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The Survey Never Lies

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Geralt isn’t exactly sure what possessed him to agree to this. It’d been a rough past few months, with contracts being few and far between, and when they came, they were truly the worst. To say that this dry spell had extended to other areas in his life was an understatement; even Yennefer was able to move on by now after their latest, seemingly permanent, breakup. ‘Move on’ might be an understatement- enough time had passed for Yennefer to go into full-blown party mode, get over it, begin a new and honestly adorable relationship with their mutual friend Triss, and make up with him to the point of being hostile friends again.

That is to say, it has been a long time.

With next to no money and even less company, even Geralt could admit he has been feeling down. And yet, of course, Jaskier was always there right beside him through it all. It was always that way. Which is precisely why he got himself into this mess.

Initially, when the troubadour had suggested they try speed dating, Geralt was quick to strike the idea down. He’d already gone through the pains of using that awful dating app at Jaskier’s insistence, and he wasn’t about to have a rerun of that disaster. But then, Jaskier started to frame it as if he was the one that needed a date, and Geralt accompanying him would just be a favor- just to keep him company if it was boring, and to keep him safe if things went wrong. Geralt knows that was just a ploy to make him go, but between that and big blue puppy dog eyes, he found himself reluctantly agreeing.

Jaskier did not, however, tell him how horrible it would be. ‘it won’t take long’. Bullshit. Over an hour of small talk with strangers, and Geralt feels like he wants to crawl out of his skin. The establishment isn’t the finest, either. Everything is cheap- 90s music playing on shitty speakers grate on his eardrums, dimmed florescent lighting and fake candles on every table make it feel morel like a pizza parlor than a romantic dinner. And then there’s the people.

They’ve been paired into groups based on some benign personality survey they were forced to take when they got there, then paired off for short conversations. Five-minute sessions are timed on a buzzer, each blessed ring marking the end of the conversation, and bringing with it another stranger. They’re awkward at best and insufferable at worst.

It’s Geralt’s personal nightmare incarnate. 

The best conversation he’s had all night was about one woman’s five cats. The worst was probably when a man tried to lean across the table and grab at his medallion without asking and Geralt found himself releasing an inhuman snarl before he could stop himself. The poor guy ended up hiding in the bathroom for the remaining duration of their five minutes, but that’s what he gets for trying to touch people, especially a witcher, without asking.

Even the cheap beer doesn’t make it better. When the timer dings, and all the participants in the room begin to shuffle to new tables, Geralt takes a moment to look down at his glass, taking a long, long sip of tasteless beer. By the time he has glanced up again, Jaskier is seating himself across the table, wine glass in hand. The bard flashes him a toothy grin, leaning in closer, propping his elbows on the scratchy, off-white tablecloth. As per usual, his button down shirt is left undone far too low, exposing a far too distracting patch of chest hair that Geralt most certainly doesn’t stare at, nor do his eyes slowly trace up exposed skin of his collar bones and neck to the slight blush tinging his cheeks.  

“So, how’s it going, my friend? Found the new Mrs. Rivia, or Mr., though, I suppose it’s not guaranteed he’d take your last name. Not that it’s guaranteed with a woman, either. You could take her name. Though, I do like yours- better than my own, actually.”

Geralt glances away, trying his best to hide his smirk at Jaskier’s prattling, “Hm.”

“Oh, come on now, use your words. We’ve talked about this. You’re not going to find someone when I’m the only person that understands your unintelligible grunting.” Jaskier chides, though it is true. Somehow, over the years since they met in that shitty bar in Pasoda, Jaskier has come to understand the witcher well- better than most. Where other humans shy away from him, Jaskier became stuck to him, following him on hunts and writing songs about their adventures- reluctant at first, he’s now thankful for the bard.

Geralt sighs “This is hopeless, Jaskier.”

“No, it’s not!”

“It is. They’re all- ugh, I don’t know.” Geralt rubs his hand over his face, “They’re all either freaked out by me or oblivious to what I am, and they just talk about their normal lives and normal jobs and- and how Geofry from accounting fucked things up again, while I’m sitting here thinking last week I was swallowed by a fuckin’ kikimora. I don’t fit in here.”

“That was horridly disgusting, but lots of people are into adventurous men. What about Eveline? She seemed amenable.” Jaskier gestures to the woman a few tables down with long red hair. Yes, she had found Geralt attractive, in dim lighting which hides his scars and expands his pupils into circles rather than slits, but that doesn’t translate to companionship, or even a night of fun. Yet, Jaskier is always the optimist, “There’s still hope yet!”

Geralt shakes his head “Easy for you to say. You don’t need to go speed dating to find someone. Everyone likes you.”

“As flattering as that is, I think, there’s nothing wrong with speed dating. Anyone who isn't interested in you is a fool. Besides, it's not always that easy for me! I’m looking for something a bit more committed this time. Not that I didn’t have great affections for my previous romances. Just…” Jaskier trails off, tongue sticking out slightly as he looks for the right terms.

“Momentarily and in measured amounts?”

“Mm,” Jaskier hums in agreement.

“Infatuation has to wear off some time.”

“So I’ve been told. Seems some hang around longer than others though,” He mutters. He casts his eyes down as if in thought, his ever-moving hands finding the rim of his wine glass, a long finger tracing it in a way that emits a high-pitched noise the musician likely isn’t even aware of. Geralt grunts, frowning slightly as he grabs Jaskier’s hand to remove it from the glass. The bard lets himself be moved easily, fingers warm and inviting under the witcher’s touch.

“Noise,” he grumbles.

Jaskier smiles apologetically, “Ah, witcher hearing. Sorry, my dear.”

His fingers tap on the tabletop, looking for something to fidget with in the wine glass’ absence. He finds the long-abandoned conversation que cards so kindly provided by the event’s organizers, as if they knew rightfully well how miserably uncomfortable this predicament would be.

“Have you looked at these at all tonight?” he asks, picking them up to glance through them.

“Tried not to. They’re deplorable.” Yet, the well-worn corners of the cards attest to how many attendees truly rely on them.

Jaskier smiles coyly “You’ve been showing people pictures of your lovely lady Roach again haven’t you?”

“Maybe” he blushes, both of them chuckling. “People like horses”

“Mm, that would only be a good pick-up tactic if she didn’t bite strangers.”

“She’s shy.” He defends, though he knows she’s not. She’s just picky; she’s never tried to bite Geralt, or Eskel or Vesemir for that matter. These days, she likes Jaskier enough to let him ride her when they visit her stables at Vesemir’s farm.

Jaskier glances to the clock, red numbers counting down the seconds until he will be subjected to yet another stranger. “We still have a bit of time, want to try these dumb questions?”

“Is silence not an option?” Geralt groans, though not without the hint of a smile on his lips.

Jaskier swats at him lightly, ignoring the comment. He flips through the cards, reading a few under his breath “What color is your personality? That’s dumb- yours is blue, obviously, and mine is yellow. Hmm, Ah, here’s one.” Geralt tilts his head, waiting “Describe your best friend.”

He can’t help but snort at that “Annoying.”

“First of all, rude. Second of all, appropriate answers could have included handsome, funny, talented, brilliant, loyal” Jaskier counts his claimed attributes on his fingers, likely to go on forever lest Geralt interrupt.

“Reckless, frivolous-” He jumps in, a teasing, toothy grin on his face.

“Fun. Fun is the term you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter though. I know you adore me.”

There’s too much truth in the words; though he wouldn’t hesitate to call Jaskier his friend -his best friend- adoration is a strong word, a word unknown to many witchers. Yet, he can’t deny the way Jaskier makes his heart fill with warmth, makes him feel alive and safe like he never has before. But that is something he’d much rather keep to himself. Geralt looks away, surely blushing as he lets a curtain of white hair falls in front of his face, hopefully hiding the pink tinge.

Jaskier watches him quietly, that soft warm expression in his eyes that somehow seems to be reserved for the witcher. A moment of silence passes before he snaps out of it, only a few seconds left on the clock “Wanna get out of here?”

At that, Geralt perks up, “I could use a real drink, but what about your search?”

“I don’t think I’ll find the one in this crowd,” he says, looking out on the group, a disappointed little pout pulling at his lips for just a moment before he turns back to Geralt, ever bright smile returning to his face.

Geralt nods, standing up and slipping on his jacket in preparation to leave. He catches Jaskier’s eyes roaming over him for a moment before the bard diverts his gaze, catching his lip between his teeth. Geralt does his best to focus on anything else. Whatever warmth or fluttering feelings it may give him, he knows he’s just imagining his friend’s interest.

They almost make it out with everyone around them shuffling to new tables. But, of course, they’re stopped by the group coordinator. They’d met him when they came in- a young man far too invested in this program, reciting his company provided lines with an unnatural enthusiasm.

“Looks like you two are having a good time. I’m glad to see some real sparks fly tonight! Sneaking off already?” the man grins, a little too much, as he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

“Oh, we were just-” Jaskier begins, laughing slightly under his breath.

“No, don’t tell me- for liability reasons and such. But good news!” he exclaims, “According to our survey, you two are our most compatible couple of the night, and the survey never lies!”

“Of course, we-” He’s cut off again, and next to him, Jaskier cringes.

“Which means, if you’re interested and it certainly seems like you are, you have won our luxury romance date package!”

“I think there’s been a mis- Sorry, what?” Geralt stops as the boy pushes a bright pink, sparkling gift card into his hand.

“$200.00 to the White Orchard, free drinks included and guaranteed reservations within the month. All you have to do is go together, have fun, and discover the romance of your lives!” The boy’s smile doesn’t falter as he continues to speak. “I’m legally obligated to tell you we have not run background checks on anyone.”

“But we’re-” Jaskier tries to speak, but not before Geralt can stop him.

“Excited!” Geralt grins, grabbing Jaskier’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “Thank you!”

$200 is $200. He’s not about to let the first chance he’s had at a fine dinner in who knows how long go by because of Jaskier’s big mouth. So, with that, he leads the bard outside, their hands still firmly grasped together, and pointedly doesn’t think about why his thumb is rubbing circles into the back of his best friend’s hand. Nor does he consider how well their fingers fit together. He certainly doesn’t notice the disappointed pang in his chest when their hands separate as they step out into the cold night air outside.

One glance between them and their prize, and neither of them can stifle their laughter. “I can’t believe you almost said no to the nicest restaurant in town.” Geralt chides, elbowing Jaskier lightly as they begin to walk home.

“I can’t believe it either. It’s like the offer didn’t register in my brain yet.” Jaskier chuckles.

Geralt rolls his eyes at him “Seems to happen a lot.”

Jaskier deliberately ignores him, instead leaning over his shoulder to look at the gift card, still cradled in Geralt’s hand “It is ‘luxury romance’” Jaskier snickers, “We may have to keep up this act a bit longer.

“Apparently it’s not too difficult.” Geralt sneers “Some survey. Of course, we match; we spend all our time together.”

Jaskier’s chuckles quiet down, a silence hanging between them as he seems to think it over, “I have known you longer and more deeply than any other in my life. There’s no one I’m more comfortable with.”

“And I you.” He doesn’t often admit such things, but somehow in the silence of the night, with the way Jaskier had stated it so gently, he can’t help but know he truly means it when he agrees. After the silence becomes too heavy, Geralt clears his throat “Anyways, it’ll be fun.

“Yea, fun.”

Somehow, Jaskier’s voice comes out flat, preoccupied. When Geralt glances over at him, his lip is caught between his teeth again, his face scrunched in deep contemplation. It’s not a long walk back to their apartments, their complexes within walking distance of each other. Geralt doesn’t push, silence between them doesn't normally bother him after a night of so much noise. But try as he might, he can't help but wonder if Jaskier is bothered by the implication they were- could be a couple. Instead, he tries to focus on the sounds of the city, cool air blowing around them, leaves crinkling as they skip across the cement sidewalk.

When they approach Jaskier’s apartment complex, they stop in front of the old brick stairs leading inside, and Geralt waits for either an invitation inside or a declaration that Jaskier has changed his mind about drinks. He looks… uneasy. His hands are shoved into his pockets, and he shifts back and forth on his feet.

“Um, Geralt?” Jaskier says, voice uncertain for once.

“Hm?”

“I, um,” Geralt barely has time to see Jaskier stop biting his lip before suddenly his lips are on Geralt’s, his hands in his hair, caressing, not forceful. The witcher could pull away without much of a fuss, but he finds himself pulling Jaskier in by his waist, holding him tightly as if he’s afraid he’ll lose him if he lets go.

The kiss is equal parts gentle and desperate. He feels like he’s on fire; he feels like there’s electricity running through him, between them, and- and butterflies in his stomach, for maybe the first time in his life. It’s all so new and different, but he finds he doesn’t mind- not one bit.

When Jaskier pulls away, he finds his head feeling light “Jask,” he breathes lightly, their noses bumping each other lightly.

“Sorry, I-” Jaskier moves to step back, a spark of caution and panic glimmering in his eyes, as if he hadn’t felt Geralt’s desire in their embrace. “I thought-” he begins, but Geralt pulls him back in.

“I didn’t say stop.” He smiles softly, bringing up one hand to cup Jaskier’s cheek. It relaxes the bard, all the tension melting away to be replaced by a mischievous smile as the witcher pulls him into another kiss.

****

Rays of morning sun beam through the windows of Jaskier’s apartment, illuminating every inch of it. Below, the city is bustling with noise, but here, things are peaceful. Geralt woke up first, no surprise there. He would have been more than content to stay in bed all day, wrapped tightly in his lover’s embrace- the thought of that word describing Jaskier brings a smile to his face. But cursed with his witcher metabolism, he was dragged out of bed by a growling stomach.

Rummaging through Jaskier’s kitchen for breakfast, he barely notices the other man enter the room. When he turns around, Geralt is met with striking blue eyes watching him intently as Jaskier leans against the counter, dressed in his boxers and a hoodie he’d stollen from Geralt long, long ago. Geralt chooses not to dwell too much on the thought that he’s been sleeping in it all this time- for now, anyways.

“What are you so smug about?” Geralt grins, abandoning his task to invade Jaskier’s space.

The musician smiles, unabashedly staring as he runs his hands over Geralt’s exposed chest, settling above the hem of the sweat pants he snatched from Jaskier’s closet this morning, “Who wouldn’t be smug after getting a boyfriend as beautiful as you?” Even though they kissed all through the night, Jaskier’s lips on his send a shiver down his spine.

“You know what they say.” Geralt murmurs, kissing his way down to Jaskier’s neck.

As he presses dark marks into the pale skin of his throat, Jaskier only breathlessly hums in response “Hm?”

“The survey never lies.” He quotes mockingly.

Jaskier snorts, shoving at Geralt’s shoulder playfully, but the witcher doesn’t budge, only nuzzling in closer against his neck. “You’re lucky I love you.”

“Very.”