To Jaskier’s chagrin, if not surprise, it had taken almost a year for Geralt to come to his senses. A year in which the man had travelled alone, got pulled into a war he had no stakes in, had finally claimed and found his Child Surprise, had delivered her to the relative safety of Kaer Morhen and then, only then, had come back for his reason of being, for the one true light of his life, to ask and beg and plead for him to forgive those hastily spoken mountain words and come back to wander by his side forevermore.
Naturally, those words had never actually left Geralt’s lips, but Jaskier was as close to fluent in grunt as a human being could get and was fairly able to decipher what had been left unspoken.
Except, maybe he was not, because three weeks after rejoining Geralt on the Path, Jaskier stopped short upon catching up to him after a particularly fruitful trip to the local market. He didn’t quite lose his grip on the pouch with the small bottles of essential oils he’d paid most of his latest earnings for, but it was a close thing.
“The fuck,” he said, staring. He then opened his mouth, noted that words had fled his brain, and closed it again. And then he stared some more.
“’s for you.” Geralt made an aborted move that from an ordinary man would have been a ‘ta-da’ gesture, but that done by him turned into an irritated twitch.
“For me,” Jaskier repeated weakly, gaping at the horse standing in front of him, barely able to take in the whole thing on account of it being So. Very. Big. “Why?”
Geralt narrowed his eyes, but Jaskier didn’t give him the chance to speak. “You can not be serious,” he sputtered. “What the actual fuck, Geralt? Why? Why in all of chaos’ creation did you think this would be the right fit for me?”
Geralt, who had not yet found the balance between being a total prick and a decent human being, looked back at him impassively. “His name is Raven,” he said by way of an answer, telling Jaskier absolutely nothing of importance. As per usual.
“Well, that’s just perfect,” Jaskier replied, staring at the huge black gelding, fearing it would yawn and accidentally eat him. He scrubbed a hand over his face, sighed, thought about saying something, and then thought again as no other words besides ‘the fuck’ and a long drawn-out ‘why’ came to mind. Both of which he’d already said.
He was aware of the fact that waiting for Geralt to give any sort of explanation was foolish and would most likely result in him writing the 78th verse of White Wolf, not-so-bright Wolf - A bard’s lament instead of getting him results. Thing was, there had been no precursor for this, no talk about longing for a horse of his own, no secret glances and heavy sighs snuck at Roach.
Only, now that he thought about it…
A few days past, Jaskier had mentioned that he desperately needed new soles for his shoes, complaining of the way every pebble poked into his poor feet as he walked alongside the Witcher. He hadn’t meant that he wanted a horse, though, not even a little bit. He liked horses just fine, mind, could ride them well enough, but while they were convenient for long journeys and wild chases, owning one was rather impractical for a traveling bard like him. Their upkeep was expensive, especially in the larger towns Jaskier preferred, and he really wasn’t looking forward to having to ration his coin to pay for food and board for the giant that had taken up residence beside poor tiny Roach.
(In truth, Roach wasn’t that much smaller than the new horse, how could she be when she had to lug around over two hundred pounds worth of battle-ready Witcher every day, but that was way beside the point.)
He’d have been fine with a pony. More than fine, even. A pony would have made sense. Ciri had a pony, a nice, even-tempered one that followed Roach wherever the mare went, docile and doe-eyed, and he would have been fine with one just like that.
The only redeeming quality the humongous horse standing before him had was that he was an apology. A hoof-stomping, hay-gnawing apology. One that didn’t need words, which of course suited Geralt perfectly. This wasn’t quite what Jaskier’d had in mind when he’d asked the gods for a sign of the man’s affections, though.
He sighed. They hadn’t talked about the mountain yet. Not when they’d stumbled upon each other in a small coastal town that had a rather significant drowner problem, not when a drowner had tried to drown him, and not when Geralt had saved him rather heroically and then grumbled something about having to keep an eye on him in the future and just – stayed.
As it turned out, not-talking had a tendency to backfire on Jaskier.
Beside him, Geralt stirred. His expression resembled a sheepish thundercloud. “I didn’t give him the name,” he grumbled.
Jaskier snorted. “Of course, you didn’t,” he replied waspishly. “If you had, he’d probably be called Turnip or Dungbeetle or something equally undignified.” He gave Roach a sympathetic pat on the neck. She didn’t quite snap at him, though her teeth made a distinct clacking sound that Jaskier generously ignored.
“Not that Raven is any better, mind.” He continued to ramble on about it just not being right to give an animal the name of another species, Geralt, proven by the fact that nobody had ever thought to name a fairie child human, after all, had they, though there actually were rumors about a rather petulant elf prince of that name.
When he finally came to a stumbling halt, not because he ran out of words, but because he ran out of breath, Geralt’s eyes were narrowed down to slits. “The elf’s name wasn’t human,” he grunted. “It was Houmanel. It means-“
“Starlight in Elder,” Jaskier interrupted, a bit peeved by the contemptuous tone. “I actually do speak the language, summa cum laude in the seven liberal arts at Oxenfurt, remember? None of this explains why you bought me a horse, though.”
It was only because he was watching so closely, that Jaskier saw the minute flicker of extra emotion crossing Geralt’s perpetually sullen face, but even as he took note of it, he couldn’t quite interpret it. “Needed one,” Geralt grunted and Jaskier felt rather like smashing his head into a brick wall. It’d still be a more productive way to spend his time.
“I didn’t actually need-“ Jaskier began, but lost steam halfway through the diatribe, mostly due to the fact that Geralt’s face got carefully blank in a way it usually only did when the man was having feelings and needed some time to parse through them.
Sighing, and in lieu of something better to do, Jaskier took a fortifying breath and stepped closer to the black gelding. Meliteles tits, he really was a big boy. “Hey,” he murmured, making no attempt to touch him yet. Sensitive ears flicked in his direction. “Looks like it’s the two of us now, hm? Think we can make it work, you and me?” He held his hand out to be sniffed and smiled when soft lips danced on his palm. “No treats yet, sorry. Looks like I’ll have to stock up on those now that I’ve got two horses to spoil.”
Roach gave a soft snort that sounded remarkably like one of Geralt’s more contemptuous hm’s and she shot Jaskier’s horse a look she normally reserved for, well, Jaskier. “Huh,” Jaskier said, patting Raven’s soft, warm neck. “Welcome to the family, I guess.”
Raven bopped his head, rubbing it all along the front of Jaskier’s doublet, almost pushing him off his feet. He grinned at the sign of affection that he hadn’t had to grovel shamelessly for - he very much did not look at Roach, thank you very much - and he also didn’t look at Geralt, because, yeah. Big ol’ can of worms, right there.
“He likes you.”
Jaskier rolled his eyes in exasperated amusement. He didn’t need to see Geralt to know that he was very pleased with himself. The man practically radiated smugness.
“Don’t be so sure of yourself,” Jaskier murmured, knowing that the Witcher could hear him quite clearly. “I haven’t yet tried to get on his back. Not sure what good it’ll do me to own a horse I can’t ride.”
“I’ll throw you on,” Geralt offered, dry.
Jaskier gave him a withering look. “And I will kick you in the head if you try, how’s that?”
Geralt’s lips twitched. “Hm,” he said, the sound somehow conveying acknowledgment and a wealth of skepticism both.
Sighing, Jaskier busied himself with checking over his new horse. He really had no idea what he was looking for, but he liked how the glossy coat felt under his hands, all smooth and sort of fluffy, and he breathed in the warm, earthy smell of him and kind of wanted to hug him. A lot.
“I mean, he is exceptionally pretty,” he murmured, smiling when Raven shook his head and bent down over him to nibble at the back of his doublet, sort of cradling Jaskier to his broad chest. “And kind. At least one of those things is a novel trait to find judging by my current travel companions.”
Behind him, Geralt made a soft, irritated noise and, hidden by Raven’s long, black mane, Jaskier grinned.
“He’s not pretty,” Geralt grumbled after a long moment of very obviously having to fight for patience. “He’s a trained warhorse. Strong, dependable, loyal. Will protect you.”
Jaskier heard the added ‘when I can’t’, even if Geralt didn’t speak the words aloud. “He must have cost a fortune,” he said instead of the thousand replies crowding his tongue. Turning slowly, he watched Geralt consider the truth of that statement, watching him lean back onto the balls of his feet.
When he finally lifted his shoulders in a half-shrug, his amber eyes were even more guarded than usual. “Breeder owed me a favor,” he said. “Killed a wyvern for her two winters ago.”
Huffing, Jaskier shook his head. “Of course you did. Horse-eating wyvern I gather?”
Geralt gave a short nod but made no further attempt at an explanation.
Jaskier narrowed his eyes, took in Geralt’s closed-off expression and the way he wasn’t quite meeting his gaze. It would have been funny in any other circumstance, something to gently tease him with at night, when the heat of their fire chased away the chill of a summer that was steadily turning into autumn and they rested easy after a hard day of travel. He’d strum his lute and make up a little ditty about taciturn Witchers and the Trial of Emotional Constipation, and it would make Geralt roll his eyes heavenward but his lips would twitch and they’d, at least for the moment, be secure in their togetherness.
This time, there would be no ditty, though, no gentle elicitation of any crumb of affection on his part, because Jaskier was suddenly, abruptly tired. “You know, you could just say you’re sorry.”
Geralt’s gaze snapped to his, eyes flashing in the golden light of late afternoon. “Hm,” he said and while usually, Jaskier was fine with divining meaning out of wordless grunts, there were times when even his Witcher-tried patience ran thin.
Words, to a human, were important.
Words, to a bard, were essential, and although he had trained himself out of needing them from Geralt years ago, after the mountain, he demanded that things between them change. And they had, he acknowledged, at least enough for him not to feel like a convenient target for Geralt’s frustrations. But then again, the bar had been exceedingly low before, so who was he to judge.
Raven neighed softly and pushed his nose into his chest. It was a surprisingly gentle gesture, and Jaskier swallowed hard and buried his face in the horse's soft, wavy mane. Giving him up felt impossible already, which was a bit ridiculous considering he had met the gelding not even a full half an hour ago. But if he accepted Raven, if he let Geralt get away with gifts - no matter how grand - standing in for actual communication…
The arms around his waist were surprising, but not entirely unexpected. In a way, they had been heading towards this ever since he’d fumbled bread out of his pants in a strange mating ritual, all those years back in Posada, and yet it was with a sigh of relief that Jaskier leaned back into the strong hold. He let Geralt take most of his weight while Raven wandered away and began lipping along the sprigs of wild thyme that grew all along the forest edge.
Jaskier watched him go, smirking when he sidled up to Roach all casual-like and tried to impress her by prancing around and showing off his long, lustrous tail. She was having none of it though, and Jaskier winced at the flash of yellow teeth. “So, they’re hitting it off,” he commented wryly.
Geralt hummed, amused, and they watched the two horses get used to each other. They stood there until Jaskier fought a sudden shiver that traveled all the way from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. The sun had dipped below the tree line, taking most of the day’s warmth with it, and suddenly the blue-embroidered linen shirt he was wearing did nothing to ward off the chill.
Without saying anything, Geralt pressed closer, blasting Jaskier’s back with his witchery heat. “They’ll be fine,” he rumbled and Jaskier could feel the words as much as he heard them. He shivered again, from something other than cold this time.
“Either that or one of us will need a new horse,” Jaskier replied, droll.
Huffing out a soft laugh, Geralt tilted his head so that their cheeks brushed and then he pressed his lips against the side of Jaskier’s neck. “I thought you didn’t even want him.”
Jaskier felt his breath hitch. His heart was thumping wildly in his chest and thoughts tumbled through his head like flurries of snow. “I want him,” he said, somewhat desperate, and he would have been embarrassed about his abrupt change of mind, but then he was slowly being turned and Geralt was looking at him in a way that had always been reserved for violet-eyed sorceresses and he forgot all about it.
“And I want you,” Geralt said, low, but clear. “In any way you can give me. As a friend, a companion, a…” He trailed off, and he looked so unsure of himself that Jaskier’s throat went tight in sympathy.
“A lover?” Jaskier put forth, just managing to hold back the word husband from making it past his lips instead. “Because I’d be into that. Like, a lot.”
Geralt nodded. His heated gaze never left Jaskier’s face. “I’m slow to change,” he said then, when whatever he saw in Jaskier’s eyes seemed to bolster him. “I know I’ve hurt you, and I can’t promise that I’ll not do it again.”
Jaskier considered that. “Hm,” he said finally.
Geralt’s lips ticked upwards in acknowledgement of the gentle dig. He brought up a hand to Jaskier’s face and his thumb traced along the line of his jaw so gently that Jaskier’s knees went a little wobbly.
He was in no danger of falling though, because Geralt was right there, steady as a rock, and then he murmured: “You’ll have to call me on my shit, yeah?” and his eyes were soft and, oh.
He was going to enjoy this. “I will be your personal shit-caller, don’t you worry, my love,” Jaskier said with a grin and then Geralt breathed a soft, ”I’m sorry” against his mouth and neither of them quite knew who closed the gap, but then they were kissing and it didn’t matter.
Jaskier sank into it, into Geralt, and it was a first kiss for the ages. A history book kind of first kiss even, a kiss like a gentle summer rain on bare skin, like a hot glass of spiced cider on a cold winter’s day, like inspiration hitting on a composition that would blow Valdo Marx’s latest snivel-piece right out of the water-
Geralt pulled back. “You think too loud,” he said, sounding all sorts of deliciously wrecked, but also a bit wary and that just wouldn’t do, now, would it.
Jaskier opened his eyes and peered at him, going a little cross-eyed because they were still so close. “Only good thoughts,” he assured in a soft murmur, letting his voice dip into that low, breathy register, the one that had an echo of and yet, here we are woven through it.
Geralt swallowed hard and his eyes went from golden to black as his pupils dilated. The hand still holding his face tightened briefly, and Jaskier was pretty sure that he was about to be devoured in a really, really good way - and then they were pushed apart by one cantankerous horse and one playful one, both of them demanding attention from their humans right this very second, please and thank you.
Laughing out loud in giddy delight, more than a little pleased with how his day had turned out, Jaskier watched Geralt fend off Roach’s jealous advances, and then he turned and looked at his new horse and he thought, huh.
Maybe words actually were overrated.