It’s Jaskier who spots them first, leaping from his chair, dinner forgotten in his excitement.
In winter, nights come early to Kaer Morhen and linger well into the morning hours. And witcher eyesight or not, there isn’t much to do outside once the darkness has fallen, so they mostly spend the time indoors. They usually eat dinners together – it’s not by any sort of design or stringent rules, but simply the fact that once the food is done, there’s no reason not to eat it while it’s still hot and someone else is serving it. That, and after almost a year of scarcely ever crossing paths, it’s good to eat in the company of fellow Wolves.
They eat in the kitchens, where the smell of food lingers and the stone walls are warm with the flames and embers feeding the stove – the dining hall that, once upon a time, used to feed witchers during their winter stays is too large, built for many more than the four of them, too cold and too empty now. But the kitchens are easy and welcoming, and this year they cook dinners for five, Jaskier’s presence livening the meal with chatter and a steady flow of swapped stories.
And it’s during dinner that Jaskier spots them, abandoning the table halfway through his stew.
“Ooh!” He flails, dropping his spoon and leaping from his chair to dash out of the room. “Ooh-ooh-ooh!”
Eskel, Lambert and Vesemir startle and then stare at Geralt, vague concern in their eyes as the door swings closed and the pounding of Jaskier’s frantic footsteps on the stairs drifts away.
“What the fuck?” asks Lambert, and the very same sentiment shows clear in Vesemir’s eyes.
Geralt, well used to Jaskier’s assorted fits of delight, simply points at the windows through which a glimpse of colour can be seen lingering in the night-dark sky.
Eskel makes an ahh sound of realisation and then smiles fondly, lingering half-turned in his chair and peering out the window for a while, stew forgotten.
Geralt shoves one more spoonful into his mouth, and then rises from his chair, unhurriedly following Jaskier out of the kitchens. He makes a detour to their room and takes Jaskier’s new cloak (a thick, woollen cloak that Geralt had got for him to keep him warm and safe during his first journey to the keep) off the peg where it hangs beside Geralt’s own, and he makes his way down the corridor and climbs the steps until he opens a heavy wooden door out into the windswept cold of the night.
The cliffs of Kaer Morhen are sheer, shielding the keep from the worst of the winter gales, but the winds still howl and flare in directionless bursts as they break apart on the rocks and stone walls like waves. And up in the night, up above Geralt’s head, swathes of coloured lights curl and streak the skies in a trembling garland; thin sheets of gold and red and hints of green rising up and stretching far ahead, spilled wide like a river in flood.
Northern lights. They abound at Kaer Morhen in wintertime, and yet right now, in the cold air still scented with the rush of Jaskier’s delight, Geralt finds them beautiful in a way that feels both new and forgotten.
Snow lies thick, shorn by the winds into drifts with a knife-fine edge, but enough of it still covers the cobbled passages for Geralt to easily follow Jaskier’s footprints kicked deep and wide apart as he ran.
He finds him on the exposed top of the most eastward tower, the one that offers the best view of the sky; the wind is pushing at his hair and twirling flakes of fallen snow back up into the air around him, his eyes bright like stars, face flushed with the cold he forgot to feel, caught up in his wonder.
Geralt loves him.
He follows the last of the footprints to where Jaskier is standing and drops the warm, fur-lined cloak over his shoulders.
“Thanks,” whispers Jaskier, not once taking his eyes off the sky, but his hand finds Geralt’s where it rests on his shoulder over the cloak.
“Hmm,” says Geralt, wrapping his arms around him to warm his back and to gently pull him away from the edge where he stood perched perilously close to the abyss below without a single care about it.
Jaskier always does this – gasps at the beauty of the wyvern in flight (before he runs away, cursing up a storm), laughs tremulously as he peers over the crumbling edge of a cliff, rushes after a story into dark and grime and danger.
Befriends glowering witchers in taverns.
Ribbons of light tremble above their heads, festooned across the sky, and Jaskier breathes and leans back into Geralt’s arms, tips his head back onto Geralt’s shoulder with a wonder-filled sigh curling steam into the air, and Geralt feels his chest grow warm and tight.
“This is so beautiful,” Jaskier whispers, voice filled with longing and joy in equal measure; his cheek is cold where it’s pressed against Geralt’s, and Geralt turns to brush his lips over the icy skin.
It is beautiful – and yet, it’s been a long time since he thought so. Since he bothered to pause and look at the lights just for the sake of looking. But because of Jaskier, he sometimes smiles when he sees buttercups and dandelions on the Path.
“They happen quite often,” he rumbles into Jaskier’s ear before brushing a kiss there too.
“You’ve been holding out on me, witcher,” hums Jaskier; his fingers absently play with Geralt’s.
“We can come and watch them any time they happen. Every time,” says Geralt, because he would promise Jaskier everything and then cross the world to bring it to him, especially when those blue eyes fill with light and wonder like this. When they make Geralt find flickers of that wonder in the world too.
New and forgotten.
“Careful, I’ll hold you to that.”
“Hold all you want. Not like I’m going anywhere.”
Jaskier lifts an arm, his hand reaching out into the sky.
“I know they’re so, so far away, but I swear I feel like if I could climb just a little bit higher, I’d be able to drag my hand through them. I imagine it would feel like really thin water or... or... like lots and lots of fireflies swarming together. Dancing in synchrony.”
Jaskier lowers his hand back to Geralt’s and breathes a blissful sigh.
“Oh, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! No offence, my love.”
“Hmm,” says Geralt, tucking his amused smile into Jaskier’s cold cheek.
But then something in the back of his mind stretches and catches on that thought like a bur.
Jaskier tells him he’s beautiful a lot. He says it in flamboyant verse in songs, moans it dazed and breathless in bed. He says it with a ridiculously proud grin when he dresses Geralt in fine clothes on the rare occasions that demand it, proclaims it with a flourish when he finishes putting flowers in Geralt’s hair.
Jaskier says it a lot. And yet. And yet, that thing in the back of Geralt’s mind still keeps the thought caught on its thorns. Because all those declarations – they come in moments of theatrical playfulness or high emotion. Words swirl and twist in the back of Geralt’s throat – unwieldy and difficult and not a good match for the blur of thoughts in his head.
Geralt knows what he looks like – his battle-seasoned body may be considered fine, but he has strange white hair, off-putting yellow eyes, a scowl on his face and scars everywhere else. People startle when they see him or find him an exotic curiosity. But Jaskier never did. So manages to push the words out, raw and trusted only to Jaskier in the privacy of the night, the solitude of a tower in the mountains.
“You think I’m beautiful?”
“Mm, of course,” says Jaskier, easy like nothing, his eyes never leaving the lights as he absently pats Geralt’s hand.
That thing in the back of Geralt’s mind stretches, flexes, unsated. It isn’t appeased, and how could it be – it demands something that isn’t true. Geralt bites his lip until the pain drags his focus away from the mire stirring in his mind, because he will not, he will not ruin this moment for Jaskier. He keeps silent.
But Jaskier – Jaskier hears him anyway.
“Geralt?” He turns in Geralt’s arms, blue eyes inquisitive and kind. “You’re awfully quiet, even by your standards...”
“Hmm,” says Geralt, because that’s safe.
But Jaskier knows him too well. He lays a hand on Geralt’s cheek and looks at him, and Geralt swallows but doesn’t hide from Jaskier’s eyes while they make him bare and find what they’re looking for.
“Oh, my love,” sighs Jaskier, contrite instead of pitying, and the surprise of it makes Geralt forget to frown. “I’m sorry I only ever told you in moments like... well, you know what they were like. But let me assure you that I thoroughly think you are.”
Geralt swallows again, because something is clawing at his throat, and Jaskier’s thumb brushes over his cheekbone.
“In fact, that was the first thing I thought when I saw you, back in Posada. I mean – I thought other things too, and when we go to bed I can show you exactly what they were, but let’s not digress. I mean it, my dear – when I first saw you, I thought you were the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. And when I found out you were a witcher – well, things just got even more interesting from there. And then -- oh, then I learned how utterly, devastatingly, unbearably beautiful you are on the inside too, and I was ruined for everybody else forever.”
Geralt scoffs, but he holds Jaskier tighter, digs his fingers into the sturdy wool of the cloak, clings to the truth ringing bold in Jaskier’s voice. Jaskier looks him steadily in the eyes, soft and kind, and he’s so beautiful... And then Jaskier smiles at him, right at him, and the northern lights dim in comparison.
“Where do I begin,” he hums. “Your lovely silver hair, the angles of your face, those tempting lips... all those lovely pouts...”
“There, that’s the one,” says Jaskier with a grin. “Your body, well, don’t get me started, we’ll be here all night. And your scars – oh, Geralt. A map of stories and perseverance and good. And those eyes... this golden light…” Jaskier stares with the same wonder he gave the spectacle in the sky above them, and Geralt can barely breathe. “Not even I,” whispers Jaskier, cradling Geralt’s face in his hands, “could ever sing praises worthy of them. I love you, my dear, not because you’re beautiful, but make no mistake: you absolutely are.”
“Jaskier...” Geralt whispers, because it’s all he can do, helpless and naked before the unstoppable force of Jaskier’s love.
He buries his face in the crook of Jaskier’s shoulder, hides in the smell of him and in the hardiness of the cloak he’d given him. That thing in the back of his mind crumbles and shrivels away into peace like a placated beast – except it’s Jaskier who’s handled it.
“You’re... you’re beautiful too,” Geralt mumbles lamely into the wool, because it sounds stupid but feels right.
Jaskier laughs, light and warm.
“Thank you, my dear. I know I am, and you show me enough, tell me enough. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you enough in the right ways. I’ll try to do better from now on.”
Geralt nuzzles further into the scratch of the wool, because he’s a witcher, he—
“ ‘s fine. I shouldn’t—”
“Shush now, before you say something stupid,” says Jaskier with just enough authority to rile Geralt into lifting his head and giving him a bit of a glare. “There you are,” Jaskier breathes, smiling in delight. “Now let’s go and get your cloak, because not even you can stand outside in this weather in just your shirt, and honestly, Geralt, they hang right next to each other, but no, of course you only thought to get mine. Whatever am I going to do with you. So let’s go and get yours, and maybe the rest of that stew, and then we’re coming back here and you’ll tell me all about those lights to make up for the fact that you’ve wickedly hidden their existence from me.”
Geralt follows Jaskier down the tower’s steps and along the wall towards the keep, humming answers to Jaskier’s questions. When they reach the door, he ushers Jaskier inside and looks back over his shoulder. He looks at the black skies and at the yellow – no, golden – lights, traces the edge of one streak with his eyes.
Beautiful, he thinks. And then he follows Jaskier inside.