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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.

Chapter Text

“What on earth happened between you two?” 

Geralt blinks at Yennefer, breaking free from the cloud of remembrance that had enveloped him when Ciri started asking questions about his past. He’d done his best to answer them, but so often his tales involved Jaskier. And when she asked about him … Well. Geralt had dodged her questions until she became too tired to continue trying and gone to bed. 

Of course Yen has swept in when his defenses are down. 

“What are you talking about?” 

Yen glares at him, nonplussed. “Everytime Jaskier comes up, you look like a kicked dog. What did you do?” 

Geralt doesn’t bother denying her assumption that it was something he did. 

“I chased him away.”

“The bard. The disgustingly loyal little one who followed you everywhere and hung on your every fucking word. You chased him away?” 

“Yes. And I’m well aware that I fucked up, Yen,” Geralt snarls, oiling his armor with increasing violence. “What the fuck do you care?” 

Yennefer gets up from her chair and circles around to face him, sighing deeply. 

“All right, fine. I’ll be the emotionally mature one first. I care for you, Geralt. We weren’t meant for each other the way we thought, but I’m still your friend, gods know why. And I also can’t stand it when you mope even more than usual. So, whatever you did, fix it.”

“I can’t,” Geralt grunts, setting his armor down. “Ciri…”

“Is in the safest possible place, with three witchers and a sorceress looking over her.” 

“He’s better off without me.” 

Yennefer laughs at that, loud and sharp. “Oh, please. He’s utterly hopeless for you.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Are you an actual child?” Yennefer crosses her arms, unbelieving. “He loves you. Far, far more than he should, if you ask me. And you obviously feel the same, or you wouldn’t be here looking utterly pathetic and using the wrong oil on your armor because Ciri asked a damn question.”

Geralt briefly looks down at his armor, alarmed. She’s right. In more ways than one, of course.

“Fuck.” 

Yennefer smiles. “Take this,” she says, offering him a small charm. “Should trouble find you, merely repeat ‘raenn, raenn, raenn,’ at any volume. I will come to you.”

Geralt takes it, closing his fist around it. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it. Seriously. Now get the fuck out of here."

 

Geralt catches Jaskier before he can consciously register that he’s falling. Panic briefly strikes his heart before he wrestles it under control, attuning his hearing to the bard’s heartbeat to assure himself. He lifts Jaskier into a bridal carry and looks around, getting his bearings. 

There’s a quiet but violent “ shit ” from behind him, and he turns to find Yen closing the portal, and he’s unprepared for the wave of anger that hits him. 

“I used your charm yesterday! What the fuck took so long?” 

Yennefer glares at him, but she’s winded and red-faced, and keeps shooting worried glances at Jaskier. 

“They had some extremely powerful warding. I wasn’t expecting it. I was trying to reach you the whole time, Geralt.” 

He clenches his jaw, biting back hurtful words. What’s happened is not her fault. He reserves his true anger for himself. 

“We’re too far away. He needs help now.” 

Yennefer only nods at him, taking hardly a moment to recover her breath before stepping forward and forming another portal, through which Geralt can see the doors to Kaer Morhen. 

Vesemir is waiting for them when they reach the main entrance, quickly shutting it behind them and ushering them into the main hall, where a fire roars. 

“I saw the portals,” he says as explanation for the already-prepared room. “Eskel is fetching first aid and Lambert will be back with food and water momentarily.”

He doesn’t bother asking who the battered man in Geralt’s arms is. He’d only left for one reason, after all. 

“What happened?” 

“They want Ciri. I wouldn’t tell them anything, so… they hurt him.” 

Eskel and Lambert enter before Vesemir can reply. Yennefer catches his eye and nods him over to the side of the room to explain further. 

Geralt carries Jaskier over to the fire, waiting until Lambert sets down a thick blanket before kneeling and lying Jaskier gently on the floor. The bard is no longer unconscious, but neither is he responsive. His eyes are unfocused; his gaze wandering. His cheeks are flushed and he breathes quickly. 

Geralt takes the salves and bandages Eskel silently hands him and undresses Jaskier with practical efficiency. Lambert, wisely quiet for once, lays a warm outfit at Geralt’s side and backs away. Geralt glances up and finds Eskel kneeling across from him, on Jaskier’s other side.

“How can I help?” 

“His hand,” Geralt says, gesturing. "Vesemir is the only one who might be able to save it.” The old Witcher had the steadiest, most dexterous hands on the Continent despite his age. He'd had to stitch up his boys before their trials, after all. Before they healed Witcher-fast. 

Eskel takes the bard’s hand in his own, hissing at the sight of the wound. He stands and walks quickly away, returning in a moment with Vesemir at his side. 

Geralt, confident in his mentor's abilities more than anyone else’s, focuses entirely on Jaskier’s remaining wounds. Most importantly, the one in his thigh. It is very deep, Geralt would guess nearly to the bone. He thoroughly washes it with saltwater, thankful Jaskier is not aware enough to feel it. He packs the wound with bandages slathered in a healing salve, wraps it with similarly medicated ones, and finally covers it in a thick layer of dry bandages and cloth. He does a cursory rinse of Jaskier’s legs before pulling on the trousers he’s been provided. They’re far too big, but then all the clothes in the keep are for either witchers, a woman, or a young girl. 

Geralt finds himself smirking at the thought that Jaskier would probably prefer Yen’s clothes.   

He moves on to the cuts on Jaskier’s torso. The longest one is, thankfully, quite superficial. It clotted quickly and does not much concern Geralt, though he cleans and covers it regardless. The last is near his collarbone, and Geralt notices with a frown that the bone is more prominent than the last time they were together. The cut is right above it, and this one is also deep. Less so than his leg, of course, but also longer. Geralt takes care of it, unable to keep from thinking of his days here as a young man, aiding his brothers and being aided in very similar ways. If Jaskier knew where his thoughts were, he’d be begging for stories. 

He stops thinking. 

He pulls another blanket over Jaskier’s torso and finally sits back, looking warily over to where Eskel and Vesemir are working. 

“Will it heal?” He asks. 

Vesemir glances at him sharply. Where another would see anger, Geralt sees only worry. It doesn’t comfort him. “I can’t promise anything, Geralt.” 

He just nods. 

There is water to his left, clean; for drinking rather than washing wounds. He lifts the small bowl to Jaskier’s lips and slides a palm under his head, lifting it so he can drink. Jaskier does so, and Geralt realizes with a start that he’s making eye contact. He waits until Jaskier stops drinking and sets the bowl back down. 

“Jask?” The nickname slips out entirely unbidden.

Jaskier smiles, which makes it worth any teasing he may incur from the slip entirely worthwhile. 

“Hey.” His voice is quiet and raspy, but he’s speaking steadily. He’s aware. Geralt feels something in his chest loosen, and something in his throat tighten. 

“Gods, Jaskier,” he whispers. “I’m so sorry.” 

Jaskier rolls his eyes. “Stop saying that, would you.” 

“It’s true.” 

“Be that as it may, it only makes both of us feel worse.” He looks around, seeming to take in where he is for the first time. And that there are others around. “Where are we?” He asks, a little breathless, like he already knows the answer. 

“Welcome to Kaer Morhen, Master Bard.” Vesemir’s deep voice comes off from his left, as he leans into Jaskier’s line of sight. “I am sorry your first visit isn’t under better circumstances.” 

“I-I’m honored to be here, sir.” Jaskier tries to sit up and Geralt is quick to keep him still, while Vesemir works on, brow tight with concentration. Even the simple, aborted movement looks painful, and Geralt swallows through a throat that feels strangely thick. “Geralt is very picky about what he shares of this place, but I’ve gathered how important it is to him. And it is grand. I must say, I had high expectations but this is quite breathtaking.” 

Lambert, from his perch in the corner, snorts. “It’s half a ruin, is what it is.” 

Eskel shoots him a look and is quick to speak over him. “That’s very lovely, Jaskier, thank you.” 

Jaskier gives them both a quick once over, before a grin splits his face. “Eskel,” he says, pointing to said witcher, “and Lambert?”

Geralt tries and fails to hide a smile. 

“So he talks about us, then?” Eskel asks, in a needling but undeniably fond sort of way. 

"Only when I've bothered him enough. He doesn't like people knowing he has emotions, you see, and it's harder to hide them when he talks about all of you."

"You shouldn't be talking so much," Geralt decides suddenly, much to his brothers' amusement. "Lie still and let Vesemir work."

His statement draws Jaskier's attention to his hand, and Geralt immediately regrets saying anything as Jaskier's cheeks drain of any color he'd gotten back. 

"...I can't feel it," he whispers hoarsely, verging on panicked. "Geralt, I can't - I can't feel my hand." 

Geralt puts a firm hand on his chest, as though trying to manually slow his heart.

"It's just the salves, Jaskier. It's okay. I should have told you, I'm sorry."

“Oh.” Jaskier relaxes, almost sinking into the floor, and chuckles a mite hysterically. “Okay then. That’s fine. That’s fine, then.”

His gaze wanders over to where Vesemir steadily pushes and pulls a needle in and out of his flesh. His stomach turns, protesting, but he can’t seem to turn away. At least, not until a gentle hand touches his chin and physically guides his face away. 

“Looking makes it worse,” Geralt says. “Trust me, I know.” 

“He was always the worst at staying still,” Vesemir grumbles. “I get the distinct impression you’d be giving me the same troubles if you felt any better.” 

Geralt snorts ungracefully, and Jaskier is in the perfect position under him to see Vesemir’s small smile at the sound.

Something warm settles deep in his chest, like an animal burrowing into a nest. How anyone could ever think witchers don’t feel, he doesn’t understand. They may not wear their hearts on their sleeves, like himself, but Jaskier thinks that perhaps they feel even more deeply than others. Which is why they have to keep such a handle on their emotions, lest they lose control. He knows it’s one of Geralt’s not-so-secret fears to unintentionally hurt someone who doesn’t deserve it and is learning that it may be a shared trait amongst witchers. These ones, anyway. 

And the fact that he’s been welcomed into their home; into their very small, very fiercely protective family, is something he isn’t sure he’ll ever feel deserving of.  

Jaskier becomes lost in his thoughts, the warm feeling never quite leaving him even as the fire beside him begins to die down. He feels himself drifting off and is nearly in the clutches of sleep when Vesemir sits back and begins gathering the thread and bandages scattered around his knees. 

“Well, I’ve done what I can. Your body must do the rest, bard.” 

He glances at someone on the other side of Jaskier before standing up with a grunt and walking away. It’s only then that Jaskier notices Geralt is still there, still kneeling at his side. 

He finds, surprisingly, that he doesn’t know what to say. 

For once, Geralt fills the silence. “There’s a room ready for you. I can take you there. Eskel has told me there’s food for you already there. You should eat before you sleep.” 

He moves fluidly into a crouch (and Jaskier can’t help but appreciate how gracefully he does it - if he’d been on his knees for so long he would’ve certainly cramped up - and yes, he knows from experience).

“Can you stand?” 

Jaskier wants to roll his eyes. “Of course I can stand, I’m not broken - ah! Fuck!”

His words fall flat immediately. As soon as he tenses his muscles to stand, pain courses through him. He awkwardly makes it into a crouch - again, with far less grace than Geralt - with his bad leg stretched out in front of him. 

“Okay,” he grunts, “yes, I can stand, with maybe a little teensy tiny bit of help.” 

Geralt smirks, and if Jaskier didn’t know any better, he’d think it looked fond.

The witcher gets his hands around Jaskier’s biceps and lifts him all-too-easily from the ground. Jaskier hardly puts any effort into it at all. He’s about to say thank you and figure out how to get himself walking without further humiliation, when Geralt carefully pulls Jaskier’s arm around his shoulders and - Jaskier hopes his face doesn’t look as hot as it feels - slips his own strong, supportive arm around his waist.  

“Oh. Thank you,” he manages, honestly quite proud of himself for not squeaking. 

Geralt, of course, only grunts. 

They’re halfway to their destination - or so Geralt claims, though Jaskier is suspicious he may have been softening the blow after their trek up the stairs had been… mildly difficult - when a small, pale face with rather shockingly blue eyes and white hair peeks around a corner. 

Said eyes widen when she catches sight of them, and Ciri comes fully around the pillar, heading toward them at speed. Geralt unconsciously puts himself between Jaskier and the incoming excited child. 

“Dandelion!” She shouts, gleeful. 

Geralt looks rather gobsmacked. 

Jaskier manages to pull himself away from Geralt’s support and braces himself against the wall, reaching out with his good arm.

“Hello again, Little Cub,” he says, and his expression is all tenderness and joy, and Geralt feels an odd little flip in his chest. 

Ciri slows herself down before leaning into Jaskier’s embrace. “I’m so happy he found you,” she says, sounding choked. “Are you okay?” 

“Me? Oh, I’ll be fine. Just a couple scratches.” 

Ciri looks up into his eyes, narrowing her own. “You’re lying.” 

“Never could get anything past you,” Jaskier admits. “But I will be okay, little one. I promise.” 

“You’d better be.”

Quickly as she’d approached him, Ciri steps away, directly toward Geralt. She gives him a quick but tight hug. 

“I knew you’d find him,” she says quietly. 

“You… knew him? This whole time?” 

“I had a feeling,” she admits. “He never said, but when you started talking about a bard who used to travel with you, I remembered the one who came by the court whenever he could without grandmother kicking him out. He was always talking about his witcher. Never said which one, but it’s not hard to figure out, is it?”

Geralt looks to Jaskier, unable to hide the emotions in his gaze, unsure what he’s even feeling. 

Jaskier just shrugs. “Once I figured out it was going to take you a while, I figured someone better keep an eye on her. Not that it was much of a chore,” he assures, sending Ciri a quick wink, which makes her giggle. 

Geralt can only stare. Ciri is acting more childish than he’s ever seen her, in the very best way. He didn’t realize he could be more grateful to have Jaskier here, and yet. He’s realizing just how much happiness he hasn’t been able to provide Ciri. 

“As soon as you’re well, you must sing for us!” 

 Jaskier smiles, but Geralt sees the clouds behind his eyes, and his heart constricts at the sight. 

“Jaskier will…” Geralt hesitates, trying to find the words, trying not to see how desperately Jaskier is staring his way. “He will bring life to the Keep. In whatever he does, be that song or otherwise.” 

Jaskier’s jaw drops, tears gathering in his eyes. 

Ciri turns to Geralt, her words now for him only. Her eyes are a bit misty, as well. 

“You’re doing well,” she says. “Don’t fuck it up again.” 

Geralt feigns offense at the language, but doesn’t bother scolding her. He sets a hand on her jaw and smiles. 

“I promise, I will try my best.”

She peers at him intensely, and, after a moment, nods. 

“Good.” 

She lifts her chin, turns on a heel, and curtsies toward Jaskier.

“Master Dandelion,” she says primly. 

He bows as best he can, propped up on the wall as he is. “Your Highness.” 

They both have a twinkle in their eyes, and Geralt gets the feeling he’s missing something. He finds he doesn’t mind at all. 

Ciri turns, sends him a last smile, and strides down the hall, acting every bit the royalty she is. 

Geralt turns back to Jaskier, who looks… intensely wistful. 

He is struck, hard, by the realization that he could have a family here. It’s terrifying. He’s not worthy of it. But there the opportunity lies, if only he has the guts to take it. If only he can prevent himself from, as Ciri so kindly put it, “fucking it up again.” 

He tamps down on his emotions and approaches Jaskier, who is leaning a bit too heavily against the wall. The bard sends him a grateful smile as he supports him again. 

They don’t speak as Geralt guides them to Jaskier’s room, which really wasn’t far, after all. 

It’s a lovely room, Jaskier finds. There’s a large fireplace on the west wall, already built and lit long enough ago for it to have warmed the whole space. A desk and half-full bookshelf sit against the opposite wall, and between the two, a spacious, remarkably lush-looking bed. 

“Geralt, this… This is better than any inn we have ever stayed in. This is better than that Lady’s manor! Gods, I can’t believe you’ve been keeping this from me!” 

His tone makes very clear it’s a joke - Jaskier  has always known how significant a step being invited to Kaer Morhen would be, should it ever happen. 

Geralt grunts and helps him sit on the bed. 

And then he stands there, hands clasped together, looking very uncharacteristically awkward. 

Jaskier is about to help him out when Geralt clears his throat and asks, “What do you need?” 

It’s unexpected, whether it should be or not. Of course, he’s injured, and of course, Geralt has been nothing but kind. And yet, Jaskier still finds himself surprised at the concessions taken for him. He’s far more used to feeling like a burden then… then a patient. And one worried about, at that. 

“I, um. I suppose that food you mentioned?” 

Geralt’s eyes light up as he remembers, and he hurries to the desk, where a silver tray has been laid out. It’s heavy with meat, bread, and cheese. 

“Eat your fill, but be careful to not choose the richest foods. You may find yourself sick.” 

“Right,” Jaskier says, still a bit off-kilter. “Thank you.” 

He pulls the tray onto his lap and scoots backward on the bed, trying to get comfortable. He picks at the food, figuring out what he can stomach. Throughout this process, Geralt stands by the bed like a sentry. It’s endearing, in a way, but untenable. Jaskier has never liked being the only one eating. 

“Well, come on, then,” he says, patting the bed next to him. “I’m not going to eat all this myself. Obviously.” 

Geralt blinks. Frowns. Blinks again. 

And climbs onto the bed. 

He keeps his distance, only close enough to reach the tray of food. 

Jaskier chooses not to comment on this. 

They eat, Jaskier chatters, and eventually it becomes comfortable again. 

Until it gets late, and Jaskier gets full, and finds himself very exhausted very suddenly. 

Geralt notices, of course. 

“I should let you sleep.” 

Jaskier makes a noncommittal humming noise. Some part of him realizes he can’t sleep in his doublet, and he reaches for the ties before realizing for the first time he’s not in his own clothes. Gods, he must be out of it. 

“Um… Geralt?” 

“Yes?” The witcher is too distracted by cleaning up their dinner to notice Jaskier pulling at his shirt.

“Did you undress me? And then… redress me?”

In the waning firelight, Jaskier could swear Geralt was blushing. 

“It was necessary,” he mumbles.

Jaskier laughs, lightly and sweetly. “Of course.” He sighs, settling into his pillows. “Thank you. Again.” 

Geralt stops by the door, spine rigid. He doesn’t look back at Jaskier when he says, “don’t. Thank me. Good night, Jaskier.” 

And he leaves. 

Jaskier can’t quite shake his disappointment before succumbing to sleep. 

 

One Week Later

Geralt is meditating before the fire in his room when he hears it. 

It’s just rustling, at first. Someone shifting in their sleep. Trying to get comfortable; disturbed; sleeping restlessly. 

And then he hears a muffled, distressed moan, and he’s in the hall before he can think about what he’s doing. 

He can’t bring himself to regret it when the sounds from Jaskier’s room get louder. Panting and moaning; words he can’t quite make out, but sound pained. 

He’d expected this. As soon as Jaskier’s body was recovered enough to sleep lighter than a coma, he knew the nightmares would come. Jaskier was always sensitive to them, and that was before he’d been… Geralt puts the thoughts out of his mind. Being angry when he was trying to reassure would not do the bard any good. 

He hesitates outside the door. 

Jaskier might feel violated. Embarrassed. No reason to be, but Geralt knows the possibility is there.  

And then he hears crying, and his decision is made for him. 

He opens the door as quietly as he can, and approaches the bed slowly. 

“Jaskier,” he calls. “Wake up, Jaskier.” 

The bard doesn’t stir from his slumber, and Geralt sits on the bed, hovering a hand over his shoulder. 

“Jaskier.” A bit louder, and still Jaskier sleeps on, sweat drenching his clothes, pain and worry lining his face. Tears on his cheeks. 

Geralt gives in, and gathers Jaskier into his arms. 

“It’s okay,” he says, voice too gruff. “You’re dreaming, Jask.” 

Slowly, Jaskier’s struggles cease. His quiet but insistent crying stops. 

“Geralt?” 

“Yes, it’s me. You were dreaming.”

“Oh. Right. I…” 

He doesn’t finish. Geralt hmm s, and moves to set Jaskier back down on the bed. But Jaskier grabs his arm tightly before he can. He chuckles nervously. 

“Um. Sorry.”

 Even after the apology, his grip doesn’t loosen. 

“Um. Do you.” Geralt clears his throat. “I can… stay.” 

Jaskier’s breath catches. “Would you?” 

Geralt hates how small his voice is. 

“Yes.” 

Jaskier makes room for him, and Geralt lays beside him. At first, he’s not sure what to do. Yes, Jaskier has asked him to stay, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be touched. Logically, Geralt knows the bard needs comforting, but that isn’t something he’s good at. He’s on the verge of spiraling when Jaskier turns onto his side and wraps an arm around Geralt’s waist, his head settling by Geralt’s neck. Geralt immediately relaxes, barely even noticing, like it’s a reflex. 

Jaskier quickly falls back asleep, Geralt choosing to stay awake and monitor him. 

It does something to him that he can’t explain when Jaskier stays peaceful through the rest of the night, and doesn’t once move away from him. 

 

 

Life continues. 

The Witchers train and maintain the keep during the day. Yennefer teaches Ciri how to control her Chaos, and Jaskier begins lessons with her, just short little ones after lunch. 

And Geralt is at Jaskier’s side at all times he isn’t training, eating, or relieving himself. He watches him for signs of fever or poor health; helps him get around when the pain is too much… Holds him down and speaks calming nonsense while Vesemir unpacks and changes his bandages. 

Vesemir has been kind to Geralt and Jaskier both: he’s given the witcher no chores except looking after his bard. His bard, who’s had no more nightmares since Geralt has quietly continued to sleep with him and soothed him anytime he’s shown distress. His bard, who is growing increasingly restless as his wounds heal. His bard, who keeps shooting him searching looks when Geralt touches him gently or uses kind words. He seems almost hopeful in those moments. 

And then Vesemir decides Jaskier is healthy enough to begin his “healing regiment,” or what the younger three Witchers refer to as his “recovery Trials.” It is a course of exercises designed to build back up muscle and flexibility in whatever area of the body has been wounded. So for Jaskier he has tailored it to focus on his injured leg and arm.  

At first, Jaskier is excited. He’s been bored for days now, not allowed to even walk for more than a few minutes at a time. He’s eager to move around; and especially to not be treated like glass by everyone. 

His attitude changes rapidly after his first session. 

Geralt has a hot bath ready for him when he helps Jaskier back to his room. He has to support him again, Jaskier barely able to put weight on his bad leg. He helps him get undressed - practical, efficient, courteous - and into the water, at which time Jaskier lets out a moan that sounds like they’re doing something else entirely. 

But then Geralt starts to rub his sore muscles in a way that is less massage and more, according to Jaskier, torture. The word makes Geralt flinch, but he manages not to say anything.

Then he gets to Jaskier’s thigh, and the bard actually stops talking. 

It concerns Geralt enough that he looks up to make sure he’s still breathing. 

He is, in fact, though shallowly. What makes Geralt immediately stop his motions are the tears in Jaskier’s eyes. 

“I’m sorry,” he manages. “It’s okay, I get it, it has to happen. I’ll feel better after. Don’t mind me.” 

Geralt softens, putting a hand on Jaskier’s jaw in a comforting motion. “It’s going to be uncomfortable, but tell me if it’s hurting that badly, Jaskier. You don’t have to suffer so much.”

Jaskier’s eyes widen at the hand on his face and Geralt’s words both. His lips part like he’s going to speak but nothing comes out. He ends up just nodding, and Geralt takes his hand back and finishes the massage, much more gently than he probably should. 

“Do you need more help?” He asks when he’s done, pulling away to give Jaskier some privacy. 

At any other time, Jaskier would make a dirty joke, utterly shameless. Leaving it to Geralt to decide it was just a joke, even when it wasn’t. 

Tonight, however, he just shakes his head. 

“I’m fine. Thank you, Geralt.” 

Geralt doesn’t leave the room, but he busies himself as far away as he can. He’s brought all his and Jaskier’s daggers up to sharpen and oil.

Jaskier finishes his bath in silence, lost in thought. Geralt has been acting so differently these past few days, but Jaskier isn’t sure if it’s only because of what happened. Is it guilt? He hopes not… Call him selfish, but he likes the new Geralt. The new, kinder, gentler, Geralt, who’s more apt to touch him; support him. He’s not sure what he’ll do if he switches back once Jaskier is healed. 

He doesn’t think that will happen. Not with how Geralt had apologized to him. How earnest and sweet he’d been, even before he felt responsible for Jaskier’s wounds. Still, confident as he is, Jaskier has always had some insecurity when it comes to his relationship with Geralt. Deep inside, he is utterly terrified that spring will come and they will go their separate ways. Or, perhaps worse, that their relationship will never be the same, Geralt only keeping him around because he feels obligated. 

Right. 

He’s got to clear the air.

He at least finishes his bath first. Can’t be both physically and emotionally naked, after all. One is enough, thank you. 

He even manages to get out and dry himself off. Geralt notices he’s out, gives him a subtly impressed look at his progress, and hands over a dry outfit. 

Jaskier is not so set on having this conversation that he doesn’t notice that what he’s been given is of much higher quality than the rest of his borrowed clothing - and smaller, too. 

“This is not witcher clothing.” 

Geralt won’t make eye contact with him. “No.”

“Geralt, this is nice . Where did it come from?” He slips the shirt over his head as he’s talking and can’t help but sigh in pleasure at the fine, soft material. It’s a little tight across the shoulders, but fits better than anything else he’s been given. A little tight in the waist, too, though he can’t help but admire the small amount of curve it gives him. 

And then it registers. 

“Is this women’s clothing?” 

Geralt, somehow , makes even less eye contact. He mutters something completely unintelligible, and Jaskier rolls his eyes. 

“We don’t all have super witcher hearing, dear.” 

“It’s Yen’s.”

Well, he supposes that’s the only explanation that makes any sense. 

He itches a bit, wearing her clothes. But he can’t deny that they’re exceedingly comfortable. 

“You’re telling me Yennefer gave you permission to give her clothes to me ?” 

“She feels sorry for you.” (Actually, she had only given Geralt the outfit after bending in half with laughter for a good, whole minute after he'd asked. Jaskier never has to know that, though.) 

“Well,” Jaskier huffs. “Hm. Fine. If she would like to gift me clothing out of pity, fine by me.” 

There are pants, as well, and Jaskier almost finds it a struggle to get them on. They are luckily made of something soft and flexible or he might call them too tight. He has to wiggle a little bit, to pull them up all the way, and when he turns around he can’t help but notice a faint blush on Geralt’s cheeks. His heart skips a beat at the sight. 

“So?” He holds his arms out, twisting to first one side, and then the other. “How do I look?”

Geralt huffs and crosses his arms. “No longer like a child wearing his father’s clothes.” 

“Oh, wow, thank you, Geralt. That is so flattering.” 

Geralt rolls his eyes but relents. “You look… Fine. Nice,” he adds at Jaskier’s glare. “You look nice.” 

Unexpectedly, Jaskier feels his cheeks heat. Geralt has given him the bare minimum, but he seems to mean it.

“Was that so hard?”

He’s still going to tease him. 

Geralt only grunts and goes back to working on his daggers, and Jaskier realizes how distracted he’s gotten. He’d climbed out of the bath with such conviction, too. 

“Geralt,” he begins, soft and hesitant as he wanders to the bed. Geralt must hear something in his voice, because he slowly puts down the daggers and looks at Jaskier, something cagey suddenly about him. “I think… I think we need to talk.” 

Geralt looks downcast, and Jaskier’s heart sinks. The witcher only nods, which seems to be his cue to continue. 

“Listen, I… I know it’s going to be exceedingly difficult for you, because you’re a guilt-ridden masochist, I swear to Melitele… But you need to forgive yourself for what happened, okay? I will not have you carrying the weight of this forever, it’ll absolutely kill our energy just, all the time. And I don’t want you feeling obligated to care for me.”

He says the last sentence rapidly, and a little mumbled. Sharing with a witcher is hard, okay?

Geralt is looking at him with wide eyes. As if he’d been expecting something else, though Jaskier really has no idea what. 

He seems to struggle deeply with his words, before finally settling on, “but it was my fault.”

Jaskier actually, audibly, growls. “It wasn’t! It literally was not and stop saying that. The only person who’s fault it is that I’m hurt is the person who hurt me . Shut up, I’m not done. If you hadn’t shown up, someone would have found me, anyway. Everyone knows I’m connected to you, and no, don’t look like that, that was my choice. I want people to know that. You know what would have happened if you weren’t there? I would have been killed, Geralt. You protect me. How many times have you saved me? And you don’t go around talking about that. Yet when I get hurt, it’s all your fault and you won’t let it go. Well I’m telling you to let it go . I love you and I don’t want you to - oh, fuck .”  

He doesn’t even realize what he said until Geralt freezes in place. 

“Oh. I. Oh, fuck. I didn’t mean to say that. I mean, I meant it, but not… You don’t… Fuck!” 

Geralt watches this happen. He overcomes his paralysis. He steps forward, and Jaskier immediately goes quiet. 

“So you don’t mean platonic love,” is what comes out of his mouth. More intelligent than he’s expecting, if he’s honest. 

Jaskier laughs, but it sounds a little despairing, and there’s a thick scent of anxiety in the air. 

“No, my dear wolf. I do not mean platonically.” 

Geralt hmm s. 

And then he crosses the room in two strides and grabs Jaskier by the hips, pulling him in close and smashing their lips together. 

Jaskier flails, for a moment, wholly unprepared for his nighttime fantasies to come to life. 

Geralt continues to kiss him, though, and he recovers from his shock quickly. He places his hands behind Geralt’s head, threading his fingers through soft white hair, encouraging the witcher to deepen the kiss. 

And he does. 

It devolves into them plastered against each other, open-mouthed but too breathless to even kiss properly, just sharing air and space. Jaskier pulls away by the barest amount and laughs, happy tears in his eyes, chest so full of happiness it’s fit to burst. 

“Can I assume my feelings are reciprocated?” 

“You can assume,” Geralt growls, dipping his head to nip at Jaskier’s neck. 

In the next few minutes, they make it to the bed, and it’s then that Jaskier notices Geralt is trembling. It’s barely noticeable. To a normal human, he’d look as stoic as ever. But Jaskier has been with him for twenty years, and knows when his wolf is distressed. 

He pulls away from another kiss, taking Geralt’s hands in his own. 

“What’s the matter?”

Geralt looks away on instinct, and then visibly forces himself to look back. His face is suddenly tight; marred with the deepest kind of agony. 

“I thought I might lose you,” he admits, so quietly. It hurts him, Jaskier knows, and he gently brings their foreheads together. 

“I know, darling, I know. But you didn’t. And you won’t. Not for a long time, I swear to you. I have so much to live for, don’t you see?” He pulls back just far enough to make eye contact. “You thought I was stubborn before? See how I cling to life now, with your love to motivate me. Your love, and the promise of something more. A family, even, if you’ll allow me to be a part of it.” 

Geralt dips his head forward, letting their noses brush together. “It wouldn’t be a family without you. I need you,” he whispers, voice close to breaking at the admission Jaskier knows is more difficult than anything else he’s said in the past two weeks. A tear breaks free as he hears it. 

“I love you, Geralt of Rivia.” He doesn’t expect a response, and continues talking before Geralt can work himself up about it. “Now will you please ravish me? I’ve been waiting two decades for you, let’s not take it slow, hmm?” 

Geralt growls, immediately pushing Jaskier back onto the bed. “If you insist,” he says, and his voice is even deeper than normal. The sound goes straight to Jaskier’s dick. 

Geralt wastes no time divesting Jaskier of his clothes - the bard mumbles something about not putting them on in the first place and is summarily ignored - and in the face of his eagerness, by the time Jaskier is naked he is fully aroused, laying there fighting with himself not to hump the air. 

Geralt’s nostrils flare and Jaskier remembers with a jolt how sensitive all his senses are, smell included. The thought of Geralt scenting his arousal somehow makes him even hotter. 

Geralt’s gaze rakes over him - once, twice, thrice. Jaskier loses patience and tugs hard on the hem of Geralt’s shirt, breaking him out of his admiration. Jaskier loves a little body worship, but he is not in the mood to wait tonight. Geralt sends him a smirk but relents, pulling his shirt off in one smooth motion. It lands on the floor and is quickly followed by his trousers, and then Jaskier is hanging onto the bedsheets for dear life as he is covered in Geralt and they’re rubbing together and it’s so good-

“Fuck, Geralt,” he gasps, getting a hand fisted in that gorgeous hair. “Promise I’m not dreaming?” 

“Promise.” 

Jaskier shifts, trying to pull his legs up so he can wrap them around Geralt’s waist, but he witcher lays his weight on him, frowning. 

“Don’t move. You’re not fully recovered.” 

Jaskier rolls his eyes, but in all honesty, he did have to hide a wince at the effort of moving. Geralt shushes him, a thumb brushing over Jaskier’s cheekbone. 

“Let me,” he whispers, and Jaskier is helpless to refuse. 

It is quick - twenty years of waiting will do that - but it is still the best Jaskier’s ever had. Geralt wraps his calloused hand around them both and peppers kisses underneath Jaskier’s jaw as he brings him to the brink of ecstasy, and then pushes them both over. 

Gods - Geralt, ah - fuck!” 

Afterward, Geralt holds him to his chest. Jaskier basks in his warmth, burying his face into Geralt’s neck. 

“I love you,” he says again, quietly, because he can. “You don’t have to say it. I know. But now that I get to say it, I’m not going to stop.” He presses just the lightest kiss to the neck in front of him and grins when he sees the resulting shiver. 

Geralt rumbles low in his chest and pulls Jaskier even closer. 

“I’m sorry it took so long.”

“Oh, my dear,” Jaskier breathes, feeling himself slipping into sleep. “Everything was worth it.”

And with his bard tucked safely against his side, smiling faintly even in his sleep, beautifully flushed, sated, and loving, Geralt finds it very difficult to disagree.



It isn’t until four full months later that the snow has melted enough to traverse the Killer back into the rest of the Continent. 

By this time, Jaskier is healed as much as he will be. As much as he possibly could be, given the extent of his injuries. His leg aches in the damp or cold, and the muscle tires more easily now. His left arm has a slightly more limited range of motion. 

Still, after weeks of intense rehabilitation, hours of dexterity practice, and pounds of oils and salves, Jaskier’s hand works just as well as before. The first time he held his lute and played it without pain, he’d cried for an hour. He’d taken it down to dinner with him and played nearly every song he knew, until his fingertips bled. Ciri danced circles around him the whole time, beaming; even singing along at times. Yennefer acted annoyed after the first twenty minutes when he wouldn’t stop singing, but she murmured something that sounded astonishingly like “glad you’re all right” before she went off to bed.

Even the witchers weren’t entirely immune to the happy atmosphere. Eskel, of course, smiled at him the whole night, his enjoyment obvious. But even Lambert had been unable to stop his foot from tapping to the beat every so often. 

And Vesemir watched over them all, and sent a deeply grateful look Jaskier’s way before excusing himself. There hadn’t been such joy in the keep in a long, long time. 

That night, Geralt took Jaskier to bed and spent hours lavishing praise on him, taking him apart with words and fingers both, until Jaskier couldn’t even speak, and then he made love to him. Slowly, deeply, adoringly. 

Despite the danger they’re all still in, Jaskier has never been happier. 

There are bad nights. When he’ll wake screaming, drenched in sweat, absolutely sure he’s still in that room, bleeding out on the floor, Geralt having abandoned him. 

But he wakes, and Geralt is there, holding him tightly and telling him it’s okay. 

Geralt still has days where every limp, every wince, every scar on or from Jaskier makes him turn away, guilt coming upon him like a sudden wound.

But Jaskier is there, to turn him back away into the light, to place hands on his face and tell him he’s not a monster; it’s not his fault; he is so, so, so loved. 

They are not perfect, and the world is not perfect. Danger is everywhere. They don’t know if they can even leave Kaer Morhen, and don’t plan to anytime soon. (Jaskier finds this more than acceptable, but he knows the Path calls to every witcher, and they will have to deal with that). They can’t even be sure their sanctuary will stay that way - there’s every chance they will be found, and will have to fight. 

And yet. 

Jaskier watches Geralt walk Ciri around the courtyard, sun sparkling in their hair. He watches his witcher pick her up, smiling openly, and spin her around, high over his head, and she laughs and laughs. And Jaskier thinks of the man he met in Posada, how all this love was always there, buried deep, and how it took him twenty years to feel unashamed of it. 

Rather than staying on his perch and weeping at the poetry of it all - though a completely reasonable thing to do, in his mind - Jaskier finds his feet carrying him toward his family. They welcome him with bright faces and open arms, and Jaskier thinks - 

All the pain he’s endured, all the misery they’ve been through, absolutely everything that’s happened - 

He would do it again, a thousand times, for this life. 

Destiny may be a bitch, but she has led them here. 

Destiny, Jaskier thinks, falling into the arms of the man he loves, may not be so bad after all.