The bard has been following him for nearly two weeks now. It’s irritating to say the least. He had assumed after the business with the elves in Posada he would be on his way, but he seemed determined to keep following the witcher.
The first week, he had talked endlessly, giving useless commentary on his songs or whatever was in his head. It grated on Geralt’s nerves and he told him to be quiet several times. The bard would manage to be quiet for a few minutes before he’d start humming, then singing, then he’d return to his verbal stream of consciousness.
Geralt had tried almost everything he could think of to make the bard go away. He refused to acknowledge him except to tell him to shut up or go away. He ignored all his questions. He only actually talked to him when he gave the bard some food since the fool had no supplies of his own and didn’t know how to forage or hunt. He travelled all day and only rested very briefly at night, more for Roach’s sake than his own. He could tell the mare was unhappy with the harsh pace he was setting but he felt almost desperate to lose the bard.
He warned him that if he fell behind or didn’t wake up in time, Geralt wouldn’t have any qualms about leaving him behind. Every evening after they had eaten the bard would fall asleep almost immediately and each morning he would wake as Geralt began returning everything to his saddlebags.
At night, when only Geralt was awake, he let himself imagine what it could be like to have company on the Path. Of course, he had Roach, but she wasn’t exactly one for conversation, and he often longed for someone who could talk back. And then this bard had come along, unafraid of him or what he had done in the past. Geralt would banish those thoughts in the morning. He couldn’t get attached. The bard had to leave or else he’d just end up dead or injured. He’d learnt the hard way that witchers were solitary for a reason.
Geralt’s plan seemed to be working after the first week. The bard was beginning to lag behind and talking less. Geralt felt a little guilty for pushing him to this point but he knew it was for the best in the long run. The sooner the bard realised he was in danger around Geralt the better.
They were only a day or two away from the next town now. That morning Geralt had had to wake the bard by dropping a pot, letting it clang on the hard ground when he didn’t wake as usual. Despite his warnings, Geralt didn’t actually intend to leave him in the wilderness all alone, but also didn’t want him to think he cared so he had pretended dropping the pot had been an accident. Not that the younger man had really been paying attention. He had sat up, rubbing at his eyes as he tried to get his bearings but did little else. It was only when he saw Geralt securing the last of his things to Roach that he finally got up.
For the rest of the day, the bard had been near silent, stumbling along behind Roach. Geralt had to glance back a few times throughout the day to make sure he was still nearby. Every time he did, the other man was barely managing to keep his eyes open, looking very much like he was about to collapse. Geralt thought a few times about giving them a break, but that would only serve to reveal that he did in fact care about his wellbeing.
They continued on until roughly midday when Geralt heard a startled yelp and a thud. Turning in the saddle, he saw the bard sprawled on the dirt road. Geralt pulled Roach to a stop but made no move to help, waiting for him to get back up. He pushed himself up to a sitting position but didn’t get back to his feet, instead burying his head in his hands.
“Come on,” Geralt almost growled.
“Can- can we take a break? Please, just a short one,” Geralt could hear the wavering in his voice, sounding like he was close to tears. It was the first time he had asked for a break since the first few days after being denied repeatedly.
Geralt dismounted, going to the bard and crouching down so they were eye level. It was the first time Geralt had properly taken in his appearance. He looked pale and there were dark circles around his bloodshot eyes.
“Are you alright?” he asks with genuine concern.
Much to his horror, the bard started crying. The younger man wiped uselessly at the tears rolling down his face, scrubbing just a little too hard at his skin, as though the tears were the real problem here and not the witcher. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I can keep going, I swear,” he said, the words almost running into one.
“No. You’re exhausted. We can stop.” Geralt stood back up before offering his hand to help the bard up. He took it gratefully, letting the witcher pull him up. Geralt went back to Roach before leading them off the road in search of somewhere to stop. Geralt knew they wouldn’t be travelling for the rest of the day so they could just make camp here.
Finding a suitable clearing, he chucked his bedroll at the bard, ordering him to take a nap. He was out within a minute of lying down, his breathing evening out almost immediately.
Maybe the bard was tougher than Geralt had given him credit for. He could have asked for a break days ago. Or even simply let Geralt go on without him, actually getting the sleep he needed instead of getting up at the ass crack of dawn every day after only a few hours of sleep. Maybe he saw something in Geralt worth sticking around for. Or maybe he was really that desperate for song material. Either way, Geralt would be going easier on him. It wasn’t his choice to make whether the bard decided to travel with him or not. Maybe he should ask his name.