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“Oh,” Jaskier says, staring at the utterly blank notice board. The morning’s steady rain had slowly become a downpour and now thunder cracks and booms overhead. A dog sends up a long, mournful howl. “This is depressing.”

It’s the same lamentable story as the last village, and the one before that, and the one before that. Despite all Geralt’s grumblings about the Continent’s lessening need for witchers, he’d seemed fairly confident there was work to be found along the Tir Tochair range. Jaskier spotted more than a few signs of local pests on their way into town; no doubt Geralt spotted at least half a dozen more. Only the pathetic state of their purses had kept Geralt from hunting first and seeking payment later.

“Hm,” Geralt agrees. He turns, clucks his tongue at Roach, and heads back to the ramshackle tavern they’d bypassed earlier.

“Not that I don’t appreciate your optimism,” Jaskier says, slogging through ankle-high mud to catch up, “but what makes you think the—” He squints at the half-rotted sign as Geralt secures Roach and retrieves their belongings. “Cots...waller? Woller? The Catswollar will be any different from the last place we tried?”

Even if the welcome had been less than cordial, at least in the last few towns they encountered people going about their business long before the village proper. As much as Jaskier would like, he doesn’t think it’s just the rain keeping them inside. There’s a darkness to the sky beyond the storm, weighted like a cavern so deep underground the sun isn’t even a memory any longer.

The Catswollar’s door hinges are made of more rust than iron. Geralt opens it gingerly. “It’s not optimism.”

Inside the tavern is impressively more gloomy than the dark and deserted rain-soaked square. It reeks of piss and vomit, week-old mutton, and something he dearly hopes isn’t the local brew. “Desperation, then. How lovely.”

The only improvement as far as Jaskier can see is at least they’ve finally found some people. He picks his way carefully across a floor so treacherously slicked with grease that it makes the overflowing riverbank half a league back seem perfectly fine in comparison.

“Hello, good fellow,” Jaskier greets the watery-eyed man slouched behind the filthy bar. “I am the great Jaskier of Oxenfurt, entertainer extraordinaire, come to dazzle and delight, to dismiss the most sour of spirits!” He bows with a flourish. “All for a truly modest fee, if I may say.”

“Ya can say wha’ ya want, bard,” croaks the man, “but ain’t none here gon’ ta pay ye for it.”

“Lovely,” Jaskier says again, straightening slowly.

Geralt takes off his gloves and produces one of their precious few coins. “Beer.”

“Righ’ away, m’lord, righ’ away,” the man says, and stumps his way to a keg.

Jaskier leans gingerly against the bar. Though he counts over two dozen bowed heads it’s as silent as a tomb, and with the hearth dark about as warm as one too. Geralt runs so hot he probably doesn't even notice. “What now, witcher? I’d sing a tune for the hell of it but I’ve met corpses more lively than this lot. Smelled better, too.”

“It used to be worse.” Geralt takes a flagon for himself when the barkeep waddles back and lifts it in thanks. It’s so very cold that steam rises slowly from his bared skin. “Wars are as hard on the land as they are on men. All I found before were ruins and ghouls.”

It seems to Jaskier that’s all to be found now. He tries not to taste the beer, only bothering to drink it because Geralt paid first and on the off-chance it brings a measure of warmth. It’s as sour as the barkeep.

“I don’t want to stay here, Geralt,” he says, leaning close. “It feels...bad.”

An understatement to be sure. Jaskier’s seen his share of ravaged villages and beaten townsfolk but none quite like these on the Southern Continent, and none as terrible as where he stands now. Where there should be anger, grief, something, there’s nothing. Not even the will to live.

Geralt makes a neutral sort of noise, the one that doesn’t mean shut up but offers only a fifty-fifty chance he’s actually listening.

“We’re already soaked through,” Jaskier presses. “Even if we don’t reach Fen Aspra by nightfall, I’d rather take my chances out there.” He lowers his voice to less than a whisper, certain Geralt can hear him just fine. “Look around you. We should go.”

Silence. Geralt doesn’t bother to do as asked but Jaskier recognises the signs of his other senses at work: a slight flare of his nostrils, a minute bird-like tilt of his head. For once Jaskier doesn’t wonder what Geralt sees that he can’t. He doesn’t want to know.

After an eternity Geralt scrubs at his face. “Fine. But remember that it was your idea.”

“Right, of course, no problem.” Jaskier hoists one of the bags but quickly sets it down again. “Oof, heavy. That one’s yours.”

Geralt says nothing and finishes his beer in two long swallows. He nods again to the barkeep, who it seems has either fallen asleep or simply expired on the spot. Geralt just stares at the probable corpse with a bemused sort of pity.

“Excellent,” Jaskier says, and, “Farewell, good sirs! May the sun shine on your many days!” as he scurries out into the storm.

*

Five minutes from that wretched wattle the wind shifts, picks up. It isn’t a cold wind compared to the Northern Kingdoms in the dead of winter, but it lashes wickedly at Jaskier through wet cloth. He can’t hear a damned thing except the wind and the rain and the violent chatter of his own teeth.

He moans in self-pity and burrows as close to Geralt’s warmth as possible, hands jammed into his armpits and chin in his chest. Geralt’s arms bracketing him are the only thing keeping him mounted on Roach; he can’t feel his toes. Or his knees. Or his ass really, and while some days that’s a boon today is not one of those days. “I’m going to die,” he stutters, lips numb.

Geralt’s doubt rumbles against Jaskier’s back.

“T-take a lock of my hair before you bury me,” he manages. “To keep me w-with you always.”

“No.”

“No use denying it! I’m done for...”

Geralt sighs. “I told you,” he says and tucks his sodden cloak in a little tighter.

*

Many terrible hours later the lamps of Fen Aspra rise on the horizon like a blessing from the gods. Though it’s well past Nilfgaardian curfew the gates stand open, seemingly unguarded. Where a more prudent man would at least pause, Geralt rides on.

Jaskier stays huddled close to Geralt’s bulk as they pass beneath the outer wall. He blinks stinging eyes against the sudden brightness; mage fires line the main thoroughfare at regular intervals and stretch off into the shadows. The flames dance and flicker silently in their globes, untouched by the rain. It’s haunting and oddly beautiful.

“No contracts or ballads tonight, bard,” Geralt says before Jaskier can ask. “Morning will come soon enough. I’m tired.”

That’s more than all right with him; it’ll take hours for feeling to creep back into his fingers. They probably have enough money left for one night along with a dry stall for Roach, as long as the inn’s proprietor is reasonable. He might even be able to lever a promise of a later performance in exchange for something warm in their bellies.

He leaves Geralt to deal with the business of horses and limps towards raucous voices and the smell of roasted meat. His stomach clenches and growls horribly.

The sudden rush of heat at the threshold brings him to a stumbling halt. His next breath aches in his lungs, his chilled skin pricking painfully to life.

“In or out!” calls some jovial fellow. “Or I’ll use that lute of yours for firewood!”

Jaskier clumsily pushes back his hood with no small rush of relief as a chorus of laughter goes up. “Evening, good sirs,” he says, trying to clear his scratchy throat as he makes his way to the front. “I am—”

“Half dead is what you are,” says the same man, who turns out to be the ruddy-cheeked innkeeper. “I’ll give you half a pint to not sing until you sound less like a gutted cow.”

Tears of joy well in Jaskier’s eyes. “Bless you,” he rasps, and eagerly takes the offered mug. He drinks greedily; finally a civilized place to ply his trade! “Bless your house with good fortune,” he says, steadied, “your wife with good looks, and your cock with the strength of a bull!”

Booze and laughter warm Jaskier through. It does his soul good to pass a few minutes with introductions and the exchange of pleasantries. A girl even comes to spread his cloak and boots by the hearth, then returns to drop off a steaming dark loaf.

“Ah, friend Heurget,” Jaskier says regretfully to the innkeep, trying not to breathe too deeply; right now the bread smells even sweeter than the girl’s rich tumble of hair. “We’ve come a long way in that miserable pisser of a night. I’d fall on that like a ravenous dog but we need somewhere warm and dry to spend the night for both us and our faithful steed.”

“With an understanding then,” Heurget decides. “From your speech you’re for sure a northerner. Though there’s a Great Sun above my door our steward is a wise old goat and doesn’t give a rat’s stinking shit what songs are sung.” He adds a sky wink. “So long as it’s not a feast day, of course.”

Jaskier breathes a deeply grateful sigh. He’s willingly chosen the open road but there are times he fiercely misses Oxenfurt’s metropolitan streets.

A short time later as Jaskier finishes his half of the bread, Geralt makes a thankfully unremarkable entrance. He tosses a smile and a wave of honest thanks to Heurget, then winds his way through tables and benches to the dark corner Geralt invariably finds. He wonders sometimes if there’s a witcher network of sorts to share all the mysteriously shadowed nooks and crannies in which to lurk.

“Roach?” Jaskier asks.

A nod. “Room?”

“My very good friend over there,” Jaskier nods in Heurget’s direction, “believes in credit. I’ve got us a room and a meal, Geralt. Here’s your appetizer. My adoring public awaits.”

Geralt makes a quietly pleased noise and tears into the still-warm bread.

“Yes, yes,” says Jaskier, patting Geralt’s arm. “Try to contain your effusive thanks. You know how it embarrasses me.”

When Jaskier finally climbs upstairs hours later he’s both completely exhausted and thrumming with energy. He hasn’t had such an audience in weeks! There was no choice but to oblige just one more song, then the request that followed. And when pressed for an encore, how could he refuse?

He manfully contains his elation as he creeps into their room. Geralt has two modes of rest: dead to the world or spring-loaded trap. Either way, it’s best not to disturb him.

Inside is blessedly cosy, warm and smelling of freshly-scrubbed witcher. The fire is carefully banked, his lute case is open and waiting, and a single candle is left burning beside the water basin. Still grinning foolishly at their luck—and congratulating himself for insisting they ride on despite his near brush with death—he readies quietly for bed.

“Finally,” Geralt grumbles when he settles down on the lumpy but wonderfully dry mattress.

“Oh I’m sorry, Jaskier whispers, sarcasm tempered by glee as he scoots under the heavy quilts, careful to let none of Geralt’s glorious body heat escape. “Did all my hard work paying for the very bed you’re hogging disturb your beauty sleep?”

Geralt hums a muzzy yes.

“Aren’t we lucky you’re so pretty to begin with.” He squirms around until his feet are tucked under Geralt’s warm hairy legs and sighs gustily, content with the world. “G’night, witcher.”

“Sleep, bard,” Geralt mumbles.

And so Jaskier does.

*

“Hm,” says Geralt.

Once again they’re standing in front of a very large and very bare notice board.

All around is a prosperous city’s early morning bustle: raised voices, shouting children, barking dogs and clucking chickens, heaving bellows and clanging iron and dozens upon dozens of other noises blending into civilization’s off-key song. Jaskier had indulged in maybe a quart of drink last night, mindful of their sorely-lacking funds, and still his head is throbbing from such a racket after long days of quiet villages and deserted roads. He can’t imagine how Geralt must be suffering.

At least the rain’s finally blown off to the south to leave them in peace.

“Well, it’s been worse,” Jaskier says. He’s already been offered another night’s stay in exchange for a longer run this evening. They’ll look around a bit, enjoy themselves, and keep an eye out for a likely spot to take up later when the market settles down. “Once word gets around you’re here work will start—shit.”

Geralt turns from his own perusal, brow arched.

Jaskier laughs gaily, waving away his outburst. “Forgot I snapped a string! Have to see about a replacement. I’ll just, ah. Head back to practice a work around.” He backs away from the board, smile plastered firmly in place. “I’ll see you later, have fun!” Far enough away to dodge a grab if Geralt tried for it, he quickly turns to dash off into the crowd—

—and collides straight into the horse of the man whose standard he’d spotted waving gently in the breeze.

“If it isn’t Jaskier of Oxenfurt,” says Baron Casadei pleasantly, peering down at Jaskier’s ungainly sprawl. “What are you doing, man?”

“My lord,” Jaskier says in greeting. He climbs awkwardly to his feet with a wince and tries brushing mud from his last clean pair of breeches. “What a— a surprise this is, eh? Rotten luck, though! My companion here, you see,” he says, gesturing, and affects a deeply regretful frown, “is looking for work but wouldn’t you know, there’s none to be found. Must be off post-haste!”

“But no, this is excellent,” Casadei says. “I’m putting together a little gathering—”

“I’m truly saddened to have to miss it!”

“Jaskier,” says Geralt, joining them. He looks from Jaskier to the Baron and back again in an offer Jaskier usually has to browbeat out of him. Of course this time not only did Jaskier not ask, the saving he needs isn’t exactly one of Geralt’s strong suits.

Grudgingly he gives the introductions they’re both waiting for. “Baron Casadei, my travelling companion Ger—“

Oh no. No, that wouldn’t do at all.

—ald. Gerald. Of Beauclair. Who, as I said, is much in need of honest work.” He flinches just a little at the accidental emphasis on ‘honest’. “But it’s been lovely to see you, much health to you and yours! Let’s get a move on, eh, Gerald? No rest for the wicked!”

The Baron doesn’t budge. “I must insist. What a coup to have Jaskier and his marvellously famous instrument at my seasonal fete.”

Jaskier opens his mouth, closes it again. “I—ah, I mean to say....“ He huffs a breath through his nose. “I’m without escort?” he tries hopefully.

“I’ll go.”

Horrified, Jaskier turns slowly to stare at Geralt.

“Done!” Casadei crows. “I’ll promise a few coins for your songs, Jaskier, but only a few, you hear?” He shares a knowing wink before nudging his horse forward to join his waiting retinue, and calls over his shoulder, “I’m sure you’ll find the evening more than worth your while!”

The moment he’s out of earshot, Jaskier says, “All right. You get Roach, I’ll get our things and pass my regrets to Heurget. I would’ve loved one more night but oh well, life really is a sour bitch, what can you do? Let’s go.”

“Go,” Geralt echoes flatly. “When finally there’s money to be made.”

“Oh no.” Jaskier waggles his finger right in Geralt’s face. “No, no, no. I’m not bringing you to one of his little soirees.”

“I don’t actually want to go.”

“You said yes to it fast enough!”

Geralt grunts one of the very many in his repertoire, one unfortunately as familiar as all the rest but oh so rarely heard.

“Don’t— Dont do that.” Geralt almost never asks for anything. Demands, threatens, even forces sometimes, yes, but he doesn’t ask. “I know we’re flat broke but you have no idea the sorts of entertainment that man enjoys. Trust me, Geralt. You’ll hate it.”

“I don’t like parties at all.”

“Exactly!”

“You do.”

“Well, yes. But—“

“Is he good for it?”

Jaskier’s brow furrows. This day isn’t going at all like he imagined. “You mean will he pay? Not as generously as he should, but—“

“Then I’ll live.”

But—

“It’s done,” Geralt says, which is just another of the many ways he means shut up. “You’ll sing and get paid. I’ll get drunk.”

Jaskier stands sorrowfully in the busy square as Geralt walks away. People melt out of his path without seeming to notice, parting like a river around a very large, very stubborn boulder.

“This is bad,” he says to no one.

*

That night after a shorter turn in Heurget’s common room than promised—of course Heurget understood that Jaskier couldn’t turn down a chance to lighten a baron’s purse, the man was entirely too kind—they head out across the city. Casadei’s residence is huge and ugly and the street out front teems with gawkers.

Jaskier flicks a nervous glance at Geralt as they’re ushered into an anteroom. The close press of cities is always hard on him but his expression is relaxed, even bland. While heightened senses are definitely an advantage in a fight, especially the sort Geralt gets into, not for the first time Jaskier wonders how witchers can stand to be around people at all.

“You may store your things here,” the slight man they’re handed off to says, gesturing at one of the dozens of trunks set out on the floor. “The noble Baron Casadei guarantees their safe return to you. In the unlikely event that is impossible,” he continues haughtily to Geralt’s even stare, “generous compensation will be made. When your escort is ready, honoured bard, you may enter the grand hall from the door to your left.”

Speech concluded, he bows, turns on a heel, and firmly shuts the double doors through which they’d entered behind him.

There isn’t time to do much more than exchange a look before a petite woman, easily missed standing silently against the far wall, steps forward. She bows to Jaskier. “Allow me to help your man, my lord.”

Distaste obvious, Geralt shakes his head. The maid blinks. Jaskier mutters, “You’re unhappy now,” and waves that it’s okay for her to ease back while Geralt stores his own gear.

“All I need is beer,” Geralt grunts. “Lots of it.”

“Oh, you think so, do you? Go on then, take a peek.” The maid looks slightly put out; Jaskier will feel bad about upsetting her later, he’s too irritated with Geralt right now. “Go on!”

Geralt gives him a strange look. When all Jaskier offers is its steady return, he makes a reluctantly curious sound. Music pours through the small crack he opens in the door.

A long, long moment passes.

“Fuck.”

*

“I tried to tell you.” Jaskier marches into the hall, determined to keep his gaze front and center. If he lives a hundred years he’ll never forget what just happened in there. Neither will that maid. He’s not sure if she wet herself or wet herself.

Hell, it was probably both.

The air’s too hot, too heavy, pricking at Jaskier like gathering magics and making it hard to breathe. Dozens upon dozens of candles, softly forgiving and easily moved about as the whim strikes, create many more shadows than they banish.

Geralt follows behind as instructed, close but unhurried, and naked as the day he was born. His hair is carefully combed and smoothed, drawn partially back from his freshly-shaven face. He’s completely at ease with his nudity, every bare inch of his powerful build glistening with subtly-scented oil. Each lean muscle and shifting tendon is pure masculine grace. If he were anyone but himself it would reek of shallow, gloating pride; he wears it as easily as yellow wolf’s eyes and white fur-soft hair.

Jaskier has words for everything imaginable, even a few for things that aren’t. He could sing himself hoarse and still not find the right ones for how Geralt looks right now.

Exactly half the party-goers are fully dressed, eating and drinking, talking and laughing. The other half are as naked as Geralt, men and women both, each beautiful in myriad ways. So early in the evening most are seated at their counterpart’s feet; some are in laps, others play fetch and serve in a nimble dance alongside clothed servants.

A low unoccupied dais, one of dozens, catches Jaskier’s eye. He flings himself into the chair placed conspicuously beside it, points. “Sit.”

Without a word Geralt settles on the dias’s edge, elbow resting casually on one raised knee. Jaskier’s heart is beating far too quickly. Sweat prickles at his hairline, the back of his neck. Everyone stares.

All Geralt does is stare right back, quietly amused.

Jaskier shifts, his empty hands restless. Even if he hadn’t left his lute in the trunk he doubts he’d be able to steady his hands enough to play. Singing with his chest squeezed tight is absolutely out of the question.

He’s no stranger to Geralt’s nakedness. They’ve bathed together, shared beds and bedrolls, tended each other’s wounds and massaged away terrible aches. There’s not a lot of room in a witcher’s life for prudery, and Jaskier never much cared for that nonsense whether inside the bedroom or out.

But Geralt isn’t naked. He’s on display.

“You’ve seen all this before,” Geralt says, and Jaskier startles, wondering when in their travels Geralt picked up mind-reading. “And you didn’t want to come?”

So not telepathy, which is actually not as much a relief as expected. “Last time I was the escort.”

“What difference does that make?”

“It’s entirely different! That was a night of fun and frolic peacocking about for a duchess.”

“So frolic,” Geralt says, indicating the small groups scattered here and there with a jerk of his chin. “There’s enough beer to keep me entertained.”

Jaskier squeezes his eyes shut and digs roughly at them with his knuckles. “Did you even listen to— I can’t.”

“I’m unarmed, not unmanned.”

Jaskier barks a slightly manic-sounding laugh. Geralt’s gaze might reveal only mild interest in the various goings-on, but his body is markedly more direct. A miracle would be someone who didn’t notice how his cock has thickened against his thigh, or how it’s flushed dark and framed by startlingly white hair.

“You offered yourself up as my escort,” Jaskier explains again for what feels like the hundredth time tonight. How Geralt still doesn’t understand that it’s a night of rampant voyeurism, exhibitionism, and perhaps a small orgy or two is utterly beyond him. It’s really very simple even with the Baron’s peculiar stipulation of matched couples only. Though, he supposes, that does make a certain amount of sense given it guarantees a balanced mix of doers and watchers. Neither would have much fun without the other.

“Are they expecting something specific?”

“We’ll raise a few eyebrows just sitting here with you looking so pretty, but no. It’s still going to be a very long night.” Jaskier sighs. He’ll be plagued by courtly busy-bodies for years about his uncharacteristic lack of participation, and all over something he can’t even turn into a song without Geralt threatening to kill him.

Geralt’s attention turns to their fellow revellers. The candlelight deepens the gold of his eyes. His profile, already so strong, seems deliberately lit to its very best angle. Even his silence is distracting.

Thankfully, and despite a few over-eager guests with wandering hands, the festivities aren’t yet in full swing. Brave and curious souls come to speak with Jaskier, and after suffering no violence at the witcher’s hands in response to indelicate questions with obvious answers, the real lechery begins. Some suggestions are enough to make even Jaskier’s cheeks redden, especially so when there’s an accompanying demonstration from a lady’s very, very enthusiastic escort.

Geralt, on the other hand, continues to lounge about completely unfazed—aside, that is, from his very prominent and unflagging arousal. He really isn’t doing much to hide it leaning back on his elbows like that. It’s practically an invitation.

By the time midnight rolls around, the conversational buzz is sprinkled liberally with moans, happy cries, and more than the occasional delighted yelp. Unfortunately, all Jaskier’s done is send Geralt off for beer and a few meat pies. After the first round Geralt didn’t even bother to pretend, just waved down the nearest server for more. At least when Jaskier’s flagon runs dry Geralt gets him a fresh one too.

A little drama unfolds when two gentlemen get heated over what’s proper and what’s not when one’s escort turns out to be on the clock. Jaskier grins; he might get a bawdy tune or two out of this after all, especially as the whore starts demonstrating the advantages of being a professional.

“Oh, that’s impressive,” Jaskier says to Geralt. His fingers practically itch for his lute.

Geralt leans a little to the left for a clearer view, brows lifted. Still focused on the impressive tableau, he idly asks, “Shouldn’t you play at some point tonight? The point was to get paid.”

Jaskier chokes on a mouthful of beer, sputters. “Oh you meant play,” he says when his throat clears. “No, that was all, ah, well.” He scratches at his jaw. “Mostly it was innuendo. You know, play a few songs? My famous—“ he gestures vaguely “—instrument?”

Geralt snorts. “So are you or aren’t you? I appreciate the food and beer but you’re not getting much out of the evening.”

“Maybe I would if my escort,” he mutters sourly, “was interested in— Geralt? Hey!”

Geralt strides off into the crowd. He’s not upset, as that’s usually indicated by a gentle punch. While Jaskier can’t see anything that might’ve triggered his witchering instincts—a damsel in distress is just as likely to do it as a rampaging beastie—he pinches the bridge of his nose in anticipation of a cry of alarm, maybe a scream or two.

Instead Geralt returns a moment later unbloodied and with Jaskier’s lute. He slows several feet away, making sure he has Jaskier’s attention, and changes his grip on the lute so he’s holding it in both hands like something precious. There’s definitely something smug in how he moves then, his posture calling attention to broad shoulders and narrow hips, strong thighs and shapely calves.

Jaskier is only human—a male one, at that. He stares openly.

Geralt stops when he’s very, very close. He holds Jaskier’s gaze for the span of one slow witcher heartbeat, then bows his head and sinks to his knees as smoothly as the flutter of fallen silk. Still with his head bowed, he settles back on his heels and offers up the lute on the flats of his hands. And there he stays, not a single twitch or tremor to betray that he’s flesh and blood and not carved from solid marble.

Jaskier’s mouth is dry. Sweat starts pricking at his hairline, under his arms. His grip on the chair’s polished arms turn slippery.

Geralt tilts his head up a fraction; his eyes are pure gold framed by delicate, near-invisible white lashes. “Your instrument,” he says slyly, “unless you prefer to use the other one.”

Jaskier utters foul curse.

“I’m happy to choose for you, bard.”

“Oh, you, you—” A breath hisses through Jaskier’s teeth. It feels like the entire room’s attention is on them, pressing heavily in. He feels drunk and dizzy. Foolish. Reckless.

He gropes blindly for his flagon, empties it without pause.

Geralt’s smirk widens, glints sharply in his eyes. He changes his hold on the lute once more, this time to set it carefully down by his knees. Jaskier’s flagon is pulled from limp fingers, replaced with Geralt’s own mostly-full one.

A strange sort of buzzing takes up in Jaskier’s head. Those pools of gathering heat spider out under his skin. He gulps down beer because it’s the only thing he can think to do; it burns his throat, makes his eyes water. When it’s empty Geralt again takes it, sets it down somewhere off to the side before his hands come to rest, palms down, on his thighs.

Shakily, Jaskier says, “I’m going to ask if I can touch you. If you say no--”

“Yes.”

“Oh thank every god known and not,” Jaskier says fervently, and nearly falls out of the chair in his haste to put hands on Geralt. He knows Geralt’s skin, rough and smooth by turns, raised glossy scars and the soft scrape of hair, but this feels like the first. Like all the ones before were practice.

Geralt makes a noise that isn’t quite a groan and not one of his many and varied grunts, either. A demand for more, Jaskier thinks; if it were anyone else he’d maybe even call it a plea.

Unsure it actually means anything at all—yet very sure Geralt will correct him if he’s wrong—he urges Geralt back and up onto the low dais, sliding out of the chair to follow, to touch more, reach further. Geralt’s thigh muscles jump when drags a hand between them, quiver when he strokes delicately up the inside of one, down the other. Entranced, he does it again, and then again. His wrist brushes the heavy warmth of Geralt’s ballsack; he turns his hand, cups gently. Rubbing a thumb near the base of Geralt’s cock, he can actually feel the surge of blood that accompanies a small twitch.

“I don’t know where to even start,” he says in wonderment.

Already Geralt’s leaking, a clear glistening trail spilled down the side of his cock. More wells up as Jaskier watches; it catches in the hair low on Geralt’s stomach, stretches thinly, breaks on a breath. All he can think is that Geralt’s cock is wet for him. Wonderfully hard and so very, very wet.

Geralt looks down pointedly. “I have a suggestion.”

“Don’t rush me,” Jaskier says on a shuddery laugh. “I haven’t thought about this as much as you seem to assume!”

“You don’t like to imagine it when all you’ve got is your own hand to fuck?” He makes a soft sound of disbelief. “I do.”

Jaskier’s whole body goes tight; he squeezes his eyes shut. “We’re going to talk about that. A lot.”

“Not now.”

Helpless laughter bubbles out of Jaskier. It spills into Geralt’s mouth when they kiss; it’s awkward because he can’t stop wanting to laugh, and incredible because Geralt tastes like nothing he’s ever tasted before in his life. It’s a little like Geralt’s scent—cold iron and crushed herbs and something undoubtedly male—but more. He gets lost in it, in the softness of Geralt’s lips and the hard edges of his teeth, the feral sort of heat deep inside.

Jaskier barely has to push before Geralt’s back thumps into the floor. Still chasing kisses he climbs up on the dais between Geralt’s legs, weight propped on one hand, then fills his lungs with a slow, steadying breath. He touches Geralt’s knee, barely nudges it to show what he wants; immediately Geralt draws his knee up and lets it fall wide.

Jaskier leans forward with a ragged groan, tilts his head to gaze down at Geralt spread so willingly open. Geralt’s hand is fisted next to his cock like he’d reached for it and stopped just shy.

“Not yours,” Jaskier decides, Geralt’s earlier words still echoing loudly in his head. “Mine. I want you to fuck my hand like it’s all you’ve got.” He smears one through the mess on Geralt’s belly, adds some spit to ease the way, then takes hold of Geralt’s cock where it's thickest. “Show me.”

Jaskier’s seen Geralt’s eyes turn fully potion-black, seen his pupils narrow to dangerous slits. But when he squeezes Geralt’s cock, drags just a little, the black pushes out only until there’s a thin golden ring caught in the candlelight.

Geralt takes him literally; muscles slowly bunch in long, slow succession, a roll of his hips as his back lifts, weight shifting to his shoulder blades pressed into the floor. He fucks up into Jaskier’s fist with the same tight precision that makes him so deadly with a blade, lips barely parted as his breath comes faster. Jaskier brushes his mouth over the strong slant of Geralt’s jaw, down the tendons standing in sharp relief along his neck. He comes back for a long kiss, urges Geralt on with teeth and tongue.

But Geralt keeps to the same languid pace despite the fine trembling that starts up, makes his breath shallow and shivering against their lips.

Jaskier eases back; Geralt's heavy-lidded eyes jump instantly, expectantly, to his. Something sticks in his throat. For a minute, he’s sure he’s wrong, that it couldn’t possibly be—

But of course it could. Geralt is so much more than the weapon he was intended to be, the one he was forged and honed into. It’s clear that he accepts his purpose, readily fulfills it day after day and takes his contentment in being used and useful.

But how he’s used, that’s what he wishes were different.

Much more certain than before, Jaskier tells him it’s perfect, it’s exactly right, and finally Geralt lets loose a groan, begins to push harder, faster. Holding his gaze is suddenly too much so Jaskier presses his cheek to Geralt’s, whispers all the things he thinks Geralt might want to hear: yes, that’s it; show me how you fuck; let me see what you could do for me.

Watching Geralt come, feeling it spill hot and thick between them, slicking his hand and Geralt’s naked belly, clinging wetly to his shirt, is the filthiest, most beautiful thing he’s ever experienced. He has to put it into song. He’ll be liberal with his metaphors and Geralt will never know.

The sounds of the ongoing party gradually filter through his consciousness. Beneath him Geralt stretches lazily and tucks an arm behind his head. His smile is utterly satisfied and his cock is still more than half hard in Jaskier’s lax grip.

“After that,” Jaskier says once he finds his voice in the wreckage Geralt’s made of him, “the Baron will be happy to provide a room.”

“And more beer,” rumbles Geralt.

*

The following morning dawns bright and cloudless. Jaskier lays quietly still in an extremely large, exceptionally comfortable bed. So comfortable it might actually be stuffed with down and wool, and so large that it has room for both him and Geralt with space to spare.

Oddly enough he’s awake before his bedmate and has been for some time. The night before is like a fevered dream—even the many aches and pains of overworked muscles could be chalked up to illness—except for how clearly he remembers it.

He knows Geralt well enough that pretending not a single remarkable thing occurred isn’t an option. Geralt is too honest for his own good.

So Jaskier watches as the sky slowly lightens, passing the time wondering what the day has in store when Geralt finally awakens. Every single dip and shadow of Geralt’s face soft in sleep is long since burned into his memory.

When the sun is midway to its peak, Geralt says, “Breakfast.”

For once Geralt’s sudden shift from a dead sleep to fully alert doesn’t startle him. He’s not entirely certain why. Maybe the house and its grounds are so insulated from the city noise he caught a change in Geralt’s breathing. “The pull is on your side.”

Geralt twists just enough to spot it. “Too far,” he grunts, and flops back down. “My ass is sore.”

That startles Jaskier, though a second later he realizes it really shouldn’t. And not even because he’s the cause of said sore ass; he was just grumbling privately about Geralt’s over-honest nature.

Jaskier’s surprised again to hear himself ask, “Do you like it?”

Geralt’s sideways glance speaks volumes. Before Jaskier can round up a witty retort, however, Geralt says, “Did I not beg loudly enough for you?”

“No...no…” says Jaskier slowly. “I mean, yes, you were very thorough.” The bedding is getting uncomfortably warm. “Very persuasive.”

“Don’t give in so easily next time.”

Jaskier’s pulse is loud in his ears. He wets his lips once, twice. “You said you wanted breakfast.”

Geralt’s wordless confirmation contains no small amount of curiosity.

Feeing brave and foolish and terribly hopeful, Jaskier pushes up on one elbow. The blankets mostly cover Geralt but there’s a sliver of pale skin here, a larger patch there; all bear the faint marks of Jaskier’s touch. There’s a wonderful tingling deep in his gut as he touches the edge of a particularly lurid bite, caresses it.

“If you’re that hungry,” Jaskier says, delighting in Geralt’s pulse quickening beneath his fingertips, “you better start convincing me to let you out of bed.”

Once—or twice—again, Geralt demonstrates how very persuasive he can be.

*

When they finally depart Fen Aspra a week to the day later, it’s with pleasantly heavy purses and even lighter spirits. It won’t be long until the road turns rough again, but for now the sun is shining and their bellies are full; they’re clean, and rested, and wherever this road might lead, they’ll travel it together. Even if Geralt’s ass is still sore.

“That’s a terrible song,” Geralt says.

Jaskier happily sighs, “Isn’t it just?” and sings it louder.

*

End