“What do you mean, you don’t understand?” Eskel snapped. “I’ve said the same thing five times now. I’m. Stuck. In. Letho’s. Apartment. Because. Of. The. Blizzard.”
“I’m just messing with you, I understand what you said. I’m just kinda confused about how you got there.”
Eskel paused, then sighed into his phone.
“Well, it happened like this…”
Eskel stood at the bar window, staring out into the street. Snow was beginning to fall outside, coating the cars and streetlamps in a thin layer of white. Vesemir had decided to close the bar early so everyone would have plenty of time to get home safely. Eskel rubbed the back of his neck, thinking hard.
“Got a ride with Geralt again, didn’t you?” Letho walked up beside him, eyes fixed on the falling snow. When Eskel looked up at him, his gaze slid over to meet Eskel’s, yellow-green eyes twinkling in the light from outside.
“Yeah, I’m trying to save gas. I always forget that he usually leaves before I do.”
Letho chuckled, the warm sound making Eskel shiver.
“I can give you a ride home,” he said, returning his gaze to the view of the street. “Do you wanna stop by my place for some drinks before I take you back?”
Eskel shrugged, a fizz of nerves making his skin tingle.
“Sure, why not. The snow isn’t supposed to get too bad until tomorrow. It should be fine.”
Helmet on, Eskel slid onto the motorcycle behind Letho, accustomed to the routine by now. It had been a few months since Letho had begun work at The White Wolf. He seemed to have taken a liking to Eskel, and had taken him back to his apartment several times when he had gotten rides with Geralt and the other man had left early. However, this was the first time he’d asked Eskel to visit his apartment. Unsure of how he felt about it, Eskel wrapped his arms around Letho’s waist and held on.
“So wait, you two have been hanging out? Wow, he still scares me a bit.”
“Yeah, haven’t I mentioned that?” Eskel shifted uncomfortably, aware that he was standing in a hallway where people could hear him if they tried. He quieted his voice and continued.
“He’s actually surprisingly easy to spend time with. I mean, we haven’t hung out a lot, but like… Anyway, basically we got back to his place and had some drinks, and by the time I realized it was getting really late, this freak blizzard had blown in.”
Geralt was silent for a few seconds, then he began to snicker, then laugh. Eskel scowled.
“Sounds like you’re in a bit of a pickle,” Geralt gasped when he’d caught his breath. “I know you’re scowling, I can hear it over the line. You’ll be okay, I’m glad I checked in on you.”
Eskel shook his head, a rueful smile tugging at his lips.
“You always know how to reassure me,” he sighed. “I’ll let you know if I need to talk again. Later.” Geralt chuckled and hung up without saying goodbye. Eskel checked his phone battery, seeing that it was on 73%, and tucked the device into his pocket, then wandered back toward Letho’s apartment. When he opened the door, Letho craned around from his seat on the couch to see who it was.
“You good?” he asked, his words barely slurred despite the copious amounts of alcohol he had consumed.
“Grab another drink from the fridge if you want,” Letho said with a grin, and turned back around.
Eskel pulled a beer out of the small refrigerator before dropping onto the couch next to Letho, careful not to sit too close. The big man had changed clothes while Eskel was on the phone. He was wearing a loose cotton T-shirt and comfortable pajama pants. Eskel nearly snorted with amusement at the ensemble, having only ever seen Letho in his working attire.
“Aaaand… shit, it got me.” Letho’s fingers scrambled frantically over the controller in his scarred hands, his eyes glued to the TV screen in front of them. He paused the game and grinned at Eskel. “Lemme open that for you,” he said, gesturing to the beer.
Eskel shrugged and handed it over. Using a thick silver ring that Eskel hadn’t noticed before, Letho covered the top of the bottle with his hand, effortlessly popped the cap off the beer, and handed it back to Eskel.
“Thanks. What are you playing anyway?” Eskel asked, watching as Letho’s character beheaded a monster.
“Well, you’re basically a monster hunter that people hire to kill stuff for them. It’s set in a kinda medieval world—” He was cut off as the door to what Eskel had thought was a closet swung open, smacking into the wall behind it. Letho sighed with exasperation.
“Dammit, Iorveth, I told you to stop doing that. We’re gonna have to pay for all the dents you put in the wall.”
The man standing in the closet was tall and lithe, with light, faintly tanned skin. As he stepped out of the shadows, Eskel saw that his right eye was covered in a medical eyepatch, while his left was a dark, forest green and narrowed with suspicion. His cheekbones were high and sharp, giving his face a slightly gaunt look. Pieces of dark brown hair stuck out from beneath the red bandana he wore. His clothes were simple, a green, long-sleeve shirt and jeans, and his feet were bare. He moved with stealthy grace, not making a sound as he padded over to the fridge.
“I’ll paint over them at some point,” the man drawled, his voice smooth and slightly accented. “Don’t worry.” He took a bottle out of the fridge and took a swig from it, sighing. When he turned back toward his closet, Eskel saw that his ears were subtly pointed.
“With the wind howling like that, the power is probably going to go out,” the man commented, before abruptly returning to the closet, the door snapping shut behind him.
“Sorry, forgot to warn you about him. That’s Iorveth. He can get a bit cranky when people he doesn’t know come over. Actually,” Letho said, pausing to think, “he’s cranky most of the time.”
Eskel snorted into his beer.
“Do you think he was right about the power?” Eskel asked.
Letho shrugged. A moment later, as if on cue, all the lights flicked off. Letho swore into the darkness.
“I should’ve saved,” he grumbled. “That’s a whole quest I have to redo.”
“Well, I can’t see a thing,” Eskel said, digging for his cellphone. A huge hand grabbed his leg and he jumped.
“Whoops,” Letho’s voice said from very close by. “Hope that was your leg and not something else.” Eskel snorted again, thankful that the darkness hid the color rising into his face. The sound of creaking door hinges caught Eskel’s attention.
“I told you so,” a voice said.
“Shut it, Iorveth. Can’t find my phone,” Letho growled, patting the couch around him. Eskel shot nervously to his feet, finally retrieving his phone from its pocket.
“I could have been sitting on it,” he said. Attempting to turn around in the pitch darkness and pull up his cell phone flashlight at the same time, he took a step back and tripped over the low coffee table. Falling backwards, he landed on the carpeted floor with a loud thump.
“You alright?” Letho asked, sounding worried. Eskel heard him stand up and move around the table.
“Wait no, you’ll trip—” Eskel managed, then Letho did trip, landing on his hands and knees. He then proceeded to topple forward, flopping on top of the other man, somehow managing to catch himself before he squashed Eskel completely. The air whooshed out of Eskel’s lungs.
“Everything... spinning,” the huge man mumbled, trying to get up. Eskel feebly tried to push him off.
“Gods, you’re heavy,” he wheezed. Letho laughed, the sound reverberating through his body, and pushed himself up onto his knees.
“Where are you?”
“I’m right here— ouch!”
“Sorry, didn’t mean— stop moving!”
“I wasn’t moving!”
Eskel finally managed to turn his phone flashlight on, using the light to orient himself. He got up, and with some effort, managed to haul Letho to his feet.
“Wow, I didn’t realize how late it was,” Eskel said, checking his phone.
“I’ll crash on the couch, you can have the bed,” Letho muttered sleepily.
Eskel shone his light onto the couch, then looked at Letho. His shoulders looked wider than the width of the couch seat.
“Nah, I’ll take the couch. It’s your bed, you sleep in it.”
Letho grinned, his eyes flashing in the weak light.
“Alright, you’ve convinced me. ‘Night,” he said, and stumbled into his bedroom, leaving the door wide open.
Eskel turned off his flashlight and lay down in the couch. He stared up into the darkness, trying to empty his mind, but he couldn’t stop thinking about how Letho’s body had felt on top of him, squeezing the breath from his lungs. He sighed, rolling over to find a more comfortable position for his lanky body, and nearly fell off the edge of the cushions in surprise as Letho suddenly reappeared. Eskel could barely see in the darkness, but the man’s hulking outline was unmistakable.
“Forgot to give you a blanket and a pillow,” he murmured, handing over the items. Eskel accepted gratefully.
“Thanks,” he said, tugging the blanket over himself.
“No worries,” Letho replied, and Eskel could almost hear him grinning as he turned. “It’s probably gonna get chilly cause the power is out. If you get too cold you can always jump in with me.” Chuckling, he returned to his room, leaving Eskel flustered and confused.