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Geralt has two (killing) hands to pray for forgiveness

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Geralt stared out across the mountains, jaw set and lips pressed in an angry line. A cool breeze stirred his hair but otherwise there were no voices, no movement around him. He clenched his hands in tight fists. He was a finely crafted weapon, a tool matched to its purpose, a killing machine. Those hands of his were not made for softness, they were made for destruction. And what destruction he had made; the scent of lilac and gooseberries still drifted on the wind, and the face of betrayal was etched on his brain. He never thought to see Yennefer cry. He didn’t understand.

 

Damn that gold dragon. First Borch exposed the arrogance of his supposed creature knowledge, and then slapped him with a truth he didn’t want to hear.

though you don’t want to lose her, you will

he already has

Sorceresses were usually infertile, like witchers, and it was for the best. Yennefer would make a poor mother. She had many great qualities but what would happen when she, a powerful sorceress, inevitably grew bored with a tiny dependent human? He already knew how that played out.

He never meant to reveal his child surprise, but Yennefer had a way of muddling his head and making him spill words he wanted to hide. He would never claim the child, for how could he still walk his path? There was no way he could subject a child to his lifestyle, even if the Trials were a thing of the past.

Sorceress. Witcher. An explosive mix in bed and elsewhere but not parent material.

Geralt gathered his bags and started down the mountain. He needed to get back on his horse and ride far away. His feet moved while his mind spun around, seeking answers.

 

Bard.

Why was he still around anyway? The bard came and went over the years until one day, he simply came and stayed. Geralt didn’t know why. Why the bard stayed and why Geralt let him. Oh, they’d split up sometimes, on good terms or bad, but sooner or later Jaskier greeted him with a wide smile and a torrent of words, hands opening and closing like he didn’t know what to do with them. Smelling of camomile and lavender and happiness.

Whenever I find myself in a pile of shit

He should have mounted Roach in Posada and ridden away, and that would have been the end of it. Instead there was an ambush, then a lute, then a song.

He should have kept quiet at the engagement feast. Instead there was an ambush, then a fight, then a misplaced wish.

He should have kept his mouth shut by the lake. Instead there was a misplaced wish, then an orgy, then a sorceress who fucked him and ambushed him and fucked him again.

He should have stayed out of the dragon hunt. Instead there was a secret revealed, then a request denied, then a sorceress to fuck, then a fight. And then he was alone, again.

it’s you, shovelling it

Jaskier was there every time, that was true. If not for him… none of this mess would have started.

If life could give me one blessing

Well he had the blessing now. Blessed silence, just like he asked. The fool bard would be waiting for him like always, and if he wasn’t then they’d meet somewhere down the road and be the better for a break. Jaskier was the one constant in a restless world.

He reached the camp and found Roach in good order. The bard’s scent of camomile, lavender, and musk hung about the horse’s neck, but his things were gone. Geralt closed his eyes for a moment, breathed deeply, and saw the bard’s face, pale and shocked. He hadn’t argued after Geralt’s outburst, the product of a long and difficult day. But he would come back eventually. He always needed new material for those godsdamned ballads of his.

see you around, Geralt

He reached the foot of the mountain without any trouble. The scent trail went cold after the inn, muddled with the stench of unwashed humanity and horse shit, and Geralt went on alone.

Geralt wandered. The Path was his life, his meaning, and it was meant to be walked alone. Many years ago, he sat in a scented bath, looked at the face of his companion, and saw a question that he couldn’t answer. Look how that night turned out, all because he tried to do right by some human. He should have learned in his long life that nothing good could come of involving himself in the affairs of men. So, he resolved to keep to monsters. They tried to kill him, he killed them, he got his coin. It was a simple transaction. And if sometimes he got stiffed on contracts or run out of town without his a mouthy bard to do the talking, well that was a price worth paying to be free of constant singing and playing and mindless chatter. Wasn’t it?

***

Spring turned to summer. Camping was easier, and saved on coin that was often in short supply. On the odd occasion that he ventured to a tavern, he heard Jaskier’s songs butchered by inferior voices. The only voice he never heard belonged to the bard himself. He found dried flowers that crumbled to dust in the bottom of his saddle bags, and threadbare black shirts mended with colourful stitches of blue or red. Sleep was elusive and filled with dreams of a pale face, shocked into silence. He meditated through the shortening nights until he could bear it no longer, and blew the rest of his coin on a brothel visit.

The blonde girl’s smile was edged with fear and the overly perfumed bath not hot enough, but he couldn’t risk using Igni to heat it. Her hands were soft and tentative when she bathed him and she pulled on the knots in his hair too roughly. He clenched his jaw and made do. He needed her to stay. Once clean, he took her to the bed and put his mouth and tongue to expert use, sucking and licking into her until she cried out, back arched, and opened to him. He brought her to climax twice then raised his head to see her blissed-out face before pushing inside her welcoming heat, mindful of his size. A lifetime of careful encounters had given him control, and he delayed his finish until she threw back her head and squeezed tight around him with a wanton moan. He grunted and thought of nothing but the trembling body below him.

Geralt lay on his back with the girl boneless beside him, and wondered why he still couldn’t find sleep. He left her sleeping before dawn, the subtle itch beneath his skin far from satisfied.

***

The next contract was routine. Geralt was well aware of people’s tendency to downplay the threat from monsters, due to ignorance, fear that the contract would be refused, or more likely, a desire to underpay. An underprepared witcher was a dead witcher. His silver sword was oiled and sharp, and he downed a potion before leaving Roach loosely tethered and heading for the nekkers’ last known location. He fully expected six, having been told there were three.

He saw the chieftain first, face marked with red clay dug from the banks of a nearby stream. Three nekkers fanned out in front of it, and he readied himself. An organised attack was a challenge he welcomed to burn through the heat simmering in his veins. Maybe then he could rest.

He cast Aard, blowing them backwards and allowing him to cut them down with ease. Three more appeared behind him and he whirled around, sword catching the first across the gut. He slashed at the next, taking the clawed hand off and then driving his blade through its heart before sidestepping the next, allowing momentum to carry it forward so he could cleave it in two from the back.

Breathing heavily, Geralt looked around for the chieftain. The ground trembled and another wave was upon him a moment later. He hacked and slashed. Claws raked his left shoulder. Hot blood sprayed his face. He moved without thinking, heedless of pain.

He still had to deal with the nest and avoid slipping in a bloody pile of body parts. The fight had brought him closer to the sound of rushing water and it almost deafened him. One deep breath. He should have taken an extra potion. The chieftain roared behind him and attacked. Duck, roll, parry. His strength was ebbing away, he had to kill this final monster and deal with the nest. Geralt roared as the nekker’s claws dug into his left thigh. They struggled on the ground, too close to use his sword, until he managed to close his fingers around a dagger and thrust it into the eye. The creature reared back and he stabbed into the narrow gap between them, driving his sword deep into its gut. The nekker collapsed on top of him and with an effort he pushed his way to the side. He crawled the short distance to the river bank until he saw the nest, and tossed in a Grapeshot bomb. The explosion made his ears ring but all he could do was lie on his back, panting and spent.

After a while he propped himself on one elbow and whistled for his horse. He wasn’t sure how much time passed before Roach nudged his cheek. Somehow, he got to his feet using his sword as a crutch and dug through his bag. He swallowed another potion, wincing as it burned his throat, and flopped back down. Tired eyelids drooped, heavy as lead, dragging him down into darkness.

 

A panicked voice. “Gods, Geralt, what happened? Are you – no, that’s stupid of course you’re not okay. No, don’t move. I was so worried. What do you need? What colour?”

“Ugh.”

“Please tell me what colour. Nod when I say it. Red, yellow, clear, green – ok green, got it.”

Glass clinking. Bitter liquid, warm hands, fast heartbeat. Camomile and lavender.

“That’s it. I knew something was wrong when you didn’t come back, and they always get the monster details wrong, and then they tried to say you’d run off scared. As if my witcher could be scared.”

“Hmm.”

“That’s it, that’s the Geralt I know and lo-like. Your arm’s quite a mess, we must hurry back and see what other damage you’re hiding, because I know damn well there’s more. A lovely hot bath will do wonders.”

Voice is calmer now. Caring. Not alone.

“Roach is here, she’s a good girl, the best girl aren’t you darling? Lean on me and we’ll get you up between us. Ready?”

Strong. Stronger than anyone thinks. Safe.

“Okay, time to move. Move, witcher. Get up. GET UP.”

 

He opened his eyes to golden light and the sun low in the sky, his horse grazing nearby, and the smell of death. Heaving himself upright, he surveyed the damage. Deep wounds on his shoulder and thigh bled sluggishly and his throat was parched. The potions scraped through his veins, leaving them raw.

He was alive though, perfectly capable of collecting eleven heads and assorted organs for sale later, washing the worst of the blood off his armour so as not to scare people too much, getting back to town and securing a room for the night to rest, before negotiating more coin the next morning and moving on to do it again. He didn’t need help from anyone.

***

Weeks went by in a dreary parade. He bore his injuries in silence, as a witcher should. There was rarely enough coin for an inn, and he never caught any trace of the bard. Those people who deigned to speak to him had no news either. Geralt stayed in the forests, away from humans, and meditated through his hunger and fatigue. Sometimes it was warm, sometimes it rained, occasionally someone called him White Wolf with respect and paid him fairly or offered a hot meal. Nobody was genuinely pleased to see him, offering happy smiles and light touches without expectation or malice. He felt the loss more keenly than he expected.

When autumn’s gold started to leach away into the grey of winter, he thought of retreating to Kaer Morhen, the one place he could be sure would take him in. The only constant in life… but no, there had been another.

off my hands

Gods, he’d been so angry that day. He’d lost everything he wanted and was forced to hear painful truths. Why should he not speak truth to the ridiculous peacock who got them both into more trouble than was necessary? It was better that way. Rip off the bandage and go before you leave me like everyone does while you’re still in one piece, bard.

He meant every word, until he didn’t.

He’d been so certain that one day he would be greeted with a smile in some backwater tavern with watered beer because Jaskier always came back; until he didn’t.

 

Geralt turned northwest, taking even the smallest of contracts along the way, and hoarded his coin. His life was no longer sufficient to his needs. Camp fires were too silent and the nights too long without sleep. He didn’t want the mountain's bitter words to be the last thing Jaskier remembered about him. Killing hands were suited only to destruction, but maybe he could patch what he’d broken. Words were Jaskier’s thing, but Geralt needed to find some of his own. Then he could spend the winter hiding from Lambert’s jibes, and drinking himself to sleep after sparring with his brothers to take the edge off the restlessness that never left him.

Geralt reached Oxenfurt on a cool, damp morning in early winter. The guards looked him and his swords over for a long time, but he kept his face impassive and his words brief, and they let him pass through the gate. He made his way to the Jolly Sailor inn for lodgings that suited his low profile and small purse, and after seeing Roach settled went to his room to meditate. His plan was simple. Bathe, eat, rest, see to his equipment. Find the bard. Speak to him. Then head to the witchers’ keep for the winter before snow closed the mountain pass.

The next morning dawned grey, with low cloud threatening rain. Geralt forced himself to join the crowds in the city. His senses, used to forest quiet, were bombarded by noisy animals and the smells of baking and ale and dung. People glanced at him with fear or interest, none daring to jostle him. He avoided all contact and made his way to the apothecary, where he bartered rare monster parts for potion ingredients. Next he traded black ichor for the making of two new shirts, noting the seamstress’ ill-concealed glee at getting a generous amount of the rare black dye in payment. He didn’t care. A monster hunter’s trash was a tailor’s treasure, and it saved on actual coin. His final stop was the blacksmith.

On the way back to the inn, the scent of freshly baked honeycakes filled his nose. He inhaled, weighed his purse, and walked on.

In the sanctuary of his small room with the door locked, Geralt allowed himself to relax. He’d checked the stable and found Roach well kept. A small fire kept the worst of the chill from the air, his swords were within easy reach, and the narrow bed was tolerable. He spent the rest of the day brewing such potions as he could. His supply was almost exhausted, rather like the witcher himself, and both body and potions bag needed replenishing before the long trek north. As night fell, he sat before the hearth and sharpened his blades, a simple rhythm that lulled his fretful mind. Once that was done he knelt to meditate, letting his killing hands rest loose on his thighs. He had been off-kilter for months, and that was unusual. He tried not to think about the missing presence that would help him find balance again.

Later he drank alone in the corner of a tavern, ate passable stew with potatoes, and kept his head down. A bard played and sang. Nowhere near Jaskier’s standard, though many of the songs were his. He’d never admitted that he listened or cared, and wondered again why that was. Sea-blue eyes and a merry tune echoed through fitful sleep.

***

“What is your business, Witcher?”

Geralt tried to think what the bard would say, but the words didn’t come. “I am here to speak with Professor Kaczmar about the library.”

The porter looked down his nose. “You want to read a book? A likely tale.”

“I want to share my knowledge. Kaczmar asked me to come.” That was years ago and he didn’t know if the man was even alive, but these academic types seemed to live in one place forever. This was the best place to look.

“Share your knowledge,” the porter drawled.

Geralt itched to slap the sneer off his face but a lifetime of dealing with ignorance had taught him control. He had a job to do. “I wish to speak with Professor Kaczmar.”

Three students approached, chattering away, but stopped when they saw the exchange. Geralt ignored them. He heard one of them whisper his name.

“Will you let me into the library.”

“Well I don’t know about that, we don’t allow just anybody to walk in here. This is a place of learning, not monsters.”

Geralt took a deep breath, regretting the absence of his swords, but before he could speak a student stepped up next to him.

“Sir, I mean Master Witcher – you are a witcher aren’t you?” The boy or maybe young man smiled at him. No fear. He reminded Geralt of another fresh-faced boy on the cusp of manhood, years ago.

“Yes.”

“Oh, Prof told us all about you! I can't believe the White Wolf is actually here, talking to me. Sorry, it’s just such an honour. I’m Piotr.” He offered his hand, and after a beat Geralt shook it gently. He didn’t want to damage the boy.

“We study Master Bard Jaskier’s songs in class,” he said, eyes shining. “Your adventures are the stuff of legend. Look, why don’t I take you to Kaczmar? He’s always hiding out by a fire in the winter, says the damp doesn’t agree with his rheumatics.”

Geralt walked with Piotr, who waved at the disgruntled porter while chattering away without waiting for an answer, and the other two students followed. Piotr pointed at a room as they went past.

“Prof Pankratz usually gives his lectures in there, but not this morning.”

Geralt didn’t know what to do with that information so he said nothing. Soon they reached Kaczmar’s room.

“Here you are, sir.”

“Geralt.”

“O – okay, Geralt. It was our great honour to meet you, and if you need anything else let me know, well if I’m around of course, or indeed any of us." He gestured to his friends. "This is Alleana and Jurek.”

The other boy blushed scarlet. Geralt couldn’t remember being that young and unseasoned. Perhaps he never was.

“Thank you.” He gave the tiniest nod of acknowledgement.

The girl giggled, Piotr bowed, and all three rushed away whispering.

Geralt stood outside the door. He met Kaczmar years before at his family home in Temaria, where the witcher’s encyclopaedic knowledge had allowed him to identify and then kill a rare and dangerous creature that threatened the family estate. Unusually, out of genuine respect for his skills, he was repaid in both good coin and a room to recuperate with the services of a healer. He promised Kaczmar to visit and update the bestiary if he were ever in Oxenfurt, so this trip allowed him to shoot two birds with one arrow. No doubt Jaskier was somewhere in the city though he never caught his scent. First Geralt would repay a debt long owed. He knocked three times.

Two hours later he had a three-day pass for the library, a stomach full of good wine, bread and cheese, and a new piece of information. He presumed Jaskier was an alias because who names their son after a flower but somehow his birth name had never been revealed. Professor Julian Pankratz, on the other hand, was a stranger. He only hoped that Jaskier was still willing to greet him with a friendly smile.

On his way out of the academy, he paused at Jaskier’s door, then opened it silently. The sound of Jaskier’s voice both eased and tightened the knot in his chest. Geralt watched the man talk with expressive arms and hands. He knew those hands; strong, lute calloused fingers drawing music from fifteen strings, gentle and kind, moving in his hair and on his skin without fear. Life-giving hands. He pulled the door closed before he was seen and went on his way.

Three more days in the library to update the records. Two more days until his shirts were ready. One more day to rehearse the words that stuck in his throat, refusing to budge. Three words or less.

I was wrong.

I miss you.

Please come back.

It’s too quiet.

He lay in the bed and listened to the sounds outside and downstairs. The words he needed did not come, but blue eyes and a song never left him.

 

The next day Geralt presented his pass to the porter, waited while he made a show of checking the seal, and went straight to the library. The dusty old bestiary was horrifically inaccurate. There was much to do before he could find Jaskier. After five hours of painstaking work, he packed his small bag and went back to the lecture room. He took a breath and knocked on the door, but found the room empty. People walked by while he considered his next move. That fool of a porter probably wouldn't tell him anything.

“Sir – um, Geralt, hello again.” Piotr’s face was flushed with cold. “Can I help?”

Irritation morphed into relief. “Yes, I’m looking for Professor Pankratz.”

“He lectures across the quad today. I’m going there now, if you’d like to come this way. I thought witchers had two swords.”

“We do. I don’t carry them when I’m not working.”

“Of course, not too many monsters in the academy.”

Geralt knew there were steel blade monsters to be found everywhere, but he stayed silent. The students were already seated, but when he walked in they moved forward, whispering and pointing.

Jaskier was rooting through a bag, a familiar sight. His subdued grey doublet was unexpected, as was his longer hair. Then he raised his head and oh, he had a beard. It looked well on him. Geralt fixed his gaze on eyes that were hard chips of ice. Jaskier talked with the students and then they were filing out. This was his chance to apologize, and start to make amends. He watched Jaskier gather his papers and willed his heart to keep its slow rhythm.

“Jaskier.”

“I am Professor Pankratz these days.” He walked to the door, refusing to meet his gaze.

“Not to me.”

“I have classes so if you’ll excuse me—”

“I came to see you.” If they could just start talking, maybe there was a chance.

Jaskier spread his arms in a parody of a bow that wounded Geralt. He’d never mocked him like that before. “And you have. Now leave me alone.”

Wrong answer. “No, I want to – can we talk in private?”

“We have nothing to talk about. I took myself out of your life, as you asked, and now you waltz into mine without so much as a by your leave.” There was no missing the tremor and the pain in that voice, or the way he clutched his bag to his chest like a shield.

Geralt was prepared to do anything. He needed this. “Please.”

But Jaskier’s handsome face twisted in anger. “Did that hurt?” he said, soft and vicious. “Fuck off, witcher.”

And then Geralt was alone with the faint scent of roses and cedarwood that smelled nothing like his bard. He made it back to the inn and stayed in his room all night, denying himself food and ale in favour of meditation. How was he going to fix this?

 

He was in the library again early next morning. Geralt shook his head at fanciful descriptions composed by those who’d clearly got their information from third-hand accounts and rumour rather than actual observation. He began to understand why Jaskier insisted on seeing monster hunts for himself. He might need the full three days after all.

He was partway through his sketch of a Leshen, as made by someone who’d actually seen one, when his attention was drawn by voices, one familiar. He looked up and locked gazes with none other than Jaskier. He looked stricken for a moment, blinking and mouth open, before turning tail and bolting out the door. Geralt hesitated, then went on with his work. Someone’s life might depend on accurate information. He worked on until he saw Alleana enter the library. When she left he followed, and asked her to point out Jaskier’s private rooms.

Geralt's whole world had tilted in the months since the mountain. Silence, formerly a welcome companion, now stretched in a yawning chasm that he tiptoed around, trying not to fall in. The bard had changed his life so much in a short time, and he’d hardly noticed it happening.

Jaskier looked older with the beard, more professorial perhaps, but he was still young, energetic, lively. They still had time, after they closed the distance between them with words he remained unsure how to say.

He let Alleana fill the silence until she left him outside a door with a smile. He knocked three times.

“Yes?”

“Jaskier. May I see you.”

There was silence for a while, but he heard Jaskier’s pulse, rabbit-fast.

“What would be the point? It’s better this way. Go seek your destiny.” He sounded small, tired.

“It is not—I am not better.” He forced the words out through gritted teeth.

“You should go.”

He would not go. “I will not.” He was prepared to wait, all night if necessary. He heard Jaskier poking at the fire, then pacing, and finally he came to the door and unlocked it before moving away.

Geralt stepped inside and closed the door gently. His breath caught at the sight of Jaskier standing by the window. Shadows highlighted cheekbones sharpened by hunger. He’d seen this before on the road when rations were short, but he expected Oxenfurt Jaskier to be better fed. He expected a brightly coloured dandy, not this sombre man. How old was he anyway?

“Speak.”

The fire was welcoming, unlike the silence. Geralt latched on to the familiarity of a camp fire and sat on the hearth rug. “Sit with me.”

Jaskier sat. “It’s not the strangest thing I’ve ever done.”

Geralt exhaled, keeping his posture soft. Jaskier was tense. One wrong move could spoil everything.

“I looked for you. Followed your scent until it mixed with too many others past the inn and then I lost it.” He inhaled, seeking camomile, but there was none.

“I bartered a wagon ride.” Jaskier wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Geralt waited, but Jaskier said no more. It was his turn to speak. “I make no excuses. I was angry. Witchers are not built…we are taught not to become attached. To walk the Path alone.”

“You weren’t alone. I was there. I walked while you rode, I sang for coin until I was hoarse, I dragged you from swamps and patched your wounds and never left your side. And on that mountainside, you tossed me away like a soiled rag.” Jaskier’s voice betrayed his distress and his pulse raced, but he stayed sitting across from Geralt and staring into the fire.

He’d hurt the bard grievously and the wound was deep. He dragged the words from his throat. “Jaskier. I am sorry.”  

“For what?”

“For my harsh words then and the times before.” Time to go all in. “For causing you pain. For leaving you to get down that mountain alone while I raged at destiny and everyone else.”

“You made your own choices.”

Geralt looked down at his killing hands. “You’re right.”

“I gave you twenty-odd years, my best fucking years, and it wasn’t enough." His voice rose in pitch and volume. "I don’t have forever to live like you magical arseholes, I’m just a man.”

Had it been that long? Humans lived short lives but Geralt had never faced that fact. It never mattered, before Jaskier.

“What more do you want from me?” Jaskier shouted, angry and totally unlike himself, arms spread and reeking of hurt.

Geralt deflated. He wanted to go back to their easy companionship but had nothing to offer except endless discomfort, danger and death. His words were nothing stacked against all his unforgivable actions, and Jaskier deserved better.

“I want nothing. I came to offer my apology. It would not have surprised me if you sent me away. I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

Jaskier got to his feet gracefully, rubbing knees that cracked lightly. (Had that happened before, or had Geralt just not noticed?) “No, you don’t.”

Geralt knelt and bowed his head. That was that then. He was not meant for human relationships; he was after all a weapon precisely made for killing monsters. He was made for destruction. “Then I will leave.”

How his brothers would laugh at the famed witcher all but offering his throat, defenceless against a killing blow. Except Jaskier’s weapon was words, and Geralt felt the sharp pain as they slipped between his ribs like a stiletto. The fire had burned low. He waited for the last words he'd hear from the bard.

“Geralt.”

Geralt’s breath hitched at the sound of his name on Jaskier’s lips for the first time since the mountain, the way he used to sound without bitterness and anger.

“You don’t deserve forgiveness, that’s not how it works. I forgive you, Geralt. I came to you, stayed with you, and forgive you because I choose to do so.”

Jaskier’s words crept into Geralt’s chest, spreading hope in his heart. He stood and looked, noting wet cheeks and bright blue eyes. When he reached out to brush the tears away, Jaskier didn't flinch; he allowed the touch.

“Well?” He was still crying, but smiling as well. Happy tears, he’d explained once. It was confusing.

“Smell of woodsmoke, a fire in the dark, just you and me. Almost like old times.” The world was shifting back into its proper place. All they needed was Roach and lute music; maybe that would come later.

“You’ll make a poet yet Geralt, just you wait.”

Oh no he wouldn’t. “One bard is more than enough.”

Unable to wait any longer, Geralt closed the distance and took the bard carefully in his arms. He was thin yet sturdy, clinging on with surprising strength. The scent of roses that was a tad too strong filled Geralt’s sensitive nose, but he welcomed it as Jaskier wriggled closer, chest to chest, arms clamped round his waist. The knot in Geralt's chest loosened until finally he could breathe.

“I missed you,” Jaskier whispered.

“Being alone wasn’t better.” Truth spilled from his lips, born from nine months of solitude. “I couldn’t find your scent anywhere.”

Jaskier swallowed a sob. “No camomile. I couldn’t bear it.”

Sourness spiked his scent. Geralt would never be the cause again if he could help it, and he tightened his grip. His bard, warm and alive.

“I know you can see in this deepening gloom, but my merely human night vision is hardly adequate.” His arms left Geralt's waist as he tried to pull back.

Merely human.

Geralt’s heart cracked open. He had so few years left with this man and he’d wasted too many being cruel, blind to the gifts he’d tossed aside without a thought. Because he was a monster hunter and monsters were just a problem to solve, but daring to care for another human was more frightening than facing an entire nest of kikimora queens. He grabbed Jaskier’s wrists and held on tight, tighter than he should. Killing hands could learn to cherish and protect. He could not lose him again.

three words or less

“Please,” Geralt whispered. “Don’t leave.”

Jaskier, his precious bard, sighed and melted into his arms. They clung together in the warm glow of a crackling fire as darkness descended. Words had carved a way through his granite chest and more would follow, but for now he listened to the calming heartbeat of his bard and the murmurs of his name, and dared to dream of more.