“Toss a coin,” Jaskier hummed to himself as he made his way through the moonlit rocks. “...to your witcher…” He rubbed his thumb over the smooth stones in his hand as he passed Roach on his way to the banked campfire. It really had been clever of him to locate Geralt’s campsite. “...Oh, valley of plenty…”
Roach eyed him, and with a snort turned away from his attempt to greet her. Well. If that was the way she wanted it. He had a Witcher to wake. It was close enough to dawn for Geralt to be up. Really, Jaskier would be doing Geralt a favor by waking him.
Jaskier hummed a bit louder as he walked over to the sleeping man. He was definitely not creeping. Or sneaking. Those could lead to Consequences. When he was close enough, he leaned forward a bit and called, “Geralt! Wake up!”
A grunt was the only immediate response, but eventually the Great Lump of Witcher stirred and sat up and dragged a hand through his hair. Jaskier was tempted to admire the way the white locks shone in the waning moonlight, but he had other things to do first. He swooped in and fastened the collar in his hand around Geralt's wrist, like a bracelet. The stones glowed brightly when they touched the Witcher’s skin. Jaskier stepped back hurriedly, fighting the urge to bounce on his toes in satisfaction.
Geralt looked at his wrist in puzzlement, then frowned up at Jaskier. “What's this?”
“Oh, just something I got from a friend,” Jaskier said, smiling back. His friend had been of the feline persuasion. Tiny, but incredibly smart. It was a good thing the cat had had a spare collar or two, and was willing to part with them for a tale or two and a bit of song. Toss a coin to your Witcher… Sometimes, Jaskier had adventures that didn’t center around a certain Witcher.
Geralt's yellow eyes narrowed at him for a moment. “Hm.”
Jaskier nearly chortled with the glee bubbling up inside him, but kept a tight rein on himself. He did allow his grin to grow a bit bigger, though, unable to completely contain his excitement. It was working! The glowing bracelet around Geralt's wrist transmitted the Witcher's brainwaves to its twin — the bracelet that Jaskier wore on his own wrist. He had clearly heard ‘Jaskier has adventures without me?’ in Geralt's voice, flavored with a slight sense of hurt and a teeensy bit of jealousy. So much for the closemouthed Witcher. Now, Jaskier would know everything! Think of the songs he could write! All for Geralt’s benefit, of course.
Geralt’s eyes widened. “What do you mean, you can hear me?”
This time, Jaskier could hear the definite overtones of anger in Geralt’s mind voice. Mindful of the danger, he skipped back a step. “Now, Geralt,” he said, putting his hands up in a calming gesture. “Let’s not be hasty.”
All six foot and change of Witcher rose slowly. “Get. It. Off. Now, Jaskier.”
"Yes, fine, all right. Here, see? I's coming off," Jaskier said hurriedly, concentrating on his own bracelet the way Ruzan had shown him. Nothing happened. “Oh, come on!” He concentrated harder, fighting the urge to tap it impatiently. What was wrong with the damn thing?
“Who is Ruzan?” Geralt’s low growl in his ear nearly caused Jaskier to jump out of his skin.
“Ru— Ruzan? Why, nobody, no one at all, I don’t know any Ruzan,” Jaskier babbled, shaking his head as convincingly as he could manage, while backing up a step. Or two. Three, maybe?
Geralt frowned at him again, but this time, more in puzzlement. “A… a cat?”
What. Jaskier stopped backpedaling. “How did you know that, Geralt?”
The Witcher shook his head as if baffled. “An… Aretuzan tabby of some kind? How do I know that?” He stared at Jaskier in disbelief. “Am I reading your mind?”
“You’re reading my mind!” Jaskier looked up at the slowly brightening sky, searching for a hint of silver. “Ruzan! Ruzan! Get your furry backside down here!”
Geralt took a step closer, peering at Jaskier intently. “You were on your way to Oxenfurt, complaining — why were you angry at me? — and you came across a strange silver object on your journey. Large as a boulder, and…”
Some instinct held Jaskier still as Geralt moved even closer. The Witcher’s yellow eyes never left his face.
“It was hollow inside. That’s where the cat was.”
The scene unfolded in Jaskier’s memory, just as he had experienced it. This time, though, he felt Geralt’s curiosity as clearly as his own. He’d seen the silver boulder — ship, he knew now — and had immediately thought of how he could transport it to the nearest town to sell the metal.
He’d been surprised when a cat wearing a fancy glowing collar walked out of the ship and looked right at him. ‘I don’t think so,’ she’d said, her voice loud in his mind.
“Oh, bollocks. Cats can’t talk,” he’d told her, looking around for a ventriloquist.
She walked up to him, and Jaskier had heard amusement in her mind voice when she’d asked, ‘How do you know?’
“Because they can’t,” Geralt said along with him, in the present.
Oh, shit, Jaskier thought. Geralt really is reading my mind? He hadn’t anticipated that. Once more he concentrated on his bracelet, but nothing happened.
“What are you trying to do?”
“Oh, uh…” Jaskier was caught once more by Geralt’s eyes. This time the memory was from a little later, after the cat, Ruzan J5/90 Doric 4 6, had introduced herself. He had asked her what else she could do with the collar besides talk to him.
Ruzan had answered, ‘Whatever you can do with your hands, of course.’ Then she had given him a quick demonstration with the collar she wore. Stacking pebbles into a small tower, starting a small fire and putting it out again… the best part was when she had allowed him to try.
Moving pebbles with his mind had been fun. All he had needed to do was concentrate on the collar. It worked by amplifying brainwaves. The cats used the collars to do anything —
“Even fly?” Geralt asked, as though he’d touched the memory of Jaskier moving through the air, no longer bound by gravity.
Jaskier concentrated on the memory. Ruzan had asked him to help her make an adjustment to her ship. While she calibrated the controls, Jaskier had taken the spare collar and floated up. It had been an alarming sensation at first, but then he’d grown more confident. After he found the access panel Ruzan had described and called out the readings, he took the opportunity to have a little fun. He had risen to a height twice that of the tallest tree, then swooped down, diving towards the ground. He smiled at the amazed expression on Geralt’s face. He’d have to take his Witcher flying!
“Yeah,” Geralt nodded, the trace of a smile crossing his face for a moment before he became his usual humorless self again. “Now, why did she give you the bracelets?”
“Because of my frankly quite amazing singing ability. I am a bard, you know.” And now, now he could finally find out how Geralt truly felt about his singing.
Geralt, who now merely smirked at him, letting not a hint of anything come through their bracelets.
“Oh, come on!” Jaskier huffed. After all this, and nothing? So unfair.
An odd noise came from high over the horizon, followed by a glow that rivaled that of the growing dawn, as Ruzan’s silver ship appeared and floated toward them. Her mind voice came to them both. ‘Ah, Jaskier, I see you’ve found your friend. How did he like your gift?’
“Ruzan! What did you do to these collars?” Jaskier yelled into the sky. “I can’t do anything with them!”
Geralt rolled his eyes. “If these are for mindreading, you think to them. No need to yell.”
Jaskier did a double take. He had used the bracelets longer, and now Geralt thought he could tell Jaskier how to use them? “Well, if you think you can do any better, oh great Witcher, please do.”
“Hm.” Geralt had a smug, secretive little smile. ‘Ruzan, who are you and why did you give my friend these bracelets?’
Jaskier’s jaw dropped. “You… that was clear! You’re projecting! How —” he shook his head. That wasn’t important. What was important, however, was — “You called me friend! I knew you liked me!”
Geralt ignored him.
Ruzan hummed, purr-like laughter that Jaskier felt as much as heard in his mind. ‘Your friend entertained me, Geralt of Rivia. He said gifts such as these collars would be considered adequate compensation.’
The cheek of her! Frustration welled up inside him, and Jaskier yelled up at her, “Yes, well, they would have been, but they don’t work!”
‘Seem to work just fine to me.’ Geralt eyed him blandly.
‘Well done, Geralt of Rivia.’ Ruzan said, approval coloring her mind voice. ‘Jaskier, these collars are only for you to communicate with your friend. From what you’ve told me of your adventures, that would be most useful for you.’
‘True. That would help me keep track of him. Keep him out of trouble.’
Jaskier glared at Geralt, stung. But he had to admit, communication was part of what he wanted the collars for. As for the other part — “What about the, the flying,” — he waved his hand in the air to illustrate his point — “And the moving things? Those don’t work.”
‘Of course not!’ Ruzan sounded aghast. ‘I could get into trouble leaving advanced equipment like that in the hands of developing sentients. As long as no one finds out, communication devices I can get away with.’
“Yes, well. You didn’t say anything about developing sentients before, or communication only devices,” Jaskier said, still feeling a bit put out. “Is that why you’re not landing and talking to us face to face?”
‘No, I’m not landing and talking to you face to face because I’m on a tight schedule. I need to get back to my mother ship.’
“Hm.” Geralt shot Jaskier a glance, brows furrowing over his eyes. ‘Ruzan, are there other cats like you here on our world?’
There was a silence for a moment before Ruzan responded. ‘Why no, why would there be?’ She gave them no time to answer her question. ‘Now I really must be off, or I’ll be late to my rendevous. You can remove collars whenever you will. Just think off at them. Remember, though, you need to wear them to communicate, and they must spend time touching your skin to remain powered.’ With that, the silver space ship floated straight up, until it blended seamlessly into the dawn sky.
Jaskier stared up until he could no longer see it. Beside him, Geralt was looking up, too. Witcher eyes could probably see the ship for longer.
He had to admit Geralt had a point. “Yes, I think it’s suspicious, too. I don’t know why I believed her in the first place —”
“Be — fuck. You know what? Never mind.” The Witcher turned away and began to stoke up the campfire.
How odd. Jaskier frowned at him, puzzled. Witchers. They could be so mysterious! “If you say so. Anyway, as I was saying…”
Later that day, somewhere in orbit:
Ruzan lay curled up on her pillow-seat in front of the command console, reporting her progress. “...and I’ve successfully placed communication devices with two itinerant humans. Our agents will be able to locate them and use the collars to report to headquarters.”
“Excellent work, Ruzan. Won’t the humans suspect anything?”
“No. I let them have a single channel so they could talk to each other. They won’t notice our agents in the vicinity using the other channels.”
“Well then, I believe your mission has been a success. For your next assignment, we’ve located your missing brother, on Earth…”
Good. Zunar J5/90 Doric 4 7 had been missing for years on what should have been a routine survey assignment. She wanted a word or two with him about the importance of keeping a rendevous.