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Slipping Wards

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Most of Quentin’s thoughts were simply annoying to listen to. At least seventy percent of them. They were things dealing with school work or fantasy books or stupid crushes. Not all of Quentin’s thoughts were annoying though. In fact, a large portion of his thoughts were really fucking concerning.

At least once a day that Penny caught (so he knew for a fact that it was more than that) there were thoughts that got dark. Sometimes it was a simple little “I screw everything up” when he wasn’t able to do something. Those were easier to shake off but they came so often that Penny knew he believed it.

Others were darker, so much darker. Things like “I should grab the knife and make a new design in my skin. Should they be neat or reckless?” or “What if I drank too many drinks tonight? So many that I don’t wake up ever.” Those were ones that caught Penny’s attention quick and made him practice more patience than he would normally.

Today he found himself looking over at Quentin during class. To anyone else, Quentin would look like he was paying attention. Penny knew he wasn’t. At first, when Quentin’s thoughts started to drift, Penny rolled his eyes and tried to tune him out.

It was about Eliot. A lot of Quentin’s thoughts were about Eliot. The man waxed poetry in his mind about the beauty of Eliot’s smile and singular curl that fell to his eyebrow. He marveled frequently at the way Eliot looked in whatever flamboyant clothing Eliot decided to wear. He had more thoughts than Penny ever wanted to hear about Eliot’s hands and rumors he’d heard about Eliot’s bedroom activities. Penny knew too many of Quentin Coldwater’s kinks.

However, those thoughts took a turn they often did. They took a turn into self loathing and doubt.

As Penny boarded holes into Quentin’s head, the thought made its way into Penny’s own, “What the fuck am I even thinking? I’ll never be good enough. I wasn’t good enough for Alice. Of course, I’ll never be good enough for Eliot. Stupid.”

Penny openly glared at Quentin, though Quentin didn’t see it with his back to Penny. Penny had known from the beginning that Quentin and Alice were doomed to fail.

Why? Why would he possibly know that? Well, Brakebills South had windows and Mayakovsky was a fucking perverted man. Penny had looked outside when he heard a panicked Quentin’s thoughts. He had been in the middle of shoving his shoes on when he glanced to the window and saw two foxes instead of Alice Quinn and Quentin Coldwater. Whatever that was, it was not the foundation of a healthy relationship.

Class ended. It was the final class of a long day that involved listening to Quentin’s self deprecating and depressing thoughts.

As soon as class was dismissed, Penny stalked over to Quentin’s desk. Quentin looked up at him with a worry in his eyes that made Penny’s stomach turn. He didn’t mean to make people scared of him (not always) he was just intense. He didn’t want Quentin to be afraid of him but damn could it be hard to get through to him.

“Get your shit, let’s go,” Penny told him with his bag already thrown over his shoulder.

Quentin started hurrying to gather his things which only made his efforts worsen. Penny grabbed three of his books and started walking out the door.

“Wait, where are we going?” Quentin asked.

“For a walk.”

When they were far away from everyone else, on a less walked path, Penny slowed down and let Quentin catch up with him. He pushed his books into his hands. Quentin fumbled for a moment. Penny reached out to stabilize him but he caught himself before he had the chance.

“Your wards have been slipping,” Penny told him.

“Oh, shit, uh, sorry. Eliot gave me a spell. I thought it worked. I guess not,” Quentin said.

“That’s not what I— Forget it.” He stopped walking and turned to face Quentin. “I’m just gonna be blunt.”

“You normally are.”

“You need to start taking your meds again or going back to therapy or sucking Eliot’s dick or something. I don’t do the mushy shit but you are not worthless, Quentin,” and Quentin was no longer meeting his eyes. “You’re not and if you don’t realize that soon, I’m gonna make you. If for nothing else than for my own peace of mind. I can’t stand listening to you being miserable.”

“I— I’ll get Eliot to show me that spell again. Sorry,” Quentin said before he turned to walk back to the physical kiss’s cottage.

Penny grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “No, that’s not what I meant. I’m— I’m worried about you and I don’t know what to do to help you so just get a therapist. I can help you find one who’s magic if you need it. Start taking your meds again. Get laid. Something. Just tell me what to do to help you.”

 

Penny watched from his place in the corner of the room. He was nursing a drink and leaning against the wall. He was also watching Quentin.

Now, Penny was no fashion icon. However, he had helped Quentin look more put together in a way that might make people (namely Eliot Waugh) want to take him apart. He did a good damn job.

Penny was mainly attracted to women but he was no stranger to taking men to bed as well and he was beginning to see the appeal Eliot had for Quentin Coldwater. Done up right, he could be hot. All he needed was the confidence to back up his look and he could very well be a lothario if he chose to. Of course, he was Quentin so he did not have that confidence, even if he had the look.

He had to get some inside help for this mission though. Unlike with getting Quentin’s medicine and finding him a therapist, this one seemed a bit more personal. Penny needed a second opinion. Margo had been more than happy to help.

She’d gone into Quentin’s room, the wards attuned to her and allowed her in even when he wasn’t there, and searched through his drawers (because “god forbid he hang clothes up).

“This short—“ a black button up— “and these pants—“ a dark pair of skinny jeans— “will make Q look so good. These jeans cling to his ass. I swear to god, El almost passed out when he saw Quentin wear these for the first time. Shirt’s a little loose but unbutton just a little bit and tell Q if he wants to see El loose his shit, roll up the sleeves in front of him,” Margo told him. “And hair. Hair’s important. El loves Q’s hair. Either keep it down but don’t tuck it behind both ears, just one or put it up with a few strands hanging in front of his face. Both work wonders on El.”

Penny had taken Margo’s words and reframed them into advice that sounded like his own along with actual advice of his own on how to actually flirt. He didn’t give much. He’d learned from watching Eliot watch Quentin that part of his appeal to Eliot was that he was nerd sexy and Penny didn’t know how to be nerd sexy so he gave some choice advice and left the rest to Quentin.

He was within ear range. He could hear Quentin and Eliot’s conversation. It seemed to be going fine. Well enough. Then came the flirting part of the conversation.

“You look nice tonight, Q,” Eliot said as he poured a drink for someone. “Any special plans?”

Quentin shook his head. “No, I, um, I just. . . found it in my closet? I haven’t worn this shirt in a while, thought I’d get it out. . . of the closet.”

Penny winced but Eliot laughed, “Out of the closet?”

“Yeah,” Quentin managed to strain out. “That’s not— I could have said that better. I mean, I’ve been out of the closet for years.”

Penny had to look away. He kept the duo in his peripheral vision but he couldn’t look at this directly. It was too painful.

“Yeah?”

Eliot leaned against the bar with a small smile on his face. An emotion in his eyes so deep and true and unlike anything Penny had ever seen before.

“Yeah.”

Quentin met Eliot’s eyes for several long seconds. Then he broke the eye contact. His hands moved to fiddle with the cuffs of his shirt. He undid the buttons.

“I am getting really hot. Are you hot? ‘Cause I’m sweating,” he said as he went to roll up his sleeves.”

“Now that you mention it,” Eliot paused as his focus flickered to Quentin’s hands rolling up the fabric. He sucked in a deep breath and continued in, “I am feeling a bit warm.”

Penny wanted to disappear. He could feel the tingling sensation which came beneath his skin right before his powers took him somewhere. He leaned his head against the wall and took a deep breath. The feeling subsided.

“Listen, El, I wanted to tell you something,” Quentin said.

Eliot looked at him with a calm expectation now. Quentin swallowed and looked down at his hands.

“I wanted to— I really, um. I really— I—“

“Take your time. There’s no rush, Q. Whatever it is you can tell me now or later,” Eliot said.

That seemed to steady Quentin. “I—“ he cut himself off and did something Penny did not expect. He moved forward and pressed his lips to Eliot’s. It was quick, short, chaste. Quentin moved back with a small, nervous smile.

Eliot’s entire demeanor softened. He pushed himself to his full height and took a step forward, trapping Quentin between him and the bar. He moved one hand to wrap around Quentin’s wrist and the other came around to grip Quentin’s neck. He used that hold to gently, slowly pull Quentin into another kiss. This one was longer and more drawn out. It was less sporadic and more purposeful.

Penny looked away and let them have their moment. A soft little “Oh” sounded from Quentin’s mind into Penny’s.

He saw Margo walking over with long strides. She cozied up beside Penny. She placed her arm on his shoulder and looked over at her two friends with a look of soft satisfaction.

“We did it,” she said. “Cheers.”

“Cheers,” Penny echoed.

Their glasses clinked together.

Maybe now Quentin would work on his fucking wards and perfect them since he had a soon to be boyfriend with pretty damn tight ones.

“He’s really good at this.” Yeah. Penny could live without having to know and hear that.

“Christ, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this floaty. . . Happy? Is this happy? Fuck it’s nice.” That one wasn’t so bad.