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Gentle-Sharp and Strange

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It seemed as though Pavetta’s betrothal had shaken loose something in Geralt’s brain. Or, no. Maybe that wasn’t it, maybe it was preparing for the banquet, letting Jaskier work nimble fingers through his filthy hair, passing a cloth so deftly over his aching shoulders. Geralt wanted nothing more than to forget it, but he was finding that he couldn’t stop thinking about it at all.

It wasn’t as though Jaskier was bringing it up. No, and maybe that was even worse, that to Jaskier it was nothing to think of, nothing to mention again. That for Jaskier it was so easy to touch him, to touch Geralt, and move on to the next town’s pretty lordling or maiden within the week. Not that Geralt was comparing himself to a pretty maiden, not that it was anything like that, but-- Fuck.

After the banquet, it seemed as though Jaskier had decided for the both of them that they were traveling companions. Geralt wanted to mind. He tried very much to mind. He tried to miss the solitude, the quiet of travelling the forests alone, Roach whuffling at his ear. He tried to yearn for the nights spent staring into a fire, only his bedroll for company. But every time he thought of it, there was Jaskier, inserting himself into Geralt’s thoughts. He had somehow fitted himself so neatly into the seams of Geralt’s life. There he was complaining about the roots under his ridiculous silken bedroll, there again trying ineffectually to help Geralt fish for dinner. There, grinning brightly when he was able to find work and buy them both giant tankards of ale.

Frankly, it was a little terrifying how easily he had inserted himself into Geralt’s existence. Geralt briefly considered the possibility that Jaskier was a diabolical creature, perhaps keeping Geralt locked in some kind of fantasy world as he slowly fed on Witcher’s blood. But no, that would have been far too easy. And so, Geralt was forced to accept that this was reality, and that, in all likelihood, he was the problem. This was, after all, consistent with everything else in his life. The weird mutant, the touch starved freak, obsessing over the vagaries of human contact, the things that real humans navigated without a second thought. Wonderful.

They hadn’t eaten well for several nights, so it was a relief when Geralt was able to clear out an infestation of lake Anchutla in exchange for a meal, a room, and enough coin to see them through a few weeks. Jaskier was bright and pleased, debuting a new song at the local inn. He was in his element, dipping and cavorting through the crowd to perch on a barstool beside Geralt, and, much to Geralt’s deep embarrassment, singing the last four verses of the song directly to him. Geralt tried as best he could to hide his face in his tankard, but it was no use. People were cheering.

Afterward, Jaskier shrugged at him, impish and unrepentant. His cheeks were bright, his throat fluttering delicately as he caught his breath, and Geralt felt his gaze drawn to that smooth, fragile place as though he was bewitched. Jaskier quirked an ironic brow at him, drew one pale hand up and, for just a moment, cupped it around the point of Geralt’s jaw. It was gone within an instant, and then Jaskier was bounding away to chat with his adoring fans, leaving Geralt reeling. Geralt felt the ghost of that touch for the rest of the evening, until he fled for his bedchamber, unaccountably discomfited. It didn’t mean anything, though. It couldn’t.

A week later it was back to the forest for them, and Geralt was nursing an incredible headache after a standoff with a disgruntled Nachtraven. The raven’s eyes were lethal to humans, but Geralt had some resistance and had, as such, decided to forgo the usual precautions, a cloth over the eyes and a sweetly singing nightingale. He was regretting it now, slightly, though the nightingale part was just nonsense.

He had been resigned to spending a night in skull crunching agony, and so it was deeply surprising when he felt an uncharacteristically quiet Jaskier shift beside him, moving to sit just behind Geralt’s head where he lay on his bedroll, trying not to suffer too loudly. Jaskier didn’t say anything, but his hands came to rest on Geralt’s temples, light and soothing against the grinding ache in Geralt’s skull. He was taken aback, but he couldn’t bring himself to shake Jaskier’s hands off when they felt so cool and sweet, like dipping his forehead into a mountain stream.

“There,” Jaskier murmured, and then Geralt’s head was cradled in his lap, somehow. Geralt blamed the headache, because there was no way in absolute hell he ever would have allowed Jaskier to take such a liberty, otherwise. And yet--. And yet, Jaskier’s fingers found Geralt’s aching temples, and the press of his thumbs was a balm, a quieting of the agony that made Geralt press up into the touch like a needy puppy, hating himself even as he made a tiny, wanting sound. The relief was almost a pain of its own, for Geralt felt suddenly that he would do anything, if Jaskier would just keep touching him. An ache tightened his chest and he felt unbearably bereft, waiting for the moment when Jaskier would spring away on a laugh, making a joke, or worse, look down at him with that combination of pity and revulsion with which Geralt was so familiar. He couldn’t bear the thought of it, squeezed his eyes shut against the eventuality.

Jaskier didn’t say anything, though, and he didn’t move. Geralt felt him making himself comfortable, leaning back against the trunk of a tree and working his fingers over Geralt’s scalp. Jaskier was silent, but his breath was even and sweet, the pulse in his wrist steady against Geralt’s cheek as he pressed in with the heel of his hand. Geralt didn’t know how much time passed like this, but eventually, he managed to sleep, Jaskier holding quiet vigil above him.

The next morning Jaskier was already packing up camp when Geralt awoke, and he said nothing about the previous night. It might almost have been a dream, but for the faint whisper of a headache that lingered, long after they were back on the road. Geralt didn’t mention it either, but he thought that maybe, when Jaskier brushed by him to fill Roach’s saddlebag, their arms pressed together for just a moment longer than they would have, before. He didn’t know what to make of that. He didn’t know what to make of any of it.

A few weeks later, they were laid up for the night in a spa town not far from Novigrad, where Jaskier had been booked to perform at some absurd thermal bath opening festival. Jaskier dragged Geralt along to partake of the baths after his performance, muttering something about protection that Geralt did not understand at all until they were disrobing together in the dim light of the changing alcove.

“Here’s the thing,” Jaskier said, idly fussing with Geralt’s collar. “I could use your pretty little grimace, tonight.”

Geralt slapped his hands away and tugged the shirt over his head, as much to hide his face as anything else. When he emerged, Jaskier was gazing at him consideringly, and without any subtlety at all.

“Being well-fed suits you,” Jaskier said, pressing his knuckles thoughtfully against his lips. Geralt couldn’t help the way his eyes automatically tracked the movement, Jaskier’s fingers so pale against his pink mouth.

He turned away, his own mouth suddenly dry, and busied himself with removing his trousers and smallclothes. Jaskier tossed a cloth at his back and Geralt caught it underhanded, before it could hit the ground. He heard Jaskier’s little intake of breath but couldn’t parse it, and didn’t turn quickly enough to read it upon Jaskier’s face. When he did turn around, Jaskier was wearing his own cloth, loosely cinched about his hips in a manner that Geralt found frankly obscene, and his face was smooth, unmarred by any fleeting hints of emotion.

Geralt firmly told himself that he had absolutely no interest in drinking in the sight, but there was Jaskier, so milk pale and freckled before him. The lines of his body were so lithe and so slender, an acrobat’s form with strength and grace alike in its lean muscle. Geralt could see the faintest line of ribcage and hip, the delicious soft curve of Jaskier’s belly. He found himself licking his lips, mouth suddenly dry.

“Damn you, Witcher,” Jaskier said crossly, breaking the spell. “You needn’t glare so disapprovingly at me. We can’t all look like Elder gods.” He rapped Geralt on the bicep, twice, thrice, and Geralt felt it flex, totally without his input. “There are plenty who go in for my looks, you know,” Jaskier continued, primly.

“I wasn’t--” Geralt started, hot and irritated.

“Oh, nevermind that,” Jaskier said. “Come on, this is good, actually. I need you to look really unpleasant for me.”

Geralt frowned at Jaskier, even though he knew he was playing right into Jaskier’s stupid, pretty hands.

“Yes, just like that,” Jaskier said, predictably. “Sir Boris is here, and he’s been slavering over me like a jackal all evening. I moved his hand off my thigh three times during the banquet. Three! And that was before they even served the entree.” He turned away and caught Geralt by the arm, flashing a grin over his shoulder at Geralt so bright and open and pleased that Geralt wanted to weep.

“I was so glad when you came over and grunted at me over the soup,” Jaskier continued. “Scared the life out of Boris, you did. Do that again if he simpers at me, will you?”

“I’m not your servant,” Geralt said, though in truth he was relieved to be back on firmer footing. Jaskier was still holding onto his arm, and Geralt was very carefully not moving.

“Obviously not,” Jaskier said, and yanked him toward the door to the baths.” He glanced back once more, and said quietly, devastatingly quietly, “You’re my friend.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said, and followed Jaskier through the door. It really was the best option, when the alternative seemed like it was probably prostrating himself on the floor before Jaskier, begging him to keep touching Geralt forever. And wasn’t that just great.

Inside the baths, the air was thick, heavy with perfumed oils and herbs strewn in the water. It was dim, lit by sweetly-smoking candles set into the rough stone walls of the chamber. A corner of the room seemed to have been given over to assignations, judging by the telltale and rather enthusiastic sound effects. Geralt’s gut twisted at that, but Jaskier led them in the opposite direction, to a deep corner bath where a handful of noblemen were resting on submerged stone benches, breathing in the steam. An attendant held up a cloth privacy screen as Jaskier made his way into the murky water, his waist cloth falling to the floor as he stepped free of it. Geralt found the whole affair vaguely but unsettlingly disappointing. He didn’t bother with such formalities for himself, letting the cloth drop away from his body as he stepped down into the water.

“Show off,” Jaskier hissed at him, sounding a little winded.

Geralt looked down at him and shrugged, but he felt the corner of his mouth tugging up ever so slightly. Jaskier’s eyes were wide and dark, a sheen of sweat catching the light on his fair brow.

“What was that you said earlier?” Geralt said, somewhat in spite of himself. “About Elder gods?”

“Oh, you--” Jaskier started, and he was biting down on his lip, so plump and pretty and wet.

“Jaskier,” Geralt rasped, and then --.

“Oh, Jaskier, I hoped I’d find you here.” A man ducked past Geralt, completely heedless of what Geralt had until now considered his fairly intimidating bulk.

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“Boris,” Jaskier said flatly. “What a wonderful surprise.” He made a face at Geralt, somewhere between help me and oh, this fucker. Geralt was well acquainted with both expressions.

“Is this lout bothering you?” Boris asked, stretching out comfortably beside Jaskier on the bench. He tossed an arm over Jaskier’s shoulder and Geralt felt his teeth grinding together, which was frankly kind of ridiculous and pathetic. His palms were aching, and he realized abruptly that he was squeezing his own fingernails into them, fists tight.

“Hey-” Geralt started, but Jaskier cut him off, shifting pointedly away from Sir Boris.

“This lout,” he said evenly, “Happens to be my muse, and my friend. Don’t impugn my muse, Sir Boris. Such behavior isn’t gentlemanly, when you share the company of a bard.”

“Well, I suppose he does have a rugged, barbaric sort of charm,” Boris said, eyeing Geralt in a manner that left his skin crawling. “But I could be your muse, you know. Share my company a little longer and I’ll show you.”

“That was my seat,” Geralt said abruptly, running out of patience. He sat down heavily half on top of Boris, shifting Jaskier out of the way with a bit more care. Sir Boris made an outraged noise and freed his leg, losing hold of Jaskier’s shoulder in the process. Geralt blinked slowly at him, leaning into Jaskier’s side. Jaskier’s skin was hot against his, so slick, so fragile. He could feel Jaskier’s ribs shifting as he breathed, short and fast.

“You were saying?” Geralt directed at Boris.

Well,” Boris said, sounding like he was gearing himself up for a tantrum. Geralt leaned toward him and made the face that Jaskier seemed to find so effective, until Boris whimpered.

“I wouldn’t,” Geralt said pleasantly, and then he grinned at Boris, showing his teeth. Boris yelped and splashed away, no doubt in search of easier prey. Geralt would have liked very much to punch him, but Jaskier was still pressed to his side, and he had just dipped his head to rest at the base of Geralt’s neck, tucked into the curve of his shoulder. His hair caught and dampened there, silk-smooth as it whispered against Geralt’s skin.

“Thanks,” Jaskier said quietly, looking up at him through his eyelashes.

“Hmm,” Geralt said, gazing back. He knew that he should shift Jaskier away, but he couldn’t bear to do it, couldn’t imagine the loss of that heat and weight at his side. Jaskier seemed unaware of his internal struggle, jostling companionably at Geralt’s shoulder as he settled in comfortably against him.

“That’s it,” Jaskier mumbled, and when Geralt looked down at him again his eyes were closed, the tension lines easing from his temples as he relaxed into Geralt’s side. “Very protective, extremely impressive.”

“Shut up,” Geralt said, but it probably wasn’t very intimidating when he was also carding his fingers through Jaskier’s hair, soft and hypnotic. He didn’t stop, even when Jaskier dozed off on top of him, a dead weight that sent his arm to sleep as Jaskier gently exhaled against his collarbone. Geralt thought, very carefully, that if life could be just this moment, forever, it might be almost perfect.

***

Geralt didn’t know if travelling with Jaskier was making him soft or if all the injuries had just blurred together, back when there was nobody to notice them. Probably the latter, sadly.

They were camping near a stream, and Jaskier had a pot of warm water nestled into the embers of their campfire, dipping a cloth into it as he pulled quills from Geralt’s chest and sponged away the blood.

“This is going to be difficult to sing about,” Jaskier said conversationally. He was working the barbed tip of each quill carefully out, nimble fingers playing lightly against Geralt’s skin as each one came slowly, agonizingly, free.

Jaskier’s fingers were maddening, light as a breath and just as fleeting as he quickly plucked away each barb. Geralt felt even more than usually trapped, hemmed in by both the pain of the quills and the weird, indescribable pleasure of Jaskier’s fingers bringing relief. He sucked in dry breaths, unable to control the restless motion of his eyes as they endlessly scanned Jaskier.

Jaskier was weirdly expressionless. Despite innumerable bad habits brought about by his affiliation with court, he generally wasn’t squeamish. Still, it was typically almost impossible for Jaskier to exist in silence. He had, Geralt often thought, an almost pathological need to fill it.

Not so now, when Geralt would have welcomed the safe, mindless chatter most. Geralt cleared his throat, licked at his dry lips. His voice cracked when he spoke, coming out rough and gravelly.

“Thanks.”

Jaskier’s fingers stilled, coming to rest just adjacent to Geralt’s nipple. Geralt could feel the hot thrum of Jaskier’s pulse in his fingertips, each one a tiny brand against his skin.

“Well,” Jaskier said, and there was something delicious and dark in his chuckle. “Have to keep you alive, don’t I?”

“Hmm,” Geralt said, and Jaskier’s fingers flexed upon his chest as he laughed again.

“Anyway,” Jaskier said lightly, and resumed his plucking. “Saying thank you is a definite improvement.”

Later, when the sun had dipped low and rosy over the horizon, and the water in the pot had gone cool, Jaskier proclaimed that Geralt was free of quills.

“Hang on,” he chided, when Geralt made to sit up. “Yes, extremely muscle-y, very impressive indeed,” Jaskier said, not sounding impressed at all. He shoved Geralt back down, though not un-gently. Geralt glared uncharitably at him, his abdominal muscles twitching as though just to spite himself.

Jaskier smirked. “Let me just clean you up, and then you can be free of me.”

Geralt made a face at him. “I’m fine.” The truth was, this situation was the opposite of fine. It was maddening. It was unbearable, Jaskier so close and in so much contact with his skin.

“You very much are not fine,” Jaskier said firmly, unmoved by Geralt’s expression. Then, more quietly, “Please just let me.”

It was totally irrational and entirely out of character, but Geralt did just that. An uncharitable observer might have said that Geralt melted back down onto his bedroll, though Geralt promptly would have leapt up and punched them. Still, there was something terrifyingly freeing about just letting Jaskier do as he pleased.

“That’s good, you’re very good, “Jaskier said, warm and pleased, and then he was wringing out the cool cloth over Geralt’s belly, and Geralt found himself suddenly, mortifyingly, aroused beyond belief. He felt his cock filling, his skin suddenly too tight as the water dripped down his belly to pool at the top of his trousers. He was hyper aware of Jaskier’s arm brushing his shoulder, maddeningly light and thoughtless. Geralt shifted in a panic, trying to escape before Jaskier became witness to his shame, but Jaskier was very unhelpfully blocking him, leaning over Geralt’s chest, one arm pressed into the bedroll to hold himself up as he ran the cloth carefully over each cut on Geralt’s chest. Jaskier seemed deeply focused on his task, totally unaware of, or maybe just uninterested in, Geralt’s reaction to it.

“Stop fussing,” Jaskier said distractedly. “Just let me finish.”

Geralt sucked in a breath, trying very hard not to think about Jaskier finishing all over him. He summoned every shred of his considerable willpower, trying with all his might to calm his unruly bodily reactions. It was hopeless. Jaskier smelled so good, felt so soft and sweet and alive tucked in close to Geralt. Geralt felt sweat beading at his brow, trickling down his hairline. He gulped air, suddenly breathless.

“There,” Jaskier said finally, and at last he was releasing Geralt, twisting away to wring out the cloth. Jaskier clambered to his feet, knitting his fingers together and flexing them with a groan that Geralt felt deep in his groin.

“It’s your turn to cook, but I’ll graciously allow you to clean the rest of that blood off of yourself instead,” Jaskier said charitably. He had already turned toward Roach and was rummaging through the saddlebags, digging out provisions.

Geralt didn’t, couldn’t say anything. He fled to the stream, and lasted just long enough to shed his filthy clothes and take himself in hand, silent and mortified. He spent into his palm moments later. He stood for a moment, panting quietly, and thought, What the fuck was that?

Once he’d caught his breath he waded directly into the chilly water, waiting for clarity to return. It wasn’t forthcoming.

After that, it was as though Geralt was cursed. Jaskier would no sooner look at him than Geralt would feel the prickling tease of arousal. The brush of Jaskier’s sleeve, the sound of his breath, the slightest provocation had Geralt shifting miserably in his seat, or worse yet, ducking out to deal with the problem before it became too apparent. Geralt had always known himself to be in complete control of his own body, and so this was maddening, and a little bit terrifying, too. It didn’t make any sense: Geralt of Rivia, the Butcher of Blaviken, the slayer of kikimore and cockatrice, undone by this waifish slip of a bard. It kept Geralt awake at night, until his days were a haze of exhaustion and constant arousal.

It all came to a head in Oxenfurt. Jaskier loved Oxenfurt. He was even more lively than usual, dragging Geralt to shops and poetry recitations, ale tastings and alchemical lectures. Geralt had collected several lucrative postings from the alderman, and so they were comfortably lodged in an empty lecturer’s chamber. It was small, but warm and possessed of a single comfortable bed. Geralt had largely given up on sleep, terrified of waking up to find that he had reached out for Jaskier in his sleep, and so everything was a blur of exhaustion. Jaskier seemed concerned about it, but after Geralt snapped at him for the third time, ceased trying to figure out what was wrong.

There was a ball to attend that night, some sort of gala in celebration of the local arts in which Jaskier was to perform. Geralt had blearily acquiesced to the dual pleasure and crippling embarrassment of allowing Jaskier to dress him. Jaskier had flickered golden in the candlelight, humming contentedly as he fussed with Geralt’s shirt. He’d made Geralt sit on the floor while Jaskier perched on the bed behind him, painstakingly combing Geralt’s hair until Geralt was at once boneless and aching, his head lolling back into Jaskier’s hands. Jaskier’s quiet, pleased noises had been honey on Geralt’s ears, and he could easily have stayed there forever, had he not noticed that, for fuck’s sake, he was aching hard in his breeches again. He leapt up unceremoniously and bolted for the privy, face flushed with shame.

“I guess we’re done, then,” he heard Jaskier call after him bemusedly.

Geralt thunked his head against the privy wall a few times, but that didn’t do anything except give him a headache to go along with his erection, so he gave up, reaching into his breeches and jerking himself off fast and hard. Geralt thought of Jaskier’s hands in his hair, on his skin, and that was all it took. He came hard, shuddering as his hips bucked helplessly. It never felt like much of a relief, though it at least made things bearable for a time. At least Jaskier didn’t say anything when Geralt slunk back into the room afterward, though he did look puzzled.

The gala was largely what Geralt had expected, garishly clad nobles hobnobbing with robed academics while eating insultingly tiny foods. He wandered aimlessly after Jaskier, eating and drinking whatever came into his field of vision.

“Ah, Geralt,” Jaskier said, startling him from his reverie. “Triss here says she’s an old friend of yours?”

Geralt looked up, startled. Sure enough, Triss Merigold was standing before him, looking him over with a giant smirk. She was resplendent in green silk robes, her eyes dancing bright with mischief.

“Why Geralt! She exclaimed delightedly. “You’re looking--” She faltered, examining him. “Well, you’re looking terrible, actually. Are you ill?”

“I’m worried he’s been poisoned,” Jaskier confessed, sounding vindicated. “But he’s been very unhelpful about it. I assumed his witcher--” Jaskier fluttered his fingers at Geralt’s person “--witcher whatever would work it through his system, but he’s getting worse. He’s been running off to be sick at all hours.”

“I--” Geralt started, then promptly gave up. “Hmm.” Triss and Jaskier were sharing matching mulish expressions as they stared him down. “I’m fine?” he finished, lamely.

“I specialize in healing magic,” Triss told Jaskier, ignoring Geralt. “I’m borrowing an office while I’m here. Shall I take him there and run a diagnostic while you’re performing your set?”

“Geralt, your friends are, as a rule, far too good for you,” Jaskier said, though he softened it by passing a hand over Geralt’s cheek. “Please, just let her put my mind at ease.”

“Fine,” Geralt said gruffly, not able to look at Jaskier. Triss snorted and grabbed him by the hand.

“Come on, then. Let’s see what’s gotten into you.”

Triss’ office was blessedly dark and quiet. She puttered around it, lighting candles and coaxing the fireplace to life with a murmured spell. Geralt sighed at the sudden warmth, lowering himself tiredly into one of a pair of chairs angled before the hearth.

“So,” Triss said conversationally, coming to perch in the chair beside Geralt’s. “You have a problem.”

“I’m fine,” Geralt said wearily. He wanted nothing more than to doze off here, his limbs heavy with exhaustion.

“You aren’t fine,” Triss countered, “But you aren’t ill either, magical or otherwise.”

“Quite a fast exam,” Geralt said, staring into the flames.

Triss scoffed. “Please. I did that the moment I saw you out there. I’m not an amateur.”

“What then?” Geralt asked dully.

“Well,” Triss mused, stretching out in her chair. “You’re an idiot, for one thing, and for another, you’re in love with that man.”

Geralt spluttered, suddenly wide awake. “I’m not--” he started, shaking his head frustratedly. “I’m not in love with anyone.”

Triss snorted. “See, you’re an idiot. You were looking at him like you wanted to eat him alive. And when I touched his arm, I thought you were going to throw me off a ledge.” She grinned at him, as easy and mischievous as ever. “He seems very amenable to your charms, if you ask me.”

“That’s not love,” Geralt said frustratedly. “It’s just an attraction. It’s an itch I can’t scratch.”

“Sure,” Triss said dubiously, pinning Geralt with her gaze. “So why didn’t you?”

“Why didn’t I what?” Geralt replied. It came out sounding irritated, but Triss seemed unfazed.

“Scratch the itch,” she clarified. “I’ve never known you to be shy. If you wanted a tumble, why didn’t you ask him for it, or at least go find someone else to bed?”
“Because I didn’t just want it once,” Geralt shot back, and then felt his own words sink in. “Oh,” he said. “Shit.”

“Yep,” Triss said, sounding triumphant. “You’re in love with him.”

“Shut up,” Geralt said mulishly.

“No,” Triss replied sweetly. “Now, do you want my help or not?”

“No,” Geralt said, and then admitted, “Yes.”

Triss looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, her expression suddenly soft. When she spoke, the mocking lilt in her voice was gone, replaced by something closer to understanding.

“I do think this is real,” she said, and cleared her throat. “Anyway. First we drink, then I tell you the plan.”

“There’s an old courtly tradition,” Triss told Geralt, a few drinks later. The drinks had supposedly been to give Geralt courage, though Triss had kept up pint for pint with gusto. “Your lad will know it; it’s in so many old ballads. There’s an Elven song that must be played-- I’ll ask the quartet to play it at midnight. When they do, you must look to Jaskier and hold his gaze until the second refrain. This is your offer to him. Then, you must wait for his response. If he turns away, you must accept this, but if he comes to you, well.” Triss chuckled. “If he comes to you, then he has accepted your suit, and you must make good upon it.”

“That’s stupid,” Geralt said flatly, feeling vaguely nauseous.

Triss shrugged. “It’s an old Elven tradition. The stories say that a bond asked for and accepted at midnight under a new moon is forged as though laid in steel.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “But it’s also just a nice gesture, and I think Jaskier would be pleased by it.” She finished off her ale, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “If you don’t believe me, just wait for the first notes of the song, and see if he looks instinctively toward you. I think he will. I don’t think he’ll be able to help it.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said. Something was coming to life in his chest, something dangerous. It felt embarrassingly similar to hope.

“Enough wallowing now,” Triss said, and stood, yanking Geralt up by his hand. “Get out please.” She smiled, sudden and sweet. “Look to Jaskier, at midnight.”

The next hour passed interminably slowly, an endless stream of smalltalk and deeply annoying courtly pleasantries. Geralt tried every tiny food, though they might as well have been ash in his mouth. Jaskier danced with three different women and a strapping man, and each time Geralt felt his fist clenching tighter, until he felt his own knuckles pop. He ended up watching a potted plant instead, breathing slowly and deliberately and trying very hard to avoid catching even the tiniest glimpse of Jaskier, so well turned out in silver and blue. It wasn’t terribly effective.

Geralt wasn’t the only person who noticed, when the music changed at midnight. It was a striking sound, achingly soft and mournful in the face of the previous jig. Geralt heard the crowd’s hushed murmurs, the delighted giggles of the romantically inclined. He squeezed his eyes closed, considering. Things would be so much easier if he forgot about this ridiculous attraction, if he let Jaskier be alive and free to dance with whomever he pleased. Geralt knew that he was irritable and broken, that he would bring danger and sorrow to Jaskier’s life. He knew that Jaskier could not possibly be expected to want him.

And yet, when he squeezed his eyes closed, there was Jaskier again. There, seated before him in the saddle and jostling him companionably, there again tucked into a bedroll beside him, the curve of his shoulder pressed in close to Geralt for warmth. There again, fingers so deft and careful, unlacing Geralt’s jerkin after a fight. There, there, always there. Always at Geralt’s side.

What could Geralt do but to open his eyes? And there, once again, there as ever, was Jaskier.

Jaskier stood half cloaked in shadow, hugging the edge of a candelabra ring of light. There was something almost regal in his bearing, something proud and noble about his posture. His body was tilted toward Geralt, straining toward him as though drawn by a magnet. His eyes were very wide, his expression very open. Geralt could imagine no world in which he could turn away from such a vision, and so he didn’t. He planted his feet and held Jaskier’s gaze, firm and direct. He saw Jaskier’s throat bob, his eyes, impossibly, widening even further. Geralt held his gaze, quite still.

The music changed, subtly. If the first refrain was a request, the second was a reply, a sighed note of concession. Jaskier cocked his head at the opening bar, then he was striding through the crowd toward Geralt, eyes fixed upon him all the while. Geralt waited motionlessly, pinned by the force of Jaskier’s gaze.

Jaskier came to a halt before him, cocking his head again consideringly. The light caught and gleamed on his hair, and Geralt swallowed.

“Geralt,” Jaskier began, “Do you have any idea what you’re doing right now?”

Geralt raised a brow in the general direction of the band. “Yes,” he admitted, wincing.

“Ah,” Jaskier said. “Excellent.” He stepped forward, crowding close into Geralt’s space. His hands came up to Geralt’s face, surprisingly gentle, and then he was tilting his sweet, pale face in close, and they were kissing, and everything around them stopped.

Geralt had tried very hard to refrain from imagining what it would be like to kiss Jaskier, but of course he had, so many times. The reality put his fantasies very sorely to shame. Jaskier was all heat and slender solidity inside the circle of Geralt’s arms, firm and insistent against him. He was full of confident authority, kissing with a delicious thoroughness that left Geralt reeling as Jaskier fitted their mouths together again and again. Geralt chased the exquisite little sighs that Jaskier was making, groaning at the darting slickness of Jaskier’s tongue. He wanted to fall to his knees and worship at the altar of Jaskier’s ridiculous mouth, wanted to find the words to beg him to please, please, never stop, wanted to --.

“Ahem,” Triss said, clearing her throat from beside them. “If you could stop kissing for just a moment.”

“No,” Geralt gritted out, directly against Jaskier’s mouth. Jaskier laughed delightedly, and kissed him again, like a reward. Geralt chased it, pressing in closer.

Triss snorted, loud enough to be very distracting. “First, you should go find somewhere private, this is rapidly becoming indecent. Second, look around. You froze everyone.”

Geralt blinked a few times, slowly becoming reacquainted with his surroundings. Evidently the feeling that everything around them had stopped in its place was, well. It was exactly what had happened. The entire gala was caught as though turned to stone, mid dance, mid conversation, mid strum of the lute. It seemed much more important, though, that, Jaskier’s mouth was kiss swollen and red and so close to Geralt’s, and he was palming Geralt’s ass with great efficacy and intent.

“It’s the courting ritual,” Triss cut in again. “You activated the magic of it, somehow. I should’ve known you’d get into trouble. Just stop touching for a moment and they’ll unfreeze.”

Geralt was deeply affronted at the idea of ever not touching Jaskier again. He fixed Triss with a glare, trying to convey as much. Triss glared back, unfazed.

Jaskier sighed against him, then chuckled, warm and easy. He looked deliciously rumpled, cheeks flushed, erection prominent against the line of his breeches. He didn’t seem at all embarrassed, which was both typical and very attractive. “Just think about how much better this will be once we’re naked,” he murmured, and with that he slipped out of Geralt’s embrace.

The party came back to life around them, and Jaskier reached out and caught Geralt by the hand once more. “Come along,” he said, quiet and sweet. “I’m taking you to bed.”

It seemed impossible that they would ever make it back to their room, for there were just so many dark corridors to duck into, grinding against one another while leaned against a wall, ducking away to the tune of Jaskier’s peals of laughter when someone walked past. By the time they burst into their little bedchamber, Geralt felt ready to explode, desperate with want. He backed Jaskier up against their door and pressed close, lining up their erections.

Fuck, Geralt, you’re so good,” Jaskier panted, dappling kisses down the length of Geralt’s throat.

Geralt made a strangled noise somewhat against his will, shifting against the length of Jaskier’s body. “How do you--?” he started.

Jaskier’s hands had found their way to Geralt’s shoulders, and he pressed them there, cutting Geralt off. “Hush,” he said, “Let me take care of you.”

“You don’t have to,” Geralt said, suddenly mortified. “I can-- you don’t need to feel obligated.”

“Hah!” Jaskier said, cutting him off again. “As though you could make me, if I didn’t want to. Geralt.” He brought his hand up to the base of Geralt’s skull, threading his fingers through the fine hairs at the nape of his neck. “I am telling you now that I’m going to take care of you, because it will bring me great and exquisite pleasure to do it. And you are going to let me do it,” he added, and accentuated it with the slightest twist of his fingers in Geralt’s hair, “And you are going to like it very much.”

“I,” Geralt started, and then Jaskier did the thing with his fingers again, and his head fell back, neck exposed as he gasped hard against Jaskier’s touch. “fuck.”

“That’s right,” Jaskier said appreciatively. “Pity you just bathed. I’d like to help you with that again. Ah.” He pressed Geralt backward, toward the bed. “There’s always time for that afterward.”

“Afterward?” Geralt said. He couldn’t quite bring himself to hope, but something traitorous was unfurling in his belly.

Jaskier sighed and cupped Geralt’s face in his hands, kissing him hard. “Yes,” he said firmly. “Afterward, and again and again after that. If you’re amenable.”

“I,” Geralt choked out. “Yes.”

“Good,” Jaskier said, and pressed Geralt down onto the bed, fingers nimble upon the laces of his trousers.

Geralt had thought this first time would be over in a desperate rut, neither of them lasting more than a few moments. He had, it seemed, underestimated Jaskier. Jaskier seemed dedicated to totally devastating Geralt, running his hands over every inch of Geralt’s skin, chasing his fingers with the press of his lips. He made Geralt turn onto his belly and dug his fingers into Geralt’s back, massaging his tired muscles until Geralt was a writhing, boneless heap, desperately aroused and unbelievably relaxed all at once. He thought he would weep when Jaskier finally ushered him back onto his back, lining their bodies up for one delicious moment before sliding down to mouth at the fragile skin of his inner thigh, breath warm on Geralt’s cock.

“I have thought about this so much,” Jaskier said conversationally, fingers dancing over Geralt’s thighs. He was staring intently at Geralt’s erection with unconcealed delight. “I hoped you’d be like this, that you’d let me have you. Have you been with a man, before?”

Geralt nodded, words proving very difficult when Jaskier’s mouth was so very close to his cock. “Yes,” he managed, finally. “Just hands and mouths.”

“Hmm,” Jaskier said, and his lips were so close that Geralt felt the vibration against his cock, moaning with the desire to feel Jaskier’s mouth upon him. Jaskier’s fingers were pressed over his hips, holding him still. Geralt could have freed himself, but why, when this was so perfect?

“Will you let me fuck you?” Jaskier asked, and finally, finally mouthed over the head of Geralt’s cock.

Yes,” Geralt said vehemently, and then Jaskier’s mouth was hot and tight around him, and Geralt thought no more until he was coming with a shout into Jaskier’s willing mouth, Jaskier’s slick fingers twisted neatly inside him.

An hour and several orgasms later, their pace had slowed. Jaskier was holding his own admirably, his breath coming slow and even in time with his deep, sure thrusts. The first few times had been rapid, almost frantic, neither of them lasting long after Jaskier was inside Geralt. Finally, they seemed to have taken the edge off of their desire, and Geralt was able to enjoy the steady, insistent press of Jaskier’s cock inside him, the smell and feel of Jaskier all around him. Jaskier was lifted up on his palms, thighs warm against Geralt’s as he worked his hips, pressing ever deeper. Geralt felt entirely boneless, his body irrelevant but for the delicious fullness of being fucked by Jaskier.

Jaskier was a vision above him. His eyes kept fluttering closed, his lashes long and fair. He’d drag his eyes back open a heartbeat later, as though unwilling to miss a moment of their coupling. His expression was dark with want, his mouth parted slightly as he hummed his approval. HIs hands were fisted tightly into the bed coverings, which they had already basically ruined. He kept saying Geralt’s name, soft and pleased, and Geralt could feel it all through his body, every time. Geralt came, this time, with Jaskier’s hand circled around his cock, Jaskier’s erection pressed deep and firm inside him, Jaskier’s eyes locked on his. For a time, he knew nothing else, lost in their moment of shared release.

When Geralt regained his senses, Jaskier was sprawled on top of him, muttering contentedly into Geralt’s chest. His fingers were moving slowly, hypnotically over Geralt’s skin, cataloguing every inch of him.

“Don’t you ever get tired?” Geralt asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

Jaskier hummed thoughtfully, but didn’t cease his exploration. “I’m not certain if you’re going to come to your senses and throw me out of bed,” he said, and while it sounded easy, Geralt could feel the tension in his body. “So I decided I would savor what I could, before that.”

“I--what?” Geralt frowned at him, then thought better of it and decided to use his most effective skill-set. He flipped them easily, so that Jaskier was bracketed inside the frame of his arms. Geralt ducked close, pressed his mouth to the shell of Jaskier’s ear.

“I don’t want you to leave,” he admitted, scarcely above a whisper.

Jaskier shivered, which was very good, and so Geralt just had to nip at his earlobe, making him shiver again, luxuriously. “Ah,” Jaskier said, half on a gasp. “Ah, that’s very good then. Good.”

Geralt flopped down on him, careful to avoid any organs necessary for breathing. It seemed practical to make panicked fleeing less of an option. Jaskier just sighed and curled into him, though, the tension melting out of his frame.

“I don’t care about you fighting monsters, or pretending not to get involved in human squabbles and then getting very involved in them,” Jaskier said, a moment later. “Just so you take me with you, and let me patch you up after. Can you do that?”

“Hmm,” Geralt said, and thought for a moment about the exquisite rightness of that.

“Hmm,” he said again, and then, “Yes.”