The first thing Geralt had done after finding he was allowed to keep Corvo Bianco was pen letters to the other witchers. Not that they were easy to track down, but with so few left each of them had established loose routes that they would follow. Eskel traveled far, collecting knowledge from the many holds. He most likely was in Kovir, the gold was good and with so many mages he could trade rare ingredients for books or magic trinkets. Geralt sent his letter out with one to Triss, just to say hello and see how she was settling into the Koviri courts.
Lambert had usually kept close to Kaedwen ever since the Progrom. Not that he'll ever admit it, but he was protective of the school and still carried guilt over not being there when the attack happened. He would have died, more than likely, but the injuries carried by survivors of tragedy do not heal in a way that makes sense.
However, now that Keira had gotten her cure for Catriona and Radovid was dead, Geralt knew that Lambert was accompanying her around Oxenfurt. No doubt giving headaches to the academics and swindling the students out of coin. He sent his letter there, with one to Keira in congratulations on her accomplishments.
He did not expect much out of it, they were nomadic by nature and all of them had found somewhere else to bunk down for the winters. Kaer Morhen had not been inhabited for, what, three years? They couldn't go back there, not yet. Geralt didn't know if they ever would, and he didn't know if it was the right choice. All he wanted was for them to know that they had a place, should they want it.
A month had hardly passed when he was awoken in the early hours by a knock to his bedroom door. Three perfectly timed raps, which meant it was Barnabas-Basil. He pushed himself off the bed with a groan and opened the door, surprised to see his majordomo in a robe and sleep clothes, silken pants tucked into boots. He wasn't wearing his signature glasses, and his hazel-green eyes were barely open.
"Apologies for the timing, but there is a man here to see you. A witcher, he insisted I fetch you right away." His cadence was formal as ever, as if he were in full uniform.
Geralt smiled wide. "Go back to bed, BB. I'll handle it." He threw on a thick woolen shirt and some slippers (did he think, years ago, that he would be the sort of man to own slippers? ).
The majordomo sagged with relief. "Thank you, Geralt. I will be back in a few hours should you need anything." He didn't even nod his head, just shuffled out the door toward his quarters. Geralt followed him out, and saw Eskel standing in his foyer.
Seeing Eskel was always like coming home. He had thought, for awhile, that it was because he associated the other with wintering, but that wasn't it. Eskel was the other half of him, the part that knew him as naturally as breathing. His hair was windswept and messy, and it reminded him of the little waif he had met almost a century ago, clinging to the horse he was brought in on as if it was a lifeline. He smiled easily, the crinkles of his scarred side becoming severe in a way they only did when his guard was down.
"What, Wolf, I need to request an audience to see you now? I argued with that guy for ten minutes!" Geralt had been tranced by the dissonance of seeing Eskel in his home, but it lapsed and he fell into the other's arms in an easy embrace.
"Never. BB is just neurotically good at his job." He tucked his face against the other's neck, smelling the sweat and dust of the road and Eskel . He could feel the other witcher doing the same.
"It's good to see you, I didn't expect you to come by so soon. I've missed you." He said as they parted.
"What, an' miss seeing you get fat in retirement? Perish the thought." Eskel chuckled at his own joke.
"Who said anything about retiring? I'm just...taking an extended break." He hadn't actually thought in depth about what to do now that he had a home. BB could certainly run the estate while he traveled, and Regis had asked him what he planned to do, but he gave a vague answer. No witcher expected to retire, even Vesemir had traveled for the occasional contract at almost four hundred years old.
"Uh-huh, sure." Eskel replied with a yawn.
"There's a washbasin in my room if you wanna clean up and come to bed. You must be tired." Geralt said, stifling his own yawn.
Eskel nodded. "Sounds like a plan. Go to bed, I'll join you when 'm done, unless?" He cocked his head to the side, leaving the rest of the question unsaid. Unless we don't do that here .
Geralt waved the idea off. "This is my place, if anyone has an issue with what I do they can leave. Besides, Toussaintois are not exactly known for keeping to one side of the aisle, you know?"
Eskel smiled, and the hard lines around his eyes softened. "Okay, show me where to go."
Geralt had tried to stay awake while Eskel put his stuff away and cleaned up, but he couldn't. The other witcher generated this calming energy, making him feel so settled that he was already in the twilight of unconsciousness by the time he felt the bed sag next to him. Eskel tucked himself up behind him, practice showing in the way they easily slotted together. He kissed Geralt's bare shoulder.
In a murmur he could barely make out as sleep took him, he heard "I missed you too, Wolf."
He settled in quickly, in spite of their initial meeting, BB had taken a shine to Eskel. He may not know all the machinations and little rules of being a landed gentleman, but he always acted with clear respect and kindness. It took barely two weeks for the majordomo to seek him out with books to read on Toussaint's history or an occasional work of fiction. Eskel read them all and would have spirited discussions with BB whenever they saw each other. It was the most talkative Geralt had ever seen him with a civilian, though he knew Barnabas could charm a badger out of its burrow if need be.
With Eskel there, the estate was beginning to feel like a home. Not the bittersweet sting of the keep, where memories of their pranks were intermingled with the faces of dead children and comrades, but the home that people wrote about. The home that, worryingly, he was becoming more and more attached to. The past few years had been one kick in the head after another, regret and grief washing over him in waves and making him soft-hearted. Seeing Eskel smile as Marlene piled another helping onto his plate, safe and happy and his , was the only thing that had soothed him.
So, naturally, it was at that exact moment that a loud crash and the screams of the workers broke his peace. They were both already on their feet, grabbing their swords and heading out the door toward the commotion in the vines.
Several of the lattices had been crushed by some groaning entity, and the workers had all hid before they could see what it was. The two witchers crept up on either side of the destruction, only to hear familiar cursing.
"I'm going to fucking kill Metz for this! What if I was impaled on one of these? She'd be real fuckin' miserable then."
Lambert. Of course. Leave it to him to make an entrance.
"Oh quit your wine-ing , Pup, you're fine!" Eskel joked, sheathing his sword and offering a hand.
"Don't be like that Eskel. If Lambert died I'd be absolutely crushed. " Chimed Geralt, giggling at his own joke. The other two witchers paused, hand in hand to stare at him.
"You know? Grapes? Crushed?" He added, trying to suppress his laughter.
"No, I got it. It was just bad." Said Lambert, who was plucking vines off his armor.
"So, what has you dropping in on us unannounced?" Geralt tried again, full belly laughing before any of them could react. Lambert groaned and scrubbed a gloved hand over his face. Eskel scoffed.
"Can we go inside? I'd rather not have these people subjected to him practicing his twilight career as a comedian." Lambert looked to Eskel, who was wondering if he should tell the younger witcher about the red splotch he had just smeared on his face. He decided not to.
"Yeah, come on." He guided them toward the house. Marlene took one look at the younger witcher and grabbed a third plate, piling on food and resting it in front of him before he could even sit down. Lambert was surprised enough to offer a sincere "thank you" and she nodded at him and went back to the kitchen.
"What the shit is this?" He turned to Geralt "You have people waiting on you know? I can't believe it, one of the biggest pricks on the continent and now he has servants." He then stuffed his face, which still had grape juice staining the skin.
"I'll have you know my work, and not my giant prick, earned me this house. But what happened to you? I warned you what happens when you piss off a sorceress."
Lambert rolled his eyes so hard they may have been in danger of popping out. "Fucking gross."
He took a sip of the wine that had been brought out. "Anyway, Keira suggested I winter here after I had a, shall we say, disagreement with one of her colleagues."
Eskel made a face. "Did you destroy property or assault someone this time?"
Lambert flashed his metaphorical fangs. "The guy has a few broken metacarpals for his trouble. He was looking at me like he couldn't wait to dissect me, I told him to fuck off, he didn't. As far as I'm concerned I did all I could to prevent this." He gave an exaggerated shrug.
Geralt scoffed. "That's more de-escalation than I've seen you use in your entire life." He paused to take a bite of a roll. "Still, I can't say I blame you. Sorcerers are not very subtle about how much they want to study us."
"Or sorceresses." Eskel interjected.
"Yeah, well at least they show me a good time first."
"Sorcerers do too, I met this one in Lyria that did the most amazing things with his-"
"Okay, enough!" Lambert threw up his hands. "Eskel, I don't need the mental image." He turned to Geralt, who had removed himself from the conversation via a mouthful of turkey.
"So were you serious in the letter? You got room enough here for me to stay the winter? I don't want to go back to Keira yet, I like to make them miss me." He gave a wink, Eskel groaned.
"She'd miss you like a hole in the head."
"Shut up. Why are you here anyway? Are you wintering too?"
Eskel paused, he hadn't really thought about it much, but it did make sense. And it would be the first time all of them had wintered together in years.
"I don't know, I'd like to, but that's all up to the master of the house. What do you say, Wolf?" He looked to Geralt with a lopsided smile. Geralt's heart did a small flip.
"Of course. I wouldn't want you guys anywhere else." He looked at both of them with such fondness on his face that Lambert squirmed in his chair, uncomfortable.
"Alright alright, enough with the mush. Will someone show me around?" He stood, and the other two did as well. Geralt was leading them out the door when Eskel caught the younger one's arm.
"By the way, you've got a little shmutz, right here." He traced his own face to mirror the purple splotch that Lambert was still sporting. He whipped around and caught his reflection in a silver bowl.
"Has that been there this whole time? Eskel? Eskel get your ass back here!" He called, tearing out the door after the laughing witcher.
Unsurprisingly, Lambert was most fascinated by the cellar, equally interested in getting his hands on wine and the alchemy lab that had been hidden inside it. He immediately took stock of Geralt's stores of ingredients, muttering to himself about the superior bombs and decoctions he could make. He lit up when Geralt handed him the mutagenerator Regis had left him and told him to have at it under the condition that he didn't build bombs while drinking. The older witchers left him there and walked about the grounds, finally coming to rest under an old olive tree. They sat watching people busy themselves in the vineyard, outlined in gold from the setting sun.
"Do you really want us to winter with you?" Eskel asked as he continued to run his fingers through Geralt's hair.
"That is why I told you where to find me, after all." He replied. "I don't know what I'll be doing after this winter, but these past few years, losing my memory and facing even more certain death than before got me thinking about what's important to me. You and Lambert, you are my family. Do you remember, when we both set out on the Path for the first time, how hard it was to adjust to being without each other?"
Eskel nodded, staring off in the distance. "That's why I never believed any of that 'emotionless witcher' nonsense. If we didn't have emotions, I wouldn't 'a been such a sad sack. I moped almost 'till the next winter."
Geralt gave a somber half-smile. "I was much the same. I worried too, worried that you'd be hurt, and what if I didn't know? It was easy to ignore most of the time, but it was there. Now that it's just us, I worry even more. Despite the fact that you're one of the most talented witchers to have existed--Don't give me that look, it's true--I worry because you're my family and I don't want to give you up." He pressed a kiss to Eskel's lips, to emphasize his point.
"So, yes. I want you both to winter here. I want this to be home, if you'll have it, that is."
Eskel pulled him into his arms in a crushing squeeze. "When the fuck did you get so soft, old man?"
"About the same time you got dimples on your ass-cheeks. Let me go, I can't breathe." Geralt wheezed. Eskel opened his arms unceremoniously and Geralt dropped onto his lap in a heap, gasping.
"I'll stay. I'd stay anywhere, with you guys." Eskel said, pressing a kiss to Geralt's temple.
Lambert had loudly proclaimed that he would be taking the guest room when Geralt mentioned the bed would fit three. While the older witchers had grown up with each other and had naturally sought each other out for closeness and intimacy, the youngest was different. Geralt supposed it made sense, even before Lambert had told him about his father, he had suspected that his spiny exterior was learned, not innate.
When they had first met, he had already been on the path for a few years. Lambert, at twenty years his junior, had terrorized the keep with his temper. He fought with everyone who would look his way, including Geralt when he would winter. Eskel, who stayed behind some years to help train the new classes, had taken a shine to the little bastard. He told Geralt to look past the insults, what was he trying to accomplish by throwing them? That, Geralt had thought, was clear. He wanted everyone to leave him alone. As to why, he wasn't sure. Eskel only shook his head.
One night, Eskel had not yet come back to their room, and Geralt went looking for him. He found Eskel with his ear to the door of a student's room, and bade him to come over with a crooked finger. Geralt, confused, crept closer. Eskel nudged open the door enough to see into the room. There was Lambert, curled up on the chest of his roommate, Voltehre, sleeping soundly. His face was free of the scowl that it usually had, he looked at peace. There was the faint smell of fear in the room, but whatever had caused it had passed. They closed the door and walked back to their room.
He understood more then, and when they met on the Path a few short years later, he bought Lambert a drink, played dice with him. The whole time the younger man watched him like a weary animal, willing to accept the offer of drink and distraction but ready to strike at a moment's notice. Enough repetition, and a lot more maturing on the younger man's part, and they settled into companionship. It would never be the sort of easy, second-nature love that he had for Eskel, but when Lambert wedged himself against Geralt that night at the estate, he accepted the kisses laid in the crook of his neck.
"Thought you were taking the guest room." Geralt muttered into his hair, soft with the edges of sleep.
"Bed isn't comfy." Lambert whispered back, pulling Geralt's arm over his waist and snuggling closer.
"You sleep in the woods." A smirk played on his lips. It was hard to not get in one or two more prods when it came to the younger witcher.
"Shut up." Eskel grunted from the other side of Geralt. "Or you both 'an sleep in the guest bed."