To say it’s cold is really an understatement, Jaskier thinks, seeing as they’re heading up the mountain to Kaer Morhen and he’s currently layered in not only his own cloak, but Geralt’s as well.
Jaskier had insisted that he was fine, surely it was selfish for him to have both cloaks and to leave his Witcher to freeze in his pitifully thin armor, but he shivers even dressed as he is, and is thankful for Geralt’s persistence. He hasn’t said anything in a while, his teeth are chattering too much for that, and he’s tempted to make a snide remark about the Witcher enjoying the silence for once, but he can tell by the way that Geralt glances over at him every couple of minutes, that he isn’t enjoying it at all.
They didn’t have too much further to travel, and Jaskier could almost weep by the time that they reach the keep’s front gate, thought the feeling is quickly overtaken by that of anxiety, fear, and pure dread as he thinks about meeting Geralt’s family. It’s not that Jaskier isn’t excited, he probably spent the first half of the trip talking Geralt’s ear off about the curiosity thrumming through his veins, so he’s not worried about not liking the other Witchers. He’s worried about the other Witchers not liking him.
How long did it take for Geralt to tolerate him, let alone for them to confess their love for each other, and then settle comfortably into a romantic relationship?
So, not only is he coming to Kaer Morhen for the first time as a whiny human, but also as Geralt’s lover. It’s an especially frightening task.
Geralt can probably smell the anxiety rolling off him in waves, because he wraps an arm around the bard, pulling him close. “They’re gonna love you, Little Lark.” Geralt promises, kissing him gently, but Jaskier can hear the apprehension in his tone as well.
“Of course,” Jaskier cries, hoping to radiate an equally optimistic tone “How could anyone not?” He crows, trying to sound more confident then he feels.
Geralt huffs in faux annoyance, but the smile Jaskier gives him in return is genuine.
Their moment is interrupted, however, as a deep voice calls out Geralt’s name, and two other Witchers appear. Geralt steps away from the bard’s side long enough to pull each of his brothers into a strong, but short, hug before pulling away to do introductions.
“Eskel, Lambert, this is Jaskier. Jaskier, this is Eskel and Lambert,” he motions to each person in turn, and the air is still between the groups is tense.
“Hello,” Jaskier says as confidently as he can muster.
“You brought a human?” Lambert asks, in obvious disbelief. Jaskier feels his heart drop in his chest. “It’s not that I mind,” he quickly clarifies, Eskel nudging him hard in the ribs with his elbow. “It’s just...” he trails off, quickly changing tune now that the shock has worn off. “I can’t wait to see wait Vesemir says.”
Eskel rolls his eyes. “Excuse Lambert here, he’s the youngest one of us,” he explains “and an avid troublemaker.”
Jaskier nods his head and files away this information away for future reference. “As lovely as this is,” He presses himself into Geralt’s side, twisting frozen hands together, half out of nervousness, half from the cold. “It's rather chilly out here, wouldn’t you say?” He finishes his question with a nervous laugh, but Geralt’s golden eyes flicker over to him, filling with concern.
“Let’s get you inside, Lark.” Geralt says, attention suddenly all on the bard, forgetting everyone else in the room.
“Yes,” Lambert drawls mischievously “Let’s get you inside before you freeze, Lark.”
Geralt ignores the obvious jab at the overly soft pet name and focuses on nudging Jaskier along in front of him, getting him away from the cold as quickly as possible.
“Don’t think I’m going to let that pass without question,” Eskel says, once they’ve gotten securely inside, unloaded their belongings and settled comfortably in front of the blazing fire. Jaskier has his lute nestled faithfully in his lap, as the Witchers grew immediately curious about it when they had seen it tucked in with all their other things. He promised to play for them when he could feel his fingers again.
Geralt huffs but doesn’t negate answering, though he decides on a more physical approach than the wordy explanation his brother is requesting. He is a man of action after all. He slides his arms around the bard, who only sits a few feet away from him, closer to the fire, and drags him into his lap. Jaskier lets out a little noise in surprise but is quickly quieted as the Witcher presses their lips together.
They pull away when Eskel makes a noise of disgust and Lambert fake vomits, leaving Jaskier red-faced in embarrassment. Geralt just looks smug. “We’re dating.”
“Yeah, got that.” Eskel comments, unamused.
“Don’t do that!” Lambert cries dramatically, “So disgusting.” He wrinkles his nose.
Jaskier smiles, speaking up to break the tension. “You took that surprisingly well.” Jaskier feels hopeful for the first time since they started the trek up the mountain. “In that case, I believe I promised you all a song.”
“And if we didn’t?” Lambert asks, teasing.
“Didn’t what?” Jaskier questions, poised over his lute to play.
“If meeting us didn’t go well.”
“Oh,” Jaskier shrugs, “then I guess I’d just have to walk all the way back down this mountain myself.” They laugh, and Jaskier hushes them. “Quiet now, I’m playing.”
It was an offhand comment, obviously meant to be a joke, so no one took it seriously. Because why would they?
It’s a joke.
It was a joke.
They run into Vesemir just a few hours later, once darkness has taken over the windows of the keep and the only thing lighting the room is the flicker flames of the fire. Jaskier’s voice fills the air, notes from the lute drifting up to paint a cheery, but calm atmosphere. He’s refrained from playing any somber songs but has also strayed from any that are too energetic, trying to set the tone for a restful night's sleep. He wonders if he plays long enough, will he be so tired that he’ll fall right to sleep, instead of being kept up all night by his worrying.
The moment Vesemir steps into the room, however, the bit of relaxation that Jaskier has coaxed into the Witchers’ bones is immediately zapped away. He pauses his playing as the three Witchers tense the tiniest of bits - he can thank all his years with Geralt to be able to notice minute differences - and glances in the direction they turn to face.
“What’s this?” Vesemir asks, merely curious but Jaskier freezes, his anxiety sparking in his chest, feeling a little like a kid again, being caught doing something wrong. He slouches as if he can hide behind Geralt and avoid being noticed.
“Vesemir.” Geralt says, respect coloring his tone.
“How long have you been back?”
“Just a few hours.”
“And you did not think to tell me? Did not think I would want to see you after all these months?” He asks.
“We got distracted,” Lambert admits. “Geralt brought his bard.”
Vesemir’s gaze drifts around the group on the floor until it lands on Jaskier, who resists the urge to wither under the weight of the older wolf’s heavy stare. He, instead, gathers courage he doesn’t have and puts on a confident smile, years of practice from performing makes this task familiar and he speaks with surprising ease.
“Hello, I’m Jaskier.”
Vesemir continues to look at him, unimpressed. “Geralt, a word.” He says, not sparing the bard a second thought before heading out of the room. Geralt follows, but not before depositing a quick kiss to the top of Jaskier’s head. The three of them that remain on the floor watch Geralt go, before starting up a conversation once more.
The tense atmosphere does not leave the room.
Jaskier does not play his lute.
He does not sleep well that night.
It takes two weeks before Jaskier decides to take action.
Vesemir still is distant and cold towards him, obviously unpleased with his presence in the keep, despite the other Witcher’s positive reception. He keeps pulling Geralt to the side talk with him, and his Witcher often comes back from those conversations upset, though he has yet to tell Jaskier what they talk about.
Jaskier knows how tense the older Witcher gets any time they’re in the same room, can tell he gets on his nerves, comes off as a distraction to the others, a disruption to the norm. The bard doesn’t mean to do such things and certainly wouldn’t want to force Geralt to choose between him and his family, starts to wonder if agreeing to come a long was a good idea.
Well, he can’t change the past, but he can fix his current mistakes.
It’s time for him to take action.
The longer it takes for Geralt to find Jaskier, the more stressed he gets.
He knows Jaskier was nervous about meeting everyone and has been feeling insecure since Vesemir hasn’t quite warmed up to him yet. Geralt’s not too good with words, so he has yet to find a way to properly articulate that Vesemir is just not used to different. The older Witcher can be a stickler for the rules sometimes and it takes longer for him to adjust to new things than the rest of them. He’s going to love Jaskier by the time spring came, Geralt was sure of it.
But he hasn’t seen Jaskier since they finished eating lunch, and that was well over 3 hours ago. Usually, Jaskier is doing something to help with small chores, or at least watch them train, but sometimes he just stays in their room, composing.
So Geralt isn’t overly worried until he comes in their room and finds it completely empty. Jaskier’s lute lay on a small table next to the bed and Geralt doesn’t know whether that makes himself feel better or worse. He’s about to leave, to search around some more to see if Jaskier is just someplace new, or somewhere he missed when he sees it.
A slip of paper, obviously torn from the notebook Jaskier scribbles his ideas in, lays tucked gently under the lute’s strings. Geralt reaches out and takes it with shaking hands.
I’ve been thinking a lot and figured that I’d leave you Witchers in peace. It’s not that late into winter, so I’m heading towards the closest town to stay in for the next couple of months. I’ve left my lute here, as a promise that I’m coming back, and that I better see you in the spring.
Take care of yourself until then and enjoy your family,
Geralt thinks back to what his bard had said, all those weeks ago, on the night they arrived, about wandering down the mountain by himself.
But that was a joke.
It was supposed to be a joke...
Note clutched tightly in one hand, Geralt dashes through the keep, looking for his brothers. If he is going to go after his bard, someone needs to know where he’s going. He runs into Eskel first, who takes in his panicked face and sobers up immediately.
“What’s going on?”
Geralt hands the note over instead of responding, restless energy suddenly filling his body. “I have to go find him.” Geralt blurts out, and Eskel looks up at him.
“You are not going to do anything,” Eskel says calmly, and Geralt opens his mouth to protest, but Eskel keeps talking before he has a chance to say anything. “You know it’d be stupid to travel down this mountain by yourself. I’m coming with you.”
Geralt wants to protest this too, doesn’t want anyone else he cares for to put themselves in harm's way, but he doesn’t have the time to argue.
“Pack a bag.” Eskel orders, voice soft but allowing no argument. “I’ll go talk to Lambert, let him know where we are going. Meet me by the front gate in 15 minutes.”
Geralt dashes away, heading to their room and stuffing a bunch of blankets in his pack. He grabs his own cloak, and throws it over his shoulders, before rushing to meet Eskel. Eskel and Lambert are waiting by the front gate and take in his frantic behavior with worried glances.
“I’ll have a fire, hot and ready, for you when you get back,” Lambert promises. There’s a pause, and his tone drops to one that is more serious. “Be safe,” he cautions, “It’ll be dark soon. It’s not likely any one of you could survive the night out there.”
“We’ll be back before you know it,” Eskel promises, clapping his younger brother on the shoulder before following Geralt, who was already halfway out the gate.
“This is why I came along with you.” Eskel huffs, rolling his eyes, though a hint of concern slides into his tone. Geralt just grunts. “See? You’re not thinking correctly. You’re way too clouded with worry to focus. I bet you didn’t even pack your bag properly, that you don’t have food or water.”
“Thank you, Vesemir.” Geralt growls out, hating the Eskel is right. “Want to remind me any more ways I’m failing as a Witcher?”
Eskel sighs, short and sad. “We’re gonna find him, Geralt. We will.” He promises. Geralt doesn’t say anything, golden eyes scanning their environment.
The rest of the trip is silent.
They find Jaskier three hours down the mountain, curled into a little ball, leaning against the rocky face of the mountain. Geralt’s heart drops at the sight of his bard, covered in snow and unmoving. His hair is dusted with white flakes, ice gathering on his eyelashes, lips turning blue.
“Jaskier!” Geralt exclaims, and the two Witchers dart to his side, shaking him. Jaskier makes a noise of protest and Geralt could almost cry at the sound of it. “Jaskier,” he says again calmer, shaking him once more. “Look at me.”
The bard’s eyes flutter open, but the cornflower blue is tinted with an icy gray and Jaskier squints at him like he doesn’t know who they are. “Mmm, wha?” Jaskier shivers and makes a clumsy attempt to pull the cloak he’s wearing tighter around him but ultimately fails. He huffs, annoyed. “Just, just a little bit longer,” Jaskier explains to no one. “I’m just going to rest for another 5 minutes and then I’m going to…” he trails off, suddenly losing his train of thought. “And then… leave.”
Eskel pulls the bard to his feet, and Geralt catches him around the waist when Jaskier stumbles, having trouble supporting his own weight. Jaskier leans against Geralt, eyes shutting once more. Eskel pulls one of the blankets out of Geralt’s pack and hands it to the bard, who latches onto it, pulling it close. They don’t even bother trying to get Jaskier to walk, instead, Geralt scoops his bard up into his arms. This close, as Jaskier squirms to get closer to the Witcher’s body heat, Geralt can hear the bard’s faint pulse and shallow breathing. Within minutes, Jaskier is asleep again.
About an hour into their trek back up the mountain, as the sun sets low on the horizon, Jaskier stirs in his sleep. The bard squirms and squirms, so much so that Geralt has to set him down on his own two feet, trying to decipher what he wants. Before either of the Witchers can process what has happened, Jaskier has not only dropped the blanket into the snow but also shoved his cloak off his shoulders and onto the ground.
“What are you doing?” Geralt demands as he and Eskel hurry to scoop the items off the ground, in hopes they didn’t get too wet.
Jaskier sways on his feet, “Hot.” He whines.
Geralt takes a fresh blanket from his pack and wraps it around Jaskier. “It’s snowing.”
Jaskier fights to push it off again. Geralt huffs in annoyance and then Jaskier suddenly falls lax in his grip, fast asleep. Geralt jerks his head up to stare at his brother. “Did you just Axii him?”
Eskel nods. “We don’t have time to fight him. It’s dark enough as it is.”
Geralt isn’t too happy with it, but he can see his brother’s line of thinking and scoops his bard up into his arms again.
The next thing Jaskier notices is a soft mattress and warmth. He hums quietly but doesn’t make any effort to move or even open his eyes, instead, relaxing and attempting to fall asleep once again. He’s so exhausted, and he can’t even remember why.
“Hey there, Songbird, you with us?” He hears someone say and while he can’t recognize quite who is saying it, he hears a hidden urgency in their tone and figures something important is going on.
Jaskier forces his eyes open and groans at the midday sun, squeezing them shut again. He forces himself to sit up, hands helping him lean against the headboard, and carefully opens his eyes again, staring at his lap. He adjusts to the brightness in the room and rubs at his eyes when suddenly a shiver runs through him, and he grabs at the blanket pooling around his waist, tugging it higher.
A different blanket is settled around his shoulders, and Jaskier finally chances looking up again. He’s sitting on a bed, with Lambert and Vesemir hovering nearby, staring at him as if they’re waiting for something. At the sight of Vesemir, Jaskier tenses and quickly averts his gaze, opting to look at the blankets in his lap as he fiddles with them.
He tries to think what happened, where he was, and how he got himself into the situation he’s currently in.
“Jaskier?” It’s Lambert who speaks, and Jaskier is glad because that means he can ignore Vesemir for that much longer. “How are you feeling?”
Jaskier tilts his head at the question. “Uh, fine?” His response comes out more as a question, but it doesn’t seem to be what the Witcher was looking for. “I mean, I’m a little cold, of course, but other than that….” Jaskier babbles mindlessly, wondering what he could say to wipe the concern of the younger Witcher’s face.
“You scared us there for a second.”
Jaskier furrows his eyebrows in confusion and thinks. What happened? What did he- oh. It all comes back to him in a flash of cold, desperate, leave, cold, not welcome, cold, cold, cold!
He suddenly finds himself overwhelmed with an ocean of emotions. Not only did he think it would be better to abandon Geralt for the winter, he almost got himself killed in the process. Geralt must be worried sick. “Geralt,” Jaskier barely manages to choke out before he’s completely overwhelmed and begins crying. His breaths come in ragged sobs, but he can’t stop them. He suddenly feels like an absolute idiot and wonders how he’s going to survive the rest of the winter here. If Vesemir didn’t like him before, he must really hate him now.
“He’s gonna be so pissed.” Jaskier whimpers as tears stream down his face. “Fuck,” he manages, pulling the blankets tighter around him as if it’ll protect him. “I really fucked it up this time. Fuck.”
“Nah,” Lambert says, slipping easily back into his teasing mood now that he’s reassured the bard is ok. “He’ll just be upset that you woke up under my watch.” Despite his attempts, the snide remark draws a wet laugh from the bard, who looks up bashfully at the Witcher. Lambert smiles back. “Now, get rid of all that nasty fear. The last thing we need is for Geralt to see you awake for the first time in three days, smelling that awful.”
“Three days?” Jaskier yelps, despite himself. It earns him a huff from Vesemir, who Jaskier had forgotten about until now. He glances over and waits to be filled with that same dread and insecurity like he normally is but finds himself too tired and too worried about his Witcher to care.
“Be gentle with your teasing, Lambert.” Vesemir cautions. “Go fetch your brother. Geralt will be anxious to see him.” Lambert gets up to go find Geralt, leaving Jaskier alone in the room with Vesemir. “What you did was really stupid,” Vesemir says after a moment of silence. Jaskier looks over at him with a huff of laughter.
“Yeah, I think I figured that out.” He snarks, not in the mood for being lectured. He’ll get plenty of that from Geralt.
“I would never throw away one of our own with such disregard.”
“You didn’t. I did that by my own stupid choice. Besides, I’m hardly ‘one of your own.’” Jaskier chuckles bitterly.
“You decided to leave because you felt I did not accept you, or want you around,” Vesemir explains gently, and Jaskier is almost surprised that there is no condescension in his tone. “And of course, you are. You are Geralt’s mate, maybe not for long, but for now. So you are a part of the pack. One of our own.”
“But,” Jaskier stares up at the older Witcher, bewildered. “But you don’t like me. I’m human. I’ll die in a couple of decades and break everyone’s heart.” Jaskier protests.
Vesemir nods his head in agreement. “I may not agree with Geralt’s choices, but you make my son happy, and I can not argue with that.”
Jaskier stares stunned at Vesemir as he processes the other man’s words, but is interrupted before he has a chance to say anything.
“Jaskier!” Geralt calls, pulling the bard into his arms as he takes a seat on the side of the bed. Jaskier squeezes his Witcher as tightly as Geralt hugs him, rejoicing in the fact that he was okay. Geralt pulls away and presses a firm kiss to Jaskier’s lips. “We’re going to have a serious conversation later,” Geralt warns, settling himself on the bed next to his bard. “But for now, I’m going to take a couple of hours to revel in the fact that you’re alive, and catch you up on everything you’ve missed.”
As the other Witchers filter into the room, and begin to argue over the mischief they’ve managed to drum up while he was asleep, Jaskier meets Vesemir’s gaze and silently mouths his response.
The next Winter, when they make it up to the looming gates of Kaer Morhen, Jaskier is no longer intimidated. Instead, a grin makes its way onto his face as he hears his name being called from deep within the stony halls, and hears the pitter-patter of feet against the floor. Before he even has time to process who it is, he finds himself high off the ground, swung off his feet and into the arms of a Witcher, who spins them in a circle.
“Geralt,” he hears Lambert say, “it seems like you’ve brought entertainment again,” the Witcher’s teasing voice snarks.
It earns him a huff from Geralt, but Jaskier doesn’t miss the way his Witcher smiles.