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power in unexpected places

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Jaskier realized, later, that he was stupid for never considering Kaer Morhen might be targeted.

As much as he knew some humans despised witchers, he never thought they’d go through the lengths of climbing a dangerous mountain just to stage an attack. He was too focused on other things, probably, like trying to make the best first impression on Vesemir and the others. They were, after all, the closest thing Geralt had to family.

It was ironically when he was in the library with Eskel, talking about their shared interest in poetry (who would’ve thought?), that he heard the first of it. A distant sound at first, almost like thunder, but one look at the window confirmed that was unlikely.

It was a bright and clear day for the middle of winter.

“You hear that?” he asked as he turned back to Eskel. He didn’t need to hear his reply to know he had; his head was tilted slightly, his eyes half-closed.

Eskel shoved the stack of books - all collections of poetry - toward Jaskier, who quickly grabbed them. He opened his mouth to say something but he was too late. Jaskier startled at the loud bang, and then Geralt was in the doorway.

“We need you,” he said gruffly. There was no question who he was talking to.

Eskel nodded and swiftly joined his side. Suddenly he no longer looked like the warm man that had been keeping Jaskier company while Geralt and Lambert sparred in the courtyard. “Again?” he asked like he couldn’t quite believe it.

Jaskier furrowed his brows as Geralt sighed. “Jaskier’s songs can only do so much,” he muttered and then there was another louder bang. Jaskier quickly disposed of the books and rushed to join them, eyes wide.

“Are we being attacked?” he asked, though he knew the answer.

Geralt turned to him as Eskel disappeared around the corner, mouth a thin line and eyes sharp. “Stay here,” he said, as if he didn’t already know Jaskier rarely listened to his commands. “Stay,” he repeated as if he’d read his mind, voice barely above a growl.

Jaskier ignored the urge to reply, clawing up the back of his throat. He gave a curt nod and watched as Geralt turned, also disappearing around the corner in a blur of motion.

If he focused he could hear the distant sound of battle; metal on metal, mostly. He knew Geralt would be using his steel sword, as if the people downstairs weren’t just as monstrously as any beast he had slain, if not more. Pressing his lips together, he walked back to the bookshelf and tried to ignore the ruckus. He barely lasted two seconds.

Geralt was an idiot of epic portions if he thought he would just stay hidden up here like some damsel in distress. He had even learned a few new moves recently, mostly from watching them when they sparred and practicing them in his room when he was alone. He had considered even asking for a few lessons but so far his embarrassment had been too strong.

Still he wasn’t useless.

Jaskier crouched down and reached to his boot; his finger caught in the loop at the end of his dagger and he pulled it out in one smooth tug.

The best way to earn the respect of Geralt’s family, he knew, was to prove he could actually be helpful in battle. With a nod, he stood up and rushed to join the others. If his hand shook around the hilt of his dagger, well, he was the only one who knew.

*

Predictably there wasn’t much left to do when he arrived in the courtyard; a dozen or so bodies were thrown around, lifeless in the melting snow. The first pair of eyes he caught still blazing with life were Lambert’s.

Lambert sneered, “Get back inside!”

As if he was going to listen, but he truly did appreciate that he cared. Lambert had been the hardest one to read thus far; half the time Jaskier couldn’t tell if he hated his guts or just liked teasing a little too much.

“Where is he?” he called, hands cupped around his mouth.

“Get back inside,” he repeated, but he messed up.

Jaskier didn’t miss the flicker of his eyes, drawn to where the curve of the keep blocked the side from view and back again. “I’ll be safe,” he shouted before he took off. He distantly heard Lambert’s curse but he kept running, scrambling around the side and stopping in his tracks when he saw Geralt still fighting.

About six men, all holding swords, had him pressed up against the side of the keep, slashing wildly. Geralt could hold his own, he knew, but he wanted to help.

Taking a step forward, snow crunched his foot and Geralt’s eyes snapped to him.

“Jas—” he started, eyes widening just that tiniest bit. It was just a couple seconds, looking back, but it felt like an eternity in that moment as Jaskier watched one of the men swing his sword again, obviously knowing this was it, the only moment they would have.

Jaskier scrambled forward, just two steps, throat burning. Geralt wasn’t paying attention, he still wasn’t looking and there wasn’t enough time, and witchers could heal from stuff humans couldn’t dream of, but there were limits, he knew that, and there were no healers up here, and—

He needed to do something.

Jaskier took a deep breath and screamed.

*

Jaskier felt a cool press to his cheek and whimpered, turning away from it. “Jaskier,” a familiar voice, and the hand—it was a hand, he realized dully—was back on his cheek, “I need you to open your eyes.”

“My throat,” he croaked. His throat felt like it’d been scrubbed raw. He tried to remember what had happened; he remembered screaming and then nothing.

It wasn’t just one person. As he opened his eyes, he realized he was surrounded. Vesemir, Eskel, Lambert, and lastly the person he cared for most in his life, Geralt. They all looked rough, but alive. Geralt was alive.

Jaskier let out something between a laugh and a sob. Geralt exchanged a look with Lambert on his other side and they both helped him to sit. It was freezing and his clothes were soaked through from being in the snow for so long.

“Wh—what happened?” he asked as he peered over Eskel’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t the sight of the six men from earlier dead and lifeless on the ground. Actually, that was expected.

What was weird was the blood seeping out of their noses and eyes, and looking closer, even their ears.

Jaskier blinked slowly. Geralt’s hand tightened on his arm. He forced his eyes away from the fallen bodies and to the man by his side. “What did you do?” he asked quietly. He had seen Geralt kill in many different ways but this—this was new.

He heard another curse from Lambert’s mouth. “You’re right,” he said. To who, he wasn’t sure, because his eyes were still trained on Geralt. “He doesn’t remember.”

Jaskier swallowed, throat painfully raw. “What does he mean?”

Geralt gave a small, tight smile and that was how he knew it was bad. Whatever had happened was bad. “Jaskier,” he slid his hand down Jaskier’s arm and gently grasped his wrist, bringing his hand up. Jaskier’s eyes focused slowly on his hand, not understanding, until he did—his skin was weirdly pale, peppered with dark spots. If that wasn’t enough to be worrying, his nails were sharp and long, black as the night sky. He let out a startled laugh that just hurt his throat more, looking back up. Geralt was staring at him with a clenched jaw, no longer smiling. “You did that.”

“I—killed them,” he replied flatly. His dagger was in the snow by his thigh, not a drop of blood on the blade. “How?”

Geralt exchanged a look with the others and Jaskier felt oddly peeved, being treated like he couldn’t handle the truth, like he was fragile. That was the exact opposite of what he’d wanted.

“Just tell me,” he snapped.

Geralt sighed and turned back to him. Still holding his wrist, he gently guided his hand to his chest. Jaskier understood what he was showing him immediately; his medallion was trembling lightly under the palm of his hand. “You didn’t know what you were, did you?”

“Obviously not,” he replied sharply, just to feel a little guilty at Geralt’s frown. “And neither did you?”

Geralt nodded, releasing his hand. Jaskier let it fall limply to the snow. “You’re not full-blooded,” he said. Jaskier narrowed his eyes. He wondered idly what he looked like, doubting his skin and nails were the only changes. “You’re still human, just… not fully. You had never used your power before. Our medallions aren’t foolproof, especially in these cases.”

“Power?” he repeated. His eyes flickered back to the men. He had done that, but how?

Geralt sighed again. “Jaskier,” he said, and he forced his gaze back to him. His throat tickled. He wanted water, but he didn’t dare ask for any, lest they treat him as even more fragile. “You’re a banshee. Or, well, you’re half-banshee.”

The laughter that bubbled up from deep within him was almost painful, coming out in bursts. “A—a what?” he asked in disbelief. Of all the things. “I guess I really am a screamer,” he said through more laughter.

“Okay, he’s officially lost it,” Lambert said dryly, and Geralt glared at him from over Jaskier’s head.

Jaskier only quieted down when he felt Geralt’s hand on his back. Sniffing, his hand found his throat and rubbed. “I just screamed and they what, dropped dead?”

“It wasn’t quite that simple, but yes,” he answered, and Jaskier didn’t miss the tension in the air. He could practically feel it.

Frowning, he looked at Geralt. “What aren’t you telling me?” he asked. The silence that followed was deafening. Jaskier might not have ever gotten the truth if he hadn’t noticed it, then. His eyes widened as he clasped Geralt’s chin in his fingers, careful of his claws.

It had obviously been wiped away in a hurry but a bit of blood had been left on Geralt’s earlobe.

“Fuck,” he breathed.

Geralt seemed to be holding his breath. Jaskier supposed he didn’t need to say much.

“I hurt you,” he said. It wasn’t a question. “But I didn’t—that wasn’t what I wanted,” he continued quickly, eyes wide. “I never would—”

Soon his hand was off Geralt’s face, being cradled between Geralt’s own, “You didn’t mean to,” he said firmly. “We all know that.”

“Once you started, you couldn’t stop,” Eskel took over. “You were going to hurt yourself if you didn’t.”

Jaskier didn’t understand, not fully. “How did you stop me?”

“I—” Geralt looked down at their hands. “I hugged you,” he said. “As soon as I did, you passed out.”

Of course it was Geralt that had pulled him back. “But you hurt yourself in the process,” he muttered, unable to take his eyes off his ear.

“We can take a banshee’s scream, unlike a human,” Vesemir explained, “but even we are at risk if we get too close.”

Jaskier nodded. Geralt wouldn’t meet his eyes, now, staring at their hands with a clenched jaw. “I… I need water,” he said finally, too tired for shame.

In silence, they helped him to his feet and walked back to the keep.

*

Jaskier stared into the mirror. He guess there were worse things to be mixed with. Excluding his nails and startlingly pale skin with black splotches, he didn’t look much different. He assumed that would be different if he wasn’t half-human.

“You looked worse before.”

He looked up from the mirror to the door. Geralt was holding a tray of food. Jaskier should’ve been hungry, he knew, but he didn’t feel much like eating. Without waiting for a reply, he approached the bed and sat down.

“Eat,” he said.

Jaskier had slept for hours but he was still exhausted. If it was food or sleep, he knew which one he’d prefer, but he picked up the spoon anyway and obediently took a sip of the soup. “I always felt like I—” Jaskier swallowed, shaking his head as he dipped the spoon again.

“What?” he asked, and Jaskier almost hated how gentle he sounded if only because it wasn’t really for him. It was pity.

He took another sip. “It was like I always felt like I had something I needed to say, and, and I kept writing and- and composing, hoping eventually it’d just- I’d find the right thing,” he finished quietly. “They used to say that was just the gift of an artist.”

Geralt hummed. “Your love for music is real, Jaskier. Don’t doubt that.”

“I don’t,” he replied instantly, looking up, “but why- why now?”

Geralt tilted his head, looking over his shoulder at the wall. “You thought I was going to die.” He nearly smiled before shaking his head, glancing down at the soup. “I might’ve, even, or at least been in a Hell of a lot of pain for a while.”

“But I’ve been in situations like that before,” Jaskier shot back, dropping the spoon with a clatter. “I’ve nearly died before but I never—”

His mouth snapped shut. How was he surprised to know he cared more about Geralt than anything else in this world? Even himself? If he was honest, he’d known that for a very long time. Clenching his jaw, he lifted his hands.

“I can’t go out like this,” he continued instead. He might not have been the ugliest beast he’d ever seen but there was no passing himself off as human. “It’s been hours.”

Geralt nodded. “You’ll have to learn how to control it.”

“And how am I supposed to learn that?” he replied, just a little too loud. He barely realized his hands were shaking until Geralt gripped both of his wrists, squeezing. Taking a deep breath, he forced his hands to stop.

Geralt let go. “Now that you’ve crossed the first hurdle, it’s going to be harder. You’ll have to work to suppress your emotions or risk losing control.”

Jaskier sucked his bottom lip between his teeth. “And if I don’t?” he asked quietly, but he suspected he knew the answer.

“That isn’t an option,” he answered simply.

Jaskier laughed humorlessly, ducking his head. He gently pushed the tray toward Geralt. “I’m not hungry.”

He expected a fight. Instead Geralt just took the tray and set it aside.

“Jaskier,” he said. Looking up, he was surprised by the intensity of Geralt’s gaze. “You saved my life.” He gave a small smile. Jaskier’s heart felt like it might burst. He wondered if it was only grief or fear that triggered it, or if he should be worried about this too. The pure happiness he felt sometimes just looking at Geralt. “Thank you.”

*

Jaskier knew it was only a matter of time before Geralt was tired of his moping. Ironic, really, considering Geralt had been brooding the first time they met and really, what was the difference between the two?

“Get up.”

Jaskier curled up into a smaller ball.

“You can’t just sleep it off.” Even in this state, Geralt was apparently stronger; he ripped the blanket off him with relative ease. Jaskier sighed loudly and sat up. He knew he looked terrible, even beyond the recent changes. He hadn’t bathed in days, and he’d been barely eating. “We’re going to figure this out,” he said, and Jaskier could’ve laughed.

Since when was Geralt the optimistic one in their relationship?

“And how are we going to do that?” he asked, glaring up at him. “If you haven’t noticed, I still look like a child’s bad interpretation of the devil.”

Geralt nearly cracked a smile at that and Jaskier resisted the urge to preen.

“We’ll do it,” he said, crouching down, “the same way I learned how to fight, and you learned to play.” Jaskier raised his eyebrows, waiting. Geralt sighed, standing back up and extending a hand. Jaskier stared at it skeptically. “Practice.”

*

“This is stupid,” Jaskier said, sitting in the middle of the courtyard. The bodies from before had been disposed of at some point, and the snow had melted mostly over the last few warmer days. Geralt opened his eyes, peeking over at him.

“You have to actually try,” he replied.

Jaskier felt like an idiot and he knew he probably looked like one too, sitting in the courtyard with his legs crossed, elbows on his knees. Every few minutes he would open his eyes and check but so far nothing had changed; his skin was still sickly and his claws were still deadly.

“You need to just focus,” Geralt began. “Channel all your emotions and—”

Jaskier swiftly stood up, and his mouth snapped shut. “I am not getting this talk from the most emotionally-constipated man I know,” he said, and he knew he was being too harsh, but he couldn’t help it.

This was a waste of time. He needed another way.

Geralt frowned, just a small downturn of his lips, as he stood up. “Jaskier, I’m trying to help—”

“And you’re not doing a very good job at it!” he interrupted; he was loud enough he heard a slight echo. Biting the inside of his cheek, his hands curled into fists. “Isn’t there a-a potion or one of your stupid elixirs that can help me?”

Geralt stared at him, expression perfectly schooled. He supposed Geralt always did have a way of controlling his emotions. Jaskier wasn’t quite as gifted. He had always worn his heart on his sleeve, and now Geralt expected him to just be able to change that at the drop of a hat?

“Doesn’t work like that,” he grunted, and Jaskier laughed loudly, throwing his arms out.

“I am going to be stuck like this,” he said, getting louder with every word, “I am no different from the monsters you hunt!”

Geralt frowned. “Jaskier,” he said, stepping forward, closer. “Calm down.”

“Why should I?” he shot back instantly. “Isn’t this what you wanted? Here I am, Geralt,” he shook his arms, “channeling my emotions!”

Jaskier wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he expected. Frankly, in the beginning he might’ve expected a punch, and he also would’ve known he deserved it, but things were different between them, now. Maybe not what he wanted, exactly, but different. Better.

And so he shouldn’t have been so completely shocked he froze when Geralt hugged him, but he was. He blinked. Once, twice.

“Jaskier,” in his ear. “We’re going to figure this out. I mean it, but you have to trust me.”

He swallowed around the searing pain in the back of his throat. “Okay,” he whispered. “I—okay.”

With a nod, Geralt pulled back and the sight of blood under his nose was enough to make Jaskier feel dizzy.

“Geralt,” he said, reaching for him but he was faster; with a swift movement, he wiped the blood away. “I did that,” he breathed. If he thought the pain in his throat was bad, the pain in his chest was unbearable.

Geralt didn’t deny it, because he was nothing if not honest, but he did grip his shoulders and stare at him with that same intensity as before. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, like that was even a little bit true. “I’m okay.”

“Barely!” he snapped, pushing him away and stumbling back. Geralt frowned, though he didn’t advance. “If I don’t- I could seriously hurt someone, Geralt,” he continued. His eyes burned. “I could seriously hurt you.”

If it was between death or hurting Geralt, Jaskier was frightened to know which one he’d choose.

“But you haven’t,” he replied, and now he did step forward, hands up like he was approaching a spooked animal. “And you won’t.”

Jaskier laughed humorlessly, swiping a hand across his eyes. “I already have,” he pointed out.

“This is nothing,” he said, gesturing at his nose as he took another step closer. “I’ve survived far worse.”

Jaskier made a noise in the back of his throat. “As if that makes me feel any better,” he grumbled, and now Geralt was close enough to reach for him, which he did; wrapping his fingers around his wrist, he squeezed tightly.

“You’re not me,” he began, and Jaskier looked at him with pursed lips, resisting the urge to reply. “What works for me might not be right for you.”

Raising an eyebrow, he waited for more. Geralt let go of his wrist.

“Sit,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

While he might’ve normally put up more of a fight, he was simply too tired. Nodding, he slumped to the ground and buried his face in his hands. He listened idly as Geralt seemed to leave in a hurry and return just as quickly.

“Jaskier.”

Looking up, he blinked at the sight of his lute, cradled gently in Geralt’s hands. “I—” Jaskier reached for it instinctively. Once he had it, Geralt joined him on the ground.

“Play,” he said.

Jaskier barely heard him, lightly plucking at one of the strings with one of his claws. “I’m pretty sure I’ll break a string with these things,” he mumbled.

“I’ll buy you new strings later,” Geralt replied without missing a beat. “Just play a little bit.”

Jaskier nodded and took a deep breath. What Geralt told him was true, or so he hoped, at least. Music had always been an escape for him, and he didn’t like thinking it might’ve been out of his control, the way he’d been drawn to it from such a young age. No, music had always been his by choice. That much he was certain of.

He plucked at the strings, careful and slow, a familiar but easy tune.

By the time he’d reached the end of it, he was humming along to the tune, eyes half-lidded. The burning in his throat had finally vanished.

“Your hands,” Geralt said, and Jaskier startled like he was snapping out of a trance. Glancing down, he smiled slowly. His skin was back to normal, spotless and olive-toned. His nails were blunt and short.

Looking up, he was surprised to find he wasn’t the only one with a smile.

*

If the last few days hadn’t been confusing already, his confusion only grew when Lambert walked into his room with a stack of books. Jaskier smiled a little. “Hi,” he offered. Of all of them, Lambert was the hardest to please.

Eskel had been the easiest- all in all, he was nice and good at conversation. Vesemir had intimidated him at first but he quickly grew to understand why Geralt held so much respect for him. Lambert was, well, confusing.

He wasn’t nearly as warm as Eskel, and his teasing toed the line of cruelty sometimes, but still Jaskier knew he was a good man.

“For you,” he said in way of a reply, approaching the bed and setting the books down.

Jaskier eyed them curiously; a few were general collections, telling of many different kinds of beasts, others were a bit more specific, detailing the history and myths of banshees. Suddenly he knew he’d been right about Lambert.

“Thank you,” he said, meaning it.

Lambert shrugged, a hard jerk of his shoulders. “Of all the places to be for something like this,” he said, not quite meeting his eyes, “this is probably one of the best.”

“I’m assuming,” he began with another small smile, “that Geralt has been gossiping about my progress?”

Geralt had continued to push him to learn better control, which included some unpleasant moments, like when he’d gotten Jaskier so upset on purpose that he nearly screamed and only stopped himself by biting the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood. The only good part of that, if any, was that Geralt had had the decency to look slightly guilty as he rubbed his back afterward, telling him he’d done well.

The praise had been somewhat nice too, he supposed.

“I- ” Lambert stopped and sighed, brushing a hand through his hair. Jaskier scooted over, moving the books with him, a silent invitation. When he sat, he side-eyed him. “I didn’t understand at first, why Geralt wanted to bring you here.”

Jaskier didn’t say anything, just listened, a talent he had only picked up after traveling with Geralt.

“He’s never brought someone up here,” he continued. “Not as a companion,” he specified, still watching him. “And to learn you were a human on top of it, I thought he was an idiot.”

Jaskier smiled slightly. “Surprise.”

Lambert’s lips twitched as if he was fighting a smile of his own. Jaskier preened. “I understand a little better now,” he said, a bit softer. Clearing his throat, he extended a hand. Jaskier blinked, not quite understanding. “He would’ve been seriously hurt if you hadn’t been there, if not worse. I- ” He breathed in. “Thank you.”

Understanding now, Jaskier took his hand and gave a firm shake. “He’s saved me many times,” he replied. “I was simply returning the favor.”

“I think,” Lambert cleared his throat again, “you should talk to him.”

Jaskier blinked, tilting his head and withdrawing his hand. “I assure you, I already talk to him more than he’d probably like.” To be fair, he hadn’t complained in a while, but the early years of their relationship still weighed heavy on his mind; the way Geralt used to snap at him daily.

“No, not- ” Lambert paused with a sigh. “Never mind.”

Jaskier watched as he stood up and walked to the door. Even long after he’d left, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should find Geralt. Gently setting his lute aside, he went in search of the witcher. He wasn’t in his room, or the library. Finally he found him in the dining hall by himself, drinking from a jug.

“Care to share?” he asked as he slid onto the stone bench beside him.

Geralt grunted, “Not safe for huma—” His mouth snapped shut. Silently, he grabbed another cup and filled it. Jaskier took one sip and wrinkled his nose.

“Disgusting,” he commented. Geralt snorted with obvious amusement. Jaskier supposed many things had changed over the years. So slowly, though, he didn’t always realize it. He fidgeted with his cup, side-eyeing Geralt as he continued to drink. “What do I look like?” he blurted, breaking the silence.

He watched as Geralt lowered his cup, tongue swiping over his bottom lip. The sight reminded Jaskier of when he’d first discovered his infatuation with the other man. He had known as soon as the uninvited temptation showed itself, sudden and unexpected, just a couple months into their friendship, that he would never do anything about it. Geralt meant too much to him.

“What do you mean?” he asked gruffly, but Jaskier knew he knew.

He smiled a little. “You know,” he replied. “I just- I deserve to know, don’t you think?”

Geralt stared ahead, seeming deep in thought, before finally nodding. “I don’t like it,” he began. Jaskier tried not to feel insulted; he assumed he wouldn’t like the sight either.

“Why not?” he asked anyway, just to urge him on.

Geralt surprised him with a humorless laugh, “Because you look dead.”

“Oh.”

With a nod, Geralt took another sip. “I- ” He paused, looking thoughtful. “I hoped to never see you like that, but- I had prepared for it, thinking you were human. Now I know better, but that doesn’t help. Not when I see you like that. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Jaskier stared at him, an odd pressure in his chest. “How long will I live?”

Geralt hummed, and the question seemed to at least loosen some of the tension in his jaw. “Longer than me,” he answered. Jaskier frowned, disliking the idea.

He had always been selfishly contented with the idea that he’d die long before Geralt.

“Well, that sucks,” he said bluntly, and Geralt side-eyed him with an amused quirk of his mouth. “Really,” he continued, because he meant it. “I’d prefer not to live a life without you.”

It was almost a confession but not quite. Jaskier doubted Geralt would consider his words too closely. That was his mistake, obviously, because Geralt looked ahead again and made a thoughtful noise in the back of his throat.

“Jaskier, I brought you here for a reason.”

He smiled slightly. “Hm?”

With another deep sigh, Geralt reached for the jar and refilled his cup. He didn’t take a drink though, just stared at the amber liquid, not unlike the gold of his eyes. “I’ve never taken a person here.”

Jaskier remembered what Lambert had said. So he had been telling the truth. Jaskier tried not to feel too proud at being the first. It was probably pure chance. Jaskier had simply been the first person stubborn enough to stay by Geralt’s side for more than a year. Clearing his throat, he tilted his head forward to get a better look at Geralt’s face. His eyes flickered toward him. Despite drinking, his gaze was perfectly clear.

“This is my home,” he continued quietly. “I don’t want to ever put it or them at risk.”

Jaskier smiled again. He couldn’t really relate, truthfully, having left his home at a young age with no urge to return, but Geralt had a family. Unorthodox, and not by blood, but Jaskier liked to think that just made them stronger.

“You are the first person I’ve ever- ” Geralt paused, looking away. “Trusted like this.”

He blinked. That was the thing, wasn’t it? Geralt might not ever love him the same way, but he trusted him and that was worth more than his weight in gold because Geralt didn’t just trust people. He was blessed to have that. Wanting more was just being selfish.

“No matter what happens, it will always be you,” he continued so quietly Jaskier barely caught it. His chest blossomed with warmth as he squirmed gleefully, grinning brightly.

Geralt side-eyed him. “Is that an invitation?” Jaskier teased. “To stay by your side forever?”

He snorted, the expected reaction, as he looked away and took a deep gulp of his drink. Jaskier didn’t expect more than that, really, so he was surprised when Geralt gave a curt nod, still not looking his way, jaw tightly clenched. Jaskier suppressed the urge to tease him further and simply took a sip from his own cup. Tasted like dirt, still, but he supposed the company made up for it.

*

“You two better figure this out before you return next year,” Lambert grumbled as they were all bidding farewell. It was the end of winter and - without discussing it - Jaskier already knew he’d be returning with Geralt next year, and apparently so did the rest of them.

Jaskier blinked, tilting his head. “What do you mean?” he asked, because he didn’t understand; after a whole season of working hard with Geralt, he had gotten used to his new way of life. Anger didn’t make him shift unexpectedly, even the worst of it.

He could now shift on command, even. He was excited, actually, to get back on the road because now he could help Geralt during hunts. Well, he was still against the idea but Jaskier was certain he could change his mind.

Lambert stared at him. “Are you an idiot?” he asked, but before he continued before he could answer. “You are both idiots.”

Jaskier pouted. “Rude,” he muttered.

Before Lambert could insult him more, Geralt appeared at their side, having obviously finished his goodbyes to Eskel and Vesemir. Jaskier smiled brightly. He vaguely heard a snort from Lambert.

“Let me say goodbye to my brother in private, hm?” he said, throwing an arm around Geralt’s shoulders.

Jaskier rolled his eyes, but he turned around and walked to their horses anyway. Roach greeted him, unlike Pegasus, which wasn’t unusual. He leaned against her, petting her side, as he watched the two men from a distance.

He couldn’t hear what Lambert was saying but he didn’t miss the way Geralt suddenly grew stiff, shoulders bunching up to his ears. He smiled with amusement.

“What do you think, girl?” he asked Roach, but she just butted at him with her head. “Right, sorry, how dare I pay them more attention than you,” he said with a grin, reaching to rub a hand down her snout. She snorted, obviously pleased.

When Geralt returned to him, his jaw was clenched and he wouldn’t quite meet Jaskier’s eyes, which wasn’t unusual but still somehow worrying.

“What did he say?” he asked, curious as ever.

Geralt side-eyed him. “Just sticking his nose in my business,” he grumbled, “as usual.”

With a small nod, Jaskier moved away from Roach and to his own horse. He knew if he bugged for more details, he wouldn’t get them. It was better to just wait and eventually - if he wanted to - Geralt would approach him.

He never could’ve predicted just days later Geralt would kiss him on the mouth. He was shocked, of course, but more than that he was thrilled. Later, as they were curled together, Jaskier thought back to the look on Lambert’s face when they had left.

“Fuck,” he exclaimed suddenly, softly.

Geralt’s hand twitched against his side, tensing like he expected Jaskier to bolt or something. He rolled his eyes as he propped himself up, peering down at Geralt with a small smile.

“That bastard talked to you about us, didn’t he?” he questioned with no real heat.

Geralt couldn’t blush, he had told him once, but it was still easy to tell when he was embarrassed. “Maybe,” he grunted, and Jaskier laughed airily.

*

Jaskier never thought he'd find out he wasn't quite human (later, as he thought on it, he'd realize that part of him probably came from his mother's side, who had always been eerily calm, even in the worst situations, as if she knew she had no choice) and he definitely never thought he'd be spending every night in Geralt's arms, warm and safe, but he supposed life had a way of surprising you, for better or worse.

For once he was just grateful it was for the better.