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benediction of faith

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“You tire easily,” Regis said, lips curled into a smirk at the witcher’s stance.

Geralt took in a few shallow breaths, resting his non-dominant hand on his knee, back bowed forward. “You’re such an asshole, you know that?”

Regis did his best to look wounded. “I know nothing of the sort. I strive to be the best vampiric traveling companion any witcher could want.”

“The only good vampiric traveling companion is a decapitated one…” Geralt retorted, no real malice in his voice. “Come on, one more round.”

“So be it. It’s your funeral.” At once, Regis’ features took on a more haggard appearance, the lines of his face growing twisted and sharp. He let out a roar, still somehow looking smug despite his monstrous appearance.

Returning to a fighting stance, Geralt kicked his foot forward, blasting his Quen shield outwards into razor-sharp fragments of energy. Momentarily stunned, Regis slid back, claws digging into the earth. At Geralt’s approach, Regis swiped forward, spraying a handful of dust towards the witcher’s eyes.

“Seriously?” Geralt growled, stepping back to shield his face with his hand.

With the minor distraction, Regis was able to appear beside Geralt in a blink, slicing his claws downward. His aim was poised at the witcher’s head, his action but a mere blur to the normal human eye. The witcher brought his sword up to deflect the attack just as a claw sliced across his cheek, drawing blood.

“Your defense has gotten better… or perhaps you’ve grown accustomed to my fighting style?” Regis proposed, bringing his other hand against the sword. He pushed harder and harder against the silver sword, grin widening as Geralt grinded his teeth, arm shaking in his attempt to keep his own sword from cutting into his shoulder.

“Y-yeah, it’s easy to predict your attacks ‘cause you always fight dirty,” he managed to bite out, yellow cat eyes flashing as he used his free hand to cast Igni.

Geralt watched as Regis dissolved into smoke, tendrils of black fog seeping underneath his boots. The witcher swiveled quickly on his heel, sending sparks of fire where he knew Regis would reappear. It was one of the vampire’s favorite moves; he’d reappear behind his enemy and stab them through the back with his claws, sometimes even indulging himself by pulling out their heart and biting into it. Geralt had seen it a handful of times in battle—and now it was something he’d take advantage of.

Regis let out a gasp of surprise, shielding his face from the wave of flames. The sleeves of his doublet curled inward like scorched parchment at a few loose sparks, causing the vampire to raise a finger. “Alright, you win this round. I don’t need you burning my clothes. Or my hair.”

“Self conscious of your widow’s peak?” Geralt goaded, returning his sword to its sheathe.

“Only as self conscious as you should be considering you insist on wearing that ridiculous headband.”

“Hey, it keeps my hair out of my eyes.”

“And so would a ribbon. Really Geralt, you know nothing of fashion,” Regis said, removing his ruined doublet to reveal a threadbare tunic. He frowned. “We must make a stop at a tailor’s. My clothes are in desperate need of alterations.”

Geralt waved a hand noncommittally, pulling out his water skin and taking a swig. He offered it wordlessly to Regis.

Regis took it with a murmur of thanks, taking a long drought before handing it back to Geralt. “Let’s retire under the shade. Superstition or not, I am not too fond of this blistering heat.”

Wiping sweat from his brow, Geralt followed Regis to rest in the generous shade of the sycamore, sunlight casting dazzling fractals through the dense canopy of leaves. Together they sat, watching the clouds drift lazily above. For a brief moment, Geralt felt at peace. Content.

Content despite being in the company of a monster who had slaughtered hundreds of villagers to indulge in his addiction. A monster who had saved a child for no foreseeable ulterior motive other than because it was the right thing to do. A monster who had saved Geralt’s life more times than he could count. A monster who had saved Geralt from having to walk the Path alone.

“Hey, Regis,” Geralt started, gaze fixed to the outcroppings of a nearby village. “Would you ever want to be human?”

“Not particularly. Perhaps for a day, but not for any longer. Vampirism suits me just as being a witcher suits you. It is simply our fate.” If he was bothered by the sudden line of questioning, of Geralt prodding at tender spots the vampire had not thought of in decades, Regis did not show it. There was only a slight tension to his jaw, obsidian eyes turned to stare unabashedly at Geralt.

“My turn. If you could kill me, would you?”

“Regis, what the hell—“

The vampire held up a hand. “No, you must answer. Please. I want your honest response.”

“…No. I wouldn’t. It’d be wrong.”

Regis cocked his head to the side. “But you are a witcher—it’s your duty to kill monsters who pose a threat to humanity. Vampires, especially higher vampires, are perhaps humanity’s greatest threat. So why? Is it because I am sentient?”

Geralt snorted, seemingly breaking the sudden wave of tension. “For someone so smart, you can really be daft at times. It’d be wrong because you’re my friend.”

Regis opened his mouth and closed it, completely stumped on how to respond. He was stuck analyzing the witcher’s words as if they weren’t as black-and-white as they seemed. But Geralt, for all his faults (which were substantially less than the vampire had first assumed), was not a liar. He was an honest man with a passionate heart—one that he tucked underneath the icy veneer that his witcher mutations supposedly gifted him.

“Regis? You okay there? You look like a fish out of water.” Geralt waved a hand in front of the vampire’s face, amusement apparent in his cat-like eyes.

“Y-yes, I’m quite fine. Just… surprised. Friend,” Regis said the word slowly, weighing the word on his tongue as if it had some alchemical value. “Huh, I think that’s the first time anyone’s said that to me aloud.”

“Really? Weren’t you a pretty popular vampire? I know that your culture’s different and all, but…”

“Ah, I should have been more specific. It is the first time someone’s said that word and meant it,” Regis explained, a wide grin plastered on his face. In that moment, he seemed infinitely younger despite the display of fangs. There was genuine mirth in his expression, a rarity in itself. It was a smile that could only be described as contagious.

Geralt grinned in return, patting the vampire on the shoulder. “It’s just as I thought. You really do have an overdeveloped sense of empathy.”

It wasn’t much of a surprise when the vampire pulled Geralt into a hug, the scent of herbs and cinnamon tickling his nose. Regis had always been rather tactile—some sort of innate vampiric trait, Geralt had assumed. Even before they had become true allies (and unlikely comrades) Regis was always reaching for him. He would often tug at his wrist to get his attention, inspect wounds with a surgeon’s methodical touch, give a brief pat of his shoulder at a particularly witty joke—even carried him without much effort when the witcher had been too injured to stand.

Sure enough, the vampire drew out the hug, dipping his head into the crook of the witcher’s neck and breathing deeply.

“What, thirsty or something?” The witcher joked, body slack against Regis. He felt no fear despite the proximity of the vampire’s teeth to his pulse. Geralt closed his eyes, blinking slowly in the way that cats do when they are content.

“Mhmm, not quite. It’s customary for vampires to scent those close to them. You can tell a lot from someone’s blood scent alone—whether they have any ailments, their emotional state, perhaps even what they had for breakfast. It’s a show of trust,” Regis explained, voice taking on his usual scholarly tone.

Geralt chuckled. “I’d return the favor, but my nose is nowhere as good as yours. And all I can smell is your herb and cinnamon perfume, anyway.”

“As they say, it’s the thought that counts. Thank you for indulging me.”

Slowly, Regis untangled himself from the witcher. He took to sitting beside Geralt, long, spindly legs sprawling out before him. The vampire studied Geralt, gaze trailing to the long, unkempt locks of silver that messily covered the front his breastplate.

“Turn your back to me. I cannot stand the state of your hair.”

“You’re such a mother hen,” Geralt grumbled but otherwise obliged, scooting back until he felt Regis’ knees at his lower back.

With a gentleness Geralt would have, at one point, never associated with a vampire, Regis began to comb through the tangled strands, worrying his lip in concentration. He put the witcher’s hair in a loose braid, fingers fast and nimble, possessing the same methodical approach he used when stitching up a wound.

Geralt leaned into the touch, closing his eyes. A pleased sigh left his lips as he clasped his hands in his lap, listening to the mocking jays overhead.

“If you fall asleep I won’t carry you back to the inn,” Regis teased, lips curling into a bemused smirk. He fixed the final strands of hair into the braid, marveling briefly at his handiwork.

“Not gonna fall asleep,” Geralt said, stifling a yawn with his hand. He didn’t need much sleep thanks to his witcher mutations, but there was something uniquely lulling about the way Regis toyed with his hair. It was… comforting in a way that he hadn’t known—not even when he was at Kaer Morhen.

“And I’m not a vampire. Really, Geralt, it’s unbecoming of a witcher to fall asleep in the company of a monster.”

“Then it’s unbecoming for a monster to braid a witcher’s hair,” Geralt retorted, bringing the braid over his shoulder. He inspected it with interest, noting that the vampire had managed to sneakily poke a few dandelions into the braid. “Are flowers high fashion now?”

“No, not particularly. It was an impulsive addition. I think the flower fits your personality quite well.”

Geralt rolled his eyes, no longer tired. “What a compliment, being compared to a common weed.”

“It’s a beneficial weed, Geralt. Resilient. Useful in many capacities—whether as a nutrient or medicine. And the white seed heads do remind me of your hair. Though I doubt any wish would be granted if I were to cut a strand and blow it from my palm.”

Giving the witcher’s knee a quick pat, Regis rose, stretching out his limbs. Trotting to his satchel, the vampire pulled out a snifter of mandrake. “Care for a drink before we retire to the inn?”

“Depends. Will that stuff kill me? Your last hooch had me hallucinating unicorns.”

Regis gave a theatrical bow. “Fret not, dear witcher. I swear that the alcohol has been diluted enough to only leave a pleasant buzz…. as long as you do not imbibe more than three shots.”

Arching a brow in skepticism, Geralt sighed, but held his hand out. Regis gave another sharp grin, handing the witcher the uncorked bottle. Geralt took a hesitant whiff, nose crinkling immediately. “One sip would knock out a peasant.”

“And, thankfully, you are no peasant. Drink, it will not harm you.”

Without any more preamble, Geralt knocked back a swig of the mandrake brew, shuddering at the acrid taste. “…My tongue feels numb.”

“Hmm, I’m sure that feeling will pass,” Regis replied, taking the bottle from Geralt.

The pair took drink after drink, their conversation soon devolving into a tired mess of half-constructed thoughts—at least on Geralt’s part. If the alcohol was affecting Regis, he did not show it. He seemed perfectly content in laying his own legs across Geralt’s thighs.

“Heavy,” Geralt muttered as he tried to push Regis’ legs away. He frowned when the vampire did not budge. “S’not fair. No vampire strength.”

“Can’t help it, witcher. Just as you can’t help being a lightweight.”

Blurry-eyed, Geralt reached for Regis’ shoulder, gloved hands instead finding purchase on the man’s elbows—depth perception was a doozy when everything was seemingly spinning. “Your hooch is too strong. Not good for humans. Tricked me.”

“Oh dear, you’ve really had enough. You’re starting to sound like a barbarian. And I did not trick you—I told you up front that too many shots would inebriate you. By my rough calculations, you’ve taken at least fifteen shots. If you weren’t a witcher, your liver would be failing.” Regis paused, sniffing the air. “Your blood reeks almost completely of alcohol. You’ve hit your limit for the night.”

Before Geralt could protest, Regis swung his legs away and grabbed the near empty bottle from beside the witcher. He went about collecting their discarded gear and equipment, humming to himself in the dark. Geralt rose to his feet slowly, some of his wits returning as he watched the vampire pick up their belongings.

“Ready to turn in for the night?”

Geralt nodded, grateful for the strong hand at his back. Walking was an arduous task when completely drunk, witcher or not. The vampire led him gently to the inn and up the stairwell to their cots.

Shuffling blearily out of his clothes, Geralt toppled onto the sheets and fell asleep almost immediately. Regis smiled at the sight of the young witcher, hair still braided, light snores slipping past his lips. Feeling quite like the mother hen Geralt had described him as earlier, Regis pulled the blanket over his friend, trailing a hand against the witcher’s pulse before pulling away. It was slow and steady, all the confirmation Regis needed to return to his own cot.

The bed groaned against his weight as he kicked off his shoes and stripped, blowing out the single candelabra that lit the room. Bathed in darkness, Regis tucked himself under the covers and closed his eyes, a warm sense of peace overtaking him.

“Good night, Geralt.”