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Meadowsweet

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Meadowsweet is high in salicylic acid, which is well know for its ability to relieve pain. I find the plant to be a mild to moderate pain reliever that is especially suited to stagnant pain (in a fixed location, possibly with a pounding sensation) and for those with symptoms of heat.

--Herbal Monograph of Meadowsweet, HerbMentor

 

Winter swung swiftly down from the north, and Geralt turned them southward trying to outrun it. After three nights sleeping on the road, they trudged into Carsten weary and eager for a roof more substantial than canvas. It was a small town, like any of a hundred small towns scattered across the Four Kingdoms, and as good a place as any to try to make some coin.

After a bath to wash off dust and the smell of horse, Geralt donned his armor and had a chat with the innkeeper. After that, he struck out to see the alderman, and then the pellar, and a priestess of Melitele. No one in Carsten had so much as a rodent problem--at least none that they were willing to talk about.

Jaskier, meanwhile, had spent his day at the inn, learning everyone’s names. He knew the baker. The baker’s wife. The baker’s daughter and three sons. He knew the metalsmith, the lawkeeper, three hunters, a pig farmer, the town clerk, the atelier, five housewives (that he could remember), and the stable boy. It had, he said, a good vibe, and he could smell money in the air if they stayed long enough for him to play a few nights and draw a crowd. 

Geralt shrugged and agreed, if for no more reason than the desire to sleep in a real bed. 

And sleep he did. Like the dead. He hadn’t even felt that tired, but by the time he finally roused the next day, the noontime crowd had filtered in. Men shouted at each other over games of dice, or cards, slamming cups and sloshing drink in time with their fortunes. Young men preened in front of the barmaids as they played darts, heckling each other and stinking of hormones.  

Burned food and old cooking fat clung to the air. And Geralt retreated to the farthest corners, where at least he could find shielding on a couple of sides.  

“Get you anything, witcher sir?” A cautious, harried barmaid noticed him eventually in the corner nearly under the stairs.

He gave her barely a glance. “Whatever you’re serving.” He scanned the crowd with narrowed eyes. “Have you seen the bard?”

“Oh, yessir. Left this morning.”

Geralt’s gut clenched. “Left?” He scowled. “Cleared his room?”

“Oh. No, sir.” She smiled. “He’s still got the key. Just. I dunno. Went walking.”

The scowl smoothed, and Geralt relaxed back into his seat. He hadn’t realized he’d started to get up. He nodded at the girl and settled in to wait for his food. 

Around him, Carsten went about its day. 

As the hours stretched toward darkening night, the gyre in his gut wound tighter, and his drink switched from lager to dwarven mead. Not that it would get him drunk, but it tasted like something, anyway. He kept his eye on the door.

Until some minstrels and dancers started kicking up a party in the middle of the main room, and then his gaze flicked to them instead, drawn by the motion and the additional irritation of added racket. That was, of course, when Jaskier slipped inside. Geralt didn’t notice the red doublet amidst the general assault of colors of the inn until he was halfway to the table, and then there were so many things to notice all at once. He looked… disheveled. His clothes covered in streaks of mud, his hair plastered down with sweat. He moved like he did when they walked all day. And he smelled like a bog.

Geralt’s eyes narrowed as Jaskier pulled up the chair across from him and dropped down onto it with a loud sigh. The tension in his gut eased into curiosity.

“Ask me where I’ve been,” Jaskier said with a silly grin, his voice raised over the din.

Geralt lifted an eyebrow. “Where’ve you been?”

“Out.” The bard smiled and flung his arms wide. “ Every where!” And then he leaned in, resting his elbows against the table. “Ask me why.”

Irritation pricked at Geralt’s neck.

“Why.”

With another silly, satisfied grin, Jaskier pulled the bag at his hip onto his lap and started emptying it. He placed a collection of small white flowers on the table. Then a thick bundle of red flowers. Two tied handfuls of something that looked like grass. Sharp spiky leaves. Sticks with thorns. And several kinds of mushrooms strung together on separate strings. He deposited a small, wet leather sack next to the rest.

“It’s a bit damp, that one.”

And proceeded to line up several more neatly organized selections of plants.

Geralt picked up the white starburst flowers and inspected them, inhaling their subtle scent. He worked his way through several of them, turning them over, and knew each one like an old friend. 

“Herbs,” he said, and blinked at the bounty in confusion. 

Jaskier watched him, strung like a bowstring. His pulse quick.

Geralt looked up at him, full of questions. “Thank you,” he said instead.

The bard’s wide-eyed, waiting expression turned to beaming. Utter sunshine and relief.

“Right.” Jaskier tapped the table and hopped to his feet. “Time for a drink. I hope you like them.”

Geralt stared after him, then contemplated the collection. There were the ingredients for several witcher’s potions here. But… they weren’t on a hunt. Was he supposed to make one in particular? Or something else? If Jaskier needed something, he should have asked and not just delivered the components.

Geralt thought about asking and looked up from the table again to find the bard carrying his drink toward the clutch of minstrels, smiling, reaching out to shake hands, clearly in his element. He decided to let him be and instead gathered his fresh apothecary back into the bag from whence it came and took it up to his room. He spent time breaking everything down into useful parts and refuse and scattered most things across flat surfaces to dry. In the morning, perhaps he could borrow some pans from the cook and some coals from the hearth to hasten the process. 

 

***

 

“What happened then ?” Anfelique pressed herself against Jaskier’s side and slid her hand around his knee. 

“Were you scared?” Eilidh lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him.

“I was terrified ,” he told her, and placed his drink between his feet. 

Jaskier sat on one of the tables amid a small crowd. Anndra, who thought himself more a fiddler than minstrel. Seamus, who wanted to be a bard someday. The baker’s boys. And one mistress for each arm, who egged the crowd on with their gasping. Egged him on with their pawing and promises.

“Elves can smell fear,” he told them seriously. “And that was the point. I was the distraction so the White Wolf could get behind them. And his steel blade could sing.” He looked them all in the eye in turn. “It’s so sharp, they were dead before they felt it. And when the ones hiding in the trees saw three of their number fall without a sound, they knew they were next, and they ran . Cleared out.”

Anfelique gasped dramatically. “You saved the town!”

“Well…”

“That’s so brave.” She ran her fingers through his hair, and he laughed a little, smiling and delighted. “It’s what the times require, ey, boys?” He scanned over them hugging the two women closer. “A brave heart in every man.” He picked up his cup and toasted at them. “For Redania.”

“Here, here!” and stomping feet answered him, and they drank.

“Anndra, play us another!”

Movement on the stairs caught Jaskier’s attention, and as the fiddler found his way into a jig, he glanced over to see Geralt coming back down. The hand on Jaskier’s leg squeezed pleasantly. Distractingly. Eilidh whispered something in his ear, but all he felt was her breath and the quick touch of her lips. Mead ran light and silly through his veins. The jig coursed joyous over him. And he watched as Geralt installed himself in a dark and lonely corner.

No.

No, that wouldn’t do at all.

He extracted his limbs from the lovely ladies trying very hard to extract his coin, kissed each, and wound his way around folk hopping to their feet to dance. He slid onto the bench next to Geralt and eyed him.

“Decent music for amateurs,” he said, gesturing.

“Mm.” Geralt sniffed, glancing at him and then the ladies watching from afar. “Looks like good company, too.”

Jaskier smiled, set his cup down, and curled his fingers around it. “Anfelique,” he said, savoring the name. “Beautiful. Funny. More coin than I can afford.”

Geralt huffed in amusement. “You seemed to be getting some for free.”

“Well…” Jaskier shrugged coyly and grinned. “I am charming.”

“Then go charm.”

Irony was, he was trying . Jaskier swallowed and gazed at Geralt’s face while the witcher kept his eyes on the room.

After a long moment he said, quietly, “I’m right where I want to be.”

A small incline of the head told him he’d been heard. 

Jaskier propped his cheek on his hand and just watched. Watched Geralt watch the fun. The way he blinked, slowly--almost drowsy, though it was never that. The way he breathed. Resolutely calm.

“What?” Geralt said, not shifting his gaze.

“Nothing.” Jaskier smiled. “I like looking at you.”

Geralt did look at him then, serious, assessing. It quickened the heart to be the focus of such attention. The witcher’s gaze slid briefly to the women who had moved on to other targets, and back. Something in his expression changed. Softened, perhaps, and he nodded to himself.

He slid off the other side of the bench. Away. Got up, and after a few heart-crunching paces turned back and gestured for Jaskier to follow him.

The bard’s heart jammed into his throat, and he left his half-drunk mead on the table. As he mounted the stairs, his pulse turned rabbit-quick. Geralt left the door to his room open behind him, and Jaskier paused to wipe his hands on a cleanish section of his pants. He ran his fingers through his hair quickly, then followed inside. 

As he turned from closing the door, he found Geralt standing between the bed and dresser stripped the waist and starting on a trouser button.

“Oh! Um. Just… right to it then.” He nodded, while his stomach did a strange thing. An apprehensive and disappointed thing. He wandered a few steps closer and undid the bottom button on his doublet. “Not gonna say no, but--”

“Isn’t this what you wanted?”

Geralt had turned to face him, frowning.

Jaskier surprised himself with his candor. “Sort of?” An exhale. “No.” He stopped fiddling with the buttons and sighed, annoyed with himself that he was going to toss this opportunity to the pigs. “Is this what seduction is like for you? ‘Hello, take your clothes off?’ Don’t you want”--he shrugged--”more? Romance?” He swayed his hips a little. “That delicious dance--”

“I don’t dance.” Geralt crossed his arms across his bare chest.

“Not that kind of dance.” Was he having this conversation? “It’s… it’s touching hands to light a spark. Exchanging long looks to ask, how are you feeling today? Do you like me today? Did I make you happy today? Do I interest you like you interest me? Standing a little too close, and then moving closer.”

Geralt tilted his head, watching him, then turned his gaze to the flower petals laid out across the dresser. Laid out, Jaskier realized, everywhere.

“That’s what the herbs are for.” Geralt said it like a mystery had been solved. 

Shame crept up Jaskier’s throat, and he scowled. “You make it sound like a bank transaction. I was-- I was trying to make you happy.” He focused on the next button of his doublet, picking at it while it slipped through clumsy fingers. “I went outside, which I don’t like. Into the woods, which are dangerous. To look for plants you taught me to identify, because they’re important to you and I thought they’d make you pleased with me .” His face burned. “Which all sounds foolish when you make me say it out loud--gods damn this thing!” He jerked on the button in frustration.

Suddenly, Geralt wrapped his hands around Jaskier’s to still him, and the bard let out a frustrated huff.

“It’s not foolish,” Geralt said gently. He let one of Jaskier’s hands go and focused his attention on the other.

Jaskier kept his head down but stole a glance at him anyway. Geralt looked focused. Intent. Unconcerned with the outburst. The burn of shame faded as the touch of witcher’s skin seeped through Jaskier’s fingers. His throat went dry. Breathing light.

Geralt brushed a thumb across the small bones in the back of his hand. Up his fingers. Like he was studying the shape and texture. 

Then turned it palm up and traced his fingers along the lines, like a greenwitch oracle. As though he could read the past and future in what he found there. It left a trail of sparkling arcane fire. Jaskier barely breathed as he watched, aligning senses. 

His blood rushed. Heart pounded.

And it didn’t escape him that Geralt was doing exactly what he’d asked for a moment ago. Like he’d been taking notes. 

Touching hands. 

It shouldn’t work because it’s so obvious. But he quivered when Geralt’s touch reached the calluses on his fingers, tactile sensation fading while the pins of magic heat remained.

“Is this from the lute?”

“Yes…” Small. Breathless.

“It’s been awhile since I heard you play.”

Jaskier swallowed. “I thought you didn’t like my singing.”

The witcher hummed. “I’ve never complained about your playing .”

Deliberate emphasis. And while he couldn’t remember all the commentary, that did seem true. He’d never noticed. How had he never noticed?

Geralt finished his inspection and covered Jaskier’s palm with his own, enveloping his skin. Jaskier sucked a breath.

“What does it feel like to you?” Geralt asked, holding. Just holding.

He looked down at his hand, trapped and shimmering from the contact. Then closed his eyes and searched for words.

“Thawing,” he said after a moment. 

“Mm.”

But he wasn’t done. “Like when you’ve been out in the cold so long that your skin is numb. Then you stand by the fire, and the heat comes back--the feeling. It’s that moment just on the precipice of blossoming life.” He opened his eyes and met Geralt’s golden gaze. “It feels like the brush of quills that never quite pierce.”

Geralt tilted his head and slowly smiled. “You could have said it tingles.”

Jaskier’s lungs couldn’t find enough air. “But then it wouldn’t sound beautiful.”

Geralt’s gaze dropped to their hands, and his expression turned quietly pleased. Not shy--never shy. But the cousin to the discomfort of a compliment.

He let Jaskier’s hand go and started undoing the doublet for him. 

Jaskier stood frozen, quaking inside as Geralt made quick work of the closures, scooped the fabric from his shoulders, and flung it toward the hamper. It left him feeling exposed, somehow. Letting Geralt do this for him. Without speaking, the witcher lifted Jaskier’s undershirt off too and dropped it to the floor. 

Jaskier’s eyes couldn’t follow quite what happened next. Geralt moved behind him, wrapped him in an embrace, pulled him to his chest. Their arms twined and stacked for maximum contact. Jaskier leaned back instinctively as though pressure would make the arcane fire burn hotter. 

It didn’t.

It didn’t, but he was wrapped in it. Sighed as his heart thudded heavy. Let out a small moan as he felt Geralt nuzzle at his ear.

“It’s the safest feeling I know,” he whispered, and discovered words had power.

The embrace tightened.

Lips found the spot beneath his ear. Kissed. Wetted. Tasted a line down to his shoulder. And Geralt knew what he was doing--very well indeed. Touched tongue to nerves, and Jaskier’s knees went briefly soft. 

Geralt held him up, smiled against his skin, lavished the spot. Jaskier panted and freed one hand. Lashed back and gripped one ass cheek hard, pulling Geralt closer. The witcher pressed his mouth harder, and Jaskier’s breath came out a whine. He wanted to curl in on himself. Feel it all and nothing. 

His fingers dug at Geralt’s flesh, and the attack eased. A kiss further along his shoulder. And he could breathe. Released the clutch of his fingers. Another kiss and the brush of Geralt’s hair across his upper arm.

They let go. And Jaskier turned around, panting. Geralt regarded him with an easy, relaxed grin.

“More?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

Their clothes became piles on the floor. Jaskier sat on the edge of the bed while Geralt turned to his bag on the dresser. Bottles clacked against each other as he dug around.

“What are you looking for?” Jaskier asked him. The chill in the air crept across his body. He wanted to touch. Needed to touch.

“A good oil,” Geralt replied. Then, “Do you know what you want?”

“Make love to me.” The answer came without thinking. 

Geralt paused and glanced over his shoulder. 

Fear stuttered into Jaskier’s heart, that he might object to that word. That he’d said the wrong thing. But instead… a soft smile.

“As you wish.” And then he selected something from the bag and undid the tie holding his hair. 

Geralt set the opened bottle and some clean cloths on the side table nearest Jaskier then rounded the bed. He climbed in like a cat, prowling with casual, predatory litheness. It made Jaskier aware of the cool air and his profound lack of the shielding of clothes. Geralt had intent. And his intent was to stretch along Jaskier’s side. He slipped an arm under his neck and pillow. Pressed their bodies together, belly to hip. Entwined their legs so his knee hitched over Jaskier’s own.

He was suddenly, fully there . Weight and heavy muscle. Air-dried separated strands of his hair framing his face. Heat and golden eyes and presence.

Jaskier’s pulse quickened as Geralt’s skin worked its subtle magic, and he waited to see what his witcher would do. What he had in mind.

What he had in mind was a kiss. A counterpoint to the broad hand that stroked from Jaskier’s thigh to hip to belly to chest. The normal friction of touch bolstered into the shook-foil flashing of light across a pond. 

Geralt kissed at his lips. Hot. Wet. Small thawing fires of their own before setting a trail down Jaskier’s neck to his collarbone, while his hand made another sweeping pass. Jaskier flexed at the caress. Sighed as Geralt mouthed at him. 

There was so much contact.

He thought he should be doing something, but Geralt was all controlled motion. The stroke of his hand melted into a stroke of his body, rutting against Jaskier’s side as his hand swept across the bard’s chest. A low groan rumbled through Geralt at the friction, and he bit at Jaskier’s clavicle. Pressed lips and kissed the hollow of his throat.

Oh…

Jaskier froze. 

A predator’s mouth on so delicate a place.

His breath stuck in his lungs as he waited. Kiss. Waited. Until Geralt reached his lips, unlocking him. He exhaled, harsh, and brought his fingers to the witcher’s cheek to hold him for a proper kiss, lower lip scraped between gentle teeth. 

He was going to participate, even if just a little, and maneuvered the arm pinned between their bodies enough to grasp Geralt’s hardening cock, which lay heavy on his hip. He stroked with a flick of the wrist and practiced fingers. A light touch on silk steel skin.

Geralt smiled, still kissing. Moaned into Jaskier’s mouth. And his whole body became a rocking pulse of motion.

Brushing fingers into that soft mane, Jaskier urged him into place. He, too, wanted to kiss at jaw and throat. Suck while he stroked. Lavved.

Geralt let out a harsh, pleasured sigh. His breathing heavy. Quickened. 

He pulled from Jaskier’s attentions and nudged the hand away from his groin. 

Jaskier licked spit from his lips.

“Get the oil,” Geralt told him. 

The fear of anticipation spiked through Jaskier’s veins. His mouth went dry. He reached for the bottle and poured a little into Geralt’s cupped and waiting hand.

“Why’s it green?” he asked, concern tensing through him. He set the bottle back on the table before he dropped it.

“Meadowsweet and bee balm,” came the reply, as though it should mean something.

He watched in pinned fascination as Geralt spread the oil around his fingers with only one hand. Stroked himself a few times, stoking blood flow. Paid attention at last to Jaskier’s own cock, so far ignored. Geralt closed his slicked fingers in a light grip, and Jaskier made an indecorous sound, gasping and flexing into it. The arcane fire touch of witcher skin had him seeing stars behind his eyes. Geralt stroked just a few times, careful of his effect, and then let go.

Jaskier sighed in relief.

And Geralt held his hand out for more oil. He worked it across his fingers just enough so it wouldn’t drip and reached down between Jaskier’s legs, grazing his balls with his wrist, but paying it no attention. He pressed his forehead against Jaskier’s temple and worked by feel alone, sliding his hand to spread the oil. 

Jaskier drew a sharp breath at the intrusion, the crossing of ephemeral lines to truly vulnerable. And his body clenched in animal aversion. His breathing went light, cautious with anticipation when a gentle finger came to rest against the tight bud of muscle.

“Relax,” Geralt whispered in his ear. 

He let out an unsteady breath and tried. But how could anyone be relaxed with Geralt so everywhere, setting him on fire, the mere touch of his skin transmuting everything to an erogenous zone. Too sensitive. Too open.

Geralt rubbed at him. Questing. Massaging.

“Relax,” he said again. “Exhale.”

Jaskier held his breath.

Exhaled, slow. 

And Geralt pushed his way inside.

Jaskier gasped, panted, and pulled away only a little before he settled to this new sensation. 

It earned him a “Good,” and a quick kiss on the cheek, while his heart thundered. 

Geralt stoked in to the knuckle, and it burned.

Slid out, sparking a different wave of sensation, but all still so warm. Tingling , if he had to say.

Jaskier’s lungs couldn’t fill, and he panted featherlight as Geralt stroked him a few times to get him used to it.

Then, a second finger, and he bucked, hissing as his body fought to tighten.

“Shhh.” Geralt nuzzled at him. “Let me in,” he whispered. “You want me in.”

The arm encircling Jaskier’s shoulders pulled him closer. A hug. A protective one. 

He nodded, sweat breaking out across his brow, and struggled to control his breathing, because he did . He did want. He tipped Geralt’s chin with his fingertips to gain access to his lips. Kissed. Kept kissing, lips locked through more and deeper strokes. 

The aching and arcane blended into something that made him tremble, and he broke off the kiss so he could pant, grasping for control. Geralt touched something inside, sending pins and fire, and Jaskier arched at the wave of pleasure, unconcerned at the wanton sounds that must have been his. Lips pressed to his cheek, and then Geralt withdrew his hand, taking the ache and the fire with him. 

The absence screamed like an incomplete cadence.

“Give me a rag,” Geralt said.

And Jaskier reached blindly for the side table. 

The witcher wiped his hand clean, shifted himself back a little, breaking contact, and dropped the cloth somewhere behind his back. He held out a cupped hand again, and in the wake of a rush of chilled air, Jaskier had wits enough to respond. His hand shook as he twisted and poured a little oil. At a wry look from his partner, he poured a little more.  

Geralt rolled onto his back slicked his cock with a few wet-sounding strokes. He hummed, then rolled lazily onto his side.

“C’mere.”

The rumble in his voice touched Jaskier’s spine, and the bard hastened to obey. He scooted closer.

“On your side.”

And then slotted himself against Geralt’s body, pressing his shoulders against the witcher’s heavy chest, ass against groin, hard cock pressing against his skin. Geralt’s hand closed around Jaskier’s own pulsing ache and stroked slowly as if he needed reminding that it was there. He may have whimpered. Flexed back. 

Geralt positioned himself with care and held Jaskier in place by the hip. He nudged in close, hot and hard. And again that automatic clench. 

“Relax…” 

He rubbed his hand around Jaskier’s lower belly in small circles, trying to urge the tension free. 

With effort, Jaskier relaxed. Controlled his breathing. 

It was not like a couple of fingers. 

The last time a man had taken him, he’d been considerably more drunk. And the man considerably less careful. He had endured , until the good part. 

Geralt was calm and steady with his pressure as he breached inside and was... more . So much more. How had he ever--

He squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on exhaling as the tips of quills scraped along his insides. Frowned and winced as the burn spread and clasped a hand over his mouth. 

“Hey.” Geralt’s motion ceased, his voice close to Jaskier’s ear. “If it hurts that much…”

Jaskier let his hand drop, shaking his head. It wasn’t that exactly. It did, but it wouldn’t. But he wanted , and he was not so fragile as to break. 

He flung his hand back, grabbing the meat of Geralt’s thigh to pull him closer, though the witcher would not be moved if he did not want to be. 

Jaskier panted. “All the way.” And made a crumbled sound as his partner complied. 

Geralt sighed audibly as he buried to the hilt and then adjusted them both. He tossed the pillows out of the way so Jaskier’s head lay on his arm. Hooked his elbow under Jaskier’s top knee and pressed him open until his hand rested on the bard’s chest. And nestled their bodies together like stacked spoons. 

They touched everywhere. 

He shifted his hips in an experimental thrust, and Jaskier’s mouth fell open at the sensation of being stuffed full. It touched his throat, like he couldn’t swallow. Touched nerves that shimmered with pleasure. 

Geralt did it again and spread the hand on Jaskier’s chest, circling it with every slow thrust in, because he knew what his touch did. He kissed at Jaskier’s shoulder and picked up his pace just a little. Just beyond languid. 

Jaskier might have mewled. 

He didn’t keep track... couldn’t, as his body burned with eldritch needles of ember fire. He was cold without it... longing without it. Every untouched inch needed saving from the bitter world. He pulled Geralt’s hand toward his mouth, though it stretched the flexibility of his leg to do so. Sucked his fingers. Kissed his palm. 

Geralt moaned at the fingers--a delicious vibration of want that felt like victory. And then he traced light touches down Jaskier’s throat. Played with his nipples and smiled against Jaskier’s shoulder when he jerked. 

All the while sliding--sheathing himself--rubbing against the spot that made Jaskier sees stars.

It was too much.

Jaskier felt his bones melt to jelly. His muscles quiver out of his control. A rising tide to which he was only a witness. 

He came without any of the violent metaphors: not a kick or an earthquake or--Goddess--a punch. 

No. 

He lapped over, a full barrel, jostled. Oversensitized by Geralt everywhere

Geralt, who ceased all motion and held him close while he shivered with involuntary aftershocks. Geralt, who he pulled into a kiss with passionate abandon. A kiss that did not care if it said too much. Lingered too long. A poet could be a painter, too, and brush tongues. Lavish the heart’s blood through lips. He kissed and licked until Geralt cracked open for him and by the broken rhythm of his breathing felt something.

Geralt broke off the kiss first and rested their heads together for a second while he groped for the cloth he’d dropped on the bed. Jaskier unwound and gave himself and the bed a quick swab before he dropped the rag to the floor.

They were still bound together, Geralt buried deep and hard. The strange magic of him acting on flesh.

Jaskier’s breathing slowed.

“Your turn,” he said. 

And he expected some swift action. For Geralt to grab him with a rough hand and have a go like he was trying to split a log. 

Instead, the witcher kissed his shoulder. “It may take awhile,” he said, sounding apologetic. 

Geralt might be the only man in the world who apologized for sexual prowess. It made Jaskier wonder briefly about the path of his life. A thought cut short when Geralt withdrew himself and manhandled him so they were face to face, Geralt kneeling between his splaying knees. 

He wasn’t as careful this time.

Or as slow. 

But leaned down to kiss at Jaskier’s mouth and jaw and throat, his hair falling in a tickling curtain. He worked up his speed, slow heart rate ticking higher as the minutes dragged on. Jaskier was too spent to get hard again so quickly, so he touched where he could. Stroked arms and chest and face.

His bottom burned from being stretched, from the friction, from the strange magic, and he started to understand the apology. 

Geralt’s stamina was impressive unto a liability.

He touched a palm to Geralt’s cheek. “Not to complain, but I can’t feel my legs,” he said lightly.

Geralt sank into him with a grunt, folded over him, and did something swift and athletic. 

Jaskier found himself suddenly on top, with pins and needles rushing through his thighs. He bit his lip at the pain and hissed, slapping, when Geralt touched him. 

“Don’t, don’t! Just give it time .” He made faces while the numbness faded and flexed until he could move without pain. He swiveled his hips and arched as he impaled himself a little deeper. 

Geralt smirked at him, his pale skin starting to gleam with sweat in the glow of the oil lamp light. 

He squeezed as Geralt withdrew, eliciting a delicious sigh. Experimented with angles. With speed. Eventually, Geralt’s breathing quickened, and he held Jaskier in place above him like he weighed nothing, stroking in like each one mattered and might be his last. 

Jaskier’s body, recovered, started to reply.

And then Geralt groaned, lifted him off, and grabbed the remaining cloth on the side table. He stroked himself with it, arched with a cut-off cry, and finally collapsed, panting.

Jaskier shifted tenderly on the bed where he’d been tossed, cataloging the ache and burn of abused flesh. 

“Promise me,” he said, breathing carefully, “no horseback riding tomorrow.”

Geralt huffed in good humor as Jaskier gently stretched himself out on the bed alongside him. He watched Geralt breathing until gold eyes eventually turned his way.

“What?”

A languid shrug. “Just admiring your beauty. I told you that already.”

Geralt snorted and looked away.

“Just try to take a compliment will you?”

“If it were true.”

Jaskier eased himself up to sitting. “Do I sound like I'm lying?”

He waited for an assessment that came in the form of a sideways glance and a small, confused frown.

“There are different kinds of beauty, Geralt. Not just flowers, and sunsets, and the symmetry of loveliness. There's the thunderstorm with its awesome aspect and terrifying power. The stark, barren wildness of Skellige’s sea cliffs. A quiet forest with bare tree limbs and new fallen snow. So please, try--just try-- to hear me when I say this. You are beautiful.”

Geralt swallowed without saying anything, and Jaskier settled himself back down with a wince. He sighed, stared at the ceiling, and wondered if he could have done better with better words. If his poetry wasn’t as good as he told himself it must be. 

Movement.

Surprise barely registered before soft lips touched his and then were gone. Undemanding. Simple affectionate action in place of anything Geralt might have thought of saying. 

Jaskier’s insides flipped and turned molten, and so many more words gathered, but he kept their secrets pounding in his pulse as he stared over at Geralt, who looked as though he hadn’t moved.

“I’m no good at romance,” Geralt said, breaking the heavy silence.

Jaskier cleared his throat. “Well. You’re… welcome to practice.”

His body still burned, and he shifted his weight to his other hip. Caught Geralt giving him a long look before getting up and moving to the dresser. The witcher retrieved a brown glass bottle from his bag and offered it, observing closely as Jaskier sat up again.

The bard lifted his eyebrows as he took the bottle hesitantly.

“Meadowsweet elixir,” Geralt supplied, his expression soft. “For the discomfort.”

A blush rushed toward Jaskier’s face, and he turned away as he uncapped the bottle and took a swig. Sweetness and the tang of alcohol with a grassy finish. Meadowsweet, like the oil. He made the connection that that, too, had been a salve for pain. A small kindness. 

Jaskier tried to give it back, but Geralt wouldn’t take it.

“Drink more in a little while. It might take several doses.” He half-sat on the bed, letting one foot touch the floor.

Jaskier nodded, closed the bottle, and got up. He walked gingerly around the bed to fetch his clothes, wondering how long the elixir would take. He felt the heat of Geralt’s gaze on him as he picked up his drawers, balanced to step into them, and tied them on. Then bent with a grimace to pick up his pants.

“You’re leaving?” Geralt said.

And Jaskier couldn’t be sure if he imagined it sounding hurt.

He paused just before his fingers closed on the fabric. “If I don’t practice leaving,” he said, feeling his heart thump, “I’ll get used to staying.” He didn’t look up.

When he straightened, clothes in hand, Geralt stepped into his space, contemplation written into his features. Jaskier stared at him, aware--always aware--of his closeness. The strange openness of his nakedness. Geralt’s eyes moved over him like he was studying a problem. And then he touched Jaskier’s arm at the elbow and traced with light fingers toward his hand. 

Jaskier dropped the clothes as Geralt’s fingers wound their way to his fingertips. And he couldn’t breathe. 

“Don’t go,” Geralt said, even softer than usual, meeting his eyes. “It’ll be bitter cold tonight.”

Jaskier blinked. 

“I thought the cold didn’t bother you.”

The corner of Geralt’s mouth lifted in a small smile. “It doesn’t.” He raised their linked hands and nodded toward Jaskier’s arm, already rippling with goosebumps as the chill set in. “It bothers you.”

It was sound logic, and an utterly transparent excuse that they both could see through. And an invitation he hadn’t expected. 

“Well. I mean, for warmth’s sake. It’s only reasonable.” He nodded too much.

“Of course.”

“And I’m a reasonable man.”

“Let’s not get carried away.” Geralt released his hand. “And put a shirt on.” Then turned away to extinguish one of the oil lamps.

Jaskier scowled at being given an order, but he retrieved his shirt anyway, because it was cold when not engaged in vigorous exercise. Geralt waited by the dresser and remaining oil lamp, not putting on anything. He tied his hair back into a queue and waited for Jaskier to get himself into bed and under the covers. Then he doused the room in darkness. 

The mattress dipped, and Jaskier could feel Geralt’s body heat almost instantly. He felt more movement.

Then, “Come here.” 

Jaskier moved himself closer, discovering Geralt’s form in the dark. The back and shoulders that faced him. 

“Body heat transfers best with close contact.”

And so he molded himself to Geralt’s back, snaking an arm across his abdomen. The thin linen was enough to keep the thawing sensation from driving him to horny distraction and he understood why Geralt had told him to put it on. His fingers curled against Geralt’s chest tingled pleasantly.

“Better?” A whisper.

Jaskier nuzzled at the nape of his neck. “‘S perfect.”