Geralt held Jaskier through the night. It had been difficult not to drift into sleep but he wanted to memorise every second of being close to his bard. The slightly smaller man was fast asleep and seemed content and peaceful. Just before the sunset, Geralt got up to fetch some bucket for Jaskier - he surely would be hungover considering the amount of alcohol he managed to drink. The Witcher also went downstairs to ask a barman (which surprisingly was someone else than Joachim) to fill the bath in Jaskier's room with water. He asked for cold water; firstly, it didn't particularly matter since he could heat it with Igni anytime, secondly because taverns usually charged double the amount for hot water. Even though the winter was coming and the season meant shelter and food for free, he didn't exactly feel comfortable about wasting coin.
After making sure everything was prepared for Jaskier, he quickly made his way back to the room and hurried to lay beside his bard again. He knew he was being selfish, Jaskier would surely never allow anything like that had he been sober and awake, but he couldn't help it. He'd wanted to hold the man for twenty or so years and given the fact this was his last opportunity, he decided not to waste it. And so he lay, half dosed with Jaskier's presence, half terrified of the moment he would have to let him go. At some time during the waiting, he actually fell asleep, being calmed by Jaskier's smell and steady breathing.
It hadn't been until late morning when Jaskier finally woke up. As anticipated, his head hurt like hell and his stomach felt a bit funny. He was relieved to see a bucket next to the bed and a waterskin on the nightstand. His throat felt parched and the bitter aftertaste of alcohol made itself known. It took him some time to realise he was pressed tightly against someone's chest, said someone having his hands wrapped around him. He froze for a moment but then realised it had to be Geralt, given the circumstances of the Witcher's stay.
That was what surprised him the most - the fact Geralt willingly held him, no, that he was able to stay in the same room as someone who shovelled shit on him. He frowned and had to close his eyes for a moment. All he wanted to do was to fall asleep again and never have to leave Geralt's embrace. But not even his hangover allowed him to believe anything like that was possible. He would probably get yelled at a bit and then all three Witchers were going to take off, leaving him behind. He decided it would be better to get this over with as soon as possible, there was no point in letting himself be held by Geralt, knowing it means nothing to the Witcher.
So he sighed heavily and tried to remove himself from Geralt's arms, only managing to make the Witcher grumble and tighten his hold ever so slightly. The bard wiggled a bit more and suddenly Geralt snapped awake and let go of him the instant. Jaskier's gaze dropped. He didn't understand himself, he knew the Witcher had no interest in being with him, so why the fuck did getting refused hurt so much?! Doing this, he masterfully managed to miss the way Geralt's eyes filled with worry lingered at him. He tried to get up but his head started spinning rapidly, followed by abrupt nausea. He reeled on his way to the bucket and suddenly Geralt was there, steadying him and helping him to his knees. Once the vomiting was over and Jaskier regained his balance, Geralt's arms left him again.
"Thank you," he managed, his throat a bit sore. He wasn't sure whether he should apologise or not, considering all the times Geralt had helped him through his hangovers. He decided not to and Geralt nodded gently, watching him with concern and... nervousness?
"I... had the barman bring up some water, if you'd like to bathe," Geralt said, uncertainty clear in his voice, as he sat back on the bed. Jaskier took a few gulps from the waterskin before answering the unspoken question.
"Yes, that would be lovely," both of them cringed at the formality in their dialogue, but neither wanted to offend the other by pointing it out.
"Right, then..." Geralt started and raised his hand to cast Igni on the bathtub. The water inside began steaming and the whole room got a bit warmer. Jaskier stood irresolutely in between the bed and the bathtub, in turns eyeing Geralt and the water. The Witcher raised his eyebrow and then realised what was going on, embarrassed. "Oh, oh, right, I'm sorry. I'll go. Take your time and let us know once you're freshened up, please. Lambert and Aiden surely wouldn't want to leave without saying goodbye," he said, adding 'and me' in his head but not out loud, unsure whether or not it would be appropriate. He waited for Jaskier to nod affirmatively and then left the room for the bard to bathe. He made sure his belongings stayed in place, a silent promise he wasn't going anywhere.
The moment he had closed the door, he immediately wanted to hit himself in the head repeatedly. How could he allow himself to fall asleep?! It was clear Jaskier wasn't fond of him anymore, so how did he manage to lose his guard and sleep? His previous intentions - to let go of the bard the moment he started to wake up - were destroyed by his lack of self-control. He shook his head and opened his eyes - when did he even close them in the first place? - and followed the scent of his brother to another room.
They'd mostly been travelling together for the past four months, which meant he knew better than to burst into the room unannounced. He definitely wasn't in a mood to catch his brother and Aiden showing their affection physically, as they both called fucking, much to Geralt's dismay. That was why he made sure to knock at least twice and didn't enter until he heard a clear 'Come in!' from the inside.
Lambert and Aiden in fact still were in bed, but both of them wore their pants at least, which Geralt gladly noticed - no nightmares for him, good. (Not that big, scary Witchers got nightmares, of course). They both thoroughly scanned him with their eyes and then watched him, puzzled.
"Didn't you say you and Jaskier weren't on good terms with each other anymore?" Lambert asked and Geralt nodded, quite unsure as to why he was asked that. "Then why the fuck do you reek of his fucking scent?!" his brother added angrily and Geralt only shrugged, unaware of further enraging Lambert by this action. Why the fuck was he even mad? But before Lambert managed to form his rage into words, Aiden stepped in.
"Geralt... you know that solving problems with sex isn't the best way, right?" he said calmly, resting his hand on Lambert's shoulder and Geralt found himself thankful for the way the Cat affected his brother.
"Yes, I am actually fully aware of that. And I can assure you that nothing had happened between the two of us during the night. Unlike you two," he couldn't help poking the couple. He chuckled a bit at their slightly offended (but fond) faces and quickly continued. "I was about to sleep on the ground, but Jask insisted I sleep on the bed as well," those words said, he moved to sit onto the single chair next to the bed. He didn't notice their amazed faces, fuck it, he didn't even notice how he abbreviated Jaskier's name in the way only lovers did. His head was now bowed low, the floor suddenly seemed to be very interesting.
"Fuck. You really care about the bard, don't you?" Lambert gave a gasp and leaned over to pat Geralt's shoulder. "Hey, I dunno, what happened between the two of you but, fuck, you should talk," he said and Aiden nodded. They watched him as if they expected him to storm right after Jaskier, not realising anything Geralt did. He felt a tight knot inside of his belly.
"That's the fucking thing!" he snapped, tugging at his hair. "I care for him, I want nothing more than to keep him forever! But he's too fragile to walk the Path with me, too pure to end up with a Witcher, too short-living not to die long before I do. He deserves much more than just following me around, sleeping in the woods after being cast out of a town! He's... better off without me," his last words were barely a whisper as he suddenly felt lost, torn apart. He had never thought he would have a companion, fuck it, a love interest, let alone as perfect as Jaskier was, but Destiny was a fucking bitch. It gave him just the thing he'd never asked for and wanted to take it away from him the instant he accepted it. He frowned so hard it almost hurt, his nails digging into his scalp, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
"What if... you aren't the only one feeling that way?" Aiden asked gently, trying not to push any more triggers on Geralt. "What if Jaskier wants you like this, too? Isn't it more cruel to reject him? To leave him wandering the Continent with broken heart, alone?" he watched as Geralt frowned and tugged at his hair even more. "I think you should talk to him. To actually express whatever it is you're feeling. I don't know what happened between the two of you, I don't want to. I'm just saying a conversation is the best solution right now. Right?" he turned at Lambert who gave a soft nod and then snuggled closer to his neck. Geralt all but smiled at the sight of his brother being happy, and then started rocking a bit, thinking about everything they told him. A talk maybe wasn't a bad idea, after all.
As Jaskier bathed, he kept thinking about his further actions. He could go to Oxenfurt and teach for the winter, or to accept some of the offers from the nobles to stay at their court for that season. He sighed, quite unsure as for what to do now. There were three Witchers waiting for him somewhere at the tavern and he had no idea what to do. He couldn't say goodbye to Geralt again, his heart wouldn't bear it.
His muscles relaxed a bit thanks to the hot water and the hangover was slightly receding, much to his delight. At least he wouldn't feel like shit until the Witchers leave.
When he deemed himself clean enough, he got from the bathtub, wiped himself dry and went to dress up. The blue doublet wasn't in the best condition after yesterday's performance and drinking, plus sleeping in it. He washed it quickly in the lukewarm water and then put the carmine red doublet on. It made his eyes stand out and he decided he could at least look dashing while having his heart broken.
He checked his appearance one last time and then moved to the door, ready to face the Witchers, but then he noticed one of Geralt's saddlebags was opened and a book lay next to it. Jaskier realised it must have fallen out when Geralt dropped the bags the last night and he eyed the book nervously, unsure whether he should put it back or leave it there. He didn't want to go through Geralt's belongings but... he would only put a book back and then close it again, right? There is nothing nosy in doing that, he told himself and leaned forward to pick the book.
Once he held it in his hands, his jaw dropped. The book felt familiar, it was covered in a green-dyed leather and the letters imprinted to it were accentuated with golden ink. He didn't even have to read the title to know it was his book - one of the collections which had been published during the last four months. He didn't understand whatever was going on. He thought he'd solved everything, that he understood Geralt's feelings, but now, looking at Love Run, the first collection he'd published, he felt puzzled again.
Why would Geralt buy a book from the person he loathes? His mind did, in fact, provide him with many reasons Geralt may had had, but Jaskier wasn't willing to believe those. He knew Geralt hated him, that he wished to never have met him in the first place. It... maybe it was given to him as a payment... from a bookshop owner? It simply didn't make sense.
He put the book away quickly, shook his head and left the room even more baffled than he had been before.
It wasn't hard to find the Witchers. Firstly - it probably was a rule for the Witchers to smell as horses, secondly, Lambert was loud. Geralt had mentioned his brother before, of course, but nothing could prepare Jaskier for the reality. How could a Witcher be so fucking loud?! Jaskier braced himself and knocked quietly, knowing that the Witchers have probably already heard his footsteps. There was a brief and quiet chatter in the room and then the door opened, giving Jaskier the view of Aiden's bare chest. (Was it another Witcher rule to have no fucking manners at all?)
"Oh, hello Jaskier!" Aiden exclaimed and patted his shoulder. After that he moved so that Jaskier could enter. Geralt quickly jumped from the chair he had been sitting at and offered it to the bard, once again leaving him terribly confused.
He sat on the chair, the Witchers' gazes never leaving him. They conversed for a while, but when Jaskier's stomach started rumbling, Aiden stood.
"Oh, right, I'll go fetch something to eat and bring it here," he said with a wink. "Lam, you comin'?" Lambert didn't seem willing to leave the bed and for a while he looked like he'll argue, but then Aiden shot him a telling look and suddenly the red-haired Witcher shot up. The couple dressed properly, each took a dagger and before Jaskier knew it, the door was slammed shut, leaving him alone with Geralt, said Witcher looking irresolutely. Jaskier finally had an opportunity to scan him properly - the silver hair slightly shorter than it used to be, golden eyes filled with... fear?, he felt relieven when he didn't notice any new scars. The White Wolf was as comely as usual, if one wasn't scared of the abnormal features.
Geralt clenched his fists and fucking bit his lower lip. He was nervous, unsure, maybe even cowardly - but fuck all of it, he wasn't the one masterly with the words. He sighed and cleared his throat, catching Jaskier's attention.
"You, uh, you grew your hair out," Geralt said, instantly regretting his words. You're supposed to apologise, not comment on his appearance! Jaskier raised his eyebrow and watched him suspiciously. Fuck.
"Yeah, guess I did," he replied, not knowing what else to say. His hand unwittingly scratched the back of his neck. Geralt's amber eyes still followed every single motion and he felt fidgety. "You like it?" he asked before he could stop himself. His eyes went wide and he could only stare in shock as Geralt nodded with an almost-not-there smile.
"Suits you," Geralt all but whispered and then cleared his throat again. "I'm... I'm sorry, Jask. For the twenty years of rudeness, for not being the company you deserved, but most importantly for the hunt. I- what I said there wasn't the truth. Any of it. I know it and I hope you do, too. Can I- is there anything I could do to deserve your forgiveness, please?" he said with a knot in his stomach. The bard watched him in awe, at his words end. When it was clear Jaskier wasn't going to say anything, Geralt stood up and kneeled in front of him, making Jaskier look him in the eye. He rested his hand on Jaskier's and that touch made Jaskier flinch and move away from the touch.
"Don't, please, don't," Jaskier said and Geralt eyed him inquiringly. Jaskier gulped and closed his eyes. "Don't make me believe something that isn't true. Don't be so... so gentle. Just yell at me already!" he snapped, making Geralt jerk and stand up. He shut his eyes even tighter and expected a yell, a punch... anything. But nothing was happening. It was not until he heard soft footsteps heading away, that he opened his eyes, only to see Geralt sitting on the floor, his back reclined against the bed.
"I won't, ever, yell at you again," Geralt whispered firmly looking him straight in the eye again. "It just- it was too much. I-I can't watch you die, Jaskier. I can't live knowing you died because of knowing me. Fuck, I'm terrified of watching you get old and perish. I thought that- that if I send you away, you'd be fine. I know you hate me and I'm not surprised you do, I just wanted to tell you you're none of those things I called you. None. If I had to be honest, you actually are one of the best things in my life, in any Witcher's life. I've never even so much as thanked you, or-or I don't know congratulated you on your success..." he started babbling, overwhelmed by his emotions up to the point he hadn't noticed Jaskier approaching him. The bard was now sitting in front of him, legs crossed, and fuck if he wasn't perfect.
"I don't hate you," Jaskier spoke softly, even though he wanted to scream at the stupid Witcher. "I don't think I could if I wanted, which I do not. To be honest, I thought you hated me." Geralt's head lowered even more. "Hey, I can't say everything is forgiven because gods, what you said hurt so fucking much, but now I at least understand your intentions a bit more," he continued and cupped Geralt's face in his hands. Geralt looked up and were those tears sparkling in his eyes? The Witcher took a deep breath and then looked like he was deciding on something. Jaskier let him take his time and then, finally, Geralt spoke again.
"I still am terrified. Because I've never felt what I feel for you," his words, barely a whisper, cut into Jaskier's heart and his stomach suddenly felt as if there were butterflies inside. He couldn't help but smile. But then a realisation fell upon him and he felt sudden rage.
"You fucking idiot!" he screamed, standing up, hands tugging at his hair. "Are you seriously telling me you love me? Me? Were it not for your idiotic, fucking heroism, you wouldn't send me away, you wouldn't feel the need to hurt me. And you did all of this because you love me?!" he smacked his shoulder hard, knowing he can't hurt the man, but it was a great way to relieve him of at least some of the frustration. "And you didn't feel like telling me about your feelings, why exactly? Because of the whole 'Witchers don't feel' crap? And you haven't, not even once, thought that your feelings don't particularly have to be unrequitted? Melitele's tits, Geralt, you fucking idiot!" he nagged at the Witcher, smacking him every now and then. And then suddenly, Geralt stood up too, as frustrated as Jaskier.
"And you think there could be anything between us?! We're not in a fucking fairytale, Jaskier. This is reality, and that means there won't be any 'happy ever after'! You'll die in like what, three decades? If not sooner. And I'm supposed to live knowing that? That anyone I love, anyone human, is going to die much sooner than I do?! You have no fucking idea what it's like! I-I can't do this, not anymore! Not again!" his voice broke but he didn't care.
"You wouldn't," Jaskier suddenly said.
"What?" barely a hoarse whisper.
"Lose me. Well, at least not to time. I hadn't told you earlier because you just didn't seem to care enough, but..." he didn't finish, instead, he closed his eyes and channelled his magic. Geralt's medallion vibrated. The room suddenly filled with flowery smell and a small crown of buttercups appeared in Jaskier's hair. There was scent of magic in the room, but Geralt noticed it wasn't the pungent smell of Chaos - no, this was something purer and more natural.
"But how, you're... you've never..." was all he managed, abruptly in awe and shock.
"I'm a dryad - well, a half-dryad. Long story short, my father wandered too far into Brokilon and the dryads made him do the same as most of the captured men. But then I was born, a boy, and they weren't interested in having a man amongst them, so they sent one of them to return me to Lettenhove," he tried to sound cheerful, but his voice cracked a bit. Geralt understood. Being rejected as a child hurt, he of all people knew that. Jaskier was silent for a while and then continued: "My heritage has granted me a long life, much longer than an average human would have, anyway. So if that was the only obstacle..." he let the rest of the sentence unspoken, since both of them knew how it ended.
"Are you sure you want to be associated with a Witcher? An abomination?" Geralt asked quietly, deserving another smack from Jaskier. The bard came closer and put one hand on his cheek.
"That is not what you are, dear heart. But yes, whatever people call you, I don't care, as long as you don't, too," he said, caressing Geralt's skin with his thumb. The Witcher tried to smile.
"You kept the doublet," Geralt said, moving his hands to Jaskier's waist, exactly the way he's wanted to do for so long. Jaskier only smiled and moved his arms behind Geralt's neck.
"You bought my book," he replied and Geralt chuckled. They joined their foreheads, perfectly content with simply holding each other like that. They stayed that way for a moment, both waiting for the other to make the first move.
Finally, Jaskier got on his tiptoes and leaned his face even closer to Geralt's.
"Julian..." Geralt whispered and Jaskier shivered with the way his name sounded from Geralt's lips.
Then, after what felt like an eternity, their lips crashed together in a desperate need to have the other as close as possible. What was initially a chaste kiss turned deep and sloppy but neither of them cared. They finally had what they'd been longing for. They kept kissing for as long as Jaskier's lungs could endure (which was much more thanks to his trained lungs and his inhuman heritage) and after that, they joined their foreheads once again, content.
"I love you, Julek, I think I always have," Geralt breathed with a wide smile after a while.
"I love you, too," Jaskier replied and then grinned. "But don't think everything is forgiven, I'll make you compensate for it for a loooong time," he threatened and Geralt chuckled.
"Anything you wish for, flower," was Geralt's answer. But when he heard a horse outside, he froze, returning to reality. Jaskier sensed his discomfort and looked at him.
"Everything okay, Witcher mine?" he asked but there was something in his eyes that Geralt knew - Jaskier was thinking the same thing he did. The winter was coming and he had to go to Kaer Morhen, back to training Ciri, back to being a Witcher. And judging by the way Jaskier looked at him, he was realising the same thing. But this time, Geralt knew exactly what to do.
"Come to Kaer Morhen with me, Jask, come home," he said breathless, worrying the bard might refuse and leave again. That worry didn't last long; the bard's face lit up and he suddenly had an armful of Jaskier to hold and kiss.
"Yes, yes, yes," was the answer he got, he was longing for, and Jaskier repeated it into his mouth, into his neck, into his hair. Geralt felt a spark of joy in his heart - something he hasn't felt for a long time. Maybe Destiny wasn't such a bitch, after all.
They were interrupted by a fake cough from the door and turned to see Aiden and Lambert with happy faces. Actually, Aiden with a happy face and Lambert with a frown, handing a small pouch over to Aiden.
"Hope it was worth my fucking money," he grunted to the couple, but Aiden smacked his chest and then draped over it. Fucking weird Cats! Jaskier tilted his head back and laughed at their antics. Geralt's heart fluttered, while he still couldn't believe that a creature such as beautiful as Jaskier could exist - what's more, be interested in him.
Anyone else be damned, he's got his bard and his Witcher family and there wasn't anything he would change. He kissed Jaskier again and then let him down, content. He suddenly didn't care about the sheer track to Kaer Morhen, he didn't care about Nilfgaard, he didn't care about anything bad in the world. He had his bard at his side, his beacon of light and hope, who made the future seem brighter. They sat down on the bed to breakfast and Jaskier leaned against him, one hand wrapped around his waist, stealing a kiss from him every now and then. In the end, having someone who needed him was fucking great and there wasn't anything he wished for more. His bard was everything, and deep down he knew Jaskier felt the same. He ignored Lambert's telling looks, at the moment there wasn't anything that mattered - except for Jaskier, of course.