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To you, My Dearest of Dear Hearts

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Geralt knows when a letter has arrived. The scent of Jaskier lingered in the fibers and threads of nearly all he owned after decades of travel together, but whenever a letter arrived it was renewed. Almond blossoms and orange peels; warm and sweet with just the subtlest bite. It was alarmingly authentic to Jaskier’s nature, so much so that it often made Geralt laugh when he thought of it. The bard would chide him, prodding playfully at his cheek and demanding he not keep his humors to himself. Geralt would refuse to share and it frequently led to them tussling like school boys. It then ended in one of two ways; fits of gasping laughter or the heated crush of their mouths against one another’s.

The scent of Jaskier hits Geralt as he is climbing the stairs, breathing warmth into his chilled hands as he returns from his morning training. His diminished heart quickens in his chest. Shudders back into life. Geralt climbs the stairs with renewed vigor, taking them two at a time in the great length of his stride. He throws himself through the threshold, shoves the door closed behind him. He has his desk pushed along the room’s one, large window to enable him both the best light and the best view of the crumbling ruins of Kaer Morhen. Atop the desk sits an unassuming rosewood box. It’s only decoration, a brass clasp encircled by delicately carved wildflowers. His fingers fumble in his haste to unfasten the latch.

Sitting inside the box, fresh and crisp and still warmed by sealing wax is an envelope. His name is scrawled on its face in a series of sweeping loops and softened corners. Never once had Geralt thought his name could be beautiful, but in Jaskier’s elegant hand it very nearly is. Geralt brings the envelope to his nose and breathes long and deep. The scent of ink and wax is fresh, but not enough to overpower Jaskier’s bittersweet bouquet. In fact, it only adds to it. Jaskier writes as though his life were dependent on it and Geralt can often smell ink on his fingertips when they card through his hair or brush his cheek.

Geralt is instantly transported to a glen in Toussaint. Wine sits deep and bitter on the back of his tongue and his cheeks are flush with it. Jaskier is beside him on the blanket they have brought, tongue peeking between his lips in the most tempting fashion as he scrawls feverishly into his notebook. Geralt snorts as the bard unwittingly brushes a stained thumb under his nose, effectively creating a mustache. He continues to snicker over it much to Jaskier’s dismay. Geralt doesn’t tell him for at least an hour.

The wax of the seal is still somewhat pliant as he wedges his fingers beneath it. Jaskier must have only just written it and placed it in the box. It was a curious item, this box. It had been a gift from Yennefer, which was as dubious an event as anything. She bestowed upon Jaskier a second, identical box. The bard had looked at her as if she had sprouted a second head. A gift, she said, to keep more easily in touch. Simply place a letter into one box and have it appear inside its twin. The post was unreliable even in the most travseable of locations and Kaer Morhen was not easy to locate even for the witchers who called it home. So lo and behold, a gift to make their partings easier and their reunions not so... shamelessly passionate.

The wax seal parts easily under Geralt’s ministrations. Tucked carefully inside the envelope are no less than six pages of text all written in Jaskier’s tight hand. Jaskier’s thoughts pour onto the page much like they do from his mouth; continuously and unabashedly. Geralt will get to his musings on his latest lectures and his gripes with his fellow professors, but first he takes a minute to admire the heading.

My Dearest Heart, it read.

Jaskier was prone to the overuse of words of affection. Pet names in particular. He threw them around with all the care and enthusiasm of a handful of flower petals thrown in the path of a bride. The barmaids were always ‘darling’, the stableboys always ‘handsome’, and the children always ‘sweeting’. Jaskier loved frequently and forcefully and afforded it to nearly everyone he met. But this, this one term of endearment… my dearest heart… this was Geralt’s alone. He had never once heard Jaskier refer to any other person by it. Not once in nearly twenty years. It put warmth in his cheeks like the wine in Toussaint. It reminds of the day he had first heard him say it.

They had been on the path between one town in the next; places whose names he had forgotten, but whose impressions remained in his memory like flowers between pages. It had begun to rain rather suddenly and heavily. Jaskier had squawked about the fate of his freshly tailored doublet. It was his first time wearing it and now quite possibly his last. Geralt had laughed and Jaskier had shoved him. Geralt shoved him back, his smile rueful. Jaskier gave chase though Geralt quickly outpaced him. They dissolved into shouts and taunts. Jaskier was quicker than Geralt gave him credit for. Decades of travel made for sturdy legs. A living made off song made for durable lungs. Still, by the time he caught Geralt they had both been thoroughly soaked through. Jaskier looked up with bright, glittering eyes. He beamed as he reached up and tucked a stringy lock of Geralt’s damp hair from his face. “You shan’t ever be rid of me.” He declared. “I shall always catch up, my dearest heart.” And Geralt felt his heart struck, impaled by the white hot arrow of love. He kissed Jaskier passionately in the continuing downpour and they stayed there for a long time. Jaskier had caught a cold afterwards and Geralt had felt horrible. Jaskier insisted it had been worth it.

Geralt continued on with the letter. It appeared as though Jaskier’s fellow troubadour and sworn archnemesis, Valdo Marx, has also been invited for a winter residency within the hallowed halls of Oxenfurt University. Jaskier had dedicated an entire page to a slew of colorfully phrased insults that would make even the saltiest of sailors blush. Despite his clear dislike for the man, the phantom of jealousy still panged in the deepest chambers of Geralt's heart.

Jaskier was participating in a singing competition. Geralt could not remember which one. They all blurred together after a while like freshly dyed cloth abandoned on the line in a sudden summer rain. Both Jaskier and Valdo had competed and both were rewarded with thunderous applause, but in the end Jaskier proved himself the superior chanteur. Afterwards, the lot of them had settled in a tavern to celebrate with copious amounts of ale. Jaskier and Valdo had quipped back and forth with one another like squabbling magpies. Though they did not like each other, they hung about each other with such an easy familiarity. Jaskier, with an arm around Valdo’s shoulders and Valdo a hand on Jaskier’s knee. Their faces were flushed bright pink from the ale and their heads pressed together as they laughed uproariously about something or other. Geralt had felt his stomach twist. The ale in his mouth turned sour. He stood from the table abruptly and pushed his way between the other revelers, seeking refuge in the still air of the night. He had sucked down two breaths of cool air before Jaskier was beside him. The light cast from the open windows of the tavern danced in the deep blue of his eyes like the striking of flint. Jaskier had taken Geralt’s hands within his own and pressed tender kisses into every crack, every callous, every scar. “You. Only you. Only ever you.” He crooned between each touch of his lips until Geralt unfurled and drew the bard against him. He did not let go for a long time.

Geralt continues to read. Jaskier has settled in comfortably for the winter. His students this term are passionate and engaging and often request regalings of his adventures with the mighty White Wolf at the end of every lesson. Jaskier declares that he is more than happy to oblige though it does make him miss Geralt terribly. He asks Geralt to convey his love to Eskel and Lambert and Vesemir; asks that they not be too disappointed in his absence this year. He has not forgotten the fifty crowns that Lambert owes him from the previous winter’s gwent tournament and still aims to collect. Geralt laughs. He cannot wait to see the look on Lambert’s face when he relays the message.

At the bottom of the letter sits Jaskier’s ostentatious signature. On something more formal he would use his full name and title, but here within these pages he is simply Jaskier. He is the curious, bright eyed creature who had looked upon the reviled witcher and offered his hand without fear, without pretence. He is the relentless spirit who followed Geralt to the edges of the world with spring in step and song in heart. He is the temperate saint who had remained at Geralt's side and loved him hard and fierce through every bright day and every black night.

Geralt runs the tip of his finger over the sweeping curve of the ‘J’ and follows the line of the pen until it rolls from the tail of the ‘r’. He then brings the finger to his lips, closes his eyes and breathes in deep; longing for the moment when he can kiss Jaskier once again. Geralt reads the letter through twice more before he feels satiated enough to go about the rest of his day. He tucks the envelope under his pillow so that when he lays himself to sleep that night, he can drink in the bittersweet scent of his love and dream of being in his arms.