Geralt doesn’t like to compound a mistake.
However, like a lot of things Geralt doesn’t like—early morning tube rides, letting Eskel decide where they’re having lunch, getting a haircut—he does still do it, because some things are unavoidable.
Right now, he’s thinking about compounding a mistake.
Because Jaskier hasn’t flinched. Hasn’t so much as swallowed nervously. He’s calm and steady, meeting Geralt’s eyes like they don’t bother him—like he can see into Geralt’s fucking soul, and Geralt isn’t sure he likes that.
But he’d only have to close a couple of inches between them to kiss him, and he wants to.
Because Jaskier isn’t afraid of him, and that never happens.
“Jaskier,” Zoltan barks behind him, making him jump away. “Quit antagonising Geralt and get your arse out there.”
Geralt backs off, blinking in the low light of the wings as he comes back to himself.
His heart pounds in his head, and he’s really not used to that. Hasn’t been used to that.
Jaskier mumbles something unintelligible and backs off, sparing half a glance for Geralt as he stands hovering at the edge of the stage, waiting for his cue.
Geralt doesn’t stare at him.
He’s just making sure no one decides to mug him.
His heart’s still pounding, and he feels like a mess.
All over one moment of closeness with a skinny little popstar who probably thought of him like an interesting adventure he planned on telling people about at parties. That one time he slept with his bodyguard before he knew he was his bodyguard, and oh yeah, said bodyguard was a freak.
It shouldn’t bother Geralt. He’s had a lifetime to get used to the idea.
It’s never bothered him before, he knows the novelty is half the reason anyone ever takes him home. The novelty, and perhaps the barest edge of danger.
Except Jaskier isn’t afraid of him, and that was obvious last night, and it’s suddenly, startlingly obvious now.
Something in the pit of Geralt’s stomach twinges as he watches Jaskier take the stage, enthusiastically blowing kisses to the audience.
“I know he’s a pain in the backside,” Zoltan says at Geralt’s elbow. “But just… don’t kill him, all right? That’s all I ask.”
“You’re asking me for a lot more than that,” Geralt points out.
“A favour I won’t forget,” Zoltan says solemnly, and the thing is, Geralt believes him, and, Zoltan is the kind of person it’s very useful to be owed a favour by.
Besides, Geralt doesn’t have so many friends that he can afford to tell any of them to piss off, and Zoltan is, somehow, his friend.
He’s still not sure how that happened, but that’s where they’re at.
“How’d you end up his manager, anyway? Weren’t you working with that... they were from… Norway?”
Zoltan shrugs. “And going nowhere fast, aye. Thing is, Geralt, he may be a pain in the backside, but there’s talent there. Real talent. Not everyone’s taste, but very broad appeal, too. And I’d like to retire one day.”
“But this is his first time playing here,” Geralt points out, sure that means something.
“Aye, but it’ll also likely be his last. He’s right on the cusp of having it all, and I’d like to be hanging onto his coattails when he gets there, is what I’m saying. You mark my words, next time you see that boy in London, he’ll be in a stadium.”
“Huh,” Geralt says, because he’s not sure what else to say to that.
Might be a good story later, the time he kind of dated a popstar who’s a household name now.
He’d definitely rather think about that than how much he wanted to kiss Jaskier a moment ago.
Just to shut him up, he tells himself. Just for thirty glorious seconds of silence, when he wasn’t ribbing or teasing or being insufferable. That was all it was about.
Nothing more. Nothing else.
Not even the quiet, nagging little feeling that for once in his life, someone actually wants him to be their boyfriend. In public.
“I’m going to check our exits again,” Geralt says, mostly because he doesn’t want to talk about Jaskier anymore.
“Go, go,” Zoltan responds, inching closer to the stage—to watch Jaskier, presumably.
Geralt is just curious enough to be annoyed at himself about it, and so he entirely plans to avoid taking in any part of any of Jaskier’s performance.
It’s not that he’s avoiding Jaskier. It’s…
He’ll figure out what later.
The steady hum of activity backstage is soothingly familiar—the warm-up act is already in the process of leaving, Lambert coordinating them with a look on his face that says he’s physically biting his tongue to save himself from another Talk with Vesemir about what level of threat is acceptable to a client.
Eskel, patient as always, is keeping one eye on him, and one eye on everything else.
They’ve got it under control, and there’s a breath of cool night air waiting for him while he checks the exit, which is well-known code for takes a breather. And all right, it’s night air in London and therefore calling it fresh would be a stretch, but it will at least have circulated further than the suddenly stifling heat inside.
A camera flash blinds Geralt the moment he steps outside.
He’s used to camera flashes, he’s even used to them going off like that and they don’t normally dazzle him, but the show isn’t over yet and he wasn’t expecting it, or the three that follow it up, or the chorus of tittering giggles.
What the fuck?
His senses come back to him well enough to see that there’s a small crowd gathered at the back already.
In the lead is one of those papparazzi wankers with the big fuck-off flash bulbs intended, Geralt thinks, to irritate security personnel the world over. His feelings toward said wanker are instantly not warm.
They get colder when he recognises the silhouette behind the camera.
That bastard. The one who got him into all this trouble earlier. The one who’d been standing over Jaskier and accusing him of sleeping with his girlfriend.
Geralt instantly hopes he really did, and that it was so much better than what she was used to that she left him.
“You,” Geralt growls, stalking toward the man. “I thought I told you to piss off.”
The man behind the camera looks at him with the kind of nasty smile that makes Geralt hesitate. It’s the kind of smile people with broken bottles in their hands smile.
“That’s him,” the man says, pointing directly at Geralt.
The screech that rises up from the crowd and what feels like a thousand phone flashes going off in his already sensitive eyes at once is so much worse than being glassed—Geralt knows, because now he’s experienced both and he’d take the broken bottle every single day of his life instead of this.
He stumbles back, covering his eyes and snarling, and feels like instantly like a monster being caught on camera.
A hand lands on his shoulder, pulling him inside, and he’s so grateful to whoever it is be could kiss them.
Once his eyes recover from the light overload and his ears stop ringing, he realises it’s Eskel.
He has, previously, kissed Eskel, but they’ve since decided they’re better off as friends, and so Geralt holds back that impulse.
“Heard the screaming,” Eskel says. “Guess you’re famous now,” he adds with a grin.
If the audience don’t hear Geralt’s groan of despair, it’s a testament to the architecture, and not his current level of self-control.