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my love will forever be stronger than stone (don’t be afraid you are never alone)

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They don’t touch.

It’s not a spoken rule, but Jaskier picked up on it rather quickly into his and Geralt’s friendship. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a problem considering Jaskier has always been incredibly tactile, the most out of all his siblings. His mother has admonished him hundreds of times for appearing to be the more… promiscuous of his family in their court in Kerack, and she’s not the only one to think so if the raised eyebrows and tuts are anything to go by.

But in truth, he’s not. He’s just very fond of holding hands and the occasional embrace, because feeling that close to someone else just makes his chest warm, so it can be understood his friendship with Geralt has been a rather tense occasion at times and a rough lesson at others.

Sometimes, he slips. It doesn’t happen often but when he does bump into Geralt again after months of being apart, he just automatically wraps the much larger man up as best as he can into a hug. He never gets past the initial touch, his hands gracing Geralt’s side or arms for less than a heartbeat before big strong hands wrap around Jaskier’s much smaller elbows and he shoves Jaskier back hard enough to nearly send him to the ground.

He doesn’t take offence, just bounces back with a large grin and a flimsy apology behind a joke of some sort. Some people just don’t do touch, and that’s perfectly okay. He does try to work on remembering that Geralt falls into said category, but it is hard when he’s gone from spending a whole month squabbling and dog-piling with his siblings to this very stony man with a general aura of fuck off.

Fortunately, Geralt doesn’t get offended by it, just rolls his eyes and continues whatever it is he’s doing. There was one spectacular time he had pushed too hard, giving Jaskier’s brand new purple doublet a lovely green-brown stain all down its side from where Jaskier had rolled into a mud puddle, and Jaskier still smiles at the astounded look on Geralt’s face.

He also remembers Geralt’s flaming red cheeks and ears as he’d held out a new black doublet at the next town they’d visited, the dye being incredibly rare and it doesn’t escape Jaskier’s notice that some of the black ichor from Geralt’s small collection had been missing, and neither of them had said a word as Jaskier had switched out the ruined one for the obviously specially dyed one.

He still has it, bundled up in the bottom of his rucksack where it’s faded terribly and horribly frayed, and he has no intentions on getting rid of it. Geralt doesn’t give gifts, and he’s not about to give up the only one he’s ever received from the grouchy witcher.

Although, despite their unspoken rules, something changes after the whole dragon debacle.

Jaskier is, admittedly, still bloody well pissed off at Geralt for the man taking his anger out on him. He knows without a doubt he didn’t deserve Geralt’s ire that day, no matter what the witcher had thought in the heat of the moment. It’d been Geralt decisions that got him to where he was standing outside some weird human-dragon’s den with Yennefer stomping her dramatic way back up the mountains, not Jaskier’s. He hadn’t wanted to come on this adventure the minute Yennefer had walked into the pub and he’d made that clear. The whole thing was Geralt’s doing.

And the djinn? The child surprise? It wasn’t Jaskier who opened his big fat gob to bind himself to Yennefer and Ciri. That was all Geralt. Even meeting Yennefer was Geralt’s fault. If he had only controlled his damn temper and not cursed Jaskier then they would never have had any need of her.

So yes, it’s a bit tense when they meet again following their falling out. Frankly, Jaskier is surprised to see him in the middle of Oxenfurt where Jaskier is performing at The Alchemy Inn, lurking in the background like some obscenely intimidating shadow.

Jaskier refuses to meet his eyes during his entire performance, probably annoying the crowd when he refuses to sing Toss a Coin but he won’t be giving Geralt the satisfaction of singing about him when he’s right in the room. He also may play a little longer than he’s being paid to do and may have done an encore of Her Sweet Kiss, because he’s never above being petty, but by the time he’s finished the crowd are hollering his name and his pockets are overflowing with extra tips. Even the bartender looks pleased as he presses a free mug of mead into Jaskier’s hands and thanks him over the rowdy chorus of the pub as they belt out a bastardised rendition his bawdy song, The Fishmonger’s Daughter.

He can’t avoid Geralt though, even if he desperately wants too, especially since Geralt has actively stood out from the crowd. Had he wanted to avoid Jaskier, he would’ve undoubtedly slipped out without Jaskier noticing him, but even though he knows this he still makes a break for the door out into the streets. The inn is way too stuffy and noisy for any conversation they’ll be having, and he can almost guarantee Geralt will follow him.

Which he does. Jaskier barely gets out the door before a strong hand wraps around his wrist and pulls him back. It’s only because he was sort of expecting it that he just yelps and somehow doesn’t spill his mead everywhere as he’s pulled into the side-alley of the pub, and he grits his teeth as he yanks his arm from Geralt’s grip while turning to face him.

“Could you be any more sinister?” he demands, glaring at Geralt as he takes a step back from him. Geralt looks surprised, mouth slightly open as he stands with his hand still out, but he quickly drops it back to his side as he straightens his shoulders.

“Yes,” Geralt grumbles and Jaskier rolls his eyes. He contemplates throwing his mug at Geralt’s head but decides it would be a waste of mead.

He purses his lips instead and stares at Geralt. He has no intentions of initiating the conversation. As far as he’s concerned, its Geralt who has some apologising to do, but Geralt just stares back and the awkward tension is so thick he could cut it with one of Geralt’s bloody swords.

Eventually, Geralt does speak, crossing his arms as he lets out a long drawn-out huff. “Nothing to say?” he asks, and Jaskier reconsiders throwing a punch instead.

“You’re the one who dragged me into this ominous alley,” Jaskier points out haughtily as his grip goes white-knuckled tight around the mug. “You won’t be getting a word out of me.”

Geralt raises his eyebrows, and Jaskier grits his teeth hard enough they ache. He glances behind the witcher, spotting a small group of rowdy men just down the way, barely lit up by the candles around them. They look like they’re from Skellige, one of them even wearing a double horned helmet sideways like an idiot, and Jaskier narrows his eyes when he sees they’re looking their way. He doesn’t fancy any trouble, least of all a scrap in the streets, but who knows what will happen.

He looks back at Geralt, pleased the smug look has dropped off his face, and he takes a long slow sip of his mead as he stands determined to wait Geralt out.

Thankfully, and really he’s stunned, Geralt doesn’t wait much longer. He drops his head after a few awkward beats and mutters, “fuck,” under his breath before he rolls his shoulders and crosses his arms.

“I’m sorry,” he grits out, and it sounds like it’s been ripped out from him with teeth and claws.

Jaskier falters at his before his next sip, quite mystified. He’s only ever heard Geralt say sorry once and that was to a cursed werewolf a moment before he’d driven his silver sword through its head. Jaskier had nearly written a song about it before deciding it would’ve only appealed to those that have meet Geralt before and even then they’d think it to be bullshit.

Despite knowing that, and thinking he should take it as the apology he wants, he recovers after a moment and shrugs as he continues to glower at Geralt. “Sorry for what?” he asks, and Geralt’s top lip twitches into a brief scowl.

“Jaskier,” he growls, and Jaskier shakes his head.

“No, Geralt,” Jaskier practically snaps. “What are you sorry for? It’ll do no good just leaving it as a general statement, it could be for anything-”

“Jaskier.”

“-because there is actually a list of things you should be apologising for and frankly that doesn’t suit me. I want you to own up to what you-”

Jaskier.”

“-did so I know you’re actually sorry-” he’s interrupted as Geralt steps forward and claps a hand over his mouth, and Jaskier’s eyes widen as his hand freezes and drops the mug to the ground, the crack of breaking crockery sharp in the air. The rough calloused skin of Geralt’s palm and fingers scratches again his skin, and he swallows thickly as he meets Geralt’s eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Geralt repeats, voice slower though still just as reluctant, “for what I said to you on the dragon’s rock. I... blamed you for things that weren’t yours to be blamed for-“

“They most certainly were not,” Jaskier mutters bitterly despite his voice being muffled into near quietness, and he rolls his eyes when Geralt presses his hand even harder again his face.

“-and I regret treating our friendship so crassly,” Geralt continues nevertheless, and Jaskier pauses his muttering at the term friendship, before Geralt hangs his head and sighs. “I hope you can forgive me.”

He drops his hand as he finishes, stepping back and not looking up at Jaskier as he does so. It makes Jaskier pause, surprised at the sign of humility, and he twists his fingers together nervously. This is a new side to Geralt, albeit one he’s always hoped to see, and he’s not too sure how to progress.

He glances over Geralt’s shoulder, sees the men down the way have settled down and are watching them with captivated looks, and Jaskier nearly groans at having gained an audience. Its lucky Geralt hasn’t noticed, well probably hasn’t noticed considering his heightened senses see everything, but he wouldn’t have been so humble had he know others were watching.

Geralt’s still looking down, and Jaskier let’s out a long drawn-out sigh as he fidgets with his fingers. “Alright,” he grumbles. Geralt looks up, wide-eyed with a hopeful expression on his face, and Jaskier should not find it as endearing as he does. “I’ll forgive you. On one request.”

Geralt’s eyes narrow as he straightens up, crossing his arms again as he frowns. “And that is?” he asks apprehensively, and Jaskier grins obnoxiously at him.

“I want a hug.”

There’s a heavy silence that settles over them, enough so Jaskier finds himself holding his breath as he wonders if he’s overstepped. He wrings his hands, knuckles aching in protest, but he maintains his ground as he sees Geralt’s face move into an impassive mask that’s always a sure way to tell he’s having an internal battle.

He doesn’t answer for a long time. Frankly, Jaskier has about given up hope his request will be met, but then Geralt let’s out a sharp huff before he uncrosses his arms and holds them out just the slightest from his body. If it were anyone else, they wouldn’t notice the gesture at all, but Jaskier knows its the closest thing Geralt will get to offering and he lets out a delighted laugh as he doesn’t waste any time in bounding into Geralt’s arms.

He snakes his own instantly around Geralt’s waist, feeling the soft supple leather of Geralt’s armour under his hands as they settle on Geralt’s lower back, and he buries his face into the crook of Geralt’s neck. If he’s going to get a hug, he’s going to make it a good one, and he inhales in Geralt’s smell of a mix of leather, probably monster guts, and definitely the chamomile soap he’d stashed in Geralt’s bag before the whole incident with the dragon as a joke. It nearly makes him giggle to think Geralt’s actually been using it.

All thoughts are shattered though when he feels Geralt’s arms come around behind him, strong and firm as Geralt all but crushes Jaskier to his chest. It’s a bit too tight and slightly uncomfortable, especially when Geralt doesn’t seem to know where to put his hands as they move up and down his back. It takes a moment before Jaskier realises Geralt clearly doesn’t know how to hug, and he pushes aside the wave of sadness that causes to instead revel in the feeling of finally finally getting some physical affection from this big oaf of a witcher.

They only pull apart when they hear the catcalls of the men down the alleyway, and Jaskier can’t help but laugh as he throws a wave at them over Geralt’s shoulder. He doesn’t miss the way Geralt’s cheeks have reddened, much like when he gave Jaskier the new doublet a few years back now, but he doesn’t linger on it either as he gives Geralt a smile and pats him on the chest

“Alright,” he says, “you’re forgiven.”

Geralt rolls his eyes, and Jaskier just laughs.

 

 

Travelling with Geralt brings adventure back into his life, and Jaskier will happily admit how much it means to him to be back on the road with Geralt and that too-intelligent horse of his.

It’s even enjoyable with Ciri, the child surprise that Jaskier is definitely shocked to find is also travelling with them. It doesn’t take long for him to register she’s the princess, remembers all too well the absolute nightmare of an engagement party Queen Calanthe held twelve years back now, and he has to admit Ciri looks striking like her mother.

She’s a good kid, an absolute trouble maker if Jaskier ever saw one, but she keeps them both on their toes with her wit and humour.

On their first night together she tells him they’re meant to be heading to Kaer Morhen, home of the School of Wolf for witchers. Jaskier raises his eyebrows when she tells him that’d been their plan for the last year and a half since Cintra fell, and when Jaskier raises his eyebrows at Geralt the witcher just avoids his eyes.

He gets it. Jaskier knows raising a kid isn’t just time-consuming but also expensive, especially a growing girl like Ciri who’s right in the middle of her growth spurts. Witcher’s barely get paid much as is, and Jaskier knows how costly it can be to maintain monster-proof armour let alone the silver sword that must be used for monster-slaying. He’s seen Geralt coat the blade in numerous oils before to give him an extra fighting edge, but most can be corrosive and while Geralt does a reasonable job on maintaining his gear on the road, there’s nothing quite like a blacksmith or armourer’s touch. Even if Geralt is clearly back to selling the extremely rare black ichor from monsters to seamstresses, as Jaskier notes from his severely depleted supplies, and trophies from his contracts to interested collectors, it clearly still isn’t enough.

After all, he’s got to provide for two, and Jaskier knows Geralt’s total earnings barely covered for himself at the best of times, black market selling including. It means when Jaskier sees Geralt with his shirt off for the first time in two years, he winces at the sight of yes, Geralt’s incredibly well-muscled body, but the lack of good fat he used to hold has whittled away to nothing. Without a doubt, Geralt would’ve been going without just for Ciri to go with.

Without hesitance, Jaskier starts stashing a large portion of his earnings in the bottom of Geralt’s saddlebags, mixing it with what coin Geralt already has. He knows the witcher isn’t stupid, Geralt definitely would be noticing his sudden raised amount of coin, but Jaskier knows he won’t mention it. Bringing it up would turn it into something, and neither of them wants that.

Unfortunately, and contrary to what Jaskier thought it would be like, it does mean Geralt will take up contracts now without a moments hesitance. Before Ciri, he used to consider them first, but Jaskier watches with uncertainty as Geralt rips the notice off the notice board without even looking at it, barely halting in his conversation with the blacksmith. It’s a dwarf, surprisingly sympathetic to witchers, so at the least, they’re getting Geralt’s equipment repaired at a decent price which means Jaskier thinks Geralt should at least look at the bloody notice before taking it down.

He doesn’t though, and Jaskier grits his teeth with disapproval as the three of them mount their horses to head over to the next village for Geralt’s contract. It’s not far, less than half-a-days ride, and Jaskier keeps his mouth shut against the protests wanting to claw out.

It’s a small village, only about ten huts if that, a huge orchard on one side and wheat fields on the other. Perfect place for a monster, Geralt remarks dryly and Ciri lets out a giggle in response. It makes Jaskier roll his eyes, the two of them both ridiculous. They ride past what looks to be an abandoned mill that is so ominous in the light of dusk that Jaskier would willingly bet his lute on it being the hiding spot for the creature.

“You two go up to the room,” Geralt instructs them as they tumble into the inn, the place quiet enough that the barkeep is already regarding them with curious eyes. “I’ll go ask about details for the contract.”

Jaskier agrees, taking the proffered key from the barkeep’s hand and ushering Ciri up the stairs nearby as Geralt pulls out enough coin to cover the night. Ciri squawks at him in protest but does as she’s told, claiming one of the four beds in the room with a delight sigh as she flops down onto it. Jaskier smiles as he dumps the collection of their bags on one bed and picks out his own opposite Ciri’s. It’s delightfully warm up here already, a fire tucked into the corner and smouldering away, and Jaskier takes a moment to soak in the comfort of the room.

“What do you think it is this time?” Ciri asks him, breaking the quiet, and he glances over to see her staring up at the ceiling and kicking her legs against the side of the bed.

“Who knows,” he responds with a shrug, trying not to acknowledge the small bit of doubt and worry pooling in the bottom of his stomach. “Probably a wraith. I’ve heard they’re pretty common around orchards for some reason.”

Ciri sits up, her lips pursed as she tilts her head to the side. “I think it’s in the mill,” she states, and Jaskier gives her a small smile.

“Very astute,” he says a little mockingly, and her eyes narrow before she throws the pillow behind her at his head. He catches it with a laugh before pitching it back and laughs harder as it crashes straight into Ciri’s surprised face.

They head back down to the bar after they’ve finished squabbling, Jaskier with a few more bruises to his shins from Ciri’s hard kicks, and it's with no surprise yet a heavy heart that he realises Geralt is nowhere to be seen. He had a feeling that would be the case, that the creature must be something incredibly dangerous for Geralt to not mention it to them, and he approaches the barkeep without hesitance as he slams his hands down on the wooden counter.

“What’s the contract for?” he demands, and the barkeep looks at him with wide eyes as he continues to rub a rag over his crockery mugs. “The creature. What’s the creature.”

The barkeep shrugs. “Witcher said something about a striga,” he says, northern accent strong but clear enough that Jaskier understands him well enough. It chills him to the bone, panic lacing out under his skin all over as he shakes his head.

“Can’t be,” Jaskier mutters, trying to keep the dread in his voice under control as Ciri comes up to lean against him. He instinctively wraps an arm around her shoulders and pulls her close. “Striga’s are too rare for there to be one that’s just… popped up out of nowhere-”

“Its been ‘round for a while now, aye,” the barkeep says as he bobs his head up and down with a nod. “Took over the mill down the way a few years back at the least. Only just decided on putting out the notice recently.”

Jaskier bites the inside of his cheek and glares at the barkeep as if it's him that's made a personal grievance against him. Last time Geralt fought a striga, Jaskier hadn’t been around, but he’d heard the details of the story in bits and pieces over the years from Geralt and once from Triss Marigold herself.

If he recalls correctly, Geralt barely came out of the fight alive and it was only because of Triss that he even survived his wounds. Unfortunately for them, there’s no such sorceress in this backwash village to save Geralt’s ass a second time and he’s incredibly frustrated that this bloody witcher has made Jaskier as nervous as he is.

“Jaskier?” Ciri calls his name and he jumps at as she pats his shoulder to get his attention. “Is Geralt going to be okay?”

He pauses for a only a moment, letting the disparity of how he feels and how Ciri needs him to feel sink in before he swallows down his panic and gives her a smile. He even ruffles her hair, something she hates him doing, and she bats his hand away with an irritated look as he gives her a grin that feels uncomfortable on his face.

“Of course,” he says cheerfully. “You know Geralt. Too pig-headed to let even a striga get the better of him.”

Ciri seems to contemplate this for a moment before she smiles up at Jaskier. He tries to take comfort in her confidence, but it’s hard when he knows its only brought about by her misunderstanding and his deception. He can’t fault her though, she’s too young to be as bitter and twisted as the rest of them can be.

He gives the barkeep one more filthy look before ordering dinner for himself and Ciri. Geralt will be out until dawn, hopefully dragging his sorry ass back by then with the striga either dead or, most likely, back to being a little girl, so he might as well sort himself and Ciri out. She looks shattered anyway, eyes drooping shut a few times as they wait for their roasts, and it’s not long until Jaskier is tucking her into bed and assuring her once again that Geralt will be fine.

He tries to convince himself of it too, but then it’s well past the middle of the night and he’s still lying down and staring at the roof of their room, fingers tapping out irregular rhythms on top of the bedsheets, callouses from his lute playing scratching the cheap cotton. He’s not sure what time it is, the embers of the fire in the corner have all but died out and the crack between the curtains is stubbornly dark, and he grits his teeth in frustration.

Frustrated that Geralt just up and left, frustrated that he can’t sleep, frustrated that clearly he cares too damn much.

Eventually, he rolls out of bed and fumbles around in the dark, using the very dull light provided by the last of the embers to scratch around for his boots and a shirt of some kind. He finds one of Geralt’s in the mess of their bags and doesn’t hesitate in throwing it on, nose wrinkling as it hangs nearly to his knees. But, it's warmer than being bare-chested and he grabs a nearby throw blanket to drape over his shoulders as he silently troops from the room and down the stairs into the inn.

It’s empty and dead quiet, even the barkeep having retired for the night. Clearly it’s late then, so late it’s practically early, which is good to know. It means dawn isn’t too far away and hopefully Geralt with it.

He settles outside, sitting on the steps leading up to the veranda along the front of the inn, stretching his legs out in front of him as the tassels of the throw blanket he’s wearing tickles the back of his neck. He can just see the top of the mill’s wooden wheel above the orchard trees, and he keeps his eyes focused on it through the still night.

He doesn’t know how many hours go by as he sits on the old wooden stairs. His legs go numb from the cold, fingers icy as he changes from pressing them between his thighs to under his arms, but still, he waits for any sign of Geralt. He lets the worry bubble beneath his skin, no one around to be brave for now, and as the light begins to peek over the horizon and the roosters start to crow, he feels his breath shudder violently in his chest.

The third crow, he reminds himself. After the third crow and it will all be over.

But the third crow comes and goes, and Jaskier forces himself to remain seated, pulls his knees to his chest and taps his fingers against his shins as he stares and stares at the top of the wooden wheel on the mill. The light gets brighter, the sun not quite there but the land still bathed in a golden glow, and Jaskier shakes as he feels just a little bit more hopelessness creep into his chest.

It’s right when he thinks he should be going inside now, finding Ciri as she wakes and holding the girl close with a heavy heart, that he finally sees him. A lone figure walking down the path leading from the mill, a sword grasped in one hand and dragging along the dirt behind him, and Jaskier recognises the white-hair before he recognises anything else.

Without a thought, he throws himself off the steps, blanket falling to the ground in a pool of material as he flies across the dirt between them. Already his face is splitting into a grin and he barely registers the look of surprise on Geralt’s face as he crashes into him, arms thrown around Geralt’s neck and dragging him down that small bit of height difference as Jaskier buries his face into the crook of Geralt’s neck.

“Oh thank fuck,” Jaskier blurts out, his voice rushed and panicked, and he doesn’t care that they shouldn’t be touching, that Geralt is against it, because Geralt is here and alive and somehow he’s standing but Jaskier still doesn’t care as Geralt’s chest moves against his with every breath.

There’s a long moment where Geralt remains rigid underneath him before Jaskier is surprised to hear the clang of a dropped sword as those strong arms wrap around him slowly.

“Were you that worried?” Geralt growls, breath fluttering Jaskier’s hair, and Jaskier bites back the snarky response he wants to give and instead just pushes in closer against Geralt, drinking him in as much as he can. Yes, he was that worried, although its something to dissect at a much later time.

Geralt doesn’t push for an answer though, surprisingly doesn’t push him away either as he stays with his large arms around Jaskier’s smaller waist, warm hands pressed to Jaskier’s sides through the thin cotton of the shirt he’s wearing, Geralt’s shirt, and Jaskier can feel his ears burn with embarrassment.

When he’s finally deemed it long enough, not wanting to push too much, Jaskier takes a step back. Geralt’s hands quickly disappear to hang awkwardly at his side, and it’s only then that Jaskier finally looks at Geralt.

He winces to see how sweaty and filthy Geralt is, a mix of dirt, cobwebs, and gore covering his body. His eyes are bloodshot, hair a tangled mess, and it looks like there are some new nicks and tears in his armour. Besides that though he looks… fine, and Jaskier runs his hands over Geralt’s body to check before he catches himself and pulls his hands back.

“Did you save her?” he asks reluctantly, unsure if he’ll like the answer, but Geralt gives him a grim smile and a nod.

“Just,” Geralt says, voice quiet and low in the brisk morning air. “I dropped her home to her parents. They thought she’d died years ago.” He shrugs, looks away over the orchard trees.

Jaskier smiles and squeezes Geralt’s elbow tightly. “You’re incredible sometimes, you know that right?” he tells him. Geralt’s eyes flicker to his for a brief moment and Jaskier sees how he swallows thickly.

He doesn’t say thank you, Jaskier wasn’t even expecting him too, and he lets go of Geralt’s arm to pick up the silver sword laying in the dirt. It’s covered in blood and gore as well, Jaskier unsure of who’s, but he has a small feeling some of it is Geralt’s going by the state of the hilt. Another repair job maybe, but that’s okay.

At least Geralt is back, and he swallows down whatever feelings are crowding up his throat wanting to come out, and he tugs on Geralt’s sleeve as he starts to walk back towards the inn. “Come on,” he says over his shoulder as Geralt follows him, “you smell worse than a long-drop.”

Geralt says something biting in response, but Jaskier doesn’t hear it as he hurries back towards the inn, scooping up the blanket as he goes. Thankfully, there’s no remark from Geralt about that nor the shirt he’s wearing, and Jaskier thinks he can survive without the humiliation.

Even if he does see the way Geralt’s eyes linger on them.

 

 

Jaskier has always known he’s part-elf.

There’s the slight point to his ears, although that was easily hidden by having longer hair, and his silver eyes are passable for grey as long as he stays out of the sunlight. His sisters often bemoaned he didn’t have the violet eyes they’d seen on others with elvish blood, or even the one memorable pure golden-eyed quarter-elf mage that had appeared in court once. He’s just thankful he doesn’t stick out more.

It wasn’t actually noticeable at all until his younger sister’s thirty-fifth birthday had them both standing in front of a mirror, and while she had all the grace and holding of a nearing middle-aged woman, Jaskier still looked like he was barely crawling out of his late teens.

Of course, following that realisation and the subsequent realisations his two older sisters and younger brother had, all five of their eyes turned to their parents. They’ve always been seen to be the picture-perfect couple and they even act like it most the time, although Jaskier really believed it never was an act. Their court smiles aren’t false, they hold social standing with ease, and neither Jaskier nor his siblings have ever been able to figure out which one of them bloody well had a fling with a half-elf.

They hadn’t said anything either. Lips tightly shut as they’d told their children in much more polite terms to bloody well bugger off, and Jaskier decided then and there that was a secret he was perfectly happy not knowing. Thankfully, his siblings agreed and, besides the occasional ribbing in private, all four of them stood fast in their agreement that Jaskier is their full brother through and through.

It gives him much needed relief, especially since elves aren’t overly popular in the family court at Kerack, so to have his siblings support goes a long way in helping him feel more comfortable in his own skin.

Even when his younger siblings finally hit their fifties and both of them looked their ages with their children and grandchildren amongst them while Jaskier stayed looking like he’d just rolled out of university. His nieces and nephews at first used to ask if they were cousins, and he’s always been thankful that his siblings have dealt with those questions.

“He’s taken all the good genes,” they would say while giving him a side-eye and secretive smile, “your grandparents had him a bit later in life, that's all.”

Although, despite his family acceptance, the court itself is not as understanding. Jaskier had hated the moments the courts started to fall quiet whenever he stepped into a room, when he would feel eyes following him but when he turned around they were all somehow looking in wildly different directions. Of course, he’s a viscount so he’s used to the gossip of the halls of Kerack, but never something so sinister as the whispers following his shadow.

It was his oldest sister’s birthday that caused him to leave for a long long time. Her sixtieth, to be exact, and for once his parents hadn’t been there to bear the brunt of the rumours that circulated the hall as Jaskier stood with his family and looked younger than even his nieces and nephews. He ignored the mutterings, endured the sweeter than molasses greetings, and tried hard not to let his hands shake and clench into fists when he saw narrowed eyes follow his every move from the most bigoted of the lot.

He shouldn’t have stepped into the back halls alone, not at the height of the party when not even the servants were travelling through it. He’d needed a breather, five minutes alone to collect his thoughts and straighten his shoulders, to prepare himself for the next round of slander no doubt waiting for him. What he hadn’t needed, though, was the three baron’s that stepped out after him.

The beating had been agonisingly brutal. There’s a crescent-shaped scar on his chest now from a broken bottle, cut in by one as the other two had held him with bruising hands, as they’d hissed slurs in his ears and mockingly threatened to cut the tips off of them. They hadn’t, just left him battered and stricken in the corridor, blood dribbling from his split lip and broken nose, eyes fuzzy and ears ringing as head wheezed from his crushed chest.

All because of being a quarter-elf.

So, he’s not overly fond of returning home but he understands that sometimes, needs must.

It’s the middle of winter and Ciri could use a whole new wardrobe at the least and a decent nights sleep in a bed that doesn’t reek of its previous inhabitants. Geralt still doesn’t look too pleased to be going either, but he doesn’t grumble too much as they ride to the castle, Jaskier wondering who might greet them at the gates. His family often doesn’t stay in Kerack for the winter months, so he bites his tongue and hopes its someone sympathetic to him.

Surprisingly, and thankfully, it’s his cousin who meets them. Ferrant de Lettenhove, the oldest of them all nearing into his mid-seventies, although Jaskier guesses had his older cousin died then one of his siblings would’ve told him. He’s grinning as he walks towards them and Jaskier quickly dismounts from his black gelding in time to be wrapped into a fierce hug.

“Julian!” Ferrant practically crows as he squeezes Jaskier tight enough he might burst. “It’s been too long, cousin! Finally tired of the nomadic lifestyle?”

They pull back, and Jaskier finds it hard not to notice the wrinkles that cover Ferrant’s cheeks and forehead, the grey hair with white strands streaking up from his temples, how he’s just that little bit shorter and has lost so much of his usual muscle that Jaskier is, for once in their lives, nearly bigger than him.

“Never, Ferrant,” he snorts, giving his cousin a cheerful smile. “I’ve missed you. You’re looking well.”

Ferrant snorts. “Don’t tease an old man, Julian,” he scolds goodheartedly. “You haven’t aged a day.” He throws Jaskier a cheeky wink before turning to Geralt and Ciri, both having slid down from Roach, with his giant grin still etched on his face. Jaskier doesn’t know if he’s ever seen it off.

They introduce themselves with brief handshakes, Geralt and ‘Fiona’, and Ferrant recognises Geralt immediately from all the tales Jaskier has told over the years. Jaskier’s ears glow red as Ferrant informs Geralt that he thinks its sweet that Jaskier waxes poetry about Geralt all the time.

“It’s not poetry,” Jaskier grumbles, even though it really is, and Ferrant waves him off with a laugh.

“Come inside, please,” Ferrant instructs as he waves the three of them inside the castle, creaking the front doors open into the great hall. It’s filled with tables, most likely from a recent feast, and he looks about to see a few nobles all milling around. There’s a few he recognises, eyes widening as he notes the particularly hostile looking group to the left of the throne, and he quickly drops his gaze when he sees their sneers.

An older woman breaks off from one of the groups though, sweeping towards them with a delightful smile that matches her classical beauty, and Jaskier grins back as he steps forward to intercept Ferrant’s wife with welcoming arms.

“Estrila,” he greets cheerfully as he lifts her off the ground and twirls her around, laughing at her squawk of indigence. “You’re as radiant as ever.”

“Oh, stop it you,” she warns him, slapping at his shoulder with a huffy hand. She’s still smiling though and Jaskier kisses her cheek as she twitters. “It’s been too long, Julian. We were worried you weren’t going to come back after that debacle at your sister’s birthday.”

Jaskier winces as he pulls back, averting Geralt’s questioning eyes when he clearly sees it. He pushes through with keeping the smile on his face though, even as it so desperately wishes to slip off. “It’ll take more than a few moody nobles to keep me from my family,” he says as he inclines his head, and Estrila pats his cheek with a soft look.

“It’s not fair,” she sighs, voice quieter, and there’s a brief moment where she looks genuinely upset before that brilliant smile is whipped back on and she turns to Geralt and Ciri with wide-open arms. “And who might these be?”

Thankful for the change in topic, Jaskier steps over to put himself between Estrila’s welcoming arms and the other two. Ciri isn’t overly a fan of being touched by strangers, he’s noticed in the time he’s been with her, and it’s just common sense to not even think about hugging Geralt.

“This is Fiona,” he introduces, wrapping an arm around Ciri’s shoulders. It’s enough of a barrier that Estrila gets the hint and simply holds out a hand for Ciri to shake. “And this is Geralt of Rivia.”

“Oh!” Estrila gasps, reaching up to cover her mouth as her eyes flicker to Ferrant, who unfortunately gives her a giant smile and eager nod. “The Geralt?”

Geralt gives an awkward half-bow. “The witch-” he starts to say, and Jaskier winces as Estrila reaches out and grasps both his hands tightly in hers.

“Oh, Julian,” she sighs happily, “you brought your muse home to meet us.” Geralt looks flummoxed as he glances over, and Jaskier raises one shoulder in an apologetic shrug. “Geralt,” she continues, catching his attention, “you have no idea how much of an honour this is!”

Jaskier covers his mouth, hiding the laugh behind it as Geralt flounders for words. Even Ciri is giggling beside him, and Jaskier nudges her with his hip, winking back when she looks up at him with mirthful eyes.

He only allows Estrila and Ferrant to fawn over Geralt for a little longer, his cousins wrapped up in a bubbly conversation that Geralt clearly has no idea how to respond to, and he takes Ciri by her shoulders and uses her as a battering ram to get between Estrila’s grabby hands and Geralt’s well-muscled arms.

“I do have a favour to ask,” he says loudly over their chatter, managing to get himself firmly in between Geralt and the other two. He feels a large warm hand press against the middle of his back, a subtle thank you, and the corners of his lips twitch at the action. “Fiona here could do with some of your… stylistic help, Estrila.”

Esrtila shakes her head, eyes falling from Geralt to look at them, and Jaskier can see the exact moment she registers Ciri completely. The slight frown appearing on her usually joyful face is enough to scream to a whole court she’s unimpressed, and she takes one of Ciri’s hands to pull her out from Jaskier’s grip.

“What on earth have these two got you wearing, you poor girl.” she demands as she twirls Ciri around, the ragged blue coat so heavy with grime that it doesn’t even lift from her skirt. Estrila shoots them a withering look and Jaskier hopes Geralt feels as ashamed as he does. “Men,” she sniffs, shaking her head, “positively useless.”

Ciri looks pleased, poking her tongue out at Jaskier subtly as Estrila pulls her back in and fits an arm around Ciri’s shoulders.

“I expected better from you, Jaskier,” Estrila scolds him before she guides Ciri away, Jaskier relieved to see Ciri clearly doesn’t mind Estrila too much. “Come, Fiona, we shall get you some better attire for the road.”

Jaskier feels Geralt move behind him and he reaches back to grip his wrist tightly, throwing a look over his shoulder asking Geralt to trust him. There’s a moment of hesitance in Geralt’s face, something Jaskier can’t blame him for, but it disappears as Geralt gives him a short nod.

He turns back around in time to catch Ferrant as his cousin claps a firm hand on his shoulder and nearly unbalances him into falling to the ground. “Well,” Ferrant grins, “we won’t be seeing them for a few hours. Fancy a pint, lads?”

Jaskier shakes his head fondly. “It’s never just one with you, Ferrant,” he points out, and Ferrant laughs as he leads them over to an empty table before disappearing out one of the doors off the hall to the kitchen. Jaskier doesn’t bank on him being back quickly, Ferrant having the unnatural ability to be much too friendly and unable to miss a small chat with everyone he comes across, so he reckons they’ll be sitting for a while.

It makes him a bit nervous, especially when he sees the hostile nobles are growing a little more restless, and where he would normally sit across from Geralt, he slides in beside him where their backs are both to the walls.

Geralt must catch how uncomfortable he is as he pauses in the middle of unbuckling his sword to rest on the bench beside him. “Everything okay?” he asks, voice low and gravely, and Jaskier swallows thickly as he rips his gaze off the nobles to smile at Geralt.

“Peachy,” he says, and Geralt’s eyebrows raise but he doesn’t question him. He places his steel sword down on their bench and Jaskier angles himself around to face him just a little bit more.

The hall hums around them, crooning with the constant movement of servants nipping in and out and the quiet warble of conversations. It would be relaxing if Jaskier couldn’t feel the stare of the nobles burning into the back of his head.

“What happened at your sisters birthday?”

Jaskier cringes, expecting the question but not so quickly. Although, Geralt has never been backwards in coming forwards, so he supposes it was always going to be asked as soon as possible. He clenches his hands into fists on top of the table, knocking them together before he sighs.

“Just some nobles took a dislike to my…” Jaskier pauses, bites his tongue briefly before shaking his head, “my race.”

He feels Geralt stiffen beside him. “Your race,” Geralt repeats flatly, and Jaskier grimaces.

“I’ve gotten off pretty lightly for being a quarter-elf,” he mutters. “My ears are a little pointy and my eyes are a bit too silver to be considered grey, but that’s about it.” He glances over to see Geralt watching him with unreadable eyes. “Unfortunately, while my siblings aged, I didn’t, and it was pretty apparent at my older sister’s sixtieth birthday.” He shrugs, drops his head and pulls his hands into his lap as he rubs his knuckles together. “Hard to keep things secret when the evidence is staring you right in the face.”

He doesn’t expect Geralt to say anything, and he lifts his head to meet the witcher’s eyes again. There’s a burning behind them, Geralt’s jaw set tightly, the muscles working stiffly as Geralt glares down at the tabletop.

“I was… ambushed,” Jaskier continues, deciding he’s already come this far and he drops his gaze again, unable to meet Geralt’s eyes. “A few barons took offence to my existence and when I was alone they used the opportunity to remind me of such.” He reaches up, rubs at the scar cut into his chest beneath his doublet. “My brother’s found me and fixed me up. They even managed to get the baron’s expelled from court but…” he shrugs his shoulders, dropping his hand back to his lap. “But the damage was done.”

“How long since you’ve been back?” Geralt asks, surprising Jaskier, and he looks up to see Geralt has schooled his face to look impassive but his eyes are a burning wildfire.

He purses his lips. “Six years,” he mutters, and Geralt’s eyes narrow. “I would panic just being by myself alone in these halls. I couldn’t face it. But we need help and Ciri needs to spend at least five minutes with someone that’s not us and if it means coming back here then I will.”

“You never told me,” Geralt says, and Jaskier grimaces. “We knew each other. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Jaskier bites his lip and shakes his head. “There was nothing to tell,” he eventually responds with a shrug. “I didn’t need to bother you with court politics.”

Geralt seems like he’s going to argue, and Jaskier notes how his tightened fists are shaking where they are on top of the table. He wants to reach over and soothe them, run his fingers across the back of Geralt’s hands and remind them that he’s okay now, he really is, but just as he starts to lean forward there’s a sudden commotion that catches his ears.

He glances over and sees the rabble of nobles that have been giving them side-eyes since the moment they walked in, and Jaskier bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to nearly draw blood when he sees two particularly familiar faces as they burst out of the group towards them.

“Well well well,” one of them calls, Voldermann, if Jaskier remembers correctly, as the two begin to walk their way. “If it isn’t the Viscount de Lettenhove.”

Jaskier swallows the lump in his throat and he forces a smile on his face. “Hello Voldermann,” he greets through clenched teeth, eyes flitting to the other meathead standing in front of them, “Ysbaan.”

They grin back, yellow teeth on display. “Surprised you’d show your face here after what happened in Cintra,” Ysbaan growls, eyes glinting with malice. “Your kind all but decimated the place, even managed to kill Queen Calanthe and her spawn.”

Jaskier can feel Geralt practically humming with anger beside him. His eyes flicker over to see Geralt’s hands have moved from the tabletop and he has no doubts one is wrapped around the hilt of his sword beside him. If looks could kill, he’s certain the two lords would be well and truly six feet under by now. He’s thankful Ciri is with Estrila, she should never have to hear any of this.

“I’m certain I’m allowed to visit my home every once and a while,” Jaskier says through a forced smile, his jaw aching from clenching it so hard. He’s expecting the laugh from them, the cruelty in it apparent, but he jumps as Voldermann slams his fist down on the table and leans across it.

“Fucking knife-ears don’t belong around here, I thought that was made clear last time you dragged your ass through these halls,” he snarls, and Jaskier’s eyes flutter as the alcohol fumes from Voldermann’s mouth burns them. “Your parents should’ve fucking left you with whatever shitsack monster they birthed you from.”

Jaskier expects the pure hatred he sees in their eyes, but he is surprised at their boldness to confront him like this. There’s never this kind of attack in front of the court, normally saved for back halls like the scar on his chest suggests. He guesses the sudden gumption will be because of Nilfgaard and their attacks, Sodden Hill a smoking wreck further down south although nonetheless still a blockage to keep the army out from the north, but still he’s not too sure what to do or say as he sits speechless as the rage burns in the noblemen’s eyes.

“That’s enough,” he hears Geralt growl beside him, and he glances over to see Geralt about ready to stand from his seat. He reaches underneath the table to place a hand on Geralt’s knee, shaking his head slightly when Geralt’s eyes flicker to him briefly.

He doesn’t want to start a fight, not over this.

Ysbaan snorts, crossing his arms as he smirks at Jaskier. “You’re lucky you’ve got your bodyguard, Viscount,” he sneers. “Else you’d be hanging from a tree by now.” He glares at Geralt, the smug look staying on his face as he raises his eyebrows. “What’s the mutt paying you, witcher? A few shags and a lousy line of balladry?”

Jaskier has to lean down even harder on Geralt’s knee as the witcher starts to move, although it doesn’t do much as Geralt pushes his hand aside and stands up, his sword scraping against the wood on the bench as he brings it with him. Voldermann notices the noise, eyes flickering warily towards the sword before back to Geralt and Jaskier.

“Fuck. Off,” Geralt snarls, voice hard and dark, even Jaskier winces at the sheer rage behind it. He stands too, pressing his side close to Geralt’s as he grips his free hand.

Ysbaan clearly doesn’t see the danger though, and he snorts as he shakes his head. “What? Fucking half-breeds,” he laughs, “they’re only good for whoring themsel-”

He’s cut off as Geralt’s sword is suddenly pressed to his throat, Ysbaan’s eyes widening as they drop to the flat blade while Voldermann takes a stumbling step backwards.

“I said,” Geralt growls, leaning forward against the sword, and Jaskier winces when he sees a pearl of blood build between the point and Ysbaan’s skin, “fuck off.”

Jaskier turns to Geralt, keeping his hand wrapped around Geralt’s as he reaches across with his other to grip Geralt’s sword arm by the elbow. “Stop it, Geralt,” he mumbles, looking up at the witcher with wide eyes. “They’re not worth it.”

Geralt’s eyes flicker to him and Jaskier can see he’s clearly struggling to stop. He squeezes Geralt’s hand and presses down on Geralt’s elbow until it bends, thankful when Geralt slightly lowers his sword.

It’s Ferrant’s return though that has the sword dropping and swinging back to Geralt’s side. Geralt pulls his eyes away from Jaskier and Jaskier couldn’t be happier to see his cousin when he bursts into the room with tankards in his hands and his usual grin morphs into a deep frown their way.

“Gone for five minutes and you all get into trouble,” Ferrant scolds as he places three tankards down on the table and turns to the shellshocked Ysbaan and Voldermann, clearly noting the scratch on Ysbaan’s neck as his eyebrows raise. “I trust you’re not bothering the viscount and his friend, gentlemen.”

There’s a moment where both look like going to say something, but Ferrant clears his throat when Voldermann opens his mouth and leans close into their space.

“If you remember correctly, boys,” he says, words strong and his eyes sharp as he regards the two lords with a cold look, “I am the royal instigator of this court, and Julian here is my cousin. If you have an issue with him, I’m assuming you also have any issue with me.”

There’s a long pause where they all stare at each other, the nobles glaring at Jaskier, Jaskier watching Geralt, Geralt boring holes into the noble’s heads, and Ferrant sweeping a disapproving gaze over them all. Jaskier is sure the entire hall has fallen dead quiet, waiting to see what happens next, but finally the silence snaps as Ysbaan steps back from the table with a filthy glare.

“As you wish, instigator,” he growls, not a hint of respect in his voice. He turns to cross the hall again, Voldermann following reluctantly, and Jaskier waits until they disappear out the main doors before he collapses down onto the bench and scrubs his hands down his face.

What a mess.

Ferrant lets out a long sigh before he settles into the seat across from him with a weak smile. “Sorry, boys,” he apologises softly, pushing the tankards across the table to them. “You couldn’t beat class into some nobles even if you tried.”

Jaskier feels better as Geralt sinks back into his seat, dropping his sword down beside him, and he shuffles a little closer to press their sides together. Geralt doesn’t move as he does so, and he takes reassurance from that as he squeezes Geralt’s knee once before reaching out for the tankard.

“It’s fine,” Jaskier says with a wry smile, feeling incredibly tired all of a sudden. “Nilfgaard really has screwed things up for us mutts.”

Ferrant looks ready to riot all of a sudden, but it’s Geralt who speaks up. “You’re not a mutt,” he snarls, spitting the word like it’s poison. Jaskier looks at him in surprise to see Geralt staring back with a dark smoulder in his eyes. “Anyone who tells you that you are deserves a fucking sword down their throat.”

Jaskier blinks at Geralt a couple of times. “That’s awfully brutal,” he remarks, tilting his head to the side with a small smile. “Very protective of you, Geralt,” he teases, and it shouldn’t make his chest so warm to realise that statement is probably true. A nobleman has the cut on his neck to prove it.

Geralt looks away, his jaw muscles working hard, but Jaskier doesn’t miss the slight red tint to Geralt’s cheeks. He feels his stomach flutter as he realises Geralt is genuinely defending him too, and he sneaks a glance at Ferrant who’s looking incredibly amused behind his tankard.

He pauses for a moment before he stretches his arm out, wraps it around Geralt’s waist as he leans in, and he rests his chin on Geralt’s shoulder as he gives him the briefest of hugs. It’s long enough that Geralt looks surprised when he pulls away, and Jaskier just gives him a small genuine smile.

“Thanks, Geralt,” he says softly and sincerely, and Geralt just huffs as he looks away.

 

 

Geralt gets hurt quite often.

It’s hard to hurt him, granted, but it does happen a surprisingly amount of times. Jaskier reckons that’s what happens when Geralt’s company consists mostly of strong monsters and dangerous humans. He doesn’t think he’s even known Geralt to have any sort of camaraderie with someone normal.

After all, he’s a quarter-elf and Ciri is a princess, granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, and there's no doubt in either of their minds that that isn’t going to manifest in some way. Neither of them tick any of the normal boxes, no matter how hard Jaskier has tried to over the years.

But still, it happens often enough that Jaskier tries not to worry anymore. Geralt had even called him callous once, right before that horrid engagement party that Queen Calanthe threw, after Jaskier hadn’t even blinked at seeing Geralt wall through the door of the inn covered in selkie guts and reeking so bad that Jaskier reckons he can still smell it twelve years down the track. It’s burnt into his nose, makes his eyes tear up a little thinking about it.

Geralt also calls him a drama queen as well, but of course he is. Jaskier didn’t claw his way past every other bard by not being dramatic.

Nonetheless, Jaskier is well aware of Geralt’s tendency to get hurt. He’s rolled enough bandages, cleaned enough wounds, and on one momentous occasion stitched Geralt back up because of the witcher's antics. He won’t slow down, won’t dodge the extra blow if he means he can finish the fight quicker, and at this point, Jaskier is well beyond asking him to do so.

It means that on top of the faded black doublet at the bottom of his bag is a few rolls of extra bandages, an ointment he’d bargained his spare lute strings away for to some deranged looking sorceress, and a couple of potions another witcher had given him when they’d met in Oxenfurt. He’d looked affectionate when Jaskier had mentioned Geralt and he’d worn a wolf pendant around his neck as well, so he’s banking on said potions being not poisonous.

But even still, there’s the odd occasion where Geralt gets hurt and there’s not enough rough patching up in the world to save him from proper medical care.

They’re travelling to Kaer Morhen when it happens, finally climbing over the Blue Mountains despite Jaskier’s whinging at the foothills. Ciri chimes in from on top of Roach’s bag, a cheerful chorus to his nagging that is bringing out the veins in Geralt’s forehead as he breathes heavily through his nose.

He doesn’t say a word though, just tugs Roach along by her reins as he hauls Jaskier over his shoulder. Jaskier squawks loudly in protest, slapping Geralt’s ass repeatedly as he calls him every name under the sun while Ciri howls with laughter and Jaskier hopes she topples off the saddle, but Geralt’s footsteps don’t even stall as he begins the slow trek up the harsh path ahead of them.

Jaskier knows it’s a dangerous road that only witcher’s take, but at this moment it's just another day travelling with a grumpy witcher and mischievous princess. So he stays on Geralt’s shoulder and makes faces at Ciri in the hopes to stave off boredom, and eventually, he clears his throat before launching into telling wildly inaccurate stories about Geralt’s travels to amuse her. Geralt simply readjusts him each time he gets something wrong and it means a hard shoulder to the gut but it doesn’t really hurt, just makes Jaskier tug on a strand of Geralt’s hair and snort when Geralt throws his head like Roach tossing her mane.

He makes the comparison and laughs when Geralt harrumphs.

“We should write a song,” Jaskier decides when they’re midway up the mountain path. Geralt hasn’t faltered once the entire time carrying him, not even slightly flustered or tired, and Jaskier shouldn’t be enjoying the large hand clapped over his ass to keep him steady, but he’s not going to deny the budding feelings brewing in his chest.

He knows they’re there, won’t deny his cheeks have been heating up an awful lot around Geralt recently, but he will figure that all out later. They’ve got to get to Kaer Morhen in one piece first.

“About what?” Ciri asks. She’s lounging happily on Roach, leant forward and draped lazily over her neck, fingers wrapped up in perfectly groomed mane. She watches Jaskier as he bounces along on Geralt’s shoulder, a small smile on her face that’s a little too knowing for a thirteen-year-old.

Jaskier taps his chin in thought. “About grumpy pants here,” he offers, risking amputation to pat Geralt on the head. Shockingly, he gets away with it, but he definitely feels Geralt’s hand tighten on his ass.

Ciri frowns. “He’s already got lots of songs,” she points out, twirling Roach’s mane around her finger. Jaskier grins as he reaches out to twirl a piece of Geralt’s hair over one of his own fingers and Ciri’s grin is huge as she shakes her head. “He might eat you if you’re not careful,” she says cheerfully, and Jaskier laughs.

“I’d be choking on poorly written lyrics for weeks,” Geralt growls, and Ciri’s peals of laughter are contagious even as Jaskier flicks Geralt’s ear.

“You’d be lucky to even have the slightest bit of my talent, Geralt of Rivia,” he grumbles and Geralt just readjusts him roughly, making Jaskier mutter a few dark curses.

Ciri giggles loudly. “Or we could sing Fishmongers Daughter?” she offers cheerfully, and Jaskier winces as he hears Geralt suck in a deep breath.

“You shouldn’t even know that song,” Geralt states, and Jaskier lets go of the lock of hair still wrapped around his finger as he feels Geralt’s hand squeeze his arm too hard.

“Well maybe dragging me through pubs wasn’t a good idea then!” Ciri yells at him. Jaskier can’t argue with her there, and he laughs as she bursts into song. “Come quell your daughter's hunger, to pull on my horn, as it rises in the morn!

“She has got you there,” he mumbles in Geralt’s ear, and Geralt growls at him. It only makes him grin harder as he raises his voice to join in. “For ’tis naught, but bad luck, to fuck with a puck!

“Stop!” Geralt practically pleads, but Ciri and Jaskier just sing louder, tilting their heads back to shout up at the sky.

Lest your grandkid be born, a hairy young faun, bleating and braying all day!” they practically scream, laughter thick and apparent in their voices, and Geralt is shaking his head as he grumbles and Jaskier is loving the moment, loving the cheer and happiness in the air as even Roach snorts and shakes her head at the ruckus.

But then the basilisk comes charging out of the undergrowth.

One moment Jaskier is singing a bawdy song with a twelve-year-old, the next he’s thrown to the ground, smashing to the rocky terrain with a sharp cry that's cut off when his chin hits the dirt and his teeth rip through his bottom lip, blood exploding out over his face in a steaming hot wave. He hears Roach braying as Ciri screams out in terror on her back, and he blinks groggily, his head thumps painfully, and he achingly forces himself to his hands and knees as he looks up.

He sees a flash of white hair underneath the basilisk, a loud stream of curses and the sound of the basilisk shrieking, and he staggers to his feet in a daze before he sees Ciri clinging desperately to Roach, trying to calm her down. There are still two swords attached to her saddle, and there’s a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he stumbles over the distance to wrap his hand around the hilt of the silver sword, yanking it from its scabbard.

“Geralt!” he yells, voice coming out in a near gurgle as the blood from his injury trickles back down his throat. He winces as Roach continues to panic, rearing up dangerously despite his attempts to reach for her reins and he staggers out of range of her hooves. He hears Ciri yelling at him to see to Geralt and he trips over the uneven ground towards where the basilisk is still on top Geralt. “Geralt!” he cries again, his head pounding and screaming in protest, but he forces through it to the wave of relief that floods him as Geralt’s hand comes reaching out towards him.

He stumbles closer and barely manages to avoid the thrashing wings of the basilisk. His fingers grasp the flat of the blade carefully as he shoves the edge of hilt to Geralt’s own fingers before giving it a quick push for him to grab it. Thankfully, Geralt’s hand catches it and tightens, sword coming up to stab into the basilisk’s side. Jaskier doesn’t expect the spray of blood, his face burning hot as it splatters against him to mix with his own.

It doesn’t matter though, he’s no match for a basilisk even with Geralt’s help. He gets his feet back under him as he returns to Ciri, holding his hands up as he finds Roach’s reins again. He keeps a better hold this time as he tries to calm her down. Ciri is panicking on top, throwing out words Jaskier’s pounding ears just can’t register, and he hears the roars of the basilisk mixed with Geralt’s own, the sound of sword slicing through meat, and he fights the wave of nausea at the overload of the moment.

It doesn’t take long before he hears the horrid death scream of the basilisk. Oddly enough, it makes him relax, just for a moment, and it seems to make Roach relax too as she lets out a wet ninny before her feet finally plant firmly on the ground. He’s thankful, taking a moment to lean forward and press his forehead to Roach’s chest, ignoring how slick with sweat it is as he breaths through the pounding in his head, the ache in his lip and the still gushing blood. Get it together, he tries to remind himself as he feels an awful fog from a head injury starting to crawl up and over him. He forces it away though as Ciri lets out another distraught yell.

He turns, just briefly, and his heart falls to boots as he sees Geralt still kneeling on the ground, motionless where he’s slumped against the dead basilisk.

Jaskier is relieved for the sudden rush of energy thrumming through his veins as he pushes away from Roach, yelling over his shoulder at Ciri to get Geralt’s bag of potions from the saddlebags. He’s wobbly on his feet, head still halfway in the clouds, but it doesn’t matter as he drops to his knees beside Geralt and reaches out a shaky hand to grip his shoulder.

Thankfully, the basilisk is there to hold him up as Jaskier realises Geralt is barely conscious, eyelids half-open and twitching. He’s covered in blood, some his own and a lot the basilisks, but it barely takes a second before Jaskier notices the large tooth embedded in Geralt’s side, and his breathing stops short in his throat.

Fuck, he thinks, eyes widening. That’s a hell of a wound, even for a witcher, and he’s not even going to think of what the likelihood of survival is, especially when he glances up to see Geralt’s skin turning a hideous green as dark lines crawl up his around his neck, telltale signs of the acidic poison basilisks have.

Their only chance is Kaer Morhen. “Ciri!” he yells, shucking off his doublet with trembling fingers, grasping immediately for the clinking bag of vials as Ciri drops to his side. He drops his hand into the bag, pulling out vial after vial and cursing himself for not paying more attention to what Geralt takes and cursing Geralt for not bloody labelling them.

“Oh no,” Ciri murmurs beside him, her small hand reaching out to hover over the tooth. It’s the size of her arm, Jaskier notes with a wince, and he shakes his head as he pulls out an orange-red potion that looks familiar to him, sure he’s seen Geralt take it after fighting.

It’s the best he can go on, and he reaches over to tilt Geralt’s head back. Unsure hands pour the potion straight down Geralt’s throat instead of gently tipping it, and Ciri slaps Geralt on the back when he chokes on it. Jaskier couldn’t care less though, determined to get the potion into Geralt’s system, although he doesn’t wait to see if it will take effect as he tosses the empty vial back in the bag and tugs on Geralt’s belt.

“Help me,” he asks Ciri, and Ciri’s deft fingers unbuckle Geralt’s belt and slide it off easily as Jaskier pushes his doublet around the tooth to attempt to stem the blood flow. He won’t pull it out, it’s the only thing keep Geralt together, and Ciri smartly raises the belt higher to buckle around Geralt’s waist and pull the doublet taunt against the wound to hold it in place.

After, she runs for Roach, throwing the potion bag into a saddlebag before pulling the horse up alongside them. Together, they struggle to lift Geralt up into the saddle. It’s hard, Ciri too short and Jaskier not used to Geralt sheer dead weight, but they manage and Jaskier swings himself up to sit behind him on Roach’s rump. He pulls Geralt’s back against his chest, Geralt’s head lolling onto one of Jaskier’s shoulders, and he purses his lip at his sudden wave of distress.

“You’ll need to direct Roach,” he calls down to Ciri, who’s looking more and more lost by the minute as she stuffs the bag of potions into a saddlebag. “Sit in front of Geralt, come on. We need to get to the keep if we’re going to save him.”

Her face changes into determination, and she nods as she climbs up to wedge herself in front of Geralt on the saddle. Jaskier holds tight to the witcher, noting the dark lines seem to have stopped tracking as fast as they were and he focuses on Geralt’s still rising and falling chest as Ciri coaxes Roach into a canter.

There’s too much weight on her to go much faster, her breathing already laboured with the combined three on her back, but they still move faster than they would’ve on foot and it’s not long until the keep is rising in front of them. Jaskier could nearly weep when he sees the portcullis is up and they thunder over the wooden bridge inside without any issue.

There’s no one around at the entrance, but the sound of sword clashing drifts down to them from up the hill and Ciri doesn’t hesitate as she nudges Roach further up the way, Jaskier holding even tighter to Geralt. Not long until they get help now.

Although it does mean when they find the source of the noise, two swords and a crossbow are trained on them from three very wary witchers, and Jaskier can’t believe it when he spots the witcher he’d met only a few months back in Oxenfurt.

“Eskel!” he cries, hoping the witcher will recognise him, and Eskel blinks for a moment before he lowers his sword.

“Jaskier?” he calls back, obviously confused, but then Jaskier moves Geralt’s head from where it’s hidden against his shoulder and Eskel’s eyes grow wide. “Geralt!”

The name has the other two witchers moving, the oldest lowering his crossbow while the other discards his sword as he chases Eskel to get to them. Jaskier doesn’t even have to explain as Eskel and the other reaches up for Geralt, lowering him down from Roach with strong grips.

“Careful, Lambert!” the oldest witcher scolds the other witcher from behind them, and Jaskier looks up to see him staring straight back with narrow eyes. “Take him inside, boys. He looks like he’s been bitten by a basilisk.”

The tooth is pointing out from the doublet, but even then Jaskier will acknowledge that witchers know their beasts well if they can tell from just a tooth. Eskel and Lambert don’t hesitate in rushing up the small incline to the tower built into the mountainside behind them but the older witcher stays with them though, reaching out to place a hand on Roach’s neck.

“Come inside,” he says, voice a lot softer now. He lifts his hand, gestures at his face with a frown at Jaskier, who self-consciously reaches up to touch his bloodied chin and mouth. “Let's get you both cleaned up. That must hurt.”

It does, it really does, especially now the buzzing energy has trickled from his veins and left him tired and sore. Ciri doesn’t hesitate, sliding off of Roach and waiting for Jaskier to join them. His head is still fuzzy, the awful fog coming back with a vengeance and he’s not got the strength to push it back this time. He practically falls off of Roach, sliding to the ground on such unsteady feet and the older witcher steps forward to catch him.

“Steady now, boy,” he murmurs, hands firm and strong as he takes most of Jaskier’s weight. “You’ve done well, but it’s time to let someone else take over.” He gives Jaskier a reassuring nod.

But Jaskier just shakes his head, it feeling like lead with every movement. “Geralt needs-”

“The boys will sort him out, don’t you worry,” the witcher says as he pulls Jaskier towards the keep. Ciri hurries along beside them and Jaskier reaches down to grip her hand tightly, trying to reassure her.

“Who are you?” she asks the witcher, squeezing Jaskier’s hand back. He thinks she might be trying to comfort him as well and his lips quirk with a small smile.

The old witcher doesn’t even pause in his steps, just escorts them through the wide-open door into the warm and well-lit halls of the keep. “Vesemir,” he introduces himself. “A School of Wolf mentor. Those boys are my students.”

Jaskier nods his head slowly. He’s heard Geralt mention Vesemir before, he should’ve guessed it was him, but he thinks he can be excused this once as he finds it hard to keep his head straight on his shoulders let alone think about who someone might be. It seems Vesemir notices as he sighs and directs him towards one of the rooms in the keep.

He’s thankful to finally have a seat and he finds his exhaustion is overwhelming as he sinks into it. Vesemir is talking, Ciri responding, but Jaskier can’t keep up with their conversation until Vesemir turns to him.

“This’ll help,” Vesemir says kindly, holding out a vial to Jaskier. “But it will knock you out. I’ll look after Ciri, it’ll be okay.”

Jaskier is reluctant but at Ciri’s small smile, he takes the vial of whatever Vesemir holds out to him and tips it down his throat, wincing at the taste. It doesn’t take long before he feels the wonderful feeling of nothingness creep up over his shoulders and pull him down.

He’s not out for long though, waking up groggily to find himself lying in a bed what feels like only moments later, soft furs underneath his hands and heavy blankets over his chest. It takes a while for him to blink past the punch-drunk feeling still rattling through his head, but he notes that he’s still in the keep as his eyes sweep over the beautiful stone masonry around him.

“Jaskier?”

He’s relieved to hear Geralt’s voice, even if it does make him grimace at the pinch of pain the loudness causes. He turns his head towards it to see Geralt, surprisingly, lying in bed beside him. It explains the radiating heat under the blankets and Jaskier doesn’t have it in him to question what’s going on as he lets out a groan while rolling onto his side.

“Geralt,” he grunts back, his head swimming at the movement. “Nice to see you’re alive.”

Geralt’s lips twitch as he shakes his head. He’s flat on his back, no doubt to make sure his wound won’t be disturbed from lying on it, but his head is turned Jaskier’s way as he watches him with amused eyes. Jaskier notes the scratches all over his face, what looks to be a deeper wound curving around the side of his face from his forehead, but even then it’s already looking like it’s on it way to healing. Must be the effects of the witcher’s potions, Jaskier ponders.

“Likewise,” Geralt murmurs, voice thankfully quieter than he’d started. Maybe he noticed Jaskier’s wince before? “Eskel said you looked horrific when we arrived, all pale and bloodied. Vesemir was even worried and that takes a lot of effort to do.”

Jaskier purses his lips. “He seems kind,” he says, and Geralt gives him a small smile.

“That’s only because you’ve not been on the receiving end of his sword,” he points out. “Or one of his infamous disappointment speeches. Lambert still cringes whenever Vesemir’s eyebrows nearly reach his hairline, it means you’re in for a tongue-lashing.”

Jaskier’s own eyebrows raise. “Lambert is often on the end of those, I suppose?”

Geralt shrugs and Jaskier notices how he flinches slightly at the pull on his wound at the motion. “Unsurprisingly often, at this point,” Geralt muses with a small smile curving his lips.

Jaskier smiles back. “Ciri?” he asks, eyes dropping down to focus on Geralt’s neck where the green flush has reduced and the dark spidery veins have disappeared. It makes something in his chest unclench.

“With Eskel,” Geralt says. “They’ll look after her until tomorrow. I trust them.”

It’s a hell of an endorsement, makes Jaskier relax completely, and he nods with relief before he lets the silence fall comfortably between them. He’s less than an arm's length away from Geralt, can feel the heat pouring from his body across the sheets and he wants to move a little closer, rest his chin on Geralt’s shoulder, move his hands across Geralt’s side, but he stomps down on those wants and just settles for watching Geralt from where he lies.

His chest is burning though, burning with the want and need to wrap himself up in Geralt, reassure himself that Geralt is fine after their incident with the basilisk, and he lets out a long huff of a sigh as he curls his fingers up into tight fists.

Geralt frowns at him for a moment, clearly unsure what to make of the noise, before he reaches out and Jaskier freezes where he lies as Geralt’s fingertips press to his chin and his thumb gently trails over Jaskier’s ruined lip. It hurts, it’s a dull pain but it hurts, and Geralt’s movements make Jaskier hiss at the sudden spike of agitation.

“I’m sorry,” Geralt murmurs, moving his hand back down to his side as he drops his gaze. “I had to get you out of the basilisks path. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Jaskier pauses, tries to remember what happened. He can’t though, just remembers being on Geralt’s shoulders one minute and then the next horrifying pain as his face had split open against the ground and the panic of the moment had surged him back to his feet.

“Thank you,” he says quietly in response, reaching out to wrap his fingers around Geralt’s arm. It gets his attention, and Jaskier tries to smile at Geralt but his broken lip prevents him from doing so. Geralt notices, his lips thin and turn down, but Jaskier squeezes his arm tightly. “I’ll be fine, you know,” he reassures him. “All wounds heal. At least I’m alive, Geralt, and that’s thanks to you.”

Geralt still doesn’t look convinced, but he does nod slowly. Jaskier dips his head back, feeling exhausted from even just this small conversation, and he loosens his fingers around Geralt’s arm but keeps them resting there. He can’t quite bear to let him go just yet.

Thankfully, Geralt doesn’t seem to mind, just keeps his eyes locked on Jaskier’s and Jaskier feels his heart thumping in his throat. He can’t blink, can’t look away, and he swallows thickly, his eyes drop to Geralt’s lips as his own open with a small exhale…

There’s a bang outside the room, making them both jump, and Geralt mutters darkly as they hear cussing and scolding from the corridor. It makes Jaskier’s thumping heart slow as Geralt rolls his eyes, surprisingly fondly.

“Fucking Lambert,” he swears darkly, and Jaskier can’t wait to properly meet this disaster of a witcher in the morning.

“We should rest,” Jaskier interrupts Geralt’s muttering, patting his arm with a heavy hand. “I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit exhausted.”

Geralt glances up at him and gives a stiff nod. “Of course,” he grumbles, and he turns his head away to stare up at the ceiling. Perhaps he’s sulking, Jaskier thinks, but then again that might just be wishful thinking.

He’s about ready to turn over to place his back to Geralt, is ready to pull his hand back first, but he’s doesn’t as a sudden wave of confidence surges through him. Maybe it’s the last dregs from the earlier incident with the basilisk, or maybe it’s because he’s not stupid enough to have missed the way Geralt’s eyes had lingered on him for a moment too long.

Instead, he slides his hand across from Geralt’s arm to trail across his chest, his calloused fingers catching on the simple cotton shirt as he pushes his palm flat against the dip of Geralt’s sternum, and he pulls himself across the bed to close the distance between them. He goes slowly, giving Geralt time to pull away, but the witcher doesn’t and Jaskier presses his chest and belly against Geralt’s arm, the one he’d just been holding, before tucking his other arm behind him as he pillows his head onto Geralt’s shoulder.

He holds his breath, waiting to see what Geralt will do. He can see Geralt’s own breathing has picked up, chest rising and falling faster than normal, and he tenses when he feels the arm trapped between Geralt’s side and Jaskier’s chest move, wondering just what Geralt will do.

But he simply just pulls it out and wraps it around Jaskier’s back, pulling him in closer until Jaskier is pressed entirely against Geralt’s side and his head is settled on Geralt’s chest. It makes Jaskier’s heart thump wildly and he nuzzles his nose against the cotton of Geralt’s shirt as he closes his eyes.

“Goodnight, Geralt,” he sighs, revelling just quietly in their warm embrace. He hears Geralt’s breath hitch above him and he wonders to himself if Geralt has ever had a moment like this with someone before?

He keeps his eyes shut as he feels Geralt’s head move, somehow manages to keep still as Geralt’s mouth brushes across his hair.

“Goodnight, Jaskier,” Geralt murmurs.

 

 

Surprisingly, Geralt told Jaskier about his third wish with the Djinn fairly soon after he made it.

He was only cagey about it for so long, long enough though for Jaskier to not ask about it anymore, but he must’ve needed to share it with someone else lest he burst. Jaskier most certainly would’ve, although he would never have made such a stupid wish to begin with.

Because it was a stupid wish, and Jaskier had no qualms with telling Geralt that to his shocked face. Jaskier would’ve stuck with murder and superficial wishful fulfilment, not tied his bloody life to another person.

Especially since said person makes Jaskier’s skin crawl. Sure, she must have a sad backstory and she’d be a bard’s dream muse if they could crack through that rock hard exterior of hers, but Jaskier still can’t forgive her for the way she treated Geralt when they first met. Of all the despicable things she could’ve done, bewitching Geralt and unleashing him on the town to be the monster he tries so hard not to be is pretty high at the top of the list. Not to mention he has a small petulant anger towards her for being the reason Geralt agreed to kill the bloody dragon when he’d been turning it down only seconds earlier with his actual conscience.

True, he can’t blame her wholly for that last one, but the first reason is good enough. Even when Geralt brings up that Yennefer did save his life, he likes to think payment for that was completed when she threatened to cut off his fucking balls.

So, Jaskier doesn’t like Yennefer whatsoever and when Geralt divulged the reason they’d seen a lot more of her after the incident with the Djinn was because of his wish for her to remain in his life, Jaskier had nearly hit the sodden bloody roof.

“I couldn’t just let her die, Jaskier!” Geralt had yelled up the muddy road where Jaskier had stomped further ahead to get away from the witcher.

“You could have!” Jaskier had shouted back, throwing his hands in the air with his frustration. “You really could have! I wouldn’t have minded!”

Nonetheless, Jaskier had accepted that Yennefer would be dropping intermittently in and out of their lives, and he’d just gritted his teeth and looked the other way whenever that was the case. Geralt’s lust-struck face every time had made his chest squeeze uncomfortably, whether because of anger or maybe jealousy, it never mattered because it always happened whether Jaskier liked it or not.

He’s always tried to be patient even though the whole situation with Geralt and Yennefer makes him want to tear his hair out in clumps and scream into his fingers, especially when Geralt comes back from their trysts with his tail between his legs because reality, they never actually seem to care about each other's feelings in all this.

One day he’d mentioned to Geralt that maybe the whole reason for it was because of the Djinn, because of the wish Geralt had made. Fate is shoving them together but there’s nothing else besides that, nothing but bullshit feelings made by some mystical being.

Of course, he hadn’t expected Geralt’s silence, the almost acknowledgement that maybe what Jaskier was saying was true.

But then there was the argument with Yennefer outside of the dragon’s den and Jasper had winced when he’d heard similar words fall from Yennefer’s mouth.

So, truthfully, all of this was one of the appeals of going to Kaer Morhen. It’s so out of the way that the likelihood of bumping into Yennefer is slim to none, not unless she can somehow travel the horribly dangerous path to get here and not get massacred by any waiting beasts.

It had made Jaskier relax, knowing he wasn’t about to see her any time soon.

But then, he hadn’t accounted for Ciri.

She has told them about the incident before she’d ended up at the farm after the fall of Cintra, before she’d found Geralt, how she had woken up to see the decimation around her, something she feared she had caused. Jaskier had tried to console her when she told them, assured her maybe that hadn’t been the case, but he’d seen the look in Geralt’s eyes and wondered just what the witcher was seeing that he wasn’t.

In truth, a part of him hadn’t even really believed her until it happens again, this time here at Kaer Morhen. Ciri drinks some alcoholic concoction Lambert stupidly left out, and Jaskier watches with horrified eyes as Ciri’s own roll into the back of her head and suddenly she’s levitating into the air as she screams and screams and screams.

And Jaskier sees then what Geralt had seen before, memories of Princess Pavetta and Duny at that damn engagement party flickering through his mind as he claps his hands over his ringing ears, wondering if they’re bleeding as his head feels like it’s ready to explode, ready to shatter into a million pieces as the screaming goes on and on and on.

But then it’s over, and Ciri is unconscious on the ground when Jaskier finally peels his face off the stone floor to see the four witcher’s standing over her, He’s thankful as Geralt hauls him to his feet, clinging to the witcher as they follow behind the others up the stairs as they carry Ciri to her room.

“I get it,” he murmurs into Geralt’s neck, hands clasped around Geralt’s shirt. “I get it.”

Geralt just squeezes him back, his arm safe and secure around Jaskier’s waist, and Jaskier leans into him as they walk the long corridors of the keep.

He’s standing outside Ciri’s room when Vesemir approaches with an old book open in his hands. Jaskier doesn’t want to look, wants to stay where he is with his face tucked into Geralt’s chest as Geralt’s fingers rub soothing circles against his temples. It’s blissful, his head still aching and ears ringing from the screaming. Witcher’s have it lucky having such fast healing rates, but unfortunately, quarter-elves don’t get that luxury and Jaskier is positive he’s going to have this headache for a while to come.

“It’s elder blood,” Vesemir announces when he gets to them, and Jaskier lets out a long sigh as Geralt’s hands fall down to his shoulders. He dutifully pulls back and blinks at Vesemir as he waits for further explanation.

“Like Pavetta,” Geralt mutters, and Jaskier winces as he remembers that horrid engagement party again. He should never have gone, they should never have gone.

Vesemir just nods, holding out the book where there’s a very small paragraph with a calligraphed title saying Elder Blood. “She takes after her mother in more than looks, I believe,” he continues as Jaskier reaches for the book with uncertain hands. “Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing how she can contain or control her powers. Witcher’s only know the bare basics of magic. This is far outside of our scope.”

Jaskier feels his stomach drop when he hears that, already knowing where it’s going. It’s destiny, he supposes, playing its awful game with them all.

“We need someone of magic,” Vesemir points out as Jaskier skims the paragraph before handing the book to Geralt. “Preferably not from the Brotherhood of Sorcerers. I don’t know a single one who won’t use Ciri to their own advantage.”

Not even a beat goes by before Geralt replies, hands white-knuckled tight around the book. “I do,” he says quietly, eyes flickering briefly to Jaskier with a mix of emotions behind them. “Yennefer of Vengerberg.”

Jaskier grits his teeth hard enough to crack as he looks away, folding his arms over his chest. He was foolish to think they’d be nearly rid of her up high in these bloody mountains, that he’d not have to look upon her until they left this sanctuary after winter passed, if not even later after that.

But Ciri needs her, and Jaskier reminds himself of that as Vesemir and Geralt depart from the corridor discussing ways to reach out to to the sorceress. His feelings for Yennefer aside, it’s the small scared girl in their care that needs the protection and guidance, and Jaskier won’t let his own pettiness get in the way.

He glances at Ciri’s door, takes a deep steadying breath as he clenches his fists, and walks the other way.

“Please,” he says quietly that night after he’s crept into Geralt’s room, something they do way too often for it to be strictly platonic these days. He’s pressed to Geralt’s back, forehead resting between his shoulder-blades as his arms are wrapped around Geralt’s sides, legs tangled together as they breathe in gentle sync. “Don’t do anything you will regret.”

Geralt doesn’t respond, Jaskier doesn’t expect him too, and he tries to find solace as Geralt’s hand moves to cover his own where it’s rested against Geralt’s chest.

Yennefer arrives only a few days later after the witcher’s agree that reaching out to her is their best bet in helping Ciri. Jaskier agrees too, tells Geralt so when he realises Geralt is hovering around the question himself, although he makes it certain that even though he agrees it is for the best, he outright refuses to deal with Yennefer in any way.

So he stays out of it, doesn’t even ask how they’re contacted her, although he has no doubts magic is involved somewhere down the line. He wasn’t expecting her so soon though. He thought perhaps it would take a while to navigate the roads to Kaer Morhen, the mountain paths filled with dangerous beasts. Maybe even one of the witcher’s would travel to meet and escort her back at the village at the bottom of the mountains.

But he’s just walking out of the portcullis of the keep when a large portal opens up in front of him and Yennefer comes riding out of it on the back of a stallion.

He hides his shock, giving her a hard look instead. “Yennefer,” he greets reluctantly as she pulls her horse up sharp, the horse letting out a displeased ninny as Yennefer turns his head so she can look balefully down at Jaskier. Her eyes are sharp, cold and narrowed as she regards him with a turned-up nose.

“Jaskier,” she replies, voice stiff. “I’m surprised to see you here. I thought Geralt decided not to keep pets anymore.”

He’s furious within seconds, hands shaking at his sides as he fixes her with a snarl. “So did I,” he snaps with venom dripping from his words, “and yet, here you are. Guess he likes dogs more than I thought.”

If looks could kill he’s certain he’d be dismembered by now, but Yennefer just turns her lip up at him before nudging her horse forward and Jaskier has to move out of the way lest she ploughs into him. He keeps his back to her, determined not to watch her trot into the keep and after the clip-clopping of the horse’s hooves on the stone fades, he rolls his shoulders and continues down to the river nearby.

It’s often the place he goes to compose, keeping further upstream closer to the keep to steer clear from the wild bears that fish in the waters. They don’t bother him if he doesn’t bother them, although he does find it fascinating to see them in travel in their sleuths. He’s written a poem about it once or twice, not full songs, never to go with music, never to leave his notebook. Just simple self-indulgence as the world goes by.

But today, as he settles on his usual rock, worn smooth over time and surprisingly comfortable with its grooves, he finds nothing comes to mind as his quill hovers over the parchment of his notebook. Normally, his mind is buzzing, watching the water flow, the bees hover by, animals call to one another deeper in the forest, sometimes even one of the witcher’s roam by with their stead. There’s always something to take inspiration from, Kaer Morhen never dull, but there’s just something different about today.

His notebook dangles precariously from his lap, his teeth chewing the de-feathered end of his old quill as he looks at the beautiful river and thinks of nothing but that fucking wish.

Maybe it’s the thought of contending with Yennefer that has his stomach rolling unpleasantly and his teeth grinding hard together. She’s here now, no doubt already with Geralt, and Jaskier knows at the end of the day he can never contend with destiny.

Because their relationship has changed, his and Geralt’s, although it’s still fragile where it lingers on the cusp of a deep friendship moving into the early stages of a genuine romantic connection. Perhaps he thinks about it in too flowery of terms, he is a poet after all, but he knows Yennefer’s appearance now could just destroy everything that Jaskier has worked for with Geralt.

That destiny could rear its ugly bloody head and ruin it all.

He scribbles in his book, mind still fixed on the keep behind him even as he curls his quill into letters, into words, maybe a song even. Although it doesn’t take long for him to realise they’re not lyrics, they’re reasons he’s better than Yennefer, reasons Geralt should choose him and not her, and he tears the page out of the book with shaky hands.

It’s not fair, he decides as he lobs the bit of parchment into the river, the current easily sweeping in downstream. He shouldn’t have to contend with Yennefer for Geralt’s affection, destiny be damned. If Geralt wants him then he will choose him.

It’s nearly sunset before he manages to puck up the courage to head back up to the keep. He’ll freely admit that he doesn’t want to, that despite the bravado he’s convincing himself of inside it doesn’t mean he feels confident on the outside. He takes his time as he wanders back up the hill, pausing to pick a few purple hellebore flowers, kicking the odd stone out of his way, delaying the inevitable.

When he finally arrives the keep, he pauses once again and takes a deep steadying breath, palm flat against the large wooden doors as he braces himself for whatever he will see behind it. His stomach is twisting unpleasantly, nerves eating their way through him, and he lets out the long breath before he pushes into the hall.

Only to find nothing.

Not a soul in sight, he realises as he steps through the doorway and casts his eyes around the grand hall. It certainly looks like people have been here, the number of fresh candles flickering away on the candelabras attributes to that, and he turns his nose up when he sees a forktail carcass lying on a nearby table. That would’ve been Eskel, often doing autopsies, always trying to add more information to the witcher arsenal.

He moves to the back of the hall, gripping his notebook tightly in hand as he ascends the stairs to the first floor, deciding to head towards Geralt’s room. He hadn’t heard anything in the courtyard when he’d been walking back to the keep, so everyone must be inside the keep somewhere. If anything, he’ll ditch his book and quills in Geralt’s room, practically their room, before going off to find them.

Geralt’s room is surprisingly warm when he creaks the door open and slips in, not realising just how cold the keep’s corridors were until this moment, and he glances over to see the fire in the room roaring in its hearth.

And sitting quietly on the bed, is Geralt.

Jaskier closes the door with a gentle click, reaching over to discard his things on a nearby table before he heads Geralt’s way, the noise of his boots on the stone muffling as he crosses over the fur rugs spread around the room. Geralt’s just sitting there, still and quiet as he looks into the flicking flames with his hands clasped loosely in his lap. He doesn’t look up as Jaskier comes to a halt in front of him, and Jaskier reaches out to push lightly at one of Geralt’s shoulders.

“Hey,” he says softly, tilting his head to the side as Geralt’s eyes slide up to meet his. “You alright?”

Geralt doesn’t answer straight away, his lips just purse slightly and he drops his gaze again but, when Jaskier goes to step back, he snags Jaskier’s hand in his grip. Jaskier pauses, looks at the way Geralt’s thumb press into the groove of his palm, holds his breath as he waits.

“Ciri is with Yennefer,” Geralt tells him, voice hollow and empty. “Vesemir and Lambert are watching over them while Yennefer does some… tests.”

Jaskier doesn’t want to know what those tests are, although he can guarantee none of the witchers would allow them if they would hurt Ciri, so he takes reassurance in that as he turns his hand over to link his fingers amongst Geralt’s.

He gives them a tight squeeze. “That’s nice,” he says a little sarcastically and he waits until Geralt looks up at him in surprise. “But that’s not what I asked. Are you alright?”

There’s a long pause where they just look at each other, the only sound in the room the crackling of the fire, the pop as a piece of wood splits in the heat, their breathing growing heavier in sync.

“No,” Geralt admits quietly, hand going loose in Jaskier’s grasp. He doesn’t let go though, just holds tighter. “No, I’m not.”

It’s a big deal for Geralt to admit that, and Jaskier lets out a long heavy breath as he nods his head slowly. “Okay,” he murmurs, “what can I do to help?”

Geralt looks up with an unreadable face. “I don’t know,” he grumbles as he shakes his head, but then he reaches over towards the bedside table and Jaskier’s eyes widen as Geralt plucks a familiar-looking ceramic jug from the drawer in the table.

“Oh,” he says as he lets go of Geralt’s hand and accepts the jug, turning it over as he sees the stopper is inscribed with a wizards seal. “Another djinn?”

Geralt shakes his head though as he takes the jug back and holds it in a white-knuckled grip. He doesn’t look at it though, just keeps his eyes focused somewhere on Jaskier’s chest as he clenches his jaw tight enough that Jaskier can see the muscles tick.

“A d’ao,” Geralt explains. “An elemental genie of the earth. It only provides one wish, but its stronger than a djinn.”

Jaskier nods slowly, swallowing the sudden lump in his throat. There’s only one person here who could’ve brought that here, and unfortunately, Jaskier doesn’t know enough about her to understand what her motives for bringing it would be.

“Yennefer’s doing then?” he asks aloud and winces as Geralt discards the d’ao carelessly behind him, the jug bouncing on the bed and nearly falling off the other side.

Geralt nods. “She gave it to me to make a wish,” he says, wringing his hands tightly in his lap. Jaskier bites back the urge to reach down and cover them with his own. “That I could wish for anything I wanted to, and she has no expectations of me.”

Jaskier knows that is absolute bullshit, and he has to resist the need to stomp through the keep until he finds Yennefer and… and can do something about this. He hates what he’s seeing, Geralt’s eyes unusually downcast, his shoulders slumped, the unhappiness laced through his tightly held mouth. It’s painful, and Jaskier shakes his head in frustration.

“She wants you to revoke the wish you made,” he states, voice thick and clear and he knows he’s right when Geralt doesn’t meet his eyes. “But you want something else.”

It shouldn’t make his heart sink like it does when Geralt gives a slow jerky nod, but he pushes it all aside. Now is not the time to be thinking of himself, thinking of what this means for them. It’s time to be thinking of Geralt, supporting him through as a good friend would.

Geralt sighs as he hangs his head. “I know I shouldn’t want this anymore,” he murmurs into his lap, and Jaskier braces himself as he waits for Geralt to choose her. “But it’s the reason I was searching for the djinn in the first place.”

Of course, it was, Jaskier nearly snorts. He never believed Geralt was the type to turn to magic to solve his personal problems, especially not something like insomnia. Geralt’s aversion to magical practices, especially after what it takes to become a witcher, nearly seeps off of him in waves.

“She’ll under-” Jaskier starts to reassure Geralt, but Geralt’s hand reaching up to grip his elbow cuts him off short.

“No, she won’t,” Geralt mutters darkly, “and so she shouldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to Ciri.”

Jaskier pauses, frowns down at the top of Geralt’s head. Fair on Ciri? What does keeping his last wish have to do with Ciri?

“Geralt,” he says slowly, shaking his head minutely as he narrows his eyes. “I think we’re on different pages right now.”

Geralt looks up with a frown, eyes searching Jaskier’s for a long moment and he must see something as his eyes widen and his other hand comes up to grasp Jaskier’s other elbow tightly. “The law of surprise,” he explains, and Jaskier feels the knot in his chest loosen just the slightest. “I’m talking about Ciri as my child of surprise, Jaskier. Nothing to do with Yennefer.”

It suddenly feels like there’s a lot more air in the room to breathe as the breath in his chest floods out in a strong whoosh. Geralt’s talking about removing the law that binds him to Ciri, that that was the reason he was looking for the djinn years ago, which of course makes sense because how the hell would he have been talking about finding the djinn to bind Yennefer to himself when he’d never even met her at the time?

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier sighs, reaching out to run his fingers through Geralt’s hair, cupping the back of his head gently. “You want to sever the tie between you and Ciri?”

“I don’t know,” Geralt answers truthfully. “It was what I originally wanted to do with my wishes with the Djinn. But then Yennefer happened and now…” He sighs, slow and painful. “Now, I don’t know what to do. Do I severe the tie between myself and Ciri, or myself and Yennefer?”

For Jaskier, it’s an easy choice, but he knows that’s only because of the butterflies that flutter in his stomach each time Geralt reaches for him, because of the heat in his cheeks and ears when Geralt smiles at him, in the embarrassment he feels when the others tease him and Geralt just gives him this look that makes the world stop for just a brief moment, makes the earth crash down around him and he couldn’t care less.

But maybe Geralt doesn’t feel that way for him. Whether at all or just not yet, Jaskier doesn’t know. Maybe it’s to do with the wish, the Djinn’s magic, or maybe it’s just unrequited love. Jaskier has written about many of those, he thinks maybe it would be poetic for himself to become the embodiment of his own work.

He glances behind Geralt, eyes focusing on the innocuous ceramic jug lying against the sheets, the stupid thing causing all these problems. He can’t make Geralt’s choice for him, can’t change destiny no matter what he thinks or even what he wants. This is Geralt’s problem to solve, and he can’t rescue him from it.

But he can provide comfort. Without hesitation, he steps forward, nudging Geralt’s legs open to stand in between the vee of his thighs, and he wraps one arm around Geralt’s shoulders, keeping the other hand where it’s still entwined in his long hair as he pulls his head forward to rest against his chest.

“It’ll be okay,” he assures Geralt quietly, stroking his fingers gently through his hair. He knows the witcher doesn’t mind the contact anymore, and he smiles when Geralt leans into the touch of his fingers. “You’ll figure it out. You always do.”

Geralt doesn’t say anything in response and Jaskier doesn’t mind, just stays quiet and warm for Geralt to lean against, happy to be there as Geralt no doubt runs scenario after scenario in his mind. It makes him ache, knowing Geralt has to choose, that Jaskier is somewhere in that decision too and perhaps not at the forefront of the witcher’s mind, but he has faith that it will all be okay.

And when Geralt’s arms come up to hang loosely over his hips, pulling Jaskier even closer as he breathes a gentle heat through the cotton over Jaskier’s chest, he doesn’t mind that either.

 

 

They hadn’t started off well.

At first, Jaskier will admit he saw Geralt at more of an opportunity rather than an actual person. He hates that now, hates how he was just like every other bastard on this Continent that looked at Geralt as a means to an end and nothing more. Things changed, of course they did, and they did so relatively quickly after their encounter with the elves. Jaskier saw Geralt as something more, something to take the time for.

Although, for a long time, they hadn’t travelled with one another as often as they did following the whole debacle with the djinn. Geralt was his muse, absolutely, and he will embarrassingly admit he did mention so quite a few times to his family on his visits to them. But Geralt was, and still is, a cantankerous bastard who chose to live the nomadic and lonely lifestyle, so there was no way Jaskier was ever going to be his travel companion without having to do a phenomenal amount of chasing, and frankly, chasing has never been Jaskier’s style.

He’d enjoyed the occasional thing they’d had going on at the start. Every couple of months or so they’d bump into each other, after all the Continent isn’t that big if one doesn’t include the Skellige Isles, and Jaskier would trail after Geralt for a week or two to keep him company, even if he’d insist it was to write more songs and poems about the White Wolf. In truth, he could write about Geralt anytime and anywhere, he just genuinely liked Geralt.

But then the incident with the djinn happened and, in a surprising turn of events, it was Geralt who had stuck around with him. Jaskier had expected the witcher to disappear like he usually did, but one week turned into two into three then four and Jaskier figured after a solid two months together they could refer to one another as travel companions.

Travel companions soon turned into more, into a friendship, a deep-seated one that made Jaskier shiver when he thought about how out of everyone on this bloody Continent it’s him Geralt has chosen to trust, to build something more solid than a passing acquaintance with. It makes him feel overwhelmed at times, speechless as his chest clenches, especially when Geralt looks at him with a bright smile that says he trusts him.

Then there was that whole dragon escapade and Jaskier had felt all of that trust fall out from underneath him in one gut-wrenching moment.

But they’re here now, here in Kaer Morhen and if anything they’re stronger than what they were before the dragon. Perhaps its the apology that did it, Geralt genuinely meaning each word he’d said outside of the pub in Oxenfurt, or maybe it’s the leaps and bounds they’ve made in their physical contact, that they accept each other in their own personal space now to such an extent that Jaskier honestly and truly believes Geralt is like an extension of himself.

Maybe it’s the peace they’ve found in each other, the late nights in their room, because it’s their room with Jaskier’s things cluttering along the mantelpiece beside Geralt’s own and the drawers filled with a mess of their mixed clothing and the lute leaning against the wall beside Geralt’s two swords, the late nights where there’s no one else in the world except the two of them breathing the air between them and holding one another so close their bodies fit perfectly against one another.

They’ve not spoken about it yet, not broken down the last wall of intimacy even though Jaskier so desperately wants to do so. He knows its because of Yennefer, because it’s become worse since she arrived with the d’ao that sits on the table in their room and watches them mockingly. Jaskier wants to hurtle it across the room sometimes, watch the jug smash into a million pieces, wants to think doing so might make this all better.

It won’t, it really won’t, so Jaskier clenches his fists and tries not to think about it.

But the d’ao has changed it all. What was a gentle relationship still in its youth, still standing on the ledge and waiting to tip into the unknown, has quickly turned into something… less. He doesn’t quite know when Geralt stopped touching him at night, the warm hand on his hip or reassuring arm under his shoulders gone in a sudden blink. They went away along with the odd brush of a hand down an arm, the fond ruffle of hair, the smiles just for him despite being in a room of people.

He chalks it up to Geralt being distracted and he hides his hurt behind tight smiles and forced laughs, hoping the others don’t notice the change. Unfortunately, Eskel does, the witcher watching him with narrowed accusing eyes and Jaskier makes sure not to meet them.

“You can’t compare to a Djinn’s bond,” he growls at Jaskier one day, brutal and honest in the way Jaskier needs but doesn’t want. “He won’t even be aware of what he’s doing.”

“Geralt is always aware of what he’s doing,” Jaskier bites back, looking out over the courtyard where Geralt is playfully duelling with Ciri. He’s far enough away he won’t hear them where they stand outside the doors of the keep. “He can choose her. I don’t own him.”

Eskel’s hand is painful when he claps it down on his shoulder. “No,” he says, pulling Jaskier around to meet his eyes. “But in accordance with the rules of the Djinn, Yennefer does.”

So, Jaskier endures. He endures the waiting game he’s playing as Geralt dances around the d’ao. It frustrates him because he knows what he would choose but he is not Geralt, he is not the one who is tied to two people and must choose which one to severe the link of.

With the growing distance between them, he doesn’t expect Geralt to turn to him for guidance. After all, Jaskier is just a bard. He has never been at the mercy of destiny as Geralt has been, although he’s written many a fairy tale about it. Not to mention his obvious bias towards the situation at hand. Were Geralt to ask him what he thought, he doesn’t think he’d ever be able to give but one answer.

So when Geralt does ask him for advice one day, it astounds him a lot more than he thinks it should.

He’s on the balcony outside one of the rooms at the top of one of the spires. They’ve always remained empty, the witcher’s preferring to sleep in smaller rooms off the other floors, and he finds it brings a welcome reprieve when he leans against the balustrade and looks out over the valley as the sun basks him in warm ray. It’s gorgeous here at Kaer Morhen, he must admit. Many a poem and song could be written on the surroundings of the place alone, and the inhabitants just make it all the more interesting. There’s no one else around, up this high he wouldn’t even see them if they were, and his lute is resting against one of the balusters.

He’s been here for a while now, enjoying the peace, the solitude. He’s tired of being on the ends of the sympathetic looks from the other witcher’s, the glares from Yennefer, even the wide-eyed confusion of Ciri who just doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want her to though, to understand what’s happening. He knows her well enough to know she will shoulder the blame where there is no blame to be had.

The doors into the room behind him are wide open, and that’s why he blames not hearing Geralt approach. He jumps nearly a foot in the air and right over the balustrade when the witcher suddenly appears beside him, knocking his lute with a stray foot and it slips between the balusters to plummet to the concrete below.

Thankfully, Geralt manages to snag it before it does, and Jaskier lets out a huff of relief as he snatches it back from him and holds it close to his chest.

“You could warn me next time,” he sniffs, shaking his head as he runs a hand down the neck of his lute. He avoids the usual joke of putting a bell on Geralt. He doesn’t like the way he gets tense and irritated when he’s compared to a cat.

Geralt just looks at him though, face impassive, and he frowns as the witcher turns to lean on the balustrade, knee-knocking out to press against one of the balusters as he looks out over the valley. Jaskier moves to prop his lute up on the door behind them before he joins Geralt, fingers itching at his elbow as he crosses his arms to lean against the concrete.

Before he can say anything though, Geralt sighs and hangs his head. “I’m sorry,” he says, voice so quiet it takes Jaskier a moment to register what he’s said. His mouth drops open, and he twists his head to look at Geralt in surprise.

“You’re what?” Jaskier asks, noting Geralt’s ear starting to turn red, and Jaskier’s lips twist into a small smile when Geralt reaches up to pull his long hair down to cover it.

“You heard me,” he mutters back, and Jaskier shuffles across the space between them to nudge his elbow into Geralt’s side. Geralt grunts in response, but at least he looks up at Jaskier. “I’m sorry for ignoring you recently,” Geralt explains after a beat of silence. He shrugs, shoulder bumping against Jaskier’s. “I truly didn’t realise I had been doing it until Eskel pointed it out.”

It shouldn’t feel like a barb that it took Eskel for Geralt to notice, but Jaskier swallows his pride as he accepts the apology. “It’s okay,” he says, looking down to his fidgeting fingers as they tap away on top of the balustrade, only a small distance from Geralt’s. “You’ve had a lot on your mind. Sometimes we need space.”

He can feel Geralt’s gaze burning into the side of his head. “I don’t know how I didn’t realise,” Geralt admits, and Jaskier peeks at him out of the corner of his eye, surprised to see Geralt genuinely looking stricken. “After everything we’ve…”

He trails off, and Jaskier rolls his shoulders. “Been through?” he tries to fill in the gaps. “How far we’ve progressed with each other?”

Geralt harrumphs, shakes his head like he’s trying to clear it. “Yes,” he says vaguely, and Jaskier sighs.

He wants to reach over and push at Geralt, try and wake him up from whatever bizarre stupor destiny or magic or the Djinn has put him into. He knows it wouldn’t matter though as he tightens his hands into fists and forces them down.

It’s like Eskel said, he can’t compare.

“I’m making the wish today,” Geralt says, and that has Jaskier looking up in surprise. Geralt isn’t looking at him though, and Jaskier can see the way the muscles in his jaw are moving with the tension he holds as he glares out over the valley. “It’s about time. There’s no need to continue putting it off the way I have. It has to be done.”

Jaskier hums in response, nodding his head in agreement. It’s true, it has been too long. They’re pushing into two months now since Yennefer’s arrival, nearly six months at Kaer Morhen in total. Ciri is doing well, so well, and Jaskier wonders if they will leave at all like the other witchers are bound to do. He likes it here, it's starting to feel like home.

“Okay,” Jaskier murmurs eventually, nodding his head slowly. “You’ve made a decision then?”

He’s surprised at the bark of laughter, and he frowns at the self-deprecating sound falling from Geralt’s mouth. “Fuck no,” Geralt snorts, and it’s not mirth in his eyes, more like thinly veiled panic. “And I don’t know why. It should be obvious.”

Jaskier pauses before he says anything. Obvious to him and obvious to Geralt are two very different things.

“You’ll know, Geralt,” Jaskier tries to reassure him. “You will just suddenly know the answer. I know you will.”

Geralt is watching him with those slightly wild eyes, and Jaskier tries to swallow down the lump building in his throat. “What would you choose?” Geralt asks him quietly, and Jaskier feels something in his chest tighten painfully.

He knows what he would choose, without a doubt he would ask the d’ao to dissolve the third wish Geralt made to the Djinn. It’s for entirely selfish reasons, completely and utter because Jaskier wants nothing more than to return back to the softness they had, the warmth in their relationship that was starting to brim over into a fire in their eyes and their chests. He wants it so bad that he wouldn’t hesitate in making the wish for Geralt were he to ask.

But then, Jaskier isn’t blind. After all, Yennefer is a beautiful woman. He thinks she’s batshit and incredibly crazy, most likely unhinged after the training she would’ve done to be a sorceress if Vesemir is correct in his tales of the training they undergo, of the things they must do. He’s seen the connection she and Geralt have, the way they almost complete each other at times.

He’s also seen the way they tear each other apart, how much they loathe one another at times. It makes a lump in his throat form, something he can’t swallow away when he thinks Geralt might… might want to keep that.

But there’s also Ciri and granted, Jaskier knows Geralt never wanted his child surprise. He never even wanted the surprise from Duny and Pavetta to be a child. His life is too dangerous and complicated for a child to be involved with. Even with Jaskier helping as much as he can, this is no life for Ciri.

He sighs, reaches up and scrubs a hand down his face. “It doesn’t matter what I would choose, Geralt,” he says, voice low and full of something he hopes Geralt won’t understand, the feeling in his chest growing more painful with each word. “It’s about you, about what you want.” He smiles, it feels tight and horrid, and he reaches over to grip Geralt’s wrist, his fingertips pressing against his three scars from the Djinn’s wishes. “Whatever you decide, you know I will support you. I will always be there for you. Do what will make you happy, Geralt. It’s what you deserve.”

The silence between them is heavy and thick, and Jaskier doesn’t look away from Geralt at all as he watches the emotions play out on his face. It’s not true, this whole bullshit about witcher’s not feeling, not when Geralt’s eyes burn into his with such honesty.

But then its suddenly like a candle is lit behind them, Geralt blink once before his face changes and there’s a deep hope knitting itself across his face. “Thank you,” he says, his voice a little breathy, and he gives Jaskier a small smile. “You’re right.”

Jaskier doesn’t even have a moment to respond before Geralt is gone, leaving the balcony and taking all the air with him as Jaskier finds himself breathless as he slumps back against the balustrade and tries desperately to swallow down that damn lump in his throat.

It doesn’t take long though for the air around the keep to change, even as high up as he is. He knows Geralt must’ve opened the d’ao’s jug, especially when the wind picks up and starts to blow like a storm. Jaskier doesn’t waste time in hurrying inside, picking up his lute and slamming the doors shut as he heads back down the stairs into the heart of keep.

He doesn’t want to go to the great hall, not knowing who will be there and what he’ll find. He heads for their room instead, wondering how much longer that will be the case as he opens the door and lets out a long sigh of relief at the sight of the fire burning in its place, the strong winds outside having chilled him to the bone.

He settles down in one of the chairs close to the fire, removing his boots and pushing his socked feet towards the flames. It’s comfortable, probably one of the better places to wait out and see what will happen. He wonders if Geralt will come and find him to tell him of his decision or if he’ll send someone else instead. Maybe no one will turn up at all?

His rucksack is nearby, shoved in a corner with one of Geralt’s own. He reaches for it, tugging it closer and settling it on his lap, and he smiles as he pulls out the faded black doublet always found at the bottom of it. It’s in such terrible condition, and he smooths it out over his knees as his fingers catch on the small holes and frayed threads.

He thinks of Geralt when he gave it to him, his flaming red cheeks and ears as he’d held it out while looking the other way. Specially dyed, right from Geralt’s personal stock of black ichor, and it’d been Jaskier’s favourite even when it had started to fall apart from so much use.

He splays his fingers out over the material, pressing his palms flat to his thighs with the soft doublet between them. He tries not to let his tightened chest hurt too much.

At some point, he must’ve dozed off, because the sound of the door slamming against the wall has his eyes flashing open as he sits bolt upright in his chair. The fire in front has definitely burnt down quite substantially, almost nothing but embers, and Jaskier shakes his foggy head as he turns around in his chair to see Geralt standing in the doorway, breathing heavily with will eyes.

“Geralt?” Jaskier says, frowning as he stands from his chair, the faded doublet from his lap clenched in one hand. “Are you alright?”

Geralt watches him for a moment, eyes trailing up and down him, and Jaskier takes a small step forward before pausing as Geralt finally speaks.

“I was looking for you,” Geralt explains, his voice solid as he already starts to catch his breath. Jaskier has always been jealous of the witcher’s fast stamina. “I thought you’d gone.”

“Gone?” Jaskier asks, narrowing his eyes as he shakes his head. “Gone where?”

Geralt steps forward, closing the door behind him before he strides across the room. He stops barely an arms width away, and Jaskier forces himself to stay still instead of crash forward and pull Geralt into his arms.

“Just, gone,” Geralt says, his hands opening and closing into fists at his sides. Jaskier doesn’t think he’s seen him so nervously agitated before. “It’s what you should’ve done a long time ago. Back when Yennefer arrived.”

Jaskier can’t stop the immense wave of dread that crashes over his shoulders, “You wanted me gone?” he murmurs, voice weak and quiet as he feels his hands tremble. He thinks he knows what Geralt wished for now, and his eyes start to sting and water.

The look of horror on Geralt’s face has him pausing though, especially when Geralt raises his hands as if to placate him. “No!” he exclaims. “No, never. Just, the way I’ve been treating you…” he trails off again, purses his lips and shakes his head. “I don’t know why you didn’t leave.”

Jaskier feels the dread slip away, confusion settling in its place. “Why would I leave?” he asks quietly. “You’re here. Ciri’s here. My family is here. Why would I ever want to leave?”

He doesn’t expect Geralt to step forward, and he definitely doesn’t expect to be pulled into his arms.

It’s the first time it’s ever happened, and Jaskier is almost certain his heart stops as his face is crushed into Geralt’s chest, as strong warm arms wrap around and envelope him. The sudden intoxicating smell of that damn chamomile soap Jaskier bought as a gag gift is sweet where it lingers in the crook of Geralt’s neck, and Jaskier doesn’t know what to do as his hands hang uselessly at his sides.

“I treated you wrong,” Geralt growls in his ear. “The Djinn’s magic is broken. The haze is gone and with it my-”

“Sanity?” Jaskier interrupts, his heart jumping as Geralt’s arms tighten around him.

“Awareness,” he bites back, and Jaskier’s lips twitch. “I realise how wrong I’ve treated you since the moment Yennefer arrived and it’s was never fair on you. That should never have happened, I should never have let that happen.”

Jaskier bites his lip as he shakes his head, and he drops the doublet in his hand as he reaches up to grip the back of Geralt’s shirt firmly with his fingers. “It was magic, Geralt,” Jaskier murmurs, pressing his nose into the crook of Geralt’s neck and breathing in the sweet chamomile smell. “I don’t blame you.”

“You are too forgiving,” Geralt grumbles. “The Djinn may have blinded me but I should have known better.” He reaches up a hand to cup the back of Jaskier’s neck, and he nearly melts at the touch. “But it's broken now. The d’ao broke the spell.”

“And Ciri?” Jaskier asks because he has to, he has to know.

Geralt huffs. “Still stuck with her, unfortunately,” he mutters, and Jaskier lets out a soft laugh. “My child of surprise.”

Our child of surprise,” Jaskier corrects him, pinching Geralt’s back. “You’re not in this alone.”

He lets Geralt pull him back, looking up to meet his eyes as Geralt smiles down at him. It’s a soft look, something Jaskier thinks suits him even if he is supposed to be a hardened witcher. It makes his chest warm, the aching pain in it long gone now as Geralt’s fingers toy with the hair at the nape of his neck.

“Thank you,” Geralt murmurs. “You were right. What you said on the balcony made me realise what to do. It should have been obvious from the start had I not let the Djinn’s magic-”

“I refuse to be part of your pity party,” Jaskier informs him shortly, reaching up to tap Geralt’s nose with his finger. “I forgive you, Geralt. For everything.” He smiles, tilts his head to the side. “You have to know by now that no matter what, I care-”

He’s cut off this time by Geralt, and his eyes widen as the witcher pulls him in close and presses their lips together with one hand pressed to his cheek and the other tightly wound into his hair. He gasps, mouth opening just slightly and his eyes slide shut as Geralt takes the chance to deepen the kiss, tilting Jaskier’s head back for a better angle. It’s intoxicating and overwhelming, sweet and wonderful, and Jaskier feels his chest explode with warmth as his fingers hurt where they’re pressed into the back of Geralt’s cotton shirt, but he doesn’t care as he lets Geralt in, presses their fronts together and leans back enough for Geralt to low grunt and reel him back in.

They break apart too soon, but Jaskier’s shoulders are shaking as he pants for breath and he feels his stomach flutter as Geralt presses their foreheads together and lets their heavy breathes mingle between them.

“Well,” Jaskier says because he can’t help himself as he feels a silly smile breaking out over his face. “That’s one way of telling me to shut up.”

Geralt doesn’t blink though, eyes intense as they lock with Jaskier’s. “I choose you,” he admits quietly, ignoring Jaskier’s statement. “You know I choose you.”

Jaskier’s eyes sting again and he can feel the build-up of tears. He’s never heard those words before, from anyone, and to hear them from Geralt of all people has his chest swelling and his knees trembling.

“I choose you too,” he murmurs back, giving Geralt a sincere smile. He sees the light in Geralt’s eyes, a small moment of hope before it’s covered up with the usual stoic gruffness, and he knows its the first time Geralt has definitely heard that.

He lets the moment linger on for just a bit more, enjoys the soft and sweetness of it, before he reaches up and tugs on Geralt’s hair gently. It has Geralt’s growling, and Jaskier grins harder as he leans up to press a kiss to his nose.

It breaks the heaviness between them, Geralt shoving him away with a roll of his eyes, and Jaskier laughs. He could do soft sweetness all day, but he knows Geralt can’t, knows moments like this will be few and far but it means he’ll just have to remember to savour them.

Geralt crouches down, and Jaskier’s eyebrows raise as the witcher picks up the black doublet off the floor. “You’ve kept this?” he asks in disbelief, and Jaskier reaches out and snags it from him.

“Of course,” Jaskier says with a little embarrassment, brushing the imaginary dust off the doublet before draping it over the back of a chair. “You gave it to me. Why would I get rid of it?”

He turns around to see Geralt watching him, eyes burning with something warm. “You’re too sentimental, Jaskier,” he muses, shaking his head fondly, and Jaskier smiles.

“Says the man who uses chamomile soap,” he points out, laughing as Geralt looks sheepishly back.

It’s not the end of their story. After all, a quarter-elf and a witcher raising a child with Elder Blood in her is never going to be a boring tale, and it most certainly is never going to be easy. There’s going to be ups and downs, things like Djinn’s and sorceresses and ugly contracts on dangerous monsters to keep them well occupied let alone the moments Jaskier will need reassuring he’s wanted and Geralt will need to know he’s not alone. 

But for now, it’s enough, as they sit by the fire, the embers warm as they glow in the grate, their hands hanging in the space between them, Jaskier’s lips still tingling and his chest thumping a pleasing beat.

He squeezes his fingers around Geralt’s, smothering a smile when Geralt squeezes back.

Yeah, it’s enough.