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Sometimes it’s very easy to be Jaskier’s bodyguard.

Between tours, Geralt spends most of his time in Yen’s guestroom and the gym. Triss, Jaskier’s manager, might sometimes text Geralt to take Jaskier to a restaurant for lunch or drive him to a studio for an interview, but they don’t really talk in the car. Geralt has a coffee while he waits for Jaskier to finish whatever he’s doing, drives him home, then goes back to Yen’s.

They don’t say it, but Jaskier doesn’t talk to him because it’s Yen’s place that Geralt goes to. The things they did when Jaskier was still Julian don’t matter, though, do they? So it’s easy to drive him around, drink coffee, and avoid Yen’s eyes later.

Julian wrote his first album about it, then became Jaskier in order to sing it. When he asked Geralt to be his bodyguard, a year later, Geralt wasn’t stupid enough to think it meant anything else.

 

*

 

When Jaskier’s onstage, and it’s a really good night, Geralt's stomach starts flipping halfway through the set.

The lights hit him in a way that Geralt’s had time to get used to, four years of blinking against it after the green room door opens and Geralt walks Jaskier to the stage, but it’s so far from where they started. The new normal’s already been twice as long as the good old days, which weren’t even that good, but.

Geralt used to crowd Julian in bathrooms at dirty little clubs after shows. Sometimes the one where they met, where Geralt was a bouncer, with the bare lightbulb that kept flickering on and off in the staff toilet. Julian would gasp in the flashes, let his head thunk back against the tiles when Geralt knelt in front of him, and from down there, he looked so real it hurt. Polaroids of a boy that Geralt wanted, sweaty, asking for more in his fucked up post-show voice; and Geralt would close his eyes and give him just enough to take the edge off, and Julian would laugh when he came.

The good old days didn’t feel important at the time.

When Jaskier has a really good show, he pulls Geralt after him into the hotel room. The bottom of Geralt’s stomach drops, but he goes, because the wanting didn’t stop when Julian went away and came back as this - this shell, this white-toothed automaton that sings and accepts awards and fucks Geralt even though he’s the one technically getting fucked.

Geralt can’t stop wanting him. Can’t stop feeling like he’s being paid for this, not for the security detail, but no matter what Yen says, he’ll take it: the money, the sex, everything he’s given. He’ll drive Jaskier’s married flings home and bring back a cup of good tea for Jaskier’s throat. Whatever he can get.

 

*

 

He always has the adjoining room on tour, or the room across the hall.

He’s expected to leave before Jaskier wakes up. It’s probably for the best that Jaskier’s a heavy sleeper, because looking at him the way Geralt does before he leaves would probably feel like he’s taking something from Jaskier that he has no right to.

He knows he has no right to it.

It’s just that he’s the same, asleep. His hair’s the same, he starfishes across the bed, he fists his hands in the pillow or the sheets like he’s trying to anchor himself. Like his dreams are trying to carry him off, except that’s a stupid fucking thought, because his dreams already came true, didn’t they?

Geralt told him to fuck off over Yen’s naked shoulder, once upon a time, and Julian went off and made them come true.

Maybe it’s just that he looks peaceful like this. It’s exhausting to be cold all the time. Geralt would know.

He makes sure to close the door quietly, just in case, and goes to his room to brush his teeth and wash the night off. If he can, he goes out on the balcony to watch the sunrise, wishing he still smoked. Sometimes, with adjoining rooms, Jaskier wanders out to smoke a clove, not looking at Geralt just yards away, and the smell makes the morning into something else - a memory, the outline of a memory that the good old days fill up.

On the rare occasion that Julian slept at Geralt’s terrible studio above the club, they would open the windows and watch the sunrise from bed. They laughed so much, more than Geralt ever laughed in the rest of his life, but not then. Early in the morning, they’d quietly pass the cigarette back and forth; then, dizzy from it, Jaskier would go back to sleep with his face turned to Geralt.

Looking back, Geralt can’t believe the sort of trust Julian must’ve had in him, to fall asleep like that.

 

*

 

Geralt didn’t have a phone until he joined Jaskier’s staff, but now he sleeps with it on his pillow. When Triss isn’t on the road with them, he acts as her proxy on-site, and she has no patience for people who don’t answer, no matter the time or the timezone.

Just once, though, it’s Jaskier who calls.

They’re in London, on the last night of three consecutive gigs in the city that used to feel like making it. Now it’s just a kickoff point for the European leg of the tour, and it’s not even a homecoming show, because Julian was always a Belfast boy, no matter where else he’s lived.

So it’s just a show, and Geralt doesn’t expect his phone to ring at 3am. He expects it even less for the screen to say Bard, the stupid nickname he gave Julian that was later an album title, but he sits bolt upright in bed and answers.

Jaskier is high. Drunk, too, by the way he slurs, and he almost sounds like--

Like he doesn’t remember what they are, now. He’s safe in his room, but Geralt figures out pretty fast that the view must’ve confused him in this state, because he’s Julian, a ghost that used to love him here.

The worst part is that he says it - says I love you for only the second time, and the first was a fuck you as he walked away so Geralt and Yen could fuck. He says it so sweetly, the way it must’ve been all those years ago, and Geralt is not a good enough man not to say it back. And Julian’s sigh when he hears it is enough to break him.

They could’ve been happy. It felt impossible to lower his walls when he was thirty, not for a kid just barely out of uni who followed him around and sang to drunken idiots and drooled on the pillow. It felt impossible, but the walls hadn’t even mattered, because Julian got in right away, slipped underneath, and Geralt was so busy shoring them up that he didn’t even notice.

“I hope you didn’t have a nightmare,” Julian slurs across the years. “Wish I was there. Wish you were here, sweetheart. Goodnight.”

He’s the only one Geralt ever told about his schooldays. Yennefer knows about his time in the army, but Julian somehow got this other piece late one night.

Geralt was so fucking stupid when he was thirty.

The next morning, bright and early for their flight, Jaskier’s frowning at his phone when Geralt brings him his coffee. Geralt relaxes his face and starts packing Jaskier’s suitcase, figures out how much cash he’s got on him for the housekeeping staff who’ll clean up the vomit and the ash in the bathtub.

“Did I call you last night?”

“Must’ve been pretty drunk,” Geralt says, hating himself with an acute pang, “because you kept asking for coffee. Well, there you go.”

Jaskier looks doubtfully at his phone again, then shrugs and takes the coffee outside. The sun’s just rising.

 

*

 

“Come home,” Yen says when he tells her what happened.

She always says that, but home is a time none of them can go back to.

 

*

 

It’s a good show in Barcelona, and Jaskier has Geralt fuck him in a sumptuous baroque bed after his TV interview. It’s a good show in Milan, and Jaskier’s on all fours, head hanging between his shoulders so he can watch Geralt working for it.

A great show in Berlin, but the hotel’s so far from the venue that Jaskier just lies there with one leg folded up for the pounding he demanded, and it’s all Geralt can do not to drop his weight on Jaskier’s back and bite his shoulder and hold on. The way Jaskier keeps curving his spine up in the space between them isn’t helping Geralt’s self-control.

“Come home,” Yen keeps saying, but now she’s making noise about the apartment that her neighbors are renting out while they’re on sabbatical.

“It’s work,” Geralt says. He’s not lying.

“You could work for anyone.”

“I really couldn’t,” Geralt says. Then, “Love you,” because she’s the only person alive who wouldn’t balk at hearing it.

“I know,” she says, and hangs up.

On the next balcony over, five yards away, Jaskier stubs out his clove and looks Geralt up and down before going back inside.

 

*

 

The tour ends, as all tours do. They land at LAX and the roadies linger by the luggage carousel, saying goodbye, but Jaskier and Geralt’s luggage is fast-tracked and brought out to the car.

They don’t talk much on the way up to the Hills. Jaskier takes some calls, mostly artists he’s writing for, and asks Geralt to change the Spotify playlist. Twice he asks Geralt to turn the music off so he can record something on Voicenotes, and the lines are about them the way all of Jaskier’s music is about them, love songs that fork off their lives right before Geralt fucked it all up.

At Jaskier’s house, Geralt carries half the bags into the foyer and grabs a bottle of water from the minibar hidden behind a panel by the front door. He’s almost back in the car when Jaskier taps him on the shoulder. He tries to turn around, but the hand that tapped him pushes him gently back to face the car.

It’s so peaceful up here, Geralt thinks. A better place to have your heart broken than South London.

“Don’t talk,” Jaskier says. “Walk away if you think you can’t.”

Geralt looks up at the blinding mid-morning sky and hums. He’s strangely empty.

“I remember the phone call. Parts of it, at least. The end. What I called you, and what you told me. And I can’t let you go back to her--” Geralt twitches, tries to turn around, but the hand holds him there. “--to her with the wrong idea.”

Geralt nods, and thinks about the days he could’ve spent with Julian instead of late nights and five early mornings. In two years, Julian only slept over five times. It’s ludicrous in hindsight, if that was all they were gonna get. What had he been so scared of?

“I had a dream that night. We were at your flat and you woke up screaming, and then the dream changed and I woke up and you weren’t there. I was in Leeds for a gig. So I called you, and in the dream we were six months further than we ever got, and I called you sweetheart and you told me you loved me.”

Jaskier presses himself against Geralt’s back; his breath is too warm through Geralt’s hair. “I hung up and woke up, and I remembered what really happened. You never picked up. I took the train back from Leeds and you were fucking Triss’s uni friend in my flat, and you told me to fuck off. And I sat on the stairs one floor up, because you were in my fucking flat. And in the morning I called my Da and he was scared enough to buy me a ticket to come here.”

The heat leaves all at once when Jaskier steps back. He tightens his fingers on Geralt’s shoulder until they feel like they’ll bruise, then he lets go with a shove.

“I loved you until six that morning. I could hear you two through the walls, you know. It took me hours to start writing, but then I didn’t even hear you leave. Half the album was written on the backs of Two Guys receipts. I want you to take that back to her.”

“Julian--”

“Come back or don’t,” Jaskier says. He sounds further away, like he’s on the stairs. Geralt can’t watch him go a second time, not when he knows what it means. When he knows that if he walked away now, he’d never see Jaskier again.

“I’ll be back when Triss calls.”

“Buy more condoms. I don’t know where you’ve been.”

And Geralt - he gets in the car. He doesn’t say he hasn’t fucked anyone else in four years, because it doesn’t matter. He thinks he should fuck someone else, maybe.

He thinks he should ask Yen about that apartment in her building.

He drives around the curved road in front of Jaskier’s house, past the electric gate, out of the gated community, and merges into traffic. He thinks about Jaskier, who trusts him with his life and nothing else, and about Jaskier doing this without him, like he did when he was touring Bard.

He calls Triss and asks for a raise. He gets it.