Chapter 1: Tribulation
He is allowed to tag along on the condition that he talks little and touches nothing. Midway into the trip he realizes Geralt is more lenient with his chatty nature as apposed to his cravings for contact. Even the horse is off limits, Jaskier finds as his fingers are slapped away from Roach's saddle.
"C'mon Geralt! Just for a little while? I'll even be quiet." Its a fruitless promise. They both know he can't shut up to save his life. "Quieter." The bard amends, grinning cheekily even though Geralt is paying him little to no mind.
"If you're that tired turn back." The witcher grunts without pity, never once checking to make sure he's able to keep up. "This will be easier without you following. Much more peaceful."
Ah. Always so blunt. But that's all fine and dandy. Jaskier is content with watching the Witcher's back, happy just to breathe the same air.
It's nice to have a companion. No doubt Geralt is tired of him already, but while gruff and irritable he never rises to violence-doesn't take off on the horse like others have, knowing Jaskier would be too slow to follow.
The minstrel stays in step at Roach's side, sneaking glances at Geralt anytime their profiles line up for the opportunity. They eventually find their way into Dol Blathanna. And Jaskier is proud to say he never broke their condition, not even when a horned devil rose from the bushes- though he felt the immediate urge to reach for Geralt. Luckily he caught a sudden headache and lost consciousness before acting on such instincts.
The first time they touch its their shoulder blades slotted together, bound by chain that cuts to the quick.
And he's scared shitless. Expects the solid weight at his back to have a plan-
There is no plan.
The elves break apart his lute, and that stings- though not quite as much as the boot which lands against his jaw with breathtaking force.
When he spits there is copper on his tongue, and Geralt's voice booms so loudly Jaskier can feel it reverberating through his chest.
And the thing is, Jaskier has always known himself to be a fool but he's still blown away to find how naive he's truly been. Elves freely giving up their ancestral home all so humans could take over the land? Its clearly a crock of shite and he's spent the better part of his life believing in it. The way he'd been told it all sounded like such a grand blessing.
Filavandrel tells a much different story, eyes shining with a grief that makes Jaskier's stomach ache. And he thinks, of course this man is going to kill us. It's a wretched state to be in, waiting for the ax to fall. Geralt's hair tickles his neck and Jaskier focuses on the feeling, tries to pretend he is anywhere else.
When it comes time to talk the witcher bids not for his own life but Jaskier's. And that's- complicated. It is an act so noble and kind, the most selfless thing Jaskier can remember anyone ever doing for him.
In these moments he knows he'd follow this man anywhere.
The elf king gives him a nasty fright but in the end they go free thanks to the white wolf and his silver tongue. Jaskier asks less questions, working on what he hopes will be his first great ballad- and if his shoulders are still hot and tingling from the prolonged contact he conveniently forgets to mention it.
"Ow, ow-ouch!" Jaskier shies away from the fingers applying steady pressure to his horribly busted nose.
Geralt has no pity to spare. "You're lucky it's not broken." The witcher leans in close, and Jaskier notes this is near as they've ever been. Technically the witcher is breaking his own rules. Jaskier might mention it if he wasn't so afraid of being left to tend the bleeding on his own.
"I wouldn't exactly count myself as lucky bu- oh it's not broken? That's a relief. I was worried for a moment there ahhh-" Thick fingers pinch the bridge of his nose, forcing the bards head back. He's in no way gentle, but the bleeding has slowed considerably.
"You should've left well enough alone." Geralt's voice is gruff, gravel on a worn road.
Jaskier jerks away from his hand, offended. "No, you should've taught those sorry sacks a lesson!" The bard insists, distraught by the notion that Geralt thinks his honor not worth defending. "You slayed a Kikimora for those over grown puss pockets! The least they could do is keep quiet and act grateful."
Geralt listens to him rant, slightly disturbed by the unfamiliar emotion that stirs behind his ribcage, something warm and forlorn-
Something like fondness.
"All that being said, I don't kill people. Not over something so petty as name calling." The witcher shakes away whatever feelings had seized him in the moment. Jaskier's nose may not be broken but it sure as fuck looks crooked.
He'll have to do this without warning, unwilling to hear the bard whine for an hour when this can all be over in the next ten minutes.
"It was disrespectful!" Jaskier interjects, so deep in his tirade the bard barely notices as Geralt reaches again to capture his nose.
"It wasn't hurting anyone." Just some drunk at a bar, bitching about witchers and the butcher of Blaviken in particular. Geralt would have finished his ale and gone. He'd not been expecting Jaskier to jump so readily to his defense.
Things had only escalated from there. Geralt didn't move until he heard the unmistakable crunch of cartridge under knuckle. After that things become quite hazy. He might've broken a nose or two himself.
Jaskier inhales sharply, and Geralt realizes he's gone very suddenly silent.
"I feared it was hurting you."
He says it so seriously, with an edge of care that startles Geralt into yanking the bards nose back into place in one swift motion
"Fuck! Oh holy fucking shit-Why would you- Oh good lord, I almost shit myself!" Jaskier sputters, entirely undignified. "Is a bloody warning too much to ask for?" The bard curses him worse than any monster or royalty he's ever laid eyes upon, and then some. But at the end of it his nose is straight, and that's well worth the tears gathering in the corner of hazel eyes.
"Hmmm." Geralt snorts, mildly amused by the show. "Haven't you heard? Witchers don't have feelings to hurt."
Jaskier whimpers, utterly betrayed. "Oh yes, how could I ever forget." He sees a hand coming in his peripheral vision, flinches away on instinct. "Ahhh I take it back, every nice thing I've ever said about you." Hands rise to protect his face but they're easily subdued.
"Shhh, calm down bard. It had to be done." Shockingly gentle the witcher presses a damp cloth against Jaskier's nose, bothered by the way that unnamed feeling spreads. They sit in silence for a time, Jaskier sniffling every now and then while Geralt works to wipe dried blood away from his swollen face.
For once it's not Jaskier who breaks the comfortable silence.
"I suppose it was slightly noble of you to defend my honor in your own misguided way." The witcher looks strangely resigned, and Jaskier hopes this means he's decided to accept their odd little friendship.
"Now hold your head back. We don't want you bleeding again." Geralt shoves at the bard's forehead, unable to allow any kindness to stand for too long and that's-
He didn't quite get a thank you but Jaskier beams anyways, proud of the blood staining his tunic.
To say the witcher has been tense would be a vast understatement. He talks even less than Jaskier has become acquainted to.
More grunts than words these days.
With plenty of time to think on it Jaskier concludes that the problem somehow becomes worse around meal times. He glances over at the witcher, eyes following the broad curve of his back. Jaskier swears the black tunic hangs looser than it should.
"Geralt, would you uh, like some help with that?" The man is butchering a small deer, though if things continue as they have he'll eat all of three bites before handing the rest off to Jaskier.
He doesn't pause in his task.
"I would not."
Another few beats of silence.
"Well, is something wrong then? It seems to me you haven't been eating enough lately. Big strong witcher like you needs energy and what not." He's rambling, slightly unnerved by the way golden eyes have flickered to his face.
It's rare he has the mans full attention like this.
Geralt leaves him to fidget under that stare a moment longer before speaking, "I have a sharp tooth and no elixirs or mages to fix it."
This is the most Jaskier has heard him say in a weeks time. The bard has grown used to brooding silence but he was beginning to worry.
"Ah yes, well. I suppose normally that would be a problem." He grins, delighted to finally be of use. "Luckily I have a trick for that."
Jaskier moves to rummage through the single bag he keeps. Geralt has never thought to ask what is inside. The bard returns only seconds later, proudly brandishing a tiny thimble on his thumb.
The disappointment Geralt feels is immeasurable.
"And here I thought you were going to be useful."
"Oh, but I am!" Mindlessly Jaskier reaches for his face, hand spasming midair as Geralt ducks his head away.
This is the first time he's ever attempted to touch the witcher directly. They're both shocked by it.
"Or uh, well. I want to. If you'll let me." Jaskier stammers, his fingers still hovering awfully close to the mans cheek. "It's only a file. You'd break my arm before I was ever able to do anything, so no worries there. Besides, worst you could possibly do is choke on it and we both know id never be responsible for harming my only real friend in the world." The bard placates, Adams apple bobbing as he swallows a wave of oncoming anxiety.
To his absolute shock Geralt relentls, opening his mouth.
"Don't try anything funny bard. File it and be done." The witcher catches his eye, a silent warning before tipping his head back to give Jaskier a better view of the problem tooth.
And ah, this is so much more than he bargained for upon waking this morning. They are so close he can feel Geralt's breath, warm as it kisses his cheeks.
Focusing is a chore, but Jaskier works hard at it. He hold's the Witcher's jaw in one hand, cradled against his palm. While the other reaches hesitantly past the mans lips.
He runs a bare fingertip across the bottom row of teeth, gasping softly as a canine catches the worn pad of his index. It's nearly enough to break skin.
"Okay so uhm, just hold still then." Jaskier is careful with the amount of pressure he applies, gentle as he promised to be. It takes time to file it down, but Geralt is patient and unmoving.
This close the minstrel can't help but sneak a peek at Geralt's face. Lines of unrest are deep as they've ever been, but Jaskier finds himself taken by the golden gaze he's come to know so well. The color is pure as any newly minted coin, and oh how they shimmer in the afternoon sun. King's wear crowns made of lesser.
He may have stared longer, but suddenly those eyes are looking at him and Jaskier belatedly remember's his fingers are still in the mans mouth.
Oh shit, oh fuck-
The bard goes back to filing, cheeks hot under the embarrassment of being caught.
"Alright well uh, how does that feel?" Jaskier carefully withdraws his hand, eyes skimming over the newly polished tooth. He watches Geralt's tongue caress the spot, inspecting.
He waits for a sardonic remark, possibly a complaint. Instead Geralt looks away from him immediately but it's too late, Jaskier has already seen it-
The beginnings of a smile. It's subtle, just a twitch at the corner of his mouth. Gone so fast that for a moment Jaskier isn't sure it was even there to begin with.
The witcher returns to cleaning his kill, and Jaskier wanders over to slip the thimble back into his bag.
If he'd walked any farther he might've missed the quiet "thank you" that followed him.
"Bloody hell Geralt, how are you not freezing?"
It had been humid only that morning, but after a bout of rain the temperature quickly started to fall.
As expected there is no reply from his brooding companion.
"Oh of course, superior witcher blood and all that. Extra adept to the elements. Well im not." Jaskier huffs, suddenly resentful of the thin but pretty outfit he's chosen to wear. There'd not been enough money for anything warmer that still looked presentable. "If this keeps on i'm afraid ill start losing fingers."
That earns him a grunt of acknowledgment but nothing more. The witcher must be immune to his complaining by now. Jaskier wonders how much more he will withstand before sneaking off one night and leaving the bard wherever they last made camp. He wouldn't be the first to do it.
The thought sends a sudden shiver down Jaskier's spine, so much colder than the wind whistling through his cotton shirt.
He talks less after that, and things are peaceful for the most part. It rains a bit more, a small mist that clings to their skin. Geralt is content until he hears something begin to tick. It's a sound so slight that without his enhanced senses the witcher may have missed it altogether, but with them it's an immediate annoyance.
Geralt spends the next ten minutes fighting himself, counting all the reasons he shouldn't bother himself with Jaskier's making it to town safely. And then he tosses those reasons aside in favor of getting them both out of the cold. It isn't because cares.
But then he glances over to find Jaskier is no longer in step.
The bard has fallen several paces behind.
Geralt would be a damn liar to say his stomach doesn't drop at the sight.
"Jaskier?" He brings Roach to a halt, unnerved to find the ticking has been Jaskier's teeth chattering.
"Y-Yes?" The bard seems startled, as if called from a daze. "Oh Geralt, Is it finally time to make camp? Im so cold everything feels like it's shriveling up." Jaskier coughs out a laugh, mildly alarmed to feel hands gripping at his upper shoulders. He doesn't remember seeing the witcher dismount.
In all there time of traveling Geralt has never willingly touched him like this. It would be thrilling if he could actually feel it.
"Fuck. You're freezing."
It takes him all of ten minutes to fell a tree and start a fire.
"Should've said something. All you ever fucking do is talk." Geralt berates as he settles Jaskier in front of the growing flames, careful not to let the bard too close. With his luck the bastard would find a way to set himself a blaze.
"I did say something you big headed brute!" The bard defends, indignant.
Geralt pauses, lip curling in something akin to a snarl.
"Well you should've said more." He bites back, stomach coiled with guilt.
Jaskier lets himself be handled, boneless as warmth blossoms against his skin. He thinks it best not to argue with the only person who gives a monkey's ass about his wellbeing.
"Ahh. Don't be angry. I uh, I just didn't want to be a bother. Was so sure everything would be fine if I could just last until we stopped for the night." The bard explains halfheartedly. His skin feels raw, and he's fairly certain the damp clothes gave him blisters in a few highly inconvenient places.
Geralt leads Roach to a fresh patch of grass, and then to Jaskier's utter disbelief the witcher sits down at his back.
"Yes well, you'd have been less of a bother if you came forth before your lips started turning blue." The man growls, and Jaskier feels the heat of those words against the base of his neck. Geralt has a leg on either side of him. If he leaned back it would be into the Witcher's chest.
A full minute passes before Jaskier realizes he's forgotten to breathe.
Oh fuck. Oh shit. The close proximity makes everything seem infinitely warmer. How is he supposed to function with Geralt pressing against him like this?
"B-Blue are they? Maybe I can work this into a song." Jaskier all but yelps at the sensation of arms interlocking around his waist. The bard twists to look back against his better judgement, which, to be fair he doesn't use often. A growl rumbles somewhere deep in Geralt's throat, warning. But little does he know Jaskier is no longer afraid of the so called butcher of Blaviken. He looks upon the witcher with a gentle sort of clarity, warmed from the inside out by his quiet kindness.
Geralt does not mention it but Jaskier is costing him coin, wasting his time. It would have been more beneficial for him if he'd built the bard a simple fire and gone on his merry monster killing way. Instead he's acting as Jaskier's own personal heater, an undoubtedly awkward position to a man of his stature.
And he's is so fucking warm, bordering on hot. Shouldn't he at least be a little affected by the harsh conditions? What if he has a fever of sorts and doesn't recognize it. Surely he would though, he's lived alone this long. Jaskier knows and still he frets. But Geralt is stronger than anyone gives him credit for. The witcher wouldn't allow himself to be done in by something so basic and boring as sickness. That would make for a dreadful song. No one would want to hear it.
"Only if you keep your fingers." Geralt quips darkly, a hint of humor in his voice.
"Geralt!" The bard drags his name out in a whine that's carried away on the wind. "It's wicked to tease like that." And a moment later, "You wouldn't let that happen, would you?"
"That depends." Much larger hands find his own, folding them together to fit so perfectly between scarred palms. "I'll save you this time but if you let it happen again you're on your own, bard."
So cruel, Jaskier laments. But it's only for show. He leans back into the solid support of Geralt's chest, fingers protected by hands that have harmed as much as they've helped, and there's not a doubt in his mind that the witcher would save him regardless.
The bard has a peculiar habit of showing up wherever he is, Geralt's noticed.
Jaskier has wasted no time, already taking notes from the traumatized villager who'd supposedly watched him die.
Geralt orders an ale, watching as the bard tucks a small piece of paper away before sauntering over. There's an awfully bright glimmer in those hazel eyes and Geralt has the creeping suspicion that he's about to ask for a favor.
Whatever it is he's already sold, but it would be a missed opportunity if he didn't give the bard a hard time about it.
Convincing Geralt to save his sorry hide is easier than he thought it'd be. All Jaskier really had to mention was the booze and women. Of course he tried convincing the man to do it out of simple love for a friend but he supposes they aren't there yet because Geralt seemed ready to walk away and leave him to the wolves.
Ah, so be it. A win is still a win, no matter how slight. He will be paid as entertainment for the banquet and then with any luck he can worm his way onto the witcher's next thrilling adventure.
Getting the brute into a bathtub is the real challenge. Geralt grunts and growls as Jaskier works to peel him out of putrid clothing. They haven't seen each other for some time. Jaskier drops the ruined tunic to lay at their feet on the compacted dirt floor. His fingers shy away from skin, mind caught on the memory of being tied back to back with this man who'd barely known him. Geralt had been his hero even then, before the night he almost caught hypothermia in the woods.
There is the sound of metal clinking together. Jaskier glances down just in time to see the mans pants follow his shirt to the floor and holyfuckinghell Geralt's got a nice ass. The bard finds himself stunned, almost speechless.
"Bloody hell Geralt. I've never seen a finer bottom in all the land. Shaped like a perfect peach, innit?"
"Fuck off bard." The witcher looks absolutely feral, and while Jaskier wasn't joking he feels it better to avert his gaze and bite his tongue before it earns him a busted lip.
Geralt sinks into the tub while Jaskier busies himself with gathering fresh herbs- "Can't have you out there smelling like monster innards now can we? Though the stench is so awful it might just drive all the lords away. You wouldn't even have to give them that famous witcher scowl- Ah yes, that one." Jaskier attempts to drop a handful of flowers into the water only to have his hand seized in a way that makes his knees weak.
"The fuck are you doing?"
"Uh- were you not listening? It's for the bath, to make you smell better you great big oa-ah-ah-okay." Jaskier breaks off into a fit of hissing as Geralt applies more pressure to his wrist before letting it go.
"Tell me again."
Jaskier huffs like it's some great chore but honestly he kind of likes that Geralt specifically asked him to talk this time.
"Well this is chamomile and a bit of lavender." He sprinkles handfuls of petals into the murky water. "Bits of rose and jasmine I suppose." He speaks absently, examining the herbs before dropping them in to soak.
"Now, last but not least." The bard turns to a small bag. Geralt recognizes it as one he sees often while traveling. Jaskier left with it empty earlier, but now he withdraws several bright yellow flowers.
"What is that one called?" He may have known in another life, but in his time as a witcher Geralt opts for potion and elixir over a humans herb.
"Oh! These are dandelions. We used to eat them back home but people say they're good for inflammation which you seem to have." Jaskier ghosts his fingertips over the mans shoulder, gently tapping a spot that make's the witcher huff.
Most nights he aches in that place.
"You picked them yourself." A statement, not a question.
Jaskier smiles, bright as the sun. So happy to be acknowledged. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
And Geralt tries to bite his tongue but the words come anyways.
"You know, a Selkiemore has teeth longer than this tub. And they look even worse than they smell."
Jaskier has paused in his washing, head tilted curiously. The witcher speaks so little, Jaskier always finds himself hanging onto every word.
Ah, but alas-
"Excuse me? What does that even mean Geralt?"
"They're just a few details. For your songs or whatever." Geralt clarifies. He doesn't say it's payment for the dandelions Jaskier hand picked, but he doesn't have to. The bards eyes twinkle and Geralt is certain he knows.
"You must be feeling extra generous today. What is it? Nice warm bath making you feel human again?" Jaskier is cheeky as ever. Before it would have taken him hours of prodding to get that much information, and even still he'd sooner come away with a fist to the gut rather than any actual answers.
"Don't push it."
"I wouldn't dare." Jaskier smarts, scrubbing away grime and whatever strange slime happens to be matted into the Witcher's hair.
Once the water is ruined but Geralt's scalp shines, Jaskier takes a moment to observe his work- unreasonably proud of himself for getting most of- if not all -sludge from the mans famously snow white locks.
Without thinking Jaskier plucks a fresh dandelion from his tote, fingers deft as they place it behind the Witcher's ear.
Their eyes catch and well, Geralt does look lovely, regardless of the murderous intent gleaming against the gold of his gaze.
"I'm going to drown you in this tub." The witcher promises and Jaskier just-
He laughs, even while taking a healthy step back for good measure. "Oh please. Then who would sing your songs of renown all across the lands? I'm making you famous you know. Besides! Dandelions are good luck."
"Is that so?" The minstrel can practically hear the eyeroll in his voice.
"It is! If you ever find one that's full of seeds you're supposed to blow them all away and make a wish." The bard offers up a towel, mouth moving constantly. "They say its magic. When I was little my mother would tell me to be sure and blow them in the direction of the wind. Its supposed to help magic flow, and your wish will float farther." His hand makes an excited arch through the air. Geralt rises from the tub and pretends not to notice.
"She always said it helps to watch the seeds fly away, until the very last one is out of sight." Anyone else might've been fooled but Jaskier knows the man is listening. Geralt holds his head differently when pointedly trying to ignore him.
"Hmm but then again, my mother was a bit strange. I'm not even sure what happened to her in the end." Jaskier wears a wistful sort of smile, and while he'd never admit it the expression causes an ache somewhere near the Witcher's sternum.
A chair scrapes the floor as it's pulled out. Hands tentatively find the small of Geralt's back, urging him to sit.
"Anyways, I talk too much. Let's get dressed before we find ourselves late for the banquet." Jaskier barely breathes between sentences. If he were anyone else the witcher wouldn't tolerate it.
"I can brush my own damn hair, bard."
Jaskier crouches into his line of view, happier than any poor music maker has a right to be.
"Or you could just sit there and rest that shoulder while I do it." The bard smiles, and something inside Geralt fractures at the sight of it.
He allows the minstrel to run a brush through his hair. And to Jaskier's credit he manages the tangles while only tugging once or twice. The room smell's sweet, like roses on a dewy spring morning. Geralt sits, struck by the notion that no one's really touched his hair since Visenna combed through dark curls on the day she left him in that road.
The witcher thinks Jaskier is not so unlike the bright yellow flower he favors.
Geralt has been sensitive to noise for most of his life. He knows the sound of countless creatures, has sent hundreds to their grave. Death has a sound that always accompanies it. Because of this he has accumulated a short list of noises to abhor.
As of today the strained little gasp Jaskier makes as he struggles for air is at the top of said list.
"We're thirty minutes out from Rinde. Stop talking."
Roach dodges a hole in the road, so quickly there isn't enough time for warning. Jaskier's forehead knocks into his shoulder. The minstrel whimpers at the sudden jostling but they don't have minutes to waste. Geralt reaches to grip the hands encircling his waist. A loose hold is all Jaskier can manage, all of his energy consumed by the magic slowly strangling him.
The witcher really shouldn't be so surprised to hear him sputtering out words despite the blood that bubbles up along with them.
"The fuck are you on about?" Geralt twists to catch a glimpse of the bards face. Jaskier is unnaturally ashen, throat swollen until the skin there has become purple under pressure. The poor bastard must be delirious at this point because he smiles, so stupidly pleased with himself
"M' riding Roach."
The witcher blinks, bewildered for all of three seconds.
"Is this really the first time?" Geralt wracks his brain for another instance but there is none. Jaskier has never been allowed to touch his horse, not once on any of their long adventures.
Geralt feels like he's made of brimstone. Guilt ignites, spreading like wildfire. The witcher squares his shoulders, urging Roach to pick up the pace.
She whinnies as if understanding his plea.
"It is." Jaskier wheezes into the nape of Geralt's neck, and the witcher swears that once they make it out of this he'll talk Roach into tolerating a ride more often. The minstrel is annoying but days spent with him are better than those spent without.
"Just hold on tight bard. This will not be your last ride."
Ah, Jaskier clings to the certainty in that voice, so low and sure. He wants to believe. Geralt's never been one to lie, but he fears this is a situation completely out of the Witcher's hands.
Oh well. He had a good run. The bard slumps forward, lulled by the constant sound of hoofs striking dirt. From here he can feel Geralt's heart beating through his shoulder blades. Jaskier presses his cheek into solid muscle, weak but content.
If today is his last, there is no greater way to spend it.
"S'rry I used up all the wishes." Jaskier whispers, and he thinks maybe it's not all purely admiration he feels for this witcher with the angry face. There is more, a soft sort of feeling most songs are written to describe. A feeling so big and beautiful it must be shared.
"Save your breath, Jaskier. I don't fucking care about the Djinn!"
There is a note of desperation there. Geralt may not consider him a friend but he's become someone worthy of this wild horse ride. A few years back and Geralt might've taken the last wish and left him to drown on his own bloody vomit.
They've come so far from where they started.
Love you, Jaskier thinks in a breathless daze. I love you. His lips move but the words don't form. There is no sound.
He's missed his chance-
Should've asked that Djinn for more time.
He hopes Geralt knows though. Maybe he heard with his mighty witcher ears. Jaskier hopes so. Fuck, he really hopes so-
The bard loses time after that.
When Jaskier wakes his eyelids are heavy and he's so bone crushingly exhausted. There is a beautifully bare sorceress at his feet and he doesn't remember making it to the mayor's house.
He does remember following Geralt out to the river, naming every fish he's ever heard of and maybe a few more he made up. He remembers the witcher hasn't slept in a week or more and he was hunting genies in bottles.
Ah, Jaskier recalls making the wishes, and the flurry of panic that settled over him as his throat swelled.
He remembers the twang of blood on his tongue and a hand on his back, strong and comforting.
He remembers a lot of things but mostly he remembers Geralt.
It's not long after that an aging man with a wise shimmer in his gaze hires the witcher to hunt a dragon and of course Jaskier is at his side every step of the way.
Unfortunately so is the witch. But her presence is only a hindrance to Jaskier. Geralt and the rest are right happy to trail after her like some love struck pups.
The bard finds himself jealous, an emotion that does not suit him. It is ugly and all consuming. Leaves his stomach in tatters. The sooner they can be rid of her the better.
Ah, but fate is a cruel thing.
Instead of losing the sorceress it's Borch that slips off the ice covered mountain. Geralt, for all his trying can't save them. And Jaskier watches the light die in amber eyes, dimmed by failure.
This wont do.
The witcher asks for peace once they've made camp. He secludes himself to a small rock at the mountains edge, looking out on the immense expansion of air, counting all the ways he could have been better, faster.
In short he looks the way he always does when pretending not to be upset, all pinched eyebrows and tense posture.
The boulder isn't large enough for two but Jaskier finds a way, settling next to Geralt without ever actually touching him.
A muscle flexes in his jaw as Jaskier sits down.
"You did your best." The bard offers softly, voice uncharacteristically somber. "There is nothing else you could've done."
It speaks to the extent of Geralt's grief that he does not argue at all.
For a moment Jaskier hesitates, unsure. And then that moment passes and the bard scoots closer, determined.
"Look, why don't we leave tomorrow?" Jaskier suggests, an idea he's entertained ever since taking the witcher on as his one and only muse. "That is, if you'll give me another chance to prove myself a worthy travel companion."
"Hmm." It's a gradual thing but it happens. Jaskier watches tension slowly seep from the witcher's shoulders. Geralt manages the tiniest of smiles and that's so much more than Jaskier could have hoped for on the short walk out here.
Their shoulders brush, and Geralt goes so still Jaskier worries another touch might get him thrown from the cliff side.
Oh fuck, now he doesn't know if he should try pulling away. The bard attempts it, once. He shifts as if to put space between them only to be stopped by fingers closing on his upper arm. The witcher makes a grumbling noise, tugging until Jaskier is thigh to thigh with him, watching the sun go down.
It feels something like a miracle when Geralt subtly leans into the contact.
"We could head to the coast, get away for a while." Wind whistles past, cool and comforting. Jaskier enjoys the way it blows through silver hair. "Sounds like something Borch would say, doesn't it? Life is too short- do what pleases you while you can!"
Fuck, he feels so inspired. The old man left him a bit of clarity before departing this earth, and Jaskier wants to use it before he loses the nerve.
Ah, too bad he turns to find Geralt looking right at him. The witcher seem vulnerable in some subtle way, lips twisted in an amused sort of smirk. And-Well, he's always unfairly lovely to look at but with this lighting it's a down right crime. Sunlight melts gold to liquid, amber pools on this mountain where nothing grows. He's sure the dragons treasure is bountiful but this moment, this view is priceless.
God, how Jaskier loves the look of him.
"Composing your next song?" Geralt asks, and it takes the bards brain a moment to catch up.
"No, I'm just, uh- " What he means to say is he's trying to commit this moment to memory, etch every line of the mans face into his mind so he'll never forget, not even when he's old and grey. But when it really matters all that comes out is "Just trying to work out what pleases me."
Geralt hums his acknowledgment, and Jaskier really must be a fucking fool because whatever he's said sends the witcher into Yennefer's tent that night.
Jaskier wakes to an empty camp, and for a split second he thinks oh, it's finally happened. Geralt up and left him here because he has that sorceress now and what good is a bard?
He's achingly relieved to find the witcher only a short ways down the hillside, battling along side ghosts.
A dragon Borch turns out to be. Yes, of course because that's just on par with every other strange creature they meet. And not just any old Dragon, his scales are gold as the shine of Geralt's gaze and of course the witcher is absolutely taken by that. A living, breathing myth.
Jaskier sits to the side, fingers loving as they caress the strings of his lute. It's late in the day and he's conveniently missed all the action. Everyone seems to be going their separate ways and the minstrel finds himself selfishly hoping this means Yennefer will, too. Things are simpler when it's just him and Geralt, no sorceress to wreak havoc. Or chaos, as she and the witcher like to call it.
The bard wishes Geralt would think over what he said on the cliff side after Borch fake died. Surely they've earned the break.
Yennefer passes him on the way to her tent.
Somehow even the way she walks is intimating.
"Trouble in paradise?" Jaskier draws, voice dying as he notices unshed tears clouding the lavender of her gaze. The bard thinks she looks oddly sad for a women with all the power in the world. And if this is his wish coming true it's not exactly what he'd asked for.
With tremendous care he gathers up the instrument before making the long trek down, backtracking Yennefer's footsteps until he spies a familiar halo of white.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Jaskier was supposed to stay put until Geralt came to retrieve him, because the witcher needs time, time to feel anything that isn't this.
He doesn't have a name for the emotion that settles like quicksand in the riverbed of his stomach, seeping into bones and weighing everything down, down.
The bard's voice is so cheerful. Geralt hates it for the first time since knowing him.
"Damn it, Jaskier!" The witcher doesn't mean to yell, but there is no stopping it now. He has hurt in his heart and he intends to spread it.
The thing is, Jaskier has never been afraid of Geralt. And maybe that's foolish on his part but the bard knows an evil bastard when he sees one because they throw bread at him when he sings and they steal what little bit of coin he earns. His witcher saves princesses when he could've killed them and he puts up with Jaskier's shit even though he doesn't have to.
Jaskier is not afraid, but the bard will admit that when Geralt turns to face him he feels his pulse spike uncomfortably.
"Why is it whenever I find myself in a pile of shit these days, it's you shoveling it?"
The minstrel reels, heart stuttering wildly in his chest. There is a whimper in his mouth, but Jaskier swallows the sound.
And yeah okay, he's the one who started this whole white wolf thing but he's never thought it so accurate as he does in this moment. Geralt looks absolutely feral brandishing his teeth and Jaskier feels the distinct urge to protect his throat.
"Well, that's not fair." The bard inhales sharply, refusing to let himself cower.
Except really it is, and the witcher tells him so.
"If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands."
The words settle over them like a blanket of snow, stealing away even the sound of their breathing.
It would have hurt less if the witcher had physically struck him. Instead Geralt turns away, as if unable to bare the sight of him any longer.
And Jaskier thinks-
Its not like he means it. He never means it. Never means anything.
Except he does.
"Right uh..." Geralt's done so much for him. In all of his lowest moment's the witcher has been there to see him through. The least Jaskier can do is grant his one wish and disappear.
"Right, then." He whispers, a soft sort of finality to the words. "I'll-I'll go get the rest of the story from the others."
Geralt says nothing, and Jaskier isn't sure if that's better or worse. He doesn't know anything in this endless devastating moment. Time has ceased to exist.
He moves on sheer willpower alone, staggering backwards into the dusty path.
"See you around, Geralt."
The witcher doesn't glance back, but he can sense Jaskier's eyes on him, feels it as a prick near his sternum. A needle pressing into his heart.
Chapter 2: Reparation
Geralt doesn't know how to apologize.
This is late but that's because it keeps growing. So much that I've had to add an extra chapter just to maintain even pacing lol.
Obligatory disclaimer! I own nothing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Geralt's first night alone on the mountain proves to be eerily quiet.
The fire crackles and crickets chirp, shrubbery rustles nearby as nocturnal creatures roam, scavenging food. But there is no soft snoring or idle strings being plucked.
In actuality is there is a cacophony of sound, but none of it comforting, not like-
Geralt tosses on his side, convinced he cant be missing the bard that badly. This is what he supposedly wanted.
So why is he unsatisfied in the silence?
The witcher is not afraid for himself but he wonders how Jaskier is doing, all alone in the dark.
Roach grazes near by and Geralt tries to sleep but gets little rest. Each noise in the night makes his chest feel tight.
It's been months since he's laid eyes on Jaskier but the bards song follows him everywhere. A talkative musician in colorful silks, people claim to have never seen him yet somehow his lyrics have traveled.
Geralt is loath to admit he's been asking around.
Beneath him Roach nickers, content. She'd been well fed at the last Inn, and he treated her to an apple this morning before they set off.
At least one of them is in a good mood.
The air shifts, something sweet rolling through on the breeze. Geralt breathes in, a scent so familiar it sends a pang of hurt through his ribcage.
In front of them a clearing comes into view. He expects them to ride right through it but Roach stops just sort of the tree line.
Geralt glances up to urge her on, but the words die in his throat.
Before them the field is cluttered with flowers, a sea of yellow far as the eye can see and-
Oh. They're dandelions.
The witcher inhales sharply, Jaskier's face flashing behind his eyelids. Of course it would be this one happy little flower out of all the hundreds that grow here.
Something twists in his gut, something that feels a lot like guilt.
There's the distinct sound of munching. Geralt leans forward to see Roach has helped herself to the bright foliage. Yellow is speckled with patches of green, clovers. A buttercup here and there, Roach's favorite. He supposes she deserves a moment's rest, and his dismounting has nothing to do with the tiny cloud of white growing just at the edge of this field-
Except it does, because he can hear the bards voice echoing softly in the washroom of some nameless Cintra inn.
"If you ever find one that's full of seeds you're supposed to blow them all away and make a wish."
Geralt takes a cautious look around. He didn't pass anyone on the road leading here. There are no farm houses nearby. It's just him, and the small seeding weed at his feet.
No one will ever know.
No one aside from Roach, who watches curiously as her master bends to carefully pick the dried out flower. Geralt brings it to his lips, pausing just as she thinks he might take a bite.
Instead the witcher exhales with enough force to send hundreds of silver petals flying into the air.
Geralt stands there until every last one has dispersed, carried away by the wind.
And then he makes a wish.
The barkeep should've stopped serving him an hour ago. She should have, but there is pity in the blue of her gaze. She's been here all day, watched him limp in bruised and bloody and just a smidge pathetic. No one warned him on the ride over that this small town has been known for it's violence.
So he'd been accosted not long after checking into the inn, and while his lute had been tucked safely into the room it seems he'd lost all his coin and even the new pair of shoes he'd been achingly proud of.
As things are, he will be forced to leave soon. Check out time is nearing and he's no way to afford another night. Lord knows none of these bloody brutes would want to hear his songs. He'd started one earlier, only for a man twice his size to appear out of nowhere and threaten to shove his lute into a place where he very much would not like it shoved.
"Last one for the night. I'm afraid we'll be closing soon." The barkeep speaks kindly as she can while telling him to finish his drink and leave.
Ah, he appreciates the gesture.
The bard is three sips in when a flash of white sweeps past his peripheral. It makes him think of Geralt, wonder where he is and what he might be doing. Jaskier hopes he is sleeping well, remembering to take care of himself and what not.
That white pauses near his side, creeping closer. And well, that is rather strange but Jaskier is drunk off his ass and what business is it of his? Better he keep to himself, avoid any other close encounters he might have in this wicked little town.
Oh, that even sounds like Geralt.
The bard finally turns, startled to find clarity in the face staring back at him. He often dreams of the witcher but its never happened during consciousness. If this is a drunken hallucination it's quite vivid. Golden orbs have become hazy in his mind, though the details are always right. Jaskier slumps against the bar, cheek cradled on one unsteady hand. He doesn't know what is real anymore, so he just stops thinking. If this is a trick of his mind at least it will be good company.
"Have you come to give me another verbal lashing or is this a haunting? Are you haunting me Geralt?"
The witcher's frown is severe, his mood souring with the mention of their last encounter. "Id have to be dead to do that."
"Well then, what in the devil are you doing here? I've heard no complaints from these people about monsters stalking their land." Jaskier peers at him, eyes squinting as though he's far away.
They're so close he can smell alcohol on the bards breath.
"It was a nest of drowners in the river." Geralt responds absently, more focused on the bruise like smudge beneath Jaskier's left eye. He can only begin to guess how that happened, doesn't feel it worth mentioning that he'd only headed this way because there had been talk of a minstrel wondering alone through a rather dangerous road.
Sometimes, for small seconds, Geralt finds himself hating the creatures he's meant to protect.
"Of course it was." Jaskier shudders. "I'm sure many poor bastards have been drowned or tossed into that river considering all the scoundrels frequenting this place." He almost misses those days of blissful ignorance, before the witcher personally handed him so many horrible truths.
Most of these monsters had been human, once.
Geralt is still staring. Jaskier fidgets with his hands, picks at the buttons of his brightly colored tunic. He wants to give the man something to stare at but he's at a loss with those eyes boring into him.
The bard makes for his glass but fingers close upon his wrist before he's able to fully grasp it. And well, Jaskier's first reaction is to jerk his hand away because one, until this point he was so certain Geralt was only his imagination and two, he's still distraught over how they left things. So by all means Jaskier wants to pull back-
But skin remembers skin, and Geralt's hand is no threat to him.
"I think you've had enough, bard."
"And who are you to say?" Jaskier accuses hotly. "You got your blessing or whatever. I bet its awfully peaceful on the road with Roach. Or have you and Yennefer made up yet?"
Geralt grimaces at the mention of her, reminded he has more than one apology to hand out.
But she can wait.
"Fuck off Geralt. Can't you see the sky is falling?" The bard gestures wildly towards the window, ale making his movements sluggish.
Just to humor him Geralt shifts to look out the small stone opening, seeming to gaze up at the clouds before turning back to Jaskier with a strange little smirk on his face.
"Looks pretty stable to me. A little cloudy maybe."
Jaskier's gaze snaps up to meet him, surprised by the attempt at humor. For a second the grief was gone-
But then there is anger, hurt melting into fury and fire flashing across the bards face.
"Smart ass. Don't you have a monster to slay? Or some women waiting for you somewhere?"
Geralt snorts, dismissive. "You're one to talk."
"Yes well...Whatever." The bard wants to mouth off at that but honestly he's nothing to defend himself. Geralt's not wrong, but he's also not around to see that Jaskier hasn't been interested in anyone since the witcher saved him from that bloody Djinn.
"Look, Jaskier I'm-" Geralt seems to falter, hand waving vaguely in frustration. Jaskier has to know what he means but the bard wants to hear the word said.
The witcher squares his shoulders and forces his tongue to curl around the simple little word he's fought against for so long.
"I'm your friend." Geralt cringes under the implications of that one statement, but he pushes through regardless.
"Fuck, now I've gone and said it so ill stand by it. You're a friend, and you're drunk. Do you even have a place to stay?"
The bard lets out a long suffering sigh because honestly what is he supposed to say? He's envisioned this moment so many times, Geralt finally acknowledging their friendship. Now it's come and gone and he feels no different.
If life could give me one blessing-
"C'mon. You'll stay with me and Roach for awhile." Geralt grips his shoulder once, the first contact they've had in months. Jaskier wants to melt on the spot.
Geralt can hear the attitude in his voice. "Only if you want to." The witcher stalks off to buy a room, steps confident as if knowing Jaskier will follow.
Damn the bastard for being right.
Things are strange between them during the first week. Geralt for all his trying has yet to actually apologize. There will be moments when he thinks ah, this time ill manage it for sure. And then he looks at Jaskier's face, remembers the sad slope of his mouth on that mountain. It summons an emotion that makes the witchers throat tight, and he winds up saying nothing at all.
Jaskier only takes a few days to thaw out. His animosity fades with every new hour, as if he's just so blasted happy to be in Geralt's company again it's not worth arguing over.
"We'll be heading out today. I've heard news of a contract only a few towns over." The witcher is polishing his sword in preparation for the journey. He hasn't asked if Jaskier plans on coming along. At one point in their relationship that could have been taken as him wishing the bard would stop following. Now it's more like he's afraid Jaskier might have other plans.
It seems he took for granted all those years of knowing the minstrel would be there, at his side like always.
"Ah, is it the one to the north?" Jaskier chirps, oblivious to the witcher and his worries. "I hear there is a shop that sells lute strings." He sounds hopeful, and Geralt cant help but glance over to the instrument currently occupying Jaskiers cot, quietly counting.
"You're missing a string?"
"Mhm, how perceptive of you." Jaskier catches him eyeing the lute, his lips twisted into a teasing sort of smile. "One broke about a month back. Haven't really had the funds to fix it yet, but just you wait!"
That's a lie but Geralt doesn't have the heart to call him on it. Jaskier never mentioned being robbed outside of town but the witcher has heard enough gossip to confirm there was a sort of skirmish and his dear bard was on the losing end of it. There's no telling how much he'd lost, how long he'd been saving in the hopes of a new string.
"What about your shoes, what happened there?"
The minstrel meets his gaze, knowing already that he's been caught but trying to play it off anyways.
"Oh uh, well. It was a long trek here. Rained pretty hard too." Jaskier shrugs lamely. "They were caught up in the mud. I lost one and tossed the other, because what kind of idiot walks around with one shoe?"
Geralt shoots him a look, expression saying more than words ever could.
"What kind of idiot indeed."
Jaskier squirms, confidence waning under that knowing gaze.
"Oh hell Geralt, I was jumped after coming into town. Hows that sound?"
"Sounds believable." The witcher finally shifts, expression softening. "Didn't you fight back?"
"What do you think?"
Geralt just keeps staring, waiting.
Its absolutely maddening.
"Of course I tried, but there were three of them and only one of me." Jaskier relents with a bone rattling sigh. "Besides, you know im not good with confrontations. Starting them maybe, but finishing them is a different matter entirely."
Geralt takes one last look at Jaskier's bare feet, decision already made. He saddles Roach, taking an extra moment to gaze into the beasts eyes and pet her muzzle. Jaskier thinks he might've whispered something to the horse but he cannot hear it.
That's fine, the bard rolls his eyes, stung. Geralt is probably laughing at his misfortune, sharing jokes with Roach.
Jaskier finishes packing his bag, throws the lute over his shoulder.
When he turns the witcher is waiting for him.
"What in heavens are you-Oh!!" Geralt grips Jaskier by the hips, lifting him into the saddle in one swift motion.
And he's absolutely baffled. Roach shifts her weight beneath him, and the feel of it is so foreign and strange Jaskier nearly slides right off the leather seat.
Of course Geralt is there to catch him, one steady hand curled into the fabric of the bards tunic in a way that keeps him upright. He does little more than grunt at the added weight.
The minstrel peers down nervously, hands hesitant to touch. Roach tolerates him yes, but Jaskier fears one wrong move would send her rearing and that would cost him quite a bit more than a blackened eye.
"I dont understand-"
"And you dont have shoes." The witcher tosses back, aloof. "So sit there and ride a bit, try not to touch anything. I'll hold the reigns." Geralt waits patiently for the bard to settle. Jaskier's hand hovers, uncertain of what to hold for purchase. Geralt silently reaches to guide them past the pommel and towards the saddle's horn.
"Just hold that and don't fall." He watches until certain Jaskier has a good grip. The take off is slow, Geralt tugging Roach along by the reigns until she falls into an easy pace.
They ride in peace for two whole minutes before the bards voice fills the air, soft and awestricken.
"Oh well... This is nice." Jaskier sounds oddly satisfied. The witcher is tempted to glance back at him but resists, ears burning hot under the knowledge that he's finally done something right.
Geralt hears more than sees the smile gracing his face, but he knows its there and that throws his heart into irregular beats anyways.
The witcher yearns to tell him its because he's earned it, because his presence is a strange blessing-
And what he said on the mountain was shit.
He wants so badly to say these things but the words never come.
"Thank Roach." Geralt mutters finally, pointedly looking at her polished hooves and away from the radiant gaze he can feel drilling holes into his back.
"Shes doing all the work."
Behind him Jaskier snorts, and Geralt has the prickling realization that he's been seen right through.
"Of course! And what a good girl she is." The bard soothes a palm over the horses mane, crooning. "Thank you Roach."
In the next town he buys Jaskier a new pair of shoes. The bard is stupidly thankful, showing them off to anyone who might look.
It's more than he could have ask for, so Jaskier is rightfully shocked when the witcher tosses a tiny sack in his direction. He's never seen it before, something Geralt must have bought while he was busy trying to entrain at the local bar. That didn't last long, not with his instrument missing-
"A string!?" The bard blurts, mouth dropping open as he pulls a shining silver cord from the sack.
Geralt is avoiding his gaze, ears tipped with a suspicious shade of pink.
"I just happened to come across a shop."
Untrue. There is a single store that deals in instruments and its clear on the other side of town. Jaskier knows, he's been in there to admire their selection.
All the strings are worth at least 30 crowns a piece, and that's only the starting price.
Jaskier looks down at the small bag, curious as to why it still feels heftier than it should.
He turns the sack over against his palm, heart fluttering as several more cool textured cords fall out.
"Bloody hell, you bought six of them?" He asks, incredulous.
Geralt rolls his eyes at the unnecessary dramatics.
"I bought a few, just in case this happens again and we aren't near a town." The man explains, trying desperately to play it down as something casual.
He could do it now. Apologize.
For just a moment Geralt feels as if he has the courage, but then he finally looks at Jaskier, sees the unbridled joy written into every line of his face.
He could do it now, but that would ruin the mood.
"For a supposedly emotionless witcher you're feeling mighty generous today!"
Jaskier laughs, clear and bright as the music he plays. It drives away any thoughts of bringing up that day on the mountain.
The contract says shrieker, but upon actually investigating Geralt comes away with a different conclusion.
"They turn men to stone at a glance." He offers only minor details while setting camp. "Therefore you and Roach will stay here."
"But don't you think it'd be better if I came along?" Jaskier counters, hands on his hips as he watches the witcher prepare. "You know, for moral support and what not. I promise not to peek!"
Geralt turns on the bard with a seriousness that causes the smile to die on his lips.
"This is no joke Jaskier. You need to keep around camp and for fucks sake, be quiet. Don't draw any unwanted attention to yourself."
The witcher pauses, conflicted. He doesn't like to imagine what could happen to the bard in his absence.
"But if it comes to it, I want you to use this." Geralt draws a long skinny dagger from Roach's saddle. The metal hilt is shockingly cold as it's pressed into Jaskier's open palm.
The minstrel startles at the weight of it, grey eyes darting to Geralt's face in alarm.
"Listen, hey." Hands close on his shoulder, large and comforting they slide to rest at his upper arm. Technically the witcher was trying to scare him, but not in the interest of causing upset. He just needs Jaskier to understand their situation.
"Things are going to be just fine...Probably." Geralt tacks on, teasing.
The bard huffs, every bit a peacock with its feathers ruffled. "I hope this isnt how you comfort crying princesses because you're absolute shit at it."
"You're not a crying princess, even though you act like one." The witcher sounds exasperated, hedging on affectionate.
"Ah yes well, now you've thoroughly insulted me. Good riddance you great big brute. I wouldn't come along if you asked me too."
He totally would. But Geralt's shoulders are stiff, tense in anticipation of the battle to come. Jaskier fears he would be more hindrance than help.
"You will at least try to be careful, wont you?" Jaskier fidgets, uncertain.
"Mhmm." The witcher finishes sharpening his blade. It slides smoothly into the sheath on his back.
Jaskier lingers near his side. He looks like he wants to touch, and Geralt feels that nameless warmth flare up again.
Maybe they will have time for that later.
"Keep the fire lit. It should keep most animals and monsters away, though if you hear human voices I want you to take Roach and get the hell out of here. I'll find you." This area isnt known for bandits but Geralt would rather venture on the safe side. If given the chance they would definitely take Roach, and Geralt refuses to entertain ideas of what they would do to Jaskier.
The bard nods, movements jerky. Geralt reaches out, fingers curling on the back of Jaskier's neck. He tugs until their foreheads touch.
"I'll be back again before you know it." The man smiles, grim but confident. Jaskier nods, albeit a little less confident.
"You better. I doubt Roach and I could make it back without you."
"Hmmm." The witcher glances fondly towards his horse. "Roach could make it. You I'm not so sure about." Jaskier doesn't know if that's meant to be a joke or an insult, but he shoves at the witchers shoulder all the same, just an excuse to feel cool leather beneath his palm.
Jaskier lingers around camp, watching the sun make it's slow retreat across the sky while his belly twists into knots. By the time twilight greets them the fire has burned low and his knuckles are stark white against the hilt of the of his borrowed blade.
There had been sounds of battle earlier. It was distant but Jaskier has heard enough by now to know a dying screech when it pierces the air.
Geralt should've returned hours ago.
"Awh, bullocks to this Roach. What kind of best friend am I if I just do what he says all the time anyways?" The bard rises, swaying on legs that have long since gone to sleep.
"You'll be here if he makes it back before I do." Jaskier is no witcher but Geralt's boots have left sizable tracks in the dirt and he's not so blind that he can't follow. He's steadily losing light though, steps quick with mounting panic.
The bard doesn't see Geralt in the growing darkness, but his foot catches on a solid weight and as he falls a curtain of white comes into view.
"Geralt!" The witcher hasn't budged, not even after being stepped on.
Upon closer inspection Jaskier finds there are specks of blood in the mans hair.
All of his relief dissolves into dread.
"Oh fuck, Geralt-" The minstrel reaches for him, suddenly feeling short of breath. There is a slit in the leather, his tunic darker than it should be at the abdomen.
Still clutched in the mans left hand is a severed cockatrice head, the bloodied stump still leaking a foul smelling fluid.
That's just lovely.
Golden eyes flutter, Geralt's other hand flies sluggishly to Jaskier's neck, alarmed. The fingers around his throat should be squeezing life out of him but they only rest there, weak.
"You weren't careful." The bard accuses, voice cracking. He hopes the witcher doesn't notice. "You weren't and now look at you! How much of this blood is yours!" The palm against his wind pipe is shockingly cold.
"Told you to stay at camp." Comes the slurred reply.
"Oh yeah, what a bright idea that was." Jaskier removes his doublet, uses the blade he'd been given to cut away a sleeve. Geralt hisses as it's tied tight around his abdomen. The bard leans back to survey his work. Its sloppy, but it should be enough to staunch the bleeding. Now if they could just make it back to camp.
"Okay-Alright. I got this."
"You do not." Geralt croaks, a quiet counter.
"I do! I have you. Ill get us back to camp and then, well- Ill get to that. Just come on." Jaskier helps the man stagger to his feet. This is a body he's washed, a body he knows- intimate with every curve and muscle.
Geralt breathes through his nose, aching. He'd accepted his fate, never once considered Jaskier would swoop in to the rescue.
The bard pulls him along, and Geralt thinks fate has no place here.
He should apologize for the mountain.
But he doesn't-can't. There is blood flaking at the back of his throat, and the cavern of his mouth is so dry it hurts to breathe. The witcher cant feel his tongue.
Jaskier shoulders most of his weight, so much he can feel the bards legs trembling under pressure. Geralt has lost too much blood to be of any help, and so he gets partially dragged back towards camp.
They leave the shrieker and its head back in that grove.
Roach is restless, shifting from foot to foot as they arrive. She senses something is wrong, every bit as smart as Geralt says she is.
"Hey there girl." Jaskier pants, staggering into their small encampment. His legs burn, fire from his calves up towards his thigh and hips. He will be sore tomorrow, but that is nothing.
If they don't hurry Geralt may never see the sun again.
Jaskier settles him near the fire. There is a pack of potions and salve in Roach's saddle. The bard retrieves them with trembling hands.
He's exhausted, and the fear that hangs over his shoulder causes his stomach to roil. Jaskier would stop to be sick if he had the time.
There is no time.
"C'mere you big brute." Jaskier kneels next to the witcher, and for once he does not hesitate to touch. Geralt inhales, sharp and stuttering as the bard undoes leather straps, peeling away fabric at his stomach.
"How's it look?" The witcher slurs, trying desperately to focus on Jaskier's face.
The bard sniffles softly.
"It's not so bad. You've had worse." His voice is strained, fake calm. Jaskier picks out a salve he's seen the witcher use before.
"Will this help? We need to stop this bleeding. Don't you have some magic witcher potion that will fix this?"
Geralt snorts, and Jaskier feels a flare of anger ignite against his ribcage.
"For fucks sake, this is the farthest i've ever been from joking. I need you to help me, so I can help you!"
The absolute fear and desperation in his voice startles Geralt into awareness.
"A potion, orange vile."
Jaskier nearly chokes on the relief that floods through him.
"Okay-Okay great." He empties the entire bag of potions, carefully sorting through them. There is a familiar amber liquid that shines like gold against the dancing firelight. Jaskier seizes the vile, waving it in front of Geralt's face for good measure.
"This is it right?"
"Mhmmm." The witcher growls, face tilting away from the hand in his space.
"Oh thank heavens." Jaskier shifts to pull Geralt Into his lap, carefully cradling the mans head.
He chews away the cork with his teeth.
The witcher's hair is damp under his palm. He is strikingly vulnerable, head tipped back in a way that leaves his throat exposed.
Jaskier presses cool glass to burning lips, and pretends not to hear the man struggling just to swallow. Amber liquid is gone before they know it. Geralt fades in and out of consciousness, and Jaskier has the innate urge to scream.
What if it doesn't work?
Oh, but it has to.
The bard looks down, heart stuttering as he drinks in the sight of his witcher. Even unconscious his brow is pinched.
Must be in pain.
Jaskier reaches for the salve he'd discarded earlier. There are no words inscribed on it's canister, but he knows Geralt uses it often after battle. Always on fresh wounds.
This one is larger than most. If Jaskier had to guess he'd put money on it being the monster's beak that tore through Geralt's armor. He wipes the area clean best he can, applies a generous coating of salve over the worst of it.
And then- Well there is nothing left that he knows to do beside sit and wait. But bloody bullocks to that, the waiting is what got him here.
Around them the forest is quiet, almost tranquil. Jaskier would be hard pressed trying to find civilization in the daylight without a road to follow, but now it's certainly creeping towards the witching hour and there is no road to speak of. Geralt had tracked the beast out into some wooded land Jaskier has never been to before.
"Your voice isn't fillingless pie."
The bards head whips down. Geralt is staring at him, golden eyes murky and disoriented. Oh, how Jaskier wishes he'd been paying more attention on the ride out.
"I said it was, back at the swamp. Fillingless pie."
Jaskier blinks, wonders if he's finally snapped. But then he realizes all the blood loss has obviously made the witcher delirious and if he's already talking out of his head then how much time can they have left-
But then it hits him.
"Oh for-Bloody hell Geralt! I hardly mind anything you say. It's mostly boorish grunts and curses anyways, innit? So don't you worry yourself about it. I know my voice isnt-what'd you call it?" As if he'd actually forget.
"Fillingless pie" Geralt supplies for the third time. The man smiles, bordering on fond, and Jaskier thinks that maybe he's the one going crazy here.
In the end Roach is their unsung hero. She kneels low enough for the bard to load Geralt onto her back. It's messy and slow and they jostle the witcher more than Jaskier would have liked. When the bard finally settles in behind Geralt, uncertainly taking hold of her reigns but not moving an inch, she is the one who sets them on the path towards Novigrad.
Witches are scarce here, but Jaskier returns to the same inn they'd stayed in the week before. The barkeep with kind eyes is still there. She fidgets when he asks after magic users, anxious eyes sweeping the establishment before she whispers softly into his ear.
Jaskier finds a mage, and to his absolute astonishment the man takes one look at Geralt's wound and declares he will most certainly live, naming whatever potion Jaskier had administered. The bard listens but doesn't actually process any of it.
"Just like that?" Jaskier shakes his head, aghast. "But you didn't do anything!"
The mage smiles kindly. "Didn't have to. You did all the hard stuff yourself." This should be the end of it, but Jaskier grips the hem of his robes, pleading.
"You've gotten him to an inn. Dress the wound often but otherwise, let him rest." Calmly he peels the bards hand away. "A few days and he'll start to regain his strength."
"Are you certain there's nothing else- no voodoo or fancy spells?" Jaskier allows his arms to drop, fingers curling tight against his palms with nothing else to hold. "He lost a lot of blood." The bard adds softly, as if it hasn't already been said ten times.
"Aye. But not enough to kill him. The bleeding has stopped and the swallow potion has taken effect." If Patience is a virtue this mage may as well be a saint.
"So." The bard stops, inhales shakily and starts again. "So you're saying he's going to be fine?"
"And I helped save him?"
"It would seem that way."
Jaskier laughs until he cries, chest heaving in that tiny room.
They stay for all of five days, and Geralt sleeps through the first two. He wakes in an unfamiliar room, laying on a cot that's only a bit uncomfortable. And he should be more worried about it, but the bard is there, sitting in a chair near the window and plucking idly at his lute.
The new string shines brighter than all the rest.
"If that's to be a song it could use some work." He says, like he hadn't been on deaths doorstep-Like it's a normal day and they should be packing camp soon.
Jaskier nearly drops his lute.
"I-Is that all you have to say for yourself?" The bard stutters, suddenly on his feet. "Had me drag your sorry ass through the forest, ruined one of my favorite outfits!" He points an accusing finger towards the bloodied pile of clothing on the floor. The blue doublet with golden embroidery, a set of trousers to match. Geralt had liked that one.
"And to top it all off, Roach had to get us out of there because god knows I'm useless with directions and you- well you were-" Jaskier paces the room, and Geralt tracks his movements.
The bard looks like shit. Cleaner than he'd been out in the woods, but his eyes shine wild with raw fear.
There are hard lines around a mouth that's always smiling, smudges that indicate he's been awake for the better part of their stay here.
Sometimes Geralt wishes the rumors about witchers and emotion could be true because something fucking lifts behind his ribcage.
He still hasn't apologized for the mountain. He should do it now. He should do it-
"Are those dandelions?" The witcher spies a small vase sitting in the window, full of tiny yellow blossoms.
Jaskier's pacing comes to a halt, eyes darting over to the flowers. "Well yes, I thought a little color would brighten this place up a bit. Also they are a customary get well soon sort of thing.
Geralt listens to him babble, chest feeling unnaturally tight.
"And did you find one to wish on?"
The minstrel sputters, mouth falling open at the embarrassment of being called out.
"I might have." Jaskier draws slowly, lips pursed as his gaze flickers to the bandages still wrapping Geralt's torso. "The mage didn't actually do anything- and well, I didn't know what else to try. Just seemed wrong to sit and do nothing so..."
That warmth is back, spreading through the witchers chest so quickly he's afraid he might suffocate on it.
"I'm sorry for worrying you."
"Ah yes well, you damn well should be! It'll take a lot more than a pair of shoes or lute strings to make up for it! You owe me a new suit, and a vacation sometime. Do we always have to be chasing some beast?"
Geralt rolls his eyes, unbelievably fond.
"We'll see about all that. But first I'm going to collect my coin considering I've worked so terribly hard for it."
The bard blinks, taken off guard. "Is that a joke? Are you joking now?"
"I'm trying to." Geralt's lips twitch into the smallest of smiles. "Help me up."
In lieu of clothing Jaskier hands him an unfamiliar tunic. It's not so bad as the one he'd been made to wear at a banquet in Cintra, but it's still brightly colored and not his own. Geralt stares at the piece of fabric, or glares is more like it. Eyeballing the hand its attached to.
"I don't want-"
"And I don't care! Your fucking clothes absolutely reeked. They've been taken to the wash-though I doubt even the most gifted will be able to cleanse those stains."
Geralt doesn't know what to say in response, speechless as the fresh clothing is pressed into his arms.
He settles on a single, dignified word.
"Oh! this is definitely the one, what do you think?" Jaskier brandishes a colorful garment, pressing it against his chest as if that would give the witcher a vague idea of what he'd look like wearing it.
"I think its very....blue." Geralt shrugs. The cloth is blue, but its a different shade, one he doesn't even have a name for. It's reminiscent of the sky after a summer shower, shallow edges of the ocean.
Very near to the color of Jaskier's gaze.
"Always so eloquent." The bard tuts, lingering a moment longer to admire the fabric and its elegant embroidery before striding up towards the store front.
It's a small shop, barely the size of a room at the local inn. There is only one person behind the counter, a portly middle aged man. No use for war, so it seems he took up owning a store.
The man smiles politely at Jaskier as he approaches, eager to make a sell. That smile falters when notices the white haired brute hovering at Jaskier's back, falls away completely as he catches sight of a witchers medallion.
"Son." The store keep leans over the counter, whispering as if that would keep Geralt from hearing. "Don't you know those things are dangerous."
The witcher inhales sharply, understands where this is headed.
But Jaskier just blinks, confused and vaguely offended as he reaches for the instrument thrown over his shoulder. Its the only thing on his person.
"What? My lute?" Jaskier caresses it's strings, a scorned lover. "It's not dangerous, it makes lovely music! Would you like to hear some?"
The man looks at him strangely, eyes flickering to Geralt.
Jaskier follows his gaze, oblivious for a few blissful seconds longer.
Jaskier swivels to face the store keep, his expression suddenly sour. "I beg your pardon, but surely you're not talking about Geralt."
The nameless man stares past him, examining Geralt's medallion. "He's a witcher, innit he?"
"I-well, yes." The bards nostrils flare. "But that hardly matters."
"It matters here. This town has a strict policy about serving scum." The store keep turns his nose up, haughty and disgusted. Jaskier has never thrown the first punch but he comes alarmingly close.
"Jaskier, just take the money and pay. Ill wait outside." Geralt doesn't argue, doesn't even seem surprised-
And well, that just makes everything worse.
"I certainly will not!" Jaskier drops the fabric, lets it fall to the dirtied shop floor and kicks it, just for good measure. "This-this whoreson wont be getting a single coin from us."
For a moment the shop keep reaches as if looking for a weapon behind the counter. One glance at Geralt stills his hand.
The witcher does not speak but his expression says it all.
Don't touch him
"And i'll have you know, this man is responsible for slaying that thing that's been feeding on the towns livestock. Merchants have gone missing in the area!" Jaskier is still going strong, cheeks tinted pink in frustration.
It earns him a scoff. "His kind hardly need a reason to kill." The shop owner talks as if Jaskier is merely slow in understanding. "Bunch of murderers and thieves from what I heard."
The bard is breathing heavily, fingers quivering at his side. Geralt watches in abject horror as he lifts the lute, raising it over his shoulder with ferocious intent.
"Well you heard wrong!" He is poised, ready to swing the instrument if this man has anything else to say.
And well, this feels a bit like the twilight zone. Jaskier loves that fucking thing. Surely this altercation is not worth its loss.
"Jaskier- come on." Geralt drags him out by the arm before he's able to draw any more unwanted attention. The bard jerks away once they're outside, storming off down the street. Of course Geralt follows.
They walk in silence a few blocks, until the store is out of view and they come across a road that's less crowded. Jaskier is ahead of him, and for heavens sake, even his strides are angry.
"What in the hell was that?"
The bard doesn't stop, so Geralt reaches out to catch his shoulder.
The minstrel turns sharply to face him, and to Geralt's great horror there are tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Oh, Oh fuck-Don't cry." Geralt's got both hands on him now, tempted to check for injuries but knowing there are none. On lookers stop to stare, and the witcher feels strangely overwhelmed by the whole thing.
"Come on, lets get out of here before people start thinking I did something to make you cry."
The witcher tries ushering him out of the street but Jaskier wont budge.
"He said you were dangerous."
"Fucking hell Jaskier, I am dangerous." Geralt placates. Jaskier's shoulders are tense under his hand, drawn tight as loaded bow strings. The witcher doesn't even think, just puts his hands on them.
"But not to him!" The bard all but stomps his foot, stomach twisting at the injustice. "Not to any of them! If you were the person he said you were then-then-" Jaskier's breath stutters, and he looks up at Geralt with wide watery eyes.
The man catches his gaze, brow creased in concern.
And all Jaskier can think about is Geralt's back pressed against his own, solid and comforting. He remembers the brand new strings in his bag. There is a nameless princess in Temeria because Geralt made it so, salvaging her humanity when it would have been easier to kill her. Just last week he'd denied payment on a contract just-just because it was a family and they were poor, but willing to give everything for fear of losing their children to a creature that took up residence in the nearby forest.
"Jaskier." The witcher says, exasperated as his sobbing begins anew. Gently he tugs Jaskier towards a small alley and this time he's relieved when the bard staggers along with him. In the privacy of that lonely street Geralt decides to swallow his pride, arms folding Jaskier into his chest as if the bard was no more than a child.
"If you're worried he hurt my feelings then don't. I haven't got any feelings to hurt, we've been over this remember?" The man soothes, tucking Jaskier's head beneath his chin.
And they called him scum.
"I-I just don't understand why people are so cruel." Jaskier hiccups, furious. Geralt runs a hand through his hair, and the bard struggles not to break out in a fresh wave of tears.
How could they be hateful to someone so kind?
"Doesn't matter why. People are just like that sometimes. Wipe your nose." Geralt pulls a cloth from his pocket, handing it over.
He looks down to find the fabric in his hands is the same as from the store.
"Geralt what is this?" He glances up to find the witcher smirking, amused as he pulls the rest of it from his pouch.
Somehow he'd managed to snag the entire outfit during Jaskier's outburst.
"Oh! You devil!" The bard cant help but laugh, tears slinging as he shakes his head. "You do know I threw this on the floor though? It's been stomped on!"
Geralt shrugs, thumbing a stray tear from the bards cheek. "Hey, that ones on you."
Jaskier shoves at his chest, all tired smiles and feigned indignation.
"Don't make that face. Ill still buy you a new outfit." The sun is slipping past the tree line. Geralt takes a quick glance at their surroundings and decides it's getting a little too dark to be on the streets.
"But next time lets not create a scene, yeah?" He rises, pulling Jaskier along with him.
They stand together for a moment, Geralt's heart beating strangely fast while the bard sniffles, swiping at his nose.
"As if id ever do such a thing."
He winds up carrying Jaskier back to the inn.
I hope you enjoyed! Instead of a quick story about touch this has become a lifetime of love in little snippets.
Sorry for the long wait, these past months have been rough. Please stay safe, you all mean so much to me♡
Thanks a bunch for reading! Any comments and kudos are extremely appreciated.
Chapter 3: Rectification
(Obligatory disclaimer! I own nothing)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It's been raining for weeks. Not constant, but the breaks between showers are so short it might as well be. Geralt is leading Roach while Jaskier keeps lagging behind. His trousers were not made to be worn while soaked. The witcher refuses to make camp though, not because he's impassive about Jaskier's plight, but because there's been word of a man eater in the next town and he's keen on getting there before it claims another victim.
Geralt's good intentions are giving him blisters.
The bard opens his mouth to say so, but the words are swallowed by a startled yelp. His foot skids across a rock, fingers failing to find purchase on the way down. The fall sends him toppling over the ridge, just fast enough that he slips through Geralt's fingers when the witcher tries so desperately to grab him.
It's a long way down. Shrubbery smacks him in the face, elbows and knees catching every rock possible. He gains momentum midway through the decent, leaving behind a nasty trail of shredded clothing and bright red patches of grass. By the time he rolls to a stop there is copper on his tongue, a deep set ache along the shoulder he landed on.
And he thinks it can't possibly get worse than this-
Water spashes against his cheek, tiny droplets peppering his nose and catching in dark curls. The bard cracks an eye open to see storm clouds gathered overhead, mocking.
Of course, why not?
Jaskier lays boneless in the soggy grass he'd landed in, mourning another ruined outfit, refusing to rise and meet this nonsense.
At least the rain is already slacking off.
Or maybe not. Jaskier can still feel it against his chest, dripping into his fucking new shoes.
The bard risks another glance at the sky only to find amber orbs blocking his view.
The witcher is kneeling, broad shoulders sheltering Jaskier's face from the rain.
"How do you manage?" Geralt asks, worry deepening the crease at his brow.
"Me? These things only ever happen when im trapesing through the widerness with you. What ever happened to roads and civilization?" In truth Jaskier is tired. They've been traveling constant for months now, but if he's tired then Geralt must be exhausted. And so the bard tries to suck it up, reaches to wipe blood away from his lip with a tattered sleeve.
The witcher beats him to it, thumb caressing the split skin with a powerful amount of care.
"This was a-"
"Yes, a shortcut. You've mentioned that." Jaskier huffs, words engulfed by the pain lancing through his shoulder.
It was meant to be a fast route to the village, not taking into account clumsy bards and rain slickened terrain.
"Come on, don't wallow in the mud." Geralt gingerly curls an arm around the bards torso. He does most of the heavy lifting while Jaskier goes through the motions.
Wind has picked up by the time they get the bard on his feet. He should be looking at the long trek upward but instead his attention is caught on shining wisps of silver, seas of white that border a face so rugged and handsome anyone in the continent would be lucky to gaze upon it.
"You know, a kiss could make it better." The suggestion fills the space between them, and suddenly air seems thinner, harder to breathe.
"Fucking-what?" Geralt is tempted to drop him. He's always known Jaskier to be a flirt but the bard has never outright tried those moves on him before.
"You heard me." Jaskier mutters, almost wishing he could pluck those words from the air but standing by them all the same.
Geralt adjusts his grip, and they stand in silence until finally -
"Maybe if you make it back up the ridge." The witcher says softly, an edge of encouragement to his voice.
And well, Jaskier can't argue with that.
In the end he doesn't get the kiss he was hoping for, but Geralt lets him ride Roach for the remainder of their journey. It feels like a dream when while handing off the reigns Geralt pauses long enough to peck the bards knuckles one by one.
The forest is pitch black around them, bushes nothing more than an inky blur illuminated only by the full moon casting it's silver glow across the tree tops.
There is a paper folded inside Roach's pouch. It alludes to a creature wolflike in nature, one that only ever strikes on a full moon.
Geralt had taken the contract on a whim. Werewolves, while not exactly common, are low enough on the witchers radar to warrant little concern.
Jaskier doesn't know anything about that, but his stomach is in knots because something is moving between the trees, large and fast and panting in a way that makes the bards hair stand on end. It's nowhere and everywhere at once, breathing down his neck.
Suddenly the blade in his hand doesn't feel big enough.
Fingers find the small of his back, solid, comforting.
"I'm here bard. Breathe easy and keep out of the way." Geralt would not leave him behind, unprotected with a monster roaming these woods. Therefore Jaskier is to stay in his line of sight, even with the creature closing in.
"Are you sure I'm not going to be a burden like this?" The bard questions as he feels Geralt shift behind him, tracking what moves in the dark.
"You're fine," Jaskier can't see him but he knows the witcher to be scowling just by the tone of his voice. "I'll protect you."
And well, the bard is taken aback by that- how easily he says it.
"Ill just have to trust you, then." He wants to reach for Geralt's hand.
He wants too, but a ragged howl bounces off the foliage, yellow eyes hovering in the darkness to their right.
Jaskier's never seen a werewolf up close before, and as the creature stands on back haunches, well over seven feet tall, the bard swears he'd die happy never seeing one again.
Its sizing them up, he realizes.
There's a tug on the back of his doublet, Jaskier feels the fabric tighten around his shoulders and then the trees are passing him at an alarming rate. Geralt nearly lifting him from his boots in order to move them out of its way in time.
The witcher elbows him towards the nearby treeline. Jaskier glances back to see he's already drawing his sword.
And then they're going at it, so fast Jaskier cant track them with the naked eye. A flash of fur here, the glint of a sword there. But he can hear everything, flesh as its cut and the grutral noises made in response.
Geralt's strangled grunt as claws find their mark.
He's so preoccupied trying to watch, he fails to notices a small figure taking refuge between the trees.
By the time he senses another presence the figure is gone, and he's left feeling as though he's missing something important-
Behind him a twig snaps.
Jaskier turns to find a crossbow nocked and aimed for his middle.
"What are you-"
He looks past the weapon, shocked by how tiny the hands holding it are. Jaskier was expecting a monster, or bandit maybe.
Not a women. She can't be more than thirty, dressed in threadbare linens that are so filthy he'd guarantee she's been out here most of the night.
"That's my husband!" The question is answered for him. Even with her face distorted in wild rage she's pretty, reminds Jaskier of a women who taught him math in the academy. Her hands had been tiny as well, but much cleaner. No dirt beneath the nails.
The arrow rises, level with his face. The tip of it grazes his nose.
"Leave 'em be!" She angles the bow over Jaskier's shoulder, and suddenly it's clear he isn't the target here.
Geralt's not even looking.
The women closes one eye, intent clear as she aims for the witcher's back.
Fear closes his throat.
She never fires that arrow, eyes sliding down to the small blade protruding from her abdomen, Jaskier's trembling fingers still grasping its hilt.
They make eye contact. She looks-startled, scared. He can see now her eyes are green, like moss covered rocks that line the forest streams.
She blinks, tears gathering at the edge of all that green.
It drags Jaskier back to reality, cold ice down his back.
"O-Oh dear, I-I didn't mean-"
The women snarls, uses all that's left of her strength to pull the trigger.
But her arrow is off course, and it merely strikes the ground nearby. She stands long enough to witness Geralt's silver sword making it's destined arch through the air, the creatures head falling away only seconds later.
She falls with it.
"Geralt! O-Oh fuck, I've killed someone. Geralt!"
He's killed her but she's still breathing. It wasn't clean, and it wont be quick.
Jaskier tastes bile on his tongue, the urge to gag making him dizzy. The women is staring at him, pupils blown wide, accusing. Her face is shaped like his mothers.
"O-Oh no-" His heart flutters like that of a trapped bird, ironic since he's somehow become the predator.
There are hands on his shoulder, large and warm, shaking him back to reality. Geralt's strength is the only thing that stops him from sinking to the blood soaked soil. Maybe the earth will open up and swallow him whole. Its what he deserves-
"Fuck!" The witcher barks, so close now Jaskier couldn't ignore him if he tried. "Pull yourself together bard!" He reaches between them, hand pressing against Jaskier's sternum.
The pressure is somewhat calming. His heart beat slows, only to skip back into an irregular rhythm as he spies red blooming around the witchers shoulder pad.
"Are you injured?"
"Never mind that." Geralt snaps, attention focused on the small body at their feet.
The women is still struggling.
Jaskier recoils. A part of him is shocked she's still breathing, the ground around them has turned muddy, soaked through with her blood.
He never imagined someone so tiny could hold so much of it.
"Heavens help me, I didn't mean to! It was a mistake and now I've-" The words die off as Geralt turns, so sharp and fast there is nothing Jaskier can do to stop him from swinging his sword.
The strangled rattle of her breathing ends.
Horrified, Jaskier can do nothing but trip over his own feet trying to get away from whatever nightmare they'd walked into.
"Geralt! What in the bloody hell was that?"
"A mercy." The witcher grunts as if he's just slow on the uptake.
"But what?" Geralt asks. The deed is done and he's ready to bury it in these woods.
Jaskier knows then that nothing he says could possibly matter in this moment.
The witcher regards him silently for a handful of seconds. But then those seconds pass and he's resheathing his sword. "You didn't even kill anyone." He tosses the words over his shoulder like an afterthought.
It dawns on Jaskier then that technically the witcher is right. Geralt took it upon himself to strike the killing blow.
The bard makes a strangled noise, chest unbearably tight.
He didn't kill her. Geralt did.
That moment stretches infinitely, all the pieces slotting together in his mind. The witcher has taken this burden in his place.
Jaskier blinks against the sting of tears.
Together they bury the dead, not so deep as to be considered proper but enough that scavenging animals will be hard pressed to reach them.
Later Jaskier wraps Geralt's shoulder with shaking hands, his voice unbelievably genuine as he says, "I'm sorry you had to do that."
Geralt doesn't respond, but his gaze is soft even as he pulls his arm away. A part of him thought this would be penance for the mountain, a debt paid.
But he'd have done it anyways, so it doesn't really count.
"You should really stop to rest for a bit, maybe let me redress that wound?" They've been traveling steadily, and while that in itself is normal Geralt seems to be favoring his right side, wincing any time Roach crosses a bump in the path.
"Not now." The witcher waves a hand in dismissal. It's true, they are making good time. At this pace it would be possible to reach town within the day.
Ah, but its already been several hours since they left the werewolf and his wife in the grove. A wound like that definitely needs more care.
"What if it gets worse because you aren't tending it?" Jaskier persists, jogging to catch up. It wont be long before his legs begin to ache.
"I'm tending it just fine, and I have potions if needed." The witchers eyes flitter down, watching his companion struggle to keep pace. Geralt offers out a hand without thinking, pulling Roach to a halt.
Jaskier arches a brow in question.
"Is that for me?"
Geralt resists the urge to roll his eyes.
The minstrel takes his hand, allowing Geralt to hoist him up with the uninjured shoulder.
It was a mistake, because as soon as Jaskier is settled in he turns to peer at the witcher over his shoulder. He means to make a crude comment on how nice it is to ride in the witchers lap, anything to get him flustered and red eared. But to his immediate displeasure Geralt already looks suspiciously pink in the cheeks.
"You're a tad flushed." There's already an edge of concern creeping into his tone. "We should probably make camp just in case you come down with fever."
He lifts a hand to the witchers forehead, but there are fingers drawing him up short before he ever makes contact.
"I wont catch fever." The witcher grouches, carefully releasing Jaskier's wrist.
His kind don't get sick.
So he might have a fever.
It is true that witchers are immune to sickness, but he failed to mention that they aren't impervious to infection, poisons in the blood.
And as it turns out he doesn't have potions for that, used them all up on the last contract considering the werewolf wasn't something they'd planned for.
"So, how fucked are we?" Jaskier sighs, watching as Geralt settles at the base of a tree to peel discolored bandages away.
"Pretty fucked right now." The witcher growls, frustrated. He should have dealt with this earlier but the town is only a few miles away. They've earned a proper rest, somewhere with beds and wine.
He thought they'd make it before his injury flared to this degree.
Seems he thought wrong.
"Mhmm. I figured as much." Jaskier tuts, unimpressed by the swollen red skin surrounding his injury. Geralt must be feeling it by now, some sort of infection running rampant through his system causing everything to go haywire.
"So what now? Can't you whip something up?" The bards eyes dart to Roach's saddle. Surely they have the supplies, Geralt's not that careless.
He looks to the witcher, expectant.
Geralt begeudlginly glances up to meet him, expression grim.
"Why the bloody hell not?"
Geralt grimaces, and Jaskier carefully tries to lower his voice. "Don't have the supplies." The witches answers, an edge of resignation coloring his tone.
Jaskier doesn't care for it.
Flicking his wrist the bard presses a palm to Geralt's forehead, stomach uneasy at the intense warmth seeping into his hand. Geralt, to his shock, does nothing to stop him.
Or he does try- but the movements are so sluggish Jaskier's already had time to feel the sickly heat radiating from his skin by the time Geralt has the wherewithal to stop him, movements alarmingly weak in their attempt.
"Well, what do you need then?" Jaskier rises to retrieve a bag from Roach's satchel. She nudges his shoulder as he passes, as if urging him on.
He hands it off to the witcher, watching intently as Geralt rummages through what little supplies they have left. Eventually his shoulders droop, eyes flicking up to meet Jaskier in defeat.
"Don't look at me like that you absolute twat. Just tell me what we need and where to find it."
"I already have two of the three ingredients," The man pulls out a greasy paper bag. It's oddly colored, smells absolutely awful.
"Bloody fuck, has that been with us the whole time?" Jaskier recoils, disgusted.
"Part of the time. Remember those drowners?" Geralt folds back the paper to reveal several intact brains. He offers them to Jaskier casually, ignoring the sounds of protest.
The witcher does some more rummaging, eventually drawing out a tiny green vile. Jaskier recognizes this one, a common alchemy ingredient.
"A dwarven spirit?"
"Mhmmm." The witcher smirks, something akin to pride lighting his chest. "Combined with the brains and the celandine we need, it will make a potion strong enough to counter this infection."
Celandine, Jaskier's mind echoes. Its a flowery plant that only grows in deep foliage. He could probably find some not too far from here.
As if reading his thoughts Geralt interjects. "Not the best idea for you to go off by yourself, bard."
"No, the best idea would have been you listening to me and taking better care of yourself in the first place." Jaskier chides, fingers skimming the raw edges of Geralt's wound. It's dirty from the days ride, dried blood flaking off as it's touched. Any longer without treatment and it'll start to fester. "But this will have to do."
Geralt wants to argue, but he must know Jaskier is right. This is their only viable option.
"I need five of them." The witcher relents.
Jaskier goes to ready a fresh bandage. "Uh-huh, course you do."
"Take the blade if you go." Geralt orders, uncompromising.
The bard pauses, eyes flittering to the knife in question. He held it just the other night, remembers the feel of it splitting skin and muscle. That women's face is seared into the space behind his eyelids. She is sure to haunt him for the remainder of his life.
But Geralt isn't asking. The witcher retrives it himself, handing the hilt over in a way that brokers no argument.
"Yes sir." Jaskier rolls his eyes, doubting he'd have the courage to use it again even if he needed to.
"Keep an eye out for wild dogs and bears." There are more things to be wary of, but the bard wouldn't survive any of them. "Don't stray too far from the road."
Jaskier groans, exasperated. His mood has soured with the memory of that nameless women.
"Okay mother, anything else youd like to add?" He turns to make a point only to find the witcher within arms length, and steadily closing in.
He assumes Geralt means to smack him for acting so childish.
"Oh come on I didn't mean-" The witcher catches his face, palms large enough to cover both cheeks, fingers resting upon the sensitive skin of his neck, reaching into his hairline.
"Promise you'll come back to me whole and unharmed."
Jaskier stills immediately, startled. Out of all the things he imagined Geralt saying, that was not one of them. In his dreams, maybe. But not here, not now.
The bard thinks about telling him so, but then there is warmth blooming across his forehead. Geralt's lips are chapped and rough but it is by far the best kiss he's ever received. Anything Jaskier might've said is lost to the thunderous beating of his heart.
Geralt steps back as if he hasn't just set the bards world on fire.
And well, now Jaskier is the one who feels feverish.
"That was-l uh. Yeah. I promise ill try." The minstrel clears his throat, struggling to regain composure because Geralt is still ill and in need. "So uhm you just stay here and rest. Ill be back before you know it!"
Collecting the celadine is much easier than Jaskier anticipated. The woods are blissfully peaceful. He has to walk for a decent mile but at the end of that walk is a pretty orange flower, exactly as Geralt had described it.
To his luck they grow in small patches.
"I made it back!" Jaskier calls out, pace quickening as he spies the soft glow of a fire through the thicket of trees. He elbows his way into camp, still riding the high of a job well done, precarious deed accomplished!
"Did you miss me dear witcher?"
All of his joy evaporates.
Geralt hasn't moved at all, still resting against the base of an old oak tree where Jaskier left him.
The bard makes a strangled noise, eyes flickering down to the bandage they'd placed. Infection has seeped through, a nasty rust color illuminated by the fire Jaskier built before leaving.
"You absolute buffoon! I told you this would happen." The words are scalding. Jaskier closes the distance between them, dropping the bouquet he'd worked so hard to gather into the grass at their side.
Geralt stirs at the sound of his voice, shrill with alarm.
Snow white lashes flutter, and suddenly the witcher is looking at him. It takes almost a full minute for the dull gold to brighten with recognition.
"When did you get here?"
"I'll be asking the bloody questions, thank you very much!" Jaskier gripes, reaches to touch the witchers cheek.
As expected, he's burning up.
"How are you feeling?" The bard fusses, voice softening as he pushes damp hair away from Geralt's face. This is a setback, but not a deadly one.
"Hot." Shockingly Geralt leans into the touch, allowing his cheek to be fully cradled in Jaskier's hand. It takes the minstrel a long moment to realize his hands are probably cold, soothing.
"That's what happens when you ignore good advice." Jaskier tsks, gently pulling his hand away much to the witchers dismay. Geralt can do little more than watch as he goes to gather a thick bundle of orange and yellow, discarded in the bards hurry to check on him.
"Are all of those celandine? We only needed 5 of them."
"You needed five so I brought ten." Jaskier smarts, carefully sorting his bounty by color. "The rest are dandelions. I thought they'd make a nice salad for supper." He claps his fingers together, knocking away dirt and grime.
"But that can wait." Hands fly to rest prissily on slender hips. "Tell me what I have to do to make this potion."
The witcher walks him though the alchemy of potion making, overcome by the lengths Jaskier is willing to go for him. No one's ever stuck around this long. Geralt certainly doesn't make it easy. Most days the bard garners nothing from their travels. Song material he says, but for the most part all they do is travel. He could do that safely somewhere else, probably in much better company.
"I haven't treated you well, have I?"
Jaskier pauses, caught off guard by the question. He's got Geralt's small iron pot sitting over the fire, slow brewing.
"Well, I mean you're grouchy most days and stubborn on all of them but-" Jaskier thinks of the shiny strings lining his lute, Geralt's sly little smile as he drops an utterly stolen doublet into the bards lap. "You treat me very well." He finishes softy, the memories sweet in his mind.
"But don't you resent me, even a little?"
Geralt is thinking of all the times he's denied the bard his friendship, making Jaskier walk beside him and complaining about the very songs that have bought him better reputation.
He is thinking of these things but Jaskier is not.
"No?" The bard squints suspiciously, unable to follow this conversation any longer. "Why, have you done something?"
The witcher shakes his head minutely, mouth shaped into a tight sort of frown.
"You should though. Hate me I mean." Even if he hasn't done anything recently, there is still more than enough to answer for.
"That's absolute nonsense," The bard takes a lingering glance back at his work, just starting to bubble. It can spare a few minutes. "You're just sick and talking out of your head.
With that in mind he makes his way over to the witcher. Geralt is laying on the makeshift cot Jaskier had rigged together for him, mostly fallen pinestraw wrapped in their thickest furs. It's not exactly comfortable but definitely an improvement to tree bark scratching his shoulders.
"Im serious. Any man would be right in their resentment."
Jaskier drops to sit at the witchers side, deft fingers guiding Geralt's head into his lap. He moves without comment.
"Geralt, you don't give yourself enough credit. I was little more than a teenager when we met, living on my own for the first time and doing an awful job of it." The witcher's hair is soaked through, plastered to his forehead. Jaskier brushes it away with a gentle caress. "And you- well you were the one person who didn't throw things at me, even though I made an easy target."
Ah, that earns him a tiny smile. Geralt must remember how he'd been pelted with everything from bread to boots.
"Ever since then you've been the one constant in my life. Even my lute has come and gone, but you stay the same. It's endearing really. People call you a monster but you're by far the best man I've ever known. I could never hate you."
Geralt is at a loss. He doesn't know whether to be touched or grateful, so he settles on embarrassed. Jaskier smiles at him all the same.
And he desperately wants to counter that with something equally heartfelt, but he's never been so eloquent as the bard.
In the end Jaskier leaves to retrieve the potion before Geralt ever thinks of anything to say.
The concoction tastes stronger than normal, but does it's job all the same.
By sunrise the next morning Geralt's fever has broken. Jaskier celebrates by foraging. He returns to camp with a bowl full of wild blackberries. For breakfast they have a hearty dandelion salad, and after the minstrel insists that Geralt rest while he starts breaking camp.
Geralt doesn't bring up the things they said in the night. He watches Jaskier pack, carefully catching a berry on his tongue. Teeth break skin, and a sweetness akin to summer fills his mouth.
The witcher keeps it to himself but he thinks maybe they should head for the coast. Jaskier has more than earned it.
In town the bard sings. Geralt makes it through the first chorus of toss a coin to your witcher before quietly making his leave. They will need supplies for the upcoming trip, and Geralt means for it to be a surprise.
He returns several hours later to a somber inn, all occupants strangely silent as Jaskier's voice fills the void. It's a song Geralt's never heard before, a sound that borders on haunting.
"She’s always bad news. It’s always lose, lose. So tell me love, tell me love, how is that just?" The minstrel's voice floats, twinged with anguish and righteous sorrow. It's captivating, the sort of sound you can't help but stop for.
Geralt doesn't know this melody, but the lyrics are familiar in a way he can't quite place.
"I’m weak my love, and I am wanting. If this is the path I must trudge, I welcome my sentence. Give to you my penance-garrotter, jury and judge."
It comes back in wisps. Clips of Jaskier's voice, soft and unsure. He was sitting on a rock, not watching Roach.
He was writing a song.
And they were in the fucking mountains.
There is quiet until the very last strum of his lute. Jaskier's voice echoes, fading, and just like that the spell is broken. People murmur in scattered conversation. A few give proper applause, even more throw small coins at his feet.
The bard gathers his earnings and waves to the crowd, but his eyes remain on a crown of white hovering near the back.
Geralt's finally heard his song, then.
Jaskier packs away his lute, grinning to see the witcher has moved closer, waiting for him.
"So what did you think of that, dear witcher?" All of his feelings are out in the open now, but he's not afraid. Geralt will accept them or reject him, but Jaskier has faith they'll stick together no matter what. They've past the point of separation.
"I....I didn't know you felt that way-about Yen." The witcher shifts, movements jerky with guilt. "If I had known well-" Well what? Would he have stopped seeing her altogether? Or maybe just tried for more discretion? Jaskier obviously had feelings for the sorceress and Geralt never even considered it, too busy oogly Yennefer to give the bard a second thought. He's been suffering in silence while she and Geralt shared a tent any chance they got and-
And Jaskier is laughing at him.
"You know fuckall, Geralt."
The bard is doubled over howling with laughter, and for a moment Geralt has the distinct urge to smack him. He's just learned there is more to apologize for than he ever knew about- and here he is trying to work his way through that apology, and yet Jaskier is laughing at him.
"It's dangerous to mock a man who has at least fifty pounds on you, bard."
That gets his attention, but only because there's been a shift in the witcher. He seems genuinely bothered, as if the thought of hurting Jaskier all this time is physically painful for him.
Ah, Jaskier has wanted to kiss him so many times, but this one really takes the cake.
"What? You thought that was for her!?" The bard rolls his eyes. Geralt is so painstakingly oblivious, Jaskier should be fed up with this nonsense and yet all he feels is warmth, flooding his belly and making his heart feel three times too big for his chest. He watches as the witcher puts two and two together, but turns out he's not so brave as he thought.
Rejection didnt seem so bad when it was an abject thought, but here, in this moment with those golden suns shining down on him, Jaskier doesn't think he could bare it.
"Yeah big guy, just chew on that for awhile. Here-" The minstrel pushes his lute into hands so much larger than his own. "Take this back to the room for me. Im going to count all my hard earned coin, maybe buy us dinner!"
Anything to flee the scene.
Jaskier disappears towards the bar, leaving Geralt with his most prized possession. But the witcher doesn't even know why he's holding it. All he can think about is "What, you thought that was for her?" and everything it implies. Up until now he assumed the bard was just flirting because it's what he does. Jaskier flirts.
But maybe it's more than that.
"So, are we going to talk about it?" Jaskier broaches the topic casually, as if merely asking about the weather.
It's an ideal afternoon, crisp but sunny. There is a fresh sheen of dew coating the grass, and the bard hasn't stopped talking since they left town but the sound of his voice doesn't grate on Geralt's nerves as it once did.
The question is unexpected. "No." Is Geralt's first response, followed by a much softer "Yes, absolutely yes."
Jaskier waits but only silence follows, filled by chirping birds and the rustle of small game running through the underbrush.
"Once we reach our next stop, well talk." The coast. Geralt tries to imagine it. He'll definitely work out something to say by then, a way to make Jaskier see he wants this, has wanted it for a long time.
The witcher walks beside him instead of riding, claiming that Roach could use a break even though she's had days to rest. Jaskier grins, wide and toothy, but wisely chooses not to comment.
Instead he points out brightly colored foliage, stopping every once in a while to admire a particularly beautiful flower. Sure he'd like an answer now, but the delay means that Geralt is thinking about it. He's actually fucking thinking about it.
That makes this a good day, and it would have been perfect if not for the band of people Geralt can sense blocking their path up ahead, just out of sight.
"Stay." The witchers expression is stern as he places the reins into Jaskier's hand. "I'll be back."
Jaskier's steps falter before stopping altogether. "Why, where are you going?"
"There are people ahead. Blocking the bridge we need to cross." Geralt places a large hand on the bards chest, gently pushing until he's backing out of the road. "Keep to the side."
The witcher turns as if to leave, doesn't make it three steps before pausing to glance back at Jaskier. "Be safe, bard." He's met with a playful eyeroll, Jaskier's lips twitching into a content little smile. "Awh. It's almost like you care."
Geralt doesn't make it to the bridge. As expected with this type of group they aren't friendly. Bandits if he had to guess. Seasoned enough to have a few men keeping watch, alerting all the others of what appears to be a witcher approaching.
Arrows whistle as they fly by. Better aimed shots get split down the middle.
All in all it takes only half an hour to find and slay the small party. Would've been less bloodshed had they given him a chance to use axii. There is no lesser evil here. Just a bridge that needs to be crossed. Geralt wipes his sword clean on the tunic of a fallen man.
"Jaskier, time to go!" The witcher grunts, whistling next for his horse. Roach comes trotting into his line of view, no bard in site.
And well, there's three things wrong with that. Number one, It's too quiet. Jaskier is always animated, even in sleep the minstrel talks. Geralt would know, he's the one who wakes in the night because his name has been spoken in a dream.
Number two, the bard is extraordinarily nosy. He likes glimpsing the aftermath, if only so he can write songs about it.
Number three- There is a bloody hand imprinted on Roach's saddle.
Geralt feels every muscle in his body go rigid, blood suddenly taking on an unnatural chill.
He finds the boy slumped not far from where he'd been left, back supported by a tree thats long since fallen, more of a rotting log now. There is blood splattered across a patch of small yellow flowers growing near the road. The bard had stopped to smell them not long ago and now-
Air rushes out of him so quickly it makes his knees weak.
The bard's head jerks, eyes flashing with recognition.
"Geralt, so kind of you to show up. Seems I've gotten myself into a bit of a, uhh- situation." The minstrel jokes, laughter wet and wheezing. He is cradeling the curve of his belly, one hand weakly gripping a filthy feathered nook.
Ah, an arrow then. A stray that had missed Geralt but struck home elsewhere. The witcher stands, paralyzed for three earth shattering seconds.
And then he lunges into action at the bards side.
"Jaskier, fuck- what am I going to do with you?" Geralt gently removes the bards hand, startled by how quickly blood bubbles beneath his palm.
The bard watches too, transfixed by the thick red rivulets. "Oh hell. Im dying now, right?" His words come in rushed little gasps, suddenly afraid. "This is that?"
Geralt can't bare to hear it-cant even look at him, not directly. He has to focus on something other than Jaskier's fear. "Shut the fuck up. You're not dying. You're not."
"Mmm, well. If you say so." The bards eyes roll, refocusing only after a near violent jostling. "But I don't really think we have much say in the matter." He finishes as if not realizing the time he's lost.
It's a bad sign, and still-
"I wont let you die, bard."
Removing the shaft would be a mistake. He'll have to try and stabilize it long enough to withstand a ride back into town.
Geralt's palm slides over split skin, so wet he cant find enough purchase to apply pressure. The bard inhales sharply, hands scrambling to push Geralt away.
"Stop, stop it. I have to do this." The witcher's voice comes strained, harsher than he intended.
Beneath him Jaskier groans, expression crumpling.
"Shhhh." Geralt tries again, softer this time. "I have to break the head off this arrow before we can go anywhere."
"But why? Im so tired Geralt. Arent you tired?" The bard tugs on his wrist, fingers sticky and warm. "Just let me rest."
"Fuck, no- Jaskier." Geralt has never looked so heartbroken. Jaskier takes in the anguished lines of his face, and he thinks that people must be blind not to see it. He can't speak for other witchers, but this one feels everything so deeply. He's seen it all now, secret smiles and childish brooding, pangs of empathy when they pass through a town and Geralt realizes the people there are mistreated and poor. A lingering sadness whenever mothers are mentioned.
Fingers dig into the muscle at his shoulder, dull and desperate. Geralt shakes him, not so hard as to jostle the injury but it makes Jaskier's head jerk. Distantly he realizes he might've lost time again. "You are going to live and we are going to go on that stupid trip to the coast." It's the closest Geralt's ever come to crooning. "But you must stay conscious until we reach a healer."
The bards eyelids flutter, pools of honey swimming before his vision. Geralt, his mind supplies hazily. The witcher is looking at him, expression pinched in a way that makes the gold look especially shiny.
Jaskier tsks, unhelpful. He can detect bullshit from a mile away, it is after all something he's good at. He bullshits with women and occasionally their husbands. The only person he's ever been honest with is the one hovering over him now, grappling with a way to get them out of this mess but Jaskier knows better. They are on a road between towns, almost a days trek in either directon. He watches a bead of sweat roll down Geralt's jawline, enchanted by the way water caresses skin.
There is an unfamiliar glint in the witchers gaze. it takes a moment for Jaskier to register it as fear.
Oh well, he must be well and truly fucked then.
He thinks of the warmth of another body pressed against his own, callused fingers caressing his cheek, holding cloth to fresh wounds- not tender but still careful. The witchers quiet appreciation whenever Jaskier would leap to his defense, rare smiles and lingering glances. Always so solid, dependable.
Geralt taps his cheek. He'd been on the verge of dozing.
"Hey, do you remember that goat man and the elves who tied us up? He was weird, right?" Jaskier wants to look at him, really look at him, but the bards vision is blurry at best. Its getting harder to form words, his thoughts scattered and murky, mostly caught on the white hot pain in his gut. Its hard but he tries.
"Hmm yeah. Weird." Geralt responds on instinct, not actually listening. He doesn't dare glance at the bards face, instead looking intently at the offending wood as if the heat of his gaze could sear it away.
Jaskier catches his sleeve, needs these words to reach him.
"Thank you for saving me back then. And with the djin and at that bloody Cintra banquet."
"Jaskier-" Geralt finally pauses, hair standing on end. This is starting to sound awfully close to a goodbye.
"Do you remember that one time I almost got hypothermia? You saved me then too. You just keep having to do that, dont you? Maybe now you'll have a bit of peace." He smiles, sincere.
Geralt bites his tongue so hard there is a gush of copper in his mouth. He looks openly angry, almost hostile with the way his eyebrows come together in annoyance. The bard is unbelievably fond of that expression.
"Jaskier shut the fuck up! I don't want peace. I want you to stop fucking bleeding." He snaps the wood without warning, and while he'd been expecting the reaction it still makes him physically ill to hear Jaskier choke, gaging on the agony of it. God only knows what's been damaged internally.
The minstrel tries to squirm but Geralt holds him still. "And then I want to go to the coast for a while, alright?" Geralt says, insistent and achingly gentle. So much for his big surprise. "Just- think about that and be silent."
The bard jerks his head, defiant even on the edge of unconsciousness.
"I wanted to go to the coast but you left me on that mountain." Jaskier gasps, less accusing than he'd hoped for. Instead he just sounds exhausted, eyes squeezing shut in an attempt to block out the pain.
"That fucked me up Geralt." The bard chokes around the words. And what's worse is Geralt knows. He knows he fucked up and he's been trying to make up for it. He's still trying, so Jaskier has to stick around long enough to let him.
The desperation must show on his face, because Jaskier reaches up with trembling fingers to wipe what has to be sweat from his cheek. And then he says the most damning thing of all-
"I love you."
What a jackass thing to say at a time like this. Geralt would shake the bastard if it wouldn't just kill him faster.
"Now is not the time-"
"Its never the time actually. So I made time." Jaskier sniffles, reaching for Geralt's hand.
The witcher tugs it from his reach.
"Stop that shit right now. This is not some poetic goodbye. You are going to be fine." Jaskier is right about one thing; he wont survive a ride on horseback in this condition. Their only option is to try packing the wound. It wont do much to save him in the long run but maybe it can buy them enough time to reach someone who can.
"Ngh, wont make it."
"You have to." The witcher is already tearing through his bag of supplies, the one he keeps stocked for battle. Jaskier watches him, alarmed by the sight of it. He would struggle, if he had the energy.
"But Geralt, I cant-" His voice has taken on a weepy waver. He's giving up, he's giving up, he's giving-
There are fingers on his cheek again, this time tipping his head up just the slightest bit. The witcher crowds his view until he is the only thing Jaskier can see, everything melting to splotches of color behind him.
He expects more words, something he hasn't heard before.
But Geralt only leans in, lips slotting against his own as if they were made to do so. It taste like copper and earth, a tinge of the ale they'd shared just this morning. It's everything he expected it would be, but so much softer. The blood smeared across his chin is a surprise. He always assumed Geralt would be the wounded one, what with his habit of finding trouble.
The witcher makes to break the kiss. Jaskier chases his lips until they're gone.
"Let me do this, okay?" Geralt coaxes, luring the bard back from whatever spell that kiss had put him under. There's a wad of cloth his hand. For packing the wound, Jaskier realizes absently.
Ah, what a dirty trick that was. There is nothing the bard could deny him now.
"Well. S'pose I could try. Hard to argue with all that."
The witcher exhales slowly, relieved. He cuts a small strip of leather, grimly passing it between Jaskier's lips. The bard takes it willingly, though his face is stark white with fear.
Great feels a swell of pride behind his ribcage. Without his realizing it the bard has become brave.
He deftly places the cloth into the wound with no warning, careful to situate it in a way that braces whats left of the arrow. With any luck it should at least slow things down.
The leather is stifling but its not enough. Jaskier makes a sound that sends all birds to the sky, fleeing this clearing and the bard that suffers within it.
By the time he's finished Jaskier's face is tracked with tears, but his bleeding has slowed and the fool smiles like they've won something.
Geralt's never been more in love.
And he's never felt more dread as he does when that smile slips from Jaskier's face. The bards eyes roll again.
This time when he goes, he goes completely.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed.
Spoiler alert, our boy dandelion isn't going to die. I'm just a sucker for the kind of cliffhanger that makes you wanna scream. The last chapter should be added sometime soon if 2020 is willing.
Kudos and comments are greatly appreciated. I am a plant. Please water me♡
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.