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there goes my heart beating (cause you are the reason)

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Overall, Jaskier thinks he’s pretty privileged to know Geralt as he does.

He’s spent the time they’ve been together learning as much as he can. He knows what Geralt means by a look, how he feels by a sound, what he will do next with a single movement. He’s learned everything he can, and he takes pride in knowing that he’s been given the opportunity to do so.

Although, he’s not foolish enough to think that he knows everything. Geralt has secrets, will always have secrets. Maybe one day Jaskier will be partial to them, but he knows that will be a long way down the line.

Hell, Geralt still hesitates to call him a friend despite all they’ve been through. Jaskier knows they are friends, knows that Geralt acts completely different around him than others, but even so, he won’t deny that it is a sore spot that they’re not at the stage yet where Geralt will at least acknowledge their relationship.

Even so, Jaskier feels a phenomenal amount of pride in Geralt and excitement in himself when Geralt finally does start to break down the barrier. They’ve been travelling for a few days now, Geralt on the hunt for some winged-beast that’s been terrorising the local villages. As big as a dragon, one farmer had claimed, and Jaskier didn’t doubt him when he’d seen the sizeable hole in the farmer’s barn that the beast had put there.

They’re in the middle of nowhere now, camping down for the night before they move on to the village nearby to look for the beast. They’re not overly accepting of witchers in these parts, and Jaskier knows that Geralt doesn’t want to risk anything by staying in any of the local taverns.

Making camp is easy. Jaskier readies their meals as Geralt gathers wood for the fire and goes about grooming Roach. He does it every day, Jaskier noticed. Geralt takes better care of Roach than he does himself, hell, he sometimes talks to him and Jaskier has to hide his smile when he does.

By the time they’ve both settled in front of the fire with food in their bellies, Jaskier has grown tired of the silence. He’s never been very good with them, but he’s been practising and trying harder now knowing that Geralt prefers them. He doesn’t snap when Jaskier fills them up though, so Jaskier takes that as positive growth in their relationship.

“I heard a rumour,” he starts conversationally, waiting for Geralt to at least look up as he pokes at the fire in front of him with a stick. There’s a bundle beside him that Geralt had collected and dropped at his feet before he’d sat on the other side of the fire with his pack in his lap.

Geralt doesn’t look up from where he’s cleaning Roach’s brushes though, not even the slightest bit interested. Jaskier rolls his eyes to himself and dumps the stick in the fire before picking up another one.

“About Rivia,” he continues, definitely expecting Geralt to look up at the name of his home city. He certainly had been when a merchant had been raving to him about the place. “Apparently the royal family have stopped using it as their winter getaway since the Nilfgaard starting sniffing about.” He shrugs and drops the next stick in the fire. “Not surprised. Although, I did think it was because the castle was starting to fall to shit rather than because of any threat.”

Even still, Geralt doesn’t make a move to pay any attention to him. It frustrates Jaskier more as he reaches for another stick and uses it to lean across and poke one of Geralt’s knees.

The filthy glare is at least some form of recognition, and Jaskier arches an eyebrow at Geralt. “You don’t care?” he asks, and Geralt just harrumphs as he drops his attention back to the nearly picked clean horse brush.

“And why should I care?” he asks gruffly. He tosses a handful of horsehair into the fire and Jaskier crinkles his nose at the awful smell of burning it produces. He watches Geralt for a moment, shaking his head when he sees that the man really doesn’t care, not just saying it for the sake of bravado.

“Um, it’s your home city?” Jaskier points out slowly, dragging the words out just in case Geralt is genuinely that slow. Whenever someone mentions Blaviken, Geralt’s ears normally prick up even though he vehemently denies having any interest in the place. Surely Rivia would elicit the same response, no matter how trivial the matter.

There’s a heavy silence before Geralt sighs and shakes his head. “No, it’s not,” he says as he places the brush in his pack and pulls out another one, starting to pull the horsehair out of it with methodical tugs.

Now that has Jaskier frowning and shaking his head in disbelief. “I don’t know if you realise,” he mentions a little mockingly as he waves his stick in the air, “but your name is, in fact, Geralt of Rivia.”

Geralt looks up at him with narrowed eyes. “That doesn’t mean I’m from there,” he huffs, tossing more horsehair into the flames. Jaskier doesn’t quite know what to say, although he is deftly aware that his mouth is hanging open like an idiot. He quickly shuts it but keeps his own narrowed eyes on Geralt, holding his gaze.

“Well, were are you from then?” Jaskier asks cautiously, unsure what the correct way is to go about this. He has a strange feeling that this is broaching into incredibly personal territory and while he’s definitely privileged to know what he does about Geralt, this is probably something that even he won’t be privy to.

Geralt doesn’t answer straight away. He finishes cleaning the brush in his hand, producing more of that horrid smell as he keeps disposing of the horsehair in the fire and Jaskier thinks it’s probably because he takes joy out of seeing his face twist up each time, before he packs everything away near Roach’s saddle and settles back down across the fire. Even then, he remains quiet as he stares at the flames as they continue to grow with the sticks that Jaskier is feeding it, and Jaskier is just about to give up on receiving any answer when Geralt clears his throat.

“I don’t know.”

It’s not exactly the response Jaskier was expecting, and he frowns. “You… don’t know,” he repeats, face screwing up in confusion as he shakes his head. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

He expects the angry looks that Geralt throws his way, used to it by now after so long with the man. “Exactly what I said,” Geralt mutters darkly. “I. Don’t. Know.”

Jaskier can hear the warning behind those words, and he knows he should probably give up. But Geralt has certainly piqued his interest and he shuffles himself around to be within arms reach of Geralt, removing the campfire from being between them. Keeping it there would’ve been a good barrier for Jaskier if Geralt doesn’t exactly like his next questions, but he knows that Geralt always feels better knowing that he will have the physical upper-hand in a confrontation even when he loses the mental, even if he never uses it.

Years of being used only for his physical prowess and mentally torn down by bigots and assholes have done some damage to this poor witcher, and Jaskier’s heart goes out to him.

“So, why are you known as being from Rivia?” he asks a bit hesitantly, watching the way Geralt’s jaw twitches. He thinks it might snap from the sheer tension Geralt is clearly holding. “If you’re not from there, why-”

He’s cut off as Geralt twists wild eyes up to meet his own. It’s only because Jaskier is used to almost all of Geralt’s looks by now that he doesn’t flinch, something he’s genuinely proud of.

“Some were lucky to know their first names when they arrived at Kaer Morhen,” Geralt snaps, voice thick with anger and tension. “Most didn’t. Most of us were sold or abandoned. It’s not as if we had loving families.”

Jaskier swallows thickly, dropping his gaze to the dirt between them. “Oh,” he says flatly, unable to think of much more. He hadn’t expected this. Maybe that’s his fault for not really bothering to learn much about witchers despite choosing to travel with one.

Geralt lets out a horrid laugh, thick with anger and pain. “Those who didn’t have first names were given them.” He shakes his head, and Jaskier wonders if those are tears he sees. “I was given the name Geralt by my master. He encouraged us to pick our own surnames during our training. We were told that it would make us more trustworthy.” He spits the last word with derision.

Jaskier slowly looks back up, surprised to see Geralt looking stricken more than angry. He thinks he’s only ever seen him look that way once, the first time he called Geralt the Butcher of Blaviken after they’d only just met. His stomach still aches with his mistake.

“I’m sorry,” Jaskier murmurs quietly. The fact that Geralt isn’t from Rivia is a lot less painful to hear than knowing he didn’t even have a first name. He contemplates reaching out to touch Geralt, wanting to give him some form of physical reassurance, but holds back at the last minute. It’s clear Geralt sees what he’s doing though as his eyes fall back to Jaskier’s retracting hand.

“Don’t,” Geralt says, although his voice lacks the sheer anger it had before. He sounds tired, his eyes are weary as he looks at Jaskier. “Don’t pity me, Jaskier.”

The silence is heavier than any Jaskier has experienced before, tension thick and laced with an exhausted anger. Jaskier just nods slowly, keeping his eyes locked on Geralt’s as he pushing away any form of pity or sympathy that had been growing in his chest.

“Okay,” he agrees, and Geralt frowns. “Just Geralt, then.”

Geralt shakes his head, confusion on his face. Jaskier smiles and reaches across to nudge Geralt’s shoulder, not even moving him an inch.

“Just Geralt,” he repeats, and he nods to himself as he turns his gaze back to the fire, already humming the first verse of Toss a Coin to your Witcher, changing the third line from ‘with Geralt of Rivia’ to just… Geralt.

He doesn’t miss the small smile on Geralt’s face, but he doesn’t mention it either.

 

 

If Jaskier had known just how dirty witcher work could be, he might’ve stopped to think about joining Geralt as his travelling companion.

Okay, it’s not too bad. Jaskier had been raised among nobles so hygiene has been rather ingrained in him since he was barely able to walk, and he knows that constant travel doesn’t exactly come up with a lot of opportunities to bathe so his standards have definitely been stretched, but even then the amount of times that Geralt needs to bathe is pretty outrageous.

A sizeable contribution of the money Jaskier gathers from his performances and Geralt earns from his monster-slaying is spent on convincing barkeepers that Geralt would prefer to clean up after the latest monster hunt in a proper bath instead of the nearby river, which is actually more of Jaskier’s preference than Geralt’s who is an absolute caveman. Geralt grumbles and bitches the entire time that Jaskier shoves him into the back rooms, but at least he doesn’t resist.

Normally, Jaskier keeps him company. Geralt rolls his eyes most of the time as Jaskier sits on a nearby stool and grills him for details for his next song. It’s like pulling hen’s teeth, Geralt only offering one-worded answers, but it passes the time for both of them until Jaskier shoos himself from the room to give Geralt at least some privacy.

What’s not normal though, is for Jaskier to be the one nearly carrying Geralt through into the back room. Even the barkeep had reluctantly offered to help as Jaskier had stumbled past with Geralt leaning heavily on him.

Another kikimore in the village swamp had brought them here, the villagers terrified to go anywhere near the road leading into their village that’s surrounded by wetland. They’d been terrorised for months until Geralt and Jaskier had turned up. Geralt had rolled his eyes and shouldered his silver sword as he’d left the village, leaving Jaskier to deal with the fine details such as payment.

In any case, Geralt had been more than exhausted as he’d limped back into the village only a couple of hours later, dragging two kikimores behind him. There’d been hushed murmurs from the villagers that Jaskier had stood amongst, most wondering if Geralt would charge them double for the removal of the beasts, but everyone had fallen silent when Geralt had moved straight to Jaskier’s side and slumped against him.

Frankly, Jaskier nearly pushes him off as he gags at the horrendous smell of bile and blood mixing into one horrid mess all over Geralt, especially when it starts to soak through his own clothes, but he quickly swings an arm around Geralt’s waist and starts to trudge back into the tavern behind him.

The barkeep must’ve thought ahead as the barmaid’s rush around them to fill a tub upstairs in the room they’ve bought for the night. Jaskier waits for the door to close before he starts struggling to manoeuvre Geralt’s clothes off of him. He’s thankful that Geralt is still able to help him to some extent, although his eyes are closed and his breathing is heavy as they finally get the doublet off together and ease Geralt into the tub.

Jaskier doesn’t know what to do after that as Geralt closes his eyes and lets out a long sigh. Normally he would be pulling up a chair and getting out his book, but it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do when Geralt is so tired.

“I’ll, um, just leave you to it-” he starts to say as he backs towards the door, but Geralt lets out a long displeased noise. He doesn’t say anything else, but Jaskier’s mouth snaps closed as he stands awkwardly near the doorway.

He fidgets for a moment, toying with the loops on his doublet and wonder just how much it's going to cost to get this thing cleaned of the gore that Geralt has shared with him before he sighs and sheds the doublet. He rolls his sleeves up a bit haphazardly before he moves back to Geralt’s side.

“Fine,” he mutters as he leans over to pick up the small wooden box of glass bottles one of the barmaids had brought in. “I’ll stay, but I’m not going to just sit there and stare at you while you bloody well sleep.” He purses his lips as he keeps rattling through the bottles, picking up many oils. He pauses on the chamomile oil, his cheeks and ears heating up as he remembers massaging it into Geralt’s sore body a while back now, and he drops it back into the box as if it’s burnt him.

Eventually, he finds a cream that’s labelled to be for hair. He glances behind himself to see that Geralt’s usual white hair is a horrid mix of red and black gore and nasty green swamp moss, something that has his nose wrinkling up in utter disgust. Decision made, he drops the box back to the ground minus the cream and scoops up one of the water jugs by the fire.

“Are you awake in there?” he asks as he pulls over his stool to sit behind Geralt. He gets a harrumph of acknowledgement but Geralt otherwise doesn’t move. Jaskier shakes his head as he holds the bottle between his thighs and leans forward with the water jug.

Normally, he would just unceremoniously dump it over Geralt’s hair, but it just doesn’t feel right to do that this time. Instead, he reaches out to cup his hand over Geralt’s eyes before he gently tips the jug over, the water slowly cascading out. The piled-up gunk moves easily with the slightest hint of resistance, and Jaskier purses his lips as the gore trails away to show the white strands underneath.

He holds his tongue as he tugs out the band that holds some of Geralt’s hair up, a surprisingly hard task as it’s probably not been pulled out and readjusted in a long time. Geralt flinches away from his hands at first, Jaskier knows he’s not used to being touched, and he wants to talk or at the very least sing just to try and reassure him if not to fill up the silence in the room. He just has a feeling that Geralt needs the quiet, so he stays quiet and focuses all his attention on scrubbing the cloth band to drop at his feet before covering his hands in the cream.

Starting at the roots, he runs his fingers through Geralt’s hair slowly, easing out the knots that have built up and applying enough cream onto the ones he can’t that they unravel almost by themselves. He hums a little to himself, fingers tapping away along with his own little beat, and it’s strangely relaxing just running his fingers through Geralt’s hair and working through the cream.

He doesn’t know how long it has been when Geralt finally speaks up. The bathwater has turned from hot to tepid in the time it takes though, and Jaskier’s ass has admittedly started to go numb where he sits on the uncomfortable wooden stool.

“I think this is the longest I’ve ever heard you not speak for,” Geralt murmurs, his voice nearly making Jaskier jump at the sudden break in the silence. He hadn’t even realised that he’d trailed off with his humming at some stage as well, the cracking of the fire being the only sound in the room.

He runs his fingers through Geralt’s hair, clutching the silky strands in the palm of his hand. “Sometimes I can appreciate when someone needs silence,” he points out quietly, keeping his voice as low as Geralt’s.

“Oh.” Geralt leans back, his hair piling into Jaskier’s open hands as he opens one eye. “Thank you.”

Jaskier just smiles down at him, unable to look away from the magnificent cat eye looking back at him. He’s always liked Geralt’s eyes, always found them different and, frankly, stunning. “Ready to talk about what happened yet?” he asks, already knowing the answer as Geralt rolls his eye and closes it again.

“Fuck off,” he grumbles, and Jaskier can’t help but grin. “Let's talk about something else.”

It’s a decent request, and Jaskier looks down at the hair wrapped around his fingers. Even wet, Geralt’s hair is still a soft milk-white. He purses his lips before he gives a strand a small tug. “How is your hair so white?” he asks, changing the subject completely. “I’ve not seen anyone with hair this white before. Even the elderly have more a grey look than this pure white.”

He doesn’t realise that maybe that question is filed under ones he’s not supposed to ask until Geralt’s shoulders stiffen and he pulls away from Jaskier completely.

There’s an unspoken agreement between them. They can discuss anything from Geralt’s first monster kill and onwards, something that Jaskier has in fact asked about and shuddered at the thought of the bald rapist with rotten teeth, but anything pre-dating that? Anything about his childhood or witcher training is off-limits.

Although, he hadn’t anticipated hair colour to come under that category.

Geralt sighs, a large one that lifts and drops his shoulders dramatically. “It used to be brown,” he mumbles, just loud enough to reach Jaskier’s ears and he frowns.

“Brown?” he repeats, “like mine?”

Geralt tilts his head back to look up at Jaskier. “Darker,” he says, the corner of his mouth twitching up into a sort of half-smile. Jaskier reaches up to try and pull a strand of his own to look at but its too short to do so.

Jaskier huffs. “Then how did it become white?”

He doesn’t expect a response quickly when he sees the muscles in Geralt’s jaw working as he clenches his teeth together. Instead of pushing, he leans over to pick up another water jug from in front of the fire, giving Geralt time to think and choose his words as he takes advantage of Geralt’s titled back head to cup his hands over Geralt’s eyes once again and rinse the cream from his hair.

He’s just picking up a discarded towel to pat Geralt’s hair dry when he finally answers the question. “During the… training to become a witcher,” he starts, voice low and rough, like he’s reluctant to explain what happened, “we undergo certain trials after the initial mutating has been done.”

“Like the Trial of the Grasses?” Jaskier asks, and Geralt looks up at him in alarm. Jaskier winces and shrugs as he settles the towel over his lap. “I’ve done some reading,” he explains a bit weakly.

He doesn’t say that he actually spent a solid week in the library of Cintra after the absolute disaster that was Princess Pavetta wedding, trying to absorb as much as he could about the witchers. Unfortunately, none of them are particularly forthcoming about their ways of life let alone their training, so he’d only learnt the very bare minimum.

“Yes,” Geralt agrees. He turns away again, and Jaskier cards his fingers back through Geralt’s hair as he starts to braid it gently. “Only three out of ten survive the trial, I was one of them.” His hands are in tight fists where they sit out of the water on top of his raised knees. “I showed an unusual tolerance for the mutagens they used. It meant that I was subjected to further experimental mutagens.”

“They experimented on you?” Jaskier asks in disbelief. Geralt grunts, shifting in the tub uncomfortably. Maybe it's because of the conversation, or maybe it’s because he’s been sitting there for a very long time. Jaskier doesn’t know either way.

“It may have given me greater abilities than the other witchers,” Geralt continues, voice sounding very level and controlled despite the tenseness in his body. “It’s hard to know. It’s not like we’re all the same anyway.” He shrugs. “I was the only one to survive the extra experiments. My hair losing its natural pigment was just a side effect.”

Jaskier wants to apologise, wants to try and say something that will make Geralt feel better, but he remembers Geralt’s hard eyes and strong voice telling him, don’t pity me, Jaskier, so he keeps his mouth closed as he reaches down to pick up the hairband. He ties off the braid before he stands up and offers out the towel to Geralt.

He takes it without a word, and Jaskier turns his back to give Geralt privacy as he climbs out of the tub. He should go get the barmaids to remove it from the room, but there’s a strange fragility to the air around them and Jaskier doesn’t want to break that up.

Geralt is better, clearly having relaxed a little during the bath, but he still needs Jaskier’s hand to guide him towards the bed nearby. Jaskier doesn’t mention it, knowing that it’s moments like these that he realises how well he knows Geralt’s subtle cues, and he smiles as Geralt drops onto the mattress and Jaskier pulls the blanket up to his shoulders.

He joins him after he has blown out all the candles in the room, leaving only the light of the fireplace. It casts Geralt in a pleasant glow, and Jaskier settles down beside him carefully, trying not to unsettle Geralt where he’s already half-sleep.

His hair looks almost orange in the lighting, and Jaskier tries to imagine as the brown it used to be. He can’t though, and he reaches out to move a strand that has fallen out of the braid to drape across Geralt’s face.

It shouldn’t make his heart leap when Geralt hums and leans into his touch, but it does. He feels his face start to burn and blames it on his own exhaustion, let alone Geralt’s. He nearly pulls his hand back, but Geralt’s breath brushes over his palm and he hesitates.

Eventually, he falls asleep as well, his hand buried in the white braid on Geralt’s shoulder.

 

 

Occasionally, Jaskier goes home.

It’s not often. It became even less when his parents finally realised that his being a bard wasn’t just a faze. Took them long enough, in Jaskier’s opinion. Seven years is a long faze by anyone’s standard, although he has to admire his parent’s optimism.

Six of those years have been as Geralt’s travel companion, on and off. His parent’s hadn’t been thrilled by that either, but Jaskier chalks that up to them being worried for his safety and not their bigoted views of witchers.

In any case, his trips home don’t last very long. He gets the usual lecture from his father about how he has responsibilities that he must stay for, a guilt trip from his mother that he blatantly ignores, and the typical teasing from his siblings.

It always makes him miss travelling with Geralt, makes him miss Geralt.

He’s been gone for just over a handful of months before he finds Geralt down by the river searching for the Djinn. Originally, they used to agree on a town to meet up in after Jaskier had finished his home business, but after Geralt was run out of the first town, the second town burnt to the ground, and the third town turned out to not even exist, they’d just settled on Geralt leaving hints behind for Jaskier to follow.

He’d just spent a lot of time with Countess de Stael before she’d thrown him out, telling him to bugger off and go and find the witcher before her ears bleed from his complaining. Jaskier would’ve been offended, but he’d only really spent time with her to make his mother happy, playing it off as the Countess being his muse and maybe the love of his life, something his mother would be extremely happy about. She’s not though, she’s older than him and her nose twists up like a pig-nose when she gets angry, which is surprisingly often.

No, she’s not his muse. His muse is the grumpy bastard currently fishing for a Djinn.

He plays his part, a playful annoyance that Geralt pretends to not have missed. It makes Jaskier roll his eyes when Geralt holds his cards to his chest, unwilling to share how he feels with Jaskier for the first few days after they’ve reunited. He knows why, knows that Geralt is actually waiting for the day where Jaskier doesn’t come back. It’s heartbreaking, but Jaskier is happy to play along with this absolute farce if it means Geralt feels more secure in himself.

But then their fighting turns awfully real awfully fast, and Jaskier is looking into the eyes of a man who’s crazed from sleep-deprivation. He’s not seen sleeping bruises like that under Geralt’s eyes for a long time, and his anger is real this time as he tries to yank the jug from Jaskier’s hands, as he swears violently and tells him he just wants some damn peace.

He doesn’t quite remember much of what happens after that.

There are flashes, moments of pain mixed with nausea, the burning in his throat as hot blood spills from his lips, agony as he can’t breathe. But there’s also the steady feeling of Roach underneath him, Geralt’s firm back against his chest, the elven healer holding a bowl of potion at him, being slung over Geralt shoulder and walking through a basement.

When he wakes up, it’s too see a half-naked woman with an amphora on her belly who chases him and he’s not nearly awake enough to deal with the knife pressed to his throat. She’s hissing in his face, threatening him with words he can barely understand, and when he finally scrambles out of that room and straight in Geralt, he actually feels relief.

It’s burdened down quickly by the realisation that Geralt wasn’t there, and he glares when Geralt smiles and says, “Jaskier, you’re okay.”

“I’m glad to hear you give a monkey’s about it,” he fires back, anger in his words. He wants to demand where the man was, wants to know if he really does care considering he left him with a madwoman.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Geralt retorts as he walks beside him, and Jaskier feels the words like a heavy punch to the gut.

He’s used to Geralt acting aloof, used to reading his physical and verbal cues to know what he’s really thinking, but he can’t do that here. Can’t do that when his brain is barely working from being close to damn death, when Geralt is asking about the insane woman inside, when Geralt is running to save the insane woman inside despite Jaskier trying to stop him because he knows Geralt won’t be coming out of there alive.

And when the roof eventually collapses and Jaskier realises that Geralt is dead like he damn well feared, he feels nothing but sheer devastation.

But then Chireadan is in front of him and telling him Geralt’s alive, and he doesn’t believe him. Not one sodding bit until he’s looking through a window and oh, there’s Geralt and Yennefer and they really are alive.

He’s happy, god for a moment he’s truly happy to see Geralt is alive and breathing, and then he thinks about how Geralt had said he was saving her life because she saved his.

It was bullshit, he thinks as his top lip curls up into something nasty. He steps away from the window, pushing past Chireadan, and he ignores Chiredan’s calls as he starts to walk away from the mayor’s house.

“Where are you going?” Chireadan yells, but Jaskier doesn’t even skip a step as he marches off back towards the town. He will collect his things from his room at the tavern before he bloody well leaves this place.

He forces himself to ignore the feelings tugging at him to go back, back to Geralt, that clearly Geralt didn’t mean the things he’s said. This is normal for them, isn’t it? This awful back and forth for the first few days of being reunited. It’s what they do, it’s what they’ve done for damn near six years by now.

But he’s hurt, he’s hurt because none of this would’ve happened if Geralt gave a shit, or even pretended to give a shit.

He can’t stop thinking about the dismissive way Geralt had stated he wouldn’t let him die in the tent as Chiredan had worked to give him some release of his pain. That is vivid in his mind now since the haze from whatever type of magical sleep he’d been in slowly clears away as he stuffs his pack in his tavern room, trying to keep himself busy so he doesn’t get wrapped up in thinking. He slings his lute over his shoulder alongside the pack, pulls a few coins from his pockets and drops them on the bar as he marches from the building.

He doesn’t exactly know where he’s going, but it doesn’t matter as he starts to walk in the opposite direction of the mayor’s house. There’s the camp where Chiredan is from just up ahead. Perhaps they are in need of a bard for the night?

Unfortunately, they don’t, but they do offer him a bed. He sleeps by the campfire with some of the others, watching it flicker in front of him with glassy eyes as he ignores the stinging feeling in his eyes. He didn’t think he would get this upset, but there’s a horrible feeling of betrayal sitting in his chest.

He thought they were friends, even if Geralt has a horrid time of acknowledging that. Knowing he doesn’t compare to a woman that Geralt met only a few hours ago? The realisation sits like lead in the bottom of his stomach.

By morning, he’s ready to leave. There’s still the need to turn around and go back and he hates that part of himself, but he’s squared his jaw and has just left the outskirts of the camp when the sound of a galloping horse reaches his ears.

He turns around in time to see Geralt coming towards him, Roach huffing and snorting unhappily. It looks like they’ve been riding fast for a while, and Jaskier narrows his eyes and crosses his arms as they come to a halt in front of him and Geralt quickly dismounts.

“What the fuck, Jaskier,” he demands as he stomps towards him, eyes flashing with anger that Jaskier feels ready to rise and meet. “Why did you run off like that? I thought you’d-”

“Why the fuck do you care?” Jaskier interrupts him, his voice already raised into a shout. He’s never felt such fury before, his hands closed into fists at his sides as they shake.

Geralt, to his credit, looks actually surprised as he lurches to a halt an arms width away from Jaskier. “What do you mean why do I care?” he snaps haughtily.

Jaskier’s jaw aches with how tightly he’s holding it shut. “I mean what I said,” he snarls rather indignantly. “Go back to Yennefer, Geralt.”

“Yennefer?” Geralt repeats as he frowns at Jaskier. “I only saved her because of you-”

“Cut the crap,” Jaskier shouts. “I saw you, Geralt. You don’t have to pretend you did that to save me.”

Geralt shakes his head, looking surprisingly lost. “I did.”

Jaskier lets out a horrid laugh, one filled with anger and hurt. “Oh, and the sex was just an afterthought?”

He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Geralt look so slack-jawed. He thinks he’d enjoy it if he weren’t so damn well pissed off right now. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t catch the conflict in Geralt’s eyes and he suddenly just knows that there is more to this story that Geralt taking a fancy to Yennefer, but it still doesn’t lessen the hollowness in his chest.

“Jaskier,” Geralt starts slowly, hesitantly. Jaskier doesn’t really want to listen to him, but he squares his jaw anyway and meets Geralt’s eyes. “I did it because she saved your life even though she didn’t have to. She took no payment from me. Seeing you alive… it’s a debt that had to be repaid.”

“With your dic-” Jaskier starts to say snakily, but Geralt cuts him off as he steps forward and surprises him entirely by pulling him into a tight hug.

“You are my friend, Jaskier,” Geralt mutters in his ear, and Jaskier freezes at the admission. “You will always be my friend.”

It doesn’t fix everything. It’s like a salve over a tumour, he thinks a little bitterly, but its the most that Geralt has ever said about their friendship. The hug is enough to prove that Geralt really does mean what he says.

After all, Jaskier has known the man for six years, know his physical cues like the back of his own hand and not once has Geralt ever hugged him. It makes him smile into Geralt’s shoulder, and he reaches up to grip the back of Geralt’s doublet with trembling hands.

 

 

There are somethings that Jaskier truly believes that he will never find out from Geralt.

He could pester him until he’s blue in the face, but still, Geralt will stay quiet and just endure Jaskier’s jabs and pointed questions. Admittedly, it’s frustrating at times. It’s not like Jaskier wants to know the details of things just for songs or to further his reputation.

Sometimes he just wants to know more about his friend.

One such thing he wants to know is what Geralt’s third wish was. He thinks he knows, it’s not hard to maybe figure it out when suddenly Yennefer is in their lives a lot more considering they’ve never even crossed paths before the disaster with the Djinn.

Jaskier tries not to think about it too much when he pretends that Geralt sneaks out of their tavern room at night to get fresh air, even though he knows that Yennefer is conveniently a few rooms down the way. It keeps his sanity as he lies awake and stares at the wall, wondering if Geralt can hear his uneven breathing that proves he’s not actually asleep when he stumbles back in, wonders if he knows how much Jaskier is hurting.

There’s just something about Geralt. Jaskier can feel it in his chest, the warmness that spreads whenever Geralt smiles at him and the giddy feeling that follows. He’s felt it before, of course he has, but it’s never been this strong.

Maybe it’s the fact that they’re more physical with one another now too? Since their fight and hug after the Djinn, it’s like a barrier has fallen down. Jaskier pushes through what's left of it constantly, reaching out for Geralt when he can, asking questions he never would’ve dared to have asked before.

He’s found out that Geralt’s eyes were green, like an emerald Jaskier had asked and Geralt had rolled his eyes. He'd learnt that Geralt is quite literally nearly a hundred years old, that the witcher who had died by the Striga had been a student alongside Geralt at Kaer Morhen, that the necklace he wore around his neck is because he'd been taught at the School of Wolf, not just because it was a pretty symbol.

He’s brave enough to ask about the wish one day. Maybe not brave, maybe more exhausted and able to hold his tongue. They’re on the back of Roach as they head to the next town, Jaskier with his arms wrapped tightly around Geralt’s waist and his cheek pressed against the leather doublet between Geralt’s shoulder blades. He’s tired from performing all night, the tavern they’d been in lapping up his stories about the White Wolf, especially when they’d seen Geralt himself shaking his head before he’d disappeared up to the room they’d rented for the night.

He’d had a smile on his face though, his eyes had been warm, and Jaskier won’t lie and say that it didn’t make him sing louder long into the night.

But now he’s paying for that, drifting in and out of sleep with Roach’s steady movements beneath him and Geralt’s warm back against his front. He shouldn’t be comfortable, but he is. He wonders if Geralt can hear his heartbeat that little faster and louder each time he steadies Jaskier against him, his hand pressing against both of Jaskier’s or settling on his thigh.

It’s not what Jaskier wants, but it’s all he thinks he will ever get.

“Do you think you will ever tell me?” Jaskier asks quietly, lips moving against the leather doublet. Geralt must’ve known he’s been awake for a while as he doesn’t stiffen at the sudden noise. He leans back though, further into Jaskier’s space and Jaskier pushes back against him.

“Tell you what?”

Jaskier’s lips twist up into a rueful smile. “You know what.”

“Is this about the third wish again?”

He doesn’t respond, just pinches the back of one of Geralt’s hands where it’s covering both of Jaskier’s. He doesn’t need to say anything for Geralt to know that’s exactly what he’s been asking, exactly what he’s wanted to know for a long time now.

It’s about Yennefer, he knows that much. He wants to know more.

“It was all I could think of at the time,” Geralt surprisingly says. Jaskier blinks a bit stupidly for a moment, not expecting to get an answer this time of all times. There’s no reason, no alcohol involved or low enough inhibitions. It’s just them.

Geralt turns his head back and Jaskier pulls away from Geralt’s shoulders to meet his gaze. “I had to save her, Jaskier,” he continues firmly. “She saved your life. I couldn’t let her die.”

“I know,” Jaskier agrees, still unbelieving.

“The Djinn was going to kill her after my final wish. I had to stop that from happening and I didn’t see any other way other than to wish…” he hesitates, and Jaskier feels his heart sink, “to bind our fates together.”

It’s not surprising, Jaskier has always known that it must be something like that, but it doesn’t stop the sudden ache in his chest. “Oh,” he murmurs, and he drops his gaze as he presses his cheek one again to Geralt’s back.

He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t know what to say, and neither does Geralt. They ride in silence for a long time, long enough the sun starts to set and Geralt pulls them aside to start making camp just off the main road. Jaskier doesn’t meet his eyes as he elects to groom Roach while Geralt starts a fire and collects the wood, needing the space from Geralt.

He can’t decide what he’s feeling. Maybe it’s jealousy? He hasn’t felt jealous in a long time, never having needed too. When competition comes along, he has always just left or run in the opposite direction. Not once has he stood his ground and fought for any woman, man, position, anything, not when he knows that there will always be another right around the corner.

But there won’t be another Geralt.

He finishes grooming Roach and settles down on the other side of the campfire to Geralt. He can see the surprised look on Geralt’s face, choosing to ignore it though as he reaches for his dinner and digs in. Normally, he would sit beside Geralt, lean against him and goofily sing the beginnings of his new songs, laugh when Geralt inevitably pushes him over. But not tonight, not right now when Jaskier feels empty.

“For fucks sake, Jaskier,” Geralt snaps after they’ve finished their dinner, and Jaskier looks up to see Geralt glaring at him over the flames. “Would you fucking say something.”

“Like what?” Jaskier shoots back. There’s no venom in his voice though, hardly anything besides tiredness.

Geralt shakes his head, his hair brushing over his shoulders at the movement. “I know you have an opinion on my last wish,” he points out in a grumble, “so you might as well spit it out.”

“And say what, Geralt?” Jaskier mutters, meeting Geralt’s hard eyes. “You already know I think you’re an idiot. Saving Yennefer was one thing, but tying yourself to her for the rest of your lives is another.” He shakes his head and looks away. “I know you find it hard to think at times, Geralt, but this a whole new level of stupidity.”

“What would you have had me done then?” Geralt snaps back. Jaskier looks back at him, raising an eyebrow at Geralt’s rough tone. He’s not angry though, Jaskier can see that. His shoulders are slumped and he’s scratching his wrist brutally, a nervous tick that Jaskier has only seen a handful of times.

He bites his lip and looks down. “You could’ve wished for anything else,” he says quietly. “Any other form of wishing her to live besides what you have done. You’ve tied yourself to a woman who, the first time she saw you, brainwashed you and turned you into her lackey to enact her revenge on the people who wronged her.” He clenches his hands into tight fists. “She turned you into the monster that we’ve tried so hard over the years to change people’s minds about.” He glances up, gaze hard and angry. “So much so they were going to condemn you to be hanged because of what you did.”

“Jaskier-”

“You say you saved her because she saved me,” Jaskier continues though, ignoring Geralt. “I think the fact she almost had you killed should’ve cancelled that out.”

A tense silence punctuates his sentence, the words hanging heavy in the air as Jaskier glares at Geralt over the campfire. He’s breathing is fast, his hands still in tight fists, and he’s startled when Geralt lets out a sigh before he gets up and moves to sit beside Jaskier on the ground.

He loops an arm around Jaskier’s shoulders, pulling him in close as he drops his head to meet Jaskier’s. Jaskier sits frozen, unsure of what to do for a moment before he gives into temptation and leans back against Geralt, taking a quiet delight in being so warmly curled against the witcher.

“Sometimes,” Geralt says quietly, “I forget that you care.”

Jaskier looks up surprised and sees that Geralt is looking down at him with a small frown on his face. “Geralt,” Jaskier sighs, shaking his head fondly, “you foolish beef-brain. Of course, I care.”

Geralt slowly nods. “I’ve been alone for a long time, Jaskier,” he continues to explain. “Having someone who actually gives a damn about me is not something I’m used too.” He looks away, and Jaskier watches the muscles in his jaw work before he hums a disgruntled noise. “Whenever you leave, I’m always sure you’ll never come back.”

“Oh,” Jaskier breathes, a hand coming up to settle on Geralt’s thigh. “Geralt, you must know I will always come back.”

“Will you?” Geralt asks, and he looks earnest as he searches Jaskier’s eyes. It’s so strange to see Geralt like this, so vulnerable, but Jaskier soaks up the feeling that he’s the one that’s privileged to experience this.

“Yes,” he says, and he reaches up to tip Geralt’s head down, pressing a light kiss to his forehead. They stay that way for a long moment, Jaskier’s fingers tangled in pure white hair and Geralt’s breath warming Jaskier’s neck. It’s an intimate moment, one Jaskier never thought he’d get with Geralt, and closes his eyes and drinks in the feeling.

When they do pull apart, it's not far. They spend the night pressed arm to arm, leg to leg, and when they fall asleep it's with Geralt’s head resting on top of Jaskier’s.

 

 

The moment that Jaskier sees Yennefer walk into the damn tavern with that horrid bloody knight, Jaskier knows this mission is going to go to shit.

It’s been over a year since they last saw her, a year that Jaskier has admittedly enjoyed far more than he should’ve. He doesn’t like her, he just can’t. Sure, she saved his life, but then she did follow it up by threatening to gut him and cut off his balls so he’s under no allusions that she did it out of the kindness of her heart.

Seeing the way that Geralt’s eyes focus on her and follow her around the room makes his gut twist though. It’s been good with just the two of them. They’ve been more open with one another in the time since they discussed Geralt’s final wish, something that Jaskier has cherished.

Geralt smiles more. Jaskier hears more of his laugh too and each time he does it makes him grin and join in. He never would’ve guessed that Geralt’s genuine laughter is so honestly contagious, but it is and Jaskier thinks he could dedicate entire songs just about that laugh. He tells Jaskier more things as well, shares the stories of monster’s slain with more detail, rolls his eyes but entertains Jaskier’s need to embellish the tales dramatically. Sometimes he’ll even hum along with the tune as Jaskier sings, although he always looks away and refuses to meet Jaskier’s eyes when Jaskier brings it up.

They’re more affectionate too. They sleep side by side, as they usually do, but now Jaskier will close the distance between them and sleep with his forehead pressed to Geralt’s chest and Geralt’s hand steady on his hip. They exchange casual touches, Geralt’s arm around Jaskier’s shoulders, Jaskier’s hand on Geralt’s wrist, the occasional hug that lingers well beyond decency when Jaskier genuinely thinks that Geralt wasn’t going to come back alive.

Jaskier thinks that Geralt must know how he feels by now, but perhaps he doesn’t. Or perhaps he knows but allows Jaskier to keep his dignity by not mentioning it.

The expedition up the mountain is fine at first, despite Jaskier’s fears. The knight is a blessing really, managing to keep Yennefer away from Geralt with his over-grown ego. Geralt watches her, sure, but he rolls his eyes at Jaskier and smiles when Jaskier makes jokes about how the knight must be overcompensating for something.

“He’s a real prick you know,” Jaskier mutters on the first night when they've settled down by the fire. Geralt lies facing him, having manhandled Jaskier into having his back to the campfire. He tries not to be too touched by the subtle mother-henning. “I hope the dragon bites his pompous bloody head off and kicks it down the mountain.”

“Rough,” Geralt muses, but there’s a smile on his face. Jaskier reaches out with the hand not under his head to press against Geralt’s test.

“Have I ever mentioned that I think it’s very noble how you try to save the monsters you’re meant to be slaying,” he says, and Geralt’s eyebrows go up. Jaskier can feel the tips of his ears starting to heat up at the look Geralt is giving him. “Because it really is very noble.”

“I’m not noble,” Geralt growls, and Jaskier smiles as he pushes Geralt’s chest, not moving the man an inch.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, “yeah, you are.”

It all changes in the morning though when they realise the knight is currently keeled over dead with his ass hanging out in the air. Jaskier thinks its what he deserves, although it really is terrible that someone would kill him while he was shitting himself sideways.

While the others focus on not trusting the Reaver’s, Jaskier finds he’s unable to look away from how Geralt and Yennefer start to slowly gravitate closer and closer. He can’t quite describe the feeling he experiences when Geralt strides ahead to recruit Yennefer to cross the shortcut, and he ignores Borch’s pointed looks as he reluctantly follows the rest of the team.

The shortcut clearly turns out to be a disaster. Jaskier can still see Borch, Tea, and Vea falling when he closes his eyes, their silent plummet into the cloud beneath them and Geralt’s heartbroken face as he’d remain crouched on the scaffolding until Yennefer had told them both to pull themselves together.

He waits until the campfire is set up before he approaches Geralt. He’s not moved from that rock for too long now, his gaze still focused somewhere on the horizon. Jaskier sits behind him, his hands wrapped around each other in his lap as he pauses and tries to think of what to say to the man.

“You did your best,” he murmurs, watching as Geralt tilts his head towards him. “There’s nothing else you could’ve done.”

The wind whistles by as Geralt continues to just stare off into the middle-distance. Jaskier has to look away, licking his lips as he runs his eyes over the surrounding cliffs. There’s nothing up here but desolation. He wonders what the hell they were thinking to do this in the first place.

“Look,” he tries again, glancing back to Geralt, “why don’t we leave tomorrow?” Still no response, and he drops his gaze to his hands as he twists them in his lap. “That is if you’ll give me another chance to prove myself a worthy travel companion,” he jokes.

He’s rewarded by Geralt’s small hum of acknowledgement. It’s not a happy sound, Jaskier can see the slumping shoulders and sees Geralt slowly close his eyes, but his head turns just slightly back to him and Jaskier takes that as a sign he can continue.

“We could head to the coast,” he offers, thinking of somewhere far far away from here. “Get away for awhile.” Oh, he realises as the words fall from his mouth. They’re too similar to something Borch would say, and he winces at his words. “Sounds like something Borch would say, doesn’t it?” he speaks his thoughts and looks to see if Geralt has moved.

He hasn’t. His jaw is still tense, eyes fixed somewhere else, and Jaskier ducks his head for a moment as he feels his eyes prickling hot.

“Life is too short,” he says quietly. “Do what pleases you, while you can.”

He’s nearly suffocating in the silence and his own thoughts. Life is too short, he thinks, it’s something he will agree on in a heartbeat. But what pleases him, he wonders? It’s not a surprise the answer comes so quickly considering it’s sitting right in front of him.

He loves Geralt, and it knocks him breathless how easy that is to think. He loves Geralt and he will take anything that the man can offer him.

“Composing your next song?”

Geralt’s voice makes him jump, and Jaskier bites his lip at the words. He looks over again, hoping that Geralt might be looking back.

He’s not, and Jaskier dips his head down once again. “No, I’m just, uh..” he whispers. “Just trying to work out what pleases me.”

He’s not surprised at all that he sleeps alone that night. He’d seen Geralt disappear into Yennefer’s tent, leaving him by himself for the evening. The dwarfs stick to themselves, the truce over with now, so he settles down his bedroll and crawls in near the fire and tries not to think about how he feels like he’s right back to where he was a year ago.

It’s worse when he wakes up by himself, the campsite empty around him, and his voice echoes when he calls for Geralt. He’s used to being left alone while Geralt goes off to save the day, but he’s not usually abandoned.

Then there are dwarfs in front of him and the bodies of the Reaver’s and he dreads to think that Geralt is amongst them, dammit Geralt, and then suddenly there Tea and Tea and, shit, Borch, and fuck this, Jaskier thinks as he sees the Green Dragon’s body and the giant bloody egg, fuck this completely.

He sees Geralt and Yennefer sitting quietly on a rock ledge, but he doesn’t approach them. He sits just slightly up the way, far enough that he can’t hear them when Borch sits to talk to them. He just twists a branch between his hands over and over as he watches them talk and waits to see what the next step is.

He thinks of a new song as he waits, milling the words over and over in his head. She’s always bad news, he sings softly, it’s always lose, lose.

Then there’s shouting and he hears some of it. He’s too far away and the wind is too strong to make out more than a few words at first, but he drops the twig and laces his fingers together when he hears they’re arguing about Geralt’s last wish. It’s been a couple of years now since the incident with the Djinn. Jaskier is surprised it hasn’t come up sooner.

Borch intervenes, Jaskier can see his mouth is moving before Yennefer turns and storms towards him. He stands as she sweeps past him and catches her eye as she goes, sees the anger and fury burning as she glares at him. He wonders how Geralt must be feeling, and he turns to see Borch talking once more. He reckons its safe to approach Geralt now, and he nods as Borch passes him.

He’s not expecting Geralt to lash out as he does though, and he doesn’t know what to do as Geralt points and spits and snarls at him, blames him for everything, and Jaskier can feel his heartbreaking as he feebly tries to defend himself.

“Well, that’s not fair,” he manages to choke out over the disbelief and hurt he’s feeling, but Geralt doesn’t care as he shouts over him.

“The Child Surprise, the djinn, all of it!” Geralt growls, voice thick with anger and pain. His eyes are filled with enough fury that Jaskier nearly stumbles back a step. “If life could get me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands.”

He punctuates it with a thrusted finger before he turns his back on Jaskier. He doesn’t know what to do as he stands there, looking at Geralt’s back and feeling the burning feeling in his eyes erupt as tears start to well up and drip down his cheeks. He doesn’t deserve this, he thinks, he doesn’t deserve Geralt’s ire.

He could walk away right now. Not say a word, find the others, gather the story and just disappear. He doesn’t have to fight back or sink to Geralt’s level of playing the blame game, but besides the tears burning on his cheeks there’s a roaring starting in his chest and he clenches his hands into tight fists that shake at his side.

“Fuck. You. Geralt.”

The words snap from his lips, surprising him almost as much as they seem to surprise Geralt, who turns around looking stunned. Jaskier doesn’t care though, doesn’t take the moment to drink in the sight of finally getting the upper hand over Geralt of Rivia.

“Fuck you,” he repeats again, the words tasting good in his mouth. “Fuck you for blaming me for your problems. It’s not my fault that you enacted the Law of Surprise. It’s not my fault that you were searching for the Djinn. It’s not my fault that you used your final wish to wrap yours and Yennefer’s fates together. It’s not my fault that you thinking with your dick has us standing up here now after searching for a fucking dragon!”

“Jaskier-” Geralt starts to growl, but Jaskier doesn’t let him even start as he covers the distance between them and shoves at Geralt’s chest with all his might.

“You’re the asshole here, Geralt,” he shouts, voice rising as he starts to feel just a little hysterical. “Not me. Maybe Yennefer is right, maybe your feelings for each other aren’t real.”

“We’re tied together through destiny,” Geralt points out through gritted teeth, and Jaskier laughs a horrible laugh.

“You don’t get to just pick and choose when destiny suits you!” Jaskier snaps, waving a hand in the air. “Tell me, do you love her?”

Geralt’s mouth drops open but nothing comes out, and Jaskier crosses his arms and glares at him. Geralt can’t hold his gaze though, and he grits his teeth as he rips his head away.

“I don’t know,” Geralt mutters.

“You don’t know,” Jaskier repeats flatly. “What do you mean, you don’t know?”

Geralt looks ready to run, his body coiled up into fight or flight mode. Jaskier has seen it a million times but he’s never been the reason for it. “I mean I don’t know,” Geralt snarls. “How can you know?”

“I love you,” Jaskier says simply, but the words taste like ash in his mouth. It gets Geralt’s attention though, and his head snaps back around as he looks at Jaskier with a wide-eyed stunned expression. “You know when you’re in love, Geralt.”

Geralt doesn’t say a word, just keeps staring at Jaskier and Jaskier can’t take it anymore. It’s time to go, time to leave this bloody shitshow of a place and move on. He’s turning to walk back up the hill when Geralt’s hand is suddenly on his wrist and pulling him back around.

He’s not expecting the kiss. It’s rushed and heated and all-consuming, and Jaskier returns it with a fire he’s never felt as he pushes into Geralt and throws his arms around his neck, pulling him down that slightest bit. Geralt’s hands nearly cover his entire waist as he pulls Jaskier close, his hair falling over Jaskier’s cheeks like a soft curtain, and when they break apart, they’re breathing heavy as Geralt presses their foreheads together.

It’s not enough though, and Jaskier closes his eyes as he soaks in the moment before he pushes away.

“I can’t do this, Geralt,” he murmurs, and Geralt looks more broken than Jaskier’s ever seen him. “I will not be part of your self-destruction.”

He takes one step back, another and another before he turns around and runs up the hill. He scoops up his lute and ignores Geralt’s call of his name as he hurries back down the path he came from, arm wrapped tightly around his stomach as the pain in his chest rips through him.

He doesn’t hold back the tears, choking on them as he flees.

 

 

It takes well over a year before he sees Geralt again, the longest they’ve been a part in the time that they’ve known one another.

Jaskier goes home, back to Kerack up in the Northern Kingdoms, and plays nice in his home court. His parents are delighted, his mother happy to introduce him into court life as the Viscount he was always supposed to be. He wears fancy clothes and dances with Viscountesses, Countesses, Baronesses, and the occasional Duchess who deigns to dance with a man well beneath her stature.

He doesn’t pick up his lute, writes no new lyrics, sings no songs. He doesn’t tell anyone what happened between himself and Geralt, just forces a smile and pretends that he’s fine as he bows another bow and kisses another hand and pretends it doesn't make his chest ache.

Every day that goes by though, he misses Geralt. He feels the need to find him like an itch on his skin, always there and constantly reminding him. He packs his bags more than once, but each time he starts to leave the castle he realises that he won’t be able to find Geralt. Not this time. He won’t have been leaving clues for Jaskier like the times before, and that realisation sits heavy on his shoulders.

He hears of the sacking of Cintra, of Queen Calathne’s death. He sits in his room for the whole day after hearing the news, watching the ships come in and out of the harbour with a blank stare. He wonders if Geralt went back for Ciri, the child he was promised, and he hopes if he did that he wasn’t caught up in the horror that befell the city.

It’s not long after that when he finally does decide to leave, although it’s not because of Geralt like all the other times he almost did. The Northern cities are mobilising, sending their soldier’s down to Sodden Hill where King Foltest holds the Nilfgaardian army from attacking the North. His mother insists he stay, but he can’t stay still and play niceties at court when the world is going to hell.

He does promise to stay North though, and he travels with only his lute and a small pack up to Cidaris, across to Oxenfurt, all the way to Blaviken until he grows tired of the sea and turns inward, wondering what’s past Kaedwen’s capital of Ard Carraigh and over the Blue Mountains.

Sometimes, he’ll play in taverns as he goes. He gets recognised easily, something he used to yearn for and now tries to flee from. He gets asked if he has any new songs, what the latest tales of the white-haired witcher are, and he grits his teeth as he shrugs his shoulders. He wonders what his face looks like when he does, as many shy away and no one complains when he starts singing Her Sweet Kiss again.

Occasionally, soldiers will pass him on the road. They’ll toss him a coin and ask for something cheerful, and Jaskier will plaster on a smile and sing a jig. It doesn’t do much to brighten their faces, and Jaskier doesn’t envy them as they carry on southward. The further towards the Blue Mountains he goes though, the quieter the roads become, and he can go days at a time being alone.

He should’ve known that he would inevitably find Geralt. He’s not a fan of destiny, never has been. The idea of something unseeable or untouchable dictating how your life is lived is frankly horrifying, despite those that find it reassuring. Even then, he won’t deny that maybe he and Geralt are tied together somehow, that maybe that explains the itching he’s still not been able to scratch away.

He ends up in Yspaden, the town closest to the Blue Mountains. There’s only one tavern there, a small one that hardly looks like it has any rooms for travellers. The barkeep snorts when Jaskier leans against his bar and asks if that’s the case, twisting the rag in his hand as he nods at the stairwell to the bar’s left.

“Only have a handful,” he says with a smile. “You can have the last one.”

Jaskier is thankful as he passes the coin over. The barkeep nods and pockets it before he starts to wipe down the bar top, although Jaskier thinks that’s not exactly necessary considering the amount of stains that have soaked into the wood.

“What’re you doing out this way, stranger?” he asks.

“Heading for the Blue Mountains,” Jaskier says. “Any advice for crossing them?”

The barkeep shakes his head. “Don’t,” he answers, and Jaskier’s eyebrows go up. “Only thing in those mountains is a few ruins.” He narrows his eyes. “Unless that's what you’re looking for. It’s not uncommon for people to be heading this way trying to find Kaer Moehen.”

“The Witcher’s keep?”

“Not much of it left though,” the barkeep continues, not noticing Jaskier’s paling face. “Those that are still up that way are pretty hostile. I wouldn’t get too close.” He shrugs and throws the rag over his shoulder. “Just saw the white-haired one pass through the other day though. The, ah…” He scratches his chin. “White Wolf? I can’t remember his name.”

Jaskier swallows thickly. “Geralt of Rivia?” he asks, already knowing the answer. The barkeep smiles, nodding his head.

“That’s the one,” he cheers. “You know him?”

“We’ve met once or twice,” Jaskier says through a grimace. The barkeep doesn’t seem to notice though. Jaskier clears his throat before he quickly changes the topic. “Is there anyone around here I might be able to buy new lute strings from?”

The barkeep points him in the direction of the town’s alchemist, a woman who apparently plays the lute herself albeit terribly. He drops his things in his room before he heads out to find her, taking only his lute as he wanders the muddy streets, cheerfully saying hello to the locals. Admittedly, he’s a little on edge and he keeps glancing at the close-by mountains, wondering if Geralt is up in them. The barkeep hadn’t specified whether Geralt had been coming or going, but he’s not going to go back and ask him questions about it.

The alchemist readily hands over her spare strings almost on sight as he shows her his worn strings, although it's on the condition of a performance and a few lessons. It’s a fair enough trade, and Jaskier pockets them after a brief handshake and accepts a couple of green apples that she offers him when he leaves. He’s back out on the street again after their quick business, and he’s just made his decision to head back to the tavern and restring his lute when a small girl catches his eye.

She’s sitting off the main road, looking bloody miserable where she’s perched on top of a fence, huddled in a ragged blue coat. He frowns as he looks around, but no one seems to be paying her any attention, and he makes a split decision to make his way over to her.

“Hello,” he says when he’s close enough, and she looks up at him startled. “Are you alright?”

She doesn’t respond, just looks at him with wide eyes as she crosses her arms. He wonders if she’s cold. It is the middle of winter and that blue coat doesn’t seem thick enough to withstand the elements.

He smiles at her. “Mute? Or practising the silent act before you grow up being a big brutal beef head?”

That gets her smiling, and she drops her gaze bashfully. “I’m okay,” she says, voice very quiet and soft. “I’m just waiting for my… father, to come back.”

Jaskier picks up on the hesitance. It’s probably a lie then, but whether it's over who she’s waiting for or if she’s waiting at all, Jaskier doesn’t know. “Well,” he cheers as he steps closer to her and offers one of the apples in his hand. “No point in waiting by yourself, that can get rather boring.” She looks reluctant to take the apple, and Jaskier waves it at her. “I’m Jaskier.”

She looks up again, and Jaskier thinks that she does look familiar. Blonde hair, green eyes, cherub face, it reminds him of someone he’s seen before although heavens knows who that could be. Her eyes are very cold though, and he wonders what she’s seen, if maybe she’s from the South.

“I’m… Fiona,” she introduces herself. The hesitance is back, clearly a lie again, and Jaskier nearly wants to stop everything and teach her how to be a little more convincing.

“Hello, Fiona,” he says instead with a grin. He tosses her the apple, giving her no choice but to catch it with a noise of surprise, and Jaskier has to dart forward so she doesn’t fall off the fence at the sudden change in balance.

He happily takes a bite of his own apple, chewing it slowly as he sees Fiona watching him. It must reassure her that there’s nothing wrong with them as she nibbles at her before taking a large bite, and he’s happy when he sees she starts to relax. He’s not seen a girl this young, probably only just starting into her teens, look so weary and lost. It’s normally a sight to see on soldiers after the battle fatigue has settled in, not young girls sitting on fences in worn blue coats.

“Do you play?”

Jaskier jumps, not actually expecting her to talk to him, and he looks over to see her nodding at his lute. He grins as he lifts it up with his free hand and nods. “Absolutely,” he says. “I’m not carrying it for decoration. I’ve been playing since the day I could fit my hands around to press down the strings.”

She looks interested, and she tilts her head to the side as she looks at him. “My father used to be friends with a bard,” she tells him, and he raises his eyebrows. “I never met him, but I think they might have been more than friends.”

“Oh?” he asks as he leans against the fence beside her, looking out across the paddock they’re backing against. “Why do you think that?”

Fiona shrugs and takes another bite of her apple. “He talks about him a lot,” she explains, and Jaskier nods his head when she looks up to see if he’s listening. “Says the worst thing he ever did was let him walk away.” She glances back down again, rolls the apple between her hands. “I think everyone leaves at some point. We can’t always expect the ones we trust to stick around.”

There’s a story there, he can hear the heaviness in her words. He wonders what her story is, where’s she’s been and what she’s seen. She seems so jaded against the world already, and there’s something inside him that wants to change that.

It’s the same feeling he’d felt when he’d seen Geralt the first time, seen a sad man sitting isolated in the corner. He’d wanted to change that, help Geralt become something more than the monster people thought he was, more than the Butcher of Blaviken.

“I don’t know about that,” Jaskier says as he knocks his shoulder gently against her. “People sometimes come back. Not everyone gets left alone.”

She doesn’t look at all convinced, but she gives him a small smile nonetheless. “Only some,” she murmurs, and before Jaskier can clarify his words she changes the topic quickly, nodding at his lute. “Could you play me a song?”

He doesn’t push the matter, just nods as he pulls his lute up into his hands. “Any requests?” he asks, and she shakes her head. He strums the strings for a moment, thinking of what to play, and his eyes drift towards the mountains in front of him. It’s just natural to start playing the tune of his most famous song.

When a humble bard, graced a ride-along,” he sings, smiling at Fiona as her mouth drops open a little. “With Geralt of Rivia, along came this song. For when the White Wolf fought, a silver-tongued devil, his army of elves-

“-at his hooves did they revel,” she finishes the second verse for him, cutting him off, and Jaskier is about to continue when she holds up a hand with a frown on her face. “You’re that Jaskier?”

He keeps playing the tune, fingers absentmindedly strumming at the strings as he nods. “One and only,” he says cheerfully. She looks shocked, he’s not too sure why, but he’s just about to open his mouth and continue the song when someone clears their throat behind them.

“That’s not what happened.”

Jaskier’s fingers still on the strings as he freezes, recognising the voice immediately. He looks at Fiona, who’s looking at someone over his shoulder with an extremely happy look, and he swallows thickly as he slowly turns around to see Geralt smiling at him.

He looks fantastic. Jaskier grits his teeth as he looks Geralt up and down, noting the new leather doublet and well-tamed hair. He doesn’t think he’s seen Geralt this put together before, not for lack of trying. The only other time he came close was in Cintra at the…

Oh.

That’s why the girl looks so familiar, he glances at her over his shoulder to see that she really is the spitting image of Princess Pavetta. “You’re Ciri,” he murmurs, and her eyes widen in alarm as she glances back at Geralt in worry.

“It’s okay,” Geralt says, smile staying on his face. “He’s a friend, Ciri.”

She nods, and Jaskier turns back to Geralt with a raised eyebrow. “A friend?” he asks, surprised at how quiet his voice is. Geralt’s smile slips, just enough for Jaskier to see.

“I hope so,” he responds, voice just as quiet. Jaskier pauses for a moment, too many emotions to name swelling up inside his chest and bursting to come out. It’s overwhelming, and he honestly feels faint before he smiles back at Geralt and nods.

“A friend, huh?” Ciri says though, and Jaskier doesn’t miss the extra emphasis as she moves to stand between them, hands on her hips as she looks up at Geralt with raised eyebrows. “Isn’t he-”

Geralt cuts her off as he hands her his pack, and Jaskier doesn’t think he’s making up the sudden pink tinge to Geralt’s cheeks. “Ciri,” he growls, and she rolls her eyes but takes his pack. Without another word, she gives Jaskier a fleeting smile before turning and heading back down the lane towards the tavern.

It leaves him with just Geralt, and Jaskier feels nervous as he lets his lute fall back to his side and wraps an arm around his stomach. Geralt takes his time turning back to him, and if Jaskier isn’t mistaken then he sees that Geralt seems just as nervous as he does as his eyes fix somewhere over Jaskier’s shoulder.

“So,” Jaskier says before he clears his throat. “You went back for her.”

It’s not a question. Geralt nods his head though and raises one shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “You were right,” he admits quietly. “Destiny isn’t something that I can pick and choose when it suits me.” He shifts his gaze to meet Jaskier’s. “I went back to see if the child was healthy and safe,” he says, “although, Calanthe tried to have me killed-”

“Geralt…” Jaskier gasps, and he doesn’t stop himself when he steps forward to rest a hand on Geralt’s arm

“-when I arrived and Eist imprisoned me when I refused to not come,” Geralt continues. “The city was attacked before I could escape and when I tried to find her…” he trails off for a moment. “Calanthe was dead and Ciri was already gone,” Geralt huffs, shaking his head. “I thought maybe this whole Destiny thing really was bullshit until we were coincidentally brought to the same farm a few weeks later.”

Jaskier nods. “I guess destiny really comes through then,” he murmurs, wondering if he sounds bitter. He’s trying not to be, but Geralt must pick up on it as he reaches up and covers Jaskier’s hand with one of his own.

“I still think it’s bullshit,” Geralt says firmly. “I could’ve left her behind. She would’ve been safe at the farm, but I chose to bring her here, back to Kaer Morhen where she will be safe.” He squeezes Jaskier’s hand. “We make our own destiny.”

The swell of emotions in Jaskier’s chest gets bigger, more hopeful, as he drops his eyes to look at the way Geralt’s hand is curled around his own. “So that means…” he trails off, waiting to see if Geralt will continue.

He does. “I was wrong,” he admits, and Jaskier looks up in surprise. He doesn’t think he’s ever heard Geralt admit to being wrong. “I was wrong to blame you for everything. What has happened has happened because of my decisions,” Geralt says, voice firm and determined. “I was going to settle Ciri in at Kaer Morhen before I was going to come and find you.”

“For what?” Jaskier asks, and he can’t help but smile when Geralt rolls his eyes at him.

“To bring you back with me,” Geralt states, and he drops his eyes for just a moment before he clears his throat. “That is, if you’ll give me another chance to prove myself a worthy travel companion.”

Jaskier damn near throws his arms around Geralt right then and there, hearing those words repeated at him. The decision is in his hands, he can feel it as Geralt looks at him and waits for a response. Nows the moment, where finally Jaskier is the one who can decide what happens from here on.

“Well,” he says, dragging the word out as he cocks his head playfully to the side, “I’m not too sure-”

“Jaskier,” Geralt growls, and Jaskier laughs.

“I’m certainly willing to let you try,” he says, and Geralt rolls his eyes but there’s a smile there now, lighting up his face in ways that Jaskier has rarely seen, and he smiles back at him as he leans forward.

They meet in the middle, Jaskier’s laugh being cut off as Geralt gently presses their lips together. It’s chaste, but it’s warm and Jaskier could just about melt into a puddle as he loops his arms around Geralt’s neck and presses in against the man with a small sigh.

It’s not perfect. Jaskier can still feel the tendrils of anger at Geralt, but it’s being tempered by excitement and hope. He keeps his arms around Geralt as he pulls back, breathing heavy into the space between them as he smiles up at Geralt.

“Although,” he murmurs, enjoying the expression on Geralt’s face, knowing no one else has ever seen him look so hopeful and endearing, “if there are any comments about my sing-”

Geralt rolls his eyes, growls, and pulls Jaskier in for another kiss.

 

...