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Lavender

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I

The first time they fuck there is a bloody gash steadily congealing on Geralt’s forehead and a newly-penned song on the bard’s lips. They arrive back at the Posada tavern for a swift drink and afterwards the young bard turns to him, cocks his hip, and says, “I have a room upstairs if you are… amenable.”

This brazen statement is accompanied by a slow licking of lips and a bold dart of eyes to Geralt’s crotch; carnal intent unmistakable.

When the boy first approached Geralt with ‘bread in his pants’ some hours ago it was evident that he sought intimate relations but Geralt had not expected his interest to have lasted. Normally when potential bedfellows are exposed to his sharp swords and even sharper words they lose interest very quickly but a cautious scenting reveals that there is no trace of fear amidst the bard’s cloud of lust.

Geralt considers the offer with some gravity. He does not make a habit of bedding men but there have been very few intimate opportunities of any kind since he earned the moniker ‘Butcher of Blaviken’ some years ago. There are not many willing to service the Butcher without significant payment and coin is hard to come by given that he is often chased out of town before he can so much as view the contracts on notice boards. If this boy is offering his services for free then surely it would be unwise to refuse given the uncertainty of any future prospects.

“Hmm,” Geralt ponders, studying the man whose eager expression has not wavered throughout Geralt’s long introspection. He finds he is curious to see how deep the boy’s foolish bravado runs. “Fine.”

*

The bard falls to his knees in the privacy of his bedchambers and takes Geralt’s penis between his lips. Too wet, too loud, too sloppy. He is young. Inexperienced. Geralt pushes his fingers into his hair to direct him and makes the astonishing discovery that the bard, actually, quite likes that. The boy starts moaning around his girth like the whore he probably learned it from.

Geralt cannot deny its effectiveness though.

Afterwards, Geralt takes one look at the boy’s flushed face and puffy lips and simply has to kiss him. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake.

*

“Can I come with you?” he begs afterwards as Geralt readies Roach at the stables.

“No.”

“Not even to the city? I’ve heard rumour of an excellent theatre production that I’d quite like to -”

“No.”

“You are not a theatre man?”

He assumes that ‘theatre’ is an innuendo for ‘queer’ and the bard is clumsily trying to assess if Geralt was only interested in a warm mouth last night or if he might, despite his gruff appearances, be an invert such as himself. Geralt shares a look of revulsion with Roach. He has never been that way inclined and doesn’t intend to start now; the fact that the bard could even possibly interpret the act as something more is disconcerting.

The kiss, he concludes. It was the damn kiss.

Geralt turns to look at him with the coldest look he can muster. “I’m not any kind of man, Jaskier and I’m not interested in furthering our association. Go away.”

He intends to look away before he can catch a glimpse of the young man’s heartbroken expression but he catches it in the reflection of Roach’s eyes, distorted and nonetheless potent, and prepares for departure.

“Oh,” the bard says as Geralt mounts his steed. “Oh, okay.”

By the time Geralt has mounted, there is an extremely fake grin plastered on the boy’s face. “Until next time, then.”

“There’s not going to be a next time,” Geralt grouches as he steers his horse away.

 

II

The next time, it’s at the side of the road somewhere in Redania, several months later.

The bard had been daydreaming in the middle of the dust track when Roach nearly trampled him in her haste. They were following a scent on the breeze when Roach suddenly reared to a halt and Geralt heard an unmanly yelp sound from between her legs.

Jaskier was mostly unharmed and insisted upon accompanying Geralt as he tracked the witch to her house. Afterwards, when the sun was setting and the bard was still prattling beside him, Geralt realised he ought to have sent him away, but then Jaskier had made himself useful by cooking dinner over the campfire and Geralt reasoned it had been several days since he’d last had a warm meal.

When the bard crawls towards his bedroll that night, smelling of dirt, lavender, and cautious lust, Geralt halts him with a sturdy palm against his chest. “You got the wrong idea, last time,” Geralt grumbles but the boy knocks his hand away with a coy smile.

“I know better now,” he says but he clearly doesn’t because the first thing he does is kiss him.

Geralt grunts his disapproval and manhandles the annoying bard into the bedroll, turning the kiss filthier and his hands rougher. He is dismayed to hear a moan at every brutal tug he inflicts. When he’s finally got the human caged beneath him, he allows his full weight to press down until Jaskier’s chest struggles to expand and Geralt scents the first lick of fear sneaking past the man’s foolish bravado. Good. He should be afraid.

Geralt leans back just enough to hear the bard’s desperate inhale but he’s not expecting the spike of lust that emanates with it. The man’s eyes are blown dark and wide and his teeth are biting down on a sultry smile.

Fuck.

It was not his intention to encourage this injudicious behaviour but those lust-filled eyes cannot be denied and Geralt is not fool enough to refuse something given so willingly.

Geralt reaches down for his rapidly filling cock and frees it from its confines. He rucks up the bard’s loose shirt, intending to lick across the plains of his chest to ease the friction for what he intends to do when he startles at the thick carpet of hair he finds there. He had not expected someone with such an exuberant character to be so well endowed in that department. He finds his curious fingers tangling in it before he can control them and then, afraid the touch might be mistaken for a loving one, clenches his fist and tugs. The addictive scent of fear-and-lust surges and Geralt hides his wanton reaction under a growl as he tugs Jaskier none too kindly from his own breeches and brings their members together.

Jaskier makes an obscene sound and for once Geralt can give into his urge to smother the man as he presses the flat of his hand against his mouth with a raised eyebrow. It will be interesting to see if Jaskier can obey the silent command. He does. Jaskier’s eyes widen in understanding and starts licking the palm of his hand like he’s devouring the finest buffet. Geralt’s hips stutter at the unexpected enthusiasm but finds that his hand is successfully dripping with saliva by the time he takes them both in hand.

Jaskier is just about as loud as he remembers him being and when he approaches his climax Geralt stuffs his three fingers in his mouth just to quieten his whorish moans. Roach doesn’t need to listen to their depraved coupling when she’s doing her best to ignore them over the rise of the hill.

He does wonder briefly, though, as Jaskier spills between them, what that muffled noise might have sounded like.

 

III

The next time Geralt fucks Jaskier it’s because it’s been a shitty fucking day. A day dealing with nobles of all things. He’s in some shithole called Lettenhove and the Count is such a privileged and condescending dick that Geralt has to suppress the urge to punch him at least a dozen times during a ten minute discussion about the specter in their dungeon.

He disposes of the wraith - a mother, tortured to death, clearly harbouring the same resentment that Geralt does towards their revered leader - and is striding through the halls afterwards, coin clinking pleasantly at his side, when he smells the bard and his steps unconsciously falter.

He sniffs. Enhances his senses. Picks up shallow and uneven breathing. It certainly smells like Jaskier - lavender, lute strings, lust - but it is accompanied by the salty tang of distress. Something’s wrong.

He pushes open the nearby door to see Jaskier slouched against the wall of an antechamber, breathing fast and shallow with a bottle dangling loosely from his fingers. Pain. He smells pain now too.

The clues come together as soon as Jaskier’s eyes come to greet him - the usual bright blue of his irises turned hazy like the fog over the ocean - and Geralt observes the bard’s other hand clutching at his chest with white-knuckled fingers.

It must be an anxiety induced attack of some sort; signalled by the involuntary clenching of muscles in his chest, heart arrhythmia, and a notable difficulty to breathe. Interesting.

“Hmm,” Geralt says thoughtfully as he stands in the open doorway.

Jaskier’s glazed eyes roam over the tense lines of Geralt’s body and come to rest at his clenched fist. He raises an eyebrow, ever observant. “You met my father then.”

“Hmm,” Geralt says, processing that unwelcome piece of information. Jaskier is a noble, that ought not to surprise him - the accent alone was enough to betray such lineage - yet the joyful young bard could not be any more different than the bullish man he had to negotiate with that morning.

“If it’s any consolation,” Jaskier says with a wince as another bolt of pain flares through him. “He spoke with me also.”

The immediate painful clench of his chest at the mention of his father confirms it; this physical manifestation of anxiety has stemmed from conversing with that vile man. Geralt feels his furled fist tighten further.

Jaskier shakily holds out the near-empty bottle as an offering. It’s a spirit of some kind. Geralt sniffs - earthy, distilled from potatoes; vodka.

Without breaking his gaze, Geralt closes and locks the door behind him. He senses the first tentative unclenching of muscles in Jaskier’s chest as they lock eyes. Geralt steps forward and takes the proffered spirit from his hands; their fingers brushing in a way that sets Jaskier’s heart skittering in another direction entirely as they maintain eye contact and Geralt puts his lips around the mouth of the bottle. This flirtation is unwittingly going to lead the boy to make certain incorrect conclusions but it’s been a shitty fucking day and maybe a good fuck wouldn’t be the worst way to end it. If the bard reads more into the gesture then so be it.

Jaskier swallows at the sight. Another lick of pain surges through him. Geralt decides he doesn’t care for the sour stench it produces as he tosses the empty bottle aside and braces his hands against the wall either side of the bard’s head.

He waits for Jaskier to meet his eyes and then upon seeing his wordless consent drops to his knees. He decides to demonstrate exactly how he ought to have been serviced that first time round in Posada. Jaskier’s gasps turn from pain to pleasure, the aches in his chest subsiding but the aftereffects are still evidenced in his weak fingers as they curl into Geralt’s hair. He wouldn’t normally allow such behaviour; he wouldn’t normally be on his knees at all.

He lets Jaskier moan and shout and then scream as he comes and Geralt doesn’t protest; suspecting that he does it in protest for all the times that he’s no doubt been made to be silent in these halls.

Fuck does he hate nobles.

Jaskier’s breathing is ragged for an altogether different reason by the time Geralt is done with him. He’s mumbling praise, his fingers still running through his hair in a way that is altogether distracting, as Geralt moves his lips from his softening cock to his balls and the inside of his thighs.

Jaskier doesn’t seem to understand at first and accepts Geralt’s ministrations between his legs with polite confusion but Geralt knows that after the day they’ve both had Jaskier needs a second orgasm and Geralt needs to rut his anger out like a depraved animal. They have no oil, so…

Oh,” Jaskier whispers when he finally fucking gets it; when his skin is moist with saliva and sweat and Geralt has turned Jaskier until his face is pressed into the wall. Then finally, finally, he grips Jaskier’s thighs together and slides his heavy, desperate manhood between the flesh.

His cock is large enough that every stroke drags against Jaskier’s swollen scrotum and nudges at the base of Jaskier’s own rapidly hardening member.

“Oh,” Jaskier says again as he presses back into the sensation and wordlessly adjusts his position for the maximum effect.

Geralt ruts mindlessly until his rage begins to dissipate and his mind begins to clear; his eager movements spurred on by Jaskier’s loud rhythmic moans.

“Please,” Jaskier begs and Geralt’s already reaching for his manhood, prepared to carry out the expected request, when he asks for something else entirely. “Be loud.”

Geralt’s hips stutter in their movements, momentarily confused.

Jaskier whines at the delay and pants his explanation, “They hate it. Disapprove of…” he waves his hand back between them, “My dalliances. With men.”

Geralt’s jaw has unconsciously clenched; his teeth grinding together almost painfully. He won’t analyse why he has such a visceral reaction to this declaration, although it’s almost definitely something to do with these narrow-minded country estates and their disdainful habit of othering. Nothing to do with himself, or the bard, or their current circumstances.

“Be loud,” he requests again. “Please. As loud as you can. I want them to hear.”

Fuck. Geralt’s forehead rests against the back of Jaskier’s sweat-slick neck as he processes this request. He isn’t usually very vocal; it’s not within his nature, especially when he is partaking in perverted acts that ought not to see the light of day, but Jaskier isn’t asking for honesty; he’s asking for a show.

His instinct is to refuse - to hide this filthy desire of his and bury it deep where it belongs - but then he remembers the Count’s smug little face and Jaskier’s panicked little breaths and before he knows it, he’s letting out a filthy moan as his cock slides back between Jaskier’s thighs.

Yes,” Jaskier moans, louder than necessary as he thunks his head forward against the wall. “Like that,” he moans, even louder, “Oh, Geralt,” he preens, “exactly like that.”

The act can’t possibly be bringing him as much pleasure as he vocalises but he supposes that’s the idea. Geralt responds in turn until both of them are making more noise than a whorehouse at the weekend. He won’t deign to admit that the verneral sounds inspire him but if his ministrations become a little more attentive at the sound of his name dragged out so sublimely in Jaskier’s sultry songlike voice then it is a secret no one need know.

Geralt has reached around to strip the bard’s cock and Jaskier is screaming his name when an idea occurs to Geralt; one that ought to piss the nobles off something fierce. “Can I mark you?” he growls.

Jaskier continues his exaggerated screaming but looks back at Geralt with a confused expression.

“My teeth. Your neck. Somewhere they will see.”

“Oh fuck,” Jaskier says; the first whispered word in all this time. And then, “Yes,” louder, but still not part of the performance. “Fuck. Yes, please.”

Geralt digs his teeth into Jaskier’s shoulder and the bard howls at the vicious bite, loud enough to echo even in the most distant of hallways. Geralt doesn’t know how much of the sound is playacting and how much is actual pleasure but he finds that the two of them are climaxing together not moments later.

It takes Geralt a moment to come to his senses afterwards. He stands there, breathing in the scent of semen and sweat for longer than he cares to admit before he pries himself away from the trembling bard.

“Well,” Jaskier says smoothly, lacing his breeches; a strong purpling bruise standing out on his neck, “that will certainly make tonight’s dinner more entertaining, thank you.”

Geralt tends to his own breeches but feels Jaskier’s studious gaze upon him as he does so. He infers from this cautious examination that the bard wishes to ask if he will stay but knows better than to ask. Geralt is not staying; he has completed the contract and should be on his way out the door.

“Are you…?” Geralt finds himself asking. “That is, are you sure that’s wise?” He doesn’t relish the idea of Jaskier willingly entering the situation that rendered him in such a dire state.

Jaskier frowns, as if also confused by Geralt’s uncharacteristic concern, before shrugging and straightening his shirt. “Dinner, you mean?” he asks. “I’ve little choice. I’m here for two more days.”

“Then where?”

Jaskier raises an eyebrow with a teasing smile on his lips. “What concern of that is yours, Witcher?”

Geralt growls and grabs his discarded weapons from the floor, dismayed that he asked such a thing, and even worse, expected an honest answer.

“Kerack,” Jaskier breathes as Geralt is heading out the door.

Geralt pauses and looks back to the bard.

“I’m going to Kerack.”

Geralt does not go to Kerack; he goes in the opposite fucking direction.

 

IV

They cross paths a few more times in the coming years but it happens to be briefly, or in company, or Jaskier is simply given a better offer from passing maidens. This new arrangement suits Geralt just fine. Sex only made to confuse their acquantianceship after all and he finds that Jaskier is just as annoying without this added complication. In any case, the bard doesn’t have the attention span for a single lover, and Geralt doesn’t have the patience span for the bard, so it works out fine.

That is until Jaskier comes crawling back to their room one night, smelling of sex and alcohol, and attempts to slide into bed with Geralt.

Geralt grunts, too tired to deal with this shit. “You’ve got your own bunk,” he protests.

“I’m cold.”

“You’re not cold.”

“Oh, did I say cold? I meant horny.”

Geralt cracks open an eye and looks at him with disdain. “You’ve just gotten laid, Jaskier. For most men that would suffice.”

Jaskier sighs forlornly. “Once upon a time, perhaps, but now I expect two rounds, you see, after a rather charming fellow in Lettenhove -”

“Those were extenuating circumstances.”

“Were they?” he flirts, and leans down for Geralt’s mouth.

Geralt grimaces at the stale smell protruding off his lips and turns his head away. “I’m not kissing you when you smell like that.”

Jaskier pouts and then rolls over onto his front instead. “Then fuck me.”

Geralt tiredly rubs his hands over his eyes. “I’m not taking you when you’re drunk.”

Jaskier sighs dramatically, thoroughly put out, and rises to his elbows to glare down at Geralt. “You won’t kiss me, you won’t fuck me, so what exactly will you do?”

“Kick you out of bed,” Geralt gripes, throwing an arm over his eyes, and realises too late that if he actually meant it, he probably should have actioned it.

Instead, Jaskier is leaning over him again with a sultry smile. “You don’t like me smelling like someone else,” he flirts. “You know there’s a way to fix that.”

“By brushing your teeth?”

“By claiming me as your own,” he whispers darkly, his eyes wide.

Geralt’s erection hardens, as does his heart. He turns away; his back to the bard. “You’re not mine, and trust me, you don’t want to be. Go to sleep.”

Jaskier sighs and lies down beside him and for a minute Geralt thinks he’s won the argument until he feels the unmistakable hard line of a cock pressed against his naked back, and then, moments later, slow and deliberate rutting.

“Have you ever been fucked, Geralt?” he asks unashamedly. His member slides against his back, low enough that he could, at the right angle, find his opening if he wanted.

Geralt resents the breath that gets caught in his throat at the question and his restless fingers that twitch at his side. Disgust and desire tangle sickeningly in his chest.

“I’ve thought about it,” Jaskier continues, ever bold. “I’ve thought about fucking you. About if you’d let me. About the kinds of sounds that you’d make-”

Fuck. Geralt is never letting Jaskier drink again; he was cocky enough without the added liquid courage. The bard has never been so brazen about his perverted desires before. Geralt briefly wonders who has been in Jaskier’s bed recently to warrant such confidence. Has he taken a man to bed? Was he a waif of a thing or did he have muscle? Was he reluctant to be taken or did he beg for it? Did he scream Jaskier’s name when he came? Clawed his fingernails into his back? Did Jaskier take his time or did he lose any resolve he had the moment he -?

“I think you’d let me,” Jaskier murmurs against his ear. “I’d think you’d want it.”

Geralt’s hips jerk at their own volition, rubbing the sore head of his cock into the rough linen beneath him. A gasp unwittingly leaves his mouth at the sensation. He wants it. Fuck, he wants it, at the same time it makes him feel sick. He shouldn’t want it. Only queers want it and he’s not -

“See,” Jaskier says teasingly, having noticed the unconscious movement, “You want it.”

Geralt grinds his teeth together. “You’re not fucking me, Jaskier. You’re drunk.”

“Hmm,” Jaskier says, his hand snaking round Geralt’s broad waist to take him in hand and stroke him tantalisingly. “And that’s the only reason, is it?”

“It’s reason enough,” Geralt bites.

That’s quite enough of this, Geralt thinks, before he turns over and pins Jaskier’s wrists above him in the bed with a single hand. His circular wolf medallion falls between them, lying atop the bard’s chest; the only touch between them that isn’t a restraint. Jaskier just grins again, his lust spiking and his lips moistened by his wandering tongue. “You are,” Geralt states, “a menace.”

“You like it,” Jaskier says confidently.

Geralt glares at the accusation - he’s rather determined not to like a single thing about the man - before he remembers something else the bard said and leans back on his haunches, pinning Jaskier with his strong thighs so he can start stripping his cock with his free hand. Jaskier was right about one thing: he doesn’t like him smelling like someone else while in his bed.

Jaskier watches with rapt attention as Geralt pleasures himself before him. Geralt pretends he doesn’t notice the scrutiny but his pulse picks up under the intensive gaze nonetheless. His seed splatters all over the bard’s chest - on his skin, tangled in his chest hair, even a drop on his collarbone - and Jaskier has nearly bitten through his lip by the time he’s done.

“Let me touch myself. Please,” he begs. Geralt doesn’t have the energy to argue, just releases his wrists and watches as Jaskier’s seed soon joins Geralt’s - messy and undignified - across his chest.

It’s going to be a bitch to clear up but that’s not Geralt’s concern as he rolls over without a word and goes to sleep.

*

The next morning, Geralt wakes to the feeling of inquisitive fingers at his opening and rolls out of bed before it can be mistaken for anything other than the accidental brushing of fingers.

 

V

In some bizarre twist of fate, it’s two years before they cross paths again. Novigrad theatre. Geralt is following a lead, a favour for a favour kind of deal (or he saw a poster of the bard and accepted an errand in this direction; the reasoning is irrelevant) when he approaches the gate to the outdoor theatre one evening and hears a very familiar voice.

He takes a deep breath, inhales the smell of exhilaration coming from the stage intermingled with the bard’s usual scent, and prepares himself for the sight of him. He was not, in retrospect, prepared in the slightest.

Jaskier is prancing around the stage in no more than hosiery and an extravagant doublet. There is blusher on his cheeks and a dark smear across his eyelids and red paint on his lips, just as dolled up as the female performers around him.

They lock eyes across the audience. Geralt smells lust emanate from him and without the use of a codpiece, it is all too easy to see the hardening of his member through the obscenely thin hose. Geralt has been on the path for three months now with nothing but his own hand for company and the sight of a cock is very tempting indeed.

*

He corners Jaskier backstage afterwards. He’s babbling a greeting and then explaining the play and his role in all this and Geralt isn’t listening one lick, just drags him away from prying eyes and pushes him into the cramped storage room and, amongst dresses and crates and nonsensical theatrical props, pushes him against the wall and takes his lips forcefully between his own.

Jaskier gasps, his words falling short and his lipstick smearing across Geralt’s mouth as he returns the messy kiss.

Jaskier groans and breaks away from the assault with a palm against Geralt’s chest. “Not that I’m not immensely glad to see you, my friend,” he starts before Geralt grows impatient and dives back for another brutal kiss, rocking against Jaskier’s barely-clad member the whole time just to feel it expand against its confines.

Jaskier breaks away again with a groan. “But I am… I’m afraid currently entangled with another -”

“You’re seeing someone?” Geralt asks, bewildered. Jaskier doesn’t normally have the attention span for an affair longer than a week - two, at most - but if he’s being loyal while Geralt’s tongue is down his throat then it must be fairly significant.

“Beatrice,” the bard cites. “The rather lovely soprano I was attempting to tell you about when you -”

Geralt grunts and Jaskier falls blissfully silent. Their bodies are still pressed together; Jaskier’s hard cock still making itself very evident and his artful make-up now smeared messily between them.

“Didn’t think you were the type to -”

“Not normally, no.”

Geralt rolls his hips, testing, and receives his answer when Jaskier groans and his eyes flutter closed. “I was going to fuck you against this wall,” Geralt states. “Are you going to stop me?”

Jaskier searches his eyes. He could say no. He could maintain that he’s being loyal and Geralt would take his sexual frustration to the whorehouse instead (seeing as Jaskier’s infamous song has now actually earned him enough coin to afford the indulgence) but he has a feeling that Jaskier’s loyalty does not extend that far. Jaskier licks his lips and asks, “When you say ‘fuck?’”

Geralt growls and takes his lips again; the bard’s question and eager moans the only answer that he needs.

He doesn’t waste time opening him with fingers. He knows Jaskier’s preferences - he has heard his preferences being declared strangled and desperate through tavern walls - and thus knows that even if he has been entangled with this Beatrice recently, he would not have stopped pleasuring himself so. Jaskier is also vocal enough, in everything he does, that he assumes the bard would correct him if his assumptions were wrong. He does not.

Geralt unlaces his breeches and reaches for the vial of oil he snagged from the dressing room table, coating his cock liberally under Jaskier’s eager gaze. He hasn’t done this in years. Sharing hands and mouths and flesh with men is one thing but sodding them is entirely another. It’s too intimate. Too close to the fire. The act unsettles him for days, sometimes weeks, afterwards; the thought that he could enjoy such a thing, that he could actively seek out such sordid acts… it is shameful, and he doesn’t often indulge. But with the taste of lipstick on his tongue and the sight of ravaged feminine clothing before him it is easier to justify this desire.

He yanks himself from his thoughts before they can spiral and pushes his slick hand beneath the bard’s ridiculously thin trousers to take his cock in his hand. Jaskier moans at the touch and Geralt has to muffle his own reaction at the glorious conflicting sensation of the hot hard manhood and the soft feminine fabric surrounding it.

He drips more oil on his fingers and then pushes the hose further down until his slick hand can rub against his back entrance. This is even better, somehow; the same intoxicating contrast, the smeared lipstick on his cheeks, Jaskier pliant and begging beneath him… It’s overwhelming and too close to the fire but he’s too mesmerised to stop.

“Oh. Oh, fuck,” Jaskier swears as Geralt’s thumb tests the resistance.

He’ll be fine. He’ll be just fine.

Geralt feels oddly reluctant at the idea of stripping the hose off the bard so instead he pushes them down to just below his knees and steps into the ring of stretched cotton until he’s standing between Jaskier’s thighs. The bound legs press behind his back and Jaskier’s aching cock curves towards their stomachs; the head brushing against the thin fabric of Geralt’s shirt.

“Oh,” Jaskier says again, his entire scent changing to one of lust as Geralt grips his hips and raises him against the wall until his bound legs are lifted around his waist and Geralt can spear him with the breadth of his cock.

He lowers him with as much patience as he can muster, which is to say not much at all. Geralt grips his hips hard enough to bruise, trying to grasp some modicum of control as he is suddenly enveloped in a tight all-encompassing heat. Jaskier fairs similarly; his gasps short and surprised, his fingernails scrambling at his back for some purchase, his eyes rolled to the ceiling as he rests his head back against the wall. There’s a spike of pain in his scent but not enough to override the immense cloud of lust that surrounds them.

“Geralt,” he whispers in awe, his eyes still glazed and affixed somewhere above them. “Do you know how long I’ve wanted -?”

“No,” he bites, “and I don’t care to.” He punctuates this sentiment with a punishing thrust that the man was no way ready for and Jaskier barely suppresses the scream of pain-pleasure that rips through him. His teeth are biting down on those tantalisingly painted lips that Geralt still has not rid him of. By the time they’re done, he promises himself, the bard will look so utterly debauched that no one will question what transpired between them.

He realises he’s being possessive and doesn’t give a damn. He wants the bard covered in his scent, dripping his come, screaming his name… He has no right to these things but he’s a monster and sometimes monsters take.

He hooks Jaskier’s legs over his arms until the bard is bent almost in half against the wall and Geralt can feel the soft slip of the bunched hose now fallen around Jaskier’s feet, pressed delightfully against his back. Jaskier groans at the intensity of the new angle. His arms wrap enthusiastically around his neck as his head falls back against the wall once more. Geralt’s broad hands cup his shoulder blades at the point where Jaskier’s back curves away from the wall but it brings them so close together that Jaskier’s ridiculously extravagant doublet presses unwelcomely against his own shirt. There’s too much between them. He growls and spares a moment to tear the damn thing apart until there are only two thin barriers of cotton between them.

Jaskier swears and before Geralt can interpret if it’s voiced with desire or anger, Geralt flexes his hips to move his cock deep and methodically inside him until he finds the spot that renders the bard incoherent. His breathy moan and fluttering eyes, and, gods, the natural blush on his cheeks blooming beneath that disgustingly fake one is enough to make him loiter for a moment. He circles his hips minutely, pressing against that spot very deliberately, until one of Jaskier’s hands have broken from their embrace around his shoulders to push purposeful fingers into his hair; the lute-hardened calloused pads of his fingers scrape against his scalp so pleasurably that he feels a matching tingling sensation at the base of his spine.

For some fucking reason, that’s the thing that undoes him. He takes one last look at the bard’s glistening blue eyes, pupils blown wide with desire, before shielding his face in his companion’s shoulder and fucking him in earnest.

For endless minutes that’s all it is - Geralt ploughing him, hard and relentless, grunting with the exertion, and the bard mewling desperately as he clings on, his reddened cock caught helplessly between them - until the bard’s breath starts hitching and Geralt digs his head out of the dark safety of his shoulder to study him.

He’s close. He’s so very close, but Geralt isn’t done with him just yet.

He presses the bard further into the wall so that he can free a hand and use the pad of his thumb to smear dark eyeshadow across the man’s sweat-slick temples. Jaskier makes a strangled sound at the gesture that Geralt takes as further encouragement as he dips his head and licks the powdered blush from his cheek. Jaskier, by this point, is nonsensical in his noises. The make-up tastes utterly revolting in his mouth but it’s worth it to see the way the glistening saliva marks his skin and witness the real flush of his cheeks underneath.

“You’re so fucking pretty,” he growls.

Jaskier’s wide lust-filled eyes lock onto his and Geralt feels immediate regret; embarrassment creeping up his spine. He hadn’t meant to say that - had only meant to think it and even then was ashamed by it - but Jaskier moans louder than he has all this time; his fingers clenching in Geralt’s hair like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard.

Geralt can’t take it. He hides his face once more in the crook of Jaskier’s neck where all he can smell is sex and lust and the floral perfume that lingers on his skin. And then he fucks Jaskier harder than he ever thought he would, harder than most people can take, but Jaskier doesn’t just take it - he begs for it - loud enough that he’s certain his beloved Beatrice has heard and fled. He can’t find it within himself to feel an ounce of guilt for the act as he ruts and grunts mindlessly into him and Jaskier’s mouth falls open, looking at once both gormless and utterly contented by the animalistic pounding.

The bard comes. Geralt can smell the seed in the air and feel the warm wetness splatter against his chest.

Geralt daren’t move to witness his release but the pad of his thumb smears the remaining lipstick from the bard’s open mouth, and then, when Jaskier’s tongue peeks out to lick at his thumb, Geralt is overtaken by his own sudden release and spills deep inside him.

Mine, he thinks. Unbidden. Unwanted. Mine.

*

When they are immediately chased out of Novigrad by angry stage managers and girlfriends alike, Geralt realises the full impact of his spontaneous actions.

The bard had been fortunate enough to have a regular paying job and a regular lay and was now back on the road with only a lute and a handful of clothes on his back. Geralt doesn’t feel guilty as such, but he does feel responsible, and he recognises that he’s stuck with the young poet until he can find him other employment. It won’t take long - with his newfound fame Jaskier receives requests for banquets and weddings and courtly entertainment everywhere they go - but until they reach Oxenfurt...

“Share my bedroll,” Geralt grumbles. The bard has been tossing and turning for a while now; a constant undercurrent of pain rolling off him. It’s not particularly cold this time of year but the forest floor is uncomfortable without a bedroll and with the brutal fucking Jaskier endured only hours ago he must be experiencing a notable amount of tenderness. Not that he’s complained though. He hasn’t complained about any of it.

Jaskier looks across at him with a frown. “Huh? he asks, as if he might have misheard.

Geralt grits his teeth. He doesn’t like repeating himself. “You’re uncomfortable and being loud about it,” he gripes. “Come here.”

“Right,” Jaskier mutters but takes a moment to blink upwards at the stars before actioning the request.

He slides into the sleeping bag beside him and there’s barely enough room for them as it is but it doesn’t help that the man tries to sleep as far away as possible, straining the already taut fabric. Geralt grunts and reaches his hand around the bard, yanking him closer until his back is pressing against Geralt’s front.

“Sleep,” Geralt orders.

After a moment, Jaskier calms and does what he’s told, a light snore sounding; musical even in slumber. His dark hair is splayed across the pillow between them and the scent of lavender soap exudes with Geralt’s every exhale as it causes the perfumed hair to skitter before him, time and time again.

Geralt lies awake; his senses overwhelmed by the scent of flowers and all the numerous complex nuances of a human’s body, and realises that he is now the one cursed with sleeplessness.

*

Geralt doesn’t even wait for Jaskier to find work in Oxenfurt. He leaves him at the city gates and makes his way east, the thought of their perverted act lingering like the sour taste of ale in his mouth.

 

VI

Some months later, they cross paths at a nobleman’s estate. Jaskier is staying here for the winter, providing ‘services’ that Geralt knows better to assume is just the musical kind. He still smells of sex when Jaskier drags him into an empty hallway and takes Geralt’s member skillfully between his lips. He is no longer the inexperienced youth he was. Geralt is brought to the edge sooner than he would like to admit, the man somehow managing to fit his entire length down his throat, and eagerly at that. He watches with curiosity as the bard swallows the seed instead of spitting it in distaste as he did the first time, and once again the sight of his spit-slick lips afterwards is enough to entice him into a kiss. It is rushed and secretive and leaves no time for them to discuss what happened in Novigrad. The scales are reset; balance restored.

Jaskier soon involves himself in the Witcher’s contract and wriggles out of his own and the two of them are on the road again, acting as if nothing had ever transpired.

 

VII

Geralt is barely conscious. He feels the bruxa’s poison in his veins, making him sluggish and slow, and although he knows the potion he consumed afterwards is attempting to neutralise the toxins it’s taking its goddamn time. He feels the slick black blood of the vampire on his skin and the stinging teeth marks on his forearm. He can smell the bruxa’s deceased body and the metallic tang of silver that he struck through her. He can see the faint outline of the barn’s beams above him, barely visible in the darkness of the new moon. He doesn’t know how long he lies there, exhausted and healing, until he smells lavender on the breeze and rolls his head to see a familiar figure in the darkness.

“Oh, there you are,” Jaskier says jovially, but Geralt can smell his fear on the draught from the open door. “It’s been hours, I thought -”

He rambles. Geralt is too tired to listen. They’ve been travelling together for a couple of months now and have shared no more than that initial coupling in the nobleman’s hallway and a helping hand between the sheets a week ago. He scared him, he thinks, with the savage fucking in Novigrad. He scared himself too. He can admit as much when his mind is too exhausted to maintain its defences.

“I’m okay,” he grunts when Jaskier’s rambling does not cease and his hands begin to wander across his prone body. “Just… tired.”

“Ah,” Jaskier says, inspecting the empty bottles beside him. “You’re still fighting the poison.”

Geralt grunts his assent. Somewhere along the lines, Jaskier has actually become a semi-competent travel companion. He knows the potions and can even make some of them himself. He’ll pick herbs when Geralt’s on hunts, humming to himself and ‘meditating over rhyme’ as he does so, and Geralt is reluctant to admit that he actually has some skill in the matter. Jaskier actively learns about beasts and tactics and history and has now amassed enough survival skills that he is capable of setting up camp alone. Even Roach has accepted him somewhat. It’s been a few years now since they met. Five or six, perhaps. It ought not to surprise him then, that Jaskier understands his exhaustion for what it is and knows the measures to take. It still does though. It surprises him every day that Jaskier has not yet tired of this life. (He will one day, Geralt knows. His departure is as inevitable as the setting sun.)

*

Jaskier carries him to the nearby lake. He strips him and leads him into the cold water. The temperature doesn’t bother Geralt but he knows it affects the bard. The human starts shivering against him and Geralt wonders why he stays when he could easily leave him. Instead, Jaskier holds him and uses a rag to clean him, attentive and thorough, and then carries Geralt to the shore before bestowing the same meticulous treatment to his armour.

Geralt watches with glazed eyes as he works by the light of the single torch outside the fisherman’s hut. He shivers but he does not complain and his work does not stop.

*

Afterwards, Jaskier takes the bundle of wet clothing in one arm and Geralt in the other and leads them back to their camp on the outskirts of the village.

“We could find a tavern,” Geralt offers. There is not one in this village but perhaps the next.

“We can scarcely afford it,” Jaskier reminds him as he settles him onto his bedroll. “It is too late to travel, and besides, you are far too tired to face the journey.”

Geralt opens his mouth to protest but is cut off before he can -

“Don’t deny it,” Jaskier chides, and throws Geralt a bundle of dry clothing.

“Then we could return to the barn -”

“And sleep alongside the beheaded bruxa? I think not.”

Geralt pulls on the clean clothes, surprised to find them warm to the touch. Jaskier must have warmed them by the fire.

“Why the change of heart?” Jaskier asks as he changes into a loose shirt and shorts himself. Geralt’s eyes skim over the familiar chest hair, flaccid penis, and toned thighs. He has seen him naked countless times but on nights like this, it curls something hot and unpleasant in his gut. “You were happy to sleep under the stars this morning.”

Geralt grunts, not sure how to phrase his concern over the bard as something that will not be mistaken for actual concern. “No reason,” he murmurs, as he lies back on the bedroll. It’s warm. Safe. Clean. Without Jaskier, he would still be lying in bruxa blood in the cold empty barn.

He turns his head to watch Jaskier as he returns from petting Roach goodnight (a needless, irritating habit that he insists on every night) and begins to lay their wet clothing on rocks around the dwindling fire.

“Join me.”

Jaskier raises his head and looks at him with a question in his eyes. Geralt hopes he doesn’t make him repeat himself. He’s not sure if he could ask again. Jaskier holds his gaze for a moment and then nods. “Sure,” he says, turning back to the laundry. “I’ll just finish up here.”

*

Geralt could easily disguise the request as one for warmth but when Jaskier approaches he makes his desire apparent by opening the bedroll and his thighs in the very same movement. He watches as the bard catches sight of his growing hardness and once he has his attention he moves his hand over the thin fabric of his breeches to grasp it.

Jaskier visibly swallows. He looks away, tongue pressed to his lips in thought, before looking back down at Geralt. “My friend,” he says, because he likes to remind Geralt of his affection at every opportunity, “you know I would never normally refuse any such offers from you -” Is that true? Geralt can’t help but wonder. Would he give me anything I asked for? “- but I wager that you are much too tired for the majority of carnal activities at present. Not to mention full of poison.”

Geralt doesn’t have the energy to argue back, just keeps languidly stroking his penis until Jaskier gets the hint that this is proceeding with or without his involvement.

After a moment, Jaskier’s face twists in agony and settles into resigned acceptance, as he falls to his knees and joins Geralt in his bedroll. He smells like lust, he always does to some extent, but his manhood remains unstirred. When Geralt reaches for him, he understands why; the man is still cold to the touch and his mind still full of worries if the furrow in his brow is any indication.

“What do you want?” Jaskier whispers above him before his teeth pinch a nipple through the thin fabric of his shirt and Geralt jerks unconsciously towards the sensation. Jaskier smirks as he rises but then sobers when he studies Geralt’s face. “I can’t tell what you need.”

Geralt thinks that is because he, himself, doesn’t know what he needs. He is ashamed for not knowing. He is ashamed to think that he would accept almost anything. He just wants to feel, to touch, to be surrounded by the comforting smell of lavender. “I don’t know,” he murmurs.

Jaskier’s lips press against his temple; warm and grounding; he should not lean into it as much as he does. “Okay,” he comforts with a hand stroking his bare arm. “Then allow me to hazard a guess.”

Jaskier moulds his front to Geralt’s back, reaching around to push his loose breeches aside and grasp his penis in his hand. Once again, the bard shows his unlikely intelligence; while there is poison in Geralt’s body it could affect his semen too; it was best not to risk such a thing against Jaskier’s sensitive human skin.

Geralt allows his head to fall back on Jaskier’s shoulder, closer to that all-encompassing scent of lavender, as Jaskier strokes him just as languidly from base to tip.

Geralt closes his eyes and falls into the comforting, sleepy, rhythm of it. He feels the tickle of Jaskier’s breath against his ear, his half-hard cock against the small of his back, his heartbeat thrumming through his spine. Then, a pressure at his entrance.

Geralt instinctively tenses. No... that’s not quite right; he thinks he tenses. He intends to. A few muscles certainly stage a protest but he must be too exhausted to successfully rally enough force to reject the touch. Jaskier is murmuring sweet things into his skin, his hand is still moving with dedicated purpose over his cock, and the finger at his entrance is inquisitive, not demanding.

This is what Jaskier thought he would protest. This is the sordid act he is asking permission for as the pad of his finger moves gently, ever so gently, against his entrance, giving him the chance to say no.

Geralt’s breaths come ragged and his heartbeat pounds almost as fast as a human’s. He shouldn’t want this. He shouldn’t want any of this. But the poison is still in his veins, slowing his thoughts, lowering his defences… and a haze of pleasure smothers the anxieties beneath. It’s Jaskier, he reminds himself. Jaskier knows him. Jaskier is an invert himself; he won’t think any less of him for wanting such depraved things…

He rocks his hips back minutely into the touch, testing, and finds that a tingle of desire sparks at the base of his spine. Jaskier groans obscenely at the movement and the huff of pleasure it produces and digs his teeth into Geralt’s bare shoulder as if needing to censor his own reaction.

Fuck,” Jaskier says emphathically. “I have to, I have to…” he’s murmuring and before Geralt can translate his mumblings, he is being turned onto his front and there are hands prying his cheeks apart and fear grips his chest for the singular moment it takes before a tongue presses against his entrance and he is shuddering for an altogether different reason.

He feels himself bite out a curse of his own, his fingers clenching against the bedroll, desperate for something sane, something normal, to hold onto as Jaskier fucks his tongue against his entrance. The act is so disgusting - so utterly depraved - that he ought to be horrified but the foreign touch feels so unbelievably good that his thoughts have derailed entirely. He can barely breathe. He wants to protest. He wants to scream. He wants to fuck himself back against this strange and addictive sensation until he comes on the devilish tongue moving against him. He didn’t even know this was something you could do. How does Jaskier know? Who did this to him? It’s too intimate, too overwhelming; he can’t imagine walking into a brothel and asking for such a thing.

He’s scrambling at the bedroll, a litany of curses falling from his mouth. Jaskier is relentless in his enthusiasm. He feels the saliva drip from his mouth. His entrance is so sensitive. More than he ever thought. He bucks into it, ashamed and eager, and the way that Jaskier grips his hips, tight and unrelenting, reassures him more than it ought.

He rubs his aching cock against the bedroll, needing the friction, as Jaskier’s tongue breeches his hole and he bites a scream down onto the pillow. They shouldn’t be doing this. Fuck, they shouldn’t be doing this. His bastard rebellious hand doesn’t heed his doubts; it reaches down and curls into Jaskier’s hair, at once both pushing his tongue deeper and giving Geralt a much needed anchor. Jaskier moans into his ministrations at the touch and with one last desperate buck, Geralt is spilling onto the bedroll, swearing loud and broken, one hand still tangled in Jaskier’s hair and the other clutching helplessly at the fabric beside him.

Jaskier is breathing hot and heavily as he rises from his position and rolls Geralt’s sleep-heavy body back into his arms. Geralt is still shaking from the sensation. He can feel the hard line of Jaskier’s cock against his back but the bard doesn’t make a move to tend to it. Instead, his hands stroke underneath his shirt and through his hair, petting him like one might reassure a spooked horse.

There are soft kisses at his throat and an earthy smell on the bard’s breath and Geralt feels sick with it. He ought to push the bard away. But he is tired, and sated, and the smell of lavender beckons him.

“Sleep,” he murmurs against his ear, and Geralt does.

*

Geralt leaves at dawn to collect his payment. He returns sometime later to find that Jaskier is awake and clearing camp. He is merrily whistling a tune under his breath as if nothing transpired between them last night; a signal to Geralt that they could continue travelling together, if he wishes, with no mention of his evident enjoyment of the most depraved act last night.

Jaskier may be able to forget such a thing but Geralt cannot.

Geralt clears his throat as he mounts Roach. “I have a contract on the coast,” he says (he doesn’t), “you have that festival south of here,” (he does, but in three days time).

Jaskier twists his lips as if he recognises the avoidance in his words. He’s smart though; he’s learned to let it be. “Be safe,” he says. “I’ll see you soon.”

Geralt nods and turns towards the horizon, knowing that what transpired last night will haunt him the entire way to the coast.

 

VIII

Something’s different. Geralt can’t puzzle out the answer until they’re readying for bed that night and Jaskier’s discarded shirt ruffles his hair. The breeze from the open window convects the sickly scent across the tavern room and straight into Geralt’s flaring nostrils.

Honey. Not lavender.

Geralt is striding across the room before he can get a hold of himself; grasping Jaskier’s head in his hands, inhaling his hair, and gagging on the potent odour it elicits.

Jaskier has frozen beneath him and Geralt realises that his behaviour is probably at the very least strange and to most people (but not Jaskier, never Jaskier) probably quite intimidating. “You smell different,” he explains, and drops Jaskier’s head in disgust.

“Uh...? Do I?”

“Lavender,” Geralt states. “You always smell like lavender.”

“Oh,” Jaskier says, and is Geralt imagining his flustered expression? Shuffling feet, hand on the back of his neck, a flush to his cheeks… flustered. “Yes, the lavender soap. I make it. Have since I was young. My maid’s recipe. Unfortunately I ran out of supplies while in the delightful company of the exquisite Countess de Stael last month and seeing as the flower does not grow on her vast estate, my ever generous hostess kindly allowed me use of her own grooming supplies -”

“Honey,” Geralt grunts.

“Yes, indeed! Sourced from her own myriad of apiaries. Honey and -”

“Chamomile.”

Jaskier chuckles in embarrassment; hand rubbing his neck again. “Right, sorry, I forgot you have a keen sense of smell. In my defense, I did not realise that those scents were so abhorrent to you.”

Geralt grunts and folds his arms defensively. “They are.”

Jaskier still looks flustered as he looks at Geralt and then away again. “Okay, well, next time I’ll -”

“Now.”

“What?” he squeaks.

Geralt closes his eyes in frustration as another waft of that vile odour hits him. Jaskier has been with this Countess for months and was planning on returning after a week on the road with Geralt. He seems to be very much in love with her. Her and her fucking honey and chamomile soap. “Now,” he repeats. “Wash it out now.”

Jaskier looks across at him with a scrutiny so intense that Geralt is cowed into looking away. He does not wish to be transparent but he has the distinct impression that he is, at least to Jaskier, always somewhat transparent.

“I only have oil,” Jaskier protests weakly. “I don’t have the lavender or the lye necessary to make soap.”

Geralt frowns then strides over to his pack by the door and extracts the lavender pouch that he keeps there. A herbal remedy for sleeping. The wise women say to keep it under the pillow; that it will keep away bad dreams. It is crock, as everything these peddlers preach, but he has it nonetheless. (It helps him sleep, nonetheless.) “Here,” he says, holding it out to him with a pot of bear fat he can use as lye. “Make it.”

Jaskier warily accepts the supplies, sparing a bemused expression at the archaic sleeping remedy, before getting to work and penetrating the room with the comforting smell of lavender. Geralt can feel his muscles relax even before he sends Jaskier down to the baths - “Be thorough. I don’t want to smell a single drop of honey on you when you come back” - and Jaskier smiles coyly, like he knows what this is about, before leaving with a bar of familiar soap in his hands.

*

“I was thorough,” Jaskier says when he returns nearly a full hour later. His hair is still damp, errant strands stuck to his forehead, and he smells gloriously like lavender even from across the room. Jaskier begins stripping, slow and purposeful, and Geralt can only watch, curious and enchanted, as he does so. Jaskier starts walking towards him, fully naked and half-hard, and Geralt feels himself mirroring his approaching footsteps. “I was very thorough,” Jaskier says with a sultry smile. His hand comes out to grip Geralt’s wrist; softly, an invitation. “Let me show you.”

Geralt grits his teeth, already feeling out of his depth, but Jaskier’s sky blue eyes are earnest and pleading and Geralt finds himself nodding curtly, as intrigued by the seduction as he is terrified.

Jaskier takes his hand, presses a teasing kiss to his fingertips, and then leads it to his opening.

Geralt realises his meaning as soon as he feels the unnatural slick against the gaping entrance; the way it flutters greedily against his fingertips. “Fuck,” he swears, and is so overcome that his forehead falls to Jaskier’s shoulder. “Fuck,” he swears again, because the first time did not seem to be enough to emphasise his distress.

He hears Jaskier’s breathy chuckle against his ear and feels his broad hand stroke down his back in a soothing motion much like that time after the bruxa… he feels just as overwhelmed now as he did then.

He’s out at sea. Drowning. Clawed by harpies. Being dragged down into the depths.

Geralt’s exhale is stuttered as he dips a finger inside, crooks it just the once, enough to hear Jaskier’s own hitched exhale against his ear, and then retrieves his hand to inspect the slick. He pulls away and locks eyes with Jaskier as he makes a show of scenting it.

Lavender.

He used the soap to prepare himself. No, not the soap, he realises with another curious sniff. Another compound. Jaskier once again demonstrating his intelligence. He made his own lavender scented lubricant. Why? Because he knew Geralt would have the very reaction that he is having now.

Fuck.

He doesn’t want to think about what that reaction is or why it is happening or why Jaskier cares enough to make it so. He doesn’t care. All he wants right now is to fuck the last vestiages of honey out of him.

“Bed,” Geralt orders, voice deep and cracking on the singular word.

Jaskier’s eyes light up like that very first time and Geralt has a brief moment of sanity where he wonders what the fuck he’s doing but before the anxiety can grow into something insurmountable he follows Jaskier and strips his own remaining pieces of clothing. It is too late to turn back now. The monster inside him will not be satisfied until he has taken the bard for his own.

“Kneel,” Geralt says, and watches in fascination as Jaskier does exactly that.

Geralt needs only a stroke or two to reach full hardness before he kneels behind Jaskier on the centre of the bed. They’ve never been so purposeful, so honest, about their desires before. Their intimate acts are spontaneous fumblings for the most part; a fellow lending a helping hand to his comrade on the path. This is… different. He cannot pretend that this is some spur of the moment release. Jaskier prepared for this and Geralt was presented it like a gift; a gift that he chose to accept.

It’s terrifying. Too intimate. His hands shake as they reach for a hold on Jaskier’s hips.

Jaskier lets out a strangled moan and reaches back to secure the grip with his own hands, as if he can sense Geralt’s hesitation; as if he’s afraid Geralt is going to run away.

(Gods, how desperately he wants to run away.)

“Please,” Jaskier begs, and rests his head back on Geralt’s shoulder until the wet hair spreads across his bare skin and the scent of lavender penetrates his senses.

Geralt closes his eyes and allows the scent to calm him. He flexes his fingers against Jaskier’s hips and exhales measured and slow as he pushes into him steadily and deliberately. Jaskier sighs with every inch. He is just as tight and hot as he was in Novigrad but the motion is slick and easy and the smell of him is overwhelming; fresh out of the baths with nothing but lavender on him. Not a single scent of anyone else. It allows a fog of sensation to fall over him, the sharp edges of the world disappearing - he can no longer hear the clatter of crockery in the kitchen below, or the laughs of the patrons, or the smell of the stew - everything has narrowed to this singular sensation.

Jaskier keeps one hand against his and the other snakes into his hair, massaging the base of his scalp with those delightfully rough fingers, and it has the same dual effect as last time - grounding and lustful.

Geralt grinds into him before he is fully conscious of it and Jaskier lets out a little squeak of surprise. Geralt feels a growl leave his lips; he is unable to stop it from sounding and even less able to restrict the small instinctive thrusts that follow.

Jaskier reaches up to grip his hair. The way his arm is bent beside his face allows Geralt to dig his nose into the crook of his elbow and inhale the potent scent there. Jaskier moans and leans back against his chest, eyes rolled toward the ceiling, as Geralt’s thrusts increase in depth and expediency until he is grunting with the exertion of every movement.

Geralt’s embarrassingly close already and tries to reach for the outside world - to reclaim the smell of spilt ale and the sounds of the distant stables - but he can’t; his entire world has narrowed to Jaskier. The hitched breaths, the wet perfumed hair on his shoulder, the shape of his ribs beneath Geralt’s hand, the rapid heartbeat he can hear below, the agonising slide of their bodies together, everything about him, even down to the curved little arch of his feet.

Geralt swears, overwhelmed by it all, and that’s when Jaskier’s face turns towards his; his hand moving from his hair to his jaw, turning him inwards… for a kiss.

Geralt reacts faster than he means to - fast enough to scare anyone not Jaskier - as he tears away from the hold and grasps the bard by the scruff of his neck to push him firmly into the mattress.

Jaskier lets out a distressed yelp but there’s only a lick of fear emanating from him before the lust returns. He can barely breathe like this but Geralt doesn’t care; too busy trying to reclaim his own breath as he continues pounding into him.

The angle is better like this, he tells himself, and it is - face down, arse up; able to thrust into him deeper than ever before and Jaskier unable to babble his nonsense - it’s good. Jaskier heartily agrees if his muffled moans are anything to go by. Each thrust is so strong that it pushes him a little further up the bed. Jaskier’s hands are clenching at the sheets. His face is tilted to the side, inhaling what scant air he can and looking so beautifully flushed with his mouth agape in pleasure.

Geralt squeezes the back of his neck and it appeases him greatly when Jaskier groans at the possessive gesture. They’re fucking as brutally and mindlessly as animals in heat and this, at least, Geralt doesn’t need to twist himself into knots to justify. It is simple animalistic release.

But then the bard breaks the illusion. He comes unexpectedly; his legs shaking with the effort to remain upright and when Geralt glances down at his sideways flushed face, there is an impossibly soft, blissed out, smile on his lips.

Geralt’s hips stutter at the sight; derailed like his thoughts, palpitating like his heart. He finds the sight helplessly, inexplicably beautiful. Something clenches behind his ribs; something that yearns to be named, to be set free.

Fuck.

Geralt collapses on top of him with a grunt and Jaskier’s weak post-orgasmic legs hold no resistance. They go tumbling down into the mattress and a rush of lavender hits his senses. He feels suddenly just as weak as the human; just as done for. He buries his nose in Jaskier’s hair, takes a bite of it in his mouth, clutches it in his hands, needing all that he can get as he continues to rut into him; desperate and irregular.

Jaskier groans, whispers of pain slipping through his scent, but his hand slips into Geralt’s hair as if to keep him in place and Geralt obediently keeps grinding into him, until, eventually, he spills inside.

*

Exhausted, they fall asleep still naked and entwined. Geralt ought to have left. He ought to have gathered some distance. But, he doesn’t. He wakes with morning wood and decides the only appropriate course of action is to come all over the bard’s chest. Jaskier watches with wide unblinking eyes as he does so but he doesn’t make a sound, not until Geralt takes to smearing it across the curled chest hair and into his skin, and Jaskier releases a high-pitched whine associated more with wraiths than humans.

Jaskier’s own hardness presses into his side but Geralt doesn’t want to stay and give the bard the wrong idea.

“Don’t bathe,” Geralt instructs him as he leaves the bed and readies for the market. “I want it on you when you return to her.”

Jaskier makes a strangled, frustrated, noise but Geralt can smell the lust beneath. “Three days is a long time to be covered in your seed, Witcher. Tell me…” he flirts dangerously, “if I disobey you, will you claim me again?”

Geralt pauses, his back to the bard and his hand on his pack. He knows if he expressed interest, Jaskier would offer the entirety of the next three days in his bed. He would allow Geralt to mark him over and over again until his very skin was a tapestry of Geralt’s desire.

No.

He cannot project their affair - their boyish fumblings, rather - onto the rest of the world.

He wants the Countess to know that she cannot put her vile honied perfume all over his bard but he doesn’t want her to think that… that they’re... that they’re anything more than they are.

“No,” Geralt growls firmly, and heads for the door. “But I will destroy every fucking apiary in her estate.”

 

IX

They engage in mutual masturbation as soon as they ride away from the Countess’s estate six months later with a new death threat on Jaskier’s head. The act is insignificant other than the small fact that Geralt does not detect even a hint of honey on his skin while they fuck.

“What did you do this time to earn her wrath?” Geralt asks afterwards as they lie naked, looking up at the stars.

Jaskier shrugs. “Wrote a song she didn’t approve of.”

“What was the song?”

Jaskier shakes his head with a laugh and a blush high on his cheeks. “Nothing you’d want to hear, I assure you.”

 

X

It’s some shitty tavern in Velen. It’s always some shitty tavern in Velen, Geralt thinks wryly, as he watches Jaskier flirt with another eager maiden. This time it’s different though. They both keep looking his way, often enough that he soon abandons his game of gwent with the innkeeper and attempts to hide himself away. They keep looking though, even as Jaskier’s hands slip under her petticoat and his lips move to whisper filthy things into her ear, too quiet for even Geralt to hear across the boisterous tavern.

Jaskier soon untangles himself and strides towards Geralt with a tent in his pants and the smell of her cunt clinging to the tips of his fingers. “Lesa likes Witchers,” he says in a dark, conspiratory whisper. “She would like it if you joined us.”

For the first time, Geralt allows his gaze to slip past Jaskier and onto the woman he had been wooing. Curvy. Red hair. A smattering of freckles. Flushed cheeks. She is rather attractive and it has been a long time since a woman was willing to bed him without the allure of coin. “What did you have in mind?” he murmurs, and flicks his eyes over to Jaskier to see a mischievous smile on his lips.

“Her between us. You take front. I take back.”

Geralt raises an eyebrow. “She’d be willing?”

“Oh yes,” Jaskier says with a flirtatious wink. “Lesa spent the best part of the last ten minutes convincing me that she’d be very, very, willing.”

Geralt grunts and eyes her again. Lesa flushes deeply upon noticing his gaze. A wave of lust and fear rolls towards him; the usual combination for those with a Witcher fetish. He doesn’t normally indulge in fetishisers. They expect him to be rough but they never actually want him to hurt them… it’s a fine line to walk, and he’s been thrown out of villages before for failing to walk it correctly. Jaskier can read people though. He would be able to mediate if necessary.

Geralt nods and Jaskier grins and before he knows it, they’re upstairs and he’s watching Jaskier lick into her wet cunt, giggling and call her pet names, and it’s so utterly different from their own encounters that Geralt experiences a peculiar sense of dissonance watching them. The bard is smiling as he pleasures her. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen him smile so much in bed before.

The flirting he witnesses in taverns isn’t just flirting, then - it’s foreplay. Jaskier is genuinely this cocky and fun and joyful in bed, just... not with Geralt.

He frowns, trying to puzzle out what that means, when Jaskier reaches out his hand in an invitation. Geralt steps closer and threads his fingers through Jaskier’s hair to feel the motion as he pleasures her. It’s oddly captivating.

“As talented as I’m sure your mouth is, she will need more preparation than your quick tongue to take me,” Geralt gripes. Lesa glances at his manhood during this statement and lets out an anticipatory moan which does help boost his ego somewhat.

Jaskier breaks away to give Geralt an amused and disbelieving look, which makes Geralt realise that Jaskier has taken his girth in a much narrower channel with much less preparation. He flushes with embarrassment, expecting Jaskier to tease him for it - in front of a guest no less - but the bard has seemingly learned something after all and just winks before dutifully sliding two fingers into her folds. “Very well, dear Witcher.”

She sighs, holding onto him and releasing all sorts of unrealistic noises. Jaskier doesn’t seem to mind it though as he murmurs equally nonsensical things back to her like, “there we go, sweetheart,” and “patience, darling,” as he kisses her and thumbs her clit until she is wracked with an orgasm.

Jaskier looks back at him with a cocksure grin as the girl screams out his name. Geralt realises, with dread, that Jaskier almost certainly had ulterior motives into inviting him to join them. It’s a tease. He wants Geralt to see how good he is in bed if only he would let him take the reins.

Geralt scowls and Jaskier grins. “Think she’s ready for you now, Witcher.”

The girl moans at the word alone; lust rolling off her in waves. Geralt grunts and tosses Jaskier the bottle of oil in his hands before he does what’s requested of him and tackles Lesa to the bed, thrusting into her in one smooth slide. She screams; fingernails clawing his shoulders and her head thrown back in ecstasy.

Jaskier isn’t the only one who can show off.

He pounds into her relentlessly with guttural groans escaping his throat until she is screaming through her second orgasm and then Jaskier is tutting, seemingly amused by his display, and rolls them over until his deft fingers can take to her back entrance instead.

By this point, Lesa is no more than a rag doll between them and allows the intrusion easily. Geralt is still hard as a rock though, rutting lacidasically into her as he watches Jaskier prepare her second entrance.

Jaskier catches his gaze and smirks. He keeps eye contact as he presses a kiss onto her bared neck. “Tell him,” he murmurs, and Lesa sighs beneath his ministrations. “Tell him how good it feels, me opening you up like this.”

Geralt’s hips stutter. His breath gets caught in his throat. So, this is Jaskier’s game. He should have known. He ought to be angry but he finds that too he’s captivated by Jaskier’s crystal blue eyes to stage a protest. Geralt’s hips keep thrusting and his companion’s fingers keep moving and their eyes are locked together in a battle of wills.

Lesa sighs, breaking the delicate spell between them and sending their gaze skittering. “So good,” she murmurs. “I can feel you… I can feel you… so full...”

Geralt grits his teeth. He doesn’t want to hear this. He doesn’t want to imagine what it would be like; the pressure of his tongue from that night under the stars - but deeper, fuller - reaching places that he has kept hidden; finding that place inside him that makes Jaskier whimper so brokenly… He doesn’t want to think about it.

Geralt fucks Lesa’s cunt deep and hard, pushing her back onto the bard’s fingers - three of them now - and she moans beautifully. Yes. This is why he’s here, he reminds himself, Lesa’s slick wet heat, her whorish moans, her pale skin rubbed raw by his stubble…

She smells like mead and dye and roses; even the blandest roses are sweeter than lavender.

“Tell him,” Jaskier murmurs and Lesa is grasping Geralt’s shoulders for purchase and moaning obscenely and Geralt doesn’t need to look down to know that Jaskier is finally breeching her. “Tell him how good my cock feels inside you.”

She does. The same filthy phrases, remixed and repeated. Geralt is barely listening, his gaze fixed on Jaskier’s blue eyes. He’s looking back at him, so intently, as he sheathes himself, inch by excruciating inch, inside the girl.

He’s imagining it’s him, Geralt realises with sudden unwelcome clarity.

“Fuck,” Geralt growls, and pushes his cock deeper into Lesa. Both can play at that game.

He fucks into her so hard and so deep that Jaskier has no choice to push back just as brutally. He grunts and Jaskier moans and the poor girl is trapped between them, nailed from both sides. He would be concerned if not for the constant cloud of lust and her constant shrieking in his ears; she is enjoying this pounding, which is good because Geralt’s eyes are still locked onto Jaskier’s; the world narrowed.

Darling,” Jaskier growls, sex-scratched and delightful, and he knows he must be talking to her - he must be - but his eyes don’t leave Geralt’s. He can’t breathe. He suddenly can’t breathe and there’s a tingle at the base of his spine that thrusts his hips deeper and a tangle of emotion in his chest that is pounding against his ribcage. “Darling, you feel so good speared on my cock, splitting you apart like this, you’re so good for me, my love -”

Geralt chokes out a groan but his distress is hidden by Lesa’s loud and demanding third orgasm that surges between them.

Jaskier’s eyes finally close, pressing his head against Lesa’s shoulder as he pounds into her, arrhythmic now with desperation.

Jaskier’s close but Lesa has collapsed between them, unable to give Jaskier what he needs. Geralt reaches over, uncertain what he intends to do, until Jaskier looks up and opens his mouth in an invitation. Yes, good, Geralt thinks, as he pushes his fingers inside. Jaskier moans around them, sucking just as enthusiastically as he would a cock before he makes a gargled noise and thrusts his hips inside her one last time.

Geralt lets out an anguished cry at the sight; wondering what it would feel like to have his bard’s seed shoot inside him, to feel claimed by him, to feel it drip out the next morning, as depraved and unnatural as it is. He wants it. He digs his face into her shoulder, unable to bear the thought.

He shudders, in disgust or pleasure he doesn’t know, until Jaskier’s hand sneaks under his hair again, holding him there and enveloping him in the scent of lavender, and at last he comes.

*

Jaskier bades Lesa farewell with yet more redundant pet names and lingering kisses and then the two of them are lying side by side in the ruined bed, looking at the cobwebbed ceiling above.

“You were different with her,” Geralt states.

“What do you mean?”

He waves his hand, attempting to describe. “The pet names… the kisses… the giggling,” he says with disgust.

Jaskier huffs a laugh. “It’s what she wanted from me, just as what she wanted from you was to be fucked soundly into the mattress. Which you gave her, might I add.”

Geralt grunts. “You always give your partner what they want,” he says. It had intended to be a question but halfway through he realised that he already knew the truth of it and the sentence unwittingly altered its tone.

“Yes.”

“How do you… know?” Geralt says, curious, as he tilts his head to look across at him.

Jaskier shrugs. “I’m perceptive, I guess.” He looks back across at Geralt with an amused smirk. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t do those things to you, if that’s what you’re thinking; I know it’s not what you want.” But then, curiously, his brow furrows and he adds tentatively, “Unless I… overlooked something?”

Geralt turns away, trying not to remember the sound of ‘darling’ in his ears. The thought of it now, and how much he desired it, is like acid in his veins. “You didn’t,” he states.

“Right,” Jaskier says. He sounds disappointed.

Geralt turns away again until his back is to the bard. It’s the only way he can ask this question. “You know… what I want?”

Jaskier huffs, whether affronted or amused Geralt can’t tell, but he is too afraid to look at his expression to ascertain the answer. “Yes,” he says, “I know. Enough of it, at least.”

Geralt swallows. “Tell me?”

There’s a sharp inhale behind him and for a minute he doesn’t think Jaskier will answer him, and then, for a further minute, he considers retracting his question entirely, but then Jaskier licks his lips and says, “You like to be in control.” And when he meets no protest he continues, “You like it when I’m bratty. I have to keep things playful because you won’t allow sincerity. You need distance. You want intimacy but it has to be on your terms. You like to play possessive without keeping me. You say you have no earthly desires but I’ve seen your face when we walk past a bakery in the early morning so I know you have a weakness for baked goods. You demonstrate your affection not through words but through actions.... like, fucking me through my anxiety, or offering to share your bedroll, or taking my shoes to the cobbler at dawn because you noticed they needed new soles…”

Geralt feels heat overwhelm him, originating inside his chest and spreading outward as he listens to Jaskier list all these filthy things, and then, worse, the things outside that. “Enough,” he whispers, because he cannot take the onslaught any longer. He ought not to have asked. He feels the heat inside him and does not know if it is shame or embarrassment or something else besides but it’s burning him alive.

“And you would like being taken, Geralt,” he adds softly. “If you let me. You’d love it so much you wouldn’t let me do anything else for years.”

Geralt grits his teeth and kicks at the sheets tangling his feet to escape this suffocating conversation. “I said enough,” he bites, as he throws on enough clothes to leave the room that still smells of roses and lavender.

Bollocks,” he hears in an agonised whisper as he closes the door behind him. “Shitty, fucking, bollocks -”

Chapter Text

INTERLUDE

Geralt travels to Kaer Morhen that winter. He feels out of sorts - confused and lost and aimless - and surmises that the crumbling Witcher’s keep he used to call home could well provide the answer to his quandary. His old mentor Vesemir is steadfast in reminding his Witchers of their purpose. Surely if anyone can make him see straight after the bard has so masterfully manipulated him into this sordid arrangement then it will be the old man at Kaer Morhen.

Vesemir scrutinises him constantly, knowing something is amiss, but it takes three days of solitude in the mountains before he comes back one evening, ready to confess his sins. “I’ve been travelling with someone,” he says. “Near eight years now. I bed him, sometimes.”

Vesemir scowls and takes a good swig of ale, his eyes not leaving Geralt the entire time. He is a specimen to be studied. Geralt feels an uncomfortable heat slither beneath his skin. If Vesemir is to scold him then he’d rather he be quick about it; the anticipation of punishment is always worse than the punishment itself.

Eventually, Vesemir puts aside his ale. “Do you love him?”

Geralt chokes on nothing but air. The question is preposterous. “We are not even friends,” he defends. “A little relief on the Path, that’s all.”

“If that’s all it was, Geralt, you wouldn’t have taken a week to tell me.”

Geralt grits his teeth. He clenches the tankard in his hands. “We are not meant to bed men,” he states. He remembers Vesemir’s fury when he caught him kissing Thomas and the punishment that followed. “I remember the lesson you taught me.”

“Geralt...” Vesemir says, his mouth hanging agape as if more words were meant to have followed. His jaw clicks and his mouth shuts as he studies him once more with a concentrated frown. Whatever he sees in his countenance must cause him great distress because he shakes his head and rubs his eyes like he is trying to rid himself of the problem. Unfortunately, Geralt knows all too well what Vesemir’s disappointment looks like and shame pools in his stomach for his misdeeds even before Vesemir manages to verbalise his disappointment. “I did not realise that you took that punishment to mean…” Vesemir trails off and takes another swig of ale. “I did not care that you were queer, Geralt. I cared that you were falling in love.”

Geralt’s eyes snap to his and Vesemir allows it; showing him the sincerity of his words.

“You were young,” Vesemir gripes. “And love is a distraction. It would have gotten you both killed.”

“He died anyway,” Geralt bites back. Thomas had died before they’d even left the relative safety of Kaer Morhen. A cave by the lake. A rock troll. Blood pooling from his cracked head. He had been nineteen years old.

Vesemir’s lips twist into an unreadable expression as he looks back at his charge. “And you did not die alongside him,” he states. “That is all that matters.”

Geralt shakes his head viciously, resenting the tears that gather in his eyes. Thomas was a lifetime ago. It shouldn’t still hurt.

“You have a kind heart, Geralt. It is your greatest weakness and my greatest concern. I was attempting to teach you restraint with Thomas, not forbid your queer desires.” He shakes his head, disappointed again, and asks with soft incredulity, “Did you truly think, all this time, that I forbade you from yourself?”

Geralt looks across to see a sympathetic expression that verges on pity. He hates the sight of it and all that it represents. He pushes back from the table, the ale spilling, his eyes blinking rapidly lest the tears fall. “Of course not,” he defends. “No. Of course not.”

He leaves for the mountains and they never speak of it again.

Chapter Text

XI

“Do it,” he says as soon as he and Jaskier are behind closed doors at whatever shitty tavern they’re now occupying.

“What?”

“The thing that you want to do to me. Do it,” he says, uncorking the sleeping draught and swallowing it without preamble.

Jaskier’s excitable eyes suddenly narrow. “What the fuck was that?” he asks.

“What?”

“The potion you just took?” he asks, stooping to retrieve the discarded bottle at their feet and examining it.

“A sleeping draught. Enough to relax me.”

Jaskier looks angrier than Geralt’s even seen him; his fist clenches around the glass bottle before he very deliberately puts it aside. Geralt would be more concerned if the potent potion was not already seeping into his bloodstream, numbing his nerves and relaxing his muscles.

Jaskier turns back with fury still burning in his eyes; his jaw locked, and his hands on his hips in that petulant and demanding manner of his. He shakes his head without humour. “You have to be drugged to do this with me?”

“I will not endure it otherwise,” Geralt grunts, not understanding Jaskier’s hesitation - the man has wanted him to submit for years after all - but the bard still looks unwilling. “I want it,” Geralt insists.

Jaskier looks pained by these words. Exasperated. He studies him for a long time then looks away and winces. Geralt doesn’t know how to interpret any of these things and the potion is making him too sluggish to respond in any case, so he just stands there, waiting for Jaskier to come to him.

“Did it occur to you,” he asks, a bitterness to his voice even as he cradles Geralt’s jaw ever so tenderly in his hands, “that I might not want this?”

Geralt frowns and looks at him. Jaskier is close. He doesn’t remember him getting so close. His eyes are so blue. Like the ocean on a clear summer’s day.

Jaskier sighs and Geralt can feel the warm breath on his skin and smell the apple he had that morn, and beneath it all, he can hear the way his heart beats fast and familiar. Lavender. He wants to smell lavender. He turns his face until it’s pressed into Jaskier’s hair and takes a deep steadying inhale.

Jaskier makes a soft strangled sound and reaches around him until his fingers are sliding through his hair, clutching the back of his neck as an anchor. “You need this,” he says, understanding at last. “And I will give it to you.” Geralt tastes salt in the air. He doesn’t understand why. Those words were good words. “But sometimes I wish you wouldn’t ask these things of me.”

Geralt frowns and pulls away. Jaskier’s eyes are red and glistening. It registers as unusual. Unsettling. But he cannot fathom why.

The lavender is kissing him, softly and sweetly; it tastes like candy. He wants more. He tastes every inch of skin shown to him. There is a salty tang on smooth cheeks but there is something sweet underneath and the combination is heady and addictive. There are gentle hands on his body, disposing of the barriers between them. Soon the lavender will surround him and that’s what he wants, he knows.

He feels something soft and substantial beneath him and something slick at his entrance and then there is a strange pressure inside him that is foreign but smells familiar and there is still the salty-sweet taste on his lips and a gentle murmuring that fills the air and he is safe here, he knows.

There is something moving inside him now, deep and fulfilling, and he hears his own sighs of pleasure echoed back to him. He is anchored by the broad hand against his stomach. The leg slipped between his. The lips against his cheek. The lavender; always the lavender. As his pleasure grows, so does the taste of salt until he is searching for it and licking it from where it falls, but it is an endless vault, it seems.

The pleasure crests and he is falling, deeper than ever before, into the ocean of the eyes above him, and deeper still, until there is only darkness.

*

He wakes the next morning with a stuffy head and a foreign tenderness inside him and knows that he has succeeded in conquering his most shameful desire. He thought he would feel some victory at breaking the barrier. He does not. He does not feel shame either, though. He feels… guilty, bereft, confused. But he is not ashamed.

He blinks the sleep from his eyes and rolls over to find a tankard of water and an apple by his bedside. He is reaching for both when he hears a soft scratching coming from across the room. Jaskier is picking at his nails. He is sat, hunched in on himself in the singular wooden chair, looking down at his hands. The sight fills Geralt with an unwelcome sense of unease.

Geralt rises, drinks the water, eats the apple. Yet Jaskier does not move.

When he puts the apple core aside, Jaskier finally raises his head to look at Geralt. “How do you feel?” he asks flatly. His entire expression is flat. The man has never looked so expressionless in their entire acquaintance.

“Fine,” Geralt says. He doesn’t know to describe the complexity inside of him otherwise. “You?”

“I’m not doing that again, Geralt,” he states with uncharacteristic gravity. He stares across at Geralt with cold eyes and a furrowed brow. “It was not…” he swallows, and Geralt follows the movement of his Adam’s apple with his eyes. “Not what you deserved.”

Geralt brushes aside that ridiculous sentiment and returns, “It was what I needed. You said you’d always give me what I needed.”

Jaskier shakes his head viciously. His eyes are red-rimmed. He’s been crying. “I did,” he says, “and I was careless enough to assume that your needs would never conflict with my desires, seeing that I desire all of you. How foolish I was. How foolish of me yet to think that I might understand; that I would ask to hear the very words from your lips if I did not think that request was yet more foolish still.”

Jaskier is no fool. At least, not where intimate matters are concerned. Geralt gathers the blanket to cover his body. He feels too exposed. “Before. I had never…”

“I know,” he says softly. “That is why it hurts me so; the fact that you won’t even remember the first.”

“It was a river to cross,” he explains. “No more. It means nothing.”

Jaskier’s empty expression crumples into one so anguished that it wretches his heart to look at it. So, he doesn’t. He looks out the window to the grey skies outside and attempts once again to explain. “You must understand, bard, the sheer breadth of the impasse.”

“I understand all too well,” he bites viciously. “Do you not think that I have not experienced the same paralysing doubts? The same voices in my head that you do now? The ones telling me to be ashamed for my actions? For my desires?” He scoffs, unamused. “You met my father, Geralt. You know from whence I came.”

“That is exactly why you don’t understand,” Geralt snaps, his eyes returning to him. “Disobeying him was no doubt a thrill, a boon, a -”

“Then pray tell!” Jaskier shouts, springing from his chair with such vivacity that the wood clatters back against the floor. He is a creature of fury and fight. “Tell me why the ordeal of being taken by me was such a horrendous, sickening act that you had to be near-unconscious to bear it and I will -”

“I am near a hundred years old, Jaskier,” he retorts. “The desires you kept buried for a few teenage years are mere coppers compared to -”

“And what do you know of it?” Jaskier cries, striding towards him. He leans over him with fury still blazing in his eyes. “Do not make light of my struggles just to glorify your own.”

Geralt pushes him away with the heel of his palm. “Jaskier,” he growls in warning. “That is not what I -”

“Then tell me,” Jaskier pleads, incensed, as he kneels beside the bed in a mockery of a prayer. He searches Geralt’s eyes and then suddenly drops his gaze with a shake of his head; his shoulders sagging in defeat. “Tell me,” he begs, softer this time; a plea. He looks up to Geralt again, imploring.

Geralt breaks eye contact, unable to bear the sight of pain that he has so clearly inflicted. “I knew I could not be present for the act. I would have scarpered at the first touch,” he admits. “But I will not require the elixir again. It was a means to an end; a river I had to cross to get to the ocean.” He looks back to Jaskier to ensure his meaning gets through. His companion looks back at him with sad but curious eyes. “Last night was an assurance. A test. Like a…” he struggles for the right metaphor; he is not as skilled with words as his companion. “Like a warm-up before a joust. A trial before an event. It did not ‘matter’ because it was not truly my first.”

Jaskier blinks at him, confused but hopeful. “You intend for me to take you again? Without the aid of… relaxants?”

Geralt softens at the sight of his companion; he looks so hopeful, so cautiously optimistic, that Geralt longs to give him everything he wants. He wants to give it to himself too. “Yes,” he murmurs, tracing Jaskier’s cheek with his thumb and forefinger and watching as his eyes brighten at the touch. “It was my entire reasoning. I am… sorry, I did not tell you though. I am sorry that you misunderstood.”

Jaskier shrugs, as though it did not matter, even though they both remember his tears and know that it did, in fact, matter greatly. “Kiss me,” he says with a quirk of his lips, “and you shall be forgiven.”

Geralt frowns. “That is all you require?”

He smiles sadly and Geralt gets the peculiar feeling that there is something he is not permitted to know. “For now.”

He grunts, still not understanding, but indulges Jaskier nonetheless as he uses his thumb and forefinger to encourage him to rise and press their lips together.

It is a tender and lingering kiss; one that causes unease to slither beneath his skin, at the same time that he yearns for more. Jaskier’s teeth nip at his lips and his tongue caresses his own and he cradles his head in his hands and leaves kiss after kiss on his lips as if he cannot tear himself away. It causes his lips to tingle with the undeserved sweetness of it and the heat builds in his chest until he wants to scream with the intensity of it.

“Jaskier…” Geralt protests eventually, and the bard pulls away with a devious smile.

“I was wondering how long you’d let me do that for,” he teases as he stands. “Longer than I thought actually.”

“Hmm,” Geralt says. He watches him gather their belongings with a spring in his step and a tune on his lips, and Geralt feels his heart pound.

 

XII

Unfortunately, there is a complex contract that takes several days to fulfill but afterwards, Geralt follows Jaskier’s scent to a nearby estate and the two are on the road again by the afternoon.

At sundown, they reach an abandoned village. Once Geralt has disposed of the ghouls that are no doubt responsible for its desolation, he ties Roach to a post in the square and starts raiding the buildings for supplies. Jaskier always loves this part of the job, diving between one house and the other shouting - “oh! I just found some nice blankets!” and “oh! Geralt! It’s a silver spoon! You can smelt that at the smithy,” and “Melitele bless my cotton undergarments, it’s some cured meats! It must be my birthday.” (It’s not. His birthday is September 18th and he always insists on an apple as a present - the first of the season - and not some thirty-day-old ham.)

Jaskier has no doubt been snacking on his finds the entire time so Geralt does not feel overly guilty when he distracts his companion from his enthusiastic looting with a bruising kiss.

“Oh, hello,” Jaskier says with a coy smile when they break apart. “Is there something you wanted?”

Geralt growls and pushes Jaskier into the crumbling wall of the cottage. The smile doesn’t leave his lips, the smug bastard. Geralt doesn’t answer in words, just tangles his fingers in the man’s hair and pushes him down to his knees.

Jaskier doesn’t stop grinning like the cat that caught the canary as he unlaces Geralt’s breeches. “I was wondering when you’d crack.”

“What?” Geralt bites.

“You’ve been wanting to fuck me all day,” Jaskier says plainly, as if the words he says aren’t shameful in the slightest. “And by ‘fuck me’ I very much mean fuck you.”

Geralt’s breath stutters as Jaskier’s wide mischievous eyes lock onto his and he brazenly offers two lute-calloused fingers for his lips. Geralt swallows his nerves. He’s done this, he reassures himself. He has crossed this river. But he also, cannot, jump straight into the ocean. He needs a moment. “Fine,” he grunts, “but I take your mouth first.”

Jaskier grins again. “I’d have it no other way,” he flirts as Geralt obligingly ducks his head to take the proffered fingers in his mouth. “Make it good, darling,” Jaskier growls. Geralt resents the way his hips buck at the mere sound of that damn word. “Fuck me hoarse.”

Geralt cannot refuse a challenge such as that. He untucks himself and tightens his grips on Jaskier’s hair as he lowers the man’s open and eager mouth onto his cock. Jaskier’s good at this now. He takes him down his throat without a single hesitation and he knows how to work it when he’s there. It’s so good that he almost forgets about the saliva-wet fingers in his mouth and the promise of what is to come. He just keeps fucking himself into Jaskier’s mouth with unconscious groans, feeling the flutter of his throat against his head, the way that he just lets him fuck into his throat like it’s another entrance altogether… the fact that Jaskier just lets himself be used this way.

Jaskier’s tear-prickled eyes stare up at him and his fingers twitch in his mouth in a wordless request. Geralt obediently opens his mouth and lets the saliva drip between them as Jaskier lowers his fingers to Geralt’s entrance.

At the first touch, Geralt doesn’t shy away as he expected, and at the first push, he finds himself leaning in. Jaskier is moaning around his cock so delightfully that it serves to distract him from the intrusion until an entire digit is buried within him.

“Jaskier,” he says, the name falling from his lips on a sigh. He doesn’t know if it’s admonishment or encouragement but when the second finger joins the first and he repeats his name, he recognises the sound as something closer to a prayer.

He feels Jaskier’s full mouth attempt a smile and it causes something unnameable to rattle behind his ribcage. Geralt fingers move from his hair to his mouth, to feel the uptick of the corners for himself, and then down his throat until he can feel his own movements there. A strangled moan sounds at the gesture; he doesn’t know which one of them is responsible for the obscene sound, but he squeezes, just a little, and feels Jaskier’s throat constrict with it.

Fuck, he’s perfect. A hundred years on this earth and he’s never had anyone take him so good.

It’s around this time that Jaskier crooks his fingers inside him; his lute-calloused tips scraping alongside his channel to find a hidden place so delightfully sensitive. Geralt shouts in surprise. A shaking hand urgently braces on the wall behind his companion and he falls deeper down his throat as a consequence. He felt that touch everywhere.

Jaskier stares in awe at his profound reaction and Geralt’s cock slips from his mouth in shock. “Good,” Jaskier murmurs, his voice beautifully cracked as he licks his dry lips. His mouth curves into another sultry smile as he rests his head against Geralt’s bare thigh and looks up at him with those sparkling blue eyes. “You were so out of it last time, I wasn’t sure if I found it.” His smile cocks to one side. “But there it is -” he says with pride, and strokes over that spot again until Geralt jerks and swears and thrusts futilely into empty air, his eyes fluttering closed against the onslaught. “Fuck,” Jaskier curses, pressing a kiss into Geralt’s thigh. “You are so fucking beautiful.”

The wild thing inside Geralt’s chest thrashes and he opens his eyes once more to see Jaskier staring up at him, open and willing. His words had been so earnest. And so utterly undeserved.

Geralt growls and yanks Jaskier’s head back towards him, prying open his mouth with his fingers and thrusting down into that tight heat once again. Jaskier struggles beneath him, attempting to catch his breath and adjust to Geralt’s girth but he still stinks of lust and it doesn’t take him more than a second to clutch at Geralt’s hip once again and allow himself to be fucked raw.

Jaskier’s devilish fingers pry all sorts of obscene sounds from him as they move deep inside, and in a short few minutes, Geralt is spilling down Jaskier’s throat with a wordless shout.

When he’s done, he hauls Jaskier up by the scruff of his tunic and kisses him artlessly in a clash of tongues and teeth as he pushes him back against the wall. “Fuck me,” he orders.

Jaskier whines and it looks like it pains him greatly when he says, “No, my love, I -”

“Don’t call me that,” Geralt grouches. He cannot abide pet names.

Jaskier raises his hands in defense. His voice is still scratched raw, his hair tufted from Geralt’s grasping fingers, and there is a deep telling flush on his cheeks. Delectable. “I mean only to say that it would be unwise given that your passage will be overly sensitive at present. Permit me, if you will, to postpone your desires until the morn when I will be able to take you without hesitation. Trust me, it will be much more to your liking.”

Geralt growls. “I want it now. I don’t care if it’s unwise -”

Jaskier pushes him away hard enough that Geralt actually stumbles back; stupefied by the sudden display of ferocity. “Do not,” Jaskier spits, “make me have this conversation with you again.”

His eyes are fire and fury; storm clouds over an ocean.

Geralt remembers that look all too well. He withers beneath it; cowed with shame. He has already asked too much of Jaskier in this regard. Of course his companion would refuse to bow to yet more self-flagellating requests.

It doesn’t take long for the hot twist of shame to turn into anger.

Fuck,” Geralt spits as he steps away from the fuming bard. He had been too caught up in his own desires again; begged for things that he is still ashamed by. He has shown too much of himself. Jaskier must think him a sadist; a freak even amongst degenerates.

Jaskier’s hands firmly cup his cheeks and force his eyes to meet his own. “I do not think any less of you for requesting such a thing,” he insists, “and perhaps in the future, I will grant you it. But not now. Not for your first.”

Geralt’s jaw is still clenched defensively as he states, “You treat me too kindly.”

Jaskier’s eyes soften, a disgusting look of pity forming on his face as his hands stroke across Geralt’s tense jaw. “Others treat you too poorly.”

Geralt grunts and wrenches his head away from Jaskier’s grip. He glares at the crumbling walls and the setting sun. He itches to leave. He longs to stay. Everything about the bard’s presence is conflicting. “The morning?”

“The morning,” Jaskier confirms, and presses the sweetest kiss against his hairline.

*

He wakes to warmth against his back and tentative fingers at his entrance, and he is temporarily transported to a bed a few years ago when his companion had first attempted this feat. But this is no tavern. This is a bed of straw in an abandoned barn at sunrise, and this is not flirtation but intention, and this is not just a man but Jaskier.

He slowly stirs to wakefulness under the calming scent of lavender and leans back into the touch.

“Is this okay?” Jaskier whispers against his ear. He knows it is. Just as he knows the best time to do this was at dawn before Geralt’s anxieties could rise with the sun. He just wants Geralt to say it; to reassure him that he is conscious, and present, and willing.

He reaches back with his hand to grasp at Jaskier’s hair, laughing sleepily when he finds stray strands of straw tangled within it. Jaskier leans down to mouth at his bared neck. “Yes,” Geralt murmurs, as he arches back into the touch.

A long, relieved exhale skitters along his skin and then fingers are breaching him, slick with lavender oil, and Geralt sighs into the touch. It no longer feels like an intrusion; it feels like being held.

He melts into the touch; his muscles still relaxed from sleep and his mind conditioned to quieten under his companion’s ministrations; the world narrowing. “More,” he whispers, and Jaskier gives it to him.

Jaskier groans at Geralt’s hitched breaths and digs his teeth into Geralt’s shoulder as he adds fingers, and probes deeper, and touches the secret place inside him. Jaskier grits his teeth because there are words he wants to say, Geralt knows.

He doesn’t want to hear them; doesn’t think he could stand to hear Jaskier’s adoration when he is already feeling so vulnerable. His companion no doubt knows this - he won’t speak them, he won’t even kiss him - but that doesn’t stop Geralt from imagining them; the words he knows Jaskier wants to speak because he has spoken them to him before -

Darling,

An involuntary shudder flows through him at the memory of that word. He had unwittingly committed it to memory in vivid detail. He remembers the way Jaskier’s sex-scratched voice had dripped the words; his blue eyes locked onto Geralt’s.

Darling,

The way he made that girl beg for it. Those are the words he’s denying himself now, Geralt wagers. Do you want my cock, darling? Tell me you want it. Tell me how much you want it and I will -

“Please,” Geralt whimpers, as if he had actually heard Jaskier’s unspoken demands.

Jaskier whines, burying his head in the crook of Geralt’s neck.

You feel so good speared on my cock, splitting you apart like this, you’re so good for me, my love -

Those words didn’t belong to her, they belonged to him. He clenches his fist in Jaskier’s hair and urges him even closer. “Give it to me,” he says, and doesn’t care how depraved it is, or how desperate he sounds. He needs it.

Jaskier whines again but dutifully breaks away from their close embrace to smear more homemade lubricant onto his member. Jaskier never returns from his trysts with other lovers smelling this strongly of lavender. He made it for Geralt, and he only uses it for Geralt. He doesn’t know why that thought unsettles him so thoroughly.

He is panting, and Geralt can still hear all his unspoken words -

Do you know how long I’ve -?

Geralt had cut him short when he said those words back at Novigrad Theatre because he already knew the answer. Knew it and feared it. He suspected that Jaskier would not have stopped him, had he bent him over a chest of drawers and taken him the very first day they had met. And now, he suspects that Jaskier has wanted to reverse the act for just as long. If Geralt gave the slightest indication that this would have been welcomed back when Jaskier drunkenly slipped into his bed and teased him about this very act all those years ago, then he knows Jaskier would have eagerly taken the opportunity. Jaskier has wanted this for a long time. And, Geralt can admit, as those familiar arms come to wrap around his chest once more, that he has wanted this for a long time, too.

Darling,

Jaskier pushes in with measured care, his hands flexing against Geralt’s hips as a conduit for his impatience. It does feel as good as that girl described. Better. “So good,” she had said, “So full.” She did not mention the delightful, tingling, drag of hard flesh along the passageway. The sting of the ring of muscle that guarded the entrance. The tight, hot, press of the intimate coupling. The intoxicating, comforting scent of lavender. He whimpers at the overwhelming combination of these intense sensations.

“Fuck,” Jaskier groans; whatever loving thoughts he has transmuted. “Shit,” he swears once again. “You feel so -” But he knows he can’t say that so his fingers twitch and his breath hitches and then he’s swearing once again.

One day, Geralt might have the strength to hear the silenced words.

Jaskier’s hand falls on his thigh again, urging their tangled legs higher so he can push himself into the very depths of the channel inside.

Geralt moans, drawn out and strangled, as the new angle causes the manhood inside him to press against the place that so utterly destroyed him yesterday. He feels alive - like every nerve inside him is singing; calling out for this intimate touch. He only resents that he denied himself this pleasurable act for so long. If he had known… Fuck, if he had known...

Jaskier doesn’t need to ask how he wants it; he knows. He starts moving with deliberate, slow, full strokes, allowing Geralt to enjoy every drag and slide of the movement inside. And then, as soon as he has acclimated to the new sensation and his thoughts are beginning to converge into something daunting, Jaskier moves. He pushes at his leg and grips his hips until he is near-sprawled over him and then he pounds into him, deep and hard, with single-minded determination.

Geralt shouts wordlessly, taken by surprise, and tightens his grip on Jaskier’s hair - his only anchor - as Jaskier ploughs into him with a strength he didn’t know he possessed. Jaskier’s teeth return to his shoulder; biting down on more words he cannot say as Geralt continues to produce sounds louder and filthier than he thought he could ever produce.

Jaskier is hitting that place hidden inside him with every thrust like a master marksman and Geralt realises too late that he should have foreseen this. Jaskier is the master of this particular arena. He was no more than a squire when Geralt first laid with him but it is several years later and he has become a knight renowned for his skill. There are throngs of maidens and bachelors at every bardic performance who have heard of his prowess as well as his song. Geralt should have realised that rumours do not come from nowhere. He saw it himself, for fuck’s sake, when Jaskier was pleasuring that girl before him, but he had been so focused on Jaskier - on his mirth, on his smile, on his sparkling eyes - that he had thought the girl exaggerating.

Now he is in her position; speared on Jaskier’s frankly magnificent cock and being fucked within an inch of his life, unconscious whimpers falling from his lips like a maiden virgin, he can confirm that she was, in fact, not exaggerating.

He comes, untouched, with a garbled curse and drool-slick straw in his mouth, and reaches the distressing conclusion that despite a hundred years walking this land, Jaskier just gave him the best orgasm of his life.

He grunts, incoherent, as he comes down from the high. He feels wet seed drip from inside him and the sensation is just as obscene as he had imagined but he cannot bring himself to feel disgusted by it, not when Jaskier is smiling at him - lop-sided and indulgent - from over his shoulder.

Geralt catches his gaze and feels oddly shy beneath it; like squinting under bright sunlight. Geralt shakes his head with a laugh and spits out the remaining straw stuck to his lips. He feels Jaskier’s answering chuckle against his shoulder before it is replaced with a kiss.

“Okay?” Jaskier is asking him, stroking his hand across Geralt’s ribs as he rolls them back onto their side and his wilting cock slips from between them.

Geralt grunts but it doesn’t convey enough meaning so he sleepily tugs his hand - still tangled in Jaskier’s hair, fuck - until Jaskier is meeting him halfway for a kiss.

It’s lazy, and sloppy, and not artful in the slightest, but Jaskier’s cheeks are hot with exertion and his lips are soft and his eyes are a delightful blue and there’s the smell of a particular flower that makes something deep within him flutter with pleasure. “Good,” he murmurs against Jaskier’s lips. “Good.”

 

XIII

Jaskier was right. Once he had been taken that way, it was all he would want for years.

Geralt finds any excuse he can to seek out the bard over the coming months and is fucked thoroughly into mattresses and bedrolls and on one memorable occasion, in a crypt. Once, when they are tipsy and falling into bed, Geralt even lets him take him face-to-face; allowing his companion to kiss every whimper of pleasure from his lips.

He doesn’t let him speak, though, and Jaskier knows better than to ask for it.

 

XIV

He doesn’t know how Jaskier managed to convince him into attending court in the first place. “Food, women, and wine,” might have been a part of it but it wasn’t until Jaskier was looking at him over the bathtub with those damn pleading eyes of his that Geralt had actually submitted himself to the ordeal.

And what a fucking ordeal it was.

*

Geralt strides out of the Cintran palace built from elven blood with a new unwanted burden on his shoulders and Mousesack’s prophetic words about his Child Surprise ringing in his ears.

Fuck Destiny, he seethes. And fuck Jaskier for thrusting this clusterfuck of a situation onto me in the first place.

Geralt takes the long way back. He strides through the dark forest outside the city walls in the vain hope that he might find a diversion from his tumultuous thoughts. It’s stupid and reckless and he ought to know better than to tempt fate like this but he’s pissed and yearns to feel the simple uncomplicated surge of power that results from sticking his sword into a beast.

*

It is nearly dawn by the time he arrives back at the tavern on the outskirts of Cintra. His stolen sword is still tragically unused beside him and after hours of carrying it, it weighs as heavy as his thoughts as he drags himself up the creaky wooden stairs towards his rented room.

When he opens the door, the last fucking thing he expects to see is Jaskier pacing across the floorboards, waiting for him.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Uh,” Jaskier says, making a show of gesturing to the room where his belongings are strewn haphazardly across the surfaces. “It’s my room?”

Fuck, it was. Geralt forgot they were sharing. “I thought you had… trout to fish,” he rebutts, recalling the noblewoman Jaskier had spent the majority of the night attempting to bed.

“I did…” he muses. Geralt can feel his eyes on him, studying him, and another wave of anger rises within him. He wonders how long his companion has futilely awaited his return; if he yet regrets leaving his conquest behind. “But you needed me.”

Geralt clenches his jaw. “What I need,” he bites through gritted teeth, “is to be left the fuck alone.”

Jaskier shrugs off his open doublet and it falls with a clatter to the floor. “Do you now?” he says, ever confident, as he strides towards Geralt. “Because I think what you need right now is to feel in control.”

Geralt clenches his fist at his side. If Jaskier so much as touches him right now -

“Axii me.”

Geralt blinks in confusion, his fist unfurling in sheer surprise. He must have misheard. “What.”

“That…” Jaskier waves his hand in the air, “mind control thing you do. Do it to me.”

Right. So he had heard correctly. It’s just that it was fucking insane.

“Destiny is a dick,” Jaskier says, putting it fucking mildly. “But she doesn’t get to control this,” he says, reaching for Geralt’s hand and pressing his fingers against his temples. “You do. Axii me. Command me. Fuck me. Whatever you want to do. Take back control.”

Geralt’s fingers twitch. He’s still angry, so very angry, but beneath that he finds that his cock is stirring at the mere idea of harnessing such power. “You are too trusting,” he says, because he’s always thought so and this is just further evidence of Jaskier’s foolish bravado. “I could do anything to you. I could command you to slit your own wrists.”

Jaskier smiles coyly. “You wouldn’t though,” he says, turning his face inwards to press a kiss against the inside of Geralt’s wrist. “Would you?”

Geralt shudders on an inhale. No, he supposes, he wouldn’t. It’s still insane. “You disapproved when I took the sleeping draught,” he says; a feeble argument. “How is this any different?”

Jaskier winces at the memory. “Because that was not negotiated and I was unwilling. This is negotiated and I am very willing. Geralt, I know that you need this. Let me give it to you. Use me.”

Those two words have him forming the axii sign before he is conscious of it and Jaskier falls into an eerie enchanted neutrality as he stares at the fingers and Geralt stares back at him.

Fuck.

The trust. The control. The way the world has immediately narrowed to Jaskier’s hazy blue eyes.

This is what he wants. How does Jaskier know? How does Jaskier always know?

He feels a shudder of pleasure run through him as he stares at the sight so eagerly offered.

“Take off your clothes,” he says. A test.

Jaskier does; methodically, his face neutral, his hands slow. He’s not even Jaskier right now. He’s just a body; a body that will do whatever Geralt bids him to do.

An entire host of deviant thoughts swarm his mind; acts to punish Jaskier for bringing him to Cintra - his hand in the candle flame, scarring his priceless face with a knife, stuffing his mouth with his cock until he actually does choke - and knows that the man would have no choice but to enact every single one of those wishes.

Conversely, it’s this thought that calms his simmering rage.

He does not want to harm his companion… no, Jaskier’s right, he merely craves the power. He wants to control him in a way that he has not been able to control this entire shitshow of a situation thus far.

He lets his hands fall and the fog lifts from Jaskier’s eyes as a steady smile comes to light his expression instead.

“Was that… acceptable?” Geralt asks, even though he’s fairly certain he already knows the answer.

Jaskier licks his lips and nods his head fervently. “It was like… a dream. Shit. That sounds naff. I just mean…” he licks his lips again, his pupils blown wide, lust rolling off him in waves. “It’s like… I was here but I had no control over my body, over my mind even… It was just this peaceful haze, like I’d just had the best orgasm of my life and was still riding the high. It was so fucking good,” he says so earnestly that it’s hard to refute. “Please, Geralt,” he begs. “Please, I need more.”

“How much more?” he asks with a concerned frown. Jaskier’s reaction seems genuine, but this is a dangerous game; he could very easily lead Jaskier over a ledge he is not prepared for.

“All the way,” Jaskier says with certainty. “If you can. I want you to command me, to fuck me, to tell me when to come… I don’t want to be conscious until you’ve enacted every single one of your desires upon me.”

Geralt swallows his nerves at this bold declaration of intent. It is tempting. Very tempting. “That could take a long time.”

Jaskier smirks as Geralt flushes with embarrassment, no doubt revelling in the fact that he caused Geralt to admit such a thing. He was such a brat. But, worse, Geralt knows he’s being a menace on purpose just so Geralt will…

Fuck.

Jaskier really knows him too well. He said it, even, several years ago: You like it when I’m bratty.

“You are certain?” he asks, instead of addressing his own accidental declaration. “I ought to be able to smell any trepidation before I enact anything that is unwelcome but I... I am undeserving of such trust. You may live to regret having such faith in me.”

Jaskier’s eyes soften and then leans forward to kiss Geralt so tenderly that his heart aches with it. He does not deserve his love either; though he knows he has it. That fact alone is perhaps all the evidence one would need to determine that Geralt is undeserving of such trust; that he knows he has a man’s love and does not acknowledge it. He rejects it, even. He selfishly allows a lovesick bard to trail after him so he can use him as a whore. Even a fool would recognise that he does not deserve that man’s trust.

Then again, if Jaskier is as perceptive as he’s proven to be then he must know that Geralt is aware of this. He must know that his queer pining is futile; that it has been recognised and ignored and ultimately rejected. He must know.

And yet here we are.

Geralt breaks the kiss; his thoughts tangled and convoluted. He had spent a decade ignoring such thoughts but a single tender kiss from Jaskier sends them unspooling.

“I regret nothing with you,” Jaskier whispers against his lips.

Geralt’s eyes flutter closed, and when they open again, his fingers have cast axii and Jaskier’s eyes are glazed over beautifully.

“You should,” Geralt tells him. “One day you will.”

And he relishes the fact that Jaskier cannot, for once, smother the truth with his optimism.

*

Once they are both naked and he has Jaskier kneeling on the bed - legs spread, eyes vacant - Geralt is once again paralysed by indecision. He is not used to having to take charge in bed; Jaskier knows what he needs and gives it to him. The freedom that he has right now, while Jaskier is incapacitated, is foreign to him, and it takes him several moments of staring at his impassive face to remind himself that if anything is to happen, he must initiate it.

He uncorks the vial of homemade lubricant and inhales the familiar smell of lavender to calm his nerves. He doesn’t usually allow himself such sentimentality and smirks upon realising that Jaskier cannot comment on it as he would usually be so eager to do. “I’ve noticed that you only use this with me,” he says. “I appreciate that.”

He admires Jaskier’s expressionless countenance for a moment and then holds out the vial. “Take it,” he says, and Jaskier does. “Use it to open your passage, slowly, sensually, as you would if you were pleasuring yourself. I want to watch.”

If Jaskier were conscious he would tease Geralt. Ask him how he knows that is how he pleasures himself. Ask if he has watched.

Instead, Jaskier silently obeys, and Geralt revels in the power. Jaskier drips the liquid over his fingers, perforating the room with a strong floral scent, and reaches behind himself with his slick hand to tease his entrance.

Geralt watches, completely captivated, as Jaskier does exactly as he was instructed. A tease, then a finger, then two, then scissoring, and then… an unconscious sigh when he finds the place that pleasures him the most.

“I could watch you do this for hours,” Geralt murmurs. His hand strokes his own member lazily as he watches Jaskier open himself up. He’s high on the power. On Jaskier’s silence. On the implicit trust between them. He would usually find it difficult to give into his perverted nature with such intensity; such intentful loitering over desires is dangerous and could easily send him spiralling… but a peculiar sense of calm has settled over him, as if he too is cast under the spell.

He could watch this for hours, but unfortunately, he cannot hold the magic for such longevity; he can already feel exhaustion edging in at the corners of his mind.

“Would you like me to fuck you?”

Jaskier’s hazy eyes flicker as they comprehend the question and then fall eerily empty again. “Yes,” he says. No demands, no pleas, no desperate ramblings… just a direct answer to a direct question.

He almost misses his characteristic loquaciousness. Then, he realises that he could demand such things. The question “how do you want it?” is almost out of his mouth before he remembers to be afraid of the answer. The man is in love with him; he would likely request the kind of lovemaking that Geralt is incapable of bestowing him. He doesn’t want to force his companion to admit to things that he will later regret. There will be time, later, for his words, Geralt assures himself. For once, he will just have to do without.

He settles on the bed and pats the space next to him. “Come here,” he murmurs. Jaskier immediately complies and Geralt arranges his malleable limbs until the man is straddling his thighs. Jaskier enjoys being manhandled and would be making the most obscene sounds if he were able; Geralt imagines it so fiercely that he can almost hear the sounds in the silence.

He intends to get straight to business but he cannot resist pumping the cock before him. The sight it produces of flushed cheeks and hitched breaths without the usual spiel accompanying it is fascinating to watch. He wonders if he can make Jaskier come silently.

A passing fantasy; he doesn’t think he can hold the spell for that long in any case.

Geralt reaches for the abandoned vial and slicks his own manhood before settling back down and staring up at Jaskier’s impassive face. He wants to kiss him but he doesn’t think he would enjoy the dispassionate, autonomous return. Jaskier is not Jaskier without his passion.

“Lower yourself onto me,” he commands. “Carefully. I don’t want to smell a lick of pain.”

Jaskier nods under the charm of the spell and widens his stance until Geralt feels the heat of his entrance begin to envelop him. He grasps Jaskier’s hips as an anchor and helps him control the excruciating pace as their bodies slowly merge.

“Fuck,” he bites. He’s losing control of the spell. He feels it slipping away from him as the intoxicating press of Jaskier’s body takes over even the most disciplined parts of his mind. “I can’t hold it much longer.”

Jaskier is still too enchanted to respond but he’s fully seated in Geralt’s lap now and he needs to move. If the spell dissolves somewhere during this act then so be it.

“Move,” he murmurs, burdened with desire. “Fuck yourself onto me.”

A little hitched gasp escapes Jaskier’s lips, the first indication that the spell is fading, but his eyes are still glazed and he obediently rises onto his knees so that he can fuck himself back down onto Geralt’s cock.

Geralt’s grunts and digs his fingers into his hips at the sheer intensity of the act. He manages no more than three thrusts before Jaskier’s eyes startle back into clarity. He looks blissfully absent still, a little confused, and his hips stutter in realisation but do not cease as they continue to rhythmically rise and fall.

Jaskier reaches down with a shaky hand. “Hi,” he whispers, and tucks his hand around Geralt’s jaw, cupping his face.

This unexpected, gentle act causes something to clench behind his ribcage. He turns his face into the caress and presses a kiss into the palm of his hand. “Hi,” he whispers back, just as softly. “I’m sorry I could not hold it.”

Jaskier shakes his head and returns his hand to Geralt’s chest where he uses it as leverage to land an even deeper thrust. “Don’t be, it was delightful. I’m still -” he waves his hand around his head as if to indicate his cloudy thoughts. “Fuzzy,” he concludes. It is perhaps not the sexiest word in his arsenal which only indicates the truth to his statement. “Keep commanding me. I’ll follow.”

Geralt considers the offer. It’s tempting. But it’s sunrise now, and neither of them have slept. Jaskier looks exhausted; he’s barely able to keep his eyes open as he keeps moving on shaky legs. This was good - his rage has petered into peace - but this game is unsustainable.

Instead, the next time Jaskier is seated in his lap, he moves his hands from his hips to around his waist. “Come here,” he urges, and Jaskier obediently falls into Geralt’s arms until he is lying on top of him. “You’re tired,” he explains before Jaskier can protest.

Jaskier whines, accepting the observation, and Geralt raises his hips the best he can, thrusting shallowly in and out of him. It’s not enough for either of them but the closeness is desirable. He can turn his face and pepper kisses along his companion’s shoulder and his cheek and the corner of his lips.

Jaskier whimpers at the affection and tilts his head until they can kiss fully. It’s slow and teasing and causes a delightful tingle to spread through him. The feeling scares him. Enough that he is soon rolling them over and fucking into Jaskier with the depth and precision that his companion needs to start screaming.

Jaskier is babbling incoherent nonsense, a constant stream of swears and pleas and his name contorted into one of bliss, and Geralt wonders when he started craving the sound of the bard’s voice instead of the silence he had been offered.

*

Geralt is too exhausted to move afterwards. They fall asleep in a heap of tangled limbs, dirtied with semen and sweat, and he doesn’t feel the slightest desire to move.

“You were right,” he murmurs into the crook of Jaskier’s neck. “I needed that.”

Jaskier hums in agreement, his hands stroking Geralt’s side in that calming way of his. “I just want to take care of you,” he whispers lowly, much too sincere for their current circumstances. “I am happy when you let me.”

Geralt grunts. He cannot begin to fathom such desires. He will no doubt still selfishly continue to abuse them though.

A kiss is pressed against his temple and he is lulled into a deep sleep.

 

XV

Quite coincidentally, they spend the entire summer together. Geralt lets Jaskier drag him to beer festivals, and village fetes, and other such nonsense, and between the unhealthy amounts of alcohol and the distractions between the bedsheets, Geralt finds himself savouring the sight of Jaskier’s smile and the sound of his laughter, and forgetting all about the dire events in Cintra.

By late summer - around the time his Child Surprise ought to have been born - Jaskier takes him to the coast. There are less drinking distractions here but a plethora of sea monsters to keep Geralt occupied, and after the hunt, he returns to the little cottage on the shoreline that Jaskier has rented for the season and finds food and wine and laughter, and on some nights, a willing bed partner too.

It ought to be too much; this home that isn’t home. Perhaps it would be if it were for longer than a fortnight. As it is, it merely feels like a respite from reality. A dreamstate.

On the last day, Geralt wakes at dawn and carries his sleepy bard down to the ocean just as the first golden rays of sunlight sparkle across the ripples of distant waves. Jaskier murmurs against his shoulder. It’s early yet. The cove is deserted. His companion is not yet fully awake.

“Forgive me,” Geralt says, and brushes a kiss against his forehead as an apology that Jaskier is more likely to accept. “But I realised I had not yet lain with you in the ocean. An oversight on my part, and one that I wish to rectify before we depart.”

Jaskier hums in agreement and looks up at him with hazy, trusting, blue eyes. A slow smile spreads across his face as Geralt begins to wade into the waves, naked, with an equally nude man in his arms. “Geralt, how brazen of you. Tell me, are you a secret romantic or a secret exhibitionist?”

Geralt smirks. Somewhere along the lines, Jaskier’s teasing sense of humour had started to appeal to him. “Both? Neither?”

Jaskier throws his head back and laughs freely as the waves crash against his horizontal body. Geralt feels a smile on his own lips as he helps Jaskier wrap his legs around his waist instead and they continue their descent into the sparkling blue of the ocean.

“You are a marvel,” Jaskier says, as he moves his hips delightfully against Geralt’s hardening member.

Geralt shakes his head. Surely, he is talking about his endowment but it was best never to make assumptions with Jaskier. “I’m something alright,” he mutters - selfish, foolish, undeserving - and kisses his companion before he can speak otherwise as they move together in the ocean.

*

As summer dwindles and their time together continues, Geralt does not fall prey to such romanticism again. By the time autumn leaves are rotting into frosty ground, he parts for Kaer Morhen; unsettled that parting from the bard fills him with such sorrow.

 

XVI

Next Spring, they have only crossed paths for a week before Jaskier must return to Lettenhove for his youngest sister’s wedding. Geralt agrees to accompany him south until he finds his next contract but it’s been three days since they last passed a village large enough to have a noticeboard, and Geralt is beginning to wager that these rolling green hills they find themselves in are dull enough that even the monsters are kept at bay.

He wakes one night to the sharp and sour taste of pain in his mouth. He jerks upright in his bedroll, hand reaching for the dagger under his pillow as his enhanced eyes search the copse of trees for an intruder.

It doesn’t take long for him to realise that the only intruder here is Jaskier’s anxiety.

Geralt had noticed the return of Jaskier’s manifestations these last few days as they approached Lettenhove but usually the bard would swig a potion and strum his lute and find his own way back to sanity. His body has not had the opportunity to wrack itself into pain this great - pain potent enough to wake a witcher from a deep sleep across the distance of a campsite - in some years.

“Jaskier,” Geralt grunts, and Jaskier wheezes in response. “Where’s your medicine?”

Jaskier struggles for breath a few more times, pain flaring sharp enough to taste, before he bites out, “Gone.”

“You drank it all?”

By the light of the moon, he sees Jaskier nod his head, meek and embarrassed.

“Fuck.” Geralt grits his teeth.

Three days since the last village and Jaskier had been drinking it near constantly. Of course he had run dry. From what he could tell, the bard’s potion was some sort of muscle relaxant and painkiller to treat the physical pain these manifestations produced but presumably it also acted as a placebo for the mind. Geralt wracks his brain, trying to recall if he had any painkillers or sleeping draughts on him suitable for humans - or anything that he could fashion into one - but his alchemy knowledge is woefully limited to witcher physiology and he could risk killing the man if he attempted to craft something of his own.

Still, he cannot sleep through this vile taste in his mouth and he finds himself striding over to his ailing companion. Jaskier’s entire body is contorted in pain and his anguished expression stares up at him, helpless and ashamed.

The anxiety has manifested to the left-hand side of his chest as it has all week. Geralt kneels beside him and frowns, not knowing in the slightest what to do. The first time he witnessed these attacks he had used sex as a distraction but he daren’t use such a tactic now, not when Jaskier is already struggling for every breath. “What can I do?” he asks.

Jaskier makes a strangled sort of noise, indignant and embarrassed, but he struggles to roll onto his side nevertheless, exposing the side of him that is most pained. “It’s been some hours,” he says with some difficulty, “the strain of the muscles…”

“Ah,” Geralt says, understanding. The pain of the manifestation in his chest is one thing but it has persisted for so long this time that the muscles of his entire left side are aching from the strain. Geralt rucks his shirt up and starts massaging the tense muscles at his side; Jaskier has done this for him many times before but he rarely has cause to return the favour. He uses Jaskier’s little breathy moans as a guide until he is familiar enough to recognise the feeling of strained muscles below his fingertips and starts working through the tension methodically.

“Distract me?” Jaskier asks, sometime into this process. Evidently, the massage is not enough to clear his mind from the troubled thoughts that triggered this manifestation.

Geralt hesitates, unsure of Jaskier’s meaning. He is still too tense for sex. It is too dark for gwent. Geralt cannot play music. He has no idea what else constitutes a ‘distraction’ to the bard.

“Talk to me,” he clarifies.

Ah. Yes. He supposes he can do that. Geralt tells stories in a voice pitched low and soothing as he continues his careful ministrations. He begins with stories of beasts and contracts but, unconsciously, his thoughts begin to stray… he tells his companion of Kaer Morhen, of the other witchers, of curious fellows he has met on the Path… until, eventually, the pain eases its grip and Jaskier falls into fitful slumber.

Geralt wraps his arm around his waist, anchoring Jaskier to him even in sleep, and makes a mental note to stock up on human medical supplies at the very next town they frequent.

*

“We don’t have to go to Lettenhove,” Geralt tells him the next morning.

Jaskier sighs as he rolls up his bedroll. There’s still an undercurrent of pain to his scent that Geralt knows will not fade until they are far, far away from this place. Even when he is not actively experiencing the involuntary clench of muscles, he is still carrying the ache from experiencing them. Geralt needs to spirit the man to a bardic festival or some other extravagant artistic event, keep him drunk and happy and distracted for a good week, not continue to trudge towards the very place that causes him such distress.

“It’s my sister’s wedding,” he counters. “I cannot - I will not - miss it due to my own inexcusable weaknesses.”

“It is not a weakness,” Geralt says, which is ridiculous because of course it is. He clarifies, “It is not something in your control. Therefore you cannot be blamed for its hold over you.”

Jaskier grunts disbelievingly as he continues to pack camp with pained, aborted movements. “I’m going, Geralt,” he reiterates.

“Then I shall come with you.”

Jaskier comically drops a bag of belongings in his haste to look over at Geralt. “You hate weddings. You hate court, even. And you definitely, definitely hate my father.”

“I do,” Geralt acquiesces. “But if this is the attitude you take towards your own wellbeing, then I can scarcely trust you to last an hour in that man’s company, let alone three days.”

Jaskier clenches his jaw and rests his hands on his hips in the very picture of petulant protest, but then, he takes another look at Geralt’s determined expression and seems to realise that he has already lost the argument. He sighs, shoulders sagging. Then plasters a fake grin on his face and spreads his arms wide. “Then let’s go to my sister’s wedding!”

*

Geralt does buy sufficient drugs to treat Jaskier’s ailments in the next village. Jaskier drags him to a tailor to secure some ‘appropriate garments’ for the wedding, and Geralt begrudgingly accepts. They eat, they fuck, and Geralt does his best to distract Jaskier from his thoughts.

*

It’s not until they’re approaching the ghastly estate that Geralt has done so well to avoid these past ten years that he remembers the last time he was here. The performance they put on for Count Lettenhove and his guests. The way Jaskier screamed his name, unmistakable, in the act of carnal pleasure.

An anxiety of his own begins to encroach. These people know him as Jaskier’s lover. And now, their precious ‘Julian’ is returning, a decade later, with the same lover.

These nobles will make assumptions. The wrong assumptions.

He pulls on the reins and Roach comes to a stop as he looks over the valley and the grandiose castle built into the side of the ravine. It is a beautiful day in late Spring. The grass green, the bees humming, the river flowing like a whisper through the valley. A good day for a wedding.

“What is it?” Jaskier asks, from where he’s saddled behind him. “Please tell me the entire kingdom has burned to the ground.”

A corner of Geralt’s lips quirk into a smile. “Unfortunately not,” he says, and steers Roach a little to the side, until Jaskier can see the beautiful and unsettling sight for himself.

“Yes, it is rather distressingly pretty this time of year, isn’t it? Almost makes you feel fond for the place.”

His jovial tone is counteracted somewhat by the involuntary tensing of his chest that Geralt can feel pressed into his back.

Geralt frowns and attempts to verbalise his fears. “Will they think I am… accompanying you?”

“Oh,” Jaskier says, as if he had also not considered the ramifications of their actions during their last visit to this shithole. “No, I don’t think so. They have - what I call - a selective reasoning of these sorts of things. If I were returning with a ladyfriend with whom I have had known intimate relations, they would almost certainly jump to those conclusions, yes. But with a male escort…? No. If they are even capable of considering such things, then they would most certainly not voice them. Unless we give them reason to think otherwise, of course…”

He trails off. An invitation.

Geralt furrows his brow. “That would be unwise.”

“Yes,” Jaskier says hurriedly. “Yes, I agree. I’m rather fond of my sister. It would be a shame if we were escorted off the premises before the ceremony tomorrow afternoon.”

Geralt grunts, eyeing his companion curiously. “And after tomorrow afternoon?”

Jaskier smirks. “When my beloved sister is in a carriage on her way to her honeymoon, I dare say you may do whatever so pleases you.”

“Hmm,” Geralt says, pondering what would please him.

*

Jaskier insists on two rooms when they arrive, with the intent that it will dispel any rumours of their coupling before they can take hold. Geralt is left to his own devices for most of the afternoon, so he makes his way to the vast library and does what he can to bide the time.

He cannot avoid the courtly dinner and it is excruciatingly painful for the both of them. It is clear that Jaskier dotes on his youngest sister but barely tolerates the rest of the large extended family. Count Lettenhove at some point makes a pointed remark about Jaskier’s own marital status and he snaps back, “You shall never see me wed for as long as you live, father, solely because I know you desire it so,” and his words are vicious enough that the armed guards ready their swords before the Countess orders them to stand down. Needless to say Jaskier drinks more wine than is probably wise but it seems to ease his aches enough to survive the ordeal.

Afterwards, Geralt accompanies him to his rooms - much grander than Geralt’s own, with an attached bathing room and more besides - and notices that by the time the door is locked behind them, Jaskier’s breathing is stuttered once more. The nights are the hardest for him, Geralt knows, when his companion has no distractions from the anxiety that plagues him.

Geralt stands behind him and encompasses him in his arms. “Can you be quiet?” he whispers into Jaskier’s ear as his hand wanders to his crotch and squeezes meaningfully.

Jaskier whimpers but nods his head.

“Good,” Geralt whispers. “I know something that might help you.”

“Is it murdering my father?” Jaskier asks weakly, the clench of pain taking away any heat his words might have had otherwise.

Geralt smirks. “Only if you ask me to.”

He reaches into Jaskier’s bag for the long wide bandages he knows he carries and starts unravelling them.

“Uh,” Jaskier says hesitantly. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to focus your senses.”

“I… don’t know what that means,” Jaskier says, but starts stripping anyway.

“I read about it this afternoon,” Geralt states as Jaskier climbs onto the bed and Geralt uses the bandages to tie his legs to the bedpost - one, and then the other - until he is spread apart.

“I didn’t realise my family’s extensive collection of literature covered bondage techniques.”

“It doesn’t,” Geralt grunts, and reaches for his wrists to apply the same treatment there. “I’m extrapolating.”

“From what?”

“A medical textbook. On the remedies for the mind. This method is called grounding.”

“Ah,” Jaskier says with more clarity. “I’m aware of the term. I’ve never been able to achieve it to the desired effect in the past. The pain is always too severe for me to focus on anything but -” he cuts off as Geralt ties his wrist a little too firmly to the bedpost.

“Hence why I’m extrapolating,” Geralt reiterates with a testing tug of Jaskier’s binds.

Despite his protests, a certain part of Jaskier’s anatomy seems very onboard with this plan.

Geralt holds the final strip of fabric towards Jaskier with a question in his eyes. Jaskier nods and Geralt ties it effectively around his head, blinding him. “You will not be able to think about anything but me,” he murmurs and places a soft kiss on his stomach as a test. His bard arcs into the sensation with a surprised whimper and Geralt barely contains his grin at his obvious success.

*

He intends to render Jaskier exhausted enough to sleep soundly and so he teases him with single-minded determination for nearly an hour. Only singular purposeful touches at first; forcing his companion to focus solely on the touch at his ankle or the kiss on his knee or the lick across his shoulder. He avoids the left side of his chest throughout, directing Jaskier’s attention from it entirely until the muscles forget to be tense. He twists his nipples and swallows his gasps and teases his penis with featherlight kisses until Jaskier is struggling to stay silent.

When he finally begins to pleasure Jaskier in earnest with both his hands and his tongue, he reaches up to smother the high-pitched moans with his fingers. He daren’t risk the other guests finding out about their tryst but he also doesn’t want to choke the sounds from him when his companion’s lungs are no doubt still aching from the attack. This seems like a reasonable solution.

Jaskier moans around his fingers and his seed pulses into Geralt’s mouth and then he collapses against the soft bedsheets; his body as lax as a rag doll.

Geralt huffs a sigh of relief at the success of his plan and starts untying Jaskier’s limbs from the bed, examining them for damage as he does so. There are red marks but none that ought to last part sunrise. He kisses the angered skin anyway, just to give Jaskier one last conflicting sensation and hear his tired whimper in kind. Then, he removes the blindfold and Jaskier looks up at him with wide, glassy eyes. “Stay?” he asks.

He ought not to. He had slipped into a meditative state while working him over but now the intimacy that they shared is impossible to deny. He has not even climaxed himself. It was not necessary. He does not want to think about what that means.

He ought to leave. But then, he hears Jaskier’s skittering heart and knows how close he is to experiencing another painful and sleepless night if he does. Geralt’s presence makes him feel safe, he knows.

Geralt presses his nose into Jaskier’s hair and inhales the familiar scent there - lavender has become his own anchor; his own safety.

He nods against him, relishing the scent that travels at the movement. “Very well,” he says, and collapses against him, barely having the energy to pull the stitched furs over them before falling into a deep sleep.

*

The wedding is dull, and long, and suffocating as he dutifully models the ridiculously frilly doublet Jaskier had insisted he wear. His companion has even braided his hair to suit the occasion, weaving seasonal flowers into the needless contraption. He grouched about the process the entire time but Jaskier only smiled sweetly at him and brushed a kiss against his cheek. “You did not have to come here with me,” he reminded him, “but I appreciate you for doing so, and even more so for allowing me such simple pleasures.”

Geralt could not argue against such sentiments. He drinks wine. He eats well. He watches Jaskier dance with guest after guest, and the Count glare and grouse and grumble about his disgraced son. As the heat of the summer’s day peaks, the sister has her hand tied to another. There are cheers and an intolerable number of speeches and eventually the carriage arrives to spirit the sister and her new husband away to their private celebrations.

“So,” Jaskier whispers into his ear as they watch the newlyweds depart. “Have you had time to consider what pleases you?”

Geralt smirks. He had decided, in fact, as soon as the Count had opened his damn mouth at dinner last night and dared to insult his bard. “I have,” he says, and then he strides over to the smug face of Jaskier’s father and punches him squarely in the jaw.

*

The sheer joy that rolls off Jaskier is infectious and Geralt finds that he is laughing alongside his bard as they run hand-in-hand down the corridor towards their bedchambers away from the angry wedding party and their armoured guards.

“You are insane,” Jaskier says, breathless and overjoyed, and then he’s pushing Geralt against the wall and kissing him soundly.

Geralt only startles for a moment before he is returning the victorious kiss just as fiercely and turning them until Jaskier is pressed against the walls and making delightful sounds around Geralt’s tongue.

The clatter of armour breaks their interlude and then Jaskier is tugging his arm again, urging him to continue their hurried escape.

*

It is not until they are back on the road with Roach by their side that Geralt realises that was the one and only time they have kissed spontaneously outside their carnal activities.

Geralt had resisted throughout their entire lazy summer together last year; he had tampered many urges to kiss him sleepily in the morning and drunkenly at festivals and softly by the firelight. He had resisted it all knowing that his companion would misinterpret a kiss as a request for something more.

And, yet, one unconscious moment fuelled by spontaneous joy is enough to override such ingrained restrictions.

What unsettles him most is how natural it had felt; how easily he could have slipped kisses into their summer with the same careless abandon; how Jaskier might have accepted them with just as much jest as the one they had just shared. The very thought of it causes something to stir deep within him; something he might be very close to naming.

 

XVII

Geralt keeps his distance for a while after that. The wedding, as a whole, had unsettled their usual balance of things and he concludes that it’s best not to proceed with their intimate activities until time has healed any raw emotion.

What’s curious, though, is that the bard lets him.

When they reunite once more, a couple of months after the wedding, Jaskier is by his side for weeks without offering so much as a willing hand.

This has happened before, of course. Sometimes they fuck, and sometimes they don’t. What’s curious is that Geralt can find no discernible pattern to explain the dichotomy. It seems to have nothing to do with Jaskier’s relations at the time, which would be the most obvious conclusion to draw, as the bard will happily share his bed whether or not there is someone eyeing him at the bar or waiting for him to return at some estate or other.

The uncertainty doesn’t bother him but his inability to understand the motive does.

One night, when they have both drunk too much ale after a successful hunt, Geralt dares broach the topic, stumbling and awkward - “We haven’t been fucking.”

Jaskier looks briefly startled by the abrupt turn of conversation but expertly discards his surprise with a lick of lips and an effortless shrug as he studies his companion over the beer-soaked table. “No, I suppose we haven’t.”

Geralt frowns. “Why?”

Jaskier chuckles, his head rolling back onto the top of the booth, his shoulders moving against the cushioned backrest, and his feet kicked up onto the table. God forbid this man ever occupy a chair in a normal fashion. “Because I don’t fuck people when they’re not interested,” he says with a knowing smile, taking a sip from his tankard. There is a ring on his thumb now, a family signet bestowed to him at the wedding, and it makes an unnatural clanking sound against the wooden tankard. It occurs to him that his companion must be thirty years old by now.

“You can tell when I’m not interested?”

Jaskier rolls his eyes and puts down his ale with a weighty sigh. His lips are still wet from the alcohol and Geralt finds his eyes drawn in as Jaskier’s tongue peeks out to lick them clean. “Oh, I can tell,” he says with a raised eyebrow as he studies his companion. Geralt flushes; caught.

Then Jaskier’s eyes stray to the centre of the tavern where youths are still dancing to the raucous songs played by the mediocre bard. “You don’t get as far as I do in the bardic profession without being able to tell if someone’s interested in your music - or, in your case, medical aid - or if they’re after another instrument entirely.”

“Is that so?”

Jaskier hums in agreement and expounds his theory without any further prompting, “Indeed. So I can tell you, my friend, that for these last few months you’ve been acting in a manner that I’ve long since interpreted as a ‘stand by’ mode of sorts. It’s… distant. Contemplative. You are not uninterested but neither are you eager. Years ago, I tried to initiate something with you while you were in this state, just before that business with the bruxa in fact -”

Geralt fidgets against the booth at the uneasy reminder; remembering the bard’s tongue against his entrance, remembering the way he had clenched at the bedroll and tampered down the sounds on his lips…

“I had offered you a hand while we were travelling in those months previous. You accepted my offer but your reaction was… absent. You didn’t say ‘no’ but neither were you eager to participate. I know you better now.” He shrugs. “You’ll come to me when you’re ready.”

“Will I?” Geralt asks, and resents the way his eyes fall to Jaskier’s lips (again) as he licks them.

“Oh yes,” he says. “Almost definitely. Very soon, I think. You enjoy being taken too much to resist for much longer,” he says and Geralt near-chokes on his ale.

Jaskier smirks at this display. “Oh yes, definitely soon,” he murmurs, his eyes roaming over Geralt’s body with delight. “You want it. You are merely contemplating how you need to take it…” he trails off and Geralt blooms hot under the scrutiny.

“Well,” Jaskier says, decisively, standing up and brushing the crumbs off his doublet. “I shall leave you to your brooding. Let me know when the mood strikes you.” He winks and subjects Geralt to a dramatic bow before sauntering into the youths and finding a woman to bed for the night.

*

They are camping in the middle of fucking nowhere by the time Geralt is able to verbalise his request. Jaskier has just finished bidding goodnight to Roach at the edge of the clearing and is walking towards his bedroll, ready to settle down for the night, when Geralt darts his hand towards him.

Jaskier startles at the sudden movement but doesn’t break away from the touch as Geralt achingly curls his hand around his hip.

“I know what I want.”

“Oh?” Jaskier’s countenance is overtaken with delight as he turns into Geralt’s tentative embrace. His eyes are alight with curiosity and his lips are upturned at the corners with coy interest. The dwindling firelight casts a warm light and long shadows over his features and it renders his soft expression magical; as enchanting as a firefly, a fae, a succubus… Geralt has fallen under his spell.

He is drifting in this ethereal realm, dreamlike and tender, as he raises his hand - rough with sword callouses, scarred by beasts, burdened by innocent blood - to touch his companion’s beautiful face. Jaskier’s breath hitches but his eyes never leave his as Geralt slowly moves his thumb across the surface. Jaskier shudders, his heart races, his eyes glisten in the darkness. He is too beautiful for this world of beasts and blood, yet he has walked it alongside his Witcher for a dozen years with only a handful of external scars to show for his efforts. He ought to have turned bitter or callous or remorseful as all men do on the Path but his spirit is still as pure as the day they met. The man simply exudes love.

Geralt bathes in it, habitually and wontingly. He is selfish. Undeserving. He craves the man’s love, yet strives to reject it. He wants what Jaskier offers but is terrified of it. (He wants but he doesn’t want; a paradox.)

He daren’t speak any of these thoughts aloud. He rests his forehead against Jaskier’s and allows the familiar scent - lute, lavender, lust - to soothe the anxieties inside of him. He can feel Jaskier’s skittering breath and pounding heartbeat and his cautious hands as they come to rest on his waist. He knows what he wants. Yes, he knows.

He silences the last whisper of protest in his mind and captures Jaskier’s lips ever so softly between his own. Jaskier lets out a muffled whimper of surprise but before Geralt can withdraw, his hands are squeezing his waist in a plea to stay and his lips are moving beneath his, and Geralt can think of nothing other than the tingle in his lips and the warmth that spreads through him with every touch. The kiss is tender and sweet and everything that Geralt has denied them.

Geralt is more ruined than he will ever admit to being when they break apart. “I want you to take me,” he confesses. Take all of me. “But don’t stop kissing me.”

A slow, eager smile spreads over Jaskier’s face as his hands slip from Geralt’s waist to run along his sides and up into his hair. Geralt whimpers at the touch, rendered as weak under his companion’s gentle hands as a blushing virgin.

“Good,” Jaskier praises, with a lingering press of lips that sends Geralt’s head spinning. “Knew you’d get there.”

Geralt can only produce a strangled moan, his lips still tingling pleasantly, when Jaskier kisses him once more and doesn’t stop until he has fully enacted Geralt’s wishes.

*

Afterwards, Geralt’s jaw aches and his tongue is numb but he can’t stop moving his mouth against Jaskier’s. He wants to spend eternity kissing him. He yearns to make up for all their lost time but he knows he cannot indulge; if this act were to become habitual then it could easily be misconstrued as romantic intention.

At the hazy edges of the night, he can convince himself that it would not be such a terrible thing to openly accept Jaskier’s affection, but the reality of it is too daunting to comprehend. He wants these tender moments and these loving kisses but he does not know the first thing about returning his affections in kind. He is made of harsh edges and harsher words. He is a cold stone fortress with no hope of lowering the defences.

It would be intolerably cruel to ask for Jaskier’s love while unable to return it.

But, he can have this. He can have these sweet kisses under the guise of exhaustion. He can have these tender touches under the shadows of the night. He can horde all of Jaskier’s whimpers and laughs and gasps and smiles until he is ready to accept this thing between them.

And so, he kisses and kisses and kisses him, until they fall asleep with their lips still resting together, and by morn he convinces himself that it never happened at all.

 

XVIII

“It’s my birthday.”

Geralt grunts from the bed and throws Jaskier the apple he had prepared. “I know,” he says, not looking up from his silver sword as he tends to it. There’s a nick near the hilt that needs to be seen to before long; they ought to divert to a blacksmith when they have wrapped up business here.

“Oh,” Jaskier says, catching the fruit effortlessly. “You remembered. How sweet.”

Geralt grunts and looks around this shitty fisherman’s hut for a cloth he can use to protect the sword. They were invited to use the recently unoccupied cottage in exchange for taking down the harpy nest responsible for the occupant’s death. Geralt had disposed of the beasts yesterday but Jaskier had convinced him to stay another day and has already pocketed anything that could possibly be of use. In fact, that probably explains his early morning jaunt; he was no doubt pillaging the barrels on the pier for stashed alcohol. “Did you find any cloth on your travels?” he asks Jaskier, who is still turning over the apple contemplatively in his hands.

Rather than answer, a curious spark lights his eyes. That never bodes well. Geralt is already sighing his exasperation when Jaskier extracts a bandage from his pack and unrolls it with a dramatic flick of his wrist. “Like this, you mean?”

“No,” Geralt grunts. “Big enough for a sword.”

Jaskier smirks. “Well, if you’re looking for somewhere to put your sword…”

Geralt closes his eyes and rubs at his temples in exasperation. To be fair, he ought to have learned by now not to give Jaskier such an easy opening.

A sudden spike of lust causes Geralt to open his eyes and what he sees leaves him momentarily speechless. The red apple is in Jaskier’s mouth, prying his jaw apart, and he is expertly tying the bandage around his head, keeping it in place. Geralt licks his suddenly very dry lips at the sight of Jaskier gagged.

Geralt breathes, deep and slow, until he feels assured enough to address Jaskier’s nonsense. He stands up, carefully puts his sword aside, and stalks towards him. Jaskier’s eyes are wide and the addictive scent of his lust surrounds him by the time Geralt is reaching for the bandage.

Jaskier frowns as Geralt starts unravelling it. He’s sure he would be pouting if he could. “It’s not safe,” Geralt explains to his petulant expression as he removes it. “You could bite into the apple and choke on it; unable to chew or swallow. We’re not doing that.”

Jaskier has sagged in defeat by the time Geralt is removing the apple from his lips - slick with saliva already; teeth marks on the flesh - and he strokes his hair in what he hopes is a reassuring manner. “Why do you want it?”

He is afraid he has been too blunt and his question may be misinterpreted as a dismissal instead of concern but Jaskier knows him and his defeated expression turns into a sultry grin. He leans forward to brush his lips against Geralt’s, flirtatious, as always. “It’s my birthday. Is that not reason enough?”

“No,” Geralt states.

Jaskier searches his eyes, no doubt trying to weigh up if he can risk lying again, before falling back with a sigh, looking oddly shy. “You may have noticed that there are things I suppress myself from saying when I am with you.” Geralt startles. He had observed this, of course, but did not expect the issue to be addressed so explicitly. “You do not wish to hear them, I know that, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to restrain myself especially when you…” he trails off and takes a bite of the apple still held in Geralt’s hand. He chews, and swallows, and then looks up at Geralt with an enchanted smile. “Are sweet enough to remember my birthday.”

“I remember every year,” Geralt says, confused.

“I know,” he says softly, and smiles even softer.

Geralt looks down at the apple in his hand, a bite taken out of it, and contemplates the options before him. He could gag Jaskier with his own fist stuffed inside his mouth; feel those glorious teeth marks on him instead. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what his companion truly wants. He cannot read his bed partners as well as Jaskier can but he knows that smile and what it betrays and he knows his own traitorous heart-fluttering reaction to it.

Fuck.

He knows what he is about to offer and already fucking regrets it.

He swallows his nerves and looks back to his bard. His hair is still tufted from sleep, there’s a drop of apple juice on his lips, and his eyes are blue, so blue, like the ocean that lies just outside their reach…

“Or,” he says, and Jaskier’s eyes snap to his. Every word is a terrifying step over an abyss. “You could… tell me.”

Jaskier’s breath stutters on an exhale. Geralt can hear his heart skip and then begin to pound; there is anticipation souring the potent scent of lust. His eyes don’t leave Geralt’s. “Tell you…?”

“Everything that you want to say. Take me however you desire and let me hear it.”

“Geralt,” Jaskier says brokenly, his Adam’s apple bobbing with evident nerves. “I do not speak lightly. There are things I want to say that you are not ready to hear. That you may never want to hear.” He swallows, again, his eyes darting across the room before returning to Geralt. “You do not know what you are asking for.”

“I know,” Geralt says sincerely. He will call him ‘darling’. He will speak all manner of degenerate desires. He may even tell him that he loves him. “But what is said in the heat of the moment is easily dismissed by the light of day, wouldn’t you say?”

Jaskier stares at him, his heart still pounding, as he considers the offer. Geralt could not have stated it any clearer: whatever he says will be forgotten. Geralt can offer him this window of opportunity to express his deepest desires and then they can board it shut and pretend there was never anything there at all. The question is: does Jaskier want this illusion? Or would it only serve to hurt him?

Jaskier ponders this for so long that Geralt is about to rescind his offer - to plug Jaskier’s mouth with his fist as he originally requested and fuck him soundly until this conversation is forgotten - but then Jaskier, ever so carefully, nods his head. “You will forgive all that I say?”

Geralt nods his head and kisses him because he doesn’t know how to confirm it otherwise.

Seemingly appeased, Jaskier breaks the kiss with another nod. “Well then, my love -” he says, and pauses to search Geralt’s eyes at the endearment. A test. One that Geralt is determined to pass as he looks back at Jaskier unblinkingly and ignores the pounding of his own heart. Jaskier smiles; his hand stroking Geralt’s jaw. “I would like your beautiful body naked and splayed out on this poor excuse of a bed.”

Geralt nods and wordlessly begins to action his request. He tries not to find the similarities between this exercise of trust and their last - when Jaskier was following his every command - but it’s a comparison that’s easy to grasp.

“Wait,” Jaskier says, halting Geralt’s hand on the hem of his tunic.

Geralt looks at him, perplexed.

Jaskier kisses the concern from the corner of his mouth. “It was not intended as an order, dear heart. It was a request for me to touch you.”

“Oh.”

Jaskier smiles and leans forward to kiss him again. “I would very much like,” he says, taking the tunic out of Geralt’s hands and completing his aborted task, “to strip you myself,” he says with an appreciative look at his bared chest, “so that I might,” hands, now, spreading greedily across his muscles, “take the time,” he leans down to lick across his ribs, “to fully appreciate,” a sucking of a nipple, “all that is laid before me.”

Geralt finds he cannot speak. He nods his consent instead, threading his fingers through Jaskier’s hair to follow his movements as he continues lavishing attention on his chest and his abdomen and then, strangely, also his arms.

“Is there any part of you that is not magnificent?” he asks as he kisses along his bicep.

Geralt flusters beneath Jaskier’s extensive ministrations. They have never loitered here before. No lover has ever taken the time to caress him so. A whore, occasionally, will trace his scars with titillating interest, but never his entire body with the affection that Jaskier displays so ardently. He regrets this already but he cannot take it back. Jaskier has done so much for him and if this is all he requests in return then he can have it. Geralt hides his discomfort as Jaskier strips him naked and kisses every part of him, a constant stream of praise falling from his lips as he does so, all of it undeserving.

But Jaskier knows this, of course he does.

“You do not believe you deserve such care and attention,” he murmurs into the inside of Geralt’s elbow as they lie naked on the bed. “I know it makes you uncomfortable. I won’t loiter much longer but I…” he kisses the tender skin there and it stokes the fire building steadily beneath his skin. “I want you to know how much I desire you. I want you to understand the depth of it. In the hopes that one day you will understand how magnificent you are.”

“I understand,” Geralt grits as Jaskier turns his attention to the inside of his thighs. “I understand that you are deluded.”

Jaskier shakes his head with a sad laugh. “No, darling,” he says, and Geralt swallows the emotion that word engenders. “It is you who is deluded if you truly do not see how desirable you are.”

“I’m a scarred, monstrous, deviant, impotent, Witcher -”

There are fingers on his lips, silencing him. Jaskier looks down at him with those earnest blue eyes of his. “You are a marvel,” he says, kissing him when he deems his fingers not sufficient enough. “And I would be grateful if you ceased talking about my very good friend and excellent bed partner in such a derogatory manner.”

“They’re facts,” he rebutts. “I have scars. I am a witcher. I am unable to bear children -”

“But you are not a monster,” Jaskier retorts. “I will not tolerate that word at the best of times, let alone in my bed.”

Geralt breaks his gaze, teeth gritted, annoyed by Jaskier’s constant unsolicited kindness.

He hears Jaskier sigh and then feels gentle kisses along his tensed jaw. “It is unfair that you look so gorgeous even when vexed. It makes it impossible to stay mad at you.”

And under his sweet kisses, Geralt finds it is impossible to stay mad at him too, as he turns his head to meet his searching lips.

Jaskier kisses him deeply, and well, and takes the opportunity to straddle his waist as he does so. “I love kissing you,” he murmurs when he breaks apart. “I am always so glad when you let me. Do you know my favourite?” he asks with an eager smile, leaning down for another quick meeting of lips. “The kiss I think about when I’m missing you?” he asks against his lips. “What I recall when I’m on my lonesome and having to resort to the pleasure of my own hand?”

“What?” Geralt growls against him, and rolls his hips as if to remind his bard that he’d rather not talk all day.

Jaskier smirks, and raises his eyebrow to signal that he has heard Geralt’s silent request. “At Novigrad Theatre. Backstage. I was wearing lipstick,” he divulges, his thumb pushing against Geralt’s lips as if in memory of that day. Gods, that was so fucking long ago. “When I could see the evidence of my lips against yours… smeared all across your face.” His thumb moves across his cheeks down his throat, mirroring the movements of their desperate kisses that day. Geralt grinds his hips upwards again, needing the friction at the memory of that time. “Made me feel claimed by you. Like I was yours. You loved it too, I know,” Jaskier teases, cupping Geralt’s cock. “That was the best fuck of my life, did I tell you that?”

A moan gets caught - gets fucking strangled - in Geralt’s throat and it only widens Jaskier’s smile.

“The best back then, of course,” he amends. “You’ve redefined my best at least three times by now.”

“Tell me,” Geralt gasps as Jaskier starts palming his aching cock.

“Tell you what?” he teases, as he takes to rubbing the head of his cock with his thumb.

Geralt resents the way he bucks into it; seeking out Jaskier’s touch at all times. “Your best now. Was it with me?”

“Of course it was with you,” Jaskier says as if any other answer is preposterous, as if he doesn’t have a dozen lovers every month by which to draw comparison. Before he can answer, he is ducking down to swallow Geralt’s cock in one delightful purposeful move.

Fuck,” Geralt swears, tangling his fingers in Jaskier’s hair once more as his mind temporarily derails entirely.

Jaskier lets him go far too soon. “You taste so good,” he says, licking his lips. “I never told you that either. I love sucking your cock -”

Geralt has to tune out his words as he begins monologuing about his manhood. It’s obscene and far too much and Geralt may now be able to admit to himself that he has queer desires but his bard occupies another level of depravity entirely.

And then, it gets worse.

“- though, gods, how I ache to put my tongue between your cheeks again. One day you’ll let me return there and I’ll make it so good, sweetheart, I’ll have you writhing on my tongue, begging for it -”

Geralt makes another obscene sound and yanks Jaskier up by his hair to silence his rambling with his mouth. His lust spikes and he moans into it and Geralt realises his mistake too late.

Fuck,” Jaskier says, licking his lips, “I love it when you do that too. Pick me up, throw me around, treat me like a three-ducet whore -”

This time, it’s Geralt swearing, and he leans up for another filthy kiss to stop Jaskier from extrapolating on that.

“You wanted to know my favourite time, darling?” he asks, returning to the conversation that Geralt assumed had been abandoned. “The first time you let me take you -”

The memory comes back to him. A barn. Straw. Early morning. Jaskier: gentle but determined. His blinding, carefree, smile afterwards. He thinks of it all too often. It might remain his favourite too.

“Oh darling, can I fuck you? Just like I did then? Please, sweetheart, let me open you up, nice and slow, I want to -”

Geralt regrets this entire endeavour. He can try and ignore Jaskier’s ramblings all he wants but deep inside, a depraved little monster craves every word. “Yes,” he murmurs against his lips. “Yes, take me.”

Jaskier groans before he seems to remember he is granted speech and translates his desires instead into mindless babbling as he reaches for the oil and coats his fingers liberally in it. Lavender penetrates the air.

“Oh, I love that too,” he says, cutting off his own rambling about Geralt’s voice to state whatever is apparently more important at this moment. “When you do your little scenting thing. You like the smell of lavender, I know. I never would have thought of making homemade lubricant but what can I say? You’re my muse. My inspiration. I love it most of all when you scent me. When you run your nose across my throat or push it into my hair or across my chest when I’m covered in your cum. Makes me feel owned. Like I’m yours.”

Geralt is very grateful for the insistent fingers at his entrance so he doesn’t have to hear the rest of those thoughts. He hadn’t realised his companion had noticed the frequency with which he scents him.

“Though, I must admit it warms my heart the most -”

Oh, great, he wasn’t done.

“- when you do it for a sense of safety.”

Fuck.

“When we do something new or when we’re falling asleep or when I used to push you too soon because I was an unthinking idiot and you’d… you’d smell me and you’d be okay. Your whole body would relax. Made me feel like I was taking care of you, which is all I want to do, darling -”

He groans, digging his fingers into Jaskier’s skin, and pretending for his own sake that his distress is at the bodily intrusion not at the goddamn pet name.

“It’s all I want to do,” he repeats. “Oh, darling -

Geralt will not survive this. That word alone is going to kill him.

“You feel so good,” he purrs. “I love taking my time with you like this. I wish you would let me more often. I love to feel you with my fingers before I feel you with my cock, I love to feel it, and oh, how I love to tease you -”

“Trust me,” Geralt grumbles, “teasing is the one thing you do very well.”

Jaskier playfully nips at his shoulder. “Not my only talent, surely?” he says, and thrusts his hips until the wet head of his manhood smears against his abdomen. “Only I’m fairly sure you enjoy taking my cock too.”

Geralt resents the gargled noise that leaves his mouth at that implication. “Then shut up and prove it.”

Jaskier laughs, which was not the reaction he had been hoping for, and instead of removing his hands, adds another damn finger.

Geralt growls his protest and is given a monologue in response about how ‘sexy’ his ‘guttural sounds’ and how ‘cute’ his ‘grunts of protest’ are as Jaskier ploughs him relentlessly with the trio of fingers inside him.

“Jaskier -” he gasps.

Oh,” he moans, his fingers actually stuttering to a halt. “But that must be my favourite sound of all. I love it when you say my name like that, dear heart. Oh, I love it so much. I just want to fucking bathe in it. I want to hear it for eternity. When I pass away in my bed as an old man, or get swallowed whole by a kikimora, I dearly hope that is the last sound I hear -”

Jaskier -

“Oh!” he exclaims. “And even more so when you get all wound up like that. Desperation laced with anger. It’s so fucking beautiful that I swear sometimes just the sound of your raised voice does things to me -”

“If you don’t hurry up, bard, I’ll do more than just raise my voice at you -”

Jaskier laughs again. He wants to hate it - because he is still rather annoyed - but the sound is so fucking rare when they’re fucking, and so fucking hallowed, that he finds himself smitten at the sound instead. Jaskier is happy, he is carefree, he feels safe enough to tell me all this, to laugh with me…

He is turned onto his side, and Jaskier is breaching him behind him, and the similarity is enough to transport him back to the first time even without the earlier mention of it. The memory of straw in his mouth and in Jaskier’s hair and all the filthy things that he had imagined his lover would say… how deeply he coveted those unspoken words… and how wrong his imagination had been.

These words aren’t the sordid verbalisations of the act that he had imagined - the words he had heard whispered to the woman between them, transposed - no, these words are benedictions

Darling,” he’s saying, and Geralt had at least imagined that all too well but instead of describing the actual act, he’s baring his heart instead. “You feel amazing, you always feel amazing. Sweetheart, you have no idea how much I love this. How honoured I am that you let me have this part of you that no one else has ever -” a sob sounds and his arms tighten and something tightens in Geralt’s chest in response, “- you trust me to take care of you and that’s all I want... Just trust me with your heart, my love, you can, and I’ll -” he sniffles. “I’ll take good care of that too.”

Geralt’s heart wrenches as the words and a whimper leaves his lips. It’s too much and his mind screams at him to run but his body needs release and he can’t tear himself away even if he wanted. He claws at the shitty bedding below them, rutting into the moth-eaten mattress that still smells like dried fish, as if it might grant him some relief. He needs, he needs… he reaches for Jaskier’s head and wrenches it down towards him.

“Of course, of course my love, it’s too much, I -” he’s saying because Jaskier knows, he always knows, as he angles his head just right in the crook of Geralt’s neck so he can breathe in the scent of lavender. “It’s okay,” he’s murmuring, “I’m here. You’re safe. I’ve got you. Just breathe it in. It’s yours. I’m yours.”

His voice is breaking with every word and Geralt can smell salt in the air and feel the tears drip down his neck and guilt twists deep within him because he promised himself that he’d never hurt Jaskier like this again, but he has, and it cuts deeper than he thought possible. “I’m sorry,” he pleads into the scent of him, praying that his lover will forgive him for such an oversight. The mockery of lovemaking would be painful for him; he should have foreseen it.

“No, no,” Jaskier is murmuring, casting aside his apology with kisses against the scant inch of skin that he can reach while his head is nestled so tightly against Geralt’s. “You have nothing to apologise for, my love, you are perfect in everything that you- It is me that should be sorry. My darling white wolf, I- you should know that I- I-”

“I know,” Geralt gasps, praying that he won’t say it. “I know that you do.”

Tears wrack Jaskier and his thrusts are relentless and between the pain and the pleasure, Geralt tightens his fingers in his hair because he doesn’t know how else to say I know you love me and it’s okay.

“Good,” Jaskier breathes, but it doesn’t sound good, it sounds pained. “I want you to carry it. I want you to know. You deserve to know. You deserve to know that you are -”

His hands tighten over Geralt’s, a wordless groan pushes against his cheek, and then he feels hot seed spill inside him. “Loved,” he says, croaked out, like the rusty join of a door that ought to have remained closed. “That I love you. I love you. I -”

Geralt doesn’t hear the rest, shouting out his own release as it spurts beneath them, sticky and warm.

For a moment, they lie entangled, gasping for breath. The world before him has shifted; grown brighter without the movement of the sun. And then, the scent of lavender is retreating and all Geralt can smell are the tears absorbed into his own skin and the fresh salt still being shed as Jaskier extracts himself from the bed.

Fuck.

He never should have pushed this. He should have let those words stay buried. He thought he could hear them and cast them aside. He can’t. They’ve burrowed beneath his skin; settled between his ribs. They echo in his mind, in his heart, in his very veins…

He turns to see the naked curve of Jaskier’s spine, the perfect canvas painted by the slatted light from the broken window shutters of the fisherman’s hut.

Time hangs still. A precipice; a choice. If he says nothing Jaskier will leave broken-hearted, believing his love is futile. If he reaches out - fuck, if he reaches out...

His hand twitches as his side, itching with desire for the unknown, but before he can reach for him, Jaskier has gone.

*

Geralt’s heart stutters as he watches his lover depart; the door of the cottage creaking closed behind him.

The sudden distance between them is impassable; the difference between his desires and his reality as wide and deep as an abyss.

His love is buried too deep in his chest to vocalise. Too uncertain, too raw, too foreign. He has never loved. He does not know how to.

He feels it though; the strange feeling no longer rattling inside him but fused to his bones. He knows its name but he dare not speak it.

I did not care that you were queer, Geralt. I cared that you were falling in love.

He cannot watch Jaskier die - today, a year, twenty years from now - with those words spoken between them; solidifying the bond. He cannot name this thing - cannot give it power - because to do so would be to make himself vulnerable to its potency. A Witcher knows better than to show his weakness.

Love is a distraction. It would have gotten you both killed.

He wants it, but he is afraid of it, and Jaskier - unknowing all of this - walks away.

*

Eventually, Geralt moves. He packs his meagre belongings and follows Jaskier’s scent to the water. The rickety fisherman’s pier stretches out into the cloudy bay, and the overcast sky darkens the water into something terrifying in its unknowns. He stands there for a moment, contemplating the untold depths of the ocean, before his aching heart gives way to panic. Drowners. Harpies. Drowned Dead. Sirens. Fuck, even fucking selkiemores. And Jaskier, out here, alone.

He calls out his name and motions to drop his swords but his panicked voice doesn’t make it past the first syllable before something suddenly breaks through the stillness.

Jaskier, naked, with wet slicked-back hair, emerging from the deep.

Relief surges through Geralt - he’s alive, he’s alive, he’s alive - before it’s suddenly replaced with outrage when he realises just how desperately the man is gasping for breath. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Jaskier opens his eyes with a sharp, surprised inhale and stares right back at Geralt. He laughs breathlessly, still struggling for air. “Don’t tell me you’ve never had the urge to drown yourself in the open ocean.”

Geralt’s hand clenches the strap of his sword case, which he had been ready to discard not a moment ago. He wants to drown himself in the ocean every time he looks into Jaskier’s eyes.

Take me with you. Show me what it is like to embrace the depths instead of fearing them. Take me in your hands and show me.

Jaskier stares back at him, as if challenging him to voice such desires.

There are no tears on his cheeks any longer, or if there are, they are disguised by the more potent salt of the sea.

“You need space,” Geralt states.

Jaskier sighs and looks away at the distant village further along the shoreline. He nods, water dripping from his hair and back into the bay.

“I need to fulfil a contract north of here,” he says. This conversation is too familiar to one of rejection, he realises when he notes Jaskier’s clenched jaw and vacant expression. “I’m not leaving you,” he insists. “Not unless you…?”

“I don’t know,” a voice whispers from the ocean.

The words break something within him; the hope he had been harbouring, snapped. Geralt licks his dry lips, looks down at the splintered wood beneath his feet, and reminds himself that he doesn’t have the right to demand anything from him; not when he is the reason for the tears in the sea. If Jaskier wants to leave, so be it. “Very well,” he says.

He looks back at the bay, where his lover’s body is dwarfed by the vastness of what surrounds him. He could make this right. He could discard his swords. He could step into the ocean. He could take Jaskier in his arms and tell him ‘I feel this but I am petrified’ and allow him to kiss the truth from his lips.

But Jaskier needs space. And Geralt is in no way prepared to admit to this daunting thing inside him. Time apart to reflect on their circumstances would, perhaps, do them both some good.

He clears his throat and tightens the grip on his bags, preparing to leave. “Take care of yourself,” meaning I care about you and come back to me and all the other things he cannot say. “Find me when you’re ready.”

He is halfway down the pier when he hears Jaskier’s reply; a broken whisper carried by the morning breeze. “What if I am never ready?”

His footsteps falter. The weight of that sentiment sinks down into his chest, deepening the ravine that already resides until Geralt can feel the howling wind rush through it, cold and bitter. He knew there would be a day that the bard would leave and never return. He didn’t think it would be today. He didn’t think he’d be the one to walk away.

 

XIX

Jaskier comes to him a fortnight later. They fuck at first but it’s weighted and absent, and they seem to both come to the conclusion that it’s not something they want to be doing. So Geralt takes contracts and Jaskier takes up courtly invitations and when winter comes Geralt goes to Kaer Morhen so Vesemir can tell him exactly how stupid he’s been.

It’s Lambert, actually, that deals the devastating blow. “Trust you to fuck up a regular lay,” he snorts derisively, drunk on Witcher-strength spirits. “Do you know how fucking rare that is for freaks like us? Do you even recognise how fucking lucky you are? That someone loves you. That someone gives a rat’s arse if you live or die. It’s a minor miracle. And somehow you find a way to fuck it up,” he tuts. “Fucking typical.”

Geralt returns in the Spring, determined not to ‘fuck it up’ only to find a letter in Jaskier’s hand and three more in his satchel. The Countess, it seems, has forgiven him for his trespasses.

 

XX

A week later, Geralt accompanies him to the estate that stinks of honey and chamomile. He wanted to see it, just the once; to see the place that took his bard from him. It’s just about as nauseating as he had assumed.

He understands why Jaskier has been so torn about his love for the Countess. The location is different but the politics are the same. This must remind him of home. He must occasionally get those painful clutches in his chest at the similarities. But, he loves her, that much is apparent.

Countess Marina de Stael is undeniably beautiful. She is older than Jaskier, in her late forties perhaps, with caramel skin and sharp eyes and long, flowing locks pinned artfully behind her. She is recently widowed and childless. Geralt wonders if she is looking to his bard for the remedy.

Geralt suffers through a courtly dinner, watches how Jaskier watches her with eager, heartfelt eyes, and feels wretched at the sight. He pushes his distress aside. He has no right to jealousy. He had his chance - the ocean laid before him - and he turned away.

Jaskier is happy here. He is full of wine and food (such scarcities on the road) and he is laughing and his eyes are sparkling, and try as he might, Geralt can not resent his happiness. He will be content here. He will be safe.

“I will be staying here for some time,” Jaskier says, when they return to the rooms the Countess has bestowed them.

“I know,” Geralt says softly, sitting beside him on the bed. He takes his hand. It seems the right thing to do.

Jaskier takes a shuddering inhale and Geralt misses the days when he could kiss the distress from his lips. “I will always be your friend, dear Witcher,” he says, squeezing his hand defiantly. “But the Countess has offered me what you cannot -” A home? Three square meals a day? Love. He knows he means love. “- and I wish to stay. I cannot…” he sighs deeply, and rubs his tired face with his other hand. There is a selection of rings upon it now and Geralt regrets that not one of them belongs to him. “I know you have lived long and that our friendship must be but a bump in the road to you but I have known you my entire adult life and I cannot…” he trails off, his voice heavy with untold emotion. “I cannot keep doing this.” He swallows whatever he cannot say. “I thought I could. I wanted to. But I’m weak, and tired, and I can’t any longer. Please understand.”

Jaskier is not weak and this has not been a ‘bump in the road’ to him but if Jaskier is happy here, he will not stand in his way. “I understand,” he says, because he does understand. If there was an easy escape for him too, he would take it. Their dallancies have become burdened with meaning; it is unsustainable and if he had alternative diversions he would undoubtedly take them.

Jaskier squeezes his hand again. “I requested to the humble Countess that I spend this last evening with you and she so kindly obliged. I would be more than content just to drink with you and gamble with you and pass the night away in companionable laughter, but if you would…” his thumb lightly strokes across his knuckles and Geralt feels the tingling touch to his bones. “If you are amenable, I would like to lay with you one last time.”

He wants to. Oh, how he wants to. Though he has a feeling he will regret this as much as Jaskier evidently regrets their last emotional coupling.

Geralt takes a shuddering, unsteady inhale. “I would like to… give you what you want,” he says uneasily, studying Jaskier’s eyes as they light with a familiar sparkle. “Though, I cannot read people as well as you. If this is to be our last coupling then I wish to give you exactly what you desire. Tell me what you want and I shall give it to you.”

Instead of Jaskier’s eyes growing wide with desire as he’d expected, they turn wet with unshed tears. Geralt feels a stab of guilt at the sight. He tried to do something nice, and yet, as always, he finds a way to hurt him. “You know what I want,” Jaskier whispers, his voice thick with emotion as his hand comes to trace Geralt’s jaw ever so tenderly. “It is what I have always wanted. Something that you cannot give me.”

Geralt frowns as he studies his companion and attempts to puzzle out the answer. The last time he left Jaskier with the Countess he had taken him posessively - marked him up, covered him in his cum, and sent him back to her - but this is a game no longer. Jaskier isn’t the youth he once was. He wants to settle down. He wants to leave as Geralt always knew he would.

There is a look in Jaskier’s eyes that he knows all too well and it’s when he’s looking into the earnest blue eyes that the answer dawns on him.

Yes, he knows what Jaskier wants: he wants Geralt to make love to him.

Geralt frowns as he considers it. The very implication of the act terrifies him, and yet, haven’t they come close before? Jaskier admitting the words into the crook of his neck, moving together slowly in the ocean on a summer’s morn, the way Jaskier holds him sometimes as their bodies twine together too beautifully to be classified as fucking. The only difference, Geralt reasons, is the outward intention.

He cannot voice his affection but he wonders, if this is truly the last time, if he can indulge in a physical demonstration instead.

He inches forward until he can take Jaskier’s lips softly between his own. “Perhaps I can give it,” he whispers against his lips. “Allow me to try.”

Jaskier melts into the kiss and no more words are exchanged as Geralt strips him with aching tenderness and lavishes his body with fervent kisses and reverent touches. He caresses his cock, his balls, and even his opening with the tip of his tongue, until Jaskier is mewling with desire. He fingers him open with the last dregs of the lavender oil and watches in awe as Jaskier’s eyes widen and his hands clench with the need for more. He wants to remember every detail as he watches him writhe under his ministrations and hears him sigh in pleasure and feels his passionate lips against his. I want you, he presses into every touch. Don’t leave me, he breathes into every kiss. Jaskier has always been uncannily perceptive and Geralt desperately wants to believe that if he only praises his body enough, Jaskier will hear the declarations beneath; that he will understand and give him time and won’t leave.

Jaskier says nothing though, and when Geralt spills within him he comes to the devastating conclusion that his burden goes unnoticed.

He kisses the last gasp of pleasure from Jaskier’s lips and cradles his body in his arms until morn. He does not sleep. He lies awake, absorbing every last sound and scent he can pry from his presence. He nearly wakes his beloved a dozen times to kiss him or tell him or beg his forgiveness, only to fail on every occasion.

Jaskier is happy here, he reminds himself. Jaskier deserves someone who is not ashamed - is not afraid - of their love. Jaskier will be safe here, and content, and never wanting for anything.

Jaskier will never ask for him again.

Chapter Text

INTERLUDE

Geralt is tired. He doesn’t remember the last time he slept. It’s been a year since the bard abandoned him for his new ‘muse’ and old flame Countess de Stael. But that’s not what’s haunting him. No. It’s the other ticking timeline in his mind.

It’s been seven years since Cintra.

He had been fairly successful thus far in spurning his Child Surprise but then he had to have a fucking dream about his mother, and it sent everything unspooling. He had dreamed about the day she left him - dumped on the side of the road like he was an illegal package of fisstech to be smuggled - except this time, he wasn’t just the little boy that had been abandoned; he was the man kidnapping the child too. His perspective shifted until Vesemir’s face became his face and he was the one looking down at the Child Surprise; a child with white hair and bright eyes. Geralt had woken, furious and lonely, and came to the devastating realisation that the Cintran royal tied to him must be six years old by now; the same age that he had been claimed.

It has haunted his dreams since, so he hasn’t fucking slept, and now he has resorted to the utter madness of djinn-fishing just because he cannot possibly close his eyes again and see a six-year-old boy waiting for him.

He is retrieving the net when he scents honey on the breeze and a familiar drunken voice singing about Nilfgaardian ladies.

He would think Jaskier a dream - a hallucination conjured by his addled mind - if not for that damn smell. If it was only his imagination, he would smell lavender.

He feels his face twist into a scowl.

“Geralt! Hello. What’s it been, months? Years? What is time, anyway?” he laughs, like this is all a joke, like Geralt didn’t have an apple go to waste, like he hasn’t counted the thirteen months and sixteen days it’s been since they parted ways.

Fuck.

He hadn’t realised he had been counting. He is so distressed by this apparent revelation that he lets the bard prattle on without interruption as he gathers the net for another throw. He doesn’t want to listen; doesn’t want to know the sordid details of his affair with the Countess. It’s better that way.

Jaskier can only withstand his taciturn bullshit for so long though, and eventually brings out the voice that fucking ruins him; the soft, understanding, dulcet tones that can pry out even the most deeply hidden desires. “Talk to me,” he pleads, and Geralt does. Or rather, he tells him that he’s hunting a djinn.

Annoyingly perceptive as always, Jaskier somehow discerns that the root cause of his sleep depravation is that fucking child in Cintra. Geralt denies it vehemently because things have changed and Jaskier cannot pry the truth from him and will not as long as he smells like fucking honey.

When Jaskier has the gall to quote his fucking honied whore at him, Geralt can no longer tamper his anger and goes for the fucking throat. Metaphorically, that is: he insults his music.

They fight. And then, worse, they fight over the djinn.

And he’s mad - he’s so fucking mad - when Jaskier wishes for the Countess of all things that he screams: “I just want some damn peace!”

He doesn’t. He knows he doesn’t. And he knows it even more when his beloved bard starts choking on blood.

*

The sight affects him more than it ought. This is not the first time Jaskier has been injured while at his side - his pale skin once plaster-perfect, now bears the evidence of many of their adventures together - but this is the first time that Geralt is wracked with such guilt over it. This wasn’t a result of Jaskier’s usual foolish bravado - this wasn’t because he slept with the wrong maiden or put himself between Geralt’s silver sword and a pissed forktail - this was a result of their fucking argument. An argument that had been his fault.

Geralt does not relish holding his dear companion as he gasps for breath and relishes it even less when the mage - in the middle of conducting an orgy of all things - seems to recognise what lies between them nevertheless. “Just a friend?” she asks, as if she doesn’t bloody know.

The mage’s advances would likely be welcome any other day - Yennefer of Vengerberg is attractive and dangerous and just the type of distraction that Geralt needs - but Jaskier’s life hangs in the balance and he will not be able to think of anything else until he is well. “Please,” he begs, certain that the last time he begged for anything it was in Jaskier’s arms and under much more pleasant circumstances, “Jaskier here needs immediate attention.”

He offers himself on a platter for her, desperate for her aid; so desperate, in fact, that he ends up saying ‘whatever the price’ to a fucking sorceress.

*

He is lucky. The only price she requests from him is his dignity as she makes him strip and bathe and change; flirting the entire time. The flirtation is not unwelcome exactly, it’s just that he rather suspects that she wants something from him other than his body and it’s not something he wants to risk while Jaskier is in her care. ‘Don’t trust mages’ is a lesson that Vesemir drummed into his Witchers for a reason.

*

He is uncomfortable; in these clothes, in this house, at the sight of Jaskier unconscious before him. The man looks peaceful, almost, if not for the blood splattered on his shirt. Geralt’s fingers itch to touch him but they are not lovers anymore, they are not even friends... He tugs at the tight black leather instead, hoping it might assuage some of the discomfort he feels. It does not.

He does not mean to talk to Yennefer about his affairs but mages are adept at worming their way under your skin. “I said some things to him,” Geralt admits. He already has a multitude of regrets where Jaskier is concerned, and his last words to him - unsolicited hurtful comments about his career - were entirely undeserving. “He’s a…”

“Friend?” she teases because she knows they’re not. They are anything but.

When they parted, Jaskier assured him that they would always be friends but Geralt doesn’t deserve the honour and he certainly hasn’t earned it. He didn’t write to him once while he was at the Stael estate. They are not friends.

“I’d like it not to be the last thing he remembers,” he concludes uneasily.

There is a curious scent in the room. The wrong purple flower. Something that is not lavender lulls him to sleep...

*

It was his body she wanted after all. He hates mages. He hates being used. But then he sees Jaskier alive and well, and rightly insulting him, and it eases his rage at Yennefer into a faint simmer.

Until he discovers that she is still in danger and then his rage disappears entirely; replaced by an unsettling concern.

Jaskier is furious as he chases after him. “Do not tell me that this is finally the moment you’ve decided to actually care about someone other than yourself?”

Geralt glares at him. I cared about you, Jaskier, and despite your apparent perceptiveness, you did not seem to notice. But he does not want to risk another argument with Jaskier; not if he wants to repair their already fractured companionship. “She saved your life, Jaskier. I can’t let her die.”

That reasoning, after all, is much more straight-forward than anything else he can vocalise.

*

He saves Yennefer, and then he fucks her.

In retrospect, that may not have been conducive to a second chance with Jaskier.

*

He leaves Yennefer in the crumbling manor house to find Jaskier waiting on the steps, weaving wildflowers, silhouetted against the red of the setting sun. His tongue is pressed against his lips in concentration as he works and it’s such a familiar sight turned strikingly unfamiliar that it aches to witness.

“Oh! There you are!” Jaskier says, jumping to his feet and abandoning his work. His voice is cheery but there is a wariness to his eyes that implies he knows exactly where Geralt has been. “I was wondering if you might have been entangled with the mage for some time… I was considering leaving, actually, before I realised that I have no idea where I am, having been unconscious and/or dying for the majority of my time here in…?”

“Rinde,” Geralt answers. “Where’s Chireadan?” he asks, searching the surroundings for the elven healer, who could have easily led Jaskier back to a tavern had he not wanted to wait around.

“Off licking his wounds somewhere,” Jaskier says with a shrug. “I believe he was quite enamored with that scary witch friend of yours, and when he saw you two, uh, celebrating life so vicariously, decided to make himself scarce.”

Geralt grunts. He doesn’t much care. “You waited.”

Jaskier looks away; his tongue peeking out again in thought as his hands come to rest on his hips. “Yes,” he replies. “I suppose I did.”

Hope begins to flutter in his chest despite the bitter tone to Jaskier’s words. “Come with me,” he says, “I’ll buy you a drink.”

Jaskier smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “As much as I appreciate the offer of an apology, old friend,” he says, and this casual line sends Geralt reeling because after all this time apart Jaskier still understands Geralt’s manner of speaking enough to know that it was an attempt at an apology. He is still rendered mute when Jaskier concludes, “I am not sure that’s wise.”

Hope was a shitty emotion, anyway. Geralt folds his arms and firms his stance as if it can stop any more daft emotions getting through. Just because Jaskier has been turfed out by the Countess, yet again, doesn’t mean that he will fall back into Geralt’s arms. Jaskier respects himself too much to repeat such a dire mistake. “It’s a drink,” Geralt states, as if Jaskier will actually believe that was all he was after.

Jaskier shakes his head with a knowing smile. “And one I fear I will not recover from.”

Geralt accepts this rejection with a sincere nod of his head. He is right. If they resumed their intimacies, it would only serve to hurt them both. Considering the love that Jaskier professed and Geralt keeps buried, there are only two sensible options before them - accept what lies between them and traverse what he is sure would be a difficult and uncertain path, or deny the existence of it and maintain what scraps of acquaintanceship they can salvage.

One is notably easier than the other.

“Very well,” Geralt says.

Jaskier steps forward and brushes his lips against Geralt’s cheek, and he startles at the unexpected tenderness. His hand instinctively reaches out to grab his wrist; holding onto him. Jaskier smiles dolefully when he steps away and Geralt’s hand falls back beside him, unwanted.

“Good luck with your new muse,” Jaskier says wryly, with a glance back at the manor where Yennefer still resides. “I have a feeling she will warm your bed for many years to come.” He hesitates and then adds, “I hope so, too, you know. You deserve love, Geralt, even if you did not find it with me.”

I did, he wants to say, I did find it with you. He doesn’t know how to say this; how to correct the assumption without saying too much.

In the end, he says nothing, and points Jaskier towards town.

Geralt had wanted an easy escape from this torture, after all, and Yennefer has so kindly offered him an enjoyable diversion. As he watches Jaskier walk away, he realises that his relationship with the bard must be truly fucked if he considers a powerful sorceress with a fancy for mind games in any way easier to bed.

*

Jaskier is right; they fuck for years. Six years, in total, on and off. He keeps being drawn to her like a moth to the flame and she keeps indulging his desires. Yennefer is powerful and intriguing and sometimes fucks him so well that he forgets that there used to be another that touched him so reverently.

*

Yennefer is a salve to his wounds and after a year has passed, he finds that he has the strength to divert Roach towards Vizima, where Jaskier is in the midst of a bardic festival. Except, because it is Jaskier and he is incapable of going more than three days without landing himself in trouble, Geralt finds him in the middle of a brawl.

Resigned to his fate, Geralt furls his fists and joins in.

Afterwards, he tries not to act surprised when he discovers that the brawl was not initated by a jilted lover, as he had assumed, but sparked by a ballad entitled ‘Felix the Fiddler’, in which Jaskier accuses a fellow bard on several accounts of pedophilia. It was meant to incentivise the local authorities into indicting Felix but unfortunately it had riled the entire criminal gang of predatory perverts into physical retribution before the authorities even caught word.

Even stranger than this tale of selfless heroics is the fact that Geralt does not hear this story from Jaskier himself (who is usually very vocal about his conquests, intimate or otherwise) but from the cheering crowds around the bar when they enter the nearest tavern.

It seems Jaskier has found other ways to indulge his foolish bravado, and Geralt fights the urge to be proud as the local guard announce that they’ve actually arrested the fucker and intend to hang him by morn.

They are plied with free drinks and Jaskier is rightfully the centre of attention, so it’s not until hours later that Geralt actually manages to get a word in edgeways. “So, this is what you do now? Play the hero? Dabble in politics?”

Jaskier shrugs as he drinks the horrifically expensive wine he conned out of the barkeep. “Gotta keep busy somehow. I’m getting too old to chase tail night and day.”

“Is that so?” Geralt asks, cautiously optimistic. He didn’t think he’d ever see the day that Jaskier was interested in something other than the thrill of a new lover (and the thrill of fleeing from their spouse’s bedchamber). Jaskier must only be in his mid-thirties; it seems too young to cease such desires. Unless…?

Jaskier raises an eyebrow. “My position regarding our entanglement has not wavered, Witcher, if that’s what you’re thinking. I still think it would be unwise to resume such activities.”

Geralt swallows his ale and looks away towards the dwindling patrons at the bar. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, I know. You deserve more than what I can give you.”

“True enough, but I was mainly referring to your preoccupation with your new muse,” he adds, raising an accusatory finger from his cup. “How is she, by the way? Still devastatingly beautiful? Unnaturally terrifying? Feasting on newborn babes?”

Geralt smirks, remembering the way she rode his cock so relentlessly the last time they crossed paths that he came twice in quick succession.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” Jaskier says with a coy smile that looks slightly less heartbroken than it used to. “Please spare me the details. If we are to be friends, I shall not be able to bear it.”

“Friends?” Geralt asks. Hope flutters in his chest. If he can have this, at least, he will be satisfied.

Jaskier smirks and lays a well-thumbed deck of gwent cards on the table. “Well,” he says smoothly, as he draws his starting hand. “I assume that’s why you’re here. I can’t imagine what else would have brought you to Vizima during the Midsummer Bardic Festival. You hate this shithole.”

Geralt smiles wryly as he draws his own deck of cards. Jaskier knows him better than anyone ever will. “It’s not all that bad,” he says meaningfully, and his friend meets his eyes with a soft, tentative smile.

*

Friendship does not come easily - sometimes Geralt has to tear his eyes away from tempting flesh, or his traitorous heart will clench when he hears the bard’s melodic voice, or he will reach for him in the night only to remember that he no longer has the privilege - but the Path does not seem so lonely with Jaskier by his side again. They travel across the continent, Geralt accepting contracts and Jaskier starting revolutions, and at night they will toast to their success and flee the township before the prime business owner of the estate realises exactly why all his workers have unionised.

Between their adventures, Jaskier takes lovers and Geralt visits Yennefer, and when they reunite they do not dare acknowledge the time spent apart.

Chapter Text

XXI

“Damn it, Jaskier! Why is it whenever I find myself in a pile of shit these days, it’s you shoveling it?”

It’s unfair, and he knows it’s unfair, even before Jaskier says as much in that tired, disappointed voice of his. They had worked past this. They had actually built a friendship. He doesn’t even remember the last time he had raised his voice at Jaskier (the djinn? the cockatrice last month?) but it’s been a fucking day, and the last thing he needs is Jaskier’s incessant optimism ringing in his ears.

Yennefer just left him. A fucking dragon just lectured him about his Child Surprise. And none of this would have happened if Jaskier hadn’t gotten himself involved.

Anger is easier to express than the other emotion he keeps buried - the one that Jaskier had so readily stoked with his soft voice and talk of the coast; a desire that he very nearly gave into before indulging in the easier option instead. Except, it turns out, Yennefer isn’t exactly an easy option herself anymore.

Everything in his life is entirely fucked. So, he lets anger reign and hears the bard’s retreating footsteps, and thinks that this time he may finally have driven him away for good.

*

It is a two day climb back down the mountain, and without the bard’s constant prattling it affords him plenty of time to think. Too much time. He is unused to spending so long with his own thoughts these days, without even Roach for company. Occasionally, when the trees clear, he can see the bright red of the bard’s doublet speckling the rest of the drab dragon hunt a few miles ahead. The man cannot leave his thoughts.

*

He rests under the stars, more alone now than he has ever been, and when he dreams, his subconscious weaves images of the coastal cottage they had shared years ago with the yearning words that Jaskier had spoken only a day before -

Look, why don't we leave tomorrow?

Dawn. Soft sheets. His head in the crook of Jaskier’s neck; breathing in the scent of lavender. The distant sound of waves. Warm sunlight spilled across his naked back. Jaskier’s sleepy mumblings against the feather pillow. Geralt reaching to stroke the strands of dark hair from his face, only to hesitate, and let his hand fall; reigning in the unwanted, tender desire.

That is, if you'll give me another chance to prove myself a worthy travel companion.

Late afternoon. Incoming tide. Reclining on the veranda with good wine and a good game as the sun beats down upon them. “Your deck relies too much on weather cards,” he advises, nudging Jaskier playfully under the table with his foot as Jaskier plays yet another Biting Frost. “And yours too much on Scorch,” he retorts as Geralt takes out his entire row of archers. Geralt laughs and reaches for his wine. He is happy, he realises. He is happy.

We could head to the coast.... Get away for a while.

Sunset. Ankle-deep in the ocean. He is fishing, or attempting to fish - the line cast out far before him - but mostly he is enjoying the rare moment of peace. Jaskier stands beside him, leaning against his side and humming under his breath. An old folk song. His companion is not composing… merely enjoying the sound of music in his mouth. Geralt enjoys listening to it. He will not bed his companion tonight, he decides, instead he will keep him awake with tales of monsters until they fall asleep, clothed and entwined, and Geralt can hold him close under the guise of camaraderie until morning.

Life is too short.

Midnight. The crash of waves. A distant owl. The smell of lavender. Jaskier clutching his hands in the bedsheets as he pounds into him with desperate, pleading sounds.

Do what pleases you,

Midday. The sound of Jaskier’s laughter as Geralt tackles him in the ocean, sending them both crashing into the waves.

While you can -

*

Fuck.

Geralt’s wakes in a cold sweat; the curse word his only coherent thought as he pieces together the all too obvious meaning of his subconscious.

His friend’s consoling words, he realises, were not lightly chosen. The coast, he said, evoking the memories of that pleasant summer. What pleases you, he said, recalling his words at the wedding. Life is short, he said, as if reminding Geralt that his ‘entire adult life’ has been wasted on pining for him. While you can… an ultimatum.

Fuck.

Jaskier had been implying… Fuck. He’d been implying that he would… that he would like to…

The thought is enough to send his head spinning but he doesn’t know how else to interpret Jaskier’s actions. Their near-death experience on the mountains must have encouraged Jaskier to offer Geralt one last chance to accept his love, and he had been so wrapped up in his own self-inflicted pain that he had not even understood the offer for what it was.

Jaskier had wanted to rekindle their intimacies, to build it further, and Geralt had sent him away.

Fuck.

*

By the time Geralt has reunited with Roach, he has had time to regret almost every action of his life. He regrets, most of all, not fucking listening to what Jaskier had been attempting to say three days ago, and having the audacity to push him away such unthinking cruelty afterwards.

He soothes Roach with a hand on her flank as he examines the tracks before him. Jaskier cannot be more than a couple of hours ahead of him. He should be able to find him before he leaves town.

Geralt doesn’t yet know what to say when he does find him. ‘I’m sorry,’ has never felt more inadequate. After all the pain he’s bestowed his bard, he will need to fucking grovel to even garner an audience. He has no idea how to right this, only that he is reluctant to waste any more time to do so; two decades of dancing around this matter has been more than enough.

He takes a deep, steadying inhale, as if preparing for battle, before mounting his steed and riding towards town.

*

He finds Jaskier taking down their room at the tavern, packing away whatever luxuries that they could not take on the road. Jaskier glances at him as he enters. His body stiffens and then he returns to his task with unnatural stoicism. “Geralt,” he greets, and it breaks his heart that it lacks any of its usual joyful inflection. “I was not expecting…” he swallows, and finishes packing his clothes into a knapsack. “I’m nearly done,” he says and his voice sounds thick with unshed tears. “And then I’ll be out your hair, once and for -”

“No.”

Jaskier turns to look back at him with righteous fury.

Fuck. That had not been the right word to use.

“No?” Jaskier asks with barely restrained anger. “I’m sorry, what do you think is happening here? Do you honestly think you have the power to command me to stay? To do anything? Did you somehow forget the part where you tore my heart to shreds and abandoned me on a fucking mountain!”

“No, that’s not what I -”

Jaskier drops his belongings in an enraged flail of hands. “Then pray tell,” he implores angrily, and Geralt experiences unwelcome flashbacks to another argument born from his own inability to fucking listen. “Tell me what the fuck is going on here. Tell me how I am possibly meant to forgive you for such cold-hearted callousness. Tell me why I ought to do anything for you, other than follow your last request and - what was it? - take myself off your hands.”

Fuck.

Jaskier is storming out of the room, and Geralt panics and does the only thing he can think to do and falls to his knees. He discards his swords and his bags with a careless wave of his hand and they land, loud and uncoordinated, by the dresser.

The commotion, more than anything, seems to turn Jaskier back to him, just as his hand had been reaching for the doorknob.

He blinks at seeing Geralt on his knees, and then tiredly rubs his eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Begging forgiveness.”

“You look ridiculous.”

“I don’t know what else to do.”

Jaskier throws his hands in the air. “Most people would probably start with ‘I’m sorry.’”

“I’m sorry -”

“For fuck’s sake -”

“Jaskier,” Geralt pleads. “I was angry. I was trying to push you away.”

“And you succeeded, well done,” he says, reaching for the doorknob again.

“Please!”

He must sound truly desperate because Jaskier actually does stop, and drop his hand, and turn back to look.

“I regret it. I do not want you to leave,” Geralt explains.

Jaskier looks exasperated, and about two seconds from reaching for the door again. Geralt knows he has to do better.

“I was afraid. I have…” he sighs, the weight of the words heavy on his heart. “I have always been afraid of this,” he admits in a shameful whisper.

“I know, Geralt,” Jaskier says, just as softly. “Perhaps I am to blame for thinking you were ready. I should not have mentioned it -”

Geralt shakes his head viciously. Jaskier is always so eager to blame himself for Geralt’s mistakes. “I wanted to,” he admits, “I wanted to go with you but I was -”

“Afraid,” Jaskier sighs. “Yes, I know. But I am tired of this. Of loving you and getting nothing in return. Even as your friend, Geralt, the way you speak to me sometimes…” he sighs once again, and every agonised sound guts him. “I thought that by now you could tolerate my presence at least,” he whispers as he rubs his tired eyes once again, “but you made it very clear that I was mistaken.” He swallows, his eyes thick with tears, and Geralt longs to speak and correct his wrongs but words are but a weapon in his mouth and he does not trust himself to wield them again after such a devastating blow. Jaskier scoffs as he shakes his head and looks down at the pitiful, silent Witcher before him. “Must I bear another twenty years of this agony, or will you finally permit me to be free?”

Geralt cringes at Jaskier’s pleading words. If he were a good man, he would let Jaskier go, and let him go for good. But he is not a good man; he is a selfish one. “Allow me to try,” he begs, raising his eyes to Jaskier’s sparkling oceans. “Allow me to earn your forgiveness; to strive to be worthy of your affections.” He cannot bear to say the word ‘love’ - he does not deserve such a word - even ‘affection’ tastes like ash in his mouth having carried it for so long unspoken.

Jaskier breaks the gaze and runs his hand through his hair in frustrated indecision. Geralt can sense his pain and wishes he could ease it, but then, in a bout of inspiration, he realises he might know how.

“I can prove my fealty to you,” he proposes. “My earnest desire to do good by you. My pledge never to harm you again.”

Jaskier exhales and looks to the ceiling with hands on hips, before coming back to Geralt with an unforgiving gaze. “And how, exactly, do you intend to demonstrate such a thing, given your quite frankly unbelievable propensity for treating me like shit?”

He has treated him like shit. But once, he remembers, Jaskier had asked for it. Twelve years ago, after Cintra, Jaskier had stood before him and said: Axii me.

“I am yours to do with as you please,” Geralt states. “Use me. Punish me. Fuck me. Whatever you desire.” And then, in the event that Jaskier doesn’t understand exactly what he is offering, he clarifies, “I would have you axii me, if you could.”

He smells it then; the first lick of desire amongst the anger. And then he hears it; the sharp inhale of interest and the held breath of anticipation. “We have not laid together in several years.”

“I know,” Geralt says. “Because I was too cowardly to tell you I desired it.”

“You were too cowardly to do any number of things,” Jaskier says, but the harsh edge of his anger seems to be fading as he considers the offer. “You intend to change this in the future?” he asks, assessing Geralt with an unreadable expression. “You intend to express your desires? To permit my affections? You are asking for…?” he trails off, likely attempting to find the words to describe what lies between them and what could, with dual intention, be built there. “More?”

Geralt nods, never more sure of anything. “I am.”

“But first you wish to be punished?”

“I deserve no less.”

Jaskier hums as he considers this, and then reaches for the door. Geralt panics and nearly jumps from his knelt position to bar him from leaving, before he realises that Jaskier has merely bolted the door. A different kind of fear sends his heart pumping instead.

“Every time I think I understand you…” Jaskier murmurs, as he comes to circle around him. “Every time I think I know what you want…”

“You always know what I want,” Geralt replies, because if anything is true about their relationship, it’s that.

Jaskier shakes his head despondently and reaches out to cradle his head in his hands. “No, I don’t think that’s true,” he says, studying Geralt’s blank expression as if it contains all the answers. “I think I overlooked just how much you deny yourself.” He frowns, his tongue pressing against his lips in deep thought. “Have you always wanted my love?” he muses and then cringes, seemingly thinking better of it, and presses his finger firmly across Geralt’s lips. “No, don’t answer that.” He breathes deeply for a moment with eyes closed. “I cannot begin to contemplate such things until I am done being mad at you.”

Geralt kisses the tip of his finger, relishing the taste that he had missed so dearly, but it only causes Jaskier to draw away.

“Did you truly mean what you said?”

Geralt looks up to him with a confused frown, requesting clarification.

Jaskier seems to shake himself out of his trance and returns the gaze. “Would you truly let me do what I will with you?”

Geralt swallows his nerves and nods his head. Jaskier may be angry but he is not a cruel man. He once trusted Geralt with this game and now, a dozen years later, he ought to be able to express the same level of trust in return.

“Interesting…” Jaskier says, his fingers tracing across his jaw before falling entirely. “You are not usually one to give up control.”

Geralt feels his face twist, displaying his fraught emotions, but he will not speak unless Jaskier commands it; he wants him to know how ardently he spoke his vow.

“I suppose,” Jaskier says, considering him, “that this is part of your offering. Do you really trust me so? To the extent that even after you hurt me and humiliated me and abandoned me,” he says, the words spat in anger. “You still trust that I won’t do the same to you?”

A direct question that he cannot ignore. He makes sure to lock eyes with Jaskier as he replies. “I deserve any pain you inflict upon me. I meant my vow. I am yours to do with as you wish.”

Jaskier’s jaw tightens. He is angry, yes, but Geralt also recognises the look of defiance.

Jaskier’s palm lands firmly across his cheek. It stings. The hit was stronger than Geralt would have expected but no less than he deserves. His cheek still tingles from the impact when he turns back to Jaskier and locks eyes with him, making sure his determination to follow through is evident. If Jaskier wants no more than to beat him senseless, then he will accept the punishment. He will submit to anything his friend desires if it is the only way to prove his fealty.

Jaskier hits him again on the other cheek. It is still mild as pain goes. He suspects, more than anything, that this is a test.

Jaskier, seemingly satisfied with his submission, nods, and lowers his breeches. There is no more hesitation. Jaskier fucks his throat more viciously than he has ever experienced; it leaves his mouth raw and dry, and his lungs gasping for breath. Jaskier has no mercy and pushes forward until even Geralt’s eyes are stinging from the assault. He imagines, actually, that this is how it felt when he subjected Jaskier to the same brutal act; fucking his throat to distract himself from the intrusion of fingers at his entrance. He had fucked the man’s throat raw. Jaskier had not complained. He had moaned and encouraged it and comforted him afterwards.

Jaskier, then, is doing this to prove a point.

The lesson: You will acknowledge the pain that I have endured for you.

It’s a fair fucking point, and after two minutes of fighting against it, Geralt relaxes his muscles and his defences, and allows Jaskier to take what he needs.

Jaskier extracts himself before completion and wipes the spittle from Geralt’s lips. “If you had not taken so long to accept what I offer you, perhaps I would still be able to come down your throat before I spill in your arse. However, since someone decided that they would rather take their time in appreciating me, I am sadly no longer as virile as I was at your first opportunity. A shame,” he muses, still stroking Geralt’s lips, “for I would so dearly love to claim every part of you.”

You have every part of me, he wants to say, but even if he were permitted to speak, his throat is rubbed raw by Jaskier’s cock. He swallows, and winces, and attempts to smother his surprise when he opens his eyes and sees a cup of water proffered before him. He drinks from it eagerly and when he puts it aside, Jaskier is prepared with another order.

“Strip,” he commands, “and make your way to the bed.”

Geralt nods and does as he’s instructed. A little shiver of anticipation rolls through him at the thought that he has no idea what Jaskier intends for him. Another beating, perhaps? A lashing? He can still taste his anger on the air, and knows there is more inside of him that needs to be set free, but he has no idea how this desire will manifest. The uncertainty is more arousing than he would have expected.

He kneels in the centre of the bed but his posture is soon corrected by the firm press of Jaskier’s hand on his neck. “All fours,” he requests, and Geralt obeys.

Anticipation lodges in his throat, making his heart pound. He cannot even see Jaskier as he comes to kneel behind him. The next touch he feels is a firm palm between his shoulder blades.

“Tell me,” Jaskier says, and Geralt knows he will reveal whatever secrets Jaskier requests of him. “Have you taken another man since we ceased our entanglement?”

Geralt flusters at the question. He is still not as comfortable with these conversations as his friend seems to be. It does not help that, as he is asked this, Jaskier’s finger begins circling his entrance. His hands clench in the sheets at the mere thought of the pleasurable intrusion. “No,” he grits out.

An exhale sounds that Geralt wishes he could witness. Jaskier is pleased by this answer though, he knows. Geralt had thought about it; he had arrived at brothels with the very intention of seeking out such a pleasure, only to look at the men on offer and feel his desire sour at the sight. The sheer scope of trust the act entailed meant that he had shied away every time. Jaskier is the only one to have earned the right to bed him so.

“Have you taken anything at all?” he asks, with a teasing push at his entrance.

Geralt garbles a moan at the touch. “Yes,” he admits, brokenly. “Fingers. A phallus, once.” Shame colours his cheeks but he will not lie to Jaskier, not when he has promised his truth.

Jaskier hums as he considers this and then presses a kiss to the base of his spine.

Geralt jerks at the unexpected display of tenderness.

“Your own private attentions? Or with Yennefer?”

“Both,” he admits. “She... knew my desires.”

“Ah,” Jaskier says with realisation. “Mages.”

“Mages,” Geralt grunts.

“Then you will forgive me if I do not take my time.”

Geralt grunts, expecting the blunt head of Jaskier’s cock but instead there are two slicked fingers at his entrance. He hadn’t anticipated this; the oil is unscented, and he has become so used to the smell of lavender in their bedroom that it hadn’t registered. But, of course, there is no reason why Jaskier would have kept their lubricant all these years. They had used the last of it at the Countess’s estate, and believing that to be their last, why would Jaskier have made more?

“I know, sweetheart,” Jaskier murmurs, and contradicts his soft words with a harsh bite against his hip. “If you truly wish to earn my affections, I will make the lavender concoction for you again. I know how you love it.” Once his fingers have pushed past the ring of muscle, they relentlessly continue and Geralt’s breath stutters at the intrusion. It burns but it doesn’t necessarily hurt. “But you have to earn it.”

Geralt nods. He will. He will earn it.

Jaskier grips him firmly by his hair and yanks hard enough to make Geralt yelp in surprise. He doesn’t understand what it’s for until he feels the much larger intrusion at his entrance and recognises it for the distraction it was.

He whimpers as he is speared by Jaskier’s cock; it’s glorious at the same time it’s excruciating. He missed Jaskier but he has also never been fucked so brutally in his life. Jaskier’s hands have snaked beneath him to grip at his shoulders so that he can forcefully push Geralt back onto his cock with every thrust. Jaskier is using his body solely as a means for his pleasure, with no regard for Geralt’s own. It’s so uncharacteristic that he ought to be concerned, but he’s so preoccupied with the sheer relief that Jaskier is bedding him again that he can barely spare a thought for the manner of the undertaking. He also highly suspects that he is meant to be taking another lesson from this callous fucking when he realises that this is exactly how he used to treat his bard; as little more than a whore.

The lesson: I am more than a vessel for your own pleasure.

Geralt accepts everything inflicted upon him, knowing that whatever pain Jaskier delivers is the pain that he feels himself, transmuted. Geralt deserves every stinging thrust, every sharp bite, every bruising grip.

He ought not to be reaping as much pleasure from the punishment as he does but he loves being taken by Jaskier, and he loves being submissive to his bed partners, and any pain that Jaskier inflicts, intentional or otherwise, is as easy to accept as any other.

Jaskier grabs him by the hair again, tugging painfully, as he pushes him down and changes the position until Geralt is lying face down with Jaskier lying prostrate over him. Jaskier gathers his wrists and pins them above their heads with a single hand while he uses his other arm to wrap Geralt’s neck in a fucking chokehold. Geralt instinctively struggles against the deadly hold - his jugular squeezed by the crook of Jaskier’s elbow - but a bone-tight squeeze of his wrists in the other hand reminds him of his predicament.

He must prove his trust, his loyalty, his love.

Jaskier needs to feel in control but despite his violent actions, he will not allow Geralt to come to harm. He knows this. He trusts him.

Geralt inhales what scant air he can in the chokehold and forces his body to relax. Jaskier is still fucking into him relentlessly; Geralt’s legs are splayed and mounted high enough that Jaskier’s manhood presses right against his prostate on every thrust. It isn’t long before the whimpers leaving his lips are from pleasure instead of fright. Jaskier must feel it too because he soon untangles his fingers from Geralt’s wrists, trusting him to keep the hold, so that he can grip his hip and increase the strength of his thrusts. Geralt moans wantonly at the new intensity of their connection and hears Jaskier’s breath stutter behind him.

A moment later, Jaskier’s lips brush against his spine and it juxtaposes the carnal brutality between them so beautifully that Geralt shudders beneath the onslaught of the opposing sensations.

“Fuck, Geralt,” Jaskier gasps, sounding utterly wrecked. Geralt doesn’t understand why he sounds so pained, not until his curse is followed by the devastating phrase: “I wish I could hate you.”

The words make him shrivel in disgust. He is ashamed to have wrought such a vile sentiment in such a good man. Yet... was that not his very logic on the mountains? Geralt gave into anger because it was so much easier to understand; so much easier to action than the other emotion inside his chest. He had chosen the coward’s way out but Jaskier never has.

A sob escapes him and he feels Jaskier’s lips move against the nape of his neck, tender and forgiving. “As it is,” his bard murmurs, “I believe I will love you ‘til the end of my days.”

Sometime between this heart-wrenching declaration and the tightening of the chokehold, Geralt’s climax peaks and he spills messily onto the bedsheets beneath him with a strangled shout.

“My love -” Jaskier moans. He eases his grip so that Geralt can gasp for breath after the sudden exertion, and finally blesses Geralt with the smell of lavender as he leans forward and buries his head against Geralt’s. “You’re doing so well, my darling -”

As Geralt comes down from the high, he realises that Jaskier’s thrusts have not ceased as they usually do after he has climaxed; they have not even lessened in their brutality. Jaskier is still pounding into him, chasing his own desire. As Geralt’s body begins to protest, over-sensitised and raw, his fingers twitch above him in the invisible hold yearning to extract himself from the situation, but then, he stills when he recognises his lover’s unusual selfish behaviour as yet another lesson.

The very same day that he had taken Jaskier’s throat so violently, Jaskier had refused to fuck him after his climax - not for your first, he had insisted - and now Geralt can attest to the discomforting sensation that he spoke of. It stings. It aches. He would not have wanted that for his first time and Jaskier had known and, once again, protected him from himself.

Jaskier has never once prioritised his own pleasure over Geralt’s. Geralt is ashamed to admit that he cannot boast the same. He is often so tangled in his own desires and his own shameful thoughts that he has, in fact, done this very thing to Jaskier on multiple occasions, despite the whimpers of protest that had sounded from his exhausted lips. He has never fucked his friend to the point of pain, he knows, because he would have sensed it, but he has certainly caused Jaskier to be uncomfortable due to his own selfishness. He cannot afford to be selfish anymore.

The lesson: I have always put you first, and going forward I expect the same from you.

“Nearly there, sweetheart,” Jaskier consoles, as another shameful whimper of discomfort leaves Geralt’s lips. It eases the pain, knowing Jaskier never intends to do this again; this is a punishment and nothing more. “You’ve been so good for me, darling,” he preens as he presses a kiss against his reddened throat.

Geralt whimpers, once again overwhelmed by the sensitivity of touch and the sound of that pet name uttered to him; a privilege he thought he had lost forever.

“I forgive you,” Jaskier rasps, as his teeth bite into the sensitive flesh. “Oh darling, I forgive you.”

Geralt shouts at the unexpected surge of pain but his exclamation is drowned out by Jaskier’s own unrestrained scream as he finally spills within him. The sound of their tangled pleasure after such a long absence is like fucking music to his ears.

*

Geralt falls into a hazy, timeless mindspace afterwards. He feels Jaskier extract himself, and then there is a wet rag being passed over their spent bodies. There is another cup of water against his lips, and then a salve of some kind being rubbed gently onto his throat. There’s little point, he wants to say, it will heal before dawn, but he does not have the energy to communicate this as he is gently maneuvered under the sheets and tucked into Jaskier’s arms.

“It’s a shame…” Jaskier muses, tracing Geralt’s ruined throat with his fingers. “That I have rendered you speechless on the night when I most wish to hear you speak.” He huffs quietly in amusement. “Lack of foresight on my part, I suppose.”

Geralt sleepily nuzzles against Jaskier’s bare chest; he may not be able to verbalise his affections but he can demonstrate them.

“I know,” Jaskier murmurs, running his hands gently through his hair. “You can grovel for all your misdeeds in the morning.” He presses a kiss against his temple and Geralt melts at the touch. “You can wake up and tell me again how you desire me as more than a bed partner. Tell me in the harsh light of day, so I might believe this is not just some cruel trick of the mind.” Jaskier’s breath catches in his throat, and then he’s looking across at Geralt with wide, fretful eyes. “Because you do…?” he hesitates, with the nervous bobbing of his Adam’s apple, “you do want me as more than a bed partner?”

Geralt reaches for him, affection stirring in his chest and surely written across his face, as he pulls Jaskier into a slow, romantic kiss; one that leaves his head dizzy and Jaskier’s eyes dazed when they break apart.

“Oh,” Jaskier says, touching his lips reverently with the softest of smiles, his eyes blue and sparkling like the ocean on a summer’s day. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then.”

Geralt kisses him again, and pulls his beloved into a tighter embrace until there is not a scant inch of space between them.

“Oh,” Jaskier says again, softly, achingly, as he finally burrows into Geralt’s side and follows him into sleep. “Oh.”

*

Geralt wakes plastered against Jaskier, their limbs tangled together under the sheets, and for the first time in years he feels like he can breathe.

Early. Dawn is just breaking over the horizon. The distant call of a cockerel and whinny of a horse. He tightens his hold on Jaskier, assuring himself that he is more than a memory, and presses sweet kisses down the ridges of his spine. To think, due to his own cowardice and his arbitrary boundaries, he had denied himself the simple pleasure of kissing his lover good morning.

Jaskier stirs from slumber at the attention.

“It is early yet,” Geralt rumbles, testing the boundaries of his sore throat. “Go back to sleep.”

Jaskier groans and stretches against him like a cat on a sunny patch of grass. He is shaking his head as he yawns. “Not sleepy.”

Geralt hums his disbelief at that statement but cannot resist laying a trail of kisses down his exposed throat.

Jaskier strains his neck to look back at him; the blue of his eyes is pale and hazy, like it too is rising with the sun. A hand reaches up to pet the hair at the back of his head. “Not a dream, then.”

Geralt smiles at him indulgently and brushes his lips across the inside of Jaskier’s arm. “Not a dream,” he confirms.

Jaskier’s expression turns wistful but he does not look away as he continues to sleepily caress Geralt. “I have always wanted to wake with you like this.”

Geralt’s breath stutters as he recalls his various fantasies throughout the years, and realises that the same is true for him. How many times had he awoken beside Jaskier and resisted the urge to kiss him good morning? He presses a kiss against Jaskier’s temple. “For me, as well.”

Jaskier’s smile is even more dazzling than the sunrise outside their window. “Careful, Geralt,” he teases, and he extracts himself only so that he can turn face-to-face with him. “More romantic declarations like that and I might start to believe your intentions are genuine.”

Geralt smiles and traces Jaskier’s cheeks with the pads of his fingers. “Good,” he says simply.

Jaskier sighs and kisses his fingertips as they pass his lips. He is undoubtedly expecting more, he undoubtedly deserves more but Geralt doesn’t know how to begin making up for his past mistakes, let alone making bold declarations about their future.

“I don’t know how to do this,” Geralt states, watching mesmerised as Jaskier continues caressing his scarred, calloused hands between his own. “I have never… done this before.”

“A relationship, you mean?”

Geralt grunts. He supposes that is the best word for the affection that lies between them and what he intends to build from it.

Jaskier laughs softly and kisses his hand again before letting it go. “I was about to say it’s easy, but for you, perhaps not, seeing as it relies heavily on the communication of one’s emotions.”

Jaskier laughs at the afeared expression that no doubt darkens his face. Jaskier cradles Geralt’s head in his hands and looks at him with fond indulgence. “But we’ll get you there, darling,” he says, and Geralt softens at the term of endearment for the first time spoken outside of their intimacies; the word that used to fill him with fear and now only fills him with warmth. “It wasn’t so long ago that I believed you would never accept your desires. But you have, and with time, I believe you will accept the rest of it, too.”

Geralt turns his face in Jaskier’s palms so he can press a kiss against the delicate skin there. “You will give me time to find the words?” he asks, not believing the kindness that Jaskier bestows upon him. He has been patient for twenty years but is still content to give him longer. “You will allow me to try?”

“Allow you to try what, my white wolf?”

Geralt winces. Already, words have betrayed him. “This,” he urges, his hand moving between them. Jaskier smiles encouragingly; he is happy but he wants more. Geralt recalls the proclamations he had declared last night and repeats them in the harsh light of day, as he had promised, “Allow me to earn your forgiveness; to be worthy of your affection, to earn the place at your side.”

Jaskier smiles sadly but there is a sparkle in his eyes akin to hope. “Not many people would consider my company as something worth earning.”

A growl of anger escapes his lips at the thought of whoresons like Count Lettenhove perpetuating such erroneous beliefs, but Jaskier only laughs at the sound, pushing him away good-naturedly.

“We’re going to be okay,” he says with joyous laughter; as sure of it as anything. “My love, we’re going to be okay.”

 

XXII

Geralt had feared that the confirmation of mutual affection between them would alter their dynamic on the Path but as they wander the continent together he is relieved to find that, for the most part, things haven’t changed at all. Jaskier talks, and Geralt hunts, and in the evenings they will sit by the fire to the sound of plucked lutes and struck whetstones, and the routine is strikingly familiar except that Geralt no longer suppresses the desire to traverse the space between them. He’ll tug his beloved into his bedroll at night and make love to him under the stars and bestow him a parting kiss in the morning and allow Jaskier to distract him during the day with teasing touches and lingering kisses, and it’s just as it’s always been, just… more.

He frequently feels out of his depth - uncertain of his actions and in no way deserving of the love that he swore to earn - but Jaskier seems content to receive any affection that he can offer, and he never demands more than he can give.

*

A mere week has passed before the inevitable happens, and Jaskier finds himself in the clutches of a griffin. He is fine, thankfully, but his clothing isn’t. The victim is the hideous red leather doublet, which only serves to remind Geralt of the regrettable dragon hunt anyway, so it’s no great loss. Jaskier, however, sits by their evening campfire and cradles the ruined fabric in his hands like a mother mourning a stillborn babe.

Geralt sighs as he witnesses this pitiful display taking place on the other side of the flames. “I’ll buy you a new one.”

Jaskier shakes his head. “This is a treasure not so easily replaced, dear heart. Do me a favour and at least pretend you understand my heartbreak.”

Geralt frowns. He genuinely doesn’t understand his beloved’s emotional attachment to a material object that only reminds him of his greatest mistake. “It’s a doublet,” he states, “and a hideous one at that.”

Jaskier waves his arms in exasperation, and the accursed fabric flitters like a firefly in his frantic hands. “This ‘hideous’ doublet was witness to you, on your knees, declaring your romantic intentions towards me. You’ll forgive me if I do not wish to cast it aside.”

Geralt grunts, finally understanding, as Jaskier cradles the fabric in his hands and examines the remnants with genuine grief. Jaskier associates the outfit with the dragon hunt too, then, but has placed a different memory upon it: pleasant, instead of painful. Their attitudes to life in a nutshell, he supposes.

Jaskier looks across at him with an excitable spark in his eyes. “Pass me your sewing kit,” he says, “I have an idea.”

Geralt raises his eyebrow skeptically. “I don’t doubt that you are as talented with a needle and thread as you are in other arenas but I’m fairly certain that not even the most skilled tailor could save your doublet, least of all because half of it remains in the griffin’s jaws.”

Jaskier pouts and makes a grabby hand for the kit like an unsatisfied toddler. Geralt, begrudgingly, rifles through his saddlebags to locate his tools and obediently passes the repair kit to him.

“I told you,” Jaskier says, accepting the kit with glee. “I have an idea. Now shut up and let me work.”

Geralt scoffs at those words being said to him for once but obligingly steps away and allows Jaskeir to work by firelight. He works with the same diligence and attentiveness as he does when stitching Geralt’s wounds as he measures and cuts and sews, and after an hour of watching this intense practice, Geralt grows tired and slips into his bedroll to sleep.

*

He is awoken some hours later by movement behind him and lute-calloused fingers in his hair. Geralt grumbles his greeting and feels Jaskier huff a laugh against the back of his neck. He recognises the gentle tug of hair braiding and falls back to sleep before he even recognises the new ribbon placed there.

*

“You like having your hair tied back but you lose ribbons all the time,” Jaskier shrugs when Geralt comments on it the next morning. “I thought that leather wouldn’t fall out as easy as silk. They also have a fabric backing and I hemmed around the sides so they should be a bit more sturdy than your average ribbon.”

Geralt frowns at the unexpected thoughtfulness. It was awfully considerate of Jaskier even if he did braid his hair into some abomination while he was sleeping. He grunts as he peers inside the knapsack where they reside and sees a veritable mountain of thick red ribbons. “How many of these did you make?”

Jaskier shrugs again, as if it were inconsequential, as if he hadn’t spent half the night working by firelight, crafting his undeserving lover a thoughtful gift. “Twenty? Thirty? I lost count after a while. Should last you a week at least.”

It’s a joke. He should probably laugh. But he’s too overwhelmed by the gesture to do more than grunt.

Jaskier rolls his eyes, amused, but underneath, Geralt wagers, he is disappointed by his cowardly response.

Geralt frowns. He swore to do better. He can do better.

He draws Jaskier in for a tentative, apologetic kiss. “Thank you,” he says.

Jaskier grins like he’s won the Grand Bardic Tournament for the third year in a row. He pets Geralt’s cheek patronisingly. “There we go,” he teases. “Was that so hard?”

Geralt growls and pulls him in for another kiss. The damn braid stays in his hair the entire day.

*

Gift giving is not something that Geralt is well-versed in. Witchers don’t celebrate birthdays, or solstice, or any other occasion upon which gifts are warranted. If a gift is truly necessary to broker peace or attend an occasion, then he will buy a bottle of Est Est from the nearest barkeep and have done.

In the past, he exchanged items with Jaskier and thought nothing of it. He would bestow Jaskier weapons that he wouldn’t use, and Jaskier would buy him fine wines that he wouldn’t appreciate. It was careless gift giving and he certainly hadn’t kept track of any debts, but now Jaskier has made it explicitly clear that he expects Geralt to give as much as he takes, he knows that his beloved will be disappointed if he doesn’t return the thoughtful gesture to the same degree. Jaskier is always taking care of him, and if he is to earn his place by his side then he needs to return the favour.

Geralt spends weeks contemplating a gift that Jaskier would actually appreciate. It’s difficult, because Jaskier enjoys the finer things in life and has the coin to indulge so he’s rarely in want for anything. Despite his offer to purchase Jaskier new clothing, he is well aware that he is not trusted to make such decisions, and at the next town, Jaskier does indeed take matters into his own hands and approaches the tailor with a long list of demands that Geralt does not even begin to comprehend.

A score of days after the score of ribbons, they make a stop in Novigrad, and Geralt acknowledges that if he cannot find Jaskier a suitable gift in a city as large as this, then he is doomed to failure.

He is at the smithey repairing his weapons when he enquires about the availability of lute strings and is given directions to the local luthier. He spies two women stretching guts on the drying racks outside and another carving wood at a desk and beneath the stench of blood from the butchers next door, he recognises the scent of lute in its primary elements. He gathers his courage and approaches the specialist shop. If there’s anything to be found for Jaskier, surely it will be found here.

He regrets it immediately. The woman asks him about material preference and the number of strings required and the relative size of the instrument, none of which he can answer. Embarrassed, Geralt brusquely ends the conversation and heads to the antique bookshop instead, hoping that he might stumble across a tome on folklore that Jaskier has not read. He is browsing for several minutes before it occurs to him that he has no idea what Jaskier has or has not read. Desperate, he goes to the winery but as soon as the proprietor asks the very simple question of ‘white or red?’ Geralt is startled by the appalling revelation that he doesn’t know. Jaskier always insists on ordering whatever Geralt would like. Consequently, he doesn’t actually know his preference and has apparently never once thought to ask.

Geralt feels utterly wretched by the time he’s done. Not only has he been so self-absorbed during their acquaintanceship that he hadn’t even bothered to note what actually pleased his companion but he had also, quite unwittingly, been putting his own needs above Jaskier’s much more frequently, and for much longer, than he had thought. Jaskier knows him intimately - he has taken to learning Geralt as meticulously as the most ambitious student - but Geralt, in return, has observed distressingly little. He has never felt the imbalance of their relationship quite so acutely as he does trudging through the streets of Novigrad empty-handed.

He is returning to the Kingfisher, downhearted and guilty, when he spots a flash of red on a market stall. Strawberries. The thought gives him pause. Jaskier likes berries. He frequently picks them on the road (and Geralt notices because he subtly checks they are not poisonous before Jaskier slips them between his lips) and when they attend feasts Jaskier gorges himself on berries until his mouth is stained purple. There is even that lyric of his about kisses as sweet as a berry

Relief floods through him as he strides towards the market stall and admires the fresh fruit before him. It is only May. These strawberries must be the first of the season. Geralt feels further emboldened; surely strawberries in May are like apples in September. Jaskier requests an apple on his birthday because he likes the exclusivity of tasting fruit at the start of its season. He appreciates that Geralt has to hunt high and low for it, and once he has it in his hands, he will hold it lovingly and wax lyrical about how dearly he missed the fruit when it was away. It is… endearing.

Geralt purchases the strawberries and examines the small wooden crate in his outstretched palm. It’s not enough. Buying fruit at a market stall does not equate to hours of intense needlework at night, but he anticipates Jaskier’s look of surprise and wide eyes of excitement and feels a cautious flutter of hope stir within him.

*

Jaskier is deep within the recesses of his creative mind when Geralt returns from the market. He can tell when Jaskier is absorbed with his composing because he is unnervingly quiet. He murmurs, and hums, and then frowns at the scrawl on the notebook in front of him but he can be like this for hours - just him and his lute - without so much as raising his head to check his surroundings. It’s gotten him nearly killed at least three times, but when they’re not in imminent danger Geralt sees no reason to interrupt him.

He puts the strawberries aside and makes himself comfortable at the desk to brew potions, waiting for Jaskier to emerge from the depths of his mind.

He does, eventually, with a yawn and a crack of bones that signals a stretch.

Geralt puts aside his work to observe; there is a contented smile on his face but the lines of his body appear burdened with exhaustion.

Jaskier groans as he cracks his back again. “Remind me next time that I am much too old to be bending over my work like that for hours at a time.”

Geralt grunts. “Doubt you would listen.”

“I might!” Jaskier protests, but Geralt heeds his unspoken request and stands behind him to knead the stress out of his aching back.

Jaskier mewls with pleasure and melts under his ministrations, and Geralt takes a moment to feel guilty for this too; he can count the number of times he has done this for his beloved on one hand. Jaskier, however, will massage his sore body at every opportunity.

“I have something for you.”

Jaskier groans again and leans back into the touch as Geralt’s rotating thumb teases out the tension from a particularly difficult knot. “Is it your miraculous fingers?”

Geralt chuckles. He is laughing more and more lately in Jaskier’s company. It startles him every time, and even more so, when he sees the pleased smile that emerges on his lover’s lips. “No,” he murmurs, pressing a kiss into Jaskier’s temple. “You may have those any time.”

Jaskier moans obscenely and reaches back to reclaim Geralt’s hand and kiss his fingers sweetly. “I wish you wouldn’t tease me so…”

“Not a tease,” Geralt assures and extracts himself from Jaskier’s hands so that he might return with his gift.

Jaskier’s eyes indeed go wide with hunger at the sight of fresh berries but his soft, indulgent, smile is something that Geralt did not expect and it sends his heart skittering. “First of the season,” Geralt explains as he awkwardly offers the box of fruit to him.

Jaskier’s fingers cover his as he takes the offering from his hand. He raises the sweet fruit to his nose and dramatically (because when does his bard not do anything dramatically) inhales the scent of the strawberries. His eyes flutter closed and he shudders in pleasure and Geralt finds that he is unexpectedly hard beneath his breeches. “Oh darling,” he says, in a deep voice that is in no way helping the situation. “You give the best presents -”

“The only present -”

“Oh, hush,” Jaskier scolds, physically waving off his insecurities. “It is marvellous. And so very thoughtful of you.” He puts the box aside and pulls Geralt by the loose fabric of his shirt into a slow and passionate kiss. “Thank you,” he whispers when they part. His eyes are hungry for something else now; Geralt can taste the lust in the air.

Jaskier grins mischievously and Geralt already suspects what he has in mind when he reaches for the fruit and puts his mouth on one as seductively as one would a lover. He bites teasingly, his eyes locked onto Geralt’s, as he smears the sweet juices along his lips.

Geralt watches, entranced by the wet shimmering lips, and vividly recalls the first time he had taken Jaskier; the lipstick smeared between them and Jaskier’s admission years later that he liked it - made me feel claimed by you; like I was yours - and now they have the chance to repeat the act except this time - this time - it was true.

He reaches out with a fingertip to smear the juice across his lips, lovingly, instead of posessively as it once was. “You’re mine,” he whispers in awe.

Jaskier’s eyes grow impossibly dark. He smells divine. Geralt cannot resist him any longer and dives forward to replace his finger with his tongue. Jaskier moans under the assault of his tongue tracing his lips and then plunging into his mouth to taste the last of the fruit inside him.

“I’m yours,” Jaskier gasps when he is permitted to come up for air. “I have always been yours.”

Geralt groans but it is stifled by the press of fruit against his mouth and then Jaskier’s lips against his and before he is fully cognitive of it, the two of them are naked and writhing in the sticky residue of sweat and semen and fucking strawberry juice.

He takes Jaskier in his mouth at the end of it, licking the last of the juice from his manhood and when he comes his seed tastes like summer itself.

 

XXIII

They cannot keep their hands off each other. They had only left the sanctuary of their room at the Baron’s manor house to check on Roach in the stables, but somehow it had resulted in Jaskier’s legs around his waist, filthy wet kisses, and rocking their clothed erections together as Geralt presses him against the wooden divide of the stools in the deserted stables.

“Ah, the smell of horseshit and the gruff grunts of a stablehand,” Jaskier quips when Geralt leaves his lips long enough to speak, “reminds me of my first time.”

“I’m not a stablehand.”

It’s not until Geralt is reaching into his lover’s breeches and Jaskier jumps at the touch - a sudden spike of potent fear in the air - that Geralt realises his words might not have been intended as encouragement.

Fuck.

His own cloud of lust clears enough for him to recognise the sour scent of distress, and worse, realises that it had been steadily building for some time. Jaskier is hard, yes, but he is struggling to breathe for an altogether different reason.

Geralt deescalates their situation as quickly as he is able; guiding Jaskier’s legs to the ground while keeping him encircled in his arms. Jaskier’s eyes are darting; a flush of shame colours his cheeks and now that Geralt is not distracted by his own pleasure, he can quickly catalogue the telling signs of anxiety that he has not witnessed in several years.

Geralt grits his teeth in anger. Not at Jaskier - never at Jaskier - but at himself for ignoring the signs and, beyond that, at whatever shitty fucking past experience would cause his beloved to have such a severe reaction in the first place.

They’ve fucked in barns before but never in a stable. What was it Jaskier had just said? Reminds me of my first time.

“Why do I get the impression that your first time was not consensual?”

Jaskier smiles crookedly before a sudden flare of pain causes his cocky expression to collapse. He reaches for his chest and Geralt instinctually follows; cradling the manifestation of pain even though they both know it’s not the fucking source of it. “Define ‘consensual,’” Jaskier jokes like this is something to joke about.

Geralt’s face hardens as he stares him down. “You wanted it,” he states simply because it is that fucking simple and he won’t let Jaskier dance around the matter with his fancy words and clever avoidance.

Jaskier gives a one-armed shrug but his attempt at nonchalance is utterly contradicted by the sharp inhale of pain afterwards. “I wanted… him?” he offers.

Geralt glowers. They were meant to be honest with each other. Jaskier said that the key to a good relationship was ‘emotional communication’ but as Jaskier attempts to distract him with a bruising kiss and a hand pressed against his groin, he concludes that Jaskier is a fucking hypocrite. Geralt tears his hand away and pinches the wrist in his hand. “I’m not fucking you here, Jaskier, and I will never so much as touch you in a stable again if -”

Jaskier whines and attempts to reclaim his lips. “I’m fine,” he cries, almost literally as the muscles in his chest clench painfully once again. “It’s nothing -”

“It’s clearly not ‘nothing,’” he growls and then winces when he sees Jaskier flinch at his raised voice. He steps away entirely, hands raised. He’s fucking this up, as he fucks everything up. “What happened?” he asks. Then, worried it sounds like a demand, quickly recifies, “Shit. No. I mean, you don’t have to tell me, but you can… tell me.”

Jaskier lets out a shaky exhale that might be part pain and part laughter. “Not much of a story really,” he says casually. “Fancied the stablehand. My father found out.”

Geralt feels his fist clench. He will murder that man with his own two hands if they ever cross paths again -

“He paid him rather handsomely, I imagine. Or threatened him. Or blackmailed him. To this day I don’t know.”

“The stablehand?” Geralt asks and Jaskier nods his confirmation. “Paid him to do what exactly.”

Jaskier gasps as he struggles with another wave of pain.

“We don’t have to do this here,” Geralt tells him. “We can return to the manor -”

“No,” Jaskier bites, his own fist clenching as he pounds it against the wooden divide in frustration. Roach whinnies a few stalls down in response. “I’m fine. I told you it’s nothing -

“Stop being so goddamn stubborn Jaskier and let me help.”

Jaskier’s eyes go wide and Geralt curses, realising that he’d just raised his voice again. He starts pacing. He needs an outlet for his frustration and while incapable of castrating the stablehand that hurt his beloved and strangling the patriarch that presumably ordered such abuse, taking out his pent-up anger on the filthy stable floor seems his best alternative.

“Father thought I was mistaken in my queer desires,” he whispers, and Geralt stills. “He reasoned if he gave me what I thought I wanted and it made it unpleasant that I might realise the error of my ways. He ordered the stablehand to take me. Unkindly. In a stable much like this one. A punishment for both of us, I can only assume.”

“For both of you?” Geralt questions. “The stablehand was your… lover?”

Jaskier bites out a cruel laugh at his own expense. “Gods, no. He was several years my senior. I doubt he would have taken me if not forced. He was queer though, and I was a bored horny teenager. He was the only viable option at my disposal and I had spent a couple of pleasant months trying to convince him to bed me.”

“Then your father found out,” Geralt grunts. “And made it happen.”

Jaskier swallows his nerves; there are tears in his eyes. Geralt suspects with growing dread that the father may have done more than simply order the act. His suspicions are confirmed when Jaskier ever so quietly murmurs, “He held me down.”

Geralt forgets how to breathe. For a good few seconds, there is nothing in his head but white noise. Count Lettenhove ordered a man to rape his son and watched. It is so fucking depraved, so fucking cruel, that even after all the countless horrors he has witnessed on the Path, it still shocks him. But... he can see the truth in it. The Count is a power-hungry, determined, and viciously cruel man; he would not have allowed his only son to be queer, and when he set out on his course of corrective rape he would have wanted to see the punishment through. The sick bastard.

Jaskier huffs a laugh. “As you can see, his attempt to dissuade me from buggery did not take. After he sent the stablehand away, I set my eyes on Jax the farmhand and he taught me that the act could be rather pleasurable so… all’s well that ends well?”

Geralt has never heard anything more obtuse leave Jaskier’s mouth which is fucking saying something. “You were raped and your own father orchestrated it,” he states, still reeling and horrified by his beloved’s casual retelling of the story. Jaskier winces at his blunt summary of events and Geralt feels at once both guilty for causing him pain and assured that Jaskier cannot possibly weave a pretty story to drown out the truth when it is stated so plainly. Jaskier should not be able to shrug off his own suffering as an inconvenient truth.

A truth that Geralt should have heard years ago. It had been there, within reach, when Geralt had taken the sleeping draught and they had argued the very next morning about the comparative hardships of repressing their queer desires. The argument had been brutal and unkind and between it all Geralt had belittled his lover’s teenage years of suffering as being ‘mere coppers’ compared to his own torments.

And what do you know of it? Jaskier had exclaimed; wild and distraught.

He sees it now, and he feels fucking wretched that he did not think to ask before. He should have heard the pain in Jaskier’s voice and realised that something truly harrowing lay in his past. The fact that Jaskier is always so desperate to please should have triggered alarm bells in his head; this altruistic facet of his personality no longer seems sweet but fucking endemic. Jaskier can read people so well because he has to; he offers people what they want because he feels like he needs to. The panic attacks. The way he doesn’t look his father in the eyes. The signs of abuse were there all along and if Geralt had been less of a self-absorbed ass then he would have seen it.

Geralt cautiously approaches Jaskier, studying his body language step by step to ensure that his presence is welcomed before he dares lay a hand against his cheek. Jaskier still smells like pain as another manifestation surges through his chest but there is also a subtle sweetness to his scent that wasn’t present before. “I am sorry,” Geralt says sincerely. “That it ever happened but also… that I did not notice, and it did not occur to me to ask. It is not ‘nothing’ and it will never be ‘well’ and if I knew...”

Jaskier slaps Geralt’s hand away with the same irritation that he would swat away a house fly. “You’re about to say something inane like ‘if I knew I never would have taken you roughly’ or ‘in a hay bed’ or ‘so young’ or godforbid ‘at all’ but that is complete crock and you know it. Do you imagine, after I endured that punishment at the hands of my father, that I ever again offered what I could not give?”

“It was not your fault,” Geralt says sternly before Jaskier can convolute this any further. “You cannot be blamed for wanting it; for having desires.”

It is only when he hears the words in his own voice that he realises what Jaskier has been trying to teach him all these years. The shame that Geralt had struggled with for so long, Jaskier actually did understand, and understood intimately. He had been physically punished for having such desires and still found a way out the other side.

Jaskier, perhaps, notes the similarities too and between harsh gasps for breath, covers his hand with his own. “I love you,” he reassures and the words soothe every raised barb inside him, “and I have never laid with you unwillingly. Now please,” he says, attempting to tug Geralt back into an embrace, “will you kiss me and banish this dire recollection of events from my mind.”

Geralt goes willingly and cradles his face so he can temper Jaskier’s passionate kisses into one slow, and controlled, and loving. By the time he parts, Jaskier has calmed and his eyes are soft and even though his muscles are still protesting from the ache, the sour scent of pain is fading. “Not here,” Geralt murmurs and when Jaskier begins to protest, he lays a finger across his lips. “Not today.”

If Jaskier truly wants to tackle his past trauma then they will but it is not a decision to be taken lightly and not in the midst of his manifestations. Jaskier sags in defeat (and relief?) beneath him and only protests mildly when Geralt carries him back to the manor.

*

They lie down in the obscenely luxurious bed and he fingers Jaskier slowly for what feels like hours. Jaskier’s energy has flagged with the exertion of his anxiety and he allows himself to be maneuvered easily until Geralt is kneeling with Jaskier’s legs wrapped around him and his head pillowed on his shoulder. Geralt keeps him cradled in his arms and kisses him as often as he is able; needing his beloved to feel safe and loved and far away from the monsters of his past.

He waits until Jaskier’s aches have subsided and his breathing has stuttered in pleasure before he lifts his beloved with strong arms and lowers him onto his hardened member. Jaskier sighs, content and lethargic, as he accepts the breach. There is usually a loud and filthy moan at this moment of penetration but Geralt might actually prefer this quiet, soft, happiness instead; the way Jaskier’s fingers stroke at the nape of his neck, relaxed and encouraging, instead of demanding and impatient.

Geralt rocks into him, deep and unhurried, and soon loses passage of time until Jaskier is whimpering his pleas against his ear. He brings his beloved to climax with a few languid strokes of his member and kisses the pleasured sigh that falls from his lips. When the last drop has fallen onto his hand, he carefully extracts his hardness from between their bodies and pleasures himself swiftly and methodically with muted grunts until he finds release himself.

Jaskier has sagged against his shoulder, completely exhausted. Soon, Geralt will call for a bath and clean him with as much attentiveness as his beloved so often bestows upon him. He will order food from the kitchens and insist Jaskier eat more than a morsel. He will exchange a handful of words with the Baron to ensure him that his archespores are being taken care of. And then, as night falls, he will tuck his beloved into bed and wrap himself around him and listen to his steady heartbeat as he falls asleep.

But for now, all he needs is to hold Jaskier close in this kneeling embrace and inhale the comforting scent of lavender.

*

Geralt tightens his hold and rocks Jaskier like a sleeping child as he dozes against his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he says, because it may be trite but it was worth repeating. “I should have asked.”

There’s a murmur against his shoulder that a human would have struggled to hear. “Wouldn’t have told you.”

Geralt huffs a laugh. That was probably true enough. Jaskier can spin stories to cover up even the most insignificant of truths. Before they were this, he wouldn’t have opted to share something so personal.

Geralt has questions. He definitely has retribution plans. But all of that can wait until the morning.

He kisses Jaskier’s cheek and strokes his hair and only when he feels his breathing even out into slumber does Geralt say the thing that matters the most. “I care about you,” he admits, burrowing into the embrace. “Greatly.”

There is a sleepy sniffle against him and the smallest smile pressed into his shoulder. “You romantic,” Jaskier teases, before he drifts once more into slumber.

*

Geralt doesn’t sleep. His thoughts are plagued by the horrific scenario Jaskier described and how fucking dismissive he had been of it. He cradles Jaskier in his arms for hours, attempting to ground himself in the here and now where his beloved is peaceful and content and far removed from the men that hurt him, but no matter how hard he tries to dismiss it, his subconscious insists on reconstructing that day’s dire events with the scant few details that Jaskier had provided.

Father thought I was mistaken in my queer desires.

He ordered the stablehand to take me. Unkindly.

He held me down.

At some point in the night, his distress must grow too apparent because Jaskier, splayed across his naked chest like a blanket, stirs in his sleep and cracks an eye open. “Geralt? You okay?”

His instinct is to lie - to say he’s fine, because he’s always fine - but they’re only a month into their new arrangement and communication is meant to be something they do now. He frowns and tastes the word on his tongue, “...No.”

Jaskier rubs his eyes and before he can startle into full wakefulness, Geralt tightens his grip around him; keeping him close. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” he admits, “but we don’t have to talk. I don’t expect you to.”

If it were something else, he would tease Jaskier about his usual loquaciousness and his apparent unwillingness to talk about a particular subject. Not with the matter at hand though.

Jaskier blinks in confusion and when the meaning penetrates his sleep-addled thoughts he reaches out and with gentle fingers traces the frown lines on his forehead. “I can talk about it,” he offers. “What do you want to know?”

Geralt strokes his hand down Jaskier’s side, reassuring him in what way he can as he tries to school his disjointed thoughts into coherent sentences. He supposes he ought to address his primary concern. “That was the only time?”

“Yes.”

“And the worst of your father’s abuses?”

Jaskier hesitates.

Geralt’s jaw clenches in repressed anger and his eyes close in dread. There cannot, possibly, be worse.

“Oh, relax,” Jaskier chides, cupping Geralt’s jaw and gently pry his gritted teeth apart. “I only meant that he beat me otherwise, but you already suspected that, I’m sure. The stable incident was by far the worst of it.”

That does not ‘relax’ Geralt any. His voice is still tight with anger when he asks, “All because you were…” he struggles to find a word for Jaskier’s queer desires that aren’t the derogatory descriptors they have been taught. “Because you enjoyed the company of men?”

Jaskier smiles softly, as if he noticed Geralt’s hesitation to describe him as insensitively as he describes himself. “That didn’t help, I’m sure,” Jaskier says with a shrug, and takes to toying with Geralt’s medallion in his hand. “But I was insolent and ill-mannered and as the only son… well, there were certain expectations that I failed to meet.”

Geralt grunts. When he had first witnessed Jaskier’s cold relationship with his father he had assumed it was due to physical violence issued for such asinine reasons, as was often the case in noble families, so hearing his suspicions confirmed now ought not to discomfort him. It does though.

Jaskier sighs and rolls onto his back, out of Geralt’s embrace, so he can cover his eyes with the back of his arm. Geralt would usually tease him for such dramatics but on this particular occasion perhaps these dramatics were warranted.

“I was a child still,” Jaskier says, lowering his arm but still markedly not looking at Geralt, “when I started to sense the beatings coming, when I first felt…” his hand moves over his chest. “The panic.”

“He attempted to beat that out of you too,” Geralt states.

Jaskier looks across at him with a delightful and curious expression. “How did you know?”

Geralt waves his hand, dismissing whatever praise Jaskier wishes to bestow him, as he moves onto his side to look at him. “I suspected,” he clarifies. “Your anxiety manifests differently to most,” he attempts to explain. “You don’t shake. You don’t gasp for breath. You must have forced yourself to make your suffering invisible but, seeing as the body still demands release for the stress it endures, I suspect that it took to manifesting as chest pain instead.” He shrugs, it is only a theory but one that he has had significant time to ponder. “You internalised it,” he concludes. “You carry the pain deep inside yourself instead of allowing it to be seen.”

Jaskier smirks and rolls back onto his side until they are face-to-face.

“What?” Geralt asks, because he is fairly certain the subject matter does not warrant such flippancy.

“Do not make me draw the obvious parallel here, Geralt. I know you are ignorant of metaphor at the best of times but even you cannot be oblivious to one so apparent.”

Geralt frowns. He has always struggled to understand Jaskier’s flowery language and the ‘symbolism’ that is apparently woven into his songs. He does not understand how a tree can be a mother or a blackberry can be a precursor to death or how a stone can be anything other than a stone. Geralt speaks plainly; Jaskier does not.

Jaskier rolls his eyes and punches his shoulder good-naturedly. “You keep everything deep inside yourself,” he explains with a teasing, yet somehow sincere, smile. “You are a fortress I have spent my entire life attempting to siege.”

Geralt blinks, a little of the meaning seeping through. He had bedded Jaskier for ten years before he had admitted he enjoyed it and it took another ten for him to admit that he wanted more. He had buried his desires very deep indeed.

“I have always wondered…” Jaskier asks, and reaches out to march two fingers across Geralt’s bare chest like a footsoldier in this metaphorical siege. “When you saw me experience it that first time in Lettenhove... you knew what it was.”

Geralt notes that the allegation is phrased as a statement rather than an interrogation; giving Geralt the opportunity to withhold as much information as he chooses. His mouth twitches in thought. It is not something he has ever freely admitted to someone but, he supposes, Jaskier has long ceased being ‘someone’. “I had these attacks as a child,” he confesses. “Often. My first was on the side of the road after my mother abandoned me. Then, frequently at Kaer Morhen.”

Jaskier is looking back at him with sad sympathetic eyes, and this time it is Geralt that rolls onto his back, unable to bear the scrutiny.

“You don’t have them anymore,” Jaskier observes.

“No,” he confirms. “Not after the trials. Witcher mutations dull our senses. Including fear. Including panic. But I remember the sensation and I recognised it in you.”

Jaskier’s hand ceases its teasing ministrations and lies flat over his chest instead, clutching the coin of his medallion in his palm. “I wish I could dull mine,” Jaskier murmurs.

Geralt closes his eyes, burdened with the sudden unpleasant onslaught of visions of Jaskier enduring the mutations. He exhales his distress and raises Jaskier’s hand to his lips, kissing each finger in turn in an attempt to calm his turbulent thoughts. “No, you don’t,” he states firmly. “It dulls other things too… the good things,” he says, squeezing his hand in case the meaning does not penetrate. He knows that the quiet stirring of affection for Jaskier in his chest must pale in comparison to what anyone else must feel when in love and he doesn’t know how to express this otherwise. He feels it, but it is dullened and uncertain and still buried too deep to vocalise. “You feel everything greatly,” he explains, pressing his lips once more to Jaskier’s fingertips. “You relish in the full spectrum of human emotion… It is what makes you a great poet. You would loathe for your emotions to be as muted as mine,” he concludes.

Jaskier smiles sadly and shuffles back into Geralt’s open and waiting arms. “I suppose it would render me a rather lackluster bard,” he jests before his words break into a yawn.

“It would,” Geralt agrees, pleased that Jaskier has so readily dismissed the notion. “And I would have you no other way.”

Jaskier shifts against his chest, reclaiming his comfortable sleeping position. “I’ll remind you of that the next time you call my rendition of Fishmonger’s Daughter too bawdy.”

“It is too bawdy,” Geralt protests, because he’s certain that song gets filthier with every performance.

Jaskier smiles and settles down against him. “Funny,” he murmurs, “because I distinctly remember you saying that you would have me no other way.”

 

XXIV

A woman is flirting with Jaskier. This is not an unusual sight but Geralt finds that his reaction to Jaskier’s slow sultry smile at the barmaid’s flirtations is unusual. He never used to care two coppers who shared Jaskier’s bed as long as he didn’t have to see it and Jaskier didn’t attempt to share his bed afterwards. However, as the barmaid leans forward and her bosom spills onto the ale-slicked bar and Jaskier’s eyes are drawn down towards them like a moth to the flame, it occurs to Geralt with a sickly twist of acid in his stomach and an unwelcome clutch of bile in his throat, that he doesn’t know if this is still the understanding between them.

Jaskier has undoubtedly had many offers of intimacy since their new arrangement but as far as Geralt is aware, he hasn’t accepted any of them. Was this purposeful? Or merely a coincidence? It would be sensible to assume now they had confessed to their romantic desires that there was an implication of fidelity between them but Jaskier has never been one for convention, and neither has Geralt for that matter, so perhaps his bard has assumed otherwise. Perhaps he is going to take this barmaid to bed.

Geralt narrows his eyes as the barmaid makes a show of examining Jaskier’s rings, no doubt looking for a wedding ring nestled amongst the ornamental display.

Fuck.

He downs his ale and orders a bath; needing to douse this unsettling emotion in something larger than a pint.

*

Given Jaskier’s preoccupation with the barmaid, Geralt hadn’t expected him to even notice his absence, let alone join him in their rooms shortly afterwards.

Geralt has only just begun to scrub at the encrusted bog grime when the door to their rooms creaks open and Jaskier slips through. Geralt grunts his greeting. “Barmaid not to your tastes?”

Jaskier grins as he puts aside his lute and skips towards the bath; the very picture of a man at ease. The sight irks Geralt for some reason. Jaskier leans his arms on the edge of the tub with the same paralysing smile. “Oh no, she was quite delightful,” he says, playing with the wet tips of Geralt’s hair. “And I think by the end of our discussion I had successfully encouraged her to follow her dreams to become a silversmith. She has a particular talent for engraved rings -”

“You did not take her to bed,” Geralt states, not in the mood to dance around the matter.

Jaskier frowns and ceases his mindless petting of Geralt’s hair. “No. Did you… expect me to?”

Geralt shrugs and splashes some lukewarm water on his face, hoping it might bestow him some clarity. “We have not discussed the matter.”

“Ah,” Jaskier says, as he folds his legs beneath him, evidently settling in for a long conversation. “No, I suppose we have not.”

“Fidelity is not your strong suit.”

Jaskier winces at the blunt observation but does not dispute it. “It is… not,” he admits, “but that does not mean I would not try if it is what you desired.”

Geralt grunts and scrubs at his face. It seems futile to agree to something that is likely to break.

Jaskier allows him a moment’s silence to contemplate the matter. His fingers trace the edge of the bath in thought. “Did it hurt you to see it?”

Geralt shrugs.

Jaskier inhales sharply and looks away with a wince. “So that’s a yes.”

Geralt glares. Jaskier has always been able to read him uncannily well.

“Okay, let me try another tack,” Jaskier says, as he tilts his head to examine Geralt. “Would you be able to be faithful to me? No more whorehouses, no more terrifying sorceresses, no more Yennefer for that matter…?”

“Hmm.” He hadn’t considered that. Admittedly he still has an attachment of some sort to Yennefer; their fates tied together by the djinn if nothing else. If she came back into his life and offered another chance to lay with her, he is not certain that he would refuse. Jaskier has utterly enchanted him but at some point in the coming years he will undoubtedly miss a woman’s touch and the thought of going without for an indeterminate amount of time is rather daunting.

Jaskier, apparently, reads the answer on his face. “Then you cannot ask the same of me.”

Geralt frowns and nods, accepting this.

“I admit there are not many that catch my eye now I know my affections for you are at least somewhat reciprocated,” Jaskier says sweetly. His fingertips come to trace the line of his jaw; the touch as light as a whisper. Geralt’s eyes flutter closed under the gentle touch. Every loving caress from his bard still feels like a novelty; like a rarity that must be treasured. “But…” Jaskier admits, “there are some that do, and I would like to indulge occasionally. It can be with your permission, or without your knowledge, or whatever you…”

“Not in front of me,” he says; the one thing he knows for certain unsettles him.

“Okay,” Jaskier says, still tracing his face pensively. “Not in front of each other. Easy to do when we are apart but when we are together...?”

“You ask,” Geralt grunts. “And you don’t come back until you are done and her smell is scrubbed off you.”

Jaskier smiles knowingly and moves his hands to Geralt’s hair, gently untangling the wet strands that dip into the water. “Women only then?”

Geralt shrugs. Women are their preference anyway. He can’t imagine ever giving himself over to another man but he supposes it wouldn’t offend him if Jaskier did. He likes variety.

“Okay, men too,” Jaskier says, correctly reading his silent answer before pressing a kiss into the nape of his neck. “And the same for you? You will ask? When you can? When you are miles away on a contract I obviously don’t expect you to cease activities to send me a letter but will you inform me when you come back? So when an ungodly beautiful woman turns up on our doorstep a fortnight later - as will inevitably happen - I’m not taken by surprise? Well,” he says, reconsidering, “any more than the sight would warrant anyway.”

Geralt smiles and tangles his hands in Jaskier’s. His rambling, once a nuisance, has become somewhat charming. He brushes his lips over the knuckles. “I would tell you.”

“Excellent,” Jaskier says, breaking their grip to clasp his hands together excitedly. “Then I believe we are done discussing the matter and if it’s okay with you I can return to the much more pleasant task of lavishing your body with the attention it is unduly owed.”

Geralt laughs as Jaskier fetches his soap and bathes him in the scent of lavender.

*

 

Jaskier bathes afterwards and Geralt is dozing peacefully when he feels a wet naked body climb over him and sprawl across his bare back.

Geralt grunts in mild discomfort but it’s intended as more of a greeting than a protest.

Jaskier presses his forehead between his shoulder blades and inhales deeply, no doubt smelling his trademark scent on Geralt’s drying hair. It’s nice, Geralt can admit. He usually makes do with whatever soaps he can get ahold of, and rarely at that, but smelling of Jaskier is awfully comforting and makes a little coil of possessiveness curl pleasantly in his gut. Yes, I am yours.

Jaskier tilts his head until there are lips brushing the top of his spine instead. The slight movement causes droplets from his hair to drip across his back and the peculiar sensation on sensitive skin sends him shivering under Jaskier’s weight. Jaskier hums contentedly and Geralt can feel his small smile pressed against his skin. Geralt’s own lips twitch in response. He is happy here, he realises; happiness is a feeling he is beginning to recognise.

“Are you awake?” Jaskier whispers.

“Hmm,” Geralt replies, sleepy but not uninterested.

“Good,” he murmurs, brushing his lips tantalisingly across Geralt’s neck, light enough that it sends a pleasant trail tingling in its wake. “I want to put my mouth on you again.” The meaning doesn’t quite penetrate until Jaskier’s hand is squeezing his rear meaningfully. Jaskier groans at the touch before Geralt can even respond. “Gods, your arse is magnificent. I could write entire odes to how supple and strong and truly sublime it is.”

He squeezes again and Geralt finds himself pushing back into the touch. Odes are the last thing he needs. Jaskier’s mouth, however…

“May I?” Jaskier asks, with another tempting kiss, this time over the clasp of his medallion.

Geralt twists his head out of the shitty tavern pillow just enough to grunt, “Am I agreeing to your odes or your mouth?”

Jaskier laughs. The sound never fails to bring warmth to his chest. Jaskier leans over to brush the hair out of his face and press a kiss there instead. “Which would you prefer?” he whispers seductively in his ear.

Geralt glares. Jaskier knows which he would prefer. Presumably, he just wants to hear the words from Geralt’s mouth. They have not partaken in this very intimate act since the incident with the bruxa, when Geralt was half-dead and half-delirious with potions. He remembers it being a strangely pleasant sensation and he finds that he isn’t as repulsed by the idea as he once was. There is still a little apprehension swirling in his gut but one that is easily assuaged by the memory of Jaskier’s obscene sounds during the act. Jaskier had enjoyed it so very much but has never once requested a repeat performance, even during these last two months where they had laid together countless times. Jaskier so rarely initiates intercourse that Geralt doesn’t want to refuse him; he wants Jaskier to know that he can request anything from him and that he will not be reprimanded for doing so.

Decided, Geralt frees a hand from beneath their tangled bodies and brings his thumb to trace over Jaskier’s wet lips. Jaskier inhales sharply in surprise and he is gifted with a wave of strong lust amidst the lavender before Jaskier takes the proffered thumb between his lips, sucking teasingly.

“Your mouth,” Geralt says plainly, and relishes in watching the excitement spark in Jaskier’s eyes.

“Yeah?” he asks disbelievingly even as his face breaks into an eager grin.

Geralt feels his own crow’s feet crinkle with joy as he replaces his thumb with his lips and gives Jaskier a lingering kiss on the skillful mouth that will soon be pleasuring him. “Yes,” he confirms as he pulls away. “Please,” he adds, because he knows Jaskier will want to hear it.

A telling flush colours Jaskier’s cheeks and then he is diving to recapture Geralt’s lips before pulling away with an even brighter smile. “Okay,” he says in wonder, and then again, as he startles from his position and starts to move towards his target.

Geralt grunts at the sudden movement, feeling more droplets of bathwater fall against his skin like rain, as Jaskier slides off him and uses his broad hands to eagerly urge Geralt’s hips up the bed until he is positioned to his liking. It ought to feel exposed on his knees like this, with his legs splayed apart, and his rear in the air like the most perverted offering, but he hides his face in the pillow and allows Jaskier’s potent scent of desire to calm him. Jaskier always smells like lust to some extent but it seems stronger than ever before as his hands start kneading his buttocks and his fingers start prying him apart.

He wants to ask: How do you enjoy this? but does not know how to ask without offending.

When he thought it was his last time with Jaskier, back at the Stael Estate, he had let his mouth wander this far to taste him. He had wanted to know, before they parted, what every inch of his bard had tasted like. It had been earthy. Verging on unpleasant. He would have persisted, however, if his lover had found it enjoyable. As it was, his cautious lick of tongue was met with a cry of surprise but not the surge of lust that he had expected, and Geralt reasoned if they were both indifferent to the act then it was not worth pursuing; not if he could put his tongue on the underside of Jaskier’s cockhead instead and hear him scream in ecstasy.

Jaskier did not enjoy receiving, then, but there was no mistaking how much he loved to give.

Geralt’s knees are weak after only moments under his ministrations and a whole host of garbled sounds fall from his lips. His mind has fallen blissfully silent and his body is hazy with warm desire. It was not a consequence of his lowered inhibitions that first time then; the act truly was this transcendent. He has no control over the sounds that slip from his lips, or the way his hips buck with the attempt to push back against the wonderful sensation. Jaskier is moaning into it, his every sound muffled but just as divine, as he raises a hand to his hips to stay him. The tight hold ought to do nothing. Geralt could easily overpower him if he wanted. But he doesn’t. He trusts Jaskier to guide him, to pleasure him, to take care of him…

Another obscene noise leaves his lips and he reaches back desperately to tangle his fingers in Jaskier’s hair. Jaskier allows it and rewards his patience by snaking a hand beneath him and allowing him to buck into his palm.

Soon Jaskier has him thrusting back onto his mouth and then onto his hand and Geralt can only withstand a few scant minutes of this divine torture before he is crying out Jaskier’s name and spilling into his hand.

“Take me,” he pants afterwards. He feels Jaskier extract himself from the intimate position behind Geralt. His exasperated sigh implies that he will still think the act ‘unwise’ so before he can voice such concerns, Geralt hurries to specify, “Give me ten minutes and fuck me. I can take it. I want you. I need it. Please.”

Geralt is so pliant in his lover’s hands that he is easily maneuvered back onto his front and then rolled over until he’s looking up into his captivating eyes. Jaskier is smiling softly back down at him as he braces his arms over his prostrate body. “I should put my mouth on you more often if this is the kind of praise I receive afterwards,” he teases. “I never knew you could be so verbose.”

Geralt fights the urge to be embarrassed at those words. There is no shame in his desire. It is a lesson that Jaskier taught him. Jaskier is teasing, not to mock him, but to encourage him further. It is a strange habit but one that Geralt is steadily learning. “Will you?” he presses and raises his arms to stroke Jaskier’s sides because he cannot see all that beauty laid before him and not touch.

Jaskier smiles down at him indulgently. “Ten minutes, you say?”

Geralt nods. He has climaxed multiple times in Jaskier’s presence before, albeit usually with a little more time between couplings. He is very eager though. Ten minutes recovery time ought to be fine.

Jaskier bites his lip and his eyes sparkle with mischief. It’s entirely endearing. “Thank the gods for Witcher stamina,” he praises before leaning forward and taking Geralt’s nipple between his teeth.

Geralt yelps in surprise and grabs Jaskier’s hand again, in admonishment or encouragement he doesn’t know. “You’re a menace,” he grouches.

Jaskier smiles confidently and presses a kiss against the raised nub of flesh. “You like it.”

This is not the first time they’ve had this conversation, he recalls, except that last time he thought it merely flirtation. “I do,” he says sincerely, and gentles the grip in Jaskier’s drying hair until it is more a caress than a hold.

Jaskier looks up from his position on his chest with an oddly shy smile. “Keep saying things like that, my wolf, and I am not sure if I will be able to resist a full ten minutes without touching you.”

Geralt resumes stroking Jaskier’s sides as he comes to settle fully on top of him, head still pillowed on his chest. He can feel Jaskier’s erection pressed against his thigh and his steady exhales against the scant hair on his chest.

He can no longer tamper his curiosity. “You enjoy doing that,” he states and then thinks to clarify, “What we just did. With your mouth.” He cringes at his utter inability to carry out a conversation about these things with anything approaching grace but Jaskier doesn’t look perturbed by his ineptitude; he doesn’t even comment on his stumbling words.

Jaskier hums his agreement and begins drawing mindless circles across his chest. “I do.”

Geralt thins his lips as he contemplates how to ask this. What comes out, eventually, is a very cautious, “Why?”

Jaskier shrugs against him. “The way you relax, the sounds you make… the way you taste, even. I have you at my mercy. It’s very… appealing. To have you so vulnerable and so open for me. It’s utterly divine. I would have you in that position for hours if I thought that you could stand it.”

Geralt frowns as he processes this. He can understand the majority of it. He can even admit, secretly, if only to himself, that he enjoys being vulnerable around Jaskier too. He revels in the fact that there is someone he can trust so completely. It’s all very nice to hear but it does not answer his primary concern. “But…” he hazards, “you do not… enjoy it in return?”

He feels Jaskier’s mouth stretch into a smile and then Jaskier is tilting his head to look at him. “I had wondered if you’d noticed,” he says with an expression that can only be described as sappy. “You are a lot more perceptive of others’ needs than you let on.”

Geralt grunts as Jaskier returns to his chest pillow and traces the circle of the medallion with his fingertips. His bard is incapable of sitting still, he notes with fond amusement. “I can smell lust,” he explains. “When I attempted the act with you in Stael, you did not react as I had anticipated. It was not a difficult observation to make.”

Jaskier fingers move inwards to trace the wolf etching. His expression has suddenly saddened, plagued by whatever dark thoughts are on his mind. His scent has turned… sour; unpleasant. “You did not want me to leave that day, did you?” he murmurs, flicking his gaze to Geralt briefly, before returning his attention to his medallion.

Geralt swallows his nerves and the unsettling emotions that day had wrought. “You were happy with the Countess. I was undeserving of your affections. You had chosen and I was not going to intervene.”

Jaskier smiles sadly. “And yet, you tried to tell me otherwise. I did notice, you know. I could feel it in your kisses. I knew you were saying goodbye. I knew that it hurt you but I didn’t know what to say. I thought if I spoke, I would abandon my reservations and be on the road with you again by morn.”

Geralt doesn’t know how to respond to such raw honesty. He thought his silent begging had gone unnoticed, instead it had tortured the man with indecision. “I am sorry,” he says, genuinely meaning it. “I did not know how to speak of it either. I did not mean to cause you any harm.”

“I know,” Jaskier says with odd sincerity, and then seems to shake it off with a sigh. “We were both such fools. I was impatient, I suppose -”

“You had waited ten years -”

“Ah,” he says, stalling his words with a raised finger. “But I would have happily have waited ten more if I knew it would have led to this. I should not have given up on true love so quickly.”

True love.

Ridiculous words. Romanticised. Nonsensical. It was lunacy enough that Jaskier loved a Witcher yet alone that it be…

Jaskier’s raised finger falls across his lips. “Allow me my romanticism, dear heart. I am but a humble lovestriken poet and if I proclaim you my true love then I’m afraid there is no use protesting it.”

Geralt kisses the finger and his chest rumbles with fond amusement. “There is no use protesting anything you say, except to say that there is nothing humble about you.”

Jaskier laughs and the movement causes his wilting erection to slide against his skin once more, coaxing it back to full hardness. “I suppose you want an answer after my entertaining diversions.”

Geralt smirks. No one is quite so adept at avoiding answers as Jaskier but this was the first time he had seen him admit to the crime. “If you please.”

Jaskier sighs dramatically and flings himself over Geralt’s chest again with a pout. “Fine,” he exclaims. “It is not that I don’t ‘enjoy’ the act - and if you ever wanted to try again I would not be adverse - the fact of the matter is that it simply does not have the same effect on me as it does you.”

“Meaning?”

Jaskier stretches with a groan, and once again, his hardness rubs against the soft skin of his inner thigh teasingly. He feels his own cock stir once more with interest. Ten minutes, it seems, was about right.

Meaning,” Jaskier says, “that it does not render me entirely incoherent.”

Geralt thins his lips. He longs to disagree but knows to do so would be wholly false.

Jaskier looks up at him through his long eyelashes with a knowing smirk on his lips.

“I suppose it does… do that,” Geralt admits with difficulty.

Jaskier doesn’t stop grinning. “I can almost hear your thoughts grind to a complete halt when I put my mouth on you. It’s intoxicating.”

“But it does not have the same effect on you?”

“Urgh, fuck no,” Jaskier says with a scrunched nose in disgust. “The very opposite.”

Geralt raises an eyebrow, asking for an explanation.

Jaskier obligingly gives it, albeit with another dramatic sigh. “I know you always say I never shut up and it’s true; my thoughts never cease and it’s endless and annoying - and yes, I know what I just said,” he says, when Geralt was halfway through an amused snort, “sometimes I do get annoyed by my own voice, okay? I admit it - but it’s not as if I can stop the constant stream of thoughts and when someone puts their mouth on me it’s like that voice is magnified with everything that’s going on and I can’t switch it off long enough to enjoy it. So, it’s fine and all, but -”

“Is there anything that makes it stop?” Geralt asks, suddenly very curious. He’s even more curious when Jaskier flushes deep crimson red. Geralt grins wolfishly, having received his answer. “There is, isn’t there? What is it?”

Jaskier attempts to hide his face in Geralt’s chest which does not work in the slightest but the sight of his uncharacteristic shame heightens his enjoyment of the tease. Oh, he realises, this is why Jaskier does it; he just wants to watch me squirm.

“Tell me,” Geralt pushes.

“Fine.” Jaskier pouts. “But don’t let it go to your head. You’re already insufferable enough.”

His wolfish grin deepens in line with Jaskier’s blush. He’s never seen him so flustered before and it’s fascinating. What is it, he wonders, that has rendered my brazen bard so bashful?

“You fuck me so hard sometimes,” Jaskier mutters with the same unnatural reticence, “that it’s like you’re pounding the very thoughts from my head.”

Geralt laughs deeply and wraps his arms around his beloved before he can think the sound in jest. He had seen that gormless expression on Jaskier’s face before but had never once considered that it was born from anything more than orgasmic bliss. To think he used to be so afraid of taking Jaskier too hard when all along it was what he needed the most.

Jaskier is still squirming with embarrassment in his arms and Geralt is still chuckling as he presses a kiss into his hair. “If taking you hard is what it takes to render you speechless, my bard, then it would be my pleasure to assist.”

Blue eyes peek out at him from under his strong arms and he loosens his grip enough to see the sheepish expression that accompanies it. Geralt catches his eyes and grins at the sight of his bold lover rendered so bashful. Jaskier rises to kiss him sweetly, and then, increasingly not sweetly at all, until his tongue is doing devilish things to his mouth and his characteristic mischievous smirk has returned to his flushed face.

“Maybe I ought to demonstrate just how hard I need it,” Jaskier flirts with a purposeful grind of his cock against Geralt’s own member which is definitely taking renewed interest.

Geralt groans and bucks back against him. “Maybe you should,” he challenges.

Jaskier’s eyes alight dangerously and then he’s pulling Geralt towards him and flipping him onto his front in one swift movement. Geralt goes easily and tosses Jaskier the lavender oil that permanently resides by their bedside.

“Do you need -?” Jaskier asks and Geralt can hear the enticing sounds of him slicking himself.

“No,” Geralt says, sure of it. They have been fucking so often lately, multiple times a day often, that he is very used to the intrusion and does not require careful fingering first, especially not when he has anticipated this very act for what feels like hours.

“Okay,” Jaskier agrees and Geralt hears the bottle land somewhere amongst their belongings.

Then Jaskier does something he’s not expecting and loops his arms around Geralt’s chest, urging him upright. Geralt follows, because he always follows, but he isn’t sure what his beloved has in mind until he feels legs push beneath his own raised ones, spreading them apart.

“Lower yourself onto me,” Jaskier requests.

Geralt groans and leans his back against Jaskier’s chest as Jaskier guides his engorged manhood to his entrance and allows Geralt to enact his wishes.

The stretch, the burn, the heat, it’s as glorious as always and he allows himself to fall into the sensation with a whimper. Jaskier is murmuring sweet encouragements into his ear as his hands wander the plains of his chest. “So good for me, darling. Oh, you’re so good. So tight. You feel so good -”

Geralt groans, unable to take the praise at the same time he takes his cock. “Fuck,” he gasps, “my love, I can’t -”

Jaskier’s hips twitch and a high-pitched whine leaves his mouth and for a moment Geralt doesn’t understand what he’s done to warrant such a response until he recalls the words that left his mouth.

My love.

It is not the first time he has used an endearment for his beloved. He has allowed himself to call Jaskier his ‘bard’ because he is, factually, his bard, and may have called him a ‘scoundrel’ and a ‘menace’ because these are also very much true, but none of these could in any way be classified as a pet name. My love, however, is undeniable. As does what it implies. But he cannot rightly think about the implications of these things when he is being speared by Jaskier’s sizable cock.

Jaskier’s teeth tug on his earlobe, likely in a ploy to grant them both some sanity. “Fuck,” he swears, pinching Geralt’s nipple again in another dire attempt to focus them. “I love you, sweetheart. I really do. Now, let me hear you, I want to bathe in the delightful sounds you make when you’re riding my cock. The way you whimper, darling, it is music to my ears.”

Geralt flushes and obediently starts moving; the dirty talk is a good distraction from the other words spoken. Jaskier grasps his hips and guides his movements until Geralt is whimpering and Jaskier is moaning and they have both settled into the familiar rhythm of their bodies moving together.

Then Jaskier’s kisses turn biting and he says, “Now, darling, I’m going to show you how I need it.”

Geralt groans, recalling Jaskier’s promise of a good hard fucking, and allows himself to be pushed back face-first into the matress. Fuck, he hopes this shitty tavern bedframe can sustain the vigorous pounding to come. Jaskier only has human strength - he won’t actually be able to take Geralt as hard as he wants to be taken himself - but he’s not a fucking weakling and they have broken beds and cabinets and whatever else in their amorous couplings before. He doesn’t fancy sleeping on splinters again (or Jaskier’s complaints the next day when he finds one nestled in his buttocks).

Jaskier pries his legs apart and swiftly thrusts back inside him. They both gasp at the sensation but Jaskier doesn’t wait for the pleasure to fade; he immediately starts pounding into him, just as hard and fast as he had promised, and Geralt shouts at the intensity of it. His fingers are already twisting into the coarse fabric of the bedsheets, tearing it with his nails, as Jaskier fucks him relentlessly, hitting that sensitive place inside him on every thrust. He’s aware he’s wordlessly shouting his pleasure but can’t seem to stop even as the shitty bedframe knocks against the wall and the shitty mattress bows beneath them and the complaints of the other patrons start to sound through the wall. It’s all white noise, just as Jaskier described, there is nothing in his mind but the chase of pleasure.

He comes with a surprised gasp, his orgasm having overtaken his senses, and when he feels Jaskier groan and start to retreat - ever polite, even in the heat of the moment - Geralt blindly grabs his hip and urges him not to move. “Inside me,” he orders.

A strangled moan leaves Jaskier’s mouth and he is eager to comply, thrusting into Geralt’s sensitive passageway just a handful more times before spilling deep within him.

They are both shaking afterwards, bone tired, as Geralt uses the last of his energy to roll over and pull Jaskier back into his arms. He is hazy with pleasure but he is still cognitive enough to recognise that they would not have had such spectacluar sex if they had not had that discussion beforehand. Maybe this communication lark isn’t all that bad. Now he knows how Jaskier likes to be fucked he will be taking advantage of the fact as often as he can. He also feels like he knows more about him in general which is… nice.

Jaskier hums contentedly against his shoulder before brushing a kiss against the skin.

Geralt wonders, now he has confessed to his enjoyment of the act that came before, if Jaskier will be initiating that more often too.

“I’ve always wondered,” Geralt begins before his eyes close with exhaustion. It must be the dead of night by now.

Jaskier pokes him awake. “What?” he mutters sleepily.

“The first time…” Geralt tries again. “I wondered. Where you learned to do it.”

“Huh?”

“When you put your mouth on me,” he murmurs. “You knew to do it. How. Who.” His eyes are still shut, his mouth too tired to form the correct intonation for questions but he trusts that Jaskier will answer him regardless.

“A duke,” Jaskier confesses on a yawn. “It is my keen observation,” he says with a little kitten stretch, “that the higher the station, the dirtier between the sheets.”

“That explains you then,” Geralt retorts. He tightens his hold on Jaskier just in case he takes offense.

He does not. He sleepily snuffles into him instead, burrowing into Geralt’s shoulder. It’s nice. Everything Jaskier does is nice.

*

Geralt wakes to the disturbing sight of his lover’s scrutiny. He shuffles under the spontaneous examination, uncomfortable.

“You know, all this talk about nobles,” Jaskier says, as if the six hours they passed out sleeping did not take place at all, “reminds me of home.”

Geralt grunts but makes no effort to move from under him. He is much too tired to be discussing nobility of all things.

“My sister has children now. It might be nice to see them.”

Geralt cracks open an eye warily. He does not wish to step foot in Lettenhove ever again. He does not wish to see Jaskier step foot in Lettenhove ever again. In fact, he would quite like to burn Lettenhove to the fucking ground, especially if he gets to tie the Count to a stake first. However. “You wish to go?” he asks.

Jaskier shrugs. “Perhaps.”

Geralt grunts.

“I am… considering it,” he amends with a wave of his hand.

“Hmm.”

Jaskier says nothing and the absurdity of his silence causes Geralt to wake entirely. Jaskier looks truly contemplative, as if he is balancing the desire to see his sister against the pain of returning home.

Geralt sighs, accepting that where Jaskier is concerned there is very little he would deny him. He reaches to stroke Jaskier’s hair out of his eyes; the usual pristine locks are tufted into clumps having dried while in the thrall of Geralt’s grasping hands. The sight of Jaskier so out of sorts is oddly charming; the knowledge that no one else sees him this way, perhaps.

“Think on it, my love,” Geralt says, testing the words in the bright light of day. They feel clumsy and taste foreign but the look of adoration in Jaskier’s eyes is worth every ounce of unease. “Let me know.”

Jaskier’s bright eyes soften and he captures Geralt’s hand to kiss it sweetly. “I will,” he says. “After all, I think we’ve gotten quite good at this talking m'larky.”

Geralt smiles and tugs him down into another kiss. Conversing may be all well and good but there are still some things better said with touch.

 

XXV

It is Autumn by the time Jaskier decides to return to Lettenhove. Geralt steadies Roach just before the descent into the valley, giving Jaskier one last opportunity to change his mind before the guard spots them and welcomes them into the Lettenhove Estate.

“Why must it always look so dreadfully pretty?” Jaskier asks with a dramatic sigh from beside him.

Geralt smirks fondly at his petulant pout and follows his eyes to the city of Lettenhove before them. It is late afternoon and the sun is just setting behind the hills, casting the valley in an ethereal golden light which turns the dying trees of ochre even richer in colour. The low sun causes the river to glisten and the spires to gleam as if the entire city is made of gold. It is, Geralt supposes, pretty.

He hums in agreement and subtly strains his ears for the sound of Jaskier’s heartbeat behind him; a little strained perhaps but by no means worrisome. Jaskier’s manifestations have been minimal so far and he hopes to keep it that way.

“The Count will not be pleased to see me,” Geralt ponders, as he steers Roach back onto the path. The last time they stepped foot in Lettenhove he had left the Count with a black eye. If he had known then what he knows now, he would have run a blade through him instead.

Jaskier snorts and Roach nickers beneath them as if she is also amused. “Oh no, he’ll be fucking furious, darling. Especially when I walk in holding your hand. He might even faint. It will be delightful.”

Geralt finds his lips ticking up into a thin-lipped smile. “Is that your plan? Holding hands?”

He feels Jaskier shrug behind him but his increased heartbeat betrays his calm facade. “If that’s alright by you. No use hiding it when it’ll piss them off so royally. I say we might even make a show of it. Definitely at night. I’ll request the room closest to my father’s so you can fuck me as hard as you promised and keep him up all night with my screams.”

Geralt goes through a number of reactions to that but settles somewhere between flustered and amused. He hadn’t realised until Jaskier said it but contracts have been keeping them on the road since that frank discussion of their desires and he hasn’t had the opportunity to take Jaskier as roughly as he desired. The opportunity to do so and piss off the Count was certainly very tempting. “That’s… fine,” Geralt says. “The other stuff too.” He would much rather give the Count a gruesome and painful death for the monstrous actions against his beloved but while surrounded by his guard it was unwise at best and impossible at worst. He supposes a man so concerned with appearance and station such as the Count would probably prefer death to public humiliation anyway. Perhaps Jaskier’s little game of revenge would be rather satisfying after all. The Count had attempted to beat the queer out of his child and now the child returns to flaunt his same-sex lover of some twenty years in front of him, happy and confident and uncaring of his father’s opinion. There is a beautiful sense of irony in that; a giant ‘fuck you’ to the bigots that tried to douse Jaskier’s fire.

“Yeah?” Jaskier asks, hopeful.

Geralt reaches for Jaskier’s hand, which is curved comfortably against his hip, and gives it a squeeze. “I can’t promise I can play the lovesick fool as well as you, my bard, but we can certainly try.”

“Excellent.”

*

It doesn’t occur to him for another mile that Jaskier said ‘his’ (the Count’s) room and not ‘theirs’. He ponders the best way to ask this highly personal question and when five minutes have passed he gives up and states, “Your parents don’t sleep in the same bed.”

It probably should have been a question, he realises; that might have been more sensitive.

“Hmm?”

Great. Jaskier hadn’t even been paying attention.

“Your parents,” Geralt repeats. “They don’t -”

“Oh,” Jaskier says, perhaps having caught up. “No, they don’t. Haven’t for some time. I believe my mother is mostly entangled these days with Duke Tremaine and as for my father… well. He has younger tastes. The maids, mostly.”

Geralt grunts. Yet another reason to despise the man.

“Every time I come home I’m genuinely surprised the two of them haven’t worked out how to kill each other yet. My mother did try once -” Jaskier says casually and Geralt fights the urge to shake some sense into him because that is not normally the type of affair that is mentioned casually “- but the poison didn’t take. He locked her in the dungeon for a week until she apologised and even then I’m fairly certain it was only because the Pentaghasts were visiting and they’ve got to keep up appearances, you know how it is -”

“I really don’t,” Geralt deadpans.

“- but they haven’t slept in the same wing of the house since and they certainly don’t eat anything the other has prepared. Anyway, that was many years ago and as far as I’m aware no one’s been murdered yet and won’t so long as it remains a mutually beneficial arrangement I suppose.”

Geralt grunts. Presumably these ‘benefits’ are things such as lands and status but personally he can’t see anything ‘beneficial’ about the arrangement at all. He reaches for Jaskier’s hand again and squeezes it tighter than is probably wise. “I’m glad you don’t have that life.”

The Estate appears before them and Geralt feels soft lips brush against the nape of his neck. “I’m glad of it too,” Jaskier whispers. “I’m glad I have you.”

*

Jaskier’s youngest sister, Elise, and her husband, Dray, are decent folk and the only two nobles that even acknowledge Geralt. After a tense dinner with more public displays of affection that Geralt has ever, and will ever, be comfortable with, Elise and Jaskier fawn over the children in the drawing room while Dray challenges Geralt to a decent game of gwent. The rest of the Lettenhove estate, however, seem to have opted for the ‘avoidance’ technique and struck up a dance of some sort in the ballroom next door that Jaskier and Geralt were explicitly not invited to. He’s not one for dancing anyway.

“It’s nice to see Julian happy,” Dray says as he fingers his cards, pondering which of his hand to re-draw. The toad probably. It’s an old card that is betrayed by a slight rip in the top right-hand corner. It has not brought him much luck so far, perhaps because Geralt can see it coming and keeps his ranged combat clear until it has been played. “Elise does not speak of her brother often but I gather that he despised this place.”

“It despised him,” Geralt corrects and disposes of a foot soldier in exchange for… fuck, a decoy. He should have taken that out his deck after the last game. He’s playing against a Monster deck. What’s the fucking point in a decoy if there’s no spies to steal? He swaps it straight back in.

“Well, either way,” Dray says diplomatically, finally swapping out the toad for something less predictable. “I am glad the children got to meet their uncle.”

Geralt hums in agreement and glances over his cards to see Jaskier lift the curly-haired toddler in the air, his eyes sparkling and his smile charming as he listens to the young boy gurgle in delight. His heart turns soft at the sight and he feels a smile of his own tugging at his lips at seeing Jaskier so carefree and happy. He wishes he could similarly enjoy the sight of children without the reminder of that eventful night in Cintra.

Dray must read his frown as something else entirely because when Geralt turns back he is studying the player rather than the cards.

“What?” Geralt grunts.

“Sorry, I did not mean…” Dray, fumbling for a coin for the toss. “I only wished to say that you could still have that for yourself if you wanted. There are plenty of children in need of fathers.”

Fear catches in his throat before he realises that this nobleman of Lettenhove could not possibly know of his Child Surprise. He is talking about children in general. The absurd notion that Jaskier would want to start a family with him.

Geralt exhales steadily and looks back at his cards; he could lose this game if he’s not careful. “Tails,” he calls, and Dray tosses the coin.

*

The thought of family doesn’t leave his mind, perhaps because it serves well to push away the other, much heavier thought of a particular child. “Did you want children?” he blurts as they retire to their chambers.

Jaskier literally stumbles when he hears this and reaches out for the stone corridor to steady himself as he turns back to Geralt with wide disbelieving eyes. “W- what?”

Geralt can probably count on one hand the number of times that he’s actually managed to surprise his bard. He didn’t expect this to be one of them. “Did I deprive you of this life?”

Jaskier shakes his head, still puzzled. “I’m sorry, what? Did we not just…?” his hands are waving now. “I thought we just had this conversation. When we arrived. You said you were glad I escaped this life -”

“You could have had children with the Countess de Stael,” he states. “Did I stop you?”

“Sweet Melitele, save me from this astonishing idiocy,” Jaskier says, rolling his eyes to the ceiling as if actually appealing to the goddess above. He strides over to Geralt and pulls him in by the cuffs of his ill-fitting doublet. “Where the fuck is this coming from?” A look of realisation passes his face and dread pools in Geralt’s stomach. “Is this about your Child Sur-?”

“You looked happy,” he interjects before Jaskier can finish that ruinous sentence.

“What?”

“With William,” he says, distantly wondering when he became the kind of person to memorise noble’s names, even miniature ones. “And Julia. You looked… happy. Good.”

Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that.

He wrenches himself out of Jaskier’s grip and looks away to the stone walls and to the hideous woollen tapestries that adorn them. He attempts to read the petty battles depicted upon them; squabbles that no one outside of this Estate likely even remembers. Jaskier had looked good though. There had been a flush on his cheeks and light in his eyes and laughter on his tongue. He had been patient and eager and kind. He would have been a good father.

Geralt feels gentle fingers on his cheek. He is helpless to the touch and allows Jaskier to turn his face back to his own. Jaskier is looking at him softly now, as if he understands, which is utter madness because even Geralt doesn’t understand.

“I like children,” Jaskier whispers. “And I would be lying if I said I had never thought about it. I have. Had the Countess not been barren perhaps I would have sired a child and things would have been different but I don’t think I would’ve been half as happy in that life as I am in this one, with you.”

Geralt slowly raises his eyes to meet Jaskier’s gaze; the blue deep with compassion.

“I love being with you, Geralt,” he urges and the declaration warms his very heart. Jaskier sighs. “Given how unsuited this life is for children, I have not given it much thought, but if you ever did desire the presence of a child then we would most certainly manage and I’m sure it would be lovely. However, apparently I must also assure you that it would be no more or no less lovely than just travelling with you and the open road. Okay?”

Jaskier holds his gaze, ensuring that the meaning penetrates. It does. For all Jaskier speaks in general terms, they are both well aware that there is a specific child that could come into their lives. Jaskier will be supportive either way. The knowledge that had previously been assumed, but is now verbally confirmed, seems to lift some weight from his shoulders. He nods his head in acknowledgement of Jaskier’s declaration.

“Good,” Jaskier says with a tug on his sleeve. “Now, come on - if my father keeps to his habits he ought to have been sleeping for an hour by now and is much overdue a rude wakeup call.”

Geralt smirks. “Is that all you ever think about?” he jests, but lets himself be dragged along the hallways regardless.

“It’s been nearly a month since you promised you’d fuck me raw, Geralt, and now we’re occupying a bed with actual silk sheets and the chance to piss off my father, you’ll excuse me if I’m a little impatient.”

“A little?”

“Okay, very,” Jaskeir says with another urgent tug on his sleeve. “Come.”

*

It is curious, the difference between the performance they enact now, versus the one they did the first time Jaskier instructed him to be loud in Lettenhove halls. Perhaps because this time the noises falling from Jaskier’s lips do not seem to be quite so exaggerated. A near quarter of a century beside his bard has taught him exactly how he likes to be pleased and for once there is no hurry and no exhaustion and Geralt can take his time taking Jaskier apart, especially because he knows he will voice his frustration about it loudly -

Shit,” Jaskier shouts as his knuckles knead his shoulders and his back arches from the bed. “Fuck, just- Please. Fuck. I need -”

Geralt only has two fingers inside of him. He knows what Jaskier wants and delights in not giving it to him, at least, not until he is screaming three times louder.

“More,” Jaskier moans. “Oh, gods, sweetheart, I need more -”

Geralt no longer knows which noises are play-acting and which are genuine, unlike the first time where it was wholly apparent. He assumes, for the sake of his ego, that they are all genuine.

Jaskier is already a sweaty, writhing mess of limbs and as much as Geralt wants to drag this out until he is rendered utterly incoherent he doubts neither of them have the patience to withstand this torture much longer.

Jaskier shrieks as Geralt finally touches the prostate that he had so keenly been avoiding and his entire body jerks at the sensation. The utter filth that falls from his mouth afterwards is enough for Geralt to lose the last shreds of restraint that he had and reach once more for the scented slick.

“Oh, sweet merciful Melitele,” Jaskeir says in relief, head falling back against the pillows. “At last. Yes, oh, blessed gods, at last.”

Geralt’s hand pauses mid-stroke just to hear Jaskier whine at the mere implication that Geralt will make him wait longer.

Please,” Jaskier cries, rising to clamber at his hands.

Geralt swats them away and distracts him with a kiss so he can finish preparing his manhood in peace. Jaskier whines into the kiss but is complaining a lot less when he is manhandled onto his front.

Yes,” he gasps. “Just as we said, right, Geralt?” he asks, tilting his head from the pillows as he begs confirmation. It’s a question just for their own ears; pitched lower than the rest of his verbalisations.

Geralt frowns. He knows what Jaskier is asking for. He wants it just as hard and brutal as he had stated but he wants it straight away. Geralt normally allows some time for him to accommodate to his size at least; to fuck him without this courtesy seems unkind.

Jaskier’s face falls as he watches these thoughts cross Geralt’s face. “I can take it,” he mutters defiantly. “Please, Geralt.”

Geralt huffs and shakes his head. He cannot deny his bard anything. He lowers himself onto his forearms so he can brush his lips over Jaskier’s spine and watches, delighted, as he shudders at the touch. “Very well, my love. Sing for me.”

He does. Jaskier’s voice is strangled and raw by the end of it. Geralt fucks him as relentlessly as Jaskier had demonstrated but with the added benefit of his mutated strength which pushes the two of them further and further up the bed with every thrust until Geralt has to pick him up and toss him to the other end of the end to begin again. There must be bruises forming on his hips where Geralt grips him and Jaskier must be aching from the brutal thrusts but he screams louder than Geralt’s ever heard him and he’s not sure if it’s entirely exaggerated. He marks him with teeth and tongue and Jaskier moans at every one.

He wonders what else he can do displease Jaskier’s father when a devilish thought occurs to him and he doesn’t even have time to process it before his grunts and his swears are pushed aside for the benefit of groaning out the name “Julian” in the deepest, filthiest, voice he can muster.

Jaskier jerks uncontrollably beneath him and Geralt senses an entire tangled web of emotional reactions surge from the word. “Fuck,” Jaskier swears, fisting the finest silk below them. It’s quiet; a word meant only for Geralt’s ears. He doesn’t sound displeased but he definitely sounds conflicted. “How dare you say that abhorrent name so delightfully.”

Geralt huffs and slows his thrusts, just barely, just enough to lean down and whisper, “If he believes it is what I call you in bed, my love, then he will never be able to speak it again without embarrassment.”

Fuck,” Jaskier repeats, except this time it’s loud and strangled and entirely too pleased as he blindly reaches behind him to tangle his fingers in Geralt’s hair. Geralt pushes deep into him and circles his hips, grinding against Jaskier’s prostate in a way he knows makes him whimper in pleasure.

Jaskier does, predictably, whimper in pleasure and Geralt rewards him with a kiss to his spine. He lets up just enough so Jaskier can speak the words that are attempting to form on his lips.

“I love you,” he gasps, eventually. “Fuck, I really love you.”

I love you too, Geralt thinks, and the thought - so concise, so fucking sure - stalls his hips entirely.

“Darling?” Jaskier asks with concern, tilting his head from the pillows to look at him.

Geralt shakes his head to dislodge the thought. Jaskier deserves more than the simple words repeated back to him, wrenched out in the haze of pleasure. He doesn’t deserve for them to be laced with fear. “I’m fine,” Geralt reassures him. Their voices are still pitched low; the performance forgotten. He raises his voice, reminds Jaskier of the game at work, “Sing for me Julian,” he orders, “Scream my name.”

He does. And Geralt ensures that the name ‘Julian’ will never be spoken by Count Lettenhove in the same way again.

*

Afterwards, Jaskier is truly as witless as he had predicted. He lies sprawled beside Geralt with a blissful smile on his face that Geralt now recognises as something more. Geralt is dozing, in and out, when Jaskier speaks.

“Don’t…” he murmurs, as Geralt strains his ears to listen. “Don’t say that name again. ‘Swas nice,” he says, and cracks open a single eye to look at Geralt even though it looks like it expends the entirety of his energy. “Good. But not again. ‘S what he called me when he -” his hand twitches beside him, as if it longs to expound his point but does not have the energy to do so. “You know.”

With a sudden weighty drop of regret in his stomach, Geralt does know exactly when. “Fuck.”

Jaskier shrugs; eyes closed, mouth drooling. “You didn’t know.”

“I should have,” Geralt says, wincing as he imagines the scene from Jaskier’s perspective. The only time he heard that name under these circumstances was when it was against his will. “I’m so fucking sorry, Jaskier, I should have -”

His words are muffled by a sudden flail of a hand that lands against his lips. “‘S fine. Told you. Just not again.”

Geralt inhales deeply and tries to reassure himself that Jaskier means it. He means everything he says since their arrangement; a concerted effort from the both of them to communicate their needs. Jaskier had made sure to lock eyes when he said it was fine because he knew Geralt wouldn’t believe it otherwise, and without his reassurance, would have let the guilt consume him. Jaskier said it was fine, so it was fine, it was ‘good’ even. He said it was ‘good’ presumably because the predicted result outweighed the temporary discomfort. It was ‘good’ but ‘not again’. Not again is fine. He is perfectly content to bury that name back where it belongs, never to be spoken again. “Okay,” he says. “Not again.” But Jaskier has already fallen back asleep beside him.

*

Geralt is awoken a couple of hours later with a very eager mouth on his manhood. He groans and wipes the sleep from his eyes. “You are exhausted, Jaskier. You cannot possibly envision another round.”

Jaskier looks up at him with a teasing smile. “Not for me, perhaps, but for you?” he flirts as he strokes Geralt to full hardness. “I think that’s very much a possibility. We can’t let the Count sleep the whole night through now, can we?”

Geralt concedes the point and lets Jaskier coax him once more into making loud obscene noises that are only half-genuine when weighed down with his fatigue, but it appears to do the trick if the clatter of movement next door is any indication.

*

By the time Geralt wakes again, the sun is much higher through their windows than Geralt usually witnesses supine. He blames the early morning blow job for his tardiness. He stretches and drifts fully into wakefulness when there is a commotion at the door and Jaskier bumbles through the entranceway with a tray of treats. Jaskier grins like sunshine itself when he notices Geralt stirring. “I stole us breakfast.”

Geralt clears his throat and struggles to his elbows to push himself upright. “Is it technically stealing if it’s from your family estate?”

“I hope so,” Jaskier says, taking a bite of a pastry. “Or the silverware I swiped last night is not nearly as daring as I thought.”

Geralt sighs fondly and reaches for a sweet roll. It’s still warm. The smell is heavenly. Jaskier was right all those years ago to note that he had a weakness for baked goods. It reminds him of his mother, he supposes, as distant as that memory is. He bites into the warm spiced bread and knows that his utter delight is observed by his lover. The fact is not quite as unsettling as it once was. He wants Jaskier to know him, if only so he surprises him with kind gestures like this more often.

“I thought you might enjoy the bread,” Jaskier says; his words just as warm as his eyes.

He sits beside him on the bed and for a while they merely share food in companionable silence, until Jaskier, of course, feels the need to share words too.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” he says, picking apart his own pastry, “about your own family.”

Geralt hums in consideration. It’s not that he’s unwilling to broach such topics; he just thinks they’re unnecessary. Did they not say, or at least imply, last night that the two of them were family enough?

“You don’t need to tell me, of course,” Jaskier says in a hurry. “But you’ve been to my family home three times with me now and I… well, I suppose I wondered if there’s some place of yours we ought to visit. I thought you mentioned a place to me once but I was… not in the best mind to hear it, at the time.”

Ah. The stories he told Jaskier during his anxieties many years ago now. He’s surprised he remembers any of it truthfully. Geralt shrugs and puts aside his tankard of water. “Kaer Morhen,” he grunts and notes the recognition in Jaskier’s eyes. “It’s a Witchers’ keep. Probably the closest thing I have to home.”

“And to family?”

“I suppose that too.”

Jaskier lets him have a moment’s silence as he licks some of the fallen crumbs in his hands but then he’s back to looking at Geralt scrupulously and says, “You never speak of your birth family. You must have had parents. Siblings perhaps?”

Geralt’s mood turns sour; the water that he swallowed feels as toxic in his esophagus as a potent potion.

“Sorry. Shit. I overstepped. I’m s-”

Geralt reaches out on instinct to cease Jaskier’s rapid movements as he makes to move from the bed. He wonders what harrowed expression must have crossed his countenance to produce such an instantaneous reaction. “I had only a mother,” he starts.

Jaskier stills beneath the strong hand on his thigh and obligingly settles back to the bed. “Oh. Oh, I’m s-”

“And she left me to the Witchers when I was but six years old -”

“Shit. Geralt, that’s awful. I’m s-”

“Say ‘sorry’ one more time, Jaskier,” he growls.

Jaskier huffs and raises his hands in surrender. “My apologies,” he says, skirting around the word like the cunning trickster he is, “but the thought of you as an orphan child is unpleasant. It’s despicable, in fact. Your mother must have been a cowardly wench to even conceive of such a notion -”

“She did not have a choice in the matter, like one day the Cintrans will not have a choice in theirs.”

It takes a moment but when Jaskier finally understands a whole new level of comprehension lights in his eyes. “You were a Child Surprise?”

Geralt nods.

“And that is why you are so reluctant to…?”

Geralt nods. “You were right to say that this is no life for a child. The Lion Cub has a home and a family and I cannot be the one to take it from them.”

Jaskier swallows and nods sincerely. “I understand.”

It actually sounds like he does which is… nice, and something that Geralt is steadily getting used to.

“So, this Witcher took you? And trained you?”

He nods.

“That is… I mean to say, I’ve done some reading in this area, Geralt. I’m given to understand that the Trials you undergo are not entirely pleasant.”

Geralt huffs in amusement at the colossal understatement. “It feels like acid in your veins, Jaskier. It’s torture, and then if you survive, there’s more torture the other side.”

“And he did this to you?”

Geralt shrugs. “Vesemir is his name, and yes, he did. He did it to all of us. I do not think he found it easy. But it was necessary.”

“You’ve said his name before,” Jaskier says with a frown. “You…?” he trails off, the question asked, yet not asked.

Geralt could easily pretend not to have heard the unspoken question but he owes Jaskier his honesty and perhaps it would be nice for him to know this, just as he knows about freshly baked bread. “Vesemir raised me, he saved my life countless times, and I believe, truly, that he wants the best for me and my brothers. If there’s a man in my life that deserves to be called ‘father’ it is him.”

Jaskier lets out a long, low, whistle and lies back in the bed amongst dried come and fresh crumbs. “My dearest, I know I’m not the one to speak of complicated relationships with one’s father but… yikes.”

Geralt huffs and pushes aside the plates to lie beside him. “Perhaps you will feel differently upon meeting him.”

Jaskier hums and tangles their hands together. “Perhaps,” he says, but then the meaning seems to penetrate and his eyes blink open with a gasp of surprise. He makes a visible effort to tamp down his eagerness but it’s as transparent as everything else about the man. “You mean to say…?”

Geralt shrugs and closes the space between them to kiss him softly. “Unless you have other plans for winter?”

“My plans for winter involved spending a long time under blankets and even longer being fucked soundly by the fireplace... but I suppose we can move those plans to Kaer Morhen.”

Geralt smiles and kisses him soundly, wondering how many furs he can scrounge from the keep’s inventory.

*

Count Lettenhove is mysteriously absent when they break for lunch, and when they have returned from a pleasant walk around the lake in the afternoon, he is also nowhere to be found. The evening is spent much like the last with food and drink and snide comments and Geralt is pleased to observe that the Count keeps his eyes averted the entire time.

Afterwards, with wine still on his lips, Jaskier straddles him on their bed and kisses him passionately and endlessly. They don’t hear the Count return to his chambers, presumably having found somewhere else to kip for the night. Geralt spares a thought to wonder if the whoreson may be without the protection of his guards tonight but before that murderous thought can take hold, Jaskier is palming his cock through his breeches and distracting him thoroughly.

When they finally depart the next morning, Jaskier bids a teary farewell to his sister and her children and Geralt shares a friendly nod with Dray. Despite everything, they have managed to have a pleasant time here. Perhaps in good time, when the reigning generation are dust in the ground, they will be able to return without such animosity. For now, Geralt is merely grateful that Jaskier’s manifestations did not take hold.

The Countess puts on a decent facade as they bid their farewells, clearly well trained from years in court as she somehow manages to say ‘fuck you for coming’ and ‘fuck you if you ever return’ without seeming rude, but her husband lacks such a deft hand. He stands there and avoids their gaze until the Countess prompts him to speak.

“Well,” she says, “aren’t you going to bid farewell to our Julian?”

The Count flushes bright red.

“No need,” Geralt grunts with a wry twist of his lips, “I believe he’s already come and gone.”

The Count splutters and Jaskier laughs boisterously and Geralt feels affection well in his chest.

Jaskier takes his hand and bids his family farewell and doesn’t stop laughing at ‘come and gone’ until they are well past the gates of the Lettenhove Estate.

 

XXVI

Jaskier doesn’t shut up about Kaer Morhen. He badgers him for details the whole way - ‘How many witchers live there? Oh okay, so how many come and stay? And it’s just for one witcher school? How many are there? What are the others? Oooh that’s fun. Are they all active? Oh. Well that’s sad. But what about -?’ and so on, and so forth, for fucking days.

By the time they actually arrive, Geralt doesn’t understand how Jaskier still manages to view it as ‘mysterious’ at all, considering that he had pried every mundane detail out of him en route, yet somehow ‘mysterious’ is still his adjective of choice as soon as they open the gates.

It’s a quiet winter as they always are nowadays, just Vesemir and Eskel and Lambert, all of whom take Jaskier under their wing. Unnervingly, they all seem to know exactly who his companion is and what bringing him here means. Lambert knew, of course, he was the one that told him he fucked it up. Vesemir knew, if not by name, then by description. But Eskel? He shouldn’t have known but he had taken one look at Jaskier and said ‘fucking finally’ so it’s clear that he also somehow knew what a coward Geralt has been all these years.

It’s strange having Jaskier here. It’s nice. It’s unsettling. It’s all of these things at once.

He remembers the conversation they had about family in Lettenhove and does his best not to think about the child in Cintra but by the end of their stay, both of these lines of thought have gotten tangled and loud and unpleasant.

Jaskier can tell because he can always tell. They haven’t fucked tonight, sometimes they don’t, although it feels different from how it used to. There isn’t the distance that there used to be. Now, if they don’t fuck, then Jaskier will hold him, or put his feet in his lap, or stroke his hair as he dozes. Tonight, Jaskier is strumming his lute, while sprawled in his lap, composing a song about a fortress that might be literally about Kaer Morhen or might figuratively be about Geralt’s heart, as Geralt attempts to read an old witcher’s journal while he sits against the headboard.

“Can you tell me what’s wrong yet?” Jaskier asks casually, as he has every now and then since these thoughts first converged. There is no demand on his part, merely a reminder that he would like to know.

Geralt puts aside the book and looks down at his beloved just as he frowns over a chord and adjusts his fingers to try out a new one.

“Hmm,” Geralt replies, testing his tangled thoughts for coherency. “It’s regarding the Child Surprise.”

“Huh,” Jaskier says. He sounds unsurprised. Geralt ought to have recognised that he would be but it still startles him sometimes how well Jaskier knows him. “What about it?”

“They say war is on the horizon.”

“That’s what I hear.”

“Perhaps we ought to head south. Just in case. Keep an ear to the ground.”

Jaskier’s mouth curves into a knowing smile, the wanker. “Just in case,” he teases, as he picks another chord. “Alright then.”

*

Hours later, Geralt stares at the tall ceiling of their bedroom. Old. Cold stone. Derelict with neglect. Something about that song Jaskier was writing. Something about what he said before. A fortress I have spent my entire life attempting to siege. A grey hair in Jaskier’s locks. I love you too, unspoken. Vesemir’s words of caution from so long ago. These snippets collide in the small hours of the morning to give clarity to the other thread that he could not previously verbalise. “Jaskier,” he whispers. “There’s something else.”

Jaskier stirs and rolls over towards him until he lands at his side and nuzzles sleepily into his shoulder. He makes a noise that somehow ends in a question mark and affection surges within him again. Unable to contain the emotion, he wraps his arm around his bard and pulls him tight against his chest. Jaskier makes another undefinable noise.

“I wasted so much time,” Geralt says.

“Mmph?”

Geralt presses a kiss to his forehead and it lingers, like the thoughts in his head. “I forget, sometimes, that I do not age as humans do. I forget, sometimes, that when you say you have spent your entire lifetime pursuing this that you do not exaggerate. I have not treated that with the gravity that it deserves.”

Jaskier yawns and stretches against him dramatically. “Why is it,” he says on another yawn, “that you are at your most verbose in the middle of the fucking night? Couldn’t you have had this relevation at, I dunno, midday, or at least breakfast. Fuck, I’d even take dawn.

Geralt chuckles softly. He won’t answer because they both know the answer: there is safety in sharing secrets under the cover of dark.

“But, fine,” Jaskier says, blinking away the sleep in his eyes and staring up at him with a soft, genial expression. “Elucidate some more.”

Geralt brushes his lips against Jaskier’s hairline and cherishes the way his eyes flutter at the touch. He shall be brief then, so he might grant his beloved the rest he desires. “I was afraid to commit to this, Jaskier, because I know what the future holds.”

“Really?” Jaskier asks with amused scepticism. “Because you could make a fortune down at the docks with talents like that.”

Geralt pinches him and Jaskier yelps and by the time he is settled again, his thoughts have settled too. “I do not enjoy watching friends get old and die,” Geralt says. “I imagine I will like it even less when I have to watch it happen to you.”

Jaskier is silent for a moment. A frown forming on his face. His scent tastes stale, like sadness. But then his elbow digs into Geralt’s chest as he hurries to raise his head to challenge him. “Bold of you to assume I’m going to be first to die when you’re staring down the jaws of a foul beast every other day of the week but that’s your usual brand of self-sacrificial bullshit I suppose -”

Jaskier -

“No, seriously, if this is your way of breaking up with me then tough shit, I don’t accept it. You’ve got to do better than some early morning introspective, self-pitying, wallowing -”

Geralt grabs Jaskier’s waving hands of indignation before he can get any further. He fucked up words again; he ought not be surprised. “I’m not ending things with you Jaskier. Quite the opposite.”

Jaskier’s hands still. He looks to Geralt, sheepish. “Oh?”

“I’m not afraid of it anymore,” he says. “I could have another twenty years by your side if you permit me and that is still more than I deserve.”

“Only twenty?!” he exclaims in mock-outrage. “Oh please, with my youthful looks, I’ll be a hundred before the devil calls my name -”

“Even better,” Geralt says sincerely, kissing the hands that are still held lovingly between his. “The payoff is worth it. For the pain I will endure. Even if it’s five years. Two. Tomorrow. Yesterday. It will have been worth it.”

Jaskier’s nose wrinkles and his brow furrows; his entire face scrunched in confusion. “Thank you? I think? For contemplating my early demise?”

Geralt sighs, disappointed that his words have once again failed him. “I’m no good at this.”

“No, no, I think I get it. Everyone around you dies. It sucks. It will suck when I die but you’re prepared to face this suckitude. It’s almost romantic.”

Geralt twists his lips because that’s part of it but it’s not quite right. “It will have been worth it to have known you and to have been known.”

“Oh.”

“To know this… feeling,” he says, untangling his fingers to thump his chest meaningful, “and know it to be returned. It is worth any amount of pain to come.”

“Oh,” Jaskier says again, for once rendered speechless. There is a sweet scent to him and a stunned, open expression. “Well,” he says, shakingly lowering his hands to his chest, “that’s definitely romantic, and definitely worth waking up at the arse crack of dawn to hear. Fuck, Geralt,” he says, smoothing his hands across his bare skin. “You may be slow to verbalise your thoughts but when you do they’re fucking mindblowing. I should get you a journal…” he ponders, “I have a feeling you’d make an excellent poet -”

Geralt claims his lips before he can finish that absurd thought and Jaskier moans into the kiss, cradling Geralt’s head in his hands and kissing him so thoroughly that it feels like he is burrowing inside his chest. Make a home inside of me, Geralt thinks nonsensically.

Jaskier, apparently impressed with Geralt’s declarations, rewards him with his hands and his mouth and after long torturous minutes also with his cock.

When the white-out from the climax fades and Jaskier collapses against him, the words return to Geralt again: Make a home inside me, for I am yours to keep.

Chapter Text

INTERLUDE

Aretuza. He doesn’t know how he ever became desperate enough to go to Aretuza.

Tissaia greets him with no more than a raised eyebrow as if his desperation is obvious enough that she saw it a mile coming. She probably did. Fucking mages.

“I’d ask why you’re here,” Tissaia says as she strides back into her office, “but there’s only one reason a man with such a bleeding heart would seek my advice.”

Geralt steps through the open door, which is as much invitation as he ever receives here, and watches her perch against her desk with a stern expression and folded arms.

“I know it is not Yennefer that brings you to me. Or, at least, I hope not, given that she is already working on unravelling that pesky little djinn curse of yours - nicely done, by the way -”

He genuinely cannot tell if she is praising him for saving her student’s life or admonishing him for summoning a djinn but either way she sounds pissed.

“- and I cannot imagine this concerns your Child Surprise given that, last I heard, your desire to untangle your fates was the very reason for summoning a djinn -”

He really hates mages. He cannot even fathom how she even came across that information. Perhaps he should have accompanied Jaskier to Gors Velen after all. Comparatively, a month of never-ending amateur bardic performances seems absurdly pleasant.

“I don’t wish for that any longer,” he finds himself admitting.

The only sign of surprise in the sorceress is a singular raised eyebrow. “No…” she says, studying him with unsettling scrutiny, “you don’t. How interesting.”

Geralt grunts, afraid that she will pry even more from him if he allows himself to respond. This was not why he had come to seek her advice, after all.

“You ought to head to Nazair if you are intent on that path.”

He startles, not having expected her assistance in the matter, least of all unprompted. Admittedly, Nazair has already been on his mind. He will not claim his Child unless he knows for certain that war is coming and the only way to make certain of this is to witness a significant Nilfgaardian force with his own eyes. Nazair is the country south of Cintra, separated by a desolate mountain range, and is certainly the fastest way for Nilfgaard to travel north. The fact that Tissaia advises such a thing implies she is thinking along the same lines. “You suspect an invasion,” he states.

Tissaia sighs as if he is boring her. “There is not a fool nor servant in the noble courts who does not suspect an invasion, Witcher. Nilfgaard have been rallying their forces for months after their recent successes. They will strike. Likely soon. If you insist on seeing it for yourself, then watch the Amell valley from the Marmadel Stairs. It should only be a matter of months.”

Geralt nods. He knows the route. If Nilfgaard are indeed travelling through Nazair then they will have to traverse the Amell Mountains somehow and the valley path is a good sturdy road. Wide enough for two or three men abreast if you were feeling optimistic and certainly stable enough for an army. The location she mentioned near the Marmadel Stairs is also a good spot for observation; the mountain range is particularly sparse in that region, and from a vantage point like the Stairs an army would have nowhere to hide. It’s smart. And he hates that she thought of it before he did.

She sighs again. “But this is not why you came to me. If not Yennefer, and if not for your Child… then this leaves only your bard,” she concludes after a heavy moment studying him. “Interesting.”

Geralt grits his teeth and bites, “Did it not occur to you that I might be here out of my own selfish desires?”

“No,” she says, looking awfully smug about her certainty. “Never.”

Geralt glares. Tissaia smirks. He really wishes he was drunk in Gors Velen with Jaskier right now.

“Then you’re a shitty mage,” he bites. “I want to know how to extend a human life.”

His bluntness clearly startles her but she recovers quickly, and looks at him with utter condescension. “And what makes you think such a thing is possible?”

Geralt grinds his teeth. “There are... myths,” he states, recalling the ballad Jaskier sang mournfully in the Kaedwen Mountains as they returned from Kaer Morhen. Let me tell you about a man on the mountains who lived as long as the weathered rock that housed him, his tears became the rain and his smile became the sunshine, oh child, let me tell you about the man on the mountains…

“Didn’t think you were the type to believe in pretty little bedtime stories.”

“I’m not,” Geralt growls. “Just tell me straight: does such a thing exist?”

Tissaia twists her lips in contemplation. “It exists.”

Geralt unclenches his jaw and his folded arms drop. He had not expected that answer. He had not dared hope…

“But,”

He glares. He fucking hates mages.

“Unless you’ve had a string of highly lucrative contracts lately, I cannot imagine you have the coin to fund such an endeavour.”

“Tell me,” he growls.

“The herb, aeternum, is impossibly rare, grown in the mountains of Kovir and protected by the guild of monks that reside there. You need magic. A great deal of magic. Of levels not easily sourced.”

“Such as?”

“Dragon’s breath, perhaps. A djinn’s wish. It has been done, before, using the reserves here. The magic we speak of is not entirely dissimilar to the procedure that grants mages immortality.”

He nods. “What else?”

“Aside from the impossibly rare herb and dangerous amounts of potent magic?”

“Yes,” he states, pushing aside her skepticism. “Aside from that.”

“It is a difficult concoction. You would need a specialist to brew it.”

“Such as?”

Tissaia’s mouth thins. Evidently, she is not skilled enough to administer this task and does not want to admit to the weakness.

“Anyone from your school?” he prompts, hoping that it might boost her ego long enough to give him a name.

“Triss Merigold certainly has talents in human medicine,” she divulges. “You could go to her.”

Geralt nods his head. “Thank you.” He turns towards the door, intending to leave with about as much courtesy as he had been bestowed upon his arrival when she calls him back.

Begrudgingly, he turns around.

Tissaia is looking at him curiously. “You did not ask how long it would be effective for.”

He grunts. He didn’t. He supposed it didn’t matter. Even if it only granted him an additional year with Jaskier, he would likely pay the price.

“It does not prevent illness or escape injury,” she advises. “It only slows the natural aging process, and by mere years at that. It is an awful lot of coin to spend in order to grant your friend the possibility at a few more years of life.”

“I could administer further doses, could I not?”

“Perhaps, but it grows less effective with age and you would live like paupers if you grew dependent on it. I would not advise this course of action, least of all without his consent.”

Geralt shrugs. “I asked for information, Tissaia. Not your advice.”

The corner of her mouth ticks to the side, and Geralt clenches his fist wondering what the fuck she finds so amusing now. He shakes his head and turns once more for the door. He hates fucking mages.

Chapter Text

XXVII

Geralt has every intention of informing Jaskier about his visit to Aretuza as soon as he arrives in Gors Velen. However, when he locates Jaskier in one of the primary rehearsal halls, he appears to be in the midst of disciplining his students. At least, Geralt assumes that this is his form of discipline; Jaskier’s arms are thrown wide and he’s disparaging the youths with extravagant metaphors in a loud and unforgiving tone. Geralt watches the display with wry amusement. Before he left for Aretuza, Jaskier had been offered a fair amount of coin for the ‘privilege’ of coaching this upcoming bardic ensemble for the prestigious competition and, at the time, Jaskier was eager to ‘shape these young minds’. Geralt suspects, now, that his opinion on the matter might have changed.

“- and if you do not know the meaning of legato, Perris, then I truly despair for all of Temeria, I do, because I have no earthly comprehension as to how you are considered to be the best fiddle player in the region when the simple concept of legato seems to elude you so profoundly. Here,” he says, snatching the instrument out of the young man’s hands, “allow me to educate you, and do mind that the fiddle is my third instrument and you ought to feel duly chastised when I inevitably succeed.”

Geralt is stunned as he watches Jaskier elegantly move the bow across the strings with a delicate twist of his wrist to produce the softest, most beautiful sound. He didn’t know Jaskier could play other instruments. Nearly twenty-five years in his company, and he still knows so little. He strives to do better. He wants to know everything there is to know about the man.

Jaskier leans into the exquisite sound and his feet lift with the music as if he can’t help but be moved. Geralt watches, captivated, and feels warmth surge in his chest at the sight.

Jaskier’s eyes flutter open when he has finished the impromptu demonstration and they roam across the hall until they reach that of his audience. The fiddle falls swiftly from his chin.

“Geralt!” he exclaims, blindly dropping the stringed instrument and accompanying bow back into the student’s lap. Perris hurries to catch his precious fiddle in an assortment of cacophonous fumbling, and Geralt smirks when Jaskier doesn’t so much as break his gaze.

Heedless of the chaos he has induced, Jaskier jumps off the stage and skips towards Geralt with a matching grin. Geralt drops his sheathed swords just in time to catch Jaskier as he leaps unashamedly into his arms. Geralt is still frequently caught off-guard by Jaskier’s extravagant displays of affection, and this is no exception. He is fond of it, though. It had only been three days but he has missed Jaskier just as dearly. He tucks his nose into the crook of his neck and inhales his familiar scent. During festivals such as these his floral scent is overpowered by that of his lute, and, more often than not, by alcohol, but it is just as homely.

“What are you doing back so early?” he asks in a softly awed voice, lowering his feet to the ground but not making a move to extract himself from the embrace. “Wait, hold on a second -” he says, laying a finger over Geralt’s mouth so he can shout instructions back to his awaiting ensemble (something about scales?). They begin playing and he turns back to Geralt with an indulgent smile. His eyes are so captivating; Geralt forgets every time. Geralt presses his lips against Jaskier’s fingertip in a plea for release, and Jaskier obligingly lowers it. “You said you’d be gone for the whole month,” he says. “It’s only been three days.”

Geralt shrugs. “Contract brought me this way.”

Jaskier smiles coyly and twists his fingers around the ends of Geralt’s hair. “Is that so?” he asks, before leaning closer and whispering into Geralt’s ear, “Or did you miss me, you scamp?”

Geralt bumps his forehead playfully against Jaskier’s. They both know the answer.

Jaskier begins to smile sweetly at him again before a discordant note arrests his attention and he turns back to the makeshift stage with a scowl - “Ingrid, I swear on Melitele’s ample bosom -”

“Sorry, sir!”

Jaskier twists entirely out of his embrace to address this grave error. “Don’t be ‘sorry’! Get it right! LEGATO! Softly! Gently! Like dawn’s first light kissing the dew, like a lover’s caress in the night,” he urges passionately with open arms. “Sweetly. Beautifully. LEGATO.”

Geralt clears his throat. Now is evidently not the time to discuss his trip to Aretuza. “I should leave you to it,” he offers when Jaskier’s attention returns to him.

Jaskier smiles and retreats with a reluctant hand on his cheek. “I’m sorry, dear heart. The first round of the competition is tonight and…”

“I understand,” Geralt says. He would not wish to be distracted before a hunt, therefore he should not distract Jaskier before a performance. He presses a kiss against his cheek, uncaring for their young audience. “Find me afterwards. I’ll be in the tavern.”

*

Jaskier bursts into the quiet tavern some hours later, with widespread arms, a smug grin, and a song of victory on his tongue. Jaskier winks in his direction, and Geralt huffs a laugh as four drunk ducklings appear behind him and follow him to the bar. The students already seem too intoxicated to be wise but the bartender must also be in a doting mood because he serves them regardless and procures a small bowl of salted scratchings for them to soak up the ale. When Jaskier leads the rowdy musicians to his table, determined to give Geralt a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings, he willfully accepts that the conversation about Aretuza will not be happening tonight at all.

*

Geralt finds the courage to broach the topic late the next morning, when he accompanies Jaskier to the site of an upcoming shanty performance on the docks. The stage is still being constructed but that doesn’t stop Jaskier from examining the location in excruciating detail. Something about acoustics? Song choice? Word of last night’s success must have spread across town because Jaskier was accosted by a local shanty group at breakfast this morning, also offering a large sum for his tutelage, and now here they are: Jaskier monologuing about music and Geralt dutifully following, clueless as to the proceedings.

“I went to Aretuza,” Geralt states.

Jaskier halts his examination of the midday sun to frown at Geralt. “The creepy island where they make miniature Yennefers?”

Geralt scoffs and wishes Tissaia could hear her prized school of sorcery described in such a manner.

“I forgot that was nearby,” Jaskier comments, as he continues his thorough inspection. He peers beneath the staging itself, and Geralt does not understand the importance of it until Jaskier casually mentions ‘sabotage’ and a story about a rigged platform that once resulted in a man’s broken instrument (and broken legs, but this was apparently less of a concern).

“Right,” Geralt says bringing them back on track, “and so I wanted to ask you something.”

“Hmm?” Jaskier asks.

“About something I learned at Aretuza.”

Jaskier finally ceases his relentless inspection to examine Geralt with a frown, presumably concluding that this is a matter of some gravity. His lips twist in contemplation before he decisively tugs on Geralt’s hand and leads him to a set of stairs nearby.

The place stinks of fish and fisstech, and the rowdy shouts of sailors can be heard bellowing across the docks. The intense summer’s sun is amplified by the reflections on waves and by the brass fittings of ships. The wooden stairs they occupy are disconcertingly sticky and smell faintly of piss. Gulls are screeching. Dockhands are cursing. In retrospect, this was not the most romantic setting for this conversation.

“What is it?” Jaskier asks.

Geralt grits his teeth and decides to just get this over with. “If I could source a potion that extended your life, would you take it?”

Jaskier is silent for uncharacteristically long as he considers this. “Yes? I suppose? If you trusted it and you wanted it for me.” Then, “Why?”

Geralt frowns as he contemplates how to express his disorderly thoughts. “In Kaer Morhen, I told you that any amount of time I had with you would be worth the pain of losing you - and it would be,” he assures rapidly, linking his fingers together in front of him in a mockery of a prayer. “But I am selfish. I want a lifetime with you.” He inhales sharply, afraid of Jaskier’s reaction but still takes a moment to clarify clumsily, “My lifetime. It is longer.”

Jaskier laughs breathlessly and his hand comes to rest over Geralt’s.

Geralt turns to study his beloved’s face, unable to understand his reaction without aid. Jaskier is smiling fondly, his eyes bright, and his hand squeezes Geralt’s locked fingers as if asking for entry.

Geralt, obligingly, opens his hands and allows Jaskier to slip inside.

Jaskier smiles at him, more blinding than the summer sun. “You are so very sweet. I would love for that too,” he says, with a reassuring squeeze of his hand. “I just… did not expect such an ardent declaration from you, and so early in our romance at that -”

Geralt flusters. It had sounded like a proposal. He hadn’t considered that. Was it a proposal? No. That was preposterous. Witchers don’t marry. And Jaskier swore he never would for as long as his own father lived. It was not a proposal. But it may as well have been. “Shit. Sorry, I -”

“No, I -”

“Fuck.”

Jaskier laughs again, loud and carefree, and Geralt settles at the sound. There can be no fear where that laugh resides. “We are both so useless at this.”

Geralt huffs in agreement and focuses on deliberately lacing his fingers through Jaskier’s.

“Allow me to clarify,” Jaskier says, after his laughter has subsided. “I do not expect anything from you, dear Witcher, except for your affections - given freely in whatever measure, by whatever means, and in whatever time you so desire. I do not need descriptors, or declarations, or grand events to solidify meaning. As long as I have your heart that is all I desire.” His eyes are sincere as he raises Geralt’s hand to brush a kiss over his knuckles.

“You have it,” Geralt murmurs. Something flutters in his chest, much closer to the surface than it has before. It is potent. Overwhelming. It makes his head dizzy and his heart pound. He licks his dry lips and strokes the pad of his thumb over their joined hands. “Is that a ‘yes’?” he asks, heart in his throat. “Would you take the potion?”

Jaskier’s lips upturn into a smile once again. “Yes,” he says. “I would.”

*

Geralt does not have more than a moment to divulge the details before his partner is tugging insistently at his hand and dragging him down into the depths of the docks. He is pushed unceremoniously into an unoccupied storage unit, and then Jaskier’s lips are on his, and Geralt groans and reaches down to carry his beloved towards the nearest wall, hastily pushing aside storage crates as he goes. It smells unpleasantly like stale piss and rotting fish, and he couldn’t give a damn as he presses Jaskier against the interior of the damp wooden hut and devours him.

Jaskier allows a few minutes of mindless rutting against the wall with his legs wrapped around him before he is pushing softly at Geralt’s chest to request a change in position. He expects, perhaps, Jaskier’s firm grip in his shirt that reverses their positions and pushes his own back against the wall, but not the hungry way that Jaskier falls to his knees.

Geralt groans at the sight. Jaskier is usually so fastidious about his appearance. He would not stoop to kneeling in powdered fish carcasses on the best of days, let alone when they have to walk through the city afterwards in the midst of a festival.

Jaskier is as eager to take Geralt between his lips now in this uncouth locale as he was that very first time. The intimate act and the wooden floorboards may be similar but everything else about this situation has changed. The hands unfastening his breeches are not fumbling but sure. His mouth is not eager and sloppy, but teasing and focused. His eyes are not downcast but looking to Geralt with a mischievous glint. And this is not some nameless boy in a tavern but his beloved; not a bard but his bard.

“My love,” Geralt sighs as he rakes his hands through Jaskier’s hair and he moans delightfully around the girth of his cock. He is overwhelmed by affection and lacks the words to express it so he relies on his hands instead, as he cups Jaskier’s chin and encourages him to stand.

Jaskier lets Geralt’s member slip from his lips with a disappointed mewl but allows himself to be guided to his feet nevertheless. Geralt kisses the taste of his own pre-emptive seed from Jaskier’s lips and revels in the fact that he can do this now. He can kiss Jaskier whenever he so desires, with no shame, or regret. “Your breeches are ruined,” he states.

“Urgh,” Jaskier says, glancing down with a wince and futilely brushing the pale dust from his magenta trousers, “don’t remind me. Marie is going to be so disappointed.”

“Marie?”

“The washerwoman. Sadly, we are already acquainted. Before you arrived I may have enticed one of the esteemed judges into my bed…”

Geralt grunts, unsurprised, and thankfully not the least bit jealous. Jaskier had mentioned taking a casual lover, as per their agreement, when they had retired to their rooms late last night, but Geralt had requested no more information than the gender (female) and her marital status (recently divorced).

“And when I say ‘bed’, I may in fact mean the floors of the bathhouse that may or may not have had some scented oils drenched across the tiles, which were consequently, regrettably, transplanted across the rear of my finest trousers.”

Geralt chuckles and trails his lips along Jaskier’s throat as he follows the narrative of this ridiculous story. “Dare I ask why you were fully clothed at a bathhouse?”

“Seduction, my dear Witcher! Perhaps one day you will learn the fine art of it.”

Geralt grunts and digs his teeth below Jaskier’s earlobe just to hear him whimper. “I think I’m doing just fine.”

Jaskier apparently can’t dispute that as his mouth occupies itself with Geralt’s lips rather than with a snarky reply. For a while, there is nothing but the hot press of mouths and the muted sounds of the docks outside.

“You know,” Jaskier says flirtatiously, as he brazenly presses his clothed erection against Geralt’s own bare one, “I believe our thorough lovemaking last night may have left me open for more activity this morning, if you get my drift.”

Geralt smiles against his lips. That sounds like a very good idea indeed.

Jaskier’s smile turns deviant and his fingers hook around the chain of Geralt’s medallion, bringing him closer for a deep, filthy kiss. “Can I tell you about a little fantasy of mine?” he whispers.

Geralt grunts his assent, barely restraining his enthusiasm. Jaskier is no longer apprehensive about voicing his desires in the bedroom, and it transpires that he has a very vivid imagination and is plenty resourceful when it comes to implementing these desires. Geralt has enjoyed all their games thus far and is intrigued to learn the rules of whatever this game may be.

Jaskier grins mischievously and stands on tip-toes to whisper his fantasy effectively into his ear. “I long to be a young sailor on a pirate vessel, surrounded by strong, sun-kissed men, weathered with scars. They are brutes, for the most part, perverse in their desires and hardened with experience and I, a trembling virgin, lust after them from the safety of my bunk. One day, I am careless with the rigging and they send me to the Captain’s quarters for punishment.”

Geralt swallows, suddenly dry mouthed. Outside of the bedroom, he would correct Jaskier on his erroneous assumptions of mariner life but behind closed doors, it seems that Jaskier can weave any kind of story and Geralt will be enthralled. “What kind of punishment?” he asks in a low whisper, playing along. They’ve never engaged in roleplay before but he understands the premise at least. The distant sound of gulls and deckhands embellish the fantasy, as does the cramped storage room and the smell of seawater and rotting fish. If he closes his eyes, he can imagine the scenario all too well.

“Oh,” Jaskier drawls, the sultry sound followed by a slow, teasing lick along his stubbled cheek. “You know what kind. The Captain likes his boys a certain way.”

Geralt grunts, enthralled. “And how’s that?”

“Young. Unwilling. Quiet. He likes to smother them with his broad hand,” he says, kissing the palm of Geralt’s hand in flirtatious demonstration, “as he buggers them savagely against the interior mast.”

Panic surges past Geralt’s desire when he notes the similarities between this playful fantasy and the very real trauma of Jaskier’s own virginal experience. Unwilling. He struggles to breathe as he comprehends the similarities. Jaskier’s lustful scent has not wavered during the story but he needs to make certain. He swallows his apprehension and asks, “And how does the young sailor feel about this arrangement?”

Jaskier groans and licks across the palm of his hand. Fuck. That should not feel so good when his thoughts are so divided. “Oh, he is scared, he is afraid,” he says but his flirtatious voice is paradoxical. “He has not been taken before, but, oh, how he desires it.”

Geralt winces. It really is achingly similar. He dares himself to look into Jaskier’s eyes, and by the sincerity he finds in them, he knows that Jaskier is aware of it, too.

Geralt had sworn to be supportive if Jaskier had ever wanted to confront his trauma but he had naively assumed it would take the form of intimacies in stables or pinning him in the safety of their own bed, not re-enacting the vicious scene under the guise of an erotic game.

Does Jaskier see him as his abuser?

No. Geralt shuts down the thought as quickly as it had come. Jaskier doesn’t see him as a monster. Perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps Jaskier is requesting this so that he might replace the horrendous memory with someone that he loves. It is probably not wise or recommended or at all sane but if Jaskier wants it, then Geralt will give it.

Geralt studies Jaskier’s countenance for any trace of apprehension and he can smell a little of it, certainly, but it is overpowered by the combined scent of exhilaration and lust. Jaskier knows what he is asking for - the surety is written in the depth of his eyes and the bite on his lips belies his concern regarding Geralt’s response - but there is no mistaking that he wants this.

Geralt wants to give Jaskier everything that he wants. This, he assures himself, is no different.

Jaskier is distracting him with a confident hand against his arms. “The young sailor has watched the Captain before,” he says, slipping back into the story. “Admired his strong muscles,” he says with a squeeze of his biceps, “and his strong jaw,” he says with a kiss against his stubble, “and has spent many nights lying awake in his hammock in the bowels of the ship, touching himself to the thought of being taken by him -”

Geralt bucks into the hand that is suddenly against his crotch, a strangled moan unwittingly leaving his lips at the unexpected touch.

“The boy is afraid,” Jaskier murmurs, and for a minute his mask slips, and Geralt sees the truth beneath it, “but he wants it. He hopes to be taken hard, and fast, and without recompense. He hopes to have his screams smothered by the Captain’s strong hands.”

His eyes lock onto Geralt’s, and he is now cognisant enough to recognise that Jaskier speaks of himself and not this fictionalised young sailor. The young man in the fantasy will be taken against his will but Jaskier is attempting to communicate that the real man before him is very much willing to be taken so viciously.

Geralt studies his eyes for any sign of fear but there is still only a lick of apprehension in his scent. Geralt must look doubtful enough that Jaskier momentarily abandons the fantasy to whisper, “I trust you,” against his lips.

The words instantly calm him. Geralt nods in acceptance and flexes his hand beside them, knowing that Jaskier will feel the sensation against his side. Ordinarily, Jaskier would be able to voice his displeasure if Geralt overstepped but he will not be able to do so if he is gagged. “How will I know if I go too far?” he whispers in kind.

“Darling,” Jaskier murmurs, caressing his cheek. “You know me better than you know anything else in this world. You’ll sense if I grow uncomfortable.”

Geralt nods. Jaskier is right to say that he ought to be able to sense any sudden changes in his partner’s inclinations. Geralt has been hyperaware of avoiding that sour stench in their bedroom ever since the incident in the Baron’s stables. Even when his anxiety is but a drop in the ocean of lust, he can sense it. “Okay,” he says, and purposefully lowers his hand to Jaskier’s waist. He clears his throat, signalling a return to the game. “Well then, sailor,” he says carefully, and notes the joyful relief that lights Jaskier’s face, “I believe it’s time for your punishment.”

*

 

Geralt is terrible at acting so he smothers Jaskier’s mouth, drops his trousers, and forcefully turns him around before Jaskier can entice him into any more dialogue. Jaskier’s shout of approval is muffled by the palm of his hand and when Jaskier struggles against the hold, Geralt follows his instinct and strikes his buttock with the back of his hand and orders him to behave. Jaskier groans and the scent of his lust spikes, and Geralt is fairly certain if his partner could speak that he’d be asking for more.

Fuck. Geralt hadn’t expected to enjoy this, but it’s the fucking axii thing all over again. Jaskier trusts him so explicitly that it’s fucking intoxicating.

Geralt tightens his grip around Jaskier’s waist and runs his nose across his exposed neck, inhaling the scent that confirms his consent.

“Are you going to be a good boy for me?” he asks, and thrills in Jaskier’s eager constrained nod of approval.

He wants this, he assures himself, and after another moment of hesitation, directly impales Jaskier on his cock just as brutally as he had asked.

Jaskier screams, and bucks against his steadfast hold, tears springing at the corner of his eyes.

Geralt digs his nose into his neck and inhales. There is a low undercurrent of pain at the sudden intrusion but the tangled spike of lust and fear quickly override the sour stench of discomfort. He’s okay, he’s okay...

Geralt keeps his head buried in the potent scent glands, just in case, as he begins to thrust hard and unrelenting into his tight entrance. Jaskier screams against his hand until it is slick with saliva. He kicks at Geralt’s body and bites futilely into his hand, but scenting his desire, Geralt perseveres in his assault. The more Jaskier resists, the more Geralt plays along, holding him captive and ordering him to behave unless he wants his crewmates to join in (this proclamation draws the most obscene moan from him). Presumably, the muffled sounds against his hand are pleas of some kind but more often than not the pretence of protests melt into familiar blissful moans. The scent of fear never outweighs that of lust, but Geralt is so intent on tracking every intonation of it that it stifles his own desire as he drives deep and disciplined into his lover.

It is only when Jaskier’s struggling ceases with exhaustion, and there is nothing on his lips but euphoric moans, that Geralt finally allows himself to attend to his own pleasure.

Geralt extracts his face from where it had been buried in the crook of Jaskier’s neck and studies his lover’s face, elated to see it overtaken with that blissfully absent expression he had once told him about.

You fuck me so hard sometimes that it’s like you’re pounding the very thoughts from my head.

Geralt warms at the sight of his lover, pliant and content in his arms, and begins to take his pleasure in earnest. He keeps the punishing pace to maintain Jaskier’s present condition and preens when he starts to hear the telling hitched breaths of an impending orgasm muffled against his hand. He can feel the increased exhales against the back of his hand and feels the tension rise in Jaskier’s body as it prepares to expel his seed. Even when silenced, he knows what Jaskier needs and grinds his manhood just so inside him, hard and repetitive against that sweet spot until Jaskier is screaming and coating the mouldy wooden walls before them with striking white streaks of his come.

“Fuck,” Geralt groans. He releases his grip over Jaskier’s mouth to hear those desperate, ragged inhales, and the glorious sound of his beloved after the extended period of muffled silence is enough to send him over the edge himself.

He pants afterwards, attempting to reclaim his sanity as he carefully extracts himself from Jaskier’s abused hole. Jaskier whimpers at the sensation and Geralt wagers it will be some weeks before he asks to be taken again - but that’s fine, there are many more acts they can enjoy in the meantime. He leans against a relatively clean patch of wall and cradles Jaskier’s limp body protectively in his arms.

He kisses his hair and caresses his arms and scents his neck, just to make sure he’s okay. Jaskier is silent but content, perhaps just occupying that fuzzy headspace that these things can send you to. Geralt murmurs comforts with his caresses, words like “I got you” and “you’re okay” and other things that ought to be nonsense but aren’t, until Jaskier begins to hum contentedly against him.

When he begins to gently retrieve Jaskier’s breeches from around his ankles, he cannot help the huff of laughter that escapes at the sight of the come-stained crotch. His seed must have dripped onto the fabric when Geralt had extracted himself from between Jaskier’s legs.

“What?” Jaskier asks, voice muffled by Geralt’s shirt as Geralt affixes the ruined trousers.

Another laugh rumbles through Geralt’s chest as he admires the damage. “Marie will not be pleased with you at all.”

Jaskier is confused for a moment and then breaks away with a groan to inspect the soiled breeches himself; the rich magenta fabric now littered with dust and debris and a telling white stain on the crotch.

“I’ll pay,” Geralt offers, before his partner can grouch too much about the expense but Jaskier surprises him, yet again, by shaking his head and bursting out in hysterical laughter.

He pounds Geralt’s shoulders with a fist as he hides his unmanly giggles in the crook of his neck.

Bewildered, Geralt finds himself laughing along.

“She’s going to be mortified,” Jaskier says, delighted. He extracts his face to look at Geralt with joyful amusement. “Oh, I can’t wait!” he exclaims. “Her face will be absolutely priceless.”

Geralt smiles indulgently at him and for the first time, feels the flutter of affection right beneath the surface of his skin.

“What?” Jaskier asks, playfully pushing Geralt’s face away from his. “You’ve got that sappy look on your face again. If I’ve got your spend anywhere on my person, you are legally obligated to inform me before we leave this fine establishment -”

Geralt cuts his complaints short with a kiss, so overjoyed to hear that laugh and see his lover content that he simply has to express the overflow of affection somehow. Jaskier gasps against his lips, pleasantly surprised, as he accepts the passionate kiss.

“I can’t wait,” Geralt says when they part.

“To see Marie’s horrified expression? No, me neither. That will be utmost enjoyable -”

“For everything,” Geralt clarifies. I cannot wait to spend my entire life with you. He kisses him again, softer, sweeter… “For everything.”

 

XXVIII

Winter is on the horizon when Geralt hears it; a constant thrumming, like the rumblings of a giant centipede crawling beneath the ground. As he blearily blinks into consciousness in the bedroll next to Jaskier, he realises his mistake: they are too far north for such insectoids.

They are camping in the Amell Mountains, at a safe distance from the valley path that they have been circling for a fortnight now. That distant rumbling is no beast: it is an army. This is the sign that they have been waiting for; the one that he has dreaded every hour that he will hear.

He presses a kiss against his partner’s hair and inhales the subtle scent of lavender, rendered even more familiar by the earthy scent of the forest floor around them. He wishes he could stay here; ignore the pounding of footsteps approaching and stay nestled between Jaskier’s shoulder blades where it is safe and comforting and familiar.

“I have to go,” he grumbles, voice heavy with sleep.

Jaskier stirs but does not wake. Dawn has only just broken and they bedded down late last night. He needs the sleep.

Geralt presses another kiss into his hair and ensures Jaskier’s sheathed dagger is within reach, in case he manages to attract trouble before he returns. Then, with a heavy sigh, he equips his armour and readies Roach for departure.

*

Geralt follows the vibrations until the sound is thunderous in his ears. He halts Roach at the rise and looks down into the desolate valley to witness his fears confirmed; a large Nilfgaardian army, heading north, dust billowing from their movements as far as the eye can see. It is a force large enough for an invasion.

Geralt curses under his breath and steers Roach away from sight before they can be spotted by the intruders.

He halts at the edge of the foliage for an untenable amount of time with his eyes scrunched closed listening to the vibrations around him steadily rise.

For the first time since his mutations, he feels how he imagines Jaskier does when his chest constricts with anxiety. His heart is pounding, his mouth is dry, and every muscle is tensed inside him. Witcher mutations were meant to numb fear but Geralt doesn’t know how else to identify the sudden tightness in his throat and the panicked thoughts inside him.

He never wished to claim the child and condemn it to the same life that was wrought upon him, but he cannot also in good faith sentence that child to a certain death. He ought to ride to Cintra posthaste. He can rendezvous with Moussack and warn Queen Calanthe of their approach. He prays that she will let him spirit the child to safety. He could return the child afterwards, he reasons, when the northern armies have warded off the attack, but for now…. Now, he has a duty to keep the child safe.

*

Geralt ties Roach to a tree on the outskirts of camp and arrives to find Jaskier packing away their bedrolls. Jaskier used to fret constantly over the certainty of Geralt’s return, but it’s been over a year since they began their romantic entanglement and Jaskier no longer doubts his loyalty. All in all, they’ve barely spent more than a handful of days apart in all that time, and now, Geralt must leave without any idea of when, or if, he will be able to return.

Geralt doesn’t waste time on words. He strides towards Jaskier and takes his face in his hands. Jaskier is barely able to voice a startled greeting before Geralt is stealing any potential words out of his mouth with the curl of his tongue.

Shit, Geralt, what happened?” Jaskier asks when they finally break for air because Jaskier knows this behaviour and knows what it signifies. His hands are stroking his cheeks like a rider soothing his beast. “Tell me,” he urges, in that soft voice that, even after all this time, still renders Geralt malleable to confession.

“Nilfgaardian army.”

“Shit.”

They had ventured into the Amell Mountains with this very expectation but as the weeks passed, the possibility of war had faded into a distant prophecy; an unlikely event. Now it is all too real, Geralt realises that he’s not ready to take care of a child. He’s not ready to say goodbye.

Geralt kisses him again, attempting to pour his desperation into the kisses so he won’t have to say what needs to be said. However, Jaskier knows him too well to abide by such avoidance and pushes Geralt away with a firm hand against his chest.

“You’re going to Cintra,” Jaskier infers.

“Yes,” he admits, and he closes his eyes as he attempts to speak the hardest words of all.

Jaskier, however - the marvel that he is - speaks these for him too. “And you… do not wish for me to come?”

Geralt grunts. He daren’t open his eyes and see the betrayed look on Jaskier’s face. He doesn’t know how to say: I am not leaving you; I am protecting you. “The army will be on my tail. It is too dangerous. I need you safe. Please,” he says, and his eyes do flicker open at this, so Jaskier can see the sincerity in his eyes. “If I am to go, I need to know that you are safe.”

Jaskier sighs, and Geralt watches numerous thoughts cross his face. He is proud that Geralt is taking responsibility for his Child Surprise. He is displeased at the danger the act elicits. A paradox.

Geralt watches patiently, examining every shift in his countenance, wondering if Jaskier will disagree and insist on riding with him. He would regret parting on an argument but he would do it to keep his partner safe.

Eventually, Jaskier speaks. “How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he answers truthfully. His hands shift to cup Jaskier’s elbows to keep him in his arms. He swallows the discomfort of the next words that he has to speak. “Months, maybe. Years.”

Jaskier winces and his face crumples, and Geralt wishes he never lived to see such immense anguish on such a joyous face.

“I will find you when it is safe, I assure you. I will hunt the continent to find you.”

Jaskier looks at him with a sad smile as he tenderly tucks Geralt’s hair behind his ear. “That will not be necessary, darling.”

Geralt frowns. He cannot mean what he is implying. Jaskier cannot be ending their relationship due to a mere practical parting. He loves him, does he not? He cannot -

Jaskier’s panicked expression brings him out of his own. He notices that his own breathing has turned ragged; the thought of Jaskier leaving him is apparently quite distressing. “My darling wolf,” Jaskier says kindly, cupping his face in both hands, “after all these years, do you still believe that I will leave you so readily?”

Geralt averts his gaze and swallows his shame, unable to answer in a way that will please his beloved. He has come far but it seems not all scars are faded.

Jaskier sighs and presses his lips to Geralt’s temple. “I only meant to say that I can make the task easy for you. Oxenfurt Academy have been after my talents for quite some time. I have an open invitation to join their staff and there is nowhere safer than a scholarly city in the north, surely?”

Geralt contemplates this proposition and nods his consensus. Even if Nilfgaard were to win their siege over Cintra, they would have to battle through the entirety of Temeria before they reached the Redanian town of Oxenfurt. The university will also be reasonably safe from bandits and beasts, and Jaskier can be kept satisfied with women and books and wine. “Yes,” he agrees, leaning forward to kiss him again. “I will meet you there.”

Now Jaskier understands his desperation for the departure that it is, it does not take long for the kisses to turn frantic again. They do not have time for a tender goodbye. He needs to depart within the hour if he is to overtake the army on the other side of the Marmadel Stairs. This might be his last coupling with Jaskier, and he is plagued with indecision as to what he wants because he wants it all. He wants to taste Jaskier’s seed and feel Jaskier’s tongue at his entrance and hear the dichotomy of screams and whimpers when he takes him hard. He wants it all.

“Take me,” he whispers, when he has finally decided. “I want to feel you inside me one last time.”

Jaskier makes a strangled moan and breaks away to dive for the oil in their discarded bags by the folded bedrolls. He makes quick work of it and eases Geralt’s impatience with desperate kisses until he is nudging Geralt to the edge of the clearing, so that he can brace himself against the wide trunk of a tree. He feels a nip of teeth at his neck and a cock at his entrance and knows that Jaskier will give him something to remember him by.

*

Geralt only has a moment to cling to him in the afterglow before he hears Roach snort across the clearing in an impatient manner.

“I have to go,” he murmurs into Jaskier’s collar; a mockery of his departure that very morning. He won’t be returning this time.

“Two more minutes, I beg of you.”

Geralt cannot refuse him and cannot pry himself away either as they clutch at each other, and Jaskier whispers assurances and Geralt bathes in the scent of lavender while he can. He longs to say something reassuring to his partner in return; something to demonstrate his affections and remind him of his return because he will return.

He does not have the words. But, he realises, there might be something else he can give him.

*

Geralt contemplates his offering as he watches Jaskier pack away the camp out of the corner of his eye. He is putting on a brave face but Geralt can taste the salt in the air.

He sighs and allows the ring to topple from its pouch into his open palm. It feels heavy. Not an actual weight, but a metaphorical one; laden with meaning. It is the reason why he put it aside and forgot about it five years ago. It was too much. Except now… he glances over to Jaskier, Perhaps not. He has already spoken the words in Gors Velen. He need only complete the gesture.

He takes a deep breath and, for the first time in years, examines the silver he spontaneously purchased all those years ago. He had never had an eye for jewellery and had never managed to correlate any preferences between the rings that already adorned Jaskier’s hand to advise his choice. It was instinctive. And expensive. And he had spent five years - no, four years - regretting it, but he has never once contemplated throwing the damn thing away.

He clutches the ring in his hand, determined, and turns back towards his bard. “I got you something.”

“Oh?” Jaskier says, abandoning his task to join him by Roach. “A full crate of wine, I hope. I will need some after this departure.”

A smile teases Geralt’s lips but he daren’t respond and divert Jaskier’s attention, lest he lose the courage to do what he must. He takes a deep, steadying inhale, and opens his palm to display the thick silver band inlaid with sapphire.

Jaskier stops breathing. His eyes go wide. His mouth hangs agape. He is the very picture of surprise. “Geralt?” he asks, soft and full of awe.

“It’s enchanted,” Geralt grunts, before Jaskier can misinterpret the giving of a ring as an indicator for marriage. They have already stumbled through one awkward conversation about that very matter and he doesn’t relish the idea of another. “Yennefer cast a protective spell on it. It should keep you safe.”

Jaskier’s eyes flicker to his and then back down to the ring before carefully plucking it from his open palm. He turns it over in his fingers, admiring it. “It’s beautiful, Geralt.”

Geralt clears his throat awkwardly. He doesn’t know a thing about beauty, except all that Jaskier has shown him.

Jaskier is smiling softly as he pushes the ring onto his fourth finger. It’s a perfect fit. He raises it to the late afternoon sun and smiles when the gems sparkle almost as bright as his eyes. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it,” he responds, his voice deep and cracked with emotion.

“I… oh, Geralt, I…” he trails off, and Geralt naively considers the gift to be a success until Jaskier hesitates, and his eyes narrow, and he’s suddenly looking at Geralt suspiciously. “Yennefer,” he states. “You haven’t seen Yennefer since the dragon hunt.”

Ah, fuck.

Jaskier grins in victory, “Oh ho ho!” he exclaims in joy, twirling on the spot in glee. “You romantic. You’ve had this for years, haven’t you?”

Geralt rolls his eyes and busies himself testing the straps of the saddlebags.

“You are unbelievable,” Jaskier scoffs. “Absolutely unbelievable. I can’t believe you’ve been holding onto this the whole time…”

Jaskier is uncharacteristically quiet for an unsettling amount of time. Geralt turns back to him and is reassured to see that the soft smile hasn’t fallen from his lips.

“Why exactly have you been holding onto this for so long?” Jaskier asks, when he notices he has reclaimed Geralt’s attention.

Geralt shrugs and, unable to withstand the intensity of Jaskier’s affections, turns back to his saddlebags. “I bought it before we were reunited in Vizima. I did not think you would accept my offer of friendship so easily after all that transpired…” he clears his throat, not wanting to loiter on the loneliness of that year without him, and the long years that came before while Jaskier was in the thrall of the Countess. “I thought if you rejected my company once more, then at least it could keep you safe where I could not.”

“Once again, shockingly romantic,” Jaskier says. It ought to be a tease but his voice is too soft for mockery, as is the gentle way his thumb strokes the new ring.

Geralt huffs in amusement, remembering that wondrous day in Vizima; the relief of having his dear companion at his side once again. “However, all it took to rekindle our friendship was a mediocre card game. Ring forgotten.”

It’s not the entire truth but he does not know how else to phrase it, until he notices Jaskier’s raised eyebrow of disbelief and knows he has to try.

He sighs, and finally ceases his nervous fumblings of the saddlebags. “Very well. It’s true I had forgotten, but by the time I had remembered... I was afraid you would misinterpret the gesture.”

Jaskier frowns and twists the newly acquired ring on his finger. It has not escaped Geralt’s notice that it occupies the ring finger on the left hand; that to a passing stranger it would imply marriage, whether the gesture was intended or not. “And now?” Jaskier asks.

Geralt steps forward and kisses Jaskier’s hand, feeling the warm hum of magic beneath his lips. “Now I just want you safe. And...” he says contemplatively, thumb caressing the ring that seems to fit so perfectly on his bard’s hand, “I suppose that I am no longer so concerned if the gesture is misconstrued.”

Jaskier catches his gaze and smiles sweetly before closing the inch between them to kiss him on the lips. “Then I will wear it with pride.”

*

Geralt is several leagues from his partner when he realises that the scent of lavender has not faded. That night, when Roach is resting and the Nilfgaardians are safely behind them, he follows the familiar scent to the saddlebags. There, nestled between potions and wrapped lovingly in one of Jaskier’s silk handkerchiefs, are two bars of homemade soap.

 

XXIX

Over six months pass before Geralt finally arrives in Oxenfurt with his Child Surprise in tow. Six months of Cintran jails and Nilfgaardian war and ghoul venom hallucinations and spontaneous hugs in forests and angry sorceresses on fallen battlefields and all that came since. Six months of knowing Ciri, and six months of missing Jaskier.

The girl is quiet. Normally, he would not mind quiet but with Ciri, he rather suspects her silence is born from fear and trauma rather than from peace. As they approach Oxenfurt, however, she begins to tug at his sleeve.

He looks down at her with a puzzled frown. She had asked a fortnight ago why they were heading north, and he told her Kaer Morhen via Oxenfurt and she had not pressed for more. Now, it seems, she is curious.

Her hair is still mud-streaked and hidden beneath her hood. Geralt had cut it short soon after Sodden and she now hides two daggers on her person. She ought not to be recognised as missing royalty in this Redanian city but he is still apprehensive.

“You are looking for someone here?” she asks, once they are safely past the gates.

Geralt frowns. He hadn’t realised he had been so obvious. “A good friend,” he says simply, as he leads Roach towards the Southern Isle where the Academy resides. “Jaskier. He teaches at the Academy.”

“The Academy? Like a school?” she asks, eyes alight with a rare curiosity. “What does he teach?”

“I don’t know,” Geralt admits. “He has not been here long.” It could be music, or history, or poetry, or language. Jaskier has many talents and they did not have time to discuss. He assumes music, though. Geralt told himself he wouldn’t think of Jaskier during their parting but sometimes he would lie awake, imagining Jaskier regaling his students with the extraneous metaphors and pointed critiques he had witnessed in Gors Velen. He liked to imagine his beloved confident and happy and waving his arms in exasperation when a student misses a note; he liked to imagine him far away from the horrors of war.

“Can he help us? Why are we seeing him?”

Geralt hesitates as her questioning coincides with a junction in the path. Because I love him. Because he’ll know what to do. Because Jaskier excels in speaking to everyone, which means he’ll know how to speak to you. Because I will not traverse the Path a moment longer without him by my side. Because I wish to see him happy and well. Decided, he turns Roach inland towards the market.

“Where are we going?” she asks, catching up with a quick turn of feet. “The sign said the Academy is that way -” she says, pointing behind her from the road Geralt recently abandoned.

“It is,” he confirms, “but there is something I must do first.”

“At the stables?” she assumes.

He shakes his head. “At the market.”

Her endless questioning ceases at the prospect of shopping, and when he ties Roach to a nearby post he asks if there’s anything she needs. “Clothes? Food? Uh. Womanly… things,” he adds, because hadn’t that been a fun discovery. He had smelled blood and woken in a panic before the girl shyly explained that it was coming from between her legs. There had been an incredibly awkward conversation between them, and Geralt had never wished for Jaskier’s company more. Jaskier would have known what to say; what to do. He would have probably had the foresight to pre-empt such a need. However.

Ciri blushes and shakes her head. There are likely many things they need but, like Geralt, she can probably not think of them until they are settled. Blacksmith. He needs to go to the smithey. “Tomorrow,” he grunts. “We’ll return tomorrow to run our errands. For now, I need only one thing.” He scans the market until he locates the produce stall he needs and sees a promising glimpse of red. “Stay with Roach.”

Ciri does as she’s told and he makes his way to the stall, keeping more than half an eye on his ward as he goes.

The merchant greets him with some inane chatter and Geralt grunts when he’s finished examining the fruit and vegetables before him.

“This might seem like an odd question -”

“No such thing, good sir!” the merchant chirps. “All questions are good questions. Might you perhaps be inquiring after the use of these luscious spring greens? My wife has an excellent recipe that I can divulge -”

“What is new today?”

The merchant looks utterly offended, “Sir, all our produce is as fresh as can be -”

Geralt sighs and rubs his eyes, and when the merchant has finished his spiel, he tries again, “I meant,” he says with emphasis, “what is new for the season? Are there any fruits that have only come to ripe today?”

“Yes, sir!” the merchant grins, finally understanding. “You are in luck! These cherries here are -”

“Fine.”

“‘Fine?’” he repeats incredulously, “Sir, these cherries are one of the finest -”

“I’m sure they are. I’ll take them.”

The merchant clearly doesn’t care for his succinctness, but he returns with the wooden box in his hands and feels victorious anyway.

Ciri frowns. “Fruit? You came all this way to the market for fruit?”

Roach nickers as if she is inclined to agree with Ciri’s bemused assessment.

Geralt shakes his head at both of them and secures his prize firmly in the saddlebags. “Thought you were a lady,” he retorts. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s impolite to greet your host empty handed?” He feels a smile on his lips at the thought - at Jaskier’s wide surprised eyes and blinding smile and soft expression when he receives the gift - the vision more tangible than ever before.

Ciri laughs as they untie Roach and resume their journey to the Academy. It’s an unusual sound from her, and it fills him with both warmth and unease. He doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve it, perhaps. “Didn’t think you were one for courtesy,” she teases.

“Hmm,” Geralt contemplates, with another secret smile. “Only to those who have earned it.”

*

The guards at the Academy gates confirm the appointment of one Viscount de Lettenhove, and with a little charm (and perhaps a mild threat), they are granted entry onto the Isle.

Geralt starts leading Roach towards the stables with restless hands and darting eyes; a sudden thrill of anticipation surging through him.

Geralt hadn’t allowed himself to fully anticipate their reunion; afraid he would wallow in false hope and invite distraction during his onerous quest to protect Ciri. Geralt could have rotted away in a jail cell, or died on the back of that farmer’s cart, or have been castrated by Yennefer when their paths crossed in Sodden. At any point, it all could have gone to shit. If he had lain awake at night and fantasised about the moment that they were reunited, his heart would have grown heavy, and his head would have been full of want.

Vesemir was right to say that this shit can get you killed. Love is a distraction, and one he couldn’t afford while Ciri was in his care.

Geralt has kept such a tenacious hold over his thoughts for months that the resistance breaks almost as soon as the gates are behind them. As soon as he hears that Jaskier is alive and well and somewhere in his very building, he can no longer keep the suppressed fantasy at bay. He imagines the warmth of his hands, and the sound of his laughter, and the smell of lute and lavender, and he is overtaken with heartache and desire. He needs to hold his beloved in his arms and assure himself that this agonising separation is behind them.

Geralt makes quick work stabling Roach - hands jittery and thoughts unfocussed - as he hastens to reunite with Jaskier. He shoulders the saddlebags and the rest of their belongings, and then he’s leading Ciri through the courtyard, eyes eagerly scanning the throngs of students for his bard.

The last of the spring blossoms are falling from the apple tree in the courtyard and the late afternoon sun stretches the shadows long as they pass the bench beneath it. He can imagine Jaskier sat beneath it with a quill pressed against his lips in composition, or standing atop it demanding the students’ attention during a political rally, or just lounged across the stone surface, lazily twirling a daisy between his fingers with that soft smile on his face as the last of the day’s sunlight fades behind these tall historic buildings. Affection and sorrow tangle in Geralt’s chest at the mirage and he is so caught in the fantasy of his beloved that, for a moment, the familiar scent doesn’t register.

Lavender.

Beneath the scent of pollen and grass and unwashed students, he smells lavender.

Geralt halts, bags sliding from his shoulders as he tries to track the scent on the breeze. He enhances his senses, attempting to filter out the constant din of chattering students and the abundance of new sensations to locate the source of the perfume.

Ciri is asking questions beside him in a panicked whisper - “Geralt? Why have we stopped? What’s wrong?” - and he thinks he manages to form a reassuring sound in reply.

Nothing’s wrong, he wants to say, something’s right.

“Jaskier…” he murmurs. “He’s here somewhere.”

And then he hears a laugh, the most paradisiacal laugh he’s ever heard, and a gaggle of students separate long enough for him to see the open corridor surrounding the courtyard and-

“Jaskier,” he says, this time loud enough to be heard.

Crystal blue, ocean-deep, eyes lock onto his, and the anticipation he had been harbouring floods into blissful relief. Jaskier’s reaction is everything he imagined: the slack jaw of surprise, the wide eyes, the way he stops everything he is doing - conversation with his fellow lecturer abandoned - as his eyes rake over Geralt and then flicker behind him to his ward. His lips curve into a slow smile.

It is exactly as he foresaw, except, a moment later, when Jaskier hastily drops his scrolls at the foot of this other professor and literally jumps through the open window towards him.

A startled laugh escapes from Geralt’s lips as Jaskier falls into the flowerbeds below, landing in an undignified sprawl of long academic robes and uncoordinated limbs. More papers are sent flying, and several students have started to gawk and Geralt realises that if he is about to be engulfed in such dramatics then he ought to at least send Cirilla into the shadows.

“That’s him?” she asks, sounding at once both unimpressed and highly entertained.

Geralt smiles indulgently, affection thrumming in his chest, as he watches Jaskier clumsily rise to his feet. “Yeah,” he says softly. “That’s him.” Jaskier locks eyes with him again, looking bashful but nonetheless smitten, and Geralt must look equally as lovestruck because Jaskier’s smile only grows as he rights himself and continues his zealous and blundering approach. “Go wait by the tree,” Geralt says to Ciri, nodding at the petal-laden bench beside them. “I don’t want you caught in Jaskier’s flair for dramatics.”

Ciri huffs and thankfully does as she’s told, and Geralt only has to take two steps forward before Jaskier is bounding into his arms. Lavender. Lute. Home. His arms come to rest around his partner, just as tight. The last time Jaskier had tackled him unexpectedly like this Gors Velen, the hug was light-hearted and full of laughter. This is different. This time, Jaskier is clinging.

“You’re alive,” Jaskier cries, tucking his head into Geralt’s shoulder. “Bless Melitele, bless all the gods, you’re alive.”

He smells salt in the air and feels moisture against his skin and knows the shock of it has wrought Jaskier to tears. He must have heard about the war. He must have feared Geralt would not return. Geralt grips the back of his head and rocks him in his arms, heedless of the gossiping students around them.

“I’m alive,” he reassures when he trusts himself to speak. “Are you well?” he asks, and pulls away from the tight embrace just long enough to examine Jaskier’s face for further injury. His eyes are red from tears and perhaps prior exhaustion, his hair is wild and streaked with a few more grey hairs than Geralt remembers, but he is smiling beautifully and his eyes are sparkling with the sun and affection spills out between them, messy and undignified and fucking magnificent.

Jaskier is cradling his face, the touch so gentle and reverent after months of cold brutality that Geralt’s eyes sting with sudden unshed tears. His own hands come to push beneath the extravagant academic bonnet and thread through Jaskier’s hair, dispersing the scent of lavender towards him.

“I am well,” Jaskier says softly, tucking a stray strand of hair away from Geralt’s face. “Are you?” he asks with a furrowed brow, likely sensing the true answer even as Geralt says that he is fine.

When Jaskier’s eyes narrow, he clarifies, “It’s been too fucking long, my love. I’m glad to be home.”

Jaskier smiles at that; the furrow of disappointment fading. “Good,” he says, and pries Geralt’s hands away from his face so he can squeeze them in his own hands. “Good. Now, as soon as I can put a damper on these endless tears, I would be ever so humbled if you could introduce me to your Child Surprise.”

*

Ciri has stayed exactly where he left her; a few paces back, on the bench under the budding apple tree. She is playing with the petals, markedly not looking in their direction, and, bless her, seems to have extracted the box of cherries from the bags.

“My dear Cub,” Jaskier greets, falling to his knee beside her like a knight trying to win a lady’s hand.

Geralt rolls his eyes at the mockery of decorum but Ciri seems delighted when she catches sight of him. Jaskier truly looks ridiculous in his long, dark purple academic robes and feathered cap but he supposes that to a girl who has seen nothing but drowners and bandits for a month, Jaskier must look downright regal.

“It is an utmost pleasure to meet you, Cirilla. My name is Julian Alfred Pankratz, Viscount de Lettenhove,” he greets with an exaggerated bow.

The gesture is wholly unnecessary but he appreciates Jaskier using his formal name despite his personal hatred of it. Ciri ought to feel comforted by the presence of another noble, and by using his title Jaskier is subconsciously informing her that they can converse on the same level. Geralt watches with a small stunned smile on his face, admiring that Jaskier instinctively knew to do this and is already succeeding in winning her favour, where Geralt has thus far only been tolerated.

“Although,” Jaskier says with a cheeky wink, “my friends call me Jaskier, and - don’t tell Geralt -” he adds in a conspiratorial whisper, “but I suspect that we are going to be the very bestests of friends.”

Ciri blushes and giggles but her scent changes from apprehension to embarrassment, which is all Geralt can hope for at this juncture. He also isn’t sure if he’s ever heard her giggle before. Ciri has yelled in frustration, and screamed in fear, and whimpered in stifled mourning, but he has never heard his ward giggle.

“We bought you cherries,” she says, proffering the box.

Jaskier’s expression softens, just as he knew it would, as he takes the unexpected gift from her hands. He looks genuinely touched by the gesture. “Thank you,” he says, “that’s very thoughtful of you.”

He turns his affectionate gaze upwards to Geralt, who flusters beneath it, having grown unaccustomed to the intensity of his adoration during their separation. He folds his arms defensively in a shrug. Another old habit. He forces himself to unravel his arms again as he explains, “First of the season.”

Jaskier’s smile widens and takes Geralt’s outstretched hand to stand beside him. “Now, I shall show the two of you to my rooms. I’m afraid I have one more class today but then - ”

“Uh, shouldn’t we -?” Geralt gestures to the courtyard where Jaskier’s abandoned scrolls and papers have since been dispersed by the wind.

Jaskier winces at the sight but he doesn’t seem particularly put out by the predicament.

“What are they anyway?” Ciri asks, stooping to examine the nearest one.

“Some extraordinarily mediocre compositions by my students, I’m afraid,” he responds with a dramatic sigh. “Do avert your eyes, my sweet, I wouldn’t want you to be inadvertently miseducated by its copious and rudimentary flaws,” he says, prying the poem from Ciri’s hands and tutting at the text with distaste. “Truth be told, not a single one of these ballads are worth saving by any modern musical standard but I’ve previously been informed that my students’ infantile attempts at artistry are deemed as somewhat pertinent to the teachings of the Academy.”

“And to the students too, I imagine,” Geralt observes wryly.

Jaskier wrinkles his nose in distaste. Geralt is momentarily startled by the sight; he had forgotten just how endearing Jaskier’s continual petulance can be.

“Come on,” Geralt grunts, snapping himself out of his thoughts by nudging Jaskier with his elbow. “We’ll help you collect them. Won’t we, Cub?” he directs to Ciri, deciding that he’s quite fond of Jaskier’s nickname. The girl is fond of it too, if her sudden bright-eyed determination is anything to go by. “Just don’t read any of them or you’ll have Professor Pankratz to answer to.”

Ciri laughs and darts for the nearest paper as it’s blown into a beggartick bush laden with thick red blossoms.

“Thank you,” he whispers into Jaskier’s ear, as soon as Ciri is out of earshot.

“For what?” he asks, sliding his hand over Geralt’s, hidden in the vast billowing of his cloak.

“For knowing how to talk to her.”

“Oh, Geralt,” he sighs sweetly, resting his head against Geralt’s shoulder as they watch Ciri reach for another poem with a carefree laugh. “How have you managed without me these past few months?” The voice is light and teasing but when he looks back, Jaskier’s careful gaze and the downturn of his lips belie his concern.

Geralt turns his head to press a kiss into his temple and closes his eyes to the sound of long-absent laughter. “Poorly, my love,” he admits in the secrecy of their embrace. “Poorly.”

*

Jaskier doesn’t have ‘rooms’ as he’d previously stated; he has an entire house. He prances around the cottage, excitedly showing Ciri things that really ought not be exciting, while Geralt just looks on dumbfounded. The Academy would not have offered a single man a three-bedroom house. Jaskier must have requested it - or bought it, even - meaning that he must have prepared for their visit, despite the uncertainty of his return.

Geralt doesn’t know why this thought fills him with such warmth, but as he watches Jaskier spoil Ciri with bath salts and candy and her own bedroom (complete with superfluous silk sheets) he feels very peculiar indeed. Jaskier has always cared for him - he has always drawn him baths and stitched his wounds and ensured he ate something before venturing out for a hunt - but this is something else entirely. The only house he has ever shared with Jaskier, however briefly, was the cottage they had rented by the coast. Back then, it had felt like they were playing at domesticity but now, as Ciri shrieks with joy at the sight of a pulley bath and Jaskier casually discusses dinner plans as he leads Geralt to their room, it doesn’t feel like playing at all.

“- there is a third bedroom, of course, in case you want your space, I wasn’t sure if -”

Geralt cuts his ramblings short with an impassioned kiss. He is wrung out from the sudden surge of anticipation and release, overwhelmed with emotion, and desperately needs to convey every facet of his affections in the most direct way he knows how.

Jaskier returns the kiss just as bruisingly, as if he is also brimming with untold emotion, as he drags Geralt out of the doorway and into the privacy of his room. It smells so strongly of Jaskier here - the scent able to magnify with longevity like never before - that he feels giddy with the profound sensation. This is what home could feel like.

“Oh,” Jaskier says breathlessly when they finally break for air, “I take it that means you want to stay?”

Geralt kisses him again, and again, until the swarm of emotion in his chest has settled into a pleasant warmth. “Thank you,” he states earnestly.

Jaskier laughs and kisses the tip of Geralt’s nose. “Incredible. The second ‘thank you’ within the hour, maybe I should let you go more -”

“No,” Geralt says, stealing another kiss, “don’t even finish that thought. I’m never leaving you again.”

A strangled moan leaves Jaskier’s lips and his fingers tighten their grip on Geralt’s hair and against his waist like a reflex. “Fuck,” he swears emphatically, “I forgot just how fucking sincere you can be. It never ceases to catch me off-guard, you know. You could make me faint like a virgin at a whorehouse if you mistime any grand romantic declarations.”

“Hmm,” Geralt ponders with a teasing kiss against his throat. “You caught me. My sincerity was but a ruse to distract you from your evening lecture -”

“Oh bollocks,” Jaskier exclaims, casting an urgent look at the setting sun outside the window before hurriedly untangling himself from Geralt’s embrace. “You sneaky -” he begins, before breaking off into curses as he attempts to find whatever papers he needs nestled between the books on his desk. “I ought to -” another abandoned sentence. “Ah, here it is!” he says, extracting what looks like an identical piece of paper to countless others that he has since discarded. Geralt ought to have known that even as a highly regarded professor, Jaskier would still foster an element of chaos. “That very nearly worked you know, I had entirely forgotten -”

Jaskier is halfway out the door, cradling papers and an overflowing satchel, when he runs back to Geralt and places a frantic kiss against his lips. “I love you,” he gasps before bestowing him another desperate kiss. “Make yourself at home. I’ll return with supper. And please ensure that our dear Cirilla hasn’t drowned in the bath.” Jaskier makes another aborted attempt to leave, followed by another parting kiss that renders Geralt asunder. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“As am I,” Geralt declares, affection surging once more to unsustainable levels as he sees the ardent candor in Jaskier’s eyes. They have both missed each other dearly, it seems. He pulls his beloved back for a final kiss.

Jaskier breaks away with a laugh and a playful push at his shoulders. “Now leave me be, you scamp, or I’ll have a rather noticeable protrusion in my pants and be harangued for indecency.”

Geralt chuckles deeply. “Like you haven’t been collared for such crimes before.”

Jaskier laughs and winks from the door. “If it is a crime to be besotted with you, my dear Witcher, then I shall hang for my transgressions without complaint.”

Geralt watches him leave with an indulgent smile, almost wishing that Jaskier would return for yet more parting kisses.

He hears a flurry of papers and curses from downstairs before the external door of the cottage finally closes. Jaskier may have gone but his scent lingers, and Geralt turns back to the bedroom - their bedroom - and begins unpacking to the sound of running water and his ward’s light-hearted laughter through the open door.

*

After several months of looking over his shoulder for an army of black, it is extremely novel to be able to relax, even for a single evening. It’s not that Oxenfurt is necessarily safer than anywhere else in Redania but the presence of guards at the gates and the potential to disappear anywhere into the river that surrounds them assures Geralt that even if the Nilfgaard forces were able to find them and penetrate the Academy, then he would at least have a ten minute head start and would likely be able lose them in the water. On the road, he had no such assurances.

He doesn’t know if Ciri observes this too, or simply observes her protector at ease and deems it safe to do the same. She spends nearly an hour bathing and when she joins Geralt in the front room, she is dressed down in her sleeping attire despite the early evening hour. Geralt is dressed simply too, donned in loose trousers and an open black shirt; his swords hidden behind the front door and his armour placed in the corner on the display stand that Jaskier had considerately thought to purchase.

Geralt waits until he is certain Ciri is at ease, settling in a large armchair with a borrowed book, before he leaves to bathe himself.

He understands why Ciri had taken her time as soon he pulls the lever and the warm water falls from the chute at the side, presumably having been warmed by an enchanted fire of some kind. It is absurdly pleasant and he wonders why the invention has not yet spread across the continent. He has used Jaskier’s parting gift of lavender soap sparingly - afraid to lose the last reminder of home in case their journey to Oxenfurt was delayed by further months, or even years - but now he has no reason to ration and allows himself to bathe freely in the familiar scent.

By the time he returns to the front room, Ciri has seemingly tired of the book and has taken to snooping instead, rifling through papers stacked on the kitchen table and examining whatever trinkets she comes across. Her previously relaxed behaviour had been feigned, then.

“Ciri,” he scolds fondly.

“What?” she retorts, turning to greet him with a stash of papers in hand. “You always said to examine your surroundings, especially when in new territories -”

Fuck, he had. “Examine for bear prints and poison berries, Cub, not -”

“Are you calling me that because he called me that?”

“Uh -”

“You are, aren’t you? You’re so weird,” she says, but it’s not said unkindly. “You haven’t even told me who this Viscount is or how you’ve come to know him, and you told me never to trust anyone, so forgive me for actually following your advice and ‘examining my surroundings’ while I have the chance.”

Geralt finally realises his oversight. Jaskier is but a stranger to her and he hasn’t exactly explained why she owes him her trust. He lets her continue her examination of Jaskier’s rooms, certain that she will find nothing more incriminating than political flyers and erotic poetry, as he struggles to find the words.

“Jaskier is…” My bard? My friend? My lover? He gives up on this disastrous train of thought; none of these descriptors seem to fully encapsulate their multifaceted relationship. “I have known him for twenty-five years,” he starts. “We met in Posada back when neither of us had a copper to our names. He sang well. I gave him my last coin. He wouldn’t leave me alone,” he recalls with a besotted smile, recalling the foolish bravado and incessant optimism that eventually wore down the walls he had spent so long building.

Ciri looks at him with fascination; her thorough inspection forgotten.

“I grew fond of him,” he admits. “He wrote a song that admittedly saved me from my hardships and I saved him from a few beasts in return.” He shrugs and summaries the best he can, “We travel together. He writes about our adventures. He looks after me. Sometimes we…” he shakes his head, realising that ‘fuck’ is not an appropriate word for a child, nor strictly speaking the way to define their relationship anymore. “He is my partner,” he states simply, allowing Ciri to interpret that how she will. “I trust him with my life, which is why I trust him with yours, also.”

“Oh,” Ciri says, dropping the ornamental pendant she was holding. It lands on the kitchen table with a clatter and her eyes dart towards his hands. “You don’t wear a ring.”

“I…”

“You meant that kind of partner, right? The married kind?”

Geralt startles; curious to know how Ciri has not adopted the same intolerant attitude towards their kind as Jaskier had endured, despite them growing up in similar courtly environments. Jaskier said queers were but a scandalous whisper in Lettenhove halls, so it seems incongruous that Ciri even knows about such affairs.

Ciri rolls her eyes at his blatant ruminations and explains, “Eist was Skellige-born and things are different on the Isles. It was no secret that his brother Hugh lived with his partner Rowan in Kaer Trolde. I was advised not to mention it in Court but grandfather made certain that I knew it was fine; he said it was natural, even. He used to say,” she says with a wistful smile, “that ‘nobles’ heads are so full of frills and gossip that there’s no room for something like common sense,’” she sniffles and Geralt, at a loss, steps forward and pulls her into a gentle embrace. Natural, Eist had called it. Natural. It certainly feels that way.

Geralt smiles softly and holds her close. The casual snide remark at nobles sounds very much like something Eist would say; the man had a good head on his shoulders, and the continent was robbed of him too soon. He doesn’t know what kind of guardian he makes in comparison.

Ciri melts into the embrace and he holds on tight. He is not sure if he’s held her once since their spontaneous relief at finding each other in the forest. He had heard her crying in her bedroll frequently at night, and made her tea sometimes as a comforting gesture, but mostly he just let her cry by herself in silence. He thinks now perhaps he should have held her instead.

“Yes,” he confirms as he rests his head atop of hers. “We are the married kind.” He takes a deep breath at the admittance of such a thing and is relieved to find that there is very little protest inside him at the descriptor. “I am glad that does not trouble you. When term finishes next week, I will be asking him to travel with us, if that is… if you are… amenable?”

Her eyes light up, and he is simultaneously relieved that she is so excited and a little hurt that his company has never garnered such a positive reaction. He knows Jaskier will be much better suited to keeping her company but it still stings a little to see it confirmed so explicitly. Geralt has spent six months attempting to converse with her and establish a sense of guardianship which Jaskier has seemingly achieved in five sentences.

Jaskier chooses that moment to return home, sporting a wide grin and brandishing a crate of food in his arms. Geralt can smell the marinated meat before Jaskier even declares his stolen offering.

“I thought we agreed it wasn’t ‘stealing’ if it was from your own property,” Geralt jests as he frees Ciri from his embrace.

“Mere semantics, dear heart,” Jaskier dismisses. “Now help me clear some space on the table so I don’t ‘accidentally’ spill gravy over Ms Highver’s ballad.”

Ciri giggles and leaps into action, and Geralt just stares at his beloved, stupefied by how his natural charm can so easily produce such joy within her. He shakes his head, dislodging his sentimentality for the time being, and attempting to dig out some cutlery from underneath the sprawl of papers. “Why do I suspect there’s no ‘accidentally’ about it?” he retorts dryly.

“It is a ballad about bees, Geralt,” he says with disdain, depositing their dinner on the table. “Oh that I were a humble buzzing bee / I’d do all my work for you, my queen, for free.

Ciri laughs again, and even Geralt finds a chuckle escaping his lips. He truly knows nothing about poetry but even he can tell that verse was exceedingly trite. Jaskier continues citing his students’ worst work as he serves out the stew, and then the three of them are eating and laughing and debating the merits of rhyme, and after a moment, Geralt leans back in his chair and watches contently, for the first time seeing the future stretched out before him.

*

As soon as they are behind closed doors that evening, Geralt kisses him and kisses him, hoping it might ease the ache in his chest. Jaskier kisses him back just as sweetly, murmuring affections in his ear, and running his nimble fingers over every inch of skin. Geralt is just as attentive as he strips Jaskier, noting any new bruises that he has not seen form, and any grey hairs that have appeared in his absence. He needs to re-familiarise himself with Jaskier’s body and takes his sweet time to do so, tickling, and caressing, and kissing, until he remembers every inch of him.

“What do you want?” Geralt whispers against his bare stomach, if only to see the sensitive skin contract under the warm tickle of breath. Geralt had chosen the carnal act for their departure, it seems only fitting that Jaskier choose the act for their reunion.

Jaskier leans forward and places two fingers under his chin, enticing him into a kiss. Geralt goes willingly as Jaskier leans back again, bringing Geralt with him and causing the Witcher medallion to drag sensually along the plains of his chest. Geralt braces himself over his body and caresses his face with teasing kisses while Jaskier considers his options.

“Like this…” Jaskier whispers with a hand steadily stroking the muscles of Geralt’s abdomen. Geralt is pleased to hear no hesitation or doubt in his voice. “Take me like this. Slow. Intimate. I want… I want to feel every inch of you.”

Geralt groans at the sound of his own desires articulated so candidly and rests his forehead against Jaskier’s. “Yes,” he murmurs against his lips before taking them firmly between his own. “Yes.”

He fetches a pillow from the headboard and pushes it beneath Jaskier’s hips to give them a good angle without compromising intimacy. Jaskier voices his approval in a loud moan before pulling Geralt in for another lingering kiss. The scent of lavender oil as it spills onto his hand is enough to overwhelm him with feeling again, and he cannot stop lavishing Jaskier’s body with kisses, even as his fingers dutifully open his entrance.

Jaskier sighs at every touch and by the time Geralt’s manhood is pushing at his entrance, they are both rendered incoherent as their foreheads rest together and shallow breaths are shared between them. He closes his eyes, overpowered by the intensity, as he is fully enveloped in Jaskier’s welcoming heat. He missed this intimate act more than he could even attempt to express. He missed everything about Jaskier.

He is startled by the sudden scent of salt.

He wrenches open his eyes, horrified, to see tears falling from Jaskier’s eyes. He seeks to retreat, ashamed at himself for not noticing his beloved’s distress, when Jaskier grabs his arm to halt him.

Jaskier’s body is wracked with tears but there is a wide smile that contradicts it. “Don’t fret, dear heart, please,” he whispers before another sob claims his throat. “These are happy tears.”

Geralt frowns. He has never before encountered the phenomenon. “I… don’t understand.”

Jaskier laughs and cries and reaches to cradle Geralt’s cheek above him. “I am happy that you have returned to me. I am relieved to feel you once more inside me when I could have lost this forever.” Another tear rolls down his cheek, and Geralt tenderly wipes it away with the pad of his thumb. “I am simply… overwhelmed.”

Geralt nods. He understands. That is the best word to describe his rampant emotions as well.

Jaskier laughs again and wipes at his own cheeks with the back of his hand, lacking the delicacy that Geralt had bestowed. “I’m sorry, I’m a right mess, I -”

“No,” Geralt says, prying his hands away and kissing the reddened skin of his cheeks. He is determined never to have Jaskier apologising in his bed, or at all, for that matter. “Do not apologise for experiencing emotions so acutely and expressing them so passionately. I have never minded it and never will.” He kisses Jaskier’s knuckles and his jaw and the corner of his mouth until he senses Jaskier relax beneath him. “As long as you are happy?”

Jaskier nods ardently and pulls him down into a deep kiss that tastes of flowers and salt. “I am,” he confirms afterwards. “I am so tremendously happy.”

Geralt smiles and claims his lips once more. “So am I.”

*

They make love with excruciating restraint; Geralt moves deep within him with no more than the minute circling of hips until Jaskier is whimpering and begging for more at which point he takes him slowly and sensually until their entwined bodies feel like one. By the time Jaskier peaks, his climax has been building for so long that it is betrayed by no more than a sigh on his lips. Geralt kisses it from him regardless, admiring his flushed cheeks and closed eyelids, as he gently extracts his member to seek the friction he needs against the dip of his hip bone. It doesn’t take long, his own restraint long since worn thin, as he spills with the same exhausted sigh on his lips and collapses somewhere beside his lover.

Jaskier reaches a tired hand towards him, but it lacks any sort of coordination and falls limply across his face. Geralt chuckles and bats the hand away lovingly. It falls across Jaskier’s own face but he barely manages a sound of protest before he is sighing contentedly once more.

Geralt watches his exhausted lover indulgently for a few moments, exchanging what sleepy touches he can, before regretfully extracting himself from the bed.

Jaskier makes a wordless sound of protest and attempts to reach for him again. Geralt huffs a laugh and successfully navigates away from his grappling hands. “Ciri has nightmares,” he explains. “We ought to be decent.”

Jaskier grumbles his displeasure but struggles to sit upright nevertheless.

“Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way,” Geralt confesses, as he rinses the cloth in the water basin and returns to gently wipe away the remains of his seed on Jaskier’s skin.

Jaskier laughs and accepts the cool touch with a forgiving smile. “The poor girl. She must have been terrified to see your sword flapping around in the darkness like that.”

Geralt frowns. “I didn’t have my weapons on me -”

Geralt,” he says, exasperated. “How do you not still grasp the very simple concept of innuendo?”

Geralt huffs as he stoops to gather his discarded clothing and attempts to source some for Jaskier amongst the debris which would be comfortable enough for sleeping. In the end, he settles on long johns and one of his own shirts and tosses them to his partner. “Who says I don’t understand?” he retorts dryly as he dons his own shorts and shirt. “Perhaps I just find your indignation at my own feigned ignorance entertaining -”

Jaskier responds with retort of some kind but Geralt doesn’t hear it over the blaring white noise in his head when he turns around and sees his beloved wearing his clothes. Jaskier is sitting on his ankles in bed, hair skewiff, smile crooked, eyes twinkling… and smelling of Geralt. Their combined scent is more potent than it’s ever before and it sends his heart racing.

“Geralt?” Jaskier asks, his brow furrowing in concern. “My darling, are you quite well?”

He shakes himself out of it. His shirt is large enough that it slips from one of Jaskier’s shoulders, exposing the soft skin there, and its open neck displays the thick carpet of chest hair beneath. Mine, he thinks posessively. Mine.

This time, he doesn’t push the thought aside. He doesn’t need to because it’s true. Jaskier may occasionally indulge in other pleasures in other beds but there is only one man who has his heart. Geralt didn’t used to think he deserved such earnest and pure affection, but it’s been nearly two years since he promised to accept Jaskier’s love - and steadily, gradually, he has.

He stalks towards the bed and lowers himself into the lap of his beloved as he rests against the headboard, kissing him tenderly and leisurely, bathing in their combined scent. “I’m well,” Geralt replies softly. “Merely counting my blessings.”

“Hmm,” Jaskier says, nosing along his jaw. “I’m among them, I hope?”

“You are first and foremost.”

Jaskier grins, his eyes bright, as he takes Geralt’s head in his hands and lowers him for another passionate kiss. He feels the sapphire ring pressed against the helix of his ear and sighs into the kiss. Jaskier has taken to wearing only his family signet and the ring Geralt had given him before their departure. Geralt suspects what that gesture means and cannot express the joy and trepidation that it brings him.

He kisses the ring contemplatively as Jaskier withdraws. “How long have you…?” He takes a moment to prepare the word. He has attempted to familiarise himself with the word ever since it first fell from his lips as a term of endearment, but there is still a great deal of difference between saying ‘my love’ and expressing the emotion in and of itself. He must say it though. He must grow used to it, so that one day soon he may be able to express his affection in return. “How long have you loved me?” he asks, and Jaskier’s beatific smile when he manages to say that burdensome word makes any struggle he endured worth it.

Jaskier kisses the fingers that are still entangled with his. “You will think me a fool, no doubt, if I tell you from first sight?”

Geralt huffs. “You are a fool in many things, but the all-consuming and unashamed manner with which you love is not one of them,” he says, the word coming a little easier this time. “I would believe it.”

Jaskier smiles sweetly and grazes his knuckles again with his lips. “As well you should,” he jests before his countenance shifts into one more measured. “True enough, I was attracted to you the moment I laid eyes on you but it took time for this depth of affection to build, and,” he says sweetly as his hand caresses the sides of his face, “dare I say, it still builds every day I am with you. I hope there is no end to the depths of my love for you.”

Geralt’s heart aches at this declaration. He is filled with such warmth from the words alone and affection surges in his chest but he has to know for certain - now this deeply buried emotion has been allowed to rise to the surface - if what he feels are the symptoms of love, as he suspects they might be. “Tell me,” he begs. “What is it like?”

Jaskier’s hands caress his sides in that calming gesture of his, as if the verbalisation of his feelings will be the thing that will make Geralt bolt. It won’t. Not anymore.

“I need to know if it’s the same,” he clarifies hastily, hoping the half-confession will calm Jaskier’s nerves. He is not asking to expose himself; he is asking to understand. Likely no one has ever had to define love before, but the mutations changed so much about him that he fears it has tampered with his capacity for love, too.

Jaskier’s hands cease their movement and he knows that he has understood. There’s a shy smile on his lips that makes something flutter within him. “It is… warm,” Jaskier begins. “A warmth in my chest every time I’m with you, or think about you. It’s different than the warmth of a summer’s day or from a winter’s fire, it’s… safe and exciting and addictive. It warms my entire being. It makes even the dark corners of my mind not so scary.” He smiles softly at him, and the sight fuels this very warmth. “I suppose, if I had to compare the feeling to something, I would say it feels like coming home.”

Geralt rests his head against Jaskier’s, overwhelmed with relief. Yes, he thinks, that is exactly what this feels like.

“Does that… feel familiar?”

Geralt’s throat is too constricted with emotion to speak, but he nods his head against Jaskier and inhales the scent of lavender that, even before he knew what it meant, signified home. “Yes,” he croaks out eventually. “Yes, it feels like home.”

 

 

XXX

They return to the coast.

As pleasant as their respite in Oxenfurt was, it would have been foolish to linger there much longer. Geralt wanted to wait for the onset of winter before travelling to Kaer Morhen so that any inquisitive Nilfgaardian soldiers would be unable to traverse the icy terrain. There were several months, therefore, that needed to be considered. His instinct had been to return to the Path - travel from village to village taking contracts and slaying beasts - but it would have undoubtedly drawn unwanted attention to their party. Alternatively, they could have hidden in the depths of the wilderness but he couldn’t imagine that the extricated nobles he travelled with would withstand kipping in swamps and forests and chaparral for months on end, eating nothing but roasted vermin. Geralt had mulled over these options for a handful of days before remembering that he no longer had to make these decisions alone.

He mentioned the quandary to Jaskier late one evening, after Ciri had retired to bed and the adults were sampling the finest of Redanian mead by candlelight. Jaskier had taken the matter seriously and after days of debate in his own mind, it had only taken minutes in Jaskier’s company to reach a conclusion. The idea was already forming in his mind when Jaskier reached for a quill and said, quite simply, “I’ll write to my uncle and see about acquiring us that cottage again.”

Within a fortnight, they were there, with the coast stretched out before them.

*

The thatched cottage by the sea is just as quaint as he remembered it being. A little derelict in places and weathered from the sea, but surrounded by wildflowers that stretch into the sand of the shoreland. Paint peels from the veranda but it still has the most wonderful view of the sun as it sets over the ocean. He is fond of this place. That lazy summer he spent with Jaskier was likely the first time he understood the concept of peace.

Ciri loves it too. She must have already inherited a fancy for dramatics from Jaskier, because the first thing she does is run down to the shoreline and spread her arms wide, basking in the light of the setting sun and the sound of retreating waves.

“Ciri -” he warns, before he is stopped by a firm hand on his arm.

“Let her have this,” Jaskier advises.

“There could be drowners -”

“That you would hear a mile coming, I’m sure. Tell me, do you hear any wee - or not so wee - beasties, Geralt?”

Geralt frowns in concentration as he enhances his hearing and… no. Even beneath the loud crashing of the waves, all he can hear are gulls and his partner’s heartbeat and the distant scuttling of a crab. “Hmm… no.”

Jaskier’s hand slips into his. “Then let her have this. Or, better yet,” he says, dropping his lute with far less care than he would normally bestow and hopping on one foot to dispose of a boot and then the other, “join her.”

Jaskier grins wolfishly as he strips down to his small clothes, and Geralt watches on with a wry smile, nearly tempted to join until Roach snorts beside him; tugging on her reins, and reminding Geralt that he really ought to tend to her after their long journey. “Go ahead,” he says instead, nudging Jaskier towards the ocean. “I’ll inspect the house. Prepare dinner. Stable Roach.”

Jaskier reaches for his face with a familiar expression born of fond amusement. “Do try to have some fun while you’re at it, dear.”

Geralt smiles indulgently and pulls Jaskier towards him for a brief peck before sending him on his way. Jaskier bounds towards the sea, startling Ciri with a shriek as he scoops her up in his arms and spins her until he loses his balance, and they both go toppling into the sand in a tangle of limbs and raucous laughter. The sound of her laughter has become so achingly familiar, and he knows Jaskier is responsible for uncovering the joyful young girl inside the orphaned child. Beneath her defensive exterior, she is full of light and love, and can be as vicious with her words as her swords. She delights in verbal sparring matches with Jaskier and has a keen thirst for knowledge, which Geralt indulges her in nearly every night with tales of Witchers and monsters.

He watches them for a moment as the two of them, boisterous and merry, skip into the sparkling waves, clad only in their smallclothes. In Geralt’s care, she was his ward, but in Jaskier’s… she has become their daughter.

To think the last time Jaskier brought him here, a dozen or more years ago, it was to distract him from the birth of his Child Surprise. He never imagined he would be returning here with her, and that the three of them would be a family. He never imagined such a thing would be possible.

Roach butts her head gently into his shoulder, pointedly reminding him of her presence.

“I know, Roachie,” he says, patting her with a fond smile. “You’re family too.”

He stoops to collect Jaskier’s lute, wishing to spare what he is sure would be a long and tedious lecture concerning the poor effects of exposing wood to humid ocean air, and leads Roach to the stables, as his family continue to play in the waves.

*

That night he lies awake with Jaskier, just listening to the sound of the distant ocean and revelling in the way Jaskier’s heart skips and his body shudders when he trails his fingertips along his side just so… They climbed into bed some minutes ago but neither of them have made a move to sleep or to initiate something more. A single candle burns by the bedside as they mindlessly trade innocent touches.

Peace, Geralt had thought earlier. Yes, this is peace.

A furrow appears in Jaskier’s brow, and Geralt knows his thoughts have been noted and he may as well express them before his partner encourages him to do so.

He huffs a laugh, wondering when he learned to read his beloved so well. “This is… nice,” he explains clumsily. “Peaceful. I didn’t used to think…” he frowns and breaks Jaskier’s earnest gaze as he attempts to put a lifelong fear into words. “Didn’t think I’d ever have this.”

Understanding lights Jaskier’s face as his fingers caress Geralt’s fallen strands of hair that lie against his cheek. “Didn’t think you deserved it, more like.”

Geralt tilts his head in acknowledgement of that assessment. He is not wrong.

Jaskier must read this on his face because his expression turns compassionate and a little sad. “You deserve the world, my wolf,” he speaks ardently, pressing their foreheads together as if to urge the sentiment into his very thoughts. “And you definitely deserve to know peace.”

Geralt is filled with affection and happiness and all the emotions he has come to associate with Jaskier. It takes him a moment to realise the absence of doubt; the habitual protests that usually make themselves known have grown oddly quiet. He frowns at the anomaly.

“What is it, darling?”

Geralt startles out of his thoughts and back to the earnest blue eyes before him. He returns to the familiar sensation of musician’s fingers in his hair and the comforting scent of lavender and sea salt. He does not know how to describe the absence of guilt in his heart, the lack of anxiety, the lull in the constant stream of ‘undeserving’. A fluke, it must be. “Tell me,” he says, curious now. “Tell me why you love me.”

Jaskier chuckles and brushes his lips against Geralt’s with a teasing smile. “Fishing for compliments, dear hear? My, my, how the tables have turned.”

Geralt huffs and butts his head playfully against Jaskier’s. “Not exactly. Just… tell me? Anything. Something nice. I just want to see.”

“See what?”

“Just… see,” he says with an explanatory wave of his arm.

Jaskier laughs again and indulges him with a soft smile. “Very well,” he says, tracing the curve of his ear with his fingertip. “Where to start? Hmm? You are such a divine creature that it’s quite the feat to choose only one feature - Oh, a rhyme! How woefully asinine of me. Creature, feature…” he muses and Geralt watches the familiar process of composition take place before him with a doting smile. “Do you think this could be the basis of Ms Highver’s next wholly underwhelming ballad? - sorry, sorry, I assure you that you are more magnificent than even my best work, let alone that of my students, which is why I struggle to define your ethereal beauty so…” he trails off, perhaps having noticed at last Geralt’s stupefied expression.

Divine. Magnificent. Ethereal.

He didn’t flinch once. These are the exaggerations of a poet, of course, but even knowing that, his mind does not immediately reject them as falsehoods. He smiles. He doubts there has been a single day these past two years where Jaskier has not bestowed him such compliments. Perhaps he has grown used to them. Accepted them, even.

Jaskier sighs. “Darling, you’re looking at me with that terribly soft expression of yours again, that I dearly love but cannot possibly begin to interpret. If you could be so kind as to use your words, dear heart, I would be awfully appreciative -”

“You truly see me that way?”

“What way?” he asks and then his eyes shift, reaching into his mind to recall whatever it was he had said. “Oh,” he says dopily. “Yeah, of course. Always have done. I just learned to keep a hat on it because you always got so flustered, or mad, or -” His expression changes in the blink of an eye to one of barely restrained joy. “Oh.”

“Hmm,” Geralt says with a lilt of lips, watching as realisation dawns on Jaskier’s face.

“You do not… mind anymore?”

“No.”

“Are you perhaps starting to believe my praises?”

“...Yes.”

“Do you finally believe yourself worthy of my love?”

“Never.”

Jaskier’s cautious optimism breaks with a frown.

Geralt shakes off the misunderstanding and tightens his hold on his waist. “No one can ever possibly be worthy of you. I only endeavour to try.”

Jaskier’s eyes grow wide with wonder but then he breaks the gaze with a startled laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

His hand lands against his chest, just above his heart. “Only that I feel very much the same way about you, dear Witcher.”

Geralt wonders if Jaskier, even with his human senses, can hear just how loud his heart beats at those words. He grunts, unable to verbalise his distress otherwise.

Jaskier laughs and pats his cheek fondly. “Ah, back to the characteristic grunting, I see. Very well. Much too much sentiment for one evening, I understand. Perhaps I’ll save the ode to your abs for the morning? Or would you prefer the sonnet to your sublime spine? The ballad to your ballsack? No, that’s shit, isn’t it? What about -?”

He continues his mindess praise, and Geralt is bewildered to find that there are no protests inside him. He may still fluster under Jaskier’s garrulous admiration, but it is no longer an unpleasant sensation. He basks in it instead. Feels the warmth of it in his belly. If this is what it feels like to hear praise without the shackles of shame, then he feels regretful that he has not given Jaskier the same in return.

Geralt rolls Jaskier beneath him just to startle him into silence. “I would prefer,” he says with a coy smile, “some literature dedicated to your supple lips.”

Jaskier’s mouth falls agape in surprise and he blushes a deep crimson red. Geralt smirks in satisfaction and traces his open mouth with his thumb. Jaskier’s overt reaction very much solidifies his intention to compliment his bard as often as he is able.

“Yeah?” Jaskier breathes, gently encouraging him.

Geralt lowers his lips for the briefest of kisses before attempting to scrounge further literary terms from the dusty corners of his mind, so that he may continue this game. He hums in thought. “Yes,” he confirms. “An epic to your effervescent eyes. A verse to your vulgar verbosity. A limerick to -”

Jaskier snorts. “A limerick is hardly the most romantic poetic form.”

“I’m certain you could make it so.”

Jaskier sighs, fondly exasperated, but puts together a ditty nonetheless. “There once was a wolf from Kaer Morhen / who knew only gristle and thorn / his feelings buried deep / locked away in his keep / ‘til a songbird showed him the dawn.”

The laugh gets caught in Geralt’s throat. That was not the lewd verse he had expected. Jaskier had, miraculously, made a limerick fucking romantic.

“Or if you prefer,” Jaskier says with a wink, “‘tugged on his horn.’ I’m partial to the latter, if I’m being honest. Though I don’t quite know how a songbird goes about the business of pleasuring a wolf.” He scrunches his nose in thought. “Dangerously, I imagine.” He shrugs. “Perhaps he likes a challenge.”

“I dare say he does,” Geralt says fondly. “Whyever did you take your chances with me?”

Jaskier shrugs, a shy smile still on his lips. “Didn’t have a choice, darling. You had my heart the moment I saw you.”

“And I treated it like shit.”

“Well...” he says, with an awkward twist of lips, like he wants to deny the fact.

“No, I did,” he insists. “You told me yourself. You said that I had an ‘unbelievable propensity’ for treating you like shit.”

“Did I?” Jaskier queries, his hands idly stroking Geralt’s sides. “That seems rather unkind of me.”

“It was warranted,” Geralt assures him, remembering how fucking idiotic he had been. How Jaskier had bared his heart to him on that fucking mountainside, and he hadn’t even had the good sense to listen. “I apologise for my past mistakes. I fear I have not apologised nearly enough.”

Jaskier smiles up at him sweetly. “You’ve apologised plenty.”

Geralt grunts. “It is not enough.”

Jaskeir shrugs. “So kiss me, and you shall be forgiven.”

“You can’t keep using that.”

“Watch me.”

Geralt glares at Jaskier’s stern countenance and keeps glaring until Jaskier’s lips tick up into a smile.

He huffs a laugh and leans down to kiss him just as sweetly as he deserves, pouring decades of overdue apologies and unspoken praise into the loving press of lips.

*

The following week, Geralt overhears an unsettling conversation. It is early evening, and he is returning from the pier with freshly caught mackerel swinging from his hands. They do not keep much from each other nowadays but Geralt suspects he is not intended to be privy to this particular conversation, given the spiteful way that Ciri says his name.

Geralt halts his footsteps on the garden path. His enhanced senses allow him to hear the whispered conversation through the open kitchen window as if they were speaking in the very same room. He ought to give Ciri her privacy, but his paternal instinct seeks to match that heartbroken voice with an expression he hopes fairs otherwise, and he finds himself cautiously stepping onto the veranda until he can glance through the window. Unfortunately, his ward faces away from him, and he can see no more than shoulder-length blonde hair, but her shaking shoulders and Jaskier’s corresponding frown paints a devastating picture, nonetheless.

Jaskier is kneeling on the stone slabs of the kitchen as he consoles her. “He loves you, my sweet,” he’s reassuring her, running his hands down her arms like she does when she has a nightmare. “Our Geralt’s just not the best with words.”

Fuck. He must have said something wrong again. The girl is so sensitive and he’s so blunt and he keeps fucking up. He had tried to correct her combat stance the other day and she had snapped at him viciously. There was that time when she had a nightmare and he had said ‘it’s not real’ which was true, but Jaskier had still shamed him into silence with a piercing glare. She had cried last week because he had said something irrelevant about her hair. He keeps hurting her and he doesn’t understand how. Guilt pools in his stomach at the confirmation of yet another apparent mishap. He doesn’t deserve to be her guardian. He doesn’t know how to be.

Jaskier is still soothing her with platitudes and hair petting and all those other kind and gentle gestures that make him the loving parent that he is. “He wants what is best for you, Cub, that’s why he pushes you so hard. He forgets about the other stuff sometimes. He doesn’t realise that people need to hear these things. No one ever says they love him, you see, so he doesn’t… He has to understand these things for himself before he bestows them to others. It doesn’t mean it’s not true. He loves you in his own way.”

“You say it to him,” she retorts. “All the time.”

“Well…”

Fuck. Geralt knows that self-depreciating ‘well’ like the back of his fucking hand. The guilt in his gut multiplies to untenable levels.

“I… well, I suppose I say it because he needs to hear it.”

“And you don’t mind that he doesn’t say it back?”

“Well… I’m sure it would be lovely if he ever did but… he shows me in other ways, how much he cares. He shows you, too. He sharpens your sword and he cooks us dinner and he teaches you with such determination, exactly because he is so worried about you. He tells us in other ways. You just have to learn to listen.”

Ciri scuffs her shoes against the ground. Geralt frowns. He told her not to do that, it damages the soles and they can scarcely afford a cobbler. “Still,” she murmurs. “Would be nice for him to say it sometime. All he does is criticise me.”

“That’s not true -”

“It is! Just this morning he said -”

Geralt eases away from the open window as the whispered conversation turns into a retelling of his crimes that very morning. He leans back against the crumbling cottage wall, and wonders how the fuck he has not yet told Jaskier that he loves him. He’s right: he’s said it in countless other ways. He has told him that he cares, that he is family, that he wants him. He has not yet said that he loves him.

Love is a distraction. It would have gotten you both killed.

Fuck Vesemir and his fucking unsoliciated advice.

Geralt bangs his head against the wall, hoping it might grant him some sanity.

I’m already committed to him, Geralt assures himself. Saying the words out loud will not curse us like a damn magic spell.

He stands there, attempting to convince himself the truth of it until, beneath the potent scent of freshly gutted fish, he hears a raised heartbeat, the scrape of a chair, and a familiar scent turned sour.

*

“You’re anxious,” Geralt states as he strides into the kitchen and discards the fish on the counter. Jaskier is breathing deeply, clutching his chest, as he sits on the wooden chair alone in the kitchen. Ciri must have scuttled off while Geralt was lost in his thoughts. He kneels before Jaskier, attempting to assess the damage.

“Oh please,” he dismisses, “it’s no more than a slightly elevated heartbeat. At worst.”

Geralt hums, not buying it for a second. He can sense the smallest change in scent with Jaskier now, and even though this is not a manifestation, not an attack even, the scent does not lie. “What happened?”

Jaskier groans and rolls his head dramatically towards the ceiling. “Just the incomprehensible, daunting, and somewhat belated realisation that I am a father.”

Geralt chuckles and relaxes somewhat, now he has identified the cause of the distress. “Understandable,” he says, although he does not know why consoling Ciri over Geralt’s flaws has brought Jaskier to this sudden realisation - when braiding her hair and telling her bedtime stories and screaming at Ciri in a blind panic when she nearly walked into a nekker nest last month did no such thing - but he is not one for over-analysing these things. Parenthood hits you in rather unexpected ways.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, my darling wolf, but this is not exactly the trajectory I anticipated my life taking. I am not complaining in the slightest,” he assures with a hand on Geralt’s shoulder. “I love our Cub dearly. But I did not envision myself giving out fatherly advice any more than I anticipated giving a kikimore a blow job. I sincerely doubt that I have the innate ability nor the skills required to carry out such a task with even a modicum of success.”

“Hmm, you may be right,” Geralt ponders. “Kikimores don’t possess external genitalia. It would be a very onerous and unpleasant task indeed.”

Geralt,” he exclaims, utterly exasperated, “I could not more clearly be talking about the fatherly advice part of that statement.”

Geralt smiles kindly and cups his cheek in his hand. “You have nothing to worry about in that department, my love. You gave her good advice.”

Jaskier’s eyes widen as his hand covers Geralt’s on his cheek. “You heard?”

Geralt shrugs. “Some. Enough to know I ought to be kinder to the child. And to you. I will endeavour to express myself more fully in the future.”

“That might be… nice,” Jaskier says, unfortunately falling back on the word that he once called ‘the poet’s undoing’ in his surprise. He wrinkles his nose adorably in disgust when he realises his grievous error.

Geralt chuckles at the sight and decides he ought to utilise the opportunity to compliment him on it. “It’s cute when you’re petulant. Your nose crinkles like a bunny rabbit. Or a feral cat.”

Jaskier snorts a laugh and pushes away his face good-naturedly. “You are terrible, and I love you.”

Geralt huffs, and holds onto the words so that he may practise them in solitude.

“You know what I neglected to tell our daughter?” Jaskier says in a conspiratorial whisper.

“What?”

“That it is worth the wait.” He smiles, petting the cheek that is still held in his hand. “Whenever you speak, I know that you mean it sincerely. I know that you’ve been turning the words over inside of you for so long that when it comes out it’s like fucking poetry.” He wrinkles his nose again and rectifies, “Other than the bunny thing. That was terrible. I really hope you didn’t work on that for very long.”

“Metaphor isn’t my strong suit.”

“No shit. And that was a fucking similie, you heathen.”

Geralt laughs and kisses him and realises that the sour scent of anxiety has long since dissipated.

*

That evening he compliments Ciri on her pleasant reading voice. Jaskier looks at him in horror, but Ciri grins and blushes and insists on reading another verse, so his praise can’t be all that unwelcome.

The next day he makes sure to congratulate her grip on the sword and then she proceeds to drop the damn thing in surprise.

Then, when she returns from bathing in the sea, he says she ought to ask Jaskier to braid her hair because it is practical and then adds, awkwardly, “It also looks… nice.”

Finally, a month after his first stumbling attempts, Jaskier is fretting about taking Ciri to the market and Geralt just shrugs and says, “Tell the merchant she is your daughter. It’s true, is it not?” and Jaskier grumbles and accepts and halfway out the door, Geralt gathers the courage to say, “You are my daughter too,” and Ciri’s answering smile is blinding.

That night, as he’s tucking her into bed, she wraps her arms around him in a manner that is becoming habitual and tells him that she loves him. He very nearly has the courage to say it back.

*

Geralt wakes at a dawn a week or so later. The subdued pink sunlight filters through the bedroom window rendering even the most mundane object ethereal. His lover sleeps soundly beside him, the graceful curves of his body are bathed in the resplendent colours of dawn, and the few grey hairs he possesses glisten like silver.

Feeling bold and spontaneous in the first light of morn, he gently lifts his partner in his arms and carries him down to the sea.

They have been here before. Dawn. Late summer. The first rays of sunlight sparkling across the distant waves. He had been afraid then. He is not afraid now.

Jaskier yawns and stretches the best he can while cradled in Geralt’s arms. “Are you being romantic again?” he teases, cracking open a single eye of stunning blue to observe him.

Geralt smiles crookedly back at him. “Maybe.”

‘Maybe’ he says while carrying me in his arms like a newlywed, to make love to me in the gentle embrace of the ocean at dawn. ‘Maybe’. Geralt, if this is you being ‘maybe’ romantic, then maybe I ought to see you at ‘definitely’ romantic. It would certainly be a sight to behold.”

Geralt hums in agreement as he carries him into the rippling waves of the ocean, dressed in no more than their scant night clothes. “What makes you think I’m going to make love to you? Perhaps I thought the ocean would serve as an effective wake-up call.”

Jaskier points his finger at him fiercely. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Geralt grins mischievously. “Wouldn’t I?”

Jaskier begins to struggle in his arms but it only makes his landing more undignified as he is tossed sprawling into the depths of the ocean with a startled yelp.

Geralt laughs and dives after him, catching him for a kiss just as Jaskier is righting himself beneath the waves. Jaskier startles at the touch and a few bubbles escape from his mouth before Geralt kicks them to the surface, mouths still locked together in a kiss.

Jaskier breaks the kiss with an offended expression, a surprised laugh, and a finger pointed firmly in Geralt’s face. “You -”

Geralt cuts him off with another kiss. There is an infectious smile on his lips too. He cannot enjoy Jaskier’s indignation for long, however, before the man is pouncing on him and sending them both back under the waves. They tussle in the depths for some minutes, occasionally breaking for breath, or laughter, or breathless kisses, before returning to the deep.

Don’t tell me you’ve never had the urge to drown yourself in the open ocean?

Geralt thinks he understands, at last, the joy of being out of your depths. The thrill of it. Overwhelmed but not afraid. Trusting yourself to rise to the surface.

The next time he catches Jaskier underwater, he doesn’t struggle and he doesn’t break away, he just takes his bard in his hands and kisses him deeply until Jaskier wraps his arms around him and they rise to the surface entangled; their feet landing on solid ground.

Jaskier is gasping for breath, his hair slicked back and his eyes sparkling and moisture clinging to his lips like the most divine temptation. The ocean comes to his shoulders, holding him in its embrace.

Affection wells inside of him and simmers to the surface but it’s a familiar sensation now, and the depths of it no longer terrify him. He can kiss Jaskier and sense it returned and feel warmth build between them, as natural as anything.

Jaskier kisses him sweetly and wraps himself around him as the sun rises over the cottage and spills soft light onto the sea.

Geralt brushes his lips over the dip of Jaskier’s collarbone. “If I shower you in romantic declarations, will you faint? I don’t want to startle your delicate sensibilities.”

“Oh, piss off,” Jaskier says, swatting his side, but contradicts the gesture by following the touch with a sensual slide of hands under his shirt. “Why?” he asks coyly. “What romantic declarations had you in mind?”

“Hmm,” Geralt says, pondering how he can voice the affection he feels; if he has practised the word ‘love’ enough for it to feel at home in his mouth. “What do you think would be necessary for you to consider me being definitely romantic?”

Jaskier pretends to give this a considerable amount of thought but it’s contradicted by the slow, teasing grind of his hardening member against Geralt’s. “Oh, definitely something about how pretty you find me -”

Geralt smirks and runs his lips across Jaskier’s neck as he adjusts his hold to increase the friction between them. “You’re very pretty,” he says, just as a blush lights Jaskier’s cheeks and makes it doubly so. “I’ve always thought so.”

“Oh yes,” Jaskier sighs as he slips a hand beneath the waves to lower their smallclothes to the ocean floor. “You told me the very first time you fucked me. I haven’t forgotten.”

Geralt rumbles a laugh and lifts his hips to aid Jaskier’s undertaking.

“You were so embarrassed by it,” he says, “but it was very sweet.”

“It was the blush,” he admits as he wraps his hands around Jaskier’s waist to support the rhythmic rocking of his hips that pushes their members together beneath the water. “You looked delectable. As you do now, might I add.”

Jaskier groans. “Are you sure it wasn’t the hose? Or the make up?” he teases. “You seemed very taken with those too.”

Geralt grunts, and turns his head, flustered by Jaskier’s easy flirtation. “I was taken by your fucking obscene moans, Jaskier,” he corrects as his beloved starts demonstrating these very talents.

Thank gods the cove was deserted and their daughter was still fast asleep. Jaskier has not had the opportunity to be loud in some time, and Geralt can admit he’s missed the sounds Jaskier makes when permitted to be vocal. Geralt tightens his hold and increases the friction until their members are sliding hot and wet between their abdomens. Jaskier throws back his head with the depth of his next moan.

Geralt grunts at the sound. “Like that,” he murmurs helplessly against his throat. “I love your voice. I love the sound of you so much.” The way you talk, the way you sing, the way you say ‘darling’ like it’s the most sacred word you know.

“Yeah?” Jaskier asks, seeking more, as his fingers come to clutch at the wet ends of Geralt’s hair. He wants to give him more. He wants to say the word ‘love’ until it is the only word he knows.

“I love how fucking filthy you are, and that cheeky little smile of yours when you’ve a depraved idea of some kind -”

“You love my ideas.”

“I do,” he agrees, but he won’t be distracted from his praises. “I love how expressive your eyes are. I love how intuitive you are. I love how content you look when I take you -”

“Then why aren’t you taking me right now?” Jaskier whines, pulling on his hair in frustration as he ruts more desperately against him.

“Because it’s my turn,” Geralt retorts.

Jaskier’s hips stutter as he tries to work out the truth of it. They fuck so often that they seem to have struck up a casual rota for it. “No, it’s not!” Jaskier protests finally, his hips resuming their needy thrusting. “I had you in the stable last week -”

Geralt shakes his head, and attempts to keep hold of the argument even as their movements gather fervor. “Had you two days ago. Bed. Middle of the night. I remember because I had to stuff my whole fist in your mouth to shut you up.”

Jaskier whines. His entire face is flushed now with restraint and it’s fucking beautiful. “Then that hardly counts,” he protests weakly. “If I don’t get to scream while you’re pounding me then it hardly fucking counts -”

Geralt grunts and digs his face into his neck as he tries to gather enough sanity to answer. “Why don’t you just admit,” he begs with another grunt, “that neither of us have the patience for it either way right now?”

Jaskier tightens the fist in his hair and whines petulantly again as he continues his fast-paced rutting against him. “Fine,” he says, strangled, “but you owe me. When we’re in Kaer Morhen you take me to the highest, remotest, fucking - oh!” he breaks off with a moan, “Yes, darling, that’s so good, you’re so -”

Geralt huffs a laugh, amazed by how one little straying hand has rendered Jaskier incoherent. “You were saying?”

“Right. Right. You drag me to the furthest corner of that godforsaken keep so you can ravage me, darling, and I’ll sing so pretty for - oh!” he exclaims, and shortly afterwards Geralt smells the slight tangy sweetness that precedes his orgasm and feels the tightening of muscles as Jaskier climaxes between them with an unrestrained scream.

“Right, because you’re so quiet the rest of the time,” he says dryly.

Jaskier laughs and gasps for breath with shaking shoulders, and then he’s tilting his hips so Geralt can rut the last few thrusts he needs against his side. “That’s it, darling,” he whispers. “That’s it. Come for me.”

Geralt bites Jaskier’s shoulder to keep from shouting out himself as he spills over the edge. He struggles to breathe, chest constricting, as Jaskier trails loving kisses over his skin and the waves move around them.

Afterwards, Jaskier shifts so he can wrap his entire arms around his head and Geralt can smell the traces of lavender soap on the crook of his elbow. It’s a ridiculous position, but he doesn’t care as he clings to him and inhales the comforting scent and practises the line in his head over and over. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Gradually, Geralt untangles them and attempts to retrieve their smallclothes before they are lost in the ocean. Jaskier is laughing at the hapless attempt and his eyes are sparkling in the bright sunshine. Geralt smiles and ropes him back into his arms. “Before you distracted me, I believe I was attempting to be romantic.”

“Oh, I distracted you?” Jaskier says, affronted. “I believe it was you who called me delectable.”

“You lowered our pants,” Geralt retorts with finality.

Jaskier sighs dramatically and collapses into Geralt’s arms with a hand cast over his eyes. Jaskier’s amusing proflications have become so rote by this point that Geralt only startles for a moment before adjusting his grip to ensure that his partner remains above the water line in his sudden supine state. “Oh! The inhumanity!” Jaskier cries with exaggeration. “My good virtue besmirched so mercilessly by my own paramour!”

“You have no virtue,” Geralt gripes, although he is smiling fondly at Jaskier’s performance. “Are you incapable of withholding your theatrics even for a moment, my love? I was trying to be sincere.”

Jaskier rolls his eyes and rises from his feigned faint, although does not make to leave the embrace, instead wrapping his arms around Geralt’s shoulder in much the same fashion with which they entered these waters. He grins at him expectantly, “I did warn you that I might faint if you mistimed your declarations.”

“I haven’t declared a damn thing,” Geralt grunts. “Mostly because you don’t stop prattling long enough for me to -”

“I thought you loved my verbosity -”

“I love all of you,” Geralt blurts, the words uncoordinated and messy, like he’s still floundering for his smallclothes in the undercurrents. He flushes at the sight of Jaskier’s wide eyes. He can hear Jaskier’s heart pounding in expectation, and his own beats irregularly with anxiety. Geralt clenches his jaw, closes his eyes, and attempts to get a hold of himself once more. His eyes open to the deep blue of the ocean and suddenly he knows exactly what he wants to say. “That day you told me you loved me,” he admits with shame, “I wanted to dive right into the water after you. I longed to be able to say it. I wanted you to pry the words out of me because I felt it but I couldn’t reach it and I thought… You always knew what I wanted. I thought maybe you could tell that I loved you too.”

“I suspected,” Jaskier whispers from the safety of his arms, “but I couldn’t speak those words for you. They had to come to the surface in their own time.”

“I know,” he says sincerely, lowering his head to press his forehead against Jaskier’s. “I know.”

Jaskier audibly swallows and traces Geralt’s jaw with his fingertips.

“I was afraid of it,” Geralt admits, remembering his fear as he stood on the pier that day, looking out at the depths of the sea. “I was afraid to give into it. I was afraid to tell you. I’m not any longer.”

“What changed? Jaskier asks.

“Kaer Morhen,” he confesses, remembering his turbulent thoughts while encased in that fortress. “Vesemir used to tell us that falling in love was tantamount to death. I suppose being there reminded me that I would lose you one day. And when I realised that it still would have destroyed me, and still would have been worth every second of it - whether or not I said the actual fucking words - the notion of admitting such a thing became a lot less daunting.”

Jaskier flushes and looks at him with a wide, sappy smile. “That confession was undeniably, definitely, romantic,” he says. “I hope you realise that there’s now a very real possibility of me fainting on you.”

“Don’t you dare, bard,” he growls. “Not until I’ve told you again.”

Jaskier smiles coyly and jumps to his feet so they can both stand chest deep in the receding ocean. “Tell me what?” he teases. And is he… fluttering his eyelashes? Fuck. Jaskier is ridiculous. His chest swells with affection once more.

“I love you,” he says, fully this time, confidently, in the embrace of the sparkling blue ocean and basking in the subtle smell of lavender. He feels relieved. Renewed. Like coming up for air. “I love you. And I am yours. For however long you’ll have me.”

A cautious smile grows on Jaskier’s face as he playfully twists a finger in Geralt’s medallion. “I’m intending to keep you forever, if it’s all the same to you.”

Geralt swallows his nerves. He feels the cool sapphire ring pressed against his cheek. For some time now, he’s secretly harboured the desire for it to mean more than a simple enchantment. Geralt turns his face to kiss the ring and confesses, “I would like that.”

Jaskier smiles brighter than any dawn, and his eyes sparkle bluer than any ocean, and somehow this incredible man has chosen to hold a scarred Witcher in his loving embrace. The sun is rising above them in earnest now, and Geralt muses that the future does not seem nearly as daunting as it used to be.

 

Chapter Text

EPILOGUE

“You asked me once,” Geralt says, “if I would want something for myself after all this is over.”

Jaskier turns to him with silver hair and ever-curious eyes as they sit on the veranda of their home. He is eighty years old now, but appears no older than sixty with the aid of magical elixirs. The table between them is littered with gwent cards, and papers, and a bottle of Fiorano; their idle entertainments forsaken in favour of watching the sun set into the sea.

Geralt is thankful that they have since claimed this cottage as their own. It has always felt a little like theirs, even more so now that the ocean breeze carries with it the scent of lavender from the physic garden beneath the kitchen window.

The whisper of a song still lingers in the humid evening air; the one Jaskier had been absently humming not long ago. If it helps you sleep, dear heart, I’ll wrap my scent around you / pretend it is my arms and it will ease your weary way / please know, darling, that I love you more than ever / bathe in the scent of lavender as it comforts you to sleep. A lullaby. A love song cogent enough for the Countess to evict Jaskier from her estate but that took Geralt three more decades to parse, likely because he only ever heard it when Jaskier was lulling their little Cub back to sleep. It is a peaceful song, and this is a peaceful moment. He could not have asked for a better day to hang up his swords.

“You said you wanted nothing,” Jaskier reminds him with a wry smile, lacing his fingers through Geralt’s own. “That you needed no one.”

Geralt laughs and shakes his head at the naivety of his younger self. The movement causes his neck to twinge painfully from the cockatrice wound he recently sustained; the injury that instigated his retirement. Witchers aren’t meant to retire, but they aren’t meant to love either. Jaskier had long ago showed him that there was another path to take.

Geralt squeezes their joined hands where two silver rings reside. Jaskier had waited until the death of his father to procure a ring but had made no attempt to hide it when they had returned to the Lettenhove Estate for his burial. There is not a court on the continent that would likely grant them marriage but he considers them to be married nevertheless. Geralt may not have realised it all those years ago, but he did want something, and did need someone, and both of those answers were Jaskier.

“And yet,” Geralt says, recalling the words from that fateful day, as he lovingly brushes his lips against the ring, “Here we are.”

Jaskier blushes, the colour enriched by the setting sun. He is extraordinary. After a few years lecturing in Oxenfurt, Jaskier had segued into politics and became an advocate for many silenced peoples and an advisor for non-human rights in many courts. Geralt couldn’t have been more proud. Well, except for Ciri perhaps; their daughter who fought the Wild Hunt, and found love with a sorceress, and remains young and happy and powerful despite her growing age. An honorary Witcher, and Yennefer’s daughter as well as their own. The djinn curse between himself and Yennefer may be broken but their bond is not. They are friends, which is a feat Geralt used to consider himself incapable of achieving.

Jaskier made it possible, as he has made all things possible. The songbird that showed him the dawn. Jaskier smiles sweetly and tugs on their joined hands to entice him into a kiss.

Geralt has a husband. A family. A home. Things Witchers are not meant to possess.

“Here we are,” Jaskier says, the words repeated against his lips with quiet awe and the softest smile.

Here we are, Geralt thinks, with the sun setting over the ocean and the scent of lavender on the breeze.

Here we are, at home.