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The Witcher Wolf

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“So tell me love, tell me love...wait...”

Jaskier adjusted his fingering on the lute, pitching it an octave higher and trying again.

“So tell me love, tell me love, how is that ju-" he shifted a finger. “how is that-" another shift. “how is that just.”

There, that was it.

Jaskier smiled dryly to himself as he slung the lute on its strap to rest against his back, leaving his hands free to dig his notebook out of his pocket as he walked down the long long empty road. He sighed as he scratched a note with his stub of a pencil and tucked the notebook back into his pocket, looking around at the looming trees and scrubby brush surrounding him.

The shadows were growing dusky and long, signaling that he probably should have found somewhere to curl up for the night an hour ago, not now when he’d be scrambling to see in the last of daylight as he made camp. But it couldn’t really be helped now could it?

He could practically hear Geralt chastising him for being thoughtless again, especially when traveling alone.

Jaskier went several steps out of his way to stomp his foot through a suitable stick with a satisfying crack. Because it didn’t really matter what Geralt probably thought, did it?

Finally being chased off by Geralt two weeks ago was plenty painful enough to try and avoid thinking about on its own. Jaskier did not need the stupid Witcher getting after him even in his own mind after he’d been cast off like a rock out of a boot.

Jaskier paused, angrily chewing his lip as he gazed into the middle distance. He fished out his notebook again, scrawled cast off like a rock from your shoe and then stashed it away again.

He might be hurting terribly and handling it badly, but he was also a professional. Waste not want not and all that. If he was going to have to pull himself back together after being utterly rejected by the best friend he’d been following for literal decades, having finally been forced to realize that said best friend truly hated him, then he was at least going to get some decent song material from it.

And yes it was out of spite. And righteous anger. Definitely not heartbreak. Not at all. His newest song was a metaphor see, not a heartbroken ballad of unrequited longing and aching, of course not. Shut up.

Jaskier crashed angrily through the brush on the side of the road as he told off his inner critic, no longer having anyone to talk to but still managing to piss off himself in their absence it seemed. Which was perfectly fine! See? He didn’t need anyone anyway, he could even make himself miserable if he had to, no need to drag any Witchers into his mess at all when he was this self sufficient.

By the time he came back to himself and looked around he couldn’t see the road anymore, but also had only a passing idea at which way he’d come from. Excellent. Might as well keep getting lost then, why not, really? Maybe the world would be lucky enough that he’d fall so far down an unseen ditch that he’d just disappear forever, or maybe he’d stumble on some cursed shrine that would vaporize him, freeing humanity of the huge burden he evidently was. Geralt would love that wouldn’t he? Or maybe-

Jaskier didn’t see the animal lying on the ground until he’d just about stepped on it, shifting his foot sideways at the last moment with a yelp. He scrambled to the side as the huge white furred creature lurched up, snarling at him.

“I was just being facetious!” Jaskier yelled to no one, automatically grabbing his lute to his chest as he stumbled backward onto the ground. “I don’t actually want to die, certainly not eaten!”

He nearly screamed for Geralt out of old habit, but paused when nothing lunged at him, when no teeth or claws latched into him.

The creature staring at him from across the clearing was a massive white wolf. It watched him silently with wide golden yellow eyes, as if it were as shocked to see Jaskier as he was to see it. The wolf was holding one front leg awkwardly up against itself, in the quickly dimming light Jaskier could make out what seemed to be the half chewed off shaft of an arrow sticking out of the poor thing’s shoulder.

“Sorry, very terribly sorry to bother you.” Jaskier said weakly, still shaking with adrenaline as he sat in the dirt, clutching his lute like a shield. “I was trying to find someplace to camp and I was wandering and wasn’t looking where I was going and I didn’t mean- Really that arrow business looks like it hurts, how long have you had that nasty thing stuck in you?”

The wolf still had its ears back at him, tail tucked between its legs as it crouched close to the ground, but it wasn’t growling. Weren’t hurt animals supposed to be more aggressive? He was pretty sure he didn’t have that the wrong way around. Either way, he wasn’t about to look a non aggressive gift wolf in the mouth.

Jaskier very very slowly pushed himself to his feet. The wolf’s piercing golden eyes watched him, but it didn’t move, other than tucking its wounded leg closer.

“Say you’re not that bad for a wolf.” Jaskier said, softening his voice as he edged a step closer. Still no aggressive reaction from the wolf.

As Jaskier edged closer he could see the fur on the wolf’s shoulder was all matted down with dried blood. He thought of the medical kit in his pouch, something he’d learned the hard way to keep on him over the years traveling with a Witcher.

“What if I took a look at-" Jaskier paused as the wolf growled at him, ears pinned back with a snarl. Alright, so it had personal space boundaries after all.

Jaskier dropped to a crouch, his voice going even softer and higher pitched. “Hey now, I know that shoulder probably has you miserable, but I’m not so sure you’re much of a man eater if you left me alone after nearly stepping on you.” He snapped his fingers, digging into his pouch. “You know what though, you’re probably starving, not much hunting gets done on that leg I’ll bet.”

He pulled out several long strips of dried rabbit meat, gently tossing them to land in front of the wolf, trying not to startle it.

The animal’s ears were still pinned back, but it barely sniffed at the meat before snagging it, finishing it off in barely a few bites.

Jaskier edged closer to the wolf, swinging his lute back to keep his hands free, fingers open to show he meant no harm.

“That’s it, there’s a good boy.” Jaskier said gently.

He very very carefully set a hand on the wolf’s back, feeling almost giddy with the adrenaline his brain was giving him for being stupid enough to pet an injured wolf. He could practically feel Geralt yanking him back by the collar of his doublet.

The wolf growled, but it was more mixed with a whine now as it pressed itself against the ground. Jaskier now suspected that it was only in pain, not fear.

“You know I’m not sure you’re much of a wolf at all.” Jaskier said, carefully stroking the thick white fur, hoping to calm it. “There’s no way I’d still have both my hands at this point if you were really wild. For which I thank you by the way, playing the lute one-handed isn’t a skill I have much interest in picking up. You act more like some kind of massive dog, did you have a human family that raised you? Have you been abandoned by your person?”

The wolf’s growl continued, shifting neither up or down, looking somehow very judgmental as Jaskier talked.

“You know you remind me very much of a friend of mine.” Jaskier said with a wry smile that quickly dropped away. “Or, acquaintance I suppose, he never did anything but growl either. In fact you’re probably much more in tune with your emotions than he is I’ll bet, although most rocks probably are if I’m being strictly honest. The man’s really a complete imbecile.”

The wolf snarled, probably just because Jaskier’s fingers had reached the matted blood.

“Alright, so here’s my terrible plan.” Jaskier said, ignoring the snarl. Another unconscious habit he’d developed from hanging around Geralt apparently. “I’m going to try and remove this arrow, which is going to hurt terribly, and then I’m going to patch you up. I’d be extremely grateful if you didn’t dismember me in any way while I do, but if you can’t help yourself I suppose that’s fair.” He shrugged. “I’m not in a very self preserving mood at the moment, so I suppose a final act of misguided heroism isn’t the worst way to go. The last white wolf I hung around mauled me emotionally, so actually it would be terribly poetic if you did finish the job physically.”

The wolf quieted at that, staring up at him with golden eyes.

Jaskier raised an eyebrow at the sudden change in temperament. Maybe it found this tone of voice most comforting for some reason? Alright he could work with that.

“It’s quite the tragic tale really.” Jaskier said, keeping up his miserable monotone as he quickly opened his medical kit, pouring some water from his flask across the wolf’s fur to loosen the blood. “The story of a young bard who attached himself to a man so emotionally constipated that he couldn’t even tell when the bard was utterly devoted to him. I was stupid enough to hang around him for years if you’d believe it. Even though he bit far more than you do my friend. With words I mean, Witchers don’t really bite people, you can’t believe all those terrible old wives tales.”

The fur underneath the blood soon resurfaced a watery stained pink as jaskier worked. The actual injury wasn’t very big, just the imbedded shaft and some damage where it looked like the wolf had tried worrying at it unsuccessfully to get it out itself. Jaskier put a hand on the wolf’s shoulder, gripping the shaft firmly.

“So anyway he finally decided he hated me enough to- sorry this part’s the hard bit-" he yanked the shaft out before he could talk himself out of it, bracing himself for the bite that was sure to come.

The wolf yelped, a high whining noise as it jerked with pain under him. But no bite.

“That’s a very good boy.” Jaskier said, panting a little as the dizzying spike of fear left him. He inspected the arrow to make sure nothing looked like it had snapped off before setting it aside. “That’s a very very good boy for not ripping my arm off, very good boy.”

He quickly set to work, patting everything dry, dousing it with a quick splash of alcohol and healing salve for luck, (the wolf only growled slightly at that, staring away into the trees) and then wrapping it up tight in a way Jaskier hoped wouldn’t slip off fur.

“There we go.” He said in relief, wiping sweat off his forehead as he tucked his supplies back into his pack. “Nothing like impromptu feral veterinary care to get the old heart pumping, eh?”

The wolf, being a wolf, of course said nothing, still staring off into the trees. Jaskier checked to see if it were actually looking at something, but no.

“You’re sulking.” Jaskier decided, petting the wolf between the ears before the animal shook its head to get his hand off. “Yes you are, I know that look anywhere. Probably terribly embarrassing to be the king of the forest and have to accept help from a lowly human bard eh? Well I suppose wolves aren’t really the king, not if there’s griffins or something about.”

The wolf looked at him with a long stare, and then shifted carefully to be facing away from him.

“That settles it.” Jaskier said with a smile, looking around and starting to collect firewood in the scant minutes he had before the sun’s light vanished entirely. “I’m calling you Geralt Junior. The both of you would get along splendidly in your stubborn grumpiness.”

The wolf looked over at him, ears pricked.

“Geralt Junior? You like that name?” Jaskier asked with a grin at the wolf’s response.

The wolf’s ears flipped back for a moment, as if confused, but then it hauled itself to its feet with a whine. It took a few halting steps toward him before stumbling on its bad leg, continuing to whine urgently.

“Whoa whoa hey, settle.” Jaskier said quickly, dropping his armful of sticks and kneeling by the wolf, carefully pushing its broad shoulders until it settled to the ground with an annoyed growl. “Lay down, stay. You shouldn’t be walking any more tonight, you’ve got to heal alright? Lay down boy, do you know commands?”

There was a low percolating noise in the wolf’s throat but it stayed down, burying its nose between its paws.

“That’s right, you go back to sulking Geralt Junior.” Jaskier said, patting the wolf’s head until he was shaken off a second time. “I’m going to see if I can scrape us together a fire for the night. Feel free to stick around if you like, I wouldn’t mind the company.” He sighed as he scraped a clear patch of earth with his boot and started to pile small sticks and tinder together. “If you do head out in the night I promise no hard feelings though. I’ve been reliably informed that I’m miserable company.”

The wolf didn’t look at him but one of its ears twitched toward him.

“Well you’re already an improvement on Geralt Senior.” Jaskier said dryly, striking sparks from his flint. “At least with you I can tell if you’re really listening or not.”

The wolf huffed, flicking its ear.

Jaskier kept an eye on the white wolf as he scraped a place to lie down next to the fire, rolling out his thin sleeping mat. He really expected the wolf to wander off into the woods at any moment, but instead it stayed right where it was at the side of the campfire as Jaskier settled for the night, steadily ignoring him as he chattering away.

“Well unfortunately for you I’m too tired to work on my songs for the night.” Jaskier said, setting another hunk of firewood in the flames before tucking himself under his thin blanket. He rested on his stomach, propped up on his elbows. “I’m famous for my singing you know, one of the most beloved bards on the continent for my music, you’re missing out on a real treat I tell you.”

The wolf huffed and shifted.

“Well, goodnight Geralt Junior.” Jaskier said, resting his chin on his arms. “It was nice to meet you, good luck on wherever you wander to next. Thanks again for not eating me.”

He meant to go to sleep immediately, but found himself watching the huge mound of white fur on the other side of the flames. He sighed quietly. Just like fate to send him such a clear ironic mockery like this. He rolled onto his back, staring up at the shadows of the tree branches above as they moved and whispered in the wind.

Well no matter the irony dripping from this whole situation, it had at least been a bit of amusement. Maybe he’d even start writing a song about it after the wolf was gone in the morning.

Jaskier closed his eyes, willing himself into unconsciousness before his mind could wander into its nightly routine of fretfully wondering what a different white wolf was up to.

 

***

 

Geralt Junior was not gone in the morning.

“Well hello again.” Jaskier said, his voice muzzy with sleep as he pushed himself up. The wolf was sitting, watching him from the other side of the fire, which judging from the blackened state of the wolf’s paws had already been scratched out for the day, charcoal markings scratched across the ground. “That’s a neat trick with the fire, bit rude to watch people sleep though.”

He hoisted himself to his feet with a groan, cracking his back and then stopping to roll up the sleeping mat. “I suppose you’re hanging around because you’re still hungry, well I-oh, hello.”

He startled as a cold wet nose pushed against his bare wrist. The wolf had padded silently over to him, evidently no longer limping. The bloodied binding on its shoulder was starting to slip off too.

“You weren’t biting at this during the night were you?” Jaskier scolded, pushing the wolf back a bit so it wasn’t practically standing over him and taking the bandages off. “Because if you were I’ll...”

He trailed off as the bandages slipped away, revealing a small wound that had nearly healed over already in the night. It was still angry and red looking, but the skin was already well on its way to being mended, a far cry from the gaping bleeding wound last night.

“Did Geralt slip something into my salve?” Jaskier wondered aloud, scratching the wolf’s head absently. “You’ve healed nearly as fast as he does.”

This time the wolf didn’t shake off his hand, instead whining at him, shoving its nose into Jaskier’s palm.

“Hey, it’s a good thing.” Jaskier assured the animal, “It means you can go without bandages now as long as you don’t bite at it.”

He scratched harder right behind the wolf’s ears, not missing the way its tail gave half a wag before the wolf caught itself and ducked away from his hand with a whine.

“Don’t you give me that,” Jaskier said with a grin. “I saw that tail wag, you like pats, you big grumpy thing, you can’t fool me with that act.”

The wolf shook itself hard with a huff, then trotted off into the trees without so much as a backward glance.

Jaskier felt unreasonably disappointed to see the animal go, but put on a smile as he waved. “Goodbye Geralt Junior!” He called after it. “And good luck!”

 

***

 

“Storm, tempest...” Jaskier muttered to himself as he walked, kicking stray pebbles as he came across them on the road. “Red skies in morning. Warning. Red skies in morning bringing a warning. That’s good, I’ll keep that.”

It had been another long and lonely day on the hot road, but he’d nailed down nearly all the lyrics to his new song at least. He hadn’t anticipated just how much lonelier it would feel to travel solo after having met last night’s surprise visitor, but at least it had helped keep his mind off...other things...

Jaskier looked up at the setting sun. Well, better to get a start on finding a place to sleep earlier than later tonight. Tomorrow he’d reach the next town if he wasn’t terribly mistaken. He stepped off the path, starting to make his way through the brush.

He couldn’t wait to get back to playing, being around people again would help him get his mind off things. He could start working to refill his purse, perhaps even save up for a horse. He could finally feel less alone, surrounded by an audience and whatever one night stands he could manage to scrounge up in town.

If only he hadn’t-

Jaskier froze as he caught motion out of the corner of his eye and felt himself choke as something huge rushed toward him.

He turned to look and startled again, laughing out loud in relief when he turned to see a white wolf bounding up to him, two dead rabbits clamped in its bloodstained mouth.

“You’ve got to make more noise than that if you don’t want me to die of a heart attack!” He cried, but was unable to wipe the grin off his face at the return of his new friend. “So you’re not sick of me after all, huh? I’m truly flattered you know.”

The wolf ducked its head, dropping the rabbits on the ground in front of him.

“Well if this is your way of saying thank you, then I heartily accept.” Jaskier said with a smile, reaching out and patting the wolf’s head, which the animal seemed to reluctantly endure. “Let's find a good place for a fire and I’ll get these skinned and roasted for us, alright?”

Jaskier picked the rabbits up by the hind legs and strode into the woods with a much happier spring to his step.

An hour later a fire had been made and both rabbits disposed of. Jaskier sat on a log as he plucked at his lute, watching the wolf idly gnawing on a rabbit bone.

“Normally I’d start writing a song about you right away.” Jaskier assured his companion as he tuned a lute peg. “But I’ll reach town tomorrow and I’ve got to have this new song tavern ready if I’m to have any new material.”

The wolf twitched an ear, shifting its gnawing to the other side to watch him as it chewed the tiny bone.

“That’s right, a new Dandelion tune, you’re the first one to hear it too.” Jaskier smiled, strumming a few chords.

He wasn’t really expecting the wolf to listen but as he picked out the opening chords he was intensely aware of the animal’s golden eyes fixed on him. Well, so much the better for practice, Jaskier had never shied away from an attentive audience, no matter the species.

The fairer sex they often call it,” Jaskier sang, his smile dropping away as the song pulled him in. “But her love’s as unfair as a crook.”

The notes flowed and so did the lyrics, the newest words clicking neatly into place as he sang. The emotions of the last two weeks pulled through him one more time as he fixed them into the song, hopefully a space apart from his heart. Maybe showing them off to strangers could get them to dull a bit.

He knew it wouldn’t, but it was too good a hope to abandon entirely. Not yet.

His gaze flicked up to the wolf as he sang, and he was mildly surprised to see the animal watching intently, bone forgotten.

I am weak my love, and I am wanting.” Jaskier sang.

He grimaced as his voice broke a little on the line, too much emotion getting through. Or maybe exactly the right amount. To his amusement he could see the wolf tip its head at that, but he pushed on through the rest of the song, finally finishing with a flourish.

“Her Sweet Kiss, by myself.” Jaskier said with a half bow, setting his lute down beside him. “You’ve been a wonderful audience Geralt Junior. I’ve been working on it for the last month or so. It’s undergone some, ah, heavy revisions in the last two weeks, but I think it’s turned out alright.”

Jaskier heaved a sigh, trying to dispel some of the heavy emotion still in his chest as he wiped at his eyes. “I’ll have to tone down to waterworks a bit when I’m performing in front of people though. Pining gets you far more coin than crying, I’ve learned that performing lesson the hard way. Perks to traveling alone you know, I don’t have to try hide any of that around you.”

Jaskier slid down off the log and propped his arms back on it. The wolf across the fire let out a long whine, still watching him.

“Oh, I’m alright.” Jaskier assured the animal, wiping at his eyes even as the tears keep coming. “It’s just been, um, a rough couple of weeks. Had someone I loved very much get rid of me in a rather terrible and unexpected fashion. I figure if I sing instead of crying about it I’ll get more coin, just more practical that way really. No use pining after a friend that hates you...”

Jaskier tipped his head back against the log with a shaky sigh, closing his eyes against the tears that still came. They’d end eventually if he waited them out, better to get them out now rather than in front of a crowd tomorrow.

He opened his eyes as he felt a heavy weight settle against the side of his leg. He looked down to see the wolf had laid down beside him, tucked up against his leg as the animal stared off into the trees, head rested on its paws.

“There we go, we can sulk together.” Jaskier said with a teary chuckle, gratefully running his fingers through the wolf’s thick white fur. “I promise I’ll be alright...someday. I don’t know.” Jaskier huffed, wiping at his eyes again. “But twenty two years, and you know he never once called me his friend? I mean he was always insulting me, but he never actually tried to make me- okay, well he did try to make me leave several times, but that was mostly at the beginning. But still, twenty two years Geralt Junior. That’s such a long time to be treated like garbage.”

The wolf let out a wine, looking up at him.

“We had good times too though. So many good times.” Jaskier said sadly, scruffing both hands through the wolf’s fur, focusing on that instead of his own words. “We traveled so many places, had so many adventures. He can lighten up you know, especially if you get him alone and well fed. He’s got such a wicked sense of humor and a smile that could melt snow, even if so few people really see it. He’s excellent at Gwent, even if he always gambles too much at it. He’s got such a good heart too, he’s always trying to do the right thing, even if it comes back to cause him more trouble later.”

Jaskier laid his head on the wolf’s broad back, watching his fingers pet the white fur in front of his face as his voice got quieter.

“Honestly it only makes it worse though. To be hated by a good person hurts so much more than being hated by a bad one...”

The wolf whimpered and shifted, making Jaskier think for a moment that he’d leaned against its bad shoulder. But instead the animal shoved its snout into Jaskier’s chest, continuing to whine.

“You’re very sweet.” Jaskier said with a smile, “Even if you don’t understand any of this, I’m very grateful that you’re listening anyway.” He took the wolf’s head in his hands, kissing its forehead. “Whoever your person was must have been very sad to lose you.”

The wolf looked away, then after a long moment settled its head back on its paws.

“Sleep isn’t a terrible idea.” Jaskier yawned, resting his head against the wolf again. He watched the fire for a few more minutes of silence before his eyes drifted shut.

His last absent thought was that he hoped the wolf didn’t mind being used as a pillow without having properly been asked.

 

***

 

It was day three and Jaskier now knew for a fact that Geralt had slipped something into his medical kit, because his wolf companion was trotting easily at his side as they neared the village, only a pale scar on its shoulder that was hidden entirely by thick fur.

Why Geralt had never thought to use such a miracle cure on him when he’d managed to get banged up was beyond him. Jaskier had narrowed it down to either further proof that Geralt really didn’t like him all this time, or else quick healing magic only properly worked on wolves, whether metaphorical or literal.

But as much as he hated it Jaskier couldn’t remember a time that Geralt had ever been rough or hateful with him while treating one of his wounds. Exasperated certainly, but always urgent and attentive, making sure Jaskier healed as quickly and cleanly as possible.

Which somehow left the more poetic answer, something that Jaskier couldn’t quit smiling about as he walked down the road. Though perhaps that was more due to the fact that the village, and thus a comfortable real bed, were now in sight in the distance.

Or maybe it was the massive white wolf padding silently by his side, not having left him once since last night.

“We’re nearly there.” Jaskier hummed happily, playing with the strap of his lute. “Then we'll have warm fires and warm food and warm audiences...”

He trailed off as he walked, looking at the enormous animal walking beside him.

“Although I’m not sure the inkeep will be thrilled to let a wolf into their establishment... or the townspeople either.” Jaskier said with a frown.

To be quite honest Jaskier himself didn’t even know how the wolf would act around people, if it would start snapping or biting if it were to be taken through a crowd or into an enclosed space. He’d known some inns to allow well trained hounds to room with their masters, but that was always with the passing over of extra coin.

For all the wolf was sticking to his side today Jaskier still wouldn’t be all that surprised if the animal peeled off once they got close enough to the town.

Well, there was only going to be one way to find out, meaning it was time for a badly thought out spur of the moment plan.

“So, Geralt Junior.” Jaskier said, pulling to a stop and digging through his pack. “We’re about to be around a lot of people when we get to town, and as you’ve seen humans get skittish around creatures like you and I’d rather not have another arrow in your shoulder. I understand if you leave before we get there, but if you do stick with me we’re going to have to make you seem as domesticated as possible.”

The wolf pinned its ears back as Jaskier pulled a wide turquoise belt out of his pack, the dyed leather covered in imprinted flowers.

“I know it’s going to be a hit to your wild beastly pride, but I really think turquoise might suit you.” Jaskier said with a cheeky smile. “Although if you’d rather run off wild you’d better let me know right now, because I’m not going to have you running off with this and leaving me with an incomplete outfit, these things aren’t cheap you know.”

The wolf stared at him with a look that Jaskier could only think of as disgust. But after a verrrrry long minute the wolf sat, looking away with the same disgusted look.

“There’s a good boy.” Jaskier praised, quickly leaning down to secure the makeshift collar around his wolf’s neck. “I think you look rather dashing.” He scruffed the thick fur above the collar. “And with one fell fashion statement you’ve now worn more color than your namesake has in his entire unnaturally long life, so you at least have that going for you.”

The wolf refused to look at Jaskier, instead plodding on ahead without waiting for him.

Jaskier laughed at his sulking wolf, but they both became more serious as they approached the town. The wolf kept scenting the air every few steps and Jaskier found himself smiling uneasily at the people they started passing more and more frequently. Not all of them stared openly, but all of them were definitely at least sneaking looks as they walked by.

“Just stick by me.” Jaskier said quietly, his fingertips finding the edge of the collar and staying there as they approached an inn.

He thought about trying to leave the wolf outside, but the animal pressed close against his leg as he walked into the establishment, as if nervous of being left alone in the middle of town. Well, at least it played well into the pet charade Jaskier was playing.

“That's quite a beast you’ve got yourself there bard.” The innkeeper called from behind his counter. He didn’t sound exactly wary but Jaskier could see the man relax a little when he glanced at the floral colored collar. “Afraid we won’t have no fighting dogs in here, he’ll have to keep to the yard if he’s the kind to pick fights.”

“Not to worry my good man, I’ve had Geralt Junior since he was a pup, though truth be told we had no idea he had so much wolf in him when he was still small.” Jaskier said brightly, lying through his teeth. “He’s big, but he’s a big pushover, I can promise you’ll have no trouble from him.”

He looked down at the wolf, for a moment wondering if he weren’t taking too much of a risk with this one. He didn’t know the wolf, but it had stuck by him so closely and the thought of leaving it outside now made him bite his lip.

The wolf gazed up at him with bright yellow eyes, then at the innkeeper, as if thinking. Jaskier raised an eyebrow as the wolf’s tail started to wag and it started to pant with a very doggish smile, leaning hard against him. For all the world the very picture of a lifelong pet.

Well. Unexpected, but good?

“Well he seems polite.” The innkeeper said, smiling down at the wolf. “I’ll allow it as long as you’re willing to pay extra for a room, but even a hint of trouble and you’re both out.”

“Agreed.” Jaskier said eagerly, “one room and meals for the two of us then please, and I’d like to perform tonight if you’re willing.”

“The place is yours,” the inkeep said with a smile, handing Jaskier a room key in exchange for coin. “Haven’t had a bard through here in a while, it'll do us good to have some song.”

 

***

 

Jaskier was used to audiences fawning over his singing or his playing or his good looks, but drawing attention because of a huge white wolf resting peacefully at his feet was an entirely new experience. Word of the new bard and his tame snowy white wolf traveled quickly it seemed, Jaskier spotted people ducking in and then out of the tavern all night, smiling and pointing and even tossing an extra coin to them as the night went on.

And through it all the wolf stayed out at Jaskier’s feet, calmly listening and watching the audience throughout the night, only shifting a bit whenever Jaskier got up to move along to a more rousing ballad.

There was one moment when a young girl pushed through the crowd and fell squarely onto the wolf. Jaskier actually fumbled a chord as he gasped in a breath of startled fear.

But the wolf only huffed in surprise, blinking at the little girl as she recovered herself and hugged him around his great furry neck. A moment later a woman darted forward with a hurried word of apology as she grabbed her daughter’s arm and dragged her back.

“Not to worry madam, as you can see he’s quite tame.” Jaskier said with a tip of his hat and a brilliant smile that belied the way his heart was pounding in his chest at what could have easily been a disaster.

He finished his song and then bowed to the applauding crowd, gathering up all the coin offered to him as the people dispersed, seeing he was done for the night.

Once the coin was tucked away Jaskier dropped to one knee in front of the wolf, stroking the animal’s head and speaking in a hushed tone. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so tame. Gods above, I thought we were finished for a moment there, you’re truly a magnificently patient beast.”

The wolf ducked its head away from the praise, but Jaskier saw its tail wag against the wooden tavern floor.

“Time for supper and then for bed.” Jaskier said, getting to his feet. “I think you’re going to be a great favorite with audiences my friend if you keep this up, I’d be willing to bet half our coin tonight was due to you alone. We make an excellent team.”

The wolf got to its feet, tail still wagging as it followed Jaskier to a table. While Jaskier ate several people came up to ask if they could pet the wolf, offering bits of food in trade which the wolf accepted eagerly enough.

By the time Jaskier made it to his room, wolf trailing behind, he was convinced he must have done something miraculous to have discovered such a perfect traveling companion.

“You perfect thing.” Jaskier said once they were in the room, a yawn breaking through his smile.

He scratched behind the wolf’s ears and then stripping off his doublet for the first time in days. Really he should take a bath, but the bed looked far too inviting. He collapsed onto the sheets, sprawling out in the warmth of the room as he kicked his boots off.

“A room, a warm fire, coin in my pocket, and an agreeable traveling companion. If only Geralt could see me now.” Jaskier said, slinging one arm over his eyes with a chuckle that turned a bit sad at the end. “I hope that bastard’s alright, wherever he is.” He said quietly.

He felt a cold nose against the back of his hand and raised his arm, looking over to see the wolf whining at him.

“No, not you, the Witcher Geralt.” Jaskier said with a fond smile, petting the wolf’s head. “I'm sorry if I talk about him too much, I suppose I’ve thought of him too long, my brain doesn’t know what else there is to think about.”

He patted the mattress and after a moment of hesitation the wolf jumped up, lying down beside him. The wolf rested his head on Jaskier’s chest, a pleasant warm weight, better than any blanket he could have asked for. Jaskier carded his fingers through the thick white fur as he closed his eyes.

“I suppose I should try forgetting about him entirely.” Jaskier said softly. “I don’t want to though. I think there’s always going to be some mad piece of me that’s going to hope he’d come back for me someday, our paths always cross often enough.”

He petted the wolf in silence for a long minute.

“I can’t do it again though.” Jaskier said firmly, his voice even quieter. “Even if I do see him again someday I won’t go along with him, won’t even look at him, I can’t. I’ve set myself up for heartache and failure for too many years, working so hard to make him a hero of the people in all my songs. There’s never going to be a world in which he actually listens to me or cares, he always took me for granted, I have to remember that.”

Normally he would have teared up by now, but the comforting warmth of the wolf seemed to anchor and steady him as he petted it. The wolf even let out a long low whine that matched his sadness.

“You understand though, don’t you Geralt Junior?” Jaskier said with a smile, ruffling the wolf’s ears with a yawn. “I suppose if I’m going to move on I should think of a better name for you then shouldn’t I? Maybe a flower name to match mine, take our performances to a whole new level.”

The wolf sneezed violently, shaking its head.

“Alright alright, I’ll give it some more thought tomorrow.” Jaskier laughed. He sighed deeply, pulling his pillow a bit more firmly under his head.

It was much easier to get to sleep than it had been the nights before.

 

***

 

Weeks passed as Jaskier and his wolf passed through town after town, settling into a rhythm that Jaskier couldn’t have improved if he’d tried.

They spent days at a time in each town, Jaskier serenading crowds who came to see the wolf bard play, bringing in coin aplenty with new songs that seemed to write themselves. Some were thinly veiled laments of course, but Jaskier found himself falling into much happier tunes again far faster than he would have predicted. Ones about canine friends and cheerful adventures and sunny days and good company.

He still enjoyed the crowds of course, but now some of his favorite days were the ones between the towns, days like this when it was just him and his wolf together on the open road.

“Geralt if you don’t bring the stick back to me I can’t throw it for you.” Jaskier called, plucking a tune on his lute as he walked under the pleasant sunny afternoon sun.

Ahead of him the great white wolf bounded back and forth across the road in and out of the weeds, a large stick in his mouth as he dashed around, never seeming to tire of smelling everything they passed. Around his neck was a fine thick collar with colorful flower patterns woven into the design, a favorite with the ladies and small children. Jaskier had tried some other names for the wolf over the past few weeks but none of them had stuck as well as Geralt Junior had, even that of course eventually dropping to just Geralt.

Things had somehow gotten especially smoother after Jaskier had snapped one night, about a week in to their companionship when the animal was acting especially moody.

That’s it, new rule. Unless you’re in pain or I’m in danger there’s going to be absolutely no growling or snarling at me. I’ve gotten a lifetime's worth of that from your namesake thank you very much, and I refuse to take any more of it.

He of course hadn’t expected his outburst to change anything, but he almost thought it had, his wolf being more careful around him, as if it actually realized how upset he’d made Jaskier.

As they’d traveled the wolf had slowly loosened up in more ways than that too, his previous frequent growls and silence trading for eager tail wagging and barks as they performed for tavern after tavern of people eager to pet and praise him. He never really became rambunctious per se, always still a bit reserved and aloof. But Jaskier was certain his wolf was becoming far happier of an animal while traveling with him than he had been before, and feeling needed like that made him feel warm inside.

It wasn’t very often now that he thought of the old Geralt. Not forgotten certainly, but this new life was filled with plenty of happiness to focus on, instead of the pain he suspected would have devoured him had he not found his new companion.

The wolf bounded up to him, letting Jaskier wrestle the stick away from him and fling it off into the bushes again, then took off after it like a shot. Jaskier wiped the wolf slobber off his hand on his pants and picked up his strumming again with a smile. The one thing he hadn't seen yet was the animal getting tired, the beast having apparently been blessed with incredible stamina.

Up ahead he could see someone approaching from a distance. A horse merchant judging by the string of horses roped behind his own, a couple other men riding with him to keep them in line.

Jaskier politely made his way to the side of the road, halting his strumming to keep from spooking any of the merchant’s stock.

The merchant tipped his head to Jaskier in appreciation as they approached, but Jaskier jumped as he heard barking. He turned to see his wolf rush up to the horses, yelping and whining. The merchant and his boys shouted as they wrangled the spooking horses as they all tried to shy away from the canine.

“Get your animals under control!” The merchant snapped, swinging off in a rapid dismount to catch at his horse's bridle.

“I am so sorry!” Jaskier cried, dashing forward and grabbing the wolf’s collar, trying to haul him back with little success as the animal kept trying to lunge forward, whining desperately with its tail tucked between its legs. “Geralt, down! This has never happened before, he’s usually so good around horses, I-“

Jaskier’s breath caught as he saw one horse that hadn’t shied away, the animal instead yanking toward the wolf. A glossy chestnut mare with a white stripe down her face.

“...Roach?” Jaskier said, his mouth dry.

The mare tossed her head with an urgent whinny as she tugged against her rope halter. There was the old patch of white above her back left hoof, and the horse was actively fighting to try and get near him. It was really her.

“Where did you get that horse?” Jaskier demanded, a hollow icy feeling curling in his gut as he let go of the wolf, rushing up to the mare instead.

“Hey, get back, she bites!” The merchant barked, but he paused as Jaskier stroked Roach’s cheek. The horse crowded up to him, stomping her hoof and tucking her head close over his shoulder.

At their feet Jaskier’s wolf whined and yelped, dancing around in clear agitated excitement that Roach didn’t seem to mind at all.

“Where did you get this horse?” Jaskier repeated, turning to look at the merchant, who was hovering back now. “She belongs to a Witcher, she’s got no place in your stock herd.”

Some kind of uneasy look passed over the horse merchant’s face. Jaskier knew he didn’t cut a very intimidating figure, but he could feel the dangerous heat in his own glare and could hear the growling coming from his wolf beside him.

“We found her wandering a few weeks back.”  One of the merchant’s boy’s spoke up, looking nervously at the wolf. “She was wandering with a half loose saddle in the middle of nowhere, the camp she was by looked like it had been abandoned for days, clothes scattered about, the place was a wreck, blood all over the place.”

The merchant shot the boy a look, but shook his head, giving up. “If she did belong to a Witcher her rider was long gone by the time we found her, I swear it. Whoever they were certainly wasn’t still alive enough to retrieve his horse when we found her. Must have taken on a contract that was too much for him.”

“You’re lying!” Jaskier snapped, his fingers curling in Roach’s mane. “You stole her, you saw her outside a tavern someplace and thought you could get away with it. Well Geralt’s probably hot on your tail by now and you’re all going to regret it!”

“I swear to you we ain’t no horse thieves.” The merchant said, his expression clouding. “Besides, she’s been nothing but trouble ever since we found her, kicking and biting anyone who gets too close. We’re just about ready to sell her for glue.”

“Give her to me.” Jaskier demanded, fingers already working at the rope tied at her bridle. “She isn’t yours, I’m taking her back to Geralt.”

“Whoa, hey,” the merchant said, advancing on him, only stopping short when the wolf snarled at him. “We’ve been keeping her fed and watered for weeks now, if her Witcher were going to “track us down” it would have happened by now, and as it is we’ve got to at least get the cost of her feed back out of her.”

“Fine, I’ll pay for her food cost.” Jaskier said angrily. “But she’s coming with me now, as well as anything else you stole from where you found her. And believe me, I’ll know if you try to keep any of it back.”

As long as he stayed angry he could keep the fear back. Because Geralt would never never leave Roach abandoned, she was the one thing in the world that Jaskier knew he loved. And if Geralt had been alive enough to walk he would have tracked the horse thieves in a matter of hours.

So where was Geralt?

The merchant must have done some quick calculating in his head of the risk of an angry bard and an angry wolf and an angry horse compared to a quick and easy payout, because he was soon nodding to his boys who scrambled back to the pack horses.

“It’s alright Roach.” Jaskier soothed quietly, taking hold of her rope bridle once he detached it from the lead rope. “It’s alright girl, you’re safe now.”

His wolf was still whining and pressing up against them both. The horse ducked her head down to nuzzle against the wolf, which struck Jaskier as odd, the old mare generally only allowing Geralt himself to touch her. Jaskier had only worked up to being allowed that particular honor after years of sugar cubes and braided manes and pretty compliments.

The boys returns with their arms full, dumping the contents at Jaskier’s feet. Roach’s saddle and tack, saddle bags and camping gear.

Jaskier’s blood ran cold when he stooped to shuffle aside a sleeping roll to uncover a set of all too familiar black studded armor, and two separate long swords. One silver. One steel.

“These were all at his camp?” Jaskier asked, his voice dangerously on edge and brittle as he searched through the pile, finding every single item Geralt regularly traveled with.

“They were, strewn about in a right mess too.” The merchant said, looking very much like he was more than ready to have this whole mess off his hands for good.

Jaskier numbly checked the saddle bags, looking up as his voice cracked.

“The medallion.” He demanded hoarsely. “Where’s the silver wolf medallion?”

The one thing the Witcher never never took off, not even to bathe or sleep. If that at least was still missing then maybe-

One of the boys blushed, quickly pulling a chain from under his shirt and handing it to Jaskier, whose fingers took it in a kind of desperate spasm. His wolf nosed desperately at the medallion, whining and whimpering.

“That’s all of it.” The merchant said hesitantly, clearly disturbed at Jaskier’s reaction.

Jaskier stood, the medallion clutched so hard in his hand that his fingers were bleaching white around it. He pulled out some coin and handed it to the merchant, who barely glanced at the sum before nodding and signaling his boys back in the saddle.

Within a minute of hurried commotion the merchant and his herd were gone, leaving Jaskier standing in the middle of the road with a horse and a wolf. Trembling as he stood over all that remained of Geralt of Rivia, his Witcher medallion clutched in his hand.

Jaskier breath was coming quickly and raggedly as his mind feverishly cast about for any explanation that didn’t end with Geralt being very much gone forever.

His armor looked roughed up and was spattered with dried blood. Had he been eaten out of his own armor? Cursed entirely out of existence? Either way, gone forever. Leaving behind everything.

Leaving behind Jaskier.

Jaskier was trembling so hard that his knees gave out, sending him to the ground on his hands and knees as his rapid shallow breathing gave way to sobs. The edges of the medallion were cutting into his hand, but he didn’t care as tears ran down his face, his mind paralyzed in a loop of denial and panic and grief.

He was gone.

Geralt was gone.

Jaskier felt a heavy warmth press against him and he reflexively wrapped his arms around the wolf as it crowded against his chest. He buried his face in the thick white fur, holding on tightly enough that it must be hurting, but the wolf only draped heavily across his lap, silent as Jaskier sobbed.

He might have cried like that for minutes or an hour before he slowly came back to himself, the wolf nosed at his ear, clearly concerned.

“He’s, he’s gone.” Jaskier hiccuped, opening his hand to look at the medallion, the silver wolf head glinting coldly back at him. Despite having seen it for years, seeing it apart from Geralt made it look unnatural and foreign. “I mean...I k-know I already lost him...b-but not like this.”

His wolf whined quietly, pressing its head against Jaskier's shoulder bracingly. Jaskier buried his face against the white fur.

“Why did that have to be the last time I saw him...” he said quietly, the hollow feeling inside enveloping him completely. “Why did it have to end like that? I really believed I would see him again. What am I going to do now?”

He felt Roach nudge his shoulder and the tears came again as he looked up at her. He unsteadily got to his feet, rubbing her cheek. “Oh Roach, I’m so sorry. You probably saw it actually happen too, you poor thing.”

He eased the rough rope bridle off her head, rubbing her face as his thoughts started to slowly become coherent again. Geralt didn’t really have next of kin, but the other Witchers would want to know what had happened.

“I know he didn’t like me much by the end, but I hope it’s alright if you stick with me.” Jaskier said to Roach. “I promise I’ll keep you brushed and well fed, no monster hunting, but I’ll take good care of you.”

The mare bumped her nose against his chest affectionately.

“I think we ought to find Yennefer.” Jaskier said quietly, sniffling and wiping his eyes as he pulled Roach’s tack from the pile of things on the road. “She’ll know how to track down the other Witchers, to tell them what happened.”

He slipped her real bridle on and saddled her, then started packing all of Geralt’s things into the saddle bags, hanging the two swords at her flanks. He worked slowly, feeling like he would begin sobbing again if he moved too quickly.

The whole time he worked his wolf kept close to his side, staring up at him as it leaned against him comfortingly. Jaskier stopped several times to pet it, reigning his breath back in each time, away from the point of breaking down again.

When everything was ready to go Jaskier had to take a minute to compose himself before he could look at Roach. He’d packed her up exactly like this so many times, but never to ride alone. This isn’t what he wanted at all. He’d perhaps wished that he had something to remember his Witcher by, but not like this.

He pulled the medallion out of his pocket and stared at it. It felt wrong somehow to tuck it away when it had been worn openly for over a century. He looked at his wolf with a sigh, dropping down to one knee.

“I need you to hold onto this for me alright?” He said quietly. “Keep it safe while we travel.”

The wolf sat very still as Jaskier slipped the silver chain over its head.

One moment Jaskier was looking at his wolf, the next moment he was blinded by a blast of white light. He cried out, falling back in shock, letting go of the medallion chain.

He blinked hard, stumbling to his feet as his vision slowly came back to him, leaving his sight hazy and spotty for a long minute as he dizzily tried to balance himself.

Large hands gripped his arms and he yelled in panic, trying to jerk away from whoever had apparently ambushed him with magic. Were they after Geralt’s things? After Roach?

But before he could react further he was pulled into what felt exactly like a tight hug. He tried to struggle as his vision came back to him.

“Unhand me! Let me-"

“I’m sorry Jaskier.” Said a low voice in his ear.

The voice sounded husky, as if it hadn’t been used in a very long time, but Jaskier would recognize that voice no matter what it sounded like.

“G-Geralt?” He asked, his voice cracking.

The hug loosened, only enough for Geralt to pull back and look at him, his beautiful golden eyes bright and happy.

“I promised myself that if I ever got to speak again that’s the first thing I’d say.” Geralt said.

“You’re, you’re not dead?” Jaskier asked, starting to tremble hard, out of overwhelming sudden emotion or simple shock he couldn’t tell.

“I’m not dead.” Geralt said, gently kissing Jaskier’s forehead, sending him another level deeper into staggering shock.

“I’ve gone mad.” Jaskier said weakly, his legs giving out. “I’ve lost it, I’m off my rocker, the full nine yards, hallucinating. Completely batty.”

Geralt caught him with a chuckle, holding him steady. “You’re not mad, I promise. Not about this anyway.”

Jaskier swallowed, looking up at Geralt’s face as he rested his hands on the Witcher’s bare chest, then looked down.

“If you aren’t a dream of mine, then why aren’t you wearing any clothes.” Jaskier challenged flatly.

Geralt grinned. “Haven’t worn any in nearly two months now.”

Jaskier’s eyes caught on the silver medallion around Geralt’s neck, and even more specifically the loose woven collar that Geralt was unlatching and slipping off his neck.

The last two months all slammed into Jaskier at once, blindsiding him hard enough to knock the air out of his lungs completely.

“You’re Geralt!” He wheezed, eyes painfully wide. “The wolf Geralt, you were the wolf, the whole time, of course, of course! What, what happened?”

He didn’t quite know how his hands got on either side of the witcher’s face, but they were there, his face inches from his own as he scanned the familiar sight. Those golden eyes he’d had by his side for weeks now without ever seeing past them to the truth.

“Took a contract for a beast that turned out to be a sorcerer’s pet.” Geralt said, his voice starting to sound like its normal low self. He rested a hand on Jaskier’s wrist, stroking his thumb across the back of his hand. “I killed the beast but its master wasn’t too happy with me, I guess he had a sense of irony so he turned me into a white wolf. He ran me off, I met some hunters, got an arrow through the shoulder, was convinced I was going to die of either infection or hunger or more hunters, and then you nearly tripped over me.”

“It was dark, alright?” Jaskier said breathlessly, his mind skipping over nearly everything Geralt had said to focus instead on the fact that he was here and alive. “So, so you were with me these whole two months? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I tried, that first night I tried to scrape out a message with the ashes from the fire, but you didn’t notice. Whenever I tried to communicate you didn’t seem to catch on.” Geralt sighed. “After a week or two I gave up, it was pleasant enough traveling with you and I didn’t think there was a cure to the curse. I never would have guessed the medallion, and even if I had I wouldn't have known where to find it. Things were simpler once I gave up.”

Jaskier’s mind replayed the last weeks at super speed, trying to think of any time he’d noticed anything unusual. Perhaps the way the wolf had trusted him so quickly, how it picked up on commands so easily, how when he talked to it it really seemed like it were listening to him.

Jaskier paled, remembering exactly how much he’d talked. “You heard everything I told you? About, about you?” He asked weakly.

“Yes.” Geralt said soberly. “That’s why I decided an apology would be the first thing I’d say if I ever got back to normal.”

Jaskier’s bottom lip trembled, for once at a complete loss for words.

“Are you sure you’re not still cursed?” He finally managed, his hands dropping to Geralt’s chest again. “You’re being very nice to me and using ten times as many words as you usually do.”

“I’ve had two months of wishing I could talk, I have a list actually.” Geralt said, starting to speak a little faster and more earnestly, as if nervous that he’d lose his ability to speak again. “First, I felt terrible the minute you left that mountain, I was angry at so many different things and I took it out on you because you were the closest thing that I knew wouldn’t yell back. I’m sorry, Jaskier, I shouldn’t have.”

“No, you shouldn’t have.” Jaskier agreed quietly, mind still spinning a little, but starting to settle as he listened.

“Second, I do not hate you. I’ve never hated you. I hate that you think that, I hate that I made you think that, it’s not true.” Geralt said, almost sounding angry now.

Jaskier swallowed, nodding silently.

“Third you are my friend, my best friend, I’m sorry for taking you for granted. I'll never do it again or else you can run me through with my own sword.”

Jaskier only managed to make a kind of weak noise in response as Geralt gathered him into another tight hug.

“Anything else?” Jaskier asked, trying to make it sound like a joke, but his voice broke as he buried his face against Geralt’s neck.

“Just that I saw you take those apples at the market when you thought no one was looking, and that you really ought to make sure your poor dog is out of the room before you pull someone into bed with you for the night.” Geralt said, his voice sounding amused.

“You were a wolf.” Jaskier sputtered, blushing furiously as he looked up. “How was I supposed to know you were judging me? And really it’s not like you’ve never been to a brothel Geralt, you’re hardly an innocent, don’t try to shame me with that.”

“And your singing is actually quite good.” Geralt said gently, wrapping his arms around Jaskier’s waist. “Even if some of your recent songs...sting a bit. Being up there with you while you performed every night was...special. I liked it.”

Jaskier swallowed again, unable to keep the dumb grin off his face even as he thought he might start crying again. “So not like a fillingless pie?” He asked, a little facetiously. His eyes widened and he jabbed a finger at Geralt’s chest. “What about that time you started howling in the middle of my set? You frightened the entire tavern! I thought we were going to be run out of town for sure!”

Geralt laughed at that, a lovely deep warm sound. “That was because I saw a pickpocket in the crowd, I figured spooking them with a howl would be better than lunging into the crowd growling. It worked too, which was a nice surprise.”

Jaskier laughed too, a real laugh, not the kind of tight ones other people had gotten from him over the past months, the real kind that had only come when he was alone with his traveling companion.

“I think I’m going to miss wolf Geralt.” He said, tilting his head to the side, surprised at how sad he really felt at that realization. “I mean obviously I’m thrilled you’re not dead, or cursed, but the last two months have been so lovely.”

“Well, if you don’t mind Witcher Geralt too much I’d like to keep traveling with you.” Geralt said quietly. He glanced down at the way they were holding each other, then looked back up. “And maybe start a few things over while we’re at it?”

Jaskier’s heart fluttered in his chest, but he chewed his lip. All those nights of telling himself that he’d never go back to traveling with the Witcher coming back to him. All conversations Geralt had actually heard of course, meaning the Witcher knew exactly what he was really asking.

“How do I know it won’t go back to how it was?” Jaskier asked, a bit of fear creeping into his voice. “What happens when talking has lost its novelty and you’re back to growls and grunts, when you’re mad at being slowed down by me and need someone to take it out on?”

“This time I want to follow you. If you’ll let me.” Geralt said, gently resting his forehead against Jaskier’s. “The way we’ve done these past months. You go where you want, and I’ll take whatever contracts I find along the way, that way you don’t have to give up anything anymore to be around me, you can set the pace.” He brushed a thumb across Jaskier’s cheek. “It was nice following you around as a wolf, I think it would still be nice as a Witcher.”

“You use that line on every boy you flirt with?” Jaskier teased, but his smile was real. “I think I’d like that.” His expression grew serious. “But I will take you up on your offer of running you through with your own sword if you start being an imbecile again.”

“Good.” Geralt chuckled, brushing his nose against Jaskier’s. “And I promise no more growling or snapping at you, I’ve done well with that rule these past few weeks haven’t I?”

“You have.” Jaskier nodded tearily. “Although I thought it was just because I kept bribing you with treats.”

“I won’t pretend those didn’t help some.” Geralt teased.

Jaskier’s heart skipped as Geralt took his face in his hands and closed the last inches between them, kissing him softly. He closed his eyes, leaning into it, allowing the dozens of clamoring thoughts and questions inside him to still for at least a moment. A very good, very quiet moment.

As the kiss ended he gazed at Geralt, knowing he was probably a bit starry eyed. Behind them Roach huffed and stamped the ground, breaking the moment.

“I haven’t forgotten you either, girl.” Geralt said fondly, letting go of Jaskier and walking over to her, firmly stroking her nose and kissing her forehead. “I was so worried about you, I thought I’d never see you again.”

Roach swished her tail and nickered, affectionately shoving her head against Geralt’s chest.

Jaskier gasped, his eyes lighting up. “I just realized this is all going to make a brilliant song.” He said, nearly giddy at the thought as he fished his notebook out of his pocket. “The Witcher Wolf, a rousing ballad about transformation and reconciliation.”

“Well be sure to put your apple theft in there somewhere.” Geralt snorted, pulling his clothes out of the saddle bags and starting to shrug them on. He grimaced as he pulled on his pants. “Have clothes always been this claustrophobic?”

“Well I certainly wouldn’t mind if you left them off, but I can’t speak for the townspeople.” Jaskier said with a smirk, already scribbling snatches of lyric ideas in his notebook. He looked up, eyebrows raising as he watched Geralt struggle into his boots. “Hang on, that’s why you never licked people like other dogs do, because you were Real Geralt the whole time.”

“I had to keep my dignity somehow.” Geralt said, frowning as his fingers slipped a bit at his shirt buttons. “Darn fingers are going to take some getting used to.”

“Oh, dignity eh?” Jaskier smirked, coming up and doing the witcher’s shirt buttons for him. “So what about that time at the butcher’s last week when you-"

“If you ever mention that aloud I'm tossing you to the very next monster I see and walking away.” Geralt said sternly.

“Oh but now I have so many excellent stories about you!” Jaskier said gleefully. “Wouldn’t Yennifer love to hear about last month, when we were hiking through that forest and you decided to-"

Jaskier yelped as Geralt scooped him up and unceremoniously slung him over Roach’s back like a hunting trophy. Jaskier laughed as he clumsily righted himself in the saddle just as Geralt started moving, pulling Roach to walk with him down the road.

“Better get started on that wolf song, bard.” Geralt said, looking over his shoulder with a smile and handing him the notebook and pencil he’d dropped. “I think that’s a much better use of your breath.”

“Well, if you insist.” Jaskier said, primly taking back his notebook and pencil, but still grinning.

Because he got the feeling that things weren’t going to go back to the way they had been before. He got the feeling that they were going to be much, much better.