Geralt spends a year after the dragon hunt wallowing in his own misery, a hollow shell of loneliness without Jaskier by his side, filling himself to the brim with endless regret, guilt a persistent burn in his gut. A year that passes impossibly slowly, bleak and dark and chillingly silent, until Geralt gathers his courage and seeks Jaskier out.
When he sees Jaskier making his way out of a tavern, Geralt is hit by the memory of the last words he’d said to Jaskier, those words that caused Jaskier’s face to crumple with devastation, like something within him had broken - and Geralt never, never wants to see Jaskier’s face fall like that again, especially not as a result of his own words. So he heads over to Jaskier, leading Roach behind him, ready to grovel, ready to apologise -
But Jaskier greets him with a smile, bright and easy, like the dragon hunt never happened, like it’s just another time of them running into each other after being separated for a while, and Geralt finds himself falling into familiar motions, his apology falling away as he nods and grunts at Jaskier.
He’d expected Jaskier to - well, he isn’t exactly sure how he’d expected Jaskier to react the next time they saw each other after the dragon hunt. With anger, maybe. Or sadness. Or bitterness. Or worse, ignoring Geralt, or hating him. But there’s none of that as Jaskier continues smiling sunnily at him, fingers clenched tight around his lute as he leads Geralt to the inn, and Geralt relaxes.
Perhaps Jaskier has forgiven him - perhaps Geralt has blown the situation out of proportion, seeing it as something monumental, when, for Jaskier, it might have just been another of their many arguments, one that he’d gotten over quickly and easily, unlike how Geralt had been drowning in guilt and misery for a year.
It's a relief to think that everything between him and Jaskier will go back to normal, to think that they can put the dragon hunt behind them, as they have done with many arguments before, and the thought brings Geralt such endless relief that he doesn’t even register that Jaskier asks for two separate rooms for the first time in over a decade.
He doesn’t realise until he’s cold and alone in bed, tossing and turning as Jaskier’s scent lingers in the air - but everything is fine, of course it’s fine. Why wouldn’t it be?
The Path will finally return to normal, and Geralt’s travels will once again be filled be lilting songs, excited chatter, joyous laughter - everything will return to normal with Jaskier by his side, and Jaskier - bright, lovely, wonderful Jaskier - will chase the darkness from the Path, bringing back something good to Geralt’s life.
As they set back out on the Path the next day, Geralt lets himself fall back into their normal routine. Geralt rides upon Roach, silent save for the occasional grunt and short remarks, and Jaskier walks alongside him, talking and singing, lute slung across his back. They’ve gone back to normal, and Geralt lets some of the darkness that had gathered over the past year leak from him, lets go of some of the heavy guilt and aching misery residing within him as remnants from the dragon hunt.
Geralt hadn’t realised how much Jaskier means to him, how much light he brings into Geralt’s life. The small smile that Jaskier sends him over the campfire that night settles something in Geralt’s heart, warmth blooming in him and filling the emptiness of the past year. He’s missed Jaskier so much, missed him like an ache in his heart, and now that Jaskier is back by his side - well, Geralt thinks this is what home must feel like.
But as the days progress, something is off. Geralt can’t put his finger on it at first - they’re back to normal, after all, and Geralt has been too wrapped up in the relief of that to notice anything wrong - but gradually, he realises that Jaskier talks and sings a lot less now, and he doesn’t play his lute until they reach a town or village. He’s not quiet, but it’s different, with how he clearly holds back with his singing, how his words are empty, how the silence sometimes stretches far longer than Geralt is comfortable with.
Behind Jaskier’s smiles lies something tense and strained, and his laughter is tentative, hesitant and reserved in a way he’s never been around Geralt, not even when they’d first started travelling together. Jaskier’s laughter is imprinted onto Geralt’s mind - bright, infectious, ringing through the air in a way that never fails to lighten Geralt’s mood - and so is his smile, wide and lovely and genuine in a way that causes Geralt’s too-slow heart to uncharacteristically stutter.
Jaskier doesn’t smile like that now. He doesn’t laugh like that now. It’s like Jaskier is shrinking away from him, putting a wall between them, his smiles a little too forced and his laughter a little too dull, and Geralt feels like Jaskier is slipping further and further away from him, further and further out of reach.
Perhaps Jaskier hasn’t forgiven him after all. Perhaps he’s still hurt by Geralt’s words, and Geralt replays their decades-long travels in his mind, replays every biting insult and harsh word that he’s uttered towards Jaskier, words like fillingless pie and we’re not friends and damn it, Jaskier -
No wonder Jaskier is withdrawing from him. He’d never told Jaskier to leave before that day on the mountain. That day - if life could give me one blessing - had been the first time Geralt had ever truly demanded Jaskier to get out of his life, to leave, and over the past year, Geralt wondered if Jaskier had taken the words to heart. Jaskier is here now, he hasn’t left, but everything seems different.
Throughout the years of travelling together, Geralt has tried to show Jaskier that he cares, through small actions and gestures - but Jaskier is a bard. Word holds power for him, and for Geralt’s words to be so constantly thoughtless and sometimes even cruel, for him to tell Jaskier in no uncertain terms to get the fuck out of his life, no wonder Jaskier is pulling back, pulling away from Geralt.
A wave of guilt crashes over Geralt, guilt for how he’d treated Jaskier all these years, guilt for not giving Jaskier the kindness he’s always deserved, guilt for not fully showing Jaskier that Geralt cares for him, that he doesn’t want Jaskier to leave, that they’re friends.
It’s a guilt that twists his insides into knots, and Geralt wonders why Jaskier still travels with him, when all Geralt has done is hurt him, through harsh words, callous actions. A misguided sense of loyalty, perhaps, after travelling together for two decades, or a desire for adventure - but with how Jaskier has been acting lately, withdrawn and pale and too quiet…
It must be a result of what Geralt had said that day on the mountaintop. Jaskier is sticking with Geralt out of a sense of obligation or adventure or something, but he must have realised that Geralt does nothing but hurt people around him, that Geralt truly is the heartless, emotionless monster that humans say he is.
With every time Jaskier cuts himself off or trails off in the middle of a sentence, glancing uneasily towards Geralt, with every time he hangs back to sing a verse, far enough away from Geralt that he can barely hear it, with every time the only sound to be heard is the crackling of their campfire or the clopping of Roach’s hooves - with every instance of Jaskier drawing back, Geralt replays their decades-long companionship in their mind, remembering every cruel word he’d said to Jaskier, every time he’s pushed Jaskier away, and that horrible guilt coils tighter, burrows deeper.
It’s that guilt that slows the swing of his sword on his next contract, that causes his blows to become sloppy, that leads him to dodge just a little too slow, claws raking across his stomach as he thrusts his sword up in a last-ditch attempt to kill the wyvern, stumbling through the forest with head dizzy from blood loss, and -
Slowly, Geralt comes back to himself, carried back to consciousness on the tide of a gentle melody, hummed by a familiar voice, and he forces his eyes open, wincing at the pain in his side.
He meets Jaskier’s startled gaze. The humming stops.
Geralt is lying on a bed, no longer bleeding out on the forest floor, and Jaskier’s hands are hovering above his wound, freezing in place when their eyes meet.
Glancing down, Geralt sees that his wound has been cleaned and neatly bandaged, the previously searing pain having dulled to a distant throb, indicating the work of one of his potions. Somehow, Jaskier must have found Geralt in the forest, brought him back to the inn, and bandaged his wound - and how can he be so nice to Geralt, after all Geralt has done to him? How can Jaskier still tend to his wounds with such gentleness, like Geralt is someone worthy of that sort of care?
“What are you doing here?” The words come out harsh, and Geralt wants to take them back immediately - it’s not what he’d meant, but it’s too late. Jaskier’s expression turns tight and strained as he steps away from Geralt, lacing his hands behind his back, and Geralt almost recoils at the brief flash of fear that he scents in the air.
“Just… checking on your bandages,” Jaskier mutters, gaze darting to the side, never meeting Geralt’s apologetic eyes. “I’ll - I’ll go now, since you’re fine, I shouldn’t have -”
Before Geralt can get a word in, Jaskier is striding to the door and shutting it carefully behind him, leaving Geralt staring after him, mouth hanging open in an attempt to say something, anything - but Jaskier is gone, and Geralt slumps back on the bed.
Why can’t he do anything right? Why can’t he say the right thing, to wipe that strained look from Jaskier’s face, to never have Jaskier smell like fear again? In all their long years of travelling together, Jaskier has never once smelled of fear - until just now, when Geralt had unintentionally snapped at him in a tone that must have been too harsh, and Geralt knows why Jaskier is feeling like this, knows that it’s a result of years of barbed words and thoughtless insults, none of which he had ever meant, but Jaskier must have taken to heart anyway.
Geralt knows full well why Jaskier is wary of him, fearful of him - and it hurts. It hurts that their relationship might not ever return to normal, and Geralt knows that it’s all his fault, the way his hands, brutal and made for fighting, seem only to be able to destroy, to crush the brightness that Jaskier radiates from his being.
When Jaskier returns a few hours later, a tight-lipped smile on his face as he brings Geralt stew, it takes everything in Geralt not to visibly sag in relief that Jaskier is still here, that Jaskier hasn’t abandoned him. When Geralt has healed enough to set back out on the Path once again, Jaskier follows, as he always does, and Geralt can’t help but be selfishly grateful that Jaskier stays by his side.
But perhaps Jaskier shouldn’t stay by his side, if all Geralt does is hurt him and hurt him. Jaskier is better off without him, and Geralt wants to turn and scream at Jaskier to go, to leave, because he’ll be so much happier, so much brighter, without Geralt weighing him down, but Geralt is selfish. He wants Jaskier to stay by his side, wants his company, wants his friendship, and he knows that it’s selfish, but the year without Jaskier, the year alone on the Path, had been unbearably quiet, unbearably lonely, and Jaskier is the only person who brings such light to Geralt’s days.
As much as he knows Jaskier would be better off without him, as much as he knows that, for Jaskier’s sake, Geralt should let him go, Geralt can’t bring himself to ask Jaskier to leave. Instead, he lets his guilt brew and fester as Jaskier stays by his side, never quite looking Geralt in the eyes, and longs for the days when Jaskier laughed easily, smiled freely, sang with wild abandon, the days when their eyes would meet and Geralt’s heart would stutter while filling with glowing warmth.
There’s none of that, now, even though Jaskier stays by his side, never leaving him, following him from town to town, following him on contracts. Jaskier isn’t - he’s still Jaskier, still the bright bard that the Continent knows and loves, but there’s something reserved in him now when he’s around Geralt, like he’s guarding himself against Geralt, and gods, it hurts that Jaskier feels like he needs to protect himself from Geralt, though Geralt knows exactly why, knows that it’s a result of his own actions, and he hates it.
He wants to fix this. He really does. But he doesn’t know how, and with every day that passes, every day with Jaskier giving him a distant smile or a half-hearted witty remark, the gulf between them stretches wider until it seems almost unfixable, until it seems like the distance between their bedrolls when they camp for the night is a distance that is utterly uncrossable.
Geralt ruins everything he touches. Looking at Jaskier, who’s slumbering on the other side of the clearing, too far away, while Geralt is too cold, too lonely in his own bedroll - it’s proof of that, of how his bloodstained hands ruin everything that he touches, everything that he tries to care for.
Why can’t he be better?
Geralt had not expected the mage to be this powerful.
He’d entered the fight underprepared, too consumed by his guilt to fully equip himself for the battle. Geralt had expected an inexperienced mage who he could take down easily, but it turns out that the townspeople must have underestimated the mage’s power as he easily dodges Geralt’s attempts to cast signs at him, retaliating with powerful, relentless bursts of magic that indicate training from Ban Ard.
“You witchers are all the same,” the mage taunts, splaying his hands, and the ground in front of Geralt erupts, vines wrapping around his ankles, which he barely manages to cut himself free from to evade the rock shards that come flying towards him. “Arrogant, thinking that you’re noble protectors of humanity.”
“You talk too much,” Geralt grits out, trying to get close to the mage so that he can get a good blow in with his sword. That’s why he hates fighting powerful mages - their magic can keep him at a distance, and he’s most effective when fighting up close.
“Afraid of losing, witcher?” the mage asks, smirking, and Geralt dodges around the fireballs being thrown at him. “Not so high and mighty now, hmm?”
What had Geralt done to make the mage hate him so much?
Ducking under a sizzling burst of energy, Geralt manages to get just close enough for his sword to slash across the mage’s chest, slicing his shirt open as crimson seeps through the fabric, and the mage snarls.
“How dare -” A wave of magic slams into Geralt, and he’s pinned to the ground, struggling against the mage’s power, cursing. The mage stalks towards him, grin sharp and satisfied.
“Would you look at that,” the mage croons, a cruel grin dancing on his lips. “The great White Wolf at my mercy. You witchers think you’re so great, but you’re nothing more than beasts, aren’t you? It’s about time that the Continent learns that. We’re better off without you anyway.”
“Fuck you,” Geralt snaps, his medallion threatening to vibrate off his chest and he tries to free himself of the magical bonds.
The mage throws his head back and laughs. “So feisty even though you’ve been defeated. Too bad I’ll have to kill you, then more of your kind as well.”
From the distance, someone calls, “Geralt?”
He’s insisted on following Geralt, as he’s always done, and Geralt has been gone for longer than usual, so he must have gone looking, and Geralt prays for Jaskier to stay away, fear pooling in him at the way a cruel smile blooms on the mage’s face.
“That your little bard?”
Geralt doesn’t answer, struggling even harder against his magical restraints, desperate to kill the mage before Jaskier reaches them, and the mage cackles.
“Oh, how interesting.”
“Geralt?” Jaskier calls again, closer this time, and there’s so much worry in his voice, worry that Geralt doesn’t deserve, why is Jaskier worrying about him? Leave, Geralt begs silently, imploring Jaskier to sense the danger, to run. “Geralt, where are you?”
“How sweet of your little bard,” the mage coos, still pinning Geralt down with his magic, and Geralt struggles futilely, baring his teeth at the mage.
“Don’t you dare hurt him,” Geralt snarls out, and the mage throws his head back and laughs.
“Worried for your bard, aren’t you? And here I thought witchers had no weaknesses. But it seems,” his mouth tilts up in a wicked smile that sends fear shooting through Geralt’s heart, Jaskier’s voice growing closer and closer, “that you do have a weakness.”
Jaskier emerges, eyes going wide at the sight of Geralt being held in place by the mage, but before he can react, the mage flings out a hand, sending a blast of magic towards Jaskier, who crumples to the ground, and a bolt of panic runs through Geralt, a panic unlike anything he’s ever felt before at the sight of Jaskier lying limp on the ground. Jaskier can’t -
He can’t be dead.
Geralt growls, frantically struggling against the magic, desperate to get to Jaskier, and the mage laughs.
“You witchers, all high and mighty with your swords and your honour,” the mage sneers, gazing haughtily down at Jaskier’s prone form on the ground, and Geralt feels the magic weaken around him as the mage turns his attention onto Jaskier. “You won’t be able to cure your bard, witcher, not with how your kind is. That’ll teach you a lesson, mutant, you -”
Geralt lunges forward and buries a knife in the mage’s throat. The mage falls to the ground, blood gushing from his throat, but Geralt pays him no heed, rushing over to Jaskier, a wave of relief rushing through him when he sees Jaskier’s eyes fluttering open.
Thank the gods - the mage’s magic must not have worked, or it must have worn off after his death. Jaskier is alive.
“Jaskier,” Geralt breathes out, shoulders slumping as he runs his eyes over Jaskier’s body, checking for injuries or damage, relieved to find none. “Are you alright?”
Jaskier opens his mouth to respond, but -
Nothing comes out.
Geralt’s heart drops. Jaskier opens his mouth again, his lips moving, but no sound comes out, and Geralt watches helplessly as Jaskier’s face fills with an indescribable fear, the putrid scent of utter panic filling the air as Jaskier’s mouth opens and closes several times, soundless and silent.
“The mage - he must have done something,” Geralt says, desperate, unable to stomach the thought of Jaskier losing his voice, unable to stand the way shudders run through Jaskier’s body. “It must be temporary, or we - we can find a cure, we…”
Jaskier gets to his feet. His eyes, usually so lively, so bright, are empty and hollow, his mouth a thin line as he walks shakily over to where his lute had fallen and picks it up, starting to head in the direction of the town, and Geralt scrambles to follow him, panicked and not quite sure what’s happening.
“Jaskier,” Geralt says, but Jaskier keeps walking, back straight, giving no indication that he’d heard Geralt. “Jaskier, can you…”
Spinning around, Jaskier points to his mouth and shakes his head before turning to start walking back towards the town once more.
“There’s a witch in town. We can go see her.”
Where Jaskier would usually give a casual response, or an offhand retort, he’s completely silent, not a word escaping him, with his footsteps and his breathing the only sounds he makes, and if Geralt had thought the silence had been unbearable before, it’s even more so now - Jaskier being next to him, and yet, he is utterly quiet, and it’s eerie, unsettling.
Their walk back to town is completely silent, as Geralt tries to think of ways to bring Jaskier’s voice back, pushing back the low whisper of myfaultmyfaultmyfault in the depth of his mind. Once they arrive in town, Geralt directs Jaskier towards the witch’s cottage, and Jaskier complies, easily, too easily, not a word of assent or dissent, and Geralt’s unease grows.
It is so, so terribly quiet.
Geralt doesn’t bother to wait after knocking on the witch’s door, barging in right after he knocks, startling the witch, who drops the herbs that she’s holding.
“What’s wrong with him.” Geralt demands, snappish in his desperation, and the witch sends him a cool, even look before turning her attention to Jaskier.
“Come here, bard,” she says, directing him to sit down, while Geralt hovers stiffly by his side. “Let me check.”
The witch flutters around Jaskier, forcing a concoction down his throat, while Geralt glowers at her side, silently urging her to be faster, to solve this. There’s a quiet resignation on Jaskier’s face as he lets her poke and prod at him, humming underneath her breath as she crushes yet more herbs under her hands.
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you much, witcher,” she says apologetically after some time of fluttering around Jaskier, and Geralt can’t look at him, can’t bear to see the way his face falls. “I can tell you, though, that whatever the mage did to your bard - it’s a curse.”
“A curse?” Geralt asks, the all-consuming panic from earlier creeping away a little. A curse - that means it can be fixed.
“Yes,” the witch confirms, stepping back from Jaskier. “It is fixable, but I’m afraid I do not have the means, nor the power, to figure out how to fix it. It is an extremely powerful curse, so -”
“So I just need to find a mage powerful enough to break it, or tell me how to find the cure,” Geralt cuts in impatiently, and when the witch nods, he beckons for Jaskier to get to his feet and starts striding towards the door, head whirling.
He needs to find a powerful mage. Yennefer comes to mind, but Geralt quickly dismisses it, ignoring the tug of the bond that still tethers him to Yennefer. They haven’t talked since Yennefer had stormed away on the mountain, and Geralt feels his fists clench - yet another casualty of his callousness, his inability to be a good person.
It’s his fault, his cruel words and his thoughtless actions that had led to Yennefer storming away from him. It’s his callousness that had caused him to push Jaskier away, that caused Jaskier to smell fearful of him, that led to Jaskier losing his voice.
Gods, he can’t do anything right, can he? All he does is screw everything up.
Jaskier’s quiet footsteps pad after him as Geralt heads out of the witch’s cottage, towards the inn they’re staying in. They can’t seek out Yennefer, not after what Geralt has done, and Geralt casts his mind out, trying to think of any powerful mages who reside nearby, making a mental map of where he could go.
“We’re heading north,” he tells Jaskier gruffly, who hugs his lute to his chest and nods, silent. It’s unsettling - usually, Jaskier would be babbling, questioning Geralt about where they’re going, what contracts there are, how lovely the place will be to visit. But there’s nothing, not even the soft strum of lute strings, only the soft pads of Jaskier’s footsteps as he follows Geralt back to the inn.
It’s - unsettling, knowing that Jaskier is there, feeling his presence, but not hearing him. It’s even worse than the past few weeks - these past few weeks, Jaskier has at least talked and sung, sometimes, even if he’d done it less than he used to, even when he’d talked and sung more quietly.
Now, though, Jaskier is utterly silent, not even looking to Geralt a nod in farewell as he disappears soundlessly into his own room, once again a separate room from Geralt’s own, and Geralt stares at the shut door, unmoving, for a few moments, listening to the creak of floorboards, a soft thump as Jaskier sets down his lute, the sound of his footsteps - but nothing else.
That night, Geralt lies awake, shrouded in silent darkness. If he strains his hearing, Geralt can hear soft sniffles coming from the room next to his, like Jaskier is crying soundlessly. He can hear shaky, tremulous breathing, the constant squeaking of a bed as Jaskier undoubtedly tosses and turns, caught in the waking world the same way Geralt is, and Geralt wonders what Jaskier is thinking, what he’s feeling.
Jaskier is a bard. His voice, his singing, is his livelihood - it is what enables him to do what he loves, what allows him to spread his songs and music across the Continent. Geralt knows how much Jaskier takes care of his voice, what things he refuses to eat because they scratch at his throat, his insistence on hydrating constantly, his careful modulation of pitch to ensure he doesn’t damage his vocal chords. Jaskier has trained for years and years to get to where he is, to train his voice to perfection, and to lose it -
Geralt can’t imagine losing his swords, his armour, his enhanced senses. They are part of what makes him who he is - a witcher, who fights monsters, who slays beasts. He doesn’t know who he would be without those things - and it must be the same for Jaskier, whose quivering breaths and shaky sniffles from the next room betray his devastation.
Jaskier treasures his voice like nothing else. To lose it - it would be to lose an integral part of him, and Geralt thinks of the vindictive glee on the mage’s face as he had sent a wave of magic hurtling towards Jaskier, striking him down, thinks of the way he’d been captured too easily by the mage, held down by magical bonds, thinks of how he’d been too weak, too slow - and now Jaskier has lost his voice, has lost an important part of himself, and he’s crying, alone and silent, with Geralt unable to raise a hand to help.
That night, Geralt doesn’t sleep, listening to the soft sniffles taper off into semi-steady breathing, listening to the way the bed squeaks when Jaskier wakes up, his breaths once again becoming tremulous. Geralt had hoped that, perhaps, this was all nothing more than a bad dream, nothing more than a temporary curse that wears off as the sun rises, but the room next to him remains silent.
Slowly, mechanically, Geralt gets up, and goes through the motions, every movement weighted and heavy. The silence is almost deafening, and without even a hint of Jaskier’s voice from the room next to his, every second that passes is a visceral reminder of Geralt’s weakness, his failure to do something, to be better, his failure to do this one thing for Jaskier.
He almost doesn’t want to leave the room, doesn’t want to face Jaskier and be reminded of how Geralt had failed him, doesn’t want to see the hatred that will undoubtedly burn in Jaskier’s eyes, hatred that Geralt had been unable to save his voice from being taken, hatred that it’s all Geralt’s fault. But the urge to find a cure for Jaskier overwhelms his desire to shrink into a corner, so he trudges out and knocks on Jaskier’s door.
There’s something empty in Jaskier’s eyes when he opens the door and steps out of his room. He’s dressed brightly, his clothes impeccable as always, his hair slicked roguishly to the side, but behind the surface brightness of those red-rimmed eyes lies something shattered, something broken.
Geralt almost expects Jaskier to start chattering at him, but that doesn’t happen. Jaskier gives him a smile, hollow and tight-lipped, and inclines his head wordlessly towards the stairwell. It’s then that the reality of what has happened crashes into Geralt in full force.
Jaskier has well and truly lost his voice - and it’s all Geralt’s fault.
If Geralt had thought Jaskier’s behaviour after their reunion had been bad, it’s far, far worse now. Now that he can’t talk, Jaskier withdraws even further, retreating into himself, and Geralt hates that he can’t do anything about it, hates that every time he tries to help, Jaskier just pulls further away from him.
Their dynamic had been strained before, but now - now, it almost feels like Geralt is alone once again. Jaskier makes himself scarce, and without his intermittent talking and singing, without the soft strums of lute playing, the Path once against falls into unbearable silence, the same silence that Geralt had experienced after the dragon hunt, a silence that is too heavy, too weighty, a silence that makes Geralt feel so lonely.
It’s like Jaskier isn’t even there anymore, even though Geralt is acutely aware of his presence. It feels like Geralt is losing Jaskier with every silent day that passes, with every minute that Jaskier’s lute remains unused, slung over his shoulder, with every time Jaskier scribbles silently in his notebook, and Jaskier looks so sad, so much despair in his eyes, like he doesn’t know what to do with himself without his voice, and -
It’s all Geralt’s fault.
He should’ve killed the mage earlier. He should’ve been quicker, stronger, more prepared for facing off against the mage - he should’ve been more cautious, or he should’ve told Jaskier to stay at the inn, refusing to give in to his demands to once again follow Geralt on a hunt. Geralt should have done better - it’s his fault that Jaskier is in this situation right now, his fault that Jaskier has lost his voice, something that Geralt knows Jaskier treasures beyond anything else, his fault that Jaskier is withdrawing more and more.
He needs to fix this. They scour villages and towns for a mage, but none of the mages they encounter are mages well-versed in - whatever curse Jaskier has been hit with. They all confirm what the first witch had said - that the curse has a cure, that it’s fixable, but none of them know the cure or how to find the cure, and with each failed attempt, with each sombre shake of the head, Geralt grows more desperate, and Jaskier’s eyes grow emptier.
Geralt can’t stand it. He can’t stand the silence, can’t stand the shattered blue of Jaskier’s eyes, the perpetual slump in his shoulders, the silent sobs at night. But he’s helpless to do anything to fix it, to make it better, unable to do anything but watch as Jaskier retreats into himself, voiceless and silent, and Geralt feels so fucking helpless. All he wants to do is bring some light, some life back into those eyes again, to make Jaskier smile and laugh and sing - but he can’t, can he?
He’d been the one to create this problem, but he can’t fix it, he’s helpless, useless, and it’s so utterly painful to watch Jaskier write in his notebook whenever he wants to communicate with Geralt, to watch words spiral out on a page rather than spilling out of Jaskier’s mouth.
Days pass in utter silence, Geralt not knowing what to say to fill the void between them, Jaskier unable to make a sound, and Geralt grows more and more desperate, wanting to hear Jaskier’s voice again, wanting to bring that part of Jaskier back to him. That’s the only reason Jaskier is staying with him now, Geralt knows - Jaskier must hate him, since it’s his fault that Jaskier lost his voice, his fault that he failed to do better. There’s no other reason for Jaskier to stay.
Once Geralt finds a way to break the curse, he knows he will never see Jaskier again, and he braces himself for the inevitable loss, braces himself for how the Path will once again fall into bleak, desolate darkness. He dreads Jaskier’s inevitable departure, dreads being left alone once again, dreads the day when he will no longer hear Jaskier’s voice, not because of the curse, but because Jaskier is no longer by his side.
He dreads it - all he wants is for Jaskier to stay by his side, bright and joyous and vibrant - but he knows he must break the curse, as much as he doesn’t want to face the outcome. Geralt has failed Jaskier enough times - this is the least he can do, to show Jaskier that he cares, to try and make up for all that he’s failed to do.
He can see the light dimming in Jaskier’s eyes, and Geralt has to cling to the last thread of desperation, of hope that he will break the curse, for Jaskier.
It’s his mistake. And he needs - he must fix it.
It’s pure luck that he accidentally bumps into Triss on the streets of Temeria, and as much as Geralt loathes destiny, loathes the gods that dictate his path, he thanks them silently when he meets startled brown eyes, kind and familiar, thanks them for finally bringing him closer to getting Jaskier’s voice back.
“Geralt!” Triss exclaims, relaxing at the sight of a familiar face. “It’s been a while!”
“Triss,” Geralt breathes out, endlessly relieved that finally, he’s found a sorceress of Aretuza, one who specialises in healing, who will undoubtedly be able to help find a cure for Jaskier’s curse. “Triss, I - I need. I need your help. Please.”
The words are hard to get out. Geralt isn’t used to asking for help, but for Jaskier, to cure Jaskier, it’s a small sacrifice, and Triss’ eyes go wide before she nods, expression turning serious at the desperation in Geralt’s voice.
“Alright,” Triss says, and Geralt all but sags in relief, grateful that he’s finally found someone who is capable of helping. “What do you need help with?”
“I have - there is -” Geralt swallows, and Triss watches him patiently. “My - my friend. He’s been cursed.”
Triss nods. “Take me to him.”
It’s strange walking back to the inn and not seeing Jaskier at the front of the tavern, playing for the crowd, lute in his hands and a smile on his face. A quick glance confirms that Jaskier isn’t sulking in the tavern, so Geralt steers Triss towards Jaskier’s room.
“Jaskier?” Geralt calls, rapping his knuckles on Jaskier’s door, hearing the scratch of a quill against parchment stop at the sound. “Can I come in?”
Footsteps pad towards the door, and Jaskier gazes listlessly at Geralt, before his gaze lands on Triss. He blinks at her, and a familiar mask passes over his face - the mask of the charming, flirtatious bard, and he opens his mouth, as if ready to deliver a smooth line, but nothing comes out, and it’s painful, watching a tumult of emotions pass over Jaskier’s face as he remembers, once again, that his voice is gone.
“Oh,” Triss breathes out, stepping out from behind Geralt, and Jaskier doesn’t move, but something in his posture, in his gaze, shrinks back as Triss heads towards him. “Oh, I see.”
Geralt itches to butt in, but refrains, knowing that Triss is far more experienced than he is in this regard. Triss studies Jaskier, hands outstretched slightly, and Jaskier watches her warily, shoulders hunched, fists clenched tight.
“This is strong magic,” Triss murmurs when her hands drop to her side, turning to look at Geralt. “How did this happen?”
“I was fighting a mage,” Geralt mutters, hating the memory of that day, hating the memory of Jaskier crumpling to the floor, of Jaskier opening his mouth soundlessly. “He had me pinned with his magic, and he -”
Unable to continue, Geralt gestures awkwardly at Jaskier, whose gaze has returned to being horribly empty once more.
“Shall we go in?” Triss asks, and Jaskier nods, stepping aside to allow them to enter his room before shutting the door behind him. “Alright, I’m sure you’ve heard that this can be cured.”
“Yes, but no one could tell us how.” Frustration leaks into Geralt’s voice - frustration at himself, for not being able to do more - but reminds himself that Triss doesn’t deserve to have his frustration be taken out on her. “I was hoping you would.”
“I do know how this can be cured,” Triss sighs, lacing her hands in front of her, and for the first time in weeks, Jaskier perks up, some light entering his eyes. “I know this will sound ridiculous, but -”
“Tell us,” Geralt demands.
Triss looks at them steadily. “True love’s kiss.”
Geralt chokes. “What.”
Next to him, Jaskier’s mouth opens and closes soundlessly, stumbling back a step.
“True love’s kiss,” Triss repeats, not a hint of deceit in her face or in her scent. “I know such cures are things of fairy tales, but surely you’ve heard of such cures before, Geralt. They are rare, but they do exist, and they do work.”
“I - it’s just -” He’s always dismissed such claims as nothing more than fanciful stories, but if a sorceress of Aretuza is claiming that such things will work… “But why would the mage choose that as a way to break the curse?”
“I have no idea.” Triss glances between Geralt and Jaskier, who’s frozen in place, that light leaving his eyes once again, and Geralt wants to shake him, wants to bring that light back into him, tell him that there’s hope, that they can get his voice back. “Did he… say anything?”
“I…” Geralt frowns, trying to recall the battle, pushing past the memories of his failure, of Jaskier’s open-mouthed, devastated face. “He hates witchers, and he said…”
You won’t be able to cure your bard, witcher, the mage had gloated, unaware of Geralt bursting free from his bonds. Not with how your kind is. That’ll teach you a lesson, mutant.
“He said I wouldn’t - I wouldn’t be able to cure him. Not with how my kind is.”
Triss’ brows furrow. “But…” She turns her gaze towards Jaskier, who has hunched in on himself once again, looking away, and as much as Geralt aches to hold him close, he knows that he can’t, not when it’s his fault that they’re in the situation that they are now. “But how would the cure be up to you?”
Geralt has no idea, and with his lack of answer, Triss’ eyes turn sympathetic.
“Find your true love,” she instructs Jaskier, who, even without moving, seems to curl in on himself even further. “You know who they are, don’t you?”
Jaskier doesn’t respond, doesn’t react, but what Triss sees in his eyes must satisfy her, because she starts heading towards the door.
“I wish you the best of luck in finding them,” she calls out, hand on the doorknob.
“Thank you, Triss,” Geralt rasps out, endlessly grateful for her help, grateful that now, they have a direction to follow so that Jaskier can get his voice back, grateful that he can finally make a step towards fixing what he has irreparably damaged.
Triss smiles, gentle and sweet. “Anytime. If you need me, you know my door is always open for you.”
And with that, she’s gone, shutting the door softly behind her, and Geralt turns to Jaskier, feeling like a weight has dropped from his heart.
“Well, we just have to find your true love, then…” He trails off when he sees that Jaskier has turned away, head lowered, posture slumped. “Jaskier, are you…”
Jaskier shakes his head, seating himself on the bed, and Geralt catches a glimpse of his eyes, resigned and bleak - but why does Jaskier look like that? There’s hope for them now, and they know what to do to break the curse, so why does Jaskier still look so - so shattered, so broken? Surely it should be easy - Jaskier has had dalliances all over the Continent, and though Geralt has yet to witness him stick to a single person, at least one of Jaskier’s many - well, companions must be his true love.
Jaskier falls in love easily, Geralt knows, flitting between different people and falling in love with every one of them. One of them must be his true love, must have held onto his heart longer than the others - the Countess, perhaps, the one Jaskier had lamented about that day in Rinde, or that musician Jaskier had once spent an entire winter with in a cabin on the coast, or that young lord who was kind and generous and Jaskier had smiled at him like he lit up the world.
There are many people that Jaskier has loved, many people that he loves. But surely - surely, one of them will be his true love, and they can bring back his voice.
Geralt tries to ignore the nagging thought in his mind, a whisper that murmurs about what will happen after Jaskier gets his voice back, after Jaskier finds his true love. Geralt’s Path will truly be silent, after that - without needing Geralt by his side to find the cure, there’s no reason for Jaskier to stay with him, not when he’s found his true love, someone undoubtedly far better than Geralt, who will treat him with more care and kindness than Geralt ever did.
Of course Jaskier won’t stay with him once he finds his true love, that traitorous voice whispers. It is, after all, Geralt’s fault that Jaskier had lost his voice, his fault for not protecting Jaskier as he should have been - Jaskier will be eager to be rid of him once he has no need for Geralt to help him break the curse, no need to have anyone besides his true love, who will truly treat him the way he deserves.
The feeling that curls in Geralt’s gut at these thoughts is bitter and sour, and Geralt swallows, careful not to let that bitter feeling show up on his face as he pulls himself back to the present, where Jaskier is still sat on the bed, mouth twisted in grim resignation, looking away from Geralt.
“Jaskier,” Geralt repeats, trying to ignore that ugly feeling spreading in his gut, and Jaskier’s eyes flick towards him before fixing stubbornly on the window.
“Jaskier, Triss said that you know who it is.” Jaskier doesn’t answer. Of course he doesn’t. But he doesn’t react, either. “Tell me - tell me where to find them. So that we can break the curse.”
Gaze still fixed on the window, Jaskier slowly shakes his head, and Geralt has to bite back a growl, unable to comprehend why Jaskier is being so stubborn about this, why he’s refusing to tell Geralt, why he still looks so fucking empty.
“Why can’t you tell me?” It comes out too harsh, too demanding, and Geralt softens his voice when Jaskier flinches minutely, hating how Jaskier reacts to him now, like he’s something to be feared - and maybe he is, to Jaskier. “Just - tell me, okay? We can fix this.”
He sounds a little too desperate, a little too pleading, but Geralt can’t bring himself to care, not when the prospect of breaking Jaskier’s curse is so close, not when they’re so close to bringing Jaskier’s voice back. Jaskier squeezes his eyes shut, fists clenching as he turns his body away from Geralt, a clear sign of dismissal - but Geralt isn’t just going let this go.
Jaskier has a chance. Why isn’t he taking it?
“Jaskier,” Geralt says lowly, and Jaskier ignores him, busying himself with tidying his bed, taking things out of his pack. “Can’t you just tell me where they are? You don’t,” he swallows, knowing that Jaskier doesn’t trust him anymore, knowing that he’s given no reason for Jaskier to trust him, and yet it still tears at him. “You don’t have to tell me who it is. If you don’t want to. But - let me bring you there?”
When Jaskier shakes his head once again, Geralt wants to yell, wants to scream at Jaskier that they need to take this chance, that they can finally get Jaskier’s voice back, so why is he refusing so vehemently to cooperate with Geralt - but Jaskier takes out his notebook, and scrawls hastily in it with shaky hands before holding it up for Geralt to read, the usually graceful loop of Jaskier’s handwriting is uncharacteristically shaky.
It won’t work.
“What do you mean it won’t work?” Geralt demands, pacing the room. “Triss says it would work - and she’s a sorceress of Aretuza, Jaskier, this isn’t just a fairytale curse. And you know who your - your true love is, so just - tell me where to go.”
Jaskier jabs his finger insistently at the page. It won’t work.
“But -” Geralt is ready to tear his hair out, and Jaskier is just - looking at him calmly, serenely, those shattered eyes resigned, and - fuck. “We can break the curse, Jaskier, it will work, you just have to tell me -”
Once again, Jaskier points aggressively at the words. It won’t work. Then he starts scribbling again, and Geralt watches him, hopeless frustration washing over him like a tide, frustration at how Jaskier is being stubborn, at how Geralt can’t do anything to help.
Jaskier holds up the notebook once again. Trust me. It won’t work. I know it won’t.
“But why?” Geralt snaps, unable to contain the tide of frustration that threatens to overwhelm him, and for the first time in weeks, Jaskier doesn’t flinch at his raised voice, only continuing to look at him steadily. “How can you know it won’t work when you refuse to try?”
At that, Jaskier tenses, lips flattening into a thin line as something in his face crumples, looking almost like - that day on the mountain, when Geralt had yelled if life could give me one blessing, it would be to take you off my hands, when Jaskier’s face had just… fallen apart. It’s something like that, now, that same brokenness staring back at Geralt, and Geralt wonders what about Jaskier’s true love had made him look like that.
After a few moments of silence, Geralt lets out a heavy breath. “You can’t just - you have to tell me, Jaskier.” His voice turns pleading. “I don’t know why you think it won’t work, but - we have to try.”
Jaskier rubs a hand over his face, before picking up his quill once again. This time, when he holds up his notebook for Geralt to read, his writing is so shaky that it’s barely legible, and there’s something horribly painful in the hollow, resigned way he looks away.
True love’s kiss requires the love to be requited.
Oh, Geralt thinks, realisation dawning on him as Jaskier tears the page out of the notebook and tosses it into the fireplace, hurriedly shoving his notebook back into his pack as he avoids Geralt’s eyes.
So that’s why Jaskier had said it wouldn’t work.
If that person was Jaskier’s true love, surely the love must be requited. But looking at the tense line of Jaskier’s shoulders, the stubborn jut of his jaw, Geralt knows that there’s no dissuading Jaskier from this, no point in convincing him to try, but he asks once again, futile as he knows it will be.
“Please - please tell me, Jaskier. How can we find them?”
Without a word, Jaskier stands up, heading for the door without sparing a single glance towards Geralt, shutting it behind him in a clear sign that they’re done talking about this, and Geralt stares after him, listening to his footsteps fade as they head down the hallway.
Why isn’t Jaskier willing to at least try? Even if that person doesn’t love him back, Geralt would have thought that Jaskier would’ve risked it, just so he could get his voice back - his voice, which Geralt knows is such an important part of him, even more so than any of the numerous dallances he’s had over the past decades, so why is he so reluctant to even try?
The bitter part of him whispers, good. Jaskier won’t have to seek out his true love, and he won’t leave Geralt for them - and Geralt pushes those thoughts away, disgusted at himself for even daring to think so, to want to selfishly keep Jaskier to himself when Jaskier could be so much happier with his voice back, with his true love by his side. And yet that bitter part of him lingers, somewhere in the depths of his mind.
Jaskier should try. Geralt can’t comprehend that there’s someone who just - doesn’t return Jaskier’s love. Geralt has witnessed Jaskier fall in love dozens of time over the years - he falls hard and deep each time, save for the occasional short flings, but when Jaskier falls in love, he falls deep, committing himself to that person, dedicating his attention to them, and Geralt can’t see why Jaskier’s true love wouldn’t love him back.
Jaskier is bright, joyous, a spot of light in the middle of the darkness of the Path, bringing something less bleak and lonely into Geralt’s life with his endless chatter and his lilting songs. He can lift the spirits of even the most glum audience, sway them with his hauntingly beautiful voice, and it’s utterly baffling that, whoever his true love is, they haven’t at least fallen partly for Jaskier. Everyone does, once they’ve been around Jaskier long enough - everyone falls a little in love with him, whether it’s with his music or his genuine smiles or his kind gestures - and how can Jaskier’s true love just… not love him back?
The least Geralt can do is try to find Jaskier’s true love and persuade them to fall in love with Jaskier, or at least allow him to kiss them. He doesn’t know how he will go about doing this, but he’s determined to wipe that horribly broken look from Jaskier’s face, to bring light back into his eyes, to let Jaskier smile and laugh again.
They need to try, Geralt decides, even if Jaskier wants to resist. Geralt will try, and at least attempt to make up for all his mistakes, all his faults. If Jaskier keeps suffering without his voice, all because of Geralt’s uselessness - Geralt can’t stand that, can’t bear the thought of Jaskier being voiceless and silent for the rest of his human life. So Geralt vows that he will find Jaskier’s true love, however hard it is and however long it takes; he will bring Jaskier’s voice back, that part of Jaskier that’s so integral to who he is.
They set back out on the Path, Jaskier refusing to look Geralt in the eye. Geralt tries to recall the relationships that Jaskier has been in, tries to recall the times when he’d seemed deeply in love. The Countess, the musician, the young lord, and some more. Geralt thinks he remembers Jaskier claiming that he’d gotten over the Countess for good, so he dismisses her from his mental list.
The musician, perhaps, the one who hopefully still lives on the coast - Geralt remembers Jaskier meeting up with him one spring, eyes glum and dull as he’d lamented about how his beloved musician had found someone else to love.
And this fits Jaskier’s words, scribbled messily on a page - true love’s kiss requires the love to be requited. That would make sense if the musician has found someone else - and rage bubbles within Geralt at the thought that someone could bear to devastate Jaskier in such a way, to toss his kind, loving heart to the side in favour of someone else. He squashes down the rage, reminding himself that it won’t help him in any way, that it won’t do either of them any favours.
Yes, they will seek out the musician. Geralt doesn’t know where he is, apart from the fact that he lives on the coast, but that’s a good place to start - he might be able to work out where the musician is from how Jaskier acts, since he might want to avoid the village in which the musician lives.
And so they head to the coast. Jaskier has always followed Geralt wherever he goes, so he doesn’t question is when Geralt changes direction to head towards the coast - but then again, he doesn’t question Geralt anymore, doesn’t complain about where they’re going, doesn’t pester Geralt about the sudden change of heart, and Geralt misses it. Once, Jaskier’s chatter had been annoying, but it had quickly become something more endearing, something that filled the silence of the Path with something better, something brighter, and Geralt misses it.
Day by day, they inch closer to the coast, but, lying alone next to a sputtering campfire one night, the prospect of breaking Jaskier’s curse suddenly seems utterly hopeless. He’d thought that Jaskier would somehow give an indication of where the musician lives, but so far, he hasn’t expressed any preferences at all, only following silently after Geralt.
This is impossible, Geralt realises. Impossible - how will he help Jaskier now? He doesn’t even know where they’re going, doesn’t even know the musician’s name or whether he actually is Jaskier’s true love, or whether Jaskier loves him, still, doesn’t know whether they’ll find him. Everything seems so hopeless, so bleak, and Geralt turns on his side, away from the fire, a headache forming at how hard he’s grinding his teeth.
He hates feeling useless. He knows he’s useful, usually, even if humans don’t generally see it - he saves humans from dying at the hands of mindless beasts, saves towns from slaughter, saves children from being gobbled up by various monsters. He’s useful, but never has he felt so helpless before, hearing only Jaskier’s steady breathing on the other side of the campfire, none of his usual murmuring that happens when he’s sleeping.
Gods, he feels so fucking helpless, unable to do anything, unable to help the man he loves get his voice back, unable to help Jaskier get back to being himself, lively and vibrant and loud, dancing and singing on the Path with a grin on his face and laughter lingering behind his lips.
And he should be able to do something, he should be useful, but he can’t, not without knowing who Jaskier’s true love is, and it tears at him, knowing that he should do better.
It’s silent, too silent, so painfully and unbearably silent. The days of silence have built and built and it feels like everything is crashing over him at once, like the weight of the silence has crushed him with every day that passes without Jaskier chattering joyfully at him, without Jaskier singing about Geralt’s adventures, without Jaskier’s bright, ringing laugh, and it’s all Geralt wants to get it all back, but he can’t, he’s useless and helpless and unable to do anything to help Jaskier.
He should be able to do better. He needs to do better. Jaskier doesn’t deserve this from Geralt - doesn’t deserve how useless Geralt is being, doesn’t deserve losing his voice, which had all been Geralt’s fault.
The mage had only attacked Jaskier because of Geralt, after all, and he only managed to attack Jaskier because Geralt had been too slow, too weak, and now, Geralt can’t even fix it, can’t even make it better, to bring that part of Jaskier’s soul back to him and make him whole again.
Useless, a voice in his head whispers, and Geralt curls in on himself. You can’t even do this one thing for Jaskier. You failed him, and you keep failing him, keep hurting him. What use are you?
Maybe you really are the monster that they say you are.
These thoughts plague him as they approach the next village, and Geralt takes the contract on a couple of vampires, desperate to feel useful again, even though he knows it’s futile - killing the vampires will save the village, but it won’t help Jaskier, not with how utterly helpless Geralt is in this situation.
So he orders Jaskier to stay at the inn, which Jaskier looks mutinous about, stubbornly following Geralt, and Geralt can’t let Jaskier follow him, not after what had happened with the mage - he can’t risk Jaskier getting hurt again. But despite Geralt’s insistence that he stay, Jaskier stands his ground, eyes blazing with a fire that Geralt hasn’t seen since before the dragon hunt, and it’s that fire that finally convinces Geralt to let Jaskier tag along.
“Don’t come close,” Geralt warns, having long since given up on keeping the desperation out of his voice. “I don’t know what vampires they are, but they are dangerous - I mean it when I say don’t come close.”
Jaskier rolls his eyes, and it’s almost like their old dynamic, with Jaskier stubbornly insisting on accompanying Geralt on hunts, with Geralt being grumpy and reluctant about it, warning Jaskier about danger while Jaskier rolls his eyes in exasperation - but then Jaskier doesn’t offer a witty retort, doesn’t say anything in return, and it’s like Geralt has been dunked in ice water as remembers.
They’re not in their ‘usual’ dynamic. Not anymore.
He misses their old dynamic so fucking much. And it’s his fault that they aren’t like this anymore - Geralt had been the one to ruin it, and he clenches his fingers tighter around his sword as he heads into the woods where the vampires must be hiding, Jaskier a silent presence behind him.
As he keeps an ear out for any sound other than those of nature, trying to look for traces of a vampire’s presence, he keeps thinking about the days before the dragon hunt, when Jaskier had laughed openly and freely around him, when Jaskier had responded to his barbs with humour, when Jaskier had trusted him enough to sleep in the same bed, pressing close against Geralt for warmth. He misses those days so much, and he wants nothing more than to get them back, to truly have Jaskier by his side again -
A dark blur leaps from the trees, and Geralt turns just in time to block several talons with his sword.
He wants to shout at Jaskier to get away, but he doesn’t want to alert the vampires to Jaskier’s presence, so he focuses on the fight, darting to the side and avoiding another swipe from those deadly talons, praying that Jaskier will have enough sense to head far enough from where the vampires can detect him. The vampire - a bruxa - lunges at him once again, and Geralt ducks, biting back a curse when more shadows emerge from the trees.
The bruxae converge on him, talons extended, teeth bared, and Geralt blocks a blow to his left and casts Igni at the bruxa leaping towards him on his right, driving his sword into one bruxa’s chest and using his other hand to slash his dagger across the face of another. He barely manages to evade the talons slashing at his face, nearly falling into the gnashing fangs of one of the bruxae, which distracts him enough that he doesn’t catch the bruxa darting towards him until it’s too late.
Claws rake down his back, and the wounds burn. Geralt clenches his teeth, his rigorous training the only thing keeping him from dropping his sword as he lifts it with difficulty, running it through the bruxa who had attacked him, ignoring the way his wounds scream with the movement.
The remaining three bruxae circle him warily, and Geralt tightens his grip on his sword, dropping into a fighting stance, body tensed and ready to lunge or dodge, fighting against the way the wounds on his back feel like they’re being torn open with every move he makes.
Then one of the bruzae raises its head, nose in the air as it swings its head towards the woods, teeth baring in a slow, vicious grin as it looks into the trees. The others follow its lead, nostrils flaring and head swinging, and -
Fuck, Jaskier is still in the woods, isn’t he? He must have stayed, that foolish bard, and Geralt leaps forward, severing the head of one bruxae and drawing the attention of the remaining two back to him as they snarl at him for beheading their brethren.
But they don’t come after him like he’d wished they would. They start running towards the woods - towards Jaskier, a weaker target, who’s human and vulnerable and definitely won’t survive two bruxae, and Geralt puts on a burst of speed, pushing down the burn of pain to get ahead of the bruxae. He casts Aard at them, sending them flying into trees and slowing them for a moment as he gains on them, managing to slice off one's arm before both bruxae start racing towards Jaskier again.
“Fuck,” Geralt hisses, palming a throwing knife and hurling towards the bruxae slightly ahead of the other one. Throwing knives have never been his strong suit, and his aim isn’t the best, but he’s too far behind and it’s the only way to stop at least one bruxa, so he prays that his aim is true as he forces himself to speed up, forces himself past his limits.
The knife buries itself into the bruxa’s head, slamming right into its skull, and the other bruxa pauses for a moment, screeching at Geralt, loud enough that Geralt winces, before it starts heading towards Jaskier once again, and fuck, Geralt is going to be too late -
A dark shape darts between the trees, crashing through branches, quick steps crunching over leaves, and Geralt recognises Jaskier’s scent, recognises the frantic way he runs away from the bruxa, even though his usual dramatic screaming is absent.
Fuck, fuck, fuck -
He’s tiring, slightly dizzy from blood loss, the wound on his back a searing brand of pain, but he needs to push forward, needs to go faster, needs to prevent the bruxa from attacking Jaskier. He can’t fail Jaskier, Geralt thinks dimly as he narrowly swerves to avoid crashing into a tree. He can’t fail Jaskier, not again, not after Geralt has hurt him and hurt him and failed to protect him so many times, and the bruxa is gaining on Jaskier, getting dangerously close, body contorting as it gets ready to lunge, claws extended, and Geralt is going to be too slow, he can’t swing his sword fast enough to stop the bruxa from reaching Jaskier, so he throws himself forward -
The bruxa’s claws dig deep into his stomach, its mouth opening terrifyingly wide to reveal deadly, bloodstained fangs, and Geralt almost crumples, but Jaskier, Jaskier, Jaskier - Jaskier is still there, so Geralt musters the last of his strength and drives his sword into the bruxa’s heart. It falls, and Geralt falls with it, his vision blurring, dark spots dancing before his eyes as he clutches weakly at his wounds, feeling bloody gushing.
Someone is trying to pull him up. Someone is - Geralt forces his sluggish eyes open to see Jaskier’s mouth moving soundlessly as he tries to pull Geralt to his feet, and Geralt tries to make his limbs cooperate, tries to head towards the direction of the village, but his body is weak, his limbs barely a part of him anymore, and he can do nothing but sag, a heavy weight in Jaskier’s arms.
Then he’s being lifted off the ground, Jaskier’s hands careful to avoid aggravating Geralt’s injuries, and Geralt can imagine the things he would be saying if he still had his voice - how could you be so careless, Geralt, I keep telling you to be more careful, you were being reckless once again, huh, didn’t I tell you to look after yourself a little more? And now you’re bleeding, you’re hurt - Geralt, be more careful next time, promise me?
Jaskier has always, always cared so much. And yet, Geralt had pushed him away.
It’s strange, now, that Jaskier is so silent, and somehow, without Jaskier’s constant talking, his wounds feel even more severe. Geralt feels Jaskier speed up, but they won’t make it, not with Geralt weak and dizzy and barely holding on to consciousness. Even if Jaskier could race back to the village, it won’t be fast enough. Geralt can feel himself bleeding out, can feel the way life leaks out of him with every blink, with every second passing by as his vision dims, his wounds burning hotter and hotter.
They won’t make it.
“Jaskier,” Geralt rasps, barely audible, but Jaskier only stutters a little in his steps before he resumes hurrying towards town. “Jaskier.”
Jaskier glances down at him, his eyes filled with a worry that Geralt hasn’t seen in such a long time, and if Geralt could - if he had the strength, he would reach up, he would -
“I’m not -” Pain wracks him, and he’s unable to go on, unable to focus on anything but the searing pain in his stomach and on his back, his breaths coming quicker, his vision almost completely obscured by black spots.
Jaskier starts running, his mouth moving, and Geralt can’t hear him, but he can make out the shape of his words, don’t you dare die on me, you idiot witcher, you’re going to survive, don’t you dare.
I don’t think I will, Geralt tries to say, but he can’t, the pain crashing over him like a wave. It will be too late - the village is still some distance away, and the healers there won’t be good enough to bring his body back from the brink of death.
It should be scary, the prospect of death. But he’s in Jaskier’s arms right now, even if he can’t hear Jaskier’s voice.
He would like to have heard Jaskier’s voice one last time, before he -
Something soft presses against his lips, and it takes Geralt’s hazy mind a moment before he realises that it’s Jaskier’s lips, that Jaskier’s lips are pressed against his own, and if he had the strength, if he weren’t so weakened by blood loss and unbearable pain, he would be surging up, kissing back, but -
“Fuck, I can’t believe this worked.”
It’s Jaskier’s voice. Jaskier’s voice, low and pleasant and lilting, and it’s been so long.
Then Jaskier starts singing, soft and sweet, a gentle melody that drifts into Geralt’s ears. His wish has been granted, he thinks - he gets to hear Jaskier’s voice one last time.
But then - his medallion hums against his chest, the scent of chaos filling the air, and the pain in Geralt’s wound lessens, his vision clearing slightly, enough so that he can see Jaskier, whose blue eyes are intent as a song spills from his lips, whose blue eyes are glowing.
Being healed of his injuries is not an unfamiliar sensation - Geralt has gotten himself into many dangerous situations over the long years of his life, and he’s been healed by mages, by people like Triss and Yennefer, people who use magic to close his wounds, to pull life back into him. But - this is Jaskier, and this is unfamiliar, the wounds on Geralt’s back and on his stomach closing as Jaskier sings, eyes glowing blue, Geralt’s medallion humming against his chest.
“Sleep,” Jaskier murmurs as his song trails off, once Geralt’s wounds have been closed, once he’s no longer in pain - still dizzy from blood loss, but he’s no longer bleeding out - and Geralt feels his eyes drift shut, feels something hazy take over and pull him into the realm of unconsciousness.
Someone is humming.
The melody is gentle, tugging at something warm in Geralt’s heart, and he blinks his eyes open, squinting against the light.
The humming stops.
Jaskier. Jaskier’s voice. How is Jaskier talking once again? Isn’t he -
Geralt turns his head. Jaskier is standing by the window of the room, watching Geralt cautiously, and the sight of those blue eyes -
The bruxae. Claws raking down his back, burying into his stomach. Jaskier picking him up. Jaskier -
Jaskier kissing him, and singing, and his eyes glowing, and Geralt’s wounds healing.
“How -” Is all Geralt manages to say, not quite able to use words to communicate the magnitude of confusion that he’s feeling, and Jaskier’s face goes through a series of complicated emotions before settling on a neutral, careful mask.
“Are you feeling better?” Jaskier asks, and gods, he’s talking, this can’t be a dream, can it, not with how brightly the light pierces Geralt’s eyes, not with how real Jaskier’s scent is - he’s really talking, he has his voice back, and Geralt is alive.
“How are you -” Geralt manages to lift a hand a wave in Jaskier’s vague direction. “How am I -”
Jaskier drags a hand over his face. “Well, come now, Geralt. Surely you can piece it together.”
“You’re talking,” Geralt blurts, disbelieving, and Jaskier gives him a dry look, a look that’s so familiar that Geralt wants to cling onto him forever.
“Yes, I am,” Jaskier confirms flatly, making no move to come closer.
“Don’t make me say it.” Jaskier’s voice takes on an unexpectedly pleading tone, his mask of neutrality breaking for a moment, a sliver of vulnerability peeking through before he seals his mask back up again.
True love’s kiss, Triss had said. True love’s kiss to break the curse on Jaskier. True love’s kiss to get Jaskier’s voice back. And before Geralt had lost consciousness - a pair of lips pressing against his, then Jaskier singing…
“You…” Geralt stares uncomprehendingly at Jaskier, who has looked away, avoiding his gaze. “But you - we aren’t -”
“I know.” Jaskier sounds so heartbreakingly bitter, folding his arms over his chest, shoulders stiff. “That’s why I didn’t - I thought it wouldn’t work. But looks like true lo - looks like it doesn’t actually have to be requited.”
“But you…” Geralt chokes out, staring dumbly at Jaskier, mind whirring. But wouldn’t that mean - surely that would mean - but it can’t. How can he be Jaskier’s true love, when all he’s done is hurt Jaskier, and fail him again and again?
“Yes, you don’t love me back, I know,” Jaskier snaps, an unexpected rage flaring in his eyes before he schools his face back into blankness. “Fuck, Geralt, don’t - I know it, you don’t have to rub it in.”
“I’m not…” He doesn’t understand. “You love me?”
“I’m talking now, aren’t I?” Jaskier mutters, lips twisting unhappily. “Do you think there was someone else in those woods I could’ve kissed to get my voice back?”
“You love me,” Geralt repeats, disbelief colouring his voice, and Jaskier’s jaw clenches, his knuckles going white. “But how?”
“What do you mean how?”
“How can you love me?” Geralt bursts out, and Jaskier blinks at him before his expression hardens.
“Because I do, Geralt. Somewhere along those two decades, I just…” Jaskier trails off, and Geralt tries to think back on their travels, tries to think of a moment when Jaskier must have had this realisation, but how could he have loved Geralt even then? “Please, let’s not talk about this. I don’t - this is too much. You know what, let’s move on to the other topic that must be burning at you, let’s not talk about this anymore.”
Geralt opens his mouth to protest, to ask for more, to ask how Jaskier can love him, but Jaskier barrels on. “You might notice that you’ve been entirely healed. Yes, that was me. Yes, I used magic. Fuck, I’ve been hiding this for so long - but you know what, I’d rather talk about this. Let’s talk about this.”
Geralt blinks, still not quite caught up with Jaskier’s words, still thinking about because I do, Geralt, thinking about the kiss, the gentle brush of Jaskier’s lips that he’s desperate to feel against his own. “Uh?”
“Aren’t you going to ask, Geralt?” Jaskier presses on, looking at him challengingly. “I used magic. I healed you. Aren’t you going to ask?”
It’s only then that Geralt really thinks about his own wounds, how there’s no pain in his body, no pain from the wounds inflicted by the bruxae, and he glances down at his stomach to see that there are no scars left over from the bruxa’s claws.
When Geralt had been dying of blood loss, Jaskier’s eyes had glowed blue.
“Since when?” Geralt asks weakly, recalling the way his medallion had hummed as his wounds closed up. Magic - from Jaskier? “I thought…”
“I was human?” The smile that Jaskier gives him is brittle. “No. I’ve never been. I’m surprised you never picked up on it.”
Jaskier hasn’t aged, Geralt realises with a shock. He looks the same as he had that day in Posada, so long ago - he hasn’t aged a day. Geralt remembers every time Jaskier miraculously gets out of Geralt’s dangerous hunts without a single scrape, remembers how Jaskier’s voice alone can cause a tavern to brighten up and lift the mood of those around him, remembers how Jaskier sings when Geralt is injured, how his wounds seem to heal quicker and hurt less with Jaskier’s voice as a balm.
There’s been so much evidence, so many little bits and pieces that Geralt could have pieced together if he had wanted to - but he’d never seen it, too caught up in his own head.
“You’re… a mage?” Geralt has never seen anyone use magic like that, using their own voice to heal someone else, and he wracks his brain, trying to think of all the possibilities.
“I thought you were supposed to know these things, Geralt,” Jaskier says, and it almost sounds teasing, if not for how tired Jaskier looks, how drawn and resigned. “I’m flattered that you think I could be a mage. But no. I’m fae.”
Geralt knows next to nothing about fae - mysterious creatures who live in an alternate realm, inaccessible by those not of their own kind. He’s never dealt with them, and it’s been ages since a witcher has dealt with the fae - they tend to keep to themselves and their realms, rarely causing trouble that needs to be resolved by witchers.
“Fae,” Geralt repeats, examining Jaskier. He looks completely and utterly human, save for how he hasn’t aged since Geralt met him, and Geralt tries to look, but he can’t find anything that would suggest that Jaskier is something other than human. “You… heal with your voices?”
“It’s a unique ability of mine,” Jaskier says, surprisingly honest, even though his stance still remains closed off. But he hasn’t run away, so Geralt takes that as a win. “We all have a different - ability, or skill set, for our magic. My source of power is my voice and my words.”
Which would make the mage taking away his voice all the more devastating, Geralt realises with dawning horror, heart lurching at the thought. Jaskier’s voice is so much more important to him than Geralt had thought, and fuck, it’s all Geralt’s fault, isn’t it, that Jaskier lost this part of himself.
“I’m sorry,” he rasps out, swinging his legs out of the bed and heading towards Jaskier, who watches him approach with surprise. “I was - I should have been faster. With the mage. I was - careless, and you - you lost your voice. It was my fault. I’m sorry.”
Frowning, Jaskier tilts his head. “It wasn’t your fault. You don’t need to be sorry.”
“But - but I was too slow.” Too slow, too weak, not good enough. “I could’ve stopped him, but I didn’t, and he cursed you, I -”
“Hey,” Jaskier interrupts, his stoic mask falling away as he reaches out to Geralt, hesitant, placing a hand on his arm. The contact burns, sends warmth running through Geralt - Jaskier hasn’t touched him like this in such a long time, and Geralt had forgotten how lovely it feels to have Jaskier touch him like this, without hatred and without fear. “It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have done anything - that mage was powerful, enough that he could curse a fae. It wasn’t your fault.”
“But it was!” Geralt bursts out, unable to stop his emotions from bubbling over. “I should’ve been better, or I should’ve told you to keep away -”
“You couldn’t have known,” Jaskier repeats, slow and calm, his hand steady on Geralt’s arm. “And it was my choice to follow you. You couldn’t have stopped me, and you couldn’t have known how powerful the mage was. Gods - he was lucky, actually, that he went for my voice. If he had attacked any other part of me, I would have been able to rid myself of the curse, but - well. He got lucky. But it’s still not your fault.”
“You should hate me,” Geralt grunts out. How is Jaskier still looking at him like this, with concern and with kindness, when Geralt just - he doesn’t deserve it? “I couldn’t help you after - after the curse. And before - the mountain. What I said.” At that, Jaskier’s face shutters, and Geralt forges on, “And all the times before that. Everything I ever said to you. You should - you should hate me.”
But Jaskier doesn’t, if that kiss was any indication. How can he, Geralt wonders, how can he look at Geralt like that, when Geralt kept pushing him away throughout the course of their friendship, when it was Geralt’s fault that he lost his voice, when Geralt couldn’t help him break the curse?
“Well, I don’t,” Jaskier informs him matter-of-factly. “In fact, I love you. And let me reiterate this - the curse wasn’t your fault.”
“But I keep hurting you,” Geralt whispers, thinking of the brokenness on Jaskier’s face on the mountaintop, thinking of the hurt in his scent when Geralt had grunted we aren’t friends, thinking of that shattered, hollow look in his eyes after he’d lost his voice. “How can you lo - how are you here?”
Jaskier sighs, glancing away for a moment. “We’re doing this, huh,” he murmurs to himself under his breath, before straightening and meeting Geralt’s eyes once more. “Yes, I won’t lie. Your words on the dragon hunt - they hurt. And even before that - yes, you have said things that hurt me.”
At that, Geralt flinches backwards, flinches at the confirmation that he truly has hurt Jaskier with his thoughtless words, but Jaskier continues, “But you are kind, Geralt. I’ve seen the way you look at humans despite the way they treat you. I’ve seen you give the last of your coin to a starving child. I know that you give me some of your rations when we’re running low on food, and I know that you let me sleep on the more comfortable side of the bed. You sometimes say things that hurt, yes - but you are so, so kind, and I - I love you for that.”
I love you. The words ring with sincerity in the small inn room, Jaskier’s eyes fixed on Geralt’s, not a hint of a lie in his words, and Geralt opens his mouth, closes it.
“But -” His voice comes out shaky, and he swallows. “After the dragon hunt. When we met again. You were - distant.”
Jaskier’s eyes grow sad. “I was.”
“You hated me.”
“No,” Jaskier says vehemently, shaking his head. “No, I never hated you. I just -” He cuts himself off, running a hand through his hair. “I’ve lived a long life, Geralt. But I’ve never - you were the first person to let me stay by your side. Sometimes your words would hurt me, but I always see the way that you’ve been - kind to me, and I knew that, even if you never showed it, you cared.”
“You talked less,” Geralt recalls, remembering the tense silence between them. “You sang less. And you - you didn’t really smile. You smelled of - of fear.”
The memory of that rancid, putrid scent of fear when Geralt had unintentionally snapped at Jaskier, that scent coming from Jaskier, still makes his heart ache.
“I didn’t want to annoy you. I didn’t want to give you more reason to chase me away, so I… you know, I’ve never met anyone who would let me stay by their side that long,” Jaskier confesses, his expression sad. “I knew you were irritated by me, but you never - you never explicitly told me to leave, you know? Everyone else has told me to fuck off, to leave and get out of their lives.” Geralt flinches, knowing where this is going. “But you never did, and I thought… So in the dragon hunt…”
“I’m sorry,” Geralt says again, not knowing what else to say. He sees why Jaskier had looked so broken, now, why he’d smelled of fear - fear that Geralt would chase him away, the way he must have been chased away so many times before. “I didn’t mean it. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“Maybe you didn’t mean it, but when you - you did tell me to leave, and I…” Jaskier looks away, shutting his eyes briefly as pain flickers over his face. “I didn’t want to leave. You meant so much to me. But then - well. Everyone tells me to leave at some point or another.”
“I don’t want you to leave,” Geralt blurts out, desperate to let Jaskier know that all he wants is for Jaskier to stay.
Jaskier blinks at him, mouth falling open slightly. “You… don’t?” His voice is soft with disbelief, blue eyes shocked.
“I don’t.” Geralt covers Jaskier’s hand on his arm with his own. “That year without you - it was awful. And when we met up again, when you were… quiet. I - I felt so lonely. I miss us. I miss you.”
“You really don’t want me to leave?” Jaskier still sounds disbelieving, but he takes a step closer to Geralt. “I’m annoying. I get in your way. I talk too much. I’m loud. I -”
“You are, and I want all of that,” Geralt interrupts, surprised at how honest he’s being - but he doesn’t want Jaskier to leave, not again, not now that Jaskier is opening up to him once again. “I know I’ve been cruel and harsh with my words. I will do better.”
“It’s fine,” Jaskier reassures, turning his hand so that their fingers tangle together, sparks shooting through Geralt’s veins. “I know that you mean them in jest.”
“I’ll do better,” Geralt insists, vowing to himself that he will. Jaskier hasn’t told Geralt much about his past, not yet, but if his earlier words are any indication - you were the first person to let me stay by your side, everyone else has told me to fuck off - Jaskier must have experienced rejection far too many times before, and Geralt vows not to be just another person who rejects Jaskier. No, he’ll do better - he wants Jaskier by his side, and if he can help it, he won’t let Jaskier go ever again.
“So will I,” Jaskier murmurs, his hand warm where it’s slotted perfectly with Geralt’s. “I know I’ve been - well, reacting to your words rather dramatically, and I’m sometimes quite thoughtless as well. I’ll do better, too. We can - we can be better together?”
His voice tilts up in a question, hesitant and uncertain, biting his lip as he glances at Geralt, and Geralt nods, warmth blooming in his heart.
“I won’t tell you to leave, I promise,” Geralt murmurs, and Jaskier gives him a tremulous smile - tremulous, uncertain, but genuine, and light begins to seep back into Geralt’s world.
It’s the first genuine smile Geralt has seen since before the dragon hunt - not the forced, restrained smiles of the past few weeks, not the hollow smiles directed at his audience, but a true smile, a smile that finally brings warmth back into Geralt’s heart, and Geralt wants to capture it forever, wants to make Jaskier smile at him - like he’s genuine, like he means it - for as long as he’s by Geralt’s side.
So he leans in, like it’s the most natural thing for him to do, and captures that smile with his lips. Jaskier lets out a small gasp, tensing for a moment, but when Geralt doesn’t pull away, he relaxes, slowly winding one arm around Geralt’s waist, deepening the kiss.
It’s nothing like the sheer, unadulterated passion of kissing Yennefer. It’s nothing like the sparks that are described in Jaskier’s books and novels. It’s softer, warmer, easy and intimate - it’s like coming home.
When Jaskier breaks away, he’s flushed, smiling bright and wide and lovely, and oh, there’s that smile, the smile that makes Geralt’s heart trip over itself, the smile that makes Geralt’s days less bleak and dark, the smile that Geralt has missed so much, the smile that he thinks he might -
“Well, you’d better not leave me now,” Jaskier whispers, gazing at Geralt in shock, in disbelief, in hope. There’s still some uncertainty in his voice, uncertainty that will probably linger for a while, considering what Jaskier has been through in terms of rejection, but Geralt vows to chase that uncertainty away and replace it with something sure, something steady, something that solidifies his belief that Geralt won’t tell him to leave, that Geralt won’t leave him.
“I won’t,” Geralt vows, resting their foreheads together. The past few weeks, the past year - it has been horrible, lonely, so painfully bleak, but Jaskier is here, his smile bringing vibrant joy into Geralt’s life, and Geralt feels content, tender and warm. “I promise.”
It might not be easy. But they can fix this - one step after another, together, and it fills Geralt with warmth, with hope, hope that they will stay together, hope that perhaps, they will find their home in each other, and never leave.
"Well, we are close to the coast," Geralt murmurs, relishing in the way Jaskier's warm breath fans out against his cheek. "Would you - would you like to go?"
Jaskier smiles, bright and beautiful, and Geralt vows to hold onto this forever. "I would love to."