--- #1 ---
Jaskier could admit to it; he was starting to develop a problem.
He wouldn’t call it a drinking problem, exactly. He’d seen men with that kind of sickness, who couldn’t function unless they had ale lingering on their lips, and he could happily go weeks without ever touching the stuff (even if he’d prefer not to – but life on the road with a Witcher didn’t always bring with it anything other than slightly-muddy water).
It was just that when he did drink, he tended to steal things.
He couldn’t help it! He’d tried to help it. But no matter how much he thought he could recount the nights they spent in taverns, he’d wake up in the morning to find some small thing in his pack; cleaning supplies for his lute, a tiny bottle of the whiskey he liked, a new fine silk shirt. He couldn’t remember taking them, but there was no other possible explanation. They were too tailored to his own desires to be some passing fancy slipping them in with his things and checking his coin purse confirmed that he’d not spent anything near the amount he should have done for some of the things he’d found.
He’d found the first one months ago. He’d been complaining about the holes that were developing in his shoes for weeks. They’d set out to take the highway, but they’d heard rumours of work halfway to Cidaris – a Kikimore terrorising livestock – and had to turn off.
The resulting trek had left Jaskier’s boots (which were, admittedly, not at all suited to off-road terrain this close to winter) in a foul state and doing nothing to protect him from the elements. Any puddle he might accidentally stand in went right through the shoe and doused his socks in horrid cold muck.
Still, he’d gotten good material for his song, and Geralt had only threatened to punch him twice for talking too much about the boots, and Jaskier knew he’d never follow through on it anyway.
It was at the village that the issue became apparent.
The townsfolk paid well – both for the Kikimore corpse and for Jaskier’s songs – and they could afford a night spent getting a little worse for wear at the hands of some foul-smelling alcohol. At least he thought they could. He didn’t really remember it that well. He remembered Geralt’s warm honey eyes, and the way the other man laughed at something Jaskier said, the weird liquid pride that that inspired in him, that he could get Geralt to laugh. But other than that…he could have sworn he went straight to bed.
Instead, two days later, when they were halfway back to the highway, he found sturdy boots in his pack.
And not just sturdy boots. They weren’t the drab sort Geralt might wear. No, these were nice sturdy boots, with leather that had been carefully manipulated into the most gorgeous style, golden thread holding them together. Days of work must have gone into something like this, if not weeks. And yet there they were, in Jaskier’s pack, perfectly suited to him, his exact shoe size.
He glanced across the fire at Geralt who was busy sharpening his sword. No. Even if he was trying to get Jaskier to shut up about his feet, Geralt would never splurge on something like this. It would have been expensive. Perhaps worth the entirety of the coin they got for that last job. Geralt complained about having to spend money on good food, let alone on something as frivolous as this.
So not Geralt. And not someone he’d charmed.
Which could only mean one thing.
He felt himself paling.
“Oh, good Gods, forgive me,” he half groaned.
He’d been known to do crazy things while drunk before, but stealing? Really? That was even a bit touchy for his ethical standards.
“Hmm?” Geralt was looking up from his sword, finally, surveying Geralt from opposite the fire that they’d lit to keep them warm.
Geralt would not be happy about this. For one thing, despite his insistence that he didn’t care for the morals of men, Geralt had one of the firmest moral codes Jaskier knew. For another, if a Witcher came to town and then something went missing, nobody would blame the excitable bard at his side. He was bringing dishonour on Geralt, on his guild, and after he’d gone to all the trouble with the songs to big him up as well—
“Nothing! It’s nothing! Absolutely nothing.” Jaskier stuffed the shoes quickly back into his pack. “Wow, long day, hm?” It hadn’t been a long day, actually. Jaskier had loitered at the camp they’d made last night, and convinced Geralt to set up camp early so they’d have time to hunt (well, Geralt would have time to hunt) something actually worth eating. “Better both get some rest!”
Geralt was still looking at him with those eyes, eyes like a never-ending sunset, and just as awe-inspiring. Jaskier could write sonnets. Jaskier had written sonnets, actually. “It’s barely past sundown.”
“Yes. Well. I can’t help being tired, Geralt. We don’t all have supernatural mutations that give us boundless energy.”
And before Geralt could say anything else Jaskier got into his bedroll.
--- #2 ---
By the time it happened again, he’d almost convinced himself that the first time was a fluke.
They’d made it to Cidaris, where Jaskier could find plenty of nobles (with sizable purses) to play to, and there was plenty of demand for his services on top. Geralt seemed reluctant to stay for too long, and Jaskier considered letting them part ways for a little while. He’d probably catch up with him at some point in the next few months, but he’d missed the bubbling liveliness of a good city and could do with a break from country roads (even if he now, rather guiltily, owned the shoes for it).
But then Geralt found a contract in Cidaris – a siren making trouble down by the docks – and Geralt ended up staying in the city longer than planned.
The whole business with the siren was a messy affair (and not only because it ended with Siren guts lodged in Geralt’s hair) and while a good song would no doubt come of it, the resulting havoc (twelve men dead, one of them a noble, one of them by Geralt’s sword when the idiot tried to protect the thing that was trying to eat him) was enough that they were- if not chased out of town, leaving rather quickly. And it was too well known now, where Jaskier’s allegiances lay. He wasn’t just Jaskier: great poet and singer. He was Jaskier: The White Wolfs Bard.
He didn’t need more reasons for people to throw him into a jail cell, thank you very much. So he left with Geralt.
They’d been on the road only three days when he found it; there, at the bottom of his bag, was a dagger.
Not just any dagger, either. The pretty one he’d noticed in the marketplace, just before they got drunk at a nearby inn. He’d been meaning to get himself a better weapon (not that he’d ever take up a sword, he had Geralt for that, but it would be nice to have something to defend himself with that wasn’t simply Geralt’s bulk) but the thing was they’d left before he could purchase it.
Which meant that he hadn’t purchased it.
He thought back on the night they’d gotten drunk. They’d been scouting information and drinking with the various patrons’ (“sharing a beer is going to put them more at ease than you glaring at them Geralt, and people at ease have loose tongues”). He supposed the night had got a little bit blurry, and they had walked back through the market stalls to the inn they were staying at…
He must have stolen it.
He must have.
He checked, just in case, but there was no big dip in his savings when he checked his purse.
He felt himself go pale white. He liked Cidaris, but something as beautiful as this going missing—well, it would at least raise a few heads. And if they were already in trouble over the mess they’d caused with the Siren, no doubt this would be the icing on the cake.
He let his fingertip run over the hilt. It had a jewel in it, for crying out loud. Yes. Not exactly the greatest scenario to be in.
“Jaskier, are you getting out the dried meats, or do you plan to let us starve?”
“What? Oh, yes, coming,” Jaskier jumped back from the pack, dried meat in hand, dagger purposely not. He’d have to…pretend he bought it, at some point. Not make a big fuss. Geralt couldn’t know he stole things while drunk. For one thing, the man might never let Jaskier drink again and as much as he might love Geralt dearly (so much more than he’d be willing to admit), he needed at least a little alcohol if he was going to deal with the man on a regular basis.
Geralt watched him. Geralt had a way of watching people that made Jaskier worried Witchers could read minds.
“You’re acting funny,” Geralt finally grunted.
“Don’t know what you’re on about,” Jaskier lied, swallowing.
“Hmm,” Geralt took the meat off him, big fingers brushing against Jaskier’s thin, lithe ones. That was happening more often lately. It was almost unnoticeable, so much so that it might have been Jaskier’s overactive imagination. But it certainly felt like there was a hand on his shoulder more often, fingers brushing his, little things.
He tried not to read too much into it.
Which, considering his profession was all about reading things into events, he was pretty crap at.
But he had far more pressing things to worry about the possibility of Geralt, maybe, just a little bit, touching him more than normal.
Because apparently, he was a drunken thief now.
--- #3 ---
There was something uniquely wonderful about the type of celebration that happened when a town thought itself free of monsters.
Purses became looser, people drank more, sang more, laughed more. Unmarried women and men alike (as well as a few married ones) were more liable to want a tumble in the sheets.
“Why, you’re ever so brave! Trailing around after a Witcher! How do you cope?” The women – the barmaid’s daughter, Bethan – had sat herself down beside Jaskier a good two drinks ago now. She was pretty, with bouncing golden hair curled into ringlets. Jaskier could imagine curling one around his finger. She’d make a beautiful muse for someone and probably a more cooperative one than the surly-looking white-haired idiot Jaskier had ended up stuck with.
Said white-haired idiot snorted. Jaskier glared.
“It’s the price one pays for good music, and someone has to pay it. A world without ballads and stories would be a terrible place, don’t you think?”
Bethan nodded, but there was still something like awe in her eyes, “You’re making it sound like that’s the only way to make music though! Your love songs are just as wonderful as your ballads of your daring Witcher.” Her eyes flickered momentarily to Geralt.
They're all about him, darling, but he wasn’t quite drunk enough to say it, especially not in front of an unimpressed looking Geralt.
“Well, yes, I do seem to have a talent for those, don’t I? But adventures with Geralt are wonderful, exciting things. Isn’t that right, Geralt?”
Geralt didn’t even reply with a customary ‘hmm’. Jaskier had probably kept him downstairs long enough by now. As fun as it was to join in with the celebrations…well. A happy, well-rested Geralt was better to be on the road within the morning than a grumpy Geralt who had been kept up late because Jaskier wouldn’t leave the tavern.
He was about to stand up and ask Geralt if he was ready to adjourn to the inn when a burly man knocked into her from behind. Jaskier was vaguely aware of the ungodly squeak he made as he watched ale spill onto the table and…onto his songbook.
Jaskier had two prized positions on this earth: his lute, and his songbook. And one of those things was currently marinating in piss poor, watered-down alcohol.
“Shit, shit, shit,” he pulled it up, trying to dry it with his shirt sleeve. Bethan was apologising, but he knew it wasn’t her fault. Still, he could feel the forlorn expression making its way into his face, “The pages are damp! They’ll be awful to write on – oh and the ink is ruining. This is dreadful, Geralt, don’t you think this is just dreadful? Oh, I might as well be run through with a dagger.”
Jaskier firmly ignored Geralt as he muttered something about ‘melodramatics’. He was being perfectly as dramatic as the situation called for, actually. It was his songbook. Even if the pages of notes he’d made dried out, they’d be awful to write on, all crackly from drying wrong. He cradled it close to his chest.
“Come on, Bard.” Geralt muttered finally, standing.
Jaskier, dejected, stood and made his way out into the fresh air. He’d been getting towards the end of this notebook, actually, but that didn’t mean that he wanted to give her up. It would be as hard for him to do as it would be for Geralt to give up his swords.
He had a fitful night’s sleep and woke up to Geralt growling about how if he didn’t get up soon it would be midday. He’d packed up everything already, it seemed, so all Jaskier had to do was follow him, lamenting about his book.
He didn’t stop said lamenting until later, when he looked in his bag and found expensive, leather-bound pages, in a book that was twice the size of his old one.
Well, fucking shit.
He’d done it again.
--- #4 ----
Here’s the thing: Jaskier’s always known travelling with Geralt wasn’t the safest of occupations.
Geralt was a witcher. And despite what he might have to say on the matter, Jaskier wasn’t stupid. From the very first, their encounters were fraught with danger (see: almost getting murdered by – all be it rightly pissed off – elves) and most of their foes thereafter were worse, in terms of whether or not they could be reasoned with.
Still, Jaskier thought he had a right to be a tad pissed off that these thugs (not even supernatural, just plain old thugs) thought that they could get away with stealing Jaskier to some undisclosed location and blackmailing Geralt.
He was also a tad pissed off that it seemed to have worked.
Not that he wasn’t expecting Geralt to come for him. It was Geralt. Of course he’d come. He might annoy the witcher near-constantly, but like he’d said he wasn’t stupid. Geralt liked the company, even if he was too pig-headed to admit it. And Jaskier…Jaskier didn’t like to think too hard about the fact that Geralt must have been alone, so alone, before he’d had an annoying bard to cling to him like a limpet.
Still, the fact that Geralt was holding out a bag of coins to Jaskier’s captors was…well. Yes, alright, one of them did have a knife to Jaskier’s throat which he’d much prefer was put somewhere else, thank you very much, but still Geralt could at least do some…Witchering. Something worthy of all the stress of being kidnapped. He’d get no song out of the Witcher bartering for his life like he was some sack of stolen grain.
“Get your hands off him,” Geralt was growling, low and dangerous (but still, holding out the coins).
“Ha! And let go of our only leverage? You think we’re dumb, Witcher? Way we see it, this—” the knife pressed to Jaskier’s throat became slightly more insistent, pressing so that when Jaskier swallowed, he could feel the way it dug into his skin. Not good, very, very, not good. “—is the only thing that’s keeping us from having ourselves run through with those big swords of yours.”
For all that these thugs are clearly idiots (who steals a Witcher’s friend when all they want is some coin? Lords, ladies, nobility, maybe, but someone you knew could defend himself easily?) they’re clearly brave idiots, because Geralt was doing his very scary face and they were still thinking that they could get away with this.
If Geralt would just move forward, if he would just try and fight. But he was being cautious, and Jaskier couldn’t understand why. He’d seen Geralt get swallowed whole by a monster in order to kill it from the inside. How could he be that insane then, and yet over a few measly humans he was holding back?
Well. This just wouldn’t do.
Let it never be said that Jaskier lacked bravery (he travelled around with a Witcher, for Melitele’s sake) or idiocy (he travelled around with a Witcher, for Melitele’s sake).
He was tied up, and pretty bruised, and there was still that pesky knife to his throat. “Geralt—”
“Quiet, whore,” someone smacked him. Hard. Over the cheek. Damn, that would leave another bruise. Nobody wanted to watch a bruised-up bard play music – his aesthetic was half his charm.
“Don’t you touch him,” Geralt somewhere off to the side.
“Ready?” Jaskier’s eyes met Geralt’s, saw the slight shake of his head, but Jaskier was already moving.
He pushed the chair he was tied to backwards with all his weight, let it wobble and fall. And- as he did so, kicked his legs out so the guy holding the blade to his throat went flying.
And yes, a shout, a scream and here was the material for his songs.
By the end of it, none of them were alive.
Geralt was stood, panting, untying Jaskier’s hands, grumbling something about him being an idiot over and over.
Jaskier sighed, flexed his fingers as the ropes came undone. He’d had worse rope burn after nights spent rather pleasantly in bed, he’d be fine.
Geralt was still muttering.
“Hey, hey,” Jaskier let his hand move up to oh so gently press to the side of Geralt’s face. It wasn’t the way one generally touched a pent up Witcher, but then, Jaskier had never given much of a fuck about what common folk thought about how you should and shouldn’t handle Witchers. “Look at me,” he waited until Geralt’s sun-golden eyes (sonnets could be written, but now really wasn’t the time) were on him, “I’m fine. You saved me. We are going to find a local inn and get spectacularly drunk and you’re going to wash the blood off your face beforehand so that at least one of us doesn’t look like we’ve been in an awful fight.” He softened his voice again, “Geralt. I’m fine. You saved me.”
A deep inhale of breath from the witcher, and then a nod. “Spectacularly drunk.” He agreed as Jaskier’s hands fell from the side of his face.
Spectacularly drunk, indeed.
So, five hours later and they were indeed completely sloshed in a tavern. Jaskier thought they deserved it. Especially because they hadn’t had to spend his ransom money (and yes, okay, maybe he was a little bit proud of the fact that he was worth ransom money these days) – so they could spend it on the good stuff. And this tavern – against all odds considering it's out of the way location – had the best stuff.
“Toussaint Red! Best wine in the world!” Jaskier had exclaimed as they’d entered, catching the bottle behind the bar. Prices were steep, but he’d deserved a glass or two of the stuff, he thought.
He’d gone to bed that night pleasantly fuzzy and warm, the effects of the kidnapping already lingering off.
He hadn’t thought about his little problem – he’d had bigger problems that day.
Which was probably an issue; a big issue, because when they set off in the morning Jaskier found a bottle of Toussaint Red – renowned across the continent as the best wine, worth at least a couple of gold coins for a whole bottle – stuffed in his pack.
He’d done it again.
--- #5 ----
Geralt had told him multiple times while on the road that Jaskier’s priorities when it came to packing, were about the equivalent of a small child.
Jaskier thought that was rather unfair. Of course, sometimes he went for fashion over practicality, but the bite of the cold was surely worth the price of looking good? And yes, he tended to make more room in his pack for his lute and his songbook, but he was a bard. He’d be a piss poor version of one if he didn’t put his music first.
And really, he thought Geralt must like it, sometimes. Or at least, he must like Jaskier enough to tolerate his priorities, because otherwise he never would have come to this banquet.
It was a huge thing. A grand thing. And all in Geralt’s honour. This was the other type of celebration that could happen when a place was rid of monsters, but this didn’t come about from humble villagers in a tavern. No, this is what happened when Geralt got a contract from a noble – some lord or lady, and they decided to throw a feast in honour of its completion.
(“I’d rather they give me the coin they’d spend on this ridiculous thing,” Geralt had grumbled while Jaskier was preparing their clothes the night before.
“Oh, quit your whining. Everyone needs a good excuse for a party every now and then – and think of it as networking! You get a boost to your reputation and I get a willing and happy audience for my songs.”).
The celebration was in full swing now. Food, wine, good company, and his songs were being sung loud and clear.
And yes, Geralt might moan about his priorities when it came to packing, but it was a good job that Jaskier had sorted it now, wasn’t it? Because if he didn’t carry his lute and his fancy clothes, then they wouldn’t have been able to come to a party like this (although he had a feeling that now Geralt knew he carried one pair of fancy clothes in the Witchers side, his pack might get raided and the soft fabrics that looked so good on Geralt might get thrown in a nearby bog at some point in the next few weeks).
“You play mighty well, Master bard. It’s been a while since I’ve heard someone of your skill,” it was the lady of the house, in all her elegant regency. She’d come to where Jaskier was taking a break next to a grumpy looking Geralt (honestly, one would think he’d never heard of the concept of having a bit of fun).
“Why thank you, my lady,” Jaskier did a little bow, “comes with a day’s work.”
“Hmm,” She took a sip from her goblet, eyes still on him. If Jaskier wanted to, he thought, he could probably make his way into her bed. But he was content not to – Geralt would only complain about it when the Lord tried to kill them, and there was no point running a good evening over such things. “Still, it must be difficult for you, a travelling bard. Nothing stable.”
“Ah, well, I enjoy a life of adventure,” Jaskier insisted wistfully, a glance in Geralt’s direction (he was being about as silent as a brick wall).
“Are you sure we can’t convince you to hang up your travelling clothes? Our own bard passed away a few months ago, and we’ve yet to fill the position. We’d be happy to keep you, food and coin for your services. A quiet life – you must be tempted? We could even get you some proper silver strings for that lute of yours, some of the finest clothes—”
Jaskier raised an eyebrow. That wasn’t where he’d thought this conversation was going. Behind him, he could almost feel Geralt’s eyes on him. “Ah, my lady! You honour me, but I’m afraid that I’m quite happy with my lot,” Jaskier shifted to clasp one hand on Geralt’s shoulder. “Someone has to keep this one out of trouble.”
He’d expected an exasperated sigh from Geralt, or perhaps – if he was lucky – a short laugh. Instead, Geralt was silent, shoulder tense beneath Jaskier’s hand.
“Well, the offer is always open, if you change your mind,” the lady nodded, but her tone had gone formal and stony. Ah. Not used to being told no then. Jaskier knew the type of noble she was; backwater, thinking that the world revolved around her when nobody outside of her little kingdom even knew she existed. “Good playing, bard.”
Jaskier watched her trail off into the crowd.
“Well, fancy that! Someone’s already tried to buy me this evening – and with nice clothes and silver lute strings too! It’s almost tempting, do you know how good my girl would sound with silver?” Jaskier patted his lute gently, turning to Geralt who was—still looking oddly tense. “You alright?”
“Hm,” Geralt grunted.
“Okay, you’re being odd – odder than usual, at the very least. Let’s get some alcohol down you.”
And so they enjoyed the banquet (or at least Jaskier enjoyed the banquet) and even if Geralt disappeared in the morning for a little while, he was back at midday for them to depart to the next village.
Jaskier checked his pack only when they’d reached the next inn. Geralt was reclining in the bath, and Jaskier was determined that he had some good salts in here somewhere, which was leading Geralt to complain again about his priorities when packing when—
His hand shifted and brought out lute strings.
Silver lute strings.
--- +1 ---
After the silver lute strings, Jaskier had made the tough decision.
No more drinking.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one. No more drinking, unless he wanted to end up in a cell or worse, have to tell Geralt about his embarrassing habit, it was for the best. His luck might have held so far, but eventually, people were going to start connecting the thefts to him (or to Geralt, gods forbid) and it would end in disaster.
And it was going fine. Geralt gave him some odd looks when he only took a few sips of his ale at the taverns they frequented, but he didn’t ask questions. Jaskier appreciated it. He really didn’t need to have to explain his reasoning to Geralt.
And it was going fine, perfectly, he hadn’t drunk a drop in weeks. He was no longer afraid of opening his pack and finding something stolen inside it. The lack of alcohol was worth the relief that came with being able to comfortably root through your own things without getting a nasty surprise.
Or at least, he’d been certain that he wouldn’t be getting a nasty surprise.
Which was perhaps why he was so shocked when he put his hands into his pack one Tuesday evening as Geralt was sharping his blade near the small campfire the witcher had just made and found something unexpected.
He blinked as he pulled it out. No. No, it couldn’t be. He hadn’t drunk in weeks. Weeks of not drinking, weeks of being fine. So how the fuck had this ended up in his pack?
His stomach dropped at closer inspection.
Because it wasn’t just any ring either. It was solid, and silver and on its head was engraved the outline of an animal.
The outline of a wolf.
There was only one person who this could belong to.
Jaskier’s fingers traced the outside of it, the comforting weight of it in his palm. But when? When had he managed to take this from Geralt? Had it been in his pack for months without him realising? Had he stolen the thing while sleepwalking? Had Geralt been missing it?
He took a deep breath.
Jaskier wasn’t a coward.
And there was no way he could keep this.
So, the only thing to do was to give it back. Even if that was...pitifully embarrassing. Even if Geralt got mad.
He took a deep breath and headed to the fire, sat down on the log beside Geralt.
“This is yours,” he shifted, held out the ring, awkwardly.
Awaited Geralt’s reaction.
He couldn’t stand to look at him. How had he even managed to steal from a Witcher? It was Geralt. Geralt who had the fancy senses, the mutations that meant that he could fight and kill with speed and accuracy. How had Jaskier of all people managed to get the jump on him? Jaskier wasn’t stupid, he knew that one of his defining traits was loud. So how had he stolen this?
He really hoped Geralt wouldn’t send him away.
The silence stretched out, awkward and far, far too loud.
“You…don’t like it,” Geralt’s voice was odd as he finally spoke. If anything, it was flatter than usual (which really shouldn’t be possible, but there it was). And—wait, what?
“What do you mean, I don’t like it? It’s not mine to like. It’s yours.”
Geralt shifted, set down his sword. With his right hand, he reached out to pick up the silver ring and hold it between his fingers.
“You accepted all the other gifts.” He said slowly, and Jaskier was looking at him now, just to see if he was having some kind of stroke. What did Geralt mean, that he’d accepted all the other gifts? What gifts? And – lords above – he looked almost crestfallen, holding that small band of silver that seemed rather dwarfed in those hands.
“Geralt, I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re on about. I didn’t mean to steal this—I, I think I’ve got a bit of a problem in that regards actually, and I’m trying to keep it under control, but if you could just take this back and then—”
Geralt gave him a look like Jaskier had grown two heads. “You didn’t steal this.”
“You didn’t steal this. I gave it to you. As…a gift.” Geralt might look just the same as ever to someone who didn’t have years of experience handling grumpy Witchers. As it was, though, Jaskier did have years of experience in Geralt, and he could read the uncertainty hiding in the corner of Geralt’s eyes and in the way he was clenching and unclenching his hand.
“No. I would have remembered if you’d given me a gift like this.” Jaskier insisted. He would have. He’d had no fever in the past couple of weeks, and he’d not been drunk enough to forget either. But even if he had been, he’d have remembered something as significant as Geralt giving him a ring like this, he was sure of it. It was all but Geralt’s brand, given for Jaskier to wear. It meant something.
Geralt, if anything, looked even less sure of himself. It wasn’t a comforting sight. “Well. No.” A long pause, and then-- “I put it in your pack.” He got out finally. It looked…painful, to admit. He wasn’t looking at Jaskier anymore.
“You put it in my pack? Why? If it was a gift, why wouldn’t you just…give it to me? Why would you put it—”
And then it hit him like a damn punch to the face.
“I haven’t been stealing anything,” he breathed. Of course, he hadn’t been stealing anything. He’d never have been able to pull off something like that, not for this long, not this many times, not without getting caught. He was more clumsy while drunk, not less. He would have fucked up at some point. “You’ve been giving me gifts.”
There was silence. Around them, the whole forest seemed to be holding its breath. Jaskier could barely even hear the crackling of the fire, couldn’t even really make out Roach’s slight movements where she was tied to a tree.
“You’ve been giving me gifts.” Jaskier pressed on, “The boots—because I was complaining! And the dagger, after you kept telling me I needed something better to defend myself. The silver lute strings after that noble lady tried to get me to stay with them! Geralt you—”
“It’s nothing.” Geralt cut in, still not looking at Jaskier.
“Bollocks.” Jaskier said simply. This wasn’t nothing. Geralt had been spending a small fortune on him. To get him things that Jaskier liked. He was paying attention to what Geralt liked. “Bollocks it’s nothing. You got me a ring.”
And there it was, in Geralt’s hand. A silver ring. Something Geralt must have had commissioned for Jaskier especially. Something visible. Something identifiable. Something that the whole world would look at and see Geralt in. And he’d bought it for Jaskier to wear.
Geralt sighed as if all of this was the most difficult conversation he’d ever had. Maybe it was.
“You…were accepting my gifts. You haven’t slept with anyone in three months. I assumed that this might be something you’d want.” A long pause.
You haven’t slept with anyone in three months. What did that have anything to do with? Admittedly he was going through a bit of a dry spell, but then, he was pining, and sometimes that had to come first. But why would that have any relation to him accepting Geralt’s gifts? Unless--
“Good lords, Geralt, is this—is this your crazy fucked up, emotionally stunted Witcher way of courting me?”
“Holy fuck—give me the ring, give me it right now, it’s mine.” Jaskier snatched it away from Geralt before Geralt could do anything else to it like take it back, or throw it away.
“You don’t have to take it,” Geralt muttered reaching to grab it back which really wasn’t allowed.
“Of course I do, idiot,” Jaskier was laughing now, and he knew that he should stop, because Geralt looked all uncertain (and wasn’t that just the cutest thing, his big bad Witcher, uncertain over this, over gifts and presents and noticing what Jaskier liked, what Jaskier wanted) but all those years of writing unrequited love ballads, of following Geralt around like a lost puppy, of being there, always, and Geralt had done this. And he was the most stupid person that Jaskier knew.
“I love you,” Jaskier said, plainly. Better not to mince things up. They’d been at the wrong end of a misunderstanding for months now
Geralt’s head snapped up, going suddenly still.
“Yep,” Jaskier said, popping the ‘p’ and putting on the ring. “I mean, obviously. Half the continent’s realised it by now, what with all the songs, and the other half at least knows that I’m in some tragic, unrequited love affair,” he reached his hand out – the hand with the ring on it – and placed it gently at Geralt’s cheek. “You’re an idiot.” He murmured, “and I love you. Thank you, for my gifts.”
Geralt cracked something of a smile.
Everything was alright after all.
“You really thought that you were stealing things?”
Geralt sounded amused now, instead of worried. Jaskier’s glad. He just spent an incredibly long time making sure that Geralt would never doubt his affections again. Laid out on the sleeping mats under the stars, the fire dim, Geralt’s warm arms the only thing starving the chill off him because he’d lost his clothes hours ago to Jaskier’s nibble fingers, the world was perfect.
“Well! What was I supposed to think? You didn’t say anything, and then all these things showed up that I wanted after I got drunk. I just assumed that it was the obvious answer.
“You assumed that the obvious answer was that you were a drunken thief?”
“Alright, alright, when you say it out loud, I sound like a fool, I get it,” Jaskier rolled his eyes. “You’re not allowed to be mean to me, you courted me. You have to be nice to your beloved.” A prod to Geralt’s chest.
“Hm,” Geralt shifted, pressed lips to the top of Jaskier’s forehead. Then, of course, the bastard had to go ruin the moment by pointing out: “You’re the one who said it was courting, not me.”
“You’re the one who just ripped all my clothes off like an animal and spent hours taking me apart piece by piece, I think that that would suggest at least some effort at courting had taken place.” Jaskier accused.
“Hm,” Geralt rubbed his thumb over Jaskier’s hand, over the ring.
Jaskier reached for Geralt’s hand, kissed his palm softly before settling in on top of Geralt, tugging the furs they carried over their shoulders.
Jaskier, apparently, did not have a problem. He had the opposite of a problem.
He had an emotionally stunted Witcher who gifted him things he knew Jaskier would like.
He had Geralt.