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Jaskier hasn't spent many Yule holidays with people he cares about, family or otherwise.

As a boy, he remembers a few Yules, but mostly his parents had gone off to bigger, grander Yule celebrations at the homes of other, more influential nobility, leaving Jaskier and his siblings at home. There may have been a few, insincere gifts as a child, but even those tapered off as he grew older. Then he'd been old enough for school and he’d spent...remarkably little time at home, even on the holidays. And then he'd gone off to Oxenfurt and never looked back.

Oxenfurt is more his home than Lettenhove ever was, but his Yules here are still mostly lonely. As a student, he'd been one of the few not to return home for the holidays and had spent most of them, therefore, shut up in his dorm writing and composing as if it were a normal night. As a lecturer? It's not much different, only a nicer set of rooms. There's no point visiting siblings he hasn't seen in years or spending the night down in a tavern with the rest of the sad sacks.

The only person he wants to spend his time with retreats into the mountains every winter and wouldn't stay in Oxenfurt even as a last resort. Jaskier knows, he's offered him lodgings here over the winter before and Geralt has always been quick with a reason he can’t accept. It’s a standing invitation, but Jaskier knows he’ll never take him up on it--he’s just lucky Geralt lets him stick around the rest of the year.

This year, they'd parted much earlier than normal. Geralt had been following a contract south and Jaskier had needed to be in Ellander for a festival and things just hadn't lined up. They'd parted before the first leaves had even begun to fall and Jaskier hates that he'd missed so much time with Geralt this year. After all, it's only a matter of time until he decides he's done humoring him and letting him tag along. He's lucky to have squeezed so many years out of the witcher already--each subsequent year is a gift and Jaskier is terrified of when they will finally end.

Either way, he hasn't seen Geralt since before the first turn of fall and he's missing him terribly, not that that's new at all. He always misses Geralt when they're apart, but winters are...harder. The chill reminds him of cool evenings camping under the stars, the snow always inevitably makes him think of Geralt's hair, bright in the sun, the lit holiday candles always glimmer in a way that makes him think of gold eyes in the dark.

Winters have never been Jaskier's favorite season, but missing Geralt makes them so much harder. Yule is always somehow the hight of that pain--the holiday meant to celebrate the year, to be spent with those you love--and Jaskier spends each and every one alone.

There's a knock at the door and Jaskier reluctantly uncurls from brooding in the armchair by the fire and goes to answer to find one of the attendants that runs the building. It's bizarre to have a personal visit in general, but especially on the night of Yule.

"Master Jaskier?" He's...nervous?

"Yes, Nichol?"

"There's ah...someone here to see you? We didn't let him in because you hadn't said--"

"It's fine, Nichol," who could possibly be here to see him? "Send him up, won't you?" He moves as if to close the door, but Nichol doesn't move.

The man shifts from foot to foot. "Y-yes, Master Jaskier. It's just--" Jaskier cocks an eyebrow, "he's--it's a witcher, sir." It's like being thrown headfirst into the Pontar in the middle of spring--ice cold and shocking. Something must be very wrong.

"Is he--" but there's no point in asking this nervous ball of a man about what the witcher looks like or how he is, is there? Jaskier can tell now, the fear hiding in the set of his shoulders. That’s not the disposition of someone who could be concerned with the well-being of a witcher. "Give me a moment, I'll follow you down."

Geralt's standing at the desk downstairs, whole and unharmed, and Jaskier lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"Geralt!" He turns as Jaskier approaches and the look on his face brings Jaskier up short. There's...something wrong. "Geralt, is everything okay?"

"Hm." It's one of his cagey hums. Jaskier won't be getting an answer out of him anytime soon.

"Well, come on up, anyway. No reason to stand in the hall and talk." The attendant is visably relieved when Geralt hoists his swords back over his shoulder and follows Jaskier back to his rooms. Mentally, he makes a note to have a very strong word with the head attendant about sensitivity training the next time he sees her.

It's silent the entire walk back, which isn't new with Geralt, but Jaskier finds himself a little nervous about it anyway. What’s Geralt going to think? He's never been to Oxenfurt with Jaskier, never seen his rooms, never met the people he works with or the shop owners that know him by name. It's...unsettling. And then there's the reason Geralt's here, which he still hasn't given an answer about.

The door is unlocked, so he shoves it open and ushers Geralt in. He ducks a bit as he passes Jaskier and enters the room and then he...stops. Freezes on the spot. Jaskier freezes in the doorway in response.

"What." He means it as a question, but it comes out taunt and frigid, like an accusation.

"Looks like you," Geralt grunts out after a long moment. Jaskier doesn't know if that's a compliment or not (probably not).

"Sorry, I can--" he starts, already darting forward to clean the loose parchment from the divan, stack the books laying haphazard all over the room, do something.

"No," Geralt interrupts, and Jaskier feels his stomach flip-flop almost unplesantly, "No, this is--it's nice, Jaskier. It's you." And that's...he doesn't know what to do with that.

"Oh," he laughs, just a little strangled, "okay then. Um. Make yourself at home, darling. Sorry there's no Yule decorations I'm...a little unfestive this year.” He’s never festive, actually, but Geralt doesn’t know that. “Have you eaten?" He doesn't wait for Geralt to answer, "of course you haven't. I'll call for something. Won't be more than a moment." He ducks out into the hallway again without waiting for an answer.

He spends the entire walk to the kitchen trying to calm his rapid heartbeat, walk off the nerves that have made their home in the set of his shoulders, the fidget of his fingertips against his thigh. It's just Geralt.

He orders a spread and doesn't let the curious look the cook gives get to him at all as he paces in the hallway and waits for her to finish.

"You know we could send this up for you, Jaskier? No one should have to pace the hallway Yule night." The cook says when she hands the plate over, finally. He smiles at her, only a little tightly.

"Oh, I know Margret, darling. Needed the walk, though. Thank you, love." She 'hm's at him but lets him go, something akin to the noise Geralt makes when he's not buying Jaskier's bullshit. It makes him a little sick, how much he both loves and hates that noise--it sounds wrong coming from someone else's throat.

The walk back to his rooms is both too long and too short--he's worked himself up into a minor frenzy by the time he's at his own door again.

He takes a moment to breathe, eyes closed, before he forces a smile back on his face and pushes through the door. "Food's here," he calls, setting the spread down on the low table in the sitting room. Geralt's nowhere to be found. "Geralt?"

He finds him in the bedroom, the spare shirt of Geralt's that Jaskier nabbed in a moment of weakness earlier just this year to keep him company for the winter in his hand. "Uh, I'm--I'm sorry that's--"

"I thought I'd been a shirt short." His tone is even and neutral and it makes Jaskier want to tear his hair out. Does he care? Does he not? Jaskier can’t tell.

"It, um, must have ended up in my pack. I meant to bring it back this spring." The look on Geralt's face says he doesn't believe a word. "Food's here!" he deflects.

"Mm." He allows himself to be redirected and follows Jaskier back into the sitting room, leaving the shirt on the bed. He settles himself on the divan after Jaskier clears him a spot and digs into the meat and cheese spread without a word. As far as Yule meals go, it’s not very traditional, but Jaskier’s sure it doesn’t matter. He settles himself on the floor by the table and picks at the spread absently, giving Geralt the time he needs to eat unharassed. He tries not to think about how this is the first Yule he's spent with anyone in any capacity since he was a boy and very determinately does not get emotional over the fact that it's Geralt here with him, even accidentally. He can feel his eyes on him as he plucks at a loose thread on his doublet and tries not to fret.

"Soooo--" he says after Geralt's eaten his fill and leaned back, kicking his legs out in front of him, "--what brings you here to Oxenfurt, Geralt?" He winces immediately, but he's already asked, so-- "Shouldn't you be at Kaer Morhen already?"

Jaskier can already tell he's fucked up.

"I won't stay long," Geralt says, expression blank the way it only is when he's withholding his true reaction.

"I didn't say you couldn't stay, you oaf," Jaskier snaps immediately, tries not to let his irritation get the best of him because he knows what Geralt’s like when he meets anger for frosty frigidity, "I would be deeply offended if you left, actually."

Geralt stares at him, hard. "I’d be...intruding," he says, no elaboration.

"What? Gods, Geralt, intruding on what? I'm--" he gestures to the expanse of his very empty rooms, "--pretty fucking far from busy, if you hadn't noticed."

Geralt's expression does pinch at that. "I noticed. Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why aren't you--" he pauses, seems to be searching for the right words, "--why aren't you...involved? Doing things. It's Yule, Jaskier, why are you--"

"Alone?" Jaskier interrupts, seeing where this is going. Geralt doesn't say anything, just stares at him, steady. Jaskier sighs, hard. "Who else would I spend winters with, Geralt?"

"I don't know," Geralt says slowly, "I just...I assumed you had someone."

"You assumed I--Geralt. Tell me you didn't think I had some...some lover I'd never told you about waiting for me here in Oxenfurt every winter."

The look on Geralt's face tells him he thought exactly that.

"Melitele's tits, Geralt." Jaskier sighs, breathes in slowly in an attempt to calm himself. "So why are you here, then? Since it's pretty clear you aren't here to take me up on the offer of wintering with me."

Geralt's expression does something complicated Jaskier can't parse before it smooths out into slightly constipated indifference again.

"The passes are snowed in."

And that's-- "Yes, Geralt. I know that," Jaskier says, drawing on the infinite well of patience he seems to only have access to when trying to coax Geralt out of being an obtuse ass. "Why didn't you make it up the mountain before the passses snowed in?"

Geralt visibly swallows. Jaskier can't help but track the bob of his adams apple. "I--" the gust of breath is audible as Geralt sighs, shoulders loosening in something like defeat, "I missed you, Jaskier."

The fire crackles in the hearth. It'll need another log soon. "What?"

Geralt looks like he'd rather be hunting drowners. "I missed you, Jaskier. And I was--I was thinking about coming to see you but I--I couldn't, I wasn't sure--" Jaskier will not faint like some kind of wilting damsel, even if he feels as if he can't get enough air all of a sudden. "--And then the pass was closed and I. I don't--I won't stay if you don't want me to. I'll figure something out."

"Geralt," Jaskier says. It comes out barely audable and he has to clear his throat and try again, "Geralt, love, of course you can stay." Something in Geralt's posture loosens in relief this time, as if he'd still been afraid Jaskier might ask him to leave until that moment, "of course you can. I missed you too."

Something flashes in Geralt's eyes, something that looks a little like surprise. "Oh."

They tip-toe around each other the rest of the evening. Jaskier helps him bring his bags up after a brief visit to Roach during which he slips her a sugar cube he knows Geralt pretends not to see. He gives Geralt space and time to get settled until his armor is off and his bags partially unpacked. They don't really talk until Jaskier realizes he's going to have to either offer Geralt his bed or make up the divan for him. And. Well. He's a weak man, after all.

"Geralt?"

"Hm?" He’s taking stock of his armor by the fire when Jaskier ambles up beside him to stand at his shoulder. He tries not to fidget, despite the nerves trying to choke him. There’s no reason this should be different from any other time they’ve shared lodgings (except of course, it is).

"Going to bed soon, love?"

He stares at his armor just a beat too long before he leans back to look up into Jaskier's face, expression mildly puzzled. "Mm?"

"I--" he can feel his face heat, "I wanted to--to offer to share. You know since I--I don't have--"

"I can sleep on the floor, Jaskier."

"No! No, I--I have plenty of room. And I. I want you in my bed, Geralt." That comes out...not quite the way Jaskier meant it. Or it comes out too honest, actually. He absolutely wants Geralt in his bed like that, he just doesn't think Geralt would want it.

Interestingly, Geralt's cheeks color and he looks away. Jaskier expects him to refuse again. "Okay," he says, soft, and something in Jaskier's chest flutters.

He follows Jaskier into the bedroom and it's...almost normal. Like sharing at an inn, except this is Jaskier's room, Jaskier's space. It's as much a choice as it is a necessity.

The shirt on the bed taunts him. He wants to wear it--has been wearing it--but with Geralt here--

He’s stolen from his painful reverie when Geralt thrusts the shirt at him, gaze averted.

“Wha--”

“Wear it,” Geralt rumbles, already slipping into bed, predictably on the side closest to the door. Something warm and bright burns through him. He does as he’s told.

The material falls to roughly mid-thigh. It fits well enough in the shoulders, but Geralt’s slightly longer and bulkier torso means it billows on him a little like a slip. It makes him feel impossibly small and it’s...nice. Even nicer to settle together, not quite touching, and Jaskier reluctantly relaxes. He's drifting comfortably but not quite asleep when Geralt shifts and tucks himself along Jaskier's side, rests his head gently on Jaskier's shoulder and it's suddenly all too much.

"Geralt," he whispers, afraid to break the spell they seem to have fallen under. They are well outside their normal playbook at this point and Jaskier has no idea how to navigate the situation, only knows he wants it to continue, wants Geralt close.

Geralt stiffens and stays still for a beat too long before he starts to pull away.

"No, love," Jaskier corrects immediately, rests his hand on the back of Geralt's neck to keep him close, tangles his fingers in his hair, "no, please stay." Geralt shivers and tucks himself in closer again, eyes resolutely closed.

"Sorry," he says.

"Don't apologize, darling. I'm--I'm happy you're here, you know? I haven't spent a Yule with anyone in a long time." Geralt makes a tiny noise of acknowledgment. He should say it, he should say it. If there's ever been a time it's now, clothed in Geralt’s old shirt, with Geralt curled along his side, the heat of him radiating through the thin material. He presses his lips to the top of Geralt's head and feels him relax slowly. His heart pounds.

"I know you're in love with someone," Geralt breathes, warm against the soft skin of the bard's throat, "I figured it must be someone you had here. But--" Jaskier's breath hitches, "there really is no one else, is there?"

"No," Jaskier says, voice just a little strained.

"Who is it?" It's barely more than a breath.

"Geralt," Jaskier sighs softly.

"Humor me," he murmurs, presses his lips to the exposed skin he can reach. Jaskier's breath punches out of him.

"It's always been you," he says, running his fingers through Geralt's hair. Geralt makes a small noise. He seems...content. Soft and quiet against Jaskier's side.

"I thought it was too good to be true," Geralt says into the dark when Jaskier doesn't think he'll speak again. "Figured there must be someone else." His chest aches.

"It's only been you since I was twenty years old, Geralt," and oh, that's a bizarre feeling, to get that one off his chest. He's very aware of the fact Geralt hasn't said it back, but...he's here, isn't he?

"Idiot," Geralt scoffs, "I should have left you behind at that inn in Posada." To the ear untrained in Geralt-isms, it sounds dismissive, harsh. Jaskier hears the fondness in it, all the things Geralt isn’t saying.

"Where would I be without you, witcher?" He breathes, feels the tears prickle at the corner of his eyes.

"Safer," Geralt says, without missing a beat. Jaskier scoffs.

"You know, traditionally Yule visitors bring a gift, not verbally berate their hosts." Geralt snorts a laugh, presses his lips to Jaskier's skin again.

"Mm, thought you might like this gift," Geralt says, spreading a palm above Jaskier's pounding heartbeat.

"Geralt, you did not wait until Yule to come to Oxenfurt so you could make a tasteless joke about gifting me your company, tell me you didn't."

"I didn't," Geralt repeats, but Jaskier can hear the smile in his voice.

"Oh, you are awful," he says, delighted.

"There's also lute strings in my pack for you," he says, "I bought them in case...well. They're yours anyway." Jaskier knows what he means. He bought them in case there had been someone else, in case Geralt had been right.

"Thank you, love," he chokes out past the lump in his throat. It's the first time anyone's gotten him anything for Yule since he was a child. "I'm sorry I don't have anything for you."

"Just you is enough," Geralt breathes into the curve of his throat. Jaskier feels fit to burst.

He may not like winter and he may not care for Yule, but this one? This one's just fine.