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and i met a witch in the woods one day

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“Pah,” the witch spat, the floorboards creaking under her as she stood up from her squat on legs as long and thin as a spider’s. Her teeth were grey when she peeled her lips back, not the gray of rot and decay but of iron and they sparked when she clenched her jaw in rage. She filled the room with her massiveness, the size of it coming in and out of focus; first, a cavern, smelling of wood-damp and earth and soot, and then a kitchen filled with smoke and the odour of something foul bubbling away on the hearth. She stomped her foot and the roof shook, dust and cobwebs falling into their hair. Not for the first time Geralt wished he’d convinced Jaskier to stay back at the camp. But the potential romance of the situation, an enchanted cottage appearing from the mist, had given his eyes that shining look that Geralt was beginning to dread. He became impossible to deal with when he was in that mood.

No doubt he’d been imagining a hedge of roses and a cursed princess inside. Instead there was a fence built from human skulls and windows too grimy to see through in order to anticipate what they might be facing. A crow in the treeline looked down at them with a considering expression, rustling night-black wings.

The villagers said the hut had appeared two weeks before, squatting on the edge of the forest like an army in approach. No one had emerged. Not until Jaskier had knocked on the door and it opened all on its own. There was only darkness within.

“Huh,” Jaskier said. “Maybe it’s abandoned?” He moved to take a step forward.

Geralt stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Wait,” he said, but by then it was too late, the house was tipping inexplicably backwards and they were falling into the waiting shadow.

“I smell the blood of the young,” the witch said, crouched down and almost hidden under a tangled mass of white hair, which reached the floor. “And the old, and the ageless. Who goes there?”

“Gera—”

“Speak up!” she shrieked, drawing herself up to her full and tremendous height. “Speak up, no flinching fools in this house! Who goes there?”

Geralt paused. He could feel a line appearing between his eyebrows. No one had ever called him flinching before. While he was trying to decide how to react to it, Jaskier stepped in.

He bowed to her with a flourish. “Travelling musicians, kind babcia. We took a wrong turn on the path and were looking for directions back to town.” Geralt saw his expressive hands shake, and Jaskier’s eyes were as round as a frog’s, but the old woman didn’t notice. She’d turned away, sucking on her teeth.

“Grandmother,” she said, and let out a wild laugh. It echoed off the walls and sounded like a rushing river. “No grandmother here, and certainly not yours. You don’t know much. What do you sing about, musician, if you don’t know much?”

“Adventure, dear lady,” Jaskier said. “And love.”

Something was happening to the house. It was moving, raising up from the ground, the sky through the tree branches outside the windows coming into sharper focus. Not smoothly; they weren’t flying. It was a sharp and jostling movement, bouncing along like a carriage over rough ground. Like it was running.

This was all getting out of control. Geralt eyed the closest window. Maybe he could pry it open, get Jaskier through it before anything worse happened. The rest he would deal with after.

“Love,” the old woman said, contempt making her voice shiver. “And you dare cross my doorstep and say this. You think love is a flower, a song, a bauble. You shallow silly boy. I should put you in the pot for this insult.”

Geralt stepped in front of Jaskier, his hand on the hilt of his sword and his face set. Jaskier shrank back, content to let Geralt deal with this. Good. Then he wouldn’t get in the way.

“Love,” the witch crooned, and her eyes were filled with black light. “Love boils the blood. Love burns the bones. Men die and kill for it. Wars rage and nations fall. I have watched the world end and be born again for love. Do you know what it is, Witcher? Do you, minstrel?”

Geralt found he couldn’t answer. It was like his jaw was sewn shut. Beside him, Jaskier made a horrified and muffled noise.

“No,” said the old woman. “But you will.”

 

Geralt woke up cold and aching in a clearing, not for the first time. Not Jaskier’s first time either, if he was any judge. Jaskier bolted upright with a panicked yell, grabbing first at his throat and then, inexplicably, at his balls. Finding both in working order, he got to his feet.

Geralt moved more slowly. His head was spinning like he’d been caught in a whirlpool, but nothing else seemed amiss. His weapons were where they were supposed to be. So were his limbs. What else could he ask for? “We need to find the road,” he said.

“What in seven hells was that?” Jaskier demanded. “Who was she, and what did she have against me?”

“Maybe you slept with her wife.”

“Oh, ha ha ha, very fun— wait!” Jaskier scrambled to catch up with him. It was night, and they’d lost who knew how many hours. He shivered a little, drawing close to Geralt’s side. “Aren’t you curious? Maybe there’s something in one of your grimoires.”

Geralt grunted. He just hoped it hadn’t been a week, and that their campsite would be undisturbed. “You can look through them when we get back, if you want.”

“Really?” Jaskier said, brightening up. “You’d let me?”

“No bending any pages,” Geralt said, and then when he caught Jaskier’s amused reaction: “Those books are older than you are.”

Jaskier did go through them, reading while absentmindedly eating a bowl of rabbit stew that Geralt had prepared. “I don’t see anything that sounds like what we experienced,” he said. “Though I have learned that a rusałka fears wormwood.” He closed the book and handed it to Geralt. “You should add to it. We might be the first to have encountered — whatever she was.”

Geralt doubted that, because he knew ancient magic when he saw it. “I have my own books for that,” he said. “Every Witcher does.”

“I for one don’t know what I’m going to write about it. It didn’t have a very exciting ending, did it?”

“Any ending where I’m alive is good enough for me.”

“Oh, I don’t believe that, my friend. You like being the hero more than you let on.”

Geralt felt suddenly cross and impatient. He returned the book to his saddlebags and started burying the fire. “If it’s a hero you want you ought to be travelling with someone else.”

Jaskier frowned at him and then yawned widely. “I don’t know why you—” he started, only to get interrupted by a drop of rain hitting him in the face. “Damn it all, rain again. I’m already waterlogged. Will summer never arrive?”

The tent wasn’t much, a few strips of waxed cloth, but it did the trick. Geralt pulled the blankets from his bedroll over himself and closed his eyes only to open them again when Jaskier tried to get in there with him. “What,” he said.

“I’m freezing,” Jaskier said. “I spent the night in a field and I don’t have your Witcher constitution, Geralt—”

“Fine,” Geralt said. “But be quiet, please.”

“Oh,” Jaskier said. “Well, yes. I can do that.”

Geralt closed his eyes again. He listened to the rain hit the tent over his head, and tried not to be distracted by Jaskier’s warmth next to him.

“I could sing you a lullaby,” Jaskier whispered. “If you’re having trouble sleeping.”

Geralt bit down on the laugh that was attempting to escape his throat, but he couldn’t do anything about the accompanying smile. “Behave yourself,” he said, as sternly as possible. “Or I’ll make you sleep outside the tent.”

“Mmhmm. I’m sure you will.”

Jaskier.”

“Aren’t we supposed to be sleeping?” Jaskier asked, and then rolled over and did just that, with enviable ease.

 

Geralt began to notice that something was off in the next town. It wasn’t much, a handful of scattered houses and shops, but there was a tavern with a few rooms for rent above it. He paid for one and ordered a bath to be drawn up. Jaskier set himself up in the corner and started strumming a tune on his lute, his eyes cast down, eyelashes spread across his cheeks like a lady’s fan.

“He’s adorable,” a serving girl who brought a pint over to Geralt murmured, leaning in as if they shared a secret.

“I’m sure he’ll be happy you think so,” Geralt said.

She swatted him on the arm. Geralt raised his eyebrows. “Bad,” she said. “I know how to stay on my own side of the street, thank you very much.”

Why had Geralt been chosen for this confidence? He didn’t know. He wanted to sit and drink quietly. But she looked like she was waiting for an answer.

“That’s good,” he said, and hoped it would be enough to make her go away. It was, and Geralt got to finish his drink in peace. But that was only the beginning of it.

 

It came out of the mines up in the mountain, but Geralt thought it must have arrived at them from deeper in, a cave system or underground river. A koshchey loved the damp. It also loved killing, and when it headed for the village, hungry and uncontained, everything started to go wrong.

Jaskier rode ahead on Roach to warn and evacuate the village. He looked over his shoulder at Geralt once, nodded tightly, and did as he was asked. Geralt didn’t let himself look after him, didn’t try and memorize the shape of his back as he rode away. He also didn’t say goodbye, because if he did Jaskier would never leave. Every monster was potential death, but some were worse than others. The koshchey was made by and from forbidden magic. It had armour thicker than any knight. Geralt knew what he was walking into.

He would do the best he could. He wouldn’t think of Jaskier wandering the world alone. The village would be cleared, if the people were smart enough to listen to what Jaskier was telling them. No worry, no nerves, no fear. There was no room left in Geralt right now for anything but the fight. He was clean and purposeful as an arrow.

He slashed and hacked and forced the koshchey back, only for it to surge forward and knock him out of the way. He tasted dirt and rolled out from under a pincer that would have gone straight through his head if he’d waited another second. Geralt kicked upwards, jarring the koshchey enough to make it rear up on its hind legs, exposing gaps in the scaling along its abdomen. Geralt lunged forward and pushed the edge of his silver blade in, teeth clenched in the effort and sweat dripping into his eyes. Almost. Almost.

The koshchey screamed. It was an alarmingly human sound, like a woman in pain. When it rolled over it took Geralt with it as he struggled to get his sword free. He managed to get it loose in a shower of blood and to avoid being crushed by the creature’s weight. But still they weren’t done, and now the Koshchey was enraged. The great pincers came down again and again, kicking up a flurry of dust that made it heard to see, that slowed his reaction time.

Geralt needed to get out from under it. He made a gamble and leaped, his sword held in both hands, the blade pointing down.

It landed true, lodging between shifting scales in the monster’s carapace. The koshchey screamed and bucked like an unbroken horse; Geralt hung on for dear life. It began to run, taking him along for the ride.

They were moving straight towards the village, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

If Geralt was the praying type, he would have done so now. As it was, he let himself hope that his luck would hold out for a few minutes more, that the village wouldn’t be filled with children and butchers and fishwives when he arrived, that Jaskier would have been regarded, and that the man himself would have the sense to take himself off to safety with them.

He got half his wish. The village was clear when they roared in, and if anyone was left in it they were hiding, tucked away from the danger. There was an abandoned market set up, root vegetables in baskets and chickens in cages and a goat tied to a post. They crashed through it in a haze of feathers and chaos. The koshchey was weakening; it was streaming blood and Geralt could feel a death rattle rolling through the powerful body beneath him. Yet it still had the rage of the dying animal, the one caught in a corner and fighting for what remained of its existence. Nothing wanted to die, not even monsters.

And then Jaskier stepped out from behind a shed, a lit torch in his hand.

“No,” Geralt said.

Jaskier set his jaw and rushed forward into the fray. He was yelling, shouting for the beast’s attention, waving the fire at it. If they both survived this, Geralt was going to kill him. “Don’t try and—” he started to call out, and the next word was supposed to be “help”, but he never got to say it; suddenly he was on his back, looking up at the clouded-over sky, and the koshchey was free of him.

Geralt sprang to his feet. He saw the koshchey—on fire now, burning from Jaskier’s torch—rise up to strike. His sword was still sticking out of its back, and surely Jaskier was its intended target, though Geralt couldn’t see him, he couldn’t get there fast enough—

It was falling, and he heard Jaskier scream.

A bolt of fear went through him. It was the kind of fear he didn’t feel anymore, one that made him want to pull a blanket over his head like he was a child having a nightmare. It was the fear of seeing what was there.

“Jaskier?” he asked when he reached under the koshchey’s unmoving bulk. There was Jaskier’s hand, curled almost into a fist. The fingers twitched.

“Melitele’s tits,” Jaskier groaned, “this thing is heavy.”

“It’s also on fire,” Geralt said, relief rushing through him like a drink of cool water. “We need to get you out.”

It was easier said than done. The damned thing seemed to weigh twice as much dead, and Geralt couldn’t budge it no matter how he tried. Jaskier made a distressed noise. “Oh, hurry,” he said, and something compelled Geralt to waste time and push his hand under the koshchey and wrap his fingers about Jaskier’s wrist. He shoved hard with his shoulder and managed to move it a few inches.

There were people trickling back into the town square, though he didn’t turn his head to look. “Papa,” someone said from behind him, “help him!”

“Wait,” Geralt said on an old instinct, one that Vesemir had given him, one that insisted he get the humans as far away from this as possible.

“Is it dripping acid blood?” Jaskier demanded from under the creature, his voice high and strained. “No? Then by the gods let them help, Geralt!”

Very suddenly there were hands on either side of him, pushing at the koshchey’s sides. It started to move with a sound like steel scraping on rock. Jaskier crawled out from underneath. His nose was bleeding and he was favouring one shoulder, the doublet torn. He looked up at Geralt with wide eyes. “I think it got me—” he said.

Geralt picked him up and threw him over his shoulder.

“I—there is nothing whatsoever wrong with my legs. Geralt. Geralt. Unhand me,” Jaskier said, from where he was hanging upside down, tugging at the back of Geralt’s shirt like a sulking child.

Geralt kicked open the door at the first inn he could find. “I need hot water, clean linen and a needle and thread,” he snapped at the startled innkeeper, who was huddled behind the bar with his family and patrons. A crowd had followed them in and they were pulling up chairs, asking the innkeeper for ale, all talking at once.

Geralt carried Jaskier up the stairs and checked doors until he found an unoccupied room. He sat Jaskier on the bed—who looked dizzy—and took his doublet off. The shoulder of his shirt was wet with blood, but thankfully not much. His nose had stopped bleeding. Geralt put two fingers on the bridge and pressed down lightly. Jaskier winced.

“It’s not broken,” Geralt told him.

“It feels broken.”

“Just swollen,” Geralt said. He pulled Jaskier’s shirt over his head as delicately as he could. The wound was ragged but not deep. Still, Geralt looked at it with his fists clenched by his sides.

“Is it bad?” Jaskier asked.

“No,” said Geralt, abruptly, and turned towards the door. “I need that linen.”

A girl was halfway up the stairs carrying his supplies when he got out there. He took them from her and came back to find Jaskier poking at his wound, pale in the face.

“Don’t touch it,” he said.

“I know. It’s just—it looks plenty bad to me, Geralt.”

“If it was bad you’d be bleeding to death.” Geralt wiped the wound clean with a strip of wet linen, scalded the needle and got started. “It’s going to hurt,” he said, almost apologetically. Jaskier bore it better than he might have guessed, clenching his jaw tight against any sounds of pain that wanted to escape as Geralt closed the edges of the injury.

Properly bandaged, Jaskier leaned back against the headboard and watched while Geralt washed his hands in the jug and cleaned up. His shirt was a ruin on the floor, and the blood wasn’t going to come out of that doublet, which is what Jaskier got for wearing silk to begin with. “Well,” he said brightly. “That was quite an adventure, wasn’t it?”

Geralt didn’t hesitate to give him an unimpressed look.

Jaskier bit his lower lip. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Geralt stared at him. “Don’t try and help again,” he said.

The innkeeper was still behind the bar when Geralt got to the bottom of the stairs, what was left of the linen hanging from the crook of his arm and the steaming remains of the jug in his hand. “We’re going to need a room,” he said. “I don’t want him back out on the road in this condition.”

The innkeeper slid a key across the counter. “For free,” he said, quietly, like they were having a private conversation. “As long as you need it, for you and your man both. You don’t need to pay after what you did for us.”

Geralt froze, the teeth of the key biting into his palm. Your man. He’d called Jaskier—

Fuck, he thought.

 

Geralt would have let Jaskier know what was going on that night, he told himself, except that the sleeping draught the healer had given him made him nod off right away. Geralt took the cup out of his hands and pulled a blanket over him and let him sleep.

After that it just got harder to do.

He tried to tell Jaskier during a week they spent in Novigrad, where Jaskier made the bulk of their money, playing in taverns and brothels and more than one manor house. Jaskier told him that the walls of the city had never been breached, which Geralt already knew, and that they’d been designed by the architects of the Oxenfurt Academy, which he didn’t. “I went there,” Jaskier said, absently, caught up in some memory. “To the Academy, I mean.”

“What did you take?”

“Liberal Arts,” he said. “I wasn’t there very long, I dropped out.”

Geralt thought he must have—Jaskier had been very young when they met. “To become a bard?”

“To become about anything except what was expected of me,” Jaskier said with a smile. He was in a buoyant mood.

Geralt opened his mouth. They were outside the tavern that had hosted Jaskier’s latest performance. It was cool but not cold, and summer was finally coming on. The gardens were a riot of bloom that even cheered Geralt’s forgotten heart. They hadn’t been able to get separate rooms since the curse began, even when they had the money. Innkeepers kept just giving him a single key followed by phrases like, “you’ll find no trouble here, lads.” One of them had winked at him.

“Look,” he said, but when Jaskier did look at him he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The curse was stupid and also embarrassing if Geralt had still been capable of feeling that, but most of all it felt strangely shameful, like Jaskier had been looped into a connection with Geralt that he’d never agreed to. He knew how seriously Jaskier took romance. His reaction wasn’t going to be good.

And so Geralt, a man who had looked more monsters in the eye than he could count, took the coward’s way out. He would figure this out later, he decided, as long as he didn’t have to deal with it now. He would fix it before Jaskier even knew it was happening.

“Where are you from?” he asked, because he didn’t think he ever had. Judging by Jaskier’s look of surprised pleasure, it was the right thing to say.

Jaskier threw a friendly arm around his shoulders. He had a habit of gestures like that. “A very beautiful and very boring place,” he said, and steered Geralt back inside the tavern. “I’ll tell you all about it.”

 

Gradually, Geralt directed them towards Vengerberg. The curse was beyond his knowledge, and he trusted Yennefer to take him seriously and to keep things quiet. Even during the periods where they weren’t speaking (or, more accurately, where she wasn’t speaking to him) she wouldn’t have turned him away for something like this, sent him off to a stranger. Geralt knew her better than she realised, and she hated the idea of being controlled more than anything, more than death or loss or horror. She would understand why he couldn’t let this go on, and why he couldn’t let Jaskier know.

He’d already ruined everything with her by allowing the djinn to bind them together. He wouldn’t let a wayward piece of magic take Jaskier from him, too.

Geralt didn’t have any illusions about the fact that one day he would be riding the roads alone again. Jaskier would marry, or get bored and sick of travelling, or even die. A parting was inevitable. Geralt just didn’t want it to be his fault; enough already was.

“So,” said Jaskier, one night when they were sitting by the campfire, waiting for the meat over it to roast, “Vengerberg. That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it?”

“Maybe,” Geralt said.

“I’m not stupid, I can read a map.”

“Fine. Yes, we’re headed to Vengerberg.”

Jaskier was quiet for a minute, though of course for no longer than that. “I don’t have to come, you know.”

Geralt poked at the fire with a stick, sending up sparks. “Why wouldn’t you? You’ll like being in civilization again. You always do. And you can make some money.”

“Well if you’re going to see her,” Jaskier said, not bothering to keep the annoyance out of his voice, “then perhaps I should steer clear. She doesn’t like me, you know.”

“Yennefer doesn’t like a lot of people. Don’t take it personally.”

“Yennefer is scary when she doesn’t like people.”

Yennefer was scary when the sun shone or the moon rose, but Jaskier didn’t understand that wasn’t the same thing as being a threat. She might entertain herself by batting Jaskier around like a cat with a mouse, but she wouldn’t hurt him. “I thought you liked frightening women, Jaskier. I’ve seen you try and bed enough soldiers of fortune to know.” He hid a smile at Jaskier’s sputtering response. “She did save your life. You might try being grateful.”

“I am,” Jaskier said. “I really—did you think I wasn’t? I nearly lost my life that night. And worse, my voice.”

Geralt turned the meat over to let it roast evenly on the other side. He uncorked a flask and handed it to Jaskier, who was looking pensive. “Then tell her so, when we meet again.”

 

Jaskier played for their room and board at the next town, a pretty place by the coast, collecting a decent amount of coin into the bargain. It kept him occupied, but when Geralt looked up from his mead to see that he was attempting to collect an admirer as well, he could feel the cat trying to get out of the bag.

She was a plump, dark-haired woman with the kind of pale skin that glowed in the candlelight. More of a wife than a maiden, though Geralt hoped not literally because he didn’t want any trouble. She was smiling at Jaskier in a way that was parked in the middle of the road between disinterested and indulgent. Under normal circumstances it might have meant anything, been mildly flirtatious even, but Geralt was beginning to recognize that expression when it came over people’s faces.

Jaskier was sitting at the table across from her, his lute set aside for now. He had her hand in his, turned palm up. “A very long love line,” he was saying.

Geralt barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes and took that as an excuse to make his exit. He went up to their room and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

Maybe he was wrong, or becoming paranoid. Maybe he’d given people the impression that they were together somehow. It wouldn’t be so strange to assume as much of two men who were always travelling together, alone. Maybe everyone he met had decided to be kind to him, for no reason at all.

No, that couldn’t be it.

The door to the room opened and Jaskier burst in, stopping to put his hands on his hips. “Geralt,” he said. “What have you been telling people here?”

“Nothing.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t quite believe you, I’m sorry to say. And the reason I don’t believe you is that Zofia, my lovely would-be companion down there, seems to think we’re together. And so does the innkeeper. And his daughter. And their dog. It would be one thing if it was just them, misunderstandings happen, but I have been getting this for weeks.” He looked at Geralt with his lips pressed into a thin line. “Geralt, what’s going on. Tell me.”

Geralt sat up abruptly. “You’ve been getting this for weeks? Why didn’t you say so, we could have dealt with it sooner. I thought it was—”

Jaskier gave him a look that was full of suspicion.

“—just me,” Geralt admitted.

Jaskier let out a sound like a tea kettle boiling over and collapsed on the bed next to Geralt. “I thought I was going mad!” he said. “So what is it? Another djinn wish gone awry? Monster pheromones? What? There’s always something.”

“A curse,” said Geralt. “You remember that witch? Or whatever she was?”

“So this is my fault, then.”

“It’s nobody’s fault. It is what it is.”

“That’s why we were going to Yennefer. To beg for her help.”

“We didn’t have to beg for her help last time.”

“She didn’t hate me last time.”

“She doesn’t hate you now. She doesn’t think about you enough to hate you.”

“Thank you,” said Jaskier, flatly.

“If it can be fixed, she’ll fix it.”

If?”

“You don’t need to look like you’re going to your own funeral,” Geralt said. “There are worse things in the world than somebody thinking we’re lovers, you know. They could be trying to beat us to death in the streets for this, we could be thrown out from under every roof we managed to get over our heads. There are places like that in this world. Count yourself lucky that we aren’t in them, and that you haven’t been made to be an outcast. I know what that’s like. You don’t.”

He hadn’t meant to say nearly so much, but it had all come out at once, stinging and petulant. Another terrible side effect of being around Jaskier: the loosening of his tongue.

“Maybe I know more about it than you think,” Jaskier said. “I just thought—I thought it would be real, when someone finally claimed me publicly. When I was more than an amusement for a night or a week or a year.”

At one point, Geralt would have said something about Jaskier’s romantic notions. He didn’t feel like doing that now. Jaskier didn’t have to be unhappy because he was. “I want a drink,” was what he said instead.

Jaskier held his hand out, almost like a challenge. “Then let’s get you one,” he said.

Geralt, baffled by his sudden change in mood, let Jaskier tug him down the stairs. He didn’t know what he was about until Jaskier dropped cheerfully into his lap at one of the tables and waved a waitress over. “A drink for my man, here,” he said, giving her a big smile. There was something grim and determined under his brightness.

“You’re pushing it,” Geralt said, under his breath.

“Might as well get what I can when I can,” Jaskier said. “Isn’t that always how it goes?”

“That’s cynical for you.”

“Maybe it’s high time I was, then.”

Geralt dropped his hand onto Jaskier’s thigh. He hadn’t really meant to; it was an unconscious gesture. He felt Jaskier’s skin jump under his breeches. “I don’t like it.”

“No?” Jaskier asked. “What would you like, Geralt of Rivia?”

I wish I knew, Geralt thought, and gave him no answer.

 

It was Jaskier who woke him the next morning, though he didn’t have a habit of early rising and would lay abed if given the choice. He was already dressed and had packed their bags. “Come on, lazybones,” he said. “Onto Vengerberg.”

Geralt dressed himself quickly, as was his habit, one he’d developed in case the townspeople had decided to come for him in the night. “You need breakfast before we ride out?”

“Oh, I don’t care.”

“You never skip—” Geralt said, and looked up at Jaskier from where he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

He looked tired, and he looked miserable. Like he hadn’t slept much at all. He tried to smile at Geralt, but it fell flat. “Well, husband?” he asked. “Don’t you want to go get a curse broken?”

Geralt tried to breathe past a sound like roaring water in his ears. He felt as if his mind was suddenly rearranging itself. He reached out and grasped Jaskier by the hips, none too gently, and pulled him forward. “Geralt,” Jaskier was saying, his eyes as round as any coin that had ever been thrown to him in a tavern, but Geralt was already falling to his knees.

Jaskier’s hands landed in his hair as Geralt undid the fastenings of his trousers. He exhaled softly as Geralt carefully unlaced his linen underclothes and drew him out, hot in the palm of his hand, plumping up already from that simple touch. He closed his fingers around Jaskier’s cock and stroked him to full hardness, or close enough. He could smell him, could smell him before he had even undressed him, had smelled him when he’d touched himself on long nights when he thought Geralt was asleep.

Jaskier for his part was saying his name in an entirely different tone of voice than he ever had before and one that Geralt already wanted to hear again: high and strained and with a hint of a whine. “Fuck,” he said, “Geralt—”

“Don’t come,” Geralt said. “Not yet.”

“You think I would—” Jaskier said, becoming indignant, but Geralt was already swallowing him down.

“Oh,” said Jaskier, followed by a drawn out sigh. “My darling. If you insist.”

Geralt did insist, and he closed his eyes at that darling. Jaskier’s hands balled up in his hair and his hips stuttered forward as Geralt sucked him. His taste reminded Geralt of the waves crashing outside, but fragile and human, for all that Jaskier had proved to be a lot more resilient than Geralt had given him credit for. Hard to kill and hard to get rid of, and here, now, pushing his hot length down the column of Geralt’s throat exactly the way he wanted him to. His hand cupped the back of Geralt’s skull and held him lightly in place; he didn’t need to use any force at all. He didn’t, of course, stop talking.

“You should see yourself right now,” he said. “How you look down on your knees for me. Taking my cock as sweet as any tart. I never—I thought I’d have to beg.

Geralt let Jaskier slip from his mouth and stroked him roughly from root to tip. “You will if you keep it up.”

Jaskier grinned. His eyes looked very bright. “Promise?”

Geralt picked him up and threw him on the bed.

Jaskier laughed. “Now that’s the stuff,” he said, and reached out his arms. “Come here, my great lovely barbarian.”

“You’re going to have to work on your endearments,” Geralt said, stopping to shuck off his clothes before climbing onto the bed, kneeling over Jaskier, who was smiling softly up at him.

“Come here, my husband,” he said.

“Fuck,” Geralt muttered, and fell on him, and they couldn’t stop kissing, messy and careless. Jaskier tried to get his kit off and made a mess of it, his hands falling away to touch some part of Geralt every few seconds. So Geralt did it for him, pinning him down with his weight to peel his trousers and underthings the rest of the way off, tugging his undershirt up and off. It was embroidered with small yellow flowers. Of course.

“Hey,” Jaskier said, when he tossed it to the ground. “That was quite expensive—oh, who cares.” He pulled Geralt to him again, kissing with an open and desperate mouth.

Jaskier was slim and hairy and pale, his cock blush pink and curving against his belly. They had seen each other naked more times than either of them could count, had lived back-to-back for years. But not like this. His mouth looked swollen from kissing and when Geralt touched his bottom lip with the pads of his fingers, Jaskier sucked them in like he was working on Geralt’s cock instead.

Geralt pushed down on his tongue, fucked his fingers in hard and fast. Jaskier’s eyes fluttered closed and he moaned, his hips coming off the bed. That was… something to think about. For later.

But for now he had other ideas. He pulled his hand back and put it on the ridge of Jaskier’s hip and squeezed. When Jaskier smiled, he flipped him over.

“Oh,” Jaskier said, his voice dropping and his thighs parting, seemingly of their own accord. Geralt pushed them apart further, bullying his way in and kissing the insides of those thighs, the small of his back. “Are you—” Jaskier said, choked.

“Yes,” Geralt said, and licked a stripe from his bollocks up to his hole.

He ate Jaskier out like he was a woman, leaving him wet and squirming and moaning weakly against the sheets. There was a shiver in his spine that Geralt could feel under his palm. When Geralt pushed his tongue inside Jaskier he shouted, ragged and loud, and the muscles in his thighs seized so dramatically that Geralt thought he might have come. He reached under his body and found him still hard, still wanting. Still needing him.

“You may want to go get the oil,” Jaskier said, his words almost tripping over each other in his eagerness to get them out. “Or I may try and take your cock without it at this point.”

Geralt fetched it from his pack and slicked his fingers up. Jaskier was watching him over his shoulder with unrestrained anticipation in his face. If Geralt was a different kind of person he might have tried to put on a show for him, but he wasn’t and so he got directly down to business.

He pushed two fingers in at once and Jaskier clenched around them, his face twisting sweetly with pleasure. Geralt found the sweet spot inside him and pressed against it until Jaskier’s cock was dripping on the bed. He added a third for the stretch of it, the muscle tight around his knuckles. Jaskier whimpered and struggled to his knees with Geralt’s fingers still in him. He reached back and grabbed at his forearm, pushing himself back onto them. “One more,” he said.

“Jaskier—”

“One,” said Jaskier, breathlessly. “And then you can fuck me, you can split me open with that monstrous cock of yours, you can do anything you like, please Geralt—”

Geralt had wanted to hear him beg. It took him a minute to compose himself, his cheek against the back of Jaskier’s thigh. He gave him four fingers, as deep as he could, and Jaskier made a sound like all the air had left his lungs at once.

“Fuck,” he said, “fuck, fuck—”

That was enough, and it was all Geralt could take. He took his hand back and dumped the rest of the oil into his palm and stroked it down his cock as quickly as possible. Jaskier was right there, and he was open and eager and willing, and Geralt couldn’t stand to tease him—or himself—any longer. He took his cock in hand and pushed into Jaskier’s wet heat.

Jaskier’s head dropped down onto his folded arms. “It feels like I’m a virgin,” he said, his voice slurring with the too-much of it all. “Like I went to the marriage bed with an untouched cunt.”

“Stop talking,” Geralt said, because if he didn’t—Geralt wouldn’t—

“Make me,” said Jaskier, “Take it out on me, make me feel it, ruin me for all other men, love—”

Any intention he had of going easy on Jaskier disappeared. He grabbed him by the hips and thrust in with a slap of flesh that made Jaskier shout and claw at the sheets. They fucked like they were drunk, sloppy and beyond speech, each of them chasing their own pleasure with single minded-intensity. He held Jaskier in place and ground into him, barely moving his hips, until Jaskier broke and begged him for it with wet eyes; he tasted the sweat on the back of his neck and wanted to bite him there, to leave a mark. And he wouldn’t let Jaskier touch himself.

“Please,” Jaskier whined, when he caught his hand and pinned it to the bed for the second time.

“No,” Geralt said, hoarsely. “You’ll come on my cock or not at all.”

Oh,” said Jaskier, in a tone of shock or awe, “oh, I—fuck—” and then he was coming in fat white stripes all over the bed, so fucking tight around Geralt, so tight and so hot and so perfect that Geralt was coming too, he was filling Jaskier’s ass with his come, he was making him his. His lover. His husband.

Who was dangerously close to falling asleep with Geralt still in him. “Jaskier,” he said, rolling off him and pulling the sheets up around them.

“A minute,” Jaskier was saying, his eyes closing. “Just a minute, love.”

 

Some time later Geralt went downstairs to pay for an extra day in the room. The innkeeper did not look surprised. He came back to the room to find Jaskier writing something at the desk. He’d put his shirt back on for the occasion.

“What is that?” Geralt asked. He hoped it wasn’t a love letter. The things they were saying to each other were embarrassing enough without committing them to paper.

“It’s a thank you,” said Jaskier. “Someone suggested I should offer one, once.”