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After Summers of Fasting (I Feel Hunger At Last)

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Jaskier could admit that he was a bit of a slut.

In fact, he took pride in it. When Geralt had asked him once, in an exasperated growl, if he ever got tired of crawling under the skirts of every maiden he saw, Jaskier had cheerfully replied, “You know what they say, my friend: practice makes perfect!” (Jaskier had had quite a bit of practice, and not to brag, but he was a very generous and talented lover, if not quite perfect.)

What he did not say, although it certainly crossed his mind, was, “Well, if you took me into your bed, I would never seek out another.”

The thing was, Jaskier did fall a bit in love with everyone he slept with. With everyone he met, in fact, which was how he ended up sleeping with so many people in the first place. It was incredible, and a bit sad, how many people were so surprised and instantly smitten with a man who was genuinely interested in them.

Jaskier just loved people. He loved educated people with quick wits and simple people with kind hearts.

And gods, did he love the human body. Short, tall, slender, fat, stocky, willowy, curvy, muscular—Jaskier loved it all. His lovers came in every shape and size, and he worshipped each and every one of them.

Still, even a bard with too much love to give could have favorites.

Novigrad, the city that housed his alma mater, Oxenfurt University, was a hub for travelers from all over. By the time he was seventeen, he could reliably identify regional accents from across the Continent, just because he, gregarious creature that he was, spent most of his free time wandering the city and striking up conversations with the most interesting-looking stranger he saw.

Okay, fine, and convincing them to take him to bed half the time.

He liked sex, and if certain stuck-up, prudish people (VALDO) could stop giving him disdainful looks in the banquet hall, that would be swell.

Jaskier had undergone a true bardic education. He’d slept his way through swaths of travelers from distant lands, teasing stories and tales out of each of them, which he enjoyed about as much as the sex.

His favorites were the wandering warriors.

Two days after his seventeenth birthday, he was celebrating with Priscilla and their friends in a tavern when he spotted a man sitting at the bar with a crossbow over his back and a sword on his hip. He was at least a decade older than Jaskier, and he had scars on his big, rough hands, and his arms bulged with muscle under his shirt.

With very little urging from Priscilla, he’d sauntered over and batted his eyelashes flirtatiously. Half an hour later, he was in a room upstairs, flat on his back as the warrior stripped his clothes off.

Jaskier’s mouth went dry. The man was made of muscle—broad shoulders, ropey arms, a thick chest and stomach. Thighs like tree trunks.

When the man crawled on top of him, caging him in with those strong arms, Jaskier almost came right there.

That man had been the first, but not the last. Jaskier liked strong people. His eyes followed soldiers and fighters in the market and the taverns. He licked his lips at the sight of wide shoulders and hard calves.

So, it would have come as no surprise to anyone who knew him that when he saw the lean but solid figure sitting in the back of the room in that tavern in Posada, he knew he had to have him. Jaskier was a natural flirt, had been charming people out of their pants since he was a green lad. Which was why he was a bit surprised when he got a good look at that gleaming white hair, the chiseled jaw and cheekbones, the scars that spoke of truly wonderful stories, those fierce golden eyes, and could only stammer, “You wouldn’t keep a man with…bread in his pants waiting.”

He wanted to punch himself in the face. That was the worst thing that had ever come out of his mouth.

Still, Jaskier wasn’t one to cower in the face of embarrassment. And this stranger lit his blood on fire with want and gnawing, hungry curiosity. And the man was dismissive, but there was something in the tense line of his back, the startled suspicion in his eyes when Jaskier wasn’t deterred, that made the bard want to stay.

Geralt of Rivia. The Witcher. How could Jaskier do anything but follow him, especially after that punch to the gut?

It wasn’t that Jaskier enjoyed the pain—on the contrary, fucking OW and never do that again, Geralt, thank you ever so much—but he couldn’t help noticing that the blow had been a direct response to being called the Butcher of Blaviken. He clearly didn’t like the name. Was bothered by it.

That told Jaskier three things:

  1. Witchers did have emotions. He’d always suspected it, but now he knew.
  2. Whatever had happened in Blaviken, it wasn’t what people said. The slaughter the gossip spoke of was the work of a heartless monster.
  3. And a heartless monster wouldn’t care, but Geralt of Rivia cared. He didn’t like being seen as a monster.

Naturally, Jaskier decided then and there that he would change Geralt’s reputation, if he had to sing in every tavern on the Continent to do it.

His intense attraction to the Witcher was…only mildly inconvenient at first.

It got worse as time went on, as he came to know, in small grunts and reluctant words, the man beneath the armor.

He couldn’t help falling in love with him.

So he definitely couldn’t help his reaction the first time he saw Geralt take his shirt off.

***

“Oh, gods,” Jaskier breathed.

Geralt paused in the act of shucking off his pants. The bard was staring at him.

Geralt blinked, frowning a bit. Jaskier looked at him all the time, and—strangely—he always seemed to enjoy what he saw.

And Geralt had gotten compliments on his physique before, from one or two of the braver whores, so if he had considered Jaskier’s reaction to his bare torso, it might have been something along those lines.

That was, emphatically, not what was happening.

Geralt looked down at his chest. Did he have some kind of wound he hadn’t noticed?

No, he looked the same as always.

So why was Jaskier gaping at him with horror on his face?

The bard stepped closer, lifting his hand toward Geralt’s chest. “Geralt, what the fuck,” he said.

Geralt looked down at himself again. Jaskier’s fingers touched his stomach gently, running along the line of his abdominal muscles. He couldn’t help the way his muscles jumped in response to that light but blazing touch. Jaskier’s hands were like fire on his skin.

It had to be the scars. His body was littered with them: big, small, clean, ragged. Jaskier had never seemed to mind the marks on him before, but then, he’d never seen the canvas of his entire torso before. It would hardly be the first time someone had recoiled from his patchwork skin.

Geralt turned his head away, his stomach churning. He refused to call it disappointment. Jaskier had never been afraid of him, had never shown the slightest hint that he found Geralt’s more inhuman traits off-putting. Everyone has their limit, he told himself.

Without a word, he waded into the river, submerging himself to the neck.

He tried not to dwell on that brief touch, on any of the casual touches that Jaskier had lavished on him without even seeming to realize that no one touched Witchers. Most people were too afraid to come within six feet of him, much less drape a casual elbow over his shoulder or nudge him lightly in the side to share a joke. But that was over now. Jaskier knew what hid beneath the armor, and he hated it.

He bathed quickly and pulled his shirt back on without bothering to dry off. Without waiting to make sure Jaskier followed, he stalked back to their campsite.

He very deliberately ignored the looks Jaskier sometimes gave him after that, not his usual carefree smiles, but small frowns that pinched his lips and put a wrinkle between his brows.

Oddly, the bard didn’t stop touching him.

Geralt ignored that too, unsure what to make of it.

The next time they stopped in a town for the night, Jaskier went to buy them food and a room while Geralt found them a table. It was their usual arrangement, since Jaskier was less likely to frighten or disgust the innkeeper.

The bard returned to the table with two plates groaning under the weight of hearty, homecooked food.

Geralt raised an eyebrow at the amount of it. They usually stuck to a typical bowl of stew and yeast roll each. “Hungry?” he asked.

Jaskier just pushed one of the plates over to him and said, “Eat up!”

Still eyeing his bard suspiciously, Geralt did.

Jaskier talked as he ate, as usual, chattering so incessantly that Geralt didn’t realize the bard had eaten only half of his own serving and pushed the rest toward Geralt until he was looking down at a second empty plate.

His stomach felt a little heavy, but it wasn’t an unpleasant sensation.

***

It kept happening.

Jaskier kept buying them large dinners whenever they were in town, and kept foisting his leftovers on Geralt when he inevitably couldn’t finish what he’d ordered. Geralt…didn’t mind, exactly—this much hot food was a luxury—but he couldn’t help being a little irritated that Jaskier kept ordering more than he could eat. The stupid bard was wasting good coin on food he didn’t finish, seeming unbothered that his money always ended up in Geralt’s stomach instead.

And he’d bought a bigger travel bag at some point without Geralt even noticing. His old bag had been just large enough for a change of clothes and his notebook.

Now, he pulled smoke-dried meats and fruits from his pockets as they walked down the road, pushing them into Geralt’s hands before nibbling on a slice of jerky himself.

With all the snacking he was doing, it made even less sense when he turned around and bought a big dinner. Surely he knew he couldn’t eat all that.

What was more, he’d offered to help Geralt hunt several times in the last few months. When Geralt had refused, incredulous, Jaskier had then demanded he bring back more than one rabbit.

As if the bard could even eat more than the half he typically got!

It was, in a word, baffling.

This had been going on for three months, and Geralt still didn’t have a clue what was going on, but his stomach had started making grumbling noises if they ate later than usual.

***

Jaskier watched with deep satisfaction as Geralt swallowed the last of what had been Jaskier’s slice of ham.

He’d had to be a little sneaky about it. He knew Geralt had noticed something was up, but he hadn’t called him out on it yet, and for that, Jaskier was grateful.

Sure, it meant longer nights playing for the crowds, but it was worth it to be able to fill his wolf’s belly, even if the wolf in question had no idea he was doing it.

Jaskier had dreamed of what Geralt would look like naked for months before he actually saw it. He’d been with plenty of fighters, so he was intimately familiar with the landscape carved by muscle and strength.

One of his lovers, Aleksy, had been a Novigrad guardsman. They’d dallied together several times, been friends as well as lovers.

Once, Aleksy had been sent out to battle a monster with a cohort of his fellow guards. They hadn’t returned.

A second party had been sent after them. The beast had been slain, but Aleksy had been the only survivor of the original hunting party, and he’d been badly wounded.

Jaskier had gone to him after he’d been brought back and bandaged up.

His friend had been lying in a cot, shirtless, his shoulder and the stump of his arm wrapped in linen, and he’d looked so different.

Not for losing an arm, nor for the shallow wounds across his face.

No, his body, so familiar to Jaskier’s eyes and hands, had been ravaged.

He’d lain out in the woods, a tourniquet on his arm, unable to move for a broken leg, for nearly five days, with no food and only a single waterskin to keep him alive.

Instead of the thickness Jaskier knew, he was all muscle and bone. Even when he was lying there, not flexing to show off as he’d sometimes done, Jaskier could see the outlines of his muscles, marching in tight lines down his stomach.

“That’s what starvation and dehydration do to strong man,” the healer had told him. “He’ll bulk up again once he can eat and drink the right amount for his size.”

And Geralt, his Witcher, his beloved wolf, had looked exactly as Aleksy had looked when he was half-dead for want of nourishment. His muscles had stood out against his skin, each one clearly visible to Jaskier’s horrified gaze.

Geralt, apparently, was used to it, because he seemed confused by Jaskier’s reaction.

Never again, Jaskier vowed to himself, his fingers on Geralt’s abs. He is never going hungry again.

So Jaskier had begun a campaign of food.

Geralt would be suspicious if he ordered seconds, so he just ordered a lot of food to start with and pushed whatever he couldn’t finish to his friend.

He stuffed his pack with anything that would keep and doled it out as they traveled.

And he thought it was working. He couldn’t be sure—Geralt had been quite careful not to take his shirt off in front of Jaskier since that incident by the river—but when he peered at the Witcher, he thought it was working.

Now, to find out for sure.

Jaskier gave a final strum on his lute and bowed deeply to his audience. “Thank you, thank you!” he called as they applauded and tossed coins at his feet. He gathered his bounty and headed toward the bar, where the innkeeper greeted him with a questioning face and a grunt. Geralt would like this one, Jaskier thought fondly.

“Can I get a hot bath up in my room, please?” Jaskier asked, sliding over some of his freshly-earned coin.

The innkeeper gave a short nod.

Jaskier bought two pints of ale and made his way to Geralt’s table.

They drank in companionable silence, Jaskier resting his throat, until the innkeeper caught his eye and nodded again.

Jaskier drained the last of the ale. “Shall we?” he asked. Geralt followed him silently.

Brimming with excitement, he pushed the door to their room open and cried, “Ta-da!” with an exaggerated gesture toward the bathtub.

Geralt gave him a confused look, so Jaskier pushed him toward the tub. “You have had bits of kikimora in your hair for three days, Geralt,” he said. “You could use a bath.”

“Hmm,” Geralt grunted, but it seemed an appreciative kind of grunt.

Jaskier helped him unbuckle his armor, and then watched with badly-disguised anticipation as Geralt finally drew off his shirt.

He couldn’t help beaming.

***

Okay, now Geralt was really confused.

It wasn’t like he could turn down the offer of a bath. Jaskier was right, he was a bit disgusting, and anyway, he loved hot baths. He’d peeled off his clothes, trying hard not to notice his stomach dropping to his boots, the little voice in his head reminding him that Jaskier hates your body, hates your scars, he’s disgusted by you.

Jaskier had let out another stifled gasp, and Geralt’s eyes had jumped to him against his will.

Then he’d blinked.

The bard was beaming, grinning from ear to ear as he stared at Geralt’s chest.

Once again, Geralt found himself looking down at his own body in sheer bewilderment. Had his scars disappeared overnight?

No, but something was indeed different. He blinked again.

Without meaning to, he lifted a hand and patted his stomach.

“What the fuck,” he said flatly.

His chest and stomach were thicker, his muscles covered in a layer of fat.

Jaskier stepped closer, putting a hand on his chest. “You look so much better,” he breathed, sounding fucking delighted.

“You did this on purpose.” It was not a question, but it also was, because what the fuck.

Jaskier smiled, almost bashfully. “Yes. Does this mean I can stop pretending like I’m forgetful about food?”

“Jaskier, what. The. Fuck.” Geralt was practically growling, and finally Jaskier seemed to notice.

His grin faltered. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Geralt echoed, disbelieving. He gestured at his torso. “You—you—you made me—fat!”

Jaskier’s face did something complicated and painful before settling into an expression of acute sadness. “No, I didn’t,” he said softly.

“Fucking—look at me!” Geralt snarled.

Jaskier closed his eyes for a moment, as if he were in pain, and Geralt really did not understand anything anymore. Gently, Jaskier reached up and took Geralt’s face in his hands, making the Witcher meet his eyes. Geralt was too startled to resist.

“I did not make you fat, Geralt. I made you healthy,” he said quietly but firmly.

“I—what?”

“Melitele’s tits, love, what do they teach you at Kaer Morhen?” Jaskier muttered, sounding close to growling himself. His thumbs stroked across Geralt’s cheeks gently, and that was probably why Geralt couldn’t move. He wanted to press himself, his face, his throat, his chest, his hands, into that warm touch that smelled of sunshine on grass and wood oil. It could also have been the fact that Jaskier had just called him ‘love’, and Geralt’s brain had kind of collapsed.

Slowly, carefully, Jaskier explained. It took Geralt long moments to process what the bard was actually saying.

“…dehydrated, and half-starved. I couldn’t stand it for a second more, you understand that, right?”

Geralt understood, sort of. He would certainly not react well if he found he could see Jaskier’s ribs, which seemed to be the same sort of problem.

“…I ate the same amount as you,” he said gruffly.

Jaskier huffed a small laugh. “I know,” he agreed. “But you’re a Witcher. You have a higher metabolism than a human, right? Several times higher, even.”

“Mmm.” Geralt nodded. “That’s part of why I heal so fast, why the potions don’t kill me.”

“It also means your body breaks down food a lot faster, darling,” Jaskier explained gently. “You need to eat more than a human to maintain yourself. And let me tell you, if I ever get my hands on the son of a bitch who didn’t bother explaining this to you in Witcher training, it won’t matter than I’m a lowly human, I will rip his balls off and shove them down his throat.”

Geralt choked out a startled laugh. Jaskier smiled at him, tugging him forward gently until their foreheads press together.

“Tell me,” the bard said, “did you ever feel bad after eating, when we got you more food? Did your stomach hurt, or did you feel bloated or nauseous?”

Slowly, Geralt shook his head. “My stomach was…”

He trailed off, uncertain, and Jaskier looked like his heart was about to break. “Full?” he suggested.

Geralt breathed out sharply. “Yes.”

“That’s how you should feel after every meal,” Jaskier told him sternly. “And have you felt slower or weaker in your fights?”

Geralt shook his head mutely. Quite the opposite, in fact. He no longer wanted to collapse into his bedroll the moment a fight ended; he felt stronger and more energized than he ever had before.

“Jaskier…” Geralt had no idea how to say what he wanted to say, but Jaskier was looking at him, waiting patiently, so he cleared his throat. “Why would you…?”

“Well, I don’t like seeing anyone starving,” he said, with a smile that looked rather forced. “But there’s also the fact that I love you, and it broke my heart a little to see you hurting yourself.”

Geralt’s brain didn’t just collapse this time. It vanished in a puff of golden, grass-scented smoke. “What.”

Jaskier laughed again, a jagged sound. “I don’t expect you to feel the same,” he said in a hurry. “But you did ask, and I just—I do. I love you. I have since the day we met.”

Witchers didn’t have feelings, according to common rumor.

But warmth was blazing through Geralt, warmth and hope and terror and a thousand other things, and so he did the only thing he could do.

He wrapped his arms around Jaskier’s waist and kissed him, hard.

***

Jaskier stiffened in surprise and then let out a moan, tangling his hands in Geralt’s hair, kikimora guts and all.

After a long moment, Jaskier broke away, panting for air, and began pressing feather-light kisses across Geralt’s face instead.

“Whores said they liked how I looked,” Geralt said abruptly, and Jaskier pulled back enough to see a hint of insecurity in that usually-stoic face.

He slid his hands down, over Geralt’s thick pecs and then to his stomach, which was still hard under a layer of protective fat. He caressed his Witcher, taking just a bit of pride in the fact that he was able to provide so well for his love.

“Whores don’t know what’s healthy and what isn’t for a man like you,” Jaskier told him. He ducked his head to kiss Geralt’s chest. “You are always beautiful, darling, but I prefer you not starving. And if it means you have more energy in your battles, that means less chance of you getting injured or killed. Which I would vastly prefer, since, as we've established, I hate seeing you hurting.”

Geralt swallowed hard, like he had no idea how to respond to that.

Jaskier smiled faintly, and pressed his hands against Geralt’s chest, pushing him back.

“There’s still a bath waiting for you, love,” he said in a low voice. “And I would like to bathe you.”

Geralt blinked. “Hmm,” he said, sounding a bit strangled.

“Yes,” Jaskier answered anyway, stroking his hands over every part of Geralt he could reach. “I want to touch every inch of you, with my hands and then my mouth, and I want to tell you how gorgeous you are, darling, and how much I love you, and I want you to fall apart for me. Okay?”

“…Mmm.”

Geralt looked dazed, his cheeks actually flushed a light pink. Jaskier couldn’t resist leaning in and kissing that wash of color.

“Good.”