The voice had terrified Ciri the first night -
It had rasped and creaked out over the floorboards up into the air -
Brushed by her ear -
“ Don’t scream . Please. ” It had begged, and Ciri had been too frozen to make the decision to do so or not.
Monsters under the bed were just tales, so maybe she’d been dreaming. She braved looking under the bed the next day and saw nothing that indicated any kind of creature and really, Geralt had enough on his plate - she didn’t want to bother him. So she didn’t.
But the voice came back that night and this time she was certain she wasn’t dreaming because she’d managed to snag some of Geralt’s coffee before he could stop her.
“ Won’t hurt you, darling.”
The voice crawled out from somewhere under her into the air, and the tips of black talons clicked against the floor just outside the frame of her bed.
Ciri gritted her teeth--
“What are you?” She whispered, and tried to keep her voice steady.
“ You’re frightened. I’m sorry, darling. I know I don’t look inviting these days. It’s been so long since I took physical form, you see.” Despite the unnatural stilted pauses and the grating drag of it, it sounded intelligent and--
Ciri twisted her hands in her blanket, aware that it hadn’t answered her question.
“What do you want?” Breathed shakily this time, unable to stop her trembling.
“ Nothing, darling.”
Ciri bit her tongue hard enough that it hurt.
“ I can feel your fear. I don’t want to hurt you. Your nightmares - they... make me stronger. I didn’t mean to start... but it helps when I do, I think.”
Ciri blinked up at her bedroom ceiling for a moment.
“You’re why they stop before-- before my grandmother--” She faltered on her words, swallowing thickly.
“ I believe so.”
Ciri licked her lips. This was a terrible idea.
“What are you doing to them?”
“ It’s a bit like food, I think is the best way to explain. It doesn’t have a taste, but I feel stronger when I-- pull the energy of it.”
Truthfully Ciri wasn’t sure she’d ever heard of a monster like that before. (Not that she was the monster expert yet, but still...)
“I don’t... feel sick.”
“ I told you I won’t hurt you.”
Ciri tapped her fingers against her blanket.
“Okay.” She said, finally, and rolled over. “If you start hurting me, I’ll have to tell Geralt, but-- but it’s okay. For now.” She mumbled.
“ Oh, you really are a darling.” The voice was-- delighted? Upbeat, certainly, though she couldn’t pin down for certain what it felt.
The first time Ciri sat face to face with the monster - her monster, she thought privately sometimes - under her bed, it was weeks later.
The voice had gotten smoother, kinder, gentler as time passed and her nightmares - though terribly vivid at first - often faded quickly.
It wasn’t the worst situation she’d like to think.
Ciri had woken from a nightmare - a different one this time. It had faded just as quickly as the others, but this one-- this one was too close, too soon. She sat up and looked at the blood under her nails - the blood from helping Geralt patch himself up--
And she started to cry.
She’d trembled through the whole process earlier, but she couldn’t-- the lid she thought she’d placed firmly on the pot hadn’t been secure and now she was spilling all over the place.
“Sorry.” She choked, desperately, knowing that Jaskier - her monster - could hear her.
A hand that looked like it had been smeared with charcoal crept out from beneath the bed slowly - fingernails a bit sharp, still black, but not talons.
An arm followed.
Another arm, and slowly Jaskier crawled out into the open air of her room, lit only by the moonlight shining in through the window. It reflected in his eyes like a doe’s and she shivered a little, watching him stand - tall and lithe, movements stilted, dressed in dirtied silks, smeared by the same black on his hands.
“I’m sorry.” Fear.
“Darling.” Jaskier murmured, voice wrapping around her warmly.
Ciri choked out a pathetic noise, hands covering her face.
Jaskier climbed onto the bed slowly, limbs too long, teeth too sharp, and yet he wrapped himself around her with the most care she thinks she’d ever been treated with in her life.
He smelled horrid - rotten eggs and smoke and sour--
But she hid her face against him anyway, wrapping her arms around his form as she sobbed silently.
A soft cooing began, pressed into her hair, and it gained momentum and tune until it was a soft lullaby. Not one she recognized, but lovely all the same.
She listened to it until she remembered no more.
The next morning her morning-snow hair was smeared with charcoal and she stunk like she hadn’t had a bath after training. Geralt had been worried, she could see it in his eyes, but he didn’t press her -
Probably could see the way her eyes carried a haunted look, how she winced any time she glanced towards his bandaged arm.
The singing didn’t stop.
Jaskier sang to her more nights than he didn’t, voice floating out from beneath the frame of her bed pleasantly.
Occasionally he would show himself, each time a little more human than the last. The black smears faded away, nails became blunt, eyes gained whites and pupils--
She might have thought him human altogether if he hadn’t kept the way his eyes reflected light eerily and a handful of sharp teeth that stubbornly stayed.
Ciri managed to steal him away treats now and then, a sugar cube here or there that she hid in her pocket from Roach to instead give to her monster.
Her kind monster.
She was terrified of Geralt finding them out, told Jaskier what he did for a living.
“Oh, darling, I--” There had been an awkward pause as Jaskier tapped his fingers against her blankets. “If he chose to rid this house of me, it’s not the worst fate. I’m-- well, I’m terribly hard to kill, you see. I’m a bit more than physical.” He’d assured her softly.
Ciri’s expression crumpled, looking a bit devastated.
“Oh! That’s not to say I want to leave you, oh-- oh, please don’t cry.” He pleaded softly, sweeping her hair back from her face.
“I won’t let him.” Ciri promised, voice thick with emotion. “You’re my monster. So I get to decide.”
Jaskier blinked at her, startled, before he sort of-- went soft around the edges, head tipping with the force of it as he swayed towards her and pulled her into a hug. “You mustn’t ever blame yourself.” He whispered, because a little girl was no match for a witcher.
He knew his chances.
Something followed the witcher home.
Jaskier sensed it the moment that it entered his house. His territory .
It dared shadow the not-man, the mutant, the protector--
It dared shadow him into Jaskier’s home. And Jaskier-- He may not be much, but he was more than that parasite .
Hyms, creatures of darkness that fed on guilt until their prey self destructed, were twisted, sad imitations of Jaskier’s kind. Weaklings without much of a mind, more beast--
Like a lower vampire, unable to control itself, hunting like a rabid wolf.
Jaskier was furious.
He knew the creature knew he was there, but it had the audacity to hide itself away in the witcher’s room, to pretend it stood a chance against him .
Jaskier crept through the halls that night, inhuman, fingers brushing over the walls he passed.
He could feel the hym whispering, could feel Geralt’s self hatred, could feel--
Jaskier ducked into the witcher’s room and the hym quivered, hulking, pressed up against a corner. Darkness, void, swirled around it, and it dared not roar, dared not reveal itself to the witcher.
“You dared.” Jaskier hissed, softly, as he advanced - predator--
His fingers reached for the shadow, curled in it, grasped what would have slid through any mortal’s grip. He bared his slightly too sharp teeth, twisting his hand.
“You chose your own doom. Don’t struggle.” Jaskier purred, a rumble from his chest, creature--
Creature when the witcher bolted upright in bed--
Creature when Jaskier glanced at him, eyes reflecting the moonlight, meeting cat eye pupils blown wide--
Creature when he snarled, turning his attention back to the hym, bringing his second hand up to tangle in its essence, tearing it apart, banishing it as it shrieked, echoing through the house--
It sank into the floor, leaving a black smear--
A burning silver blade at his back--
Jaskier raised his hands, fingers spread, nonthreatening--
“Not going to hurt you, Geralt.”
“You know my name.” Sleep rough, still recovering, disoriented--
“Ciri’s told me a lot about you. Oh-- Gentle! Gentle, dear witcher. I haven’t hurt her. On the contrary--”
“Don’t! Geralt, don’t --” Ciri’s voice came crashing over them and the blade was gone from his back, giving him space to retreat as Ciri wrestled Geralt for it.
“He’s not bad --”
“He’s not , he stops the nightmares-- and he sings-- and he’s my monster --”
Jaskier pressed himself up against the wall, watching unblinkingly as the witcher slowly lowered his blade.
“He comforted me!”
Geralt hummed a low noise, meeting Jaskier’s gaze once more, searching him for something--
“I should banish you.” Geralt said, later, over a mug of water.
Jaskier watched him from across the table they were seated at. Ciri was slumped on the couch, asleep, unwilling to leave them alone lest Geralt send Jaskier away.
“Most likely.” Jaskier agreed, his eyes leaving the witcher to settle on the girl. “But I would never hurt her. I’d sooner swallow molten iron and silver myself than cause her harm.” He murmured, voice low.
“What kind of demon cares for children?” Geralt asked, finally, and Jaskier shivered, his nature thrown into his face. He turned his gaze on the witcher.
“What kind of witcher cares for children?” He retorted, quietly, and the not-man blinked at him slowly, pupils narrowing into thin lines before relaxing.
“We’re both monsters in our nature. It’s our actions that define who we are.” Jaskier rumbled, softly, “And I had nearly faded out until her-- her nightmares. They were so potent-- they brought me back from nearly nothing. I do what I can to help her.” He frowned slightly. “It never feels enough, but there’s little else I can do for her.”
“Should I-- leave you alone to think?”
“No.” Geralt finally leaned forward in his seat slightly. “You-- can stay. In the spare room. And supervised. I do not know you. I need to understand. And then, perhaps, we shall see about banishment.”
Jaskier nodded slowly, tapping his fingers against the table.
“Alright.” He murmured, quietly, and that was that.
Between their two rooms, Jaskier grew more powerful than he knew what to do with. Geralt’s nightmares were-- overwhelming. Jaskier couldn’t understand how he functioned, not really, and he’d started soaking those in, too, trying to cut them off before the worst bits.
Except it all felt like the worst bits, so intense, so vivid--
And Jaskier ended up in tears one night, shuffling his way into Geralt’s room a few weeks after taking the spare room.
He made it all the way to the edge of the bed before the witcher jolted, shying away from him as he reached. He should have let it go, but he couldn’t .
Jaskier pushed forward, sweeping the witcher’s hair back from his face, not even wincing as the witcher’s hand gripped his wrist. A human’s bones would be grinding together with the force, but Jaskier was no human.
He leaned in past his hand to press a gentle kiss to the witcher’s brow, humming a soft tune to his forehead, pulling back to search his face as he began to sing on instinct.
Geralt was confused, disoriented, but his hand loosened around Jaskier’s wrist, eventually slipping away as he started to relax, Jaskier settling on the bed beside him.
He started slipping into the witcher’s room more often, at least, on the worst nights, and one of those he simply didn’t leave.
Geralt woke to the sight of him propped up against the headboard of the bed, scribbling away in a little notebook he’d begged the witcher to get when he was out on his last contract.
It struck him then and there that Jaskier had become a part of his tiny, tiny family, that it had grown, that Jaskier had made a comfortable spot for himself in their lives--
That Geralt wasn’t in a rush to send him away--
“You can stay.” Came the witcher’s sleep thick, rough voice. He cleared his throat as the demon looked at him, startled. “You can stay.” He repeated, softer.