“You wanted to see me, your imperial majesty?” Geralt asked, somehow making the title sound like “you bastard” - it was a knack - while flinging himself into the leather armchair in front of the fire.
Emhyr looked up from his paperwork and sighed under his breath. “I thought you’d have grown tired of this churlish nonsense by now. No-one at court even bats an eye any more.” He put his quill down, ink stained fingers massaging his cramping wrist as he leaned back in his chair.
A few years ago he had given Geralt leave to be seated in his presence for the rest of his life as a gift for saving Cirilla. Of course the witcher had taken this to the extreme and made a show of sprawling, lounging or otherwise using his privilege to demonstrate how much he didn’t fear Emhyr.
It had been amusing for a while, especially watching Mererid splutter when he had been informed of the fact and been instructed to discreetly tell the other staff in order to prevent an incident. But the novelty had worn off and now it just seemed like a petty display of defiance.
Geralt raised an eyebrow. “What? You expect me to prance and bow now? It’s been two weeks.”
“I’m aware,” Emhyr replied flatly.
Geralt sighed. “Why did you want to see me?”
Emhyr pushed away from the desk and walked over until he towered over Geralt who glared up at him.
“As intended, your presence at court has stayed the would-be assassin’s hand for now.”
“Great, does the would-be assassin have a name by any chance so I can go cut their head off?”
“Patience. I’m close to uncovering the extend of the conspiracy.”
With one unfairly graceful movement, Geralt sat up straight. “Then, hurry up! Or let me help. Witchers live a long time but not forever. At this rate, I’ll be the first one to die of boredom.”
“Then find something to do beside trying your level best to upset my staff,” he didn’t add “or me” because that would have been an admission that Geralt’s behaviour was getting to him.
What he did say was, “I need you to be less subversive and more vigilant, or else I’ll be forced to publicly reprimand you.” When he noticed Geralt’s blank look, he added, “That means I’d have to send you away and that can’t happen, not now.”
“Then, let me help. For fuck’s sake! I’m a witcher—“
“Precisely. And this is a job for spies, something you’d be absolutely pathetic at.”
“Thank you,” Geralt replied tartly.
Emhyr tilted his head. “That wasn’t an insult. Spies are conniving, lying schemers. You’re none of those things.”
Geralt narrowed his eyes and sniffed. “That almost sounded like a compliment. Have you been drinking?”
Taken aback, Emhyr froze. It had been an offhand question, but—
Geralt shot out of his seat and stepped into Emhyr’s personal space. He sniffed again. “Est Est and…anise? Araq?”
“Witcher!” Emhyr growled, his body tense with the effort not to back away.
As usual, Geralt ignored the threat and looked, really looked at him as if he was a new species of monster that merited closer inspection. It made Emhyr’s skin tingle.
“You look like shit.”
Emhyr’s eyes flew open. He opened his mouth, only to be cut off.
“When did you last eat? When did you last sleep?”
“When I asked you to be more vigilant I meant around Cirilla, not me, you idiot,” Emhyr barked, temporarily forgetting his resolve not to let on how much Geralt bothered him.
“Answer the damn question.”
“This conversation is over. See yourself out,” said Emhyr and turned only to be stopped by a strong hand wrapped around his biceps. It took every ounce of willpower not to flinch or gape for that matter. His glare, however, should have turned Geralt to ash.
“So, it’s true. There really is a threat, isn’t there? And it’s serious. Very serious.”
“Have you ever known me to jest?” Emhyr asked, wrenching his arm out of Geralt’s grip but not backing away. “Did you really think I was only keeping you here for the pleasure of your irritating company?”
“No,” Geralt replied and sighed. “Alright. Go to bed, I’ll see you in the morning.” And with that, he turned on his heel and left Emhyr standing in front of the fire, having to fight down the irrational impulse to remind the witcher that he was the emperor here and Geralt had no right to give him orders.
“What is this?” Emhyr asked, looking up from the latest report, when Geralt let himself into his private rooms again at the crack of dawn. Maybe it had been a mistake to instruct his staff that Geralt should have access to him at all times.
Emhyr stared at the tray which had been dropped on top of his paperwork. Geralt lifted the silver lid and pointed. “Eat.”
Emhyr stared a bit harder.
“This,” Geralt gestured to the bread, butter and spreads, “is what we mortals call food. And, you eat it.” He had the nerve to pretend to stuff things in his mouth.
“Witcher!” Emhyr growled between clenched teeth.
“Your chamberlain told me you haven’t eaten anything since noon. Did you work all night as well?”
Emhyr just glared at him which would have been more impressive had it not been for the dark shadows under his eyes.
“Come on, it will make you feel better. Trust me, I’ve lived long enough to know you can’t keep going on bloody-mindedness forever.”
A snort escaped Emhyr, a testament to how exhausted he really was. He didn’t know what vexed him more, his slipping defences or the fact that Geralt had been the one to notice. Maybe he was overdoing it?
Reaching for the bread, he asked, “Who prepared this?”
“I did. Witcher metabolism. I eat so much, it’s easier to get it from the kitchen myself rather than troubling your staff every five minutes.”
When Emhyr raised an eyebrow, Geralt added, “I’ve some Golden Oriole in my pocket if it makes you feel any better. Now, eat up. I won’t leave until you do.”
As a seasoned commander, Emhyr knew when to accept defeat and ate while Geralt did push-ups. It felt oddly domestic but not unpleasant.
“Feeling better?” Geralt asked, jumping back on his feet when Emhyr shoved the now nearly empty tray away.
He did. It was incredibly annoying. “You promised you’d go away if I ate.”
To add insult to injury, Geralt swept into an elegant bow which conveyed more sarcasm than any biting remark ever could, picked up the tray and left. Before the door closed behind him, Emhyr heard, “See you at lunch. I’ll bring Ciri, so don’t even think about skipping out on me.”
“Why are you doing this?” Emhyr growled when Geralt showed up again for supper, carrying another tray.
Lunch with Ciri had been nice. Even Geralt’s presence hadn’t spoiled the moment when Ciri had reached for Emhyr’s hand and given it a light squeeze when he had admitted to her how serious the situation was. It had been somewhat less pleasant when Ciri and Geralt had insisted they should help and proposed various strategies - all of which lacked subtly and put Ciri in even more danger.
It had taken all his willpower and cunning to stay calm and talk them out of it. By the end they had reached a truce of sorts where they agreed to wait another week if Emhyr’s spies hadn’t uncovered the whole scheme by then they would move on to plan C and G. A week wasn’t much but doable, provided the witcher would stop interfering with his day like he was now.
Geralt shrugged, “You told me to find something to do and I have.”
“Are you saying, I’m your new hobby?”
“Something like that,” Geralt confirmed Emhyr’s worst suspicion and sat down opposite him. He had brought two plates laden with food.
“Witcher, I’ve staff who cater to me day and night.”
“Yeah, but they’re all afraid of you and wouldn’t dare to suggest you need looking after.”
Emhyr narrowed his eyes. “Are you somehow under the impression we’re friends?”
“Tsk. No!” Geralt mumbled around a piece of pork.
“Then, indulge me and tell me why?”
Emhyr let out a long suffering groan, hands balling into fists. By now he had completely given up on not letting Geralt see how much he had gotten under his skin. What was the point? It wouldn’t change a thing and, quite frankly, he didn’t have the energy to spare. He could feel a tension headache creeping up his neck.
“Listen,” Geralt pointed his fork at him. “I get it now. You’re running yourself into the ground trying to protect Ciri the only way you know how. And I respect that. But you’re no use to her if you drop dead from exhaustion. Besides, a wise man once told me a drained witcher is a dead witcher. I’m sure it applies to emperors as well. So, stop overthinking this. Eat, sleep, drink in moderation and use that brilliant brain of yours to get to the bottom of this. Speaking of drinking, you got any more Est Est lying around or do I need to go raid your cellars?”
Emhyr stared at Geralt for a couple of heartbeats before he gestured toward a low cabinet next to the window. Geralt got up and brought back the bottle.
“To Ciri,” Geralt said.
“To Ciri, long may she reign,” Emhyr agreed, defeated in the face of Geralt’s sheer determination. They clinked their cups together. It felt like another truce and just like that the tension drained out of Emhyr and he allowed himself in what felt like forever to relax. He even enjoyed the meal.
“You’re falling asleep,” Geralt chuckled.
After supper they had settled into the armchairs by the fire, sipping araq, and talked about everything and nothing really. The witcher turned out to be surprisingly entertaining and intelligent company once he stopped being deliberately obtuse. He had a wealth of stories to share and insightful opinions based on his vast experience; a useful byproduct of longevity. Emhyr wouldn’t have minded listening a while longer.
However, the hour was late and his desk called him. Indulging Geralt’s idiosyncrasies had taken up a good chunk of his time he had better spend reading progress updates.
“Then, I think it’s time you left. I’ve more—“
“You need to go to bed.”
Emhyr raised an eyebrow. “You’re not my nursemaid.”
“Well, you sure as hell could use one.”
“Depends, are you going to bed?”
Emhyr rubbed his eyes. He was tired. As much as it galled that Geralt was right, a few hours would probably help clear the cobwebs from his brain. “Fine.”
He got up and walked to his bedroom. When he turned to close the door he almost flinched because Geralt was right there.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Geralt moved a step closer. “Making sure you’re actually going to bed of course.”
To explain to Geralt that he was a grown man and the emperor of Nilfgaard who had not only survived countless court intrigues but also his youth and early adulthood as a cursed hedgehog monster would be utterly pointless because the witcher knew all this already. And yet. Emhyr felt his eye twitch.
“Sheesh, you look tense for a man who’s ready to keel over. Can you actually get to sleep all wound up like this?”
“Probably not,” Emhyr growled out between clenched teeth, not adding - “and whose fault is that?” - because that would be childish.
“Is there anything I can do to help you relax?”
Emhyr blinked. “…What?”
“Help you relax? You know—“
“Are you propositioning me?” Emhyr suddenly felt wide awake. Heart in his throat. He had enjoyed the evening, true, but—
“What? No!” Geralt took a step back.
Emhyr breathed a sigh of relief. So did Geralt. They stared at each other for a few heartbeats like two men who had just survived mortal peril.
Finally, Geralt jerked his thumb toward the door. “I should probably…’”
“Yes, witcher, you should,” Emhyr confirmed, closing his bedroom door in Geralt’s face with a satisfying thud.
This time he was prepared when the door opened and Geralt shuffled in with yet another tray.
“Let’s eat by the window,” Emhyr greeted, pointing at the set table with his quill. He had his staff get it ready thirty minutes ago. When Mererid had enquired about his wishes for breakfast, Emhyr had just waved him away.
A slow smile spread over Geralt’s face. “You’re a fast learner.”
“Always had to be,” said Emhyr with barely a hint of bitterness. Life had been a cruel mistress.
“I hear you,” Geralt replied as he sat down without a trace of sarcasm. He reached for the coffee pot and completely missed the look of surprise on Emhyr’s face which was quickly replaced by a tiny smile before he joined him.
They ate breakfast in companionable silence until Geralt said, “You slept.”
Emhyr shrugged. “I did.”
For four hours or so. The rest of the night he had tossed and turned, mulling over the new information he had received during the day concerning the plot to assassinate his heir, wondering what Geralt had meant to say when he had offered to help him relax, whether using shaelmaar for sport was really cruelty against an endangered and otherwise harmless species, and why the thought of getting propositioned by the witcher didn’t seem altogether dreadful on second or third or fifteenth examination.
When Geralt popped a grape into his mouth, Emhyr couldn’t help but follow the movement with his eyes. Eating in general became very distracting which contributed to the lack of conversation because Emhyr found he was altogether preoccupied. He had never thought of Geralt as a possible bedmate, but now that the seed had been planted, it seemed determined to take root.
“So, I’ve been thinking about last night,” Geralt said out of the blue as if he’d read Emhyr’s mind. It was just as well that Emhyr had already finished eating or else he might have choked. As it were, he schooled his face into an impassive mask he usually reserved for court and hoped to hell Geralt couldn’t hear his heart rate picking up.
“When was the last time you got laid?”
Nothing coming out of Geralt’s mouth should be able to surprise him at this point, nothing at all. But despite his own musings on the matter, Emhyr had never even dreamed Geralt would give a potential carnal relationship between them a second thought.
“I’m only asking,” Geralt continued, “because you seem awfully tense for a man who only has to snap his fingers to get people lining up to help him ease some of the stiffness out of his arse.”
“You’ve such a way with words, witcher,” Emhyr remarked dryly.
“I know we’re in a crisis situation and given that your professional paranoia could give mine a run for its money, I can see how taking someone to your bed when secrecy is paramount would be a risk. But I’ve not seen you with anyone or heard anyone gossip about your lover, not even an angry, somewhat neglected one. Is there anyone, anyone at all?”
So Geralt wasn’t actually interested in pursuing him, he was just wondering whether there was anyone Emhyr liked to spent time with. Disappointment and embarrassment sent a heatwave through Emhyr’s body. He was grateful he didn’t tend to blush or else this would be even more awkward than it already was.
He cleared his throat and made an effort to keep his voice steady. “Geralt, I understand you’ve for some bizarre reason decided to make my welfare your new pastime, and—,” maybe throwing the witcher a bone would get him to let this go, so he admitted, “—I’m even somewhat grateful, but I hope we can agree you’re taking this a step too far now.”
Geralt squinted at him, “So no-one, then. I see.”
Emhyr wrinkled his nose, hands balling into fists. “Are you even listening to me?”
“Oh, every word and then some. Especially all the things your body is telling me right now,” Geralt almost purred.
“My body?” This did not bode well.
Geralt nodded and pushed away from the table. He tilted his head and bit his lip before he said, “Do you want to bed me?”
“I’m getting mixed messages here.”
Emhyr var Emreis was a lot of things, but he was not a coward. He stood up and stepped closer to Geralt until he could feel the heat radiating from the other man’s body. He had never noticed it before but Geralt smelled good which didn’t make what he had to say any easier.
“Then let me clarify. I do not wish to bed a man who only yesterday seemed repulsed by the very idea. I don’t wish to give a man who usually treats me with barely veiled contempt the opportunity to see me at my most vulnerable. I don’t make a habit of sleeping with people who might use this to gain favours for themselves or their loved ones. And I’m not pathetic enough to let you pity fuck me. I trust this answers your question. Now, please excuse me I have to foil a plot to assassinate my daughter.”
He turned and sat back behind his desk and only looked up when the door clicked quietly shut. The Geralt-shaped hole in the room matched the hollow feeling inside his chest.
By the Great Sun, how was it possible that within the span of 36 hours the witcher had gone from being a thorn in his side to someone whose company and opinion he valued? It seemed impossible. Should be impossible. Yet here he was, feeling like a had lost something important and no idea how to win it back. And he did want it back. He could count the people who had genuinely cared about his welfare on one hand with fingers to spare. That was just the thing, no matter his reasons, boredom perhaps, Geralt’s kindness had felt genuine and something worth having. Now it was gone, probably forever, and Emhyr would have to deal with it. So he resorted to the only way he knew how by reaching for the untouched stack of letters from last night and threw himself into work. There were larger things at stake here and the faster he resolved them the sooner he could go back to finding Geralt merely annoying.
The knock on the door just past noon came as a surprise.
“Come,” Emhyr called, irritated when he noticed his stomach tying itself into knots because maybe just maybe…
Geralt stepped into the room, carrying a tray and Emhyr had to bite back a gasp because someone had just released a thousand fluttery critters inside his gut.
While Emhyr still tried to school his face back into an impassive mask, Geralt set the tray down and said almost sheepishly, “I brought you lunch.”
“I can see that.” Emhyr cursed inside his head. That had come out harsher than he had intended. This was exactly what he had hoped for but didn’t dare believe could happen, and here it was and he was being…the unrelenting emperor of Nilfgaard about it.
Despite his best efforts not to, his thoughts had circled back to their conversation this morning, mulling it over like a game of chess, trying to figure out where his strategy had gone wrong. He had come to the conclusion the only way he could have won or dragged out another truce was to give, if not all, than at least a little. At a bare minimum, he could have listened to Geralt instead of throwing him out.
“I’m sorry,” they said at the same time. They stopped. Time seemed to freeze. There was a faint hum in the air, birds chirped in the imperial garden, a breeze carried the scent of laundry and sunshine through the open window, and somewhere far off soldiers were practicing a marching song. None of that really registered while Emhyr, almost mesmerized, watched Geralt’s Adam’s apple bob, his own mouth gone dry.
Geralt unfroze first. “I shouldn’t have pushed so hard this morning.”
Emhyr felt his shoulders relax by a fraction. He waved a hand in the air. “You were just being yourself, I suppose. Let’s forget about it and move on.” He cringed on the inside. Again, none of that had come out the way he had meant to say it.
What he had wanted to say was that Geralt had treated the situation like a witcher. Eyes on the target, mind and body set to pursue and take down the monster which in this case was Emhyr’s tension. But, thankfully, Geralt didn’t seem to mind or care. In fact, he seemed relieved, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth as he sat down on the other side of the desk.
Looking at the tray, Emhyr asked, “Just one plate?”
“Wasn’t sure how this was going to go and I hate wasting good food.”
Emhyr picked up the cutlery. No sense in letting the one they had go to waste, then. He was about to start when his curiosity got the better of him. “Why did you come back?” He asked before the emperor in him could stop him.
All of a sudden, Geralt seemed to find the carpets endlessly fascinating, given the way he stared at them. “I thought, well, we seemed to get along and you were, I dunno, better than you had been. Besides I had already told the kitchen staff what to make for lunch.”
“And you don’t like wasting food.” Emhyr had to repress a smile.
Geralt’s head turned toward him, a cheeky grin on his face that made Emhyr’s heart flutter. He quickly covered it up by focusing on his plate.
Geralt watched Emhyr eat for a bit, chin propped up in his hand before he said, “Just so you know, I don’t hand out pity fucks.”
Emhyr knew Geralt had timed the comment when he had his mouth full so he wouldn’t be able to retort straight away which was just as well because it would have been something decidedly unkind which would have ruined the progress they had made.
As it were, he swallowed and cleared his throat. “I thought we’d agreed to move past this?”
“We have. I just wanted to set the record straight.”
This should have been his cue to change the subject. Yet somehow it seemed irresistible not to say, “Your reputation says otherwise.”
Geralt’s mouth dropped open before he snapped it shut. “I don’t use my cock for charity. Who claims otherwise?”
“Your friend Dandelion.” Emhyr tried and failed to bite back a smirk.
“It’s in one of his many, many ballads about you. Now, how did that go again? Moved by their tears, the witcher did not mock, to comfort those in need, he pulled out his—“
“Stop, please stop! How do you even know this song? It’s hardly fit for…I’m going to strangle Dandelion with his vocal cords next time I run into him. …Are you laughing?”
Emhyr’s shoulders heaved with barely suppressed mirth which turned into full blown laughter when he looked at Geralt’s outraged expression. He couldn’t even remember when he had last laughed, it felt really good, especially when Geralt joined in.
“But seriously,” Geralt panted, fighting to get his breath back, “I’m sorry about this morning. I, well, please don’t get all worked up again. It’s not a big deal or anything, but I can tell when someone is interested. It’s a witcher thing.“
Emhyr took a deep breath. Apparently, they were having this conversation after all. Better to get it over with, then, because it evidently weighed on their minds.
“And you offered yourself to me out of the goodness of your heart,” Emhyr said levelly.
“No! I told you I don’t—“
“Use your cock for charity.”
Emhyr raised his eyebrow. “Then, indulge me, what were you going to offer me last night?”
“I dunno. Hot cocoa?”
“Oh, of course, what ever was I thinking?” Emhyr snorted, sarcasm dripping off every syllable.
Geralt growled. “Fine, I hadn’t thought it through, okay? You caught me off guard and I handled it badly. I’m sorry. Happy now?”
“Not yet, why did you proposition me earlier?”
“What do you mean, why?” Geralt looked genuinely puzzled which irritated Emhyr to no end.
“Do you truly never consider the consequences of your actions, witcher?”
Geralt frowned, “Are you saying don’t let your mouth write credit notes your arse isn’t prepared to cash? Don’t worry, I meant it. You smelled and felt like you wanted to get laid plus all that staring at my mouth.”
Emhyr let out a long, suffering sigh. “Fine, I don’t deny it. However, what are you saying is when you sense someone wants you, you simply acquiesce?”
“No,” Geralt replied carefully. “This might surprise you, but a lot of people want me, and yes, I do have standards.”
Emhyr couldn’t quite hold back a snort which made Geralt wrinkle his nose and huff before he said, “Listen, I like sex. It’s as simple as that. And you’re far from the worst looking guy who ever came on to me, besides it would do you good to unclench a little.”
“And they say romance is dead,” Emhyr scoffed.
“Hey, I already brought you dinner, and breakfast, and lunch. Were you expecting flowers and promises I don’t intend to keep as well? Because I could if—“
Emhyr covered his mouth with his hand, his shoulders shaking before he managed to reign in his features. Geralt made it sound so simple.
“I’m…flattered, I think. However—“
“Oh, come on. You’re going to make it weird, aren’t you?” Geralt groaned.
Emhyr gave him a look. “I know this is a hard concept for you to grasp but I am the emperor of Nilfgaard, the ruler of the known world and I didn’t get here because I give into my every whim.”
“Yeah, so what?”
Emhyr shook his head. “Geralt, when I mark someone as my foe, people take note. When I take someone into my confidence, people take note. When I invite someone to my bed, people take note. All of my actions have far reaching consequences for the people involved, the people who will involve themselves and least of all at the bottom of the list, myself. I’m not a mere witcher who can indulge his every fancy without having to consider what comes tomorrow.”
Geralt crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “I’m not hearing anything that stops us form having a good time right now. People already know we’re close. Everyone knows Ciri is my daughter by the law of surprise as well as yours. And I’m not proposing marriage, just a bit of recreational exercise.”
“It’s not that simple, witcher.”
“But it could be.” Geralt sighed and raised his hand. “Alright. Well, maybe just think about it. I’m not going anywhere any time soon it seems. Which reminds me, any news?”
Emhyr took a deep breath and flattened his palms against his desk. Thankfully, Geralt had changed the subject before he could make a rash decision he might deeply regret further down the line. Besides he did have more important matters to attend to.
“I have the names of two houses but I still lack the evidence to openly accuse them,” Emhyr replied.
“Anything I can do?” Geralt’s asked, naked greed apparent in every syllable.
Emhyr cocked his head. “Depends, how good is your Nilfgaardian? I would appreciate an honest answer.” He knew Geralt feigned ignorance whenever possible but the witcher wasn’t the only one who could read other people by paying close attention to their body language.
Geralt hesitated for a moment before he admitted, “Ik begrijp genoeg.”
“Hm, I thought so.” He handed Geralt a piece of paper with a name on it. “Follow this woman today and tell me who she meets with and what they discuss, even if it seems trivial to you.”
Geralt grinned like the wolf he was named after and saluted him with the piece of paper between his fingers. “As you wish, your majesty.”
This time there was not even a hint of mockery when Geralt used his title. What was strange, though, was it made Emhyr a bit sad. He pushed the feeling as quickly away as it had appeared and said, “And now you’ll have to excuse me, I still have this trifling problem of a group of traitors in my inner circle and the day is only half done.”
He picked up his quill and concentrated on the report he was annotating before Geralt had interrupted. When he glanced up, he looked straight into the witcher’s strange cat eyes. His stomach lurched involuntarily because although the conversation was over, it looked like the topic of whether or not they would take their strange relationship further was not laid to rest, not by a long shot.
“See you at supper?” Someone who sounded suspiciously like the emperor of Nilfgaard asked. It was worth it to see the light in Geralt’s eyes when he replied, “Count on it.”
“They talked about their pets,” Geralt said as he entered the room. He wasn’t carrying a tray because Emhyr had instructed his staff to intercept the witcher and bring him straight to his rooms where dinner was already waiting. The table was laden with steaming dishes in elegant bowls.
“Tired of my cooking already?” Geralt asked with a smirk when the last servant had closed the doors on their way out.
“On principle, I don’t have anything against kitchen leftovers, but once in a while I like to eat a real meal,” Emhyr remarked while putting a napkin in his lap.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, your majesty. Alas, I did not take the renowned Kaer Morhen elective in culinary arts. Clearly, a gross oversight on my part,” Geralt teased while helping himself to the potatoes.
The return of Geralt’s famous sarcasm twisted something in Emhyr’s chest. Like the feeling you got when you see the first features of your city after a long absence: familiar and comforting.
“What?” Geralt asked when he heard a chuckle.
“Nothing,” Emhyr waved a hand and cleared his throat before he said. “Tell me about Elif De Vrees.”
“She met with one Baron Lange and Lady van der Berg.”
“Separately or together?”
“They all met at the Corazón, sat on the terrace, had some Erveluce. Was a nice day for it. Maybe we should go some time?” Geralt added casually between bites.
Emhyr’s fork stopped halfway to his mouth. He stared at Geralt as if he’d sprouted a second head.
When Geralt noticed, he asked, “Was it something I said?”
“Isn’t it always?” Emhyr replied, still trying to decide which bit of Geralt’s outrages question he should address first. He finally settled for, “You truly have no grasp of social etiquette.”
“Has it occurred to you that maybe I just don’t give a shit?” Geralt asked with a sweet smile that made Emhyr want to get up and kiss it out of his mouth.
Instead of giving in to the impulse, he replied, “It had crossed my mind. Once or twice.”
They absolutely did not smirk at each other while Emhyr realized that he liked Geralt. Treating almost everyone as an equal came as natural to him as breathing. Emhyr had discreetly observed him interacting with footmen, soldiers and nobles. It didn’t make a lick of difference to him. As long as they showed him and others respect, Geralt would do the same. An emperor couldn’t afford such luxury. But maybe, maybe he could allow himself…a friend.
A friend he wanted to kiss.
“I’m sorry?” It suddenly dawned on him that he had missed the last few sentences of Geralt’s report.
“You alright?” Geralt frowned at him.
“Of course, you were saying?” Emhyr replied. He put his cutlery down and steepled his hands. A trick to help him regain focus and not wonder what Geralt would taste like if he kissed him right now. Est Est probably. Emhyr had picked a vintage for dinner because he felt compelled to give something back. He knew Geralt didn’t really expect it and somehow that made it altogether easier.
“If you say so,” Geralt replied, clearly not convinced. “As I was saying, they talked about Lange’s new pet bear, import from Skellige. A gift for his son, apparently. Do you know what they do with bears in Skellige?”
Emhyr shrugged. “Hunt or pit fighting.”
“Exactly. So, this noble asshole got himself a pit fighting bear as a pet. I’m sure his wife will be delighted when it eats the kid out of sheer boredom.”
“That “kid” is 25 years old. His name is Gunter. And the only thing a bear who ate him would get is a heart attack. If it doesn’t try to mate with him first.”
Geralt’s mouth fell open before he threw his head back and howled with laughter. Emhyr bit his lip to keep from joining in.
“Damn, that’s funny. You’re funny. Who else knows about this?”
“State secret,” Emhyr confirmed with a smirk which set Geralt off again.
It took a full minute before Geralt was able to catch his breath. He took a big gulp of his wine and sighed happily before he continued.
“They all congratulated each other on taking up falconry as a new pastime, given how risky it apparently is in Nilfgaard.”
“It isn’t,” Emhyr narrowed his eyes.
“Thought so—hm.“ Geralt rubbed his chin.
Something was off, but Emhyr couldn’t quite put his finger on it yet. “Well?” he prompted.
“Well, they said something that didn’t quite make sense at the time, still doesn’t. Maybe I overestimated my ability to understand your language.”
“Tell me,” Emhyr leaned forward. He was reasonably sure Geralt’s Nilfgaardian was adequate, but if the witcher sensed something was wrong, it probably was, which meant he - Emhyr - needed to know.
“It sounded almost like they were talking about a religious ceremony,” Geralt said. “Van der Berg wondered if it was really wise to sacrifice the stallion and Elif almost jumped down her throat and said, yes, it absolutely was, so the hawks could separate and weaken the quarry.”
Emhyr sat back in his chair, trying to digest this new information. He looked up when Geralt added, “There was also a bit of gossip about us.”
“Unsurprising. They undoubtedly concluded we’re lovers and that I keep you on a chain leashed to my bedpost.” As usual “news” on the grapevine travelled faster than reality. Not that he had the slightest desire to collar Geralt. He suspected, trying to tie the witcher down - literally or figuratively - would be the fastest way to drive him away, and - as he noted with an unsettling pang of anxiety - he didn’t want that to happen.
“Interesting imagery,” Geralt’s voice had slipped into a lower register. It made Emhyr’s cock twitch.
He casually shifted in his seat, a small smile tugging on the corner of his mouth. “What did they actually say?”
“They stuck with the animal metaphors, but it was pretty obvious. Elif said she had heard the hedgehog and the wolf had grown…close. To which the baron said, a distracted hedgehog is a good hedgehog.”
Emhyr pursed his lips.
“Am I distracting you?” Geralt purred, leaning forward.
“Yes,” Emhyr admitted, “it’s incredibly inconvenient.”
“Is it?” Geralt had gotten out of his chair entirely now. He sauntered closer.
Emhyr stared up at him. “But I’ve suffered worse discomforts in my life.”
Geralt put his hands on the armrests on either side of Emhyr’s chair. “What happened to consequences?”
“I’ll manage.” He always did. Besides, he was too tired to not accept what Geralt so very clearly offered and his body so very clearly wanted.
They moved at the same time. Geralt closed the gap while Emhyr’s hand snaked around the back of Geralt’s neck, pulling him in. And yes, Emhyr thought triumphantly, smiling against Geralt’s lips. His witcher tasted indeed like expensive wine. Wine and need and the promise of spectacular sex.
Maybe he could have this. Just for a while. Maybe just until they had made sure Ciri was safe. It would probably end in bloodshed, but right now he couldn’t think of a single compelling reason why that should stop them.
Decision made, he felt his whole body relax into the kiss. Geralt’s tongue was in his mouth - possessive and insolent - and Emhyr loved it. Loved how Geralt trailed soft bites and kisses over his jaw and down his throat. Emhyr chuckled; it felt like being devoured by a wolf. Did wolves eat hedgehogs?
Bears. Hawks. Stallions. …Stallion.
”MORVRAN!” Emhyr exclaimed, pushing against Geralt’s shoulders.
Geralt flinched and pulled back a few inches, staring at Emhyr open mouthed. “Are you fucking serious?”
Geralt’s eyes bulged as he straightened up. “What?”
Emhyr had gotten up too. “I clearly underestimated Elif. A grave mistake. But, they underestimated you, Geralt. And now it’s time to make them pay! Oh yes!”
“I’m sorry, you lost me at Morvran. Care to explain?” He looked pissed, arms crossed in front of his chest. His lips were slightly swollen. Emhyr wanted to claim them again. But it would have to wait.
“The stallion, Geralt! The stallion! Don’t pretend to be more stupid than you are, I know better now.”
Emhyr felt alive and awake for the first time in weeks as the little pieces of the puzzle all came together in one perfect moment.
“This was never about killing Cirilla. It’s a plot to put another consort at her side,” Emhyr said.
“Who? Wait, not— Nooo.“
“Who else? Lange is a social climber and his son would be the perfect pawn. Gunter does everything his papa says like the good little boy he is.”
“But what do Van der Berg and De Vrees stand to gain?”
Emhyr shuffled through his papers. “Here,” he said, pulling out a report from the bottom of the pile. “Lange’s wife is terminally ill. If he offered to marry Van der Berg, a widow and my cousin but with a mountain of debt, she would give his family the necessary clout to present her stepson as a candidate.”
“And De Vrees?”
Emhyr narrowed his eyes. “She has a daughter who would make a perfect match for a grieving emperor consort who would reluctantly take the throne after his wife’s unfortunate accident.”
Something sparked in Geralt’s eyes. “So this is about killing Ciri after all. But, surely they knew you’d never allow this to happen? I mean, Gunter?”
“The hawks will separate and weaken the quarry,” Emhyr replied.
“Yeah, but how?”
Emhyr hesitated for a brief moment before he said, “De Vrees has made overtures toward me.”
Geralt’s eyebrows shot up. “Has she now? Was that why you had me follow her?”
“In part. I suspected she was up to something. Like I said, no-one tries to climb into my bed unless they think it’ll benefit them in one way or another.” When he saw the look on Geralt’s face, he added, “Present company excluded.”
Geralt grinned short of a leer, “Present company did expect some benefit from climbing into your bed.”
Emhyr’s face went wooden. “For example?”
Geralt stepped around the desk without breaking eye-contact. “Oh, I don’t know, but orgasms are nice. So is cuddling.”
The corner of Emhyr’s mouth twitched. “You want to cuddle with the emperor of Nilfgaard of all people?”
“No,” Geralt replied, leaning in, “just you,” and pressed his lips to Emhyr’s. It felt glorious. Why had he ever objected to this?
One kiss was all it took to get his brain back on track. One kiss from the witcher and suddenly the world seemed to belong to him again. Like it should. Who knew what might happen after a nice, hard fuck?
Only one way to find out.
“Well, I suppose Morvran can stay alive by himself for another thirty minutes.” Emhyr paused and corrected as he looked at Geralt’s hooded eyes, “Maybe an hour.”
When calloused hands started to inexpertly work on the toggles of his robe, Emhyr took mercy and helped. He also magnanimously divested Geralt out of his clothes who was positively whining by the time he tried to shrug out of the doublet.
“I fucking hate—“
Emhyr kissed the rest of the sentence out of his mouth before he pushed Geralt toward the bedroom.
“What’s wrong with the desk?” Geralt asked, staggering backwards.
“Too cliché,” Emhyr replied before he tackled a sniggering witcher onto the bed.
It seemed Geralt felt honour bound to live up to his libertine reputation and his current obsession to take care of Emhyr. There wasn’t a patch of skin left on the emperor’s skin Geralt hadn’t touched, kissed or licked by the time he had flipped Emhyr onto his stomach and entered him with the aid of spit and massage oil they had found under the bed when they had momentarily rolled onto the floor. Emhyr almost bit through his lip when Geralt hit the spot that send sparks up his spine and then of course purposefully avoided while fucking him with slow, deliberate movements.
“Witcher,” Emhyr growled.
“Is there something you want, your majesty?” He still made the title sound like an insult or possibly an endearment, it was so hard to tell when you were dizzy and on edge.
“Is that all you got?”
Geralt scoffed. “Pathetic as far as taunts go. Where is that sharp tongue of yours, I wonder?”
It was worth the look of utter shock on Geralt’s face when Emhyr moved forward off Geralt’s cock and whirled around until he had the witcher pinned to the bed. He wormed his hands between their bodies and squeezed Geralt’s balls until he groaned.
He pressed his nose against Geralt’s. “You want my tongue? Be careful what you wish for, witcher!” Emhyr brutally kissed Geralt before he moved off him.
“What are you—oh fuck yeah!” Geralt gasped. Emhyr had pushed Geralt’s legs up and was licking from his cock to his ass. He only lifted his head to command, “Hold yourself open for me,” before he pushed his tongue inside while jerking Geralt off until he moaned Emhyr’s name and came over his stomach and Emhyr’s hand.
Geralt’s panting turned into a filthy groan as he watched Emhyr lick his hand before he stuck two fingers in Geralt’s mouth, making him taste himself.
“I’m going to fuck you,” Emhyr prophesied before he pushed his slick fingers into Geralt’s body. He felt hot and ready and Emhyr had to bite the inside of his cheeks before he’d embarrass himself.
When he sank into his witcher, Geralt rocked into the motion until Emhyr bottomed out. Gripping Geralt’s leg, he commanded, “Hold still!”
Geralt clenched around him, completely on purpose of course, given the cheeky grin he levelled at Emhyr.
“Oooh, you look like you want to order my beheading,” Geralt chuckled.
“Tsk. The headman’s axe is too good for you,” Emhyr growled, emphasizing the words by pulling out almost completely and driving back in all the way with a sharp snap of his hips. He did it again and again.
“You— insolent— wretch— ,” and then neither of them said anything for a while because Emhyr fucked the breath out of Geralt until he was hard again.
“Come,” Emhyr said, feeling absolutely glorious as he spent himself, watching Geralt’s body obey his command.
Emhyr woke with his face pressed against Geralt’s chest. The witcher was faintly snoring. Emhyr sat up and looked around. They were filthy, the room reeked of sex and every fibre of Emhyr’s body screamed he wanted to do it all over again. Alas, they had wasted enough time.
Well, not wasted as such because Emhyr felt magnificent and ready to draw the blood of his enemies. He grinned in the dark before he shoved Geralt out of bed.
“Ouch, hey what—“ came the disgruntled protest from the vicinity of the floor.
“Oh, come on, why?”
Emhyr looked over the edge and bit back a smile, “Because you’re going on a bear hunt. And I wager it’s going to be a big one.”
Not even twelve hours later, Geralt dropped the head of the “bear” - an assassin from Skellige hired to take out Morvran and lay the blame at Queen Cerys’ door - in front of Emhyr’s feet. The conspirators were apprehended and confessed to their crimes in short order. Heads rolled and by the time the sun set on the capital, Emhyr was having dinner in bed. Geralt was feeding him a grape with his mouth.
“You look much better,” Geralt murmured, nuzzling the sensitive spot behind Emhyr’s ear.
“Someone has been taking excellent care of me these past few days.”
“Oh really? Anyone I know?” Geralt smiled against his throat.
“A witcher if you can believe it. You might have heard his name. There’s this famous poet who keeps writing ballads about him. The kind they sing in less refined establishments.”
When Emhyr started on the first verse of one of the less savoury songs, Geralt kissed it out of his mouth and fucked him so thoroughly, he almost forgot his own name by the time they lay panting between the sheets, their legs entwined.
Their eyes met when Emhyr turned his head. His heart clenched almost painfully when Geralt smiled and pulled him into his arms.
He suspected the novelty would wear off after a few weeks. Geralt would return to his path and he would carry on as always, making sure Cirilla would inherit an empire worth protecting. But for now, this was good and he would enjoy it for as long as it lasted. With a contented sigh, Emhyr buried his nose in Geralt’s neck and went to sleep.