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White Farthingale (or, The One With the Dress)

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Jaskier rounds the corner, stumbles down the castle hall, and bangs on his door. "Openupandyou'renotallowedtosayanything."

There is only a brief moment of pause. "...what?" Geralt says with perfect enunciation.

Jaskier's cheeks burn as he tries to figure out the least humiliating pose to be seen in when the door finally opens. The slippers on his feet are vexingly smooth on the bottom and he almost loses his balance. "The door, open the d-"

It flies open. Geralt isn't even looking at him at first, moving to shoulder past him toward whatever the hell Jaskier must surely be running from. Jaskier gets to enjoy a few fractions of a second of Geralt's stern 'ready to fight' expression before he scans the empty hall and looks back to-

"Jaskier-"

"Move and let me in."

Geralt does step back a little, but it almost seems to be done subconsciously. The witcher's brows are about as high as Jaskier has ever seen them, eyes wide at the edges; Jaskier gives him a huffy look as he steps in and fumbles past him to close the door and lock it.

"You didn't perform in that."

"You know, I was wondering how long it would take you to start joking." Jaskier frets with the skirts, grabbing them up in handfuls and moving - moving anywhere, anywhere away from Geralt, finding himself in front of the full length mirror and glowering at his own reflection. The duchess's dress is snug at his waist and just a touch loose at the bosom, almost but not quite drawn taut by his wider back. Jaskier is caught up in examining the contradictory chest hair poking out past the ribbon trim when Geralt sidles up behind him. "Are - are you smelling me?"

"The wig smells weird." Geralt is factual, unapologetic. "Can I take it off you and put it in a drawer or something?"

So they're skipping questions and moving straight on to complaints. Honestly? This may be preferable. "Let's put it all in a drawer. Let's get all of it off." He flinches a little as Geralt's fingers brush against his ears, tugging delicately at the long brunette wig only to find it's not secured with anything and comes off easily.

"Aren't there usually pins to keep these down?" Geralt frowns at it with curiosity and a little distaste as he moves toward the chest of drawers. In all the times they've been invited to parties and given guest rooms, Jaskier doesn't think he's ever once opened the mandatory dresser provided in every guest room.

"Yes, usually, but I wasn't really trying to pass any thorough inspections-"

"But you did have to run here in it," Geralt points out.

"I'm sorry, I was mostly in a rush trying to evade a duke who returned early from a hunt. Who comes home early from a multi-day hunt? I thought the whole point of those was to escape your failed marriage." Jaskier digs a few fingers between his wrist and the overly snug sleeve. He's gone from wanting Geralt as far away as possible to being very frustrated that Geralt isn't over here helping him get out of this. Or at the very least having some sort of visible reaction. To get mad at.

Geralt drops the wig into a top drawer with a sort of decisive sniff - the most expression Jaskier's seen out of him since the first stare down - and shuts it. "So, it's safe to assume the duchess put you in that to sneak you out of her chambers."

"Yes." Jaskier crosses his arms over his chest and rolls his eyes as he feels the dress tighten across his back. "I didn't think anyone could help some into a kirtle that fast, but here we are, and - are you just going to stand there? Really?"

"What am I supposed to be doing?" Geralt's head is tilted, strangely focused on the delicate embroidery on the gown where it meets the underskirts.

"Getting me - helping me out." Jaskier reaches back toward the laces in the back, lip curling. The fabric across his front has gone tight.

"I think you've helped a lot of more people out of that kind of outfit than I have." Geralt is definitely holding back a smirk now. Fuck him.

"It's in the back," Jaskier hisses, making a more exaggerated reach behind him.

Geralt's face breaks out into a smile as he sidles over, purposefully brushing his shoulder against Jaskier's as he moves past him. The intentional contact is... soft, and under different circumstances Jaskier might read it as one of Geralt's silent invitations. But Jaskier is very busy being indignant. And if he were to respond to it in kind, only for Geralt to have been joking... unthinkably embarrassing.

"Jaskier?" Geralt's asking. His breath is a warm gust of air over Jaskier's bare shoulder, his collarbone. Jaskier shivers. "Are you feeling unwell?"

"Yes," Jaskier lies. He leans in to the desire to grouse. "A lot of fucking wine and intimate conversation for a night that ended so abruptly."

Geralt snorts. Jaskier feels the backs of Geralt's knuckles at the small of his back as he unties the laces, beginning to work them open. "And when you had gotten into all your finest attire, too."

"Don't be funny. I love that turquoise outfit." If the duchess has any heart, she'll have it laundered and left outside his room. Or at the very least just left outside his room, laundered or no. Jaskier focuses on this as he feels Geralt's fingers work under the lacings between his shoulder blades, seeming to take too long to dig under and pull. "I'm so sorry, have I asked too much of you? You can swing a giant silver sword but the ribbons back there need a little more muscle than you've g-"

"You're very sour for someone getting helped." There's something in the way that Geralt says it, and doesn't take the bait for a fight, that is just. Too much to bear. Jaskier feels his entire face heat up again, unable to keep it back.

"This is humiliating."

He expects Geralt to say something back, and the silence is deeply unwelcome. Jaskier continues to stare at the floor, where the embroidered gold slippers peek out from under the gown.

The duchess's expression as she'd gotten him into this - it was almost as if the hilarity of getting to see Jaskier in this getup was a satisfactory trade for not getting to spend the night with him. She'd been holding back giggles, mauve lips pressed tightly together. Jaskier is still feeling that expression in his gut.

Geralt keeps tugging at laces, unaware. Finally, "It's not that much more outlandish than what you normally wear." He leans forward and noses the nape of Jaskier's neck; something about this action is completely sincere, could never be a joke. Jaskier, slightly pulled from his thoughts, leans back into it a touch.

"Oh," he mumbles, still valiantly trying to be as upset as before, "a very impressive backhanded compliment."

"I mean, if it actually fit you, so you could move in it." Geralt pulls back with a slow inhale, continuing his work. "Well, maybe not even then. I don't know what this is made of," and Geralt's assessing palm running up and down Jaskier's upper arm, where the chemise peeks out from the gown in a perfectly symmetrical oval, is another strike against his dark mood, "but I'm sure you could stain it just from looking at it wrong."

"You really are handling this too well."

Geralt's hand stays where it is, and he looks in the reflection to catch Jaskier's eye. Jaskier pretends to be caught up looking back toward the door, as if concerned about it. "I've seen too much for a dress to shock me. And I could mock you if you really want me to, but..." Geralt finally moves his hand, but it's to the delicate little buttons at Jaskier's wrist, brushing over them and making Jaskier freeze. "I think you look fine."

Jaskier swallows as he feels Geralt press in closer behind him. This is more or less the opposite of what he had expected when he'd been running here. "Men wear things like this as a joke," Jaskier mumbles, unsure if Geralt is so divorced from human society that he really doesn't know. Maybe Geralt has never even seen a play, let alone one with drag for comedy. "If they're trying to get a laugh on stage, or, or if they lose a bet and their friends-"

"You don't look funny." Geralt's hand curls softly around his wrist, just barely squeezing. Careful. "You've always looked nice in gold."

Jaskier feels something heavy and crushing begin to lift off of him. I don't look like a joke? he wants to ask, but the risk there is hearing a 'yes', or even too long of a pause, when he's spent so long not allowing himself to be the butt of those kinds of joke, not at home or at university, and - Geralt smells so good right now, like the woods beyond this stupid castle. "Oh."

Geralt shifts his weight as if to do something, as if to - Jaskier isn't sure. "If I promise I won't make any fun," he says instead, "will you promise to calm down?" When Jaskier pouts and considers it, Geralt laughs and presses his mouth to the spot underneath Jaskier's ear. This is deeply unfair, and Jaskier only tilts his head away because he was nudged that way. "Can I convince you?"