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Destiny

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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.”

Chapter Text

He’ll keep to the threat. Geralt knows he will. It doesn’t stop the hovering; even in sleep, Geralt drifts to his side and they’ll wake up entangled in each other. Not that Jaskier has any complaints to make. The worst of the winter chill worming through the keep’s walls is chased away by the warmth of familiar arms bundling him back to a firm chest.

If one of those hands is set on to his stomach when Jaskier wakes, he doesn’t say anything about it. Or the way he blinks awake to Geralt’s nose buried into the crook of his neck, inhaling his scent with every breath. They’ve always slept entangled with each other; waking in the mornings with twisted legs and arms, not quite knowing where one of them ends and another begins. But this is something else, something more, and Jaskier can’t bring himself to even try and free himself from it.

By the time he pads down the winding stairs and long hallways for breakfast, stepping into the large dining hall that he imagines would have been filled with Witchers at one point, it’s late in the morning. Geralt slipped away at one point; urged out of bed by banging at their door. If the keep is to stay standing, it needs to be maintained. And like all hells Jaskier is going to do any heavy lifting or remortaring the walls.

He blinks at the surprisingly large portions of food left behind for him, guarded by Vesemir still sitting at the head of the table, nursing a small cup of brewed tea. The smell of it catches Jaskier’s nose. The old wolf looks up just in time to see a small wrinkle tighten on Jaskier’s face. “Ah,” he says, setting his cup down, “apologies. I should have asked if you were sensitive to anything.”

Jaskier shakes his head. “It’s fine, really.” He slips into his prepared seat, a small feast gathered in front of him and already plated. Grilled sausages and mushrooms, fried eggs and a roasted tomato, a small bowl of porridge with honeyed milk laced through it and stewed berries on top. A small tower of toast sits nearby, with butter and other jammed spreads beside it. Jaskier’s stomach rumbles.

It’s the most food for one meal he’s seen in a while. Taverns and inns will offer him whatever they can stuff onto a plate; meat and vegetable pies, bowls of stew, crusty bread and whatever cheese is in the area. If they have the gold to spare for it, they’ll eat whatever they can and a bit more just in case.

On the rare occasion Jaskier found himself in some lord or baroness’ court, he brought Geralt. The thought to line their pockets and bags with as much food as they could crosses his mind a lot; especially knowing that whatever wasn’t eaten would just be thrown to the dogs and pigs by the end of the night.

What is in front of him now, he tries to commit it to memory.

Vesemir regards the table for a moment. “It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone with your condition. I might not know how all of this came about, but I do know that you’ll need to eat more.”

Jaskier spares him a small smile. “Thank you,” he says, reaching for a knife and fork and wondering just where to start. The word sits with him for longer than he would like. Condition. Like any of them are too afraid to say the word. Not that Jaskier has said it. He hasn’t. He doesn’t even let himself think about it. But when noses started to flare and eyes wandered to his stomach, it was difficult not to let it

Vesemir scratches at his beard, mulling over something in his mind. “I imagine you’ll want to invest your time into something while you’re our guest?”

Jaskier nods. Kaer Morhen still stands because the Witchers that return look after the old keep; retiling roofs and making sure the mortar holding the walls together holds firm. Jaskier won’t be able to do any of that; not that he would have been able to anyway. He wouldn’t even know where to start with making new mortar or how to lay tiles.

Vesemir’s eyes trail over him. The old wolf hums. “Good. I have a library that needs reorganising and my laboratory could do with a new assistant.”

Jaskier’s brows knit together. “I don’t have any potion training.”

“You can learn.” The old wolf lifts a shoulder. And that seems to be that, Jaskier sees as Vesemir reaches for his tea again. The breakfast in front of him is too inviting. His stomach trembles as the sweet tang of jams curl under his nose.

“Besides,” Vesemir says after a time, lifting his tea to his lips and taking a measured sip. “If you’re helping me, then you won’t have Geralt hovering over you like a brooding mother hen.”

 


 

It’s a welcomed break; not having a certain Witcher lingering over his shoulder, or keeping his golden eyes trained on Jaskier wherever it is that he wanders. Geralt was always protective of him, sometimes not wanting to be. In the early years of their travels, he reluctantly had to get the bard out of a few situations. Not because he was concerned, or anything. Gods no. Geralt just didn’t want a dead bard – a dead omega – on his conscience. Not that the Witcher knew his second gender at the time. Or, to the best of Jaskier’s knowledge, he didn’t know.

Not until the first swell of heat overtook him while they were out on the road, and he found himself quickly bundled into a local tavern.

Vesemir watches him, lips thinning when Jaskier wanders too far away from him, or steps up on a rickety wooden step to reach a higher shelf. His linen tunic pulls up as he reaches for something above him, and he knows that the Old Wolf has his gaze trained on his middle.

His stomach is distended, swelled, but not noticeably. It just looks like he treated himself to a larger lunch than usual. But as Jaskier rights himself, he spots the old Witcher turn away and busy himself with whatever it is he’s meant to be doing.

The library isn’t the biggest one he’s seen. Oxenfurt’s is bigger, spanning floors and divided into disciplines. Desks for diligently studying students to hoard books on and stay there for hours upon hours, ruining their eyesight with candlelight.

But he didn’t suspect Witchers to be so well-read. From what Geralt told him of the Trials, of all the backstreet magic and alchemy the elders did in the name of making new Witchers, he didn’t suspect this many books on herbs and plants and their qualities. The books might be here, but maybe no one read them.

They work in silence, and it’s refreshing. Vesemir is quiet, but not in the way that Geralt is. Trying to pull conversation out of Geralt is like trying to draw blood from a wall. Vesemir looks like he has quite a few stories kept safe behind those worn golden eyes, the colour dulled throughout the years but no less vibrant. Jaskier will pick his mind about those stories later – possibly ones about Geralt in his youth.

The light changes. Orange and golden strands of sunlight stretch into the library, the sun beginning to fall over the nearby ridge, ready to rest for the night. Jaskier pushes the last book back into its new home, and he looks at his handiwork. The library does look neater – cobwebs from the higher shelves brushed away and worn-leather tomes of books with faded gold lettering. Vesemir left a few lancet windows cracked open, allowing fresh mountain air in and chase away the last of the dust.

The Old Wolf joins him by one of the shelves, looking up at the tomes neatly stacked. He hums. “Nice work, bard,” he murmurs. It’s not the same bellowing voice he uses with his Wolf pups; corralling them back into line and making them stop whatever nonsense they were doing, or thinking of doing.

Library work becomes more frequent. Once the shelves have been de-cluttered and cleaned rearranged, Vesemir invites the bard into his study. More work is to be found there. The Wolves take on the walls and the mortar and stones used to keep them protected and sheltered throughout the harshest nights of wind and rain. Vesemir rarely ever has the time to ask them to do work like this.

And Jaskier appreciates it. Geralt isn’t around to hover over him, almost laying out throw pillows over the corbelled stones of the floor just in case Jaskier trips. He can’t do nothing. He needs to move. The idea of spending the rest of his term here in this keep, kept to a bed with his feet up and waited on for whatever he could ever want – well, it’s a nice thought, and one he faintly languishes in, but in reality, he’ll crack.

Eventually, when Vesemir notes that the swell of Jaskier’s stomach is starting to brush along the loose fit of his tunics, he invites him into his laboratory. His schooling in Oxenfurt can be put to use. He’s not as bumbling as a new Wolf pup, who doesn’t know the difference between the leaves and petals of plants, and which part is poisonous and which isn’t. Jaskier fetches whatever vial or box or seal Vesemir asks of him, and the Old Wolf doesn’t have to turn his spectacled eyes away from his preparations and experiments.

New potions for the coming seasons haven’t been made as quickly since Lambert was asked to be Vesemir’s helper.

The days fall into a rhythm, and they pass quicker that way. Jaskier can slip out of bed in the morning, after Geralt has kissed and left him earlier to start work on the walls or fences, and return to him at dinner.

It’s not the kind of omegan care he would have received if he was married off to some high-brow lord of an alpha, who would charge a small army of nurses and midwives to his care and keep him confined to a private room until his pup was born. Gods, Jaskier shivers at the thought of what might have been.

It’s one of his usual days when something changes. When he’s with Vesemir, content to let a comfortable silence sit between the two of them while the Old Wolf monitors potions brewing on burners and Jaskier prepares more chopped ingredients for him.

It’s the barest of movements, but it has the knife in his hands clattering onto the table. Vesemir stills from where he’s been pacing, watching the bard carefully from across the large wooden table as Jaskier takes stock of himself.

The Old Wolf blushes as Jaskier sets a hand on his stomach, still for a moment and waiting for anything else. A tiny movement, a light flutter, and his world has stopped on its axis.

The Old Witcher lowers his gaze, turning away from Jaskier to give him a moment of privacy.

He felt it move. The days and weeks blur by and he almost lost track of time. Shrouded in a ruined keep within a mountain range at the corner of the map, Jaskier has never felt as disconnected from the rest of the Continent, and he can’t complain about it.

He’s alone with his Witcher and his family, and for the first time in a long time, he had enough peace and quiet to listen to his body and hear what it’s telling him.

“Are you alright, Julek?” Vesemir murmurs, mindful of the peace that has shrouded his laboratory.

And it’s gone again, like it never happened. But it did. A light ripple inside of him that feels different than anything he’s ever experienced before.

But he swallows thickly, nodding and getting back to mincing snowdrop buds as if the Old Wolf isn’t still watching him with narrowed, observant eyes, or listening to how his heart has picked up and stutters over every other beat as it tries to slow back down.

By the time it happens again, he’s mid-sentence with Geralt, retired for the night within their room. Whatever he had been saying breaks off into a gasp as he reaches for his abdomen again.

Geralt’s sword clatters to the ground as he stands from the foot of the bed, rushing around to Jaskier’s side. “What’s wrong?” he bumbles, eyes taking in the bard’s body as he’s lain out in their bed, on top of rumpled sheets that have their combined scent imprinted in them. “Are you alright? Will I get Vesemir?”

Jaskier makes a quiet noise. It’s the same fluttering feeling, something there that wasn’t before. He looks up, catching the widened golden eyes of the Witcher. “I-No, no, it’s fine, I just,” he says, glancing back down at his middle. His hand brushes over it. Just beyond his skin and muscle, there’s something there. A little pup that’s beginning to move and make their presence known. Jaskier’s breath threatens to catch in his throat. “I, uh, they, they moved. I felt them move.”

The crackling of the hearth and the distant howl of wind outside are the only things between them. Geralt stands utterly still as he regards Jaskier, taking in what he’s just said. The Witcher perches on the edge of the bed. The sliver of space standing between the two of them seems to stretch on for miles.

The omega makes a short noise. “Come here, you daft pillock,” Jaskier sighs, reaching for one of the Wolf’s hands and setting it onto his stomach. It’s still only a slight bump, barely visible under all of the thick winter clothing the others insist on keeping on him to ward away any wayward chills.

Geralt blinks as he stares at his hand. Large and calloused with flecks of scars dotted throughout his skin; and set against something so delicate and soft. Jaskier doesn’t have to look at the Wolf’s eyes to know he wants to lurch his hand back, just in case anything were to happen.

Jaskier threads their fingers together.

He might not be able to feel anything. Maybe those Witcher mutagens and enhanced senses will help. Geralt is always so sensitive to the slightest of changes in his scent or when his heart starts to skip out of beat when he’s around.

Maybe he’ll be able to feel something now. Gods, he hopes so.

The Witcher’s brows knit together, like they would do when he’s focusing out in the wilds on hunts. It’s a look Jaskier knows all too well.

“Geralt?” the bard murmurs. The bed dips and shifts as Geralt toes off his boots and lies down alongside Jaskier, moulding into the bard’s side. He brushes his hair back from his ear as he sets it on to Jaskier’s middle, listening intently. Jaskier’s throat bobs. He cards his fingers through Geralt’s hair. Soft, rumbling purrs tremble out of the

“I can hear them,” he murmurs, curling into Jaskier’s side. Warmth blooms through them from where they’re touching. There isn’t a stretch of him that isn’t pressed against the other man. Jaskier threads his fingers through Geralt’s hair, brushing it back from his face so he can see the Witcher, his mate, softly smiling as he listens to their pup moving about. “Hello, little one.”

The day catches up with him. He sinks further down into the mattress, almost smothered by soft, rumpled blankets and pillows stacked around him. His breathing deepens and slows with every moment that drifts by.

There’s a soft rumbling purr that washes over him. “Get some sleep, Julek,” Geralt murmurs. One of his hands, warmed from stoking the hearth’s fire to life. With the rain outside pattering on the windows, wind howling as it whips through the stone walls of the battlements outside, the peace of everything within the keep slowly lures him down and further as sleep catches up with him.

Gods, he’s tired. Drained. It’s a struggle to even try to move any part of him, or to even think about it. He drifts off just as he feels a brushed kiss to his abdomen, and the fluttering feeling inside of him makes its presence known again.

 


 

He’ll never get used to it; the look that falls on to him when he passes. Most people out in the world, thankfully, aren’t able to notice the change in his scent. The world is just too busy, and there aren’t many people around still trained to notice the slight sweet change in an omega’s scent when they’re with child. Women certainly don’t notice. Shop and inn keeps have been none the wiser as he’s done business with them.

A keep of Witchers, with their enhanced senses – what was he expecting? He tries not to squirm or slink away from the looks, but it’s difficult. The hot springs beneath the keep would be the last place he wants to be, but the promise of warmed water and Geralt’s hands on him lured him under.

And it’s just them, for a time. The warm water laps against his chin. He lets his arms float as he sits in the deeper part of the pool, the water soaking into his skin and muscles, unwinding the last of the day’s tension out of him. The baths are separate warm pools lain over each other, with water rushing from one to the next until it trails out of a relief in the wall and out onto the mountain’s side. One Jaskier is done with his soak, and his muscles have eased and all sorts of tension have wormed out of him, he wades back to his usual perch.

Geralt wades further into the pool, ducking his head below the water line and resurfacing, combing his fingers through his drenched hair. Jaskier watches him; the familiar plains of muscle and scars that dot across him like constellations. Skin he’s felt beneath his hands and fingers that have traced and chartered every scar.

Perched on a bench carved into the pool, Jaskier lounges. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, his bones are growing tired. He’s exhausted. He’s not able to wake with Geralt anymore. Before, he used to hover in that place of sleep and wakefulness, able to feel the Witcher slip away from him in the morning and part with a lingering kiss brushed against his cheek or temple. Now, though, he wakes as the midday sun perches in the sky, when the keep is already long awake and Witchers are working outside. Even then, he’s not able to stay awake for long.

He’s sure that shadows have started to settle underneath his eyes and cut into his cheeks. He dozes where he can, always with Geralt no more than an arm’s reach away from him.

Geralt drifts back, almost called back to heel with a wordless invitation. “How are you feeling?” he asks lowly, voice soft and rumbling like thunder. He reaches out and catches Jaskier’s face in his hands, brushing his thumbs along the bard’s cheekbones. The Witcher’s brows knit slightly. “You’re unusually quiet.”

Jaskier lets out a soft laugh. “I’m just tired, darling. Nothing to concern yourself with,” he murmurs, catching Geralt’s wrists. The slow, familiar thump of his pulse lies underneath the bard’s fingers. Geralt looks at him in the way he’s done for the past few months. Worried and anxious and thinking

The bard leans forward, luring Geralt into a long and languid kiss. A plume of warmth washes through him as Geralt gathers him close, tugging him against his chest and humming against his lips.

Geralt lifts him just as easily as he’s always been able to do, perching on the carved out bench of the pool and sets the bard onto his lap. His usual perch. Jaskier’s arm curls around the Witcher’s shoulders, keeping him close as he deepens the kiss.

A tongue clicks and the arm slung around Jaskier’s waist tightens.

“Fucking honestly,” Lambert grumbles, already turning to head back up the winding stone stairs towards the upper levels of the keep. “With how big this place is, it’s a gods’ given curse that you’re always just there, aren’t you?”

Jaskier watches the other Wolf leave, grumbling as he does and taking the steps two at a time as he storms away. He softly bats the Witcher’s shoulder. “We’re ruining every room in this keep for him,” he says, ignoring the way Geralt’s lips twitch into a smirk.

Geralt’s hands settle onto his hips. “He’ll get over it,” he replies. “I had to put up with a season of him and Aiden here. What I saw can’t be unseen.”

Jaskier cards his fingers through Geralt’s wet hair. He has his usual vials of scented soaps and lotions and oils, things that Geralt had to be brought around to. Granted, Jaskier didn’t know just how sensitive a Witcher’s nose could be. It took him a while to find out what scents the Witcher liked and didn’t mind being bathed in, and what wrinkled his nose and threatened to smother him.

He reaches for one vial; a spiced vanilla hair oil, something warming and sweet. Taken up with his usual perch on Geralt’s lap, bundled close to the Witcher’s chest, he doesn’t have to twist or move too much to comb his fingers through the man’s hair and get to work. Soft, lulling purrs rumble out of the Witcher as Jaskier runs his fingers through his hair, pressing his fingertips against his scalp and massaging there for a moment.

The baths never seem too cool. Warmth blooms in through his skin and muscles, settling into his bones. Buried beneath the keep, the baths seem another world away than the winter landscape outside, where a storm has been threatening to roll in from a nearby ridgeline.

Geralt buries his face into the hollow of Jaskier’s neck. The bard huffs a short laugh. “Everything alright?” he murmurs, mindful of the quiet that has settled over them.

The Wolf hums. His nose sets against Jaskier’s scent gland, drawing in as much of the bard’s scent as he can with every breath he takes, letting it coat the roof of his mouth. It’s already imprinted in their bed, even when new sheets are brought up and changed. It doesn’t take long for them to bury their combined and familiar scent back into the room.

One of Geralt’s hands traces over his hips. He doesn’t know if the Witcher has noticed yet, but he’s starting to swell. Parts of him that were lean have now started to grow soft. His hips have already begun to bow, making way for the pup in him. Jaskier’s throat bobs. Every time he looks at himself, he’s reminded of the pup. Even when they don’t move and cause his world to stop for a moment, just so he can take notice of his little one making their presence known, he knows that they’re there. His stomach is starting to distend and a bump forms.

Geralt has noticed. Every time he’s lain out underneath the Witcher, Geralt spends an inordinate amount of time lavishing his abdomen and waist and hips and thighs with attention.

A soft kiss is brushed against the join of Jaskier’s neck and shoulder. “Just like having you to myself,” he murmurs, pulling away to seek out the bard’s eyes. The gold in the Witcher’s has brightened, flecked with pieces of amber and ruby. Any alpha colourings have been drawn out of him by years of trials. Not that Jaskier would want to see any other colour in Geralt’s eyes. The gold is all he’s ever known, and he’s in love with it.

Once he’s finished with the Witcher’s hair, Jaskier washes the excess oil off of his hands, and curls his arms around the man’s broad shoulders.

Geralt tilts his chin, brushing his nose along his as their lips are drawn close together again.

It’s nice, having Geralt with him. They’re together out on the path, but the Geralt that walks with him out there is sheltered and shielded, and Jaskier can only glimpse at the real Witcher underneath when he can guarantee that they’re both alone.

His eyelids are too heavy to keep open. Slumping against the Witcher, Geralt bundles him close, always willing to bear the brunt of the two of them. But he slackens, and the world begins to shift on its axis. He’s dizzy and his head hangs, and through his blurring vision, he spots Geralt.

The Witcher’s brows knit together. He tenses underneath Jaskier. “Jask?”

The bard winces. “Yeah, sorry, I just, just tired. I need to lie down for a minute,” he mumbles, words bumbling and slurring out from numbing lips.

The arms around him tighten. “Julek,” he hears, barely, through the rush of blood through his ears. The world tilts on its itself, swirling and whirling around him as he feels himself falling, tugged down into darkness.

Chapter Text

Murmurs and muffled words greet him as he surfaces again. He’s in his room – Geralt’s room. He doesn’t need to pry his eyes open to know that. Not that he could if he wanted to. He’s so tired and there isn’t an ounce of energy left within him. He’s lain down in bed, almost smothered with blankets and furs and strewn back on plush pillows – and he can’t move an inch, or even think about moving.

All he can do is wade into consciousness, and listen to the voice float overhead, just beyond him.

“He’ll be fine,” Vesemir huffs, pulling his hand away from Jaskier’s forehead. What’s left in its place is a cooled rag drenched and wrung out with water. As soon as it kisses Jaskier’s skin, the worst of the scalding heat seems to temper. “He just needs to rest.”

It isn’t just him within the room. Even without anyone speaking, he knows that the others are there too. He can scent every one of them, some stronger than the others.

Eskel’s familiar voice wades into the darkness. “Do you know what happened? What could have caused this?”

There’s a short noise beside him. “He was fine. Tired, but fine,” Geralt replies curtly. He’s closer. Jaskier’s nostrils flare as he scents the Witcher, his alpha, nearer to him than the others. There’s a familiar dip in the mattress. Geralt must be sitting by his side, then; perched on the edge of the bed with one of Jaskier’s hands caught in his.

If he had the energy, he would curl his fingers against Geralt’s, squeezing right back. He’s here. He can hear them. He’s just so tired, he needs to go back to sleep—

Vesemir hums. “I’ll call on someone to come up here and have a look at him. It could be nothing or it could be something; we have to be sure.”

There’s a sharp click of a tongue. “You know a midwife, do you?” Lambert asks, with that usual lilt to his voice where he stokes the Old Wolf, knowing well that he’ll get teeth bared at him, but no bite.

The Old Wolf still lifts his lip. “Just get a room prepared, you little terror.”

He listens to Lambert leave. Footsteps join his, so he supposes Eskel trails after him. As soon as the door clicks shut, and they’re left alone, Vesemir’s warm voice laps through the room. “The best thing for him,” he says, gentle and measured, “is to stay in bed and take it easy. No more chores for him, even if he asks for it.” There’s a short pause. “I’m sure you’ll be over his care.”

There’s no hesitation. “Of course,” Geralt says. He squeezes Jaskier’s hand. “I just, what if this has something to do with me?”

There’s a weighted pause. “How so, lad?” Vesemir murmurs.

Jaskier listens to his Wolf take a measured breath. “Witchers aren’t meant to sire children,” Geralt mumbles. “What...what if something is wrong? I shouldn’t have been able to inflict this on him.”

Vesemir clicks his tongue. “What has happened has happened, and there’s nothing either of you can do about it. I suppose there is, but the fact that you brought him back here means that you already weighed up your options and decided.”

Geralt swallows thickly.

All he wants to do is reach out for him, catch his hand in his and assure him that he’s fine. They’re both fine. They’ll be fine

But he’s just so tired, and he’s being dragged back down again and he can’t cling on to consciousness any longer.

The last thing he feels as he slips away is a gentle kiss brushed to his hand, caught in the familiar hold of Geralt’s.

 


 

Hanne’s arrival to the keep signals that things are moving on. He knew that, of course. He can’t remember the last time he was able to bed down and reach for his boots, or do anything by himself anymore. Geralt has taken up the mantle of tying the bard’s shoes and boots in the mornings, making sure there’s just enough give for his ankles to swell out throughout the day.

She’s a typical Kaedweni woman if ever he saw one, jumping down from Vesemir’s cart and leaving the Wolves to gather her things and bring them inside while she tends to Jaskier. She’s a flurry of questions. How far along is he? Have there been any changes to the pup’s movements? How long has he been feeling tired? Has he started to have any false cramps?

He’s not sure where Vesemir managed to find her, but the woman, despite being advanced in years, is more than capable of dealing with prying Wolves that insist on trailing after them.

Hanne works well, despite under the scrutiny of a pack of Wolves gathered at the door. She’s done sending them harrowing looks, waving her hands to shoo them away. They’re not going to budge. Jaskier already assured her of that.

Well, if they have to stay, then they can stay – but be quiet.

Jaskier can hear his own heart within his chest as the woman does her checks. To the best of his knowledge, he’s sure that none of the Wolves have ever witnessed a pup being born, let alone be the one to oversee the whole process. Vesemir went down to the village at the foot of the mountain one morning, and by the afternoon, he returned with Hanne.

She’s a delightful old thing; greying hair pulled back from her face and into thin, ornate braids, iron cuffs around the shells of her ears, and long-faded black lines and pictures dotted into the skin of her arms and neck. She’s wicked and has no issue with shooing Wolves away when they get a bit too brave and step into Jaskier’s room.

Geralt’s protests of this being his room have long since been flung out of the window.

Jaskier makes himself as comfortable as possible, keeping his hands clasped to his chest while his tunic is tugged over the swell of his stomach. He winces and draws in a sharp breath as two chilly hands are set on to his bared bump. The woman offers him a sympathetic look.

“Sorry, pet,” she murmurs, mindful of the peace that has fallen over the house. “Kaedwen’s mountains can be cold, but I’ve never been this far up.”

Just over her shoulder, Jaskier spots Vesemir and Geralt craning their heads, trying to get a good look at what it is that she’s doing. Lambert hangs to the back, glowering at the stranger within his home. Eskel’s arm held across the portal of the door is the only thing keeping the pack out.

Hanne’s hands settle around his bump for a moment before moving, pressing down slightly and feeling the tension. “Little One is coming along quite nicely,” she murmurs, reaching for her worn leather bag and fishing something out of it. A long tapered tube that he’s seen before when his mother was pregnant with his sisters. She sets one end of the tube against Jaskier’s stomach, putting the other end to her ear as she takes a quiet moment to herself, listening intently. A smile stretches across her lips. “And their heart is beating along just fine.”

She sets her things away. “Now,” she glances to the door. “Which one of you is the mate?”

There’s a short pause. They aren’t—Geralt, but, they aren’t—

Eskel nudges Geralt forward. The Witcher almost trips into the room, folding his arms over his broad chest and clearing his throat. “Me,” he manages to get out. “I am.”

Hanne runs her eyes over the length of the Witcher presented to her. “Right,” she says simply. Setting her hands on to her broad, apron-clad hips, she looks every bit as imposing as Jaskier suspected her to be. “I’ve never seen the birth of a Witcher bairn. I never knew that you lot could sire any.”

A faint flush warms Geralt’s cheeks. They didn’t know either. Jaskier shuffles his tunic down, cleared that Hanne’s attentions have been shifted elsewhere. The woman schools her expression into something hardened and shielded. Geralt stiffens. “I won’t be gentle with you lad, but I will be honest. I don’t know what’s happened here to your mate. It could be a simple weakness that all mothers get when they get along in their terms. Or it could be something else. I’m not as researched into your kind and what’s gone into making you, but I would like some time to read up on it.”

Any of the colour that had settled on to Geralt’s cheeks washes away. The Witcher blinks. “Do you think,” he asks lowly, his voice nothing more than a tight whisper, “that, that the pup could be mutated?”

A pit drops in Jaskier’s stomach.

Hanne holds up her hands. “I need time to read and think. So I’d like to stay here and research, while monitoring the mother,” she says, turning her gaze to Vesemir still stood at attention at the door, “if that’s alright with the master of the keep.”

Vesemir blinks. “Of course, Hanne,” he mumbles. “One of the lads has made up a room for you. You can stay as long as you like.”

Lambert’s eyes narrow as he regards the Old Wolf’s words. “She can stay with you, old man. There’s more than enough room in your chambers,” he snorts – something quickly cut short as Eskel slaps the back of the Wolf’s head.

 


 

Hanne’s words mean that he has Witchers hanging off of him at every waking moment. Geralt stays with him in the mornings, forgoing his early mornings and his chores just to make sure that Jaskier can, gods forbid, get out of bed by himself without keeling over. When Geralt is eventually nabbed by Vesemir for something or other, it’s usually Lambert or Eskel who spends a few hours flanking him before swapping out with the other when it’s their turn to take to the re-mortaring of the walls or the cleaning of stables outside in the courtyard.

He glowers at the woman as she sets her hands on to his swelling bump. “You’ve damned me,” he mutters, looking up at the ceiling and glaring at that instead. “They’re everywhere; all fucking three of them.”

Hanne doesn’t even bother hiding her snorted laugh. “Three?” she cocks an eyebrow. “What about the old man? Where’s he?”

Jaskier takes a measured breath. “Vesemir spooks easily. He’s been tip-toeing around me like I’m going to drop dead at any moment.”

The corners of Hanne’s lips stay curled into a delighted smirk. “That old dog has the stomach for all manners of monsters and creatures, but he balks at the mere mention of a bairn.”

Jaskier makes a quiet noise. “And he’s not the worst of them.”

Hanne does her checks, as she’s been doing them for the past few days. She’s been the one to shoo Geralt away in the morning and grant him access to his room again for the night, once she’s happy that the pup is growing well and behaving themselves.

She watches the bard out of the corner of her eye. “He cares,” she says softly. “I’ve seen alphas who don’t give an ounce of attention to their pregnant mates. When they see me coming, it’s a relief for them; someone to do what they’re supposed to be doing. I know a lot of omegas who would kill for their mate to fall over themselves getting whatever they need.”

He doesn’t need to be told. His Mama was one example; he doesn’t think he can remember a time where the Lord Viscount of Lettenhove spent more than five minutes with his children. He doubts he even knew where the nursery was. Then again, his mother didn’t spend that much time with him either, but he supposes that was down to the small army of nursemaids and nannies charged with their care, while she was swept back out to perform her duties as Viscountess. 

His pup won’t be fussed over by nursemaids and nannies, or be taught by governesses when their schooling is due. Jaskier swallows thickly. His pup will be born in a Witcher’s keep; a place of sorrow and death, and a life is born into it. He makes a mental note to write that down. A new song for the road, maybe, when Vesemir grants his permission for them to go.

Geralt would never allow a pup onto the path. It’s dangerous enough for Jaskier to be walking by his side. Gods alive, it’s a conversation they’re going to have.

“Calm down,” Hanne’s lilting voice comes through the ruffle of thoughts. She sets her hand on to his shoulder. “I can hear you thinking.”

Jaskier’s throat bobs. They’re not even mated. There’s no mark on either of them, just a pup growing in size with every day that passes. It’s the only suggestion to him that time is passing; and the Wolves of Kaer Morhen should have been gone on the path already, but they’re still here.

He suspects Vesemir might have had something to do with that.

There’s a gentle knock at the door. Geralt blinks as he steps through, pausing with his hand on the door as he spots Jaskier lain out on the bed, with Hanne perched nearby. “Oh, I thought you might be done,” he says, a warm flush faintly colouring his cheeks. A plume of warmth washes through Jaskier. The poor alpha.

Hanne offers him a small smile. “I’m almost finished here, lad. Why don’t you fetch your mate something to eat?”

Geralt is out of the room and scampering down the hallway as soon as the order has left Hanne’s mouth. The door gently clicks shut behind him.

A moment sits between the two of them left behind. Hanne snorts. “I’d keep that one,” she chuckles, reaching for a clean towel. “He has a good heart. You don’t tend to find that in a lot of alphas in this age.”

Hanne returns to her usual workstation nearby, cleaning her hands and scrubbing them dry.

Jaskier’s throat bobs as he swallows. “We’re not mated.” The words fit wrong on his tongue. Something sour threatens to sting his throat. “I don’t have a mark, neither does he. We just....it happened. Would that have anything to do with how I’ve been feeling?”

Hanne’s brow softens. “Not at all,” she replies. “Pups come from sex, not bonding.”

“I know,” he blushes. “But, but I haven’t felt right. I’ve been tired and weak. I can barely get out of bed some days, and if Geralt didn’t wake me up in the mornings, I could sleep for the whole day.”

The woman levels him with a look, matched in sternness by the hands set on to her hips. “You’re pregnant, bard, of course you feel different.”

Jaskier scents Geralt before he sees or hears him. He returns to the omega with a small bowl of stew and half a roll of bread. The sickness has been left behind, thank the gods. He smells the familiar warming scent of the food through Geralt’s smell and his stomach rumbles.

Hanne winks as she collects her things to leave. Just as Geralt sets the tray of food on the nightstand beside their bed, he looks to the Witcher’s neck. A small glimpse of it where his hair parts.

If anyone has anything to say about the freshly lain marks on the joins of their necks and shoulders by the next morning, no-one utters a word.

 


 

It starts one morning. He knows it as soon as he starts to wake up. He’s had cramps before; false alarms and panicked Witchers standing at the door of the room, wondering if they’ll be ordered to go and find something for Jaskier. But this feels different. It’s duller, churning and like a cramp from heat. And it doesn’t go away even as he turns on to his other side, finding Geralt’s neck with his nose and breathing in his scent.

Jaskier knows. Fuck.

He’s not ready. He’s had nine months of conversations and thoughts with himself, and he’s not ready.

Geralt refuses to leave the omega’s side. Every wave of pain that washes through Jaskier, he winces at. It’s been going on for too long. Surely labour isn’t supposed to last this long? How long has it even been? The midwife doesn’t seem too bothered, drifting back over to the omega sprawled on the bed, checking on a few things, before moving away again. She’s deafeningly quiet as she prepares her poultices and ointments, and Geralt can’t help but clear his throat.

“Is everything alright?” he asks after a time, because no one has assured him otherwise.

The midwife doesn’t even pause her work as she huffs a short laugh. “Everything is just as it should be. First pups are stubborn little things; they’ll always make you wait.”

First, and fucking last, Jaskier thinks to himself as another wave of pain finally ebbs away. It swells like waves, rushing over him and receding back, giving him a few moments to collect his breath. Geralt pushes his hair back from his forehead, damp with sweat. He falls back against the pillows, breathing in a long and steady breath through his nose, only to let it tremble out of him.

“You’re doing so well,” sounds a familiar low rumble beside him. He has just enough energy to roll his head to the side. He wasn’t aware that Geralt was that close, but he’s perched on the bed, pressed right beside Jaskier. He moves the bard’s head to slip an arm underneath his neck, supporting him and bringing him closer. “Do you need anything?”

Hanne scrubs her hands. A collection of dry and clean towels and strips of cloth, a basin of warmed water – with more being collected by the others should she call for it. Vials of elixirs sit beside her workstation, ready to be slipped down Jaskier’s throat if the pain gets too much.

Jaskier trills as Geralt noses against his cheek. The closeness is enough to dull the worst of the pain. It’s not as sharp as it had been when his mate was away from him. As soon as Geralt scampered upstairs and burst through the door, falling to his side and bundling him close, the sharp sting and cramps have ebbed away.

The bard shakes his head. “No, I’m fine,” he mumbles, words barely moving past his lips.

Hanne sets the last of her things aside. “Try to get some sleep,” she murmurs, mindful of the peace that has settled over the room. A gently crackling hearth laden with chopped wood, amply fed to be pluming warmth into the room. The curtains have been pulled, shielding the worst of the storm outside away from them. Gods only know what time it is. She strides around the bed, reaching out and setting a hand onto Jaskier’s. “You’ll be here for a while, I reckon. Best to try and conserve as much energy as you can.”

Geralt brushes a light kiss to his cheek. “You can sleep against me,” he murmurs, voice low and rumbling like thunder. Jaskier almost shivers. “I’ll keep you safe.”

The promise of it warms him through. He sinks to sleep against Geralt, and the Witcher feels him go; tugged deeper and deeper down.

“You should get some rest too, lad,” Hanne murmurs, slipping away from them. “Or something to eat, at the very least. When’s the last meal you’ve had?”

She knows damn well that as soon as a whisper of Jaskier’s pains have started went through the keep, he’s been attached to the omega’s side ever since. No one, thankfully, has come to bother them. No one should ever intrude on a birthing room; especially one where a mated pair are inside. Gods help anyone who sets their hand on that door.

Geralt’s cheeks flush with colour as the woman sets her hands on to her hips. “Go,” she urges. “I’ll look after him.”

 


 

Gods, he hates this. This will be the last fucking pup he ever has. Gods know how people have multiple children—

He’s going to break Geralt’s fingers. The Witcher knows when a new plume of pain is swelling as Jaskier’s grip on his hand tightens. White knuckles and trembling hands, and a breath that threatens to catch in his throat until the wave crests, and he has to squeeze his eyes shut to weather the worst of it. And then it recedes and ebbs away.

He hates it – Geralt seeing him in pain. He knows Geralt hates him being in pain in the first place; but he catches a glimpse of the Witcher’s wince and thinned lips and he hates it.

“Good, Jaskier, very good,” Hanne says. She’s not as close to him as he thought she might be. She’s sitting on the bed with them, a clean and dry towel already shoved underneath him as contractions kept moving forward. She’s sitting nearby, watching things progress and keeping an eye on how the pup is moving down. With his legs drawn up and parted, he’s never felt more exposed.

It’s just the three of them. Geralt beside him, murmuring praises against his ear and brushing kisses on every stretch of skin he can find. He might not be able to use his sword-hand for a while. And Hanne; not interfering, just observing, and letting things move on as they should.

She gives him a warm smile. “You’re doing well. A few more pushes like that and we’ll be over the worst of it.”

A few more. He wants to scream. It’s gone on for too long. He can’t remember when the first pains started. It could have been hours or weeks ago, he’s not sure.

Another wave starts to lull, lapping and gaining momentum. His grip around Geralt’s hand tightens. “Good,” the Witcher murmurs, “that’s it, just go with it.”

He’s just been echoing anything Hanne has already said – the poor alpha. A wince cuts into Jaskier’s face as the pain intensifies, washing through him. He pushes with all he can, like Hanne showed him, but it’s getting on in hours and he’s tired.

“You’re nearly there, Julek,” Geralt whispers against the shell of his ear. “You’re nearly done, my wonderful mate.”

A plume of warmth shudders through him. His mate is happy, proud of him. Their pup is nearly here. Jaskier grinds his teeth. It’s a small wonder they haven’t cracked. He almost bends into himself, pushing as firmly as he can.

“Good, Jaskier,” Hanne says, reaching out and setting her hands against him. “Very good. Easy now, that’s it. A gentle push for me—yes, there we go.”

Jaskier gasps, something sharp and wet, and falls back against the mound of pillows behind him. The arm that Geralt has curled around him tightens, bringing the man closer. He catches the Witcher’s scent, familiar and warming. Jaskier floods his senses with it as his nose finds Geralt’s neck.

Hanne’s smile is just as warm and reassuring as it’s always been. Her eyes catch the fire nearby, glinting. “Well, we have a head, Julek,” she murmurs, nudging one of his thighs a bit more out of the way and shuffling closer to him. “One more push and we’ll have a pup.”

There’s a deep rumbling sound from Geralt. It’s primal and not like them at all, but Jaskier hears it and trills right back, wincing slightly as another wave starts to swell.

He tightens his grip on Geralt’s hand, bearing down and gritting his teeth. It hurts, and he wants to scream and cry and bite down on something, but his pup is nearly here. He’s spent too long setting a hand over his bump, feeling the little one moving around. Geralt can hear the little thing; it’s constantly heartbeat that he’s so enamoured with.

And now they’re going to have them in their arms.

Sweat beads along Jaskier’s brow and cheeks as he strains, wincing as he pushes and presses down, urged on by his mate and Hanne spurring him on.

It takes everything he has. The world beyond the edges of the bed has paused. A wire almost snaps. A sharp cry lurches out of him as the pressure suddenly stops.

Geralt’s scent changes; it’s sweeter than usual, cutting through the familiar musk. Jaskier sags against him, exhausted and nothing left within him. Everything in him wants to sleep. The edges of his vision almost turn black.

A sharp cry wards sleep away. “Julek,” Geralt rumbles beside him, brushing sweat-soaked hair back from his forehead. The Witcher kisses every stretch of skin he can find. “Julek, you did so wonderfully. I’m so proud of you.”

Their pup; a tiny pink and wailing thing that voices their utmost displeasure at being brought out into the cold world, despite the hearth having been on for over a day. Hanne reaches for clean and dry towels, brushing the babe clean as she looks to Geralt. “Do you want to cut the cord?” she keeps her voice low, even through the warbled crying of the baby.

Geralt stiffens.

Words bumble out of Jaskier’s lips. “If he moves away from me,” he murmurs, “I might fall into this bed.”

The Witcher bundles his mate close. “You can do it,” he says to Hanne, letting Jaskier put the whole dead weight of himself against Geralt’s side. “He needs me here.”

The woman nods.

Gods, he’s tired. The world is slipping away from him and all he wants to do is sleep. With how much he’s slumped against Geralt, he doesn’t think that the Witcher could even move away if he tried. Not that he would want to be anywhere else.

Geralt’s hold on his hand has turned gentle, linking their fingers together and bringing his knuckles up to be kissed. A soft, trilling sound leaves Jaskier without him even thinking of it. He wants this forever; Geralt near him, so soft and attentive and caring for him. He’s like that always, but the path strips it away for only when they’re together, alone. If he could stay in this keep forever, he would.

The bed shifts. Hanne bundles the pup in dry and clean towels and blankets, keeping the little thing warm as she sets the pup against his chest. “A little boy, Julek,” she murmurs. As soon as the pup’s skin touches his, his cries turn into little whimpers.

“Hello, little one,” Jaskier murmurs. He’s barely strong enough to loop his arm underneath the pup, holding him against him by himself. Geralt helps. He’s close enough to hold both his mate and child in his arms. He supports Jaskier’s arm with his.

Hanne does what she needs to do. She almost fades away with the rest of the world, leaning out of the bed to fetch more towels, wiping away blood and fluids, waiting for the afterbirth to come. All the while, with a whimpering pup against his bare chest, Jaskier can’t stop the soft, primal sounds lurching out of his throat.

“Hush now, darling, what have you to be complaining about, hmm?” he murmurs, brushing his nose along the pup’s downy head. His skin is so soft, hair light and wispy. He hasn’t had a chance to see the little thing’s eyes yet. Gods alive, what colour could they be? His parents have the most beautifully coloured eyes. Maybe it’s a mix of both, or one or the other.

Geralt brushes a kiss to his temple. “He’s perfect,” he murmurs, not bothered at all about the sheen of sweat there. Geralt noses the last few stuck strands of hair out of the way as he inhales his mate’s scent.

With the pup held against his chest, Jaskier can feel himself being tugged under. “Have a good rest, Julek,” Geralt murmurs against him, bundling him close. “You’ve done so well. You deserve it.”

Chapter Text

Hanne will stay. She wants to be sure that the pup will thrive here, and Jaskier can sleep better knowing that she’s around and never more than a call away. She stays with them even after everything that should pass passes. Once he’s cleaned up, she has to rouse him from his fitful sleep to teach him how to feed the pup.

He has some idea, of course, but it’s always nice to have someone help. Geralt takes the opportunity to slip away, just to the edge of the room to fetch a drink for himself, and to bring one back for Jaskier. But when Hanne shoos him away for some other checks, he scampers down the hallway, presumably to tell the others.

There are enough pillows set behind him and to his sides to prop him up. He’s not going to slump sideways and fall over. He doesn’t quite trust his body to be that strong yet.

Hanne perches by his bedside. “A perfect little boy,” she murmurs, helping Jaskier pat his back. “Ten fingers and toes, bright eyes and working lungs. Couldn’t wish for anything else.”

His eyes are blue. Jaskier found that out when the pup finally peered up at him. Granted, Hanne said they could change colour in a matter of months. Most babies tend to have blue eyes. Maybe they’ll stay that way and take after his eyes. Or maybe Geralt, before his turned to gold, were blue too. He’ll have to ask.

Until then, he looks back down at the baby swaddled against him, chewing on his balled-up fist and wiggling about in his cocoon of blankets. He’s small, enough to fit into the crook of Jaskier’s arm. He’s quietened down, the little terror. His cries stopped the moment he was set against Jaskier, and the past hour has been spent imprinting both his and Geralt’s scent onto the pup.

Jaskier murmurs something low and gentle, a song he used to hear from his mother when she used to spend time with her children. It’s a distant memory, and he thought he might have forgotten the tune.

Geralt brings another drink to the table, joining the other glasses and cups. If he drinks any more water, he just might drown. But the Witcher can’t be dissuaded from his task of caring and protecting his mate and new pup.

“He needs rest,” Hanne tells him sternly. The Witcher joining Jaskier on the edge of the bed blinks. “He’s not to move from this bed unless the place catches fire. Understand?”

Geralt nods, lips thin and any arguments firmly behind his teeth. Even if Hanne didn’t say anything about rest, the bard is sure he would have been strapped to the bed and the door to their room bolted for at least a month.

Hanne is more considerate. “One week,” she instructs. “At least.”

Jaskier offers the woman a tired smile; nothing more than a twitch of the corners of his lips. Whatever energy he had has drained away. He could sleep for weeks, maybe months.

She parts with him with a quick, assuring hand on his. “You’ll do just fine,” she murmurs, glancing down at the pup nestled in his arms. “If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

Jaskier’s throat almost cracks as he speaks. “Thank you, Hanne.”

They have a moment of calm and peace as soon as she leaves. The door clicks shut behind her and his ears twitch at the calming low sound of purring. Jaskier looks up to his mate, standing at the edge of their bed and looking down at the pup nestled against Jaskier’s chest.

The corners of the bard’s lips twitch. “Are you going to sit with us or are you going to stand there for the rest of the night?” he asks, mindful to keep his voice low. Their son arrived into this world with strong lungs and his cries almost shook the stone walls around them. Now, though, nestled against Jaskier’s bared chest, inside of his loose shirt, he sleeps peacefully mouthing against his fist.

Geralt blinks, but falls to his usual place of being by Jaskier’s side. He’s still sore, and a brief wince flashes across his face as the bed shifts slightly. A sour note goes through Geralt’s scent and the pup against Jaskier’s chest whimpers.

“I’m alright,” Jaskier murmurs, leaning back against the pillows and looking up at his mate. “Hanne’s potions don’t take away all of the pain, it seems.”

Geralt’s lips thin. “I want to take it all away from you, the pain,” he rumbles, reaching out and brushing Jaskier’s hair back from his sweat-slicked forehead. “But I can’t, and I feel useless.”

Jaskier clicks his tongue. “You helped me through it all. You’re not useless. What did I tell you about saying those kinds of things about yourself?”

“Do you have the strength to throw me off of this mountain?”

“Just you wait, Geralt of Rivia,” Jaskier challenges, lifting his chin and watching the Witcher drift closer for a kiss. “As soon as I can feel my legs again, you’re done for.”

 


 

There’s a gentle knock on the door, barely audible over the crackle of the fire and the soft whimpers of his pup against him.

Geralt hears it. He regards the door for a moment. He’s only slunk away from the bed, and Jaskier, to stretch his legs out and wince at how locked and aching his joints have become. Labour took a while, and with the sleep Jaskier managed to get for himself, gods only know how much time has passed.

A thin stream of light reaches through the nearby curtains. Distantly, Jaskier can hear birdsong. It must be midday, at least.

Geralt parts from him with one last lingering kiss to his lips. Jaskier hums against him. The knock sounds again, this time with voices lilting through the door. Jaskier watches Geralt’s shoulders slump as he stands from the bed, padding over to the door and their visitors.

The door creaks open, and the pup snuffles at his chest. “Hush, darling,” Jaskier soothes, watching the pup’s face scrunch up at new scents drifting into the room. “It’s just your uncles and grandpa.”

Murmured voices drift in from the hallway. “Can we see it?” Lambert asks quietly, voice barely above a whisper. “The pup?”

The bard barely manages to swallow a snort. “You can see him, yes,” Jaskier hums, knowing that despite his voice being only a murmur, the others have heard him. A soft colour flushes his cheeks. They would have definitely heard him during labour, and he can only start his apologies now—

Geralt leads two shy Wolves into their den. Jaskier blinks, fighting back a laugh. He’s never seen either of them so calm and quiet – maybe when Ciri is around, when the young princess used to be so tired after her training, she would fall asleep against one of them in the grand hall. But it’s always been loud and brash Wolves that quieten every so often when they realise that a pregnant omega is among them.

And now, with the pup born, curious golden eyes fall on him and the bundle against his chest.

The pup snuffles against him, letting out a quiet whimper. The two Wolves pause, eyes widened and taking in the bundle for a moment.

Jaskier shifts slightly, pulling down the blanket wrapped snugly around the baby. “Come here, idiots,” he murmurs. “Say hello.”

Eskel has always been the gentler of the two, and the one brave enough to step forward first. Both of the Wolves don’t dare to venture too far to the bed – the birthing bed where Geralt’s mate is lying. Even as strong as familial ties can be, primal instincts can override them.

Geralt keeps a watchful eye on them as they both stop by the foot of the bed, looking at the baby. No one dares to speak first. Neither of them has even blinked yet. The first flash of anything comes when the pup whimpers again, flailing a hand out of his blankets. Jaskier lets him grab at his finger, and within seconds, the pup settles again.

Lambert’s brow furrows. His eyes are trained on the tiny hand barely able to fit around Jaskier’s finger. “He’s so small. Why is he so small?”

“He’s barely half a day old, idiot,” Eskel mutters, craning his head to get a better look.

Jaskier doesn’t miss it – nostrils flaring, catching scent; a pack getting to know its newest member. Jaskier can only presume and be assured that these Wolves will protect his little pup to the death, as they would with him and any other member of their family.

The thought of it helps him sleep better at night.

 


 

“He doesn’t have a name.”

Geralt’s brow furrows. Sleep has already dug its claws into him and begun to take him under. But Jaskier’s words must have gotten through to the man, because the Witcher hums against his pillow. “Hmm?”

It’s hard, not having the pup in his arms. They feel so empty. He feels empty. He’s been carrying a living being within himself for nine months, and now he’s sleeping barely an arm’s reach away from him in a cot attached to his side of the bed.

The pup sleeps; a small miracle in itself. All it took was a feed and a walk around the room nestled in Geralt’s arms for the little one to nod off. Hopefully he stays asleep. With the room warmed by a fire, he’s sure the pup is warm enough and milk-soft to give his parents a few hours of sleep.

Something Geralt took advantage of the moment he set the pup down into his cot. He barely had found himself on his side of the bed before collapsing.

He can feel the Witcher pressed up against him, familiar weight and warmth against his back, one arm strewn over Jaskier’s head on the pillows and another slung around his waist. A sleepy Witcher is a rare one, and it’s difficult to get more than five words in a row out of Geralt at the best of times—

Jaskier keeps his eyes on the cot. “The pup, Geralt,” he says after a time. “He doesn’t have a name.”

There’s a moment of silence that stretches on for a moment too long. The Witcher’s breath is long and deep and warm against Jaskier’s nape. Maybe he’s fallen back asleep again. He really wouldn’t blame the man. But a rumbling sound shudders up through the Witcher’s chest. “Any ideas?” he murmurs against Jaskier’s neck.

Not one mention of a name ever cropped up, not in the nine whole months it took for the baby to appear and be born. And now that he’s here, and slumbering peacefully nearby, it’s all Jaskier can think about. What do we call you, little one?

Jaskier hums against the arm folded under his head. “I had an uncle called Basil. Nice fellow. Probably the only nice Pankratz elder you’ll ever meet.”

Geralt snorts a bare laugh against his nape. His breath is long and languid and deep. Sleep has its claws in him, not willing to let go.  Poor thing. Maybe it’s not the conversation to have at gods-only-know-what-time-it-is.

Jaskier has slept enough. He braved a short walk out of bed, with his feet barely able to carry him outside of their room, but it was enough. Hanne encouraged it. He slept after the walk and now with Geralt dozing behind him, he can feel the familiar pull of sleep wanting to drag him back under.

He just can’t stop staring at the little baby only a reach away from him. “Aleksy,” he tries, liking how it fits on his tongue. The pup snuffles, limbs twitching in his sleep as his face scrunches up. Jaskier reaches out, brushing the back of a finger gently along the pup’s cheek. He soon quietens, assured that his parents are nearby. The room is thick with the combined smell of them both.

His skin is just so soft. Jaskier can’t quite believe it. Something so small and vulnerable, hidden away from the world in a crumbling old keep that had so much tragedy and horrors within it. It could very well be the first birth Kaer Morhen has experienced.

And Jaskier’s throat bobs.

The Witcher behind him tightens his hold, shuffling even closer to Jaskier. “Wha’s wrong?” Geralt rumbles.

Ah. His scent must have changed. A low trill lilts out of him. “Nothing, my love, go back to sleep,” Jaskier murmurs, glancing over his shoulder and spotting wild white hair strewn over the Witcher’s face, eyes closed but brow wrinkled as he must have scented the change in the air.

Jaskier’s heart swells. “We can talk in the morning,” he mumbles, letting Geralt wade back into sleep.

It’s enough for the Witcher. Geralt burrows closer to Jaskier, setting his nose along the slightly faded mated mark at the join of Jaskier’s neck and shoulder, breathing in the bard’s scent with every lungful of air taken.

The pup nearby barely shuffles. His little chest rises and falls in steady breaths, content and safe knowing that he’s protected and his parents are nearby. Jaskier’s heart threatens to skip a beat. He’ll be safe. He has a keep of Witchers at his beck and call, ready to fall to his side should he ever have a need for them. And that’s a thought that helps Jaskier sleep that bit better. His pup will be safe. No matter what happens beyond the reach of the keep or the Blue Mountains or Kaedwen, his pup, his world, will be safe.