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Echoes of Memory

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Geralt wakes up and immediately misses the bliss of being passed out. From blood loss, probably. He doesn't really remember, but his sword arm is completely numb and he has a headache that must have been caused by an angry god. Opening his eyes is not a priority.

Yes, but waking up means you are alive which is the preferred state for a Witcher to be, Geralt.

And he can hear that particular phrase ring through his head like a memory. Whoever said it floats just out of his grasp; like an invisible wall is guarding them from his thoughts. Perhaps he could remember when the army of knives stops clawing bits of his brain out. Fuck, but it hurts.

Even with that he can smell that he is currently laying in a swamp, heavy moist air and loamy earth. Maybe a bog, but a swamp seems more likely as he can smell Kikimora entrails. Quite well actually. Enough that he must have struck a killing blow before passing out. Good.

Taking stock of the situation, Geralt focuses through the pain and listens. He is very clearly still under the influence of Cat; he still has the aftertaste on his tongue. He can hear the beat of insect wings over the water and what sounds like small rodents scurrying through the soggy leaf litter away from the swamp. He can hear the water ripple. He can hear the drip of the slain beast's blood as it hits the ground. He can hear a horse picking their way through the underbrush. Walking nearer actually, but his body doesn't tense. It sounds like Roach.

“Come on pretty girl, let's go and get your daddy hmm? Just a little more Roach, I promise.”

Geralt can hear the voice talking softly to Roach. It's probably just a villager making sure that he has completed the contract. Or coming to see if he had died and they can keep their coin. Geralt doubted anyone who truly wanted him dead would be coaxing his horse as they walked.

Wait.

He can only hear Roach's steps. So either she is accompanied by a ghost or that voice is RIDING her. No one touches Roach. Shit. He moves his working arm around a bit and finds the dagger on his hip. His sword is not immediately available so laying still and ambushing the voice if they are hostile is his best plan.

He hears the horse and rider emerge from the brush and the rider fling themselves from the saddle. Judging by the sound of the impact they did not achieve a graceful landing. The probability of a proficient attack is somewhat lower.

“I swear to the gods Geralt, if you have died I will journey to the underworld and drag you back to kill you myself for leaving me.” The voice sounded equal parts worried and frustrated.

Oh. That is not the phrase of someone who wants him dead. They are coming closer and smell of human and Roach and surprisingly Geralt himself. It is a comforting combination, but Geralt doesn't know why.

“I live.”

The voice cups his cheek and his eyes react. This is bad, humans react badly when confronted with things used to keep them safe. His very black, non-human eyes fly open. Very blue eyes look back full of relief. He KNOWS they are blue; his vision is still grayscale from the Cat, yet he knows the correct shade of blue. Why?

“Still hopped up on Witcher-ey potions then?” He runs his thumb across Geralt's cheek in a comforting gesture. No shock, no fear, only a statement of fact. Most humans would recoil from his inhuman visage. “That's alright, let's get a look at you. Where are you hurt?”

Without those blue, probably blue, eyes staring into his Geralt tries to think. The voice, no man, is wrapped in Geralt's traveling cloak and it makes him look small. He also looks, and smells, very clean for being in a swamp. He lightly touches Geralt, moving bits of armor to see if any of the blood is Geralt's own. The hands stop near his shoulder. Might as well admit the injury, he will find it soon enough.

“Arm's numb. And my head feels as if it's trying to split itself into parts.”

“Hold on, let me go and get you a pain potion.” The man is already moving away and kissing to Roach. Who moves to meet him. What is going on? His medallion has been still, so this is not magic. As bizarre as this situation is, none of his instincts are telling him to be wary. In fact, his body wants to relax, like the danger has fully passed.

“Gods, Geralt. Would it kill you to label these potions? I swear one day it might. You're going to mistake a sword oil and a Golden Oriole and then die. Then where would we be, hmm? I'm going to take up the dying of cork as a hobby and see if stoppering the bottles in different colors helps me differentiate the brownish blue potion from the brownish purple one." He sounds put-upon but not angry, like a mother ensuring her small child has shoes on the correct feet.

A few more clinking noises and the man exclaims, “A-ha! I've got it. Well it's either the pain potion or the berry flavoured intimate oil that I purchased a few towns ago. Same viscosity actually. I don't know why that is.” The man pauses and considers the vial. “However if this smells of currant perhaps let me know and don't drink it. It is supposed to be edible but I doubt the maker intended for the oil to be drunk and it would do nothing for the headache.”

The man uncorks the vial and it is clearly a pain reliever. Geralt makes a move to take it from him but the potion is already at his lips and being fed to him by gentle hands. It tastes like shit.

“Tastes like shit.”

“Oh good, means it is the right one after all. Put one point up for the bard. Actually, put two points up for the bard as I did not get lost coming to locate you.”

“That would be a point for Roach,” Geralt corrects automatically.

“Fair," The Bard agrees easily. "Give it a minute to work and I'll take you back to camp.”

“Need my sword.”

“Yes, yes, it's over there where you sliced the beastie's head clean off. Very impressive, as usual. I'll get it once you are sorted.” The man is smoothing Geralt's matted hair down as best he can in the dark; it's nice no longer to have it stuck to his face. As usual?

“And the head for payment,” because Geralt almost died and his head hurts; he is getting his fucking coin.

“Geralt! It's filthy," he complains. Shocked and offended at having to touch the dirty thing, but not at having to touch a Witcher. A Witcher who is lying in the same mud as the offending object. Surprising. The Bard sighs. “I will stick it in the oilcloth and tie it to Roach but only because I have a deep affection for you and I cannot bear to escort you back to town to have you pout about your lack of trophy. Actually did they even request the head as proof? Are you sure I have to touch it?"

“I...” Geralt doesn't remember. Actually, now that the pain has dulled, he notices he doesn't remember a lot of things. “Better to take it and it be unneeded than having to come back to avoid being cheated of payment.”

“Ugh, the things that I do for you,” The Bard grumbles. Geralt watches The Bard throw an oilcloth over the severed head and holding the silver sword in both hands, use the flat of it to nudge the head in. It looks ridiculous, has this man ever held a sword in his life?

“What are you doing?”

“Well if I don't have to touch it why would I? Honestly...” he smacks the head a few more times, he really does look entirely ridiculous with his rear sticking out like that, before grabbing the oilcloth's drawstring and cinching it tight. “There! Two points for the bard!” he exclaims in triumph.

“Hmm.” The Bard drags the sack over to Roach and ties it to her saddle. He fastens the sword as well before heading to Geralt.

“Alright, up you get.” The Bard, who went to great lengths to avoid touching the head, seems to have no problem pulling a bloody witcher up into his arms and catching him against his chest when his leg fails.

“Melitele Geralt, warn a man!”

“Leg's injured.”

“Clearly," he says flatly. "You are very funny. Roach, come here, be a pretty girl and help me with this.”
Roach again listens to the man and stands stock still as a combination of Geralt pulling with his good arm and The Bard lifting his ass manages to get Geralt across her back like a sack of potatoes. After making sure there is no pressure on any of his injuries, they set off, The Bard leading Roach and Geralt slung over her saddle in a most undignified manner.

Geralt has a little time to think while they make their way back to camp. Obviously, he has lost more time than just a few days. He has taken a traveling companion, a bard of all things, and gotten to know him well enough even Roach listens to him. He turns his head and looks at his cloak, knows him well enough to let him wear his cloak or that the man feels comfortable enough to wear it without permission. It looks... not wrong on him.

He hadn't had a traveling companion since he and Eskel ended up meeting by accident in Beauclair and travelled to Kaer Morhen together for the winter. That was nice, but Witchers were meant to walk the Path alone. Yet, here he is with a bard that knows his horse and his potions and wears his clothes and isn't afraid even if Geralt looks every inch the mutant that he is. Either The Bard lacks self preservation instincts or they have travelled together long enough Geralt's otherness had become normal. Geralt wonders how long that takes.

"Come on you big oaf, down you get, you only have to get down and not fall," The Bard soothes as he catches Geralt on his slide off of Roach. He catches what weight the good leg doesn't and helps him the pace or so to the bedroll next to the fire. "Easy now, let's get you horizontal on purpose this time."

He makes it to the bedroll, The Bard kneeling next to it to unlace Geralt's boots. Then, very strangely The Bard reaches for the laces of his trousers. "No," he manages to growl out and grabs for The Bard's hands.

"Don't be ridiculous, Witcher. You cannot get into bed with all this ichor on you. It's not like I can order a bath in the wilderness and you are in no shape to go to town." He slaps Geralt's hands away, uncaring those hands are deadly weapons themselves, "I am taking off your pants so you don't dirty our blankets or else."

"Hmm," he responds. It seems strange that nothing about this scenario bothers him. Intellectually, he knows he should be protesting, but he lets The Bard strip his pants then work on removing his armor and ruined shirt. He talks the entire time, mostly complaints about the amount of laundering the clothes will take.

"Or should we even bother Geralt? I know you are a fan of these particular garments but I promise to choose something more fashionable and almost as practical when we find a decent tailor. I will even cede to keeping with your preferred palette of black on black on black."

"No, you spend enough time undressing me." Why did he feel the need to say that?

"You are, in fact, terrible. Now lie back for a moment while I go tend to Roach. Then I will finish tending to you." The Bard wraps him up in blankets and tells him to "be good for ten minutes." The Bard removes Geralt's cloak to add to the pile, revealing a watered silk doublet and pants in what Geralt is sure is a flashy color. He nudges a bucket of water close to the fire on his way to unsaddle Roach.

It hurts too much to look across the fire where they are, the Cat should be done soon, so he settles into the bedroll. Singular bed roll. And the ridiculous amount of blankets that have been piled upon him. They smell of comfort and safety and also, The Bard. He surreptitiously sniffs the blankets. Himself and The Bard together, and the scents of traveling, and then he gets a faint trace of his own spend and what he would stake his life is The Bard's spend.

Oh, that would explain some things.

Like why there is intimate oil in his potion bag.

It's not THE Bard; it is HIS bard.

Actually, it explains very little if Geralt looks at the larger picture. He now knows he and his bard have been bedfellows. Also, he knows they have been for a long time. The scent of himself and his bard in the blankets has a fresh layer, not more than a couple of days old, but their spend is an old scent. It makes sense, not to dirty the bedrolls when they have no convenient way to launder them. But his bard smells so clean, they must have recently patronized an inn. Maybe humans are more tolerant of a Witcher if he has a human companion to act as a buffer.

How did he take a human lover anyway? He is no stranger to whorehouses and paying for sex, but clearly, his bard is no whore. His voice as he sings to Roach is soothing and of a quality that indicates professional training. Maybe Geralt saved him and they fell into bed together and never stopped. Maybe he heard his bard sing and tried to woo him? That is unlikely, Geralt has no idea how to be a soft and caring lover. How to keep someone for more than a few days.

Unless… has he learned and then forgotten?

All he truly knows at this point is that he has been in a sexual relationship with his bard for some months and he is wrapped up in their shared bedroll. All he can hope is his memories return as he heals and he won't have to hurt his lover by admitting he doesn't remember him.

His bard finishes with Roach and comes back, pulling the warmed bucket of water next to him. He has changed his own clothes, into just a simple chemise and a pair of braies, suitable for sleeping. "Now, dear Witcher, I must ask that you not fuss. I need to clean off the worst of the gore so we can actually tell the extent of the damage."

Geralt just looks at him. Oh, his eyes are actually blue now. His mind did supply the correct shade before. It's beautiful. His bard is beautiful.

"Do as you will," he chooses to answer.

His bard immediately wipes his face clean in the same manner a mother would use on a messy toddler. He glares at his bard.

"Oh hush, you said 'do as you will' and my will is making you clean. Then I'm going to examine that gash in your shoulder and see if you need stitches and you will behave."

Geralt growls a bit, just out of instinct and his bard gently swats his nose with the towel. Geralt feels no need to retaliate. He then moves on to washing Geralt's chest and arms like nothing happened. Obviously, Geralt has learned to be careful and not terrify him. He is going to have to remember to be soft so when he gets his memory back his bard is still here. Not undo whatever work his other-self, his REAL self with it's intact memory, has done.

His bard hums as he works, methodically cleaning Geralt and rinsing the rag. "You can, umm, sing if you want. My head hurts less." Geralt hopes this is the right thing to say.

His bard stops and looks at him. Then he seems to recover himself and asks, "anything you would specifically like to hear?"

"Hmm," Geralt replies because he doesn't want to admit he remembers none of the songs his bard sings.

"How about I sing the one about when you were swallowed by the Selkimore outside of Cintra and killed it from the interior? I know you like that one even if you don't admit it. The alderman's face though, when you walked in the tavern, fully alive, covered in grime was amazing. I had just told him you would be fine, but he did not believe me. As if you would do something so rude as to die when I needed you."

His bard stopped as he reached the injured shoulder. "Oh, this is bad Geralt. It's going to hurt like a bitch. Try not to kill me." And with that, he uncorks another vial with his teeth and tips a portion of the contents on the shoulder wound.

Geralt tenses and screams. That was most certainly the correct potion for the situation. He knows it was for the best but that didn't mean it felt good. "Fuck." He falls back against the bedroll.

"Hopefully that is the worst of it," his bard sounds sympathetic and again, not scared.

"Fuck."

"Quite. Shall we get on with it?" His bard doesn't wait for an answer, resuming cleaning the grime from Geralt and singing the promised song. His bard is talented, especially if he also composed this song; it's clever. Geralt considers himself fortunate to have somehow won his attention.

Geralt lets himself drift, listening to his bard's lovely voice. Is this his life now, soft songs and gentle touches? It is a long way from the hatred humans showed from him after word spread from Blaviken. Whatever he has done to get here, it must have been a good thing.

Eventually, his bard reaches the leg injury and upends the remainder of the vial onto it. It did not feel pleasant, he tenses and instinctively clutches at his bard, but doesn't scream again. He manages to keep his vocalizations to growling only. The kikimora must have caught his whole side with its claws, but did not slice as deep here, as it hurts less than the shoulder.
Geralt carefully lets go of his bard and glances at his leg. "That should be healed by morning."

"Good you can ride Roach into town then. Well ride her in a more dignified manner. Not that I would mind much, looking at your lovely bottom on the way into town," he teases.

"Bard," he warns before he can stop himself. He is rewarded with a face that clearly said that he was no fun. "Go back to your singing."

His bard looks stunned for a minute before recovering. "All that's left is trying to do something about your hair anyway." He shuffles around next to Geralt's head and pulls it to rest in this lap. He gently wipes the white strands while singing something about tossing coins.

Geralt finds it soothing, until he hits something that causes a sharp pain. "Geralt," his bard sounds truly worried, "there is a large clot up here, over the bad shoulder. I am afraid to dislodge it because of its location and size. I am no trained healer so please, I beg of you, let me take you to a healer in the morning."

His bard is running his hands through the hair on the uninjured side of Geralt's head and is staring at the opposite side with terror. "If it pains me in the morning, I will go."

"Geralt…" his bard is still staring at his temple. He feels tense where Geralt was resting against him, probably worrying about Geralt's wellbeing. Perhaps the creature caught his head when it got his shoulder. His bard will worry all night if Geralt does nothing to reassure him. Fuck.

"If I will agree to go, will you lay down and sleep?"

"Yes," his bard lets out the breath he had been holding. His head is eased from his bard's lap and he disappears to go do something with the dirty water, leaving Geralt to wait for him in the bedroll.

Geralt hears him come back but not to the bed. His bard is dithering not far from the bedroll, his face unsure. "Come lay down on my uninjured side, it will be fine," he says as he lifts the edge of the blankets.

His bard meekly approaches and lays down tensely. Geralt must have done something wrong, something the real him would not have done. Maybe he had been too gruff when demanding he come to bed. If he had a lover, or a lover he remembers, he would hold them in the night, he thinks.

He reaches out with his good arm, pulling his bard over. Instinctively a head full of brown hair is pillowed on his good shoulder and a soft arm draped carefully over his torso. That must have been the thing that real Geralt would have done. "You won't hurt me, my bard. Get some rest," Geralt says gently.

Geralt brushes a soft kiss against the top of his bard's head.