Jaskier hadn’t expected too much to change now that Geralt knew about his true nature. And for the most part, he was right.
For one thing, Geralt still protected him while out on monster hunts, and still often insisted on Jaskier staying out of the way. Dragon claws and fire didn’t do much if steel and regular old fire wouldn’t, and monsters had to be killed in specific ways a lot of the time. Or, a huge fire breathing dragon would be overkill, and they couldn’t afford to have everyone knowing that a gigantic red dragon was roaming the Continent.
For another, he still performed as a bard, still sang his songs. They still shared rooms at inns, they still bathed together—it was just that Jaskier could use his fire to heat up the water when Geralt was too drained to use Igni. They still argued, and bickered, and got into trouble half the time.
But there were a few things that had changed.
Geralt hit him from the side and they both went flying, rolling over and over. Jaskier managed to land on top, his wings flaring out, grinning sharp-toothed down at his Witcher. “Nice try.”
Geralt snarled and hooked his leg around, flipping them, pinning Jaskier—and his wings—to the forest floor.
“Stay still, little lark,” Geralt growled, and Jaskier’s wings trembled. He loved that Geralt still called him that, even though Jaskier was not little in his true form, and about the farthest thing from a fluffy songbird.
Jaskier nipped at him, teeth catching around one of the black veins that pulsed underneath Geralt’s skin. Geralt was plenty strong already but taking Cat potion gave him an extra boost and he could let himself loose as the two of them played their newest game. “Make me.”
Geralt’s chuckle was something dredged up from the bottom of a swamp. It made Jaskier shiver all over. He grabbed Jaskier’s wrists, thumbs dragging along the scales, and slammed them down into the dirt.
Jaskier trilled, arching up against Geralt, loving the way Geralt ran cold when he was like this, the ice to Jaskier’s burning fire. Geralt growled and smashed their mouths together, his tongue sliding immediately inside, and Jaskier writhed shamelessly. His wings beat automatically in pleasure against the ground, or tried to, but they were pinned by the weight of both their bodies, giving him a deliciously trapped feeling.
His parents would recoil in horror at the idea of him being so submissive to a non-dragon, especially a Witcher, but Jaskier didn’t give a flying fuck what his parents thought and hadn’t for decades. It felt good, it felt right. Geralt could be rough with Jaskier in a way he couldn’t with nearly anyone except perhaps Yennefer—Jaskier could take whatever Geralt could give, Geralt didn’t have to hold himself back or watch himself constantly—and Geralt would always take care of Jaskier. Jaskier knew it like he knew how to breathe fire. Geralt made Jaskier feel precious, and pretty, and magnificent, and wasn’t that what every dragon wanted?
Geralt rutted down against him, dragging their cocks together, hot and hard even through the layers of clothes they were still wearing. Jaskier snarled—and he was allowed to snarl now, could let that draconic side out—desperate for Geralt’s cock. He’d always struggled with his sexual partners, despite his, ah, acute fondness for sex (most other dragons thought his lovers were his hoard, but those dragons were stupid and ridiculous and ignoring the lute-shaped elephant right in front of them) because he had to stay in control while penetrating so they wouldn’t notice his… unusual… gifts… and when he’d been the one being penetrated, no one had ever scratched that itch enough. No one had ever, quite literally, been enough.
Geralt was enough. No, more than enough. He was thick and long and especially when he had taken Cat his cock took on more… inhuman features that had Jaskier fucking purring.
“Come on, White Wolf.” He bit down harder on Geralt’s neck, and Geralt growled again, letting go of Jaskier’s wrists to yank at Jaskier’s pants and trousers instead, nearly ripping them as he undid the lacings. Jaskier arched up, spreading his legs, practically panting. Fuck, yes.
He tried to push himself up, but Geralt planted his palm on Jaskier’s chest, shoving him back down. Smoke curled out of Jaskier’s nostrils and the corners of his mouth as he snarled, struggling under Geralt’s hold.
Geralt finally got his hand on Jaskier’s cock, drawing it out, and Jaskier choked on his own fire as Geralt swallowed his cock down in one go.
Jaskier was… really not human like this. His scales were out in patches all over his skin and he knew, although he couldn’t see it, that his eyes were glowing, the blue of a candle flame’s heart. And the wings, obviously. But there was also, well, his cock. It had ridges, first of all, four of them, with a flared head, rough not-quite-scaled skin, and was definitely about twice as thick as the average human’s cock. He certainly hadn’t ever let that transformation happen while in bed with another person, staying in human form, but Geralt wanted Jaskier to let go, to release control, and Jaskier was now heartily addicted to it. He didn’t have to think, didn’t have to hold on, or have any willpower. He could just feel, and it was so much more than he’d ever experienced with another partner.
Of course, part of that, he was sure in the depths of his romantic heart, was that Geralt was his mate.
Geralt’s hands pinned down his hips, keeping Jaskier from moving as he bobbed his head up and down, working his tongue along the underside of the ridges where he knew that Jaskier was the most sensitive. Jaskier hissed, more smoke leaking out of him, his nails sharpening into claws as he dug them into the dirt. If he ripped up Geralt’s armor, sex or no, Geralt was definitely going to be pissed.
Geralt pulled back, sucking at the underside of Jaskier’s cock, nosing down until he could suck Jaskier’s balls into his mouth, moving back up and squeezing the base of the shaft before Jaskier could lose his entire mind.
Jaskier moaned shamelessly, writhing, presenting, trying to make himself as desirable as he could. His wings flared up, or tried to, trying to show off what a fertile, pretty mate he was, trying to get Geralt to stop fucking playing around and fuck him.
It must’ve worked, or maybe Geralt was just in an indulging mood, because he crawled back up, tugging at his own laces, and Jaskier licked at his lips, starving. Geralt looked half like the monster everyone said he was, eyes black pools, skin chalk white with throbbing black veins, muscles moving like snakes underneath his skin, a permanent growl stuck in the back of his throat. Jaskier adored it, adored Geralt like this, adored that Geralt let himself be like this only with Jaskier.
Jaskier focused, forced his claws to turn back into regular human fingers, and reached up to grab Geralt’s hair, hauling him up to kiss him again. Geralt’s mouth was like ice, the poison cooling him all over, and Jaskier didn’t know how it worked but he did know it made his mouth sizzle, made him shiver all the way down his spine, through his wings to their very tips.
“Stay,” Geralt ordered.
“You’re not making it easy,” Jaskier snapped back.
Geralt stroked Jaskier’s cock, gathering up the generous slick that Jaskier leaked, and coated his own cock with it. Jaskier trilled, spreading his legs. Fucking finally.
Geralt wasn’t gentle when he was like this. But Jaskier didn’t want him to be (and oh how he’d had to persuade Geralt of that, his Witcher was so soft-hearted underneath the surly demeanor).
The first blunt push of Geralt’s cock into his entrance had Jaskier hissing and moaning, smoke billowing out of him, his wings fluttering so fast against the ground they were practically vibrating. Geralt seized Jaskier’s wings in his hands, holding on tight, slowly but inexorably pushing his way in, and Jaskier whined, burning pleasure shooting through him as he took and took and took it.
He felt properly filled and stretched, that itch at last scratched, and he nosed at Geralt’s throat, nostrils flaring, soaking up the feeling of being claimed by his mate. Geralt’s grip on his wings was like he’d wrapped a hand around Jaskier’s very heart, and Jaskier could only gasp at the firm, delicious pressure, practically blind as the world in front of him blurred. There was only Geralt, the smell and feel of him, the weight of him, his mate, his mate, his mate.
Geralt didn’t hold back, moving hard and rough, fast as he wanted, kissing Jaskier savagely. They clawed at each other, bit, growled, arching and shoving and thrusting like animals, in a way that Jaskier had never been able to do, had never thought he could do with anyone until he met Geralt, reckless and ferocious, burning each other up. Jaskier felt like he could hardly breathe, his own smoke caught in his throat, Geralt’s cock dragging up against his inner walls, hitting against that spot that made stars explode in Jaskier’s blood. Geralt tugged at his wings, sank his teeth into Jaskier’s pulse point and sucked what was sure to be a massive bruise, twisted his hips in a way that made Jaskier feel like Geralt’s cock was all the way up to his throat.
“Fuck yes,” he groaned. “Geralt, yes, please, karshoj, irthiski, please—”
He hadn’t spoken his native tongue in decades, not until he’d been walking down the mountain with Borch, but he lost his mind with Geralt, and he didn’t have to hold back, could let out the harsh, guttural language of his people, his first language, and he didn’t have to explain himself after.
Geralt just growled and sped up, as if hearing Jaskier speak like that just spurred him into fucking Jaskier harder, made him want to come in Jaskier that much more badly. Jaskier clawed at Geralt’s shoulders, whining and growling, his whole body seizing up as he stared right into those void-black eyes and came.
He kissed Geralt deeply, sucked on his tongue, gave everything of himself as Geralt thrust messily, the base of his cock swelling and locking them together as he came.
That only ever happened on the Cat potion and Jaskier fucking loved it. It was what a dragon would do, and there was an instinctive part of him that craved that. Not all the time, but every once in a while…
Geralt slumped on top of him and Jaskier purred with satisfaction, nuzzling him. “Vorellim.”
“Someday you’re going to tell me what all those words mean,” Geralt grumbled.
“Capable of words again, are we?” Jaskier could feel Geralt purring as well, and his wings fluttered happily. Geralt was rather nonverbal while he was on Cat. “Typical.”
“Hmm. I didn’t hear you complaining a moment ago.” Geralt stroked Jaskier’s wings as he kissed him, and Jaskier practically melted. Geralt loved Jaskier’s scales and wings and all the rest. Geralt loved him.
Perfect, perfect mate.
Jaskier had no idea how long they stayed like that, locked together until Geralt’s knot went down, but he didn’t care. Well, all right, usually he cared. He was a dragon, he liked the finer things in life like clean clothes and pretty jewelry and sweet-smelling soaps. But sometimes the resulting mess was worth it for moments like this.
“You’re preening,” Geralt noted at last, when he was able to pull back.
Jaskier grinned up at him. “Maybe.”
The black was starting to leak out of Geralt’s eyes. He wasn’t saying it, but Jaskier could hear the fond ridiculous in the tilt of Geralt’s head and the half-smile curling up the corners of his mouth. Jaskier grinned even harder.
He was able to keep his wings out and all the rest until they got within sight of a town, and he had to at last tuck it all away, transforming completely into a human. He was still purring a little, warm inside and out. They’d order a bath, he could soak in it on Geralt’s lap while Geralt washed his hair and then he would wash Geralt’s, maybe they would have sex again, he could put on some pretty jewelry because he was feeling like showing off and since he couldn’t show off his shiny red scales this was the next best thing, and he’d perform, and…
They entered the inn, Roach safely tied in the stables, and the barkeep waved them over immediately. “Bard! There y’are!”
Jaskier walked over, Geralt looming behind him protectively. “Ah, yes, that’s me. How can I be of service?”
“Someone was asking for you,” was the response—and Jaskier felt Geralt go tense. People asking for Jaskier were usually out to get revenge for some sexual escapade or other. Escapades that he was no longer on, thank you very much. He had his mate now, and while some dragons might take multiple mates, Jaskier hadn’t found anyone that could possibly match Geralt.
“Oh?” Jaskier felt Geralt’s hand press into his lower back, warm and steady and reassuring. “Did they say why?”
“Julian,” someone said from behind them, and Jaskier winced. He knew that voice. Knew it and had been hoping not to hear it again.
He turned around as Geralt growled softly in the back of his throat, and found himself face to face with a tall, brunet, slim man with eyes like dim embers and a haughty expression on his face.
His cousin, Percival.
“Well, fuck,” Jaskier sighed.
Geralt could smell it on the other man, that pumice and incense scent that Jaskier carried around. He was a dragon too. He didn’t smell as good as Jaskier did, though. Nobody did.
“Percival,” Jaskier said, giving an exhausted smile that was anything but cheerful. “What brings you all the way out here? I thought you were busy tumbling lordlings in Posada.”
“I was working as the spymaster.”
Percival visibly bristled and Geralt hummed to cover up his inclination to chuckle. Jaskier cut his eyes to the side, looking up at Geralt through his lashes, smirking. He knew exactly how amused Geralt was, the smug creature.
“Contrary to your methods,” Percival said with a sniff, “spying does not always equal seduction.”
“Oh, my dear cousin.” Jaskier’s eyes went wide, like he was apologizing. “I would never suggest that what you do is seduction.”
Geralt managed to turn this chuckle into a cough.
Percival glanced around like he was considering how much trouble he’d be in if he punched Jaskier in the face. “I see you’re as charming as ever. Is there somewhere we could talk privately?”
They did have a room paid for, but it was their room. It had Jaskier’s extra doublets on the bed and his lotions on the side table. It had Geralt’s healing potions by the washbasin and his cloak drying on the windowsill because he’d dealt with a drowner yesterday. It was only bought through tonight, it wasn’t permanent, but it was still theirs. And Geralt didn’t want this annoying peacock to set foot in it.
“There’s a corner table,” he said, before Jaskier could reply.
Percival finally deigned to look at him, his gaze appraising. “You’re the White Wolf. Geralt of Rivia.”
“Whatever you say to me, you can say to him,” Jaskier said primly.
Geralt grabbed Jaskier’s wrist and headed for the corner table. A moment later, he heard the footsteps of Percival following them.
They got themselves seated, Geralt with his back to the wall so he could see all the exits, Jaskier next to him, Percival across. Percival seemed fine with his back to the room, but if he was really Jaskier’s cousin then he had Jaskier’s… bloodline, and that meant it didn’t really matter if someone tried to sneak up on him or not. There wasn’t anything or anyone here who could hurt him.
Although if he tried to pull anything over Jaskier, Geralt would be trying his damn best.
“Jaskier.” Percival raised an eyebrow and said something in their mother tongue. It was a harsh and guttural language, but no more so than others Geralt had heard over time. He didn’t know it, yet, but he knew when someone was being insulting, and whatever Percival had said, it wasn’t all that polite.
Jaskier’s eyes flashed, the blue of them flaring like a flame. “Axun, tiamash. Er-haurach.”
Geralt raised an eyebrow at him and Jaskier flushed. “I told him you’re staying.”
Geralt had a feeling Jaskier had said a lot more than that, but he kept quiet. That was something he’d learned over the last century with people so reluctant to acknowledge him: there was much to be gained in staying silent and letting others talk their way into their own graves.
Percival lowered his voice. “Your father is dying, Julian. I was sent to find you. You have to come home.”
“I made it perfectly clear twenty…” Jaskier paused and visibly counted backwards in his head. “Twenty-two years ago. I’m not going back. They didn’t want anything to do with my behavior? They don’t get anything to do with me, then. I’m not returning just so I can have my life choices criticized all over again and told to be someone I’m not.”
“You’re still the heir,” Percival retorted. “Traditions hold.”
“Well then here, I renounce my position, blah, blah, blah, I don’t want any of it, it’s all forfeited, Geralt is my witness.” Jaskier leaned back, folding his arms, his shoulder pressed up against Geralt’s side.
Geralt leaned into him, putting his hand on Jaskier’s knee. Jaskier was full of bravado and recklessness and would fling himself into danger without thinking, but he was also unafraid to ask for help when he needed it (which was often). This, though… this was different. His bard seemed determined to put up a brave, nonchalant front right now, and wasn’t asking for support directly. That was fine. Geralt would be there, however Jaskier needed him.
“That’s not how it works,” Percival insisted. “You have to be there, Julian.”
“I’m not going back.”
“You really want to do this?” Percival’s eyes flared as well, glowing orange. “You want to be thrikominaki?”
“Yes,” Jaskier snapped.
“You have to be there.” Percival stood. “Uncle won’t last long. You want to renounce your position in the clan, fine. I think it’s stupid but it’s your choice. We’re meeting at the djered as soon as we can all get there.”
He paused, his gaze flickering over to Geralt, and Geralt smelled it—the swamp water and saffron smell of disdain.
Jaskier drew himself up, bristling. “Where my mate goes, I go. If Geralt isn’t welcome than neither am I.”
Percival didn’t back down. His eyes flared again. “They won’t like it.”
“I don’t care if they like it. I’m not looking for their approval.”
“If Jaskier’s only going to renounce his inheritance,” Geralt cut in, squeezing his bard’s knee, “then what does it matter if they like his companion?”
Percival glared at him, but didn’t say anything in response to it. He seemed to find Geralt not really worth talking to. “I’ll see you at the djered, Julian.”
Jaskier slumped back against the wall the moment Percival was gone. “Fuck. He’s my least-favorite cousin.”
“What did all of that mean?”
Jaskier looked suddenly exhausted, and Geralt was reminded of when they’d first met. How young Jaskier had been. He’d said he was eighteen and he hadn’t really been, but he’d been the draconic equivalent: barely a legal adult, still fresh and untested, and far from home for the first time. He’d still been a boy. Geralt had taught him how to make a fire, how to mend clothes, how to patch up wounds, how to make camp. And he’d looked at Geralt with summer-soft blue eyes, just like now, so wholly dependent on Geralt in a way that had terrified the Witcher.
It didn’t terrify him, now, but it did worry him. Jaskier didn’t get like this. He didn’t get… tired.
“Can we go up to the room?” Jaskier asked.
Once they got up there, Jaskier flopped face-first onto the bed, uncaring about his doublets. “So.” He groaned and rolled over onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. “You know that I’m—what I am.”
“Yes.” Geralt started to strip off his armor.
Jaskier made a displeased noise in the back of his throat and stood up to take care of the armor himself. “Well, I’m, ah, I’m the son of our clan leader. We don’t really go in for the gender thing but I am the oldest which means I’m the heir. And my father is… dying. So. That means I have to go and either he passes the leadership of the clan, and his hoard, onto me, or I renounce it and someone else in the clan is chosen to lead instead. We’ll have to go to the djered, our clanhold. The whole family will be there.”
“I’m guessing they aren’t all that happy with your lifestyle choices.”
“I’m a nomad with no hoard, I debase myself by performing for people like some kind of animal, and my mate isn’t a dragon. I’m three for three.” Jaskier gave him a pained smile, a ghost of his usual one. It made Geralt’s heart ache. “Not that I think it’s debasing myself but. We’re dragons. We’re supposed to be… superior.”
“Dragons have affairs with non-dragons.”
“Sex is one thing. A mate is another.” Jaskier flushed, his cheeks going pink. “I’m—I chose you, Geralt. For the rest of my life. I know there’s no… ceremony, or anything, but it’s serious to me. You’re er-haurach. And they won’t like that. Even more so because you’re…”
Jaskier trailed off, setting Geralt’s armor down in front of the fire.
“Because I’m a Witcher,” Geralt finished.
Jaskier hated it when people were rude towards Geralt because of what he was. The bard had gotten into more bar fights than Geralt cared to count, all of them on account of Witcher prejudice. Gods forbid the man actually get into a fight when it was his own honor on the line, but oh no, if it was someone accusing Jaskier of sleeping with their [insert relative or significant other here], Jaskier just ran straight to Geralt and hid behind the Witcher like a kicked puppy.
“They’re old fashioned, that’s all,” Jaskier mumbled. “We’re endangered. So some of us… cling to old ways. I’m supposed to be adding to the family hoard and finding another dragon to have dozens of clutches with so I can help restore dragons to their former glory and all that nonsense. Honestly we’re not all like that. Borch wasn’t like that.”
“No, he wasn’t.” Geralt watched Jaskier fussing over the armor. “Jaskier.”
“Stop that. Come here.”
Jaskier left the armor alone and walked over. Geralt growled softly. Just an hour ago his bard was happy and relaxed, flushed with pleasure, purring and trilling, satisfied in a way that only Geralt could make him. Now he was tense, his eyes downcast, looking exhausted.
Geralt took his hand and pulled him in, wrapping his arms around the slimmer man. It was harder to find the spot when his wings were hidden, but Geralt knew how to locate it on Jaskier’s spine, the base of his wings. He pressed down, massaging gently.
Jaskier tucked his face into Geralt’s neck, shuddering. “They weren’t… other people have worse home lives, Geralt. I mean what you went through—the Trials—my home’s nothing compared to that.”
Geralt knew that. But a cold home, a home where people didn’t accept or understand you, a home where you knew that who you were wasn’t good enough—that was still painful.
Jaskier sighed, his hands clutching at the front of Geralt’s shirt like it was the only thing keeping him tethered to the ground, and Geralt tightened his hold. It had taken him far too long to realize what Jaskier was to him, and what they could be together. He wouldn’t let his mate be unhappy.
They’d find a way to get through this.
Part of Jaskier wanted to dawdle as much as possible. Oh, let’s go visit Yennefer and Ciri, see how her magical training is coming. Oh, I hear Eskel was only a week’s ride south, he’s your favorite brother, let’s go say hello. Oh, I heard a rumor about a wraith up north one town over, let’s take care of that real quick.
But if he came home after Father had passed, his family would never forgive him. Mother would definitely rip him to pieces. Literally.
So the very next morning, they packed their things and headed for Lettenhove.
Jaskier tried to prepare Geralt as best he could. “Think of it like a royal banquet, that’s the level of snob we’re dealing with here.”
“They’re going to make a lot of insults about you to me, and they’re not going to talk to you directly.”
“They’re going to—”
“Jaskier.” Geralt stopped Roach in her tracks and frowned down at him. “They’re going to treat me as everyone always has.”
Jaskier felt his throat go tight and he looked away. “Yes. I suppose you’re right.”
He could feel Geralt’s eyes on him as he started walking again. After a moment, he heard Geralt dismount, and then found Geralt walking beside him, leading Roach by her reins.
Jaskier sighed. Geralt had a remarkable talent for getting someone to talk by saying absolutely nothing whatsoever. “It’s different. With—with everyone else—it’s because of me that they’ll be awful to you. They don’t really care about you, they care that I didn’t do what they think is right so they’ll be attacking me for it but it’s—it’s not right to attack someone for who they are, especially not—” He took a deep, steadying breath.
Geralt pressed his hand between Jaskier’s shoulder blades. Jaskier focused on that, on Geralt, on the smell and feel and presence of him. Geralt always protected Jaskier, always took care of him, and now, Jaskier was going to have to protect Geralt and he didn’t know that he could manage it.
They stayed like that until his breathing calmed down, and then Geralt took his hand away. “Er-miirik,” Jaskier murmured. “Thank you.”
“You know, you’re going to have to actually teach me some words at some point,” Geralt noted.
And reveal how sappy he was? Calling Geralt his song? “Maybe. If you’re lucky.”
Geralt rolled his eyes, and just like that, things were almost normal again.
The seat of the Viscount de Lettenhove looked about what one would expect for the noble in charge of a minor seat. Geralt had seen its like before and would again. Nothing special about it.
Jaskier was so tense by the time they got there he was practically vibrating. The night before they reached Lettenhove, Geralt had literally called to Yen through xenovox to ask her for tips on how to possibly fight dragons, if it came to that.
“You cannot possibly be considering fighting a dozen dragons just to make your mate happy,” Yen had said, sounding both disbelieving and like she could believe it all too well.
“I just want to be prepared,” Geralt had replied, feeling ridiculous. His job was to take care of his mate, damn it, and he wanted to take care of Jaskier. He wanted Jaskier to be happy and proud of himself and who he was.
Yennefer had sounded amused. “Just be affectionate with him. It’s Jaskier, that’s all he’ll need. He likes to be spoiled.”
That was wildly unhelpful.
Now they were going to meet the man’s entire family of dragons and Geralt felt completely out of his depth for the first time in years.
The first person out of the castle when they entered the courtyard was a stately looking woman with just a touch of gray to her dark brunette hair. She had a heart-shaped face and a sharper jawline, but her eyes were the same blue as Jaskier’s.
“Julian.” The woman smiled as she walked up to Jaskier and embraced him. “It’s been far too long.”
“Mother.” Jaskier cleared his throat. “This is er-haurach, Geralt.”
He didn’t know the literal translation, but he had figured out that ‘er-haurach’ meant ‘my mate’.
“Geralt,” Jaskier went on, “This is my mother, Kalfyra.”
Kalfyra glanced at Geralt, and he could smell the dissatisfaction coming off her in waves, that same disdain that he’d scented on Percival. “Well. You always had unusual tastes, Julian.” Her smile was forced, and Geralt hated that it looked so much like Jaskier’s own smile when the bard was unhappy and trying to hide it. “Please, come inside. You should get ready to see your father.”
Jaskier followed, and Geralt—for once—left Roach in the hands of the stable boy to follow after.
“I can see him as I am now,” Jaskier protested.
“Dusty from the road? With that ridiculous lute? Come now, Julian, please. Where are your manners towards your elders?”
“He’s dying, Mother, I doubt he cares how I look.”
Kalfyra tisked and continued to lead them through the castle. “I’m sure we still have some things here of yours that will fit. If not you can borrow something of Percival’s…”
“Percival wouldn’t know fashion if it fucked him up the arse.”
“Don’t be crude.”
They reached what had evidently once been Jaskier’s chambers—the scent was stale, but Geralt recognized it. It had seeped into the stones.
Kalfyra opened the doors, then pulled back the massive, heavy curtains at the windows. “Needs a bit of airing out but it will do until we get this whole ghastly business done with.”
“I’m sure Father appreciates your tearing up over his impending demise.”
“Your father understands that we don’t have time to mourn. We must get everything ready for the passing of the torch. Our legacy is more important than any one person.” Kalfyra turned to face her son, her voice cold. “I should think, if nothing else, you would’ve learned that, Julian.”
Jaskier, to Geralt’s surprise, ignored his mother and turned to Geralt instead, putting his hand on Geralt’s chest. “Easy, vethparijan.”
Geralt realized he was growling and stopped. Jaskier had never called him that word before, but it must’ve meant something important, because Kalfyra tensed like her son had slapped her. Jaskier was saying that word for her benefit, Geralt realized. It was to remind his mother of his choices and who he was.
Well. Geralt was no good at games like this, but for Jaskier, he could try. He took Jaskier’s hand in his, squeezing, and Jaskier beamed at him, delighted.
Kalfyra cleared her throat. “Julian. If you’ll focus, please, and make yourself presentable. I have much to attend to.”
“Have my sisters arrived?” Jaskier asked.
“Yesterday night. You can see them after you speak to your father.”
“No, I think I’d rather like to see them now.” Jaskier seemed to have found his spark again. “I want to introduce them to Geralt.”
Kalfyra said something in their mother tongue, and Geralt could smell the embarrassment on her, like burnt vegetables.
Jaskier scoffed in response. “Vorellim.” His tone was one that Geralt knew well—it was Jaskier’s you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about tone. He looked at Geralt. “Vorellim.”
Geralt still had no idea what that meant but given that Jaskier usually said it during sex he was willing to bet his horse that it was a compliment.
Kalfyra sighed. “Fine, do as you will. They’re in their chambers. Getting ready, as they should. I shall be with your father. I expect you there as soon as you are able.”
She swept out of the room, and Geralt felt the temperature rise by at least one degree as soon as she’d gone.
Jaskier grimaced. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t like… being publicly affectionate. But you’re going to get a lot of that over the next couple of days.”
“What did all that mean?”
“I’m not telling you what she said,” Jaskier scoffed.
“I meant what you said, Jaskier. I don’t care what she said.”
Jaskier blushed. He smelled happy, though, and that was what mattered most to Geralt. “Well. Um. Vethparijan means… it’s the most, um, explicit endearment we have, really. It’s also—the image of it, the literal translation, is also associated with protection so I sort of also implied that I let myself be protected by you and I let myself be submissive with you and that’s particularly insulting, the idea of a dragon being submissive, so.”
“You chose the endearment you knew would offend her the most.”
“It’s true, though.” Jaskier wrapped his arms around Geralt’s neck. “You are everything I say you are.”
Geralt wasn’t one to show affection in public, but they weren’t in public now, and he just wanted to hold onto Jaskier for as long as he could, because—he wasn’t good, with the whole relationships thing, but fitting his hands around Jaskier’s hips, pressing their foreheads together, soaking him in, holding him—that he was good at. That he could do. And after so many years with only one or two people on the whole Continent comfortable enough with touching him to give him the easy affection that he, that any creature, needed… it had been easy to become addicted to things like this.
Jaskier let out a shuddering sigh and pressed himself even closer to Geralt, like he just wanted to burrow inside him. Geralt hummed, his arm sliding around Jaskier’s lower back, and brought his other hand up to cup the bard’s cheek, his thumb brushing slowly back and forth. Scales, red and shining, appeared where he touched, and Geralt felt warm all over. Jaskier’s draconic form only started to slip out when he was truly relaxed.
There you are, little lark. Geralt bumped his nose up against Jaskier’s, felt the bard begin to run his fingers through Geralt’s hair. There we go.
“Vethparijan,” Jaskier repeated, and this time it wasn’t for show, wasn’t for anyone else, and it sounded like pure relief, like the first good sob after holding in one’s tears all day, like coming home after traveling a hundred miles.
Geralt stroked his hand up and down Jaskier’s back, feeling the scales underneath the doublet, smelling the fresh bread scent of satisfaction growing stronger. He’d get Jaskier nice and relaxed, maybe kiss him for a bit—they had time, time to unwind before—
“Oh my gods, it’s true?”
Jaskier gripped Geralt hard and Geralt felt claws sinking into his armor as Jaskier whipped his head around, smoke billowing out of the corners of his mouth, his eyes flaring as he snarled.
Fuck. There went all the work Geralt had just put into calming him down.
Geralt turned as well to see what the fuss was about, and saw another woman standing in the doorway. This one looked to be about Jaskier’s age, with dark hair and the same rounded jawline, same nose, even—only her eyes were bright red, like Jaskier’s scales.
“Percival told me, but I didn’t believe it.” The woman waltzed in like Jaskier hadn’t nearly just attacked her. “A Witcher? Julian. Really. We knew you went in for the exotic but…”
“For Melitele’s sake, Alyra.” Jaskier snapped.
Geralt tightened his hold on his bard’s waist. This must be one of Jaskier’s sisters, then. He had three, or so he’d told Geralt.
“He’s not a pet,” Jaskier went on. “And he doesn’t appreciate being talked about like he’s not in the room.”
Actually Geralt was used to people doing that, but he doubted Jaskier would like it if he pointed that out.
Alyra huffed. Jaskier rolled his eyes, but his scales vanished and smoke stopped billowing out of him. Also his claws retracted from Geralt’s armor, which Geralt especially appreciated. “Geralt, this is Alyra. She’s my youngest sister, which means she’s spoiled rotten and has no manners.”
“I’m spoiled because I know how to behave, not because I’m the youngest,” Alyra said staunchly. “You’d best be careful, Julian, or you’ll end up thrikominaki.”
“That’s the intention,” Jaskier replied. “Where are Regina and Vasilisa?”
“Regina’s getting all the cousins settled. Vasilisa’s primping. You’d think this was a ball for her to flirt at, not a funeral.”
“It’s not a funeral. Father isn’t dead yet.”
“But he will be soon.”
Jaskier looked like he was getting a headache. “Are you here for any reason other than insulting my mate?”
Alyra finally had the grace to look abashed. “So you two are… he’s haurach.”
“Karshoj,” Alyra swore, but admiringly. “You’re going to be in for it, then. I can’t wait. Best entertainment all year.”
“Go suck an egg or something.”
Alyra rolled her eyes, prancing out. “Go see Father before he pops off and dies out of impatience!”
Jaskier looked like he was considering going after her and strangling her. “Tiamash. She still acts like a child and she’s from the same clutch as the rest of us.”
He went over to the basin, unstrapping his lute and undoing his doublet as he went, then proceeded to give himself a quick whore’s bath, splashing water on his face, neck, and underarms.
Figuring it was probably rude to move through the home of his mate’s family while wearing two gigantic swords, Geralt unstrapped both silver and steel and placed them under the bed.
Jaskier moved towards the large wardrobe. “Might as well make this easier on us both and get presentable.”
Geralt looked down at himself. He could take off the armor, he supposed, but he wasn’t sure an undershirt and black pants would really…
Jaskier glanced back at him. “Oh, no, please, stay like that. You look nice and intimidating that way.”
“You want me to intimidate your relatives?”
“You’re not some idiot they can run roughshod over. You could probably kill them in a fair fight, and they deserve to know that.”
Geralt doubted he could actually beat a dragon in any kind of fight, but he appreciated Jaskier’s faith in him. “Jas.”
“Hmm?” Jaskier started rifling through the wardrobe, flinging clothes this way and that.
Jaskier stood up with two doublets in hand and held them up to Geralt’s inspection. “White? Or the yellow?”
Geralt stared. “Why not…” Gods, he hated that he was saying this but… “…blue.”
For Jaskier’s eyes. He’d suggest red, a rich, contrasting color, and the color of Jaskier’s scales, but he suspected Jaskier didn’t want to wear his family colors, so to speak, at the moment.
Jaskier shook his head, a familiar stubborn look in his eyes. “I want white or yellow.”
Yellow for buttercups, perhaps? Geralt could remember the gold-colored doublet Jaskier had worn to Pavetta’s betrothal banquet. It had suited him well. He didn’t know why Jaskier would want white, of all colors. White stained easily so it was only for the most formal of occasions. “Yellow.”
Jaskier beamed and started getting dressed again.
Geralt sighed and walked over, batting Jaskier’s hands out of the way to do up the buttons himself. “Jas. You don’t have to stay. We can leave.”
Geralt paused a few buttons from the top, as was Jaskier’s custom, but Jaskier tilted his head up so that Geralt could do all way up to the final button under his chin.
“If I do—I know you’ll say it’s just pride, Geralt, and maybe it is, and maybe it’s the dragon in me coming out and I’m not ashamed if it is, but you must understand, if we leave now, I’ll be throwing the whole clan into disarray. They’ll feel like they don’t have a right to the family hoard or the lands—and we are legitimately viscounts, you know, and I’m the son, so if I don’t want it I have to bequeath it to of my male cousins, legally, and all that—and so honestly, it’s going to be much more trouble than it’s worth. They’ll hound us and… and I really just want this all over with. And then we can go about our lives and they’ll never bother us again.”
I’d protect you, Geralt wanted to say. His heart beat with it, throwing itself against his ribcage. I’d keep them all away from you, I’d make sure they never bothered you, hang them all.
But this wasn’t his family. This wasn’t his choice. It was Jaskier’s, and Jaskier wanted to do it this way.
Geralt brushed his fingers against the curve of Jaskier’s jaw and stepped back, a hot curl of pleasure working its way through his stomach as Jaskier’s eyes glazed and his lashes fluttered. Then Jaskier straightened up, fixed his hair into something less windswept and more presentable, and squared his shoulders. “Shall we?”
Geralt gestured for Jaskier to lead the way. It was strange, to see his bard like this. No lute, his hair tamed, his doublet fastened all the way up. The yellow went well with his eyes, something Geralt wouldn’t have expected. But it was still so buttoned up, so clean cut. It wasn’t like his bard, his Jaskier, his mate, at all.
It turned the curl of pleasure in his stomach sour.
Jaskier could feel his breath getting tighter and shallower the closer they got to the dungeons. His father would ordinarily have been in his bedchambers, but if he was as close to death as everyone seemed to fear, then he wouldn’t be able to maintain his human form any longer. He’d be in his true form, down in the dungeons, where they’d been storing their hoard.
The further down they got, the warmer it became. Mother must’ve had the fires stoked day and night to keep Father as comfortable as possible.
Thankfully Witchers, like dragons, could handle extreme temperatures.
Mother was standing guard like—well, like a dragon—at the entrance when Jaskier and Geralt arrived. She was still human, mostly, but half of her skin was red scales, and her wings were out. Jaskier felt like he only looked like his mother when they were in dragon form. Otherwise, he felt he looked annoyingly like his father.
Father himself was in the center of the room, curled like a gigantic cat on top of the massive pile of gold and gems that dominated the dark stone room.
All the other walls for the dungeon had been knocked down, leaving only the supporting walls behind, creating a massive single chamber to store the centuries-old hoard that Jaskier’s father and his father and his father had been building.
If Geralt was at all disconcerted by the huge red dragon in the center of the room, smoke curling out of his snout, then he didn’t show it. He looked stoic as always, and Jaskier felt a thrill of pride at his mate. Nothing stopped Geralt. He let nothing get the best of him.
“Julian. Who is this… Witcher you bring with you?” Father growled in their tongue.
“Er-haurach,” Jaskier replied. My fate. “Vethparijan.” My shield, my buckler.
Father snorted. “A Witcher for your mate. Are you really going to fling your rebelliousness in my face on my deathbed?”
Jaskier felt like he was choking on all the things he wanted to say. But he wasn’t a child anymore. He wasn’t fleeing his home with just his lute on his back, determinedly setting off to sweet-talk his way into Oxenfurt and from there onto the road, a world he wasn’t ready for and probably would’ve had a much harder time of if he hadn’t met Geralt. He was an adult now. He had lived and loved and traveled, he had experienced heartbreak and tragedy and joy. He was famous throughout the Continent for his songs. He performed before royalty, nobility, and huge crowds in city squares. He was a professor at Oxenfurt. He had made friends with sorceresses, and with one feisty princess. He had a mate: a strong, courageous, noble man, possibly the only man with true honor that Jaskier had ever met.
In short, he was too damn old to throw a tantrum.
“I’m here to pass on my inheritance,” Jaskier replied, keeping his tone cool. “I’ll do the ceremony. Percival can have the title. Anyone you like can have the hoard and lead the clan. Regina would probably be best.” She was the second one of them who’d hatched, and had always been a leader.
Father growled. “Our family once inspired fear in everyone. We were better than kings. We were stronger than armies. And you would give up doing your part? Is it for this Witcher? He’s not even a man, he’s a creature—”
The snarl was out of Jaskier before he could stop it, flame spurting from his mouth. “Geralt is er-miirik. Vethparijan. My mate!”
He felt two hands on his forearms, tugging him back with gentle firmness, as they had many a time when Jaskier had been about to start a bar fight. “Jaskier.” Geralt’s voice was soothing, low in his ear. “It’s all right.”
Geralt couldn’t understand Draconic, but he knew what Vethparijan meant, and he must’ve figured out the gist of the rest.
Jaskier wanted to just turn and sink back into Geralt’s embrace, to let the Witcher handle this as Geralt handled so much else. Geralt was constantly annoyed by the idiocy of people around him but he was remarkably patient and even-tempered. He stayed calm, in control, almost no matter what. But this was Jaskier’s business. He couldn’t ask Geralt to fight this battle for him.
He took a deep breath, drawing himself up. “I would be saying this with or without Geralt.”
“Julian, please,” Mother cut in. “You’re supposed to be in the clan. In the family. With us. You’ve had your fun, you’ve done the… the bard thing. We all have our youth and our follies. But you were the first hatchling. It’s your blood right!”
“It’s not a folly, it’s—” Jaskier stopped himself. There was no point in explaining, they would never understand. They never wanted to understand. “I’m not changing my mind. Either call the ceremony and I transfer leadership of the clan, or don’t, and let it all fall into disarray after you die. It’s on you.”
Father growled, but it turned into a huge, wracking cough, one that sent fire shooting out of his mouth uncontrollably.
Jaskier found himself tugged back, even though Geralt had to know the flames wouldn’t hurt him. It was instinctive.
So his father really was sick. Fuck.
“M’henich,” Father snarled, furious, even as the coughing fit continued.
“I mean, if you wanted to disown me…” Jaskier snapped.
“Valinorothflax!” Mother sounded horrified. Jaskier could recall his mother calling his father by his full name only once or twice in all the decades he’d known them both. Perhaps calling her son a bastard was a step too far even for her.
“I’m not changing my mind,” Jaskier repeated. “Prepare the fucking ceremony or don’t. It’s up to him.” He nodded at Father, and then headed out.
He could practically feel the weight of the look Geralt was giving both his parents, and then his Witcher’s heavy footfalls were sounding behind him.
“Ball’s in his fucking court now,” Jaskier said. “The family will be assembling for supper just about now, so we’ll—go up and—put on a face. It’ll be all right, nothing worse than what happened there.”
“Your whole family’s up there?”
“Yes. All twenty cousins and my uncle Durax, and my two other sisters—my parents were considered practically impotent, only having four children, a clutch is usually at least five and you have multiple clutches, at least two—but anyway—”
“Jask.” Geralt took him by the elbow, turning him around and tugging him back. “Jaskier.”
He just wanted to have this done with and leave. He wanted to go back onto the road, just him and Geralt. That was home. Not here. Not this.
Geralt hummed, then tugged Jaskier in, pivoting him, pressing him up against the wall. “Hold still, lark.”
Hooking two fingers under Jaskier’s chin, Geralt tipped his head back and undid the top button on his doublet. Jaskier hardly even dared to breathe as Geralt nosed at the exposed skin, right where Jaskier’s pulse beat a heady, steady thrum.
Jaskier grabbed onto Geralt’s arms, inhaling sharply as Geralt sank his teeth in. Fuck. His fucking knees went weak every time Geralt did that. So he was a sucker for the biting, it was far from his worst vice.
Geralt licked at the spot he’d mauled as if in silent apology, soothing the skin a little, and then pulled back, that slightly smug gleam in his eyes that made them look like coins that had caught the light. “Hmm.”
Apparently satisfied with his handiwork, Geralt stepped back, his hands sliding down to Jaskier’s elbows to help him keep upright. Jaskier couldn’t see it, obviously, but he knew that there was now a fantastic hickey on his neck, one peeking out from the undone collar of his doublet, just visible enough that you couldn’t help but notice it.
As if the yellow doublet hadn’t been enough of a scream to his family that he was taken—Geralt didn’t have scales so it was either his eyes or his hair, and Geralt had chosen yellow—now he had the mark on his neck as well.
He trilled, pleased, and Geralt’s lips twitched up into a full smirk. “You’re rather pleased with yourself now, aren’t you?”
Jaskier looked far more relaxed once Geralt took care of him a little. He also looked more like himself, with the top button undone and a lovebite on his neck. Geralt wanted to mess him up even more, but this wasn’t the time. It wasn’t about that. It was about getting Jaskier relaxed again.
It was obvious that there was so much resentment that had built up in the two decades since Jaskier had last been home that it was all boiling up at once. Hopefully with the first proper argument out of the way, everyone would be calmer from now on, but… Geralt was having rather unpleasant flashbacks to a certain banquet that Jaskier had dragged him to, and he had a feeling that the longstanding issues between Jaskier and his parents hadn’t reached their proper boiling point yet.
Maybe they could get through this supper, at least, with Jaskier in a better mood. Geralt was not above using a bit of sex to get his bard to relax. And Jaskier always felt better, for some reason, when he had Geralt’s marks on him, when he could show off evidence that he was Geralt’s mate. It was a dragon thing, Geralt assumed. Like flashing his scales at Geralt when he wanted Geralt to compliment him or having a major weakness for the finer things in life.
Then they got back up to the main floor, and Jaskier was immediately grabbed. “Thank the gods, Julian, I’m going to murder all of them.”
The woman declaring her intention to perform murder looked so much like Jaskier that if she’d chosen to cut her hair and swap clothes, they probably could’ve passed for one another. With the exception that she was about an inch shorter. She was wearing all red, Geralt noted—as had Jaskier’s mother, in fact. And Alyra, earlier.
…he was starting to suspect the reasoning behind Jaskier’s doublet color now.
“Ah, Geralt, this is Regina. Regina, this is Geralt.”
Regina eyed Geralt up and down like he was an alley cat that Jaskier had brought in and begged to keep as a pet. “I’ve heard about you. White Wolf of Rivia. Julian’s been writing songs about you.”
“Hmm.” Geralt didn’t see any reason to elaborate further.
Regina focused back on Jaskier. “Alyra says you two are haurach.”
“Alyra is, for once, not exaggerating.”
Regina eyed Geralt again. “Did you even court him?”
Jaskier spluttered. “Of course I courted—”
“Not you, you idiot. You, Witcher.” Regina put her hands on her hips in a way that was so startingly like Jaskier that Geralt experienced a visceral moment of déjà vu. “Did you court my brother properly or did you just tumble his brains out?”
“He never had brains to begin with,” Geralt pointed out.
“Thanks, Geralt,” Jaskier grumbled.
Regina’s eyes, blue like her brother’s, flashed with amusement. “I know he’s got a rather bad habit of falling arse over teakettle for literally anyone with a pulse, but if he says you’re his mate then you must have done something special. He obviously didn’t choose you for your looks.”
Jaskier snarled. “Er-haurach vorellim.”
“Once again, I am going to ask you, what the fuck does that mean.”
“Vorellim is beautiful.” Regina smirked. “He’s saying you’re his beautiful mate.”
“Yes, and he is, so fuck off. And he did court me, it was very lovely and romantic, and I’m going to write so many songs about it you’ll puke with envy.”
“Somehow, I doubt that.” Regina gestured behind her. “Are you going to sit at the head of the table and get this blasted banquet started or am I going to have to keep placating twenty dragons for another hour?”
“Mother should start it.”
Regina’s face grew grim. That, too, reminded Geralt of Jaskier—when he was hurt. “Mother doesn’t want to leave Father’s side and nor should she have to. You were just down there, you saw him.”
“He seemed pretty full of vim and vigor to me.” Jaskier’s tone was bitter.
Regina sighed. “Go. Sit down. Pick up your bloody wine goblet, and start the fucking meal.”
Jaskier rolled his eyes. “Geralt sits next to me.”
He and his sister had a glaring contest as he walked around her. Geralt made to follow, but Regina spread her arms wide.
This was actually extremely disconcerting, how alike she and Jaskier were, and Geralt would like them to cut it out immediately. At least they didn’t smell the same, thank fuck. Jaskier smelled unique, and he also now had Geralt’s scent all over him from the little stunt Geralt had just pulled, so all the other dragons could smell Geralt on Jaskier as well.
Somewhere, Geralt just knew, Yennefer was rolling her eyes and didn’t know why.
“If you know what’s good for you,” Regina warned, “you’ll keep silent.”
“You said you heard the songs Jaskier wrote about me.”
“Unfortunately. That bloody song about coins got stuck in my head for a month, Alyra wouldn’t stop singing it and I nearly strangled her.”
“Then you should know.” Geralt took her arm and pushed it out of the way, stepping past her, “I never know what’s good for me.”
The dining hall was set up like most, with a raised dais for a high table, but it looked like most of the tables had all been cleared out to make room for one long one, so that all the members of the family could sit together, relatively equal. At one end was an empty chair, presumably either for Kalfyra or Valinorothflax, and then at the other end sat Jaskier. Both chairs on either side of him were empty.
Geralt wasn’t sure which one to take, until Regina passed him and took the one on Jaskier’s right-hand side. Ah. Yes. Spouses sat to the left of the ruler.
Geralt took his seat, and the entire table—which had been full of chatting people—fell deathly silent.
He’d heard more noise at funerals.
About two dozen pairs of eyes, ranging from red to orange to blue, the colors of fire, stared.
Luckily, Geralt was used to staring. He helped himself to a bread roll.
Alyra, now with her hair done up, stifled a laugh behind her hand.
Jaskier was pointedly drinking his wine and staring out the window over Geralt’s shoulder. Geralt bumped his leg under the table. “Should’ve brought Yen.”
Jaskier snorted. “She’d really make this a party.”
Regina rolled her eyes and glared at everyone. “What? Are you waiting for an autograph from the White Wolf? If you don’t want your meals I’ll eat the entire pig myself, I’m famished.”
The table was, in fact, literally groaning from all the smoked and roasted meat piled onto it. Geralt was pretty sure there wasn’t a single vegetable in sight.
The other dragons, chastised, went back to their meals. Whispers started up, glances were sent their way, but at least a pretense of normalcy returned.
“How annoyed will you be if I get wildly drunk?” Jaskier mumbled.
On the one hand, Jaskier was always desperate for sex when he was drunk and Geralt had absolutely no chance of resisting him, all warm and pliant and pleading. On the other hand, probably not a good idea because Jaskier tended to just blurt out whatever he was thinking while drunk, including wildly insulting things at people who pissed him off.
“Very,” Regina said.
“I suppose it would kill all of you to be civilized,” another woman mumbled. This one, seated to Regina’s right, was the first person with a different hair color that Geralt had seen in the family. He blinked in a moment of surprise. She was redheaded, with eyes lingering on the line between blue and purple, and had her mother’s heart-shaped face and sharp jawline. She looked the least like her siblings, the least like anyone at the table, in fact, and was most definitely the sort of beautiful that broke people’s hearts on a regular basis. Geralt would bet money there were a few sonnets floating around about her.
“Vasilisa,” the woman told him, when she noticed him looking at her. “You must be Julian’s Witcher. The one we hear so much about.”
“Yes, he’s mine, so claws off,” Jaskier cut in.
“Vasilisa was always stealing Julian’s conquests,” Alysa supplied, happy to sow more chaos.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous.” Vasilisa looked pleased with herself. “I only ever stole his women. He’s welcome to the Witcher. Or any other Witcher, in fact, unless they’ve started training women.”
“They had a contest at Oxenfurt,” Alyra added. “Who could earn the most duels about them. Vasilisa almost won.”
“Dueling Valdo Marx five times is cheating and does not count, therefore, I won.” Vasilisa sounded so primly offended, so like her brother, that Geralt had to hold in a snort.
Geralt grabbed a leg of chicken and put it on Jaskier’s plate, pushing it towards him. If Jaskier didn’t eat and only had wine he was going to regret it in a couple of hours.
Jaskier pressed his leg against Geralt’s under the table, silently thanking him as he dug into the chicken.
“A toast,” someone—a middle-aged looking man with a dark beard and orange eyes—said, standing up and raising his glass. “To Valin. Your uncle. Your father. My brother. Our clan leader.”
Everyone looked at Jaskier.
Jaskier’s face did that thing where it got very, very still, but he stood up nonetheless, and raised his glass. “To Valin, to my father. Our clan leader.”
Everyone raised their glasses and echoed the toast.
“And to our clan,” the man continued. His gaze was right on Jaskier’s. “To its future.”
Regina started to rise, but Geralt felt Jaskier kick her leg underneath the table, and she stayed sitting. Alyra looked delighted. Vasilisa stared straight ahead like she was praying to Melitele for a massive rock to drop on everyone’s heads.
“May all of us do what is right for our clan.”
Geralt could hear Jaskier’s heart pounding and smell the sulfur—the scent that only appeared when Jaskier was angry. Jaskier swallowed hard, and he could see it happening, see Jaskier stuffing down whatever he wanted to say to echo the toast and keep the peace.
“What is right for your clan?”
Everyone was back to staring at him again.
Jaskier gaped. “Geralt.”
He shrugged. “I’m curious. I know little about dragons.” The time he’d accidentally, ah, dragonsplained to Borch aside, he was willing to admit when he didn’t know a lot about something.
“Durax,” Regina muttered. “Of all of them, he had to piss off Durax.”
Durax, evidently the uncle in question, set his goblet down. “I’m not sure I can explain it to you, Witcher. I’d have to acquaint you with the idea of loyalty. And family.”
The metal cup in Jaskier’s hand bent around the force of his fingers.
“You don’t have to do that,” Geralt replied, keeping his tone light. “Jaskier already did. Took me twenty years to get the point but he was patient.”
Of course, it wasn’t entirely Jaskier. Ciri played a part. As had Yennefer. And Vesemir and the others at Kaer Morhen, before all of that—in their own gruff, stilted way.
“Do you understand what you’re meddling in?” Durax asked, as if he was genuinely in awe of Geralt’s stupidity.
“Nothing crazier than what I’ve meddled in before.”
“He’s his mate, for fuck’s sake,” Regina snapped, standing up and slapping the table with her palms. “He’s allowed to speak up when his mate his threatened as you well know, Uncle. Or do I need to list the lords you’ve dueled because they dared to even look upon yours?”
Alyra popped bits of meat into her mouth like she was at a jousting tournament, her eyes darting back and forth between the speakers with delight.
“If anyone is doing the protecting it should be Julian, unless he lets a two-legged mortal—”
“Jaskier,” Geralt growled, the word out of his mouth before he could even think to stop it.
Durax glared at him. “You interrupted me.”
“His name. Is Jaskier.” Geralt stood. “That’s the name he goes by, it’s the name he chose for himself, it’s the name he uses to introduce himself to people. It’s. His name. Jaskier. Not Julian. Jaskier.”
All right, he had been in empty graveyards less silent than this dining hall.
Durax left his seat and walked around the table, towards Geralt. “Let me make something clear to you, tiamash, since you’re a stranger to our culture. Ju—your mate is the eldest hatchling of the clan leader. He has a responsibility, an ancient and powerful one. He was bound by magic, by destiny, from the moment he was born to take over leadership of this clan upon the passing of his father. For him to abandon his family, to not even speak to any of us, to try and renounce that duty for years, is unthinkable. It violates and offends the traditions our people have built upon for centuries.
“And now he comes back here, flaunting a mate who is not a dragon, who will not help him to continue our family, who kills our kind, and he continues to resent and disrespect the honored office that he was born into. He sits at the head of the table as if it is a burden and not a treasured duty. He does nothing to welcome his family or settle their nerves. He makes no plans. He acts like a petulant child. And you want us to simply accept this?”
Geralt pretended to think about it. “Yeah. I do.”
Alyra clapped. Regina, Vasilisa, and Jaskier all moved at the same moment to smack their sister’s hands.
“And I’m probably going to get fucked in the ass for this, given how it went the last couple times I said this,” Geralt continued, “but fuck destiny.”
“Oh my gods not again.” Jaskier looked up to the ceiling as if he was begging destiny to be gentle with them this time.
“I will never understand people who want to shove someone into a role by citing destiny when that person clearly doesn’t want it. I’ve seen it happen with kings and queens, with village smithies, with soldiers and sorceresses. You want a leader who resents you and hates every second of it? So that you can feel superior because you followed tradition?” Geralt eyed Durax up and down, taking in the measure of him. “If that’s what you insist on, then you’re no better than the humans you claim you should be ruling. In fact you’re a good sight lower than some of them.”
He sat back down and resumed eating.
Durax snarled something, but Regina interrupted, her voice cold. “I will remind you that attacking someone’s mate is grounds for expulsion from the clan. As much as I would love to see what would happen to you if you tried.”
The cup in Jaskier’s hand was completely crumpled now, wine spilling out between Jaskier’s fingers like blood.
Geralt piled some more food on a plate and stood. “Perhaps you should conduct the rest of the meal,” he noted to Regina, taking Jaskier’s elbow. “Before we have a parricide on our hands.”
“M’henich,” Durax said to Jaskier—the same word that Jaskier’s father had spat at him earlier.
“Axun,” Jaskier spat back. Geralt was certain he was the only one who could hear the choked note in Jaskier’s voice, the one that meant Jaskier was close to breaking. He spat out a final sentence, one that contained a word Geralt had heard before: thrikominaki.
He didn’t know the full sentence, but it sounded like Jaskier was telling the stars, the very gods, to go fuck themselves.
“Rotten egg.” That was literal translation of what Durax had said. It was the closest thing to ‘bastard’ that dragons had, but it didn’t just mean that someone was born in a way that was wrong or unnatural. It was a wish, a curse, that the person had rotted inside their egg rather than been born.
It was an insult Jaskier was glad Geralt didn’t understand, otherwise his Witcher would definitely be tackling Durax, dragon or no, and trying to beat the shit out of him.
As it was, Jaskier felt like Geralt was being the mature one, and like he was being a child. A petulant one just like his uncle claimed. Why couldn’t they have one damn meal without Durax insinuating things? Why couldn’t his family just accept that he didn’t want this and let Regina take over? Percival would do a fine enough job as a viscount, maintaining the family cover, and Regina would actually carry on the clan. She’d have plenty of kids, she’d keep all the wayward cousins in line…
“Yes,” he’d spat in response, unable to help himself. “And if destiny was at all kind, she’d make me clanless and rid us of each other.”
Geralt started to lead them towards their chambers, but Jaskier stopped him. “No, no, irthiski, this way.”
He didn’t want to go back to that stuffy, enclosed room. He wanted to be somewhere he could breathe.
“I used to come up here,” he explained, leading Geralt up to the turret. “It’s the highest point in the building. You can see stars for miles.”
“Hmm.” Geralt handed Jaskier the plate of food, and then took Jaskier’s other hand in both of his, inspecting it.
The wine goblet. He’d crushed it, wine spilling between his fingers. He’d been—he’d been furious, the fire in him burning hot enough to melt his own scales. Nobody should talk to Geralt that way, but to see his own family doing it, his own clan turning against his mate, and all because of Jaskier—
“It’s my fault Durax was attacking you.” Jaskier set the plate down, pressing his forehead to Geralt’s. “He’s everything I hate about dragons, he’s absolutely boorish and brainless and thinks everything has to hold to tradition—”
“Eat.” Geralt bumped their noses together. “He’s not worth your breath.”
Jaskier accepted the plate again and ate quietly, pressed against his mate’s side. He didn’t know what it was like, for Witchers. Geralt had apparently torn the library at Kaer Morhen nearly upside down trying to find out any information on Witcher courting rules, it was that long since any Witcher had taken a life partner. Did they feel about mates the way dragons did? That deep, aching tug, that fierce need to touch and be touched, to hold and be held?
“I’m… sorry.” The words sounded like they were dragged out of Geralt’s mouth. The silly man was still terrible at apologizing, at least verbally. “I think I fucked things up for you.”
“They were already fucked.”
“Your sister told me to be quiet, you know.”
“Regina?” Jaskier sighed, setting down his empty plate. “Yes, well, of course she would say that. I’m the dragon, I’m supposed to be the one in charge. I should defend you, not the other way around. And there you went and got all up in my uncle’s face for my honor—which was fantastic, by the way, you mustn’t think that I didn’t find it deeply attractive and all that—and so to them, it’s adding further insult to injury. Where my behavior and… failings are concerned.”
Geralt looked like he wanted to go back downstairs and try giving murdering Durax a try after all.
Jaskier shrugged. “It is what it is with them, Geralt. I’ll admit it’s not normally quite this bad but then, they’ve had two decades to sit on all of it. And I’m only sorry that you’re having to see me like this. At my… I’m not exactly being my entertaining best right now. I feel like I’m back to being a youngling again, immature and acting out and just desperate to get away from it all and making myself and everyone else miserable in the process.”
“Hmm.” Geralt tilted his head, his eyes glinting just like a wolf’s in the starlight, his wolf, Jaskier’s wolf, and Jaskier just wanted to dive into him and have the whole fucking mess fade away.
He pressed close, feeling greedy and weak, and Geralt let him, let Jaskier just keep taking from him, let Jaskier wrap his arms around him and hold on tight.
“You keep saying one word.” Geralt tried to imitate it, and did a passable job. “Thrikominaki. It’s something you want.”
Jaskier sighed. “It means clanless. I’ll be disowned, kicked out. A dragon without a clan isn’t a proper dragon. I mean—I won’t suddenly transform into a human like we’re in a fairytale. I’ll still be an actual dragon. But not culturally. Not socially. It’s considered a capital punishment.”
“And you want it.”
“Yes, of course I want it.” Jaskier gestured wildly, nearly hitting Geralt in the face because he forgot in the heat of the moment how he had basically crawled inside Geralt’s armor. “They’re not my clan. They’re not my family. You are. You and Ciri and all right, yes, even Yennefer, but you’re not allowed to tell her that I said that or I’ll never hear the end of it. My students at Oxenfurt, my fellow bards—except for Marx, you understand that I really do wish for him to die at the first opportunity and it must be drawn out and horrible, Geralt—”
“Your wish has been noted, Jaskier. I’m still not killing him.”
“I am your mate and I ask you for this one teensy little favor…”
“If you want to kill Valdo Marx you’re fully capable of doing it yourself.”
“You’re absolutely ridiculous.”
“My point is.” Jaskier dragged the conversation back to the original subject. “The point, is that you all are my clan. Not them. I don’t care if they disown me. I want them to do it so that I can stop having to deal with this… responsibility.”
Geralt hummed, reaching out and tugging open a few more buttons on Jaskier’s doublet. He hadn’t even realized—but now he felt like he could breathe easier. “You take a kind view towards destiny. Given what it’s done to you.”
“That wasn’t destiny, I don’t give a flying griffin’s arse what any of my family says.” Jaskier was stubborn, what could he say?
Geralt snorted in amusement, running his fingers through Jaskier’s hair, mussing it up. “I’m only wondering if we’re going to get an unpleasant law of surprise thrust on us again.”
Melitele help him, he was so in love with this man. Did Geralt even realize how much it meant to him, to have Geralt touching him like this, setting Jaskier to rights, letting Jaskier cling to him and leech off his warmth?
He realized that Geralt was waiting for some kind of response, and Jaskier tried to laugh, but it came out wrong, like choking on his own fire.
“You know I was so very terrified, Geralt, when I first started trying to court you? I still am, sometimes. Terrified that you’re going to get annoyed by me, by how I’m—how obvious it is that I need you. And I don’t mean in that way that we sing about in love songs, the sort of… star-crossed dying for each other kind of way. I mean that—we all need people in our lives and we all need affection and I want you to be that person for me. And I worry that sometimes you opened the door partway and I’m kicking it wide open, and I’m going to be… too much and you’ll move on because I’m so obviously, pathetically in need of you.”
Geralt stared at him with the same expression on his face that he got when Jaskier recited a horribly inaccurate fact about monsters. “Do you—”
He paused, and looked down at the ground, irritation crossing his face. Geralt got irritated with himself, and his lack of natural talent with words, more often than Jaskier thought anyone else realized.
“You realize that it goes both ways.” Geralt looked back up at him. “Nobody else ever—people run away from me. You run towards me. People say I’m someone to be feared. Or at least to beware. You—I’ve lost count of the times you’ve gotten yourself into a stupid situation and run to me for help. Or the times you’ve literally jumped at me like some kind of useless attack bird and expected me to catch you.”
“I resent the comparison to a—” Jaskier stopped at Geralt’s look and gestured for him to go on.
Geralt sighed. “You were affectionate with me. From the start. You touched me. Not with any—purpose. You just did. Nobody else had. Nobody else really does except Ciri. And it—you’re not overwhelming me, Jaskier. I need what you’re giving me. More than I realized for a long time.”
“Even when I’m being an absolute mess and you’re having to deal with my literally draconic family?”
Geralt rolled his eyes, but looked so very fond that Jaskier’s breath caught in his throat. “Even then.” His hands slid down to Jaskier’s waist, squeezing slightly. “Am I… I’m not a dragon, Jask. I’m not.” He looked down at himself, as if he was reminding himself of who and what he was. “I’m not used to. This.”
Jaskier knew that Yennefer haunted Geralt, and so did Renfri. Renfri because he’d tried to do the right thing and had failed her, and Yennefer because he’d tried to hold onto someone, tried to grasp for the one type of relationship he thought he could have, with the one person he thought he stood a chance with, and he’d fucked it up.
“You’re doing perfectly.” Geralt hated being praised, but fuck it, he was going to hear it. “You’re perfect.”
As predicted, Geralt glared at him.
Jaskier grinned at him. “What? You said that you liked my affection.”
“You should’ve been more specific.”
Geralt glared even harder, but he let Jaskier nuzzle him like an oversized housecat, so Jaskier counted it as a win. “I used to come up here to escape everyone. Think up overdramatic plans to tie the bedsheets together and lower myself down the walls and run away.”
“You had wings. You could fly.”
“That wasn’t romantic enough, Geralt.”
“Hmm.” Geralt reached up, and Jaskier felt Geralt’s thumb brushing over his neck. Jaskier realized that his scales were appearing. And that—that pleased Geralt.
He grabbed Geralt’s hand, holding it tightly. “You know only you make that happen.”
Geralt gave him a long, slow look, like a wolf that had just sighted a deer, and there wasn’t any more talking after that.
Jaskier had wanted to have sex right up there under the stars but Geralt didn’t give a flying fuck what was romantic or poetic or whatever, they were not fucking in the cold on hard stones when he had to take off his damn armor and then either put it all back on or carry it down five flights of stairs to the bedroom. And he had been determined to take it all off, because he wanted skin on skin, wanted to see the patches of scales emerge as Jaskier became more and more relaxed, the rich incense scent of him becoming thick with happiness.
His bard definitely smelled of happiness now, sprawled out on the bed, limbs loose and heavy. His entire back was scaled, patches all over his arms and legs as well, and dotted down his spine were hard ridges, like miniature versions of the proper spines he had when he was in full dragon form.
Geralt tucked his face into Jaskier’s neck, breathing him in. Jaskier didn’t even move, too deep in sleep, too exhausted after the long day and the rather thorough fucking he’d just been given.
Had Jaskier really thought that Geralt was putting up with Jaskier’s… neediness? Jaskier was generous with his affection, with his love, he wasn’t greedy or needy. He gave more love than Geralt had known what to do with, and even now, Geralt still didn’t know what to do with it other than try to love him back as best he knew how.
Hopefully he was loving him well enough. Geralt skimmed his fingers down Jaskier’s arm, felt the change from soft skin to smooth scales and back again. Jaskier was a dragon. He was one of the most powerful creatures on the Continent. He could decimate dozens of men with a single burst of fire.
And yet, he was so fucking fragile, Geralt wanted to curl around him and never let go.
There had to be a solution to this. He had never seen Jaskier so unhappy. One time, after Yennefer and Tissaia had another argument, he had asked Triss how two women otherwise so in control of themselves could turn into lightning storms of emotion when around one another.
“It’s like that with family,” Triss had replied. “You fall into old patterns around them, whether you like to or not.”
There had to be something, some way to get the family to budge.
Geralt pressed his face into Jaskier’s hair, felt the softness of it and inhaled the smell of honeysuckle shampoo and the clean, just-barely-there scent of the sweetgrass oil Jaskier used (he claimed to keep it shiny), and then got up, dragging the covers up over Jaskier.
He was too restless to sleep.
Grabbing some pants and an undershirt, Geralt slipped out into the hall. He had a dagger tucked into the small of his back, just in case, but he doubted he’d run into anyone.
“Ah. Well. This is convenient.”
…he stood corrected.
Geralt turned to see Vasilisa standing there, wrapped in a dark blue robe. Vasilisa’s gaze drifted down to his neck, and her mouth twitched in amusement.
Ah. Jaskier had bitten down on that spot as Geralt had finally let him orgasm, and his teeth had been dragon-sharp at that point. He’d apologized profusely afterwards, clumsily licking at the spot, so fucked-out he’d been barely able to speak.
“Between that and the mark you so thoughtfully placed on my brother earlier, one would think you expected the both of you to be propositioned.” Vasilisa inclined her head down the corridor. “Walk me back to my chambers?”
Geralt had a feeling this wasn’t a request, and offered her his arm. Vasilisa took it as if she was in the middle of a luxurious ballroom rather than in a dark corridor in the middle of the night.
“So,” she said as they walked. “You’ve met the clan. I hope Julian…” She paused, grimaced. “Jaskier… didn’t undersell us.”
Vasilisa glanced at him. “You don’t like me.”
“I don’t dislike you.”
“You should. I was horrible to him, growing up. I did steal any girl he ever laid eyes on, just to prove that I could. To be competitive. I was the prettiest.” She smirked. “I still am. Poor Ju—Jaskier. He wasn’t the baby, so he wasn’t spoiled. He wasn’t the dependable one like Regina. And his third sister was the most eligible dragon on the entire Continent. Sweet boy didn’t stand a chance. No wonder he went off and found the most attention-grabbing career he could.”
“He isn’t a bard for attention. He’s a bard because he loves singing.”
“Is that why?”
“You don’t understand him.”
“No,” Vasilisa laughed, a little wetly. “I don’t. Jaskier doesn’t care about being a dragon. He rejects everything that the rest of us find so… special about it. I could never go as long as he does in between flying. I enjoy taking human lovers for a brief time but I would never want to mate with one. I’ve had clutches of eggs and I hope to have dozens of clutches more, but if you hand Julian an egg I think he’d drop it instinctively.”
“Your parents seem to think your clan is in dire need of the next generation.”
“Oh, they do. I don’t keep the clutches. I just contribute my talented genetics. I have dragons lining up outside my doorstep to have a clutch with me, I say, as long as you raise them, I’ll help you make them. So.” Vasilisa shrugged. “There are going to be quite a lot of miniature versions of me running around in about a decade.” She paused. “I don’t understand my brother. But I love him. I want him to be happy. He’s my brother. And you… you make him happy.”
He hoped so. He tried.
“You know what I never understood the most?” Vasilisa paused, as if she was standing at the brink of a very tall cliff and wasn’t sure if her wings would carry her. “He’s… pretty enough. But he’s not—people take one look at me, dragon or human or elf, and they fall at my feet. Because I look like this. But Ju… Jaskier, it’s his songs. It’s the way he winks. It’s his horribly bad jokes and his storytelling and the way he listens like you’re the only person in the room. And I don’t understand why he spent his entire time here envious of me when I wondered how—how he couldn’t see that his gifts are greater than mine.”
They were outside her bedroom door.
Vasilisa shrugged, as if letting a cloak slide off her shoulders. “My point is, Witcher. My brother has good reason to be unhappy here. And I don’t know why he is the way he is. But I want him to be happy. And I—I regret the part I played in hurting him, because I was young and stupid and I didn’t know better.”
She looked up at him, indigo eyes glowing in the dark. “And he is good enough, just as he is. So please. When this is all over. Take him far, far away from here. And make him happy. Because gods know we can’t do that. We never have.”
Vasilisa didn’t look anything like Yennefer. She was pale where Yen was dark, wide where Yen was slim, red where Yen was black. But in that moment, she reminded Geralt very much of Yennefer on the mountaintop, telling him that they could never truly make one another happy. Only in this case, he wasn’t himself. Jaskier played that role.
“You should tell him,” Geralt said. “What you told me.”
“Ah.” Vasilisa smiled. She really was lovely. But in Geralt’s opinion, he had the prettier sibling. “The thing is, dear Witcher, he wouldn’t believe me.”
She slipped into her chambers without a sound.
Jaskier stirred as Geralt crawled back into bed. “Er-kypjak.”
He knew that one. Jaskier had told it to him right away, unlike the many other words of his mother tongue. Now Geralt understood why—Jasker had been embarrassed of all the affectionate meanings behind them.
But this one was simple. Kypjak meant wolf.
“It’s me,” Geralt confirmed, and Jaskier rolled over, settling his head on Geralt’s shoulder, just as he had the very first night they’d ever shared a bed. Jaskier had only known Geralt a week at that point, and Geralt had been far from warm and cuddly with him during that span of time.
And yet, when there was only one bed at the inn, Jaskier had curled right up like Geralt was a pillow. The Butcher of Blaviken, a Witcher, a monster-killer in his bed, and Jaskier had trusted him.
Geralt wrapped an arm around him. “Er-haurach,” he tried out. It was the word that Jaskier had said meant ‘my mate’. It didn’t sound quite right, not just yet, but with some practice… “Er-haurach.”
As if he could hear him, Jaskier nuzzled Geralt’s throat, letting out a contented sigh.
Jaskier woke with the pleasant ache that came from a good night of slow, deep fucking, and smiled into the pillow.
A heavy arm was over his waist and he could feel Geralt’s warm breaths puffing against the shell of his ear.
Gods, he just wanted to burrow further down into the bed and keep sleeping. He wanted to roll over and kiss his mate awake and return the favor from last night, the way Geralt had pressed his face against the curve of Jaskier’s neck, plastered to Jaskier’s back, and fucked into him slow and certain and deep, until Jaskier hadn’t been able to take it anymore and he’d needed to see Geralt’s face, needed to get him even deeper, and he’d sank down onto him and watched Geralt’s eyes gleam gold and he’d never felt more held in his life.
But it was morning. And he had to deal with the mess from last night. Preferably before his uncle beat him to Father and painted both Jaskier and Geralt in a bad light.
He turned over with a sigh and nuzzled into Geralt’s throat. His Witcher tightened his hold on him, an instinctive move as he woke up. It happened every morning, and Jaskier never tired of it.
“I need to go speak with my father,” he explained as Geralt’s eyes blinked open, pupils thin cat slits before expanding as they landed on Jaskier’s face. “Sort this nasty business out. See if I can’t reason with him.”
Geralt pushed some of Jaskier’s hair back out of his eyes. “Do you want me with you?”
Yes. Always. “I think it would be better if I went alone.”
Jaskier kissed the nasty bite mark he’d left on Geralt’s neck the night before. He’d drawn blood, and Geralt had assured Jaskier that he didn’t mind, but he still felt shitty for it. “Before I go, though, would you… if you don’t mind…”
He pointed at the spot on his neck where Geralt’s mark had begun to fade.
Geralt’s smirk had heat pooling low in his stomach. He pressed Jaskier down into the mattress, his mouth fastening over the spot, giving one firm nip with his teeth and then sucking. Jaskier melted, wrapping a leg around Geralt’s thigh instinctively. Let Mother blanche and Father rumble. It wouldn’t do them any good.
Jaskier was gasping by the time Geralt pulled away (and trying to ignore both his own hot, straining cock and Geralt’s) while Geralt looked extraordinarily pleased with himself.
And then Geralt glanced away, as if he was embarrassed, and mumbled, “There. Er-haurach.”
The pronunciation was going to need some work—it was raspy rather than guttural—but Jaskier didn’t give a flying fuck about that. He gaped up at him. “Have you been practicing that?”
Geralt didn’t say anything, but he avoided meeting Jaskier’s gaze. If Geralt could blush (maybe he could, but Jaskier had never seen him do it), he probably would’ve been scarlet just now.
Oh, fuck it. Durax could get to Father first if he really wanted to.
Jaskier yanked Geralt back down, kissing him frantically, purring wildly in his chest. He half expected Geralt to chuckle or be otherwise amused by his reaction, but instead Geralt pressed him further down into the pillow, kissing him back just as fiercely.
You’re not overwhelming me. I need what you’re giving me.
He always felt like too much. Too much for his family, too much to stay in one place, too much for any one lover, too much for even Oxenfurt. Everyone wanted him to change or go away eventually. But not Geralt.
I need what you’re giving me.
Jaskier felt like his entire body was vibrating as he purred, arching when Geralt worked his hand underneath and stroked down Jaskier’s spine, smoothing along the line of his ridges. He seemed to be seeking out where Jaskier’s scales were, petting those areas specifically, and gods, Jaskier loved him so fucking much. He wasn’t perfect but he was trying, he was trying so hard to say what he was feeling and to speak Jaskier’s language and show Jaskier how he felt and Jaskier knew how hard that was for him, how difficult it was for Geralt to show affection, especially verbally, and he hadn’t ever felt as cared for in his life because Geralt was trying.
Nobody else, especially not his family, had ever tried.
“Get these off,” he demanded, the words a bit garbled because Geralt’s tongue was still in his mouth, and he shoved at Geralt’s pants. Jaskier himself was still properly naked, thanks, which was how it should be, but Geralt had put on some pants at some point and that just wouldn’t do at all.
“I’m not fucking you,” Geralt warned him sternly, but he helped get his pants off anyway.
Fair enough. If Jaskier was being honest with himself, he was a little too sore still from last night to be doing that. “Can—”
“You’re not fucking me. You have to go see your parents.”
“Geralt.” Jaskier through in what he thought was a rather compelling pout.
Geralt just rolled his eyes and kissed him again, and Jaskier bit down on his bottom lip as Geralt wrapped his hand around both their cocks, stroking them together.
Oh, okay, fine, that would—what was a fair consolation prize, that would do quite—fuck—nicely.
Jaskier hitched his leg up higher, around Geralt’s waist, and whined shamelessly into his mate’s mouth. His mate’s very talented mouth. Jaskier’s wings had popped out last night (they tended to do that a lot during sex, although sometimes it was his tail) and Geralt had tugged them wide, forcing Jaskier to arch his back, holding him in place as Geralt had bit and licked at them, making Jaskier sob with it. For all that Geralt didn’t talk, he certainly knew how to use his tongue.
Geralt pulled away from the kiss, the both of them panting, and moved down, just underneath Jaskier’s jaw, sucking a second mark into his neck. Jaskier tugged at Geralt’s hair, rutting up into his grasp, their cocks sliding together with delicious, slick friction. Fuck, he wasn’t going to last, but that was kind of the point, and he both felt and heard Geralt’s pleased growl as Jaskier spilled over, shuddering.
It only took another few thrusts for Geralt to follow (damn Witcher stamina) and Jaskier trilled, smiling into the kiss that came after.
“I thought you knew,” Geralt said, his voice so quiet that Jaskier could barely hear it, even with their foreheads pressed together and their mouths inches apart. “I thought you knew—that you were special.”
His parents would argue that he was special, but it wasn’t him, really. It was just a role, and he was supposed to fit into it. It wasn’t about who he was.
He wanted to tell Geralt that he felt special now, that Geralt made him feel that way, that he had heard that if you declared something enough times it became true but he hadn’t felt that until he’d met Geralt—that it had been the Witcher who’d made Jaskier just as Jaskier had made the White Wolf—and that he’d never felt like he was a part of something important unless he was by Geralt’s side—but all the words crammed up in his throat and he couldn’t get a single one of them out.
Geralt kissed him a final time, and then pulled back. Jaskier groaned. Right. Going to see his parents. Dealing with this mess.
“I’ll be back soon,” he said, once he was washed and dressed. White doublet today, because he still had a damned point to make. But he left it as undone as usual and he didn’t worry about his hair.
Judging by the pleased gleam in Geralt’s eyes, Geralt approved.
“If you burn the castle down try to warn me in advance,” his Witcher noted, idly checking his armor for any dents or tears as he did every morning.
“I’ll do my best.”
His footsteps echoed in his ears as he walked down the hall. You have a family. You have a mate. Your mate needs you. You aren’t childish. If he could just keep… repeating those thoughts, hopefully he’d get through this.
I thought you knew that you were special.
He could hear his father before he saw him—the great hacking noises echoed through the hall that led to the dungeon. Jaskier winced.
“Julian.” Mother’s eyes were rimmed red and she was no longer by the door, but sitting in the curve of her husband’s body, petting the scales behind his ear. “Alyra informed us there was a disturbance at supper last night.”
Of course Alyra had wanted to stir up more drama for the sake of entertainment. “Uncle was out of line. My mate defended me, as all good mates should. Had Uncle attacked my mate in turn I would have defended him. We then left.”
“Where is your precious mate now?” Father rasped.
“In my chambers. I didn’t think he should suffer the indignity of you two a second time.”
“Julian, please.” Mother’s voice was firm. “Can’t you see that you’re making everyone miserable? If you would do as you should, we would all be happier.”
“So I’m to put aside who I am, and what I want, to make everyone else happy. Just as I always did.”
“If you truly love us, yes. Love is about sacrifice.”
I thought you knew that you were special. You’re not overwhelming me. I need what you’re giving me.
“Of course love is about sacrifice, Mother, you think that I don’t know about sacrifice? You think I’m unaware of the kind of horrible things love puts us through? I’ve seen a queen kill herself so her enemies wouldn’t find her granddaughter. I’ve seen a sorceress burn an entire forest for her country and her sisters. I’ve seen a man put up with every insult and degradation you could possibly encounter because even though he hates to admit it he loves humanity, and he’ll put himself on the front line every time to defend them. I kept silent for twenty years because I thought my love couldn’t possibly be returned and I knew to tell him would be selfish, I know sacrifice.”
Jaskier realized he was close to yelling and drew himself up, taking a deep breath. “But there’s a line, Mother, and I will not give myself up for this. Sticking a woman with a man she does not love only makes her and the man miserable, no matter how much he loves her. It can’t be one way. I walked away from Geralt, did you know that? I walked away from him. Because it couldn’t be one way. I wouldn’t do that to myself with a mate, and I won’t do it to my entire clan. You’d all be miserable. I’d make you all hate me even more than you do now.”
“Nothing from last night would have happened if you had stayed at home and done what you were born to do,” Father growled, his sentence ending in a series of terrible coughs that had Mother kissing his scales and soothing him.
“Nothing from last night would’ve happened if you had transferred the role of heir to Regina two decades ago,” Jaskier snapped. “How long must she toil before you recognize her worth? How long is she going to have to stand in the shadow of a brother who doesn’t even want what you’re giving him and denying her?”
Father glared at him like he had more to say, but his coughing prevented him.
I need what you’re giving me. I thought you knew you were special.
Jaskier pressed his advantage. “Believe it or not, I’m doing what you want me to do. I’m doing what’s best for the clan. Walking away is the best thing I could do for all of you, and for myself. And I rather don’t care if you believe it or not. I’m the heir? Then fine. By my bloodright as the heir, I declare you unfit to continue as clan leader.”
“What?” Father roared, struggling to his feet, and Mother transformed at once, two great red dragons filling the room, one sliding in front of the other.
“You will not try and kill your own son,” Mother snapped.
Father subsided into coughing and Mother curled against him protectively, pressing her snout to his.
“I declare you unfit as clan leader,” Jaskier repeated. His throat felt like someone was sticking knives into it. “Which means the leadership is conferred to me. And as clan leader, I can pass my office up to anyone I so choose. And I choose to confer it to Regina. We’re having the ceremony, and we’re having it this afternoon.”
“I could challenge you on it,” Father rasped. “I could insist on a duel.”
“You could,” Jaskier acknowledged. “But you’re in no shape for it, and I don’t really feel like killing you, frankly. And if by some miracle you did win, you’d have to kill me, and Mother wouldn’t like that, and then my mate would kill you before you even dared try, and then we’d be in a blood feud with the Witchers of Kaer Morhen, and we’d have another fucking war on our hands, and I’m far too lazy to deal with all of that. So.”
He shrugged. “I’m going to hold the ceremony and make Regina the clan leader instead. We can have it with or without you.”
He bowed, because he couldn’t resist a little performer’s flair, and left his father to his bellowing.
Geralt wasn’t allowed to attend the ceremony, even as a dragon’s mate. Neither was Durax’s mate, or the mates of Jaskier’s cousins, all of whom were sitting in the great hall dressed in red.
Geralt preferred to wait by the front door, armor on, swords strapped in. He’d asked the stable boy to bring Roach around as well. No sense in staying a second longer than they had to.
They all entered at the same time. Percival was clutching a piece of paper, evidently the one that transferred the land and title to him. He looked rather pleased with himself, prancing about, and Geralt rolled his eyes since nobody was bothering to look at him.
Durax looked thunderous. All the other cousins looked annoyed, or scandalized. Alyra was bouncy as ever.
Regina was walking arm in arm with Jaskier, looking rather solemn. She looked up, saw Geralt, and nudged her brother.
Jaskier looked up as well.
It was a good thing Geralt had long since gotten used to Jaskier’s habit of crashing into him, otherwise he wouldn’t have caught his bard in time as Jaskier flung himself at Geralt, grinning wide. “It’s done.”
He smelled like incense, like sweetgrass, like sun-warmed stones. Like happiness.
“Take care of him,” Regina said. “He’ll be dead within the year if he’s on his own.”
“I can take care of myself,” Jaskier sniffed.
Jaskier gave him a betrayed look.
Regina took her brother’s hand, squeezing it. They looked at each other, so very much alike in face and not at all in temperament, and then Regina walked away, herding the others, giving orders.
“Do you want to see your parents?” Geralt asked.
“No.” Jaskier wound a lock of Geralt’s hair around his finger. “No, I think I’ve disappointed them for the last time.”
Geralt stepped back as Vasilisa walked up and pulled her brother into a hug. Jaskier looked as startled as if it had been Yennefer who’d hugged him, and then, tentatively, eyes still wide with shock, hugged his sister back.
Vasilisa pulled back and, with what was clearly great effort, said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry about all of them. Especially the Countess de Stael.”
“She’s the reason the countess broke up with you.”
Jaskier ignored him. “Well I was about to use a djinn wish to give you a horrible skin condition before I was rudely interrupted by Geralt’s djinn wish backfiring on us so really, there’s nothing for you to apologize for.”
Vasilisa looked extremely confused, but in a fond sort of way. “You could—I know you won’t be back really but you could—write to me. If you wanted. You know. Keeping me informed.”
They stood there, still half-hugging, and then both cleared their throats and awkwardly stepped apart. “Regina wants to talk to me about—something. So.” Vasilisa nodded at Geralt, and then swept off.
Jaskier looked over at Geralt. “Any idea what that was about?”
Alyra crashed into Jaskier, hugging him. “Have fun! Send me more presents!” She kissed his cheek, waved at Geralt, and swanned off again.
“Like I said,” Jaskier sniffed, heading for the front door. “She’s spoiled.”
“…you’re helping spoil her.”
“Would you look at the time, Geralt, we really must be going, it’s nearly noon, the day is wasting!”
Jaskier clearly had no qualms about turning his back on his childhood home.
Neither did Geralt.
Jaskier had never been more appreciative of tiny, crappy tavern beds in his life. He snuggled right up on top of Geralt, hearing his mate’s slow, steady heartbeat in his ear. “Geralt?”
“Thank you.” He’d realized he hadn’t done that. “For all of it.”
Geralt looked at Jaskier like Jaskier was trying out another new song and Geralt thought the lyrics were ridiculous and not at all accurate to what had actually happened (killing cockatrices was rather boring, come to find out). “Jask. Er-haurach.”
Jaskier could hear what Geralt was really saying. Of course, you idiot. I love you.
He purred and kissed his mate. “You know, all of this reminds me—how did Vesemir take the whole… ‘my mate’s a dragon’ bit?”
Geralt’s eyes went wide. “Fuck.”
Jaskier laughed so hard he nearly fell off the bed. Oh, winter at Kaer Morhen was going to be interesting this year.