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A slow descent, a maddening rush

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It’s no secret Jaskier likes to live and dress like a wealthy man, but truthfully, it’s a little bit misleading. Sure, he has a comfortable little flat near the university in Oxenfurt, and sure, he’s always riding the cutting edge of the current fashion, wearing carefully tailored suits made from fine fabrics… but that’s about it. His singing earns him enough to keep up his pretty appearance and to pay for the flat so he has a comfortable little home to return to, but other than that, traveling bard isn’t quite the world’s richest profession.

A night singing in a tavern might result in a hat full of coin, enough to pay for a new jacket and the fanciest room in the best inn in town, plus a bath and several fine meals - or it might just as well barely earn him enough for a bowl of porridge and a tiny cupboard of a room above the tavern. It all depends on the mood of the audience, the songs he chooses, the current political climate, the weather, and a thousand other reasons why the public might suddenly not be too willing to part with their coin.

Now if he was a smart person, he wouldn’t splurge when he has the money, and would instead save some for the leaner days he full well knows are coming. Being Jaskier, he of course doesn no such thing. It’s not that he’s stupid, it’s just that when he sees something fancy and shiny and happens to have the money in his pocket… well. His self-control is a fragile and fickle thing, easy to break with the right kind of goods and services.

If he traveled with someone more sensible, this wouldn’t be a problem. Trouble is, he chooses instead to spend his days trailing after Geralt of Rivia, a witcher not exactly known for being reasonable and frugal either. Geralt’s a fine enough companion for the road, but with the way he pampers his horse and with how much money he spends in brothels, combined with how he doesn’t have the heart to always take the full price for every monster he kills if the people who hired him look too poor and thin - he’s not much richer than Jaskier himself.

Which is why they often find themselves in situations like this.

“The room’s warm and clean and there’s a bed in there that’s big enough for two. I’m sure you’ll manage”, says the matronly innkeeper standing behind the counter. She puts down two plates before them, and even though the slices of bread look a little dry and the pears look a bit wilted and the sausages are made from some dubiously dark meat he can’t identify, the food makes Jaskier’s mouth water. His empty stomach growls and he’s very conscious of his aching, tired feet. He looks pleadingly at Geralt; after spending the last several nights sleeping under the stars, only a thin bedroll under him and just his blanket and the witcher for warmth, he needs this room.

“We’ll take it”, Geralt rumbles and digs in his pockets for spare coins. Jaskier sighs in relief and empties the last few coins from his purse into the innkeeper’s outstretched hand.

"There's still hot water for a bath too. Please don't sleep in my sheets smelling like you do right now", the woman quips good-naturedly as they dig into their food. Jaskier mumbles a 'thank you' through a mouthfull of food and a wide grin.

-

Jaskier steps back into the room, carrying most of his clothes in a bundle in his arms.

“I need to write an ode to baths”, he announces to Geralt, who’s already sitting on the bed. Similarly to Jaskier, the witcher is only wearing a long undershirt, the rest of his clothes hanged to dry on chairs and the tiny table in a corner of the room.

“Hmm”, Geralt says noncommittally and turns a page in the book he’s reading. It’s about water-dwelling monsters, and Geralt’s been reading it for the past few nights after buying it in a bookshop in the last town they traveled through. He says half of it is outdated or just plain bullshit, and the other half needlessly satirical, but seems to find enjoyment reading it anyway.

“Seriously, hot baths are like a gift from the gods”, Jaskier continues as he hangs his own trousers on the back of a chair. Washing them in the bathwater isn’t how the fabric really should be treated, but it’s either that or hitting the road in unclean trousers tomorrow. Jaskier doesn’t feel comfortable in dirty, sweaty clothes, so bathwater laundry it is, class and convention be damned.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt simultaneously this exhausted and this invigorated!” He stretches his arms above his head, and catches Geralt smiling at him sardonically.

“Never?”

“Well, maybe after sex. Actually, yes, almost always after sex, but it’s not like I have many opportunities for that right now”, Jaskier grumbles, finally walking to the bad. Geralt wordlessly lifts the covers and Jaskier slips under them, sighing blissfully. He burrows deep under the blankets until only the upper half of his face is visible, relishing the softness of the pillows. The mattress is filled with straw but it feels soft enough that he feels he’ll be able to get a good, full night’s sleep, the first in ages.

“Comfortable?” Geralt asks, almost teasing.

“Very”, Jaskier grins and nudges Geralt’s foot with his knee under the covers. Geralt’s one to talk; he looks rather comfortable himself. The soft light from the candles on the bedside table paints him in a golden glow, shining on his hair that’s still damp from his bath and pulled into a loose knot at the back of his head. His posture is relaxed as he leans against the wall, hands holding the small book open on his lap.

“So tell me”, Jaskier begins after he grows bored of watching Geralt read in silence, “how are things with Yennefer?”

Geralt shoots him a glare and goes back to reading.

“Come on”, he grins and nudges Geralt again. “Indulge me. We’re sleeping in the same bed like little girls having a sleepover. I need my gossip, else I shan’t sleep, you know that.”

“I do, and I resent you for it”, Geralt says, not looking all that resentful. “We share beds all the time. I don’t owe you my secrets for it.”

“Are you keeping secrets from me, my dear witcher?”

Geralt growls and turns back to his book.

“Is it that bad?” Jaskier sighs compassionately. “Can’t be easy, with someone like her.”

Geralt says nothing, but his shoulder slump just enough to be noticeable.

“You’ve fought again”, Jaskier continues gently. “What was it about this time?” It’s starting to become obvious to him, whenever Geralt has seen Yennefer and when they’ve had a disagreement. Geralt always seems a little angrier and scarier, and a little more fragile. He and Yennefer have known each other for close to five years now, and though they seem to care about each other a great deal, lately it seems like they’re never on good terms.

“I saw her a month ago, in Vizima”, Geralt admits. Jaskier sighs; he knew that already.

“And you had spectacular sex for several days, until you got tired enough to actually start talking to each other, after which she threw you out?”

“After which she said some things, and I said worse things, and then I left before she could curse me.” If Jaskier didn’t know his friend to be a big and scary witcher, he might say Geralt looks like he’s pouting. As it is, the big lug just looks sadder and softer than he has any right to. There’s no anger, like there often has been after a fight with the witch, just sadness and maybe resignation.

Jaskier lays a hand on Geralt’s knee under the covers. His leg hair feels coarse under the touch; Jaskier pets it absentmindedly. He makes an encouraging sound, half empathetic and half curious to hear what it was this time that they fought about. Geralt closes his eyes and leans his head against the wall, apparently done with talking for the night.

Fine. Jaskier can work with that too.

“Alright, be stoic and silent then”, he grouses, taking care not to sound too annoyed. He knows Geralt; if he doesn’t want to talk, he won’t, and needling him into it rarely works. Instead, he needs a distraction.

Jaskier steals his book.

Geralt growls and swats at him, trying to take it back. He’s gentle, though, because he knows Jaskier breaks easily, and Jaskier uses that to his advantage. He drops the book behind himself on the bed, and tugs on Geralt until the witcher collapses half onto Jaskier.

“What the fuck”, Geralt says into Jaskier’s shoulder, and Jaskier laughs.

“We’re little girls at a sleepover, remember? You’re my heartbroken best friend who has troubles with her crush. Therefore my job is to comfort you. You know, braid your hair and read you stories and all that.”

“You’re ridiculous”, Geralt complains, but doesn’t move away, which Jaskier takes as a permission to do whatever he wants. He tugs on the leather tie in Geralt’s hair until it falls away, freeing his hair to fall on his shoulder and the sheets. Jaskier runs gentle fingers through it, smoothing away tangles and enjoying the cool, smooth feel of the strands.

With his other hand, Jaskier fishes the book from the sheets. He doesn’t know where exactly Geralt was, but he chooses a line at random and starts reading it aloud. He keeps his voice soothingly soft and quiet as he tells Geralt about drowned dead and the all gruesome ways they’ve been known to kill people. Geralt huffs at a few points where the book is blatantly wrong, badly enough that even Jaskier notices, but other than that, he listens quietly.

Jaskier keeps playing with his hair and reading quietly, until one of the candles burns out and Geralt’s breathing finally slows down enough that Jaskier knows he’s fallen asleep. He reaches over to pinch out the remaining candle’s flame and to put the book on the table. Geralt grumbles in his sleep but doesn’t wake, and Jaskier smiles silently. He settles next to Geralt, one arm around him and the other protectively low on his side, fingers spread, feeling his warmth.

With Geralt breathing calmly into his shoulder, finally relaxed and tranquil, Jaskier feels himself slipping down towards sleep as well. His last thought before dreams claim him is that if Yennefer ever hurts his friend again, she’ll have Jaskier to answer to.