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Here I stand, and hope that you will see me

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Jaskier let himself melt into Geralt’s strong embrace, but he felt oddly off-balance. On the one hand, he wanted to stay forever in that moment, so reminiscent of the dreams he sometimes indulged in on his bedroll; Geralt wrapping him in safety and warmth beside a crackling fire, and the promise of more. On the other hand, nothing had been resolved. They couldn’t return to the way things were before. How could he give up all he had built in Oxenfurt and risk everything going back on the road? How could he let Geralt go again without assurances he didn’t feel able to demand?

When he tried to step away a firm grip on his wrists and three whispered words held him captive. Please. Don't leave.

But he wasn’t really captive when staying was all he wanted. The witcher he knew never asked, never said please, never showed any weakness. He was a man of determined action. Mere politeness was definitely not his style so did that mean—

“Jaskier.”

Gods, but the sound of his name in Geralt’s mouth never failed to thrill, especially when rumbled close to his ear, close enough to feel the vibrations in the witcher’s chest.

He was truly fucked.

“It’s time to light the candles and I am desperate for a drink.” He stepped back and Geralt allowed him. Away from Geralt’s warmth, he noticed the fire was mere embers and a chill was creeping into the air. “We could eat at the tavern if you’d like, I suppose you’re staying in some dive near the harbour but hopefully we can agree on somewhere with a little less gritty charm since we’re in the city for once.” He cleared his throat and busied himself poking at the fire.

“My purse is lighter than I’d like and I still have supplies to buy.” Geralt looked around before flicking Igni at the candles.

“Show off.”

“Just helping.” Geralt sat on the armchair where Jaskier liked to read. He filled its generous proportions with his broad form enclosed in leather, strong thighs promising an even better seat.

Jaskier chewed on his lower lip, hoping his body didn’t betray his thoughts to the witcher’s enhanced senses but still aware that his heart rate picked up. He chattered about the food available in different taverns and inns while arranging the papers and books on the table into marginally neater piles. Should he take his dagger? Geralt had no visible weapons but he knew at least two were concealed on his person. A witcher was never defenceless, swords or no swords. 

All the time, golden eyes were trained on him. He couldn’t decipher the intent behind them.

“You choose. I don’t mind where we go as long as I can get decent ale.”

“Ah, yes, right then, we’ll try the Fox and Hen, the venison there is tasty and they keep good wine as well. I prefer that to ale quite honestly, especially since it’s got colder, mulled wine is great for keeping the chill off and the spices are exquisite.”

“You could do with a good meal.”

Jaskier stopped, his cloak half fastened. “What are you implying?”

Geralt shrugged. “I expected to find you well fed, not so lean I can feel your ribs.”

“What – I am fine, thank you very much and not at all underfed.”

“That’s why you need a wool doublet and a fur lined cloak in early winter. Because you’re fine.” Geralt’s delivery was flat as ever, but the fractionally quirked eyebrow told much to those who could read the signs.

Jaskier spluttered, “Well it’s winter Geralt and it’s cold! We don’t all run witcher-hot.” He fastened his cloak and put out the candles. “Let’s go.”

The cold weather did get to him more, he’d told himself it was to do with getting older. But a small part of him preened at the knowledge that his the witcher had noticed and even appeared to care. Wonders would never cease.

 

It was honestly surprising to Jaskier how easily they slipped back into old habits. They walked to the tavern and he filled the time with prattle about this and that, while Geralt offered an occasional grunt. They’d eaten their fill of rather tasty venison and downed two cups apiece before Geralt spoke.

“Why do you teach?”

Jaskier almost choked on his third drink. “I like to think the next generation can learn a little from me.” This was the one place I knew I’d be taken in. The only place I could rely on.

“Don’t they annoy you with all the questions?”

Like I did with you? “Of course not, Geralt. How else can they learn?” He pushed his plate away. “At the very least my songs are based on actual experiences, not hearsay and rumour like some.”

“By some you mean Marx.”

“Amongst others, yes. If there’s another bard who has had half the encounters I’ve had, well I’d like to see them. Why I won the Oxenfurt bardic competition two years in a row. Two years, Geralt!”

“I heard. Several times.”

Jaskier sipped wine with a frown, until he spotted the merest hint of a smile on Geralt’s lips. He was out of practice reading witcher. “You’re baiting me, aren’t you.”

Geralt held eye contact for a beat too long. Jaskier cursed his racing pulse. Perhaps his overly perceptive companion would put it down to alcohol.

“Anyway, you haven’t told me what you’re doing in Oxenfurt, and at the library no less. Unexpected, to say the least.”

Geralt took a long swallow of ale and Jaskier definitely did not watch the motion of his Adam’s apple.

“You think a witcher has no place in a library.”

Jaskier rushed to correct him because he certainly didn't want to imply that Geralt lacked learning. “No not at all, I just—”

“I made Kaczmar a promise to update the bestiary, if I was ever passing.”

“Ah.” He chewed on the inside of his lip to stop the questions from tumbling out. He’d never seen Geralt write anything. That was a book he would definitely examine in the near future, because he needed to know what kind of scholar he was dealing with.

“I have more to do tomorrow. Then supplies to pick up before I leave.”

“You’re to the keep for winter then?” He fidgeted, hands restless on the table. He tucked them out of sight.

Geralt paused before replying. “Perhaps. I hear rumours.” He dropped his voice lower, and Jaskier had to lean forward to catch his words. “They’re moving north.”

The barmaid came by and Jaskier stood abruptly, dropping coins on the table. “Let’s continue elsewhere. I have some truly excellent mead in my rooms.” He’d heard whispers even in the protected enclaves of the academy, though so far Nilfgaard and the conflict still seemed distant. Who knew what crazed ambition drove their leaders?

This time they walked in silence, their breath clouding before them. Jaskier was very glad of his fur collar fastened under his chin, and he stuffed his hands deep into his pockets so that they wouldn’t try anything stupid with the large scarred hand so close by. It was cold night air that ached in his chest, nothing more. He felt shivery and warm at the same time, and that feeling persisted long after they were back in his room with the fire crackling and the candles lit. 

“Why did you come here, Geralt?” He had his apology, yet couldn’t help pushing.

“I told you.”

“But…” He was flailing he knew, but he needed more. “What now?”

Geralt stared at the fire, orange flame reflected in amber eyes, and said nothing for a long time. Jaskier sipped mead, but its warmth did nothing to untangle the knot in his gut.

“I need to claim my child surprise,” he murmured. “War will come, sooner or later.”

Well, that was new information. Geralt was going to accept the responsibility he’d been hiding from all these years.

“You’re going to take her with you.”

Geralt looked up at that. “Her?”

“Yes, your surprise is a princess.” No need to explain how he knew.

“She belongs with me now. I can keep her safe until this war is over, whatever it takes.”

“Right.” In all the years they’d travelled, Geralt had never invited Jaskier to Kaer Morhen. But then, they were bound only by Jaskier’s persistence. Destiny had no hand in their relationship; only Jaskier making a choice over and over, and Geralt not rejecting it. Until he did.

“I suppose we’ll be all right here, I mean there’s no reason for Nilfgaard to come to Oxenfurt is there? Calanthe would die rather than give up Cintra.” He wanted to believe it, but he also knew that thirst for power rarely had limits. “It’s not as if we have any great resources, apart from the library and a few professors who aren’t at all important to anyone.”

Geralt’s steady gaze cut off Jaskier’s words. “Do you plan to stay here?”

And there it was, almost the question he feared and craved. He spun the glass in his hands. “What else can I do?” he whispered.

“You have a life here. You can write poetry and sleep in a warm bed and teach. Your students like you.”

“And I like them. I get by, well enough.”

“Hmm.”

The silence stretched, punctuated only by the crackle of burning logs. Finally Jaskier started talking about his students. He spoke about their varying levels of talent and how Alleana was the best of them. He recounted tales about banquets he’d played at, gossip about nobles, how he had put together a small company of his own to accompany him. All the while Geralt listened and grunted at appropriate moments.

“You could be a royal bard. Safer and better paid than here.”

“Of course I could, but it isn’t – I mean it is, safe and all that, but sometimes safe can be, I don’t know, rather pedestrian after a while and one gets tired of the predictability.” Jaskier kept his tone light, thinking of the offers he’d turned down. He didn’t want to jump into a gilded cage and trade his freedom for coin and polite applause from bored nobility. He could have stayed in Lettenhove for that.

“You’d soon run out of willing conquests, or have one too many lords wanting you dead.”

Jaskier smiled, but the knot in his gut only wound tighter. “I’ll have you know I have given up my bedhopping, mostly. Oxenfurt is a small place and I’d rather not shit on my own doorstep, so to speak.”

“Wise.”

“The bard Jaskier, settled down and grown up. Unlikely but true.”

Geralt looked around, nostrils flaring slightly. Jaskier knew which scents hung in the air; rose, cedarwood, a hint of linseed he used on his lute, and no other.

“I’ll be at the library early tomorrow.” Geralt finished his drink and stood. “I need to finish my work and collect supplies.”

Jaskier stood too. “I’m lecturing in the morning, then the afternoon stretches before me, filled with assessing my students’ variable attempts at lyric hexameter. What joys await.”

One hand on the door, Geralt paused. Jaskier held his breath, waiting. Geralt did not look back.

“Goodnight, Jaskier.”

Long after the door closed, Jaskier stood in the same spot with his eyes closed and two gently spoken words echoing in his head. He breathed deeply, let his heartbeat settle.

Not goodbye. Not yet.

 

The next morning dawned cold and bright. Refreshed after better sleep than he’d had for days, Jaskier threw himself into his class on twelfth century poetry. He was declaiming the Song of Flowers with more than usual energy, and had reached the ninth stanza when the door opened to reveal the witcher.

Geralt walked to the front, and the class immediately fell apart as students whispered and moved forward to be closer to the legendary figure. He was in full armour including both swords, which he had either sneaked past the porter or more likely, used to intimidate him. And people said the bard was the dramatic one.

Jaskier almost laughed at the glow of happy recognition in his chest. He spread his arms and sketched a deep bow. “What an absolute and may I say unexpected pleasure to have Geralt of Rivia here again today. We bid you welcome. Esteemed witcher, tell me this. Inquiring minds have many questions for you; are you willing to answer?”

Geralt’s face held the merest hint of amusement. “I am.”

Jaskier clapped his hands, smiling wide and feeling giddy. “We thank you for your time. Now my dear students, you may each consider one question and one question only for our honoured guest. He will choose to share his knowledge with you, or not, at his own discretion.”

Jaskier was faced with a forest of raised hands and he pointed. “Piotr, your question please.”

“Sir – Geralt, can you tell us of your most fearsome monster?”

 

Jaskier watched Geralt patiently answer student after student, his answers not lengthy but thoughtful, and he fell deeper and deeper until he was drowning. The breadth of Geralt’s knowledge astounded him even after all the years travelling together. The gentleness in his voice, despite the violence he described and his warlike appearance, seeped deep into Jaskier’s bones and warmed him from the inside. He determinedly did not catch Geralt’s eye at any time, lest he allowed his true feelings to show.

He called on each person in turn, drinking in their excitement, respect and blushing pleasure at hearing the witcher’s deep voice giving details Jaskier himself had never heard before. He fully understood all those feelings.

Last of all, Alleana raised her hand. “Thank you for speaking with us. You’ve known our professor for years and shared many adventures with him. Do you feel there is more – that is, are there still new stories to discover?”

The room fell silent, and Alleana looked from one man to the other without a trace of fear, almost challenging them to answer. Jaskier applauded her bravery while also wanting to hide from her knowing look. But he couldn’t guess what answer Geralt would give.

“Many hunts are similar and there is no more to say after the hundredth than after the first.”

She tilted her head expectantly. “But?”

Jaskier held his breath. Most of the students were probably doing the same.

Geralt’s neutral expression did not falter as he held Alleana’s gaze. “To keep learning, keep moving. Fresh fish is not pulled from a stagnant lake.”

Jaskier clasped his hands together to keep them from shaking. “Thank you, thank you all for your most perceptive and wide-ranging questions, and of course to our esteemed witcher Geralt of Rivia. I’m sorry class ran later than planned but hopefully you’ll all forgive me, opportunities such as this are rare and must be grasped when they are presented.”

He led the applause and allowed himself one glance at the witcher’s chiselled profile. Immediately he felt the lurch of dizziness and he looked away, still falling, falling.

 

“That was a surprise, most welcome of course, but still.”

Geralt shrugged. “Finished earlier than expected and I was passing.”

“And the fish metaphor! Geralt I really think my barding has rubbed off on you, using all those words.”

“I know words. I choose mine carefully.”

“Indeed you do, indeed you do, though you were noticeably less taciturn than usual.” Jaskier swept the last of his papers into his bag. Jaskier wanted to reach out and touch, maybe even hug him. Instead he buckled his satchel.

“Thank you,” he murmured. “This class will never forget today. I will never forget.” When he looked up, Geralt was watching.

“Glad to have helped. Can’t have them thinking witchers are uneducated beasts.”

“They certainly didn’t hear that from me, quite the opposite. Shall we?”

He led the way out to the cloister and Geralt fell into step beside him. Jaskier very much enjoyed the shocked and interested looks they attracted, and chuckled inwardly at the knowledge that the witcher could probably hear every whispered comment.

“Most of these people didn’t believe your stories about the White Wolf until today.”

Now he did laugh aloud. “I exaggerate, I don’t actually lie. Mostly, anyway. Oh, and there’s Malec.” He waved. “He’ll be waiting for the story at our regular dinner.”

“Malec?”

“The Vice Chancellor, we dine every fortnight. I owe him my place here, he took me in when I arrived looking like a dusty vagabond. He’d love to talk with you I’m sure, make a change from flattering my ego.”

“Hmm.”

He couldn’t help sighing. “I know you’re leaving.”

They reached the gatehouse and he sent another cheery wave to the porter, who glared at them both. Light, Jaskier. Keep it light. He gripped his bag in both hands.

“So I’ll bid you farewell, lots of paperwork to do sadly. It’s been—”

“Jaskier. We’re not parting like this.”

“Oh, we’re not?”

Geralt’s jaw tightened. Jaskier ignored the people around them, the barely concealed scrutiny of interested eyes, and he waited, again. The time for putting himself out there, for easing the witcher’s awkward way with words, was long gone. He needed more, even if it could be called greedy. He figured he’d earned that much.

“I have – things to do. I’ll eat at the Jolly Sailor.”

Trying to conserve coin before travelling and refusing any more hospitality out of a misguided idea of indebtedness, Jaskier guessed. “Perhaps we could finish that mead.”

A fractional dip of the head then quiet words for his ears only. “I’d like that.”

“After the seventh bell then, I’ll tell the night porter to expect you.”

As Geralt walked away Jaskier hurried back to his rooms, glad to get out of the cold and light a fire. He’d work on the student papers, then get some food and maybe even another bottle of wine at the closest tavern. If Geralt was working up to saying something, he wanted to be ready.

 

Daylight had long vanished by the time Jaskier had graded the lyric hexameter papers, changed his grey wool doublet for rich blue silk that matched the ribbon in his hair, and tidied his room. The fire was built up and he’d eaten lightly. A bottle of Est Est stood alongside the half bottle of mead. When three knocks sounded on his door, he was ready.

“Hello, come in.”

Geralt stepped inside and closed the door gently behind him. He wore black as usual, his cloak damp from rain and concealing his steel sword with its golden brooch attached to the hilt. Jaskier had yet to learn the full story behind it, but contented himself with watching the witcher leave the sword near the door and shrug off his cloak before sitting in the armchair. Every movement was performed with minimum effort and maximum grace, and Jaskier felt clumsy and leaden by comparison. He fiddled with his buttons and chattered about weather.

Geralt interrupted his monologue. “You changed.”

The warmth on his cheeks wasn’t entirely due to the fire. “Oh this old thing, it’s not even this season’s fashion but I do feel as a professor that I should try to exude rather more gravitas than a wandering bard tends to emanate, and of course colourful silks are practically a bard’s uniform Geralt, much like your witcher’s black, so…” He shrugged, suddenly self-conscious under scrutiny in a way he’d not been in a long time. He’d never worn grey a day in his life before, in a lecture or outside.

“It – suits you. And the beard.”

Jaskier’s fingers twitched but he managed not to run them through his hair. “A little change of image, a little reinvention now and then does one good.”

“Hmm.”

“Just because you pride yourself on keeping the same look for decades.”

Geralt tilted his head. “Lets people know what to expect, but appearances can be deceptive.”

Jaskier was proud that his fingers did not shake as he poured wine. He wasn’t at all sure that he could stomach anything, let alone alcohol. He smelled clean soap and Geralt’s own scent underpinned by leather and oil, and there was the swoop and dive sensation again. Falling.

“Have I thanked you for coming to my lecture already? The students were thrilled to have the White Wolf there in person, I try not to bang on about my own songs too much, it feels rather too self-centred.” He took a breath, sipped his mead.

“I was happy to come. See you in your element.” He downed half his drink, and set the glass down. “I wanted to check you were safe.”

“Really? I’m fine here, like I said. Teaching is—well it’s rewarding and I enjoy it. I play a few banquets here and there, but not many. I have enough coin and a warm bed, it’s, it’s good.” He shut his mouth before more truths slipped out. About sleepless nights and restlessness, about the itch under his skin that soft hands and soft voices could not ease. About the void at the centre of a good life.

“When I find my child, I’m taking her to Kaer Morhen. What will you do if Nilfgaard moves this far?”

Jaskier stared into his drink as if it held all the answers he needed. “What indeed. I don’t have another home to run to. Maybe I could call on an old friend, head into Kaedwen.”

“But will you be safe?”

Jaskier looked up at the earnest tone to find Geralt’s entire attention trained on him. No, he wouldn’t be safe at all. He’d never been as safe as when he travelled with his witcher, monsters or no. And he was under no illusions about the difficulty of extracting the princess from the iron grip of Queen Calanthe, but what use was a bard in such a quest? Even less than a professor.

“Jaskier.” His steady gaze didn’t falter.

“That’s me.”

Geralt pressed his lips into a thin line. “I want you to have this.” He pulled a small package from his pocket and pushed it across the table. Jaskier unwrapped the cloth covering to reveal a dagger with an etched silver blade. He turned it over in his hands, letting the carved vines and flowers catch the light, and traced his finger over the leather wrapped handle and silver pommel.

“Thank you, this is beautiful.” He weighed it in his hand and found it finely balanced, then turned and threw it with a fluid motion. It flashed across the room and stuck in the door. Not only decorative, then. “Nice.”

“When did you learn that?” Geralt’s brows drew together, and Jaskier laughed.

“I may have taken a few lessons, with a sword too. Just in case I wanted to, you know, go travelling again. So I could defend myself.” He lifted his chin. “I’m not totally useless.”

“Appearances can be deceptive.”

“That’s what you said.” He took a drink and relaxed a little. “Take you for example. You act all emotionless and uncaring, right before you jump into fighting some perceived injustice.”

“Maybe. But here you are, acting helpless when you are much more.”

“More? Do tell.”

Geralt finished his drink and twisted the glass in his hands. Jaskier refilled it then sat, drawing his chair closer. He wanted to hear this.

“You like your comforts but you can also sleep in the woods. You sing simple songs but can analyse classic poetry.” He drank, paused, drank again. “You prattle endlessly without saying much, yet after you left the silence was louder.” Geralt stared at the empty glass, dwarfed by scarred hands. “Now you’re where you should be, I see that. And I—I’m glad.”

What was he talking about? “What?”

“I was keeping you from a good life, and now I can go on my way knowing that you’re all right.”

“All right? All right? What bollocks is this?” Jaskier jumped to his feet. The sheer - the stupidity of this man drove him to distraction.

“I’m very far from all right, you oaf. Do you think I travelled twenty odd years with you, dodging monsters and eating gruel because I wanted safety? You think after all that I'd rather sleep in feather beds and recite sonnets and sing for stupid nobles who wouldn’t know art if it punched them in the face?”

Geralt looked confused again. “But you—”

“I love my students, I do, but I can’t settle, it’s not enough, I thought it would be but Oxenfurt isn’t enough any more.” He paced the small room, pulling at his hair until wisps escaped. “I’ve seen a bigger world, Geralt.”

“A dangerous world,” he rumbled. “That’s why I got the dagger—”

“A silver dagger for monsters, when there are none—”

“It was pretty! You like pretty.”

Jaskier threw up his hands. Underestimated and belittled at every turn, was that to be his fate? “Yes but—you know what, I have my own dagger, and a sword—”

He strode over to the door and pulled, but the dagger was stuck fast. “Stupid bloody thing.” He was breathing fast, chest filled with disappointment and anger and fear, but then Geralt was behind him, breath warm on his ear. He couldn't help shivering. One hand caught his wrist and lowered it gently.

“Let me.” Geralt freed the dagger and murmured, “It reminded me of you, and I hoped you’d remember me when you saw it.”

Jaskier’s breath caught in his throat. His wrist burned from the brief contact and he leaned his forehead against the door. “As if I could forget.”

Geralt sighed. “I am sorry. I bow to destiny now but you and I were not destined. You chose to stay with me and I took advantage of that. I never thought you’d leave for good.”

“Ah.” One deep, staggered breath as the truth hit home.

“Knowing you’re all right. That’s important to me. You’re important to me.”

Jaskier blinked tears away. This idiot witcher, here in his space, whispering in his ear and making him ache, the bastard. They were so close, so very close.

“Then ask me to come back.”  

Geralt moved away, and nausea twisted in Jaskier’s stomach.

He was fine. He could do this.

Geralt put the knife on the table and returned.

“I need you to be safe.”

Jaskier turned. He tried to smile but his lips trembled at the look on Geralt’s face, the thinned lips and tiny brow furrow that meant he was feeling the most and showing the least. He touched their foreheads together to spare them both the sight of raw emotions. Exhaled on a sigh. He reached out and let his fingertips dance over Geralt’s stubbled cheek.

“Haven’t you realised by now? This is where I’m safe.”

Fingers combed through his hair, tucking wayward strands behind his ears. Two warm hands cradled his face as if it were precious and tilted his head so their lips brushed together in the merest hint of a kiss. Little touches to his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his nose followed. Geralt crowded forward, heavy hands on his waist, and pushed Jaskier against the door as he took more, sucking at his lower lip until Jaskier opened to allow Geralt to lick into his mouth. They kissed, shared breaths, kissed again. Heat sparked in his veins and pooled deep in his gut. He groaned and rutted against the thick thigh he’d long admired, now slotted perfectly between his legs. One hand cupped his arse and the other wound into his hair and tugged, and his cock throbbed in answer. When Geralt turned his attention to Jaskier’s neck, he gasped for breath. Even a trained singer needed air.

“Geralt – could we – bed?”

In response a growl skipped along his skin, punctuated by a sharp nip that would certainly leave a mark. He wanted it, wanted the reminder that all this was real.

“No.” Fingers pulled at his laces.

“Oh – Gods – let me,” he panted. He didn’t want to be ripped out of his new silks, not this time anyway. His hands shook, and then to his amazement Geralt dropped to his knees and looked up at him, gaze dark and lustful. This was a dream. The end of a nightmare. A bad idea that he couldn’t find the strength to refuse.

“I might not last–”

Then words were lost as Geralt swallowed him whole. His hips bucked forward and arms clamped around his legs, keeping him deep in volcanic heat unlike anything he'd ever known.

Jaskier moaned, his orgasm barrelling towards him in an unstoppable wave that made his knees tremble, barely aware of Geralt’s strength holding him easily while he slumped against the door. He came so hard that stars danced behind his eyelids.

When he regained his senses he was somehow still upright, held securely around his waist. Geralt nosed along his neck. “You smell good.”

Of course he did, because he’d switched back to camomile oil for his bath, because he knew rose was usually too intense, because he couldn’t do other than make sure his witcher was comfortable.

“Geralt.”

“Hmm.”

Jaskier had got off and he hadn’t even touched Geralt, not really. He needed to remedy that oversight. He needed to know what they were doing, but sharp teeth worrying at his collarbone were entirely too distracting. So instead he took advantage of his current position to grab himself two handfuls of firm, leather clad witcher cheeks like Melitele knew he’d been wanting to for years, ever since he’d copped a feel under the guise of a massage just between friends. Because they were not friends and this was not what friends did.

Geralt’s bottom was not lovely. It was glorious.

He reacted immediately, thrusting forward and leaving Jaskier in no doubt of his arousal, now pressing into his thigh. It had been altogether too long since his last tumble and even longer since he wanted anyone so badly that his cock was already taking an interest again. Then Geralt claimed and plundered his mouth, and he tasted himself mixed with the honey sweet mead, and he was lost.

Eventually he surfaced, breathless. “Geralt, stop.”

Geralt flinched as though from a blow, blinked and moved back. “I shouldn't have.”

Jaskier laughed, airy and high pitched. “You better not be thinking I didn’t want this, because I really did. Do.” He gestured to his dishevelled clothes and hair hanging around his face. “But what do you want?”

Geralt stepped away again, and Jaskier hated it.

“Only what I can’t have. Shouldn’t have.”

“And what if I said you could? What if forgiveness means take what was always yours but take care of it too?”

Geralt’s hands flexed. “I leave tomorrow to find her.”

“We have tonight, we’re here now.” They would learn every inch of each other in time. But some pupils did better with hands on lessons than words. He smiled at his witcher.

“Watch.”

 

Jaskier unbuttoned his doublet slowly and cast it aside. He unlaced his trousers fully and kicked off his boots, then slid the trousers over his hips. Then, hands on hips, he locked gaze with Geralt. The witcher was completely still, pupils dilated and lips parted.

“Shall we?” He laughed again as Geralt surged forward, grabbed him around the waist and then dropped him on the bed.

“Take them off if you want to wear them again.”

Jaskier hurried to comply, and by the time he had the fiddly laces loose enough to pull off his embroidered shirt Geralt was completely bare. Jaskier looked and looked at the sculpted body casually displayed to him, reminding himself of old scars and noting new ones still raised and pink against pale skin. He hadn’t been there to care for these wounds, but he’d make up for it. Some other time. He had more pressing matters to occupy him, like being fucked senseless on the impressive cock that was even more than his fantasies had promised.

He raised his hips and shimmied out of his braies under a molten gaze that tracked every movement. While he would usually stretch like a cat to tempt his lover, he fought the temptation to hide from Geralt's focus, a predator eyeing his prey. For all that his skin was hot, he shivered.

Geralt growled, warning and promise. “Oil?”

Jaskier pulled a full bottle from the drawer and set it on the bedside table.

“I don’t – it’s been a while.” He bit his lip. Why did he feel like a blushing virgin? Because it’s our first time.

“Shh.” Geralt crawled on top of him. “We’re here now.”

They didn’t speak much after that. Geralt’s eyes blazed with passion but his hands and mouth were gentle, patient, teasing. He lavished kisses on Jaskier’s skin, pinched his nipples into little peaks, licked at his cock until it filled again. A finger teased before sinking in, soon joined by two more, massaging that one spot inside until pleasure sparked like lightning. Jaskier ground against Geralt's grip on his hip, rode his fingers and wanted more. 

By the time Geralt pressed in Jaskier was incoherent, babbling pleas and curses. Geralt rested deep inside him, thick and hot. A deep groan rumbled from his chest, eyes black with the merest rim of gold, white hair tumbled about his face, the picture of lust.

Jaskier closed his eyes, overwhelmed with need. What was he waiting for? "Move, witcher."

Geralt moved. First shallow, gradually deeper until he could go no further, until Jaskier threw back his head with a cry and surrendered.

He lost time to the relentless rhythm of deep strokes, the slap of flesh on flesh mixed with sighs and grunts. And then Geralt folded him almost in two and snapped his hips still faster, whispering Jaskier over and over into his skin until he fell over the edge with a roar, taking Jaskier with him.

They lay side by side afterwards, sticky and warm in the light of candles burned low. Jaskier had things he wanted to say and things he wanted to keep secret, so he did what he always did. He talked.

“Gods, Geralt, you exceeded my expectations. Not that they were low, far from it, but you are entirely too good in bed, and out of it too because your cocksucking skills are rather delightful. Who knew? I really wish we’d done this sooner because in my younger days I had such stamina you know, many of my lovely bedmates said so–”

“Jaskier.” One word silenced him, that low voice slow dripping honey in his veins. Geralt got up and Jaskier swallowed, trying not to mourn the loss of warmth and the emptiness.

“Sorry,” he whispered. He never could keep his mouth shut around Geralt, he was always too much, he should be quiet because Melitele knew he needed closeness after all that and if he didn't get it then he might just weep.

But then a cool damp cloth was drawn over his face and body before Geralt got back into bed, pulled the blankets and furs over them and turned on his side.

“Come here.” He pulled Jaskier to his chest and tangled their legs together.

Jaskier almost did cry then, caged in strong arms, warm and safe, with a rough hand pressed to his heart. He swallowed his tears and leaned back against a wall of muscle. A kiss to his shoulder had him sighing.

“Sleep, bard.”

 

He woke at first light. His hair was a tangled mess and his mouth was dry, and there was a cooling space next to him. He sat up and pulled the covers around him with a shiver. The fire was long dead.

“Already?” he muttered.

Geralt fastened his last buckle and sat next to him, his leathers creaking gently. “Stanion is five miles north of Ban Gleàn. I will see you there in fourteen days.”

Jaskier rubbed his eyes. A cold weight settled in his stomach. “And if you’re not?”

“Stay north of the Pontar. I’ll find you.”

“I can’t come with you now.” Unsure if that was statement or question, he stared at the hearth rug. He’d made hasty exits before. His students would survive and he’d apologise with more stories, eventually. The semester was almost done anyway. 

Geralt took his hand and traced the lines with a calloused finger, leaving the skin tingling. “I won’t ask you to abandon your commitments. Besides it might be better to face Calanthe alone.”

“You’re right, she doesn’t really like me.” He drank some water that was conveniently placed on the bedside table, then turned to face Geralt. “We’ll meet in Stanion. I require that you take care of yourself, dearest witcher.” He used his stern teacher voice. “Do not neglect your needs or we shall have words.”

The tender look Geralt sent him made his heart clench and he was glad to be sitting, or he might have swooned.

“You also.” He caressed his cheek with a thumb, and Jaskier leaned into the touch, eyes fluttering shut. “The beard looks well on you. Stay safe, bard.” Warm lips pressed to his and were gone too soon. He heard the door open and close, and he was alone.

After a few long minutes he braved the cold to find sleep clothes. He traced a finger along the carved blade of his dagger, then tucked it under his pillow, already planning his escape. War was a distant threat that didn't disturb his dreams.

***

Geralt generally preferred subdued colours, as much as he had any preference at all, but he didn’t care for grey on his bard. Blue silk flattered his eyes much better. He tucked away the handkerchief he'd stolen with its memory of sea-blue eyes, camomile and kisses, and turned Roach south-east.