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Thermodynamic Equilibrium

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This was. Odd.

Now he wasn’t objecting. Let it be known that he was Not objecting. To any aspect of this arrangement. Being the little spoon was fine. And being cuddled by a very attractive Witcher was lovely.

It was just odd.

Geralt had been telling him to leave, to piss off, and to be quiet not an hour past. And now the man had draped himself behind Jaskier and thrown one of his powerful and oh so pretty arms over his torso.

Sure he had shivered. But that had been more due to recalling how close they’d come to death. The conditions the elves had been living in. Not cold. He actually ran warm generally. The thin blanket he kept in his case was more than enough to stave off the chill most nights.

But he’d shivered once. Just once. And Geralt had saddled right behind him with a grumble about Jaskier’s shivering keeping him awake.

So now they were cuddling. Which wasn’t bad. He certainly didn’t mind. They were outside and it was a little cold. So he probably wouldn’t overheat. Probably. Well when it got too hot he’d just wiggle away. Somehow. That arm was a steel bar. A warm and comforting steel bar. Warm but not hot. It was nice.

“Bard.” Geralt grumbled into his ear. “Shut up.”

“I wasn’t even talking. What am I thinking too loud now?” He grunted. Rude. “And I have a name you know. You could use it instead of just calling me bard.”

He waited for some kind of acknowledgement. Which was probably a fools dream. But well. The man was clearly capable of being eloquent if he wanted to be. Eloquent in that deep baritone. What a voice that was.

“Don’t know it.” Came the eventual reply, buried in his hair.

Didn’t know what?

Oh.

Shit.

He’d never introduced himself.

A little burst of laughter escaped him bumping the back of his head into Geralt’s nose. He made a shocked little noise.

“It’s Jaskier.” They’d completely missed that step. Because he knew Geralt’s name and Geralt had never asked for his. Geralt had plead for his life with the elves and cuddled up to him to keep him warm and he didn’t even know Jaskier’s name.

He’d had his doubts after the gut punch. Then he’d been confident this partnership would be profitable after he’d heard his newest song echoing back to him off the narrow mountain pass.

But fuck. He might have just found not just an interesting man but a good one too. An honest to god good man. There were so few of them in this world.

This was going to be dangerous. Difficult. Making sure the heartbreak in this story wasn’t his own.

“Jaskier.” He rumbled. How nice his name sounded in Geralt’s chest. He could feel it pressed against his back. What a nice voice. “Shut up.”

Or maybe it wasn’t a very nice voice. Or a very nice man. And falling for him would not be a problem at all. It wouldn’t.

Geralt’s breath was a warm and steady breeze in his hair. And since he was the little spoon the very powerful musk of onion wasn’t overwhelming.

This was odd. That didn’t mean he didn’t like it.

When he was woken the next morning by Geralt’s gruff command he wasn’t covered in sweat. Hadn’t woken up in the night overheating or freezing. He’d slept well. Far better than most nights spent on the ground. Not that that was a high bar. But still.

So when Geralt complained about his shivering the next night he didn’t comment. Or the night after that.

If Geralt wanted to cuddle, well, he wasn’t going to complain.

And then they got to the first town.

Well the first town were all the coin they had wasn’t immediately spent on food.

Geralt had managed to sell some of the monster he’d killed on the way into town for coin.

He’d managed to drum up some coin playing.

But he’d had to pay the cobbler to fix his shoes. Which he really just needed to replace. Geralt had bought a repair kit for his armor. Which desperately needed professional attention. So in the end the fact that they had coin left didn’t really matter. They both needed to save it.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t slept outside plenty. Even if it was pouring. Even if it was halfway to freezing. Even if he wasn’t already drenched along with all of his things. He’d had to sit in front of the fire for half an hour before his fingers could finally bend enough to play. But he’d made do with less before.

Geralt had a tarp. He’d sleep behind Jaskier. So he probably wouldn’t die of hypothermia in the night. Probably. He wasn’t leaving this inn until they closed though. They could put the tarp up in the dark. He wasn’t leaving his place next to the fire until he had to.

Plus the sorry excuse for a stable this place had was just a fenced in space with a little roofed in spot that had far too many horses for him to even risk sleeping amongst them. That was a quick way to a crushed chest.

But he wasn’t going to cry about it into his barely warm stew. Yes he was fucking miserable. Yes his hands were still shaking and he was still shivering but this was the life he’d dreamed of. The life he’d longed for.

Sometimes that meant being cold.

If he’d wanted to always be warm and safe and comfortable he’d have stayed in fucking Lettenhove. Become a goddamn viscount.

Besides he was pretty sure if he complained while Geralt was also dripping with rain in the inn neither of them could afford to stay at Geralt would leave and then he wouldn’t even have the damn tarp or human heater to keep him warm.

So he’d finish his underwhelming stew and sit in front of the fire until the innkeeper chased them out and he wouldn’t cry about it because he was seventeen and an adult who didn’t throw tantrums about shit that couldn’t be fucking changed.

No matter how much he wanted to.

He stabbed at the last of his stew. Geralt asked how much coin he had left. He grumbled it under his breath.

“Tell me when we have to leave.” He muttered to the man before curling up in front of the fire.

It was warm there. Maybe he should have been playing. But he was tired and cold and the place was mostly deserted anyway. They weren’t giving him any more coin tonight. No one had been interested in his waterlogged form enough to take him into their room for the night either. Which wasn’t a surprise but was a fucking tragedy. Because he was so damn cold.

Geralt was next to him. That meant it was time to leave. He could have sobbed. His fingers were almost warm. He was halfway to sleep. But Geralt just asked him something. And he couldn’t keep the thought in his fuzz filled head long enough to remember what it was but he knew the answer was yes so he nodded.

Geralt rifled through Jaskier’s pants for a moment pulling out his coin bag. Which was fine because Geralt was better with money than he was anyway and if Geralt needed his money it was probably important.

The fire was dying out and the floor under him was wet but Geralt hadn’t said they had to leave yet so he didn’t move. Cause it was warmer here than outside. He could still hear the terrible beating rain.

A hand gripped his shoulder and shook him slightly waking him. When had he fallen asleep?

“Come on Jaskier.” Geralt. He choked on a sob. He didn’t want to leave.

He wasn’t going to cry. He was a bard living his fucking dreams and sometimes those dreams were fucking hard to live but goddamn it he was going to live them.

He forced himself into a sitting position. His arms and legs and joints and head all hurt. He shot Geralt a forced smile. His face was as flat and unreadable as always. But at least he hadn’t ditched Jaskier. At least he’d have a tarp and someone warm. The smile became less forced.

He stood. His legs felt heavy and sore and they didn’t want to move. Barely wanted to support him. He followed Geralt anyway.

He wasn’t walking toward the front door. That was strange.

Oh. Maybe Geralt had stabled Roach and they were going to sleep with her. Maybe Geralt, certified horse whisperer, knew how to keep horses from crushing them accidentally during the night. That would better than the tarp. He could use the tarp as an extra blanket then. That would help.

Geralt pushed open a door and he closed his eyes against the anticipated burst of cold.

There wasn’t one. The noise of the rain was no louder than before. He slowly opened his eyes.

It was a room. A room with a bed. With all their shit already draped over every available surface to dry.

A room with a bed.

He wasn’t going to cry. His lip was quivering but he wasn’t going to cry. He wrapped his arms tighter around his middle and stepped in, closing the door behind him with his foot. Geralt pulled off his damp shirt revealing his pale too thin form to the flickering candlelight.

Those golden eyes turned back to him. Surveying him.

“Take those off or you’ll freeze.”

As loath as he was to take off his clothing and be bare, his clothes were damp. Geralt was probably right. His stiff fingers fumbled with the laces of his chemise for several moments before yanking it off. Tossed it into Geralt’s expecting hand for him to hang up.

Geralt’s hand closed around it but he didn’t move to hang it. He could feel those eyes staring him as he fumbled out of his sodden shoes and pants. Fuck it was cold. He wrapped his arms tighter around him and jumped into bed, pulling the covers over himself. To warm up. To hide from those intense eyes.

Look he knows he’s lost some weight okay? He knows he’s got a few more ribs showing than is entirely healthy or attractive but being a brand new wandering bard didn’t exactly pay great.

Anyway he looks less starved than Geralt! The man was nothing but fucking muscle! He had no fucking right to judge him. Besides his arms and legs have never been more toned. Even if they paled in comparison to Geralt’s.

He paled in every comparison to Geralt. Except maybe skin tone. Because Geralt was very pale. And musical ability. And fashion sense. And sense of decorum. And hair care. Geralt’s hair desperately needed some care.

Eh. He was doing alright.

He listened to Geralt peel off his trousers before sliding in behind him.

“Thank you.” He started, pushing back into Geralt’s chest to steal some Witcher warmth. He was cold and clammy. “For getting us a room.” He finished, confused.

“You were cold.”

So were you’, Jaskier thought as Geralt pulled the blanket over them and pressed a frozen hand against Jaskier’s chest.

Fuck. Geralt was so fucking cold. People were not meant to be that fucking cold. He covered Geralt’s hand with both of his. His were fucking warmer.

Geralt must have gone outside to retrieve their things. To stable Roach. But fuck he was so cold.

“Only had one bed left?” He prodded. Trying to take his mind off how cold Geralt was.

Was Geralt always that cold?

No.

That was dumb.

It was shitty cold weather and Jaskier who’d been inside all evening was half frozen still. Geralt had gone outside for Roach and that was why. Cause he had gone back into the rain. That was it.

Besides he wasn’t acting like he was hypothermic. Even though it felt like he was. Not that Jaskier had felt many hypothermic people.

If Geralt was this cold and wasn’t acting frozen what would it fucking take?

He didn’t want to know.

“Cheaper this way.” Came the gruff reply.

Right. That was. Probably true.

He shivered and tried to press as much of himself into Geralt’s feeble warmth as he could. It was better than nothing certainly. Geralt made a small noise. He decided it was approval when Geralt pressed his chilled nose into the crook of his neck and breathed in. The hot exhale warmed him more than Geralt’s cold nose.

It took a long time to fall asleep. Well. Longer than normal anyway. Even though he was exhausted. It just took a while to get warm enough to sleep. But his body was a fucking furnace. In a few hours they’d be falling off the bed to get away from each other, covered in sweat, as happened every time a partner tried to cuddle him in his sleep.

The only reason Geralt had been spared that so far was because they slept outside while still dressed. Not because Geralt was consistently an ice block.

That had to be it.

It had to be.

 

It had to just be that they’d both been frozen last night. Which was why he hadn’t woken up as an overheating sweaty mess last night.

It had to be he reassured himself as he rolled over to watch Geralt pull his shirt on. As he mentally recited the names of too many muscles on Geralt’s back that he’d memorized for that cursed anatomy class he took first year at Oxenfurt. When he was still pretending he might study medicine or mathematics or something befitting of his class.

Him. A doctor. What a fucking joke. He’d fainted when they brought in the dog cadaver. Panicked when Essi broke her nose in a fistfight. He hadn’t known what to do, there been so much blood. He shook his head to dislodge the image.

“Any contracts here?”

Geralt shook his head.

Unfortunate. The rain was just a quiet patter this morning at least. But everything still had to be cold and damp.

Geralt struggled against the knots in his hair trying to redo his hair tie.

He sat up on the bed the blanket pooling on his waist. “Let me. I’ve got a comb.” He reached down and plucked it from his case.

Geralt glared at him with suspicion. He yanked at the knots a few more times before finally sitting down on the bed.

He started teasing the knots out from one section, starting at the split ends at the bottom. He really needed to get Geralt to a proper barber. He scooted closer until his crossed legs settled against Geralt’s sides.

He wasn’t warm. Although it was hard to tell through the blanket and pants. He took the opportunity to lean against Geralt’s back as he worked through a clump of hair. Geralt tensed slightly but didn’t push him off.

The shirt was definitely still damp. He could feel it against his bare skin. But Geralt wasn’t warm under it either. Not that he had to be a furnace like Jaskier. It was nice that he could sleep next to someone without overheating. But. It seemed like he should be warmer.

Geralt relaxed incrementally against him with every knot he eased free. Leaning into the warmth. He was halfway through his hair when Geralt decided to speak up.

“We need to be going.”

“We have this room for several more hours at least. Besides it’s still raining and my clothes are wet. Give the weather a chance to break while I do this. I’m a miserable companion when I’m cold.”

“Hmm.”

He smacked Geralt’s shoulder. “Don’t be rude. I’m a delight and we both know it. We should really see about getting you to a barber soon. Your hair is a mess which is a real shame given how lovely it is.”

“It’s a waste of coin.”

He looked over Geralt’s armor. There was a gash in the shoulder that he’d sown together at some point. It was still falling apart.

His stomach clenched, empty. Geralt had eaten the same as him last night. Even though he clearly needed more.

Geralt had taken some of his coin to pay for the room. Which was fair. But it wasn’t clear if he would have bought it if Jaskier wasn’t here. Even though he was freezing. Even if he could have afforded it.

“Bet I could get a barber to take off the split ends for ten crown. Hell I could do it if we could find some scissors to borrow. Not that you should trust me to cut your hair but it would help with the tangles. That and some proper care for it. Your poor locks are so brittle. But we’ll get them just as soft as they are beautiful.”

“I have a knife if it bothers you so much.”

“A knife?” He echoed in horror. “Certainly not! You’d still need a proper barber after I was done hacking away at it and a healer from where I undoubtable accidentally stabbed both of us. Better to save the coin and just do it correctly the first time.”

It was a shame. He was almost done. The rain hadn’t gotten any heavier at least.

“Do you not know how to use a knife?” There was definitely a note of horror there too. Hm.

“Not for hair cutting. It’s pretty straightforward in a fight as I understand. Blade goes in the other people.”

“Have you ever been in a fight?”

“Of course I’ve been in fights Geralt.”

“Actual fights? With fists or weapons?”

“Yes, loads. The bars in Oxenfurt get rather rowdy during finals week. My main strategy is duck under the table or hightail it out of there.”

“So you’ve run away from fights.”

“Seemed like the best option. Can’t afford to damage the merchandise.” He ran a
hand down Geralt’s arm and gave a light squeeze. Geralt inhaled sharply.

He pulled his arm away and glared back at him. “Are you done yet?”

He sighed. “Yes yes. Last section and then I’ll tie it up and we can go get breakfast.”

Geralt tensed under him.

He hadn’t checked his wallet. Had the innkeeper overcharged them that much?

“Geralt how much was the room?”

Geralt told him.

Hm. Definitely overcharged him. But he’d still have coin left after breakfast.

He tied the hair back into Geralt’s standard tail. “I’ll deal with the innkeepers from here on I think. I’m not a fan of the Witcher rates. But since I was rather expecting to sleep outside last night and you generously got us a room breakfast is on me this morning. Be a dear and pass me my trousers.”

Geralt leaned over and grabbed them with a grumble about lazy bards. When he sat back up Jaskier plastered himself over Geralt’s back and hooked his chin over Geralt’s shoulder. Pressed their cheeks together.

Definitely still cold.

He grabbed the trousers, throwing the blanket over Geralt’s frozen form and shuffled into them. They were a little chilly but sitting next to the fire had mostly dried them out. That boded well for the rest of the day.

He climbed out of the bed and finished getting dressed. Geralt glared at him from under the blanket but didn’t dislodge it.

More food. That would help. Geralt could probably out eat Jaskier when he’d hit his growth spurt and done nothing but eat. He could buy some extra provisions for him on the way out of town.

He shoved his things into his case. Geralt would want to leave as soon as they were done with breakfast. His things were already packed after all. His hand caught on his blanket.

It was a threadbare little thing. He used it as a pillow more than a blanket to be honest.

He could buy a better blanket. Wool maybe. So if it got wet at least it’d still be warm.

He didn’t need new shoes that badly.

He shoved it into the case and stood up. Stuck out his hand to Geralt. “Shall we?”

Geralt stood without taking it and grabbed his things, stepping out into the hallway.

Jaskier rolled his eyes and followed after.

 

Things were going well.

Coin had been getting less scarce. They were getting run out of far less towns. They’d gotten to stay at inns several nights during the past fortnight.

He always got one room with just one bed. It was cheaper. And he’d really rather Geralt not be cold.

Best he could tell the man did fine during the day. He even seemed perkier, although that was a strange term to use for the solemn grump, when the weather grew hot and the sun blazed down baking into his black clothing.

Maybe that’s why the Witcher insisted on wearing black.

The extra food he’d been buying hadn’t made a noticeable impact on the man’s physique but the softness returning to his own ribs promised it might eventually. It was just a matter of getting him to accept more.

He’d tried just ordering a second serving for the man because while he had been just on the edge of full, Geralt definitely wasn’t. He’d finished the last crumbs on his plate and cast the damn thing a longing look.

But noooooo. When the second plate arrived he’d gotten all suspicious. Like he thought Jaskier was trying to poison him or something! Which he would never! He wouldn’t even know what kind of things could poison a Witcher. Even if he wanted to! Which he didn’t!

And then when he’d explained, Melitele forgive him, that he just though Geralt was still hungry. Why! The look Geralt had given him! Locked him out of their room! Left at sunrise the next morning with not a word. Why it had taken him hours to catch up!

So it seemed such direct methods were ill advised. Geralt still repeated his lines without fail. ‘It is cheaper this way.’ ‘You’re shivering was keeping me up.’ ‘You were cold.’

It had to be about him or about practicality. Or payment. He’d accept ‘kindness’ as payment. But he made sure to look uncomfortable about it. But he wasn’t interested in payment. He didn’t want them to start keeping score. They were friends. Friends didn’t keep score.

So tonight he was trying a different ploy. His brand new, far too warm blanket tucked under his arm as he perused the stalls for food that might keep in a saddlebag and fill a Witcher sized belly. Selected more than would reasonably fit in his case. The blanket certainly wouldn’t.

All a part of the plan. If Roach was carrying them then it was only fair Jaskier share.

Now if only this plan included new shoes. Then everything would be perfect. Well. A few more weeks wouldn’t hurt. The worst of the stormy season had passed anyway, so the hole in the heel wouldn’t be a real issue until fall. Plenty of time.

He passed the bakery with his prizes in hand.

He back stepped to the window. Fuck. They had honey cakes. He hadn’t had a honey cake in months.

He mentally weighed his purse. Honey cakes weren’t cheap. Geralt often scolded him on his lack of monetary sense. Which was rude because he only spent money on necessities! Clothing repairs, food, strings, hair products. Essentials.

No one paid an out of tune grubby bard. And despite what Geralt liked to pretend food was required.

Honey cakes were definitely pushing the line from the finery required to keep his tongue from falling off, seasonings were a necessity thank you very much, to pure indulgence.

The sun was high and hot today. He’d lost track of the day a few weeks back. Maybe.

It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

He stepped inside.

Oh that was a wonderful smell. Even if he couldn’t justify the cakes he’d at least get something. He deserved something for putting up with the Witcher’s dramatics.

Sure the Witcher had to put up with his dramatics too but really. He was a delight. It only seemed fair.

“Pardon me miss, I don’t suppose you could tell me how long til the solstice?” She looked like a lovely lady. The first streaks of grey in her hair. Warm eyes. Soft figure. Ah. What a vision she was.

“Three days.” She said with a twist of a smile.

He had missed it then. The indulgence could be justified.

“In that case might I bother you for two of those wonderful honey cakes I caught in the window?” He asked leaning over the counter slightly, testing her beauty from a different angle. Why yes. She was lovely from this one as well.

A frown flickered over her face as she glanced down at his shoes.

The mud was beginning to flake off and it had weighed down the sole enough to separate it from the boot slightly. He steadied his feet so they’d stop their standard tapping, minimizing the mud he’d sling onto her floor. He needed to scrub them off before he performed tonight.

She told him the price. She didn’t move to grab them.

He could afford it. He could. And dinner and breakfast tomorrow. It wasn’t a problem.

But she looked at his shoes and gave him a softly scolding look. He flushed and avoided squirming only thanks to the lessons from boarding school.

“Just one then.” He said focusing only counting out the coin to avoid her gaze.

She nodded and moved to get it for him. “Having it now or later?”

“Later.”

She passed him the small box checking his payment with a quick glance.

“Thank you.” He gave her his best smile before slipping out as gingerly as he could to avoid cracking off any additional mud.

He paused a ways down the road to readjust. To force the flush off his cheeks.

He wasn’t a child. If she’d just thought he couldn’t pay at least he could have been indignant. But she’d scolded him like a child for wasting his pocket money on treats when he’d been sent for groceries. He wasn’t a child. He could have replaced his shoes by now. Some things were just more important.

Like making sure your meal ticket and companion didn’t freeze to death. He shifted the blanket tighter against his side.

He wasn’t a child. He was an adult who sometimes made bad monetary decisions, sure. But there were plenty of Adults who were far worse than he was. Those who spent all their coin on drink, gambling, or bedmates. Adults who thought saving coin was more important than being full or being warm.

There had to be a balance. So what if he hadn’t quite figured it out yet? He would eventually.

He should head back now. Give him a chance to scrub down quick before the performance. It wasn’t like he could spend any more right now. Not with the look she’d given him still rattling around his brain.

 

The plan was this.

He’d order himself a dinner. Have it sent to the table Geralt and he shared.

Then before the food came out he’d get jittery and just have to play. And the food would just. Sit there in front of Geralt. Getting cold. Cause he couldn’t stop to eat. He had to play! He had to.

So far everything was going perfectly. He did feel a bit bad about the lukewarm stew Geralt would be eating if this worked but well. If he wasn’t so damn difficult then Jaskier wouldn’t have to result with this kind of behavior. Served him right.

He swung down into his seat stealing a drink from Geralt’s mug. He growled but didn’t do anything to actually stop him.

He took a bite of the stew laying on a displeased grimace that was, unfortunately, quite real. He’d definitely be ordering something else for his actual dinner. He shoved the bowl away, towards Geralt who’d been eyeing it since it arrived. “It’s gone cold.”

Yes. Geralt glared. Because you’ve been gallivanting around instead of eating your dinner, idiotic bard.

He sighed heavily. “I’ll just get something else after I’m done performing.” He stood back up.

“That’s a waste of coin.”

“Then you eat it.” He tossed over his shoulder starting the next song.

Geralt vacillated between glaring at him and the bowl for a disappointingly impressive amount of songs before finally eating.

Good.

Now for the hard part.

He collected his coin and ordered two meals. A very nice man who was perfectly confident in his receding hairline with eyes that shone like a blacksmith’s fire bought him a drink. They chatted merrily while he waited at the bar. When they came out he bid him Farwell carrying the plates to the table himself setting one in front of Geralt.

Geralt glared with even more suspicion.

“Yes keep that up.” He pointed to Geralt with his fork before taking a bite. “That scary face. Buy me enough time to actually eat my dinner. And eat yours too or they’ll start asking if I’d prefer a different dining companion.”

“Go eat with them then.” Geralt said but the heat of his gaze was cooling. Considering the food that he clearly wanted and the crowd that was clearly debating approaching.

“Then this meal will go cold too because I’ll start talking and forget to eat.” Which was completely accurate. He wasn’t lying. It had happened several times. Which Geralt was obviously recalling. “I’m tired of eating lukewarm meals! I deserve to have a hot meal when we’re actually in town!”

Geralt picked up his fork and stabbed a potato. “Then shut up and eat.”

His chest squeezed tight as Geralt’s mouth closed around it. Savoring the way his eyes closed as he chewed. Enjoying the promise of hair brushing made by the escaping strand of hair that tumbled into Geralts face.

He tore his eyes away before Geralt could catch him staring. Grateful for the excuse to be silent for once as he took another bite.

Fuck.

He was in way to deep.

Well.

There was nothing for it.

In for a song, in for an album. The heartache he could hear in this story would most certainly be his own.

He would simply have to make it worth the pain.

 

Geralt was already laying in the bed when he came upstairs. Which was not unreasonable. It was quite late. Geralt had a contract to go contract. In the morning. A Contract contact to contact in the morning. Hmm.

The ale really hadn’t been bad here.

“Bedtime” he sang climbing into the bed. “It’s bedtime. Gonna get so much sleep.”

Geralt sighed and rolled over. He put his hand against Jaskier’s chest halting him. Geralt had the biggest strongest hands. Good hands.

“Your cake’s going to get ruined if you don’t eat it tonight.”

“Cake?” He blinked down at those very pretty eyes. “Oh! My cake!”

He scrambled over to his pile of things flinging things around until he found the box. Geralt made an annoyed sound. But there was cake! So Geralt wouldn’t be annoyed for long!

He opened the box.

That was the prettiest cake. It looked so good.

He needed an eating stick. Spoon. Fork. He could make a knife work.

He started digging though the bags. Geralt got out of the bed. “Stop that, you’re making a mess.”

“Need a spoon. Fork. I’m not eating with my hands!”

Geralt sighed again and pulled out their mess kit. Handed Jaskier a spoon.

Geralt was the best.

“Geralt you’re the best.” He told him. Gave his biggest smile. Geralt’s face stayed flat. Which was fine because that didn’t mean he was upset. Geralt’s face just had a hard time moving. No one could be upset when there was honey cake!

He took a bite and melted against the bed. He loved honey cake.

Geralt made a noise he didn’t recognize. A chuckle? It sounded like a chuckle. Did Geralt chuckle?

“Did you just chuckle?”

“No.”

He examined Geralt very closely to determine if that was lie. His gorgeous eyes. His sharp jaw. The faint stubble. A very pretty face.

Geralt got up.

“Noooooo.” He protested. “Where are you going?”

“Bed.”

“Oh.” He looked down at the cake. He started squishing it in half. The spoon was making this difficult. “You want your half tomorrow?”

Geralt made a squished face like the cake. “It’s your cake.”

“Gotta be shared. That’s the rule. Gotta share birthday cake.” He explained. There. It was halved. Mostly. Some of the filling had squished out.

“I wanted to get you your own slice but the bakery lady said. Jaskier. Don’t be a child and get two just cause you want a whole one to yourself. You’re an adult now. Get one and share. So I did. Get just one. Because I’m an adult who makes good decisions.”

“She said all that?” Geralt said sitting down next to him but not eating his part of the cake. Maybe he needed a spoon too? He gave Geralt his spoon. It took Geralt a second to take it so he shoved the cake box in his hand too. So Geralt could eat his part easier.

“No she just looked at my shoes and then at me and just gave me that look you know? That teachers give when they’re all disappointed you’re making a dumb choice. Which is always way worse than them actually saying it. Cause if they said it you could like be snarky back. Eat the cake.”

He moved Geralt’s hand to pick up a piece for him. In case he forgot how to. “But because they’re not saying anything it’s just like. If you want to make this bad choice you can. But know I’m going to be disappointed in you. Do you not like honey cake? Is that why you’re not eating it?”

Geralt looked at the spoon in his hand. He ate it. He offered the box back.

He grabbed the spoon instead and took another bite.

Honey cake was the best.

He scooped another bite and handed it back to Geralt.

“I don’t need more.” He said not taking it.

“You’re full?”

“You can eat the rest of your cake.”

“You can have it in the morning then.” He dropped the piece back on Geralt’s side. “Just eat it before I get up okay? Or else I’ll get jealous. Honey cakes my favorite.”

“Which is why you can have the rest. It’s your cake Jaskier.”

“Gotta share birthday cake. It’s the rules.”

“You did share.”

“Do you not like honey cake?”

“That’s not.” He sighed. Geralt sighed a lot. Maybe he was cold? Geralt was always cold. “It’s fine.”

Oh!

His present!

He dropped the spoon in the box and crawled over to his things. He unfurled the blanket over their laps and curled into Geralt’s side. He grabbed another bite.

“You got a new blanket?” Geralt sounded weird. Just a little. He looked up at him. His hair looked so soft. He brushed his fingers through it to check. Hm. A little soft. Needed brushing. He could do that.

“It’s soft and warm! Wool! Like you said. In case it rains. We’ll still be warm.” This was uncomfortable. The bed was digging into his shoulder. It would be easier if he was in Geralt’s lap.

“In case it rains.” Geralt echoed. He nodded and took another bite of cake. His part was almost gone. He crawled into Geralt’s lap so he could reach the other side of his hair. It was nice hair. Geralt lowered the box to the floor. Smart. He couldn’t steal Geralt’s half as easy that way.

“Or we get cold. Don’t want to get cold.” He leaned against Geralt’s chest hooking his chin over his shoulder so he could untangle the back. Geralt’s head tucked into his shoulder too which was only fair since Geralt had been waiting to go to bed. Geralt could use him as a pillow. “I like being warm.”

“Hmm.” Geralt rumbled. He giggled. That felt nice. He ran his hand though the smooth hair.

“I like your hair.”

“I noticed.”

He looked back over at the cake. “Would you tell if I ate some of your cake?”

“No. I won’t.”

He stole a bite of Geralt’s cake.

“I love honey cake.”

“You’ve mentioned that.”

He stole another piece. “That sounds right. I talk a lot.”

“Yes you do.”

“I annoy people.”

“Mhm.”

“I annoy you.”

“Yes.”

He looked at the box and stopped the spoon before he could eat it.

Last bite. That was sad.

Geralt’s eyes were closed.

He looked at the spoon.

“This one’s yours Geralt.”

Geralt’s eyes cracked open. “Finish the cake so we can go to bed Jaskier.”

“Last bite’s yours Geralt.” He held the spoon up for Geralt.

Geralt’s eyebrows came together. “Why?”

“Gotta share!”

He sighed. “Fine.” He bit down on the spoon and drew off every last crumb. Left it clean.

Mmmm that might be a problem.

Geralt’s hands wrapped around his back and around his hips.

Maybe not a problem!

Geralt stood, holding him like he was nothing. He wrapped his hands around Geralt’s neck.

Geralt dropped him into the bed.

He could deal with that. He didn’t mind if Geralt wanted to be a little rough. Geralt leaned over and picked up the blanket. He had an unfair amount of ass. A wonderfully unfair amount of ass.

Geralt looked at him. He grinned up at him when he noticed. He reached out and made grabby hands.

“We’re not having sex Jaskier. Stop that.”

He made a disappointed sound. “Why?” He whined.

“You’re drunk.”

“Booo. I’ve had plenty of sex drunk. I can do it.”

“No.”

He blinked. He nodded. He made grabby hands again.

Geralt rolled him over so he was facing the wall. He pouted. He wanted to see Geralt. He was so pretty. He tried to roll back the other way.

One of Geralt’s hands caught him and held him there as he climbed in the bed after him.

“I wanna be able to see you.” He pouted.

“You complain I smell when you do.”

“You do smell.” Geralt settled against his back. Warm. But not hot. He never woke up sweating next to Geralt. He was never sure how to feel about that. “It’s been growing on me though. Not the. Monster stink. That’s always bad. But the you stink is. Okay.”

“Great.” Geralt let his shoulder go but before he could turn around he’d draped it over his side.

Trapped.

He snuggled back into him in retaliation.

“It is pretty great.” He was very comfy and he was very safe and Geralt was doing that thing where he buried his nose in Jaskier’s hair. Which always made Geralt relax. It was pretty great.

It was pretty great.

 

It took Geralt almost three weeks to figure out the ‘my foods cold’ game. He still accepted the offering but now he didn’t bother waiting for it to go cold before eating it once it was obvious Jaskier wasn’t returning for it.

That combined with the more consistent meal schedule Jaskier had insisted on and the blanket had finally paid off last night. He’d woken up overheating and sweating! Geralt had rolled away from him! Sure it was the hottest night of summer and there hadn’t been a breeze but it counted!

It was a gross and sweaty victory and he’d never been more thrilled.

He was learning to celebrate the little victories. Like when he got more than a five word description of a hunt or scar. He was seriously tempted to just start making them up. That would teach Geralt what happened to Witchers who were stingy on the details.

But right now he had a far bigger victory to celebrate. Having won the attention of the most beautiful woman in town, as she surely must be. A handful of pox scars dappled her face like little stars. Her eyes matched her deep brown curls. They reminded him of tree bark. Sturdy and strong. Just like her.

She was a delight in both conversation and bed.

The only downside to sharing a bed after their activities was well. He was already hot and sweaty. And now she was pressed into his side and his furnace of a body was making it very uncomfortable very quickly.

He shed the blankets to buy time for her to fall asleep. He did not object to cuddling! He didn’t! He loved cuddling! He’d hold her all night long if he could.

But he couldn’t. He was going to leave the bed drenched if he didn’t get up and a least wipe off. Cool down.

He gently untangled them. Unfortunately well versed in this particular move. She didn’t stir.

He navigated to the wash basin in the dark. He’d been to plenty of inns. This wasn’t difficult either. Nor was washing himself down. Gathering his clothes in the dark was difficult but he managed. His socks were still in his shoes where he’d left them thankfully. He’d lost a lot of socks to these affairs.

All this things gathered he looked at her in the bed. Soft brown curls faintly lit through the dirty window. If he got back in bed with her he’d either fall off the bed trying to cool down or wake up sweating again. She was just too warm. For a single bed at least.

He pulled the blanket over her, stepped into his smallclothes and slipped down the hall.

Their room was dark when he entered. He paused. Listening.

Geralt’s breathing was slow and steady. Asleep. Probably.

He put his clothes down beside the door and shuffled over. Climbing in bed with a sleeping Witcher was likely a quick way to getting strangled. But Geralt would feel very bad about such an occurrence in the morning and he’d walk slower. So that wouldn’t be that terrible. One had to take some risks to avoid sleeping on the floor.

Besides if he didn’t wake Geralt then he could be the big spoon for once.

The bed creaked when he leaned in. He paused. Maybe Geralt was still asleep?

“Lock the door Jaskier.”

Ops.

Not asleep.

Also he’d forgotten to lock the door.

He locked the door.

He settled against Geralt’s back. Traced the myriad of scars that lined his uncovered skin. Brushed his chest hair. Geralt had taken to sleeping undressed when the inns had sturdy enough locks and doors. Which was reasonable given how hot these damn rooms got. He’d opened the window to let in a breeze but had covered himself in Jaskier’s blanket.

He expected Jaskier to come back. He’d cooled the room down for him. So he could be the one to keep Geralt warm.

Who was he to disappoint?

He nuzzled into the long white hair and snuggled closer. It still smelled faintly of his hair products. Chamomile. Buying two different washing sets didn’t make sense. It was more cost effective.

That’s what Geralt had said.

Jaskier just liked that Geralt smelled a little like him. Even if only faintly. For a little while Geralt was Jaskier’s.

Plus then he got to help use it. Make sure Geralt was properly applying it. In the bath. What a blessing bath time was.

He didn’t kiss Geralt’s neck. Geralt hadn’t done that to him so he’d need to ask first and that seemed like a question that would leave him tracking Roaches hooves in the dirt.
He nuzzled Geralt’s shoulder, neck and after propping himself on his arm slightly his cheek. Sunk his warmth into the cooler skin.

Geralt tolerated it for all of ten seconds before his hand came up and shoved his face back.

“Don’t.”

He whined and settled back down. “You do it to me all the time. I’m far less stubbly than you.”

“I’m not-” He cut himself off. Those massive shoulders curved inward. He rubbed circles over Geralt’s chest too soothe the newfound tension. Smoothing out the thick hair there. “You smell like her.” He eventually said.

“Really? I washed off before I came back.”

“I have a better nose.”

Witcher mutations and all that. “Should I have stayed away? A soap scrub in a dark foreign room might be beyond even my considerable skills.”

“No.” Geralt replied stilling Jaskier’s hand with his own. “Just don’t. Rub her into me.”

“Alright.” He agreed. A dangerous idea popped in his head. “You could fix that you know.” Geralt’s chest stopped its steady rise and fall. “I could smell like you instead.”

He wanted to roll his hips in emphasis but. He didn’t want to lose his big spoon privileges with an unwelcome boner. Last time Geralt had let him sleep facing him he’d been jarred awake to Geralt flipping him around so he couldn’t keep grinding against him in his sleep.

Which had been just very embarrassing. But he was youthful and horny and Geralt had just smelled so good and been nice and warm and fuck maybe being big spoon was a bad idea.

Geralt growled.

Fuck this was a very bad idea. He was going to be stuck as little spoon forever! He wanted to see that big chest and sleepy face and the way Geralt’s hair tumbled over his face in his sleep. Wanted to pet his hair and caress that jawline and breathe in the heavy musk of Geralt and the faint wisps of Chamomile that he had pressed into Geralt’s skin.

Dumb boner ruining everything.

Still horny bard?” Geralt’s hips shifted against him pressing more firmly against his hardening length.

He let out a breathless chuckle. The part of him that very desperately did not want to get kicked out of Geralt’s bed was screaming at him to apologize. To say he would take care of it and he would behave and reassure that Geralt was under no obligation to put up with his overeager anatomy. He’d buy a goddamn cage for it if that’s what it took to stay in Geralt’s bed. He’d do fucking anything to stay here. Endless unsatisfied Geralt boners would be worth it. Maddeningly worth it.

That was not the part of him that responded to Geralt’s continued shifting. His hips stuttered into a roll against Geralt’s and he groaned. He whimpered “Yes” into Geralt’s hair.
Geralt pulled away and he almost sobbed. Dumb boner ruined fucking everything.

Then Geralt was over him. Rolling him onto his back. Caging him in with those massive arms and barrel of a chest.

Dumb boner hadn’t ruined everything?

One of Geralt’s thighs, fuck those thick beautiful thighs, pressed right up against his straining smallclothes. Shifted ever so slightly. He couldn’t stop from grinding against them anymore than he could stop the gasp that escaped him.

Geralt made a pleased rumble above him. All he could see was the curtain of white lit by the filtered moonlight. He reached his trembling hands up to hold that face. Trace the contours and muscles.

That felt like a smile. Geralt turned his face into one of his palms and breathed in.

A shuttering exhale was all this clenched chest could manage. If Geralt was looking at him then all his affection and love was painfully bare to see. He loved him. He loved him so much.

Saying that would guarantee he never saw Geralt again. Geralt shifted his thigh again and his hips ground against it dragging a moan from him as his head tilted back in pleasure. His eyes almost closed but he wanted. He had to. He couldn’t look away. Not from Geralt.

Geralt’s mouth opened against his hand. “This is just-”

“Don’t!” He cried. Tears welling in his eyes. “Don’t make excuses to be with me like this. If you don’t want this tell me and I’ll deal with it Geralt. Be here doing this only because you want to be. Please. I will excuse everything else but not this. If you do this out of some sense of obligation I will never forgive you.”

Geralt was silent over him. He counted three heartbeats before he pulled his hands away. Sick to his stomach.

Dumb Jaskier. Ruined fucking everything.

“Jaskier.” Geralt shifted onto an elbow and grabbed one of his hands. He paused his frantic escape plan. “I want this.”

He exhaled in relief. His heart slowed its jackrabbit pace. “Oh good. I very much want this too.”

“I noticed.”

He twisted the hand Geralt had claimed to lace their fingers together and raised the other to his chest. Slowly ran it down the hard muscles that tensed and relaxed under his touch. They felt less defined now. Just a little softer over the abdominals. He stayed there reveling in it. Pressing a little firmer against the new give to feel the solid steel underneath.

“Can we get on with the show or are you just going to feel me up all night?”

“Oh you want a show now do you? I can give you a show.” He rolled his hips deliberately and moved his hand down to cup Geralt. Yes he did seem to want this.

Geralt groaned above him when he pulled him free and gave him a quick pull. Oh he wanted to hear that again. And again. And again. He started jerking him in earnest.

Geralt’s weight shifted to his forearm and capturing his wrist to stop him. Guided his hand back to Geralt’s chest. He whined in protest. “Later.”

Later was fine.

“Can I.” Geralt ground his leg against him again inspiring his hips back into motion. The fine hairs on his leg providing just a little more friction in a maddening way he wasn’t sure he entirely enjoyed. Oh fuck he was going to spill on Geralt and Geralt, who could still smell her after a wash, would smell like Jaskier for who knows how long. Fuck if that didn’t have him moving a little faster against him.

He wanted to ask something but every time he tried to slow down and think of what it was Geralt would grind against him again and he’d lose it. His hand tugged at the hair on his chest begging for a moment of respite. For more. For. Something.

“Geralt Geralt can I-“Geralt ground against him chuckling at his gasp. Oh fuck him he was better than this in bed. He wasn’t a desperate needy- oh fuck. “Geralt please!”

“Can you what Jaskier?” He stilled buying him a moment to figure out what it was.

He was looking up at Geralt and he couldn’t see but he wanted to see. Wanted to feel. “Can I” Geralt ground against him again. “Fuck you.” He cursed.

“Not tonight.” Geralt laughed.

“Kiss you. Can I kiss you?” He squeezed Geralt’s hand in his. “Please?” He closed his eyes, not that he could have seen the rejection even if they were open.

“Oh.” Geralt’s hand squeezed back. There was hot breath against his mouth and then. Then gentle lips against his. They drew back a fraction. “Sure.”

He opened his eyes and covered that fraction. Gentle, soft, and slow in all the way his hips were not.

Geralt allowed his gentle affection. Hesitantly returned it. Followed him as he slowly relaxed back into the mattress. He didn’t chase up after him when Geralt pulled away.

“Thank you.” He said with far too much reverence. Dangerous. That was dangerous.

Geralt was silent above him. His leg still.

Five heartbeats. He allowed them five heartbeats. He couldn’t see. Couldn’t tell if Geralt was. He couldn’t tell how Geralt was. If he left him there, trapped in his head, too long it might all come crashing down. A darkness lived there he couldn’t touch.

He ground against Geralt again. Reached his free hand to tug on Geralt’s hair. “Weren’t you going to make me smell like you instead?” Geralt groaned, jolted from wherever he had gone.

“You said that. Not me.”

“Don’t you want to though? I want you to. Make me smell like you.” ‘Make me yours. Be mine. Claim me in all the ways I want to claim you.’ He didn’t say. He jerked against Geralt and moaned to stop himself.

Geralt reached down and began stroking himself languidly. “Alright.”

Heat was building in his gut. “Can I come on you Geralt?” His hips were making little aborted jerks now. Fuck if Geralt said no he didn’t know what he’d do. He was so close. “Please.”

Geralt hummed over him. He tried to pull back. To stop himself. “Go on then.” Geralt pressed down into him. Rubbed against him and fuck it was all over.

He painted Geralt’s hip and thigh twitching against him instinctively trying to draw it out. Geralt groaned his own hips twitching above him.

Geralt let go of himself, collecting Jaskier’s spend in his hand. He watched in the small space between them as Geralt wrapped his seed coated hand back around himself picking up speed.

“Can I help? Got” He squeezed the hand Geralt was still holding. “One hand that’s very willing.”

“No. Just. Relax.” He leaned down and for one moment Jaskier hoped for another kiss. Geralt tucked himself into the crook of Jaskier’s neck instead. Not kissing or biting or sucking just. Breathing in. Jaskier pet the back of his head. “You’re quieter than I expected.”

“Not a fan of getting kicked out of inns. It’s a skill I’ve acquired.” He listened to the slide of Geralt’s hand. To his breath hitch.

“Does that mean you’d be loud if we were outside?”

“I could be. If you didn’t mind.” Geralt groaned and he felt teeth graze his shoulder for a moment before they were covered by his lips as if in apology. “Which it doesn’t sound like you do.”

“No. I don’t.” He paused, hand slowing. “That’s not an invitation to scream or pretend or any of that crap."

“If I’m screaming it’s because a monster has snuck up on us while you were distracted. Bad for the vocals, uncontrolled screaming.”

“I could make you scream for other reasons.” He shivered. He believed that. “No blow jobs then?”

“If you think I’m leaving that gorgeous cock un-worshiped now that it’s allowed you’re mad. I just have to be careful. You’re not. Unsubstantial.”

He snorted.

“Do you want me to tell you how I’d suck you off? How I’d have to wrap my hand around the base because I couldn’t take you all the way? How I’d kiss and suck and take everything you’d give me?” Geralt groaned into his shoulder. Hot air without the softness of skin. “Or do you just want me to tell you that you can kiss or suck or bite or whatever it is you want to do right now? Because you can. I want you to.”

Geralt didn’t move closer. He bared his neck to try and prove his willingness.

His lips touched down a moment later. His tongue licking at him. Tasting him. Sucking at the soft skin. Teeth grazing. Threatening but never hurting. Never biting.

He hummed his approval. If Geralt wanted Gentle tonight that was just fine. He was happy with Gentle. He carded his fingers through his hair.

“You’re gorgeous. Perfect. I love-” Geralt sucked on the sensitive skin above his collar bone, thankfully cutting him off. Dangerous. That was dangerous. “That. I love that. Are you going to leave marks? You can. My shirt would cover them and with my reputation no one would assume you’d done it but I would know. Please. Please Geralt.”

Geralt rewarded his begging, a litany of pleases falling from him, by sucking harder. That would definitely bruise. The rapid slide of his hand grew frantic before stilling with a heavy groan, warmth spattering under his navel.

Geralt collapsed right on top of him.

He squawked in protest.

“No no no! You are not falling asleep on top of me while we are both sticky and covered in- ugh- us. At least let me clean off you big” He pushed against Geralt’s shoulder to dislodge him. It didn’t work. “Immoveable slug of a man you!”

“I’m asleep.” Geralt muttered against his cheek. He spit out Geralt’s hair that had snuck into his mouth while he was talking.

“Oh I’m sure you are! We are going to get stuck together if you don’t crush me in my sleep and we’ll wake up very sweaty and gross! I am a human furnace and I cannot be underneath you!”

“I know. You’re always warm.” Geralt sunk even more of his massive weight into him. Fuck he’d been holding himself up still? Not that it didn’t feel lovely. Being under Geralt. It was really quite lovely. The heavy weight of sleep sinking into him where Geralt was pressed. “I won’t crush you. I’ll clean it up in the morning.”

“You’d better. Or else I’ll.” The thought drifted off. “Think of something.”

“Sure you will.”

He laid there, his heart trying to match Geralt’s. It couldn’t, even on the edge of sleep it still beat double his time. But it certainly tried.

He never got to be like this. Under someone like this. Pleasantly crushed between the mattress and someone else. He always had to roll them onto their sides so he wouldn’t overheat too quickly. This wasn’t sustainable but it was nice.

Geralt was still holding his hand. That was also nice. He put his free arm over Geralt’s massive back.

It was cold. That wasn’t nice.

He blindly fumbled for the blanket. It would make him overheat even faster but Geralt was cold.

“Stop moving.” Geralt grumbled over him.

“You’re cold.”

“I’m fine.”

He couldn’t find the blanket. He couldn’t move to find it. Geralt was cold. Chilly at the very least.

He brought his hand back to Geralts chest which was warm. “Can we flip? So I’m on top?”

“You like being on the bottom.”

“Mmhmm. But I never get to be on top. I’m too big.”

“You’re not that big.” The weight over him shifted and Geralt rolled them over. “Bigger than your garb makes you look.”

He shimmied rearranging himself. There was the blanket. He tucked it into Geralt’s side. If he threw it over them he’d just kick it off within the hour.

“Yes.” He agreed with a yawn. “That and standing next to you. You make mountains look small.”

Geralt turned his head into Jaskier’s hair. Breathing in.

“Do I smell better now?” His eyes were heavy so he let them fall closed.

“Mmm.”

“Good.”

Good.

 

It’s been months now. Yet Geralt always repeats his same lines over and over again.

When its food it’s always ‘you weren’t going to eat it after it went cold’ the twentieth time he buys Geralt an extra meal or it ‘would have gone bad if I hadn’t eaten it’ to the snacks he packs in Roaches bag for Geralt. He must know they’re for Geralt right? Even though he refuses to let Jaskier say it. He must know. He doesn’t even like pears.

With sex it was always because Jaskier was horny. Jaskier was aroused. Occasionally Geralt said no to his advances. He was always so glad to hear that no. At least if Geralt didn’t want something he’d reject it. But he never got the chance to say no back.

Some of that was because well, he was young and it was Geralt. With beautiful Geralt around he was very very rarely in the mood to say no. Very rarely too tired for a romp. But Geralt never cornered him with a dark look in his eyes when he had places he needed to be. Never once made a request when he was tired or angry or uninterested. Those moments were rare but they existed and never once had Geralt asked during them.

Some small part of him wanted that opportunity. To say ‘No’ to Geralt. He would listen, he had no doubts about that. But he wanted that chance to say ‘no’. Just so Geralt would know every ‘Yes’ meant something more.

It was a silly desire. If Geralt thought for even a moment he’d taken something he wasn’t allowed his shame would have him fleeing to the ends of the world again.

He just couldn’t help but hear the excuse every time Geralt leaned over him and asking in the cloy voice ‘still horny bard?’ or ‘so you’ll stop poking me’ in response to a late night dream or when he was in a more commanding mood ‘get down on your knees Jaskier, I Know you want to.’

He did. He did want to. He wanted Geralt and it was clear that, on some level at very least, Geralt wanted Jaskier. He just wanted to be wanted without the threadbare cover of an excuse.

So tonight he was testing the most threadbare excuse. The one on which their whole relationship was bound.

He laid there under his too hot blanket on the soft earth and waited. Stared up at the endless sky.

Waits as the fire dies out. Waits as Geralt lays there, too cold to sleep. Jaskier doesn't shiver because he wasn't cold. And he waits.

Waits as the moon rises high into the sky and Geralt curls tighter around himself, rubbing his arms to try and warm them. Waits for Geralt to just ask. Ask damn you.

Ask for the blanket or to sleep next to him. Or just come take what he knows is freely and willingly given. Just ask. Ask for what you need.

But, he realizes as Geralt lays there, it is not a need. Geralt survived long before him. Would perhaps survive long after. Geralt asks for what he needs. He needs one plate of food. He needs his armor in one piece. He needs to stay just warm enough to survive.

He does not ask for what he wants. Because Witchers do not want. Because Geralt does not allow himself to want anything more than he needs.

If there is no reason, no excuse- no matter how threadbare, then he will only take what he needs. He does not need Jaskier or his blanket on a summer night. He will not freeze.

It is this. This that breaks his heart a thousand times. Perhaps more painful than any rejection from Geralt will ever be. Because at the core of all those rejections will be this. Geralt does not allow himself to want.

He forces a shiver down his spine. Watches Geralt’s ears prick at the sound, even though they both know he can smell the sweat running down Jaskier’s spine under the blanket, and not a moment later he is wrapped in Geralt’s arms.

“Your shivering was keeping me awake.”

“I know.” Tears threaten to fall as he tosses the blanket over Geralt and he desperately presses warmth into his heart. “I know.”

Your shivering was keeping me awake too.

 

Things were going swimmingly. Absolutely wonderfully. The tavern was full, coin was plentiful, he’d finally commissioned new boots and someone had just announced they’d spotted Geralt returning from his latest hunt.

Sure, he’d wanted to join him but Geralt had said no. Which wouldn’t have stopped him last month but.

Well he wasn’t terribly interested in tracking the Witcher through swamp water during the first real chill of autumn. Besides Foglets were tricky buggers. No he was more than willing to wait right here whipping up the warm welcome and a warmer room Geralt deserved.

There was a commotion outside. Really how much gore had he gotten himself covered in this time?

The door slammed open which was more than enough to tell him it wasn’t Geralt. Geralt might bang doors open but he didn’t slam them. Slamming was a show of force he didn’t need. He kept playing.

“The Witcher just fell off his horse!”

He stopped playing.

The world was rushing around him but as he turned to the door as if through molasses. Both too fast and too slow all at once.

He gripped the door frame. The wood felt real under his fingers. Nothing else did.

There was a crowd gathered around Roach. No rider astride her. She raised her head to meet his gaze.

He shoved through the crowd.

Geralt. In the dirt.

A shaking hand touched his eternally pale cheek.

Cold.

Geralt shuddered.

Shivered.

Geralt never shivered.

“Get the healer.” Someone said in his voice. They didn’t move. “Get the healer Now!” He yelled locking eyes with one woman in the crowd. She nodded and ran.

“Gwen!” He turned behind him finding the innkeeper. The man flinched. “The room with the fireplace! Set it up now!”

“That’s not what-“

“You’ll get your fucking coin! Move!” He did. The crowd was backing away.

He searched them. Found the farmhand who’d lifted him earlier in a show of strength. “You.” The man jumped and pointed to himself. “Help me carry him inside.”

He hesitated. “Now!” The demand collapsing into a desperate plea. He ran over.

They pulled him up off the ground. The bottom half of his armor was shredded and blood ran lazily down his leg darkening the black with a terrible shine.

Roach snorted after them. “And someone stable Roach!” He called back.

Gwen held the door open for them. His daughter was setting up the fireplace. They lowered Geralt into the nearest bed.

“The sheets.” Gwen mourned.

“Ill move him once he’s done bleeding and you can ask your lovely wife how to get blood out of them.” He rested a hand on the farmhand’s shoulder. It was shaking. “Be a dear and bring our things up off Roach?”

He nodded and slipped out of the room as Gwen hissed, “Why do you think my wife knows how to get blood out of sheets?”

Geralt’s face wasn’t black with toxicity. A good sign. He’d likely taken white honey before he rode back, buying time for it to take effect. When the farmhand- he should ask for his name- returned he could give him swallow to help with the bleeding. The effect might be somewhat diminished by the remaining white honey but. Geralt needed all the help he could get right now.

“You have children. Do not make me explain this to you.” Were all men so daft? Not that he’d been better before they had started helping him clean gore from his outfits. But he hadn’t been married long enough to sire children. “Have several buckets of water run up here and make sure that fire blazes.”

He began stripping the armor off him. He was loath to do it but it was wet and hiding Geralt’s condition. How far away did that damn healer live? At least it was just the smell of blood. Blood and monster. Everything but his blood appeared to have stayed where it should be. He should be stopping it. Holding it in. But didn’t foglets have claws? What if one had gotten stuck in there and he pushed down and he made everything so much worse? Or what if it hadn’t been a foglet and had in fact been something far worse?

His hands shook over the red mess of Geralt’s abdomen. It curled around his hip. Was still bleeding. Geralt was shivering.

“Jaskier. You. Don’t have to do this.” Gwen’s voice called to him.

What the hell was he talking about? He couldn’t see the goddamn wound thanks to all the other mess. “Where’s that water? Our things? I need our things. And the healer. I’m not.” His head was spinning. His useless fucking hands were shaking so much. “Qualified.”

There was a hand on his shoulder. Steadying him. “It’s alright.” Gwen assured him.

It wasn’t Geralt was getting worse with every fucking second and he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what to fucking do.

“It’s just a witcher.”

He had Gwen pinned to the wall, feet dangling, before he knew what he was doing. “That man just risked his life to save your goddamn town and tavern.” He snarled.

Geralt could smell fear, or so he claimed. Which always seemed silly. There were many kinds of fear. Did they all smell the same? Could Geralt detect the nuances of scared verses anxious? Overwhelmed or worried?

Either way Gwen smelled like it. Like fear.

A twist of vindictive satisfaction filled the aching maw in his chest.

“I brought your things?” The farmhand’s voice called to him. He glanced over.

There were their bags. Many and heavy and carefully held in his arms. The fire roared beside them.

“I’m sorry.” He lowered Gwen carefully to the ground. He’d been trying to help. Allowed them their best room to bloody and done as he’d asked and tried to comfort him, even if it had been the shittiest comfort possible. “I’m sorry. The water. Please.”

Gwen was shaking as he nodded and dashed from the room. The satisfaction was instantly replaced with an horror. He was not the kind of person to use force and fear. He did not want to be that kind of person. Not now or ever. He was a flower, a weed perhaps, but not a weapon or his father. That was not the kind of person he wanted to be.
He was going to be sick.

“Jaskier? Where should I put these?” The farmhand asked him. Concern laced under the strain of his muscles at the weight.

“Anywhere is fine.” He lifted two off his shoulders to relieve the burden. One was the potion bag, the most delicate of their belongings. “Thank you. There’s a blanket in this one.” He tapped the bag compressed against his ribs. “Can you pull it out?”

He put his bags down and knelt, digging through them. Swallow. The clothing scraps they used as bandages. He set the bag aside. He was shaking so badly he couldn’t get the cork off.

“Here’s the blanket.”

He looked at it. The boring brown color he’d settled for so he might have enough to get Geralt extra food while still keeping him warm. He took it in one arm and buried his face in it. Breathing in the way their soap and sweat melded into the wool.

His heart slowed and his hands stilled into a fine tremor.

He could work with that.

He wrapped Geralt’s legs in the blanket up to the wound without covering it. Uncorked the vial with a pop. “What’s your name?”

“Anastazy. Is he going to be alright?”

He let out a bright laugh. “Haven’t you heard Anastazy?” He lifted Geralt’s head and fed him the potion. “Witchers never die in their beds.”

“Oh.” He fidgeted. “Alright then.”

Gwen’s daughter slipped in with a bucket. He waved her over and took it. Began washing away the dried blood to evaluate the injury, bandaging what he could. “Thank you. You build excellent fires.”

She blushed at the earnestness in his voice and slipped from the room.

“Is there anything else I can do?” Anastazy asked.

He hummed. “Did Roach get taken care of?”

“Yeah Dymek, the stable hand, was brushing her down when I left.”

“Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the healer.”

“It seems like you’ve got it handled.”

Fuck there was a bit of claw stuck there. He pulled it out and pressed a bandage into the spot as it started bleed again. “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.” He laughed.

Anastazy’s hand squeezed his shoulder. “I don’t think that’s true.”

If Anastazy stayed a moment more he’d breakdown in his arms and Geralt still needed tending too. He grabbed his coin pouch and shoved it at him breaking his grip. “Can you make sure everyone gets paid? I don’t want to leave.”

Anastazy stared at him but he couldn’t met his gaze. He took the pouch gently from him. “Yeah. Yeah of course.”

The door clicked closed behind him. Dumb. That was dumb. Trusting a stranger to not just run away with his coin. To make sure the townsfolk didn’t take advantage of them. Dumb.

But he survived on the generosity of others. If they decided to hurt them he couldn’t stop them. Trust. He had to trust. In the goodness of people that wanted to help.

He’d been burned before and he’d be burned again and none of that mattered because trusting was worth it. It was.

The healer came in at some point. Applied a salve and bandaged the wounds. He watched. Fed the fire. Reassured Geralt when he briefly rejoined them. She gave him directions. When to rewrap the wounds. How to keep it clean. What to do should it become infected.

Told him to keep him warm. Blood loss caused shock and worsened the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis.

“Son,” She cupped his cheek and turned him to her. She was beautiful and in any other moment he would be falling over himself for her. “One of us can watch him while you take a break. It’s alright.”

He held her steady grey eyes for a single heartbeat before he was sobbing into her arms. Breaking apart at all the fragile cracks. She held him steady and soothing. Stroking his back until the shaking finally receded. He pulled back wiping his face with his handkerchief.

“Do you want me to take the first shift? You can catch a nap on the other bed. I’ll wake you if anything changes.”

He shook his head. “He’ll be better by morning. Witcher healing and all that. We’ll be fine. Anastazy should be downstairs-“

“Yes we already spoke, he showed me in. Don’t you worry about that none.”

“Ah. In that case. Let me know in the morning if it’s not enough? I’d hate to have shortchanged you after all your help.”

She squeezed his arm and stepped out. “Send someone if you change your mind.”

“I will.”

The door clicked closed behind her. He tucked all the blankets they had over Geralt and fed the fire. The room was practically baking. Geralt still shivered.

There was another bed. They didn’t have to share. They had no reason to share, except Geralt was cold. Except that he couldn’t bare the idea of leaving Geralt’s side.

Geralt was always so much worse about accepting help and comfort when he was injured. He needed a proper excuse to offer Geralt in the morning. Something to relieve the emotional vulnerability brought on by his physical vulnerability.

But he was exhausted and Geralt was shivering and injured. He crawled into the bed, hyper aware of each wound. Tucked himself into Geralts uninjured side. Pressed all the warmth he had into Geralt.

Tomorrow he would think of some excuse to offer Geralt. Some olive branch to save him from drowning.

For now he rested his head over Geralt’s slow but blessedly steady heart and just tried to keep him warm.

He jolted awake several times in the night. Got up to feed the fire before returning to his post. Perhaps he would wake just before dawn and sneak into the other bed. They would both know but Geralt wouldn’t have to face the reality of Jaskier’s actions.

He woke tucked into Geralt’s side, arm over his chest and with one foot pressing into his calf. The tension under his hand more than enough to tell him Geralt was awake. Awake. Mind Grinding itself to dust trying to find some excuse. One that didn’t relate to his wounds. One that didn’t relate to what, Geralt certainly believed, was some kind of personal failing.

Were he a cleverer man he’d have forced himself to think of something last night. At least when he woke during the night. Shifted to the other bed when he woke.

His mind was blank. No excuse came to mind. No lie to soothe with. Geralt had offered every one before now. He was not in the business of lying. Not to Geralt.

So instead he offers some of his truth.

“I sleep better next to you.”

He squeezes Geralt a little tighter against him as he tenses. Tucks his head under Geralt’s so Geralt could lean slightly down, bury himself in Jaskier’s hair, and breathe in.

Geralt always seemed to like that. Liked to breathe him in.

He does. Each breath unwinding the tension that had pulled him taunt until he was warm and relaxed under Jaskier.

He tucked the blankets up over Geralt’s shoulders, slipping out of the bed. “I’m going to get breakfast. I’ll be right back.” He promised.

Geralt dozed, not bothering to respond. It was hard to resist the urge to kiss him. To at least caress.

He was weak and wanting but not so weak as to take what wasn't his. Geralt had made no such allowances outside of their shared bed.

He took a moment outside the door to steady his heart. Pressed a hand against his chest. One day. Maybe one day Geralt would admit that he slept better next to Jaskier too.

For now. He goes to breakfast.

 

Anastazy seemed to have served- served? Aided?- him fairly. Gwen had what remained of his savings and Geralt’s reward tucked behind the bar. Passed him breakfast and the coin assuring him that his debts were paid in full. His pouch was light, but not empty. He wouldn’t be able to cover the remaining costs with the cobbler though.

There were worst things then soggy socks.

Geralt was propped up on the headboard when he returned. Geralt ate in silence and didn’t comment on the three eggs on his plate to Jaskier's one. Jaskier regaled him with the gossip he’d collected yesterday, knowing Geralt wasn’t paying any attention.

It wasn’t important anyway. He just needed to talk. Geralt seemed to realize that.

“Don’t you have to pick up your shoes?” Geralt asked out of nowhere while Jaskier repacked their bags.

He jumped. “oh- I- well you know I don’t really need new shoes.”

“You do.”

“They’ll last.” He debated picking up a third bag. Better to escape this conversation quickly and have to make another trip. He went for the door as quickly as he could without obviously running.

“You’re out of coin again.”

His face twitched at the statement. Not even a question. “You know me.” He gripped the door handle tightly and opened it. “Terrible with money.”

“Hmm.”

The sound chased him down the stairs.

 

“Saddle Roach and meet me at the south entrance.” Geralt said dropping the last bag at his feet before greeting Roach.

He gapped at Geralt.

Geralt glared at him. “Don’t ride her.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Okay That was a lie, he dreamed of riding her all the time. And then Geralt yanking him off Roach demanding he ride him instead. “But you never let me saddle Roach.” He’d witnessed it enough to know how to but “It’s your special morning time.”

Geralt growled at that. “Don’t dawdled.” He slipped out of the stable without another word.

“Well that was strange aye Roach?” She nickered at him. Or maybe at the remaining oats. It was hard to tell. “Glad we agree.” He said anyway.

 

Geralt was waiting for them at the edge of town. It was odd leading Roach. And saddling her. Not that these saddles were particularly complicated but he still worried he’d done something wrong. Especially once Geralt started examining his work. He tightened the girth but didn’t comment.

Well at least he hadn’t messed up too terribly then.

Geralt shoved the bag they used for buying trail rations into his arms. When had Geralt taken that out?

“You got me a gift?” He peered into the bag. “If you’re trying to repay me for yesterday I’m going to be quite peeved with you. Friends do not keep score.”

“We’re not friends.” Lier. His eyebrows knit together as he pulled out the leather cloth. “I’m just sick of you whining about your feet.”

They were beautiful. Exactly as commissioned but with the touches of someone who very much knew what they were doing. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

He flung off his old shoes and slid into them. Pranced around. It was strange not having the deep grooves carved into the bottoms or the ever present rocks that snuck in through the holes in the soles.

They were so lovely.

“They’re perfect.” And they’d been so expensive. His head snapped up to Geralt’s. “I’ll-” pay you back. He almost said. Geralt’s face stopped him.

Friends don’t keep score he’d said.

“Be enjoying these immensely.” He eventually concluded.

“Put the old ones in the bag in case they don’t fit.”

“Right.” He did and Geralt started walking.

“Where to today my friend?”

“North.”

“Oh?”

“Winters coming.”

“Shouldn’t we be heading south then? What do you have some grand castle up north you huddle in each winter?”

There was a few seconds of silence as he pictured it. Massive stone walls. Giant fire places. Rugs made of the most fearsome monsters.

“It’s not a castle.”

He blinked. “But there is such a place?”

“Hm. Kaer Morhen. Where I was trained.”

“Oh! Must be quite the place then. The stories those walls could tell!” He mused.

“Sad stories mostly.”

He knocked their shoulders together. “Not all of them or you wouldn’t go back.” He paused. “Right?”

“Not all of them.”

He smiled. “Good. I should love to see it someday. I suspect your descriptions of it will be terribly lackluster compared to the real thing.”

“Humans aren’t allowed.”

He hummed disappointed. “Then you shall have to get better at describing. For that’s a tragedy.”

Geralt’s brow furrowed in heavy thought. Well if he was going to attempt it now then he could distract himself while Geralt sorted out the words. It was a beautiful autumn morning. Plenty of distracting views.

“What are you going to do?”

“Keep walking?”

“This winter.”

“Oh. Well I rather thought this was year round gig but I suppose I’ll head to Oxenfurt. I’ve friends there. I’ll manage just fine I should think.”

“Hmm. I’ll ask.”

“Ask?”

“About next winter.”

“Ask… if I can come with you next winter?”

Geralt directed Roach between them as a barrier. “Hm.”

“That. That would mean the world to me Geralt.”

“I don’t make the decision. He’ll probably say no.”

“He?” That wasn’t the important part. “That you’d ask at all is more than enough.”

He pranced ahead enjoying the softness of his new shoes, turning to look at Geralt. He grunted and looked away.

“You know my blanket doesn’t fit in my case. You’ll have to return it to me in the spring.”

Geralt studied him for a moment. A smile creeped onto his face, softening around his eyes. His heart nearly burst from the too small confines of his chest.

“I suppose I will.”