There’s music around him. Coming from him, his throat warm and honeyed with the lyrics he sings. Not him- the bard, the unknown man who captures his mind at night when he closes his eyes. He- they- are playing for an audience. Jaskier is used to this, the wayward looks, captured attention, but it’s… new. There’s an instrument in his hand he’s never learned to play and lyrics on his lips he’s never written, clothes resplendent of another time, another world, and he drinks it in with abandon. Full, flowing skirts, jackets made of the richest silk brocade in all colors, though all are muted compared to the bright, rich amethyst ensemble he seems to have donned for the performance.
He’s deep into his set, if he should call it that, singing about a fishmongers daughter just to get a laugh out of the crowd when his eyes catch on a small, insignificant detail. Jaskier sings and sways among the royalty around him, but all he can see is gold with flecks of amber, curious cat eyes watching him from the shadows. He takes a step closer, then two, then three until he’s propelling through the crowd, and just as a jaw covered in a neat snow white beard is unearthed from the shadows, a blare sounds, and the image shatters.
He gasps awake, clutching at his chest and trying to quell the shaking of his hands. Sweat sticks his hair to the back of his neck and his forehead in small curls which Jaskier rakes a hand through. On the nightstand, next to the bed, his phone vibrates, clanking softly against the wood until Jaskier scoops it up and hits answer. There are only a handful of people who will actually ring through.
“Ah, woke you up huh? Touchy touchy. You haven’t forgotten about our brunch date, have you?” The voice on the other end is perky, far too awake for Jaskier’s liking right now.
“No, no of course not. You aren’t here yet, are you?” He slips from bed, grimacing and rummaging through his closet for something to wear, phone pinched between his ear and his shoulder.
“Almost, a block away.”
“Shit, okay, let yourself in?” The woman on the other end hums, amused, and Jaskier hangs up. Leave it to him to fail to set an alarm for something like this. He drags his sorry carcass into the bathroom, intent on getting a shower. He feels cold and sticky for all the wrong reasons, and when he looks at himself in the mirror the blue in his eyes is offset by the purple bags underneath. It’s… not an attractive look for himself. The hot water pounds against his back when he hops under the spray and he groans, letting it wash over him. Praying it’ll wash away the dream that seems to cling to him, digging at his bones and refusing to leave.
He’d had the dreams for as long as he could remember- at first they were nothing more than terrors, dreams of hideous, foul smelling creatures with sharp claws. Claws that regularly tore into the soft flesh of his belly, or the tender meat of his thigh, leaving him to wake up screaming and thrashing in bed. His parents, bless them, had tried everything to help, from heavy medication to therapy to a stint in a mental facility, but nothing took the monsters away. Medication only trapped him within his dreams, unable to wake up until he was well and thoroughly taken apart, and therapists only insisted the monsters were representations of some trauma he’d sustained as a child. The stay at the mental facility, well, that was more a break for his parents than thirteen year old Jaskier.
He’d learned to hide them, since then, to hold people at arms length and keep them from seeing what he truly was. The monsters rarely followed him into real life, but on the occasion he saw mention of a kikimore on the news, or a striga cropped up in Germany somewhere, well, it was all too easy to flip the channel and pretend. Now though… it was becoming harder and harder to leave his dreams behind when the sun came up. The dreams had shifted when he was almost eighteen, from monsters hunting and maiming him to something else- instruments and performances and gaudy, awful clothing he had no name for. Days spent walking and walking and walking, sweating under the sun but grinning like it didn’t bother whoever was in his dreams. It was harder still, to pretend that the performer in his dreams didn’t have his hands, his wonderful, skillful fingers, or the voice he’d spent years fine tuning.
He’s knocked from his reverie by the sound of his front door opening and clicking shut and the smell of food drifting in. His stomach growls loudly, protesting it’s current situation, and Jaskier hurries to finish his shower and get dressed. He’s got a towel in hand, scrubbing at his hair when he pads out barefoot and spots the blonde currently tinkering with his tv remote. Her blue eyes are bright, friendly, and she motions to the spread of food currently piled on his coffee table.
“Got you coffee.”
“Thank Melitele.” He makes a beeline for it, not caring the way it burns his tongue as he gulps it down. That draws a laugh from his companion, and he throws himself onto the couch, settling his legs across her lap and tossing his towel onto the chair nearby. He’ll get it later. “You’re a godsend, you know that Priscilla?”
A small smile plays on the woman’s lips, colored by rouge lipstick, and she raises a brow. “I do, but it’s nice to hear. Did you not sleep at all last night, Jaskier?”
“Ah, I’m afraid my muse kept me up, as usual.” He grins at her, reaching out to snag a strawberry from her plate before bending to get at the french toast on the coffee table. It smells absolutely divine, and maybe some food will make him feel more like himself and less like a shell of someone else.
“You really need to learn how to prioritize sleep.” Priscilla says, shaking her head fondly and digging into her eggs. He hums, half paying attention to the news on the screen. It’s nothing new, stocks going up and down, the latest in sports, and something about him, actually. Talking about his newest single that’s put him up in the top ten- Her Sweet Kiss. Jaskier clicks away before they can play the music, drawing a laugh from Priscilla. “You know, you never told me where the song came from.”
“Didn’t I? A whirlwind affair in Europe, during my last tour. She was… incredible, shall I say? Truly someone never forgotten.” He’s bullshitting and Priscilla knows it. The song had come to him, as most do now, in his dreams. Ringing through his ears in a voice so close to his he can feel his throat burning when he wakes up. She doesn’t press though- she knows better than to push Jaskier too far. The glassy, far away look he got when thinking about whatever it was that inspired his songs was sad, old, and lingered on Jaskier’s face the rest of the day. Jaskier focuses on eating now, barely tasting bite after bite and only stopping when his stomach is full. Priscilla does much the same, but she chatters through the melancholy.
Jaskier stops himself on a random show, listening to Priscilla but staring at the screen. It’s something nonsense, talking about old instruments, but his hand stops mid bite, the french toast falling back onto his plate with a wet smack. He stares, wide eyed, at the wide, oval bowl of the instrument and the short, sturdy neck. The strings, there are more than a guitar but not nearly enough- no, his had more. Six pairs, one singular. His?
“-ier? Jaskier, what is it?”
“What is that?” His voice sounds strange, words twisted faintly by an accent he’s never had before, and he sets his plate down as Priscilla looks between him and the tv.
“An instrument? You put on the show.”
“But what kind?” At this Priscilla frowns. She doesn’t seem to know either, and she shrugs reluctantly.
“We could ask Essi, I’m sure she knows more. Why, do you recognize it?”
“No.” He says softly, switching the tv off. He ignores Priscilla’s worried look and goes instead to put on socks and shoes, grabbing his jacket and pulling it on. It’s big, engulfs his frame, but there’s something about it he couldn’t get out of his head when he’d seen it in a thrift shop off of 28th. It’s also entirely too hot outside to need it, but he feels naked without it, and the hood will give him a better chance at remaining hidden. Not that that happens much anymore. Priscilla has the food cleaned up when he steps out of his room, and she swings her keys around her finger, lingering near the door.
“Where are we going today, my famous friend?” Jaskier rolls his eyes, shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Anywhere but here. I think I’ll go mad if I hide in bed anymore.”
“That’s the spirit! There’s this new music store on Madison we could check out, and then that little bistro for a late lunch-” Her words fade from his ears as they merge into the crowd outside of his apartment building. He slips on sunglasses, nondescript ones he’d gotten from a random gas station, and prays that today he looks like anyone else. With Priscilla at his side, arm looped through his, no one pays much attention to the couple wandering down the street, chattering away. Jaskier feels a rush of gratitude for his friend, for the unwavering presence she is in his life. He’s not sure how he would have managed his budding fame without her, or handled being recognized everywhere once his face and name and music became more common knowledge.
“You’re the one who wrote the songs.” A rough voice reminds him, teasing.
“Yes, well, I didn’t expect them to break into my HOUSE for an autograph!”
“Get better doors. And a guard.” He drowns in those eyes, an endless pool of gold, and he reaches up to brush a stray lock of hair away, a smile stretching his lips wide.
“Why would I need anyone other than you?”
Jaskier stumbles over a crack in the sidewalk, pitching forward, and it’s only Priscilla next to him that keeps him standing. He rights himself, cheeks pink, and laughs despite his heart pounding in his chest.
“Ah, rather clumsy today. I probably should have had more coffee.”
“Or more sleep.” She counters, Jaskier laughing again and nodding in agreement. More sleep is definitely what he needs. A nice, dreamless sleep. Maybe if he gets that, he’ll be able to function like a human being again, instead of walking through the world with half a mind stuck firmly in fiction. The music shop is a quaint, cute little building tucked in a strip of other quaint buildings, and Jaskier ducks into the dim light of the shop. There are rows and rows of cds, vinyls, movies and more, and his eyes track along them all, taking in the sights and colors. There are plenty of instruments on the wall, guitars, basses, a couple of keyboards and a few sets of bongos even. There seems to be little rhyme or reason besides the alphabetical arrangement of the displays, and Jaskier spends his time wandering while Priscilla goes straight for the vinyls.
He’s near the back of the shop, by the counter when he spots an instrument on display behind the glass display. The sight is enough to make him freeze, and he stares at the smooth wood, the graceful curve of the instrument, finding that his fingers have begun to twitch. This can’t be a coincidence.
“Do you play?” A voice breaks through to him, and he has to blink a few times before he can focus on the man standing before him. His dark hair curls rather attractively, falling around his face and framing rather striking hazel eyes. Jaskier’s countenance sours immediately, and he squints suspiciously. It takes the man a moment, but he grins wide when he recognizes Jaskier. “Dandelion! A pleasure to have you here.”
“Valdo. This is your shop?”
“It is indeed, opened it up after my last album.” He’s proud, almost annoyingly so, but Jaskier begrudgingly has to admit the shop is rather nice. His eyes wander back to the instrument behind Valdo, and Valdo raises his brows. “You never said if you played. Would you like to hold it?”
“You’d let me?”
“I’ve seen how you care for your guitar. I’d warn you it’s expensive, but I know you’re good for any damages.” Jaskier snorts as the other man goes to grab the instrument, and his fingers drum against his thighs. “Do you even know what this is?”
“Not a clue.” Jaskier’s hands are reaching for it as soon as Valdo holds it out, and he tucks the strap around his body. The neck settles into his hands, fingers resting on the strings, and a line of tension holding his body razor tight snaps.
“It’s a-” The soft sound of Jaskier plucking out a melody stops Valdo short, and Jaskier closes his eyes to ward off the dizziness.
A fire crackles merrily in front of him as he plays, tinkering away at a tune with his notebook close by. He isn’t sure about the harmony of the piece, the way the notes blend together. There’s something missing, and he can’t figure out what it is. He stops with a heavy sigh, scrubbing at his face and wracking his brain.
“You’re missing the lowest note in the harmony.”
“Pardon?” He looks up, sees the sensual curve of a small smirk on a very ruggedly handsome face, and those eyes, always those eyes staring back. The man comes over, reeking of pine and metal and home, and reaches to softly pluck at one of the strings. The note rings out and Jaskier latches on.
“Try.” The man whispers, and Jaskier does, drawing the note into his harmony and grinning at the fully bodied life it brings.
Jaskier’s head is spinning when he finally opens his eyes again, Valdo staring at him with unabashed surprise. Priscilla is at his side, hand on his elbow to hold him steady, and he glances down at the familiar way in which his hands hold the lute. Because that’s what it is- his favorite instrument, the thing that made him coin and granted him fame and found him a-
Jaskier’s heart cracks in his chest, and his breath punches out of him in one big whoosh. He lifts the lute over his head, pressing it back into Valdo’s hands before turning to bolt out the front door of the shop. He doesn’t know where he’s going, merely that he has to get away, to find somewhere safe. He feels a thousand eyes on him, whispers following his frantic fleeing, and he ducks into an alleyway, hiding behind a trash can and pressing his back to the brick wall. There’s a stitch in his side from his frantic running and his hands won’t stop shaking as he rakes his fingers through his hair. The song rings through him, as fresh as the day it was written, and the lyrics come to him unbidden.
He’s crazy. He’s well and truly crazy, because there’s no way what he’s seeing can be real, but it’s so vividly him, buried so deep in his heart that there’s no way it could be fake either. His breath comes from him faster and faster, and tears blur his vision as he folds his knees up to his chest and rocks. Priscilla finds him that way, huddled in a ball amongst the trash, sobbing and muttering to himself, and she uses the large hood of his jacket to hide his face as she gets him home. Jaskier has calmed enough to get himself up the stairs when they manage to stumble their way back, and his chest aches from the pounding of his heart.
The tremor in his hands hasn’t abated yet, but the mug that’s pressed into his hands doesn’t shake, so he just enjoys the warmth that it brings him. Priscilla seems at a loss for words, but Jaskier knows what she wants to ask. “Just say it, Pris.”
“What happened? You haven’t been yourself all morning- first with the tv, and then the lute in the shop? Jaskier, I’ve never seen you like this.”
“I have dreams.” He says, voice so soft it’s almost lost in the sound of his heartbeat. “And lately, I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.”
Priscilla reaches out, touching his shoulder lightly, and her face is soft, sad. “They’re just dreams. What you do here, the music you make, that’s what’s real.”
Jaskier nods, but his heart is plummeting in his chest and he doesn’t know why. Priscilla’s words should be a comfort, someone rooted in his reality telling him that his dreams are just that- dreams. The result of an overactive imagination. That’s all they are, all they’ve ever been. Jaskier tries not to let the thought suck him down somewhere he doesn’t want to go, but it’s near impossible to fight the tide rising in him. “They’re just dreams.”
He takes a sip of his lukewarm drink to find that it’s tea- the stuff he usually drinks as a last resort before bed time. It’s never worked before, but Jaskier downs the rest of it and hopes that this time, it will. Priscilla waits until he’s finished to take the cup, and when she comes back she’s holding a very large, very lute shaped object in her hands. Jaskier frowns, confused, but takes it from her anyway, tracing fingers over the lacquered wood. It’s smooth and warm under his touch, and he finds himself picking at the strings just to hear the sound. “Valdo said that it was yours.”
“I didn’t pay him.”
“He knew you’d say that. He said, and I quote ‘I’ve only been holding it for him.’ Whatever that might mean.” Jaskier schools his features into careful indifference, trying not to let his discomfort show. What in the hell does he mean by that? He’s going to have to go back to the shop and talk to him to find out, but he’s not inclined to leave his apartment for the foreseeable future. Priscilla, sensing the mood has gone down, ruffles Jaskier’s hair and gives his shoulders a squeeze. “Take some time, Dandy, get some sleep, then come back.”
Jaskier makes a soft noise in his throat at the silly nickname, but it’s sweet and Jaskier has never told her to stop. He watches her duck out of the apartment with one last look his way, and once the door clicks shut, locking behind her, he grips the lute tighter. He hasn’t ever played formally- has never been trained, and while a guitar is similar, there’s more strings than ever and he expects to fumble.
His fingers know what to do even without his brain, and he hums along to the melody from before. Here, in the safety of his apartment, he plays and plays until the song is firmly committed to memory and he’s written down the lyrics to go along with it. A song about the monster of the wood, a cruel, hungry creature with the head of a deer, stalking him in the night.
“You need to listen to me-”
“I’m your barker, for better or worse. How can I bark if I never see anything?”
“You stay alive for a day longer.” His hands shake with anger, chest burning with it, and the man in front of him, golden eyes fierce and animal, glares back just as hotly. They’re nose to nose practically, and his head pounds in time with his heartbeat as his hands come up, shoving the man away and watching in shock as he goes.
“Go then. I’ll be here, tending your fire and watching your horse, as that is all I am good for.” He turns then, but a hand grabs at his arm, turning him around on his heel. He pulls against it, fights to be released, but Geralt’s hand bunches in his shirt above his heart and holds him. “Geralt-”
“For better or worse, Jaskier.” His eyes meet gold, molten and scalding, and he’s speechless at the sincere intensity in Geralt’s gaze. “I would rather it be better.”
“You don’t get to decide that-” Geralt cuts him off with a kiss, lips hard against his own. It’s awkward, a bit painful, but Jaskier tilts his head, pulls back a bit and Geralt responds in kind. He kisses, Jaskier decides, like a man who has been kissed not nearly enough, and he commits himself to fixing that immediately. Geralt’s grip loosens in Jaskier’s shirt, but Jaskier’s hand comes up to bury in snow white locks, keeping him close as his heart rockets into his throat.
The strings of the lute dig painfully into his fingers when he comes to, and he shakes himself, releasing his tight hold and groaning when blood rushes back into the pads of his fingers. He tucks the lute back away in its case, not wanting to look at the flowers painted onto the wood along its wide belly. He tells himself not to touch the lute, to leave it alone so that all this will go away, but the longer he sits on his couch, leg bouncing and tv on some awful movie the more his fingers itch to play.
Instead, he forces himself to get up, to pull out his vacuum and mop and cleaning supplies. He spends the afternoon scrubbing down every inch of the apartment, puts away his laundry, and even tidies up his desk, which is a rather artful disarray of papers. Some, like Priscilla, call it a mess, but Jaskier knows where each piece of paper goes, and he prefers it stays that way. Cleaning can only distract him for so long, and once the smell of lemon cleaner becomes too much he caves, grabbing the lute and ducking out onto his balcony.
The sun is beginning to descend on the city, and he allows it to warm his bones and loosen his muscles as he plays. Each song that comes from him is new and old and entirely his, each rich, resounding note a piece of him. The instrument is no more a stranger to him than his guitar, or his flute, or any of the other instruments he’s picked up and enjoyed along the way. Its weight, the feeling of the double strings pressing under his fingers is home to him, and he plays long after the sun is set. There’s a reckoning, a righteousness within this instrument that calls to the deepest parts of Jaskier’s soul, and he finds himself crying with no real reason as to why.
He cries silently, holding the lute close to him and staring out over the city. Cars rush past his building, far below, and somewhere nearby a dog barks. But it’s all background noise- it’s nothing compared to the harsh intake of his breath or the way that it shudders out of him. When he can’t stand it anymore he retreats back inside, leaving his lute on his dresser before stripping down and crawling into bed. There, buried under blankets and utterly, terribly alone, Jaskier closes his eyes and dreams.
“You’re alive.” A low, rough voice breathes behind him. He turns, but he already knows what will be waiting for him, and he can feel his face lighting up in a grin.
“Geralt! Of course I’m alive, how could the world bear to part with me just yet?” His heart jackrabbits in his chest at the sight of the man before him, clad as always, in dark armor and a stormy, conflicted expression. Well, the expression is new. The armor, not so much. He finds himself smiling for no real reason as to why, but Geralt’s face is open and honest and terrified, and he can’t keep from reaching out to gently touch his cheek.
“There were rumors- about a bard, having been murdered by a beast.”
“As if I could be harmed by a beast with you protecting me.”
“But I wasn’t.” Jaskier takes a step forward, cupping his witcher’s cheek and smiling when Geralt leans into the touch.
The dream dissolves as Jaskier shifts, drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness. The latter wins out, and his body drifts away while his mind slips again.
Blue eyes stare at him through the mirror. It isn’t a great mirror, small and cracked and woven with imperfections, but he won’t need it for long. He only needs to make sure his hair is presentable, his golden doublet unmarred by any stains, and that his smile, when shown just so, is as charming and delightful as always.
“You’re fussing.” Geralt says, and Jaskier knows, his heart knows that voice and the hand that slides over his hip better than anything. He finds himself leaning back against a strong chest, laughing and tipping his head back.
“Some of us care for our appearance before a performance.” An amused hum, and then lips on his neck, gentle and sweet, kissing a trail up toward Jaskier’s waiting lips. He sinks into the kiss, turning as Geralt’s arms come up and around him, careful not to crease Jaskier’s clothes.
“How long will you be gone?”
“Most of the night. You’re free to come, love. I’m sure they’d love to pester the White Wolf himself.”
“Mmm, pester is right.” The warmth in his chest is softer now, with no edges of anger, and he knows what this is. It’s love. Pure and unfettered by doubt.
That same warmth burns in his chest when he jerks up in bed, leaping from under the covers to run into his bathroom. The mirror he has now is perfect- gleaming with the fresh cleaning he’d done just today and showing his reflection without any defects. The same blue eyes stare back, sweeping over the same lips, the same cheekbones and nicely shaped jawbone. The same messy, tousled brown hair as the bard in the dream. As him . Whoever he was- is- is long gone- left behind in another life completely. That isn’t him anymore, it can’t be, but when he thinks, and thinks hard, they’re there. All the memories, the times in between his dreams. The first time he’d seen Geralt, sitting in the back of a tavern refusing to meet anyone’s eyes, to draw any unwanted attention to him. The feeling of his hair, so devoid of color, twisting around his fingers as he washed blood and viscera from them. His friends- Priscilla, in her blue and red ensemble with the poofy shorts, Essi, a near twin to Priscilla, only shorter and plumper. Valdo, his rival, the troubadour who writes songs without any meaning but somehow comes out on top.
Jaskier scrambles for his phone, dropping it twice before finally swiping open the screen. He has his number, more to make sure he never answers than anything, but now, now he needs it more than anything else. He hits dial without letting himself think, holding his phone to his ear and shifting nervously from foot to foot. The line rings and rings, and just as he thinks it'll go to voicemail he hears a soft click.
"Dandelion? It's nearly three in the morning, what could you-"
"I'm not crazy."
"Debatable." Valdo's voice is amused, but when Jaskier doesn't respond he quickly grows serious.
"You said you were keeping the lute for me." His words are rolling in his mouth, voice mangled by an accent that he can't seem to keep away or bring back. He hears a sharp intake of breath, and then a long, shuddering sigh.
"I was, Julian. For far, far too long. Meet me at the diner on Broadmoor." The line goes dead and Jaskier is left to get ready, a long, long dead name ringing in his ears.
There are three diners on Broadmoor. Jaskier curses his luck, but only one seems to have the lights on and so Jaskier heads that way first. He pulls on the door and is hit in the face by the smell of stale coffee and hash browns. He glances around, searching, and spots Valdo in a booth back in the corner. His face is drawn, hair a mess, but he has a cup of coffee waiting For Jaskier when he slides into the cheap plastic booth. Valdo slides the mug toward him and he clasps it in his hands, sniffing lightly. He debates putting sugar or cream in it, but he needs the caffeine too badly right now to care much about the bitter taste. Valdo watches his internal debate with a raised brow, leaning back in the booth and sighing.
“You remember.” Jaskier accuses, wincing at the way his tone sounds. Valdo takes it in stride, tilting his head in a small nod and sipping at his coffee.
“I always have. I didn’t know if you would this time around.”
“This time?” Valdo nods again, and Jaskier is quickly becoming frustrated by the non answers. “Valdo, what the fuck is going on?”
“Reincarnation. You’ve heard of it before, yes?” Jaskier nods, and Valdo continues on. “There are some of us who keep coming back. Not always with memories, not always whole. I seem to have no problem keeping them, but others like Priscilla, or Essi, or-”
“Are they really reincarnations?” Jaskier frowns- how much is it reincarnation if you’re just the same body without knowing if your consciousness is the same?
“I said that, didn’t I?” His glare is enough to set a house on fire, but Valdo doesn’t fold under the pressure, instead waving for menus to be brought over. “For decades I was unsure why. Why us? Nothing seemed to connect us together, just random strangers being brought through life. Until I found out you came along as well.”
“You’re saying that I’m the link?”
“You know us all, have some kind of connection. You are the one constant in each of our lives.”
“But the others, they don’t remember?”
“They never have.” Valdo orders something for the two of them, waving away Jaskier’s protest, and plows forward in his conversation. “You don’t always either. I’ve held that lute for the past two reincarnations, neither of which you retained memories for. But you remember now, or are beginning to.”
“Yes.” Jaskier’s voice is a whisper, and admitting it, saying that it’s real takes a weight off his shoulders he didn’t know he was carrying.
“Tell me how?” It’s phrased as a request, and Jaskier nods, staring at his coffee to try and ward off his tears.
“I was seventeen when my dreams started feeling real- performances or days on the road, nights spent stitching wounds or bandaging cuts. Lately they’ve-”
“Been bleeding into your waking hours. Like when you played in the shop.” Valdo’s interrupting makes irritation flare in the back of his mind, but he tamps it down. He’s only trying to help, and is filling in more details than Jaskier would have gotten on his own. Their food comes then, and Jaskier watches as some kind of breakfast scramble is placed in front of him. It’s heavy with hashbrowns, eggs, bacon and cheese. It looks awful. Jaskier digs in hungrily, groaning at the heavenly taste- shitty overnight diners always have the best food. They eat their food in relative silence, too hungry and tired to care much to continue with something else in front of them.
This all seems fake, too good to be real. Valdo’s instant reassurance of what he’s feeling, what he’s dreaming, it has to be some kind of con, some way to get dirt on him. He expects the other man to laugh any minute, to call him crazy and tell him he needs serious help. He’s waiting for a punchline that isn’t coming, and it makes him anstier and anstier by the second. It explains so much- the old, old memories he has of a time before electricity, or running water, of nobles and peasants and monsters. Of witchers and sorceresses and bards. There are newer memories too- of him in a diner much like this, sitting across from a man with white hair and shining golden eyes. Of dancing in a club to his own music, standing alongside all the others in a rally, holding a sign protesting the inequality that ruins his life while cameras show his face. Through it all, his companion is there- a silent, steady presence.
“There’s- a man. Who I am desperately in love with, no matter who I am.”
“Your witcher. White hair, cat eyes?” He doesn’t need to nod for Valdo to know the answer, and he grins. “His name is Geralt of Rivia, though Rivia is long gone now.”
“Alive? Of course. They, unlike us, do not die.”
“They?” He doesn’t even get a chance to let Valdo talk, his vision going blurry and ears ringing.
“C’mere asshole!” Jaskier laughs, darting away from the witcher intent on catching him. It isn’t Geralt- his hair is dark and cropped short, voice smoother, less gravelly. He’s also much, much more expressive.
“Catch me if you can!” His lungs hurt from running and laughing so much, and he squeaks as hands grab the back of his doublet and yank him to a stop. Jaskier squirms as arms wrap around him, and he pouts, letting himself go deadweight. “You aren’t supposed to use your witchery powers, you know.”
“Oops.” He’s let go then, and Jaskier shoves the other man lightly, grinning.
“Ass. Maybe I’ll go find Eskel, at least he follows the rules of the game.”
“Rules are for peasants.”
“Then you should fit right in, Lambert.” He dodges a swat to the back of the head, laughing and disappearing further into the keep.
Valdo is staring at him expectantly when he blinks, the stone walls and cold breeze fading away from his mind. His food is lukewarm in front of him, and he takes a big bite just to avoid having to say anything yet. Valdo is too smug for his own good though, and he sits forward, grinning.
“Jogged your memory, eh?”
“Shut up.” His insufferable grin only grows bigger, and Jaskier wants to smack it off his face or strangle him. Either would work, honestly. “Is there some way to contact him, or any of them?”
“Not unless you’re a government official, or happen to know someone who had a pest problem. But, there is something that might work.”
“Your songs. I'm sure you've already written new ones with the lute- release them in an album. If they’re listening, which is near impossible not to with your reputation, they’ll find you .”
“What if they don’t?”
“Then I suppose you’ll have to bed a government agent.” Jaskier scoffs, wrinkling his nose, but Valdo wags his eyebrows and he can’t help the laugh that bubbles up from his chest. He falls into silence then, staring down at the rest of his food, and his voice is soft when he finally finds the courage to speak.
“Thank you. For keeping it safe.” When he glances up, Valdo’s eyes are bright, shining with relief.
Jaskier does what he does best- he writes a few songs, then writes a few more, until he’s bursting with music and lyrics and ideas. He gets himself into his studio and doesn’t leave until he’s recorded an entire album, with his lute being the main focus. It brings with it a new, exciting kind of charm that his producers eat right up, a kind of mystical energy that isn’t present in any of Jaskier’s other songs.
It’s also a release- he lets go of the monsters that haunted him, bringing them roaring into his music instead and letting them run wild. His dreams are still plagued by memories, but the more he plays, the more he tries to remember, the easier it gets. Turns out when you stop fighting against a piece of yourself, letting it in is much, much easier. The music videos are his favorite part of the whole process- he crafts one specific to each song, embedding as much of a message as he can in the hopes that one of the witcher’s will see. Will see him and know him, and extend a hand.
He tries to look up the witchers, to see if there’s any kind of way to find them online, but Lambert is too common a name and he has no clue what last name he would use, if any. Eskel’s name yields less results, but still too many for him to narrow down, and he’s left back at square one for them. Geralt’s name? Now that pulls up results.
‘ The witcher, most formally known as Geralt of Rivia, is one of the world’s only practicing monster slayers, and a bit of a recluse. He was last spotted hunting some kind of sea serpent along the mediterranean, and then boarded a plane bound for America.’
‘Geralt of Rivia, White Wolf, was allegedly seen decapitating a local woman at a train station in France. When questioned by police, they were informed that the woman was a bruxa who had been preying on locals. Mr. Rivia was released without further incident.’
That article makes Jaskier laugh, and he prints it out to tack above his desk on his cork board. Leave it to Geralt to scare everyone around him while doing his job. Any article related to Geralt gets its spot on the board, actually and he’s fairly certain he looks like a stalker, but they’re his only glimpse into what Geralt has been up to. It makes the pain easier to handle, knowing he’s just been too busy to seek Jaskier out, and certainly not ignoring the neon signs that are his music. Half of them are Geralt’s exploits, after all, and if he doesn’t recognize them then Jaskier has failed to faithfully recreate them.
But the songs work- somewhat. In a small town somewhere in the midwest, a witcher hears Jaskier’s music, and begins to hunt for his white haired brother.
Jaskier, in the meantime goes about his life, bouncing from interview to interview, one of which he’s in now. The chair is somewhat uncomfortable and the lights are a little too bright, but the woman interviewing him is new, nervous, and he does his best to put her at ease.
“You’re doing great, love. What were you saying?”
The woman blushes, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear before asking again. “Your newest album, it pulls away from the bouncier, lighter tone of your second album. Why?”
“Good question. Writing fun music is wonderful, lovely, but I, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised, have my own fears. Monsters that haunt my dreams, who begged to be put into song.”
“So the songs are based on dreams?”
“Now you’re catching on.” Jaskier winks, drawing another giggle from her, and he leans back in his chair, tilting his head. “No one can tell me they don’t dream of dark and twisted things sometimes. Of wanting a knight in shining armor to come save them.”
“That’s an incredible way to put it. Are any of the monsters in your songs real?”
“Oh yes. The leshy, or leshen is a forest spirit that is said to roam the deepest parts of a forest. There are also ghouls, terrible hunchback creatures who stalk battlefields, and basilisks, large winged creatures with iridescent scales and scalding breath.”
He sees his interviewer shudder, and his gaze goes soft, a wistful smile tugging at his lips. “Where did you hear about these monsters?”
“From a friend, years ago.”
"Do you still talk to them?"
Jaskier's eyes find the camera, and it's a terrible cliche to spike the lens, but he does it anyway. "We lost contact a while back. I'm hoping that… through my music, I can find him again."
"Well, I'm sure your fanbase can help!"
"That they can." Jaskier grins, glancing back at the interviewer, and he hears someone yell cut behind them. He stands, shaking her hand and giving her a quick hug. He murmurs a few words of encouragement, and when he ducks into the room they've designated for him he tells his producer to send her something. Flowers or a gift or anything. She handled him like a champ. It's thankfully his last interview of the day, and he grabs his lute, which he brought just in case before ducking out the door. He makes his escape from the building out onto the street with relative ease, slinging his lute across his back to navigate the crowds easier. The amount of times he’s had to refuse security before they learned was more than he could count. He's stopped a few times by fans, asking to take pictures, and he glances at them on his phone once his Twitter dings.
@dandelion stopped and took a picture! Best day ever!
The rest of the post is filled with heart eye emojis and hashtags, but Jaskier stares at the photo. The awful stripes and swirls on his button up are reminiscent of a bowling alley floor, but his jeans are cute and his boots top the whole outfit off. He thought it'd looked cute when he put it on, and is pleased to see that others agree. He looks better in general- the bags under his eyes are all but gone and there's a confidence in the set of his shoulders he hadn't noticed before. Like knowing who he is has completed a puzzle he didn't know he'd lost a piece to.
He tucks his phone back into his pocket as he skips down the steps to the subway, whistling merrily the whole time. The public transportation in the city had to be his favorite thing in the world, aside from jelly donuts and Geralt's eyes. It makes going from place to place a snap, and he doesn't have to constantly tell people he can't drive when they ask where his car is. The train is running a minute behind, as usual, but Jaskier books it down the rest of the stairs and through the turnstile, jogging up just as the doors slide open. People file on quickly, taking their seats, and Jaskier moves to step on when he spots snow white hair.
That in itself isn't unusual- plenty of old people ride the subway, but it's a man who looks no older than his mid thirties. He's dressed in all black, jeans and a heavy sweater, and strapped to his back are twin swords, their pommels shining dully in the fluorescent lights of the train. A duffle bag hangs from one shoulder, nondescript, but a pale, scarred hand hovers over it protectively. Jaskier is aware he's staring, holding up the train, but his feet are rooted firmly in place as his head begins to pound. The man- Geralt- irritated by the lack of movement turns to see what's going on, golden cat eyes cold and hard. The sight sends vertigo crashing through Jaskier so wildly that he feels his knees give out, and his vision blurs as he collapses onto the ground.
"No, no. He's fine. Don't hold the train for us." A voice, rough and low and heavenly drifts through his consciousness and he groans, burying his face in a warm, nicely toned chest. Strong arms wrap around him, holding him, and he sinks into the embrace without really thinking. When he moves the arms tighten around him, holding him closer, and he finally rouses.
He cracks an eye open to see an officer in front of them, debating with Geralt about getting him medical care, and he groans, sitting up and plastering his best smile on his face.
"Sorry love, my sugar dropped again. Was I out long?" The officer stops when he speaks, and Jaskier tilts his head curiously. "Tell me you didn't call them, you know I don't want the attention."
He looks up at Geralt, false frown on his face, and Geralt shakes his head. "Another passenger. I told them you were fine."
"That I am! I'm very sorry for the confusion, I just got off of a rather long interview and was a bit hungrier than I expected." The officer looks between them, brows furrowed, but tucks his notepad away and nods reluctantly.
"If you're sure you'll be alright."
"Feeling loads better already! Sorry again Officer!" Jaskier watches until the officer leaves the platform, and then shoves his way out of Geralt's arms. Geralt lets him go without a fight, sitting on the bench and watching as Jaskier paces the length of the platform, ranting. He's speaking in a language he knows but doesn't know, but it's better than letting everyone else hear him.
" I dreamt about you for years! Years, and the first thing I do is pass out when I see your goddamn face. Son of a bitch." Jaskier glares accusingly at him, but the corners of Geralt's mouth tug up in a smirk and Jaskier can feel his heart going a mile a minute. " I could have broken my lute, or-or been cut in half by the doors all because you were on the subway you big old insufferable-"
" You dreamt about me." Geralt's voice is soft, fond, and Jaskier loves and hates the way his voice curls around elder speech. " Jask, I didn't know you'd come back."
" Didn't- didn't KNOW? I am, and I am going to brag here, insanely famous, Geralt. Like on the news famous. How in the WORLD did you not know?"
" I don't watch the news."
"Of course you don't- of course I would get the one witcher in the whole wide world who doesn't watch the news ." He's cut back into English at some point, and he stops, fists clenched as Geralt stands up with his palms out. It's something he's seen Geralt do with Roach a thousand times when she's being antsy, and it drives him up the wall. "I am not a horse , Geralt, I am your fucking barker."
"You're acting more like my horse right now." Geralt is close enough now Jaskier can smell the soft cologne he's wearing, and his knees go weak again with the fact that he's actually here.
"You jackass -" Jaskier launches forward, throwing his arms around Geralt's neck and pulling him down to kiss him senseless. Geralt takes it in stride, scooping Jaskier off his feet and spinning with the momentum. He's careful of Jaskier's lute, but his hands are strong and firm as Jaskier is thoroughly crushed to his chest, held so tight that neither of them seem to be breathing. Jaskier doesn't care- his feet are off the ground completely, a fistful of white hair in his hands again and Geralt's lips on his. He has a beard, neat and taken care of, and Jaskier's other hand slips down to cup the side of Geralt's neck, thumb brushing through the coarse fibers.
Geralt is the first to pull away, Jaskier tipping forward blindly to kiss him again, huffing when Geralt smiles and bumps their noses together.
"Train is coming. As much as I've missed this, I'd rather not miss the next one."
"Tell me you aren't leaving me." Jaskier presses their foreheads together, eyes closed to keep any potential tears at bay. “Please.”
“I have to check into my hotel.”
“Geralt of Rivia, if you think for one minute you aren’t coming home to sleep in my bed you’re a fool. Fuck your hotel room.”
“It has a jacuzzi.” Geralt laughs when Jaskier pulls back to glare, and Geralt holds onto Jaskier’s hand, guiding them through the throng of people and onto the train. Geralt motions towards a seat, but Jaskier stays plastered resolutely to his side and just rests his head against Geralt's shoulder. He sways with the movement of the train, but Geralt’s arm is around his hip, holding him steady as the train goes around a curve and slows a bit. He feels more at peace with Geralt next to him than he has in years, and he’s drifted off to sleep when Geralt moves just a bit, dipping down to whisper in his ear. Elder speech brushes against him, trailing down his spine, and his eyelids flutter as he leans in to hear him better.
“What stop do we get off at, Jaskier?”
And oh, if hearing his name from Geralt’s lips isn’t sublime. “Two more.”
“ You were asleep.” Jaskier chuckles softly, turning his head and kissing him lightly.
“ I’ve lived here for years. I know how long I have.” His elder isn’t nearly as pretty or fluid as Geralt’s but he seems to enjoy it all the same, pupils widening at the sound, the sight of Jaskier’s lips moving. He feels like prey being hunted and he loves it. True to his words, two stops later Jaskier is the one to lead them off the train and up the many, many stairs to the street above. His hand never leaves Geralt’s, afraid that if he lets go the man will disappear into the crowd and leave him alone again. His apartment building isn’t far from the station, and he has to pass through three different checkpoints before he’s even flagged into the building. All of the security guards eye Geralt with barely hidden suspicion, but Jaskier is either oblivious or doesn’t care. The hot, possessive kiss that Jaskier pulls Geralt into while waiting for the elevator is answer enough.
Jaskier’s head is spinning again by the time they make it to his door, and he sags against it, panting lightly and trying to get his key in the lock. Geralt’s hand comes up, guiding the key in as he stands just close enough for Jaskier to be intimately aware of every inch of him. Jaskier gasps, shakes against the door and finally manages to shove it open. He hurries into the room, past the kitchen and into the living room. His lute is slung onto the cushions gently just as his knees give out again, and he catches himself on the arm of the couch, Geralt at his side a moment later.
He can’t feel his legs- he really, really can’t feel his legs, and he isn’t sure that it should seem like such a good thing. Geralt is a hard, hot presence between his thighs, and he arches up into Geralt’s touch, whimpering his name. He wants, he wants so desperately and he feels like he could fall apart at any moment, his breaths coming faster and faster as Geralt grins down, at him teeth sharp and glistening and begging to be buried in flesh. He reaches up, brings him down and kisses him, lapping into his mouth just to taste and let a fang scrape against his tongue.
His chest is heaving when he blinks from his memory, and oh, oh he’s embarrassingly, frustratingly hard. How in the hell does he explain something like this? His knees smart from where they’ve hit the floor and he pitches himself forward, out of Geralt’s surprised hands, his palms slapping against the wood of his floor as he pants. It’s better than letting Geralt see him, worked up over nothing. But he doesn’t get the chance to even think of a lie- he hears Geralt’s sharp intake of breath, the soft huff of a stunned laugh. Geralt is on his knees next to him before he can move, lips on his neck and teeth digging just so into the pale, unmarked flesh. Jaskier keens without meaning to, the noise spilling from his lips, and his cheeks flush when Geralt makes a triumphant noise, pulling back and using a hand on the small of Jaskier’s back make him sit back.
“If you say anything smart, Geralt, I will throw you off my balcony.”
“You don’t have to hide from me.” Is all he says instead, and he takes Jaskier’s hands, guiding him to sit on the couch while he takes care of Jaskier’s lute. Jaskier watches, knees pressed to his chest to hide his slowly dwindling erection as Geralt hunts around his apartment, breathing deep and seeming pleased at what he finds. He lingers briefly by the bedroom door, but seems to think better about exploring there just yet. Instead he reaches up, undoing the clasp across his chest and letting his swords slide from his back. He places them on the coffee table and pulls his sweater up and over his head. Jaskier watches it all, eyes wide, and he jumps as the sweater is tossed at him. He catches it with only a minor fumble, pressing it to his face and breathing deep.
He can almost feel the growl that rumbles through Geralt at the sight, and he grins, toothy and bright, sniffing again. It’s easy to lose his train of thought at the sight of Geralt- Modern clothes suit him well, from the cut of his jeans to the way his t-shirt shows off the rather lovely shoulder to hip ratio he has. Practically perfect. What really arouses him, and this shouldn’t ever be admitted out loud, is the amount of weapons Geralt has on him. There are two pistols tucked into sheathes under his arms against his sides, at least two knives tucked into each boot, not to mention the swords he’s already discarded.
“How do you draw the pistols with your sweater on?”
“I don’t.” Geralt’s voice is amused, and he reaches to unbuckle the leather harness, silver rings glittering along his fingers. There are no fingers that are bare of rings, whether they’re smooth, simple bands or ones studded in small spikes. It’s… ridiculously attractive and Jaskier fears for his heart at this rate. The holsters slip off of his shoulders and they too are left on the table with his swords, though he doesn’t go for the daggers in his boots at all. “You’re staring.”
“I’m allowed to.” He breathes out, reaching a hand out as Geralt pads over. His fingers splay against Geralt’s chest as the older man leans down, kissing him slowly, the warm metal of his rings sliding across Jaskier's cheek. Jaskier shivers at the sensation, making a soft noise as he stretches up further to try and get closer. Geralt pulls back too soon, always too soon, and Jaskier groans with disappointment.
“Tell me what happened when we came in.”
“Do we really have to talk about that now?” Geralt leans back, eyes searching his face, and Jaskier sighs dramatically, tugging Geralt to sit next to him on the couch so he can lean against his chest. "I wasn't born with my memories. I had- it feels stupid to repeat this all- I had night terrors as a child."
"Of monsters." Jaskier nods, pressing Geralt's sweater to his face and speaking through the fabric.
"Particularly of me being eaten by them. When I got older, graduated high school, they shifted focus. They showed me, or the bard I thought was haunting my dreams, following you, performing at a banquet, being chased by a farmer's husband. Within the past few months they got worse. They slipped into my daydreams, took them over, until I could hardly go outside without seeing something that would set them off."
"Is that what happened on the platform?" Jaskier shakes his head, sighing.
"I don't know what that was- a reaction to seeing you again, after only seeing you in dreams maybe? All I remember is getting hit by the worst vertigo I've ever felt, and then I was waking up in your arms. This last time- I'm not sure. I really don't want to keep collapsing though, my knees won't be able to take it."
His joke is weak but Geralt chuckles anyway, pressing his nose into Jaskier's hair. "I'll get you kneepads."
"My hero." He feels a rumble go through Geralt's chest and that brings a smile to his face. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Tell me about you, what you've been doing. I, for one, have been struggling with my memories and made it as a musician. But you, last of the witchers, are impossible to find info on."
"How do you know I'm the last?"
"Internet speculation. Don't worm your way out of this." Geralt sighs heavily, shaking his head and muttering to himself before Jaskier turns and plops himself into Geralt's lap so Geralt has to look at him.
"Eskel and Lambert retired a few years ago. Contracts are few and far between."
"What do you do then when you aren't fighting monsters?"
"I… Translate." Jaskier doesn't think he's heard right, and he tilts his head.
"Pardon? Was my very sexy boyfriend about to tell me something even sexier?" Geralt raises a brow at the word boyfriend, but Jaskier can see that he's pleased by the automatic assumption that they're together. Like they were never apart at all.
"I interpret. Mostly for doctors offices or business meetings. I'm occasionally called to the field when researchers need help."
"What languages?" Geralt doesn't say anything, cheeks flushing a faint pink instead. Jaskier grins then, pleased as all get out, and he leans forward, bumping their noses together and watching the way Geralt's pupils open wider at the contact. "What languages, Geralt?"
"There- aren't many I don't know."
"Someone's been busy."
"I had time. And language barriers make hunting harder." Jaskier laughs at the defensive tone to Geralt's voice, leaning their foreheads together and laughing until Geralt kisses him to shut him up. And even then he giggles against Geralt's lips, wiggling when Geralt tickles at his ribs.
"No wonder your elder is good." Geralt huffs out a laugh, shaking his head and leaning back so he can look at Jaskier, gaze sweeping over Jaskier's face slowly.
"My brothers and I are the only ones fluent."
"In the world?"
"There are small elven communities hidden around, but other than that, yes."
"Where are your brothers?"
"Somewhere in the midwest." Geralt says it with a shrug, as if it isn't a big deal. "They move frequently."
"Too used to being on the Path." Jaskier muses, though it's truer than he might realize. “What about you, where do you settle?”
“I don’t.” Jaskier tilts his head, thinking about that. He isn’t sure why Geralt would ever settle down, since he’s the last witcher active apparently. It would make sense for him not to have any place to call home, but the thought bothers him. A lot more than it should.
“You have a home here, if you want it.” He whispers, heart in his throat, and Geralt’s whole demeanor softens. His eyes look more amber in the setting sun coming through his balcony, and Jaskier leans forward, lips brushing Geralt’s at the same time his phone rings. He groans, intent to ignore it, but Geralt’s fingers dip into Jaskier’s back pocket to pull it out. He hits answer, holding the phone up to Jaskier’s ear as he glares.
“Jaskier, who the fuck are you kissing?”
“Hello Priscilla, nice to see you again, I’ve been just dandy since we last saw each other.” Jaskier takes the phone from Geralt, pressing it to his ear on his own.
“Jaskier, Twitter is in an uproar, there are pictures everywhere.”
“Naughty pictures?” Jaskier puts the phone on speaker while he moves over to Twitter, scrolling through the thousands of tags he’s gotten in the past two hours alone. They’re all the same picture, which Jaskier saves immediately, some better quality than others. There’s him in his bowling alley button up, held aloft in Geralt’s arms, kissing him senseless. It’s a rather artistic photo, the contrast between his bright colors and lute and Geralt’s stiff black clothing and threatening swords. “Ah.”
“That’s all you have to say? You haven’t seriously dated anyone since high school and that's what you say?” Priscilla is pissed, rightfully so, and Jaskier winces.
“Look it’s not that I didn’t want to tell you, I just-”
“I asked him not to.” Jaskier can hear the sharp intake of breath over the phone from Priscilla when Geralt talks, and she’s much more pleasant this time when she speaks. Traitor.
“Oh. And you are?”
“And where are you from, Geralt? How long have you been dating my best friend?” He sees Geralt’s lips quirk in a smile, and he rolls his eyes, letting Geralt do the talking. At least that way he isn’t getting yelled at.
“Rivia. We’ve been seeing each other for a few years now, I would say.” Jaskier snorts at the lie, except well- it isn’t really a lie. They’ve been together for years and years over entire lifetimes.
“Rivia?” A distant quality overtakes her voice, and Jaskier winces, clapping a hand over his ear as Priscilla squeals. “Jaskier, please tell me you aren’t dating Geralt of Rivia.”
“Uh.” Geralt’s lips twitch upward as he raises a brow at Jaskier’s hesitation, but Priscilla is laughing, wheezing out little breaths, and Jaskier waits for her to calm down before he answers. “Is that a bad thing?”
“No, no it’s just unbelievable.”
“Hey!” There’s offense in Jaskier’s tone, and Geralt’s hand rests on his hip, squeezing lightly. Jaskier shudders at the touch, scowling, but his witcher is the picture of innocence. “I guess the cats out of the bag, eh love?”
“Mhm.” Gods Jaskier has missed those little sounds, the answers but not answers.
“You have to say something on Twitter before your fans break the site. And introduce us properly.”
“Right, right. Dinner okay?”
“Only if I get to pick the place.”
“Deal. I’ll call you later, okay?” Priscilla gives an affirmative and hangs up, Jaskier tilting his head at Geralt with his brows raised. “So, Geralt of Rivia, ready to be official with a popstar?”
“Not really. But with you? I’ll manage.” Jaskier rolls his eyes, moving to tuck himself against Geralt’s side. Geralt’s arm snakes around him, hugging him a bit closer as Jaskier raises his phone.
“Say cheese!” He grins wide, waiting until Geralt isn’t glaring to snap the photo. It’s a good one, Geralt’s eyes liquid and warm, the corners of his mouth tilted up in the smallest of smiles. It’s definitely going to be his wallpaper. Jaskier posts it onto Twitter with a simple caption.
My knight in shining armor.