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It isn’t something he can control. The sound just starts, sometimes so suddenly Geralt himself is startled by it. Other times it builds slowly, a low rumble deep inside his ribcage, ebbing and flowing with every breath.

The first time the purring, well, happened must have been during the Trials. Probably the same round of potions that sharpened his teeth and improved his night vision far beyond the capabilities of the other boys. Unfortunately, beyond the Trials of Dreams, most memories are lost to a haze of blood and pain.

He was remade.

But like his white hair, every additional mutation was something that set him further apart, made him a right freak even in a castle full of mutants.

Geralt was quite sure the lisp from overly long fangs filling his still too-small mouth and the embarrassing sounds rumbling from his chest, broadcasting pain and weakness without control, had made him the butt of many jokes during the early years at Kaer Morhen. Only because Geralt was so much bigger, stronger and faster than anyone else did they leave him be. Others were not so lucky. (That was before the School had been all but wiped out, of course. Back when they could still afford to squabble amongst themselves. Now there’s only about ten of them left and they must stick together no matter what .)

Years and years later, in the bed of a particularly skilled prostitute, Geralt learned that other things besides injury and stress could trigger his strange mutation. Warmth. Safety. A lovers’ touch . He’d also learned that no matter how good of an actress a lady of the night may be, there were limits to what a human would put up with for the sake of coin.

The revulsion on her face, as she snatched her hand away from his chest, had been a good teacher. Yet it had taken many more such lessons for Geralt to perfect the timing of his departure, getting up and tossing the women their pay just before the flutter under his ribs could build.

When Jaskier comes along, the White Wolf already knows to hide his freakish nature as best as he’s able.

The little bard is young and naive, brave and kind and stupidly loyal. He also has zero self-preservation instinct.

When he notices Geralts’ half-an-inch-long canines one evening, he doesn’t run screaming from the room (as he should). Instead, Geralt gets treated to a ridiculous eyebrow waggle ( ”Ohhh grandmother, what big teeth you have!” ) and a squirming lapful of curious bard (”How do those even fit in there? Do you usually eat meat raw? Is that why your cooking sucks so much?”). Indeed, Jaskier had seemed not at all concerned for his personal safety, tucked up against the massive, tightly coiled bulk of a monster. -Not even when Geralt started growling and snapping outright half-heartedly at the fingers pushing into his mouth.

And in the end, he is right about it. As if Geralt would ever harm a hair on Jaskiers head. As if he wouldn’t mercilessly slaughter anybody who as much as looked at the bard with ill intent.

The human's bright, lively presence brings a splash colour onto the Path... and it wears on Geralt as nothing has before. Wears him down with words and deeds of casual affection until the white-haired man surrenders, helplessly addicted to every painless touch.

They share meals and drink and rooms and sometimes a horse and maybe, 3 years into their on-off companionship, it’s a wonder this particular aspect of Geralts' mutation, the purring, has yet to be discovered by the bard.

---

The Witcher doesn’t notice the sound at first, distracted as he is by the gorgeous body lying on top of him. Jaskier is sleepy and warm, thick chest hair a new, curious sensation on Geralts' sensitive skin.

The inn they're at is one of the better ones. They could have afforded two small rooms for the price of this big, fancy one with a bath attached -but there had been no question which to choose. Sharing beds and bedrolls was a habit born of practicality, much like bathing together or sharing meals. Somewhere along the way it had become the new default.

Inside his head, Geralt can even admit that getting a hot bath in exchange for having to sleep in one bed (probably getting smacked awake in the middle of the night by the bardlings squirming) doesn’t feel like a trade-off at all. More like a double win.

Playing for hours down in the tavern, the minstrel had tuckered himself out, stumbling into their room close to midnight, swaying with ale and the leftover adrenaline high. The abrupt onset of exhaustion just a few minutes later was to be expected and soon the bard had flopped down onto the mattress, sharp knees and elbows bullying a playfully belligerent Geralt into making space.

The bard's body was as tempting as ever. Carelessly exposed skin called to the Witchers' fingers, the softness, the vulnerability of it. And he smelled so good. His musky, masculine scent rich with the kind of deep satisfaction only a successful performance or a thorough fucking could provide.

Easily arresting the bard’s motions with a thick arm across his torso, Geralt pushed his nose into the other’s neck shamelessly. As he was allowed to do . Months ago, Jaskier had discovered the extent of the Witchers' scenting instincts and only laughed .

“You utter animal!” He'd cried and smacked the Witcher playfully on the shoulder, as the white-haired man’s thoughtless snuffling had taken him nearly into the pit of the bard’s arm. But there was no malice in the human’s voice. Only slight embarrassment and the amused wonder with which Jaskier reacted to so many of Geralts' strange quirks.

Grateful does not even begin to describe the Witchers' feelings on the easy acceptance Jaskier gifts him with.

-------

In the now, Jaskier doesn't flinch from the touch of calloused hands either and Geralt is happy for the opportunity to sate just a little bit of his skin hunger. Running a large palm up and down the smooth skin of his bardlings back, all senses narrowed to the human in his arms.

The rumbling sounds filling their space do not register for a while. Maybe Jaskier thinks Geralt is humming, unusual as that might be, or maybe the bard is already too close to sleep to think anything off.

But as the feelings of utter warmth and contentment swell in the Witchers' chest, so does the purring rise to unignorable volume and intensity. When Geralt realises this, it's too late to extract himself from the situation.

Blue eyes snap open.

"Uhm-"

The bard’s hands flatten out curiously over strong ribs and Geralts' insides twist in sudden, nauseating panic at the frown on his face. Jaskier pushes himself up. It's like being dunked in ice water.

The bard already puts up with a lot of crazy shit from Geralt and his sickening mutations. Eventually, there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back and every time shit like this happens, Geralts' thinks this must be it.

He breathes in reflexively, apologies crawling up his throat like rotten corpses from a grave. I'm sorry he wants to say.

I can't help it, please, please don't be angry. Please don’t be scared.

Before he has even the chance to find his voice, Jaskier lets out a giggle , the sound sudden and loud.

The Witcher's whole body jerks, hands flying up instinctively to defend himself as Jaskier drops back down onto his chest. A brief, breathless moment passes in which it takes all of his control not to give in to the fight or flight response. Then Jaskier’s voice, muffled and sounding vaguely disappointed, pierces through the rushing in his ears.

Aw , it stopped…?”

The bard turns, still laid on the Witchers' chest, his left ear now pressed down just below the sternum. He’s no longer frowning. Instead, baby blue eyes sparkle up at Geralt in the darkness, dancing with delight .

“Did you really just purr?” He asks, sounding awake and excited again, “That's so cute! Why'd you stop? And why didn't you ever tell me that that's a thing?? Is it a Witcher thing or a you thing?”

Geralt flounders under the barrage of questions. His heart has not yet stopped pounding from fright.

“Can't control it.” He grunts and looks away to hide his discomfort, suddenly wishing for that second, separate room after all. The corners of Jaskier's mouth twist downwards. 

“Hey,” Geralt certainly does not flinch when Jaskier shuffles upwards and re-inserts himself in the Witchers' line of sight. The human probably can't see anything anymore except for the creepy reflection of the Witchers' retinas but tries to re-establish eye contact all the same. For Geralt’s sake.

“Is this another one of those things where you expect me to scream and cry and run? Because it's not strictly human or whatever?” He sounds sad. They’ve had this conversation before. Many times, in fact. The Witcher forces himself to take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Yes, it’s another one of those things.

“Maybe.”

“Ah. But then you also know what I'm gonna say to that, right?” Jaskier huffs and puts a gentle palm on Geralt's cheek. Yes .

“Whoever it was that made you think this is anything but terribly endearing can go die in a ditch. You're not a monster. You're not an animal. You're my friend and I love you; purring, cat-eyed, wolfy toothed and all. Understand?” His unwavering glare dares Geralt to contradict him. He’s said things like this many, many times before, it’s still hard to believe.

“Do you understand, my love?” Jaskier’s voice becomes gentle again when the WItcher does not answer and Geralt nods dutifully at last, then mumbles an affirmative when he remembers the human can’t see in the dark. He is rewarded with feather light kisses; On his brow and cheeks and the tip of his nose.

The bard’s smell is unchanged. No fear or disgust or anger. Just the easy pleasure that always comes with physical intimacy between them.

“I’d like to hear it again.” Jaskier murmurs after a moment, lips brushing Geralt’s ear with every word.

“Told you I can’t control it.”

“Hm, yes, but you could tell me what usually triggers it?” He straightens up a bit, then adds in a cheeky tone, “Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

Geralt does not need the gift of night sight to know Jaskier is doing the eyebrow waggling thing again.

Well, getting lucky it would have to be.

“I don’t know. It changes.”

"What do you mean ‘you don’t know’? Do your mutations… mutate over time?” Jaskier is frowning heavily again. “That's odd.”

Geralt growls in frustration, “No. I know how to avoid it. The purring. Not how to trigger it.”

“Huh.”

A short silence in which Jaskier makes his thinking face and taps out a thoughtless rhythm on the Witcher’s pectorals. Geralt knows better than to hope he’ll get distracted from the line of questioning.

“Well, what triggered it just now?”

“Don’t know.”

“Liar.” The bard’s voice is neutral but Geralt feels sharply chastised all the same. He swallows, takes a breath and holds it, searching for the right words.

“It happens when I’m injured. Or… not feeling good. But also when it’s the opposite.”

“When you’re happy?”

“Hm.”

“But when we’re together you’ve never-” The sudden hurt in the bardlings voice is unbearable and Geralt nearly chokes in his haste to set it right, “-it’s because I leave before. Before it gets to that point. The. When I was with others they didn’t like it. Didn’t want that to happen.”

The look Jaskier sends him is piercing. Geralt wishes he could stop making him look so sad.

“Okay.” A deep breath, “Okay, so… under those circumstances, like, if we wanted to avoid you- You being too happy , “ Jaskier spits the words out like a plum filled to the brim with worms and rot, “then what is it you'd avoid?”

Kisses. Being hugged. Being held. Fingers carding through his hair and soothing words of love whispered like they’re meant, like they’re honest.

But the lump in Geralt's throat is back, now unsurmountable. A Witcher doesn’t deserve gentle treatment. His body is a tool, made to withstand all manner of wear and tear. A Witcher doesn’t seek out affection, he has no need for it. If he asks for it, he will surely be refused.

He cannot answer the question.

“You can show me if that’s easier. Not what not to do, of course, but what you like.” Jaskier's soft voice snaps him out of deadlock thoughts. “I’m all yours.” Cheeky .

-------

Action is easier, at least marginally so.

Geralt likes it when Jaskier is all wrapped around him, when there’s no space left between their bodies. So he moves, tentatively, from lying on his back to being his side, facing Jaskier, brings them close until their chests are pressed together and their legs tangle.

“Can you-” He tugs, lightly, at one of the bard’s arms. Too awkward to complete the request.

“Put my arms around you?” Now that they are pressed so closely together, Geralt’s nod translates without a problem.

The bard’s slim arms come up around broad, scarred shoulders and Geralt shivers. During all the years they’ve shared beds and bedrolls, and every time Geralt has lain with someone else, he’s been the one doing the… well, the holding. And it was always nice. To have someone vulnerable tucked securely into his side. It soothed some protective instinct, made him feel useful .

But if Jaskier is asking him to do what he'd usually avoid at all costs, what he's never even dared to request…

It’s scary how natural it feels to shuffle down on the bed a little bit, lessening the strain on Jaskier’s arms until Geralt‘s face is at a height with the other man's collar bones. Timidly, afraid of being pushed away any moment now, he curls his large, ungainly body in, just enough to press his face into the hollow of Jaskier’s throat.

The human's warmth and scent are like a tidal wave, surrounding him and pulling him under. Dear gods, is it good. 

Geralt suddenly feels small . Like some tiny, vulnerable thing to be kept wonderfully safe and protected in the bard's arms. A shiver starts at the top of his head and races down his body to where his toes are curling in pleasure, raising goosebumps along the way. It's glorious. And so wrong. No Witcher should ever desire to be put into such a submissive mindset-

But Jaskier is not pushing him away, does not chide him for the blatant, shameful display of weakness.

He might make some noise, a little grateful whimper or keen muffled into Jaskier’s throat. It’s so warm.

“Should I pet you?” Jaskier asks and Geralt does not have to think before he nods, skin itching and aching with a hunger for touch that’s at once new in this intensity and terribly familiar.

Geralt shudders under the first careful caress, twisting into it for more and Jaskier immediately grows bolder. It’s like he is just as starved, like the bard has been waiting for the permission to touch just as much as Geralt has waited to be asked for it.

“Can I-” The white-haired man moves the hand which he had settled on the bard’s side tentatively to the dip of his spine.

Yes , yeah, please, I told you, I’m all yours.” There’s that bright enthusiasm again and something tells Geralt that the bard refers to more than just this situation. A more long term commitment than their little experiment here. But at that moment he cannot focus enough to follow that line of thought anywhere.

Every cell of his body is singing with overwhelmed pleasure .

Never before has he been allowed, or allowed himself, to indulge in such uncomplicated intimacy. Jaskier’s hands are roaming, rubbing and stroking over every bit of the Witcher he can reach and then some. And see, Geralt knows sex . Knows what sensations of carnal pleasure his body is capable of experiencing. But no touch to his cock, no matter how skilful, could ever fill the gaping fucking hole in his chest the way Jaskier’s strong, capable hands are doing right now.

Dimly, Geralt is aware he's trembling; every second or third breath hitching into a near convulsive shudder. (Which seems to worry his bard somewhat, if the sweet, soothing nothings he’s crooning against the shell of Geralt’s ear are anything to go by.) But that’s okay. The vicious voices in his head have finally quieted and the Witcher closes his eyes in peaceful bliss, pressing sloppy kisses into the thin skin around his bard’s collarbones where sweat is gathering.

Once again, he is too preoccupied with other sensations to notice the rumble rising from his throat.

Holy fuck. ” Jaskier stops moving for a moment, then flattens his hands against the Witchers ribs again even though it’s impossible to localise the sound. In just the span of a few breaths, the sound swells, nearly deafening in the previous quiet.

Jaskier laughs and Geralt has a moment to feel a fresh wave of embarrassment rise in his belly before the bard starts speaking, giddy and quick.

“Fuck, Geralt, this is so fucking cute. Your whole body… look, you’re practically vibrating!”

With seldom used strength, Jaskier flips them back over. Swiftly, he seats himself astride the hard plane of Geralt’s stomach and presses an ear against the Witcher’s sternum again. This time, the purring does not stop. It only grows louder.

Jaskier is grinning stupidly into the darkness, like this weird tick of Geralt’s has made his whole day or night or week or whatever and the Witcher has never felt so soft . It’s allowed , it’s another thing Jaskier loves about him. Geralt thanks whoever is listening for the circumstances that brought this man into his arms. For all these painless, gentle things he gets to experience for the very first time.

“And, holy shit, listen, it’s so loud!” Jaskier squeezes Geralt's ribcage, trying to intensify the sensation, “Ahh, this might be my favourite mutation yet.”

Geralt gives a startled snort of laughter.

“You have a list?”

”Duh, of course! But really now, how can anyone not love this??” He sounds almost in despair, It’s so charming! Who would not be flattered by such an obvious display of contentment? I’m telling you, most people are brainless imbeciles. You must not ever listen to them.” Jaskier says the last bit most seriously, prompting an endeared chuckle from the Witcher.

“Hmhm… but I should listen to you?”

“Yes, indeed you should. You see, I have special qualifications in this area.” The bard quips confidently and starts squirming around, hands patting blindly on the mattress in search of the lost blankets.

“Uhu. Qualifications .” The white-haired man forces doubt into his voice though he can’t help but agree. Never has a human been so intimately familiar with a Witcher, that’s for certain (though he should ask Vesemir to confirm. Perhaps.)

With a frustrated huff, the bardling localises the quilts at the end of the bed and leans back to reach for them. Hastily, Geralt grips his hips so he doesn’t tumble away (or knock one of his teeth out on the WItcher’s knees). Pulling the heavy fabric and one of the furs back towards them, Jaskier slides a bit to the side so he can lie down without losing any proximity between them, legs wrapped snugly around Geralt’s waist. He’s hard but doesn’t say anything, so the Witcher figures it’s fine to ignore.

“Do you want me to hold you some more? If I get too clingy during the night you can just push me away.” Jaskier asks, one hand still on Geralt’s chest to feel the ongoing vibration, the other carding through white locks, pushing tangled strands away from his face. The sheer unprompted tenderness of it is still dizzying.

Geralt knows he could refuse and there’d be no hard feelings. But he can also say yes without being judged and would be a right fool not to take advantage of it.

-------

Even if Jaskier had not heard the shy little “please” murmured into his chest, the renewed vigour of Geralt’s purr was an unmistakable answer. Oh, he thought, tucking his beloved Witcher in securely with a kiss to the top of his head, he would have a lot of fun with this.