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Learning Curve

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Geralt looked over his bloody wounds and debated his options. He was functional, but only barely. While fighting a group of echinops, large plant monsters, he’d been bitten, slashed, and peppered with a barrage of poisoned barbs. Most of the damage wasn’t anything he didn’t anticipate. Bruises, lacerations…he expected these things. These things happened on the Path.

But the poison barbs were a fucking problem.

Each one was a wickedly long thorn, generally around the length of his hand, though it looked like a few had broken off in places. Not only was the poison painfully unpleasant, but the thorns themselves were serrated, making them all the more difficult to pull out. To make matters worse, he’d already started to heal around them. His Quen sign had blocked a great many of the projectiles, but there were just so damn many that some slipped through the magical shield.

He heaved a painful and frustrated sigh. His jaw ached from where he’d been gritting his teeth, and it hurt to move. The fact he was tired and dirty was not making things better by any means.

A couple of months ago he would have limped his way to a safer spot, built a small fire, and got to work cleaning himself up. Now, though…now he could go to Dracula’s castle.

Geralt pulled the wolf amulet out from under his gore splattered armor, and rubbed a thumb across its silver face. He frowned as he considered his options.

It wasn’t like Dracula and Alucard had never seen him vulnerable before. They’d fucked him into unconsciousness more than once. They watched him sleep and he let them drag their teeth and claws over every part of him.

But right now he felt weak. Hurt. So very, very hurt. It wasn’t life threatening yet, but it very nearly had been. It still would be if he didn’t get the barbs taken care of quickly. Dracula and Alucard both loved the fact that he was a competent fighter. There was no telling how they’d react to the vicious results of this little fight.

It wasn’t like Geralt lost, though. He killed all half dozen of the damn echinops and bagged his trophies. This level of damage wasn’t even that unusual for him. The sheer number of near debilitating injuries he’d gotten over the years was mind boggling. Beyond counting, there were so many.

Those facts didn’t really improve his mood any. His skin pulsed around each barb, painful and swollen, and the poison burned as it seeped in to his body. He’d lost a hell of a lot of blood, too, though the Swallow potion he’d taken before the fight kept him from bleeding out.

Ostensibly, the convenience of having a warm, safe place to tend his wounds was the driving force for the decision. It did sound pretty nice, after all. He wouldn’t have to worry about additional attacks from roaming creatures. Nor would he have to sit on the hard ground, or meditate just an hour or two before needing to be on his way.

Deep down, though, he just felt unwell, and the thought of having Dracula or Alucard to curl up with once he was all bandaged up was a wonderful one. But Dracula had been furious when Geralt had shown up wounded during the harpy hunt with Eskel. It made Geralt think hard about if he should risk both temper and rejection, just to get a warm spot to lick his wounds. And if some part of him felt safe around Dracula? Well, it was just between him and his stupid heart.

But he felt so fucking awful.

Fuck it, Geralt thought grumpily to himself. They can fucking deal with it. Maybe I’ll be lucky and this won’t be an issue.

He activated the wolf medallion and listened for the howl that signaled the arrival of his guide. Soon enough the White Wolf appeared and Geralt was shuffling after, careful not to lose sight of the white fur. The darkness around him seemed deeper, more menacing. He got the impression of claws and teeth just waiting beyond his reach. He noticed that whenever he was injured, the space the portal travelled through became hostile, like predators sensing prey.

The moment he was through the portal and in the arrival room, he headed for one of the doors along the wall. It wouldn’t matter which one; the castle would take him where it wanted him to be. If he was lucky, that would be where Geralt wanted to be, too.

“Please take me to the bedroom,” Geralt said roughly, tasting bile and metal with each word. He longed to lean against the wall there, but he damn well knew that if he took his rest, he might not get up for a very long time. Or perhaps at all, depending on the sheer amount of poison running through him. Swallow could only handle so much, and he only had one Golden Oriole on hand. He’d have to save it for when he was ready for all the poison to be cleansed from his system.

He was in luck, because the door swung open to reveal Dracula’s bedroom. The massive four post bed that dominated one side of the room looked like the most inviting thing Geralt had ever seen. The blood red silk sheets were reflecting the golden light from the candles placed on high candelabras. The white furs spread over top layer of the red silk were already turned back invitingly. Geralt eyed the black pillows piled high at the head of the bed, some of them scattered here and there over the white furs. He knew how amazing they felt, firm and soft at the same time. He longed to wrap himself around one and rest finally. Meditation was good, but if he had a choice he preferred sleep.

Geralt shook his head, quickly, trying to bring a bit of sanity and determination back to himself. Then he headed towards a chair and small table that were placed along one of the walls.

He dropped his pack and trophy bag along the floor there with a heavy thud, unheeding of the mess he made, and then all but collapsed into the chair. Pain, hot and pulsing, swept through him. Geralt closed his eyes and breathed into it, letting his head fall back against the back of the chair. As much as he wanted to just stay there, to let his aching body rest, he knew he had to get the barbs out.

Not to mention that it would probably be wise to have this part done before Dracula arrived. It was vaguely surprising that neither he nor Alucard were there yet, but Geralt assumed that they had matters to attend to, just as he did. They weren’t always here when he came to visit. Just most of the time.

He bit back a tiny thread of disappointment and told himself that this was fine. There was work to be done.

Years of practice had made this next part nearly second nature. It had to be in order for the actions to be ingrained enough to do them while drunk or dying. Carefully, he lined up what he would need on the table next to him. He set out another Swallow potion, as well as his one vial of Golden Oriole and an additional vial of White Raffard’s Decoction. The Swallow was for slow regeneration after he’d finished banaging himself up. The Oriole would take care of all the poison, and the White Raffard’s was there as an emergency use only. It would instantly heal him from even a mortal wound, though the toxicity of the potion was high. Not that Geralt expected to need it, but, well, better safe than dead.

Next to those he placed a variety of daggers. He wasn’t sure which ones would be most useful for prying out the thorns, so better to lay a few options out before he got started. With those were set a sturdy set of pliers. Given the razor sharpness of the thorns, even near the base, he’d need them to take hold and actually pull the barbs out.

He also dug through his bag and found a small package of loose bandages, just in case he felt the need. Often times he didn’t bother; he just let his potions and meditation consume the wounds like they’d never been. But he was still a bit wary of Dracula and Alucard coming in to find him. Maybe they’d take the situation a little better if it looked like he actually gave a shit about bandaging himself up.

Once all of that was laid out, he set to work slowly taking off his belts and armor. This part was far trickier, because just moving was blindingly painful, even after his impressive pain resistance. It took far, far longer than he wanted it to. Every few moments he had to stop and just breathe. Let the pain wash over him and fade back into something he could work around.

He cast another longing look at the bed, and grabbed the pliers.

All totaled, Geralt counted at least a dozen longer barbs, and many more bits of ones. He started with the small stuff first, and blessed his heavy leather and chain armor. Fuck, he’d have to get it repaired after this.

Damn plants. The bounty better be worth all the trouble.

A band of white hot agony wrapped around his temple; a side effect of the near constant clench of his teeth. The stench of his own blood and sweat rolled off of him. Mixed into it was the sickly sour scent of the echinops poison, more rank than nightshade and twice as potent.

Geralt worked on the smaller bits stuck in his belly and side first, slowly but surely picking out the fragments of broken thorns and piling them up on the table. The lower ones he could see and it was easier to get at them, but as he moved to the ones in his left side, he had to start working by feel alone. The fact his left arm got a nice little row of the quills stuck in them early in the fight was not helping any. He had to cut deeper, longer cuts to get the barbs out. Those would scar, even with the potions. He could feel the damn poison spreading as he worked, and every hurt grunt was accompanied by the steady drip of blood on the floor.

For a moment, he was somewhat concerned about making such a mess, but the blood never stayed on the floor. It just soaked right into the stone, as if it had fallen on porous sand. As disturbing as that was, Geralt resolved to not think about it. Not until he was done, anyways.

By the time he was done with the smaller pieces, he had a respectable little pile of thorns next to him on the table and what was sure to be a jagged rows of scars on his side and belly.

He took a moment to breathe before he started in on the really long ones. The trickiest one would be the one in his thigh. It was awfully close to a major bleed area; he’d have to cut around it carefully. The ones on his side would be awkward to pull out. If they’d been angled correctly, he probably would have just shoved them straight through rather than try to ease them back out the way they came. Each one was jagged enough that he’d really need both hands to work at it. One hand to grip with the pliers and the other to cut in the right places, making sure the thorn slid out rather than ripped out. The line of barbs on his left arm would be a massive pain in the ass. He’d just have to rip them and hope for the best.

Geralt sighed.

Everything fucking hurt. It made him want to snap and snarl. His patience had worn down to nothing shortly after the third echinops popped up from the ground.

He took another deep breath and grabbed a belt, tourniquiting his leg. Just in case.

Might as well start with the easy to reach one first.

With a firm hand on the pliers, he grabbed the end of the barb in his thigh, sucking in another labored gasp as pain lanced through him. Fuck, it was deep. Close to the bone, he thought. He’d need a stiletto to get all the way in there along side it. His left hand was a little uncoordinated. The way that arm was injured, he’d have nearly no strength in it to do any cutting. Luckily, Geralt kept his blades sharp as the wind.

He eased the point of the stiletto into the wound, and carefully cut into his leg, cutting out the serrated edge of the wicked barb. Five seconds into the whole affair, Geralt started to wish he’d shoved a leather strap in between his teeth just to have something to bite into. As it was his face was caught in a vicious snarl, and the more he cut, the greater the agony, and the more pissed off he felt.

Not that there was anything really to be pissed off at. Except perhaps the echinops, but those were all dead. He knew it was just the pain and frustration getting to him, but just because he knew where the feeling came from didn’t mean it made it any better.

The only thing he could do was get through it.

“What the hell is going on in here.” Dracula’s voice was like a whip, cutting through Geralt’s concentration. When he looked up, he saw the balcony doors open and Dracula standing there against the dark backdrop of the night sky. The wind was pulling at the edges of his heavy coat, making the bottom of it sway. His hair was messy, blowing into his face every so often, but Geralt could still see the bright red glow of his eyes.

Geralt blinked at him a bit, his body awash with the pain that throbbed through him. Then he realized that the interruption had lost him his place. He’d have to start over, easing the stiletto back into the meat of his leg.

“Fuck,” he snarled out. Blood was already trickling down his thigh, sweet and sour smelling. It had a greasy tinge to it; more poison released from the barb.

“What happened?” Dracula asked, coming into the room, his nostrils flaring.

“Hunting,” Geralt said, trying to reign in his temper. Dracula didn’t deserve to get snapped at. He struggled between emotions, both relief and trepidation, all mixed in with the anger and pain. “Echinops. Believe it or not, I actually avoided most of the thorns.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to steady himself for the next attempt.

“You don’t look it,” Dracula said, shucking off his coat and letting it dissolve. He was left bare chested, but still in the rest of his armored clothes.

To that, Geralt didn’t have any response. He felt like he should have had something light to say, some witty fun remark that would ease some of the tension. But he was far too tired, and still feeling prickly and unsettled. The best he could do was just not bear his teeth.

“You are making a mess of yourself.” Dracula walked closer and bent down to look at the bleeding wound on Geralt’s thigh. “This will scar badly.”

Geralt nodded, resigned. “I’m aware. But scars are better than death, so I’ll take it.”

He tightened his grip on the pliers and brought the stiletto up to the wound again. One more try, then he’d take a minute to rest. If he waited any longer, he’d heal up around it and then there would only be more cutting.

“Your hands are already unsteady,” Dracula observed. “You won't be able to grip the barb with fingers that shake so badly.”

“Is that a fact?” Geralt couldn’t stop the snarl now. His shoulders hunched up and he bared his teeth. His whole body ached, and he tasted blood. He must have bit his tongue somewhere along the line.

It wasn’t like he’d never done this before. By now this type of thing was old hat for him, and if he’d had any other option he would have long taken it.

“Are you going to hack away at yourself because you don’t like what you are hearing?”

Geralt tensed up even further and had to physically stop himself from standing up. What he would do after that, he wasn’t even sure. He grit his teeth so hard that he could actually hear them grinding together.

“I can go back to my fire. I didn’t need to come here.” Geralt slammed the stiletto onto the table and reached for his bag. “As helpful as your commentary is, perhaps I’ll take my chances in the woods.”

“You are only making it worse,” Dracula said irritably.

“There are no other options!” Geralt yelled. “I cut myself up and drag myself back together or I die. That is all there is. That is life. There is no magical damn cure, no Heal-All beyond the few that I’ve gathered up.” He clamped his teeth shut tightly after that and stared at his bloody leg, afraid of what he might say next.

“Oh for…that’s no way to offer help, Father.” Alucard sounded both worried and exasperated, walking in through the door with hurried steps. Geralt realized he hadn't heard him come in either. Great damn job of being vigilant.

“He’s risking nerve damage with how deeply he is cutting.” Dracula pointed an accusing finger at Geralt’s still heavily bleeding and hurting thigh.

That actually tore a bitter cackle from Geralt. “As if I’ve never done this before. You were all so impressed with the scars, how do you think they got there?”

He shook his head. This was coming out all wrong. He shouldn’t been this angry. It was the pain and the weakness making him lash out, he knew, but he couldn’t quite stop it. Not yet. “My potions will heal nearly anything,” he said finally, taking a breath to calm himself down. “All I need do is get this crap out, and quickly, no matter how much damage I do along the way.”

“What we mean,” Alucard said casting a quick look at Dracula to include him into the ‘we’, “is that you don’t need to do it alone and cause yourself more pain than necessary. You can barely reach most of the places you have them stuck in.” Alucard was already by his side, kneeling down next to him. “You could have asked for help.”

Geralt stared at him confused, and a bit dumbfounded. That thought had literally never occurred to him, not even once. He frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but then stopped himself and glanced towards Dracula. He couldn’t tell if they were sincere or not.

“I didn’t come here to bother you,” he said softly, still frowning with confusion. “I didn’t intend to cause trouble. I just thought it might be nice to be in a warmer spot while I did this.”

“Alucard, we need a better tracking spell for him. Something with an alarm function,” Dracula sighed and then started looking Geralt over again.

“Why?” Geralt’s bafflement deepened. “This is normal. This type of damaged happens…” He struggled to count, but then just shook his head. “All the time. You’d be bothered so frequently, and for nothing. I’ll just heal.”

“It doesn’t mean it’s okay or that it’s ignorable,” Alucard said looking over Geralt’s wounds. “There’s fourteen of the bigger ones beside the one in his thigh. His right side seems good.”

“Get the knives,” Dracula ordered and stepped closer Geralt.

Geralt flinched, startled at how quickly things had turned. He wasn’t worried, per se, but he felt awfully vulnerable. He knew Dracula wouldn’t hurt him. He trusted them both. But the arguing and the pain had left him on edge, hyper aware of every moving thing around him.

Then he yelped as he was being lifted, strong hands under his armpits lifting him up as if he weighed nothing, agony sparking up his beat up body. Just as he was getting breath to make a sound, the whole world shifted. Then he was landing on something soft and smooth, his nose full of Dracula’s scent.

He was on the bed, on his back, staring at the embroidered canopy above him.

Dracula was kneeling above him, one hand pressed to his chest, keeping him down like a misbehaving kitten. The other hand lay against the bleeding thigh, starting to glow blue. It was cold, so cold it numbed him in seconds.

Geralt struggled for a moment to stay still and silent. Thrashing about would be both pointless and annoying, for everyone involved. Protests would also be equally pointless. In the end all he could do was look up into Dracula’s eyes, burning red and intense.

“Alucard has always been good with blades.” Dracula's words were perhaps supposed to be a calming, but they really just turned out vaguely threatening.

“The barbs are poison. The green potion on the table is a sovereign cure for it. He’ll have to be sure that none of the edges break off. Each one has a poison sac,” Geralt said, still struggling to master himself.

It wasn’t that he was worried about what Dracula and Alucard might do, it was just more that he was completely unused to anyone other than himself tending his wounds. Might as well give them as much information as he could about the thorns.

“He will not break any barbs,” Dracula said confidently, his hand still keeping Geralt flat to the bed.

“I am sorry about the pants,” Alucard said, climbing onto the bed and settling himself above Geralt, the smallest of Geralt’s blades in hand. He reached for the the top of Geralt’s thigh and cut the dirtied leather of his pants right down to the knee.

The cold not only numbed the pain, it also slowed the bleeding, the blood vessels shrinking in reaction. Geralt watched, a little bemused and a lot uncomfortable, as Alucard cut the leather again, pulling away a swath of the material away from his wounded leg, exposing the messy cut and the barb still inside.

“We’re going to ruin your furs,” Geralt said softly. It was probably a stupid worry, but he’d been trying to be nice by going to the chair.

“He’ll just skin some furry creature if he minds,” Alucard said absently. He shook his hair away from his face and then lifted the blade. Momentarily it flashed orange and enveloped in flames before Alucard shook the flames away. Then he lowered the now sterilized blade down to Geralt’s thigh. He cut in quickly with a steady hand, expanding the cut Geralt made. A second cut caused the wound to peel open almost by itself, exposing the thickly ridged barb. Then he used the pliers Geralt set out before and gripped the end of barb, taking it out cleanly just as blood started to well up again.

Even with Dracula’s ice, Geralt could feel a dull ache in his leg, growing hotter as the seconds ticked by. It was hard to pin down since the rest of him was still nothing but a series of stabbing pains, all wrapped up in a full body torment.

“You need to bandage it,” Dracula said, watching the procedure impassively. “I can't breathe power into him until you pulled all of those out of him.”

“I’ve already partially healed around them,” Geralt said with an annoyed huff. “The Swallow I took before the fight kept me from bleeding out, but it means I have to cut out most of what gets stuck in me. It happens.” He tilted his head in a bit of a shrug. “We witchers, we’re taught to get problems taken care of as quickly as possible. Set the bones, pull out the blades. Potions will heal all else, and there’s no telling when the next thing will attack.”

From the brief unimpressed look Alucard gave him, the explanation didn’t help matters any.

It took surprisingly little time with two people to help. Dracula kept him forcefully still. Geralt wouldn’t have flinched anyway, but it took some strain away from him to know that he didn’t even have to try. Alucard really was good with a blade. His cuts were feather light and quick, always true. He never had to repeat them. The benefit of having both working arms and a good view of the wounds, Geralt supposed.

Through the whole thing, Geralt sat both bemused and somewhat anxious. Spot by spot, Dracula iced down each wound, slowly turning the terrible pain into a strange, aching numbness.

“You two didn’t have to go to the trouble,” Geralt said once the last barb was out, his brow wrinkled in concern and confusion. “I didn’t come here to impose.”

“Maybe some mental link connected to both of us?” Alucard wondered.

Geralt just gave Alucard a dry look. “You really want my thoughts in your head all the time? Because I can tell you what I’m thinking about nine times out of ten.”

He glanced meaningfully down Alucard’s lovely body, taking in where his blue coat left his chest open to the air.

“I meant for the tracking spells, but you can’t be worse than him anyway.” Alucard motioned towards Dracula. “What do you think happens when we share blood?”

“I had no idea, actually.” Geralt tilted his head to the side. With the steady decline of his pain and the forcefully tender care from his lovers, the foul temper he’d found himself in had started to slip away. “What’s that like?”

“The way I was turned into a vampire wasn’t a standard way,” Dracula said. “I wasn’t bitten. As a living human I drank a powerful vampire’s blood, replacing my own with her’s. When I turned Alucard, he was already dead. That’s why it took almost thirty years for him to revive. It also means that his blood is my blood and when I take it back, I can feel everything he is, know every thought he has in that moment. It’s a lot like hearing his thoughts, feeling his emotions,” Dracula admitted. “If only for a brief moment.”

Geralt shook his head in astonishment. These two were always surprising him. “Amazing.”

“Not always,” Alucard murmured. “Not when he gains knowledge you weren't ready to give.”

A sudden swell of sympathy for both of them rushed through him. The worst part was that Geralt wasn’t sure there was anything he could say or do to ease that particular pain. The best he could do was lay a hand on Alucard’s face, brushing a thumb over the jaw there. Alucard wasn’t alone. He could offer that much.

“You can take it too,” Dracula said, staring at Alucard. “I have never stopped you from taking my blood.”

Alucard laughed suddenly.

“It’s not that you hide anything from me.” Alucard nodded in amusement. “It’s just that with every swallow of your blood, I feel like I’m burning. You are a creature of passion and that passion overwhelms everything else.”

“Geralt’s blood is good,” Dracula said suddenly. “Sharp and crisp,” he continued, his voice slowly starting to drop registers. “You can taste what he feels in that moment, his pleasure and his pain. His joy.”

That was a bit surprising. Geralt had never before heard a vampire describe what they tasted when they drank. He’s assumed it was like drinking pure life in, perhaps something akin to what it felt like to drink Dracula’s power. Now that he thought of it, when he took in Dracula’s power he felt him in it strongly. It wasn’t impersonal. It felt like Dracula’s very essence. His anger and burning passion were so powerfully infused with it that it was hard to breathe around the sensation of it, hard to think even. If he understood Dracula correctly, then drinking his blood must have been a thousand times more intense.

“Be careful to never drink even a drop of my blood, Geralt,” Dracula said turning his burning red eyes to him. “It will kill you if you do.”

A shiver raced down Geralt’s spine, and he knew that Dracula was being deadly serious. “I’ll be careful.”

Alucard crawled off the bed and stepped away. He returned a moment later with the Golden Oriole, cork already pried off. Geralt tried to sit up to drink it, but the firm hand on his chest held him down.

“Just open your mouth,” Dracula said.

Something in his voice made Geralt’s face heat up a little, though he was still feeling too hurt to really get aroused by it. Waves of pulsing pain throbbed around the places that had been iced down. The poison was spreading. He could feel it.

Eyes on Dracula, Geralt opened his mouth to let Alucard pour the potion in. It slid down his throat like oil, slick and thick, and there was a faint mineral aftertaste, tell tale signs of the pearls and bruxa blood it was created with. He’d made it specifically to enhance his healing as well as cleanse poison. A tricky feat for potions, but one he’d been doing for many years.

As the potion worked through him, he closed his eyes and took slow, steady breaths. It felt like a cool, tingling wave washed through him, cleansing his body of the echinops poison. The effects were powerful enough that Geralt could smell the difference in the air. The blood leaking from his newly bound wounds lost its sweet-sour scent and took on its normal rich metallic tang. Even the type of pain he was in changed. Poison always felt achy somehow; it wasn’t the clean bright pain of a cut or a stab.

He breathed a sigh of relief. Finally he could rest and not worry about thorns being stuck under his skin.

When he opened his eyes, Dracula had leaned in, his face only inches away. His burning red eyes seemed to spark, brightening up to a brilliant ruby color. Then Dracula was licking into his mouth, forcing him open again, and pouring power into his body.

It was sweet and burningly hot, rage condensed down and mixed with the blackest darkness. Dracula’s power was always difficult to bear, but this time there was an extra acidic bite to it. The flavor of worry and furious anger was more potent than normal, and it ravaged through Geralt’s body like a storm. It rode that edge of pleasure and pain, lighting him up and burning him out at the same time.

He arched up into it, unable to see, unable to breathe, all his being boiling down to that one moment, one place. All he could do was swallow, feel, drown in the furious power Dracula was pouring into him. He struggled to take it into himself, to let it flow through him. Alucard’s words from the first time he’d taken this power came back to him.

Don’t fight it. It’s better when you give in.

Any shred of cold had long since fled him under the onslaught of scorching hot energy. The sensation only grew, building up to some fevered end that was out of his ability to sense. He tried to grab hold of something, anything, but he couldn’t even feel if his arms were moving or not. He couldn’t tell if his body was in pain, if he was wounded or healed. There was only the power inside of him, eating through his body down to his very soul. His heart screamed in his ears, a solid thundering that drowned out all other noise.

That heavy beat stuttered and then darkness swallowed him whole.

--

When Geralt finally awoke again, he was wrapped in warmth. His clothes were gone and he was resting on his side, halfway sprawled over Dracula’s chest, with his face tucked into Dracula’s neck. Alucard was cuddled up behind him, arms folded around Geralt’s chest and legs entwined with his, possessive in his sleep like he never was awake. There was a light puff of air on his neck from where Alucard breathed into his skin, and that long mane of silver hair covered them both like a blanket.

Geralt took a slow, deep breath and took stock of himself. As far as he could tell, he was completely healed. He knew to expect that much from drinking in Dracula’s power. His bones still ached, a dull and remote kind of pain that he came to associate more with the rapid and almost ruthless healing than any particular injury. Dracula’s power wasn’t gentle in any way and it healed the same way it tore things apart - utterly without mercy.

He gave himself a moment to consider the fact that passing out and waking up completely healed in this bed was starting to become a regular occurence.

Geralt couldn’t remember ever having a lover that he would feel the need to go to when wounded. Sometimes they were there by coincidence, and occasionally he found himself bedding a healer or two. But there had never been anyone he’d sought out for healing. His own body and alchemy kept him in better shape than any healer could ever hope to. Often times, he wasn’t even remotely close to someone who could help.

Other witchers he had occasionally trusted with serious injuries. But that wasn’t really a matter of healing, more a matter of convenience. It generally only happened on shared hunts. They’d kill something, then sit together and patch themselves up.

Once in a while, Geralt had helped others with healing, sharing his Swallow potions if the need was great enough. But he considered this a matter of protection. Just as run of the mill as using his sword.

He was utterly unused to anyone expecting that he ask for help. Anyone being angry at him for not asking for help was even more of a shock to his system.

Geralt shifted a bit and gazed at Dracula’s sleeping form. Some people looked younger when asleep, and while that held true for Alucard, it didn’t for Dracula. Sleep only gave evidence to how sharp his features were, the cheekbones that looked like they could cut glass. The trimmed facial hair only enhanced that effect. Geralt looked at the powerful chest, how Dracula was so obviously built for strength, and wondered at the sharp lines on his face, the way it looked almost too thin for someone so big. He wondered if the rage and pain he felt in the power Dracula fed him ate at its host, too.

“What are you looking for?” Dracula asked suddenly, before he even opened his eyes. Geralt didn’t even know he was awake.

“Answers, mostly,” Geralt said wryly, pulling himself up enough to rest his head on his fist. Alucard shifted behind him, burying his head in Geralt’s shoulder blades and huffing a little in displeasure at being moved. It was a soft, tiny sound, and Geralt judged him still asleep. The arms around his chest tightened a bit, too, though after a moment they settled.

No matter the circumstances, Geralt loved the feeling of Alucard and Dracula wrapped around him. Skin on skin, touching the whole length of their bodies. It was a sensation that would never get old for him, no matter how often it happened.

Dracula’s eyes opened a crack and regarded him cooly. “And have you found what you seek?”

“Ha.” Geralt shook his head a bit. “When has life ever been that easy?” The silence stretched on and Geralt struggled to figure out what to say. He couldn’t help but feel like he’d bungled here, but he was still mostly just damn confused.

Dracula closed his eyes, his dark lashes sweeping his cheeks.

“Personally, I have never found the answers I found to my liking. Maybe living with questions would have been better.”

Given what little Geralt knew of Dracula’s past, that made a great deal of sense. He still couldn’t help but shake his head again. “There are many things that I’d agree with that about. But some I wouldn’t, no matter how painful. I’m built to take it. It’s what witchers are for.”

“Witchers you say,” Dracula murmured, reaching his hand towards Geralt and running it down his side under the silk sheets and heavy furs covering them all. “I have to admit I do like how you witchers are built, yes.”

That made a slow grin spread across Geralt’s face and he cuddled a little closer, tracing one hand over Dracula’s chest. After a moment he said, “I’m sorry I lost my temper.”

He could practically feel Dracula’s gaze burn into him. “That’s what you’re sorry for?”

“Yes?” The confusion was back again, though at least now it wasn’t sharpened by multiple bleeding wounds.

Granted, there were mitigating circumstances that all added up to Geralt being a great deal sharper than he usually was. But that didn’t mean he still shouldn’t apologize.

Dracula hummed quietly, and Geralt couldn’t help but feel like he was still missing something.

They never did this before, never just laid together like this, touching without there being sex directly before or after. It felt different than any touching he did in the fever of passion. Geralt was more aware of Dracula in a way. He had the time and brainpower to record how his lover looked in detail, the way he felt. His skin was so smooth, not only scarless but even the tiny hair on his skin were so gentle and light he could barely see them. Strange for a black haired person.

“You are very pale for a black haired man,” Geralt said tracing his fingers over the smooth chest, following the light blue trails of Dracula’s veins under the pale skin. He could feel the muscles under his hand move as his lover breathed.

Dracula hummed, his hand sliding to Geralt’s hip and pulling him closer inch by inch.

“I used to have brown hair, a little red even. Alucard did, too.”

Geralt almost couldn’t picture it. Their dramatic coloring was so much a part of them that it seemed bizarre for it to have ever been different.

“Used to be bigger too,” Dracula continued with a half smile. “Lost some of my mass when I changed and gained my vampiric powers.”

Geralt tried to imagine it. Dracula was a little shorter than him, but built very differently. His middle just one big mass of muscle typical of a brawler, or perhaps some other weapon Geralt couldn’t figure out yet. From what he had seen, Dracula was a proficient swordsman but his build did not follow that training. To imagine him even bigger, thicker with muscle was a little beyond Geralt’s abilities. Dracula already seemed larger than life.

He was a little surprised that Dracula was willing to talk about what he’d once been. That was a massive sore subject for him, Geralt knew, and something that almost never came up.

“One day I’d like to see you fight,” Geralt said quietly. “I like how you look, how you move.” He ran his hand up and down Dracula’s chest. “You’re so damn beautiful.”

Dracula looked pleased at the compliment, like a cat that got the canary and Geralt couldn’t help but chuckle at the shameless way he took compliments.

“I have been desired in the past, but very rarely for my looks,” Dracula said with a rumble in his voice.

“Now that I find terribly hard to believe. Just looking at you…” Geralt huffed in amusement. “Well. You’re very distracting. You and Alucard both. Don’t know how I get anything done.”

“Thank you.” Dracula inclined his head and then raised his hand to Geralt’s face and dragged his fingertips over the beard coming in there. “You are amazing too, especially when shaved.”

Heat flooded to Geralt’s cheeks and he turned his chin into Dracula’s hand.

“I enjoy watching you,” Dracula continued with a definite rumble in his voice. “Love watching you with Alucard, the way you two complement each other. I also like your ruthlessness. I wish you directed some of that towards your own well being.”

A little flutter of surprise settled in Geralt’s chest, and swelled with some feeling he couldn’t name. Maybe it was happiness, or perhaps just pleasure. But whatever it was, it made Geralt rest his forehead against Dracula’s shoulder once again, almost hiding from whatever was going on inside of him.

“It’s so strange that it matters,” he whispered.

Dracula shifted his hand again, tangling his fingers into Geralt’s hair and rubbing gently at his scalp, pressing Geralt gently to his shoulder.

“It does for me,” Dracula said quietly. “I think you don’t understand how much.” He paused, just breathing. Geralt could feel the slow rise and fall of his chest, could hear the steady heartbeat under his ear.

“If you died or were mortally wounded, I would have to change you into a vampire to save you.” Dracula licked his lips. “But that kind of change is not merely a physical one. When I was changed, it burned the cracked remnants of humanity right out of me. It took centuries for even a shred of anything other than rage to be born in my heart again. For Alucard, his disgust at what he became would have killed him if not for how powerful Laura’s blood is in me and by proxy in him. By changing you I would risk destroying everything about you that I hold dear.” His hand was still gentle and careful in Geralt’s hair. “I don’t want to do it,” Dracula whispered very quietly.

Suddenly, Geralt could understand exactly why Dracula had seethed with rage earlier. Truth be told, Geralt didn’t want to die, and had no interest in becoming a vampire. But he would be glad to do it to stay with Dracula and Alucard for as long as he could.

“Death isn’t something I’m used to worrying about,” Geralt admitted. “I ride so close to it so often that I seldom even think about it. It wasn’t just exaggeration when I said that wounds like this were common. But,” he paused, licking his lips. “But I can try to be more careful. It’s hard to gauge. Things just…unravel so quickly sometimes. But I can try.”

He looked up to Dracula again, trying to show with his eyes how much he meant what he said.

“I understand that taking damage is something that happens,” Dracula said, his hand still gentle in Geralt’s hair. “I do not understand not taking advantage of resources available to you.”

“It honestly just didn’t even occur to me. There are no healers that are better than what my own body and potions can do. The good ones know herbs and knives, but the bad ones. Well. I’d be lucky to get out without rot setting in. Assuming anyone is around in general.” He huffed ruefully. “I forget that you can heal me. It’s been a long time since I really relied on anyone else.”

“It’s been a very long time since I knew how to sleep, even longer since I had anybody I wanted to share my bed with.” Dracula’s fingers trailed from Geralt’s hair to his neck and then lower, between his shoulder blades, resting there warm and strong right where Alucard was snuggled up against him. “Guess we can both learn.”

A little smile spread across Geralt’s face, and he stretched up to kiss Dracula’s jaw. “We’ll work on it. I’ll try to come to you.” He laughed. “You know, you and Alucard are the only ones I feel comfortable sleeping with. I love the touch, but I dare not let myself get too comfortable. What if I’m startled to waking and end up stabbing someone? I’m too used to fighting monsters.”

“Stabbing either of us won’t be much of a problem. No matter how well aimed, one blow will not kill Alucard. After that he can just ghost away. There’s plenty of healing fonts in the castle, he would be alright.”

“I, uh, already accidentally got startled with Alucard once,” Geralt admitted sheepishly. “It was when I was first here, after our night together. He was shaving me while I was still passed out. I felt the knife, the blade, and I went for Aard and Quen. No real harm done. A human would have been hurt, though, and badly.”

He leaned into Dracula’s shoulder and sighed, thinking of all his terrible habits. Necessary ones for the life he led, but it made it more difficult to deal with regular humans.

“Sleep had been a terrifying thing for me for a long time before I became a vampire. I hadn’t slept in…” Dracula trailed off into silence, his body stilling under Geralt, so much even his heart seemed to stop beating for a painfully long moment. “For almost a year before I became what I am now. After that…things were different after.” He breathed again, his heart going back to its steady rhythm. “I can understand the hesitance.”

Geralt’s heart bled for Dracula, for all the pain and fear he’d gone through. He wished there was something he could say to make it better. Anything. But the past couldn’t be changed, least of all by Geralt.

He laid another gentle kiss on Dracula’s shoulder and pulled him a little closer. “You sleep now, with us. I love sleeping with you. Wish I could every night.”

“If you come here, I promise to sleep with you,” Dracula said in a deep voice that Geralt could swear carried echoes of power.

Pleasure flooded him and he rubbed his face into Dracula’s skin. “Thank you,” he said roughly, touched by the knowledge that at any given moment he could choose not to be alone. “You can come to me, too, you know. Any time you want or need.”

“I’m learning that,” Dracula said, shifting to press their bodies closer together. Alucard huffed in displeasure again, his breath fanning against Geralt’s side. “It’s new for me too.”

Geralt pulled Dracula closer, urging him up onto his side so that they were chest to chest. He wrapped one leg around Dracula’s hip and hummed in pleasure. Then he urged Alucard’s arms to wrap a little tighter, molding them all together. This was a small slice of heaven, he was sure of it.

“The hell did I ever do to deserve something this good,” he grumbled happily.

“Apparently, got lost,” Dracula said, amusement thick in his voice.

Quiet laughter bubbled out of Geralt and he trailed a hand down Dracula’s powerful back. He looked into Dracula’s burning eyes, soft and dark red in the dim bedroom light. “I have it on good authority that I’ll never be lost again.”

“Not for long, no,” Dracula said fiercely. “I keep what’s mine.”

Geralt smiled, and laid a soft kiss against his lover’s skin. It felt so strange, yet so good to be needed, to be valued. Dracula didn’t need his power, there was nothing that Geralt’s skill with sword or alchemy could bring him, no pull in royal courts that Dracula might want favors in. Dracula just wanted Geralt, scars and bad habits in tow. His chest felt tight and too big at the same time, filled with emotions he never had to name before. He wondered if this was how it felt to be loved.

“Thank you,” he murmured into the skin under his lips, voice choked.

Dracula said nothing, but his hand resumed the gentle petting, lulling Geralt back into sleep.

 

The End.