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Sometimes a Hammer, Sometimes a Lockpick

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Geralt’s been in this dungeon for two weeks.

He only knows how much time has passed because he’s been tracking the sun as it moves across the sky from the small window towards the top of the room. Of course, he might have missed a day or two. The man in charge of trying to get information out of him has been using the tried and true “hit him ‘til he’s bloody” method, which Geralt has been trained to ignore but is sometimes enough to make him pass out from blood loss in spite of his best efforts. There’s only so much that meditation can do.

It’s been two weeks, and Geralt’s starting to run out of ideas on how to get out of here. Being starving and dehydrated isn’t helping. He should’ve known that there was something up with this contract. It was so soon after the last one, and he’d been asked for specifically, but he’d thought that with how desperate the lord had sounded…

Well, now he knows that the lord had been desperate, just not in the way he’d led Geralt to believe he was. It seems that the half-starved succubi that Geralt helped was half-starved because she’d been this lord’s little pet, and he wasn’t too keen on the fact that Geralt had helped her and spirited her to a safe place. He wanted to know where that place was and take her back.

Geralt has no intention of telling him.

He’s lying propped up against the wall, his ankles and wrists in chains as they’d been for the past two weeks, idly kicking away the rats that came to sniff at him, when he hears the jingle of keys in the lock of the door to the cells. He doesn’t bother sitting up. Probably the jailer coming to make sure Geralt isn’t dead. Or maybe the lord himself coming to show off his Witcher prisoner. There’s a party of some kind going on upstairs, he must have guests. Geralt can hear the music, faint though it is, through the windows.

And then—the smell. Honeysuckle. And beneath it, sweetgrass and summer sun, wildflowers in a meadow.

He’d know those scents anywhere. The first is a perfume, chosen for its light and subtle scent. The others are just the natural smell that Geralt can pick up on, smells that he doubts anyone else could truly name with their non-Witcher senses.

Jaskier.

Terror immediately floods him, makes his heart seize up. Everyone knows of Jaskier the bard and his famous songs, none more famous than those of the White Wolf of Rivia. Has Jaskier been captured so that he’ll be tortured, to try and get Geralt to talk? No. Geralt would—he’ll find a way to rip these damn chains off, he’ll tear them out of the fucking wall if he has to. Nobody’s going to hurt Jaskier, nobody—

The door opens with a creak of the hinges and Jaskier strolls in, looking fresh as a daisy, albeit also looking rather different than usual.

For one thing, he’s blond.

“What the fuck?” Geralt blurts out.

“And hello to you too.” Jaskier waltzes over with the jailer’s keys in his hand. “I have to admit, Geralt, I was expecting a little more gratitude.”

“What the fuck did you do to your hair. And why do you have a mustache. And why are you wearing that stupid hat.” Geralt would like several explanations for this nonsense.

Jaskier grins. “All will be revealed in good time, Geralt. First, how about we get you out of here?”

Geralt’s been in this dungeon for two weeks, and he’s pretty sure he’s started fucking hallucinating.

 


 

When Geralt didn’t come back from a wraith hunt, Jaskier knew something was wrong.

The lord had sounded rather desperate, which makes sense when you consider that a wraith haunting your halls and trying to devour the souls of your guests puts rather a damper on your lordly business. But wraiths are nothing to Geralt. They take only a day or two to deal with. So when it’s day three and Geralt still hasn’t returned, Jaskier does a little asking around.

He’s made friends with just about everyone in town by now, and they’re eager to talk. Everyone hopes that they’ll end up in a song somehow. Or they’re trying to flirt with him. Jaskier doesn’t mind either one. Especially right now when it gets him the information he wants.

So. That poor succubus that Geralt helped out last week was escaping from this man. This lord that’s just ‘hired’ Geralt. Hmm. Fascinating. Totally a coincidence, Jaskier’s sure.

Right. If the man was clever enough to manage to keep a succubus trapped for a year (and Jaskier never thought he’d actually feel bad for a flesh-eating soul-sucking sex demon, but it’s a strange world they live in), he’s probably clever enough to figure out how to trap a Witcher. Which means trying to just sneak in and toss Geralt his sword through the dungeon window is simply not going to fly.

It’s time for subtlety.

Well. Relatively speaking. It’s time for subterfuge, would probably be the more accurate term. Because Jaskier has never been subtle in his life and he has no intention of being so now.

He stops by the nearest brothel to get his hair dyed and the fake mustache. The ladies there are used to dyeing their own hair, and who’s going to ask a bunch of whores if they’ve helped a bard hoodwink the local lord? Not anyone that Jaskier knows, that’s for certain. The brothel madam assures Jaskier that the dye will wash out in a week or so, and he really does hope she’s right because he much prefers himself as a brunet, thanks.

He then purchases a bright purple doublet, and a fancy hat to match (with a feather!) and sews a special pocket into the doublet to hide his lockpicks. If all goes well he won’t need them, but Geralt didn’t teach him how to do this for nothing and it’s best to have a backup plan.

The accent—that gods damned annoying accent that Jaskier hates with a fucking passion—takes a couple days to nail down perfectly. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the line between imitation and caricature is really so thin, isn’t it?

As Geralt would say: Hmm.

With that, Jaskier the bard, his hair covered, heads out to meet his Witcher in the next town over, with many adieus and fond farewells to the townsfolk. And a few days later, Valdo Marx, the flamboyant court bard on his annual pilgrimage to his alma mater of Oxenfurt, strolls into the area.

It’s so very convenient that the lord is having a party in a couple nights’ time, isn’t it?

(Jaskier might have said something to the alderman about how proper nobility have a festival to celebrate all the first born sons of the lord’s seat on the third day of the fourth month.)

And of course Valdo Marx would never pass up a chance to perform, especially for a member of the nobility.

(Jaskier might have also mentioned how he learned everything from his dear friend and mentor and let that reach the lord’s ears, and if it turned his stomach and the words tasted like ashes in his mouth, well, Geralt will just pay him back for it. Honestly, the things he does for the idiot Witcher.)

Why, it would be a privilege to accept an invitation to play at the ball, although he really must depart early the next morning, important appointments in Oxenfurt and all that, but what hospitality and kindness, really, how could he refuse?

(Jaskier is still going to punch Valdo right in the throat the first chance he gets.)

From there, things proceed rather as they usually do. Jaskier goes, as Valdo Marx, to the ball and performs—keeping strictly to Marx’s songs, of course, even though (in his humble opinion) Jaskier performs them better than the actual author of the works. It’s not his fault that certain bards don’t understand that there’s such a thing as too much embellishment, and it’s certainly not his fault that those same bards wouldn’t know how to put honest emotion into a song if said honest emotion hit them in the gods-damn balls.

He does take a break for his voice, as all bards do, and during that time, he strikes up a fascinating conversation with his host, all about people meddling in affairs they shouldn’t, and people not keeping their nose out of other people’s business, and that sort of thing. He then sings some more, and has an even more fascinating conversation with one of the serving maids—a conversation so fascinating that they adjourn down to the kitchens to finish it.

As lovely of a woman as she is, Jaskier has to cover up his relief when the cook walks in on them (as he knew the woman would). He’s got only a small window of opportunity to make this work, and if he actually takes the time to perform, ahem, up to his usual standards then they’ll be here all night—and Geralt doesn’t have all night.

In fact, he’s rather worried Geralt is…

But he’s not going to think about that. Instead, he’s going to tip the belladonna into the vat of soup that the cook’s about to have served up, and he’s going to make his apologies and slip away, supposedly back upstairs but really into the nearby cellar to pilfer two cups of wine.

He really hopes he’s getting these measurements of belladonna right. He doesn’t care if the bastard holding Geralt prisoner dies but he’d like to not have the blood of an entire ballroom full of people and some prison guards on his hands, thanks.

The maid (her name is Dara and she’s really quite lovely, if a bit too short for his tastes, and too brunette, and her eyes are hazel instead of gold, and, well, she’s too, well, not-a-Witcher) is easily persuaded to serve the wine to the dungeon guards, and then all Jaskier has to do is waltz in, take the keys, and ta-da!

He’s a fucking genius.

His triumph lasts only so long as it takes to get to Geralt’s cell, and then his heart is seized as if in a fist of iron.

Geralt looks—he looks—he looks terrible. Circles under his eyes, his shirt fallen to pieces, bloody, scabbed half-healed scars across his chest and back from a flogger or a whip and gods’ know what else, his eyes clouded—who knows when he last had a proper meal or any food at all, or even a cup of water.

Jaskier’s been having quite a bit of vicious fun with this whole endeavor, until now, as the ‘fun’ drains out and the ‘viciousness’ takes complete control.

How dare they do this to Geralt. The noblest, most honorable man Jaskier knows, the only man on the whole Continent who would help a terrified succubus instead of just killing her and calling it a job well done, the gods-damn knight in (not so) shining armor that everyone dreams about but nobody has the wit to recognize when he’s right in front of them, Geralt of Rivia, and these cowards did this to him?

Jaskier hopes that he did, in fact, overdo it on the belladonna. Let this whole castle burn.

Geralt tries to get to his feet, chains rattling, and Jaskier is in serious danger of popping a few veins with how hot his anger courses through him. “What the fuck?” Geralt asks, eyeing him up and down.

Jaskier swallows. The last thing Geralt needs right now is someone fussing over him. He’ll hate it and argue and it’ll only delay them. Levity, yes, Jaskier can bring levity. He can do it, he can.

“All will be revealed in good time, Geralt. First, how about we get you out of here?”

 


 

Jaskier, without further ado, unlocks his cell and then retrieves his lockpicks out from a hidden pocket in his (ridiculously bright) purple doublet to undo the cuffs Geralt has on. He makes disapproving noises over the bruises and cuts around Geralt’s wrists and ankles from where the metal was too tight and bit in. “We’ll have to put some salve on that, won’t we?”

He helps Geralt get to his feet properly, and Geralt would normally protest, saying he could do it himself, only the room spins as he starts to walk and his knees nearly buckle so, maybe not.

Jaskier gets him out of the cell, then leans him against the wall and… hands Geralt the feather from his cap?

“What’s this?”

Jaskier points at the tip of the feather. “I sharpened it and dipped it in one of your poisons. I know it’s not much but you’re in no shape to carry your swords right now and you’ll want a weapon on you.”

“My swords.” His weapons, his armor, where…

“I took care of that, what do I look like, an amateur? I bribed a stable boy to get your things out of the storage room and put them on Roach. It took about all the coin we had but that doesn’t matter.” As he’s talking, Jaskier turns his hat inside out and fixes it onto Geralt’s head, tucking all of Geralt’s distinctive hair up underneath the hat, which is now an unobtrusive dark green color.

Jaskier’s tunic is turned inside out as well and is just as unobtrusive. “I’m afraid I didn’t account for them tearing your shirt like that,” he says, apologetically. “I would’ve brought you a new one otherwise.”

“Where is Roach?” It feels like Geralt’s brain is moving a bit slower than normal and he’s only just caught on to all that Jaskier said in his previous sentence.

“The stables. She’s kicked anyone who’s tried to go near her.”

“Hmm.” Good girl.

Jaskier rips off the fake mustache and hefts Geralt’s arm over his shoulder. “There. Now, if anyone asks, you’ve had too much to drink. We’re both servants of the lord, green is his crest color. Understood?”

“Hmm.”

“Excellent. Actually maybe don’t talk at all if you can help it. And don’t cut yourself on that feather blade, please, it is rather deadly and I don’t know which of your bottles has the antidote.”

Jaskier has to half-carry him to the stables, but aside from the passed-out guards on the floor outside the dungeon, they don’t run into anyone. The stable boy that Jaskier paid is waiting for them with Geralt’s stolen equipment, Roach snorting in her stall.

“She let me put the packs on, but she wouldn’t let me take her out.”

“Never mind, you did good work. She could smell Geralt on his things, that’s why she let you.” Jaskier shifts Geralt’s weight and Geralt idly wonders how much strain it’s putting on the bard to keep him upright like this. “Help me get him up onto her, there’s a good lad.”

The stable boy, a look of intense wariness on his face all the while, helps Jaskier get Geralt up onto Roach.

“By the by,” Jaskier says, as if he’s talking about the weather, “how much belladonna does one put in to put someone to sleep but not kill them?”

“Two hundred milligrams.”

“Ah. Well.”

Suspicion stirs in Geralt’s mind. “Did you kill people?”

“Unfortunately, no,” Jaskier replies. He lifts himself up onto Roach, behind Geralt. “Boy, if you’ll go and finish off the wine the guards have in the dungeon and go back to your room with it, you’ll be able to say you were drugged and asleep the whole time. Be quick about it. Unless you want a whipping or the stocks in the morning.”

The boy pales, but nods, running off. Jaskier loops his arm around Geralt’s middle to keep him upright. “All right, Roach, off we go.”

Geralt knows Roach will carry them carefully, but he means to ask where they’re going—how Jaskier is going to keep them safe when their escape is inevitably learned of—and why he was dressed like that, and why is he blond, Geralt misses the brunet… misses Jaskier’s dark hair and the way the sunlight gets caught in it…

“Geralt, stay with me. I need you to stay awa—”

The feather slips through his fingers and he’s out before it even reaches the ground.

 


 

Jaskier would like it known that he’s finally figured out what Witchers eat. No, it is not poisonous plants. No, it is not newborn babies. No, it is not menstrual blood.

It’s fucking cement.

Carrying Geralt has Jaskier’s entire body screaming in agony, once he has to get him off Roach and into the safe place he’s found them.

They can’t stay in town, obviously, or in any town that falls within the boundaries of this lord’s reach. There will be guards looking for them. But Geralt’s in no condition to travel too far, so there’s only one thing left to do.

After all of this time with Geralt, Jaskier has picked up a thing or two about surviving in the wilderness, and one of those things is how to find a place to shelter for the night where monsters won’t find you. It takes all night for them to ride far enough away that Jaskier feels safe, and then to find a suitable cave that won’t have any bears hiding in it, but once that’s accomplished, he can attend to Geralt.

He sets up the snares from their packs, since Geralt needs food, and builds a fire. Next is a source of water, both for Geralt to drink and to clean his wounds.

His wounds…

Jaskier rips open Geralt’s shirt (it was done for anyway, and now he can use the relatively clean parts for bandages) and winces at the damage. His poor wolf. These men clearly weren’t imaginative, but they were tenacious and brutal, and that could be just as bad. Jaskier wants to go back to the castle with one of Geralt's swords and rend them all while they sleep. The belladonna can't have worn off just yet. He could do it. Ride Roach hard, slip in past the guards at the gate with some story or other (he's good at those, ask anyone who's nearly walked in on him with their spouse, or son, or daughter), and stab the sleeping lord and his sleeping jailers and all the rest—

Geralt stirs, as if in the grip of a nightmare, and Jaskier feels his forehead. Damn, a fever. Makes sense, what with the no food or water business. Fuck's sake.

Revenge will have to be set aside. Geralt needs him, and Jaskier would never forgive himself if the man he—if Geralt slips away in the night because Jaskier was away from him. He can't leave him. He won't.

There’s no one around to see, and Geralt’s asleep, so Jaskier presses his palm to Geralt’s cheek, feeling the reassuring puff of air against his thumb from between Geralt’s lips.

“Don’t worry,” he whispers. “I’ve got you.”

He’ll set Geralt to rights.

 


 

The world fades in and out.

He’s first aware of dull, throbbing pain, and then of stinging, and hissed apologies. And then cool, sweet liquid between his lips, down his throat, grabbing for it until he’s almost choking and he’s told “wait, no, slow down, enough for now, can’t have you getting sick.”

It all goes black again.

When he next wakes, he thinks he’s hallucinating, surrounded by fire—only to see it’s the campfire, and the shadows on the walls of—where is he?

Something warm and tempting is placed to his lips, and he takes it, chewing, fed little bits and pieces in a way that he would normally call undignified (at best) but right now is all that he can manage. His stomach rumbles and he’s suddenly starving, but again, he’s told to slow down, and he slips away again.

The third time, it’s more liquid, and he realizes it’s water.

The fourth time, he hears singing.

It’s a soft lullaby, in Elvish, but that’s all he recognizes about it. The voice singing is… soft and low and warm, but more than that it’s familiar. Safe. A hand brushes through his hair, again and again, a rhythm in time with the tune. No one’s played with his hair since… he can’t remember. It’s too intimate of a thing to ask a whore to do unless you want her to make a quip about not being your mother, and Yen certainly never went in for any of that.

The ground beneath him shifts and he realizes it’s not ground, but someone’s lap. He’s lying with his head in the person’s lap, and they’re petting through his hair, and singing to him. This isn’t normal. This isn’t normal and he should get up and see what’s happened, figure out what’s going on, but that voice is so safe. And he smells—honeysuckle. Beneath that, summer… something about summer. Meadows.

He’s asleep again before he can parcel out exactly what the scent is, or the voice, or why both seem so steeped in the idea of home.

When he next wakes, it’s all solid.

He’s lying on a bedroll, bare from the waist up, which makes sense when he looks down and sees he’s been thoroughly bandaged. His wrists are bandaged as well, although he can tell that the bruising’s already fading thanks to the generously-applied salve underneath. Someone managed to wash him at some point, including his hair, since he doesn’t smell like death and rat feces anymore. The remains of a fire are to one side of him, and when he looks around he sees their packs, and Roach nibbling at grass just outside the cave entrance, and oh, yeah, they’re in a cave on a mountainside.

Geralt props himself up on his elbows. There’s definite signs of someone else here, and that someone is Jaskier, judging by the lute that’s propped up neatly against the cave wall. But where is he? How many days has it been?

Nearly brought down by gods-damn irons and simple dehydration and starvation. Vesemir will never let him hear the end of it if he finds out. That’s what you get for not being suspicious enough, boy.

But Jaskier. He got Geralt out. He did it all on his own, and risked his life in the process. Something that’s still human inside of Geralt shivers and recoils at the idea of what would’ve happened if Jaskier had been caught. Geralt hadn’t so much as grunted while they’d done their work on him but Jaskier? It would’ve driven him mad to see them—to hear them—

They didn’t, though. They could have, but they didn’t. Jaskier wasn’t caught. He waltzed right in and snuck Geralt out under their noses and he’s been nursing Geralt back to health for… three days? A week? Two weeks?

“Oh.”

Geralt looks up and sees Jaskier standing there, two freshly-caught dead rabbits in one hand and a pile of wood secured under his other arm.

“I was starting to worry you’d never wake up,” Jaskier tells him cheerfully. The ends of his hair are still too light but the rest of it is back to its natural dark brown color, and Geralt feels something in his limbs loosen with relief.

“It’s good, though, that you’re back. And just in time for dinner!” Jaskier sets the rabbits to the side and begins compiling the wood into a proper pile for the fire. “The snares have been working wonders and thank the gods for it, I never thought I’d say this but you needed to bulk up a bit.”

Two weeks without food isn’t going to cause his muscles to wither away, especially since it’s years of painful mutations that put those muscles there in the first place, but he knows what Jaskier means. “Hmm.”

“Talkative as ever, I see.” Jaskier gets the fire going and then begins to neatly skin the rabbits. When did he get so good at that? Some point on the road, Geralt supposes. How hadn’t he noticed?

“Rather nice, actually, I’ve got enough pelts now, figured I could sell them at the next town for some coin. Can’t do too much singing, not until we’re sure to be far enough away. They’ll be on the lookout for the both of us. And possibly Valdo Marx as well.” Jaskier says this last part with relish.

“What does your artistic rival have to do with any of this?” Geralt, with some stiffness and a bit of an ache, manages to get up to sitting and props his back against the cave wall, staring at Jaskier as Jaskier continues to prepare the rabbits.

“I did say that I would explain in good time,” Jaskier replies. He finishes the first rabbit and strings it up over the fire, then starts on the second. “I couldn’t very well waltz in there as Jaskier, the oh so loyal best friend of the White Wolf that the man had in his dungeons, now could I? But Valdo Marx, who is far from a friend to Jaskier or Geralt of Rivia, he could do that no problem.”

The hair. The mustache. The obscenely colorful outfit. The ridiculous hat with the feather. “You impersonated him.”

“Well of course I did, Geralt, and I had quite a lot of fun with it, too.” Jaskier looks altogether too pleased with himself as he strings up the second rabbit. “Pass me that pestle, would you?”

Geralt does so, and Jaskier begins crushing up herbs, presumably to put on the rabbits for seasoning. “You used belladonna, to put them all to sleep.”

“Had to get rather cozy with a maid to do it, but yes.”

“And you bribed a stable boy.”

“I’m so glad you remember everything.”

“You… reversed your doublet. So you’d look like a servant.” And used his hat to cover Geralt’s distinctive hair. He’d thought of everything.

“I might turn it into a song someday, if I can get away with it.” Jaskier gives him a sly smile and sprinkles the herbs over the rabbits. “How the bard saved the Witcher, for once. Speaking of…”

He crawls over, almost but not quite into Geralt’s lap, and begins to carefully peel off the bandages. Geralt sits still and lets him, taking in Jaskier’s puckered brow, his focused gaze, his pressed-thin mouth as he inspects Geralt’s wounds.

“You’re healing up nicely,” he says, but his voice is low and tremulous.

Geralt looks down at himself. It’s not very pretty looking, but then, neither are any of the other scars he carries. “It’s nothing I haven’t earned before, Jaskier.”

“But those were… creatures that didn’t know what they were… they were just… a selkiemore, a drowner, a striga, they’re just doing what’s in their nature. This is… different. Worse.” Jaskier’s palm fits itself, warm and steady, over Geralt’s sternum.

He took care of Geralt. He used his wits and wiles and his own brand of strength and he saved Geralt’s life. Jaskier’s brave, Geralt’s always known that, but brave in the sense that he rather forgets there’s a possibility of danger. This—this is the sort of courage where there is no doubt that Jaskier knew the risks. If Geralt’d had the chance he would’ve told him—

“You shouldn’t have come after me.”

Jaskier’s gaze snaps up to Geralt’s, his eyes pale and startled. “What? Geralt, of course—do you still have a fever?” He presses the back of his other hand to Geralt’s forehead.

Geralt takes Jaskier’s wrist, moving it aside. “Next time—”

“There won’t be a next time—”

“But if there is, you stay out of it. You go to safety. You leave me.”

Jaskier stares at him as if this is the most painful thing Geralt has ever said. And given that Geralt has told Jaskier quite a lot of hurtful and stupid things over the years, that’s saying something. “Never.”

The word is breathed out, and yet it feels heavier than a pound of lead. Jaskier’s fingers press harder into the skin of Geralt’s chest. “Never, Geralt. You would never leave me in such a state. I can’t ever leave you.”

His hand is still around Jaskier’s wrist, and he can smell honeysuckle and sweet summer meadows, not too sweet, not overwhelming, just a subtle, fresh scent, like breathing in proper forest air after being in a rotting dungeon for two weeks. Jaskier dyed his hair for him. He pretended to be his rival, the man he arguably hates most in the world, for Geralt. He risked his life for Geralt—and then sang him lullabies and petted Geralt’s hair, all while feeding him and bandaging him. Like Geralt was someone precious.

“You don’t understand,” he begins, but Jaskier cuts him off.

“No, Geralt, I understand perfectly. You were willing to just waste away and die there, of—of blood loss or rats nibbling at you and giving you perfectly horrendous diseases, or of starvation or dehydration or all four at once, since you’re an overachiever that way—”

“Jaskier.” He seizes Jaskier’s hand, the one pressed to his chest, the one that most assuredly can feel the pounding of his treacherous heart. “If they had caught you, they would have used you. Hurt you. To get to me. And it would have succeeded.”

Even now, the very idea makes him want to bare his teeth and rip something apart.

Jaskier stares at him. “…oh,” he says, in a rather small and feeble voice.

It feels almost ridiculous that this, after so long traveling together, should be the thing that breaks him. The thing that reveals the hidden lump in his throat, the truth he’s stifled for more than two decades now. Jaskier has been beside him, unchanging, ever-youthful, and yet Geralt has never been able to shake the fear that Jaskier will be snatched away.

But he was the one snatched away, and Jaskier was the one who brought him back. Who risked it all. For him.

It still seems almost ludicrous, that one would go through so much, risk so much, for a Witcher. For Geralt.

“You shouldn’t have—” Words, always failing him. “Not for… you know, the danger, of—”

“I won’t apologize for caring for you.” Jaskier’s fingers have tangled with his, somehow. “I know I didn’t have to go after you. I know I didn’t have to do any of it. But I did. Because you would do the same for me, and because even if you wouldn’t—I still would have. Because I chose to. I chose to care about you a long time ago, Geralt.” He cracks a small smile. “On purpose, even.”

Geralt has no idea what to do with this. Any of it. “You… sang. To me.”

“Ah. Yes. Well. I thought you wouldn’t remember that.”

“You don’t want me to?”

Jaskier pulls away, and something inside Geralt’s chest aches harder than any of the still-healing scars, but Jaskier only tends to the rabbits for a moment, rotating them so they don’t burn. “I thought you would object to it if you were in your right mind. I’m no fool, Geralt, and you’ve proven your friendship to me many times over. I didn’t want to forge a river too far. One that couldn’t be crossed back again. But you were… I’ve never seen you like that.”

He’s staring stubbornly into the fire, not meeting Geralt’s gaze. And Geralt is gazing at him, oh, yes, because he had never thought—he’d assumed that if Jaskier felt anything, if Jaskier’s casual flirtations were anything more than simply Jaskier being, well, Jaskier, that Jaskier would’ve fucking said so by now.

Guess not.

“I wouldn’t object.”

Jaskier turns back to look at him and Geralt—Geralt dares to reach out, to take a lock of Jaskier’s hair between his fingers. It’s soft, like the rest of Jaskier. “Hated you as a blond.”

“Good to know,” Jaskier murmurs, and he seems to be hearing all that Geralt isn’t saying, because he crawls forward, into Geralt’s lap, and kisses him.

Jaskier’s a clever kisser, which isn’t surprising. He was, after all, a very clever bard the past few days. Or weeks. However long it’s been. “When did you get so capable?” Geralt asks, the words pressed right up against Jaskier’s mouth.

“I wasn’t always with you on the road, Geralt, I had to take care of myself, you know.” Jaskier runs his thumb over the edge of one of Gealt’s wrist bandages, and pauses. “Whatever—whatever you feel, at the idea of—of my being caught, Geralt, you must understand—they did catch you.”

Geralt stares up at his bard, who is still so young looking, and so soft, and strides right into every situation ready to make friends and take the whole world in his open arms. But this is the same bard who sassed the king of the elves, used a djinn wish to try to kill a man, and once smashed his second-best lute over the head of a barkeep because the man talked shit about Witchers.

Geralt nods. “All right,” he says. He won’t ask Jaskier to leave him again. That’s fine. He’ll just have to be more careful, so he’s never in a spot where Jaskier will have to put himself in such danger.

Both parties win.

Jaskier smiles, bright as summer, and Geralt kisses him because, well, it’s a rather pleasant way to pass the time until dinner’s ready.

 


 

They’re finally back in a town and Jaskier’s inspecting some very lovely silk ribbons (the rabbit furs did fetch them some good coin and he deserves something nice…) when he hears the gossip.

“Dropped dead, he did,” the woman is saying to her friend.

“Um, good morrow, pardon, ‘scuse me,” he interrupts. The two women peer at him and he gives them his most winning smile. “Who dropped dead?” Maybe there’s a job in it for Geralt.

Geralt himself is one stall away, inspecting some daggers, although gods only know why, the man’s got plenty of steel and silver on him.

“Why, the lord one duchy over,” the woman tells him. “He crossed a Witcher, and was cursed. Died in agony.”

“…agony?” Jaskier tries not to sound too thrilled.

The two women nod. “The Witcher was in his dungeons and disappeared right under his nose. Flew away like a bird! Left nothing but a feather behind. And the lord touched it and was cursed and died.”

The feather. Oh, gods, the feather he’d sharpened to a deadly point and coated in poison, in case Geralt needed to defend them. Or if Jaskier himself had been put in a corner and forced to fight his way out. Even with such a paltry excuse for a blade it would’ve been better than nothing, and Jaskier hadn’t wanted to risk bringing in actual weaponry.

It must’ve been brought up from the stables—perhaps by a guard, wearing gloves as all the guards did, so the poison didn’t touch him and the sharpened point didn’t cut—but it did cut the bare-handed noble who inspected it.

A Witcher’s poisons work fast. And they are indeed painful.

“I suppose that’s what he gets,” Jaskier says, attempting to make himself sound casual and not all-out gleeful. “I heard he imprisoned the Witcher unfairly. It’s what happens when you try to double-cross them.”

The women look a bit scared but also impressed, and Jaskier whistles on his way over to Geralt. “I have good news.”

“Hmm.” Geralt hands him a dagger. “Hold this.”

“What? Oh.” Jaskier takes it, hefts it in his hand, marveling at the balance of it. “The friend whose company we recently parted found our calling card.”

“I have no idea what calling card you’re talking about.” Geralt takes the dagger from him and says to the shopkeeper, “This one.”

“The feather, you idiot, you dropped it when you passed out on me—literally on me, and did you know that you weigh more than a dragon—and he picked it up and cut himself and it poisoned him. He’s dead!”

Geralt exchanges coin for the dagger, then hands the dagger to Jaskier. “Hmm.”

Jaskier stares down at the dagger. “What…?”

Geralt shifts his weight, a subtle tell that he’s embarrassed. “Figured it was a… logical next step. Just in case. I should teach you a few things.”

Jaskier can’t help but beam at him, and Geralt doesn’t even protest when Jaskier wraps his arms around the Witcher’s neck, putting all of his weight on Geralt. “You want to teach me things about handling a blade?”

Geralt looks pained, and extricates himself from Jaskier’s grip. “I take it back. You’ve proven yourself capable on your own.”

“What? No, Geralt, come—get back here. Geralt!”

He has to jog to catch up with him, but Geralt lets Jaskier interlock their arms together. Geralt’s face probably looks annoyed to all the passerby, but Jaskier’s been Geralt’s boyfriend (lover, partner, whatever you’d like to call it) for two weeks now, and his bard and barker and best friend for much longer than that, so he knows—he knows when Geralt’s inwardly smiling.