For a long time - months, probably - Geralt thought Jaskier was just clumsy. He can't go an hour down the road without tripping on something, although he catches himself more often than not. Anything Geralt tosses to him, he fumbles with before getting a steady grip. And the number of times he's dropped the soap in a river or their tub is beyond even Geralt's capacity to count - and no, it didn't stop the first time he put his hand on Jaskier's cock, either.
Then one day, as they're on the road north, Geralt heard the familiar interjection of "shit" that meant that Jaskier tripped over something, and didn't hear the familiar resumption of chatter that meant he'd sorted himself out. Instead he heard cursing in a low litany, annoyed but not truly troubled. Against his better judgement, Geralt wheeled Roach around.
Jaskier had gotten his foot stuck in a small hole in the road, rendered invisible to human senses by the thick mud from a recent rain. Most of his cursing seemed to be for the state of his clothes, not the state of his person, so Geralt was tempted to leave him to it. For some reason, instead he dismounted and fetched up next to Jaskier.
The bard barely looked up. "Hello, Geralt, nice of you to come and help me, you are a true gentleman and a scholar," he said, wrenching his leg from side to side. "If you wouldn't mind, I think I'm almost free, I just -"
Wordlessly, Geralt offered him an arm to brace against and watched as Jaskier's foot emerged from the hole. Then he frowned. That's what had caught his attention, made him come closer. Jaskier's leg and foot were at an angle he was fairly sure was unhealthy. He must have sprained the ankle. The mud must have been the only reason he wasn't complaining about that, instead.
Jaskier, contrary to his expectations, roughly shook off the worst of the muck and bent his leg upwards to examine the joint, flexing it back and forth with a critical eye as he kept one hand on Geralt for balance. He looked up at the sun, then back at the injury. "Bit sore, but I can wrap it tonight and keep going," he said, and put his weight on it with only a slight wince. "Walk most of it off before camp, I should think."
"Hmm," Geralt grunted, and kept his counsel to himself. He hadn't been a human in a long time. Perhaps he didn't know so much about the workings of them as he thought.
Still, he paid closer attention to Jaskier until they made camp that night.
A few weeks later, there was a werewolf hunt. Geralt had convinced Jaskier to stay inside - mostly with a pre-sunset blowjob so long and sweet that the man was too wrung out to follow - but he was waiting at the window of their inn when Geralt limped back at moonset. He darted out to support Geralt's weak side, heedless of the blood on his clothes, and helped him into their room. Jaskier had a deft hand at wound cleaning by now, and it let Geralt get started on the armor before the blood soaked in and made cleaning and conditioning it any worse than it had to be.
When he'd determined that none of Geralt's gashes needed stitches and only two needed bandaging, Jaskier clapped his hands. "All right, up," he said.
Geralt grunted his incomprehension. All he wanted to do was roll over and go to sleep for a few hours before he had to track down the alderman.
"You heard me," Jaskier said impatiently. "That knee is out, I could see it when you were all the way down the road. We've got to set it back in place."
"Fine," Geralt said, and resigned himself to stripping the rest of the way. The knee was out. His healing would guide it back in over the next few hours, but it would be sore and tender all day if he let it. If he hadn't had Jaskier to help, he would have let it, because sleep in a bed was precious, but he'd never hear the end of it if he didn't listen now.
Jaskier did get his boot laces undone for him, at least, so all Geralt had to do was step out of them and push his pants down. Then he was chivvied toward the bed and his bad leg straightened with the precision of a master archer lining up a shot.
"Where did you learn this?" he asked, as Jaskier cupped the kneecap with the same hand placement of a village healer ten years at the trade. He was breathing deep and slow, in a half-meditative state to keep the muscles relaxed.
Jaskier laughed, not at all perturbed by the prospect of yanking a bone back into place. "My dear witcher, this is hardly the first dislocation I've seen and set. Deep breath," he said.
Before Geralt could point out he'd avoided the question, there was a lance of pain from his leg, and he forced his breath to come out slowly so he didn't scream. It hissed out between his teeth instead. Still, when the kneecap settled, it did feel better. The sharp, hot pain was fading into a throbbing ache, and that would fade to tenderness by late morning.
"Thanks," he said, the rush of endorphins dragging him down heavily into sleep. It was a struggle to keep his eyes open.
"Think nothing of it," Jaskier said softly. The last thing Geralt registered was the worn quilt being pulled over his shoulders.
Cockatrice hunts were difficult enough as it was without an excitable human second target for the monster to go after. Geralt had tried explaining that to Jaskier several times - with words, reciting the bestiary entry he'd memorized as a youth, on the speed, the poison, the talons, the wings - but the bard hadn't listened. Seemed being left behind for the werewolf had simply whetted his appetite for danger, and Geralt was fast running out of patience.
"If you come along, either you die or I die," he growled, looming over Jaskier. "Is that what you want?"
Jaskier had the audacity to laugh at him. "Have more faith in your skills than that, Geralt!" he said. "I certainly do. The cockatrice will be much more interested in you than me, because you'll be trying to kill it - and succeeding, I might add. I'll stay well back, and things will be just fine."
Geralt grunted his disbelief of that. Jaskier had never even seen a cockatrice, so he had no idea how lighting fast they moved. He was done arguing about this. Instead, he grabbed Jaskier in a firm hold, one that would immobilize his arms but not hurt him, and started to frogmarch him back to camp.
Or that was the intention, anyway. Instead, Geralt was left looking at his empty hands in disbelief as Jaskier wormed his way loose in a way he absolutely should not have been able to do, spluttering in indignation all the while.
"Are you seriously trying to manhandle me away from the fight?" Jaskier asked, straightening his clothes in a show of effrontery.
Geralt bared his teeth. "I'd hogtie you if I didn't think some other beast would come across you while I was busy," he snarled.
Something in his expression must have finally, finally gotten through to Jaskier, because he paused, looking closely at Geralt. "You're actually serious about this, aren't you?" he asked. "This isn't just your usual show of grumbling and grousing."
"Yes," Geralt gritted out. "I'm serious." He was serious every time, he just knew when to back away from a fight. Unlike Jaskier.
Jaskier sighed, a great theatrical thing that lifted his shoulders and moved his chest. "Alright. If - if! - you promise to give me better details than usual, and let me see the corpse, I'll stay with Roach."
Geralt bared his teeth again, but from Jaskier's perspective, he supposed it was a reasonable compromise. "Fine," he said. "I'll leave the corpse intact and go over the battle. We can make it a tracking lesson," he said, which would make the whole thing go much easier.
"Whatever it takes," Jaskier said sunnily, and made a show of hanging his lute on its place on Roach.
Geralt turned and went on foot towards the cockatrice's lair. He didn't think of the escaped hold until he was crouched over the marks in the dirt, explaining them to Jaskier. That was a hold he'd used on his fellow witchers in training. There really shouldn't have been a way for a mortal man to get loose. It troubled him.
Then he looked at the slender fineness of Jaskier's hands and wrists, and shook his head at himself. Perhaps that was the problem. Jaskier was more slender than any of the witchers Geralt trained with. It probably left him enough slack to get loose.
"Geralt, I've been meaning to ask you," Jaskier said, and then didn't continue.
Geralt didn't look up at him, because he was in the middle of the stretching routine Vesemir had pounded into all the boys to keep them flexible enough to dodge quick claws and teeth, and this part was complicated, but he grunted to show Jaskier he was listening.
"I know why you stretch, I grew up watching the guards stretch as well as drill sword forms, but I always thought that Witchers would need more flexibility than a common guard," Jaskier said from across their morning camp.
At this Geralt did look over at him. Witchers did need to push their bodies to the limits in this, too, and his teachers had certainly not been lacking. To be compared to an estate guard was… well, insulting, especially compared to Jaskier's normal sentiments on Witchers. "What do you mean?" he asked, a bit of a growl to his voice.
Jaskier set his pack aside to give Geralt his full attention. "Well, it's certainly more than the guard did, but it's hardly challenging, don't you think?" he asked.
Given that Geralt had once known a contortionist in a traveling act who'd struggled to keep up with his routine when they'd bet on it on a friendly wager, he certainly did not think so. "If it's hardly challenging, let's see you do it," he said.
Jaskier practically leaped up, folding his fine doublet and taking off his shoes, as if he'd just been waiting to be asked. He set himself in the pose needed for the beginning of the exercise without being prompted, and looked to Geralt. "I think I remember most of it, but in the interests of fairness, we'll follow you, my dear Witcher," he said.
He made it through the full routine with aplomb, even as Geralt watched in disbelief. Once or twice, he even deepened the stretch in a way that made Geralt want to wince. He didn't think even Vesemir had done the routine better.
When they finished, Jaskier looked at him, cheeks slightly flushed, and grinned. "See?" he asked. "I can see four or five ways it could be more challenging, just running it once."
Geralt frowned. "Jaskier," he said, "give me your hand."
Jaskier frowned, but did so. "Any particular reason, or have we become the handholding type when I wasn't paying attention?" he asked.
Geralt didn't answer, just brought Jaskier's hand to his own chest and put his other hand on the shoulder joint so he could feel it move. He'd had suspicions, but there had always been other explanations. Until now.
He manipulated Jaskier's arm and felt the movement in the socket, watching the bard's face carefully for any sign of distress. And - yes, when he rolled the shoulder back, something moved under his hand with a distinctive wrongness, a slippage that would have had Geralt cursing. It didn't appear to bother Jaskier at all, though.
"Humans can't move like you move," Geralt said, moving both hands off Jaskier and stepping back. "That's why it doesn't seem challenging to you."
Jaskier gasped theatrically. "What does that mean?" he asked, hushed and wide-eyed. "Am I not human? I thought I would have noticed by now!"
"No," Geralt said, making a cut-off gesture of negation and resisting the urge to roll his eyes, "you're human. Regular humans can't do that, I mean."
Jaskier contemplated that in silence for all of five seconds. "Well, I know I've got not a drop of magic in me, so you can't mean that," he said as he collected his doublet. "So please do tell me, Geralt, if regular humans can't do that, what makes me so special?"
This time Geralt did roll his eyes. "The fact that you're still alive despite your best efforts," he muttered.
Jaskier turned to face him with his hands on his hips. "What was that?" he asked, too far away to get the words but as always able to read Geralt's body language like no one else.
"Nothing," Geralt said, smirking. Then he settled himself. It was a surprise that no one had told Jaskier before, especially his family, but the condition carried risks, so he needed to know.
"It's passed through families," Geralt said. "The joints are all looser, so your movements have more range. But they come loose easier than they're supposed to, if you step wrong or they're pulled. My kneecap," he said, suddenly remembering. "You said you'd set one before. Yours?"
"Mine and my sister's," Jaskier said. "Step the wrong way while chasing each other and oops, there it went. An easy enough fix, though. You're telling me not everyone is like that?" There was a contemplative frown on his face.
"No," Geralt said definitively, trying not to wince at that idea. He hated dislocations. "You never noticed?"
Jaskier shrugged. "My mother and sisters were much the same," he said. "I was more flexible than my schoolmates at Oxenfurt, of course, but I was always out and roving when I could, and few of them joined me, so I chalked it up to that. It does explain some things, though."
"Like why you can out-flex a witcher?" Geralt asked dryly.
"Like why my bedmates made faces when I did certain things," Jaskier said. "Flexibility is only attractive to a certain point, I've found, and finding that point was quite an adventure!"
That did explain why Geralt had never noticed anything off in bed before. "I suppose it would be," he said. Then he frowned, remembering something else. "Jaskier. Do you have pains in the morning if you sleep on the ground?"
"Doesn't everyone?" Jaskier asked, waving a hand impatiently. "That's why I was asking about your stretches. I was hoping there was an advanced version I could do to shake it off. Walking helps, to a point, but something really challenging would be best."
"Too challenging and you risk dislocation and damage," Geralt said. "You can strengthen the muscles. That will help. And we'll find a wise woman next village we come across, she'll know the things you can take."
Jaskier made an interested noise. "Well, I've managed this far, but the concept of waking up as lissome and youthful as I feel in the afternoon is intriguing. Thank you, Geralt. I've learned something today."
"As have I," Geralt said. "Let's get going. If I'm not wrong, we're only a day away from town."