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you're only brave in the moonlight (stay til sunrise)

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Geralt (11:37 PM): Do you still wanna live together?

Jaskier stares at his screen until it goes blurry. Blinks, then stares at it again. He checks the date on his phone, looks around the crowded bar, and scrolls up through the meager collection of text messages he and Geralt have shared since freshman year ended.

Jaskier (11:39 PM): You mean…from a year ago??

Up on the stage, Essi hits a stunning high note while Pavetta dances around singing the backup vocals to "Since U Been Gone." A very ironic song choice for the two of them, but Jaskier isn't here to judge.

Geralt (11:39 PM): Yeah. My friend is moving out of a two bedroom downtown. $400/month each.

Jaskier's first thought is, Sweet mother Mary, that's a lot cheaper than what I pay right now. His second thought is, When did Geralt make a friend? which is a little mean but not an unreasonable question.

They fell out of touch a little since moving out of the dorms. A lot can change in a year, apparently.

Jaskier (11:40 PM): I thought you wanted to live alone??

Geralt (11:40 PM): I need to save money so I can move Roach from pasture into stall board.

Jaskier frowns, tilting his head.

Jaskier (11:40 PM): The horse you lease?

Geralt (11:41 PM): I bought her a few months ago. 

Jaskier (11:41 PM): Aww congrats!! :D I'm sure she's very happy [heart-eyes emoji]

Geralt (11:42 PM): Thanks. 

Geralt (11:42 PM): [A slightly blurry close-up of a horse that Jaskier assumes is Roach, baring her teeth like she's attempting to bite the camera. No further context is provided.]

Jaskier hides a smile into his hand. Geralt's always been a man of few words, but horses were one of the few things he could always get to talking about.

Not particularly relevant for the main dilemma at hand, but still.

Jaskier (11:42 PM): Does the apartment have a washer and dryer?? Because it turns out I will NOT do my laundry if I have to walk outside lol

Pavetta and Essi's song ends before Geralt replies, but they detour for the bar before returning to the table. Jaskier props his cheek up in one hand and watches the next singer take the stage.

Geralt (11:45 PM): No but Mousesack says there are hookups for it. I can install them pretty easily if you buy them.

Which makes Jaskier's inevitable next thought the image of his former roommate in nothing but shorts and a sweaty tank top, hunched over some kind of valve with a wrench, maybe looking up when—

"Stop it!" Jaskier scolds out loud, smacking himself on the wrist. "We are not going down that road again."

"What road, babe?" Essi asks, hopping back onto her stool and sloshing a bit of cider onto the table. Pavetta climbs up next to her and nearly tips into the wall.

It's getting to the part of the night where sitting at the cool high-top near the stage starts to be a bad idea. Jaskier looks down at the littering of empty plastic shot glasses and tries to do a mental count of how many were his.

Geralt (11:46 PM): Also there's no AC, but it's down the street from that weird brewery you like and I have a window unit.

This is, possibly excluding the time Geralt tried to convince Jaskier that he shouldn't become nocturnal during finals week under penalty of Geralt murdering him in his not-sleep, the hardest Geralt has lobbied for anything.

"Jaskier?" Pavetta asks, waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you okay?"

He remembered the Banshee.

Jaskier looks up from his phone and asks, "Hey, do you know how the two of you are abandoning me to live with your respective partners this year?"

Essi narrows her eyes. "Um, yeah?"

"And do you remember how we all agreed that doing jello shots always leads to me making terrible decisions and that the night was going suspiciously well?" asks Jaskier.

"Also yes," says Pavetta.

Jaskier (11:48 PM): I'm in!! Can I bring my couch?

 

~*~

 

Jaskier watches from his spot on the living room floor as the aforementioned couch—currently in the enviable position of being held aloft by Geralt and Geralt's friend, Eskel—once again smacks against the doorframe of Jaskier's old apartment.

"Fucking," Geralt mutters, shifting his grip to wipe the sweat off his forehead. "Maybe if we rotate it clockwise again?"

Eskel, a handsome man with a rather prominent facial scar, replies, "We've tried all the directions, bud. It's not happening."

Geralt scowls, turning to look at Jaskier. "How the fuck did you get this in here?"

"Oh." Jaskier blinks. "You know, I actually have no idea? I think Pavetta's mom put it together for us while we were—"

"Oh my God," says Eskel. "Oh, Jesus Christ, Geralt."

Geralt, for his part, is busy looking like he's trying to set Jaskier on fire using telekinesis.

"Um," Jaskier ventures, dragging his teeth over his bottom lip. "Is there a problem?"

"It comes apart," Geralt asks flatly.

"Oh, no, yeah, absolutely," Jaskier says. "It's technically a futon? Did I not mention that? I thought you were just trying to save—"

Geralt makes a sound that can only be described as a growl.

"—time?" Jaskier finishes weakly.

"Eskel," says Geralt. "I'm dropping the couch."

"Yep, go for it."

Jaskier winces when the metal legs scrape against the faux-wood floors—and again when Geralt stalks into Jaskier's empty bedroom and slams the door.

So, things are off to a delightful start.

Eskel pulls out his phone, whistling innocently, and asks, "Want a smoothie?"

Jaskier scrambles to his feet. "I'll buy."

 

~*~

 

Thirty minutes later, Geralt broodily sips on Jaskier's apology smoothie while Jaskier, Eskel, and Lambert—who quite literally showed up late with Starbucks—take the futon apart.

"So," Jaskier asks cheerfully, "how did you all meet?"

"Oh, we're brothers," says Eskel absently, dropping another metal screw into the Tupperware container by his knee. "Geralt didn't tell you?"

Jaskier looks up from pretending to use his tiny wrench-thing. Geralt has literally never spoken a word about his family, but it's not like Jaskier's going to throw him under that bus. "Oh! Sorry, I must have forgotten—"

"Fraternity brothers," Geralt mutters into his disgusting green smoothie.

"I'm sorry," Jaskier says. "What?"

Lambert detaches some kind of metal… piece… from the base of the futon. "You know, Kappa Mu? It's a service frat."

Jaskier wheels on Geralt accusingly. "When did you join a fraternity? How did I not notice this?"

"Dunno. Maybe you were busy with Danny during rush week," says Geralt. He smirks, which is a good sign for Jaskier's chances of not being smothered in his sleep tonight. "Or was it Maria that month?"

Jaskier lays down on the floor, giving up the pretense of helping the couch-dismantling endeavor, and muses, "I think they overlapped for a bit there, actually. That'd explain it. Lovely people, the two of them."

"Anyway, that's how," Eskel says. "How do you two know each other?"

"Oh, we lived together in the dorms," Jaskier says. He reaches blindly for his own smoothie, which Eskel kindly nudges into his hand. "Thank you. Nothing like a good encore, right, Geralt?"

Geralt grunts.

Lambert laughs. "Wait, you lived with this asshole once already and you're getting stuck with him again? On purpose?"

Jaskier frowns defensively. Sure, Geralt can be a little moody—half-hour tantrum about the couch thing a case in point—and he did flat-out reject Jaskier when he proposed they should move off campus together last year which stung, but he was also a dependable friend who only occasionally got really passive-aggressive when Jaskier forgot to do the dishes and never once let Jaskier die in his sleep when he came home completely trashed.

"We were fantastic roommates, weren't we, Geralt?" Jaskier says, lifting his head to offer a smile. "I'm sure it'll be a great year."

"Hm," says Geralt.

"I'll take that as an enthusiastic bid of agreement!" Jaskier tells him. "So where do the two of you live?"

Lambert removes a load bearing screw and curses when the rest of the metal frame detaches from the bottom of the couch in a clatter.

"We're moving into the frat house," Eskel explains. "We tried to get Geralt to come with us, but he said that sounded like, and I quote, 'a fucking nightmare.'"

"Ooh, do you guys have frat parties?" Jaskier asks eagerly. "Can I come?"

"No," says Geralt.

"To which part?"

Geralt raises an eyebrow that says, Do I look like I go to the frat parties?

He does not.

"Okay, I think this fucker's ready to go," Lambert says, patting the stack of cushions. "Geralt, you wanna unlock the truck?"

"No," Geralt answers drily, but he stands up anyway. "Jaskier, are you helping?"

Jaskier scrambles to his feet. "I think my talents are best put to use elsewh—"

Geralt shoots him a withering look.

"Yes, absolutely! What do you want me to carry? All of it? You in my arms? Ooh, when we get to the new place we should do that thing where—"

"Ohh," says Eskel. "You're both stuck with each other. I get it now."

"This is the best thing that's ever happened to me," says Lambert.

Geralt tips his eyes up to the ceiling.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier lays sprawled on the futon, finally reassembled in their new living room, and listens to the nostalgia-inducing sound of Geralt pouring cereal into a bowl after midnight. 

"I think this is gonna be a great year," Jaskier says to the ceiling fan. "Ooh, do you think we could paint the walls?"

"No," says Geralt.

"Spoilsport. It's bad luck if you don't violate the lease at least once." Jaskier rolls onto his stomach, peering at Geralt's face from across the apartment. "Some paintings, then. Will you go to Home Goods with me tomorrow?"

"No." Geralt crunches into a spoonful of dry Cheerios; they ran out of time to go shopping before the actual grocery stores closed, and he refused to buy the 'fucking overpriced milk' from CVS. "Why do we need a painting?"

Jaskier gasps. "To create atmosphere, Geralt! Don't you care about our aesthetic at all?"

Geralt pointedly does not answer.

"Well, can I go to Home Goods and buy paintings?" Jaskier asks.

Geralt shrugs. "Your money."

Technically, Jaskier's parents' money, but—small details.

"At least tell me your favorite color!" Jaskier insists. "So I can find something that represents you at least a little!"

"Black."

"... Genuinely?"

Geralt takes another bite of cereal.

"Okay, well, I'm not buying a black painting, we need some vibrancy in here."

"You said you wanted to represent me." Geralt meets Jaskier's skeptical gaze blankly. "I like black."

Jaskier is about to retort when he sees it—the corner of Geralt's mouth twitching. He's bluffing.

Oh, it is on.

"Alright, yes, I get it," Jaskier says, flapping a hand dismissively. "I'll see if I can manage to find a painting that reflects your dark and mysterious soul tomorrow. And you know, I still think that christening the place by carrying me through the threshold would be—"

"No."

"Oh, come on, Geralt!" Jaskier wheedles. "Where's your sense of tradition? The ritual? Do you want us to have bad luck all year?"

Geralt glares at him, pushing away his half-eaten dinner. "I'm going to bed."

"Fine, you grouch," Jaskier tells him sweetly. "See you in the morning."

Or, more accurately, the early afternoon, which is how long Jaskier plans on sleeping until. He wiggles his fingers at Geralt, who rolls his eyes and retreats into the bathroom.

Jaskier listens for the sound of running water, then rolls to his feet and steals the rest of Geralt's cereal. All teasing aside, he really does think this will be a fun time.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier revises this evaluation less than five hours later, when he starts awake to the sound of an alarm blaring through the wall. Who the hell wakes up at this hour, over the summer no less?

It shuts off almost immediately, which is a relief. Jaskier grumbles and falls back asleep—

For fifteen minutes, at which point the alarm starts up again. And again, fifteen minutes after that.

Because apparently not only is Geralt insane, he doesn't even have the good manners to be insane promptly. He does seem to actually wake up after the third snooze button, at which point Jaskier can hear him puttering about in the kitchen.

So, insulated walls: not a selling point of the place, apparently. That's fine. Surely this won't be a regular thing. Jaskier hides under the blankets and tries to fall back asleep.

 

~*~

 

Geralt is still gone when Jaskier wakes up for real. He takes a shower, realizes no one unpacked any towels yesterday, and runs naked and dripping wet through the apartment looking for where the hell those could be. 

Then he spends ten minutes mopping up all the water to hide his crimes, gets distracted unpacking random boxes until he remembers that he hasn't eaten anything, and then calls Pavetta to get a ride to Home Goods.

It turns out to be a five person trip, because Pavetta and Duny and Essi and Priscilla are looking to decorate their own apartments as well. Packing all their stuff into the car is gonna be an interesting experience, but Jaskier doesn't mind—it's more fun to shop with friends, anyway.

Plus, Priscilla owes him Starbucks.

She forks it over as soon as she hops into Pavetta's car, holding her own drink in her other hand.

"Venti dirty chai with three extra espresso shots?" she asks, looping her arm through his when she squeezes into the middle seat. "Who hurt you, baby?"

"I don't wanna talk about it," Jaskier answers, and chugs a quarter of it in one go. The benefits of getting it iced.

Pavetta glances at them through the rearview mirror. "Okay, let's make a game plan. Is anyone looking for anything specific?"

Jaskier says, "I feel like 'plan' and 'Home Goods' together are an oxymoron, if I'm being honest."

"I'm operating the motor vehicle," Pavetta says evenly, "and I want there to be a plan."

Essi offers up, "Dish towels?" at the same time Priscilla says, "New bedspread."

"Erm," says Jaskier. "Paintings? And also something to fuck with my roommate. Possibly a painting to fuck with my roommate."

"Okay, wild guess?" Duny offers. "The new roommate is connected to the medically dangerous amounts of caffeine." 

"You’d be correct," Jaskier says.

Essi smirks at him from behind the hair falling in her face. "Were you up all night thinking about how you wanna fuck him into next Tuesday?"

Jaskier gasps dramatically. "I told you that in confidence!"

"No you didn't," Duny says. "You've been complaining about it since freshman year."

Jaskier ignores him. "And anyway, I'm completely over that stupid little crush. It was carnal attraction, is what it was. Because I have eyes. But I'm really gonna be normal about it this year, and also he wakes up at like four in the morning now and obviously that makes him a serial killer and-or a government agent, neither of which I am—well, actually, what's everyone's opinion on if it's one of those situations where he's a serial killer but he only kills people who deserve it? Because—treating this car as a safe space—"

"No," say at least three people at once.

"Sheesh!" Jaskier crosses his arms, knocking his giant coffee into Priscilla's elbow. "I'm so glad I could bring you all together like this! I hope you're all happy when I'm murdered in a very sexy way at four in the morning."

"We'll put that on your tombstone," Essi tells him solemnly. "Julian Alfred Pankratz, who died as he lived—thinking he was much more attractive than he was."

Jaskier taps another sip of his coffee. "You know, I think I read somewhere that friends are supposed to be nice to each other. Just something to consider!"

Essi says, "Proposal considered—

"—and rejected," Priscilla finishes.

God, they've been insufferable ever since they started dating. Jaskier loves them.

"We're here," Pavetta announces. "Everyone ready?"

They all climb out of the car and head into the store, already chattering about where they should go for lunch afterwards. Jaskier is glad everyone decided to stay at school for the summer; he'd probably go out of his mind if he had to do this kind of thing alone.

Pavetta drags Duny off by the hand to go look at dinnerware sets, so Jaskier follows Essi and Priscilla to give his opinion on dish towels and also try to convince them to buy a very charming statue of a hedgehog holding a giant radish.

"It doesn't even make sense!" Priscilla argues, plucking it out of her cart and planting it firmly back on the shelf. "Is it supposed to be a visual pun? I mean, what does—"

"Look at him, Pri!" Jaskier sticks out his bottom lip and wiggles the hedgehog in her face. "Don't you just wanna give him a lil kiss? He's lonely and needs a home!"

Priscilla smushes a hand in his face. "Ugh, then you adopt him."

Jaskier pouts at her back as she walks away, then looks down at the hedgehog.

Jaskier (1:06 PM): [A picture of the hedgehog statue, its beady eyes seeming to plead at the camera] Name our son

Geralt (1:09 PM): Viktor

Jaskier purses his lips around a smile and tucks Viktor into the throw blanket he tossed into the cart earlier. Geralt's never once made Jaskier feel like he wasn't allowed to be deeply weird.

He continues down the aisles, heading for the paintings and other art in the back. Not even hedgehog adoption will spare Geralt from the embarrassing painting Jaskier is going to find for him.

Geralt (1:10 PM): Did you eat lunch?

Jaskier smiles, a fond memory of dragging themselves to the infamous Sunday breakfast at the dining hall resurfacing.

Jaskier (1:10 PM): I'll eat out. Want me to bring you something home?

He arrives at the painting section and starts browsing, bypassing all the seasonal ones of beaches and fish. There’s no way he'll remember to change this shit out four times a year.

Geralt (1:11 PM): No thanks. Pizza for dinner?

There are lots of paintings of flowers. Jaskier finds a large one with bright red poppies that vaguely matches the futon's kitschy plaid pattern and scoots Viktor out of the way to fit it in the cart.

Jaskier (1:13 PM): Sure :D I'll be home later if you don't want lunch tho I think we're making a day of it around town

Wheeling the cart further towards the back, Jaskier does a double-take when he sees a warmly-colored landscape of an open field, with a sun emerging in stunning hues of orange and pink against the indigo sky. In the right foreground, a single brown horse grazes in the tall grass.

Geralt (1:13 PM): Okay. I'll wait for you.

It's a lovely painting. Very understated, with the waning night portrayed as dark and welcoming even as rays of light break the horizon. There's a comfort to it that's difficult to articulate.

It's probably too honest. Jaskier buys it anyway.

 

~*~

 

Back at the apartment, Geralt is reading a book on the couch when Jaskier gets home with most of his shopping dangling from his arms in plastic bags. 

"Hello!" he says cheerfully, dumping his things on the floor. "I've got another load in the car. Are you hungry? Can we get olives on the pizza? How was your day? I found this really cool pizza cutter at Target which now that I'm saying that I realize we probably don't—"

"Hey," Geralt says drily. "Do you need help?"

Jaskier places a hand on his hip. "Like, broadly speaking, or with the bags?"

"Yeah," says Geralt.

"Rude, and no. I'll be right back," Jaskier tells him. "Olives on half the pizza?"

Geralt flips to the next page in his book. "Fine."

Jaskier flits back downstairs for the rest of his purchases and to hug the others goodbye. He carefully carries the horse painting facing away when he fumbles with the doorknob. 

Geralt is on the phone with the pizza place, ordering a large with olives all over.

Jaskier rescues Viktor from the bag and then tosses the throw blanket onto the couch. 

Geralt tucks his cell phone between his ear and shoulder so he can unwrap the blanket.

It's nice how easily they've fallen back into living together. Jaskier thought it might be weird or something, especially after having largely fallen out of touch, but then again—some friendships are just like this, aren't they? 

Jaskier waves Viktor in Geralt's eyeline and asks, "Kitchen or coffee table?"

"Don't care," Geralt answers, then winces and tilts his face closer to the phone. "Uh, no, sorry—cash."

Jaskier suppresses a giggle and plants the statue on the kitchen table, turning him to face the living area. It's a cute little open-concept apartment—objectively a little cramped, but with far more breathing room than the horrible dorm room they shared freshman year. 

Geralt hangs up the phone and picks his book back up. "They're busy. Should take forty-five or so."

"Ooh, wait—that's fine—wait, before you go back to reading." Jaskier goes back to the entryway and pulls the painting free from its bag. He flips it around, taking in the peaceful scene—

And promptly begins to panic. This is weird, isn't it? This is the wrong kind of weird, because it's, like—this isn't a funny painting. A funny painting as a prank would have been, like, a portrait of a literal clown or a ballerina or something (not that there's anything wrong with ballerinas) but this? Oh, God, Jaskier literally said he would be normal about this like six hours ago and he's already fucking it up.

"What is it?" Geralt asks, turning to look over the back of the couch. "What's that?"

No, it's fine. This is fine. Jaskier just has to commit.

"A painting that represents your soul!" he says cheerfully, holding it aloft. "You know, all dark and mysterious on the outside and, uh, nothing but horses on the inside?"

Geralt goes very, very still. There's a slight dusting of color on his cheeks, which is just as likely to be due to the fact that they haven't installed the AC window unit yet as it is to be from embarrassment.

"That reminded you of me?" he asks.

Jaskier widens his smile. "Yep! The horse looks a bit like Roach, doesn't it?"

"Yeah." Geralt turns his head, obscuring his expression when his hair falls in his face. "I'll put it in my room."

Oh. Jaskier bites his bottom lip and leans the painting against the wall. That's—well, he won the bluffing game, didn't he? He's sufficiently embarrassed Geralt with the thing to the point that he doesn't want it hung up in public, and that was the point! This is what he wanted, really.

He probably won't hang it up at all, just hide it in his closet or something. Which is fine. God, it's better than having it taken seriously in a really weird and embarrassing way.

Jaskier clears his throat and keeps his tone bright. "You do that! And now that you mention it, can you help me hang up this one for the living room tomorrow? I'm thinking it'll go to the left of the TV, like right about here-ish?"

"Sure," Geralt mutters, not even looking up.

Is he… mad? He shouldn't be mad. Jaskier didn't do anything that bad; he's just—well, it wasn't even supposed to be a joke, really. At least, not at Geralt's expense. 

The obvious solution is to double-down.

Jaskier vaults over the back of the couch to plop down right next to Geralt, who scowls at him when it knocks the book out of his hands.

"Oh, don't make that face," Jaskier teases, reaching for the remote. "Do you wanna watch a movie? Ooh, I'll set up my parents' Netflix. And Hulu. What do you wanna watch?"

Geralt picks his book back up, flipping through it to find his spot before he slips a bookmark into place. He sets it calmly on the coffee table and says, "I don't care."

At least he doesn't tell Jaskier to fuck off. 

"Well, let's just see what speaks to us!" Jaskier says. He grabs the throw blanket and tosses it over the both of them. "Oh, don't let me forget to pay you for the pizza. You didn’t finally break down and get Venmo over the past year, did you?"

Geralt says, "You can just get the next one," which means he did not.

Jaskier hums and pulls out his phone to take a Snapchat. "Here, smile! Or make a grouchy face, whatever feels authentic. Okay, not that grouchy, Geralt, pretend you like me."

He takes the shot in the middle of Geralt's eyeroll.

dandilionbard: [A selfie of the two of them; Jaskier is grinning broadly at the camera while Geralt rolls his eyes, though a smirk is tugging at his lips] Inaugural roomie movie night!!

Jaskier sends it off to the squad and a few of his friends from high school, plus Eskel and Lambert, who both added him after helping with the move. He scoots a little further away on the couch again to give Geralt his space and ventures, "And I don't suppose you've gotten Snapchat either?"

Geralt side-eyes him. "Why would you need to Snapchat me? I'm right here."

"We'll table that one for later," Jaskier says, waving a hand at him. "Oh, fuck, I can't remember my password. Hang on."

"Whatever you say," Geralt remarks drily, and picks his book back up while Jaskier works on the Netflix situation.

 

~*~

 

Geralt sleeps in until an appropriate hour the next day, and hangs Jaskier's paintings for him. The washer and dryer they ordered won't be there for a few more days, but Geralt does use the fact that he's installing those too to guilt Jaskier into unpacking the rest of their boxes and organizing the kitchen.

Well, organizing is generous. Jaskier just kind of… puts things places until he runs out of places, and then hides the rest of their stuff in the hall closet. 

Geralt narrows his eyes at the cabinets—a muscle jumping in his jaw in a way that suggests he's probably gonna re-do everything Jaskier did later—and then leaves for work, which is apparently still at the campus library. 

Jaskier readjusts the tiny plastic palm tree he bought for Viktor to sit under and then goes to practice guitar in his room. The brewery is going to start up open mic nights again, and he needs to try out some songs. Better to do that when Geralt isn't home, so he doesn't bother him.

 

~*~

 

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

Jaskier rolls over and glares at the clock with one half-open eye. It's 4:45 in the fucking morning. Light is just barely starting to filter through the cheap blinds that came with the apartment.

The alarm shuts off. Jaskier hides his face in his pillow and falls—

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

You know, Jaskier has actually always felt like he plays his best guitar at midnight.

 

~*~

 

He gives up on sleep around 5:30 AM, at least until he can buy some fucking blackout curtains.

Geralt is eating breakfast at the kitchen table, hunched over a Hot Pocket and a cup of coffee that looks like it's almost half creamer. He's wearing nothing but an old pair of sweats, which is absolutely a fact that Jaskier can cope with like a mature adult.

"Good morning!" Jaskier says as brightly as he can manage, with how scratchy his throat feels. "How are you today? Is there a particular reason that you hate me and also God? Wow, that coffee smells incredible!"

Geralt grunts, barely flicking his eyes up to acknowledge Jaskier's presence. He looks wide awake, though, as much as anyone can at this hour. 

Jaskier pours himself some coffee and grabs a pack of PopTarts from the cabinet next to the fridge. He's always found Geralt's 'literally won't talk to you before I've had my coffee' thing hopelessly endearing. It's not like he isn't used to carrying the conversation anyway.

"No, seriously, where are you headed? Do you have another job I don't know about?" He wags a finger at Geralt. "You're not a CIA agent, are you? I think you're legally obligated to tell me if you are."

Geralt's stare is unamused.

"Oh, fine, keep your secrets." Jaskier sits down across from him and rips open the PopTart packet, at which point it occurs to him that his stomach is still too queasy from waking up to eat. He nudges the open foil a little further away from himself. "But I hope you know how to hang a curtain rod."

Geralt hums with vague agreement and bites into his breakfast, chewing stubbornly. After a few minutes, he finishes eating and retreats into his bedroom again, presumably to get dressed.

This is confirmed when he emerges wearing his riding gear, an outfit that isn't any easier to cope with than the shirtlessness, given how amazing his ass looks in those tights.

Normal, Jaskier scolds himself, taking what he hopes is a nonchalant sip of coffee. I am begging you to be normal.

Geralt is busy tying his hair up in a low ponytail, but he looks over at Jaskier with a raised eyebrow when he catches Jaskier staring. Fuck.

Jaskier smiles broadly. "Tell Roachie I said hi!"

Geralt nods with a quirk of his lips and grabs his keys off the coffee table.

 

~*~

 

Geralt (6:30 AM): [A picture of Roach with a giant bushel of hay in her mouth, looking half-asleep while she chews]

Jaskier (9:28 AM): Sorry I fell asleep again lol

Jaskier (9:28 AM): Aww, looks like someone's not a morning person! Give her a kiss from me

Jaskier (9:29 AM): You do know that if you got Snapchat you could send me all the pictures of Roachie you wanted wayy easier right? :P

Geralt (9:31 AM): Roach is confused by snapchat. I'll be home in half an hour.

Jaskier (9:33 AM): I'll be at the coffee shop :)

Jaskier (9:33 AM): And if Roach wants to learn how to use it I'd be happy to teach her ;)

Geralt (9:37 AM): Maybe.

 

~*~

 

whitewolf95: [A picture of Roach in full gear, staring at something off-camera with a wild look in her eyes] Plastic bag crinkled from across the arena. The end is nigh.

dandilionbard: (chat) Me in the face of any minor inconvenience tbh

whitewolf95: LOL. True. :-)

dandilionbard: Hey!! You promised not to use your Snapchat powers for evil >:(

whitewolf95: [Another picture of Roach, this time with the whites of her eyes showing and her head held high in the air] You.

dandilionbard: [A selfie of Jaskier pouting into the camera with an animated raincloud sticker over his head]

whitewolf95: (chat) [a single umbrella emoji]

 

~*~

 

Jaskier is sandwiched on the futon between Pavetta and Essi, chewing on a handful of popcorn while they argue over which movie to watch. Now that they don't all live in the same place, it always takes them at least half an hour to all actually show up and another thirty to forty-five minutes to figure out what they're doing.

Not that Jaskier minds. He just likes having them all around. 

"Okay, but if we watch a horror movie we all have to sleep over," Pavetta is arguing. "I'm not staying at my place without Duny."

"The beauty of the futon," Jaskier agrees.

Priscilla reaches over and snags the popcorn bowl. "Or we could watch a romcom and have a sleepover anyway."

The front door opens just then, revealing Geralt coming back from the gym. He's dressed in a ratty old tank top and basketball shorts with his hair pulled up into a messy bun, and there's still a thin sheen of sweat on his body.

He smells absolutely rank. He's the most attractive thing Jaskier's ever seen.

"Hi, Geralt!" Jaskier says cheerfully. "You remember the girls, right?"

Geralt does a fantastic impersonation of a deer in headlights and flees into his bedroom without saying a word.

"Polite as ever," Essi comments drily.

"Hush," Jaskier scolds, knocking into her with his elbow when he crosses his arms. "He's just shy."

"Hm," says Pavetta, reaching for her glass of wine.

Jaskier narrows his eyes at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Maybe he just doesn't like us," Pavetta says. "He did this freshman year, too. And he never comes anywhere when you invite him."

Jaskier frowns. Are they right? Does Geralt… not like Jaskier's friends? 

That can't be it. Geralt's just a little introverted. And grumpy. But Jaskier refuses to believe that Geralt is trying to be rude on purpose, or that he'd dislike the girls without even knowing them. 

Geralt (7:13 PM): Can you bring me my book?

Jaskier frowns, looking around before he spots it on the coffee table. He wiggles his way free of the blanket he was sharing with Pavetta and snatches the book up without an explanation to any of them.

Geralt is stripping out of his top when Jaskier opens the door to his room. He jumps, tugging the shirt back on quickly, before he sees who it is.

"Whoops, sorry," Jaskier says, leaning in the doorway to block the view from the living room. He brandishes the book temptingly. "Got this for you."

Geralt rubs the back of his neck before taking the book. "Thanks."

Jaskier drags his teeth over his bottom lip. "Is everything okay? You know you could've come and gotten this, right?"

Geralt shrugs, flicking his eyes away. "Didn't wanna interrupt."

"Geralt," Jaskier says, blinking. "You live here."

"Okay." Geralt turns around and puts the book down on the nightstand. "Gonna take a shower."

"Um." Jaskier stares at the nasty scar on Geralt's shoulder peeking out from underneath his tank top. "Right, yeah, of course. I'll… is it okay if some people stay the night?"

Geralt strips his shirt off for real this time. "Fine, but I've got Roach in the morning."

Something uneasy turns Jaskier's stomach. Is Geralt mad at him? Maybe he really doesn't like Jaskier's friends. 

Well, no point in opening that can of worms.

"We'll stay out of your hair!" Jaskier informs him, forcing a bright smile. "Just do your thing or whatever, I'm sure they won't even wake up."

Geralt glances at him skeptically, stepping out of his shorts and wrapping a towel around his waist. 

"Enjoy your shower!" Jaskier tells him. "There's a bunch of popcorn if you want some."

"Thanks," Geralt says again. He tugs his hair out of its bun, wincing as he does so, and then smiles at Jaskier tentatively. 

Jaskier relaxes into a softer smile in return, feeling some of the tension settle in him. He closes the door quietly behind him and rejoins the girls on the couch.

"Alright," he says, kicking his feet up. "Did we pick a movie?"

"Not yet," Priscilla says innocently. "Are you sure you don't wanna watch a romcom?"

Jaskier tilts his head at her suspiciously.

"You know," Essi says with a grin. "Since you're acting like you live in one."

Jaskier gasps, looking behind himself furtively. "Shh, he could hear you, and also I have no idea what you could possibly—I mean, that you would even suggest—"

"What's that Shakespeare quote, English majors?" Pavetta asks, clicking over in the Netflix queue to To All the Boys.

"'Me thinks the lady doth protest too much,'" Essi smugly supplies, the fucking traitor.

Jaskier pouts and snatches the bowl of popcorn away from Priscilla. "You're horrible friends, absolutely horrible. I was going to feel sorry for you when you got woken up at four-thirty, but now I think you deserve it."

"I'm sorry," says Pavetta. "Fucking when?"

 

~*~

 

Jaskier (9:17 PM): [A picture he found on Tumblr of some kind of large rodent relaxing in a miniature hot spring, sporting a rather grumpy expression] is this u

Geralt (9:19 PM): Capybaras are actually semi-aquatic and take naps in water. Also, they live in groups of up to forty & different social groups have distinct vocalization patterns. They eat their own shit to get more nutrients from the plants they eat. They're invading Florida which is probably an improvement for Florida.

Jaskier (9:20 PM): Fascinating and disgusting, thank you so much!

 

~*~

 

Jaskier (3:57 PM): [A video of a giant and terrifyingly prehistoric looking bird walking with its wings flapping until it subsequently eats a popsicle out of a man's hand] Quick question what the everloving fuck is this

Geralt (4:32 PM): Lambert when he's hungry.

Geralt (4:32 PM): Also, a condor.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier is attempting to cook dinner for the first time in… well, it doesn't matter. What matters is that he told Geralt he'd make mac and cheese, which he's completely capable of doing, thank you very much, except mac and cheese requires butter, which for some reason he can't seem to find in the refrigerator. 

Fuck. Geralt's in the shower, having just gotten back from an evening ride. He'd probably know where the butter is.

Jaskier knocks on the bathroom door and calls, "Geralt?"

No answer.

Eh, whatever. Jaskier opens the door and steps inside the steaming room, tugging at his shirt collar. Geralt really likes to boil himself alive, doesn't he?

Jaskier tugs back the shower curtain, asks, "Geralt, do we—"

"Fuck!"

—and is immediately splattered with something he prays to God is shampoo.

Jaskier blinks, confirming there's nothing in his eyes. He looks down at his shirt, which is striped with vibrant blue goop, and immediately bursts into giggles.

"Stop," Geralt whines sullenly, tugging the shower curtain out of Jaskier's grasp. "Oh, fuck off."

"It looks like—" Jaskier wipes a glob off of his cheek. "Like alien spunk, doesn't it? Geralt, be honest, do I look like—"

"Jaskier."

"—like I got a—a facial from—"

"Go away!"

Jaskier sinks down onto the closed toilet seat instead, wheezing with laughter. "I'm sorry, I can't—I'm dying—do CPR—"

"I'll let you die."

"After this very special—experience we've—oh, my God, I can't breathe."

Geralt's face, only half-visible from behind the shower curtain, is bright red. The poor thing looks so embarrassed that Jaskier just wants to—

Dying of laughter is probably more appropriate.

"What the fuck did you want?" Geralt asks tersely.

Jaskier collects himself enough to respond, "Your conditioner is such a pretty color. And it smells better than mine, which honestly offends me."

Geralt mutters something too quietly for Jaskier to hear.

"I'm sorry?" he asks.

"It's toner," Geralt repeats. "For my color."

Ah, right. Jaskier doesn't think about it too much, but keeping that shade of silver looking nice must take a lot of effort. A really uncharacteristic amount of effort for someone who wears the same three t-shirts every week.

"Right, right!" Jaskier answers, looking down at the mess on his clothes. "Well, it works wonders. Do you want it back?"

Geralt blinks. The shower is still hitting him in the back of the head. "What?"

Jaskier holds out a conditioner-covered hand. "Erm, I mean, it's expensive, isn't it? I think you could probably—you know, if we scraped it—"

"Oh," says Geralt. "Uh. Yeah."

He unscrews the top from the conditioner bottle and offers it to Jaskier, who salvages all the conditioner he can manage from his face and clothes. Speaking of which, this was a brand-new shirt.

Jaskier begins unbuttoning it, sticking his tongue out from between his lips.

"Uh—you—" Geralt splutters, "what're you—?"

"Hm?" Jaskier glances up. "I was gonna wash it in the sink before the stain sets. Unless you'll take it in there with you?"

He waves the shirt in Geralt's general direction, who promptly yanks the shower curtain closed in Jaskier's face.

Sink it is!

Jaskier leaves the shirt there to soak and wanders back into the kitchen to let Geralt finish his shower in peace. It does feel like he's forgetting something, though, doesn't it? Eh, maybe it'll come to him while he cooks the—

Balls.

Jaskier flings the bathroom door back open and enthuses, "Hello, Geralt! Are we—"

"Mother fucker!"

"—out of butter?"

 

~*~

 

It's late on a Thursday night—or is it Friday morning now?—and Jaskier is still practicing guitar, hopped up on that second cup of coffee he had this evening. It's probably getting a little obsessive, but he just wants it to be—

The bedroom door opens with some amount of force.

"Aah!" Jaskier yelps, clutching his chest, and comes face to face with Geralt, whose hair is partially obscuring the glare he's fixing Jaskier with. "Oh, Geralt! It's just you. Haven't you ever heard of knocking? I could’ve been entirely—"

"It's two fucking AM," Geralt grits out. "And you've been playing the same fucking song for three hours."

"Oh, fuck, is that really the time?" Jaskier looks at his phone, which has seven missed texts from Geralt—and two calls. That's really the time. "I am really sorry, it's just that I'm doing the Banshee's open mic tomorrow and I'm a little nervous—"

"I've gotta wake up," says Geralt, "at four-thirty."

Jaskier lays his guitar in his lap and crosses his arms. "Well, so do I, by association, and anyway it's more like five-fifteen by the time you actually get out of bed."

Geralt's scowl deepens. Has Jaskier really kept him up all night?

Well, tough shit. Jaskier's been woken up ridiculously early for the past two months. Geralt can tolerate one night of poor sleep

"And honestly," Jaskier continues snippily, "I don't know why you don't just go to the barn later, if it's such a pain in the ass to wake up when you do."

"I can't," Geralt says.

Jaskier frowns. "What do you mean?"

"I can't just go later." Geralt pinches the bridge of his nose. "I work there."

Jaskier blinks and repeats, "You work there? You work at the library."

"I've got two jobs," Geralt explains tersely. "It's a co-op barn. We take shifts taking care of the horses so that board is cheaper."

"Oh." Jaskier doesn't even have one job. Well, besides tolerating his relatives, but under the circumstances that commitment feels a little underwhelming. "Erm… I'm—I'm sorry? I'll just—you know, I could practice outside or something, actually, I'll just go—"

"What?" Geralt runs a hand through his hair as Jaskier scrambles to his feet. "That's not—"

Jaskier waves him off, grabbing a sweatshirt off the clean laundry pile on his desk chair. "Don't be silly, it's nice out and I'll just head to the park—"

"At two AM?"

"Why not?" Jaskier smiles reassuringly. "Serenade the squirrels and whatnot. Ooh, do you think I'll see that fox people keep posting about?"

Geralt stares at him. "Are you… trying to make me feel like a dick?"

"No?" Jaskier tilts his head. "The fox is cute. You're always going on about how it's not going to eat anyone."

"What the fuck?" Geralt asks.

Jaskier says, "I don't understand the question."

"Go to sleep," says Geralt.

"Oh! Hmm, no." Jaskier tucks his cellphone into his pocket. "I'm a little jittery, if I'm being honest, and I'd like to keep practicing—"

"You sound good," Geralt snaps, making this the most aggressive compliment Jaskier has ever been given. "You'd sound better if it wasn't two in the fucking morning."

Jaskier sniffs dramatically and makes for the door. "Well, that's a matter of opinion. I personally think—"

Geralt blocks his exit.

Jaskier gapes at him. "Genuinely?"

Geralt shrugs, expression impassive.

Jaskier huffs and tries to push past him anyway, his guitar held out of the way in one hand. 

Geralt grabs the guitar, tugging Jaskier back with it.

"Okay," Jaskier says slowly, his eyes flicking between the guitar and Geralt's face. "I think someone is a little grumpy from his late night, and someone should stop being a brat about it."

"You're right," Geralt deadpans. "You should stop being a brat."

"Excuse me?" Jaskier gasps and shoves at Geralt with his free hand, grappling for control of the guitar. "You storm into my room and try to tell me—"

"Don't push me," Geralt growls, smacking Jaskier's hand away. "How do you think fighting me is gonna go for you?"

Jaskier tugs on his guitar again and tries to smush his other hand in Geralt's face, which successfully gets him control of the instrument when Geralt lets go to attempt to manhandle him away from the door.

"Just because I don't spend eight days a week at the gym like you—"

"Eight?"

"Emotionally it's eight. Let me go, Geralt—"

"So stop hitting me!"

"—or I swear to God I'll sing until— um!"

Jaskier cuts off in a startled gasp when Geralt manages to press him against the wall, one hand wrapped around his wrist and the other pinning him by the opposite shoulder. He barely regains the presence of mind to not drop the guitar.

Geralt is scowling at him, silver hair falling in his face, and breathing a little hard. His roots are growing in jagged and very dark. His eyes flick downwards and then away, towards the front door.

Fuck. Fuck. Jaskier says, "Geralt—"

Who drops him like a hot pan, turning away. "Sorry. I—do whatever you want. I'm going to bed."

He stalks away, closing his door firmly behind him. 

Jaskier leans his head back against the wall, gazing up at the ceiling. His throat feels tight, though he's certain Geralt never had a hand on it. There's the same restlessness under his skin, thrumming lightly with a tinge of arousal underneath.

Fuck.

That's not fair. He's sure Geralt didn't mean—whatever that was. He just pestered him into it by being an entire bastard, and Jaskier being turned on by the stupid play-fight just makes him—

Well, even more of an entire bastard. It's hard to shut off. 

Jaskier carries his guitar back into his bedroom and sets it in its case, then quietly undresses and crawls into bed. So much for more practice.

 

~*~

 

Banshee Brewery Co. is a local mainstay at the university, and well known for its periodic open-mic events. Jaskier may be a seasoned amateur performer when it comes to queer bar karaoke and school musicals, but he's not immune to a little performance anxiety. 

On stage, anyway.

Such is the case tonight, because he's managed to get himself on the list for the first open-mic of the summer; it'll be a weekly event during the school year, when the campus is flooded with people again.

The idea was to have a sparser, more forgiving (aka: drunker) crowd for his first time performing an original song. Instead, the Banshee is packed to the gills with bored locals and summer students alike, and Jaskier is either going to give the performance of his life or pass out on the spot.

Possibly both, but hopefully in the order listed.

Not that anyone else needs to be privy to that information. Jaskier is sitting at the bar with Essi and Priscilla, who are also performing, and Pavetta and Duny, who are there for moral support, greatly exaggerating how interested he is in different types of beer.

"So that's the main two types," Duny is saying enthusiastically, "but then there's also spontaneous fermentation, which…"

Jaskier nods along dutifully and sips the however-the-fuck fermented beer in front of him, which was purpoted to taste like dried fruits and brown sugar, and personally selected by Jaskier for having the highest alcohol content on the menu.

It's doing wonders for his nerves. It does, however, make him briefly question his sanity halfway through the glass, because he could swear that that's Geralt who just walked through the door.

"Holy shit," Essi says, "is that your roommate?"

"Oh, good," Jaskier says faintly, watching Geralt get in line at the bar. "Other people see him."

"I can't believe you invited him," Priscilla says.

"I can't believe he came," says Essi.

Jaskier's fingers are drumming against the glass. "I didn't? I didn't invite him. I mean, I told him about it, but I didn't think—"

"Maybe he's just here for a drink?" Duny suggests. "You could just wait and see if he notices us."

Jaskier chugs the rest of his beer, cheerfully informs the group, "I'm an idiot, not a coward," and waltzes straight across the bar.

Geralt is leaning against the counter, staring up at the menu while he talks to the cashier. He's wearing a hunter green shirt—adventurous, by his standards—and a black sweatshirt tied around his waist, which combines with the hair to make him simultaneously a perfect fit here and bizarrely out of place. 

"Yeah," he's asking the cashier, "between the Swallow and the Golden Oriole, which do you think is less malty?"

Oh, God. Is Jaskier gonna have to care about beer?

"Geralt!" he says brightly, leaning up against the counter next to Geralt. "What're you doing here?"

Geralt raises an eyebrow as he reaches for his wallet. "Uh. Isn't your thing tonight?"

"Oh! Um, yeah, it is," Jaskier says. A blush crawls up his neck. "Sorry, I didn't think you'd—"

"Ah, fuck," says Geralt, which startles the cashier trying to hand him his drink. He winces and hands her his credit card apologetically before turning back to Jaskier. "Sorry. You didn't want me to come."

"What? No, of course I—" Jaskier gestures ineffectually. "Um, I thought—I didn't think you'd want to? I mean, especially after I terrorized you for hours last night."

Geralt takes his card back and stuffs a few dollars in the tip jar before heading for a table in the very back. He glances over with a smirk. "Can't hold that against you when it was payback for all the early mornings."

He does look tired, though—dark circles under his eyes more pronounced than usual. 

"Oh, well, I was actually planning on having a lot of very loud sex as revenge for that," Jaskier says half-jokingly. "But since I hadn't gotten around to it yet, I guess this works."

Geralt huffs out a laugh into his beer, which he takes a discerning sip of. 

"Ooh, is that good? Can I try it?" Jaskier asks, then snatches it out of Geralt's hands without waiting for an answer. "Oh, that is good! Are you a secret beer snob, Geralt?"

Geralt's stare is unimpressed. "You come here all the time. You don't know the menu?"

"I kinda just order something with a fun sounding name!" Jaskier says. "Or that'll get me really drunk. Preferably while not tasting like ass. I mean, I occasionally enjoy the—"

"When do you go on?" Geralt interrupts, taking a longer drink.

"Oh, who knows, honestly." Jaskier spins one of his rings around his finger. "They told me nine-forty, but honestly these things are so hard to keep on schedule."

Geralt hums and glances towards the performance area, which is still being set up with a microphone and speakers.

"Oh, but you could come sit with me and my friends while we wait!" Jaskier offers, nodding towards the group at the bar—who are all suddenly incredibly preoccupied with their drinks. "We're all just hanging out."

Geralt follows Jaskier's gaze, then quickly looks away. "Uh. I'm fine drinking alone."

"Right, and I believe you, which is depressing." Jaskier leans across the table and pinches Geralt's cheek. Oh, hell, he might be a little tipsier than intended. "Come on, Geralt, it's my special night!"

Geralt purses his lips and says, "Break a leg."

Jaskier pouts ferociously, but pats Geralt's hand and stands back up. "Oh, alright. If you change your mind…"

Geralt tips his glass in Jaskier's direction and angles his chair so that he looks out over the room. 

Jaskier makes his way back to the group and makes the unfortunately wise decision to not acquire another 12% ABV beverage. He does, however, steal a sip of whatever Priscilla is drinking as revenge for the smug face she's making.

"What?" he asks, sticking his tongue out. Why does she like her alcohol so bitter? "Don't look at me like that."

"He did come to watch you!" Pavetta says.

Essi peers over at Geralt's sad loner-man table. "Why is he doing it from the corner?"

"Let the man brood, Es," Duny tells her. "He's gotta sit there consumed with lust for the rest of the evening."

"Stop it!" Jaskier whines. "He is not."

"Fine," Duny corrects, putting his hands up with a shit-eating grin. "Just most of the evening. You know, before the two of you—"

Jaskier puts his head down on the table. "I am begging you to let me suffer in peace."

"So you admit to suffering," Pavetta says innocently. "What about?"

Jaskier glares at her. "Nice try, pre-law."

"I'm just making sure we accurately represent—"

Pavetta cuts off when the first act is asked to take the stage. They all turn to look, Jaskier once again fidgeting with his ring. 

He may be growing closer and closer to public humiliation, but at least no one is making fun of him anymore. 

 

~*~

 

The night progresses mostly according to schedule, although by the time they get to Jaskier, everything is about fifteen minutes behind. He grabs his guitar case and brings it up on stage with him, running his thumb over the latch in a soothing gesture.

He looks out over the crowd—which has only grown in size since they got here—looking for Geralt. He finds him exactly where he left him, though there's a woman talking to him now. 

Jaskier clears his throat and tests the microphone, saying, "Hello, everyone! I'm Jaskier and—"

Essi wolf-whistles.

"Oh, stop it, you flirt," Jaskier shoots back, grinning broadly. "Let's get this stool back so I don't embarrass myself by falling off it. You know, that drink with the—the—was everyone else aware that twelve percent ABV is a lot? Delicious, though, great stuff, thanks for having me! This is a song—you'll know this one, it's 'Grace Kelly'—it's about unrequited love, but also about being gay, which makes it cooler."

There are moderate cheers to that, which is heartening. Jaskier moves the stool out of the way and strums his opening note on the guitar to get the right pitch. When he looks out over the crowd, Geralt's alone at his table again with his eyes fixed firmly on Jaskier.

Jaskier smiles at him; the room is big enough that it's hard to tell, but he swears that Geralt smiles back.

A lot of the people continue their conversations while he sings, but that's alright. No one looks like they're complaining, and his friends and Geralt are paying attention. And people actually clap. It was a good idea to warm up with a cover before, well—

"Thanks, everyone!" Jaskier slides his fingers through a chord progression to occupy his nervous hands. "Erm, for my second one, it's actually an original, and I'm allergic to tomatoes so—well, emotionally, not physically. But be gentle, will you? We're all friends now. It's called 'Titling Songs is Stupid because I'm Bad at It!'"

 

~*~

 

Jaskier survives the performance. He doesn't even faint a little—which honestly would have sufficed as the crowning achievement—and even bounds off the stage with that giddy performance high he always catches from a good audience. He ignores his friends in favor of beelining for Geralt, who looks like he's getting up to leave.

"Geralt!" Jaskier says. His guitar case knocks against his shoulder when he skips to a halt. "What'd you think? Give me an honest review, I can take it. Was I pitchy? I felt pitchy. You're not leaving?"

Geralt raises his eyebrows with a wry smile. "This has been enough partying for me—I'm going home."

"Partying?" Jaskier laughs. "But Geralt, Essi and Priscilla still have to perform! Ooh, and then we're going dancing and—you really won't come? You never come to anything!"

Geralt's smile shrinks. "I came to this."

"And I'm very grateful, which is why we should capitalize on that!" Jaskier makes a roller coaster motion with one hand. "You know, like momentum or whatever! We'll go dancing and—oh, there's dollar jello shots tonight! Have you made any bad decisions lately? We're halfway through college, you've gotta make bad decisions, Geralt!"

Geralt grimaces and says, "I made all mine before college."

"But not the fun kind, clearly!" Jaskier says, undeterred. He's rocking on the balls of his feet—possibly jumping a little. Really selling the experience, on an embodiment-level. "We'll make it fun."

"Jaskier." Geralt places both hands on Jaskier's shoulders and tilts his head with a smile. "Have fun tonight. Don't get into too much trouble, okay?"

Jaskier smirks. "No promises. Are you sure you don't wanna chaperone?"

Geralt chooses a 'dignified silence' approach.

"Oh, alright," Jaskier relents. He rocks up onto his toes and gives Geralt an emphatic hug. "Thank you for coming, Geralt, genuinely."

Geralt stiffens at first, his hands slipping from Jaskier's shoulders, but after a moment of hesitation he returns the embrace.

"You were good," he says. His breath brushes against the shell of Jaskier's ear. "See you in the morning."

He pulls away after that, hands shoved in his pockets as he heads for the door.

Jaskier watches him leave. There's something fluttering in his stomach that has no business being there—none at all. He watches anyway, and buys himself another drink before rejoining his friends.

 

~*~

 

Going dancing where dollar jello shots exist turns out to be a fantastic idea. At least for Jaskier, who is currently making out with a new friend named Maja in the back of an Uber taking them back to his apartment. 

Maja has hot pink hair and uses an enthusiastic amount of teeth. She seems relieved to slip out of her heels by the door, and is understanding when Jaskier asks her to be quiet to avoid waking up Geralt. They stumble into Jaskier's bedroom in a fit of barely-suppressed giggles.

Jaskier's not sure how successful the efforts to keep quiet are, in the end. It's been a while since he's hooked up with anyone, and he's never understood why people would have sex that wasn't fun— getting to connect with someone, laugh with them. And besides, Geralt doesn't have work in the morning.

It ends up being a late night all around. She takes him up on his offer to stay, which is even better. 

Jaskier wakes up fantastically hungover—that kind where he feels vaguely nauseous and the only thing that will cure it is one and a half giant slices of pizza from the hole in the wall down the street from the student center. He looks over at Maja, who is still sleeping, and sends out a massive group text.

Jaskier (11:47 AM): Oxenfurt brunch?? 1215

While he waits for responses, he shakes Maja awake gently, smiling when she scrunches up her nose and then does a full-body stretch. 

"Mm, g'morning," she mumbles, then presses the heel of her hand against her temple. "Fuck, I'm so hungover."

As if on cue, Jaskier hears the Keurig sputter to life in the kitchen.

"We have coffee for that!" he says cheerfully. "And pizza in a few, if you wanna join. But no pressure."

Maja grabs her phone off the nightstand and uses the camera like a mirror. "Ugh, am I really obviously Walk of Shame-y?"

Jaskier peers over the edge of the bed at her discarded clothes: a black sequin crop top and jean cutoff shorts.

"Only if you're ashamed!" he points out brightly. "Which you have no reason to be."

Maja grabs her top and pulls it back over her head; Jaskier briefly tries to remember if she was wearing a bra last night, but then he's distracted by his phone buzzing.

Duny (11:49 AM): Tried to wake up Pavs and she threatened to divorce me (?) But I'm in

Jaskier laughs. He hops into his boxers from last night and then digs through his dresser for an appropriately ridiculous brunch shirt.

"Anyway, I'll see how I feel after coffee," Maja tells him. "I might wanna go home and sleep it off."

"Totally get it," Jaskier agrees. Personally, he'd like to cope by not putting on pants.

Eh, Geralt's seen him in more compromising positions.

He looks over at Maja, who's fully dressed now and texting on her phone, and says, "Erm, just so you know, my roommate can come off a little grumpy but I can almost guarantee he isn't. His face just kind of… does that?"

"Um, thanks?" she says, and follows him into the living room.

Geralt is cooking pancakes on the stove, his hair tied up in a loose bun. He says, "Hey," when Jaskier steals his coffee mug.

"'Hey' yourself," Jaskier shoots back, ignoring the accusation. "You've been up a while?"

Geralt shrugs.

Maja sits down at the table.

"Geralt, this is Maja," Jaskier says, gesturing between them. "Maja, Geralt. Geralt, did you get my text?"

Geralt flips his pancake. "No."

"Oxenfurt brunch," Jaskier tells him. "Thirty minutes."

"No," says Geralt.

Jaskier says, "Ah."

"Wait," Maja asks, "brunch?"

Jaskier turns to look at her. "Wait, are you a freshman?"

"Um, yeah? I mean, I'm starting in the fall." Maja furrows her eyebrows. "Why?"

"Oh, you have to come!" Jaskier says, clapping his hands, which may or may not cause coffee to spill on the counter and Geralt to growl at him. "Oxenfurt brunch is a tradition! It's pizza and beer from Red's—you know, near the student center?"

Maja says, "I fucking love this school."

Essi (11:51 AM): We're in

"Oh, Geralt, please come!" Jaskier begs. He leans back against the counter and does his best puppy dog eyes. "It'll be like old times, hm? A total throwback."

Geralt side-eyes him. "How many people?"

"Not that many!"

"Hm," Geralt says skeptically.

"What? Just me, you, Maja, Duny, Priscilla, and Essi." Jaskier blinks innocently. "A nice normal table number!"

Geralt hums again, sliding the frying pan off the heat. "Fine."

"Wait, really?" Jaskier asks. "Oh, coffee for Maja—Maja, do you want hazelnut or caramel?—you'll really come?"

"Uh, hazelnut," Maja says.

Geralt grabs a K-Cup from the cabinet and hands it over to Jaskier, then slides his singular pancake and the leftover batter into the fridge.

He leaves the kitchen without another word.

Maja cranes her neck to watch Geralt retreat into the bedroom. "I see what you mean."

Jaskier shrugs, snapping the new K-Cup into place and sticking a fresh mug—an excellent one that looks like a giant mushroom—under the spout. "It's just how he communicates. 'Man of few words' and all that. I more than make up for it, if we're being honest—you know, opposites attract? Anyway, do you want painkillers or anything? I should've asked you that before."

"No thanks," she says.

"Oh, coffee! Geralt's coffee." Jaskier takes another sip from the abandoned mug and then flits over to Geralt's bedroom. "Geralt, coffee!"

Geralt opens the door shirtless and with an eyebrow raised. He takes the mug and shuts the door in Jaskier's face.

"You're welcome!" Jaskier tells him in a sing-song. 

Maja rescues her own cup from the coffeemaker, so Jaskier checks his phone for the time.

Duny (11:57 AM): Anyone need a ride?

Priscilla (11:58 PM): Plz

Jaskier (12:01 PM): We're good!

Jaskier (12:01 PM): Geralt's coming!! And the girl from last night her name's Maja

Jaskier wanders back into his bedroom in the regrettable search of pants, most of which are in a pile on his chair—then immediately gets distracted trying to reorganize all the papers on his desk before he remembers they have somewhere to be in fifteen minutes. He returns to the task at hand and finds a pair of green chino shorts which match the print on his shirt and a discarded belt on the floor. 

Shoes or sandals? The eternal summer question. Jaskier sticks his head out of the room and calls, "Geralt? Is it a million degrees or only half a million today?"

Geralt, who is standing by the door dressed in all black like some kind of heat-resistant demon, says, "High of ninety-three."

"God," says Jaskier.

Geralt is texting unsympathetically. "When the weather breaks you'll complain it's too cold."

"And it will be." Jaskier sniffs, heading back into the living room. Maja is still at the kitchen table drinking her coffee. "Maja, did you want to come to brunch? Or we can drop you off somewhere."

"Oh, I'll come," she says, standing up. "Are y'all ready?"

Jaskier slips into his sandals and starts doing up the buckles. "Yep! Are we catching the 12:10 bus?"

"If you hurry," Geralt tells him, and grabs his car keys off the mantel in a spectacular show of faith.

Jaskier sticks his tongue out and leads the charge downstairs. The bus is already there when they make it to the street, but the driver is merciful and waits when they see Jaskier flagging them down.

It's a quick ride over to the student center. Red's Pizzeria is a mercifully short walk from there, but Jaskier is still ready to collapse by the time they get back into the AC.

"I won't make it, Geralt!" he says, a hand held dramatically against his forehead. He flops over against Geralt's side. "Carry me!"

"Ugh," says Geralt. He tugs Jaskier upright by the back of his collar like he's scruffing a cat. "How are you so sweaty?"

He leaves his hand pressed between Jaskier's shoulder blades, steering him into the building.

Essi, Priscilla, and Duny are already there with a table near the window, beer and pizza already in hand. Jaskier waves to them and is firmly re-directed towards the line at the cashier's when he tries to go say hello.

"Oh, fine," Jaskier says, pouting up at Geralt. He turns to Maja, who has been peacefully quiet. "Have you been here before?"

"Hm?" Maja looks up from her phone. "No, I actually just moved in for the STEM Camp a few days ago."

Jaskier's face lights up. "Wait, so we're about to pop your Red's cherry? This is the best day—"

"Yeah, two cheese slices and a Blue Moon," Geralt tells the cashier, then plants his hand on top of Jaskier's head. "And I've got his."

"You do?" Jaskier asks. Geralt nods. "Erm, thanks? I've—a slice of cheese and a PBR?"

Geralt snorts derisively.

"Fine." Jaskier hands over his fake ID and corrects, "Another Blue Moon—happy?"

Geralt takes his own card back and shifts away from the register. "Your taste hasn't gotten better."

"My taste in cheap beer is the universe compensating me for how expensive my taste is in everything else," Jaskier tells him. "And anyway, not that I'm complaining, but why are you paying for me?"

Geralt smirks. "Congratulations."

Jaskier huffs out a laugh. "On the musical performance or the sexual one?"

"Sexual one didn't sound that great," Geralt deadpans.

Jaskier gasps, clutching a hand to his chest. "How dare you! I am a very generous—Maja, didn't I—oh, balls, I was gonna pay for you."

Maja, who was in the middle of taking her card back from the cashier, shrugs. 

They retrieve their pizza and drinks and join the table, Jaskier taking the middle seat when Geralt takes the one closest to the wall.

"Hello, dearest friends!" Jaskier says brightly. "You all remember Geralt. This is Maja. Maja, this is Duny, Priscilla, and Essi."

Maja waves at everyone. "Y'all were all at the club last night, right? You look familiar."

"Hell yeah," Essi says. "Brokilon is the best."

Jaskier prods at his pizza, which must be fresh from the oven—far too hot to touch. "Jello shots designed to inspire hubris."

"So Geralt," Duny asks, "what's your major?"

"Uh, environmental science and wildlife conservation," Geralt answers.

"Dude, no way!" Duny says as if Jaskier hasn't spoken at length about this multiple times while wine drunk on his floor. "I'm in environmental policy and planning. My girlfriend's in poli-sci, pre-law."

Geralt's perks up like an excited puppy. "Are you taking De Vries' seminar next semester?"

"No, I couldn't get in. Are you?" Duny asks.

Jaskier tunes out of that conversation, satisfied that Geralt is in good, very nerdy hands. 

"Are you coming in with a major declared, Maja?" Jaskier asks. 

"Mm, general engineering," Maja says, which makes Essi whistle appreciatively. "I've gotta apply for the specific major after the first year."

"Wow, that's awesome!" Jaskier tells her. He prods at his pizza again and, finding it cool enough to touch, begins to rip the crusts off both slices. "Do you know which one you want?"

Geralt drops the lower half of his second slice onto Jaskier's plate and snatches up Jaskier's crusts in turn.

"Either computer engi—I'm sorry," Maja says, "that was the most beautiful act of symbiosis I've ever seen."

Jaskier preens, glancing over at Geralt smugly.

Geralt shrugs and tears a chunk of crust between his teeth.

"But anyway," Jaskier resumes the conversation, "you were saying computer or what else?"

"Computer engineering or computer science," Maja says.

Jaskier takes a bite of his pizza and asks, through an undignified mouthful of cheese, "So sorry, what's the difference?"

Priscilla leans over and pats Jaskier on the arm, explaining, "We're godless Liberal Arts majors."

"Star-crossed lovers," Jaskier agrees solemnly. "But technically I'm in Performing Arts."

"Same unemployability, different flavor," Essi teases.

Jaskier glares at her over a bite of pizza. "I'm not going to be employed, I'm going to be famous."

"Oh my God," Essi groans. "You sound like such a dick."

"I'm practicing for being famous," Jaskier shoots back with a grin.

Maja laughs. "To be honest, I didn't know the difference until I was applying. But computer science is about, like, programming and software systems, and computer engineering is more focused on electronics."

"Oh, gotcha," says Essi.

"But there's some overlap, too? I've gotta meet with my advisor. Um, once they tell me who my advisor is. Should they have done that by now?"

Jaskier recognizes a budding existential crisis when he sees one. He heads it off with a cheerful, "There's plenty of time to figure that out tomorrow! Right now we have much more pressing questions—like what you think of Red's pizza!"

"Wait, it's your first time?" Essi asks eagerly. "You're a pizza virgin?"

Maja raises her eyebrows with a laugh. "I mean, I've had pizza."

Duny pauses his conversation with Geralt to tell her, "You won't think so after you've tried this."

"Unless you grew up in New York," Geralt mutters.

Jaskier smacks him on the arm.

"Okay, but now it's a lot of pressure," Maja says nervously. "What if I hate it?"

"Everyone's entitled to one wrong opinion," Jaskier answers. "For example, Geralt's is that pizza crust tastes like something besides ash."

Geralt deadpans, "No, I like the taste of ash."

He grabs Jaskier's wrist before Jaskier can smack him again.

"Pri's is that she doesn't like cupcake frosting," Essi contributes.

Priscilla huffs. "Uh, your incorrect opinion is thinking cupcake frosting is good."

"Interesting stalemate," says Jaskier. He turns back to Maja. "You can just eat the pizza, it's really fine."

Maja glances at him skeptically, then takes a tentative bite. Her eyes—pretty, dark brown—widen comically before rolling shut.

"Mm," she says, which is a viscerally familiar sound. "Fuck, okay, this tastes better than sex."

Jaskier squawks with mock offense, clutching the metaphorical pearls at his chest. "Well, I never."

Essi whistles a divebomb sound and makes an explosion with both hands. "Get wrecked, buddy."

"Oh, right," Maja says sweetly, batting her eyelashes. "I forgot about that."

Jaskier waves a hand at her and says, "Eh, if I'm gonna be second to something, Red's pizza is a good way to go."

"Did she say you were second?" Geralt asks drily. "Has she tried the beer?"

Essi laughs so hard that she caws like a crow. 

"Is this why you've been hiding him from us?" Priscilla asks. "Because you knew he'd end your whole career?"

Jaskier, whose mouth has been stuck open for several moments, splutters and asks, "Has—there's—have I done something to you lately?"

Geralt raises an eyebrow with a smirk, then takes another bite of his pizza. He looks unreasonably pleased with himself, which is really just—

Well, Jaskier's just glad he has a thick skin for this kind of thing. He wants Geralt to have fun spending time with the group, even if the joke is at Jaskier's expense.

Besides, sex can't cure a hangover. 

 

~*~

 

After brunch, Jaskier tells Geralt he'll catch a later bus home and walks Maja to her dorm, suffering the sweltering heat. They talk about adjusting to college, his favorite hangout spots and the frat houses he and his friends have learned to stay away from.

She's funny; he likes her.

Outside her dorm, they shelter in the shade under a tree and Jaskier fidgets nervously with his ring.

"So, erm," he says, off to an excellent start. "Would you… be interested in doing this again sometime?"

Maja smiles and raises an eyebrow. "Which part?"

"Oh, I'm really pretty flexible," Jaskier says. "Friends with benefits—just friends, if the benefits aren't… of interest. I could, um, take you on a date?"

Maja's cheeks are pink in the sun. She brushes her bangs away from her face and says, "Maybe we can call it friends, with benefits TBD? I mean, I had a great time, I'm just not… totally sure what I want, you know? College-wise."

"Absolutely," Jaskier agrees. He smiles encouragingly. "I'm not really a fan of rigidity as a rule, anyway."

"Yeah, I got that impression," Maja says—not in a negative tone, though there's something layered to it that he takes notice of. "Did you wanna trade numbers?"

"Sure!" Jaskier pulls out his phone. "And Snapchat?"

Maja swaps info with him and retreats into her dorm for a movie day with some of her hallmates. Jaskier sends her a Snapchat of her own tree in the hopes of getting the all-important snap streak going and then stops at the library coffee shop for something iced and deeply caffeinated to console him on the slog home.

While he's there, he snaps a picture of the chalkboard advertising three different flavors of fruit smoothie that he sends to Geralt.

dandilionbard: Be honest: do these have even a single piece of fruit in them and how badly do you want one anyway

whitewolf95: (chat) LOL.

whitewolf95: [A picture of Viktor wearing the tiny pair of sunglasses Jaskier bought for him last week] Viktor wants magic mango.

dandilionbard: (chat) Obviously :P 

 

~*~

 

The heat doesn't break for another two weeks, and even then only slightly. Jaskier, Maja, Priscilla, and Essi are all squeezed onto the couch with Pavetta and Duny sharing a giant bean bag chair while it thunders outside.

They've already been through one scary movie and are debating whether or not it's wise to watch a second instead of switching to a comedy. Jaskier believes that things like a spectacular thunderstorm demand the respect of watching a thematically appropriate movie. Pavetta would like to be able to sleep tonight. 

Battle lines are in the process of being drawn when Geralt gets home, dressed in his library work uniform and drenched to the bone.

"Oh, Geralt!" Jaskier says eagerly, turning around to lean over the back of the couch. "You look terrible. You can be our tie-breaker. What movie should we watch?"

Geralt scowls at him.

"Take your time," Jaskier says helpfully. "Dry off first if you want."

Geralt squeezes the excess water from his hair. "Why would I pick a movie I'm not even watching?"

Jaskier grins. "Aren't you, though?"

Duny says, "Yeah, join us, man!" while Essi encourages, "Come sit with us!"

Geralt squints skeptically. "Hm."

"It'll be fun!" Jaskier wheedles. "And, being perfectly honest, you look like you need a mood lifter. Textbook drowned cat."

"Drowned rat," Priscilla corrects.

"Pshh," says Jaskier.

Geralt looks between the group, making some kind of silent calculation, then asks, "What're the choices?"

"Yes!" Jaskier claps excitedly. "We just watched Insidious and we're debating between The Conjuring or this romcom Christmas-y one called Let It Snow."

Geralt blinks. "Those are completely different."

"Exactly the problem," Jaskier points out.

"Uh," Geralt says, looking down at his clothes. "Let me get changed."

He vanishes into the bedroom, and five pairs of eyes fall on Jaskier as soon as the door closes.

"What?" he asks defensively. He's holding Maja's hand on his thigh, running his thumb over her knuckles, and even she's looking at him like—

"Nothing," Pavetta says innocently. "I just think it's interesting how Geralt's into hanging out with us all of a sudden."

"You mean since he found out Duny's an environment junkie?" Jaskier asks sagely. "Because I agree, it's gotten a bit excessive."

Maja snorts.

Before Jaskier can defend himself any further, Geralt re-emerges in a particularly soft looking hoodie and sweatpants. He pads over in bare feet and, assessing the seating arrangements, goes to sit on the floor.

"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Maja tells him, "we'll make room up here."

So saying, she climbs into Jaskier's lap and pats the empty seat she's vacated between Jaskier and the arm of the futon. 

"Uh," says Geralt.

"Erm," Jaskier says, and is promptly silenced by an elbow digging into his thigh. "I mean, if you want?"

Geralt surveys the room again; everyone besides Jaskier is smiling in a very normal and definitely un-creepy way.

"Okay." Geralt squeezes into the Maja-sized space on the couch, which means that he and Jaskier are pressed closely together even after Jaskier and Maja shift towards Essi.

Geralt clears his throat, freeing the arm trapped between them by draping it over the back of the couch.

His fingers are tapping against the futon in Jaskier's periphery. He smells faintly of the rainstorm.

"Okey-dokey!" Jaskier says brightly. "Let's pick our poison then, Geralt."

"Uh." Geralt glances over, briefly meeting Jaskier's eyes before looking away. "The Conjuring."

Jaskier whoops and high fives Essi and Maja in celebration. Pavetta, accepting defeat, tabs over to the movie on Netflix.

"I hate all of you," she says evenly, and presses play. 

And, look—Jaskier isn't really that scared of horror films. He doesn't get queasy that easily and he enjoys the ones with good storytelling.

There is, however, something particularly intoxicating about acting scared. It's part of the camaraderie of watching a scary movie with other people—the gasping and squealing, all the reassuring cuddles and touches.

Jaskier may or may not notice that, after he yells at the second big scare, Geralt's arm drops down onto his shoulders. And he may or may not tighten his own arms around Maja's waist, holding her a little closer when they find out who is haunting the house, and play up just how freaked out he is by the sight of blood so he can hide his face in the crook of Geralt's neck.

No one seems bothered by the arrangement, anyway. Maja voted for the horror movie too, and Geralt is as stoic watching it as he is in pretty much every other situation, except the occasional shift in his position or a brush of his fingers against Jaskier's arm after a scare.

He never moves away. Maybe Jaskier should feel a little bad about hamming it up so much.

Eh, he's never claimed to be that upstanding of a person. He nestles himself more snugly into Geralt's side the next time someone gets attacked on-screen.

 

~*~

 

Everyone survives the movie; Geralt gets up quickly once it's over, his hands shoved into his sweatshirt pockets and his lips gently pursed.

They set up the futon and manage to fit both of the other couples onto it in a god-defying feat of college student ingenuity. Jaskier, who refuses to be left out of anything ever, convinces Maja that dragging out an unzipped sleeping bag to sleep on instead of the bed is a fantastic idea.

"It's a college rite of passage!" he insists, tossing a blanket on top of the thin padding. "I can't even count how many times I slept on Pavetta and Essi's floor my freshman year."

"We lived in Cintra Hall," Essi explains. "It's closest to the Downtown line."

Jaskier agrees, "Much more convenient home base for partying than Rivia, hm, Geralt?"

Geralt, who is pouring himself a bowl of midnight cereal, grunts in vague agreement.

"Sure," Maja agrees with good-natured skepticism. "Can I borrow some sleep clothes?"

"Of course," Jaskier tells her.

They switch off all the lights in the meantime, leaving only a faint glow from the kitchen window that faces a Waffle House to illuminate the room, and Maja climbs into their makeshift bed.

Geralt crunches quietly into his cereal.

Jaskier, satisfied that everyone is set up for the night, lays down next to Maja and tries to fall asleep. He listens to everyone's rustling die out around him and Maja's breathing settle—and the distinct absence of Geralt getting up to go to bed.

There's still a restlessness buzzing under Jaskier's skin—too much adrenaline from the movie, maybe. Or the dirty chai he had this afternoon. He gives up on falling asleep and joins Geralt in the kitchen, rooting around for their box of Lucky Charms in the dark.

He finds it eventually, and uses the light from the fridge to pour himself some milk. Geralt pulls out a chair for him when he comes to sit down.

"Thanks. Can't sleep?" Jaskier teases in a whisper. "We could make room for you on the floor."

Geralt hums, setting his phone face down on the table. "It's not the movie."

Jaskier squints at his cereal, trying to pick out the shapes of marshmallows in the dark. He likes saving all the rainbows for last. "Me neither. Well, not entirely. What is it then, for you?"

Geralt shines his phone on Jaskier's bowl. "Just happens."

"Mm," Jaskier says around a mouthful of cereal. "Well, I'll keep you company."

Geralt's smile is easy to miss in the low light, especially as fleeting as it is. Jaskier doesn't, though.

 

~*~

 

goat_daddy: [A picture of Geralt and Lambert standing over a giant cooler, mixing what Jaskier assumes is a massive amount of Jungle Juice—three parts Hawaiian Punch, one part Everclear. Lambert is mugging for the camera while Geralt stares, completely emotionless, as he pours in a giant bottle of vodka] PARTY TIMEEEEE!!!

Well, that's… weird. Clearly Kappa Mu is having a frat party to kick off the fall semester, but Geralt had told Jaskier they'd do a movie night together.

He obviously just forgot. That's fine. Jaskier sends Eskel a string of various party-themed emojis and flops sideways on the futon. If Geralt's not coming home, maybe Jaskier could text Maja or something. She's been a little distant since the semester started, either busy with classes or making other friends.

Maybe she'd be down to go dancing or something though. And he's sure the squad would join if he gave them a few hours' notice; the night is young.

Jaskier doesn't really feel like going out. He makes the active decision to not examine his disappointment too closely and clicks over to The Great British Bake-Off on Netflix.

Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are about to judge the final bake when the front door swings open.

Jaskier jumps and nearly rolls off the couch, recovering in time to brace his hand on the coffee table.

"Geralt!" he says, sitting up fully. "What're you doing here?"

Geralt looks around the room. "Movie night."

"I—but?" Jaskier wiggles his phone. "Aren't you throwing a party? Is it tomorrow?"

Geralt bends over to unlace his boots. "I'm not going. I was just helping set up."

"What?" Jaskier laughs. "Why aren't you going?"

"I don't like parties," Geralt says flatly.

"No, I've known you for more than five minutes, I know you don't like parties." Jaskier twists around to face Geralt more fully. "I meant, why are you helping set up for a party and then not going?"

Geralt mutters something as he tugs his second boot off.

"What's that?"

"It's election season," Geralt repeats, barely any louder. "I'm running for Event Coordinator."

"Oh," says Jaskier. "Um, what—I mean, why?"

Geralt grimaces, standing up and rubbing the back of his neck. "That's what Lambert and Eskel said."

"Well, I just—" Jaskier winces. "If you don't like parties, I'm not sure why you'd wanna be in charge of planning them?"

Geralt tilts his face up to the ceiling. "The coordinator plans all our service events, too. Which is supposed to be the actual point."

"Oh!" Jaskier says. He smiles encouragingly. "No, that actually makes a lot of sense. I think you'd be great at that!"

Geralt looks back at him. "Really?"

"No, absolutely." Jaskier taps his hands on the back of the couch. "You have at least one idea already, don't you?"

Geralt fidgets with a hole in the bottom of his shirt, looking like he's putting his thoughts together.

"Did you know that the river that runs west of here is the second oldest in the world?" he asks eagerly, coming to sit next to Jaskier on the couch. "But it's massively polluted in this area by trash, which is affecting the local ecosystem. I think we should do a trash clean-up day where we hike upstream and pick up trash, and then people can kayak or go tubing back down the river. Maybe we could do it twice, up each bank, or split into two groups if we get enough people."

Geralt is focused so intently while he talks, his eyes fixed somewhere near Jaskier's face without ever really meeting his gaze. His voice is impassioned in a way that it rarely is, making Jaskier's stomach wrench with a protective warmth.

This man cares so much. It kills Jaskier to think that not everyone sees that.

"That's an awesome plan," he says—gentler than he meant to. He doesn't mean to patronize, he just—there's something tripping up his tongue. "I'd totally do something like that!"

Geralt looks away. "Maybe someone else should do it."

"What?" Jaskier asks, frowning. "Why?"

"Someone better with people," says Geralt.

Jaskier's chest twinges. "You're not bad with people. You're great with me, aren't you?"

"It's the other way around," Geralt mutters. He's staring at Viktor, who's starting to look a little out of season with his palm tree and sunglasses. "You're good with me."

Jaskier, for once, doesn't know what to say.

"I know people think I'm intimidating," Geralt continues. "And a dick, or an asshole. I'm not… outgoing. It takes me a long time to connect with people."

Jaskier rests his cheek on the back of the couch. "That's not always true. I mean, you and me—"

"You didn't give me a choice." Geralt's lips twitch. "I don't get how you do it."

"Oh, that's easy," Jaskier says lightly. "If you just stop having any self-respect, eventually someone will agree to put up with you."

Geralt doesn't laugh. He glances over, wetting his bottom lip, and looks away again.

"Yeesh, tough crowd," Jaskier jokes. 

Geralt slouches down, propping his elbow up on the armrest.

"I'm not putting up with you," he says. "You annoy the shit outta me sometimes, but you're my friend."

Jaskier swallows. Has Geralt ever called him that before? He's sure he'd remember, if he had.

"I…" Jaskier hesitates, looking at the faint blush on Geralt's cheeks. His hair is freshly-redone, a lovely blueish silver with a messy root. He wants to say it, wants something to spill out of him, but he doesn't know what form it's supposed to take. "I think we should go to the party."

Geralt looks over with narrowed eyes. "What?"

"We're gonna get you elected, obviously!" Jaskier says, smoothing a cheerful veneer back over his voice. "And that, my dear friend, means networking. Which I am more than capable of helping you do—it's practically in my DNA."

Geralt grumbles, "Networking is stupid."

"How dare you!" Jaskier says, placing a hand over his chest. "Networking is a sacred art form."

"But I hate half our frat," Geralt complains, leaning his head back against the couch. "They're just there for an excuse to put drinking on their resume."

Jaskier makes the calculated decision to not comment that, if he'd majored in Business like his parents wanted, he'd absolutely be doing the same. Feeling emboldened, he leans over and pinches Geralt's cheek—and is not, curiously, immediately smacked away.

"That's the secret of networking, Geralt," he says smugly. "No one has to know that you hate them."

Geralt scowls, which looks particularly adorable with Jaskier still pulling at his cheek. "That's stupid."

Jaskier stops messing with Geralt's face in favor of resting his forearm on Geralt's shoulder. "You'll thank me when you get to be Event Coordinator and do all your cool ideas. Go put on a shirt that doesn't have holes in it unironically."

"Hm." Geralt side-eyes him. "I didn't agree to this yet."

"The sooner we go the sooner you get to come back home," Jaskier tells him pleasantly. When Geralt doesn't budge, he adds, "Oh, c'mon, Geralt—just try for a little while. When you need to bail, you can blame it on me."

Geralt snorts. "How will that work?"

"Easy!" Jaskier tells him. "I am very good at A, pretending to be much drunker than I am, and B, making a huge fucking fool of myself."

"Hm," Geralt says again, smirking. "I'd hate to let your talent go to waste."

Jaskier smacks his chest. "Oh, just get up! Horrible friend."

Geralt laughs quietly and obeys, heading into his room to change. Jaskier drags his teeth over his bottom lip and looks down at his own outfit. He is, as always, already frat party-ready. There's a slight undercurrent of nerves thrumming under his skin, though, and there's nothing like a quick outfit change to hit the reset button on that.

He's tossing shirts from the clean laundry chair onto his bed when Geralt pokes his head into his room, wearing a seemingly identical shirt—but minus the holes.

"What was wrong with what you were wearing?" Geralt asks.

"Vibes," Jaskier says absently. He holds up two different colorfully striped shirts. "Which one?"

Geralt tilts his head, then points at the one on Jaskier's left.

Jaskier tosses the rejected shirt onto the bed and shrugs into the other one. He frowns at himself in the mirror and flits back over to his desk to switch out his jewelry. 

"Jaskier," Geralt says.

Jaskier drifts over to his nightstand. He swears he wore that ring with a buttercup on it the other day. Is it in the bathroom? 

Geralt says, "Jaskier," again, less patiently.

"What's that?" Jaskier asks, turning around. "I'll be ready in a second!"

"You're not even wearing pants," Geralt points out drily.

Jaskier looks down. "Oh! I'm not. Where did those go?"

He finds the pair of jeans he was looking for earlier shoved halfway under the bed, with the belt still looped through them. Bonus! That accomplished, he brushes past Geralt into the bathroom, where the missing ring is indeed on the vanity.

"Can we go now?" Geralt asks, raising an eyebrow. 

"Patience, Geralt!" Jaskier tsks. "Look who's so eager all of a sudden."

Geralt leans his head against the doorframe. "I wanna get this over with."

"That's the spirit!" Jaskier says cheerfully. He checks the charge on his phone—seventy percent, which should be fine. "Alright, fine, let's— socks!"

"I'm gonna start the car," says Geralt.

 

~*~

 

"Hey, look what the cat dragged in!" Lambert cheers as soon as they walk through the front door of the frat house. He turns to address Jaskier specifically. "I'm guessing you're the cat."

Geralt looks like he's formulating a response, but Eskel yanks him into a passionate bro hug before he can say anything.

"You could say that," Jaskier tells Lambert, surveying the room. The house is fairly large, but packed with people. Music is blasting from a massive television against one wall.

Should he have brought his guitar? No, that would make him an asshole. On the other hand…

"Jaskier!" Eskel says, then confirms that his hugs are as bone-crushing as they look. "Let's get you a drink, man!"

Jaskier allows himself to be steered into the kitchen, checking over his shoulder to find Geralt following them.

There's even more people in the kitchen, though it's slightly quieter in here. Jaskier beelines for the giant cooler of Jungle Juice.

"Jaskier," Geralt warns as Jaskier pours himself a cup.

"You're not the boss of me, Geralt," Jaskier answers, and chugs half in one gulp. "Wow, that's strong! I thought the point of this stuff was for it to not taste like booze."

Lambert tugs on the back of Geralt's ponytail. "This one said that'd be 'irresponsible.'"

Geralt mutters something about giving freshmen alcohol poisoning.

Jaskier shrugs and refills his cup. He's a junior now, he can have as much alcohol poisoning as he wants. 

Besides, Geralt's driving.

Jaskier waits for Geralt to pop the cap on his beer and then says, "Fantastic! Geralt, let's go meet people."

Geralt looks up, the bottle cap held between his thumb and forefinger, and says, "Uh."

"Oh no. Oh, no no no." Jaskier loops his arm through Geralt's and drags him forcibly into the main room. "You are not getting out of this now. We're already here! I chugged Everclear for you!"

Geralt growls.

"Okay, I chugged Everclear for myself," Jaskier amends. "But you can do this, I promise! Here, introduce me to someone you like first."

"Do Eskel and Lambert count?" Geralt asks flatly. Jaskier is about to scold him, but then he spots someone from across the room and perks up. "Mousesack!"

A fellow college student wearing a Kappa Mu shirt and backwards snapback spreads his arms wide and shouts, "Geralt! How's the apartment treating you, friend? It feels like it's been forever."

Jaskier follows Geralt across the room and waves politely at the other man. First Eskel and Lambert, and now this one—yet another secret friend of Geralt's.

"The apartment's good," Geralt says. He rests a hand on the top of Jaskier's head. "This is my roommate, Jaskier."

"What was that?" Mousesack asks. "Jaskier? Good to meet you, I'm Mousesack."

Jaskier shakes his hand, then takes another sip of his drink. "Likewise! And I agree with Geralt—we've been loving the apartment. Did you move into this house?"

"Oh, good Lord no," says Mousesack with a laugh. "I just got tired of not having AC."

"Fair enough," Jaskier says. 

Mousesack turns back to Geralt. "I'm surprised to see you here. I thought you hated these things."

Geralt's hand is still on Jaskier's head. He ruffles Jaskier's hair slightly before dropping it, shrugging at his friend.

"Did Geralt tell you he's running for Event Coordinator?" Jaskier asks, smiling eagerly. "I think he'd be great at it!"

"He didn't," Mousesack says, giving Geralt an amused look. "But I agree. Do you need a second for your nomination?"

Geralt raises his eyebrows. "Uh, sure. I was gonna ask Eskel, but…"

"Let me!" Mousesack insists. He pats Geralt on the back heartily. "It's about time we had someone who's actually interested in volunteering. Not that I don't love a good party."

Jaskier shoots Geralt a smug sideways glance. 

Geralt rolls his eyes.

"C'mon, let's go find some of the others," Mousesack tells them. "I need to catch up on everything I missed all summer."

"Uh, sure," Geralt agrees, nodding to let Mousesack lead the way. He looks at Jaskier again while Mousesack flags someone down, this time smiling tentatively. 

Jaskier smiles back over the rim of his cup.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier does successfully give Geralt a crash-course on networking, which Geralt endures like a socially anxious champ. They talk to a solid portion of the frat, and even get dragged into a game of beer pong against Eskel and Lambert—Jaskier does all the drinking for both of them, which suits him just fine.

By the time Geralt sends Jaskier a text saying he wants to go home, there's not even a need to do anything drastic. Partly because Jaskier really is that drunk, and partly because it's right on the cusp of that time of night where shit really starts to go down, and Jaskier's pretty sure that no one expects Geralt to stick around that long on purpose.

Baby steps, and all that.

So all Jaskier has to do is make a show of half-flopping against Geralt's side and saying, "Geraaalt, I'm tired."

Geralt hauls him upright, patting him forcefully on the back, and says, "Fine. Let's go."

It takes another fifteen minutes to make their way to the entrance—Jaskier wheedles Geralt into saying goodbye to people, and also takes a detour of his own to get the number of that very cute captain of the rowing team who has been making eyes at him all night.

"You never quit, do you?" Geralt asks drily, slipping a hand onto the back of Jaskier's neck to steer him towards the car, which is parked down the block.

Jaskier is busy texting Michael, who has nice dimples and is free tomorrow afternoon for coffee. "Hm? No, I'm like a—a—" he pouts at Geralt. "I had a great analogy!"

"Energizer Bunny," Geralt suggests wryly. "Or Don Quixote."

Jaskier furrows his eyebrows. "That's the one who fought a windmill. Are you thinking of Don Juan?"

"You'd fuck a windmill," Geralt says, then snorts at his own joke.

"Hey!" Jaskier protests, laughter coloring his voice. He trips over an uneven patch of sidewalk—or possibly his own feet—and is tugged more firmly against Geralt's side. "I have great taste—" he tilts his head back to peer at Geralt's expression, smiling brightly. "—and you have beautiful eyes."

Geralt looks away, the flush on his face suddenly lit in stark relief by a streetlight. Fuck, he really is fucking lovely, isn't he? Jaskier forgets sometimes, just so he can cope with it.

"Save it for the windmill," Geralt says, and unlocks his truck from the passenger side.

Jaskier climbs in and leans across the center console to unlock the driver side door. Geralt's truck is, objectively, a piece of shit, but Jaskier will probably cry if Geralt ever gets rid of it.

The engine sputters for a worrying amount of time before it starts.

Okay, some of Jaskier's sentimentality may be exaggerated by the Jungle Juice.

Geralt drapes his arm over the back of Jaskier's seat as he turns his head to back out of their parking space. "Put on your seatbelt."

"Oh! Right." Jaskier buckles himself in and then rests his temple against the glass, watching Geralt maneuver the truck out of a parallel parking spot it had no business fitting into in the first place. "That should be illegal."

Geralt hums questioningly.

"Being so good at parking. At parallel parking." Jaskier gestures vaguely at Geralt's whole… driving situation. "Operating a—a motor vehicle."

Geralt glances over at him with an eyebrow raised. "Didn't you grow up in a city? Figured you'd learn to park."

"Right, no, yeah." Jaskier laughs. "I failed my driving test three times because I kept running stop signs, and then when I was still in the remedial course I stole my dad's car so I could make out with Petra Kim behind this—well, unimportant, but anyway I crashed it on my way home and so I don't so much… car… anymore? Have I not told this story?"

"Don't think so." Geralt stops at a red light. He looks over, eyes bright and intense, and then back away. "Were you okay?"

"From the crash?" Jaskier asks. Geralt nods. "Physically, yeah, pretty much, although I'm told I knocked the power out for half the block, but thank you for asking because hoo boy, that definitely wasn't Dad's first—"

Jaskier cuts off abruptly. This story isn't as funny as he pretends to remember it.

Geralt's jaw is clenched. He shifts the truck back into gear and says, "Cars can be replaced."

An easier sentiment to share when it wasn't Geralt's car, but Jaskier appreciates the gesture so much anyway that he forgets how to comment on it. He slips the buttercup ring off his finger and fiddles with it restlessly.

"Anyway," he says cheerfully. "Parallel parking's akin to dark magic, essentially, and apparently I have the wrong disposition for obeying traffic laws!"

"Hm," says Geralt. "Good thing we've got a good bus system."

Jaskier pats the truck's dashboard. "And good ole Delilah!"

Geralt snorts with surprise. "What?"

"What, did she already have a name?" Jaskier asks.

Geralt taps his fingers on the steering wheel. "Blue."

"Blue?" Jaskier repeats. "Your—it's a red truck!"

"That's why it's—" Geralt cuts off, hesitating, then mumbles, "That's why it's funny."

Jaskier giggles. Puts a hand over his mouth to stifle it, then starts to laugh harder. "That's—no, you're right, that's—"

"Don't," Geralt says plaintively.

"No, I'm not laughing—not at you," Jaskier insists. He draws his knees up to his chest and props up his chin, beaming at Geralt's stony expression. "That's adorable."

Geralt mutters, "Shut up," but Jaskier doesn't miss the tiny smile twitching at his lips.

The conversation peters out; Jaskier reaches over and turns up the radio, which he enthusiastically starts singing along to. Geralt taps his fingers to the beat and circles three blocks before he finds a parking space big enough to accommodate Blue.

Back at the apartment building, Jaskier hums some new song that's gotten stuck in his head and he's already forgotten the words to, rocking on the balls of his feet in the elevator. Geralt's hands are shoved in his pockets; he looks a little tired.

The elevator opens on their floor. Jaskier flits down the hallway and fumbles for his key at the front door, frowning when all his pockets turn up empty except for his phone.

"Geralt?" he asks. "Did I bring my key?"

"Probably not." Geralt nudges him gently aside and unlocks the door himself. His hair is falling loose from his ponytail; he's smiling.

Jaskier has no idea what to do with a smile like that. He flings both arms around Geralt's neck and attempts to leap into his arms.

"Geralt!" he declares, ignoring the way Geralt curses and takes a half-step backwards. "Now's your chance—carry me into our home!"

"Fucking—" Geralt grips Jaskier by the waist and pries him free. "No, Jaskier."

"Just the threshold," Jaskier begs. "For the symbolism. Don't you want—"

Geralt opens the door and drags Jaskier through it on foot, hissing, "Get inside. You'll wake the neighbors."

Jaskier stumbles and catches himself on Geralt's arm, undeterred by the grumpy outburst. "Geralt, we live on Main Street on a Friday night—I promise you no one is home."

Geralt narrows his eyes. "Mrs. Richards is seventy-three."

Oh, Jaskier forgot about her. He says, "And I'm insulted on her behalf that you think that means she isn't out cutting a rug somewhere as we speak."

"Ugh," is Geralt's only remark. He locks the door behind them and bends down to unlace his boots.

"Anyway, speaking of being old," Jaskier ventures, toeing out of his own shoes. "Is it too late to watch that movie?"

Geralt looks up at him. "You don't wanna crash before the hangover kicks in?"

"Easy solution!" Jaskier darts over to the kitchen, which is easier said than done and requires a pause to catch his balance on the couch. "Emergency beer—can't be hungover if you're still drunk."

"... That's a stupid idea," Geralt says, but he goes to sit on the futon and turns on the TV. "Bring me one."

Jaskier claps his hands with delight, snagging two bottles from the fridge. He fumbles in the drawers for a bottle opener. "What should we watch?"

"Hm." The Netflix startup sound vibrates through the speakers. "Something scary?"

Jaskier drags his teeth over his bottom lip, suppressing a grin. "You know that means you'll have to hold my hand, right? Those're the rules."

Geralt freezes over one of the movie listings; the preview starts blasting on the TV.

"No it doesn't," he says.

"Oh, fine." Jaskier gives up on finding the bottle opener and flops down on the couch, shoving both beers in Geralt's direction for help—Geralt sighs and takes them. "I'll just suffer over here alone."

Geralt pops the bottles open using the edge of the coffee table. "So pick a different movie."

"Mama didn't raise a quitter," Jaskier says, and snatches the remote off Geralt's thigh. He tabs down to the horror category and picks the first thing he doesn't recognize. "Have you seen this?"

"No," says Geralt.

"Perfect!" Jaskier hits play and takes his beer back from Geralt. "Thank you. Oh, where's the blanket? Can't watch a scary movie without a blanket. Here it is!"

Geralt huffs out an amused breath. He tugs his hair out of its ponytail and shakes his head to free it; Jaskier spins a ring around his finger, suddenly feeling the urge to pet Geralt's hair instead.

Stop being weird, Jaskier. Stop being—

"Oh, fuck me!" Jaskier yelps, some creature skittering behind the protagonist onscreen. "Fuck me and fuck that—that thing."

"Not too late to be a quitter," Geralt taunts.

Jaskier flips him the bird and tugs the blanket up to his chin as the movie continues. So, the fear of horror movies might be a little more authentic when he's drunk. Everything processes a little sideways; it's unnerving.

But also…

"Oh, fuck, oh fuck, Geralt!" Jaskier babbles, shrinking into himself and hiding his face completely behind the blanket. "Oh shit oh fuck they're gonna die I can't look—"

"Jesus," says Geralt. "C'mere."

Jaskier peeks one eye out of the blanket to find Geralt with his arm draped over the back of the couch invitingly.

Bingo.

Jaskier shuffles over faster than the horrible alien creature hunting down a team of scientists, gluing himself to Geralt's side. He throws the blanket over them both and uses it to hide a sly smile—which is just as well, because the evisceration that just happened on screen was genuinely a little disgusting, even for him.

Geralt wraps his arm around Jaskier's shoulders under the blanket, running his thumb soothingly over Jaskier's bicep. 

Fuck, this was a miscalculation. Was there ever a worse combination invented than scared and horny? Jaskier feels like he's going to burst out of his skin. Geralt smells like beer and cigarette smoke, which isn't objectively pleasant, but has a thrum of masculinity to it that's really striking a chord right now.

In for a penny, right?

Jaskier slips an arm around Geralt's middle and hugs himself closer, fingers curling in the soft cotton of Geralt's t-shirt. He keeps having this horrible thought of biting at the fabric, his stupid drunk brain like a moth to flame, and he stuffs his fingers into his mouth like he's fretting at the film to stifle the impulse. 

Stupid. Such a bad idea. Geralt takes a swig of his beer and a cool drop of condensation lands on Jaskier's wrist. He inhales sharply, realizing how warm he is.

"You know it—" Geralt clears his throat. "It's barely started, right? It's gonna get worse."

"I—what?" Jaskier asks weakly. 

"The movie," says Geralt.

"Right." Jaskier swallows and looks back at the screen. "The movie."

 

~*~

 

The movie ends. Jaskier is embarrassingly disoriented, still a little drunk and suddenly violently aware of how quiet it is while the credits roll.

Geralt shifts against him, sitting up a little straighter, but doesn't pull away. He coughs lightly and asks, "You gonna be able to sleep tonight?"

God, Jaskier doesn't even have it in him to make up some kind of flirtatious nonsense. Where's the bravado he used to beg Geralt to carry him like a blushing bride over the threshold, to turn it into a joke?

"Um," he says faintly. "I'll manage. Will… you?"

"Movies don't scare me." Geralt's fingers tighten in Jaskier's shirt, over his ribs. He looks down—or Jaskier looks up—and wets his bottom lip. Fuck, they're so close. He's washed out by the television light, pale skin and shining hair. "Uh, I didn't say. Thanks, for tonight. You're…"

Is he leaning in? Jaskier feels himself drifting up, his chin tilting with a question. Fuck, is he imagining it?

"Good with you?" he supplies softly, watching the flash in Geralt's half-lidded eyes. "You made it easy."

Geralt is watching Jaskier's mouth. He has to be. This is the worst idea in the world, isn't it? They're friends. They're—Jaskier has a lot of friends. He's a little in love with all of them, maybe, but he doesn't feel like he's going to die when they look at his teeth tugging at his bottom lip. He and Geralt have to live with each other. They'll have to live with whatever this will become.

Jaskier flattens his palm over Geralt's stomach, feeling the way it swells with air. He says, "Geralt."

Geralt turns his head, exhaling sharply. Jaskier's nose brushes against his cheek and he shudders, full body, like after a good cry.

"I'm going to bed," he says, and suddenly Jaskier is alone under a blanket.

The credits run out and the next movie starts auto-playing on the TV. Jaskier jumps, clutching at his chest, and then squeezes his eyes shut as the adrenaline finally fades.

Fuck.

 

~*~

 

Geralt's gone by the time Jaskier gets up the next morning. This may or may not be because Jaskier wakes up to Geralt's nine AM alarm and then hides in his room like a fucking coward until finally , finally Geralt leaves out the front door, but—details.

Jaskier sends an emergency group text and winds up at the Banshee with Essi and Priscilla, drowning both his sorrows and splitting headache in his second glass of Golden Oriole. 

"But he leaned in?" Priscilla asks. "You're sure?"

"I don't know!" Jaskier whines. He hides his face in his hands, peeking at her between his fingers. "I was drunk. What if I imagined it? Do you think I imagined it?"

Essi props her chin up in one hand. "I dunno, babe. Are you sure he even likes guys?"

"I'm not sure he likes anyone," Jaskier says. "I mean, he's never had anyone over. We don't really talk about it."

"Why don't you just ask him?" Priscilla asks.

Jaskier groans. The attempted hair of the dog method has not cured his hangover, but he takes another drink just to be sure.

"Even if he did almost kiss me, he didn't." Jaskier rubs at his temples. "I can't just be, like, 'Hey, Geralt, you know that thing that may or may not have almost happened last night and then it totally definitely didn't happen? Did it actually almost happen, and if so why did you stop and also do you wanna get married?'"

"Okayy, no one's suggesting you add that last part," Priscilla tells him, gently tugging the glass out of his hand.

Essi smirks. "I am."

Jaskier thunks his forehead on the table. "It's Geralt. Did you know he called me his friend for the first time last night? I don't wanna, I dunno—" he gestures vaguely without lifting his head. "Spook him."

"Dude." Essi sounds suspiciously indignant. "Full offense, but you're hung up on someone who can't even call you his friend?"

Jaskier looks up sharply. "He doesn't need to. It's in how he treats me."

"Um, last week you threatened to break up with me because I said you didn't have the right face for aviators," Essi reminds him, offended.

"Because you were being a jerk on purpose, and also wrong." Jaskier crosses his arms. "And believe me, I'm fully capable of calling Geralt names when he deserves them."

Essi raises an eyebrow, but doesn't respond.

"So what're you gonna do?" Priscilla asks.

"Hm," says Jaskier. "Probably nothing."

Priscilla blinks. "What?"

Jaskier's head throbs. He massages at his temples, then snags his beer back from Priscilla. "I like what Geralt and I have. He's… important to me. If I have to squash—just, you know, really jam some feelings all in there, to keep that, I can live with it."

"But won't you, you know, feel like there's something—" Essi arcs a hand through the air. "Missing?"

Jaskier purses his lips. "Friendship isn't lesser than—"

"Than romantic relationships, yeah, we know, absolutely." Essi rests her forearms on the table. "That doesn't change the fact that you've been wanting to fuck your roommate for two years."

Jaskier smiles innocently. "I wanna fuck most people. I'm what the kids these days call a 'slut.'"

Essi's voice is flat. "It's more than that, Julian."

Jaskier's smile tightens. He picks his phone up off the table and says, "It doesn't have to be."

 

~*~

 

Jaskier (12:17 PM): What're you doing for lunch

Geralt (12:19 PM): Whatever you want. I'm at the gym.

Jaskier (12:20 PM): I'm at Banshee I'll bring home tacos from the food truck

Geralt (12:25 PM): I'll text you when I'm on my way home.

 

~*~

 

Three days later, Jaskier comes back from his second coffee date with Michael, dumps his keys on the kitchen table on his way to grabbing a bowl of cereal, and then does a double-take.

Viktor is wearing a tiny scarf wrapped around his neck, carefully tied in a tasteful bunny ear loop and knit in Oxenfurt colors. His palm tree has been replaced with a plastic pumpkin.

"Geralt," Jaskier says faintly.

"Hm?" asks Geralt, who is doing homework on the couch.

Jaskier touches the yarn; it is very soft. "Did you get Viktor a tiny scarf?"

"Yeah," Geralt says. "He was gonna get cold."

Of course Viktor was getting cold; Jaskier's been having the same thought for a week. 

He just didn't expect anyone else to.

Fuck. Jaskier presses the side of his palm against his mouth, suddenly overcome with a burst of affection for this absurd, lovely man. Who hasn't said a word about the night of the party, who probably never will.

Jaskier will cope with it. He can do that, in exchange for this.

"Are you okay?" Geralt asks.

Jaskier turns to him with a bright smile. "What? Of course, sorry—just distracted. Do you need anything from the kitchen?"

Geralt stretches; his shirt pulls up, revealing a sliver of pale stomach. "Is there Gatorade left?"

"Great question!" Jaskier checks the fridge. "Yellow or light blue?"

"Yellow," Geralt says. "Do you have homework?"

Jaskier grabs the Gatorade and milk for his cereal. "What does 'homework' even really mean? And come to think of it, what would it mean to 'have' something? Can we even really possess—"

"Come do your homework."

"Spoilsport."

 

~*~

 

The thing about the almost maybe kiss is that, before it, Jaskier's crush was just a pipe dream—a harmless fantasy, like imagining getting absolutely railed by his choral director or that recurring daydream he gets about having a make out orgy with all his friends when he has too much tequila. 

But now he's gone and gotten too close to it. It's classic Icarean hubris.

Jaskier is watching TV with Michael on the futon, an arm draped over his shoulder, when Geralt gets back home and drops his bag on the floor.

Jaskier looks up automatically, intending to say hello, but he's caught off-guard by Geralt's smile.

"I won," Geralt says.

"What?" Jaskier asks, but then a grin stretches across his face as it sinks in. "Wait, the election? You're Event Coordinator?" 

Geralt nods.

Jaskier is already scrambling over the back of the couch with a delighted laugh—he flings himself at Geralt, who catches him with a grunt.

"I knew you'd win!" Jaskier says fiercely. "I'm so proud of you."

Geralt's arms tighten around Jaskier's back. He murmurs, "They loved your speech."

"Shh, they were all your words." Jaskier tucks his cheek against Geralt's neck. "I just did some… compiling."

"Hm." Geralt pulls away a little, meeting Jaskier's gaze with an earnest twinkle in his eye. "That's what we're calling it?"

Jaskier wets his bottom lip, searching the expression on Geralt's face. I don't care what you call it, he thinks, barely swallowing it down. I just want them to see you like I do.

Geralt mimics Jaskier's gesture, his tongue flitting out as his eyes seem to drop to follow the movement. He says, "Thank you," and—

This is where it would happen, right? Jaskier's arms are looped around Geralt's neck, Geralt's hands are steadying Jaskier at the waist. They could pull each other in, kiss each other breathless.

In the pipe dream, they do.

In real life, Geralt pulls away. He rubs the back of his neck and crouches down to untie his shoes with a cough, and doesn't say another word.

Jaskier clears his throat and turns to face the couch again.

"Michael," he says brightly, "this is my roommate, Geralt. Geralt, this is Michael."

"Uh," says Michael. "'Sup, dude?"

Geralt looks up, glancing between the two of them, and says, "I'll be in my room."

He promptly takes his leave, closing the bedroom door behind him.

"Uh," Michael says again. "Am I… interrupting something?"

Is he?

"Psh." Jaskier waves a hand dismissively and comes back around the couch to sit down. "He's just shy, don't worry about it. Oh, you paused it, thanks! Can we go back a little?"

"Sure," Michael agrees, handing him the remote.

Jaskier drapes his arm over Michael's shoulders again and rewinds.

 

~*~

 

whitewolf95: [A group selfie of Geralt with three women. The first woman, on his left, has lovely freckles and long, curly hair, and is giving a peace sign to the camera. A second woman with an undercut sits directly behind Geralt and is smushing his cheeks together with a shit-eating grin as he stares tiredly into the middle distance. The third woman is holding the camera and blowing a kiss with violently red lips.]

whitewolf95: (chat) We've kidnapped your roommate, ransom forthcoming

Jaskier blinks. 

It's like a slap in the face. He's literally never seen any of these women before, and Geralt's certainly never mentioned them. Are they his friends? Is one of them a girlfriend? 

Maybe they're all dating, for all Jaskier knows about Geralt's life. Apparently he's not worthy of being in the know.

These would-be kidnappers will be able to tell he opened their message; he has to answer soon or it'll be weird.

Well, he's certainly never claimed he wasn't petty.

dandilionbard: (chat) Keep him.

 

~*~

 

Geralt gets in later that night with his hair in a braid and his nails painted black, which is a ridiculously hot look for him and a fact which Jaskier immediately filters out of his brain as a matter of self-preservation. 

Besides, he's had plenty of time to stew—he does his best impression of a stereotypical jealous housewife and asks, "Who were you with?" without so much as looking up from his guitar.

Geralt's boots thunk against the wall. He says, "My friends."

Jaskier bites his tongue. "You've never mentioned them before."

"Didn't come up," Geralt says warily. "Why do you sound mad?"

Jaskier finally looks up, setting his guitar aside and smiling sweetly. "I'm not mad."

Geralt narrows his eyes, taking in Jaskier's appearance—and then calls the bluff, the fucking bastard.

"Okay," he says, and walks towards his room.

"It was just weird, okay?" Jaskier blurts, hopping to his feet and wincing with embarrassment. And once he admits that— "I mean, we're supposed to be friends and I just—I have to learn these random things about your life on accident, like the frat, and you never have anyone over or, I don't know, it was like pulling teeth to get you to spend time with my friends—so forgive me for being a little upset to find out you have these people who you're clearly really close to!"

Geralt's eyes widen a little, but he says nothing.

Jaskier takes a breath and winds up for round two, because now he's worked himself into a fit and apparently they're doing this.

"And, you know, speaking of people you're close to! Am I supposed to be one of them?" he asks, gesturing broadly. "Because I'm starting to think you're—you're embarrassed by me or something, or you know—maybe you don't actually like spending time with me. And you know, I spend all this time defending you to my friends, who think you don't like them, by the way. I say, 'Oh, Geralt's just shy, he likes being alone, it's not that he doesn't like you,' and then I look like an idiot because—maybe it's just me! Maybe I'm imagining the—the—all of it, and you don't like me at all. Am I an idiot, Geralt? Because it's fucking cruel if you're just—if you—"

The words run dry.

Jaskier breathes through his nose. He feels—well, humiliated. He knows he's being dramatic, that this is practically coming out of nowhere, even by his standards. The worst part is how wet his eyes are—how dangerously close to crying he is.

Over what, a picture? Geralt having other friends? Or maybe the fact that he thought it all meant something else.

"Uh," says Geralt. "Woah."

Jaskier tilts his face up to the ceiling, taking a deep breath. He needs to tone it the fuck down. Where is this even coming from?

Geralt walks back across the room and takes a seat on the couch. "That's… been bugging you."

"Apparently," Jaskier mutters. He glances over at Geralt's face, which is carefully neutral, and sits down too.

Geralt drags his hands up and down his thighs restlessly. He's staring straight ahead, throat bobbing a little like he's held at knifepoint.

Jaskier immediately feels guilty, but not enough to back out of whatever this is about to be.

"... I don't like talking about myself," Geralt tells the coffee table. "I don't like… taking up space."

Jaskier purses his lips, watching the light glint off Geralt's nail polish.

"So I don't really see the point in telling you things," Geralt continues flatly, then hesitates. "Or… I don't know why you'd wanna know."

"Because I like you, Geralt." Jaskier's voice wobbles as he shifts to face him. "I want you to take up space. I thought—I thought maybe you didn't want to share it with me."

Geralt's gaze shifts downwards, fixated on where Jaskier's hand is braced on the couch cushion between them. His fingers twitch, slowly creeping down the edge of his thigh.

"I don't like having people over, either," Geralt says. "It's… too personal. I've never…"

Jaskier nudges his hand closer, breath held, just barely brushing against Geralt's thigh.

"I've never had somewhere I could be alone," Geralt whispers. The tips of his fingers stroke against Jaskier's knuckles. "... Safe. That's why I moved out last year."

Jaskier's heart is in his throat. He talks around it as best he can. "I'm sorry you had to give that up."

"Jaskier," Geralt says. "Why do you think I asked you to move in?"

"Because you needed money?" Jaskier answers. He lifts his thumb, shivering when it caresses the side of Geralt's pinky. "For Roach."

"Why do you think I asked you?" Geralt repeats.

Jaskier looks up; Geralt's eyes are on him, burning and earnest.

"I figured you asked a lot of people," Jaskier says, half-joking wetly. "Like, maybe I was your third or fourth choice or something."

Geralt says, "I only asked you."

It becomes very quiet. 

Jaskier swallows and says, "Oh."

Geralt looks away, his jaw clenched.

"Oh," Jaskier says again. Maybe the only sound left in the world, besides— "Geralt."

Geralt stands up abruptly, taking a stumbling half-step to catch the momentum. He strides into his room and closes the door, shaking the string of orange fairy lights Jaskier talked him into hanging up for Halloween.

Jaskier stays on the couch, trembling like the lights. 

Geralt was so patient with him, with—whatever that spectacular meltdown was. His delicate heart finally finding something to bleed over. He didn't scream or tell Jaskier to pull himself the fuck together, or even walk away. 

If Geralt can hold steady with Jaskier through his messiest outpourings, Jaskier can be patient too.

Slowly, he reaches for his guitar, and searches for new sheet music on his phone.

 

~*~

 

"Geralt," Jaskier ventures the following Friday, adjusting Viktor's scarf for him. "Are you coming to my open mic tonight?"

Geralt looks up from the sandwich he's been inhaling for the past three minutes. "I was planning on it. Why?"

"No reason!" Jaskier says cheerfully, spinning a ring around his finger. "Have a good day at work, I'll see you there!"

Geralt says, "Hm," skeptically and returns to his sandwich.

Jaskier gets up from the table and flees to his bedroom to rethink his outfit for the third time.

 

~*~

 

Geralt shows up at the Banshee right before open mic starts, dressed in all black—which coincidentally makes him match with one of the three women who show up with him.

Jaskier chokes on his beer.

"Holy shit," Essi says. "Who are all those people with Geralt?"

"I don't—" Jaskier coughs into his elbow. Duny pats him heartily on the back. "They're his—oh, fuck, is he looking over here?"

Essi is grinning like it's her birthday. "He's waving. Hi, Geralt! Over here!"

"I hate you," Jaskier hisses. "This was a huge—oh, Geralt, hi! Are these your friends?"

"Uh, hey." Geralt smirks at Jaskier's reddened face. "Trying a new beer?"

"What?" Jaskier blinks rapidly, then eyes his glass. "Oh, erm, yes! Yeah, that's why—you know, it's not my favorite."

He shoves his glass away, knocking it into Pavetta's.

The woman dressed in all black—the one who was holding the camera in Geralt's Snapchat—extends her hand. "I'm Yennefer. This is Triss and Renfri."

Jaskier shakes Yennefer's hand, which is his most recent in a long line of spectacular mistakes; she nearly crushes his fingers.

"That's… firm," Jaskier tells her. He reaches for his beer, remembers he's supposed to hate that now, and grabs Priscilla's instead—which he actually hates. "I'm Jaskier?"

Renfri—the one with an undercut—raises an eyebrow. "You sure about that?"

Jaskier is going to die.

"Guys," Geralt says plaintively.

Triss smiles warmly at him, at least, and says, "It's nice to meet you. We've heard a lot about you. By Geralt's standards, anyway."

Jaskier eyes Geralt suspiciously. "You have?"

Geralt blatantly ignores the question in favor of saying, "Thought you could meet everyone."

"Right," Jaskier says. "At my completely normal and very public performance that of course anyone is welcome to attend!"

Geralt frowns. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing! Did I sound like I was being sarcastic?" Jaskier asks. He laughs nervously. "Must just be pre-show jitters—"

"Hi!" Duny says loudly, holding out his hand towards Yennefer. "I'm Duny."

Yennefer smirks, shaking his hand with the same vice grip, which starts a chain of introductions that effectively cuts off the conversation.

Until Geralt locks eyes with Jaskier and tilts his head towards the bar. "Let me get you a new drink."

"Um, okay!" Jaskier scrambles out of his chair and follows after Geralt. "Yeah, yes, alcohol is good."

Once they're in line and out of earshot of the others, Geralt turns to him and says bluntly, "I'm confused. I thought you'd be happy I brought them."

"I am!" Jaskier insists, resting a hand on Geralt's arm. He drags his teeth over his bottom lip. "No, Geralt, it really means so much to me! I just, um, I'm a little nervous, or—well, I just—maybe I should change my set or something, but it's really not—I'm really, really happy you want me to meet them."

Geralt furrows his eyebrows. The line begins to move forward and he steers Jaskier forward with a hand on his back. "Why would you change your set?"

Shit. Fucking—

"Um, no reason, I just—" Jaskier nearly crashes into the woman in front of him. "I—what if I embarrass you, or—or make a fool of myself?"

Geralt raises an eyebrow. "When have you ever cared about either of those things?"

Jaskier glances over at their table, where Geralt's friends have pulled up a bunch of chairs and show no signs of moving. 

"Hey." Geralt's hand slides up to squeeze the back of Jaskier's neck. Jaskier looks back at him, wide-eyed and with a fluttering in his stomach. "I signed up for this. Didn't I make that clear?"

The fluttering climbs up Jaskier's rib cage. He manages a smile and says, "You did."

 

~*~

 

They rejoin the group after Geralt buys Jaskier the exact same beer he was already drinking, and gets himself one of the new seasonal ones that Jaskier immediately demands a taste of.

Their two groups have made fast friends in their absence, which is equal parts heartening and terrifying. Jaskier is quick to play catch-up and soothe his own nerves by prying embarrassing stories about Geralt from the others.

Instead he discovers that Yennefer is going to take over the world, Renfri could beat him up without breaking a sweat, and Triss is suspiciously sweet for someone who hangs out with the other two so there's probably more to that story. All par for the course for being friends with Geralt, really.

Essi and Priscilla are performing before him this time. They sing two lovely duets to substantial applause, and then there's precious little time standing between Jaskier and what could be a giant mistake.

"Performing next is Jaskier!" The MC announces. "Come on up, buddy."

Jaskier downs the rest of his beer, then bends over to grab his guitar case—only to find Geralt holding it out for him.

"Um, thanks," Jaskier says, flashing a smile.

He makes his way up to the stage; there's a good view of their table from here—maybe too good. They're all watching him intently, including Geralt.

Jaskier taps two fingers on the mic and introduces his original song first this time—something cheerful and still titleless that gets the room going. That's always a good feeling, of course. He's got another original one up his sleeve that he could use to chicken out.

Geralt is still clapping, turning all the way around in his seat to watch.

You're an idiot, Jaskier thinks to himself. Not a coward.

"Um, thanks so much everyone!" he says, giving the room a little wave. "This one's gonna be a little different. Firstly, because it's not mine, but also because it's for someone. Erm, it might be for someone, hypothetically. If that someone… wants it to be. So, I'll just—"

Jaskier sits up a little straighter again, moving through the intro chords. He sees Yennefer lean over to say something in Geralt's ear, and Geralt shakes his head. 

"'You with the sad eyes,'" Jaskier sings softly, smiling when Geralt's gaze lifts back to him in recognition. "'Don't be discouraged. Oh, I realize it's hard to take courage.'"

The ease of performance settles over his skin, the knowledge that whatever happens when the song ends does not yet exist. That all he has is a moment, and then another, to make someone feel something. To look at someone across the room and feel their eyes brighten.

"'I see your true colors,'" Jaskier tells him. Another moment, a promise. "'And that's why I love you, so don't be afraid to let them show.'"

Geralt's face is soft lines and shadows, the suggestion of a smile. Does he know Jaskier hasn't taken his eyes off of him? Does he know what it means?

Jaskier's final chord echoes, briefly transfixed before the applause starts. He thanks the crowd profusely and then stumbles off the stage with his guitar in one hand and the case in the other, not even taking the time to consolidate. He does stop when he almost smacks the case into a table and in response to that turns around and narrowly avoids whacking a passing woman in the head with the guitar.

Everyone is staring by the time he makes it back to the group and sinks into a stool; he's taken just enough time to get there for the adrenaline to have worn off. 

Jaskier's fairly certain that his friends around him are complimenting him on the performance, but for perhaps the very first time in the history of his life, he's not interested in mass praise.

He's looking at Geralt. The rest fades away.

"What did you think?" he asks.

Geralt wets his bottom lip. "It was good."

Jaskier ventures a faint smile. "Did it embarrass you?"

"It's a bad idea," Geralt says instead.

Jaskier's stomach drops. He asks, "What is?"

"I should go," says Geralt. He's been nursing his beer all night; he slides the glass over to Renfri. "I've got the barn in the morning."

"What? You do?" Jaskier fumbles to check the time on his phone, caught up in the whiplash. "Geralt, it's so late, why did you—I'll walk you to the car."

"No, stay." Geralt reaches out, nearly touches Jaskier's arm—pulls his hand back again at the last minute. "I'll… see you tomorrow."

Jaskier watches him bolt, a steady ache creeping up from the pit of his stomach. 

"Oh, Jules," Pavetta says. She reaches across the table and takes his hand.

Renfri, who was busy chugging Geralt's abandoned beer, sets the empty glass down and belches.

"Nah, that's classic G," she says, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "Give 'im a week or two to get over himself."

Yennefer snorts into her beer.

"So everyone figured that out, did they?" Jaskier asks. "Great."

"I think strangers figured it out," Essi tells him helpfully.

Triss adds, "There was some really obvious eye contact."

Jaskier hides his face in his arms against the table. "Someone take me to where the jello shots are."

 

~*~

 

Jello shots don't help. The chocolate chip pancakes Jaskier eats at two AM after they all stumble out of the club and into Waffle House help a little.

It's after three by the time he makes it home, fumbling with his key in the lock. Geralt will be up in an hour. 

It's a bad idea.

Jaskier presses his forehead against the door as he locks it behind himself.

Geralt's probably right. Jaskier thought the same thing, didn't he? Hooking up with a friend is sloppy enough, but this—they've intertwined themselves in this place. Jaskier is used to early rejection—he's used to people like Maja and Michael slowly pulling away after they've had some fun, and he's used to people spending five minutes around him and deciding that's enough for a lifetime. 

But Geralt's taken him into his life. He's accepted Jaskier's quirks and let his friends crash on the couch and dressed up a hedgehog for him. If they prod at this and even that falls apart—

No, it's a bad idea. And it's—Jaskier doesn't even know what he wanted to happen, with that song. It was more, just… that he wanted Geralt to know. That Geralt deserved to hear it. 

And Geralt smiled. How could Jaskier regret that?

Jaskier pushes away from the door and sprawls himself across the couch to wait. Most of the major decisions of his life have been bad ideas. They've gotten him this far.

 

~*~

 

Geralt's first alarm goes off at 4:30 AM. Jaskier is staring at the ceiling when that happens. He stares at the ceiling until the second alarm beeps fifteen minutes later, and then he rolls off the couch and turns on the Keurig.

He makes two cups and fills Geralt's to the brim with creamer. Two minutes before the third alarm goes off, he puts a Hot Pocket in the microwave.

Five minutes after the third alarm, Geralt walks straight into the bathroom without so much glancing in the direction of the kitchen. Jaskier chugs his cup of coffee and brews a second one.

When Geralt walks into the kitchen, Jaskier is sitting with his hands wrapped around a coffee mug, kicking his feet under the table. Geralt's breakfast is laid out invitingly.

Geralt blinks slowly and rubs at his face.

"Good morning!" Jaskier says cheerfully. "Take me to the barn with you."

Geralt doesn't move.

"I just figured, you stayed up late to come see me last night," Jaskier explains. His foot knocks into a table leg, shaking and spilling some of Geralt's coffee. "And actually you stay up late for me a lot, and you're working so hard to take care of Roach and I just—you know, as a—as a friend, I want to. Help you, I mean. Let me help you?"

Geralt sits down at the table. He tugs a napkin free from underneath Viktor and mops up the spilled coffee, then picks the mug up and takes a sip. His eyes flick up over the rim of the mug, meeting Jaskier's own for a brief moment.

"You don't have to say anything," Jaskier clarifies, smiling encouragingly. "I mean, just—take me or don't. But I—it doesn't matter to me, what you—erm, it matters, but it doesn't—I'm still a little drunk and caffeinated, I'm sorry—"

Jaskier laughs, hiding his face in his hands.

Geralt nudges his ankle under the table.

"You can reject me, if you want," Jaskier tells him softly. "You can say it's a bad idea or you can say it's a fucking fantastic one and you still don't feel the same. I just, um… I want to be something, to you."

Geralt is staring at his plate. He eats quickly and brings the rest of his coffee with him into his bedroom while he gets changed.

Jaskier spins his rings around his fingers, jumping between them all to try and burn through his restlessness. His stomach hurts, which might be all the coffee.

Geralt re-emerges dressed in his riding gear. He strides back over to the table, where his keys are sitting, and jingles them in Jaskier's face.

Jaskier looks up.

Geralt tilts his head towards the door.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier climbs into the truck and immediately draws his legs up onto the seat. The walk to the car was brisk—and that's being generous. The sunrise has barely started and he was significantly drunker when he walked home in the cold and dark a few hours ago.

Also, Geralt's still doing his not-talking thing, which is fine, except Jaskier's natural calling in life is to fill every silence he comes across, which is a dangerous game right now.

"I'm really glad you're bringing me! I'll finally get to meet Roach!" Jaskier babbles, sitting on his hands to warm them up while Blue sputters to life. "Wait, can I ride her? Ooh, scary face, I guess that's a no. How far away is this place, anyway? You're always gone for so long."

Geralt grabs his phone out of the center console and pulls up his navigation app, then hands the phone to Jaskier. 

"Barn" is saved as a favorite place. Jaskier clicks on it as Geralt pulls onto the main road.

It's a little over an hour away on the highway.

"Yikes," says Jaskier. He yawns, holding the phone back out. "D'you need this?"

Geralt takes it back and locks it; he must know the way by heart. 

"Should've brought myself another coffee," Jaskier muses, more to himself than Geralt. The radio is playing softly; he could turn it up—maybe in a minute. "Don't take it personally if I—mm—fall asleep on you. My mom used to take me on drives when I wouldn't go down for a nap. Would you believe I was a colicky baby? And toddler. And child."

Geralt huffs out a quiet laugh.

"Maybe that's why I love music, y'know," Jaskier murmurs. He lolls his head to the side and gazes with half-lidded eyes at their temporary city, the lights and neon storefronts that will be his for two more years. "Something always sang me to sleep."

Geralt turns up the radio. It's set to an old country station, playing a song Jaskier could put the effort into placing if he were more lucid. 

The window is cool against his cheek when he leans over to rest his temple on the glass; he shivers, fingers twitching.

They pull up at their last stoplight before they'll hit the highway. Geralt shrugs out of his jacket and drapes it over Jaskier like a blanket, driving with one wrist when the light turns early.

Jaskier smiles and lets his eyes slip shut.

 

~*~

 

Geralt shakes him awake when they get to the barn. He looks around bleary-eyed, taking in the place—it's not exactly like the picturesque farms of Hollywood fame. There's a lot of mud.

Jaskier looks down at his very nice Converse and wrinkles his nose. 

Geralt, either oblivious or unsympathetic, shuts off the engine and gets out of the car. He opens up the rear door and starts rooting around for—whatever it is he keeps back there.

Jaskier opens his own door and takes a daring hop from the truck onto a patch of grass a few feet away, avoiding the worst of the mud. He should probably ask if Geralt wants the jacket back, but… 

Nah. Jaskier shrugs into it himself and zips it all the way up. It smells distinctly musky, which he assumes is horse smell, since that's what Geralt always smells like when he gets home from here.

"I had the weirdest dream in the car," Jaskier says. He rocks up and down on the balls of his feet. The sun has mostly risen now, but it hasn't done much for the temperature. "It was like—I had this pet bird, but the bird was also my dad? But then the bird turned into like a prehistoric… dinosaur… creature? It was very red and its feathers kept changing shape. What do you think that means?"

Geralt shuts the rear door, opens the driver's door to lock the car from the inside, and then starts walking towards the barn itself. He's wearing leather boots now, with… something… made out of navy blue nylon slung over his shoulder and a neon green rope attached to it, also draped over his shoulder.

It looks sort of like that leather thing—the bit? The bridle? That goes over the horse's face, except not… quite that?

Jaskier does a half-jog to catch up to Geralt and tugs on the nylon. "I'm sorry, what in the world is this?"

Geralt says, "Halter," and pulls open the barn doors.

"Halter?" Jaskier asks, then grins wickedly when he hears it, elbowing Geralt in the ribs. "I hardly know 'er!'

Geralt fixes Jaskier with a withering stare.

"That was good!" Jaskier maintains, following Geralt inside. It's actually a little warmer in here; there are horses in some of the stalls. A few of them nicker when Geralt walks by, sticking their noses through the bars on their doors. 

Geralt leads Jaskier into a room that offshoots from the main part of the barn, where stacks of hay and giant bags of grain are stacked against the walls. He produces a pocket knife from one of his pockets and slices open two thin ropes which were holding together a rectangle of hay; it falls open in sheets like a loaf of sliced bread.

Jaskier sneezes dramatically.

Geralt beckons him closer, then holds up one cross-section of hay, about three fingers thick.

"One flake," he says, then picks up two pieces. 

Jaskier squints. "What's a flake? That… cube thing?"

Geralt brushes past him back into the main room. He walks up to one of the stalls, where a white horse is stomping its feet right at the door, and points at a mini-whiteboard attached to the stall.

Pegasus , it says. AM: 2 flakes. 1 scoop grain. No supps. PM: 3 flakes. 1 scoop grain. Supp baggy.

Geralt unlatches the stall door and quickly shoulders his way in, ducking to avoid getting smacked in the face by the horse, who immediately lunges for the hay he's carrying.

"Do the empty ones," he says, dumping the hay into a large metal basket attached to the back wall. He pats the horse on its neck and squeezes past it, quirking his lips at Jaskier. "Or get trampled."

Jaskier slides the door shut behind him once he's back in the aisleway, latching it like he watched Geralt do.

"Empty ones it is!" he says cheerfully. 

Geralt hums agreeably. He leads Jaskier back into the food room and slices open another thingy of hay. 

Jaskier goes to pick up the hay and immediately realizes that he should've checked to see how much he needed first. He shrugs to himself and picks up two flakes in each hand, figuring he can distribute them once he reads the signs.

Geralt tosses hay to the other horses already inside the barn, then starts collecting empty buckets and filling them with grain.

He doesn't give Jaskier anything to do after that, so Jaskier just sits and watches. Sometimes Geralt adds water to the buckets, or dumps in little baggies of powder that are labelled with horses' names in marker. Then he replaces them in the stalls and gets more buckets.

It's quiet, methodical work. Geralt must do it by himself a lot; Jaskier thinks that would drive him insane, unless he played music, maybe, but he thinks about what Geralt said before—about needing places to be alone.

Was it a mistake to ask to come here?

No, Jaskier has to believe that it wasn't. That Geralt wouldn't let him somewhere he wasn't ready for him to be. He owes Geralt better than to doubt him again.

After all the hay and grain is distributed, Geralt starts bringing in horses from a field that's in the rear of the property, hidden from the road. Most of them are waiting at a big metal gate, neighing impatiently and stamping their feet. 

Geralt takes the horses one at a time, slipping the top strap of the halter over their ears and putting their noses through a loop in the bottom. He takes care to put himself between each horse and Jaskier while they walk, going so far as to bump Jaskier out of the way if he gets too close.

Jaskier gets the hint pretty quickly. 

That doesn't mean he doesn't drift a little closer on purpose, just to watch the concern pinch Geralt's face when he nudges him over again.

The last one in is Roach, who has been waiting patiently. Geralt leaves the halter draped over his shoulder and slips into the pasture with her, wrapping his arms around her neck.

She whinnies softly and headbutts his shoulder.

"Hey, Roach," Geralt murmurs. "Morning."

His face is pressed into her fur, his eyes peacefully shut and a hint of a smile turning up the corner of his mouth. 

Roach is a big horse; Geralt is a tall, strong man. They look so small in this moment, like Jaskier could shelter them in the palm of his hand.

He purses his lips together, feeling something tug at the bruised places of his heart.

Geralt pulls away and clicks his tongue. Roach follows him out of the pasture, bumping her head into his back whenever he slows down. 

Jaskier follows at a distance; he feels like something would shatter if he got too close. 

Geralt lets Roach eat while he washes out the buckets of other horses who have already finished their breakfast. Some of them have messages on the whiteboards to be put back outside or left in for the day; Jaskier watches while Geralt does that too, and then learns how to sweep the aisle while Geralt cleans out stalls.

After they're done with that, Geralt starts getting Roach ready to ride. Jaskier watches him groom her, kicking up a load of dust and horse hair, and then put her saddle and such on.

Jaskier puts his face up to the bars, watching Geralt follow Roach around the stall as she paces around. "Can I help?"

"No," says Geralt.

Jaskier sticks out his bottom lip.

Geralt sighs. "I'll teach later."

"Oh, fine." Jaskier takes a step back again. "Ooh, can I take a picture of you?"

Geralt goes back to fastening some kind of belt-like contraption under Roach's belly. "Fine."

Jaskier gets his photo for Snapchat, which he may or may not use to brag about getting invited out here just a little. His friends are suitably impressed and confused by this turn of events. 

Then Geralt leads him out to an open-air arena, surrounded by a plastic picket fence and laid with some kind of sandy dirt, currently tightly packed after the recent rains. 

Geralt steers Jaskier in the general direction of a wobbly lawn chair and instructs, "Stay." He buckles his helmet one-handed, the other patiently tugging on the reins to reprimand Roach, who is persistently veering for a outcropping of grass springing up near a fencepost.

Jaskier takes a seat dutifully, fully prepared to watch the magic happen.

 

~*~

 

As it turns out, a typical ride is fairly boring—at least to Jaskier, whose lamentable attention span is rarely captured by anything that isn't shiny, sexually- or musically-inclined, or preferably some combination of the three. 

He does his best to watch anyway, though, and to not make a fuss; he's learned from previous conversations with Geralt that Miss Roach has a delicate constitution, and is prone to "spooking," which is the horse-person term for what Jaskier roughly translates to "bouts of batshit insanity at the drop of a hat."

It doesn't surprise Jaskier at all that Geralt would be drawn to such a horse. For someone who claims to not like taking up any space, he's remarkably tolerant of people who take up more of it than most people can handle. 

By the time Geralt's done with his ride, a few other people have shown up at the barn. He's polite to them and they're polite in return, but he makes no move to stop and chat or even introduce Jaskier. 

That's alright; Jaskier can tolerate being a little mysterious this time. He pesters Geralt with a stream of questions, most of which go unanswered, and follows him out to the field when he goes to set Roach loose upon the pasture.

"Ooh, can I pet her before you let her go?" Jaskier asks eagerly. He reaches a hand out, but Roach pins her ears and shuffles away from him—she's stopped by the hold Geralt has on her halter.

Geralt slides a hand up Roach's nose soothingly and scolds, "Don't spook her."

Rebuked, Jaskier shoves both his hands into the pockets of Geralt's jacket, which he's still wearing. "Sorry, sorry! But Roach and I understand each other, don't we? We both have a flair for the dramatic."

"Hm." Geralt's expression softens again. "And you're high-maintenance."

Jaskier turns his nose up dramatically. "You're only getting away with that because I don't wanna scare the horse."

"Lucky me," Geralt says drily. He tilts his head. "C'mere—slowly."

Jaskier perks up and looks between Geralt and Roach, who seems calmer again. He shifts closer, his hands still in his pockets, until he's standing right next to Geralt. 

"Um," he says, "is it okay to…"

Geralt keeps one hand holding onto Roach's halter and slips the other into Jaskier's pocket.

Jaskier does an excellent impression of Roach, looking up at Geralt with wide eyes, who wraps his fingers around Jaskier's wrist and guides him.

Geralt presses Jaskier's hand to Roach's neck and then flattens his palm, encouraging Jaskier to do the same. Their fingers are overlaid, the warm heat of Geralt's hand holding him against Roach's soft hair. Roach snorts and gently bops her nose against Geralt's ear.

"Easy, Roach," Geralt tells her, laughter coloring his voice. He glances at Jaskier, a smile twitching on his lips, and drags their hands down to pet her shoulder.

Jaskier smiles back, copying the motion on his own. Geralt lets his hand fall away, tucking it into one of his own pockets instead.

"There we go, Roachie," Jaskier coos quietly. He pets her a little more, moving his hand up to scritch near her mane like he watched Geralt do after their ride. "I knew we'd be friends, hm? We've got something even more important in common."

Shit. Maybe not the most prudent thing to say out loud—Jaskier feels his cheeks heat up.

Roach stomps her hoof as if in agreement, narrowly missing Jaskier's foot. Geralt grabs him by the back of the jacket and tugs him out of trampling range.

Jaskier bats his eyelashes. "My hero."

Geralt snorts. "Let's go. Say goodbye."

"Oh, alright." Jaskier pouts a little, but he reaches back out to give Roach a cautious final pat. "Goodbye, Roachie. It was an honor to meet you."

He doesn't miss the charmed blush rising on Geralt's face, as much as Geralt tries to hide it by turning away. 

Geralt opens the gate and takes the halter off Roach's face; she takes off running at full speed as soon as she's free, which Jaskier finds inexplicably hilarious. He covers his mouth to suppress a laugh, which only gets harder to do when Geralt raises an offended eyebrow at him upon turning back around.

"What?" he asks defensively, but still puts a hand between Jaskier's shoulder blades to steer him back to the truck. "Let's just go."

Jaskier shortens his stride, pressing back into the touch. He glances behind them at the field, where a Roach-colored speck has joined several other specks in the back corner. 

"You love her," says Jaskier.

"Yeah," Geralt answers easily. 

Jaskier spins one of his rings around. "She's not a very convenient horse, is she?"

"No," says Geralt. "Not really."

They're at the truck. Geralt tosses his things in the back, including changing out of his boots into other shoes.

Jaskier climbs back into the passenger side. He contemplates for a moment, then kicks off his muddy shoes before pulling his socked feet up onto the seat.

"Ooh," he says as soon as Geralt slides behind the wheel, "what do you wanna do for breakfast? I don't know about you, but I'm famished after all that work! Is there an IHOP on the way home? IHOP sounds so good right now. Ooh, or mac and cheese—"

"There's somewhere better," Geralt says. He starts the truck and reverses it, his forearm tickling the hairs at the back of Jaskier's neck when he drapes his arm over the seat back.

Jaskier hums with agreeable skepticism. "If you say so!"

Geralt shakes his head and pulls onto a winding country road. Jaskier ends up staying awake for this part of the drive, which takes them to a little mom-and-pop grocer that's firmly in the middle of nowhere—but also apparently on the way home.

It's way better than IHOP. Jaskier leaves with a pint of ice cream he convinced Geralt that they definitely needed and a new necklace that was apparently made locally—featuring a little horse made out of polished stone—and then it's back in the truck for another forty minutes of driving.

Jaskier curls up in the seat again and occupies himself with daydreaming out the window; Geralt seems like he's getting a little tired of conversation, and for once, Jaskier actually cares about not overstaying his welcome. 

His mind drifts a little, thinking about the morning. And the night before. And also, for some reason, that composition analysis he's got due on Monday that he forgot existed. 

Jaskier's eyes flutter shut. He can feel himself dozing off, which is fine. Is he becoming, like, really resistant to caffeine? It's probably fine. This is nice, driving with Geralt. He gets the distinct and bemusing feeling that he's missed it, even though Geralt's never driven him outside the city before.

"Jaskier," Geralt says softly. "You awake?"

"Mm?" Jaskier blinks his eyes open with a yawn, expecting to be close to home; they're not, still blurring down an unfamiliar stretch of highway to the crooning radio. "Wha's 'at?"

Geralt turns away as soon as Jaskier looks at him. His thumb is stroking rhymically over the stick shift.

"Nothing," he says. "Go back to sleep."

It's strange; in what way slips through Jaskier's fingers, which he curls in the sleeves of Geralt's jacket instead. Jaskier hugs his knees to his chest and misses it all over again.

 

~*~

 

Jaskier wakes up of his own accord when they get home. Geralt's found an excellent parking spot, which is one of those little joys of life, and makes Jaskier wiggles his toes pleasantly before he slips them back into his shoes.

"Wow, that was a great nap!" he says brightly, tucking the necklace into his pocket and the ice cream under his arm. "Like, fucking top ten ever, maybe. Was it a good drive?"

Geralt makes an amused face as he locks the car. "Yeah."

"Good!" Jaskier bumps his shoulder into Geralt's as they walk. "Ooh, what're you doing the rest of the day? I have this project due Monday—can we have a homework party? And by that I mean, I really just need you to make your scary face at me when I get—yeah, that face!—when I get distracted."

Geralt pats the top of Jaskier's head. "You're on your own. I've got work this afternoon."

"Yeesh, busy day," Jaskier says. "Are you at the cafe today? I can sit at a table and you can glare at me from there."

Geralt rolls his eyes as they walk into their building. "Get someone else to glare at you."

"It's not the same!" Jaskier insists. He makes his best puppy-dog eyes. "I don't care about disappointing anyone—"

Fuck.

"—else."

Geralt stares very intently at the elevator doors. They open, and Jaskier briefly considers bolting for the stairs. They both walk inside instead, and Geralt calmly presses the button for their floor.

"I can pretend to be disappointed in you on Sunday," he offers flatly, the corners of his mouth turning up at the last second.

Jaskier readjusts his grip on the ice cream and smiles back.

Geralt unlocks the door for them and goes straight for his room, leaving Jaskier alone in the foyer. 

Jaskier puts the ice cream away and then debates the relative merits of going back to bed versus making an attempt to start his essay. Oh, he could ask Priscilla if she's done hers yet to see how long it takes. He reaches into his pockets and—

Shit, where's his phone?

Jaskier checks all his pockets again, then in the freezer, then on the kitchen table, and then in the freezer again. Fucking perfect.

"Hey, Geraaalt!" Jaskier calls in a sing-song voice. He flits into Geralt's bedroom and leans against the dresser near the door. "Wouldn't it be hilarious if I left my phone at the barn?"

Geralt is stripping out of his shirt. He turns around with it still pulled halfway over his head and glares furiously. "No."

"It's probably—see, that's the face you've gotta make at me when I'm not writing my essay," Jaskier tells him, grinning as a matter of self-preservation. "It's probably in the car. Can I borrow the keys?"

Geralt sighs with really exaggerated force. "They're on the desk. I wanna shower."

So saying, he tosses his shirt into a laundry hamper and starts unbuttoning his riding tights.

Jaskier, momentarily distracted by Geralt's chest—broad, decidedly mouth-watering, featuring several more mysterious scars—remembers his poor lost phone and brushes past Geralt to get to his desk.

He snags the keys off of it, spinning them by the keyring around his index finger, and then flings them into the void as soon as he looks up.

"Jaskier," Geralt huffs from behind him. "What the fuck?"

Jaskier is staring at the painting—the one he bought months ago.

The one he assumed Geralt had hated, which is hung up right above Geralt's computer across from his bed.

Jaskier's voice feels unsteady. He says, "You kept this."

Slowly, Geralt says, "Told you I hung it up."

"I thought you were just being polite," Jaskier says, and it dawns on him how ridiculous that is as soon as it leaves his idiotic mouth. "I thought you—you didn't—"

Geralt says nothing.

Jaskier turns around slowly, pursuing his lips. "You like it?"

"You said it reminded you of me," Geralt says. "Were you… making fun of me?"

Jaskier laughs sadly. He moves to cover his mouth and curls his fingers against his chin instead. "No, I—it does. I got embarrassed, Geralt, so I made it into a joke, but it's—it's not one."

Geralt looks down. His pants are half undone; he seems unbothered by this, but he fiddles with a button. "It's… warm."

"It is," Jaskier agrees softly. "It's very warm. And beautiful—and safe."

"I didn't think—" Geralt wets his bottom lip and looks up earnestly. "I didn't think anyone could look at something like that and think about me."

Jaskier's breath leaves him with a quiet sound of grief.

"I do," he says. "I look at you and think about all of those things."

Geralt closes his eyes. Opens them again, looking at his hands. 

"I don't wanna lose you, Jask." He tilts his chin and finally glances up, and Jaskier almost wishes he hadn't. His weak, selfish heart can't take it. "I'm… not made for this."

Jaskier shakes his head and holds out a hand, palm turned up. He promises, "I am. I was made for it so terribly that I'm afraid I'm not good for anything else. I can be made for it for the both of us."

Geralt's not breathing. Or doing it so small that Jaskier can't see it at all.

"Take up space, Geralt," Jaskier urges softly. "Take up mine."

Geralt exhales, a fine tremor through his entire body. He asks, "What if we fuck it up?"

"I don't know," Jaskier tells him. "I'm fucking terrified of that, actually, and that's how badly I want you, because I'm still standing here."

Geralt closes his eyes.

Geralt takes Jaskier's hand.

Jaskier laughs reflexively, relief bursting out of him, and pulls Geralt into an embrace. He presses his face into Geralt's neck and feels Geralt nuzzle his nose into his hair, arms going tight around each other, their breath coming in desperate sighs.

"Can I kiss you?" Geralt murmurs.

"God," Jaskier says. "Please."

Geralt huffs out a laugh, nosing along Jaskier's temple and down his jaw until their mouths meet. It's so gentle, so good, like him. Like Jaskier's been waiting to smear his greedy hands over, his fingers tangling needily in Geralt's hair.

Jaskier pulls him closer, deepening the kiss. Geralt's tongue flicks out and tastes Jaskier's bottom lip and, oh, God, how many times has Jaskier wanted that? How many times has he watched Geralt do that same restless motion and ached at the thought of it being for him?

Geralt's hands pluck restlessly at Jaskier's shirt, which is tucked into his jeans. He frees it and slips his hands underneath, warm and insistent sliding up Jaskier's rib cage.

"Oh, sweetheart," Jaskier breathes. He smiles, pressing their foreheads together, eyes still closed. "How long do you have? Before work."

"I'm sick," Geralt mutters, nipping his way back into Jaskier's mouth. "I can't go in today."

Jaskier laughs and works at the buttons on his shirt. "Won't you get in trouble?"

Geralt hums, nudging Jaskier's hands aside to undress him himself, and says, "I've got a perfect record. They'll forgive me."

"Naughty man," Jaskier teases. He hops up onto the desk behind him, drawing Geralt between his legs. "Am I a bad influence on you?"

"Yeah." Geralt mouths at Jaskier's neck, biting and suckling at a spot that makes his toes curl. His hands brush the shirt off Jaskier's shoulders and let it fall to the wayside. 

Jaskier tilts his head back, bumping it against the edge of the painting and giving Geralt better access to his throat. He braces his hands on the desk for balance and breathes out, "Good."

"Was this the secret to shutting you up all along?" Geralt teases. He drags a hand down the hair on Jaskier's chest, resting it low on his belly. "Can I…"

"I fucking promise you," Jaskier tells him, "that there's not a single thing I wouldn't let you do to me right now."

Geralt rumbles low in his throat, back to kissing Jaskier's neck. He undoes Jaskier's belt and works open the button and zipper on his jeans. "Lift your hips."

Jaskier listens, pushing his toes down against the floor for leverage, and shivers when his bare thighs make contact with the cool wood. 

"Thank God you're a neat freak," he comments, maybe slightly nonsensically. Geralt hums, kissing back up his jaw. "Couldn't do this on my desk."

Geralt presses his forehead to Jaskier's temple and leaves it there. "We could do it on my bed."

"Mm, actually," Jaskier asks, "d'you have, like, condoms or anything in here?"

Geralt pauses. "Uh, no."

"One point for me," Jaskier says. "I've got plenty. Actually, you know that package I got the other day that I was really insistent you didn't open? Well it's from this— ack!"

Jaskier is suddenly preoccupied with scrambling to wrap his legs around Geralt's waist as Geralt lifts him into the air.

"Your room," Geralt deadpans, smirking. "Got it. Hang on."

He kicks Jaskier's pants out of the way and carries him out of the bedroom. He tips his chin to vye for a kiss as he walks them down the hallway, and Jaskier is more than happy to oblige.

Until he starts giggling as soon as Geralt kicks the door open to his bedroom.

Geralt deposits him on the bed, pursing his lips around a smile like he's trying to avoid the contagious laughter. "What?"

Jaskier makes grabby hands and is rewarded with Geralt crawling over him on the bed. He traces a hand up Geralt's spine, settling at the base of his neck.

"You finally—" he cuts off, wriggling against the pleasure-pain of another hickey being sucked onto his neck. "Carried me over the threshold."

Geralt hums, squeezing Jaskier's side. "Wrong one."

"The best one," Jaskier corrects. "With the best luck in the world."

"Stop," Geralt mutters plaintively, but Jaskier can feel the smile against his throat. 

"Never," he swears. "You've unleashed this. You've opened up the—the can of worms that is my— oh, that's! Geralt."

Geralt soothes his tongue over the bite mark on Jaskier's shoulder. He rubs the heel of his hand against Jaskier's dick through his boxers and taunts, "You were saying?"

"You're amazing," Jaskier continues stubbornly. Geralt's hand slips into his underwear and toys with the head of his dick. "You're just—this wonderful—I don't know what you're hoping to accomplish by trying to—to make me associate complimenting you with getting a hard-on, Geralt, honestly, think these things through."

Geralt kisses him, slow and filthy and, oh, this is—

"I've wanted this," Jaskier tells him, "for so long. Oh, darling, since I've known you."

"Sorry," Geralt murmurs. He tugs Jaskier's boxers off and drops them onto the floor. 

"For what?" Jaskier asks. He reaches for Geralt's hips, hoping to give those god-blessed leggings the same treatment as his boxers, but Geralt's too busy kissing down Jaskier's chest.

He glances up from under his lashes, resting his chin near Jaskier's hip, and says, "Keeping you waiting."

"No," Jaskier says, his heart wrenching. "No, sweetheart, I would've—I would've waited forever. As long as it took. And if it never happened I would've loved—"

Jaskier squeezes his eyes shut. His chest is tight; Geralt's body is a trip wire.

"I told you," Jaskier begs. He tilts his gaze up to the ceiling before his throat can seal shut. "I told you I'm not good for anything else. I've just been trying to not be so fucking—"

"Don't," Geralt rasps. Jaskier looks down at him, at the aching shine of his eyes. "Don't take it back."

Jaskier tries to swallow a sob. He presses it back against his teeth, the sharp edge of a ring digging into his upper lip, his breath jumping to contain the sound.

"Please come here," he says wetly. "You're being so fucking selfish, staying where I can't touch you—oh, please, Geralt, please come here please let me—"

Geralt surges upwards and cups Jaskier's jaw and kisses him, kisses the terror right out of his mouth. Their bodies pressed together, the ribbed fabric of Geralt's leggings rubbing against Jaskier's bare cock. Jaskier sobbing anyway, lifting his hips.

"I love you," he breathes. He smiles, laughs into Geralt's hung-open mouth. What a beautiful singular gift to be blessed with—to have so much of this that it'll ruin him. "I loved you when you told me that that beautiful, terrible horse was your only friend and you didn't wanna be mine, and I loved you when you left sophomore year, and I loved you when you came back."

Geralt tries to wriggle out of his leggings.

"Let me," Jaskier tells him, and he does. "I loved you the first time I saw you dressed like this. I loved you when I came home drunk and puked all over the floor and you still gave me your Advil the next day. I loved you when I sent you a picture of a stupid fucking statue none of my friends liked and you gave him a name."

Geralt dips his hips back down and ruts their cocks together, his face pressed into Jaskier's neck. They're not even using the lube. There'll be time for that.

"I think you love me too," Jaskier marvels. He presses his lips to the top of Geralt's head and holds him closer. "Don't you?"

Geralt shudders. His back is slick with sweat and his thrusts are turning erratic. He says, "You meant it."

Jaskier closes his eyes. There's something building under his skin; he wants to come so badly and it's clawing at him, at his breath.

"Meant what, darling?" he asks. "When?"

"You said I couldn't get rid of you," Geralt tells him.

Jaskier slides a hand into Geralt's hair. "You mean that first week? When you said you didn't wanna be my friend?"

Geralt nods with a jerk of his head. His breathing is so shallow, like he's crying or about to come.

"I did," Jaskier says.

"I wanted you to mean it." Geralt gasps, shudders again. Jaskier feels him coming between them, spilling onto their stomachs. "I wanted—fuck, Jask, fuck —someone to stay."

Jaskier breathes the words against Geralt's ear, the loudest he can say them. "You let me. You know that, don't you? You're made for it too—you just had to be brave."

Geralt's hips still. He shifts to tuck a hand between them and wraps his fingers around Jaskier's cock—then lifts his head.

Jaskier meets his gaze, dragging his teeth over his bottom lip.

"I know," Geralt says. "You made it easy."

Jaskier drops his head to the mattress with a sigh. He stops trying to find something to say, to put words to it. There's Geralt's hands and Geralt's teeth and Geralt's love, in all of it. In the horrible wonderful ache of his shoulder and the lips brushing the underside of his jaw.

"I'm gonna come," Jaskier tells him. Nuzzles desperately at his temple, his fingers tightening in his hair. "Oh, fuck, kiss me—please kiss me, I want—wanna—"

Geralt does. He does it gently, holding Jaskier against him, saying it again— stay.

Jaskier comes with a stuttered sign, melting bonelessly into the mattress. He cracks one eye open and looks down at the mess on his stomach with a laugh.

"God," he says. "I need a fucking nap."

Geralt rolls his eyes, kisses Jaskier's cheek, and says, "Be right back."

He rolls to his feet and pads out of the room. Jaskier lets his eyes slip shut again and listens to the sound of Geralt's footsteps down the hall, followed by the sound of running water.

Geralt comes back with a wet washcloth, pleasantly warm against Jaskier's belly. 

"There," he murmurs, crawling back into bed. "Sleep?"

"Mm, you too?" Jaskier asks with a yawn. He stretches contentedly and bites his lip around a smile when Geralt takes the opportunity to tuck himself against Jaskier's chest. "There we go."

Geralt hums and nestles himself even closer.

Jaskier tugs the blanket out from underneath them and drapes it over their waists, then wraps Geralt up in his arms. It's still mid-morning, he thinks. There's an entire day ahead of them, after this rest, and weeks and months and maybe years, after that—if they're lucky, and brave.

"I do," Geralt murmurs, the lines of his body languid as they settle into sleep. "Love you, too."

Jaskier whispers, "Thank you."

 

~*~

 

It's early afternoon, a mid-February snow falling outside their window and obscuring the golden glow of the Waffle House across the street. Jaskier is sprawled on the futon, leaning against Geralt's chest. He has an excellent view of Viktor, who is starting to look a little out of season in his tiny Santa hat.

It's been a happy few months. They've been brave.

Jaskier scrolls through Instagram idly, contemplating whether or not he could take a surprise Snapchat of the two of them before Geralt notices. His success rate is about fifty-fifty on that front.

"Hey," Geralt says, interrupting Jaskier's nefarious scheme. He glances up at him and finds his face carefully neutral. "Do you still wanna live together next year?"

Jaskier gasps with mock offense, twisting around to bop Geralt lightly on the head.

"Rude! Rude, terrible boyfriend!" he scolds. He goes in for another smack, but Geralt starts tickling his ribs before he gets the chance. "Jail— ha!—jail for boyfriend for a thousand years!"

Geralt laughs and wraps an arm around Jaskier's middle when he tries to wriggle away, nuzzling his nose against Jaskier's temple. "Is that a 'yes?'"

Jaskier gives up on revenge and resettles against Geralt's chest. He reaches up and scritches lightly at Geralt's scalp, grinning affectionately when Geralt hums.

"Yes, you ridiculous man," he says smugly. "You're still stuck with me."

"Good." Geralt kisses the top of his head. "Stay."