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And how we come to be here

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They don’t always sleep under the stars. Sometimes they actually rent a room at an inn, and the most surprising thing is, nobody throws rotting food or stones at Geralt anymore. Nobody calls him names, nobody even brandishes axes in his general direction – which gets boring after a while, but it’s also a little more practical than having to deal with people’s shit all the time.

On a lucky day, he and Jaskier are offered a free round of booze. On an even luckier day, they are completely and entirely ignored, and Geralt gets to savor the blissful illusion of anonymity once more. Ah, humans and their indifference. A joy without comparison.

 

 


 

 

Women approach him. Not that they didn’t approach him before, no – every village, town, city has got its own adventurous girl, the one who has heard and wants to check for herself whether or not the witcher is really all they say he is.

You can usually split them into three categories: the rebellious girl with something to prove – predictable backstory, but god if they’re not the ones with the most fire in bed; the ruthless rogue who won’t hesitate to put a knife to his throat the minute their arrangement loses its convenience; and the experienced lady who will woo him first and want payment in coin later. Geralt’s only ever met a woman who comprised all three types once in his life, and she was terrifying.

No, the thing is, now women approach him to tell him of his bard. And his bard’s prowess, apparently, of which he could have doubted before, but Jaskier doesn’t possess the money or the persuasive skills to convince this many ladies to lie for him.

In a northern village, the baker’s wife catches Geralt outside his room and thanks him, of all things, “For passing through our village with your friend”, wink wink.

Twenty miles east of that, at the Saucy Wyvern Inn, a girl stands very purposefully next to him at the bar and buys him an ale. The place is crowded, sweat glistens on people’s brows as they sing and stomp their feet along to Jaskier’s rhythm.

“Those fingers can play more than a lute,” the girl tells Geralt, tossing a dreamy glance in the bard’s direction. “And he’s got a very skilled tongue, too, fit for many kinds of music,” she giggles.

Her cheeks are flushed red from cheap beer and heat, and her eyes are glossy, sparkling with mischief and bad life choices. The first two buttons on her blouse are undone.

“I shall miss him when he’s gone,” she sighs.

He can smell Jaskier on her.

 

 


 

 

He knows Jaskier’s scent.

It’s silly, how it comes as a surprise. Geralt hadn’t even realized it.

With new smells, he usually stores them away until they’re useful again; so that they lie at the back of his mind, dormant, but never truly forgotten. Jaskier– he picked that up like an afterthought, without noticing. He learned Jaskier’s scent like one learns the scent of fresh bread, of wildflowers, of the woods after a storm. Like a witcher learns the scent of blood and burnt flesh and fear.

This thing that is Jaskier, the, the faint touch of spice; the smell of sundried linen and the tang of lemon oil, the one Jaskier will rub on his lute to keep it nice and polished – Geralt realizes he’d taken it for granted, because. Because it’s always there, in the background, simple and obvious like a fact of life.

He even smells it on himself, once. He’s sniffing at his own arms, his shirt, the leather of his armor for hints of Jaskier, just to make sure. And oh, he catches a whiff of it – a drop of flowery perfume beneath the distinct aromas of horse, sweat and dirt.

He makes a point of keeping their clothes separate from then on: Jaskier’s in one bag, his own in another. It’s easy; they don’t carry that much on them anyway. But it’s no use. When night falls and Jaskier curls up on a bed of dry leaves and moss, his breath close enough to tickle Geralt’s shoulder, Geralt can smell himself on the bard’s skin.

Some unsettling feeling stirs in his stomach, and he rolls onto his side, facing away from Jaskier’s sprawled body. He doesn’t get much sleep that night.

 

 


 

 

He doesn’t cause children to scuttle away in fear anymore. Now, when he hits another village, his fame precedes him.

Actually, Jaskier precedes him – struts into town, making a fuss like he’s announcing the Queen back from the war, and sings Geralt’s praises to anyone willing to hear.

Which means, now children swarm around him like curious honeybees instead, their hopeful little faces staring up at him with a mix of awe and lovestruck reverence.

They trail after him like annoying ducklings, and their mothers smile warmly up at him where they’re supposed to shriek in horror and drag their spawn away from the white-haired boogeyman; and all this because Jaskier ruined his carefully constructed reputation.

He used to be a ghost, a wandering shadow, a monster just a little less monstrous than the other, scarier ones – somebody with dignity, for fuck’s sake. Now he’s just the grumpy guy with an extraordinarily friendly puppy dog to mitigate his aura of Disgruntled Man who Hasn’t Had a Beer in Two Weeks. Or he’s the big grumpy dog attached to Jaskier’s leash, he’s not sure how this particular scenario works nowadays.

Either way, he doesn’t like it.

 

 


 

 

Roach is a traitor. More or less. Geralt doesn’t really blame her; she’s a good horse, strong, loyal, resilient, stubborn sometimes. She used to be a wary creature, shy, nervous around strangers.

No, Geralt blames Jaskier. Jaskier, who sneaks her crispy apples and sugar cubes when he thinks Geralt isn’t looking, and believes himself so fucking clever.

Oh, Jaskier’s filthy corruption spreads through them like a particularly annoying poison. He’s a mushroom, Geralt muses, sprouting in the most unlikely of places, fooling you into thinking it a harmless little parasite. And then it seeps into the walls, and before you know it, mold has taken over the entire house.

It must be the music, Geralt thinks. Every time Jaskier strums his lute, Roach’s ears will twitch curiously towards the sound, and she’ll drift inevitably closer. She likes the soft ones best – the quiet melodies Jaskier will murmur at night, around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, epic ballads turned sweet lullabies on his tongue. So it must be the music.

Except, Roach follows Jaskier around like a playful puppy most of the time, stretching her powerful neck out for Jaskier’s hands when the bard indulges her with a few pets, cooing all over the massive horse like girls do with tiny babies.

Maybe it’s not the music, then. Maybe it’s just Jaskier’s voice. Roach has been exposed to enough silence, after all; it’s fitting that she would be drawn to Jaskier’s cheerful noise.

One morning, Geralt leaves her grazing peacefully in the meadow, and comes back to find Roach lipping at Jaskier’s cheek and shoulder, nudging him to catch his attention while Jaskier’s busy scribbling on a piece of parchment.

“Yes. Yes I know,” Jaskier says absently, one hand on Roach’s nose to fend off the tender assault. “No, you’re not getting any more treats until I’m done with this. You’re already spoiled enough as it is.”

Roach chuffs at him, her long tail whipping about irritably. Jaskier’s hand comes up then, petting the underside of the horse’s head. Another place, another time, Roach would have bitten his fingers off just for trying, but now she settles and leans into the touch like a kitten.

“Patience, patience my friend. There now, who’s a good war machine? Uh? Who’s a good war machine? You are, yes, that’s right, that’s right, you are.”

Geralt heaves a long-suffering sigh, and wanders off to fill their leather flasks with fresh water. If this is how low they’ve fallen, he might as well pretend he didn’t see.

 

 


 

 

The world is so much louder now that Jaskier is around.

In his long life, Geralt has become intimately acquainted with the noise a cruel crowd can make; how they’ll yell and swear and spit, writhing like snakes, shaking their forks and sticks about. He just had no idea a single person could make such a ruckus.

The best part is, Jaskier always makes sure to start bright and early.

“So. Breakfast, how about some breakfast, eh? Something nice and hot... or cold and somewhat stale, but that’s life, isn’t it. Ah, to have a frying pan and some good old sausage. Aren’t you going to eat, Geralt? I never see you eat. Do you need food at all? You look like you’d need twice as much as the average man. Are you shy? Aw, perhaps you’re a messy eater. You don’t have to worry, though, I won’t judge you.”

Geralt suffers the first onslaught of the day in silence, never bothering to stop the everlasting flow of words that comes from the bard. Jaskier doesn’t need a second party anyway, he entertains himself well enough like this. He manufactures perfectly balanced conversations on his own, and when inspiration strikes, he makes up the most fascinating backstories for Geralt. Sometimes his versions clash with each other, but that’s the beauty of improvisation.

“You should be a playwright,” Geralt tells him one evening, as Jaskier monologues away with his lute in his lap.

Jaskier’s entire attitude shifts, a huge grin splitting his face from ear to ear.

“Really? Why, I always thought–”

“You’ve got enough bullshit in you for it.”

Jaskier’s mouth snaps shut right away. His eyes go wide with indignation.

“Oh– oh, thank you very much, Mr. Smartman, my lord Clever Guy, supreme master of jokes. That’ll teach me. See if I ever talk to you again.”

He spends the next twenty minutes grumbling around a strip of dried meat, shooting glares at Geralt and then looking very deliberately away whenever Geralt glances in his direction. Geralt is delighted. It looks like he has finally made a connection.

 

 


 

 

Annoying Jaskier becomes his favorite pastime.

There’s an unexpected pleasure in getting Jaskier all worked up, outraged and fumbling with his words because how dare you, Geralt.

He never stays mad for too long, though, except for when Geralt makes fun of his fashion choices – then he is truly offended. Apparently, the phrase dressed-up penguin must strike some nerve, because Jaskier stands there in the middle of the woods, arms crossed and disappointment pouring off him in waves, like he’s never been so brutally insulted before.

“Well then. You’ll address me again when you’ve learned to be more civil.”

He stomps away and doesn’t come back to their camp until nightfall. Geralt suspects that it’s more because Jaskier got lost wandering about on his own, rather than because he was being too stubborn to make his way back; but he knows not to push too far for once, so he doesn’t say anything.

It doesn’t stop him from buying a new frilly suit in the next town they pass through, though. Fine burgundy brocade and silver buttons, lush in his hands like few other things he’s touched in his life. He slips it in Jaskier’s pack when the bard is sleeping, balling it up with the rest as if it were there from the start.

Jaskier only notices it two days later. He stands still, coat in his hands and a furrow in his brow, and doesn’t say a thing for a long, long minute. Then: “This... looks expensive.”

Geralt grunts, popping a slice of apple in his mouth. “I wouldn’t know.”

Jaskier doesn’t comment, but Geralt doesn’t miss that tiny, barely disguised smile on his face as the bard puts his new clothes on.

It’s only fair, after all. He’s being tossed a lot more coins lately anyway – he could spare a few for a... for a friend.

 

 


 

 

It’s not that he cares about Jaskier. It’s just that Jaskier has the same self-preservation instincts as a toddler, and just like a toddler, he needs constant supervision, lest he ruins Geralt’s business for good.

He’s just so... impractical. Inconvenient. He keeps twisting his ankles trekking in those fancy boots of his, and then Geralt has to hoist him up and let him hitch a ride on Roach, and Roach cannot possibly be happy about it, now can she.

Jaskier doesn’t understand the concept of stealth – actually, the closer they get to a monster’s lair, the more he flaunts himself about. Sometimes Geralt can’t tell if it’s supposed to be some kind of reverse strategy, or if Jaskier is just that dumb.

Honestly, it’s a miracle the idiot hasn’t gotten himself kidnapped or something yet.

 

 


 

 

He should have known better.

“Geralt, please, please help me.”

“Hmm.”

It’s complicated. Questing Beasts are wild things, known for their deadly screech and impenetrable skin; but they’re also known as very considerate, extremely affectionate creatures, when they find the right mate. And judging by the stink and the lack of a nest in the cavern, this one was very lonely as well. Until she found a new companion, that is.

“Geralt. Geralt, I’m begging you.”

Jaskier’s got his big, wide, pleading eyes set on him, and he’s squealing with growing alarm. The beast – poor thing, she has no idea what sort of partner she just brought home – is all but curled around the bard, one massive paw wrapped around his torso while she licks at his hair in a tender, thorough grooming.

Jaskier stiffens more and more with every generous lap of her tongue, sweating profusely, and Geralt thinks to himself, Good. The one time he’s not looking, the dumbass just has to go and get himself claimed by the most possessive lady in town. Serves him right.

“Geralt, please. Do something.”

He has half a mind to let Jaskier deal with the beast’s amorous attentions on his own, but then again, Geralt still has a heart. A very slow, wizened, half-charred heart, but a heart nonetheless.

 

 


 

 

He feels bad for the creature. He doesn’t enjoy having to choke her to death, and when he has to toss Jaskier over his shoulder to carry him back to Roach – because the idiot twisted his ankle again, trying to outrun his furry would-be wife – he does so with as little care as possible.

He dumps Jaskier gruffly on a tree stump and glares at him with all the righteous anger he can muster.

“Of all the people in this world,” he hisses. “You. It had to be you.”

Jaskier gasps in complete outrage, crossing his arms over his chest. He would be striking his dramatic arms-akimbo pose of Disattended Expectations if he could, but he’s told Geralt before that it doesn’t have the same effect when he’s sitting down.

“Well, where were you while I was being chased after by that– that–”

That’s when Geralt throws the sack at him, accidentally hitting Jaskier square in the face with it. Of course, that simply makes Jaskier go from distressed to positively offended.

“Oh, oh it’s violence now, you brute–”

Open the damn thing.

Jaskier stares blankly at him for a moment, before the order sinks in. When he does pull the bag open, warily, as if he expected to see a snake jump out of it, his jaw goes slack with shock. He gapes, uncertain, holding the new pair of boots in his hands like they’re a riddle he cannot solve.

“Oh... Why, Geralt, I never...”

Geralt just grunts, turning away to secure his bedroll to Roach’s saddle.

“Maybe you’ll stop tripping over yourself like some clueless deer, now.”

He can tell from Jaskier’s deep intake of breath that this is going to be a long, long conversation.

“I do not trip over myself–”

 

 


 

 

Geralt starts watching.

No. No, that’s not quite right.

Geralt starts noticing.

It’s details, really. Soft brown hair mussed by the breeze. Long legs and a slim figure. Dark eyelashes fluttering in Jaskier’s sleep.

Sometimes he stares. Sometimes he tugs his cloak about him, breath making ghosts in the chilly night air, and lets himself see. Jaskier’s stark profile against the backdrop of the flames. The play of light and shadow over his face, cutting across his neck in a sharp line, dripping soft and golden into the crinkles of his coat.

Have his ankles always been so thin, Geralt wonders. Have his lips always held this shape, heart-like and supple. Has his neck always looked so smooth – and would it feel warm beneath his fingers, if he were to slip them there, where skin meets cotton and Jaskier’s collar is undone and open.

He thinks of the girl at the tavern, of those fingers can play more than a lute, and spies the truth of it in the way Jaskier caresses his strings, stroking them with delicate purpose, plucking sweet moans and sighs from them.

Jaskier’s tongue darts out to wet his lips, and Geralt has to look away, his amber eyes fixed on the dancing flames.

There’s something there. Something he’s not going to touch.

You don’t reach for the blazing log at the heart of a pyre, if you don’t want your hand burned.

 

 


 

 

Geralt never had anyone to patch up after a fight, is the thing. Anyone who wasn’t himself or Roach, in any case. It’s a whole new experience, and he doesn’t enjoy it one bit.

Actually, he drags Jaskier’s ass back to their crammed little inn room and sits him down on a chair with a thud, and nearly slams his personal first-aid kit on the table in his rage.

He examines the bleeding gash on Jaskier’s arm like it’s a new class of monster he’s never had to fight before, dabbing along the edges to clean up some of the mess as Jaskier squirms and squeals in his seat.

“You’re stupid,” Geralt spits out, pouring warm water on the wound and watching it drip, pink and dirty, back into the bowl.

“I’m not stupid, this was– unfortunate, is what, a clear sign of poor luck, which may have something to do with this whole gig you’ve got going–”

“You’re stupid,” Geralt growls through gritted teeth. “I’ve never met anyone as fucking stupid as you.”

He pokes at the wound too forcefully and Jaskier squawks in pain.

“I was just trying to help you!” The bard protests vehemently. “If it hadn’t been for me–”

“You could have died!”

It comes shooting out like a damn firework, loud and angry, hissing and cracking and booming in all its glory. The silence that follows is deafening.

“You...”

Until something lights up in Jaskier’s eyes, and his jaw drops in quiet, pleased surprise.

“You were worried. About me.” He’s piecing it together like it’s a puzzle, and Geralt has to shift on his chair, the seat suddenly uncomfortable like a bed of spikes. “Oh my god, you were worried about me.”

“No.”

Ah, but it’s too late. Jaskier’s already got a smug grin spreading on his face.

“Oh yes. Yes, you were.”

“I don’t worry, Jaskier,” Geralt hisses at him, “worry is not my thing.”

“It’s okay. I worry about you too, you know.”

The first thing that strikes Geralt is, Jaskier means it. Geralt can read people – he can tell truth from a lie like he can tell day from night. This isn’t some joke; it’s written on Jaskier’s face, in his smile, his relaxed shoulders. He means it. In all of its extraordinary simplicity, he means it.

The second thing that strikes Geralt is, nobody has ever said it to him before. Truly, when he thinks about it, nobody has worried about him in– in–

“Geralt? Are you quite alright?”

He swallows. He’s got two fingers dipped in the salve pot, and it feels cold against his heated skin.

“I’m fine,” he grunts. “But you’re stupid.”

 

 


 

 

It keeps nagging him. This isn’t good. This has implications. Geralt doesn’t want implications. He doesn’t want somebody to worry about him, to grow fond of him, to build expectations about him.

He doesn’t want anybody to disappoint when he can’t stay – anybody who will be left to mourn him when some beast or other inevitably tears him apart.

But Jaskier stays. Jaskier is persistent.

When Geralt tries to lose him, shake him off his back, Jaskier pretends he doesn’t see it. When Geralt leaves him behind on purpose, Jaskier finds him again – he just pops out of the bushes, ruffled and winded, and sits down for lunch with him.

Jaskier is–

Jaskier worries about him.

Jaskier looks after him, in the smallest, simplest, most pathetic ways.

He makes sure Geralt eats. He checks and parses each of his wounds, stitching them up when he has to, and gives each one of them a story, a name even, a place in his music. He turns Geralt’s scars into the marks of a hero, the hard-earned badges of a warrior. He rubs the ache out of Geralt’s muscles, warm, oil-slicked hands and the scent of lavender rising between them.

When the day has been tough – when Geralt needs quiet – he knows. He understands. He sits with Geralt silently, accompanied by the rhythmic sound of Geralt sharpening his sword, and wipes his lute down, string by string, inch by inch, letting time flow quietly between them. He even, on occasion, sends ladies his way.

And Geralt grows more distant every time, because– because.

 

It’s when Jaskier is kind that he pushes him away the hardest.

When there isn’t Jaskier’s obnoxious noise, his clumsy jokes, his chatter, his nonsense to shield Geralt from this. From the rare, wordless moments when he lets himself think, Maybe. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt.

It’s then that he shuts Jaskier out, and tries and tries and tries to drive him away. But no matter how hard he tries to escape him, Jaskier is always there, with his caring hands and his nimble fingers, and his eyes that see more than he lets on.

“Does it really bother you so much? That I care about you?” He asks one night, when they’re alone and the sky is bright with stars, and the world feels so, so much larger and infinite than it did in the morning.

Why give him this, Geralt wants to ask Destiny. Why now, when it’s all going to disappear anyway.

“I don’t want you to care about me,” he says, his jaw set in a hard line.

Jaskier shakes his head fondly, and for the first time in decades, Geralt feels like a foolish child – the one who always needs everything explained to him.

“Oh, Geralt. It’s too late for that.”

 

 


 

 

Geralt doesn’t want Jaskier, is what he swears to himself. He wants no part of him.

He doesn’t want the Jaskier who mingles with the crowd and still, somehow, manages to stands out. The one who dances on light feet, his eyes bright, his whole body brimming with more life than his skin can contain – more life than Geralt feels in the empty shell of his heart.

He doesn’t want the Jaskier who will share stories of his conquests without prompting, yet never talks about his past. The man who never mentions his family, if he ever had one. The boy who will sit by him and say very, very quietly, I miss the ocean, or, I don’t remember the color of my mother’s eyes anymore. Geralt thinks– he never says so, but he thinks they must have been blue, just like Jaskier’s. Maybe with the same flecks of gray, and the same softness to them. The same defiance in the face of evil things like Geralt.

He doesn’t want the Jaskier who lazes about in his ruffled shirtsleeves, and nudges his bare feet into Geralt’s thigh to catch his attention – because he needs inspiration and apparently, nothing gets his creativity going better than rambling to an unwilling listener.

He doesn’t want the Jaskier who will warm scented oils between his palms before setting them on Geralt’s skin. The man who’s traced every inch of Geralt’s body, tender like a lover, and learned how to unravel him with his touch alone.

The man who chitchats with his scars like they’re old friends, rather than the tangible sign of Geralt’s mistakes.

Geralt hates that he expects it, now. That if he feels fingertips brush over the slash across his shoulder blade, then he’ll be listening for a, “Why, Frances my dear, you look quite pale today”. That if anyone’s stroking their thumb over the keloid on his left thigh, then they should also bother to say, “My, my, Rolanda, I don’t like this brazen look on you”.

He doesn’t want the Jaskier who will ride behind him, when they have to push on through the night, and promise to stay awake just to doze off with his head against Geralt’s shoulder. Geralt has to tug Jaskier’s arm around his waist then, and hold it securely against him, just to keep the idiot from slipping off the saddle and split his skull open on a rock.

It’s no matter that Jaskier has become so familiar to him. That he knows all the little twitches and snuffles Jaskier makes in his sleep. That he’d know Jaskier in the dark just by the sound of his snoring. That now the quiet days, the ones when Jaskier isn’t around to fill up the hours with his prattle, are the ones Geralt dreads the most.

Geralt doesn’t want Jaskier. How could he? After all, it’s an entirely human emotion, to want something you cannot have. And Geralt isn’t a human anymore.

But the most important part is, Jaskier doesn’t want him – and isn’t that just perfect.

 

 


 

 

Something shifts after Cintra.

He’s so mad at Jaskier, at first. It’s easy to blame him for everything, for dragging Geralt to Calanthe’s court in the first place, but Geralt knows, deep down, that this whole mess is of his own doing, as well. Still, he avoids the bard, doesn’t even look at him for days, won’t let him come close.

“Talk to me, Geralt,” Jaskier asks him softly, time and again, but Geralt doesn’t.

He doesn’t sleep, he hardly eats; his thoughts running in circles around the same thing, over and over.

“You’ll let it drive you insane, you stubborn ass,” Jaskier warns him, but again, Geralt doesn’t listen.

Until eventually, he has to. Until Jaskier has him with his back against a tree, and though Geralt will never tell him that he let himself be trapped there, he takes in Jaskier’s determined face and the pressure of his hands against his shoulders, and he knows, he needs this.

“You’re thinking too much,” Jaskier says.

Geralt watches him sink slowly, gracefully to his knees, mindless of the dirt, of the grass staining his breeches. Jaskier’s fingertips skim over the laces at his crotch, and Geralt feels them, the faint tickle of them, right under his skin.

“Will you let me?”

The way Jaskier’s lips purse. The way his eyelashes shiver and his eyes gaze up at him, dark and intense and all for Geralt. Geralt could make himself give in.

Is this how Jaskier woos his ladies? Or is this just him trying to look after Geralt, again. Geralt’s not sure he wants that.

“What purpose would it serve?” He rumbles.

Something softens in Jaskier’s eyes – something Geralt cannot put a name to. “Does it really need a purpose?”

He makes it sound so simple. Jaskier makes everything sound simple.

Even as he pulls Geralt’s breeches down around his hips, and nuzzles the patch of silver curls at the base of Geralt’s cock. Even as he gets acquainted with Geralt’s most intimate skin, the texture of him, the taste of him, with fingers and lips and a sleek, wicked tongue.

When Jaskier swallows him up and moans sweetly around him, Geralt’s blood is lit on fire. And when Jaskier pulls off to beg him, roughly, to be touched, Please, Geralt, that’s it, he knows he has lost.

He curls thick fingers at the nape of Jaskier’s neck and, with a trembling hand, he feeds himself into Jaskier’s waiting mouth. He rocks inside, pulls out again; finds his rhythm against the flat of Jaskier’s tongue, and it’s hot, and it’s tight, and it’s the easiest thing he’s ever done.

The orgasm catches him off guard, and he screws his eyes shut while Jaskier milks him dry, his breath punched out of him.

After, he drags Jaskier to his feet and pushes him back against the tree. Jaskier goes pliantly, holding dizzily onto Geralt’s arms to keep himself upright. Geralt slips a hand down the front of his pants without further ceremony, and groans, low and thick in his throat when he finds Jaskier already wet, painfully hard between his fingers.

It doesn’t take long for him to finish, spilling hotly in the tight clutch of Geralt’s fist; Geralt lets him shudder in his arms, Jaskier’s forehead pressed against his chest while the bard catches his breath, and even that– even that feels right.

He lets Jaskier lie closer to him that night; the entire span of Geralt’s hand still between them, so they’re not really touching. They settle on their backs, watching the stars change in the sky and the smoke from their campfire curl and fade into the darkness.

Jaskier is quiet for a long time; so much so, Geralt nearly wonders if he didn’t just break something between them, the very thing he’d been trying to preserve.

Of course, he’s wrong.

“So. You’re a father now.”

Geralt would smack him, if he didn’t feel so utterly spent.

“Jaskier.”

“Or would you say a step-father? I mean, it’s not like you’ll have to actually raise this child, so you know. Perhaps you’re more of an uncle? Though I guess father has more of a responsibility to it–”

“Stop saying that word.”

“What, father?”

Jaskier.”

“Sorry, sorry, my bad.”

Blessed silence falls upon them, and Geralt grunts, finally appeased. The fire crackles nicely: the breeze stirs softly through the woods; the night is perfectly, wonderfully peaceful, and even he begins to feel that deep, natural pull towards sleep at last.

“So, uncle then. Cool uncle Geralt.”

“For fuck’s sake, Jaskier.”

 

 


 

 

Days pass. Nothing seems to change, except for those little things Geralt decides to turn a blind eye to.

Their bedrolls start drifting closer. More and more, he wakes up in the middle of the night to find Jaskier plastered to his back; his face tucked between Geralt’s shoulder blades like he belongs there. Sometimes he wraps his arm around Geralt’s waist, or flings his leg over Geralt’s hip in his sleep; Geralt heaves a long-suffering sigh at the additional, possessive weight around him, but he never tries to shake Jaskier off.

There are moments where he catches himself looking – busy nights at taverns, cold lunchtime’s out there in the wild. Always, always, he sets his eyes on Jaskier to find him already looking back; long, breathless glances that could mean anything, or just the one thing after all. Geralt wonders if this is new, or if he’s only just catching up now.

 

 


 

 

It’s two weeks before it happens again.

Dinner has been an unusual feast; they roasted a hare over the campfire, shared fresh bread they got in the latest village, and even sweet rolls after, sticky with butter and sugar. Geralt still has the taste of cinnamon on his tongue when he sits on the fallen tree trunk, hands outstretched towards the fire in an unconscious gesture.

He doesn’t really pay attention when Jaskier stands up – a quick trip to the bushes, Geralt wagers – but then Jaskier’s standing before him.

He barely registers the hands resting on his shoulders for support; then, Jaskier is climbing in his lap, claiming a seat on Geralt’s thighs with such ease, such confidence, it’s like he’s done it a thousand times before.

Geralt takes his weight without a word, though his eyes are watching Jaskier closely, questioningly.

The night is warm, pleasant; the weather shifting carefully towards summer. There’s a faint sheen of sweat over Jaskier’s brow, a drop nestling in the hollow of his throat; his neck exposed, his coat hanging open.

Jaskier doesn’t speak. He brings one of Geralt’s hands to his mouth and wraps his lips around the tip of his first finger, licking the buttery stickiness off of it. Geralt would close his eyes, just to steel himself against this– this whole thing, but he finds he cannot. He can’t stop looking. Everything seems magnified before his eyes. The pink flicker of Jaskier’s tongue. The soft furl of his lips around him. The hint of chest hair peeking from the vee of his unlaced collar.

Jaskier’s hips roll sensuously against his own, back and forth like waves on the shore, pressing the growing bulge in his pants against Geralt’s stomach, and Geralt barely restrains himself from tossing the bard over his shoulder and carrying him off to the nearest cave. He grits his teeth instead, and grabs Jaskier’s hips with both hands to still them.

“Careful, Jaskier,” he growls warningly, even as his own hardness is nudging the inside of Jaskier’s thigh. “I’m not one of your girls.”

Jaskier wets his lips, curling them into a smug grin as his eyes search Geralt’s. His hands stroke down over Geralt’s chest, tugging absently at the necklace resting there.

“You think I’ve never been fucked before,” he says, and it’s not a question, it’s a statement. Geralt’s mind reels. No, he’s not that naive; he’s smelled other people – other men – on Jaskier many times, and every time he did, his guts twisted bitterly inside him. But hearing Jaskier say the words, so openly, so brazenly, it makes fire course through his veins.

Desire, jealousy, the need to prove himself – he doesn’t stop to consider what makes him move. In one sharp, smooth motion, he shoots to his feet, lifting Jaskier up with him. Jaskier clings to him with a surprised gasp, both arms and legs tightening around Geralt instinctively.

Geralt doesn’t waste one more second. He carries Jaskier to his bedroll and spreads him out right there, kneeling down between the bard’s legs. Jaskier lets his head drop back with a delighted sigh, watching Geralt from beneath his eyelashes. Geralt can hear the steady thrumming of his human heart, beating with anticipation.

He tugs Jaskier’s shoes off, then peels off his silly turquoise breeches, dropping them carelessly to the ground. The sight unraveling before him makes his mouth water despite his best intentions.

He runs his rough hands over the supple, creamy flesh of Jaskier’s thighs, stirring up the coarse fuzz covering them, squeezing them to draw a pleased moan from Jaskier’s mouth. His cock is jutting out between his legs, hard and proud, pretty as anything. Geralt hums appreciatively, dipping his hand lower, deeper, to brush his fingers over Jaskier’s entrance – and he has to stop at the slickness he feels there.

Oil, sweetly scented and slippery, warmed by Jaskier’s most hidden skin. A hot thrill rolls down Geralt’s spine at the implication. Jaskier slicking himself up, slow and thorough, his mind already on his moment, Geralt’s name already on his lips. He holds the picture there, in his mind – Jaskier’s pants dropped around his thighs, his fingers thrusting leisurely in and out, working him open just for this, just for Geralt.

A rush of arousal surges through him, pooling in the pit of his belly. Beneath him, Jaskier’s biting his lip, hardly containing a smirk, and Geralt wonders again how he never saw this before.

“What can I say,” Jaskier shrugs, a delicious pink flush coloring his cheeks, “I know what I want.” He licks his lips, deliberate and filthy as you please, and gods if that doesn’t go straight to Geralt’s dick. “And unlike some dumb cavemen around here, I know how to get it.”

Geralt growls. He plucks the vial from one of their discarded bags and pushes his pants down just enough to pull himself out. He pours a generous amount of oil in his palm and with a few quick tugs of his fist, he coats his shaft with it, so careless in his rush he lets the slick drip between his fingers and onto the bedroll.

“I’ll show you caveman,” he grunts, and grabs Jaskier’s legs by the backs of his knees, shoving them up and pinning them in place.

Jaskier squeaks, ready to protest, but then Geralt’s settling between his thighs, lining himself up before pushing inside in one swift, impatient motion. Jaskier’s body swallows him up, easy and pliant, pulling him deeper into its heat. And Geralt goes, his eyes never leaving Jaskier’s face, watching closely even as he lets himself be drawn inside, inch by glorious inch.

Jaskier’s mouth is parted in mute surprise, his eyes screwed shut and his eyebrows pinched in an expression of intense pleasure. Geralt releases a shivering breath, taking a moment to savor the feeling of Jaskier’s body. He feels so hot, so deliciously wet around him, Geralt can hardly think.

He’s torn between lingering there, tucked inside Jaskier while he can, and moving right now, right the fuck now, staking his claim, fucking Jaskier so good he’ll forget his own name.

In the end, it’s his instincts driving him. He pulls halfway out and sinks right back inside, sliding home with a luscious roll of his hips, and it’s so perfect, so tight, he can’t help a groan. He does it again, quicker this time, snapping his hips so hard he knocks the breath out of Jaskier’s lungs.

“You animal,” Jaskier gasps out loud, his trembling hands flying to Geralt’s shoulders to seek purchase there. “I should’ve known– ah–”

“Shut up,” Geralt rasps, arms hooking behind Jaskier’s knees to hold them up higher, spread them wider, “god, just shut up for once.”

“Geralt–”

Something snaps loose inside him. He moves feverishly, rocking inside Jaskier with abandon, filling him up again and again as Jaskier spurs him on, squeezing around Geralt’s cock as if he wanted to keep him there. His fingernails claw at Geralt’s shoulders, pinpricks of sweet pain which Geralt can feel even through his shirt, and he rewards Jaskier with a few, well-aimed thrusts that have him mewling with pleasure.

“Geralt– yes, fuck, Geralt–”

That’s when he slows down to a dirty, grinding rhythm, brushing over the same sensitive spot over and over again, until Jaskier’s crying out in bliss.

When Geralt slips his hand between them to wrap it around Jaskier’s cock, the bard lets out a choked moan. He throws his head back against the pallet, overwhelmed, and Geralt takes his chance to taste the pale arch of Jaskier’s neck, nibbling at it, sucking a red bruise where the collar won’t hide it in the morning.

“Geralt–”

Jaskier’s broken voice seeps under his skin, only making Geralt more desperate to find his release – but he won’t get there alone. With a growl, he picks up his pace once more, shoving himself deeper into Jaskier’s intoxicating heat. His fist works furiously between their bodies, pumping Jaskier’s already dripping cock to bring him to completion.

The moment Jaskier’s orgasm crashes over him, his whole body seizes up in Geralt’s arms, arching up against him. His seed splashes hotly across their skin, his thighs quivering where they’re folded and pressed up against Geralt’s stomach. Geralt follows him over the edge soon enough, coming undone at the tight, slick clench of Jaskier’s walls around him.

A sweet, satisfied groan falls from Jaskier’s mouth, and his limbs go lax beneath Geralt; his hands stroke gently over the bulging muscles of Geralt’s arms, petting all over him as the young man mumbles contentedly.

Geralt watches him – there’s sweat trickling down Jaskier’s neck and staining his white cotton shirt, and his dark hair is damp with it, curling over his temples. He looks well-fucked, thoroughly disheveled, and perfectly happy to be so. And Geralt knows, in that moment, that he’s not finished with him at all.

“Oh my god,” Jaskier sighs, a sated smile stretching lazily on his lips. “That was...”

“Mh,” Geralt agrees, and circles his hips very, very slowly, just to see the look on Jaskier’s face change and his blue eyes widen in shock.

Oh my god,” Jaskier squeaks this time, “you’re still– you’re still hard, oh my fucking– Geralt–”

Geralt hums questioningly, but the sly grin on his face betrays all of his mischief.

He rocks his hips once, sinking in as deep as he can, brushing against that one spot that makes Jaskier see stars.

“Oh– oh– Geralt, you don’t mean to– surely you don’t mean to–”

“I do.”

A shudder ripples through Jaskier’s body, pleasure making his eyelids flutter closed again. His dick twitches against his stomach, and Geralt smirks.

“Hold on tight,” he warns. He doesn’t have to say it twice.

 

 


 

 

He wakes up in the early hours of morning, when pre-dawn paints the world in a soft, periwinkle hue and the embers of their campfire still burn beneath the ashes.

Jaskier is tucked snugly behind him, his naked body fitted against the curves and planes of Geralt’s own limbs under the blanket. One of his arms is wrapped over Geralt’s middle, and Jaskier’s hand is cupped over the mound of Geralt’s pectoral.

He’s stirring, Geralt can tell; Jaskier’s breathing’s growing deeper, his body shifting drowsily while he’s still half-asleep. Geralt lies still in his embrace, and when he feels Jaskier nuzzle the back of his bare shoulder, he holds back a shiver.

“Mmh, I see Frances is well today,” Jaskier mumbles sleepily. His lips brush against Geralt’s skin, dropping feather-light kisses across his scar, all the way to the dip of his spine.

There’s a feeling, growing within Geralt’s chest – one he cannot explain, even to himself. A feeling like when your stomach is pleasantly full, or when it’s a cold winter night and you’re curled up inside, in the comfort of your bed, warm and safe from all harm.

When Jaskier touches him, leaves gentle imprints of his lips on him, something – something nice, something sweet – tingles down Geralt’s spine.

He doesn’t push Jaskier away. He lies there, in Jaskier’s all-too-familiar arms, with their all-too-familiar warmth, and when sleep comes again, Geralt doesn’t fight it.

 

 


 

 

He fucks Jaskier nearly every night after that. He always waits for Jaskier to initiate it; lets the other man come to him, decide when and where and how, and simply follows his lead.

At night – and sometimes, in the morning – he’s a puppet in Jaskier’s horny hands, and he doesn’t regret a single minute of it.

No. He’s drunk on it, on all of it. The way Jaskier calls his name, his voice rough and broken with passion. The way Jaskier unpins his hair, to let it unravel over Geralt’s shoulders and just weave his fingers through it, scritching, stroking, pulling it aside to kiss down the back of Geralt’s neck and along the notches of his spine.

When Geralt rolls him on his side and presses his chest to Jaskier’s back; when he fucks him slow and deep, and Jaskier is caged in his strong arms, rocking back on his cock with the prettiest sounds on his lips, that’s one of Geralt’s favorite things.

But the wide-eyed look on Jaskier’s face when Geralt straddles his hips and rides him into oblivion, that’s the real priceless thing.

Come midsummer, they spend three days in an abandoned hut in the woods, making their supplies stretch out as far as they’ll go. They spend warm mornings and sticky-hot afternoons fucking each other’s brains out, on the creaking bed, in the musty kitchen, in the cool shade of birch trees, and Geralt stands guard while Jaskier frolics about in the nearby brook, buck naked and as happy as Geralt’s ever seen him.

Geralt has to hunt eventually, and when he comes back that third night with two rabbits and a bird tossed over his shoulder, and hears the muffled sounds of Jaskier’s playing, he pauses at the door.

It’s strange, coming home to somebody. Strange that this place even registers as home to him. But it’s not the hut, Geralt realizes. As he walks in, and finds the fire already crackling in the pit in the middle of the kitchen floor, and Jaskier sitting on an ancient stool with his lute in his lap; as he takes in the soft smile on Jaskier’s face the moment he notices Geralt is back; he knows it’s not the house. It’s what’s inside it.

For a single, odd moment, Geralt sees a glimpse of a life he had never dreamed of before. A house just like this one, with new walls and a sound ceiling, with a hearth and a bedroom and somebody to share it. A wheat field all around it, and a river, and a mill, and chickens to feed in the morning, when the light is still new.

A home he could come back to every night, and have a family – his family – welcome him back.

It’s only a fantasy, of course; a lifetime plowing fields wouldn’t suit either one of them. His own feet would be itching to leave within the first week, and as for Jaskier, he would dramatically let himself waste away out of boredom. But it’s a good fantasy – a nice one. One Geralt keeps close to his heart, for those days when the world is tougher than most, and reality is too disappointing not to give into a daydream.

He wonders, sometimes, when his Child will be born, and what he will look like. Blond hair like his mother, no doubt, and gifted somehow, for all the magic, all the love he was made with.

Perhaps he’ll be a fair, pudgy babe with dimples in his cheeks and a sweet disposition. Perhaps he’ll grow into a grumpy little boy, sour like his grandmother and just as brave – only ever sweet with those he really cares about.

Who will teach him how to fight? His father, maybe, he’s a good swordsman. But he wouldn’t know all the tricks Geralt does. No, somebody should teach the boy.

“What if it’s a girl?” Jaskier muses that night, tracing circles over Geralt’s bare stomach.

Geralt shrugs, unfazed. “Then somebody should teach her.”

A girl. Oh.

Before he knows it, she’s seeping into his fantasy as well. It’s so easy to picture. A little girl with wild hair and bare feet, climbing trees like Geralt used to do, and getting herself in trouble with creative lies like Jaskier still does. She would be the farm mascot, and personally name all of their chickens and cows, so he and Jaskier would feel guilty eating them. She would sit herself on Geralt’s shoulders and demand a ride, and she would pester Jaskier for a new lullaby every night. She would be so annoying, and Geralt would–

– would love her, so, so very much.

“Do you think you’ll meet her, someday?” Jaskier asks, yawning.

Maybe, Geralt wants to say. But then, this is reality, not a fantasy.

“For her sake, let’s hope I never do.”

 

 


 

 

Fall comes so quickly, it seems the world goes from the summer’s golden glow to the shades of russet leaves in the blink of an eye.

They never sleep too far apart. Geralt stops actively trying to put some distance between them, which was becoming draining – and it was also a complete waste of energy, because Jaskier would never let him stray too far anyway.

If Geralt’s being honest with himself, he’s not sure why Jaskier sticks around. He doesn’t know what makes Jaskier put up with monster goop in their bathwater, or dust from the road that just gets everywhere, or the blisters on his feet when they’ve been walking for days without meeting a single, godforsaken village. But something inside Geralt is beginning to hope that Jaskier won’t get tired of this – of him, and his moods and his temper, and the horse-like fragrance about him on most days.

When the first proper storm of the season hits, and brings a blasted cold wind with it, Geralt drags Jaskier to the nearest inn and spends the evening peeling off his sopping wet clothes, and promptly warming up the body underneath. Jaskier is most obliging, and generous in his show of gratitude for the service.

After, he pushes Geralt on his back and burrows into his side, claiming his shoulder for a pillow. Jaskier’s hair is still damp from the rain, curling at the ends, but his naked body is invitingly warm where it’s pressed up against Geralt.

“You know,” he says, splaying his fingers over Geralt’s bare chest, “when you say that you don’t want me to care about you, I don’t think it’s true. I think you like that. I think some part of you, somewhere deep inside here, really wanted that.” He pauses. His hand rubs over Geralt’s breastbone, mussing up his chest-hair distractedly. “It’s only that– you don’t want to care about me.”

Geralt hums pensively. “So what you’re saying is, I do care about you after all.”

He’s surprised when the weight of Jaskier’s head lifts off his shoulder. It feels strangely cold without him there.

“No, of course not.” There’s laughter in Jaskier’s voice, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, and Geralt has made a pastime of searching them, of reading them. He knows the shock of pleasure in them when they’re fucking; the shadow of disappointment when Geralt pushes him away.

But above all else, Geralt’s come to know the honesty in Jaskier’s eyes. He may craft lies in his songs and exaggerate reality for a living, but he’s never been less than honest with Geralt. Sometimes brutally so; other times, open in more subtle, more fragile ways.

Now though, as Geralt meets his gaze, there’s something careful in the way Jaskier holds himself. Perhaps he, too, has a few secrets to guard.

“Come now, tell me,” Jaskier bids softly. “Tell me how much you don’t care about me at all.”

Something about that gives him pause. Geralt considers it; this lie, which Jaskier may or may not truly believe, and hears his own words echoing back to him – I don’t need anyone, he’d said, another lie from another night just like this.

And then he thinks of Jaskier whispering silly nothings in his ear as he’s falling asleep; of Jaskier tearing down his walls, just straight up ramming headfirst into them, because even this little bard is his own kind of fighter – he just doesn’t wield a sword.

He thinks of what he’d give, just to feel that soft white belly under the palm of his hand; the lengths he’d go to, to keep Jaskier safe – keep him close.

It was all so obvious, looking back now.

He turns on his side, facing Jaskier for a change. He grasps Jaskier’s chin between his fingers, brushing the pad of his thumb over that little dip just below his bottom lip.

He hasn’t kissed Jaskier yet. Ever.

How stupid that sounds. He’s learned the geography of Jaskier’s whole body, explored it inch by inch with his hands and his mouth and his tongue, and he hasn’t even kissed him yet.

He wonders, briefly, if Jaskier will want his kisses at all.

And because there is only one way to find out, he leans in, slowly erasing the distance between them, giving Jaskier plenty of chances to push him away; but Jaskier doesn’t. He lies still, his eyes blown wide, as if the very notion that Geralt is coming to him for once is groundbreaking, a revolution happening before him.

It’s simple, in the end. So simple, Geralt will wonder, at some point, why he didn’t do it any sooner. He kisses Jaskier like this is new – carefully, like it’s an experiment, chemicals and spells that could blow up in his face if he moves wrong. But Jaskier’s lips part softly for him, welcoming him in. His tongue strokes along Geralt’s own, silky and hot and shy, and though nothing explodes, it’s its own little firework bursting between them.

Jaskier’s chin works gently against his own, his nose brushes over Geralt’s cheek, and Geralt’s hand wanders, cupping the nape of Jaskier’s neck to guide him closer.

When they part, it’s only to catch their breath. Jaskier looks up at him dazedly, panting, his mouth bruised pink and glistening.

“Geralt,” he murmurs, sweet and confused, and it’s the most vulnerable sound Geralt’s ever heard him make.

He rolls them over, shifting on top of Jaskier to fit their bodies together. Jaskier’s hands come up to hook behind his neck, over his shoulders, holding on for dear life as Geralt leans down to capture his lips once more.

“Geralt...”

“Shh, don’t talk.” Whispers mingle between them, feather-soft and fleeting. “Don’t talk.”

Jaskier shivers in his arms. His mouth tastes like wine, his skin smells like lemon balm – and beneath that, like leather and wet horse. He smells like the two of them combined and, Geralt realizes, he never wants anyone else’s scent on Jaskier ever again.

 

 


 

 

In the morning, they gather their stuff and get back on the road. The sky is clear, but a cold wind blows, shaking the trees and sending a shower of brown leaves dancing across the orchards.

“Where to next?” Jaskier asks, halfway through a yawn.

Geralt walks on, Roach’s reins held loosely in his fist. “Roach decides.”

Jaskier shrugs, tugging his coat collar higher so the wind won’t hit his throat. They should get a scarf, Geralt thinks absently. And a proper cloak for the idiot, who would wander about in his shirtsleeves if left to his own devices. If Geralt gets a couple of nice jobs – a troll, a chupacabra, nothing too complicated – he should have enough money to buy a second horse. Just so Roach could have some company.

“Would Roach want to head somewhere warmer, perchance?” Jaskier pipes up, a few steps behind him.

Roach huffs, shaking her dark mane, and Geralt rubs a gloved hand over her snout, grinning. “She says south. To see the ocean.”