„Jaskier should arrive around noon“, Geralt announced and shifted his injured leg with a pained sigh. Eskel, who had brought him breakfast, nearly dropped the mug of tea on the small inn bed.
“Sorry”, the dark-haired Witcher mumbled as steaming drops fell on the blanket. Geralt just grinned and took the mug. “I forgot it’s Belletyne."
“You forgot - ?”, Geralt repeated and shook his head.
All the houses and streets in the little village had been decorated with flower garlands and lanterns. The bonfires on the large field next to the forest waited to be lit and everybody was in a festive mood. The innkeeper who had welcomed them as cherished guests, the mayor whose Royal Wyvern problem they had solved. Everything and everyone literally screamed “Belletyne”.
And Eskel, well, Eskel had forgotten about it, because he just didn't care.
“You know that Jaskier and I always spend this night together”, Geralt reminded and looked down at the bandages and splints that kept the broken bones in place. “Well, not this time.”
“I bet he'll insist on sitting at your bedside and fuss over you like a mother hen. Not so bad, I suppose.” He looked at his saddlebags and made some calculations about how many provisions he would need to buy. “I’ll take my leave when he arrives.”
“I want you to attend the celebration with him.”
Eskel was really happy he wasn’t holding the mug anymore.
“What?”, he croaked, voice hoarse with disbelief. “Why should I? He’s your lover, not mine.”
“And that’s exactly why I want my brother to spend time with him. Jaskier is crazy for Belletyne. The music, the food, the booze. I would never rob him of this pleasure.”
“He won’t agree”, Eskel murmured and absently touched the scarred side of his face. “Why should he?”
The bard arrived in the late afternoon. (“You have to allow for artistic license, Geralt!”) It turned out Jaskier reacted exactly as predicted. He turned pale, nearly cried over Geralt’s broken leg, and instantly decided he would stay with his Witcher for the night.
“I will play you some music. And I could sneak out and steal a lot of food from the tables”, the bard offered with a huge smile. He wore a bright green doublet and looked like spring itself with his tousled hair and shining eyes. “It will be wonderful.”
Geralt cleared his throat.
“That’s not necessary. I’m in pain and bad company. But Eskel is willing to take you out tonight.”
Eskel froze in shock about this kind of brotherly betrayal. He glowered at Geralt who totally ignored him. The dark-haired Witcher immediately realized something was going on here. He witnessed how Geralt and Jaskier exchanged glances.
“Poor Geralt”, Jaskier tutted, but kissed his lover tenderly before he linked his arm with Eskel’s. “Well, I can’t ignore his wishes, for I adore and respect him very much.”
“But you could bring me some food, though”, Geralt grinned and announced we would be taking another well-deserved nap.
Eskel shrugged off his spiked gambeson jacket, then took his cloak and allowed to the bard to drag him out into the streets and towards the field. Everybody knew Jaskier and the people who hadn't met him before made his acquaintance pretty soon.
Eskel just followed as the minstrel pranced around, played snippets of music, and inspected the buffet tables. He was aware that the people were looking at him. Not only because they had seen him drag limping Geralt and the dead Wyvern into town. He knew why they stared and turned away to whisper behind his back.
The bard didn't seem to notice. He introduced Eskel as his “dear old friend” and “savior of the town” and if Eskel's hadn't been six feet tall for all his adult life, he would have shrunk to dwarf size within minutes.
“Geralt and I have been here last year, too. Marvelous people”, Jaskier explained and shoved a piece of sweet bread into Eskel’s large hands. “So sorry to hear they had a Wyvern problem. I hope nobody got killed?”
“No”, Eskel said, quite monosyllabic, and stared down at the bread in his hands. “Just some cows and sheep.”
“Can you dance, by the way?” Jaskier's change of topic came as a surprise and Eskel stuffed the bread into his mouth to avoid a long answer.
“Ah, such a pity”, the minstrel murmured and winked. “That's what Geralt said on our first Belletyne evening, by the way. But it turned out he's an excellent dancer. So I won't give up on you. - What do you usually do on Belletyne?”
“Nothing”, Eskel hummed and snatched two tankards of beer from one of the tables. “I don't like it.”
“So I have to thank you again for being my companion tonight.”
The minstrel accepted his tankard with a gracious bow and steered towards the treeline. Eskel followed him. There was no way he would stay alone in a crowd of humans. With Jaskier in front of him, the Witcher could admire the long, gracious legs, the broad shoulders, and the way the setting sun dusted the bard's hair with hues of red and gold.
Jaskier was just as radiant. Bright and jaunty, always changing, never resting.
Eskel had needed several winters at Kaer Morhen to get accustomed to the bubbly man who had decided to love Geralt no matter what Geralt himself might think about it. In the end, it had turned out that Geralt indeed liked that kind of persistence – and Jaskier – very much.
Eskel was happy for his brother. He really was.
Jaskier sat down in the soft moss and Eskel joined him. They observed the colorful hustle and bustle of young and old. Children played their very own games, couples kissed and flirted and the elders sat on the benches and strolled down the memory lane.
The bard never tired telling amusing stories about his recent travels and the local scandals. He was extremely well informed about politics and social dynamics. Some people considered Jaskier as a fool, but none of the Witchers of Kaer Morhen had ever made the mistake to believe it only for a second.
They fetched another tankard of beer and then the third one while they talked about the lectures Jaskier had attended during the winter at Oxenfurt. Soon, Eskel chuckled softly. He had been an eyewitness to some of the events the professors taught at the university nowadays. But he remembered some details quite differently.
The bard soon joined in the laughter, amused by Eskel's personal and bone-dry review of contemporary history. The young man was visibly tipsy and sometimes bumped his elbow into Eskel's arm when the Witcher described a particularly raunchy detail.
The sun finally disappeared behind the horizon and the young men lit the lanterns. Suddenly, the vast field looked magical, world-enraptured. But the two men soon returned to reality when the mayor approached them and asked if Jaskier would join the small group of local musicians to play at the dance.
Eskel assured Jaskier he didn't mind staying behind alone. The Witcher watched how the minstrel mounted the wooden dancefloor and jumped into the performance with ease. Soon, everybody was dancing, clapping, and stomping to the rousing tunes. The set ended with a circle dance that became faster and faster the longer it lasted. Clearly a competition between musicians and dancers. In the end, all of them collapsed to the ground, laughing and cheering.
Jaskier returned to the edge of the forest, out of breath, his skin covered by a thin layer of sweat. Eskel found the bard smelled like happiness and suppressed a wave of something he could only identify as arousal.
“You should really go back”, Eskel murmured and pointed at the villagers. “You belong there.”
“Nah.” Jaskier waved his hand and sat down again, lute in his lap. He played some happy chords and then put the instrument back in its case. “Enough music for tonight. Most of them are drunk anyway and wouldn't appreciate my refined art.”
Darkness engulfed them, hiding them from prying eyes. Eskel allowed himself to relax. Maybe the dark beer helped, too. The temperatures dropped from minute to minute and at some point, the bard began to shiver. Eskel immediately took off his coat and wrapped it around the bard's shoulders.
Jaskier hummed his thanks and smiled softly, abstaining from further eloquent words. Another tankard of beer later, he decided to use Eskel's thigh as his pillow and sighed happily. The Witcher froze but didn't dare to move an inch. Suddenly, Belletyne didn't seem so bad anymore.
The mayor's blushing daughter ignited the first bonfire and soon, more than a dozen fires crackled and sent sparks into the dark sky. People sang haunting, ancient songs while holding hands and the village's musicians picked up the tune.
Encouraged by the sound of drums and fiddles, the young men were the first who dared to leap over the blazing flames. Later, they ensnared the women, who playfully joined into the traditional game of rejection and acceptance.
Hands joint, they jumped the bonfires, accompanied by the cheers and well-wishes of the audience.
The night moved on. The elders brought the children to bed and the couples who had found each other for the night disappeared from the festive site to enjoy themselves. They carried lanterns, sang, and danced as they disappeared in the woods or in the barns. The dancefloor was still filled with people who weren't willing to retire and the musicians played with great enthusiasm that absolutely made up for their non-Oxenfurt talent.
“That's why I love Belletyne”, Jaskier murmured solemnly and Eskel blinked. He could have sworn this had been the longest time without one of the bard's usual ramblings he had ever witnessed. “They forget everything. The hard work on the fields, the plague, the injustice of kings and clergy. For one single night, all their pain is gone and there's only hope.” The young man tilted his head and his white teeth flashed in the firelight. “Speaking of hope, we haven't danced yet.”
He jumped to his feet and grabbed Eskel's hand, pulling him up with surprising strength. The Witcher groaned good-naturedly but finally gave in.
“Jaskier”, he hummed, suddenly embarrassed how nice it felt when the bard finally take both of his hands. “Leave it. People are watching us.”
“I am watching you, Eskel.”
And Jaskier did.
The golden light of the bonfires dimmed the brilliant sparkle of the bard's blue eyes to the hue of the night. Eskel shied away from the adoration he saw and lowered his head. But then the bard's fingers brushed over his stubbly chin. The touch was gentle and warm.
“And I'm sorry”, Jaskier murmured. Suddenly, the minstrel's voice was filled with self-reproach. “For dragging you here. I know you feel uncomfortable around people, even if you try to be more sociable than Geralt or Lambert.”
The Witcher produced a pained, but fond smile.
“Lambert is as sociable as a Serrikanian rattlesnake.”
“But still lovable. Just like you.”
Jaskier's fingers traced the line of Eskel's jaw, up to his ear. A light brush over his pulse made the Witcher shudder.
“Jaskier -.” Eskel was lost for words. The long-suppressed attraction he had always felt for the bard now returned with full might. “I don't think we should -.”
“Dance?”, Jaskier suggested with a witty smirk and suddenly, dancing seemed to be an excellent idea. Anything would be better than standing in the forest and bathing in Jaskier's alluring scent.
„Jaskier sees me. Not as a Witcher. But as a person. It scares the shit out of me.”
Eskel remembered Geralt's words, spoken in the first winter after the white-haired Witcher and Jaskier had met, very well. And they were really fitting. Eskel was scared. Even being dragged on a dancefloor, his scars on full display, didn't seem to be as terrible as the feelings that roared in his body. So he mentally prepared for Jaskier forcing him out him into the light of the Belletyne celebration again.
But nothing happened. Instead, the bard's long, muscular arms wrapped around Eskel's body. Gentle hands touched the Witcher's back, radiating warmth through the thin linen fabric of his shirt.
Eskel couldn't remember the last time he had been so close to a person that liked him enough to ignore his scars. Sometimes he had paid whores, but asking and paying for intimacy surely wasn't the same as receiving it wilfully.
Jaskier didn't seem to mind his scars at all.
Whenever he had looked at Eskel during the last winters, his gaze had always been filled with mirth or genuine interest. They had laughed together, they had shared secrets and Jaskier had beaten him at Gwent every single time.
“See, we can dance here. Just you and me. One step at a time”, Jaskier mumbled and Eskel gave up on resisting the temptation. His fingers fondled the thick fabric of his own cloak the bard still wore, then they brushed it away to find an open doublet and a silk chemise.
It wasn't the dance the Witcher had expected. It was just them, wrapped in each other's arms, moving slowly to the faint pulse of a drum. He could feel Jaskier's heart matching the sound, steady, but faster than usual. The only thing that prevented Eskel from leaning forward and kissing the bard was his bad conscience.
“I – can't”, the Witcher rasped, voice tense. “Geralt -.”
“Geralt knows I've been pining over you for years. He isn't jealous. Quite the contrary. He loves you. And wants the best for you – which happens to be me.”
Eskel needed a moment to really understand the confession. Jaskier had been interested in him? Why hadn't he noticed? Or maybe he had just dismissed the thought because he had considered it as some strange sort of charity towards one of Geralt's kin.
Jaskier smirked and as Eskel tried to protest again, only half-heartedly because he was still in shock, the bard shushed him with a kiss. The touch was tentative at first. The perfect way to find out if they matched. Eskel thought about how strange his scarred lips would feel.
But the bard didn't allow him to fall into the trap of self-doubt. The young man deepened the kiss without hesitation and Eskel's self-restraint dissolved into hot pleasure as Jaskier pushed his groins together with a desperate sigh. Jaskier's hands slid under Eskel's shirt and caressed his chest before it trailed down to loosen the strings that held the Witcher's trousers and breeches in place.
Blue eyes widened slightly as the bard's finger found Eskel's erection under the last layer of fabric.
The Witcher chuckled lowly but felt how the tips of his ears burned.
“Am I not the luckiest bard on the Continent?”, Jaskier whispered against Eskel's lips and squeaked as the Witcher dragged him down to the soft moss quite unceremoniously.
They bedded themselves on Eskel's cloak and the young man squirmed and gasped under Eskel's weight that pressed him down while they kissed again, long and passionately. Jaskier wriggled in anticipation when Eskel finally undressed him with fierce determination. But then, the Witcher slowed down. He took his time to caress the young man's body with gentle strokes and kisses until the bard was no more than a panting mass under his hands.
Hearing his name slipping from Jaskier's trembling lips was one of the most erotic things the Witcher had ever witnessed. Soon enough the bard decided it was time to return the favors given – and more. Only interrupted by heated kisses, Jaskier pushed Eskel down to his back. The Witcher couldn't but succumb to the skilled fingers that stripped him of the rest of his clothes.
“You're beautiful”, the minstrel gasped as he straddled Eskel's hips and pressed their aroused members together with slow, tantalizing movements.
Jaskier's unfaltering gaze and the softness of his touches gave away he really meant what he said. The bard didn't just ignore his scars, but thought he was beautiful? Eskel's head swirled with words he wasn't able to utter at this moment. So he just hugged Jaskier close and laid all his gratitude and yearning into his kisses. He was sure Jaskier would understand.
As the friction between their bodies became overwhelming, he cradled the bard's face between his hands and looked at him in the golden light of the dying bonfires.
“I want you”, Eskel mumbled. The bard mirrored the gesture and caressed the Witcher's scarred face with heartbreaking tenderness. The old fear of rejection stilled Eskel's movements, but Jaskier just leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to his forehead.
“And you'll have me, love.”
They parted only for the moment Jaskier needed to retrieve a vial of oil from a compartment in his lute case. Eskel's mind went blank when the bard prepared them and finally straddled him again, teasing him with a saucy grin before he rose to his knees and lowered himself on Eskel's length with delicate slowness.
The Witcher grasped Jaskier's hips to steady the shivering man who gasped and moaned as he enjoyed every single inch that slid inside his body until he was fully seated.
“You alright?”, Eskel panted and Jaskier just hummed dreamily. Their hips began to move and found a perfect rhythm.
The Witcher stared into Jaskier's ecstatic face and pulled him down to drink the guttural moans from his lips. Incited by the rhythm of the distant drums, their bodies grinded against each other at a feverish pace, leaving all clear thinking behind.
Eskel wished the moment would never end. Belletyne was indeed a gift. Finally, he understood why. It was about letting go and beginning anew in just one single night.
It had only taken the right person to show him. A person who saw him. Who genuinely desired him and didn't give a damn about what people thought about Witchers.
The bard's panting became louder, his movements more ferocious and Eskel dug his fingers into the soft flesh of Jaskier's buttocks to intensify his own thrusts until both of them climaxed in unison.
The bard went slack and collapsed at Eskel's chest, both of them sticky and covered in sweat and semen, but none of them cared. They kissed and grinned at each other like the idiots they had obviously been, enjoying the afterglow until it trailed off and the chill of the night pervaded their bodies.
Eskel carefully wrapped the cloak around them. Jaskier's breath evened out and for a moment, the Witcher thought he had fallen asleep, but then the young man stirred and yawned with a delighted and very smug smile.
“What a night”, Jaskier mumbled. “The luckiest bard on the Continent, indeed.”
Eskel rumbled a laugh and pressed a kiss to the bard's moist hair.
“And soon you'll be the frozen bard”, he teased with a relaxed grin. He would have loved to sleep under the stars, but humans were sensible to cold, so he gently peeled away from Jaskier's pliant body and began to dress.
With a cute pout, Jaskier complied and soon they left the forest, hand in hand. People noticed them when they returned to the field and collected some leftover bites for Geralt from the buffet tables. But Eskel didn't care if they stared or why. He felt like he could cope with every madness the world had to offer. Larger than life. At peace. The bard chatted about nothing and everything, but never let go of his hand. When they arrived at the tavern, he pulled Eskel in for another chaste kiss.
“Don't be nervous”, Jaskier smiled encouragingly. “Geralt will be happy for both of us.”
“I'll try”, Eskel nodded, in awe about how easily the bard had read his thoughts. “But I might need some time to really understand I share a lover with my brother.”
Jaskier shrugged nonchalantly.
“Well, then I'll wait for next year's Belletyne to try my luck with Lambert.”
Eskel groaned in mock despair. Then they went upstairs to care for Geralt.