Jaskier has only ever seen the ocean twice.
Once when he was young, his family followed its shoreline journeying to a new village. It was winter then, so cold his breath came as puffs of smoke. The waters edge seemed to stretch on forever, an endless horizon of icy blue. In some places it had melted enough to start breaking apart. He wasn't allowed out of the wagon but Jaskier remembers thinking the frosty white tops looked a lot like stepping stones.
The salt smell was so strong he could taste it.
Everything was absolutely still, serene. Sometimes the clouds reflected perfectly over ice, and it almost looked like they were walking on air. He never forgot that day, when heaven met the earth and he was there to witness it.
In the summer of his twentieth year there had been a horrible drowner infestation. As expected Geralt was issued contracts from all over. The witcher allowed him to tag along, and while he battled scale covered monsters Jaskier stood with his toes digging into the sand, amazed with how tiny particles clung to skin.
That August was the hottest of his life, but on this particular day he didn't mind the sun beating down on his shoulders. After Geralt deemed the beach clear he let Jaskier wade into the shallows. The water was sticky against his skin, and it left all the small scratches he'd acquired on their journey stinging. But it was just as cold as he imagined it would be, and the color of it still haunts his dreams, so rich he could never hope to describe it, ever changing.
Seagulls soared by and the bard watched them in awe, skimming across diamond dotted waves and swooping in at the last second to retrieve fish.
What he remembers most is the moment he'd found courage enough to dip his head under. It's an entirely different world down there, trilling with life. Jaskier could have floated away with the tide, and he thinks that would've been okay.
But there had been fingers slotting against his own, anchoring him to shore. The bard surfaced that day to find Geralt bobbing in the water beside him. There had been annoyance in the sharp lines of his face, but the water effectively washed them away. He hadn't wanted to get wet but it seemed Jaskier had been under for a second too long.
Those same fingers squeeze his hand now.
It drags him back slowly, to a tiny room full of sounds and smells he does not recognize. It's salty, like that ocean day still so fresh in his memory. There must be a window open.
It's spilling in far too much light.
Jaskier can make out a familiar shape moving beyond his eyelids.
Ah, so he's safe then. It doesn't matter where they are.
Turning his head to the side in an attempt to hide from the light, Jaskier cracks open an eyelid. His vision clouds immediately, but he's already caught sight of the witcher. Geralt is sitting in a small chair, shoulders bowed as he leans in to examine Jaskier's face.
This time when those fingers squeeze his, Jaskier squeezes back.
"Id say you look like shit but that's not possible." The bard croaks. It's obvious Geralt's been here for quite some time, guarding his rest. He needs a good shave, probably a wash as well. Jaskier's never seen his hair so dishelved unless a battle or women was involved.
Somehow the witcher still manages to look ruggedly handsome. It's unfair, really.
"You're one to talk." The man all but growls, features softening as Jaskier tries for a tired little smile.
He attempts to sit up, the motion creating a wave of nausea that causes his breath to hitch. The bard blinks slowly, glances down to find there are fresh bandages crossing his abdomen. He brings a hand up to touch it on reflex.
The gauze is soft beneath his fingertips.
"Ah yeah. That happened, didn't it?"
Geralt looks wrung out by the question, stress woven into the broad stretch of his shoulders. "Fucking unfortunately."
Jaskier exhales slowly, the witchers pale and frightened face dancing on the back of his eyelids. He remembers that the arrow had come out of no where, and he'd reached for Roach to steady himself but she was spooked, too.
"I didn't think Id make it."
Geralt grunts, vaguely offended. "I told you bard." The witcher straightens in his small chair, eyes hard. "No dying on me." He seems pissed that Jaskier went and tried. Hard to blame him. Geralt so rarely finds things to fear. And now that the fear has passed all he's left with is residual anger and maybe even a bit of relief.
"Yeah. Guess you did tell me that." Jaskier fidgets under the weight of his gaze, throat tight with appreciation. He'd be pushing up daises right now if the witcher wasn't so persistent. And that would have been a terribly lame way to go, all too common. Jaskier always imagined himself being eaten by one of Geralt's magical beasts, maybe murdered by the husband of a women he fancied. Something that would make the paper at least.
A bird caw reaches them through the open window, unfamiliar.
It prompts Jaskier to ask, "Where are we exactly?" He looks so openly confused, maybe even a bit hopeful. It drives away what remains of the witchers ire, replaced with a soft sort of calm.
"It's the coast of Cintra, where I had planned to take you before things went to hell."
Jaskier balks, so startled he stops breathing for a handful of seconds, air catching in his chest only to be released in a quick succession of sputtering.
"Y-You brought me to the coast?" It's been so long since that moment on the mountain. Jaskier was certain Geralt had forgotten it by now, if he was even listening in the first place.
"It's where you wanted to go, isn't it?" The witcher arches a perfectly white eyebrow, leaning back in his seat like its no big deal.
And well, Jaskier feels like his heart might be too big for his chest.
"Yes, but I assumed you were so busy with the dragons and that witch-I mean it was just an offhand comment really." Jaskier rambles, brown eyes wide and adoring as they flicker between Geralt and the open window. There's just enough breeze rolling through to disturb the worn curtains. They shift with the wind, and Jaskier catches a glimpse of sparkling blue.
It steals his breath away.
Geralt doesn't share in his amazement. He's spent much time on the water, hunting down contracts and scouting for anything useful dropped by unfortunate sailors. It's a pretty sight at first glance, so he lets Jaskier enjoy it, eyes drinking in the excited curve of his mouth.
And it hurts, looking at him. Feels like a punch to the gut because he knows how close he came to losing this, losing the bard who sings his praise and smiles when others would run, who stops to smell the flowers and leaves tiny braids in Roach's hair.
This bard who loves him.
"So does that mean we reached our next stop?" Jaskier sits up a little straighter, the movements stiff and aching. Geralt wants to tell him to stop, to lie down and rest. He might have, if he didn't know for certain it would be a waste of breath.
Instead he reaches to press a hand against the bards chest, holds it there until Jaskier settles back against the pillows.
"Obviously." The witcher answers, not quite soft but something close to it.
Jaskier tips his head, hair shining under the early morning light spilling in through the window. He looks young, wounded but happy. And it's no surprise when he breeches the unspoken, eyes stern as they settle on the witcher's face.
"Well then. Isn't it time for that talk?"
Geralt doesn't mean to smile, but he can feel the way his lips draw up in amusement. The bard means to have him cornered.
Strange how the tables have turned.
"No need. I think you've said enough."
Jaskier's mouth bobs, closes. Slowly a crease begins at his brow, and Geralt knows he's struggling to piece the memories together.
Brown eyes widen with clarity, and the bard remembers thank you, and I love you-
He remembers callused hands on his neck and lips rough against his own.
"Oh. I did, didn't I?"
"Mhmm." The witcher confirms. He's had time to sort out what happened, how he feels about it. And what he's gathered is that he's been taking the bard for granted. Silly, he's been planning this big speech and yet now that he has a chance to talk the words elude him.
What can you say to a loyalty so fierce?
Geralt supposes he's been thinking too hard, for a minute too long because suddenly Jaskier is waving a hand at him, expression a sad attempt at neutral.
"Well you can just forget about it!" He laughs, a nervous little sound. "I mean I was shot with an arrow and all so-"
He means to take it back. As if Geralt would ever let him.
"Jaskier, shut up." A callused hand touches the bards cheek. Jaskier leans into the contact, mouth closing so hard the witcher can heard his teeth click.
"Ah. Okay." The bard droops, hands falling to rest in his lap. He waits quietly, but for several long moments all Geralt does is stare. They've been through so much, he thinks, eyes caught on the tiny bump in the bridge of Jaskier nose- a reminder of one particular bar fight in which the bard thought he could defend Geralt's honor. He's watched the minstrel grow. Jaskier's hair has become longer, he's learned how to duck, added more songs to his repertoire.
And he's suffered. Geralt too has hurt him, but the bard never holds a grudge. And in that way he doesn't change.
It's overwhelming, to be loved like that.
"Fuck, " The word is exhaled slowly, "You had me worried." He's piecing together how to continue when the bard smiles as if just remembering something important.
"Hey." Jaskier interrupts, eyes warm with clarity. "What happened before I passed out?"
He must be wondering about that kiss, and the kind thing to do would be tell him the truth and put his mind at ease, but Geralt's never been described as kind and he likes to see the bard fidget.
"Well, lets see." The witcher begins, and Jaskier knows he's being toyed with. "You bled a lot and cried like a baby about it."
"I mean besides that." The bard stresses, impatient. "Did you-I mean, I wasn't wanting to go anwhere and I thought that-"
"I kissed you?" Geralt supplies helpfully, and secretly he delights in the startled noise Jaskier makes as his question is finally answered.
"Well yeah." The minstrel is waiting for more confirmation. When none comes, he reaches to tug at the witchers sleeve. Geralt catches the bards hand with ease, tenderly brining it to his face.
"Yeah." Geralt tells him finally, a rare smile hidden behind Jaskier's palm. "I never acknowledge how important you are, bard." The fear of losing him had been all encompassing, and he never wants to experience it again. But life is life, and things happen. This way at least the bard will know where they stand when those times come.
"But now I know, and I plan to make up for lost time." He says it like a promise, with all the ease he uses when swearing to slay a beast or save a life.
Jaskier wants so desperately to remember every detail of that kiss, wants to try doing it again here and now.
The bard is so used to ignoring that urge, he's completely off guard as witcher slowly pitches forward. Their noses bump, and he's so close Jaskier can feel warm breath against his cheeks. Geralt hovers a moment longer, and then-
The kiss is warm, wanting. And it promises a million more to follow.