He’d said the words lightly, ignoring the sick hot feeling in his gut until it was too late. Quentin looks like he’s been kicked in the stomach. Eliot stares at his hands. He lets the peach drop and roll away. There's a sour taste at the back of his mouth.
He watches from the corner of an eye as Quentin pores over the letter, intent as though he can pry fresh meaning from it with each reread. They sit in silence, broken only by the rustle of fingers smoothing paper. Over and over. Over and over.
Finally, Eliot can’t take it anymore.
He clears his throat; peach flesh turned to glue.
“That was harsh. And, possibly unfair. I’m sorry.”
Quentin lifts a shoulder without looking up. “Forget it. It was stupid.”
“No. Look. Not stupid.” Where am I going with this, Eliot wonders. “Just…abrupt.”
“I get it.” Quentin’s soft voice takes on the slightest edge. “You don’t have to—“
Eliot cuts him off. “What I am trying to say is that I am also a little overwhelmed right now. Let’s take a beat. Sleep this off. And…”
He seems to watch the words emerge from his own mouth in a balloon.
“…If you still feel the same in a few days. Or however long it takes until a fifty year emotional hangover clears up. You can ask me again.”
Now Quentin does look at him. Furrowed brow, baby seal eyes, and, yes, some red at the rims. Oh, god.
Eliot puts a hand on Quentin’s shoulder. “Ok?” Quentin nods, still looking bewildered. Eliot stands
“I’m going to go see if the kitchens can whip up something with protein. Want anything?”
Quentin shakes his head. Eliot hesitates.
“See you later, then,” he finishes lamely. He starts off, paused, drops a kiss on Quentin’s head.
He can feel Quentin’s gaze following him out of the room.
Days pass. Eliot busies himself with affairs of state, such as they are. Quentin returns to his affectionate self. No further words are spoken about “giving it a shot.” Few signs of lingering hurt. A little cloud of gentle disappointment when Eliot has to decline to accompany him on the Muntjac.
And then, they're all back in their respective whirlwinds of we-are-fucked-without-grease, crisis without end hallelujah, no time for processing or even much interaction at all.
And then, the end of the quest is in sight. They're back in the same room at last, planning resolution together.
And then, Quentin reveals his plans for the future.
“I stay in the castle.”