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A Cure for Loneliness

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“But aren’t you lonely?” Jaskier asked after he had been following Geralt around for maybe a week.

The thing was, Geralt was lonely. He had been lonely for a long time. He didn’t remember what not being lonely felt like. He didn’t remember what it felt like to be himself without being lonely. He had been lonely for so long that he had become excellent in it. All in all, he was quite content with his lonely miserable existence. He wouldn’t have known how not to be lonely, and he hated doing things he didn’t know how to do. Luckily, that didn’t usually happen.

But now he was wondering if perhaps there had been a moment, possibly at night, in a bed no one shared with him, when he couldn’t sleep and instead tried to imagine what it was like to have someone you cared for to touch you, and if perhaps at that moment, he had accidentally prayed some divine entity to make him less lonely. Clearly, that prayer had backfired.

“Hmm,” he said to Jaskier.

“You’re so lucky,” Jaskier said. The bard seemed to be under impression that he could read Geralt’s hmm’s. And he could. He just read them always wrong. “I am sometimes. Lonely, I mean. And it’s terrible.” Geralt glanced at him. He glanced at Geralt. “I know, you’re probably wondering how the hell I could be lonely, with this face. And with my singing voice. And not to brag but, with the skills I have in bed. And you’re right about all that, Geralt. But sometimes even I get lonely.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said to let Jaskier know he didn’t want to hear more of it.

“Oh, yes,” Jaskier said, “let me tell you more of it. Sometimes it’s just that I’ve made a new song and I want to sing it someone and there’s no one there. Or that something interesting happened that day, for example, a bug bit me in the butt, and there’s no one to tell. But sometimes it’s a lot worse.”

Please, don’t tell me, Geralt thought.

“I haven’t told anyone about this, but I’ll tell you,” Jaskier said. “Sometimes being lonely feels like someone’s stabbing me with a blunt needle.”

Geralt took a deep breath and patted Roach on the neck. Thank gods for the horse.

“It’s bearable,” Jaskier said, “usually it’s bearable. But not always.”

Geralt cleared his throat.

“Sometimes it’s bad,” Jaskier said. “Very bad.”

Geralt glanced at Jaskier. The bard was looking at him like he wanted Geralt say something. “Jaskier…” he started, and then he ran out of ideas.

“Sometimes I’m so lonely I could cry,” Jaskier said, frowning. Then something shifted on his face. “You’re a lucky bastard since you are never lonely, Geralt,” he said and patted Geralt on the shoulder. Geralt took a deep breath and didn’t accidentally dislocate his arm or anything.

“Yeah,” he said. He meant no. He had a weird feeling that he, too, had once or twice felt like crying. It had been a long time ago, though, when he hadn’t yet been so good at being lonely. And sometimes after that, but only on the occasions when he had drunk a little too much ale. Certainly, that didn’t count.

“But I haven’t been lonely in a week,” Jaskier said, “not since I met you. I’m so glad that we are friends.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.


**


Later that evening, Geralt wondered how the hell anyone had ever thought there was something wrong with loneliness. Loneliness meant silence. Loneliness meant not having an over-enthusiastic bard trying to brush your horse that allowed it to happen and looked almost happy about it, the traitor. Loneliness meant not having to wonder if the night was going to be so cold that it would be necessary to share a blanket.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said. He had said Geralt’s name far too many times in this past week. And he said Geralt’s name differently than the others, more patiently somehow, or more kindly, like it wasn’t just his way of pointing out that he wanted something of Geralt. “Geralt?

“Yes?” Geralt said. Apparently, the only way to eventually shut Jaskier up was to pretend to have a conversation.

“Do you have parents?” Jaskier asked, looking at Geralt over the fire Geralt had built with no help at all. Not that he would have wanted help. “Because, you know, I can’t picture you having parents. But I suppose you’ve been born like the rest of us, right? You didn’t come to this world like you are now, did you? So, you must have parents, and maybe you have siblings. And old sweethearts. Do you have old sweethearts? Do you miss them, Geralt? Because I was a thing with this girl from a village once, she wasn’t a princess or anything, but she was nice and she actually liked me. I dumbed her and I don’t know why, she always stroked my hair when I was feeling sick. I’ve been missing her. Not now that I’m with you, though. So, what’s your mother’s name?”

“Don’t brush my horse,” Geralt said and bit his lip. Jaskier seemed confused. He was a little confused himself, but that had been the only thing that came to his mind.

“She liked it,” Jaskier said slowly.

“Just,” Geralt said and took a deep breath, “don’t. She’s… sensitive. She shouldn’t get attached to you, or else she’ll be lonely when you go.”

“Go?” Jaskier said, frowning.

“Or die.”

Die?

“Things happen on the road,” Geralt said.

Jaskier cleared his throat. “Really?”

“Bad things,” Geralt said and glanced at Jaskier. Then he glanced at Jaskier again. The bard looked a little scared. “But I won’t let you get killed.”

Jaskier blinked. “You won’t?”

“No,” Geralt said and then thought about it. He didn’t owe Jaskier anything. They weren’t friends. Jaskier just followed him. But it would seem a little rude to let someone who followed him so persistently to get killed. “We should go to sleep,” he said, because Jaskier was looking at him oddly. No one had looked Geralt like that in a long time.

“Okay,” Jaskier said.

“It’s going to be a cold night,” Geralt said.

“Okay,” Jaskier said again.

Geralt stared at the bard. The bard stared at him. He wasn’t sure if Jaskier’s eyes were blue or green. Or both.

He blinked. “It would be practical.”

Jaskier blinked as well. “What would?”

“Sharing a blanket.”

“Sharing a blanket,” Jaskier repeated, then grabbed his blanket he had been hugging for some time now. It was hours until the coldest time of the night and he was already shivering. Geralt frowned. It was essential to keep Jaskier warm at night, since clearly Jaskier wasn’t accustomed to sleeping outside in the cold weather. And it was only going to get colder from now on. The winter was coming.

“Yes,” Geralt said firmly, “sharing a blanket. Come here.”

Jaskier rose onto his feet and walked to Geralt with tiny steps. It was somehow unsettling to see Jaskier doing exactly what Geralt had told him to do. And not in a bad way.

“Lie down next to me,” Geralt said.

Jaskier lay down next to him.

“Put your arms around me,” Geralt said.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said. It sounded like a question.

“Do it.”

Jaskier put his arms around him.

“Good,” Geralt said and pulled the blanket on the them. He made certain that no part of Jaskier’s body was out in the cold. It would be disappointing if in the morning, Jaskier was missing an ear or a limb. Not that it was likely to happen. But Geralt drew him a little closer to himself. Just in case. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”

“I noticed,” Jaskier said. He sounded like he was warm and safe. And Geralt hadn’t been thinking about what it would be like to hold someone in his arms, someone who needed him, someone who quickly fell asleep and then started mumbling something about stupid horses who ate all the cake. Geralt hadn’t thought about that at all, especially at the drunkest and coldest nights of his past decades. And he didn’t like Jaskier. But Jaskier smelled good and fit nicely in his arms and didn’t deserve to freeze to death.

Geralt closed his eyes.


**


“Geralt. Geralt? Geralt! Geralt!”

Geralt pried open one eye.

“Geralt,” Jaskier was saying. He sounded like something was wrong. But he was clearly alive and uninjured and still in Geralt’s arms, so Geralt couldn’t figure out what it was that was bothering him. “I need to take a piss.”

Geralt frowned. “You do?”

Now,” Jaskier said, grimacing.

“Take a piss, then,” Geralt said.

“You’re kind of holding me.”

“That’s alright,” Geralt said. “It’s not like I’ve been lonely or something.”

“No, I meant that you’re holding me and I can’t get out.”

Geralt blinked. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Please, loosen your grip a little or I’m going to piss in my pants,” Jaskier said.

Geralt thought about that for a moment. It was difficult, because he had been asleep only a moment ago. And he had had a dream, a nice dream he couldn’t exactly remember anymore, but he was quite certain there had been a fire, and a bed, and a warm body, and hands – hands in his hair, to be precise – and legs entangled with his, and maybe bold fingers grabbing his -

Then he realized what Jaskier had said that he was, in fact, holding Jaskier so tightly there was no way the human could break free on his own. He let go and Jaskier climbed to his feet and walked away with stuttering steps.

“You should’ve said something,” Geralt called after him.

“I did,” Jaskier said. “You just didn’t hear me because you were asleep.”

“You should’ve said something louder.”

“I felt bad about waking you up. You looked so happy.”

Geralt scowled. “I never look happy.”

“You did,” Jaskier said, putting his dick back into his pants and turning to him, “when you were hugging me. I was there. I saw it.”

Geralt thought about arguing. Then he thought about the dream. “Don’t tell anyone.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Jaskier said and walked back to him. “I’ll make a song out of it.”

Geralt wondered if perhaps he ought to make Jaskier get lost in the woods. That would have been easy to accomplish. But he chose against it in the end. Jaskier made breakfast for them and it was almost eatable, and then they sat next to each other by the fire and didn’t talk, and Geralt didn’t hate not being lonely for a second.

Later that day, he regretted every decision he had done for the past week. Jaskier had just finished the song about Geralt being happy about hugging him in his sleep. The song was terrible. In a sweet way. But Geralt didn’t think about that.


**


They had been travelling together for two weeks, when Jaskier almost got killed for the first time. Afterwards, Geralt didn’t feel very good about the incident. He had left Jaskier alone for five minutes and by the time he had got back, Jaskier had been about to get eaten by the tiniest monster anyone could find in this part of the continent. Geralt had scared the monster away a bit more harshly than would have been necessary, which probably was because he had been a little shaken about the look on Jaskier’s face. But he was sure the monster would be fine. Jaskier would be fine, too, after he would finally stop panicking.

Geralt wasn’t certain of himself, though.

“Dear god,” Jaskier was saying, sitting on the ground wrapped in a blanket, “dear motherfucking fucker, I almost died.

“You’re fine,” Geralt said. His hands were shaking a little. He stared at them with a frown. This was new and worrying. And what had been that unpleasant feeling he had had when he had seen Jaskier attacked by the monster? Certainly, it couldn’t have been fear.

“Bloody fucking shit,” Jaskier said and then took a sharp breath as if he was just pulling out from under the water. “Geralt. Geralt, I almost died.

“Calm down,” Geralt said to his hands. Maybe he was finally getting old. Maybe that was what this was.

“Maybe this sort of life doesn’t suit me after all,” Jaskier said. “Maybe you were right. I’m just a useless bard who follows you around.”

“I didn’t mean that,” Geralt said. He had definitely meant that.

“You left me for five minutes,” Jaskier said, “and I almost died.

Geralt’s hands began shaking more. Goddamn. He grabbed his right wrist with his left hand and squeezed but he only got a bruise.

“Where were you, anyway?” Jaskier asked in a small voice. “When I woke up, you were gone. For a second I thought you had abandoned me, but then I saw Roach. You’d never abandon Roach.

“True,” Geralt said.

“So, I thought maybe you had gotten into trouble. I went looking for you.”

“That was stupid.”

“Yeah, well,” Jaskier said and grabbed the blanket tighter. “Were you doing some secret witcher stuff I’m not supposed to know about? Because it was weird, waking up without you hugging me.”

Geralt bit his lip. He probably shouldn’t tell Jaskier. Jaskier would make fun of him. Or get angry. Or make a song. Or possibly all of those. But he hated it when people assumed he was doing some secret witcher stuff. “I was taking care of my, you know, needs.”

Jaskier stared at him.

“My…” Geralt said and glanced downwards.

Jaskier blinked. “Your…”

Geralt nodded pointedly.

Jaskier’s eyebrows jumped up. “Geralt, dear, were you jerking off when I was about to get brutally murdered by a monster?

Geralt grimaced. “A tiny monster. And it wouldn’t have murdered you. It would’ve only eaten you. It was clearly hungry.”

Geralt.

“I’m…” Geralt said and then made a vague gesture with his hand.

“Sorry?”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“You were jerking off,” Jaskier said and then he started smiling. It didn’t make sense at all. He looked small and vulnerable in his blanket and he was smiling at Geralt as if Geralt had told him something that made him happy. “I can’t believe it. I didn’t think you did that.”

Geralt frowned. “You didn’t?”

“Well, I had been wondering,” Jaskier said, biting his lip. “A little. Sometimes. Occasionally. Usually at night when you’re wrapping yourself around me. So, maybe once or twice I wondered if you sneak out to take care of that. But I never caught you doing that.”

“You do it all the time,” Geralt said.

“Yes, well,” Jaskier said, “I’m only a human.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“And it’s not exactly easy for a human,” Jaskier said, “to share a blanket with you every night and not get a little excited. But really, I’m not even angry for you almost killing me since you did it for a good reason.”

“I didn’t almost kill you,” Geralt said, “it was the monster.” And he wasn’t certain the reason had been good, either. Frankly, it had been quite unsatisfying. He hadn’t even finished yet when he had heard Jaskier screaming in terror.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said, suddenly sounding small and afraid again. “Can I ride Roach today? I don’t know if I can walk. I’m pretty shocked.”

“Fine,” Geralt said.

Jaskier stared at him as if he had said something weird.


**


Geralt thought about the situation for the whole day. Roach seemed happy enough to have Jaskier on her back and Jaskier was alive and not afraid and, weirdly, not talking, and Geralt’s hands had stopped shaking, so he had plenty of time to think. It was very unfortunate that his perfectly tolerable loneliness had been disturbed and he had this unnecessary and illogical burden of wanting to keep Jaskier safe and alive. But he had always thought of himself as someone who didn’t dwell on daydreams but trusted on the facts instead. Jaskier had compromised his loneliness and now he would have to deal with the situation. He would have to keep Jaskier alive.

The funny thing was, after they stopped in a small clearing for the night and Jaskier was again sleeping in Geralt’s arms, some of the loneliness crept back. Geralt listened to the stupid little voices Jaskier made in his sleep and pressed himself a little tighter against Jaskier’s back, and then he realized it was there. It was like a blunt needle like Jaskier had once said, only it was more blunt than a needle now. And it didn’t make sense. Jaskier was right there. Jaskier wasn’t conscious, of course, but Geralt preferred him that way, didn’t he? There was absolutely no reason for Geralt to be lonely now.

He stroked Jaskier’s hair lightly enough that the bard wouldn’t wake up. They should go to a river to wash themselves. Perhaps tomorrow.

But first, Geralt would have to figure out how to keep Jaskier alive.


**


“I’m going to teach you to fight,” Geralt said the next morning, when Jaskier stirred awake in his arms.

“What?” Jaskier asked. His voice was hoarse and sleepy, and he was pressing his butt quite tightly against Geralt’s crotch. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant.

“Hmm,” Geralt said and then cleared his throat. “Yes. Fight.”

Fight?

“I have to keep you alive,” Geralt said, “and it’s possible that you might get into trouble when I’m not there to save you. You need to have some skills.”

“I have –“

“Skills that help you if a monster wants to eat you.”

Jaskier sighed.

“I’m going to teach you how to use a sword,” Geralt said.

Two hours later, it was obvious he wasn’t going to teach Jaskier how to use a sword. He had tried, and it had ended with Jaskier having a long cut on his chest. Geralt wasn’t certain how that had happened even though he hadn’t stopped staring at Jaskier for a second. He probably should have been glad that Jaskier hadn’t managed to cut his own head off. Yet. So, Geralt wasn’t going to let Jaskier come any near to his sword ever again, let alone touch it.

“It’s just a scratch, Geralt,” Jaskier said. Geralt had taken his shirt off and was now cleaning the cut that started above his left nipple and reached up to his right collarbone. His chest hair was brown and it curved around Geralt’s fingers. “Also, my head feels a little funny.”

“If you faint, I’m not going to let you brush Roach for a week,” Geralt said. “And it’s not a scratch. You could’ve killed yourself.”

“I wasn’t that bad,” Jaskier said, but he didn’t sound certain.

“You were. I’m not letting you touch my sword ever again.”

Jaskier sighed in what appeared to be a disappointed tone.

“We’re going to wrestle,” Geralt said.

“What?” Jaskier asked and then grabbed Geralt’s shoulder as Geralt began stitching the wound. “Shit. Do you have to do that?”

“Yes,” Geralt said. He leaned closer. Jaskier’s grip on his shoulder tightened and he could feel Jaskier’s breaths on his forehead. “Don’t move.”

“I’m not going to –“

“Don’t speak,” Geralt said and then thought about it. “Don’t breathe, either.” He placed his other hand flat on Jaskier’s chest, just to keep him still.

Wrestle?” Jaskier asked in a tiny voice that trembled against Geralt’s hand.

“It’s very practical,” Geralt said. “Even though you could use a sword, which you can’t, there might be a situation when a monster would surprise you and you couldn’t catch your sword.”

Jaskier sighed. “Fine.”

“I told you not to breathe.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier said. His hands had moved. His right hand was now holding onto Geralt’s thigh and his left hand was stroking Geralt’s hair. “You’re good at this.”

“I’ve stitched wounds before.”

“I bet it could hurt more.”

Geralt frowned. “You want it to hurt more?”

“God, no,” Jaskier said and laughed in a breathless voice. “I was just complimenting you, you idiot.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said and kept on stitching. Jaskier kept on stroking his hair.


**


The wrestling. It was a great idea. Geralt thought about it a lot that day and the following days, when they travelled the lonely roads and waited for Jaskier’s wound to heal. One night, they slept in a tiny village in a bed too narrow for two men, and Geralt settled himself on the floor and then realized he couldn’t sleep like that. Jaskier didn’t protest when Geralt got to the bed in the middle of the night and settled himself lying against Jaskier’s back. The wrestling. Yes, the wrestling. They would wrestle. He would use his size and weight and press Jaskier against the ground -

No, no. He wasn’t thinking about that.

The next day, they left the village. It had been nice to sleep in a bed with Jaskier, but the owner of inn was looking at them oddly and Geralt didn’t have patience for human stupidity just now. He already had plenty of it, currently talking to him about a cow that had broken out of her fences and eaten a whole apple pie and got sick. He never got to know what the point of the story was, and he was glad about that. He was also glad when in the evening he took off Jaskier’s shirt and inspected the cut and found out that it was healing very well. They could wrestle soon.

But the next day, there was a tiny incident in a village they rode past. There was a ghoul living just outside the village and people asked Geralt to take care of it. Geralt left Jaskier in a local tavern and when he came back after slaying the ghoul, Jaskier was drinking ale with two women.

“What was that?” Jaskier said a little later, when they were walking away from the village. The sun was already going down and Geralt felt more tired and frustrated than he had for a long time, which was worrying, because it had only been a ghoul. “Geralt, talk to me.”

Geralt rubbed his nose. Roach seemed a little angry, which was understandable, since the village had been perfectly fine in an average way and there had been an inn with a stable where Roach could have slept inside and maybe make new friends.

“Bloody hell, Geralt,” Jaskier said. “Why did you drag me away from the tavern? And why didn’t we sleep in the village? It’s evening already. We’re going to have to find a spot to sleep soon enough. We could’ve slept in the inn. Those were nice people.”

Geralt bit his lip. Apparently he bit it a bit too hard, because he tasted blood. “I didn’t drag you away.”

“Yes, you did, Geralt,” Jaskier said, running a little and settling himself next to Geralt. Geralt hastened his steps. “You did,” Jaskier said, running again. “You grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet and then dragged me away. I couldn’t even finish my ale. And the ladies –“

“Shut up,” Geralt said. “Roach doesn’t want to hear about it.”

“Roach doesn’t mind,” Jaskier said. “The ladies were nice. They were asking me about you. They wanted to hear about all the monsters you’ve slayed.”

“I hope you didn’t tell them anything.”

“And do you know,” Jaskier said, pointing a finger at Geralt, but the finger wavered because he was still running, “do you know that I haven’t experienced joys of love for four weeks now? Four weeks and two days. Not that I’ve been counting.”

Joys of love?

“Don’t mock me,” Jaskier said. “The ladies liked me. The brown-haired one especially. The other one probably had a crush on you. But I think I could have had a chance with the brown-haired one. Maybe we would’ve fallen in love. Maybe I would’ve bought a house in that village and have little babies with her.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Jaskier said. “But at least I could have spent the night with her. And it’s partly of your fault, anyway.”

“My fault?” Geralt asked and glanced at Jaskier, which was a mistake. Jaskier was running to keep up with him, and he was also panting and a little red in the face and his hair was a mess and all in all, he looked miserable. Geralt wanted to stop and grab him and undress him and make him wash his face and then wrap him in a blanket and sleep with him and not feel this fucking loneliness poking at him in very delicate places with a thousand blunt needles.

“Oh my god, I can’t breathe,” Jaskier said and stopped. Geralt stopped as well. The last thing he wanted was to lose Jaskier. “Geralt,” Jaskier said between sharp breaths. “You hold me every night, and it’s just… it’s very nice and I know it’s important so that we don’t freeze to death, but it’s also kind of making me horny.”

Geralt frowned. “You want to make love with a woman because I hold you in my arms when we sleep?”

“Yes,” Jaskier said and paused, “well, I realize it doesn’t sound logical. But you wouldn’t know how I feel, Geralt, you wouldn’t, because you never get lonely. You don’t have a fucking clue what it’s like. I mean, it’s lovely that you hold me. But sometimes I feel like it’s making me even more lonelier. Sometimes I just want to touch you back. I want to have warm skin against mine. I want to kiss someone. I want someone to hold my dick and jerk me off and hold me afterwards. I want someone to pull my hair a little and tell me not to come yet and then press me against the mattress and –“

“Okay,” Geralt said, “I got the idea.”

Jaskier stared at him. “Good.”

He stared at Jaskier. “Good.”

“So,” Jaskier said slowly, when Geralt was still staring at him, “it’s getting dark.”

“Yes,” Geralt said.

“Roach should probably get to sleep soon. Maybe we should find a place for a night.”

“Fine,” Geralt said.

They found a spot under pine trees that looked like they were ancient, even older than Geralt, which was what Jaskier pointed out. Geralt unsaddled Roach first and brushed her and made sure she had water, and then he took off Jaskier’s shirt and checked the wound. It looked good. He pressed his fingertips against the skin beside it and felt Jaskier’s heart beating against his touch. Perhaps he had been a little stupid. He should have let Jaskier experience joys of love with the ladies in the tavern. He could have slept in the stables with Roach so he wouldn’t have heard the noises of delight the ladies would certainly have made. And what then if Jaskier had fallen in love and chosen to stay in the village? Geralt had been lonely before. He could be lonely again. Also, he was kind of lonely now, even though that didn’t make sense.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said in a soft voice, and Geralt put his shirt back on and then lay down on the ground with him. Jaskier fell asleep almost immediately like he always did, and Geralt stayed awake for some time like he always did and listened to Jaskier’s breathing. Jaskier was warm and pliant and also a little hard. Maybe he was dreaming about the joys of love. Geralt held him tighter and kissed the top of his head. No one saw him do it but Roach, and he was quite certain Roach wouldn’t tell Jaskier.


**


Geralt woke up to Jaskier wriggling in his arms.

“What?” he said. It was barely the morning.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said. He sounded stressed. “Can you… I need to…”

“You need what?” Geralt asked and hugged him tighter.

Jaskier cleared his throat. “I need to jerk off.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“You need to let go of me so that I can do it,” Jaskier said. “Now, Geralt.”

Geralt let go of him. Jaskier climbed onto his feet and started walking away. It was a grey dusk of early morning and the pine trees didn’t give much cover. Geralt watched as Jaskier stopped and glanced over his shoulder, then walked a few more steps, stopped and glanced over his shoulder again.

“Geralt!”

“What?”

“Stop looking at me.”

“I have a great vision,” Geralt said.

“I know you do, you asshole,” Jaskier said, but he sounded more stressed than angry. “But I’m going to have to jerk off now and I bet you don’t want to stare at me.”

“Hmm,” Geralt said to himself. But he rolled onto his back and watched the sky that was still dark grey with darker clouds drifting across it with the wind. He could hear Jaskier perfectly well like he always did. Jaskier was quite quick this time. Geralt glanced at Roach and Roach glanced back at him. She seemed a little amused but also thoughtful, like Geralt himself.

“We should wrestle now,” Geralt said, when Jaskier got back, still not looking very relaxed.

“Wrestle?” Jaskier said, a little breathlessly. “Now?

“After the breakfast, then?”

Jaskier stared at him for a few seconds. “No, now is fine. Let’s do it now.”

“Great,” Geralt said.

It turned out that teaching Jaskier to wrestle was much easier than teaching Jaskier to use a sword, probably because there weren’t any blades Jaskier could hurt himself with, so Geralt didn’t have to worry about that. Instead, he worried about accidentally crushing Jaskier with his superior body weight. Jaskier was lying on the ground, facing Geralt, and Geralt was on his knees above him, careful enough not to press down so that he wouldn’t accidentally kill Jaskier, while he tried to tell Jaskier where to hit. Jaskier wasn’t a very good student, though, he just stared at Geralt and panted, even though they had barely done any actual wrestling yet.

“Poke at my crotch with your knee,” Geralt said, “that will distract me.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier said and licked his lips.

“Now, Jaskier,” Geralt said as firmly as he could. “Your knee. At my crotch.”

Jaskier tried, only he was very bad at it. It didn’t hurt at all. Really, it was the nicest touch Geralt’s crotch had gotten in a long time.

“That felt like you were trying to seduce me,” Geralt said. “Try again.”

“I can’t,” Jaskier said. “Geralt, I can’t. Just kill me.”

“I’m not going to kill you,” Geralt said, “but if I was a monster, you’d be dead already, you’re right about that. Maybe you could hit me on the throat instead.”

“Fucking hell, Geralt, I –“

“With you elbow. Just do it.”

Jaskier patted his elbow at Geralt’s throat.

“You’re terrible at this,” Geralt said. “Now grab my sides and try to throw me off.”

“Throw you off? Throw you off?

“You just need to unsettle my balance and then you have a chance to escape.”

“I don’t want to escape.”

“You have to remember that I’m a monster who’s trying to kill you. Just grab me.”

Jaskier sighed and placed his palms on Geralt’s sides.

“Now throw me off.”

Jaskier tried. Apparently. At least he looked like he was trying.

“I could have killed you ten times by now.”

“I can’t believe you’re like this,” Jaskier said, running his palms up and down on Geralt’s sides. “I think you have muscles everywhere. It’s insane.”

“Everyone has muscles everywhere. It’s basic anatomy.”

“I meant that I don’t have a chance,” Jaskier said. He sounded thoughtful.

“Well, I’m trying my best to keep you alive. But you could help me a little.”

“I like your eyes,” Jaskier said.

Geralt blinked. No one liked his eyes. But he didn’t have time to process that, because that was when Jaskier poked his elbow at Geralt’s throat and his knee at Geralt’s crotch and not like he wanted to make love to Geralt, which Geralt hadn’t been thinking about at all. It almost hurt. Also, he was insanely proud when Jaskier kicked his knee and unsettled his balance and then managed to climb onto him when he was lying on his side on the ground for maybe two seconds. When he got Jaskier in his hands again, Jaskier was sitting on him, breathing hard and smiling like an idiot.

“Look at your face,” Jaskier said. “You didn’t think I could do it, Geralt, you definitely didn’t, you were just trying to show off with your lovely muscles and your pretty hair and your huge arms, hovering over me like that, and before breakfast which should be illegal, but I did, I could, did you see? Did you see that, Geralt?”

“Yes,” Geralt said.

“I threw you off,” Jaskier said. He was running his hands up and down Geralt’s chest now. Probably he was just enjoying his victory. “Oh, gods. I’m stronger than I think.”

“No, you are not.”

“I could kill a monster if I wanted to. Can I try?”

“Definitely not.”

“You look different from this perspective,” Jaskier said. “Smaller.”

“That’s an illusion.”

“Geralt, I think I need to jerk off again.”

Geralt took a deep breath.

“And then we can have breakfast,” Jaskier said and patted Geralt on the chest before climbing off him. “Don’t watch me this time.”

“I’m going to hear you anyway.”

“Really?” Jaskier said, frowning. Then he shrugged and walked away, and Geralt stared at the sky. It was a funny feeling, to have had Jaskier sitting on him just a moment ago. He tried to adjust his trousers but it didn’t really help, and then he wondered why his heart was beating so fast.


**


Things didn’t get weird at all. That was what Geralt told himself the next week, when they travelled slowly to the North and only stopped in the villages with considerable monster problems. Teaching Jaskier how to wrestle backfired, and every time there was a monster to fight, Jaskier wanted to participate. Finally, he was getting so stubborn that once in a dark and stormy night Geralt told him a story about how a monster had once chained him and put in a well and kept him there and dropped bodies of dead people on him for two days and two nights, until finally the monster had crawled into the well, and he had used its own teeth to break the chains and then killed it with his bare hands. After Geralt had finished the story, Jaskier didn’t sleep properly for two nights, but he didn’t want to try to kill monsters, either. And by the third night, he had made a nice and uplifting song about the incident.

It wasn’t weird, Geralt thought, when he was lying on the blanket on the ground and watching as Jaskier came back from behind the trees where he had emptied his bladder. It was only natural, almost inevitable, that Geralt’s body remembered Jaskier sitting on him. And if he sometimes imagined Jaskier glancing at his crotch, he was probably mistaken. The wrestling hadn’t changed anything between Jaskier and him. He still missed the days when he had been comfortably lonely, and Jaskier still followed him.

“I thought that in spring, we could go to the coast,” Geralt said, when Jaskier sat down on the blanket with him.

“To the coast?” Jaskier asked and lay down.

Geralt lay down with him and wrapped his arm around Jaskier’s waist. Jaskier had lost a little weight lately, which was worrying. His stomach had lost some of its original softness.

“Would you like it?” Geralt asked, when it was becoming apparent that Jaskier wouldn’t tell him.

“Would I like what?”

“If we went to the coast.”

“I like the sea,” Jaskier said and shifted closer to Geralt. “Didn’t you jerk off earlier? You’re poking at me in the butt.”

“Sorry,” Geralt said and tried to concentrate on something unpleasant, like the way Jaskier always said Geralt washed his clothes in a wrong way, or the way Jaskier sounded when he tried to teach Geralt small talk, or the fact that Jaskier was always there. For some reason, that didn’t help.

“It’s okay,” Jaskier said. “My butt’s had worse. Could we really go to the coast? Or was it a joke?”

“I don’t joke.”

“I know,” Jaskier said and took a deep breath, “unless that was a joke. Geralt, what would we do at the coast?”

“Kill monsters. I mean, I would kill monsters and you would be somewhere safe and warm and make songs.”

“I’m not much use to you,” Jaskier said in a small voice.

“Hmm,” Geralt said. Surely Jaskier knew that wasn’t the case. Or rather, it wasn’t the point. Geralt had killed monsters by himself for a very long time. He was perfectly capable of going on like he always had. Alone. But when he thought about doing that, he felt like once when a monster had tried to drown him in an icy lake.

“I’m not sure why I follow you,” Jaskier said.

“For the songs.”

“Yeah, well, they’d better be good.”

Geralt pushed his nose to Jaskier’s hair. It smelled quite bad. “I could buy you a horse. If I had money. We could save some and then we could buy you a horse. Roach would have to pick, of course. But she has a great taste. Would you like that?”

Jaskier was quiet for a long time. Geralt felt his chest going up and down with his breaths. Maybe Jaskier didn’t want a horse. Maybe it was something else that Jaskier wanted. Maybe Geralt ought to have offered to buy Jaskier a sword, only he knew he’d have to make it blunt and still Jaskier would probably hit himself in the head with it or something. Or maybe Jaskier wanted new boots. Or a new lute. Well, that made sense.

“I’m lonely, Geralt,” Jaskier said.

Geralt held him a little tighter.

“But I don’t want to leave you.”

“Good,” Geralt said. “That’s good. Because…”

But he didn’t know how to finish it, so he didn’t. He waited until Jaskier fell asleep, and then he thought about a horse they would buy. It would be great. Jaskier would be happy and not lonely at all and would never leave him.


**


In the next village, Jaskier slept with a woman who had clever eyes and a knife hidden in her boot, but when Geralt grabbed her arm and asked her quite firmly if she was about to kill Jaskier, she promised she wouldn’t. Geralt promised he would kill her in the cruelest way she could imagine if she hurt Jaskier in any way. She asked Geralt if Geralt was in love with the bard or something, and Geralt said that of course he wasn’t. What a stupid thing to ask. Of course Geralt wasn’t in love. It was almost impossible. And if he had been in love, certainly he wouldn’t have been in love with Jaskier. Jaskier was his bard. He shared his blanket with Jaskier every night and held Jaskier in his arms and listened to Jaskier jerking off in the mornings, and he wanted Jaskier to come everywhere with him and buy a horse with him and never leave or grow old or die. But he wasn’t in love with Jaskier.

That was what he thought about for the rest of the night, when the woman was in bed with Jaskier and Geralt was in the next room, listening through the wall, just in case the lady decided to hurt Jaskier after all. She didn’t. After midnight, she left the room with several pieces of her clothing removed, and Geralt waited for almost four seconds before he sneaked in.

“Hi,” he said.

Jaskier cried out and fell off the bed.

“Oh, god, it’s you,” Jaskier said from the floor. “I thought you were… I don’t know, her father or something. What’re you doing here, Geralt?”

“I thought you were finished with her,” Geralt said, walked to Jaskier’s bed and sat down. “I don’t like my room. I’d rather sleep here.”

Jaskier stared at him for a long time. “Fine.”

“How was it? Did you like it?”

“What?” Jaskier blinked. “Really, Geralt? Are you really asking me that?”

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

 “It was fine,” Jaskier said. He didn’t sound fine, though. He sounded tired. “She was great. It was just that I wasn’t… I couldn’t concentrate.”

“I can’t never concentrate when I don’t see you,” Geralt said. “I worry that maybe you’ve got yourself killed or something.”

“Is that why you are here?” Jaskier said and then cleared his throat. “And is that why you threatened to kill her earlier?”

“I thought you didn’t notice.”

“I didn’t. I was trying to get myself another ale, as you well know, you sneaky bastard.” But he didn’t sound as tired anymore. He climbed back to the bed and sat down beside Geralt. He had his underpants on but nothing else, and his skin was glistening with sweat. “Geralt?”

“Yes?” Geralt asked. He was a little distracted about all that skin. They sometimes bathed together, Jaskier and him. But this was different. Maybe that was because he had spent the last hour listening through the wall as Jaskier had made love to the lady.

“She said you’re in love with me,” Jaskier said in a thin voice.

Geralt frowned. Then he bit his lip. Then he took a deep breath. Then he frowned again.

“I told her she was mistaken. She laughed. And then she kissed me very nicely and pushed my head in between her thighs. But I suppose you know that already, since you were listening us.”

“I… I have an excellent hearing.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier said slowly, “what if the spring comes and the nights get warmer? What do we do then? Are we going to stop sharing the blanket?”

“We could try wearing fewer clothes,” Geralt said.

Jaskier shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. And I’ve been wondering…” He took a deep breath, “almost every night when we go to sleep, you’re hard. Why’s that, Geralt?”

Geralt stared at him. Jaskier was blushing now. It made him look stupid and young and more adorable than any other creature Geralt had ever seen. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”

He watched Jaskier’s throat move as Jaskier swallowed. “What, Geralt? Thinking about what?”

“You sitting on me,” Geralt said. Well, that wasn’t all of it. “And everything else.”

“Everything else?”

“Everything else that you do. Like, for example, breathe.”

Jaskier breathed. “She said that you’re in love with me but also so dumb that you don’t know it.”

“That was very rude of her,” Geralt said. He was a little distracted, because Jaskier was so close to him, and breathing, and smelling of joys of love which probably meant cum.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said slowly, “are you in love with me?”

“I don’t know,” Geralt said. “Can I sleep in your room?”

Jaskier stared at him for a few seconds, then took a deep breath. “Of course. Should I put some clothes on?”

“I don’t mind,” Geralt said. “It might be cold in the morning, but I’ll keep you warm.”

“Good,” Jaskier said.


**


When Geralt woke up, the room was cold, Jaskier was still almost naked and certainly asleep, which was good, because apparently Geralt was rubbing himself against Jaskier’s butt. He had a vague feeling that he had had a dream in which he had fucked Jaskier in this bed and then told Jaskier he was in love with him and would buy him a horse. Jaskier had been happy about the horse.

Geralt stilled himself and tried to think about anything but Jaskier, but there was nothing else to think about. He had his hand resting flat on Jaskier’s side that rose and fell with every breath, and his chest was pressed against Jaskier’s back that was smooth and warm and shivered when Geralt followed his ribs with his fingertips. Maybe they would stay in the village for another night. Jaskier wouldn’t want to sleep with the woman again and Geralt could stay in the room with him for the whole night. But they’d take a bath together before going to bed. Jaskier could wash Geralt’s back. It had been a long time since they had done that. It had been two villages ago, in the inn where the bathtub had been too small, and their knees had kept poking against each other. Jaskier had made a joke about Geralt’s dick and apologized later, when they had been in bed. It hadn’t been a bad joke, anyway. And it had been kind of true. Geralt was well aware that his dick looked a bit funny, unlike Jaskier’s, which was as perfect as dicks ever were.

Maybe he shouldn’t have been thinking about Jaskier’s dick.

He kissed the back of Jaskier’s neck lightly and didn’t think about Jaskier’s dick, and that was when Jaskier stirred in his arms.

“It’s not morning yet,” Geralt said.

“Did you kiss my neck?” Jaskier asked. He sounded half-asleep.

“Hmm,” Geralt said.

“Geralt, you bloody idiot,” Jaskier said, took a deep breath and rolled onto his other side so that he could face Geralt. It was a little intimidating. Geralt wanted to back away an inch but then he would have fallen onto the floor, and he didn’t want that. It would’ve been cold on the floor. “You kissed my neck.

“That’s what I said,” Geralt said.

Jaskier frowned and then poked his finger at Geralt’s chest. Geralt caught his wrist to avoid further poking. Jaskier’s wrist was tiny and fragile in his hands, like a small bird or a piece of bread. He stroked the back of Jaskier’s hand with his fingertips.

“And you’re hard in your pants,” Jaskier said. “Why, Geralt? Why?”

“Don’t ask me that,” Geralt said.

“I don’t mind,” Jaskier said and licked his lips, “it’s only that it’s a bit confusing. I’ve told you that I get lonely, Geralt, I’ve told you that I want someone to touch me, I miss it, I miss it so badly it actually hurts sometimes. And then you’re there all the time, you keep doing all these things like you actually care about me, you can’t fucking sleep if you don’t hug me, and then you have your hard dick rubbing my ass when I wake up. But you never do anything.”

Geralt blinked. That seemed a little unfair. He had done plenty. He had killed many monsters. That had always been enough. “Like what?”

“Like,” Jaskier said and cleared his throat, “kiss me.”

Geralt stared at him. He was lovely. Also, he was suddenly very frightening for no reason at all. “Kiss you?”

“Yes,” Jaskier said.

“You’ve never asked me to kiss you.”

“I’m asking you now.”

“But why would you…” Geralt paused. “I’m not…”

“Some nights, before I fall asleep,” Jaskier said, “I can’t think about anything else than what it would be like if you kissed me. You’d be so awkward about it. But so good. And so strong. And so irritating. And so stupidly forward. And you’d probably rub yourself off against me and you wouldn’t even realize that would mean we made love.”

“Made love?” Geralt whispered.

“Just kiss me already,” Jaskier said, out of breath and shivering a little. “If you want to kiss me, kiss me, and if you don’t, tell me so that I can fucking try to stop myself from falling in love with you.”

Falling in love with me?

Geralt,” Jaskier said. He sounded a little desperate now. And his request had been simple enough. Maybe he didn’t want a horse, after all. Maybe he just wanted Geralt to kiss him. Geralt could do that.

“Okay,” Geralt said. “I want to kiss you. I’ll do it. Do you want to hold your breath?”

“I’m not about to -,” Jaskier began, and then he started laughing.


**


There was a lot of kissing.

The sun rose. The room became slightly less cold, which was great, because at that point the blankets had fallen onto the floor a long time ago. Geralt was kissing Jaskier as well as he could, as patiently and kindly and lovingly as was possible, only sometimes he bit a little, but Jaskier seemed to like that as well. He had Jaskier lying underneath him, pressed against the mattress, and he realized vaguely that he had wanted to do this for a while now. He had thought about this. He had thought about Jaskier writhing in his arms and trying to catch his breath while Geralt kissed him. He had thought about the little noises Jaskier would make and the way he would cling onto Geralt’s arms and shoulders.

What Geralt hadn’t thought about was that the needles were back, the blunt needles from Jaskier’s stupid metaphor. He kissed Jaskier and it was scarier than facing any monster, including that giant griffin he had killed when he had been too young to know what he was doing. He still didn’t know what he was doing. He took Jaskier’s face in between his hands and thought about how incredible it was that he had found someone like that, someone who wanted to get kissed by him early in the morning in a narrow bed in a crappy inn in North in late autumn, someone who was clever and funny and stubborn and had weird hairy toes, someone who made songs about his job and jokes about his dick. And then he thought about what he would do if he lost Jaskier, and it was worse than any loneliness he had ever felt.

“Geralt, what’re you doing?” Jaskier was saying now. His face was red, and his skin was damp, and he was kind of trying to grab Geralt’s left buttock through the layers of fabric. “You should be kissing me. Are you thinking?

“Of course not,” Geralt said, thinking about how lonely he would be when, eventually, Jaskier would die. Or grow tired of Geralt, which certainly was a possibility. “Jaskier, I lied to you.”

“What?” Jaskier asked. His hand on Geralt’s bottom stopped, which was a shame.

“I lied. I’ve been lonely. Or I didn’t lie, you just misunderstood what I said to you.”

“You lied to me,” Jaskier said, but he didn’t sound angry. He pushed his fingers through Geralt’s hair and stroked Geralt’s cheekbone with his thumb. “You’ve been lonely?”

“Yes.”

Jaskier cleared his throat. “Are you lonely now?”

“Kind of,” Geralt said. “But it’s worse. I think I am... I’m thinking about how lonely I’ll be in the end.”

“Fuck,” Jaskier said gently. “Geralt, you know that we all are going to be lonely in the end.”

“I don’t want that.”

“Nobody wants that.”

“I think I want to keep you.”

“You can keep me,” Jaskier said. “But I’m going to need breakfast at some point.”

“Fine,” Geralt said and kissed him. It was still frightening, but he did it anyway.


**


They tried to look like nothing had changed. For Roach. But eventually she found out. That happened late in the evening, when they were ready to get to sleep in the woods along the road and Geralt accidentally kissed Jaskier on the mouth and Jaskier kissed him back. Roach didn’t seem to mind, though. If Geralt was right, she even looked a little happy. Perhaps she had realized what was going on before Geralt had.

In the morning, Jaskier wriggled in Geralt’s arms and told Geralt to let him go because he had to go to jerk off. There was something funny in his voice. Geralt let go of him, but he didn’t move, and then Geralt rolled him onto his back and climbed onto him and undressed him. Roach turned her butt to them. Geralt tugged Jaskier’s pants to his ankles and then took his cock in his hand. Jaskier made all the noises Geralt knew he would, because he had heard them many times. But it was better like this. It was better now that he could touch Jaskier anywhere he wanted and Jaskier only asked for more.

They spent the whole day riding to the East. Geralt was thinking about the winter. It was getting too cold to sleep outside. Maybe they could find a nice village with plenty of both monsters and people who liked Jaskier’s music, and then they could spend the winter there. They could rent a room and sleep in the bed every night. Geralt would keep Jaskier warm and happy.

That night, they were lying under the pine trees again. Geralt was thinking about keeping Jaskier warm and happy and was surprised when he realized that Jaskier had pushed his hand into Geralt’s pants and was stroking him quite determinedly.

“What?” Geralt asked.

“Fuck me,” Jaskier said.

Geralt blinked. “Really?”

“What do you mean, really?” Jaskier asked. “Did you think I was joking?”

“No, I just…” But then Geralt had to pause to breathe in, because Jaskier’s fingers on his dick tightened in a very specific way. “I didn’t think you wanted that.”

“I’ve tried it before,” Jaskier said and frowned, “it was… well. I want to try it with you. If you want to.”

Geralt took a deep breath.

“Geralt?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

Geralt nodded.

“You want to fuck me,” Jaskier said with a sigh. “That’s a relief. For a moment I thought that maybe I had got it wrong somehow, that maybe it didn’t mean anything after all that you always rub your cock against my ass.”

“I don’t –“

“But can you be nice about it?” Jaskier said and cleared his throat. “Can you be, I don’t know, gentle with me? Because if I’m being completely honest, the last time I tried this, it didn’t go very smoothly. It was… it was more difficult than I had realized. So, I have a jar of oil in my bag, and could you possible tell Roach to look the other way? I don’t want her to see me like that. Just in case I get nervous. But I trust you, Geralt. I trust you so much it should be illegal. It probably is. But I mean it when I say that I want your cock in my ass. I don’t know what it is about you, Geralt, you’re just different from the others. You’re the most fascinating person I’ve ever met. You can kill monsters before breakfast, but you get breathless when you’re supposed to do some small talk. You’re incredible. I want you on me and in me. I want you to keep me down and take me. But be gentle. God, I’m nervous.”

“I’ll be gentle,” Geralt said.

And he was.


**


It turned out that Geralt couldn’t feel very lonely if he concentrated on being gentle. So, he did exactly that. He tried to stop thinking about how lonely he would be when he lost Jaskier, and instead he concentrated on getting his fingers into Jaskier’s ass without hurting him, and after that, he concentrated on the little noises Jaskier was making that said stop or more or slower or do it already even when what Jaskier actually said was incoherent. He had Jaskier on his knees, his head bowed down in between his arms, and he was trembling and panting and didn’t protest when Geralt grabbed his dick, perhaps because he couldn’t have stopped Geralt without falling onto his face. And it had taken ages to get Geralt’s dick in him, and Geralt supposed they were both pretty excited about that. Excited but gentle. That was what Geralt was, and not lonely at all.

Afterwards, he kept Jaskier in his arms and it didn’t feel much different from the many times they had slept like this. There was the moon on the sky, light wind on the trees and the scent of winter in the air, and Roach seemed a little frustrated at them, but in a loving way. She was a good horse. Geralt told her that, and then he fell asleep.

Early in the morning, it began to rain. Geralt woke Jaskier up and they started looking for the next village.