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Little Fledgling

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Geralt watched the new human in his life like a hawk after their rather unpleasant run in with the elves. He had wanted to get rid of the annoying bard the same night they finished their adventure. But somehow Jaskier had managed to stick with him. And that just couldn‘t be right.

Jaskier was an odd fellow. Cheerful and unafraid and obviously very stupid. No one in their right mind saw a Witcher and thought „That‘s the perfect best friend material.“ And if Geralts features hadn‘t been offsetting enough to the bard then his solemn attitude, continued refusal to let Jaskier travel with him and the punch to the gut should have been enough to drive him off.

It wasn‘t. Neither was the near death by elven king. Or the hate and distrust that greeted them in nearly every village they went through. Or the many nights under the stars. The meager food, the slurs and sometimes stones. Geralts continued silence.

The little lark only snarled at the violence thrown Geralts way, as if it was a personal offense. At night he pointed out all the formations he knew and retold the old legends he had been taught in Oxenfurt. He complained about the bland taste of the rabbit they had for dinner and filled the silence with ridiculous songs and rhymes.

It was… nice. And dangerous. Geralt had been burned enough times to know that Jaskier must have ulterior motives. And yet…

„Don‘t eat that.“ Geralt growled, hand twitching away from Roachs rein to reach for the bard.

Jaskier flinched back in surprise and the berries he had picked when Geralt hadn‘t been looking tumbled onto the dusty road. He watched them roll away with a mournful expression and a sad little noise.

„Why not?“

Gods this man was a walking disaster. „You would have been choking and vomiting on the ground in a few minutes. And been dead by the evening. If lucky.“

Wide, blue eyes stared up at him then. „Oh.“

„Yes. There‘s bread in the saddle bag, don‘t take too much.“

A short beat of silence as Jaskier rummaged through their bags to get to the food. „Just to clarify. What would have happened if I was unlucky?“

Geralt thought about not not answering, but ultimately didn‘t want to make himself a target for further prodding. „You‘d be convulsing and writhing in pain on the ground for days until the poison inevitably ate through your stomach, you‘d shit and piss yourself and die of either starvation, internal bleeding or dehydration, all the while feeling like someone is sawing you in half with a rope.“

Jaskier stopped the nibbling on his bread to let out a tiny, squeaky noise. „Ewww. So… no eating the pretty red berries then.“

„Yes Jaskier, no eating the pretty red berries.“ Maybe if he repeated it again it would stay in Jaskier thick head.

Geralt coaxed Roach into walking again and sure enough, quiet footsteps were soon to follow the beat of the hooves.

„Sooo, theoretically speaking. If I were hungry. And we had no bread. Or onion soup. Or jerky. What kind of berries would be safe to eat?“

„You‘re a travelling bard. You should know.“

There was an enraged splutter behind him and Geralt could hear Jaskier gesticulating, the dramatics were that big. „I will let you know that this presumption is just… presumptious! Bards travel in a very different fashion! I think...“

„You think?“ Geralt wondered, raising an unseen eyebrow as he stared straight ahead.

„Well… you see, my dear fellow, this is actually my first trip around the continent! Exciting isn‘t it? You‘re lucky to have met such a young, bright spirit such as myself! Straight out of Oxenfurt and still untarnished from the suberstitions and prejudices of the folk. I‘ll get the masses to like you yet, you‘ll see!“

The pleasant calm that had enveloped Geralts mind immediately retreated and all thoughts of possible routes to take next screeched to a halt. First trip- Straight out of Oxenfurt. Fuck, Jaskier was a cityboy. No wonder he had no clue how to behave in the wild.

„Jaskier, how old are you?“

„That is a very rude question“ Jaskie tsked at him „But thankfully I‘m still young enough to choose not to be offended. I‘m 18.“

It took a while for Geralt to comprehend what that meant.

Eighteen.

Melitele safe him the boy was 18! Not a little lark. A little fledgling spreading its wings for the first time. And for some reason Jaskier had choosen the highest fucking place to jump off of for his first flight. Namely following a bloody Witcher with the nickname „Butcher“ all over the continent to witness life threatening monster hunts.

Somehow this boy had decided the best person to trust in helping him making his first steps out into the world was Geralt. This bright, cheery human with an Oxenfurt degree had plopped his heart into Geralts palm with a smile and a shitty pick up line like it was the most natural thing in the world. And probably expected everything to turn out fine.

It was just… he seemed so sure Geralt wouldn‘t hurt him. Wouldn‘t let him down.

It was humbling and scary and pretty fucking frustrating. What was he supposed to do with that?

After that his thoughts started spiraling, although he kept up his calm and cold outward appearance. It wouldn‘t do to encourage the boy to keep following him around, after all. Although that ship had probably already sailed. Jaskier had apparently already imprinted on him and was hellbent on following him to the end of the world and back. Which meant Geralt had to be the responsible one now and look after the idiot.

Upon that realization he quickly descended into a mild panic. How long had they been on the road today? When was the last time Jaskier had eaten? How much food did humans even need?!

He had never payed attention to these kinds of things before. He knew humans were less sturdy than Witchers and needed nutrition and rest in more regular intervalls. Sleep was easy. Every night would be optimal, although Geralt didn‘t exactly know how long. But food and drink? That was harder.

And for all the complaining and oversharing, Jaskier actually didn‘t give him much to work with either. He was always muttering about something or other, so Geralt had no idea what was just noise to be ignored and which parts were important. He was close to betting that Jaskier didn‘t have a clue either.

The bard was starting to fall behind a worrying amount though. „Jaskier, keep up.“

„Yes, yes, coming!“

Geralt stopped to make camp much earlier that day than he would have on his own and only came back from his hunt until he caught two rabbits instead of one. Thick black clouds had rolled over them when they finally settled down to eat. The wind had picked up and Geralt could feel the threatening electricity of an oncoming thunder storm sizzling on his tongue.

"Geralt." Jaskier whined. He had sat himself down opposite him, the fire crackling merrily between them. He had just taken his rabbit from the stick and was delicately plucking off strips of flesh. "Must you always do that?"

"Hm?"

Jaskier pointed at Geralts own meal with his stick and a disgusted grimace. "That. It's gross."

Geralt looked down at the bloody mess in his hands and shrugged. Food was food to a Witcher. The state of it didn't matter.

"It's fine. I can eat it like that."

The wind howled louder at that and for a brief second Geralt wondered if Jaskier maybe was a kind of elemental spirit or mage. The wails of nature sure made the silence and judging stare of Jaskier way more dramatic than they had a right to be.

"Just because you can doesn't mean you should." Jaskier sniffed, a shiver running through his thin frame.

His human companion was starting to freeze. Fuck. "Jaskier come here."

"No thanks, I'm good."

The tone Jaskier used was light, but Geralt frowned at the way the bard curled in on himself just slightly. The wind carried over his scent and ther was, not exactly fear in it, but a slight sourness that spoke of discomfort.

Geralt shrugged, figuring that him being covered in blood probably was a bit offputting to a human, and a noble at that. "Suit yourself. There's a cloak in the right saddlebag, take it before you freeze to death."

Jaskier gave him a little smile and did as he was told. The little happy sound that left him as soon as he had wrapped himself up in the thick wool made Geralt want to smile. An urge he shoved down with the ferocity he usually only reserved for especially hard to kill monsters. The nerve of this brat, making Geralt feel things. It only steeled his resolve. This man must be protected at all cost.

So Geralt decided to use his brain power to think about ways to keep the human alive and well on the road instead of puzzling over the strange occurance.

But it happened again a few days later. The thunderstorm had only been the first herald of a bout of increasingly bad weather. Hailstorms and days of unending, ice cold rain, followed. Temperatures dropped and more often than not Geralt let Jaskier borrow the cloak, even during the day.

The nights went from bearable cold to freezing before they could reach the next village and soon Geralt repeatedly tried to get Jaskier to share body heat. It didn't matter how often he tried, whenever he muttered a "come here" Jaskier would retreat further instead, a wary look in his eyes.

The little fledgling would downplay his nervousness with well practiced snark and overblown confidence, but Geralt could see right through him. He could see Jaskiers shoulders tensing, could smell the whiff of fear, if faint, more worry than terror.

Eventually the coin dropped. The phrase. The punch. Physical violence was a common occurance even among close humans. He had seen Jaskier go berserk over a bad review from a drunkard once or twice already. But Geralt was different. Of course he was. He was stronger, faster and hard to read. Jaskier was right to be wary of him, when he didn't yet know what might set Geralt off.

He cursed himself. Of course he would fuck up the second someone worthwhile came along. He needed to fix that. Had to make Jaskier feel more comfortable around him. He didn't exactly know why, only that Jaskier was the first person in a long while that showered him with unconditional love and affection. And Geralt, selfish as he was, wanted to keep that.

But what should he do? Geralt was used to receiving fear from humans. But he had never tried to do anything against it.

The first idea he had was to let Jaskier touch Roach. His horse was the most precious possession Geralt had in his life. Letting Jaskier handle her was a show of trust right?

So the next village they arrived in, soaked to the bone, exhausted and dirty from the mud on the road, Geralt got off Roach and gave Jaskier the reins.

"Go take her to the stables, I'll get us a room and a bath."

Jaskiers mouth dropped to the floor and he took the leather band with trembling fingers, eyes as wide as saucers. "Really?!"

"Yes, Jaskier. Really."

Geralt stomped off fast after that. The huge, brilliant smile the young bard gifted him with had his cheeks heating up in a strange way that couldn't possibly be healthy. His ears still caught an excited "Did you hear that Roach?! We're gonna spend some quality time together! Ohhh this will be great! We'll have apple slices! And sugar cubes! But shhh don't let Geralt know. He'll take away my horse caring privileges if he finds out- Ack! Hey! No biting! I get it, I get it I'm going. Sheesh you're even grumpier than your handler, you know that?"

The last of Jaskiers ramblings grew faint as Geralt neared the local inn. He hoped he could make good on his promise to get them a room. The owner, a stocky, bald man with a bushy red beard and sharp brown eyes squinted at him in suspicion as he entered. His swords were eyed with about the usual amount of distrust, but Geralt wasn't immediately thrown out, so he dared to come closer.

"I'd like to buy a room... for tonight. And two baths, if it's possible."

"Two?"

Geralt gave a tiny nod to the confused man. "Yes. I have a companion with me."

The owners eyes sparkled with mirth. "Ah. Wouldn't one bath be better then?"

"No."

The man shrugged, at least someone had social manners, and slid a key toward Geralt. "Suit yourself. Rooms upstairs third on the left, don't be too loud."

"Hm."

The look of horror that dawned on the owners face as Jaskier entered the inn, bright and bubbly with his chemise scandalously unbuttoned nearly made Geralt grin. Instead he guided Jaskier up the stairs and to their room, prepared for the inevitable flood of questions and awkward stammering from his travel companion.

Prepared, but in no way equipped to handle. As soon as Jaskier saw the bed he froze up, cutting off mid ramble and just... stared.

"Geralt."

"Hm."

"Uhm... Who's going to sleep on the floor tonight? Because my back is killing me and I was rather looking forward to a nice, stiff mattress-"

"We share."

Wide eyes landed caught on his narrowed yellow ones. Fuck. Fuck he hadn't thought this through. What was he supposed to say if Jaskier decided to sleep on the floor after all? Or, worse, asked Geralt to use a bedroll. He didn't have any excuse to use the bed.

Damn it he just wanted to keep Jaskier warm at night, was that so bad?

"Ooookay? You sure we'll fit? It's pretty small."

"We'll manage." And if he had to pull Jaskier on top of him. Actually, now that he thought about it, that sounded lovely. Hm...

Bedtime couldn't come fast enough. Bathing, while usually one of his favourite activities, dragged on for far too long and got a bit awkward with them both present. But eventually they finished cleaning up, went down to eat, finished their evening routines and got ready for the night.

Geralt laid down first, trying not to come off as too eager and probably ended up being extra grumpy. He rolled on his back and stared at the ceiling listening to Jaskier putter around the room.

His little fledgling was stalling, pickung up his quill and scratching down a few lines in his notebook, cursed at the poor lighting before setting everything down again and going to his bag. He folded and refolded his clothes, stood, inched closer to the bed, stopped and began to fidget.

"Are sure I shouldn't just sleep on the floor?" he asked, voice meek.

"Jaskier..."

"Right. Right. Stupid question. Wouldn't want to do that anyway. Uhh here I come. No wait that sounded wrong. Ignore my sleep drunken ramblings – that's the only time I'll give you permission to do so by the way – I noticed you zoning out on me on the road, Geralt."

Jaskier continued to chatter nervously as he sat down at the edge of the bed and laid down on his side. He was as stiff as a board, balancing precariously on the edge so as not to accidently touch Geralt, who was hogging most of the space.

Geralt waited patiently for Jaskier to blow out the candle and settle, but his companion didn't relax, didn't inch closer and wouldn't fall asleep.

Glaring at the ceiling Geralt pondered over what to do. How could he make Jaskier relax? How could he encourage him to come closer and touch? Talking was out of the question. The situation was already tense and uncomfortable and he didn't want to frighten the poor boy by sounding suggestive.

Eventually he decided to go with his gut feeling. It only betrayed him around forty percent of the time, after all.

With a heavy sigh he turned towards his travel companion and reached out to his stiff form. "Jaskier." he growled, hand encircling Jaskiers arm. "Come here."

The effect of these words were immediate. Jaskiers breath hitched and he tensed up further. But he didn't fight Geralts grip, only made a brief noise of surprise as Geralt ignored all signs of the bards discomfort and pulled him on top of him.

Both froze after the flurry of motion, Geralt with his arms loosely looped around Jaskiers shoulders and waist, and Jaskier laying on his chest, head tugged into the crook of Geralts throat. For a few agonizing seconds neither of them dared to move even one muscle.

Small puffs of wet breath tickled the sensitive skin at the juncture where shoulder and neck met. It was a weird, foreign sensation, but not at all uncomfortable. He really wanted to keep Jaskier right there. But his bard still smelled a bit sour, nervous.

Carefully, so as not to jostle the still reeling songbird in his arms, he moved his hand to grab the blanket, draping it over the two of them.

"If you don't like it you say so." Geralt rumbled when Jaskier still didn't relax against him. And yes, maybe he sounded a bit hurt. And maybe, in the darkness of the room, he allowed himself to pout a little.

"Oh." The quiet sound was filled with wonder and with it the last threads of sourness left Jaskiers scent.

Jaskier began to squirm in Geralts grip to get more comfortable, laughing a bit, high and excited, as he nuzzled the underside of Geralts chin before ducking back down to lay his head on Geralts collarbone.

"You're cold." Jaskier whispered, fingers trailing curious circles along Geralts shoulder.

"You're warm." Geralt purred unable to stop himself from rubbing his nose into Jaskiers hair, marveling at the scent of watermelon and lavender.

Jaskier giggled snuggling closer, all inhibitions lost. "You're very own bard blanket."

"Hm." Geralt knew Jaskier could feel the tiny grin that graced his features this time. He couldn't find it in himself to care.

~~~

Caring for a young human was surprisingly harder than Geralt had thought. Maybe it was just because it was Jaskier, but Geralt constantly needed to make sure his baby bird didn't find trouble for himself again.

Seriously how could one unassuming human have such a knack for finding and/or causing disaster?! If it wasn't an angry husband or brother or father, it was bandits, or wolves or poisonous fauna. Sticks and stones, too seemed to have sworn themselves to become Jaskiers mortal enemies. Geralt had never seen a human trip so much.

Geralt constantly had to check up on him to make sure he hadn't wandered off and found a griffin baby to pet. He was scared of letting Jaskier follow him on hunts, but was equally terrified of leaving him alone.

If Geralt didn't have white hair already it surely would have been white by now with the amount of stress Jaskier put him in.

It was all worth it, though. Because his fledgling was growing up and growing bolder. With every "Come here" that was followed by a positive action, a short one armed hug, a cuddle in front of the fireplace, a pull to safety, a quick forehead press, Jaskier relaxed more and more.

It didn't take long before Jaskier reciprocated. Clapping Geralt on the shoulder, pulling him into a hug after a particularly harsh hunt, leaning into his side as they sat next to each other. The easy affection Jaskier showered him with was overwhelming and Geralt never wanted it to stop.

More often than not they shared a bed at taverns and pushed their bedrolls together in the wildernis. They truly lived in each others pockets, those weeks they spend as travel companions.

Geralts heart ached everytime they parted ways for various reasons, afraid that it would be the last time he'd see his dear friend. But they always reunited and before Geralt knew it over a year had passed and he found himself in a bathtub, soaked in Kikimora blood, with Jaskiers hands in his hair, the smell of lavender making him pleasantly dizzy.

His eyes slid shut as those talented hands massaged his scalp, then his neck and shoulders. The air was filled with gentle humming, Jaskier radiating contentment behind him. This was the heighth of his life. Geralt decided right then and there. This was what the peak of happiness must feel like. If every choice he had made had lead up to this moment than he regretted nothing.

The coming winter forced them to seperate again, though. Never before had Geralt felt so restless in Kaer Morhen. The wait until spring was agonizing, the worry eating away at him even more so. His brothers teased him and tried to distract him as good as they could and eventually the snow thawed and gave way to the first signs of life.

They met again on the road leading to Oxenfurt, on a sunny, if cold afternoon. Geralt heard his little lark before he could see him and slid off Roach just as the first blues and yellows of Jaskiers doublet came into few.

"Geralt!"

The music stopped abruptly, lute slung back over his shoulder as Geralt stepped forward and opened his arms with a fond smile.

"Come here."

And Jaskier did.

He ran towards him, jumping and slinging his strong tighs around Geralts trim waist. Arms crisscrossed over his back as Jaskier tightened his embrace.

Geralt didn't sway under the new weight, only brought his arms up to support his bard as he gently scented his travel companion. He had been prepared to catch him. He would always be prepared to catch him.

His little fledgling would one day grow up into a beautiful, strong lark. Properly equipped with sharp talons and an even sharper beak. Until then and far beyond that, Geralt would be there for him.