The tavern lamps were slightly bright, overly so possibly, when Geralt stepped out of the rain and into the inn at the edge of a town he didn't care to know the name of and that not many people cared about either. The warm, yellow glow of the tavern slightly blurred and Geralt forced his vision to focus, confused at the visual change as much as it hadn't been expected. But his eyes focused once more and everything was... normal. His eyes usually didn't feel this sensitive to the light until he walked out of the tavern. And after a diligently reckless amount of mead that could drop a normal man dead. Being drunk was one thing, being a drunkard was entirely another - Geralt couldn't afford to be either. It wasn't a lack of coin, it was his (mostly intact) sense of self respect. Witcher's had enough of a bad name, to say the least. Geralt was dignified enough to get drunk gracefully, without a misstep when leaving a tavern, but still enough for the headache the next morning to make him regret it.
He should be concerned. But he wasn't. The opposite, Geralt meandered his way through the tavern without a single thought further to the way the entire world had briefly taken on an ethereal glow that was anything but normal. His enhanced senses weren't ringing any bells of alarm, nor were his instincts, his pendent was quiet and his feet were taking him towards a familiar voice - filtering through the tavern that was deserving of that voice for a change.
Geralt hadn't caught the name of the tavern, exactly. 'The Whispering Well' or something suspiciously ominous. But it was bigger than most and doubled as an expansive inn. Most importantly, it was warm and dry and had far less piss soaked drunkards than usual by far. The atmosphere was actually inviting and the hood of his cloak was shadowing most of his face - but his white hair wasn't already drawing Witcher slung insults by those that knew him by it. Geralt wondered if the inn knew that the bushels of ferventium that hung on the posts were purposedly an aphrodisiac. It wasn't an old wives tale to creatures with enhanced senses.
Geralt navigated his way through the throngs of patrons, lingering near the front of the crowd in the shadows. His bard looked happily in his element, lute in his lap and an appreciative audience clapping to the beat of his music. Jaskier was singing and playing with other bards but even if he hadn't been the only one singing tonight, Geralt would have only heard Jaskier.
As if sensing the Witcher, Jaskier looked up and their eyes found each other. And Jaskier kept singing but a warm light lit up in his eyes and his smile changed subtly, tossing the Witcher a wink. Eyes sought out the source of his affections, a girl mistakenly thought it was her and giggled with a blushing smile. Geralt just chuckled, low and quiet from under his hood, and smiled at Jaskier. He wondered if, like Geralt, they were never surprised to see each other because each inn, each tavern, and they always expected it. They didn't part often. Usually it was Geralt's fault when they did and he would readily take the blame. He could be a vicious asshole and an equally righteous ass - both frequently at the same time. After that Djinn, Geralt had never let his tongue or his anger run away with him again, not with Jaskier. But whenever he slipped and treated the man unfairly, Geralt would do his best to apologize the next time they met. He would really... really do his best. Physically. Passionately...
That ferventium was more potent than Geralt might have realized. But he wasn't minding the effects...
And Jaskier didn't seem to mind a chase. The way Geralt was feeling tonight, catching up over some mead was something they could do later. Much later.
Jaskier took his lute in hand after the song, already partially standing, and Geralt only moved when the bard had his eyes on him. Not that Jaskier had taken his eyes off Geralt. But the Witcher diligently made sure not to lose him in the crowd.
The Witcher put some coins on the bar counter to pay for a room and didn't bother to count it. King Graven was paying him an extortionate sum to clear his lands from monsters lately and coin was proudly not an issue. But there had been so many. Drowning in monsters would be a better term for Graven's lands. A man of actually decent character, Graven had called upon the Witcher when Geralt had entered the far Northern portions of his lands. What had come next was a lucrative stack of contacts and a steady amount of work. But Geralt was exhausted and his supplies were depleted. He was all too happy to fall into bed with a certain bard, his bard specifically.
Was time moving slower? Or was Geralt? Either way, he didn't seem to care. The hallway might have tipped as Geralt looked over his shoulder and smiled at Jaskier as the man followed him - Geralt leading him deeper into the inn. But his feet nor did his body waver so he didn't think of the otherworldly way he seemed to be momentarily disconnecting from the world.
Their clothes were gone in record time, but with a fluid and almost languid ease. Had they really been doing this for two years? It felt like a lifetime.
At first, Geralt was content to kiss Jaskier with a breathless pauses between the contact of their lips, deep and hungry, pulling back and going in for more. An undercurrent of a growl started just under his breath though, rumbling in his chest, his hunger becoming consuming. Jaskier never shied from the White Wolf. He reached up, under Geralt's hair, and grasp the back of his neck - pulling him down for another kiss. And another. And Geralt let him momentarily take control of the kissing but it was only so much he could take before he threw Jaskier down onto the bed.
The Witcher never took a contract that didn't pay. And he didn't bed a man that didn't look at him exactly like that. Jaskier looked like he was being bedded by a wild, beautiful creature not at all of his world. He always did. It changed, depending on if or how much mead the man might have drank before. Geralt would see his eyes darken and occasionally he'd become emboldened but usually Jaskier looked just as he did now. Just shy of eating his own tongue, maybe rightfully fearful, wholly alight and breathlessly fixated by Geralt. An explosion could render the inn in two and Jaskier's eyes wouldn't leave him.
Jaskier swallowed heavily. "Take down your hair."
It was the unwavering note in the bard's voice that made Geralt give a low, pleased growl and reach up for his hair. And he shook it free as Jaskier let out a shaky breath, barely letting it settle on his shoulders before he was joining Jaskier on the bed, straddling the bard's hips and leaning down, capturing Jaskier's lips with his own. Breathless... deep, needy kisses that slowed but couldn't get deep enough. It was the most blissful type of drowning. But when it edged on desperate, Geralt didn't waste a second more. Fluidly he turned around, moving his legs so that he was straddling Jaskier's chest and immediately took hold of the bard's belt - careful not to break it as his hands worked on a buckle, and buttons. Because all he wanted to do was rip with off.
Their pants were still on. Funny that. But characteristic to their love making. They usually wanted each other far too quickly to take the time to take all of their clothes off.
They had to tug at each other none too gently to free aching cocks. Perhaps Geralt especially, damp leather determined to cling to every inch of his ass, hips and groin. It was a wonder Geralt didn't rip something on his end. He had. Plenty. Jaskier knew better to get his cock out now and right then when Geralt wanted it, or Geralt wouldn't be so forgiving in his own desires with his inhuman strength. But he always gave Jaskier more than ample compensation. For damages.
Geralt reached out for Jaskier's cock and it wasn't in his hand for more than a human heartbeat. Because Geralt took every inch of it right down his throat.
Jaskier gave a loud, moaning cry and words that might have been Algavian. It was one of the more poetic languages, Geralt moaning deep and low and pleased in his chest as he sucked the bard's cock the only way he could right this instant. Hard. Like he could barely stop himself. Like he didn't want Jaskier's cock anywhere else but in his mouth, deep down his throat, the hard length sliding over his tongue, hot and heavy. Over and over as Geralt sucked with firm, steady pressure. Fuck. Yes. That. The taste, the weight, the hardness, and the heat.
But oh... somehow there were things just as good. Like Jaskier taking the head of Geralt's cock into his mouth, moaning and groaning from Geralt's ministrations as he lovingly sucked at any inch he could. Those lips were just as good at singing as they were on a cock. Somehow, impossibly better. A touch of a whimper as Geralt twisted his head as he went back down on the cock in his mouth. A gasp against the back of Geralt's hard, full cock with wet and wanton lips as Geralt swallowed around his length. Geralt's tongue had the front of Jaskier's, Jaskier had the back of his. Arguably the bard had the advantage. In-arguably, Geralt had the inhuman advantage, if he wanted it. He didn't. He went right where Jaskier went, riding the crests of pleasure and all but high on the ride.
Geralt loved this man. This could be fun, they could be fun. But when the laughter quieted, the bodies piled high, and the moon passed the cresting sun into the cold light of day - Jaskier was there, by his side, shoulder to shoulder.
Jaskier groaned when Geralt's hair slipped over a shoulder and fell against a bare thigh, the man's hips twitching, Geralt giving a quiet gasp around the cock in his mouth before wrapping his lips back around it. They'd done this more times than Geralt could count. When their positions were reversed, Geralt happily encouraged the man to fuck his throat. It wasn't that he was lazy. He just particularly liked the cock coming to him, filling his mouth and fucking his throat. It wasn't like the bard needed much encouragement but Jaskier never went too far with it. Strangely, Geralt loved him for that too. He loved Jaskier for giving a damn.
Hands stroked over Geralt's thighs and talented, swollen lips sucked his cock in deeper and Geralt groaned deep in his chest. But impossibly, it was those hands. Jaskier's hands touching him just as he would gold or his lute. Geralt had barely lived in the golden era of Witchers. Back when they'd been awed, revered, the supposed saviors of the human race created in it's darkest hour. Only bedded by kings and queens and nobles. But Jaskier... above or under him, Geralt felt exactly as how it had been. And that was truly and wholly priceless.
They came together. It was too erotic for one not to push over the other. Stamina be damned, Geralt couldn't not get off entirely from every second of this. But Jaskier started to come apart beneath him and the Witcher was right there, sucking him down deeper, harder, faster. And then they were pouring hot, molten cum down each other's throats, Geralt lovingly moaning - growling as he swallowed down every hot gush and spurt. Jaskier knew by now that he wasn't going to win what was a war against Geralt's hot and steady streams of cum and swallowed what he could before gasping and releasing Geralt's cock as it finished releasing it's seed on his chest and stomach. Fuck if there was anything more pleasing than feeling Jaskier's lips valiantly stretched around the length of Geralt's sizeable cock - it was the wet feeling of his cum dripping from those lips.
They collapsed to the bed beside each other, Geralt smiling as he watched Jaskier come down, doing the same with easier but heavy breaths. Jaskier blindly reached for him and the Witcher swallowed heavily, grasping the hand that found his chest - over a particularly nasty scar that Jaskier had never shied from. His lips had been all over every single one in fact...
"Don't ever leave me again."
The words came easy. Even if they tightened Geralt's throat and chest and made him swallow a bit hard. "I won't."
Even if he occasionally had to. To spare Jaskier from the darkest and most wounding parts of the Witcher - because there could be no other reason he'd ever leave the bard. His bard.
Geralt awoke in the middle of the night to a scream that would curdle the blood of men. He sat up immediately, to a room nearly entirely dark but for the smoldering embers of a fireplace. And at first, he thought it was only a dream. The room was silent, he hadn't remembered dreaming... but the air was still. And silent. Peaceful even.
Jaskier put a hand on his back and Geralt gave the bard a quick glance, even if his eyes didn't find the man. The Witcher was still listening for... anything untoward. Unless that scream had been the last sound uttered by a mortal who'd died the worst of deaths.
But Jaskier said, half a second later. "Dear gods, what was that."
"I thought I was dreaming..." Geralt murmured.
"Unless we were having the same dream, I doubt it... unless we're both dreaming right now because of some demonic-"
Geralt reached back and covered the bard's mouth.
But it wasn't necessary.
The screams and commotion that followed would have been heard the town over.
Geralt pulled on his clothes as fast as he was able, tugging one boot on and then the other. He couldn't spare time for any more armor, the gambon, nor any other sword but the steel one. Roach had the other. And he was already wondering where his head had been that he didn't have both.
The moonlit tavern was quickly filling up with a few stray, blood stained and terrified townsfolk. The inn keeper, Rose, couldn't stop screaming - even as others tried to console her. And it was hurting his ears. "It came out of the well with an awful shriek! It came out of the well and tore her limb from limb!"
The world tipped, the moonlight from the room blurred and Geralt gave his head an irritated shake as he stumbled just enough to give himself cause to reach for a wall. "What came from the well?" he demanded the group roughly.
Rose looked up and her terrified eyes... they weren't much different than they'd been before. There was some hope. But terror to look upon the monster. Terror to look upon the Witcher.
"I'll tell that thing it can go back to hell-" a villager with a freshly lit torch said, throwing open the front door before Geralt could stop him.
"Don't!" Geralt shouted.
"My daughter is out there-!"
He was ripped from the doorway by clawed hands, an ear piercing wail shattering windows and forcing the Witcher down to his knees. Reflexively, he reacted with Aard. But the forceful blast only broke the wail. The powerful wraith ripped the villager from the tavern and into the night as the man screamed out his last breaths.
Geralt ignored Jaskier and turned on the townsfolk. "You've got a very pissed off wraith of some description out there. Any idea why she's so damn angry?"
"No!" Rose cried. "We haven't done a thing!"
Right. Geralt gripped his sword and ran out, into the night. He should stop. This was stupid. He should prepare, his potion supply was practically depleted and he didn't have many on him. He didn't have any armor either, only his tunic shirt and leather pants and boots. But if he got to her before she got to the well - he could end this right now. Right here. He hoped.
Jaskier. Again, Geralt heard his voice. But the well... it was still, deep and dark. Had she gone back in? Had he just made the last and final mistake in his long and bloody life as a Witcher? He should shout at Jaskier to get back. He shouldn't... he needed to - he couldn't think. So he closed his eyes and listened. He listened to the wind. The water in the well. He felt the hilt of the sword in his hand, the hilt was wrong, the dust and gravel under his boots, how it shifted, how the trees moved-
Geralt opened his eyes. She was coming. Fast and living, back for the well, through the forest.
He ran back to Jaskier, who put his pack down on the ground, Geralt kneeling - his knees hitting dirt as he quickly reached for his satchels. "I brought everything." Jaskier said.
"Good man." Geralt told him with loving approval. But he let out a sharp breath. The only time he had to prepare for what he was about to drink was absolutely none. And he downed the potent concoction before he could think twice about it. Although maybe he should have. Something was wrong with him, he knew it. Something had been wrong for the past few days. He'd labeled it as exhaustion, he needed to meditate more too, but it was more than that. Something was clouding his mind from the truth and the more he tried to think about what was wrong, the answer was fuzzy and clouded. The Witcher looked at Jaskier. "Now get the fuck inside."
Jaskier didn't argue. And there was that.
It was only when Geralt was standing at the well did he realize that the hilt of his sword felt wrong because he had the steel sword. Not the silver.
And then she was on him.
Geralt deepened his stance and changed tactics, a boot digging into the dirt, and inhaled deep as the wraith came screaming from the woods straight for her well - ragged white gown dripping with blood at the tattered ends. Geralt kept dragging what felt like searing hot air into his lungs, burning him from the inside out, or so it felt. He would have gone for Yrden so she couldn't get past him. But with the silver sword faithfully being guarded by Roach, Igni was now two parts of his three part plan. He had to give it absolutely everything he had. And as the wraith reached for him, Geralt exhaled Igni with a forceful, rumbling shout, air turning to fire - greatly enhanced by the potion and using his own body as fuel.
The wail turned into a scream and her entire body ignited, the wraiths clawed hands turning to ash as they dug deep into his skin. But they still had just enough purchase and weight to drag him back a step. A step enough to send him falling back into the well with her. And straight into the black abyss.
Geralt's back hit icy water. And the impact would have stolen his breath from his lungs if he'd had any left after Igni. And for a moment, as the wraith dissolved into ash around him, the Witcher closed his eyes and let the water take him under. The last thing he saw was his pendent, floating freely above him - the Wolf head dragged down with the Witcher by the chain, into the blackened, icy depths. It had as little choice as he did.
No. He had a choice.
He had love.
He had a bard. His bard.
Before his back touched the bottom of the well, Geralt opened his eyes and found the rocky floor below him with a boot. Pushing himself upward, Geralt swam up, the only direction was up and it made orientation easy. But the moonlight was a filtered, teasing dancer in the cold clarity of the well water. Flitting and dancing just out of his reach, even as his lungs screamed for air. But he broke the surface, finally, so devoid of oxygen that the Witcher hardly made a sound as he pulled all the air into his empty lungs that he could.
Finding purchase on the stone wall, Geralt didn't have to climb far. He could barely find the strength, a boot toe slipping on the stone. Geralt threw an arm over the edge of the well and gritted his teeth and set his jaw, heaving himself up and partially over the wall, just enough to hold himself upright. The Witcher's stomach rebelled at being shoved so forcefully against the stone and coughing, Geralt retched up a decent amount of well water onto dry dirt and dew dampened grass, eyes briefly blurring.
But a fraction of a ragged breath later and more than a few sets of hands were hauling him the rest of the way out of the well.
Geralt waved off all hands but the bard's, coughing, dazed. "I'm fine."
"We have to get you inside Witcher-"
"Clara! Get that fire going inside the tavern!"
The voices all ran together. His enhanced hearing suddenly didn't have a filter. He should be cold, and he was, but he also felt hot. And the simultaneous feeling of being bone rattling cold also disoriented him further. He killed that thing. Did you see that? He breathed fire just like a dragon! Witcher. It's what Witcher's do. But did you see that? He didn't save Beth. No one could have saved Beth. Oh gods Beth. Beth is dead. But did you see that? It's what Witcher's do. Monsters kill monsters. That's how you do it. Gods. Beth. She was so young. Witcher. Witcher-
Geralt staggered to his feet and was relieved when he didn't do it alone. Jaskier was there. Solid and warm and determined. "Come on Geralt." Jaskier let out a breath as he helped the Witcher towards the inn. His voice was nearly just for Geralt, low and determined. Worried. But calm, for Jaskier. The man had more courage than anyone would give him credit for, sometimes an amount that bordered on stupidity. But enough sense at least to run when told. Perhaps the only way to stay alive alongside a Witcher. "Keep to your feet for me big man. That's it. Almost there-"
In a world of gripping loneliness, isolation, and a supreme lack of understanding - Jaskier, his aide, his very existence was a gift near to bring tears to Geralt's eyes. And it would. If he had a heart. A soul. But he did allow himself to feel exceedingly grateful.
Geralt swallowed heavily and said. "I dropped my sword."
"Oh good. Silver words are obscenely expensive. And then you have to find someone who can work with silver and it's such a hassle."
Geralt dropped his head so that no one could see him give an exhausted, tired chuckle. Jaskier was right.
The Witcher was finding his strength. Dawn was approaching and Geralt didn't feel like sleeping anymore tonight. Perhaps he could learn to sleep with his eyes open.
Jaskier helped him into a change of clothes. He scolded him when he tiredly fought his efforts. Geralt mustered a growl that didn't dissuade the Bard. Mostly, the Witcher sat back and enjoyed the care - grateful.
It all took an hour, in which time dawn had found the small town. The townsfolk at the inn gravitated towards newfound fear at the Witcher quietly and tiredly trying to fill the gnawing ache in his stomach with hot porridge to something like awe and gratitude or all three. Geralt had wanted cold porridge. Jaskier had insisted on hot.
Geralt almost said something as a few crowns were put on the table near his arm. A doe eyed girl, barely a woman, set them down and with fearful eyes - backed away from the table, taking her hand back quickly and tucking it beneath her cloak. Instead, the Witcher slowly blinked and put a spoonful of porridge back into his mouth. They'd been doing that all morning. Dropping coins at his table. Like paying fearful tribute to a dragon so that it wouldn't eat them.
Geralt had at first looked pointedly at Jaskier but with a gesture of his hands of confusion and no words after - the Bard had nothing in the way of an explanation. Not even a playful chorus or two of 'drop a coin to your Witcher'. The townsfolk had started doing it on their own.
The Witcher caught the bard looking at his hair again and this morning, he wasn't admiring it. Geralt gave the man a tired blink and a look, giving the man an opening to remark about the disparaging state of his hair, but Jaskier just held up his hands and declined to comment.
"You are remarkably without words this morning." Geralt said, finding his own voice. His throat still felt raw, both from Igni and coughing up copious amounts of well water.
Jaskier met the Witcher's eyes... and the look in those beautiful blue depths, so opaque and nearly translucent in the cold, foggy light of morning compared to the depths of the well. The look spoke volumes. But a moment later, he said. "I've never seen it. I knew that well wouldn't kill you but I've never seen you *nearly* die before. I thought, there for a moment..."
Geralt let out a loving, quiet breath and patiently held the bard's eyes with his own, but he couldn't keep the grim honesty from his voice. "You've seen the marks on my body, Jaskier. All Witcher's die. It's just what mark will kill us."
Jaskier's eyes fell to the table, hands clasped near to his mouth and nodded. It seemed to be all that he could do.
Six more coins dropped onto the table and another fearful villager stumbled away. Geralt blinked. "Mmmm." he said.
Outside of the tavern, saddled up, fully dressed and one sword short - Jaskier peered up at Geralt from where he sat atop Roach. He shouldered his pack, his lute shifting against his back. "So... I guess this is-"
Geralt didn't roll his eyes, not quite - he didn't have the strength. He just turned Roach to the North. "Come along, Jaskier." he smiled.
Jaskier took two steps and Geralt's stomach rebelled at the porridge, the slightly weightless way it felt as Roach turned just enough to have him leaning over to the side and heaving up more of a meal than he should have probably attempted to put into his restless stomach. At least he'd had the grace, despite the suddenness, to lean forward in the saddle and vomit just past Roach's left shoulder.
"Geralt!" Jaskier exclaimed in surprise, Geralt swore he saw the Bard nearly gag himself. Apparently he'd seen enough to provoke the reflex.
"Fine." Geralt responded immediately. A hard warning. As much as he could manage.
"Oh because of course you are, that's entirely normal-"
His eyes lost focus and Geralt grunted, willing them to *stop* doing that.
The bard wasn't done yet. "And with that... *heroic* exit, we're supposed to ride off into the next chapter of our story-"
Cautioning leaning up in the saddle, Geralt grunted and said. "Mmhm."
"-like absolutely *nothing* is wrong."
Geralt walked Roach straight ahead. "You should really get a horse."
"Uhhhh yep. We tried that. It was carried off by a Griffon. You remember that?"
"You won't let me forget it."
"Well it was slightly traumatizing and by slightly I mean-"
"I told you not to become attached." Geralt closed his eyes for a moment, taking a breath and willing both his stomach to relax and for his eyes to stay focused on the road ahead.
"Yeah well about that. I did."
"Mmhm." Geralt said. He'd heard it all before. Jaskier was actually an accomplished rider.
"Well what if it had happened to Roach?"
Geralt smiled and reached out, patting the horse's neck in question. "She's too fat to be carried off by a Griffon."
"That didn't answer my question."
Geralt sighed. "I've had many a Roach, Jaskier. They don't live forever. Especially in my line of work."
"Exactly. The smart ones know to run and come back when called. The rest, well."
Hours might have passed. Geralt would later learn it was only but a short few before the world started to blur and stay that way. The foggy forest was damp, the air chilled, but Geralt only remembered being both hot and damp - and insufferably chilled. His grip soon became less direct on the reins and while Roach dutifully kept to the direction she was told, at times the mare would seem lost for what Geralt wasn't providing. Geralt wasn't aware of it, but Jaskier had his eyes steadily upon him, watching from behind as the Witcher lost more and more awareness.
Funny thing, fevers. They had a tendency to burn out rationality and leave a false sense of security behind, a leave of senses that disconnected a person from their own plight, unable to aide themselves purely because they weren't aware enough to. Even Jaskier's voice became such a comforting background noise that the Witcher stopped understanding him entirely and to do so would require far more strength and concentration than the lethargy of fever would allow.
But suddenly, the bard's voice was insistent.
The Witcher jerked his head up, straightening slightly in the saddle. As much as he could. And without thinking, he was reaching for a sword.
"Easy, easy-" Jaskier had quickly caught up to Roach and had her by the reins and it was only then that Geralt realized they'd stopped moving, that Jaskier had stopped the horse. The world was still moving, so he hadn't outright noticed. "Geralt, it's alright. Look at me now."
He couldn't. Not exactly. While he tried, the ground just past Jaskier had an uncomfortable way of shifting and blurring.
Jaskier's expression was a calm, but worried one. And he reached out, putting a hand on the Witcher's thigh. And his breath subtly caught. "We have to turn back. Find you a healer."
The delusional state of the fever slightly lifted enough for Geralt to recognize there was something fuzzily very wrong. And he nodded, turning Roach back the way they came. But he didn't quite make the turn. Slipping from the saddle, slowly, Geralt didn't realize his seat was off until he was falling to the ground.
It actually didn't hurt, even though he hit the ground hard enough to slightly knock the wind out of his lungs. And his eyes weren't on the overcast gray skies more than a mere moment before his bard was blocking the view, worried blue eyes trying to catch his own. "Geralt?" The bard looked back, over his shoulder. "Roach! Where are you going? Oh for-"
Jaskier was gone and Geralt grunted, deciding to stay exactly where he was. He'd come back, Geralt told himself. Of course he'd come back.
And he did, with Roach in tow, reaching for Geralt to haul him to his feet. "Come on Geralt. You have to-"
A boot slipped and reflexively Geralt grasped Jaskier's arm harder to right himself. It only sent them both to the ground, although Jaskier managed to mostly keep his own feet. Mostly. The silk knees of his trousers still hit the ground.
Jaskier let out a breath and suddenly he was much closer, chest to Geralt's back as he leaned down and spoke in his ear. "Geralt listen to me. You have to get up. Come on now, love. Give it everything you've got. Roach is right here."
Geralt lifted his head wearily and looked up at the horse. Jaskier was right. She was close enough to touch. So he nodded and held out a hand for Jaskier to take. And the bard's hand was right there, taking his from underneath and grasping it in a strong grip. "Up we go now, Geralt. Come on-"
It wasn't easy but Geralt was determined and Jaskier twice as. And somehow, somehow the two of them - or rather the three of them - managed to get him up, onto Roach. But before he could question whether or not he could actually ride, hadn't he tried that once before, Jaskier was swinging a leg up - over the back of the horse and joining him behind the saddle, right against his back. Geralt didn't even have the time to be impressed, the Bard taking Roach's reins and scooting closer to the Witcher, until there wasn't even an inch between them. "Geralt listen to me-"
He did his best.
"If you fall now, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to stop you."
Noted. But he stopped Jaskier from turning Roach back for the village they'd just left. "Mire's End. That's where I was heading. The apothecary... to resupply. There's a town."
"Geralt there's nothing out there but a swamp."
The Witcher shook his head. "It's my only chance, Jaskier."
He wasn't sure why he'd said that. But it got the bard's attention, the man debating for a fraction of a conflicted moment before letting out a breath and turning Roach the opposite direction - and for the swamps. But not before raising a hand and putting it by the palm to Geralt's forehead. Geralt felt from the displeased breath that was nearly a curse that Jaskier wasn't pleased with what he felt.
The Witcher told the bard to ride hard. They were still a half a day away from Falen Vale and Geralt wasn't sure why he felt that was time he didn't have. But he knew, and he sensed Jaskier knew, that he was in a steep amount of trouble. Even if Geralt couldn't exactly clear his mind enough to know why.
Jaskier tried to stop a few times to get water down him but Geralt couldn't keep it down. And the bard stopped trying after the third attempt, holding the Witcher's hair back as he heaved the water right back up past his right boot, spitting his frustration into the dirt.
Geralt didn't see them reach Falen Vale. When the world started to fade from view and grow dark, as the sweet siren song of unconciousness and fever took him, he didn't see anything but a thick grove of forest and swamp - the sound of Roach's hooves hitting wet dirt and the mare's labored breathing the last thing he heard, following him into the dark. And he thought, vagualy he thought he heard Jaskier calling to him. But it was barely an echo by the time it reached his ears, too faint to chase back - into the light.
The Witcher would be told later, much later, that Jaskier would ride Roach right through the crumbling stone gates of Falen Vale - over uneven cobblestone, to the center of town. Well after dark, by only the light of torches to greet him, Jaskier had managed to keep Roach going without stopping, the lathered mare otherwise unharmed. He'd also, somehow, managed to keep an unconcious Witcher from leaving the saddle.
Geralt knew what Jaskier did not. That Falen Vale had once been a thriving and prosperous town, now literally being consumed by the swamp and prone to flooding, ghouls, and all manner of evil. They still had the best apothecary, despite much of the world forgetting that Falen Vale hadn't yet been consumed by both the swamp and evil itself. The town had also been a Witcher sanctuary of sorts. Falen Vale was old and isolated. Old enough to remember the Witcher's golden age of old and isolated enough not to succumb to the ignorance of their downfall. They knew of it, but they barely paid it heed.
Jaskier didn't stop at getting the Witcher to safety. Once Geralt was taken by the villagers to the local tavern, he was given a fresh horse and he rode into the night, for the apothecary. A short ride, but a treacherous one. And he brought the healer back to Geralt and to Falen Vale.
Geralt remembered, without awareness, a pain the likes of which felt as if he were being burned from the inside out. He remembered straps binding him down, strange hands on him - but also Jaskier's. At some point, Geralt knew the bard never left his side. He remembered his voice, talking to him - urging him to hold on, to keep fighting. So Geralt did. And then he remembered little but a very, very heavy weight of unconsciousness that felt at times restless and uneasy. It wanted him to succumb, it felt soothing when he did - but right. Healing. But the restless feeling was still there, a fever burning at him, provoking the Witcher to fight even if he shouldn't now. And then he'd hear Jaskier's voice, singing to him. And Geralt would let the soothing sound assuage his restlessness, back into the weighty feeling of sleep.
And so it went, for how long Geralt didn't know. But when he opened his eyes an untold amount of time later with an exhausted but renewed clarity; Jaskier was there. And the Witcher tried to reach for the bard but he didn't have to find the strength. Jaskier leaned forward and took his hand, pressing lips to his forehead with a breath that sounded both relieved and shaken, the bard resting his forehead lightly against Geralt's.
"What happened?" Geralt asked what felt like a long moment later.
"You..." Jaskier adjusted the piles of blankets Geralt realized were on top of him. "-apparently went 'toxic', according to the healer."
"Mmm." He'd thought so. It had probably started days ago. With his supplies depleted, the Witcher's plan was to restock at Falen Vale - treat himself with some White Honey and regain his footing. Apparently, he'd been too exhausted for the situation to resolve itself naturally. And the fever had robbed him of the ability to think clearly, to stop and realize what was happening until it was nearly too late. The potent concoction he'd taken the night before, during the fight with the wraith, had no doubt pushed him over into dangerous waters. Literally. A Witcher's body would react to toxicity with a fever, to burn it out. But if their bodies became chilled or too cold, there was no defense to be had.
"So you are going to rest for the next few days, longer if I can make you."
"It's not like I can argue." Geralt mused with a smile. "I can't even move."
Jaskier pressed another kiss to his forehead, lingering like he didn't want to move away. And that was just fine. The bard looked exhausted, Geralt could already feel sleep pulling him under. So he wearily reached for the man. "Come to bed with me, Jaskier."
The bard brushed his lips over Geralt's jaw and he didn't argue. Not even for a second, not even a little bit.