Eskel sighed as he settled back into the ancient armchair, opened his book, and tried to lose himself in the story. It was one he had read several times in his long life; the book’s worn pages were a testament to the amount of times he had flipped through its pages. He’d taken it out, hoping that it’s familiar weight and words would distract him.
He’d been wrong.
Geralt and Jaskier hadn’t arrived yet.
With a growl, Eskel placed the book roughly on the table beside him and massaged his temples. His two lovers usually showed up at the keep earlier in the season, with Jaskier’s infectious smile and Geralt’s relaxation warming the space more than its many fireplaces.
This year was proving to be different.
As the snow raged outside, Eskel resigned himself to a lonely winter with only Vesemir as his company. Lambert had also not shown up, presumably to spend time with Aiden. It was fine. He’d make it through.
At that moment, Eskel heard the large, heavy wooden doors of the keep blast open. With one last look around the library, he stood up and headed to the Great Hall, presuming that the wind had blown open the doors again. Just another chore added to his endless list of duties to keep their crumbling home livable.
But as he walked closer to the entrance, Eskel began to hear chatter and smell the familiar scents of onion and chamomile.
They were home.
Picking up his pace, Eskel slid into the room and took in his surroundings. Sure enough, two frost-covered figures stood in the middle of the hall —the much leaner one was shivering terribly and leaning against the other. Even obscured by a thick layer of ice he would recognize them anywhere.
“E-e-eskel,” Jaskier said, teeth chattering, “s-sorry we’re late. The st-storm caught us off guard.”
Eskel rolled his eyes and made his way over to his two lovers. “We need to get these clothes off you.”
“T-that excited to see me?” the bard shot back, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. It would’ve been a lovely and convincing sight if not for the slight blue tint to his lips.
“Jaskier,” Geralt scolded, as he tried to peel his own layers onto the floor. Although witchers were far more resistant to cold, Eskel knew that it could still be very uncomfortable..
“Can you blame me, Geralt?” Jaskier asked as Eskel started to unwrap him of his many layers. “I haven’t seen our beautiful lover in months ! I’m a simple man!”
Eskel blushed, letting Geralt’s response of, “Simple?” and Jaskier’s gasp of outrage slip to the back of his consciousness. At least he knew the warmth was already helping the bard, if the verbal tear Geralt was receiving was anything to go by.
Beautiful. He’d never been called beautiful before.
This…thing between the three of them was new. It had only started the previous winter after a night of far too much White Gull. Before that, he and Geralt had slept with one another for years without putting any label on it. It was comforting, knowing that someone in the world knew him and cared for him, but it couldn’t be anything more than that. Eskel knew Geralt deserved better, and after his scars —well, it became even clearer that he could do better as well.
Then five winters past, Geralt had brought Jaskier to The Keep.
Jaskier was…he was amazing. A breath of fresh air for the ancient witcher’s of Kaer Morhen, the bard had waltzed into their lives and showed them care and loyalty. Not to mention that Eskel was convinced that Jaskier was one of the prettiest men to have walked the Continent. He and Geralt made a fine match, and Eskel had grown used to his bed growing cold as Jaskier and Geralt fell together time and time again.
Though the three of them had fallen together a few times since that drunken night, and Eskel privately called them his lovers, they had never truly defined things. The bard had run fingers through his hair and praised his love making abilities —something at which he excelled, but did not always enjoy— and Geralt had snuggled close late at night, but it couldn’t be more than wanting to add spice to the bedroom.
Eskel knew who he was. He wasn’t courageous and brave like Geralt. He was a coward when it truly came down to it. Too afraid to say what needed to be said for fear of breaking apart the little happiness he’d gained.
He also knew that he was not a looker.
Geralt and Jaskier were beautiful. Geralt commanded a room with his fine features and flowing hair, the broadness of his shoulders emphasizing the trim, but sturdy line of his waist. Even as a witcher, young people would look at him with lust, wishing to see what the great White Wolf had to offer.
Jaskier was a walking dream —big blue eyes and a sweet smile that hid a sharp tongue and even sharper wit. The bard had several lovers spread throughout the kingdoms —nobility and peasants, the bard was not one to discriminate— and his fair looks garnered looks of appreciation from everyone he passed. He knew it too, spending hours preening over his hair to make it fall just right.
Eskel, well, he wasn’t any of those things. Even disregarding the scars, his features were too broad to be considered beautiful. His body lacked the leanness that Geralt’s did, and though he was strong a stubborn pouch remained over his abdomen. How someone like Jaskier could think that he was beautiful baffled him, because it was a lie. He’d never been beautiful.
The witcher looked up to find both Jaskier and Geralt wearing significantly less clothing than before and staring at him with a worried gleam shared between them. Shit. He’d been brooding for longer than he’d thought.
“Darling, are you alright?” Jaskier asked, walking closer to place a slender hand upon his shoulder. Eskel shivered at the contact, idly trying to remember the last time someone had touched him like that. It might’ve been since he’d last seen Jaskier.
“I’m fine, Jask, I was just worried about you two.”
Jaskier nodded and leaned forward, pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek. “I’m sorry, darling, we got caught up on a contract up the mountain. Geralt was too much of a sweetheart to say no.”
Geralt grumbled and Eskel caught a tint of pink rising on his pale cheeks. Whoever said witchers couldn’t blush was a liar.
“What kind of contract?” Eskel asked, pulling Jaskier closer to him. Although the bard was far more talkative now, he was still cold as ice.
Eskel felt Jaskier’s laugh rumble against his chest. “You want to tell him, Geralt?”
There was silence for a moment as Geralt looked at the floor. With a sigh, he looked up from the floor and pinned a chair with a glare. “A little girl said that a monster had stolen her doll. She asked me to look for it.”
Eskel felt laughter bubbling up in his throat, but held it back unlike Jaskier who was giggling as he pressed up against him. “And what was your payment?” Jaskier pressed, a smile dancing on his lips.
“...Two biscuits and a hug.”
Eskel felt his heart warm at the story, imagining a small child presenting Geralt with his payment. Geralt had always been the best of them.
“Eskel, you should’ve seen it! It was adorable,” Jaskier babbled, even as another deep shudder wracked his body. He needed to get closer to the fire.
With a jerk of his head, Eskel started leading Jaskier towards the library, hoping that Geralt would follow them. They would remove the clothes from the Great Hall once the bard had regained his warmth.
As they walked towards the library, Eskel let Jaskier’s melodious voice rush over him and smiled. The bard talked incessantly, but he loved it. Although some would find the constant noise grating, Eskel found it to be a balm against the loneliness that often plagued him.
Upon entering the room, Eskel let go of Jaskier, intending to find furs to place in front of the fire. Instead, he found a slight weight holding him back, clinging to his arm.
“Jask, I’m just going to find some blankets for us.” When all he received in response was a whine, he smiled and ran a hand through the bard’s wet hair. “Go to Geralt. He will keep you warm until I have everything set up.”
Another pitiful whine rose from the bard’s lips as he burrowed himself deeper into Eskel’s arms. “You’re warmer and far more comfortable,” he finally said, a pout visible on his lips.
Before he could answer, he heard Geralt chuckle behind him. “He is,” Geralt simply replied, before walking ahead and gathering the furs himself. Eskel watched, allowing himself to be grateful that his extra bulk could provide this comfort.
Soon enough, the furs were spread evenly on the floor, leaving more than enough room for the three of them to lay on them. Using the bard’s tight grip to his advantage, Eskel lifted up the bard without protest and gently lowered him onto the soft surface.
The moment the bard hit the floor, Jaskier’s arms lifted back towards Eskel. “Join us, Eskel. I’ve missed you terribly.”
How could he deny such a request?
Lowering himself to the floor, Eskel wrapped his body around Jaskier and soon felt the familiar weight of Geralt’s arms reaching out from behind. A part of him he didn’t realize existed relaxed, luxuriating in the feeling of the two people he cared for most surrounding him.
Minutes passed as they all fell silent, breathing slowly and taking in each other’s presence. Unsurprisingly, the calm was broken by Jaskier as he twisted around in Eskel’s arms to face him.
“I’m still cold,” the bard said, a cute pout reaching his pink lips.
“Hmmm, and what do you want me to do about that?” Eskel asked.
The bard’s tongue darted out as he sat there in deep thought. “Well, skin-to-skin contact is supposed to be the best way to warm up someone from the cold.”
Eskel froze as his doubts from earlier came rushing back. The weeks he had spent waiting for Geralt and Jaskier had been long and the stress had led to stress baking which had then led to stress eating. His stomach was much softer than usual, threatening to hang over his waistband with the next sweet he devoured. There was no way Jaskier —purveyor of all that was beautiful— would think that he was beautiful after seeing him now. Geralt would be too kind to say anything, but it wouldn’t be long before he started to question whether he was fit to be a witcher. Why would Geralt —the best of them all— want someone with such a lack of control?
His moment’s hesitation must have been too long, for Jaskier frowned and started to backtrack. “Of course, you don’t have to. I know it’s been a long year and if you’ve changed your mind—”
“No! No, nothing like that, Jask, it’s just…”
Eskel paused, weighing out the pros and cons. Perhaps Jaskier and Geralt hadn’t noticed. If he came up with another excuse, they could move past it!
But Eskel knew that would only prolong the inevitable. They would both eventually realize that Eskel was not good enough for either of them. It didn’t matter how soft he got or how hard he tried —in the end, they would leave him for something better.
Best to get it over with.
With a deep breath, Eskel fixed his gaze at the ceiling and began to speak. “I arrived weeks ago and I waited for you to arrive. With each passing day, I started to imagine the worst had happened. That a monster had finally bested you, or that you had gotten stuck on the mountain path….that you’d decided not to come after last year.”
A sharp gasp sounded from Jaskier’s direction, but Eskel ignored it and continued. “I started baking a lot to pass the time when I wasn’t rebuilding the keep or running drills. Unfortunately that had some consequences and…well, I know I’ve never been svelte like Geralt or the others, but…well, it’s not exactly pretty to look at and I know you like pretty things. That’s just something I can’t give you, so I’m sorry.”
Eskel swallowed and kept staring at the ceiling, wishing that the floor would just swallow him whole. It was for the best. This would give him the chance to heal and move on before he became too attached.
Who was he kidding? That time had come and passed ages ago.
He was brought back to the present when a lightly calloused hand placed itself on his cheek and gently maneuvered it to the side. “Eskel, please look at me.”
Eskel clenched his jaw, but did as he was asked. Although he’d only known Jaskier for a few years, he found himself unable to ignore his words, no matter how much his self-preservation begged him to.
He stiffly turned to look at the bard.
Jaskier looked at him with wet eyes full of compassion. Great, he’d made Jaskier cry. This was the worst break up ever.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, using one of his rough hands to brush away a stray tear.
“You’re sorry?” Jaskier asked incredulously. “You have nothing to apologize for, Eskel. In fact, I think Geralt and I owe you an apology.”
An affirmative hum rang through his other ear as Geralt’s arms tightened around him.
“I don’t understand,” Eskel replied, confusion muddling his thoughts. What could they have to apologize for? They’ve done nothing wrong.
“Let me try to make you understand, okay?” Eskel nodded, leaving the space for the bard to plead his case.
“I’m sorry, because I apparently haven’t been clear. What we have between us isn’t just a fling, or me wanting something pretty —although you do fulfill that requirement darling. No, I speak for myself, and I believe Geralt as well, when I say that we are here because we want you because we think you are marvelous.”
Eskel gasped at the soft words, letting them rush over him like a stream soothing away the rough exterior of a rock. “You can’t mean that,” he muttered, forcing his eyes away from the earnest look on Jaskier’s face. He couldn’t .
“I do,” he replied simply, “I do, because you are perfect for us. I love every part of you, Eskel, and I’m sorry if that wasn’t made clear last winter, but I am lost on you. I-if you feel differently, that’s okay. I wouldn’t force you to be with us if you didn’t want to. Hell, if you decided one day that you want only Geralt, that’s okay too, but I need you to know that I want you because you are perfect for me.”
Geralt hummed into his ear and murmured, “I wish I could make a speech as nice as that one, but I can’t. Just know that what Jaskier says also rings true for me. You’re my first love, Eskel.”
Eskel stayed silent, letting the words run through his mind as he tried to make sense of them. They loved him. Him . No matter his deficiencies, they loved him. Despite the amount of times he let the words repeat, Eskel couldn’t believe them.
“Also,” the bard said, interrupting his thought process, “I love your body. I like your softness. You’re one of the strongest men I know, but you make for a much better pillow than Geralt. Cuddling with you was something I lamented missing all year.”
“Truly?” Eskel asked, a small flame of hope burning in his chest.
“Yes, he complained I was too bony to cuddle and would wax poetic about your stomach and arms for hours,” Geralt replied, his eye roll evident from his tone of voice.
“Yes, it was quite tragic, Eskel. I was cold and wanted a cuddle and you weren’t there. It was wanton cruelty at Destiny’s hands!”
Eskel snorted at the bard’s theatrics, but his humor soon melted away as Jaskier gently placed his hands at the edge of his shirt.
“I understand if you want to keep your shirt on, darling, but know that I would never be disgusted by you. Ever. Are we clear?”
Eskel nodded slowly, clenching his jaw as he gathered the courage to sit up, take off his shirt, and lay back down between his two lovers.
He waited silently for a response, but for once the bard did not speak. Instead, Eskel felt cold fingers brush along the softness of his stomach. Looking up, he found the bard smiling with contentment and he snuggled closer to him. “See?” he asked, sleep already tinging his voice.
“Yes, I see,” he responded as Geralt lowered himself onto Eskel’s stomach, utilizing it as a makeshift pillow.
Perhaps he had been wrong. Although he wasn’t beautiful to most of the world, the two men curled up beside him thought differently.
He could live with that.