AN: welcome one and all to my imagination. The events of season 4 drove me to AO3 to find fixit fics of all kinds. But the events of season 5… they have driven me home: to my keyboard! Watching Eliot's effected apathy and silent grief really moved me and so I just had to write. I hope you enjoy my exploration of Eliot Waugh's grief.
And enjoy the changes I made. Please note. There is NO fix-it here. This is just grief.
Here's the way I see the mosaic memories. They remember. Not like they lived those lives yesterday, not in perfect clarity, but they remember as much as any healthy 80-year-old would remember the past 50 years. Some parts they remember like it was yesterday, some like it was a lifetime ago, and some are vague or even forgotten. So it's a life they lived, before continuing their lives in the present-day.
That's my choice in how much they remember.
This story was written before the airing of season 5 episode 5. No spoiler warnings needed.
The more Margo talked about saving Josh, the worse Eliot felt. For over a month Eliot had been living with this raging, gaping, all consuming hole in his chest. It felt like the hole was all that remained of his heart. What he wouldn't give to save the man he loves the way Margo hopes to save the man she loves. And how did that happen, he never saw Bambi and Josh becoming a couple.
But of course, no one knew how deep his grief went. He had never mentioned the mosaic to his Bambi, never mind any of their other friends. Not one of his friends knew how deep his current pain went. Oh sure, they knew he was grieving Quentin, but as far as they were concerned the two of them had been friends, very close, even best friends. But no one realized there was more.
Eliot had first come back to himself on the floor of a forest and in a world of pain. It took him a moment to register the pain and why the pain in his stomach made him so thrilled. After he spent who-knows-how-long trapped inside his own mind that pain said, "You're alive. This is real. You are free". He'd been whisked away to Breakbills infirmary and into surgery right quick.
When he had woken from surgery only Margo and Penny-23 were in his room. Margo looked like she had been crying and he vaguely remembers her crying while he lay on the forest floor. But when he looks at 23 he sees a haunted look in his eyes and a flash of sympathy was sent his way. Something has to be wrong, his mind told him.
Before Eliot can speak, 23 approaches the bed. Margo shoved him back and shoots him a dirty look. "I said I've got it!" She hissed at him.
"Go take care of your girl, 23. She needs to know, too. Or did you intend to make Al-"
"Alright! Fine. You tell him. Don't blame me when he starts avoiding you." Penny interrupted. "Eliot, glad you're awake. And I'm sorry- I- I'm just sorry." Later on he would wonder just how much Penny23 knew about the relationship between him and Quentin. He remembers Penny40 could always read Quentin so easily. Perhaps while Eliot had been possessed he had seen that memory, Eliot's worst memory, inside Quentin's mind.
Eliot promptly gave Margo a look that said explain- now. Margo came and sat down at his bed, touching him as gently as she could given the gaping axe wound in his stomach.
"We did it, El. The monster is gone and you're safe. Not even any new baddies demand our attention. We got you back! We got you back."
"Then why was 23-"
"Because it cost us- I mean we lost- El, Quentin is… gone. He got torn up in the Mirror World stopping Everett, who wanted to use the monster to become a god."
"What?" There was a terrible ringing in Eliot's ears, preventing him from processing her words. Quentin is gone. Quentin is gone. Quentin is gone. Quentin is apart, torn apart. Quentinisgoneandtornapart. Quentinisgoneandtornapart. No he can't be. He can't be gone. Eliot was going to be brave, damn it! He can't be gone before he gets the chance. He can't be!
"No," Eliot whispered brokenly. "Please, no."
Eliot had allowed himself only that day and the fireside memorial for Quentin that was held the following night for tears. He had refused to let any more tears shed after that. He had stupidly, carelessly tossed aside the heart that his lovable, vulnerable, Q had offered him, he deserved no tears now that his chance to take it back was gone.
It wasn't long after he woke that he learned that Quentin had gotten back together with Alice just a day before the trip to the mirror world. Eliot wasn't mad. Quentin had no idea that Eliot had an epiphany while trapped in his mind and decided to be brave with him. But now the part of the Widow was to be played by Alice, who everyone else had somehow forgiven while Eliot was possessed.
Eliot hadn't forgiven, and he hadn't forgotten her role in his possession and therefore Quentin's death. His heart hurt, but he had to keep quiet and be nice to Alice because she "loved Quentin so much". Yeah so much that she never understood his depression or self-esteem issues. Meanwhile, Eliot, who had spent over fifty years, that he still remembers being married to, loving, and holding Quentin, had to give way to Alice who had known the man only 4 years. And Alice had thrown away her chance-.
Did you forget, already? Asked a snide voice in his head. Let me remind you, you threw away your chance as well. Fifty years was not enough for you to believe in him and his feelings and so you threw his love away! Quentin died believing you did not love him and that is your fault!
So Eliot said nothing when his friends comforted Alice as Quentin's girlfriend. He did not protest when Margo said it was okay to be messed up from the possession (as if that was what was wrong with him). He bit his tongue when Lipson said he was fine. He held his tears inside when he saw peaches or plums. Peaches and plums, Q, I'm alive out here. I'm alive, but you aren't!
That pain was his and he had to bear it silently, just as he had been silent when Quentin had looked at him forlornly after the Mosaic- after Eliot rejected him. He had known that Q still wanted, hoped, loved. Now, he deserved this pain, for breaking the heart of the man he loved, who had loved him so purely. He had thrown away his chance of loving Q, and now, he had to live with the consequences. He did not deserve the sympathy of his friends. He did not deserve to speak of those fifty years, and peaches and plums, and Teddy and Arielle, and peaches and plums.
When Margo mentioned the Clock Dwarf and a possible way back to their time as rulers of Fillory, Eliot could not stop himself from hoping. There had been over 40 timelines trying to stop the Beast. While that trial was long since over and won, Jane Chatwin had rewritten time to make it better 40 times. Why couldn't Eliot do so just once, just go back and rescue Quentin before he mended the mirror and died in a magical backlash.
Of course, he had been so foolish to hope. They couldn't even go back to the Fillory of their time, never mind a month ago on Earth. And Jane explained that changing things could end up killing every one of their friends and countless innocent lives. So what? A voice in his head said. Is it not worth it to speak to Quentin again? To hold him, love him, tell him I love him?
Ah, another voice in his head spoke up. But what would Quentin say if he lived and others died? He would never forgive you and you still wouldn't be able to love him. And if you are one of those casualties, there definitely won't be anymore peaches and plums. So no matter how desperately he wanted Quentin back, he could not rewrite time to fix it.
So Margo's desire to rewrite the Fillory-written fates of Josh and Fen was just further tempting him and at the same time pouring salt on his freshly wounded heart. He would give anything to see Quentin again, to bring him back, and Margo couldn't see that. Couldn't see how much he wanted to rescue Quentin from his fate. Surely it couldn't be so bad as that if he undid Quentin's death. It was Quentin, the heart of their rag-tag group of friends. The glue that had brought them together. He was Eliot's husband.
Margo ranted that they had to get back to Josh (and Fen) and Eliot listened quietly. As she considered plan after plan to try to warn Josh of the impending disaster he helped her. Every word she uttered about helping Josh felt like an entire ocean of salt on a fresh wound. But he stayed and listened carefully because he deserved it. He deserved to have the salt of happy reunions and lovebirds all around him for eternity while he remained alone. Because that was how he had left Q, alone, pining, and without solace.
Quentin had spent the last year being tugged around by a god-killing monster wearing Eliot's face, the face of a friend- of someone who was once his husband- of someone he loved. Being forced to help it kill gods, people, and whatever else it wanted to do. Putting his own body and well-being between the monster and as many innocent people as he could. He had even put himself between the monster and Eliot- who the monster was possessing and thus couldn't get away from it but why should that stop Quentin? And he had done so while not knowing how much Eliot loved him. How much he was valued. How special he was. Because Eliot had been too cowardly to tell him in this life.
Eliot had been locked in his mind palace, his "happy place" while he had been possessed. At the time he had been unaware of what the monster was doing with his body. But after the monster was ejected from Eliot's body he had been able to get snippets of memory of what the monster had done. Mostly the memories were triggered by things Julia and Penny23 mentioned. Because they were there for more of it than anyone else besides Quentin.
In those memories Eliot had noticed how bad Quentin looked. The memories of him that he had from the monster showed Quentin getting paler and thinner and more jumpy every day. Eliot knew now that Q had been spiraling into one of the worst depressions he had ever had. Worse even then when Arielle had died. Why had no one else noticed? Why didn't their friends help him? He obviously wasn't eating, was barely sleeping, and desperately needed a tether to hold on to. As far as Eliot could see no one had provided that, and Q had died.
Maybe it had been a great sacrifice. Quentin might have saved the lives of Alice and Penny23. It was possible he saved millions of people by preventing a man who was a monster as a human being from acquiring god-powers. It was even possible that he had done all of the above- but Eliot knew that a part of Q had given up. That voice that had been tempting Quentin to end his life since he was a teenager had finally won. Whether he gave up because of total exhaustion mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, or because he thought Eliot didn't love him, or that Eliot wouldn't survive his ax injury, Eliot would never know. But he was certain that at least a part of Quentin's death had been a choice to give up, to stop living.
Eliot kept wishing for one more chance to talk to Quentin. To apologize for ever making him doubt that Eliot loved him, and would choose him any day. To have one more chance to tell him how much he loved him. When they found the enchanted stamps, he had to keep one for himself. How could he not grasp the opportunity it presented with both hands and all the magic he possessed? It was too big an ask for him to leave the stamp alone for Margo and walk away.
Margo read the history of 300 years ago and yesterday after the attempt to warn Josh and Fen via the Time Bees. Josh was killed by the time bees and High King Fen had sent an army to stop the Dark King, but Fen was overthrown and executed, and the present still happened. Eliot laughed internally at the irony. In trying to save the man she supposedly loves, she killed him. He couldn't help but picture himself in her position. Warning Quentin of Everett's attempt to get the monster. He could see it all playing out exactly the same, only this time, Eliot would know Quentin's death was a choice. He would then know for certain that the suicidal part of him had won, and Eliot would still be alone.
"So, that's it then," he said. There was no magic potion, no fit-it spell. No way to bring back Quentin and still have defeated Everett. It was hopeless, just as he always knew it was.
Margo didn't hear his internal thoughts. She had no idea that Eliot was talking to himself about saving Q. "In what conceivable universe is that it?" she asked.
Right, mind on the present, Waugh. But he wasn't gonna tell her where his thoughts had been. "I'm just saying we're doing all of this to save a man you ostensibly love who died of a bee sting because you forgot he was allergic?" How did she forget that? He couldn't imagine forgetting something like that about Quentin. He couldn't keep quiet anymore. It was killing him to listen to her try and save Josh. Killing him, but not in a way that would bring him to Quentin.
"What is your fucking point?" she asked, voice getting colder, but Eliot ignored it.
"I was gone, you were alone, and you hate being alone. And so you grabbed the first cock that crosses your desk, and now you're having a hard time letting him go." It seemed reasonable to him. Margo didn't do feelings, she didn't do real relationships at all outside of him and Quentin. If she could forget her so-called boyfriend was deathly allergic to bees how close had they really been?
"You think I should let go of our friends' lives?" Margo asked. How could he possibly expect her to just accept that Josh and Fen were dead? It was bad enough that she had abandoned them to save Eliot (a choice she would make again in a heartbeat despite what a dick he was being now). She had to find a way to save them. If they died because she wasn't here it was her responsibility to rescue them.
Eliot wanted to scream with frustration. How typical of his friends. He should let go of the man he spent fifty years loving because he saved people. But Margo should keep trying to save the man she spent a couples months fucking because she wanted him saved. What a hypocrite- if she knew about the mosaic, which she didn't cause Eliot didn't deserve to tell anyone. But he felt the sting of the hypocrisy all the same.
"I think you have a textbook case of cock blindness," Eliot said. "You are Margo the Destroyer, not Margo the Pinning Girlfriend." If he had to let Quentin die, he needed to spread that misery around. He needed to focus on something he could fix like helping Margo through grief. Or he would focus on what he should not do and try to rescue Quentin from his fate. And from everything he'd been told that could be disastrous.
Margo gave a dark chuckle. "I'm gonna let your bullshit slide on account of you so recently being possessed by a homicidal monster…" she said, being very generous she thought.
Eliot finally had enough of being pestered, coddled, and people thinking the possession was the root of all his problems. "For gods' sake, Margo! Not everything is about that stupid fucking possession! But if you really loved Josh as hard as you are trying to rescue him then you wouldn't have forgotten he was allergic to bees!"
Margo was visibly taken aback. But that didn't stop her sharp tongue. "I have had a shitton of shit going on El. Forgive me if I can't remember a tiny detail like an allergy! It has no bearing-'' she cut herself off. That wasn't the point. "What else is bothering you, El,'' she asked a bit softer.
"Nothing, just forget it. Obviously I'm misguided about what the fuck is wrong with me. It must be the possession," he said.
"No El, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. What is really bothering you?"
"I can't, Margo, I can't. I don't deserve to talk about it anymore. I blew that chance up," Eliot cursed himself as he felt the tears he had been holding back when he wasn't alone for the past month spill down his cheeks despite his attempts to keep them in.
"What chance, Eliot? Tell me," Margo pleaded with her best friend. She knew he had been hurting and had turned his emotions off to cope. She hated to see him in so much pain. Last time with Mike- ages ago now- she hadn't known how to help and had let him get away with bottling it up and drowning in any vice he could get his hands on. Suffice to say that didn't help. She wasn't going to fail him again. The look in her eyes must have broken down Eliot's wall cause suddenly he was telling her the truth.
"The mosaic- don't ask," he warned her not to interrupt with a look. Like she was gonna now that she had him talking. "We remembered it, like we had lived it. Fifty years of living together trying to solve that puzzle. Together. We- we- we were married, Margo. He was my husband for over fifty years, and I couldn't… I ran from it when we remembered. He wanted- but I was so scared. But while I was trapped in my head I realized it was time to be brave, like he was. So I was gonna tell him- but he wasn't here, Bambi, he's not here!" It was a disjointed summary of the events that had broken Eliot, but it was the best he could do. Tears were now streaming down his face for all that he had thrown away, and wanted back too late.
Margo looked at Eliot with sudden understanding and sympathy. No wonder he had been so reluctant to save Josh. It wasn't because he didn't care (she had always known that despite his words). It was because he couldn't do the same. The crush Eliot had always had on Quentin had blossomed into love, a love that was returned. "Oh El, why didn't you say anything?" she whispered.
"How could I? I never got to tell him again, how could I tell all of you when I couldn't tell him? I never got to tell him, Bambi, I never got to tell him, never got to tell him," Eliot said brokenly. And he kept repeating those words over and over "never got to tell him". Margo reached a hand through the bars of her cell and cradled Eliot's bowed head. Offering up what comfort she could while locked in the cell to her broken friend.
Suddenly the events of the last six months made more sense. She had talked with Julia who shared her concerns over Quentin after she arrived at the apartment with the axes. Julia had told her about Quentin putting himself between the monster and his drug usage, not caring if the monster hurt or killed him as long as he stopped harming Eliot's body. Quentin was the only other member of their group who had refused to consider any plan in which they didn't save Eliot. At the time Margo had just thought that Quentin wanted to save one of his best friends. Now with this new information, she realized why it was the same desperation he had displayed when Alice went Niffin.
"Eliot, honey, he loved you- shhh," she comforted him as he cried harder at her words. "He knew you just as well as I do, honey. He knew how you run. He knew that you loved him and were running from that. Trust me, El, he knew." Margo had never heard Quentin hint about this, but she knew it to be true. Sure, Q's self-doubt and depression would have told him Eliot didn't love him, but it would have done that regardless of Eliot's words or actions. That's how clinical depression worked. It didn't care if your life was great or horrible. But the part that knew Eliot for 50 years- and wasn't that a head buster- that part had to know that Eliot ran from things like love.
It took several more minutes for Eliot to calm back down enough to look at her again. "Do you really think he knew?" he asked in a low desperate whisper.
"Yes, Eliot. If he remembered like you do, then he knew. He was just waiting for you to stop running. He loved you, and he knew you loved him. When we figure out this time shit, talk with Julia about this past year. I guarantee she'll see it too."
Eliot took a deep breath. They had known and loved each other for fifty years. Quentin had known him just as much as Eliot knew him. Margo was right about that. That was how Eliot knew that some part of Quentin would have told him that it was Eliot who wouldn't choose him, though Eliot had been saying that Quentin wouldn't choose Eliot. But just as the depression would tell him El didn't love him, another internal voice must have told Q that he did, he did love him. Eliot had no idea which voice he would have believed more. Most likely it changed from day to day, moment to moment which voice was louder, which voice was trusted. But for the first time since hearing that Quentin had died Eliot had hope that some part of him knew that Eliot loved him. That Q had heard the words he didn't have time to say in the park when he broke free for one glorious moment.
"Fifty years. Who gets proof of concept like that? Peaches and Plums, motherfucker. I'm alive in here." Peaches and Plums, Q, I love you. I love you and I'm ready to admit it again. I love you, Q. Peaches and Plums, Q, I love you. I want you. I choose you. Peaches and Plums, Q, I love you. Peaches and Plums, Q, I love you. Peaches and Plums, Q, I love you. I love you.
"And on that note, let's find a way to save Josh and Fen. We've lost enough friends, I'm not failing anymore." Eliot said. Putting his grief aside once again to focus on saving Margo from the grief he now had.
The two did what they did best and put their heads together. Together they wrote one more letter to Josh to tell them the past Fillory (their present) was fucked and they should bail to the future. Josh arrived to tell them the key was inside Margo's cell and they all escaped their home at Castle Whitespire into the woods. It was good to see Josh and Fen alive and well- and brought back-up.
Eliot's heart was not suddenly healed, he didn't feel any more whole after the talk than he had before. But he was just a smidgen more hopeful than he had been before. Or maybe Eliot was a tiny bit more hopeful than before. Quentin was gone, but he had saved his friends, saved Eliot. Q had shown his love as he always did. Maybe he had seen the signs that Eliot loved him, too.
Margo gave him a knowing look later that night. "So you took the other stamp to send "Josh" a message? Are you gonna send it to Q?"
Eliot didn't try to deny it. Margo knew him too well. "I was thinking about it. But I would try and save him and what if it made everything worse?"
"Baby, you need this. Go and write your letter. I'll look over it with you. Help avoid nasty time consequences, okay?"
Eliot looked at her with relief. Maybe all he needed was someone to tell him it was okay to send the letter. Okay to tell Q he loved him one more time. That he had been loved. Maybe it would all be okay in time, instead of the usual fucked up.
This story is over for now. I've got a couple more ideas bubbling up in my head. We'll see when I get a chance to write them up.