“Sooooooooooo.” He drew out the word in the hopes that by the end of it he’d have a conversation.
“I didn’t ask you to come.” Lambert snapped at him.
“I know. But fishing is way more fun than stone repair. Besides I haven’t gone swimming in a while and it’s starting to eat at me.”
“It’s the middle of fucking winter.” They both pulled their jackets a little tighter around them.
“Some of my forms are insulated enough that its not actually a problem thankfully.”
“Which one’s the best? That way I know which one to skin you for.”
“You didn’t skin me that first night, you’re not going to skin me now. Especially since I’m the warmest person in the keep.”
“Right now you look colder than me.”
That was true. He was cold. That dragon form ate through his – well Ciri’s- magic like a pack of starving witchers. He wasn’t sure that he felt colder than he did before but it certainly seemed like it.
“How much further to the damn lake?”
“She’s getting close.”
Ciri was ahead of them. Well out of hearing range for him and probably her but not Lambert. He suspected at least. But he could still hear the melody of her song. Cautious. Eager. Excited.
The snow crunched under their feet and he finally thought of a conversation. “I haven’t actually met that many other witchers.” Lambert snorted. “Is your friend from a different school or did they just not want to come back for winter?”
Lambert stopped and growled at him. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
He took a step back. Lambert took a step forward.
“The night you arrived? When you almost skinned me? You remember that right?”
He’d been camped outside Ciri’s door. She was having nightmares. He could hear it in her song. But they said he was being overprotective- Overbearing even- going to her every time she had a nightmare. So he was camped outside her door. Her white wolf ready to wake her if they became intense enough she’d bring the keep down around them.
Then Lambert had arrived.
Covered in snow from the dangerous trek up the path and exhausted and swinging.
“The fuck did a wolf get in here!”
He shifted out of the way of the blade at the last moment before jumping into human. “Geralt’s bard! I’m Geralt’s bard! Please don’t kill me!”
His stance eased but he didn’t put the sword away.
“That’s not Geralt’s room.”
“No- no you’re right. That’s Ciri’s room. His- Geralt’s child of surprise.”
“Oh I bet Eskel loved that.” He slowly eased the sword back into its sheath. “And you’re sleeping outside it because?” He didn’t let go of the blade.
“She has nightmares.” And he didn’t want her to bring the keep down around them if they got out of hand. “Why would Eskel have a problem with it?”
“That’s weird. None of your fucking business shifter.” He stalked off. The scent of him still tickling at his nose.
A smell that had changed the next time he’d smelled Lambert.
“You smelled different. Like another Witcher. Which I thought was just you but you don’t smell like that normally and not for nothing but you witchers all have a rather distinctive smell.” Like death and destiny. Heartache and heroics. Also onion. It was rather distinctive. “So I didn’t think your friend was human.”
Lambert shoved him into a tree. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
He blinked. “Alright then?”
“Don’t fucking mention him again shifter. Got it?”
“So it’s a him!” He chirped. “Promise not to mention him ever again!”
Lambert shoved him. Turned sharply and stalked off.
“So he’s not a wolf witcher then?”
“What did I just fucking say.”
“How’d you met? Was it on a hunt? Do you work together? They say two can live as cheaply as one which I haven’t found to be entirely true but that might just be since Geralt can’t live off bird seed so.”
A knife was pressed to his throat. “Don’t. Fucking. Mention him again.”
“Alright. I just thought you might want to talk about your friend.”
“I’d just be very sad if I couldn’t talk about Geralt all winter. So I thought-“
“You thought wrong.”
“Okay.” Lambert eased off and with one more glare hurried toward the lake.
He followed quick at his heels. Lambert shoved his hands deeper into his pockets.
“His name’s Aiden.”
“A lovely name.”
“Lambert the lake’s frozen!” She called out when they arrived. “I thought we were fishing!”
“We are.” He passed her a bomb and lit it. “Better throw that quick.”
She did and he pulled her behind him as Lambert shielded them with quen when the ice shattered.
“Well that’s certainly quicker than drilling a hole.”
He grinned. “I think so.”
They huddled next to the hole. Lambert directing Ciri how to set the bait.
He stared at the water. His skin itched.
He dove in.
Above he heard them yelling mutedly. He swan through the water. A fish darted past him.
He chased it.
Chased it up and up and up and-
Right past the hole.
He popped his head out. Chirping his annoyance.
They stared at him blankly. He grabbed the net and pulled it into the water. Lambert grabbed the handle before it slipped under, cursing his confusion.
He dipped back under. Chasing a fish right into the net.
After a few attempts of course.
“That works.” Lambert said pulling the squirming fish out of the water.
He chirped his approval and caught them a few more.
Then he got bored.
He dredged the bottom of the pond, carefully avoiding the sharps that occasionally lined the muck.
And then he found it.
The perfect stone.
He pulled it from the muck. Speared his way from the depths. Scampered onto the shore.
Held it up for their inspection as he chittered its praise to them. Explaining exactly what made this stone perfect.
It’s the smoothness you see. And the color. The color and the shape and the size. Yes see this is the perfect stone. You must agree. I mean. Look at it!
They both stared at him. Heads cocked.
“Do. You want us to throw it?” Lambert asked. Face scrunched in uncertainty. “Geralt mentioned throwing sticks. Is that like this?”
He held it closer to his chest. NO. HOW DARE YOU EVEN SUGGEST SUCH A THING. THROW MY PERFECT STONE! HOW DARE YOU!
He raised his hands in surrender.
“It’s? Very nice?” Ciri suggested.
He nodded. Turned it over in his paws. It was very nice. The shape the color the-
A small patch had dried and it was. Rather less impressive.
He set it down and dove back in.
This next one. This one was actually perfect. Yes. This one was.
But the shape was.
He dove back in.
Ag- “Jaskier we should head back soon.”
Her hand stopped him from jumping back in. He looked up at her. Her cloak had a light dusting of snow. When had it started snowing?
Couldn’t let the pup get cold. He stepped away and shook dry as Lambert readied their haul for transport.
“Are you going to carry all those back?” He asked, motioning to the. Well rather sizeable pile of stones.
He shifted. Pulling the cloak tighter around him as the leftover moisture froze against his skin. “No I suppose not. Sometimes my instincts just get the better of me.”
“Otters collect rocks?” Lambert cast the stones a disparaging look.
“No. Its. It’s about finding the perfect clam breaking stone. Not. Not that I have any real idea what that would look like.”
His teeth were starting to chatter. Probably not a good idea to stay in this form much longer.
“You’re just trying to find the perfect stone?”
“More or less.” He agreed with her.
He shrugged. “Felt,” Feels. He internally corrected. “Important.”
She frowned before digging through the pile herself. Selecting one.
“Here!” She dropped it in his hand. “The perfect stone!”
He looked at it. The small oblong shape of it. The mottle in its color. The way it fit in his hand.
“You’re right. It’s perfect.”
He paced the length of Geralt’s room. Flipping the stone in his hand. Waiting.
He didn’t know why he was waiting. He’d taken Ciri to bed. Left the witchers to their family time. Because he was tired after nearly freezing on the trip back from the lake.
Yennefer had agreed to come. She’d be here soon.
The thought didn’t fill him with dread.
He paced the length of the room. Flipping the stone in his hand. Waiting.
He really wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. What he planned on accomplishing. What instinct he was feeding.
He went over to the mirror. Pulled off the cap.
It was filling out quicker than he’d expected. It still wasn’t good. But the sheered sections seemed to have grown quicker while Ciri’s magic had warmed his chest.
His ears were cold though so he put it back on. Adjusted it until it looked perfect.
And then after too long had to give up and settle for nice.
He paced the length of their room. Flipping the stone in his hand. Waiting.
The fire was lit. The bed was made. He straightened the pillows anyway. Then he felt very silly because he’d never much cared for made beds. Preferred them ruffled and nested and smelling like them.
Which this bed did. Unlike all the beds at the inns. This one was theirs. Smelled like theirs. When he was in a form that could actually distinguish such things anyway.
The perfect stone. He didn’t know why that was so important. Why he’d scoured the lake looking for one. Why even hours later that instinct still rooted itself so firmly in his mind.
Yennefer was coming. He really didn’t think it would be a problem.
But his mate had loved her once. Or. Or something. She’d been something to him once.
Which was fine. She’d been something to him too. He didn’t know what she was now.
She probably didn’t either.
He looked at the perfectly made bed and hated it. Jumped on it. Shoving pillows and blankets and furs every which way.
“Jaskier?” He shoved the blankets around. It wasn’t right. Something about it wasn’t right. “Jaskier.”
He looked up to Geralt’s face. Grabbed his hand and pulled him into the bed.
That was better.
He rearranged the bed.
“One of my instincts is going haywire and I don’t know why. Just. Indulged me?”
Geralt took a pillow and laid down on his side. Watching him. “Lambert said you pulled up half the lake today.”
“It felt important.” He readjusted one of the blankets. Fixing a wrinkle he didn’t like.
“Is this an otter thing?”
“I don’t know!” He threw up his hands. “I’m not an otter and I’m not a dragon and I’m not a wolf and I’m not human and I don’t know how to be any of them!” He yanked on the awful cap with both hands. Stone still pressed into his palm.
“A Jaskier thing then.” He didn’t turn around to look at him. Still kneeling in the bed. “What’s upsetting you?”
He looked at the bed. Felt the stone in his palm. “This beds just ours right?” He let go of the cap. Rolling the stone in his fingers. “Even when Yennefer arrives?” The words started and they didn’t stop. “Because you agreed to be mates and I know you didn’t really know what you were agreeing to just like how you didn’t know what you agreed to when you bonded with me and I’d really like to know before Yennefer arrives if I’m going to need a different room because I can’t. Griffins mate for life and I can’t. I can’t-“
Geralt pulled him down into his arms. “This bed is just ours. Okay?”
“I’m nervous about Yennefer too.”
“You should be.”
He turned the stone in his hands. Turned over in the bed so he was facing Geralt.
“Got you something.” Geralt hm’d his interest. “The perfect stone.” He said opening his palm for Geralt’s inspection.
“The perfect clam cracking stone?”
“I don’t actually know what that would look like. I’m not a very good otter.”
“It’s very nice Jaskier.”
“I found a bunch of stones and then Ciri picked this one out. So it’s perfect.”
“Do you want it?”
His face twitched. “It’s your stone.”
He looked at it. His gut was twisting anxiously for some reason. “Do you want it?”
“Jaskier what are you really asking?” Geralt was studying him. He wasn’t sure either. “Is. Is this how otters propose?”
“I don’t know. I’m not really an otter.” He looked at it. Turned it in his hand. “If it was would you take it?”
Geralt took his hand and guided it, guided the stone to his lips. “Yes. I would.”
“Oh.” He watched Geralt press his lips to the stone. His breath warm on his hand. “Do I need to ask Vesemir before?”
“Why would you need to ask Vesemir?” His face curling in amusement.
“For his permission to marry you? And I suppose I’d need to ask Ciri too. It’s only fair.”
Geralt leaned forward and kissed his brow. “You can ask them in the morning. Why don’t you ask me now?”
He bit his lip. “Well maybe you need to ask. I’m the viscount. Maybe I need to be properly courted.”
“You’re a viscount?”
“Well I was. At one point.”
“Do I need to court you?”
“I suppose that depends.”
Geralt smiled. “Maybe you should ask the question.”
“Will you marry me?”
He took the stone between his fingers. “Gladly.”
And he knew he had a life ahead of him in Gentle loving hands.