Eliot trudged along in his heavy boots, blood pounding in his ears in time with his steps, Alice trailing closely behind. After six weeks of strict bed rest, Margo giving him hell any time he so much as thought about braving the stairs to the second floor of the penthouse, his whole body ached from disuse.
It was as though he’d been shattered, pieced back together with pins and glue in all the wrong places. But now that he’d managed to, at last, fight back against the strange magic that had inhabited the wound from Margo’s axe, there was only one thing on his mind. The only thing he’d thought of, day and night, during all those weeks spent languishing in bed.
The evening light was sallow, a sickly yellow that Eliot felt like a film in all the places his skin was exposed. The air was heavy with a mist common in this part of Fillory, on this mountain which Eliot hadn’t bothered to visit even once in his time as High King. He only knew of its existence because of a single late night conversation with Benedict, and though at the time he’d only been half-listening, he’d heard enough for it to come back to him when it finally mattered.
“Why are we really here, Eliot?” Alice broke the silence that had been stretching between them for what felt like miles.
“I told you. Someone here might be able to help us get—”
“Margo unbanished? Yeah. You said that already.”
Eliot sighed with his entire body. “So then why are you asking again?”
“Because you’re full of shit.”
Eliot stopped in his tracks, kicking up a spray of crumbling stone under his feet. “You really want to do this when we’re three-quarters of the way up a mountain?”
Alice cocked an eyebrow. “I just want you to tell me the truth.”
Eliot frowned, averting his gaze. “I would have come by myself, Alice, but I need you… to help.”
“To help with what?” she asked, incredulous, like she already knew the answer.
“There’s a spell. I can’t do it. Please don’t ask me why. It’s not hard, a couple words said into a mirror in a particular spot and—”
When Eliot finally braved a look at her face, the pity in her eyes made his stomach turn. “Eliot, just tell me why—”
He turned away, started moving again. “We should keep going if we want to make it back down before dark.”
Eliot couldn’t say the words. He was a coward, truth be told. Always had been. But hey, at least he knew who he was, all the way down to his rotten core, and that was more than he could say for most people. There was no point in lying to himself any longer. It was better this way. Just keep moving. Just keep running. Eventually, he knew, he might get lucky enough to meet up with the end of his rope.
Alice had to half-jog to keep up with his stride. “Do you want to talk about him?”
Eliot couldn’t keep the venom from his voice. “Talk about who, Alice?”
“You know who I mean. Don’t act like you don’t.”
Of course he knew. Eliot could feel his face burning hot with emotion. “No. I don’t want to talk about who you mean.”
The path to the summit was twisted and narrow, dotted with a soft, blue-green moss so dense it might have been the fur of some hulking, thick-backed animal under their feet. The mountains of this range were stubby things, not so steep as they were jagged and unpredictable, and Alice had suggested halfway up that it might be easier just to magic themselves the rest of the way. “I’m shit at it but I know you can fly,” she’d said. “I’ve seen you do it before. I can just hop on your back or something.”
She might have been joking, but Eliot was too exhausted to even consider flying. And exhaustion aside, the magic that was left in him was some pitiful little spark. Barely even a flicker. He’d tried a hundred spells since his recovery and not a single one had worked.
Eliot Waugh would never fly again.
Magic comes from pain, he’d said, so many times before, but some pains are too great for even magic to feed off of. Some pains aren’t meant to be used as fuel to burn.
Eliot’s pain was a hollow thing. For weeks during his recovery he’d been too numb to feel it, the emptiness growing inside, but once he finally could, he’d spent a not insignificant amount of time wondering if the Monster had taken his shade. It made sense, sort of, aside from all those times that he couldn’t stop crying. It was like someone had come along and scraped out all the goodness he’d had left. There was nothing now. Just a deep, pulsing blackness where once there had been so much light.
But as the days went on, he knew he couldn’t keep lying to himself. He knew what this was, the only thing that it could be. Quentin had died, and that had been enough. That had been enough to destroy him. And Eliot was destroyed, of that there could be no doubt. He did his best to hide it away from the scant few people still left in his life, but he could feel the facade that he’d so carefully crafted slipping more with each passing day.
“Okay. Fine,” Alice said after a few long minutes of plodding along in silence. “I know why we’re here. I just thought I’d give you a chance to be honest with me first.”
Eliot didn’t respond. The path before them had begun to even out a little, the terrain changing along with the air. They were getting close to the summit.
“I came here when I was a niffin. There’s nowhere in Fillory I haven’t seen, Eliot. I know what you think you’re going to find, but it isn’t going to work.”
Eliot clenched his jaw, wrenching around to face her. They froze, and for a moment all they could do was gaze sadly into each other’s eyes. “You don’t know that it won’t work,” Eliot said, voice breaking. “Maybe there were things you didn’t see.”
“I saw everything!” Her voice trembled in a way that said she hadn’t meant to shout. “I saw everything,” she repeated, quieter this time. “And that’s how I know. Don’t you think I want to see him too? Do you understand how badly I—”
“Spare me your widow’s grief, okay?” Eliot spun on his heels and continued on, the path under his boots now more flat plain than mountain, the mossy giant giving way to grass. “Sad little magic girl. No one could ever understand her pain.”
“Why are you being such a prick to me, Eliot? I didn’t do anything. I’m trying to help you. If you would just—”
The summit of the mountain lay suddenly before them, flat as an open field, like the hand of Ember himself had come down and shorn the top clean off. Distant, skeletal trees spread themselves up toward the endless sky, like the shadows of finger bones choked in the mist. Eliot could just make out the shape of the sun through the haze, dipping toward the horizon. He took in a lungful of damp air and slowly let it out.
“They don’t call it Ghost Mountain for the reason you think,” Alice said, gripping Eliot’s sleeve. “If you’ll just listen to me. For one second...”
Eliot tugged himself out of her grasp. “Benedict said—”
“Benedict was wrong.”
Her words hung heavy in the air, thick as fog and bitter as poison. Eliot stayed silent, staring into the gloomy distance, at the skeletal branches he could just barely make out on the mountain’s edge, waiting for her to continue.
“If you won’t talk about him, I will.”
Eliot knew who she meant, but he couldn’t help himself. “Benedict?”
The air was so heavy now, Eliot thought he might choke. Seven letters. Two syllables. “Don’t say his name.”
Alice stepped out in front, daring him to look away. “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare pretend that—”
Eliot was drowning, choking, going under. “Don’t worry, Alice. I’m not pretending anything. You get to grieve out loud, and say his name, and hear from everyone around you how sorry they are that you lost the love of your life, and I—”
Eliot shut his eyes, heart fluttering in his chest, and forced himself to breathe. He was going to tumble over and down the edge of the mountain and never stop falling, falling, falling if he didn’t just…
“Forget it,” he said, his lungs working overtime. “If you’re not going to help me do this spell, you can just go.”
“Well you might as well come with me, because you said yourself that you can’t do it.” She crossed her arms in defiance. “You don’t just get to say something like that and pretend it didn’t happen.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Alice. I came here so that maybe…” Eliot’s voice quavered, timid and small, a shapeless memory of itself. “Maybe I could see him again. It’s all that I want, okay? I don’t have anything else.”
Up until that moment, Eliot had been certain that she knew. It was practically dripping off of him like a perfume. How had she not picked up on the scent? But now, the realization on her face was unmistakable. The final piece of the puzzle had clicked into place at last.
“You were in love with him.”
Eliot shivered under his heavy jacket. “He never told you. About the mosaic.”
Alice gave him a curious look. “Where you got the third key?”
She shook her head. “There wasn’t any time. So much was happening, and then...”
Eliot sighed. “Right. Of course. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Of course it matters. Eliot, talk to me.”
Eliot threw his hands up and frowned at her. “Will you help me do the spell or not?”
She gazed at him sadly, a thousand unspoken words reflected in her eyes. “Fine,” she relented after a moment. “Hand it over.”
Eliot reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a silver compact mirror he’d found in the penthouse’s master suite, its outside etched with tiny, intricate flowers. Alice snatched it from his hand and clicked it open, holding it out at arm’s length.
“You have to say—”
“I know what to say.”
“And you have to—”
“I know how to do it, Eliot, which is how I know it’s not going to work.”
Eliot resisted the urge to spit out something terribly cruel, stepping back to watch over her shoulder. From this angle he could see the shadowy trees and the fog reflected eerily behind them as Alice began to recite the words, an ancient Fillorian tongue that sounded just as alien as it was. She did a series of tuts with her free hand and held up her index finger rod-straight until a thin line of blue light shot from her fingertip into the mirror.
The light died out, and everything around them went quiet and still. Eliot stood and waited and gazed unblinking into the mirror, his foot tapping out an anxious rhythm, his whole body trembling and cold. As the legend went, according to Benedict, reciting this spell into a mirror on the summit of Ghost Mountain would summon the spirit of your beloved deceased.
“And then you just turn around and... there they are,” Benedict had said. They’d both been a little drunk and Eliot hadn’t asked for specifics, but he’d managed to dig up the spell with a little help from Fen after fielding several dozen uncomfortable questions about what he planned on doing with it and how he planned on climbing a mountain after having just recovered from taking a magical axe to the gut.
“Eliot,” Alice said very quietly, not yet daring to move the mirror. “It’s not—”
“Just one more minute.”
“I’m gonna put my hand down now, okay?” Alice’s voice was barely a whisper, but on the quiet of the mountain it rattled his ears.
“Alice.” Eliot’s broken voice was the most pathetic sound. “Please.”
She sighed and looked back at him over her shoulder. “Eliot, I’m sorry,” she said softly.
Alice’s voice was pity all the way down, but before Eliot could even think to wallow in it she lowered the mirror, and he swore in that moment that his eyes caught a flash of something familiar. The shape of a hand, the bowed lips of a mouth, open and screaming. It came through like a double-exposure, something trapped in the film of the air and caught only for a fraction of a second in the mist-filtered light.
“Did you see that?” Eliot was breathless as Alice handed the mirror back to him. “Tell me that you saw that.”
“Eliot.” He wished she would just stop saying his name. “Let’s go home.”
Eliot’s whole body was shaking, his feet cemented to the mountain below. “Why did you even agree to come up here with me in the first place, hm? You knew I was lying. You knew. So why even bother?”
“Because I was hoping that you would finally talk to me if I came. Since you got back you won’t even look at me. And when you asked me to come I’d hoped that maybe you were finally opening up. I just thought that—”
“You thought what? That we would come up here and bond over the loss of your boyfriend and and then suddenly everything would be okay? Well it’s not, Alice. It’s not fucking okay.” A single tear fell from each of Eliot’s eyes, warm on his cool skin. “You know what, just get the fuck out of here. Just go.”
Eliot bunched his hands into fists at his side, watching Alice open her mouth and then close it without speaking. When she finally found her words, he thought she might start crying right along with him. “I’ll go,” she said. “If you’re so determined to push everyone who cares about you so far away. But I just want you to ask yourself how Quentin would feel to see you acting this way before I do. Because if you ask me... he’d be pretty fucking ashamed.”
She spun on her heels and disappeared into the mist without so much as glancing over her shoulder. He could hear her boots clattering distantly as she found her way back to the path and began the slow descent down the mountain. He could only stand there quaking after she’d gone, hugging his arms around himself loosely as salty tears trailed down his cheeks, depositing themselves onto his lips.
He thought very seriously about sitting down and never moving again. Losing himself to the mist had a certain appeal. Maybe with his help Ghost Mountain would finally live up to its name.
Eliot tucked the mirror into one pocket and pulled his flask out of another, taking a long pull that burned all the way down to his toes. He pulled out a cigarette and smoked it down to the filter before turning away from the flat earth of the summit, making his way back down the mountain shivering and cold and alone.
Eliot sprawled on the throne that had once belonged to him and tossed back another mouthful of overly-sweet Fillorian wine. As the hours passed it had started to feel mechanical, the way his body moved: Pour the wine, drink the wine, lather, rinse, repeat.
Fen shot him a tight smile, and a look that said nothing short of, why the hell are you sitting on my throne? “Are you staying?”
“Not for long.” Eliot refilled his goblet and shot back half the contents in one long swig. “I just need to do some research. And then I’ll be on my way.”
“More research? Did the spell that we found not work? I’d heard the legend but wasn’t sure if, you know...”
Eliot slurped down the rest of his wine and stumbled to his feet, the goblet clattering from his hand to the floor. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be in the library, Your Majesty, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
He gave her an exaggerated, off-kilter bow and staggered away. Walking—stumbling, whatever—into the library, Eliot realized at once he was far too drunk to know where to begin. Why hadn’t he implemented a proper cataloging system in all his time as king? He wobbled between shelves, dragging his fingers along the colorful spines, the world going fuzzy at the edges.
When he spotted Rafe tucked away in a corner, reading—slowly, very, very slowly—to Abigail the sloth, Eliot actually laughed. “Rafe. Oh thank fuck you’re here. Look, I need a book. Well, five books?” Eliot held onto the wall to keep himself from tipping over. “I need five books, Rafe, and it’s urgent.”
Rafe looked from the sloth to Eliot and gave him a little smile. “Your Maj—Eliot,” he corrected, rising from his chair. “I would be happy to help you. Which books exactly are you looking for?”
“Christopher Plover. You know the ones.” Eliot clapped Rafe on the shoulder. “I’m gonna go sit down.”
There was a window seat overlooking the bay and Eliot tumbled down into it, fixing himself upright and pulling out his pack of cigarettes. He fumbled with his lighter, wishing for magic, for the spark in the core of his belly to roll up from his fingers and bring his soul to life. He inhaled, exhaled, knocked his head back against the wall.
He’d nearly nodded off, cigarette dangling from his lips, when Rafe came over and deposited the entirety of the Fillory and Further series at his feet.
Eliot blinked himself awake, ash falling down onto his shirt. “You always were my favorite, Rafe, you know that?”
Rafe gave him a sad little smile. “Is everything all right?”
Eliot puffed his cigarette and laughed out a thin wisp of smoke. “Rafe, I can’t say this to anyone back on Earth, and certainly not to my High King ex-wife, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse than I do right now.”
“This is about… what happened to Quentin.”
“Yep,” he said without hesitation. “Did you know that I was in love with him?” It felt good just to let it out. The wine had loosened his tongue, and all the things that he could never say to anyone because they were too close suddenly came tumbling free. “I don’t think anyone does. Maybe Margo, but she doesn’t know the details so she doesn’t understand. And, well, Alice, but she… really doesn’t understand. She thinks she loved him more than me. Maybe she’s right.”
“Eliot.” Rafe perched on the far end of the window seat, like he was approaching a wounded animal. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
“You know... you’re the first person to say that to me.”
His words sat heavily on the air, and for a moment they sat in silence while Eliot took a deep drag from his cigarette, holding it in until it burned.
Rafe reached forward, resting a hand on Eliot’s ankle, gently, as though he were afraid he might be bitten, and shot him a look so full of pity that Eliot wanted to hide away. “I should… let you get to your reading.”
A terrible shame took hold of him then, and Eliot averted his gaze. “Yes. Thank you.”
Rafe pulled away and rose to his feet. “You will let me know if you need anything else?”
“Yes.” He puffed on his cigarette with trembling fingers. Why couldn’t he have just kept his big fucking mouth shut? “I will. Thank you, Rafe.”
Rafe made his exit, and Eliot gazed out the window and across the windy bay, an ache gnawing something terrible at the center of his chest. Distantly, white-capped waves dashed themselves against the sharp peaks of rocks that looked like tiny mountains rising from the water. If he listened carefully, he could hear the cries of birds as they circled high above the castle, hungry for whatever the sea saw fit to toss their way.
He stubbed out his cigarette and turned his attention to the pile of books at his feet. It’s what he would have done, Eliot knew, as he took the copy of The World in the Walls in his hands and flipped it open. He read the book cover-to-cover without moving from his seat, chain smoking cigarettes until his pack was empty and taking long swigs from his bottomless flask.
There was nothing in The World in the Walls about Ghost Mountain, and when he was finished his back ached and his legs were painfully stiff and he had to piss something awful.
He stumbled down the hall to the latrine, and when he returned to the library there was a tray of fresh fruit and bread and a pitcher of water waiting by his seat. Good old Rafe. Eliot hadn’t even considered eating for what he was pretty certain had been an entire day, and all it took was the sight of food to set his mouth watering and his stomach twisting itself into ravenous knots.
Fillorian strawberries were nothing like the strawberries on Earth. They were too sweet, Eliot thought, but he gobbled them down one after the next, licking the juice from his fingers before setting his sights on the hunk of crusty bread. He polished off the contents of the tray in a manner entirely unbefitting a former High King of Fillory, though he supposed he was probably the first person in all of Fillorian history to actually live to claim that title.
He drank water straight from the pitcher and when he was finished he collapsed down onto the seat again, taking a swig from his flask to top off his full belly. He was just about to reach for The Girl Who Told Time when footfalls on cold stone announced that he had company.
The world outside the window was growing dark, and the castle’s illumination spells were just starting to kick in, framing Alice in a warm amber glow. “There you are,” she said. “I was starting to worry.”
Eliot let his head knock back against the wall with a sigh. “Why on Earth or Fillory would you be worried about me?”
“Because I still give a shit about you even if you’re being a massive dick, Eliot. Whether you like it or not.”
She sat down next to the stack of books and Eliot held out his flask. “Drink?”
“No,” she said without looking up. She was holding the copy of The Secret Sea in her hands, studying the cover with a frown. “You’re reading the Fillory books.”
“I’m reading the Fillory books.” Eliot reached for his cigarettes before remembering he’d smoked the last one hours ago. “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke…”
“You should take better care of yourself.” She flipped open the cover of the book. “You’re still trying to find something, aren’t you? About Ghost Mountain? You think I got the spell wrong.”
“I think…” Eliot swallowed down the urge to be cruel. “I think it’s worth it to consider that maybe we missed something. I know you think I’ve lost my shit, Alice, but I saw something when we were up there, okay? I saw…”
Alice looked up from the book and frowned. He couldn’t imagine what she must think of him, but did it even matter anymore? She was stronger than he would ever be. “I can read a lot faster than you,” she said, taking him off guard. “It’ll go quicker if you let me help.”
Eliot looked at her for a long moment, trying to find the words and coming up short each time. Even if she were only humoring him, he decided he should take it. He flipped open The Girl Who Told Time and started reading, his aching eyes demanding he take it slow.
Rupert and Martin and Jane. The Watcherwoman and her clocks. The words droned on and on. Christopher Plover couldn’t write prose for shit. He was thankful, at least, that this wasn’t the book that featured those few brief lines about Jane’s visit to the mosaic, and the old man she’d met there who’d finished it just before her arrival.
By the time Eliot was finished with The Girl Who Told Time, Alice had made it through the remaining three books. It was fully dark outside when he lifted his eyes to her. “Anything?”
“Nope. So.” Eliot tossed the book carelessly to the floor. “Fuck.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I know you—”
“I saw him,” Eliot said firmly, tears stinging in his eyes. “I saw—”
“You haven’t been sleeping, you haven’t—”
“You should get some sleep,” she said, carefully, quietly, and Eliot resented her pity. “We both should. I’ll send a bunny for Twenty-Three in the morning so we can go home.”
Home. Eliot wanted to laugh but was too exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that slips under your skin and tugs at your marrow until you’re certain your body is going to turn itself inside out. But he didn’t want to sleep, and he didn’t want Twenty-Three to ferry them back to Earth, and he didn’t even particularly want to stay in Fillory. Unless—
“Jane had that watch.” The words came slipping out before Eliot had time to consider what he was saying. “The one she used to reset the timelines. Start us all over again.”
“The dwarves made it for her. Maybe they could make another.”
“That watch needed the time key to work.”
Eliot sucked down a lungful of air and shut his eyes. “I know what key it took. I don’t need you to remind me.”
“Even if you could convince the dwarves to work their magic for you, Eliot, the watch wouldn’t work. Jane’s… it was the only one. Time magic isn’t something that’s just handed to you.”
Eliot opened his eyes, gazed out into the blackness beyond the window. “If I could just go back to before The Monster. If I hadn’t… fired that gun. Maybe…”
“You were just trying to save him. You think I don’t have regrets about what I did that day too?”
“You’re not the reason he’s dead, Alice.” Eliot took a long pull from his flask. It was funny, he thought, how you could fill your body up with so many things, yet come away emptier than when you started. “I think I’ll go to bed now,” he said flatly, pulling himself unsteadily to his feet.
“Eliot,” Alice said when he turned his back. “Wait.”
“Goodnight, Alice,” he said over his shoulder. “I don’t think I said it before, but… I’m sorry for your loss.”
Drunk on whisky and exhaustion and grief, Eliot stumbled from the library and down a twisting labyrinth of wide stone corridors, the illuminated orbs suspended overhead lighting his path. He passed High King Fen’s private bed chambers, nearly colliding with one of the guards stationed outside the door. It had been his bedroom once, long ago, and they his guards, but when he tried to remember how that had felt the memories slipped from him like water through his hands.
Eliot took a pull from his flask and realized he had no idea where he was going. He found a spot away from the guards and slumped down under an orb, glowing radiantly above his head like a miniature sun.
He took one drink and then another, knocking back his flask until he was numb. He nodded off with his chin against his chest and blackness swirling in his mind, coming to with a jolt when something made contact with his foot.
It was Rafe, nudging him gently, his face swimming in Eliot’s vision when he opened his heavy eyes. “Eliot,” he said, kneeling down beside him. “Is everything all right?”
“No,” was what came out when Eliot tried to speak, his tongue like concrete in his mouth. “Everything… is shit, Rafe. And I can’t remember where my room is.”
He reached for him, grabbing Eliot firmly by the arm. “Can you stand? Come on, I’ll help you find it.”
Poor Rafe nearly toppled over helping Eliot maneuver his long legs into something that resembled a vertical position. He looped his arm in Eliot’s arm and began leading him back down the hall.
“This used to be my castle,” Eliot said, wobbling a little as Rafe led them down a squat set of stairs. “And Margo’s. And…”
Even thinking his name felt like a bad idea. Thinking of thinking of his name was bad enough. Thinking of his face, under the haze of sleep deprivation and alcohol, felt entirely unavoidable. He’d been beautiful. Jesus, how beautiful he’d been. Radiant as the goddamn sun, hiding behind all that hair like he didn’t even know it. And the taste of his lips, the warmth of his skin…
Tears were pricking hotly in Eliot’s eyes by the time Rafe had them standing outside the door to his room. “Here we are,” he said, releasing his hold on Eliot’s arm. “Remember now?”
“Yes.” Eliot hid his face as he reached for the latch. “Yes, of course. I must have gotten myself turned around somehow.”
“I am happy that I could help. If you need anything you’ll—”
Eliot pushed open the door. “Yes. I will. Thank you. Goodnight, Rafe.”
“Goodnight,” Rafe said quietly, and Eliot shut the door.
Illumination spells kicked on when he entered, turning darkness into a warmth that Eliot ached to feel under his skin. He shrugged off his jacket and kicked out of his shoes, realizing only then that he was still dressed exactly as he’d been on the mountain the previous day. If he’d slept at all the night before he hadn’t bothered getting undressed. He’d been so drunk he could hardly remember. He was so drunk now certainly all of this tomorrow would be but a blur.
He tipped back his flask again and then tossed it down onto the bed. He unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off onto the floor, catching a glimpse of himself in the ornate mirror that was mounted on the back of the door. He approached his reflection slowly. Jesus, his face was a wreck.
He hadn’t bothered shaving since regaining control of his body, and the bags under his eyes aged him ten years at least. And he really fucking needed a shower, and to do something with his filthy, matted hair. Eliot scrubbed a hand down his face and began to turn away, but a shadow reflected in his periphery caused him to turn back to the mirror with a gasp.
It was gone in a flash, just as it had appeared on the mountain, but Eliot knew that face. He would know it anywhere, in darkness or in daylight, fragmented and for but a fleeting fraction of a second. Even as drunk as he was, it was there. He had seen it. Eliot’s heartbeat rattled his bones.
He allowed himself the luxury of thinking of his name, just the once, and only for a moment. Quentin. It slipped through his mind like a prayer, and then he locked it away. But the shadow of his reflection remained. Eliot stood there staring in the mirror until his eyes began to burn.
He forced himself to look away. What he needed more than anything was to not be upright anymore. He finished undressing and crawled under the covers, trembling from somewhere deep in his bones.
His drunken, tired brain tried grasping at any thread of logic once he was settled. Maybe you just miss him that much. Maybe you are just losing your mind. You’re a sloppy, drunken mess. What did you expect to happen?
Eliot groaned and tried to empty his mind, lying still in protest of his racing thoughts, and after a while the illumination spells got the message. They lowered themselves down to a flicker, and then extinguished themselves entirely, like a candle blowing out and welcoming the night
In the dark Eliot could see his face, picking it out from among the shadows in the corner of the room. And when he shut his eyes, he swore he could feel the weight of another body there with him on the bed. The weight of another body pressing down on top of him.
He thought of his hands, his hair, his face, his parted mouth. Fuck, how he craved his skin. Those sweet lips moaning against his lips in the dark. He thought of touching himself but knew there was no way he was going to get hard tonight. Instead, he lay there breathing and shaking and wanting in silence, hoping against all hope for dreams to come.