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They were preparing to leave Yantra for Novigrad when Geralt heard a passerby say the word ‘harpy.’ The man had heard stories recently of a harpy occupying the small town of Movadra, to the east. Despite Yantra’s reputation as a rumor mill, Geralt decided to make the journey to Movadra to see for himself.

When he told Jaskier about the change of plans, the bard’s face lit up. “Movadra!” Jaskier nearly shouted, making Geralt wince. “I haven’t been there in ages , Geralt! Not since my days at Oxenfurt. We used to summer there, you see, myself and some fellow students. I wonder if Nes is still–”

“We won’t be there for a reunion,” Geralt interrupted. “We’re going to confirm or deny reports of a harpy. If it’s true, I’ll take care of it, and if it’s not, then we’ll leave.”

Jaskier’s grin turned immediately into a pout. He sighed mournfully. “Fine. You’re no fun at all.”

“And yet, you’re still here,” Geralt said teasingly.

Jaskier perked up again at that. “Yes, I’m still here.” He looked around furtively. When he decided it was safe, he pressed a quick kiss to Geralt’s cheek. “Even though you’re a bore, you’re my bore.”

Geralt’s ears grew warm. He still wasn’t used to Jaskier’s displays of affection, and as much as he enjoyed them, they still made him feel strange. 

Jaskier seemed to sense this and backed off. He cleared his throat awkwardly and dusted a nonexistent dust speck from his doublet. “Well, we should be on our way. It’s a three-hour trek from here when the roads aren’t busy, but it’s sure to take longer with all the Midaëte travelers.”

Geralt grunted in affirmation. During their brief stay in Yantra, it seemed as though the town’s population had grown by at least a third. The streets were teeming with people preparing for Yantra’s midsummer celebration. This would be true of every settlement on the Continent - Midaëte was less than a sennight away. 

They left the tavern and went to the stables to collect Roach. Geralt let Jaskier lead the way; people moved aside for him more politely than they would for a witcher. Then they set off down the road toward Movadra, with Geralt astride Roach and Jaskier walking alongside. It was a very nice day, if a little warm. Birds and cicadas sang all around them, and there was a little babbling stream running parallel with the road. Jaskier whistled a short tune occasionally, but otherwise he and Geralt were silent.

They stopped halfway to let Roach rest and cool off with a drink from the stream. Jaskier found a large yew nearby and sat cross-legged underneath it. He started practicing chords on his lute. Geralt leaned on another tree across from him, quietly observing.

It had been almost two months since Jaskier had kissed Geralt for the first time. He hadn’t been drunk or otherwise impaired. He’d just grown tired of the tension between them, so he’d broken it. Geralt was grateful that it had been Jaskier who’d made the first move. If it had been his decision, nothing would’ve happened at all — not because he didn’t reciprocate Jaskier’s affections, but because he’d been terrified of acting on them. 

There had been at least a hundred kisses between them since then, usually initiated by Jaskier. Often, it was just a gentle peck on the cheek or forehead. Geralt could count the more passionate kisses on one hand. Several times, though, Jaskier had tried to initiate something… more than kissing. Geralt always stopped it before it went too far. He just… wasn’t ready for that yet. Kissing here and there was fine, but sex would make what he and Jaskier had real . There would be so much more to lose.

But Geralt couldn’t deny that he wanted Jaskier. He imagined it frequently: Jaskier on top of him, teasing him, marking him—

Geralt shook his head quickly, trying to dissolve the images swimming in his brain. He focused his gaze on Jaskier, who was deep in thought. The tip of his tongue stuck out of his mouth as he concentrated, probably composing lyrics for his newest song. Geralt smiled fondly. He crossed the space between them and crouched in front of Jaskier. The bard, startled out of his thoughts, looked at Geralt with wide eyes. Geralt leaned in and kissed Jaskier’s forehead softly, lingering a moment longer than necessary.

Jaskier made a happy sound. “Thank you,” he said. “That was very sweet, Geralt.”

“You’re welcome,”. He stood, holding out his hand. “We should keep going. Come on.”

Jaskier took his hand, and Geralt hoisted him up. He noticed for the first time that Jaskier was trying to mask a limp. Jaskier caught Geralt’s concerned look and said, “It’s fine, really. I just need a new pair of boots. These ones are about done, I think.”

“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” Geralt asked, his tone a bit more exasperated than he intended. “We could’ve–” 

“Relax, my dear,” Jaskier said gently. “I know an excellent tailor in Movadra. I’m sure he knows where we could find a cordwainer in town. I’ll take care of this while you enquire after the harpy.”

“But we still have miles to go,” Geralt protested. “You can’t keep walking in those. You can…” He hesitated. “You can ride Roach. I’ll walk.”

Jaskier’s mouth fell open in surprise. “You… You mean it?”

Geralt’s face flushed. “Yes,” he said gruffly. “Now climb up, before I change my mind.”

Jaskier did as he was told. He shifted around a bit in the saddle, trying to get comfortable. Geralt noticed that his posture resembled that of a professional rider. He remembered suddenly that Jaskier had been born into nobility - of course he knew how to properly ride a horse.

Roach made a displeased sound. Jaskier tried to get her to walk, but she put her ears back and refused. 

“Hang on,” Geralt said. He walked in front of Roach and scratched her between the ears. “Hey, pretty girl,” he murmured. “I know this is strange, but I’ll be right here beside you, yeah? Nothing to worry about. I’ll see if I can’t find you a nice carrot when we get there.”

Roach seemed to consider Geralt’s words. Then she bumped her nose against his chest, tossed her head, and began walking. Geralt fell in step beside her, patting her neck with a soft smile.

Jaskier laughed. “How sweet,” he said. “Thank you.”

Geralt hummed and moved his hand to Jaskier’s thigh. He squeezed lightly, then dropped his arm to his side. He glanced at Jaskier’s boots and noticed just how worn they really were - another mile and they might have fallen apart completely. Geralt frowned, but said nothing.

Like the first half of their journey, the second half was also silent. Five minutes in, Jaskier yawned, and Geralt had to pat his knee to keep him from nodding off. Of course he was tired, and he was probably aching, too. Geralt decided then that he would pay for Jaskier’s new boots. If he couldn’t prove his affection physically, he’d prove it with a gift. 

They arrived at the outskirts of Movadra an hour later than expected. During the last half of the trek, the roads became crowded: Merchants and artisans clogged the path, their horse-drawn carts piled high with goods to sell at Movadra’s Midaëte festival. Groups of men carried bundles of logs and small trees they had felled for the bonfires. The cacophony of human voices and animal sounds made Geralt’s head ache.

A mule suddenly brayed beside them, startling Jaskier. His legs jerked, and the movement confused Roach, who whinnied and gave a little buck. She was clearly in no mood to entertain a rider at that point, so Geralt calmed her with Axii while he moved to help Jaskier dismount. Jaskier, however, hadn’t anticipated Geralt’s assistance, and had already swung his leg over the saddle when Geralt reached toward him. Geralt suddenly had a handful of Jaskier’s arse, in full view of the other travellers surrounding them.

Jaskier didn’t flinch away like Geralt would have done. Instead, he gracefully hopped to the ground, wincing a bit as his feet hit the dirt. He noticed Geralt’s flushed face and grinned. “Very bold of you, Geralt,” he teased as he handed over Roach’s reins. “Are we there?”

Geralt grunted. He was too focused on trying to keep himself decent.

“Use your words, please.”

All Geralt could manage was a gruff “almost,” but that seemed to satisfy Jaskier. He made a soft sound. “This is nice,” he said. “Thank you for allowing this.”

“Maybe,” Geralt said, “if you stay out of trouble while we’re here, we’ll finally get you a horse of your own.”

Jaskier bumped his shoulder lightly. “I promise to be on my very best behavior,” he said. “You can count on me.”

They finally entered the town square, where the townspeople were scurrying about like startled mice to prepare the area for Midaëte. Banners had been hung above the market and outside every guildworker’s shop, proclaiming the presence of the finest goods inside. Bundles of white lilies and oak twigs had been arranged in earthenware pots outside every doorway. The center of the square had been cleared to make room for a bonfire; the stack of logs was already at least eight feet high. Apparently, not even a harpy could interrupt Movadra’s festivities.

Jaskier ooh’ed and ahh’ed at all of this, tugging on Geralt’s shirt to point out things that the witcher had noticed several minutes prior. Geralt didn’t mind. It was nice to see Jaskier excited. 

Once they had located the stables, Geralt turned Roach over to the stableboy and asked him for directions to the local tavern. Then he headed off in that direction, while Jaskier, carrying their meager belongings, went to reserve a room at the inn and to visit his tailor friend. Geralt thought that the local tavern would be a good place to perform some inquiries - the town alderman was probably busy dictating festival preparations and wouldn’t deign to speak to a witcher.

The tavern was full to bursting when he arrived. Dozens of human bodies jostled for space; the scents of ale and sweat were nearly overpowering. Geralt wrinkled his nose, but pressed on toward the bar.

“You, there,” he called, trying to be heard over the roar of the other patrons. Startled, the barkeep looked up. Geralt sensed that he was considering fleeing, but then apparently thought better of it. He gestured for the man to come closer; the barkeep did, albeit reluctantly. “Have you heard reports of a harpy in the area?”

“Oh, yes,” the barkeep said quickly. He offered no further information.

Geralt sighed. “Right. And…?”

“I don’t know much ‘bout it, sorry.” The man was stumbling over his words. Geralt held back a grunt of annoyance. “Nes would likely be able to tell you more. He’s the local poet. Everyone goes to him with their fanciful stories.”

After a beat, Geralt said, “And I could find this Nes where, exactly?”

“He has a little cottage outside of town. Got the loveliest garden in Movadra. You can’t miss it.”

“Thanks,” Geralt said. “You’ve been…” The barkeep had already hoofed it back to the far end of the bar. “…very helpful,” Geralt muttered. He left the tavern and went off in search of the tailor’s shop to meet Jaskier. He felt the weight of his coin purse and accepted that it would be significantly less at the end of the day, but he didn’t mind. Once Geralt had confirmed the presence of a harpy in Movadra, he’d demand a meeting with the alderman, and he was sure that he’d be paid well — after all, what town would want to be known for a harpy attack during Midaëte?

When Geralt finally found the tailor’s shop, he hesitated at the door. Through the window, he could see Jaskier chatting with a stout old man who must have been the tailor. They were both laughing uproariously; Jaskier was doubled over, propping himself up with a hand on the tailor’s shoulder. Geralt couldn’t help but grin. He entered the shop and made his way over to Jaskier.

“Geralt!” Jaskier closed the distance and wrapped his arms around the other.

Geralt’s body stiffened. “What are you doing?” he whispered, his tone slightly panicked.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” Jaskier said, releasing him. “Rogier doesn’t mind. I’ve told him all about you!”

The tailor, Rogier, waved at them. “The famous White Wolf,” he exclaimed, “in my humble shop! It’s an honor, sir, truly an honor. Jaskier couldn’t have done better.”

Geralt definitely didn’t blush.

“Rogier has given me directions to the cordwainer,” Jaskier said. He paused, eyeing Geralt carefully. “However, he also offered to, er—”

“What Jaskier is trying to say,” Rogier cut in, “is that I’d be delighted to make you each a fine set of clothes for Midaëte! Now, I realize that I’ll have my work cut out for me, given the time limitations, but I’ve overcome far greater tailoring challenges. What do you say, Geralt?”

Geralt tried to think of the kindest way to deny Rogier’s offer. “That’s really not necessary, sir—” he tried.

“Nonsense! You don’t expect to attend the celebration wearing…” Rogier gestured at Geralt. “... that , do you?”

“Actually, we weren’t really planning to stay for the festival,” Geralt said quickly. “We’re here about—”

“The harpy, yes,” Rogier said. “I’ve given Jaskier directions to a man you should speak to about that. The local poet, named Nes. Studied with Jaskier at Oxenfurt. He became so fond of Movadra during his summers here that he’s now a permanent resident! He should be able to offer more information about the harpy.”

“Thank you,” Geralt said. “But that’s really all we’re here for. We’ll be moving on as soon as it’s taken care of.”

Rogier tutted. “What a shame.” He peered at Geralt closely. Geralt felt like a mouse being eyed by a hawk - as a witcher, it was a rather uncomfortable sensation. “Well, if your plans change, do let me know.” He turned to Jaskier. “It was lovely to see you, my boy. Stop in to see me again before you two leave, yes?”

“Of course, Rogier,” Jaskier answered. “Thank you so much for your help and your kind offer.”

“Anything for you, Jaskier, you know that.” Rogier winked. “Good luck to you both!”

As they left the shop, Jaskier’s disappointment was palpable. Geralt sighed, but said nothing. He wanted to tell Jaskier that they’d stay for Midaëte, that he could go back to Rogier and ask for the celebration clothes, but he wouldn’t lie to Jaskier.

When they arrived at the cordwainer’s shop, Jaskier brightened again and spoke at length with the owner. The cordwainer inspected Jaskier’s very worn boots and harrumphed. “You’re right to get a new pair,” he muttered. “These are beyond fixing.” Jaskier smiled sheepishly. The cordwainer went on: “You’re in luck, however - I just received new stock from the tannery in preparation for the Midaëte crowd. You’ll have your boots in three days.”

“Right,” Jaskier said. “Thank you. So, how much will it be?”

Geralt stepped forward then. “I’ll take care of this,” he said, taking out his purse. “How much?”

The cordwainer eyed Geralt warily. “Ninety-two,” he said. 

Geralt balked internally at the price, but counted out the crowns all the same. He returned his purse to his pocket, somewhat dismayed at the much quieter jingle it made. “Thank you,” he said to the cordwainer. “We’ll be back in three days.”

He and Jaskier left the shop and entered the crowded street once more. Geralt was about to ask Jaskier for directions to Nes’ cottage, but Jaskier spoke first: “Why did you do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you pay for my boots?” Jaskier didn’t seem upset. Confused, maybe, but not upset. Still, it wasn’t the reaction Geralt had been expecting.

“Because I wanted to,” Geralt replied. “I had the coin for it.”

“But now you have next to none,” Jaskier protested.

Geralt shrugged. “It was worth it,” he said.

Jaskier’s face displayed several emotions, one after the other. They came and went so quickly that Geralt couldn’t identify them. After a minute, Jaskier looked around them, then grabbed Geralt’s sleeve and started pulling him down the street.

“Jaskier, what are you—?” Geralt stopped, knowing it was pointless to argue. Jaskier suddenly yanked him into a narrow alley between a bakery and a pottery. Geralt found his back pressed against the wall of the bakery, and then Jaskier was kissing him. Geralt shuddered and made a soft sound. He draped his arms around Jaskier’s shoulders, closing his eyes. 

“Gods, Geralt,” Jaskier whispered. He kissed along Geralt’s jaw and nipped his earlobe, making the other gasp. Jaskier hummed; Geralt could feel him smiling. “I’ve wanted this for days, and then you just…” He tugged Geralt’s shirt away from his collarbone and marked him there. Geralt made a halfhearted attempt to stifle a moan. 

“Jaskier,” he breathed. “Someone— ah, someone will see—”

“Fuck ‘em,” Jaskier answered. “Maybe I want to be seen with you like this.”

Geralt pulled him back for another kiss, whining into Jaskier’s mouth. He was half-hard and already desperate for more. Maybe this time—

A horrendous clanging startled them both. Jaskier flung himself backward, nearly cracking his head off the wall of the pottery. He and Geralt were both breathing heavily.

“What was that?” Jaskier asked, his eyes wide. 

Geralt peered cautiously around the corner, toward the town square. A large brass bell lay on its side on the cobblestones, and someone — probably the alderman — was shouting at a group of men. Geralt turned back to Jaskier and laughed. “Midaëte preparations gone awry,” he said.

Jaskier managed a laugh of his own. Then his face became serious. “Geralt, I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. I should have asked.”

“It’s fine, Jaskier,” Geralt said gently. He crossed the small space between them and smoothed down Jaskier’s mussed hair. “I liked it.”

“Yeah?” Jaskier’s voice was hopeful.

“Couldn’t you tell?” Geralt smiled, trying his best to be reassuring.

“I mean,” Jaskier said, grinning, “you were being rather noisy.” He glanced downwards. “Seems you liked it quite a bit, hm?”

Geralt’s face flushed. “Er…”

“Do you… want me to take care of that?” Jaskier’s face had softened. “It’s okay to say no. I won’t be upset.”

“No, I’m fine,” Geralt said, perhaps a little too quickly. “But thank you, Jaskier.”

If Jaskier was disappointed, he didn’t show it. “Of course, my dear. I’ll wait for you outside the tavern, yes? Then we can go pay Nes a visit.” Jaskier smiled sweetly at him. Then he turned and left Geralt alone in the alley.

Geralt took a few minutes to calm himself down. It was difficult — he kept remembering Jaskier’s lips against his collarbone, how incredible it had felt, the surprise of it all. When he finally had himself under control, Geralt stepped out of the alley and headed for the tavern. 

Jaskier greeted him with that same disarming smile, the one he reserved just for Geralt, and the witcher couldn’t help but smile back. Wordlessly, Jaskier turned away, leading Geralt toward Nes’ cottage. When they had left the noise of the town proper behind, Geralt reached out and took Jaskier’s hand, squeezing it gently. Jaskier hummed happily and squeezed back.

Geralt spoke, then: “Tell me about Nes.”

Jaskier nodded. “When we used to summer here,” he said, “Nes liked it so much that he’d stay behind for weeks after the rest of us returned to Oxenfurt. When he finished his studies, he moved here for good. We all knew he’d do it, and he swore he wouldn’t, but—” Jaskier stopped. Geralt immediately scanned the area for whatever had caused Jaskier to cease speaking. But he saw nothing, sensed nothing, and his medallion still sat unmoving against his chest.

He glanced at Jaskier, and was surprised to find the other looking at the ground. “What?” Geralt asked.

Jaskier said nothing. Geralt noticed that he was blushing.

“Jaskier?” Geralt stopped walking. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s just…” Jaskier sighed sullenly. “Nes and I, we used to…” He trailed off.

“You used to— oh.” Geralt realized then what Jaskier meant.

Jaskier waved his hands, as if attempting to clear the air of his previous words. “It wasn’t anything meaningful, Geralt,” he said hastily. “It was just…”

“Hm,” Geralt said, a pit forming in his stomach. He suddenly felt too warm. Nes had given Jaskier the one thing Geralt hadn’t yet, and there they were, on their way to see him. 

“Geralt,” Jaskier said softly. When Geralt didn’t answer, he approached the other somewhat cautiously. “Geralt,” he repeated. “You know I would never… right?” Blue eyes searched Geralt’s face for a hint of emotion, but found none. “It’s in the past. I swear, Geralt.”

The pit in Geralt’s stomach dissolved as quickly as it had formed. Geralt met Jaskier’s worried gaze and said, “I know.” He paused. “Sorry, I just… Sorry. Let’s keep going, yeah?”

“Okay.” They’d taken only a few steps when Jaskier spoke again: “Could we—?”

Geralt took hold of Jaskier’s hand again. Jaskier made another happy sound, and they continued on their way.

As they approached the cottage, Geralt noticed a man kneeling in a pristine garden of lilies and hypericum. He could smell lavender, too, and rosemary. When they got closer, Jaskier quickly dropped Geralt’s hand, which he appreciated - he hated being the one to let go first.

Nes finally noticed them. He rose, shook his legs out one at a time, and waved them over. “Hello!” he called cheerily. “Welcome! How can I—” Nes stopped when he saw Jaskier beaming at him. “Melitele’s left tit! Jaskier, is that really you?”

“In the flesh,” Jaskier answered, grinning.

“I haven’t seen you since—”

“The summer when Tiz fell into Belme Lake!”

They both laughed at the memory. Geralt stood by, feeling that pit forming again in his stomach. He forced it down angrily.

Nes turned to Geralt, eyeing him curiously. “Who’s your friend, Jas?” he asked. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

“I was getting there, you prick,” Jaskier said, feigning annoyance. “Nes, this is Geralt of Rivia. Geralt, this is Nes.”

“Hello,” Geralt said, trying to sound friendly.

“Nice to meet you, Geralt,” Nes replied. “What brings you to Movadra? Have you come to spend Midaëte with us?”

“No,” Geralt said before Jaskier could answer. “We’ve come from Yantra. We heard reports there of a harpy in Movadra. Several people in town told us we should speak with you about it.”

Nes pursed his lips. “Well, I have heard some stories of a harpy in the area. Injuries, missing valuables, that sort of thing. As far as I know, it hasn’t killed anyone.”

“Harpies usually keep to higher elevations, mountains,” Geralt said. “Any idea why it would be in this area?”

Nes shook his head. “Not a clue, Geralt. I’m not familiar with the nature of harpies. The only place I think it would be is in the forest north of here, across the river. There’s a small cliff overlooking the water.”

“Sounds like a good place to start,” Geralt said. “Thanks for your help, Nes.”

“Not a problem,” Nes replied. He turned back to Jaskier. “Are you able to stay awhile and catch up?”

Jaskier hesitated. “Er, sorry, Nes,” he said, “but we have to make some other inquiries in town. Perhaps we’ll come by later?”

“Of course!” Nes said blithely. “I’ll be in town tonight to help organize the performers. We can meet at the tavern when I’m finished.” He smiled. “Now, I have a garden to tend. Good luck to you!” With that, he knelt again and busied himself in his flowerbeds.

As soon as they were out of view again, Geralt slipped his hand into Jaskier’s and said, “You could have stayed.”

“I didn’t want to,” Jaskier said. “I’ll see him this evening, anyway. I’d rather be with you until you have to go off after the harpy.”

Geralt’s heart swelled with an emotion he couldn’t identify, and didn’t care to. He was just pleased that Jaskier had chosen to stay with him.

They wandered back into town. Even in the midday heat, Movadra’s Midaëte preparations remained in full swing. Jaskier let go of Geralt’s hand a little later than Geralt would’ve preferred, but he didn’t protest. 

“So,” Jaskier said, “what’s next?”

“The inn,” Geralt answered. “Need to gather my things. I’m going to track the harpy, if that’s really what it is.”

“Right.” Jaskier paused. “Strange, though,” he said thoughtfully. “I thought harpies lived in flocks?”

“They do,” Geralt said. “Movadra isn’t their usual habitat. In this case, it’s likely that a single harpy has been shunned from its flock, or ventured out on its own. The cliff that Nes mentioned doesn’t sound large enough to support a flock.”

“You’ll be careful?”

Geralt turned to Jaskier and smiled. “Of course. Have to come back and make sure you’re behaving yourself, don’t I?”

“Rude,” Jaskier said indignantly. “I’ll behave myself, all right. I’m not trying to walk all the way to Novigrad, witcher.”

“We’ll see, bard.” Geralt bumped Jaskier’s shoulder with his own. “C’mon. I want to get back to Movadra before dark.”

When they arrived at their room, Geralt set about making sure that he had the necessary supplies for tracking. He didn’t plan on confronting the harpy today, though he could probably take it down quite easily. If his hunch proved true, this particular harpy would be weak: Evidently it hadn’t killed any Movadra residents, and it didn’t have the protection of a flock. Even so, Geralt didn’t relish the idea of being ill-prepared for an unexpected attack.

When he was sure that he was ready, Geralt turned to find Jaskier sitting cross-legged on the bed, songbook in hand, scribbling as furiously as one could with a quill. Geralt felt a pang of… something as he observed Jaskier. But he had no time to analyze it.

“I have to go,” Geralt said softly, trying not to startle Jaskier.

Jaskier looked at him and pouted. “Already?” he asked. “You couldn’t wait another five minutes?”

“I’m sorry, no.” Geralt sat beside him on the bed, taking care not to upend the ink pot. “I want to get back before nightfall. We can relax together then, alright? Before we meet with Nes.”

With a dramatic sigh, Jaskier conceded: “I suppose.” He tapped his cheek twice, and Geralt kissed him there. “See you soon?”

“See you soon.” Geralt rose and grinned. “Please try not to spill ink on the bed.”

“I won’t spill any if you promise to be careful,” Jaskier said. “I’m serious, Geralt. I don’t want to have to come looking for you.”

“I’ll be careful.” Geralt reached out and gently cupped Jaskier’s face in his hand. Jaskier sighed. “I promise.”

Jaskier pressed a kiss to Geralt’s palm, then lightly slapped Geralt’s ass. “Keep that safe for me,” he teased.

Geralt rolled his eyes. “Will do.” With that, he grabbed his satchel and left the room. He thought maybe he’d ask Jaskier to practice his new song tonight before their meeting with Nes. As he exited the inn and headed for the river, Geralt smiled, thinking of Jaskier’s eagerness to share his music.

He walked for about an hour. It was very warm, but not unbearably so. There was a light breeze blowing; it felt nice against Geralt’s damp forehead. As he approached the harpy’s likely nesting area, he picked up a strong scent. It was unique in its foulness, and Geralt immediately identified it as harpy shit. He knew for certain that one of them had taken up residence nearby. He wrinkled his nose at the acrid odor and pressed on toward the cliff.

Geralt saw the shadow first. A moment later, he heard the rustling of feathers. He dove to the left just as talons swiped at the air where his head had been. Geralt recovered quickly and unsheathed his sword. He listened for the harpy, but heard only the rushing of the river. His amber eyes searched the sky, but saw nothing. 

Geralt cursed. He had to find cover. The situation was already out of his control and he needed time to reassess. He realized too late that the riverbank was flat and empty, and he was completely exposed: a fool’s mistake. 

This time, he saw the shadow approaching from a distance. Geralt looked up to see the harpy speeding toward him from the sky, legs outstretched, talons glinting in the sunlight. In the split second it took for Geralt to cast Aard, the harpy had advanced far too close for comfort. When the blast hit it, the harpy screeched and tumbled out of the air. Feathers floated down around Geralt as he approached the writhing creature, his sword at the ready. He raised his hand again; the concentration of magic at his palm made his fingertips tingle.

Geralt had taken three steps when something collided with him. He saw stars as his head bounced against the ground. There was a searing pain in his left arm, and each breath made his ribcage burn. Despite all of that, Geralt had managed to keep ahold of his sword. He leapt to his feet just as another shadow approached him.

He cast Igni this time and aimed upwards. An ear-piercing screech reverberated in his skull as the second harpy was engulfed in flames. It fell from the air and crashed unceremoniously to the ground, where it lay in a twitching, fiery heap. 

The first harpy shrieked. The death of its companion seemed to give it strength, and it tried to take to the sky once more. Geralt blasted it with Aard again before it could rise, and it crumpled back to the ground with a pained cry. Geralt ran toward it and, with a cry of his own, removed its head with his sword. Severed arteries spewed blood at Geralt’s face; the bitter taste of it flooded his mouth and made him gag.

He stood there, panting and spitting, for a long time. He listened to the flames crackling as they consumed the corpse of the second harpy. He watched the blood of the first as it seeped through the grass and into the river. If there had been a third harpy, it would have attacked by now. Geralt quickly assessed his injuries: a possible concussion, a nasty gash in his left arm, and two - no, three cracked ribs. Fuck.  

Geralt knew he needed to meditate. Every gasping breath made his left side ache and burn, and his head was spinning. But, with the possibility of a concussion, he couldn’t just sit down on the riverbank and go into a trance. He had to get back to Movadra, where Jaskier could observe him for signs of brain damage, before his body could heal itself.

It had taken Geralt an hour to get to the cliff. The battle had taken ten minutes at most, and he’d stood there taking stock of his injuries for another ten. It would take him more time to get back to town due to his sorry state, but he would be back before nightfall, just as he’d told Jaskier he would be.

He’d also promised Jaskier that he’d be careful.

Geralt cursed and began trudging back toward Movadra. His ribs screamed and his arm throbbed, but he kept going. His progress was even slower than expected; he made it to the edge of town as afternoon made its transition to early evening. But the sun was still up, and Geralt was relieved that he’d kept at least part of his promise to Jaskier.

The crowd in town had dwindled slightly, but those who were still milling about kept their distance from him. Geralt heard their anxious whispers; he saw them staring at his arm, at the blood spattered across his face. He didn’t care. He just wanted to see Jaskier.

Geralt hobbled into the inn and up the stairs, ignoring the suspicious glare of the innkeeper. The door to the room opened before Geralt reached it - Jaskier probably heard him clomping through the hall. When he saw Jaskier, Geralt’s knees buckled, but he forced himself to remain upright. Jaskier’s bright smile turned immediately into a gape of shock. He hurried to Geralt’s side, carefully putting an arm around him for support. They entered the room and Jaskier kicked the door shut behind them.

“What happened, Geralt?” Jaskier asked. His tone was neither harsh nor chastising, for which Geralt was grateful. He led Geralt to the bed and helped him sit on the edge.

“Caught me off guard,” Geralt replied.

Jaskier’s steady hands moved over his skin, assessing his injuries. “What, the harpy?”

“Harpies,” Geralt said, wincing as Jaskier inspected his arm. “Two of them.”

Two? Gods, Geralt.” Jaskier moved away to retrieve the necessary supplies from Geralt’s bag.

“Second one, it blindsided me. I wasn’t…” I wasn’t paying attention.

“Hush, now. You can tell me later. Let’s get that armor off first. At least you had that to help protect you.” Jaskier helped him remove his armor. He placed it carefully beside the bed. Then he went about dressing Geralt’s wounds. He tutted and murmured as he worked, and his fingers moved with practiced ease. 

“Concussion,” Geralt remembered to say. “Probably.”

“I’ll stay with you while you rest, love.” Jaskier finished his work. “There. Now, let’s clean up that mug of yours, hm?” He went to the wash basin and dampened a cloth, then returned and started wiping the tacky blood from Geralt’s face. Geralt let his eyes drift shut, losing himself in the feeling of Jaskier’s warm breath against his skin, his gentle ministrations. It was already easier to move his arm, and his head wasn’t swimming. His ribs would take a bit longer, but breathing had become less painful.

“Thank you,” Geralt said quietly, opening his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

Jaskier met his gaze. “What for?”

“I wasn’t careful.” Geralt hung his head. He couldn’t do this with Jaskier’s eyes peering curiously into his own. “I never considered that there could be more than one. I was foolish, and I broke my promise. I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier said, his voice soft and gentle. “My darling, it’s okay. I forgive you. I’m just glad you’re alive, and here with me.” He ran his hand through Geralt’s hair and smiled fondly.

Trembling, Geralt reached out his arms, ignoring the ache in the one. Jaskier stepped between them. With a heavy sigh, Geralt rested his head against Jaskier’s stomach, wrapping his arms loosely around the other’s thighs.

“I’m here,” Jaskier murmured. “I’ve got you.” 

They stayed like that for a long while. Jaskier rubbed Geralt’s back and ran his fingers through Geralt’s hair while Geralt worked furiously to calm himself. He kept coming back to the possibility that he could’ve been more severely injured, that Jaskier could’ve come looking for him and been killed by the harpies.

A sob wrenched itself from Geralt’s chest. All he could see was Jaskier’s bloody, mangled body lying beside the river, Geralt too weak to save him. Hot tears formed at the corners of his eyes.

Jaskier made a soft sound. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get more comfortable.”

Geralt curled himself onto one side of the bed. Jaskier climbed in next to him, pressing his chest against Geralt’s back and putting his arm around the other’s waist. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Geralt said through his tears. He was apologizing for his outburst, for breaking his promise. He was apologizing for being so fucking terrified of his feelings for Jaskier that he couldn’t be intimate, despite how desperately he wanted to be.

And Jaskier held him through it. He murmured nonsense in Geralt’s ear, thumbed away fresh tears from damp cheeks, and let Geralt grip his hand as he cried. 

When Geralt had finally tired himself out, the sun had set, and the room was dark. Unprompted, Jaskier said, “I’ll get a cloth for your face,” and pressed a kiss behind his ear. Jaskier rose and stumbled through the dark toward the wash basin, cursing quietly when his foot connected with an unseen object. He lit a candle beside the basin, then returned and knelt on the bed. “Sit up for me, love,” he said, and Geralt did. He let Jaskier clean his face once more.

“Can we get some fresh air?” Geralt’s voice was a bit hoarse. He’d evidently been louder than he thought. But he felt infinitely better: His head was clear, and the pain in his arm had softened to a dull ache. His ribs still hurt, but Geralt knew he’d strained them by crying.

“Of course,” Jaskier said. “Change your clothes first. I’ll help you.”

Jaskier fetched clothes while Geralt undressed, then took over the redressing process when Geralt’s exhausted limbs couldn’t manage to pull his clean shirt over his head. When he was fully clothed again, Geralt said, “Thank you, Jaskier. I…” Love you. “...really appreciate your help.”

“You’re welcome, my dear.” Jaskier kissed Geralt’s forehead. “Now, let’s go for a walk and get that fresh air you wanted.”

At the door of the inn, Geralt braced himself for the onslaught of scents and sounds. He’d expected the Midaëte preparations to continue well into the evening, but there were only a few people in the streets. He could smell heartsease and fennel, freshly picked, and the lilies in their doorstep arrangements. A cool breeze carried the aroma of woodsmoke: apparently some folks had decided to light their bonfires a bit early. Paper lanterns had been arranged at even intervals along both sides of the street. Their light changed color every so often, from yellow to blue, from pink to green: the work of a local mage, no doubt, judging by the subtle vibration of Geralt’s medallion.

Jaskier’s blue eyes, wide with wonder, reflected the lantern light as he gazed upwards. “I’d forgotten how beautiful Movadra is during Midaëte,” he said. 

Geralt was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to kiss Jaskier. Instinctively, he immediately tried to force it down: they were in public. But when Jaskier turned to him with that familiar smile on his face, Geralt couldn’t resist. He leaned in and did exactly what he wanted.

Jaskier made a surprised sound. Geralt moved his hands to Jaskier’s waist and pulled him closer, and Jaskier seemed to melt into his touch. Geralt smiled as the other’s hands cupped his face.

“Oi, Jaskier! How much’re ya chargin’?”

Geralt growled quietly. He wrapped his arms tightly around Jaskier’s waist and focused a glare on the intruder.

“Oh, calm down,” the woman said. “I’m only teasin’.”

“Really, Alke?” Jaskier said, pretending to be annoyed. “You always pick the absolute worst times.”

“Part of my charm, I s’pose.” Alke grinned. “What’s his name, Jas?”

“This is Geralt,” Jaskier said. Geralt’s heart swelled at the pride in his voice. “Geralt, this is Alke. She used to run Movadra’s brothel.”

“Oh, so you two are well-acquainted, then,” Geralt deadpanned.

Alke burst into laughter. She was perhaps in her early fifties, with graying hair and crow’s feet. She had an air of authority about her, and Geralt could tell that she was aware of it. 

Ignoring Jaskier’s wounded look, Alke said, “I’ve known Jas since his first year at Oxenfurt. How young he was! Wanted to take on the world, he did.”

“How’re you getting on, Alke?” Jaskier asked.

“Oh, well enough.” Alke’s expression turned wistful. “Bit boring without all the girls around. I actually miss their constant pestering. And I miss being the boss, of course.”

Jaskier nodded empathetically. “And how is Luana?”

“Good, good! She still has that loud mouth of hers. There’s no bossin’ her around, as you well know.” Alke sighed. “But that’s who the gods sent me, and I’ll love her and her noise till the end.”

Geralt couldn’t help himself. “Luana is your…?”

“Partner, yes,” Alke said. “Not wife, really. We’ve got the rings, but not the certificate, of course.” 

Jaskier took advantage of Geralt’s rather stunned silence. “And Movadra is treating you decently?” he asked.

“This town’s come a long way since you were here last, Jas. Boys court boys, girls court girls, and hardly anybody bats an eye. A lot of new folks have moved in, too, because of it. It’s… safer, here.” Alke smiled. “Speakin’ of moving in, how long are you two staying?”

Before Jaskier could answer, Geralt said, “We’ll be here for Midaëte. Then we’re on to Novigrad.”

“Oh, lovely!” Suddenly, a woman’s voice called Alke’s name from somewhere down the street. “There’s Luana. I could be anywhere in town and I’d hear her hollerin’, I swear.” Alke took one of Jaskier’s hands and squeezed it. “Stop by before you leave, yeah? Luana’d love to see ya.”

“Of course, Alke,” Jaskier said. “Now you’d better hop to it, before Luana calls for you again.”

Alke grumbled good-naturedly. “See you later, boys,” she said, before hurrying away.

When Alke was out of earshot, Geralt said, “So she and Luana…?”

“Yes, Geralt, we just went over this.” Jaskier’s tone was teasing. “Alke’s known Luana since before I ever came to Movadra. They…” He hesitated. “They helped me… figure things out.”

Geralt knew immediately what Jaskier meant. “Well,” he said, “I’m glad for that.” 

“Me, too.” Jaskier smiled at him. “Are you hungry?”

“Gods, yes,” Geralt answered. “We can go to the tavern. Maybe Nes will still be waiting for you.”

Jaskier frowned. “Are you sure?” 

“Yes, I’m sure. Let’s go.” Geralt was suddenly ravenous, which he supposed was understandable.

Halfway to the tavern, Jaskier quietly asked, “Did you really mean it? When you told Alke we were staying?”

“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t,” Geralt said.

“What made you change your mind?”

Geralt thought for a moment. He didn’t really know the answer to that. It had been more of a split-second thing than a well thought out decision. “I just want you to be happy, Jaskier,” he finally said. “And I know this will make you happy.”

Jaskier smiled. “Thank you, Geralt. I lo—” He stopped, pretending to cough. “Er, anyway. Let’s pick up the pace. I know how you get when you’re hungry, you brute.”

Geralt cocked his head at Jaskier’s unsubtle evasion from whatever he’d been about to say. But he didn’t pursue it. If Jaskier had wanted to say something, he would have said it, and Geralt wasn’t going to push him.

Nes wasn’t in the tavern when they arrived, but Jaskier was only disappointed for a moment. “I’ll go see him tomorrow,” he said as they sat at the only empty table. He smirked. “And while I’m doing that, you can go visit Rogier and let him know that we’ll be needing those clothes.”

Geralt balked, nearly knocking their tankards of ale from the hands of the barmaid delivering them. “Is that really necessary?” he tried, offering a sheepish smile to the barmaid.” Why don’t you go instead, have a visit with Rogier, too?”

“No, no, Geralt.” Jaskier actually wagged his finger. “I’ll be far too busy. Besides, Rogier is a huge fan of yours. He’d love to hear some stories that didn’t make it into my songs.”

Geralt made a face that he hoped was a pout. “But…”

“What are you doing?” Jaskier asked with a laugh. “Is that supposed to be a pout? Are you pouting, Geralt?”

Geralt blushed into his ale. “No.”

“Don’t be silly, love. You’ll be fine, okay?” Jaskier swirled his finger against the whorled tabletop. “I was telling Rogier about you. Before you came into the shop, I mean.”

“Oh?”

“I, uh. I may have… said some things.” Now it was Jaskier’s turn to blush.

Geralt hummed. “What kind of things?”

Jaskier muttered something into his tankard.

“Sorry, couldn’t quite hear that.” Geralt had heard it perfectly, but he was having fun. Jaskier looked lovely with his cheeks flushed like that.

“I said I don’t quite recall,” Jaskier grumbled. “Now could we please get some food before I throw this tankard at your head?”

Geralt laughed, but he gestured for the barmaid, who approached looking rather miffed. Soon there were two steaming plates piled high with bread, potatoes, and venison. Geralt finished his meal before Jaskier finished his. He kept stealing bits of meat from Jaskier’s plate, while Jaskier cursed at him and pretended to fight him off with his fork. 

After they’d each had another two tankards of ale, Geralt and Jaskier wandered, hand-in-hand, through the streets of Movadra. They walked past Rogier’s shop and the cordwainer’s, too, both shuttered for the night. They took in the lanterns, the floral arrangements, the haphazard town square. When they neared the alley from before, Jaskier once again pulled him toward it. They kissed for what could have been hours, until Geralt’s head was reeling. When they finally emerged, Jaskier wore a smug smile, and Geralt - his hair mussed, his lips swollen, and his shirt bunched around his waist - was panting quietly.

They practically sprinted back to the inn. Geralt was sure that this was it: He was finally going to show Jaskier what he did to him, meant to him, through physical touch. He was practically vibrating with need when they finally got to their room. 

Jaskier pressed him against the door, parting Geralt’s legs with his knee. Geralt gasped, and his fingers tightened their grip on Jaskier’s shirt. He could smell Jaskier’s arousal, and his own, too. He was nearly dizzy with it.

“Is this okay?” Jaskier asked, even as he nipped at Geralt’s jaw.

Geralt whined softly. “Yes— ah, yes, Jaskier.” 

Jaskier hummed as he kissed Geralt’s throat. “You’re so loud,” he murmured. “Who would’ve thought? Wonder what happens if I…” He raised his hand, found a lock of Geralt’s hair, and tugged on it. Geralt shuddered and bit back a moan. “Oh, lovely, ” Jaskier breathed. He pulled harder, and Geralt couldn’t force down the sound he made. “Fuck, Geralt…”

“Stop teasing,” Geralt said, attempting a growl and failing. Jaskier shifted his leg, purposely nudging Geralt’s cock. “Oh, fuck —”

“Is this really all it takes to get a witcher hard?” Jaskier’s voice was smooth as silk. “A little kissing, some hair pulling? Fascinating.”

“Jaskier, pl—” Geralt bit his lip, cutting himself off before he could finish.

“Oh, are you trying to beg?” Jaskier shifted his leg again with a sultry smile. Geralt flung his head back against the door with a moan. “Go on, love. Beg for it.”

Geralt’s mouth formed a tight line. He shook his head.

“You’re no fun at all,” Jaskier said. “I’ll say it again: I want you to beg for it, Geralt.” As he spoke, Jaskier slid his hand down Geralt’s abdomen, stopping just above his cock. Geralt forced down a whine, but Jaskier smiled. “That’s it, come on.” He leaned in so that his lips were millimeters away from Geralt’s mouth. “Let me hear you, darling,” he whispered.

And that was what did it. Geralt suddenly smelled the alcohol on Jaskier’s breath, and saw how his eyes were slightly glazed, his movements not as fluid as they should have been. How could he have not noticed? Jaskier was drunk, and so was Geralt, and this wasn’t how Geralt wanted this to happen. 

“Stop,” he panted. “Jaskier, stop.”

Jaskier backed away immediately. Geralt’s body cried out at the sudden loss of contact, but he stood firm.

“Are you alright?” Concern had replaced the lust in Jaskier’s eyes. “What’s wrong, Geralt?”

Geralt struggled to speak, still coming down from his high. “I— we’re drunk. I don’t…” 

“No, it’s okay,” Jaskier said, and Geralt knew that he understood. “I’m—”

Geralt held up his hand. “Don’t apologize,” he said. “I’m glad it happened. It… it was good.”

“Are you sure? I didn’t go too far?” 

“No, you didn’t. I just…” Geralt sighed. “This just… isn’t how I want it to happen. I want to… be able to experience it fully.” He tried to meet Jaskier’s eyes, but was too afraid to see the disappointment he was sure would be there. “Thank you for… stopping.”

“Of course.” Jaskier hesitated, then moved toward Geralt. He didn’t touch him, but said, “I don’t ever want you to let me keep going if it isn’t what you want, okay?” He raised his hand, hesitated again, then placed it gently against Geralt’s chest. “You can always tell me no.”

Relief flooded Geralt’s body. “Thank you.” He wanted to embrace Jaskier, but his body had betrayed him, and he was still half-hard. 

Jaskier noticed this, and, to Geralt’s surprise, he blushed. “Ah. Do you, er, need me to leave?”

“No, it’s fine,” Geralt said. “I’ll be fine.”

“Do you feel like a bath, perhaps?” Jaskier asked. “Would that help? I can have one drawn.”

“I’d rather just sleep, I think,” Geralt said. 

“Okay. Let’s sleep.” Jaskier turned and walked to the bed, disrobing as he did so. Geralt looked away, scolding his body for reacting to the sight of the other’s bare back. He turned toward the door and undressed, too. By the time he’d finished, Jaskier was already tucked under the blankets, looking at Geralt with a fond expression.

“Can you even see me?” Geralt asked. They hadn’t bothered to light the lamp when they’d entered the room, so it was nearly pitch dark. 

“Not really,” Jaskier said, “but I can hear you, and I know that you can see me.” He grinned and waved. Geralt snorted a laugh. “Come to bed, love.”

Geralt did as he was told. When he was settled, he noticed that Jaskier had gone very still. “Jaskier?”

“Just waiting for permission to touch you,” Jaskier teased. “Don’t want to get you all riled up again.”

“I’m fine, I swear.” Geralt hesitated. “Could you…?”

Jaskier moved then, propping himself up with his elbow, facing Geralt. “Could I what?”

Geralt grumbled. “Could you hold me?” he finally asked, tacking on a “please” after a beat.

Jaskier laughed. “Of course, you big oaf. Roll over.”

With a grunt, Geralt turned himself so that Jaskier’s chest was pressed against his back. He kept his lower half from making contact with Jaskier’s naked skin - just in case - and sighed when Jaskier wrapped an arm around him. 

“Better,” Geralt said softly.

Jaskier kissed his shoulder. “Good,” he replied. “Now get some sleep, witcher. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Geralt closed his eyes, listening to Jaskier’s breathing, feeling the warm puffs of air against the nape of his neck. This - Jaskier’s heartbeat against his back, Jaskier’s arm around his waist, Jaskier’s scent surrounding him - this was exactly what Geralt needed after the day he’d had. Here, he felt safe. He felt cared for and important. 

He felt loved.

THE NEXT MORNING

Geralt awoke before Jaskier - the morning sun against his eyelids was too bright for him to ignore. He stretched like a cat, arching his back, and immediately flinched. He’d brushed against Jaskier, and had felt what could only be Jaskier’s cock against his bare ass. It wasn’t an unusual situation: They’d been sharing a bed long before they’d first kissed, and this had happened dozens of times. Given the recent severity of Geralt’s inner turmoil, however, that morning was different. Geralt suddenly felt too warm, and he had to force down a full-body shudder.

To his horror, Jaskier stirred then. In the night, he’d pulled his arm from Geralt’s waist, but now he wrapped it tightly around the other again, pulling Geralt flush against him. Geralt yelped quietly, trying to ignore how perfectly their bodies fit together, how ridiculously hard Jaskier was, how his own body was responding to his situation. 

“Jaskier,” he gasped. “Fuck, wake up!” In his panic, Geralt pinched Jaskier’s arm.

Jaskier grunted. “What?” he asked sleepily. “What is it? Gods, it’s early, Geralt.” He sat up, rubbed his eyes, and blinked a few times. “What’s wrong?”

“I— You—” Geralt shook his head, trying to make sense of his jumbled thoughts. He gestured at Jaskier’s crotch and pointedly looked away.

“What about it?” Jaskier sounded genuinely confused. “It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.”

“Just…” Geralt groaned in frustration. “I… I don’t know.”

Jaskier’s expression softened. “I’m sorry that I made you uncomfortable, Geralt,” he said. 

“It’s alright,” Geralt mumbled. He knew it wouldn’t convince Jaskier, but what else could he say?

“Why didn’t you just move?” Jaskier asked. “It’s not like you couldn’t have snapped my arm in half if you’d really wanted to.”

Geralt’s face went red. He didn’t have an answer. Moving on his own just… hadn’t occurred to him in the moment.

Jaskier smirked. “Oh, I see,” he said, his tone teasing. “No explanation needed, my dear.”

Geralt grumbled and rolled away from Jaskier, yanking the blankets over himself as he went. He ignored Jaskier’s protests and buried his face in his pillow. The place where Jaskier’s dick had pressed against his skin tingled slightly, reminding him of what had just transpired. Geralt shuddered at the realization that Jaskier was much bigger than he’d thought.

“Geralt, come on,” Jaskier whined. “Are you really going to hide under there and refuse me my good morning kiss?”

Geralt didn’t answer.

Jaskier sighed. “Well, then. I’ll just come under there and take it from you.” With that, he lifted the blankets and burrowed beneath them. When Geralt didn’t move, Jaskier flicked his ear. “Hey,” he said. “Geralt, look at me.”

Reluctantly, Geralt raised his head and met Jaskier’s eyes. He made a wounded sound.

Jaskier laughed. “Oh, stop being dramatic. You’re fine, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Geralt mumbled.

“Are you going to give me that kiss?” Jaskier asked softly.

Geralt grinned then. “Say please.”

“Oh, you prick,” Jaskier muttered. “Fine. Please, may I have a kiss, Geralt?”

Geralt leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to Jaskier’s mouth. He pulled back and said, “Good morning, Jaskier.”

“Good morning, love.” Jaskier smiled at him. “What’s the plan for this morning? Should we have a bath?”

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Actually, yes.” Jaskier wrinkled his nose. “You’re sweaty, and, somehow, you still smell like harpy blood. Can’t believe I slept next to you all night.”

“Well, then,” Geralt said, “since you brought it up, you can get dressed and go ask for that bath to be drawn.” He snuggled back into the blankets. “I’ll wait here.”

“Rude, Geralt,” Jaskier said, trying and failing to sound miffed. He rolled out of bed and went to his bag for clothes. “I’ll just have to take them all off again when the bath’s ready, you know.”

Geralt allowed himself to watch Jaskier’s nude form moving around the room. “Oh, I know,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll help you with that.”

Jaskier made an amused sound. “From flinching away from my dick to offering to help me disrobe,” he teased. “Make up your mind, Geralt.”

“Oh, I have,” Geralt answered. “I want you to come back over here and kiss me.”

Geralt saw Jaskier shiver slightly. “Oh, is that so?”

“It is.”

“Say please.”

Geralt realized he’d fallen into his own trap, but didn’t care at that moment. “Please, Jaskier,” he said, “come back to bed and kiss me.”

“I thought I was supposed to go ask for a bath?” Even as he said that, Jaskier took off the shirt he’d already put on and made his way toward the bed. “What happened to that, hm?”

“If you don’t move your ass, I’ll order the bath just so that I can dunk you into it headfirst,” Geralt said sweetly.

With a laugh, Jaskier slid into bed beside Geralt. “Come here, darling,” he murmured. He cupped Geralt’s face in one hand. “Let me give you what you want.”

Geralt hummed and moved toward him, and Jaskier kissed him. It was slow and lazy, just what Geralt had wanted, and absolutely perfect. He moaned softly, running his hand through Jaskier’s hair. Jaskier tried to pull him closer, but stopped when Geralt froze.

“I won’t do anything that you don’t want,” Jaskier said softly. “I promise. If you want to stop, just say so, alright?”

Geralt nodded. Jaskier kissed him again, and this time there was nothing slow or lazy about it. When he nipped at Geralt’s bottom lip, Geralt couldn’t hold back his gasp of surprise. Jaskier clearly knew what he was doing, and apparently that was kissing Geralt senseless.

Jaskier leaned away suddenly. “May I suggest something?” he asked, a bit breathless.

“Make it quick,” Geralt growled. He was in no mood for suggestions.

“I guess I’ll just...” Jaskier swiftly lifted himself up and straddled Geralt’s hips. “...show you, then.”

Geralt froze. “Jaskier,” he said, a hint of panic in his voice.

“I’m not trying to start anything,” Jaskier reassured him. “This is just a better angle. My neck was starting to hurt.” He leaned over and kissed Geralt softly. “Is this alright?”

Geralt was very aware of the proximity of Jaskier’s cock to his own. He could feel his face burning and— gods, was he shaking

“Geralt,” Jaskier said firmly. “You need to tell me, please.”

“Yes,” Geralt finally answered. His mouth had gone dry. “Yes, it’s alright.”

Jaskier kissed the tip of his nose. “Good boy,” he whispered. Those two words went straight to Geralt’s dick, and he didn’t have time to force down his whine. Jaskier looked stunned for a moment. Then he grinned wickedly. “Oh, how interesting,” he said, watching as Geralt’s blush spread to his chest. “I’m learning so much about you, Geralt.”

“Less talking,” Geralt said through gritted teeth.

Jaskier hummed in amusement. He was holding Geralt’s face in his hands, just gazing at him. Geralt resisted the urge to wriggle away; when Jaskier looked at him like that, it made him dizzy. 

“You’re so beautiful,” Jaskier murmured. His blue eyes had darkened with desire, and Geralt could sense Jaskier trying to hold himself back. 

Geralt whined. “Jaskier,” he said, his voice strained, “please, kiss me.”

Without another word, Jaskier did as Geralt asked. He toned it down from wildly passionate to achingly gentle. His thumbs stroked Geralt’s cheekbones, and he didn’t stray from Geralt’s mouth like he usually did. It was… nice, and Geralt was grateful. He knew Jaskier wanted more, but he also knew that the other wouldn’t press him to give anything he wasn’t ready to provide.

Geralt wrapped his arms around Jaskier’s back and held him while they kissed. He felt his body calming, his blush fading. He didn’t want to move, perfectly content to stay here like this for the rest of his life.

He didn’t know how long they stayed like that. When Jaskier finally pulled away, Geralt made a protesting sound, and Jaskier laughed.

“Haven’t you had enough, my dear?” he asked, mussing Geralt’s hair.

“Never,” Geralt answered. He smoothed his hands down Jaskier’s back, trying subtly to pull him back down.

“We can’t stay here all day,” Jaskier said. “I have to pay Nes a visit, and you have to go have a chat with Rogier.” He slid off of Geralt and hoisted himself out of bed.

Geralt groaned. “I thought you’d forget,” he grumbled.

“Of course not!” Jaskier’s expression was dreamy. “I can’t wait to see what Rogier has in mind.”

“We’re not matching,” Geralt said.

Jaskier sighed dramatically. “Geralt, you wound me, thinking that I’d be so tasteless as to have us match.” He shook his head. “No, we’ll be coordinating.”

Geralt narrowed his eyes. “Jaskier,” he said, “it sounds like you already had this conversation with Rogier.”

“I did tell you that I’d said some things, did I not?” Jaskier put his hands on his hips. “Now, get out of bed. No time for a bath. We have business to attend to.” With that, he picked up the shirt he’d discarded on the floor earlier and pulled it over his head.

“I’ll give you some business,” Geralt grumbled. He rolled out of bed and stretched. He noticed that his ribs still ached, but only very slightly. The wound on his arm had healed; a fresh scar had formed overnight. At this point, Geralt was quite certain that he didn’t have brain damage from his fall the previous day. When he had finished with Jaskier’s arduous assignment, he would have to venture back to the cliff and dispose of the harpies’ corpses properly. He hadn’t even had time to meet with Movadra’s alderman; however, given what he’d learned about the town, Geralt was certain that he’d be compensated for his work.

“Geralt, please, ” Jaskier said in an exasperated tone. “Why is it that when I ask you to hurry, you suddenly have all the speed of a slug?”

Geralt grunted, but went to his pack and began digging through it for clothes. “Where are my—?”

“While you were standing there doing nothing, I laid your clothes out for you.” Jaskier gestured at the neatly folded black and gray pile. 

“Thank you,” Geralt said. He dressed himself, then turned to Jaskier, who was busy fussing with his hair in the tiny, cracked mirror on the wall. Geralt wandered over, wrapped his arms around Jaskier, and kissed his cheek. “You look fine,” he said.

“And I suppose you think you look fine when your hair resembles the end of a mop?” Jaskier quipped.

“Not when you’re around to tell me otherwise,” Geralt answered, tightening his arms around the other.

“Geralt, love, you’re squeezing the life out of me,” Jaskier protested. But he made no move to shove Geralt’s arms away, and Geralt knew that he wasn’t hurting him.

“I’ll get going now,” Geralt said, rolling his eyes as he spoke.

“Hey, I saw that! We’re facing a mirror, you know.” Jaskier maneuvered himself so that he was facing Geralt. “It won’t be that bad,” he said. “I promise.”

“Hm.” Geralt kissed Jaskier’s forehead. “It had better be quick. I have to go take care of the harpy corpses before someone stumbles across them and claims any reward as their own.”

“Yes, please talk to Rogier first, then. You don’t want to meet him covered in gore and feathers.”

“What if I do? You said he wants to know more about me, so maybe I should show up—”

“Don’t you dare, ” Jaskier warned. He not-so-gently smacked Geralt’s ass, and Geralt rubbed the spot and pretended it hurt. “Be a good boy for me, Geralt,” Jaskier said teasingly.

Geralt didn’t expect the sudden tingling in his abdomen, and his expression must have changed, because Jaskier's eyes widened. “Are you—?”

“Fine,” Geralt said. “I’m fine. I’ll leave you to your primping.” Geralt pulled his arms away.

Jaskier pointed at his cheek, asking for a kiss. Geralt obliged, then left the room. 



On his way to see Rogier, Geralt contemplated the fact that being praised apparently triggered something in him. He’d had whores call him a good boy before, but it had never affected him like it did when Jaskier said it. Perhaps it was because, when Jaskier said it, he meant it, even when he was teasing. 

Be a good boy for me.

A thrill went through Geralt’s chest, and he nearly stumbled. He scowled at himself. It was ridiculous to be so stirred by something one would say to a dog. Yet stirred he was, and deeply at that.

Geralt finally arrived at Rogier’s shop and, after a moment’s hesitation, pushed the door open. Rogier leapt up from his seat behind the counter and said, “Geralt! What a lovely surprise!”

“Greetings, Rogier,” Geralt said politely. 

Rogier rested his elbows on the counter and rested his chin in his hands. “So, how may I help you?”

“Jaskier and I decided,” Geralt said, trying not to wince, “that we would like those Midaëte clothes you so kindly offered to make for us.”

“Excellent!” Rogier crowed. “On that subject, I have some good news: I already began work on the clothes, and they should be finished by tomorrow evening.”

Geralt blinked at him. “But how did you—?”

“Oh, please,” Rogier said with a dismissive wave. “I knew that Jaskier would somehow convince you to stay for Midaëte. I started work on the clothes as soon as you two left my shop.”

“But—”

“Your measurements? I sized you up the moment you walked through the door yesterday.” Rogier smiled. “I’ve been a tailor for five decades, Geralt. I know what I’m doing.”

In his shock, Geralt said nothing.

“Would you like to see what I’ve come up with for you?” Rogier asked. “I want to ensure that it’s to your liking.”

Nervously, Geralt followed Rogier to the back of the shop. He fully expected ruffles and frills, puffed sleeves and ribbons. But when Rogier pulled the cloth off of the mannequin, he revealed a very simple brown leather vest, layered over a linen shirt dyed a soft moss green. No puffed sleeves, no ruffles - it was actually rather plain. The vest had a row of buttons that crossed diagonally over the front, and the shirt had eyelets starting at the collar with a cord laced loosely through them.

Geralt stood silent for several moments. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “Rogier,” he said, “this is…”

“I know, I know,” Rogier replied. “You’re not used to fine clothes, so I wanted to keep it simple for you. What’s the point of wearing clothes you’re not comfortable in?”

“Thank you, Rogier.” Geralt reached out hesitantly and ran his hand down the soft leather of the vest. “These will be some of the finest clothes I’ve ever worn.”

Rogier laughed. “I assumed as much.” He walked to another mannequin, placed his hand on the cloth that covered it. “I’d show you what I have for Jaskier, but that wouldn’t really be fair, now, would it? You’ll see it soon enough.”

“I’ll be back to pick everything up tomorrow.” Geralt shook Rogier’s hand. “Thank you. Jaskier will love this.” He hesitated, then asked, “How much will this be?”

Rogier put a hand on Geralt’s shoulder. “I owed Jaskier a favor from way back,” he said. “This is me repaying that favor. Keep your coin, Geralt.”

“I could offer you a story or two,” Geralt said. “Jaskier doesn’t write about every contract I take. Would you be interested?”

“I absolutely would be!” Rogier replied enthusiastically.

“I have a few things to take care of first,” Geralt told him, “but I promise that I’ll be back later today.”

Rogier nodded, then said, “Regaled by tales of monster hunts from none other than the White Wolf himself! I may be the luckiest man in Movadra!” Rogier shooed Geralt toward the front of the shop. “Off with you, now, so you can get back here quicker!”

Geralt left the shop feeling grateful and humbled. He kept picturing Jaskier’s reaction to the clothes, how ecstatic he’d be to see Geralt in that soft leather vest. He wondered what Rogier had planned for Jaskier: something simple like Geralt’s clothes, or something more akin to Jaskier’s fancier style? He supposed he’d find out soon enough.

He stopped at the stables for Roach, then headed out of town, carefully making his way to the location of the harpies’ corpses. They still lay there, one in a crumpled heap and the other a pile of burned bones and ash. With a grunt, Geralt got to work.

He gathered the head of the first harpy and hung it on the hook attached to Roach’s saddle. Then he scooped some ash from the second harpy into a jar and placed it gently in his saddlebags. Geralt dragged the unburned corpse to the cliff, dismembered it, and gathered its liver, some feathers, and its talons. Then he buried the rest under rocks that had fallen at the base. Finally, he gathered the blackened bones of the second harpy, then dispersed the pile of ash with Aard, covering his face to avoid inhaling any of it. The bones he placed atop the makeshift grave of the other harpy.

When he was satisfied with his work, Geralt mounted Roach and set off back toward town. The harpy trophy bounced against Roach’s flank in time with her steps. Geralt encouraged her into an easy trot, taking care not to get dried blood on his clothes. 

As Movadra grew closer, Geralt thought about Jaskier. He wondered how the other’s visit with Nes was going. Geralt thought about Jaskier primping in the mirror, and a hot knot of jealousy formed in his belly. Jaskier preened like that every morning, and the reasonable side of Geralt knew that there was nothing to be worried about. The other side of him, however… that side was certain that Nes would try to charm Jaskier into his bed, if he hadn’t already. 

Geralt growled. He urged Roach into a canter. The sooner he returned to town and dealt with the alderman, the sooner he could make a casual appearance at Nes’ home, just to deny his suspicions. Jaskier probably wouldn’t appreciate him showing up there, but Geralt would make it up to him somehow.

As Geralt entered Movadra, he noted that the Midaëte crowd was much larger than it had been the previous day. He did his best to guide Roach through the throngs of people, but soon gave up in favor of leading her on foot. Geralt could make out a man’s distinctly authoritative voice coming from the town square, so he eased his way toward it. 

“This happens every year!” the man shouted. “What use have we for orange lilies? Get the white lilies from the shop at once!”

A young woman clutching a bundle of flowers nodded quickly. She scurried off pell-mell through the crowd as Geralt approached.

“I swear,” the man muttered. “I love these people, I do, but I swear .” He noticed Geralt then. “Ah, an unfamiliar face! How are you finding Movadra, sir?”

Geralt blinked at him. He was rarely addressed as “sir,” and it startled him for a moment. “It’s very nice,” he finally said. “Are you the alderman?”

“Yes, I am.” The alderman extended a work-calloused hand. “Obrec Kosses. And you’re…?”

Geralt shook his hand. “Geralt of Rivia.”

“Oh, my,” Obrec exclaimed, “the White Wolf! Here, in Movadra!” He lowered his voice and leaned toward Geralt. “I assume you’re here for the harpy, yes?” he asked quietly.

“Already taken care of.” Geralt gestured toward Roach, where the harpy head had begun attracting insects. Obrec’s eyes went wide. “There were two. The other’s head wasn’t, er, retrievable. Was there a reward?”

“We were going to put the contract on the notice board before preparing for Midaëte,” Obrec explained. “But folks began arriving earlier than usual, and we didn’t want to put them off.” He held up a hand as Geralt tried to interject. “Yes, it was foolish and risky. But the harpy— harpies never killed anyone, just stole some objects here and there and left their shit in the streets. They caused a minor injury, as well, but the drunken fool wasn’t attacked - the harpies just startled him, and he tripped over his own two feet trying to flee.” Obrec sighed. “We assumed it would be fine, but yes, it was ridiculous to not post the contract.”

Geralt said nothing.

Obrec’s mood brightened. “So, I suppose you’d like your reward! If you’ll follow me, I’ll provide it.” He started off through the crowd, still speaking: “And yes, I’ll double it — harpies are rare here, so I’m sure finding two was a shock, and I want to compensate you fairly.”

Geralt adjusted his grip on Roach’s reins and fell in step beside Obrec. “Thank you,” he said. “That’s rarer than harpies in Movadra.”

The alderman stopped in front of a small house. “But not unheard of,” he said as he unlocked the door. “Do come in! I just have to fetch the extra crowns for you. Sit, sit, I won’t be a minute!” Before following Obrec inside, Geralt loosened Roach’s girth and patted her flank - he knew she wouldn’t take off. As the alderman hurried into a back room, Geralt sat at the dining bench and waited. He examined the room: coals smoldered weakly in the hearth, and children’s toys sat in a haphazard heap in one corner. He could hear the voice of a young girl in another part of the house.

“Papa, who is that man?”

Obrec replied, “That’s Geralt of Rivia, Tilli. He helped make Movadra safe, so I have to pay him for a job well done.”

“Why’s he got those big swords?”

“He fights monsters with them.” Geralt heard a jingling sound. “That’s how he protects us.”

“How many monsters has he fought, Papa?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Tilli,” Obrec said. “Perhaps you should ask him?”

“Okay!”

The thundering of tiny feet heralded Tilli’s arrival in the main room. She stood directly in front of Geralt with her hands on her hips. 

“Hi,” Geralt said, a bit nervous. Children were usually afraid of him, and the braver ones had always been herded away from him by concerned parents. He had very little experience in speaking to them. He wished Jaskier were there to walk him through this.

“Mr. Geralt,” Tilli said, “how many monsters have you fought?”

“Er, lots,” Geralt replied.

Tilli sighed. “More than ten?” she asked.

Geralt grinned. “Yes.”

Eyes wide, Tilli asked, “More than twenty?”

“Many more.”

“Wow!” Tilli said. “Are you a knight, Mr. Geralt?”

“No,” Geralt replied. He wondered if all children always asked this many questions.

“Oh.” Tilli thought for a moment. “Do you wanna see my toys?”

“Sure, let’s see them.” Geralt leaned back against the table as Tilli fetched an armful of toys from the pile. When Obrec returned, Tilli was galloping a little wooden horse across the bench.

“Do you have a horse?” Tilli asked. When Geralt nodded, she continued, “What’s its name?”

“I call her Roach,” Geralt said. He glanced at Obrec, who was leaning in the doorway with a smile on his face. Geralt had half-expected him to whisk Tilli to safety, but nothing happened.

Tilli made the wooden horse climb Geralt’s leg. “That’s what I’ll call my horse someday,” she said. “Roachie!” As the horse made its way up Geralt’s torso, Tilli asked, “Do you have a wife, Mr. Geralt? Does she have a horse?”

Geralt’s face flushed. “Er, no. No wife.” 

“Oh.” Tilli considered this. “Do you have a husband?”

Obrec cut in then. “Tilli, honey, that’s not—”

“No, it’s alright,” Geralt said. He turned to Tilli and said, “Not yet, but maybe someday.”

“Can I be in your wedding?”

“Of course.”

Tilli squealed and suddenly threw her arms around a very startled witcher. “Thank you, Mr. Geralt!” she yelled.

Geralt froze, but only for a moment. He patted Tilli’s back awkwardly, glancing at Obrec with a pleading expression.

“Okay, Tilli,” Obrec said, quickly prying the child off of Geralt, “you’ve had your fun. Geralt is very busy. Can you pick up your toys for me?”

“Yes, Papa.” Tilli scooped up her toys and traipsed off toward the corner. “Bye, Mr. Geralt!”

“Farewell, Tilli,” Geralt said. Obrec opened the door and gestured for Geralt to follow him outside.

“I’m sorry about that,” Obrec said once the door had shut behind them. “Tilli is a very curious girl, and… well, her mother’s not around anymore to care for her when I’m away, so when she meets someone new—”

“It’s fine,” Geralt said. “She’s very sweet. And I apologize for my, er, candor. About my personal life.”

Obrec startled him with a laugh. “Fear not, Geralt. You’re safe in Movadra. Chances are you’ve passed several folks like ourselves in the street today.”

“Like ourselves?” Geralt asked, dumbfounded. “You mean…?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.” Obrec extended his hand to Geralt, offering him two coin pouches. “Three hundred crowns. And if you plan to sleep at the inn this evening, let the keeper know that I’ll cover your stay.”

“Thank you, Obrec.” Geralt clasped the alderman’s outstretched forearm and nodded. “I’m sure you have Midaëte preparations to oversee.”

“That I do.” Obrec smiled warmly. “Will we see you at the festival?”

“Yes. Though I have to say, it’s not often that I’m invited to something like this.” 

“Movadra does not turn people away,” Obrec said, “especially not someone who’s protected us. You are welcome here.” He smiled again, placing a gentle hand on Geralt’s shoulder. “You and your partner.”

Geralt couldn’t help but smile back. “Thank you.” 

“Now, duty calls!” Obrec turned and headed back toward the town square. “I’ll see you at the festival, Geralt,” he shouted over his shoulder. 

Geralt stood outside of Obrec’s house for several minutes, collecting his thoughts. Despite what Alke had said before, Geralt hadn’t really believed that Movadra was truly safe. It was in his nature to be suspicious of anything that sounded too good to be true. But the alderman had just declared it himself, and Geralt figured that Obrec was a reliable source.  And it had been nice to be open about himself with Tilli. He felt… lighter, somehow. If Geralt could reveal one of his innermost secrets to a small child, surely he could tell Jaskier how he felt.

As he considered the harpy trophy, which had by then gathered a rather impressive swarm of flies, Geralt remembered his earlier qualm about Jaskier and Nes. Suddenly, though, it didn’t really matter. Geralt felt confident that, should Nes make any advances, Jaskier would sooner smash his lute over the bastard’s head than reciprocate them. Geralt grinned at the image.

Roach flicked her tail and snorted impatiently. Geralt led her down the road a bit, then detached the trophy from her saddle. He carried it, at arm’s length, off the road and into a stand of trees. Tossing it unceremoniously to the ground, Geralt cast Igni and watched the silhouette of the harpy’s head flicker amidst the flames. When he was satisfied, he used Aard to extinguish the fire, kicked some earth over what remained of the head, and returned to Roach.

Geralt led her back to the stables, then made the short trek to Rogier’s shop. Before he could enter, Geralt was knocked backward by a blurred shape that burst through the door and into his arms.

“Jaskier?” he asked. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Jaskier’s voice was muffled against the side of Geralt’s neck. Geralt forced himself not to shiver at the feeling of Jaskier’s mouth there. “I came here to wait for you. I missed you.”

Geralt smiled into Jaskier’s hair. “I missed you, too,” he said, pressing a kiss above the other’s ear. “Let’s go inside, yeah?”

Hand-in-hand, they entered the shop. Rogier waved at them and gestured toward two plush chairs across from the counter. “Please, sit! I want you to be comfortable as you recount your stories.” Geralt and Jaskier sat, and Rogier leaned against the counter. “Tell me, have you ever encountered a leshen?”

Geralt talked for hours, sharing tales of his less song-worthy monster battles. At the end, he told Rogier about the harpies, too. The whole time, Jaskier held his hand, tracing little circles over Geralt’s palm with his thumb. Geralt nervously stumbled over his words at first, but Jaskier chimed in to clarify details and squeezed his hand when he started off on a tangent. Rogier gasped and laughed appropriately, and asked questions about several of the monsters. Geralt could tell his curiosity was genuine, and it encouraged him as he spoke.

After each tale, Jaskier would then recount what happened after each fight: how he bandaged and stitched Geralt up when he returned, how he prepared Geralt’s baths and hauled him into bed when the witcher couldn’t be bothered to move from the floor. Geralt blushed each time, and each time Jaskier would just pat his hand and continue on.

It was past midday when Geralt and Jaskier left Rogier’s shop. With Jaskier out of earshot, Geralt promised again to return for their Midaëte clothes the next day, and Rogier gave him a smile and a nod.

As they walked down the street, Geralt listened to the chatter of the people around them. All of them seemed excited about the following evening, when the bonfire would be set alight in the town square and Midaëte would officially begin. Geralt still couldn’t honestly say that he was excited about attending the celebration, but he had to admit that the idea had become more palatable. 

“So,” Geralt asked, keeping his voice level, “how’s Nes?”

“Oh, he’s well!” Jaskier replied. “He showed me all of the things he has in his garden. A bit boring, really, but that’s Nes for you.”

Geralt hid his smug smile. “He wasn’t upset that you didn’t meet him last night?”

“Not at all,” Jaskier said. “I explained what happened and he understood. He even offered to sacrifice some of his herbs, if you’re interested. Apparently they’re more… oh, how did he say it…?”

“Effective,” Geralt supplied. “Their healing properties are stronger if harvested during Midaëte. Good for making potions, too.”

“Yes, that’s it. Nes said you’re welcome to come by and get some of them. He has plenty, trust me.”

“Maybe I’ll do that.” Geralt took hold of Jaskier’s hand. “You’ll come with me?”

Jaskier laughed. “Of course, love,” he said, and Geralt’s heart soared.

They walked in silence for a bit, weaving through the crowd of people hurrying to complete Midaëte preparations. Though he was familiar with Midaëte itself, namely the traditions and customs, Geralt couldn’t remember ever attending a celebration for any holiday. He usually tried to stay away from human settlements during any festivals. Geralt had been run out of too many towns by citizens “concerned” about the presence of a witcher in their midst, and that fear was particularly healthy during holidays. 

Jaskier pulled Geralt from his thoughts then. “Did you take care of everything?”

“Hm? Oh, yes.” Geralt fished out one of the coin pouches. “That’s only half of what the alderman gave me.”

Jaskier’s eyes widened. “Really? And he didn’t put up a fight?

“No,” Geralt said. “He was actually… very nice.”

“Well, good!” Jaskier squeezed his hand. “I’m glad you got what you were owed.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “And you spoke with Rogier about the clothes? He didn’t mention anything to me about it.”

“Yes, I did,” Geralt replied. “He was very excited that I’d agreed.”

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier crowed, “you’re going to love what he comes up with! The man’s a genius, really. I always got compliments when I wore something Rogier had made.”

Geralt didn’t reveal that he already knew what Rogier had made for him. He didn’t want Jaskier to feel jealous. Geralt knew that the other would try to coax a description of the clothes out of him, and he also knew that he’d give in without much of a fight.

“I can’t wait to see you all prettied up,” Jaskier said softly. “I’m already certain that I’ll have some difficulty keeping my hands to myself.”

Geralt’s ears grew warm, and he said nothing. What could he have said to that, anyway?

Jaskier continued, “Maybe we’ll have to visit that alley again, hm? So that I can get my fix of you away from the crowd.” He smiled innocently. “What do you think?”

“I…” Geralt’s brain had turned to mush, his thoughts blurred together until all he could imagine was the feeling of Jaskier’s lips against his throat.

Jaskier let go of Geralt’s hand and wrapped his arm around the other’s waist. “Seems like you agree,” he said. “But that’s for tomorrow. What shall we do today?”

Geralt observed the chaos around them. The streets were alive with activity: People holding bundles of flowers and twigs scurried past them in both directions, and he could hear Obrec giving orders near the enormous stack of logs that would become the main bonfire. Geralt wanted nothing more than to lock himself in their room at the inn and repeat the sweet morning he’d had with Jaskier. But Obrec and the rest of Movadra had welcomed him with open arms, and he felt it necessary that he give back to them in some way.

“Why don’t we help?” Geralt asked.

Jaskier’s forehead creased. “Help whom?”

“Them.” Geralt gestured at the crowd. “They look like they could use more people.”

“Geralt of Rivia, are you saying that you want to help someone for free?” Jaskier’s tone was teasing, but Geralt knew he was surprised.

“Yes.” Geralt thought for a moment. “Maybe you could write a song about it.”

Jaskier laughed. “Maybe I could. Should we ask the alderman what we can do?”

Geralt nodded, then led Jaskier through the crowd toward Obrec. When the alderman saw them, his frustrated expression faded and was replaced with one of delight. He beckoned them closer and shooed away a man holding a roll of parchment. 

“What a nice surprise!” Obrec said, clasping Geralt’s shoulder. “What brings you to me again so soon? Did the innkeep give you trouble?”

Geralt shook his head quickly. “No, Obrec, nothing like that.”

“Oh, good. Sometimes Dravir can be a bit testy.” Obrec glanced at Jaskier. “Is this…?”

“Yes,” Geralt said. “This is Jaskier.”

Obrec’s eyes widened. “The bard? That Jaskier?”

“The one and only,” Jaskier said. Geralt heard the hint of smugness in his voice and had to hide his fond smile. “Pleasure to meet you, Obrec. Movadra has changed quite a bit since I was last here.”

Obrec nodded. “I hope you’ll agree that the changes were necessary.”

“I do agree. I always liked it here, but now…” Jaskier glanced at Geralt, who definitely didn’t blush. “Now it’s even more special.”

“I’m so glad to hear that, Jaskier,” Obrec said. “I don’t suppose I could convince you to perform during the festival? You’d be paid, of course. Your music is very popular in Movadra.”

Jaskier beamed at Obrec and said, “That’s so kind of you to say. Thank you.” He looked at Geralt. “What do you think, love? Would you mind if I played a song or two?”

Geralt considered the question. If he had to attend the festival, he wanted Jaskier to be at his side the entire time. He could tell, though, how much Jaskier wanted to perform: His heart rate had spiked, and he had an excited gleam in his eyes. Finally, Geralt said, “Of course not. Give the people what they want.”

Geralt knew that Jaskier wanted to kiss him then - hell, he wanted to kiss him, too. Instead, Jaskier turned to Obrec and said, “I’d be happy to play.”

Obrec clapped his hands together. “Wonderful! I’ll make sure to let the other organizers know.” He shook Jaskier’s hand excitedly. “Thank you, Jaskier,” he said. “You won’t regret it.” Obrec turned to Geralt. “So,” he said, “how can I help you this time?”

“Actually, we’d like to help you,” Geralt replied. “Is there anything in particular that you’d have us do?”

“Oh!” Obrec thought for a moment. “Well, I’ve heard that some people are having trouble getting their bonfires started - apparently the wood’s a bit damp. Any chance you could help with that? I’ve…” He hesitated, then continued carefully, “I’ve heard that witchers have certain abilities, and one of them is conjuring fire. Perhaps you could use that?”

“I’d be happy to,” Geralt said with a smile. “Anything else?”

Obrec gave them a short list of tasks: besides the bonfires, he asked that Geralt locate several varieties of herbs and carry some larger objects that had proven difficult for even the burliest citizens. Jaskier would be helping the other performers practice their sets. Obrec thanked the two of them profusely before turning his attention to the growing line of people waiting to speak with him.

Geralt and Jaskier weaved their way through the crowd once more, hand-in-hand. People moved aside easily for them; some even smiled. Geralt felt a warmth in his belly as he observed these displays of friendliness. It was an unfamiliar sensation, but rather pleasant, and Geralt found himself returning every kind smile.

When they reached the edge of the crowd, in front of a weavers’ cottage, Geralt turned to Jaskier to ask if he knew where to go. Before he could utter a syllable, Jaskier’s mouth was on his. He couldn’t help the surprised sound that escaped him. Jaskier laughed and kissed him deeper, his hands on Geralt’s hips - not gripping, just resting there. Even so, Geralt felt the warmth in his belly begin to spark into something more, something wanting.

Jaskier sensed this, and he pulled away. “Too much?” he asked.

Geralt nodded stiffly. “Just… later,” he said, willing the spark away. “Okay?”

“Okay. Let’s get to work, yeah?” Jaskier smiled at him. “Meet me right here when you’re done.”

“I will. See you soon.”

“See you soon, love.” Jaskier turned and headed for the performers’ area.

Geralt tried to pinpoint the locations of the bonfires. He headed north, and found a group of young people struggling to get their fire to light. No one stared or mocked him, and no one commented on his appearance. Geralt used Igni to dry the logs, then helped arrange them inside a ring of stones. With a final blast of Igni, the wood burst into crackling flames. The people whooped and cheered. Some of the men shook Geralt’s hand, and one woman hugged him for a moment before rushing off to celebrate with her friends.

That brief embrace threw Geralt, and he had to take a moment to collect himself. No one had ever done that after he’d helped them. It was… sort of nice.

He moved to the next group, which was just as grateful to see him. Geralt found himself laughing along when one of the men attempted to jump the newly-lit bonfire and tripped over his boot laces. They thanked him, and he moved on.

The sun had nearly set when Geralt returned to the spot where Jaskier had said to meet him. He’d helped seven different groups light their bonfires, and not a single person had been unkind to him. In fact, three more people had hugged him, and several had promised to buy him a drink at the festival the next day. Afterwards, Geralt had located the herbs Obrec had requested, and he also assisted with relocating some heavy objects - a bronze statue of Movadra’s founder being one of them - to the town square. 

He felt good about helping with the festival preparations, but at that point, all he wanted was to go to the inn, order a hot meal, and relax. Maybe Jaskier would have a bath with him, too. Leaning against the wall of the weavers’ cottage, Geralt let his mind wander. He imagined Jaskier’s nimble fingers against his scalp as he washed Geralt’s hair; Jaskier’s strong hands on his shoulders as he massaged oils into his sore muscles. Unbidden, his thoughts turned to Jaskier’s mouth pressed to his throat, a graze of teeth, filthy promises whispered against damp skin—

“Geralt!”

He jumped at the sound of his name; he hadn’t sensed Jaskier approaching. His ears grew warm with embarrassment.

Jaskier looked at him curiously. “Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Geralt answered. He cleared his throat, then said, “How about we get some dinner?”

“Oh, please, I’m starving,” Jaskier replied. He fell in step beside Geralt as they headed toward the inn. “How did it go?” he asked.

Geralt thought of the people who’d hugged him, who’d promised him a drink - their easy smiles and their hands clapping him on the back as they thanked him. “Good,” he said. “Really good.”

Jaskier smiled and took Geralt’s hand in his own. “I’m glad, love.”

“What about you?” Geralt asked. “I bet the other performers were thrilled to practice with you.”

“They were,” Jaskier said smugly. “They’re all very good. There’s one woman who sings beautifully, like a songbird. She must be classically trained - her vocal timbre is just phenomenal. I might actually have a little competition.” 

Geralt hummed. “I doubt that,” he said, squeezing Jaskier’s hand.

They reached the inn, which was nearly as busy as the town square, and managed to snatch a table from a group that was just leaving. A barmaid brought them ale and cleared the table, and minutes later arrived again with bowls of a hearty stew and some bread. They each ordered a second helping, and their meal was mostly silent while they devoured their food. Jaskier paused his scarfing to ask about a bath, and Geralt answered with a nod that he hoped was casual. He didn’t want Jaskier to know how much he was looking forward to it.

Geralt thought about what he’d said to Tilli, about having a husband someday. Before that moment in Obrec’s house, he’d never considered something like that. Settling down just wasn’t in his nature; it wasn’t what he’d been created to do. Witchers followed the Path until their dying breath. They didn’t settle down, they didn’t have a permanent home, and they surely didn’t marry. 

And yet.

Geralt could picture it so clearly, his future with Jaskier: A little cottage in the forest, with a stable for Roach and a garden full of herbs and vegetables. Their laundry hung drying between two apple trees in the yard. Flowering vines curled around the eaves of the cottage, and smoke rose from the chimney. 

“What’s so funny?” 

“Hm?” Geralt asked around a mouthful of bread.

“You’re smiling,” Jaskier said, pointing with his spoon. “What’s funny?”

“Oh, er…” Geralt focused on chewing and swallowing the bread, trying to think of an answer that wasn’t embarrassing. “I met Obrec’s daughter today. She’s cute.”

“‘Cute?’” Jaskier laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that word.”

Geralt grinned at him. “Have I never told you how cute you are?” he teased.

Jaskier’s cheeks flushed, but his eyes glittered with mischief. “I don’t recall you saying anything like that, no,” he replied. “I think I would remember.”

“Well, why don’t we go have a bath,” Geralt said, pushing his empty bowl and tankard aside, “and I’ll tell you all about it?”

Jaskier stood up so quickly that he knocked his thigh against the table, which teetered dangerously before he righted it. He coughed once and said, “That sounds like a fine idea.”

Geralt grinned at him. Despite knowing that Movadra was safe, he still felt a rush when Jaskier took his hand in the middle of the busy tavern. He let Jaskier lead him to their room. When the door had shut behind them, Geralt’s mind immediately went to the previous night, when Jaskier had pressed him against it and—

“Why are you just standing there?”

Geralt shook his head quickly. He was still standing in front of the door, while Jaskier had already begun undressing himself for the bath. Jaskier’s cheeks were rosy from the heat of the tavern, and his back glistened faintly with sweat. Geralt suddenly couldn’t make his mouth form words.

“Geralt? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Geralt finally managed to say. “Is— er, is the bath hot?”

Jaskier glanced at the steaming tub. “I mean, I would say so, wouldn’t you?”

Geralt’s face flushed. “Er, right.”

Jaskier approached him cautiously, as if he were a wounded beast. “Are you okay?” he asked again, softer this time. He put his hand on Geralt’s shoulder, squeezing gently.

Geralt smiled and covered Jaskier’s hand with his own. Warmth radiated through his body from that simple touch. “Yeah,” he said. “Be better once we’re in the tub. Will you wash my hair?”

With a laugh, Jaskier replied, “Of course, darling. Let’s get these clothes off, hm?”

Geralt allowed Jaskier to undress him and help him into the bath. He settled against the side of the tub, leaned his head back with a soft sigh, and closed his eyes. He heard Jaskier puttering around, digging through his satchel and muttering to himself. Then the water shifted, lapping lightly against his chest, as Jaskier slid into the tub across from him. Geralt opened his eyes when he caught a whiff of something floral and spicy.

“What are you doing?” he asked Jaskier.

“I just thought it would be nice to add some herbs to our bath,” Jaskier answered. He spread more buds of lavender and yarrow over the water. “Doesn’t it smell nice? I don’t want to overwhelm you.”

Geralt’s nose crinkled instinctively, but he had to admit that the scent was rather pleasant. “It’s nice, yeah,” he said. “Where did you get them?”

Jaskier smirked. “I swiped them from Nes’ garden. Think he’ll mind?”

Laughing, Geralt said, “I think he’d want someone to enjoy them.” He stretched his legs and rested his calves on Jaskier’s thighs. Then he leaned back again with a satisfied sigh. 

“I thought you wanted me to wash your hair,” Jaskier reminded him.

“In a minute,” Geralt said, sinking deeper into the tub. The aroma of the lavender and yarrow was soothing, and the warmth of the water worked rapidly to leech away the tension coiled in Geralt’s muscles. He felt more relaxed than he had in days, and he knew full well the effect that Jaskier’s touch would have on him.

He waited ten minutes, listening as Jaskier hummed a tune to himself - probably the song he’d been working on. Geralt wondered if he planned to perform it during the festival. When Jaskier fell silent, Geralt moved and leaned his head back into the water, wetting his hair. Then he said, “Okay, ready.”

“Come over here, then,” Jaskier replied. He opened his arms, and Geralt settled between them. His body immediately reacted to Jaskier’s proximity; his skin tingled, and his stomach fluttered. Geralt tried not to scowl at himself, grateful that Jaskier couldn’t see how his face had reddened.

Gentle fingers massaged Geralt’s scalp and worked soap through his hair. Geralt let his eyes slip shut, humming quietly when Jaskier did something that felt particularly nice. At Jaskier’s prompting, he leaned back again so that the other could rinse away the soap. 

“Want me to rub your shoulders?” Jaskier asked when Geralt’s hair was clean. “You know I’m good at it.”

Geralt hesitated. Jaskier was very good at it. He knew that, if he said yes, he would just be a warm, boneless thing by the end. He also knew how his body - one part, specifically - would react to Jaskier’s touch. 

Jaskier sensed his hesitation, and started to backtrack. “I don’t have to—

“Yes,” Geralt said. “Please.” He leaned forward a bit and waited. He heard Jaskier inhale deeply, then felt careful hands on his shoulders.

Immediately, Geralt’s heart jumped in his chest. As Jaskier’s hands worked any remaining tension from his muscles, Geralt’s pulse quickened, and he couldn’t help the small, pleased sounds that escaped his lips. By the time Jaskier had finished, Geralt’s cock had hardened to the point of near-pain, and he was breathing hard.

“Geralt?” Jaskier’s tone was concerned. He squeezed Geralt’s shoulders gently. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Mm,” Geralt said, his voice strained.

“What do you need?” Jaskier squeezed his shoulders again - trying to ground him, Geralt knew, but only strengthening his need. If he’d just move his hands lower...

Gods, but he wanted it; Geralt could feel his body humming at the prospect of Jaskier’s touch. He made his decision quickly. “Jaskier,” Geralt said, trying to ignore the hint of desperation in his voice. “Please, touch me.”

He could practically hear Jaskier’s brain misfiring. “I am touching you, Geralt.”

“No,” Geralt said. “ Touch me.”

Jaskier gasped quietly, and Geralt shivered despite the warmth of the water. “Oh. Are… are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Geralt leaned his head back, resting it on Jaskier’s shoulder. “Please, Jaskier.”

With a shaky breath, Jaskier slid his hands from Geralt’s shoulders to his chest. “Tell me if you want me to stop,” he murmured, and Geralt nodded. Jaskier pressed a kiss to his cheek before moving his hands further down Geralt’s torso to his belly.

Geralt’s breath hitched, and Jaskier’s hands immediately stilled. When Geralt nodded again, Jaskier continued until his hands rested on the soft skin just above where Geralt wanted them to be. He made a needy sound.

“I’ve got you,” Jaskier said, kissing his cheek again.

Geralt turned his head and pressed his flushed face against Jaskier’s neck. He shifted his hips, bucking up toward Jaskier’s hands, making the bathwater ripple. “Please,” he breathed, “please.”

Jaskier finally gave him what he wanted, wrapping one hand around his cock. Geralt could have sobbed - it felt so good. He wanted to kick himself for waiting so long to ask for something so simple.

“Alright?” Jaskier asked.

“Hn,” Geralt answered, bucking his hips again, trying to encourage Jaskier to move .

“Patience, love.” Jaskier kissed his cheek again. He stroked Geralt slowly, achingly so.

Geralt’s hands clutched the edge of the tub so tightly that his arms began to cramp. He breathed hard through his nose. Fuck, it was so good—

“You need to relax.” Jaskier twisted his wrist suddenly, and Geralt’s entire body jerked. He felt like a riled-up stripling who’d never been touched before, but he hadn’t the presence of mind to be embarrassed just then. “Relax,” Jaskier repeated. “Be good for me, Geralt.”

Geralt moaned, long and loud. Jaskier laughed wickedly in his ear. “That’s it,” he whispered. “I’ll give you what you want, but you have to behave. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Geralt gasped. “Yes, Jaskier.” He shuddered when he felt Jaskier hardening against the small of his back. “Oh, fuck—”

“Later.” Jaskier twisted his wrist again and started stroking faster. The bathwater roiled at the movement, sloshing against the walls of the tub. “Right now, this is all you get.”

Geralt moaned again, thrusting up into Jaskier’s hand. “Feel so good,” he panted. “So fucking good.”

“Yeah?” Jaskier nipped at his earlobe. “Gonna come for me, darling?”

A strangled sound tore itself from Geralt’s throat. He was definitely going to come; he was too far gone to turn back.

“Come on, let me hear you.” Jaskier thumbed the slit of Geralt’s cock, once, twice, a third time. Geralt whined at the feeling, at the effort it was taking him not to lose it. “That’s it, good boy.” Jaskier moved his mouth to Geralt’s throat. “I want you to be loud when you come.” 

Geralt couldn’t control his noises anymore. He probably sounded ridiculous, but he didn’t care. Jaskier wanted to hear him; Jaskier liked when he was loud. 

Jaskier kissed his throat. “Oh, Geralt,” he murmured, “gods, you’re so pretty.”

Geralt felt the light scrape of Jaskier’s teeth against his skin, just like he’d imagined earlier, and he came with a startled cry. His hips jerked and he gripped the tub so tightly that he heard the wood begin to splinter. Water splashed over the sides, spilling onto the floor. He could hear himself saying Jaskier’s name, over and over, as Jaskier encouraged him through it, pressing little kisses against his temple, his cheek, his nose.

When he finally stopped trembling, Geralt looked at Jaskier almost shyly. The man had just given him one of the best orgasms of his life, and he was afraid to meet his eyes. With a soft sound, Geralt hid his face against Jaskier’s neck.

“Are you alright?” Jaskier asked. He smoothed Geralt’s hair away from his face, running his fingers through it slowly. “Was that alright?”

Geralt laughed weakly. “It was more than alright,” he said. “Just… just need a minute to think.”

Jaskier sighed. He sounded relieved. “Do you need me to go?”

“No.” Geralt shifted so that his side pressed against Jaskier’s, wrapping his arms around him like a possessive child with their favorite doll. “Stay, please.” He hesitated. “Are you… did you…?” Evidently his ability to speak had stepped out for a moment.

“Don’t worry about me,” Jaskier said. “I’m fine.” He rubbed little circles against Geralt’s back. “It’s a bit chilly in here now, and, er, rather dirty. Let’s dry off and go to bed. I’m exhausted, and you must be, too.”

Geralt was bone-tired, especially after their recent… activities. He found that he had to force his legs to let him stand. Jaskier helped him out of the tub and handed him a towel. Geralt dried himself rather half-assedly: As he padded barefoot to the bed, he could hear water dripping onto the floor from his still-damp body.

“Geralt, I swear,” Jaskier started, “if you get my side wet—”

“You and I both know you’re too tired to do anything about it,” Geralt teased. He stifled a yawn. He had no intention of ruining Jaskier’s side of the bed - he’d never hear the end of it.

Jaskier muttered a curse as he finished drying himself. Geralt had already gotten comfortable in bed, sprawled out on his stomach and hugging his pillow. He heard Jaskier turn toward the bed, then a short wheezing sound that sounded like, “Fuck.”

Geralt immediately sat up. “Jaskier?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Jaskier cleared his throat. “You just… you looked incredible, laying like that. I wasn’t expecting it.”

Geralt rolled his eyes. “Come here, bard,” he said as he laid back down, this time on his side. He patted the empty space next to him. “Come to bed and do more than just look.”

Laughing, Jaskier made a beeline for the bed. “I don’t know anyone who would say no to an invitation like that.” As he laid down, Geralt immediately pressed in close. “Hello, there,” Jaskier said with a grin. His expression softened then. “Are you sure it was alright? I didn’t push you too hard?”

“Not hard enough,” Geralt mumbled. He yawned again; sleep was fast approaching. 

Jaskier sucked in a breath. “I’ll take note for next time,” he said. He wove his fingers into Geralt’s hair. “Thank you, Geralt.”

Geralt leaned into Jaskier’s touch and hummed. “Thank you, Jaskier,” he managed to say. Then he was lost to sleep.

THE NEXT MORNING

Once again, sunlight woke him. Geralt found himself nearly on top of Jaskier, his face in the crook of the other’s neck and his leg wrapped around the other’s hips. Instead of extricating himself in a panic, Geralt sighed happily and shifted even closer. Jaskier smelled of lavender and yarrow from their bath, with a lingering citrusy-cinnamon scent from his favorite cologne. It flooded Geralt’s senses, but wasn’t overwhelming - it was pleasant, soothing, even. Geralt closed his eyes and let himself drift.

He thought of the previous night, how Jaskier had taken care of him, how his whispers had been so filthy compared to his gentle touch. He remembered the feeling of Jaskier against his back and gasped quietly. Geralt could feel the other’s cock, stiff against his thigh, and his own was beginning to show interest. Maybe Jaskier would ask Geralt to take care of him, too.

By the time Jaskier mumbled and stirred, Geralt had nearly worked himself into a frenzy. He’d had a taste of Jaskier, and he already wanted more. 

“Good morning,” Jaskier said on a yawn. “How did you—?” He caught sight of Geralt’s flushed face, heard him breathing hard. “Oh, my.”

“Jaskier,” Geralt panted. “I— I’m sorry—”

“Don’t be, love.” Jaskier cupped Geralt’s face with one hand. “Have you been waiting long?”

Geralt just whined.

Jaskier’s hand moved to the back of Geralt’s head. “Let’s see if we can take care of this, yeah?” He curled his fingers tightly in Geralt’s hair and pulled until their mouths met. Geralt moaned softly, even as his hips rutted unsubtly against Jaskier’s side.

As they kissed, Jaskier’s hand snaked its way from Geralt’s hair to his chest. Geralt gasped when Jaskier pinched lightly at his nipple, then cursed when he did it again, harder.

Jaskier hummed. “Interesting,” he murmured. “But not what we’re here for. What is it you’d like, Geralt?”

“Want… want to make you come,” Geralt said. He would’ve been proud of himself if his head hadn't been swimming.

Jaskier shuddered. “And how do you propose to do that?”

Immediately, Geralt had Jaskier’s cock in his hand. Jaskier hissed and threw his head back against his pillow. “Like this,” Geralt said, gaining confidence.

“That’s a good start,” Jaskier croaked. 

Geralt moved his hand slowly, trying to emulate Jaskier’s technique from the previous night. It seemed to do the trick: Jaskier moaned and tangled his hand in Geralt’s sleep-mussed hair.

“Fuck, Geralt,” he gasped, “gods, you’re good at this.”

Geralt hummed, running his thumb lightly over Jaskier’s head. “Yeah?”

Yes, ” Jaskier said. “C’mere, I want— can I, ah, touch you, too?”

Geralt hesitated. “But last night—”

“What about it? Today’s a new day.” He met Geralt’s gaze. “You came so prettily for me last night, Geralt. I want an encore.”

Geralt couldn’t argue - not that he wanted to. Jaskier shifted onto his side and wrapped his hand around Geralt, who inhaled sharply.

“You alright?” Jaskier asked. “If you don’t want—”

“I do,” Geralt said, breathing hard through his nose. “Please.”

Jaskier leaned in until their foreheads were touching. “Good boy,” he whispered. He started stroking, matching Geralt’s rhythm. 

Geralt whined and shut his eyes tightly. They were both panting, arching into each other’s touch, and Geralt knew he wouldn’t last long. 

“Geralt,” Jaskier murmured, “darling, ah, you feel incredible—” He cut himself off with a gasp as Geralt’s hand worked him faster. “Oh, gods —”

Growing bolder, Geralt leaned in and kissed Jaskier, wet and sloppy, moaning into Jaskier’s mouth. He pulled away and, smirking, whispered, “Wish it were my mouth instead of my hand.”

Jaskier made a choked sound. His body tensed and he came with Geralt’s name on his lips. Geralt thrust into Jaskier’s shaking hand twice and came, too, with a shout that he muffled against his pillow.

They both laid there, trembling and panting, for a long while. Jaskier was the first to recover. He pressed a kiss to Geralt’s forehead, then climbed carefully out of bed and went to the wash basin. He came back with a damp cloth that he used to clean up their mess. Geralt observed him through half-lidded eyes. Jaskier hummed as he worked, the same tune he’d hummed in the bath.

“Is that a new song?” Geralt asked, watching Jaskier as he padded back to the basin.

“Hm? Oh, yes.” Jaskier returned and tucked himself back under the covers. “I was thinking about performing it tonight.”

Geralt shifted closer. He took one of Jaskier’s hands and began playing with his fingers. “I think they’d like that,” he said. “It would make them feel special, being the first people to hear it.”

Jaskier laughed softly. “It’s not some bawdy fabliau.” He held his hand up flat, pressing his palm against Geralt’s, and continued, “It’s more of a love song. I’m not sure it would be suitable for a crowd of drunken revelers.”

“A love song, hm?” Geralt pulled his hand away and kissed Jaskier’s palm. “A love song wouldn’t be suitable for Midaëte?”

“Hush.” Jaskier flicked Geralt’s nose lightly. “You know what I mean.”

“I do. And I think you should play it.” Geralt cupped Jaskier’s face in his hand and met his worried gaze. “Obrec said that Movadra adores you. You could scream, smash your lute against the stage, and bow, and people would still trample each other trying to shake your hand.”

Jaskier laughed, and Geralt grinned at him. He loved Jaskier’s laugh, especially when he was the source of it. “You really think so?” Jaskier asked.

“I know so,” Geralt replied. “Now, let’s get out of bed. I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier said, “I don’t know if I can handle another one of your surprises this morning.”

Geralt’s face grew warm. “Not that kind of surprise,” he mumbled.

Jaskier laughed again and kissed him sweetly. “I know,” he said, eyes full of mischief. “But a man can dream.” With that, Jaskier landed a light smack on Geralt’s arse and rolled out of bed. “Come on, love,” he called over his shoulder.

Geralt grinned and shook his head. His body felt so light, yet his heart was full. He decided then that he would tell Jaskier everything that night, after they’d left the festival and could be alone together. He practically leapt out of bed and just barely kept himself from whistling a tune.

As always, Jaskier sensed that his mood had changed. “What’s gotten into you, witcher?” he asked as he pulled his shirt over his head.

“Never you mind, bard,” Geralt answered. He rummaged through his pack, pulled out some fresh clothing, and began to dress. After a pause, he said, “You’re not even going to ask a single question about this surprise?”

“What, and make you grumpy?” Jaskier was already dressed - undoubtedly a trick he’d had to learn during his many rendezvous with married folks. “No, I can wait.” He smirked. “I want to enjoy your good mood while I can. Maybe you’ll even smile today!”

“Prick,” Geralt muttered, trying and failing to hide his amused expression. He pulled on his boots and ran a hand through his hair.

“Please tell me you’re not going out into public like that,” Jaskier said. “You look like a rat made a nest in your hair during the night.”

Geralt sighed. “Fix it for me, then.”

Jaskier beamed at him. “With pleasure,” he said. “Sit on the bed with your back to me.”

Geralt did as instructed, climbing onto the bed and crossing his legs. Jaskier stood behind him and tutted softly. He carefully worked the tangles out of Geralt’s hair, murmuring apologies whenever he tugged too hard and Geralt winced. 

“What would you say to a braid or two?” Jaskier asked, his tone casual. 

“Hm,” Geralt answered. “Alright.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Jaskier laughed. “If I’d have known a morning romp would put you in such high spirits—” He stopped himself when Geralt growled. “Oh, hush. Let me just get some thread from my bag...”

Jaskier’s touch was so gentle that Geralt found himself lulled into a half-meditative state. Several times, Jaskier hummed his new song as he worked. Several times, he pressed a kiss to the crown of Geralt’s head. 

“There,” Jaskier finally said. He tucked a few stray locks behind Geralt’s ears. “Come see.”

Geralt rose and walked hesitantly to the little mirror on the wall. Most of his hair had been plaited into a wide braid, which, along with several smaller braids, Jaskier had then gathered into a loose ponytail. The ponytail had a strand of hair coiled around its middle, and the base of it had been wrapped with tiny braids, as well. Geralt had to stop his jaw from dropping. He looked like royalty.

“What do you think?” Jaskier asked. He sounded nervous.

Geralt hummed. “It’s… very different.”

“Good different?”

Geralt turned to Jaskier and smiled. “Very good.” He wrapped his arms around Jaskier and pulled him tight against his chest. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Jaskier made a pleased sound. “You’re welcome, Geralt,” he said. “I knew I’d get a smile out of you today.”

Geralt laughed. He kissed Jaskier’s forehead and pulled away. “Now, let’s go. Someone’s waiting for us.”

Raising an eyebrow, Jaskier wordlessly followed him to the door. Downstairs, Jaskier sheepishly told the innkeep about the bath and apologized for the mess. The innkeep grumbled, but wasn’t rude, and even wished them a good day.

The town square was absolute chaos. Dozens of people were running full-speed through the crowd, and the noise was nearly deafening. Geralt grimaced, but took Jaskier’s hand and began leading him through the mass of people. Jaskier didn’t ask where they were going, but Geralt could tell that he was excited.

Finally, the crowd spit them out in front of Rogier’s shop.

“Geralt,” Jaskier said, confused, “it’s much too early for the clothes to be ready.”

Geralt grinned. “Go and ask Rogier about that.”

Wide-eyed, Jaskier entered the shop, Geralt close behind him. Rogier sat at the counter, hands folded on the polished wood surface, smiling brightly.

“Good morning!” he said. “I suppose you’ve come to pick up your festival finery, yes?”

“Rogier, I know you’re good - perhaps even the best,” Jaskier said. “But you couldn’t possibly have finished our clothes.”

Rogier clicked his tongue. “Jaskier, my dear, if you’ll follow me to the back, I’d be happy to prove you wrong.”

Jaskier looked at Geralt, his eyes still wide. Geralt gestured for him to follow Rogier into the back room. Jaskier took hold of his hand and squeezed it tightly; Geralt could feel his pulse racing.

The room was exactly as Geralt remembered it, except that the two mannequins were now beside each other, with Rogier between them, smiling proudly.

“Now, I had a rather touching speech planned,” Rogier said, “but Jaskier looks like he’s about to leap out of his skin with excitement, so I’ll be brief. Jaskier, I remember the first doublet I made for you, a fine maroon silk piece. You were an eager young man then, and, in your eagerness, you paid me nearly 40 crowns too much for the doublet. When you returned to my shop, you didn’t ask for your coin - no, instead, we had the loveliest chat I’d had in ages. You’ve always been one of my favorite patrons, and I hope—” Rogier stopped to dab at his eyes with a lacy handkerchief. “I hope that you’ll treasure this outfit as I treasure our friendship.”

Geralt glanced at Jaskier and saw that his eyes had welled with tears. He rubbed Jaskier’s back soothingly and squeezed his hand.

“Jaskier, Geralt,” Rogier said, “here are your Midaëte clothes.” With a flourish, he removed the covers from both mannequins.

Geralt’s eyes went immediately to the mannequin to Rogier’s right. Jaskier’s outfit consisted of a simple white shirt under a doublet made of steel-blue silk with a detailed brocade pattern. The collar and sleeves were trimmed with strips of navy blue silk, which matched the laces on the front of the doublet. 

Jaskier gasped in delight. “Oh, Rogier!” he exclaimed. “They’re both so beautiful!” He let go of Geralt’s hand and ran to Rogier, wrapping the older man in a tight embrace. “Thank you so much,” he said. “I knew they’d be perfect!”

Rogier patted Jaskier’s back and chuckled. “I’m glad you like them, dear. What do you say we get everything packaged up for you? Or would you both like to change now? We have private rooms for that.”

Jaskier looked at Geralt. “What do you think, love?”

“We can change now,” Geralt said with a smile.

“Excellent!” Rogier carefully removed both sets of clothes from their mannequins and folded them neatly. “Follow me.”

He led them down a narrow hallway of open doors. Each room contained a plush chair and a large gilded mirror. Rogier was clearly doing very well for himself to be able to afford such high-quality items, yet he had refused Geralt’s coin for the outfits. Meeting a rich man who wasn’t greedy? Geralt was growing very fond of Movadra, indeed.

“Choose any room you’d like,” Rogier said. He handed one bundle of clothes to Geralt and the other to Jaskier. “Do let me know if you need assistance! I’ll be at the counter. My shop boy is apparently ill this morning, though I suspect it’s more to do with eagerness for the festival than any sickness. Children these days.” Rogier chuckled to himself as he turned and headed back down the hallway.

“You know,” Jaskier said, once Rogier was out of earshot, “if I didn’t hold so much respect for the man, I’d kiss you senseless in one of these little rooms.”

“Oh?” Geralt did his best to ignore the blush creeping over his face. “Would you, now?”

Jaskier hummed and sidled closer. He placed his hand over Geralt’s chest. “I would,” he murmured. “But I wouldn’t want you to ruin your lovely new trousers.” With that, he kissed Geralt’s cheek and walked past him into one of the changing rooms. He smirked at Geralt, then closed the door. Geralt could hear the rustle of fabric as Jaskier undressed himself, and he had to force down a shiver. Shaking his head, he entered the room across the hall.

Geralt placed the clothing in the chair, then sat on the armrest and unlaced his boots. He shucked off his pants, then his shirt, taking care not to disturb his braids. Standing in front of the mirror, Geralt couldn’t help but examine himself - he told himself that it was just to check for injuries or new scars. He took in the hard lines of his body, the familiar raised pink streaks that marred his pale skin, all rough surfaces and jagged edges. Not for the first time, Geralt sighed at his reflection. 

“Is that moping I hear?” 

Geralt flinched at Jaskier’s voice. “Er—”

“Get dressed and come out here so that I can tell you how handsome you look.”

Geralt grinned and replied, “Yes, dear.” He dressed himself carefully, buttoning the vest with gentle fingers, terrified that he would rip one of them off. When he’d finished with the vest, Geralt slipped on the simple brown trousers and tucked the hems into his boots. Turning back to the mirror, he smoothed his hands down the soft leather of the vest. The clothes fit him perfectly, and he took a moment in front of the mirror to admire the same body he’d only recently been criticizing. Then, Geralt opened the door of the changing room and stepped into the hallway.

“Would you look at that,” Jaskier said softly.

“Hm,” Geralt replied.

They both stood there, observing each other quietly. Geralt’s eyes swept over Jaskier, taking in the way that the doublet accentuated his lithe figure, and how the shirt moved over the muscles of his upper arms. He looked like something out of a fairytale.

Jaskier moved closer and placed a gentle hand on Geralt’s chest. “Gods, Geralt,” he said. “I write songs for a living, and I can’t think of a single word that would accurately describe the way you look in those clothes.”

Geralt cleared his throat awkwardly. “You, too,” he said.

Laughing, Jaskier leaned in and kissed him, soft and sweet. “Get your other clothes,” he said, “and let’s go. I think that my new boots should be ready, and I’d much rather wear those with this ensemble.”

“Right.” Geralt returned to the changing room and gathered his clothes into a messy bundle. Before he left, he took one final look at himself in the mirror. With a smile, Geralt exited the room and, taking Jaskier’s hand, headed to the front of the shop. Rogier told them that, rather than wading through the festival crowd again, they could leave their other clothes behind the counter and pick them up later. Jaskier hugged Rogier again and thanked him profusely, praising him for a job well done.

Jaskier and Geralt left the shop and walked the short distance to the cordwainer. The shop was quiet, for which Geralt was very grateful. 

“Midaëte blessings be upon you,” the owner said blandly. “Let me fetch your boots.” He walked to a nearby shelf and returned with a pair of calf-hide boots. “Now,” the cordwainer continued, “please take off those sad excuses for footwear before leaving my shop. I’ll dispose of them properly. I can’t have folks thinking I made those .”

Jaskier did as the man asked. He examined the new boots, commenting on the quality and craftsmanship. The cordwainer grinned proudly as Jaskier walked a little circle around the shop, crowing over how comfortable the boots were. Geralt watched all of this with a fond smile. He admired Jaskier’s energy and his ability to win over even the surliest of people. The bard’s sunny disposition had been a bit overwhelming, at first, but Geralt had soon come to appreciate it. His worldview had become much more optimistic with Jaskier around.

“Are you ready?”

Geralt blinked. Jaskier stood in front of him, his expression slightly concerned. “Er, yeah,” Geralt said. “Sorry. Just thinking.”

As they exited the shop, Jaskier asked, “Thinking about what?”

Geralt hummed softly. “You,” he said, taking Jaskier’s hand and swinging his arm lightly between them.

Jaskier laughed in delight. They walked down the road for a bit, observing the new additions to Movadra’s festival decorations. Fragrant wreaths of hypericum, lavender, and white lilies hung on every door. An archway made of birch branches woven together with mistletoe now marked the entrance to the town square. The helter-skelter of Midaëte preparations had ceased - instead, the crowd consisted of citizens and visitors in various stages of celebration. Geralt knew that the bonfire wouldn’t be lit for several hours, and that most of the traditional activities would begin closer to dusk. 

“Oh, look,” Jaskier said, pointing. “They have food already. Are you hungry?”

In response, Geralt led him quickly toward the long wooden tables piled high with Midaëte delicacies. He handed Jaskier an earthenware plate before filling his own with slices of brown nut bread and berry cake, a few potato dumplings, and pickled herring. He filled two tankards to the brim with mead and waited for Jaskier to finish. Then they sat at one of the smaller tables that had been arranged around the statue of Movadra’s founder. A majority of the crowd had converged around the vendors’ stalls at the outer edges of the square, so Geralt and Jaskier had the space mostly to themselves.

They ate in silence, too focused on the food to speak. Jaskier moaned quietly when he bit into a dumpling, and Geralt nearly choked trying not to laugh at him. The mead was sweet, the air smelled of flowers and woodsmoke, and Jaskier was looking at him with his beautiful blue eyes. Geralt felt as though if he stood up from the bench, he’d simply float away.

They finally cleared their plates and emptied their tankards. Jaskier leaned forward and rested his chin on his hands, and Geralt did the same. They sat like that for a long while, just looking at each other. At one point, Jaskier crossed his eyes, to which Geralt responded by sticking out his tongue. After making a variety of silly faces and making Geralt laugh until his sides hurt, Jaskier’s amused expression turned mischievous.

“C’mon,” he said softly as he stood up. He extended his hand to Geralt, who took it cautiously.

“Where are we going?” Geralt asked, wincing as a child in the crowd suddenly shrieked.

“If I don’t kiss you within the next two minutes,” Jaskier said, “I believe I’ll die.”

Geralt gasped quietly, and blushed when Jaskier laughed. As they approached the alley between the bakery and the pottery, however, they found it occupied by a couple who’d evidently had the same idea.

“Don’t worry,” Jaskier said, leading Geralt away from the alley. “I know of several spots like that one.”

“Of course you do,” Geralt teased. “And why couldn’t we have done this in the square? It’s just a kiss.”

Jaskier squeezed his hand. “What I have in mind isn’t a simple peck on the cheek, love.”

Geralt let himself be led down the cobbled street. The crowd had dwindled to nearly nothing by the time Jaskier stopped in front of a two-story stone building. Wooden stairs led from the street to a balcony on the second floor. There was no sign indicating the building’s purpose, but Geralt could tell it was the brothel.

Geralt raised an eyebrow. Jaskier grinned at him, then tugged him toward the stairs. When they reached the balcony, Jaskier climbed onto the side railing and gracefully hoisted himself onto the roof. Wide-eyed, Geralt followed him. The roof tiles were warm from the morning sun, and the view from the peak of the roof was stunning: The countryside surrounding Movadra was green and lush, and Geralt could see a lake nearby.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Jaskier had taken a seat on the tiles. He patted the space next to him, and Geralt sat down, nudging Jaskier’s shoulder with his own.

“It is,” Geralt agreed. 

“Now, for the reason I brought you here…” Jaskier gently cupped Geralt’s face in his hand. Geralt leaned into the touch and smiled softly. “You’re so lovely,” Jaskier murmured. “How lucky I am to have found you.” He leaned in and kissed Geralt, and, as promised, it wasn’t chaste in the slightest.

Geralt hadn’t anticipated just how eager Jaskier would be, and it took him a moment to catch on. Once he did, though, he kissed back with such force that Jaskier made a startled sound. Then he laughed and pulled Geralt closer. At some point, Jaskier ended up on his back with Geralt nearly on top of him. Their hands didn’t wander, and their clothes stayed on, but fucking on the roof of a brothel was definitely something Geralt would have to keep in mind.

Jaskier finally pulled away, panting lightly, and Geralt proceeded to cover his flushed face with soft kisses. Jaskier laughed and pretended to push him away with one hand, while the other lightly gripped the back of his neck.

“How was that?” Geralt asked, resting his cheek against Jaskier’s chest.

“Definitely ballad-worthy, I’d say,” Jaskier replied. “I’d love to stay here with you all day, but these tiles are about to become blistering hot, so we should probably leave. Besides, I have to practice for my performance tonight.”

Geralt was about to protest, but he noticed that the roof had, indeed, grown uncomfortably warm. He stood up carefully and offered his hand to Jaskier. Together, they climbed down from the roof to the balcony, and descended the stairs to the street. As they made their way back to the square, Geralt noticed several men holding each other’s hands, as well as some women. The couples ranged from barely-adults to the elderly, and they all seemed blissfully unaware of Geralt’s curious eyes on them.

“You still can’t believe it,” Jaskier said. He sounded amused.

“I can’t,” Geralt admitted. “It just…”

“I know, love.” Smiling brightly, Jaskier took his hand. “It’s alright. You should probably stop staring, though.”

After they passed under the archway and entered the square, Geralt began to hear whispers: “Is that the White Wolf?” “By Melitele, it’s Jaskier!” “Where are his swords?” “I hope he performs tonight!” There was no hostility, no hatred in their words about him. They sounded almost excited, which confused Geralt. Of course they’d be eager to see Jaskier, but him? A witcher at a Midaëte celebration?

“Oh, don’t they look handsome!”

“I knew they were in love. Selka, you owe me ten crowns!”

“Jaskier is one lucky bard!”

Geralt released Jaskier’s hand and wrapped his arm loosely around Jaskier’s waist. He wore a smug smile that he didn’t care to hide. The crowd uttered a collective sigh, and a few women cooed. Jaskier laughed and said, “You’re loving this, aren’t you?”

“Perhaps,” Geralt replied. “Go fetch your lute. I’ll be waiting here.”

“Basking in the attention, no doubt.” Jaskier swatted his arse lightly, then kissed his cheek. “Be back shortly,” he said. “Have some mead ready for me.” With that, Jaskier trotted off to the inn. Geralt filled two tankards with mead and sat down on a bench. As he sipped, Geralt observed the crowd, which had turned its attention away from him for the time being. Children chased each other with no regard for the state of their fancy festival clothes. People embraced and asked where the time had gone, how long had it been, how was so-and-so? Toward the edge of the crowd, Geralt spotted Obrec, with Tilli on his shoulders, holding the hand of a tall, bearded man. They were both laughing at Tilli, who had locks of Obrec’s hair in her hands like reins.

Once again, Geralt found himself imagining that little cottage in the forest, the smoking chimney and the apple trees. Jaskier waved from the doorway, holding the hand of a young girl with ashen hair. She called out to him; there was no sound, but Geralt knew she’d said Papa.

A hand on his shoulder broke his reverie. “Excuse me, Geralt?”

“Nes.” Geralt stood and shook his hand. “Midaëte blessings.”

“As to you.” They both sat on the bench. “Jaskier’s not with you?” Nes asked.

“He’s gone to get his lute from our room,” Geralt said, emphasizing the word our. “He wants to practice before his performance tonight.”

“I see. And how are you feeling? Jaskier told me you’d been injured.”

“I’m well, thank you.”

Nes stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I get the sense that you’re not fond of me, Geralt.”

Geralt flinched. “What makes you say that?”

“I know that Jaskier told you about… us,” Nes said. “I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not harboring any sort of feelings for him. What happened between us was short-lived, and the decision to end it was mutual.” When Geralt said nothing, Nes continued: “During our visit, I could hardly get a word in. It was ‘Geralt this,’ ‘Geralt that,’ for nearly two hours. I finally had to make up another visitor so that I could find some respite.”

“Hm.”

“I’m not here to give you advice, because I know it probably means sod all to you. I just thought you should know.” Nes stood then and made to walk away, but Geralt stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Thank you,” Geralt said. “I appreciate you telling me.”

“Of course.” Nes patted his hand. “Happy Midaëte, Geralt. Enjoy the festival.” 

Geralt watched him disappear into the growing crowd. He spotted Jaskier a moment later, heading toward him with his lute case held high above his head. Geralt raised the tankards in greeting with a smile, even as his head swam with the information he’d just received. Nes hadn’t needed to say it, but Geralt knew: Jaskier loved him.

In an instant, everything came into sharp focus. Geralt’s heightened senses became overwhelming: He heard every word from every mouth, every footstep against the cobblestones, simultaneously. He could identify the scent of every single flower present in the square. Distantly, Geralt felt his hands release the tankards and heard them clatter against the ground. The heat of the sun suddenly became unbearable, and even the air felt heavy against his skin. Geralt gasped for breath. He loves me, he loves me, he—

“Geralt?”

A gentle hand on his cheek, cool and soft. Geralt could breathe again. The overpowering, sickly-sweet aroma of flowers faded, as did the cacophony beating against his eardrums. 

“Geralt, talk to me.”

“Jaskier,” he managed. Geralt opened his eyes - when had he closed them? - and blinked a few times. Jaskier’s face was inches from his own, blue eyes wide with worry. “I’m alright,” Geralt croaked.

“Gods, Geralt, what happened?” Jaskier sat beside him on the bench and put his arm around Geralt. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah,” Geralt said. He rested his head against Jaskier’s shoulder and breathed deeply. “I’m fine now.”

Jaskier moved to stand up. “I’ll get you some water.” 

“No, please—” Geralt tugged him closer. “Please stay.”

“Okay.” 

They sat on the bench for a while, trying to drown out the sounds of the excited crowd. Jaskier rubbed soothing circles over Geralt’s back and hummed his new song. Geralt’s brain finally processed what Nes had told him, and it reaffirmed his earlier decision: That night, he would tell - and show - Jaskier exactly how he felt. His stomach lurched at the thought, but Geralt forced himself not to consider the what-ifs. Jaskier loved him, and that was all he needed.

“Hey,” Jaskier said softly, “I have an idea. Why don’t we go to Nes’ garden and get those herbs, hm? I can practice when you’re done.”

Geralt hummed. “Alright. Let’s go.”

They made the short trek to Nes’ cottage and entered the garden. Geralt identified many herbs and plants that would be useful to him, including several rare species that he could usually only purchase from herbalists. He gestured at the various plants and explained their uses to a very attentive Jaskier.

They harvested moleyarrow, honeysuckle, and arenaria, which were very common. Jaskier had brought along his satchel to hold his songbook, and he carefully tucked the blooms away inside it. Nes had also grown allspice, mistletoe, and ranogrin. When Geralt mentioned that they didn’t grow wild and could be expensive, Jaskier grinned and proceeded to decimate every one of the plants. He interrupted Geralt’s frantic protesting by saying, “You need them more than he does,” and Geralt couldn’t exactly argue with that.

On their way back to town, Jaskier strummed his lute and sang a few lines of his song, something about searching for a hidden thing. A breeze ruffled Jaskier’s hair; his cheeks were slightly flushed and his eyes were shining with excitement.

Geralt smiled to himself. He could hardly wait for that night. He couldn’t remember ever being this happy, and he had to quash the urge to drag Jaskier back to their room at the inn and divulge everything. That wasn’t Geralt’s plan, and he wanted everything to be perfect. Instead, he hummed along to Jaskier’s singing, laughing quietly when Jaskier cursed at an insect buzzing around his head.

Upon returning to the town square, Geralt realized that they’d stumbled into the middle of a wedding ceremony. The tables had been moved from the center of the square and replaced by rows of benches, upon which members of the crowd were seated. Geralt and Jaskier quickly sat, too, toward the back of the square. Obrec stood in front of the founder’s statue, holding the wedding band, and asked the traditional questions: How old were the bride and groom? Did they both freely consent to enter the marriage? 

Geralt noticed that the bride and groom, who both looked to be in their twenties, appeared to have imbibed a bit too heavily before the ceremony. They were stifling giggles and kept touching each other’s faces. Obrec couldn’t help but grin at their antics as he handed the ring to the groom. The young man took the bride’s left hand and clumsily placed the ring on her first, second, and third fingers, before finally leaving it on her fourth finger with the words, “With this ring, I thee wed.” Obrec announced that they were married, and the square filled with whoops and cheers as the newlyweds kissed messily and laughed.

Jaskier sighed. “Young love,” he said wistfully. “I suppose they’ll be eager to break in their marriage bed, hm?”

Geralt snorted. “That’s assuming they haven’t already broken in a pre-marriage bed,” he said, “or a haystack, or a shed, or a clearing in the woods.”

Laughing, Jaskier took Geralt’s hand and squeezed it. His expression softened. “Despite my upbringing,” he said quietly, “I… never really considered marriage. I knew that it wouldn’t exactly be for love, and what’s the point in that? And it’s hard to marry when you don’t really have a permanent home.” Jaskier turned his gaze to the crowd, most of whom had left their seats to congratulate the young couple. “But it’s, er… been on my mind recently.”

Geralt froze. “Oh?”

“Mm. It would be nice, I suppose.” Jaskier smiled at him, almost shyly. “What’s your opinion?”

“Er…” Geralt blinked and took a deep breath. “Witchers don’t marry,” he said. “We follow the Path until we can’t anymore.”

Jaskier’s face fell. “Right.” He looked out over the crowd again.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not interested.” Geralt hesitated. “I’ve been thinking about it, too.”

Jaskier nearly tumbled out of his seat. “You have?” he asked, a bit breathless.

“Yeah,” Geralt said with a soft smile. “Could be nice.” He leaned in and kissed Jaskier’s forehead.

Jaskier made a happy sound. “Glad we’re in agreement, then.” He cursed suddenly. “I have to practice. Let’s have some food, first, hm?”

The tables of food had been replenished for the wedding, and they both heaped their plates full with anything they could reach: potatoes, savory tarts, dry cheese, and fresh bread, along with a new mead, less sweet than the last. They sat on bales of hay at the edge of the square, observing the wedding guests crowding around the young couple to offer well wishes. Eventually, the guests dispersed, some heading for the food and others wandering toward the shops and stalls. The newlyweds glanced around and laughed to themselves. Then the bride hitched up her skirts, grabbed the groom’s hand, and started running down a side street with her new husband in tow.

Geralt sipped his mead and looked at Jaskier, who was thoughtfully chewing on a piece of bread. “What are you thinking about?” Geralt asked, nudging the other’s knee with his own.

“Hm? Oh, just my performance later.” Jaskier smiled. “Running through the lyrics, you know. That sort of thing.”

“Are you still nervous that they won’t like it?”

“A bit, yes. But I’m the third performer, so the two before me can get them warmed up with something jaunty before I make them emotional.”

Geralt snorted. He put his arm around Jaskier’s shoulders and pulled him against his side, kissing the top of his head. “They’ll love you,” Geralt murmured. “I know it.”

“Thank you, Geralt.” 

They sat and watched people mill about the square for a while. Geralt noticed a group of young women carrying baskets approaching the statue. Setting their baskets down, they positioned two tables end-to-end and arranged benches around them. Then they reached into the baskets and spread various flowers over the tables. With that, they each sat down and began to weave the flowers together into… wreaths?

“Oh, they’re making flower crowns,” Jaskier said, pointing toward the women.

Geralt grunted. Of course they were flower crowns. He knew that was the tradition, but this was his first real Midaëte festival, after all. 

Jaskier patted Geralt’s hand. “I’m afraid I really do have to practice, love.”

“Alright,” Geralt said, standing and helping Jaskier up. Jaskier tapped his cheek, and Geralt pressed a kiss there. “Good luck.”

“Thank you.” Jaskier cast a brief, longing look toward the women making flower crowns. Then he slung his lute case over his shoulder and wandered toward the makeshift stage that had been erected overnight. Geralt heard cheers when the other performers saw Jaskier, and he smiled. 

He focused his attention on the women at the tables. Geralt took a hesitant step toward them. He knew Jaskier wanted a flower crown, but he had no idea how to craft one. After taking another few steps, one of the women called out to him: “Oi, White Wolf! Quit hemmin’ and hawin’ and get yer arse over here!”

Blushing furiously, Geralt approached the tables. He mumbled an awkward greeting and sat down at one of the benches.

“Ever made one before?” the first woman asked him. She’d already completed one crown and was working on a second.

“Er, no, I haven’t,” Geralt said lamely.

The woman patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t fret,” she told him. “I’ll help ye out. Name’s Esina, by the way. Now, grab a few flowers and watch me.”

After several very sad-looking attempts, Geralt finally got the hang of it. He made two matching crowns with lavender, hypericum, and yarrow. While they didn’t compare to the women’s lush, fragrant crowns, Geralt was pleased with himself. Esina cooed over his work and told him that he was a good student as she placed his crown atop his head. Geralt thanked her profusely, then headed away from the tables, back toward where he and Jaskier had been sitting. 

After his success with the flower crowns, Geralt was emboldened, and strolled right into the performers’ space with a smug smile. He ignored the shocked whispers and looked around for Jaskier. He found the bard sitting on the edge of the stage, singing to a group of fascinated onlookers. Gods, Jaskier looked… stunning? No, that wasn’t quite right. Ethereal? Maybe a bit too much. 

Enchanting. Jaskier looked enchanting, sitting cross-legged on the stage with a bright smile on his face as he sang. He was perfectly in his element, face flushed, graceful fingers dancing over his lute. Geralt knew he’d remember the image in front of him forever.

“Geralt!” Jaskier shouted, breaking off in the middle of a line about being freed from clay. 

Geralt quickly hid the second flower crown behind his back. He approached the stage and stood in front of Jaskier, who uncrossed his legs and wrapped them loosely around Geralt’s hips. 

“Hi,” Jaskier said. He dismissed his audience with a wave of his hand, and in a moment they were alone.

“Hi yourself,” Geralt replied. He pressed a chaste kiss to Jaskier’s cheek. “I have something for you.”

Jaskier gave him a questioning look. Geralt revealed the flower crown, trying not to crush any more petals than he already had.

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier said, carefully taking the crown from him. “It’s beautiful. Thank you, love.”

“I made it,” Geralt said proudly. He pointed at his head. “This one, too.”

Jaskier placed his crown on his head with a fond smile. “Well, you did a lovely job,” he said. “Why don’t you come closer and let me thank you properly?” 

Geralt grinned and stepped closer. He cupped Jaskier’s face in his hands and kissed him sweetly. Gods, he would never tire of kissing Jaskier. He’d heard songs that said kissing someone you loved was like coming home, but Geralt didn’t agree with that. Kissing Jaskier felt like falling, but Geralt knew he’d never hit the ground.

When Geralt tried to pull away, Jaskier stubbornly wrapped his arms around him and pouted. “What if I’m not done with you yet?” he asked.

“They’ll be lighting the bonfire in the square soon,” Geralt said, tugging Jaskier’s ear lightly. “I know you don’t want to miss that.”

Jaskier sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” He handed Geralt his lute, then hopped down from the stage. After placing the lute in its case, Jaskier slid the strap over his shoulder and took Geralt’s hand. “Shall we?”



They headed for the center of the square, which had already amassed an enormous crowd. From his place next to the stack of logs, Obrec spotted Geralt and urgently waved him over. Geralt carefully led Jaskier through the tightly-packed square.

Obrec greeted him with a clap on the back. “Geralt,” he said, “I’ve a proposition for you.” Without waiting for a response, he continued: “Since Jaskier will be a part of Movadra’s Midaëte celebration, I thought that, perhaps, you’d like to be included, as well.”

Geralt immediately felt itchy and too warm. “Er, well…”

Jaskier spoke up: “What would he have to do?”

“Well,” Obrec said, “he was so helpful with the fires yesterday, and lighting this particular bonfire is quite the honor. Unfortunately, the young man who’d been selected to light the fire this year, Hinrich, is nowhere to be found. He’s likely drunk himself into a stupor.” Obrec eyed Geralt nervously. “Geralt, would you light this year’s Midaëte bonfire?”

Jaskier gasped dramatically and squeezed his hand. Geralt was busy calculating the distance from the square to the stables, and how quickly he could saddle Roach and have her ready to flee Movadra. He looked at Jaskier helplessly. As soon as he saw the eagerness and pride in Jaskier’s eyes, however, Geralt knew his answer.

“Thank you, Obrec,” he said. “I’d be honored.”

“Wonderful!” The alderman placed a hand on Geralt’s shoulder. “And thank you, Geralt. I promise that I won’t make some elaborate speech. I’ll introduce you, say a blessing, gesture toward the fire, and you can light it with…?”

“Igni,” Geralt said. “Sounds simple enough. Could, er…” He glanced at Jaskier, who was practically vibrating with excitement. “Could Jaskier stand with me?”

“Of course. It’ll be a nice segue into the performances, which will begin right after the fire is lit.” Obrec clapped his hands. “Right, so you’ll stand here…”

Obrec maneuvered them into position, between himself and the tall stack of logs. Then he stood behind a makeshift podium and whistled loudly. The crowd went silent.

“Thank you all for participating in Movadra’s Midaëte celebration,” Obrec began. “I am the alderman of Movadra, Obrec Kosses. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the first day of the festival. Dusk is nearing, so it’s time to light the town’s bonfire. The fire will burn for three days - afterwards, the ashes will be spread over the threshold of each home in Movadra. Lighting this year’s fire is the White Wolf, Geralt of Rivia. He is accompanied by his partner, the bard Jaskier. Now, please bow your heads as I offer the customary blessing.”

Obrec paused for a moment. Then he shouted, “We welcome you, O Sun, and ask that you bless us this day, as we celebrate your power! May we bask in your abundant light! Let your rays of warmth shine upon us, and allow our crops to bloom with life! Praise be to you, O Sun!”

“Praise be to you, O Sun!” the crowd echoed.

Obrec turned then, nodding at Geralt as he made a sweeping gesture toward him. Geralt took a deep breath. He felt Jaskier squeeze his hand and smiled. Then he raised his free hand and cast Igni. There was a collective gasp as flames leapt from Geralt’s palm, and the fire roared to life, quickly engulfing the wood and sending embers skyward. The crowd erupted into a ferocious clamor of cheers and whistles.

Geralt turned to face the square, and saw Tilli waving at him from the front row. Grinning, he waved back. He remembered his conversation with the young girl, how he’d told her about his future husband without hesitation. Geralt looked at Jaskier, then. When he saw those bright blue eyes shining with delight and the beaming smile on his face, Geralt made a decision. He shifted so that the crowd was to his right, and tugged Jaskier until their chests were pressed together. With one hand at the small of Jaskier’s back and the other on his hip, Geralt eased him backwards. Before Geralt could lean in, Jaskier surged upward and kissed him, one arm dramatically thrown over his head. 

The din of the crowd grew impossibly louder. Geralt finally pulled away, and Jaskier’s expression nearly made his heart stop. It was one of pure, unabashed love, the kind that children read about in fairytales. The plan that Geralt had been so carefully formulating for that night suddenly became irrelevant: He knew he’d never have another chance so perfect.

He put his lips against Jaskier’s ear and whispered, “I love you.”

Jaskier’s breath hitched, and his grip around Geralt’s upper arm tightened. Geralt sensed his pulse quicken even as Jaskier beamed at him, as confident as ever.

“I love you, too, Geralt,” Jaskier said, and kissed him again. 

Trying to be heard over the crowd’s cheers, Obrec shouted, “Tonight’s musical performances will begin shortly. Please make your way to the stage behind you. Enjoy your evening!” As the audience shuffled toward the performers’ area, Obrec coughed awkwardly. “Er, gentlemen?”

Geralt reluctantly released Jaskier, who clung to him stubbornly. “Apologies, Obrec,” Geralt said, trying not to blush.

Obrec made a dismissive gesture. “No worries, Geralt, no worries. But Jaskier should—” 

A tiny blur rushed past Geralt and Jaskier and latched onto Obrec’s legs. “Papa!” 

“Hello, Tilli,” Obrec said fondly, patting the girl’s hair. “You remember Geralt?”

“Yeah!” Tilli pointed at Jaskier. “And that man’s gonna be his husband!”

Geralt laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. Meanwhile, Jaskier crouched down to be face-to-face with the girl. “Hi, Tilli,” he said. “I’m Jaskier.”

Tilli thought for a moment. Then her face lit up. “Oh! I like your songs, Mr. Jaskier! Are you gonna sing tonight?”

“Yes, I am.”

Tilli clapped her hands in delight. “I’ll be there with Fa and Papa. Will Mr. Geralt be there, too?”

“I will,” Geralt answered.

Tilli beamed at him. Then she seemed to remember something. “Oh, Mr. Jaskier!” she said. “Mr. Geralt said that I could be in your wedding!”

“He did, did he?” Jaskier glanced at Geralt, who pointedly examined a button on his vest. “Well, we’ll be sure to invite you when the time comes.”

“Papa said that you could have it here in town!”

Both Jaskier and Geralt looked at Obrec, who smiled sheepishly and said, “She must have overheard a conversation with my husband. My apologies. Jaskier, they’re probably waiting for you in the performers’ area.”

“Right.” Jaskier stood up. “It was very nice meeting you, Tilli.”

“You, too, Mr. Jaskier!” Tilli waved as Obrec gently led her away. “See you soon!”

Jaskier wrapped an arm around Geralt’s waist. “You were right,” he said. “She’s cute.” 

“Yeah.” Geralt kissed the top of his head. “You should go join the rest of the performers. They’re probably going mad waiting for you.”

Jaskier sighed. “You’re right. Walk me there?”

“Of course.”

When Jaskier had been safely delivered, Geralt wandered into the audience. Obrec and his husband, Fervand, waved him over to their spot directly in front of the stage. Tilli tugged on his hand excitedly and told him that his flower crown was pretty, then babbled until Obrec shushed her.

The first performer, a man wearing a ridiculous hat, played several well-known, cheerful tunes, perfect for getting the crowd excited and engaged. The second performer was a woman who couldn’t have been more than eighteen, possibly a student at Oxenfurt. She played her songs on the fiddle, and danced around the stage in her ruffled blouse and matching trousers. The audience clapped their hands in time to the music, much to Tilli’s delight. When her performance ended, the musician bowed deeply, clicked her heels, and hopped off the stage.

Geralt was suddenly nervous. He was the subject of nearly all of Jaskier’s songs, so he knew the audience’s attention would be divided between himself and Jaskier. He considered slipping away and watching Jaskier’s performance from somewhere more private, but then Jaskier stepped onto the stage. The crowd greeted him with cheers and clapping. Jaskier grinned, then strummed the first chord of Toss a Coin on his lute. His voice didn’t tremble, and his fingers didn’t falter. He played beautifully, and soon the audience was singing along to the familiar lyrics. Tilli tugged Geralt’s sleeve and smiled up at him as she sang the words, and Geralt smiled back.

From the stage, Jaskier met Geralt’s eyes, then gestured toward him. The crowd stopped singing and cheered. Geralt definitely blushed.

Jaskier played a few of his other popular songs. After that, he addressed the crowd, saying, “My final song tonight is one I’ve been working on for a long time. While it’s not as lively as my others, it’s very dear to my heart. I hope you enjoy it.” Jaskier cleared his throat, strummed his lute a few times to check that it was still in tune, and began to sing:

My dear, I wonder / Though it is fright’ning

As to that eve / Like ‘twas yesterday

Why were you searching? / What had you hidden

Afore your hands freed me / From the clay?

The crowd was absolutely silent, mesmerized by the soft, slow song. Geralt found himself quietly humming along, having become familiar with the tune as Jaskier composed it. 

I dare not ask, dear, from whence you came

I dare not ask, and neither should you

Oh, love, please put your sweet lips on my lips

And let us kiss like real people do

Jaskier looked at Geralt when he sang the last line, and Geralt felt a pang in his heart. Jaskier loved him: He loved him, and he’d written a song about it, and he was singing that song in front of hundreds of people. 

I saw your eyes, love / Ceaselessly seeking

‘Twas in another / That sought in the past

And I dare not ask your / Reason for sneaking

Sadly, my darling, I know at last

Tears formed at the corners of Geralt’s eyes. He didn’t even know why - Jaskier loved him, the song was beautiful, and Geralt had been happier during their stay in Movadra than he had been in years. What was there to be sad about? He noticed that Jaskier was misty-eyed, too, despite the smile on his face as he sang.

I dare not ask you from whence you came

I dare not ask, and neither would you

Oh, love, please put your sweet lips on my lips

And let us kiss like real people do

Geralt had already deviated from his original plan, and he didn’t regret it. What he did regret was that he’d told Jaskier how he felt, but he hadn’t been able to show him. Geralt came up with a new plan: after Jaskier’s performance, he’d sneak the bard away from the adoring crowd and find someplace more… private. Geralt knew with his entire being that he was finally ready.

I dared not ask you from whence you came

I dared not ask, and neither could you

Oh, love, please put your sweet lips on my lips

And let us kiss like real people do

The raw emotion in Jaskier’s voice as he sang the last lines made Geralt’s tears spill over. He quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand, but Obrec had seen. The alderman put a hand on Geralt’s shoulder and squeezed lightly. Geralt gave him a small, grateful smile. Then he slipped away, to the back of the stage, to meet Jaskier.

Jaskier was waiting for him, red-faced and panting, fingers trembling with post-performance adrenaline. He immediately swept Geralt into his arms with a delighted laugh and pressed soft kisses all over his face. At first, Geralt pretended to swat him away, but then he just sighed and let Jaskier do as he pleased.

“You did so well,” Geralt murmured. “The last song was...”

“The last song was…?” Jaskier asked, looking at him curiously.

“Your best work yet,” Geralt said. He kissed Jaskier’s forehead and pulled him closer. “I mean it, Jaskier. You outdid yourself.”

Jaskier made a happy sound. “Thank you, Geralt.”

They held each other for a while, ignoring the various performers passing them on their way to and from the stage. Geralt was suddenly nervous about his new plan and had begun second-guessing himself. He just needed a moment to convince himself that it would all work out, that he really was ready.

Geralt thought of their morning, spent on the warm rooftop of Movadra’s brothel. He remembered seeing a lake nearby, and grinned to himself.

“Hey,” he said softly, “get your things and let’s go.” 

Jaskier raised an eyebrow, but didn’t protest. He fetched his satchel and his lute case, then took Geralt’s hand and nodded. Geralt started leading him away from the stage.

“I hope this is as good as your last surprise,” Jaskier teased, falling in step beside him.

Geralt found a well-worn path that led toward the lake. Surprisingly, they didn’t come across anyone else on the way there, except for a drunken couple stumbling back toward town. Despite their mutual inebriation, both women gave Geralt and Jaskier knowing looks, then laughed uproariously as they passed. Geralt increased his pace, until he and Jaskier were practically running down the path.

They finally reached the lake, and Geralt stopped in his tracks. He’d traveled the Continent for nearly a century, and somehow he’d never happened upon a place so pristinely beautiful. The lake shimmered in the light of the honey moon as waves lapped gently against the shore. A heron perched on one leg at the other side of the lake. Fireflies danced over the water, and in the reeds hid crickets and peepers.

“I haven’t been here in years,” Jaskier said softly. “How did you know about Belme Lake?”

“Saw it from the roof this morning,” Geralt replied. “I thought it’d be nice to… sit here for a bit. Just the two of us.”

Jaskier beamed at him. “You thought right.” He hummed quietly, then said, “I think, though, that I have an even better idea.”

“Yeah?”

Wordlessly, Jaskier began unlacing his doublet. Geralt stared at him in shock: How had Jaskier known his plan?

“Oh, Geralt,” Jaskier said with a laugh, “we’re just going swimming. Get out of those clothes and please keep them away from the water.”

While Geralt fumbled nervously with the buttons of his vest, Jaskier stripped with practiced ease, then sprinted to the lakeshore and dove into the dark water. Geralt finally kicked off his trousers and struggled out of his smallclothes, then walked to the shore. Jaskier still hadn’t surfaced. Geralt knelt beside the water and tried to sense Jaskier below the surface. A moment later, two hands grabbed his wrists and yanked him into the lake. Geralt yelped in surprise as he fell and got a mouthful of water, which he spat into Jaskier’s grinning face.

“Got you!” Jaskier crowed. “You’re it!” He dove under again and swam away from Geralt with surprising speed.

Geralt growled, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “Little shit,” he grumbled, swimming after Jaskier. “Get back here, bard!”

“Catch me if you can, witcher,” Jaskier called. When Geralt came within reach, Jaskier dove again. Before Geralt could react, Jaskier had surfaced behind him and managed to dunk his head beneath the water. While Geralt spluttered and coughed, Jaskier floated on his back nearby, laughing.

The two spent a good half hour chasing each other around the lake. Jaskier dunked Geralt three more times, and twice Geralt used his strength to pick Jaskier up and gently toss him a few feet. By the time they climbed out of the water, Geralt’s braids had come undone, and his hair hung in loose waves around his flushed face.

They lay down in the grass, facing each other. Their damp skin gleamed in the moonlight, and water dripped from their noses. The ground was still warm from the heat of the day. The fireflies danced through the air overhead, and the peepers sang sweetly from the safety of the reeds.

Everything was perfect.

“Jaskier,” Geralt said softly.

Jaskier smiled. “Yes, love?”

“I…” Geralt hesitated. His ears grew hot, and he looked away.

“Geralt? What’s the matter?”

A gentle hand on his cheek made him look back. Geralt recalled how confident he’d felt asking for what he wanted in the bath, and the morning after. But this somehow felt so much bigger. This was more significant than what had already happened between them, and Geralt was suddenly terrified. “I… I want to tell you something.”

“I’m all ears,” Jaskier said. His voice was so soothing, soft and happy.

Geralt swallowed the lump in his throat. Potential anguish be damned: Geralt wanted Jaskier more than anything, had since their first kiss. Now, he knew, was the perfect time to say it, and Geralt drew on his request from the previous evening: “I want you to touch me,” he said, somewhat shakily.

Jaskier looked confused. “Touch you?”

“Yes,” Geralt said. He took Jaskier’s hand and placed it at the center of his chest. “Please, touch me.”

“Oh.” The word was little more than a whisper. Seemingly awestruck, Jaskier used a finger to trace the lines of Geralt’s chest. He hesitated for a moment before moving his hand upward, carefully curling it around the back of Geralt’s neck. “Can I kiss you?” Jaskier asked.

“Please,” Geralt said, his voice stronger now.

Jaskier pulled Geralt toward him. Their lips met softly, reminding Geralt of their first kiss. Then Jaskier’s hand moved downward, smoothing over the planes of Geralt’s stomach. Geralt sighed and moved his body closer. The hand on Geralt’s neck tightened, and the kiss deepened then. When Jaskier nipped Geralt’s bottom lip, Geralt didn’t try to stifle his moan. It wasn’t necessary anymore; he wanted everyone to know how he felt about Jaskier. Hell, he could’ve shouted it from the rooftops of Movadra, if his mouth hadn’t already been occupied.

Jaskier pulled away, and Geralt whined in protest. “Are you sure, Geralt?” he asked carefully.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything,” Geralt replied. “I want you…”

“You want me… and?”

“That’s it.” Geralt kissed him gently. “I want you.”

Jaskier laughed. “Geralt of Rivia,” he said, “I do believe that was the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said.”

Geralt grinned. “But?”

“But, dammit, come over here and let me kiss you.”

Before Geralt could even move, Jaskier’s mouth was on his, hungry and wanting. Geralt gasped. He wrapped his arms around Jaskier and pulled him close, moaning at the feeling of Jaskier’s skin against his. Jaskier hooked his ankle around Geralt’s legs and rolled, ending up on top of Geralt. Geralt felt Jaskier’s cock brush against his stomach and couldn’t help the way his hips bucked.

“Fuck,” Geralt breathed. “Oh, fuck, Jaskier—”

“Come on, darling,” Jaskier murmured. He kissed along Geralt’s jaw as his hand slid down the other’s side. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

Geralt whined and threw his head back when Jaskier gripped his hip. His head was spinning.

“Mm, I’ll just figure it out myself for the time being,” Jaskier teased, his voice low. He palmed Geralt’s cock, and Geralt surprised the both of them when he yelped. Jaskier grinned. “Guess I’m headed in the right direction, then.”

“Don’t stop,” Geralt pleaded. “Please, Jaskier.”

“I won’t stop, love, unless you tell me to.” Jaskier stroked Geralt languidly, humming as Geralt made sounds that would’ve mortified him in any other situation. “Is this good?”

Geralt’s hips bucked upward. “More,” he said.

“You’re going to have to be specific,” Jaskier replied. He twisted his hand quickly, thumbing the slit of Geralt’s cock. “This?” His other hand moved down, and Geralt felt a light pressure against his hole. “Or this?”

“Yes,” Geralt said simply. He moved his hips down, pressing himself closer to Jaskier’s finger.

Jaskier’s pupils had blown wide. “Greedy thing, aren’t you?” He shifted off of Geralt to lay on his belly between Geralt’s legs. “Up,” he said, pushing at one of Geralt’s thighs from underneath. His other hand never left Geralt’s cock. Jaskier let Geralt’s calves rest against his back. “Remember, Geralt,” he said, “I want to hear you. Every sound.”

Geralt nodded quickly. Jaskier gave him a salacious grin, and lowered his head. Geralt felt a warm wetness at his hole and nearly choked. No one had ever done this to him, and despite how good it felt already, he was suddenly nervous. He reached blindly for Jaskier’s free hand and grasped it tightly. Jaskier was everywhere: his hands, his mouth, his scent. Geralt’s cries of pleasure drowned out the peepers and the lewd sound of Jaskier’s tongue. Instinctively, he covered his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Hey,” Jaskier murmured, “what did I say?”

“Mmn,” Geralt replied.

“That’s it, love,” Jaskier coaxed. “Be good for me, now.”

Geralt moaned, arching into Jaskier’s touch. He moved his hand from his mouth and let his fingers clutch at the grass beside him. 

“There we go.” Jaskier kissed the inside of Geralt’s thigh. “Good boy.” Then his tongue was inside of Geralt.

Geralt’s cry of pleasure roused a flock of birds from a nearby tree and startled a herd of deer. “ Fuck, ” he panted. “Jaskier, I— ah, I need you, please—”

Jaskier pulled away long enough to say, “Soon.” When he was finally satisfied with his work, Geralt was a sweaty, heaving mess.

“Jas-Jaskier…”

“Right here,” Jaskier answered.

Geralt felt that same pressure against his hole; then Jaskier gently worked a finger inside. Geralt tried his best to relax and breathe, but Jaskier’s other hand was still working his cock, slower now, and it was difficult to focus on anything other than that and the sensation of being stretched open. Jaskier pushed inside again, with two fingers this time, and Geralt clutched at the grass so tightly that he tore up a clump of earth.

“Gods, Geralt,” Jaskier moaned. “Look at you...”

Geralt pushed his hips down. “More,” he said. His voice trembled, but he didn’t have the presence of mind to be embarrassed.

“But—”

“Jaskier, please,” he begged. He cut himself off with a cry as Jaskier’s fingers brushed against something inside him. “I can’t, ah, hold on much longer.”

Fuck, ” Jaskier gasped. “Alright, hold on. Oh, where’s my—” He scrambled toward where he’d tossed his satchel and dug through it frantically. When he found it, Jaskier raised the small bottle of oil triumphantly. “A-ha!”

Geralt whimpered and squirmed. “Jaskier…”

“Right, yes,” Jaskier said, hurrying back with the oil. He knelt between Geralt’s legs and poured some of the oil into his hand. Working it over his cock, Jaskier pressed the head to Geralt’s entrance. Then he suddenly, softly, asked, “Are you sure?”

“Jaskier—”

“I need to know, Geralt.” Jaskier’s voice had turned soft. “I need to know you want this as much as I do.”

Geralt found the strength to raise his arm, and cupped Jaskier’s face in his hand. He pulled the other down until their foreheads were pressed together. “I want this,” Geralt said. “I want you more than anything.”

Jaskier sighed, then kissed Geralt as he entered him. Geralt’s fingers scrabbled for purchase in Jaskier’s hair as he moaned against the other’s shoulder. 

“That’s it, my love,” Jaskier whispered. “I’ve got you.”

“Fuck, Jaskier,” Geralt whined. “You feel so good—”

Jaskier grinned down at him. “I can make it better, if you say please.”

Geralt gasped as his cock twitched between them. “Please,” he said, “please, Jaskier.”

Jaskier made a sound like he’d been punched in the gut. “Oh, gods, Geralt,” he groaned. “You’re going to kill me. Shift your hips up—” Geralt interrupted him with a wavering cry. “That’s it.” Jaskier tried to move slowly, but Geralt, though appreciative of this caution, couldn’t wait anymore. He thrust his hips down, keening at the sensation of finally, finally having Jaskier inside him.

Jaskier moaned a string of curses. Then his face softened, and he reached out to brush damp hair from Geralt’s face. “Ready?” he asked.

“Been ready,” Geralt panted. 

Jaskier laughed. He rocked into Geralt, making him cry out. “My noisy brat,” Jaskier murmured. “I’d love to fuck the attitude right out of you.”

“Do— ah, do it, then,” Geralt challenged.

“Later.” Jaskier slid his hand up Geralt’s stomach to his chest, pressing it against Geralt’s sternum, over his heart. “Want to make this last.” 

After months of waiting, Geralt had assumed Jaskier would fuck him senseless - he wouldn’t have protested. But while the pace that Jaskier set wasn’t exactly gentle, it lacked the ferocity Geralt had expected. Through half-lidded eyes, Geralt watched Jaskier’s movements, observed his many expressions of bliss. Once or twice, he tried to speed things up, but Jaskier gripped his hips so tightly that Geralt hoped against hope that he’d bruise. 

Heat coiled tightly in his abdomen as Jaskier brushed against that spot inside him, over and over, until Geralt was nearly sobbing with pleasure. He moaned and babbled nonsense until he could only manage to whisper Jaskier’s name.

Breathing hard, Jaskier managed to say, “Geralt, Geralt, I’m—” before he came, hips stuttering and nails digging hard into Geralt’s thighs. Geralt didn’t manage to warn Jaskier before he came, too, that coil of heat finally giving way. His back arched off the ground, and a hoarse wail ripped its way from his throat. Pinpoints of light danced across the backs of Geralt’s eyelids as his body writhed.

Distantly, he heard Jaskier’s voice, felt hands prodding at his face. He opened his eyes to two very concerned Jaskiers looking down at him. Geralt blinked, and the two Jaskiers merged into one. “Shit,” he said dazedly. 

“Gods, Geralt,” Jaskier half-yelled, “I thought you’d blacked out!”

Geralt tried to lift himself up on his elbows, but found that he couldn’t remember how to work his arms. “I… might have, for a second.”

Jaskier’s eyes widened, but then narrowed as he smirked. “That good, huh?”

Geralt smirked right back. “Better than I expected you’d be.”

Jaskier clutched at his chest. “Geralt, really, I just fucked you unconscious and this is how you treat me?” He grinned then, pointing at Geralt’s face. “Might want to clean yourself up, by the way.”

Geralt ran his thumb over his chin. It came away wet with— oh. He nonchalantly swiped his tongue over his thumb, making sure that Jaskier was watching.

Jaskier made a strangled sound. “You really are going to kill me,” he said. He collapsed into the grass, arms spread out beside him. “C’mere,” he murmured.

Geralt snuggled up beside him and laid his head on Jaskier’s chest. He could feel the other’s heartbeat, still pounding like he’d just run ten miles. Geralt laughed softly, then blushed as he felt wetness dripping down his thigh. His cock twitched weakly.

Jaskier groaned. “I’d love to go another round,” he said, “really, I would, but I need at least a day to recover from this one.”

“Not many people can keep up with me,” Geralt teased.

“Not many people are as loud as you are, either,” Jaskier countered. His tone turned soft. “I’d give everything I have to write a song half as beautiful as the way you sound.”

Geralt hid his face as his ears burned. “Shut up,” he muttered as Jaskier laughed.

“It’s true, love.” Jaskier ran his fingers through Geralt’s mussed hair. “My ears will be ringing pleasantly for days.”

They both fell silent, listening to the sounds of the woodland life around them. The peepers had begun their song again, and the soft steadiness of the waves on the lake had lulled Geralt into a half-meditative state. An owl hooted nearby and startled Jaskier, who cursed quietly.

Geralt laughed and shifted closer. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll protect you.”

“You don’t even have your swords.” Jaskier hesitated. “Are you… sure there’s nothing there?”

Geralt focused on their surroundings. He sensed a few hares, a fox, and two deer in the vicinity, but nothing that posed a threat. “We’re safe,” Geralt murmured, pressing a kiss against Jaskier’s sternum.

Jaskier sighed in relief. Then he said, “Er, about earlier…”

“Mm?”

“After you lit the bonfire?”

Geralt froze. “What about it?” he asked slowly, trying to focus on breathing.

“Did you… did you mean it?”

“Of course I meant it, Jaskier.” Geralt propped himself up on his elbow and met Jaskier’s worried gaze. “I wanted to wait to tell you, until— Well, until now. But that moment was just… I knew I wouldn’t get another chance like that. It was perfect. It felt like exactly the right time.” Geralt realized that he was babbling, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. “I love you, Jaskier. I love you more than anything, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say it. I— I haven’t ever felt this way about anyone, and it took a long time for me to realize that’s what this feeling is. And I was… I was scared to…” Geralt made a frustrated sound and ran a hand over his hair, trying to find the right words. He spoke quickly: “I was scared to have sex with you because there would be so much more to lose if things went wrong between us. I didn’t know if I could handle that, because you mean so much to me, and to form this connection with you and then lose it would just… It would break me.” Geralt took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “That’s why it took so long. I’m sorry.”

Jaskier didn’t speak for a long time, and Geralt knew he was just trying to process everything he’d just said. Geralt realized for the first time just how heavy a burden he’d been carrying - the tension had left his body and his mind was clearer than it had been in weeks. For the first time, Geralt felt the full force of his love for Jaskier, and it nearly knocked the breath from his lungs. 

Jaskier took a shaky breath, then said, “I love you, too. It feels so good to say it.” He laughed softly. “I don’t think I want to ever stop saying it. Come here.”

Geralt leaned closer. Jaskier tucked a lock of hair behind Geralt’s ear and cupped his face in one hand. Geralt leaned into the touch with a pleased sound. 

“Geralt of Rivia,” Jaskier said, “I love you with all my heart, and I’m going to make sure that you never forget it.”

Blinking back tears, Geralt buried his face against the other’s neck. “I love you,” he whispered. The words were sweet on his tongue, so he said them again.

“I love you, too.” Jaskier turned his head to press a kiss against Geralt’s forehead. “Wholly and completely. And, uh…”

“What is it?” Geralt asked curiously.

“I think I may be ready for another round.”

Geralt snorted. “How romantic,” he teased. He shifted until he was straddling Jaskier’s hips, then grinned down at him. “Don’t knock me out this time, yeah?”

Jaskier’s eyes reflected the honey moon above them. “No promises,” he said, pulling Geralt down for a kiss.

THREE DAYS LATER

Geralt surveyed the room, ensuring that he hadn’t forgotten anything. His Midaëte clothes were carefully tucked away in Jaskier’s satchel, for fear that a potion vial would burst and ruin them. Jaskier was downstairs, gathering provisions from the innkeep for their journey to Novigrad. Geralt looked toward the tub, then at the bed, and felt his ears grow hot. 

He heard soft footsteps on the steps. Then, from behind him, Jaskier asked, “Ready, love?”

Geralt hummed in agreement. He slung his bag over his shoulder, and handed Jaskier his satchel and lute case. Taking Jaskier’s hand, Geralt nodded, and they left the room. 

They found the stableboy feeding Roach a carrot and cooing over her. Geralt smiled and tipped the boy five crowns, then asked him to fetch the item they’d discussed earlier from the back of the stable.

Jaskier looked at him in confusion. “Geralt, what are you up to?” 

“You kept your word,” Geralt said, grinning, “so I figured it was time.”

“Time for—?” Jaskier gasped. “Oh, Geralt, you didn’t!”

The stableboy returned, leading a bay roan mare toward them. Geralt nodded at the boy, who quickly made himself scarce. Then he turned toward Jaskier and asked, “Do you like her?”

“She’s beautiful.” Jaskier approached the mare and reached a wary hand toward her. The horse snuffled at his fingers, then bumped her nose against his hand. Jaskier smiled brightly, then frowned. “But I don’t have a saddle.”

“You do.” Geralt reached into an empty stall, where he’d concealed the second part of Jaskier’s surprise. “Courtesy of Movadra’s saddler and armorer, you have everything you need.”

Jaskier’s jaw had dropped. He quickly closed his mouth and cleared his throat. “Well, then. Let's see if I remember how to saddle a horse.”

It turned out that Jaskier remembered quite well, and soon his mare was ready. Geralt looked on proudly as Jaskier adjusted the girth one final time. “What will you name her?” Geralt asked, petting the mare’s neck. He heard Roach snort in annoyance and flinched sheepishly.

“Suppose I can’t name her Roach,” Jaskier teased. Geralt flicked his ear, and Jaskier laughed. He absently ran his fingers through the horse’s mane as he thought. “Hm… what about Belme?”

“After the lake?”

“Yes. As a reminder of where she came from, and of our time here.”

Geralt smiled and pressed a kiss to Jaskier’s cheek. “Belme it is,” he murmured. “We should get going. It’s already late.”

“May I remind you who kept me up all night?” Jaskier landed a light smack on Geralt’s arse. “And who woke me up early this morning? It’ll be a feat if I don’t fall asleep in the saddle.”

Geralt blushed and busied himself with checking Roach’s tack. Jaskier sidled up behind him, pressing the length of his body against Geralt’s back and wrapping an arm around his hips. Geralt shivered as Jaskier brushed his hair aside and kissed the nape of his neck, the site of an already-faded bruise from that morning.

“Jaskier,” he gasped.

“When we get to Novigrad,” Jaskier said softly, his lips brushing the shell of Geralt’s ear, “I’m going to drag you to the nearest inn and thank you properly for this incredibly thoughtful gift. How does that sound?”

Geralt just whined.

“Yes, love?” Jaskier murmured.

“Sounds… sounds nice,” Geralt managed to say.

Jaskier kissed his cheek. “Good boy. Now, it really is late. Let’s be on our way, yes?”

They led their mares from the stable into the square. A team of people were working to take down the colorful wreaths and lanterns that had adorned the town’s streets and buildings. The bonfire had been reduced to a pile of glowing embers. Obrec stood nearby, shouting orders to a group around the bronze statue. 

Geralt smiled. He would miss Movadra. In Novigrad, he wouldn’t be able to hold Jaskier’s hand, or kiss his cheek. People would look down on him, spit at him and insult him to his face. Inns would be expensive, contracts wouldn’t pay as well, and it would be crowded and dirty.

“I want to stay, too,” Jaskier said from beside him. “But you’re a witcher, and I’m a bard, so we have to go where the work is.”

“Hm.”

“We’ll be together.” Jaskier took his hand. “And we won’t be in Novigrad forever. Maybe someday…”

“Maybe someday… what?”

“Maybe we’ll have a little cottage somewhere,” Jaskier said thoughtfully. “Hidden away in the woods, with fruit trees and a garden. We could… be ourselves, there.” He looked at Geralt. “What do you think?”

Geralt’s heart swelled with love. He squeezed Jaskier’s hand and answered, “I think I’d like that.”

FIN.