Actions

Work Header

O, Empathy

Chapter Text

In the morning, Geralt woke early. Squinting through half-closed eyes, still groggy with sleep, he could see that there was breakfast laid out on their room’s little table; Jaskier, it seemed, had woken earlier.

“Ah, Geralt!” said Jaskier, turning from their belongings with some scraps of paper and a little map of the surrounding area held delicately in his large, capable hands. “You’re awake at last!” He’d managed to get himself into Geralt’s armor all on his own, which was impressive, and definitely not disappointing, the idea that Geralt wouldn’t need to help buckle it on. 

Jaskier spread his notes out on the table, beside the bread and cold meats and cheese. These things were all very appealing, but so was the idea of another little while lying comfortably in bed. Geralt considered pretending he was still asleep, but then he remembered it probably wouldn’t work, and sat up with a groan. He reached automatically for the little leather tie he kept  by the bedside, to pull back at least part of his hair, and then remembered, and ran a hand through the shorter length that was usually Jaskier’s. It was surprisingly tidy already, which was truly unfair. 

“Oh, don’t muss it up, Geralt, it should hold for another day,” said Jaskier. “Dress, eat, then we’ll get to it. And no complaining that you’re tired, you slept like the dead, straight through some decently fair renditions of my bawdier works. Only they did tend to flub the endings, that pair, and their mid-verses lacked intensity, and if I were their teaching master, I don’t know that I would have unleashed them on the world quite yet, charm or no.” As he talked on, Geralt dressed, and ate, shrugging on the outfit Jaskier must have laid out while he was still abed. He meant to shove the food into his mouth hurriedly, so they could get to work, but the little roll was hot, and it was good, and instead he lingered over it, sitting back at the table and letting Jaskier’s litany wash over him until he was done. 

“So,” said Jaskier, tapping the last two ingredients on Yen’s carefully written little list: “Let’s talk about drowners.” He had made some notes in the margins, in a truly fascinating mix of Jaskier’s usual graceful script and Geralt’s practical, cramped little scrawl. Some people would give anything to study that, thought Geralt, you could build a whole lecture series on the interaction between learned movement and muscle memory— but shuddered at the thought of what that studying might entail, and drew his attention back to the task that lay ahead. 

The mountain hollyhock would be, as he’d anticipated, the most difficult ingredient to reach, as it paradoxically thrived only in the thinner air of higher altitudes. They’d have to trek further east still, up into the mountains past Ellander, to reach its nearest likely patch. But Geralt still suspected the drowner liver would be the worst to actually claim, and had given them this entire day to collect it, just in case. They’d have all of the following day to go climbing after flowers, and there was a little campsite he remembered at the top of the mountain, where they could mix up the cure tomorrow night, under the new moon, and then it would be done. 

Alchemists wouldn’t stock drowner livers, which was fair; they were not only toxic to the touch, but gave off a seeping miasma that would ruin the potency of nearby ingredients unless handled with greatest care. The safest thing they could do, really, would be to hire another witcher to collect one, but there was no guarantee they’d find one in time for this month’s deadline. Or for the next half-year, for that matter. Geralt thought about another week of this, another day, and almost had to lie down on the floor in despair. 

He explained all of this to Jaskier. Well, except for the last, which he kept solidly to himself. 

“What,” said Jaskier, a faint note of horror in his gruff voice, “that toxic, and they go in your potions anyway ? This is something that you regularly quaff ?!”

“Well,” said Geralt, “not unadulterated.” His voice—Jaskier’s voice— litlted up in a way that amused him, and he wanted to hear it again, so he went on: “Usually on the rocks. Maybe with a slice of lemon, if you have one to hand.” 

“Oh,” said Jaskier, “I see how it is. I notice one joke, and suddenly you just can’t help yourself? We’re not going to only have to deal with sharp-clawed, poisonous, slimy beasts, but also the far greater threat of a Witcher comedian— ?” But he was smiling, and his voice was fond. 

They planned it out carefully. Drowners didn’t have great hearing, so they’d be able to scout out an area of the wetlands beyond town in relative safety, and ideally find a single one alone. There were several promising bends in the river that fed the swamp that would give them a place to lay out traps, magical and otherwise, to force the creature where they wanted it, away from its fellows. And if it was reluctant, for whatever reason, to leave the safety of the water, they could bait it with the little jar of deer entrails that Geralt had been saving, just in case. He brandished this at Jaskier, partly to demonstrate which jar it was, which was important, because he had rather a lot of similar jars of guts, but partly to see the look on his face, because the smell was truly horrible. He did his best not to get anything nasty on Jaskier’s doublet in the process, and had a moment of genuine regret when he noticed the top of the jar was loose and he’d extravagantly failed. 

Jaskier patted him on the shoulder that wasn’t covered in deer guts. “Oh, it’s fine,” he said, cheer showing through his low tones, “I’ve only been giving you the out-of-fashion ones anyway, just in case.” 

Geralt couldn’t help but laugh. 

 


 

The walk out of town was easy, a low and sloping path down towards the wetlands. Roach led, in her confident, plodding way, and the pair of them followed behind her. Things felt better, this morning. The tension of the previous night had dissipated, or Geralt had regained the energy to forcibly ignore it, anyway, which was basically the same thing. Jaskier chatted about the bards’ performance they’d witnessed, though he skated away from any mention of the ballads. He moved on to ramble about his own training, in Oxenfurt, and his plans for returning to Novigrad next spring, refreshed, to battle and reclaim his bardic crown. The talk made the travel easy and Geralt’s feet feel light, and it was, overall, not an unpleasant way to spend the morning.

A little ways down the road, in a rare lull, Geralt heard something that sounded like a rumble of distant thunder. But when he looked at Jaskier, sharp, to ask if there was some unnoticed danger, he realized that the noise was coming from him, that Jaskier was using his deep voice to hum, under his breath. That was surprising, but more surprising still was that it was a tune that Geralt recognized, something in his memory connecting up with Jaskier’s ability to tell apart tiny variations in timbre and tone; an old folk tune he hadn’t heard in 20 years or more. 

“I know that one,” said Geralt, quietly, the admission startled out of him, between the novelty and the way this voice wanted to be heard. 

“Ah,” said Jaskier, cutting himself off, “was I humming that aloud…? Sorry, I’ve been trying not to— I’ve never heard you sing, and cheating like this wouldn’t be fair, I’d so much rather earn it.” 

Something in his gaze was so naked and bare that even though it wasn’t directed at him, exactly, Geralt had to look away. 

“Hm,” said Geralt. “Deeper than my voice usually goes, though.” 

“Range starts from your very breathing, Geralt,” said Jaskier, with the ease of long-practised lecture. “It’s not just about teeth and tongue,” he concluded, grinning, open and easy. 

Geralt was transfixed. By how sharp that smile was, but also by the way it didn’t look dangerous, with Jaskier’s intent behind it. Or, well. Not menacing, regardless of the dangerous effect it was having on Geralt. Jaskier’s own bite was, in contrast, nothing much to speak of; Geralt traced his tongue over his own borrowed canines and found them to be only human. 

“Geralt,” said Jaskier. 

Geralt hooked his littlest finger into his own mouth, absently, and ran it along the blunt edges of Jaskier’s teeth.

Geralt,” said Jaskier. “Get your— please take my hand out of my mouth, you don’t know where it’s been.” 

Geralt did, startled. Jaskier was looking at him intently, and something about that look made him recall, all unwilling, what it had felt like, to have a solid hand on the small of his back and know that it was Jaskier’s, a rush of feeling that made him shiver all over, despite the warm day. 

Jaskier tilted his head. Geralt, alarmed, saw his nostrils flare slightly as he sniffed the air. 

“Stop it,” said Geralt. 

“Stop what?” asked Jaskier, with blunt confusion. 

“Don’t— don’t smell me,” said Geralt with a strangled squeak, realizing even as he did how unfair the request was. 

“That’s you, what I’m smelling?” said Jaskier, astonished. “It’s the same as back at the bar, when that young man— when you— Melitele’s ample ass, is it always like this, for you? Do you just— do you always have this unending stream of a whole other layer of information not just about the world, but about how people feel ? It’s overwhelming, Geralt! And it’s— can you always fucking tell when I—” 

“It’s just— background noise,” said Geralt, high-pitched, worried, and reedy. “You learn to filter it out. And right now, I can’t—” he said, with horrible dawning realization, seeing that Jaskier had gone completely still and frozen, his face immobile, giving him absolutely nothing to work from. “I have no idea what you’re feeling. Usually I can make a decent guess. But if you don’t tell me—” 

“You absolute horse’s ass,” said Jaskier, in a dangerous, low growl. ‘Why the fuck do you think I’m always after you to speak to me? ‘Witchers don’t have feelings,’ Melitele’s tender tits, and meanwhile you’re all running around with unfettered access to exactly what’s going on in everyone else’s heads, because you can sense a pulse, you can smell fear, you can hear thoughts—”

“I absolutely can’t hear thoughts,” said Geralt, with a note of desperation that was closer to a whine than he’d like. “I’m not a sorcerer. It’s not like that. It’s just— it’s chemical shifts, and physical reactions. There are lots of reasons someone might—” he continued, increasingly aware of how close Jaskier was standing, in his anger. That sense of vertigo was back, increasing, and Geralt let himself believe that that was why he had to swallow, thickly, that it wasn’t because of his treacherous brain imagining Jaskier, qua Jaskier, standing over him with menace, and the little flip his stomach did, to picture him that close. “There are lots of reasons,” he finished weakly, “why someone’s body temperature might go up, or their pulse might race.” 

“Yeah?” said Jaskier, growling. “Name two.” 

They stood there, silent, breathing heavily, Geralt’s dizziness getting worse by the second, until Jaskier whirled, and stomped away to walk ahead with Roach. 

Geralt remained standing, breath still catching in his chest. With each passing moment, he was sinking further into the mud of the road, which was absolutely going to ruin Jaskier’s bright and cheery and entirely un-sensible shoes. But he couldn’t bring himself to move, so there he stayed, frozen, hating every awful second that he was stuck there alone. 

 


 

The rest of the walk passed in uneasy silence. Jaskier didn’t speak to him directly, except to mention something moving through the underbrush, but it was only a startled deer, which on seeing them, immediately fled. Along the way, Geralt plucked a likely-looking fallen branch from the ground, and spent his time trimming off twigs and roughly sanding it down. By the time they reached the border of the wetlands, the trees thinning out and the ground soggy under their feet, he had made a passable light staff. 

They went over their careful plan one final time, in short, clipped sentences, as they set up their fighting ground. Geralt built a semicircle of their physical traps, and another of yrden, just in case, and Jaskier found a likely spot, with a single isolated drowner, and laid a trail of their bait back to their ambush. And then they waited. 

There was nothing, for a while, long enough for Geralt’s hands to grow slippery on his staff with sweat and nerves. And then all at once Jaskier picked his head up, and there was one drowner, but following close behind it were another two, and then one of them stepped into a trap, which fired off entirely wrong, and everything was suddenly substantially more complicated than their hopeful, foolish plan.

The misfired trap sent shrapnel slicing everywhere; the trigger must have been off, and that was probably Geralt’s fault; he wasn’t used to working from the height and weight from which he’d laid it down. His quen caught most of it, and he didn’t even notice that a shard had clipped his collarbone until Jaskier looked away from punching the first, fast-moving drowner in its horrible  teeth to bark “Geralt—!” but it wasn’t bad, so: “I’m fine,” said Geralt, casting another quen and taking a better grip on the staff, “don’t stop.” 

Geralt had to think about the steps of this dance in a way he hadn’t in decades. Meanwhile, Jaskier finally remembered to pull out his silver longsword, and something in his fencer past must have helped, after all, because he was holding one off fairly capably while Geralt tried to cast an aard to throw back the other two. It was challenging, holding the yrden and quen all at once; maybe he hadn’t slept as well as he thought, and he could only blast aard infrequently, instead relying on his staff to knock away the ones that got too close. But he held his shield, and Jaskier turned from the first to dispatch the second, and then the last, and it was done. 

For a minute they stood there, Geralt panting and leaning on his branch, Jaskier staring down at the bloody sword in his hand. “Livers,” said Geralt, finally, still struggling for air, “have to cut them out, before they burst.” 

“Right,” said Jaskier, “Yes. Livers. Only, where is that, exactly…?” and Geralt gave the day’s second doublet up for lost, pulled on a too-large pair of leather gloves, and squatted down, dagger in hand, to dig them out himself. 

The first liver had burst, after all; perhaps he’d managed to jab it with the staff harder than he thought, reduced strength and all. The second was old, and withered, and wouldn’t work, but the third would do just fine. So he sliced it out, taking great care not to let any of it drip on his bare skin, and packed it away in a doubly-insulated pouch, and it was done. 

“Geralt,” said Jaskier, short and sharp. “Something hit you, during the fight. I smelled blood.” 

“Hm,” said Geralt, and peeled back the neck of his shirt to reveal the slice on his collarbone, where the shards of metal from the trap had grazed him. But: “Already healing,” he said. “Remember? You don’t have to worry about your body. It’s fine.” 

“Yeah,” said Jaskier, gruffly, “Right. That’s the main worry, here.” He was assembling a poultice out of their supplies, and brought it over to Geralt, not meeting his gaze. 

“I can manage it,” said Geralt, and took it out of his hands, and did.

Jaskier only looked at him. For a second, Geralt allowed himself to appreciate that it did feel— warm, to be the focus of Jaskier’s attention in that particular way. But it didn’t mean anything, he reminded himself, quickly; after all, Jaskier was like this all the time, with everyone, and he couldn’t let himself consider for even a second that it was at all about him. 

Their original plan had been to return to the inn that night, and travel back up the mountain in the morning, but the fight had gone faster, although worse, than they’d anticipated. And Geralt didn’t think he could bear another night sharing a bed, like this; not only with the horrible intimacy of their… situation, but with Jaskier upset and angry in a way he couldn’t parse, couldn’t begin to understand.

“We should go on,” said Geralt, finishing applying the poultice and shrugging the thoroughly ruined jacket back on. “We can manage the hollyhock today. There’s a patch where it grows, another couple hours east, up into the foothills. Need to get there while the light is good, though. Have to be able to spot it, and I can’t see well in the dark, like this.” 

“So I’m always telling you,” said Jaskier, short and gruff. He loosed Roach’s bridle from her picket, and strode on ahead, and Geralt followed after. 

 


 

Whatever was troubling Jaskier, it lingered the whole climb up the mountain. Geralt could tell, from the slump in his shoulders, and the way he’d gone dead-quiet, not even talking to Roach, who plodded along beside them in her usual steady way. 

Halfway up, the air thinned, a little, and they saw the first signs of alien vegetation— unusual grasses, too springy and tough for the fields below. And at this point, hours in, Geralt managed to acknowledge that he was upset, too. The way his thoughts chased each other in desperate, sorry spirals had been a significant clue, but he also felt it in his very bones, somehow, and in his racing heartbeat, too fast to be due to the walk alone. So much of his training had focused on tuning it out, what his body was trying to tell him. Young Witchers kept only the connections between physicality and emotion that were useful, for battle, and deliberately, repeatedly discarded any that got in their way, until those circuits withered from disuse. It was troubling, to dwell on what he might have missed because of it, over the years, so he did his best to instead focus only on the climb. 

It was a low mountain; larger ones surrounded it, going on into the east in a distant range. Geralt spotted a few glassy chunks of rock, but he couldn’t, with Jaskier’s senses, pick up on any other signs of what kind of mountain it was, or what it might once have been. He was surprised, then, when they reached the top, and found it to be a sprawling caldera, a vast, strange bowl. And in that bowl: 

“Oh,” Geralt said, unwillingly, his mouth moving before he remembered that Jaskier was angry with him, for reasons he didn't fully understand and was frightened to try to unpack.  “Jaskier, look—”  

He had expected a little patch of wild mountain hollyhock, from his memory of the conditions up here; he hadn’t expected an entire field, carpeting the sloping ground below from rim to rim. He remembered how a little frisson of a shimmer had moved down his spine when Jaskier showed him the wyvern in the sky, and this was like that, writ large: the flowers, the blue mountains, and the late-afternoon sunlight breaking through the mist of the clouds, all combining into one great feeling of awe. He felt all that, and wanted to share it, and— 

Jaskier leaned past him, and plucked a single flower from the edge of the bowl, and stripped its petals off with efficient speed, dropping them into a little leather bag and tying it tightly shut. “There,” Jaskier said, voice flat, “Got it. Where’s the campsite.” 

And, that easy, it was done. All five ingredients, collected, and managed with a full day to spare. The new moon was tomorrow night, and in the morning they could rest, and nurse their wounds, any that remained, or go back down the mountain, to civilization, so Jaskier could leave him as quickly as he needed to, after they’d mixed and quaffed it and were returned to their usual selves. Geralt would go back to that village, alone, and take their contract. Once it was done, he would travel on south, and it would probably be months before he’d cross paths with Jaskier again, or longer, if Jaskier avoided him, after this, and that was… he was a Witcher, and that was the way of his life. It was fine. 

Geralt led them a little way around the rim, to where the campsite had been promised, and there it was: a little dug firepit, a nice patch of ground, and a buried cache of stores marked with Witcher-sign nearby. They made camp in silence. The silence wasn’t easy, but the motions were practised, automatic. Roach wandered off to eat a couple of the rare and precious flowers, so at least someone was enjoying them. Geralt didn’t like the monotony of building up a fire; he preferred to be moving, so he bustled around with the other necessary chores. He laid out their two separate bedrolls, and set up the snares, and strode a little ways away to set the signs of warding. He was tired, again, in both body and mind, with the effort of it. The sun was starting to dip below the mountains, so they could sleep, soon, and he wouldn’t have to be conscious to worry any more. 

But then he turned back to the camp, and the last rays of sunset caught Jaskier, lining him in gold. Jaskier, who was building up a careful scaffold of tinder and kindling, Jaskier, who had collected enough fuel to easily get them through the night. And it wasn’t that sight, exactly, as much as it was the realization: that Jaskier always did this, even though his usual hands had entirely the wrong callouses for dragging and breaking down branches to a manageable size. Because he knew that Geralt didn’t want to, that Geralt preferred the other necessary tasks of making camp, even though Geralt had never once in memory said any of that out loud. 

And all in a rush, he realized how very many things Jaskier did for him, and how much work and trouble and care they took, even though they were difficult, and he was only human, and small, measured against the harsh vast wildness of the Path. The restocked cheroot, when he had forgotten, and without Geralt’s years upon years of practice recognizing herbs, and when Jaskier wasn’t even the one for whom it might do any good. The easy way he took over Geralt’s negotiation, so they could stay in towns a little longer. The hand on his arm, grounding him; the oiled swords; the softness with which he talked to Roach. The baths, and the hair-washing. The hitch in his voice when he’d said— you can’t just fucking die and leave me. How he’d been heading south, three long and stretched-out days ago, how he’d known that’s where Geralt would be, this time of year. The look on his face, back on the stairs in the tavern, and the way he’d held him close that night. And those songs— the ballads, all that pent-up longing and metaphor that was barely hidden, wasn’t actually veiled at all, it was only that Geralt hadn’t dared to believe. 

“What,” said Jaskier, shining in the fading rays of the sun. “Why are you staring, Geralt? Have I got something on your face?” 

And that was absurd, and endearing, and very Jaskier. Geralt saw it all laid open, bare, and his own fragile heart broke wide open, too. But he couldn’t possibly tell Jaskier everything he was feeling, didn’t even know where to begin, so instead, he asked, quietly, “Is that what I look like, to you?” 

And Jaskier could read him perfectly, even like this, with everything they knew reversed. Jaskier, in a foreign body, hampered by senses he couldn't properly use and burdened by the weight of swords that he couldn’t properly wield, whatever he said about fencing — Jaskier still saw him with bright and terrible clarity, read between the lines and understood what Geralt really meant, which was: What am I, to you?  

“Oh, you great fool,” said Jaskier, soft and low. “Don't you know ?” 

The question was gentle, and it made his voice sound almost like Jaskier's, and in that moment Geralt missed hearing it, horribly, achingly, with all his body and spirit and soul.

“But you’re like that with everyone,” said Geralt, confused. 

Jaskier made that face again, the same one from the tavern, when he’d put a hand on Geralt’s back, and in the fight, when he thought he’d gotten hurt. Geralt walked back towards him, right up to the edge of the campsite, between the barren mountaintop trees, so he could get close enough to see it properly. But he still wasn’t sure, exactly, so he did his best to explain: that Jaskier always smelled, a little bit, of longing, that it was so pervasive it was just part of his background personhood. And that he would leave, for a while, with one partner or another, and come back smelling of— oxytocin, of warmth and comfort. So whatever was missing, whatever he needed, he was finding it somewhere else. 

“Geralt,” said Jaskier, aiming for patience and quickly sliding into outrage, “you can’t possibly— it’s only— you’re the one sensing that, Geralt. There’s no such thing as an invisible observer! By the time you see me, by the time you can smell me, which, by the way, creepy— I know I’m coming back. To you. So yes, you idiot, you think I’m always like that, because, in fact, I am always like that around you. ” 

“Oh,” said Geralt, and then, again: “oh.”

They were standing very close together. Geralt raised a hand to Jaskier’s jawline, to try and tilt his head down, to better understand the look in his eyes. “Is this narcissism?” he asked, almost absently, and Jaskier laughed. The note of it resonated down his arm and into his very bones. 

“Well,” said Jaskier, “I would never claim I don’t think highly of myself, you’d know in a second I was lying, apparently, anyway. But, no, Geralt, I want you any way I can have you, and if this is the only option, I’ll still take it. I ought to calibrate how deep of a heartbreak I should prepare to feel, after, though, for the song if nothing else, so: is it only the fond familiarity of your own dear face? Is that what this is for you?”

“No,” said Geralt. “I want—” but then he trailed off, because the sentiment was so large, and terrifying, that he couldn’t possibly contain it in a word. 

“What, Geralt,” said Jaskier. They were standing very close. Geralt's perception was starting to double again, and he had that sense again, of seeing himself looking at Jaskier looking back at him. It all seemed horribly complicated and magical, and Geralt was very worried he was about to fuck something up irreperably, but the new moon was tomorrow night, and at least if he was misreading it he wouldn't have to worry long. He could send Jaskier away, or leave him off at some inn, safe and sound, and if he was wrong maybe they could someday be friends again, even if this was something they couldn’t keep— and his brain was spiraling, again, caught in a loop of its own making, a snake eating its own tail—

“Geralt,” said Jaskier, with patience, but also with a dangerous, sharp, electric undercurrent that set something deep in Geralt’s gut alight. “Tell me what you want.”

Geralt leaned in, leaned up, and kissed him.

Jaskier let out a short, sharp breath, a huff of air right into Geralt's lungs, and then his mouth fell open and he leaned in, pressing his body against Geralt’s, kissing him right back. His arms were around Geralt's shoulders, or maybe Geralt's were around his, fingers tracing the back of his neck, moving up to cup the base of his skull with gentle tenderness, twining through his hair. 

It was hard to tell whose hands were whose. The feeling of vertigo was back, accompanied by a rush of something warm and tickling. Geralt’s nerves were on fire in the expected way, but also with a hint of something magical and strange. At some point he leaned back against a nearby scraggly tree, for support, or for the feeling of Jaskier needing to follow, to let his swords fall to the ground and press desperately up against him, in the process. 

The medallion, crushed between their chests, was humming louder than ever. Geralt was desperate to avoid it, to ignore it, to not let it ruin this, but it was increasing, the heat and dizziness both. So, obviously, the best solution was to lie down on a bedroll, for support, and to drag Jaskier down with him. And then Jaskier was above him, biting at his lip, holding his shoulders— well, one, the uninjured one, and one wrist- down, with impossible care, which was important, because despite all these points of anchor, Geralt still felt like he was going to fall off the face of the earth entirely. He had a moment to wonder if he’d made their curse worse, somehow, if the end result was to lose a body entirely, to be just a spirit, lost, and there was a last, great, sharp, shock of electricity, and he jerked his head back, and for one horrible second his vision went entirely blank— 

And then Jaskier was smiling up at him. It was Jaskier's warm face, smiling, and then his eyes went wide with shock, and he laughed, startled but easy. “Geralt,” he said, in his own, soft voice. “Hey, Geralt. Geralt, hi. Look, you’re back, and I'm back, it's me.” 

And it was true; Geralt could feel the weight of his own large body, the strength in his bones, its familiar size and structure. But— Geralt had missed Jaskier so much, hadn’t even understood that, the degree to which it was lacking, and he had to take a moment just to drink it in, the sight and sound of him. 

“Geralt,” Jaskier said, a little hesitant, “Are you alright? I’d— I’d understand if you didn’t, that was a bit much, heat of the moment and all that, only, do you still, maybe, want to—?” and then Geralt kissed him again, hungrier than before. After a moment, Jaskier broke away, laughing, and asked: “Geralt, did Yennefer fucking know ?”

It took Geralt a minute to process. To be fair, he was very distracted, because Jaskier was clearly hard underneath him. Some part of his disbelieving brain had been worried Jaskier might not have been into it, even after all he’d said, but the state of his own cock left nothing really in question. But then his brain caught up, and he remembered what Yen had said about a second possible cure, and he growled under his breath.

“Geralt,” said Jaskier, with a deep note of want, and he smelled of lust and longing, and Geralt made a small, strangled rumbling noise deep in his throat. Jaskier paused, froze with his hands still twisted in Geralt’s hair, and Geralt remembered all at once, what it had been like, to not have the extra layer of information, of meaning. So, drawing on his deepest reserves of verbal eloquence, Geralt elaborated: 

“I like it. When you say my name.” And then, after consideration: “Will you do it again?”

Geralt,” said Jaskier, agonized. “You are absolutely going to kill me. We can't survive a fucking murderous curse, I can't bludgeon a drowner to death with the hilt of your sword, I can’t spend years pining after your horrible, silent, massive, ham-pile bulk only for you to all at once learn not just how to talk, but how to tease me straight to death.”   

Geralt gave a rumble of warning.

“Oh, don't call me overdramatic, I know you like it, you find me endearing, And also, you deserve it. Years, Geralt, and I'd only just worked up the strength to ask you about it straight to your face, and then all this— ” Jaskier waved a vague hand to encompass the mountain, the journey, the past three days— “interrupted me!”  His other hand dipped under Geralt’s armor, under his thin shirt, to trace over his hip bones. It was a little chilly. Geralt didn't flinch, would never flinch away from Jaskier, but he must have made some minute, fleeting microexpression that Jaskier unerringly picked up on.

“Ah,” said Jaskier, “right, yes, fire, I was getting to it, only someone distracted me. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, I’ll just—” and Jaskier put out a hand, signed igni like it was automatic, like he’d not only learned the hand sign but the connection, too, and to Geralt’s absolute shock, the campfire ignited. 

Geralt panicked, wondering if he’d lost his signs entirely— it would be worth it, whispered some dangerous part of his mind— and he signed igni, and the fire went out. And just to be sure, Geralt did it again, and the fire obligingly surged back to life. So that was … fine. 

“Huh,” said Jaskier, who was still staring at his hand. “That’s new. Do please leave it on, I can’t actually see that well this time of day, as you now well and truly know. Had about a second there to go through all five stages of grief, thinking I had stolen your signs from you, in switching back, but it seems you have them, too, so I suppose it’s just… actually, Geralt, I don’t suppose, I don’t know what it is, I can’t do magic! What the fuck is going on?!” 

“Absolutely no idea,” said Geralt, dry. “Do you otherwise feel… okay?”

Jaskier laughed, with a light note of hysteria, which was probably deserved, given everything. “Okay, he asks, am I okay?! Geralt, you can feel the state of me, I have truly never been better, curse and all. Did that fucking sorcerer intend this, is what I want to know?!”

Geralt growled, thinking of someone else’s hands on Jaskier, someone else’s tongue. And then he growled again, because he had forgotten that it felt nice, when his voice reverberated in his bones. From the way Jaskier laid a hand on his chest, where the medallion at last lay still, it worked for him, too. 

“Whose name did you call him?” asked Geralt, remembering, and Jaskier went softer, somehow. 

“You absolute fool, you overgrown child of a man,” said Jaskier, fond: “of course it was yours.”  

Geralt rumbled with pleasure, at that. And then, when Jaskier shot him a look that said use your words, plain as day, Geralt went on:  "...Good. I'm... glad. That you did."

"You're glad ? Really, Geralt? Glad you were cursed to spend three— well, two and a half, really, but I'll have to make it three for the ballad—”

“Jaskier.”

“—Melitele’s pillowy bosom, I missed that growl. But no, don't worry, of course I’ll anonymize it,  that's neater anyway. But really: you're glad? That you spent three days as me, helpless thing that I am?” And Jaskier sat up to shrug out of his doublet, and used that height to mouth at the base of Geralt’s neck, which was quite unfair.

“You're not helpless,” said Geralt, and Jaskier bit him with gentle tenderness, right where his neck met his collarbone, which made Geralt writhe and groan, interrupting his thought but quite proving his point. “I meant, I'm glad to... I don't completely understand. But I got to see you in a new light. Have a better sense, now, of what's going on in your head.”

“Usually, Geralt, people just take a cooking class,” said Jaskier, soft and warm. “And how am I supposed to go on calmly undressing you if you keep saying sweet things like that? No, don’t interrupt me, that was rhetorical, maybe if you’d studied at Oxenfurt instead of your crumbling, decrepit castle you’d understand.” Despite this complaint, his hands were at Geralt’s side, undoing the buckles of his armor with practiced speed. This meant rather more to Geralt, knowing the challenge it was, reversed. “And anyway,” Jaskier went on,  “I've been telling you exactly what's in my head for years.”

“You left out some important things,” said Geralt. He pushed his weight forward, onto his arms, so he could shift his hips and straddle Jaskier’s legs with his own. He didn’t want to make the very important work of undressing both of them as swiftly as possible any more difficult, but Jaskier did make a very gratifying noise when he ground their hips together, so he did it again.

“Well, look who's talking,” said Jaskier. “I thought you knew how I felt, and didn't feel the same.”

“No,” said Geralt, aching at the thought of all those wasted years. “No, I didn't know at all.”

Jaskier looked at him, for a long moment, then caught Geralt’s wrist with his hand. He held it there, for a moment, feeling his pulse. “Ah,” said Jaskier, “about half of mine, which is what, twice normal, for you? Geralt, you do care.” Geralt grumbled, but didn't take his hand away. “Yes, you're right,” said Jaskier, smiling, “It is only fair, thank you very much.”

“I liked it,” said Geralt, “How gentle your hands were. I'm still thinking about them. ”Jaskier's heartbeat jumped in his chest, a startled rabbit, and Geralt smiled, a predatory, feral, grin. “You like that,” said Geralt. “To know I’m thinking of you.”

“Yes,” said Jaskier, “I really, really do.”

“I know,” said Geralt, still smiling. “But it's nice. To hear you say it.”

Jaskier covered his face with both his hands. “By all the stars above,” he said, muffled through his fingers, “I can't believe a kiss was all it took. I would have jumped your bones day one.”

Not just a kiss, thought Geralt; Yen had said it couldn’t be faked. But maybe that was a conversation for another day, because they'd have those, a whole unbroken sequence of tomorrows, and also because Jaskier was still hard underneath him, and it was really very distracting. 

“Really,” asked Geralt, with an interested rumbling purr. “The first day?”

“Well,” said Jaskier, “Maybe day two. I was a little busy, day one, trying to winnow down the entire other world of things that you can see and smell and hear into only the things that mattered.” 

Jaskier’s capable hands removed the very last of Geralt’s heavy armor, laying him bare. His breath caught in his throat. Underneath the dust of the road, Jaskier smelled of want and lust and yearning, and buried further still, of clean linens and fresh-warmed bedsheets, lute strings and sunny rosin and the smallest hint of crushed white myrtle. It felt like home. 

“I don't know if I would ever have figured it out,” Geralt said, honestly, with regret that it was true, that he might have lived and died not knowing.

“It's alright,” said Jaskier, smiling, and reached up to lace his fingers through Geralt’s hair and pull. “You just go on being strong and beautiful; I’m smart enough for both of us.” Geralt made an indignant noise, and Jaskier laughed and went on: “Oh, Geralt, stop, you know you're one of the cleverest people I've ever met, but you weren't exactly wise, about this.” 

“I—” said Geralt, and couldn't continue, around the lump caught in his throat. But something in his eyes must have said it for him, because Jaskier smiled. 

“Oh, I know,” he said, soft. “You are lucky to have me. And you do, you know. You have me.”

And that was really too much, and Geralt couldn’t handle it, so he leaned down to kiss Jaskier again, mouth open in want. 

But Jaskier broke away, with a dangerous glimmer in his eye, and said: “You had me from the start, in fact! But because you never learned how to talk, because all of you Witchers just sit around smelling how everyone feels,”  

“We don't—” said Geralt in protest, and then considered how few words were exchanged, winters at Kaer Morhen. More importantly, he considered whether he really wanted to pick a fight right now, with Jaskier’s delicate fingers tracing up along his ribs, to his collarbone, and then turning to head the opposite direction, down, and shut right up again.

“Instead of sorting it out right then,” said Jaskier, “and having some perfectly, respectably nice sex in an inn somewhere, we had to fight wolves and drowners and absolutely wreck two of my best doublets and climb a whole mountain and ruin some lovely flowers by shredding them into oil. What the fuck are we going to do with three oversized bottles of oil, Geralt?”

“I can think of a few things,” said Geralt, in a deep, low growl.

Really?” said Jaskier, with a bright and deadly smile. “Name two.” And he rolled them over to pin Geralt gently down.