Actions

Work Header

A Song of Silk and Steel

Work Text:

The first touch nearly turns suicidal. Geralt hisses and bats Jaskier’s hand away from his forehead—and glares like he’s envisioning the ways he might get rid of Jaskier’s body.

Luckily, Jaskier isn’t the easiest person to get rid of, and after some time at various royal courts he’s almost immune to intimidation, unless he has a dagger to his throat. Which happens sometimes, but, also fortunately, not on an everyday basis.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jaskier says, ignoring Geralt’s stare and making another attempt to dab at the cut on his forehead with a damp cloth. “I know all this caked blood looks dramatic, but believe me, everyone in the tavern must have seen it, so why not let me clean it off? You seem like a type who doesn’t care much for his wounds, and that’s very masculine of you of course, but rather unhealthy.”

Geralt sighs with obvious annoyance, but sits unmoving this time, letting Jaskier tend to him. The expression of resigned forbearance on his face is priceless. Like he’s a captive warrior finally reconciled with his fate. Totally worth a ballad.

The problem is, Geralt would hardly appreciate a song about his looks. He barely appreciated the one about his heroic fight with the elves. But it’s fine. The folks at the tavern had—and it had earned Jaskier and his boorish companion a meal and a bed, which had been timely, considering Geralt had given all of his coin to said elves and Jaskier had been broke for quite a while. Maybe Geralt’s bloodied countenance had contributed to the effect.

In addition to the crust of blood on his forehead, from the sylvan’s iron ball, Geralt’s got a split lip and a few nasty bruises. Jaskier has dexterous fingers, one wouldn’t be able to play a lute otherwise. He tries his best to be gentle, and not only because he wouldn’t want another punch in the guts. Geralt seems to be so unused to someone else helping him. He’s akin to a magnificent, scary sword no one had cared about, a sword covered in gore and dirt. It’s a bit sad.

A random act of kindness… it’s hardly enough to make Geralt feel different, and it’s sad, too. It’s like touching the neglected sword with a delicate silk fabric, hoping the blade won’t cut through it, simply because it’s been made for cutting, by someone else.

***

To be honest, it’s strange how easily Geralt has gotten used to him. Jaskier is a pest, sure, he’s never denied that. He’s been following Geralt whenever he could, writing down his adventures. But although Geralt still grumbles at him, it seems more of a habit. He lets Jaskier fuss around him, and blabber a lot, and even… er… help him bathe.

Maybe being covered in selkiemore guts makes him more amenable to bathing in whatever company; Jaskier will do when it comes to scrubbing the stinky filth from his skin and out of his hair.

Or maybe he doesn’t see Jaskier as a threat, as a rival. A lot of men who think themselves tough feel the need to challenge him, which never brings them any good, by the way, but Jaskier isn’t tough at all and doesn’t even pretend to be. He’s a different material entirely—silk at best, not steel. You can’t be threatened by a silk cloth, right?

He must be more tolerable than Geralt’s women, too, because they never stay for more than one night, while Jaskier is still around. Jaskier would bet they like to comment on Geralt’s scars and ask for stories of how he got them. An even securer bet is that the witcher doesn’t like it. Geralt doesn’t seem to enjoy talking in general, lest about his hard-won battles; he’s usually so stingy with the details. But it’s all right, Jaskier doesn’t need him to talk, he can do it for both of them. Fill the silence, making it seem like a dialogue without Geralt making much effort to participate. His ‘hmm’ and ‘ugh’ and ‘fuck off’ are usually enough to maintain a lively conversation.

Geralt gets really angry, though, when Jaskier mentions his own abundant love conquests that might cause a bit of trouble at the royal betrothal. Does he disapprove? Would he disapprove even more if he knew Jaskier had been eyeing him with a certain interest for quite a while, or maybe even right from the start?

Jaskier is attracted to women. Usually. Mostly. With a few exceptions. Well, maybe more than just a few, but that’s not the point—maybe he just has a high sexual drive, so what?

The point is, Geralt could be one of these exceptions if he ever were in the mood, but it’s unlikely, isn’t it? Even if he were up for experiments, which is rather doubtful considering his tetchy straightforwardness, he doesn’t seem to want any … complications. Entanglements. Oh well, such a shame.

“I need no one. And the last thing I want is someone needing me,” Geralt grumbles. It’s pretty much his motto.

“And yet here we are,” Jaskier says and belatedly hopes his wistfulness isn’t too apparent. But surely, Geralt won’t even think he meant anything else but the bodyguarding job.

Jaskier really wishes Geralt had someone close. Not him, fine. But someone good, someone loving. Someone who wouldn’t mind his grumpiness as well. Geralt deserves that, no matter what he might think. And needs it, no matter how vehemently he denies it.

Despite all of his turbulent love affairs, Jaskier is pretty much on his own, too. He can relate.

***

One should be careful with wishes. Sometimes they hurt and scar, like the three gashes left on Geralt’s arm after his rather unproductive encounter with the jinn. It had been Jaskier who’d ended up bandaging them because Geralt tended to disregard such trifles.

Geralt still has insomnia. And in addition to it, he’d acquired an unhealthy obsession with the witch who’d tried to capture the wish-fulfilling creature. When Jasker had thought Geralt needed someone, he definitely hadn’t meant her. But oh well, wishes never work the way they should.

Geralt and Yennefer seem to have a very sporadic but passionate affair going on. Whenever and wherever they meet, which happens surprisingly often, they might exchange a few unkind words, but always end up in bed. Just like now.

A decent person would have backed off quietly and closed the door, but Jaskier never claimed he was one, and there’s no well-mannered elf to pull him away this time.

They seem too preoccupied to discard their clothes completely, but still, it’s... an interesting sight. For a few moments, Jaskier watches in sort of fascinated trance how Geralt moves on top, among rumpled sheets.

Until Geralt, without turning back, throws a pillow in his direction. It hits the closing door. Jaskier is good at making rapid retreats; he’s had a wide practice fleeing from avaricious creditors and jealous husbands.

“You could have locked it,” he mutters to himself, trudging down the rickety stairs to the tavern hall and pondering where he’s supposed to sleep. At the stables with Roach? He, Viscount de Lettenhove. To be honest, he’s had to spend nights in worse places sometimes, especially when he’s been on the road with Geralt, but still, it’s unfair.

In the end, he orders a pint of ale, and then another one… and another… and wakes up from his very uncomfortable nap on a bench in the early hours of morning, when the witch comes down, wrapped in furs, clearly intending to leave. Without Geralt.

She stops in front of him.

“You,” she says. “Do you usually sleep in his room?”

“It’s our room,” Jaskier mumbles tetchily. “We paid in half.”

It’s for the sake of saving some coins that they share rooms and sometimes even beds when they are traveling together.

She laughs him in the face. “Oh I’m sorry. Poor thing. He forgot about you,”—and goes away, still laughing, before he can strike her with a metaphor or two.

It’s funny how eloquence fails him when it comes to personal matters. He must work on that.

Jaskier goes up to check on Geralt, just to be sure the witch hasn’t done anything to him—well, except for wearing him off with beastly carnal delights. He finds Geralt still sleeping. Peacefully, it seems, which is a good thing, for it doesn’t happen often. Geralt is an uneasy sleeper, put mildly. He tosses and turns all night long, and talks more in his slumber than he does when he’s awake—not very distinctly, but not quietly either. All the people who say witchers are incapable of emotions should have tried sleeping with one. It’s worse when he’s lying awake, though, and Jaskier can feel desperation radiating from him. It’s so frustrating he’s unable to help.

Now the tragic, angry crease between Geralt’s brows has smoothed out, and he looks almost happy. If the devilish-eyed Yennefer is to be thanked for it—well, Jaskier is thankful. Geralt’s peace of mind is more important than his somewhat egotistic dislike of her.

Jaskier yearns to climb into the bed beside the witcher and doze off, too, but he doesn’t want Geralt to wake up. Moreover, to wake up and see him instead of his beloved witch. So he slumps to the floor by the bed, prepared to wait and wait and wait.

***

To be honest, sometimes he gets tired of the adventures he’s been craving so much a decade ago. Does it mean he’s getting older? Crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes Yennefer had been so eager to mention, and all that…

When he sits down beside Geralt on a windy mountain slope to console him after Borch’s death, there’s also something else on his mind. He’s always been cheerfully assuring himself and others of Geralt’s invincibility, despite all his scars, but today he’d seen him almost fall into the precipice, and it’s pretty eye opening.

Turns out it’s considerably less scary to be afraid for your own life than for someone else’s.

“Look, why don’t we leave tomorrow?” Jaskier suggests on impulse. “That is, if you'll give me another chance to prove myself a worthy travel companion.”

Geralt’s only answer is his usual pensive “Hmm.” But at least it’s not a “fuck off”, so it’s promising.

“We could head to the coast. Get away for a while,” Jaskier continues with some hope. “Sounds like something Borch would say, doesn’t it? Life is too short. Do what pleases you while you can.”

“Composing your next song?” Geralt mocks him, like he always does.

Jaskier licks his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. “No, I’m just… uh… Just trying to work out what pleases me.”

What would please him is dragging Geralt somewhere nice, somewhere safe, right now, and keeping him there as long as he can. He’s gained quite a reputation as a bard, despite what Geralt might think of his vocal talents. They could live off his performances for a while if they settle in a wealthy coastal city. It will be temporary of course, but then, anything else is temporary, too.

Monsters can wait. Don’t witchers deserve a vacation from time to time, if not a retirement?

But of course Jaskier doesn’t say any of that, unprofessionally short of words when it’s something personal.

And of course Geralt goes straight to Yennefer’s tent after their conversation. Because that’s what he wants.

And leaves with her in the morning. And blames Jaskier when they have a fight. Or more exactly, blames him for bringing them together in the first place, and also for luring him to the royal banquet where he’s accidentally acquired a child he never wanted. Turns out it’s all Jaskier’s fault: “The Child Surprise, the djinn, all of it! If life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands.”

It feels worse than a punch. Maybe it’s all true, but it’s also so uncalled for, so astonishingly, so monstrously unjust that Jaskier doesn’t even try to argue.

“Right. Uh. Right, then,” he mutters lamely. “I’ll… I’ll go get the rest of the story from the others. See you around, Geralt.”

It sounds very much like, “Geralt, you don’t really mean that, do you?” It sounds as if he hopes Geralt will say, “Yes, see you around.” Geralt doesn’t, predictably.

Is it so bad, having someone you’re bound to, someone you care for? Is it so painful Geralt wishes it would never have happened?

Jaskier can’t decide whether he wishes Geralt would never have happened to him. Later, he’ll be turning Geralt’s words over and over again in his head—was he really so bad a companion, was he really bad luck?—but now he’s too stunned to think about it.

He wishes someone would tell him, like he’d told Geralt, “You did your best. There’s nothing else you could have done.” But there’s no one to comfort him, and he feels like an old dirty rag, thrown out with despise.

I’m not your friend, Geralt had always kept saying. Maybe Jaskier should have listened better.

***

It’s Geralt who tends to obsess over seemingly meaningful words like ‘destiny’, though he says he doesn’t believe in it. But Jaskier, who believes in destiny even less, can hardly call it anything else when he stumbles over Geralt, lying feverish and delirious in a random hut in the woods.

Jaskier’s intention had been to approach Sodden, besieged by the Nilfgaardian army, in order to compose an epic war ballad. One needs inspiration and some material for that. Not necessarily true facts, but at least some colorful details. But what he’d seen, even from afar, had made him want to vomit, not to indulge in rhyming. No matter who’s slaying who, and why, all corpses reek the same, whether they are clad in black and gold or not. Countess de Stael—who’d welcomed him back after all—wouldn’t appreciate if he sang of how ugly the war really looked. Not gallant at all.

The farm owner, Yurga, tells Jaskier Geralt has saved him from some kind of corpse-eating creatures, nasty lads, judging by Yurga’s description. The wound’s been troublesome, but Geralt has almost recovered. And then he’s gone wandering into the woods, as if in a trance, and the wound has reopened. He’s come back with a girl, an orphan Yurga’s wife has found, and simply collapsed afterwards.

Jaskier sits by the bed where Geralt is floating through uneasy dreams. He looks pale and boyishly vulnerable, despite all his strength, eyelashes fluttering as he struggles with something only he can see, something rather distressing, lips parted like he’s about to call for someone.

The war is too close, it would be more prudent to keep moving, but Jaskier knows he won’t leave, he just can’t. He won’t be able to do much if soldiers or marauders arrive. More exactly, he won’t be of any help at all. So it shouldn’t matter if he flees or not. And yet…

Suddenly Geralt opens his eyes wide, blinks at Jaskier, and tries to get up.

“Julian?” he murmurs.

“Uh, I didn’t know you remembered my real name,” Jaskier begins, unexpectedly and pathetically delighted, but Geralt sinks back onto the stale pillow, back into his fever.

Jaskier hesitates for a moment, then reaches to touch Geralt’s hand, just slightly, and his fingers get caught in a firm, spasmodic grip. Jaskier doesn’t try to worm out and sits there, beside him, aching with helplessness.

“He can’t die,” a girl in the corner says with stubborn desperation, palms clasped tightly in her lap, like she wants to throttle someone invisible. “He can’t. Not now! He has to help me.”

The princess, Jaskier notes to himself without much surprise. It’s also very much unsurprising, what she says. Everybody wants something from the witcher. He has to kill for them, to save for them. To be strong, intimidating, and indestructible.

It’s not like Jaskier is judgmental about it, oh no. He wants Geralt to live for purely selfish reasons, too, because it’ll hurt if he doesn’t. It’ll hurt too much to bear.

When Geralt’s dreams become quieter, Jaskier goes to check on Roach. The mare bumps her head into his chest, a friendly beast. At least she is definitely glad to see him.

“He didn’t look overly displeased when he recognized me,” Jaskier tells her. “Does it mean he isn’t angry at me anymore, or was it just fever?”

Roach only gives him a sigh for an answer, an equivalent to Geralt’s “Hmm”. She has no idea why they quarreled in the first place.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t a good companion, but I tried, really,” Jaskier confides in her. He feels so lonely—and guilty, too, like everything bad that has happened to Geralt is somehow his fault. “I understand why he wouldn’t want me around. He never got much from our… friendship. He had little but trouble because of me. He constantly had to get me out of some scrape… Gods, what kind of crazy person talks to a horse?”

Roach doesn’t look like she’s thinking less of him because of what he’s said, and it’s very nice of her.

Jaskier finally leaves when the fever breaks and Yurga tells him the witcher is going to be fine.

Maybe he would have risked Geralt’s displeasure and stayed if Geralt were alone, but he’s got his surprise child now. A family, of sorts. They say people linked by destiny will always find each other, and it looks like it’s true. Maybe it’s the best happy ever after a witcher can get.

***

When Jaskier hears word of the witcher again, Geralt is recovering from another injury at the Temple of Melitele in Ellander where they tend to the wounded and the sick. Jaskier considers getting drunk before paying a visit to him. But the last time he’d tried that for courage he’d been even more chatty than ever and ended up coughing out blood after Geralt had wished him to shut up too empathetically in presence of a jinn. So he thinks better of it.

He walks down a poplar-flanked road from the gates to the sanctuary built against a mountain wall, and doesn’t know what he’ll say. Inside, he tries to flirt with one of the priestesses, but more out of habit, and also because he’s delaying what he’s come for. And then—he’s finally standing by Geralt’s chamber, his mind still blank. He would have spent much more time like that if Geralt didn’t open the door and waved for him to come in, impatiently. His sour countenance says, And for how long were you going to pretend you weren’t there and think I wouldn’t notice? Jaskier is now skilled in understanding Geralt’s silence. Some of it.

The witcher is half-naked and barefoot, his hair is loose and uncombed, and there’s a bandage covering his shoulder. Three deep, nasty gashes, as the priestess has told Jaskier. Claws. But on the whole, he doesn’t look unwell. He looks grim, though. His gaze is so intent Jaskier considers quietly backing off and closing the door behind himself.

“Why did you leave?” Geralt asks at last.

It makes Jaskier let out a nervous laugh. “When?! I left you so many times, after you told me in no unclear words I had to be on my own now. One stops keeping count after a while.”

And yet I always come back like the fool I am, he doesn’t add.

“I meant at that farm. Yurga’s. I thought I’d dreamed you up, like others… Turned out you’d been real.”

“Our friendship in a nutshell,” Jaskier murmurs. “No, don’t mind me. I just… Well, I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome if I stayed. It’s not like we parted on good terms.” He pulls on his doublet nervously. “If you want me gone now, just say it outright. I’ll listen this time.”

“She told me something. Yen. At the dragon’s lair. About my disregard for others’ freedom. So I thought—it was better to cut you off there and then. Life is too short to waste it on someone who isn’t worth it.”

“Well, thank you so much for reminding me of my unworthiness…”

Geralt growls. “Jaskier, I was talking about myself. I thought you’d be safer without me. And happier. My life is bloody and violent. I couldn’t keep you trudging after me, from one peril to another, not when you clearly wanted piece and quiet.”

Jaskier stares at him. “That’s very humble of you, I suppose, but it doesn’t make you less of an ass. Pushing away someone who loves you, without explaining anything, hardly counts as a good deed.”

“Loves…?”

Oh shit. He shouldn’t have said that.

“Forget it. You wanted to explain yourself, and you did. I won’t say your apology is graciously accepted because it didn’t sound like an apology, actually. It was more of a self-excuse, for you to feel better. Fine. You’ve done the right thing. Hooray. Everyone’s happy. Except not. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t even safe. Now can we talk of something else?”

Only there’s not much to talk about, probably. He won’t ask where princess Cirilla is. The less he knows the better; he’s learnt it in a very unpleasant way. (Tightly drawn, creaking rope holding him taut as a string. Pain in his constricted wrists and shoulders, cruelly twisted in their joints...) He won’t ask about Yennefer either because he’d met her recently himself. Or more exactly, he’d been unexpectedly saved by her timely arrival when some obnoxious magician with a pointed nose and a penchant for pedestrian violence had just started asking questions about his friend, in a very persistent manner.

What a joke, Jaskier had thought. Geralt never used this word.

But Yennefer had, like the magician who’d barely escaped. “You traveled with him. Thanks to you he was not alone,” she’d said. Maybe that was why she hadn’t liked him then and had showed sympathy for him now. And mentioned the Temple of Melitele, in passing.

“Perhaps it’s better if I go,” Jaskier says in a small voice when silence lasts for too long. Yennefer was wrong. Not a very bright idea, coming here.

But before he even turns, Gerlalt grabs him by shirt ruffles. “Don’t.”

Jaskier freezes. Fear must be clear on his face because Geralt lets go and takes a step back.

“I hurt you?”

Jaskier breathes in and out, a bit shakily. “Now? No. Somebody else did, so I might get a tad panicky for a moment when I’m grabbed like that.” He adjusts the collar and straightens the lace on his chest with more precision than necessary, thinking he must sound like a coward. “But we’re even with him, I guess, because now he bears a rather prominent scar on his face.” Thanks to Yennefer, not his own capabilities; Jaskier sucked at defending himself. “He wanted to know things about you. Where to find you. Fortunately, I didn’t know then. So I couldn’t say anything.”

Geralt’s face becomes thunderous. “Who?”

“No idea. A magician who probably works for another magician. Are you short of people who want to find you with malicious intents?”

Geralt rubs his chin, still gloomy, brows knitted. “I guess not. That’s what I wanted to spare you.”

“Well, you haven’t,” Jaskier jibes. “And anyway, if I got spooked off by violence so easily, I would have left you in peace after I called you a butcher and you punched me.”

“I don’t understand why you haven’t.”

“Me neither.”

And that’s how he stays, again, for no reason at all.

***

Of course Geralt protests against Jaskier combing his hair because it’s utterly ridiculous; he’s not a toddler. Of course Jaskier doesn’t listen. He kicks off his boots, tosses off his doublet, and climbs onto the bed beside Geralt for better access, disregarding his sound arguments, as always. He doesn’t mind being ridiculous, not at all.

“Your mane is a tangled mess. You’ve got so many knots in there you’d never get them smoothened all by yourself. Unless you want to spare us both the time and get a new haircut… No, no, just kidding, don’t glare at me, sit still. It seems like you’re not looking after yourself properly. One of the priestess girls told me you’d come in with several days old wounds, untreated, when they had already gotten infected. Apparently, you must have thought you had other, more important things to do rather than turning yourself in sooner.”

“What does anyone care?”

Jaskier’s hand stills for a moment. “Well, I do. Even if I’m not around, I’d rather be sure you’re doing your best to be alive and well.”

Geralt gives him a startle—suddenly leans back to him, almost sags, and murmurs gruffly, “I’m tired of doing my best. Maybe the time has finally come when I get slow and…”

“No. No-no-no,” Jaskier utters hastily. “Don’t say things like that.”

He drops the brush and wraps his hands around Geralt’s midriff, careful not to disturb the fresh bandage. It’s a protective gesture, instinctive more than rational because, weak and insignificant as he is, he won’t really be able to save Geralt from anything. Not from monsters, not from destiny, not from himself.

“That’s bound to happen someday,” Geralt says almost soothingly—as if that’s comforting! “Nenneke, the priestess, says I’m losing my reflexes.”

“I bet she does it every time you come here to recuperate, with yet another wound.”

Geralt smiles faintly. “That she does.”

His shifts a little, and his head comes to rest in the crook of Jaskier’s shoulder.

Jaskier had touched Geralt a lot, cleaning his wounds, washing off grime. Yet, throughout all the years, there hadn’t been anything resembling a hug. Well, if Jaskier doesn’t count that time when he’d been attacked by the jinn and Geralt had dragged him to a healer and then to the nearest magician who’d happened to be violet-eyed and red-lipped. But that had been for practical reasons. Jaskier had never touched Geralt simply because he wanted to; it had seemed inappropriate at the very least.

Now it’s definitely a hug. They sit like that for a while, Jaskier’s heart beating heavily.

“Sorry,” Geralt finally says.

“Huh?”

“You were right, it wasn’t an apology, earlier. Now it is. I’ve said stuff to you. I don’t want these words to be the last thing you remember about me, so…”

“Shut up,” Jaskier begs desperately. “Shut up.” He nuzzles into Geralt’s neck, into the stubble and warmth, while his hands are roaming along Geralt’s flanks and abdomen, caressingly. “You just need a rest, you just need to stop thinking of monsters and blood… and whatever you’re thinking of. All right? Let me take care of you. Let me…”

The thought of Geralt not just disappearing but ceasing to exist, forever, is unimaginable, unbearable, just like when Jaskier had watched him almost stumble into the precipice in the King Niedmar’s mountains, and to escape it, Jaskier presses a feverish kiss into Geralt’s uninjured shoulder, and then another one, and another one, along his collarbone.

“Let me…” he whispers. “I’ll make you feel good, just for a while. I’ll make you forget. Take your mind off of things.”

Jaskier has always been self-confident at wooing and seducing, but this time, he hesitates, waits if he should back off, waits for Geralt to rebuff him, to say, “No” or even “Fuck off, bard.”

Geralt doesn’t.

Jaskier tells himself to go slow, his heart drumming even harder than before, as he continues a trail of kisses, further and further down. He’s selfish, yes, but it doesn’t mean he’s usually focused solely on his own pleasure. He takes pride in being a good lover. Perhaps even exceptional. He likes to be praised for whatever he does, be that his songs or his sexual prowess, and if it’s selfish, too, there’s nothing bad about it for all the parties involved.

And this time, it isn’t about him at all.

Jaskier hands are a little shaky when he fumbles with Geralt’s pants, especially because he can feel an unmistakable bulge there. When he puts his lips and tongue and all of his skills to use and Geralt’s hand tightens in his hair, not painfully but with convulsive abandon, he takes it as encouragement. He would have grinned smugly if his mouth weren’t busy at the moment.

He’s been right. Carnal pleasures are always a good distraction.

***

Geralt is always drowsy after he comes; Jaskier knows that much after having observed his fuck-and-sleep patterns with Yennefer. And yet as they lie side by side, facing each other, Geralt’s pants still askew and Jaskier’s shirt somewhat stained with spunk, Geralt keeps staring at him intently, silently.

“Say something?” Jaskier prompts, unnerved by this scrutiny.

He’s anxious, he must admit that. It’s not like he’s waiting for applause, but a short review would be nice. Just a hint whether Geralt really liked it, on a scale from one to ten, or what could have been improved. And whether Geralt is inclined to let him have another go at his cock. No one else hesitated to comment on the quality of Jaskier’s performance, with either praise or not exactly favorable remarks—and it’s good; how else would have he become a better lover? But Geralt lingers, like he has something on his mind, but doesn’t have the right words. Maybe that’s because…

“I know you love someone else,” Jaskier says with as much nonchalance as he can muster. “It’s fine. This oughtn’t be about love. We’re friends. Friends can have a good time. Nothing complicated about that.”

Except that maybe it is, for him.

One would think loving someone was elating, but it’s not. It’s an unexpectedly hollow feeling, like his chest has been opened and emptied and sewn up again. Jaskier is glad he’s never been in love before, not really. He’s had many… ahem… romantic adventures, but never cared to stay for more than a few nights. He’s a traveler, a vagabond, a free spirit.

With Geralt, he doesn’t feel free. It’s like he’s bound himself to the witcher with an accidental spell.

Geralt groans. “Damn, I’m not good at it. How do people talk about such things?”

“What things, exactly?” Jaskier wonders cautiously.

Geralts pokes him in the chest, rather hard. “You. Me. Us.”

There’s exasperation in his voice.

“Ow,” Jaskier says belatedly and rubs the place where he’s been poked. “I mean oh. This. Yes. I see. Are you worried I might tell someone? But there’s no need to practice your deadly finger stabs on me, really. Nothing to worry about. I might seem like a chatty person, but I’m perfectly capable of keeping my mouth shut when needed. You might ask when it ever happened that I kept my mouth shut, but you only know what I’m talking about and not what I’m not talking about, and there’s actually so much more I could…”

“You’re babbling.”

As always, Geralt tends to state the obvious, but this makes Jaskier go silent. He wants to say, You can trust me. But if Geralt doesn’t, no words will be able to change it in one second.

“I might let you down, unintentionally, but I’ll never betray you,” he says quietly instead.

Geralt sighs. “I hope neither will I. I have, though. Betrayed you. Bound you to myself and then abandoned. I don’t want to hurt you again. You are important to me. I want to… reciprocate, but I’m not sure I’ll do everything right.”

The mere idea of Geralt reciprocating out of… gratitude? guilt?—is so unfair, not only to Geralt but to him, that it robs Jaskier of breath for a moment.

“It’s not necessary,” he tries to explain. “You needn’t feel obliged…”

Geralt’s face suddenly grows dark. “Was it just a pity fuck? A one-time deal?”

He looks upset, hurt even, and it’s so unexpected after what Jaskier’s been thinking that he can’t help a totally inappropriate, nervous giggle. “Oh no. Definitely not just that. I do have sympathy for you, but pity? None at all. You’re yet to see. And hear. I might update you on my renowned ballads, you’ve missed some.” He risks plucking at a thicket of Geralt’s chest hair, almost playfully. “And if, despite that, you really want it to be… a multiple time deal, I’m all up for it. Only…” he pauses, overcome by hesitancy again. “If you ever send me away again, it will be so much worse.”

Geralt cups Jaskier’s cheek with his calloused palm. “I thought you’d be better off without me. You belong at royal palaces and I belong at… not very nice places.”

“I belong to you,” Jaskier retorts crossly. “I think I’ve given you ample evidence of that.”

“Then I guess… I’ll take what I’m owed.”

Jaskier makes a very undignified quacking sound when Geralt grabs him and pulls him close, and Geralt stills. “I forgot I shouldn’t seize you.”

“No, no, that’s… that’s fine, you can, actually. Do you mind if I take my shirt off? It’s hideously sticky. And then you can grope me all you want.”

The pants come off, too.

Geralt is watching him with something akin to amused tenderness, like he’d been regarding him at the royal banquet—who knows what might have happened after it was over if not for the mess of curses, and prophesies, and words dropped without thinking?

It feels strangely right, being naked with Geralt, lying beside him, touching him and being touched. They know each other for so long that there’s no awkwardness in it.

I won’t leave you, not ever again, Jaskier thinks. I’ll wrap myself so tightly around you, comforting you, making you warm, that the only way to get rid of me would be to cut through, but you won't do it again, will you?

He might seem laughable (sometimes) and annoying (most of the time), but it’s not like he’s too bad a companion after all, is he? He has his charms. And if Geralt is still thinking of Yennefer… Jaskier finds he doesn’t begrudge him that.

It’s a ballad he’s never going to compose, but the images are right there in his mind. You can’t love a capricious dandelion and a proud hawk the same way, and yet you can love both… if you’re generally inclined to love something. Or someone. So maybe, just maybe…

Silk and steel, Jaskier muses. A very unlikely pair. And yet, here we are.