Q could see Alice leaning in. He knew what was about to happen, and he just stood there. When her lips touched his, he actually did try to go with it for a second, because wouldn't it feel nice to be kissed? To feel connected to anyone when the man he loves in beyond reach, possibly forever?
But she still wants to be with you, he realized. She'll think this means something else. So you can either lead her on like an asshole, or-
He stepped away from the intimate contact and tried to speed through his explanation for the move in a worried rush of words: "I can't, I'm sorry, it's not about you, I'm in love with Eliot."
Alice blinked back shock while at the same time trying to swallow her own humiliation. Rejected by someone she thought might still want her? The sting of it burned all the way to the pit of her stomach.
"El-Eliot? . . . Really?"
Quentin nodded, tense and nervous.
"Did he-does he . . . love you back?"
"Yeah," Q nodded again. "I mean I think so. Probably. Unclear, I guess, but . . . I . . . think he does. What he said in the park before you poured the blood, it was sort of a . . . a thing . . ." he struggled to come up with a brief version of previous events. "A while before all this Monster shit happened I tried to tell him we should be together, because we were, in Fillory, for fifty really great years, and my exact words were that those fifty years were-"
"Proof of concept," Alice finished for him. "Yeah I heard what he said, it just didn't make any sense to me."
Quentin almost, almost smiled. "He shot me down at the time, but there's plenty of other things he could have said in that park to prove it was really him, and he chose my main argument for why we should at least try us. So yeah, I do think he still loves me. And . . ." he could feel a lump starting to form in the back of his throat. " . . . And . . . if we can just get that fucking Monster out of him-if we could just do that, get that one goddamn thing out of our way, I . . ." he trailed off, afraid he might cry if he kept talking.
Alice hated to see Q in so much pain. He didn't deserve it. "I'm so sorry," she said quietly. "Have you . . . have you told anyone else?"
"No." Quentin shook his head.
"Why not?" Alice knew it wasn't any of her business, but she also knew her ex would have an easier time coping with his awful situation if he had someone to talk to. So she had to ask.
Q took several deep breaths to compose himself. "I haven't, because . . . if everyone knows, and we don't manage to save Eliot? If we lose him? Jesus, I will be fucking crushed under a tidal wave of pity. I mean, I'd get pity either way, but it would be so much worse if everyone knew he was the love of my life. It would be too much, Alice. If the worst happens, I guess . . ." he shrugged hopelessly. "I guess I'd rather just grieve alone."
"That's dumb," Alice said without thinking. "I-I'm sorry, what I mean is . . . no one should grieve alone. Not talking creates distance between people. Between friends." She tucked her hair behind her ears. "It's only my opinion, but I think you should at least tell Julia. She's your best friend, she won't . . . crush you under a tidal wave."
"Hm," Quentin mused, still teetering on the brink of tears. "I'll uh . . . I'll think about that. Um . . . thanks, I guess?"
"You're welcome." Alice managed a weak smile. "Goodbye, Quentin." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and left the apartment, wondering where she might go to cry.