It starts out silly, like these things tend to do. Though the road to deadly serious is never long when Jaskier is involved.
They’re at the great marketplace in Vizima, Jaskier deep in conversation with a southern trader, discussing the prices of perfumed oils and spices.
Geralt drifts in the periphery, finished with his own acquisitions from the herbalist a few stalls over.
It sometimes helps with bartering, having a big strong Witcher huffing about in the background, shortens the haggling process by a turn or two when people realize they’re there together. This particular vendor seems not to catch on to that part though, and after bundling his wares in cloth for the trip, places a bright orange gerbera on top.
“For the wife,” they say with a wink.
It’s a push, he knows. A clear and conscious overstep of boundaries. But it’s a fine day; The sun is high and there’s a fresh breeze wafting up smells of exotic fruits and herbs from across the trading quarter, money has been good lately, Geralt’s contracts many and easy, he himself is set to play again tonight for a favorable crowd, and Jaskier is giddy with it.
So he laughs and thanks the vendor with a grin, all but skipping back to Geralt with his purchases in hand and tucks the daisy into his Witcher’s hair.
He fully expects to be fastened with a glare, for Geralt to grumble and tear it out and maybe stomp a little harder on the way back to the inn, but it’ll be worth it for the look on the seller’s face.
True to form, Geralt does grumble.
But the daisy stays.
And isn’t that interesting.
The next time it happens, it’s more of a question of convenience.
It has to do with them being on the outside of a door they’d much rather be on the inside of, for different reasons but to their mutual benefit.
The door is not the problem.
The very big guard with the even bigger scowl, currently doing what Jaskier can only assume is his best impression of a springtime buffalo in Geralt’s direction, is.
Jaskier approaches just in time to just catch the man spew a lungful of admirably uninspired prejudicial hogwash about Witchers.
And it’s a lovely evening, really, and it wouldn’t get worse by watching this inbred backwater twit get his arse deservedly handed to him. But Geralt avoids carnage where he can, and it’s doubtful either of them would be allowed to fulfill their respective duties tonight if they partake in bloodshed on the doorstep.
There is such a thing as an invitation but there is also etiquette, and this is not Jaskier’s first banquet.
So instead he bolsters his confidence (whether or not it needs bolstering) and saunters up, hooking his arm into Geralt’s and bumping their shoulders together.
“There you are! You had me worried half to death, wondering where you’d run off to. But now that you’re here, and looking as dashingly halfway presentable as one is likely to achieve, shall we - ?”
“He’s not welcome here,” the guard interrupts, which is rude and Jaskier might slip up and mention that when they greet their hosts, the bastard.
“Oh, I think you’ll find that he is,” Jaskier says with near-aggressive joviality, waving his own invitation in this balding mastiff’s unfortunate face. “I am, after all, allowed to bring my spouse.”
Geralt glances between them, looking somewhere between confused and entertained, and Jaskier gives his elbow a squeeze, begging him to catch on. At least he hasn’t retrieved his arm.
Jaskier barely suppresses an eye-roll. “Yes,” he insists, inviting one final challenge from the doorman. When none comes, he turns back to his Witcher, arm still tangled with his. “Come along now, wifey.”
It’s hard to tell which of the men looks more incredulous, one efficiently struck dumb and the other -
Geralt is looking at him with something entirely different, disbelief a sheer cover for the fear-mixed hope that dwells underneath.
When Jaskier pulls at him, he follows easily.
The first time he says it in front of Geralt’s family, it’s an accident.
No, it really is.
It’s the coincidence of the decade, apparently, all three of the Wolf school’s roaming Witchers in the same town at the same time (and if nothing worthy of an epic happens in the process then Jaskier will just have to make something up, because the premise is too good to let go.)
That’s a cause for celebration, and why they’re currently taking up a third of the local shithole of a tavern. A table and then some for the four of them, and another few where others have gradually vacated, either out of fear (rudeness toward a single Witcher is one thing, but several?) or simply to avoid the rising noise and rambunctiousness as the night wears on.
The owner would probably mind, if not for the fact that they’re on track to drinking the whole town dry and paying upfront.
And that Jaskier has been singing himself nearly hoarse, drawing patrons who’d otherwise not leave the neighboring inn through the tavern’s doors.
Jaskier is having the time of his life.
He might also be a little drunk.
Which is why he’s a little less than steady making his way back to their table, arms full of fortified wine and cheap spirit, and less than careful once he gets there.
For years to come, he’ll insist Lambert tripped him up on purpose.
One moment he’s got a clear path and the next Lambert’s leg - or chair leg, or something - is underfoot and the table is too close and there’s an arm around his waist, and he tumbles unceremoniously into Geralt’s lap.
“Oopsie,” he giggles, divesting the miraculously not-empty cups on a table that definitely hasn’t stopped moving yet, and twists around in his Witcher’s very strong, very sturdy arms. “Thank you, wifey dearest!”
And if he’d just paid even a smidgeon of attention to their tablemates he might’ve caught Eskel’s chuffing laugh or Lambert’s teasing ’bout time someone made an honest man out of you spoken halfway into a cup, but he’s busy planting a kiss on Geralt’s cheek, grinning at the blush rising there, and feeling the aforementioned sturdy arm tighten around him.
“Do you know what, darling? You might be right.” Jaskier shakes out a length of the cloth he’d planned to bring back to his tailor. He’d marvelled at it in the square, but now, in the modest light of their shared room - “perhaps the floral really is a bit much.”
“Not that. When you call me...” Geralt’s voice - or will - fails the next word, sound stolen by an intake of breath.
He rolls the fabric back up slowly, trying to decipher the turn the situation has taken. Judging by Geralt’s tone it has been brewing for some time, but that doesn’t really narrow it down.
Jaskier calls his Witcher many things.
Some of them even to his face.
Witcher, darling, my dear, dearest, dear heart, wolf, butcher (but only once), puppy dog (but never sober)...
Bull’s eye, according to Geralt’s pinched expression, and Jaskier might’ve considered - considered - leaving it alone, if not for the distinct air of regret in the room.
“But you’re my wifey.”
“Clearly not. It’s unfitting. I’m -” and he makes a gesture to himself like that explains it all, and it does and it doesn’t. Jaskier sees what Geralt expects him to see, this construction of a man fit for purpose, battle-hardened and weather-worn, scarred in every possible sense and in every way a Witcher. He sees the products of his failures and the blood on his hands.
But he sees what Geralt doesn’t see, too. He sees the hard work and dedication and the will to do good, he sees the tenacity of someone who’s been broken too many times but somehow still stands. He sees hurt that makes him want to wrap this large and exceedingly capable man in his arms and cradle him safe.
There’s no point in telling him that, though. He probably wouldn’t even believe it.
“Yes, “ Jaskier indulges, drawing the syllable to twice its length. “And a magnificent specimen you are, too. With that wide expanse of shoulders and the flowing locks and that chin of yours, I swear to the gods, Geralt, you could’ve made work as a blacksmith’s -”
Geralt is far more eloquent than most - including Geralt himself - give him credit for. Jaskier supposes he needs to be, in order to navigate a world dead set against him. He gets flustered, though.
“Fine, fine.” He waves a dismissive hand. “But do I not tell you? Do I not shower you in guileless affection? Do I not dote on you at every opportunity?”
“Yes, thank you, that’s-”
“Are you not he to whom my heart and soul returns from every voyage?”
“I think I get it now.”
“Are you not my most beloved companion, my most trusted and cherished friend, the one I turn to both in times of hardship and prosperity?”
And there it is, finally; whatever self-doubt and deprecation have taken hold of Geralt’s features giving way to familiar and reassuring annoyance.
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“What, pray tell, must I do to earn your credence? Do you wish for more songs? Shall I write you sonnets? Follow you to and fro across this continent however many times more, like a poor obedient hound, praising your prowess and courage in song?”
“Please shut up, Jaskier.”
“What have I done to make you doubt my judgment so severely, so critically, you won’t even play at the notion of being my wife?”
“We’re not even married.”
“That is a technicality.”
It’s a small town grown prosperous in the last few decades, built around a crossroad tying the north-south trading routes to the coastal cities. Geralt stops by every other year or so, to decent ale and an actual room in a favorable inn.
He may not have been a stranger to the brothel across the road, either.
Seeing that Roach is well fed and stabled, making a note to go over her tack in the morning, he crosses the dirt alley between the outer buildings and enters the inn’s dining room.
It’s dimly lit and oddly shaped, having served as the town’s tavern before the current tavern had been built some five or six years ago, rebuilt and expanded multiple times in its day. It’s his only gripe with the place, if any, that it’s impossible to get a good view of his surroundings. Though he’s not opposed to sticking to an unobservable dark corner when it gets too crowded.
He has scarcely gotten his bearings, blinking at the pipe smoke from one of the regulars seemingly grown roots at their post by the door, and hardly had the time to look around before a wave catches his eye.
A familiar face smiles at him from a corner table, and he heads her way. She’s still in her best years, he notes with satisfaction, a tint to her face speaks of good health, and hair still void of grey falls thick over her shoulders. At another time, and not for the first, he might’ve spent his last coin in her bed.
“Well, if it isn’t the great Geralt of Rivia, back from another heroic adventure.” Her tone is teasing, but there’s no bite to it. She leans her elbows on the table, propping a round chin on folded hands, and he recognizes the glint of mischief in her eye. “Are you only here for a drink, or should I clear my plans for the night?”
“Neither.” He makes his way over anyway, never one to shy from a friendly face. There aren’t many of them. Still, he glances about the room.
“Really?” Her brow arches and she straightens from her seat on the bench. “How come?”
And finally, Geralt spots him, having taken up residence at the far back booth. His back is turned as he frees his lute from its case.
It’s silly, really. How after years of companionship and intimacy, platonic and otherwise, all it takes is a glance across a room, filtered sunlight catching turning tawny hair to polished copper, to make his heart do something that feels entirely unhealthy.