It shouldn’t have happened. Experimental Witcher trials and toxins rendered him sterile. Even before Jaskier’s first heat caught him off guard one night while they were travelling through Redania, they spoke about it.
There would be no children. Ruts and heats would pass them both by without anything to show from it, and Jaskier struggled to even find anything wrong with that.
Geralt’s life doesn’t accommodate younglings. And Jaskier has never seen himself as some brooding maternal omega his mother envisioned when he first presented all those years ago.
And yet, here they are.
Geralt is worryingly silent. He’s never been keen on talking. Jaskier spends most of their travels filling the silence for them both. He keeps his eyes on the road and his arms firmly around Jaskier’s waist, holding him close and staving off the worst of the winter chill. As soon as the winds changed, something lilted through the air and called Geralt home.
Jaskier has never seen Kaer Morhen. He’s heard plenty about it; stories eventually lured out of Geralt during sleepless nights, when both of them lie bare and entwined, with Jaskier laying a firm claim to one side of his Witcher.
He would like to say something. Anything. A comment on how quiet the roads seem to be. How quickly the farmers are hauling in their crops for the season, before changing winter winds can kill what they’ve grown. Any stories he can get out of Geralt about his home, or his brothers. Anything to stop the deafening quiet sitting between them.
Roach’s hooves trudge through the mud sticking to the road. The clouds slumped overhead are dark and heavy with rain, threatening to spill again. And he knows the second Geralt feels a single drop hit his face, his Witcher will have him bundled into some shade until the storm has passed.
Geralt’s tongue might have stilled, and his jaw is keeping whatever he’s thinking about firmly kept behind his teeth, but Jaskier can pick up just fine on everything he’s doing for his bird. It hasn’t slipped him; how gentle Geralt has been ever since the first bumbling words of his confession managed to slip out of his lips. Ever since the first mention of a baby managed to fight out of him, Jaskier hasn’t had a moment alone. The Witcher is constantly an arm’s reach nearby, hovering and keeping close, even in sleep. Geralt gives him bigger portions of their meals; more stew and bread, more blankets at night to stave off the chill.
It swells Jaskier’s heart – the eternally grumpy and prickly Witcher having a softer side. It’s as comforting as it is somehow unsettling. It’s a reminder that he’s pregnant; that his last heat managed to yield something. The panic starts to creep in, tightening his chest and quickening his heart.
And it doesn’t help in the slightest that his Witcher manages to pick up on everything.
The invitation to Kaer Morhen already stood. Jaskier would always be welcome there, just by being with Geralt. Any friend – or lover – of a Witcher would be welcomed to the keep. Other keeps didn’t have much fondness for those outside of their own kin.
Friends and lovers were gladly welcomed. But it’s been a long time since a Witcher’s mate ever stepped foot inside of the keep.
And Jaskier can’t help but taste the word on his tongue. Mate. Is that what they are? They haven’t bonded. He bears no mark on his throat or neck to say otherwise. No golden band is stretched around his finger to show others not in line with their bonding that he’s taken. All he knows is that they were lovers, and somehow, someway, a baby caught.
He slackens, leaning back against Geralt’s chest. The Witcher’s cloak is drawn around him, shielding him from the worst of the chill. Winter is tumbling in that bit quicker this year. And with all the whispers of war to the far-south, of Nilfgaardian forces starting to drift into the southern kingdoms and test their lords’ patience and resolve, Kaer Morhen can’t come into view fast enough.
The Witcher turns his head slightly, his nose setting against the ridge of Jaskier’s jaw. “Are you alright?” he rumbles, mindful of his voice. Not that there’s anyone on the road to hear them. An occasional trader’s cart might pass, with some troops of king’s soldiers marching by on their new routine patrols of their borders, but there’s nothing now. And Jaskier hates it.
Geralt stiffens behind him. “Are you ill? Do you want to stop for a moment?—”
Jaskier shakes his head – because he’s learned to clip this in the bud before it manages to fester. “I’m alright, darling,” he murmurs, setting his hand over Geralt’s arm and squeezing. It doesn’t do much to quell the worry settling into the Witcher’s chest, but Geralt has been constantly worrying ever since Jaskier confided to him that his heat was late.
All Jaskier can do is hope that Roach continues trudging through the mud, heading for the mountains on the horizon. At least with the trek up to the peak still ahead of them, it will give Geralt something else to focus on.
Questions drift through his mind. Most are his own, some are from Geralt. Questions that he couldn’t answer at the time, and that he still can’t answer all these days and weeks later. How far along is he? Is he certain that he’s carrying a child? Maybe it’s stress. They live a stressful life. And his heats have always been temperamental, coming and going whenever they please.
But Geralt has kept him stubbornly well-fed and cared for. Even during the most arduous of hunts, he keeps Jaskier safe and away from danger. Their life might be stressful, but he’s not the one taking the brunt of it.
When the dirt road up the mountain starts to grow more jagged and difficult, when Geralt’s arms close around him even tighter as he helps Roach navigate the worst of the climb, Jaskier can feel his heart quickening in his chest.
The Witcher purrs behind him – a sound he’s not quite used to hearing. In the quieter hours at night, when Geralt has drifted off to sleep and Jaskier is left to map the plains of his body by himself, rumbling purrs will tremble out of his Witcher’s chest. The softer side of the Witcher that only he saw, that the rest of the world refused to believe even exists.
When the keep comes into view, stone and mortar pillars reaching into the sky beyond the peaks of the mountain, Jaskier’s tongue sits that bit heavier in his mouth. The Witcher behind him tightens his hold on him. If he can feel how quickly Jaskier’s heart is trembling in his chest, he doesn’t say anything. But he does set his nose behind Jaskier’s ear, drawing in breaths of scent.
He doesn’t know if it’s changed. His mother told him that it would, if he ever mated and carried a child. His telltale scent of new snow and pine would get sweeter; something that could still curl with and join that of his mate’s. Geralt still smells the same. Evergreen forests and cinnamon, a comforting spice that settles along the roof of his mouth and loosens his chest.
Something occurs to him then and there, just as Roach carries them through the first ruined ring of walls surrounding the keep.
Whoever else is here will be able to smell him. They’ll be able to smell Geralt all over him too. And his face colours with warmth. Surely someone already knows why Geralt is bringing a guest. Surely someone will wonder why Geralt is spending more time than usual keeping himself and his guest bundled inside the ruined keep’s walls.
Jaskier’s tongue sits that bit heavier in his mouth. Just as the first rumble of thunder trembles above them, Roach steps into the main courtyard of the keep. Some walls surrounding them are crumbling, with their mortars worn and stones knocked out of place, and wildflowers and weeds starting to grow in their place. A nearby stable already has two horses inside; both of them nickering and stomping at the door as soon as they spot Roach. She lifts her head in return. Geralt settles a hand onto her neck, jumping down from her back first. Jaskier blinks at the sight of two familiar arms reaching for him.
His Witcher has become awfully protective over the last few days; hovering and almost always doing things on Jaskier’s behalf. And it’s starting to irritate him. He’s carrying a pup. He’s not made of glass.
Geralt’s hands do help him down, though, even as Jaskier huffs a short breath and makes to swat at his chest. His stomach has barely swelled, and his winter clothes are bundled around him. Apart from someone being incredibly fine-tuned to his scent, no one would even know that he’s with child.
And he’s in a keep of Witchers with honed senses. Lovely.
He takes in what he can. For being perched on the top of a mountain’s peak, the worst of the winds are broken by the higher walls surrounding them. The air still holds a chill to it, as he bundles Geralt’s cloak around himself, and howls through the cracks in the walls.
Roach paws at the cobbles, tossing her head even when Geralt gathers her reins in his hand. “Alright, alright,” he murmurs, “I’ll get you settled in a minute.”
Jaskier’s ears twitch at the sound of boot heels clicking on the cobblestones. He turns in time to see a man – another Witcher – step out of the keep. He isn’t armoured, dressed only in a worn white shirt and linen pants. He’s older than Geralt; and Jaskier can’t even begin to guess his age. He wrings his hands through a cloth before stashing it through a belt loop in his trousers. As he approaches them, he sets his hands on his waist.
Jaskier has never been here before, but he managed to lure enough short stories out of Geralt to know when to put names to faces. Vesemir. Just as the old wolf is about to speak, just over his shoulder, Jaskier spots the rest of the pack standing just inside of the keep’s door, peering out into the courtyard.
Sets of golden eyes fall onto him, and he struggles not to wither away. Even with Geralt only an arm’s reach away, it takes more effort than he’s willing to admit not to catch the man’s hand and drag him in front, shielding him from view. And the thought does cross his mind. But before he can even think of slinking behind the Witcher, keeping Geralt’s body in front of his just to get somewhat of a break from the scrutinising and curious gazes bearing into him, Vesemir speaks. “Come on, then,” he grunts, turning on his heel and striding for the doorway into the keep. “Let’s get you both settled.”
Kaer Morhen is everything he expected it to be. A ruin perched on top of a mountainous peak, backed into the rocks and shrouded by thick forests and the fog that settles over them. It seems to stretch out in all directions, never-ending hallways that curl into each other, creating a maze he can see himself getting lost in. Not that Geralt would ever let him out of his sight for more than a second. Even now, as Vesemir leads them further and further into the keep, Geralt is a shadow falling over him. If he were to stop walking, the Witcher would bump into him. Though he doesn’t miss the way Geralt looks into every room they pass, checking that the keep is really free of dangers.
He did the same on the road, bristling when a wandering traveller got a bit too close. His lip would lift in a snarl whenever eyes drifted their way in taverns and inns. Maybe here would be different; knowing that they’re far from the reach of anyone else willing to walk up a Witcher’s mountain and root them out. Not that he can see what people would have against Witchers that strongly to even think of coming up here to the top of the world.
He suspects he’ll be taken on a grand tour at some point. His younger years were spent in country houses that would look like small cottages in comparison to this keep. Even the finest castles that offered him board for his barding services weren’t as well fortified. It’s not as cold as he imagined it would be. He vaguely remembers Geralt telling him about hot springs underneath the keep; the nutrient-rich pools doing wonders as baths to ease the most pained of muscles, and the steam from them slipping up through the floors and walls and warming the air.
It’s better than being out on the winter-frosted road. He can see why Geralt returns home at the end of every year to hibernate.
Vesemir leads them to an awaiting room. Geralt’s old room, he imagines; much larger than Jaskier expected it to be, but the keep itself seems to go on for miles in all directions. A hearth is already lit, with an ample store of cut logs stacked nearby. There are quiet murmurings behind him. Road travel slowly starts to creep upon him. With the promise of a warm bed and a winter of rest, he’s sure to make an ample burrow for himself and not leave it.
Jaskier turns in time to see it. The smallest of movements, but one he’s been trying to tune into whenever he encounters someone new. He watches Vesemir’s nostrils flare slightly, picking up the slightly sweet note drifting through the air. Someone who is as familiar with the scents of Witchers as Vesemir must be must know when something has changed. And Jaskier watches a small frown knit his brows.
Geralt’s swallow is audible, almost crackling through the air. “Have the stores been filled?”
There’s a small pause between them. “The final cart was brought up yesterday,” Vesemir says slowly, not turning away from Jaskier. “We should be fine for a few weeks.”
Geralt hums. He glances down at his boots for a moment, fingers fidgeting by his side, before he looks up at Jaskier. His jaw clenches. “I’ll, uh, I’ll get us something to eat. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll...I’ll be back in a minute.”
Geralt slips away. His footsteps down the hallway have barely turned into echoes before Vesemir lifts his chin, lips pressed together and golden eyes watching Jaskier’s face intently. “I’m not going to insult you by suggesting that the pup isn’t his,” he says, something deep rumbling through his words. Vesemir’s eyes slowly drift down to Jaskier’s abdomen, and he struggles not to bundle Geralt’s cloak around him again and shrink away. “But I’m at a loss of anything to think. This...This hasn’t happened before.”
Jaskier’s tongue sits heavily in his mouth, almost suffocating. When he speaks, he has to push the words out from his trembling throat. “He told me...” he presses his lips together, trying to find the right words. “He told me that there was no chance of it. Witcher mutagens, that they, he couldn’t have pups. I—”
Vesemir holds up a hand, stilling the words tumbling out of Jaskier’s mouth. “That is what we were led to believe; but the toxins and methods used were experimental. Each dose and trial was different for everyone.” Golden eyes that look too much like Geralt’s peer back up at him. Vesemir’s frown softens slightly, but the corners of his lips still pull downwards. “Take today to rest, little bird. Eat as much as you like and sleep. We’ll talk about things tomorrow.”
As soon as the clothes from the road are stripped from him, replaced with a clean chemise and a pair of breeches, Geralt steps back into the room with a plate laden with bread rolls, dried fruits and cured meat, half a block of cheese, and a flagon of water.
Jaskier arches an eyebrow at the sight of it all. “I thought Vesemir said we would be having dinner later? Has it been cancelled?” He’s already made a comfortable nest for himself in Geralt’s bed, pulling the sheets out and rearranging the pillows. Not by his own free will, mind. He’s been scenting almost everything of Geralt’s as the weeks start to drift by. He picks at the edge of a sheet, worrying the fabric through his fingers as he watches a slight colour start to warm Geralt’s cheeks.
“No,” he tries, frowning when the words don’t come to him as easily as he would like. “I just thought that you might want something before, before dinner. I, I didn’t know what you would like, or what you need to eat for...you know—”
Poor flustered Witcher. Jaskier reaches out, settling his hand onto the man’s arm once he’s drawn close enough. He can feel Geralt stiffen slightly underneath him. “It’s alright,” he lulls, looking to the plate.
His stomach rumbles. It’s been a while since he’s been able to look at cheese without gagging. They learned very quickly what foods Jaskier didn’t like being around; strong-smelling cheeses, lamb, fish. It cut down the things Geralt could order for him at taverns, and the Witcher didn’t like him skipping meals anyway, especially now.
But he plucks a small chunk of cheese from the plate and brings it to his lips. He catches a whiff of it – some strong Kaedwen cheese he’s never tried before – and waits for his stomach to churn. It never comes.
Geralt watches him intently, not moving to take any of the food for himself. Jaskier prods him. “Eat,” he orders, taking a bread roll and dried slice of ham with him into his nest. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed how little you’ve been eating.”
An argument is perched on his tongue. Jaskier can see it. It’s barely held behind clenched teeth. But after a particularly firm stare from the omega, Geralt takes a roll and some cheese and sits with him.
The crackle of the hearth is the only thing that sounds between them. The warmth from the fire chases away the worst of the chill, and within a few minutes of settling into the bed, Jaskier could feel the tension from days of travelling on the road slowly start to ebb away. Geralt watches him, but that’s been a given over the past few weeks. Golden eyes haven’t stopped watching him ever since Jaskier bumbled out the word pregnant. And now in a keep of Witchers, maybe he’s in for a season of being watched by everyone.
Jaskier picks at a slice of dried beef. “So, those springs you told me about,” he says after a time. He manages a small smile onto his lips. “When will you carry me there?”
Geralt hums. “Whenever you want.”
His Witcher has reverted back into not being very fond of words. Jaskier tries his best to lure more out. “Well, I’m sure you’re just as tired from the road as I am. Why don’t we go to the springs and wash it all away, hmm?”
Geralt watches him, but he doesn’t quite meet Jaskier’s eyes. And he hates it. Geralt looks at everything but at him, and he can’t help the small whine that threatens to slip out of his throat. The one Witcher he had to give his heart had to be the one who flustered and floundered in the presence of emotions. Fantastic.
Jaskier puts his unfinished bread roll back. “We still haven’t talked about it, you know.” Geralt’s attention drifts back to the plate of food between them, lips pressed into a pale, thin line. Jaskier stretches out his leg, nudging his foot against Geralt’s thigh. “I understand if you don’t want to. I can’t imagine what a shock this has been to you, but there’s no stopping it, darling.”
Something rears its head in the back of his mind. Something vile and dark and irritatingly persistent since he realised that his due heat was nowhere to be seen. They could stop it. Every apothecary in every well-to-do town had its potions. They weren’t cheap, but Jaskier had the gold.
And as soon as that voice withered those words against his ear, he shook them away.
He can remember Geralt’s expression when he told him that he was late – the same blankness that settled over him when his mind wandered somewhere else. Brows slightly knitted together and his jaw tight. He was so still, Jaskier thought for a brief moment that either time itself had stopped or perhaps he didn’t hear him.
And all Geralt said of the situation was “we need to go home.”
Well, they’re home now. Jaskier shuffles forward, careful not to startle his wolf, but insistent. “Vesemir will want to speak to us about this tomorrow. I don’t want the first time I hear your thoughts about this to be with him.”
Some part of him knows what Geralt is feeling; a part of him that can’t work out if all the doting and protectiveness is from a place of genuine care, or if it’s Geralt’s hormones breaking free of their ties and going wild. The Witcher has been soft and kind to him, but distant.
Geralt’s jaw tightens. When Jaskier reaches out and settles a hand onto his arm, he struggles not to flinch away from it. There are words behind those teeth, keeping them back and held. Jaskier clicks his tongue. “Darling, please help me. I want to know what’s going on in that head of yours.”
Geralt’s lips crack open. The words come out, rasped and rumbling and barely above a murmur. “I,” he tries, frowning as whatever he wants to say won’t come easily. “I want to speak my mind, but I, forgive me, I don’t want to offend you. I. This, this shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have, I can’t have children. That’s what they told me. That’s what they told all of us. And now,” golden eyes wander to Jaskier’s middle, “now what I know is falling apart, and I don’t know what to think.”
Jaskier has been invited to his home. He’s feverously protected the omega over the past few weeks since turning Roach around and heading to the northern mountains.
Geralt winces. “This is a tie to me. I’ve bound you to me and I’m so sorry for it. If, if you want to leave, I—”
Jaskier squeezes his hand around Geralt’s arm, fingertips pressing to the soft swell of muscle there. “Do you think I would have come all the way up that bloody mountain if I didn’t want to stay with you?” he rumbles, letting something twinge through his words. A voice within him that he didn’t know existed until Geralt. A lulling coo that hooks his Witcher on every word and makes him listen.
Jaskier tilts his head, trying to get the man to look at him. “You care about me, and I care about you. This was a shock to both of us, but we’re somewhere safe now. I know you’re scared. And don’t look at me like that, Geralt of Rivia, I know what you’re thinking. I’m scared too. But we’re together, alright? Everything will be fine.”
It’s an easier thing said than believed. As soon as the words tumble out of his mouth, doubt creeps in. Worry settles in the darkest area of his mind, waiting and poking at him in the quieter moments. But he keeps his tongue still. He loosens his grip on his Witcher’s arm, soothing any dent left behind of how firmly he was holding on. His hand travels to Geralt’s, their fingers curling together. A soft smile threatens to tug at his lips. He brings Geralt’s hand to his lips as he dusts kisses along each knuckle.
A rumbling purr shakes out of Geralt’s chest. The worst of the sourness tinting his scent ebbs away with every gentle moment that passes. He’s loath to let go of him, let him drift too far away now that he’s managed to crack through the first of many walls. All he can hope for is that they’ll stay down.
Geralt leans forward, setting his forehead to Jaskier’s and letting their breaths mingle between them. “You’re too good for me,” he mumbles, eyes closed and brows knitted. Jaskier squeezes his hand. “You are. I don’t deserve you.”
A low growl crawls up Jaskier’s throat, one that catches Geralt by surprise. “I never want to hear you say those kinds of things again,” the bard rumbles. “If I do, I’ll throw you off of the top of the keep.”