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Even Steel Blades Need Fire

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Jaskier’s parents did not approve of his chosen career.

He had been told all his life to be careful, to be safe, to keep his head down. Their kind were few, and their family was prominent within the small community, he had a reputation to maintain, and so on. A life wandering around with no territory, no mate, and bringing undue attention to himself with fame? It was not the sort of thing that his kind did.

But it was the life that Jaskier wanted. The Continent was wide and vast, he could get away with fudging his age. And he wanted to see the world, wanted to compose songs, to spread tales of heroic deeds, dastardly monsters, he wanted to perform, to hold the rapt attention of an audience! The applause that came at the end of a set, the joy in pulling off a difficult set of notes with the lute, the satisfaction of a rhyme well done, of a high note hit—there was nothing in the world like it. He wanted nothing in his whole entire life so much as being a bard, and damn it, he was going to do it, parental approval or no.

His parents had responded with the rather eloquent ultimatum of… what were the words? Ah, yes, come back with your tail between your legs and a mate or don’t come back at all.

Right. Even if Jaskier did find a mate (and where on earth would he find someone who was interesting enough and strong enough and unusual enough to hold his attention for more than a month’s time) he wasn’t ever bringing them back here. Not to Lettenhove. Not to the cold, regal halls of his ancestral home where his family griped about hunters and the fame and power they’d once had and jealously guarded their hoarded wealth.

It was worse than a proper dungeon, if you asked Jaskier.

So he took a new name. After a rather sweet flower, one that was (to the surprise of many) poisonous, despite its cheerful and innocuous demeanor. Suited him, wouldn’t you say? And he went onto the road for a life of adventure, in pursuit of the noble career of bardism.

Being a bard was not, alas, always all it was cracked up to be, but he was barely an adult by his people’s standards (which was why he told humans he was eighteen). He had plenty of time to pay his dues and make his way to fame.

And then he met Geralt.

Geralt of Rivia, the White Wolf, the greatest Witcher on the Continent (or so they said).

Jaskier was absolutely, one hundred percent, no holds barred smitten.

Here was someone interesting enough and unusual enough to hold his attention. Here was someone strong enough to match him. Here was someone to spend a century with.

How especially fitting that Geralt’s eyes were the color of buttercups.

Jaskier was determined to make Geralt famous, and to be there for his adventures, and to somehow, eventually, get Geralt to like him.

The next hundred years were going to be fascinating.

 


 

Geralt found the bard annoying to the highest degree.

He also found the utter lack of fear and the persistent optimism, the determination to see Geralt as a good person, to be…

It was unusual, that was all. Nothing to discuss or dwell on.

They would get together for a time, and Jaskier would demonstrate his remarkable gift for getting himself into danger, and his just as remarkable gift for getting himself out of it, and his talent for spinning even the most boring of monster hunts into the kind of riveting, entertaining songs that people would repeat from Novigrad to Oxenfurt.

And Geralt would be, against his better judgment, entertained as well. He would feel lighter inside. Like he could be—for lack of a better term—human. He could snarl and snap and grouch, the way he couldn’t around others. Jaskier didn’t consider it proof that Witchers were assholes to be feared. He just snapped right back. He teased Geralt, he let Geralt rant, he let Geralt be soft. Every other part of his cursed life, Geralt had to keep himself in constant control. He had to be polite, but not too friendly, because people felt threatened. He couldn’t show his temper or he’d be playing into the stereotype. He couldn’t just be himself, except with Jaskier.

He really didn’t know why he never smelled fear on Jaskier. The bard smelled of incense, and pumice, but only when Geralt got right up against him such as when they shared a bed. Otherwise he smelled like honeysuckle shampoo (unless Jaskier was about to go to some important ball or other in which case he would dunk lavender on himself and Geralt would make snide remarks about him smelling like a soap shop). But never fear. And he didn’t understand it—how a fragile human could be so comfortable with a Witcher—but he was grateful for it.

Even if he didn’t think it would be wise for the bard’s ego to tell him that.

Maybe it was all right that Jaskier came around sometimes. Maybe.

 


 

Jaskier had never told Geralt about his true nature.

How could he? A monster hunter would be obligated to… well. There were a lot of misconceptions about Jaskier’s people and frankly if you asked Jaskier certain members of his people had done hard work to earn that misconception for the rest of them (not naming names, although he certainly could if he wanted his mother to track him down and yell at him in person instead of through the occasional letter). He would never want to put Geralt in a difficult position. Geralt already had enough hang-ups about how he felt, and what he had been told his Path was. Jaskier wasn’t going to give him more to agonize over.

And then—the mountain.

Geralt had cared about Borch. He’d cared about the dragons. Never had it been so clear that Geralt was not a thug, not a mindless hunter, but someone who cared about creatures, who stopped and thought before just attacking, who wanted to help and was willing to have his mind changed.

And so Jaskier had… taken a chance.

He could take Geralt to the coast. It was beautiful there, or so he’d been told. It would be nice for them to go somewhere neutral, somewhere new, away from all the politics and the threat of war. He could tell Geralt the truth, at the coast. Because he lied when he said he was working out what pleased him. He already knew. He’d known for twenty years.

And then…

Borch found him afterwards. “You’re not going to turn this into a song.”

“No.” Jaskier continued his trek down the mountain path. “Can’t have more attention on dragons, even if it’s good attention. No news is good news and all that.”

The older dragon regarded him with eyes that glinted gold. They reminded Jaskier of Geralt. He’d compared the Witcher’s eyes to many things over the years—gold coins, buttercups, twin suns—but never before had he seen them look so cold. “He’ll realize his mistake soon.”

“Soon is relative, as you well know.”

Borch sniffed. “You’re young. You’ve got plenty of time. We’re all prideful creatures, you should know that. It’ll take him a while to apologize, but by the time he does, you’ll have figured out how to forgive him.” He clapped Jaskier on the shoulder. “Arrogance is one of our greatest failings. Don’t let it be yours.”

“It was never my failing.” Flightiness, yes. Impatience, yes. Acting without thinking, yes. Following his every impulse, definitely.

Loyalty? That most of all.

“It might be, if you’re not careful. Go and lick your wounds, son.”

“And what will you do? With your child.”

“Take it far away. War’s brewing. No place for a child of any kind.” Borch looked out across the horizon. “You could come, if you wanted. I could show you some faraway lands. When was the last time you stretched your wings and flew?”

Ages. Jaskier couldn’t even remember when. “No, thank you. I’m a bard, first and foremost. And no bard worth his salt is going to miss out on this. We’re historians, after all.”

Most people didn’t think about it that way, but it was true. Bards sang songs of kings in triumph and defeat, of kingdoms rising and falling, of marriages and curses and miracles. How else could mostly illiterate people know the history of their land if not through song?

Borch nodded. “I figured you’d say that. Take care, bard.”

“You too.” Jaskier cleared his throat. “Elder.”

Borch laughed unexpectedly. “It rankles you that you couldn’t tell, doesn’t it?”

“You hid it well.”

“You hid yourself well. I didn’t know at first, either. You play the hapless companion with glee.”

Jaskier couldn’t hold back a mischievous smile. “I’ve had twenty years to get good at it.”

Borch shook his head, but he was smiling. “I’m sure we’ll meet again. I’ll need someone to sing at my child’s name day, after all.”

Jaskier didn’t feel completely unburdened as he made his way farther down the mountain, but he did feel somewhat lighter.

Maybe he would go to the coast anyway.

On his own.

 


 

He’d had Ciri for six months when she announced, “You’re in love with him.”

Geralt had been enjoying a perfectly nice evening. They’d found an abandoned farmhouse to hole up in, they had venison to eat, Yennefer had finally been found and was eager to meet Ciri, Vesemir had responded to his letter and told him he could bring the girl to Kaer Morhen… the night air was cool and fresh, their fire was warm, he had his Child Surprise, his daughter, leaning her head against his shoulder…

And then she went and said that.

Geralt thought back over what he’d been saying that would give her that impression. He’d been talking about Jaskier, who Ciri apparently knew—seemed Jaskier had stopped by the Cintra court now and again to perform for important occasions. He’d even written some lullabies for Pavetta to sing to Ciri, on the deceased princess’s request.

Geralt had talked about how Jaskier was stubborn, impulsive, impatient, cared nothing for his own life or safety, seemed to have a knack for finding the most dangerous or troublesome people to sleep with, never shut up, and hogged the blankets.

Where on earth in that whole tirade had Ciri gotten the notion that Geralt was in love with the bard?

Ciri just smiled at him, as if she could read his thoughts. “Grandmother used to talk about Eist the same way.”

Calanthe and Eist. An unusual match to most. A love match, for one thing, no matter what the two of them tried to claim about political necessities. Eist had been laid back, submissive (to Calanthe, anyway), lighthearted, sly, and patient. Calanthe was none of those things. Such a marriage of opposites had confused pretty much everyone.

But they’d loved each other. Once, after meeting up together, Geralt had heard Jaskier working on a song for the two of them. An allegorical, sometimes humorous, sometimes startlingly sweet song about a lioness taking a buck as her mate. “Why are you so insistent on getting this one right?” Geralt had asked as Jaskier had cursed over a word choice.

“Because for once I’m not embellishing,” Jaskier had replied. “It’s true. They are stupidly in love. And that means it’s important I get this right.”

Apparently Ciri saw the same affection in Geralt for Jaskier that she’d seen in Calanthe for Eist.

That—that threw Geralt for a loop.

Did he…?

True, the bard was handsome. Or, well, pretty would be the more accurate word. Jaskier was pretty. He had the sort of face that compelled you to keep looking at it. They were of a height, but Jaskier was slim where Geralt was broad, wiry where Geralt was bulky, soft where Geralt was firm. It was a pleasing contrast, sure, Geralt could admit that.

And yes, Jaskier smelled nice. Better than nice, actually, he smelled really fucking good. Incense was generally too strong a scent for Geralt but it was muted in Jaskier, like it was so naturally a part of him that it became neatly subtle, a little extra spice, rather than an overwhelming perfume.

And he was warm, warm enough that on the occasions when Geralt still had the mutagens coursing through him after a hunt he’d curl up with Jaskier, press them together from head to toe, and shamelessly leech off Jaskier’s heat. Jaskier had never minded. In fact, he’d stroke through Geralt’s hair, and hum soothing tunes, and…

Fuck.

Geralt looked down at Ciri. “You’re too clever for your own good.”

Ciri just beamed up at him.

 


 

Jaskier knew he’d see Geralt again.

It was inevitable, really. Law of averages and all that. Or something. Law of something. Anyway. He’d known it would happen, he just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

And yet, here they were. Staring at each other across a tavern, Jaskier’s lute strings still vibrating from the last chord he’d struck.

Geralt shouldered the other patrons out of the way, crossing the tavern, and to Jaskier’s shock—pulled him into a hug.

They’d always been tactile with each other. Yanking each other around, clapping each other’s shoulders, dragging each other by the collar or hand or elbow, tackling each other on at least five memorable occasions. Even, yes, hugging. But Jaskier hadn’t thought… 

It’ll take him a while to apologize, but by the time he does, you’ll have figured out how to forgive him.

Jaskier set his lute down on a chair and carefully wrapped his arms around Geralt’s shoulders, squeezing.

“Heard you were farther south,” Geralt said, his voice gruffer than usual. “Whole town was razed by fire. Nothing left.”

Nilfgaard had ravaged the south. Ravaged small, helpless towns. Ravaged people. It had made Jaskier angry like nothing else. “Slipped out just in time.”

Geralt pulled back, his hands moving economically over Jaskier’s arms, torso, and face, as if checking him for any injuries that Jaskier would be hiding from him. Jaskier huffed. “I’m all in one piece, Geralt. Despite some dodgy moments.”

Geralt’s gaze, which had been focused somewhere around the vicinity of Jaskier’s collarbone, snapped up. “You should save the dodgy moments for when you’re not alone.”

Jaskier knew what Geralt was really saying. I would’ve kept you safe. If you’d been with me, you’d have been safer.

“Well.” Jaskier picked up his lute again. “I’m not alone now, am I?”

Geralt looked like he was struggling with something, his jaw clenched, and then he nodded. His hands, Jaskier realized, were still on him. One at his hip, the other at Jaskier’s jaw.

“No,” Geralt said. “You’re not alone now.”

Jaskier found himself, for the first time in a year, hoping.

 


 

If someone had asked, Witchers did not have courting customs.

Definitely not. Nope. None.

Vesemir had tried to disabuse them all of the notion of having anyone to court in the first place. “The Path leaves no room for spouses or families. Most people won’t want you that way. And even if you find one stupid bastard who does, the rest of the people around them won’t like it. You love someone, you don’t expose them to that.”

The message could not have been clearer. Sex? Go for it. Love? Good fucking luck.

And yet, scouring the library at Kaer Morhen while Ciri was training with Yen or Eskel and Jaskier was… communing with birds or something, who even knew… Geralt found it.

A manuscript on Witcher courting.

Vesemir found him reading it, took one look, and then gazed out the window like he was seriously contemplating throwing himself out of it. “I hope you know what you’re getting into.”

It was Jaskier. Geralt never fucking knew what he was getting into with that man. But he knew what he wanted, and he had reason to believe that Jaskier wanted the same thing (the bard wasn’t exactly subtle). And he knew that between Yen, and Ciri, and Jaskier, and all the rest, it was time to stop fighting. Time to acknowledge that maybe, he could have what he wanted. That he was allowed.

“He’s never once left me,” Geralt admitted. “Not for twenty years. He’s never feared me. He’s been the only loyal thing. The only constant thing.”

Vesemir’s face didn’t shift, but his eyes did, something in them softening. “He has grown on me.”

Geralt went back to his reading, knowing that was the closest thing to a blessing he was going to get.

 


 

Jaskier was finally, for once, grateful that his parents had drummed every single fucking cultural tradition into his head when he was a kid.

Someday you’ll appreciate us quizzing you on this, his mother had told him, and oh how she’d laugh to realize she’d been right.

Actually though, she might be scandalized. He was going to be courting a Witcher, after all.

The thing was—he’d hardly dared to hope, at first. He’d tried to be cautious. Not to overestimate.

But Geralt was—he wasn’t just back to the way they’d been together before. He was more.

He touched Jaskier more. Several times Jaskier had caught him staring when he thought Jaskier wasn’t looking. They shared a bedroll as they traveled, ostensibly because they only had two and Ciri needed one, but it would’ve made more sense for Ciri to share with Geralt, seeing as she had frequent nightmares. And Geralt had always been checking on him at Kaer Morhen, tracking him through the cold empty halls to find Jaskier and see that he was all right, ask if he was too cold, if he was hungry, if he needed something.

Of course, gods forbid that Geralt actually do anything about it. Not that Jaskier expected him to. He knew Geralt too well for that. No, no if anyone was going to actually start the courting around here, it was Jaskier, and he was well-prepared for it.

There were just a few teeny, tiny, miniscule little problems.

One, he was a dragon.

Two, Geralt was not a dragon.

Three: he had failed to tell Geralt that he, Jaskier, was a dragon.

Teeny tiny minuscule little problems.

Definitely.

 


 

Of course, if Geralt was actually going to take their friendship to the next, ah, level, so to speak, he had to be the one to do it.

Jaskier had made it clear for some time now, through flirtation and innuendo and extremely obvious hints, that he was perfectly open to such a thing, if Geralt wanted it. Geralt simply hadn’t known he wanted it, and for a long time he’d just thought… well at first he’d thought that Jaskier simply wanted him for a quick fuck and Geralt didn’t do quick fucks (example the first, Renfri, example the second, Yennefer) unless he paid the the person afterwards, and then after that he’d thought that it was just Jaskier flirting because Jaskier didn’t know how not to flirt with someone. Jaskier flirted with the bartender, his audience, nobility, servants, monsters, and Roach. It didn’t mean his flirting with Geralt was anything special.

After being separated from Jaskier, though, and thinking back on some of Jaskier’s words and actions… after seeing Jaskier’s face when they’d reunited, the way he’d dug his nails into Geralt’s shoulders as they’d hugged…

But he couldn’t wait around and expect Jaskier to initiate. Jaskier had been wearing his heart on his sleeve this entire time. He’d already been brave, stating his intentions for Geralt and anyone else with a pair of eyes and half a brain to notice. Geralt couldn’t ask Jaskier to risk more of his heart. Not when Jaskier had as good as dumped it at Geralt’s feet already.

Geralt was going to have to be the one to initiate the courting.

Which was, frankly, fucking terrifying. He’d rather face ten sea hags, thanks. But through this battered, odd little family of his he’d been learning that no risk also meant no reward. And if he could be sure of anyone, it would be Jaskier.

Jaskier had put all his faith in Geralt. It was time for Geralt to return the favor.

So. Courting.

The number one thing about Witcher courting was something that was so fucking obvious, Geralt rolled his eyes when he read it:

Witchers must show their intended that they can provide for them, such as hunting food.

Geralt already wanted to do that for Jaskier, it wasn’t like it was exactly a hardship.

When they left Kaer Morhen, and he could be reasonably certain that Eskel or Lambert wouldn’t emerge at an inopportune moment, see what was going on, and tease Geralt about it for the next fifty years, he started doing what he had always done when it was Jaskier and him on the road, namely hunting down food (deer, if he could manage it) and providing it for dinner.

Jaskier would always beam at him when Geralt brought back something—or at least, he had before. But now he kept oddly insisting that they try to stay in towns more often?

“You really shouldn’t have to exert yourself,” Jaskier insisted. “You already hunt monsters, why should you have to hunt for dinner, too? I can pay for us to have something nice.”

It always made a growl start up in the back of Geralt’s throat. How was he supposed to remind Jaskier that Geralt was good at taking care of him, that Jaskier would never want for anything when Geralt was around, if Jaskier kept trying to insist on being the one to organize their meals?

It was unusual, and new, and frustrating beyond measure. He should’ve known the bard would find a new way to drive him insane.

And you know what? Fine. Fine! Jaskier was always someone who had appreciated the finer things in life. It wasn’t too surprising that he wanted to be among people, to be more in civilization, to enjoy proper stew and hot bread instead of just meat roasted over the fire. Geralt could understand that. So he would provide for Jaskier in other ways, namely by paying for things.

Except Jaskier kept wanting to be the one to pay for things. “I’ve made plenty of coin performing, Geralt, really, it’s nothing.”

Jaskier should only have to play for people because he wanted to. Because he loved songs and hoarded them like a dragon and adored performing them, not because he needed to perform in order to feed himself.

But it was like now that Geralt was actually trying to do right by his bard and show Jaskier that he wanted to be there for him, take care of him, be with him… Jaskier was instinctively blocking him.

It couldn’t be on purpose. If anything, Jaskier’s flirtations had doubled. He had also started to wear more jewelry than usual, and a bit of color on his lips or kohl lining his eyes, like he was showing himself off, wrapping himself up like a present. It was driving Geralt to fucking distraction, and yet—he couldn’t seem to get his point across.

What the hell was he supposed to do about it?

 


 

Jaskier was finding Geralt to be even more stubborn than he had anticipated.

The jewelry and touches of makeup, at least, were going over well. Step one of the courting process was to make oneself look appealing to one’s potential mate, especially by using shiny things, and while Geralt was no dragon, Jaskier was pretty sure shiny things would work for a Witcher, too. He was excited to give Geralt some shiny things too as gifts (nothing too flamboyant, he knew Geralt’s tastes), but that was just about the final step in the process. Traditionally it was one dragon sharing pieces of their hoard with their mate, to show that their mate was more important than their hoard, but Jaskier’s hoard was his songs, and he already shared those with Geralt. Geralt inspired the majority of them, after all.

Something… something nice, like a broach for his other sword hilt, or a wrist cuff, or a simple ring. Jaskier didn’t mind if it was something Geralt would only wear when he wasn’t hunting. It was still a sign, both in Jaskier giving it and Geralt receiving it and choosing to wear it.

But that was for later. Right now, he was trying to proceed to the other steps of courting, and Geralt was not cooperating.

Of course Geralt was going to be stubborn about this. Jaskier was many things but an idiot he was not (all right, he was an idiot sometimes, but not about Geralt). He knew that Geralt bristled at any notion of being taken care of, and that Geralt liked to be self-sufficient. But surely, surely Geralt could enjoy relaxing and letting them pay for others to cook their meals and wash their clothes and give them baths for once? Instead of doing it all themselves?

That was the whole point of being a dragon. Dragons had wealth, and Jaskier’s job was to show his mate that they would never want for anything so long as they were mated to him. His job was to show that he could provide for them. But oh no, Geralt wanted to hunt every dinner himself, he wanted to pay for everything, didn’t the ridiculous man see that Jaskier was trying to take care of him!?

Stubborn Witcher. Melitele save him, of course he had to go and fall for the one person who would be adverse to anyone doing anything for him, and reveal in the process that Jaskier was far more draconic in his nature than he’d ever suspected. After all, he had no need for material wealth or a home where he could hide his hoard. He was also remarkably good about not setting annoying people on fire. And yet when it came to this, to courting, he was finding himself rather old fashioned.

If only Geralt would stop being so—but, well, if he wasn’t stubborn he wouldn’t be the man that Jaskier fell in love with, now would he?

Jaskier could be patient.

Totally.

One hundred percent.

Patient.

 


 

It all rather came to a head when they ran into a Nilfgaard century.

They had skirted around some patrols before, but this was a proper group—centuries were eighty to a hundred strong, and Geralt supposed he should be grateful it wasn’t a whole legion—but it was still a lot of soldiers.

And they all knew a Witcher when they saw one.

“Jaskier.” Geralt drew the steel sword. Steel for humans. Silver for monsters. Not that he didn’t think humans could be both—but they were indoctrinated, or forced, or just trying to do their damn job without even being sure why they were here. They were soldiers. It was rarely their fault there was a war. “Get behind me.”

“I don’t think so.” Jaskier was glaring around them like he would smash everyone’s heads with his lute if he got the opportunity. Roach snorted nervously.

“This isn’t time for your theatrics.” Geralt grit his teeth. “Your loyalty is noted and…” Fuck, damn it, just say it for once in your life… “…appreciated.”

Jaskier snorted and rolled his eyes. “If you think I’m just going to stand here while you take on—”

The soldiers charged, then, and Geralt was a little busy.

He could keep up with a hundred men, stamina wise, when he was in a fight but getting beset on all sides was hard and he had to protect Jaskier simultaneously. For the first time in years, Geralt felt an unpleasant twist in his gut—something not quite fear but rather close to it, a realization that he might not actually be able to defend the bard this time. That this fight might not go the way that he wanted.

“Get Roach and ride!” Geralt yelled, even though they were surrounded and had been since the century had come upon them on the road. But these were foot soldiers for the most part, and if Jaskier could—

One of the men got off a lucky strike and hit Geralt’s arm—not his sword arm, thank fuck—and he growled in pain, turning to cut the man down. Doing their job or no, wrapped up in this war through force or indoctrination or some gray area in between they might be, but they were still attacking two men and they were a hundred and he would never let them hurt Jaskier—

An almighty roar had everyone dropping to the ground.

Geralt had heard a roar like that. Over a year ago, from the mouth of a great, golden dragon.

He turned, still on his feet, half-expecting Borch to be standing there in all his scaled glory.

But it wasn’t a golden dragon. It was a red one, one with scales like fire, and eyes blue like summer, and smoke curling up between its teeth.

The Nilfgaardians all cowered, as well they might when a creature of legend and fire was roaring at them. The dragon lifted up its wings and beat them in the air, stirring up a wind that had even Geralt raising his arm to cover his eyes and bracing his feet in the dirt. It was like a marking of territory, a show of strength unmatched by its opponent.

Dare to come and test me, the dragon seemed to be saying.

Gripped by stubbornness, viciousness, madness, or just plain fear—there were too many smells in the air for Geralt to tell—the soldiers got to their feet and charged again, clearly ready to try and cut this beast down.

The dragon’s throat worked, clenching, rippling, and Geralt realized what was about to happen. The smell of incense and pumice filled the air, shot through with brimstone, and he dove for the ground.

Fire exploded above him, a great wave of it that blasted the soldiers, burned the men all to crisps. Roach whinnied and reared up in a panic, and the heat was even almost too much for Geralt, who closed his eyes against the blaze.

The fire died, and silence reigned, so thick and oppressive that Geralt felt like he could cut through it.

He got to his feet.

The dragon looked at him, then slowly dipped its head, blue eyes looking up at him in a coquettish manner that Geralt knew very well.

He reached out, his palm very slowly coming to press against Jaskier’s burning snout. Jaskier made a low, satisfied growling noise.

It was like all of their last twenty years together had shifted in his mind, shadows becoming light and vice versa. All this time, Jaskier could’ve—he’d been—

Carefully, Geralt took a step forward, pressing his forehead to Jaskier’s and closing his eyes, feeling the warmth and the scales against his face. Jaskier made a softer noise, and then Geralt felt the air shift, and it was skin and soft hair against his forehead, and his hand was pressed to a human chest.

He opened his eyes again. Jaskier looked more sheepish than he’d ever seen the bard before. “Surprise?”

Geralt had a lot of things to say to that (for once), but what came out was, “No wonder you’re so fucking reckless.”

How many times had he yanked Jaskier back from walking off a cliff, or out of a river where he might drown, or away from a ghoul or a wraith or something equally vicious? How many times had Jaskier sauntered into danger, or followed Geralt—gods, he’d fucking followed the ‘Butcher of Blaviken’ down an abandoned road without a care in the world.

All this time, and it was because at the end of the day, Jaskier was scarier then just about anything Geralt hunted. It wasn’t misplaced recklessness or a lack of self-preservation. It was lazy fucking confidence.

Jaskier coughed and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well. Yes. I—I really do try not to show myself, you know, Geralt. It’s rather awkward, you know. We have a whole statute of secrecy and such. People hunt us down like animals—but sometimes—well. You never could’ve gotten all of them. You’re a lot of brave and talented and wonderful things, my darling Witcher, but a hundred men might be a bit much.”

“So you stepped in.”

“No witnesses to report a dragon in the area, unless you feel like it or Roach suddenly starts talking.”

Geralt eyed his horse. “Dunno. You’re a dragon, who knows what Roach might be.”

Jaskier gave a strangled laugh. “I wanted to tell you. I was going to, you know. After… but you were a monster hunter and I didn’t know… and then by the time I was really sure, it had been so long and I didn’t want to—I had lied to you all that time and I didn’t know how to undo it. And then the mountain… and I thought… I’ll tell him, I’ll really tell him…”

And he never got the chance. Because Geralt had shoved him away.

Geralt swallowed around the guilt that formed in his throat like a stone. It explained so many other things. Why Jaskier still looked the same. How warm he was when they shared a bed. Why he smelled of pumice and incense, but not unpleasantly so—because it wasn’t perfume, it was his natural draconic scent—why he craved the finer things in life like silk and wine and jewelry.

“The village, the one we thought you were in. You were in it.” Geralt stared at him. “You burned it down.”

“I burned the Nilfgaardians who tried to pillage and slaughter their way through it,” Jaskier corrected. He looked away, towards the ashes that had once been men. “I was with good people, there. People who had nothing to do with the war, in a village that wasn’t even important to the war effort, there was no strategic reason to attack it and yet—so I made them pay.” Jaskier’s hands curled into fists. “I protected the villagers and I made those men pay.”

He looked up at Geralt, his eyes bright in that way that told Geralt the bard was nervous. “This doesn’t—it won’t—nothing will change, will it? I couldn’t—I don’t know if I could bear it, if it did. I’ll be quite honest with you, Geralt, the idea of spending another century knowing you’re out there and that I can’t be by your side is a rather miserable one.” He laughed, as if to try and make a joke of it, but the sound was hollow.

Geralt’s chest felt tight, the stone still lodged in his throat, and it felt like if he didn’t do something, touch Jaskier, he was going to slip into madness.

He stepped forward, yanking the bard in, and pressed their foreheads together once more. Jaskier startled, but then relaxed, his hands clutching at the front straps of Geralt’s armor. “May I?” he whispered.

“Hmm?”

“Stay by your side,” Jaskier clarified.

Jaskier could’ve made a life anywhere. And that was ignoring his draconic nature. He could’ve had a cushy lecture position as a poet-in-resident at Oxenfurt. He could’ve been the court bard at just about anywhere in the land, in spite of the war. He could’ve married any noble or even royal he wanted, or set himself up as a kept man if he wished.

And now—now it turned out he was a dragon. Fuck. He could have done literally anything. Gone anywhere in the world. Enemies would fall before him. He could accumulate the kind of power and wealth others could only dream about. He had centuries to fill with adventure.

And he chose to be with Geralt.

Fuck it. Fuck courting customs.

Geralt pulled back from Jaskier just enough to wrap his hand around the back of the bard’s neck and kissed him.

Jaskier made a noise that sounded both wounded and relieved and tightened his hold on Geralt’s straps, kissing him back with such enthusiasm that the bard was trembling. Gods, he tasted so fucking good, kissed as ferociously as Geralt had suspected. He was a dragon, he was a bard, he was handsome and talented and he could have anyone, anyone, and he chose a feral monster hunter who was practically a monster himself and fuck, Geralt was never going to be worthy of him but he couldn’t stop fucking kissing him.

“Oh,” Jaskier managed, the bard’s mouth still right up against Geralt’s, his voice soft. When he smiled, Geralt could feel it. “I suppose this means I can skip right through the rest of the courting, now.”

“…the rest of what?” Geralt asked.

Jaskier’s face got a bit red. Suspicion started to form in Geralt’s mind.

“Jaskier. What the fuck did you do.”

 


 

So. Turned out, Geralt had been courting him. While Jaskier had been courting Geralt.

This… explained a lot.

Part of him—the proud, draconic part—was miffed that Geralt would try to be the courter instead of the courtee when clearly it was Jaskier’s job to be the courter and win Geralt over with his wealth and strength and shiny things. But the rest of him was just so damn fond that he kind of melted inside whenever he thought about it.

Geralt had been trying to court him. Geralt, who communicated through a well-timed grunt ninety percent of the time. He had been putting himself out there, showing his heart on his sleeve as much as was possible for him, for Jaskier.

The truth of the matter was, Jaskier had never felt much like a dragon.

He told Geralt as much, as they made their way onward through the forest and Geralt commented that it was no wonder Jaskier never got tired walking so much, and asked him if he missed being able to show his true form and fly, being around people so often.

“I never wanted a territory to claim,” he explained. “My songs are my hoard.” Which was why he would never fucking forgive Valdo Marx for stealing a few of his earliest songs and he would make that troubador pay at the first opportunity. “Nothing material. I don’t really see why many dragons consider themselves better than humans. And I like this form. I like storytelling, and humanity. There’s so much to love about them.”

Most dragons got off being wise and powerful, but Jaskier just… wanted to be young and energetic and feel alive. Who cared if people thought he was foolish along the way? They didn’t matter.

So no, Jaskier had never felt much like a dragon. He knew he was a disappointment to his parents because of it. But he felt like a dragon when it came to Geralt. He felt that hot, possessive curl in his chest, that ferocious primal pride for which dragons were so famed.

Because Geralt was one in a million. He was noble and honest and true. He was true to his word, to his Path, and to those for whom he cared. He was selfless and brave and would risk everything of himself to keep people safe. And he was beautiful. Eyes like gold and hair like snow, each scar on his body a story. Nobody looked like Geralt on the whole Continent.

And Jaskier was his, and he was Jaskier’s. He’d chosen Jaskier. The only man Jaskier had ever met who could rightfully claim the title of hero, the man that had quite a number of people lusting fruitlessly after him, the man who had bedded the most powerful sorceress in the land—and it was Jaskier he courted.

If someone tried to flirt with Geralt now Jaskier might spit a bit of fire out of instinct. Not much, just enough to singe their clothes. Because Melitele preserve him, he couldn’t help himself. He was a dragon through and through when it came to the subject of his mate.

Oh, and speaking of mating…

They were still far enough from any towns when night fell and they had to make camp. Jaskier… well. He couldn’t resist a little showing off.

Geralt watched as Jaskier spat a little bit of fire onto the pile of sticks and they went up in flames. “Wondered how you could always make a good fire.”

“Well now you know.” He’d always used to do it while Geralt was hunting, or cleaning himself off in the river, or what-have-you. Now he didn’t have to hide.

He didn’t have to hide. What a relief that was. He hadn’t realized how hard it had been to hide this part of himself from Geralt until now that he could relax and show it.

“Nothing’s going to change,” he added. “I’m still me.”

“I know.” Geralt set out their bedrolls—side by side, Jaskier noticed, and his heart skipped a beat—and then sat on the log next to him. “I’m just wondering how I didn’t figure it out sooner.”

“I’m not exactly traditional.” Jaskier shrugged. “I don’t have a hoard, I’m not very, ah, aggressive—”

Geralt snorted. “Jas, you’re extremely aggressive.”

“No, I’m not! Dragons do that whole—posturing thing, I don’t do that! You should really see a family gathering of mine, Geralt, the alpha male syndrome is really awful, it’s like dealing with a bunch of cavemen—”

“You have been in fifty-seven bar fights since I met you.”

“They were insulting you! It was perfectly justified since you refuse to defend yourself—”

“You’ve broken three lutes because you were hitting people with them—”

“They were only my second-best lutes, Geralt, inferior quality, I would never use my elven lute in such a fashion—”

“Jaskier.” Geralt was rolling his eyes, but he also looked incredibly soft and fond. “You’re more aggressive than I am.”

“Well.” Jaskier found himself grinning in response. “Only when it comes to defending your honor.”

Geralt shook his head. “This whole time, I thought you were just a normal human, and you could’ve eaten half the monsters I kill with just a snap of your jaws.”

“Not really.” Jaskier shrugged. “I’m still an idiot, whichever form I’m in. Although I’m not too bad with a rapier, as you well know.”

Geralt snorted.

“But half the time—my size alone dictates I can’t do anything. Can’t have people knowing there’s a dragon about. Or I’d just get too big for the cave or castle we’re in. Or it would be a… a disproportionate response to the threat. So. Really. It’s best if I leave the monster hunting to you.”

“You sure you’re not just lazy?” Geralt was leaning in, and so Jaskier was willing to let the teasing slide.

“I do rather like watching you,” he admitted, and then he wasn’t admitting anything anymore because it was rather hard to talk with someone else’s tongue in your mouth.

“Yes,” Geralt said, when they came up for air.

“What?” Jaskier felt like his brain was leaking out his ears. Geralt kissed with simultaneous relentlessness and attention to detail, and it was making Jaskier hot all over in a way that had nothing to do with his heritage.

“To your question. I never answered it.”

It took him a moment to recall what, exactly, it was that he had asked. Oh.

May I stay by your side?

Not that Jaskier had been in much doubt at that point, but it still made the heat spike higher inside of him, made his throat tight. “Yes, then.”

Geralt nosed at Jaskier’s throat, his lips scraping over the pulse point. “Yes.”

Jaskier kissed him before he did something stupid like start waxing poetic about how happy he was, or how wonderful Geralt was, or both, because that would’ve only embarrassed the Witcher and they had much more important things to be doing.

Geralt hauled Jaskier up into his lap, his broad thighs spreading Jaskier’s legs wide, and Jaskier purred in pleasure. Geralt—to Jaskier’s surprise and pleasure—purred right back.

They were both unusual creatures, weren’t they? Half-animal, or so some might say. Gods, he loved him. He was never going to find another like Geralt. There was no mate more magnificent than his.

Geralt’s hands moved up his back, both the heel of his palms and his fingertips digging in, like he was scared Jaskier might change his mind and run away. Jaskier clawed at Geralt’s armor, trying to undo the buckles while also refusing to sacrifice how close they were, and Geralt chuckled, sucking at the bolt of Jaskier’s jaw.

“It’s not fair,” Jaskier let that wheedling pouty tone enter his voice, the one he knew Geralt only pretended not to let sway him. “I’m only wearing a doublet, Geralt.”

“Hmm.” Geralt kissed his way down Jaskier’s neck, and oh fuck, that was—it was good, all right, it was—fuck.

Jaskier rolled his hips, trying to encourage Geralt to, oh, perchance, get them both naked. “I will claw your armor open, see if I don’t.”

Geralt lightly swatted his ass and Jaskier jolted, pleasure shooting straight through him like a thunderbolt. “Try it,” Geralt growled, the warning and command both clear in his voice.

Melitele preserve him, he was going to lose what was left of his mind before tonight was through. “Fine, fine, I won’t rip your precious armor, but please, Geralt, have some mercy. It’s been two decades.

“You waited this long, you can wait a bit more,” Geralt replied, but he stood up—and took Jaskier with him, lifting Jaskier like he was nothing.

Oh this was definitely one of the reasons he loved his human form. He still weighed quite a bit more than people expected, but it wasn’t nearly like trying to lift his draconic form. Jaskier slid his fingers into Geralt’s hair, tugging on it shamelessly as Geralt continued to mouth at his neck while walking them over to the bedrolls.

“I can’t quite get over the fact that you decided to court me instead of simply telling me what you wanted—no, wait,” Jaskier paused as Geralt set him down on the bedrolls. “Of course that’s what you did, fucking forbid you just tell me you wanted me.”

“You tried courting me,” Geralt pointed out, working to undo his armor.

“I’m a dragon! It’s what we do!”

“You just said you weren’t very draconic.”

“Fuck you.”

The smirk that Geralt gave him was positively feral. “That’s your job.”

Another hot shiver worked its way down Jaskier’s spine and he started yanking off his own clothes, fast as he could without ripping them (fine garments were expensive and deserved to be treated with care). “You’re going to be insufferable from now on, aren’t you?”

Geralt shrugged. “You’re already insufferable. Now it’s even.”

“Excuse you, I am a delight, I am sunshine, I brighten the day of everyone I meet, I am a blessing upon your life and your mate—”

Geralt finally finished with his armor and reeled Jaskier back in, kissing him slick and deep and a little messy, and Jaskier completely forgot what he was going to say. For a second he even forgot what words were.

Then Geralt got a hand around Jaskier’s swelling cock, and Jaskier remembered what words were rather quickly. “Oh, fuck, Geralt, please—come on you brute, don’t you dare tease me now.”

“Insults aren’t going to help you,” Geralt noted, seizing Jaskier’s earlobe in his teeth and tugging on it.

“Insults are the only way I ever get you to do anything!”

Geralt tipped him backwards onto the bedrolls, growling at him, and Jaskier grinned up at him cheekily.

Then Geralt raised an eyebrow and slid down, and Jaskier sure as fuck wasn’t grinning anymore.

He’d wondered, sometimes, if Geralt had experience with men. Jaskier himself had never hidden his appreciation for every gender, but Geralt didn’t exactly talk about his times at whorehouses, and then after Yennefer came along there was only, well, Yennefer, so.

But it turned out that Geralt must’ve had some experience somewhere down the line, because there was no other rational explanation for why he was able to drive Jaskier to the very edge of madness.

He swallowed Jaskier’s cock like it was nothing, his tongue flicking underneath the foreskin with practiced ease, tightening or loosening the press of his lips depending on how close he was drawing Jaskier to orgasm. His hands were planted on Jaskier’s thighs, spreading him open and keeping him from moving, and so all Jaskier could do was tug on Geralt’s hair and moan.

“Fuck, Geralt, come on…” Geralt sucked at the underside of his cock and Jaskier writhed, sparks dancing in his eyes. “You’ve no sense of mercy.”

“None whatsoever,” Geralt agreed, and then he swallowed Jaskier down to the root again and Jaskier sobbed. Gods, he’d imagined this countless times but not this specifically, had never dared—oh holy fuck—

Geralt pulled off right as Jaskier’s balls tightened, squeezing the base of Jaskier’s cock and keeping him away from that sweet release. “How do you want this?”

A thousand possibilities flew through his mind, but he knew what he wanted to start out with. “I want you to fuck me.”

Geralt’s eyes darkened from amber to burning, molten gold, and Jaskier shivered. He’d had a feeling that was how Geralt wanted it, the Witcher claiming his mate in this fashion just as Jaskier fully planned on claiming Geralt with a ring or cuff once he found a damn jeweler’s place that was good enough.

There was oil in his bag (of course there was, did he look like the sort of man who was unprepared for this sort of possibility?) and Geralt wasted no time in slicking up his fingers. Jaskier felt unbelievably hot all over, like even as a dragon he might still burn up, the inner flames too much for him, especially as Geralt was still determined to tease him mercilessly.

Jaskier could admit that when it came down to his own devices he could be rather, ah, impatient, but there was no earthly reason for Geralt to take so long. He had Jaskier begging on two fingers, Jaskier’s nails clawing at the bedrolls, his eyes open but unseeing as his body arched with pleasure.

Gods, he wanted to be fucked, he wanted to be fucked so badly. He’d never craved anyone like this, never been this desperate. Falling lightly and easily in love with others had been like snacking constantly—he always enjoyed the food, it was always delicious, but he never let the hunger get too deep. Now this was like he’d been starving for weeks, and had a feast in front of him, and wasn’t being allowed to eat it.

Geralt added a third finger at last and Jaskier just about screamed. “I know we have time, Geralt, but please, please, sometime this decade, if it’s not too much trouble—”

“Hmm.” Geralt leaned forward, bracing himself on his free hand to hover over Jaskier even as his fingers continued relentlessly inside of him, stretching him wide. “And here you were always bragging about your prowess.”

“That’s because I was fucking humans, of course I’ve got prowess. The only thing I’m bragging about when it comes to you is how much I want you.” He reached up and seized Geralt’s face, kissing him with everything he had. “Geralt, mate, please…”

That seemed to do it. Geralt let out a noise like he’d been gut-punched and withdrew his fingers. “Breathe,” he reminded him.

Jaskier wanted to make a quip, but he was too full of anticipation. And it would’ve been a stupid quip anyway, because even with all that preparation, fuck, Geralt was splitting him open. Jaskier keened, his chest heaving, trembling from trying to stay still as Geralt filled him until Jaskier thought he could feel it in his sternum, next to his own wild heart.

Geralt gently stroked Jaskier’s hair out of his face, gaze darting all over like he was checking to make sure Jaskier was all right.

Jaskier was all right. He was better than all right. Actual flying hadn’t felt as exhilarating as this. “Geralt,” he whimpered.

“Hmm?” Geralt still looked concerned.

Jaskier wrapped his legs around him, taking Geralt deeper into him. “Move, gods damn you.”

Geralt laughed, like it startled him, but he obliged, bracing his hands on either side of Jaskier’s head and giving a thrust that made Jaskier’s fucking teeth rattle.

Fuck, he could feel it in the back of his throat every time Geralt moved inside of him, and he was making noise to match, cursing and sobbing and moaning Geralt’s name, and he’d always been shameless during sex but this was a whole new level of abandon. It just felt so good, the angle just right, and he felt stretched thin, pulled apart, stuffed, and he loved it. Nobody had ever been able to keep up with him, not in any part of his life including this—except for Geralt. Geralt could match him.

Geralt’s hips pistoned hard, rough and fast, moving even faster and harder as time went on and Geralt seemed to realize that unlike most of his other lovers, he couldn’t hurt Jaskier. He wouldn’t break him. Jaskier urged him onward, cooing praise in his ear as Geralt buried his face in Jaskier’s neck and fucked him until the whole world, their very bodies, were a blur.

Jaskier hooked his ankles around Geralt’s back and held on, yanking hard at Geralt’s hair as the Witcher fucked him, inhaling deeply on every third thrust or so. It took him a moment (addled with pleasure as he was) to realize what Geralt was doing, but then…

“Are you—are you scenting me?” Jaskier asked, his voice a bit hysterical between how fucking turned on he was and how hilarious the idea was.

“You smell good,” Geralt groaned. He nipped at Jaskier’s throat. “So fucking good, you have no idea. Mostly—usually incense. Warmth.”

“And how do I smell?” Jaskier gasped. “Right now, here, while you fuck me, how do I smell?”

“Like cider,” Geralt growled. “Apples and cinnamon, spice and caramel. Hot. Melting. Home.

Oh fuck, that was so hot. “Roll over.”

“Hmm?”

“I’m rolling you over, you sack of marble.” Jaskier suited the action to the word, Geralt’s cock nearly slipping out of him in the meantime but then he was on top and could slide all the way down, take Geralt to the hilt, and ohhhh fuck, this was perfection.

He planted his hands on Geralt’s chest. “I’ve always—always wanted to do this. Never could.”

Geralt’s hands flexed around Jaskier’s hips, and gods, Jaskier hoped he left bruises there. There was nothing but reverence in his gaze as he stared up at him, and Jaskier—well. He was fetching, in his own way, he knew that. He’d never had to work hard to get people to proposition him. But for all the flattery, the winks, the jokes, the praise, he’d soaked up over the years… nobody had ever looked at him the way Geralt was looking at him right now. Like he was in awe of him.

Jaskier took a deep breath, braced himself on Geralt, and exhaled slowly, relaxed fully.

It was… difficult, when in a high emotional state, to keep to his human form. His draconic nature would leak out. He’d always had to keep himself in control around other lovers. But not Geralt.

He felt his skin shifting, scales appearing in patches on his body, his pupils, he knew, turning to slits and his eyes brightening, going from a more human blue to the heart of a candle flame, his teeth sharpening, and most of all—two leathery, scaled wings sprouting out of his back.

They weren’t as big as they would’ve been when matched with his full dragon form, but they were still, well, wings.

Geralt stared, and then leveraged himself up. Jaskier yelped at the change in angle as Geralt sat, the bard now straddling his lap again, allowing Geralt to slide his hands over the wings.

Jaskier moaned, burying his face in Geralt’s shoulder. It was too much, that thick cock inside of him, the smell and feel of Geralt around him, and Geralt’s hands, those hands that killed and maimed, being so gentle and reverent with him as they stroked along his wings. Jaskier brought them around, encircling them, putting them in a little cocoon—like there was nothing and no one else in the world but the two of them.

“You’ve never done this before,” Geralt echoed.

Jaskier shook his head. There was only one person he trusted his true self with, and only one person he’d ever really wanted to show his true self to, and that was his mate.

Geralt gave a long, low groan and kissed him savagely, fucking up into him, without care, without finesse, because—because he knew Jaskier could take it, that Jaskier wasn’t going to break, he knew Jaskier could handle him—and Jaskier clawed and kissed and fucked him right back, filled and claimed and claiming, the blood roaring in his ears to the beat of mate, mate, mate. His beautiful, noble, perfect mate. His Witcher.

Sweat slid down his body, their fucking and his own high body heat making the both of them slick with it, Geralt sucking and biting shamelessly at his skin, even at his scales, as Jaskier rode him hard. He was sure he looked unholy at this moment, half human and half scaley beast, but Geralt kissed and touched and fucked him as if Jaskier was the best thing he’d ever held. Fuck, it was so good, he’d never been fucked like this before and he knew he’d spend the rest of his life getting this, getting this from Geralt, just on the edge of too rough like he craved, lifted and then shoved back down onto that thick cock over and over and over—

He drew blood when his sharpened teeth bit into Geralt’s lip as he came, his body a column of white-hot fire, shaking wildly, his wings trembling. Geralt grunted but didn’t seem to object to the biting—in fact he pulled Jaskier closer, digging his nails into the base of Jaskier’s wings (and oh fuck that prolonged the orgasm, apparently he was extra sensitive there, oh fucking fuck) and bit right back as he followed Jaskier over the edge.

Geralt pressed their foreheads together, which was apparently A Thing with him, not that Jaskier was complaining. Jaskier wrapped an arm around Geralt’s neck, inhaling roughly, Geralt’s softening cock still inside of him. Gods, he never wanted to move again.

Later—much later, after they’d cleaned up and suffered through Roach’s judgmental stares and were curled up together in the bedrolls—Geralt said, very quietly, “I worried.”

Jaskier had been staring at the fire (it was entrancing to him, soothed him, always had—no prizes for guessing why) and rolled over so that he could see Geralt’s face. “About what?”

Geralt stroked his thumb feather-light against Jaskier’s cheekbone. “Witchers live a long time. Humans don’t.”

Ah. Jaskier smiled brightly. “Good thing you don’t have to worry about that anymore, then. Dragons live a long time, too.”

“Longer than Witchers, in most cases.”

Was Geralt… worried? That Jaskier would now have to experience the fate that Geralt had been dreading?

Geralt would never admit it but Jaskier knew the man was a soft touch underneath it all. A bleeding heart, through and through.

“You said that Witchers only die when they get too slow,” he pointed out. “And I’ll never let that happen. You’ll just have to live an extra long time, my darling Witcher.”

“Hmm.” Geralt tucked Jaskier into him, burying his face in Jaskier’s throat, inhaling deeply. “That can be arranged.”

Jaskier smiled up at the stars.