Geralt might not know it, but since they have met Jaskier started putting gold metaphors into his songs, unconsciously or not. It's about the warm gold embracing Jaskier in the night, it's about his heart turning from black corroded iron to the noble metal and many other half-sung words that Geralt finds off-putting if his quiet grunts are anything to go by as Jaskier fumbles with the strings of his lute. Jaskier finds it easy to ignore it because Geralt never explicitly opposes his singing or song-writing or his playing or his presence. And it's not like Geralt is shy or scared to let his annoyance or anger be known, he doesn't have problems with smacking Jaskier's head whenever he talks too much or makes too-obscene-too-out-of-place jokes or violently tugging Jaskier by his clothes whenever Jaskier's speech becomes too slurred after some very strong ale and his flirting with strangers is irritating to everyone present in the tavern.
Jaskier stops mid-chord as his gaze lands on Geralt, who is sharpening one of his swords, eyebrows stuck in the perpetual frown, trying so hard to connect on the bridge of his nose. No, thinks Jaskier, he could get rid of me anytime if he wanted to. There is a reason why he doesn't, so just keep doing whatever you do. Some might find it impossible and even laughable, but Jaskier is pretty good at reading people. So good, in fact, that he knows that Geralt sharpening his sword simultaneously with Jaskier's song-writing is not something he should be afraid of or think of as a threat. Quite the opposite actually, the moment Geralt stops is when Jaskier should start feeling just a little nervous.
“No inspiration tonight?” Geralt says without looking up. Jaskier goes back to drawing mindless chords out of his lute.
“Writing songs isn't as easy and straight-forward as killing monsters, Geralt. It takes time, you have to go back to it, wait for the right words to strike you, right emotions to fill you.” After a pause, Geralt answers with one of his many hums, the one that translates to “I see, not that I understand how song-writing works, but I guess I do understand what you mean”. Another thing that is great about travelling with a witcher is that Jaskier gets to become more fluent in this strange, new language. Maybe someday he'll be able to communicate in it with Geralt. Do other witchers use it? Jaskier sighs and feels the urge to spill the words into the night air, get something out of his chest but he opts to looking at the stars as he lays down, hands behind his head, trying to decipher music in the sounds of fire. He hears that Geralt goes back to his sword and it adds to the calming night rhythm, making Jaskier drift to a gentle sleep.
Jaskier is woken up by a strong hand shaking his shoulder, his sight blurry with grey and white and a spark of gold as he opens his eyes.
“We need to go, get up.”
It's funny how he doesn't get mad that he is woken up before the sun is up, isn't angry at Geralt for shaking him so violently, urging him to leave the warm bed of one of the countless inns they stay at. he smirks to himself as he dresses, thinking about the word we leaving Geralt's lips. They ride out through the cold dark morning, Jaskier's hands tight around Geralt's waist because it's safe that way and it's warmer. Even if Geralt doesn't like it, he doesn't say it, even by the means of his eloquent hum, which this time means "you'll need to hold tighter, bard. it's going to be a long ride". Or maybe Jaskier is still too sleepy.
Jaskier is sure they have spent eternity in this town, even though it was just one day. Geralt insists Jaskier stays out of this one, it's too dangerous he says. “Like you care, Geralt.”
So Jaskier does go with him, almost shits his pants when he sees the alp with her blindingly pale skin and hair red as the Hell's flame and face so horrendous he can't look away and Jaskier would gladly write all these tropes down if he wasn't so horrified. Geralt kills her too fast for Jaskier to register anything. Slashes right through her with the sword, his eyes black, mouth twisted in a growl, muscles budging. He pats Jaskier's shoulder, leaving the creature's blood on his blue navy jacket and says “I told you you should wait this one out.”
And generally Jaskier agrees, maybe it was too terrifying and dangerous, especially when the alp hurled herself in his direction only for Geralt to pierce through her right in time. They are on Roach again, this time no haste, but Jaskier still clings to Geralt, shaking a little both from cold and what happened less than two hours ago.
“I know you think it was reckless of me to go with you, but I got a pretty solid experience out of it. It will be good for my song. And my songs are what helps me get a coin. And make you even more famous, of course.”
“Do you only care about coins?” Geralt asks.
“I care about what helps me live another day. Now that we are talking about it...thank you. For saving me.”
Geralt hums and Jaskier feels its vibrations with his cheek pressed to his back. It's an unmistakable “you are welcome, but listen to me the next time”. Jaskier smiles because he knows there will be the next time.
This night is colder and Jaskier covers himself with a fur piece that Geralt throws his way. It's still too cold, even with fire. “Why didn't we stay there? Do we really need to spend the night in the woods?”
Geralt looks at him grimly. “Because the last time we were there you pissed the inn keeper so much he almost killed you.”
“What did I do?” Jaskier asks, high-pitched and appalled but the memories start coming back and he lets out a quite oh and shuts up. He knows Geralt is hungry and irritated and maybe a little bit angry with him. So he does what always does in situations like these. He goes to Roach to take his lute and starts manifesting new music from the new feelings sitting in front of the fire. He lays the words on it, adding the weight, immortalizing another tale of the brave witcher. The words are laced with pride and admiration and sadness and Jaskier is not sure if Geralt is able to read into it enough to draw out these subtle ideas but who knows. He gets lost in his performance, something he rarely does, but the audience seems grateful so it's easy. He sees Geralt's features soften just a tiny bit, his posture relaxed, his eyes fixed on the fire. He strikes the last chord, closes his eyes. He's happy with this one.
His minute serenity is thwarted by Geralt's low, raspy voice.
“Why are you with me? It's either too boring or too dangerous. No good balance.”
Jaskier stares at him, a little alarmed. He wants to brush it off with some joke but it rarely helps not being serious when you talk to Geralt. Especially if he is the one talking to you.
“I need a company, I guess. A companion. And so do you. Don't you?”
Geralt is silent, staring at the fire. His hands are still bloody. Not even a hum Jaskier thinks to himself, even more alarmed. He puts down his lute trying to make as little noise as possible, hugs his legs and puts his chin on his knees, still trying to preserve the warmth.
“You know, I could also ask you why are you with me. Why don't you just get rid of me, I know I can be annoying. Hardly any balance with me,” he chuckles, looking at Geralt, trying to make him look back at him.
Geralt does look at him and hums. But Jaskier cannot for the life of him decode this one yet. He's pretty sure he's going to regret it, but it feels right to say it now and Geralt is used to his sharp tongue.
“You know, your coarseness is what scares all the people off, especially the ladies. But not me, I even find it nice sometimes, refreshing, brings me back down to earth. That's why I'm with you, if you are still interested in my answer.”
“I don't need them or anyone finding my coarseness nice,” Geralt sounds serious, but he always does.
“Yes, yes, I remember. You don't need anyone needing you. We've heard this tale before.”
This night he asks Jaskier to play his new work again, which he has never done. Albeit surprised, Jaskier guides his fingers on top of the strings and his voice merges with the sounds of the night. Geralt slowly falls into a slumber, making it the first time he falls asleep before Jaskier and not the other way around.
It's been almost half a year and Jaskier is pretty sure he has used all the words that rhyme with "gold". Bold, told, fold. Old, cold. Hold. Controlled. Scold. Even mold. maybe he should start looking into the snow metaphors now.
They've been travelling a long time now and it's the first time in a long while when they are in a nice inn, in the nice rooms with warm food and beds. And girls, of course, but Jaskier is too tired for that, which surprises not only him but Geralt as well. It's deep into the night when Jaskier hears a knock on his door and it's Geralt, tired, muffled hair and a broody face.
“I need you to play something for me.”
If Jaskier thought he was surprised about himself earlier, now he's perplexed. Geralt enters the room, going past Jaskier and sits himself in the chair in front of the fireplace. Jaskier finds his voice again.
“You mean a song? Geralt, are you feeling well? What's with the sudden self-admiration and wish to hear about your feats?”
Geralt doesn't answer, just closes his eyes. Jaskier sits in front of him, still confused, but curious. There is a long, pregnant pause before Geralt says
“It helps me fall asleep. Your voice. It calms me down. I've been falling asleep to it for the past few months, I got used to it. I need to sleep, Jaskier.”
Jaskier could swear Geralt sounds desperate, but it's probably his mind playing tricks on him. Wishful thinking. Not the Geralt of Rivia.
There is so much he can say right now, poke fun at him, use it to his advantage, give him a favor. He can quote Geralt on not needing anyone and now begging him, asking him, needing him. But no matter what Geralt might think of him, he's not like that. And singing to a friend if it helps him sleep is not a favor, it's not the way Jaskier sees it with Geralt. Even if it's been for a long time that Jaskier doesn't see him only as a friend.
It's endearing, it's sweet, it's so gratifying to hear. It's everything Jaskier is not ready to tell Geralt.
Jaskier takes his lute and stands up. “Let's go then. Or are you planning to sleep in the chair?”
Like many times before, he watches Geralt fall asleep, his chest moving so seldom it's terrifying if Jaskier didn't know about witchers' physiology. He sings one of the old ones, the one that's sad but beautiful, one that he'd written in one go during one of the warm summer nights, Geralt by his side as always, giving a hum that meant “it sounds nice, I like it” even if he didn't really know what it was about. Not that Jaskier expected him to, but it was pleasant to hear. He doesn't remember when Geralt's words started meaning so much to him.
The sounds of his lute have long faded away and he still sits there, chin on his palm, in front of his sleeping companion. Friend? Feels like Geralt is allergic to this word or any words that show affection, unlike Jaskier who is ready to move onto the next words long time ago. He falls asleep with a lute on his lap and subtle ache in his heart.
It becomes habitual for the next week. Jaskier comes without Geralt asking. Sometimes mindlessly strumming the lute, sometimes composing new pieces, sometimes too tipsy with ale to do anything but babble. Sometimes Geralt talks and Jaskier has always cherished these moments, because they are rare. It's rare that Geralt shares anything without being asked. Jaskier likes to think he leads him to the answers, not forces them out of him.
“People often say that people change. They also often say that people don't change. I'm trying to keep up with the numbers but it's always even. So what do you think, Geralt of Rivia. Do people change or not? Do witchers?”
Geralt looks at him like he always does, absolutely unreadable to others, but Jaskier is not the others even when he's drunk.
“You've changed. I would say that people change.”
“Me? How so?”
“You are less selfish. And smug.”
“Thank you, I guess.”
It was bound to happen sooner or later and Jaskier's legs are wobbly as he moves towards Geralt, his palms on witcher's lap. He wants to kiss him rough, because it's Geralt and everything about him seems that way but he cannot help but kiss him gently. He tastes ghosts of alcohol and his own nervousness because Geralt lets him deepen the kiss and now he tastes more, feels more, words he could make into songs explode in his head and it's just burning his mind. His hands find Geralt's jaw and he gets to caress his face, like he did many times in his dreams. And he feels no fear now, no anxiety only solace and comfort.