Actions

Work Header

a witcher in need, perhaps it's destiny

Chapter Text

Jaskier’s fingers pluck lazily at the strings of his lute, a simple yet somber and repetitive tune. His heart hurts still after three weeks since his fight with Geralt. He can’t seem to wipe the Witcher’s words from his mind. They ring like a low vibrato over and over in his head, and he sighs and turns his head toward the window in the local tavern.

“One blessing in life,” he sings, voice mirroring the soft tune that echoes from his lute. “The Witcher screamed. One blessing in life for you to leave. One blessing in life to erase our meet. One blessing in life. You’re nothing to me.”

“Oi, shut it with your melancholy bullshit, Bard!”

Jaskier whips his head around to see a boorish, drunken man approaching him, his ale sloshing over the rim of the cup with each staggering step.

“Why don’t you sing that other song?” The man presses, leaning toward Jaskier. “The happy one about the Witcher?”

“There’s nothing happy about a broken relationship,” Jaskier huffs, and when the man cocks a brow in clear confusion, Jaskier sighs and takes a long sip of his own ale. “We had a fight.”

“And you made it out alive?”

“Not a physical fight.” Jaskier clarifies. “We had an argument, and–”

“–well go make up with him so we don’t have to sit here and listen to that depressing shit coming out of your mouth.”

“He yelled at me!” Jaskier says sharply. “I simply wanted to accompany him on his adventures for new material, but he doesn’t want anything to do with me.” His eyes fall back to the window, watching as civilians rush through the rain. “Besides, I have no idea where he is. He’s probably ages away by now–”

“–he’s locked up in a local cell maybe a two minute walk from here.”

“What?” Jaskier’s muscles fall rigid against the man’s words. “Here? In this town?”

“Yep.” The man pops the ‘p’ and belches loudly around his mug. “Word is he mouthed off to the town guard, so they tossed him into a cell.”

“And he let them?” Jaskier’s tone mirrors the disbelief coloring his eyes. “He’s a Witcher. Geralt of Rivia. He didn’t, just, swing his sword and take them all out?”

“They say he’s in a bad way.”

“A bad way?” Jaskier parrots back, tilting his head to encourage further elaboration.

“‘Suppose he was found feverish and delusional. Told the guards he was going to slice their dicks clean off–”

“–Okay,” Jaskier draws out the word as he hops down from the corner table he’s been perched on. “I’ve heard enough, thank you.” He snags his lute and offers a nod toward the man. “I hope you have a splendid day, fine sir.” He starts toward the exit, ignoring the muttered “fucking bard” from the man as he shoves the rickety tavern door open and starts toward the local prison.

“Geralt,” he mutters under his breath, preparing a riveting speech that will conclude with a demand for an apology. “You had no right to shout at me that way– no.” He shakes his head with a huff. “Not strong enough. Geralt, you brute. How dare you shout out me that way!” Nodding, his lips creep up into a smile. “Yes, that’s much better.”

He stops in front of a single town guard member watching the stairs leading down to the cells of the make-shift prison. “Good day, sir. I’ve come to visit a prisoner.” He leans forward, whispering. “I’ve come to see the Witcher.”

Though the man’s face takes to a look of annoyance, he wordlessly steps aside, and Jaskier smiles and nods in his direction before making the descent down to the cold, damp, cell hold.

There’s only one cell door that’s closed and locked, and Jaskier sucks in a deep breath. “Geralt, you horribly rude–” He stops, words falling flat off his tongue as he stops in front of the cell and takes in Geralt’s poor appearance.

The Witcher’s clothes are soaked through. He’s pale, shaking, yet his face is flushed red with fever. His hair is matted, stuck to the sweat glistening against his forehead, and his eyes are barely open. There’s a large, bleeding gash stretching from his shoulder down to his chest. It looks red around the edges, inflamed, probably very painful.

“You look terrible,” he breathes out, abandoning his lute in favor of stepping toward the cell until his fingers are gripping cold, metal bars. “What in the world happened to you?”

“Drowner.”

Jaskier’s heard tales of the damp, muddy creatures, and he can’t help but shiver at the thought of their grotesque, frightening features. “Well, why are you in here?”

Geralt groans, and Jaskier doesn’t miss the way Geralt’s face pulls into a faint wince as he moves slightly until he’s sitting up a little more.

“I was resting on someone else’s property,” Geralt pauses, sighing, “apparently. The town guard woke me up. I swung at them, and–”

“–threatened to mutilate their only claim to dignity?” Jaskier offers with a small shrug, and Geralt breathes out a huff of a laugh that’s trailed by a few weak coughs.

“That looks infected,” Jaskier mumbles, eyeing the wound with a sharp frown. “Aren’t Witchers supposed to be immune to this?” He gestures through the cell bars toward the gash. “The legends say–”

“–I’ll heal,” Geralt interrupts gruffly. “That’s what I was trying to do before the town guard came.”

Jaskier shivers against a cool breeze that brings a few, chilly rain drops with it. “Well, you certainly cannot heal in this cell.” His mind is working three steps ahead. “I’ll see what I can do to get you out of here.”

“Jaskier–”

Jaskier waves a hand as he starts up the steps, and after a few minutes of dancing around the guard, assuring him that he will make sure the Witcher never returns to this town, he’s given the key to free Geralt.

“You still with me, big guy?” Jaskier asks as he opens the cell and walks briskly toward Geralt.

Geralt grunts, and Jaskier will take it for now. He helps Geralt up, staggering against the burning weight leaning against him. He grits his teeth, leads Geralt out of the cell, snags his lute, and starts the long trek up the stairs.

The two-minute walk to the inn across from the tavern takes twenty minutes because Geralt is borderline dead weight against Jaskier’s side, and it takes another thirty-five minutes to get him up another flight of stairs and into bed in a room he purchased for the two.

Jaskier’s dripping in sweat by the time he drops Geralt onto the bed. He’s winded, chest swelling as he sucks in large gulps of a breath, and he takes just a few moments to himself before he gets to work.

He strips Geralt of his wet, filthy clothes. The Witcher is far too gone to respond to Jaskier’s actions, only grunting every so often. He fluffs the pillows behind Geralt’s head before he disappears to the retrieve a basin of warm water, some wash cloths, and some bandages. Once he has what he thinks he needs, he sheds his jacket, rolls up his sleeves, pulls a chair up to Geralt’s bedside, and dips a cloth into the warm water. He rings it out until it’s damp and begins wiping it carefully down Geralt’s chest.

The heat that coats Jaskier’s bare palm is concerning, but he keeps slow but diligent work in wiping away the dirt and grime until all that’s left is to tackle the gash. He’s been careful, thus far, to not agitate it, but it needs to be cleaned and bandaged.

Jaskier moves around until he’s perched on the edge of the bed, and very cautiously, he leans over Geralt and presses a fresh, damp cloth to the wound. As soon as the rough fabric makes contact with the gash, Geralt jerks away with a sharp “fuck!” and wraps strong fingers around Jaskier’s wrist.

“Geralt,” Jaskier presses, voice shaking slightly. “I know it’s unpleasant, but I have to clean this up. I promise I’ll be gentle.”

Grey eyes stare hard into glassy, amber ones. Jaskier holds Geralt’s gaze, trying to break past the burning fever that’s gripping Geralt’s mind without words, and after a few minutes, the grip on his wrist releases, and Geralt’s hand falls to the bed.

“Jaskier,” Geralt rasps out before his eyes flutter closed, and Jaskier lets out a trembling breath he was unaware he was holding.

Jaskier waits a few moments before carefully wiping at the wound. Geralt grunts every so often, but Jaskier makes quick work of the wound. Once it’s cleaned and bandaged, he wipes away the beads of sweat pooling at his forehead and gets off the bed, silently admiring his handiwork.

After an endless minute of conflicted staring, he swaps the warm water in the basin to cold water and gently places a cold, damp cloth across Geralt’s forehead. It’s the best he can do without medicine or a mage. He pulls the blankets up to Geralt’s chin, smoothing them out with flat palms. Unconsciously, he lifts his hand to brush away a strand of loose hair from Geralt’s burning forehead. His heart swells in his chest at the ghost of a touch, and he pulls away with a huff, snagging his lute and dragging his chair to the window.

For two hours, he strums away at chords until they form a new melody, only pausing occasionally to change the cloth on Geralt’s forehead. Once he finds the rhythm that feels best against his fingers, he sucks in a deep breath.

“A Witcher, he sees. A Witcher who’s weak. A Witcher in need. Perhaps it’s–”

“Destiny.”

Jaskier jumps, legs dropping from the window sill. He hops to his feet and spins around. “Geralt,” he breathes out, relief coating his tone. His shoulders, tense and tight, sag down, his muscles finally relaxing because Geralt’s awake, and for the first time in hours, he looks alert. His skin has more color to it, and his eyes are sharp, clear.

“How are you feeling?” He snags the cloth that falls from Geralt’s head as Geralt sits up, and he drops to the edge of the bed, smoothing a palm gently across Geralt’s forehead.

“Your fever broke.”

Geralt grunts, and Jaskier’s smile falls. Memories of their argument come flooding back, and he gets off the bed and snags his jacket and his lute.

“I should go now that you’re well,” Jaskier starts. His heart pangs sharply in his chest, and he swallows back the pain. “The room’s paid for, so you should stay and rest up until morning.”

“Jaskier–”

“–It’s fine, Geralt. I understood the first time. I won’t be a bother–”

“–Jaskier!”

Geralt’s booming voice echoes against the walls of the small room, and Jaskier freezes at the door, hand hovering over the door handle. He can hear the creak of the bed, and slowly, he spins on his heel to see Geralt standing before him, barely clothed and huffing slightly.

“Geralt, what–”

“I said Destiny,” Geralt mumbles.

“Well,” Jaskier’s struggling for words. “Yes, it was a fitting rhyme to the previous line.”

“I’m,” Geralt pauses, raking long fingers through his unruly hair. “Sorry. For everything.”

Jaskier feels as if he’s been kicked in the chest, and he can only nod, mouth wordlessly opening and closing as he takes in the rare look of pure guilt painted across Geralt’s face.

“If you would like, I could use a companion for a few weeks.”

Jaskier dissects each word with a rapid, pounding heart that echoes in his ears. He can only nod, and Geralt takes the answer with a sigh as he climbs back into bed.

“I’ll,” Jaskier starts, voice shaking slightly. “I’ll go fetch some food.” He leaves his lute on the chair and whips out the door as fast as possible. His heart is impossibly loud, and his face feels flushed, yet his mind keeps spiraling back to one, single word that’s altered his course with Geralt.

Destiny.

Chapter Text

It’s been four days since Jaskier’s frightening mishap with a lone werewolf.

While accompanying Geralt through the woods, he stumbled upon a single werewolf, a rarity as they often run in packs. He had just enough time to whisper Geralt’s name, voice trembling as hard as his knees, before the werewolf lunged at him, knocking him to his back with a loud thud that’s masked by a booming growl. The werewolf’s teeth were mere inches from his face, and Jaskier took a second to consider how great of a song this would be if he lived before Geralt swung his sword, knocking the werewolf’s head to the ground in a single, shaking swing.

He was fine, only shaken to the core, but Geralt insisted they stop at the nearest town so he can rest by wordlessly packing up their small camp set up and grumbling “let’s go,” leaving zero room for argument.

Four days, and Jaskier’s fine. While he’s not complaining at sleeping in a real, warm bed inside... with Geralt because double-bed rooms can get pricey, he knows Geralt is anxious to get back on the road, never wanting to stay in a single town for too long because of the shouts and looks that come each time he steps out in public. At least, that’s what Jaskier’s perceived as the primary reason for Geralt’s wandering lifestyle.

When Jaskier wakes on the fifth day, Geralt’s, once again, already gone. Though, upon closer look, Geralt’s side of the bed looks untouched, the sheets only lightly rumpled thanks to Jaskier’s almost constant moving in his sleep after an incredibly unpleasant dream about werewolves. He smooths a palm across the empty side of the bed, frowning at the cool, soft touch. Come to think of it, he can’t remember Geralt ever coming to bed.

Jaskier remembers having a little too much to drink at the local tavern. He remembers slurring songs out on his lute, and he can faintly remember being tossed over Geralt’s shoulder and hauled back to the inn. After that, everything’s a faint blur of vomiting, being far too hot, giggling, and then blacking out.

He runs a hand through his hair, attempting to make some sense of the many strands sticking out at all ends. He spares a glance to his crumpled clothes on the floor, and he groans, swinging his legs over the bed and getting to his feet. A dull throb clings to his temples, and he feels a little sluggish, but otherwise, he’s ready to take on the day, which apparently, he thinks as he drags slow eyes around the room, is tracking down this dumb Witcher.

He dresses and makes his way to the tavern, groaning at the shouting and singing that assaults his ears the second he steps into the building.

“Oh, the Witcher is buff! The Witcher is strong! The Witcher travels far! I follow along! He fights all the monsters, clean and quick! I can’t help but watch for I want his sweet--”

“--I did not sing such an inappropriate song!” Jaskier shouts, though the flush creeping hot at his cheeks says otherwise. He shakes his head with a low huff, ignoring the shouts and catcalls as he makes his way to the bartender. 

“Rough night?” he asks Jaskier, raising his brows. 

“My night was perfectly fine, thank you,” Jaskier ignores the low comment “I bet it was” in favor of scanning the tavern for familiar long, white hair. He comes up empty, shoulders slumping as he turns back to the bartender. 

“Have you seen Geralt?” 

“A saint he is,” a woman sitting at the bar says, and Jaskier pulls his attention toward her, cocking his head slightly to the side. 

“He stopped by very early this morning and asked if anyone needed help with anything. We’ve had these pesky giant centipedes causing a ruckus on our farm. He came back an hour later with the head of one, but he wouldn’t accept our payment.” 

Jaskier stares at the small satchel of coins lying untouched on the table, brows furrowed. “He didn’t take the money...?”

“He didn’t take mine either,” a young farmer boy interrupts, and soon, others in the tavern are crowding around and joining in, telling their own accounts of Geralt providing his services for free. 

Jaskier listens, frown growing deeper, more prominent, with each story, and after a good ten minutes of storytelling, he interrupts the crew. 

“Hold on, how many requests has he taken?” 

“Hard to say,” the bartender admits, wiping down a mug. “He came back a few hours after dropping your sorry, drunken ass off at the inn and started demanding requests.” 

“You mean to tell me,” Jaskier draws out, heart beating a little too fast against his ribs, “that Geralt has been taking requests all night?” 

“Sounds like it,” the bartender answers as others chant their praises for the Witcher. 

“Well,” Jaskier starts as he slides off the bar stool. “I guess I should go and find him--”

“--go east toward the edge of the woods,” a woman supplies. “There’s an old cemetery. I heard a man tell him some fleders were spotted in that area.”

Jaskier’s heart stutters at the mention of such a dangerous threat, and he offers a thankful nod toward the woman before hurrying out of the tavern. To his surprise, Roach is still tied to a post near the inn, and he approaches the horse with defensive, raised hands.

“Easy, Roach. I’m a friend.” He’s pleased to see that Roach is tolerating him today, and after a few minutes and a lot of falling, he’s finally able to climb onto the back of the horse. “Well, then, let’s head east.” He waits for Roach to move, but the horse, as stubborn as his owner, remains glued to her spot until he presses his heels lightly into her side. 

Roach starts at a light trot east toward the edge of the woods, and Jaskier takes this brief moment of solitude to address the urgent sense of panic gripping at his heart. This, he thinks, is unlike Geralt. Taking this many jobs for no pay? It doesn’t settle right in his chest. He can’t shake this feeling that something’s wrong, something’s off, and he just hopes that Geralt’s still breathing when he finds him.

It takes an hour to get to the cemetery, but his relief at seeing Geralt alive is short-lived when the Witcher turns toward the sound of the horse approaching. Jaskier sees the dark, cold eyes looking back at him, eyes pulsing and plagued by a strong liquid. There’s a small, empty bottle on the ground beside a dead fleder, and Jaskier frowns sharply at it as he swings his legs over Roach’s back and slides off the horse. He hits the ground, staggers, and falls backward, but he’s quick to get back on his feet.

“Geralt,” he calls out carefully. “What are you doing?” He starts to step forward, but then a fleder flies at him, and he’s sure he sees his life flash before his eyes before Geralt’s large body crashes into him, sending the two falling to the ground. 

“Go,” Geralt growls to him, face just inches from Jaskier’s, before he jumps to his feet, sword raised and ready as the fleder flies back toward them. 

Jaskier slowly gets to his feet, watching with wide eyes as Geralt takes a long, shaking swing in perfect time with the fleder’s movements. Geralt’s blade makes contact, and the Witcher puts force behind his sword until the fleder is falling to the ground.

The only sound to follow is Geralt’s harsh, ragged breathing, and he jabs his sword into the ground to brace himself against it when he stumbles slightly. Jaskier watches, lips curled into a deep frown, brows furrowed, and he approaches Geralt slowly.

“Geralt,” he repeats. “What’s going on?” He can see the Witcher’s shoulders tense at the question, but Geralt doesn’t turn to look at him. Jaskier takes a few more steps toward him, stepping over a fleder body with a grimace pulling at his face. 

“Why have you taken so many requests without accepting pay?” The closer Jaskier gets to Geralt, the easier it is to see the general, curved slump of Geralt’s posture and the tremble of Geralt’s hand that’s gripping the hilt of his sword as if that’s the only thing keeping him upright. Jaskier starts shifting around until he’s facing Geralt just as the potion wears off, dark eyes fading to tired, amber ones. 

“All night, I might add,” Jaskier presses, and Geralt slowly lifts his gaze to meet Jaskier’s eyes. Jaskier sucks in a sharp hiss of a breath at the clear exhaustion pulling at Geralt’s features, but he opts to remain silent and wait until Geralt’s ready to speak. 

After a few, silent minutes that drag on and on, Geralt finally sighs, deep, long, drawn out. “I’m doing my job.”

“You are seeking out work as if you are hungry for a death wish,” Jaskier clarifies, voice sharp yet concerned. 

“It’s dangerous out here--” 

“--well of course it is,” Jaskier interrupts. “That doesn’t mean you have to go running toward every beast that crosses your path for hours on end with no sleep. You are exhausted, Geralt.” He stresses each word, dragging out the syllables, and Geralt’s face falls. Conflict colors his eyes, a look Jaskier’s only seen once or twice. 

“I’m,” Geralt pauses, eyes falling closed in a slow blink. “I’m doing it for you.” 

“You’re... what?” Jaskier’s heart skips a beat. He locks eyes with Geralt, and the concern bleeding through his body is mixing with muted confusion, and something else he can’t quite put a finger on. 

“Last night. Your sleep was fitful--” 

“--I was drunk--”

“--you were afraid,” Geralt’s voice is sharp in a way that Jaskier can’t find a word to interject. 

“You shouted about werewolves,” Geralt presses with a sigh. 

“I’m fine,” Jaskier tries to assure, but Geralt shakes his head. 

“Physically, yes, but...” Geralt’s grip tightens on the hilt of his sword. “It’s dangerous for you.” He makes to rip it from the ground, but Jaskier closes the short distance between the two and drops his hand atop Geralt’s. 

“Just as it is for you,” Jaskier whispers. His heart is threatening to leap from his throat. It’s working in overtime, and he knows his face is blushing like mad, yet he keeps his voice soft, cool, but demanding. “But you won’t do us any good if you collapse.” He holds Geralt’s gaze, the two sharing a silent conversation that Geralt breaks with a low groan.

“I am tired.” 

“See?” Jaskier says, a small smile flicking across his lips. “Now, how about we head back to the inn so you can get some much needed rest? I’m sure Roach can carry us both, right?” 

Geralt only grunts, and the two struggle onto Roach’s back. Roach grunts a little, but Geralt’s hand smoothing over her neck eases him, and with Geralt behind Jaskier, he reaches around for the reins, trusting Roach to lead them back safely without much guidance.

The ride back is silent. Jaskier wants to fill the silence so that there’s no risk of Geralt catching onto his rapid heart, but Geralt’s chin is is resting atop his shoulder, and the Witcher’s eyes are shut. Jaskier’s afraid to move, to jostle Geralt, so he remains stiff as a board until one of Geralt’s hands drops the reins and slides to Jaskier’s thigh.

“Relax. It feels as if I’m resting on a rock.” 

“Sorry,” Jaskier squeaks out, but he obliges, huffing out a shaking sigh and willing his muscles to loosen. It works, he supposes, because Geralt lets out a low, pleased hum that squeezes hard at Jaskier’s heart. 

By the time they’re back at the inn and Geralt’s bathed and in bed, Jaskier feels as if he might faint from a rapid heart. He grabs his lute and starts toward the door, freezing at the low growl that comes from the bed.

“Jaskier.”

“Yes?” Jaskier turns around. 

“Lie with me.” 

“I don’t want to disrupt your sleep--”

“--you won’t,” Geralt responds sleepily. “I need to make sure you are...” 

“Safe,” Jaskier whispers, finishing Geralt’s sentence as the Witcher struggles to keep his eyes open. He moves toward the bed, climbing atop above the covers until his back is pressed against the wooden headboard. 

“Will you sleep?” 

Jaskier breathes out a shaky laugh. “I’m far too strung to fall asleep, I’m afraid. Plus, I’ve had a full night’s sleep unlike you.”

Geralt hums, rolling over until his hand is resting atop Jaskier’s thigh. “Good. I cannot protect you from your dreams.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier starts, but Geralt interrupts with a gruff voice. 

“Sing something.” 

“My lute’s over--”

“--no chords. Just your voice.” 

“I thought you hated my singing.” He meets Geralt’s half-lidded eyes, and Geralt narrows his slightly.

“Sing.” 

“Fine,” Jaskier huffs. He tilts his head back until he’s staring at the ceiling and clears his throat. 

“One’s heart’s too loud, screaming for something more. Screaming for nothing more than to scream for what he shouldn’t adore.”

Chapter Text

Four days in the woods, and their food is growing sparse. Jaskier’s beginning to feel the ill effects of not having eaten anything substantial in two days. He feels weak, exhausted. He can only stand for a few minutes without feeling faint, so he’s stuck to sitting on a fallen log, back leaned against a large tree, while Geralt grows frustrated as his fishing net comes up empty each time.

Jaskier’s eyes drift closed at the rhythmic sound of the net splashing against the small, running stream, but Geralt’s loud groan has his eyes flicking open to see Geralt starting away from their small camp.

“Geralt,” he starts quickly, getting to his feet. The ground tilts beneath his feet, and he leans with it, blindly reaching out to the closest tree for support. His ears are ringing, and Geralt’s footsteps toward him sound muffled. He can see Geralt’s mouth moving, see the faint furrow of his sharp brows, and then Geralt’s in front of him, one strong hand on his shoulder, and sound comes back in a loud wave.

“Jaskier, sit down.”

“Where’re you going?” Jaskier slurs as he’s gently pushed back down onto the log.

“Food,” Geralt grunts out.

“I’ll help–”

“–you’ll stay.”

Jaskier narrows his eyes and gets to his feet, willing his vision to remain clear despite the pressing urge to chase the dizzy sense spiking through his inner being. “I’ll help,” he presses, doing his best to mimic a tone that leaves no room for argument. He watches the flicks of conflict tug at Geralt’s strong, worn features with a frown. “You are tired and hungry too, you know.”

“Yes,” Geralt agrees, nodding toward the strong grip he’s got on Jaskier’s arm. “But I can stand.”

Jaskier pulls his arm away from Geralt’s grip, pausing to see if he can remain upright, and after a few moments of standing firmly on two feet without tilting toward the ground, he turns a sharp smile toward Geralt.

“As can I.” He crosses his arms. “Now, shall we go search for food?”

“You aren’t going to give this up.” Geralt says this as a statement, but Jaskier still responds with a wide smile.

“Nope.” He starts passed Geralt, ignoring the low grunt from Geralt as he leads the way deeper into the woods.

They search for forty minutes. Jaskier’s not sure how he’s even able to still be conscious right now. Perhaps it’s Geralt’s pressing gaze that seems to follow his every move despite his near constant reassurances that he’s not going to drop dead.

He wanders a little far from Geralt when he spots a bush they haven’t checked yet. As he stumbles closer to it, he can see bright yellow berries littering the green shrub, and hunger pushes past instinct as he gets close enough to pluck a single yellow berry from the tree. His hand is shaking as he looks longingly at the small berry.

“Geralt,” he calls out behind his shoulder. “I’ve found some berries!”

He drops the berry between his teeth and bites into it, sucking on the sweet yet slightly bitter juice that spreads out across his mouth. His focus is solely on chasing his hunger away, so much that he doesn’t hear Geralt shout his name, doesn’t hear the Witcher running toward him until he’s being knocked to the ground with a harsh grunt.

“Geralt, what–” his words fall short when Geralt shoves two fingers into his mouth, and he spits and sputters against the rough pads of fingers swiping across his teeth and tongue until Geralt draws his hand back, a look of fire coating his amber eyes.

“Did you eat it?” Geralt’s voice is far too low yet still frighteningly demanding.

“Of course I ate it!” Jaskier shoves at Geralt’s chest. “What else would I do with it? Play it a lovely tune?”

Jaskier’s pulled roughly to his feet. The grip on his arm is starting to hurt, strong fingers digging deep into his flesh, and then he’s being lead back to their camp. “Geralt,” Jaskier tries, sparing a longing look back to the abandoned berry bush. “What on earth is wrong?”

“It was poisonous.”  

Geralt’s growl rings deep within Jaskier’s chest, and his longing for food is replaced by a grip of fear. His knees grow weak, and he allows himself to be pulled harshly back to camp. Once back, he’s shoved onto a log, and Geralt makes to gather clean water.

Jaskier watches, taking mental account to how he feels, which, at the moment, is surprisingly fine. No pain, no dizziness, no hunger…

“Why do I no longer feel hungry?” He asks, more to himself, but Geralt still whips around from the stream with a deep frown.

Jaskier meets the Witcher’s eyes, tries desperately to read what’s never verbally said, but then a burning cramp pierces across his stomach, and he staggers away from the log, one arm curling around his abdomen. He makes it a few steps away before he falls to his knees and vomits, muscles convulsing against waves of nausea that pull at him from all directions.

He doesn’t hear Geralt approach him over the sounds of his own, echoing gags, but he feels an uncharacteristically gentle hand drop onto his back. He tries to focus on Geralt’s hand, on the way Geralt slowly smooths his thumb in rhythmic circles, anything to distract him from the sharp pain ripping across his stomach. He’s shaking from head to toe, yet he feels uncomfortably warm despite the shade from the trees, and his stomach hurts terribly.

He doesn’t mean to whimper Geralt’s name in between burning gags, but he does, and he can feel Geralt’s hand tense against his back for a brief moment. He wants to ask Geralt if he’s going to die, if he will live to see another morning, but his graying vision is answering his unspoken questions. He looks back to Geralt, a single tear slipping down his cheek, then succumbs to the darkness plucking at his mind.

He’s disoriented when he awakes the first time. There’s a bottle being pressed to his lips, and he turns his head away from it. He’s too nauseous. His stomach feels like twisted knots.

“Jaskier, you need to drink something.”

“Mmm, no,” Jaskier mumbles. He tries to curl away from the deep voice. He wants to go back to sleep, to get away from the pain. He wants to dream of ice, anything to cool his overheating body.

“You’re dehydrated.”

For a brief moment, Jaskier thinks that that makes sense; however, sleep is tugging at him, and he doesn’t fight it.

When he wakes the second time, he’s only aware that he feels considerably worse. He’s freezing, yet his clothes are damp and clinging to his skin. It’s uncomfortable, and he cannot stop shaking. He grits his teeth and curls into himself. He hears shifting, and then he feels warmth at his back, warmth wrapping around him, encompassing him, and he leans back into it with a shaking sigh before nodding off.

His eyes open the third time when something surprisingly soft and warm presses against his lips. He parts his lips and frowns at the warm water that rushes down his throat. He coughs and sputters and tries to move away from the hands gripping his shoulders. He cannot see straight, everything is glassy and hazy. The water works with the muted nausea, and he groans against the pain, too weak to say anything.

“Jaskier, please.”

There’s desperation clinging to the deep voice, and he wants to chase it, but he’s fading. He reaches one hand out, feels a strong hand cup his shaking one, then everything goes black.

He wakes the fourth time to a single, repetitive string being plucked over and over. He pries his eyes open. The sky is a soft, quiet pink that’s warming toward a new day, and he keeps his gaze trailing up until he sees Geralt frowning at his lute and plucking at a string. It takes him a moment to realize his head is resting atop Geralt’s thigh.

At his small movement, Geralt turns his eyes from the lute to Jaskier, and Jaskier, though having to crane his neck to meet Geralt’s eyes, locks a faintly hazy gaze to worried amber eyes.

“Jaskier.”

Jaskier can physically feel the relief bleeding from Geralt’s voice. It coats him like a warm blanket, and his lips curl up into a soft smile. “You may be many things, Geralt of Rivia, but you are no musician.”

“I do not understand how you play this.” Geralt continues plucking at the same string, and Jaskier breathes out a faint laugh.

“Maybe one day I will teach you… when I don’t feel like I’m two moments away from a grave.” Jaskier shifts his gaze back to the sky, listening as Geralt sets down the lute, and when a large hand drops to his forehead, he breathes out a deep sigh at the cool touch.

“You’re through the worst of it.”

“I suppose I should thank you,” Jaskier starts, words pausing at Geralt’s low grunt.

“Thank me when you are back to pestering me like normal.”

Chapter Text

There’s relief that coats Jaskier’s eyes like a rising sun that’s fought against a long night when he and Geralt step out of a dense forest to see a small village framing the edge of the woods, and Geralt finds his eyes wandering to Jaskier’s through the bard’s soft profile. A hint of a smile creeps at his lips, not even close to holding a candle to Jaskier’s wide, toothy grin, but enough for him to mirror Jaskier’s mood, if even just a fraction.

“Geralt,” Jaskier breathes out, whipping a beaming gaze toward the Witcher. “Do you know what this means?”

“You’ll stop complaining about how the ground isn’t meant to be slept on by such a delicate ass?”

“No, that’s– I never said my ass was delicate!” Jaskier’s shift in tone, from glee to exaggerated annoyance, brings out a huff of a laugh from Geralt.

“You’re absurd, Geralt, you know that?”

Geralt tilts his head, eyes narrow and slightly devious, and he doesn’t miss the way Jaskier’s cheeks grow impossibly red.

“This means,” Jaskier stresses, drawing out his words as he waves his hands toward the village. “We, my friend, can partake in the finest ale this world has to offer!”

“The finest ale,” Geralt repeats slowly. He hardly thinks this small, quaint village will house ale to exceed worldly expectations, but Jaskier’s excitement has him following the bard into the tavern, stopping briefly to tie Roach to a post by the local in and ensure she’s comfortable.

The tavern is lively when he makes it in, and Jaskier already has a large mug of ice cold ale at his table. It’s half empty, and Jaskier’s strumming loudly on his lute. Geralt nods toward the bar keep, and a moment later, he has his own mug of ale. It’s bitter, cold on his lips but hot in his chest, and he can’t help but sigh deeply around the rim of the mug.

“Oi, bard, what new adventures do you have to share of the old Witcher?”

Jaskier takes a long swing of his ale, and Geralt cocks a brow his way when the bard locks wide eyes to his tired ones.

“Geralt,” Jaskier slurs out loudly, and Geralt takes brief, mental note to Jaskier’s incredibly low tolerance to alcohol.

“Geralt of Rivia! Can I tell them about the fleders? I want to tell them about the fleders!”

Geralt only grunts in response. It’s hardly an exciting story, but Jaskier will put his fib of a spin on it. He offers a curt nod, taking another swig of his ale, and Jaskier leaps from his seat.

“Fly, fleders, fly,” Jaskier sings. “Fly high, and try, but you cannot hide from the Witcher’s eye!”

Geralt thinks back to that day, and his heart beat quickens, for just a single, brief moment. There’s so much in this world that could crush the lively bard, and he doesn’t… he won’t… Sighing, he takes another sip of his ale, watching with an arched brow as the bar keep places another at Jaskier’s table.

“The sword he swings is broad and steel, designed by magic, designed to kill!”

Geralt spends longer than he would like to admit considering how “steel” and “kill” don’t particularly rhyme, and he can’t quite grasp how Jaskier can make it work, but the bard does, effortlessly, even in his apparent drunken state, and Geralt drops his chin into his palm, denying another ale in favor of keeping a clear mind as Jaskier drifts down a sea of alcohol.

For two hours, Jaskier drinks and sings, and the tavern eats him up like fresh, warm bread that’s just been pulled from a wood stove. Geralt keeps a careful eye on each, drunken civilian, and twice, he stiffens in his seat when a man and a woman get too close for comfort to the drunk bard.

“Jaskier,” he finally interrupts after a third man makes an unsettling pass at the bard. “I think you’ve had enough.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier draws out the name, emphasizing ever consonant despite the general slur of his tone. “I’m just getting started–”

“–you’re done,” Geralt repeats, and maybe it’s malicious, but he puts an orderly sense of power behind his tone that has Jaskier nodding with a dramatic frown.

“Well,” Jaskier shouts, waving his arms about and craning his neck toward everyone as Geralt shoves him out with a hand on his back. “I bid you all a fond farewell!”

Rain has picked up when the two exit the tavern, and Jaskier takes three steps before he trips over his own feet. Geralt tries to reach him in time, but he’s a hair too slow. Jaskier lands face first into a puddle of mud, and Geralt’s at his side in an instant, chasing the flick of concern that nudges at his heart.

“Jaskier, are you…”

His words fall flat at Jaskier’s loud, drunken laughter that rings out across the quiet town.

“How clumsy of me!”

Geralt grunts, sighing deeply as he yanks Jaskier to his feet, pulling him into the inn. He pays more for a room with a tub, wishing to combat Jaskier’s poor mood that will come with morning while the bard is still too far gone on eight mugs of ale.

The inn keeper prepares the bath when Geralt slides a few extra coins her way, and soon enough he’s nudging Jaskier into their shared room for the night.

“Get in,” he tells Jaskier, and Jaskier shouts, face going impossibly red.

“Geralt of Rivia! Turn yourself around while I undress!”

Geralt has a brief thought to encourage this argument, pointing out the few times Jaskier’s seen him naked, but he only grunts, too tired to play along with Jaskier’s antics, and turns on his heel until he’s facing the window.

He watches the rain sliding down the window pane, and upon a closer look, he can faintly make out Jaskier’s reflection behind him. The bard is stumbling, struggling to free himself of his pants, and twice, he almost falls headfirst into the large tub. Geralt huffs out a quiet laugh, turning only when Jaskier finally calls out to him.

“This might be the best bath I’ve ever had,” Jaskier starts. “I think it’s the best bath in the world.”

“Are you always this generous toward the world when drunk?”

“Geralt,” Jaskier huffs out, lips pulling into a pout that Geralt stares at with narrow eyes as he takes a seat against the wall under the window, one knee drawn to his chest while the other leg is stretched out in front of him, toe close enough to brush against the wooden tub.

“You need to learn to appreciate the finer things in life!”

“I don’t need to view the world in light under a drunken haze,” Geralt grunts out, and Jaskier sighs and tilts his head back until he’s staring at the ceiling. Geralt’s eyes follow the way Jaskier’s shoulders slump against the deep sigh. He frowns, tilting his head.

“You’re probably right.” Jaskier rolls his head until he meets Geralt’s eyes. “But you have to admit, it’s fun.”

“What’s fun?”

“Pretending.”

“Pretending.” Geralt repeats, drawing out the word slowly, tone shifting up slightly in quiet question.

“Pretending that you’re better than what you are.”

Geralt’s muscles stiffen at Jaskier’s words, and his brows furrow.

“It’s fun to forget for a moment that your true worth merely amounts to songs that ring out of hyperbolic lies.”

A burst of burning pain blooms like fire across Geralt’s chest. Jaskier’s words stab like a sword pushing past his rib cage to his heart, and for just a brief moment, he imagines pulling Jaskier into his arms as if to shelter the bard from harmful thoughts, but his muscles protest the idea, too stiff against a weight of heavy shock.

“Jaskier,” he breathes out, tone reflecting the pain that coats his eyes, and Jaskier pulls his gaze back to the ceiling.

“You’re a Witcher, Geralt. You’re a legend, and I’m just… small in comparison to your stories.”

Geralt’s muscles move before his mind does, and he moves with them, allowing instinct to push forward for his mind is flitting into unfamiliar territory. He slowly crawls the small distance until he’s inches from Jaskier, and while he normally likes to smirk at Jaskier’s flushing cheeks, he ignores the glow of red this time in favor of placing a rough palm to Jaskier’s damp arm.

“You aren’t small. You tell my stories.”

“I lie.”

“You paint a picture–”

“–a picture that lies–”

“–a picture that encourages imagination,” Geralt presses, determined to win this argument. His fingers tighten slightly on Jaskier’s arm. “You have a gift, Jaskier, and you use it to bring light to an otherwise dark world.”

There are things he could say, that he could alter, that Jaskier brings light to his dark world, but Jaskier’s already tearing up, eyes welling with large tears that threaten to slip down his flushing face, and Geralt gives the bard’s arm a tight squeeze.

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Geralt.”

Grunting, Geralt gets to his feet and turns sharply on his heel until he’s facing the bed. He can feel an unfamiliar creep of heat starting toward his cheeks.

“You’ve come a long way from describing my talent as a pie without filling,” Jaskier presses with a few sniffs, and Geralt risks a quick look over his shoulder.

“Yes, well, I’m going to sleep. I’m sure I’ll be up half the night with you making sure you don’t choke on your own vomit.”

Jaskier scoffs, though there’s no heat behind it. “Will you allow me to join you when I finish?”

Grunting, Geralt slips his shoes off near the foot of the bed. “Only if you bring a good attitude.”

Chapter Text

It’s been a day since Geralt and Jaskier started back into the woods from the last town they stopped in, staying longer than originally planned so Jaskier could nurse the lingering, ill effects of mug after mug of cold ale, and Geralt’s patience is fraying thin. 

Ever since they’ve left the town, Jaskier’s been complaining, more so than usual, about his head, about how cold he is, drawing out Geralt’s name into long whines every thirty minutes or so, and Geralt is growing more and more irritated with each passing second. He’s gritting his teeth, trying very hard to breathe through the aggravation, and for a moment, he’s able to pull his focus elsewhere, to block out Jaskier’s piercing voice as he looks to Roach, to the towering trees framing their small, dirt path, to the sky glowing a warm orange as night approaches slowly, but then Jaskier’s voice comes back, persistent as ever, and Geralt groans. 

“Geralt, why did you let me drink so much?” 

Geralt spares a quick glance over his shoulder to the bard, cocking a brow at Jaskier’s shivering and huffing. He turns his gaze back to the front. “I wasn’t aware you were in need of a babysitter.” The huff that follows his words is loud, and he looks back once more to see Jaskier’s lips pursed, his face scrunched up. 

“I am not a child, Geralt!” 

Geralt drags his eyes away from Jaskier with a short shake of the head. “Your attitude suggests otherwise.” Though his voice is low, it’s loud enough for Jaskier to hear, and he expects Jaskier to reply, to huff out a complaint, to offer a counter-argument about his own bad attitude, but he’s met with silence, and it’s unsettling. The quiet drapes heavy over his shoulders, and he looks behind him, steps faltering as his blood runs cold. 

Jaskier’s taken a knee. He’s got one hand on the ground to keep himself upright while the other is wrapped around himself, fingers digging into his arm. His face is flushed a dark red, and sweat slides from his bangs, dripping to the dirt beneath him. 

Geralt’s frozen in his spot. “Jaskier?” he calls out, and Jaskier brings a slow gaze toward him. His grey eyes are glassy, unfocused, and Geralt clings to them with a sharp frown. 

“What’s wrong?” 

“Sorry,” Jaskier starts. He makes to stand, and Geralt sucks in a sharp breath as all color drains from Jaskier’s face. 

“I got a little... a little,” Jaskier’s struggling to form words around rapid breaths, and Geralt cannot move, the ice coursing through his veins is keeping him locked down. 

“Dizzy,” Jaskier manages out before his eyes roll back, and Geralt can only watch, brows tightly furrowed, as Jaskier falls lifeless to the ground. 

For a moment, Geralt can’t breathe. His muscles are tense, tight, unable to push past the barrier keeping him from Jaskier. His heart is hammering loud in his ears, and he blinks back graying vision, gritting his teeth and forcing his muscles to operate. He’s slow, or maybe Jaskier’s just far away, but he pushes forward until he’s dropped to Jaskier’s side. 

“Jaskier.” He shakes Jaskier’s shoulders, but Jaskier doesn’t stir more than a small grunt and a few, weak coughs. Geralt presses a palm to Jaskier’s forehead, and though he runs warm himself, the heat that coats his palm is far too concerning to be the ill effects of a drunken stupor. Carefully, he lifts Jaskier, cradling the bard to his chest as he starts toward Roach. Fear has him moving quickly, and soon enough, he’s got Jaskier settled on the back of Roach, and he climbs up behind the bard. 

It takes him a moment to realize he does not have a plan in motion. The previous town is too far, but another town could be days away. He’s not confident on their current location, and he swallows past a lump building in his throat. His heart is hammering uncomfortably against his ribs, and he struggles to form a coherent thought, seemingly impossible with Jaskier’s heated body pressed to his chest. 

Instead, he smooths a shaking palm over Roach’s side. “Run fast,” he whispers. “I need you.” 

Roach runs at top speed well into the night, and Geralt clings to Jaskier, muscles tensing at every cough and moan, and finally, he spots a small farmhouse nestled in a tiny clearing on the outskirts of the forest, and he veers Roach in that direction until he’s stopped in front of the door. 

A man and woman exit the small house, and the woman shines a lantern to him while the husband grips tightly at a knife. 

“You’re that Witcher,” the woman starts, backing up slowly, her hand shaking. “The one from the song.” 

“Please,” the man steps forward, blocking the woman. “We have no money we can toss your way--”

“--I don’t want money,” Geralt interrupts, voice low and a little too harsh. He reaches blindly for his coin pouch and tosses it to the man. “Take all of it, just, please. We need help.” Slowly, he slides off of Roach and helps Jaskier off and back into his arms. It’s concerning, Geralt thinks, that after all of this, Jaskier has yet to open his eyes, and Geralt can’t help the nagging feeling that he’s working against the clock. 

“Please,” he presses. “I need help. He’s... he’s important to me.” He watches carefully when the woman steps forward, but he doesn’t move when she reaches a hesitant palm to Jaskier’s forehead, frowning when she hisses sharply and draws her hand back. 

“He’s burning up!” 

“I know,” Geralt breathes out, worry coating along a low vibrato. “He collapsed.” 

The man and woman share a wordless glance before the woman nods toward the door. “Well, bring him in. I’m no doctor, and the closest mage is days away, but we can make him comfortable.” 

The next hour passes in a blur. Geralt stays plastered to a wall, unable to move or breathe properly while the man and woman busy themselves over Jaskier. The woman coaxes water into him, smooths cool, damp cloths over his forehead, offers him more water, until she finally steps away from the small bed he’s resting in with a deep sigh. 

“Will he--” Geralt swallows against the fear gripping at his tone. “How is he?” 

“He’s in a bad way,” the woman admits with a frown. “His symptoms suggest influenza, and it’s common this time of year. I’ve made him as comfortable as I can. All we can do now is wait.” 

Geralt nods, not liking the answer for waiting isn’t something he does well. He takes the woman’s seat that’s pulled to Jaskier’s bedside and tugs the ratty blanket up to Jaskier’s chin. Leaning forward, he cups a hand to Jaskier’s far too warm cheek, his thumb brushing lightly across Jaskier’s tense, shaking jawline. 

“Wake up, Jaskier,” he whispers, breath brushing across Jaskier’s face. “This is not your time.” He stays like this, hunched over the bard, for another hour. Outside, the sky is starting to fade to a gentle pink, bringing a new morning, and Geralt worries that he was unable to beat Jaskier’s clock, but finally, the bard groans and rustles in bed until he pries his eyes open. 

Geralt waits, too afraid to suck in a breath, until Jaskier leans into his hand and drags a slow gaze toward his eyes, and it’s only when their eyes meet, when his wide, worried eyes lock onto hazy grey ones that Geralt is able to release the breath he’s been holding. Relief swells within his chest, but like a bitter concoction, it’s mixing with concern, with frustration. All three emotions are dancing around each other, fighting for the front spot, and Geralt stands, kicking the chair with his boot, and begins pacing the small length of the room. 

“Did you know that you were ill?” Geralt asks. He keeps his voice quiet, but there’s a heat behind it he can’t bite back. “Before. In the woods. Did you know?”

Jaskier blinks slowly. His head is pounding, but he considers the question with careful thought. “I don’t think so. Where are we?”

“You don’t...” Geralt sucks in a sharp breath. “You don’t think so?”

Jaskier frowns at this, eyes struggling to follow Geralt’s quick pacing. “Well, no. I assumed the ale--”

“It’s not the fucking ale!” Geralt stops, spinning on his heel until he’s facing Jaskier. “It’s influenza, and you almost died!” He stresses each, sharp word, but admitting out loud that Jaskier could have died brings a new, concerning heat to his chest, and he chases it without meaning to.

“Geralt, I didn’t know--”

“--no,” Geralt interrupts. “You didn’t know because you lack the mere capability to asses your physical health.” 

“Geralt, I was trying to keep up with you.” 

Geralt turns to the door, hand resting heavily on the doorknob. “Well, stop doing that.” He turns the knob and storms through the kitchen where the man and woman have taken to while Jaskier’s been unconscious and out of the house. 

Outside, he can breathe, and he sucks in a long, deep breath, holding it, wiling it to push back against his burning emotions, and slowly he exhales. Tension bleeds from his muscles, and he stops to give Roach a quick pat on the back before he moves back toward the woods. He doesn’t go far. He can still see the house, but he goes far enough to clear his mind. He sits against a fallen log, face turned toward the woods. His legs are bent at the knees, and he rests his elbows atop his knees, fingers laced together. 

Above him, the sun is starting to rise, but the morning chill is still lingering in the air. He can’t feel it. He can’t feel much of anything at the moment. He feels as if he’s a thousand miles away, trapped in his thoughts, but then he hears a twig snap behind him, and he whips his head around, hand instinctively moving toward where his sword should be if he hadn’t left it back with Roach.

Jaskier’s standing before him, the long, ratty blanket draped around his shoulders like a cloak. He’s swaying on his feet, breathing heavily, and his eyes are wide, worried. He coughs a few times. 

"Do you want me to leave again?” 

Geralt’s taken aback by the question. Slowly, he gets to his feet. He doesn’t like how pale Jaskier looks, but he focuses on how clear yet breathless Jaskier’s voice is. “What?”

“You’re mad,” Jaskier starts. “Like before.” He coughs, chest heaving against a rapid heart. “I.. Are you... Do you want me to leave?” 

It takes Geralt a moment to catch onto the panic gripping at Jaskier’s tone, coating his grey eyes, and he shakes his head, afraid to risk his voice at the moment. 

“But, you’re mad--”

“--I’m not,” Geralt whispers, frowning deeply. 

“You yelled.” Jaskier sways again, and Geralt closes the distance between the two, gripping at his Jaskier’s arms, right above his elbows. He leans forward, dropping his forehead against Jaskier’s, and he can hear Jaskier suck in a sharp breath. 

“I was worried.” 

“That’s an odd way to show it,” Jaskier breathes out, impossibly still against Geralt’s grip save the small shivers. 

“You almost died.” Conflict tugs at Geralt’s tone. He’s angry, more so at himself, relieved, worried, and something else he can’t quite place.

“So I’ve been told,” Jaskier huffs out, pulling away from Geralt to turn and cough harshly into the blanket. “But, I didn’t.” 

“You aren’t out of the woods yet,” Geralt presses, smoothing one hand over his own forehead to feel the lingering heat of Jaskier’s fever. 

Jaskier nods, clearing his throat with a wince. He shivers against a small breeze, and Geralt sighs. 

“Let’s go back. You’re doing yourself no favors being out here--”

“--can we stay?” Jaskier presses, hugging the blanket tighter around himself. “For just a few minutes?” 

Geralt looks past Jaskier to the small house, considering his options for just a moment, before he gives in, heart stuttering at Jaskier’s tired smile. He leads the bard back toward the log he was seated against, and the two take their spots. Jaskier moves the blanket around until he manages to wrap it around both of them, their shoulders touching, and he leans into Geralt’s warmth, head resting atop Geralt’s shoulder, his hair brushing against Geralt’s neck. 

“I’m sorry I yelled,” Geralt says after a few moments, deep, gruff voice a clear contrast to the birds chirping overhead. “And, I’m sorry I made you think I wanted you to leave. I... enjoy your company.”

Jaskier breathes out a faint laugh. “Wow, Geralt, you really know how to sway a person with such elegant words.”

Chapter Text

In hindsight, Jaskier’s not entirely sure how he’s been able to even grasp the basics of swordsmanship since Geralt’s method of teaching is rather… close. Jaskier’s initial thought had been learning through combat, the clashing of swords, one-on-one duels, but Geralt’s method is surprisingly singular, pushing Jaskier to focus more on his balance, his core, and his inner being. 

“You’re still tense,” Geralt growls into his ears, and Jaskier bites back a shudder at the hot breath that brushes against his ear. Geralt’s behind him, curved around his back, mirroring his movements as a sturdy guide. His large hand cups Jaskier’s right hand, and Jaskier grits his teeth, willing the sword to not shake in his hand. 

“Isn’t that the point?” he tries, wincing slightly at the soft burn coating his muscles from holding such a weighted sword upright for an extended time. “If I’m relaxed, I may not have the quick response if battle arises.” 

Geralt sighs behind him, warm breath coating the back of his neck. 

“It’s all about control.” Geralt drops his head to Jaskier’s shoulder with a low grunt. “We’ve been over this.”

“I know,” Jaskier starts, a slight whine to his voice, “but–”

A twig snaps behind them, and though Geralt doesn’t immediately lift his head, his hand slowly smooths around Jaskier’s until his fingers brush against the slightly warmed hilt of his sword. If Jaskier weren’t suddenly incredibly afraid of what’s behind him, he would take a moment to appreciate the controlled tension Geralt’s exhibiting. 

“Well, isn’t this cute.” 

A woman’s voice, Jaskier thinks, a woman’s voice that’s icy and dangerous, and finally, Geralt wraps large fingers fully around the hilt of the sword, lifts his head, and slowly spins around, swinging the sword with careful ease until it’s pointed at the woman. Jaskier follows his movements, looking over Geralt’s shoulder to see an older woman with a crooked smile. 

Her face is half-cloaked by a large, black hood, but her eyes, though shadowed, appear an almost glowing red that Jaskier cannot pull his gaze from. 

“Well, now, is that anyway to treat a guest?” 

“An uninvited one,” Geralt grunts out, and Jaskier shifts his gaze away from the woman to see Geralt’s eyes narrowed, his large hand gripping the hilt of the sword tightly, and a nervous pit pulls into a ball in Jaskier’s stomach. 

The situation is unsettling, and he can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong with this woman. A mage? He chases the idea for a moment, but it doesn’t click in his head. Not a mage, he decides, but who? Or, rather, what?

The woman tsks and begins walking to the left, Geralt follows her movements with the tip of his sword, keeping himself planted in front of Jaskier. 

“Well, will you invite me into your little camp?” 

“No,” Jaskier spits out, voice slightly higher than Geralt’s low growl of a “no.” 

“Such a shame,” the woman starts, shifting her gaze past the sword to Jaskier. “You’re the lovely bard I’ve been following.” Her voice starts to shift, taking a deeper tone, and Jaskier’s breath gets caught in his throat. 

In front of him, the woman’s bones are cracking, shifting, her face is pulling forward, thickening. She’s growing in height, and she grunts through clenched teeth as her form morphs into an incredibly large man staring down at them with a wicked smile. 

Sweat beads at Jaskier’s temple. His body has gone completely still. “Geralt,” he whispers, voice shaking. “What in the–”

“-fuck,” Geralt growls. 

Everything suddenly moves too fast for Jaskier to fully comprehend. Geralt shoves him back as the man leaps toward them. He hits the ground with a grunt just as Geralt swings the sword. Jaskier tries to follow their movements, but everything is too fast, the two dancing rapidly around each other, but then he hears a piercing cracking sound, and the sword slips from Geralt’s grip as his arm goes limp at his side. 

The man forces Geralt to the ground, and Jaskier watches as the man pins Geralt’s arms over his head. He can see Geralt favoring his left side, trying to use pure strength alone to free himself, but the man’s got the upper hand. 

Jaskier meets Geralt’s eyes for a breath of a moment, and he can hear Geralt’s voice in his head. Assess, he hears, and he does. The sword is too close to the man to grab, but a quick, closer inspection of the man’s bare back shows little to no wounds despite the amount of hits Geralt got in before… 

His eyes flick over to Roach and the silver sword close to her. He can’t remember exactly, but he thinks he needs the silver since the iron doesn’t appear to be doing much. He’s quick and quiet on his feet, surprising even himself, and carefully, he tip-toes over to the silver sword. He goes unnoticed, another surprise considering his heart feels it’s about to burst past his ribs and right out of his chest, and snags the sword. It’s weight distribution feels different compared to the iron sword he’s grown accustomed to working with, but it doesn’t feel wrong. It actually feels… perfect, he thinks. 

Geralt’s low growl of a curse pulls Jaskier back into reality. He blinks a few times, shaking his head to clear his thoughts, and turns toward the borderline one-sided battle behind him. Geralt doesn’t look panicked, but there’s pain pulling at his face, and it’s enough to have Jaskier walking back toward the mess of a fight. He stops right behind the man and clears his throat to get the man’s attention, an uncharacteristically strong wave of confidence washing over him. 

For a moment, he’s not raising a silver sword over his head with practiced grace. For just a breath of a moment, he’s back at a tavern, strumming away at his lute, riling up a crowd of drunks as he sings songs of adventures. But then he swings the sword down, bringing himself back to the woods. He doesn’t aim like Geralt does, but the sword still finds its way to the man’s neck, slicing clean through it until the man’s head is rolling to the ground with a low thump. 

He wasn’t aware that he screamed with the swing of the sword until his faint echo is the only sound to follow the lifeless head hitting the ground. He’s panting, his stomach is in knots, and he can feel Geralt’s eyes burning a hole in him. 

He feels suddenly far too hot, and his stomach lurches. He lets the sword slip from his shaking grip and clamps a hand over his mouth, whipping around and making it close to a bush before dropping to his hand and knees and gagging.

He can’t shake the frighteningly clear image of the sword piercing clean through the man’s neck from his mind, or the wide-eyed look of pure terror. He heaves, throwing up the small breakfast he and Geralt split before training. He’s barely keeping himself up on shaking arms, and he wants to give into the ill-stricken fear clinging to his bones, but his mind, moving as fast as his heart, catches back up to the situation as a whole, and quickly, he scrambles to his feet, swaying slightly. 

Geralt’s managed to sit up, but he’s gripping at his shoulder with a deep frown, and it doesn’t take a doctor or mage to see it’s dislocated. There’s bright red, angry swelling poking out through the tear in Geralt’s shirt, and Jaskier stumbles to him, dropping to his knees beside the Witcher. 

“Are you alright?”

“That’s dislocated,” Jaskier mutters under his breath, not hearing Geralt’s question over the roar in his ears. He’s studied this, has been studying this and similar injuries for a few weeks now. He’s not much of a fighter, but he wants to help Geralt, to prove he’s a worthy companion, so he’s taken to books, learning about medicinal remedies, stitching, and dislocated bones. 

“I can set it–”

“–Are you alright?” Geralt repeats, voice taking a low demand, but Jaskier’s already working through what he remembers from his reading. 

His hands are shaking, but the discomfort pulling at Geralt’s face keeps him moving. “This is going to hurt–”

“–Jaskier–”

Jaskier grabs Geralt’s injured arm and tugs it forward, wincing at the soft pop.

“Fuck!” Geralt’s face is twisted into a sharp grimace, and he’s panting, chest heaving in quick, long waves that’s got Jaskier frowning deeply. 

“Sorry–”

“–are you alright?” 

Jaskier sucks in a sharp breath, taken back by the severity of Geralt’s tone, and he moves to nod, a habit, but he pauses, considering a previous argument. 

“– you lack the mere capability to assess your physical health…”

Slowly, he shakes his head. “No,” he admits. He feels weak, a result of fleeting adrenaline, and without meaning to, he drops his head against Geralt’s good shoulder with a deep sigh. “But I will be. You?”

“My shoulder tingles a little,” Geralt grunts out, good hand finding Jaskier’s waist. “But, it feels much better.” 

Jaskier moves one hand to cup Geralt’s, and he chases the swelling wave of relief washing over him. “I’ll need to make a sling for your arm until it’s fully healed.” Yet, he makes no notion of moving, not when Geralt’s hand is a warm, steady weight at his waist. 

“The first kill isn’t easy,” Geralt whispers. “But you did well. You knew that only silver can kill a doppler.”

Kill. Jaskier shudders at the word, and his hand tightens around Geralt’s. “Not exactly what I had in mind for this Tuesday, but,” he lifts his head to meet Geralt’s studying gaze, “I have a good instructor.” He smiles weakly, still slightly shaken at the core, but Geralt smiles back at him, a warm, encouraging smile, and just for a moment, Jaskier knows that they are okay.

Chapter Text

Kikimora, a vile species, Jaskier thinks, one he’s hoped he would only have to experience through stories, through the low vibrato of Geralt’s tired voice on safe nights surrounded by the warmth of a small campfire, not while trudging through a swamp, not as a surprise attack that Geralt’s struggling to keep at bay. 

Jaskier’s defenseless, the other sword with Roach, who’s run out of the swamp, and he can’t get to it because the fight with the Kikimora is blocking his path forward. He can’t backtrack, and he can’t find a safe enough opening to go around, the fight too widespread at times, and he feels incredibly helpless watching as Geralt grunts with each swing of his sword, as Geralt ducks and sidesteps around each jagged wave of the Kikimora’s limb.

He forgets that he’s standing in murky swamp water, forgets how clammy and uncomfortable his feet feel, his boots doing nothing to protect against the cold water. His mind is completely focused on Geralt’s every move, and he gulps, starting intently with bated breath, only exhaling when Geralt’s sword pierces right through the Kikimora soldier and the soldier’s listless body falls back into the swamp, fading away against thick, muddy water. 

Geralt’s dripping wet, long hair clinging to his face, and he turns to Jaskier, chest heaving, and Jaskier meets his sharp gaze with a wide smile that bleeds with relief. “Well that was unpleasant. Great work as usual, Geralt.” He looks past Geralt at the short, remaining distance to blessedly dry land, with only an another hour’s walk waiting for them until they reach a small town to regroup for a few days, and he doesn’t see the way Geralt’s face falls, a frown taking over his lips. He doesn’t see Geralt reach out to him, but he does hear the frighteningly loud, panicked growl of his name right before he’s pulled painfully under water. 

He’s aware of a searing pain shooting down his right arm, all the way to his hand, aware that dense, murky water is flooding down his throat as he squirms and screams against another Kikimora soldier that has him pinned under water. He’s aware that his chest physically burns with a need to inhale air. It’s tight, restricted, and panic grips at every inch of his being because he cannot breathe. His heart is slamming against his ribs, and then his vision begins to gray around the edges, darkness pushing forward across his eyes, his mind, until he blacks out.

He comes to to heavy, repeated pressure against his chest, hard enough he feels it against his ribs as a sharp pain that his ribs are struggling against. Then he feels the burn of hot water shooting up his throat. It hits his taste buds, and he gags, eyes shooting open. He’s pushed roughly onto his side as water pours out of his mouth. He’s coughing, and it hurts his ribs, but he can’t lift his right arm to press against his abdomen because his right arm hurts

He can feel Geralt’s hand rubbing up and down his back, and the gentle touch is the only thing keeping him fully grounded as he focuses on his hammering heart and each ragged inhale and exhale. 

“That’s it, Jaskier. Just keep breathing. You are alright.” 

Geralt’s voice, though deep and soft, manages to break past the roaring in Jaskier’s ears, and he clings to the sound, reaching out with his left hand until he finds Geralt’s chest, hands curling into Geralt’s sodden shirt. 

“Geralt,” he wheezes around a few lingering coughs. “My arm--” He can’t lift it. It’s burning hot, a stark contrast against the chill of the swamp water, and it stings, the slightest movement bringing a searing pain up and down his limb. 

“It’s... fine.” 

Geralt’s brief moment of hesitation is enough to have Jaskier whipping a panicked gaze to Geralt, taking quick note of the worry coloring Geralt’s amber eyes before reluctantly breaking the gaze to look to his right arm. 

There’s a deep gash, starting at his shoulder and twisting down his arm, curving to cross the back of his wrist and stopping on his palm, right under his index finger. His skin is completely split, red and angry around the edges, and blood is pouring from the wound, coating the grass below him. 

Slowly, he pulls his gaze back to Geralt, eyes wide, pained, scared, and Geralt’s face twists, displaying an array of emotions in just a few seconds, before he makes wordless work in helping Jaskier to his feet. Jaskier sways, whether from blood loss or pure, icy panic, he’s not sure, but he’s struggling to remain upright. He leans heavily against Geralt, and Geralt guides him to Roach with a steady hand around his waist. 

For the remaining hour to the town, time seems an unclear concept for Jaskier. He’s aware that Geralt is speaking to him, offering soft words of encouragement, but he can’t fully process them, his mind always flitting back to the pain in his arm, to the fatigue draping over him like a thick blanket that does nothing to stave off the chill in the air. He’s shivering, exhausted, in heaps of pain, and he doesn’t fully snap back to the present until he’s at the inn, being gently stripped by steady hands, then guided into a large tub filled to the brim with steaming water. 

The second the hot waters splashes against his wound, he hisses sharply, mind flooded with burning pain, and he makes to jerk it out of the water, but Geralt stops him by quickly stripping down himself and stepping into the tub across from him, placing a gentle hand to the side of his neck. 

“We need to clean the wound.” 

Jaskier’s heartbeat is beginning to quicken, his chest moving up and down harshly. “It hurts,” he presses, gritting his teeth and trembling against the pain. He can barely see through the haze coating his vision, but he just manages to make out the pure, transparent, disheartened concern that takes over Geralt’s rough features. 

“I know, but we cannot risk infection.” He reaches out of the tub and snags a clean cloth from the floor, Jaskier’s wide pupils following his every movement, and he holds it up right before the wound, almost as a peace offering that Jaskier struggles to agree to. 

Jaskier tilts his head back, gaze dragging toward the ceiling, and he breathes out a trembling breath. “Okay,” he whispers, and Geralt makes quick but careful work of cleaning the wound. 

It burns, stings, is unbearably uncomfortable. Jaskier’s jaw is clenched so tight he fears he may crack his teeth from the pressure alone, and the only thing keeping him glued to the present is Geralt’s gentle, kind words, all while he works. 

“You are doing very well.” 

“I know it’s painful, but I’m almost finished.” 

“Just keep breathing through it.” 

“I’m right here.” 

This goes on for minutes on end, and Jaskier clings to each word until, finally, Geralt lets the bloody cloth slip into the water. He can hear Geralt stand and leave the tub, and only then does he pull his gaze back down, watching as Geralt stiffly walks across the room, dripping water with each step, as he grabs a large wooden pale filled with clean warm water. Jaskier glances down to the murky water below him, colored a reddish brown that makes his stomach churn, but then Geralt’s behind him, ordering him to close his eyes and hold his breath before dumping clean, warm water over his head. He does this a few times before stepping back into the tub himself to dump the remaining water over his own head, and then he’s helping Jaskier out of the tub and into a rather soft, navy blue robe that stops just below his knees. 

Jaskier winces when Geralt eases him onto the bed and slips his right arm from the robe, leaving it exposed. It’s throbbing, but it’s no longer bleeding, and Jaskier’s mind holds a little more clarity, watching with a frown as Geralt slips into his own robe, a deep forest green that’s dark against his light, dripping hair. 

He wishes he could only focus on this, on Geralt, on them, but there’s a pit growing in his stomach, twisting and knotting, and when Geralt stops before him, holding a small kit and a spool of black thread, his stomach lurches lightly, and he swallows back the burning fear. 

“Sutures,” he breathes out, voice shaking. The severity of the situation hits him like a bucket of ice water being thrown at his face. He’s shaking fully now, his heart is slamming against his ribs, he feels cold all over, breathless, completely and utterly panicked. 

“You know how to do this,” Geralt reminds him, dropping gently onto the edge of the bed beside Jaskier’s injured arm. 

“Yes,” Jaskier spits out, meeting Geralt’s eyes. “But I cannot exactly do it one-handed, and--”

“--talk me through it.” Geralt’s retrieved a needle from the kit, and he’s working the thread from the spool. His eyes, though kind, are sharp, determined, and Jaskier wants to get lost in the trust that pours from them.

“It’s...” Jaskier spares a glance to the reddened, angry gash down his arm. “It’s a lot.” 

“Yes,” Geralt agrees, briefly setting the supplies down in favor of cupping a rough hand to Jaskier’s cheek, and it’s only when Geralt thumbs a tear away that Jaskier realizes he’s freely crying. 

“It is a lot, and it is going to hurt, but you need it, and I need you to trust me.” Geralt slides his hand down to Jaskier’s chest, handing slipping past the loose robe until his palm is resting right above Jaskier’s heart. “And trust yourself.” 

Sniffling, Jaskier nods, and he lets out a shaking sigh. “Okay,” he agrees. He feels slightly nauseous, a little light-headed, but he chases Geralt’s determination, setting his own eyes sharply as he begins to verbally walk Geralt through what to do, pointing at his wound, showing him how to handle the needle and thread, what direction to go, what speed, and Geralt takes it all in with bright, clear, understanding eyes. 

When Geralt hands him a thick, but small twig from outside, instructing him to bite down on it, Jaskier braces himself. He slips the stick into his mouth, bites down against it, and for just a moment, he and Geralt share a wordless conversation of trust, of fear, of steady readiness. 

When he nods, Geralt gets to work, and Jaskier moans, his left hand curling tightly around the blanket below him, fingers digging into the rough fabric. Tears are spilling from his eyes, and his back is arching as if trying to physically move away from the pain. His entire arm is pulsing, and each pierce of the needle against split skin feels like a stab of a knife. Geralt works for a few minutes before pausing, allowing Jaskier to catch his breath. 

Jaskier rips the stick from his mouth and looks down at Geralt’s work, surprised at how clean and precise the sutures appear. “You’re doing well,” he pants out, struggling to catch his breath. 

Geralt smiles gently, cupping a hand to Jaskier’s pale cheek. “As are you.” He waits a few moments until he’s satisfied with the slow, albeit rather labored, breaths. “Ready?” He swipes a few tears away with a gentle brush of this thumb, and Jaskier nods and pops the stick back into his mouth. 

The second go through somehow hurts worse than the first. Jaskier had been hoping his arm would go numb, yet the pain is hot, searing even, and ever-so present. He can’t help the whimper that breaks past his clenched teeth, nor can he help the quiet sob, but then Geralt stops again, and he immediately whips his gaze to his arm. His palm is the only section remaining, and Geralt has his hand resting open carefully on his thigh. 

Jaskier’s breathing is choppy, uneven, short, rapid bursts of air that do nothing to clear the panic gripping at his mind. He allows a brief moment to drag his gaze to his lute resting against the wall before he pulls it back to his palm, his right palm, staring through welling eyes at the angry wound stripped across it. 

He spits the stick out. “Do you think,” he starts, voice shaking, “do you think I’ll still be able to play?” It’s the single thought that’s been gripping at his mind the second his eyes first laid on the wound, and the muted panic is coming in cold, quick, and he’s shaking again, eyes ripping from his palm to Geralt’s. “Tell me I’ll still be able to play.” His voice is cracking against each word, against the fear pulling at his chest. “I have to play. It’s all I have. Geralt, tell me--” 

Geralt’s lips suddenly pressed against his stop his words, his thoughts, his mind short-circuiting against the warm, firm lips against his. While his eyes are wide, exposed, Geralt’s are closed, relaxed, save the furrowed creases in his forehead that display his worry. When Geralt pulls away, his eyes are once again bleeding with trust that Jaskier soaks in through his tears. 

Geralt’s hand finds Jaskier’s left hand, and he squeezes it tightly. “You will be able to play again. I promise.”

There’s something about the intensity of Geralt’s tone that Jaskier doesn’t think he needs to question how Geralt can promise something like that. He simply believe him, believes every single word, and he can only manage a shaking nod, opening his mouth when Geralt offers the stick. 

“Just a little more,” Geralt assures. “Ready?”

Jaskier nods, and the pain comes back full force, yet he can’t help but focus on the kiss. their kiss, all while Geralt finishes the sutures, when Geralt bandages his arm, and when Geralt helps him fully onto the bed, pulling the covers over him. 

“Jaskier.” Geralt’s hand drops to Jaskier’s forehead, pulling him from his thoughts. There’s a faint heat that coats his palm, and he frowns slightly. “You’re warm. How do you feel?” 

“Light.” Jaskier smiles, the heaviness from the day’s been lifted off his shoulders, and despite the burning pain in his arm, despite the pounding in his head, the tightness of his chest, the lingering fear of a lute-less life, he feels completely and utterly light. 

Geralt grunts at the response, worry still etched across his face, and he makes quick work of cleaning up the room before crawling into bed beside Jaskier. 

“You did very well today. You’re stronger than you think you are.” 

Jaskier rolls his head to the side, meeting Geralt’s tired eyes with his own fatigued, slightly glassy ones. “And you,” he starts, smiling wider at the mere thought, “you, sir, you kissed me.”

Chapter Text

Geralt and Jaskier spend the next few days in town upon Geralt’s stern insistence, the latter wishing to allow Jaskier a chance to fully rest and recover from a nasty wound received after a rather terrifying encounter with a couple of Kikimora soldiers.

However, while Jaskier’s wound slowly heals, his health takes a turn in the opposite direction, leaving him with harsh, barking coughs and a near-constant fever that’s got him bedridden, more so with each passing day. Geralt’s initial fear was infection, but Jaskier’s wound isn’t an angry swollen red, but rather a faint pink around the edges, leaving Geralt to settle for Jaskier’s insistence that he merely caught a chill after being pulled under water by one of the Kikimora soldiers, though Geralt has his doubts with Jaskier’s rapidly deteriorating condition.

Geralt’s taken to the town each day Jaskier can’t find the energy to move from bed, asking around for a mage, a doctor, any single person who has even the slightest ounce of medical knowledge, yet the small town proves sparse in the medical field. Still, Geralt goes out each day, moving along a hint of desperation, and when he’s not asking each and every person he crosses paths with, he’s trying to make sense of Jaskier’s many medical books, finally pinpointing on a section detailing an infection of the lungs. His eyes dissect each symptom, and he applies each to Jaskier: the alarming coughing, the gripping fever, the inconsistent chills, the fatigue, and more recently, the rattle coated along each wheezing breath.

When he wakes on the fourth day to Jaskier’s harsh, labored breathing, face pinched in discomfort, Geralt doesn’t hesitate to slip into his clothes and seek help, medical book in hand. He moves about the town for hours, and those who do agree to stop and hear him out only offer non-descriptive medical help, instead detailing vague accounts of their own children who were stricken down with the same illness. When one woman tears up, claiming this apparent infection of the lungs claimed her seventeen-year-old son’s life a year ago, something pulls in Geralt’s stomach, a clear sense of uneasiness and fear that twist and mold together until he’s starting back to the inn to ensure his bard is still breathing.

When he steps into the inn, despite moving through familiar motions, the uneasiness in his stomach grows into a pit, his senses chasing an odd feeling that something feels terribly off. He takes to the stairs, taking the steps two at a time, before he’s throwing the suite door open, eyes zeroing in on the empty bed.

“Jaskier,” he growls, hand instinctively moving over his shoulder, fingers brushing against this hilt of his sword. He can still make out the lingering smell of Jaskier’s illness, of sweat and pain, but there’s a second smell mixing in the air that has Geralt creeping to the bed, light and quiet on his feet. The comforter is knotted on the floor, and the sheets have been pulled half-off, revealing the old, worn mattress underneath, the bed showing clear signs of a struggle.

Geralt rests his hand atop the sheets, taking note to the faint, damp warmth that coats his palm. Not long ago, he thinks, and he moves through a quick sweep of the rest of the suite, checking every inch and coming up empty with every narrow drag of his gaze. The pit in his stomach grows, fear swirling to the center, and his fingers curl tightly around the hilt of his sword as he bounds down the steps, stopping before the inn-keeper.

“My companion is missing,” he announces bluntly, pulling the inn-keepers attention toward him with a deep growl. 

“A man stopped by, said he was a doctor here to help.” The inn-keeper’s voice is distracted, her attention already flicking back to her book, but Geralt presses, voice deep, threatening. 

“There are no doctors in this town.” 

“Maybe he’s from the next town over.” 

“The next town is three days away even on the fastest horse--” 

“--look, Witcher,” the inn-keeper spits out, voice colored in a clear tone of annoyance. “I don’t know where your lover went, but maybe it’s for the best.” She drags a slow gaze back to her book, and for the briefest of moments, anger sweeps across Geralt’s vision, but just as quickly, he blinks through it, sighing lowly as he moves away from the wooden counter and out the door. 

He pulls a narrow gaze around his nearest surroundings, relying solely on his senses, and he starts toward the woods surrounding the small town, figuring he would have already heard a commotion if Jaskier’s been taken through the center of town.

His instincts prove accurate when he walks around a few trees and spots a series of faint footprints in the mud, one set unsteady and pulling in a different direction compared to the other even set. He moves with the footprints, often losing them at times, but he keeps in a single direction, taking note to leaves ripped from vines, to small tree branches looking as if they’ve been unwillingly broken, a second sign of a struggle.

The uneasiness shifts to a muted burn of desperation within his stomach, moving and mixing with the fear up to his chest, past his rib cage to fight against his slower heart beat. His hand brushes against the sharp edges of a broken tree limb, and then he hears an incredibly faint yet frighteningly clear sound of muffled coughing that’s got him moving quickly toward it.

The air around him, though fresh and clear, is beginning to take to a familiar scent that has hope trying to push to the front of Geralt’s thoughts, and he chases the sound and scent, through bushes and around towering trees until he’s stumbling into a small clearing where a lean man with a pointed nose has Jaskier pinned to his chest by a knife pressed to his throat, just hard enough to warrant a small trickle of blood.

Jaskier’s eyes go wide with relief, yet they’re still clouded in fear, glassy with fever, and he mutters Geralt’s name around the cloth tied against his mouth, a few, ragged coughs following. Geralt can hear the deep rattle with each, struggling breath, the shallow, choppy inhale and exhale through Jaskier’s nose, and he tries to will his mind and heart to steady so he can fully assess the situation.

Moving may prove fatal for Jaskier, so while he keeps his shoulders squared and he tightens his grip on the hilt of his sword, he doesn’t move, only offering a small tilt of the head in silent question.

“You are quite difficult to track down, Geralt of Rivia.” 

Geralt recognizes the voice, and he casts his eyes down to the dirt below him as if searching for an answer along the mud, brief patches of grass, and footprints.

“You don’t remember me.”

Geralt pulls his gaze back up with a frown, and the man groans, pressing the knife a little harder to Jaskier’s neck.

“Three years ago? You killed my brother.” 

For a brief moment, Geralt’s mind chases the new information back to a small town three years ago, a town he had been sorely unwelcome in the second he and Roach stepped foot into their territory, specifically to a small group of men known as the tavern regulars. Though small, the town was quite rowdy, and he remembers sleeping at the inn, only to be pulled awake by a knife piercing his shoulder. He remembers moving on instinct, reaching for his sword, and then he remembers pulling a knife from his shoulder, the scar still prominent to this day. He remembers stepping over lifeless bodies, and he remembers tipping the inn-keeper well.

“Your brother and his friends tried to kill me.” He finally says, blinking away the past. 

“No, they only wanted to rough you up!” 

“I think my sheer act of self-defense having been woken by a knife to the shoulder was severely warranted,” Geralt presses, voice low and eyes dangerously narrow. 

“They were never planning on killing you!” 

Geralt remembers now, those same words being yelled at him as he had pulled himself up to Roach’s back.

“They were just,” the man starts, voice abandoning the squeaking cry and turning to a darker, malicious tone, “roughing you up a bit, just as I’m doing.” He presses the knife deeper against Jaskier’s neck, eliciting a small whimper from Jaskier that Geralt clings to, fear now gripping at his heart.

“Rough me up, then. The bard’s done nothing to you.” 

“No,” the man draws out, a devilish grin tugging at the corners of his lips, “but he’s my ticket to you.” 

He moves to make the final press to Jaskier’s throat, to slice clean through the small, bleeding slit, and suddenly, Geralt’s potion is weighing a hole in his pocket, but he can’t reach for it, he can’t move against the pure, icy, terrifying clutch of fear that’s pushing against him, freezing his limbs in place, but then Jaskier’s swinging his head back away from the knife, bashing the back of his head to the man’s face, and Geralt takes the brief moment to snag his potion, ripping the lid off with his teeth and dumping the contents down his throat in one, long swig.

His eyes coat to a deep black, and his veins jut out underneath his skin, and then he’s moving, drawing his sword while pulling Jaskier away from the man while the man’s staggering a few feet away, cradling a bloody nose.

Jaskier hits the ground, coughing miserably and wincing at the pain that jolts up and down his arm, his sutures pulling against the sudden jerk and pressure. He drops to his side, and he can barely watch as Geralt moves effortlessly along the effects of the potion.

Geralt moves without thinking, swinging his sword until the man’s running off into the woods, sobbing and leaving a pooling trail of blood, and only when he’s sure the man’s gone, listening closely to the fading footfalls, does he turn to Jaskier, movements aggressive, desperate. He yanks the cloth from Jaskier’s mouth, and Jaskier struggles to suck in a ragged breath, lungs quaking, failing, and then he’s coughing over and over until blood trickles past his lips.

And true, unaltered fear hits Geralt like a crashing wave in an ocean, fear of Jaskier’s condition, fear of losing Jaskier, an endless push of fear that Jaskier’s death would be his fault. He scoops Jaskier into his arms, so quickly it’s almost dangerous, and he spins on his heel, stopping when black eyes lock onto sharp, purple ones.

“Yennefer?” 

“Looks like your bard’s dying,” Yennefer starts, sighing, “again.”

Jaskier’s unconscious in Geralt’s arms, barely breathing, chest moving in quick, shallow motions, and Geralt brings a gaze from Yennefer, to Jaskier, then back, and his voice is shaking despite the potion bleeding strength to every crevice of his body.

“Can you--”

“--yes,” Yennefer interrupts, already turning sharply on her heel. “I’ll save your lover.” 

Geralt doesn’t think of anything other than the shivering bard in his arms, and he follows Yennefer back to the inn. His potion begins to wear off when he sets Jaskier into the bed, and he backs away, Jaskier’s ragged coughs sounding far too loud to his ears, until his back hits the wall across the room. He slides down the rough wood, hitting the floor with a low thump as Yennefer works through touch and magic. He watches with bated breath, only exhaling when he hears Jaskier suck in a deep breath, no rattle clinging to his lungs. He can hear Jaskier’s heart beat slow to a steady, rhythmic thump, and he cranes his neck to see the pained, flushed expression fade to smooth lines and pale cheeks.

“He’ll sleep for a while, but he should be well when he wakes,” Yennefer announces, heels clicking against the wooden floor as she turns from the bed and starts to Geralt. “I even worked on the wound. Some of the sutures ripped out. It’ll scar, but,” she pulls her gaze over her shoulder to the sleeping bard before dragging it back to Geralt, “it will be healed when he wakes, as will his neck.”

“I can pay you,” Geralt starts, voice still shaking slightly. “I’ll do whatever you would like to repay you for this,” but when he moves to stand, to retrieve the money he’s earned from jobs, Yennefer stops him with a single sharp gaze, a single hand raised. 

“I don’t want your money, Geralt,” she draws out, sighing, voice tinged with slight annoyance. “All I want is for you to realize that your kind doesn’t mix well with his kind.” 

“What--”

“You’ll get him killed one of these days.” She walks out of the room, and Geralt listens as the faint sounds of her heels disappear, her words pushing around his mind as he slowly gets to his feet. He stumbles to the bed, crawling in beside Jaskier, desperate to drift off to the comforting sounds of Jaskier’s beating heart, but then Jaskier rolls over until he’s facing Geralt, and his eyes flick open.

“Jaskier--”

“She’s wrong,” Jaskier whispers, voice thick with sleep. “You won’t get me killed. I trust you completely.” 

You shouldn’t, Geralt thinks, but he only pulls Jaskier to his chest, pressing his lips to the top of Jaskier’s head. “Rest, Jaskier.”

Chapter Text

Jaskier’s well. His breathing sounds strong, his heart beat sounds even, and his color’s taken back to the familiar pale but smooth glow, yet Geralt is still concerned that he’s pushing the bard too hard despite Jaskier’s many huffed complaints that he’s completely fine, better than ever even.

Geralt wants to believe him, but his dreams are plagued with burning images of Jaskier clinging to life by a fraying thread, so he forgoes sleeping each night in favor of watching the steady, rhythmic rise and fall of Jaskier’s chest as he sleeps soundly, even on the rough, dirty ground of the forest. 

He goes four days without so much as a wink of rest, and his body, though accustomed to severe strain, is beginning to feel the ill effects of clutching fatigue, and it’s pushing onto his mood. But still, he bares this burden alone. 

A knife pressed to my neck,” Jaskier sings, melody mirroring the gripping panic that he can’t seem to fully shake. “Can’t take a solid breath. Lungs are burning and the blood’s trickling! But then the Witcher’s motion, brings forth a magic potion, and--

“Jaskier,” Geralt warns, a low growl rumbling deep within his throat. He doesn’t wish to relive the pure, gripping terror of feeling helpless at the hands of his past. It’s not a tale he wishes to spread across the country, not when the stakes were so high, when Jaskier was being shoved toward death’s door. 

“Sorry,” Jaskier mumbles, and then his fingers slow, taking to a softer, smoother melody that’s almost somber. “Trust is a funny thing,” he sings, and Geralt’s shoulders slump, no longer tense and rigid. 

It starts off slow, a quiet thing. It pulls you in a large, warm grip. You melt against it--

“Stop,” Geralt whispers, hand carefully reaching over his shoulder to the hilt of his sword. He can faintly hear slow, heavy footfall approaching, growing louder and closer, and he has just enough time to tell Jaskier to hide before a rock troll breaks through the trees toward them. 

Jaskier grabs Roach’s reins, guiding her away as Geralt draws his sword and grinds his heels into the dirt below him, steadying his stance. He aims toward the stomach, jumping and dodging despite the fatigue clinging to his bones. He takes an accidental hit to the leg when he’s moving to jump away from a swing, the rocks jutting from the troll’s arms pushing and scraping hard enough against his leg to tear the fabric and split the skin. He hisses, but the pain brings with it a burning blast of adrenaline that has him calculating each swing, over and over until the rock troll’s falling to the ground with a booming thud that echoes across the forest. 

He jabs his sword into the ground, leaning heavily against it, favoring his left leg for his right leg is bleeding and burning. His chest is swelling as he sucks in slow, large gulps of air, and he’s tired when he whips a gaze around to see Jaskier creeping toward him with Roach at his side. 

“You’re bleeding,” Jaskier’s eyes fall to the angry, bleeding gash stretching across Geralt’s leg, and he makes to move toward it, to do something, but Geralt holds a single hand out, stopping him in his tracks. 

“It will heal.” 

“Yes,” Jaskier agrees, nodding slowly as he takes a hesitant step forward, “but it’s still currently bleeding.” He holds both hands up, a small show of cautious defense, but Geralt pulls his sword from the ground and evens his weight to both legs despite the pain. 

“I’m fine,” he growls, and Jaskier’s hands fall to his sides, his face twisting through emotions, but he opts to not push it further, not willing to lose an argument against Geralt’s tone. 

“Okay,” Jaskier says slowly, already turning to keep walking, to keep strumming away at his lute, and Geralt grabs Roach’s reins and takes lead, keeping his shoulders squared and his head tipped high as they move forward with the sun. 

By evening, however, Geralt’s teeth are clenched hard, his jaw a strong yet trembling outline that cuts across his pale features. His leg is on fire, and the heat’s pushing up across his body, creeping up his neck to his cheeks until sweat is beading at his temples. The need to limp is evident with each step, but he doesn’t, instead cursing the fatigue that’s greatly slowing the healing process. 

He’s silently grateful when they stop for the night in a small clearing. He tends to Roach while Jaskier grabs a few sticks lying close by for a fire. Once Roach is settled, Geralt sets the sticks ablaze with a quick sign, and even that small dose of magic is enough to leave his head spinning. He drops a little too heavily to the ground, very much aware of Jaskier’s eyes following his every movement, looking far too blue against the flames of the fire. 

“Geralt,” Jaskier’s hesitant when he speaks, but his unhinged concern for Geralt has been clutching uncomfortably at his heart for far too long now. “Are you alright?” 

He doesn’t look alright, Jaskier thinks, not with his pale skin looking almost gray save cheeks flushed a crimson red. His hair is damp and matted to his face, slick strands clinging to his temples, and his breathing looks ragged, even at the small distance they’re sitting, but Geralt only cocks his head to the side. 

“I’m fine,” he grumbles, eyes sharp. “Stop asking.” 

Jaskier frowns deeply at this, eyes fighting to reflect concern or anger at Geralt’s unyielding stubborn tendencies, and he doesn’t press further, only turning to prepare their small meal for the night. 

They eat in silence, and Jaskier doesn’t miss the way that Geralt only picks at his food. He’s aggravated when they finally turn in for the night, still, the energy spent from the long day is enough to pull him away from his frustration and concern, and he nods off almost instantly. 

Geralt watches, envious of Jaskier’s ability to sleep without worry, and he makes to repeat the night before, to stay and watch Jaskier, yet the fatigue is catching up with him, hot and uncomfortable, and without meaning to, he nods off while sitting up, his back pressed to a tree. 

He dreams of fire, of Jaskier being threatened with a knife to the neck while Geralt roasts over a fire. He dreams of his past enemies coming back, taking from him what he’s taken from them, what he cares most for, and it always cycles back to Jaskier. There’s a brief reprieve. He’s in a small room, and Jaskier’s back is turned to him. Jaskier’s strumming an unfamiliar melody on the lute, each note bringing chords of echoing pain, and Geralt moves toward him, curious, desperate. He places a hand to Jaskier’s shoulder, and Jaskier turns to look at him. His blue eyes are hollow, lifeless, and his mouth is agape, with blood trickling past his lips and down his neck. Geralt’s heart catches, thumping to a stop, and a scream rips up his throat, so loud, so forceful, so--

“Geralt!” 

He’s jerks awake, chest heaving, inhaling and exhaling sharply through his nose. He’s far too hot, too confused, but he slaps his palm to Jaskier’s chest, right where Jaskier’s shirt is open, and he can feel the familiar warmth of living skin, can feel a too-rapid heart beat fluttering alive against his palm, 

“Geralt,” Jaskier pushes, fingers carefully wrapping around Geralt’s wrist when Geralt’s hand moves from his chest to his neck. “It was just a dream--”

“--no,” Geralt rasps out, hand tightening around Jaskier’s throat. “You were dead, dying. You’re always dying.” His voice cracks against the heavy words, and Jaskier’s fingers dig into Geralt’s wrist. 

“I’m right here,” Jaskier’s voice is shaking slightly, a little tight against Geralt’s terrifying grip. “But if you don’t let go, I won’t be.” 

Geralt’s amber eyes are glassy, unfocused, but his hand falls to his side, and Jaskier sucks in a deep breath and swallows back the urge to cough lightly. He moves to cup a hand to Geralt’s cheek, not surprised by the heat that coats his palm. 

“Let me help you, Geralt. I think you may have an infection--” 

“--no!” Geralt reaches out clumsily and rips his sword from his back, and Jaskier’s just quick enough to dodge a long swing. 

“Geralt!” 

“You have to run!” Geralt makes to get to his feet because he has to, because enemies are approaching, and they’re coming after Jaskier, and--

“--Geralt!” Jaskier’s got his hands cupped over Geralt’s, and he’s struggling to guide the sword down, eyes flicking toward the quiet, dark woods before them. “There’s no one there,” he breathes out through clenched teeth, struggling against Geralt’s frightening strength. 

“They are there!” Geralt presses, and desperation has Jaskier acting without fully assessing any consequences. He whips around, pushes up on his toes, and slams his lips against Geralt’s, and Geralt pulls away after a moment,  narrow eyes zeroing in on him. For a breath of a moment, Jaskier fears he truly made the worst mistake, but then Geralt lets the sword go, falling to the ground between them, 

“Jaskier?” Geralt’s far too hot. His ears are ringing, the crackling fire sounds miles away. He feels faint, and it must show on his face because Jaskier’s quickly guiding him back toward the tree he’s been leaning on, easing him to the ground as carefully as he can manage. 

“You’ve got an infection,” Jaskier’s back up on his feet and moving the sword far away from Geralt. “I think you’re hallucinating.” He grabs a water pouch and brings it to Geralt’s lips. “Drink.” 

Geralt does, swallowing long gulps of water, feeling a little more certain of his surroundings. When he breaks for air, he drags a slow gaze to Jaskier’s eyes. “I’m fine, now. You should rest--” 

“How can you call this fine?” Jaskier’s words are hushed yet sharp, and then he’s on his feet. “You’re burning with fever, and just a few moments ago, you...” His fingers find his neck, ghosting across the slightly pained marks. “You just didn’t know what was happening.” 

Geralt’s head is throbbing, but he watches carefully at Jaskier’s small movement, at the way Jaskier’s fingers flutter across his neck. “I hurt you.” 

“You were hallucinating,” Jaskier repeats, moving back until he’s beside Geralt, pressing a hand to Geralt’s cheek. “You’re boiling.” 

Geralt moves his face away, conflict pulling at him, the need to get away burning with his fever. 

“Will you please let me help you?” 

“You shouldn’t--” Geralt makes to stand, but the pain in his leg is too much, and he slumps back against the tree with a low grunt. “I may hurt you again. I can’t hurt you--”

“--Geralt,” Jaskier’s been around Geralt enough to mimic an air of order in his voice, “you aren’t going to hurt me. Now, if you don’t let me look at your leg, I’m going to write the worst possible song about you and spread it like the next plague.” 

Geralt’s expression is unreadable, but he stretches his leg out to Jaskier, and Jaskier’s quick to gather supplies and start on the wound. He works quietly, careful when Geralt hisses in pain, but Geralt breaks the silence, voice low, quiet, hesitant. 

“I don’t know how to do this.” 

Jaskier flicks a brief gaze away from the wound to meet Geralt’s tired eyes. “Sure you do. You’ve cleaned my wounds--”

“--I mean this,” he pushes, gesturing weakly toward Jaskier. “Letting people care for me. I’m not entirely used to it.” 

Jaskier’s heart stutters in his chest, his hand frozen above Geralt’s wound. “Well,” he starts, swallowing thickly as he moves his gaze back to the wound, no longer wishing to hold Geralt’s silently pained stare. “We will just have to get you used to it, though, I do hope you don’t make this a habit.” 

“I hurt you,” Geralt growls, more pained than hot. “I could still hurt you--” 

For the second time, Jaskier acts, pressing close to Geralt to smooth a light, quick kiss to Geralt’s lips. He’s the one who breaks the kiss, and he drops his forehead to Geralt’s burning one. “You won’t.” 

“I might.” 

Jaskier pulls his gaze back enough to hold Geralt’s gaze with a bright, determined one. “No, Geralt, you won’t.” 

He moves back to the wound. “Now, hush. You’re distracting me from my work.” 

“Jaskier--”

“--I said hush,” Jaskier bites out, and Geralt clamps his mouth shut quickly as Jaskier moves to continue cleaning the wound. 

Chapter Text

Jaskier should have learned, he should have etched the lesson of his previous mistake to heart, but hunger’s a devil that toys with his mind and grabs at his stomach. It warps his surroundings, his vision growing too large and round to too small and curved, blurry images. Hunger has him feeling faint, walking across a rope bridge swaying over a canyon, and it brings forth hot desperation that he voices to Geralt over and over.

“Geralt, I’m famished,” Jaskier whines, voice dragging out each word as slow as his heavy footfalls, and Geralt, who’s been keeping a considerately slow pace only a few steps ahead of him, stops, turning with a tender frown that brings a furrow to his brow. 

“I know,” he mutters softly, and Jaskier shuffles up to his side, groaning lowly deep within his throat when Geralt places a large hand to the small of his back. He pulls his focus to the steady warmth that radiates a hint of power through touch alone. 

“We’ll stop soon,” Geralt reassures, eyes struggling to move from Jaskier’s thin, pale complexion to the forest surrounding them, to the tall, towering trees that hide the danger that doesn’t wish to be seen. “This spot isn’t safe.” He slides his hand up from Jaskier’s back to his shoulder, squeezing it tightly. “Do you think you can manage a little while more?”

Jaskier nods, the small tilt of his head bringing with it an unwanted bout of dizziness that has one hand curling around his stomach while the other blindly reaches for Geralt’s tunic, fingers clutching at the fabric, and Geralt’s growls his name, concern colored in his gruff tone.

“Jaskier,” his hand tightens around Jaskier’s shoulder, keeping him grounded. “Maybe you should ride Roach...” 

“And suffer a head injury when I topple off of her?” Jaskier questions, swallowing around a dull ache of nausea. He breathes through his swimming vision until it steadies where he can bring a weary gaze toward Roach. “I don’t think so.” He’s slow to bring his eyes to Geralt’s narrow ones, and they speak silently for an endless moment, faded, tired blue eyes trying to hold their own against burning amber ones. 

“If you’re sure,” Geralt finally says, and he starts forward, keeping closer to Jaskier, walking only two steps ahead of him, and he listens only to the staggering footsteps behind him, making sure they continue, looking back when they falter, until they reach a small clearing that he deems will have to be safe enough since he’s not sure how much longer Jaskier can remain upright. He’s quick to get Roach settled, and he only stops briefly before leaving in search of food to stare hard at Jaskier, who’s standing in the middle of the clearing, eyes distant, heavy, and glued to a tree. 

“Jaskier?” Geralt starts toward him, one hand reaching out to him. “Why don’t you sit down?” He snakes an arm around Jaskier’s waist, guiding him to a tree he can lean against. “I won’t be gone long,” he promises, and Jaskier’s struggling to focus, only seeing Geralt’s lips moving. 

He watches Geralt almost run into the forest, and he then he’s alone, and his hunger talks to him, a familiar dark voice in his ear, one that’s previously urged him to eat a poisonous berry. He tries to shake it away, but it’s louder than the wind around him, louder than the birds above him, and he moves to his feet without control, eyes falling to a bush a few steps across from him.

There are deep purple leaves littering the bush, but in his eyes, he sees plump, juicy grapes, and he stumbles to the bush, heavy bricks at his feet. He plucks one from the bush, and brings it to his lips, hesitating only for a moment as the blurred memories of cramps, dehydration, and a burning fever run through his mind, but then the voice is in his ear again, and he drops the leaf into his mouth.

Slowly, he chews the leaf, entire body rigid and on edge, but the leaf is faintly sweet, definitely no grape but still fighting off his hunger effectively. He plucks another, and another, crunching through a handful, lips curling into a smile with each one.

After his seventh one, he’s satisfied for now, able to wait for the meat Geralt will bring back. He turns on his heel, takes two steps back toward the tree he’s been leaning on, and then stops when icy tingles burn up and down his arms and legs. He shakes his arms out, hops from foot to foot, but the tingling grows until it suddenly fades to a piercing numbness that has his knees shaking. He tries to lift one hand but finds that he can’t, and then his knees give out and he crumples to the ground, arms and legs twisted abnormally.

Panic’s heavy against him as he tries desperately to move to no avail, and it’s the hot panic that has him screaming at the top of his lungs for Geralt, voice cracking, rough, but then Geralt’s breaking through the woods, dropping to his knees beside him.

“Jaskier.” Geralt’s hands are hovering over Jaskier’s body, eyes flicking across his listless limbs, falling to the tinge of purple coloring the tips of his fingers. “What did you eat?” He growls, fear morphing with anger as he drags Jaskier’s hand to his eyes. 

“The bush,” Jaskier chatters, desperate fear bringing an uncomfortable chill to his dead limbs. He makes to point, but his arm refuses, and he swallows thickly, eyes following as Geralt moves toward the bush and plucks a single leaf off, bringing it in front of his eyes.

“Dark Willow,” Geralt groans, the leaf slipping from his finger as he slowly turns back to Jaskier. “Infamously known as the Purple Dead Limb.” 

Jaskier wants to vomit. His stomach lurches, and he pushes his face into the ground and tries desperately to move, to arch his body upward, but he can’t.

“It temporarily seizes your body’s movements,” Geralt explains, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

“Temporarily?” Jaskier asks, clinging to the single word with hope that burns in his chest. “It’s temporary?” 

“Yes,” Geralt sighs, crouching beside Jaskier. He wants to scold Jaskier for his continuous recklessness, but there’s dark pain coloring Jaskier’s normally bright eyes, so he bites back any comments that may darken that gripping pain. 

“There’s a town a few hours away,” he glances toward Roach, who’s tired after hours of walking, then back to Jaskier, who can do nothing but move his head. “You can’t support yourself on Roach, and she’s too tired to carry both of us.” He fights back the urge to sigh once more. “Are you in pain?” 

“I can’t feel anything,” Jaskier whispers, and saying the words aloud bring hot tears to his eyes. Temporary or not, he’s terrified all the way to his core. 

“I’m going to lift you,” Geralt explains, and he’s careful when he slips his hands under Jaskier, moving slowly, frown deepening at the dead weight. It takes long, cautious maneuvering until he’s got Jaskier on his back. He’s supporting Jaskier’s legs, and he’s managed to swing Jaskier’s arms over his shoulders. Jaskier’s forehead is pressed against his neck, and he can feel the warm tears. 

“Jaskier, you will be alright,” Geralt says, and Jaskier sniffles behind him, holding to the hope that’s thick in Geralt’s voice.

“I’m scared,” he mutters, voice cracking, and Geralt only quickens his steps, mumbling a soft “I know” as he starts toward the town. 

The walk is long, more so because they’ve been travelling in unsettling silence, Jaskier far too quiet at his back. He tries to spark a conversation, but Jaskier’s replies are short, lacking any heart, so he gives up after a while, focusing instead on the unsteady breaths against his neck.

He’s thankful when they reach the town, but he’s forced to clench his teeth at the snide remarks that pass them by as they enter the inn.

“One room,” he requests, struggling to reach into his pocket for his coins. He ignores the arched brows the inn-keep flashes his way as she twirls an old key around her finger. 

“Be easy on your pet,” she laughs, handing over the key as Geralt slides a small satchel of coins her way, and Geralt growls low in his throat, glaring to the woman before he starts up the steps to the room. 

He carefully drops Jaskier onto the bed, moving to undo his shoes. “Can I get you anything?” He asks quietly, fingers working through the laces of Jaskier’s boots.

“No,” Jaskier mumbles. “I think I’ll just sleep--”

“--Jaskier,” Geralt tries when Jaskier squeezes his eyes shut. He finds Jaskier’s hand, cups it with his larger one, and sighs when Jaskier doesn’t react because he still can’t feel it. “Jaskier, open your eyes.” 

Jaskier does, and a single tear slips down his cheek. Geralt leans over him, thumbing the tear away with a touch Jaskier can feel. “I told you that you will be alright, so why are you crying?”

“I just...” Jaskier sniffles lightly, wishing to will away the flood pooling in his eyes. “I just want to sleep,” he whispers, not saying that he’s sorry for being an imbecile, that he’s sorry for worrying Geralt, that he’s sorry for not learning from his past mistakes, and that he’s sorry for always being a nuisance to Geralt. He would just rather sleep because if he’s asleep, he can’t feel the fear and guilt swirling into a pit in stomach. His eyes slip closed, and he can feel Geralt watching him for minutes before he sighs and slips off the bed, bringing the blanket to Jaskier’s chin before exiting the room. 

Geralt leaves to get Roach settled in a stable and purchase food to bring back to the room, and when he returns, Jaskier’s actually asleep, a deep rise and fall of his chest a clear indication. He unlaces his own boots, pulls his shirt over his head, and climbs into the bed, muscles practically screaming their thanks from a too-long journey with a partiuclar bard on his back.

He rolls to his side, eyes growing heavy as they watch Jaskier’s chest swell and deflate in a steady rhythm until he slips into a deep sleep.

*****

Jaskier comes to slowly, and he brings a hand to his face to rub at his blurry eyes, hand freezing inches before his face as his eyes shoot open. Slowly, he wiggles his fingers with ease, and then he wiggles his toes, feeling the tips brush against the soft blanket covering him. Relief is a heavy pressure in his chest, and he puffs out a sigh he’s been unconsciously holding in as he carefully slips from the bed, eager to work his fingers against the strings of his lute.

He’s a little shaky on his legs, feeling almost as if a new born deer running through a vast, open field for the first time, as he snags his lute. He quietly slips back into the bed, back pressed against the tall, wooden headboard, and he starts plucking at the strings, a somber, soft melody that seems to play itself at the touch of his fingers.

“How I wish to say how I truly feel. Oh, I’m sorry to my Witcher. 
I should call my leave, no longer in need.. Oh, I’m sorry to my Witcher.”

“I miss that,” Geralt mutters, voice thick with sleep, and Jaskier’s fingers freeze, gaze whipping toward Geralt. 

“Though, I could do with different lyrics.” 

“Geralt,” Jaskier starts, sighing around the name, “I’m--”

“--No,” Geralt interrupts, pushing up on one elbow. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I keep letting it slip my mind that your body cannot handle what mine can.” 

“Because I’m weak--”

“--Because you’re human,” Geralt growls, sitting up fully. He cups Jaskier’s cheek, leaning in close until his lips gently brush against Jaskier’s. “You are not weak.” He mutters around the kiss, slowly pulling away. “Any man would have completely unraveled today, but you held it together, and that’s admirable.” 

“I cried,” Jaskier reminds him, a small arch to his brow, and Geralt shrugs. 

“But you came back from it.” 

Jaskier turns back to his lute, and he starts strumming a faster melody, one that’s a little unsteady, but one that brings a smile to Geralt’s lips as he falls back against his pillow.

“Make this one about you,” he says, a half-smile pulling at his lips when Jaskier tilts his head at him. “A song about how you will never ever eat any berries or plants or anything you don’t know about again.”