“—And of course that was the day that Valdo almost tarnished my reputation, that illiterate swine! Of course I was able to trick him into—Geralt, are you even listening to me?” Jaskier spun around, ready to give the witcher an earful. How dare he ignore the scintillating story he had decided to grace him with? Jaskier was the most famous bard on the continent and Geralt got to listen to him spin a yarn for free!
However, upon turning he did not see the familiar head of white hair that glowed like a beacon in the sunlight. Instead, he found a crowd of strangers, pushing forward to find their way in the busy market.
“Bollocks,” Jaskier muttered, all the while standing on his toes to look over the expanse of people stretching before him. Even with his impressive height, Jaskier found himself unable to locate his witcher. Cursing his misfortune, he began to retrace his steps, trying to remember the last time he had actually seen or heard his friend, but came up short. It had been several minutes since he’d last heard a grunt from the witcher.
Jaskier frowned at the thought of Geralt walking these streets alone. Most people would scoff at his reaction, telling him that witcher’s had no feelings and that Geralt would be capable of walking through a crowded market by himself. Those were the kind of people that Jaskier enjoyed either punching in the face or composing scathing ditties about. Though it was true that Geralt was far more capable than himself in a fight, Jaskier knew that the witcher’s heightened senses made walking through a village an unpleasant experience. Between the smells and noises grating against his consciousness -both of which caused splitting headaches - and the often hostile attitude of the villagers, Geralt tended to spend as much time as possible away from human settlements.
The witcher would deny his discomfort, but Jaskier knew better. He’d spent nearly a decade at Geralt’s side and could easily read the early signs of his distress. The whitened knuckles from a clenched fist, the descent into nonverbal communication, the few words he normally spoke decreasing into nothingness. All the tiny signs that a stranger would ignore, but Jaskier watched for with the eyes of a hawk.
He had noticed Geralt shutting down earlier into their trip, overwhelmed by the cacophony and hostility of people in the market. Jaskier had immediately started speaking, letting his voice run over Geralt like a balm on a wound. Yet another lesson he had learned a few years into their travels together. No matter how often Geralt complained about his singing and overall noisiness, the witcher relaxed whenever he heard the bard’s voice in a crowd. Jaskier’s best theory was that it acted as an anchor, a way for Geralt to ground himself when the world turned to chaos around him. A small part of Jaskier was proud of the thought that Geralt saw him as a natural part of his life; as someone that would always be by his side.
The problem was that Jaskier had gotten carried away with the story that he’d been telling. Valdo Marx, the pox-ridden bastard, always tended to get a rise out of him and now he was making him lose his witcher! The nerve of the man. Next time he saw the so-called-bard, he would be having words!
Jaskier took another glance around the market, becoming more desperate as time elapsed and he could not find his witcher. It was not like Geralt to walk away on his own volition. Well, sometimes Geralt would walk away when Jaskier talked for too long, but never when they were in a crowded place. Something must be wrong.
Maybe Geralt was in the middle of a panic attack, unable to find his way through the crowd without his presence. Maybe something had happened to Roach, although the horse had seemed perfectly healthy last he had seen her. What if a group of angry villagers had noticed Geralt’s disorientation and had taken advantage of him? Either way something must have happened and each new possibility was worse than the first. Fuck.
Jaskier was drawn out of his spiraling thoughts by the weight of a heavy hand clasping on to the meat of his shoulder. He whirled around, ready to beg for the help of a stranger if it meant finding Geralt, but instead found the witcher standing behind him with a confused expression etched into his face. However, that confusion quickly changed into fear when he took in the bard’s disheveled state.
“Jaskier, your heart is pounding, is everything alright?”
Jaskier’s eyes widened at the question. He was talking. Geralt was talking , and alive, and perfect as ever, standing in a crowd. The absolute bastard.
“Am I alright? You nearly gave me a heart attack, Geralt! You were behind me and you disappeared into the ether without so much as a word, and now you have the gall to ask me if I’m alright?” Jaskier finished his tirade, breathing heavily and nearly on the edge of hysterical tears.
Geralt tilted his head, in a way that reminded him of a puppy instead of a fearsome wolf. He pursed his lips, seemingly searching for the right words, before he stuck out his hand that held a small sack that Jaskier had not noticed earlier. The bard snatched the bag away from the witcher, swiftly opening it to see its contents. In that moment, all of his anger melted away into fondness.
“They’re your favorite,” Geralt softly explained as Jaskier pulled out a honey cake. “I thought you'd like it.” The witcher bashfully ran a hand through his hair, and Jaskier had a feeling that if witchers could blush Geralt would have been bright red in that moment.
Jaskier smiled, looking down at the small bag in his hands. “Geralt, did you leave me because you thought I’d like a snack?”
There was a moment of silence where both parties stared at each other, waiting for the other to make the first move.
After what felt like a lifetime, Geralt slowly nodded his head. Jaskier’s smile widened at the confession.
“Oh, Geralt, thank you my friend. This is exactly what my sweet tooth needed today. However, if you ever have the urge to do something terribly sweet again, please tell me. I nearly had a heart attack when you disappeared.” The bard paused, considering his next words before saying them. “I’d thought that the worst had happened.”
Geralt frowned, looking over the bard as though he were a confusing puzzle that he would never figure out. “I’m a witcher, Jask. I’ve faced worse.”
Jaskier snorted, knowing that Geralt would deny any discomfort, no matter how big. He could be nearly cut in half and the oaf would claim that he was fine. “Of course, darling. It’s just—” Jaskier sighed, feeling as though his next words would be too obvious. That they would scream to the world how he truly felt for his friend. How much he wished that Geralt would want them to be more. “I thought I’d lost you.”
Jaskier looked up at Geralt through his thick eyelashes, scared at the reaction that he would find. Instead, he found Geralt looking at him with the softest expression that Jaskier had seen the witcher direct towards a human. It rivaled the looks he gave Roach when he talked to her softly while brushing her brown hair. “I’ll always find you, Jask.”
Time seemed to stop as Jaskier listened to the deep rumble of Geralt’s voice. Though it was no declaration of love, those words filled the bard’s heart with hope. Maybe his affections were not as one-sided as he’d thought. Jaskier cleared his throat, fighting back the tears threatening to spill onto his cheeks at those five words, struggling to find a response that would convey the depth of his gratitude but would not send Geralt running in the opposite direction. “Thank you,” he settled on, taking a small bite of the sweet treat.
“Hmmm,” Geralt responded, “so how did you destroy Valdo Marx’s reputation?”
Jaskier quickly swallowed the honey cake, eager to tell Geralt the story, even though the witcher had heard it several times before. “That unimaginative, cheating, lying scoundrel of a man deserved everything that happened that night!”
As he launched into the familiar story, he grabbed Geralt’s hand and dragged him towards the inn. If Geralt asked, he would say that it was so he would not lose him again; however, Geralt was not complaining. In fact, he tightened the grip between them as they walked through a particularly thick part of the crowd. Maybe he would not have to say anything, at least not today. They had time, because they would always find each other.