Geralt trudged through the swamp with his brothers and Vesemir at his back, the hunt had been a long and difficult one, they had been out here hunting for nearly a month and a half now, he had had to call help in from his brothers and father figure when he realised that a truly powerful and dark magic had been used in the area.
It had taken them nearly a month working together to fight their way through all the beasts and monsters that the evil at the heart of the swap had summoned to protect itself from attack. They had been exhausted but determined, and they had spent the other half of the month tracking the heart of the darkness, fending off the last of its desperate defence to fight them off and kill them, and then finally defeating it.
And now they were exhausted, an absolute mess and bleeding from numerous injuries and all Geralt could think of was getting home to Jaskier, and the pay that they were going to be getting for this. Thankfully the Lord that had hired them had been willing to pay more than a fair amount for his lands to be rid of the problem, especially considering it was his wife that had complete the ritual to cause this and he wanted it dealt with quickly and in complete secrecy to make sure that he wasn't embarrassed. Jaskier had managed to wiggle a lot more coin out of the Lord making inferences that silence was extra without offending the Lord, just getting slightly exasperated, desperate acceptance.
He had also gotten the Lord to set him up in a cottage on the Lord's lands to wait for Geralt, though the original plan had been for Geralt to use it as a base before he realised how bad it was and had called in help. Now Jaskier was waiting for him there, probably worried to hell by now. His plan had been to travel in a small circle around the inns and taverns in the city nearby to save up some extra coin considering there was no need to pay out to stay anywhere, and that the Lord had given them a lot of previsions.
But this was a long time for them to be away, and for Geralt to be on a hunt, and it was only the infrequent messages that he could send to Jaskier through the charm Triss had made for them at Jaskier's request that would have stopped Jaskier worrying frantically about him. And to be honest, to stop him from worrying about Jaskier, the Bard managed to get into far too much trouble by himself for Geralt to not worry when they were separated.
He had sent a message ahead of them to warn Jaskier that they were heading back to the cottage, the four Witchers squashing their ways across the swamp, but he suddenly froze in place when something occurred to him.
"What?" Eskel whined exhaustedly, gazing around and flaring his nostrils to try and find what it was that had made his brother stop like he had been hit with an axii. When Geralt turned to face them, the other three Witchers frowned at him confused.
"It's about Jaskier," Geralt said.
"Your Bard? I am presuming that he is at the cottage," Vesemir waved him off.
"Yes but...Jaskier is...he is a lot, and he...he worries, and he likes to...fuss," Geralt tried to explain.
"Right ok," Eskel nodded and started forward.
"No you don't understand...he fusses," Geralt tried to emphasise.
"You're his travelling guard and how he makes his money," Lambert nodded clapping Geralt on the shoulder.
"That's not how he sees it, we're...companions," Geralt shook his head before grimacing at the term, Jaskier would be wetting himself laughing if he heard him describe them that way.
"We're Witchers though," Eskel frowned.
"I...you know what forget it," Geralt huffed spinning and stomping off back towards the cottage, he wouldn't be able to get them to understand, and right now...he just wanted Jaskier.
"Geralt?" The call had him lifting his head and something in his relaxed when he saw Jaskier framed in the doorway of the cottage, a warm glow coming from behind him. His footsteps sped up and in what felt like a blink he was in front of his Bard.
"Jaskier," He rumbled.
"Oh thank the gods! I have been so worried about you! You look so tired and you are...well covered I think is the safe word to say, you look like you need food and water as well, I was so worried you have been gone for long! And I knew that you said you would be, but it was so long. I have bathtubs ready for you, I borrowed a few from around town and have them filled and ready for you all, come in come in, it is lovely to meet you all, let's get you into the bath and then get some food down you," Jaskier rambled.
Geralt felt absently smug at the stunned looks on Lambert, Eskel and Vesemir's faces as they stood just inside the door having been tugged in by Jaskier before he grabbed Geralt and towed him over to one of the bathtubs by his armour.
He just trudged along behind Jaskier, stopping when the Bard did. "That's your baths there, take whichever one and shout if you need anything," Jaskier instructed the others nodding to the other three steaming baths.
They walked forward absently, the desire for a bath luring them forward more than anything else, but they were still watching Jaskier baffled. Geralt turned his attention back to Jaskier when he shoved a stool behind Geralt and pushed him gently, taking the urge and dropping down heavily onto the stool with a groan.
He stopped focussing on the others and just focussed on the comfort of Jaskier being here, relaxing for the first time since he had stepped out to start the hunt knowing that his Bard would look after him.
Jaskier's fingers quickly undid the straps of Geralt's swords and set them carefully to the side, and then started undoing the buckles and clasps of his armour, wrinkling his nose a little at the gunk covering it, but quickly taking it all off. He dropped the armour straight onto an old sheet that he had sat waiting and ready.
"Ready?" Jaskier asked gently touching Geralt's cheeks once he had his chest armour, gauntlets, boots and gloves off.
"Hmm," Geralt rumbled. And Jaskier knelt down and gently tugged his boots off.
"Anything I need to be careful of?" Jaskier asked.
"Ok," Jaskier nodded. He made quick work of the ties on Geralt's shirt, carefully lifting it up and over his head, grimacing at the sight of the bruises and wounds covering his arms, chest and back. Jaskier reached out and brushed his fingers over a couple of the bruises before nodding and kneeling down to undo the ties on his trousers.
"Ready," Geralt nodded when Jaskier looked up at him. Between the two of them, Geralt made it to his feet, and Jaskier quickly tugged his trousers down and off, Geralt resting his hands on his shoulders to steady himself as he lifted one leg and then the other. Jaskier tugged his small clothes down at the same time, and the quickly hurried Geralt into the bath, hovering close by until his Witcher was sitting in the water with a soft groan.
Geralt caught the looks of the other three standing still stripping themselves off, staring at Geralt incredulously at what they had just witnessed. Jaskier's attention was drawn to them from Geralt when Lambert cursed and tugged annoyed at a buckle, his fingers were set in makeshift splints.
"Oh, I can help with that if that is ok with you?" Jaskier hurried over, holding his hands out in offering.
"I…" Lambert just blinked at him, his arms dropping tiredly.
"I am going to take that as a very tired yes, and you're going to tell me if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable," Jaskier nodded to himself, reaching out and started nimbly undoing the buckles that though slightly different were similar enough to Geralt's that he was making quick work of it, completely unaware of Geralt throwing Lambert a warning look behind him before settling back into his bath.
Lambert, however, was mainly focused on Jaskier, on the human stuck alone in a cottage with four Witchers, standing inches from him, helping him out of his armour, and not a hint of fear was coming from the Bard, no scent of it, just a faint hum of concern. Concern for them, not being with them.
It was baffling.
Jaskier made a noise of triumph when he got Lambert's armour off of him, hurrying to drop it on top of Geralt's before coming back to help him with the rest until Lambert was standing there with just his shirt and trousers on.
"Do you need help with them?" Jaskier asked.
"No, no I'm ok," Lambert felt overwhelmed as he tugged his shirt over his head.
Jaskier nodded and made his way to Eskel and Vesemir, collecting their armour and dropping it onto the sheet, as they opened their mouths to protest Geralt shot them another look, and they closed them, instead watching the human curiously and completely lost.
Jaskier finished dropping their armour into a pile and moved back to Geralt, who opened his eyes as soon as he was close enough. He turned his face into Jaskier's hands when they cupped it, nimble fingers stroking over his cheeks.
"Headache?" Jaskier asked gently.
"Mmm hmm," Geralt huffed. Jaskier moved quickly, gathering a few things together before moving the stool to the head of the bathtub. Geralt had dunked himself over the water in the meantime and was ready with his head resting back against the tub as Jaskier rolled his sleeves back, poured some lavender oil into his hands, and started rubbing and massaging his temples and head.
The other Witchers in the room stared stunned at what was clearly a routine thing with the way Geralt and Jaskier were interacting, the human taking care as he looked after the Witcher.
"Cat?" Jaskier frowned a little as he massaged Geralt's temples in gentle circles when the Witcher winced.
"I was worried that you were going to have to use a lot of it with the swamp and the mist," Jaskier sighed. "Foglets?" He queried brushing his fingers close to a couple of healing wounds.
"Yup," Geralt nodded, closing his eyes and sinking into the gentle touch against his temples.
"Ugh, Wraiths?" Jaskier huffed looking at another set of wounds.
"Dozens," Geralt sighed.
"She was a complete and utter psychopath, I mean really, doing all this because she believed a god wanted her to sacrifice everyone on their lands so she can have a baby," Jaskier huffed louder, but Geralt just groaned as he carried on his massage, moving to rub at his neck and the knots and aching muscles that had formed there.
By this point Lambert, Eskel and Vesemir were just sitting in their tubs staring with open mouths at the two of them, completely and utterly unable to believe what they were seeing.
"What are you doing?" Eskel asked completely and utterly baffled.
"What?" Geralt cracked a tired eye open, wincing at the light until Jaskier dug his fingers into his temple and massaged it gently.
"What the hell is going on?" Lambert blinked.
"I told you, you didn't believe me," Geralt shrugged drooping back against the bath. He looked up into Jaskier's blue eyes which were looking a little baffled and a little amused, he had obviously picked up on the gawping and was finding it funny.
To be fair when he had first started doing things like this for Geralt the Witcher had stared at him baffled as well, completely confused by what was happening.
Eleven Years Ago
"What...what happened?" Jaskier stood and stared at the Witcher who was stomping back into the camp that they had made before Geralt had gone off on his hunt.
"I am fine,"
"I didn't ask that, I asked what happened!" Jaskier grabbed a few of the branches from the pile he had made and threw them onto the fire to get it burning a little brighter from where he had been allowing it to die down for the night.
"...I slipped over the cliff after killing it, had to swim here," Geralt grunted sloshing into the camp.
"Swam...it is freezing in that river and it is miles! You have to be freezing!" Jaskier was suddenly on him. "How does the cold affect you? Is there any difference? What will it do to you? I know your heart is slower, will that be a good thing or a bad thing for you with the cold?!"
The Bard had found out about his heart rate when he had come across Geralt meditating in their room to heal up after a fight and it had taken Geralt ten minutes to calm the young man down from his panicking that Geralt was dying to explain that his heart rate was slower than that of a human.
Geralt was blinking down at the Bard who was fluttering around him, faffing with the unfamiliar armour to try and get it off of the Witcher. It wasn't even the normal ramble of curious questions about Geralt being a Witcher he was...concerned?
Geralt was so confused by the genuine concern and worry that he could hear in Jaskier's tone, and smell in his scent, that he answered the questions as he helped Jaskier get him out of the armour, the Bard's sharp eyes watching Geralt's fingers on his armour and how he took it off. He was used to people trying to take advantage of him being wounded and sick to try and get information out of him, he was used to them using what they thought was a weakened state to try and take advantage of him.
But Jaskier seemed to be genuinely worried...for him.
Before he knew what was happening he found himself seated in front of the now roaring fire that he had to stop Jaskier throwing more wood onto before they set the wood on fire, with all their blankets wrapped around his naked body, a cup of hot tea steaming merrily in his hands, and Jaskier fluttering around him, pressing bits of food into his hands until he seemed satisfied that Geralt was ok.
The Witcher just sat there completely and utterly baffled as to what was happening.
"But that isn't how you act with a meal ticket," Lambert spluttered.
"Meal ticket?" Jaskier looked at Geralt confused.
"Don't want to know," Geralt huffed.
"Are you my meal ticket?" Jaskier grinned and Geralt rolled his eyes.
"Oh shush," Geralt huffed as Jaskier moved to grab the soap and started lathering his hands and then started working on the grime that had loosened from Geralt's arms, patting his shoulder when Geralt heated the water with a light igni.
"Don't say it," Geralt growled.
"I would technically be the meal ticket considering that my songs fill most of our money pouches," Jaskier smirked.
"But it is stories based on him!" Lambert growled.
"Pft, if Geralt was my meal ticket I could have left a long time ago, I have more than enough material to last my lifetime," Jaskier snorted as he finished lathering up one arm and moved onto the next.
Geralt was aware of the looks his fellow Witchers were giving him as he dipped the lathered arm back into the water and raised the other for Jaskier to lather up for him, but he was too busy glaring faintly at the Bard himself.
"Oh don't glare at me like that, I know that I am not a meal ticket to you," Jaskeir chuckled poking Geralt between the eyes.
"But, then you must want something off of him, people always want something in return for anything, especially if you're bringing in money," Lambert scowled, always so cynical.
"What Geralt and I share is up to us," Jaskier huffed, his answer not an answer, and Geralt cracked open an eye to look at him amused, he was worried that Geralt wouldn't want his brothers and father figure to know.
"See! So you did ask for something," Eskel was hanging half out his bath now, his big brain clearly desperate to work it out Geralt and Jaskier in a way that would satisfy him and the view that they all had had on the world.
"Hmm," Geralt smirked at Jaskier and then smirked a little deeper when he heard what the action did to the poor Bard's heartbeat. He thought back to the conversation when he had been as cynical as Lambert really, despite the fact that he had already been travelling with Jaskier for a good few years at the time of the conversation, and knew the Bard.
Old thoughts and hurts were hard to shrug off, and after a lifetime of people wanting and expecting things from Geralt, from being a weapon to wield, a tool to be used and then shooed away, he hadn't wanted to allow himself to think that anything else could be possible in his life.
Life was an exchange, everything that you got in life was an exchange. Any type of pleasure that you managed to scrape together from time to time came through an exchange. That was the way of the world.
Ten Years ago
Geralt was brooding, most definitely brooding. Jaskier sighed to himself as he puttered around the room, putting things away, and getting things out that he wanted and needed. They were staying in the town longer than they normally would due to there being a record-breaking five contracts pinned to the board, all within easy distance of the town. Even Geralt had looked shocked at five different issues cropping up.
So Jaskier had insisted that they make the most of it, finding a reasonably nice inn that would allow them some comfort without draining their pouches, and he had insisted on an inn, not a tavern.
Geralt had baulked when he had tracked down Jaskier's scent to the inn having finished speaking to the people who had posted the contracts and told them he would be taking their jobs. He knew he would have to bring Jaskier with him on two of them when he went to collect his money, they looked shifty enough he knew it would be a fight to collect all the coin they had agreed upon even with Jaskier's silver tongue.
But the contracts would fill his coin purse nicely anyway.
Until he saw where Jaskier had rented them a room, even sharing the inn was going to take a good chunk out of their coin purses! He had been pointing this out to Jaskier before growling annoyed when the Bard had stared at him confused, and as though he was a little dim.
"What?!" He finally snarled when Jaskier paused in his puttering to stare at him with that expression again.
"Geralt...you know...you know we can afford this, right?" Jaskier said slowly, moving to perch on the second bed in the room, a bed that would have been rented to sleep the two of them in the tavern down the road!
"Not without emptying our pockets and making these contracts pointless!" Geralt growled.
"No, I mean...we have enough," Jaskier waved his hands as though it would make the answer appear in front of the increasingly confused Witcher.
"Geralt, my performances have become more and more popular over the last year, people know my name now, and some of my songs pretty much anywhere we go,"
"Don't remind me," Geralt whined a little.
"That Granny bouncing a coin off your arse was not my fault!" Jaskier held up his hands before Geralt could complain about that incident in the tavern...again. "But what I mean is, with that fame, comes profit. The court that I sang at last week paid more in one night than I earned all last year, and we have collected coin all along the way, even spending it as we have been, we have more than enough. The contracts will just be nice additions topping it up. This will make a small dent, but only a small one,"
"But...you keep saying we….if you have earned that much, that is your money," Geralt frowned.
"It is we because we share a purse basically...Geralt...we have been sharing a purse for nearly a year and a half now," Jaskier blinked a little when he watched Geralt's eyes widened as he realised that the Bard was right.
They had been travelling together for three years now, and right enough somewhere in the last year and a half their lives had become so intermingled that Geralt hadn't even noticed that they had started sharing a coin purse. In fact…
"What are you doing?" Jaskier asked far to calmly as he watched the Witcher jump from the bed and drop himself onto the floor near the fire, grabbing his pack and started spilling things out over the floor, only to then grab Jaskier's pack and do the same thing. "Have you lost something?"
"Say my mind and I will…" Geralt scowled.
"Growl at me, I am afraid that I am quite used to that Dearest Witcher for it to be a threat. And you are far more frightening when you do not have my shirts and your pants strewn all over you. Now, what are you looking for?" Jaskier tugged his boots off before treading over to Geralt and dropping down in front of him.
"My things are in your pack, and your things are in mine!" Geralt waved the shirt that had been in his pack, and the pants that had been in Jaskier's.
"Well yes, you did that! You said it was more efficient and neater, and don't think I don't know you squirrelled away all the heavier things into your pack and gave me all the lighter things!" Jaskier snorted.
"But…" He hadn't even really noticed, he had been the one to do it, half because it did make more sense, and half because Jaskier was terrified of horses and wouldn't get his own one, which left him walking, and Geralt grew uncomfortable with him walking around with a heavy pack, so he had stashed nearly all of the Bard's ridiculous perfumes, oils, lotions, jewellery and such in his own packs and given Jaskier their lighter items. But he hadn't even thought that…
"Are you panicking right now?" Jaskier asked concerned.
"I'm...I wasn't meant to...Witchers don't…" Geralt stammered uncharacteristically.
"Ok, going to stop you there. You always say 'Witchers don't, as though it is like 'all vampires have to drink blood' or 'ghouls will eat a dead body they come across' or 'werewolves are aggressive' Being a Witcher does not affect you or any of the other's personalities or likes or dislikes, wants or anything like that. I have met Letho remember!"
Geralt growled scowling at Jaskier, still annoyed and angry at the way Letho had delighted in taunting him using Jaskier, and still embarrassed about the way he had reacted, he had practically patrolled around Jaskier, snarling and growling, even flashing his sharpened teeth at one point at the other Witcher like a water hag protecting its treasure.
To make it worse Letho and Jaksier had been equally amused by his behaviour.
"My point is Geralt, this whole 'witchers don't' thing is what your individual schools teach you to be, and it is not who you are. What does it matter that we share a coin purse? That we share packs? What does it matter that we sleep in nicer places more frequently?" Jaskier tilted his chin clearly expecting Geralt to be angry, and to argue with him.
"But it is your money," Geralt frowned. "You should be spending it on yourself, and I can…"
"Don't even suggest that! I wouldn't have that money if it wasn't for you," Jaskier scowled even deeper.
"But...what do you want in return?" Geralt frowned deeply at his hands and the trousers and shirt in them.
"What? In return?" Jaskier blinked.
"Well yes, you're paying for more things than I am, you're wasting your money on me and…" Geralt was pulled to a stop in his words when a shirt and pair of suspicious smelling trousers hit him into the head, the trouser hanging over his face. When he pulled them off he found Jaskier looking more apoplectic than he had ever seen him.
"Wasting...wasting...Geralt of fucking Rivia I am not wasting my money on you! It is our money, to begin with! And every penny spent on the two of us is worth it, we are worth being treated and being able to enjoy the finer things in life while we can! Wasting! Really! And I want nothing from you Geralt, you are my friend! And we travel together and earn things together. I can buy us nice things while we are in towns, you hunt us nice foods and treats while we are in the wild, or did you not find me the last of the summer berries and bring them for dessert last night after treating me to venison?! You know how horrid a hunter I am, do you think I would be able to eat halfway decently travelling from town to town to make my money? No!" Jaskier scolded so loudly the people next door banged on the wall.
"I...but...people want things, money is worth more than some berries, this is worth more than some slightly flavoured venison," Geralt waved his hands around them.
"Well then, there is something that you can give me in exchange for the extra baths and luxury," Jaskier said, and Geralt's heart almost sank, before it paused in its drop when he saw the smirk on Jaskier's face.
"He gets facts from my hunts and quests from me so that he has even more material to pick and choose from to write stories, songs and such," Geralt waved his arm only for it to be snatched back for Jaskier to finish washing.
"That is it?" Lambert snorted.
"He gets orgasms as well," Geralt shrugged, and looked smug as Jaskier went bright red, and the other Witchers all spluttered, Eskel nearly ended up under the water of his bath as he slipped in shock at the factual way Geralt said it.
"You ge...he is...you are…"
"You're shagging?!" Lambert said for Eskel who was shoving his wet hair from his face.
"No," Geralt shook his head.
"You're enjoying this far too much," Jaskier scolded gently as he lowered Geralt's arm into the water and lifted his leg out, resting his foot gently on his arm instead of the side of the bath when he saw the discolouration to the skin around his ankle and realised he had sprained it.
"I have been squishing around in the mud, wet, rain and blood with them for a month, I am allowed a bit of fun," Geralt smirked, feeling better and better by the second under the care of his Bard.
"You just said you were giving him orgasms, how can you do that without shagging!" Lambert threw his hands up and splattered Eskel and Jaskier in water.
"Hey!" Jaskier protested.
"...Sorry," Lambert said under the force of Geralt's glare and Jaskier's pout.
"We're not shagging, we're in a relationship," Geralt said simply. The uptick to his heart and beaming smile that Jaskier gave him was more distracting than the noises and expressions coming from the others.
"Relationship?!" Vesemir growled.
"Yes, a relationship," Geralt looked at his father figure in challenge, knowing exactly what was coming, and looking forward to Jaskier's reaction.
"What...what...what in Melitele's name do you think you are doing? You have...you are being bathed, massaged, you're living in places like this! I have seen your armour, that is bought! In a relationship, with a human, a relationship! We are Witchers! Relationships are not for us, homes and love and those types of things are not meant for us!" Vesemir clearly let out what he had been holding in for the whole time they had been here.
Eskel and Lambert looked at Geralt, clearly waiting to see what his reaction would be, they had never seen Geralt go against Vesemir, and that was clearly what he was doing here, his life had become what Vesemir had warned them was not for them. However they found their brother looking up at the Bard.
When they turned their eyes to the Bard the human who had seemed gentle and warm, now looked as though he was ready to take on a pack of Ghouls in defence of their brother, he was kneeling there, with his hands on his hips and a furious look on his face as he looked at Vesemir.
"Why?" Jaskier said firmly.
"Sorry?" Vesmir was so amusingly baffled by the question.
"Why? Why isn't it allowed for Witchers?" Jaskier crossed his arms.
"It makes us slow! It makes us careless, distracted, if we get used to luxury and comfort then it will kill us on the road, or stop us from taking the Path, that is what we were made for, we have to keep up the ways of the Witcher!" Vesemir ranted the familiar words that they had all had drilled into their heads, words that Geralt had believed wholeheartedly, until Jaskier.
"Let us not forget that Witcher's don't have emotions either, which is a load of bollocks!" Jaskier was fired up now. Geralt watched a little amused as Lambert and Eskel's jaws dropped, staring at the human stunned.
"Excuse me?" Vesemir growled, summoning an answering, warning growl from Geralt.
"Does Geralt look like he is slower? Look like he is lesser for having some comfort or luxury in his life? We are able to afford better armour, better swords that help him in his fights, we eat regularly and properly which means Geralt has more energy for fights. We travel as much as we always have, and yes we stay in inns and taverns more, but that means he has baths to relax in and comfortable beds to sleep in which keeps him fresher for fights. What part of that is a negative?"
"Relationships make us weak!" Vesemir snarled.
"Does it? Really? As far as I see it, Geralt has something more to live for, he has something to fight harder for," Jaskier narrowed his eyes.
"You all mean so much to me, and I love you all, but having Jaskier in my life, having our relationship. It has stopped that chill and cold that comes with travelling the world alone, only getting to see you all every few winters, and even then we rarely get to spend it all together. When I can feel myself failing in a fight, I fight harder because I want to get back to Jaskier, because I want to go to sleep in his arms, and because I have our future to look forward to. Having Jaskier and our relationship has made me stronger, not weaker," Geralt looked at Lambert, who he knew understood what he was saying given his relationship with Aiden.
"But he's human," Eskel said softly, confused. "How can he…"
"The whole Witcher being an emotionless, cruel, cold is a load of shit. Geralt feels more than most humans I know, he is kinder and more caring than most humans. I love Geralt, with everything that I have, and I always will, because of who and what he is, not despite it," Jaskier smiled at Geralt, who could feel a small prickle of heat forming in his cheeks at the declaration.
He gripped his hand and raised the damp skin to his lips, kissing the Bard's skin hoping that everything that he felt was in his eyes.
"This isn't how a Witcher is," Vesemir said softly.
"What does it matter what a Witcher is or isn't. I am sorry, but there are no more Witchers, there will be no more, this is it for the School of the Wolf, you're the last of them. What does it matter to stick to the traditions? All you have left is to live your lives for however much longer you have, yes you're Witchers and I don't doubt that you're going to all carry on on the Path, but you can enjoy your lives, they don't have to be bleak and dull, basic and empty. Why can't you meet up with each other more? Why can't you have some joy and happiness in your lives? You should have been allowed to have it in the first place, honestly this idea that happiness, warmth, care and a little bit of gentleness in your lives can make you weak, just ridiculous, how many Witchers have been lost because they have been cold and tired, exhausted and fed up with a barren and hard world? Why would you fight harder, if you have nothing but more of the same to fight for?"
"Well...that was...well said," Eskel blinked at the Bard.
"I have been trying to say that for years, decades," Lambert snorted. "Just couldn't say it so well,"
"Does that mean we get to meet Aiden?" Eskel smirked.
"It has been decades," Geralt hummed linking his fingers with Jaskier's.
"No, you are not meeting him!" Lambert growled, suddenly scrubbing his skin clean of the mud still coating it.
"Why not, surely introducing him to your family will only make it more real and better, sharing happiness can only deepen it, not weaken it," Jaskier said sweetly leaving the Witcher staring at him again open-mouthed until Geralt let out one of his deep, booming, rough laughs.
Jaskier looked so pleased with himself as he turned to his Witcher, soaking up the rare moment with such an open expression on his face that none of them could doubt how he felt for Geralt, this human loved a Witcher, utterly and completely.
And the way their brother looked at Jaskier, it was clear that he loved him as well, his amber eyes were open and warm, looking at the Bard as though he was the most precious thing in the world.
"Come on, let's have a look at you," Jaskier tugged Geralt to his feet and eased him down onto the stool he had moved to in front of the fire.
There was silence in the cottage, Vesemir sitting silently in his bath contemplating what had been said to him, and what he had been told, he was watching closely as the Bard treated Geralt's wounds carefully and with care, placing the right lotions, pastes and ointments on the right wounds, stitching carefully the still open ones and bandaging him up. Finally done he pulled Geralt to his feet and helped him into a loose top and trousers before shuffling him over to drop at a table, quickly bringing over a cup of tea and steaming bowl of stew to him.
"Ok Eskel next," Jaskier held his hands out to the dark-haired Witcher who stared up at him until the Bard wiggled his fingers. He took the soft, slightly calloused hands in his and allowed the human to pull him to his feet. He found himself towed over to the stool Geralt had vacated.
He dropped down onto it and stared at the Bard who looked right back with a warm, friendly smile, seemingly completely undaunted to be so close to him with all his scars and evidence of his life and living clear to those blue eyes and looked warmly into his own Witcher eyes.
"Am I ok to treat your wounds?" Jaskier asked, not touching or making any move to start until Eskel gave a small nod. The Bard was efficient and clearly practised at this, which would explain why Geralt had smaller and neater scars, and less scars, than was normal. He moved to clean Eskel up carefully making sure that everything was treated before holding up more clothing for him. "Am I ok to help you with your shirt?"
"Yeah…" Eskel nodded holding his arms out in front of him, thankful considering he wasn't sure he was going to be able to lift his arms over his head with his shoulders still healing from having been dislocated two days ago. Jaskier also helped him into his trousers after a quick glance, his touch methodic and quick but still warm.
"Geralt nearly took my hand off when I tried to help him without asking the first time, I learned not to push it with an injured Witcher," Jaskier smiled. "When I went to help him dress the first time he ended halfway across the camp completely naked and looking as though I had let off a bunch of fireworks,"
"I can hear you," Geralt grumbled as he shovelled more stew into his mouth.
"I know dearest," Jaskier said brightly leading Eskel over to the table as well. He situated him at the table, delivered tea and stew to him before turning to find Lambert was already sitting in front of the fire on the stool.
"Ready," Lambert said, and smiled a little when Jaskier laughed merrily. "How exactly did the grumpiest, silent Witcher on the Continent end up with you?"
"If we weren't already spoken for I might take prickly and hot-headed, though the sweet shy type is also hot, not to mention you're both wrapped in attractive packages," Jaskier winked at Lambert as he worked.
"I can hear you," Geralt repeated reaching over to shove Eskel's spoon into his mouth as it was in danger of spilling his stew onto the table where it was drooping, and his jaw was hanging open.
"Sweet? Attractive?" Eskel muttered.
"I know dearest!"
"Stop flirting with my Bard, Lambert!" Geralt grumbled.
"Can't help it if I am hotter stuff,"
"Hmm, I am fairly sure Geralt can handle a sword better," Jaskier winked again. All of them were stunned at the roaring laughter that came from Vesemir's tub at the stunned expression on Lambert's face.
"I am turning into a prune here my boy waiting for my turn, stop flirting with the Bard and get dressed," Vesemir chided.
It seemed that Lambert was so stunned that he allowed Jaskier to dress him and deposit him at the table with his own food and drink without uttering a word. It was only when he was seated and had a spoon in his hand, Vesemir being helped out the bath that he spoke.
"Did he just insinuate that your cock is better than mine?"
"Because it is," Geralt smirked.
"You're skilled at this," Vesemir rumbled as he watched Jaskier work.
"Lots and lots of practice, and lots and lots of freaking out while Geralt barked orders at me and bled out. Didn't think that all that would accumulate to me stitching up his father figure naked while I am meeting him for the first time and have just finished scolding him," Jaskier snorted.
"Hmm, sometimes we get so stuck in our ways, and we get so narrow sighted that a good scolding and having the obvious pointed out is what we need," Vesemir hummed as he held his arm out for Jaskier to stitch a nasty scratch from a Noonwraith.
"Being afraid of losing them is normal, but changing things isn't a bad thing, and doesn't mean that you're going to lose them. I am very much invested in keeping Geralt here. If I thought that there was something that I was doing that put Geralt at risk, if I thought that being with Geralt was putting him at risk, I wouldn't be around anymore,"
Eskel gripped Geralt's wrist when he opened his mouth at that, gently shaking his head, nodding to Vesemir who was staring down at Jaskier's bowed head with wide eyes.
"Geralt is everything to me, and even if it broke my heart, his safety is everything to me, he is everything to me. It would be the hardest thing in the world for me to do, I would rather smash my lute and never sing a word again than be without Geralt, but I would walk away from him if I thought that I was endangering him,"
"I have noticed. He has seemed more alive, more happy and content, than I have seen him since he left Kaer Morhen as a fresh, hopeful young man," Vesemir touched the human's shoulder. "You're good for him,"
"Thank you," The smile that the eldest Witcher received was beaming, and he snorted amused as the human finished bandaging him and helping him into clothes.
"Oh, no it is ok…." Eskel waved his hand when Jaskier came around to fill his bowl back up.
"I know Witcher appetites, especially when you have been fighting, we have more than enough food, our contractor has kept us nice and stocked here not to let everyone know that his wife is a psycho," Jaskier snorted, serving another large bowlful, topping up Lambert's and refilling Geralt's with a sweet kiss to his cheek before he hurried off to sort through their armour, placing it off to the side, stoking the two fireplaces in the cottage, and then organising the sleeping pallets that he had set up for the five of them.
Geralt watched as he tugged what was clearly going to be their pallet together going by the fact their blankets were on top of them, Jaskier had separated their pallets out so that they could sleep separately if Geralt had not wanted to reveal their relationship to his family, and there was a conversation that they needed to have there about the fact that Jaskier thought that he would be...embarrassed to share their relationship, but now he was happily tugging their pallets together so that they could sleep together, fluffing their blankets on the top.
He smiled softly to himself as he watched Jaskier stroke his hands over the blankets before he moved to make sure that the other pallets were ready for his fellow Witchers to drop into. The blankets were the fourth or fifth set that Geralt had made for Jaskier, but he remembered the first time that he had given Jaskier a set of blankets, and how pleased the Bard had been with the simple gift.
Ten Years Ago
Geralt frowned at the Bard who was sitting so close to the fire that he was nearly in it. The weather was definitely cooling down, they were heading into Winter, and for the first time in the last two years that they had known each other Geralt was not planning on making his way to Kaer Morhen for the winter.
They were too far south of the Witcher stronghold, and he would not make it back in time before the pathway sealed up. He had spent the last few years in Kaer Morhen for the winter anyway, and they did not spend every winter together for various reasons. He also found himself loath to leave Jaskier this year, they had travelled together for pretty much most of the spring, summer and autumn, and Geralt was shockingly not fed up with his company.
When they had first started travelling together Geralt had found himself impatient with the Bard, unused to company and chatter and noise, the big personality that made up Jaskier as alien to him as living as a farmer would be. But over the last two years of travelling together, he found the moments that they were not together too silent, he found the lack of chatter and noise, the lack of music disconcerting. He missed the warmth of Jaskier's personality there along with him, he missed the friendly smile and brightening eyes when he saw Geralt. The Witcher was so used to suspicion and hatred in people's eyes that the lack of fear, the happiness to have Geralt in his life was a complete and utter twist to his life, a twist that he had never expected. The young Bard had never been scared of him, had never been nervous or worried, he had just walked up to him and that had been that.
He loved his brothers and Vesemir, but they loved each other because they were all that they had in a world that treated them with suspicion, they were all that they had that understood what it was to be a Witcher, the only safe place that they could truly be themselves. Geralt often wondered if they had not been turned into mutants, if they had not been Witchers if they would really have gotten on together if they would have been friends, family. They had not chosen each other, they had been thrown together through the circumstances of their lives and what they had become through a lack of choice, all four of them.
But Jaskier had chosen him. Jaskier had chosen to travel with him, to keep travelling with him. He had chosen to be Geralt's friend. He had chosen to make Geralt his 'muse' whatever the hell that meant, and he had chosen to follow Geralt on the Path, keeping him company, learning about him and his life, learning about his likes and dislikes, learning who Geralt was passed the eyes and the hair, passed the medallion and the image that the Trial of the Grasses had created.
"What?" Jaskier pouted when Geralt snorted amused to himself.
"Just remembering when we first met, when you said that I smelt of 'death and destiny…'
"...heroics and heartbreak,' and then you completely ruined my wonderful description by telling me…"
"...'It's onion,'" Geralt smiled.
"What has you thinking about that?" Jaskier smiled tilting his head, and Geralt's heart sped up for a second in a way that it was doing more and more around Jaskier, in a way that he was getting good at ignoring.
"This is the first winter we are spending together since meeting, it is a change again," Geralt hummed.
"Is that ok?" Jaskier asked gently.
"Yes. It will be different to travelling together as we have been," Geralt hummed. "You're feeling the cold already,"
"Yes Geralt, us weak little humans feel the cold easier," Jaskier laughed.
The Brad found his lack of knowledge about the basics of being a human...endearing Geralt thought the word would be, he didn't find it odd, off or even frightening in a way a lot of humans, most humans, would have done, instead he just seemed amused and to like Geralt more for it. The first time he had really injured himself when they had been travelling together he had been distracted from his dramatics about the blood flowing from the wound by how baffled and worried Geralt had been, and after he had just been fondly amused by how disgruntled and worried Geralt had been by how slow he healed - he had not been worried - and that wasn't even remembering the time Jaskier had caught some sort of bug, Geralt was still a little embarrassed remembering his reaction to that. Humans were so fragile!
"Would help if you wore proper clothes," Geralt sighed eyeing up his clothing. Though they had changed from the silks and lighter clothing, they were still wholly inappropriate for the winter.
"It is colder," Jaskier shrugged holding his hands out to the fire.
"It is only just setting in," Geralt frowned at the sky. The ice and snow had barely even touched the continent for the winter.
"I am human Geralt, and I am thinner than I probably should be, food is becoming more regular for us, but I feel the cold a little more, and I can't really afford to buy the winter clothing that would help. I have managed for a good few winters before Geralt, I am not going to freeze to death, don't worry," Jaskier smiled.
But all Geralt heard was that Jaskier had spent the last two winters cold and probably miserable when he was between taverns, and the three years he had been travelling before they had met.
He stood and moved to Jaskier's side, dropping down next to him as the Bard made a questioning sound, blinking those big blue eyes at him. He pressed their side close together, allowing his heat to seep into the human's fragile body, he dragged their blankets over and threw it over their laps, tucking it around his legs to trap in the heat.
He could smell and see the confusion on Jaskier's face, but slowly his Bard sank into his side, soaking up the heat, humming contently to himself as he did so, the new song that he was working on being hummed out as Jaskier's brown head rested down onto his shoulder and he got comfortable for the first time that evening.
Geralt wasn't sure what to do with himself. This was the first time that they had sat like this, Jaskier was tactile yes, he did not mind touching Geralt, he did it quite a lot, hell he helped Geralt bathe a lot to get rid of all the gunk and icker from him from contracts. But this was different, this was sitting, just enjoying the presence and comfort of the other.
He had started this for Jaskier, but now, now he was enjoying this, he was soaking up a different type of heat that Jaskier was providing him to the heat he was providing the human. Sitting there watching the fire, soaking up Jaskier's warmth, and listening to him hum his new work, Geralt began to plan.
"Oh by the gods...I am so full Geralt…" Jaskier groaned happily lying on his back near the fireplace, reaching down to happily pat his stomach. The scent of the stew that Geralt had cooked for them still filling their little clearing.
"Hmmm," Geralt rumbled.
"You have been on a hunting frenzy Geralt," Jaskier hummed. Geralt had indeed hunted down every wolf and bear that they had come across outside of towns and villages that would no doubt be looking for an easy victim with single-minded determination, he had also caught them a good few deer and some rabbits over the last few weeks. They had been eating well, the meat filling their stews and filling their stomachs to make up for the lack of vegetables.
"Hmm," Geralt rumbled before chuckling at the yelp Jaskier let out when something dropped over his face.
"Geralt!" Jaskier huffed pouting as he swiped the thing off his face to glare at the Witcher. Before he blinked and turned stroking his hand over the object now in his lap. "What is this?"
"Blanket for you," Geralt muttered, watching with intent yellow eyes as Jaskier stroked his hand awed over the blanket that he had made of cured furs.
"I thought that you were planning on selling them," Jaskier said softly, tugging the furs over his legs and sighing happily as the chill that he had been feeling started easing.
"I exchanged a few things for these," Geralt threw something else into Jaskier's lap. The Bard blinked before reaching out and stroking his hand over the soft leather of the gloves sitting on his lap.
"Geralt…" Jaskier blinked a little too rapidly, the scent of salt filling the air, only making Geralt panic.
"This is for you as well," Geralt grumbled throwing more fur at Jaskier, with deerskin lining the inside of the jacket and wolf fur on the outside Jaskier just knew that he was going to be toasty warm for the rest of the winter.
He hesitated for a second before launching himself at Geralt, wrapping his arms tightly around his Witcher.
"It is only a few things…" Geralt muttered, awkwardly patting the Bard's back.
"It isn't, thank you," Jaskier beamed at him, tugging the jacket and the gloves on before throwing the blanket over his legs as he leant against Geralt's legs.
"You're going to overheat!" Geralt protested unsure what to say in face of Jaskier's happiness with the items that had been easy enough for Geralt to create for him, killing the bears and wolves, deer and rabbit had been easy enough to kill...well maybe not the two bears, but it was what he was trained to do.
Making the objects that he could had again been easy enough, he had been taught how to make clothing and blankets from being a young Witcher and had been making them for decades, which Jaskier had found amusing, picturing a bunch of young Witchers sitting in sewing class with their swords, daggers and knives strapped to them as they learned how to back stitch and...well he was scarily close and Geralt really hoped that he never found out how close he had been.
Exchanging the excess furs that he had for the gloves, and the boots that he had in his pack and definitely was not giving Jaskier tonight, though he would give him the sets of woollen socks a lovely old lady had made for him in exchange for some meat and for him chopping enough firewood for her to last her through the winter, it had all been very little work for him.
But their camp was filled with the scent of honey and vanilla, the scent of Jaskier's connectedness and happiness, his joy. Something simple that Geralt could do and give for him made Jaskier happy in the way that the big, fancy parties and meals, luxury rooms and comfort had given him.
He hadn't smelt the scent of this true happiness before on Jaskier, and it was just the two of them sitting in front of a fire as the snows were starting to fall, stomachs full of comforting stew, and a Bard wrapped in his new blanket leaning against a Witcher.
And Geralt knew that he would do everything he could to keep that scent of happiness on the human.
"Come on My Love," Jaskier's vanilla and honey scent filled Geralt's senses seconds before gentle hands touched his shoulders. He realised that he had finished his meal, and tea, and had been lost in his thoughts.
Tilting his head back he met the cornflower blue of his love, glittering and warm as they looked into his own. He allowed Jaskier to tug him to his feet, carefully leading him over to their pallet and settled him down onto it.
Humming happily he rubbed his face into the blankets that smelt of them, though more strongly of Jaskier considering he had been sleeping under them alone for the last month. He grumbled a little under his breath at that.
"We're ok," Eskel smiled waving his hand when Jaskier looked to them questioningly as to whether they would need help or not. Geralt's hand was wrapped tightly around his wrist, grumbling lowly when Jaskier did not lie down with him right away.
"Come on you big lug," Jaskier said lovingly, shuffling around and nudging Geralt around until they were lying pressed tightly together, Jaskier's back to Geralt's chest with the Witcher's strong arm thrown over his waist holding him firmly in a way that always made the Bard feel safe.
Geralt was far more exhausted than the others considering he had been fighting for longer than the others before he had called them in, and he was obviously exhausted. He sank into the pallet with a groan, pressing his nose into the back of Jaskier's neck with a happy grumble, throwing his leg over Jaskier's for good measure.
"He hasn't got a Bard, he has a teddy bear," Lambert snickered.
"Fuck off," Geralt grumbled tiredly into Jaskier's shoulder.
"I can't hear with Witcher hearing what you said, but just remember we're going to meet Aiden!" Jaskier called cheerfully from under his two hundred pounds of Witcher.
"I'm not introducing you lot to him!" Lambert grumbled flopping onto a pallet.
"Between the four of us how hard can it be to track down a Witcher from the Cat School?" Jaskier smirked at him, Geralt's shoulder's shaking as he laughed softly.
"You wouldn't!" Lambert blinked at them.
"Oh, we would!" Eskel smirked dropping onto his pallet. "I like the Bard, good choice Geralt!"
"I didn't choose him, he latched onto me and didn't let go," Geralt snorted before grunting when Jaskier elbowed him in the stomach.
"Go to sleep, the lot of you," Vesemir snorted dropping down onto his pallet with a comfortable groan.
"...You're not really going to track him down if I don't introduce him are you?" Lambert asked after a beat.
"Of course!" Jaskier, Geralt and Eskel answered at the same time.
"Honestly you bunch of chatterboxes, sleep!" Vesemir growled.
"You did not just refer to Geralt as a chatterbox right?" Jaskier started laughing.
"Have you seen him fully drunk?" Eskel popped his head eagerly over Lambert to look at Jaskier.
"No!" Jaskier tried to roll to glare at Geralt who held tightly onto him and was growling at Eskel. "You told me you couldn't get drunk because of your metabolism!"
"He's a chatty, giggly, soppy drunk! No wonder he told you that!" Lambert laughed.
"No!" Jaskier laughed.
"Oh yes!" Eskel snorted.
"I caught him hugging Roach once, completely sozzled and sobbing about how much he loved her," Lambert tattled.
"And I found all three of you dressed up, drunk off your minds staggering around the keep," Vesemir said making the three other Witchers fall silent as Jaskier started laughing even harder.
"Oh my….what was Geralt wearing?" Jaskier managed to say between his laughter.
"Please don't tell him!" Geralt whined.
"Please tell me! I will love you forever!" Jaskier begged.
"His puppy dog eyes are much more impressive than yours Geralt," Vesemir chuckled.
"No!" Geralt groaned burying his face into Jaskier's neck.
"There there I won't write a song about it, I promise," Jaskier reached over his shoulder to pat Geralt on the head. "Go on!" He grinned at Vesemir who chuckled.
"I found him in an exceedingly strained set of Healer's robes that he got from who knows where, insisting that we call him Healer Wolf, going around trying to 'treat' the paintings and statues in the keep," Vesemir chuckled.
"Shut up!" Geralt growled at his brothers who were flat on their stomachs laughing. "Eskel was dressed as a farmer with a top so tight it was a...what did you call them….the short tops," Geralt drew a line with his finger over Jaskier's chest.
"A crop top?" Jaskier wheezed through his laughter imagining Eskel in the crop top.
"Yes!" Geralt nodded.
"And Lambert?" Jaskier managed to ask.
"He was dressed up as me," Vesemir said dryly. "Including a fake moustache which I have no idea where he got the hair from,"
The four witchers watched as Jaskier laughed so hard he was wiping tears from his face, all of them smiling at the honeyed scent that filled the cottage. Vesemir, Lambert and Eskel smiled a little softer at the warm vanilla scent that mixed with the honey when Geralt reached up and wiped his eyes gently for him, resting his chin on Jaskier's shoulder.
"I hope you know you're getting drunk as soon as you're healed up," Jaskier snorted poking Geralt's cheek.
"You're not going to let me live it down though," Geralt pouted a little.
"Oh I am really not, especially for pulling that 'I can't get drunk' crap for so long,"
"I will buy you some new lute strings as well," Geralt sighed.
"Forgiven!" Jaskier chirped, turning to press their lips together.
"Good. I am passing out now," Geralt groaned dropping his head back onto the pillow and snuggling closer to Jaskier.
"Night night Healer Wolf," Jaskier said, snickering at the groan Geralt let out.
Vesemir lay there awake longer than the rest, watching his boys falling asleep one by one, Geralt's distinctive heavy breathing filling the room quickly as he slipped into a healing sleep. He lay with his eyes slightly cracked open making sure that the light of the fire nearby wouldn't reflect off his eyes as he watched the Bard with Geralt.
The human lay there awake for a good while, his vanilla scent that told of his love for Geralt filling the room as he simply lay in Geralt's arms running his fingers gently back and forth over Geralt's hand and arm in a way that clearly relaxed and eased Geralt into a deeper sleep faster and kept him calm once in sleep. He was humming softly, a gentle, calming tune.
His face looked utterly content, his body language relaxed and happy, clearly feeling safe and overjoyed to be in the arms of what most of humanity viewed as a monster, as other. The human had clearly seen everything that there was to being a Witcher, of that Vesemir had no doubt considering the ease with which he had operated around them, and after over a decade of following Geralt around, of being with him, there was no way that he couldn't have seen it all.
And yet he still loved Geralt, he seemed to love him because of it.
Vesemir opened his eyes fully and leant up once the human fell asleep, squirming even deeper into Geralt's hold. He looked over the human he had been surveying and watching, and looked at Geralt instead, humming softly to himself at the soft, relaxed expression on the face of the man who had been through too much, his child of surprise that had been put through more than most of them, his child who was destined for so much, destined to give so much, and finally seemed to have been given something back.
He loved all three of his boys, though he had very different relationships with all of them, Eskel's quiet distance that he constantly had to push through, Lambert's anger at what had been done to him which was often focused on Vesemir as the only wolf that had taught and assisted in the trials left, but Geralt was his child of surprise, and he had been through so much and still managed to keep that warm, kind heart despite everything that he had been put through and had seen.
He lay back down and stared up at the ceiling his mind spinning. That boy deserved some goodness in his life, and Vesemir had a suspicion that Jaskier would be good for all of them, he hadn't missed the way something seemed to have eased in Lambert at the lack of fear in Jaskier, the fact that someone who was not the other three wolves touched him freely and without hesitation, he had not missed the smile on Eskel's face as he had contentedly watched Jaskier care for his wounds with care, the awe in his eyes at the gentle touch to his shoulder Jaskier had given him when he placed his bowl in front of him.
But Jaskier was human, and his time would be limited. The last thing Vesemir wanted to do was have to see the after-effects of Geralt when the Bard passed away, he didn't want to watch the grief eat away and destroy his son as he would have to watch Jaskier grow old and know his time was coming.
Extended life was something that did not come about easily, but it was out there, and there were a good few favours that Vesemir could call in that he had collected over the years.
Already forming plans Vesemir placed his arms under his head and allowed sleep to take him even as his plans swam around in his head, placing together ideas that he would seek out as soon as possible.
And just before he fell asleep he thought that maybe the Bard would be good for him as well, he was looking forward to laughter and lightness in the morning when they woke, the fresh air that the human brought to his very long life, showing him that the world could still take you by surprise.