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As Long As You Were Mine For a Little While

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Jaskier knows his performance is less than inspired tonight.

His heart just isn't in it and by the lackluster reactions he's receiving—as well as the depressingly low number of coins—it's very much obvious.

He can't be blamed, really. Jaskier would dare anyone to be his usual level of charming and dazzling when the man you're in love with is currently visiting a whorehouse. Right this moment, Geralt is probably following a beautiful, curvy woman to a bed. Or maybe they're already there, already touching, already undressing.

He supposes he could always go for heart-wrenching ballads about lost love and loneliness. He would probably do very well at those tonight. But he doesn't really need to make himself even more mauldin; he's already feeling wretched enough.

Jaskier sighs and puts his lute down, mid-song. It earns him a few looks, some jeers, but no serious protest.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

He'd wanted to follow Geralt to experience adventures and write songs, to live up to his potential and redeem Geralt's reputation. And sure, he would not have said no if Geralt had shown any interest even when they first met—no, he would have said yes, very enthusiastically.

But he was never supposed to fall in love with Geralt. Or, at the very least, he wasn't supposed to not fall out of love again within a few weeks, the way he is prone to do.

And now here he is. With Geralt at a whorehouse, getting his needs met with someone who is decidedly not Jaskier, and Jaskier is left behind to nurse a broken heart.

Jaskier sighs once again. "Well," he says, faking a cheerful smile as if nothing is wrong. "I must apologize, but I fear that is it for tonight, dear folk. Perhaps tomorrow night I will come back and delight you with my songs."

The man at the table right in front of Jaskier looks up at him, mouth pursed in confusion as if he's only now seeing Jaskier for the first time. Jaskier huffs, because he really hadn't been that bad—probably still better than any hack of a bard that had come through town previously.

His mood further fouled, Jaskier decides he's had enough of people for the night. He suddenly aches to be alone. To let himself wallow. He knows, come tomorrow, he will feel better. Tomorrow, whatever woman Geralt is paying tonight will be a thing of the past and Jaskier will have Geralt back.

Upstairs in their room, Jaskier puts away his lute and sheds his doublet, then sinks down onto a chair. He thinks maybe he should have had the foresight to ask the innkeep to bring up some wine or ale for him, so he could get exceedingly, wonderfully drunk and let his worries be washed away.

He startles when the door suddenly crashes open, his heart in his throat until his brain catches up to what his eyes are seeing. Geralt.

Geralt, who shouldn't be back for a couple of hours, if at all tonight. Geralt, who looks tense and unhappy.

"What are you doing here?" Jaskier asks stupidly, and he can't deny the relief that floods him despite Geralt's obviously sour mood, because Geralt is here, with him, instead of with some woman.

Geralt just grunts and sits on the bed, leaning down to tug off his boots.

"Geralt?" Jaskier prompts. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but I assumed you'd be, ah, otherwise engaged for a little while longer… wait, don't tell me what they say about a witcher's stamina isn't true?"

Geralt looks at him sharply, an eyebrow raised.

Jaskier waves him off quickly. "Doesn't matter. Just one of those things people talk about," he dismisses and pushes himself up with a hand on the table. He goes to join Geralt, sitting down next to him gingerly. "So. Why are you back so early? Couldn't find anyone that pleases you? I didn't figure you the type to be so fickle."

This close, he can see just how much tension Geralt holds right now. His jaw is clenched, his lips pressed together, eyebrows drawn.

"Couldn't find anyone who wanted to please me," Geralt finally says, voice level in that way that Jaskier knows Geralt has to force, careful not to let any emotions slip.

"I thought you wanted to visit the whorehouse?" Jaskier frowns. "Did you not have enough coin? I, uh, didn't make a lot tonight, but I can give you some more."

"There was nobody who wanted to serve a witcher, Jaskier." There's still no bite in his words, no bitterness. There doesn't need to be, Jaskier can see it all in the stiffness of his shoulders, the controlled blankness of his expression. And he can feel those emotions settle in his own belly on Geralt's behalf, the sour, acrid bite of anger.

Geralt rid the nearby lake of drowners earlier that day, putting an end to people dying, and this is the thanks he gets.

And as much as it had eaten at Jaskier, the thought of someone else touching Geralt, taking care of Geralt, he knows Geralt had needed it. It's been weeks since Geralt had last allowed himself to indulge in anything—weeks on the road, weeks of fighting monsters and ridding towns of pests, weeks of going wherever bodies were piling up, of wailing parents and husbands and wives asking Geralt for help and offering little coin in return.

"It doesn't matter," Geralt mutters into the heavy silence.

"Of course it does," Jaskier says gently and rests a hand on Geralt's shoulder. "You don't deserve this. I don't know how many times I will have to say this before you believe it, but this is bullcrap. You prevented Gods know how many more people in this town dying in the future and the amount of coin you got is, quite frankly, insulting. And they don't even have the decency to at least repay you in kindness or a fucking service you were going to pay them for."

"They're scared of me," Geralt mutters and moves to get up. Jaskier clamps his hand down harder; Geralt could shrug him off easily, but he stays, shoulders sagging under Jaskier's touch. His strong and mighty witcher looks oddly small in that moment, resigned, and it pains Jaskier when he gets like this.

"I'm not. Scared of you," he says, and then before he can stop himself he adds, "I can help you out."

Geralt goes very still.

"If you wanted to. I wouldn't mind," Jaskier continues, the words coming out too fast now. "I'm very good at it and it's not like having sex with you would be a hardship. And we both know you could use a little relief, so why not let me help you out with that?"

"Jaskier," Geralt starts.

Jaskier knows he's probably already in trouble, has already said way too much, so he might as well go all in. He might make foolish decisions sometimes, but at least he commits to them.

He angles his body towards Geralt's and rests his hand on Geralt's thigh, lets his fingers slowly slip up higher. "Just let me," he says. "I can make you feel good."

Geralt makes a low sound, deep and dark, and he turns and grabs Jaskier by the wrist. But he doesn't push Jaskier away. Instead he tugs; Jaskier tumbles against him and then Geralt's mouth is on his.

It's a hard, dirty kiss, not sweet and soft and teasing like so many first kisses Jaskier has shared, and he can taste Geralt's desperation, his need. Geralt kisses him like a man who is starving for it and it makes Jaskier's blood sing and his chest ache at the same time.

He pulls away with a firm hand on Geralt's chest and for a brief second a pained look crosses Geralt's face before he schools his expression. But Jaskier saw and he knows Geralt, has learned to read Geralt in ways Geralt isn't even aware of, and he can guess what Geralt is thinking right now. That Jaskier changed his mind, that he's getting cold feet.

Jaskier smiles gently at him and touches Geralt's cheek. "Lie down," he murmurs. "Just relax, let me do all the work."

Geralt grunts, not looking quite convinced, but he moves up onto the bed, laying down.

Jaskier pulls himself up on his knees, nudging Geralt's legs apart with his hands so he can crawl between them. Geralt watches him silently, just letting Jaskier do, and it warms something deep inside of Jaskier, that Geralt trusts him to do this, to take care of him.

He leans over Geralt and dips down. "Let me," he whispers, as if Geralt isn't already doing just that, and kisses the hinge of Geralt's jaw. He moves his lips down, trailing kisses, sweet and soft, down the side of Geralt's throat to the curve of his neck.

Geralt tilts his head to the side silently, offering more skin, and Jaskier nips at the taunt flesh before soothing the sting with his lips. He moves one hand down, settles it on Geralt's stomach and curls his fingers in the material of his shirt, giving it a tug as he pulls his mouth away from Geralt's neck.

"Take this off," he says.

He sits back on his haunches and Geralt quickly sheds his shirt, tossing it aside. Jaskier licks his lips, smiles.

He puts his hand on Geralt's shoulder, pressing him more firmly into the mattress. "Good. Now relax," he says, and Geralt rolls his eyes.

"I am relaxed."

Jaskier snorts, suspecting that Geralt really believes that. The poor man has probably never been truly relaxed a day in his life. And Jaskier will do his damndest to remedy that right about now.

He leans down, kisses Geralt, brief and soft, and then moves lower. He nuzzles under Geralt's chin, brushes his mouth over his Adam's apple as he scoots down. Geralt's chest is littered with scars, some big, some small. Jaskier has seen them often enough over the past months of traveling with Geralt, knows the stories of some of them first-hand.

He follows the line of the one under Geralt's left pec with his mouth, gently like his touch might hurt even if the wound has long been healed. His fingers trail down Geralt's sides, slide over heated skin as he maps out the traces of Geralt's past written all over his flesh.

He wonders if others do this when they're with Geralt. If they kiss every inch of him, whether smooth and clean or dirty and scarred. If they worship him, all of him, the way he deserves.

"You're beautiful," he murmurs, hoping Geralt hears him and wishing he won't at the same time. Geralt grunts, and Jaskier sighs against his skin. He presses a kiss to Geralt's sternum, then lower, making a path to the waistband of his trousers.

Geralt is hard, the bulge big and firm, and Jaskier nuzzles him through the leather, feels the thick line of heat under his mouth. It makes his own arousal spike, but Jaskier tries his best to ignore it.

Geralt groans, hands coming up to rest on the back of Jaskier's head. His fingers slip into Jaskier's hair, tangling, but not pushing, not guiding. Jaskier hums and presses open mouthed kisses to the outline of Geralt's cock, tasting leather on his tongue.

"Jaskier," Geralt bites out, his voice choked.

Jaskier smiles, noses teasingly at Geralt's cock and then pulls back after a final kiss to undo Geralt's trousers. He lifts his hips wordlessly, lets Jaskier strip him naked. Jaskier usually appreciates how tight Geralt's trousers are—really appreciate it—but they're a pain to get off and Jaskier is not a patient man, especially not when he gets to undress his witcher.

The fabric finally comes off and Jaskier, for a moment, just stares. He's thought about having Geralt spread out for him like this many times, but his imagination—good as it is—couldn't have come close to reality. His eyes look darker than usual, white hair fanned out on the pillow, his skin almost golden in the candlelight and the only thing he's wearing is his medallion. And his cock is big and hard, tip flushed and damp, his balls full.

He is gorgeous and Jaskier wants.

"Gods," he murmurs and Geralt makes an impatient noise.

"Patience, dear witcher. Let me enjoy this, too," Jaskier admonishes.

Geralt narrows his eyes. "I thought—"

He breaks off when Jaskier wraps his hand around his cock, his hips twitching up.

"Hmm. You were saying?" Jaskier teases as he strokes him once, twice, slowly, and then leans down. He brushes a kiss over the tip of Geralt's cock, then opens his mouth around it.

Geralt tastes a little bitter and musky and Jaskier knows he could get addicted to this, the way Geralt feels as he takes him in, the weight of him on his tongue, the feel of his lips stretched around him. It's everything Jaskier has wanted, everything he's thought about for the past months, having Geralt like this, pleasuring Geralt like this.

He licks around the head and then slowly lets him slide in deeper. He pulls back, only to sink his mouth back down onto Geralt, until he finally takes him in as far as he can, until he feels Geralt hit the back of his throat. Geralt groans. His hand comes up to the back of Jaskier's head, the other settling on his nape.

"Fuck, Jaskier," Geralt grunts, and Jaskier loves hearing his name like this, Geralt sounding so wrecked already. He pulls back up and sucks at the head of Geralt's cock, traces the slit and the thick vein on the underside. It's a thing of beauty, and Jaskier fears he's going to be ruined for all other men from now on, because nobody else will taste like Geralt, feel like Geralt. He moans softly around him, and then lets him slide back in while stroking the base of Geralt's cock with his hand. His own spit eases the way, lets him jerk Geralt off smoothly as he works him with his mouth at the same time.

Geralt isn't very loud, Jaskier notices. Just small grunts and groans and occasionally Jaskier's name. And he barely moves, either, doesn't push up into Jaskier's mouth or pull him down onto his cock, doesn't tug on his hair or grip him tightly. Next time, Jaskier thinks, next time he'll tell Geralt he can be a little rougher—Jaskier doesn't mind one bit. For now, he focuses on using every little trick he knows, sucking and licking and touching Geralt, noting every little reaction he gets, how Geralt likes it when Jaskier grips him a little tighter, likes it when Jaskier hums and swallows around him.

His own cock is painfully hard, pressing down into the mattress. He feels like he's buzzing with how good this feels, how much he wants this.

"Jask—" Geralt finally hisses and then he lets out a gasped grunt and Jaskier feels him stiffen. He pulls up a little, strokes Geralt through it as he spills into his mouth, hot and salty, until Geralt goes boneless.

Jaskier lets Geralt fall from his mouth. His jaw is aching and his breath is ragged and he's still hard, desperately so, and he's never, ever felt more wonderful. Jaskier presses a kiss to Geralt's hip, his belly, and then lifts his head.

Geralt looks sated and Jaskier feels a little smug, knowing he did this to him.

"Feeling better?" he asks.

"Hmm." Geralt's lips lift in a small smile.

"Good," Jaskier says and sits back. He isn't quite sure what to do now, if it's okay to keep touching Geralt, to kiss him—gods, does he want to kiss him.

Geralt looks at him, eyes dropping, and then nods at Jaskier's crotch. "Let me repay the favor," he offers, and Jaskier feels a flash of heat at the thought of Geralt's mouth on him.

Still, he shakes his head. He did this for Geralt, to help him relax, and he wants him to stay just the way he is now, sprawled out and loose-limbed, looking, for once, content. He lets his own hand settle low on his stomach, fingers brushing against the top of his trousers.

"Would you mind if I…?" he asks, and he thinks he sees something on Geralt's face. Interest, perhaps.

Geralt nods and Jaskier bites his lower lip to muffle a groan. His fingers fumble to undo his trousers and he starts to push his hand down the front the moment there's some room, when Geralt grunts.

"No," he says. "Take them off."

Jaskier halts.

Geralt waves at himself. "Fair's fair," he points out, and the bastard looks a little amused.

"Fuck," Jaskier mutters, but he starts stripping out of his clothes, eager and fumbling. Geralt watches and Jaskier flushes under his gaze. Once naked, Geralt makes a quiet noise, like he approves, and Jaskier moans before he even touches himself, want burning through his body.

"Jaskier," Geralt murmurs, just as Jaskier wraps his fingers around himself, and a warm, heavy hand settles on Jaskier's thigh, squeezes.

Jaskier groans and he only has to stroke himself a handful of times before he comes with a broken cry, spilling over both of them.

"Sorry. Sorry," he mutters, winded.

Geralt gives him a little tug then, pulling Jaskier down, and Jaskier yelps a little as he tumbles down, his body boneless.

"What were you saying about stamina earlier?" Geralt murmurs, amused, and Jaskier makes an affronted noise as he rolls off of Geralt to lie next to him.

"Fuck you. Nobody has ever had any complaints," he says cheerfully, if breathlessly. "There was just a lot of build-up. You can't blame a man for coming quickly after so selflessly putting his pleasure aside to help out a friend."

"Hmm."

"And I believe you should be a little bit more grateful, really. I know I'm quite good with my mouth," Jaskier continues. "And a lot cheaper than a whore."

"But not free?" Geralt mocks and when Jaskier swats him, Geralt catches his wrist in his hand, pulls him to him while rolling onto his side. He kisses Jaskier and the earlier desperation is gone now, it's just soft and slow. Unlike anything Jaskier pictured Geralt to be like in a situation like this, and yet it makes perfect sense.

Under the impenetrable armor, under the glares and grunts, there's a softness that Geralt hides from the world. Buries deeper with each time the world rejects him, with each scathing insult hurled at him.

The world thinks him a monster, unfeeling, and so that's what Geralt gives them. But Jaskier knows better. And he silently vows to take better care of him from now on, to care about him twice as much if the rest of the world won't.

Jaskier hums and pulls back just barely so he can talk. "Hmm, no, not free," he says and dips back in, brushing their mouths together again. "But I will accept this as payment, my dear witcher."

*

"Give me your shirt," Jaskier says, his hands on his hips.

Geralt looks up at him from his perch on a log, eyebrow silently quirked. There's a dark, green-black goo matting his hair on one side and seeping into his clothes. He's already wiped his armor down and Jaskier knows Geralt will give it a proper cleaning later. First though, it's time to take care of the rest of him.

Jaskier makes a shooing motion towards the small stream. "I'll go clean it, see if it can be saved," he says. "Thank Gods you wear a lot of black."

"I can—"

Jaskier shakes his head before Geralt can go on. "You can go clean yourself up before that monster gunk dries," he says firmly. Despite Geralt's earlier claim that he is fine, unharmed, Jaskier can see he's holding himself stiffly, favoring his left arm.

Geralt looks like he wants to argue, but then he pushes himself up with a grunt and starts pulling his shirt off. He doesn't flinch or stop once, but his movement is less fluid than usual.

There's a bruise on his chest, on the right side, and a couple of scratches, but his left shoulder and arm look fine. Jaskier takes the shirt from Geralt, grimacing when his fingers curl around slick, gooey fabric, and then waves him towards the water.

"Go ahead. I'll get some soap," he says, and then sneaks a couple of glances at Geralt's back when he acquises. No bruising there either, and Jaskier decides he will have to get to the bottom of this later, after both Geralt and his clothes are clean.

He gets the soap from the saddlebag, having to dig through an assortment of both of their things—something Geralt complained about for the first few weeks before he accepted that Jaskier, quite literally, made room for himself in Geralt's life whether he liked it or not—and then joins Geralt by the stream. He's sitting on a rock, boots off, leaned over as he splashes water in his face.

He passes Geralt the soap and then toes off his own boots and stockings, roles up his trousers and wades into the water. It's colder than he expected and the first contact makes him yelp in surprise. He hears Geralt snort beside him.

"Oh, stuff it," he mutters and takes a few more steps, careful of the slippery stones under his feet.

He soaks the shirt, getting as much of the goo off before he goes to get the soap from Geralt.

"Need help?" he asks as he starts rubbing the soap over the fabric, until he's worked up a lather.

"I'm fine," Geralt mumbles. "Not gonna get all of this out anyway."

Jaskier makes a face. "Probably not," he agrees. "We're gonna head to a town tomorrow, though, won't we? Get you a nice, hot bath, let you properly clean off."

Geralt grunts in agreement and Jaskier bends down to wash out the soap. He repeats the process three times before he's satisfied and then goes to spread the shirt out on a rock to let it dry in the late afternoon sun. He glances back at Geralt, sees him roll his left shoulder as if to test it, his expression tight.

If it was earlier in the day, Jaskier would press to head to a town now, insist on a bed and bath for both of them, but the next town is several hours away. Sighing, he goes to grab Geralt's waterskin and returns to Geralt's side by the stream.

"One more round of soap and then I'll rinse out your hair properly," he says. Geralt looks up at him, dripping and gorgeous, and Jaskier has to squash down his desire because right now really isn't the time.

"Soap, Geralt. Today would be nice," he adds cheerfully. "I really don't want to stand in cold water for the rest of the afternoon. My poor toes might freeze off."

"It's not that cold," Geralt huffs, but he grabs the small white square from next to him again and soaps the side of his hair that is still looking a little dirty. When Jaskier is satisfied with the lather, greyish now, he nods.

"Lean forward. Eyes closed," he instructs. He has to refill the waterskin several times until Geralt's hair is rinsed out to his satisfaction and he can card his fingers through it smoothly, coming away clean.

"There," he says once he's squeezed the water out of Geralt's hair.

"Thanks," Geralt says and stands up. Drops of water are sliding down his chest and Jaskier thinks it's really not fair that Geralt looks the way he does, that he affects Jaskier this much.

Unable to stop himself from touching, he reaches out and cups Geralt's neck briefly, swiping his thumb over a smudge of dirt on his jaw. "Good as new," he murmurs. Geralt makes a quiet noise in reply and leans in, hands catching Jaskier by the hips as he kisses him.

They've been doing this a lot over the past couple of months, since that first time. When they're alone, when there are no monsters to kill or songs to compose, they find themselves like this sooner or later, kissing and touching, tumbling down onto bedrolls or into beds.

Before, Jaskier hadn't thought of Geralt as someone with a particularly high sex drive. There'd been the occasional whore, but other than that Geralt never pursued anyone, never seemed to crave sharing his bed with anyone much, and Jaskier now realizes that it's not for a lack of wanting. And now that there's a willing body, he easily matches Jaskier's needs. And gods know Jaskier is insatiable.

Still, with a regrettable sigh, he breaks away. "Not now," he mumbles, and Geralt pulls away, hands dropping. Jaskier can almost see his walls going up.

"Later," Jaskier adds quickly and gives Geralt a small smile. "Let me take a look at your shoulder first and see about dinner."

"My shoulder is fine," Geralt says, and Jaskier rolls his eyes in exasperation.

"You're stubborn as a mule," he gripes. "I know it's not fine. So tell me what happened and let's try to make you feel better."

"It's nothing, Jaskier," Geralt replies, rolling his shoulders and not letting anything show on his face to prove his point. "I pulled it a little."

"Well, then just humor me, dear, and let me take care of it anyway," Jaskier says, lifting his chin a little and silently daring Geralt to keep arguing with him. They both know he will get his way in the end after all, because it wouldn't be the first time.

Geralt doesn't look happy to give in, but he does, mumbling something under his breath that Jaskier has no doubt is an insult as he turns and heads towards their little camp.

"You know, good boys get rewards," Jaskier calls after him, bending down to pick up the forgotten soap before hurrying after Geralt.

"I'm hardly a boy," Geralt harrumphs, and Jaskier grins at his back.

"Good witchers get rewards, too," he replies, and he thinks, just for a second, Geralt's step falters a little. It makes him grin wider.

They light a fire first, as the sun is starting to set, the sky darkening, and then Jaskier retrieves one of the salves from Geralt's pack. Geralt sits on a fallen log by the fire and Jaskier stands behind him, scooping out a liberal amount of the white substance. He keeps his touch light at first, only slowly adding more and more pressure as he massages the salve into Geralt's skin. The muscles under his hands are tight at first, but as Jaskier continues to rub and press, long after the salve has been worked into the skin, the stiffness fades.

"Feels good?" he asks, and Geralt hmms quietly in reply, and Jaskier smiles to himself, feeling a flash of pride that he can do this, can make Geralt feel better, can ease his pain and discomfort. "Good."

*

They do make it to a town the next day, but their presence is less than welcome. It's a small town, and those are the worst sometimes, wary of any stranger and particularly of those that are different. It's not the first time Jaskier has heard the words "witchers aren't welcome here," but it never fails to make his blood boil.

"Surely you know who you're talking to," Jaskier says, smiling as patiently as he can at the innkeeper. "This, good sir, is Geralt of Rivia."

The inkeeper looks at him impassively. "No witchers welcome here," he repeats. "Nor are the likes of you."

"The likes of me?" Jaskier repeats cooly, and out of the corner of his eye he can see Geralt stiffen, squaring his shoulders. "Pray tell, what likes would that be?"

"A witcher's whore," the man spits, looking at Jaskier with disdain.

Jaskier hums and then reaches out to stop Geralt when his hand goes to the hilt of his sword. He wants nothing more than to reach across the counter and throttle the inkeeper, but he will not let Geralt shed blood to defend his honor, knowing it'll be yet another thing that will make Geralt's life harder in the end.

"It's not worth it, Geralt," he says, holding the inkeeper's gaze. "Let's go somewhere where they're smart enough to know that coin is coin, regardless of who it comes from. Even a witcher's whore."

He holds his chin high as he turns, shoulder brushing against Geralt. "Come on," he says, and Geralt's glare doesn't diminish, but he nods.

"It doesn't matter," he says quietly as they walk out of the town, Geralt walking by his side instead of riding Roach, tense and silent and glowering. "Let them call me a whore for all I care. The place looked positively ratty anyway. We probably would have had to share a room with mice and Gods knows what. I think we might be better off sleeping outside anyways."

"Don't," Geralt grits out, voice strained.

"Don't what? You've been called much worse. I've been called much worse, too. I don't like it, I hate that they think they can treat you like that when you do nothing but help people," Jaskier says snappily. "But don't you go all broody on me now because some small town dimwit thinks I'm less than worthy because I travel with you."

"It doesn't have to be like that for you," Geralt argues, and Jaskier throws his hands up with a huff.

"Oh, don't give me that bullcrap. Don't tell me I'd be better off without you," he says snippily. "Not that I wasn't brilliant before I met you, but may I remind you that when we met, people were quite literally throwing bread at me? I wasn't exactly having a jolly good time by myself."

"They didn't like your music. It wasn't personal."

Jaskier makes an affronted noise. "Excuse me? If someone doesn't like my music that is quite personal," he argues, sending Geralt a glare, which softens when he sees how miserable Geralt looks. Jaskier's shoulders slump. "We're not that different, witcher, you and I. Even if you don't see it because you think about yourself almost as poorly as some people do."

He sees Geralt's jaw twitch and he reaches out, touches Geralt's arm.

"I'm more content traveling with you than I was before," he says. "And I've been making a lot more coin too."

Geralt remains silent.

"I will not let you push me away, because you've decided it's better for me," Jaskier presses. "I'm old enough to decide what's good for me myself. And I'm quite happy with how things are."

"You complain all the time," Geralt replies, and Jaskier grins.

"What can I say, I'm a complicated person," he says. "I'm not leaving you, Geralt. Gods know where you would be without me."

Geralt snorts and Jaskier jostles him with his shoulder, barely making Geralt move at all.

"Now, lets go find an uncomfortably hard piece of ground to settle down on for the night. I'm assuming we're going to have squirrel for dinner for the third night in a row?" he says, making a face.

"One day I will strangle you in your sleep," Geralt mutters.

"Oh, I think we can both think of way better things you can do with your hands," Jaskier flirts, and when he glances at Geralt he can tell he's trying hard to fight a smile.

*

They finally make it to a town that's a decent size two weeks later, after getting waylaid by a kelpie that had been luring travelers into a lake. Geralt comes away with a fresh set of bruises and a deep gash in his left arm, and Jaskier with inspiration for a new song.

This time, the inkeep is more than happy to take their coin and give them a room, and even more eager when he finds out Jaskier is a bard.

Jaskier insists on a proper bath and food before he performs. He feels, and looks, a million times better once he's bathed and has changed into his cleanest clothes. Down in the tavern, they sit at a table in the corner with ale and stew and for once Jaskier is happy to stay silent in favor of digging in, groaning lowly at how good the hot food tastes, warming him from the inside.

"It's been too long since we had a proper meal like this," he says once he's finished, mopping the last bit of stew up with a piece of bread.

Geralt grunts in agreement.

"Well, I'll see about earning us some coin then," Jaskier says, touching Geralt's arm and picking up his lute with his other hand.

A young woman bustles over just then, gathering their bowls with a smile which Jaskier returns as he gets up.

"Could you bring my friend here more stew and keep the ale coming?" he asks, and the woman smiles as Jaskier reaches into his coin purse.

"Jaskier, I'm good," Geralt says. "I can get my own ale."

"Oh shush," Jaskier says. "You can pay next time."

The woman laughs softly and accepts the coin from Jaskier.

Jaskier smiles at her and then turns towards Geralt. "Relax, enjoy your food. Don't scowl at people too much, if you please; they pay me more when they're having a good time and not terrified for their lives."

He saunters off before Geralt can reply, choosing a spot in the middle of the tavern and offering a wide smile to the patrons.

People seem to be in good spirits, enjoying the music and paying Jaskier quite well, and he plays until he can feel his voice starting to get a bit raw. He takes a break twice, joining Geralt for an ale before he picks up his lute again. By the end of the night, when Jaskier goes to pay for their drinks at the bar, he realizes the barmaid really must have taken him at his word and served Geralt quite a few ales.

He isn't drunk—it takes a lot to get a witcher drunk, Jaskier has found out—but he's loose and relaxed and in a decisively good mood, given that his hands are on Jaskier before they even make it all the way up the stairs. Jaskier laughs and herds Geralt into their room. He tips his head back and smiles when Geralt crowds him up against the closed door once they're inside.

Instead of kissing him, Geralt ducks down and nuzzles his neck. Jaskier hears him breathe in before he feels Geralt's mouth against his pulse.

"Tell me what you want," Geralt murmurs, rolling their hips together.

"Anything," Jaskier gasps, clutching Geralt's shoulders when Geralt bites down on the curve of his neck, gentle enough to surprise more than hurt.

Anything you want. Anything that pleases you, he thinks. There's nothing in the world he wouldn't give Geralt, no place he wouldn't follow, and he wishes he could tell him. Wishes he could tell Geralt how much Jaskier loves him—Gods, does he love him. But he knows that's not what Geralt wants to hear, that it would drive him away quicker than Jaskier could utter the words. So he takes what he can get, burying his hands in Geralt's hair and turning his face, nose brushing against Geralt's jaw.

"Take me to bed," he whispers. "Make me scream."

*

Jaskier is used to staying behind at their campsites or inns more often than not, waiting for Geralt to return. They've got a routine. Jaskier pretends not to fret and worry—and he doesn't always, because he knows Geralt is more than capable—and he works on new songs, and when Geralt comes back Jaskier will patch him up and coax any details he can out of Geralt, who begrudgingly, sparingly shares as little information as he can get away with.

This afternoon, despite the fact that he's safely remaining at their camp with Roach, the distance isn't enough for him not to hear the screeching of the wyvern. Jaskier hopes they're sounds of pain, as Geralt slays the beast.

Roach is uneasy, too, restlessly moving around where she is tied securely to a tree.

"He'll be back soon," Jaskier soothes. "He always comes back."

Roach whickers, prancing around before calming down a little.

"Good girl," Jaskier says and repositions his lute on his lap, polished and tuned and gleaming in the day's last rays of sunlight, strumming it softly. He tinkers around with a song he's been working on, humming softly where he hasn't found the right words yet.

It's not too long later that he realizes it's become quiet, the screeching of the wyvern having ceased. No sooner has he thought this than he hears a twig snapping and Geralt emerges from the treeline.

His eyes are pitch black, black veins visible under his eyes, criss-crossing over pale skin. He almost never lets Jaskier see him like this, staying away until the potion has worn off and his eyes are golden again.

Jaskier sets his lute aside and jumps up. "Geralt," he calls and watches Geralt sink down by a tree at the far side of the camp, leaning against it. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"Fine," Geralt says, his voice low and scratchy.

Jaskier makes his way over to him and Geralt closes his eyes as Jaskier draws near.

"Geralt," Jaskier says softly. "It's okay. I've seen it before. It doesn't scare me."

Geralt growls, eyes snapping open again and settling on Jaskier, dark as the night. A shiver goes through Jaskier and Geralt's mouth twists into a sneer.

"Not scared, huh?"

Jaskier takes the last few steps and sinks down by Geralt's side. "No, I'm not," he says. "I know you can smell it. Take a breath; tell me again that's fear."

He doesn't give Geralt time, swings one leg over his lap and straddles him. Geralt makes a choked noise and then his hands clamp down on Jaskier's hips, pulling him against him sharply, and Jaskier groans when his already filling cock ends up pressed against Geralt.

Geralt tucks his face into the crook of Jaskier's neck, sniffs him and Jaskier cups the back of his head, rests the other between Geralt's shoulder blades. "See?" he murmurs and turns his head, kissing the shell of Geralt's ear as he rolls his hips down against Geralt's. "No fear."

"Jaskier," Geralt moans.

Jaskier tugs at his hair. "Kiss me, witcher," he murmurs, and Geralt makes a pained noise. He lifts his head, cups Jaskier's face in his hands and crushes their mouths together, kisses him hard and demanding.

It's like something inside him has snapped, flood gates opening, and Jaskier is happy to be swept up in it. He holds on tightly and kisses back eagerly, and it doesn't take long before they're rocking together, movements sloppy and needy.

"Jaskier. Fuck," Geralt grunts and moves his lips from Jaskier's to his jaw, then the collumn of his throat. He bites at Jaskier's neck, making him cry out.

"Smell so good; you have no idea what it does to me," Geralt speaks into his skin, and Jaskier curls his hand at the back of Geralt's head and holds him against his neck as he grinds down restlessly.

"Geralt. Geralt," he chants, and then he finds himself being pushed down onto the hard ground. Geralt has him pinned within seconds, kissing him and pressing down onto him, and it feels so good, having Geralt's bulk on top of him.

"I want to be inside of you, Jaskier," Geralt mumbles, hands already tugging at the lacing of Jaskier's trousers. "Let me fuck you."

"Yes," Jaskier groans. "Oh Gods, yes. Like I would ever say no to that? You can do whatever you want, Geralt, just… fuck, please fuck me."

Geralt grunts and pulls back suddenly, dark eyes looking down at him. Jaskier's trousers are undone, loose, and he lies there, stunned and panting. He reaches for Geralt, trying to pull him back down.

"Come back here."

"Oil," Geralt says, but before he can get up, Jaskier grabs his hand.

"Wait. Wait," he says with a breathless laugh, pushing himself up. He reaches into the pocket of his doublet and retrieves a small vial with a smug grin. "I was polishing my lute earlier."

The words are barely out of his mouth before Geralt is kissing him again, pushing him back and following him down.

The oil was expensive, the kind he gets especially for his lute, but right then and there he doesn't care. Letting Geralt go, even for a few moments to get the oil they use for this from his things, seems almost unbearable right now and it's worth it. It's worth it when Geralt strips him out of his trousers, when he manhandles him around, when he bites and kisses Jaskier's neck and the top of his spine, as he sinks the first oiled finger into him.

Geralt works him open quickly, and Jaskier hadn't known how much he needed this, needed Geralt to do just this, until this very moment. How much he ached for Geralt to lose control, to act as desperate as Jaskier always feels around him. He isn't rough, but he isn't gentle either, and before long Jaskier is slick and open with oil and spit, rocking back on three fingers with small gasps and moans, fingers clawing at the dirt under his hands.

"Please," is all he can say when Geralt finally pushes into him. He grips Jaskier's hips tightly as he does so, a low growl slipping past his lips, and he doesn't stop until he's buried all the way inside, so big and thick Jaskier feels like he can't breathe.

Geralt doesn't give him much time to adjust before he starts moving, and it burns a little but at the same time the pleasure is so overwhelming Jaskier is dizzy with it. The sound of skin slapping against skin, harsh breathing and gasps and moans fill the silence around them.

Geralt fucks him hard and fast, hands pushing and tugging him the way he wants, pulling him back onto his dick as he thrusts in. It goes on forever and yet it's over way too fast, a whirlwind of pleasure that has Jaskier close to sobbing with how good it is.

Geralt leans over him, his weight pressing Jaskier down, forcing his chest into the ground. The angle makes it harder for Geralt to move and he just starts grinding instead, rutting into Jaskier with harsh pants and sharp thrusts, nosing at his jaw and kissing his neck.

"So good. Always so good for me," he grunts, and the words run through Jaskier like honey, smooth and sweet. He feels his release wash over him, starting low in his belly, and he cries out as he comes.

Geralt doesn't let up, hands holding Jaskier up by the hips as he keeps fucking into him, and it still feels so good, having Geralt inside of him, even when it almost becomes too much, the aftershocks of his orgasm and how big Geralt feels, the way he drags against that spot inside of Jaskier and sends shockwave after shockwave of fresh pleasure through him, it all becomes almost overwhelming, and Jaskier moans and shudders, his breath hitching and coming out broken when Geralt finally comes too.

*

Jaskier wakes up slowly, his eyes gritty and his nose cold, and it's only when he stretches and feels the familiar aches of a very good night that he becomes alert.

"Hmm," he hums, lips stretching into a smile as he blinks his eyes open. He's covered all the way up to his shoulders, blanket tucked snugly around him. Geralt isn't next to him, but when Jaskier tips his head to look around their campsite he finds him sitting by the charred remains of last night's fire.

"Good morning," he calls, his voice thick and raspy with sleep.

"Hmm. Morning," Geralt says, and Jaskier thinks there's the tiniest of smiles on his lips. He looks rested. His eyes are back to their normal golden color, his skin not as ashen anymore. Jaskier would even swear for once his shoulders don't look that tense, but it's hard to say with Geralt.

Jaskier stands up, making a displeased noise as he slips out from under the warmth of the blanket. He's dressed in his shirt and trousers, though they're not all the way done up. They didn't clean up last night and he looks pretty damn filthy, dirt under his nails and on his clothes, stains on his shirt and the uncomfortable feeling of come that was only hastily wiped away between his legs.

"We need to go somewhere with a bathtub next. Or at the very least a lake that's big enough so I can take a proper dip in it," he declares, wiping his hands on his shirt, since that's already a lost cause. The best he can do now is change into slightly less dirty clothes and wipe himself down.

He strips off his shirt and starts pushing down his trousers when Geralt makes a startled sound.

"Jaskier."

"What?" Jaskier asks, halting and looking up at him. He's about to roll his eyes, because surely Geralt can't have a problem with him undressing in front of him, after all of the things they've done together, but when he sees the stricken look on Geralt's face the words get stuck in his throat. Geralt's eyes are fixed somewhere around Jaskier's midsection and Jaskier looks down at himself.

His trousers are already pushed halfway down his thighs, enough to reveal dark smudges on his hips; there are finger-shaped bruises on his waist, too.

When he looks back up at Geralt, his expression has turned shuttered, the familiar mask slipped on, and tension has seeped into him. This is what Geralt looks like when he walks into a tavern, steeling himself for the reactions, steeling himself to remain impassive.

Jaskier knows the way Geralt's mind works. He knows Geralt never fights back against the accusations and insults thrown his way, because part of him does believe he's a monster, just one wrong choice away from being one of the things he hunts and kills. He can imagine what goes through Geralt's head right now, seeing the bruises on him. Geralt usually holds back with him, with anyone. He's not necessarily gentle, always, but he's careful.

Jaskier should have told him long ago that he doesn't have to be. That he likes this just as much as when they take their time and Geralt's touch is warm and his kisses sweet.

He just hasn't been very good at asking for what he wants, too happy with anything that Geralt has been willing to give him.

Jaskier grabs a clean shirt and hastily pulls it on, covering his bruises so Geralt will stop looking at them, and shakes his head vehemently as he stalks over to where Geralt is perched.

"No," he says. "Stop thinking what I know you're thinking. I demand it, Geralt, because it's utterly stupid, you big fool."

Geralt finally meets his eyes, his jaw twitching. "And what am I thinking?" he says, his voice challenging and hard. He's going to try and pick a fight, use it as an excuse to push Jaskier away, but Jaskier won't let him.

"You think you hurt me. But that couldn't be farther from the truth," he says. He curves his hand around Geralt's jaw, keeps his face tipped up so he won't look away, and smiles down at him. "You didn't, you hear me?" He smirks, adding, "In case you hadn't noticed, I quite enjoyed last night."

"There are bruises all over you," Geralt spits out. "I knew this was a bad idea. You're just a human."

"Yes. And compared to you, I'm frail and weak. I can be hurt in ways you can't," Jaskier admits and shakes his head when Geralt's expression becomes even harder. "But it won't be at your hands, my friend. You did not hurt me."

"I did."

Jaskier snorts. "It's sex, Geralt. It's passion and abandon and lust. Bruises and marks are part of that, sometimes, and that's not always a bad thing. If I remember correctly, I've left a mark or two on you before as well."

"That's different," Geralt says. Jaskier sighs and lets go of Geralt's face. He grabs his hands instead, guides both of them to his hips and presses them against him, right above where his untucked shirt is covering Geralt's marks.

"If I had told you to stop last night, would you have done it?" he asks softly, and Geralt looks up sharply.

"Of course I would. Jaskier, you have to know I would," he says, his tone clipped. Jaskier hears the hurt underneath. He tightens his grip on Geralt's hands.

"I do know. See, that's my point, darling: you can't hurt me because you wouldn't do that to me if I didn't want you to," he says. "I have been with men who have wanted to hurt me; I know what that's like. I didn't let it happen with them, and I wouldn't let you do it either. I know my pretty face makes you believe I'm naive sometimes, but please don't insult me and think I'm a fool."

Geralt doesn't respond, but his shoulders lose some of their tension. Jaskier shuffles closer, nudges Geralt's legs further apart so he can stand between them. He cards his fingers through Geralt's hair with one hand, tucking it back.

"And please don't tarnish last night's memories, because it was quite delightful," he continues lightly.

"Jaskier," Geralt says, and the hard edge is gone from his voice. He tips his head forward, forehead resting against Jaskier's stomach, and Jaskier hums and keeps petting his hair.

"In fact, I demand you no longer stay away until the effects of your potions have worn off," he says. He feels Geralt's warm breath against his belly, knows he must have huffed, and smiles. "Now, please stop being so melodramatic, my darling witcher. I believe that is my job and quite frankly, I do it a lot better than you. A tantrum needs more hand gestures and raised voices, Geralt, and maybe a heartfelt ballad."

Geralt's arms finally, finally, come up and he rests his hands on the back of Jaskier's knees. His touch is light, but at least he's touching Jaskier instead of pushing him away. "You want me to sing?" Geralt asks with a snort.

"Oh Gods, no. Please spare us all," Jaskier gasps out. He shifts, lifting one hand over either side of Geralt's thighs, and then sinks down onto his lap before Geralt can stop him.

"Jaskier," he mutters, displeased, but his hands shoot up to Jaskier's backside, holding him steady.

"I know, I know. We have to get on the road, we're wasting daylight," Jaskier recites with a small roll of his eyes. "But we just had a serious, heartfelt conversation. You must be exhausted, my dear, so you deserve a short break and a kiss."

"You mostly talked."

"Well, then I deserve a kiss," Jaskier replies teasingly and grins. "Don't leave me waiting."

"You're a nuisance," Geralt grumps, but he tilts his head, slots his lips against Jaskier's, and Jaskier hums contentedly.

*

They return to the open swampy fields where Geralt slayed the wyvern the previous day so Geralt can collect its toxins in a small vial. Jaskier stays by Roach's side, holding her reins, and stares in awe at the large dead body; it's the first wyvern Jaskier has ever seen and his mind is already filling with ideas for songs about the mighty witcher who fought this beast, brought it down from the skies.

They head for the cluster of farms that are just specks on the horizon, to deliver proof and collect the coin they offered Geralt to kill the wyvern.

"We need to head for a bigger town," Jaskier says when they leave, with not just the coin but, to Jaskier's delight, also still-warm bread and hard cheese. "Find a leatherworker."

It wasn't until this morning, when Geralt put his armor back on, that Jaskier noticed it had suffered quite a bit of damage, with several of the buckles and straps torn. It hangs loosely down Geralt's left shoulder now, leaving him vulnerable, and they need to get it repaired before Geralt can take any other contracts.

"Hmm," Geralt hums. "We're not too far from Brugge. Half a day of travel, maybe."

"Perfect. You can get your armor fixed, I can take a hot bath and maybe play some songs," Jaskier says, hitching the strap of his lute a little higher on his shoulder. "I have a new song or two that I'm just dying to test out in front of an audience. Your feedback, my friend, leaves something to be desired, I fear."

Geralt sighs, but there's a small smile on his lips. "Brugge it is."

*

Jaskier doesn't mind traveling. Despite his complaints about it—bemoaning his hurting feet and lack of hot baths and good food and wine and company,—being on the road isn't as much of a hardship as he makes it out to be. He was a traveling bard before meeting Geralt, used to making camp when he couldn't reach a village before nightfall and never staying anywhere for longer than a few days. He loves not being bound to one place, seeing the continent and all its little wonders and horrors. And Geralt's company makes up for all the sore feet and cold nights and stale dinners.

Jaskier has dreamed of being a famous bard since he first picked up the lute, but more than that he dreamed of seeing the world and finding someone he could call his muse. He didn't expect to find it in a witcher, but he's quite happy he did.

But there is something incredibly nice about stepping foot into a bigger town or city after days and days on the road. The sweet promise of a hot meal and good wine, the anticipation of getting clean and sleeping in a bed, the thrill of getting to perform in front of an audience bigger than his usual crowd of one witcher and his horse.

They find an inn that is happy to have Jaskier play for them that night—and doesn't bat an eye at Geralt. It's early enough in the day that they head for the market after they store their things in their room and Jaskier cleans up a little.

The main town square is bustling with people; there are stalls where food and metal works and fine cloths are being sold. Jaskier would like to linger, browse the plentiful offers and mingle with the townsfolk. But their savings aren't endless and Geralt's armor has priority.

The innkeeper, a tall, plump woman who seems to have taken to Jaskier the moment she saw his lute, points them to a leatherworker who has a shop at the southern corner of the square, the best in the whole kingdom of Brugge, she claims.

Unfortunately, skill has its price. The leatherworker spots a few more weak spots in the armor, straps and buckles that need replacing sooner or later. It will cost more than Jaskier was hoping, but not more than they can afford and he holds the little leather pouch with his coins out to Geralt.

Geralt frowns and Jaskier all but pushes it into his chest, insistent.

"I need you to be safe so you can protect me as well, witcher," he says with a bit of exasperation. He sees the leatherworker hide a smile out of the corner of his eye.

Geralt grunts, his frown not fading, but he takes the pouch.

They head to the apothecary next to sell the wyvern's toxin and Jaskier half listens to Geralt bargaining a price, studying the many pots and bottles and herbs.

"I could have gotten more in other places," Geralt grumbles as they leave.

Jaskier shrugs. "But less in others," he points out. "And hopefully I'll make some coin tonight, too. That should fill our pockets back up. I'm hoping to make enough to buy a new shirt or two for both of us. What few frocks we have left are wearing a little thin."

"They can be mended," Geralt says, and Jaskier sighs.

"Yes, and they have been. Many times. Too many," he says.

"You don't have to—" Geralt starts.

"Hush," Jaskier interrupts. "We're travel companions, Geralt. We both pitch in. How many times will we have this very same argument?"

Geralt doesn't reply, looking displeased still.

"And anyways, who knows, perhaps this city is full of philistines who don't appreciate music and I won't make a single coin," Jaskier continues. "And I'll have to beg you to take another contract soon and pay for my ale."

"You think there's a possibility people won't want to pay you for your singing? Are you finally becoming humble, bard?" Geralt mocks, and Jaskier scoffs.

"It wouldn't be for a lack of talent, of course."

"Of course," Geralt agrees, sarcasm dripping from his words.

"Oh, shut it. I know you love my singing," Jaskier says blithely.

*

Geralt only stays in the tavern for a few songs that night, sipping from the same tankard of ale, before he meets Jaskier's eyes and nods at the stairs leading up to the inn's rooms. Jaskier is a little disappointed, but he doesn't begrudge Geralt his desire to get some rest.

And he is having too good a time to let it dampen his mood anyway. The tavern's patrons are in good spirits, singing along to familiar songs and enjoying Jaskier's own compositions as well. Toss a Coin to Your Witcher seems to slowly be catching on and he spies a couple of people singing along for a few words, and it makes him beam with pride.

He's making enough to afford a couple of new shirts and stock up on some supplies and perhaps, if he can convince Geralt, stay an extra day or two. The leatherworker promised Geralt's armor would be repaired by tomorrow and Geralt will want to get back on the road soon enough, but maybe the prospect of Jaskier making money playing for another few nights will be enough to sway him.

As it is, Jaskier plays for as long as he can, until his voice is starting to grow hoarse and his fingers are aching. He finishes his last song and then bids everyone a good night with a flourished bow to some hearty cheers.

Even though it's late he expects Geralt to still be awake, perhaps meditating, but he's asleep when Jaskier slips into their room. He shifts when Jaskier enters, making a quiet noise, though he doesn't wake up properly. Jaskier knows Geralt knows it's just him; he always does.

"Shh, sleep," he murmurs and waits for Geralt to settle down again before moving further into the room.

There's a thick candle still flickering on the windowsill. Jaskier quietly stows his lute and strips down to his underthings before slipping into bed next to Geralt.

He's tired, but still too pumped from performing to fall asleep. So he settles in, facing Geralt, and watches him in the dim light of the candle. He doesn't touch him so as not to disturb Geralt, though Gods know he wants to. That is, until the expression on Geralt's face tightens, his brows knitted together. Jaskier can see his eyes move under his eyelids, mouth tugged into a frown, and then he lets out a quiet grunt.

"Shh," Jaskier whispers, quieter than before, softly.

He hopes it'll be enough for Geralt to settle down. He's seen him have nightmares before, knows sometimes Geralt calms down quietly, other times the hold of the nightmare can't be broken easily and he thrashes and mumbles things under his breath.

Geralt makes another noise, quiet and pained.

Jaskier shifts closer, the mattress jostling a little, and lets his foot bump against Geralt's.

Geralt's eyes fly open then. "Wha—"

"Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you," Jaskier lies. "It's just me. You can go back to sleep."

Geralt grunts and runs a hand down his face. "Can't even go to bed quietly, huh?"

"You know me," Jaskier says. He tugs at the blanket, pulling it up higher over both of them. Geralt lets his hand drop and looks at him.

"Cold?"

It's not warm in the room, the nights steadily getting chillier, but it's not quite cold either. But Jaskier knows what will happen if he says yes, knows Geralt will offer to keep him warm. And he also knows that while Geralt might never admit it, he enjoys it, and he rests better when they sleep tangled up in each other. They both do. So he nods.

"A little," he says.

"Hmm. Turn around," Geralt says, as expected, and Jaskier shifts onto his side, his back to Geralt. Geralt scoots up behind him, curls his body around him so they're touching from head to toe. Jaskier feels Geralt's nose against his nape, feels a barely there kiss as Geralt slings an arm around his waist.

"Better?"

"Much," Jaskier says. He rests his hand on Geralt's wrist, traces small circles onto the back of his hand. "Good night, Geralt."

Geralt makes a quiet noise in return, and Jaskier waits until he's slipped off into sleep again, doesn't stop running his thumb over Geralt's hand until he does, and only then does he allow his eyes to slide shut.

*

Geralt's armor is fixed when they return to the leatherworker the next day. Jaskier doesn't have to worry about how to convince Geralt to stay in Brugge a little longer, though—by the time they return to the inn, there's a man waiting for them, a farmer by the looks of his clothes and the dirt on his hands, asking for Geralt's help. Something has been killing his livestock, sucking them dry of blood.

"It's not attacking people, so it's probably not very strong," Geralt says as he packs what he needs to follow the man out to his farm a couple of hours outside of the city. "I'll probably be back before nightfall."

He doesn't say it, but he expects Jaskier to stay behind and for once Jaskier is fine with that, because he intends to make some more coin.

"Stay safe," he says, unable to keep the soft words in after they say goodbye.

Geralt gives him a look, then hesitates for a moment before leaning in, pressing a quick kiss to Jaskier's lips. He's moved away before Jaskier can react, can return the kiss.

"Don't get in trouble while I'm gone," Geralt says, and Jaskier presses a hand to his chest.

"Me?" he asks. "Why, I would never."

*

Geralt doesn't make it back by nightfall, but he comes in a few hours later, while Jaskier is in the middle of playing a few songs, trying to pass the time waiting for Geralt to return.

Heads turn, a hush falling over the room.

"Ah, there he is," Jaskier announces. "The brave witcher I've been regaling you about, back from saving a poor farmer troubled by pests just outside of this city."

Geralt cuts him a look as he heads for the bar and Jaskier just smiles cheerfully at him.

"I'll be right back," he says, putting his lute down. "Your bard needs a short break to have a sip of ale."

Geralt doesn't turn towards him as Jaskier joins him at the bar, but he tips his head to the side a little. "Telling lies about me again, bard?"

"Just embellishments," Jaskier teases. He snags the tankard the barmaid has put down in front of Geralt and takes a couple of sips before returning it. "Did everything go well with the hunt? You're not bloody and you're barely dirty, for once."

"It wasn't hard to kill. Tracking it was the hardest part," Geralt says and brings the tankard up to his mouth, tipping it back and taking a few big gulps. Jaskier takes a moment to study him more closely, silently checking him over for any injuries, but he really does seem to be completely unscathed for once.

Satisfied, Jaskier flags down the barmaid. She comes bustling over, putting a large plate with meat and potatoes down in front of Geralt.

"Could we have a bath prepared in our room once my friend here is done eating?" Jaskier asks and slips a few coins to her. "He likes it scathing hot."

"Of course, dear," she says. "Another ale for you, perhaps?"

"Ah, while that would be delightful, nobody wishes to watch a drunk bard sing his songs," he says with a smile and then turns to Geralt. "I'll join you shortly."

Geralt raises his ale in reply, his mouth full of food, and Jaskier pats his arm before returning to his lute.

He plays a few more songs, eager to wrap the night up now that Geralt is back. Geralt's entrance, perfectly timed to Jaskier singing about him, has people wanting to hear more about the White Wolf's heroics though, so Jaskier lets himself be swayed into playing two more songs after he's watched Geralt head upstairs before he packs up and follows him.

There's a small bathroom attached to their room, the curtains drawn back, and Geralt is already in the bathtub, arms resting on the sides and head tipped back, eyes closed. Jaskier puts his lute down carefully, strips his doublet off and toes off his boots before strolling across the room. Geralt cracks his eyes open, watching him, looking content and relaxed.

"Hot enough?" Jaskier asks.

"Hmm," Geralt hums. "Come join me."

"Join you," Jaskier repeats, stupidly. They've bathed side by side in rivers and lakes, and Jaskier has washed Geralt's hair and scrubbed his back more than once, but they've never shared a tub. "Right. Yes. Of course."

Geralt, the bastard, looks amused, and Jaskier would tell him off if he wasn't too busy stripping out of the rest of his clothes. Geralt watches him and it makes Jaskier flush and want to preen a little at the same time.

He hisses as he steps into the hot water—though thankfully it's cooled down enough that it's bearable.

Geralt makes a quiet noise and shakes his head when Jaskier goes to sit down across from him. He waves his hand at the space between his legs. "Here."

Jaskier bites down on the corner of his bottom lip, grinning. "Someone is demanding today," he teases, but he turns and sinks down into the water, sitting between Geralt's splayed legs.

Despite everything they've done together, this feels different. Intimate. And it makes Jaskier's heart skip a little. He leans back against Geralt with a sigh, enjoying the feel of the hot water and Geralt, even hotter somehow.

Geralt cups some water into one hand, letting it trickle down over Jaskier's collarbone, and then rests his hand there and trails it down the same path.

"This is nice," Jaskier remarks.

Geralt hums. He lifts his hand back up and cards his fingers through Jaskier's hair this time, drops of water dripping from his wrist down onto Jaskier's face. It smells good, Jaskier realizes, the way it does when he prepares a bath for himself or Geralt.

He sniffs the air more deliberately. "Did you put something in the water?" he asks and cranes his neck back.

Geralt gives a shrug and waves his hand at the couple of bottles and salts lined up on a dresser in the corner of the room. "You always do."

"Well, yes," Jaskier says. He always does that, likes the scents of oils and soaps and salts. Geralt, on the other hand, is happy to just sit in steaming water for a small eternity and maybe scrub himself down with the most basic soap.

"Well then, what's the problem, Jaskier?"

"Nothing," Jaskier admits quickly and turns back around. "Just surprised. I didn't know you liked these sort of things."

"Hmm." Geralt's hand is back in Jaskier's hair, and it's enough to make Jaskier lose his string of thoughts, because it feels so nice. Geralt isn't usually like this, not unless they're in bed together. It is a little weird, though, very unlike Geralt.

"Do you want me to wash your hair?" Geralt offers.

"Wash my hair," Jaskier repeats. They're quickly heading for more than just a little weird, it seems.

There's a brief silence and Jaskier doesn't say anything, waiting for Geralt to say more. He feels Geralt's lips brush against the shell of his ear. "Hmm, yes. Let me repay the favor. You've been taking good care of me."

The words are innocent, really, but they make Jaskier stiffen anyway. It's true, of course; he has been taking care of Geralt. He hasn't been subtle either, taking care of Geralt's needs when he can, however he can, when Geralt allows it. He just figured it was something they weren't ever going to talk about—because talking about it would mean acknowledging it. Acknowledging how much Jaskier adores Geralt, loves him. Painfully so, all-consumingly even. And Geralt knows, of course he does. Jaskier's been singing the man's praises and declaring his affections in his songs and he's been trailing after Geralt like a lovesick fool. He's just never outright said it and Geralt never brought it up and they just fell into this thing, and Jaskier thought it was working for them. Geralt gets sex and someone to wash his hair and Jaskier gets to be close to the person he is helplessly in love with.

But they don't ever talk about it. Jaskier just does things, starts things, and Geralt goes with it, lets him.

He isn't sure why Geralt would bring up this thing between them now. Jaskier had assumed there was an unspoken agreement, an arrangement where they both get what they want without having to acknowledge that they want, in fact, different things.

Except, now Geralt is changing things, and maybe it's nothing, but it feels like something to Jaskier. Like they can't avoid the inevitable much longer, the dreaded conversation that will bring all the truths to light and put a stop to their status quo.

Jaskier draws away from Geralt a little, sitting up straight to put some distance between them, to give himself a moment to clear his head.

"You're upset," Geralt says.

"No. No, of course not," Jaskier denies and gives a nervous laugh.

"But?"

"No but," Jaskier says and then shrugs helplessly, peering back at Geralt. "I thought things were good the way they were. Weren't they? You don't have to… to change anything. It's just a little thing, these feelings, they're nothing really. They'll fade. We don't need to talk about it. We shouldn't. It would just spoil things, Geralt."

"I offered to wash your hair," Geralt says slowly.

"And that was very sweet of you. But I think we both know that's not what this is about and… I don't wish to talk about it, Geralt," Jaskier says. He pulls away further and gets up.

"Where are you going?" Geralt asks and Jaskier can hear the frustration growing in his voice.

"Oh, nowhere," he says as he steps out of the tub. "I just don't feel like taking a bath anymore. You enjoy the hot water and I'll be… somewhere over there."

He waves at the open doorway, but his other hand is grabbed before he can leave.

"Geralt," he says and tries tugging himself free.

"You are confusing," Geralt says in a growl. "Confusing and annoying and infuriating. And for someone who talks as much as you do, you say absolutely nothing, Jaskier."

Jaskier slumps and tugs at his hand again. This time Geralt lets him go. "Fine. At least let me get dressed before we have this conversation, so it'll be slightly less mortifying."

"I don't even know what conversation we're having," Geralt mutters, but he gets up as well and grabs a cloth, patting himself dry before tossing it at Jaskier.

Jaskier pats himself down, dread settling in his stomach as he follows Geralt into the main room to put on some clothes. This is it, he thinks. They're going to talk and once it's all out in the open, Geralt will pull away, will surely not want things to continue the way they have been. If not for himself then for Jaskier's sake, because he's stupidly noble like that.

In a fresh shirt, one that he bought just today, and trousers, Jaskier sits down on the edge of the bed, feeling miserable. He thought he knew what heartbreak felt like, but he's realizing he had no idea. This is heartbreak, the dark, twisting feeling in his gut, the heaviness in his chest, that terrifying feeling of knowing he's about to have something he never really had to begin with slip out of his grasp for good. Or, perhaps, worse, he will be left by the person he wants to follow to the end of the world.

Geralt is looking at him expectantly.

"You started this," Jaskier points out, just to be difficult, because that's what Jaskier does when he gets scared and upset. He becomes petty and defensive.

"Dammit, Jaskier. I don't even know what this is," Geralt bites back.

"Us talking about this…" Jaskier doesn't know exactly what to call this thing they've been doing for the past weeks, so he just gestures between them. "This."

"This?"

"Us," Jaskier specifies petulantly. "Do I really have to say it, Geralt? That I am in love with you and you're not?"

"Hmm."

"Hmm?" Jaskier echoes with a dry snort and stares at Geralt. "That's it? I deserve at least something more than a grunt."

Geralt takes a few steps towards him, until he's in front of Jaskier, and then crouches down, his hands on Jaskier's knees. They're big and warm and Jaskier cannot stand the thought of losing this, losing having Geralt touch him.

"You're confusing and annoying and infuriating," Geralt grunts.

"You've already said that."

Geralt cups Jaskier's face with one hand and kisses him. His tongue presses against Jaskier's lips, slips past them, licking into his mouth as their lips slide together wetly and Jaskier's soft moan gets muffled between them.

"You make no sense," Geralt says when he draws back. "I let you follow me around and we share a bed and pretty much everything else as well. I let you buy things for me because it makes you happy and I put oils into the bath because you like them and I offer to wash your hair because I want to take care of you and yet you think your feelings aren't reciprocated?"

The words make Jaskier still. His heart hurts, but it's not with dread now; it aches because this is something he never thought he would hear, something he thought to be unattainable but wanted so much, wanted with his entire being.

"Are they?" he asks, his voice quiet, hopeful.

Geralt kisses him again. Jaskier lets him, lets it go on for far too long before he pushes Geralt away.

"Are they?" he repeats.

"Hmm." Geralt smiles, one of those soft ones that never fails to make Jaskier's heart stutter in his chest.

"Oh. Well, you could have just said so months ago," he complains lightly, and Geralt lets out a low growl. Jaskier laughs, even more so when Geralt pushes him back, crawls on top of him and pins him down. He laughs until Geralt silences him with another kiss.

*

"Well, that," Jaskier says, panting and grinning up at the ceiling, "was magical, my dear."

"Don't call me that," Geralt mutters and turns, slipping his arm over Jaskier's waist. "You're insufferable."

"And you're horribly surly," Jaskier replies and rests his hand on Geralt's arm. "Isn't it funny, how these things work out? A bard and his witcher."

"You're going to write a ballad about this, aren't you?" Geralt grumbles, his mouth brushing against the bare skin of Jaskier's arm.

Jaskier turns his head. He mostly just sees white hair, Geralt's face half-hidden against his shoulder. His eyes are closed and the corner of his lips is turned up. He looks content.

"No," Jaskier says and tucks a strand of hair behind Geralt's ear. "No, I think I will keep this just for myself."