As Eskel’s nose had promised, a feast was served by Marlene fit for kings—and large enough to feed a horde. Or at least the witchers and the orks. The conversation was comfortable, flowing easily between the four of them. Geralt told the tale of a silver basilisk which nested in the area and was protected by a local noble. His animated speech and excitement that such a rare creature still existed was infectious, drawing Rhys and Duncan right in.
Skewers of salt pork and dates imported from Zerrikania served as a savory sweet dessert. Sometime after that Duncan and Rhys excused themselves to go for a walk along the creek. Eskel tried to help Marlene clear the table but was vehemently shooed away like a pesky horsefly.
Geralt wandered into their room in search of the book he’d been reading the night before and Eskel seized the moment. In a way he didn’t want to wait too long to bring it up, because he wanted to follow through while he still had the nerve; and he wanted to be sure it was him who told Geralt. The last thing Eskel wanted, though, was for something to slip out and for Geralt to feel as blindsided by this new knowledge as he had been.
Slipping in behind Geralt and closing the door softly brought his attention to Eskel. Giving Geralt a gentle welcoming half smile Eskel came up behind him and wrapped his arms around Geralt in a hug.
“Hey you.” Geralt softened in Eskel’s arms at the quiet low words spoken near his ear.
“Mmm, hey?” Trying to turn in Eskel’s hold only opened the side of Geralt’s neck to Eskel’s light kisses, tickling soft. Barely there. “You seem like you’re in a better mood now.”
“Mmhm. Would you believe me if I told you that Duncan an’ Rhys are married—I mean ina lawful way?” The words came out more naturally than Eskel had thought they would. He was only telling Geralt about all the things they had never known about, not actually asking him anything yet. Tightening his arm, Eskel held Geralt to himself providing a solid reminder that he was still here with him.
There was silence for a few too long moments and then Geralt pushed at his arms. “No. And that’s not even…” Geralt struggled in his arms for a moment. “Let me go,” his voice wavered laced with pain and resentment.
Subtly loosening his arms Eskel rubbed his hands up and down Geralt’s biceps. “Shhh. Promise not to walk out the door?” Taking the slow soundless nod of Geralt’s head as a yes, Eskel let his arms open, resting a hand lightly on each of Geralt’s shoulders.
Geralt’s shoulders lifted under Eskel’s hands as he took a deep breath in, falling as he forced it out in a rush and stepped forward out of Eskel’s reach. Holding onto the bedpost for a minute Geralt stood silently. “I’m sorry. I really don’t understand. It’s dangerous for them to even say that, and there is no where they could have done it lawfully. Not anywhere here at least.”
When Geralt turned around and wandered aimlessly back into his hold Eskel took him in, wrapping his arms around him again and running his hands down Geralt’s back. “Tha’s jus’ it. They weren’t married on the Continent, they got married on their world.”
“I guess there… no one cares? It’s legal. With the country an’ even some churches. Believe me I know exactly how you feel. I felt the same when Duncan told me. Just out of the blue like it was no big deal. Because to them it isn’t.” Untucking Geralt’s tunic Eskel pulled it up and slid his hands underneath to give him more skin contact.
He nosed into the front of Geralt’s neck, speaking against it. “There is so much about their world we don’t know.” Head falling onto Eskel’s shoulder Geralt let out a heavy breath.
“How is that even possible? One man can’t marry another, it’s not allowed.” There was still hurt in Geralt’s voice but it was softer, further away now.
“Their world is different than ours? Duncan says that people there have bigger problems to worry about than who’s in love, an’ who they marry.” Arms found their way around Eskel’s waist and he slowly tipped his weight from one foot to the other. Walking Geralt backwards towards their bed, before pulling him down on top of himself. “Rhys says, it's not perfect, but it's mostly accepted. That you could walk down the street there holding hands and no one would mind. It’s allowed there.”
Taking out Geralt’s ponytail, Eskel worked his hand into Geralt’s hair, massaging his scalp. “Must be nice,” Geralt mumbled against his shoulder, “being able to tell the world who’s yours.”
I’d tell the world you were mine, Eskel thought to himself. But he held the words in. Geralt was still raw from the revelation and now was not the time. There was still so much to figure out about what he wanted, a lot to make right about how to ask Geralt this.“I don’t think you have to worry about them, they know better than to say anything about it here. They are careful like us.”
For a long while they laid like that. Eskel petting Geralt’s hair and back. Soothing the storm of emotions that raged inside.
Slowly Geralt responded, the quiet hum of approval when Eskel scratched a particularly good spot on his back, or a shift of his head when Eskel’s hand was idle for too long. Eskel took this as a sign that he could go on, imparting the things that he had found more pleasant of all that he and Rhys had discussed.
“There is more you know? Their language has words ours doesn’t. Words for people like us. ‘M gay and you’re bisexual.” When there was no response from Geralt beyond a muffled hrrmph Eskel explained. “Gay means I’m only interested in men, and you’re bisexual because you enjoy sex with both men and women. Duncan is bisexual too. Even better in their world they recognize people who don’t feel right in their bodies. Men who feel like women or the other way around. All these types of people together go by the larger term queer.”
Pushing up off Eskel’s chest Geralt peered down at him. “You mean they talk about these things? Out in the open, ‘hi ‘m Eskel an’ ‘m gay,’ just like that?”
Feeling his face heat up at Geralt’s rather good impersonation of himself, Eskel huffed out a laugh to cover his embarrassment. “Well maybe not like that. But Rhys said there are places—stores, an’ places to eat, where queer people can spend time jus’ I don’ know, bein’ themselves?”
Collapsing in on himself Geralt curled his arms in on Eskel’s chest pressing the side of his face into it. “That would be nice. To meet other people like me, and not have to worry about if they were telling the truth or not, whether or not it would start a fight.”
“Jus’ stuff to think ‘bout.” Eskel hugged him tight. “If we go to their world, we might see a lot of different things, some worse, some better.” It would have to sit for a while Eskel knew, both for him and for Geralt, before he could do anything more with it. But Rhys was right his mind was already made up. Some day, when the time was right, he would ask Geralt to marry him. And hope to the Gods he said yes.