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rend my heart open, then your love profess

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Seven months later, he’s brooding in a random tavern in some random tiny town when he hears it. 

 

        But the story is this, she’ll destroy with her sweet kiss, her sweet kiss, 

    Oh-oh…

 

The sound of the voice strikes some feeling through his heart he can’t place. Something tells him to leave, but he’s never really listened to that part of himself. The really quite somber song doesn’t last much longer. At the end, some drunken patron shouts, “Maybe something livelier, eh?! You know the one about the fishmonger’s daughter?!” 

The chuckle escapes Geralt without his permission. He’s blinded by memories for a moment ( lay low, don’t be you, kicked in the balls as a child ) before he shoves them away. 

That was a long time ago. 

He notices another song hasn’t started. He notices, simultaneously, that this particular ale doesn’t seem to be agreeing with him. He throws a coin on the table and shuffles quietly out of the tavern. 

He situates himself in an alcove near the entrance and can’t stop himself from listening when the music starts back up - a little livelier this time, indeed. A little more slurred and a little less perfect, too, and it’s all too easy for Geralt to ignore how that makes him feel.

 



It’s dark by the time Jaskier stumbles out of the bar, one pocket chiming a very sad, small melody with the amount of coins in it. He doesn’t usually imbibe quite so much when he’s working, but something about tonight made him melancholy. God, he actually sang Her Sweet Kiss - how long had it been since he’d done that? Months. He hadn’t dared play it in public since he had, well... maybe kind of had a little, tiny breakdown the last time? Just a little one, really... Definitely hadn't ended up in the barkeep's arms, crying into her bosom... It was a very nice bosom, though...

“Who was it?” 

Jaskier jumps so far away from the voice he hits a wall and consequently slides right down it. He is, after all, suffering the effects of too much too strong ale. 

“Fuck wha?” He manages, and that’s when Geralt steps out of the shadows, and Jaskier feels the bottom of his stomach up and disappear. “You.” 

“Your song,” Geralt continues, nonplussed. “I thought you were the heart-breaker. What fair lady managed to turn that around on you?” 

It registers for Jaskier, what Geralt is saying, and he abruptly finds his footing. 

“Fuck you,” he spits, and heads to his lodging. 

He resolutely tries to bury the disappointment that follows when he hears no comeback, or footsteps behind him. 

He fails. 

 

 

   

The next morning dawns mild, sunny, and beautiful, and Jaskier hates it. 

He rises with the sun in his eyes and pain in his head. His mouth is so dry it feels fuzzy. Gods, what had possessed him to drink so much last night? Usually he could keep it to a couple of ales, but… something had come over him. And that was before he saw Geralt.

Ugh. 

The bastard. 

The familiar ache in his heart that comes along whenever Jaskier lets his thoughts wander to the witcher remains, despite what had happened last night.    

As if breaking his heart hadn’t been enough, he had to show up out of the blue just to stomp on it? 

The fucking bastard.    

As ever, even in his own mind the words lack force. 

Jaskier throws some water over his face and through his hair to wake himself up before heading downstairs. He intends to spend every bit of his earnings from the night before on a huge, greasy breakfast. 

Geralt is standing at the bottom of the stairs.

Jaskier is turning around before his stomach completes its somersault. 

But, of course, the witcher takes notice. Probably can smell him or some such shit. 

“Jaskier.” 

Jaskier was absolutely planning on ignoring anything Geralt had to say, but he finds himself struck still at the way Geralt says his name. It’s… soft. Quiet. Gentle, almost. 

“What do you want?” He grits. Can’t give it all away just because Geralt sounds tender , god damn it. 

“To apologize.” 

And that, well. 

That’s something. 

Jaskier turns and continues down the stairs, brushing past Geralt and heading for the door. He pauses halfway and turns to the man who is still standing across the room, raising an eyebrow.

“Are you coming?” 

Geralt looks mildly surprised, and strides quickly over.    

Jaskier makes his way outside, Geralt following. He leads them across town without a word, eventually reaching a bakery Jaskier has rapidly fallen quite in love with over the past month or so. (So he’s been here a while, so what? He needed a break. The coin is only now starting to dry up anyway. Generous town, this one.) The matronly woman who owns the place already knows him, and she gifts him with a smile as he walks in, only for her expression to morph into surprise when Geralt enters close behind. 

“Mildred, my love!” He cries, approaching a table stacked with fresh pastries. “What have you for me this morning?” 

“Same as always, bard,” she replies with mock crabbiness. “What in the hell have you dragged in with you?”

Jaskier can actually feel Geralt bristle, and he tenses, ready to intervene; to ease the tension with a joke or self-deprecation, like it always was with him. 

And then, the witcher calms. He actually smiles. Well, he really just bares his teeth, but Jaskier has to give him credit. 

“Just a friend,” he says, and retreats to the door. 

Jaskier is actually struck dumb for a moment, and then Mildred whaps him on the back of the head with a breadstick.

“Hello?”

"Ah! Sorry, sorry. I’ll have the usual.” 

He hands over his coins without even looking at her, and she makes a very impressive sound that is simultaneously a laugh and scoff. He feels her push a paper package into his hand, and finally turns his head. 

“Did you have this ready for me?” 

“It’s been two weeks of the same thing, love,” she says, putting an oddly gentle hand on his arm. (And that's fair - Jaskier had of course sampled all her wares the first two weeks, but he did have his favorites). There’s a small smile on her face as she looks toward Geralt. It feels a little conspiratory. “Is that him?” 

Jaskier doesn’t have to ask what she means. When he’d first come into town, he’d been in a sorry state. He’d drunk the night away and stumbled into Mildred’s as she opened. He’d ordered a couple of breads and savory pastries, and written a song about them immediately after finishing. She rolled her eyes but had a pleased flush on her face. She’d asked why he was drunk at sunrise, and Jaskier, well...  In six months, he’d never really gotten it out. Poor woman took his outpouring in stride. Must’ve suffered some heartache in her time, as well. She’d fed him something soft and sweet and given him the coin for a night at the Inn. 

He’d come back the next day, bashful, with the money she’d given him plus a “listening to me cry” fee. And she gave him a lecture on overindulging and a swift smack on the skull.

They got along famously. 

“Yeah,” Jaskier replies huskily. “That’s him.” 

And then.

Mildred the baker marches right up to Geralt of Rivia, famed Witcher, the Butcher of Blaviken, the White Wolf himself. 

And she steps up on her tiptoes, and smacks him right across the back of the head. 

“Mildred!” Jaskier squeaks.

Geralt, it appears, doesn’t quite know what to do. He actually… freezes, a bit. Jaskier, in all his years, has never seen Geralt freeze. He’d faced off with unimaginable horrors, and... this is what gives him pause. 

Before either of them can move, Mildred pulls another pastry out of her apron and presses it into Geralt’s hand. He takes it on instinct. 

“You be better to that boy from now on,” she orders. 

Geralt nods. 

Mildred saunters back to Jaskier, sends a wink his way, and casually walks back behind her counter. 

“Now quit loitering,” she barks. 

Geralt shakes himself, gives her a polite nod, and pulls Jaskier out the door by the elbow. 

Once they’re out in the fresh air and sunshine, Jaskier regains his composure and pulls away from Geralt, smoothing out the material of his doublet moodily. 

“So,” he starts, “you said something about apologizing?” 

Geralt sighs, deeply, and Jaskier takes a moment to actually, properly look at him for the first time since he appeared. And Jaskier realizes how tired he looks. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think there were actually a few lines on the witcher’s face. 

“I… I’m sorry, Jaskier.” 

Geralt stops by a couple bales of hay. They’ve ended up next to a stable, one in which Jaskier assumes (hopes) Roach must be staying. 

It takes a moment for Jaskier to realize Geralt’s found them a spot to sit. Gratefully, he plants himself on one of the bales and waits for Geralt to take the other. He does, sitting slowly. His hands come to his knees, and he sighs again. Jaskier realizes he looks unsure. Anxious , almost. As if the man could feel nerves. Perhaps he’s suffering some indigestion. 

“Jaskier, I. I was cruel to you. It wasn’t fair.” 

“It certainly wasn’t!” Jaskier interjects. He’s never pretended to not feel bitter over what happened, and now that Geralt is here in front of him, he feels the last seven months’ worth of resentment beginning to boil over. “How could you do that to me? After - Gods, Geralt, after all we’ve been through. Treating me like that because you fucked up your own relationship with that damn witch. You couldn’t take it out on her so you turned on me, hmm? I know you’re not the most emotionally healthy person ever and actually can not bear to show weakness but - but really, the one - the one person who would’ve listened to you - stayed by you -” Jaskier realizes he’s losing it, but now that the floodgates have opened, he can’t close them. “Fuck! Instead of letting me help , instead of letting me stay with you , because I always did , and I would have, Geralt, I would have - you broke my heart.” He’s crying, now. Gasping wetly right there, barely off the street. When he speaks again, it’s hardly a whisper. “Why did you do that?” 

He can’t look at Geralt. He’s not even sure the witcher is still there. For all Jaskier knows, he stalked off as soon as the tears started. Weakness like that... Maybe he didn’t want to see it.

Jaskier’s anger has subsided completely, leaving him only raw and embarrassed. Aching. But feeling as though he’s finally come to a catharsis. 

Maybe it’s better if Geralt did leave - maybe Jaskier can start to move on - 

Someone’s taking his hands. 

He risks a glance up, and Geralt is there, kneeling in front of him and looking at him like… Like he’s concerned. Like maybe Jaskier means something after all. He looks… Well if it were anyone else, Jaskier might think they were about to cry. As it is… Trick of the light, surely....

“Jaskier.” Geralt’s voice is even rougher than normal, but quiet, and soft . He speaks slowly, as though choosing his words with the utmost care. “You’re right. I was wrong. Wrong is too weak a word, really. You know I  - I’m not good at this. The only time my words come without difficulty is in anger. Sometimes I feel as though I must have been cursed. I’m… not used to people staying with me. You, I took for granted. You were with me so long. On the mountain… there was so much going on. But none of it was your fault. I can’t take back what I said. I wish to the Gods I could. But I said it, and I have to live with the consequences. So I’ll leave. You won’t see me again. But before I go, I had to be selfish once more. I had to let you know I’m sorry. And I regret it.

“I’m sorry, Jaskier. I never deserved your company. And I hope you find the life you do deserve.”  

Jaskier is, for once, speechless. Shock has strangled him, so much so that even when Geralt moves to leave he can’t seem to speak. Geralt gives him a last look, and Jaskier can’t even begin to parse the emotions in his gaze. His hand twitches toward Jaskier’s face, but he aborts the movement before Jaskier can tell what it would have turned into. 

“Goodbye, Jask.” 

And finally, the spell is broken. 

“Wait!” 

Geralt stops.

Jaskier breathes a sigh of relief before realizing it’s not because of his shout that Geralt has stopped.

There’s a man standing in his path, and as Jaskier tunes into his surroundings, he realizes there are men in similar garb standing all around them. He’s not surprised he didn’t notice, but how on earth did Geralt let himself get surrounded? 

“You need to come with us.” 

Geralt tenses. Jaskier can feel the anger rolling off him. And things click into place. 

The men are from Nilfgaard. Soldiers. 

Oh, shit.

“Why the fuck would I do that?”

The man tilts his head, and makes a small gesture, and suddenly Jaskier is being grabbed by two soldiers, their grips bruising on his upper arms. He grunts in pain, and Geralt swivels, and sees them.

Oh. And Jaskier thought he was mad before .

“He has nothing to do with this.”  

“Beg to differ,” the lead man drawls, sauntering over to stand next to Jaskier. He pulls a small dagger from his belt. “After the performance you just gave us, you will not convince me this bard won’t be excellent leverage.” 

Quicker than Jaskier can track, Geralt is lunging at the man. 

But despite his inhuman speed, the man beats him. Jaskier feels the prick at his throat before Geralt is halfway to them, and Geralt almost stumbles in his haste to stop. The man holding the dagger chuckles, and the movement drives the tip of his dagger into Jaskier’s flesh. He feels blood well and drip. Just a drop, but it’s enough. Geralt lifts his hands in surrender. 

“Okay,” he says. “Fine. Take me.” 

Geralt -” Jaskier tries to object, but he’s stopped both by Geralt’s glare and the knife once again pressing into his neck. 

“Take me,” Geralt repeats, “and leave him here.” 

“Oh, isn’t that sweet,” the leader snarks. “What an offer. Here’s my counter.” 

A hand clasps over Jaskier’s mouth so he can’t warn Geralt of the man behind him with the club. He goes down hard, and soon after Jaskier suffers the same fate. 



Jaskier once again wakes with a pounding headache and a mouth full of fluff. He groans, wondering what could have possibly compelled him to overindulge two nights in a row outside of harvest season. 

He attempts to roll over in bed and… can’t. He can’t move right. 

“Jaskier?”

Oh, Gods, had he brought someone to bed and forgotten? 

“Jaskier. Are you awake?” 

Wait.

That was Geralt. 

What?

Oh. 

Oh, fuck.

“Oh, fuck.” 

“Jaskier, look at me. Are you okay?” 

“Of course I’m not fucking okay.” But he is sitting up; taking stock of himself. His hands are bound tightly behind him, and connected by a rather short rope to a stake driven deep into the ground. 

They appear to be in some sort of barn or outbuilding. He’s sat on hard, packed dirt with straw or hay dispersed sparsely about. The building around them is small, perhaps twenty feet square, and made entirely of wood. Old but good quality. There are no stalls for animals but there are hooks on the wall, and some old shelves, or perhaps the remnant of some loft that has since been taken down. Sun is coming in through the slats in the walls, but there are no windows. 

"Where are we?"

Geralt sighs rather dejectedly. "I don't know."

Jaskier wants to complain, but hardly can in this case, considering he'd seen Geralt get knocked out. He dips his head and once again gives up his anger. 

"Are you okay?"

The answer does not come quickly enough, and when it does, it’s a gruff, "I'm fine." 

Though it’s a struggle with his hands so tied, Jaskier manages to turn around. He discovers Geralt is actually quite close. Not within reaching distance, of course, but in the same small room, shackled to the wall. His bonds are quite a bit more… comprehensive than Jaskier’s, which is… fair. He has chains around his wrists and ankles both, attached to rings on the wall. He’s on his knees, which have been tied together. From what he can see, Jaskier thinks his ankles are likely bound, as well. 

It doesn’t exactly look comfortable. 

Jaskier scrutinizes him. Other than, presumably, a bump on the head, he does actually seem fine. Physically, anyway. When Jaskier meets his eyes, though, he is shocked at the depths of anguish he finds there. 

“Jaskier, I’m sorry.” 

“You said that, Geralt. Thank you.” 

“No. For this. You shouldn’t be here.” 

Jaskier huffs and rolls his eyes, fidgeting with the rope around his wrists. “Well neither should you. Fucking Nilfgaard. What could they possibly want with us?”

Geralt makes a sound like he’s been punched, and Jaskier turns to him, alarmed, but the Witcher only looks away, face pinched in pain. 

“Are you sure you’re okay? Don’t lie to me, Geralt. Just because you think I’m still mad at you doesn’t mean I’d ever want you to be hurt.” 

“Fine,” Geralt insists, then pauses. “I think you’re mad at me?” 

“Yeah,” Jaskier grunts, once again pulling at his bonds. “You and your self-flagellation, I swear to Melitele.” 

“So you’re not?” 

“Oh for goodness sake, Geralt, when have I ever been able to stay mad at you? Even when you don’t go and pour your heart out in an actually genuine and really quite lovely apology. Who’s been teaching you to use your words, by the way?” 

“The answer to that question is the reason we’re here.” 

Jaskier, still feeling the effects of the blow to his head, only stares for a moment. Then he runs the words back through in his mind, and sits up a little straighter, eyes bright.

“You found her?” 

Geralt only nods, casting his gaze about the room, tuning into his senses.

“Be careful what you say,” he cautions Jaskier, and immediately begins to test his bonds. 

Any joy Jaskier felt at hearing Geralt had found his Child Surprise was rapidly extinguished as the full meaning of his words hit. 

“They… Nilfgaard wants her.”

Geralt only nods, his eyes dark. 

“Why?” 

Geralt shakes his head. “I’ll tell you everything when we’re far from here.” 

Jaskier’s breath hitches. “You… want to travel together again?”

Of course, before Geralt can answer there are footsteps outside the door. Seconds later, it swings inward with far more force than necessary. Jaskier barely gets his toes out of the way in time. 

The leader of the group who caught them strides in, flanked by the two men who had initially restrained Jaskier. He looks sickly pleased at the sight of them on the floor. 

“Good. You’re awake and I assume have gathered your bearings. If you haven’t realized by now, you won’t be leaving here until I get the information I want, so it’s in your best interests not to argue. You have figured out what I want, yes?” 

The question is directed at Geralt, who is glowering at the man, but says nothing. 

“Right,” the man sighs, flapping his hand at his compatriots, who approach Jaskier. “Let’s get to the point, hmm?”

Jaskier hopes Geralt can’t hear how his heart is pounding as the men tower over him. One of them pulls out a knife and Jaskier dips into a breadth of courage he hadn’t had before travelling with Geralt. He meets the man’s eyes and matches his steely gaze, even as he feels sweat gather under his arms. 

“If you kill him,” Geralt says, voice raspy with what most would call anger but Jaskier really knows better at this point, “you won’t have any leverage. You won’t get my fucking name out of me.” 

The leader scoffs and rolls his eyes, then steps toward Geralt and smiles. It’s not a happy smile. On the contrary, Jaskier has encountered monsters with warmer eyes. 

“Oh, Witcher. I’m not going to kill him.” 

It happens so fast Jaskier can’t even think of holding back his cry. In one moment, he’s rattled but fine. In the next, pain. Fire across his collarbone, dangerously close to his neck. Jaskier wouldn’t know what had happened if he hadn’t seen the guard’s knife already, which was now bloody. 

“I’m just going to hurt him.”

    Geralt isn’t dramatically pulling away from the wall; he’s not yelling, and yet. Judging by the swollen blood vessels he’s putting all his strength into freeing himself. And his face, in this moment, lets one understand how he deserves a title such as White Wolf. 

    “I will kill you,” he says. And it is a promise. 

    “I’m fully aware you would, if you could,” the man accepts casually. “However, the situation as it is… Well, I’m not too concerned.” 

"What the fuck do you want?"

Another long-suffering sigh. "You know. Tell me where she is."

"And what, you'll free us? You can't expect me to believe that."

“Of course not. Until I tell you I’ve a very powerful mage in my employ who has the ability to erase memories. You tell me what I want to know, you forget you ever saw my face, we go our separate ways.” 

“Why risk it?” 

“I may need you in the future. So few witchers these days…” 

Geralt is silent at this, face tense; thoughtful. “Powerful magic,” he finally says. “Who is it?” 

“Enough distractions,” the man replies, and flicks his hand toward Jaskier.

Sadistic Guard Man, as Jaskier has rapidly taken to calling him, carefully sets his blade against Jaskier’s open wound, and moves it slowly in the same motion as before, deepening the existing cut. Fresh blood pools and drips down his chest, and Jaskier bites his tongue until he tastes iron to keep quiet. 

“For fuck’s sake!” Geralt growls, fingers white as he clenches his fists. “I don’t know where she is! Do you really think I’d be stupid enough to leave her in one place? I told her to go. I told her not to tell me where. In fact I told her to think about where I’d go, and then go somewhere else, in case of this exact situation .” 

Leader tips his head, regarding the witcher shrewdly. “You are no simpleton, to be sure… But you would have left the child in someone’s care. Even you would not have let her into the wild alone. So who is with her?” 

“No one you’d know. You won’t get information from anyone, anyway. It’s not like they’re walking through towns.” 

“Don’t tell me what information I can and can’t get, butcher. If you don’t think I can find them, you have nothing to worry about, do you?” He scowls, and says, “again,” and Jaskier closes his eyes and thinks of the coast. 

Sadist Guard moves the knife to Jaskier’s doublet, and the blade snicks through his button threads as the sides of it fall away. His undershirt suffers the same treatment, and Jaskier finds himself fighting not to tremble at the chill of the room as his chest and stomach are exposed. Sadist Guard drags the flat of the blade down his stomach, far too close to his waistline for Jaskier’s liking, and then flips it in his hand and drags the sharp edge back up. It’s a shallow wound, but long. It’s easier for Jaskier to repress a cry this time; he glares at Sadist Guard, defiance welling in his chest. 

Or maybe that’s the blood loss. 

Geralt growls. “I gave her options.” 

“Which ones?” 

Geralt hesitates. His eyes meet Jaskier’s, and Jaskier shakes his head. “Don’t,” he says. “It’s okay.”  

Leader shakes his head. “How noble.” He stalks over to Jaskier and takes the knife from Sadist. “How long do you think you can hold out, bard? Longer than the butcher?” The knife slips through his fingers, twisting in a way Jaskier would find impressive in another situation. “Do you think I’ll give up eventually? Do you think you can outlast me? Or, do you just have to outlast him? How much does he really care for you, bard? More than his child?” The last words are whispered into Jaskier’s ear. He fights back a shiver. He pushes the words away, unwilling to dwell on them.

Leader traces the blade across his ribs, chuckling. He floats it in front of Jaskier’s chest, moving it this way and that, unpredictable. 

And then he plunges it into the meat of Jaskier’s thigh. 

He screams, he can’t help it. It’s through clenched teeth, at least. It peters out into a whimper quickly, but Jaskier isn’t sure if that’s better. Leader pulls out the knife and he feels a sob catch deep in his chest. He can’t even see Geralt’s reaction; the edges of his vision are too dark, and he isn’t willing to turn that way. Not until he’s sure he can hold back the tears in his eyes, at least. 

“Gods damn it!”

He can’t help but hear him, though. 

“Another witcher,” Geralt says, and he sounds almost desperate. “I told her… to find another witcher. ” 

Leader turns to him, eyeing him shrewdly. He must see something he likes, because he turns and exits the building without a word, and his goons follow soon after. 

Jaskier pulls his uninjured leg into his chest, feeling all too exposed. He wipes his face on his knee and then rests his forehead there. He doesn’t know what to say and so says nothing. He keeps his head there and breathes, trying to center himself; trying not to panic; trying not to feel the pain. But it insists upon itself, and he can’t avoid it for long. Not in his leg, anyway. It’s, well. It’s not good. 

“Jaskier.” 

It’s quiet. Almost hesitant. 

“I’m sorry,” Geralt whispers. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” He asks it with a tone that says he knows it’s stupid. But he asks anyway. 

Something inside Jaskier warms a little at that. 

“I will be, Geralt. And it’s not your fault, okay? It’s not.” 

“It is,” Geralt intones. “But I’ll get you out of this, I promise.” 

“Get both of us out, okay?” 

Geralt doesn’t respond, so Jaskier looks over at him. “Get both of us out,” he repeats. “I don’t want to leave without you. In fact I won’t.” 

It feels a little too much. A little too true; too emotional. But if now isn’t the time for that, when is? 

Geralt looks pained, and he doesn’t respond directly. “Your leg,” he says instead. “Are you able to put pressure on it?” 

It’s awkward, but Jaskier manages to cross his left calf over his right thigh, groaning at the pain the movement and subsequent pressure causes. 

“Good thing I’m flexible,” he quips, even though it comes out more winded than he’d like. The pain is steadily draining his energy. “I don’t know how you manage all those contracts, ending up like this and worse.” 

“I heal quickly,” Geralt grunts. 

“Yes, but you must still feel the pain. I’m sorry.” 

Geralt chuckles, low and unamused. “You are the only person on the Continent who’d be apologizing to me right now.” 

“Your life,” Jaskier begins, alarmed to find it’s getting harder to talk, “is not an easy one. Mine is far more so. I will happily take the pain this once.” 

Geralt won’t look at him, only staring down at the floor. His jaw is set so tensely Jaskier worries he’s going to crack something. 

“Try to rest,” is all he says. 

And Jaskier is shocked to discover how easily that order is followed. 



Unfortunately, he does not rest long, and his awakening is far from pleasant. 

He comes to with a shout of pain as Sadist Guard kicks his wounded leg. Jaskier struggles to pull himself together before Leader is storming toward him. He slashes at his bonds, cutting them away and grabbing his arm, yanking until Jaskier is forced to stand. He lists, good leg cramped from how he slept, bad leg unable to bear weight. 

“You think you’re clever, witcher? You think I’ll give up?”

Geralt’s brow is furrowed, his pupils dilated, and Jaskier distantly thinks of a cat about to pounce. It almost makes him giggle - he’s a wolf, silly, not a cat - and that alarms him enough that he glances down at his leg. Vertigo swarms his head at the sight and he nearly loses his balance. 

His right leg is coated in blood, the tacky liquid staining the front of his trousers a  disgusting color. He even sees a little pool on the floor where he’d been sitting. 

Oh, dear. 

“ - gave you what you wanted!”

Belatedly, Jaskier realizes there’s a heated exchange going on. He clues in rather quickly when Leader’s grip changes to pull his left hand forward, and there’s the damn knife again. 

“A bard, huh? A musician?” Leader sneers. “Do you think he’ll ever forgive you if you’re the reason he can never play again?”  

Jaskier finds himself much more clear-headed all of the sudden, and his gaze snaps to Geralt. He curses himself for being unable to hide the fear.

“Don’t,” Geralt says. Pleads, really. “I’ve given you information. Don’t.”

Where is Kaer Morhen?” 

Oh, gods fucking damn it all. 

Of course.

Jaskier closes his eyes. Breathes deeply, in and out. Thinks of amber eyes and surprisingly soft touches; of hidden smiles and secret fond glances. Of a horse ride when he’d fallen ill. Of nights spent hunting and gathering wood. Of twenty years of goodness that others failed to see. Of the best man he’s ever met. The man he loves. 

And Jaskier thinks of Kaer Morhen, the only remaining safe space for Geralt and his family. 

He feels a tear make it’s way slowly down his cheek, but then he smiles. 

He opens his eyes and looks at Geralt. Looks hard until the Witcher meets his gaze. 

“Geralt,” he says gently. “It’s okay.”

“Jaskier-”

“Oh, fuck you!” The leader snarls, his face a contortion of rage. 

He raises the knife. 

Jaskier lifts his chin and stares him down. 

The knife slashes toward him… 

And there’s a brilliant, brilliant light suddenly filling the building, and the sound of wind deafens Jaskier. Leader stills, and Jaskier takes advantage, immediately rushing forward and plowing into the man. He smiles wickedly at the dull sound of a head hitting the floor. 

He stumbles to his feet. 

“Geralt!” 

A mere moment later, a hand on his shoulder; a voice in his ear. 

“I’ve got you. Trust me.”

“Always.”

Geralt’s hand moves to the center of his back, and shoves. 

Jaskier has just enough time to realize it’s a portal before he’s falling onto frozen, frosty ground miles and miles away. 

He hits the ground hard. He can’t catch his breath until Geralt is there, pulling him up and into a tight embrace. Jaskier melts into it immediately. He’s gathered his wits enough to realize this is the best hug he’s ever gotten. From Geralt, certainly, let alone anyone else. 

“Are you okay?” 

Geralt laughs, and this time it doesn’t sound broken. He pulls away from Jaskier but keeps a hand on his shoulder. 

“For fuck’s sake, Jaskier, worry about yourself for just a moment. Please.” 

Geralt looks him over and his smile falters. Jaskier feels a pang of sadness at the loss. 

“Jaskier…” Geralt breathes, and with a truly breathtaking amount of tenderness, pulls Jaskier’s left hand close to him. 

It’s only then that Jaskier realizes their dramatic escape hadn’t interrupted the flight of their captor’s knife. His hand is split open, a red chasm sweeping across his first two fingers and down his palm. There’s blood everywhere. 

That’s also the moment Jaskier’s body chooses to remember how much blood it’s already lost.

Geralt is catching him before he even realizes he’s falling. His beautiful, concerned eyes are the last thing Jaskier sees before losing consciousness.