Geralt stays up on the mountain for a long time, long after the sound of Jaskier’s retreating footsteps fades into the distance. Once the fist of anger and sorrow unclenches from around his chest, he’s only left with numbness. Shame.
When he hears someone approaching, twigs snapping underfoot, hope surges through him. He turns, only to find Borch standing before him.
“What now?” Geralt spits out. “Going to tell me that Yennefer despises me? That Jaskier is never going to speak to me again either?”
“No. I’m going to give you a chance to try again,” Borch says with a sympathetic smile. “Don’t waste the opportunity, Geralt of Rivia. I told you if you came with me, I’d show you what you’re missing.”
Geralt clenches his teeth. “What the hell does that--”
Darkness. Geralt’s eyes open to a familiar room. He jerks up and looks around, takes in the bed, the small table to the side, the room divider between the living space and the bath. It’s the room Borch had paid for before the night of the hunt but why is he--
I’m going to give you the chance to try again.
That fucking bastard, Geralt thinks with rising panic. Curses like these are rare and stupid and a waste of everyone’s fucking time.
Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe it’s another kind of curse entirely. If this really is a time loop, he should be able to recall what happens next.
As if answering the unspoken question, a knock sounds on the door followed by Jaskier’s voice. “Rise and shine, Geralt. What a beautiful day to slay a dragon.”
Geralt dresses quickly and pushes past Jaskier to hunt down Borch. When he finds him outside the inn, Geralt stalks over to him and hisses, “You’re the golden dragon, I already know. And you cursed me with a fucking time loop .”
“I remember,” Borch replies calmly. “And I’ll remember that fact each time you start over, but it is all I’ll be able to recall.”
“How do I break the spell?” Geralt grits out.
“That I cannot say. But the spell would not have worked on you if there wasn’t an opportunity to fix a grave misstep.”
“Can’t say or won’t?”
He’s about to snap at Borch when he realizes that this might not be all bad. At least he has the chance to relive this day without fucking things up so badly with Yennefer and Jaskier. It’s the obvious solution, so he clamps his mouth shut and figures he can have this whole thing done and dusted within a few tries.
Each time the bugle sounds as they make their way up the mountain, the sun bright overhead, he feels like a tired horse starting its race again.
For the first three loops, Geralt sticks to the very basics. Despite the ache in his gut, he keeps things civil but distant with Yennefer, gives Jaskier strict instructions -- “Don’t bait Yennefer, for fuck’s sake leave the Zerrikanians alone, don’t wander off the path no matter how hungry you get, just stay out of trouble” -- and avoids any conversations about leaving for the coast, about children, djinns, or shoveling horseshit.
The first days feel like a fever dream. No one around him remembers anything. Yennefer and Jaskier are none the wiser. What happened between them all only exists in the memory of Geralt and Borch.
Geralt hates the idea of manipulating interactions to his favor, acting like each day is just a play he has to memorize the lines to. Truth be told, he doesn’t even know what he wants from Yennefer. Though part of him longs to have her look at him with a tender gaze again, anger and frustration and guilt rise inside of him too.
With Jaskier, it’s simpler. Geralt knows he never wants to see that broken expression on Jaskier’s face ever again.
Apparently his plan to simply not fuck things up isn’t good enough to break the spell.
From the fourth loop onwards, Geralt attempts to rescue Sir Eyck from his shitty death. Despite Geralt’s best efforts, the idiot manages to die in ways that all involve him falling off a cliff thanks to his own ineptitude. When saving Sir Eyck doesn’t break the curse, Geralt helps Yarpen Zigrin identify which reaver stole his pack, thinking perhaps this fickle magic will finally be satisfied. Instead, a bloody battle breaks out between the reavers and the dwarves, and Geralt gives up on that endeavor.
It’s easy to follow the same basic outline of the original days, to keep things simple and dull. The trickiest moments to navigate are ones that involve Yennefer. Namely convincing her that a dragon’s heart is not a cure for infertility and persuading her to protect the dragon’s egg alongside Borch and himself.
Each time they both manage to survive the battle, they part on terms that are slightly uneasy but a far cry from her original outraged departure. Then Jaskier bitches the whole way down the mountain about how Geralt didn’t wake him up for the battle. An irritating relief.
Geralt is happy enough with how things turn out during these loops. If it’s good enough for him he can’t understand why the fuck it’s still not good enough to break the spell.
On the ninth loop, Geralt tries to ride and ride and ride through until morning, mostly out of curiosity rather than any real belief it will end the spell. He can smell the metallic, blood-like tang of magic encroaching the air around him the closer he gets to midnight, the blacker the sky grows overhead.
Whether or not he goes to sleep of his own volition, each time he awakes in his bed at the inn.
He tries confronting Borch. “I made things right. Why is the curse not broken?”
“You made things right?”
He’d certainly made them not terrible. “Yes.”
“Maybe you need to do better than that,” Borch suggests. Geralt wants to punch him. On the twelfth try, he actually does punch him.
By the twentieth time Geralt has gone through the loop, he decides to just throw himself off the cliff’s edge after Borch.
He wakes up to his twenty-first attempt.
“Geralt,” Jaskier says, coming to sit beside him by the fire pit on the first night of the journey. It’s deep into the night, the rest of the party has long departed for bed. Jaskier should be sleeping too. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but you seem rather...you seem even more taciturn and surly than usual. Talk to me.”
It’s the way he says, “ Talk to me,” that makes something break in Geralt. This is not the first time Jaskier has uttered those words to him in that soft, concerned voice. Every time it strips away Geralt’s defenses, slips through a crack in the wall.
“I’m stuck in a time loop,” Geralt grits out. “And I can’t figure out how to break the curse.”
“I thought those were just myths. Like a sex curse that required me to make love to a fair maiden from dusk until dawn to save her life.”
“They’re real, but they’re very rare and very fucking difficult to deal with,” Geralt says wearily. Vesemir had essentially advised them not to touch the damn things. Witchers were professional monster hunters, not advisors of the heart. There was nothing for the cursed to do but replay the day again and again to find the correct sequence of events.
Jaskier furrows his brow, the golden firelight dancing across his face. “When does each loop start?”
“It starts the morning of the hunt and ends after the third day, once we’ve made it to the mountain top. Or if I die it starts over too.”
Jaskier’s eyes go wide. “You can die ?”
“Not really. I just start over again. Believe me, I’ve tried.”
“That’s dark, Geralt. Even for you.” Jaskier frowns. “So am I stuck in your time loop? Is the whole world stuck in it? How many times have you done this?”
“Twenty-two times. You won’t remember anything tomorrow. I suppose the whole world must be stuck in it as well. Part of why spells like these are so rare.”
“You’re in this alone?”
“Every day, then, you’ll tell me, and I’ll believe you, and I’ll help you figure out what you need to do.”
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have many better options. Maybe it’s because the prospect of being in this loop alone for the foreseeable future is more daunting than he’d like to admit. Maybe it’s the calm assurance of Jaskier’s voice that makes Geralt agree.
“So let’s come up with a plan,” Jaskier says, a grin splitting across his face. The undeserved dedication makes his gut clench. He tries to keep the memory of hurting Jaskier at bay. For the first time in over twenty loops, Geralt feels hopeful again.
At Jaskier’s reluctant encouragement--“You know I think she’s the worst monster you’ve faced.”--Geralt tries to set things right with Yennefer, but no matter how well their conversations go, regardless of whether or not they sleep together, whether they decide to remain friends or devolve into a bitter argument, Geralt awakes at the start of another loop.
“Maybe it’s not specifically tied to Yennefer then,” Jaskier suggests during loop forty-five.
Overcome with bone-deep exhaustion, Geralt pinches the bridge of his nose. “You think?”
“Geralt, what is it you want to happen with Yennefer?”
“You just said it didn’t matter.”
“Yes, but eventually you’ll get the loop right, so you may as well decide how you want things to end up with her when you do.”
You will lose her , he hears Borch say.
He already has, Yennefer says in reply.
The words don’t slice through him the way they did at first, the perfect cut from a sharp blade. Now the blade has gone dull, the cut not penetrating quite as deep.
Geralt just doesn’t want to lose her in that way. Borch had accused Geralt of being in love with her, but that wasn’t quite right. He’d been falling, tipping over the edge of a boat caught in a raging storm, and someone had grabbed him by the collar and yanked him back to safety before he could crash into the waves.
He’s starting to think that he doesn’t fundamentally understand what Yennefer wants or why she wants it. While it would be easy to relive this day over and over and memorize the right things to say--it wouldn’t make him feel or believe the words. He’s already damaged something deeply between them by tying their fates together through the djinn’s magic; he’s not going to use a time loop to act his way into Yennefer’s bed or heart.
But he cares for her. Knows that he’s intertwined their fates. He wants things to be better than they are, than they were before Borch cursed him.
It is perpetually exhausting that no matter how well the conversation might go with Yennefer, he’ll have to keep having it again and again. That he’ll have to leave behind the newfound understanding and respect blossoming between them only to face her bitterness once again.
For the next month, he blows the whole farce of a hunt off and keeps Jaskier back at the inn with him to drink and gamble. He memorizes poker hands and winners in fistfights and spends their winnings on food and ale.
“How many times have you been through this?” Jaskier asks around the time Geralt feels more willing to solve the puzzle of it all again.
“Sixty.” He sighs.
“And I haven’t been able to help you figure out what you’re doing wrong?”
“I’m guessing we’ve been over the details of what happened on the first day and the days after.”
“I don’t mean to accuse you of anything, Geralt. But were there any details you might have left out?” Jaskier asks.
Geralt sighs. There’s a resistance in his chest, a deep skepticism that this could possibly be of any import, that traps the words inside. He takes a long sip of his drink to loosen his tongue.
This time he tells Jaskier about their conversation on the mountain. How Jaskier had asked him to leave for the coast. It’s irrelevant, Geralt assures himself. There’s no reason he and Jaskier need to discuss or reckon with a throwaway conversation they’d had only in Geralt’s memory. There must be something about the dragon or Borch or Yennefer that Geralt is not getting right in the loops.
Jaskier is quiet for a while after Geralt finishes giving him the basic outline of the conversation. “You’ve always been stingy on the details,” Jaskier says offhandedly.
“Now you have them.”
Jaskier drums his fingers against his thigh. “I have been thinking about the coast, I suppose. I just didn’t--well, I hadn’t been exactly planning on having that conversation with you. Strange way for me to hit on you, but to be fair, I’ve done stranger.”
It takes a moment for the words to sink in. “To hit on me.”
Jaskier raises an eyebrow at him. “How could this possibly come as a shock to you, my dear, clever witcher? Surely you remember that night in Oxenfurt.”
Geralt remembers, mostly. “We were drunk out of our skulls in a brothel.”
“With the same woman. At the same time. Beautiful blonde if you recall, legs so long they practically touched the sky.”
An image of Jaskier moving between her legs flashes before his eyes, the one that still comes to him from time to time when he’s pleasuring himself.
“Nothing happened between us .” Geralt gestures between them.
“One could argue that we had a bit of a sword fight so to speak.”
The woman had pressed their cocks together while she licked and sucked them both off. Neither of them had pulled away. Jaskier may have touched Geralt’s dick a few times, but surely that had been an accident. Geralt may have come when he looked up to find Jaskier’s blue eyes staring back, teeth sinking into his bottom lip as he came undone, but surely that had been a coincidence.
“That was years ago,” Geralt says, trying to shake the memories as heat curls through his toes and up his spine. “Why didn’t you ever--”
“Why didn’t you?” Jaskier shoots back.
Geralt stares at him.
“So this time loop. I won’t remember anything on the next go around?”
“Fantastic,” Jaskier says before he climbs into Geralt’s lap and kisses him.
He sleeps with Jaskier.
The times he’s considered doing so over the years, especially after that night in Oxenfurt, Geralt has quickly dismissed the notion for fear of things changing. Once he met Yennefer, he’d had enough turmoil to fill multiple lifetimes. Besides, Jaskier had never given any indication that he even wanted something more to happen between them.
This all seems a shame now given how damned good Jaskier is in bed. Or more accurately, on bedrolls, on the forest floor, on a particularly long, flat rock on the mountainside.
“It’s a shame fucking me doesn’t break the curse,” Jaskier says wistfully on a few separate occasions. “You know, I’ve always thought a sex curse of some sort could be rather fun under the right circumstances.”
“Yes, I know,” Geralt says each time, wondering at how absurd one man can be.
It may not solve the time loop, but fucking Jaskier is an unexpected, reliable benefit to the otherwise monotonous days.
“We’ve been ploughing each other for thirty loops now,” Geralt says, having learned about twelve loops ago that cutting to the chase is the best method.
Jaskier’s eyes light up as they always do. Artful seduction is overrated, Geralt thinks.
Geralt has the unfair advantage of having learned how Jaskier likes to be touched and fucked, a fact which is not lost on Jaskier. “Oh we have been fucking, haven’t we,” he pants, dazedly, throwing an arm over his face when Geralt reaches one hand up to pinch a nipple as he sucks Jaskier off with messy enthusiasm.
He learns things about Jaskier, too. After so many years of knowing one another, it surprises him that there are still things to discover. He didn’t know it was the Countess de Stael who had sparked Jaskier’s interest in poetry. He didn’t know that she’d gone to visit Jaskier during his most recent year as a guest lecturer.
“I didn’t see her there,” Geralt says, propping himself up on the bedroll, resting his cheek on his fist.
“Guess you didn’t visit me enough,” Jaskier replies, mirroring Geralt’s pose, a half-smile playing on his lips.
Geralt had visited him numerous times and they both know it. At the time he’d told Jaskier there were more contracts than usual available in the area, which hadn’t been strictly true. The truth was that Geralt knew all manner of trouble Jaskier got up to when left to his own devices and the thought of traveling for a year without any adventures together had made something twist in his gut.
If I had one blessing it would be--
Every time the memory comes to him, he curses himself. Why the fuck had he said that to Jaskier? It doesn’t matter that Jaskier doesn’t remember because Geralt remembers enough for the both of them.
Geralt rolls onto his back.
“Nothing,” Geralt says to the stars.
There’s another solid month where Geralt gives up on solving the loop and instead makes it his mission to try anything and everything with Jaskier. Every time they tumble into bed Jaskier is even more impressed and shocked and delighted, shouting Geralt’s name louder each time.
The best days, Geralt soon learns, are always the third and final day of the loop. When Jaskier gets a certain glint in his eyes and rolls Geralt onto his back, murmuring, “Let me take care of you this time,” before sliding between his legs and pressing his tongue flat against Geralt’s hole. When Jaskier wraps Geralt’s wrists in their spare tunics and ties him to the bedpost, teasing and teasing until he rides Geralt’s cock or fucks him silly.
Geralt is impressed at first that Jaskier can learn in only three days how very much Geralt loves to be spoiled in bed. It takes a good while for Geralt to realize Jaskier had him figured out long before this all began.
On the one-hundredth loop, Geralt decides he has to get back to the dragon-saving on the next go around, but before that he’s going to fuck Jaskier in as many positions as possible. What a way to commemorate the most exhausting--albeit pleasurable--curse Geralt has ever been involved in.
They bathe together in Geralt’s room--Gods he’s going to miss the hot bath he’s been taking every day for the past month, the bath salts and oils, gifted by Jaskier, replenishing again and again--and then takes Jaskier to his bed.
“We’re going to just have to bathe again,” Jaskier points out.
“What else do you think the coin’s for?”
Geralt has slept with Jaskier many times now, and still, it feels new. He never tires of that look in Jaskier’s eyes, the one that makes Geralt feel like a sunken treasure suddenly found.
He doesn’t plan for the sex to be so gentle this time around--since Geralt realized how much Jaskier enjoys being fucked against the wall, that’s been Geralt’s favored move--but suddenly Jaskier is in his lap, and Geralt is rocking into him with great restraint as they kiss, needy and wet, Jaskier’s tongue more demanding than the lazy way he rides Geralt would imply.
“You’re just so--oh fuck ,” Jaskier moans, head dropping to Geralt’s shoulder, his hands squeezing into Geralt’s side. He bites down and then kisses his way up Geralt’s throat, eliciting a shiver of pleasure.
“Never heard you at a loss for words.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Jaskier says, the words broken, breathy puffs against Geralt’s neck. “I just never thought this would happen.”
He strokes his hands along Jaskier’s back, fingers tracing up each vertebra of his spine.
“Do you want me to come inside of you?” Geralt asks.
“Gods yes. Please.” He leans back to study Geralt’s face. “Oh, you whoreson, you already know how much I want it, don’t you?”
“You’ve begged for it a few times.”
“And you? Do you ever beg for me?”
Geralt thinks of all the times Jaskier’s gripped his thighs and spread them wide as he fucked Geralt with perfect, relentless thrusts and he begged Jaskier for more. Thinks of all the times he’d been on his hands and knees and begged Jaskier to be rougher with him. He feels himself go harder inside of Jaskier now, his balls aching as he edges closer to his release.
He meets Jaskier’s eyes and says, “Yes.”
Eyes fluttering shut, Jaskier lets out a long, low groan. Geralt rolls them over and hoists Jaskier’s legs over his shoulders so he can find that perfect angle that makes Jaskier cry Geralt’s name out over and over again.
They bathe together again and when Jaskier makes a half-hearted move towards the door to leave, Geralt stops him.
“Is this the best you’ve had?” Jaskier asks, moving back towards the bed.
Geralt raises an eyebrow.
“I meant between the two of us.”
“Are you competing with yourself ?”
Jaskier rests his hands on his hips and lifts his chin in defiance. “Why, yes I am. I want to be the best of the Jaskiers of all the loops that you’ve had.”
“Fine,” Geralt says charitably. “Yes, you’re the least insufferable of all the Jaskiers that have come before you. Now shut up and come to bed.”
The next evening, Jaskier asks, “When do you suppose you might go back to try to break the spell instead of gambling and drinking and fucking your days away? Not that it’s the worst way to spend your days, mind you.”
“Start of the next loop tomorrow.”
Jaskier makes a humming sound. “I know you’ve done this countless times before with those other Jaskiers, but if you’ll indulge me once more. Take me through the original day just one more time. Don’t leave any details out, I know you.”
The details are agonizing, but he tries harder than he has before.
Geralt is not expecting an odd, pensive look to appear on Jaskier’s face when Geralt tells him about the conversation they had on that first day. “You said you’d been thinking about what pleases you. You wanted us to leave for the coast.”
“I’m guessing we didn’t leave for the coast,” Jaskier says, and it looks like he’s trying to smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
Jaskier frowns at him and searches Geralt’s face. “You’re leaving something out. What is it?”
There’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing he did wrong, so Geralt doesn’t know why he hesitates before saying, “I went to find Yennefer after we talked.”
Jaskier blinks at him for a moment. “Oh, right,” he says. “That does make sense. After all, she's the reason we embarked on the bloody dragon quest in the first place.” He clasps his hands together. “Right then. Let’s get some ale, shall we? We can discuss what strategy you might employ next to end your curse. Some say the booze might dull the mind, but I rather think it’ll sharpen my wits.”
Drinking sounds like a good idea, so Geralt follows Jaskier out of their room and down to the busy tavern below without protest. It’s rowdy tonight, and Geralt recognizes all the arms and shoulders bumping against his, in the absent way you might recognize a road you’d driven through countless times.
Jaskier had asked Geralt why he didn’t bother getting to know anyone. “That’s what I’d do,” he’d said. "Keep things more interesting.”
Geralt had sighed and taken a long sip of his ale. “How would that keep things more interesting?”
“Think of all the bizarre things you could say to people! The things you could learn! This time loop curse is wasted on you.” Jaskier had shaken his head, amused and chastising all at once.
Tonight, though, Jaskier is muted. He doesn’t flirt with Geralt or the barmaid, doesn’t try to egg Geralt on to do something outrageous. After a few subdued drinks, he disappears. At first, Geralt assumes he’s just gone for a piss, but after awhile pinpricks of worry creep down his spine, and he goes in search of Jaskier. He can still catch a whiff of Jaskier’s lavender oil in the air, and Geralt follows the trail.
The path from the tavern snakes past the forge and herbalists' shops, past clusters of houses and farmland. Finally, Geralt finds Jaskier sitting on a small hill at the edge of town, looking up at the sky. What troubles Geralt most is that Jaskier’s lute is by his side instead of in his hands.
Before Geralt can speak, Jaskier turns to look at him, and there’s something sharp in his eyes that silences Geralt.
In the darkness, Geralt has no trouble seeing the steely set to Jaskier’s jaw, the lift of his chin.
“I think I ought to tell you that I’m in love with you,” Jaskier says, and though Geralt has been trained to speed up and slow down the beating of his heart, he finds it racing away from him beyond control. “It doesn’t matter to me if part of you, even most of you, still loves Yennefer, but I need you to know that my hat’s in the ring for your heart. I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t tell you that my sun rises and sets with you.”
Geralt doesn’t know how to respond. His heart continues to race, but otherwise, his body is perfectly still. He takes in a deep breath of the cool night air. “Jaskier,” he says finally, “come back to the inn.”
“Go back without me.” Jaskier’s voice is gentle but firm. “Don’t worry, I’ll be there later.”
It’s late when Jaskier finally returns. “I won’t remember this tomorrow,” Jaskier says. “You can just pretend you don’t either.” He gathers his things and takes them to the second room he’s rented for the night.
Jaskier’s words never leave Geralt’s ears. He reels each time they ring in his head. For the next ten loops, he stops sleeping with Jaskier. It feels like the first time they made their way across the dangerous mountain terrain, the way it felt when he watched Borch plummet to the unseen earth below. Geralt edges around Jaskier, unsure of what to say or do with this information that Jaskier has no idea he’d even shared.
It’s torture, the way things shift back to how they were before. Not being able to touch Jaskier when he knows he could, when all he has to do is ask, is unbearable. No matter what Geralt chooses to do, watching Jaskier chasing after Téa and Véa or sleeping with the pretty barmaid at the tavern in town fills Geralt with frustrated longing.
He misses the tender looks that Jaskier gave him, the ones that belonged to Geralt alone.
Geralt breaks on loop one hundred and ten.
“You and I--” he says, gripping Jaskier’s arm. “Something started between us during this.”
And when Jaskier’s eyes go wide and bright and joyful, Geralt kisses him fiercely.
And even later when Jaskier asks again if this is the best it’s been for them, Geralt says yes, because it’s the truth every time.
On loop one-hundred and eleven, Yennefer catches them in the forest outside of camp.
Geralt may have had many, many talks with her over the course of this curse, but of course, she remembers none of them. He balks at the idea of having this particular conversation. Leaving it alone is tempting, but Jaskier insists that every decision counts, that Geralt should at least try to do the right thing in case today is the day the curse breaks. It’s unlikely, but he agrees.
He finds Yennefer in her tent, furiously mixing something in a glass canister.
“If you’re trying to curse me, I have bad news for you. Someone else has gotten there first.”
She looks up sharply, and after all manner of name-calling, she relaxes enough to hear him out. Yennefer responds best to his summaries of previous loops which emphasize how truly magnificent she is while putting any blame regarding romantic failure on his own ineptitude. He also makes a point to tell her how important she is to him.
“You’re fucking the bard,” she says. “How many loops did that take?”
“Idiot.” She snorts. “I knew from the moment I met you that there was something between you two,” Yennefer says. “And he was always glaring at me when he thought I wasn’t looking.”
“Hm.” Geralt puts a hand on her arm. “I did try with us.”
“That was always the problem, wasn’t it, Geralt? We’ve both been trying. Perhaps too hard.”
Geralt thinks of the easy warmth with Jaskier, the way the warmth builds into bursts of flame that threaten to engulf him completely, and then recede back. With Yennefer it is always icy cold to burning hot, there is no in-between.
He’s tempted to leave the conversation here, but there’s a rightness to it. And if this is part of what it takes to break the curse, he might as well get the whole thing right.
“There’s something else I should tell you,” he says. “About the djinn and my wish.”
“I wanted you,” Geralt admits to Jaskier. “When we first met.” They’re lying in bed together, well-fed, tipsy, and fucked-out. Moments like these, Geralt wouldn’t mind reliving over and over. He only wishes Jaskier would remember each time the way he does. It’s getting harder to live in those moments before he knows the things that Geralt knows.
“Thought you couldn’t stand me,” Jaskier replies, a teasing lilt in his voice.
Geralt smiles up at the ceiling. “Still can’t. Still want you.”
“You can’t say things like that to me,” Jaskier says, but he doesn’t sound like he means it. “You wanted me,” he repeats, surprise lacing his words.
“You were so young when we met and then you were only ever chasing women, so I thought it best to leave it alone.”
Jaskier lets out a long sigh. “Geralt, never let me tell you that you’re the only idiot of the two of us.” He slides out of bed--still naked, and Geralt takes advantage of the moment to admire Jaskier’s ass--and retrieves his lute. Jaskier lets out a long breath of air. “There’s something I’ve been working on that I want to play for you.”
“Hm.” Geralt isn’t sure what to expect. In each loop, Jaskier jokes about the music he’ll make about Geralt’s mouth, his arms, his chest, his cock. He braces himself for something along those lines.
Instead, the song Jaskier plays is quiet, serious. Aching and longing. It splits Geralt open and leaves him raw. Before the dragon hunt, Jaskier had mentioned working on a new ballad, but Geralt had only heard tiny bits and pieces of it. Quiet and serious. He realizes this is probably the same one.
Before, he never would have thought too much about the lyrics to Jaskier’s song, but now… “Is that about--”
Geralt doesn’t know what to say. The melodic sound of Jaskier’s voice still ringing in his head, the words still cutting into him.
But the story is this / She’ll destroy with her sweet kiss.
Maybe that’s the story or at least part of it. Maybe it doesn’t have to be.
“I said some awful things to you. Before the curse,” Geralt confesses after he’s fucked Jaskier against a tree in a semi-private part of the woods near town (he may have enjoyed fucking Jaskier in nature more than expected, and he might have enjoyed the risk of being caught even more).
His forehead is pressed against Jaskier’s neck; he’s breathing in the sharp, hot smell of his arousal and their shared pleasure. His hands are still around Jaskier’s waist. Fuck if he knows why he’s finally blurted those words out now.
Jaskier stills beneath his hands. “How many loops has this been?”
“Over a hundred.”
“And is this the first time you’re telling me about these awful things?”
Jaskier turns around to look at Geralt.
“Communication, Geralt. The lesson here is clearly communication!” Jaskier’s eyes widen in exasperation. “Your emotional constipation manages to reach new heights after decades of knowing one another. And please don’t explain to me again how the passage of time feels different for witchers and sorcerers than us mere mortals.”
Geralt makes himself repeat the fight with Yen, Borch’s words, Geralt’s anger and what he’d said to Jaskier. If life could give me one blessing.
They’re still standing together against the tree, half-dressed and half-touching. The words fall between them, a low thrum of shame blossoming in Geralt’s chest.
“Do you still feel that way?” Jaskier asks, his voice is steady, but Geralt can smell a faint trace of fear.
Geralt closes his eyes briefly. His hands, still on Jaskier’s hips, tighten their grasp. “Not at all. Never really did.”
“We all say things we don’t mean sometimes. In the heat of the moment. You needn’t let it torture you so, Geralt.”
“I didn’t say it was torturing me,” he mutters.
“You felt the need to blurt it out after we’d just had very very nice forest sex and ruin the moment.” Geralt can’t argue with that. “Anyway, if you think that’s the source of the loop, you can let it go. I don’t even remember you saying that and if I did I’d forgive you. There isn’t much I couldn’t forgive you for after being fucked like that.”
He kisses Jaskier softly, and while his forgiveness is comforting, something still feels wrong. Not enough. Geralt knows before the loop is even over that it will not be the last, but he feels as though he’s on the precipice, that he can see a lighthouse in the distance though he’s still out at sea.
Before the final night of the one-hundred and twentieth loop, Geralt retraces his steps backward. All the ways Jaskier had tried or succeeded to confess his feelings. The things Geralt had said or never succeeded in saying back.
The realization creeps up slowly, coming to stand beside him without making a single sound: waking up without Jaskier in his arms is torture. He wants to live a brand new day with Jaskier, to build memories together for better or worse.
Geralt wants to be the person Jaskier deserves.
The morning of the one-hundred and twenty-first loop, Geralt decides that today he’s going to get things absolutely, breathtakingly right. Determination he’d not even felt during the early loops overtakes him from the moment his eyes snap open on the dawn of the dragon rescue.
Before Jaskier can finish saying his usual, “Rise and shine, Geralt. What a beautiful day to slay a dragon,” he yanks Jaskier into his room, tells him about the loop, fucks him silly and proceeds to do so again and again on their way up the mountain. This time, when the sound of the bugles rings out into the air, it feels like a promise instead of a threat.
He saves the hirikka from Sir Eyck and even makes one final, generous go at saving the sack of shit Sir Eyck himself. The moron manages to trip over his own feet and hit his head against an unfortunately placed rock. Fuck it, Geralt thinks, you can’t win them all.
Geralt has the best version of all his talks with Yennefer.
He tells her about Jaskier, about the Child Surprise, about the wish he’d made to the djinn, about how in all the loops he’s tried, things never quite feel right between them.
“I may regret the...phrasing of my wish. But I’m glad to have you in my life, Yennefer of Vengerberg,” he tells her. “You will always be important to me.”
“Well, your wish tied our fates together, so I doubt this is the last we’ll see of each other,” she mutters, arms crossed, but it looks like she might be trying not to cry. Before he leaves, she says, “You know, someone once asked me to leave with them, and I didn’t when I think perhaps I should have. Don’t make the same mistake as me.”
Together, they save the dragon’s egg and there is no argument after, only a gentle parting of ways.
As the loop draws to its close, when it is just Geralt and Jaskier on the mountain top, this time Geralt moves towards Jaskier whose eyes burn with hope.
“You think you’ve broken your spell?” Jaskier cocks his head to the side, the wind blowing his hair in front of his eyes.
Geralt knows in his bones that this moment is the one, and he’s going to make it count.
“Not quite yet.” Geralt takes a step towards Jaskier and goes still and utterly silent, his eyes wide. Geralt’s had about a year to work himself up to this, there’s no turning back now. “On the first day, you told me that you’d been trying to figure out what pleases you. You asked me if I know what pleases me.”
“Do you?” Jaskier swallows. “Know what pleases you?”
Geralt knows he will never relive this day, this hour, this minute, this moment, ever again so he drinks Jaskier in. The way he squares his jaw and doesn’t look away from Geralt. The way his eyes are blue and beautiful and full of a yearning Geralt had been too afraid to truly see before.
“You are what pleases me,” Geralt says, his voice low and forceful. Fuck if he’s more afraid than he’s ever been and also more certain. “You make otherwise insufferable days bearable. You make me happy. I never want you to forget that again.”
The words have barely wrestled their way out of Geralt when Jaskier is fisting his hands in his shirt and kissing him for all he’s worth. He has never been kissed like this before. Like he is everything in this world that matters. That he belongs so fully to someone’s heart.
This time he makes his way down the mountain slowly, stopping more often than not to kiss Jaskier breathless.
The next morning comes and the one after that.
“How long did you say we were in that loop?” Jaskier asks. He’s lounging on his bedroll, the early morning sun just beginning to kiss his face.
“About a year, give or take.” Geralt continues sharpening his steel sword.
“If you’ll indulge me, Geralt, let me check my understanding. This means I’ve skipped a year, give or take, of you dithering about, trying to determine what you feel for me.”
“Yes. You could say that.”
“And Yennefer of Vengerberg is not going to try to murder me?”
“One can never be sure, but likely no.”
Jaskier stands and picks up his lute. “It’s the most bafflingly incredible thing that’s ever happened. The story here, I mean. I always thought a sex curse of some sort would be fun, but this? This makes for fantastic material.” He starts plucking at a few notes, humming to himself. He looks back up at Geralt. “Yesterday you were indifferent and today you’re in love with me. I mean, it’s mind-bogglingly fantastic.”
A labored sigh escapes him. “That’s not how I’d describe it.”
Geralt sees the moment Jaskier hears his words, the doubt that flickers through his mind.
“I’ve never been indifferent to you,” he says pointedly.
“Ah.” Jaskier pauses his ministrations on his lute. “Thank you for the clarification.” He thinks for a moment, chewing at his lower lip. “This will all take some getting used to for me since I’m afraid you have an advantage.”
“Some might argue that I needed to play with a handicap,” Geralt says wryly. He sheaths his sword and reaches out a hand. “Put that down and come here. I’ll show you some more things I learned over the past year.”
With Jaskier, he feels afraid, slipping off that ship in a storm again. He thinks, though, that he doesn’t want anyone to yank him back to safety this time. That he’d happily go crashing down into the restless waves below.