The sun had set and Geralt was still sitting on a hill, mulling over what Jaskier had told him, analysing their time together since the moment they’d met. It was quiet around him, bar the soft whoosh of the tree leaves on the wind, while in his head there was a commotion of epic proportions.
True, the ballads were mostly about him but that’s why Jaskier had followed him in the first place; he’d needed material for lyrics, so by default Geralt played a big part in them. However, Jaskier didn’t have to praise his morality and prowess in them. He didn’t have to sing to him when they’d been alone on the road, or play soft melodies on his lute when Geralt couldn’t sleep, yet he did.
“Fuck,” he spat, shaking his head at his own blind stupidity.
Apart from his fellow witcher brothers, he had never had a friend with whom he was comfortable to be around, let alone ask for help. Despite that, he hadn’t thought twice when he’d asked Jaskier to apply chamomile on his wounds, even if it meant touching places that he usually kept covered. That was one of the first indications that his attitude was different towards the bard. Alas, he’d chosen to pay no heed to it. Even the chain of events that had led to meeting Yennefer had been propelled into being due to him trying to save Jaskier from the djin magic.
He rested his elbows on his knees and let his head hang, as he could feel a pounding headache building in it.
When on the road, Geralt had quickly noticed that Jaskier was unable to thermoregulate the way witchers could, which resulted in him being permanently cold at night. That made his snuggling up to Geralt perfectly logical as sharing body heat was the most basic of survival techniques known to man. Geralt had thought nothing of it then, and if he might have enjoyed the physical proximity a bit more than was requested of him, then that had been just basic instinct and the need for human touch. He would wrap his arms around his bard at night to give him as much heat as Jaskier needed to sleep soundly, but in the morning he needed to get up early and relieve his throbbing need. He had told himself for the longest time that it was only because it had been morning, and not because he’d spent the night pressed to the lean body that fit next to his so perfectly. He had been fooling himself for a long time, before he’d realised how wrong he’d been
He’d always been ashamed of Jaskier finding out that his physical proximity to Geralt had clear consequences. He feared being laughed at, and rejected, even if he was aware of the enormous capacity for empathy that Jaskier possessed. Geralt had craved Jaskier’s body for a lot longer than he dared to admit to himself, but there’d never been an opportune moment to ask how Jaskier felt about that concept. Or maybe, he’d just never had the words, let alone the courage to utter such questions aloud.
Desperately, he’d tried to balance his intense affection towards the bard and stuff his feelings for him into a neat box labelled “friendship”. It had been a hard task but Geralt had honed this ability to perfection. He’d learned to disguise the dark pit of anger that brewed in him whenever he’d seen Jaskier romancing someone, and turned it into off-handed remarks packed with disdain. Meanwhile, inside he’d felt as if he’d been pierced by an arrow.
After all, he was a mutant, an abomination people either feared or wanted something from. He had a looming feeling that even the women he’d slept with, had done it for the thrill and bragging rights of bedding a savage, brutal witcher.
Then there was the mystery that was the exuberant Jaskier, with his smiles, praises, but also many secrets. He had never pushed Geralt away, yet not asked for anything but simple protection when in trouble, the likes of which Geralt would have granted anyone deserving in his presence.
All the jealousy and confusion faded when at the end of the day, it had always been Geralt’s name Jaskier whispered in a soft tone as he drifted off to sleep. It was Geralt who’d been the recipient of the sleepy look Jaskier had given him in the morning, it was Geralt’s name that had been the first one he yelled when in trouble.
Geralt had never taken those actions as signs of anything more than friendly affection, he knew better than to mistake that for an invitation to spend the night doing more than sleeping side by side. He hadn’t wanted Jaskier to think him soft or sappy but each time those lovely blue eyes, full of tenderness, had landed on him, he’d wished he could reciprocate the look without Jaskier thinking less of him.
He’d been a young witcher once, full of ideals and expectations; enjoying the wind sweeping through his hair as he’d ridden his horse, proud of his footwork when handling his sword. Abandoned by his mother, yet trained by Vesemir who’d become like a father to him, he’d gained enough confidence to reach for what he thought could be his, like happiness.
He’d felt free to enjoy the company of anyone who would have him. He’d wondered about being with a man many a time, but only when he’d seen a tall and lean stableboy did he feel that pang of lust that had pushed him to approach the man. He had thick blonde hair that was swept back, and a stubble that would feel great scratching Geralt’s inner thighs.
Quickly after approaching him, Geralt had been led to a stable and kissed within an inch of his life as straws of hay dug into his back through the linen shirt. Geralt had wanted the act to be slow, he’d wanted to touch and savour every moment, but the man laughed in his face. “I thought you were a witcher. If I wanted a loverboy, I wouldn’t have dragged you here. Now show me how strong and rough you are or move along.” Angered at the jibe, Geralt had done as asked, partly because he’d wanted to prove to the man what he was capable of, partly because he’d been ashamed of his softness. His brothers surely would laugh at him too, or worse, Lambert would call him a romantic…
All the other encounters with men from then on had been fast, rough and meaningless. Then again, his encounters with women didn’t differ greatly, except some women actually enjoyed him being an attentive lover.
For decades, he’d been wanted for his skills or his honed physique, never for his company alone. Not until he’d met a certain flamboyant bard.
Jaskier had barged into his life unannounced, and the blinding sunshine of his presence must have dimmed Geralt’s wits enough to make him unable to see the pure affection Jaskier showcased towards him on every occasion.
Jaskier had always been friendly to everyone, but upon further analysis, Geralt had to admit that the bard had been right; he had shown more of it to Geralt than to anyone else. There’d been more happiness in Geralt’s life since he’d met Jaskier than ever before and the fact that Jaskier’s attention was focused so much on him, played a big role in it. He’d finally felt appreciated, needed, maybe even cherished.
They’d been through a lot together and at the end of every adventure, Jaskier had been the only one who remained by his side. Even if not clearly stating his feelings, Jaskier had been calming him, supporting him, encouraging him… oh…
Geralt recalled their conversation at the mountain. He’d been sitting on a rock, looking at the breathtaking views of mountains covered in greenery, while his head had been full of images of Borch’s last moments. He had thought him dead then, his mutant strength amounting to nothing, if he’d been unable to save the old man and his two warrior companions. Of all the people travelling with them then, it had been Jaskier who had come to console him.
“You did your best. There’s nothing else you could have done.”
Then he had the audacity to doubt his worthiness as a travel companion, after which he’d indeed made a clear offer, Geralt had been too dumb to decypher.
“We could head to the coast, get away for a while… Life is too short, do what pleases you while you can.”
Jaskier’s words echoed in his head, making him feel like a complete fool for not understanding the meaning of the words. How could he have been so blind not to see what had been before his eyes all along? After the conversation had ended, he’d gone looking for any scrap of a relationship, while Jaskier had been by his side and offering it indirectly, with every smile, every semi-casual touch, every song.
Sure, Yennefer had greeted him in her bed, but she’d never truly wanted him; they were not compatible outside of crumpled sheets. Yennefer’s words the day after had hurt him, but in retrospect, he could see that the cruel words he’d spat at Jaskier moments after, had been much worse. Finally, he was getting closer to understanding that Jaskier had the right to be as mad at him as he currently was.
“Because I don’t want hope where there is none. I don’t want to open my heart again and have you tear it out and stomp all over it.”
Jaskier’s words from just hours before indicated that Geralt’s outburst on the mountain had hurt him deeply. The words had meant to do just that, but Geralt hadn't anticipated that Jaskier cared about him enough to be so hurt.
Straightening his back, he felt resolve fill his body. He had to attempt to fix what he’d broken. He had no idea how, but finally talking about their issues, their friendship and the physical attraction on top of them seemed like the wisest choice.
Geralt didn’t know if he could belong in bed with Jaskier, but he desperately wanted to try if Jaskier would even have him as a friend again. If not now, then in a month, a year, or a decade. Time mattered not, he was willing to wait. He would wait for forgiveness he didn’t truly deserve, because his hunt for happiness resumed anew.
With determination, he marched down the hill, then from inn to inn, enquiring about Jaskier. His mind was so preoccupied with the image of Jaskier’s face as he looked down at him hours before, he almost asked about a bard with blue eyes and a beautiful smile. However, the name alone was enough for anyone to know who he was looking for.
In no time, he was pointed to an inn where Jaskier had retired for the night. His first thought was to barge into Jaskier’s room and demand an audience. Maybe they could talk, have a drink, maybe they could… Then again, if Jaskier needed to be away from him to think things over as well, then he had the right to that.
“Do you have any parchment and paper?” Geralt asked the innkeeper, instead.
“Aye. Pay for yer room and I’ll get ye a whole sheet,” the innkeeper snarled, eyeing him suspiciously before he spat on the floorboards of his own establishment.
“Fine,” Geralt reached for his purse and tossed a few coins on the counter.
Within moments, he was staring at a blank piece of paper, his quill-filled hand hovering over it with indecision.
I will travel east by morn, come with me. G.
He folded the letter neatly and asked the innkeeper to hand it to Jaskier with his breakfast or when he left his room, whichever would be first.
After retiring to his room, he struggled to fall asleep. Tossing and turning, he finally imagined Jaskier agreeing to his offer to travel alongside him again as they worked to resolve all their issues along the way. That comforting thought let him finally drift off to sleep.
Geralt woke up a bit after sunrise, immediately threw clothes on his back and asked the innkeeper if the letter had been delivered.
“Yes,” the innkeeper said in an off-handed tone, sizing Geralt’s battered clothes with a judging stare. “He read it, tore it up and left west an hour ago.”
Geralt frowned, and with growl, moved to gather his belongings quickly. Jaskier couldn’t have gone far and Geralt was determined not to let him go without giving Geralt a chance to explain, this time truly saying what he felt. If only Jaskier would let him try to rebuild their friendship, he could be at peace. Even if Jaskier ultimately decided he wouldn’t want to travel with him, Geralt couldn't go on knowing Jaskier hated him.
Fueled by resolve, Geralt dug his heels into Roach and galloped to the next town, the rising sun warming his back as the wind swept his hair back.