Jaskier was regretting telling Valdo Marx – that self-important, overcompensating, thieving, plagiarising asshole – that he was not “sadly single” (as Marx had put it) but was in fact dating a rather attractive man who was just Jaskier’s type. Unspoken went the insinuation that Valdo was not Jaskier’s type – Jaskier had regretted falling in bed with the pompous prick the moment he woke up the next morning with a sore ass and a hangover to rule all hangovers. Sure, he might be attractive in a smarmy sort of way, but he wasn’t the sort Jaskier usually went for.
The problem was, now Valdo was making a point to spend as much time trailing after Jaskier as was feasibly possible, as if he’d be able to catch Jaskier out in his lie about the fictional “muscled god of a man” he was supposedly dating.
Jaskier had never been good at thinking on his feet when it came to his own love life.
He’d begged off being partnered with Valdo for the preparations for tonight’s big charity gala – they never performed together, so there was no need for him to spend any more time with Valdo than what he was required to by the university – with the excuse of a date, but only ten minutes ago he’d noticed Valdo following him as he left the campus.
So he was now panicking. He wasn’t showing it outwardly, of course – he was a better actor than that – but he was stressed. Where was an attractive, muscular, kind stranger when a musician needed one?
If only Valdo didn’t know Geralt… if he didn’t, then Jaskier was sure Geralt and Yennefer would be willing to let Jaskier pretend he was dating Geralt for a short time. Yennefer would hold it over his head forever, but it would be better than having Valdo find out he’d lied about having a date, and about having a boyfriend. Maybe he should have taken them up on the offer to set him up with Geralt’s single brother…
Turning onto the main café strip of their bustling university town, Jaskier headed towards his favourite café at a casual stride. He should grab a coffee and then conveniently “bump into” Valdo and distract him, and then make his escape before Valdo could corral his thoughts into a semblance of intelligence.
It was a solid enough plan… if not for Valdo having apparently decided he wanted Jaskier to know he was there. Not that Jaskier hadn’t known that already, but Valdo didn’t know that.
A reedy arm was slung about his shoulders just as he reached the doorway of his favourite café – Merigold’s, named after the beautiful owner Triss Merigold – and Jaskier grimaced.
“Valdo,” he greeted blandly, pausing only briefly to shrug off the man’s arm before pushing open the café door and walking in. Valdo followed. “Don’t you have someone else upon whom you can inflict your presence?”
“Don’t be an asshole, Julian,” Valdo snorted, and Jaskier rolled his eyes.
“It’s Jaskier. Are you stooping to stalking now?” he asked instead, casting his gaze about the café in the hopes that a friend would be there and could help save him from the imbecile Jaskier must’ve been blackout drunk to even consider sleeping with.
“I was just so curious about your date,” Valdo said with faux innocence, and Jaskier shot a quick glare his way before continuing his visual search. “Are you meeting him here, then?”
There. In one of the back corners of the café, not immediately visible from the entrance – not a friend, no, nor anyone he recognised, but someone who fit the vague description he’d given Valdo when the asshole had prodded for details. A large man, broad with muscle and dark of hair, whose large hands were cradling a mug and holding open a tome which Jaskier recognised as one of the many poetry books Triss kept on the shelves for those customers who wanted to sit and read for a while.
Big enough to scare off Valdo, and hopefully kind enough to help out a desperate stranger. Jaskier rolled his shoulders back slightly and lifted his chin, glaring down his nose at Valdo – who was, thankfully, not as gifted in the height (or any other) department as Jaskier was.
“I am, actually,” he said. “And I’m actually late, so I’d rather you removed yourself from my vicinity so I can go greet him properly.” He gave an airy hand-wave towards the reading man, who at that moment decided to take a sip of his drink and turn the page in his book with his thumb. It was a clearly practiced movement, and on any other day Jaskier would likely swoon on the spot and go flirt.
It was unfortunate this man would likely want nothing to do with him after this. Jaskier apologised mentally.
“Him?” Valdo scoffed. Luckily the general bustle of the café – nothing too loud, but loud enough to muffle conversations at a distance – stopped his voice from reaching further than Jaskier. “Right. You pay him to pretend to be your boyfriend?” Jaskier clenched his teeth and then forced a smile.
“Not at all,” he replied truthfully.
“Go on, then,” Valdo challenged, folding his arms. “Go greet your ‘boyfriend’ and introduce us so I can ask him myself.”
“You really have no knowledge of social mores, do you?” Jaskier pondered. It was quite literally amazing how dense Valdo could be. He wondered, again, what had possessed him to sleep with the bastard. “Fine, if it’ll get you off my back.” He strode away from Valdo, dodging deftly through the crowd which had just come through the door – perfect timing! – and gaining a lead on the asshole to approach the gorgeous man in the corner.
He didn’t look back at Valdo, instead reaching out a hand to deftly pluck the mug from the stranger’s hand and slide into his lap.
“Please don’t punch me for this,” he murmured to the surprised but gorgeous man whose thick thigh he was now perched on, and slid his free hand into Handsome Stranger’s lovely deep brown hair as he pressed their mouths together.
When he’d come to Merigold’s an hour before he was supposed to meet his brothers, the last thing Eskel had expected was to have his tea stolen from his hand by strong fingers as a pretty, lithe man slid into his lap and curled a hand into his hair.
“Please don’t punch me for this,” the pretty stranger with frantic blue eyes murmured in a gorgeous low voice, and then Eskel’s mind went slightly blank as soft lips pressed against his.
Then his brain kind of gave up and he decided to just go with it, and tilted his head slightly to make the angle of the kiss better. Likely Blue Eyes was hiding from someone, or trying to escape someone, and he’d do what he could to help since Blue Eyes decided he was the one to approach here – and in such a fashion.
It was a pretty good kiss, too, if chaste and sudden.
Eskel set down the book of poetry he’d been reading before he gained a lapful of fey-like stranger, curling the hand which had held his tea around the back of Blue Eyes’ neck and placing the other on his hip to make sure he stayed balanced on Eskel’s thigh.
There was a sound like a cat had been stepped on – or perhaps a very offended teakettle – from behind Blue Eyes, and with a wordless grumble Blue Eyes drew back and turned his head to glare at the man who’d come up to Eskel’s table.
The newcomer was nowhere near as attractive as the blue-eyed man on Eskel’s lap, but Blue Eyes clearly knew him if the aggravated sigh was any indication.
“What, Valdo?” he snapped, clearly irritated, and Eskel let his hand on Blue Eyes’ neck slip down to instead wrap low around his waist and hips. The move had him loosely holding Blue Eyes on his lap, and apparently this ‘Valdo’ didn’t like that if the scowl was any indication.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Valdo asked, tone falsely sweet, and Blue Eyes bristled like an angry cat. Eskel tightened his hold slightly – the weight shift of Blue Eyes was that of someone about to throw themselves into a physical fight, and Eskel didn’t want to risk getting thrown out of Merigold’s. Triss had a few hard limits to what was allowed in her shop, and fighting was a definite no.
“Who’s this, then?” Eskel asked Blue Eyes – he didn’t know why Blue Eyes had decided that kissing a stranger was the perfect way to escape this Valdo asshole, but Eskel was willing to play along.
“Just a bastard who doesn’t know when to leave things alone,” Blue Eyes muttered, still glaring at Valdo and bristling. Eskel allowed a smirk to form on his face, and he lifted his right hand off Blue Eyes’ hip to wave at Valdo.
“Hi, Bastard,” he said, and Blue Eyes gave a startled, amused snort as Valdo spluttered in offense. “Name’s Eskel. Care to introduce yourself and maybe tell me why you interrupted?” Blue Eyes was laughing now, quiet but genuinely amused, and his head came to rest on Eskel’s shoulder.
“Thank you,” he breathed while Valdo made offended noises. “I’m Jaskier.” Eskel just gave him another squeeze, this time a silent acknowledgement of the thanks.
“I am Professor Valdo Marx of Oxenfurt College of the Arts,” Valdo uttered, drawing his scrawny frame up in a self-important manner, and Eskel just hummed disbelievingly. Jaskier snickered.
“Right,” Eskel said, deliberately sounding sceptical, and bit back a smile at the way Professor Valdo Marx spluttered. “And you’re interrupting us because…?”
“Because I sincerely doubt Julian’s truthfulness about your… relationship,” the bastard sneered. Eskel’s eyebrows rose, and Jaskier sighed.
“One, it’s Jaskier. Two, could you be any more pretentious? That’s not a challenge, by the way,” he added hastily. Eskel snorted. “Three, do you really think I hired someone to pretend to date me? I don’t need to pay people for attention and affection, unlike some I could name.”
God, that haughty tone and feral sneer should not be attractive, but Eskel liked it. Blue Eyes – Jaskier – was hitting all of his buttons.
“Can guarantee he’s not paying me,” Eskel agreed, and took back the cup of tea that Jaskier was still holding so he could place it safely on the table. “Now we’ve satisfied your rude curiosity; do you mind? You’re butting in on our date.”
Valdo spluttered wordlessly, but then stormed off and out the café door, looking like he had something wedged up his ass as he did so. Eskel snorted again, and then looked at the pretty blue-eyed man still in his lap.
“Nasty ex?” he asked, and Jaskier scoffed.
“He wishes.” He paused, and then his shoulders slumped slightly. “Though I did, maybe, sleep with him once. Still don’t know what drunk me was thinking when that happened,” he added in a disgruntled mutter. Eskel chuckled, and then silently mourned the warm weight of Jaskier as he stood and rounded the table to sit in the chair opposite. “I’m sorry for assaulting you out of nowhere, and thank you for going along with it.”
“I figured if someone was desperate enough to climb into the lap of a stranger who looks like me, then the nice thing to do would be to just go with it,” Eskel shrugged. Jaskier frowned.
“Looks like you? You mean gorgeous and muscles for days? I would think that would be a draw, not a detractor,” he said. Eskel raised his eyebrows back at Jaskier, and gestured at the scars cutting down one side of his face. Jaskier’s head tilted in what seemed to be confusion, and his blue eyes traced Eskel’s face. There was no disgust there, no negative response whatsoever.
“The scars,” Eskel prompted.
“Scars aren’t a detractor. As I said, gorgeous,” Jaskier shrugged elegantly. He then offered Eskel a crooked little grin that went all the way to his beautiful eyes, making them light up from within, and Eskel’s brain went a little blank again. “So, if I hadn’t had Valdo heckling me I would’ve come over and flirted until you told me to back off. Is there any chance I can coax you into a real date with me?”
“I’d say a pretty high one, yeah,” Eskel agreed, booting his brain back into gear forcefully. He picked up his tea and took a sip, and then took in Jaskier over the rim of his mug, trailing his gaze from head to toe and then back up again. “I’m meeting with my brothers today, but how’s Friday?”
Jaskier beamed at him.
“Friday is perfect.” Eskel took out his phone and they exchanged numbers, and then Jaskier looked at the time and sighed. “Unfortunately, I need to be heading back to the university. We’ve got a performance tonight and despite how good I look I do need to freshen up.” Eskel chuckled at the self-assured nature of Jaskier’s words, and then almost swallowed his tongue when Jaskier winked at him.
“Have fun,” he said, instead of giving in to the urge to offer to dirty him up first, and Jaskier smiled brightly at him.
“I will.” He stood and rounded the table once more, leaning down and kissing Eskel much like he had the first time. Eskel was slightly more prepared this time, though, and returned it gently. Jaskier hummed happily and pulled back, pink tongue flicking out over his bottom lip briefly. “I really do need to go. I’ll see you Friday,” he added, and then turned to leave.
Then he froze, and Eskel looked past him to see Geralt, Yennefer, Lambert, and Aiden standing there, varying levels of surprise visible in their faces and eyes.
“Jaskier,” Geralt growled. “Eskel.”