Upon meeting Jaskier, people are quick to make one of two assumptions about him.
One is that he is a womanizer, which isn’t exactly wrong. He enjoys the company of women, yes. Quite a lot going by the scandals he’s provoked and the marriages he’s put to the test. It so happens that he is just as likely to enjoy the company of men than that of women. Womanizer very distinctly ignores this, so Jaskier becomes quite defensive when the word is flung at him. People think it is because he’s offended, which is true, but not for the reason they expect.
The other is that he cares not for personal boundaries, which isn’t exactly right. Jaskier is an affectionate man, liberal with his touch, with where he chooses to sit, eat and drink. That is, on countertops and tables, gesticulating vividly about whatever news or gossip has passed by his ears. In the form of song. But he does feel uncomfortable when people take his natural disposition for intimacy as an invitation, as if he were a prostitute shaking her exposed legs for coin. He is not that kind of musician. The bard would rather earn his keep with honest work and spend it at a brothel, like any decent civilian. The wandering hands of pushy patrons will find disappointment if that is what they seek.
This last one is really what concerns Geralt most. In part because Jaskier is just so handsy with him that the witcher has found himself yelling for some damned breathing space on more than one occasion.
Like right now.
“Damn it, bard, I need to focus.”
“Oh, am I distracting you from murdering that shrub with your glare?”
They are camped out by the road, headed for Temeria. The nearest town is a few days away so there’s no choice but to sleep below the stars, again, for the fifth night in a row. Jaskier was loudly fed up with the dirt, the cold river baths and the flavorless rabbit stew. His criticisms grated on the witcher’s nerves. Once reminded that Jaskier was the one who decided to travel along for the privilege of recording the great White Wolf’s contracts into song, however, there was no more complaining.
Geralt had killed and fixed the usual rabbit for dinner, and Jaskier decided to eat his half—roasted this time—while sitting next to Geralt. Slouched against his shoulder. Interrupting the witcher’s meditation.
“Ah, at least you roasted this one, that’s a good change of pace. Better than a watered down, unsalted cup of bones.”
“Jaskier,” Geralt said, for the umpteenth time to get him to shut up.
With a bite of rabbit leg in his mouth, Jaskier mumbles, “What? You miss the stew?”
Why he wasn’t throwing the bard off of him, Geralt doesn’t know. It’s annoying. The chatter. The easygoing smiles and fearless camaraderie Jaskier bothers him with. It is especially annoying having another man’s scent all over his clothes, right in his face. Anyone else dared do the same to him, they would meet the sharp end of his blade, no questions or exceptions made.
And yet, Geralt’s sword remains sheathed.
Of all things still, Jaskier finds nothing untoward about sitting with one knee bent over a witcher’s extended leg. The rest of his body drapes across Geralt as if the hunter were but a rich leisure couch. A couch.
Part of Geralt thinks it’s a human thing. He may have been a child of their ilk once, but humanity had been carved out of him far too long ago. It has been an age since he’s lived among humans to know what they consider normal—or in this case, strange behavior. It is only obvious that he, as a witcher, does not fit the mold. And he will never fit the mold.
Jaskier seems to be much more of an outlier like himself, though, which is perhaps why, illogically, he finds friendship and comfort with a witcher instead of other humans. He must be mad in some capacity, to keep clinging to Geralt’s side. It’s the only explanation.
It is also easier to blame Jaskier for his eccentricity than to address that, above all, he is still the one allowing the bard to touch him so freely.
Geralt gives up the pretense of meditation once the fire dies out and prepares a bedroll for them.
Another thing there. Jaskier carries all of three things with himself: his lute, his song book, and his waterskin. The first night, when Geralt discovered the bard had nothing to sleep on besides the ground, he’d slapped a hand over his face and groaned, because of course the bard valued his music over practicality.
“I hadn’t thought of it, honestly!”
“Yeah,” Geralt grunted, aware of the impulsive nature of Jaskier’s decisions. So every night, they share a makeshift tent and a travel bed.
That night, at some point in his sleep, Geralt is woken by Jaskier’s snoring. Not because it’s loud, but because it’s happening right against his ear. His back is also sweating, heat trapped between the layers of clothing he wears and the one bard cuddled against his frame. An arm curls light over his waist as Jaskier’s fringe tickles the back of his neck. The blanket is mostly over Jaskier, pilfered like a prize.
Again and again, Geralt debates with himself if he should wake up the man and push him off to feel the bite of cold against his skin. And for a second, he tries to. A hand covers Jaskier’s arm, but there is no force in the grip. It is a careful touch, almost instinctual to the possibility of hurting Jaskier. Because humans are very fragile and witcher’s hands are not made for gentleness.
That usually doesn’t concern him, but it seems that when it comes to Jaskier, it is very important to him that he doesn’t hurt the one person who’s actually happier around him.
The bard wakes up anyway, a soft snuffle caught in his nose. He looks so sleepy, rubbing his eyes with a closed fist. Doesn’t notice for a moment that he had to pull that hand out of Geralt’s until after. “Sorry, did I wake you?”
For some dumbfounded reason Geralt whispers, “It’s fine.” It is clearly not fine, he is a private man and he wants his own bed and Jaskier continues to violate every established rule Geralt has about people touching him, which is only forgiven during sex, or in the middle of a battle when someone is either trying to save him or kill him.
Oblivious, Jaskier nods. He settles back against him without a second thought. His breathing slows swiftly afterwards and there’s such an unfamiliar sensation spreading inside Geralt’s gut at the knowledge that, just like that, he falls asleep. No fear in his pulse, no further questions held against the witcher. His trust is so strong, Geralt wonders what he did to earn it.
It takes much longer for Geralt to fall asleep.
Another thing that puzzles him to no end is how Roach can stand the minstrel. She is just as picky as her rider with allowing people to coo and pet her, which is to say, absolutely no one, followed by a swift kick to the shins to whoever tries.
But as it often is the case with Jaskier, he is the exception.
During the day’s journey, Jaskier walks as Geralt alternates between riding his mare and guiding her by the reins beside him. If he rides her for too long she gets nippy, and two grumpy companions is one too many for a partnership to succeed.
This time around, Geralt is atop her saddle as Jaskier prattles on—not to him, but to Roach—about some of the ladies he’s had to flee from because of unforeseen partners.
“—I mean, how was I supposed to know she was betrothed? We met in a bar and she was alone! Never mentioned the fiancé either, and that’s on her, not me—”
The story goes on until they reach a glade full of flowers. Jaskier is amazed at the beautiful sight, so many colors and floral arrangements. His face lights up with an innocent sort of joy that Geralt has rarely seen outside of children.
The witcher is mindful of slowing Roach on the path before Jaskier gets lost in the distraction.
“Hey, bard. Come on.” It feels wrong to interrupt, but they’d planned on reaching town before nightfall and Jaskier has lingered too long on a golden patch of grass, picking at a few sweet-smelling weeds. “We have to go.”
Jaskier raises his head at that and obliges with a half-smile.
“I wasn’t just picking for me, you know.”
For a second Geralt thinks the bard means he picked flowers for him and his mind stutters to a halt, struggling with what to make of that. He’s quickly corrected when Jaskier hobbles over to his horse instead and presents her with a small bouquet of the dandelions he was just inspecting.
“Here you are, girl. A little something for the road.”
She tolerates the scratches he gives her as he talks, accepting the roadside treat. The coy act makes Jaskier grin. For that, Roach smacks his collarbone with the side of her head and it starts an argument.
Geralt just stares at them both, wondering when he became second fiddle to his own horse.
No, I am not jealous, he beats into his own head, but Jaskier continues to scratch his mare’s hide and it’s making him feel something fierce and angry. It’s ridiculous. Stupid. It makes no sense. Roach snorts like she knows it’s annoying him.
As they start the walk again, Geralt, who’s been paying attention to the bard the whole time, notices him lag behind. He’s smiling, but the expression is stiff. Tired. They started the day earlier than normal, packing hastily with the anticipation of a hot bath at day’s end. The push must be catching up to him.
Geralt sighs for what he’s about to do.
Roach stops right away. Jaskier takes a second. “What. Something wrong?”
“Yeah, you’re slowing us down.”
“Oh,” the way the bard says it sounds so small and crestfallen and fuck he’s terrible at this—this friend thing.
Geralt grinds his teeth together, managing to utter, “Come here,” with some ill-placed stress. Jaskier steps up with obvious confusion and there, Geralt extends his hand. “Get up.”
Jaskier stares at the hand like he doesn’t know what it’s for, then it dawns on him.
“You mean, get up, as in, on the horse?”
His face goes through a series of wild emotions—shock, uncertainty, a grateful rise of his eyebrows. It finally settles for an impish smile.
“Why, thank you, Geralt. How kind of you to offer this long into our voyage, when my feet have already formed sores. I’ll start by apologizing to poor Roach for suffering our weight like a workhorse.”
Surprisingly, there’s nothing beyond an initial snort of discomfort from Roach when Geralt raises Jaskier to ride behind him. She’s steady as if to prove the bard wrong, that she can handle their weight just fine. Geralt knows she can because of all the crap he’s made her carry for him, but the insistent perk in her step is amusing.
Jaskier wraps his hands over Geralt’s stomach and presses closer with a yelp when her trot has him bouncing from side to side.
“Ow—Roach, please, that is unnecessary,” the bard starts to complain, holding Geralt with more strength else he fall off.
Geralt takes the reins and urges Roach to go faster which really only makes Jaskier turn his grip into a hug with how sudden the movement jars him and like wildfire, Geralt’s blood thrums with something hot. He has no name for the feeling.
“And what are you laughing at,” Jaskier shouts over the wind and Geralt says nothing, nothing because he hadn’t realized he was smiling at all. His face falls in an instant. They reach the town well before night, Jaskier holding onto him the whole way through.
They stay a couple of days in town, in their own rooms for once. The privacy allows Geralt to sleep bare after a long bath. This is what he calls the true luxury of kings, none of those fancy pompous clothes or coffers full of gold. No, just baths and good insulation, that’s the real privilege of the rich. And Jaskier, for all his attachments to the finer things in life, agrees wholeheartedly.
“I never thought I’d cry tears of joy dipping into a warm pool, and yet two weeks in the harshness of nature have changed me.”
“Hmm,” Geralt adds, taking a swig of beer. Jaskier, as is his due, sits on top of their table, his feet dangling out the side and occasionally tapping the witcher on the thigh.
“This place looks rather drab, wouldn’t you say?” Geralt wouldn’t. He’d call it crowded and smelly instead, but the bard’s not really looking for an answer. “Look at them, they’re sitting on their coin purses and picking food from their teeth! I think it’s time for a song to cheer these folks up, get some of that cheer for our own purses along the way, eh Geralt?”
Geralt blinks at him, knowing where this is going. It’s not a minute later that Jaskier, after plucking a few strings on his elegant lute, takes off with a spring ballad, because as Jaskier puts it, everyone loves spring after winter.
He goes around the tavern singing about the warmth of sunlight and new lovers’ light, something to get everyone’s attention. Geralt doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand how a song manages to work a few people to clap along and for more to join in when Jaskier sings a more popular tune about a fisherman. There’s nothing inherently captivating about the whole thing. The way that he sees it, it is not unlike a spell, an enchantment of the spirit that urges the compliance of its victims. For some reason, humans are compelled to sing along when they know the lyrics of a ballad, to hum to themselves hours later as if taken over by a prosodic spirit.
And Jaskier seems to feed off of their enjoyment, coin a mere afterthought to the matter. He flits from table to table, and it goes on for long enough that Geralt gives up tracking him with his eyes and focuses on the bread and cheese he’d gotten for breakfast.
A couple of songs later, the lute falls silent, which lets Geralt assume Jaskier has gathered plenty coin for himself and has bowed to the people. But the bard doesn’t return to their table. The continuing absence strikes Geralt as odd, odd enough that he looks up from his cheese and doesn’t immediately spot him. Which forms a knot of unease in the witcher’s stomach. Geralt has made his enemies, but among humans, Jaskier could boast over having dozens more.
His nose picks up Jaskier's scent in the room still, so he rises from his seat to spy around the throngs of happy people, a glare ready in his mutated eyes should he spot trouble. A couple stop him as if recognizing him as the witcher in the bard’s songs, a bit of excitement even coloring their voices, but his menacing stance keeps them from approaching him beyond a tentative step. The delight they shared with Jaskier is gone, like a broken spell. There is no love lost there. Geralt knows the truth of his monstrocity. It is by Jaskier’s virtue that the monster’s facade is hidden behind layers of preposterous valor and honor. A fairy tale to believe in, for those who are easily frightened.
Geralt doesn’t care for it anyway. He’s busy following the trail of Jaskier’s movements, a swirl of dance that brings him behind a pillar where Geralt finally finds the bard, surrounded by—by women.
He’s flirting with them, whispering dirty things in one’s ear, something that Geralt is capable of hearing with a witcher’s clarity. And the girls throw their dainty hands over the bard’s arms and chest, like coquettish little mistresses of the house.
“Tell us about the elves again, how many were they? Did they have teeth as thin and sharp as needles?”
One of them fervently asks, “How did you survive? The witcher must be truly beastly if he can cut through devils and elves like you say!”
Jaskier returns their affections with laughter, featherlight hands curled over their waists. “Quite the contrary, my dear. I would say he’s a most handsome—oh, Geralt!” There’s a slight difference in his voice when his eyes land on the witcher, laughter dying out. “Is...um, is everything alright?”
“It’s fine,” Geralt grinds out, turning from the scene to leave the tavern altogether. His ears pick up Jaskier apologizing to the women gathered around him, knocking against some patrons as he tries to catch up to the witcher. But Geralt’s steps are longer and it takes him farther, out the door and through the small town until he’s standing by the gates of a sheep pen in a light drizzle of rain.
He’s alone save for the inquisitive bleating of two sheep.
“Shut up,” Geralt feels compelled to tell them. They shake their ears and sniff at his heels, and whatever they pick up on him scares them away.
Geralt isn’t sure if it’s the stench of old alghoul blood on his boots, or just his own smell. It’s all the same to him. He wants to be alone.
He wants to be alone, and yet. Geralt finds himself hating the sound of crickets and fireflies buzzing in the fields, a sound that was once welcomed respite. There is no peace here, only forced isolation.
Crowds of people strain his senses. Too many sounds and smells and squirming bodies with bitterness in their eyes. But there is something that has changed in him, in meeting Jaskier. In the hours and days that they’ve endured each other on the many roads of the Northern Realms.
Where he wants for silence, Jaskier fills an odd-shaped void. An undefined space that his mind calls for relief. He is a familiar scent in a piss-stained alehouse, a welcome embrace where others have cut jagged marks into his skin. Fuck, even his singing is a lull that tempers Geralt’s moods, he just complaints out of principle.
But of course he is not unique in this impression. Of course there are others who flock to the light that spills from Jaskier’s hands, like beggars hungry for succor. It is a pathetically human need, to seek another’s comfort. He is pathetic.
He’s a monster hunter, he doesn’t need a bard.
Geralt stays there in the light rain, a stone sentinel of the field, when an old, weathered man interrupts his brooding.
“That silver sword...yer’a witcher, yes?”
The dip of his head is the only indication the witcher gives that he is listening.
“Yes...yes, good then.” Carefully, the old man retrieves a purse from his coat. It jingles softly in his palm. Coins. Geralt turns to face the man.
The old man has no name for the monsters of the contract, but he describes their nesting grounds well enough for Geralt know it is drowners. Swamp feeders causing trouble on the far side of the woods.
The payment is meager for a nest, but for poor country folk, it is better than nothing. He accepts the offer, telling the old man he’ll meet him at the inn when the job is done.
It is in that moment that Jaskier spots him, just as he’s walking back to the stables to fetch his bag for the hunt.
“Geralt! What’s going on, I tried looking for you—”
“I’ve a contract,” he doesn’t bother letting Jaskier finish as something hot beats in his chest seeing the drawn expression Jaskier wears. It creeps upon him how he loathes it, the worried cry in the bard’s voice, how his jerkin sticks to his body, wet and drained of its vibrance. Suddenly Geralt wants to run out and kill something, which is great for his upcoming drowner quota.
He’s on his way to do just that when the telltale sound of Jaskier’s muddy shoes following behind stop him cold.
“No. You’re not coming.”
The bard, confused, blinks multiple times. “Well how am I supposed to write a ballad of your quests if no one is there to see—”
Geralt is already walking away when he shouts over his shoulder, “I don’t care. I’ll tell you after.”
There’s a lot to be said about witchers, Jaskier thinks. At the forefront of his mind is how absolutely atrocious they are at relying on others.
It is not as if he is completely useless as a companion. On more than one occasion, the bard has helped Geralt carry his witcher potions. Sluiced his sword with the necessary oils for whatever beast he needs to kill. It is a thankless task, which is fine with him, really. Jaskier understands when Geralt doesn’t want to endanger him for no reason.
But Jaskier also believes he has been rewarded ten times over, though perhaps not in the way Geralt intended. There are the times Geralt leans against him, at the end of a difficult day. How he doesn’t flinch or draw back when Jaskier reaches to comb loose strands away from his face.
There is a strange quality in Geralt’s eyes then, when he looks at him sometimes. Yes, the man has unnatural pupils that reflect the moon’s light. But it is in the way his gaze lingers on the clasp of Jaskier’s hands over his arm. An absent-minded stare that makes Jaskier’s pulse quicken.
And now, Geralt leaves the bard alone to go hunt his monsters after what can only be described as barging out in a tantrum.
If only Geralt was any good at telling him why he’s angry, Jaskier would have corrected his wrongs already. Instead, he’s sitting at a table, nursing a pint he doesn’t even want to drink.
It’s been raining all day and night. Morning brought a short reprieve before it poured harder than ever. Jaskier is sick of waiting. And part of him doesn’t want to entertain reasons why Geralt has taken all night with a nest of monsters.
“You said a ‘nest’, yes? By the marshes beyond the forest?”
The old man Jaskier found himself for company nods. “Tha’s right. Sir witcher didn’t say how long he’d take, jus’ to wait here ‘til it’s over.”
Jaskier echoes his nod, an unconscious reassurance. Geralt quite honestly doesn’t need to rely on anyone to do what he was built to do. But it would ease his nerves to know he was alright, which is something Geralt doesn’t seem to grasp very well. That other people would worry about him regardless of his abilities.
“Right well, you go ahead and do as the good witcher says. And please, have my pint.” He pats the kind gentleman as he heads out in the horrid rain to ruin a new outfit in as many days. All for a dense old beast of a man who talks to horses.
Outside, he’s immediately drenched to the bone. Jaskier is grateful he’s left his instrument and his papers in the safety of his room because nothing would have escaped this rain’s eagerness to soak through every piece of clothing he owns. Roach will never forgive him if he drags her out of the stables on his whim, so he lets her be and sticks to the muddy road that leads to the woods. From there, it’s a tough trek through sunken ground and rotten trees. On more than one occasion, he trips into a puddle that is deeper than anticipated.
He curses every god the Nordlings worship under the sun. The marsh is even worse. Jaskier accepts that he has to waddle through knee-high water until a drowner finally ends his misery. Certainly the bard doesn’t expect to encounter one outside of his imagination, so it is of no surprise that he jumps with a fearful shout when his foot connects with something hard and suspiciously limb-shaped under the water.
The body that floats to the surface has a spotty, milky gray hide. Bone and fins protrude out of its back, festered with rot. It is clearly dead going by the blackened blood that seeps out of its gutted stomach. If he wants to, Jaskier is sure he could find more of them scattered in the waters, their state much the same.
But the bard didn’t come for the monsters. He came for their butcher.
The rain lets up just enough that he can see with a bit more clarity into the surrounding woods. There is an ominous darkness in their drooping branches. His teeth chatter from the cold that assaults his senses.
Jaskier thinks he can recognize a man through the brush, and his heart leaps at the sight of white hair.
Geralt is holding himself upright by the trunk of a broad pale tree, but only just. As Jaskier wades closer, he notices how the witcher is pressing an arm to his sides.
He rushes over so fast he practically swims.
“Geralt, what’s,” Jaskier catches how Geralt tenses up and lays gentle fingers over torn leather. “Hey, it’s just me. What is it? Are you injured?”
He’s answered with a curt grunt between clenched teeth. Geralt doesn’t move an inch. The blood trickling through the witcher’s glove doesn’t ease Jaskier’s racing thoughts.
“Alright, well. Nothing on you that could help with that?” He tries not to panic as he props himself on Geralt’s good side, the side currently attempting to bore itself into a tree.
“Bag.” Geralt’s voice startles the bard. He sounds strained. “Lost in—the swamp.”
“Ah, excellent. See, if you’d brought me along then it would have been with me, and nothing would have gotten lost. But let’s not go into that now. Come on, hold on to me.”
Jaskier catches the hesitant look Geralt shoots his hand before it turns into something the bard can’t quite identify. He waits, fearing that Geralt will tell him no, and that it will mean he will have to drag Geralt back by force through an entire forest, but his worrying was for naught. Geralt straightens up and steps closer to Jaskier, and it takes a second for him to realize the witcher isn’t taking his hand, but pushing his whole being against the bard for support.
They stumble together while that happens, Jaskier trading his hand for a secure arm tucked under Geralt’s good side. It’s a wobbly first few steps, but they make it work.
Jaskier worries his lip, afraid to ask what he must. With each step, he gains a little courage. “How long have you been standing there?”
Geralt remains silent, and the bard is willing to allow it. He has no idea what went down with the drowners, only that it cost Geralt another scar. Once they’re dry and warmed by a hearth, he’ll ask again. Insist on it, if he must.
For now, Jaskier focuses on getting Geralt out of the woods and under a roof.
It takes some time, the two of them treading on flooded, swamped earth. Jaskier is much more mindful of the holes and deceitful puddles that bested him the first time. He makes sure for Geralt. And once they reach the town, Jaskier is glad for the people that aid him in his plight. A scared, elderly woman holds the inn’s front door open for them, doubtless terrified for what else they might bring back to the village. To the rooms, the innkeeper's son lights the hearth with enough firewood to cook a whole boar. No one tries to take Geralt out of his hands, which Jaskier is thankful for. Maybe it is because they know the man is a witcher, but regardless, the bard would not have taken it well. He would not know if Geralt would take kindly to it.
No one helps him pry Geralt’s clothes off either. It is a burden he takes onto himself. Layers of mud and waterlogged fabric get tossed in front of the fire, his included. This way, Jaskier sees how badly Geralt’s been wounded.
There’s a gash that runs across the witcher’s hip to his stomach, and it bleeds a sluggish stream down his side. Geralt had lost his potions and his salves at the swamp, so the best Jaskier can do is clean the wound with wet towels and a bucket of lukewarm water, and wrap it with clean dressing. On account of the open wound, Jaskier forgoes a hot bath.
It is slow work, the room quiet save for the crackling fire and the few curses Geralt mutters to himself. His swords rest by the bed, lain there by the bard during those first moments struggling to undress. It is a comfort to see them close, Jaskier bets, which is why he put them there. Thunder booms overhead.
“So,” Jaskier starts, smoothing down the blankets over Geralt’s prone form. “Are you going to tell me how long you stood out there for?”
He’s given a grunt, Geralt turning his back to the fire and in the process, to Jaskier. The intention is dismissive, but to the bard, it comes off as childish.
“Right, of course. ‘Hmm’. Such a complex, eloquent response.” Jaskier still cards his fingers through Geralt’s tangled hair. Both of them are in their smalls, their skin wrinkled and cold despite the hearth’s hard work. Jaskier leaves his seat by the bed to search for more furs.
There’s a couple of bear skins in the closet, and he wraps one around himself to go out and check his own lodgings for more. Comes back with a good set of cotton sheets.
Jaskier remembers that witcher hearts beat slower, so it is his assumption that Geralt will take longer to warm to the fire. This is why he ignores Geralt’s outburst as he crawls into the bedsheets to cover them both in fresh linen and animal hides.
“Geralt, please, you’re freezing to the touch. I’m helping you.”
“I don’t need your help.” And yet the witcher feels worryingly like ice made into flesh.
He’s dry because Jaskier pet him dry with a bath towel. It was obviously not enough, so he strokes his hands up the witcher’s back and arms, their knees meeting awkwardly under the layers of cloth and fur. He faces Geralt, but the flames casting a long shadow over his shoulder obscure much of the details. He cannot read the man’s expression.
“Geralt.” Jaskier brushes fingers through raised skin, a collection of scars wherever he travels. “What did I do wrong?”
Something about the quickness of that response etches a smile into the bard's face. “You’re a bad liar, I can feel how you’re tensing up.” He drives his point forward by kneading his calloused thumbs into Geralt’s shoulder blades.
For all his jest, Jaskier earns an unexpected reaction. And he’s not quite sure if he’s seeing it right.
“I’m—it’s foolish. You didn’t do anything. Shut up.”
Geralt’s brow is pinched. The light doesn’t work in his favor, but Jaskier could swear there’s a darker color to his friend’s face. Like a sudden burst of hot blood, gathering beneath the surface. He hasn’t said anything and yet Geralt repeats, “Shut up,” under his breath.
This time, Jaskier hums. He very much likes how Geralt seems to squirm both away and into his ministrations, wrestling with some sort of indecision.
“You know,” attentive hands move upward, back over the witcher’s wispy hair in even strokes, “I think everyone’s hard on witchers—you get so much bad reputation for doing the people a service! But you’re being hard on yourself too.”
It is then that Jaskier kisses him, a forgettable peck on the corner of Geralt’s lips that he could pass for impulse should it be unwelcomed. He is wholly unprepared for Geralt to crush him in his arms, and the kiss turns into something deprived, something carnal.
His eyes shut close against the weight of his witcher, and the darkness that envelops him is warm. The two of them are like sweet prairie dogs, burrowed in a snug hole of their making. A private place where no one will judge them. It makes Jaskier bold and, he thinks, it makes Geralt honest. Not with his words, but with his body. With the way that he angles his head closer to the bard after their mouths part, his scarred chest expanding with deep breaths.
Jaskier wonders briefly if this close, Geralt can hear how hard his heart beats.
“I’m still—” Geralt interrupts him by growling into his mouth with another kiss, and this one Jaskier regretfully ends too soon. “Alright yes, I understand—listen!”
Geralt sighs and gives up for the moment. His intense stare is a distracting piece of work.
Jaskier clears his throat and puts on his best pout. “I’m...I think I should be sorry for yesterday. You keep saying it’s ‘nothing’, but—it’s not nothing to me. If I apologize, will you forgive me?”
As he talks, Jaskier scratches lightly at the edges of Geralt’s unshaven jaw. It’s an unconscious movement of his restless fingers.
He doesn’t stop when he feels how Geralt begins to hum against him, eyes falling heavy as if starting to drift into easy sleep. Geralt’s voice leans into that territory when he rumbles a quick, “Yeah. Whatever.”
They stay wrapped in each other for hours, until the heat almost smothers them. After that, they just toss the bedding aside.
The rain lets up the next morning. They depart soon after, their bellies full of baked apples and their purses heavier with coin. Roach sniffs at Jaskier with suspicion. The most he gives her is a shrug, as if to ask why she has any business sniffing him. Then Geralt raises the bard to ride with him—to save him the trouble of walking the whole muddy road, he says—and the mare snorts, not believing anything.
“Are you sure she’s not about to kick me in the back?”
They’ve stopped by a creek for Roach to drink her fill, and Jaskier is spouting nonsense.
“Why would she?”
Jaskier’s face goes through several stages of disbelief. “She’s been sniffing me.”
Geralt hums from his perch on a flat rock, in the middle of whetting his steel sword.
“Didn’t you hear me? She’s been sniffing me.”
“She’s a horse, she sniffs a lot of things.”
Jaskier grumbles low to himself, “Oh, ‘she’s a horse’, yes. How absurd of me. Not like she hasn’t kicked you for smelling like a slaughterhouse after a couple of ghouls. I’m gonna get her more flowers...”
The evening is calm. Jaskier is on a preposterous mission to have Roach on his side again, and Geralt for all he doesn’t care quirks a private smile when the mare refuses to eat the white myrtles Jaskier gifts her. He takes his eyes off the pair to work on his blade until it sings with each stroke of his stone.
Apparently he’s distracted long enough for Jaskier to sit beside him without his knowing. Geralt only realizes, a bit too late, when the bard slips a hand over his ear to mutter, “Would it offend you if I said you look downright kissable like this?”
He does not rise to the bait, offering a customary hum as he sheathes the sword once more.
It is his mistake. The hand that combs suddenly and repeatedly through his untied hair tears down his carefully-maintained indifference.
There is something in the bard’s touch that captivates, something that urges him to close the distance even as Jaskier himself climbs brazen over the witcher’s thighs and there is no more room to breach between them. Geralt is overwhelmed by his weight and his scent and his touch, so absolutely scatterbrained that he can’t contain the soft noise that escapes past his lips. And still the witcher craves more. More than he ever thought he would from a human—from anyone.
“Ah, I take it back,” Jaskier hums to him confidentially, while Geralt falls into a special sort of madness. “This is a much better look on you.”
Unlike in the tavern, the need that fills his gut doesn’t burn like drowner’s claws tearing into him. Not with how Jaskier looks into his face like he is a holy creature worthy of devotion.
Yes, this is better.
And Jaskier smiles like he knows too much. Like he can correctly guess at what lurks inside Geralt’s mind.
“I quite like this side of you, my friend. It is so much more agreeable.”
Geralt is about to retort a scathing, "I’ll laugh when Roach finally kicks you," when Jaskier chooses in that moment to kiss him. It’s easy to forgive the bard’s teasing after that.