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When Paths Meet Again

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“Right.”

 

“Uh, right then.”

 

“I’ll- I’ll go get the rest of the story from the others.”

 

“See you around, Geralt”

 

The hardest thing Jaskier had to do that day was walk away. Grant the lone white wolf his one blessing and remove himself. His leadened body had carried him back to the campsite where he had collected his few modest belongings and prepared to leave. With the bundle in his arms, Jaskier remembered looking down to the dirt at his feet and spotting his lute staring up at him, its polished body shined under the setting sun. For a moment, he had only stared back, the instrument a seasoning of salt over his bleeding heart, but Jaskier forced himself to shake the trepid feeling away. He bent to slide his arm into the strap until the instrument rested over his shoulder and felt a brief comfort of its weight settling on his back. He couldn’t abandon it then. The lute was too much apart of him to leave it behind.

 

It was from then on that the days started to blend together, one constant stream of consciousness that had Jaskier dragging his feet along endless paths that led to nowhere in particular. He had no aim, no destination in mind, and the bard barely plucked at the strings of his lute like he usually would. Most hours were spent walking in silence, letting the birds above sing for him.

 

Jaskier found himself, more often than not, spending his nights curled up just off the path with nothing but his lute to keep him warmth. Thank Melitele that winter had already passed and that they were well into spring, or else Jaskier would have frozen to death by then. And if it wasn’t on the ground and he was lucky enough to stumble his way into a village, it would only take a brief scan of its inhabitants before Jaskier beelined for the tavern doors, or brothel, whichever was spotted first 

 

Inside, Jaskier was quick to throw his coin and drain the tavern of their Redanian Lager or Cintrian Faro or whatever stale, watered down ale that they served. Each flood of brew would rest heavily in his gut, but it would allow the bard to fool himself into a brighter disposition. One that let him forget everything that happened and just let him focus on the warmth in his cheeks. He’d soon be sashaying his way through the tables, bantering with the other patrons as they egged him on to play a song. It was during the first few successful bribes that Jaskier found himself wavering to pluck the strings of his lute. He wasn’t quite sure how to move his fingers away from the beginning chords that would carry the melody of the white wolf. 

 

Uncomfortable, the patrons witnessing Jaskier’s palpable hesitation muttered amongst each other before someone would knock their elbows into his side to rattle the bard from his haunting memories and force himself to be grounded back to the present moment. Like the flip of a coin, Jaskier was back with an achingly wide smile plastered to his face and belting out the songs he wrote before-, well, before everything.

 

Unsurprisingly enough, those songs were not what the crowd wanted to hear and Jaskier was rewarded with bread rolls and ale splashing onto his boots. With the rising commotion, the bard would make his quick escape and come morn, he would continue his wandering cycle, each time with his pockets lighter from spent coin. 

 

And he, the bard, being merely a man, would seek additional comfort between unthinkably unwashed sheets and the soft curves of a willing partner, sometimes one that earned their coin soon after. Jaskier prided himself in not rushing to the first open arms offered to him, but when the aching need for a touch of human contact simmered in his bones and the hovering reality that he was destined to be his own companion became too heavy to bear, Jaskier would chug the remnants of his beer and sidled up to the nearest bright-eyed beauty that his eyes landed on. But each time he did, he would wait longer and longer in between before he did it again.

 

This unremarkable routine of his lasted almost a full year, one that left Jaskier tired and near broke by the end. He was losing weight, his once pristine red doublet was now covered in dirt while threads were slipping from their seams, and that sparkle that once glowed within his seafoam eyes had become murky and grey. Despite it all, Jaskier couldn’t bring himself to stop. Everytime he thought about it, well, what then? What would he do? Any moment that lent a time to allow Jaskier to stop and think would only return the still shockingly vivid memory of being pushed away, and the mere idea of having to relive those few minutes was enough motivation to keep him moving. 

 

So, that is how he found himself drifting into Trottheim. Jaskier had been looking down at his boots, kicking a rock to fill the time. It was as the sun was setting once more that Jaskier tripped over that same rock along the path and caught himself on the sign post just outside the village. He looked passed the splintered wood and felt drawn in by the warm glow of burning torches at each door. It had been some time since he last meandered into a place inhabited by living, breathing people, and Jaskier would have given anything in that moment to rest his tired feet and wet his throat.

 

Jaskier rushed to the village and through the first tavern doors he saw where he sat at a table in the back. The tavern maiden, a plump woman with roughen corners who Jaskier was sure has kicked out her fair share of drunkards, sized him up as he walked in and frowned at his sorry state, but didn’t hesitate to follow with a flooded flagon of heavenly ale. By the time it was set before him, Jaskier was already requesting another. And with that came another, and another, and another, and yet another still. By the time he lifted an unsteady finger to request one for the road, the women braced her hand on her sturdy hips and returned a raised brow.

 

“We’ll see what ye get once ye pay for what ye owe.” 

 

Jaskier was a tad ashamed for the seconds that passed before her warning landed. 

 

“Right, yes!” His loosened state had him dragging the s out for longer than what was customary, and he dipped his fingers into his coin purse to scoop out the last few coins he carried. “Here you are, my good lady. The finest of coin for the finest of drink!” His attempt at a dazzlingly drunk smile was met with an unamused frown before the woman fisted the coin and stomped away. Jaskier’s smile drooped as she left and thus, promptly turned back to cradle his mug between his hands and occupied himself with a quietly hummed, improvised tune. As he lifted the lip of his drink to his mouth for another swig, Jaskier was interrupted by another woman sliding into the seat across from him.

 

“The instrument on thy back, that beauteous sound… Trottheim has not had a bard pass through its walls in quite some time.” The gold of her hair flickered warmly in the candlelit room, framing the honey toned skin of her face as it fell in relaxed waved. She smiled on an airy laugh as she reached across the table to help Jaskier lift his hanging jaw. “You must have come a long way to end up in a place like this, my dear bard.” Jaskier coughed into his hand after she slid her finger along his chin flirtatiously before pulling away.

 

“Hmm, ah, yes!” He cleared his throat, “Yes, I have travelled far and wide to land myself here. I find the open air lends its beauty to my verses, but I must admit, that beauty would not compare to the utterance of your name.” What luck, Jaskier thought. If he played his cards right, he’d have the chance to spend the night in a warm bed instead of on a damp pile of straw piled behind the stables like he originally planned. 

 

“Clever,” she praised on another laugh the offered, “Illaria.”

 

“My, it’s more sweet than any melody to ring past my ears!” Jaskier swooned, playing up his flirtations and maybe laying it on a bit thick, but he was too drunk to care.

 

“But I have only heard a sample of yours. Play me something, bard, one of your songs sweet with love” And like a bucket of cold water, Jaskier was awashed with uncertainty. No matter how drunk he was, the words of his songs showed clearer than a summer’s day in his head, and with them had come flashes of white hair and the painful memory he’d tried so hard to repress. Illaria immediately caught on to his sudden change in mood and extended a hand, covering his wrist in her soft grip. “Oh, you poor man, I have never seen such pain so close. Is it that love has wounded you?”

 

Jaskier looked down at his drink, a rare moment where he was at a loss for words. He was not ready to admit that truth. Illaria tightened her grip which drew Jaskier’s eyes back up to hers and he was met with a teasing smile. With him fully facing her, she leaned forward to push her bosom against her other arm resting on the table and ducked her chin to stare beneath her lashes. “If you cannot share you music, would it lift your spirits, dear bard, to make some music of our own?” 

 

She did not wait for an answer. She gracefully pushed back from the table and turned towards the tavern door. Jaskier, shocked and awed by her proposition, watched her walk a few steps before she turned around with a glint in her eye. 

 

“Come.” She invited, and what an invitation is was.

 

Jaskier jumped from his seat to follow, but stopped to chug the last of the warmed ale before pushing through the crowd to catch up. He playfully chased her through the night as she laughed and eventually pushed him through a door to what must be her home. The door closed behind her and Illaria stepped into Jaskier’s space. She rested her hands on his chest and spread her fingers against his doublet, applying a light pressure to feel the muscles in his chest. Jaskier reached for her waist, wanting to wrap her in his arms and feel their bodies pressed together, but she stopped him to carefully slide the lute off his frame and rest it gently next to the door. 

 

Jaskier appreciated her, not just as a beautiful woman about to sleep with him but as another person, for that small action. Most would have tossed his lute aside, uncaring for its state. Jaskier knew well that people with her kindness were few and far between. In their coupling, he would do his best to thank her.

 

With the lute safe and sound, Illaria didn’t hesitate to jump on him, her arms wrapping around his neck and her lips landing on his. Jaskier met her enthusiasm with his own and hugged her tightly to his body, letting his hands caress the sides of her hips up to her ribs and swoop in to pull at the ties of her bodice. Illaria mimicked him and used her hands to slip the buttons of his doublet and push the fabric off his shoulders. With her now in her flowing blouse and he in his loose undershirt, they both dived back into each other and let their hands explore.

 

Jaskier basked in the softness of her lips, her body, and her hair, all within his reach to explore and touch. His focus could be devoted to pleasuring her, something he knew well and it granted a small reprieve from his mind’s usual train of thought. And Illaria’s touch, the hand curling into his hair and the other slipping down his chest, Jaskier had craved for this kind of touch for so long. 

 

It was with her tongue tracing behind his teeth and fingers moving to pull at the strings of his pants, while Jaskier impatiently pulled up her skirt with the intention of slipping a hand underneath, when the door flew open. A burly man, bald, scarred, and almost as wide as he was tall, clamoured into the house with explosive fury.

 

“Ranuif!” Illaria squeaked as both her and Jaskier jumped back from each other and weakly tried to pull themselves together. The man, Ranuif, ripped his sword- a dirty thing in desperate need of cleaning- is that dried blood? - from its sheath and pointed it directly at the bard while circling to harshly shove his wife away. Illaria shot Jaskier a pitious look before turning away. She wouldn’t meet his eyes again that night. Jaskier shifted his gaze to the brute and raised his hands placatingly.

 

“Now, now. I do believe there has been a misunderstanding-!” The man all but roared, abruptly cutting Jaskier off.

 

“You think you can come here and fuck my woman?!”

 

“Well, you see- fuck !” If Jaskier chose a second later to move, he would have lost his outstretched hands. The sword swung inches from his body, and as it lodged itself into the neighboring furniture, the Bard took the opportunity to sprint towards the exit, ducking to grab his clothes and his lute before escaping to the street. He narrowly avoided another beast of a man waiting outside before he raced away. 

 

Jaskier heard the roar echo again behind him as the door slammed open, and he felt a horrid chill creep down his spine. Two sets of heavy footfalls stampeded behind him, evidence enough that the other man outside had joined the pursuit, and Jaskier felt his lungs burn as he pushed his body harder. There was a raging bark and a responding grunt playing out between the two men behind him, and Jaskier risked a look over his shoulder only to spy a single, hulking shadow meters from him. 

 

He pushed his body harder still, but a slight panic started to rise up his chest. Fuck, fuck, fuck , Jaskier needed to hide. He couldn’t outrun these men for much longer. This was like a deer being hunted by a griffin, two griffins, except Jaskier had lost all gracefullness from the many flagons of beer he knocked back earlier. A regret he may never get the chance to reflect on. Jaskier tried to add more distance between them and twisted to the right as he sprinted down the dimly lit street. 

 

Just down the road to the left was an open arch, a tunnel with a torch at its mouth like a beacon calling to the bard. Jaskier lunged for it, hoping to slip through the opening and take a chance to possibly hide beyond. He grabbed the edge with the hand not strangling the neck of his lute and used the momentum to twist his body ninety degrees. Before him was what appeared to be a modest dock at the other end. Maybe he could find shelter amongst the boats, at least until he lost them and snuck his way out of the village. The growing weariness settled heavy inside him, had sat with him for the endless months of travel he endured but chose this moment to fully rear its ugly head. Jaskier tripped over his feet, grabbing the wall to keep himself from falling and raced towards the dock.

 

He didn’t bother to take a moment to listen and see how far the two men were behind him. His focus was to push himself forward towards the exit. It was just as the worn leather of his boots passed through the arch that a solid force, feeling like a sack of bricks, rammed into his side and sent him tumbling in the dirt. Before he could even stop rolling, a large hand grabbed him by the shoulder and then fisted into his hair, leaving Jaskier to cry out as he was dragged back into the tunnel. 

 

The merciless tugging of his hair forced him onto his feet, and it held him up as a fist connected with his gut and his legs gave out. The bard tried to reach back to pull the hand away but his whole body was reared back into the wall and a dirty sword was lifted to his throat. Jaskier could only choke back his wheezing breath and look beyond the blade at the enraged bald brute before him, his lackey at Jaskier’s side. The man sneered before molding it into a slimy smile as he took in the bard.

 

“Such a dainty boy thought he could take what wasn’t his.” He mocked and Jaskier grimaced as his rancid breath fanned over his face. His friend barked out a laugh and tugged harder on Jaskier’s hair, forcing a wince. “I bet you his prick is shorter than my thumb!” Jaskier, being careful of the blade, angled his chin away as the other man dipped his face closer, “Ranuif’s woman would have laughed you out onto the street.” He barked another laugh and stepped back.

 

“There is a lesson for you to learn, bard, one methinks a sword would make too easy,” The blade was pressed hard enough into Jaskier’s skin to make it bleed, but pulled back before any life threatening damage could be done. The brute sheathed his sword but flew back in with another hit to Jaskiers gut, bowling him over with the impact. The other man tore his curling frame away from Ranuif and slammed him against the wall before kicking Jaskier’s legs out from under him.

 

“Wait-” he tried to plead, a weak hand reaching out, but a brutal kick struck his ribs and knocked him fully to the ground. He choked on his own spit as another kick audibly snapped a rib and whited out his vision. The men were relentless, laughing and knocking Jaskier’s body about like a bag of seed. They played with him, took turns on beating his body and mocked Jaskier with each blow. When one man grabbed his hair to lift him to his knees while the other kneed him in the chest, blood spurted from between Jaskier’s lips and dripped down his chin. He tried again to lift his trembling arms to block the next blow, but it did nothing to stop another solid punch from landing against his cheek. Jaskier crumpled to the ground,  and helplessly took the rest of their blows. 

 

Another swift kick carried the audible snap of the second rib to break that night, and Jaskier’s ears filled with high pitched ringing and his vision blacked out. Was this the end? Is this where Jaskier, the noble bard, was to lay his weary head? 

 

Unfortunately, Jaskier had blacked out for only a brief moment, and when he came to, he could feel hands tearing into his pockets. Hah, at least there was no coin to reward them, serves them right. He relished in the annoyed growl as the men came up without valuables but it was that one last kick to his battered his back that winded the bard, and the two men finally stepped back. 

 

Jaskier felt his body tremble uncontrollably on the cold ground and tried to focus enough to swallow the pooling blood in his mouth. A pluck of a string forced Jaskier to open an unfocused eye. He blinked passed the haze and stared at the Ranuif, a true beast, holding his lute. The man plucked another string, a sharp note whining in the night. He turned to Jaskier’s broken body and smirked.

 

“It’s a shame.” He looks to the lute in his hands before returned his gaze to Jakier, “but there’s no use for a bird that can’t sing, boy.”

 

No

 

Ranuif raised Jaskier’s lute, the one thing that, even if Jaskier couldn’t play the songs that made it really sing, kept him grounded no matter what happened or where he was, and the beast of a man swung it down and struck it against the ground. An awful pang screamed from the lute as its frame splintered and cracked, a string snapping on impact. The hand holding the neck dropped it and Ranuif slid out his sword from its sheath. Its ugly glint mocked Jaskier before it hammered down onto the lute and smashed through. A slight whimper escaped Jaskier’s lips as the broken instrument mirrored his broken body. Ranuif laughed at him, satisfied with his brutality and chose that moment to leave with his friend, both of them quick to disappear from sight.

 

Jaskier couldn’t look away from his lute. The tears welled up in his blood shot eyes and Jaskier prayed for his end. It’s gone. His lute, his coin, his worth . It’s all gone. Let him rest now, Jaskier all but begged the gods, let him rest, please . Pain thrummed through his body, a tidal wave that was too much to handle, and Jaskier succumbed to unconsciousness. He tried to blink his eyes back open to spot his lute one last time, but all was black before he could protest.

 


 

A soft whistling of wind tickled Jaskier’s hair against his face, and he squeezed his eyes before opening them. It was still dark, the late night having settled silently around him, and Jaskier took in the flickering shadows cast from a dying torch. He watched as the light played against shattered wood that rested a few feet away. That’s right, Jaskier thought, his poor lute. He attempted to lift a hand, wanting to reach out and graze a finger against one of its pieces, but the strain of stretching his muscles shot a searing pain down his spine. 

 

Fuck …” he whimpered into the dirt. His breath was shallow and he froze in hopes that the pain would subside. He yearned to take a deep, settling breath but expanding his chest, even the slightest bit, to fill his lungs felt like a blade digging into his side, broken ribs screaming in protest. But the fact remained, Jaskier knew he couldn’t stay here. The only outcome would either land him back in the hands Ranuif and his friend, or into the ones of worse men. Jaskier had been ok with dying before, but when presented with a choice, he knew he didn’t want to die here. If only he could say the same for his lute. 

 

Jaskier slowly curled his elbow and knees under himself, gasping for breath as he did, and pushed off the ground with a pained whine. He spit blood blindly onto the dirt as his body shook on all fours, and heaved another shakey breathe before smacking a hand to the wall. He used it to leverage his body up. Jaskier was lucky to catch himself as he slipped, knowing full well that if he fell again, he would not get back up. It felt like hours passed by the time he managed to get to his feet, body hunched over and an arm curled around his waist. The pain flared the whole way, flooding the bard with nausea bad enough that he almost threw up. 

 

Aborted steps jerked Jaskier towards the docks, aiming to navigate the outskirts of the village until he could sneak passed its borders, but not without a final glance to his lute. “I’m sorry.” He whispered, lip trembling as he forced himself to keep moving and finally leave the thing behind. 

 

It took a long while for Jasker to stumble out of Trottheim. Even in his weak state, he had to stay on high alert in case someone approached. With stubborn determination, he pushed through the outer brush along the edges of the village and dragged his feet back to the path. Each step became harder and harder to take the farther he travelled from the village. He stumbled and tripped, gasping at each jarring movement as it carried a new onslaught of pain, but he never stopped moving.

 

Jaskier wasn’t even focused on the pain in his body. No, his focus was drilling into the growing hole in his heart. He yearned for the comfort of his lute, and a tear slipped down his cheek, unbeknownst to him when it dawned over and over that he could never have that again. The tears fell faster and faster, and his breath took on an audible quiver as his thoughts grew heavier with his circumstance. The lute was so much more than an instrument. It held memories, the golden experiences of his life. He composed his future through it, shared with it his love of adventure and women and destiny and-

 

And-

 

Even now, in his less than sorry state, Jaskier couldn’t bring himself to think about the witcher who shaped his life. But his heart tightened like fine tuned strings because the lute was the last tangible evidence of his time with the man. Now, the witcher would fade away, leaving Jaskier uncertain as to whether it was all just some extravagant dream. 

 

The bard stumbled again, this time without the luck of catching himself, and fell heavily onto his hands and knees. He closed his eyes and tortured himself with a deep breath. He needed air, he needed a moment to fucking collect himself. By this point he was far enough from the village, but the vast wilderness surrounding him triggered the weight of how alone he really was. He let himself cry, cry for the loss and the pain, dropping his head to his dirtied hands and fisting his hair as the tears soaked his skin. If life wanted to show him any mercy, it would have let him die at the hands of those men, but she was a cruel mistress. She must be laughing at him now. If Jaskier was in her shoes, he would be doing the same.

 

A resounding snap in the surrounding brush pulled Jaskier from his tears, his hiccuped gasp ringing in his ears and he lifted his head and turned it in the direction from where the sound had come from. Jaskier struggled to hear anything over the sound of his breathing until another twig snapped and shuffling darted to his right. Jaskier didn’t move, couldn’t really, and shivered against the chill that graced his spine for the second time that night. 

 

Jaskier knew he was in danger before when Ranuif had chased him, but it was the adrenaline and drink that kept Jaskier from being immediately skewered at the end of his sword. But now, in his increasingly weakened state, Jaskier felt fear drip into his bones. He was the perfect meal for any ghouls or ghoblins lurking in the night, laid out like a feast for them to sink their teeth into. A third twig snapped, closer to Jaskier than he was expecting, and his hazy blue eyes widened as a reptilian like head revealed itself through the brush. 

 

It’s jaw hung loose, displaying many razor sharp teeth and a long, slithering tongue that lapped at it’s bloodied muzzle. The further is slowly creeped out, the more Jaskier was greeted with its dog like body, its four legs bent and tensed to lunge and its hairlessness showcasing its thin frame. The bones in its body seemed to be pressing through its skin, their knobby shapes casting shadows between each other, and there were stitch-like patterns along it’s shoulders and bronze shackles settled around it’s boney ankles. A full bodied growl jolted through Jaskier and caused his hands to slip underneath him, his body too weak and terrified to hold his weight. The beast ducked down further and released another growl, snapping its jaws in his direction.

 

Fate, you cruel bitch. She couldn’t have let Jaskier die by the hands of man, but instead let it be a vicious beast to tear his flesh from his limbs until his blood stained the Earth? Way to place the rotten icing on top of this fucking cake. And what was he to do to change that? Fight back? Jaskier would have laughed at the thought if he wasn’t so paralyzed by the monsters sickly yellow eyes. 

 

It prowled closer, the rumble in its chest never ceasing, and Jaskier felt the last of his energy drain. Maybe he’d fall unconscious before the beast decided to take a bite out of him. Maybe Fate had some mercy for him after all. Jaskier’s eyes drooped and the beast seemed to pick up on the bard’s capitulation. It let loose an open mouthed growl, gifting Jaskier one last look into its gnarled mouth, and stretched back onto its hind legs in preparation to pounce. 

 

I’m sorry , Jaskier finally admitted. 

 

I’m sorry, Geralt

 

Sorry for being the thorn in his side. Sorry for his worthlessness and uselessness and never being able to appease the wolf with his one musical gift. Sorry for holding onto him tight for fear of losing him instead of giving the lone man his space, and for that Jaskier lost him all the same. 

 

Jaskier blinked at the beast, vision blurring from the encroaching loss of consciousness and what must be more tears.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jaskier whispered, this time into the night, and let his eyes finally droop. It was in the split second of what he last saw when the beast pushed powerfully off the ground that a black shape and a glint of silver jumped in front of Jaskier. He saw no more, but the last sound to fill his head was a full bodied growl, one not rattling from the beast, and Jaskier drifted off to the memory of the witcher.

 


 

A resounding pop from the flames jerked Jaskier awake. His whole body cried out in white hot pain. He curled back, arching into his agony on a whimper. The nearby flames caressed Jaskier with its warmth but he was certain it must be a trick. Opening his eyes would treat him to the pits of hell and he would much rather settle in his pain before he began his eternity there. As he slowly lowered his arched back down to the ground, a firm pressure was applied to his lower lip. Jaskier opened his mouth automatically, allowing for an earthy, thick sludge to flow in and he swallowed. A subtle tingling of warmth sank into his belly and Jaskier sighed with it. 

 

“-keir.”

 

Did someone say something? Jaskier had to pull himself from the warmth to listen.

 

“Jaskier.” a gruff voice, sounding like rocks grinding against one another, grunted his name. The bard’s eyes snapped open, gluing themselves to the figure looming over him. The flames outlined the silhouette in its orange glow, but as water is wet, Jaskier stared up into unmistakably golden eyes and white hair. It was all too real and the bard felt that the only thing he could do was doubt it. Has the devil himself decided to greet him in the cruelest manner of all, a trick where he transformed himself into someone Jaskier begged to see one more time? His lip trembled as he struggled to decipher dreams from nigthmares. 

 

Jaskier’s jaw jerked, opening up for words that never surfaced from his tongue, and the silver brow adorning this devil’s face furrowed with his frown. A large hand placed itself on Jaskiers arm, just below his shoulder, and applied a firm but gentle pressure. 

 

“Rest, Jaskier.” The syllables from the short command were solid and sure, and something the bard could follow. But that voice, it sounded just like him. 

 

The witcher- devil? - illusion before Jaskier’s eyes pulled back and moved to place a small vial he just noticed to be in the man’s hand into a small satchel next to him. Jaskier’s white haired savior pulled back further, standing to step over to a small pile of wood and fed pieces to the fading flames. The bard’s heart leapt as the man’s face was lit by the flames. Jaskier, feeling a spark of fear for the distance now between them, weakly reached out a hand to the man.

 

“Ger- Geralt ?” His voice was soft and almost inaudible, a mixture of weariness, pain, and fear, but the man turned to him again and stared like he hear him loud and clear. For what Jaskier hoped to be the final time, felt his eyes grow heavy as he dropped the dead weight of his hand, and felt the warmth pool from his stomach into his chest and down his legs. He tried to force them open, needing to confirm that what he saw was real, but blessed be, Jaskier was forced to fall once again into a deep sleep.

 


 

He was greeted by the early morning sun when he awakened, and his body thrummed with a dull ache from the combination of his wounds and having slept on the hard ground. He turned his head while he lifted a weak hand to cover his eyes from the sun’s bright rays, and rolled it to the side to take in his surroundings. He was still at the camp, but the fire was now a mound of ash and he was its only inhabitant. 

 

The small void expanded in his chest as he began to recall the night’s events. He must have been dreaming… right? It was merely his eyes playing tricks and fooling him into believing that the witcher had rescued him from a gruesome fate. But Jaskier paused, because if it wasn’t the witcher, than who saved him? Someone did, or else he would more or less be a pile of torn flesh and bloodied bones.  

 

If only it had been the witcher, then Jaskier would have tried to voice everything that had been bubbling inside his slight frame, go so far as to beg the white haired man for his forgiveness. He wouldn’t even try to travel by his side, despite it being a heartbreaking truth that his company was unwanted. But if he could simply get the witcher to understand that Jaskier didn’t mean to push his away, then maybe Jaskier could try to move on for the white wolf’s sake. He’d make the effort at least.

 

Jaskier slowly raised himself up on his elbows, sucking his bottom lip betwixt his teeth while a prominent, but surprisingly less painful ache blossomed along his sides and abdomen. That sludge from the night before, it must have helped relieve the worst of his wounds. Jaskier prodded at his side gently, hissing at the dull thrum of pain but noticing that breathing was not nearly as difficult as it was before. His ribs felt more bruised than broken, but bloody hell did they still hurt. 

 

Jaskier pulled his hand away and looked around, continuing his original line of thought. He was mulling over his would be course of action in his fantastical scenario, starring one brooding witcher, when sure steps approached and a man entered the camp site. 

 

Every rehearsed plea on Jaskier’s lips died as Geralt stared down at him and he stared owlishly back. The look in Geralt’s eyes were heavy and unreadable, leaving Jaskier wanting to curl up on himself and look away, but his anxieties of Geralt disappearing again was greater and kept him from doing so.  Finally, Geralt let out one of his contemplative hums and turned away to collect his things, ignoring Jaskier all the same. At one point, he whistled to the general air and it wasn’t long before Roach was trotting up to them. 

 

Jaskier helplessly observed, at a loss of what to do or what to say, and Geralt continued with his tasks. He collected his things and sorted them within the saddle bags at Roach’s sides and occasionally patted her neck. When the witcher’s things were tucked away and he stood tightening the straps of his swords to his broad frame, Jaskier once again panicked. He scrambled to push himself up, grunting as he struggled to his knees and tried to stand. His hand flew out before him, reaching for Geralt, but the gesture swung him off balance and caused Jaskier to slip back down onto one knee.

 

“Dont-!” The fear and panic in his voice had rung clear as day in the space between them, but Jaskier was too preoccupied with watching Geralt getting ready to leave him again than to care about the level of vulnerability in his voice. 

 

Before his could slip fully onto his hands and knees, a strong hand curled around Jaskier’s bicep and helped pull him back up onto his feet, careful not to pull too hard. Jaskier stumbled as Geralt’s other hand mirrored its counterpart and braced the bard’s frame between them. Jaskier, unable to move even if he wished to, dropped his plea to stare at the man who now stood mere inches before him. The passing seconds fueled the anxiety bubbling within as the two stared at one another, Geralt his usual unreadable self and Jaskier a stupid open book. Jaskier yearned for Geralt to say something, anything , but Geralt just kept staring at him with a frown on his lips. If this staring contest went on any longer, the bard knew he would explode into an emotional ball of flames, like a wordless igni being cast upon him. 

 

Geralt, reading Jaskier’s tension on his face, saved him from his dramatic demise and released another rumbling hum.

 

“You’re different.” 

 

Jaskier’s jaw dropped, not at all expecting that. His eyes darted back and forth between Geralt’s before observing, “and you the same. Do you age?”

 

Geralt subtly pursed his lips, hiding a smile perhaps.

 

“Slowly,” and with that, Geralt began to pull Jaskier towards Roach and gave him an expected look when they stood at her side. 

 

Jaskier looked between Roach and Geralt, uncertain of whether Geralt actually wanted him to mount Roach. He clearly remembers being told never to touch her, and she allowed no one other than Geralt to ride her. As his eyes darted between the man and the mare, the two were locked in their own glare, Jaskier now witness to an unspoken argument. Roach finally huffed with a stomped foot and resolutely twisted her head away haughtily. When the bard turned back to the witcher, the man was looking at him.

 

“Up,” he commanded, and before Jaskier could sputter out any excuses, that nooo, it’s alright! His bruised and battered body didn’t need to risk being bucked off by a very rumpled horse , Geralt turned Jaskier’s body to face Roach. Jaskier gripped the horse’s saddle and contemplated his next move when Geralt dropped his grip on his arms only to shift down to his waist and lifted Jaskier up like he weighed nothing . Jaskier’s squeak transitioned to a grunt as the witchers fingers pressed into a sensitive bruise, and he looked back over his shoulder to find Geralt face marred with an even deeper frown. Geralt’s grip flexed at his thin waist, a result of Jaskier’s long, empty travels, and the bard slowly swung his lead weighted leg over the saddle and fisted the reins.

 

This small task alone left Jaskier shaken and exhausted, and he had no energy to help Geralt shift him further back on the saddle. Geralt pulled the reins with a gentle force from Jaskier’s hands and gracefully pulled himself up to sit in front of him, also careful of swinging his own leg over to the other side. 

 

“Hold on,” and with that, Geralt padded Roach’s neck and they began a soft trot back to the path. Jaskier cautiously slipped his hands around Geralt’s sturdy frame and looped his fingers into one of the many straps along his chest. 

 

“Where are we going?” Maybe somewhere to dump his useless self so that Geralt can continue his hunts on his own?

 

“Trottheim. A little farther and you would have been there yourself.” Jaskier tensed at Geralt’s back, and he knew the witcher had picked up on his sudden change in demeanor.

 

“Geralt, maybe we... I know of a place just to the north, it would be-” Jaskier could feel against his own chest the way Geralt’s vibrated with his hum and discovered just how deep that sound resonated from.

 

“My job is with Trottheim. The warg you faced hours ago had been terrorizing its people,” Jaskier was quiet, knowing he couldn’t make Geralt change course with that fact in place, “Jaskier. A warg would not have left you as you are. It doesn’t play with its food. You would be dead. What happened?”

 

Jaskier curled his fingers tighter around the straps he held and ducked his head against Geralt’s back. He could recount how he had wandered from town to town throwing around his coin, how he doesn’t remember half the nights he spent in taverns and brothels only to end up back on the empty path to nowhere. Clearly his self preservation had dropped ten fold since they were last together. But he knows he can’t lie, Geralt would know even if he tried. 

 

Jaskier bit at his lip before recounting his tale. He described spending all his coin in the tavern, and how Illaria had invited him to her home. Jaskier knew Geralt rolled his eyes at that, but he didn’t try to defend the real reasons behind his choice. Better to make it sound more like a roll in the sheet than a warm bed to rest. Let Geralt think he’s still the same bard he was before. 

 

He went on to tell of being interrupted by her husband and how he had escaped with little more than the clothes on his back and his lute, but his voice started to waver as he told of them chasing after him and catching him in the tunnel. Geralt was quiet and Jaskier paused. He couldn’t outright say they beat him, his body was evidence enough, but Geralt waited for him to continue. He didn’t goad or mock, and Jaskier ducked his head further to close his eyes at Geralt’s back. His voice damn near cracked on his next words.

 

“They broke my lute, Geralt.”

 

The witcher was silent, but Jaskier was surprised to feel his body tense and the leather of his gloves squeak as he tightened his fists. The witcher eventually released another hum, but to Jaskier, it sounded more like a threatening growl than a simple acknowledgement of what conspired. Jaskier looked up to stare at the back of the white wolf’s head, but failed to gauge what Geralt meant by it, if it meant anything at all.

 

Maybe Jaskier was imagining things again.

 

Neither man spoke much after, and it wasn’t too long before Roach was trotting into Trottheim. People watched as they made their way through the streets, for a brooding white haired and black armoured traveler with a beaten bard hanging off the back made quite the pair. Geralt eventually pulled off into the stables next to the same tavern Jaskier frequented the day before. He helped the bard slide off of Roach’s saddle, steadying Jaskier as he tripped over his tired legs, and pushed him to lean against the wall as he settled Roach in for her stay. Once finished, he took hold of Jaskier’s arm to support him and led him inside where the Bard was gently plopped down onto a chair in the back corner. It’s like deja vu all over again.

 

The same plump tavern maiden as before flickered her gaze back and forth between poor, slumped over Jaskier, and the hulking witcher approaching.

 

“Food, drink, and a room. Please.” The maiden stared at Geralt, deciding whether he was worth his patronage. She decidedly huffed before extending an open palm.

 

“Coin up front,” Her voice clipped and Geralt nodded while handing over what was due, then made his way back over to Jaskier. They said nothing until the woman brought them their beers and two heaping bowls of stew. 

 

“Eat.”

 

Geralt kept his eyes on Jaskier as he simply nodded and did just as he said. The warm broth was heavenly on his throat, and Jaskier didn’t realize just how hungry he was until each subsequent bite. Between mouthfuls, Jaskier would peek up at Geralt and meet his gaze over the witcher’s cup, his bowl untouched. When he finished his serving, Geralt pulled the bowl away and replaced it with his. The bard stared, uncertain, and didn’t dip his spoon until Geralt nodded on another one of his infamous hums. 

 

The whole time he ate, Jaskier found himself questioning. Why was Geralt here? For the job, yes, he knows that part, but why here ? Why had their paths crossed like this? Jaskier was being a good little bard and took himself off Geralt’s hand as requested, so why was the Witcher suddenly here and helping him as he had? It didn’t make sense, and Jaskier was not too sure if he could handle this shared silence much longer.

 

He’d finished his second helping and was taking a sip of his ale before he settled in for this dreaded conversation, but the commotion of the tavern door swinging open and Ranuif and his lackey ploding in veered his focus. Jaskier abruptly shoved himself back, hoping to blend into the tavern wall, and Geralt eyed him before turning to narrow his gaze at the two men. 

 

Ranuif stood behind his lackey, and scanned the room while the other man demanded his order. It wasn’t long before he eyes landed on Jaskier as an ugly look was painted across his already ugly face. He harshly swatted the arm of the other man and slowly stormed his way over to their table. When his lackey’s eyes landed on Jaskier, he pointed menacingly at him.

 

“You!”

 

“Is the little bird too stupid to know where he is not welcome. Should have made sure you were dead before we left.” Ranuif all but barked, silencing any of the other patrons in the tavern. Before the brute could get too close, Geralt stood to block his path. Ranuif stopped directly in front of the Witcher with a scowl.

 

“Well, well! It looked like your little bird, Ranuif, got himself a bodyguard. It’s a wonder how he pays him, since he’s no coin,” Ranuif’s lackey leered at Jaskier’s wide eyed look, “I bet this fella must think the bird can make a real pretty face, just for ‘im.” 

 

“The fuck are you here for, freak ?” Ranuif ignoring his companion, eyes boring into Geralt where he stood. There was barely two feet between them, but it was enough to see that Geralt stood two inches taller than Ranuif, something that Jaskier had taken much needed satisfaction in. Geralt eyed Ranuif right back, an unamused curl at the corner of his otherwise expressionless face. 

 

“Work.” Ranuif snarled against the power that emanated behind that one word, the unvoiced threat clear in its sound. 

 

“You have no right being here. Leave, demon, before I run you through!” Ranuif placed his hand on the hilt of his sword and slid it out a fraction to glint its dirty blade at the witcher. His lackey pulled his out fully and readied to attack. 

 

“I leave when my business if finished.” Jaskier worried when Geralt didn’t move to brandish his own weapons. He knew how strong the witcher was, but it was never comforting to see him allow himself to be at any kind of disadvantage. The slightest hesitation could send a sword through his gut.

 

Everyone in the room was tense as the stand off lingered on, Jaskier even caught a few rushing to hurry out the door and wished he could join them. Ranuif kept his eyes on the witcher for a moment longer, then dropped his hand from his sword. His lackey flickered his eyes to Ranuif before dropping his stance, but didn’t replace the blade in its sheath.

 

“You have till nightfall, demon.” It was then that Ranuif shifted his gaze to Jaskier with a sneer of his own. “Beware, little bird,” he mocked, “the night holds all sort of dangers.” Jaskier bristled and Ranuif stepped back to leave. His lackey, with a cocky glint that shined in his eye, stepped towards Jaskier.

 

“A little bird with hired protection…” he mused aloud, “Tell me, famed Butcher of Blaviken, what was it that bought you? Was it his songs or just his pretty mouth-”

 

A fist connected with the man’s jaw, rocketing him across a table and landed him in a pile a broken cups and bowls. The man growled as he picked himself up off the floor, smearing the blood from his nose and readied himself to lunge, but Ranuif barked out his name and drew his attention. 

 

“Let’s go.” Ranuif commanded. His lackey growled, showing off his bloody teeth to Jaskier and Geralt before shoving patrons aside as he followed Ranuif out. Jaskier’s eyes darted to Geralt, following the line of his strained shoulders to the flex of his fingers but noticed that the witcher was otherwise unbothered by his exhibit of strength. Geralt glanced back at Jaskier, a flash of enraged gold meeting shaken blue, then moved to the tavern maiden who was frozen behind the bar to hand over a few more coins. 

 

“For the damage.” Then Geralt was back in front of Jaskier, pulling him up and leading them both to their rented room. 

 

“Geralt-” Jaskier pleaded and weakly tried to pull back from the witcher’s tight grip, “let’s just leave, yeah? Collect your coin and head on our way. You can leave me in the next village, really, I’ll-”

 

“Jaskier!” Geralt spun on the bard and shoved his face full of fury into his. Jaskier pulled back the mere half inch that he could, wincing at the strain on his bruised shoulders and back, and looked at him. Geralt didn’t follow up with anything more, just flashed his furious eyes at Jaskier before dragging him the rest of the way to their room. Once inside, he dumped the bard on the bed and paced around. Jaskier watched as Geralt threw his bag on the mantle and shoved his hand inside to pull out an assortment of ingredients along with what looked like a vial of blood. 

 

“The wargs blood. I need to deliver this. Stay here, Jaskier. Sit, sleep, whatever the fuck pleases you, but stay. Here. ” It had been a long time since Jaskier had seen Geralt so angry, and all he could do in that moment was nod. Geralt grunted and pocketed a few items, along with the vial, before storming out of the room, but not without giving Jaskier one final, sharp look. 

 

Fuck .” 

 

Jaskier sat in the now empty room, warring with himself over what the fuck just happened. The whirlwind of events that had led to this moment spun Jaskier’s brain until he felt like vomiting. It was almost a full year since Geralt prayed he’d leave and now he sat in an empty room where the same man angrily demanded for him to stay ?

 

“Make up your fucking mind, you mad witcher!” 

 

Jaskier slumped over himself after his outburst. The physical wounds, the adrenaline, the everything was pulling the threads from his being. He would not be able to hold himself together for much longer. But what could he do to solve anything with the witcher off doing business and he waiting like some devoted betrothed. 

 

And what was he to do once the witcher returned? He couldn’t revert back to being his trusty companion and it was not like he even had a lute to compose his adventures. Besides, it was strikingly clear that Geralt wasn’t going to invite him back, especially considering he had already fucked up again in the short time that they’ve been together. It was more likely that Jaskier would be left at the next village like he proposed and the witcher would be on his way. 

 

The bard curled an arm around himself and rubbed at the dull ache in his side. He was still shocked by how his broken ribs had mended much faster than an average human’s would have been able to do on their own. That potion Geralt gave him, and even before with the warg... Geralt had saved him. Maybe he had not known who he was when he slayed the monster, but the witcher definitely identified the bard there after. So, despite everything, Geralt saved him and Jaskier found himself once again indebted to a man he tortured with his presence. 

 

A sigh left Jaskier, and he sat in the same spot for quite some time as he rummaged through his thoughts. He flip flopped back and forth between a longing to stay in the white wolf’s company and the unbearable ache at knowing he would be dismissed again. His indecisiveness ran rampant until the sun’s rays started to fade and Jaskier knew he would need to light a candle soon or he would be left in the dark. 

 

But when he stood to light the first candle, he was hit with his next decision. Geralt has not returned yet, and if Jaskier didn’t take his chance now, he’d have to face Geralt when he did. It would be right to call him a coward, Jaskier could accept that, but this would be easier than having to say goodbye.

 

Jaskier finished lighting the second candle he had approached and blew out the match. It would be the last trace of his presence that Geralt would ever have to bear. The bard took one glance at the satchel of ingredients, the only witcher belongings in the room, and proceeded to leave. He moved as quickly as his healing body would allow, and ducked his eyes away from the tavern maiden as she watched him step out. He stuck close to the walls, using the torches to light his way while the sky grew darker and navigated towards the village entrance. 

 

He’d been looking down at his feet when he turned the next corner, and when he lifted his chin to look ahead, he stumbled back at the sight of Ranuif’s lackey waiting at the other side. Jaskier stumbled again as he reflexively spun around, but behind him stood Ranuif.

 

“Fuck-”

 

“It looks like the little bird didn’t heed your warning, Ranuif.” The brutes lackey taunted behind the bard. Jaskier’s eyes were glued to Ranuif, taking a step back each time he stepped forward. Jaskier really felt like a caged bird in that very moment. He was cornered, trapped, and it was pretty obvious that any luck he did have had run dry. The bard, feeling the other man nearing his back, pivoted his body so he could take turns looking at them both, and backed himself into a wall. Ranuif unsheathed his sword and spun the hilt within his hand as he continued his approach. 

 

“Should have stayed gone, little bird.” Ranuif sneered, “but methinks you like to cause trouble.” 

 

“I’ll go real slow when I carve out your eyes, keep ‘em safe in a jar for ya. A little recompense for what your bodyguard did to me.” The other man bared his yellowed teeth, a shining bruise budding under his eye. Ranuif moved closer, having left a short distance between Jaskier and him. 

 

“And where is he? That demon was to have left by now. Leave you behind, did he?” Both the men laughed at the bard, and Jaskiers ears rang at the near truth of those words. Little did these two know that it was actually him leaving. “Good. Gives us some time to enjoy this.” Ranuif spun his sword, the dirty blade barely reflecting the light from the torches, before being lifted high above Jaskier’s head. 

 

“Jaskier!” Jaskier twisted his head to see Geralt, his sharp teeth bared and his steel sword brandished at his side. Jaskier opened his mouth to voice the witcher’s name, but his whisper was overwhelmed by Ranuif’s roar as he swung his sword down. Jaskier squeezed his eyes shut, trembling as he waited for the blade to tear into his frame, sink into his shoulder and split him in two, but was met with the ear splitting screech of steel against steel. 

 

Geralt had maneuvered himself between Jaskier and Ranuif, using one hand to knock the sword away with his blade and make the brute step back, unbalanced, while the other hand shoved the bard to the side where he floundered and landed on his rump. Jaskier wrestled to pull himself back to his feet, but his eyes never left the way Geralt fought the two men simultaneously. 

 

The witcher dodged their attacks with ease, swords clanging as he evaded each strike, and knocked Ranuif back with a hard fist to his temple. While Ranuif stumbled and hit the wall, the other man dived at Geralt with his sword raised above his head. Geralt, using his momentum from the punch, twisted his body to strike the man in one fell swoop. The sword entered his gut, halting his attack, and Geralt grabbed his shoulder to twist around his left to yank the blade clean through to his side. The man dropped as blood sprayed and flooded underneath him. Ranuif, now recovered from the earlier hit, tried to use the opportunity of his fallen lackey as an advantage and lunged forward, but his blade narrowly missed Geralt. The witcher released an enraged growl, one so loud and piercing that it shook Jaskier to his core, and swung his sword at shoulder height. Ranuif’s head flew off to one side, blood spurting from the stump of his neck and splattered Geralt’s cheek with its gore. The witcher heaved, teeth still bared at the lifeless bodies at his feet, and whipped his sword to fling their blood off its blade and onto the ground.

 

Jaskier was leaning against the wall, paralyzed at the sight, and felt his chest rabidly rise and fall with his stuttering breath. It was when he noticed himself slipping and moved to shove a leg under his body to stand up taller that the witcher jerked his attention over to him. With his golden eyes never leaving Jaskiers, Geralt stepped over the bodies and charged for him. The bard gasped and closed his eyes, feeling Geralt’s hands bite into the muscle of his arms and shoved him hard into the wall, and met the witcher’s blazing glare and sneering mouth when he opened them.

 

“The fuck you think you’re doing?! I told you to stay, Jaskier. Why the fuck do you never listen?!” Geralt’s hot breath fanned over his face and a bit of spit landed just beneath Jaskier’s lower lip, and the bard trembled against the tidal wave of fury rolling off the witcher. But a tidal wave of his own was crashing through his weakened barriers and Jaskier took his chance to finally fight back.

 

“Why are you here , Geralt? What the fuck do you want from me?! You were the one to tell me to leave, and I did! I left! You clearly don’t need me, Geralt, so leave me be and let me deal with my own damned troubles!” Geralt responding on a snarl and shoved Jaskier harder into the wall.

 

“They were going to kill you, you idiot!”

 

“Fine!” Jaskier all but shrieked, “Then you should have let them! It’s the least I deserve!”

 

“Jaskier-!” With each turn, the witcher’s fury kept growing, his eyes seemingly glowing in the dark as he glared, but in that moment, Jaskier couldn’t bring himself to care. 

 

“I have nothing , Geralt!” Jaskier interrupted, forcing the witcher to listen to him for once in his goddamned life, “Everything has slipped through my fingers and I don’t even have a damned lute to wail out my sorrows! This,” Jaskier gestured wildly to the dead bodies at their side, “this would have been the next logical step, so, Geralt, this time it is me asking you to leave, because clearly you can’t make up your fucking mind! Leave, and let me wallow in peace!” 

 

Jaskier heaved in Geralt’s face, feeling the prickle of tears in his eyes, a reaction that always bubbled its way through when he was extremely angry. It had been a long time since he had let the red film flood his vision and fought back. And he took this moment to channel it and direct it all at Geralt, but in the face of his rage, the witcher growled low in his chest and narrowed his eyes into thin slits.

 

“No.”

 

“What-?” Jaskier breathed, taken aback by his answer.

 

“No.” 

 

Geralt returned with additional emphasis, and then swooped in to smash his mouth into Jaskiers. A startled gasp tore itself out of the bard, parting his lips, and Geralt took it as an open invitation to shove his tongue inside. Jaskier threw his hands up to clench his fists into Geralt’s clothes while the witcher’s tongue dominated his own and the bard could do nothing but let the man explore his mouth all he wished. 

 

A spot of drool slipped passed Jaskier’s lips as Geralt ravaged his mouth, and he was unable to pull in a gasping breath because of the solid hand that now gripped the back of his head. The bard felt the increasing sting that burned his lungs and felt himself desperate for oxygen, but the witcher would not relent in his assault of his mouth. It wasn’t until Jaskier started to weakly hit Geralt against his chest that witcher tore himself away on a deep growl. Jaskier was left to fist his fingers back into the many straps along the witcher’s garb and leaned his head back with closed eyes, gasping desperately for the next few lungfuls of air. 

 

When his breathing had settled some and his grip on the witcher slipped, Geralt took another step back. Jaskier opened his eyes, one eyebrow raised in question, but Geralt ignored him in favor of ducking slightly and reaching around Jaskier’s waist and the backs of his knees. Before the bard could protest, Jaskier was lifted off his feet and slung over Geralt’s shoulder where a single arm wrapped tightly around his thighs and his hand squeezed the meat of it. Jaskier yelped and tried to push at the witcher’s back to escape.

 

“Put me down you crazy brute!” but Geralt was already moving out of the massacred street and swiftly made his journey back to the tavern. Jaskier tried to push off the witcher’s shoulder again, but Geralt sank his fingers harder into his thigh, pressing down on a nerve and caused Jaskier to kick his leg back in reflex with a squeak. If the rush of air releasing from Geralt’s nose in response was any indicator, Jaskier fucking knows the man was smirking. 

 

“Damn you, witcher, I can stand on my own two feet,” he punctuated the words with thudding fists against Geralt’s back, his waning anger fueling his punches.

 

“Hmm, clearly not.”

 

Jaskier didn’t even notice where they were until Geralt was pushing passed the tavern doors with the bard still over his shoulder, and Jaskier hit him even harder but ducked his head into his arms to hide his face from the muttering patrons. When a whistle followed them down the corridor to their room Jaskier lifted a hand to direct a lovely little bird in their direction. 

 

Geralt was soon pushing through the next door, the one to their room, and he spun back to face the closed door where he dragged Jaskier down his body and arranging his legs until they were wrapped around his wide hips. He then stepped forward roughly, slamming Jaskier into the door and inadvertently knocking his head back painfully.  

 

One of the bard’s hands reached to the back of his head to soothe the small bump forming on his skull as he whined while the other slipped around Geralt’s neck to fist the leather at his opposite shoulder. When he peeked an eye open, Jaskier found the witcher’s hungry glare directed at him. This time, when Geralt moved in to capture his lips, it was much slower but still just as commanding. Jaskier relaxed into it, resolutely ignoring the thud of his heart, and let himself moan as Geralt’s tongue moved against his. His soft noises triggered a thunderous rumble from the barrel of Geralt’s chest and he presses closer to Jaskier. 

 

Jaskier moved his hand away from the back of his head and searched across the witcher’s shoulder and down his back, as far as he could reach, so that he could absorb the feeling of hard muscle. Geralt’s shifted one hand from gripping behind Jaskier’s thigh up passed his hip and then chest to settle curled around the back of his neck at the base of his skull, while the other continued to support the bard under his leg. 

 

It didn’t take much longer for the white wolf to growl out his impatience at the position, fingers pressing into the skin behind Jaskier’s ear and hips suddenly rolling to eliminate the remaining space between them. Eventually, Geralt all but dropped the bard in favor of tearing off the sad excuse of a doublet and pulled at the strings of his loose shirt with one hand, while the other dipped lower to pull at the ties of his pants. Jaskier tried to figure out the straps and belts on Geralt’s body, but the maze of buckles and gear was too complicated for him to figure out much, and by the time he thought that he may have figured something out, Geralt was roughly pushing the fabric of Jaskier’s pants over his hips and down his legs. 

 

Jaskier stepped out of them immediately, not wanting to trip around the fabric pooling around his ankles. With the garment kicked aside, Jaskier was left in only his white undershirt, the collar loosened and revealing bruised yet soft skin, down to his sternum, for the witcher to rove over, hungry and angered by its purpling blemishes. The bard reached out to Geralt in his second attempt at his clothes, but Geralt growled and turned him until he faced the door, and the witcher crowded up behind him until Jaskier was sandwiched between the two.

 

“Geralt…” his voice quaked and the witcher kissed the back of his neck and pressed his body impossibly closer. Jaskier closed his eyes against the tough fabrics pressing against his almost completely naked skin. He tried to look over his shoulder and catch the witcher’s eyes, but all he could see was white wisps of hair as Geralt pressed his face, more definitively his mouth, in the crook between his shoulder and neck. Geralt took a moment to breathe the bard’s scent deep into his lungs and Jaskier tilted his head to give Geralt more room. A soft moan slipped out from Jaskier when the witcher rewarded him with a kiss at his pulse before pulling back.

 

“I’m sorry.” Even with the words almost whispered directly into his ear, Jaskier still had a hard time hearing Geralt. He parted his lips to reply, trying to regain his focus and wanting to inquire further on what Geralt meant, but his teeth click shut against the feeling of sharp teeth grazing along the vulnerable tendons in his neck.

 

“Let me talk,” it’s a warning, and Jaskier nodded sharply. A few more moments passed before he did, and this time, Jaskier heard him loud and clear.

 

“I’m sorry, Jaskier.”

 

The bard closed his eyes, conflicted. His heart thumped with warmth, but that doesn’t change the hurt that he felt. Jaskier was really hurt, they both were upon that mountain, and Jaskier was witness to it all. When Borch Three Jackdaws, having revealed himself as the golden dragon, foretold of both the Witcher and the Sorceress’ fates in one devastating blow, Jaskier had to stand by and watch, a simple, human bystander with no hope of changing it. And he would have tried, in that moment, to save them both from that pain, go so far as to help them be together like they wanted despite his heart. But he couldn’t , and when he tried to comfort the white wolf, his friend, he was gifted with the worst present of all. A wish. A wish for him to disappear from the first friend he had made in a very long time. 

 

And that pain curled up within its residence in his bones even as Geralt’s slid his hand underneath Jaskier shirt and traced it over his battered chest. His body jumped on a gasp, a tickling mixture of pleasure and pain, as the witcher’s fingers teased over his nipple and pulled his attention back to the man in that room and away from the one on the mountain. Geralt’s other hand curled over his hip and pulled Jaskier back into his, rolling his clothed cock torturously slow against the bard and making him feel the thickness of it. 

 

“I didn’t want to leave,” Jaskier confessed as he tried to rolled his hips back, working to match the slow rhythm, and Geralt let out a low hum as he slid the hand on Jaskier’s hip forward to graze closer to the inside of his thigh. The hum in Jaskier’s ear shifted in tone and vibrated along his spine, sending shocks to every corner in his body. It’s truly amazing how much the witcher can say without saying anything at all.

 

“I know,” the words came out bitter, but Geralt’s anger was not directed at Jaskier. 

 

“I stopped singing and drank my days away, Geralt,” and the flood gates had opened. All the things Jaskier wanted to hold inside, too ashamed to confess, had come rushing out passed his lips to the person he has been determined to hide it all from. Jaskier closed his eyes tightly, feeling the sting in the corners and clenched his jaw as his chin quivered, but none of his hiding stopped the words from flowing in the end.

 

“I spent all my coin, all of it, and never stopped wandering, and I didn’t care what happened to me,” The hand on Jaskier’s chest slid over to the opposite shoulder where it curled and Geralt used the grip to pull Jaskier away from the door and further into his chest. Jaskier let go of the door with one hand and held onto the witcher’s forearm like a lifeline. Geralt’s other hand pulled back from Jaskier’s thigh, tickling the base of the bard’s hard cock to tear at his own clothing, a loud sound in the otherwise quiet room, until his armour clattered to the floor and his shirt hung like a rag over his shoulders. Geralt then proceeded to move his hand down his body to roughly untie the front of his pants. The witcher made quick work of it and impatiently shoved at the fabric to pull his cock out and let it rest against Jaskier. The bard’s long shirt was now the only layer between them.

 

Jaskier pulled in a deep breath as the heat of the witcher’s skin radiated into his own, and whined when Geralt shifted his hips to the side, sliding his cock away from the place Jaskier desperately needed it to be. The movement allowed the witcher more room for his wandering hand. His sword calloused fingers pulled up Jaskier’s shirt and caressed the meat of his ass, taking a firm hold of one cheek before releasing it to dip his fingers between. Geralt tried to rub firmly over his hole, but the feeling was too dry for Jaskier to fully enjoy. 

 

“Wait, Geralt-” Jaskier was rewarded with the sound of the witcher moving to spit onto his fingers before diving back in. The wet digits circling his hole pushed a shaky moan from Jaskier’s lips and Geralt massaged it more firmly to pull more sounds from the bard. His noises were soft and airy, and it wasn’t until Geralt pressed a finger in until it breached passed the tight ring that Jaskier choked on a deep moan and canted his hips back. 

 

“Ge-Ger alt ,” the witcher pulled his finger free to spit on them again before returning and massaging his walls. Jaskier rocked his hips back, moaning repeatedly and dropped his head to his chest. It was as a second finger dipped inside his entrance that Jaskier whimpered out his final confession to Geralt, overwhelmed both physically and emotionally, and needing him to know everything Jaskier had went through.

 

“Geralt, I- ah- I was re-ready to die.”

 

A thunderous roar broke from Geralt, the white wolf releasing a shocking mix of anger and anxiety into the room and tangled it with Jaskier’s vulnerability. The noise was drawn out and deafening in the bard’s ear, and he couldn’t focus on anything as Geralt stretched him on a second finger and pushed deeper into his squeezing body.

 

“No,” The white wolf demanded, and crooked his fingers inside Jaskier as he searched for that bundle deep inside.

 

Yes ,” Jaskier whined brokenly as he rolled his hips back, taking Geralt’s fingers even deeper and in turn knocking them into that hidden bundle of nerves. Geralt’s growl grew even louder, taking on a more animalistic quality that was borderline threatening. Jaskier cried out and jerked as Geralt thrust his fingers in harshly, catching the bard off guard and nipped him behind his ear as he voiced his demand. But even beyond the power in his voice, Jaskier could still hear the underlying plea.

 

No .”

 

A third finger joined the others and Jaskier lost himself in the stretch. He tried to raise his hips higher, pushing his feet up onto his toes as his blunt nails scraped against the door. Geralt was breathing heavily in his ear, and took turns mouthing along the shell of Jaskier’s ear and nipping gently at his neck until he stretched Jaskier on his fingers long enough to pull out. Jaskier whined at the gaping feeling of his body and tried to push back in hopes that Geralt would come back. The witcher did, but instead of his fingers, he aligned his body along the bards and fit his cock to press against Jaskier’s hole. Then three things happened all at once.

The head of Geralt’s cock started to sink in and Jaskier realized that even with three of the witcher’s thick finger, it still wasn’t enough to prepare him for the girth of his cock. Geralt pushed until he was buried deep inside the bard’s body and at his neck, Geralt opened wide and sank his sharp teeth in until he broke skin. Jaskier screamed, tears springing from his eyes as he felt the tickle of a thin stream of blood flow down his chest and the overwhelming stretch of his body as he sat on Geralt’s cock. The mixed sensation of pain and pleasure blurred his vision and he couldn’t stop the weak moans spilling from his lips. 

Geralt pulled his mouth back from Jaskier’s neck and lavished it with apologetic licks, cleaning the blood and soothing the ache. Jaskier felt so weak where they stood, afraid to move incase the feeling became too much, but Geralt made the choice for him. He pulled his hips back, dragging his cock out slowly until just the head remained inside and then pushed just as slowly back in. Jaskier arched his back at the torturous movement and spread his legs farther apart to accommodate the witcher’s size. The white wolf purred in return, picking up the speed of his thrusts. 

Jaskier was helpless to Geralt’s movements, and with his body hugged so tightly against him, Jaskier could not even try to meet his thrusts halfway. Instead he held onto the door and the arm across his chest and dropped his head back onto Geralt’s shoulder as he was fucked. The hand adding bruised his hip with its tight grip slithered down where the witcher rested it at the apex of Jaskier’s thigh and groin, a heavy presence that made Jaskier crazy with how close it was to his aching length but not close enough to touch it.

The bard let loose continuous moans as he was taken, Geralt dominating him with each thrust that ramming into his sweet spot. It was a particularly forceful thrust that took any remaining strength from Jaskier’s legs and ripped a high pitched cry from his lips. Geralt moved closer to kiss at his jaw and lick at one of the tear tracks staining his cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” Geralt grunted into his ear and Jaskier’s only response was a weak shake of his head. Geralt’s fingers on his leg bit their nails into his sensitive skin and reared his hips back to plunge powerfully deep inside and Jaskier’s jaw dropped.

“I want-” Geralt’s movements continued to shake Jaskier’s body in his arms, and he placed another wet kiss on his jaw, “I want you to stay.”

A fresh flood of tears fell from his watery blue eyes and Jaskier choked on his cry as Geralt finally wrapped his calloused hand around his cock. He stroked him in tandem with his thrusts and Jaskier tried to nod in answer. He wanted to stay, he did, he really did, he needed to, but another thrust sent sparks through his body and all Jaskier could do was gasp out the witcher’s name.

“Jaskier,” and the bard whimpered, “Jaskier, forgive me .”

The plea was quiet but the bard heard it loud and clear, Geralt’s rumbling voice rattling Jaskier’s ears. Jaskier rolled his head to the side, needing to see him. The gold of the white wolf’s eyes framed endless pools of black and Jaskier’s lidded ones closed as he tried to nuzzle forward into his stubbled cheek. He couldn’t say it, not through words, not when his voice would stutter and crack, but he would be a fool to deny that Geralt was forgiven. 

The angle was awkward but he felt Geralt press his lips to his and Jaskier opened himself up to it. Geralt continued his relentless thrusts, shifting his footing so that each one would press the head of his cock into the bundle nestled inside, and Jaskier moaned heavily into Geralt’s mouth after each hit. The witcher’s tightened his grip around Jaskier and teased at the underside of the head, mixing it up with a firm slide along the length before repeating the pattern. Jaskier struggled to keep what little he had of himself together, but it wasn’t long before the pool of pleasure in his belly grew and licked at the edges of his self-control. 

He was a moaning mess, groaning out Geralt’s name between kisses. Geralt pulled back from his mouth to watch his hand on the bard’s chest move from his shoulder to his nipple and roll the bud between his fingers. Jaskier arched as best he could in Geralt’s tight hold and felt his knees completely give out as cum splashed onto the hand around him and on the door. Another fat tear slid down his cheek as he choked on a cry and quaked from the sudden onslaught of sensation. Geralt kept thrusting, Jaskier’s body now loose and heavy with over stimulation and Jaskier found himself begging Geralt as he kept hitting his abused sweet spot.

“F-fuck-ah, Geralt! Ger-hah, oh fuck, please, please-ah!”

His words were nonsensical and the witcher moved his hand from his softening cock to slide it around to grip the back of his thigh. He lifted Jaskier’s leg up, the new angle hitting him like a ton of bricks and his ramblings cut off in favor of throwing his head back with a soundless gasp. Geralt pushed even deeper inside his body, and his pounding started to grow impossibly rougher and more erratic.

“G-Geralt, ah, i-inside me-“ Jaskier begged and Geralt grunted out a “Jaskier, fuck .”

The witcher’s hips pressed tight to the bard’s, cock driving all the way inside and Jaskier could feel the rush of his cum fill him. The solid member twitched against his walls and they stayed like that for a few moments. Jaskier couldn’t complain despite the strain in his leg at still being pressed up high to his chest, his other foot barely on the ground, and every weary muscle in his body screaming for relief, because nothing had felt better than what just transpired.

Geralt released another sedated hum as he slowly lowered Jaskier back to the floor on both of his feet. He stayed nestled inside as the last of his cum released into the bard and he moved his grip to circle the bard’s sweat soaked chest . It was the only thing keeping Jaskier from slipping to the floor. Eventually, the witcher leaned them both forward, wordlessly commanding Jaskier to grip the door as best he could as Geralt leaned back and slipped his cock slowly from him. Jaskier whimpered as warm cum followed suit and began its descent down his inner thigh. 

Geralt was careful to support Jaskier as he lead him over to the bed. The bard’s unfocused eyes barely saw the witcher move something to the floor before he helped Jaskier to lie on his stomach. As he nuzzled into the sheets, he didn’t notice Geralt move to crawl his way behind him, that is until the witcher was bracing his hands on each pink cheek and spreading him. 

“W-wait, Geralt,” Jaskier twitched and clenched his fists weakly in the sheets, moving to try to pull his hips away, but Geralt’s grip was always stronger.

Warm breath fanned against his hole before a hot tongue scooped up the cum on his thighs and pushed it back inside of him, shooting shivers up Jaskier’s spine. “Please-” he tried to beg but Geralt spread his thighs farther apart and dove back in, gently cleaning Jaskier’s skin of his seed and pushing what slipped out back inside. He teased with the tip of his tongue, and growled in satisfaction against Jaskier’s trembling body. 

“Mine.”

Jaskier couldn’t take it anymore. The pleasure was bordering on overstimulated pain that whited out his vision and suddenly, his body started to shake with another weak orgasm. He could feel a small bit of cum spurt from his half hard cock, soaking into the sheets beneath him, and he choked back a mewl as his muscles tensed. Geralt purred against him, desire finally sated, before placing one last kiss to his hole and sliding back up his body, turning his head for a sloppy kiss. 

Geralt dropped his weight the side and pulled the bard in, and Jaskier let himself curl closer against the witcher’s broad chest. They lie silently together for a while, relaxing into the afterglow. After a moment’s hesitation, the bard turned his head up to find the witcher watching him, warm slits of gold roving over him and a gentle finger moving to stroke over a drying tear track on Jaskier’s cheeks. 

“Sleep, Jaskier.”

“Ok,” it was so easy to obey and Jaskier tucked his head back into Geralt’s chest to do just that.

 


 

When Jaskier finally woke up, he was still wrapped tightly in the witcher’s arms. He sleepily snuggled closer, slowly becoming aware of the sticky feeling of his skin and admittedly not too bothered by it, and the muscle beneath his head rumbled gently. Jaskier looked up as a hand brushed his hair from his forehead and met Geralt’s calm gaze. Jaskier felt a modest blush blossom on his cheeks when he spotted a rare smile gracing Geralt’s face and he shot his own bashful smile back at him. 

One of Geralt’s fingers curled under his chin and pull him closer, Jaskier immediately following, and he locked their lips in a soft, open mouthed kiss. The bard basked in the easiness of it, enjoying the slide of their lips and the teasing flicks of their tongues. When he was just about to press forward and seek more, Geralt moved back. He opened his eyes to look at him and Geralt pressed a quick kiss on his jaw before pulling away completely, effortlessly sliding out of the tangled sheets and shedding his torn shirt. Jaskier slowly pulled himself up on the bed, enjoying the soreness radiating from his ass but careful not to jostle himself too hard, and watched as the witcher reached into a bag for a spare shirt, as well as an extra pair of roughened pants. He tossed the pants on the bed, right at Jaskier’s knees, with a nod.

“We need to leave soon. Don’t expect the village will be too happy with the mess I’ve made.” The bard looked down at the pants, picking them up in his hand to inspect them while Geralt continued to put his things together. There’s no way these are going to fit , Jaskier couldn’t help the passing thought, but shifted himself to try to put them on anyway. With them half way up his legs, the baggy fabric foretelling of his desperate need for a belt because holy fuck, Geralt was much bigger than him . He shot the witcher a furtive look and caught the Geralt’s eye before looking away.

“Geralt?” He had begun hesitantly, “Maybe we should-” 

Geralt spun on him, taking a step forward and drawing Jaskier to look at him fully.

“You’re coming with me.” 

“I-” Geralt took another step forward, ready to somehow make Jaskier to do as he said, and Jaskier threw his hands up to placate the white wolf, “Geralt! I will ! I’m going with you!” The witcher’s shoulders visibly relaxed, but he didn’t move in any other way.

“What I was trying to say was, well, Geralt,” Jaskier dropped his eyes again, not able to keep eye contact, “last night was, I mean, honestly, I really don’t want to give you more reason to flaunt your ego to more people than you already have. I can feel that look, Geralt, don’t argue with me. I’m sure I could find someone who would agree that it’s enormous. But can I really say I’m surprised? If what we did last night was any indication, of course your ego would equally compare to the size of your-”

“Jaskier.” Geralt was watching him with amusement and Jaskier clearly just failed at not polishing his pride.

“Yes, fine, it was...” better than he had imagined. 

Everything ,” he breathed, “but Geralt,” and this time, Jaskier steeled himself and met Geralt’s eyes with an anxious frown, “this doesn’t fix things.”

Tension weighed heavily in the room, palpable enough to be cut with a blade.

“I’m coming with you, if you want me-” Jaskier continued, slowly, unsure.

“I do.” Geralt’s voice was hard and left no room for argument.

“Ok. Yes, then I’m coming, but I’m going to need some time.” Jaskier dropped his eyes again and focused them on his fingers picking at the loose fabric of his borrowed pants. “I can’t go on and act like the time between our last meeting together never happened. And you shouldn’t either. It happened, and it left me with a lot to think about. But I’ll try, Geralt. I’ll try to move on. I will. I’ll just need… time .”

They’re both quite under Jaskier’s honesty. Jaskier had stopped playing with the fabric between his fingers during his speech but he was left to stare at the fading calluses on his fingers.

“You won’t have to worry about my singing at least,” He laughed deprecatingly to himself, “Haven’t done that for a while, and now without my lute-”

Geralt moved this time, but instead of approaching Jaskier directly, he stopped at the end of the bed and bent down, reaching for something. When he straightened, Jaskier’s jaw dropped at the sight of a lute hanging from his grip. It’s body was a little bruised with shallow scratches, mirroring Jaskiers, and one of the strings looked desperately in need of a replacement, but it was in one piece and Geralt was extending his arm to pass it to him. Jaskier automatically lifted shaky fingers to wrap carefully around the instrument and brought it to rest on his lap. 

“There was a merchant,” Geralt began, and Jaskier lifted owlish eyes to watch the witcher’s jaw clench as he hummed and gold eyes diverted to the floor at Jaskier’s feet, “I used some coin from the reward... hmm, doesn’t matter. Just keep it.” Jaskier was still staring, lute clutched tighter in his hands, as Geralt briskly shook off his frustration and moved back to his things. He got fully dressed and donned his sword belts as well his cloak before collecting his bag and heading towards the door.

“I’m going to get Roach. Clean yourself up and meet me in the stables.”

Jaskier hadn’t moved an inch from his spot even as the door closed and left him in an empty room. He stared at the lute in his arms, gently tracing the elegant carvings along the edges with his finger tip. It was a physical toll to finally twist to let it rest on the bed and get up to do as Geralt told him, but he kept catching himself standing frozen in the middle of the floor and gawking at the instrument.

He had finally managed to turn away and instead peered into a little piece of reflective glass to inspect his rumpled appearance, a new distraction that did nothing to stop the witcher from swimming around in his head. He really was a mess, pale with dark circles under his eyes that blemished his complexion, but what really caught his eye was the purpling bruises framing a deep bite wound at the crook of his neck. Geralt’s mark. It looked brutally painful, but Jaskier was only filled with shivers when he lightly touched the mark.

He ignored the flaring blush swarming to his cheeks and he stretched his neck out to get a better look. Fuck, he was never going to be able to hide this in his clothes, especially since his doublet sat permanently ripped and ruined on the floor next to the door. Jaskier sighed, but he let his stomach flutter at the thought of everyone seeing it. They’d know instantly. Honestly, with the bard and the witcher staying at each other’s side like they are want to do, who else could it have been? They’d know Geralt marked him, claimed him like a beast and that thought alone was starting to leave Jaskier a little hot and bothered.

He shook himself from the gutter his head was falling into and worked to straighten his appearance in the little mirror before moving to grab his lute and leaving the room. On his way out, he turned to shyly wave at the tavern maiden, but her eyes widened like globes as she stared at his neck. Yup, she knew. Jaskier slapped a hand to cover the bite mark with an embarrassed flush and swiftly spun around to jog his way out the door and to the stables. 

When his eyes landed on the witcher,  brushing Roach’s neck and whispering low, indiscernible words as she nickered back, and Jaskier started to feel the quick thumping of his heart. With a new lute in his hand, loaned pants clinging low on his waist, body bruised and scratched and bitten ... all of that added together with the last slew of events that led up to then, Jaskier was ultimately hit with a flood of unbridled emotion. In a daze, he continued to shrink the distance between them and Geralt was turning to face him by the time he stepped through the threshold of the stables. 

Jaskier didn’t stop when he reached them. He kept himself moving closer even as Geralt greeted him with a bemused raise of his eyebrow, and Jaskier ignored it in favor of dropping the lute in a pile of straw as he passed and wrapping his arms around the witcher’s neck. Following his momentum, Geralt allowed Jaskier to push him softly against the stable wall and Jaskier closed the distance between their lips. Geralt noisily inhaled as the bard desperately kissed the witcher and tangled his fingers into his white hair. Jaskier felt large hands trace down his sides until they curved over his ass in two tight fistfuls and he sighed into it, wanting to never leave this spot. 

They had a lot of work to do, Jaskier and Geralt, between them. There was still plenty they needed to talk about and learn from, the witcher’s temper and the bards insistency, for, well, everything being the prime examples, but Jaskier knew as they exchanged hungry but tempered kisses that he had forgiven Geralt. The two stayed glued together, refusing to part until the calming wash of their bodies stuck to their bones permanently. There was relief in knowing that neither had to go on alone like they had for the past year, and Jaskier would be sure that it would never happen again, Destiny be damned.