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Poison In The Air

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Geralt found Jaskier on his way to Kaer Morhen. Naked, bloody, and tied to a tree. 

 

Geralt wished he could say he had been looking for him. He wished he could say he had known the bard was missing. But he hadn’t. He’d been so focused on Ciri, finding her, keeping her safe, finding Yennefer to teach her… Jaskier had barely crossed his mind in the last two years. 

 

He assumed Jaskier had gone south, to avoid the war. Or to Oxenford, for safety. 

 

He never imagined… 

 

He cut the bard from the tree, gently pulling the rope off of his wrists. His skin was raw, it smelled infected. He was covered in blood, but Geralt couldn’t find the injury it came from. There were only small cuts on his skin, nothing that would cause this much blood. It was his though. Geralt couldn’t smell anyone else on him. 

 

He tried not to panic, he didn’t know what that meant, and panicking would help no one. He’d learned that long ago. 

 

Jaskier was thin, fragile in a way Geralt had never seen him before. Geralt hoped Vesemir would be able to help him. It would be much faster to get to the keep than to turn around and head to the nearest town’s healer. 

 

Jaskier woke up as Geralt wrapped him up in his own spare clothes. He mumbled something Geralt couldn’t understand. 

 

Geralt paused, “what.” 

 

“Hmmm, cold, nice… ” Jaskier’s head lolled to the side, and Geralt steadied it. He could feel the heat from his skin. 

 

He had a fever. 

 

Geralt ignored Jaskier’s nonsensical babbling after that. 

 

-- 

 

Jaskier didn’t fully wake up for the rest of the trip up the mountain. Geralt held him carefully between his arms on Roach. He didn’t stop for the night. He knew if he did, Jaskier wouldn’t survive. 

 

Jaskier continued to mumble nonsense, pulling away from Geralt’s touch, and pushing the cloak off of himself. 

 

Geralt hoped Vesemir would be able to stop the fever. 

 

When they were only a few hours from the keep, Jaskier finally fell into a fitful sleep. Geralt kept riding. He glanced down at his side bag, thinking about the talisman that Yennefer had given him. If he ever needed help, she had said. If they ever needed to talk. But only in an emergency. 

 

She had Ciri, after all. They were in hiding. It could only be an emergency. 

 

He closed his fists around Roach’s reins. Jaskier was a fucking emergency. If Vesemir couldn’t help him, Yennefer could. 

 

-- 

 

Vesemir and Eskel were at the gates when they arrived. Their smiles fell as soon as they saw Geralt though. 

 

“What happened?” Eskel asked as soon as he reached them. 

 

“I don’t know, I found him like this.” 

 

“Geralt… is this your-?” 

 

“It’s Jaskier.” 

 

Eskel nodded, grim. Vesemir touched Jaskier’s wrist. 

 

“Bring him inside, quickly.” 

 

-- 

 

Witchers were hardly known for being healers. Their own bodies survived more than a normal humans would, and their potions made up for the rest. 

 

Vesemir did the best he could though, with that they had. Geralt helped him wash the blood away. He helped clean the rope marks.  

 

Vesemir poured medicine between Jaskier’s lips for the fever. 

 

“That’s all I can do for him,” Vesemir whispered, “if he makes it through the night, he should be fine.” 

 

If he made it through the night. 

 

Geralt didn’t say anything as Eskel and Vesemir left the room. He pulled Jaskier’s blanket tighter around his frail body. He was skin and bones. His skin was ashen, his hair matted, his face unshaved. 

 

“What the fuck happened to you, Jask?” 

 

The bard didn’t reply. 

 

-- 

 

Jaskier didn’t wake up the next morning, nor the next day at all. Geralt stayed by his side, accepting the food Eskel brought for him, but refusing to leave. 

 

Jaskier wouldn’t have left him. 

 

When the bard’s eyes finally did flutter open the next night, Geralt was quick to his feet. 

 

“Jaskier.” 

 

The man blinked up at him, and then glanced around the room. 

 

“Hmm, this is different,” Jaskier croaked. 

 

Geralt didn’t understand what that meant. “Do you… want water? How are you feeling?”

 

Jaskier turned to him. “No thank you. I don’t like it when you drown me.” 

 

“Jaskier... it’s me. Geralt.” 

 

Jaskier nodded, “yes.” 

 

Geralt frowned, “you’re safe here, with me.” 

 

“No,” Jaskier said, his eyes closing, “I will never be safe again.” 

 

“What does that mean?” But Jaskier didn’t reply, he was already asleep. Geralt sat down again. “Fuck.” 

 

-- 

 

Geralt had a glass of water beside Jaskier this time, when he awoke. He sipped it with a shaking hand, before falling back to sleep. 

 

He didn’t even look at Geralt. 

 

-- 

 

“Jaskier,” Geralt tried again, the next day. Jaskier’s fever had finally broken overnight. So hopefully, he was back in a sound state of mind. “How are you feeling?” 

 

“I would like to keep my fingernails this time, please,” Jaskier said, pulling his hands closer to himself. 

 

“Why would I take your finger-” Geralt sighed, “I would never hurt you, Jaskier.” 

 

Jaskier nodded, “yes. Yes, you took my nails, and you broke my arms, and you bashed in my head. My playing was annoying. Too loud. Always too loud.” 

 

 “Jaskier…” Geralt tried to think of how to say this delicately, before he gave up and went for blunt. It would be easier that way. “Jaskier, you were taken by someone. Tortured. It wasn’t me. I’m guessing it was Nilfgaard.”

 

‘Yes, yes,” Jaskier nodded, and Geralt felt himself start to relax, but Jaskier went on. “Fringilla, of Nilfgaard, yes. And Yennefer. And you. And my father. And my uncles. And my Countess. Yes, yes, it was all of you.” 

 

Geralt winced, “Jaskier, your father is dead. You told me that. He couldn’t have been there, just like I wasn’t there.” 

 

Jaskier thought of that, before he nodded his head again. “Yes, yes, he is dead. But he burned holes into my palms, and spat on my face. I am too loud. Play too many games. All the time, all the time, I’m too much.” 

 

“No, Jaskier-” but the bard was curling in on himself, shaking underneath his blanket. “Fuck.” 

 

“You’ve healed me to start again, I know the rules,” Jaskier nodded his head up and down, up and down. “I know not to fight it.” 

 

Geralt’s shoulders sagged, “no one will hurt you here, Jaskier. I promise.” 

 

Jaskier shook his head, nodded again. He started to rock, humming a song Geralt didn’t know. 

 

Geralt didn’t want to leave him alone, but he was worried his presence was doing more harm right now. He stepped out of the room, listening to Jaskier hum. 

 

Maybe Eskel and Vesemir would have more luck. 

 

-- 

 

Geralt listened as Eskel tried to give Jaskier food. He listened as it was politely declined, as Jaskier didn’t like being poisoned. 

 

Geralt paced as Vesemir was told to please leave, he didn’t want his fingers broken today. 

 

He sagged against the wall as he listened to Jaskier hum, disjointed and afraid, alone in his room. 

 

-- 

 

He rubbed the talisman between his fingers, brow furrowed, waiting for Yennefer to reply. 

 

Finally, after what felt like hours, her voice came through. 

 

“This had better be an emergency. I just got Ciri settled, I won’t be moving her again just because you’ve stupidly injured yourself.” 

 

Geralt licked his lips. “It’s - it’s Jaskier.” 

 

“... the bard? What has he done now, fucked the wrong-” 

 

“Nilfgaard took him.” Yennefer went quiet. “I’m not sure what.. But there’s something wrong with him, Yen. He’s lost his mind.” 

 

“Was there really much to lose?” 

 

Yennefer .” 

 

A sigh, “is there an injury? Does your little necklace feel magic?” 

 

“No, but-” 

 

“Then what do you want me to-” 

 

“Eskel can’t get him to eat. Vesemir isn’t able to change his bandages. Please, Yen. It’s been over a week.” 

 

“... fine.” 

 

-- 

 

Yennefer arrived the next morning. Ciri wasn’t with her, but Geralt didn’t ask. He knew Yen would never leave Ciri somewhere she wasn’t safe. 

 

She was only in with Jaskier a few minutes before she came back out, her face grim. 

 

“Well?” 

 

“It’s as you said, he’s been tortured.” 

 

“We knew that,” Vesemir said, “did you help him?” 

 

Yennefer shook her head, “I can’t. This isn’t a spell. This isn’t an injury I can fix. I looked into his mind, and saw what I expected. Torture. Brutal, and long lasting. They changed appearances to make him think it was people he loved torturing him. I tried to correct it, but his mind rejected me. It’s been through too much - and he didn’t trust me before, let alone now. I can do nothing for him.” 

 

“Then what can we do?” Eskel asked. 

 

Yennefer looked over all three of them, but her eyes stayed on Geralt. “I would like a word, alone,” she said, before turning and walking down the hall.

 

Geralt followed with a sigh. 

 

“When was the last time you went in there?” Yen asked when they walked out of the keep, turning to him sharply. 

 

Geralt frowned, “he shakes every time I enter the room-”

 

“He shakes whether you are in the room or not,” she raised a brow at him. “You told me Eskel couldn’t feed him, Vesemir couldn’t treat his wounds, now they speak for you as well? Now Vesemir is the one to come into his room with me as I see him? What exactly have you been doing for him, Geralt?” 

 

Geralt licked his lips, “he’s afraid of me.” 

 

“He’s afraid of everyone. You are the only one afraid of him.” Geralt looked away. “If it were the other way around, I doubt he would have left your side.” 

 

Geralt grimaced, she was right. 

 

“What am I supposed to do? Sit beside him until he’s forced to stop being afraid of me?”

 

“Yes,” Yen rolled her eyes, “he doesn’t know these other witchers, Geralt. He’s never liked me. You are the only one he trusts. You have to be the one to help him.”

 

“I abandoned him,” he snapped, turning back to her, “I barely thought of him for two years. I am the reason he was tortured in the first place-” 

 

“Feeling guilty isn’t going to help him,” Yennefer snapped back. “Get over yourself, and be there for your fucking friend!” 

“He’s not my-” 

 

“Ugh, fine,” Yennefer raised her hands, stepping back, “you are the one who called me here, if you don’t want to take my advice, fine.” 

 

Geralt cursed, “Yen, wait, I’m sorry -” 

 

“I’m not the one you need to be apologizing to, Geralt.” She waved a hand, creating a portal. “Don’t call me again, unless you're willing to accept my help.” 

 

Then she stepped through the portal and was gone. Leaving Geralt with nothing but the truth. 

 

He was failing Jaskier. Again. 

 

“Fuck.” 

 

-- 

 

When he returned to Jaskier’s room, Eskel was inside. He had a bowl of broth, some plain bread, and water. 

 

Jaskier was refusing all of it. As usual. He’d barely eaten anything since he arrived - only small bites that Eskel managed to feed him when he was half asleep. 

 

“No thank you,” he repeated, “I don’t like being poisoned.” 

 

Geralt took a breath. He knew Jaskier. He had spent nearly two decades with the man. 

 

He knew how to get him to eat. 

 

Geralt stepped into the room, making Eskel turn, and Jaskier stiffen. He walked up to the tray and took a bite of the bread. A sip of the water. A spoonful of the broth. 

 

“Not poison,” he said, pushing the tray towards Jaskier. 

 

Jaskier looked between him and the tray. His eyes narrowed. “Witchers are immune to many poisons.” 

 

Geralt raised a brow, “would you like to come to the kitchen, make the bread yourself?” 

 

Jaskier’s fingers twitched. “I’m allowed to leave this room?” 

 

Fuck. Of course Jaskier thought he wasn’t allowed to leave. Of course he thought he was a prisoner. 

 

“You’re allowed to go wherever you want, Jaskier.” 

 

Jaskier hummed. He picked up the bread. “I supposed if this is poison, Yennefer will come back to heal me. It’s not fun to play with dead things.” Then he took a bite of the bread. 

 

Eskel opened his mouth, but Geralt touched his arm, giving a slight shake of his head. If that’s what Jaskier needed to think to eat, Geralt would let him. He just needed the bard to fucking eat. 

 

Eskel looked at him in confusion, but as Jaskier finished the bread, and moved onto the broth, he shrugged. “He’s your bard.” 

 

Yes, Geralt thought. He was. 

 

He was never going to forget that fact again. 

 

-- 

 

He sat down after Eskel left with the empty tray. He could feel Jaskier’s eyes on him, but Geralt ignored it. He closed his eyes, made it look like he was relaxing. Like his entire attention wasn’t on Jaskier. 

 

He heard Jaskier start to fidget. “You can’t fool me, you know. I know these tricks. You’ll jump up as soon as I relax. You’ll break my wrists. You’ll tie my legs to the bed to drill holes into my knee caps.” 

 

“Hmm. Sounds painful.” 

 

“Yes. Yes. It was very painful. You said you liked the way I screamed.” 

 

Geralt opened his eyes. Jaskier was curled on the bed, staring at him. 

 

“I’m sorry they hurt you, Jaskier. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help.” 

 

“You were there. You did it.” 

 

Geralt leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees. “That wasn’t me. I would never hurt you.” 

 

Jaskier started to rock. “You did. You did. You enjoyed it.” 

 

“No,” Geralt said slowly, carefully. “I have never hurt you. I will never hurt you.” 

 

Jaskier’s fingers curled into his blanket. “You punched me the first day we met.” 

 

Geralt winced, he didn’t try to hide it. “I did. But I was only trying to get you to stop following me. Monsters are more deadly than a punch to the gut.” 

 

Jaskier’s fingers started to twitch again. His head started to shake. “No. No, you don’t like to protect me. I’m a nuisance. I’m always in the way. You like to watch me scream. You used to take rocks from the fire and burn my skin. You used to watch monsters bite me and laugh.” 

 

“I never did those things, Jaskier. I never hurt you. I protected you from the monsters, remember? I pulled you away from the fire, more than once. I always tried to keep you safe.” 

 

“No, no, I…” Jaskier shook his head. He started to sing. “ One, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five - count the numbers - follow the rules- that’s how you stay alive …” 

 

“Jaskier…” 

 

Jaskier didn’t look at him. He raised a hand, but Jaskier flinched away, squeezed his eyes shut. 

 

Geralt sighed, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes again. 

 

All he could do now was wait it out. 

 

-- 

 

Jaskier eventually fell back to sleep. His body was too weak to keep him awake for long. 

 

Geralt sat, frowning in thought. 

 

They needed a way for Jaskier to calm down. Calm enough to listen to reason and start trusting them. But Geralt wasn’t sure how to gain Jaskier trust, the idiot had trusted Geralt long before he should have. 

 

And he’d trusted Geralt far more than he deserved. 

 

But trust wasn’t the issue, it was his nerves. And how did Jaskier calm his nerves? 

 

Music. 

 

His lute was gone, but surely there was some other way… 

 

When Jaskier woke up in the early morning light, scared and confused, Geralt cleared his throat. 

 

For Jaskier, he was willing to try. 

 

When a humble Bard, hitched a ride along with Geralt of - oh, fuck,” Jaskier was curled up tighter than before. “Jaskier, it’s your song, remember? Toss a coin to - shit.” 

 

“No, no, no,” Jaskier hissed under the blanket, “ One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. Count the numbers - count the numbers, One, two, three, four, five.

 

“Okay, okay, I won’t sing,” Geralt grumbled, “you’re okay, Jaskier.” 

 

Jaskier quivered under his blanket, humming to himself. Geralt ran a hand over his face. That had failed horribly. 

 

But if Jaskier didn’t like his singing, then what… 

 

Wait. He had an idea. 

 

-- 

 

He waited until Eskel came with breakfast, placing the tray beside a sleeping Jaskier and promising to stay until Geralt returned. 

 

Music. Any music, right? Jaskier even enjoyed listening to the song birds. 

 

So maybe, one of Yennefer’s gifts to Ciri may help. 

 

It was a small box, enchanted to create music whenever the lid was open. Yennefer had made it in the first week she had arrived, hoping that it would help Ciri with her nightmares. 

 

It had worked. Ciri had slept peacefully whenever the box sat beside her head. 

 

But Geralt also knew that Ciri had left it behind. She hadn’t liked the reminder of her weak days, despite the fact that none of them had ever thought she was weak, she wanted to try to sleep on her own while she studied with Yennefer. 

 

Geralt hadn’t worried. He knew Yennefer could make another just as quickly as she had made this one. 

 

He found the box tucked under her pillow, smooth and green with a simple flower engraved on the top. He opened it and listened to the soft tones. Geralt didn’t know what it was, or how this worked. Was it a violin? Inside? A harp? He didn’t know the song either, or where Yennefer had gotten it from, but maybe Jaskier would. 

 

Maybe it would soothe him. 

 

He tucked it into his shirt and made his way back to Jaskier. 

 

-- 

 

He waited until after Jaskier had eaten his food. Waited for Jaskier to be calm… his version of it now.

 

He placed it on the table between them. He thought about saying something, explaining.. But Jaskier was already watching him warily and Gearlt knew he would just fuck it up again. So he just opened the lid. 

 

Jaskier’s eyes widened as music poured out of the box. Geralt watched carefully as his eyes darted around the room and then landed on the box again. Carefully, he reached out a hand and picked it up, bringing the box closer to his face. 

 

“Ave Maria,” he whispered. Geralt didn’t understand, but he didn’t care, because for the first time since he got here, Jaskier was starting to relax. 

 

He fell asleep a few minutes later, the box still singing in his hand, and his head on the pillow. 

 

Geralt would have to remember to thank Yennefer the next time he saw her. 

 

-- 

 

Days pass. Jaskier needed less persuasion to eat. He slept for longer, no longer waking up with a jerk every hour. The music box sat beside him on the bed at all times. 

 

Geralt only left the room when he absolutely had to. 

 

It was progress. Small, but there. Jaskier didn’t look quite as frail. His skin not as pale. He’s healing. 

 

Geralt felt the tight ball in his chest loosen with every day. 

 

He was still worried though, because even though his body was healing, Geralt didn’t know how to help Jaskier’s mind. 

 

“Do you still have my skin?” He asked the night before. “The part you tore off from my back? You said you would keep it as a souvenir.” 

 

“No, Jaskier. That wasn’t me. You're safe, no one is hurting you.” Still, he checked his back after Jaskier had fallen asleep. The scar was large, but completely healed. Geralt cursed the people who had done this to him. 

 

“When will the torturing start again?” he asked that morning. 

 

“Never,” Geralt replied. 

 

“Next time you break my fingers, can you please leave the box? I would like to keep it, even if I can’t touch it.” He said that afternoon. 

 

“No one is breaking your fingers, Jaskier. And no one is taking the box either. It’s yours.” 

 

But that night, when Geralt was coaxing Jaskier into eating one last meal for the day, Vesemir came in, and Jaskier leaned into Geralt’s side. 

 

Geralt didn’t say anything, but he also didn’t dare to move. He stayed where he was as Vesemir dropped off Geralt’s meal, and hid his smile when Jaskier pulled away when Vesemir left the room. 

 

Jaskier didn’t mention it, so neither did he, but… there was progress. 

 

-- 

 

It had been nearly a month since he and Jaskier had arrived at Kaer Morhen. The snow outside was starting to grow tall. Eskel and Vesemir both thought Lambert was wintering somewhere else this winter. Geralt privately thought that was probably a good thing. 

 

Jaskier had gained back some weight. He didn’t only eat broth and plain bread anymore, but stew, and oatmeal, and the meat the witchers hunted. He was steadier now. Last week, he had given himself a bath down the hall, walking the whole way himself. 

 

Geralt decided he was probably ready for more. 

 

“Do you want to go for a walk?” He asked, “down the halls of the keep? Get out of this room?” 

 

Jaskier ran his fingers over the music box as he thought about it. Eventually, he nodded. “Yes. Yes, but no one else will jump out? I don’t want to be dragged to the dungeons, I will go on my own. You know I will.” 

 

“No one will drag you off, Jaskier. Just a walk around the halls and we’ll come back here. No one will hurt you.” 

 

Jaskier hummed skeptically, but he followed Geralt out the door anyway. 

 

Geralt showed him the kitchen, the dining hall, and the sitting room. They took a break there for a while, Jaskier curling up on the fur rug beside the fire. 

 

“This is nice,” he said. Geralt smiled at him, but of course Jaskier wasn’t finished. “If you want to pick out a rock to burn my skin, pick that one,” he pointed, “it's smooth and pretty.” 

 

Geralt sighed, “no one is burning your skin, Jaskier.” 

 

“Yes, yes, but when you do.” 

 

“I won’t.” 

 

Jaskier ran his hand through the furs, already lost in his own mind. Geralt sat back and watched him. 

 

-- 

 

Geralt led them a different way back to Jaskier’s rooms. He pointed the way to the hot springs, the witcher’s bedrooms, and the main entrance. Jaskier nodded along, but Geralt wasn’t sure how much he was understanding. 

 

They both froze when there was a loud clatter down the hall beside him. 

 

“They’re coming, they’re coming,” Jaskier hissed, dropping to a crouch. 

 

“No,” Geralt listened, and then shook his head, “it’s rats, Jaskier. It’s just rats. No one is coming for you.” 

 

But Jaskier was already singing, “ one, two, three, four, five - one, two, three, four, five… .” 

 

“Jaskier,” Geralt knelt down beside him, “it’s okay, no one is coming for you.” 

 

“Yes, yes, there is, there is,” Jaskier nodded. 

 

“No -”

 

“Yes. Someday, Geralt is going to find me. He will come rescue me, you’ll see - you’ll see.” 

 

Geralt felt the words like a punch to the gut, “what?” 

 

“Geralt will come. Geralt will come.” 

 

Geralt swallowed back his own pain. “Jaskier, I’m right here. Geralt is right here, see?” He leaned forward, tried to catch Jaskier’s wild eyes. “I’m never going to let anything hurt you again. Do you understand? I’m right here.” 

 

Jaskier kept humming, he didn’t reply. 

 

Geralt sighed, sitting down and leaning against the wall. “I’m not going anywhere, Jaskier. Whether you understand me or not.” 

 

-- 

 

It took a while for Jaskier to calm down enough to stand. When he finally did, Geralt led him straight back to his room. 

 

Jaskier immediately curled up in his bed. 

 

“That was nice,” he said, petting his music box. “Maybe next time we can go outside? I haven’t seen the sky in so long.” 

 

Geralt closed his eyes. “Of course, Jas. We’ll go outside tomorrow.” 

 

-- 

 

Geralt made sure Jaskier was bundled up in warm furs, gloves, and boots, before he led him outside. Vesemir and Eskel came too, glad to see the bard moving around on his own. 

 

Outside, the world was white, the sky was cloudy, the trees were heavy with snow - and Jaskier smiled for the first time. 

 

“It’s beautiful,” he said, raising his hands, “oh, it’s magnificent!” 

 

“It’s just the courtyard,” Eskel mumbled. Geralt heard Vesemir smack him. 

 

He ignored them both, grinning as he watched Jaskier spin and hold out his tongue for snowflakes. 

 

An owl flew past, aiming for the trees outside the gates. Jaskier watched it go in aw.

 

“Fly, you beautiful creature!” Jaskier shouted after it, “your wings shine like diamonds in the snowy light! Oh, what a beautiful sugar coated world!” 

 

Geralt snorted. He didn’t know what that meant… but he had never known what Jaskier was talking about. Jaskier had always been a bit strange, a poet that Geralt didn’t understand… it was okay if he was a bit more strange now. Geralt didn’t mind. 

 

As long as Jaskier wasn’t afraid of him, Jaskier could say as many weird things as he wanted. 

 

Of course, just as Jaskier was spinning with a smile on his face, the gates started to open. 

 

Geralt stepped in front of him immediately, cursing at himself for not bringing his sword. Vesemir and Eskel stepped forward as well - they all sagged in relief when Lambert stepped through the gate. 

 

Geralt’s relief didn’t last long. As Eskel and Vesemir moved to greet their brother, Jaskier clung to the back of Geralt’s shirt. 

 

“Jaskier, it’s okay - he’s a friend.” 

 

But Jaskier was already starting to hum, “yes, yes, they all say they are friends as they carve their names into my skin.” 

 

“No one is going to hurt you Jas,” Geralt turned, “come on, let’s get back-” 

 

“No, no, that’s mine! That’s mine!” Jaskier pointed. Geralt turned, confused, to find Jaskier’s lute tied to Lambert’s horse. 

 

“What the fuck-” 

 

One, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five, ” Jaskier clutched at his head, “no, no, no, no!” 

 

“Okay, okay,” Geralt didn’t know what to do, Jaskier hadn’t reacted this badly in weeks. So he did what he thought was best, and picked him up. “Okay,” Geralt held him close, “you’re okay, Jaskier. We’re going to go back to your room.” 

 

He was relieved when Jaskier did nothing but curl into his chest. 

 

-- 

 

Geralt waited for Jaskier to fall asleep before he left. He found the three of them in the sitting room in front of the fire. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Lambert spoke first, “they told me about your bard.” 

 

Geralt grunted, he didn’t know how else to respond. “Where did you find the lute?” 

 

Lambert frowned, “the lute?” 

 

“The lute tied to your mare, it belongs to Jaskier.” 

 

“Oh, I didn’t know… I found it on a path by Oxenfurt nearly a year ago. I was going to sell it to those snobs, but then I saw Nilfgaard soldiers so I decided to avoid the city altogether. Didn’t want to get messed up in that bullshit.” 

 

Geralt licked his lips, “you’ve had it for a year?” 

 

“Nearly, yeah, the snow was still melting.” A year. Nilfgaard had had him for a year. “It will be nice to hear a real bard play it, I haven’t been able to figure it out at all.” 

 

“I don’t know if Jaskier will be doing any playing, the only thing he's been singing is…”

 

Wait. 

 

Jaskier made songs about his life. His experiences. To help him cope. Geralt knew that well enough with all the songs he’d sung about him.  

 

What if the song he'd been singing…

 

Geralt turned and walked out, heading for the stables.

He had a feeling the bard needed his lute back. 

 

-- 

 

Jaskier was still sleeping when Geralt returned. He placed the lute at the end of his bed, sat in his usual chair, and waited. 

 

The sun was just beginning to rise when Jaskier woke up. His eyes landed on the lute almost immediately, and his hands moved to grab it before he was even fully awake. Before he could remember to be afraid. 

 

He ran his fingers over the strings, the wood. And then, he reached over to close the music box, so that he could start to tune his lute. 

 

Geralt sat and watched as Jaskier meticulously plucked each string until it had the right sound. He stroked the strings like a forgotten lover, his face calm, his eyes soft. 

 

Then, when it was finished, Jaskier began to play: 

 

One, two, three, four, five 

One, two, three, four, five 

Count the Numbers, 

Follow the rules, 

That’s how you stay alive 

 

One, two, three, four, five 

One, two, three, four, five 

Remember these facts 

Don’t trust in their lies

That’s how you stay alive 

 

Number one - Geralt will come 

On Roach, his fine stead, 

I know that we’ve argued 

But he would never abandon me 

 

Number two - don’t trust smiles 

For they never reach their eyes 

They act like it’s all normal 

But they are dead inside 

 

Number three - eat and drink

Their poison may cause some pain, 

But without it you’ll lose yourself

That's their endgame

 

Number four - don’t speak 

For that’s the only thing they want

While you are harmed with your own stories 

They gain from your careless words 

 

Number five - and most importantly - don’t trust in their lies

As convincing as they might seem 

My father is still dead 

And Geralt does not have brown eyes 

 

One, two, three, four, five 

One, two, three, four, five 

Count the Numbers, 

Follow the rules, 

Just try to stay alive 

 

He stopped, eyes closed, as the last note died out. Geralt’s chest was tight as he was still trying to parse through the words. Jaskier had made rules, a set of rules to help him survive that place until Geralt came to save him… but Geralt had never come. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He let out a heavy breath. Jaskier’s eyes flew open at the sound. 

 

“Geralt,” he whispered, “your eyes - your eyes aren’t-”

 

“My eyes aren't brown.” 

 

“Geralt,” Jaskier put the lute to the side, scrambling off the bed towards him, “you’re... you’re Geralt ?” Shaking hands cupped his face as Jaskier stared into his eyes. 

 

Geralt let him, “I am. I’m right here, Jas.” 

 

Jaskier buried his face in Geralt’s shoulder. Geralt wrapped him in his arms, holding him tight. 

 

“This is real, you’re really real.” 

 

“This is real.” 

 

They stayed like that for another moment, before Jaskier pulled away. Geralt missed him as soon as he was out of his arms. 

 

Jaskier’s eyes were watery, “I think… I think I got a bit lost.” 

 

“It’s okay,” Geralt said, wiping the tear away as soon as it fell. Jaskier pressed his cheek into Geralt’s palm. 

 

“I think I might still be a bit lost.” 

 

“That's okay. I’m here.” 

 

Jaskier nodded, falling back to Geralt’s chest. Geralt wrapped his arms around him gratefully. 

 

“I'm not going anywhere.” 

 

-- 

 

Jaskier went outside again the next day. He smiled again, but it wasn’t as bright. 

 

It’s just the two of them, walking through the snow. Jaskier found a fallen tree to sit on, looking up at the blue sky. Geralt sat beside him and waited. 

 

He knew something was coming. 

 

“They got me when I was almost at Oxenfurt… I don’t know when, but I remember there was snow.” 

 

Geralt didn’t know what to say. He placed his hand on Jaskier’s knee, hoping it showed his support. 

 

Jaskier was getting teary again. “They told me things, while they were in different forms. In between… hurting me. Told me about how my father used to beat me. How much you hated me. How Yennefer sold me to them for a single coin.” He sniffed. “I cant… I don’t know what’s true anymore. I can’t remember what’s real.” 

 

“We’ll figure it out.” Jaskier didn’t look like he believed him. “We have time, Jas. We’ll figure it out.” 

 

Jaskier nodded. “Okay.” 



-- 

 

Time went by. The witchers of Kaer Morhen accepted Jaskier as one of their own. They liked his cooking. They liked his songs around the fire at night. 

 

Jaskier, finally, relaxed. He knew he was safe surrounded by witchers. 

 

Sometimes, though, he still paused. Stiffened. Asked when they were going to start hurting him again. 

 

“Never,” Geralt always reassured him. “You are never going to be hurt again.” He would tilt Jaskier’s face, so he could see his eyes. “See? It’s me. You know you’re safe with me.” 

 

Jaskier nodded, frantic but trusting. He sang his song. “ One, two, three, four, five - one, two, three, four, five… ” 

 

“Not brown,” he always said when Jaskier was finished. “This is real.” 

 

“This is real.”

 

-- 

 

They set out as they always do, at the first sight of spring, when the snow began to thaw. Jaskier purchased a horse early on, at Geralt's insistence. He would happily strump his lute on top of Buttercup as he rode behind Geralt. 

 

 It was far better to travel like this. 

 

They travelled far from Nilfgaard’s soldiers, their route was already planned out before they even left, their destination set. Geralt had someone he wanted Jaskier to meet. 

 

Outside of the halls, Jaskier almost seemed like his old self. Sometimes doubt still crossed his mind, but Geralt would take his hand. Ask him what's going on in his head. 

 

“Did you ever tell a vampire to suck all the blood out of me?” 

 

“No. Never.” 

 

“Did you hit my arms?”

 

“Sometimes. Not enough to bruise.” 

 

“Did you break my fingers?” 

 

“No, I would never do that to you, Jaskier.” 

 

Jaskier would cover his ears at the screech of an owl. The howl of a wolf. 

 

Geralt had started to hold him close at night. 

 

“It's okay,” he would whisper. “I'm right here. Nothing’s going to hurt you.” 

 

Jaskier would nod and nod and nod. 

 

At this point, Geralt knew all the words. They sang the song together. 

 

-- 

 

When finally got to the place Yennefer told him to meet, they were a day early. 

 

Jaskier, sitting beside the clear pond Yennefer had described, fidgeted with worry. 

 

Geralt told him not to be. Ciri would love him. 

 

“Really?” 

 

“Yes. who wouldn't love you?” 

 

Jaskier turned to him. “ You love me?” 

 

“… yes.” 

 

“Did you?” Jaskier asked, watching Geralt with wide eyes as he sat down beside him. “Before?”

 

“It was… different. But yes. I've always cared for you.” He wrapped an arm around Jaskier’s shoulders, pleased when the bard leaned into him. 

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, Jaskier. This is real.”

 

“Can I…” Jaskier’s eyes darted across his face. “I know I'm not… I know I may never be normal again, but.. I would like to kiss-”

 

Geralt kissed him, deep and true. 

 

Who gave a shit about normal anyway?