It was the one thing to walk the rest of the way in the rain, it was another for them to try to make it the last five or so miles in the Spring storm that had caught them unaware. The rain had fallen in heavy sheets making it difficult for even Geralt to see. The only thing left to do was to hide out in a crevice along the rock face that paralleled the road.
With soaked through clothes and damp gear, Geralt and Jaskier crowded in the best they could, leaning against the wall side by side. Roach had just managed to fit under the ledge, protecting her from the worst of the deluge.
Outside the world seemed to smear like still wet paint, the green of the surrounding trees and the grey of the sky blending until the edges were fuzzy. There was no wood for Geralt to burn and there was no room to set a fire anyways, so they made due by stripping out of what they could and letting it the worst of it drip off onto the cave floor.
Geralt realized hours must have gone by as the sky outside went from the dark grey of storms to the inky black of night, the stars and moon hidden far out of sight as the rain continued. The realization that a majority of that time had also passed in companionable silence had hit him harder than any aard.
He shifted slightly, turning to look at Jaskier in the fading light. He found the bard asleep, his head resting against Geralt’s shoulder. They had been moving at a relentless pace, trying to beat the weather once it started to drizzle. He must have run Jaskier harder than he thought he had. Guilt wrapped itself around his ribs and clenched down tightly.
Geralt found himself doing that from time to time, moving at a pace that Jaskier could just barely keep up with. But he always managed, he always stuck to the witcher, even if it left him winded and exhausted at the end of the day.
Any other night, they would have a campfire to sit around, to cook fresh game or fish if there was a river stocked enough. They would have to breakfast on rations and hope the weather broke before those ran too low to sustain them. But that was a problem for Geralt in the morning. Instead of letting himself run the mental then physical check of their inventory, he simply let his cheek rest on the crown of Jaskier’s head and let the even breathing of his companion and steady fall of the rain lull him to sleep.
The next morning found only more rain. Jaskier got up and shuffled through the narrow space to refill their water skins in the rivulets that ran down the entrance of their shelter while Geralt dug out cheese and dried jerky and the last apple to their names.
“That’s for Roach,” Jaskier said flatly before Geralt could argue.
There was an easiness to the way he plucked the apple from Geralt’s fingers as Jaskier threw him a wink and a grin. Geralt had known Jaskier had been bribing Roach recently and the disappearing apples finally explained how. He couldn’t bring himself to even be upset as fondness seeped into him, warm and comforting. He watched as Jaskier fed Roach her apple, murmuring soft pretty words to her that he couldn’t quite catch over the drumming of the rain.
Geralt had noticed those feelings slipping in through the crack for some time and he couldn’t find a way to stop them by then. It had been only…
Well, it had only been twenty years, hadn’t it? Twenty years for Geralt didn’t pass the same for Jaskier he knew, but still he ached to think how long he had kept his bard waiting. The fear that Jaskier wasn’t waiting anymore washed away every bit of contentment that he had just gotten comfortable with.
Another day passed them in near silence. Jaskier only talked a little, instead using the grey light to read over notes from their previous adventures, checking the map for the hundredth time and digging out hidden bits of sugar for Roach to munch on. At one point, he had handed Geralt a honey candy without a word before turning back to his reading.
Geralt slipped the candy into his mouth and the wax wrapper carefully into his pocket. He was used to gifts from Jaskier but this quiet bubble of warmth, even though slightly damp, made it feel all the more cherished.
There had come a point where the rain had slowed just enough for Geralt to make a mad dash out for just enough kindling to start a small cooking fire and a rabbit. It was a soggy, messy affair that took several ignis to light and keep lit. He had managed to collect enough to stockpile for the night.
When it didn’t fill their small space with smoke, Geralt thought there must have been a larger chamber just beyond the narrowest part of where they could see. He threw a few pebbles idly in that direction and was pleased when he heard their clinking echo back in turn.
“You’ve been quiet,” he said suddenly, turning to Jaskier.
Jaskier looked up in surprise, his eyebrows shooting up. “I’m sorry, is that a complaint? I thought I talked too much?”
“Hmm.” Geralt thought of his next words as carefully as he could but there was nothing for it. “You haven’t sung anything in days.”
Jaskier’s eyebrows only climbed higher and Geralt began to wonder if he had taken a misstep in pointing it out. Jaskier was leaning into his space, his hand coming up to press against his forehead with a deep frown.
“Are… are you sick? Can witchers get sick like that? Was it from running out in the rain? I told you you didn’t have to, we had plenty of rations, Geralt. What am I going to do if you catch a-”
“I want to hear you sing,” Geralt blurted suddenly and Jaskier’s jaw clicked shut. His eyebrows had run out of room finally. “Or… or you don’t have to-”
“No no, I want to. I just. I thought you hated my singing?” Jaskier set the book in his lap aside and leaned a little more firmly into Geralt’s shoulder. “Finally bored of brooding, then?”
Geralt shot him a look that he had intended to be fierce but even he knew it was more grouchy, far softer than he had intended it to be.
Jaskier only sat beside him, his eyes blazing with a challenge that Geralt wasn’t sure he was ready to take on. Not here.
“Please?” It was all he had in him and he couldn’t imagine how Jaskier took it by the look on his face.
Jaskier only budged in closer and pulled down one of the cloaks that had been drying against the far wall to wrap around them.
“Alright then. Alright,” he murmured softly as he smiled.
The tune was old enough that Geralt recognized it from when he was a boy in Kaer Morhen, maybe one of the ones that hadn’t made it used to sing it. The words felt older, though, as they caught on the uneven stones and echoed through the chamber on the other side of the wall. It gave Jaskier’s voice a ghost of a backup singer and the tune stretched out and softened in waves.
Geralt felt his head tilt towards Jaskier’s shoulder, letting the lullaby wash over him with its steady echoing answers and the rain still falling out beyond the cave. It was warm under the cloak and before he realized what had happened there were fingers in his hair. He didn’t pull away or move Jaskier’s hand. The simple allowance of the touch felt as earth shattering as asking for a song from a bard.
Sleep came faster than he expected. When morning came, it came with sunlight, bright and cool and green. The world had refocused itself but Geralt wasn’t ready to pull away from the body still pressed to his.
He tilted his face until he could see Jaskier, sleeping with his head tilted back against the wall and his fingers still half tangled in Geralt’s hair. Geralt reasoned that much of the road would still need to drain before it would be safe for them to make their way onward.
But still, sitting in that small space, tucked away from the world for just a little longer, Geralt knew that he wouldn’t be able to go that long again without asking Jaskier to sing for him.