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At first, Geralt thought Dandelion had put out another ballad when women in Beauclaire started to act strangely around him. There was a lot of giggling when he passed, a lot of batted eyelashes, and the more courageous ones even came up to flirt with him directly.

It took him weeks before he came across the source of the sudden appreciation for witchers. And quite by accident, too. He'd meant to buy a newly released book by a Oxenfurt herbalist, when he noticed an entire stack of the same book right by the counter. The cover was illustrated with a drawing of a noble looking woman, a wolf medallion around her neck. She looked a bit like Ciri. It was enough to pique his interest.

He spent the rest of the afternoon reading the novel. It was surprisingly well written for far fetched fiction about the adventures and romantic exploits of a female witcher. She had charm, she had wits, she bested all the monsters she ever came across and befriended quite a few of the ones she didn't slay. Geralt could see why his own wolf's medallion had drawn so many gazes. Hell, even he'd love to meet the heroine of the novel. She was too perfect to be true, sure, but the book made its readers long for her anyway. Whoever had written it had to know quite a bit about witchers and then had decided to risk their neck by fashioning the heroine into a very close image of the Empress of Nilfgaard.

That was the strange part. Geralt could tell that the female witcher was supposed to be Ciri, because it was her, at her very core. In a fictional world where she hadn't taken over the throne from Emhyr, she might have led a life like the one in the book, seducing dragons and showing princes the evil of their ways. He wondered if any of her friends had written it, in an attempt to help. But of all of them, he could only suspect Dandelion of doing something like that and the bard would never pass up on an opportunity to put his name on his works. That left an enemy of hers. However, the heroine was too well crafted to evoke awe and longing. It had to be meant to improve her image, to help her. Or it was all an accident and he was seeing shadows where there were none.

He still trekked back into the city the next day to see if he could find out more. The bookseller didn't tell him much, though, no matter how much he wheedled. All he could learn was that the author's publisher had their office near the harbor. So he went there next. Only, they wouldn't tell him anything about the mysterious author, either. At least he got an early copy of the next book.

He read it that evening at home in a single sitting. It only made him more convinced that the author knew Ciri well.

Over the next weeks, he investigated the mystery on and off, in between contracts and ducal "requests" for his witcherly services. It wasn't successful. Whoever the author was, they delivered their manuscript through random messengers. Nobody seemed to be able to remember the face. The best description he'd gotten was "a man, in a hood that hid his entire face". Not even the publisher seemed to know who it was beyond the pseudonym. Geralt got the publisher drunk one evening to get an address, but he didn't know that, either. The pay was left in a hollow tree on random, previously agreed upon dates. In short, the author was doing everything he could to obscure himself.

Right about that time, Geralt got thoroughly distracted. Emhyr had retired to Toussaint shortly after he'd ceded the throne to Ciri. Geralt had managed to stay out of his way up until then, only occasionally exchanging a brief nod of icy acknowledgment at Annarietta's parties or, when they both couldn't take the nobility anymore, drink through a bottle of wine or two in silence. Sometimes, Geralt found himself even secretly looking forward to those stolen moments, when they sat under the stars, pleasantly buzzed, watching the lake. It were those moments that made him agree when Emhyr asked for help with an arch spore infestation on his vineyard. Only after Geralt had dealt with that, he found a nekker nest really close by a week later and then at the end of the month, Emhyr stumbled upon a shaelmaar in his wine cellar. Or at least in a cave that had lost a wall right next to his wine cellar.

Before he'd even known it, Geralt had let himself be wined and dined by the Emperor emeritus several times. Over all those incidents and happenstances, Geralt learned that Emhyr was just as good a shah player as he'd always feared—not that it stopped Geralt from playing him for hours at a time, more often than not until it was so deep into the night that he slept in one of the guest rooms. Teaching Emhyr how to play Gwent turned out to be a grave mistake, too. They both enjoyed it so much, not only the playing but also the discussion of the game, that it quickly became a weekly occurrence.

And then he screwed it all up by kissing Emhyr one night, only to flee from it in the dark of night like a coward.

In Geralt’s defense, he hadn’t been thinking and it had been Emhyr, for fuck’s sake. Being terrified of lethal repercussions for his action was reasonable. Or so he told himself while he hid in the sunlit forests, hunting bandits and the rare monster, for weeks.

When Geralt finally dared to return to Corvo Bianco late one night, he wasn't met with a gang of assassins. Against all expectation, he didn't even spot any spies lurking around. All that awaited him was B.B. with a letter from Ciri. It was the usual, until he got to the final paragraph. There, almost as an afterthought, she'd written: "Whatever you and Father are doing, keep me out of it. I have an empire to run, I can't make time to knock sense into either of you. Anyway, I think he's laughing at you. Why, I have no idea. But you'll have to pick up your Gwent deck yourself if you want it back. There. I relayed his message. That's all I'll do for you." Then followed her usual promises to visit as soon as she found the time or at the very least an excuse for it. If Geralt had to go into Beauclaire itself to see his little girl, that was fine with him. Better than having to travel all the way to Nilfgaard, anyway.

He did his best to put the message Ciri had forwarded to him out of his mind. It didn't work. He lay awake almost all night, finally giving up on sleep in favor of a quick meditation to clear his thoughts. Emhyr was laughing at him. The sentence kept rattling around in his head. Now that he wasn't worried Emhyr would have him killed for his audacity anymore, he had time to be annoyed. How dared Emhyr laugh at him for following his impulses. He'd even admitted to himself that he'd meant the kiss. Only Emhyr hadn't responded before Geralt had realized how colossally stupid he was being. He'd frozen up and stared at Geralt in surprise. Which wasn’t exactly the reaction Geralt had hoped for.

And then Geralt had bolted without another word.

Fine, maybe Emhyr had a good reason to laugh at him after all. Running away wasn't really the mature thing to do. He could at least have apologized. Or waited for Emhyr to say something, anything. Laughing didn't sound like death threats. So maybe, it even had been alright, if surprising that he'd kissed him.

Geralt managed to drag his feet about seeing Emhyr again for another couple of days. He reasoned he didn't need his Gwent deck that badly. And he'd managed to half convince himself that Emhyr was finding the mere idea that Geralt could have feelings for him so ridiculous he was laughing. It was the most sane explanation he'd managed to come up with.

After all, Geralt was just a simple witcher and while he might be amusing to have around for Emhyr, he was still just a witcher and Emhyr was born and bred to be Emperor and that hadn't changed after he'd retired. They were probably just too different. Pleasant company notwithstanding.

He didn’t feel like he’d steeled himself for rejection enough when he jumped off Roach in the courtyard in front of Emhyr’s mansion. None of the servants tried to stop him, which was a plus. He didn’t think he could have taken it if they’d chased him off or even made him wait. As it was, he could even hand Roach over to a stable boy before he marched inside, banking on finding Emhyr in his office. Why he still spent so much time writing, Geralt had no idea. Maybe it was those memoirs he’d sometimes talked about when he’d still been the Emperor.

Geralt had been right. Emhyr was sitting at his desk, quill in hand, when he entered the office. He was sure he’d been quiet, but Emhyr still looked up almost instantly. Geralt suddenly realized that he had no idea what to say. It was only getting worse when Emhyr raised his eyebrow at him.

Emhyr put his quill down and sighed deeply. “Normally, people start with hello, Geralt.”

“Uh… hello?” Geralt said after another moment in which he desperately tried to remember how words worked. Well, at least Emhyr hadn’t kicked him out right away. Geralt took that as a cue to come a step closer.

Emhyr wore a pinched expression. He seemed to be considering his next words very carefully. “I realize in hindsight that our last meeting ended far from ideal.” His tone was emphatically neutral. “In fact, I do wish it had ended very much differently.”

Geralt swallowed. Yeah, he’d figured as much, but he didn’t actually want to hear it. “It’s alright,” he interrupted before Emhyr could go on. Desperate, he offered: “We could just pretend it’d never happened?”

"Forget about it?" Emhyr raised an eyebrow. "Of course, if you see it as a stupid mistake not to be repeated..." He let his voice trail off. And the weird thing was his tone was that of a threat but what Geralt got from it was the desperate urge to do it again.

Against his better judgment, he walked around the desk, deliberately forcing Emhyr to either turn his chair or get up. "I didn't know a repetition was even on the table," he purred.

Despite what was said, he didn't need to sleep with every single person he was friends with. He'd, for example, never even considered sleeping with Zoltan. Every once in a while, he'd also get his interpretation of signals wrong, as for example in the one instance when Vernon Roche, who was still somehow his friend despite everything, had broken his nose for trying.

But he was sure in that moment that he was getting what Emhyr was hinting at. And he was surprisingly willing to try it himself. At the very least for a quick tumble, or more, if wanted.

Emhyr pushed his chair back, getting up to stare Geralt down. "What do you want, witcher?" he asked. "What, exactly, is it you're aiming for here?"

"Uhm, what're you ready to give?" Geralt held Emhyr's gaze. "I mostly wanted to not be kicked out or assassinated before I came here, really. I thought you didn't... well, that I'd misread things. You didn't react!"

For a fraction of a second, Emhyr looked actually scandalized. “You think I’d have people, have you, assassinated for a chaste peck on the lips?!”

“It’s a reasonable assumption,” Geralt huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Cirilla loves you.” And somehow, that was answer enough. Geralt had seen how Emhyr was treating her now. Hurting Ciri seemed as much out of the question for him as for Geralt himself. “Besides,” Emhyr continued after a pause, his voice perfectly even. “I can make your life miserable without hurting you.” There was an amused twinkle in his eyes when Geralt dared to hold his gaze for a moment. “The first thing that comes to mind is simply telling Her Grace, Duchess Anna Henrietta that you love her themed parties and hope you’ll be invited to every single one.”

Geralt let out an offended gasp. He could barely stand the current state of invitations, which was that as long as Annarietta didn’t invite him more often than once every six-ish weeks, he’d attend when he was invited. Any more was too much for Geralt. He’d probably eventually punch somebody. Or get banned from the Gwent tables.

“Geralt,” Emhyr sighed. “How ruthless do you think I am?”

“Er…” That question felt like a trap. “Very?”

Emhyr shook his head. “...And you still regularly played cards with me for about half a year.” He looked at Geralt, like a very obvious seeming puzzle he still couldn’t quite figure out. “Are you an actual idiot or merely very good at playing one?”

Geralt blinked. He wasn’t sure whether he was even supposed to answer that. The best course he saw was to ask a question in response. “So, was I wrong about the kiss?”

Emhyr turning his head away was more answer than the muttered “yes” or the way he pinched his nose.

“You didn’t mind?” Geralt pushed on. He felt… giddy, perhaps. Something was fluttering inside his chest and he wasn’t too sure yet what the feeling was.

A faint blush colored Emhyr’s cheeks. “I was surprised by it, to say the least. I’d never considered you’d do something like that.”

“But you liked it?” A grin was spreading over Geralt’s face all on its own.

Emhyr glared at him. He sighed. Then, slowly, he admitted, “Once I had my wits back about me and after I’d finished being frustrated with myself for making it so unpleasant an experience you left, yes.”

“It wasn’t all that unpleasant,” Geralt purred. “I’m sure it'll be even better when you respond in kind.” He raised one eyebrow. “So?”

“So, what?”

“If you wanna kiss me, kiss me,” Geralt challenged.

Emhyr’s eyes flickered to the papers on his desk. It was just for a second, but when his gaze turned back to Geralt, he looked actually somewhat contrite. “I…” He groaned softly at himself, before he pulled Geralt into a kiss, albeit a very brief one. “There.”

Geralt shot him a flat look. Disappointed wasn’t quite what he was feeling but it was close. “That’s it?”

“Would you believe me if I told you I had important work that needs to be finished today?” Emhyr sighed. “It’s not you. Well, it is. I didn’t expect to be distracted and I had put this off for longer than I should have.”

“What important writing could you have to do? You’re retired!” Geralt snatched up one of the pages and skimmed it, despite Emhyr’s best efforts to stop him. “Is that… a novel?”

“Give it back, Geralt!” Emhyr ordered to no avail.

“Hey, wait, I know that character!” Geralt stared at the page just long enough for Emhyr to take it back. “Emhyr, are you the author of those female Witcher bodice rippers? Sweet Melitele, are you secretly writing romance?”

“Propaganda,” was Emhyr’s terse correction. “How come you read one of ...my books?”

“I read them both,” Geralt admitted. He chose to ignore that Emhyr himself had called the books propaganda. “But this isn’t something I’ve read yet. Is that a third one? Already? The last came out only three months ago.”

“Four,” Emhyr corrected. “And, apparently, they’re quite popular books, so my publisher insists on getting a new one out every six months. It’s far from hard, of course, but I’ve been a little distracted lately.” He blinked. “Geralt, if you tell anyone about this…”

“My lips could be sealed.”

“Could?”

Geralt grinned. “With a kiss. Like evil Prince Meerten did to the dragon queen of the pirates.”

“We both know such a spell doesn’t… oh.” Emhyr pressed a chaste kiss to Geralt’s lips. “Like this?”

“Hm, no.” Geralt slid his hand into Emhyr’s hair and pulled him into a proper kiss that left them both breathless. “Like this.”

Emhyr looked visibly shaken.

“Terrible afterall?”

Emhyr shook his head slowly. “Unfamiliar. Unexpected, too.” He dropped back down onto his chair as if his legs had given out. His gaze was a little unfocused. “Would you like to stay while I finish this first draft?”

A broad smile spread across Geralt’s face. “Do I get to read what you have so far?”

“Please.” Emhyr gestured at a stack of pages.

Happily, Geralt picked it up. “Does Ciri know what you’re doing?”

“Vaguely. She refuses to read any of it.” Emhyr had already picked his quill up and was bent over the half finished page. “Feel free to critique what you find improbable or un-endearing. Unless it’s about Meerten. He may be as unappealing as is appropriate for the villain.”

“I was wondering,” Geralt said as he settled into the armchair by the cold fireplace to read. “Is he based off Morvran? The description and the mannerisms are about what I remember of him.”

“Hm? Yes. Cirilla asked me if I could think of a bloodless way for her not to have to marry him.”

Geralt stared at Emhyr. He hadn’t even considered that there might be other motives than making Ciri look good to the romantic notions of bored noble women. “Is it working?”

Emhyr smirked at his page. “Somewhat. He has increasing trouble with women, as far as I have heard. There are some gossips that even say he’s fallen quite out of fashion. Conquering an unwilling bride might have been fine with the ladies at court five years ago, but not now, when they all read about a heroine that forges her own path despite the patriarcal pressures of society.”

Geralt snorted. “Sometimes I forget that you spent years around Calanthe.”

“And those were some formative years indeed,” Emhyr hummed. “Hush now, I have to concentrate on the climax of the story.”

With a shrug, Geralt turned to his new reading material. He’d been waiting so long for the next novel and now he got to read it before anyone else. It was just as good as he’d hoped. After a few pages, he got up to steal a quill and ink from Emhyr’s desk so he could make annotations on a separate sheet. A few minor passages here and there. A little inconsistency he remembered from the earlier books. Notes like that. 

He hadn’t even noticed how much time had passed until Emhyr got up from his desk and stretched. There were candles burning around the room, making up for the fading sunlight.

“Would you like to stay for dinner?” Emhyr asked. “I’m almost finished. You could read the rest of it tonight.”

“And stay over after?” Geralt did his best to sound less hopeful than he felt. It didn’t work. “By the way, as a enthusiastic reader of yours, this book’s going to be great.”

“If you think flattery will get you what you want, you’re wrong.” Emhyr called for a servant with a bellpull. “Then again, we both know you’re usually brutally honest. And I see you made notes. I would be amenable to letting you stay. However, I do not think any of the guest rooms is available for you.”

“Wouldn’t have dreamt of staying in a guest room, I swear.” In all honesty, Geralt would have liked little more at the moment than to crawl into bed with Emhyr. Not even for fucking, even though that, too, would be nice. But to hold him until he gave in to his fate and relaxed. To kiss him and tell him it was alright, everything was fine, and he wasn’t that bad a kisser. And maybe, just maybe, to be able to see more of the man who was so skilled at writing romance that made his heart race and adventures so daring they made him itch for his swords.

He spent the time it took for dinner to be set up reading. He was getting close to the halfway mark and a lot of things were suddenly happening very fast. The witcher heroine was in a dire spot, her dragon queen in grave danger unbeknownst to her, and her enemies were closing in. And just when Prince Meerten triumphantly reached to grab the witcher and drag her to his palace with him, she disappeared in a green flash and…

...and the story’s focus switched to the dragon queen instead, leaving the fate of the witcher hanging in suspense. With a sigh, Geralt put the manuscript down.

“You’re an evil evil man,” he said as he joined Emhyr at the dining table. The food looked excellent and there was enough that he would be able to eat his fill. But at the same time, he itched to read on. “But I won’t tell you what I think until I’m done.”

“Are you already at her magical escape?”

Geralt nodded. “Very Ciri. And just the right amount of tension to make me want to read on immediately. Which is why you’re so evil.”

“Ah.” Emhyr laughed, actually laughed. “I see. Should I ever wish to court you, short stories and the like will be out of the question as presents.”

“If you’re fishing for ideas, I’m the wrong person to ask. Never been courted before. Didn’t think I ever would.” Geralt shrugged. “Most of the time, things just happen to me.”

Emhyr raised an eyebrow. “I sincerely doubt that.”

“No, really!” Geralt tried to explain how he rarely planned to be involved in world altering events, merely happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and then got dragged into it. Emhyr didn’t seem to believe him, but he was amused all the same. 

They went on to talk about what Geralt had been up to while he’d been hiding, about beautiful spots he’d stumbled upon and how banditry in general had taken a sharp drop ever since Geralt had taken up residence in the dutchy. It was pleasant enough to distract Geralt from the itch to go back to reading.

“And what have you been up to?” Geralt asked when he got tired of doing most of the talking. He’d forgotten that sometimes, conversations with Emhyr could be incredibly one sided. Especially when he was only half paying attention. 

Emhyr looked up from his plate to glare at Geralt. “If you have to know, I had planned out the novel when the kiss incident happened, and then got stuck for days! Days! Do you understand how distracting you are?”

“I am?” Geralt grinned. “Never thought I could be.”

“Incredibly so,” Emhyr sighed. “But at least that distraction made for some good kindling.”

“Wait, kindling?”

Emhyr shrugged. “I toyed with the idea of working my frustrations into the novel. It didn’t work.”

“So you burned the drafts,” Geralt realized. “Y’know, I’d have loved to have read them. Was it at least flattering? Dirty? Both?”

“It was a bloody mess.” Emhyr’s voice was dripping with ice. “And you will never, ever read any early draft.”

“Not even if I ask nicely?”

“Not even if you get me drunk on that amazing wine of yours.” Emhyr paused for a moment. “Which reminds me, I have run out. So if you still have any left…”

“I can send you a barrel or two,” Geralt said with a shrug. “Better I gift it to you than sell it. Selling my wine has only ever led to higher demand. I don’t even know what to do with all that money anymore.”

“Put it in the bank for potential grandchildren,” Emhyr suggested. “At least, that’s what I’ve been doing with the money from my novels. Or, considering your sympathetic nature, you could fund a charity. For children, I’d suggest. Or young people from poor families wanting to learn a trade. Hold an auction once a year, make sure everyone knows you’re donating all the profits to a good cause and watch your wine go for triple the price. I’m sure you could pay for meals, housing and a couple of teachers easily with your profits and all leftover money could be invested…” Emhyr stopped because he realized he was losing Geralt. He sighed. “That’s what I’d do if I were you. Setting it all up, now that you are a man of means, should be easy enough. Talk to your banker. Talk to your neighbors. Find cheap property to buy. ...would you like help with it?”

Geralt let out a grateful sigh. The idea was indeed a good one and one he’d toyed with himself, on a smaller scale and without founding a charity. The crux of the matter had been that he had no idea how to go about it. But now that Emhyr was offering, it suddenly looked like a possibility. “I’d like that, yeah.”

“We could draft a plan and a proposal together,” Emhyr suggested. He sighed. “But not tonight. I really need to get back to writing. Even though revisions should go quicker and smoother than usual thanks to your help.”

Geralt glanced over his shoulder to the couch. “Does that mean I can finally go back to your manuscript?”

“Of course.” Emhyr rolled his eyes, even though he seemed amused. He stood. “I’m beginning to realize you prefer my creation to myself.”

“You. Of all people. Do not get to make self-deprecating jokes,” Geralt huffed. He stood as well, snatching Emhyr arm so he could pull him into a quick kiss. “Now you can go work. And don’t you dare write anything but a happy end!”

Emhyr was still laughing, quietly, when they’d both settled back in with the novel. They spent the rest of the evening in quiet company. Geralt engrossed himself in the second half of the story. How Prince Meerten flew into a rage in front of his council over his defeat. How the dragon queen fought her battle at sea and got blown overboard in the midst of it, bleeding and struggling to remain conscious in the icy waves. And how she finally lost it, clinging to a plank that could barely carry her weight. How the crew searched for her, in vain. The heroine’s scream of pain and anger at the news, the one that shook the world and smashed the masts of every ship in the harbor that sounded so much like the one of Kaer Trolde about twenty, twenty five years ago. And when the dragon queen finally washed ashore, she couldn’t remember her true form. Beaten and bruised, she staggered onto the road nearby, just in time to be picked up by a patrol of Prince Meerten’s soldiers.

The manuscript Geralt had ended when Prince Meerten stepped into the tent in which the dragon queen was held and she spit at his boots in defiance. He got up to get more, only to realize that it wasn’t enough to be the conclusion just yet. The handful of pages held the dialogue between the queen and the prince.

«You just wait! She’ll come for you. And then you will get just deserts!» the dragon queen spat as she struggled against the dimeritium shackles holding her.

The Prince smiled cruelly. «I am banking on that.»

“Where’s the rest?” Geralt complained when he got up to steal the next page only to realize that Emhyr hadn’t written even a single word more. “You gotta reunite them!”

“How?” Emhyr complained, waving a wax tablet. “I tried. I have no idea how I should start the final scene. I have no plan how to rescue her.”

“Oh, the plan’s easy.” Geralt looked out the window. The moon was low on the horizon. By his estimate, it was nearing midnight. “Tell you what. I share how I’d do it, if we’ll go to bed now. You can finish the story tomorrow. Your editor can wait another day. I’ll even hand deliver the manuscript if I have to.”

Emhyr stretched. His joints popped. He pulled a face. “You have a point,” Emhyr sighed. “It’s getting late and with a plan, I’m sure I can finish this. Probably.”

“Good choice,” Geralt purred. He pulled Emhyr to his feet and into a hug, burying his nose in the crook of his neck so he could breathe in his scent deeply. Emhyr’s fingers wove into his hair, tugging his ponytail loose. It wasn’t until Geralt tried to slip his hand under Emhyr’s shirt that he was stopped.

“Not here. Not now. I have to admit, I am quite tired. I didn’t realize just how tired until you made me stand up,” Emhyr breathed.

Geralt could smell he was tempted despite all that. If he’d push a little, he might get further despite Emhyr’s words. But he didn’t want to. There was plenty of time for that later. It would be better anyway when Emhyr wasn’t stressed and tired before they got into bed. So he kissed the side of Emhyr’s neck, before he whispered against his hair: “Another time, then. Where’s your bedroom?”

Emhyr nodded at a door between two large bookshelves, half covered by a cloth. His breath had turned shaky, as were his fingers on Geralt’s hips. Oh, Geralt could tell he was wanted, desperately so. And if Emhyr’d been twenty or even just ten years younger, he would have pounced at the chance. But as it stood, he decided to walk backwards to the door, pulling Emhyr with him. It was stupid and awkward, but it allowed him to continue their kisses, to keep holding onto Emhyr.

The room beyond was cozy. Much smaller than the office with it’s extended space for entertaining guests. Easily heated by the large fireplace. The bed itself was about as big as Geralt’s, but with a baldachin and heavy curtains. “Are you cold up here in Toussaint?” Geralt asked as he turned them around so he could push Emhyr down on the soft mattress with it’s fine sheets and multiple blankets. 

“It is cold in Toussaint,” Emhyr complained, his breath hitching as Geralt started to undress him. “Compared to the south. The winters here are abysmal. Better than Temeria, but still, I don’t understand how I could ever stand it.”

Geralt hummed. He’d undone the buttons of Emhyr’s jacket and was now working on untying his shirt. “It’s always warmer when you’re not alone.”

“Are you offering?” Emhyr tried to sit up to look at Geralt and then collapsed again when Geralt ran his fingers through the dusting of hair leading to his navel. He groaned. “Is that your revenge for the cliffhanger?”

“No, not revenge.” Geralt kissed Emhyr’s naked belly. Softer than he expected, but still firm enough to hint at muscles. “And I am very much offering. There’s nothing and no one as interesting as you in the entire Duchy.”

“I’m hard to get along with. I’m too used to being on my own,” Emhyr protested. He still helped Geralt divest him of his shirt and jacket. 

Geralt rolled his eyes. “As am I. Don’t worry. I’ll keep my vineyard.”

“Good,” Emhyr sighed. He was doing his best to hide it, but he was holding his breath for Geralt to go for his pants next. Just because of that, Geralt straightened back up and pulled off his shirt. Emhyr was outright staring at him. He even tried to be subtle about licking his lips. “You wanted to tell me your rescue plan?”

“Patience,” Geralt hummed. Slowly, well aware of Emhyr’s rapt attention, he trailed his fingers down Emhyr’s leg until he reached the slipper. With a grin, he yanked it off, repeating the motion on the other leg. He could feel Emhyr’s interest in the tension of his pants. “First, tell me what you imagined for the surroundings of the camp.”

“Standard military camp.” Emhyr swallowed. Geralt was giving him a break so he could remove his own boots. “Proper fortification with sharpened palisades on top of a dirt wall. Tents, arranged with precision, and the units separated by streets. So. Maybe by a lake, or at the base of a steep cliff. That’d be the ideal.”

“A lake, huh?” Geralt asked as he climbed back on top of Emhyr. He bought time to think about his answer with a searing kiss. “Last time I snuck into a camp was at a lake. Got close through tunnels, then had to avoid the patrols inside the camp, before I got to the commander’s tent. A few well placed throwing knives and a sign used in an emergency and I was in. Commander never saw me coming.”

Emhyr was squinting up at him. “That doesn’t happen to have been near Vergen?”

“If you don’t know, I’m not telling,” Geralt protested. He looked down along their bodies. “Pants on or off?”

“Off.” Emhyr ran his hands up and down Geralt’s arms. “Definitely off. And I’m glad you didn’t murder King Henselt. Not that he put up much resistance against Redania, but it might have been what tipped the scale.”

“Always glad to be of service to your wars,” Geralt grumbled, although it was halfhearted. He was doing his best to untie both their pants with one hand. “But, yeah. Camps are meant to defend against many enemies, not a single person who can be very quiet and has extremely fine hearing. And you could get them out easily. I mean, the dragon queen is a real dragon. Free her and fly out. It’s not that bad.”

“I take your word for it.” It took a bit of fumbling and awkward shuffling until they were settled under the blankets and cuddled up against each other. “You’re wonderfully warm,” Emhyr sighed. “I think I’ll keep you around just for that.”

“Just for that?” Geralt laughed. He had an arm around Emhyr so he could hold him close. “I hope there’s more, too.”

“Hmmm.” Emhyr kissed Geralt’s neck. “For example, I’m very sure I love you.”

Geralt blinked at the ceiling. “What?” he finally croaked out. But Emhyr didn’t answer. He’d already fallen asleep.