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Witness me, Old man, I am the Wild

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The first time Jaskier braids Geralt’s hair they’ve known each other for nearly six months, and are mostly comfortable in each other's space. They'd retired to their room after a hunt and Jaskier’s restless; picking up his lute and strumming it briefly before setting it down to instead paw through his pack, then moving to pick up Geralt’s clothes from the floor before wandering back towards the lute. After several minutes of this he absently runs his hand through Geralt’s mostly dried hair as he passes where the witcher’s leaning back in the bathtub. It’s the same thing Geralt’s seen him do to children in the villages they pass through.

The next time he comes close Geralt catches his wrist before he moves away, forcing him into stillness. He guides restless fingers to his hair and ignores Jaskier's soft gasp and the hesitant way he touches him.

After a few minutes of finger combing Geralt's hair, he's humming quietly and seems more relaxed, grounded, hands steadier. Geralt doesn't notice when he starts to braid it, just thin ones he finds out afterwards, easily hidden a few minutes later when Jaskier plaits the rest of his hair to sleep in. He yawns as he moves away, fingers trailing over Geralt's shoulder as he retreats towards the bed, flopping onto it and is sleep before Geralt gets out of the tub.

He examines one of Jaskier's braids the following morning, it's not one he's ever seen before in his sixty odd years, which is impressive, and leaves them in as he ties his hair up in a half ponytail for the day. It’s been a rough few months getting used to each other and this obviously calmed the bard, so it wouldn't be a hardship to make it part of their routine when they can, if it helps.

Jaskier smiles at him, soft and true, when he comes down for breakfast and sees Geralt's hair. And when, a couple of days later, Geralt notices the braids gone after a fight with a wraith, he puts into down to the extra movement shaking them loose.

--

They meet up somehow without discussing it in the spring, after Geralt leaves Kear Morhen, and Jaskier always asks to stop whenever they reach meadows, to cut as many flowers as he can manage. He usually aims for white heather and feverfew, gathering as much as he is able to dry it out. Geralt usually ends up with some threaded through his hair, as well as increasing complex braids. Even Roach is not spared, whenever Jaskier travels with them, she usually has flowers and small braids in her mane, honeysuckle as often as they can find it among various others.

He assumes at first it’s just Jaskier’s restless fingers and part of his campaign to change Geralt’s image, and it’s working to an extent, although mainly in the case of young children. It takes him nearly three years, and a fight with a higher vampire, to realise there's more to it than that.

--

They're fighting in much closer quarters than Geralt's comfortable with, in a overstuffed warehouse, and there's attacks that the vampire's making with his claws that definitely should be connecting. Physically, there's no possible way they should be missing him. But they are. And it's frustrating the vampire to take wilder swipes, losing the tight control he had at the start of the fight and allowing the witcher to gain the upper hand.

The fact Geralt's keeping such a close watch on his feet and where he steps is the only reason he notices at all. Whenever the vampire misses a swipe he shouldn't, one of the numerous strands of white heather that Jaskier insisted on braiding into his hair during the day falls out. Eventually he loses all the flowers and the vampire’s claws start to scratch skin, just fine lines as his braids start to come loose, strands of hair brushing the back of his neck.

All it takes is one mistimed swipe and Geralt presses his advantage, ending the fight with one fast swing and collapses back onto some boxes to catch his breath when it’s clear that the vampire’s not getting up again. He takes proof of the kill for the mayor then retraces his steps, gathering as much of the heather he can find to take back to Jaskier.

--

He’s curled up on his side in the bed when Geralt reaches their room in the inn, and smiles sleepily up at him as he sets the bundle of flowers on the stool beside the lute. Jaskier pushes himself up to an elbow, watching quietly as Geralt pulls off his armour and washes the cuts on his arms in the water bucket that had been left out, too tired to do more before flopping down beside the bard.

Jaskier reaches over, brushing hair from Geralt’s face and sits up slightly so he can finger comb his hair and redo his braids for the night. Geralt relaxes under the familiar motions and Jaskier starts humming quietly, a soft lullaby-esque tune.

“Thank you, for the flowers, they saved me tonight.” He speaks without thinking.

“That’s the point.” Jaskier just seems amused, tying off the plait with a leather strip and pressing a kiss to his hair before settling back down.

Geralt rolls over to face him, stumbling over what he wants to say next and instead reaching out to tug Jaskier so he’s tucked under his chin, so he doesn’t have to see his face and make it harder for himself. “I didn’t realise.”

"I thought you witcher’s could always sense monsters.” There's an odd tone to his voice that Geralt doesn't like.

“You’re not.”

“I’m a changeling, or so my nanny told me. A child of the Fae that they don’t want and so swap for a human baby instead. I’ve always been able to tell what plants are nearby, and what they can help with, how to use them. I can weave spells into thread or hair or..."

“That doesn’t make you a monster, Jaskier.”

“To my parents it did.” Geralt barely hears the sob that follows, and immediately pulls back to cup Jaskier’s face in his hands, running a thumb along his cheek to brush away his tears. It breaks him a little to see the usually so confident bard fall apart. “You really didn’t know?”

“No. And it makes no difference to me, other than I should have been thanking you for years.”

That gets a snorted laugh and a watery smile, but something in his frame has relaxed. “I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me.”

And he knows what Jaskier’s expecting is something like ‘don’t get used to it’, but he’s important to Geralt and he obviously hasn’t made that clear enough. So he presses their foreheads together for a moment before slowly leaning over and kissing him softly, pulling back after a moment.

“We’ll talk in the morning Jaskier, sleep.”

Geralt wakes to Jaskier trying to carefully extract himself and he freezes when he realises the witcher’s awake, turning to him with an expression caught between resignation and hope. His pulse jumps when Geralt reaches for him, wrapping a hand round the back of his neck to tug his back down and kiss him again, ignoring his soft gasp as he slumps against him, hands coming up to tangle in his hair. They don't talk about it, but Jaskier says with him longer that year, sings as if a weight has been lifted, presses close to Geralt during the nights and steals kisses when he thinks no-one is watching.

--

Another four of alghouls burst, screeching, from the treeline to join the group already attacking Geralt. He’s tired and injured from a fight with a Griffin earlier in the day, movements slower than they should be and Jaskier’s protections spent, making what should be a relatively easy fight much harder. They’d only disturbed the monster nest by accidentally straying too close to the graveyard in their hurry to head for a nearby healer.

Geralt stumbles forward as one of the ghouls jumps at his back, slamming into his sluggishly bleeding shoulder and knocking his sword out of his hand. He falls to his knees, lashing out with a fist at the closest to try give himself some space, while reaching for the silver dagger in his boot with his other hand. Teeth close round his upper arm before he can draw it and he regrets not grabbing more potions from his saddlebags as his vision starts to blur.

Then there's a sudden scream from the direction he'd left Jaskier and Roach in. No, that's not quite right; it's half scream, half shout, a language close to Elder, in a voice he almost recognises. It cuts through his head but the wraiths are falling back, away from him, growls turning to whimpers as tree roots curl, lightening fast, round their legs and drag them back beneath the ground.

There's rapid footsteps approaching and he forces himself to focus on Jaskier as hands cup his face. He looks different, not wrong per say, but sharp in places he wasn't before; his teeth, his ears, the look in his eyes, now an unnaturally bright blue, pupils distorted. He snarls at the last of the ghouls, and drops clawed fingers to dig into the ground and heather starts to appear encircling them, always Jaskier’s plant of choice for protection, and the ground starts to subtlety shake.

But when Geralt calls his name, eyes focus on him and recognition floods back in leaving Jaskier gasping, star shaped pupils returning to round as he slumps forward against Geralt’s shoulder. The silence and stillness in the wake of Jaskier’s power starts to fade, birdsong picking up again and Roach snorts quietly as she makes her way towards them. Geralt wraps his arms round his waist, holding him close and whispering reassurances, as the frantic energy seems to leave Jaskier and he slumps, exhausted.

“After you’ve seen the healer, can we come back and cut some of this?”

“Of course Love.”

--

Geralt’s never been more thankful of his habits than years later, when he’s standing facing a mage, Jaskier lying on the bed beside them with blood staining the front of his shirt, and the scent of lilac and gooseberries try to take over his senses. But Jaskier shifts in his sleep, frowning, and heather falls from Geralt’s hair as he reaches for the dagger at his belt. Yennefer steps back at his growl, raising her hands, looking between the bard and the flowers on the floor with wide eyes, whatever spell she was weaving dying before it can take hold.