It’s not until their first evening in Kaer Morhen, when Ciri gives Jaskier a kiss on the cheek and heads up to bed in her own room, that Geralt realises the opportunity he’s been given.
Jaskier had turned up late morning, hair dripping wet and had good naturedly offered to help Coën clear out and air a room for Ciri. He’d then spent the rest of the day helping in the kitchen. He and Ciri had dashed all over Kaer Morhen that evening, Jaskier creating a game out of trying to get from point A to point B with minimal detours and dead ends. Geralt had been sternly forbidden from helping them by the bard, though he had been favoured with a soft smile and a lingering kiss.
Their most enthusiastic discovery had been the natural hot springs housed in the basement of Kaer Morhen. Ciri had insisted on a proper bath straight away, putting an end to their exploring. Jaskier had stood guard outside, ready to head off any of the witchers who might want a bath while the young princess was bathing. Geralt had joined him, feeling a small thrill at the ease with which Jaskier reached for his hand and leaned against his side.
“Where were you this morning?” Geralt had asked, playing with the fingers entangled within his own.
“Had to go down to the river. It’s polite to check in with the local river deity if I’m going to be spending any length of time in their territory.”
Geralt had frowned slightly. “I don’t remember you doing that before.”
Jaskier had shrugged. “We were always on the move. Never really stayed anywhere long enough to make a big deal of my visit. Occasionally I’d go have a drink with them while you completed a contract, but Mama and Old Father Pontar are very relaxed about each other’s children wandering into their territories. All the other major northern Rivers respect Mama as well. So long as I didn’t cause any trouble, I was free to go about as I pleased.”
He had trailed off and Geralt had suppressed a wince as he remembered a certain incident on a mountain; one he would very much like to forget, one where Jaskier had only been able to save him from being impaled by defacing another River’s territory.
“Not such a free rein now?” he’d hazarded a guess.
“No,” Jaskier had admitted. “There’s now a general unspoken agreement that I check in more often. Woke up this morning with an irresistible compulsion to go pay my respects. I should probably go see Uncle Buina sometime soon too, but it’s Gwen’s river I’m planning on staying near for several months, so she took precedence.”
Geralt had considered questioning him further, but Ciri had reappeared and Jaskier had been charmed by Vesemir into playing for them. Geralt needed to tell the older witcher to stop trying to butter up his partner. His uncharacteristic welcoming of a stranger into the keep was putting everyone else on edge.
Jaskier is going to be stuck with them for months. Vesemir will have plenty of time to conduct his inquisition.
Still, the entertainment the bard had provided had gone over well, especially with Coën, and he had wisely avoided his more boisterous ‘Witcher Melodies’ and stuck to his far less controversial nature ballads. Geralt had been content to sit quietly by the fire, Ciri pressed sleepily to his side, admiring the fine form of his River god.
Now, he is acutely aware that this is the first time since he kissed Jaskier in his own river, all the way back in Lettenhove, that they’ve been properly alone.
With a bed.
And a door that locks.
And for the first time in many years, he’s feeling a very peculiar sort of vulnerability. It’s a feeling he thought he’d left behind in his youth after his first tentative patronage of a brothel. There have been many women, and a few men, he’s bedded since, and he’s not generally self-conscious about displaying his body. He knows his physique makes up for his scars, and the scars even attract a certain type.
But none of these people meant anything. They weren’t Jaskier.
Who, it should be pointed out, has seen Geralt naked more often than anyone else he knows. So why does it feel so different now?
Now that they’re alone in Geralt’s room in Kaer Morhen. With a door that locks?
“Hey,” Jaskier’s voice filters through his nervous inner monologue. The River god is in just his shirt and trousers, the fire that’s been burning all day keeping the room at a respectable temperature. He reaches out to tuck a fallen strand of Geralt’s hair behind his ear and crowds in close. “Everything alright?” he checks.
Geralt lets out a shaky breath and nods, before ducking his head to catch Jaskier’s mouth for a long slow kiss.
“Mmmm…” Jaskier hums his approval when they break apart and dives in for another, wrapping his arms around his witcher’s neck and pressing the entire length of his body against him.
Geralt’s breath catches when Jaskier deliberately rocks his hips against him. The room suddenly feels far too hot, and the scorching line of Jaskier’s body against his is almost too much. He’s forced to break the kiss to take a much needed gasp of air, tilting his head back so as not to overwhelm his senses with all things Jaskier.
But while Jaskier is many things, merciful is not necessarily one of them. As Geralt vainly tries to collect himself enough to form a coherent thought, Jaskier twists his hips in a merciless tease. Teeth nip at his earlobe and his head thumps against the wall as he jerks in shock.
Is this how Jaskier had made all his previous lovers feel? No wonder they looked ready to kidnap him.
A hot tongue darts out to soothe the nip and, as Jaskier murmurs “You asked me on the way here what forms of worship I enjoy”, his breath against Geralt’s damp skin sends shivers through his body.
It’s only the way Jaskier is plastered against him that keeps him standing upright against the wall. When he glances down, he can make out the clear, tantalizing stretch of Jaskier’s neck. A primal part of him wants to sink his teeth into it, bite down and leave a clear mark.
“All worship feels good, but the one I enjoy most of all involves bare skin pressed against bare skin.” His hands skim down Geralt’s sides and tug his shirt from his trousers before slipping underneath. His palms burn like a brand against Geralt’s naked ribs and he can’t help but arch into it.
“Jaskier,” he groans, resting his forehead against the top of the bard’s head. His hands hover awkwardly over Jaskier’s waist, unsure of what to touch first. What Jaskier will allow him to touch.
“It felt so good to be worshipped this way.” And Geralt forces himself to push away the spike of possessive jealousy he feels at that statement. Luckily, Jaskier hasn’t finished speaking. “But I can’t help wondering how much better it would feel if it were you, Geralt? How it would feel to be so intimate with the man I adore? Who swam in my river with me? Willingly. Who’s already been a part of me?”
He hoists Jaskier up into his arms as the god laughs and wraps his long legs around Geralt’s waist. In this position he towers over Geralt and the witcher looks up into the river blue eyes he loves with every fibre of his being.
How he manages to get them to the bed without tripping over anything is nothing short of miraculous, because he can’t take his eyes off the spectacular, laughing deity clinging to him. But he does, and wastes no time in divesting them both of their remaining layers.
The rest of the night is dedicated to discovering all the ways he can make Jaskier sing as Geralt loses himself in the sacred worship of his River god. Devotion, he decides, is best shown with hands and lips, laughter and moans, sweat slicked skin and soft sighs.
Afterwards, he holds Jaskier close as the god sprawls half on top of him, one leg thrown possessively over both his own and his ear pressed against Geralt’s heart. Fingers that have proven themselves very clever indeed, draw intricate patterns across his bicep and he occasionally raises his head to press an affectionate kiss to Geralt’s chest.
“I was right,” Jaskier mumbles sleepily.
“About what, little Kingfisher?” Geralt carefully brushes the tangles from Jaskier’s hair with his fingers.
“So much better than anything before. Couldn’t you feel it Geralt? It was like we were two streams merging into one river and our waters mingled and became one.”
Trust Jaskier to wax poetic at such a moment.
The fire is just embers in the hearth, and he knows he should get up to tend to it. But he can’t bring himself to break this moment. Soon, the stickiness and the cold will become intolerable but, he closes his eyes and basks within that invisible connection he can feel tethering him to Jaskier, that is going to be very much a problem for future Geralt.
* * *
Personally, Jaskier is of the opinion that cheek kisses are severely under-rated. They’re so versatile! Appropriate in almost all situations. A quick brush of lips on the cheek when meeting a fond acquaintance. A slightly more loving peck for family. And for lovers…
Well, the possibilities are endless.
A quick, easy, socially acceptable display of affection, a reminder of feelings, a lingering promise of things to come.
A kiss on the cheek can be so much more than just a kiss on the cheek.
Jaskier presses his lips to the soft skin just over Geralt’s cheek bone, which sits safely above the slight scratchiness of stubble. He lets them rest there for just a moment before pulling back with a soft smacking sound and nuzzling his nose against Geralt’s cheek. The witcher’s embarrassment at receiving such affection in front of his family is just an added bonus!
Across the table, Lambert shoots them a disgusted look. Beside him, Ciri gags at them theatrically in mock disgust.
“You two are gross,” she complains through a mouthful of breakfast. Jaskier considers half-heartedly scolding her for speaking with her mouth full, but he’s too happy. Four months ago, he would never have believed the previous night could ever happen. Not after the words they’d spat at each other at the end of the dragon hunt.
“Yup,” he beams at her. “So, what’s the plan for today?”
“Winter preparations,” Eskel informs him, eying the rather spectacular bruise he’d managed to leave on Geralt’s throat the night before. Witcher healing means that leaving any lasting marks is rather difficult; bruises tend to heal within a few hours. Jaskier had diligently and repeatedly attended to that spot with his tongue and teeth to get the mark to stay. He likes seeing proof of himself on Geralt’s skin. He fully intends to investigate that same spot again tonight.
“Got to stock up on wood supplies, clean the common rooms and fix the walls,” Geralt explains, self-consciously trying to tug up his jacket to obscure the mark. He doesn’t succeed. Jaskier has made sure to leave it prominently right where his neck meets his remarkable jaw.
“I’m not sure how good we’ll be at fixing walls,” Jaskier muses, shooting Ciri a wink. “But we can definitely help with the cleaning.”
“It would be appreciated,” Vesemir gives him a respectful nod from the head of the table. The old witcher still has a gleam in his eye, but he’s toned down his more overt attempts to corner Jaskier. Geralt had explained Vesemir’s fascination with him when they were getting dressed that morning and he’s resigned himself to sitting down with the old witcher at some point in the near future and trying to put into words what he can’t explain.
“If we work hard, Lambert will give Ciri a sword lesson this afternoon. If there’s still enough light after that, Eskel and Geralt will take her round the Killer.”
Jaskier barely hears Ciri’s exclamation of joy as his head whips round to stare in horror at Vesemir. “The Killer!” he splutters, with half a mind to drag Ciri away from this obviously deranged witcher.
Sensing his panic, Geralt grabs his hand, squeezing it reassuringly.
“It’s a nickname, Jaskier. You know how dramatic young boys can be. It’s a difficult trail that we use to increase stamina and improve movement.” He turns to Ciri, well aware that she doesn’t like to be talked about and not included in the discussion. “You’ll learn how to improve your balance and judge difficult terrain, as well as increase your speed. Eskel and I will walk it with you today and explain how to deal with the tricky sections.”
“That sounds brilliant!” Ciri enthuses, determined to strain Jaskier’s heart. She notices the wild look in his eyes. “I’ll be fine, Papa. Geralt will be there to keep me safe.”
Jaskier doesn’t like it. If he had his way, then Ciri would never need to pick up a sword. She’d never have to fight for her life. But if Lettenhove had taught him anything, it was that he can’t rely on himself alone to keep Ciri safe. Knowing how to fight and defend herself will help her keep herself safe and allow her some independence. And for some odd reason, Ciri wants to learn how to fight. She’s interested in swords and terrifying paths that previous generations of potential witchers had nicknamed ‘The Killer’.
Doesn’t mean he has to like it.
He lets Geralt go off with his brothers and Coën after breakfast, before dragging Ciri to the kitchen to give it a proper scrub. She grumbles throughout as he sets her to scouring pans that look as if they’ve been collecting dirt for decades. But once he’s organised the kitchen to his satisfaction and helped her put away the ironware, he entertains her by throwing a bucket of soapy water over the floor. They sit cross legged on the sturdy wooden table and watch as he makes it crash like waves over the stone, sweeping up all the dirt, before he forces it out into the courtyard, leaving a near spotless floor drying in its wake.
“How are you finding everything?” he gives her a little nudge as she slumps against him. He’s been wanting to talk to her on her own. To check in on her without an audience.
She chews her lip thoughtfully, eyes fixed on the gleaming floor.
“Alright, I guess.”
She shrugs. “I’m looking forward to learning how to use a sword. Grandmother and Grandfather always promised to teach me, but they were always too busy.” Her mouth turns down slightly with familiar sadness at the thought of her grandparents, and Jaskier wraps a comforting arm around her in silent support. “And I really like Coën. He’s very friendly and he says he’ll teach me how to play chess. The others are a bit scary though.”
Jaskier thinks of Lambert’s brashness, Eskel’s silent inspections and Vesemir’s intimidating seniority. He can see why she thinks so, but he doesn’t know what he can do to help. Geralt is the one who knows these men and none (apart from Vesemir) seem all that fond of their River god guest.
“Do you want me to join you for your lesson with Lambert?” He’s by no means a sword expert, but Trava had ensured he knew the basics (when in doubt make sure you hit your enemy with the sharp end).
Ciri considers this carefully, twisting a lock of hair round her fingers. “No,” she decides. “I don’t think he’ll respect me if I don’t face him on my own.” It’s the kind of thinking that you learn in a royal court and Jaskier wishes with all his heart that Ciri could unlearn it. Let herself believe that he is strong enough to hold them both above water.
“Are you sure? I could just hide in a corner and be ready to jump in.” She giggles but he’s completely serious. He’d do it.
“No, I’m almost thirteen! I’ll be fine.”
Gods. She’s almost thirteen. How in Mama’s name has that happened? He’d only looked away for a moment and she was almost a teenager. Weren’t there rules about this sort of thing? Can he just ban her from growing up? Ina, he knows, spent almost twenty years being ten before she let herself start to age. Could Ciri not do the same, for his sake?
“Papa?” She peers up at him with large green eyes, oblivious to his internal crisis. “Do you think Eyck’s alright? Will he be managing by himself?”
“He’ll be fine,” Jaskier assures. “I left Boxer in charge; he’ll look after him.”
“Papa!” Ciri’s unimpressed by his attempt at humour. The truth is, he is a little concerned about his acolyte. He doesn’t think any hostile force could gain entry into his house, but Eyck does like to take frequent trips up and down the Pankratz (rescuing animals and keeping the peace). He hopes no Nilfgaardian or any other suspicious character is bold enough to attempt to attack him on one of his trips. Jaskier has asked his siblings to keep an eye on Eyck for him.
“He’s a good fighter,” Jaskier tries again. “And he’s not going to go out of his way to attract a confrontation.”
“I miss him,” Ciri admits. “And I miss Lettenhove. It was nice to have a home again.”
“It will always be your home, for as long as you want,” Jaskier promises, pressing a teary kiss to the top of her head.