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Steady Hands

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For once in his life, Jaskier had done what he was told. Granted, that had been mostly because he’d been cleaning Roach’s tack—a true honor given just how difficult it has been to unhook her girth—crouched half in the mud in the pitiful drizzle that had been following them for the past day and a half. Jaskier’s least favorite words might seem to be ‘stay here’, coming close after ‘just be quiet’, but he knew he was good as dead if he dropped Roach’s tack in the mud and elected instead to stay behind in the sludge when Geralt’s head jerked up at some sound Jaskier couldn’t hear and slinked off into the rain and fog.

Jaskier honestly didn’t even remember the name of want they had set out to chop up—well, ‘they’ was a strong word, as Geralt would be doing the chopping and Jaskier would be standing behind him, ever the gallant, fearless artist that Geralt simply didn’t know he actually wanted there. He was just too busy being handsome and dense to realize that.   

Jaskier wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve. The damn rain had begun to settle in his chest sometime late yestderday, and while his pride refused to let Geralt shake him off at that cheap excuse for an inn late last night, the idea of getting out to the rain and blowing his nose on a proper, dry handkerchief, was enough to entertain him while he rubbed down saddle skirt. Maybe, if the inn wasn’t as cheap is it’s main seating seemed, its room would have a fire and Jaskier could dry his hair and snuggle up in front of it in the sheets, thaw his fingers and maybe revise the draft he’d been working on for the past week—

Something shrieked out in the fog and Jaskier jumped. Gallant and fearless. Gallant and fearless.

Usually things weren’t this quiet when Geralt went chopping. Slicing, dicing, moving across rugged terrain in a beastly yet elegant dance, silver sword an extension of his own body. Jaskier swore the man had been made to be immortalized in music. Waltzing with his prey like some classical hero. It made Jaskier just giddy to think of, made his finger itch and his mind race. The shriek came again, closer this time, and Jaskier swallowed. He wished visibility was clearer, wished he wasn’t squatting with 25 pounds of leather and metal balanced on his thighs, wished he could at least hear where Geralt was.  But no, it had to be fucking raining and he had to be left behind. Jaskier stood, hoisted the saddle tack under his arm, and was just about to find some branch to place it on out of the mud so he might at least toe around the fog to get a greater idea of what the hell was going on out there in the near silence when the shuffle-snap of mud and wet twigs underfoot came from behind him. Jaskier turned, and at the edge of the fog Geralt stood half sideways, black, white, and red all over, and looking rather like a gouged, pissed bear.

Jaskier dropped the saddle tack and it landed in the mud with a wet smack. “Well, fuck.”

Geralt just glared and moved towards the saddlebags no longer hoisted onto the now tack-less Roach and slipped in the mud, dropping like a stone with a hiss and a curse. Jaskier was by his side in a second and helped him roll off his belly to see just what had Geralt walking all bent and nasty. Red and brown seeped through the cracks of his leather chest plate and pulsed from a hefty trio of gashes across Geralt’s belly.

“Well,” Jaskier said, rocking back on his heels. “Fuck .”

“Get off me.” Geralt growled, trying to pull his legs out from under him, but Jaskier clicked his tongue. 

“No sir. Get all that off, the last thing I want is whatever bugs are crawling around in this mud shitting their eggs in there. No self-respecting witcher of mine is walking around with worms in his insides.”

Geralt grunted and tried to hoist himself back up. An arm rolled out from underneath him and his head hit the muddy ground with a thud.

“No moving—” Jaskier had crawled over to the saddlebags and was rummaging through before pulling out a bundle of cloth with a triumphant sound. The suture kit. He tossed it towards Geralt. Jaskier couldn’t tell if it was sweat or rain dripping down Geralt’s forehead as he fumbled with his clothes and Jaskier realized maybe telling someone with a chest wound to use their abdomen to hoist themselves up might not have been the best call.

“I’ve got it.” He said, carefully pulling the straps free and rolling up Geralt’s shirt. It was a nasty trio of cuts, puckering and pushing out blood with each breath and slow heartbeat, red and sticky and thick.

“I think it’ll need stitches.” 

“No shit it’ll need stitches.”

“Hey, no need for profanity. I’m helping.”

“I can do it.” Geralt grunted, reaching for the suture kit, and Jaskier pushed him back down into the mud as gently as he could.

“Lie back.”

“I am not a pair of pants to be hemmed—"

Jaskier scoffed. “I can suture a stitch or two, I’m not totally incompetent you know. Despite popular belief.”

He felt around the gashes with careful fingers, pushing down gently, and Geralt hissed, knocking his hand away.

“Do you want internal bleeding, Geralt? Do you want that thing to have sliced open your bowels and now shit is pooling in your guts? Do you want me to stitch you up like that?”

Geralt glared and Jaskier sighed. “I apologize. That was rude. Just let me work, I know what I’m doing.”

The rain had left pale streaks of skin through the blood, lightening some blood to pale pink streams down to Geralt’s pelvis, and if Jaskier wasn’t threading a curved needle to stab through Geralt’s stomach he’d be knocked senseless by the view. He had expected Geralt to be nothing but harsh muscle but the skin beneath Jaskier’s hands was soft and gave under his fingers. What would it be like to rest his cheek against that softness, against the pale hair that ran down his stomach into his trousers? Jaskier was tempted to let his fingers linger on Geralt’s skin, but prolonging any pain for his witcher—his witcher, Jaskier always felt embarrassingly guilty when the possessive pronoun crept up in his head—just for his own satisfaction was cruel.

“Hold the wound closed and let the edges of it pucker up—”

“I know how to prepare for sutures.” Geralt said, and Jaskier laughed.

“Of course you do.” Geralt’s eyes squeezed closed for only a second as Jaskier first pushed the needle into the raised skin, and even if the flicker of discomfort is there and gone in an instant, it leaves Jaskier feeling rather ill.

“I was a rather rough and tumble child, you might say.” Jaskier is not good at many things, but talking is one of them, and he knows when he was a child visiting the local healer for the hundredth time, their gentle, purposeful words always took his mind away from any pain. “A true mess. You should have seen the beauty I was before I had my nose broken when I was 15—a fight I did not start and did win, thank you very much!—and I’ve a lovely few scars from some rather grand falls and such. The healer would show me how they stitched me up on clementines. It’d leave your hands sticky as hell; I like to think I was awfully good at it—nibble fingers and all that.”

He pulled the thread taut as he finished his fourth knot on one stitch and moved to the next gash.

“You know, the best part of having me around, aside from my dashing personality, is I can do these things for you if you’d let me. I can suture a cut, I can pull out worms, I can set bones. I set my foot once! My left one, it’s crooked now if you line it up with my right. Part of my roughish charm.”

Jaskier unlaced the curved needle and looked up. He hadn’t noticed Geralt's eyes on him, catlike and beautiful. So damn beautiful. Jaskier could sing a lifetime of ballads about those eyes and never run out. He tore his gaze from Geralt’s.

“I just mean, I like to think I’m rather competent at this part.”

Geralt nodded, slowly and purposefully, and let Jaskier bandage the wounds without protest.

The rain trickled to a stop and Jaskier moved off of him, turning to pack up the suture kit. He turned to the saddlebags. Fuck. The tack; he’d left it behind in the mud. He began to stand when he felt a firm, purposeful hand on his wrist. Jaskier turned to look back at Geralt.

“Thank you.” He said, voice steady. “Your hands are very steady.”

Jaskier's face split into a smile. “Steady hands are a musician’s best friend. I should hope so.”

The smile didn’t leave all night.