Disclaimer: The Magicians and its wonderful world belongs to Lev Grossman. I'm just sharing my interpretation of a character.
Pleased be warned: this story contains indirect mention of mental illness, thoughts of suicide, and recreational drug/alcohol use
(Just fyi, this is my first time writing here so I honestly have no idea what I'm doing. Apologies in advance for grammar mistakes, I promise there will be a few)
Happiness. It was such a fleeting thing. Quentin had definitely felt happy more times in the past few months than he had in several years before this. Even with a beast out for his blood, he still managed to quell the feelings of guilt and self hate more than in the past. Well, he mostly could.
Occasionally, he would wake up and just feel, emotion so raw and close to the surface that he could do nothing but lay in bed, empty and yet full. He remembered one of his therapists saying that mental illness was like an old friend. A toxic friend, but one you were used to having around. It could get to the point where the feelings of worthlessness and self loathing were the new normal, and when they were gone he was unsure of how to feel.
They weren't gone now. They would never be truly gone. Even in his current place, with friends and magic. God, there was magic! He would still slip into depressive episodes occasionally. And every single time his brain sighed, almost as if in relief. Because yes, this was how he was meant to feel.
And that was such a horrible thing.
When these moments came by he would sit and stare into space, wishing the hurt to leave and yet unintentionally holding it even closer. He hated how he was so used to the pain, it almost made things easier to just slip into his own little dark box and never leave. He hated these thoughts. He hated how they made him feel guilty. And he hated how the hate had long since become normal.
There were healthy ways to deal with pain. But Quentin had become used to Elliot's way of coping. Alcohol. Whenever he had a particularly bad day, he could always rely on Elliot to mix him up a drink. He would no doubt hum while he did it, hips swaying in time with soundless music, perfect curls bouncing gaily.
And the drink would be strong, strong enough to cause Quentin to screw his face up mixed distaste and appreciation. I would make him forget about his problems, about his pain. And everything would sink into an alcohol soaked haze.
This had happened recently, too recent to be healthy. It had been one of those days. The ones where his brain felt heavy and filled with toxic chemicals. It was during these days that he could barely get out of bed, he couldn't eat or drink. Everything seemed to lose its meaning and things he normally enjoyed became useless.
Sitting with Alice in the library was one of his favorite activities. But that day he had been unable to relax, his brain turning over every small interaction. Overthinking had always been something he did when his brain got too quiet, and that day was no exception. Suddenly, her turning away wasn't just to reach for another book, but to get away from him. She was desperate to get away. And why wouldn't she, he didn't deserve her, she was too good for him.
And so he had returned to the cottage with a heavy soul and seemingly broken brain. Elliot had been splayed on the couch, legs haphazardly tangled with Margo's.
As Quentin entered he looked up, expression changing from content to concern, and then understanding. Sliding out from under Margo he made his way to the bar with a wink.
Quentin nodded, not having enough energy to give a proper answer and collapsed onto a wicker chair. Resting his head in his hands, he tried to block out the voices. He knew Penny heard voices, but that was different. Those were other people's thoughts. For Quentin he continually heard his own. In the back of his head, always there, always whispering, hateful and invasive. He could soften it with affection, block it briefly with sex, or quiet it with alcohol. However, it never truly went away.
And as he sat he could hear them whispering. "What a loser. How could you force him to make you a drink, pathetic. Poor bastard. Lonely and without love. I hate you, they hate you, you even hate yourself. You will never be good enough. This is too good for you, magic isn't real."
It hurt, and they were only getting louder.
Elliot finished mixing the drink with a flourish and approached, dropping onto the couch next to him.
"Here. This will help."
And it did, it really did. Soon afterwards Quentin could barely focus, he was blinking rapidly and his peripheral vision was fuzzing. Turning to Elliot with a dopey smile he threw a clumsy hand over his best friends shoulders. "I appreciate you so much, you know that."
Elliot smiled, indulging his less than sober mind and gently took away his glass. "I know Quentin. And I appreciate you too."
They sat in comfortable silence for several moments. Time seemed liquid, folding in on itself as Quentin's head lolled to the side.
"You know" he stated with sudden sincerity. "I'm really glad I didn't kill myself."
He felt Elliot freeze beside him, muscles going tense and becoming completely still. Oblivious as to why, Quentin continued to relax, mind loopy and and finally quiet. He felt... happy.
"You almost killed yourself?" The question shouldn't have been unexpected, but hearing it voiced so blatantly was a shock. Normally Elliot would have been more tactful, but Quentin was fairly sure he had been smoking something rather strong since before he came in. It wasn't unreasonable for his judgment to be slightly affected.
"Yeah of course." He continued smiling. "I don't-didn't really think I was worth anything."
He would have normally stopped, should have stopped, but his exhaustion and drunkenness had significantly loosened his tongue.
"I wasn't good enough for Julia, wasn't good enough for my dad, wasn't good enough for anyone. And so I decided that logically it would much better if I were dead." He turned to face Elliot, ignoring his friends pale face. "You know that overpopulation is an issue because resources are being used up faster and faster. And if there's no point to me being here-" his head lolled to the side, "then I might as well rid the world of my presence.
"Fuck. Quentin." Elliot's reply was soft, and normally Quentin wouldn't have been able to hear it over the hateful voices in his head. But the alcohol had quieted them, and so he listened.
Swinging his head to the side, he squinted at his friend. "Why're you..." his words slurred off. "Why're you so sad looking?"
And it was true. Elliot's expression, which was normally carefully controlled and manipulated to mask his own feelings, was twisted into something strange. It wasn't that the expression itself was unusual, but Quentin was so unused to Elliot's mouth to be curved downwards like this. His eyes were pained and his brows had twisted, causing wrinkles to fan outwards.
It took several seconds for Quentin's drunken mind to comprehend what the emotion was, sadness. And even longer to identify the source of his discomfort.
"I didn't really-want to die." He backtracked clumsily. "I just wanted to stop living. I- couldn't deal with it anymore but that doesn't mean I wanted to give up. I'm not weak, I'm really not. Please." Tears had begun to gather in his eyes, unexpected and ignored. "Please don't hate me."
For several heart stopping moments there was silence, and then suddenly he was being embraced by a warm body. Strong fingers dug into his shoulder and a harsh voice whispered into his ear. "Don't you ever think you are weak for what you've been through. You are strong. Stronger than me. Stronger than anyone." Elliot drew back briefly, eyes shining with what he would later claim was "passion" and smacked him softly on the cheek.
"Quentin you- you are one of the strongest people I have ever had the honor of meeting. At first I though you were a bit of a loser-"
"Hey" Quentin swatted at him from the couch.
"Let me finish!" His friend's mouth formed a crooked line. "But then I became friends with you and realized that you are a loser. A loser who had loved and lost so much. Someone who is so incredibly giving it's to the point of self sacrifice. Someone who may seem quiet but had so many ideas and so much worth that I cannot imagine a world in which we are no longer friends."
He sat back, collapsing onto the couch as though the speech had drained him of energy.
For the following moments there was silence, broken only by the sounds of harsh breathing and shock.
"So-" Quentin cleared his throat awkwardly. "uhh- thanks."
Elliot snorted, leaning forward to smack his friends arm. His eyes were dry, and his normal smirk was set firmly back in place.
"That was a very insp-inspiring speech Elliot."
The physical magician let out a chuckle and the atmosphere returned to what it normally was, comfortable, easy. "Fuck you Quentin." He flicked his hand out, a joint of some sort appearing out of thin air. He took a drag, head tilting back as he slowly released the smoke from his lungs. Quentin watched from his place on the couch, admiring how the smoke changed from grey to light blue as it curled from Elliot's lips into the surrounding air.
"No but for real Quentin." The magician held the joint away from him, silver mist turning magenta. "If you hadn't come to Brakebills. If you hadn't had the opportunity because- you hadn't been alive. This school would currently be missing a talented student. Your father would be missing a wonderful son. And I would be missing the best friend one could ask for."
He paused once more, taking another breath from the joint as if to center himself. "I really am proud of you for continuing and fighting on. Sometimes it might feel like the world is against you and your happiness. But the best way to deal with that is to give the world a big ol fuck you and not let it affect you." He chuckled. "That's what I do."
Quentin rolled his eyes. "And I should really be taking advice from someone high as a kite.
Elliot scoffed and placed an offended hand over his heart. "Says someone drunk as a sailor."
Quentin flipped him off and let his head thump back against the couches headrest. He didn't remember lying down or getting into that position, but now that he was there, sleep seemed extremely appealing. Blinking drowsily he watched as Elliot continued to smoke, his red ringed eyes soft and affectionate. Surrounded by the warmth of the room and the comfort and feeling of belonging, Quentin's eyes began to drift close.
As darkness began to take over his vision, he felt Elliot stand, collect his various drinks, and move away. And for once Quentin's brain decided not to overthink things. His friend was not leaving because he felt the need to abandon him. He was only cleaning up their mess so it wouldn't have to be dealt with later. Even as the affects of the alcohol faded from his mind, Quentin smiled drowsily. For once, his brain was completely quiet and he was happy.