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Wolves, not men

Chapter Text

Geralt stood at the window, looking down onto the snowy training grounds as Ciri worked her way through her katas. Her form was still rough and awkward, but she was improving by the day. The fact that she could hold her own against the chilly winter wind that swept mercilessly through Kaer Morhen was a testament to her budding skills.

He knew she wasn’t destined to be a Witcher, but he knew no other way for a child to be raised. At least now she wouldn’t have to fear dying upon the sword of another. He would be there, to protect her always, but the training soothed him as much as it strengthened her.

But still the safety wasn’t enough. There was more. It was itching and burning its way through him, keeping him from sleep at night. Bringing him nightmares that he longed to have done away with. Nightmares that he had thought would never haunt his mind.

He ignored the footsteps, as silent as they were, as they whispered behind him. Vesemir was not threat to him.

“You’re shit at brooding,” Vesemir snapped, standing beside the younger Witcher and looking down into the training grounds, “I thought I taught you better than that.”

“I must have been sword training that day,” Geralt answered wryly.

Vesemir just snorted, and shook his head as he watched Ciri slip out of form. It was a shame that she was the only student here, if only to spare her from Vesemir’s sharp eyes. He was kind, in his way, as an instructor. But he was a Witcher instructor, and kindness was harsher than cruelty elsewhere.

“You remember what you were taught, after you survived your trials,” Vesemir said, and Geralt nodded.

He remembered every lesson. He made use of them, to the letter. He had lived while on the Path, while others, many others, had not. Geralt was the famous White Wolf, after all, the one that drunkards sang of in taverns.

Geralt bit his tongue at the memory of why people sang of him at all.

“You’re unbalanced,” Vesemir continued, “Haven’t been right since you returned. And it’s not because of her.”

Geralt simply nodded. It was the truth. And he knew if he tried to deny it Vesemir would toss him out the window and give him a few lessons in the training ground below. Witchers don’t lie to themselves, he had been taught. Only the dead lie to themselves.

“You met them,” Vesemir said, and Geralt nodded silently.

He knew what his mentor was talking about. The stories of Witchers of old. That told of partnerships that kept them balanced before their potions and mutagens had been created. Partners that linked soul deep in their Witchers, grounded them, helped them, were the other half of their coin.

Old fairy tales, but half of what Witchers faced were old fairy tales. So he had been taught the lessons, and promptly throw them away. A Witcher should need no one, and no one should need a Witcher.

And yet here he was, fostering his child surprise, watching her blossom in front of him even in the winter chill of the mountains.

“Then why the fuck aren’t they here,” Vesemir demanded, “We only get one, Geralt. One person in all the world destined for a Witcher.”

“Did you have one,” Geralt asked, looking over at the older man.

Vesemir paused, and then nodded, staring out beyond the snow smothered mountains. Geralt’s eyes went wide at the admission.

“Yes, and they’re gone now. Because I was full of myself and tossed them aside.”

“If you survived I can survive,” Geralt said.

“Surviving is all we do these days,” Vesemir spat, “There should be more to life than surviving. You’re a fool for rejecting your other half. All the potions in the world will never bring you to balance again.”

Geralt swallowed at that.

He had been struggling all winter, easily blamed on recovery from the ghoul venom, but that excuse had been wearing thin. His center, his focus, was so threadbare that it could barely contain him. He would lose himself staring at the details of a piece of stone, of listening to the snow whistling through the wind, of his memories. Of his memories of him.

“It’s enough,” Geralt insisted.

“It won’t be enough for her,” Vesemir said, “Soon enough, she’ll notice. And one day you’ll slip and she’ll be the one that pays.”

Geralt’s fist tightened at that. But it was true, he knew it was. A single slip was all that it would take, and something would slip past his guard. He couldn’t hole up with her at Kaer Morhen forever. Soon enough the spring would come, and with it the Witchers would leave their crumbling fortress and return to the Path once more.

People needed them, and they would return to them until there were no more to return.

The halls echoed with the truth of how soon that would be. A handful of Witchers and a little girl. It was a far cry from the school it had once been.

“The fortress needs some repairs,” Vesemir said nonchalantly, “I’ll stay on this year. Her form is atrocious, it’s best you leave her to the training.”

I’ll keep her safe, he was saying, while you attend business elsewhere.

Geralt nodded, turning and wondering where to start. There were so many small little taverns in the world, finding the one that held what he needed seemed as impossible as throwing an apple to the moon.

“Geralt,” Vesemir called after him, “Better dead than rabid.”

Geralt closed his eyes for a moment, and then continued toward his room. Rabid wolves, Witchers of the wolf school that went mad, were the worst monsters there were. Cunning, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and insane. Rumors and stories that young trainees had frightened themselves with around campfires. Wolves who killed their mates, who tossed away their souls, and then prowled the lands as psychotic, unstoppable killers.

He wouldn’t become that, he swore. He wasn’t the monster they said he was.

Jaskier accepted a mug of ale as the crowd roared, and was happy to watch the coins flash his way. True, he had fallen into the bad habit of writing about creatures that weren’t real, but he had run dry of material the year before. So now, here he stood, nailing further adventures to the White Wolf’s resume, and enjoying the profits.

And how profitable they were! Food, drink, a bed, and, give the eyes he had seen the pretty young barmaid making at him earlier, quite the company this evening. But he had also noticed the small group of men toward the back, and how they eyed him.

Nothing good came of being eyed that way by men with swords. Especially not clean men with swords, all wearing the same oversized dark cloaks. There was trouble looking for him, and even he wasn’t fool enough not to notice it.

Although, for once, he wasn’t quite sure what he had done the earn the ire of trained swordsmen. He hadn’t bedded anyone of note as of late, not that there was much chance to with the political tensions. He had been a good little bard, with a few tumbles in the hay here and there, but nothing that would afford him this sort of attention.

Clearly he was going to have to rethink his evening plans. Oh well, there would be a warm bed and a bed warmer in the next tavern he was sure. Though, given the frosty cold of the early spring nights, he was going to deeply miss that warm bed.

“Thank you,” Jaskier smiled, collecting up his coins and making a show of finishing the performance.

Through the back door would be easy enough. Just a slip into the forest, and he could be on his way. A few bread rolls snuck into his pocket, and he would be fine until morning, though cold. He couldn’t risk a fire with men tracking him.

A few steps out the back door, barely past the light of the windows, and he was surprised to find that three men in matching cloaks stood before him. He swallowed tightly. Damn. They were trained men, now weren’t they.

“Gentlemen,” he smiled, easing his daggers into his hands as he backed toward the tavern, “I’m sure there’s no need to stand around and looming in the darkness! Let’s go back inside and have a drink, shall we?”

“We only need one piece of information, bard,” the man in front said, stepping forward, “We’ll even pay you for it, and then be on our way.”

“Oh,” Jaskier asked, looking between the three men.

He wasn’t fool enough to believe them, but they were certainly making a good argument at listening to them.

“Where is Geralt of Rivia,” the man demanded.

Jaskier let out a sharp guffaw at that. He knew he was fucked, he could take one man, but not three. But he had to laugh about it. Where was the asshole that blamed him for his own misery? Who had thrown away over a decade of companionship? Had left him to fend for himself on a mountain?

Where the fuck indeed.

“Off fucking your mother,” Jaskier snarked, “I heard he’s cheeky like that.”

“A poor choice of words, bard,” the man hissed, and three sword were drawn.

Jaskier let his lute drop gently, his own blades in hand, and hoped his death would be swift. The thought of bleeding out slowly in the horse shit behind a tavern didn’t appeal to him. Leave it to Geralt to get him killed even when he wasn’t here.

Jaskier dodged past the man on the right, twisting thrusting his blade under his armpit. A killing blow, bloody and fierce, and about as good as he was going to get with daggers. The two other men turned on him, and the bard saw his death staring angrily down at him.

But, instead steel cleaving into his flesh, he saw the two men drop, one minus part of his head, and stared at the fiery eyed man that had saved him. Jaskier dropped the still bleeding man he was holding in surprise.

“Geralt,” he said, still quite shocked, “They were looking for you.”

“I heard.”

Chapter Text

Geralt wasted no time grabbing Jaskier and hurrying him toward Roach, glancing around carefully. The shadows were long, but empty. It was the one saving grace of the evening. He was desperately ignoring how close he had come to losing the other man. A few breaths and there would have been nothing left but his maddened agony.

Jaskier’s warmth against his side, his thrumming heart, was enough to keep him in control. Jaskier was alive. There was a threat. Everything else could be pushed aside until they were out of danger.

An hours ride later found them hidden in the safety of the forest, and only then to Geralt let himself breath easier. No one else would find them this night, not without the use of magic or another witcher.

Magic he could detect. Another witcher would understand and leave them their peace.

He slowed Roach carefully to a stop, his legs still quivering as he unmounted and held out a hand for his bard. Jaskier, clearly unused to such rides, simply wobbled and collapsed on a log, heaving a sigh of relief.

“That was certainly new,” Jaskier sighed, stretching his legs carefully as Geralt built a small fire.

Enough to warm them, but they’d be eating cold rations tonight. It wouldn’t be the first time, but he was already bracing for the complaints Jaskier would give about dried fruit, jerky, and cheese. He was mildly surprised when all all the other man did was chew, staring at the fire, and carefully check his lute for damage.

He took the time to truly study the other man. His hair was shaggier, his clothes worn and threadbare in places. He was lean, too lean for Geralt’s liking, and the daggers were new too. He had never really seen the bard armed before, let alone be able to defend himself.

Geralt took a swallow of water and felt his wolf growling. Jaskier had killed and man and not cared. That wasn’t his first kill. The bard he had traveled with could barely throw a proper punch, let alone handle a blade.

He was furious with whomever had caused this change in him.

He was furious with himself. He should have been there to protect the bard. His bard.

“Not that I’m complaining,” Jaskier finally said, breaking the awkward stillness, “But what the fuck was that?”

“I saved you,” Geralt said.

Jaskier sputtered, and Geralt let his mouth twitch. Here was the bard he knew. Here was the man who complained about being compared to a fillingless pie, and whined about getting dust on his trousers. This is what he had missed.

“Yes, I rather caught that,” Jaskier finally spouted, “What I was referring to was the rather sudden flight in the dead of night through the most haunted forest the north could possibly contain!”

Geralt snorted. The forest was hardly haunted. He was sure there were a few things lingering here and there, but that was natural of all elder woods. When a forest grew old enough, it kept itself in check.

“Dagger,” Geralt finally demanded, holding out his hand.

Jaskier blinked for a moment, and then shrugged, passing him one from one of the ingenious little sheaths that held them up his sleeves. Geralt was impressed. It was a good way to make sure a weapon wasn’t spotted, and to keep it on hand in case of emergencies.

The blade was more than a touch dull, and the weight was off. It was barely steel, and would likely break if strained. He frowned, twisting it in the firelight. A cheap weapon, poorly made. Kaer Morhen had better blades in the kitchens. But he was grateful the other man had had it on him, it was the only thing that had saved him before Geralt had noticed the fight.

He bristled at the thought. Two heartbeats longer and he would have been alone, forever.

“I’m sorry,” Geralt said, passing the blade back to Jaskier.

He would have him properly armed once they returned to Kaer Morhen, even if he had to forge the new daggers himself.

“For the saving, or...” Jaskier asked, letting the question trail off.

“For before. I,” Geralt glared at the fire, he was no good at this dammit!

“You were an absolute whoreson who opened his mouth and let sewage spew forth because you let the fact that your most recent lay told you to fuck off,” Jaskier suggested with a grin, “Or because you are an ass who has about as much skill with words as I do with daggers?”

“Both,” the white haired man admitted, secretly grateful to be given an out.

“Ah, well, consider yourself forgiven,” Jaskier smiled, “Though, you should be warned, quite a great deal of people rather seem less inclined to forgive you.”

“They’re not looking for me,” Geralt sighed, carefully placing a few more sticks on the fire, “Ciri. My child surprise.”

“Ah yes, that would do it,” Jaskier nodded, “If they had her they could legitimize their occupation of Cintra.”

“It’s more complicated than that,” Geralt said, his eyes darting uneasily around the woods, “Not here.”

“The trees have ears,” Jaskier asked, chewing on a last bite of jerky.

“The night.”

The two stared into the fire, and Geralt wondered if he was cursed or blessed. He hadn’t felt this balanced since he had ungratefully kicked the bard from his life on that mountain so long ago. His wolf had strained, breaking the patience meditation had brought him in years past, and nearly shattering what little control the potions could bring.

All he wanted to do was reach out and pull the other man closer, to keep him safe, to make sure everyone knew he was his and never let him get hurt again.

But he knew he couldn’t. Not now. Jaskier didn’t understand, and he wouldn’t take that decision from him until he did.

“You’re good with a dagger,” Geralt said.

“Yes, well, when I did have a lumbering oaf swinging to swing a sword for me I had to make do on my own.”

“How bad,” Geralt dared to ask, nearly fearing the answer.

“Nilfgaard has been hunting you since Cintra fell,” Jaskier spat, his face glowering, “They’ve been very generous with the trail of corpses in their wake.”

“And you?”

“I’ve left a few of my own,” Jaskier admitted.

Geralt took a shuddering breath, this was all his fault. All his fucking fault. He was the one that had stuck his foot in shit and ruined his own life. And now, he was going to ruin the bards as well. Had already ruined it, given how easily the man mentioned past kills.

“Where are you headed, anyway,” Jaskier ask, “Not many places safe for a man as renowned as yourself these days.”

“Kaer Morhen,” Geralt said, “We ride at dawn.”

“We,” Jaskier asked in surprised, “While I thank you for saving my life, that doesn’t mean-”

“We, Jaskier,” Geralt interrupted him, “At dawn.”

He pulled his cloak around himself against the night’s chill, and closed his eyes as Jaskier continued to curse about the rudeness of witchers and their assumptions. But it was the gentle, half breathed complaining that he had grown so used to years before. A soothing mummer as he drifted into a half sleep, resting in preparation for the hard journey ahead of them.

Chapter Text

The northern mountains would not see the warm light of spring until the heat of summer began to blossom through the lower lands. For Geralt it was a blessing. He loathed the heat, and cursed it when the Path dragged him to southern climates.

For Jaskier, though, the cooler temperatures were clearly not to his liking. Geralt had long since taken to guiding Roach, afraid of her breaking a leg on an unsteady step, and tried to clear a path through the waning snow for the bard. But the man had not been expecting to travel so far north, and was now completely out of his element.

Kaer Morhen by this evening, he had promised. And while the fortress offered no true warm hospitality, the stones would break the wind and there would be enough wood build a fire and have a hot bath. Heaven to the witcher, hopefully suitable to the bard.

Jaskier’s teeth began to chatter as he tried to pull his jacket closer, and Geralt sighed. His bard would catch his death long before they reached the fortress at this point.

He paused, removing his cloak and draping it over the smaller form, pulling it tight and doing the clasps. Jaskier stared up at him, his eyes wide, and Geralt winced mentally. He had been alone for decades. He had watched towns rise to cities, and populations devastated by plagues. He had hardened himself against the outside world.

Against his few friends as well. A gift of a warm cloak on a cold hike should not bring shock.

But he couldn’t take back his deeds, foul or fair, and he must live with them.

“Your chattering teeth will bring an avalanche,” Geralt said, turning and beginning back up the rocky path.

Jaskier remained silent, and Geralt tried to ignore the angry voice in the back of his head that reminded him that the bard wasn’t someone he needed to guard against. He was someone to let in, to embrace, and to be able to admit concern for. Without insulting.

Geralt pushed the voice to the side and continued to clear the snow for both Roach and Jaskier. He knew the voice was right, but he didn’t know how to listen to it. He could figure things out once he got back to Kaer Morhen. There would be a book somewhere about the subject, he was sure.

He hoped.

At least Jaskier’s teeth were no longer chattering. That warmed him a little. He could at least protect the other man from the cold if he couldn’t protect him from himself.

Geralt eyed the path with a heavy heart, and was grateful for the snow that still covered the way. This graveyard, where many of the witchers and trainees had fallen when the fortress had been attacked, was not something he wished for Jaskier to see before he understood.

It was a reminder to the few remaining witchers of Kaer Morhen, and a hideous warning to those who would dare venture farther without permission.

But, to a gentle heart like his bard, there would only be fear. Fear, and panic, and Geralt doubted he would be able to calm him enough to continue farther. So, hidden under the fair winter snow, they tread over the bones of those that had fallen.

Jaskier had fallen silent behind him, and Geralt looked back in concern. Jaskier had stopped, frozen to the spot, with tears streaming down his face.

“Jaskier,” Geralt growled, stopping and giving Roach a pat as he walked back to the smaller man.

Jaskier shook his head and wiped at his face, but to no avail.

“It’s,” Jaskier hiccuped, “It’s miserable here. Geralt, is this some fucking witcher magic? I can’t, I can’t continue.”

The bard collapsed to his knees, shaking, and Geralt stared at him in shock. There was no magic protecting Kaer Morhen, nothing but a hidden path of bones and nightmares that still haunted even him on a rare dark night. He stepped closer to Jaskier, hesitating.

What should he do? He killed monsters, he didn’t comfort people.

Humans comforted, and he hadn’t been human in decades.

The wolf inside him prowled and growled, urging him forward. He needed to protect the smaller man. Defend him. Get him to safety.

That last thought spurred him forward. He may not know what was happening to Jaskier now, but he did know what would happen if he continued to crouch in the freezing snow as night approached; he would die. And Geralt had not saved him as many times as he had just to watch him die now.

He grabbed hold of the bard, and cursing an apology under his breath, slung him into Roach’s saddle. Roach glared back at him, but he ignored it with ease. Roach would survive her discomfort, and he would find a few honey cakes to thank her later.

A quick check to make sure the sobbing man was seated safely, and he continued leading Roach up the difficult and winding trail.

The cold darkness of early evening found them at Kaer Morhen, and Geralt heaved a silent sigh in relief. Jaskier had passed out in the saddle shortly after they passed through the valley, and Roach was breathing heavily. It had been a hard journey, and they were both grateful to return home once more.

Vesemir was standing, glaring at him, at the entrance to the stables.

“You brought him, then,” Vesemir said, eyeing the unconscious form on the horse.

Geralt just grunted, staring up at Jaskier. He didn’t know how the bard would react to being woken, but he couldn’t stay in the stables all night either. Roach would have his head if he left her saddled an hour more, he was sure.

He grabbed the smaller man and hauled him down, slumping him next to the doors, and ignored Vesemir’s tired sigh.

“He’ll catch his death there,” Vesemir commented, not moving to approach.

Geralt’s wolf growled in agreement. It was freezing on the ground, and the man was already stick and bones. A disease would waste him away to nothing.

“He’ll survive ‘til I see to Roach,” Geralt snapped, placing himself carefully between Vesemir and Jaskier.

The thought of the older man approaching Jaskier without his permission raised his hackles. He shook his head with a glare, and stormed into the stables with an exhausted Roach. He could trust Vesemir, he reminded himself. Vesemir had raised him, had taught him to fight, taught him to survive. Had been the one to push him to bringing Jaskier to Kaer Morhen in the first place.

A half hour later found him reluctantly carrying to the still sleeping form into the fortress and burying him in furs in the sparse bedroom next to his. The bard would complain of the cold and the straw mattress once he woke, he was sure, but for now he was safe. Geralt rested his hand on Jaskier’s own, reveling in the warmth of his skin.

He sat down on the floor, there were no chairs in the room, and focused on Jaskier’s even breathing, and the steady, calming beat of his heart.

He sat there like that, completely focused on Jaskier, and let the world fade from him. He never heard the door open, or felt the warm blankets and furs that were carefully wrapped around his still form.

His entire world was wrapped up in Jaskier.

Chapter Text

Jaskier attempted to roll over, still exhausted but pleasantly warm. His brain muddled over the stiff mattress a few moments more before remembering Geralt. Geralt wouldn’t have spent coin on an inn unless he badgered him into it, and certainly not one fancy enough to have furs and thick blankets, no matter how terrible the mattress.

His eyes opened and stared in confusion at the stone room. And the white haired witcher leaning against the wall, still gripping his hand tightly in his own.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said softly, looking nervously at his left hand.

He knew the perils of waking his friend suddenly. Had seen him go from dozing to knife in hand in an instant. And he didn’t want his precious, coin earning left hand to become yet another casualty to the witcher’s training.

Geralt’s eyes shot open, scanning the room, but Jaskier was relieved when his grip lessened and he could take his hand back safely.

Maybe now he could get some answers. About the room, and why on Earth the witcher was sleeping on the floor and holding his hand hostage. He had a stirring memory of walking up a snowy path, but after that it faded and became dark.

“You’re awake,” Geralt growled, his hands hovering over Jaskier’s head.

“Yes, that’s what happens when morning comes, usually,” Jaskier said, sitting up with a yawn, “Did we make it to your witcher fortress? And why can’t I remember anything? We were attacked, weren’t we. I knew it!”

Geralt shrugged out of the piles of furs and blankets holding him down and just glared at the door with a growl, his nose flaring and his eyes burning. Jaskier swallowed hard. Maybe they hadn’t made it to the fortress? Maybe they were being held captive by rather thoughtful… elves?

Jaskier frowned and wondered what sort of creature would hold them captive with such creature comforts. Most that crossed their paths were of the mindless sort, and he doubted there were any hidden elf communities this well off, and willing to cross a witcher, this far north.

The door opened and an older man walked in with a basket. Geralt growled, and Jaskier looked between the two. Clearly they knew each other, and there were no kind feelings lost between them.

Why the fuck did his idiotic witcher feel the need to piss off everyone he came in contact with!?

“I brought you breakfast,” the older man said, tossing the basket gently to Geralt, “Your little cub wants to see you.”

“The others,” Geralt asked, his teeth still disturbingly bared.

Jaskier had never seen him more resemble a wolf, and it was beginning to frighten him a little. He searched under the blankets and found his daggers missing. Damn!

“Set out on the Path weeks ago,” he glanced between the two of them with a toothy grin, “I leave the two of you to it.”

The door slammed shut behind him, but Jaskier didn’t hear the sound of a lock being turned. What sort of captures didn’t lock their prisoners in cells? And hand delivered, he glanced in the basket that Geralt was rummaging through, bread, cheese, sausage, and wine?

“Geralt,” Jaskier asked cautiously, “What in the ever loving fuck is going on?”

Geralt’s entire body tightened, and he sighed, looking up at Jaskier and handing him the basket.

“It’s,” he looked back toward the door, “Complicated.”

“Are we at least safe,” Jaskier demanded, tearing off a chunk of bread.

Geralt snorted, pulling out a knife and cutting slices of cold sausage, “It’s Kaer Morhen.”

Jaskier swallowed, grimacing at the sour wine, it truly was more vinegar than spirit. No wonder witchers were all such a grumpy lot if this is what they were raised on.

“Then the old man you were angry at was,” Jaskier wondered who he could be if he wasn’t their captor, “A school rival?”

“My sword instructor,” Geralt said, still eyeing the door warily and handing Jaskier a slice of sausage.

Jaskier snorted. On the other hand, if the older man had taught Geralt, that meant he could be better with a blade than Geralt too. Definitely dangerous. But that didn’t explain the teeth and the growling. He loved a good mystery, it would give him something to do while Geralt finished up whatever business he had that required hauling him up here in the first place.

“What do you remember,” Geralt finally asked, handing Jaskier some cheese and more sausage.

“We were coming up that damn hidden path of yours,” Jaskier said, munching idly on the cheese, “And then...”

He swallowed hard as he began to piece together what had happened on the path. His hands were shaking, and he dropped the food he was holding as he turned to Geralt, his eyes wide.

“It was sad. It was so sad. Like the last of the light had dimmed from the world and all that was left was mourning. There was no more future, not in that graveyard,” the bard wiped at his eyes, “What was that Geralt!? What sort of fucking magic was that!?”

Geralt picked up the food, placing it carefully in the basket, and grabbing one of Jaskier’s hands gently. The panicking bard struggled for a moment, and then relaxed. He felt calmer now, and started leaning toward the witcher. He hiccuped, and waited for an explanation.

“It’s,” Geralt started, and then gnashed his teeth, “It’s complicated. You’ll be safe here.”

And then, with a growl, he stormed out the room and left Jaskier sitting there, more confused than he had been when he had woken up. What the fuck was so complicated about explaining weird witcher magic? He had been so thoughtful too, earlier.

Fuck, was he going to die?

Geralt stormed down the echoing hallway, growling and glaring at the stones. How did he explain this to the bard? How did he explain any of this!? Witchers had gone out of their way to hide everything about themselves for generations.

And now he was supposed to just rip open the secrets of his order and lay them out for Jaskier!? Tell him that they were bound together by something older than magic and destiny? That neither one might survive without the other!?

Jaskier would laugh in his face and turn it into a raunchy song.

No, his wolf growled, he wouldn’t.

No, Geralt, admitted, he wouldn’t. Jaskier, for all his stumblings, was a good man. He would understand how to keep a secret, and understand how important this was to Geralt. Even if he didn’t understand it himself.

And that was Geralt’s stumbling block. He didn’t fully understand this. He knew that he was better when Jaskier was around, and he had seen Jaskier reacting to his emotions on the path yesterday. But the link between them had been a fairy tale. He never expected to meet his other half.

No witcher truly did.

“You didn’t tell him,” Vesemir said, coming up behind Geralt.

“No,” Geralt said, shaking himself out of the daze that had him staring at a stone wall.

He growled. He was zoning out again, losing himself.

“There are books in the library,” Vesemir said wearily, “But if you don’t this will drive you both mad.”

“You aren’t,” Geralt snapped back, “How did you manage?”

Vesemir stilled, his fist clenching, and his eyes were older than Geralt had ever seen them.

“There’s only one way to safely sever the bond,” Vesemir explain, his voice angry and tight, “You have to kill them. And move on.”

Geralt’s wolf tore at him, howling and furious at the mere thought of harming Jaskier. He couldn’t do that. For all the nuisances and trouble he brought, the bard was his. His to travel with, his to protect, his to be his own.

Vesemir began walking toward the library, and Geralt followed. He would be better than his master. Better than whatever had driven the older man to kill his own soul.

Chapter Text

Jaskier stumbled out of the room, cursing and pulling at the awkward fit of his clothes. Damn witchers for being all bulky and obsessed with black! He would have worn his own clothes, but the ones he had woken up in were filthy and his pack was nowhere to be found, still with Roach he assumed. He was just grateful he had found anything clean at all.

But now that left him in the awkward position of wandering around the cold, stony floors of a dilapidated fortress with no clue what was going on. He doubted any witcher would kill him by accident, he certainly wasn’t capable of sneaking up on one, but he would have felt better if he had had one of his daggers with him.

Instead he was left with an iron candelabra, and looked like a mad man.

But better a mad man than a dead one, he had come to learn. So not so silently he stalked on, eyeing the soot marks on the walls sadly. It didn’t take a genius to know devastation when they saw it.

“Hello!” a voice chirped, causing Jaskier to jump and swing out wildly.

The little blonde girl just grinned and took a step back with practiced ease, and Jaskier heaved a sigh of relief. He blinked, and took her in. Curly mop of blonde hair, those eyes, the age. She was the Child Surprise. Princess of Cintra. Queen now, he guessed, given the news he had heard of her grandmother’s death.

He smiled and hid the candelabra behind his back sheepishly. She had a small sword at her hip, and was clearly no stranger to people taking swings at her if she was smiling like it was a part of the game.

“Hello,” she said again, “I’m Ciri. You’re the one Geralt went to fetch, right?”

“Uh,” Jaskier blinked, “Fetch? He saved me, yes, but he didn’t fetch-”

“Lambert said he was going to become a real wolf now, when the spring started, just like Vesemir. But then Eskel told him to be quiet because he’s not supposed to talk about those kinds of things around me.”

“Real wolf?”

“But that’s stupid,” Ciri continued, taking Jaskier’s hand and dragging him farther down the hallway, “I’m training, and I’m going to be a witcher someday, just like Geralt. Better than Geralt. So I need to know these things.

“So if Geralt went to get you to turn himself into a real wolf, you obviously know. Lambert said only Vesemir is a real wolf, why?”

The little girl stared up at him, here eyes serious, and Jaskier swallowed. He suddenly regretted ever going to up a white haired man drinking alone in a pub and propositioning him about bread in his pocket. Because, clearly, that one decision had let to a massive amount of insanity that he was clearly not prepared to deal with in his life.

“We don’t speak of such things,” the old man approached Jaskier from behind, taking his candelabra gently, “And Lambert should not have spoken of such things in front of you.”

“Vesemir,” Ciri smiled, but Vesemir failed to melt under her gaze, “It’s not fair, I’m going to be a witcher and-”

“You’re never going to be a witcher if you stand around prattling. You have training, go.”

Ciri huffed, but didn’t argue and stomped away, leaving Jaskier’s head reeling. Princess Ciri, heir to the kingdom of Cintra, a witcher!? He would have to have words about that with Geralt. It was one thing to claim her as his destiny, but it was another thing entirely to deny her her own!

“You have questions,” Vesemir said, turning his attention to Jaskier once Ciri disappeared around a corner.

“Clearly not as many as she does,” the bard said with a half laugh.

Vesemir did not return his smile.

“I’m going to turn Geralt into a real wolf,” Jaskier asked hesitantly, “Because that’s not something any bard I know is trained in.”

Vesemir let out a long sigh, glaring down another hallway. Clearly the silent and broody traits were solidly ingrained in all witchers.

“This is something you need to discuss with Geralt,” Vesemir said, “You can find him, if you’re willing.”

“If I’m willing?” Jaskier demanded, “Of course I’m-”

Vesemir gave him a shove before he stalked down the hallway that Ciri had gone down and disappeared himself.

Jaskier rolled his eyes, shrugged, and continued walking in the way Vesemir shoved him. He either would or wouldn’t find the apparently not yet wolf white wolf. But at least it was better than sitting on an itchy mattress and staring at a door.

Geralt carefully paged through the books laid out on the table before him. There wasn’t mutch on the subject, and most of it was quite old, but at least there was something. Though, as he turned another page, clearly what there was was written by assholes who found humor in their aggravation.

Meditation, scenting, souldbonding, biting!? The words may have been in an obscure dialect of ancient Elvish for all the good they did him. He knew meditation, all witchers did. It helped center and prepare them, but meditating with another person, with skin contact? How would that help him control himself, and center Jaskier?

And scenting? He could just imagine how the bard would complain about Geralt’s smell wafting over him, if he even noticed. What good it did he didn’t know. Humans wouldn’t notice, and other witchers wouldn’t take to the talkative bard in the first place. But it calmed him, thinking that everyone who could know would know that Jaskier was his. And everyone else would just see the large, scary witcher standing next to him and decide to go elsewhere anyway.

But all this writing about souls, and balances, and biting was beyond him. Did witchers even still have souls? How did they soulbond? It just said that, with enough time, and enough closeness, he and his Guide would. And there were mentions of deeper connections past that.

He growled and ran a hand through his hair. This was nearly gibberish. No wonder almost no witchers found a Guide, going through this headache was nearly not worth it!

“Oh, hello there,” Geralt’s head shot up as Jaskier knocked on the door frame.

His nose flared and he stared at other man. He had never seen him in black before, but his wolf paced angrily. It wasn’t the color that was wrong, it was the smell. The man smelled of not himself, or of Geralt, but of another. He was draped in it, covered in a scent that had no business covering him.

He growled, the chair thrown across the floor as he stalked over and grabbed the back of Jaskier’s head, bringing him closer and inhaling. The smell was wrong on so many levels. It wasn’t him, and it needed to go. He nuzzled into Jaskier’s throat, pulling the man closer and wrapping his arms around him.

Jaskier froze, and Geralt could feel his heart speeding up and smell of panic beginning to trace through the air. Geralt snorted, reacting on instinct and licking at Jaskier’s neck, nipping at it and trying to reassure him.

It was Geralt, he knew him. Geralt would never harm him. He should know that. But the smell of panic only began to increase, and Geralt’s eyes shot open as he suddenly realized what he was doing. He shoved the younger man back and panted heavily.

He had not expected to sink so far into the wolf. Maybe it wasn’t ludicrous madness that was written in the books after all.

“I, umm, so,” Jaskier began, and Geralt was grateful when fear and panic began to be replaced by embarrassed nervousness and curiosity, “Vesemir said to ask you? Questions, that is. Because clearly I have a lot and-”

“The books,” Geralt growled, motioning toward the small pile on the table.

“I’d rather if you,” Jaskier paused, “Will the books tell me why you just licked me?”

“Scented you,” Geralt said, trying to think of a way to explain what he barely had the barest grasp of understanding on, “You smell, I scented you. To mark you. As mine.”

“Excuse me, as yours,” Jaskier huffed, “You make it sound like something a dog would do, I thought you witchers were wolves.”

Geralt growled, grabbing Jaskier by the shoulders and shoving him against the wall, “We’re not men disguised as mere dogs,” he ignored the terror that began to stink through the room, “We’re wolves, disguised as men.”

Jaskier swallowed, and Geralt leaned in, rubbing his cheek against the bards and whispering into his ear, “And you are mine. I claim you.”

Jaskier shivered and whimpered, nodding in Geralt’s tight grip. Geralt nipped at his ear, a reminder, and let him drop. The man fell in a tangled heap on the floor, staring up at the witcher.

Geralt just grinned down at him, his teeth shining, his eyes blazing. The white wolf.

Chapter Text

Jaskier stared up at the wolf, he couldn’t think of him as anything but a wolf now, and felt angry at himself for his terror. He had traveled with this man for over a decade. He had watched him fight monsters, but he had never been a monster. He would never hurt him.

And now he was licking him and claiming him!? Like he was just another thing to leave laying around on the ground.

Jaskier let the anger rush over him, it frightened him, he had never been so angry, felt so angry, in his entire life. But it was in his head now, and he was damned if he wasn’t going to use it to put a stop to this mockery. He was no man’s to claim, not even Geralt’s.

“Fuck you,” Jaskier snapped, rising to his feet, the wall still firm and freezing against his back.

Geralt just blinked, but his stance didn’t waver. So Jaskier took it as an invitation, hoping that he wasn’t about to get broken into sixteen pieces and tossed out a window. It would be a waste, the world would miss his singing.

But fuck Geralt if he thought he was going to just cower and bend to him.

He took a step forward, baring his own teeth at Geralt, slamming his finger into his chest.

“Fuck you,” he snapped again, his mind too angry to find anything original to use, “I don’t fucking care if you’re a damn purple horse with pink hair and wear silk flowers while dancing naked in the moonlight, you don’t fucking own me. No one gets to claim me, I claim myself!”

Geralt growled, his teeth tightening and Jaskier hoped that, at least, whatever death he had brought upon himself would be swift. But it would be worth it. He wished he still had his candelabra, or at least something to swing and wipe that damn look off of Geralt’s face with.

Geralt grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him into the wall again, and Jaskier groaned in pain. There were bruises. He could feel beautifully dark bruises already blossoming up his back. And it just made him angrier.

So he shoved back, kicking at the witcher’s right knee and slamming his shoulder forward when Geralt winced and dropped his weight. Fuck being pinned against a wall.

The two of them tumbled onto the floor, Jaskier all sharp elbows, lashing out more than trying to control the fight, Geralt all strength and teeth. The bard grabbed out and yanked on the wolf’s hair, hard, and Geralt growled, shoving his face at Jaskier’s and snapping his teeth.

Jaskier reacted on instinct and bit at him as well, trying to flip Geralt over, find a way to prove he was better. Prove that he was more. Prove that his anger, this fierce, pulsating emotion that was burning through his veins could win against anything that said otherwise.

“Enough,” a voice roared from the doorway, and Jaskier found himself tumbling against the far wall, and Vesemir, holding Geralt down.

Geralt growled and snapped, and Jaskier nearly rose to return to the fight, but groaned at the pain that echoed up his right shoulder. It wasn’t broken, but it wouldn’t be fun to use for a while. He panted, letting himself lay on the ground and watched Geralt go from furious to nearly whimpering as they stared at one another.

Geralt still struggled, but Jaskier could feel the anger leeching away, leaving only sorrow and concern. What the fuck was going on? This was Geralt’s fault, Geralt and the fucking witcher magic that no one was explaining.

“Dammit Geralt,” Vesemir growled, still holding the younger witcher down, “You’re going to break him at this rate.”

“Little late for that,” Jaskier groaned, sitting up and holding his arm close to his chest.

Nope, no lute playing for a while. His entire arm screamed in protest as he shifted it. It would just be his luck that he broke it. Or worse. Pulled muscles sometimes never healed right. He leaned back, tearing his sight away from the pained look in Geralt’s eyes, and stared up at Vesemir.

Geralt was whimpering then, but softly.

“Ciri,” Vesemir turned to the doorway and roared.

The young girl popped up a moment later, looking sheepish.

“Take Jaskier to the infirmary and patch him up. I’ll stay and have a talk with our wolf here,” Vesemir said, glaring down at Geralt and refusing to move.

Ciri nodded, stepping nervously through the room and helping Jaskier carefully to his feet. Jaskier groaned, leaning harder on the young girl than he would like to admit. His back was killing him, he couldn’t move his arm, and he was covered in bruises. What the hell had come over him?

He was lucky to be alive, picking a fight with Geralt. He could fight, yes, but Geralt was a witcher. He was lucky the other man hadn’t torn his damn arm off and beat him to death with it. Although it certainly felt like it wasn’t for lack of trying.

And was their blood on his collar? Of course Geralt probably bit him as well. With his luck the brute was probably going rabid.

“Lead the way, fair maiden,” Jaskier winced with a smile, and happily left the library without any honest answers.

“Get off,” Geralt growled.

He knew he could easily at least throw Vesemir off his back. But he also knew that he would pay for it, if not in a fight, then in other forms of torture. And even he had peeled enough potatoes in his youth to listen to the older man.

“Are you going to be thick enough to chase after him,” Vesemir demanded, “Or are you going to stand up and explain to me what the fuck that was!?”

“Explain,” Geralt finally said, his wolf growling to chase after his wounded mate.

Growling at him for letting his mate get wounded. For wounding his mate in the first place. Argument were one thing, but he had gone too far. He should have been more careful. Should probably of explained things before everything turned into a mass of fists and teeth.

Vesemir stood up, holding out a hand, and hauled Geralt to his feet with a glare. Geralt stared at the floor, feeling like a sheepish twelve year old that had been caught raiding the pantry once again.

Vesemir continued to glare at him.

“His clothes,” Geralt said, his voice tight, still staring at the floor, “The scent. It was another.”

“So you decided to attack him because he was wearing some old dusty clothes,” Vesemir asked with a snort.

“No, he, I,” Geralt bit his tongue, “I scented him. He called me a dog. And then we fought.”

Vesemir sighed and Geralt could feel his eye roll echo through the room.

“He doesn’t know any of this, Geralt,” Vesemir said, motioning toward the books, “When he’s close enough he feeds off your stronger emotions. He can’t control it. You have to explain this to him, explain what’s happening, or it will destroy the both of you.

“And there’s not enough witcher’s left in the world for me to let that happen. So if you won’t sit down, calmly, and tell him, I will. And that’s no way to build trust.”

“Yes sir,” Geralt said with a swallow, looking up with pained eyes, “Is that what happened to your Guide?”

Vesemir froze, eyeing the books sadly, and shook his head.


Jaskier sat on the bench as Ciri carefully measured out some oils and herbs, mixing it, and then turned back to the shirtless bard. The air was frigid, and he shivered, but there was nothing for it. She wouldn’t be able to reach any of his injuries with his shirt on.

“This is going to smell like old horse piss, but it’ll patch your right up in a day or two,” she grinned, slathering it on the forming bruises on his back.

“And my arm,” Jaskier asked, shivering as the cold oil began to burn and seep into his skin.

“That’s going to smell like dead cat piss. But you’ll be fine in a few hours, it’s just a muscle strain,” Ciri said with a smile, “These witcher remedies are amazing. I don’t even notice when I get hurt training anymore.”

“You shouldn’t get hurt training,” Jaskier said, hissing as she started in on an especially tender spot mid back.

He’d be pissing blood for a week, no matter what the magic poultice did. Damn Geralt and his psychotic wolf tendencies. Who the fuck went around licking anyone, anyway?

“Vesemir doesn’t sniff or lick you, does he,” Jaskier asked cautiously, almost afraid of the answer.

“What, no,” Ciri said, backing away to grab more ingredients for his strain, “I mean, I know he can smell me, he’s a bastard about making me patch up scratches and the like if he can smell blood, but no licking or anything.

“Is that why you were dumb enough to fight Geralt? Because he licked you?”

“I was dumb enough to fight Geralt because he tried to claim I was his,” Jaskier said with a snort, “People don’t belong to others. It shouldn’t work that way.”

Ciri frowned for a moment, making quick work of Jaskier’s arm, and binding it expertly, before she went and started shifting around through an old shelf of books. She smiled triumphantly with an old, thick tome, and brought it over to Jaskier.

“I read about something like that in this. Something about how witcher’s sometimes find mates that balance them or something. Maybe he thinks you’re his mate?”

“No, that would be a purple eyed sorceress,” Jaskier said, accepting the book cautiously, “He was very intent on that last I checked.”

Ciri just shrugged, helping Jaskier back into his shirt, “Maybe he changed his mind.”

“Doubt it,” Jaskier said, biting his bottom lip as he worked his injured arm through the sleeve, “A human bard over an immortal, all powerful sorceress? That would be the dumbest choice ever.”

“It would be romantic,” Ciri sighed, a starry look in her eyes, “Just like in the old stories.”

“Go back to your training, little witcher princess,” Jaskier snorted, “And leave the stories to the bards.”

Ciri grinned and disappeared out the door, leaving Jaskier staring at the book in his hands. Geralt would never choose him, he knew that. He remember the words echoing on the mountain. He was probably here to keep Ciri civilized human company so she didn’t actually become a witcher.

Geralt and the sorceress would be the perfect match, if his white wolf was making choices. Not a half famous bard from a decrepit house of failing nobility. No one was stupid enough to choose him.

Chapter Text

“Is this true,” Jaskier asked, the book Ciri had given him landing on the table next to Geralt with a deafening thud.

Geralt looked up, surprised, and then glanced to the pages Jaskier had kept the tome open to. Descriptions to the balance between Guides and Witchers, how the two operated in a harmony to protect the world. How they were not chosen by each other, but by destiny.

“Yes,” Geralt finally said.

The silence echoed through the room, and Jaskier continued to stare down at the white haired man. How was this fair? How had the world kept shoveling shit on him, time after time after time, how destiny had thrown a child at him, and that hadn’t been enough. Now he had been saddled by the one person that he had wished away. Not once, but twice.

Jaskier swore that the tears pricking at the corners of his eyes were because of the pain from his arm and the bruises. Nothing more.

“How long have you known,” Jaskier finally asked, closing his eyes and forcing himself to breathe.

The book was clear that a witcher would know their other half. So Geralt would have have to have known for over a decade. Over a decade denying him. Running from him. Telling him that the only blessing would be for him to leave.

And destiny had brought them back together.

Except it hadn’t been destiny that had brought them back together. He had heard it himself. Geralt had gone to fetch him. On purpose. Maybe, for once, the white wolf wasn’t running from destiny.

But he doubted it.

“A while,” Geralt finally admitted.

“And what, your witcher training told you to avoid me at all cost!? I know I’m not good enough for much, Geralt, but you could have at least mentioned something!”


“It’s not complicated,” Jaskier shouted, glaring down at the other man, “Words. Use them!”

Geralt at least had the decency to look ashamed, and Jaskier resisted the urge to just turn and march out of the fortress and away from this entire ridiculous pile of events. He was a bard, a bard that had traveled with a witcher, with his friend, for over a decade.

And now he was actually regretting that decision, but he would see it through. At least Nilfgaard wasn’t going to march up and kill him here. Not that they were really interested in him in the first place, he was just a bard that was a route to Geralt.

“Most witchers never have guides,” Geralt finally said, his voice nearly looking pained as he stared up at Jaskier, “It’s, we’re told, but it’s akin to a fairy tale. I thought it was a fairy tale.”

“But you knew,” Jaskier insisted, his heart breaking to see the sad look in Geralt’s eyes.

Of course he didn’t want to be tied to him.

“There are physical signs,” Geralt admitted, flipping carefully through on of the books spread out on the table, “My potions weren’t working as well. I have been having problems balancing myself.

“And, I was worried about you.”

“Worried about me,” Jaskier asked in honest surprise, “You damn near threw me off a mountain in anger!”

“It was dangerous!” Geralt growled, “Every time you picked up your damn lute and followed me you could have been killed! You don’t know how to fight, you can’t even defend yourself! I couldn’t let you get hurt.”

“Geralt, I’ve been a traveling bard for nearly twenty years,” Jaskier snapped, “I know how to put a knife in a person. Or did you fail to notice that when dragged me up here?!”

Geralt growled, his fists tightening, but he stayed seated. Jaskier could feel the anger building in the back of the mind, the tension in the room nearly a haze. But he had to know. He had to press. He couldn’t be left on the outside of this, not when it was his life too.

“They were going to kill you,” Geralt said, his voice even and tight, “You killed one, but there were others. There are always others. There are monsters, and murderers, and angry villagers. Being tied to me is a death sentence.”

“Geralt, my family tossed me out on my ass hoping I at least rolled into the gutter on the far side of the street when I died,” Jaskier said, “My whole life has been a death sentence. So show me what the fuck we’re supposed to do that’s going to change that.”

Geralt nodded, and pulled Jaskier to his side of the table, burying his face in his side and inhaling deeply. Jaskier noted the frown, but ignored it to stare at the books. Lengthy, dry descriptions from centuries past. He knew this, had learned it, had taught it briefly before he had ripped himself away from academia to find the voice that called to him in the world.

He had followed his path to Geralt at every opportunity, he realized.

“I don’t like you smelling like someone else,” Geralt said, “It’s, it’s not right.”

“Then show me where the soap is to clean my clothes, because I hate wearing black sack cloth,” Jaskier said, pulling another book closer and ignoring Geralt as he tried to drape himself over his shoulder, clinging and nuzzling.

He had a feeling that whatever it was that was bringing out the touchy feely side of the wolf wouldn’t be going away any time soon. He could deal with this. It was inconvenient and unsettling, but he could deal with it.

One more odd stumble for Jaskier the bard.

Geralt was satisfied. His wolf was satisfied. They had sat next to their bard, scenting him over and over again, for hours. Until his muscles were stiff and he knew he needed to work the tension out of his system.

With a final sniff, satisfied that Jaskier smelled like him, and no other, he let the bard to the books and went strolling toward the training grounds. He could already hear Vesemir shouting at Ciri, fixing her mistakes and telling her to repeat.

It brought a smile to his face. Old memories, happy memories, had Vesemir’s angry shouts narrating them from back when he had been a boy. Not fast enough, not steady enough, not quiet enough. Geralt had learned to silence that voice when he had become good enough.

“Try it again without sounding like a drunk horse with a cart full of glass,” Vesemir shouted, and Geralt snorted as he came up next to the other man.

Ciri was carefully jumping across a set of poles, avoiding a swinging tree stump that shot at her when she came too close. It was a difficult challenge, but she would be agile enough to master it, in time.

“You talked to him,” Vesemir said, still watching Ciri closely.

“I did, he understands now,” Geralt admitted with a smile, “I should have told him that first year.”

“Should have told him the first fucking minute,” Vesemir growled, “Use your toes, not your knees!”

“Wouldn’t have a cub if I had,” Geralt said with a smirk.

“Would have shown some damn common sense if you had,” Vesemir shot back, “Your wolf has been thrashing for years, and we all saw it.”

“Calm now.”

“Make sure it stays that way. No one wants to put you down like a dog.”

Geralt flashed his teeth at that.

Jaskier sighed, flipping through another page. Another description of how a guide helped a witcher. How they helped accentuate their senses in ways that witcher potions only dreamed of copying.

How they were everything a witcher needed to be better, faster, stronger.

But nothing for the guide. Their lives tied together, a damn near guarantee of centuries, but nothing more. A weakness that could die in battle. A last tie to humanity, to keep the witcher grounded. A tool, like a silver sword and an iron sword. Another in the set, to keep sharp to help a witcher.

Jaskier took in a shuddering breath. He would have to learn to build mental walls to keep Geralt out. To keep his emotions his own. But he could do this. He had to do this.

Geralt of Rivia had a destiny, and he wasn’t going to stand in the way of that.

Chapter Text

Jaskier collapsed into the grass with a happy sigh. The air was still chilly, he doubted that Kaer Morhen ever truly warmed up, but it was heaven compared to the summer that was baking the rest of the world. No worries about boiling in his sleep here.

He shivered, the sweat on his brow already cooling, and wiped at it halfheartedly. It didn’t matter, he’d be sweating again soon enough. Geralt had him doing sword drills half the day, and then he was tutoring Ciri the rest.

Their bond had grown, though Jaskier’s sword abilities had probably peaked at ‘not going to die soon’. Which, to a layman, could probably translate as a sword master, he realized. He’d certainly not be killed by three men behind a tavern any time soon, though he still preferred his daggers.

Geralt had replaced his daggers with lighter ones fairly quickly. One with silver, he had been told, the other meteoric iron. The best defense against monsters and men. Not that Jaskier fancied facing monsters, but he was now much better prepared.

He snorted as he felt Geralt, a warm tingling in the back of his mind, wandering down toward where he lay. Of course his white wolf was checking up on him if he couldn’t see him. The other man had fretted at first, if he couldn’t be assured of his safety, but their bond had strengthened and it was rare now.

Jaskier had wondered what would happen to a monster dumb enough to come near Kaer Morhen with witchers around. Did monsters ever commit suicide?

“Enjoying the sun,” Geralt asked, his voice calm as he sat down next to the bard, leaning in to nuzzle at his neck.

Jaskier snorted, swiping at the mass of white hair that fell across his face, and rolled his eyes. The stronger their bond, the stronger the wolf had made its appearance in their relationship. But Jaskier could feel how content he was, maybe even happy.

It was odd to feel the happiness echoing around his chilled mind.

It was like feeling the echoing breeze of a forgotten summer sliding through during a midwinter’s storm. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was certainly curious. None of the books described anything like it.

None of the books really mentioned guides at all, except as how they were useful. None of them had clearly been written by guides, or with guides in mind. Witchers were a brutish lot to the bone, it seemed.

“Ciri’s powers are increasing,” Jaskier said, breaking the silence.

Geralt’s breath hitched, and he nodded. Jaskier sighed. They had been avoiding this conversation for a while now, but it couldn’t be avoided any longer. She didn’t have any control, and there was no one here, no one that the witchers trusted, that could help her. Which meant they needed to take her to them.

Before she accidentally brought the stones down upon them.

“Nilfgaard is still hunting her,” Geralt growled, his arms pulling Jaskier close, protectively, “Still hunting you.”

“They were never hunting me,” Jaskier said, “Just you and her. I’ll be quite safe if they see either of you.”

“The cub isn’t safe.”

“The cub will be a queen one day,” Jaskier reminded him, “She’ll never be truly safe. But you’ve trained her. She can do a fair bit more damage than most seasoned warriors.”

The clouds continued to float by, and Jaskier could feel the dull, slow thrum of Geralt’s heart beat. He could feel the anxiousness that was weaving through his mind. The wolf knew he spoke the truth, but it was hard to let go of the security of Kaer Morhen. Even Jaskier didn’t truly want to leave, though he missed society, and silks, and singing.

But it had to happen. They couldn’t freeze themselves away while the world tore itself apart. They owed the world more.

They owed Ciri more.

“We need to leave before solstice,” Geralt sighed.

“Good portents?” Jaskier asked, slightly confused. Geralt had never cared much for dates before.

“Kaer Morhen won’t be safe solstice night,” Geralt explained.

“Monsters,” Jaskier asked, rolling his eyes.

Of course Geralt would turn this into a game of twenty questions. He knew the other man was hiding something, could sense it in his mind, but he didn’t want to have to try to nudge around looking for answers. He was better than that. Their bond was better than that.


“Vesemir,” Geralt said shortly.

Jaskier started, sitting up and looking at the white haired man. Half sun blind, the gray shades of the world did not paint the picture justice. Geralt looked relaxed, laying in the grass, his hair drifting on a breeze. But Jaskier could see the tenseness in his shoulders, the coil tight strength in his muscles.

They both knew the argument was coming.

“Geralt, I need answers,” Jaskier snapped, “Is he a threat?”

“No, not until the solstice,” Geralt groaned, throwing his arm over his eyes, “His wolf, it runs loose that night.”

“I thought witchers could control themselves,” Jaskier demanded, “Am I going to have to throw you in a cellar and slam the door one night!?”

“No,” Geralt growled, sitting up, “Never, you’re safe.”

Jaskier stared into his eyes, the cold amber burning the world to color again all around him. He nudged against Geralt’s mind clumsily, trying to get answers. He would need to practice this, slipping in and out, but they just hadn’t had enough time to form that strong of a bond.

“He had a guide,” Geralt admitted, “They died.”

“Witchers that lose their guides go mad,” Jaskier said.

“He didn’t, but the wolf is loose on summer solstice night. He’s dangerous then.”

Jaskier searched the other man’s eyes, trying, in vain, to sift through his mind. He was hiding something. Something important. Something he needed to know.

“We’ll leave in two days,” Jaskier said.

Geralt hesitated, and then nodded.

“Yennifer should be able to help train Ciri,” Jaskier sighed, looking back up at the crumbling stone walls of Kaer Morhen.

Geralt’s arms pulled him painfully tight, and Jaskier knew he had hit a nerve. The wolf was still enraptured by the violet eyed sorceress. He almost snorted when he realized that the situation was, with no other way of saying it, complicated.

Geralt nuzzled at his throat, inhaling, and Jaskier just combed his fingers through his hair.

Complicated or not, he needed answers. If anything happened to him, he needed to know how to make sure Geralt remained sane. At least long enough to get Ciri to safety.

“You’re thinking too much,” Geralt whispered, the nuzzling turning to nipping kisses as they traveled up his throat to the underside of his jaw.

Jaskier gasped, throwing his head back, and let Geralt pull him back down into the grass.

Chapter Text

Jaskier was used to waking to a cold bed. Used to his white wolf slipping off before sun broke to train. Train with Ciri, train with Vesemir, or just watch them training. Training was the heart blood of a witcher.

He couldn’t blame them. Training kept them alive.

But he still wished he could wake up in strong arms, warm, for once. Maybe on the Path.

He snorted, it would never happen. He pulled himself awake and slipped into clean clothes, he would certainly miss soap on the Path, and sighed at them. Black and gray and white. His own silks were packed carefully away, long since deemed completely useless to life at the fortress.

Unless he wanted to mend them until his fingers bled. He had reluctantly taken up witcher clothes, much to Geralt’s amusement.

He could sense Geralt, still outside. Relaxed. Busy. Occupied.


Which was good, as he had another wolf to corner. He had read every book on witchers and their guides cover to cover. He was the sole expert on every little detail that he could glean, though there had not bit much truth be told. Most of it repetitive, each book referring back to another in a messy loop.

But not a single mention had been made of witchers remaining alive, or sane, after their guides died. All of them either died soon after, wasting away or suicide, or became mad. And then were killed by others.

But if Vesemir had remained sane, had lived for clearly a long time after, then Jaskier needed to know his secret. Needed to know how to prepare Geralt for when he inevitably met his own doom. Because he had no doubt he would, no amount of training would turn him into a witcher. And the world was dangerous enough that he doubted monsters or armies wouldn’t challenge them to their deaths.

The old man was in the library, looking through the stacks of notes Jaskier had so carefully made. If witchers were loathe to organize their mythos, then he was determined to do it for them.

“Ciri may be many things,” Vesemir said, not looking up, “But she’s not very good at deception. You wanted to talk with me?”

“I’ll have to make sure she learns,” Jaskier said with a laugh.

He had known that cornering Vesemir would likely be impossible. But sending Ciri to plead to train with Geralt, on this their last day in Kaer Morhen, and then ask Vesemir to get her something she had ‘left’ in the library? It would settle Vesemir. Even Geralt would undoubtedly have seen through the charade.

But the important fact was that Geralt wasn’t here, Vesemir was. And it was Vesemir who held the key to the little golden cage of knowledge he needed.

“You’re sane,” Jaskier said, dropping any pretense of beating around the bush, “How?”

Playing word games with witchers didn’t work. Stabbing did. A breath of fresh air compared to his courtly training, but infuriating none the less. He had enjoyed his little word dances growing up, it’s half why he became a bard when he ran away.

“None of your damn business,” Vesemir snapped, glaring up at the other man.

Jaskier didn’t budge, blue eyes boring into gold.

“Geralt is my business,” Jaskier reminded him, “And I need to know how, now, before we set out and throw ourselves into a world that very desperately wants him dead right now.”

Vesemir growled, and Jaskier could have sworn that he grew in front of him in his anger.

“Geralt will keep you-”

“Geralt needs to keep Ciri safe,” Jaskier cut him off, “I need to keep him safe.”

“Geralt is right here, and Vesemir is right,” a gruff voice came from the doorway behind Jaskier.

Jaskier closed his eyes and sighed. He had let his aggravation leak out, had forgotten to keep track of his witcher. And his witcher, always the possessive one, had known immediately where to find him.

Vesemir stepped around Jaskier and glared at Geralt.

“Tell him everything,” Vesemir growled.

Geralt looked away, but nodded, and Jaskier glared at him.

He was sick of these tooth pulling games, of information being held in the air like a treat for a well performed trick. For the directness of their answers, giving them was like stealing from royal tables.

“Geralt,” Jaskier nearly growled glaring at the white haired man.

“Nothing will happen to you, ever, I swear,” Geralt said, moving quickly and crowding into Jaskier’s space, pulling him close.

Trying to reassure himself more than the bard. Jaskier could feel the trembling echoing through the wolf’s mind at the thought of Jaskier dying.

“Geralt, Nilfgaard will be hunting us,” Jaskier reminded him, pulling his face forward in his hands, “I need to know how to protect you if anything happens to me. Ciri must come first. Always.”

“I,” Geralt buried his nose in Jaskier’s hair, and Jaskier reached out carefully to calm to the storm that was brewing in his head.

“I don’t know how, or why,” Geralt’s voice rumbled through Jaskier’s chest, “Vesemir is sane because he killed his guide. It’s the only way for a witcher to stay sane if their guide dies.”

Jaskier felt the words rattling around in his skull as his body froze. A witcher had killed his guide. It went against everything the pair stood for. Everything in the bond should have prevented that. Vesemir shouldn’t have been able to even consider it.

But he had turned and left when Geralt had ordered him out of his life on a mountain so many years ago. He knew what a witcher could do to their guide. Knew what they could do to avoid having one.

“I need to get some breakfast,” Jaskier gasped, stumbling away from Geralt and out the door.

Geralt stared after him, his wolf howling at the bard’s pain, but stayed rooted to the spot.

Geralt pulled Jaskier’s sleeping form closer to him, draping himself over the other man, as the moon rose on the cooling night. They would depart at sunrise tomorrow, but he couldn’t bring himself to sleep. Not yet.

He didn’t want to wake and find himself alone.

He knew, rationally, that Jaskier was just angry at him. He shouldn’t be hiding things from him, but it wasn’t his secret to tell. It was Vesemir’s. He couldn’t betray the man like that, not after he had raised and trained him. He was the nearest to a father that he had ever had.

He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, letting Jaskier’s scent soak through him.

He would have to try harder. He had spent decades not socializing. He didn’t understand the careful politics that people used in their daily interactions, not in the way that Jaskier did, or Ciri did.

But he was trying.

He curled himself around Jaskier, trying to hide him from the world.

He was trying. He needed to keep the other man safe. He kept thinking about the men that had been about to kill him. A moment later and he wouldn’t have had Jaskier, he would have had a corpse and madness.

He couldn’t let that happen. Not ever.

Jaskier frowned and tried to roll out of his grasp in his sleep, but Geralt just growled, nipping at his neck.

He wouldn’t let his guide go. Not ever. Nothing would happen to him.

Chapter Text

Jaskier stood, panting, and stared across the scattered corpses at Geralt.

Geralt was steady, his shoulders stiff, scanning the forest for any sign of more soldiers. Jaskier could already feel that he had found none. That the echoing silence would collapse into animals sounds once again in a moment. But, for now, the stench of iron lingered on the air, and he could taste blood in his mouth.

Was it his blood? He couldn’t remember getting injured. But the adrenaline pumping through his veins would have seen to that. He glanced back behind him, where Ciri still stood, her blade drawn but clean, and let relief swim through the bond to Geralt.

The girl had stayed back, like he had ordered her to. Smart, armed, and disciplined. She would make a good queen. If she didn’t end up popping from a magical overload before her time. Or whatever it was that happened to untrained magic users.

Geralt was storming across the bodies, and Jaskier rolled his eyes mentally as he watched. He knew what was going to happen. He knew what the wolf was demanding to know, and wouldn’t trust Jaskier to tell him.

He was fine.

But he let Geralt carefully, gently, warily, track fingers expertly over his body, hands running through his hair. Lips on his own.

Jaskier sighed and bit into the kiss, his own hands tracking across Geralt’s body.

“Gross,” Ciri said behind them, and Jaskier broke away from Geralt with a laugh.

Sometimes he forgot just how young she was.

“She’s fine,” Jaskier said with a smile, looking at their little cub fondly, “She didn’t need to kill anyone.”

“I could have,” Ciri pointed out, her sword still drawn, “I know how!”

Geralt just grunted, his lips twitching, but ran a hand through Jaskier’s hair once more. Jaskier leaned into the caress, finding comfort in the contact. Ciri hadn’t needed to kill anyone, but he had. And, while he was able to kill, had killed before to protect himself, it was never something he enjoyed.

Blood stayed filthy on the hands long after the body was scrubbed clean.

“We’ll have to stay off the roads if they’re hunting us this far north,” Jaskier said with a sigh.

He had been hoping to at least be able to stop in a few inns on their way south, to wherever it was that Geralt had insisted Yennefer was. But, if they were finding small hunting squads only a few days out from Kaer Morhen, then there was no safety on traveled routes.

Ciri sheathed her sword, and Jaskier helped her back onto her horse. A solid steed, witcher trained. All of their horses were, and had merely been unimpressed by the small battle. Human blood wasn’t something they feared. Humans were something that, in close quarters, they could defend themselves against.

Jaskier could feel the worry and concern that echoed through Geralt’s mind as they began to lead the horses deeper into the forest.

If they knew they could be at Kaer Morhen, if they knew where Kaer Morhen was, then they could get there. And Vesemir was alone, unwarned. Though, Jaskier reminded himself as he watched carefully for roots, not untrained. There would be blood shed at the old fortress, and it would not be the old witcher’s. The man had been fighting monsters for more than a century before Geralt had even been born.

He would be fine. Though Nilfgaard would find themselves short an amazing amount of soldiers, he was sure.

He could just imagine the terror of those dead men when they saw fangs in the moonlight.

Geralt kept leading them into the forest after the sun had shimmered to mist, and Ciri was nodding in the saddle.

The small fire was little more than smoke, just enough to heat their toes, and Jaskier leaned into Geralt. Even without his armor he was as solid as a wall, but, as he let his rest against his chest, it was his wall. His witcher. His to protect.

“You’re sure you’re okay,” Geralt asked, whispering into the bard’s ear, his arms coming around him.

“Not a scratch,” Jaskier yawned, “Just wasn’t expecting to kill three men today.”

“I’ll always keep you safe,” Geralt promised him, pressing strong kisses into his neck, “Always.”

Jaskier pushed at Geralt’s chest, rolling his eyes, but Geralt just buried his nose in his hair and inhaled. The smell, the heady scent that he could never properly describe, of buttercups and fresh grass and lightening. The smell of home, and his mate, and safety all bound in one.

But it wasn’t enough. He could feel something off, something that wasn’t right, but he didn’t know what. He could feel the walls that Jaskier had built in his mind, the layers of ice that he let feelings drift through, but was never completely open. And it made his wolf nervous.

It made him agitated.

Was he not doing enough? Was something wrong? He thought the bond was supposed to be open and unfettered. But, instead, no matter how close he held his guide, no matter how he enveloped him in his heat, he could still feel the cold chill that was always there.

He pressed more kisses into his hair.

Please, he wanted to beg, please. I’ll do anything. I’ll fix anything.

But the words faded on his tongue before he could let them slip into the air. Their bond was still young, Vesemir had told him when he had asked, he needed to give Jaskier time to adapt to it. They had their entire lives to balance each other. Centuries upon long centuries together.

A few months spent feeling things out would be for the best.

“Geralt,” Jaskier hissed, removing Geralt’s hand from his thigh, “Ciri is right there. Stop it.”

Geralt nodded, pulling his hand away. He hadn’t even realized that he had lost track of it until Jaskier had pointed it out. His wolf pouted, but agreed. The cub may be asleep, but he knew how to make his bard sing, and he didn’t want her to wake to that.

“Going to miss inns,” Geralt said, his rumble soft.

“You wouldn’t have let her get her own room anyway,” Jaskier pointed out with a snort, pulling on a few strands of hair.

That was true as well. There would have been too much risk. Not even enough time to take a bath together. He was going to deeply miss the hidden crevices of Kaer Morhen very quickly, and long before they found Yennefer. Damn the woman for being south when he needed her north.

“The forest will slow us down, but can you still find her,” Jaskier asked.

Geralt could feel his guide’s mind closing from him with an icy chill, and he didn’t enjoy it. He could always feel the ice when Yennefer was discussed, and he knew why. Knew that Jaskier wasn’t comfortable with his past relationship with Yennefer. Wasn’t comfortable with the fact that they were still tied together by the djinn’s powers and his last wish.

“We should reach her in two weeks,” Geralt said, mapping out the forests in his head, “Maybe three. If she stays still.”

“Has she been moving,” Jaskier asked.

“No. She’s still recovering from the battle.”

“Still,” Jaskier asked, surprised.

“Magic is harder than swords,” Geralt reminded him.

Jaskier nodded, and Geralt could feel him beginning to doze. He pulled the blankets over the two of them, laying Jaskier down before him, closest to the fire, and draped his arm over his exhausted body.

“Don’t worry,” He said, holding him tight and feeling him slip into sleep, “You. Not her. You.”

He pulled the blanket tighter, the summer air still chill at night this far north, and let his eyes close as he slipped into a cautious rest. His senses were still open, he was still listening, he was still protecting his little pack, but he was at rest. With his guide at his side, and his cub safely asleep, he could rest.

Chapter Text

Geralt was long practiced at dismissing the scowling looks that villagers inevitably cast his way. Even Jaskier, though he frequently glared back, had come to ignore them as well. Ciri, on the other hand, was outraged and had to be shushed by Jaskier a number of times.

He was surprised that Yennefer had chosen a village like this to recover in, hiding from Nilfgaard’s forces. But, then again, if she wrapped herself up as another refugee and didn’t fall back on magic, she would be safe here. No one would suspect yet another nameless refugee fleeing from the devastation Nilfgaard had unleashed upon the land.

The entire world seemed to be fleeing or dealing with those who fled.

Jaskier motioned at the inn, but Geralt shook his head. She wouldn’t be there, and asking questions would just raise suspicion. No, he knew where she was, could practically smell her on the wind.

And so, buried in the outskirts of town, in a tiny thatched hut, he found Yennefer, weaving, and heaved a sigh of relief. If she could turn her hand at practical crafts, and her mind was about her enough to know she needed to hide behind such deceptions, then she had rested long enough to recover.

Her piercing glare, too, was reassuring.

“No,” Yen spat, “Whatever the fuck you need, the answer is no.”

“It’s not me,” Geralt said, pulling Ciri forward, “She has magic, she needs training.”

“The take her to Aretuza,” Yen snapped, standing carefully, “I’m still recovering from Sodden, in case you haven’t notcied.”

Geralt eyed her cane, and could feel the mental slap upside his head Jaskier gave him. It was true, he hadn’t noticed. But magic didn’t need legs, it needed a mind, and skill. And, while he could teach Ciri the lesser spells that witcher’s used, it wasn’t what her powers needed.

She needed proper training from a proper magic user.

“I don’t trust Aretuza,” Geralt told her.

He needed his cub whole, not torn apart and reborn like the sorceresses that came from that school. He needed her to be able to lead, and be a Queen one day. And he needed her not to become a political pawn of people he couldn’t defend against.

“It’s no more safe for you here than us,” Jaskier spoke up, his eyes darting back toward the weather beaten door, “Strength in numbers, we can offer you safety.”

“In this town?” Yen snorted.

“North,” Jaskier said, passing Geralt a glance.

Geralt tried to feel out what Jaskier was getting at, but came against the wall of ice once more with a frown. Ever since coming from the forest his guide had been a hidden mystery, and he didn’t like it. They shouldn’t be hiding from one another, no like this.

His wolf growled and pawed at the wall to no avail. Chilled it remained, standing strong.

“We’re going back,” Ciri asked, turning toward them both in confusion, “We spent all that time in the damn forest just to go back!? I could have just stayed and trained with Vesemir instead!”

Geralt growled down at her, glaring her into silence. Jaskier’s hand tightened on his arm, but he ignored it. The damn girl didn’t understand that walls had ears, and it wouldn’t take a genius to realize that Vesemir had been off the Path this summer.

Kaer Morhen wouldn’t survive another siege.

Yen glanced between the three of them, and then stared down at her cane. If she couldn’t ride it would make the journey north, through the forests and away from the comforts of the road, difficult, but not impossible. They would need to set out back north soon no matter what, with summer coming to an end and a long winter rushing forward.

“I’ll need a horse,” Yennefer finally said, “But if you can promise me safety, I’ll train the girl. You can sleep on the floor tonight.”

“Better than roots and mud,” Ciri muttered under her breath, and Geralt placed a hand on her head in warning.

His cub had a bark, but she didn’t realize she didn’t have the teeth to back it up yet. It was going to get her into trouble.

“Wonderful,” Jaskier smiled, and Geralt shuddered at how wrong the smile felt, “I’ll gather a few supplies in town, and leave you two to discuss things. Come, Ciri, let’s see if we can find any honey cakes!”

And with a spin Jaskier and Ciri bolted from the shack and headed back into town proper, excitedly discussing sugared delicacies. Geralt sighed and wondered how far Jaskier would be able to stretch their few coins. He was merely grateful that he hopefully had enough for Yen’s horse in his own purse.

“I’m surprised you’re still traveling with him,” Yen said, taking another step forward and looking Geralt over with a critical eye.

“I’ll never leave him,” Geralt said, looking back at the violet eyed sorceress, “He’s mine.”

“A bit possessive, are we,” Yen asked with a snort, trailing her hand through Geralt’s hair.

Geralt caught her wrist and firmly pulled it away, “I’m serious Yen.”

She looked him over, confused, and Geralt felt something passing trying to slip through the barriers Jaskier and built, and Yen’s eyes widened. It didn’t stop his wolf from howling and him baring his teeth, though.

He did not enjoy his privacy being violated.

“What have you two done now,” Yen asked, honestly curious.

“He’s mine,” Geralt said again, shivering as the wolf pawed in vain at the wall that seemed to grow colder by the moment, “Forever.”

Yen just nodded, and pulled her hand away.

Jaskier had steeled himself the moment they set foot in town, but still it had not been enough. He had seen the way Yennefer had looked at Geralt. The way she stood. The way she had ignored him.

And he had felt Geralt. Even through the ice Jaskier could feel the lust there, the wolf remembering Yennefer, and Jaskier had found a way to escape as quickly as he could.

He had known this would happen. Known that the scent of gooseberries would arose a lust in Geralt that he had never brought forth in the wolf. And he wasn’t jealous, really. They had both thoroughly enjoyed themselves on their travels. There were still more than a few men and women that Jaskier had a carnal fondness for.

But none of them were right here, right now. None of them were currently preparing to be hauled back to Kaer Morhen.

None of them were currently trying to seduce him.

“I like the little flaky ones with cinnamon and sugar best,” Ciri said, continuing a conversation Jaskier had long since lost track of, “But I’ve never seen them outside of grandmother’s table. Do you think we could get some braided bread?”

“No,” Jaskier said, shaking his head, “It wouldn’t last long enough on the journey. We’ll be surviving on hard tack and salted meats again, I’m afraid.”

“At least the dried fruits are tasty,” Ciri pouted, bouncing forward to the sparsely populated marketplace.

Jasier shivered, feeling something brushing against the walls of ice he had been carefully building all day, and tried to layer them more thickly. The last thing he wanted was any of what Geralt and Yennefer were doing to bleed through into his mind.

He had left them alone so they could get it out of their system. He didn’t need to know the intimate details.

He knew only all too well how difficult it was to be limited to a few kisses in the forest. Now he would know even less than that.

He raised another wall, and followed behind Ciri, carefully calculating prices in his head. The effects of Nilfgaard were already showing: he had never seen prices so high in his life. They would have to largely depend on what they could find as they traveled, there was no way they could afford more than the bare basics. And maybe not even that.

There certainly wouldn’t be any sugared treats for his little cub, unfortunately.

Chapter Text

Jaskier carefully kept their little campsite in sight as he picked up sticks for the fire. Normally they would have foregone the little blaze, but Geralt had caught a brace of coneys and they needed to cook to be edible. Jaskier was just glad he had brought a pouch of salt to at least add a little flavor.

Ciri, on the other hand, was glaring at the rabbits and still complaining about the lack of sweets, though Yennefer was having fun trying to teach her to make illusionary treats.

Footsteps, deliberate and careful, crunched on the ground behind him.

Jaskier sighed. He hadn’t thought Geralt would pursue this, but the wolf had been pawing at the ice all day, every day, since they had left the little town nearly a week before. And, no matter how thick he built the wall, the wolf was determined to dig through.

Didn’t he understand that he didn’t want to hear the sweet nothings that he and Yen whispered to one another? The passing touches, the long caresses? He couldn’t stand there and break himself like that. He had an eternity with Geralt, but he would rather throw himself off the nearest cliff than know it was an eternity where he was merely being dragged along behind because destiny had shit all over the witcher once more.

And compared to the sorceress, he knew that’s what he was. A shitling.

Strong arms pulled him close to a strong chest, and Jaskier felt his heart speeding.

“I’ve missed you,” Geralt whispered gruffly, nipping at his ear, “It’s so cold. Why are you so cold?”

Jaskier shook his head, dropping the sticks as he wiped at his eyes, he didn’t want to have this conversation. Not now. Not ever.

“Please,” Geralt pleaded, turning the bard to face him, “Whatever’s wrong, I’ll fix it. Please.”

“There’s nothing wrong,” Jaskier tried to lie, his smile tight.

“Fuck there isn’t,” Geralt said, searching Jaskier’s eyes, trying to see into his soul, “I wake up cold and alone, we ride cold and alone, I sleep cold and alone. Please, I don’t, I don’t want to be alone.”

Jaskier couldn’t keep the tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t deny Geralt, not when he saw the pain in his golden eyes. Not when he could hear the wolf pawing and howling, distantly, in his mind.

“You and Yen,” Jaskier sobbed, “It hurts so much. I can’t stand there and do nothing, not when you’re with her.”

Geralt growled, pulling Jaskier close and capturing his lips with his own, hungrily.

“Yen is nothing,” Geralt swore, “There’s been nothing. It’s you. Forever you. My Jaskier. Mine.”

Jaskier buried his face in Geralt’s neck at sobbed at that, letting his tears stream freely as he wrapped his arms around his wolf. He could feel the truth there, and finally let himself relax and the ice crack. They both collapsed to the ground together, Jaskier crying, Geralt holding him tight, as the wolf crashed into his guide’s mind.

He tightened his grip, and swore out loud. Jaskier tried to tell him it was okay, tried to let that feeling drift through their minds, but Geralt just shook his head, kissing at his hair.

“I’m sorry,” Geralt said, his voice rough with tears, “I didn’t think.”

“It’s okay,” Jaskier tried to calm him, “I should have-”

“No,” Geralt snapped, “This is on me. My choice, my words. I should have said something. Should have… I’m sorry.”

Jaskier hiccuped, and nodded, simply letting himself be held and breathing in. He hadn’t realized how much strain he had been under holding up the wall. And now, now that it was collapsed, an icy valley of shards between the two of them, he was exhausted. He wanted to lay in his witcher’s arms and sleep for a week.

He payed no mind as Geralt picked him up carefully, and walked back to the camp. He hummed as Geralt sent Ciri to get firewood, and just tightened his grip as Geralt held him tight and watched Yen roast the rabbits over the fire.

He returned her grin, and fell asleep listening to Ciri complaining about bland meat, and Yen lamenting about stubborn wolves and their lack of herbal supplies.

Geralt continued to hold Jaskier tight, a blanket wrapped around the two of them as he sat on their bedroll. He couldn’t bring himself to let go, afraid that if he did, he would lose the other man. He would fade away again behind another mountain of ice, and this time, he would never come back.

“He’ll sleep tomorrow away as well,” Yen said, carefully adding a few more sticks to the fire, glancing at the sleeping Ciri to make sure she was asleep.

Geralt sighed, and nodded. He could feel the exhaustion rippling through his own mind, and could barely compare it to finally ending a particularly challenging fight. He felt weary to his very bones, and that was merely the echo. He couldn’t imagine what Jaskier must be feeling.

He would to rearrange the travel order tomorrow. Jaskier behind him, and Yen taking up the rear. It wasn’t the best, but Jaskier would be unable to fight like this.

“How close is the bond,” Yen asked, looking up at Geralt, a fire in her eyes.

Geralt sighed, and rolled his eyes. She had been nagging on him about details from the very beginning, intrigued by this phenomenon that she had no knowledge of.

“My life for his, his life for mine,” Geralt answered, “He was… he was trying to block it. He thought we were fucking.”

Yen burst into laughter, throwing her head back and letting her voice ring true through the trees.

“That’s ridiculous,” Yen said, wiping at her face, “You never told him that we weren’t?”

Geralt just grunted, running his hands through Jaskier’s hair once more.

“Never once,” Yen shook her head with a sigh, “Geralt, you’re a fool. You need to speak with him. If he keeps doing this, blocking and then breaking down walls, it could kill him. I’m halfway surprised the psychic shock didn’t kill him this time.”

Geralt looked up, his eyes narrowed. He had never thought what had happened, the ice and the ice breaking, could truly be dangerous. But even now he was careful around the bond between them, knew that the ice shards that still littered the pathway were dangerous to his wolf. They were melting away, slowly, as Jaskier slept.

But not fast enough for his comfort.

“He’s strong,” Geralt insisted, trying to convince himself more than the sorceress, “He’ll survive. It won’t happen again.”

“Until it does,” Yen said with a sigh, “And then the next time. And the time after that. And the time after that. Until he’s so weak he can’t remember being awake anymore, and you’re left struggling to survive soul bound to a man you’ve torn apart so thoroughly that he’s barely more than a shell.”

Geralt growled, his teeth showing, as he clutched Jaskier close to his chest. He wouldn’t let that happen, he told himself. He would never harm his Jaskier, his fluttering little bard who danced and sang and kept his wolf calm and focuses and didn’t seem him as the mutant monster the world still insisted he was. He would never let Jaskier come to harm.

Except, his wolf howled mournfully in reminder, he already had. He let his fingers trace against the soft, sleeping curves of the sleeping man’s face. His eyes closed, his mouth lax, he looked more at peace than he had in over a week. He looked… content. Human.

“I won’t let that happen,” Geralt insisted, “Never again.”

“Then talk to him, Geralt,” Yen said, her eyebrow raised. Clearly she did not believe him.

“When he wakes-”

“No, Geralt,” Yen corrected him, “Not just this time. Every day. You two have a child to care for, you depend on one another. Speak with him every day. Every hour if you need to. But you need to fix this, or neither of you will survive.”

“Everyday,” Geralt promised gruffly.

And he would, he swore, everyday. He would find the words, take the time, to make this right. To make sure he didn’t hurt his little singing lark every again. Because he couldn’t stand the thought of what would happen if Jaskier broke and became that nightmarish empty shelled man. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he caused that.

“Now get some sleep, I’ll keep the first watch,” Yen sighed, and Geralt nodded gratefully.

He lay down, holding Jaskier tight, wrapping him in limbs and scent, and tried not to have cold nightmares of empty eyes that he couldn’t breath life back into.

Chapter Text

Jaskier was nodding in the saddle by the time they stopped to make camp in the early evening, and Geralt held out a hand to help him down with concern. The bard smiled, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders, and leaned into Geralt’s arms.

Geralt nuzzled at him, frowning as he inhaled. Jaskier scent, so warm and happy before, now had the undercurrent of the cold, freezing ice of midwinter. He didn’t like it. He pulled the bard close, worrying at his hair, but to no avail.

Jaskier snuggled into his arms, and Geralt caught him as he fell asleep still standing. He picked him up, and looked at Yen. It had been four days, and still Jaskier was cold and exhausted. Every day, every hour, every moment, he could feel the path of ice that lay between them, and no amount of fire could thaw it.

“I’ll get some wood,” Ciri said, dashing off into the forest before Geralt could warn her.

She knew to be safe, he assured himself. She had a sword, she had training, she had her wits. Now, it was Jaskier that needed him. Their cub was fine, his guide was not.

“It’s been four days,” Geralt said, carefully placing him down on the bedroll as Yen laid it out.

She gently placed her hand on Jaskier’s forehead and frowned.

“Normally I would say rest and warmth,” she said with a sigh, “But I just don’t know.”

The couldn’t rest lay unsaid between the two of them. Nilfgaard was still hunting for Ciri, and their army was only slowly being held back by northern countries. Winter would stifle their advance, but come the spring they would be on the march once more.

They also needed to make it to Kaer Morhen before the snows set in. Summer was already fading, and there was a chill that could be felt, that he could smell, that lingered on the early morning air. Soon their paths would be red with leaves, and snow would be blanketing the mountains.

“One day,” Geralt finally said, “We can rest tomorrow.”

Yen nodded, and glanced up as Ciri emerged from the underbrush with an armful of branches.

“It won’t be enough, but it will help,” she admitted.

“Is he,” tears were forming in Ciri’s eyes, and Geralt just looked at Yen helplessly.

He had already proven that he couldn’t be trusted with words and emotions. Comforting Ciri would be beyond him. That was Jaskier’s domain.

Jaskier shivered, and Geralt wrapped him tighter.

“He’s just ill,” Yen said softly, “We’ll rest tomorrow so I can help him. He’ll get better once we get to Kaer Morhen.”

Ciri just nodded, and Geralt helped her build the fire. He didn’t fail to notice that the young girl had built it much larger than they normally would. But he just kept adding fuel that evening, trying desperately to keep his guide warm even as they all sweat at the heat.

It didn’t help, and Geralt fell asleep clutching a nearly freezing man in his arms.

Jaskier stared at the fire numbly, shivering and pulling the blankets tight around his shoulders. Geralt had reassured him that they just needed to stop to hunt for food, enough so they wouldn’t need to stop so early in the evenings over the next week.

He had just smiled, and watched the witcher slip silently out of sight with their cub. He knew it was a lie. He knew they were stopping because he was ill. But it made Geralt less nervous to rest, and he was just grateful not to spend all day shivering in a saddle.

He would never guess that, one day, he would miss walking behind Roach instead of riding.

“Jaskier,” Yennefer said softly, sitting down next to him, “You know why we’re resting.”

Jaskier nodded, grateful that she, at least, wasn’t trying to play him a fool. He knew it was because of the worry that pounded through Geralt’s mind for him. Knew it was because Ciri had tried to give him her blanket the night before. Knew it was because he, too, knew something was terribly wrong.

“How bad is it,” Jaskier asked, glancing quickly away from her eyes.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, “But whatever you did, it wasn’t good. Do you want me to look and see?”

Jaskier swallowed, but nodded. At least in this he had a choice.

Yennefer took his hands, gently, and stared into his eyes.

“I’m going to look. It may be uncomfortable, but I will not touch anything, and I will not harm you.”

Jaskier nodded again, tensing as he felt a fresh wind passing through his mind.

It was so cold, but he needed to know. He needed to know if he was going to be cold forever, going to curse Geralt to having to haul around a guide that was always shivering and dreaming of a summer that may never come. He could nearly feel Yennefer stepping through his mind, feet crunching on ice, and had to will the wolf to stay back.

She was a friend, and this was necessary.

But he still let out a gaspy breath when she finally retreated back into herself. He could feel the intrusion, uncomfortable and aching, and hoped the memory would fade soon.

“It’s bad,” Jaskier said, glancing at Yennefer’s pained face.

“It’s not bad,” She said, “But it’s not good. You’re healing, slowly.”

“It will go away? All of this ice, the freezing?”

“With time,” Yennefer admitted with a sigh, “But you need rest, and constant warmth. And to never do that again. You came very close to killing yourself. The ice cut deep when it shattered, and your mind is still trying to piece itself back together. Being near Geralt will help.”

“He is warm,” Jaskier snorted.

“He is, isn’t he,” Yennefer laughed, “And I’m sure he can find a way to keep you warm all winter.”

Jaskier smiled and laughed at that. He had nearly forgotten what it was like to just sit and shoot the shit with another, especially one who had shared the same lover. And she wasn’t a threat now, he was glad. Geralt had made that clear. And so had she, now, with a smile.

“We have to get back to Kaer Morhen first,” Jaskier said.

There was still weeks ahead of them before they could rest. With Jaskier sick and Yennefer still recovering, it would only take longer.

Yennefer bit her lip and frowned.

“We may need to find somewhere else for a while,” she said, waving away Jaskier’s worried glance, “You can’t be left cold everyday. The longer it takes you to heal, the more damage can be done. You need rest and warmth, Jaskier, or your bond could be permanently damaged.”

No, Jaskier insisted, there was nothing wrong. They would ride north to Kaer Morhen. He would spend the winter in front of the fire, wrapped in Geralt’s warm embrace, and he would be fine come the spring. There would be no more ice. There would be no more distance between the two of them. There would be no more bridgeless expanse when he reached for his witcher, only their very fingertips brushing.

Everything was going to be fine.

Except it wasn’t.

“It isn’t safe,” Jaskier finally said, staring at the fire rather that the sorceress’ sad eyes.

“Jaskier,” Yennefer said, a gentle hand on his shoulder, “It isn’t safe for us to continue.”

“Yes, it is,” Jaskier insisted, still staring into the fire, “We ride a little harder, a little faster, but we need to get to Kaer Morhen. For Ciri.”

“And if the bond between you withers and dies,” Yennefer snapped.

Jaskier turned to her sadly, “You don’t understand. A witcher and a guide are tied. You can’t have one without the other. If I falter, Geralt will be strong enough to hold the slack until we can get to safety.”

“Jaskier,” Yennefer started.

“No, Yennefer,” Jaskier said, nearly pleading, “Everything will be alright. I promise. We can do this.”

“Fucking witchers and their guides,” Yennefer snapped, “The instant you start fading I’m throwing you and Geralt into the nearest cave and sealing the entrance for a year.”

“I think you’ll find he’ll be a grouchy bear once he emerges,” Jaskier snorted.

“I’ll throw Ciri at him, that should calm him down.”

“At least her witcher training will be good for something,” Jaskier agreed with a smile.

Geralt and Ciri returned later to the duo laughing and shouting at each other, and both rolled their eyes and sighed. They had managed to bring down a deer and gather enough wild fruit and vegetables to last a few days on the move.

Chapter Text

A week of riding cold, wrapped in blankets, and shivering in Geralt’s arms by the fire, was all it took for Jaskier’s body to finally give out.

Geralt woke early, Jaskier firmly in his arms, their blankets wrapped around the two of them, and nuzzled at Jaskier’s ear, whining to himself when his guide didn’t rouse. He paused, the smell of ice still irritating his senses, and shook the other man gently.

Jaskier groaned, curling into Geralt’s arms, but still didn’t come awake. Geralt frowned, shaking him harder, and felt his stomach drop when Jaskier still didn’t wake. The bard slept hard, and was no fan of mornings, but he still woke.

“Yen,” he called quietly, looking across the fire to the sleeping sorceress.

The woman’s eyes shot open, and she turned to Geralt, her eyes still panicked from whatever nightmare he had pulled her out of. The nightly fires, stocked and blazing, had done nothing to help her on this journey. He would have to apologize for that, later, but it couldn’t be helped.

Not when Jaskier, still unconscious, still so cold, lay still in his arms.

“He won’t wake,” Geralt said as she carefully shuffled over to him, laying her hand on his forehead.

“Fuck,” she cursed, shaking her head, “I told you he needed rest and warmth.”

“It isn’t safe,” Geralt growled, motioning and the still sleeping Ciri.

“He may not wake again,” Yen spat back.

Geralt felt the chill go down his spine at that. He had thought that they could endure it, could continue on, and it would be alright. He was strong enough for the both of them. But now, was this what holding his Jaskier’s corpse would be like.

Geralt growled, a pained sound, as he held Jaskier close and pressed kisses to his head.

“He’s not dead yet,” Yen said, glancing at the witcher nervously and taking several steps back, “But we need to find somewhere to rest, and keep him warm, for at least a few days. He’ll have a hard winter, though, no matter what happens.”

“There’s a small town a days ride west,” Geralt said, not tearing his eyes away from Jaskier’s cold face, “We can make it before dark.”

“Geralt, between the two of us we can keep them safe,” Yen said with a sigh, derailing Geralt’s next comment before he could insist otherwise, “Trust me.”

Geralt nodded. He trusted her. Their bond may have been forged through accidental magic, but it was still there. And he knew Jaskier trusted her. That was enough. That would have to be enough.

“Wake Ciri,” he said, lifting Jaskier carefully in his arms, “We ride at once.”

Jaskier has a snowy memory of being held against Geralt’s chest as they rose a horse through a forest. He remembers the fire that beat through his witcher’s blood, and the howling of his wolf as the woods sped past. But he couldn’t remember why he needed to remember.

He couldn’t remember why he needed to wake.

It was so cold, wrapped in the ice, but it was familiar. This cave was his, and he was safe here. Nothing came in, nothing came out.

Whatever had chased him was gone now, and he was safe.

The forest continued to slide by, dancing green where there should be a sky, and then slid away into fields.

Fields of gold trampled under the horse’s hooves, and still the witcher held him close, his heart slow and steady as he burned his way through the world. No, he thought, that wasn’t right. Geralt didn’t set fires, he merely put them out.

He remembered yelling, and being carried, and hot water. The hot water screamed over his body, and he screamed with it, thrashing against the ice. It was pain, fracturing through his mind and tearing away at the safety that had frozen there.

Make it stop, he begged silently, pleading to the howling wolf that was growling and curling around him, make it stop. Whatever he had done, he was sorry. Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop!

And then there was silence. A floating stillness that he collapsed into, floating through a blessed peace.

Geralt panted weakly, holding Jaskier to his chest as he rocked before the rooms’ fire, and let the silence finally echo through his mind.

Jaskier had been screaming for hours, had started screaming the instant they had put him in the warm bath, and nothing could stop the agony that had torn through their bond and nearly dragged him into the hellish landscape where his guide had drifted.

Only Yennefer, quick on her feet, had managed the save the pair of them.

And now, she, too, looked exhausted. Ciri was curled up on the bed, her eyes wide, and she stared at the three of them. He could only imagine what it must have looked like to her, to see her guardians go mad and then silent.

“He’s sleeping,” Yennefer confirmed, hobbling over to the bed to collapse next to Ciri.

Ciri curled into her, her fingers in Yennefer’s dress, and remained silent. He would not enjoy the conversation they would have to have later. She knew some horrors of the world, had seen many, but this was closer than she had been truly prepared for.

“He’s warm,” Geralt finally said, pulling the rough wool blankets around the two of them, holding the sleeping man to his bare chest. Skin on skin was better heat than fire and water. Skin on skin made his wolf stop howling, when he could feel Jaskier’s pulse beating in time with his own. Faster, lighter, but there, with him, always.

“He’ll live,” Ciri asked, still staring.

“Yes, he’ll live,” Yennefer reassured her, “But we can’t move for a few days. He needs the heat, and the rest. And he’ll be sick all winter.”

Geralt tuned her out, burying his face in Jaskier’s hair and inhaling deeply.

Warmth, and summer, and everything beautiful in the world. The ice was there, threading through the scent and reminding him of a coming frost, but it was fading. He would live, Geralt wouldn’t let him die. He didn’t belong to death, he belonged to him. He was his, and his only.


Chapter Text

Jaskier stood up hesitantly, holding the wall and yawning. He was still chilled, but he was also bored and in desperate need of stretching his legs. He had been caged in bed for three days, wrapped in Geralt and blankets, and he needed to get out of this room.

Thankfully his dear witcher had wandered off with a sorceress to purchase what little they could with their remaining few coins, and he had only his little cub to convince to let him take a short walk for an ale. But, of course, she would be as stubborn as Geralt and was currently standing in front of the door, arms crossed, and glowering down at him.

Or up at him, as, for once, he was actually standing.

“Geralt said no leaving the room,” Ciri said, “It’s dangerous!”

Jaskier had to stifle a laugh as her blonde curls bounced adorably. Wide eyes and golden curls were ruining the stern image she was trying to project. But he wouldn’t tell her that, her bite still hung at her hip, and he knew she knew how to use it. Though he doubted she would do more than threaten.

“Just a stroll down the stairs, I won’t even go outside, I promise,” Jaskier solemnly swore.

And he meant it too. He still felt weak, and didn’t think he’d managed much more than that. If he didn’t take a seat and ponder over his ale for a while, he was unsure that he’d make it back up the stairs without help. And, while he was sure he would be fine, he didn’t want Ciri stepping foot outside of the room without both Geralt and Yennefer there to protect her.

An entire army was hunting her. Him? He was just another bard, and, as long as he kept his mouth shut, he would be quite safe.

“No,” Ciri insisted again, stomping her foot.

Her curls bounced, and Jaskier just rolled his eyes. This was getting nowhere.

So, taking a breath, he let himself stumble forward and carefully pushed past the young girl. And, as predicted, she merely squawked but didn’t draw steel. All bark and no bite with him. And for that he was glad, there was very little of her innocence left, and he wanted bloodshed to remain on that list.

“I’ll,” Ciri shouted as Jaskier managed to bolt out the door, “I’ll tell Geralt!”

Jaskier just waved and stumbled down the stairs. He knew Geralt would hear about this sooner rather than later, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t a doll to be tucked into bed and forgotten. He was human, he had needs, and, right now, at this very instant, he needed a drink.

He would have preferred more ale than water, but it seemed this particular little inn specialized in ale tasting water, and there was nothing else for it. He parted with a coin sadly, and sat at a table, staring out a window, and relaxed.

It was nice to be able to see that the world was larger than a room and a furiously worried witcher. Not that he minded be cuddled and using the other man as a furnace, but it grew tiresome quite quickly.

As had Yennefer’s quite pointed jokes about ancient fortresses not needing fires in the hearth once they got north.

If she hadn’t been a sorceress he swore he would have strangled her before the first day had passed.

He could sense Geralt in the town, his wolf anxious and nosing at their bond. He had been very firm on not leaving until Yennefer had finally rolled her eyes and dragged him away. Open air and space had done them both a world of wonders. He was just sad tat Ciri would have to remain locked in the room until they left.

The door to the inn opened, and Jaskier sighed into his ale. He knew what was coming, the lecture, the anger, but it was worth. Geralt was such a mother hen at times. Which was a surprise, given the icy, fuck off exterior that he projected so well.

Or, now that Jaskier considered it, was finally shedding a little.

Caring, in a less abstract sense, didn’t really mean much to Geralt outside of a small handful of people.

“What are you doing,” Geralt growled, glancing around the room.

The innkeeper, and half a dozen travelers, were the sole occupants. Not a single piece of black armor in sight. He had actually checked before he had come into the room. Even he knew he wouldn’t have much luck keeping a knife out of his gut in his condition.

“Drinking an ale,” Jaskier said with a smile, “Join me, before you look suspicious.”

Geralt growled, but sat down next to Jaskier, crowding in close. Jaskier just rolled his eyes, but shook his head when Geralt was about to call out for a second ale. No one should be cursed to a single mug of this water, especially not an already angry witcher.

“It’s dangerous,” Geralt snapped, “Someone could recognize you.”

“I look like half the continent,” Jaskier snorted, “Without my lute and my silks, I’m just another traveler.”

“No,” Geralt said, crowding against Jaskier, “I won’t lose you.”

“You’re not losing me, Geralt,” Jaskier said, finishing his ale with a sour face, “I just needed to stretch my legs. You can escort me to the room in safety.”

Geralt just glared at him, but helped him up the stairs nonetheless. Yennefer, when they got back to the room, was equally as unamused, though more understanding.

“I’ve already been growled out,” Jaskier said with a sigh, “I don’t need to hear your lecture too.”

“Good,” Yennefer said, “Because you’re a fool. Anyone traveling with Geralt is at risk. Geralt is at risk. We leave in the morning, and hopefully get to this damn fortress of yours without anymore pit stops.”

Jaskier threw himself down on the bed and sighed. He would miss beds, and warm rooms, and hot stews. Kaer Morhen was many things, but civilization was barely a memory there. It didn’t help that, apparently, most witchers were never able to do much more than stick meat in fire or boiling water when they cooked. And onions. There was an over fondness of onions as well.

“All I beg for is one last bath,” Jaskier pleaded, “And then I shall travel a happy man.”

Geralt rolled his eyes, but shrugged his shoulders. They would all miss hot baths, and it would be nice not to stink of horse constantly.

After two more weeks of hard riding, Jaskier was happy to finally recognize the mountains. Kaer Morhen was only a few days away, Geralt had told him the night before, and not a day too soon. They could already see signs of the coming winter, and Jaskier could feel the ache in his very bones.

The cold was already here, lingering even under the shaded brightness of day, and he longed for the warmth of a fire. Blankets, and hot tea, and fire, and Geralt’s arms around him as he ignored the outside world and burned the last of the ice away.

He coughed into his elbow, ignoring the pained look Yennefer shot him, and closed his eyes with a sigh. The cough had woken him a few days prior, and he could feel the wet rattle in his lungs. She had warned him he would have hell of it this winter, but he had been hoping for more of the exhausted hell than the sick variety.

Apparently his luck hadn’t held.

Jaskier looked away from the mountains, scanning the forest, as he felt Geralt come to attention. There was something wrong in the forest, and he couldn’t pinpoint what, yet.

The birds, he realized, the animals. Where the fuck were the sounds of animals!?

Geralt unmounted and drew his sword in one swift motion, Ciri a moment behind him. Jaskier cursed, of course. Getting to Kaer Morhen would be a death trap. But an ambush on the way back? Had they been seen at the inn? Jaskier cursed himself for that ale as he dismounted, knives at the ready, and signaled for Yennefer to stay behind him.

“I know how to hold my own in a knife fight, little bard,” the sorceress snorted.

Jaskier watched the soldiers emerge from the shadows. They were talented, he had to give them that. To get the drop on a witcher was skill that took training.

“The girl lives,” one of the men surrounding them said, “The others die.”

Jaskier swallowed, and watched as swords were drawn. Geralt’s wolf was howling, and he let himself fall into battle. Jaskier swung his eyes to the side, ducking one nasty blow, but catching the wrong side of a sword to his side.

He could feel the blood streaming down his chest as he lunged forward, jabbing a knife into the man’s eye and ripping it out with a savage growl.

Three more men, more distracted by the stomping of angry horses than a half skilled bard, met a bloody end. Ciri was against Yennefer’s back, and Jaskier tried not to vomit at the reek of burned flesh, but he could tell she was faltering.

Geralt. He needed to get to Geralt, he could feel the wolf howling, furious. Jaskier coughed, wiping blood away from his lips and trying to ignore the cold, numbing heaviness each step took.

Another man slammed into his side, and Jaskier felt the blade running into his belly. He still had his knives, he realized, thrusting one into his neck. He looked down, his vision pulsing gray. The wound wasn’t deep, but it was bleeding.

He needed to get to Geralt. He couldn’t let Geralt lose control. He needed to ground Geralt.

He needed… Jaskier shook his head, stumbling forward. He could barely taste the memory on his tongue. He needed to get to Geralt because, because he had to make sure he was safe.

He swallowed, the taste of copper drowning his tongue. He needed to get to Geralt, he couldn’t let the other man go mad. He needed to protect Ciri.

Jaskier knew all of Geralt’s little tells. Knew how he held a sword, knew how he used it. Knew everything about how he fought. He had watched him slay beasts and monsters for twenty years.

Men were no different.

Jaskier hiccuped, and threw himself forward as another soldier swung at his white wolf. Geralt thrust forward, slicing through flesh, and digging into the leather armor.

Jaskier smiled, blood dribbling from his lips as he reached out weakly for his witcher. Geralt’s eyes, his beautiful, golden sunset eyes went wide as he stared at his guide, and Jaskier fell forward. It was so easy to slide along a blade if you couldn’t feel pain. Just a rough discomfort where flesh parted. But Geralt kept his blade so sharp that it was nothing. Just another journey.

“Love you,” Jaskier choked, burying his face against the witcher’s neck.

He had wanted to kiss him one last time. But knowing he was safe from the madness was enough. He spit blood, and closed his eyes, listening to the wolf howling him into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Geralt howled, holding his lover in his arms, and felt his world collapse in on itself. Everything around him built and built and built until it finally narrowed to a single point. His sword was still run through his lover’s chest, and the man he had been intending to kill was still alive on the other side.

He growled, letting Jaskier slide from his arms, and bore his teeth as he approached the Nilfgaardian. This man was alive. This man dared to draw breath while Jaskier lay still behind him.

This man dared.

Geralt smashed into him, ignoring the pain of the sword as it dug into his armor, and gnashed his teeth, biting into his neck. How dare he live when Jaskier did not. He spat out the torn tissue and watched blood bubble through his throat. He could smell the fear, and grinned.

Let them fear. They had taken what was his, and they would all die for it.

The man gurgled one last time, still clawing at his throat, and went still. Geralt growled, looking up, grasping wildly, trying to control his senses. He could hear, see, smell everything, and it collapsed upon him in waves, sending him screaming.

He needed Jaskier. He needed Jaskier to control this, to soothe the wolf, to make it stop.

But the blood. He could smell the blood. Jaskier’s blood was on him, was coating him, and he could do nothing to stop it.

He howled, clutching at his head, and collapsed into the dirt.

“Geralt,” a voice, he knew that voice, sounded near him.

He snapped, his teeth still bloody, and flexed his hands. Everything would die. Without Jaskier, everything should die.

“That’s what I thought,” the voice echoed painfully, and something hard slammed into his head.

He roared, fighting against the pain, but she hit him again. And again. And, finally, exhausted, he collapsed and let the darkness take him.

Geralt thrashed against the chains that bound him, silver and steel, and watched as they dared approach his Jaskier. He lunged, but was caught short as the chains anchored against the wall held. Snapping and growling, and they ignored him.

“He’s bleeding,” Ciri said, looking over at Geralt with wide eyes.

“He’ll be fine,” Yennefer said, concentrating as she poured another elixir down the bard’s throat, “It’s only an issue if he severs a limb.”

“Will he do that,” Ciri demanded, looking between Yennefer and Vesemir.

Vesemir just shook his head and snorted, carefully checking the bandages that covered Jaskier’s chest. He frowned as one of them came away with yellow pus, and cursed. Grabbing jars and bottles, he began carefully smearing ointments onto the stomach wound, and Ciri turned away, green, as the skin began to fizz.

“Fucking poison,” Vesemir growled, motioning for Yennefer to grab one of the small vials.

“No,” Yennefer said, glaring at the older man.

“Witch,” Vesemir snapped, “Poison.”

“There are still other-”

Jaskier’s body began to seize, and Ciri stepped away as the bandages began to leak blood. Geralt howled, mournfully, and lashed at the chains in desperate need to get to Jaskier. Vesemir turned toward him, and then looked at Yennefer.

Yennefer sighed, and nodded.

“Ciri, leave,” Yennefer said, grabbing more supplies from her kit.


Vesemir picked up the wooden club that had been leaning against the wall, and approached a furious Geralt carefully.

“Now, girl!” Yennefer repeated, and Ciri hurried from the room, slamming the door behind her as she heard Geralt’s growling cut short with a sudden thud.

Jaskier whimpered, trying to turn toward the warmth that had pulled away. It was so cold, and all he wanted was the warmth. He smiled when the warmth returned, and tried to turn toward it again.

His eyes flashed owned as he gasped in agony, pain rippling through his chest and abdomen.

“Fuck,” Geralt said, quickly brushing hands gently across Jaskier’s chest, checking for blood.

“Hurts,” Jaskier cried, tears in his eyes.

“Lay down,” Geralt said, finally satisfied that there wasn’t any blood.

“Cold,” Jaskier said, carefully turning his head to look at Geralt.

And even that was a challenge, he admitted to himself. Every piece of him screamed in agony, and he could feel the never ending throb of pain brushing against every nerve. Why did it have to hurt so much? Couldn’t they give him something for it?

Couldn’t they at least give him a damn blanket!?

The wolf nuzzled at him in worry in his mind, but Geralt was still just staring down at him, his hand frozen on his chest.

“Geralt?” Jaskier asked, blinking away his tears.

“You’re alive,” Geralt sighed, laying down next to the other man and burying his face in his neck, “I… you were dead. I thought you were dead.”

“Getting better,” Jaskier tried to reassure him, wishing he could run his hands through his hair.

Desperately wishing he hadn’t had multiple swords run through his body, because, no matter how much he enjoyed Geralt clinging to him, he wanted to return the favor. And he didn’t even have the strength to lift a finger.

“My sword,” Geralt whimpered, pulling back to stare into Jaskier’s eyes, “You threw yourself in front of my sword!”

“It seemed like the only option at-”

“No,” Geralt roared, nipping at Jaskier, “It was never an option! I can’t-

“If you die, I won’t survive. If I kill you, I can’t survive.”

“If I die, you’ll go mad,” Jaskier said, trying to explain, “You need to protect Ciri.”

“NO!” Geralt snapped, his arms tightening around Jaskier uncomfortably, “You die, I die. Nothing else.”

Jaskier swallowed, but nodded. His wolf didn’t understand, he needed to live. There weren’t enough witchers in the world anymore to protect it, and certainly not enough to protect Ciri long enough to properly train her. To make sure she grew up safe, and into her power.

But he could let the matter drop for now.

The pain of Geralt’s arms, and the mournful howling of the wolf in his head, was enough to make him regret not being unconscious right now.

“Sleep,” Geralt muttered, laying down next to him again, and pulling a blanket over the two of them.

Jaskier closed his eyes, and turned his head toward the warmth.

At least it was finally warm.

Chapter Text

Jaskier turned the page, amazed at the antiquity of the library the witchers’ maintained. True, none of it was the historical epics he had loved so much in his youth, or anything a person might pick up to read out of delight. But the amount of information that had survived the eras was astounding.

As was just how bored it left him. He had leafed through several highly descriptive tomes on creatures, including one devoted to the various species of vampires that had an amazing wine recipe tucked in the back, and had finally settled on a slime book of southern flora.

Most of the herbs and flowers were of the wild weed variety that he had braided into hair or tasted in stews at some point in his life. It was intriguing just how they could be used otherwise in unique combinations. He was not amazed to find how many different recipes for helping with injuries he was discovering.

But it was a witcher library, and he doubted that many of them knew how to do much more than apply fire to meat.

“Did your wolf lock you away inside,” Yennefer asked with a smile as she glided into the room.

“I put him outside to play with the cub,” Jaskier replied, happy for any excuse to escape from the mind numbing descriptions of blood coagulants.

He could feel Geralt in his mind, the man still more wolf than human. Could feel him brushing against him, nudging him, practically whining to be let back in. He gave him a shove and told him to go back to training Ciri. He was safe in front of the fire with books.

The wolf didn’t seem to think so, but stalked away with his tale between his legs.

“I had wondered why she was so excited this morning.”

“And I had a few wonderings for you,” Jaskier said, motioning for the chair across from his.

Yennefer glared, but Jaskier just gave her a toothy grin in return.

“Those are new,” the sorceress said, leaning the tiniest bit forward in curiosity.

Jaskier ran his tongue over his teeth, careful to avoid cutting himself, and smirked. Yes, they were.

“As is my never ending craving for a barely dead steak,” Jaskier told her, “What happened.”

“Lots of magic and potions,” Yennefer said dismissively.

“I’m not asking questions, I’m telling you I want answers. I have teeth that I didn’t have a week ago. I have organs that I painfully remember being used as a pincushion.”

Yennefer slumped back in her chair, turning her attention to the fire and avoiding Jaskier’s gaze. Jaskier felt a growl building in his chest, and she shuddered.

“You’re an idiot, did you know that,” Yennefer finally said, still staring at the dancing flames, “You got yourself hacked and stabbed, and then threw yourself in front of Geralt and let him impale you.”

“A witcher goes mad when their guide dies, unless they kill their guide themselves,” Jaskier told her.

“So I’ve been told, but you forget that Geralt loves you. He went half mad because he thought he killed you. I had to smack him upside the head with a branch to knock him out. He was killing people with his bare hands.”

“That sounds distinctly… unpleasant,” Jaskier agreed.

“Ciri was a shattered mess,” Yennefer spat at him, “We dragged you both here and had to keep him chained in your room so he wouldn’t chew off his own limbs to get to you.”

“Vesemir didn’t have a potion to dump down his throat to stop him,” Jaskier was surprised, the older man seemed to, generally, have everything needed at hand.

“There’s no cure for the madness of killing the one you love, bard,” Yennefer said angrily, “You’re lucky you survived at all.”

“All the potions in the world aren’t going to regrow a lung, Yennefer,” Jaskier reminded her, “What the fuck did you do?”

Yennefer sighed, and looked up at Jaskier sadly. He could feel her regretting what she had done, and it pained him. He had grown to respect her, and enjoy her company, on the ride back north. He had even looked forward to raiding the sour wine barrels of Kaer Morhen when the snows got deep and Geralt became too much of a broody nuisance.

“You needed blood, so we gave you Geralt’s.”

Jaskier blinked. That had not been the answer he had been expecting. At all.

“Geralt’s a-”

“Yes, I already went over this with Vesemir. It shouldn’t have worked, and, by all rights, we should have Geralt chained in a dungeon somewhere while he goes mad and kills himself against cold stone walls. But destiny, it seems, enjoys your off key strumming, and you live to see another day.”

“My strumming isn’t off key,” Jaskier replied automatically, “My eyes! Oh gods, my beautiful eyes, tell me they didn’t turn yellow!”

Yennefer snorted at that.

“Your eyes are the same. The blood worked long enough to give you a new lung, and patch up those holes you graced yourself with. The teeth I didn’t notice, but that’s the end of it. You’re not a witcher, there’s more to it than a little blood can give you. Vesemir was quite clear on that,” Yennefer said, and Jaskier relaxed as well.

He had been holding himself so tight, so wound with demanding answers to why he was still alive, that he didn’t realize how painful it had become until he relaxed. It felt as if the ice cracked and tumbled away, and he could feel spring on the air.

It was nice.

“Do tell me if anything else goes wolf,” Yennefer said, rising from the chair and going to leave the room, “Someone does need to keep little red riding hood safe.”

Jaskier caught her arm, gently, as she walked past.

“You forget yourself, witch,” Jaskier grinned up at her, “It’s only in the tales that humans tell that the hunter kills the wolf in the end.”

Yennefer shuddered, shaking her arm free, and rushed out of the room. Jaskier laughed silently to himself, pulling out the dull herbology book, and continued reading about all the ways to remove different poisons from the blood.

Jaskier growled, lunging at Geralt and slapping the flat of the blade against his side as Geralt took a step back.


“Fuck you,” Jaskier snapped, pulling the training sword back, “Quit running!”

“But, your injuries,” Geralt started, ducking as Jaskier swung his blade haphazardly at his head.

“Are fine,” Jaskier said, lunging again.

“I don’t want to-” Geralt rolled to the side, scrambling away as Jaskier kicked at his head.

“If I’m well enough to fuck,” Jaskier said, “Then I’m well enough to fight.”

Geralt parried the next blow to the side and lunged forward, forcing Jaskier on the defensive with a grin. He returned Geralt’s blows, focusing more on his footwork and stepping and avoiding them rather than meeting them head on. For all his anger, he knew he couldn’t match Geralt when it came to strength.

The two danced at each other across the fresh powder, footsteps leaving the story of who was beating who from moment to moment. Finally, nearly an hour later, with Jaskier gasping for breath, Geralt grabbed his shirt and pulled him forward into a toothy kiss.

Jaskier bit back, tasting blood, and lunged forward, knocking Geralt off balance. He grinned, controlling the roll, and Jaskier pinned him at the bottom of the short, rocky slope.

“I win,” Jaskier smiled, his hands on Geralt’s wrists, the swords nowhere in sight.

“No,” Geralt growled, flipping them over and coming down on top of Jaskier with a grin.

Jaskier growled, snapping and biting, until finally he lashed out in his mind, biting at the white wolf with a ferocious howl. Geralt was stunned, leaning back almost as if he had been hit, and let Jaskier flip them once more.

Jaskier blinked, his teeth still bared, and stared down at Geralt in horror. He hadn’t meant that, he shook his head, bolting up and away from Geralt. He hadn’t meant that, that wasn’t something he did. It was just the adrenaline, he reassured himself, the fight. It always took a few minutes to cool down from a fight.

“Jask-” Geralt was standing, his hand out, but Jaskier just shook his head and took another few steps back.

He wasn’t the wolf. Geralt was the wolf. He was Jaskier, a bard, he liked silks and expensive wine and dainty pastries with too much butter and sugar.

But he did not growl and bite at people! He did not have a wolf in his mind, he wasn’t like that. He wasn’t!

“I,” Jaskier stuttered, pulling away as Geralt tried to grab him once more, “Hungry, that’s all. Hungry.”

Jaskier bolted away, running toward the fortress, and left Geralt staring mournfully after him in the autumn snow.

Chapter Text

Jaskier slammed the book shut, placing it carefully on the table, and then took another one down. And another. And another. Hours later and still there was nothing, not a single mention of what happened to a guide that was given witcher’s blood.


“Jaskier,” Geralt was standing in the doorway of the library, his stance cautious, and Jaskier growled at him.

“You just let them,” Jaskier accused, “You just let them pour it into me, without knowing!”

“Jaskier,” Geralt said, taking a step forward, “I didn’t-”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it,” Jaskier roared, pacing angrily toward the white haired man, teeth bared and eyes flashing, “You didn’t! You didn’t do anything, and I had to! I had to keep Ciri safe, I had to keep you safe! But never once could I keep myself safe!

“So now I have this thing in my head, itching and tearing at me, and there’s no way for me to do anything about it! And it’s all your fault!”

Jaskier was in his face, furious, begging for the witcher to attack. He could feel the desire to prove that he was the best pulsing through his veins. He needed to control this, control the bond, and control the witcher. He couldn’t let this coddling continue.

Not if he wanted to stay sane.

Geralt glared at him, and then he shoved him. Jaskier took a step back, his balance light, and grinned furiously. The library wasn’t the best spot for another fight, but he was sure the old stones could weather another one.

He tensed, and then threw himself at the witcher, a fist connecting with Geralt’s face, hard, and let the fire of the fight rip through his blood. He practically sang as he felt a tooth come loose and the taste of copper flooded his mouth when Geralt returned the blow.

Ten minutes later, clothes torn and hair a mess, and finally Geralt had him pinned.

“Jaskier, please,” Geralt nearly begged, “I don’t want to hurt you!”

“Fuck you,” Jaskier snapped, struggling in vain.

Geralt didn’t back down this time. He didn’t waiver, he just stared down at his lover, and Jaskier winced as he saw the look in his eyes. He could see the pain there, could hear, distantly, the wolf howling forlornly. But he couldn’t stop himself.

He couldn’t be this anymore, couldn’t be a guide. He could barely simply be Jaskier.

“Anything,” Geralt promised, “I’ll do anything, but you have to tell me what’s happening.”

“My wolf is so much bigger than yours,” Jaskier growled.

Geralt stilled, and then nodded. He relaxed his grip for a moment, and Jaskier tried to lunge forward, but instead met Geralt’s elbow and darkness.

Geralt held Jaskier’s hand, petting it, and looked up at Yennefer. He felt lost in a way he hadn’t since he was a young child. His life had become wrapped up in this man, slowly, over years, and now his heart was breaking. Every time they were near each other they fought, viciously.

And just didn’t know why. The bond should be drawing them together, not forcing them apart.

Yennefer sighed, handing him a vial for Yaskier, and looked over at Vesemir.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Vesemir said, glaring at the others, “I don’t fucking know.”

Jaskier stirred briefly, but was quickly unconscious again as Geralt dumped the vial down his throat. It was a particularly strong mix, not something he would normally condone. But he couldn’t have Jaskier fighting him again, not right now.

“I searched the books,” Yennefer said, “But there are no mentions of giving anyone, let alone a guide, a witcher’s blood.”

“We’re barely human,” Vesemir admitted, “It should have killed him faster than the wounds.”

Geralt shook his head, pulling the unconscious man into his arms protectively. It was driving him insane, he felt like he was the one hurting his guide. The itching, tearing, pleading from his own mind to stop was sending him in circles.

He couldn’t stop what he didn’t know he was doing.

“I can look into his mind,” Yennefer sighed, “But I don’t know how much good it would do. Between the mental injuries and the physical injuries, he may just have brain damage. This could just be how he is from now on.”

“No!” Geralt snapped, shaking his head in denial.

“Geralt,” Yennefer started before being interrupted by the younger witcher.

“It can be fixed. Whatever is wrong, we can fix it!”

“Geralt,” Vesemir said, his voice warning him to back down, “Let the witch look. You can’t fix broken unless you know how.”

Geralt nodded numbly, staring down at Jaskier’s face. It was lax, drool spotting at the corner of his mouth, his laugh lines relaxed. He sighed, letting his fingers trace against his cheek before he pulled him up, resting his head against his own. He frowned at the vinegar sour scent that lingered on his skin, but held him steady.

Yennefer opened his eyelids, and the two witchers waited.

Seconds passed, and Geralt counted Jaskier’s heartbeats in his head. Every one a moment longer to wait, every one a moment longer he could hold the man quietly in his arms. Every one a moment that reminded him of how things had been before everything had gone wrong.

Geralt took a breath in, and let it back out, slowly. He had trained to be able to meditate for days if need be. A few hours, holding his lover, as a past lover poked around his head was fine. He could do this.

“Lambert and Eskel will be returning in a few weeks,” Vesemir said, breaking the silence.

Geralt just grunted.

He didn’t want to have to deal with a sick guide and two curious witchers. Last winter he had nearly taken one of their heads off just because of their snooping and jokes. Lambert especially. The man just didn’t know when to shut the fuck up.

“It’ll do the girl good to have a few different training partners,” Vesemir continued, “She’s been memorizing our moves. No good to anyone on the Path like that. Needs to learn to adapt.”

“She’s not a witcher,” Geralt reminded his former teacher.

“Tell her that. Probably swoons over her sword more than you lot did when you showed up.”

“She’s destined to be a queen,” Geralt reminded him with a growl.

“She’s destined to be a pain in my side until you lot finally haul her down somewhere civilized.”

Geralt eyed him warily. Vesemir had been hinting at it for a while now. While training Ciri for combat wasn’t a bad thing, her grandmother had certainly held her own, she was missing an education in the more daily tidings that her duties would demand of her. Politics, and a liberal arts education.

She certainly wasn’t going to learn how to behave at court, or with ambassadors, from the lot of them. Even Jaskier was floundering trying to teach her social etiquette, though he himself had been a piss poor example for a while now.

“It’s not safe,” Geralt started before Vesemir interrupted him.

“Fucking world hasn’t been safe since the day it started. Pick up your sword and follow her. But she can’t stay here, not if she needs to follow her destiny.”

“And Jaskier,” Geralt asked with a strangled voice, “What am I supposed to do with him?”

Vesemir’s shoulders fell, and he just shook his head.

No one knew what to do with the broken guide. Vesemir just walked out of the room, avoiding the subject, and left Geralt sitting there and holding him as Yennefer continued to stare blankly forward.

“Please,” Geralt whispered a plea, kissing the soft brown hair, “Come back to me.”

The sunlight continued to slide down the walls, the darkness of evening dripping after it, and Ciri came and lit candles. She avoided looking at Jaskier, sniffling, and then hurried from the room. Geralt continued to hold the man steady, pouring vials down his throat to keep him unconscious long into the night.

As the dawn began to break, light bleeding across Jaskier’s face, Yennefer blinked, leaned over, and vomited.

Geralt winced at the acid smell.

“Keep him unconscious,” Yennefer finally said, leaning back, exhausted, in her chair.

“How bad,” Geralt asked, his arms tightening around Jaskier.

“There’s,” Yennefer closed her eyes and Geralt waited as time stretched, “It’s bad.”

“Can I fix it,” Geralt asked.

“There’s a wolf in his head, half formed, half mad,” she finally told him.

Geralt swallowed.

“He’s not supposed to have a wolf. He’s a guide.”

“And he didn’t have a wolf in his head before we poured your blood into him,” Yennefer said sadly, “It’s angry, Geralt. It’s angry at you. It’s trying to twist Jaskier’s mind away from being a guide, and you being near him just makes it worse.”

“You have to-”

“I don’t think I can fix it,” Yennefer admitted.

“He’s not a wolf,” Geralt insisted.

“Tell his head that. Either way, you can’t be here when he wakes up. I can try a few things, but, Geralt, I may not be able to help.”

Geralt buried his face in Jaskier’s hair and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to admit to what Yennefer had said. Didn’t want to hear it.

But he knew it was true. He was losing Jaskier. Had been losing him from the moment he put his sword through his chest.

Chapter Text

Jaskier growled, biting at Geralt’s shoulders as he straddled him, enjoying the taste of blood in his mouth as he broke skin. This wasn’t him, a distant part of his mind was screaming, he didn’t want blood on his lips, he didn’t enjoy the feel of causing Geralt pain.

But the wolf like creature with fangs and claws and angry eyes pushed him away, howling in ecstasy at the taste of blood. Of Geralt’s blood. It wanted it, all of it, to consume him until there was nothing left and they were whole once more. It wanted to be a wolf again, ferocious and fierce.

Jaskier screamed, sobbing as he came, and buried his face in Geralt’s hair.

He didn’t want this. He couldn’t do this anymore.

“’s okay,” Geralt panted, rolling over and wrapping himself around Jaskier.

“It’s getting worse,” Jaskier whimpered, clutching at his head as the wolf thing prowled and growled. He could feel it itching to consume the bond, render it and bleed it dry.

“The meditations,” Geralt asked sleepily, nuzzling at his crying guide.

“It’s not helping anymore,” Jaskier said, struggling out of Geralt’s arms.

“Jaskier,” Geralt said, sitting up and catching the man as he tripped out of bed, “It’ll be okay.”

“No it won’t,” Jaskier cried, “I have your blood in my mouth, I’m hurting you, and it’s still not enough!”

Jaskier broke free, not even bothering to dress as he bolted from the room. Geralt flopped back down as he heard the door slam in the room next to his, and sighed. He was exhausted. He glanced at the blood still trickling down his chest and swore, he hadn’t realized that his bard had bitten so deep. Usually the wound had clotted by now.

He grabbed Jaskier’s shirt from the floor and held it against the wound as he sat up and checked the rest of his body. Their love making had become more ferocious as the winter had waned on, and it wasn’t unusual for him to be left with painful reminders for days afterward.

It was only in the last week that Jaskier had started piercing flesh. He was right, it was getting worse. And he didn’t know what he could do. Whatever was in his guide’s head couldn’t be in the same room as Geralt without trying to attack him.

At first the other witchers had thought it funny. But even Lambert had stopped laughing weeks ago. Not when they saw Geralt trying helplessly not to harm Jaskier as the other man seemed to go out of his mind with bloodlust, trying to kill him.

Trying to become him, Yennefer had told him.

The shadowy beast was a ghostly whisper of Geralt’s own wolf, and it wanted to rejoin it. But she could find no way for that to happen, not without killing one of them. And so Geralt avoided Jaskier, and when they met they fought. And when they became too desperate for one another, the bond still longing for them to be together, they fucked.


And now Geralt was left shivering in the cold air, staring at the bloody teeth marks Jaskier had left in his shoulder, and had to admit the truth. He was losing Jaskier, and he didn’t know how to stop it.

Jaskier shivered as he sat in the tiny cell hidden away in the bowels of the fortress. He had discovered it weeks ago, fleeing from Geralt. The other man was convinced that they could fight this thing in his head, confront it and defeat it.

Jaskier had bloodied his nose, nearly broken his arm, and then ran. Deeper and deeper, colder and colder, until he found this frozen little room, long since forgotten, and made it his own.

It was still cold, there was no way to safely heat anything down here. He never even dared risk a candle in the darkness. But there must be vents somewhere, because the air was damp, not musty, and he hadn’t suffocated yet.

And it was here he put his meditations to good use. He sank into his mind and let the beast prowl his mind safely, unable to truly escape. He bit his lip, Yennefer would kill him if she knew what he was doing, and started to carefully start building the ice wall in his mind once more.

Last time it had been a hasty thing, more brute force than skill, but now he knew better. He knew how to sink it down deep, securing the foundation, and weave the edges of it through his mind. Weft and loom, weft and loom.

Because this time it wasn’t just Geralt he was cutting off. He was cutting himself off, and defending Geralt against his own horrors.

It wouldn’t stop the rage, he could feel that building every moment he was near his white wolf, but it could block Geralt from feeling the worst of it. And, better yet, of knowing how to find him. He could protect his witcher in no better way than not letting Geralt put himself in danger.

Six hours later he lay on the floor, panting, exhausted, but he was finished. His creature howled and threw itself against the bars of his mind, but the ice held firm. It could not escape. He curled up, hugging himself, and wept.

He was alone. He couldn’t sense Geralt. Nothing echoed through to him. There was nothing to show that the other man had ever been connected to him.

He missed his witcher.

It was past midnight when the bard was finally able to haul himself up the stairs, his footsteps uneven, but he knew that, at least, he wouldn’t have to worry about running into Geralt. The witchers trained hard during the day, and would long since be abed.

He didn’t plant on finding Yennefer in the kitchen, glaring angrily at him.

“What did you do,” she demanded, picking him up and practically dragging him into a chair.

He slumped over, staring at her, and wondered if she would at least let him eat before she cut him down and tossed him out to the wolves. He snorted at that. Wolves. Witchers.

He was far too tired for this.

“Geralt has been going mad for half the day,” she spat, “Lambert had to knock him out before he hurt himself!”

“Another club to the head,” Jaskier asked with a sloppy grin, “He’s not going to have anything left of his mind if everyone keeps hitting him.”

“He was screaming for you,” she said, glaring, “No one could find you. We thought you were dead.”

“Not dead,” Jaskier reassured her, “Had to block the bond. Keep the beast contained.”

“Fuck,” Yennefer growled, beginning to pace, “I told you not-”

“It would have killed us if I hadn’t,” Jaskier admitted, “It was growing stronger. It… I need to stop it from killing Geralt.”

“The bond can still break through-”

“I’m leaving in the morning,” Jaskier cut her off, “The distance will stretch it thin. Yennefer, it’s the only thing that will work. If he won’t kill me, I’ll end up killing him. I can’t do that.”

Jaskier could feel the tears brightening his eyes, and wiped at them. He didn’t want to cry again, this choice was breaking his heart. But there was no other way.

“At least talk to him,” Yennefer sighed, wilting as the anger left her eyes, “You at least owe him that. He needs to at least see that you’re whole.”

“Not whole,” Jaskier said, “Never whole. But I’ll tell him goodbye in the morning.”

“Ciri will miss you,” Yennefer said, wrapping him in a hug as he stood, his legs shaking.

“I’ll miss the little cub too,” Jaskier said, finally giving in and sobbing into her shoulder.

Jaskier had already prepared his horse an hour before dawn. He hadn’t slept that night, and doubted he would get much more than a few hours in the coming days, but his mind was set. All he needed to do now was say goodbye.

But every step he took toward Geralt’s room felt like he was jamming a knife deeper and deeper into his own heart. He didn’t want to do this. Everything in him screamed that he couldn’t run away.

And then his creature howled, and gnashed it’s teeth and roared for blood.

The door echoed as he knocked, and Jaskier winced. He hoped he hadn’t woken the others. He was trusting Yennefer to give his goodbyes to them.

The door swung open, and Geralt stood there, his hair crazed, and his eyes widened as he recognized Jaskier. He grabbed his bard, pulling him close, and wept as he kissed him.

“I thought you were dead,” Geralt admitted, “I thought you had gone off somewhere and killed yourself! What did you do? What did you do!?”

Jaskier swallowed, resisting the urge to just lunge forward and bite into his lover’s unprotected neck. It took every ounce of his will not to surrender to the bloodlust and tear into him, dissolving the bond and becoming one, whole, again.

He had to leave.

“The ice wall,” Jaskier said shakily, still eyeing the slow pulse of Geralt’s neck, “I had to contain it. It wants you dead, Geralt.”

“There has to be another-”

“There isn’t,” Jaskier said, “If you won’t kill me, and I won’t kill you, then there isn’t. I’m leaving.”

“No,” Geralt growled, his hands tightening around Jaskier’s shoulders.

“Maybe, in time, I can control it. But it’s too dangerous. I’ll kill you.”

“We can do something,” Geralt insisted, “Potions, or meditations-”

Jaskier leaned in, biting at his wolf’s lips and drawing him into a kiss. Maybe their last kiss. He could taste blood as teeth clashed, and he cried as he continued. There would never not be blood between them, never not be a battle. No more sweetness in grassy fields, no more gentle passions.

Just anger, and fury, and love, and blood.

He stepped back, slipping out of Geralt’s grasp, and wiped the blood away from his mouth.

“I’ll come back on the winter solstices,” Jaskier promised, “Maybe, in time, I’ll have control.”

“I’ll be here,” Geralt promised, his voice breaking.

Jaskier turned, storming carefully from the room before he surrendered to the rage that was building in his mind. He could freeze himself to the bone, but nothing could ever stop that rage.

“Jaskier,” Geralt’s voice echoed after him, and Jaskier broke into a run.

He could hear what Geralt meant in his name. Love, and forgiveness, and longing. He hoped the years would teach and temper him, give him a way to purge this curse and rejoin his witcher. But he had been following his witcher for decades, and he knew the truth.

The tales of men getting involved with wolves never ends well.