For once in his life, Jaskier actually wanted his wounds to heal up quickly.
This was, of course, a supremely fucking frustrating fact considering that he had the kind of wound that just refused to heal up right. Every time he moved, it seemed to reopen, and re-scar, and even though he didn't want to feel a damn thing, he couldn't stop running his fingers over it, reliving that pain again and again and again.
He hadn't seen Geralt since the mountain.
He'd gone months, sometimes years without seeing him before, but never this long. Never two years. It was odd to think that they wouldn't at least bump into each other, seeing as how they would happen upon each other all the time in those ten years before everything went to hell. If Jaskier wanted to be utterly honest with himself, it was likely that all those run-ins were far from random chance. It wasn't like he rushed after Geralt like a maid after a large-cocked man, but when he heard of the Witcher off in the east or making trouble in the North, he'd adjust his path, set them towards each other.
It was a business practicality, of course. That's what he told himself anyway. Songs about their adventures always made him rich and famous, so it was only natural he'd pursue Geralt to collect more tales.
Only after he realized that he'd managed to become hopefully infatuated with Geralt, and subsequently had lost him forever did Jaskier realize that it might have had a bit less to do with business than he'd initially assumed.
Traveling without Geralt was (not to be dramatic) one of the most mind-numbingly, miserable, painful tasks of Jaskier's life. Every time he turned away from a path that he knew would lead him back to the White Wolf it was like a physical pain in his heart. A tugging that didn't go away no matter how many women he bedded, or how many bottles he'd emptied or how many hours he played before adoring audiences.
And even though this pain twisted, so bitterly in his gut, it wouldn't come out in songs. The words were stuck in his throat the way they never had been before. And though Jaskier still sang about the Witcher, because he was a fairly astute businessman, he didn't enjoy it. His repertoire shifted slowly, featuring much less specific songs. Songs about women and booze that didn't make it feel like his heart was trying to crawl out of his face.
Life was fading to gray, and nothing would fix it. Any little heartbreak he felt was nothing compared to the vast one looming over him, and he knew it.
"I'm sorry," he gasped as the blacksmith's apprentice rolled off of him, huffing. "I just…"
"S'alright," the man growled (it was of course, not the deepest growl that Jaskier had ever heard by far, but dammit, no he would not think about the Witcher, not while he was in bed with a very viable man who would probably appreciate it if he could get his dick up already-)
The blacksmith's apprentice (Teegan? Or Legan?) sat up, lacing up his trousers, and Jaskier grimaced, finding his shirt to tug back on. "I'm just awfully tired-"
The man shot him a look and Jaskier's mouth fell closed.
"Who is it?" The man asked as he pulled his boots back on. "Wife at home? Girl married someone else?"
"Oh, no, no, no," Jaskier tried to laugh, but it was thin, even to his own ears. "No one, like that I assure you."
"Your mind was with someone else," The man said, cutting Jaskier off before he could babble any further.
"It wasn't," Jaskier shot back, ignoring the fact that he sounded a bit like a put-out child.
The man just grunted in reply, and Jaskier felt guilt well up in him, hot and thick and stinging, and he crawled back into the blacksmith apprentice's lap and kissed him until he was willing to ignore the fact that Jaskier was too miserable to get it up.
Jaskier's life seemed to be a lot like that, lately. Forcing himself through things just to try and make him feel a bit more like his old self. It was a tried and true method. He'd fall in love again eventually. He'd learn how to sing love songs again. He had to.
Two years later, Geralt found him. Jaskier almost didn't recognize him, considering that he was so drunk that the world was swaying around him, and he was in such a damned hurry, and when his eyes lighted on silver hair and a flash of golden eyes, he was so surprised that he tripped on a floor tile and hit the ground hard enough to make his nose bleed. "Fuck," he hissed, reaching up for his nose. Broken. Definitely broken. Oh lord. He did not cope well with his bones being broken. It was one of his least favorite things. And it throbbed like a motherfucker, even through the haze of two bottles of free wine, and he was already nauseous, and now-
"You have a mustache."
"Bloody brilliant observation," Jaskier slurred. At least drunkenness was good for something. He'd rehearsed and imagined a thousand times what he'd say to Geralt once they stumbled into each other again, but that all went out the window because he could hear footsteps behind him, and angry shouting, and Melitele's tits, he needed to be running.
"Running," Jaskier gasped, as he stumbled to his feet, and clutched at his nose in a futile attempt to keep blood from running into the rather impressive mustache he'd recently decided to grow out.
He felt Geralt beside him, keeping up easily as they sprinted down the corridor.
By the time they burst past the front door, ignoring the guards, and onto the bustle of the street, Jaskier was swaying on his feet, his lungs burning, nose throbbing, and back aching from where his lute banged into him.
"You slept with his daughter?" Geralt asked as they walked as swiftly as they could without drawing glances, away from the front door of the manor.
"Both of them," Jaskier said, hating how nasal his voice sounded. Then again, it couldn't be helped. His nose was absolutely busted. "What are you doing here?" Jaskier asked. "I suppose you didn't just come here to rescue me? Not that I'd be surprised after all. You know, I didn't think-"
"Scullery maid had a contract," Geralt grumbled, cutting Jaskier off entirely.
"Oh," Jaskier said, hating that his voice sounded broken. It was a very drunk part of him, but all the same, a part of him had hoped against all hope, that Geralt really had been there to save him. That was an impossibility, of course. How would he have known Jaskier was in trouble? Jaskier would have laughed at himself if he didn't suddenly feel like crying.
"This is where you're staying," Geralt said, stopping dead.
Jaskier nearly crashed into him entirely, scrambling to retain his balance and squint up through the darkness at the sign. "It is, yes. How did you know that?"
Rather than answer, Geralt just grunted and pushed into the inn, leaving Jaskier to trail behind him. Geralt was already at the front of the inn, speaking to the innkeeper who looked downright terrified, and Jaskier leaned hard against an empty table, trying to put his thoughts in order.
Was this a dream? He wouldn't put it past himself. Of course, in a dream, he expected he wouldn't be bleeding from a crushed nose, and Geralt would be doing much more than just hauling Jaksier out of trouble, and he probably wouldn't have been so damn confused about the whole thing.
Within moments, Geralt was approaching him with a look like a storm on his face, and taking Jaskier by the arm and hauling him into the back hallway. "Geralt, maybe this isn't the best time to ask this, but what the hell are you doing? I can walk on my own, you know. I can...Well, no, perhaps tonight hasn't been the best way to show that I can take care of myself, but you know, I've done very-not very well, but I've done well enough without you. Two years without you, and I haven't died once, imagine that? Not that you care, you big, silent, onion-"
"Clean up," Geralt said, shoving Jaskier into a room. His room. His pack was in the corner, and Geralt had somehow brought him to his room.
Jaskier stumbled into the door, the world reeling around him, and gods, maybe he really was drunk. He braced himself against the bed before he could collapse, and whipped around before Geralt could shut the door. "Geralt!"
The silence dragged out between them as Geralt halted, raising a silver brow at him, and suddenly, fixed under that rich, gold gaze, and seeing his Witcher in the doorway, filling it out, not blurry and strange like Geralt always got in his dreams, Jaskier was certain that he'd never had a singular thought before. Not a single one. He gaped, much as a fish would, because bloody hell, he'd been waiting for years to talk to Geralt, to shout at him, to drag an apology out of him, to somehow fix that pain that welled up in him like an infected wound, but now, here he was, looking like a godsdamned fish and-
"We're leaving at sunrise."
Well. There was that, then. Certainly. Yes. Of course. We.
"Shave. The mustache doesn't suit you."
Jaskier woke up with one of the worst hangovers of his life, and the immutable desire to shave his face. The mustache was itchy anyway.
That first hour of the morning was vastly uncomfortable. He'd woken with a start, not certain of where he was (Something he'd become somewhat accustomed to over the past year or so), and had to face the idea that everything might have been a dream. A vivid dream, but a dream all the same. He didn't let himself hope that it wasn't. Failed hopes stung like a bitch.
Jaskier was ready before the sun had risen outside the tiny window of the cramped inn, and waiting, trying not to prod at his bruised nose or pick at his lute calluses. He should have gone out into the hall, looked for Geralt, seen if he was mad after all, but somehow waiting seemed the less humiliating alternative. So he waited. And agonized, because if he wasn't agonizing, then he was hardly being Jaskier.
It had felt like an eternity but had actually been roughly eight minutes when he heard a heavy knock on the door. Jaskier jumped about a foot in the air, leapt to his feet, tried to fix his hair, stroked his mustache which-dammit-was no longer there, and tried to think of how long was societally acceptable to wait before opening a door before he finally went and opened the fucking thing.
Once he opened it, his traitorous heart decided to mutiny, attempting to crawl its way right out of his throat, because Geralt was standing there, in all of his not-actually-that-tall, but oh gods his muscles-glory. Brooding of course, because that's all he knew how to do with his face. And if Jaskier told him to smile he'd just get a grunt and ignored for the next half hour, and dammit all, Jaskier was still in love with him, wasn't he?
"Come on," Geralt said, pushing towards the end of the corridor, leaving Jaskier to scramble for his lute and pack and hurry after him.
"What about the contract?" Jaskier asked as he jogged up beside Geralt. He did remember some things from the previous night.
"Took care of it last night."
"Oh," Jaskier said, ignoring the twinge of disappointment in his gut. He'd thought that he might go along with Geralt for that contract. Of course...what exactly did Geralt want from him?
He resisted asking, hoping the answer would naturally appear, and followed Geralt into the watery dawn, to the small stable, where Roach stood, gleaming in the filtered sunlight.
Jaskier couldn't help the yelp of joy that flew out of him, even if it made Roach snort and twitch. "Hello, old girl!" he hummed, pushing past Geralt to the horse. His angst was washed away momentarily by the soft look in the horse's eye, the way she sniffed him and didn't even bite him once as he patted her nose and rattled off enough compliments to make a whore blush.
Finally, Geralt took the reins and began leading Roach out, letting Jaskier trail after them.
Caught up in the familiarity of it all, Jaskier didn't come to his senses until they were outside the gate of the city, pushing into the forest. "Geralt. Geralt, wait!"
He pulled Roach to a stop and glanced back at Jaskier, wordlessly staring.
"We have to talk."
Jaskier huffed, and rolled his eyes. "Don't play the fool, darling, it's unflattering on you."
"Like that mustache."
Jaskier's eyes nearly flew out of his head because the man had the nerve. "Well, it's bloody gone now, you great oaf! As if you have the right to be giving me fashion advice, mister 'I don't own anything outside of leather, and I only wash it once a year!" I'll have you know that I have gotten quite a few compliments from-you are distracting me."
Geralt had the balls to smirk at him. He had been teasing him. Geralt of fucking Rivia was teasing him, and Jaskier wanted to wrap himself around the man like a leech and never fucking let go.
That well of pain bubbled in his gut, reminding him of its presence. "We really do have to talk, though."
The smirk fell from Geralt's face, and he seemed suddenly torn between looking anywhere but Jaskier and studying him like a book. "What about?"
Any humor in the air disappeared, scorched away like fog on a summer morning, leaving Jaskier just hurting. The memories were back stronger than they had ever been, no that Geralt was really here. Had he broken it again? Would he have stayed quiet? Was his Witcher going to leave him behind all over again?
Jaskier wasn't sure if he could handle losing him again.
"What do you want me to do?" Geralt asked, as if the answer could possibly be simple.
Jaskier wanted to tear his hair out. "I don't...Just. We can't do nothing."
Geralt was silent, and so, as usual, Jaskier was forced to fill in the gaps. "Geralt, you hurt me. You hurt me very badly, and maybe I deserved to be hurt, maybe I really am the one shoveling your shit. That's what I've told myself these past years. But the fact that you're here, in front of me right now, makes me think that you might have another idea. And if you do, if you didn't really mean to send me away that day, you better fucking tell me now. Because if you don't, I can't go back to this. I can't be-I can't travel with you if you really believed what you said to me that day."
Somehow, Geralt's face remained utterly unchanged, but there was a kind of brokenness in his tone as he asked "Why?"
The brokenness didn't make Jaskier feel one bit better. It made him feel downright awful, honestly. And Geralt had no fucking right making him feel awful, not after all this pain, and all this turmoil. "Dammit, Geralt, open your ears! I...have feelings, alright? Far, far too many of them, if I'm being entirely honest, and I can't just pretend you didn't say those things you said on the mountain. You hurt me.."
"The Countess hurt you hundreds of times."
Jaskier could only blink. Because the Countess DeStael had been years ago, a futile distraction, and it did things to Jaskier to think that Geralt remembered that drama. Ho much else did he remember? How many other little facts about Jaskier had he been hanging onto the same way that Jaskier held onto facts about the Witcher?
But Geralt was still looking at him, and so he fumbled out, "Your point is?"
"You always went back to her."
He could have laughed, honestly. To compare The Countess to Geralt was...Downright insane. Because… "Geralt, that wasn't you."
Geralt made the face that he made when he didn't understand something, and Jaskier despised the fact that he recognized it so well.
"At risk of sounding poetic, you're...you're the drug I can't stop taking. Those other flings, all the other flings, they were fine, but you...You have so much excitement and so much pain wrapped around you, you're more intoxicating than the heaviest wine. But just like too much wine, you'll end up killing me someday."
The reply was succinct, and Jaskier blinked. "What?"
"I'll get you killed someday."
This time, he couldn't hold back his bark of laughter. "You think I don't know that?" Geralt just frowned. "I've always known I might die being with you! From the first monster we faced, I realized the stakes, but I accepted them because dying with you would leave me fulfilled."
He hadn't quite meant to say that out loud, but now it was too late, and Geralt was tilting his head. "You're reckless."
"I'm an addict," he shot back, the words certainly getting ahead of him this time. "I was addicted to how lovely it was was….how lovely it was to want you. How lovely it was to tail after you, and I'm just as addicted to the pain of you breaking me. Why else do you think I'm here right now? Why do you think I opened that door this morning? I'm a glutton for punishment."
"You're going to have to be more-"
"Why do you assume I'd break you?"
That was. A hard question. Hard to hear and even harder to answer, because Jaskier didn't know. Not really, if he was being honest. That had always just been the way of things. Good things ended, and very good things ended spectacularly badly. It was hopeless to think of anything else. "It always happens in the end, doesn't it? If there's an up, there must be a down."
"I don't want to let you down," Geralt was looking at him, now, staring, studying. Jaskier felt far too known. "Not anymore."
"Are you addicted to me, or to the pain of losing me?"
Jaskier felt heat press behind his eyes all of a sudden because that question cut far too close to home. Those were the kinds of words he never let himself say, because what if they were true? He couldn't think of how to reply, so, as usual, he opened his mouth and let words pour out without him thinking very much at all. "I must say, the pain of losing you was the only down that hasn't been worth the up. It's not that I regretted," he quickly added. "Not that I would trade the time we've had together for the world. We're-we were….I mean we were friends. But, losing you, up on that mountain...that's as….that's not what I was looking for. It's not something I can handle, even if it's what I think I want. And I know I'm not making any sense, I'm just trying to say that, this?" He threw out an arm to motion to the space between them. The irreparable, aching gap between them. "Right here? I can't pretend. I can't go back. I can't lose you again."
Jaskier's brain cut out mostly to static noises. "Excuse me?"
"I won't let you go again."
The world crashed back with staggering alacrity, and gods, he could go for a good cry and a drink, not necessarily in that order. Because Geralt was looking at him like he meant the things he was saying, but Geralt didn't know what he was saying, he very rarely did. "Geralt, that's...that's very lovely. Sweet. I'll...I'll write a ballad about that one, certainly, but you understand, I...I can't just go back to normal. Once I realized how badly I want you…" Geralt's brows shot up, and Jaskeier wanted very badly to die in a corner. That's not what he meant to say. It's what he was thinking, of course, and what he had been thinking for years, but he never meant to say it. Not like that. "Or this. How badly I want this….I can't just go back to pretending."
He was torn between being heartbroken and frustrated, so he settled on a very, very deep sigh. "I'm sorry, you're just really not-"
"Stop pretending. Fuck all of that."
Now Jaskier was confused. "Geralt, I…"
"You love me?"
Jaskier gaped. Because what else was he supposed to do. Geralt was fixing him with a hard look, his eyes glinting like chips of pure gold in the early dawn, and he'd dreamed of this happening a thousand ways, but never once had he imagined it happening half a mile outside of a ratty town, when he was sweating like a pig, his nose was busted to hell, and Geralt was perched up on Roach looking at him like he'd just asked for the time of day.
"You've never been shy a day in your life, Jaskier. Don't fucking clam up on me now."
Shock, fear, and a medley of other strong feelings welled up into indignation. How dare Geralt suddenly appear in his life after two years, not even offer an apology, then start talking like Jaskier owed him the truth. "Well I'm sorry, it's just not something-"
"Do you love me?"
"I fucking guess, you great insensitive, hulking bastard!"
Jaskier froze inside and out because he'd really just said that out loud. After some twelve years of pining, he'd admitted it, and Geralt was opening his mouth to speak, and-
Jaskier's jaw dropped faster than a lad's balls on his first visit to a whorehouse. He was aware that he was squeaking, but didn't really give a shit, because the whole world was turning upside down so he might as well shriek all he wanted to. "Good!? What do you-you can't just- what does good mean?!"
Except then, Geralt was turning and riding away, slow enough for Jaskier to follow which didn't make a fucking bit of sense. It would be one thing if Geralt was riding away fast-a frantic flight from the crazed musician who just confessed his feelings. But this...trotting along like that had just been another normal conversation for the road, like he expected Jaskier to follow-that just made absolutely no sense. "Oh, no, you godsdamned brute, you are not just pretending that didn't happen." He had to run to catch up with Geralt. "I just laid my feelings bare for you, and you just say good? Like I'd told you I wanted pheasant for dinner, Geralt, what the hell!" He got no answer, so instead of playing along with the Witcher's little game, he stopped dead in the road, trying not to pant at the heat and the thrumming of his heart. "No. No, you are not just going to carry on without telling me how you feel."
Geralt let out a long-suffering sigh, but stopped Roach, turning the horse about to fix Jaskier with one of those looks that melted him from head to toe. "I'm here, aren't I?"
Jaskier steeled his spine as best he could when Geralt was looking at him like that. "And? What's that meant to mean?"
If Geralt sighed any deeper, he might just burst a hole and deflate entirely, but at least this time, he swung off of Roach, approaching Jaskier in a few easy steps. Far too few, as far as Jaskier was concerned. The Witcher was in his personal space suddenly, looking much taller than he really was, and his eyes were so close and so gold, and Jaskier could feel the heat coming off of him, and he looked ready to snap a neck and oh gods Jaskier couldn't tell if he wanted to run or have this man's children-
Jaskier blinked, and the words rolled off his tongue before he could stop them: "Bit of an anticlimax, that." This got Geralt to smirk, and the break in the man's stormy expression gave Jaskier the time to realize that Geralt had really just apologized. To Jaskier. To his face. "While I...That's really quite kind of you, that doesn't exactly help me illuminate-"
Geralt grabbed him by the front of his shirt and let out a growl that reduced his bones to bands of melted steel, and kissed Jaskier, full on the mouth.
For a beat, blessed silence flooded Jaskier's head, before the sensations came rushing in. Geralt's chapped lips, the stubble on his cheeks chafing Jaskier's chin, the way his nose throbbed, the smell of Geralt, like sweat and woodsmoke and earth, the feeling of his Witcher's breath, hot rushing across his skin, the tingles that raced all the way up and down his spine, and settled low and looping in the base of his gut-
"Stop thinking," Geralt growled into his mouth, and Jaskier shivered in his grasp, and kissed him back because he'd been waiting twelve years for this and it was better than he'd ever dared to dream.
"Wait," Jaskier said, suddenly, tearing his mouth away from Geralt's, trying not to flush too much at the man's proximity. Dammit, he wasn't some blushing virgin. He had bedded hundreds of men and women across the continent, and he would not lose his head just because one bloody Witcher had just given him the best kiss of his life. "Wait. The apology, was that for-"
"It was for the mountain," Geralt huffed.
"Oh," Jaskier said, trying not to sound as small as he felt. "So it wasn't for this?"
It was a foolish thought that had popped up. A thread of insecurity that he was now tugging to be a whole tear. Because, if Geralt was apologizing for kissing him, if he meant to use Jaskier and then toss him out-
Geralt let out a breath that came much more like a growl and kissed Jaskier again, and he was quickly beginning to learn that this might be Geralt's way of expressing his affections. Which he could deal with. Geralt gripped a handful of his hair, pulling it just so and Jaskier couldn't help but gasp, his eyes rolling back in his head.
But then Geralt was pulling away, and Jaskier was looking into his eyes as he said, "It was a mistake to push you away. If you want to be here, I would be a fool to stop you."
That 'here' had so much weight behind it, Jaskier could write a thousand ballads and not tire of it. Because here meant Geralt's arms, with the world gone mad around them, and nothing being quite perfect, but being perfectly survivable, because they could have each other. Because finally, it seemed like he could possibly be getting an up without a down. It seemed like he might survive without having Geralt shatter his heart into a thousand pieces.
Jaskier took a tip from Geralt's book, and instead of saying all of those utterly absurd things that filled his head out loud, he kissed his Witcher soundly.
I was struggling with this, and then I had a few glasses of wine and realized that Jaskier's inner monologue is also me when I'm drunk, so I word vomited this in one night. This might get another chapter if these bastards still refuse to leave my head, possibly some classy PWP. Drop a review if you're interested in that, and lemme know what y'all thought!