Blessed silence. There had once been a time when blessed silence had been all he ever wanted. Now, though, the silence felt so far from blessed it could only be cursed.
If life could give me one blessing, it would be to get you off my hands.
The words reverberated in the silence around him, echoing off the mountain walls like mocking. With every step he took, his boots crunched under him, saying “He’s gone. You’re alone. You drove him away.” His only solace was to know - to believe - it was better for him. Jaskier without him meant that Jaskier was safe, now. Safe from all the monsters that could gut him. Safe from the monster he was.
Birds chirped in the sky, laughing at him. The wind in the tree whispered, the rustling leaves asking, “And who’s gonna protect him, now? How safe can a man be that always gets himself in trouble, with or without you?” Geralt tried not to listen too closely. His heart couldn’t take it. It was shattering already, the shards falling loudly on the bottom of his empty soul.
It had taken him - what? - a day and a half to realize his mistake. Another, to realize Jaskier wouldn’t come back. It had taken him another half to finally stand up, to make his way down the mountain. To find food and water to keep himself alive. It hadn’t been much. A stale bread he had left, an apple he found, water from a stream. Penance. He deserved it.
“He will get hurt,” the moon sung in the night, when he couldn’t sleep. “He already is,” the stars added, when he forced his body to rest, while his mind started to wander. Another two days until he could leave this place behind. He knew he would never come back. A lot had been broken on this mountain, but despite his hurt over the loss of Yennefer, despite him yearning for her, he knew the true loss was something else. Someone else.
If life could give me one blessing, it would be to get you off my hands.
He was an asshole. To think Jaskier had called him a friend for all those years and he had thrown it away in a fit of rage. He was a stupid fucking witcher. Making friends wasn’t in his line of profession. It didn’t fit his lifestyle. Despite all odds Jaskier had stuck. Had sung his praises, had bandaged him up when others would leave him to die, had smiled at him, when all he ever received were glares. Something inside him clenched and he ignored that feeling, too.
Jaskier was too good for Geralt. He was sunshine where Geralt was darkness. He was song and happiness, where Geralt was stoicism and death. He was a flower - a fucking buttercup. Even his name revealed it. And flowers couldn’t grow when everything around them was dead. The shards of his heart cut deep.
He knew he was the last to get down the mountain. Everyone else was gone, Geralt had deliberately let them pass. Only when he was almost at their starting point, the clearing they had made camp at first, he spared a thought for Roach. He hoped his loyal mare was still well and kicking - and that no fucker had taken her.
Jaskier might have. He wouldn’t fault the bard for stea- borrowing Roach. She could keep him safe. She would. With the sun in his eyes and grass tickling his boots, he almost hoped he had. Geralt had all he needed, his swords and a bedroll. It would be tiring and bothersome - but to know Jaskier had the extra furs, the medical kit and cooking supplies he had left with Roach. It was reassuring. Yet, when the wind turned and he smelled horse - he knew his thoughts to be futile.
Jaskier would have been able to ride Roach. Probably the only other person in the world who had charmed his mare enough to make her like them. But no - the idiot had probably not even thought about it. Maybe he hadn’t even passed through here, taking another path already. To get as far away from everything that Geralt was. How could he fault him?
Roach whinnied when she saw Geralt, her clever eyes focusing on him. He petted her, hand on her muzzle, glad to have another living being beside him that could distract him from his tormenting thoughts. Why had he never realized how much Jaskier had been able to distract him with his constant babbling? How his endless talking had been calming, clearing Geralt’s thoughts? The silence was deafening in its volume.
“Hello girl,” he said and sighed. She flared her nostrils, bumping against his hand. “You look well, considering. Let’s see what the scoundrels left in your saddlebags. See whether something’s missing.” He let the mare be to find the tack and saddle he had stored nearby. Flipping through the saddlebags’ contents he found nothing amiss. It should feel good, but it didn’t. Not when his hands caught on a leatherbound book. He didn’t have to look, to know it to be blank.
“It’s a spare one. Mine’s already nearly full and a poet can’t run out of ink or paper. Geralt, you wouldn’t let your polishing oil run empty, would you? So just let me stack this here until I need it. That’s fine isn’t it? It doesn’t even take up that much space, see, Geralt.”
“You’d do it anyway, even if I say no.”
“Well of course, but it’s nicer if you agree.”
If there was anything left to shatter, it broke under the memory of this simple banter. Two weeks ago everything had felt simple. Two weeks ago the world had been right and Jaskier had stashed his spare notebooks inside Geralt’s saddlebags. Why could two weeks make such a difference in one’s life? He’d never been this sentimental before. His heart had never ached this much before.
Getting the brush, he set himself to the task of brushing Roach down.
“He’s gone,” he murmured into her fur. With every stroke the realization hit deeper. It settled inside his chest. There was a lot of space for it to settle, to take place and press down. Roach however, didn’t answer. Didn’t seem to understand. “He’s gone.”
“Let’s go, Roach,” he said, taking her rein loosely in his hand. He knew she would follow. Except… she didn’t. They had spent another day at the clearing. After taking stock and caring for Roach it had been too late to move on and while Geralt wanted to just fucking get away from everything, it was unreasonable. He could see in the dark, Roach couldn’t. He forbid his mind to think about this particular habit of finding safe shelter whenever dusk started to set in, and how it had happened to come naturally to him with Jaskier by his side.
“Roach,” he said again, tugging. The horse made a step, then halted. Her ears flicked and she shook her head. “What is wrong with you?”
Again he tugged at the rein but Roach just followed with her head, while her body didn’t budge. Taking her by her halter, he applied more force and was headbutted. Hard. Out of shock Geralt let go. Shaking her head, Roach took three steps back, whinnying.
“Why are you so cranky?” Geralt asked, watching how Roach lifted her head, eyes flicking as if searching for something… or someone. His heart sank. Packed and ready, Geralt watched how his mare stomped at the ground, walked towards a patch of grass and stomp again, yellow flowers blooming under her. They weren’t buttercups, but he couldn’t blame a horse for not knowing the difference.
He had been sure there wasn’t more to break inside him. He had been wrong. Taking Roach’s halter again, he leaned his forehead against her neck. The words he spoke were shaky. Thankfully no one was close to hear him speak them.
“He’s gone. He won’t come back. I’m sorry.”
Another whinny, almost sad, and this time when he lead Roach away she followed. Her hooves and his boots crunching on the dry ground. It was a constant reminder that one pair of steps was missing.
“You know, Geralt, she’s such a good girl. If you’d let me just ride her onc-”
“Don’t touch Roach.”
“Oh, you hurt me, Geralt. I’m a very capable rider and this horse is the best - the bestest - I’ve ever seen. Aren’t you, my love. Ah yes, you are.”
“You’re bribing her with sugar cubes.”
“And it works, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t listen to him, Roach. You deserve all the sugar cubes in the world. Such a good horse, always taking care of grumpy old witchers who can’t appreciate a thing.”
The first time he slept in an inn after the mountain - and that was how his thoughts started to categorize now, before and after the mountain. There was nothing in between, like it had before. It was only before or after. - was two weeks later. He had taken a contract, killed some drowners and the owner of the inn had been so grateful to let him sleep for free. It was the only reason he had taken the man up on his offer. He couldn’t refuse so much gratefulness. Even if it was tainted with fearful eyes and hushed whispers.
Roach neighed when he took off her tack and slung the saddlebags over his shoulders. In his hand he held a sugar cube, a peace offering. She turned her head aside, huffing and he closed his hand again, the sugar cube untouched. It melted in his closed palm.
She had been skittish and grumpy the more time passed. As if she wasn’t a full trained witcher horse. As if Roach hadn’t seen monsters and men alike come for her, for him. His steady mare had survived them all. She had survived them all but one man who had wormed his way inside their hearts with his easy charm and sunny nature. The shards inside him still cut deep, but he got accustomed to the pain. The sugar cube landed on the ground.
His room was sparsely furnished. A bed, a table and two stools. Enough for him, who possesed little and needed even less. A whole heart would be nice. A bard who sang songs about coins and witchers and fishmonger’s daughters. With sky-blue eyes and a smile so bright.
The sound of a lute began to make its way up to his room, through the walls. His heart stopped at the familiar tune. A female voice began to sing. It shattered his heart even more. One day nothing of it would be left, he knew.
No, not any bard he needed but a specific one. The one who had been his friend. His companion.
Shaking his head, he cleared the contents of his saddlebags onto the table. He needed to take stock. He needed to. Needed to see what he had and what was lacking. Needed to make space for supplies before he spent time at the market tomorrow.
He found a spare set of lute strings. A quill. An empty pot of ink… no not empty. Not yet. A chemise, bloodied and torn. It all lay next to the empty notebook. He could throw them away. Instead he placed the lute string back into the bag, into a separate pocket that would keep them safe. He pressed the chemise to his nose, to find the scent of soap and sweat under all the blood and gore - and decided he needed a fucking drink.
Fifteen drinks later he found the textbook, quill and pot of ink still on his table. His heart was still shattered and his thoughts swirled. He couldn’t organize them, couldn’t find sense in them. All he could see were sparkling blue eyes and how they winked at him - how the lines around the edges of them showed when he did. Lips which never stopped moving. Hands that drew images into the air, always dancing, always talking.
For a brief moment of clarity he wondered why he wasn’t thinking about Yennefer in this way he thought about Jaskier? The silence inside the room laughed at him.
“Because your affection towards her had always only ever been wishful thinking - literary. Caused by a djinn, broken by a dragon. But him? Jaskier had never been magic, or tricks and illusions. He had been love.”
His hand shook, from alcohol and the sudden realization that crashed onto him, into him and filled the empty space his shattered heart had left. The shards floated around, drowned in his sea of sorrow - of being too late, always too late. His hand shook, when he reached for the quill. It shook when he dipped it in the ink pot. It shook when he wrote. He wrote, and wrote and wrote until the pot of ink was truly empty. He knew it wasn’t anything grand. He wasn’t a wordsmith. He was not good with words. Fuck, he had properly wrote utter bullshit. But his alcohol-infused mind didn’t seem to care. Pushing the notebook aside, he slumped down and drifted off.
He didn’t look at the notebook the next day. Even in his hazed state he remembered what he had written. What had poured out of his soul. No need to remind himself what he had lost. Instead it was tucked safely into his saddle-bag. Making space be damned. He could throw out other things. Useless things. Buy less provisions. Carry one potion less. He didn’t open the notebook. Not today and not tomorrow. But occasionally he brushed over the leatherbound cover, found the quill and pressed the torn chemise to his nose. It was a good reminder of what he had never deserved and lost anway.
Sometimes he thought of Renfri. Most of the time he tried not to think of Jaskier.
The road was long and winding and with no clear goal in mind, Geralt let Roach decide most of the time where to go. What was a crossroad anyway, when you didn’t belong anywhere and to no one? This was his life now. It had been his life before, but only now it was harder. The wind sounded like a familiar melody. He wished it would stop.
Roach whinnied under him, head thrown back and Geralt had to grip the reins harder. Petting her neck he tried to calm her, reassure her that it was only the wind. But the silence suddenly was filled with a sad tune and a scent filled his nose he only ever dreamed of nowadays. When he saw a mop of brown hair come his way, his heart stopped.
He slid down the saddle, landing on shaky legs. Words swirled in his mind - thousands of apologies that he knew were never enough. When blue eyes found his, they all vanished into thin air.
Tension. So much tension wavered around them. It was in the line of Jaskier’s shoulders, drawn up. It sat in his clenched fists, in his mouth that was but a thin line. It kicked into Geralt’s stomach when Jaskier turned to flee.
Something… something was on the tip of his tongue when Roach escaped his admittedly loose grip and shot forward. “Roach,” he called but it was weak and no use. Instead he watched his mare stop in front of Jaskier, headbutt his shoulder and neigh. With awe Geralt watched how Jaskier looked from her to Geralt, then back to Roach. His lute-string calloused hands lifted and stroke her muzzle. It was a simple gesture - greeting an old friend, but it wrapped itself around some of the shards inside of him.
The thought came and went, but the image stayed. Blue eyes, reflected in a blue doublet, matching pants with silver embroidery. Tousled hair. Gentle hands. Nimble fingers. He had missed this. Missed him. His body refused to move. Only when Jaskier took Roach’s rein and walked towards him, he realized he should stop staring.
Their fingers brushed when Jaskier gave him the leather strap. His throat became dry, something like electricity rushed through him. Pathetic, he knew, but he couldn’t help himself to yearn for more touch. Something inside of him shut down.
“Geralt,” Jaskier murmured and Geralt had to swallow the lump in his throat down. He had never been a man of words, but now, maybe he had become mute.
Expectant eyes looked at him, waited. But all thoughts failed Geralt. Every word stuck inside him, drowning. Shards shredding the bubbles that might make it up into the open to dust. The moment passed and the blue looked away.
“I see you around, Geralt.” The disappointment hit Geralt harder than any monster could. It crashed inside him like a wave, drowned him, cut him open to let him bleed out. Reaching out, he stopped his arm mid-air. Jaskier had already turned his back towards him.
His arm fell back to his side. His mind raced. Expectant eyes watched his every move and without thinking Geralt reached inside one of Roach’s saddlebags. Grabbed the notebook. Offered it to Jaskier.
“It is yours,” Geralt managed to say. He was aware of the words inside. Was aware that he had poured his heart into it in one drunken fit. Pages filled with ink, no good words, for he was nothing near a poet, not even close. It is yours, he had said. The notebook. My heart. Every word I will ever say.
“Oh. Thanks, I guess.”
This time their fingers didn’t brush, when Jaskier took it. This time all that stayed was the retreating back, becoming smaller and smaller until the figure was gone. But inside his mind, Geralt tried to memorize every fiber, every line. He had no idea what would come next. He doubted he would see Jaskier again.
But his stupid shattered heart hoped.
Time passed. Days became weeks became a month. Time passed and Geralt hunted monsters and tried to stay alive. He had stopped to try and live.
He fell onto his bed in an unremarkable inn. He had slayed a werewolf, had earned a very mediocre amount of coin and carved sleep. With his stained clothes, he knew he should take a bath. But bathing without someone to help was taking energy he didn’t have. His stomach clenched, some shards cut. He had gotten used to the pain. Ignored it. Willed himself to sleep.
It worked. It worked until someone banged at his door. Loud, louder. He blinked, willed the sound away.
“Open the fucking door, Geralt, or I swear to all the gods, I will kick it in!”
His sleep-addled mind took a moment to realize the voice, but then his senses kicked in and he pushed himself up. If this was a dream, he wished it to never stop. Even if Jaskier was yelling at him. How long had the knocking going on? And why had he not noticed it before.
“Open. The. Door.” Jaskier’s voice was laced with hot seething anger.
His limbs were slow, but he crossed the small distance to the door. Managed somehow. Ah, two days without food, potions and a werewolf-fight might explain his lack of response. His hand reached for the handle and he pulled. The damn thing squeaked. His heart jumped. Then a fist hit his face and he stumbled backwards, knees giving in, falling down with a thud.
“What the fuck?” Blue eyes looked at him, then at the fist, back at him. With a click, Jaskier closed the door behind him and Geralt could see, feel, how he swallowed soundly. “I didn’t hit that hard.”
Somewhere in his sleep-deprived mind Geralt realized he sounded hoarse, vulnerable even. His cheek burned and pulsed. It was a clear indication that this was no dream. Geralt had no idea if reality was better, but the fact that Jaskier was here. Fuming, yes, eyes hard - though wide with irritation - but here. Close. It was breathtaking.
Something landed in front of his feet. A very familiar looking, leatherbound notebook. Reaching for it and stroking the cover, Geralt looked up to see Jaskier towering over him. His heart seized, jumping, missing a beat. He waited. Penance. Jury. Judge. His garotter before him.
“You,” Jaskier said through clenched teeth. “You stupid, fucking idiot. Do you really think you can give me a fucking book, scribble some lame-ass apology, pour your heart out into my notebook and think everything is okay, again?”
No. Geralt wanted to say that he knew Jaskier wasn’t so easy to convince. That such an apology wasn’t enough. But no words made it out of his mouth. All he could do was look and endure.
“It’s not even good. It’s scrawled handwriting and drunken grammar and more mistakes than actual correct words. I could smell the fucking ale on it.”
He took a breath, hands shaking and Geralt wondered if Jaskier would hit him again. Not that he’d minded. Not that he would have defended himself. He deserved everything. All of this. Wanted all of this, because he had no idea if he ever got more. And he needed Jaskier like he needed air to breathe. But Jaskier, the bard he was, just kept on talking. Words harsh and clear. Until they weren’t anymore.
“I’m so mad at you, Geralt of Rivia. I’m fucking mad that…” His voice wobbled. Tears built up in Jaskier’s beautiful blue eyes. They shone in the light. “that you can’t seem to say all this out loud. I’m mad that I had to search for you, instead of you staying with me after you gave me the book. I’m mad that I let you get us both hurt. I’m mad. I’m so fucking mad that I chose to believe you on that mountain. I took your words for granted and walked away instead of… instead of…”
His voice broke. But he didn’t need to finish because Geralt understood. He understood so well, it hurt. But it was a different hurt. It wasn’t shards and cuts. It was a melting fire, forging his heart back together. Not yet there, not fully repaired. But close.
“I’m sorry, Jaskier. I’m… truly sorry.” His voice was still hoarse, gravel and dust. But he managed to stand up. Managed to pull Jaskier into a hug and place them on the bed. The bard shivered under his touch, wetting his shirt. Jaskier had always shed his tears, while he couldn’t. “I missed you. Roach missed you.” A sobbed laughter. “She really did.”
He gulped, pushed the lump in his throat down and spilled all the words he had once written down. Talking and talking, filling the silence until it stopped to be deafening. He let his heart talk, for once, let every word pour out. To fill the silence. To make it sing.
Healing took time, it wouldn’t suddenly be alright again. But it was a start. It was their start.