Geralt failed to know his own strength sometimes. You'd think he'd have gotten the hang of it with so many years of practice, and he had, but every now and then he'd push a door open too hard or chop a log with too much force and have to deal with splinters and angry innkeepers.
Personally, Jaskier found it quite endearing. The surprised O his lips made when something was crushed beneath his hands, and the way he always sheepishly glanced at Jaskier first, looking for reassurance. Jaskier never failed to give it to him, waving the incident off with a chuckle and a comment about how shoddy woodwork has become these days. He found it very endearing when Geralt picked him up, whatever the reason. He was only half-conscious to appreciate the event after the incident with the drowners, but he still turned his face to hide his blush when he came to his senses. He had perhaps let Geralt carry him a little farther after he'd regained control of his legs. Guilty pleasure and all that.
Which is why it wasn't exactly a surprise when he dislocated the shoulder of the poor bastard who'd asked him to arm wrestle. It was the other guy's fault, really. He should have known better. But alas, a mixture of stupidity and testosterone led him to challenge a witcher, and within the next five minutes he was groaning (quite dramatically) in the arms of his friends. They half escorted, half carried him out with shakes of their heads and apologetic glances at Geralt.
But when Jaskier looked at Geralt with a grin tugging at the corners of his lips, he found him to look... almost shaken. He never would have pinned it had he not travelled with Geralt for so long, but Geralt's irises were just a little too exposed and his mouth drawn a little too taut. He looked away when he caught Jaskier staring.
"Didn't mean to," he grumbled into his cup.
"He kind of deserved it anyway, if we're being honest," Jaskier replied, hoping Geralt didn't feel too bad. "He started it."
By the time they retired to their room, Jaskier had all but forgotten the incident. Rain pattered gently on the window, the night sky behind it blotted out by clouds. Only a faint glow signaled where the moon was.
While Geralt was bathing, Jaskier had taken the opportunity to pull an expert level prank: hiding the oils and varnishes Geralt needed to clean his swords. It wasn't his most creative idea, granted, but he was moderately drunk and had thought it funny at the time. And now Geralt was coming back, so there was no time to reverse it.
He entered the room silently, as usual, but Jaskier didn't greet him with a new comment or observation. He was too busy wondering if he'd regret fucking with Geralt's stuff. He had siblings- this wasn't a light offense.
Geralt dried, dressed, and sat down, sword in hand, when he stopped. And sighed.
"Where did you put them, Jask?"
The alcohol was making his ears red as he struggled to keep a straight face. "Put... what?" He evidently had not done enough to conceal his grin, because Geralt's face went from confusion to exasperation to what almost seemed like the beginnings of a playful smile.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way, bard."
Jaskier giggled and pretended not to hear. Maybe he was drunker than he thought. Geralt gave a belabored sigh and got up, lumbering over to Jaskier's side of the room. If Jaskier didn't know better, he'd say Geralt had a smile on his face. He grabbed Jaskier by the lapel and pulled him upright. Their chests were almost touching. "I said," Geralt repeated, "where did you put them?" Jaskier was cackling now, and Geralt suppressed a chuckle.
"I'll never talk," Jaskier menaced. "You'll have to kill me." Geralt let out the smallest of laughs and spun Jaskier around, pushing him into the wall. It took him a moment to realize why there was no witty remark to that. Jaskier's brow was furrowed and his hands were on his stomach. He'd gone too far.
Looking horrified, Geralt let go, holding his hands as far back as possible. "I'm fine," Jaskier tried to croak, but he was still winded. He couldn't breathe in. After glancing at his chest and then his face, Geralt was gone. The door slammed behind him. "God damn it," Jaskier groaned, finally able to take in air. "Bastard probably thinks I hate him now. Drama queen." He snatched his coat off the bed and followed the sound of footsteps.
Twice in a day, this time, Geralt thought to himself. Fuck. He felt the red hot pinpricks of shame and guilt stab along the back of his neck. He didn't care about the rain now. He just wanted to be away from there. Away from anywhere he could hurt someone. The Path isn't wide enough for two, is it, he thought, and the pain in his chest was almost unbearable. He'd never felt like this before; never had someone he wanted not to lose so badly. Destiny had decided that that person would also be the one he'd have to let go. He cursed her, feeling the rain soak through his thin shirt and roll down his back.
He walked without aim, weaving through the dim street lamps with the hopes of finding the countryside. A nice big tree, perhaps, that would keep him from catching pneumonia sleeping out here tonight. He couldn't go back to the inn, of course. No doubt Jaskier was dreading his return already, fearful of what he would do to him next. He wouldn't do that to him. Yes, out and away was the better option.
He wouldn't have been able to catch it through the downpour had he not been a witcher. But nonetheless, sloshing through the puddles, Jaskier was calling his name. After a moment of deliberation, he stopped and turned, allowing Jaskier to catch up.
"Geralt!" He exclaimed, panting, "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
"Out. I won't come back, don't worry."
Geralt wrinkled his nose in annoyance. "What do you mean, why? I just-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but that doesn't matter," Jaskier insisted, "I don't care. I'm fine, you're fine, everybody's fine, just come back inside." He gestured pleadingly.
"You don't get it, do you?" Geralt slowly approached him. "I could kill you, do you realize that? One wrong twitch and it's over. It's not safe."
"One wrong- you're so damn dramatic, Geralt, and that's coming from me. You can't beat yourself up every time this happens, alright? Just because you're stronger than you realize sometimes doesn't make you some sort of-" he spluttered- "monster or something."
Geralt laughed with mirth. "Not a monster? Rich. You and I both know that's what I am, and I'm not trying to have injuring you on my conscience."
Jaskier's expression changed. "You- you really think that? You believe them? Geralt. You're- you're perfect. And I mean that." He took a step forward.
"You're so gentle with Roach, and I know you don't want people to know you care but you do care about people, more so than most humans, really. Monsters don't travel the continent saving lives, Geralt." Another step. Jaskier's eyes were vulnerable and soft. The very sight of them made Geralt retract.
"I said, stop it." Jaskier's words cut him like a knife directly to the lungs. Every one of them was accompanied by a stinging guilt because he knew they were lies. Lies. He felt the shame build up and blossom through the cracks of his ribcage. He didn't want to hear this.
"You're a good person, Geralt." These words came out softer.
"Geralt, you are a good person who makes people's lives better!" He was shouting now, his arms spread wide. "You make my life better, and if you left me here I don't know what I'd do! Because you are important, and kind, and good, and you're my best friend!"
"I said STOP!" His intensity made Jaskier recoil. It was all too much for Geralt. "Don't lie to me," he said, quietly this time. The guilt had spread through his bloodstream to his entire body and he felt like he would implode with the weight of it. He covered his face with his hands and turned away, hoping that when he removed them Jaskier would be gone. It was Jaskier, however, who pulled his arms down ever so softly.
"Do you really think yourself unlovable?" He almost whispered. There was an inexplicable heartbreak behind his expression. Geralt did not respond, but the pain in his eyes gave him away. "We'll just have to fix that, then." And he brought his face up to Geralt's and kissed him. It was sweet and chaste and gentle and despite himself, Geralt let himself sink into it, face twisted in the sadness of wanting something you denied yourself. Jaskier pulled away, his hands cupping Geralt's face.
"Well, joke's on you," he muttered, face inches away, "because you're already loved, you big idiot." And Geralt wrapped his arms around Jaskier in an embrace that could have lasted for thirty seconds or thirty years. He was glad Jaskier couldn't see his face.
"Now, for the love of all things holy," Jaskier said once they had peeled themselves off of each other, "could we please go in and dry off?"
Jaskier whistled merrily once they were in dry clothes, as if nothing had happened. Geralt almost immediately fell into bed, previously unaware of how tired he was. To his surprise, Jaskier climbed in beside him. Laying down, Jaskier patted his chest, and slowly, tentatively, Geralt laid his head there, wrapping his arms up and behind Jaskier's shoulders, surprised at how comfortable it was. Jaskier let their legs tangle together and hummed with contentment.
"Is this alright?" Geralt said, low enough to hope Jaskier wouldn't hear.
"More than," Jaskier replied, feeling Geralt smile into his collarbone. Hoisting himself up onto his elbows, Geralt went in for a kiss, hovering centimeters away to allow Jaskier to close the distance, and he did, with enthusiasm. Jaskier tangled his fingers in Geralt's hair, holding him close as their lips met. They moved slowly, savoring every taste and sound and smell, until Jaskier introduced his tongue, and Geralt reciprocated, now kissing with more fervor and the pent up desires of decades.
Jaskier's hands wandered lower and lower until they slipped under the hem of Geralt's tunic, running up and down his back in a way that made Geralt shudder. Geralt snaked a hand under Jaskier's tunic in turn, and solicited a moan he would very much like to hear more of.
When he couldn't take it anymore, Jaskier stripped them both of their shirts, taking the moment to appreciate Geralt leaning over him, lips warm and pink and pliable. He looked at him like he was the only thing in the world.
With a smile, Jaskier pulled him back down, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What's important, though, is that Geralt fell asleep to the sound of Jaskier's heartbeat that night, and for many nights after.