Jaskier loves to drink. Wine, mostly. A good ale between trips is fine refreshment for the weary soul, Geralt agrees, but Jaskier takes that and adds a couple tankards to Geralt’s lone drink.
It’s not a problem on their coin. Beer is cheap and with both their professions combined, occasionally free. In the cities of the western coast, it happens more frequently all thanks to the bard’s fame and his propensity to busk when together. It makes sense, with the muse of his many ballads right there with him. The witcher. The White Wolf. Just by standing there, he lends life to the stories Jaskier sings and makes the people more amenable to offer their coin and buy drinks.
What Geralt doesn’t understand is why Jaskier feels the need to smash himself stupid in every town along the coast.
They’re in Novigrad, the rich and vibrant harbor of Redania, gulping down genuinely good-tasting beer. Jaskier is indulging in his third cup. Geralt’s barely finished his first. The tavern of their choice is loud with boisterous patrons, many of them visiting for the string of summer festivals had in the countryside. Part of it is the reason why they happened upon the city. Courtly balls and overflowing banquets are Jaskier’s livelihood. He could very well gather enough coin from performances in this one week to put Geralt’s year to shame.
He doesn’t care about that, though. It’s not a competition, nor a matter of wealth. If the path of a Witcher is Geralt’s calling, then so is Jaskier’s art of composition and song. That, Geralt understands too well. That feeling of contentment, of being satisfied with what he is given and no more, so long as he can do what he was made to do. It is what forced their paths together, back in a tavern in Posada. Him looking for monsters to slay, and Jaskier looking for heroes to write about.
Still, for every new tavern they go to, Geralt questions if it wasn’t for the prospect of a future full of booze. Hunting monsters certainly would put better men to nurse their sanity at a bar’s side.
“Another one on the house,” a drunk fellow boasts to the aleman, giving the good bard a slap on the shoulders. Jaskier’s lute makes twanging sounds by the flick of his clumsy fingers.
“This is why I like Redanians.” Jaskier coughs settling down in the seat he shares with Geralt. His cup’s contents swish, refilled. Geralt raises one brow at him. He looks an unkempt mess, brown hair fluffed up and doublet unbuttoned at odd intervals. “We should meet here more often, I say. Though I understand the work is fewer and far between for you.”
He’s right. Geralt’s barely had an offer in the two weeks spent roaming the Redanian territories. The Skellige Isles across the water would be more generous to his purses.
Still Geralt shakes his head. “It’s fine while the summer lasts.”
Once, he would have skimmed past the edges of the kingdom. There’s never been any good memories tied to the towns and cities here. But since meeting the lively bard, that’s changed somehow. Less people spit at his feet, more are open to meet his yellow eyes.
It wasn’t so long ago that he accepted the disdain in silence. Then Jaskier happened. Jaskier and his stubborn, relentless drive to have everyone like his witcher friend as much as he does, which is apparently quite a lot.
Geralt still feels like he doesn’t deserve that. Part of him expects it to be a trick. A means to an end. But looking at how Jaskier is smiling at him with a dazed glint in his eyes, the thought quickly evaporates.
“I say we get drunk,” the bard announces, cup lifted to the air. “Celebrate the summer in true Redanian fashion.”
He’s ridiculous. Geralt huffs, lips stretching upwards.
“Is that what they call it? Is that what you call it?”
Jaskier smacks Geralt’s shoulder, but he can hardly feel it through his layered clothes. “Don’t question me and drink.”
As the bard sits back comfortably though, he misjudges the length of his bench and almost falls right out of his seat, if it weren’t for Geralt’s quick catch of his arm.
“Hmm,” Jaskier eloquently adds to his own plight, half-dangling from his seat thanks to Geralt’s iron grip. “I think I’m already drunk, actually, how about you?”
With his witcher strength, it takes no effort to pull Jaskier in so he slouches over the table. Geralt sighs. “ You definitely are. And I wouldn’t know.”
Jaskier is about to finish the rest of his drink, but at that, he pauses.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’ve never been drunk.” Not for a lack of trying, he doesn’t say. It is just that his witcher mutations don’t really make the task plausible. Geralt doesn’t particularly care about it though.
Jaskier, on the other hand, looks absolutely scandalized, gapping at him like a fish out of water.
“You’ve never been drunk? As in—never ever? Oh-hoh, I will not have that. We’re fixing that immediately.”
Now it is Geralt’s turn to blink. Jaskier starts wiggling out of their bench so he can stumble over to the bar. There, the aleman stands wiping a cup clean. The look he sends them is unimpressed, resigned to get whatever else the city’s favorite poet wants.
Seeing as he takes his sweet time, Geralt moves over to the bar on his own terms.
He sits down facing Jaskier who’s busy figuring out what liquor lies behind the counter with enough kick in it to throw even a witcher to the floor.
Geralt taps his ankle with a weak kick.
“What if I don’t want to get drunk?”
It’s a fair question, because Geralt hadn’t really thought about it until now. That does put a considerate expression in Jaskier’s eyes. “Alright, I can respect that. But Geralt—and be honest here—don’t you want to know if you can? What it’s like? I could describe it for you if you don’t feel up for it, but I fear I’ll sorely misrepresent it.”
They stare off for a second, Jaskier tilting downwards to cradle his face on top of raised knuckles as Geralt’s gaze gives up and wanders across the bottles collected against the far wall of the bar’s interior.
Jaskier must read it in his face because a grin starts crawling up his cheeks.
Geralt calls up the aleman—and really, by the stand of spirits and liquors at his disposal, ‘ale’ falls far too short a marker of his profession. “Let’s get something stronger then.”
“Alright,” Jaskier mumbles into wood. “Maybe that was a tad too strong.”
Geralt himself is currently downing his tenth cup in one gulp. It’s barely filled with a mix of clear liquids, but going by its intense smell and the burn it left going down, the aleman was right to caution him. Jaskier himself only had one, and it’s already done him in. Geralt isn’t yet sure if he’s reaching his limit.
He’s not actually sure of anything other than the heat spreading up through his throat. The sensation is not wholly unpleasant.
“I can take one more.”
The aleman recommends he not dare to, but the whole point of this careless drinking night is to get intoxicated, and if he can’t even do that then Geralt will not have just disappointed himself. He’ll have nothing to show Jaskier except for the absolute resilience of a witcher’s liver.
One last cup gets poured out for him. For this one, Jaskier lifts his head to watch him slam it down.
The burn flares like coals in the wintery hearth of his lungs. Geralt covers his forehead with one broad hand at the feeling. It’s almost unbearably hot all the way from his chest to his eyes.
A persistent heat gathers up his sinuses. It feels strangely like he’s sick with something.
“Ah, how are you fairing there? Geralt?”
At Jaskier’s voice, Geralt removes his hand and—his eyes track the limb as it falls back to the tabletop. The way it moves is...off. Like his brain took a fraction of a second longer to translate thought into movement.
Geralt doesn’t quite understand why that is. So much so that he openly glares at his fingertips, testing them on the wood.
“Geralt? Lost for words?”
The words swivel him to look at Jaskier—he forgot to answer the first question altogether—and there, Geralt experiences a false vertigo. He knows he’s facing Jaskier now, hyper fast to the realization but with his body caught as if sifting through quicksand.
He’d thought to say that no, he’s not lost for any words, he’s just processing at a reasonable pace the confusing set of sensations currently overwhelming him, but what comes out of his mouth is a thick, “Gheh?”
Jaskier blinks at him, slow. Then he bursts into uproarious laughter.
“I do think you’re drunk now, my friend,” Jaskier says once he stops to wipe at his glistening eyes. One of them remains closed after he’s done. Geralt’s own start focusing on the air between them, for no apparent reason.
Gods, they’re drunk. He’s drunk.
Jaskier raps the wood with his knuckles. “I’ll have the expenses now, good aleman.”
The bill is considerable. Good distilled liquor took time and effort to brew. And Geralt practically swallowed a year’s worth of labor on his own. Between the two of them, it’s affordable, if a bit of a dent on their coin purses.
Standing up, Geralt immediately clutches the stool for support when the room twists under his feet. That he’s not fond of. If being drunk means losing his balance, it’s not worth the trouble.
But Jaskier is there, giggling softly to himself as he lifts one of the witcher’s arms over his shoulder. And if their evening is to be like this, swaying to the side with every few steps with Jaskier glued to his ribs, then he doesn’t mind as much.
“You know, the key to any good inebriation is not how much you drink, but how fast. And you were certainly making it into a race at the end there.”
Geralt hums in agreement, just a step shy of tripping over Jaskier’s clambering feet. Outside, the sun’s already set to welcome a cold breeze. The markets are stuffed with people, even at night. Baubles and rarities gleam against his round black gaze.
A couple steps out of the path when they see them—two great big shouting drunks and the swords fastened on one of them. It’s Jaskier who shouts. Geralt utters short, cut syllables. He’s not quite sure how loud those are, though. Can’t blame the folk avoiding them because of the swords.
Their chosen inn is a couple streets down and every foot the witcher takes feels like a marathon in the making. He’s never this winded, but by the gods in the north, the liquor’s a worse fight than a manticore. His stomach rolls at what he assumes to be the inn’s doorstep. Jaskier yells about something else, something Geralt doesn’t catch as he is busy contemplating how to properly climb a single stair while also keeping his gut in check.
“Just take the step, you oaf, I’ll—ghpull you up.”
Impossibly, the bard does, and soon enough—or slowly enough, since Geralt is still experiencing the quickened pace of his vision pitching a war with his body—they’re in their rooms, rented through the week.
“How are you feeling?”
Geralt has a second to blink. And to process everything. Somehow, he’s already sitting on the bed, back against the headboard. Jaskier half-slumps over his stretched legs with a weary groan. It’s not uncomfortable. Not with Jaskier. His own body, on the other hand, is at odds with him.
He gives a second more to contemplate the bard’s question. “It’s weird. Not bad, but everything is...unfocused. Out of—control?”
Even with Jaskier lain over his legs, Geralt doesn’t really feel his weight. His skin thrums too-hot, and his eyes ache after staring at the light of the candles. It faintly reminds him of the first witcher trials, when the masters were pumping alchemic concoctions into his body to see if he could take it.
Jaskier rises up on his elbows to frown. “Is—is it too much? Do you want that detoxing potion you take for poison?”
“No.” It’s a half-truth, because while he’s not enjoying the experience in his body right now, and a shot of Golden Oriole would be the smart thing to do, Jaskier is doing that worrying bit of his that makes Geralt’s stomach squeeze pleasantly. Unlike the trials, this he takes to calmly. Relaxed, even.
Geralt quirks a smile and adds, “I’ll have you to keep vagrants away.”
“Oh? Vagrants, you say.” At that, the bard turns on his back and shimmies to the bed’s headboard. They’re sitting elbow to elbow. Jaskier’s wearing a wicked grin with a laugh lodged in his lungs. “Am I to be a glorified doorkeeper?”
Geralt nudges him off as a joke, and there they start a strange, uncoordinated game of push-and-shove with Jaskier’s giggles finally springing out. Something about his open childish fit loosens the vice of Geralt’s guard and he almost starts laughing with him. He’s grown familiar with this Jaskier—the one that clings to his shoulders after one too many cups of wine.
His touch has always been warm, an oasis where others sooner give him a wide berth. It’s always Jaskier who pats the witcher’s arms free of dirt, or brushes fallen strands away from his face. Being drunk just removes his reservations completely.
And for Geralt himself, he’s beginning to learn being drunk means becoming receptive. With every one of Jaskier’s careless slaps, Geralt leans into the bard’s space and shivers. The second time he does that, he’s rewarded with a hand on his hair that thumbs the edges close to an ear.
After a long bit where neither of them speak, Jaskier stops his sniggering and falls into quiet contemplation. His hand doesn’t stop stroking through frost-white hair.
“...Are you really alright, Geralt?”
The tension building in Jaskier’s voice will not be allowed any longer. “I’m fine. Uh, I think I can't feel my legs?”
“Probably my fault.” One of Jaskier’s knees is bent and digging into Geralt’s thigh. Geralt doesn’t mind. It means Jaskier sinks against his arm and bends naturally to face him, though he might have done that anyway. Jaskier loves to see and be seen when speaking to someone. Said bard chirps “What?” after a moment.
Geralt now notices how he’s been paying quite a lot of attention to Jaskier—how Jaskier is sitting, what faces he’s making, that his hand still rubs down through Geralt’s hair. A bout of embarrassment hits him. He’s not sure for how long he’s just been staring. It doesn’t seem like Jaskier minds all that much. If anything, one side of his mouth lifts in amusement.
“I—hmm,” Geralt starts and stops. Whatever comes to him as an excuse quickly slips right through his skull and into the night. Often he is wordless, but this time it is truly for hesitating to speak, and not the usual choice of keeping his thoughts to himself.
“Anything left in that smart witcher head of yours? I know the liquor’s good at replacing wit for buffoonery.”
Geralt smacks him, a solid tap on his chest. His hand lingers there.
Jaskier takes it in his own and giggles again.
His other hand covers Geralt’s cheek, and the witcher is quickly brought back to the first time he’d done that—carelessly, recklessly, while Geralt gleamed monstrously, with bottomless eyes, after hunting ghouls. So foolishly fearless and worried for him. It makes his stomach seize again, this time full of something heavy. Like a desperate yearning for a yet unnamed feeling.
Geralt covers that hand with his own and it’s better. It eases the pull reaching inwards, and Jaskier’s eyes are so blue and bright and wide staring back at him.
He’s not sure who moves first but there’s lips pressing against his own. Tentative, at first.
A groan like relief leaves Geralt and it spurs Jaskier to press harder, to turn it into a proper kiss. Geralt’s other hand, still in Jaskier’s grip, is trapped between their chests. All he can do is tug the bard closer by his nape, spreading his fingers there to stroke as much skin as possible.
Heat rises like vapor up his spine. He feels airy. Winded all over again, and wanting more of Jaskier’s demanding little sounds against his lips.
Geralt opens his eyes—and when had they closed?—to Jaskier sitting back to release their clutched hands and better grip Geralt’s face, up towards him. He’s a smiling loon. It makes something warm brew in Geralt’s stomach. So much warmer than hard liquor going down.
No—wait, no. The warmth bites. It feels sour behind his tongue.
Jaskier leans for another kiss and Geralt has to stop him with a sudden jerk of a hand. The confusion that blooms in Jaskier's face hurts to see so close, but the sour feeling becomes an insistent press against his throat. Water pools in his mouth.
To Jaskier’s half-open lips he says, “I—I’m going to vomit.”
That makes the bard pause, blink, then immediately scramble off the bed. “Wait, hold on now there’s a pail in the next room—don’t start gagging just yet—”
He does a clumsy two-step over their things, babbling for Geralt to wait just a second more as he lugs a sturdy pail of wood over to him.
“Here, just lower your head now. Just like that, good. And don’t try to hold back, Geralt! Trust me, let it out.”
He does—trust him that is, and it’s absolutely mortifying to have interrupted such a good, rare moment between them for—for this. Because he can’t hold down the dangerous amount of clear liquor in his stomach. If the other witchers could see him, they would never let him live it down.
“Come on,” Jaskier murmurs at his side, holding his hair back from spilling over inside the pail. In that instant, it all comes rushing out. It doesn’t burn, weirdly enough. Geralt expected a bitter burn, not the crawling sensation that blankets his senses.
He retches a second time, and then it burns. A smothered cough leaves him. His vision blurs with a sting. To top it all, fever-heat gathers between his ears. He feels so keenly like wriggled laundry.
Jaskier rubs circles into his back. That soothes some of the new aches forming. He’s so gentle and quiet, humming under his breath.
A bubble of shame threatens to burst inside Geralt. “I’m—sorry,” he says as he tries to put the pail on the floor, the smell is too much on his frayed senses, but Jaskier reads his intention and he is quick to pull it out of the witcher’s shaking hands for him, waving off his apologies.
“It was bound to happen. Anyway I’ve seen much worse from you. Nothing will be as bad as the selkiemore guts—”
“No, not—” Geralt swallows again, thinking the nervous jump in his chest would turn into another heave. It doesn’t. But the feeling lingers the longer he holds Jaskier’s gaze. “I wanted, to keep kissing.”
The nervous jump spreads inside his veins, his heart pounding a drumbeat to its rhythm. The admission is too loud. Too selfish.
Geralt turns his face away before he regrets saying the words for whatever look that comes across the bard’s face. He can blame it on the drink, if it comes to it. Jaskier doesn’t know how disappointingly clear his mind is, despite the heat and the loss of his finer control and restraint.
“Well then,” Jaskier starts easy and carefree, and surely he’ll make a joke and it will defuse the tense moment. They’ll move on and forget— “Go on and wash your mouth and we’ll try again.”
Geralt looks at him, stunned into a stupor. He can’t have heard that right.
And Jaskier must catch the skeptical path Geralt’s thoughts take, because his eyes soften to a melted blue, and his hands continue their previous ministrations, covering the witcher’s back and sides with such featherlight care.
“Geralt, I’ve loved you for years. You wanting to kiss me isn’t going to scare me away.”
For a second, Geralt screws his eyes shut as if to test that there isn’t a pitched whine ringing in his ears making him hear things. There is no ringing. There is just Jaskier’s half-quirked smile when he opens his eyes again, an amused little tilt to his head and blush-red spreading on his pinked cheeks.
He thinks of all the times Jaskier stuck to his side, when he didn’t need to. He thinks of the bard’s open worry, and affection, and all the little human things Geralt took time getting used to, because no other human has ever treated him with half as much love.
Love. Fuck, has it always been love? Is that what hammers behind his ribs insistently every time Jaskier cups a hand over his face, like it’s the most natural thing to want to touch a witcher’s face?
Wordlessly, Geralt nods and gets his feet under him to do as suggested. It’s a terrible effort to stay upright and walk when he wants so badly to remain motionless on a soft surface. Worse yet, to separate from his bard’s emphatic touches.
There’s a washbasin in the adjacent room, coupled by a hanging mirror and a bucket from the well. Jaskier’s things clutter every available surface. Some of them are simple oils to rub over drying skin. Some are meant for cleaning and bathing. With Jaskier waiting in the other room, Geralt wastes no time. He finishes gargling with a pinch of salt rubbed into his gums. Not as good as he might have wanted, but it leaves him feeling far better than before.
“See now, you look refreshed,” Jaskier croons from the bed. He pats the side of the bed where Geralt had been comfortable just a few minutes ago. That’s all Geralt needs to be spurred forward.
Crawling over the sheets is a daunting task when his vision still swims at whatever angle that isn’t straight ahead. The bed comes up to meet him, nose-first, Jaskier caught halfway in the struggle. But if anything, that makes the bard snigger right by his ear, right before kissing his way down to Geralt’s eager mouth.
They’re a mess, both drunk to their tits and bumping noses and knees. Hands crowd Geralt’s face, his hair, the slivers of scars on his sides, and every touch is like fire licking under his skin.
I’ve loved you for years. The words are imprinted into Geralt’s mind. He’ll hear them in his dreams.
His mouth goes numb with how long they spend worshipping the other’s lips—not just lips, but face, tongue, skin, everything —, and still Geralt hopes they never stop.
With morning comes the mistake of heavy drinking.
A rough groan slips out of Geralt. Immediately he stops it, the sound painful from inside his ears. Dim light peaks from the weathered edges of the windows, though they are shut tightly enough that it wouldn’t have bothered Jaskier.
At the steady flow of yesternight’s memories, Geralt reaches out.
The bed is empty.
His heart startles into a gallop at meeting air. The first thought that crashes through the sluggish morning haze is that he’d imagined the whole thing. But the sheets are still warm. The covers that are drawn up around the witcher smell like Jaskier. And yet, the bard isn’t there.
Geralt doesn’t have the time to delve further in what reasons his brain cooks up because a bone-splitting headache throws him flat on his back and he would rather be unconscious again than suffer through whatever agony a hangover is.
He’s holding a down-pillow over his head when the door opens. A new smell wafts under his nose. Eggs.
Geralt dares to raise his shield. He’s greeted by Jaskier’s rumpled, sore-eyed face.
“I come bearing gifts,” the bard burrs, voice as low and grave as Geralt’s usually is. He does smile brightly.
Geralt can’t fathom how he’s even capable of standing. Slowly, he sits up and grunts in acknowledgement. Even that much little work revives the ferocious migraine.
Jaskier presents him with a half-dozen boiled eggs and a large filling of water. “Those always make me feel better in the morning after a rowdy drinking night,” he explains. At this point, Geralt will accept anything as long as it works.
He takes the bowl of eggs and the water. Nausea hasn’t come back for a second round since last night, but the prospect of eating does raise a queasy feeling.
The thing is, Geralt trusts Jaskier, so he’ll give his remedy a try at his own expense.
“Take small bites. You don’t have to eat them all.” Jaskier moves from sitting at an unbearable distance to right at Geralt’s hip. His hand comes up to hold the bowl for the witcher when it becomes obvious half the eggs are the most he can do. Anymore and Geralt fears he’ll retch.
The water, though, is perfect. Geralt takes measured sips between bites and sighs when the cup is empty.
Soon enough, the cup is taken from him too and all Geralt wants to do is sleep. It’s so very easy to tuck Jaskier into the hollow of his neck once the leftover food is put aside, to drape his limber form over himself and block out the world. Jaskier’s soft breaths and faded perfume scents could be a remedy on their own.
But he admits that his arms wrap a bit too urgently over the bard. It’s enough that Jaskier, so attuned to Geralt’s moods, asks him what’s wrong.
“I.” He cannot lie. “You weren’t here.”
The look that crosses Jaskier’s face hurts to watch. “I’m sorry. I wanted to have something ready for when you were up.”
He knows now. The regretful twist of Jaskier’s brow doesn’t belong to him. He has no reason to regret being thoughtful. Just as Geralt has no reason to doubt him.
There has never been a reason to doubt him.
But it’s hard for Geralt to express it in words when he’s lost to the waves of his own feelings. All he can do is press his lips to Jaskier’s again and hope he understands the weight of things unsaid.