“Geralt!” the bard cries, hopping on one leg as he tries to look for blood seeping through the back of his boot. “ Can you just -- fucking hells these are going to be ruined, they were not cheap you know and coin is hard to come by this far from -- Geralt! can you not slow down for one godsdamn minute?”
It takes Geralt a beat too long to register the sound of his own name, so far outside Kaer Morhen and months away from winter. The rest of the year - well. Most people never see more than one Witcher at a time, there’s no point distinguishing between “Witchers” when all their swords work the same. Geralt can’t say he blames them.
He pulls Roach to a stop and turns towards the bard. Fuck. What was his name again? Jasper? Jas..kellion? Jas..kier? ...that one sounds right. He thinks. He’s pretty sure.
Not that he cares, he’s leaving. Just - seems fair.
“Geraltttttt,” the bard whines again, apparently having decided that in lue of any sense of balance the most logical course of action was to sit down in the middle of the road and start pulling his boots off.
Gods above, what good did this idiot think that was going to do? Just gonna rub new spots raw when he pulls them back on and leaves him an easy - easier - target in the meantime.
“Poking at ‘em won’t do anything, didn’t your mother teach you anything about getting the proper footwear before trailing after strange men?” Geralt says.
“Har, har, very funny. No, of all the many excruciatingly tedious lectures I sat through as a child remarkably few of them were actually useful. And besides, my current predicament is entirely your fault, if one were to trace the blame to the source. You were the one who couldn’t wait a second longer to get on the road -”
“Because I didn’t invite you,” Geralt tightens his fists around Roach’s reins and pulls her back around.
“You can’t just leave me here. Geralt! Geralt!!!”
He flinches a little every time Jaskier calls his name. His thighs flex without his permission and he wonders, just for a moment, what it would be like to coax Roach to a stop and swing the bard up behind him, to feel the touch of someone he hasn’t paid for and who doesn’t stink of fear.
It wouldn’t last. Just a couple hours by his side and he’s already bleeding. Won’t take long before the bard realizes that nothing about his life has prepared him for wet nights and cold suppers. That there’s no glory to be found, that most towns won’t give a Witcher a room in their inns much less pay for a song about one.
The kid talks too much anyway.
Better to leave him now while the boy can still turn around, while Posada isn’t yet far gone.
He urges Roach to a trot and presses on.
“Really, the audacity of that man. You save someone’s life, invite them along on an epic adventure -- well, maybe not in so many words but my welcome was certainly implied -- and then just...leave them! Toss a coin to your Witcher indeed, clearly the first order of business is to toss some manners right through his thick skull just as soon as I find him,” Jaskier mutters to himself, his boots long abandoned and clenched tightly in his grip.
He tries to ignore his growing unease that questions if he was going to find the Witcher at all; at the time following after him had been the most natural thing in the world - surely he was only jesting about leaving Jaskier and he’d find Geralt waiting just around the next bend in the road. He was much too noble to simply abandon his loyal companion!
But that had been quite a long time ago and it wouldn’t be long before the sun dips below the horizon. Which...is fine. Jaskier is a traveling bard after all. He may prefer to ply his trade for room and board safely inside tavern walls but that doesn’t mean he isn’t perfectly capable of taking care of himself, thank you very much.
A distant howl echoes to his right. Another answers to his left. Jaskier very much wishes he’d put a little less effort into seducing that woodman’s son and a little more into watching how he built that fire.
Maybe he can just sleep on the road. That’d be safer than the woods, right?
...or would it just make him an easy target for bandits. Fuck.
Well then. Nothing for it but to put one step in front of another. He did not graduate Summa Cum Laude to die in some middle of nowhere forest. No, when he dies it must at least be doing something horribly noble. With witnesses! The Ballad of the Magnanimous Master Musician.
It seems that he’s a little more off-kilter than he thought if he’s resorting to alliteration like a first-year.
He’s reciting Fowls in the Frigth under his breath, working alphabetically through the Compendium of Classical Poetry in the Northern Realms (1050 - 1200) when a massive beast steps out from the forest, yellow eyes flashing in the night.
Let it be known that Jaskier does not scream, but that if one were to scream under such a circumstance it would be a completely reasonable and justified reaction that in no way diminished the said screamer's bravery and valor.
“Jaskier?” and oh thank fuck he knows that put-out voice.
“Geralt??? Oh thank all the small Gods I thought you were a monster,” Jaskier says.
“ I a...you aren’t? -”
“You know, it is highly rude to just leave your friends stranded on the side of the road, really now. And your eyes! Might you not warn a man that you glow in the dark? Wait - does that mean you can see in the dark as well? Because that would be highly unfair to the rest of us. We simple humans have to waste a candle to find a women’s clit, which as I’m sure you know do not come cheap, and you can just see? All the time? Of course that obvious benefit does not excuse you from not giving me a fair warning, now you’ve made me look like a fool acting like you’re something to be startled at, which is plain rude. Some of us care about manners you know -”
Geralt has been staring at him with a slightly bewildered expression, which Jakier can only chalk up to his bare feet. Which - as has been already established - are entirely Geralt’s fault so he’s welcome to take his judgement and shove it.
“What are you doing here?” Geralt asks.
“What are you doing here?” Jaskier mimics, “you know perfectly well what I’m doing here, you daft man. Or did you get hit on the head harder than I thought?”
Geralt rubs his temples - the gall of this man to act like he was the one having a bad time of it. “You weren’t supposed to follow,” he says.
“Yes, well. I’ve never been very good at doing the things I ought,” Jaskier replies testily.
That earns him a long-suffering sigh, which is a bit premature considering they’ve known each other for less than two days. “Look,” Geralt tries, “you think you want this, but you don’t. There’s no glory, no heroes, no damsels in distress. By the time I get there they’re already dead. All you’re going to get is more nights in the woods with bloody feet.”
Jaskier gives him a level stare, “Pity for you I’ve learned not to trust the words of men long ago. I think I’ll decide whether there are any heroes here myself.”
Geralt stills - well, stills more - and Jaskier isn’t quite sure what’s happening but it feels like one of those moments that’s important so he bites down on his tongue to keep his mouth shut. Finally, Geralt nods, mostly to himself, and strides towards Jaskier. Jaskier is pretty sure he’s just earned himself another punch in the gut so he’s not ready at all when he suddenly finds himself tossed over the Witcher’s shoulder and staring at the ground.
“What!? - put me down!”
Geralt simply reaches over to tap the sole of Jaskier’s right foot. “Camp is a mile away, you’ll ruin these more trying to walk there on your own.”
Ah. That is...surprisingly considerate actually. Of course Jaskier is an excellent judge of character so he was entirely confident that the Witcher would of course be the most faithful of companions. Still, he had been doing an excellent job playing the bastard today.
Manners. They really must work on his manners.
But Geralt doesn’t drop him and even gives him a portion of his dinner, so Jaskier supposes he’s not entirely a lost cause. He’s kind, if not nice.
Well, he’s known plenty of nice people who could never learn to be kind. The other way around he can work with.
A wolf howls again - closer this time. “Thank Gods I’ve got you here to keep me safe,” Jaskier chuckles nervously, “I wouldn’t get a lick of sleep otherwise.
Geralt gives him a strange look, squinting like Jaskier is some strange new language he can’t quite parce out.
“...go to sleep, bard.”
Jaskier wakes up slowly, squinting at the rays of light shining down through the trees.
“Finally up then? Was about to leave without you,” Geralt chuckles from across the camp.
“Ugh. Don’t joke. If you dare take off without me again I will be forced to smear your name across the Continent.”
Geralt hmphs. “About a decade too late for that threat to work.”
Ah. Right. He’d forgotten.
“Well, nevermind that. I know you wouldn’t leave me again so we shan’t even consider such drastic measures,” he trills.
Jaskier grasps for a change in subject. “Agh. I am not looking forward to putting these back on,” he says, scowling down at his boots. “Maybe today I can ride Roach?”
The response is immediate, “No.”
“Ah. Right. Well, no one can say I don’t suffer for my art.” Jaskier sighs.
A small vial of oil lands at his feet. “Um, Geralt? Not that I generally wouldn’t be completely and unequivalently in favor of rolling into bed with,” he waves his hand in Geralt’s general direction, “all of that. But - as we’ve only just established a working relationship I think - and believe me this truly pains me to say - I will have to decline. At least until we are not a mile deep in the woods where if you suddenly decide to leave me I will surely perish.”
Geralt is just staring at him with that same stunned look as the night before. Entirely unnecessarily, if you ask Jaskier, he knows he is a bit...eccentric...but most people can carry on a conversation with him just fine without looking like they’ve repeatedly had a ton of bricks dropped onto them.
‘It’s not - It’s for your feet,” Geralt says lamely.
“Oh.” Well, now he feels foolish. Except, “wait...for my feet, how ? ”
“Put a coat of oil between your feet and your bandages and another between those and your socks. It’ll help keep them from rubbing against each other - less friction that way. It’ll help till we get you new boots.”
“Ah, thank you Geralt, that’s very -” he starts, “wait! Did you say we get me new boots? Are you finally admitting that trying to leave me on the side of the road is a foolish and altogether impossible plan?”
Geralt glares, a blush coloring his cheeks. “Don’t tempt me, Jaskier.”
“So you do know my name, I was starting to wonder. You know, we have the makings of a truly wonderful partnership here, one for the ages.”
Geralt doesn’t dignify him with a response, turning away to pack his bedroll.
“Well, ignore me if you like, but your generosity is noted and as long as you never do it again I have magnanimously decided to chalk up your truly atrocious behavior yesterday to a fit of the vapors. Thank you, Geralt.”
It’s a couple hours later when they’ve stopped to water Roach (who needs conspicuously more breaks than she did the day before) when he hears the murmured “You’re welcome, Jaskier.”