"You should get some sleep, you know?"
Geralt watches as the flickering flames of the fire dance their hypnotic, deadly waltz before his eyes. The glowing orange light blinds him, even though his pupils are contracted to their maximum capacity. He just can't stop staring, blatantly ignoring the fact that his eyes are already burning and watering.
He hears Jaskier huff.
"Sleeping, Geralt. You know, that weird thing in which you close your eyes, relax and sometimes you dream of white unicorns and nice waterfalls? That. You need that.”
Geralt runs a hand through his dirty hair in a weary gesture, not bothering to tell Jaskier that yes, he knows what sleeping is and that, sadly, he rarely gets to dream pleasant things while sleeping. However, the bard is right, he should sleep. Or, better, he has to sleep at this point since he can’t remember when his last decent nap was. It’s been too long, for sure; even a witcher can’t survive on occasional meditation that doesn’t even last long enough to loosen up the hard knots in his shoulders and back, let alone give him the illusion of being well rested in the morning. Yes, for how much it bugs him to agree with Jaskier, Geralt can’t help but grunt quietly and not at his statement.
“I’ll sleep in the morning. It’s too dangerous to fall asleep in the open when the wolves are nearby”, he concedes when Jaskier gives him one of his pleading looks that Geralt can’t resist.
“Wolves? I can’t hear any wolf, Geralt.”
The witcher shakes his head, the weird charm that kept his eyes glued to the magnetic dance of the flames now gone. He pokes at the fire with a long stick to revive it, a shiver running down his sore spine. It’s early fall, but the bad weather that has plagued the region in the previous days has made the temperature drop, which means that sleeping outside equals freezing their balls off -- probably for good.
Contracts here don’t pay enough. Having his gear and swords repaired, au contraire, drains most of his coin. Not to mention that no fucking soul within miles would let a witcher - though accompanied by a common human being - sleep in their barn for free. Geralt isn’t even sure they would let him in for coin, for what it’s worth. A low grunt escapes his lips as he tries to gently rotate his left shoulder, testing the joint. He has gotten rid of a young forktail for a meager pay, some ale and a bed. It’s been four days at least, but the shoulder is still bothering him nonetheless.
“Someone must keep watch, Jaskier”, he patiently explains, as if he was talking to a bratty kid who doesn’t want to eat his vegetables. “The fact that you don’t see nor hear anything potentially dangerous doesn’t mean that nothing is lurking in the dark. You should have already learned your lesson.”
Gods, he’s such a child, sometimes. Geralt loves and despises that side of him with equal passion. Sometimes, his cheerful naivety feels like a balm to his soul, reminding him that there’s still some good in the world that’s worth fighting for; some other times, however, he would like to tell his young, naive and lighteharted lover to just shut the fuck up. Tonight, the witcher is so tired he’s not sure whether to lay down next to Jaskier until his exhaustion gets the upper hand and he passes out, or just to ignore him for his own good, sulking in silence and pretending that his only company is the rising moon above his head, like the good old days -- and poor girl Roach too, of course. This new Roach is a stubborn young mare, though, not exactly talkative like the previous one but still. She keeps Geralt enough company in his sleepless nights, while Jaskier hums in his sleep and he tells her pretty much everything that comes to his mind. Some nights ago, for example, he has told her about how bad at alchemy he was in his training days, while Eskel bested everyone with his textbook level perfect elixirs.
Jaskier's voice calls him back from inside his head -- he must have started blacking out, because he has already lost the trail of his own thoughts.
"Do you think that deserters roam the area, Geralt?"
He shrugs noncommittally.
"Deserters? I don't think so. Might be, though. Another reason to keep both eyes open", he grumbles, exhaustion seeping through his hoarse voice. He wants to shut the whole geralt-needs-to-sleep nonsense now, even though he actually needs to sleep. Falling asleep right now would mean putting Jaskier at risk, and this is something Geralt isn't sure to be able to live with.
So, after a while, he just stops answering Jaskier's silly questions - you sure that there are wolves here, Geralt? You might be hearing things since you're sleep-deprived. Do you think that counting sheeps might help, Geralt? Do you want me to sing some lullaby to you? - and keeps ignoring his loud protests until he hears him huff indignantly, shift on his bedroll and mutter a half-hearted “g’night Geralt” before falling asleep.
He manages to go on without a single hour of real sleep for three days more before exhaustion takes its toll on him and he almost dies a foolish death in a secluded crypt, where he’s supposed to take care of a ghoul infestation. Which, by the way, he does, bringing to the alderman who has hired him a dozen severed heads for a definitely too meager pay. Jaskier has to stitch his side up, though, because his potion supply is running dangerously low and he can’t afford to waste it over minor injuries -- no one would ever agree with him that a gash cutting from his hipbone to his ribs could qualify as a minor injury, but he can’t really give a shit about semantics, not when he’s so severely sleep-deprived.
Luckily enough, the coin the alderman has given him is enough to rent a room, have his armor mended and - with the help of Jaskier’s silver tongue - to have a nice, hot bath to warm his weary bones with. The inn isn’t exactly a witcher-friendly place, but one of the maids is kind enough to help Jaskier fill a wooden tub, and Geralt can’t stop glancing at her with the outmost gratitude in his eyes. Naturally, Jaskier joins him as he bathes, despite the tub being dwarf-sized. As he always does, he helps Geralt getting rid of the tiny pieces of monster guts that get caught in his hair all the time and scrubs the blood thoroughly from his scalp and from his hands, kissing his knuckles and brows and the tip of his nose in the meantime.
The pounding in his head is giving Geralt hell. Even the dim light of the candles is enough to hurt his eyes. His hair is still wet, though. He sits cross-legged with his back to the fire as it dries enough not to bother Jaskier during the night. With his eyes closed and his breath slowed down to an almost undetectable whiff, Geralt thinks he could definitely fall asleep, yes, he could definitely fall asleep like this.
It pisses him off immensely, but there’s nothing he can do about it, isn’t it? So he simply sucks it up. And hopes for the best.
“Come to bed. Your hair must be dry by now.”
When Geralt cracks his eyes open, he must make an effort not to moan loudly, pain shooting through his skull as if someone has stabbed him in the forehead with a goddamn longsword. He manages to hide his discomfort well, barely clenching his jaw as he tries to stand -- and fails miserably. Twice.
He can feel Jaskier’s worried glance on him even if he’s accurately avoiding his gaze.
“Come to bed. Please?”, he hears him whisper softly.
Geralt sighs, slumping his shoulders.
“Roll over. I don’t want to crush you”, he says, seeing Jaskier spread out on the small mattress with his hands comfortably tucked behind his head and a small smile plastered on his lips.
“Oh, please, you won’t crush anyone, Geralt. Have you noticed how much weight you have lost recently? Please, just -- rest your weary head here”, he says, patting at his own bare chest, “will you?”
Geralt does really lack the strength to protest right now, so he just plays along, sure that Jaskier will soon ask him to switch places. After all, it’s always Jaskier who lays on top of Geralt at night, not the other way around.
Much to Geralt’s surprise, though, Jaskier’s chest is firm and welcoming, warm, smelling nicely of the flowery oils he has poured in the bath they have just taken together.
Long, skilled fingers start combing through his hair. Geralt lets out a contented sigh, leaning in.
When the bard begins to hum an old lullaby, Geralt shushes him as gracefully as he can, pressing his ear into his chest.
“Hey. I thought you liked this one.”
“I like your heart better”, the witcher mutters. “It’s relaxing.”
Jaskier’s heart beats quite fast, even for human standards. Given that, Geralt shouldn’t find it exactly relaxing but -- he just does. He should pay it more attention, during the day. It’s a steady beat, it works wonders to keep him latched to the ground, to help him find his center. He’s sure he’d meditate better, if he’d focus on the bard’s heartbeat.
“Thank you...for the bath.”
The heart thumping gently under Geralt’s ear picks up its pace and when the witcher lifts his gaze to look at him, Jaskier is blushing. He tends to blush a lot, when they’re alone. Sometimes, Geralt would like to know how it feels like, but the Trials have taken the possibility from him a long ago. Ultimately, it’s no great loss.
“Ah. The bath. Don’t mind it. I just wanted to make you feel better.”
Geralt sighs again, counting the beats. It’s definitely fast for an adult human male, but he likes it anyway. It’s the very proof that Jaskier is still alive despite traveling with him, facing countless creatures that could rip him apart without even breaking a sweat.
Geralt too could.
The witcher shakes that intrusive thought away with a discreet wave of his fingers, as if he was swatting away an annoying fly. He’s too exhausted for self-pity, tonight.
He babbles some nonsense for a while before finally succumbing to a dreamless sleep. He can still feel Jaskier’s fingers running through his hair, though.
His last coherent thought sounds very much like we should sleep like this more often, but he’s not sure. Could be white unicorns and nice waterfalls. Could be anything, really. All he knows for sure is that he’s far beyond tired, that he needs to sleep; that the small, human, frail heart pounding so close to his ear is the best thing he has tried so far to lull himself to sleep when he really, really can’t.
That’s all he needs to know, for now.
That’s all he needs to know.