as Eliot. Then again, Quentin had never met anyone who was.

Quentin knew he was the weakest battler of them all. He didn't have Penny's special skill, or Eliot's ease. He wasn't as obsessive as Margo or as calm and levelled as Julia. Kady had had years of practice on him, and looking at Alice's tree everyday, he guessed she was probably as good as Kady. But he was getting better. After the third week, he could keep his emotions in check long enough to cast 5 spells back to back. After two months, it only took him a second to get into battle mode, erasing his thoughts and focussing on the white hot feeling of battle magic at his fingertips. The late night escapades in the city with Eliot and the quiet moans they shared in the early mornings did help Quentin concentrate. Their intimacy was doing a lot of good to his magic. It was more focussed and felt clearer, and meditation stopped feeling like a waste of time. Quentin saw his battle magic improve before his eyes, each of Eliot's kisses making it better.

They were all getting better, fast. Their primary hesitations about learning spells to fight a monster way stronger than they were, and who they didn't even know how to get to, had subsided as they started getting into the magic. And Quentin knew it wasn't just because they were all giant nerds, eager to learn, to know, to master anything and everything that crawled under their noses. It was because battle magic was addictive, more than any kind of magic he ever did, even more than when he cast with Eliot. There was something about it, the utter sense of power you got from it, the feeling of victory when you successfully blew something up. It was something from another world, that sense of satisfaction. Quentin was pretty sure everyone went to bed with sore limbs and a smile on their faces, just like he did.

At first, they would all argue about the plan every other day. Penny would remind everyone they didn't have a way in to Fillory, Margo would hint that it wasn't anyone's fault but his own, Eliot would throw sarcastic comments about their vulnerability and lack of power, Kady would add yelling and nervous energy to the mix. Alice, Quentin and Julia were the only quiet ones in those moments. They would look at one another accross the kitchen table or retreat to the house when they were outside, leaning against the wooden walls until the angry bunch stopped screaming. As the weeks went by, the arguments stopped. And after the first couple of months, everyone started working together. It was clear Eliot and Quentin were something of an item. Penny and Kady seemed to spend an awful lot of time together and they'd built a hut in the forest, at shouting distance from the cabin. Quentin thought Julia's eyes lost some of their usual glint of kindness and joy when they met Penny's after that.

On the whole, their lives continued. They kept practising everyday, they played board games at night and studied together on rainy days. Eliot made food for everyone everyday with the quiet and efficient help of Alice. Margo and Quentin were always on clothes-washing duties, and since they didn't have a washing-maching, everything had to be done the old way, which meant four hands really were needed. Penny and Kady were rarely home, they spent most of their time in the small hut, but they would always clean the kitchen and do the dishes after meals. Julia woke up before everyone to meditate for hours in the empty living room, basking in the weak sunlight. And when she started hearing muffled movements from the bedrooms she would get up and use magic to clean and tidy the living spaces.

It was a good system, it was a routine. And it worked for a while. Actually, Quentin thought everyone around him was quite happy with their ways of life. Alice and Julia shared the second room of the cabin, and Alice was warming up to everyone. The time she spent with Eliot in the kitchen made her talk a little bit more, but she never mentionned her spell.

Everytime the killing of the Beast was mentionned, she seemed to retreat far back into herself, and it would take hours for her eyes to meet theirs again. It made Quentin slightly worried. He observed her when she would get like this, trying to decipher her expression, her body langage, the tension between her eyebrows, her fingers scratching at her forearm, her rapid breathing. She seemed afraid, but the odd thing was, he didn't think she was scared of the consequences of her spells if it failed. She was afraid of the effect it would have if it succeeded.

As the six months mark got closer, everyone was getting restless. They all knew they were on a learning plateau, they did all they could to get as good as possible in a short period of time, but now, getting better would only demand long hours and few results were to be expected. It was always like that with knowledge. The first few months were spectacular, but once your basis was strong, building up took a lot of time and a lot of effort. This is when the monotony starts to set in, and when only pure dedication and passion can get you through the long hours. And battle magic was Kady's thing. No matter how much everyone else loved it, Quentin knew it wasn't the kind of pure admiration and devotion needed to power through at this point.

And so the frustration came back, and with it the arguments, the yelling, the nasty looks and the threats. After a full day of restless commotion, Quentin knew something needed to be done. He laid in bed for hours that night, trying to go through different people to ask for help. But except from the russian professor from Antartica, he couldn't think of anyone. And if he hadn't told Alice and Kady how to get to Fillory after he taught them all those spells, Quentin doubted he knew how. What they needed was a change of plans, or an intervention from the puppeteers above.

And as if she heard his call, Jane came to him that night.