Actions

Work Header

The Midnight Lantern

Chapter Text

There was whispering amongst the whores that a witcher was in town. There had been a recent spike in dangers around the wilderness, and so a monster hunter was needed. While news of a witcher meant coin for the Madame, not many of the women were overly willing to lay with such a man. Witchers were dangerous, emotionless. Bedding a witcher was certainly a feat due to his strength and inhuman features, but it wasn't for the faint of heart. This was why you were one of the girls called to the front when the witcher finally made his way to The Midnight Lantern. You never startled easily, had a strong back and a stronger mind. The Madame lined you and three other girls up, others who she felt could handle a witcher's specific tastes. And the Madame was always right.

This witcher stalked. He wasn't particularly large or lumbering, still bigger than you or any of the other girls there. But the way he walked implied a hidden sort of power, a sort of restraint in every bend of a limb. He stayed in the shadows of the hallway for a few tense moments before stepping into the soft candlelight of the lounging room. A few gasps sounded from the girls next to you; you knew better than to react to any man's appearance at this point. Even though you had never seen a witcher before now, you didn’t let surprise color your features. He was frightening, though.

Golden eyes shone from under a heavy brow, pupils slitted and savage. His dark hair was parted down the middle and half of it hung awkwardly over the right side of his face. As if he wanted to shield it from discerning gazes. But nothing could hide the horrendous scarring that marred his cheek as well as the corner of his mouth and chin. Everything that he did from the moment he walked in, you started cataloguing and making mental notes of.

Do not mention the scarring. Keep yourself amiable. Stay reserved, but kind.

"As you can see, Master Witcher, our establishment has some of the finest women this side of the Pontar," Madame Detlira launched into her usual speech; at this point you knew the damn thing by heart. But the witcher was silent. He didn't even seem to acknowledge that she was there, his gaze instead focusing and narrowing on the women in front of him. He spent time looking at each one of you, eyes almost betraying an emotion whenever one of the girls flinched. But then his attention landed on you. He was intense, and could easily send any one of you into a fearful bout of terror. But your back straightened and you met his gaze head on. From what little you had seen of him so far, you could tell that this was not a man to cower before.

Not that you had ever cowered a day in your life.

"Of course, if you would prefer a man for the night, we are very discreet--"

"This one," he growled out with a voice like gravel, finger pointing at you. "I'll pay for the night in advance." A bag of coins was tossed at the Madame and she fumbled to catch it.

"Indeed, Master Witcher." She turned to address you. "Take our fine guest to the Mayflower suite." You nodded and spun on your heel, beckoning the witcher to follow. He padded along silently behind you, and you could practically hear the sigh of relief once you left the room. He followed you through the hallway and up the stairs, a solid presence behind you that was impossible to ignore. But something felt slightly different about the man. His aura wasn't choking you or oppressing you, not like some other patrons. In fact, he seemed to be trying to maintain a slight distance between the two of you.

It didn't matter to you if he was an odd one or not. Only that the job got done.

"Here we are," you said, stopping at the door to the Mayflower suite. Each room was named after a type of flower, and most days you found it rather charming. The Lavender suite had always been your favorite. The door swung open on silent hinges and you walked inside, already making your way to the candles in order to light them. Once you got to the first table, however, something made you pause. "Is something the matter, Master Witcher?" You asked, turning around to see him lingering in the open doorway.

"No. Nothing." He entered and shut the door behind him, plunging the room in darkness. Your heart rate spiked at the sudden lack of sight and you gripped the edge of the table in order to ground yourself. "Just... No lights, please."

He really was an odd one.

"Easily done. Although you will have to give me time to become used to it," you replied, nerves settling. Even though the doors to the rooms never locked, and you knew that a call would be all it took to have help come racing, being alone in the dark with a witcher was still a slightly anxiety-inducing experience. "For I can't exactly see at all, at the moment." Your ears pricked for the slightest of sounds, and you could sense him drawing closer.

"I wouldn't want you to become uncomfortable with my presence. I shall wait." He was polite. And he didn't make any moves to draw nearer. Your opinion of the man was changing by the second. Eventually, the room brightened ever so slightly, a sign that your eyes were finally becoming accustomed to the dark. You could see the surface of the table in front of you, and when you turned around the silhouette of the witcher was there. The sight almost made you jump, for his eyes were still ever so slightly visible in the dark. His head moved, and you lost sight of them.

"Why don't we get started, then?" You asked, swallowing back any kind of negative reaction and instead focusing on the man in front of you. He was paying for a service, and you intended to give it. Witcher or no. Your tone shifted into that of what you usually fronted for patrons. "Come on, Master Witcher." You reached out a hand and trailed it along his arm, grasping his wrist and tugging him forwards towards the bed. It was a risky business, trying to navigate in the dark, but you were able to make it to the bed without incident. "You paid for the whole night, and that's a very long time to be serviced, no?" Your hands moved from his arms to his chest, feeling the front of his jerkin under your fingers. "What would you have of me?"

"Your mouth."

"That can be easily arranged," you smirked, gently nudging him to sit down on the bed. You dropped to your knees in front of him and let your hands roam the expanse of his thighs. While you lamented the lack of effective sight, you still intended to at least allow yourself the pleasure of feeling his strong form under you. Your fingertips traced the laces to his codpiece as well as his belt and you moved to undo them. Years of experience gave you a much needed advantage to get the knots undone quickly and effectively. You hummed under your breath when the ties came loose, the buckle clinking as you popped the prong free from the punch hole it was threaded through. His trousers were undone and pushed to the sides of his hips.

A hand pressed up to the front of his braies, cupping around his length. Your brow furrowed when you felt that he was barely hard; most of the men by now would be ready and needy for your service. No matter. Perhaps witchers were simply a bit harder to get going than the average man. He did inhale a bit sharply at the contact, so you assumed that it was going well thus far. You let out another low hum as your fingers made their way to the ties of his braies and deftly undid them.

It certainly was a pity that it was so dark. Although you could make out the shape and outline of his cock, it was still very hard to see it fully. "Would you like me to undress you further?" You asked, trailing your fingertips down his legs to the laces of his boots.

"No. This is fine."

Wasn't he quite the talker?

"Very well." You responded, leaning forwards and nuzzling your cheek into his inner thigh. His breath was catching on the edges, like he was trying to stay in control of it. You almost wanted to see what he would be like when he lost his control. His control that so carefully bound him tightly. "Would you like me to use my mouth now? Or rather have me tease you just a bit longer?" Your hand moved to brush ever so slightly over the soft skin of his cock, still feeling the slight give that evidenced his lack of complete arousal.

"Do what you like." Now that was something a little new. It wasn't often that your patrons gave you free reign of what to do, save for a few. You bit your lower lip and heard another sharp intake of breath. Ah, so he was watching you. Well, a little show couldn't hurt then. You blinked slowly and let your teeth catch on your lip again, maneuvering your hand in order to get a full grip around him. He filled at your touch, albeit a bit more slowly than what you were used to. That was of no consequence, though. You worked in a brothel, and there was almost nothing that could make you blush or sneer anymore. You began to pump him slowly in your hand, getting a feel for his size and girth that your eyes would usually have the job of. He exhaled softly, and at the end of his breath you could hear just the slightest rumblings of a groan deep in his chest.

You were hit with a sudden wave of want. You wanted to pull those groans from his chest, to hear him growl with need. All of a sudden you were extremely glad that he had chosen you over the other whores. Chosen you to pleasure him, to handle his needs with a willing mouth and a soft hand. Perhaps even a wet cunt, if he wished. Melitele knows you'd want it, even crave it maybe.

Another low rumbling from within his chest, partnered with some deep inhales. You took it upon yourself in that moment to finally give him what he had requested, and lowered your mouth to brush your lips against the head of his cock. His foot gave a small jerk next to you, and you pressed an open-mouthed kiss to him. It only took another moment for you to get to work, dropping your head down in the experienced move of a professional. Your stunt pulled a strangled noise from him, and your lips curled in a smile as you pulled away to say:

"Do you like that, Master Witcher?" You could hear his hands clenching in the sheets next to him. You looked up and tried to discern his expression, but it was impossible to see anything more than those golden eyes shining ever so slightly in the dark. So you didn't wait for an answer but instead moved your head back down to once more wrap your lips around his erection. He was fully hard now, and you knew every trick in order to get him to shiver. The witcher was larger than most, not enough to be painful or challenging to handle. But enough to make you work to fit your mouth around him, carefully minding your teeth.

It took a bit longer than usual, to bring him to the edge. But every so often you could hear his breathing shake, that tight control unraveling. You inhaled deeply and held it before sliding all the way down until your nose brushed against the slight dusting of hair at the root of his cock. He finally groaned out loud at that, fully and unrepentantly. The sheets rustled as his white-knuckled grip threatened to tear them. You hummed around him and let your free hand move outwards, across his knee and up the outside of his thigh, until it finally landed on his clenched fist. The witcher jolted at the touch as you pulled back far enough to say, "You can touch."

Your hand curled around his and eased it out of its tight grasp, guiding it all the way to the back of your head. You trusted that he would be careful, and it seemed that he needed something other than the sheets to ground him. "Do you want to come? In my mouth?" You asked, laving your tongue across the head of his shaft.

"Fuck, I do." He replied, fingers tangling in your hair. It seemed like he was finally getting comfortable. "I can?" You almost laughed at the question. It certainly wasn't often that your clients asked. Instead of responding, you merely hummed around him and upped the speed of your movements, sucking him in deep and running your fingertips across his hip bone. The witcher let out another groan and the mattress depressed as he leaned back on his elbow, hand still combing through your hair. His hips jolted below you but never fully thrust; it was like he was trying to avoid mistreating you.

It only took a few scant moments after that for him to come with a low growl. Several hot spurts of seed flooded your mouth and painted your tongue. You continued your ministrations, albeit a bit gentler than before, and made to swallow every drop. "Fuck," he repeated, collapsing back onto the bed as his arm gave out from under him. You lingered just a bit longer and pressed careful kisses to the head of his cock until he let out a low strained whine. Standing up, you shook your legs a few times in order to loosen up the tenseness in your knees.

"Are you pleased with that, Master Witcher?" You asked, climbing up to straddle his hips. "What other pleasures can I offer you for the night?" His relaxed bliss ended almost immediately and he stiffened up under you, not in a good way. You tilted your head and attempted to discern his expression, but his face was still shrouded in shadow. No doubt he could see you perfectly, enhanced eyes roving your form. But he seemed reserved again, carefully strung up.

"Yes. Thank you." He replied, hands moving to your waist. "That was, more than enough." His grip tightened ever so slightly as he made to push you off of him. "I shall not trouble you further."

What?

What was he saying?

You couldn't wrap your head around his words, simply letting him slide out from under you and refasten his braies and trousers. The clinking of his belt buckle was the only noise; his breathing had calmed post-orgasm. Did he not want more? The witcher paid for the full night, and he intended to leave?

"Wait!" You exclaimed, standing up and attempting to fix him with your confused countenance. "You paid for the whole night, why are you leaving?"

"I paid for my release, and extra for the trouble of servicing one such as I." Was all he said, closed off and quickly making his way to the door. You wanted to give chase, but why, you didn't know. Instead you just stood behind him and tried to understand what was going on. Didn't he want to stay and make his visit worth the money paid? "I appreciate your efforts, you need not tell the Madame that I have left. Spend the rest of the night at your leisure."

"But I--" You were cut off by the door opening, and the light pouring in temporarily blinded you. Your hand immediately rushed to cover your eyes and you blinked as you tried to adjust to the sudden influx of bright lighting. When you moved your hand away and looked around, he was gone.

The witcher had departed without another word.

Chapter Text

Ever since that night, you felt a strange sense of curiosity towards witchers. One in particular always held your interest, but you found yourself wanting to know more in general. Of course, witchers were still frightening. Any nonhuman was. But his reactions and treatment of you in the brothel ignited the flame and you thirsted for knowledge. You wanted to know more about him. To partake in what was admittedly a short and basic sex act, and to then deny the option for more? Strange indeed.

There were a few theories as to why. You had dealt with enough men to recognize signs of insecurity. Perhaps his want of the cover of darkness, coupled with his hesitation to take full advantage of what he paid for, were due to some underlying issues? You couldn't quite understand. And you pondered for a month over it, tackling every possible angle you could think of. What was his reasoning? Was it something incapable for a human to understand? Did he simply want to receive oral sex? Was it just another difference between him and a normal man? It didn't matter what conclusion you would come to, for you'd never see him again.

Until you did.

Ban Gleán's alderman put out a contract for what was thought to be a mucknixer, an extremely dangerous variant of drowner. News of the contract was spread throughout town as well as on the road, for the reward was quite lofty. The monster had been rumored to have killed over a score of humans already, and many of the townspeople were starting to succumb to the stress. Every trek to the river was a danger.

And then word passed that a witcher had arrived. He stayed long enough to dispatch of the mucknixer a day ago, easily and without trouble. You asked some of the townspeople as well as the other whores, trying to discern if this was the same witcher who had come last month. Most shrugged and said that they never really paid much attention to how a witcher looked. Monstrous, nonhuman. Like any other creature close enough to be mistaken for a person at first glance but still animalistic. Your brow furrowed at the words. There was a time where you were of a similar opinion towards witchers, if not quite so vitriolic. But now that you had spent that single night with one, not even a full night, you felt as if there was more there than what was spoken by your fellow humans.

It was late in the night when the door to The Midnight Lantern opened, perhaps crossing over into the wee hours of the morning even. You had entertained a client a few hours prior, and were lounging in a bath in order to clean yourself when Madame Detlira burst into the communal bathing room that the whores shared.

"Can you take another patron tonight?" She asked, glancing back down the hallway. "He's asked for you specifically."

"Who?"

"Who do you think? The damned witcher." The other girls looked at you with barely contained shock. They knew you had lain with the witcher, and would often attempt to wheedle out details. You didn't give them an inch, especially considering that none of them knew you had only been able to use your mouth before he withdrew and left. "He's to be in the Burdock suite. Hurry up, he's paid in advance again and I don't want to test his patience." You got up from your bath slowly, attempting to stay composed around the other women. They would think you to be mad, rushing off to the witcher. "Don't bother with your usual garb," the Madame said, tossing a thin dressing robe at you as you passed by. "All men are the same, mutated or no."

The material was sheer and quite gorgeous, falling to just below your knees. The gown had a tie in the front that you knotted as you stalked down the hallway to the Burdock suite. If only you had the time to dry your hair properly, for it was limp and wet from the bath water. You stopped in front of the door to the Burdock suite and ran a few nervous fingers through it, trying to brush it out of your eyes. Hopefully he would find you presentable. Swallowing and taking a deep breath, you turned the knob and opened the door. It was dark in the room, but the light from the hallway cast a soft glow onto the bed where the witcher sat. His gaze snapped up to you when you crossed the threshold, and he made to stand.

"No need, Master Witcher," you smiled, shutting the door behind you and once more plunging the room into darkness. As you made your way towards him, careful to not trip over the carpet, you contemplated whether or not to start talking. Any word said to him was a gamble, just as likely to close him off as to get him going. "I wanted to see you again." Fuck it. You decided to just go for it and tell him the truth. The light of his golden eyes guided you until you stood in front of him, planting a knee on the bed next to the outside of his thigh. You couldn't see his expression, but you imagined that he perhaps was a bit surprised at your admission.

"You did?" He asked. And so you were right.

"Of course I did." Your other knee rose to his opposite side, seating yourself on his lap. "I didn't get to finish my job the last time we saw one another," you whispered, drawing yourself close to his ear. You were careful to stay on his left, the side that wasn't marred by the scarring. It was entirely possible that they were a very sore subject, and you didn't want to cause him any undue stress. "I certainly hope that you will allow me to service you fully this time." Your hands trailed down his chest, feeling the cold metal studs on his jerkin. You pressed yourself further against him and tilted your head to the side, baring the side of your neck. "You can still touch. In fact, I encourage you to."

His arms slowly reached up to frame your hips, fingers sliding back and forth across the fabric of your dressing gown. He leaned into your shoulder and drew in a deep breath, soft exhalations fanning across your skin. You bit your lower lip and anchored your knees, rolling your hips against him. He rumbled lowly in his throat, pushing you back in order to reach for the ties to your gown. You smirked to yourself; this was already progressing faster than last time. He hadn't even made moves to undress you then. And yet here he was, undoing the ribbon and pushing the fabric off of your shoulders. You arched your back as one of his hands moved to cup your left breast. A soft moan escaped your lips when his thumb brushed against your nipple. Your hands grasped at his shoulders, mindful of the studded spikes driven into his pauldrons. You pulled back and attempted to get another glimpse of his golden eyes. But he ducked his head away from your gaze.

"Turn around."

Disappointment clouded your thoughts at the order. He would be one of those patrons then? Very well. You tried to not let the displeasure color your expression or actions as you stood and spun on your heel, planting yourself firmly back down on his lap once your back was to him. You began rolling your hips more resolutely, at least taking some solace in the fact that he was being a bit more expressive than last time. His hands wandered more as well. They roamed the soft skin of your stomach, reached up to palm at your breasts, even dipped down occasionally between your legs. It was still so dark that you could barely see a thing, so you tried to focus on the silhouette of a painting on the wall in front of you. It was of burdock flowers, that much you could remember from the last time you had been in this room.

The witcher lifted his hips and scooted back on the mattress, lying down and resting his head on one of the many pillows adorning the head of the bed. He took you with him, grip secure on your waist. You moved up his body, enough to get a grip on the laces to his trousers and his belt buckle. You deftly undid each and reached down his braies in order to fist your hand around his cock. He was harder than when you first had your hands on him, so that was another good sign. Hopefully. A low groan sounded out behind you as his grip tightened against your hips. Definitely a good sign. You sat back down on top of his lap where you were previously, letting the gown fall from your arms and pool at your waist as you began grinding your hips into his body.

"Enjoying the view?" You asked, slipping your hands from the sleeves of the gown and raising them above your head, arching your back.

"I am." You preened at the attention, wanting so desperately to turn around and plant a multitude of kisses down his neck and across his chest. But you stayed where you were, respecting his wishes to stay facing away from him. Even as you rolled your hips and felt the flushed head of his erection gliding across your cunt, you pondered. Why would he want it this way? Wouldn't he want to see a moaning woman, breasts heaving with the force of his thrusts? Your thoughts were cut short by his hands tightening around your waist, stopping your movements. "I..."

"What is it? What do you wish of me?" You ended your question with a breathy moan, trying to play up your reactions to compensate for the lack of other visuals. His breathing paused for a moment before continuing.

"I wish to have you tonight," he replied, hands sliding down from your waist to your thighs, spreading them further. You hummed at his words, reaching down to palm at him. He let out a low growl as you rose up on your thighs and guided him into your wet heat. Ohhh, he was glorious. Never let it be said that a witcher was left wanting in any physical department. You wiggled your hips and swiveled them on a pivot, taking him a few inches deeper. His hands tightened on your legs; they slid up and curled into the creases of your hips, pushing your thighs further apart in order to take him fully.

You groaned as you finally pressed yourself flush against him, leaning forwards and bracing your hands on his thighs. You narrowed your eyes at the clothing still dreadfully covering his undoubtedly gorgeous legs. Why he still insisted on staying almost fully dressed while partaking in a brothel was beyond you. You didn't stay still for very long, raising yourself up before dropping back down. The breath was punched out from your lungs and you did it again; you began to roll your hips at a steadily increasing pace. The witcher moved his hands up your back and traced the divots of your spine as it arched at his touch. His breathing was ragged, and his hips were making little abortive movements below you. Like he wanted to take charge and thrust with abandon, but still held himself back.

A smirk crossed your lips as you quickened the pace to a degree that would certainly be a hassle to keep up. But it was worth it, for this very well might be the most amazing cock that you had ever taken. And the noises he made as you rode him... Absolutely gorgeous. Every rock of your hips stoked a fire inside of you, fanning the flames of pleasure. He wasn't the largest you had ever taken. But he was the most comfortable fit you'd ever had in a long time. His legs parted below you, pushing your thighs to the side and spreading you open further to be fucked upon his cock even more thoroughly. A shuddering moan escaped you as you nearly fell forwards.

One of the witcher's hands snaked around your waist and down your abdomen, nestling two fingers between your folds. A sharp gasp as an inquisitive fingertip found your clit and began circling it. It wasn't often that a patron took special attention to your pleasure as well as his own. The witcher was indeed shaping up to be a fast favorite of your clients. The slight movements of his hips became stronger, more aimed and intense. He was undoubtedly close now; you had ridden enough men to know the tells. You bit down on your lip and leaned forwards a bit further, taking an extra bit of stability in order to truly guide him to orgasm. His heavy breathing synced up with the quickening pace of your movements. Melitele, how you wanted this last time. The wait had been worth it, though. He was very good, guiding you up to the precipice as well as himself.

Your thighs trembled with the strain, muscles aching. His other hand was a hot brand on the side of your hip, steadying you and grounding himself as he began to thrust. You moaned brokenly and leaned even further forwards. Your hand gripped his knee tightly and scrabbled for purchase against the cool metal poleyn. The witcher groaned and his finger pressed against you more firmly, making you curl your toes against the sheets. He stopped your movements completely and took control, fucking up into you even faster than before. You let out a high pitched whine and let him do what he wanted, too overcome with want at this point to do anything else.

His clothing muffled the noise of your bodies colliding, but there was a certain allure to the sound. Your breath came in short gasps as he thrust once, twice, a third time... A low cresting of pleasure washed through you as a low keening sound escaped your throat. Your vision whited out at the edges and you attempted to take in a few deep breaths to steady yourself against the tide. The witcher wasn't far behind you, slamming his hips against yours one final time before letting out a choked groan. He trembled below you as his cock pulsed heavily with his release. You hummed and blinked slowly, entire body relaxing against him. It wasn't often that a patron made it a point to try and get you to orgasm, much less for them to succeed.

This witcher was quite a rare find, indeed.

"I can't imagine it's that hard to find women who'll service this lovely cock. By Melitele's Three Faces, you were amazing. I think I nearly fainted. Anyone willing to lay with a witcher is in for a nice surprise," you said, trying to rile him up again with praises of his endowment. He didn't respond, however, growing almost unnervingly silent behind you. The curiosity finally overwhelmed you, and you made to turn your head back to look at him. You just had to know what he was thinking. A hand shot up and pressed against the back of your head, keeping you facing forwards.

"Don't--... Just, don't." His voice sounded unlike how you had ever heard it before. Still low and gravelly, like grinding rocks. But tinged with a desperation at the edges.

"Alright," you breathed, eyes wide and staring out in front of you. "I'm sorry, Master Witcher. What would you rather me say?" The hand on the back of your head softened, fingers carding through your hair before tracing down your spine.

"Not things like that, please..." He sat up behind you and pulled out with a slick noise. You nearly whimpered at the loss of fullness. "I... I no longer need your services for the night. Please spend it at your leisure, I will not demand your attention any longer." A bolt of recognition flashed through you. Suddenly his actions from before made sense. The lack of light, to obscure your vision. A witcher could see perfectly fine in the dark, so it wasn't for his own sake. Hair falling across a scarred countenance. Hands clenching in the sheets, staying themselves from touching you. Quiet sounds escaping from lips that tried so desperately to hold them back. A quick exit once he got what he wanted, unwilling to stay for the full night that he paid for.

"I'll not trouble you further."

"Extra for the trouble of servicing one such as I."

Your heart dropped into your stomach at the realization. Your hands fell to your sides and you sat back, swallowing. He stood and adjusted his trousers, fastening the laces and preparing himself to leave. Any lingering prejudices that you might've had towards witchers just completely dissipated. How had this poor man been treated, for him to close himself off like this? You furrowed your brow and made a decision just as he moved over to the door.

"Wait!" You called out, stretching a hand towards him before he could leave. He stopped, and you saw one eye look back at you as he turned his head to the side. "I wish you could've returned sooner. I wish that you would stay the entire night, both last time and now. I wish that I hadn't have said those things to you, knowing now how it causes you displeasure." His silhouette was still for a moment, before he nodded. "And I hope that you will deign to return one day."

Silence.

You saw his head turn away from you, to face the door.

"I will."

And with that, he left.

Chapter Text

Winter was slow and harsh, like it always was. If it wasn't for the dangerous roads and freezing climate, you would have thought that the witcher had lied to you. That he wouldn't come back. Enough men had lied to you before that it wouldn't surprise you now. But those two words kept you hoping throughout the entire winter as you and the other whores took to sleeping huddled together. Every night you thought of what he said; every night was visited by a pair of golden eyes.

The witcher was intriguing. A curiosity that you needed to solve.

As news of the first thaw swept throughout the town, you couldn't help but be excited. Travel would flourish again, people would take to the roads now that the long winter had passed. And perhaps he would come back. You could then understand what it was that made him so reluctant to face you fully. Without a doubt, it was something to do with his... Nonhuman features. The treatment of witchers, though they were a necessity, was severely lacking in proper respect. They were rare nowadays. Whenever one came to town, that always meant trouble and poor luck was to be found. They were a constant reminder that humans couldn't solve all of their own problems alone. To have to rely on something that could just as easily kill you as kill the monster terrorizing you was frightening. And this witcher in particular seemed to understand the fear that he sowed with his presence. He actively tried to avoid contact with humans, from what you could gather. Only partaking in what was necessary. It almost made your heart weep.

It wasn't long after the thaw. You were in the foyer, talking and laughing with a group of women. All of you had been scanning the room for possible clients, sizing each man up and determining whether he was worth the trouble or not. The night was still young and you were loath to waste it, when the front doors to The Midnight Lantern opened. Everyone paused in their conversations to fix the new arrival with a curious gaze.

It was him.

He had come back.

Your heart raced and your fists clenched at your sides as you looked your fill of him. Both nights you had spent together were under the cover of darkness, and you couldn't remember any feature of his face besides his haunting golden eyes. But now, he was bathed in the warm lighting of the brothel. It softened harsh edges and dampened the effect of his dangerous appearance. His hair was still parted down the middle, messy on the right and covering just a scant portion of the angry scarring. He had no weapons, as they weren't allowed in the brothel. But you had no doubt that he could easily strangle anyone there with his bare hands. The silence took on a new meaning altogether once people realized there was a witcher in their midst. They glanced nervously at each other, especially the other men. The whores were mostly indifferent to his appearance, knowing that both times the witcher had visited he'd chosen you. There was a very small possibility of them having to service him for the night.

He scanned the room until his eyes landed on you. You attempted to keep your face schooled into that of neutrality at his appearance, resisting the urge to ogle his figure. His eyebrows narrowed almost imperceptibly and he tilted his head to the side just slightly.

"That your witcher?" One of the girls, Ilde, whispered to you as he approached. She looked him up and down. "Good luck." You wanted to snap at her, but stayed silent. He stopped in front of your little group and glanced at the other women before letting a small grin curve his lips, holding out a hand towards you.

"Would you join me for the night?" He asked. Your breath caught in your chest and you didn't even look at the others before taking his hand and leading him off. You kept an eye out for the Madame, eager to get him away and to a room before he could pay in advance again. That would only open up an opportunity for him to leave early. You already had the perfect room in mind for the two of you. Your favorite suite; Lavender. There was no doubt in your mind, he would enjoy it. There was a window that faced the river, and due to the room being on the third floor of the brothel there would be no prying eyes. Couple that with the lovely smell of lavender that permeated the room at all times, and you had a veritable mini paradise for the night.

"You returned," you said as you led him up the stairs and through the hallway.

"I said I would, I'd not lie to you." Your heart gave a heavy throb at that. Honesty, to a whore? It made you smile, even though he couldn't see it. You made it to the door of the Lavender suite and opened it, inhaling the scent that wafted out before stepping in. A soft tug on your hand alerted you to the fact that the witcher hadn't moved, though. Your brow furrowed and you turned around to face him with a questioning look. His mouth was pursed, nose wrinkled ever so slightly. It looked like he was about to cough.

"Is something the matter?" You asked, tilting your head to the side. He averted his eyes for a moment, like he was about to play it off like nothing was wrong.

"Just, ah... The smell," he sniffed then grimaced, "it's a bit strong." Really? It didn't smell strong to you at all. That was part of the beauty of this room. You turned back around and breathed in deeply, trying to determine if he was right or not. The room still smelled fine, the scent merely lingering instead of overpowering. Maybe his nose was sensitive? You looked back at him to see that he was still frowning, but now taking a step forward as if to follow you in. You set your jaw at that and left the room, shutting the door behind you and cutting off the scent immediately. The witcher raised his eyebrows in question.

"Your comfort is a priority. I'll just find another room," you said, looking away and already walking down the hallway to find a room suitable for him. Knowing that his sense of smell was sensitive gave you a few ideas. Definitely not the Rose, Daffodil, or Lily suites. Maybe... The closest room that wasn't in use was the Violet suite. Perhaps that could cater to him? You led the witcher there and opened the door, leaning forwards to sample the air with your nose. That was probably a fruitless endeavor, seeing as apparently his sense of smell was far superior to yours. But you still wanted to at least try. If you were able to smell something, then that meant he could probably smell it ten times stronger. There was nothing out of the ordinary; the room didn't have a scent you could discern. "Is this alright?"

"I..." An inhale. "Yes, it's fine. Thank you." A smile curled your lips at that and you shut the door, leaving the room in darkness once again. If he wanted there to be no light, then you would obey his wishes. You grasped both of his hands and began leading him towards where you assumed the bed was. The room was pitch black, and you couldn't remember as much of its features as the others. It was only a few steps before you tripped over a low table, falling backwards with a shout. Your grip tightened as you tried to no avail to steady yourself. But instead of falling to the ground and cracking your head on the table, an arm fitted itself around your waist and kept you upright. The witcher had caught you. Your heart thundered in your chest at the close call, and you pressed your body to him in order to distance yourself as much from the floor as possible. "Alright?" His chest rumbled as he asked you. You almost wanted to swoon, but decided against it as that may only distance him further.

It was hard to tell what would.

"Yes, um..." You planted your feet and stood up straight. "Thank you. Maybe you should lead the way," you laughed, squinting in the dark and trying to see his expression. He blinked and looked ahead, loosening the arm around your waist but still holding you close as he guided you to the bed. He was careful to let you know when there was an obstacle like an uneven rug. But you made it, and you fell back onto the bed in relief. "That was an adventure!" You playfully told him, rolling onto your side and patting the comforter. "How about we have another one?" You batted your eyelashes at him and bit your lower lip, raising an eyebrow.

"Isn't that why I'm here?" He asked as he sat down next to you. He leaned over to unlace his boots and toed them off before climbing fully onto the bed. The witcher loomed over where you lay, arms on either side of your head. His eyes shone in the dark, and you found yourself realizing just how much you missed their glow. He looked down then focused back on you. "Turn over." You stifled a displeased groan at that. Again? No lights, you could handle. But if he was stubborn in his want to rut against you without even deigning to grace you with the decency of seeing those gorgeous eyes then you were allowed to be annoyed. You exhaled and rolled over onto your stomach. He shifted behind you and you felt fingers tracing the laces of your corset. He picked at the knot and loosened it, pulling the ties away and opening the garb. You rose up onto your knees in order to allow him to remove it.

He hummed at the sight of your thin chemise, running his hands over the curve of your waist. He flipped the fabric over your rump, exposing your lacy undergarments and stockings. Another low hum, more of a growl at the edges. "These are nice." His hand ran down the length of your leg and curled around your ankle. His thumb rubbed circles on the gentle swell of bone. "Very nice." You pulled your lower lip into your mouth and arched your hips further, presenting yourself to him. He let out a groan at that and a few fingers dipped into the waistband of your undergarments before sliding them down your thighs. You could hear the witcher's breathing quicken and deepen as he surged up to his knees.

The cradle of his hips pressed to yours, and his hands slid up to grasp at your waist. They tangled in the fabric of your chemise and pulled you into him. He pushed the garment up and over your back, letting you attempt to remove it from your arms and head. You collapsed onto your elbows afterwards, chin resting on your forearms. A few short moans escaped bitten-red lips. The smooth leather of his codpiece thrust against the slick heat of your cunt. A wave of possessiveness rushed through you at the action. You wanted to mark him, claim him as yours. The thought shocked you to the core, but was shoved to the side when he drew away. You almost turned around in question as to what he was doing when he returned. You let out a gasp at the feel of his heavy cock pushing its way between your thighs, sliding across your wet folds. A desperate longing to have him inside of you coursed through your veins and you spread your legs, urging him to action.

"Please, I don't know how much more I can take," you pleaded as you pressed back against him. A low rumbling laugh permeated his chest; the first laugh you could ever recall hearing from the witcher. With every sound you so gently coaxed out of him you could only want more. More of his noises, more of his words, more of him. "I need you."

"Who am I to refuse a lady?" He asked, mirth curling the edges of his words as he finally, finally, guided himself into you. The stretch to fit him set your body aflame. The altered angle had him reaching almost unbelievably deep inside you. A whine bubbled up in your throat just as he responded with a growl. It didn't take long for him to start moving against you, hips meeting flush against yours before he pulled back and thrust in again. Your lips parted around panting breaths and you tilted your head to the side as it rested against your arms, closing your eyes and focusing on the sensations. This witcher was a talented lay, probably from countless years of practice. You couldn't get enough. His fingers were pinpricks of pleasure upon your flushed skin, grounding you.

You whimpered and rolled your hips, thighs quivering as he grunted behind you. The entire torturous winter had been worth it for this moment alone. Even if you never saw him again after this, you could look back on this as one of the best fucks you'd ever had by a patron. The fact that you were in a brothel no longer mattered; you didn't have to falsely play up your enjoyment for him. Not anymore. And the fact that he kept coming back certainly said something about your effects on him. Perhaps you were one of his best lays as well? You could only hope. "Fuck," he cursed, dragging out the syllable across a long and broken exhale. He leaned down over your back, the cool metal of his medallion resting between your shoulder blades.

His pace quickened and you could feel the length of his belt slap against your arse with every meeting of your hips. The loose buckle clinked incessantly, a sharp contrast against the low rumblings of the man behind you. You fisted your hands in the sheets below you and attempted to dig your face into the silky fabric as fire danced across your skin. One of his hands that had been previously gripping your waist suddenly shoved itself between your legs, fingers pressing firmly against your clit. He bit off a few moans close to your ear, breath coming in sharp pants. You bit down so hard on your lower lip that you worried you broke the skin for a moment, letting out one of the most desperate sounding whimpers you could ever recall making.

It was that noise that broke him.

The witcher choked on a groan, hips stuttering and finally slamming fully into you as he came. That drew a shouted cry from you; you tried to push yourself up onto your forearms only to end up pressing your back against his clothed chest. He buried his nose in the juncture of your neck and shoulder. Hot breaths fanned against your skin and his fingers quickened their movement across your clit, drawing out another low whine from you. You wanted to follow his release so badly. The fact that he was trying so hard to get you to come as well ended up being what did it. Your toes curled and your brow furrowed, pleasure cresting and snatching you away on the tide. The witcher let out another low groan as he felt you flutter around him, making one more weak thrust before completely stilling once more as you rode out your orgasm.

Once your breath finally evened out, he pulled away and gently pushed you to lie down. You didn't resist, simply closing your eyes and letting out a deep relaxing sigh. He hovered over you for a few moments before you got tired of his frozen presence. Your hand blindly reached out to grasp at his arm, pulling until he settled next to you on his stomach as well. A soft smile curled your lips as you traced the tips of the studded spikes on the sleeves of his jerkin.

"Why don't you take that thing off and relax?" You asked, inhaling deeply. "You have yet to pay the Madame, and she would be most displeased if you were to leave without spending the full night." He tensed next to you for a moment, and your comfortable afterglow vanished immediately. Had that touched a sore spot? Was he ashamed for forgetting to pay and therefore locking himself in an inescapable situation? Had you read his intentions wrong? Did he merely want a quick and enjoyable fuck before departing?

"Clever of you, to know my routine so well." The tenseness in his body had dissipated, instead he sounded impressed. "It seems you have trapped me here, you wily succubus." You laughed at the comparison.

"You wish I was a succubus!" You opened your eyes to fix him with a playful glare. In the darkness you could just barely make out a smile across his lips. "Then I would have given you such a night to remember, you'd never want to leave." Your fingers trailed up to his shoulder, splaying across his upper back.

"Believe me when I tell you, that was nicer than any succubus could ever hope to achieve." A bolt of surprise shot through you. Your eyebrows raised and you fixed him with an incredulous look. You almost wanted to prop yourself up on your elbow and continue that vein of conversation, but the sudden bashful expression on his face stayed your tongue. So instead you smiled and ran a hand through his dark brown hair, twining the strands through your fingers. The molten gold of his eyes disappeared as he closed them, and a low rumbling slowly started to build up in his chest at your ministrations. You hummed and turned onto your side in order to face him more fully.

"I'll take that as a very high compliment."

Chapter Text

Sometimes a month would pass. Sometimes two. But the witcher came back. He would spend most of the night with you, but always left before you rose in the morning. Every time you woke up from a night of mind-blowing sex with him, he would always be gone. No traces of him ever being there in the first place. The other whores liked to ask you questions about it. If he was animalistic, violent, any number of horrible things. You found yourself glaring at their questions and spitting back scathing replies. Details were to be kept secret, but you disproved any beliefs that he was as monstrous as described. And they backed off at that; they knew to trust you. Even though it didn't stop their own curiosity, they refrained from asking you any more.

The witcher didn't talk much at first, but he was slowly beginning to hold conversations with you. Mostly after fucking, while you both lay together tangled in the sheets. Regardless of his talents in bed, you found those moments to be the most enjoyable. Even in the dark and unable to see his face. His voice often was what lulled you to sleep, exhausted as you were from recent exertions. As time passed you could only find yourself wishing he would stay longer. Long enough to kiss you awake and press you to the mattress before he left again. But he never did. You hadn't even been able to kiss him at all; all of your coupling involved you facing away from him. With every gentle tug to your arm, every whispered request to turn around, every aversion of his eyes, you found yourself complying without resistance. If that was how he wanted it to be then you couldn't deny him. How else would you treat a paying client?

Perhaps these secret desires of yours spoke something of your feelings. But you found yourself growing fond of the witcher despite the fear that coursed through you at the thought of it. He was kind, kinder than a majority of the men you had to service. He ran his fingers reverently through your hair when driving into you from behind. He laughed at your flippant remarks as you lay next to him. He came back and wanted to spend time with you. There was just something about him that made you want for more. At first you thought it was just morbid curiosity. The primal desire to claim someone. A want to find out more about this dangerous man. He most certainly looked dangerous. The puckered flesh of his scars mutilated his face, made him hard to look at properly. It became easier with time, though. And now you could only hope to gaze upon his face for as long as possible before he inevitably retreated into the safety of the darkness.

That was the other constant. The pitch blackness of every room you went to. He vehemently opposed the lighting of any candles, and you granted his wishes without verbal complaint. That didn't stop you bemoaning the fact in your mind, however. With each night you spent together your wants grew stronger. But you resisted the urge to fight with him over it; it was dangerous to feel emotions like this for clients. It was for the best that things were like this. Impersonal. Transactional. He was paying for a service, nothing more.

You were in the kitchen, watching the cook and his assistants work on dinner for the night. It was a more relaxing pastime for you, as Zond often let you sneak bits of whatever he was working on. He also made each visit a learning opportunity, showing you how certain dishes worked and how to make the most out of a few simple ingredients. It was interesting. Flaczki was the dish for tonight, cooked in a pot big enough to feed the entire staff of the brothel. You watched with wide eyes as he ordered the young assistants about.

"You call this thin?" He scoffed, holding up the offending tripe in question. "Dear, you want them to be no thicker than your thumb," he turned to address you at that, slamming the meat down and cutting it down the middle. "Like this."

The doors to the kitchen slammed open.

"Thought you'd be here," Madame Detlira claimed as she entered. "Your regular is back."

"The rich silk merchant?" You asked, smirking and raising an eyebrow.

"Don't get smart with me. The witcher." She crossed her arms over her chest. "He's been paying a pretty sum for you, and I'm not going to deny him what he's been so graciously requesting. Mutant or no." Well, at least she didn't treat him any different than any other client. You patted Zond on the back and hopped down from the stool you sat upon. "I sent him to the Tulip suite," The Madame said as you passed her on your way out of the kitchen. You nodded and left, walking down the halls and up the stairs to the second floor of the brothel. The Tulip suite was the first on the right, and you opened the door.

The sight that greeted you was certainly a surprise. The witcher was standing at the head of the bed, instead of sitting down like usual. He was staring intently at the lit candle that was placed on the bedside table, jaw set. In fact, all of the candles were lit. Their soft light suffused the room with a gentle warm glow.

"I wasn't expecting to have such a pleasant surprise waiting for me," you said, shutting the door behind you and sauntering over to where he stood. You wrapped your arms around his waist from behind and pressed your forehead between his shoulder blades. "A big and strong witcher, glaring at a candle as if it had personally offended him." You felt him jerk a little at that, a silent laugh. Sliding around him, you made to go and extinguish the light. "Want me to put it out?"

"No, I..." You whipped around to face him, lips slightly parted in surprise. He looked down at you and quirked his mouth to the side. The scars pulled angrily at his flesh. "It can stay." Your heart thundered in your chest at the admission. His brow furrowed and he looked troubled, eyes darting down before focusing back on your face. "Unless you'd prefer the dark?" You shook your head adamantly.

"No!" You nearly shouted, clearing your throat shortly after. "I mean, I don't mind." He nodded, ducking his head down and scratching against the scarred side of his face. You couldn't help but feel slightly awkward at the situation too. He wanted the candles to stay lit? This was completely unprecedented. Darkness was always a constant to his visits. But you decided not to dwell on it, in case he ended up changing his mind. "Well then, Master Witcher. What would you like to start with tonight?" You pulled in close and pressed your chest to his; a sultry smirk across your lips. "My mouth first? Shall I drop to my knees and worship that glorious cock?" His hands moved to grip your shoulders, thumbs rubbing against your collarbones.

"I was thinking..." He trailed off, suddenly averting his eyes. You tilted your head to the side in an attempt to catch his gaze. "I could undress you?" A bright smile and a soft giggle:

"Master Witcher, at this point I would be alarmed if you didn't want to divest me of my clothing," you said, pulling away and slowly turning around in order to show him your back. The laces of your corset met in the middle of the garment, and you waited patiently for the brush of his fingers that meant he had started to undo them. Silence reigned as he began to loosen the ties, sliding the corset down your body once there was enough give and letting it fall to the floor by your ankles. You cast a glance behind you, reaching up to hold at the low shoulders of your chemise. It was a bit hard to see him, but his hands moved up your body to lay atop your own. His thumbs hooked under your palms and dragged downwards. You followed the movements of his hands before letting your own fall to your sides, and the chemise fell to pool at your feet.

"You are... Astonishing," he whispered against the nape of your neck. Your heart rate spiked and you bit your lower lip. "And these... Are beautiful. My favorite of yours." His fingers brushed against the tops of your stockings and fiddled with the bands to your garters.

"I've been wearing them for the past week," you said, "hoping for your next visit." Perhaps that was too personal of an admission, but the lack of complete darkness emboldened you. Tonight felt different than the others. You could hear the sharp intake of breath behind you and knew you made the right choice of telling him. "Do you want me to keep them on, like usual?" A low hum and a shake of the head against your upper back.

"Turn around." You spun slowly on your heel to face him. He looked down at you with heavy lidded eyes, gold shining in the scant candlelight. But now you could see him. His dark hair highlighted with strands that caught the light just so. His scars softened but still noticeable. A small grin, ever so slight, crossed his lips as you smiled at him. His fingers dipped below the bands and began to slowly slide the garters down your legs. This was... Unbelievably intimate. More so than ever before. The witcher never took such care with undressing you before, treating each article of clothing like it was made of thin parchment liable to rip at the slightest pressure. He lowered himself to his knees as he pulled the stockings down, pressing his nose to the side of your thigh. A tap to your left foot; you lifted it and let him remove the first stocking along with your thin slipper entirely. He did the same to your other leg before rising back up to face you fully again.

Had you not been an experienced whore, you'd have blushed and withered under his gaze. But you were, and so the only reaction you showed was that of mild excitement. You weren't embarrassed, not of your body. You'd been working in the brothel for so long that terms like 'embarrassment' meant almost nothing to you. The witcher's hands wrapped themselves around your hips again and the tips of his fingers brushed against the waistband of your undergarments. They dipped under and made to pull the flimsy fabric away, letting it fall to the ground alongside the pile of your chemise.

You still had not made any movements to touch him anywhere other than his hands and waist. Nowhere near the fastenings to his jerkin or clothing not including his belt. That tended to close him off, and you didn't want to push him away prematurely. Not now. Not when he was treating you so reverently like this.

He reached down to take your hands in his, lifting them up to hold close to his chest. You let your gaze wander down his body. It really was a shame that he remained insistent on staying clothed in so many layers. His eyes darted from your joined hands to meet yours before ever so gently pressing your fingers to the top fastening of his jerkin. Your breath caught in your throat. Was he...? The witcher released his grip on you and his arms fell to his sides, leaving your hands still lingering at the base of his throat where the clasp kept the leather shut. You looked up at him, and something must have shown on your face because he nodded once. The barest incline of his head; you almost didn't see it. He didn't say anything, but you knew what he meant from that nod alone.

You maneuvered your fingers, slipping them under the clasp and undoing it slowly. The jerkin popped open and you slid it off of his shoulders to let it fall to the ground, leaving him clad in his soft grey undershirt. It was rolled up at the sleeves, exposing the brown fingerless gloves that he wore every visit. But as you moved down to work on undoing his belt, he loosened the ties on his gloves and threw them to the ground as well. Your heart raced. The belt soon met the gloves on the floor and you reached to untuck his shirt from his trousers. He let out a slow and deep breath as your fingers reached under the hem of the fabric to trace across his abdomen. You jerked your chin forwards to signal for him to lift his arms, and you lifted the shirt up and off of his torso. The sleeves caught on his arms but you carefully untangled everything and let the garment fall to the ground with a whisper.

He was gorgeous. Skin taut over rippling muscle, scars crisscrossing over his chest and arms. You let a few fingers trace over the lines, eyes following the length of some of the scars. This was the first time you had seen him without any sort of tunic and you were determined to look and feel your way around him until you knew him by memory.

"There are so many," you whispered, looking back up to his face. His chest rose and fell with steady breaths, and he swallowed before responding:

"Such is the life of a witcher." Your brow furrowed and you focused back on his body. Evidence of life-threatening battles were littered across his torso. A particularly alarming one was located on his left shoulder and part of his chest; it was a massive mess of serrated marks. It took a moment for you to realize that the pattern was in the shape of a mouth. What could have teeth that sharp, a mouth that big? The wound was still red and angry, looking sensitive to the touch. "I have many scars now, and will only gain more as I continue my Path." You traced the edges of the scar on his shoulder, careful to not aggravate it further.

"How did this happen?" You asked, turning to face him. He looked down at the scar before sighing and reaching up to grab your hand.

"Wyvern. It was terrorizing a village not far north of here." He could read the confusion on your face and began to explain. "They're scaled beasts and use their wings to catch prey unawares. I was hired to kill it, and in the battle it was able to latch onto my shoulder before I had the time to run it through." His fingers trailed from your hand up your arm and to your shoulder, mirroring where he had gotten bitten by the wyvern. "Their tails have a stinger at the end, and that's the most dangerous part of any wyvern. It almost whipped me with it while I was distracted by its teeth. Luckily I was able to cut it off in one sweep of my silver sword. The beast released my shoulder and I was able to eliminate it soon after." The story intrigued you, and you tilted your head to the side while still staring at the scar.

"Well, remind me to ask you more about your adventures around the Continent next time you visit." He chuckled at that, shaking his head.

"Of course you would hear a tale like that and wish to know more," the witcher said, brushing his fingers against the back of your neck.

"Should I not be?"

"No, it's just..." He trailed off, looking away. "Most people hear something like that and... It only tends to worsen witchers' public reception." You knew all too well what he meant by that. In fact, you once were one of those people who feared a witcher simply because of his uncanny abilities to fight monsters that terrorized the wilderness. You tightened your grip on his hand and let your fingers trace down the defined muscles of his abdomen.

"Be glad that I'm not most people, then." You playfully raised your eyebrows as you toyed with the laces to his trousers. His smile turned less joking and more serious.

"I am."

Your heart leaped up into your throat and you averted your eyes in order to focus on the ties. You didn't know if you could handle his gaze much longer if he kept looking at you like that. Once his trousers were undone you made to drop to your knees. It would give you a good opportunity to remove his boots and tease him to full hardness. But his grip at your elbows prevented you from kneeling down. That made you look back up at him, trying to discern what it was that made him stop you. "I don't want you on your knees tonight," he murmured, turning you to the side and pushing you back towards the bed. You fell onto the sheets with a soft cry of surprise. The witcher leaned down and toed off his boots before climbing up on the bed on top of you.

"Oh?" You asked, smirking. "And what is it you do want?" He lowered himself to brush his lips against your collarbone. His hands moved from next to your head to near your waist as he pushed himself down your body.

"What I want..." he whispered against the skin of your navel, "is to taste you tonight." Oh... Well that was new. A low heat simmered within you, and you bit your lip at the sight of him slowly inching his way down. You lifted up a leg to trace your foot up the length of his spine, and he let out a low growl.

"Don't let me stop you, Master Witcher," you said as you adjusted yourself, getting comfortable and placing a pillow behind your head. This was a first between the two of you, and you didn't want to miss a single second of it. He paused in his movements, hands on your hips, your legs spread around his broad shoulders. Golden eyes flicked up to fix you with a suddenly heated gaze.

"Eskel."

"Hmm?" You hummed, tilting your head to the side in a question. You couldn't quite hear what he said fully, and hoped he would repeat himself.

"Not Master Witcher. Eskel. Just Eskel." A smile made its way across your lips at that and you brought a hand down to toy with his hair. Your heart throbbed within your chest. After all this time, now he trusted you with his name. A whisper left your parted lips and he repeated it, furrowing his brow. You said it again, adding:

"My name."

Eskel's eyes crinkled with a smile, saying your name with the same reverence one would reserve for a Goddess. You sighed and relaxed back into the sheets further.

"And I shall never forget it," was all he said before surging forwards and planting kisses on the insides of your thighs. A shiver ran down your spine and you let go of his hair to dig your fingers into the sheets. You didn't know what to expect from him, but if his prowess in other avenues gave any hint, then you were about to be in for an absolutely wild ride. Eskel wasted no time, brushing his lips across the sensitive skin of your thighs before leaning forwards and dragging his tongue up the length of your cunt. You let out a high whine and curled your toes against the bed as he started to work. He repeated the long lick before wrapping his lips around your clit, flicking his tongue in little circles around it. Sparks of pleasure shot through you, focusing on between your legs and at the center of your chest.

He was certainly something else. Probably one of the best to ever drop his head between your legs. You didn't know where he learned it from, and you didn't care. As long as he kept up the pace. He knew exactly where to press his tongue, when to move in broad strokes and when to use only the very tip of it. You found yourself arching your back and throwing your head against the pillow more than a few times, moaning loudly. He quickened his pace whenever you made noise, pressing closer into you and bringing you up to the very edge. You cried out, planting your feet into the mattress and biting down on your lip at the sensation.

But then he pulled away. The buildup was left with nowhere to go and your eyes shot open to look down at him with incredulity. A muttered word of question left your lips before dying on your tongue at the expression on his face. His pupils were blown wide, thin rings of gold surrounding deep wells of black. His hair was falling in his face and you reached down to brush it away from his eyes, grazing your fingers across his left cheek in the process. He sighed at the touch and leaned down again, mouthing gently at your thigh before returning to your cunt. He watched you the whole time as you squirmed under his ministrations, eager to find your release.

"Eskel, please..." You murmured, wrapping one leg over his shoulders in an attempt to pull him closer. A small smirk crossed the corner of his lips as he moved one of his hands from its vice grip on your hip, tracing the outside of your thigh before dipping down in between your legs. You felt a thick finger breach you, and he moved forwards to curl his tongue around your clit. It felt like you couldn't breathe, heat suffusing your entire body. Breathy moans and pleas escaped you as he upped the speed of his movements. Your fingers twined into his hair and pulled him closer. A low chuckle against you; Eskel redoubled his efforts and caught your eyes with his own. A quick glance down the length of his spine revealed the flexing of his back. He was rutting into the sheets at a similar rhythm that he had set on you.

Your grip tightened. Your muscles clenched. The thread snapped and you nearly lifted your hips off of the bed. A wordless cry that almost sounded like his name left your lips as pleasure rippled throughout your body in frantic waves. Your other leg claimed its spot over him as you locked your ankles together, holding him in place to you. He didn't stop, if anything he kept going even more determinedly. It wasn't until your happy cries turned strained that he let up, slowly drawing away as much as your vice grip allowed. You let him go, instead lowering your legs and tugging on his hair more doggedly in order to coax him back up your body. "Melitele..." You panted, trying to catch your breath. "Remind me why we haven't been doing that all along?"

He obeyed your wordless commands to ascend; you adjusted your legs and wrapped them around his waist as he planted his hands onto the sheets next to your head. His slightly parted lips glistened in the low candlelight, catching on the angry lines of his scars. His pupils were still dilated obscenely and he had a very familiar expression on his face. You had seen it countless times on other clients. The tip of a pink tongue flicked out and swiped across the corner of his mouth, eyes blinking slowly and chest rumbling deeply. He looked absolutely gorgeous. It was well worth the wait to finally see him. You carded your fingers through his hair and cupped one hand around his jaw. Your thumb dragged back and forth against his bottom lip a few times before you brought it to your own mouth, sucking it in with a quiet hum at the heady taste of yourself. His expression intensified, if that was even possible.

"You very well may kill me," he growled, rocking forwards into you. The hard length of his erection pressed against the cradle of your hips, and you let out a low moan at the feeling. He was so close now, almost giving you what you desperately needed. Eskel made an angry noise in the back of his throat, pulling away for only a moment in order to divest himself of his trousers and braies. Finally. He returned and you held your arms open to welcome him, eagerly awaiting. A few slick thrusts against you had you whimpering and lowering your hand to wrap around him. You couldn't wait any longer. It was simple to guide him, even simpler to have him slip inside. It felt like coming home. Watching him face to face was infinitely better than any other time before; there would be no way you could ever forget him. Not after this. Eskel had made too much of an impression on you, and you would remember him for the rest of your life.

"Eskel..." Your hand came to cup his left cheek, rubbing your fingers soothingly over the skin. He shuddered at the touch and scooted up on his knees to kneel before you. His eyes fluttered shut as you gently traced the line of his cheekbone, other hand resting on his shoulder. You let out a shaky breath and gazed up at him, already beginning to rock your hips. Eskel followed suit swiftly, already setting a quick pace that had you gasping. He was just as eager as you were.

"I," he panted, one hand slipping below your arched back to help press you against him more firmly. "I don't think I..." He closed his eyes and dropped his head into the crook of your neck, inhaling deeply. Every thrust sent choppy waves lapping across your shore. Every quick jolt of his hips crashed into you like the heat of a sun. You didn't think you could last either, if that's what he meant by his stuttered words.

"Come on, it's alright. Let go, you took such good care of me," you started to babble, unable to contain yourself any longer. Eskel exhaled a low whine against you as his grip tightened on the sheets so hard you were almost afraid he'd tear right through them. The sturdy bed-frame began to shake, a feat that you had never seen in all of the years that you had worked at The Midnight Lantern. Breathy moans and pleas kept tumbling out from your lips, unbidden. You didn't even know what you were saying anymore, too drunk on pleasure to even comprehend. "My witcher, my beautiful wolf..."

At that, he came with a sharp cry. So sharp that you worried that he might have started sobbing. The movements of his hips stuttered and jerked with his release, grinding his pelvis into your clit. You bit your lip so hard that you might've drawn blood as his movements sent you over the edge too. You curled around him, pulling him in deeper and clinging for dear life. Eskel had buried his face into your neck as you clawed and cried out.

But life goes on, and all things must come to an end.

Your muscles began to cramp from clenching so hard, and you released him with a soft sigh. Eskel pulled himself off of you and flopped face down next to you on the bed. You let out a short giggle at the sight, turning over on your side to run your fingers through his hair. A muffled groan echoed out from the pillow he was lying on and another laugh escaped you at the sight. "Tired, then?" You asked, flipping back over to face the ceiling. You did a cursory swipe between your legs, cleaning what little of the mess that you could and wiping your hand uncaringly on the sheets.

"You have no idea."

"Well... You could always stay for the whole night. Get some sleep." Your heart leaped into your throat as you propositioned him. He had never stayed the whole night before. You couldn't even recall seeing him sleep in the same room before, as he would always undoubtedly leave once you fell asleep. "If you want." Eskel lifted himself up in order to turn his head to face you. You were still staring resolutely at the ceiling, unable to look him in the eye when he would inevitably reject you.

"Would you like me to?" Now that wasn't what you expected to hear. Your head snapped over to look at him. He was lying on his side, brow furrowed and pupils contracted back into their normal slits. He looked... Confused? You couldn't describe it. Your heart raced so quickly you were sure that it would pound its way out of your chest. Turning on your side, you faced him.

"I would." It wouldn't do to lie. Even if it was dangerous to tell the truth. If anything, he looked even more confused than before, turning over again to lie on his back. You dared to scoot closer to him as he glared at the ceiling. One of your arms wrapped itself over his waist and you cautiously moved to rest your head against his bicep. "You don't have to leave again," you murmured, words catching in your throat. You didn't want him to leave again. You wanted him to stay. So badly. You had to close your eyes, bracing yourself for the denial and subsequent leaving.

Eskel's arm shifted. You almost flinched at the movement, but he only slid it under your head to cradle you close to his chest. He was still slick with sweat, which was mildly uncomfortable. But his fingers dug into your hair and began to brush gently through it. Your hand trailed up to grip at his shoulder and you lifted a leg to hook around his own. Eskel didn't say anything, but you were sure he could hear the rapid beat of your heart. From where you were positioned, you could hear the sluggish rhythm of his own heartbeat. Testament to his nature as a witcher. But slowly, ever so slowly, your nerves eased. You opened your mouth to say something but quickly shut it. You shouldn't say anything more. Maybe he wouldn't notice.

"What is it?" He asked, still lazily carding through your hair. Ah. So he had noticed.

"Just that..." You swallowed and took a deep breath. "Would you stay until morning if I asked you to?" His breath caught in his throat at that; you could feel it against your ear that was still pressed to his chest. He was silent for a few moments and you began to regret ever saying anything. This was such a horrible idea. You should have denied ever servicing him after that first night. If you had known that this would happen...

"Ask me."

"What?"

"If you really want me to stay, then you would ask me." The movements of his fingers stopped; he felt still, unmoving. You furrowed your brow, wanting to push yourself up and meet his eyes. But you couldn't bring yourself to. There was something about the way he said that. Like... It sounded like he wanted you to ask. So you decided to just cut your losses. Things had already progressed well past any point of no return.

"Will you stay? Until morning, with me?"

He didn't respond.

Chapter Text

As you drifted back to the waking world, you noticed a couple of things.

One: that you had taken a client last night.

Two: that client was the witcher.

Three: that witcher's name was Eskel.

Four: that for the first time in the years he had bought you for a night, he left the candles lit.

Five: that you had asked him to stay until morning.

And...

Six: that he did.

You opened your eyes only to be met with a large expanse of chest. Pushing yourself up, you looked down and met his gaze. Eskel was already awake; it looked like he had been up for a while. A small smile curved his lips. The morning light fell across his face in soft rays, as the candles died out hours ago in the middle of the night.

"Good morning," he murmured, hand still cupping the back of your head even as you loomed over him in surprise. You didn't say anything, couldn't say anything. He had stayed? This wasn't a dream? His smile quickly turned sour as you stared at him, and he looked away almost immediately. "I... I should go." He made to stand.

You didn't let him get very far.

Moving rather quickly, you grabbed his face and pulled him back. He let out a surprised noise just before you pressed your lips to his. He jerked at the touch and nearly jolted back. But you held him there, rubbing your fingers across his cheeks and tracing the scars for a few moments before releasing him.

"Thank you, for staying." You looked away sheepishly, hands dropping to your sides as you swallowed. It was then that you realized how late it must have been for the sun to start shining in the room. "I need to leave now, else I won't get to the kitchens in time for breakfast... You still need to pay for the room." You stumbled out of bed and located your clothes that were still lying on the floor in a sad pile. Pulling them on quickly, you avoided eye contact with him. "If you ever come back to Ban Gleán, I would be glad to see you again." Steeling yourself, you turned to look at him. Eskel was still sitting on the bed, stunned. In the morning he looked even more breathtaking than before, skin littered with silvery scars that caught the morning light just so. He stared at you for a few moments as you located his braies and tossed them at him.

"I... What makes you think I wouldn't come back?" He asked, catching the article of clothing with a smile. Your cheeks burned and you rushed to the door in order to make it to breakfast.

Everything had changed since that night.

What once was simple, became complicated. Before now, you only knew him as the witcher. The man hired to take care of the various beasts that plagued the countryside. Now you knew him as Eskel. The man who held your face sweetly as you soared to greater heights of pleasure. Before now, every meeting between you two was a transaction. Impersonal. Now each of your joinings felt like something more. He still only had the time and coin to visit every month or two, but each of those visits had the heavy weight of something else now. Candles were lit, faces were seen clearly in the soft lighting. Gentle kisses were planted across jaws and throats; every coupling was face to face. Eskel would gaze deeply at you now, drinking you in. It made your cheeks burn and chest ache.

This wasn't supposed to happen. He was supposed to be a witcher. A patron who you entertained.

But now...

Now you didn't think things could ever go back to the way they were before.

Your job began to suffer for it. Whenever you were called upon by the Madame to service another man, you were less than enthused. Mechanical. Bored. Many clients caught on to your lack of interest and grew angry. Most wouldn't dare to lay a hand on you, but there were still the scant few who did. Even the Madame began to scold you for complaints that the men brought to her attention. The other workers tried to ask you questions, showing concern to someone they considered as a sister of sorts. No response. You couldn't tell them. A whore, falling in love? Unheard of; a story that could only end one way.

In tragedy.

On your days off, you took to wandering the town. Watching. Getting a glimpse into the lives of others. Butchers who brought down their knives with mechanical precision; merchants who hawked wares and flashed charming smiles; maids who laundered clothes and ran errands. It occurred to you that you never learned to do any of these things. Never learned a trade, other than whoring. You came to the brothel very young; it was the only thing you knew. Admittedly, you never wanted anything else. The Madame kept you safe and fed. The other whores took you under their wing and showed you the best ways to pleasure anyone. What else could you want? You had a family before. But they were ravaged by disease and you were left to the streets. The men and women of The Midnight Lantern were your family now.

The brothel never forced their whores to remain. But many of them never knew any better and chose to stay. There weren't a lot of options for women who had nowhere else to go. And with a dawning horror, you realized that you had become one of those women.

It was hard to keep this mounting feeling of panic and fear hidden from Eskel. At times you even thought that he suspected something was wrong. For on those nights he would often talk to you more. You learned about his own family. His brothers. The man that he considered the closest thing to a father. You learned that he brewed potions in order to slay monsters. He could set up a camp whenever he was turned away by a local tavern. He knew rudimentary ways to repair his equipment. He knew how to take care of a horse. He excelled in the simple magic that all witchers could cast. He knew so much.

And you knew nothing.

It was because of this that you began to spend even more time in the kitchens. Zond always regarded you with a sympathetic smile and scooted over in order for you to take a place next to him. He guided you through the methods of creating simple dishes. How to spice. How to know when meat was cooked all the way through. How to make something from scant resources in case of a pinch. You were so grateful to him. He never scoffed, never bemoaned a lack of skill on your behalf. He only taught with kind words and gentle corrections. It was almost as if he knew what was plaguing you.

When you wandered town you found yourself skirting the edges more often than not now. The woods were dangerous, but you couldn't help but wonder. Ban Gleán was your whole life. You had never left the town, never thought to leave. But now everything was different. You found yourself envious. Envious of travelers, of bards who flitted from place to place wherever the coin flowed. Envious of Eskel, who roamed the Continent so often that it was just a part of his life now. His Path led him everywhere; he had complete freedom. It took you so unbelievably long to realize how sheltered you really were.

It was one of your days off. The Madame had granted you one after another dissatisfactory performance for a paying client the night before, ordering you to get out until you were ready to come back and actually try. That stung. But you left anyway, promising to return in the evening. The other whores cast sympathetic glances at you, knowing that you had been struggling recently. The market bored you. The tavern bored you. You wandered to the outskirts of town once again, stopping at a small field of flowers next to the northeastern road. Winter had just passed and spring was finally making itself known.

You kneeled down in the field, looking up at the sky. There weren't many clouds today, the clear blue stretching out and interrupted occasionally by tufts of white. You wondered if the sky looked the same by the coast. You'd never seen the coast. At that sobering thought you looked back down at the flowers brushing against your knees. It took you a minute to recognize the simmering feeling of rage pulsing throughout your body. You felt cheated. Used. Like your entire life up until now had amounted to nothing.

With an angry sigh, you threw yourself back into the field and closed your eyes against the bright sun. It was much too beautiful of a day for your sour mood.

Something sudden flashed through you. Eskel. If he had never come to The Midnight Lantern, then you'd never be any wiser. You'd have lived out your life never thinking it had been wasted. But no matter how badly you wanted to be angry at him, you just couldn't. It wasn't his fault. He probably still came to you only because you treated him with kindness. Yet another thing you wanted but could never have. Witchers may have emotions, but you were under no illusions that he felt anything other than a simple fondness for someone who didn't shy away at his touch. He'd even told you that witchers often took others to bed to ease the burden of the Path, not just whores. When you asked of love he had stiffened and denied any notion of it.

"Love would make a witcher weak. Love isn't something that we can feel."

That was probably the most saddening thing about this whole situation. The knowledge that Eskel didn't know what love was. That he didn't know how you felt about him. That he couldn't ever reciprocate.

"I never would have expected to see a maiden so fair outside of town," a familiar voice cooed from above. Your eyes shot open. There he was. Eskel was atop a palomino gelding, who leaned down to sniff at your hair. "Hey, Thunder. Leave the fair lady's hair alone." He tugged on the reins in order to pull his curious horse back. A smile crossed your face and you reached up to pat the beast on the nose.

"What a fearsome steed!" You said, sitting up and feigning surprise. "No doubt he strikes fear into any horrid monsters you come across." Eskel chuckled from his perch.

"Doubtful. Thunder couldn't scare a skittish fox if he tried." He rubbed the side of his horse's neck before swinging a leg off and dropping down next to you. "What are you doing so far away from town? You know it's dangerous to be near the roads on your own." He moved to kneel down next to you, looking out across the field as Thunder trotted off. He shook his head as the horse ran in a few circles before leaning his head down to nose at the little flowers littering the ground.

"I'm not working today, and I just wanted to go and get some fresh air," you replied, picking a flower and twirling the stem between your fingers. Anything to give you something to look at other than him.

"Oh, I... I don't mean to disturb you then. I wouldn't want to intrude on your free time." Eskel made to stand but was stopped by you grabbing at his arm.

"Just because we aren't in the brothel doesn't mean we can't spend time together." The flower you held had fluttered to the ground as you dropped it in your hurry to catch him. "I... I enjoy your company. It's the first time I've seen you since winter." You hoped that he wouldn't leave again now that he knew he couldn't pay you for your time. A niggling worry. Maybe that's all he needed you for. "Tell me about Kaer Morhen. How your wintering was." Eskel paused in his attempt to leave. But slowly, he settled back down beside you, looking up at the sky.

"It wasn't much different than any other winter. Worked on patching those old walls, Lambert bitched about the cold as always." You laughed at the mention of the younger witcher. Even though you'd never met any of the others, the way Eskel talked about them showed a definite fondness. It was the one thing that made you doubt his claim that witchers didn't know how to love. "He actually came close to beating Geralt in a sparring match once. He's getting better at reading that old man."

"Aren't you and Geralt the same age?"

"Yes, but he is infinitely more grumpy than I am." You shook your head and laughed, falling back onto the ground with your hands behind your head. You were happy that winter had come and gone; the air smelled of spring now. Eskel was still sprawled out next to you, moving to sit in order to rest an arm on one of his bent knees. The wind blew gently and swept his hair back out of his face. If only there were more days to be spent like this. Your fingers brushed back and forth over the ground, catching on stems and little white blooms of flowers. You picked one and held it up above you. The light from the sun caught the petals and shone through them. "Snowdrops." You turned away from it to fix Eskel with a questioning look.

"Hmm?"

"These flowers. They're called snowdrops." He took that moment to pick a flower of his own and twirl it between his fingertips. "They always bloom in Kaedwen just after winter passes. One of the earliest flowers to do so." He looked down at you, tilting his head to the side. "The surefire way of knowing that I must go from Kaer Morhen." The hand that held the flower moved towards you, tucking it gently behind your ear along with a few strands of your hair. "How I know that it's time to come and see you again."

Your heart thundered in your chest. He couldn't just go and say things like that and expect you to not harbor any sort of feelings. Eskel was still looking down at you, hand just under your jaw. A small smile was across his lips as he trailed his hand down to cup your chin. Oh, how you wanted to tell him. How you wanted to pull him down and claim his lips with your own. How you wanted to ask him to take you too when it would be time for him to leave.

"Kiss me." His eyebrows raised in surprise at your words. But it didn't take long for that look of surprise to morph into something much softer. He leaned down, still cupping your chin, to press his lips to yours. It was a small kiss, chaste. Nothing like any of the ones you shared in the brothel. You lifted up a hand to tangle your fingers in his hair. It was longer now after winter; he probably hadn't had the chance to crop it short again. A smile curled your lips while you kissed, and you pulled away in order to catch another glimpse of those beautiful golden eyes of his. But not before placing a gentle little peck on the upturned corner of his mouth, right where the scar marred his top lip. A small noise escaped him at that, sounding almost like a whine or a shudder.

When you pulled back to look at him his eyes were lidded, pupils wide. At this point you knew that was a sign he was pleased. You hummed lowly and slid your hand away from his hair, tracing fingers over the lines of his scars. Eskel's eyes fluttered shut and he leaned into the touch. It had taken so long for you to be able to lay your hands on him like this. So long for him to no longer shy away from your touch. "How long do you plan on staying?" You asked with a whisper, wind whistling through the grass.

"Not sure," he replied, opening his eyes and looking back down at you. "Any news of work for a witcher in town?" He cocked a brow and smiled playfully.

"Well... There's always pay for drowners by the river, and I hear there's some trouble with foglets and nekkers up in the northeast by the mountains." You strained to remember the notices you saw on the contract board. He let out a thoughtful hum at that, probably contemplating how much he could be paid per head. "There should be a free room at Nan's Tap, if you are inclined to stay for a night or two," you said, hand trailing down to trace the stripes of his jerkin. "And... I could accompany you, if you wished it of me." Eskel's brow furrowed at your offer and you nearly retracted your hand. Maybe you read him wrong?

"Hmm... I wouldn't be opposed to lining my pockets with some easy coin. And a room for the night does sound nice." But he didn't say anything of your proposition. He leaned back on his haunches and you rose in order to face him better. "But... Wouldn't you prefer spending your night elsewhere? You said that you weren't working." You regarded his words with careful calculation. It wouldn't do to misinterpret him now and undo all of the progress you've made thus far. "I wouldn't want to take up time that you could be using for other activities."

"Eskel," you said, scooting closer. "I offered because I wanted to. I enjoy spending time with you. Wouldn't it be nice to have a night to ourselves, no worry of payment in the morning? I know that The Midnight Lantern's prices can be quite steep, especially right when winter ends." Eskel didn't seem convinced for a second, so you lifted yourself up on your knees and swung one leg over him. You settled down in his lap and cradled his face in your hands. "I'd relish time away from the brothel, and I'm sure you'd enjoy my company for the night as well."

"I..." He cut himself off and brought his own hands up to grip at your wrists. He pulled your fingers away from his face and fixed you with an inscrutable look. "I'll meet you at Nan's Tap, later. Let me check the contract board. I should be back before sundown." Eskel moved to get up and you slid from his lap and to the ground. He held out a hand for you, an offer to help you stand. You shook your head and stayed on the ground, looking out at the expanse of snowdrops. Thunder was still frolicking in the field, cut short by a piercing whistle from his rider. He cantered over and Eskel stroked his nose with a smile. "I could give you a ride into town?" Eskel outstretched another offer for you, but you still felt as if he had rejected you. Maybe that was all he wanted, your charms that were offered for coin.

But if all he wanted was your body, wouldn't he have leaped at the opportunity to get it without paying?

"I'm fine, thank you. I want to stay here a while longer. I'll see you before sundown?" You tested the waters once more, wanting to see if he would confirm or deny.

"Yes. You have my word." Perhaps he picked up on your soured mood, for he kneeled down one last time in order to meet you at eye level. He took your hand in his and planted a kiss upon your knuckles, and that made a smile curl your lips. Any kind of unpleasant emotion towards him was always quickly snuffed out by an unbelievably caring action that he took. Eskel grinned at you before standing and swinging himself up onto Thunder. "Until this evening, then. Take care, my fair maiden!" He kicked the sides of his mount and took off towards town. You watched him go, hand reaching up to brush at the snowdrop he had so carefully tucked behind your ear.

Maybe you were mistaken.

Maybe Eskel did feel something more than a passing fondness.

Chapter Text

The sun had set about an hour ago.

You sat at a table in Nan's Tap, counting the rough wood-grain and pursing your lips. Eskel had promised that he would be back before now. You had entered the tavern just over an hour ago while it was still light out, eager to see him return from what doubtless was a hard day spent slaying various beasts for coin. But as the time passed, and the doors opened countless times only to reveal the simple townsfolk, your gaze no longer snapped up excitedly in anticipation of it being him. Now you merely lazily glanced up to see the odd traveler or group of revelers. The mug of ale you nursed was refilled by a rather sweet barmaid, and you found yourself striking up an occasional conversation with her as you waited.

Maybe you could do something like that. Leave town with a caravan, settle down somewhere else and work in a tavern. It wouldn't be much different from what you already do now, except then you wouldn't have to needlessly entertain men who felt entitled to your body. But... As you watched her roam the tavern, delivering food and drink, you saw many a man make passes as she walked by. Perhaps not, then. At least in the brothel that was part of the job. Here, it was just men who felt entitled simply because she couldn't hit back.

You leaned your chin on one of your hands with a sigh, picking at the bowl of pottage that was in front of you. By now it had cooled; you weren't exactly keen on taking more than a few bites at a time. He probably wasn't coming. You had scared him off with your offer of spending time together outside of the brothel's walls. It certainly wasn't unlike him to leave when he felt uncomfortable. You shouldn't have said anything.

"Something bothering you, sweetheart?" The barmaid had come back to your table and was leaning one arm on it, gazing down at you as you dejectedly picked your way through your food. "You look as though your pa's died." You looked up at her with a sigh.

"Ah, nothing you should be concerned about. I'm alright." You took a sip of your ale and pursed your lips at the taste. "Any news that I missed from earlier in the day?"

"Well," she quickly looked from side to side to make sure no one was listening to your conversation before leaning forwards to whisper, "earlier there was a witcher in here. Bought a room for the night and everythin'! He went off not long after, I hear to go and take care of them nekkers in the wood. They've been getting bold lately, 'bout time a witcher came and lopped their heads off." She moved away and cast a glance over at one of the other tables, catching the eye of a patron who was waving her over. "Well, I'm sure he'll be back soon enough, you might catch a glimpse of 'im before he retires for the night. Though I hear he's fond of the whorehouse down the road." And with that she left, talking amicably with another customer as if she hadn't just gossiped about the arrival of a witcher in town.

Eskel had bought a room for the night? Well, that disproved your belief of him up and leaving town without saying a word. But... He still hadn't come back yet. Nekkers were dangerous indeed for humans, but surely a witcher could handle them? What if one had caught him from behind, distracting him enough for the group to overwhelm him? It wasn't impossible. Now you prodded at your meal for an entirely different reason. Gone was your displeasure at being left, now replaced by a roiling worry for his health. You pushed away the bowl of pottage and fixed your eyes on the door.

It was about ten more minutes before it opened again. Lumbering, lethargic. A man entered and nearly stumbled on his feet before lurching forwards and making his way across the tavern. It was Eskel. You shot up and scrambled away from the table in a rush, hurrying over to him and stopping in his way. He paused in his movements and swayed to and fro for a moment. A few people looked your way in interest, eager to see what would become of anyone foolish enough to get in the way of a witcher. You pressed your hands to his chest and held him there, trying to get a good glimpse of his face. His head was bowed, keeping his expression hidden.

"Eskel?" You whispered, tilting your own head down and forwards, trying to get under him and look up at his face. Tired eyes gleamed at you, framed by messy wet hair.

"My room..." He murmured, trying to take a step forward. "Need to..." You moved aside and kept a hand at his arm as he made his way through the tavern and up the stairs. It would be better to be away from prying eyes, as you cast a glance around to see almost everyone in the room fixated on the scene before them. Your lips curled into a frown and you quickened your pace, hurrying him up the stairs.

"Where is your room, Eskel?" You asked with a hand steadying his back. There was no doubt in your mind that if he decided to fall over then you wouldn't be able to catch him, but the thought was what mattered now. The simple act of you showing support was probably sorely needed. He nodded and jerked his head to the side, stumbling forwards to the closest door to the left. You fumbled with the knob and opened it in order to let him in. The door shut behind the both of you as he collapsed onto the bed in a heap. "Eskel, are you alright? Are you hurt? Do you need anything?" You were almost frantic in your worry; never before had you seen him like this.

"My armor..." He had rolled over onto his back and was fumbling at the fastening of his jerkin. You moved quickly to him, assisting in the removal of his scabbard and jerkin. His boots, caked in dirt and mud, were thrown across the room and thunked against the far wall close to the door. His poleyns soon followed, and Eskel shivered violently. You let out a shuddering breath and turned him over on his side, wrenching out the comforter from beneath him and attempting to bundle him inside of it. A hand pressed to his forehead nearly had you jerking back. He was freezing.

"Eskel!" you called out, gripping his shoulders as he attempted to burrow into the covers. "What's going on, what's wrong?" It was now that you could see his hair wasn't simply wet; it was absolutely matted with sweat. He let out a harsh breath and gritted his teeth. The scars pulled grotesquely at his flesh when he grimaced.

"Potions... It's normal. I get, cold, after..." He stuttered out, turning on his side and facing the wall. You were left absolutely floored with the knowledge. You'd never seen him like this before. This is what his elixirs did to him? Your hand on his shoulder could feel his persistent trembling as he struggled to retain body heat. The only saving grace about this moment was that he didn't seem injured in any way. You set your jaw in determination as you looked down at him, knowing immediately what to do next.
Eskel rolled over when the comforter was lifted, facing you in surprise as you burrowed down next to him and tucked it around the both of you. You pressed yourself to his chest, goosebumps quickly raising on your exposed arms. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like? You're freezing!" You threw a leg over his hip and wrapped your arms around his shoulders, pulling him down to press his face in between the junction of your neck and shoulder. You jolted at the freezing touch of his nose against your sensitive skin, but gritted your teeth and held him tighter to you. Slowly, ever so slowly, his trembling arms came to clutch at your back. Eskel returned the full body hug and exhaled shakily against you, cold breath fanning across your collarbones. His shivering was still noticeable, but lessened greatly the longer you lay there together. "Better?" You asked once his skin felt closer to a normal temperature; the heat of your body trapped under the blankets warmed him almost instantly. Eskel didn't say anything, he simply nodded.

Minutes passed with you like that, and you noticed that his clothes were almost soaked through with sweat. A small grimace crossed your face as you ran a hand through his matted hair. He didn't exactly smell like rosewater and lavender either. The earthy scent of dirt along with tree bark permeated the air, mixed with adrenaline and no small amount of something you could only describe as rotting flesh. If what the barmaid said was true, then he was hunting nekkers earlier. He certainly smelled like it. But in all your years of working at a brothel, you had encountered much worse. This was a mild inconvenience at worst.

Eventually, his breathing calmed to a normal rate. He no longer felt absolutely freezing to the touch, and you could feel warmth beginning to circulate through you both. His body was beginning to retain heat again. You slid your hand up and down his back soothingly, and he turned over to let you rest on top of his chest. Your ear pressed to where you knew his heart lay. The abnormally slow beat calmed you as you counted the rhythm of it with a sigh. Normal, for him. Nothing alarming there. Eskel's hands slid up and down your sides, finally not feeling as though they were made of ice. "I... I was so worried." Your fingers played with the laces to his tunic. "I thought... I don't even know what I thought. I just knew something was horribly wrong and I had no idea how to help you."

"Shhh..." Eskel patted your head. "It's alright. The potions I take tend to do that, usually I just wait it out on my own." You turned and rested your chin on his chest, looking up at him. His eyes cracked open to meet your own, slitted pupils wide in the scant light.

"How long does it usually take to wear off? The cold?" You asked, tracing a line along the neck of his grey shirt. "Does... Does it still hurt?" Eskel leaned his head back against the pillows and nodded. He was still rubbing along your back comfortingly. Though whether it was for you or him you didn't know.

"It's not as bad as before. The heat is helping. But, it usually takes longer for the effects to die down." He had told you about the potions before; they were powerful elixirs that could kill a normal human. To see their effect on him first hand was enough to make your worry skyrocket. Especially when you were just under the impression that they only enhanced his already superior senses. "I'll feel it for the next hour or so, then the pain will drop off and I'll probably pass out."

"Pass out?"

"My body just needs to reestablish equilibrium. With the rush of chemicals and mutagens from the elixirs, it takes a while for me to flush it out and return to a normal state." Eskel could talk about anything and it would lull you to sleep. But right now you were still too keyed up with worry to fall asleep. You had to be sure that he would be alright. "I did kill the nekkers, though. Got a whole nest of them. A lot larger than expected. Hopefully the pay will be good." He lifted his head to look back down at you. "I'm sorry I was late." You nearly slapped him, had he not been so weak from the effects of his potions.

"Don't you dare apologize for that!" You sat up and braced an arm on his chest. The blanket over your shoulders draped over the two of you and you held it in place to keep it from falling around your waist. "You could have been hurt, or dead, or some other horrid thing! I'm just glad you're unharmed." A quick glance down his body. "You are unharmed, right?"

"Nothing that some White Raffard's couldn't fix." He replied, casting a glance over to his armor. His pack lay next to it, most likely holding all of his various alchemical ingredients and potions. "I'm alright, I prepared for the fight as best I could. Probably even more than I had to. But that's always better for a witcher. Better to be over-prepared and shaky with the aftermath than under-prepared and lying in a ditch with my throat cut."

"Don't." You said, lying back down on top of him. "I don't want to hear anything like that." Eskel ran another tired hand through your hair. You sniffled and wrinkled your nose. "Do you want me to call for a bath?" You asked, wanting to get him out of those sweat-soaked clothes and preferably into something that didn't smell like a graveyard.

"Not sure they'll send up a bath this late."

"Can't hurt to try," you retorted, "wouldn't you like to clean up?" Eskel hummed and you pressed further. "I know Nan's has a tub a few doors down."

"Alright, you've convinced me." He heaved himself into a sitting position, sucking in a deep breath and holding a hand to his forehead. You cupped his cheek and threw the blanket off the two of you, glad to feel heat thrumming just below his skin. The idea of him being so cold to the touch worried you greatly. He still looked a little pale around the edges; it probably still hurt to move around.

"Go ahead to the room, I'll go downstairs and have someone come to fill it." You said, swinging your legs off of the bed. "It's two doors down and on the right side." Eskel nodded and made to stand after you, movements still a bit stiff and unwieldy. You frowned as you watched. It must have been bad in order to make a witcher hesitate.

When you went back down the stairs, you paid for your meal and ale. You had been in such a hurry beforehand that you simply left it all on the table you sat at. A quick conversation with the innkeeper revealed that while water could be drawn from the well behind the building, it was too late for time to be taken to heat it for a bath. You frowned; Eskel needed at the very least warm water. He was in pain, and the heat would do good for his undoubtedly sore muscles. But you would take whatever you could get, paying the innkeeper his requested fee and instead loading some water up the stairs to pour it into the basin provided.

"Thank you," Eskel told you as he sat down next to the basin, soaking a rag and running it in cursory swipes across his bare chest. "Oftentimes I spend these periods in the woods or some other undesirable place, alone." He dipped his head down into the water and thrashed his fingers back and forth through his hair, wetting it thoroughly and trying to at least rinse out the sweat. "But... I remembered that I promised you I would come back. Couldn't just leave and not tell you." A sharp throbbing beat of your heart. He returned because of you. You grabbed the rag that he had set on the side of the basin.

"Here," you said, wiping it across his arms and re-soaking the fabric before dabbing it across his sweaty brow. "Let me help you." Eskel leaned back and allowed his eyes to fall shut as you resumed washing him. He had already removed his trousers and undershirt; they were in a heap on the floor next to him. That left him in his braies, knees up by his waist as he sat upon the small stool. You took great care with his skin and scrutinized him carefully for any possible wounds that may have escaped his notice. But he was right, nothing was there. Gentle fingers brushed through his hair as you pushed it back from his eyes, petting your hand over his head and squeezing out any excess water. He definitely looked a lot healthier now. A bit of color had returned to his cheeks. "Better?"

"Yes, much."

A smile curved your lips as you finished wiping him down. You laid your hand on his shoulder and signaled for him to stand. Eskel heaved himself up with a soft groan as you bent to pick up his discarded clothes.

"Come on, back to bed?" You asked, cocking your head to the side. He nodded and allowed you to lead him to his room at the inn. Eskel collapsed once more on the bed and rolled over to face the wall. He said nothing more. You stood there, one hand still on the doorknob. Just watching him. He looked tired. Maybe you should go. Maybe he wanted to be alone. But the thought of leaving him all by himself dug into your chest and twisted painfully. Your grip tightened on the knob as you debated whether to stay or go. It didn't take long for that worried part of your mind to win, and you let the door shut behind you as you approached him on the bed.

You bit your lip before sitting down and shifting to lie on your side next to him. You faced his back and brought your hands up to your mouth, clasping them together and tucking your arms close to your chest. You didn't know exactly what to do now, whether or not he even wanted you to stay. Your heart raced with nerves. A bitter taste upon your tongue, choking you like the vines of black bryony. The acrid petals of its flowers on your lips, poisoning you... Eskel was bound to leave after tonight or the next. Without you. Leaving you here in a town that you now realize is just so much smaller than that vast world.

"If you wanted to lay with me tonight, I'm sorry to say that I can't," Eskel's voice rumbled suddenly, breaking you from your negative thoughts. He sounded like he was seconds away from falling asleep.

"What?" You croaked, spitting the nervous taste from your mouth, sitting up to get a better look at him. Eskel rolled onto his back in order to face you, and you could only describe his expression as something akin to quiet resignation. Almost shame.

"I can't give you what you want tonight. Even if I wasn't about to pass out right now..." He rested his hands atop his chest. For a moment he seemed to struggle with his words, quirking his mouth unhappily. Finally he was able to string together a sentence to explain, "it's the elixirs, they... They make my anatomy uncooperative." He cleared his throat. "I won't be able to get hard."

Oh...

Wait.

That's why he thought you were staying?

"What? I, no!" You scrambled to form a response. "I mean, that's not why I came up here with you. It's not why I helped you with the aftereffects of your damned potions." You ran a hand through your hair. "I want to stay here because I'm worried for you. I want to make sure that you're alright. This wasn't an elaborate plan to sleep with you!" Eskel's expression went through an immense change as you said these things. What once read as sorrow now shifted to something suspiciously similar to relief. You looked away, overwhelmed. "Just... Just go to sleep. I'll stay here with you for the night and we can talk more in the morning." You settled back down next to him, resting your head on his shoulder and holding him close to you. His arms hesitated for a moment before wrapping around you, hoisting you up in order to press you more firmly to his chest.

"Thank you."

You closed your eyes and drifted off to sleep in his grasp, content once more to be in his arms.

Chapter Text

When you awoke to the gentle feeling of fingers brushing through your hair, you let out a soft moan. You didn't want to get up yet, still chasing the remnants of a dream that even now faded from your grasp. Another hand smoothed its way up your back, along the length of your spine. It quickly became apparent that you wouldn't be able to fall back asleep. And yet, Eskel wasn't making any more moves to wake you or remove you from his bed. You didn't want to start the conversation, as it would be inevitably awkward. He would leave soon, probably as soon as he got payment for his contract. Maybe you could just lie here with him forever. Never have to address those lingering feelings in your chest, never have to even think about going back to the brothel, never lose him to some revolting beast.

A soft call of your name. It almost broke your heart, how his rough voice caressed the letters. You opened your eyes and tapped your fingers against his chest. You weren't ready for your time together to be over. Maybe you could convince him to agree to one last tumble before he left once more. He spoke your name again and you hummed in response.

"Would you like some breakfast?" Now that wasn't the question you were expecting. You moved your head from its place upon his heart and looked him in the eyes. Eskel seemed quiet, reserved. His expression was carefully schooled into curiosity, but you could see the anxiety hiding underneath. Almost like he was expecting you to refuse him.

"That sounds lovely," you smiled, lifting up your hand to cup his cheek. You traced a line down the longest of his scars, wondering when exactly the moment came that you could touch them without him flinching. He caught your hand with his own and pressed a kiss to your knuckles. Your heart leaped into your throat and you cleared it nervously. "I'll meet you downstairs, then?" You asked, indicating his lack of dress. Eskel nodded and sat up, following your motions as you stood. He stayed in the room as you left to go and secure a table in the dining area.

The innkeeper had dark circles under his eyes and merely nodded when you requested a table in the corner of the room. It had a clear view of all the early morning patrons and was shadowed enough for a semblance of privacy. Eskel would appreciate the location, as not many eyes would linger there for long. Witcher or no witcher. You placed a quick order of ale and two bowls of pottage to start with, making your way over to the table to wait. Once you sat down you became acutely aware of your own state of dress.

While not indecent, your clothes were rumpled from sleep. You looked like you had just rolled out of bed. Which, well, was absolutely true. Your hair was probably a mess too, and you began to run your hands over it in attempts to bring it to a semblance of presentability. The barmaid from last night came over after a few minutes, setting down your food and drink with a tired nod. Looked like everyone was a bit tired. Not long after she left Eskel slid into the seat across from you, already taking a deep sip of his ale. "Thirsty?" You asked, stirring your pottage with a spoon.

"I did just wake up from an elixir-induced sleep." Eskel cocked his brow and began eating. He was ravenous. Probably another side effect of the potions. But, you noticed as the both of you ate, he wasn't sloppy. In fact, he was almost overly cautious when he was eating, like something could go wrong at any moment. "I might have to order more food, are you still hungry?" He jerked his chin towards your almost empty bowl of pottage. You shook your head and instead rested your cheek on one of your hands as you watched him wave down the barmaid to order another two bowls.

It wasn't long before he finished those as well, and you wondered where in the world all of that food went. The bowls weren't small by any means, and they were deeper than those at most taverns. You wondered what would come next from this; what was a normal day in the life of a witcher? Going back to the brothel now filled you with dread, and you only wanted to accompany him to wherever the road took him. Your tongue was tied as you attempted to work up the courage to say something. "Any plans for today?" You asked once he finished. Eskel stacked all four bowls on top of each other and set them near the edge of the table, fixing you with a questioning gaze.

"I was just going to head to the alderman's and turn in the heads. I have them all tied up near the stables, but it was a bit too late last night to return them for payment." He cleared his throat. "I doubt you want to stay for that. The smell can be overwhelming, not to mention getting a fair price is always a hassle." He furrowed his brow at that and your heart ached. Here he was, risking his life in order to keep townspeople safe, and they didn't even want to reward him for his efforts.

"Maybe I can help," you blurted out suddenly, before you could stop yourself. Quickly, so as to not lose momentum, you continued, "I mean, it couldn't hurt to have a citizen vouching for you, right? With me there maybe they'll be more inclined to pay you." It was a harebrained plan, cooked up in the desperate desire to spend more time with him. And Eskel must have known it. He stared at you for a long moment with his face twisted in thought. Maybe he didn't know and was trying to work out why in the world you were making such an offer.

"Alright," he finally said just as the barmaid came over to clean up. He paid her without a fuss and drained his mug of ale before standing. "If you can handle the stench of nekker heads then you're welcome to come with me. No need to attempt to haggle, though. I can handle that on my own." You nearly leaped out of your seat with joy as you made to follow him. Eskel watched with a small grin curling the corner of his mouth.

He was right.

The smell was overwhelming.

It was hard for you to keep your composure as he slung the heavy bag over Thunder's back. If he had smelled bad last night before you helped wash him, then this was around ten times worse. At least the both of you had the chance to groom yourselves a little bit before leaving the inn. The heads had all night to stew and fester together, and even Eskel seemed affected by the stench. "I usually don't let trophies sit, but it was impossible to turn them in last night," he explained apologetically as you walked together to the alderman's house. It didn't take long for him to get an audience, and he dropped the bag of heads on the doorstep for the guards to count. Everyone there was clearly uncomfortable with the smell, but Eskel just stood there stoically as the heads were counted.

"Twenty Ducat." The alderman said once the guards finished. Eskel stiffened next to you and you cast a concerned glance over to him.

"That price is fair for a smaller nest. With what I dealt with, that would be less than a Ducat per nekker killed."

"Well, my guards here only counted fifteen heads. That's the size of an average nest, is it not?" The alderman crossed his arms and pursed his lips, clearly uncomfortable. He probably just wanted Eskel to leave as soon as possible. What people never seemed to realize is if they just paid a fair price, then the witcher would go away.

"That's all I could fit, the nest was much larger than expected. Probably thirty to forty beasts were there that I had to kill." You could tell Eskel was getting agitated; one of his feet had started to tap impatiently on the ground. "Even if that was all I killed, that still wouldn't be a fair price. I can take you there, show you the aftermath. Then you’d be less inclined to underpay me."

“Allow you to swindle me like that? Preposterous. I’ll not let you lead me off to some secluded forest just to confirm that you killed some monsters.”

"Alright!" You decided to interrupt before things got any worse. From what you heard, you could piece together what needed to be said. Even though Eskel had told you to keep silent, you just couldn't watch this any longer. "Good Alderman, this nest of monsters has been terrorizing the wood for how long now? Since the start of winter? That's more than enough time for it to grow to a greater size than we expected." You cast a quick glance over to Eskel before continuing, "and this witcher here has eliminated the threat as well as brought you ample proof. Wouldn't it be wise to pay him fairly so that next time he stops in our town, he'd be more willing to accept our contracts?" You swallowed when you finished, sucking in a deep breath. If this didn't work, then Eskel would have to settle for subpar compensation. And you couldn't bear to see that. But it didn't take long for you to realize what a mistake that you made.

"And I'm supposed to take the word of a local whore?" The alderman spat, smirking and cocking his brow. "You just want me to pay him more so he can afford another visit to the brothel." You grit your teeth at his words and clenched your fists. You were more than used to insults like this, but it was another matter entirely to be embarrassed in front of Eskel. Your face flushed with anger and you opened your mouth to say--

"Apologize." Eskel's deep voice rumbled from next to you. You whipped around to him in order to tell him that there was no point in it, when you saw that he had a hand raised. "Apologize, and pay me fairly. Do so, and I will ignore the slight of this woman's honor."

"I-- Of course." The alderman said haltedly and without argument. You looked back and forth between the guards, Eskel, and the alderman. All except for the witcher seemed to be distracted, eyes slightly glazed and distant. The alderman reached for his coin purse and unhooked it from his belt, tossing it to Eskel. "Fifty Ducat, as fair payment. I am dreadfully sorry, my lady, for my harsh words towards you." One of the guards slung the heavy sack of heads over his shoulder and made his way around the house as the rest went back inside. Once you were left alone, the reality of the situation hit you.

"What in the world just happened there?" You asked as he hefted the coin purse. "How did you do that?" Eskel sighed and motioned for you to follow as he began walking away.

"I would have ended up accepting the paltry sum he offered if he hadn't insulted you like that." He spat. "But he had no right to say such things to you, so I had to do something. Axii is not used often unless in more dire circumstances." Eskel sighed and stopped in his tracks, turning to face you. "But, please. Next time, you don't need to attempt to defend me. It's not worth trying to change their minds." He had done that because of you. The apology from the alderman meant nothing to you. It was Eskel's intentions that meant something. You didn't know how he did it, but you found yourself not caring so much about that. He had mentioned before the simple magics that witchers could cast. Perhaps that was one of them. He had defended you.

"But--" You started, wanting to talk more about what just happened. "The alderman was right. I am just a common whore. I've heard worse from paying clients at The Midnight Lantern!" You said, shaking your head with laughter. What you meant to be a small joke only seemed to worsen Eskel's mood.

"That... That's horrible."

"And accepting mediocre pay as well as mistreatment isn't?" You retorted, crossing your arms.

"Sometimes it's the only way to resolve the argument without being run out of town." Eskel began walking again, grip tightening on Thunder's reins. "People tend to not tolerate witchers for long periods of time, and I know when I'm not welcome." You bit your lip and followed in silence after that, heart heavy.

You knew that Eskel had faced discrimination before due to his mutations, but all of those cases were either mild or heard about second-hand. This was the first time that you truly saw the effect that it had on his life. Just the thought of him having to endure mistreatment across the Continent was enough to send your mind reeling. Was there nothing you could do? When he next left, would he have to unfairly deal with prejudiced townsfolk just for room and board? These thoughts swirled through your head as you accompanied him back to the tavern. Eskel was tense the whole way back, jaw set and eyes kept stubbornly forward. Every now and then he would reach up to drag his fingernails across the lines of his scars.

"How long are you going to stay?" You asked as he brought Thunder to the stables. Eskel turned to you with a surprised gaze before leading his horse to his stall.

"Planning on leaving soon. Today, if I can. My welcome to Ban Gleán is swiftly running out the longer I stay." He moved to leave the stables but found you standing in the doorway, blocking him for the time being. If he wanted to leave, he would have to move you out of the way. You had contemplated this for a long while, but it took until the fiasco with the alderman and his guards for you to truly and finally understand. This town was just no longer right for you. For either of you, in fact. It was time for you to leave. It was time for you to ask. "What is it?" Eskel moved to stand in front of you, looking down as your mouth worked to form words. Why was this so difficult? Sex was easy. Easier than this. You knew how to make people writhe in pleasure, had no shame when it came to your body or others. Feelings weren't involved. It made everything easier. But this? Your emotions were all jumbled up in your chest in a tight knot begging to be unraveled. Your throat froze and your nose burned; a deep pit in your stomach threatened to swallow you whole. But if you couldn't do this now, then you doubted you ever could again.

"Take me with you," you finally blurted out, covering your mouth with your hands instantly afterwards. Eskel looked dumbstruck by your admission.

"What?"

"I..." You lowered your hands and steeled yourself. "I want to go with you when you leave. Please, take me with you?" You swallowed your fear and balled your hands into fists. It would take determination and persistence to get through this conversation. The conversation that you dreaded oh so much, but was necessary now. "Ban Gleán has nothing more to offer me, and I have no other way to escape besides you." You tried to mask whatever feelings you had for Eskel under your reasonings, but your voice was absolutely dripping with emotion. He would be able to see through it in a second. Probably. The two of you had never really talked about your relationship and what it exactly was. It just... ended up happening. First things were strictly transactional between you, but along the way everything changed. Got more personal. Intimate, even. More than just physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy. And that scared you. But you longed for it, you really did.

Which was why you had to cut your losses and take a leap of faith.

Right here.

Right now.

It took you a long while to realize that what you sought would never be found in this drab town. You wanted a life on the road. A life with Eskel. And now you had finally mustered yourself in order to chase it. "I... I've given it thought, and..."

"You... You want to leave, with me?" You held your tongue immediately at those soft spoken words. Your shoulders began to tremble with barely restrained emotions. Eskel's brow was furrowed as he stared down at you. The hole in the pit of your stomach grew until you could feel it resonate throughout your soul. Just below the surface you could feel an agonized moan welling up in your throat. But you kept silent. Eskel shook his head and murmured your name, reaching up to touch your shoulder but thinking better of it at the last second. His arm fell to his side and he let out a low breath. "You know I can't do that."

"Why not?" You couldn't hold it back anymore. You were almost ashamed at the shaking of your voice. Eskel looked away, hiding his scars. His mouth and fingers twitched.

"You know why."

"I don't." You took a step towards him but he moved away. He was retreating from you. Memories of years ago flashed through your mind; a time when he would barely speak to you. When he would pay for your body and leave as soon as he could. "Please, I don't understand." You took another step forward and he jerked away like a frightened animal. What happened? Why was he acting like this? "Eskel." You could feel tears welling up in the corners of your eyes but you blinked them away. Crying would only make things worse.

"I am a witcher." Eskel suddenly pivoted on his heel and stalked back to Thunder's stall. No. No no no. "The life of a witcher is deadly, the Path is not suited for humans. Living on the road and scrounging for whatever scraps the townspeople will spare you is not what you deserve."

"And living in the whorehouse is?" You shouted, suddenly angry. He was trying to decide for you. Make a choice that you never wanted. Speak for you. He had never done this before. Eskel had done similar things, but never spoke for you before. He had always removed himself from the situation before it came to that. "You think that my current life is better now?"

"It's a safer one. You were there with the alderman today. That is only a small part of the hardships of my life. Do you really want that?"

"I'd want anything, so long as I can have it with you." Your voice warbled. Eskel had wrapped Thunder's reins around his clenched fist tightly, his mouth set in an unpleasant grimace. He stayed quiet, though. "Please, Eskel. I know that... Our meetings are few and far between, but." You swallowed and walked over to where he stood, still facing away from you. "I've grown fond of you. You've opened my eyes to a world that is so much larger than the tiny piece I inhabit." Eskel shook his head and whispered your name, grip tightening so much on the reins you worried they would snap. Your heart was pounding. But he hadn't made any more moves to leave. Not yet. "A long while ago we spoke of love, did we not?" You asked, breathing heavily through the nerves. You couldn't hold it back anymore. It had been too long, with too many feelings repressed. "And you said that witchers could not feel it. I see your face when you talk about your brothers and father. You love them, as I loved my own family before they passed."

He closed his eyes at your words and you continued, "And it's not just that anymore... I've tried to push you from my mind when you're gone. But I can't. I don't want to see you leave again, not knowing whether or not you'll come back. Not knowing where you are, if you're hurt, if you were able to get a warm bed for the night. I've never had such feelings, such worries, about anyone before. Not until you." It was hard to say everything, hard to articulate yourself properly for him. Never before had you ever had to say such things. This was what you had agonized over night after night, mulling over words and ultimately discarding them all. "What I'm trying to say is... Eskel, I--"

He whirled around to face you, stopping your confession in its tracks. His eyes were wide and his lips were ever so parted in surprise. He stared at you for a moment as you floundered. It was a lot harder to talk when he was looking at you, scrutinizing everything you said. A soft breath of your name escaped him as the tension all but disappeared from his shoulders. It was like a switch had been flipped.

"I had longed for this moment, but feared for the time when it would come to pass." Your mouth dropped open.

"Eskel..."

"Let me speak." You silenced yourself and took in a deep breath in preparation. Your heart was racing, threatening to beat out of your chest. Eskel looked away for a moment before focusing his gaze back on you. "The life of a witcher is dangerous. I walk in the shadow of death. I had gone so long passing through towns, completing contracts, wintering at Kaer Morhen with my family. They were the only ones I could bring myself to trust completely." A small wistful look crossed his eyes as he talked of his fellow witchers. But it quickly died when he moved to the next vein of his thoughts. "But while I loved them, there were desires I had that the love of a family could not sate for me." He cleared his throat before continuing. "I'm not proud of admitting to wanting more."

A low sigh escaped him and you so desperately wanted to step forwards again, to wrap your arms around his waist and bury your head into his chest. But you didn't dare risk sending him away again. "And then... Then one night I felt that ache inside grow unbearable, and I indulged myself in another rare visit to a brothel. I crossed the threshold into the Midnight Lantern. And I met you. And ever since that one night, I could not bring myself to forget you. I kept coming back. At first it was merely a physical want I needed to sate. I was ashamed of using you the way I did."

Your throat burned with unspoken words. You could feel your nails digging into your palms with how hard you were clenching your fists. "But you... You didn't shy away, didn't judge my wants. You wanted me to come back, wanted me to stay. I couldn't even fathom why. I was scared of what awoke within me." He shook his head with a rueful smile. "A beauty like you, actually wanting to spend time with me?" He chuckled lowly. "Whenever I would leave Ban Gleán, you always stayed in my thoughts until I returned and saw the town over the horizon. And now? You want to come with me?" At his words you couldn't hold yourself back anymore.

"Eskel..." You said, bringing up a hand carefully in order to trace the line of his cheekbone. He was baring his heart to you now, and you wouldn't take this moment for granted. The very least you could do was offer something of equal value. "Whenever you would leave Ban Gleán, I awaited your return with bated breath. I couldn't bear the thought of you not coming back." You laughed with a broken sob hitched at the end. "A poor trait in a whore, no doubt. Becoming... Infatuated with a customer." Eskel's hand came to rest upon your waist, leaving a burning brand through your clothes. He was pulling you closer, no longer shoving you away. You swallowed and attempted to blink away your tears. "And you left the candles lit, and I couldn't look away. I could only watch from then on as you looked at me with something in your eyes I only heard about in stories." At this you brought yourself to look up at him, cupping his jaw and finally feeling the first tears escape you. "And deeper I fell."

Eskel brought up a thumb to wipe away the crystalline drops, trying to dry your cheeks. But they kept flowing, kept dripping down from heavy eyelashes. "What I wanted to say, what I've been trying to say..." You sucked in an unsteady breath. "Is that... I've fallen desperately, hopelessly, in love with you." His eyes flashed and you could hear a deep choking in the back of his throat before he pulled you tightly to his chest, hand on the back of your head locking you in the embrace. You clutched at his leather jerkin and felt his heart race against your ear. It was so quick, much quicker than its normally sluggish pace. "And I can't bear to watch you leave me again."

He pulled away, only for a moment. With a quick tug, he leaned down and pressed his lips to yours. You whimpered into the kiss, twining your fingers in his hair and keeping him close. This kiss wasn't charged like any of the others. It was soft, emotional and desperate in a way you had never felt before. Bright buds of ambrosias bloomed in your mind at his touch, coloring your vision and filling your nose with their sweet scent. Eskel ran the tip of his tongue over your bottom lip before leaving a scant distance between your mouths in order to take in a shuddering breath. His hands were trembling.

"I love you too." A sob escaped you as you smiled, still with your eyes closed. "I love you so completely that I can no longer imagine a life without you in it." He brushed a hand through your hair. "So ask me again. Ask me. Ask me to take you away from here." The words that left your mouth were but a whisper:

"Take me with you?"

Chapter Text

It didn't take much to convince Eskel to stay the night.

With promises to leave in the morning, he leaped at the opportunity to share a warm bed with you. Especially when lucid. Another day spent away from the brothel. The Madame would be furious. But you weren't planning on returning tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever. No explanation was owed; she had known for a long while that you were drifting. And you didn't want to open any kind of opportunity for her or the other whores to try and convince you to stay. No. It was time. Your heart belonged with Eskel. So when he led you up the rickety stairs to his room at Nan's Tap, your own heart raced within your chest. With nothing left unspoken, everything felt different. He loved you. He loved you.

As soon as the door shut behind the both of you he leaned down to press a soft kiss upon your lips that quickly turned heated. You hadn't lain together yet on this visit of his, and desires were at an all-time high. The recent baring of souls had left you both raw and sensitive. But you were ready, needy for more. You could feel Eskel's lips curling into a smile as he pushed you back further into the room, your knees hitting the foot of the bed. He licked into your mouth and leaned over you until you landed in a heap onto the lumpy mattress. It was a bit rickety, and more than a little uncomfortable, but you didn't care. You still might have missed all of the extras that the brothel afforded for you, and you might have found yourself longing for just one more night there. Maybe even spent at the Primrose suite.

The Primrose suite at The Midnight Lantern was the most expensive and luxurious of them all. A far cry from this tiny room in a cheap inn. It would have been nice to have one last night there with Eskel before starting your new life on the road. Yet you found yourself mostly indifferent to the less than stellar setting of the inn. You'd take scratchy sheets and thin walls any day over all the features of the brothel. As long as you had Eskel with you, who reciprocated your love in all the ways you had so desperately longed for. For that was so much more important than anything else.

He pulled away your dress and planted kisses all over your neck and shoulders, each partnered with a whispered "I love you." You writhed and tapped your fingers across his jerkin, wanting to divest him of his clothing as quickly as he did yours. This night was reminiscent of the first time he left the candles lit, but now there was nothing left to the imagination between the two of you. His movements were sure and steady. No longer filled with apprehension. And you couldn't keep your hands from wandering all across his body; he had given you permission and no longer would you hold back. There was nothing more keeping you from lavishing praises across his skin. He rolled to the side and you faced one another, legs tangling together as you worked at the laces to his shirt.

It didn't take long before he was clad in only his braies, and you in your stockings. He ran a hand reverently down your side and curled his fingers around your hip. Your heart gave a heady throb in your chest. His eyes were lidded and pupils dilated in the dark, love-drunk and lustful. It was extremely flattering to see him looking at you like that. So you pressed closer, bare chests touching as you claimed his lips with yours. He hummed into the kiss and lifted your leg over his hip, rutting forwards into you. Whispers of praise fell from your open mouth, mixing with his own soft-spoken confessions. Eskel let his hand drift down to between your legs, cupping your sex before catching on the waistband of your undergarments. Your own dexterous fingers made for the ties to his braies, undoing them and slipping quickly inside. A low groan of your name escaped him when you wrapped your hand around him.

You knew everything to make him sing. Just as he did for you.

"Eskel..." You murmured as he maneuvered your legs to finally remove the flimsy fabric and bare you completely to him. He laid a soft kiss upon your cheek and dipped his fingers gently in. You bit your lip and whimpered, grip tightening minutely. Both of you were still on your sides in the rickety bed. "I love you."

"I love you too," he replied, pushing his braies down and off of his own legs. He kicked them away and returned his hands to your hips, pulling you close and rocking you against him. The slide was slick and needy. The pulse of his heartbeat thrummed against you. "I've loved you for so long. I never thought that I could truly have you in this way." You threw your leg back over him and hooked your foot around his calf, canting your hips. He let out a low groan as the heat of you dragged against him torturously. "Let me just..." Eskel shoved a hand down between the two of you and with a few quick movements, had pushed inside. A heavy breath escaped you as you clutched at his face. His lips were parted around soft moans, flushed cheeks making him glow. He looked gorgeous like this; you would never tire of being able to see him in the throes of passion.

This was nothing like the desperate rutting of many of your past couplings. While still urgent, his thrusts lacked any kind of bruising power. They were short and deep, as Eskel was unwilling to be far from you in any capacity. It was easy to kiss him like this too, and you took great advantage of that. He responded enthusiastically to your kisses, gasping into you. You began to roll into him in order to prolong your pleasure. Eskel let out a groan and slid his arm further around your waist, crushing you against him. It was the most intimate you had ever been together. No. It was the most intimate you had ever been with anyone.

"Please," you whimpered as you felt shivers begin to run through your body. Eskel called out your name softy and pressed his forehead to yours in reverence. "My love, my witcher."

"Your witcher." The jut of his hips kept a firm pressure on your clit, sending heated sparks across your skin and into your very soul. He would murmur gentle words, affirmations of his feelings. And you would respond in kind as the two of you climbed to the precipice of release. You could feel his fingers digging into you, holding you close and dragging himself deeper. One of your hands made its way into his hair in order to brush it out of his eyes. You always loved seeing it at this longer length after winter passed; there was enough of it for you to tangle your fingers in. A gentle tug to the strands had Eskel baring his throat to you, and you leaned forwards to lay a multitude of kisses across it. He hummed and moaned at your touch.

"Are you close, my love?" You asked, whispering against his thrumming pulse. Eskel answered with a rapid nod of his head as he curled into you. You bit down on your lower lip at a particularly quick jolt of his hips. It had been too long. Every winter that you spent parted from one another was too much time wasted. But now neither of you ever had to worry about that again. For you would be traveling together, side by side. "Mmm, me too," you murmured with a gentle smile pressed to his skin. "Come on, I'm right there with you, my lovely witcher..."

"Not yet. You first," he choked out, pulling away one of his arms in order to grip at the underside of your thigh. He lifted your leg further over his waist to get an even better angle that stole your breath away in sharp gasps. Eskel's thrusts were quick and focused now; he was determined. And that determination paid off in a scant few moments. You threw back your head and arched your spine as every muscle in your body tightened and finally snapped. Eskel was your anchor; the one thing keeping you from being swept away on waves of an endless ocean. His touch was a balm and soothed you as you slowly came down from your high.

It only took a few more thrusts for him to follow. Your own orgasm had sent him into a spiral of pleasure, falling down not long after you. Your mind had cleared enough for you to open your eyes and watch as he jerked and spasmed against you. He was absolutely beautiful with his lips parted around breathy moans, brow furrowed intensely. You sighed and smoothed your fingers over his scars, cooing softly. Eskel's eyes shot open and fixed you with their golden hues. His pupils were so thin that it was near-impossible to see them for a moment. But that was quickly followed by him relaxing so immediately that they blew wide. His irises became thin shining rings around deep pools of black. It occurred to you then that you had never seen his face right at the moment of release. Not truly. Not like you had just now.

"Wow," was all you could say. Eskel's tight expression was now languid, soft smile curling his mouth and half-lidded eyes. He looked as if he was about to fall asleep any minute now. He drew away, sitting up in bed to your surprise. "What is it?" You asked, turning over onto your back in order to watch as he moved away. He hummed and stood, stalking over to his bags only to crouch down and rummage through them for a moment. Eskel returned and laid down next to you once more, small rag in hand. If it were any more possible for your heart to ache with love, now would be the time. He was gentle in his movements as he traced the insides of your thighs as well as your sex with the fabric before tossing it to the side. A low exhale escaped him when he wrapped his arms around you once more and hauled you up to rest on top of him. It seemed he liked it when you were braced against his chest. "How can someone be so desperately in love as I am with you? Is that even possible? Can I even say it?"

"I wouldn't be opposed to hearing you say it again," he chuckled, hand cradling the back of your head.

"Very well. I love you so unbelievably much that I almost can't stand it," you said as you curled your fingers across his chest. Recent exertions left a deep-seated tiredness over the both of you, but it wasn't like any kind of regular exhaustion. Rather the feeling one gets right after finishing something immensely satisfying. A sense of relief and relaxation. You closed your eyes to the room and allowed yourself to just be immersed in the feeling of Eskel. The sound of his breathing, lungs filling with air. The heat of his body against you. The slowness of his heartbeat that always was able to lull you to sleep now without fail. The gentle drag of his fingers across your back.

And now you could spend every night like this. Maybe not making love, but at least in each other's arms. You could almost scarcely believe it still.

"And I love you." You heard him murmur in response, soft and low laughter bubbling up from within. It seemed he was just as giddy as you were about everything. "You'll enjoy the coast, I think. The water stretches on almost infinitely all across the horizon. It's beautiful." You hummed as you listened to him talk.

"Tell me more. About the places we'll go," you said. It was easy to relax to the gentle rumble of his voice. And any reminder about the future in store for the both of you was wanted and well-deserved. Eskel patted one of your shoulder blades gently and acquiesced.

"First there's Novigrad and the coast. We'll make a quick stop by Oxenfurt as well, I think you'll enjoy the academy's grounds." He began relaying to you his Path and what journeys there would be upon it. He even mentioned the fact that you would most likely meet his brothers as well, as they often set up rendezvous points to meet in order to catch up over the year and keep in touch. "Maybe even Toussaint one day, if the year goes well." You could feel the beginnings of sleep curl around you as he talked, soothing you. A slight nod of your head as you began drifting away.

Eskel's hand came up to cradle your head as you nodded off. He guided you down into the world of dreams, until the morning came.

Chapter Text

Eskel had woken up long before you. He had always been an early riser, and that wouldn't change simply because he had you to warm his bed at night. But it was good. Welcome, even. You were sprawled out across the small bed as he packed away his various belongings into his saddlebags. It didn't take very long for you to awaken, even though he was taking great pains to remain quiet so as to not disturb you. You rolled over onto your side and fixed him with a soft gaze as he prepared for the long journey ahead. The idea that now, after all these years, you would be able to go with him filled your chest with a feeling you couldn't explain.

"Good morning," you said, voice still heavy from sleep. Eskel looked over his shoulder at you from where he was organizing his potions. The corner of his mouth you could see curled in a smile.

"Good morning," he replied, turning back away to focus on his task. "It's come to my attention that you don't have a lot of possessions with you. Did you want to stop by The Midnight Lantern to grab your things there before we leave?" At his question, you exhaled a low sigh and turned over to face the ceiling. This was probably inevitable. "What is it?"

"I don't think going back is a good idea," you murmured. "They can't force me to stay any longer, not while I'm with you. But I don't want to hear the insults. I was supposed to come back two nights ago, and I didn't. The Madame will undoubtedly be furious with me. Add the fact that I'm leaving, and it just becomes a horrid situation I want no part of." Your voice trailed off the more you spoke, until it was but a whisper. Eskel tilted his head to the side and stood, crossing the room in order to stand next to where you lay. He reached out a hand and ran it through your hair gently.

"Of course. I just want to make sure you're ready. It won't be easy if you leave with nothing more than the clothes upon your back."

"I know. And I loathe the idea as well." You leaned into his touch and closed your eyes.

"I could go with you," he offered. "They wouldn't dare try anything with a witcher by your side." You smiled at his words and looked up at him. His expression was of gentle encouragement, and you knew all he wanted to do was help you. Keep you safe, make sure you were prepared.

"I don't think they would try anything, it's just..." The more you thought about it, however, the more sense it made to at least attempt to claim some of your belongings left at the brothel. You had a small coin purse with wages set aside from what the Madame paid you for each client, along with a few extra sets of clothes that weren't completely unsuitable for a life on the road. "You're right."

"You don't have to agree with me if you don't want to do it," he said, crouching down to be at eye-level with you. You smiled ruefully and leaned forwards to press a soft kiss on his lips.

"I know."

Going back to the brothel to reclaim your things was probably one of the hardest things you ever had to do. If you were being completely honest with yourself, the very idea terrified you. But Eskel was right, and you couldn't just leave the burden all on him. You had to pull your own weight as well if you were to go with him. Although he would likely never admit to that. Eskel would probably be happy to try and provide for you, but you didn't want to add any more undue stress onto him wherever possible.

You pleaded with him to remain outside while you went in and got everything, and he agreed without complaint. There was a side door that was only open to workers of the brothel; it led to the kitchens. That would be where you entered and left. The front door was much too conspicuous, and you wanted to get this over and done with as soon as possible. Minimal contact with anyone who could alert the Madame of what you were doing. You nodded one last time to Eskel as you pushed the door open, watching him smile encouragingly and turn away to wait for you.

It was then you realized that this would probably be a lot harder than you anticipated.

Zond was preparing breakfast with his apprentices, who all looked up to focus their gazes on you. You froze, one hand still on the handle to the door. But then his face broke out into a large smile as he greeted you:

"I was wondering where you ran off to! It's been too long, you missed a lot of valuable information on how best to season my special flatbread," he said, not pausing in his preparations. A quick snap of his fingers had the young apprentices continuing in their work. They had more to worry about than a whore coming in through the side door. Zond beckoned you closer to him and you followed, shoulders stiff with nerves. "I'd be a bit careful, Madame Detlira is very tetchy today. Probably because you up and vanished those two days ago. I'd avoid the foyer if I were you, at least for now."

"Thank you, Zond," you said with an anxious smile. "I really must get going, though. Busy day."

"Don't even get me started, dear."

With a final nod to the head chef, you left the kitchens and tore off down the hallway towards your sleeping quarters. Luckily they weren't far, as many of the whores lodged on the first floor of the establishment. It was near the back; clients usually congregated at the front while waiting to encounter a girl for the night. The brisk journey through the hall felt like it lasted forever, though. But you made it to the room you shared with Ilde without any trouble. She wasn't there, probably out in the foyer or even the common dining area with the others. Good. One less person to worry about while you packed everything away.

Your bed was made primly, not slept in for the past two nights. Sometimes that happened during the time that you worked here. But now as you looked at it, you felt proud of the reason why it had been empty. You moved on quickly, dropping to your knees and reaching under it in order to pull out a small rucksack. The bedside table held your meager wages that you had saved over the years in a small coin purse. You opened the drawer and cleaned it out, grabbing things like your money and the comb that your mother gave you before she died. A few other small keepsakes that you realized you couldn't abandon now.

The low chest at the foot of your bed held your clothes. You scooted over to it quickly and threw it open, rummaging through everything. A lot of what you had may be suitable for a life in a brothel, but most of them would be useless for where you were going. So it wasn't hard to dig through everything and grab a scant few extra articles of clothing that you could stand to bring. A few simple skirts and tunics, coupled with some pairs of trousers as well. You thanked Melitele for the fact that you bought those on a whim two years ago. For they would come to be the most handy in your new life. You pulled off your dress and changed into a muted green tunic and brown trousers, pulling on the pair of boots that you had shoved down to the very bottom of the chest. They weren't worn often due to your lifestyle, but you felt like they were about to get a lot more use now.

After picking through everything and deciding what you could afford to take with you, you stood and prepared to leave. But as you walked over to the door, you paused. A quick glance back at the room. The chest. You sighed and went back over to it, grabbing a silken nightgown as well as your favorite pair of stockings. Eskel would appreciate something nice every now and then; maybe you could surprise him one night. You tied the rucksack shut and hefted it over your back. There wasn't much in it, but the simple act of coming here and taking a select few keepsakes with you soothed your soul immensely.

You cracked the door open slowly, peeking out into the hallway to check if anyone was coming. It was clear. You thanked your luck countless times as you stole away through the hall. It didn't take long to make it back to the kitchen. With one last look behind you, you shoved your way through the door and ignored the quick glances of Zond's apprentices. The head chef himself was turned away over the fire, and you scurried across the room quickly in order to escape. You were so close now; freedom was within your grasp.

"Ah. I should have known." You stopped in your tracks, spine ramrod straight. You hunched your shoulders and spun slowly on your heel to face him. Zond had his arms crossed, expression unreadable. "Oh, come now. Don't look at me like that, dear." He tilted his head to the side with a small laugh. "What am I going to do? Stop you? Why would I?" Zond crossed the room over to where you stood and placed his hands on your shoulders. His smile only grew until it lit up his whole face. "I'm glad you've found what you've been missing for so long. And I can only hope that he takes care of you." Your face flushed red. How did he know about Eskel? Zond only laughed harder at your alarmed expression, cocking his brow and clapping you on the back. "I won't say a word." He held a finger to his lips and winked at you.

"I... Thank you," was all you could say. "I don't want to make this any more complicated than it needs to be, and I feel like the Madame would make things harder."

"Oh, she would indeed. The other girls will miss you, as well as I." Zond moved away for a moment and rummaged through one of the cupboards. "Here, dear. Some of my flatbread for you. I know how much you love it, and the others won't even notice it's gone." He handed you the carefully wrapped breads and patted your hand. "Take care of yourself, won't you?" He asked, squeezing your hand.

"I will."

"And don't forget what I taught you! Cooking is an invaluable skill," Zond glared back at the apprentices who stopped their duties in order to watch your exchange. "Did I tell you to stop? I don't recall I did!" They all lowered their heads in tandem and continued their work on breakfast. Zond leaned in close to your ear and whispered, "and I doubt your witcher can cook much for himself, living off on the road as he does." He laughed good-naturedly and you let out a small giggle. "Now then. I shouldn't hold you any longer. The sooner you leave, the sooner you start your new life."

"Thank you," you said, pulling him in for one last hug. "For everything. I mean it."

"Get out of here before I start crying." His voice was strained as he returned the hug. When you pulled away his eyes were shining. Zond cared about all of the whores who worked in the brothel, watching them come and go over the many years he worked there. The only person who had been there longer than him was the Madame herself. "Go on." He gave you a playful shove towards the door. Your teeth flashed in a smile as you opened it and stepped outside The Midnight Lantern. The sun was bright in the sky and you took a deep breath of the fresh air. Eskel was propped against the side of the building, waiting for you. At the sound of the door opening his head shot up and turned to look at you.

You let out a silent laugh and ran over to him, opening your arms. He bent his knees and spread his arms wide with the biggest grin on his face that you had ever seen. You allowed yourself to be swept up into a hug that lifted your feet from the ground. He spun once, twice, three times before setting you down. You cupped his cheek and traced your fingers over his scars, pressing a quick kiss to the side of his jaw. Eskel gripped at your hand with his own and brushed his thumb over your knuckles, smiling. His eyes shot up to look behind you, and you whirled around in his grasp to see what he was looking at.

Zond stood in the kitchen doorway, grinning at the two of you. He lifted up an arm and waved silently. You waved back with your free hand and even felt Eskel greet him with the arm that was currently wrapped around your waist. Zond nodded one last time at you and shut the door behind him, closing off a chapter of your life. A long breath that you didn't know you were holding escaped you, one of relief.

"Alright?" Eskel asked. You turned to face him and leaned up, planting a kiss upon his lips. He returned it with a smile.

"More than alright. Let's go." You pulled away and clutched Eskel's hand in yours as he nodded his head and began leading you back to the inn. Thunder, his horse, was already saddled and loaded up. He was waiting in the stables for the two of you. As you crossed the town, you couldn't help but notice eyes on you. Your grip on him tightened as you looked resolutely forwards, ignoring the stares of the townsfolk. They no longer had any sway on your life. Eskel rubbed his thumb over the back of your hand comfortingly. When you made it to the stables and Eskel unlatched Thunder's door, the horse snorted and shook his mane out in excitement. It seemed he was excited to be back on the Path as well. Eskel patted the nose of his gelding and led him out by his reins.

"Let me take that, I can tie it here." Eskel held a hand out for your rucksack and you slung it off your shoulder in order to give it to him. He secured it to a free spot on Thunder's saddle.

"Are you sure he can hold it? He won't get tired out?" You asked, petting the horse's flank.

"Thunder is durable, he can take it. At least until we get you a horse of your own," Eskel replied, double checking the ties to everything and patting down the saddle. He moved around to the other side of his horse where you were. There was something small in his hand. You tilted your head to the side, trying to see exactly what it was. But before you could, Eskel pulled you in for another kiss. You laughed into it, tugging playfully at his hair. When he finally pulled away, his hand came up to tuck something gently behind your ear. The smell of lavender filled your nose. "I thought you'd like it." Tears threatened to fill your eyes as you felt at the tiny sprig of lavender.

"I love it, thank you." Eskel smiled again, softening the lines of his scars.

"Ready to go, then?"

"More than I could ever be," you replied, clutching at his hands with yours. Eskel let his hands drift down your waist as he moved to stand behind you. With a quick movement he had you aloft, helping you place a foot into one of the stirrups in order to lift yourself up onto Thunder's back. Once you were situated, he ran a hand down your leg to curl around your ankle. You wiggled your foot with a jovial laugh. Eskel hauled himself into the saddle with an inhuman grace that you could never hope to match. But you didn't mind, instead clutching at his broad shoulders from behind as he shifted in the saddle to get comfortable.

A gentle whistle had Thunder moving at a walk, and Eskel steered him onto the main road. There was another quick pass through the town square. You looked down at all of the people you ever knew, watching them go by as you began your journey away from the town. They stared at you in confusion, but you only wrapped your arms around Eskel's waist tighter and linked your fingers together. It didn't take long for you to head out of the square and slowly away from the limits of Ban Gleán. You buried your face into the planes of his back, breathing in the scent of his leather jerkin. "Eskel?" You asked, voice slightly muffled by his clothes.

"Yes?"

"I love you."

"And I love you."

A smile crossed your lips, hidden and secret. As Thunder quickened his pace into a trot, you felt a weight that you didn't even know existed lift off of your shoulders. Freedom. At last.

What city was it Eskel said? Novigrad?

The coast was calling your name.