After the fourth time Jaskier spilled ale down his doublet when Geralt appeared out of abso-fucking-lutely nowhere, he bought the witcher a bell.
He obviously only intended it to be worn when not hunting - Jaskier certainly didn’t wish harm upon Geralt - but having a little warning about his approach might help protect his poor heart.
It was also mostly a joke. He saw the tiny little bell on a cute, blue ribbon and bought it on impulse. It was only a few coppers and he could spare that for the frivolity of seeing Geralt wearing something so tiny and cute.
When he next saw Geralt, this time thankfully mostly clean and unharmed, he tied the little bell onto his belt, grinning to show it was meant well. He knew better than to try and tie it around Geralt’s medallion chain and he didn’t fancy his chances of success trying to get it around Geralt’s neck. But, around his belt when they were sitting side-by-side on a log at the campfire watching their dinner cook? That turned out to be possible.
Trust Geralt to take it in the worst possible way.
When he looked down to see what Jaskier had tied onto him and saw the tiny, brass bell, he’d looked up with his eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline.
Jaskier had rushed to explain, wanting to let Geralt in on the joke. “Since you always just appear out of nowhere and scare me half to death, I got you a bell so I can hear you coming!” He said with a grin.
Geralt’s face fell, incredulous confusion morphing quickly into blanched despair and then to careful neutrality.
“I see.” He said, tone devoid of any inflection. He got up and went to poke at the fire that was already burning merrily under their speared rabbits, purposefully positioning himself on the opposite side of the campfire and in direct range of the smoke billowing off it. The tiny bell let out a bright tinkle as he moved.
Jaskier knew immediately he’d made a terrible misstep. But he didn’t know why.
“Geralt? What’s wrong?”
“I’ll wear the bell while you’re here.” He said finally. Which wasn’t an answer.
“Oh, definitely not. I meant it as a joke since you walk so silently, but I’ve clearly hurt you. I didn’t mean to. Forgive me, Geralt.” Jaskier said, standing and walking around the fire to crouch next to him. He carefully untied the bell from Geralt’s belt and tucked it away.
“But, please, tell me, why did it upset you so much? I don’t ever want to hurt you, even by accident, but it’s easier if I know what to avoid.” Jaskier said, keeping his voice low and calm.
Seeing the tension in Geralt’s face ease a little, he took a chance and placed a hand on Geralt’s arm, lightly rubbing his thumb in soothing arcs. Geralt flinched, but didn’t pull away, so Jaskier counted that as a success.
“Geralt?” He prompted.
Geralt let out a harsh breath, looking at and then away from Jaskier. His fists clenched and his jaw jumped with tension, but Jaskier just waited and kept making soothing little circles on his arm, waiting him out. He knew talking about anything even remotely related to feelings or emotions was difficult for Geralt, he had neither the practice nor the vocabulary to manage it easily, and yet he tried. For Jaskier. The least he could do was be patient.
“You said I frightened you.” Geralt said finally, looking down at the fire.
“Oh, Geralt, I didn’t mean it like that at all.” Jaskier said, grip tightening where he held Geralt’s arm. “I get distracted and stop paying attention to my surroundings, and you’re so silent when you move, sometimes I just get startled when you seem to appear out of nowhere. But I’ve never been afraid of you.”
Geralt clenched his jaw, looking away, before finally looking up and meeting Jaskier’s eyes again.
“I don’t want to frighten you.” He said, voice small and tight as if he’d had to force that out from somewhere deep inside.
Jaskier’s heart broke, hearing everything Geralt wasn’t saying.
“I’ll never be afraid of you.” He promised. “I know your secret after all.”
Geralt raised an eyebrow at him.
“There’s a soft heart hidden under all that black leather and scowling. You’re the kindest man I know.”
Geralt’s eyes widened, wrong-footed by the unexpected praise. He coughed, flushing slightly, and poked at the fire again before declaring dinner was finally ready to put a stop to the conversation.
Jaskier let it go and joined him on the small log they’d been sitting on before to enjoy today’s rabbit. But this time, he sat closer, pressing his side up against Geralt to show he wasn’t afraid.