There was a scratching sound in the wall.
Geralt opened his eyes. He was tired. The Dimeritium shackles sent a throbbing pain through his wrists and ankles. The Witcher had lost track of time. How many days had passed until they had incarcerated him in the tiny cell?
At the moment, the sun was up. He could see it through the barred window high above his head. The scratching resumed and got more intense in the course of the next hours. Then, finally, dust and plaster crumbled from the wall right next to him.
Geralt blinked as he observed how a brick was being pushed out of the wall. Finally, it fell down to the dirty straw with a thud.
“Hello?” A young voice said from the other side of the wall. “Is someone there?”
“Melitele be praised, a human being.”
Geralt coughed. Well, no.
“One could say that”, he responded gruffly. His voice sounded hoarse and foreign in his ears.
“So, what’s your name, stranger?”, the voice persisted. A faint smell hovered through the tiny hole in the wall. Vanilla perfume? The Witcher’s nose itched.
“It’s a pleasure. I’m Jaskier the bard. Surely you’ve heard my name before. I have composed several well-known songs like ‘Kiss the toad and ‘A barmaid’s bosom’.”
“Oh.” The voice lost a bit of confidence. “That’s a pity.” A sigh. “It’s been an eternity since I last talked to someone.”
“How long have you been here?”, Geralt asked without thinking. Sometimes trouble shared was trouble halved.
“Twelve endless hours, more or less.”
The Witcher nearly choked on the rest of his own spit.
“Twelve hours”, he croaked. “Really?”
“Yes, can you imagine? And it was all some sort of giant misunderstanding!”
“That’s what every prisoner claims.”
“I simply didn’t know one of these lovely ladies was the mayor’s daughter.”
The melodious voice sounded outraged and Geralt couldn’t suppress a smirk. A bard’s voice, indeed.
“I’m sure they won’t cut your head off for this”, the Witcher hummed. An awkward moment of silence followed.
“Well”, came the meek answer from the other side of the wall.
“Certainly not. At least I hope so. But I’m afraid the other ones were the mayor's wife and his sister.”
Geralt tilted his head back and laughed. He laughed harder when he heard Jaskier’s indignant huff.
“I’m just a victim of the circumstances, Geralt!”
“You are a victim of your dick.”
“I wouldn’t say that. We’re partners in crime, Little Jaskier and me. Who isn’t so little after all, I might add.”
The Witcher felt the urge to bang his head on the wall. Still, the corner of his mouth twitched.
“Do you think both of you will lose your heads then, bard?”
“Ah ha ha ha.” Jaskier clicked his tongue. “So, why are you here?”
“The Mayor decided he didn’t like my face.”
“Is it really that bad? Show me!”
“Jaskier, you would probably only see my eyes.”
Geralt got up on his knees. His chains rattled as he peeked through the brick-sized hole. He hadn’t expected that Jaskier’s eyes were that pretty. Blue and green and grey, like the ocean.
“Are you happy now, bard?”
The Witcher knew what was going to happen. Humans despised his kind. There was no way the owner of the pretty voice wouldn’t retreat the moment he saw him.
„May I mention you have the loveliest kitty-cat eyes, Geralt?”
Geralt blinked in shock. That was new. But maybe the bard just had no idea what a Witcher looked like.
“Yes”, he murmured, dumbfounded.
“Yes – what?”
“You may mention it.”
Jaskier chuckled, but then there was a whacking noise and a pained grunt. The blue eyes disappeared all of a sudden.
“Jaskier, what is it?” Geralt really didn’t want to care. But he did. “Are you hurt?”
“Well, my cell has a large barred window. Someone threw the mother of rotten potatoes at my head. Wait a second.”
Geralt waited until he heard Jaskier’s muffled yell: ‘Lovely people, what about the bacon and onions?’. Another strange noise. Geralt suddenly smelled sulfur and put two and two together.
“Rotten eggs, right?”, he asked when the blue eyes appeared again.
“My audience knows what I like for breakfast”, the bard huffed and Geralt could spot slender fingers that brushed away a bit of green yolk from an auburn strand of hair. “By the way, do you need the wire?”
The bard was clearly insane.
“Yes, the wire I used to dig this hole. My tailor sewed it into my doublet. Helps to keep my hourglass figure in shape. ”
Geralt's eye twitched. A vanilla perfume-loving, hourglass-shaped, orgy attending bard? What had he gotten himself into?
“Thanks, but – that won't help me with my, uh, special shackles.”
“A pity.” Jaskier sighed deeply compassionate. “Shackles? How barbaric. The mayor really hates you.”
“Certainly looks like it. Been here quite a while now.”
The bard remained quiet for a moment. The incredibly blue eyes were hazed over by genuine concern.
“If I get out of here alive, Geralt, do you have a family I could inform you're doing alright?”
The Witcher frowned. That damned bard really knew how to lay his beautiful fingers to the wound. Wait, beautiful fingers?
“There are some men I call family, yes. But you won't find them.”
“I can be very persistent, Geralt!”
“There's no need to be sarcastic!”
The Witcher scratched his bloodied forehead and smiled crookedly. He was pretty sure the bard was pouting now and wondered how the young man's lips would look like.
“I'm not very good with people”, he explained without even knowing why.
“Oh, I beg to differ, my dear. You seem to be very good with the right people. Which is me, by the way.”
Geralt opened his mouth and really tried to find an appropriate answer. In the end, the chaos in his head came out as:
“Do you have someone in your life? Family, I mean.”
The bard hesitated. When he finally answered, his voice quivered slightly, but Geralt noticed.
He also noticed that Jaskier's smell changed. The vanilla scent faded away and the Witcher found he already missed it.
“I have some acquaintances at Oxenfurt where I studied. And some foes, who are ugly jealous gits. My family – doesn't like who I am. So no, I don't have someone in my life.”
“I'm sorry, Jaskier.”
“Yeah, me too. Because I'm great fun.” The part of Jaskier's forehead Geralt could see furrowed. “Especially as a jailmate, I hope?”
“Are you fishing for compliments, bard?”
“From a man with a voice as lovely as the stormy sea washing over cliffs – always.”
“You really are a poet, aren't you?” Geralt felt uncomfortable. “Twisting the truth to your liking?”
The corners of the incredibly blue eyes crinkled.
“I'm not twisting anything. I just carve it out of the heavy rock of unpleasant reality.”
“Sounds impossible to me”, Geralt grunted dismissively.
“Nothing is impossible, dear friend. If that's the way you feel about life, you will lose hope things will get better someday.”
The Witcher pressed his lips into a thin line. He could have told the bard that he was young and naïve and that the burden of existence would eventually teach Jaskier a valuable lesson.
But he didn't. He maybe was a cold-blooded monster hunter, but he wasn't cruel.
Something clicked behind Jaskier and the bard's eyes grew wide before he turned away from the hole in the wall.
“Come with me”, a cold voice demanded. “They're waiting for you.”
“I – I'm coming”, the bard said and couldn't hide his fear. Geralt's body tensed.
“Jaskier”, he shouted and felt how something far heavier than his shackles encircled his heart.
“Goodbye, Geralt,” the bard's voice said and faded away. “See you around.”
The silence returned, heavy as lead.
The Witcher remained on his knees, staring at the hole in the wall. But Jaskier didn't return. And Geralt feared he never would. The night fell and darkness flooded into the Witcher's cell. He finally dug his fingers into his thighs and forced his body to slip into meditation.
It didn't matter if he lost a day or two. Nothing really mattered.
Geralt slowly turned his head. The bright golden light from the corridor hurt his sensitive eyes, so he lowered his lids until he could only see dim shadows that hovered in the door of his cell.
He was ready to fight. They just needed to step into his range and then -.
“Hello, Geralt. Time to go. We need a bath and a decent meal.”
“Jaskier? How -?”
The bard stepped closer and grinned. Geralt's eyes took in all the details he had only imagined until now. The bright smile, the crumpled blue doublet that matched the young man's iridescent irises, the chestnut brown hair that framed Jaskier's striking features.
“Well, I told you there has been a misunderstanding.” The bard looked so happy and relieved that Geralt's heart missed a beat. “Seems like -.” Jaskier leaned forward and whispered: “The ladies of the house were quite – satisfied with my artistic performance. And it seems the mayor's wife owns all of their money.”
“Ah.” Geralt felt how his stoic expression cracked like ice in the spring sun. “That's – good?”
Jaskier knelt and began to open the shackles with a key. He winced as he saw the blood on Geralt's wrists and ankles.
“Indeed. That's why they were willing to offer me a Witcher and a thousand Orens as a parting gift.”
“You – knew I'm a Witcher?”, Geralt murmured.
The bard smirked and helped him up. He was surprisingly strong and slid an arm under Geralt's shoulders to support him.
“Of course I knew. Kittycat eyes are quite rare.”
“Then – why did you come to help me? You don't even know me.”
“You made me smile. You're compassionate. You accepted my quirks. That's all I needed to know about you.”
“Hm”, Geralt made and limped out of the cell. “And what are we going to do now?”
Jaskier crinkled his nose.
“I want fried potatoes with bacon and onions. No eggs, though.” The bard flashed a brilliant smile. “And then I'm going to show you which of my numerous talents put me into jail.”