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They've barely left the tavern in Posada before Geralt has made up his mind about Jaskier. He's annoying and persistent, has zero sense of self-preservation, talks too much and is, first and foremost, painfully, vulnerably human.

The next few weeks prove almost all of those things to be true—all but one.

*

The first time Geralt gets an inkling that there's more to Jaskier than he assumed, they're having dinner in a tavern, both of them dirty and tired from several long days on the road.

If Geralt wasn't so determined to still prove to Jaskier that a witcher's life isn't for him, he would admit that he's a little impressed with how easily Jaskier has been keeping up with him. He complains—endlessly—but he walks by Geralt's side for hours on end and then the next day he gets up at sunrise, ready to do it all over again.

Blistered feet and aching muscles are apparently not enough to stop Jaskier, but then again, neither was getting his life threatened by elves. He's watched Geralt slice through monsters, seen him covered in blood and guts and even stared right into Geralt's black eyes without wavering. Nothing, it seems, will diminish the cheerful tone in Jaskier's voice and the easy smile on his face.

That is, until they sit in a tavern with hot food and cold ale while people around them whisper and stare and then some burly guy passes their table and calls Geralt a monster under his breath.

"Oh, that's it," Jaskier says, setting his tankard down with a loud thud. The chair scratches loudly against the ground, wobbles and topples over as Jaskier stands up.

He turns to the man, eyes narrowed in anger. For a second, the flame of the candle on their table hisses and pops, shooting up another centimeter or two before it calms back down.

Geralt has no time to think about it because he's too busy holding Jaskier back before he can jump the man, who looks about twice his size.

"Say that again," Jaskier snarls, struggling against Geralt's grip.

"You need a pretty little thing defending your honor now, butcher?" the man asks with a cruel twist of his mouth, but Geralt can smell the fear under the bravado. Jaskier hisses and just for a moment Geralt considers letting go of him. Jaskier is stronger than he looks and he would get a few good punches in—or bites and scratches, because Jaskier fights dirty—and Geralt would step in before Jaskier could get hurt anyway.

But Geralt just wants to eat his dinner in blessed silence and maybe take a hot bath before he turns in for the night.

"Be smart and keep walking. We don't want any trouble," Geralt says, voice low, and ignores Jaskier's indignant huff, trying to pull himself free once more. Geralt's medallion hums against his chest and he subtly scans the room. Most eyes are on them, but nobody looks suspicious.

"Jaskier," he says. "Calm down. Food's getting cold and the ale warm."

The man smirks at Jaskier. "Listen to the butcher, pet," he says.

Geralt lets go of Jaskier with one arm, reaching behind himself to his sword. He wouldn't draw it, not for this, but the mere threat is enough for the man to finally take a step back. He holds up his hands and laughs nervous.

"It was a joke."

"I will show you a joke," Jaskier grits.

"Move on," Geralt tells the man, and when he finally does, Geralt sighs and wrangles Jaskier back down into his chair. "Sit, calm down, eat."

"I would have made him regret what he said," Jaskier says when Geralt is sitting across from him again.

"I know," Geralt humors. Jaskier frowns at him but picks up his tankard instead of saying another word. Geralt touches his medallion thoughtfully and glances around the room again, letting out a quiet, contemplative hum.

*

The second time, they're being chased out of town because Jaskier has put his hands—and presumably cock—somewhere he shouldn't.

There's an angry father and two angry brothers coming after them, all of them tall and broad and one of them is holding a dagger, and if they don't end up killing Jaskier, Geralt probably will the moment they make it out of town alive.

They pass a cart in the narrow street, Jaskier panting and being half dragged along by Geralt, grip tight on his arm.

And then there's a loud crash and when Geralt turns to look the cart has toppled over, blocking the street, contents spilled everywhere.

Geralt's medallion vibrates, a flash of heat he feels through his armor, before it stops again, but there's no time to think about that because the three men giving them chase are already clambering over the cart.

Later, after Geralt has snuck back into town to get Roach and their things, before meeting back up with Jaskier in the dense forest outside of town, Jaskier will laugh and shake his head.

"Thank the gods for coincidences, right?" he says.

Geralt hums in reply, suspicion settling low in his stomach.

*

They bicker and argue good-naturedly and there are some harsh words—usually Geralt's—but they've known each other for months before they get into an actual fight.

Looking back, Geralt isn't sure how things escalated to begin with. It started with him telling Jaskier in no uncertain terms to stay behind and Jaskier refusing; it's an argument they have pretty much every time Geralt sets out to fight a monster, but this time it somehow ends with Geralt snarling and Jaskier yelling at him and they're about two seconds away from jumping down each other's throats when a dark cloud covers the sun, there's a loud crack, and then it's pouring.

It's the kind of rain that drenches them both within seconds, and Jaskier's fists are still curled tight but his eyes are wide and his mouth open in surprise. He looks absolutely flabbergasted.

Lightning flashes and Geralt grabs Jaskier by the arm, pulls him away from the tree he is standing next to and towards the formation of rocks behind him that offer little shelter.

"What the fuck?" Jaskier says, barely audible over the sound of rain splashing onto the ground.

Geralt would like to know the same thing.

Just moments ago, the sky was blue and cloudless. Geralt's medallion hums warmly against his chest and Jaskier is the only person around for miles.

*

If it was anyone else, Geralt would have his sword against their throat already, demanding answers.

With Jaskier he doesn't even know how to bring it up, much less is he willing to draw a weapon on him. It's perhaps foolish, but Geralt trusts Jaskier. Jaskier is a pest in his own way, but he's not a danger to Geralt.

So when he still hasn't figured out how to ask Jaskier what the hell he is a few days after their fight, he gives up. Accepts that, whatever Jaskier is, he will tell him if he's ready and Geralt won't ask questions until then.

He has never been good at talking anyway and he has as many, if not more, secrets as Jaskier. He learned a long time ago that sometimes things are better left unsaid.

*

They part ways for the winter, Geralt heading for Kaer Morhen and Jaskier for Oxenfurt to hunker down for the coldest months of the year. He likes wintering in Kaer Morhen and he keeps busy, training and catching up with everyone, but he's surprised by how often Jaskier slips into his thoughts.

They make no specific plans to meet up after, but when the snow melts and Geralt sets out again, he finds himself heading for Oxenfurt.

When he gets there, he finds a tavern, orders food and ale. He doesn't ask the barmaid if she knows Jaskier, if he's still in town and where to find him. He sits at the bar, eats the stew and bread.

He's on his second tankard of ale when a hand wraps around his bicep and Geralt doesn't have to turn to see who it is. Nobody else touches him like this, light but confident that the touch is welcome, and Geralt would cut out his own tongue before admitting that he has missed this.

"Geralt, my friend," Jaskier says as he sits down next to him. He's smiling widely, the apples of his cheeks flushed, his hair wind-swept. He looks like he ran here and the thought, the implication, makes warmth settle in Geralt's belly. "I heard there was a witcher here and I just knew it was you. What are you doing in Oxenfurt? Have you missed me that terribly? You don't need to answer that, I know you did."

"I was in the area," Geralt lies. "Just stopping for the night."

"Of course," Jaskier says, and Geralt knows he doesn't believe him for a moment. "Just happened to be near Oxenfurt where you know your dearest friend has been staying."

"Hmm. And who is that mysterious dearest friend you're talking about?"

"Oh hush," Jaskier says, picking up Geralt's ale and taking a sip. "Do you have a room yet?"

"Not yet," Geralt says, and Jaskier's grin widens.

"Well then, save the coin. You're staying with me," he says.

Geralt snatches his ale back and Jaskier doesn't fight him for it. He rests his hand on Geralt's forearm instead.

"How has winter treated you in Kaer Morhen?" he asks, his tone softer. "I have missed you. Quite terribly so. It's been nice to catch up with old friends and professors, but I have to admit they suddenly seem a little dull compared to you, my dear witcher."

Geralt grunts. "Flattery will not get you more of my ale," he mutters. "Buy your own."

"Finish your food and we can head back to the inn where I'm staying. I'll buy us a bottle of wine and we can catch up," Jaskier suggests, sounding hopeful. "I want to hear all about your winter. And I have written so many new songs. I will play some for you."

"Great," Geralt snarks and then nudges his tankard over to Jaskier to soften the blow.

Jaskier takes it with his free hand, the other remaining on Geralt's arm. Geralt makes no move to brush it off.

Something is different between them; Jaskier's touch feels like a promise and the air between them is charged with something that wasn't there before the winter.

*

The wine is sweet and heady, and while it merely settles warmly in his stomach, he can see its potency in the red stains on Jaskier's cheeks and the easy smile on his lips as he recounts what he has been up to all winter.

He's been doing well, it seems. The room is small but cozy and cluttered with things Jaskier didn't own when they parted. The small table they're sitting at is covered in parchment and Jaskier's leather-bound notebook rests on top, opened to filled pages.

"And then! Then this student, he's still just a kid really, had the nerve to tell me he thought I was just making all these things about you up. That I had never even traveled with a witcher," Jaskier says, putting his hand on his chest as if just recounting the tale to Geralt is making him feel indignant all over again.

"Hmm," Geralt hums and his eyes dip down to Jaskier's hand, catching on pale skin and dark chest hair where the top of his ruffled shirt is unbuttoned. When Geralt lifts his gaze,the flush on Jaskier's cheeks has darkened.

Jaskier licks his lips. "Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I believe, we should go to the market, let everyone see me with my witcher."

"Your witcher," Geralt echoes, amused.

Jaskier laughs, soft and a little nervous. "Oh, I think I might just have had a bit too much wine," he admits. "But surely we need to stock up on supplies before we set out anyway. I will need a day or two to pack and say my goodbyes to everyone."

"If you want to stay…" Geralt starts. Say you don't, he thinks.

Jaskier's gaze softens. "Don't be ridiculous, Geralt," he replies. He pats Geralt's hand and then just lets his hand rest on top, covering Geralt's but not gripping it. They're sitting close enough together that one of Jaskier's knees is pressed against Geralt's, their bodies turned towards each other.

Geralt knows where all of this is going. And he suddenly loses the patience to wait any longer.

He curls his free hand around Jaskier's wrist and tugs, pulling him forward at the same time as he leans in, and kisses Jaskier. Jaskier makes a surprised noise, a squeak that Geralt would tease him for if his mouth wasn't busy, and then he melts into the kiss.

The angle is awkward, but Jaskier's lips are soft and he tastes of sweet wine, and he leaves Geralt wanting more, wanting everything. Jaskier, it turns out, is no more patient than Geralt is, and before long he is tugging Geralt's shirt loose from his trousers while mumbling "bed" against Geralt's mouth.

Geralt breaks the kiss with a growl and stands, tugging Jaskier up with him. They strip out of their clothes as they stumble to the bed, stopping to kiss and touch, and Geralt can't get enough of the feel of warm, smooth skin and silky soft hair, and Jaskier's mouth.

He groans in relief when they make it to the bed and he has Jaskier sprawled out for him on the woolen blankets and thick furs. He settles down on top of him, grips Jaskier's hip with one hand as he grinds down against him and kisses him frantically.

He gets Jaskier off like this, just from their bodies rutting together while they share deep, bruising kisses. Jaskier cries out prettily as he comes and then Geralt turns him around, opens Jaskier up on oil-slicked fingers before he sinks into the tight heat of his body. He fucks Jaskier deep and fast, and then slows down when Jaskier's moans and gasps grow louder, bringing him down from the edge until Jaskier is babbling and begging.

He leans over Jaskier then, curls his hands around Jaskier's wrists when he sees Jaskier moving one hand down to touch himself. "Just like this," he murmurs into Jaskier's ears. "Just from my cock, Jaskier."

He bites at Jaskier's neck where it curves into his shoulder as he thrusts forward. Jaskier wails. The shutters and the door rattle in their frames and something crashes to the floor and Geralt's medallion vibrates, pressed between his chest and Jaskier's back, as they both come.

*

"Does that always happen when you have sex?" Jaskier asks with a laugh. He's still breathless, lying sweaty and sticky in Geralt's arms.

"Hmm?"

Jaskier lifts an arm and waves it around aimlessly. "That," he says and then huffs, sounding amused rather than upset. "You owe me a new pot of ink, you know? And you will explain the mess to the innkeeper, my dear, not me."

Something heavy settles in Geralt's belly.

On the floor, there's a scatter of books that fell from the dresser and a broken pot of ink, dark liquid spilled around it in a thick puddle.

And Jaskier thinks Geralt did this.

Geralt realizes he got it all wrong. Jaskier isn't keeping what he is a secret—he has no fucking idea he isn't just an ordinary human.

*

They leave Oxenfurt two days later and Geralt hasn't so much as hinted at the fact that he thinks something is going on with Jaskier.

Things between them are good and Jaskier seems happy and Geralt doesn't know how to broach the topic. He fears he will say the wrong thing—something that will drive Jaskier away and ruin this thing between them.

It's not like Jaskier is hurting anyway, so there's time.

And then days turn into weeks and the more time passes, the more impossible it seems for Geralt to talk to Jaskier about it.

Instead they settle back into a familiar rhythm, traveling, Jaskier composing and performing while Geralt finds new contracts, and things are, for once, so easy between them.

At night, Jaskier will place his bedroll right next to Geralt's. Will pull Geralt on top of him, pull him into deep kisses, hands roaming freely as their bodies slot together. Jaskier still flirts when they're in taverns, but instead of finding a pretty barmaid to disappear with, he and Geralt go back to their room, their shared bed, at the end of the night.

The only thing not quite right is Jaskier's magic.

Geralt watches him more closely now, looking for signs. It's clear that Jaskier has no control over what he's doing, and it's also clear that it seems to be tied to his emotions. The sky darkens when he's angry and brightens when he's happy. Geralt can practically taste the magic in the air now when Jaskier's performances are going particularly well, the room cheering and singing while Jaskier struts around with a bright smile. It swirls around them when they fuck, thick and electric, and things topple and crash. Once, when Geralt jerks Jaskier off in a tub, Jaskier's head tipped back against his shoulder and eyes closed, he watches the steaming water start to ripple and swirl, waves building until water sloshes over the edge of the tub as Jaskier spills in his hand with a cry.

Jaskier looks around with a breathless laugh afterwards. "I guess we moved around a lot more than I realized," he says obliviously.

*

Geralt doesn't see the manticore coming before it's too late, too distracted by the ridiculous song Jaskier is making up about Roach. He lets go of the reins so Roach can get away, pushes Jaskier out of the way and draws his sword, but the manticore has already gotten a good swipe in by then.

His sword finds its target, slices, but not enough to kill, and the manticore roars and attacks again. Geralt gets a few more stabs in, but the manticore is strong, relentless and then the tail with the stinger heads right for Geralt.

"Geralt!" Jaskier yells frantically. There's a loud crack, a rumble, as rocks start coming down to their left. The manticore skitters back, but not fast enough to avoid the rockslide and Geralt just barely manages to roll out of the way before he gets buried along with it.

"Jaskier," Geralt pants and hurries to his side. Jaskier is staring, wide-eyed and pale, and Geralt grabs him by the shoulders.

"Calm down. It's okay. Just stop it, okay?" Geralt murmurs. He can hear Jaskier's heartbeat, fast and loud.

Jaskier nods shakily, looking at Geralt and then at the rising rocks to their left and back to Geralt again, eyes still wide. "How did you do that?" he asks, and Geralt can only laugh in disbelief and pull him into his arms, his bicep burning where the manticore sliced through the armor.

*

They only walk far enough to find a sheltered place to set camp that day. Geralt wants to bring it up then, but before he can find the right words Jaskier is in his lap, kissing him and pushing him down onto the hard, dirty ground.

Geralt figures the conversation can wait just a little longer, they can have this first, can let their naked bodies reassure each other that they're both fine, alive.

It's frantic at first, Jaskier's kisses needy and sloppy, and he only breaks away to tug off his clothes before his mouth is back on Geralt's. Geralt lets him take whatever he wants, his hands mapping out naked skin without ever pushing or guiding. Jaskier is beautiful on top of him, skin glowing in the light of the fire they built, his face flushed and eyes wide and glistening as he opens himself up on his own fingers, the scent of lavender oil heavy in the air. He's completely naked, but he makes no move to undress Geralt as well, just pulls him out of the confines of his trousers before he braces himself over Geralt and sinks down on him. It makes fire burn in Geralt's belly and he tosses his head back and groans as he's engulfed in the tight heat of Jaskier's body.

It feels like a revelation, every time they do this.

Jaskier puts his hands on Geralt's shoulders and murmurs his name, before rising up and sinking back down, taking him deeper, and deeper, until Geralt is buried all the way inside of him.

"Geralt," Jaskier says again, voice quiet and awed, and Geralt pulls him down into a kiss before he says something utterly stupid.

Despite the initial frenzy, Jaskier rides him slowly, his movements smooth and controlled, like he's suddenly in no rush anymore, like this is the part he was eager to get to and now that he's there he's dragging it out as long as he can, enjoying every last moment. He looks down at Geralt with reverence, pleasure evident in the soft part of his lips and the red on his cheeks and the tremble of his limbs.

Wind rustles through the leaves, picking up as Jaskier's breath gets more labored, the pleasure building in Geralt's gut. The fire pops, sizzles, flames licking up higher and higher and Jaskier's eyes go wide right before he spills with a cry of Geralt's name. His muscles clench around Geralt, hot and so tight, and the coil in Geralt's belly unravels, spreads, as he comes with a grunt.

*

The ground is hard and uncomfortable, stones and sticks digging into Geralt's back, but he doesn't move. Jaskier is curled up on top of him, loose-limbed and sated.

He gives a little laugh after a moment of silence. "You're going to give me a heart attack one day, with that," he says, gesturing at the fire.

Geralt runs a hand down Jaskier's arm and sighs. "That wasn't me."

Jaskier's reaction is instant. He pushes himself up, looks around wildly. "Is something here? Is something attacking us?"

"No. No, just us, Jaskier," Geralt soothes, feeling a pang of guilt.

Jaskier glares at him and swats his arm. "Why would you scare me like that, Geralt? This isn't the right time for you to get a sense of humor and joke around."

Geralt puts his hands on Jaskier's hips, calm, reassuring. "I wasn't," he says somberly. "It wasn't me, Jaskier."

*

"It doesn't make sense."

Jaskier talks quietly, sitting with his knees drawn up against his chest and staring at the fire. He put his breeches on earlier and then gave up, wrapping himself up in Geralt's cloak instead and it makes Geralt's heart bleed a little, seeing him like this.

"I mean, nobody in my family… well, we're all very human," Jaskier huffs.

"It might have been someone several generations ago," Geralt says. "It might not even be noticeable in anyone else in your family."

Jaskier snorts and turns his head, resting his cheek on his knees. "I guess I always have been different than everyone else in my family," he mutters bitterly.

Geralt rests his hand on Jaskier's neck silently, thumb brushing over soft hair.

"What do you think I am? You must have a guess, at least," Jaskier says. "Wait. Don't tell me if it's something absolutely terrible. I don't want to know then."

Geralt rubs his thumb in small circles. "You look human. Smell human, too," he says. "Perhaps fae or elven, but muted by a long line of human blood. It would explain the magic. Your love for music and poetry, too."

Your prettiness, he adds silently.

Jaskier straightens with a sigh and nods. "That wouldn't be bad, right? You… you don't kill elves and fae."

Geralt stiffens. "Jaskier," he says and moves to kneel in front of Jaskier, cupping his face in one hand and forcing him to meet his eyes. "I don't care what you are. Nothing is going to happen to you, certainly not at my hand."

Jaskier sniffs and smiles unsteadily. He tips forward, resting his forehead against Geralt's. "I could have hurt you today, with the rocks."

Geralt can't deny it, so he silently presses a kiss to Jaskier's mouth. He kisses him deeply, licks into his mouth slowly and slides their tongues together, until he feels Jaskier relax with a soft sigh.

"I'm not easy to hurt," he says when he draws back. "We'll find a mage. They might be able to help you figure out what you are. And how to control your magic."

Jaskier makes a quiet noise. "You're going to leave me behind, aren't you?" he asks sadly.

Geralt should say yes. It would be better, at least for a while, until Jaskier gains control. His life isn't the right place for humans, even one with some magic in his blood. But Geralt knows Jaskier isn't going to stop following him, with or without his permission. Knows that ship sailed back in Posada, when Geralt let Jaskier tag along with only feeble protests.

And now he can't let Jaskier go, not without hurting both of them worse than Jaskier's abilities ever could.

Geralt slides his fingers into Jaskier's hair, lets them get tangled in the soft strands, and shakes his head. "Never," he promises.