Part 2 I Part 3 I Part 4 (Upcoming)
Jaskier/Eskel, ~1.3k, rated T, no warnings
Written for @thewitcherbog fic train event together with @kueble, @professorjaskier, and @softdarlingjaskier so be on the lookout for their parts in the next few days. It was so much fun!! 😊💕
“Ta-da,” Jaskier says with a flourish of his hand, and gestures at the dress-form he has set up in the middle of the living area of his rooms at Oxenfurt, all furniture pushed to the side. The mannequin is clad in a positively stunning arrangement, an unpretentious doublet of deep burgundy with subtly golden ribbons at the cuffs and seams, a matching pair of cotton breeches. Underneath, an almost-black silken shirt. It’s plain for Jaskier’s tastes and habits, but it’s perfect for its recipient whose suspicious gaze is currently flicking between Jaskier and the clothes.
“What is that?” Eskel asks, arms crossed loosely over his chest. He’s wearing his typical red-and-dark stripe with those small spikes on the shoulders that Jaskier thinks are honestly ridiculous. Not big enough to work as any form of weaponry or defense mechanism, too dismissable to count as a fashion statement. Yeah, right. Wolves and fashion. Ridiculous.
Jaskier snorts and watches Eskel watch the dress-form, wary and uncomprehending to a point that is just adorable.
“That, my dear witcher, is an outfit. Your outfit to be precise. That is to say, the outfit you will wear tonight.” Jaskier puts on his brightest sunlight-smile, hoping it will cover up the awkwardness he can feel tightening his throat. This could have started better. But then again, this could have started so much worse. Eskel could already be out the door what with him just having arrived, swords still strapped to his back, one hand fisted around the plain linen sack he keeps most of his belongings in.
“Do I look like Geralt to you?” Eskel asks, brow raised which contorts the landscape of scars that cover half his face, stretching them out. Jaskier’s fingers itch to reach out and trace them, they always do whenever Eskel graces him with a visit to his apartment.
It’s about the only place they ever cross paths. With Geralt, Jaskier is bound to stumble into him in the most ridiculous of places and predicaments, as though Destiny wills it so. With Eskel… well. Jaskier learned early on in their acquaintance that finding Eskel anywhere takes effort, so it’s easier to have Eskel find him. The wolf sticks to himself almost all year round, avoids big cities and gets by on mysterious, long-winded contracts that take him to places most of the rest of the world has forgotten about. Jaskier has never once accompanied Eskel on one of his hunts, and that is perhaps why he often feels that a certain distance remains between them, no matter how often Eskel comes around.
And Eskel does, with striking regularity. At least once, whenever Jaskier’s staying in Oxenfurt for longer than a handful of days. He’ll always bring something too; a fine Toussaint vintage for them to share, a hearty piece of salt-crystal cheese for them to put on their bread, some pickled fish straight from the Skellige Isles. It isn’t always edible or drinkable, sometimes it’s useful like a pretty button or a new set of lute strings. There is no rhyme or reason to Eskel’s little gifts, just one thing that threads through them, and it is that every time, they take Jaskier by surprise. Eskel is so very reliable and Jaskier’s brain still hesitates to form expectations. Expectations can get crushed and he has already invested more heart into this relationship than is strictly healthy.
“Jaskier?” Eskel asks into the silence which has speeded by for Jaskier with his mind reminiscing, but which must have dragged excessively for the witcher. To Eskel’s credit, he doesn’t show the slightest twitch of impatience.
“Of course you don’t,” Jaskier says, shuddering inwardly. Outwardly, his smile freezes over.
You look nothing like Geralt, he doesn’t say though he knows that with taking away the scars and dyeing Geralt’s hair, they would look strikingly similar. There are no pictures of Eskel before, but it didn’t even need Vesemir telling Jaskier this for the bard to notice. They have the same cut of jawline, same set of their shoulders, a similar nose. But that’s artificial and if one looks closely, the similarities start to fall away pretty quickly.
You look much more beautiful than him – sorry Geralt, but it’s true, is what Jaskier also doesn’t say even though his rapidly beating heart keeps commanding him to.
“Then why would I wear this? What for?”
“Oh nothing special, just a wee little occasion, really.”
“A-hem, right. The school-board is throwing a fancy dinner party tonight and I have been invited as a guest. I thought you might want to join me… be my partner if you will.”
Oh, but that feels daring. That feels very daring.
Eskel cocks his head, golden eyes boring into Jaskier’s. Jaskier feels his cheeks heat and licks his lips.
“Can’t I go the way I am?” the witcher asks finally.
“Ah, well,” Jaskier says and swallows. “Well, you see… there’s nothing wrong with the way you are, necessarily, but… it’s, well. They are very important people and I have a certain standing within the university. A reputation to maintain, if you will.”
“You?” Eskel raises a brow. “A reputation to maintain?”
A reputation other than drinking and whoring around, is what Eskel doesn’t say, but it is heavily implied and not even in a condescending manner. Eskel knows Jaskier the flamboyant bard, Jaskier the man with an eye for a good party, Jaskier that will drag any conquest into his bed regardless of whether there’s a witcher crashing in his guest bedroom or not. And even though Eskel’s been visiting him in Oxenfurt, in his rooms at the heart of the academy, Professor Pankratz is a complete stranger to both Eskel and Geralt. They know of him, of course, but they don’t know him.
“Yes, me,” Jaskier says. “A Professor at this university and highly valued member of several poet’s societies and bardic unions.”
“Trust a fucking academic to demand I dress up for him.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to trust anyone around here?” Jaskier retorts in what he hopes is a light note, but something has settled in the pit of his stomach at Eskel’s words, even though they were meant in jest. If this was Geralt, there would have been a deeper meaning woven into the words. In this regard too, Eskel is very different from Geralt in the manner in which he deals out his faith. He was wary when they first met at Kaer Morhen, of course; careful. But one night under the tightly-woven tapestry of constellations above the keep together, watching from the battlements while the temperature still allowed it, and Eskel turned from cool indifference to a low simmer of secretive smiles and sidelong glances. Jaskier can’t help but wonder if - for all of Eskel’s straightforwardness - there is still a hidden fuse he’s about to light up like a damn wildfire one day.
“I thought you were the exception,” Eskel grumbles and sighs deeply. Still eyeing the doublet wearily, the wolf witcher begins to pace around it, circling it as though it is a ghoul about to jump him and not his dress for the night. It would have been quite funny too, if it didn’t make Jaskier ponder so much. He doesn’t like pondering, not before an evening of events. He isn’t here to think, which would lead to dissecting, which would lead to inspiration and doubt at the same time. Jaskier has many doubts, especially when the handsomely rugged witcher in front of him is involved and he suspects there’s no glazing over them now, not when big words such as trust have been thrown this carelessly into the room.
“I hoped I would be,” Jaskier admits begrudgingly and carves out another smile, if dampened. “Will you come along then? It would mean the world to me.”
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